Wednesday walkabout

There are a lot of things to ponder this Wednesday, so let’s go for a walkabout. A young sixteen year old from Sweden has twice spoken candidly with members of the US Congress. Two take aways from Greta Thunberg’s comments:

– do something
– listen to the scientists

Yet, while she has been here, the US president’s head of the EPA, a former coal lobbyist, has rolled back an Obama regulation on clean water and overruled California’s ability to have tougher emissions standards for autos sold there. Call me crazy, but this 60 year old man sides with the 16 year old and the climate scientists.

The US president should thank Boris for taking some of the spotlight away from his inane antics. The UK is headed toward a cliff and Boris is saying follow me as he hits the gas. Brexit will be challenging enough, but a no deal Brexit would be a disaster. The British public should listen to the business community who is sharing its concern. An inability to govern this issue has been evident from the outset.

Somebody blew up oil refineries in Saudi Arabia. Iran is the most likely culprit. It is my guess someone is testing the waters with hawk John Bolton gone. Sadly, we are in this mess because of Trump’s decision to back out of a deal all other parties begged him not to, including US military and intelligence leaders. So, Trump’s building a coalition will be harder with our not listening to allies in the first place.

Finally, I am in the middle of Malcolm Gladwell’s latest book, “Talking to Strangers.” The thesis is we are horrible judges of when strangers are lying to us. Meeting the person actually is detrimental to the effort. A comment I just read is belief is not the absence of doubt; it’s the absence of a sufficient number of reasons to doubt. Fascinating read.

Have a great rest of the week.

Advertisements

Our children deserve better

Two time Pulitzer Prize winner Nicholas Kristof wrote an editorial earlier this week in The New York Times called “Our children deserve better.” It is a clarion call to our nation showing the plight of kids in America.

Here are a few quotes to frame the issue:

“UNICEF says America ranks No. 37 among countries in well-being of children, and Save the Children puts the United States at No. 36. European countries dominate the top places.

American infants at last count were 76 percent more likely to die in their first year than children in other advanced countries, according to an article last year in the journal Health Affairs. We would save the lives of 20,000 American children each year if we could just achieve the same child mortality rates as the rest of the rich world.”

“Half a million American kids also suffer lead poisoning each year, and the youth suicide rate is at its highest level on record….The Census Bureau reported this week that the number of uninsured children increased by 425,000 last year.”

These are different views and sources of the threats to US children that note we have a problem. Another source I read a couple of years ago noted America has a much higher maternal mortality rate at child birth than other civilized countries, which further endangers children as well as the mothers.

Yet, these issues are not being discussed in the halls of government. We have a poverty problem in our country with too many living in or just above poverty levels. We have not expanded Medicaid in fifteen states whose numbers are worse than these national numbers per capita. We have not addressed our national water crisis which has a Flint, MI like exposure to lead in too many cities and a volume of available fresh water issue in other places. We have not invested as we should to diminish crime and provide more opportunities for jobs in disenfranchised areas. There are several pockets of success that can be emulated in more cities.

We also need to address better gun governance, especially with the number one gun death cause by far being suicide and a non-inconsequential accidental gun death rate. And, we have not dealt with the continuing and rising exposure to technology and artificial intelligence which have taken and will take even more jobs in the future. Finally, there is that climate change thing we need to deal with.

These are real problems. And, they will get worse. Data driven analysis of causes and solutions are needed. They are both multi-faceted. Investing more now, will save huge amounts later. This is not just an urban issue, it is rural one as well. The opioid crisis is rampant in these impoverished rural areas, for example.

None of the solutions will fit on a bumper sticker. And, political attempts to oversimplify issues should be questioned. Here is an easy contradiction to spot – if people believe gun deaths are a mental health issue, then why the effort to eliminate or not expand mental health benefits?

Please make your legislators aware of these issues and ask pointed questions. These questions deserve answers, not bumper sticker slogans. These concerns deserve to be talked about, studied and acted upon.

I am a Conservative Republican. Climate change is real

An article appeared earlier this week in Poltico written by Republican Congressman Francis Rooney from Florida. Rather than speak for him, the following are his opening paragraphs.

