Monday meanderings – October 3, 2022

I hope you had a great weekend and stayed safe. Ours was a little soggy here with the remnants of Ian.  Here are just a few meanderings on this October Monday morning.

A letter to the editor from a self-professed MAGA Republican noted how he hated RINOs and liked GOP Congressman Madison Cawthorn because he spoke his mind. It should be noted Cawthorn lost his primary in the spring. I am all for speaking one’s mind, but you need to have something of value to say. Like his peers Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lauren Boebert, etc. his problem is saying stuff that is simply not true. If people want to be taken seriously, they need to be serious-minded. The truth would help.

Per an article in Rawstory called “Unhinged, deranged Trump may be a danger to himself and others: GOP Strategist” “During an appearance on CNN’s ‘State of the Union,’ Republican Party campaign consultant Scott Lennings launched a brutal attack on Donald Trump over his threatening social media post that claimed Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has, as Trump put it, a ‘DEATH WISH.’ During the panel discussion on Sunday morning, Jennings, who is close to McConnell, claimed if you heard someone like the former president rant like that on the street, you’d call the authorities at 911 before they hurt someone. Asked about the Truth Social attack, Jennings replied, ‘It’s hard to know where to start, with the assassination instructions or the blatant racism.'”

In AP article called “Brazil’s Bolsonaro and the right outperform, defying polls,” “Jair Bolsonaro considerably outperformed expectations in Brazil’s presidential election, proving that the far-right wave he rode to the presidency remains a force and providing the world with yet another example of polls missing the mark. The most-trusted opinion polls had indicated leftist former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was far out front, and potentially even clinching a first-round victory. One prominent pre-election poll gave da Silva a 14 percentage point lead. In the end, Bolsonaro surprised to the upside and came within just 5 points. He will face da Silva in a high-stakes Oct. 30 presidential runoff.”

Between what happened in Italy and what is happening in the UK, I am not seeing a lot of evidence of good governance from the more extreme right politicians. In Australia during the summer, conservatives where swept out of office due to climate change inaction and not addressing paid time off and women’s rights issues. In the UK, Liz Truss may be one of the shortest tenured Prime Ministers after a series of very poor decisions and poor communications.

Bolsonaro is the Southern Hemisphere’s version of the former US president and that is not meant as a compliment. His modus operandi of bullying, lying and denigration would make Trump proud. Regardless of politics, in my view, no truly elected official should act in this manner. They serve the people, not the other way around. And, they certainly don’t threaten people and sic their more strident allies on the targets.

Trump will be indicted. The GOP should cut him loose (Charlotte Observer editorial)

An interesting editorial by Gene Nichol*, a law professor at the University of North Carolina, called “Trump will be indicted. The GOP should cut him loose now” is a must read. Here are a few paragraphs, with a link to the full piece below.

“The handwriting is now, at the least, on the wall. I know a lot of Tar Heels don’t want to hear this — but Donald Trump is, in the months ahead, going to be indicted. His lawbreaking is so habitual, so overt, so pervasive, so foundational, and so rule-of-law decimating, that it simply won’t be possible for the Department of Justice and law enforcement officials in Georgia and, likely, New York, to ignore it. Perhaps Trump couldn’t help himself. Maybe it’s like his lying — a lifelong, all-consuming practice. He can’t shake it. Or even try. Old dog. Old tricks. He’s the don, not just The Donald.

And when the indictments come, what’s going to happen? Sadly, we know this too. Trump has opened his mind, or at least his mouth. He told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt that ‘the people of the United States won’t stand for it.’ Filing charges against him would lead to ‘problems in this country, the likes of which we’ve never seen before.’…

Perhaps you think I overstate the peril. (I get that sometimes.) But do these various folks described above actually think that the other 60% or so of Americans will simply cower in the corner, surrendering their human rights and our nation’s long-declared meaning, because the MAGA coalition may be fueled by hatred and replete with arms? I wouldn’t bet on it.

There’s a lot more courage and commitment out here in the rest of the land than the Trumpists imagine. They make the same mistake Putin made about Ukraine. Democracy has its steel. Even if it’s hard to arouse. Won’t it be easier, even if unnerving, for the Republican Party to turn Trump loose now, than it will be after he again summons the gun thugs?

