Wear sunscreen and other advice

The following post is from eight years ago, but still resonates, at least to this old guy. I hope you will agree

Back in the late 1990s, there was a song that was quite popular with the young crowd. Song is too generous. It is basically an old guy like me who gave words of advice from the perspective of someone who had made more mistakes than the younger listeners primarily because he had more years behind him than they had. The kids called it “The Sunscreen” song as it started and ended with those words of advice – wear sunscreen.

So, in this spirit, I offer some words of advice, which may be helpful or may just be redundant. Hopefully, the reader will find some benefit in a one or two comments. So, in no particular order, here a few thoughts from an old fart.

Context is everything. Please try to understand the context of everything you hear or read. Anyone can be made foolish by taking their words out of context.

Spin doctor is a nice euphemism for “paid liar.” Don’t ever forget it is the job of the spin doctor to perfume any pig. See the above about context.

Try to understand the source of information. Is it reputable? There is a lot of uncensored data on the Internet which is not worth the binary code it is written in. Also, be even more wary of politicians who cite data. Many surveys are sponsored by political parties under mainstream names.

You can be too connected. Folks, take a break and stop looking at your I-phone. Companies love the fact that you are doing your job at 10 pm or on vacation – don’t. Trust me it will still be there when you return or better yet, someone else will solve an issue that was not that important to begin with.

It is not possible to be texting or on the I-phone while driving and not be distracted. “Mythbusters” did a neat driving test which showed you could drive better inebriated than when on a cellphone.

Just because you can does not mean that you should. Computers have enabled us to do wondrous things. Yet, they also provide temptations to do things that you probably should not do.Computer actions leave interesting trails, so your employer or significant other can see when you given in to temptations.

Getting elected to public office costs way too much money. So, politicians need funders to get elected. As a result, the best a politician can be is mildly subjective. This is the best case for term limits I can make. Maybe the backers would not contribute as much if their return on investment is time limited.

Be careful with your personal information. You have to be zealous in guarding against your information. ID theft is a painful process. Be careful in what you put in the public domain. It is very easy to get to. I have been down that road several times to keep the wolves at bay.

Your name is the most important asset you have. Quoting Liam Neeson in the movie “Rob Roy,” “honor is a gift you give yourself.” What do you want people to say about you when they hear your name spoken? He is a good man or he is a jerk.

While it is important to work, do not let it define who you are. I work hard, but when I had a health scare a few years ago and was in the ER with wires attached to me waiting for my wife to show up, I can assure you I did not think of work. I was thinking of my family.

Don’t play the lottery. If you have the urge, just give the money to a person in need instead. You will feel better about it and they will benefit. If you play it, you are just throwing money out the car window.

Laugh at yourself. When you make mistakes, it will make it easier on you and others. Also, if you do screw up, make it right. You won’t regret remedying an error.

Find out what you love to do and find a way to get paid doing it. Sometimes you may have to try on different jobs to discover this.

You can never have enough cups of coffee with people. Meet people, listen to them. Life is more enjoyable over conversations. Also, remember, you have two ears and one mouth, use them in that proportion. You are not as smart as you think you are, so listening makes all the difference.

Tell someone you love to have a good day and ask how it was at the end of it. Those little questions day in day out matter.

Finally, quoting Ted from the movie “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” – “Be excellent to one another and party on dude.” The best rule Jesus gave us was golden. It still makes sense today. And, have fun because life is too short.

Monday, Monday Musings

The Mamas and the Papas sang the popular lament “Monday, Monday.” It was one of their biggest hits, and it allows me to use the title to offer some miscellaneous musings on this Monday afternoon. As we near the halfway point of the 2020 year, it has been a quite troublesome one. And, it is likely to get worse.

– Pandemics are equally opportunity offenders. Your race, country, ethnicity, political leanings, etc. matter not.

– Most people are smarter than our elected officials. Many years ago, I used to think the opposite. And, it may have been true with folks like Jack Kemp, Bill Bradley, Tip O’Neill representative of a more learned lot of legislators.

