Dutch rewilding river project

‘This is what a river should look like’: Dutch rewilding project turns back the clock 500 years by Phoebe Weston of The Guardian reveals an interesting co-investment in making rivers run wild again. The reasons – man-influenced and worsened flooding and chemical run-off from farms are harmful to all concerned.

Here are few salient paragraphs, but I encourage you to read the article below.

“Frans Schepers, managing director of Rewilding Europe, who was leading the largest river-restoration project in Europe, believes radical river restoration projects should be taken more seriously. ‘People are not used to looking at green infrastructure in the way they look at other “hard” infrastructure like roads, railways and waterways. But this [type of project] is also for the common good,’ he says...

Crisis point in the Netherlands arrived decades ago after a series of destructive floods in the 80s and 90s. Dead pigs were found stuck in trees as livestock that couldn’t be moved away fast enough drowned in high waters. Thriving fishing communities had died out and rivers had become a threat to people. Momentum to radically overhaul them started building. The planning phase for the Border Meuse began in 1990, with work starting in 2007 and due to finish in 2027.

‘Rivers should be biodiversity hotspots but all over the world they are being damaged by human activity and slurry and pesticides runoff from farms. A key part of Border Meuse has been separating nature and agriculture by buying out farms along two river catchments and returning them to a natural state. Some farmers opposed being moved, but most were struggling to farm because of the flooding and were generously compensated. Farmers have moved away from hundreds of kilometres of Dutch rivers where flood protection and ecological restoration are priorities,’ says Schepers.

The €550m project is being paid for mainly by companies wanting to extract sand and gravel from the riverbed, which has helped widen the river and lower riverbanks and so expand the floodplain. Because of the involvement of industry, Border Meuse was the only large river restoration project that wasn’t withdrawn during the 2008 financial crash. Today, it attracts two million visitors a year, bringing in about €1bn of revenue to the Meuse region.

Here in the US, past efforts to straighten rivers have been destructive to the environment, especially around the Mississippi River basin and we have been losing land at a rapid rate. The solution was to help nature get back to what it was and stop trying to influence it so much. In Steven Solomon’s book “Water” he notes the Egyptians tried to control the Nile for centuries, but nature would bite them in the fanny to show who was boss with extra silt deposits that ruined crops and the water.

Solomon’s book is even more relevant today with our global and US water crisis, which has been made even worse by climate change. Competing interests in river and other waters have led to more evaporation and pose grave concerns to people via hydration and food irrigation. If we do not address these now (and we are already late), the livelihoods of many people will be altered.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/sep/20/dutch-rewilding-project-turns-back-the-clock-500-years-aoe

Tuesday tidbits (in mid-September, 2022)

Being in an alliterative state of mind, here are a few Tuesday tidbits for tasting. In no particular order:

  • I read where Wisconsin Republican Senator Ron Johnson is having trouble with his reelection campaign, as well he should. Apparently, independents like myself have soured on the guy, and he is in a toss-up with Lt. Governor Mandela Barnes. To be frank, many Republicans did not want Johnson to run again (his age), but for a different reason than I have. He is such an overt supporter of the former president, many Republicans on committees he chaired have openly disagreed with his inane assertions.
  • I continue to read some folks are voting Republican for economic reasons, but they should look at historical data. Here is an easy example to find – under which White Houses have more jobs been created, Democrat or Republicans (note there have been 13 terms apiece)? The answer is under Democrats, and it is not even close. Even Democrats tend to miss this question. The economy and stock market have done better as well. Those who say the last former president did great with the economy, should note that he inherited an economy in its 91st consecutive month of economic growth, a more than doubled stock market and six consecutive years of 2+ million per annum job growth. Note Obama inherited a recession from George W. Bush.
  • I should note that presidents and legislators get too much credit and blame for the economy. They do provide some headwinds and tailwinds, but the economy is bigger than their jobs. The inflation we are seeing today has a lot to do with an inadequate supply chain. If you remember your economic graphs, when supply is low, prices go up. The pandemic hurt a great deal. To me, the tariffs imposed by the previous president and continued under the current one have upset our supply chains, where businesses had to find other sources of goods that they likely continued. I would add the Russian invasion of Ukraine has fueled fossil fuel price increases along with the continued disruption of a poorly planned and executed Brexit which has an echo effect.
  • I should also caution my British friends they are in for an even rockier road with new Prime Minister Liz Truss’ infatuation with trickle-down economics, which has been proven in five studies to have failed. The state of Kansas recently had a huge failure with this theory and almost went bankrupt before it was overturned. Per Mother Jones, “After years of budgetary ruin, Kansas’ experiment in trickle-down economics is finally coming to a close. Late Tuesday night, the state Legislature voted overwhelmingly to override a veto from Gov. Sam Brownback and increase a slew of taxes in the state.” Trickle-down economics is not the best of names, but it is better than what it was called in the late 1890s – the “Horse and sparrow theory,” meaning what you feed the horse (the wealthy) is excreted to feed the sparrows (everyone else).

