Wednesday Wanderings

One of my favorite hiking shirts draws comments given the slogan on the back – “all who wander are not lost.” In search for the right alliterative match to a Wednesday review of various and sundry topics, allow me to walk out “wanderings.” So, lace up your hiking boots and lets wander a bit.

Decency Won: The Senate vote in Alabama had a pleasant surprise with Doug Jones defeating Roy Moore in a close race. I applaud the citizens of Alabama for doing the right thing. Retiring Republican Senator Jeff Flake said, “Decency won.” This says it all. For those Moore proponents who say Moore is a fine man, that may be the case, but the three words that come to my mind are “bigotry, unlawfulness, pedophilia.” The middle word is overlooked as the former Judge was fired twice for disobeying the law. We all must obey the laws whether or not we agree with them, but especially our judges and senators. Jones is a good man and public servant.

Emmanuel Macron assumes a Climate Leadership role: A continuing frustration is the ceding by the US President of our leadership role in the world. Pulling out of the Paris Climate Change Accord is a key example of this, as the US President is too beholden to fossil fuel interests and money. French President Emmanuel Macron hosted a meeting this week where foreign leaders discussed dealing with climate change and a noticeable absence was Donald Trump, who was not invited. The US had people there, but not in a capacity of the federal government. The US is no longer at the adult table. Macron has followed through on inviting renowned scientists to conduct research in France and, out of eighteen grant recipients, 13 of them came from the US. Fortunately, good things are happening even in the US, but it would be nice if the federal government aided and abetted this important cause and did not throw up road blocks.

Nevada legislature reverses utility anti-neutral pricing on solar energy: In a huge change, the Nevada governor signed earlier this year a bipartisan law to overturn a highly contentious and job-impacting utility decision to pay solar energy homeowners less than they charge back for electricity. In short, when the sun shines more power is produced than needed and is sold to the utility. When the homeowner needs more electricity they buy it back from the utility who had been charging a higher rate after their decision. This cost jobs and new development and it did not take the legislature long to realize the sun shines a lot in Nevada and this is where the cheaper and cleaner energy future resides. So, they passed a law to get back to neutral pricing or close thereto, giving the utility a minor transaction fee. Now, the solar energy boon which stalled as a result of the utility action, has taken off again.

Joe Biden is a class act: Former Vice President Joe Biden is making the talk show circuit to discuss his new book about his relationship with his son Beau who died of brain cancer. When he stopped by “The View,” during the discussion Meghan McCain, daughter of Senator John McCain, broke down as she describe her father having the same cancer as Beau. Biden switched chairs with one of the co-hosts and comforted her and spoke to her and the audience. He said many encouraging words to give her hope and strength, but added her father was his best friend. If he ever needed him, John McCain would be there for him. His son Beau idolized McCain and spoke of his courage. Biden said John and him were brothers of a different father. They would argue over things, but deeply respect each other.

Thanks for wandering about with me. Please feel free to offer some of your reactions and wanderings.

Advertisements

Thursday this and that’s

Thursday has arrived bringing the last day of November. One month is left in the most interesting, befuddling and alarming of years. A few “this and that’s” on varied topics follow.

2017 will be remembered for two major global events, one good and one bad. And, the bad may have helped open Pandora’s Box on the good. The good will be the “year women fought back.” The bad will be electing a global leader who is known for his lying, his narcissism, his maltreatment of women, his bigotry and his bombast.

Women have been sexually harassed and assaulted for years. In some places in the world, their rights are secondary to men and/ or their husbands. Starting with Bill Cosby and Donald Trump, women are coming forward with claims of sexual misconduct. The sad part is this was not enough to prevent a man, who boasted of his assault in at least three taped settings and the fact he could get away with it, from getting elected. To me, it takes a huge effort to come forward, so these women should be heard and heeded.