– Yes, many voters can be fooled, but for the most part, they will make better decisions than our leaders will, especially, when such leaders are well funded by donors to think a certain way. And, that may be their stumbling block, the elected officials are paid to do what they are told by large donors.

– To this point, if we took a collection of reasonable folks as a cross section, told them about the various problems armed with cost/ benefit summaries of various actions, they could do a better job than funded elected officials of addressing the issues.

– Intolerance is not a healthy attribute and is harmful to many. Our friend Roger notes, the only allowable intolerance is of intolerant actors and actions.

– Speaking of intolerance, it would be a nice change for our country if its president did not walk around with a can of gasoline fueling racist fires. A leader would condemn racism, not tweet about how the racist is maltreated.

– Finally, it disappoints me that too many are so wrapped up in themselves, they refuse to help others and wear masks and/ or socially distance. If a store does not ward off non-mask wearers and take precautions, then we should find other venues that do.

COVID-19 could care less if your feelings are hurt. As my brother-in-law, who served in the USAF said, it is not like your being asked to storm a beach at Normandy, so wearing a mask is not too great a burden.

I have faith, but still wear a seatbelt – an active COVID-19 response

“I have faith, but still wear a seatbelt,” was uttered in an NPR interview with Dr. Derrick DeWitt, the minister who leads the Maryland Baptist Aged Home. Why was DeWitt being interviewed? His long term care facility has been able to avoid the COVID-19 virus. How did they do it?

DeWitt shared when the president noted there are fifteen cases, but will be down to zero at the end of the week, DeWitt chose not to believe him and decided to act. This was toward the end of February. Think about that statement, DeWitt did not take the president at his word and acted, instead.

DeWitt immediately introduced social distancing, mask wearing and hygiene measures. Again, this was in February. To date, the Aged Home as had no COVID-19 cases.

When asked if he got push back, he said some said we should just have faith in God. This is when he made the statement about still wearing a seatbelt. He added when people in leadership positions fail to give clear guidance, it is up to us to take necessary actions.

People in leadership need to heed these words. We need elected officials to tell us the truth. When officials choose to ignore this, they do far greater harm. As I have said before about the president and it also applies to the vice-president, if you cannot add value, please stop talking.

Trump Environmental Protection Agency makes it easier to harm infants

The dramatic headline is designed to get your attention, so please forgive the theatrics. Yet, while the president distracts us with his chaotic, incompetent and untruthful actions and words about more headline issues, his misnamed Environmental Protection Agency has struck again.

Amanda Mills penned the following article on June 23, 2020 in the online publication “Nation of Change,” “Trump’s EPA rolls back regulation of chemical linked to brain damage in infants that can be found in drinking water.” I will include her entire brief article below.

“Last week, Trump’s EPA decided to roll back regulations of a chemical that causes brain damage in infants. This chemical, perchlorate, is found in rocket fuel and can also be found in public drinking water.

Environmental experts and Health professionals have been fighting this deregulation that was created during the Obama Administration.

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler claims this move ‘fulfills President Trump’s promise to pare back burdensome ‘one-size-fits-all’ overregulation for the American people.’

According to Associated Press, perchlorate from runoff contaminates the drinking water of as many as 16 million Americans, the Obama administration said in 2011 when it announced the EPA would act to set maximum limits for perchlorate for the first time.

Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) senior strategic director for Health Erik D. Olson says this decision is ‘illegal, unscientific, and unconscionable. The Environmental Protection Agency is threatening the health of pregnant moms and young children with toxic chemicals in their drinking water at levels that literally can cause loss of IQ points. Is this what the Environmental Protection Agency has come to?’

According to Common Dreams, the NRDC plans to challenge the order in court, claiming the consent decree did not allow for deregulating the chemical.”

I truly wish I were making these things up and kids will not be harmed by the president, but as evidenced by previous EPA actions and his blatant lack of empathy for COVID-19 victims, this is not really a stretch. As conservative pundit David Brooks has said, the president “lacks a sense of decency or empathy.”

These roll back of environmental regulations have been deliberate efforts to make it easier for industry to not worry about pollution. Environmental protections cost money. Sadly, when industry has not been permitted to get away with harming people, animals and the environment, it becomes a major motion picture as “Dark Waters” was last year or “Erin Brockovich” years before.