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 real people are used as pawns

Three governors of states have decided to play with people’s lives in an overt way to win some delusional wedge issue to garner votes. These governors have decided to transport migrants and refugees from Venezuela and other places to Democrat majority cities for them to deal with the problem. Our friend Jill has a good piece on the subject which I will link to below.

Here a few thoughts that share how I feel about stepping on the neck of the disenfranchised:

If grandstanding were an Olympic sport, these three prone-to-exaggerating governors would vie for the Gold. If bullying the disenfranchised were a Commandment, these three prone-to-condescending governors would be very pious. If letting your dog go in your neighbors yard without clean-up was a character trait, then these prone-to-screwing-people governors would be honorable..

The migrant stunt is just poor form, but not outside of these three governors’ modus operandi. I did read the migrant stunt is not playing well with Latino Americans in South Florida, nor should it. People need to recognize when folks are grandstanding, bullying and screwing people like these governors often do. 

With that said, I am all for healthy and civil debate on how to help and deal with the influx of people from other places. Ironically, before he turn and ran from his greatest legislative achievement, Senator Marco Rubio (of that very same South Florida) was part of a gang of eight Senators who helped pass a pretty good immigration bill in 2013. The Speaker of the House chose not to bring it to a vote, although it would have passed, because Republicans felt it was a better election issue if left unpassed. This is the same reason the last former president was talked out of his wall funding for DACA deal the same day he agreed to it.

Working together should not be as hard as the elected officials have made it. My strong advice is stop the grandstanding and get in a room and work things out. Truth telling and civility would be helpful.

A four-year old post showed clean energy progress is happening

The passage of the Inflation Reduction Act which includes very significant renewable energy funding is a huge step forward. Even Republican legislators who were told not to vote for it, are silently celebrating the needed investment in their states that will be forthcoming.

Four years ago, I wrote the following post which sheds progress at the same time the former president was pulling the US away from the adult table on fighting climate change. President Joe Biden has gotten us back to that table and helped pass the Inflation Reduction Act. Please note the invasion of Ukraine by Russia has caused some hiccups to the progress with Russia punishing its critics with fossil-fuel restrictions, but the progress continues.

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“Global citizens are rightfully concerned the US President Donald Trump is pulling the US out of the Paris Climate Change Accord, but progress continues as “we are passed the tipping point on renewable energy.” Even the US pullout cannot stop the train, as states, cities, businesses and other countries continue the push. It just means the President and his team will not be at the adult table on this issue and may not be invited at all.

Here are a few miscellaneous energy tidbits that should offer encouragement.

Per the UK Based organization Carbon Tracker, here are a few highlights from the past year:

  • more than 1/2 of the US coal plants in existence in 2010 have been closed;
  • more than 1/2 of the remaining coal plants in Europe are losing money;
  • the UK has slashed electricity from coal usage from 40% to 2% in the last five years; and
  • there have been big strides in China and Australia on reducing coal usage.

Per the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the five member, Republican dominated agency denied the request by Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry to fund the building of more coal-fired and nuclear plants. This was a surprise move given the make-up of the committee. I would call this decision as not wanting to throw good money after bad.

It should be noted, it is not just coal that is giving the FERC commissioners pause. The US division of Westinghouse Electric Company had to declare bankruptcy for cost overruns on a new nuclear power plant for SCANA, the South Carolina utility. As a result, the new plant is being shuttered and SCANA is being sold to Dominion Resources, so as not to overburden SC citizens with the cost of the lost investment.

The International Energy Agency in their 2017 Energy Outlook notes the cost of new solar photovoltaic electricity has declined by 70% and wind energy has fallen 25% since 2010. It should be noted the IEA has tended to favor fossil fuel energy in past releases. China, the new country leader in the climate change fight, will be investing US$360 billion more in renewable energy by 2020. Plus, the price of solar has fallen so much in places like Zambia, Saudi Arabia and Mexico, it has won bidding contests against fossil fuel energy sources for projects.

