That white privilege thing

Usually when Dr. Phil comes on, I leave the room. Seeing people yell at each other is not therapeutic for me. Yesterday, my wife said you need to see this one as it was an interesting group discussion on race relations and white privilege.

In one powerful, illustrating exercise, young adults of both genders and several races, religions, sexual preferences, and countries of origin stepped forward or backward based on answers to a series of questions. At the end of about thirty or so questions, white people tended to be at the front of the room, while other races tended to be at the back.

As a now 60 year-old white man, I can pretty much go anywhere I want without repercussions. And, I need not have to worry for my life when I am stopped by the police or state patrol. A black man in his Sunday best has to move very slowly and visibly when stopped, thinking if he does not it may be the last thing he does on earth.

The show’s panel was a mixture of various races and invited audience guests offered their input. Listening to each other is a key takeaway. Understanding more about micro aggressions is also important (unintended slights). A white police officer said we should not use our badge as a threat, but as a heart to reach out to others.

A few white audience members felt they are victims and ostracized for being white. One woman lost her job for doing her job, as a video went viral with commentary that here was another white woman judging others. One woman grew up in a blue collar neighborhood and she felt disenfranchised as the blacks got more opportunities.

Perspective and context mean everything. A good example is captured in the movie about Jackie Robinson called “42.” Pee Wee Reese, the white shortstop for the Dodgers, went to see the owner Branch Rickey when he received a death threat for playing with a black ballplayer. Rickey said you got one threat and then proceeded to pull out gobs and gobs of death threats toward Robinson to illustrate his point.

Is there unfair back lash on some whites, absolutely?  But, people of a different color, religion, sexual preference, etc. have received gobs and gobs of discrimination over the years. And, lately under the divisive leadership of a certain US President, white supremacists, bigots and racists feel more empowered. Their hatred has become more normalized – and that is not good.

I often cite the lines written by Oscar Hammerstein about bigotry in the movie “South Pacific.” “You have to be carefully taught, by the time your are seven or eight. You have to be carefully taught to hate the people your parents hate.” We are not born bigoted, it has to be taught. By listening to each other, maybe we can teach the opposite. It should be noted a black man, who has convinced over 200 KKK members to give up their robes, did so by listening and asking questions. He heard them, which allowed him to be heard.

We are a potpourri of different people, but inside we are all the same. Let’s relish in our differences, but know we have the same foundation.

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Tired of this who wins and loses reporting

The media is not biased in the way many people think. Their greatest bias by far is toward conflict. Bad news will outsell good news any day. But, to keep readers and viewers interested, the media likes to pit people against one another. This is one of the reasons we are more polarized in America. Conflict sells, too,

This conflict is exacerbated by news outlets that spin the news for a target audience. I am reminded by the old joke when a relative from New England visits his cousins in Alabama. He is asked to kill their dog who has become rabid. Headlines in northern newspapers said “Visiting relative kills rabid dog.” The Alabama newspapers said “Damn Yankee shoots beloved pet.”

I have long been perturbed by TV news who put talking heads side by side on the screen to portray an issue as fifty-fifty. Yet, one side may be supported by a large majority, whereas the other is not. Climate change coverage is a good example. It is not fifty-fifty issue, as in the scientific community it is more like 97 to 3. Yet, when portayed as 50-50, a skillful arguer can win a debate to influence opinion, but that does not make them right.

Yet, another key bugaboo is not covering the impact of an issue, but instead focusing on who wins or loses. I truly think it focuses attention on the wrong thing. Here is a series of examples where we should focus on the issues, not on who benefits by the decision or event.

– It is good that the US is talking to North Korea. It is true we need to be mindful that Kim will likely never give up his nuclear weapons and is using this to drive a wedge between the US and South Korea, but talking is better than the chest-beating  and name-calling that was going on last year.

– It is good the NC minister was released by Turkey. The Senators and President should be applauded for this. I am also certain a lot of behind the scenes folks helped pave the way.

– While it is good the tax law change is helping a pretty good economy be a little better, we should not celebrate we borrowed from our future debt by $1.5 trillion to do so. The increasing debt which is currently at $22 trillion will provide growing headwinds to the economy as annual interest cost eventually becomes one of the biggest budget items.

– We should be mindful of the impact on the economy by tariffs. Supplies and sales pipelines are increasingly impacted and will provide headwinds maybe beginning as early as the quarter that just ended. The second quarter results were positively impacted as companies accelerated purchases before the tariffs became effective.

– Leaving the Paris Climate Change Accord is just an abysmal decision. We stand alone against the world. Coupling that with the significant attempts to make it easier for polluting companies, it will cost us dearly in money, health and lives. Fortunately, others are picking up the baton that our leaders are dropping.