And, the troubling part is people who live in more rural or town areas near these facilities are the ones who get screwed or killed. These hard working folks make up some of Trump’s voters. The ecologist and biologist Sandra Steingraber has testified in front of Congress and the European Union parliament. She is has authored several books, her first being “Living Downstream” and her second “Raising Elijah.” In these books, it shows how industry outguns and outspends local people harmed by their pollution. It takes a Herculean effort to fight this injustice, hence the heroic movies when it does happen.

One thing Steingraber points out is our pollution metrics tend to measure the impact of pollution on a 50 year old man. That is the wrong metric. Kids have developing brains and lungs, mouth breathe more than adults, put their hands in their mouths more frequently, play outside more and are lower to the ground. They are more susceptible than adults are to chemical pollution. Plus, pregnant women are caring for two lives (maybe more), so we need to be extra careful with them.

So, this is why the Trump EPA’s decision to permit easier pollution is so over-the-top callous. Please question this move. Make people stand up and explain why this is a good idea. As I have mentioned before, I knew of Trump’s negatives, but what I feared most is what Trump would do to our environment and climate change actions more than anything. This is just one more example.

From the mouth of Steve Schmidt, Republican presidential campaign manager

This is courtesy of a CNN article called “This is the most succinct — and brutal — Republican rejection of Donald Trump that you will ever read,” which transcribes Steve Schmidt’s comments. Schmidt is a lifelong Republican, who was the campaign manager for John McCain in 2008 and Lamar Alexander in 2000. He is one of the founding members of The Lincoln Project, which is organized to help defeat Donald Trump in the 2020 election.

“Donald Trump has been the worst president this country has ever had. And I don’t say that hyperbolically. He is. But he is a consequential president. And he has brought this country in three short years to a place of weakness that is simply unimaginable if you were pondering where we are today from the day where Barack Obama left office. And there were a lot of us on that day who were deeply skeptical and very worried about what a Trump presidency would be. But this is a moment of unparalleled national humiliation, of weakness.

“When you listen to the President, these are the musings of an imbecile. An idiot. And I don’t use those words to name call. I use them because they are the precise words of the English language to describe his behavior. His comportment. His actions. We’ve never seen a level of incompetence, a level of ineptitude so staggering on a daily basis by anybody in the history of the country whose ever been charged with substantial responsibilities.

“It’s just astonishing that this man is president of the United States. The man, the con man, from New York City. Many bankruptcies, failed businesses, a reality show, that branded him as something that he never was. A successful businessman. Well, he’s the President of the United States now, and the man who said he would make the country great again. And he’s brought death, suffering, and economic collapse on truly an epic scale. And let’s be clear. This isn’t happening in every country around the world. This place. Our place. Our home. Our country. The United States. We are the epicenter. We are the place where you’re the most likely to die from this disease. We’re the ones with the most shattered economy. And we are because of the fool that sits in the Oval Office behind the Resolute Desk.”

There is nothing to add or refute. Your comments are welcome.

He keeps missing the point

Turnout was low at the pep rally, about 1/3 of the arena per the official count. As expected, it is everyone else’s fault per the drawing card. I am certain heads will roll because of the low turnout and rumblings are underway. But, throughout all of this, the drawing card is missing the point. He violated the trust of his loyal fans by risking their health and lives.

Yes, there were a number that showed up to support the drawing card. Very few masks were used, well because the drawing card does not wear one, why should they? Very little social distancing occurred, even though it was easier with a 2/3 empty arena. Sadly, some of these folks and their relatives, friends, co-workers and chance encounters will be exposed to COVID-19.

While I am well beneath perfection, the drawing card has numerous flaws, none of which he will admit. But, one of his more egregious ones is the inability to be accountable for his mistakes and bad decisions. It rivals his inability to tell the truth with any consistency, as it is a cover-up defense mechanism.