Finally, any discussion on future energy cannot exclude the declining cost and increasing capacity in battery storage. Per Bloomberg New Energy Financials, energy storage will double six times between 2016 and 2030. Elon Musk just helped southern Australia go live with a major battery installation and 21 states in the US have planned projects on energy storage.

All of the above stories are important because it has always been a financial argument to combat the environmental concerns, whose long term costs have been undervalued. Now, the financials are favoring the renewable energy engine, so market forces will continue to force the ultimate demise of coal-fired energy, which started with the lower cost of natural gas. If a company can find a clean energy source which is cheaper and more predictable long term, that is easily the better path forward. If you don’t believe me, just ask companies like Google, Facebook, Walmart and IKEA to name only a few.”

Bankers used to be trustworthy, but threw their reputation out the window – a reprise

In 2014, I wrote the following post which was predicated on yet another huge fine of a large bank for inappropriate activities in selling products. Just yesterday, per The Charlotte Observer in an article called “Bank settles with feds over claims it ‘misused’ 401(k),” Wells Fargo was fined $145 million (after earlier fines for unethical and some illegal practices) for cheating its own employees and retirees with higher stock transaction fees in the company 401(k). This latest fine was forthcoming from the Department of Labor as they govern employer sponsored 401(k) plans. It should be noted the bank settled the case without admitting guilt.

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Last week, Bank of America was the latest bank to be penalized for fraudulent or aggressive marketing practices. They have had so many fines for malfeasance or aggressive marketing practices that it is hard to keep track of their sins. The latest penalty fined Bank of America $783 million for selling credit card consumers products and services they did not request. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), which was newly created a couple of years ago by the Dodd-Frank Act under the tutelage of now Senator Elizabeth Warren, said the $738 million of that fine is used to restore money to those customers who were fraudulently sold these products.

In its first two fiscal years of operations ending June 30, 2013, the CFPB has fined banks and financial entities $942 million of which the significant majority goes to the consumers who were harmed or defrauded. The banks and financial institutions that were penalized include, but are not limited to American Express, Capital One, Discover, and JP Morgan Chase. While the significant majority of the penalty goes to the consumers, the remainder, which is usually less than 10% of the overall fine, goes into a Civil Penalty Fund, which has the following purpose as stated in the CFPB 2013 Annual Report:

“Under the Act, funds in the Civil Penalty Fund may be used for payments to the victims of activities for which civil penalties have been imposed under the Federal consumer financial laws. To the extent that such victims cannot be located or such payments are otherwise not practicable, the Bureau may use funds in the Civil Penalty Fund for the purpose of consumer education and financial literacy programs.”

What is interesting to me is why certain politicians are against this agency? I want them to tell me why an agency designed to protect the average Joe’s and Josephine’s is a bad thing. To state the obvious, these politicians tend to be Republican and tend to be supported by bankers. Senator Richard Shelby, who Chaired the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee from 2003 – 07 is one of the key critics of the CFPB. (Sidebar – under president Donald Trump, Mick Mulvaney was appointed to lead the CFPB to hobble it).

This is one area where people who don’t want regulation need to explain how we would be better without it. Would it be OK for bankers to have full license to sell their customers services they do not need? Is it OK for banks to screw people over? I find most people confuse unwieldy bureaucracy with regulation. We need the latter, but need to guard against the former. I also find people who don’t want to be regulated tend to be those who need to be regulated more. The fossil fuel industry comes to mind, but that would be a large digression.

Having worked in Human Resources within a bank back in the 1990s, what I have witnessed is being a banker used to be one of the most trusted professions. Now, it ranks much lower in trust.  And, they only have themselves to blame. Truth be told, bankers used to be trustworthy, but threw their reputation out the window.

The slippery slope began in earnest with the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act in the late 1990s. This act had been put in place at the time of the Great Depression and was designed to assure that banks would be banks and not investment banks, security traders or insurance companies. With the feeling everyone learned their lesson and cooler heads would prevail, the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act reopened the can of worms. The real reason for the repeal was banks wanted the fee income that usually came with those products and services. Yet, to add another metaphor, the can of worms became a Pandora’s Box.

What transpired after that repeal is banks pushing the envelope more and cross selling products and services to unsuspecting customers. Two marketing trends emerged. “Bundling” and “Tying.” Bundling represents the concept if you do more business with us, we will give you better terms. By itself, that is not necessarily a bad practice. Yet, when married with tying, it becomes unethical and illegal. Banks started tying business marketing together, so that you had to business with them in one area to get a better deal on another service which was more vital to the buyer. Usually these offers were not made in writing, as some tying can be illegal.