The bad is the election of a man who is far from being qualified for office. Last year, I was told many times he would hire good people to make up for his inexperience. The more capable people either refused or would not kiss his ring. So, we have had a parade of folks who had to resign or were fired and our White House is filled with “chaos and incompetence” per several staffers noted by David Brooks. But, the worst part is the daily degradation of the our standing in the world, the office of the Presidency and civil rights and decorum. If not remedied, this period will be remembered as the time the US ceded its global leadership role.

Another key storiy is 2017 will be the year of backlash against the refugee crisis. With all of the turmoil in the Middle East and Africa, the flood of refugees has caused massive problems for Europe. Welcoming countries had more refugees than they could handle. So, nationalistic movements grew in size and clout. Some groups won seats in their parliaments and a few won majorities. Refugees need our help, but it has to be managed and we need to realize the US minimized its role, which further exacerbated Europe’s issues.

The other big stories are the reality of Brexit negotiations, China extending further its reach and clout with the diminishing US role, the reemergence of Russia along with its cyber manipulation of other countries, and Kim Jong Un accomplishing the build-up of nuclear weapons and ICB missiles.

Going into 2018, I worry most about the man in charge of the United States. He is not trusted, he attacks critics, he uses false news as much as Putin, he belittles legitimate news sources and he not only remains inexperienced, he does not care to do the work to become so and is rather incoherent when he defends what he does. Read a transcript of what he says and it is embarassingly nonsensical.

Let’s forget all of this and enjoy our remaining holiday season. I can leave you with this one thought – there is far more good news than bad, it just seems the opposite since the good is vastly underreported and bad is overreported. Here is one such good story – a team of Afghani girls won the global robotics competition this week, after being initially denied entrance to the US due to our Muslim travel ban. You go girls!

That confederate thing was about slavery

Being raised in the South, I was taught the Civil War was more about states’ rights and northern aggression rather than slavery. I saw a recent poll that showed 48% people believed that states’ rights was the principal reason for the war and only 38% said it was about slavery. This recasting of history by groups promoting white supremacy or merely teaching a white-washed message is influencing too many people. To be frank, of course, it was about slavery.

Why do I say that? One needs only to look at the formal declarations of the states who seceded from the United States of America (see the third paragraph from Texas’ declaration below*). In those documents, the words to preserve the right to own slaves (or something similar) can be consistently found. The states’ rights argument was used in support of the need to perpetuate slave ownership. If people think otherwise, let me speak purely in terms of economics, setting aside the important human argument.

In economic terms, the South quite simply treated slaves as assets to be used. Once the asset was purchased and maintained, the fruits of the labor went to the owner. Since slave owners were the wealthiest people in the South, as a result, they had the most to lose if slave ownership was done away with. Slave ownership was an economic boon for the South. It is that simple.

But, to get the white non-slave owners to fight, a good story had to be crafted. Politicians have done this for ages and still do. So, they told a good story that “we don’t want those folks in Washington telling us how to do things. We want to govern ourselves.” If they told these poorer whites what they were really fighting for, they may have been less enthusiastic participants. The pitch would have been, “come fight so I can still own slaves. And, maybe you can someday.”

I mention all of this as this fight over monuments is secondary to the renewed fight on civil rights. Many of these symbols were erected at the height of the Jim Crow era or the KKK’s fifty to ninety years after the Civil War ended. In fact, Stone Mountain, outside of Atlanta, was finished in 1972, just 45 years ago. Very few of these monuments were erected just after the Civil War. The same goes for the Confederate flag, which became more prominent after the Civil War when carried by white men wearing white sheets and hoods. These monuments are more about honoring Jim Crow than they are the Civil War. As a result, they are an insult to our African-American citizens.

Slavery is evil. God had Moses lead the Jews out of slavery in Egypt. Yet, too many ministers seemed to overlook that part to reinforce why it was OK to own slaves. Then, it was continued to why the races should be segregated during Jim Crow and the 1960s Civil Rights movement. One only needs to listen to the haunting words of Billie Holiday as she sings “Strange Fruit,” to get first hand what the Jim Crow era did. Humans should not own other humans – it is wrong and sinful. And, per our Constitution, which has been improved several times since it was first written, every American has equal rights, not more, not less.