“I’m a conservative Republican and I believe climate change is real. It’s time for my fellow Republicans in Congress to stop treating this environmental threat as something abstract and political and recognize that it’s already affecting their constituents in their daily lives.

If we don’t change our party’s position soon, our voters will punish us.

It is well past time for Republicans to recognize the increasing costs and dangers associated with a changing climate. Scientific data empirically substantiates rises in sea and land temperatures which have materially increased over the past 20 years, increased acid in our air and seas, and rising sea levels, which have also increased velocity over the past 25 years.

In the past few years, the U.S. alone has experienced record-breaking tornadoes and flooding, devastating hurricanes, and expansive wildfires. The doubling of the deep ocean heat content in the past 20 years portends significantly more severe storms and hurricanes in the future, creating more and more calls for ‘disaster relief.’

I’m from a coastal district that is directly affected by these issues every day. In fact, my home state of Florida is ground zero for the adverse effects of climate change.”

The article continues, but you get the gist of his theme. More Republicans are speaking out on climate change than before. The reason for the lingering dissent is traceable to the purse strings of the fossil fuel industry which still have a lot of clout, especially in the White House.

Yet, we can no longer wait on other Republicans, including the president. Tangible measures have been happening in the US led by solar and wind energy development and cities looking to improve building and transportation conservation initiatives. Other measures are happening, as well, but the declining cost of solar and wind have led to their proliferation.

We should celebrate the arrival of sixteen year-old Greta Thunberg from Sweden who will be speaking to the United Nations  later this month. She understands what the US president refuses to acknowledge. Her candor and advocacy are refreshing.

I also want to give a shout out to oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens who died earlier this week. Pickens had been a staunch supporter of wind energy dating back to the first part of the decade. Appearing on “60 Minutes,” Pickens noted back then the significant wind patterns that blow across rhe plain states. Now, Iowa gets over 1/3 of its electricity from wind energy with Texas leading volume with over 1/6 of its larger electric needs met by winds.

Rooney is dead on accurate in my view. I encourage all voters to ask what candidates plan to do about climate change and the environment. If they fail to answer the question or answer poorly, do not vote for them. We can no longer wait.

A nice thing about our country

Our country is weary of having a person in a leadership position who is seemingly in the eye of every storm. He seems to be the lone constant in personal, political, company, country and media attacks. Even his supporters lament some of his tweeting habits.

Yet, our imperfect country has some nice things going for it. Here are a few thoughts.

– when our leaders do not address our real problems, companies, cities, states and people can step up and do more;
– when the president cannot get out of his own way and then has his people spend time, energy and their integrity defending his inane comments, we can choose to tune him out;
– when the president is untruthful more than he is not, we can choose to not believe a word he says or tweets;
– when leaders rationalize indefensible comments as normative, we can push back on them;
– we can choose to act on conservation, climate change and guns by voting with our feet; companies pay attention. Why? What creates profits and jobs are customers.

To this last point, companies like Google, Amazon, IKEA, Walmart, Facebook, etc. and states like California, Texas, Iowa, North Carolina, etc. are active in renewable energy. Walmart, Dick’s and Albertson’s are stepping up on gun sale restrictions. Even ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell are paying attention on climate change due to shareholder pressure.

If leaders choose not to lead, we can all do more. It sure would be nice if they helped some, too. If they do not, they become less relevant.

Tantrums, vapes, and hurricanes

The week that was had serious issues that threatened the lives of people mixed in with self-inflicted issues that caused temper-tantrums. In no particular order:

The Bahamas was truly devastated by Hurricane Dorian. The aftermath pictures are sobering. Okracoke, one of the southernmost Outer Banks islands in North Carolina, was hit hard, but the US mainland was spared the brunt of the storm, although damage occurred and lives were lost. That is the big story.

Yet, way too much time and effort has been spent trying to save face for the US president after ham-handed and unneeded efforts to play weatherman. Rather than admit he over accentuated the threat on Alabama, he had his staff spending valuable time coming up with a story that does not let the president’s little feelings to be hurt. What he fails to realize, it is the “rationalization” efforts that paint him in a bad light. It is akin to dressing up the “dog ate my homework” excuse.

