Hidden Figures – a reprise of a story about heroes who overcame

With February being Black History Month and March being Women’s History Month, there are few better stories than one that honors both as noted below. Here is a reprise of a post I wrote six years ago.

My family had the opportunity to see the movie “Hidden Figures” recently. It may be one of the finest movies I have seen in the past few years. From the online movie summary, it is about the “incredible untold story of Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson – brilliant African-American women working at NASA, who served as the brains behind one of the greatest operations in history: the launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit….The visionary trio crossed all gender and race lines to inspire generations to dream big.”

The movie stars Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monáe, with a key role for Kevin Costner. These three mathematicians helped plot a course into space, so that our astronauts could return safely. And, when computers were destined to replace them, one taught other African-American women in the computing department how to program in Fortran to save their jobs and supply capable talent to the NASA space effort, since so few folks knew Fortran.

We must value diversity for its own sake, but also from economic and development standpoints. If we limit where ideas can come from, we limit ideas. It gets no simpler than that math equation. As Johnson notes, math does not care what color you are. The other key point is the math to launch, orbit and return safely was breaking new ground, so innovative thinking was key. Johnson offered that kind of innovation, which married some old school math to solve the new problems.

Throughout history, ideas have come from those who understand and are in proximity to the problem. A gay man named Alan Turing saved over a million lives in World War II and shortened the war by two years per General Dwight Eisenhower by solving the Nazi Enigma communication code. Yet, he had to hide his homosexuality and was later imprisoned for it when discovered. This WWII hero died in jail. The 2014 movie “The Imitation Game” is about Turing’s efforts.

A black man named Vivien Thomas helped solve the Blue Baby death problem by restoring the full flow of blood from the heart through groundbreaking open heart surgery on a baby. Yet, like the NASA mathematicians, he had to battle racism which would not allow him in the operating room, at first. His story is told in the 2004 movie, “Something the Lord Made.”

Jesus said we should treat each other like we want to be treated. It is the right thing to do, but it is also the wise thing to do. Please remember this quote from an economist who advised Presidents Reagan and Clinton, “Innovation is portable.” And, where it occurs is where the jobs start. So, we need to let innovative ideas flourish regardless of their source.


Instant Karma – John Lennon speaking out in song

While still with The Beatles, John Lennon wrote and recorded the song “Instant Karma! (We will all shine on)” and released it under the name John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band. The song is truly a breakout song as one of the many Lennon’s anthem like songs. To me, it shows where Lennon was headed – he would write other anthem songs like “All you need is love” and “Give peace a chance” as well as what I think is one of the most elegant songs ever written designed to make us think, “Imagine.”

The lessons are peppered throughout the song, even though the chorus is repeated as a mantra. In short, Lennon is saying it up to us, act before you are dead, get yourself together and treat your brother well.

“Instant karma’s gonna get you
Gonna knock you right on the head
You better get yourself together
Pretty soon you’re gonna be dead

What in the world you thinking of?
Laughing in the face of love
What on earth you tryin’ to do?
It’s up to you, yeah you

Instant karma’s gonna get you
Gonna look you right in the face
Better get yourself together darlin’
Join the human race

How in the world you gonna see
Laughin’ at fools like me?
Who in the hell’d you think you are?
A superstar?
Well, right you are

Well, we all shine on
Like the moon and the stars and the sun
Well, we all shine on
Everyone come on

Instant karma’s gonna get you
Gonna knock you off your feet
Better recognize your brothers
Everyone you meet

Why in the world are we here?
Surely not to live in pain and fear
Why on earth are you there?
When you’re everywhere
Come and get your share

Well, we all shine on
Like the moon and the stars and the sun
Yeah, we all shine on
Come on and on and on, on, on
Yeah, yeah, alright, uh huh, ah

Well, we all shine on
Like the moon and the stars and the sun
Yeah, we all shine on
On and on and on, on and on

Well, we all shine on
Like the moon and the stars and the sun
Well, we all shine on
Like the moon and the stars and the sun

Well, we all shine on
Like the moon and the stars and the sun
Yeah, we all shine on
Like the moon and the stars and the sun.”