– Civil rights are important for all. Our leaders should be beacions of that message and critical when others feel the rights of one group are more important  than another’s. My rights are important, but not moreso than anyone else. That is how our great country works.

There are so many more that we can draw from such as gun governance, healthcare, human rights, etc. I personally don’t want to hear if some leader or party benefits from a change or event. I want to know how it helps Americans and our world. Read past the conflict to understand the issues. Everything need not be contentious.

Smugness and righteous indignation hide other faults

Reading two pieces today, reminded me of two stories about politicians that are often fairly smug with people with whom they disagree. They also deploy what I call faux righteous indignation, which is insincere at best and disingenuous at worst. The stories involve Senators Orrin Hatch and Ted Cruz.

Senator Hatch has been a lynchpin on two separate Judiciary hearings for the two Supreme Court justices who have been accused of sexual assault and harassment. His faux anger at both tried to  belittle the efforts of the women and elevate the men. His posturing aided the approval of these men.

Yet, the story that reminded me of another Hatch effort appeared today regarding the lack of oversight of the $50 billion supplemental drug industry. Hatch has led a crusade over the years to keep the supplemental drug industry less regulated. As a result, contraemptive and even dangerous chemicals find their way into these drugs. Yet, people believe these drugs are regulated and safe like medical drugs. They are also sold by retailers pushing product. People have been negatively impacted by these drugs. Smugness won’t change that. Action will. It should be noted Hatch has received many donations from this industry and his son is employed in such.

Senator Cruz has been a lightning rod for years holding up legislation. He has been quite strident and smug in his beliefs to the point of dysfunction. To me, his claim of solving Washington’s problems ring hollow, as he is representative of the problem – he refuses to collaborate.

As I was writing a comment about the need for more women in Congress, I was reminded of how ten female Senators stopped the US from reneging on all of its debts, a problem caused by Cruz when he  single-handedly shut down the government over Obamacare. Since Cruz is a Tea Partier, he was less concerned if we reneged on our debts. Yet, other countries were begging us not to do this as was the World Bank.

These ten women stepped in at past the 11th hour and negotiated a deal. Reneging on commitments does not show well. They saved the US from itself and uncollaborative people like Cruz. It should be noted that if Cruz was so concerned by the debt, why did he vote to pass the Tax Bill last December increasing the debt by $1.5 trillion? The word your searching for is hypocrisy.

Hatch is retiring from the Senate after this term. It truly is time for him to go. Cruz is in a competitive race with his Democrat opponent – Beta O’Rourke. He will likely win, but we will have a more collaborative Congress if he does not. To be frank, the only good thing about Trump winning the GOP nomination is Ted Cruz did not.

Smugness and righteous indignation do not make the person right. Many people reacted favorably to Judge Kavanaugh because of his righteous indignation. When you see it, dig deeper and ask more questions. There usually is more there.

 

 

Let’s rise up

A terrific singer named Andra Day provided an anthem for women, but also forward thinking men as well. It is called “I’ll rise up.” Here is the final chorus which says let’s all rise up.

“Rise like the day
I’ll rise up
In spite of the ache
I will rise a thousands times again
And we’ll rise up
Rise like the waves
We’ll rise up
In spite of the ache
We’ll rise up.”

There has been a building crescendo worldwide, but especially here in the US, to say women matter. Women are tired of being taken advantage of by sexual predators, violent and controlling partners and men in power telling them what they can do with their bodies. Women are tired of people ignoring or demeaning them when they complain or accuse a violator. Women are tired of kitchen table issues like equal pay and healthcare gettimg ignored. Women are tired of nothing being done about gun governance which takes to many of their children and themselves.

Women are tired of being kidnapped and trafficked as sex slaves or servants. And, more globally, women need to be supported for saying we are not a possession to be sold, beaten or killed and we need not go through genital mutilation to satisfy an archaic religious practice written by a men.

Now, is the time to rise up. Women are running for political office in tremendous numbers in the US. They are reacting to a misogynist bully who shows what leadership does not look like. Their global sisters are using the opportunity to make a stand.

Rise up and vote. Rise up and take a friend to vote with you. Rise up and make sure your family votes. Rise up and vote for equal rights for all, for our environment which is being destroyed and for our future which is threatened by existential crises like climate change, poverty and inequality. Rise up. It is time to make a huge statement. I am with you.

Some truths that could shape debate

Things have not always been the way they are. By itself, that should force us to ask questions. Here are a few of those truths.

– Catholic priests used to be allowed to marry. Some who did not get the memo continued to marry hundreds of years after the Vatican stopped the practice. To me, married priests would solve a major problem for the church.