Since we are talking about blowing smoke, the dangers of vaping are raising their ugly head. More kids are entering the hospital with breathing concerns traceable to some form of vaping. What has always concerned me is the amount of smoke the vapers exhale from their lungs. It far exceeds the amount of smoke a cigarette smoker would exhale. Call me crazy, but that cannot be good for one’s health.

Still on the subject of blowing smoke, ex-president of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe died yesterday at the age of 95. After being initially praised for liberating and founding Zimbabwe, he proceeded to kill any opposition and become an autocrat. While so doing, he blew smoke at the world to mask his efforts.

Our British friends are realizing that having Boris as prime minister is not necessarily a good thing. Even pro-Brexit folks are likely lamenting this ego-centric choice. When time is of the essence, shortening the time to discuss a complex topic is not good stewardship. But, all of Parliament needs a “get out of the pool” order to allow them to check their egos, decide what they want and get their fannies to Brussels. A no-deal Brexit would be disastrous and would be felt immediately.

Finally, the US president acted on another temper-tantrum when the Department of Justice sued the State of California and four automakers for an agreement to comply with a higher mph standard than the Federal government wants. These automakers feel being good stewards will help sell cars and help them compete with other automakers. It is sad that Attorney General William Barr has stained his career being the president’s personal attorney and attacking people that disagree with him – that is autocratic behavior.

Have a great weekend all.

And the band played on – letter to the editor

My local newspaper printed my letter to the editor based on the theme of a recent post. Please feel free to adapt and use it, if you agree with the concept.

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

I feel like citing the song lyric “and the band played on” in reference to elected leaders ignoring problems which will only get worse. On climate change, environmental degradation, increasing US debt, aging infrastructure, and insufficient gun governance, we have ticking time bombs. The kids get what is needed on climate change, environment and guns. But, debt and infrastructure must also be dealt with. And, not addressing the former makes the latter harder.

These are the questions we must be asking our politicians. If they are evasive or give poor answers, do not vote for them. We don’t need a wall. We need safe bridges and railways.

 

Melania Trump, thank you for the invitation, but no thanks

Yesterday, I received a letter from First Lady Melania Trump and the Republican National Committee asking for donations for her husband’s campaign. The letter espoused all of the good things which have occurred under the president and all the bad that would happen should he not win in 2020. Since a pre-addressed envelope was enclosed, I sent the following letter.

August 14, 2019

Republican National Committee
c/o Melania Trump
PO Box 96994
Washington, DC 20090-6994

Dear Ms. Trump,

Thank you for your service to your country. I received your invitation to support your husband’s campaign for 2020 and I must respectfully decline. As an Independent and former Republican voter, I must confess I see your husband’s presidency differently from what you noted in the letter.

While I am pleased the economic growth that was almost eight years strong has continued under his presidency, we are at least dialoguing with North Korea and a bipartisan law was passed to push prison and sentencing reform, I am concerned with several other policy positions and his overall behavior as president.

On the policy side, I am very concerned with the our building debt and the US decision to pull out of the Paris Climate Change Accord as well as unwinding several regulations that make it easier for companies to degrade our environment. I am also concerned with treating our allies and trading partners so poorly. We are retrenching from our leadership position and we are less trusted by other world leaders. That is unfortunate as we are diminishing a major strength of our country. We cannot shrink to greatness.

On the behavior side, it is frustrating that our president consistently dishonors the office he holds. Our president must be one of our better angels, not our worst. We need our president to be truthful and not denigrate and bully people who disagree with his positions. And, we must not have our president spouting racist and xenophobic comments. Country leaders from Sweden, UK, Ireland, Scotland, Germany, New Zealand , eg condemned his recent remarks.

Please encourage your husband to become the leader we need him to be. Right now, he is just a person occupying a leadership position. We need more from him than that. If he is not prepared to make such changes, I would ask the Republican Party to find a replacement candidate. I am concerned for our democracy and our planet. It frightens me to have to say these words.

Please forgive my candor. You are the best thing he has going for him, so maybe you can encourage some change. Thank you again for your service and doing your best to bring honor to the First Lady role.

Keith Wilson
Charlotte, Independent Voter