Sunday soliloquys

Happy weekend to all, including our friends overseas where they are almost through. Today, I thought I would throw some random ramblings or soliloquys at you, hopefully brief ones.

  • why is a major whitewashing effort going on by one of its two political parties to make more not be aware that the US has an ugly racist past? I will paraphrase a recent banner over a picture of Dorothy Counts, a black teen who was vilified and spat at for being the first black high school student at a previously all white high school in 1957 in Charlotte. The banner said the folks who tried to prevent her from going to school with white kids are now advocating not teaching that they tried to prevent her from going to the school.
  • why is this same Republican party doing its darnedest to whitewash what happened on January 6, after claiming it was an ugly chapter in our history after it just happened? This is akin to the wizard telling us to ignore the man behind the curtain, but in this case, telling us the wizard had a role, then backing off months later. This process began well before January 6 and is still going on built on a Big Lie that the former president was cheated – he was not, he just lost because he got fewer votes.
  • why are Democrats routinely forming a circular firing squad to prevent legislation from happening? Please get the infrastructure bill over the goal line and pass something tangible, but short of hopes, on the tandem bill. The former is over due now. But, the Democrats will need prioritize on the tandem bill, as things cost money.
  • why are Republican states awakening the Kraken by pushing for more restrictive abortion rights in various states? The Kraken is women who do not like people governing their bodies more than they already do. I think women have gotten their hands around the current rules, but going further is a bridge too far. Even Republican leaders are worried over this push. They should be.
  • what I cannot understand is why even pro-life folks do not favor family planning efforts? The state of Colorado did a study a few years ago which revealed family planning efforts reduced the state’s health care bill, reduced the number of abortions, reduced the prevalence of STDs., and reduced the number of unwanted pregnancies. Other studies have shown a correlation with increased poverty and increased family size.

That is all for now. Have a great weekend.

Dr. Fiona Hill cautions all on civil unrest fomented by the outgoing president (a needed repeat from this mid-January, 2021 post)

The following post was written about a week after the insurrection instigated by the former president to try and overturn the results of the 2020 election. Dr. Fiona Hill* spoke on PBS Newshour last night and offered that because the former president is so ego-maniacal, he is very susceptible to manipulation. She also said earlier this week, if Trump were to be reelected, our democracy would be over. The former president responded with his usual name calling defense, which is his way of discounting very credible critics like Hill.

Dr. Fiona Hill is one of the most credible public servants who risked a great deal by testifying of her concerns regarding the coercion of Ukraine to benefit the president.* In an article called “Former Trump official Fiona Hill: ‘President’s actions have put us on the brink of civil war’” by Justine Coleman of The Hill, she cautions of more civil unrest. Here are a few paragraphs along with a link below.

Former Trump National Security Council member Fiona Hill on Monday said that President Trump’s ‘actions have put us on the brink of civil war’ after pro-Trump rioters stormed the Capitol last week.

Hill, who served as the senior director for European and Russian affairs on the National Security Council, called the Capitol raid a “coup” in a Politico op-ed, saying that a coup does not need to be a ‘sudden, violent seizure of power involving clandestine plots and military takeovers.

‘Trump disguised what he was doing by operating in plain sight, talking openly about his intent,’ she said. ‘He normalized his actions so people would accept them. I’ve been studying authoritarian regimes for three decades, and I know the signs of a coup when I see them.’

The former Trump official said Trump’s efforts to stay in power during his presidency amounted to a ‘self-coup’ that was ultimately unsuccessful. But she noted ‘the bad news is that his supporters still believe the false narrative’ that the president won reelection after he and other Republicans have promoted unfounded claims that widespread voter fraud led to his loss.

Trump has not repudiated it, nor have the House and Senate Republicans who voted against the Electoral College results, she wrote. ‘Millions of people still think the election was stolen. They still support Trump the person, not the Republican Party, and many are prepared to take further action on his behalf.

‘As in the case of other coup attempts, the president’s actions have put us on the brink of civil war,’ Hill continued. ‘Trump did not overturn the election results, but, just as he intended, he disrupted the peaceful democratic transition of executive power.’