John Lennon was an imperfect person. Like all of us, he had an ego and sometimes he would say things for shock effect, often unintended. This would get him in trouble from time to time. When the great song writer Carole King met Lennon for a second time, she commented how rude he was to her the first time. Lennon said in response, I was intimidated by you which is why I probably was less than kind. Here is one fantastic song writer being intimidated by another fantastic songwriter.

Yet, Lennon would go on to say things we often needed to hear. He also knew how to keep the messages brief so that they would be remembered. “Instant Karma” is a good example, as the chorus of “we all shine on” is what people will remember, just as in “all you need is love,” “give peace a chance” or “imagine there is no heaven.”

Lennon was a fascinating interview. If you get a chance, check these songs out, and look for interviews with Dick Cavett and Mike Douglas. You may not have heard of the latter, but Douglas had a TV talk show where he invited a guest host on for a week and spoke to the co-host’s guests. The week Lennon and Yoko Ono co-hosted is very informative and confirmed Lennon’s place on the paranoid President Richard Nixon’s enemies list.

We all shine on. Just act before you are dead and join the human race. Don’t worry about folks like Nixon.

You want to pull this book from school libraries in Florida?

Our blogging friend Scottie (see link below) alerted me to a library book being pulled and reviewed in my home county of Florida under the mandates of the current governor, Ron DeSantis. In an article by Chris Hoffman called “Roberto Clemente book pulled from shelves in Florida school district” on the CBS News outlet in Pittsburgh, the following paragraphs can be found:

“PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — A book about the life and legacy of Pittsburgh Pirates legend Roberto Clemente has been pulled from shelves in a Florida county. 

The legacy of Clemente is usually viewed favorably, from his amazing on-the-field skills to his work the community. So, it has some questioning why a book about his legacy was pulled. 

The book “Roberto Clemente: Pride of the Pittsburgh Pirates” has been pulled from classrooms in Duvall Country, which includes Jacksonville.  

‘Wait, a second. What is going on? I was upset about it,’ Clemente’s son Roberto Jr. said over Zoom about his initial reaction.  

Roberto Clemente Jr. said the book is about his dad’s upbringing, his time with the Pirates, and humanitarian work. Part of the book discusses the racism Roberto Clemente was subjected to.”

Clemente was a much greater person than he was a baseball player and he was one of the best who ever played. He was a multiyear all-star and led his Pirates team to two championships. He left the game too early, but for a reason that is so illuminating about the person he was.

Clemente was a humanitarian who did an abundance of work with underprivileged youth, especially in his home of Puerto Rico. But, it was his last effort that leaves a legacy that needs to be told to people of all ethnicities. After a devastating earthquake in Nicaragua, Clemente charted a plane to take relief supplies to the victims. Unfortunately, he trusted a pilot whose plane was in need of more repairs than Clemente was led to believe. The plane crashed and killed Clemente at the age of 38.

It should be noted Major League Baseball temporarily suspended its requirement that a player be retired for five years before being eligible for the Hall of Fame. Clemente was elected posthumously.

The mere consideration of banning this book about such a hero is astonishing. When the story is married to the fact a book on legendary baseball player Hank Aaron has also been pulled, it goes to the heart of the bigotry of the Florida governor’s decision to white wash history. To be brutally frank, if these two baseball players were white, these books would not be pulled. Full stop.

The irony of these two figures being at the heart of this story is both men saw first-hand Jim Crow racism as they pursued their professions. In fact, most of Clemente and Aaron’s careers preceded the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Aaron received numerous death threats as he chased the home run record of Babe Ruth, which he would eventually surpass.

Both men were the epitome of quiet grace as players and people. Not unlike Jackie Robinson, they withstood a lot of antagonism and vitriol to just do their jobs in a profession that was restricted from people who looked like they did. I will add both men are far better human beings in my view than several of the current and former elected officials who live in that state, including the person who created the ban.