As the niece of the losing former president said after the 2020 election result was finalized, “her uncle will burn it all down to avoid losing the election.” Yes, his ego is that shallow that he cannot admit defeat. He was told by attorney Roy Cohn, his mentor per his many biographies, “to never apologize and sue everyone.” Doing the math, I calculated that Trump averaged 1 1/2 lawsuits per week during his business career before the 2016 election.

To be frank, telling the truth is not top of mind when thinking to define the losing former president. Nor is playing fair, treating people with dignity and grace, or consistently acting in a legal manner. As Michael Cohen, his attorney and longtime fixer of all his problems, said under oath, “Donald Trump is a racist, he is a con-artist and he is a cheat.” It interested me that Cohen had sent out over 500 cease and desist letters to people and institutions threatening them into silence on any known Trump transgression.

Whether he is actually charged beyond the financial fraud civil charges for his company in New York, which the Attorney General refused to settle as she has a good case, remains to be seen. But, in my opinion, he needs to be.

Beyond his untruthfulness and bullying, the losing former president appears to be guilty of the alleged seditious actions against the United States. He appears to be guilty of allegedly taking classified documents, exposing secrets to foreign adversaries (note a Chinese national with cyberware in her possession was arrested at Mar-a-Lago a couple of years ago). And, he may be charged for election tampering in the State of Georgia.

At the barest of minimums, our country is more at odds with itself because we have a former president who is not man enough to admit he lost an election. I am very tired of his sycophants perpetuating this Big Lie. It is noted the wife of SCOTUS member Clarence Thomas testified to the January 6 House Select Committee and still voiced the Big Lie. The House members defined her testimony as “deranged.”

Folks, quite simply, whether Donald Trump can win in 2024 is beside the point. We were dumb enough as a country to elect him in 2016 and we are dumb enough to do it again. But, what we need to understand is he should not serve as president as we should not have a traitor at the helm. Because if a traitor leads us, all bets are off.

*Note: Contributing columnist Gene Nichol is the Boyd Tinsley Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of North Carolina.

Read more at: https://www.charlotteobserver.com/opinion/article266413511.html#storylink=cpy

Reinforcement of why a person left the GOP

The following is an interesting article that furthers the message of my previous and earlier posts over my concerns for the Republican party called “I left the GOP because it seemed to be losing it way. Last week convinced me I was right” by Kurt Bardella of NBC News.

Here are few excerpts from the piece. The full article can be linked to below.

“I don’t think I’ve recently experienced a span of days that quite so neatly captures the difference between being a Democrat and being a Republican in today’s America.

Last week began with the GOP’s wannabe standard-bearer, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, using human beings as political props for a craven publicity stunt designed to stoke right-wing outrage toward migrants.

Then, the current Republican Party standard-bearer found himself in even more legal hot water after the New York attorney general’s lawsuit alleging Trump and his eldest children committed fraud. (This happened on the same day that a court-appointed special master called Trump’s bluff and ordered him to back up the conspiracy theory that the FBI planted evidence at Mar-a-Lago.)

The week concluded with House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy releasing a self-proclaimed “agenda” that is long on talking points but short on actual specifics. It further cements the Republican Party’s complete withdrawal from the public policy arena, leaving the GOP completely detached from the tangible challenges of today and the growing threats of tomorrow….

In short, Biden spent the week defending freedom and democracy on the world stage, while his predecessor defended himself from allegations of fraud and claims that he may have compromised national security. Republican governors plotted to fly human pawns to Martha’s Vineyard, while Democratic governors unveiled measures to combat the climate crisis. And Republicans in Congress unveiled a “commitment” agenda that just blames Biden and Democrats, while a global community of philanthropists announced specific action items to alleviate poverty, improve health care and economic development and tackle other systemic inequities.”

As a former Republican (and Democrat) and now Independent voter, my reasons for leaving the GOP about fourteen years ago could be summed up in their tendency to make things up. Both parties are untruthful and exaggerate, but it is not a normal distribution. I find myself arguing policy with Democrats, but arguing what is real with Republicans.