But, the larger trend that occurred is a selling push to reward employees for selling you services you may or may not need. The unscrupulous ones would push the hardest and do things that now get the attention of the CFPB. One of the key reasons the mortgage crisis hit is the better mortgage market dried up and banks had all of these mortgage bankers with nothing to do.

With the push out of the second Bush White House that home ownership was good, the higher risk mortgage market became the target. It was at this time you saw mortgage-in-a-box retail stores competing against banks to sell mortgages to people who did not understand fully what was being sold to them. Variable mortgages and the dreaded Pic-a-payment mortgages that brought Wachovia down after their acquisition of Golden West, were being sold to people who were in over the heads, both economically and educationally. People should have been asking more questions, but trusted the men and women in nice suits that told them they could afford the American Dream. They failed to mention or fully explain terms like “negative amortization” and “variable mortgages” especially what transpires when the rate goes up by 200 basis points.

So, bankers used to be trustworthy, but they threw it out the window. They earned these new stripes. You have to be the navigator of your customer service experience, in general, but especially with a bank. You have to ask questions about why you are being asked to do something. You need to ask why you need another credit card. You need to ask why is the salesperson pushing so hard on this issue. If you don’t, you may need the help of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

With that said, I know many fine people who work for banks. They do their best to serve their customers. Yet, the higher-ups are pushing for sales and align incentives with that push. As a result, even well-meaning people will push the envelope even more. I have been a business for over 34 years and a truism I have learned is you make more money serving the needs of your client long term. You may make more money on occasion by pushing that envelope, but you may do so at the expense of a long term relationship which might come to an end.

For full disclosure, I am a shareholder (sidebar – I am no longer a shareholder of BofA) and customer of both Bank of America and Wells Fargo. These fines disappoint me. I want them to be accountable to their customers, employees and shareholders. But, they also need to be accountable to their regulators. They owe it to all of us.

Random thoughts on a rainy Saturday morning

Good morning everyone. We are getting a nice rain this morning, not the loud kind with all of the electricity of a usual summer storm. I type beneath a skylight and it is soothing to hear the rain on the overhead window.

Here a few random thoughts on this rainy Saturday morning.

King Charles made a nice speech, but I was also impressed by his speaking and shaking hands with mourners outside the palace. It added a very human touch to his new role. I would love to see more of that from him. The country will need it the months and years ahead as the financial woes continue. Charles will be leading a more diverse country than his mother inherited.

On the flip side of how a leader must lead, Brazil is seeing more violence. Here is a paragraph from VOANews: “A supporter of far-right Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro stabbed to death a backer of leftist former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, authorities said on Friday, in the latest example of rising political tensions ahead of the upcoming election. The violence happened in the west-central state of Mato Grosso, after tempers frayed during an argument over support for the two candidates. Bolsonaro trails Lula in the polls in an election riven by intense polarization.” If Bolsonaro loses, I do not see a very peaceful transition of power which will reflect poorly on the country.

Jean-Paul Sartre wrote a very enlightening play called “No Exit.” In essence, his definition of hell is to be locked in a room with people who exhibit traits you detest. Given his craving for attention and keen focus on perception, what irritates the former US president the most is when people publicly criticize him, but he can at least lash out. He is suing Fox News for airing a Lincoln Project ad which he does not care for addressing his con of MAGA fans, eg.

If Sartre is correct, the perfect way to torment the former president would be to ignore him. I think if news channels simply said “the former president made some statements that we have found to be untrue, so we are not going to air them,” that might get under his skin. I did see the former president approached CNN to become the new conservative network since the bloom is off his rose with some at Fox News. When I see a picture of the former president with a headline that he is mad at someone or something yet again, I just move on. He tends to be routinely angry, so why bother?

Liz Truss is the new Prime Minister of the UK. I may not agree with much of her politics, but I do like that she picked a lot of women to be in key seats. That has to unnerve a few of the old male guard. I do think the Queen’s passing has given her an opportunity to say the right things as a PM should. Yet, I worry greatly about her embracing an unproven model of trickle down economics (it has been shown not to work in five studies and almost bankrupted the state of Kansas), especially with the predicted and actual Brexit financial woes, which should continue. I said “predicted” as financial analysts predicted before the Brexit vote that it would be dilutive to GDP growth.

That is all for now. Have a great weekend. Pray for peace in the world and for leaders to somehow find the wisdom of Solomon.