My guess is these books will be placed back on the shelves, but the mere fact they were pulled is telling and should be embarrassing to the people who created this ban. Of course, the governor will likely say he is not a racist or bigot, but don’t believe him. Actions speak louder than words.

Friday follies, post-Groundhog Day edition

TGIF. Of course, when you’re retired, Friday’s do not hold the same meaning. But, let’s celebrate anyway. Here are a few follies for this Friday.

I read today Donald Trump was a huge Brexit proponent but is now blaming Brexit for his Scottish golf courses losing money to the tune of 3.7 million pounds. He should have realized this beforehand as the EU facilitated easy travel to play his courses. But, that would have required more rational thinking as a business person. Someone should have explained it to him. Of course, the banks tried to tell all Britons about the dilutive impact of Brexit, but too few believed them. This is not a surprise, except to Boris, Nigel, Donald and crowd.

Speaking of making it difficult to transact commerce, when said golf course owner placed tariffs on everyone as US president, he failed to understand history that tariffs don’t work, as they punish the wrong people – the customers and those who serve them. When it costs more money to buy something or replenish inventory to sell, buyers find a different path forward. For example, when the US made it difficult to do business with our buyers and sellers, people went elsewhere. So, it disrupted markets that had taken years to build. As an example, tractor sales in the US declined, while they increased in Brazil. Why? China was getting more food harvest from Brazil than before due to retaliatory tariffs.

One thing that Republican House leadership should have realized when they put some of their extreme members on Committees, is they elevated the platform of these folks. A key thing the House leaders failed to learn about Trump and are failing to realize now, is the past inane comments are only part of what they need to worry about. The future inane comments or the undiscovered past ones are the ones that should keep them up at night. But, the known past ones are fair game, as well. AOC noted in response to GOP criticism of Democrats about Jews that it is hard to take that comment seriously when the GOP put a woman on a committee who has commented on Jewish space lasers as a source of problems.

What troubles me about these committee assignments of the more extreme members of the House is it is one thing to have a gerrymandered district being represented by someone unqualified to do so given their bent toward inane and denigrating comments, but when they are placed on committees, they are representing us all. That is harmful to our country. Whether it is the Republican or Democrat party, they must police their own, otherwise it harms the party and country. Republicans like to pick on AOC, Ihlan Omar Nancy Pelosi, eg, but they are not on the same level like some of the extreme folks representing the Republican party. I can disagree with AOC, Pelosi and Omar and still respect their opinions. I cannot say the same for more than a few extreme folks in the House.

The sad part about these follies is they all are true. We are the ones who have to suffer the fools and foolish behavior. We need to stop following fools’ errands. We deserve better governance than we are getting. We deserve civil and truthful discourse.

Martin Luther King – thoughts against the use of violence still resonates

On this holiday, we should remember the words of its namesake. Martin Luther King once said, “The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very things it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, it merely increases the hate. So it goes. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

These aspirational words ring true even today. A historian made a comment on the news the other day, saying the only thing man has been very good at since the beginning is killing people. To many people have died when leaders say I want what you have or you are different from us or you worship the wrong way. On this latter point, one of the keys to our founding father’s separation of church and state in the US constitution and bill of rights was a comment made by Thomas Jefferson who noted that Europe had been awash in blood due to religious zeal and he did not want religious zeal doing the same in our country. This runs counter to self-proclaimed constitutionalists who want a national or state religion and don’t realize they are advocating against the constitution.

My blogging friend George Dowdell has written a thought-provoking post about “No More Us and Them.” A link to his post is below.* When religious leaders exclude, they create this kind of divide. Yet, when religious leaders are inclusive, religion is at its finest. Just witness the actions of the people’s Pope Francis to see what one leader can do. We should follow his lead. We must do our best to be bridge builders. We must do our best to condemn intolerant thinking and action. We must do our best to not condone violence. We must do our best to control the proliferation of violent tools to people who should not have them and govern all owners of them well, as these tools are designed to kill. We must do our best to work toward civil discourse when disagreements occur. And, we must not tolerate treating women as second class citizens or even assets, which is even further demeaning.