Per the above, what Governors Desantis, Abbott, and Ducey did with migrants from Venezuela is extremely poor form and they deserve all the negative push back they get. And, those supporters who echo that it is OK, need to really think about what is happening here as it is not very Christian like to screw people like this.

As for the losing former president, it will not surprise me to see him wind up in jail for his seditious actions. His untruthful and bullying nature and shallow ego are finally catching up with him, deservedly so. And, it is long past due for his sycophants to remember which country they live in. Wearing a flag pin and hugging a flag at an ultra-conservative rally are merely window-dressing just as holding a bible as a prop when you speak makes you no more a Christian.

It is hard enough to govern with facts and truth. It is nigh impossible to do so when you govern off lies. If our politicians cannot be in the ballpark of the truth, they need to step down. We need them to shoot straight with us.

Truth be told

The following is another letter I forwarded to a few newspapers. Let’s see if one will print it. Please feel free to adapt and use.

As a former Republican and now independent voter, it saddens me that to be a legitimate Republican, one has to endorse untruthful pronouncements by the losing former president and his sycophants. I don’t mind people espousing conservative ideas, but I do expect them to be truthful. Governing is hard enough when using facts, but nigh impossible when making decisions off lies.

Truth be told, I expected this behavior from the former president as that has long been his modus operandi, but what I am frustrated by is his sycophants who perpetuate untruths, even when they know they are lies. The former president lost the election and cannot prove otherwise even after spending a lot of other people’s money to do so. He also instigated an insurrection against Congress putting people in danger. And, that does not include his mishandling of classified information and alleged financial fraud at his company.

We deserve better than those who are purposefully lying to us, regardless of party. Full stop.

Sucking the oxygen out of the room

I have written often about relevant issues not getting discussed as certain politicians and sloppy reporters and opinion people would rather discuss sensationalized and exaggerated issues, which may not be that big of a deal to begin with. Or, worse, the party complaining the most chose not to act to leave an issue open to blame the other side for its failure to address it. This last step is happening too often for my tastes. It truly sucks the oxygen out of the room.

When Donald Trump used “build that wall” as his bumper sticker theme in 2016, immigration was a problem, but down on the list of issues causing disenfranchisement in people in run-down areas. The two main culprits of companies chasing cheaper labor and technological advancements would not fit on a bumper sticker. Plus, it is hard to fear a robot like you can an illegal alien brought in as cheap labor in some industries. But, it should be noted when his bluff was called on his number one issue and Senators Dick Durbin and Lindsey Graham got him to agree on a wall funding for DACA being made law, he reneged on his promise in a matter of a few hours as not solving immigration was better as a campaign issue.

Right now instead of discussing more our US and global water crisis, our poverty and hunger problems, the threats to our civil rights and democracy, the need to further stabilize health care costs and access, the continuing threats to inflation and climate change, etc., we spend far too much time speaking about things that are not really problems based on some variation of “fear the other” as a threat. When I see “fear the other” issues being bandied about, I just move on as these are purposeful wedge issues to garner votes.

We just passed a good, but imperfect Inflation Reduction Act that included elements to reduce the deficit with increased taxes on the wealthy, help with renewable energy investment and stabilizing health care premiums continuing what happened with the pandemic funding. Although Republican led states will benefit from this, no Republican voted for it. If a party is going to complain about inflation, why did no one vote for it? No legislation is perfect, but no one, even when your state benefits?

Democrats have just done a similar ploy delaying a vote of the marriage equality act until after the election. It is arguable that it could not have passed, but the Democrats feel some lame duck moderate Republicans will be more inclined to vote in favor after the mid-terms. Yet, the bill had support and some momentum. Some Republicans in tough campaigns wanted to vote for it.

Politics has become a new sport with a zero-sum mindset – I must win and you must lose. We even have folks who taunt the other side. In this construct, the people who lose are the voters and citizens of our country and other countries. When the US fails to be a responsible global partner and citizen, then the rest of the world thinks less of us. Botching our pandemic response showed that the US cannot effectively deal with a major issue. The January 6 insurrection showed that even the US can look like a Banana Republic. The unproven bogus election fraud claims planned and touted by the losing former president, made us look like an autocratic country pretending to look like a democracy.