– Marijuana has long been used for medicinal purposes. Prior to the 1930s movie “Reefer Madness,” it was a centuries old treatment. Now, scientific evidence supports Cannabis as very helpful with pain, seizures, anxiety and other ailments. The remaining states who do not allow at least medical Marijuana should reflect on this.

– Bigotry has to be carefully taught. Seeing the movie “Operation Finale,” about the capture of Nazi war criminal Adolph Eichmann in Argentina in 1961, it shed a spotlight on the following. Nazism was alive and well in Argentina as Juan Peron made it more than a safe haven after the war. If we do not remember our moral compass and shine a light on this bigotry, it will continue to fester. This is a key reason the US President tripping over the low bar of leadership against bigotry is so problematic. It is not right to denigrate people saying they have lesser rights than others.

– Finally, hyper-nationalism has been a recipe for problems and poor relationships among countries for multi-millennia. The world is safer and more prosperous the more it works together and trades commerce. This must be remembered as people in the position of power retrench into their own cocoons.

That is all for now. Let me know what you think or offer some other truths.

Instead of labels, consider these thoughts

I do not like labels. I think they are shortcuts to demean. There are plenty of labels used by people Trump appointed that are quite caustic as they crudely define Trump’s relative smarts and inconsistent truth-telling, some from Woodward’s book and some from earlier reporting. Rather than repeat those labels, I would prefer to cite comments about his actions from people who have worked with Trump or know of his organization.

From Woodward’s book, there are two stories attributed to Gary Cohn which I find telling. Cohn, who is Jewish and was the head of the White House Economic Council, said the biggest mistake he made was not resigning after Trump’s comments on Charlottesville which gave the White Supremacists a hall pass. The other is he is one of the people who took things off Trump’s desk. Mind you, Cohn was one of Trump’s most proficient hires, who openly disagreed with his tariffs and trade policies. Cohn resigned over the latter issues.

The other one I often cite comes from Thomas Wells, an attorney who worked for Trump for years. Among many other observations around his lack of interest in understanding issues and job requirements, he said “Donald Trump lies everyday, even about things of no consequence.” Mind you, there are far more succinct quotes in the Woodward book that state this premise, but I prefer Wells’ comments as they focus on the act of lying not the person lying. If his base would react to more succinct critique, I refer them to what his attorney John Dowd said in the Woodward book.

The final one came from a contractor familiar with the Trump organization who was asked in a voter panel, what he thought of candidate Trump. He succinctly said, “Word on the street is if you deal with the Trump organization, get paid up front.” This is consistent with a modus operandi of Trump stiffing contractors because of bad service. Wells noted if Trump did this a few times, that would be one thing, but he regularly cited bad service to get out of paying, one reason for the large number of Trump’s lawsuits. Many a contractor got stiffed, accepted less payment or went out of business because of one Donald J. Trump. What the contractor panelist did was corroborate what has been published.

The above paint a picture with actual examples. I do wish Cohn had resigned with the Charlottesville issue, as it would have been a major statement. I also like the contractor’s statement as it tell us a story that is at odds with his “I am on your side” message to supporters. From what I have observed and read, Trump is only on one side – Donald J. Trump’s.

Questions for Campaigning Republican Legislators

Our diligent and thorough blogging friend, Gronda, wrote a post regarding answers to questions that Republican Party leadership provided GOP candidates. Most of the questions are of many of the messes the President finds himself in of his making, but truly miss the boat on where Republicans and the President have failed to address larger US and global issues.

There is plenty to ask about of these legislators. Here are a few of my questions:

– why are you allowing the easier maltreatment of our environment by industry?

– why are you supporting leaving the Paris Climate Change Accord ignoring the rest of the world?

– why have you failed to address our water concerns in Flint and similar places?

– why have you not only ignored our rapidly rising and expensive debt, but made it worse?

– why have you stood by and let the President trash and cut our diplomacy staff and bully our allies?

– why are we placing tariffs on everyone, without concern for past failures and ignoring better channels to address China involving our allies?

– why have you not listened to Americans and improve the ACA actually harming it instead?

– why have you not done anything to materially address gun governance?

– why have you allowed a President to trash our hard working people in important government departments to create an illusion of conspiracy to save his hind end?

– why have you tolerated a President who believes the civil rights of whites matter more than that of other races?

– why are we doing things to make our poverty problem worse, not better?

– why have we not addressed infrastructure with our significant needs and resulting job creation when interest rates were lower?

That is a start. These folks have a lot to answer to. To be frank, all Americans should be asking these questions, but if I were a young person, I would be even more alarmed. Just with climate change and growing debt, this party is screwing our youth.

But, there is so much more. I am an Independent voter who left the GOP over ten years ago because of their failure to speak to the truth on real problems – Trump has made it worse and his followers have been conned to believe the opposite.