Queens and Kings

The world is mourning the death of the longest reigning monarch in the UK, Queen Elizabeth. Just thinking she is the only monarch that the significant majority of her subjects have ever known is quite amazing in and of itself. Although not without imperfections, she was a class act which we need more people to emulate. Dignified public service is something we should use an example – just look no further than Boris Johnson as the most recent contrarian to that premise and what happened to him.

What is interesting is that if her Uncle Edward had not abdicated the throne allowing her father George to become King, she may never had served as Queen. I find that amazing how these two very different stories weave together in history as bookends. A dutiful Queen who served through thick and thin and a self-centered King who shed the crown for love. Her namesake, the first Queen Elzabeth, also served a long time, as did her great-grandmother Victoria. Just think of that – three women served as Queen for just shy of 180 years – almost two centuries.

King Charles will not be able to serve as long, but he has been waiting in the wings for a long time to serve. Using an American analogy, I hope he will not be a worn-out relief pitcher who warmed up too long in the bullpen and was spent by the time he entered the game. One thing about Charles, he has been more outspoken about the environment and climate change, which has been good. As King, he may need to be more silent on these subjects as the Prime Minister runs the show.

There is also a good documentary on him about funding and sponsoring a program to teach teen kids and young adults about the hospitality profession – see link below. It is called the “Belling Hospitality Training Centre at Dumfries House Estate.” When I saw this documentary, I came away with a much more favorable impression of now King Charles.

So, may the Queen rest in peace. Thank you for your service and stewardship. And, long live the King.

https://www.looktothestars.org/news/9973-prince-charles-opens-hospitality-training-centre-in-scotland

A simple question

A simple question for elected officials in my old party – the Republican Party. What will you have to defend tomorrow, next week, next month…next year? And, will it be from an old, alleged crime or a new one. I have been asking this question of GOP officials for over four years now. There is always a new or newly discovered Trump alleged crime or some form of deceit that surfaces.

Accountability. Responsibility. Truth. These are words that are lacking these days to define the Republican party. Democrats are not perfect, but they are at least talking and doing something about issues of import. Yes, Dems stretch the truth, but it is not even close to the level of mainstream deceit that is required by the GOP. Seeing Sarah Palin claim election fraud yesterday was as predictable as the nose on my face. I told my wife last week that Palin will claim fraud at some point and I am not that prescient.

I also knew Donald Trump would claim election fraud and contest the election two months before he did as he had hired 1,000 attorneys and defamed and tried to hobble the mail in process. I wrote a post in September 2020 to that effect. Senator Bernie Sanders told a late-night TV audience in October 2020 with eerie accuracy what Trump would do the next month with the election claiming foul. It did not take a crystal ball to see this coming.

What I cannot figure out is why people buy Trump’s false bravado when he accepts accountability for nothing? I see a very shallow and weak-minded acting person who cannot admit he lost or made a mistake. What saddens me more are the sycophants who buy into and sell his bogus claims when they have to know better. Senators Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Lindsey Graham, et al routinely shame themselves falling over to defend this untruthful bullying and seditious acting person. These are Senators who should be leaders not fawners.

Any party that has to rely on groups like QAnon, InfoWars and opinion personalities to white wash what is happening or has happened deserves every bit of scrutiny it gets. And, what they should be doing is paying attention to those Republicans testifying under oath or taking risks to speak out against the lies and fraud committed by the former president. That is courage. Now, why would they stick their necks out when they know so many want to chop them off? Dems should not listen to their opinion hosts either, but the GOP has found some dark corners of disinformation that have been pulled into social media for discussion.

Biden is not perfect and critics try to use his imperfections as “what-about” responses, but I have never seen anything like what we are seeing now with the Republican party that conservative pundit Michael Gerson says is “in decay.” MAGA fans like to say Trump is being treated so unfairly. I would say the press reports on too many of his shortcomings, faults, and deceptions. They have made us numb reporting on non-important stuff, that we lose sight of the major concerns. The press has normalized his unaccountable and deceitful behavior.

Yet, Trump has brought all of this on himself with his inability to tell the truth with any degree of frequency and his bullying and firing of naysayers and critics who have concerns. “They just don’t like me” is a child’s response. What I don’t like is an elected leader lying to me, who takes credit for all good and blames others for all bad, who bullies people on a routine basis, and who appears to have acted seditiously toward the efforts of the United States. The fact he may have classified material including nuclear information is simply wrong on so many levels.

We need a viable conservative party, but what we have now is not it. Accountability. Responsibility. Truth. They could start there. They could also start by doing the opposite of what the former president says to do. Listen to the ones who are getting vilified for telling the truth, instead.

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.