We must strive toward our better angels and civilly discuss our problems truthfully and factually. If any leader from any party cannot do this, then he or she needs to resign. And, we certainly do not need them running for office. Full stop.

When you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice (an encore post)

I wrote the following post four years ago. It remains relevant today. Make a stand, march or picket, contact your leaders, and vote.

If you have followed this blog for any length of time, you will know that I love cleverly worded song lyrics. The above title comes from an unexpected source (if you don’t follow the band) – a song called “Free will” by the rock band “Rush.” I find this lyric, penned by drummer Neil Peart, compelling as it speaks to people who choose to do nothing in the face of obvious problems. Martin Luther King saved some of his criticism for the silent people who did not condemn Jim Crow actions.

People choose not to vote because they do not like the choices. But, “none of the above” is not an option and one candidate tends to be worse or represents worse. If you did not vote because you did not think Brexit or Trump would win, you water down your right to protest. And, I would add there are seven white supremacists running for office, empowered by a US President who won’t condemn racist actions and has made racist statements. So, your vote does matter.

If you witness a daily assault on civil rights, women’s rights, truth, media, science, allies and environment and don’t speak up, then you condone the actions as acceptable.

– It is not OK for leaders to lie multiple times a day.

– It is not OK to have governmental websites delete data that run afoul of unsubstantiated opinions by leaders.

– It is not OK to demean people because they dare criticize a leader’s point of view.

– It is not OK to promote violence toward these same people, as some people act on these suggestions and the assaulters and/ or the targets get hurt or go to jail.

– It is not OK to demonize groups of people or exaggerate causes of problems, as it is hard enough to solve real problems with real data.

– It is not OK to ignore real problems or have faux efforts to address them. Gun deaths, poverty, health care access and costs, infrastructure deterioration, increasing debt, environmental degradation, climate change, etc. are real problems.

Please do not remain silent. Speak up. Call or email your representatives. Attend marches and protests. Share diplomatically your opinion, but listen to theirs. Find a way to get your opinion heard and heeded. Calling someone a name is not the way to be heard.

The other day as I was looking for a new battery for my cordless mower, a store clerk and I chatted about the need to move toward renewable energy. While he supported the eventual move, he said renewable energy is “seven times” the cost of fossil fuel energy. I responded and said that is a ten-year old argument. The costs are now more on par. In fact, there is a city in Texas who chose to be 100% renewable energy powered as its CPA mayor said financially it is a better deal. Did he hear me? I don’t know, but he would not have  if I had not listened to his argument and responded.

Do not follow the words of the song lyric. Choose to decide.

From the Holocaust to Hogan’s Heroes – Robert Clary’s story

For those of us who grew up in the 1960s or watched a lot of reruns on television, there was a comedy show about a prisoner of war camp in Germany during World War II called “Hogan’s Heroes.” One of its stars was a diminutive and funny character named Corporal LeBeau, played by French actor Robert Clary. Yet, while a POW camp is a not a concentration camp where Jews were exterminated, Clary also had the horrid experience of being a survivor of the real Holocaust in a camp called Buchenwald.

I learned this watching a movie made in 1982 called “Remembrance of Love” starring Kirk Douglas, Chana Eden and Pam Dawber where two young lovers were split apart by the Nazis and Douglas’s character went to a Holocaust event in Israel to see if she was still alive. Clary played himself in the film as an ambassador to these Holocaust survivors.

Per Wikipedia, here is Clary’s early story:

“Born in 1926 in Paris, France, Clary was the youngest of 14 children, 10 of whom would die in the Holocaust. At the age of twelve, he began a career singing professionally on a French radio station and also studied art in Paris. In 1942, because he was Jewish, he was deported to the Nazi concentration camp at Ottmuth, in Upper Silesia (now Otmęt, Poland). He was tattooed with the identification ‘A5714’ on his left forearm. He was later sent to Buchenwald concentration camp.