Her voice is one of experience and reason. She needs to be listened to by all, but especially Republicans in position of leadership.

Former Trump official Fiona Hill: ‘President’s actions have put us on the brink of civil war’ (msn.com)

*Per Wikpedia, Fiona Hill is a British-American foreign affairs specialist and academic. She is a former official at the U.S. National Security Council specializing in Russian and European affairs. She was a witness in the November 2019 House hearings regarding the impeachment of President Trump. A PhD in history from Harvard University, she is currently a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington.

Bad word, bad word

My wonderfully efficient and effective Administrative Assistant for many years was the epitome of customer service. She had better customer service instincts than many consultants both internally with colleagues and externally with clients. She was also a very devout woman and you would never hear a curse word cross her lips.

Yet, she would get angry from time to time like we all do. So, if she was really annoyed with some mix-up or maltreatment, I would hear her say “bad word, bad word.” That was her way of cursing. No four letter expletives, just the same two words repeated twice. Very few of us can live up to that kind of exemplar.

Many who follow this blog know I do not give much credence to name-calling or labels. It weakens the argument of the user, as they tend to be shortcuts to defamation of another person or group. I do my best to avoid them, but of course, I do mess up. Yet, I try to focus on the deceitful words or actions than call the espouser a liar. I also try to avoid using those bad words in print, maybe using asterisks are the infamous acronym of BS.

What continues to trouble me is with social media so pervasive and the managers of such tools like the one (Facebook) which is getting scrutiny in Congress as we speak, we have entered into a post-truth society. The truth continues to have to work hard to keep its head above the surface. A social media expert said this weekend misinformation is six times more likely to be read and routed than the truth. And, that company who denies they know this is not being very forthcoming so says a whistleblower. Ads are how they make money, so the more read posts make more money for them.

I have used this example many times but Vladimir Putin’s early career was in disinformation for the KGB. Today, as the leader of Russia, stories by former TV producers and media people speak of Putin having a very active role in various communication channels. But, this does not surprise me because of the controlling nature of the country.

It is troubling the former US president is a huge fan of Putin’s. Though, what bothers me most is not the former president has a penchant for using untruths to tell a story he wants to tell. Based on his well-documented history, I expected these actions. What bothers me most are those acting like sycophants and rationalizers to grease the skids for the untruthful narrative and provide air cover for such stories.

It should not take so much political courage to stand up and call out the untruthful stories. Yet, it does. The folks who do get vilified and even receive death threats. And, they know this going in and still call the lying out. The folks could have been past supporters, but get ostracized for saying even the simplest of things that contradict the untruthful narrative.

So, many staff and public servants have been removed for daring to call out the untruthful behavior. That should speak volumes, but simply is not getting inside the communication channels of those who really need to hear it. This is where the rationalizing is used to sand around the edges of a bad story or deny its truth.

It truly makes you want to curse. Bad word, bad word. So, now that I feel better, what can we do? Reach out to legislators who do the right thing and thank them. Reach out to them with concerns, as well, but do your best to avoid name calling and labelling. Write comments to others like you would want to receive them – focus on brief, civil discourse. And, listen to people, not to respond, but to understand. If there is a place where you can find agreement, even on the smallest of issues, start there.

Here are a few themes to bear in mind:

-we need legislators to focus more on passing needed legislation than trying to score victories. Focus on doing your job, not keeping your job.

-we need legislators to focus on the truth more than they are doing. You owe it to us. Governing is hard enough with the facts – when people use lies, it is nigh impossible.

-when an incumbent or former incumbent denigrates the office or our country through his or her actions, the party to which he or she belongs should not try to cover up such action. The party should be leading the effort to right wrongful behavior.

On this latter point, there are many examples where entities failed to heed this advice and paid for it with damaged relationships, tarnished brands and the loss of huge sums of money – think the Catholic Church, the US Olympic Gymnastics Team, the Boys Scouts of American, Enron, Adelphia, Tyco International, The PTL Club, etc. for both financial fraud or sexual assault convictions and claims.