Scrolling forward to today, we seem to have groups that want to refight the Civil War and Jim Crow disparaging non-whites and non-Christians. White supremacists, the KKK and neo-Nazis are hate groups stirring up racial tension. Do they have a right to speak in America? Yes, that is how it works. Do we have the right to say in rebuttal your words and actions are evil? You are damn right we do. Civil protest is the answer. Uncivil protest cannot be tolerated. If you bring a weapon to a protest, then you should be sent away or get a ticket voucher for the weapon as it is detained. But, it is more than OK to civilly protest evil words and actions.

America is about freedom and rights. There is a huge difference in those who say we are not being treated fairly from those who say to treat us better than they you treat others. Those missions are not the same. We all have equal rights, not more, not less.

*******************************************

* Texas abandoned her separate national existence and consented to become one of the Confederated Union to promote her welfare, insure domestic tranquility and secure more substantially the blessings of peace and liberty to her people. She was received into the confederacy with her own constitution, under the guarantee of the federal constitution and the compact of annexation, that she should enjoy these blessings. She was received as a commonwealth holding, maintaining and protecting the institution known as negro slavery – the servitude of the African to the white race within her limits – a relation that had existed from the first settlement of her wilderness by the white race, and which her people intended should exist in all future time. Her institutions and geographical position established the strongest ties between her and other slaveholding States of the confederacy. Those ties have been strengthened by association. But what has been the course of the government of the United States, and of the people and authorities of the non-slave-holding States, since our connection with them?

A few Sunday Questions

Given today is a day of religious reflection in many circles, let me ponder a few questions.

Today I read about the Values Conference where US evangelicals meet. At the conference, Steve Bannon, the nationalist editor of Breitbart and former Senior Advisor spoke of war on the parts of the Republican Party that are more reasonable and offer some needed sanity. Why should folks heed this man when he speaks against those who dare question the President, saying they are placing our military in danger? So, the President’s decrying diplomatic efforts is not doing that? It is our right to question our leaders.

At the same conference, Harvey Weinstein is being vilified, but the focus is on Hollywood not reining him in and the fact he is a Democrat funder. Whether it is Weinstein, Bill Clinton, Bill Cosby, Bill O’Reilly, Roger Ailes or Donald Trump, using one’s power to sexually harass, demean, use or assault women is criminal. The President is highly supported by this group, even with his lying, cheating, stiffing and assaulting of others because he said he would do their bidding. So, my question is if Harvey Weinstein was President and appointed a conservative Supreme Court Justice would that make his exploits OK as it does with Trump?

In my home town, there is a lawsuit by a gay married music teacher at a Catholic High School who was fired after he got married to his partner, officially coming out. The Bishop says they cannot support an openly gay employee. The question asked by a Catholic father of a gay son is why should the church stop there? Why doesn’t the church fire all women who use birth control, all people who have had affairs and all people who have divorced which also violate the church’s rules? The father noted his son said no one would choose to face the ostracism, hate and discrimination unless they felt they were being true to themselves by coming out.

I am a practical person of faith. I think the over arching instruction to treat people like we want to be treated is the most important mandate. In the Christian world, this mandate is even called The Golden Rule. It can also be found in other religious texts. We need to be tolerant of our differences. Bannon has the right to speak out, but he should not be denigrating the right for others to do so.

So, regardless of what political or religious tribe we belong to, we belong to an even bigger tribe that interacts with each other on a daily basis. Let’s do our best to treat others as Jesus instructed. That is worth talking about at a Values Conference.

Saturday in the park – a few random musings

Using a popular song by the band Chicago, here are a few musings as you walk in the park this Sarurday.

Why does Vice President Mike Pence have a deer-in-the-headlights look when asked questions? We all know he has to think more about his choice of words so as not to anger his unforgiving boss. Yet, I keep thinking this guy may be President soon and he does not say many things of substance. If he were a sports radio announcer, he would be known as a “homer” meaning he is biased toward the home team.