At Buchenwald, he sang to an audience of SS soldiers every other Sunday, accompanied by an accordionist. He said, ‘Singing, entertaining, and being in kind of good health at my age, that’s why I survived. I was very immature and young and not really fully realizing what situation I was involved with … I don’t know if I would have survived if I really knew that.

Writing about his experience, Clary said,

‘We were not even human beings. When we got to Buchenwald, the SS shoved us into a shower room to spend the night. I had heard the rumours about the dummy shower heads that were gas jets. I thought, ‘This is it.’ But no, it was just a place to sleep. The first eight days there, the Germans kept us without a crumb to eat. We were hanging on to life by pure guts, sleeping on top of each other, every morning waking up to find a new corpse next to you. … The whole experience was a complete nightmare — the way they treated us, what we had to do to survive. We were less than animals. Sometimes I dream about those days. I wake up in a sweat terrified for fear I’m about to be sent away to a concentration camp, but I don’t hold a grudge because that’s a great waste of time. Yes, there’s something dark in the human soul. For the most part, human beings are not very nice. That’s why when you find those who are, you cherish them.'”

Clary published a memoir, From the Holocaust to Hogan’s Heroes: The Autobiography of Robert Clary, in 2001. Rather than summarize his career before and after “Hogan’s Heroes,” I encourage you to link to the Wikipedia article on his behalf. He was often asked to distinguish between the fictional POW camp and the real concentration camp he survived.

“Stalag 13 is not a concentration camp. It’s a POW camp, and that’s a world of difference. You never heard of a prisoner of war being gassed or hanged. When the show went on the air, people asked me if I had any qualms about doing a comedy series dealing with Nazis and concentration camps. I had to explain that it was about prisoners of war in a Stalag, not a concentration camp, and although I did not want to diminish what soldiers went through during their internments, it was like night and day from what people endured in concentration camps.”

To this day, there are people with hard-hearted and hateful motives who want people to believe the Holocaust did not happen, that over 6 million Jews, gays and lesbians and gypsies were not exterminated by the Nazis in World War II. This is not only a blatant attempt at disinformation, it truly is evil. It is on par with people trying to white wash all the bad things in history committed by humans against one another and the Holocaust ranks as one of the greatest atrocities in our history. These Jews and others were arrested, stripped, starved and gassed, because of some lunatic idea set forth by Adolph Hitler and his henchmen.

Interestingly, Clary remains alive and well at the age of 96, one of the last two survivors from the “Hogan’s Heroes” show. Yet, he said he still has nightmares at this age and lost many of his siblings due the Nazi genocide. We must never forget what happened to Clary and his family among the multiple millions of Jews and others that were impacted.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Clary

Civil war survey results are disturbing – note to Senators with a plea for leadership

The following represents a letter I posted on my two Senators’ websites and that of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. It is yet another plea for leadership, this time in the face of a survey result noted in the first sentence. Americans need to hear that elected officials have a steady hand on the wheel.

Seeing a survey that noted 40% of Americans (and 50% of Republicans) think that a Civil War is likely in the next ten years is disturbing to this independent voter. What also is disturbing are elected leaders who sow discord to garner votes. One Senator said if the former president is charged there will be rioting in the streets. From what I have read and witnessed, charging the former president may be appropriate and hold him accountable for his alleged and possible crimes.

We need Senators to be the leaders we deserve. Like many, I am very tired of these zero-sum games that are being played. We are the ones that pay the price for this gamesmanship. Please help manage real expectations not perceptions and wants. To be frank, it is a failure of leadership that this many Americans believe these things.

Please feel free to adapt and use. It is high time Senators start acting like leaders. And, if they cannot, they should resign. It is one thing for an entertainment opinion host to babble about BS, but when an elected official parrots that BS, it is shameful because most of them know better.

A Night with Janis Joplin – a terrific tribute (an encore)

Last night watching a terrific blues and rock and roll guitarist and singer named Joanne Shaw Taylor, my wife and I were enthralled by her talent. And, when she brought out the talented Joe Bonamassa to sing and play with her, it was even more eventful. Yet, when she broke into a wonderful version of “Summertime,” my wife and I were reminded of the legendary Janis Joplin. Here is a reprise of a post after we saw a Janis Joplin tribute show a few years ago.