So, instead of bad word, bad word, we should be able to say good job, good job for those who do the right thing..

Monday meanderings

I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend. And, for our Pacific Rim friends, I hope your Monday has gone well. Here a few meanderings on this first Monday in October.

  • A social media analyst said on “CBS Sunday Morning” yesterday that misinformation will be read and routed at a rate six times that of the truth. The only way to stop this is for readers to start asking more questions about what they read. Facebook won’t stop this as their model is to make money off more viewership.
  • An answer to the above is to read and watch multiple sources of information. And, we need to divorce ourselves from sources that are dubious. Infowars’ Alex Jones has now lost three court cases for defamation of Sandy Hook parents for continually saying the twenty-seven people (twenty whom were kids) killed was a hoax. Jones is still not remorseful. Opinion show hosts are not news reporters – even Fox News threw Tucker Carlson under the bus in court saying watchers should not consider what he says news, as he is not a news person.
  • Rudy Giuliani admitted in court under oath that he got his election fraud stories from social media, without checking the veracity. He has also been suspended in New York and DC from practicing law while the trials are going on. Wasn’t he an attorney for the former president? Did he not advise the former president on election fraud?
  • Even the folks at Fox News have banned ol’ Rudy. It does not amaze me that people who fly to close to the Trump sun eventually get burned. What amazes me is why they don’t know this going in? As Thomas Wells, an attorney for Trump once said, “if you are on Trump’s good side, don’t get used to it, as you won’t be there for long.”
  • As for our imperfect Democrat friends, please get something done. The infrastructure bill is over due and the other bill, needs to be made into law, but it will have to be cut back some, whether you like it or not. Do not cut it across the board, as that will water down the impact. Prioritize and pass the things that matter most.
  • As for our adrift Republican friends, please set aside your tribal politics and help get something passed. Democrats are also tribal, but with them I find myself arguing policy. With my Republican friends, I find myself arguing the truth. When a party vilifies its truth tellers and celebrates its liars, that is not compelling. We need a viable Republican party, but what we have now is one adrift and untethered to the truth.
  • I hope our British friends can get their petrol. One of our blogging friends, Roger, says his part of the country is getting more back to normal. Yet, there is still a ways to go. For those blaming only Brexit, it plays a role, but is not the only reason for the mess. There is a long slog ahead on Brexit transition which will last several years, at least that is what financial analysts said before the vote. I wish you the best.
  • There seems to be an interest in more naysayers to get the COVID vaccines. Something about people dying who are unvaccinated or maybe it is more friends sharing that it was not too bad. For those who are citing actual data that people have reacted poorly to vaccines, the percentages are quite small, even though the numbers seem large. We are talking less than 1/2 of a one percent adverse reaction when you think of hundreds of millions US vaccines and billions of global vaccines. Every medication, every vaccine and every surgical procedure has an error rate. The best two A-Fib surgical procedures only have effectiveness rates of 70%. And, just read the side effects on the sheets that come with your prescriptions.

That is all for now. Have a great week. Be safe. Get vaccinated if you have not. My extended family has been vaccinated and out of fifty or so people, we just had a few sore arms and headaches.

Three Questions

It was announced yesterday, the additional review of the Arizona 2020 election results by a pro-Republican group confirmed once again that Joe Biden won the election in Arizona. This follows on a recent ruling in Michigan that attorneys representing Trump must pay legal fees for their frivolous lawsuit and have been referred to the state bar association for possible disbarment.

It should be noted that the former president has lost well over 60 court cases on his election fraud claims, winning only one small case in Pennsylvania. So, with this in mind, here are three questions.

1.How many times must Donald Trump lose the same count of election results for it to sink in he lost?

2.How many court cases must Donald Trump lose before he realizes he is wasting money, credibility and attorney reputations contesting election results?

3.When will Republican party leadership tell the followers of Donald Trump that he lost the election, so get over it and let’s move on?

Three simple questions. To be frank, for someone who does not like to lose, the former president has put himself in an endless cycle of losing by rewinding and replaying the same story. And, yet his sycophants continue to burn their own reputations to support this continuing farce. Then, we have that sedition thing.