I recognize we all cannot be like Atticus Finch (see Emily J’s post on “The Perfect Book: To Kill a Mockingbird” with the link below **) and wipe the spit away borne from someone looking for a fight, but he shows us what real courage looks like. It takes more courage not to fight back when it would have been so easy to do so. I recognize we cannot all be like Gandhi whose example was studied, admired and copied by Martin Luther King showing that civil disobedience is far more powerful than violence. I recognize we call cannot be like Mother Teresa who just went around helping people and praying with them not caring how they worshiped. And, I realize we cannot all be like Jesus who uttered the words we should all live by and can be found in other religious texts – treat others like you want to be treated.

We must treat others like we want in return. We must elevate women in a world to equal footing with men. We must challenge our historical texts which were written by imperfect men to diminish women. We must be the ones who lift others up. If we don’t then we will continue to be our own worst enemy and do what we are good at – violence and killing.





Happy Easter, too – another reprise of an old Christmas post

While I did not grow up Catholic, my best friend did. So, one of our rituals that lasted about ten years was going to midnight mass on Christmas Eve. One of the traditions of that mass was the Father would also wish Happy Easter, as he knew he would not see more than a few parishioners until next Christmas.

While fewer people are church goers than before and some check the box “none” when surveyed, Christmas remains an important holiday for the promise it brings. Whether you believe that Jesus is the son of God, there was a man by this name who walked the earth and spoke to gatherings of people of all sizes. He reminded us of four key themes among his many parables and lessons. And, these themes can be found in other religious texts.

– Treat others like you want to be treated.

– Help people less fortunate than you.

– Recognize each of us is imperfect.

– Forgive those who trespass against us.

To me, if we live our lives doing our best to remember these four things, Jesus’ words will help us be better people. And, if enough of us do this, the world just might be a better place.

Let me leave you with a true story. One of the homeless families we were helping did not know what their daughter was doing after school. She did not want her parents to know as they may make her stop. She finally confessed that she was going down to the soup kitchen to feed the homeless. To state the obvious, a homeless teen was helping serve other homeless people a meal each afternoon after school. Please feel to share this poignant and powerful story.

A reminder of what Jesus did when he was on earth – a reprise

As we enter the Christmas holiday season, it would be helpful to remind ourselves what Jesus did while he walked the earth and what he promoted while he was here. Variations of his overarching themes can also be found in other religious texts, so these tenets are important regardless of religion. His Golden Rule which paraphrases to Treat others like you want to be treated translates well to any religious faith.

Jesus spent most of his adult life with the disenfranchised people of the areas he traveled. He would visit and stay with those who were not the powerful leaders or church leaders of the day. He tended to be with those who needed him most – the sick, the disabled, the poor and the downtrodden. In fact, he was not welcome by church leaders in some places and became irritated when church leaders did not use his church for its key purpose.

If Jesus walked the earth today, he would likely be irritated with us for many things.

  • Jesus would not be too keen on the demonization of people who look, speak or worship differently than the speaker.
  • He would not be too keen on intolerance especially when advocated by religious leaders who preach a message of exclusion. Jesus welcomed everyone.
  • He would not be too keen on the commercialization of his birthday, which loses sight of why we are honoring the day in the first place.
  • He would not be too keen on treating the impoverished in the world as if they had a communicable disease. “There, but by the grace of God, go I” he would say.
  • He would not be too keen on turning our backs on people who are refugees from their war-torn land. He would be there welcoming them in.
  • He would not be too keen on people being killed in the name of any religion, especially when the perpetrators are twisting language from its true meaning.
  • He would not be too keen on abortion unless a mother’s life is threatened. And, while this may sound inconsistent, he would likely be in favor of using birth control to avoid abortions, lessen poverty and prevent the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases.
  • He would not be too keen on the prosperity church leaders who live high on the hog after bilking poor and sick people of their money. If you hear the term “seed money,” understand you are being swindled to help someone buy a jet or house.
  • He would not be too keen on corrupt leaders who forsake their mission to govern wisely and judiciously.
  • He would not be too keen on people not being good stewards of our earth which is consistent across many religions.