My wife and I ventured to Durham this week and caught a sensational tribute to the late Janis Joplin. starring Mary Bridget Davies as the lead. She does a breathtakingly exciting and vulnerable impersonation of Joplin. When she broke into “Summertime,” with her bluesy variation of the “Porgy and Bess” song, we knew we were in for a treat. But, when she rocked us with “Piece of My Heart,” we felt that Joplin was indeed with us as she left everything on the stage.

The show is not just about Joplin, as in character, Davies speaks of her influences ranging from Bessie Smith to Etta James to Aretha Franklin to Nina Simone. Four very talented singers occupied the stage in tribute to these wonderful talents. My wife and I both thought it was done, in part, as singing as Joplin would take a toll on you if you sang for two hours plus. We also heard the variation between the operatic and bluesy “Summertime.” Plus, Joplin was influenced by Broadway show songs that her mother would play as they cleaned the house every Saturday with her brother and sister.

Joplin had a unique voice that was powerful, but bluesy and soulful, at the same time. Like a great blues singer, her voice was indeed an instrument and she held nothing back. If I had to equate it with someone else, she would be a female James Brown, in that she would give it all with her voice, body and expressions  Plus, Davies did a great job with Joplin’s stage presence and frank language, so we truly felt we were seeing Joplin in person.

We heard renditions of “Cry Baby,” which was sensational, “Try, just a little bit harder,” which was spot on, and “Me and Bobby McGee,” which had us all singing along. She ended the show after the accolades and applause, with a capella version of “Mercedes-Benz,” with the only the drummer giving us a beat. The audience was right there with he as we sung every note.

If you get a chance, please go see this show. If you cannot, here is a link to a few “real” Janis Joplin songs. It is a tragedy she died so soon.

Friday follies which are sadly for real

When I worked, I may have uttered a TGIF, but now that we are retired, Friday’s stand out a little less than before. Still, ending a workweek does have a feel to it. Today, I thought I would throw together some follies that continue to be in the news and will likely be for sometime.

Let me start with an obvious one. If anyone in this country is subpoened by a judiciary body or Congressional committee, my strong advice is to get your hind-end in there and stop your wimpering. No one is above the law. That is how it works. One cannot lie and defame others or encourage sedition and just say “I don’t have to testify.” That includes US Senators, Congressional representatives, former presidents, advisors, governors, news people, ministers, priests, et al.

Along these same lines, we have seen a parade of Republicans (and Democrats) who have testified under oath of their concerns over actions of the former president on several occasions. These same folks have been vilified by the extreme fans of the former president, yet have testified anyway. What also should be noted is the critics have not testified under oath, since lying under oath is crime. So, criticism not under oath should not be given, prima facie, the same level of credence as testimony under oath. It should be noted when the former president testified on a fraud allegation court case, he pleaded the 5th amendment. To restate the obvious, lying under oath is a crime.

I read Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil may lead a coup to seize the government if he does not win the election in the fall. By itself, that is a reason not to vote for him. Any so-called leader who bullies and threatens voters is not wanting to lead a democracy. The person is wanting an autocracy.

Is Boris still around? I think I recall he would be leaving at the end of this month, yet he has been ghosting his country. The country would have liked for him to actually finish out his term doing a few things to receive his paycheck, but maybe it is better being ghosted given his bent toward the sensational and not toward stewardship.

If Bolsonaro can lose the election and the Brazil military can keep a lid on his bravado, it would be terrific if the world could then be rid of three autocratic acting people who were in leadership positions – Trump, Johnson and Bolsonaro. To me, each has shown exactly what is not needed in a leader – a me, me, me mentality. Yes, leaders have a large sense of self, but when it goes beyond that into narcissistic tendencies, that is a bridge too far.

A leadership consultant I worked with said often a good leader deflects credit to the others and assumes blame even when not due, while a bad one assumes all credit and sheds blame to others. Please re-read this sentence and see if it applies to any of these three blokes.

Now, if they could also take that Putin guy with them because it certainly does not apply to him either.