The Eyes of Tammy Faye – a review

My wife, two boys and I watched “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” this week which is out in theaters. It is about the rise and fall of Jim and Tammy Faye Baker of the PTL Club. For those who may not know, PTL stood for Praise the Lord, and the club was a very popular Christian tele-evangelical show that raised a lot of money. Unfortunately, the money brought in could not keep up with the money going out.

The movie stars Jessica Chastain as Tammy Faye and Andrew Garfield as Jim, along with an excellent supporting cast, including Cherry Jones as her mother and Vincent D’Onofrio as Reverend Jerry Falwell.The movie was directed by Michael Showalter and written by Fenton Bailey, Randy Barbato and Abe Sylvia. Chastain wanted to produce the movie after seeing a documentary that painted Tammy Faye in a different light.

The movie is excellent, but our main reason for wanting to see it is we live in Charlotte where the rise and fall took place in the 1980s. We remember the award winning newspaper articles in The Charlotte Observer and a radio DJ who had a recurring comedy segment called the “Pass the Loot” club. Tammy Faye was mercilessly teased for wearing an awful lot of make-up and crying on camera. As Chastain said in an interview, I watched many hours of footage and I never saw her cry so much that her make-up ran, which was a popular spoof.

Her husband was a narcissist who had to have things his way, even forcing his wife to apologize to him on air when she strayed (his straying at the same time would come up later). And, all the negative press about his fraud on his “partners” as he called his faithful, were, per Jim, reporters out to get him or who just did not like him (he was later found guilty on 24 counts of fraud and went to prison).

What we learned from the newspaper reports, national interviews and his trial, that the Bakkers had a lavish lifestyle built off the hard working donors who sent their money. As Jim famously told Ted Koppel in an interview, “the Lord wanted him to have nice things.” He arguably is the first prosperity preacher at least on air. Now, there is a whole flock of them. But, the key to his fall was his taking in more money based on promises of lifetime stays at a Christian resort that he could not possibly fulfill. So, the only answer was to sell more, in his mind, not unlike a Ponzi scheme.

There was a sex scandal with a young woman, who I won’t name, that was more scintillating than his fraud. Per the movie, we also learned Tammy Faye’s infidelity was a due to an inattentive husband who had wandering eyes for men and women. Forcing his wife to apologize to him on the air was unnerving given what we learned about Jim later. And, per earlier segments, the apology appeared to be a ploy to raise money.

Yet, a key takeaway is Tammy Faye actually had a more progressive view of treating everyone fairly, like Christians should, as she noted on air. A key example is she had an AIDs patient on her show whom she interviewed via satellite. She was outwardly moved by his plight and told her viewers that everyone is the same in God’s eyes. It was very touching. But, that seemed to be par for the course even though her willingness to help was frowned on by Falwell’s Moral Majority.

The part that seemed surprising in the movie is her lack of awareness of the fraud going on. She did ask questions and got poor answers, but she did not follow-up. She was too trusting of her husband when he had abused that trust. His narcissism was, in part, a defense mechanism.

To their credit, you have to applaud their rise through the ranks of tele-evangelists. More than a few of the old guard scoffed, but at their height of fame they had 20 million viewers. Yet, it truly was all smoke and mirrors. God may have wanted them to have nice things, but he sure did not mean for them to take donations from poor people to buy them.

The movie is worth the look. It can be silly at times, as Tammy Faye was an over-the-top personality. Yet, Chastain does an excellent job of showing some depth that needed more exploration. And, Garfield plays Jim Bakker quite convincingly.

Letter to Editor on Wedge Issues

The following letter I sent in to my local newspaper was published in its entirety, which is rare. Please feel free to modify and forward if you like the message.

It amazes me how so much time can be spent on created wedge issues for political gain and so little on real ones. The global (and US) water crisis and need for accelerated climate change action are key environmental issues. Investing in deteriorated infrastructure while also reducing the US deficit and debt are at odds, but both are needed, so we must be judicious with spending cuts and revenue increases, as both are needed to solve the math problem.