Senator John McCain appeared as a frightened, beaten and broken man in The Vietnam documentary series. His plane was shot down over Hanoi and after breaking arms and a leg in the crash, he was beaten routinely and mentally and physically tortured. His captors filmed him and then beat him later when he did not show gratitude. Seeing him in this horrible condition reminds me of the now-President who said McCain was not a hero because he was captured. When the emcee gave the now-President a chance to correct his mistake, he doubled down on his criticism of McCain, a true war hero. Why we elected this man as President is beyond me.

I am hoping Angela Merkel carries the day in the German election. She is good for Germany, good for the EU and good for the world. She is the leader of the free world, since the US President has abdicated this role. Actually, I don’t view him as much of a leader at all even in his own country.

Finally, why can’t people like Bill and Melinda Gates run our country. They understand global and US problems recognizing the symbiotic nature we have with the world. They do their homework and take action based on their analysis working on things like global health, education, women’s issues to name a few.  This is in contrast to a White House incumbent who governs off rhetoric and chooses not to learn what he does not know. It is a wish I have..,

Have a great weekend. We all need one.

 

 

A missed opportunity for Democrats

I had a sense around July of 2016, that Hillary Clinton may not win the White House. But, as she distanced herself from Donald Trump due to his relatively horrible debate performance and the Access Hollywood leaked tape, I thought she just might win – then came Comey.

Yet, going back to the summer of 2016, she made a mistake that will haunt her and the rest of the Democrat party. She picked a plain vanilla nice guy to be her running mate. Senator Tim Kaine is a capable public servant, but the initial reaction to her announcement was “who?” The guy I was hoping she would pick would have added sizzle and substance. Senator Corey Booker of New Jersey would have added that sizzle.

Booker is not only an effective speaker, he was an effective Mayor of a major city before becoming a Senator. And, as an African-American, he would have shored up a weakness of Clinton’s, as many African-Americans and others were not too enthused about her and did not vote. Clinton is also a very competent public servant, but she does not exude passion like her husband does and she needed some passion on the ticket.

Yet, mainly Booker represents the future of the Democrat party who is searching for a new Moses to lead them to the promised land. Right now, there are many fine leaders, but the ones who stand out are older sages and may not rev up the base and attract independents and disillusioned Republicans. If you are not familiar with Booker, check him out. He is articulate, smart and knows the issues, three qualities that we need more of. I am not saying he is the only answer, but the opportunity to showcase someone like Booker was there for the taking and passed on.

Two women who made a difference

There are several well done Princess Diana tributes being played on various networks. The one most impactful to me is the one where Princes William and Harry share their thoughts along with others who knew her well. Seeing the joyful footage of the boys with their mother at various theme parks or parks is delightful. It reminds me why people saw her as a down-to-earth person. Plus, the huge viral picture of her shaking hands with an AIDs patient truly broke ground in a world very scared of the disease and is an exemplar of who she was.

We should not lose sight that this is also the 20th anniversary of Mother Teresa’s death. She died about a week after Princess Diana’s death, which left the attention to the earlier passing, which is likely the way the humble Mother Teresa wanted it. With her ministry to those in need, Mother Teresa may have been one of the finest people to walk the earth.

These two people illustrate the importance of reaching out to those in need. There was footage of a disabled and disheveled man who broke into tears when Diana spoke with him and shook his hand. Plus, there was countless footage of Diana visiting with children and parents of all religions and countries. She often took up causes that were not approved of by the monarchy such as AIDs or undetonated land mines.

Teresa would also reach out and help those with disease, malnutrition, or extremely poverty. Like any human, she had doubts and questioned her ability to help. She wrote in her journal that she prayed for God to give her strength to carry on.  Not unlike the prayers of Desmond Doss, the conscientious objector who saved 75 or more men in battle under fire, who prayed for strength to save one more.

To me, their outreach to help is inspiring. These two women “walked the talk” doing what religions ask of us to do. Let’s remember them both well. Diana is still getting the press, but do not forget Mother Teresa, as well.