We seem to have become a collection of cafeteria Christians, only picking parts of the bible we like and missing the overall context and message. We must treat others like we want to be treated, with no caveats. To prove my point, I want you to picture a mental image of Jesus and then go back to the first bullet point above regarding “demonization of people who look….differently than the speaker.”

Now, I want you to picture an adult Syrian refugee. Jesus did not look like Max Von Sidow, Jim Caviezel or Jeffrey Hunter (who played him in movies). Jesus looked more like the Syrian refugees look than how movies portrayed him. And, he did not speak English. If Jesus was among the refugees, we have folks who would be arguing to deny his entrance into America as he would be a single adult male with a mideastern appearance.

We must be better than this. We must understand his key message and live like he would want us to, even if he does not look like we do. It is the Christian thing to do….and Jewish, Hindu, Sikh, Muslim and Buddhist thing as well.

A few more musings before year-end

To me, a few good things have happened and are happening this year to get us back between the white lines on the highway. In no particular order:

  • Jair Bolsonaro lost his bid for reelection in Brazil. As expected, he is pulling a Trump saying the election was stolen from him, but everyone else, including party leadership, are moving on. “But, I won by a huge margin,” he can be heard saying in Portuguese to the departing caravan of people.
  • Boris Johnson was shown the door in the UK as Prime Minister. The only good thing about Johnson’s tenure is he got to oversee the Brexit mess he helped create before succumbing to a series of unforced errors, as they like to say in tennis.
  • Not to be outdone, I was told before she was appointed by the Tories as new Prime Minister, that Liz Truss was not the best of replacements. She proved the author of this concern correct, lasting only 45 days in a mistake-filled tenure.
  • In Australia, apparently climate change, environmental concerns and paid child leave are important as Conservatives who passed on these issues, were swept out of office over the summer with the new Prime Minister Anthony Albanese taking the oath. Between the wildfires and depleting barrier reef, rising temperatures is not a friend to the country/ continent.
  • In Ukraine, Vladimir Putin is realizing what happens when someone stands up to a bully. Volodymyr Zelenskyy has shown what leadership looks like, while Putin has shown what autocratic rule looks like. Fortunately, Russians are starting to see what the world sees and his days may be numbered.
  • And, at long last, with the Tax Fraud conviction by a jury of the Trump Organization and the investigation and released Executive Summary by the House Select Committee, the former president is starting to get his come-uppance as he truly spirals out of control blasting anyone who dares criticize him or not genuflect enough. Plus, there are other legal matters in Georgia, Pennsylvania and Mar-a-Lago that he needs to contend with.
  • Joe Biden is far from perfect, but he has shown that things can get accomplished to help the greater good. I am very pleased the Respect for Marriage Act, some gun governance and an infrastructure and climate change bill were passed. Sadly, neither party seems to care about the debt and deficit, so some poor soul will have to get the blame for doing what is needed – raising revenue and cutting expenses – as the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles Deficit Reduction Plan concluded, when the debt was about 1/4 the total it is now.

Have a peaceful and enjoyable Christmas. Stay warm and travel safe.

Dimwitted is not a compliment

In an article in Raw Story by Tom Boggioni, he highlights the take of a conservative publication on the chaos in the Republican side of Congress as they attempt to choose a lead person. The article is called “‘Dimwitted’ Republicans buried by Wall Street Journal over post-midterm chaos” and can be linked to below. Here are few unflattering comments from the piece.

“In a blistering opinion piece from the Wall Street Journal on Saturday morning, the editorial board hammered House Republicans for turning their takeover of the House in the midterms election into a circus as members battle over who will be the new Speaker…

As the WSJ editors point out, there is little difference in the policies espoused by McCarthy and his detractors and the battle is not only a waste of time but evidence that the House Republicans are bound and determined to screw up their success at becoming the House majority.