And, we must stop this degradation of civil rights that were long fought for. Attacking the right to vote under the guise of staged and unproven election fraud claims is abhorrent in the eyes of this independent voter and should be in the eyes of more elected officials.

My tribe is America, my race is human and my home is Earth

Tribal politics will bring down America’s democracy if we let it. It has already caused one of its two major parties to become adrift, untethered to truth and lawfulness. While I can disagree with Democrats on various policies, Republicans are just not often in the same ballpark as the facts and seemingly do not care. We need them to care or step aside and let a new party form. A party cannot vilify its truth tellers and aggrandize its liars and be credible. Both parties lie, but what I see as an Independent is a tipped scale to the right.

My tribe is America, my race is human and my home is Earth. Each of those are important. If we do not give each of these elements proper footing, then we increase our chances of our demise. Those apocalyptic films use a desert like Earth that became that way due to nuclear holocaust. We are destined to be that way, but it will be due to insufficient water and food resources for the population.

There are more autocratic governments who are cleverly aiding and abetting the demise of democracy. With social media and conspiracy minded zealots, it is like shooting fish in a barrel to wind up America (or British) toy soldiers and point them at each other. We should never forget this is what Vladimir Putin was trained to do in the KBG – disinformation tactics. He had no idea at the time how much easier his skill set could be deployed.

Democracy requires an informed public. Even before the rise of the last president, the most untruthful person to ever inhabit the White House, there has been an orchestrated attack on mainstream media and institutions. These groups are not perfect, but they have been painted with broad and narrow brushes to mask their effectiveness. Fear sells. Facts are boring. Competence is boring. As Putin and Hitler knew, people can be made to believe just about anything. Or, at the very least, be taught to doubt it.

So, we Americans and other citizens, must do our part and become more informed. We must use multiple sources of information and avoid getting news from social media. I try to be accurate, but what I write is not news, so please verify everything you read here. Over time I have learned there are sources that have more veracity than others, but we must do our part to be informed. I grow tired of party leaders telling me something did not happen that just happened or whitewashing history.

We have infrastructure needs in America that are ten years over due. Yet, the last president is attempting to not have an infrastructure bill passed because it will make the other party look good. The fact he passed on doing something on infrastructure after campaign promises seems to get overlooked. America needs these improvement and Americans support the effort in the majority. Our tribe needs to see this happen before the next train derails or automobile bridge collapses.

Yet, our human race is critical. We all bleed red. We all want safety and security. Most of us want some form of community, either friends and family. But, if we do not take care of our planet, it will have a harder time taking care of us. All of us. Climate change has already reared its ugly head and we are seeing the cost of worsening conditions in money, health and lives. Many of our ocean fish have particles of plastic in their bodies which we, in turn, will digest. Chemicals have been tainting and poisoning our water supplies and air for some time.

For elected officials to do nothing or as little as possible to remedy these issues. is beyond poor stewardship. In my view, it is malfeasance. The story (captured in the movie “Dark Waters”) of Dupont poisoning its workers, their families and other citizens surrounding a plant that made Teflon is bad enough. This was proven in court with the largest data trove ever assembled. What unnerved me the most is they knew it long before per memos and reports in their own files. And, when they lost the arbitration based on this mountain of “causal data” they reneged on the deal and had to be sued one case at a time before settling all claims after losing the first three.

Tribe – America. Race – human. Home – Earth. Let’s stop the BS and start solving our real problems. As the old Fram oil filter commercial used to say, “You can pay me now, our pay me later.” Let’s install those oil filters now in this old car or it will stop working and we won’t be able to get anywhere in it.

Oh, the questions we should ask

My wife and I were watching an old movie called “Cabaret” with Liza Minnelli, Joel Grey and Michael York which won many Oscars. The movie (based on the successful play) was set in Berlin before the Nazis came into power, but were making waves. The movie included several ironies, but one that stood out is York’s character pointing out the idiocy of Nazi early propaganda that defined successful Jews as communists and capitalists. He told the disinformed reader you cannot be both.