To be brutally frank, the drawing card deserves very little trust. When his friend Howard Stern noted the drawing card could care less about his most loyal of fans, it was not a surprise. His wanting their votes, applause and support, was thrown to the wolves, when he staged a pep rally in the middle of a pandemic which is not going away, then required his loyal fans to hold harmless his campaign if they got COVID-19.

The preceding sentence is as good a metaphor for why this person does not deserve people’s trust as any. Loyalty to the drawing card is a one way street. In his defense, people might say he had Barr fire the New York prosecutor who is investigating Rudy Giuliani. But, in actuality he is more worried about the dirt that might come back on him. It is all about The Donald. Always has been, always will be. Every decision or statement circles back to that large ego.

So, the point being missed is the reason the turnout and poll numbers are low are due to one thing and one thing only. The person blaming everyone else. At some point, people notice when you show you do not care about them.

Trace your steps and be careful event attendees

Tonight will be the grand reopening of the presidential pep rallies. First stop Tulsa. My strong advice to attendees is please don’t go, for your sake and that of your families, friends, co-workers and fellow citizens. Because this president chose to misinform about the pandemic risk dating back to January which continues to this day, his cult-like followers are more at risk, since they believe what this person says.

Ironically, on the night of the last pep rally on February 28, 2020, the president referred to COVID-19 as a “Democrat hoax.” That night, the first known American COVID-19 death was occurring. Now, we have over 119,000 deaths, 27% of the global deaths with only 5% of the population. And, it appears to be getting worse again with business reopenings and too many folks acting rashly.

The Tulsa gathering will be indoors, which is big no-no, with so many in close proximity. And, due to the misinformation, which includes a false bravado of not wearing a mask, it is likely more than average will not wear a mask or follow social distancing. Please note, I have been equally concerned about the Black Lives Matter rallies, but at least they are outdoors. Pandemics do not care how altruistic a protest or gathering is. It is an equal opportunity offender and killer.

In this case, we have a person who craves applause. He invited you to this gathering. This group won’t ask him tough questions. They will just cheer his tag lines that are offered without much basis or sand over the edges of the truth. And, they will be exposed or expose others. It should be noted, the president’s campaign will require attendees to sign a statement saying they will hold the campaign harmless, should they get sick. That speaks volumes.

So, if people feel they must attend this and future events, please check your ego and protect yourself and others. Wear a mask, practice social distancing if you can, take some hand sanitizer and a change of clothes, and wash your hands. When you get back to your car, use that sanitizer and change your shirt or clothes. And, record this date and who you came in contact with, if you can. You may want to self-quarantine as well. If you feel poorly with any of the COVID-19 symptoms, go get checked.

I say the same thing to those protesting. Please be careful. Altruism is not a defense. And, what the folks in Tulsa should realize, but sadly do not, the last person to listen to about the pandemic is the one you are going to see.

A survey phone call in disguise

Every month, I receive written surveys from the Republican Party, ACLU, environmental defense group, etc. that look very familiar. The surveys are the same each time, accompanied by an introductory letter telling me how I should answer the questions. But, the biggest tells are at the bottom of the surveys. That is where the fundraising occurs. Send us your money.

So, in essence, these are marketing and solicitations disguised as surveys. Surveying is hard as the entity must do its best to shave off any bias. Otherwise, the results are not worth the paper they are written on. In the case of these fundraisers, my guess is the survey goes to a lock box and then tossed, once the money is collected and sender codified for future fundraising.

Now, phone surveys are using the same process. Last night, I took a call and decided to participate in the survey. The questions were as expected about national and governor races, but it skipped over the US Senate race. When I was asked about a candidate not on my radar screen, that should have been a signal, as this candidate was apparently funding the survey. In this case it was a Republican state senator candidate.

What tipped me was leading questions which told me of her opponents’ stances on various votes taking those votes out of context or hyper-politicizing the stance. The surveyor was leading me to question why I should vote for the other candidate.

Once I heard about three of these spoon-fed questions, I stopped him and said this is a leading survey as you are telling me why I should not vote for the other person. Plus, you are taking a lot of these votes out of context and feeding me slogans. What you just said is a made up statistic, for example.