In a word, the editors called un-named GOP House members ‘dimwitted.‘”

At the heart of this chaos is a large group that want to take the party further down the rabbit hole into appeasing an “Alice in Wonderland” base of voters where truths are lies and lies are truth. And, as I have noted before, the former president does an admirable job at playing the role of Queen of Hearts. “Off with his head!” he can be heard shouting to critics.

The others are comprised of a sadly diminishing number of more moderate Republicans and those in between who have long tried to play a game of appeasing both ends, appearing more moderate, while kowtowing to whatever the base has been told to believe by the former president and his lingering sycophants.

Mind you, Democrats are often the group that forms a circular firing squad as they air their debates, but whether one likes Nancy Pelosi or not, the retiring speaker is very good at counting votes and getting things done. The last Republican Speaker who did that was John Boehner, but he got pushed out when he crossed the aisle to many times to add a few Democrats to votes to get something bipartisan passed. The more strident GOP folks did not like that. They would rather beat on their chest and not do anything than dare pass something that some opinion host may say is bipartisan.

As an independent voter, I would love to see a more moderate Republican House speaker. Kevin McCarthy’s actions are far from trustworthy in my view and the party needs to find more veracity. They could start by trying to pass laws that will help people rather than begin a series of “beat-up on appointed enemies’ investigations” to bloody the other side’s chances. But, we are likely to end up with McCarthy which will hinder good governance and reveal a party that only Lewis Carroll could imagine through his looking glass.

Those are the views of a former Republican and Democrat who has been an unaffiliated voter for about fifteen years.

The Un-Golden Rule

Growing up I learned the most important words in my bible were the ones in red print. The publishers wanted to highlight the words attributed to Jesus. Some of the most notable red passages are often referenced by another color calling them the Golden Rule. One from Matthews 7:12 quotes:

“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”

Mark 12:31 uses different phrasing but gets to the same theme:

“The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

In short, I prefer the paraphrase of “treat others like you want to be treated.” Note, there are no caveats to the rule. Yet, what frustrates me is when Christians and other religious groups place caveats on these important words. They tarnish the rule making it “un-golden.” In their minds, the rule reads “treat others like you want to be treated….”

-unless such person is attracted to a person who is not the same gender,

-unless such person does not know what gender they identify with,

-unless such person worships differently,

-unless such person is from a country that promotes other religions,

-unless such person is from a different ethnic group, or

-unless such person belongs to a different political party.

While too many preach some of these caveats as witnessed by the public splits in the Methodist, Episcopalian and Baptist churches, there are many ministers who see the bigger picture. From the blog of Reverend John Pavlovitz in a post called “Phobic Christians, while you have been bothering LGBTQ people…:”

“Stop spending so much time and energy trying to make gay people ‘not gay’ or transgender people ‘not transgender’—it isn’t going to happen.

Instead, try spending that time and energy, making:
hungry people less hungry,
hurting people less hurt,
lonely people not feel alone,
victimized people not feel victimized,
invisible people feel seen.
bullied people feel protected.
grieving people feel comforted“

I have often found comfort in the words of Reverend Pavlovitz. I even know of atheists and agnostics who react favorably to his messages. Just seeing a glimpse of his style in the above piece, he focuses on using religion as way to reach out and help others. To me, this is religion at its finest. Picking others up.

Per my bible, that guy who is quoted in red print tended to hang out more with folks who were disenfranchised. As a symbolic mantra, WWJD is a bracelet worn by many Christians to ask themselves and others “what would Jesus do?There is a famous example in the bible of a woman being publicly stoned for infidelity. So, what did Jesus do? Jesus stopped people from stoning this woman by making a simple comment – he who is without sin shall cast the first stone. Maybe we should think about that when the perceived others are being stoned by the self-anointed ultra-pious worshipers.