During the 2008 US presidential election, Barack Obama was painted both as a Muslim and a person belonging to a Christian church with a minister who was an aggressive protestor in his past. OK, which is it? Is Obama a Muslim or a Christian? He cannot be both. By the same token, too many failed to realize that Obama was also half-white, but that was less important than his name which made him seem he was not from around here. Of course, that is precisely why people like the most recent past president made a field day with the birther issue.

Oh, the questions we should ask. Especially when we see ironies. A question I want MAGA fans to answer is simple. Why would people like Congresswoman Liz Cheney, who know they will be vilified and receive death threats, call out the former president for his role in the January 6 insurrection and vote to impeach him? Swimming against the tide is hard and takes a courageous soul. Does her so doing at least make you want to think more about what she is saying?

What I have learned during the new tribalism that surrounds and protects the former president, what makes the MAGA crowd so mad is not as much what she said, but that she said it. Senator Ron Johnson, who is as big a Trump drum beater as there is, has been recently vilified for accepting the Wisconsin 2020 election results. A few more supporters have begun to realize that the former president has been unable to prove much of anything to support his election fraud claims. But, I think they are mad at Johnson for saying it. It does not fit neatly in the current narrative that voter suppression is the answer in several states like Texas.

We must ask questions. When using misinformation and disinformation is the modus operandi, contradictions will come out. When I speak with staff or leave messages with Republican congressional representatives or senators, my thrust is to get them to move the GOP back to better footing. A party that vilifies its truth tellers and celebrates its liars is not an admirable party. And, what frustrates me so much is the efforts to do both are overt, not even hidden or done discreetly with a wink and a nod.

Focus on the issue not the blame

News and opinion shows spend far too much time on who is to blame and much less on the issue at hand. The issues are what matters, not who did or failed to do something. Just to throw a few things for your consumption.

In the US, both political parties have screwed up in Afghanistan dating back at least to the 1980s. By my count that includes four Republican presidents and three Democrat presidents. Because of our lack of homework and understanding, the US diminishing its involvement has led to the Taliban gaining a foothold in the 1990s and returning to power in 2021. The only time it was more stable was when we were there even in small numbers. I fully understand the desire to leave, but leaving totally will not help with stability in that country.

The issue with COVID and the Delta variant are hospitals are being overrun by patients. Too many are not vaccinated or taking sufficient precautions. For some governors and state legislatures to go out of their way to deny public health measures is beyond poor stewardship. These incumbents in leadership positions are trying to win political points by gambling with people’s lives. I find this abhorrent. And, it continues. If you know someone who is not vaccinated, the best advice you can give them is please speak with your doctor. Two outspoken COVID naysayers died in the last two weeks, one a legislator and one a conservative radio host. And, yesterday, a woman released from the hospital for COVID treatment went home to find her husband dead from COVID.

It was good to see nine attorneys representing the former president get sanctioned in a Michigan court for the frivolous lawsuit on election fraud in that state. The attorneys have been ordered to pay court costs for the two separate lawsuits and their actions have been referred to the state Bar Association. The law license of Rudy Giuliani has been suspended in New York state and Washington, DC as he faces two court cases, one for defamation against Dominion Voting Systems. And, we should not forget the US Attorney General for the past president was fired for telling his boss in front of others the election fraud claims were BS, using the actual word. Believing the former president is truly a fool’s errand.

In 2021, we have seen more of what climate change scientists have been warning us about. About ten years ago, I read a report conducted with Mercer Investment Consulting, the largest pension trust managers in the world, the World Economic Forum and various universities and think tanks. These trustees were worried about climate change costing multiple tens of trillions in US dollars due to larger and more wildfires, longer droughts, stalled weather systems on top of the rising sea levels causing coastal degradation and more intense hurricanes. Since then, our fresh water is also a worsening concern. This week, I saw piece on the risks due to climate change published in an insurance industry report regarding company and people’s assets in harm’s way. These are financial people who are concerned about financial risk. If that does not wake up well-funded naysayers, then maybe nothing will. By the way, I feel the numbers bandied around ten years ago are on the low side.

That is enough for today. Let me know your thoughts.