I said I am going to hang up now. I told you how I am going to vote. So, you need nothing further. And, you should know I am an Independent and former Republican voter. But, I am not voting for this Republican candidate.

COVID-19 cases and deaths climb in various states, but good news may be coming

We have long learned to deem any information coming from the US president as NOT factual. We will have fewer surprises that way. We have also learned the vice president is not too believable either. Both people tell us how the US COVID-19 numbers are improving in advance of the president beginning his applause seeking pep rallies.

Yet, Reuters reported yesterday that cases and deaths are significantly increasing in Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Nevada, Oklahoma, and South Carolina. My home state of North Carolina is also seeing increases, which is why the governor could not confirm a full house for the GOP convention in August, which led to its movement to Florida, which has a worse problem. And, the US is now past 118,700 COVID-19 deaths, which is 27% of the global COVID-19 deaths, with the US having only 5% of the population.

But, some good news is on the horizon. Reuters reported today the following:

“The World Health Organization (WHO) said it was moving to update its guidelines on treating people stricken with COVID-19 to reflect results of a clinical trial that showed a cheap, common steroid can help save critically ill patients.

Trial results announced on Tuesday showed dexamethasone, used since the 1960s to reduce inflammation in diseases such as arthritis, cut death rates by around a third among the most severely ill COVID-19 patients admitted to hospital.
The WHO’s clinical guidance for treating patients infected with the new coronavirus is aimed at doctors and other medical professionals and seeks to use the latest data to inform clinicians on how best to tackle all phases of the disease, from screening to discharge.

Although the dexamethasone study’s results are preliminary, the researchers behind the project said it suggests the drug should immediately become standard care in severely stricken patients…

The positive news comes as coronavirus infections accelerated in some places including the United States and as Beijing cancelled scores of flights to help contain a fresh outbreak in China’s capital.

‘This is the first treatment to be shown to reduce mortality in patients with COVID-19 requiring oxygen or ventilator support,’ WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement late on Tuesday. The agency said it was looking forward to the full data analysis of the study in coming days.”

Let’s hope this dexamethasone does the trick. I know we need something to stem the pandemic growth here and elsewhere. Having large rallies indoors is not conducive to stemming the growth and, sadly, neither are the protests for Black Lives Matter, even though they are outside, which helps some. Unfortunately, altruism does not get you a hall pass, so please wear a mask and practice social distancing.

Bad apples will spoil the bunch

The Catholic Church had a centuries old problem it failed to address that police departments and unions should heed. After complaints became more public, the Catholic Church was forced to more drastically deal with pedophile priests. Failing to address these bad apples painted the whole church and its entire priesthood in a bad light. Now, the significant majority of priests were not pedophiles, but the bad apples tainted the whole bunch.

While the majority of police officers are good people doing a hard job, it would be incorrect to say there are no bad apples among their ranks. Even the best of the police will make errors of judgement when fear enters the equation (note this observation comes from a police chief). But, there are a number of police officers who have unhealthy racist bents or are prone to undue force. They are bad apples.

As with the priests, the failure of police department and union leadership to police their own paints all police in an unfair bad light. Holding police officers accountable is critical in regaining trust. Those good cops who make errors in judgement due to fear must be helped to be better through acknowledgement, training, and more training. And, punishment may be necessary.

Yet, the bad apples must be dealt with. Too many racists and violent prone police officers have been identified through numerous complaints, yet they go on largely unscathed. Some have even risen in the union ranks due to an unhealthy zeal to protect rogue cops, including themselves.

While this last point may alarm some, NPR reported the head of one Police Federation has had thirty official complaints and has created an old boy’s network. This same union leader made insensitive racial remarks about George Floyd and spoke of exonerating the four officers, not mentioning the kneeling on Floyd’s neck. It should be noted fourteen officers in this federation have broken ranks from this position and have condemned the officers for wrongdoing toward Floyd.

The bad apples must be acknowledged and dealt with. The failure to do so, emulates the embarassing and criminal oversights perpetuated by the Catholic Church. And, that is not good. On the flip side, I am proud of the police officers of all colors who have joined the civil protests.