Toys in the ATTIC

When Republican presidential candidate and former Congressman Joe Walsh made it to Fox News for an interview, even he was stunned when the host said he did not think the current president lies. The truth is not only does the president lie, he lies more than he does not with a tally of over 12,000 lies and counting while in office.

While many of the lies are akin to a toddler denying he said or did something (even with his hand in the cookie jar), the ones that trouble me most are those that impact policy or our global standing. On the latter, the US is less trusted because the president is untrustworthy. On the former, people are harmed physically or financially.

With this in mind, here are five lies that may be “toys in the attic,” to the childish president, but are detrimental to people. ATTIC is the acronym to help even a Fox News host to remember them.

A = Amazon: Trump blew off the G7 meeting on the burning Amazon forests and climate change saying he was meeting with the leaders of Germany and India. Trouble is they were in the meeting he blew off.

T= Tariffs: In a repetitive lie, the president continues to say China is paying for the tariffs and each time it is refuted by economists. US importers pay the tariffs and pass most of the cost to consumers. The Congressional Budget Office says the average American (not Chinese) citizen will pay an extra $1,000 due to tariffs.

T= Transgender: This is the president at his worst. Per the book “Fear,” by two-time Pulitzer Prize winning author Bob Woodward, defense staff and leadership awaited the president for a 10 am meeting to brief him on four options for handling transgender issues. While they waited, the president sent out two tweets around 9:05 am. The tweets said the generals had already briefed him and it was a consensus to choose the most aggressive option. This made Defense Secretary James Mattis so furious as it was untrue and wasted time and effort, he said he would not take orders from a tweet.

I = India: This was yet another unforced error the president brought on himself. While at a press conference with the Pakistan leader, the president said he was asked by the India prime minister to broker discussions between the two leaders over recurring tensions in Kashmir. Within the hour, the India PM put out a release saying “no such request was made.” The White House staff was eerily silent after the president’s comment and India’s response. In an interview on NPR, I heard how this damaged our relationship with India.

C = Co-pays: This lie relates to the president cutting funding to reimburse insurers for co-pays and deductibles for people making less than 2 1/2 times the poverty limit under the ACA. Trump said, untruthfully, this would only impact insurer profits. The CBO said it would increase the deficit by $10 billion per annum as premiums would increase. Further, those not getting a premium subsidy would see an increase. If that were not enough, BCBS of North Carolina noted they were not going to have a rate increase in 2018 before the president edict, but increased premiums afterwards.

Sadly, there are so many more to choose from. When I heard this supposed news person say the president does not lie, it was and is highly offensive. Three attorneys who worked for the president have said the following about the president’s lack of truthfulness.

-Thomas Wells said before the election in an article “Donald Trump lies every day even about things of no consequence.”

– Michael Cohen said under oath “Donald Trump is a racist, he is a con artist and he is a cheat.”

– Don McGahn, former White House counsel, resigned rather follow Trump orders to obstruct justice (and lie about being so instructed) per the Mueller report.

Lies are toys in the ATTIC to the president. He has so many toys, they just pile up. But, the truth is these “toys” are painful realities to us and the rest of the world.

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Alleged Mark Twain quotes

Mark Twain is alleged to have said the following two quotes.

“It It is easier to fool people than convince them they have been fooled.”

“It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.”

Whether he is the author is moot, as they sure sound like they came out of his brain or mouth. Twain was not just an author, he was a fabulous and witty orator.

These quotes resonate as it alarms me how too many people read, listen and watch pseudo-news that tell them what they want to hear or see. I fault these pseudo-news outlets, salivating readers and watchers and politicians such as the president who know they can be loose with the truth.

As someone who is fiscally conservative and socially progressive, I do not mind people being more conservative or liberal than I. What I do mind is people spouting arguments from sources known for spin-doctoring, misinformation and disinformation. We must get away from hyper-rationalization of untruthful or even bizarre statements made by their party. With a very untruthful president and his sycophants, the rationalization is rampant.

We must be the navigators of our customer service, which includes our news. We must look at multiple sources that do not spend so much time on nonsensical conspiracy theories and provide errata statements when they get it wrong. Another sure sign of less-than-aurhentic news is the glee in what is being presented or an opinion meant to flavor what we just heard.

We must be truthseekers. It is not an easy job. Yet, if we don’t do our part, we might prove Mark Twain correct.

Credit risk appraiser Moody’s buys a firm that assesses climate change risk

Even for those not very familiar with Moody’s, this headline speaks volumes about the impact of the risk of climate change on our country and planet. In a July 24, 2019 article in The New York Times by Christopher Flavelle called “Moody’s Buys Climate Data Firm, Signaling New Scrutiny of Climate Risks,” the company that measures credit risks for bond investors in companies, cities, counties, states and countries, has added to its expertise. Per Flavelle’s article

“Moody’s Corporation has purchased a controlling stake in a firm that measures the physical risks of climate change, the latest indication that global warming can threaten the creditworthiness of governments and companies around the world.

The rating agency bought a majority share in Four Twenty Seven, a California-based company that measures a range of hazards, including extreme rainfall, hurricanes, heat stress and sea level rise, and tracks their impact on 2,000 companies and 196 countries. In the US, the data covers 761 cities and more than 3,000 counties.

‘We are taking these risks very seriously,’ said Myriam Durand, global head of assessments at Moody’s Investor Service, who said the purchase would allow its credit analysts to be more precise in their review of climate-related risks. ‘You can’t mitigate what you don’t understand.’

Sudden shocks such as floods, wildfires, or storms can hurt businesses and send residents fleeing, taking away the tax revenue that government s use to pay debts. And, longer term threats – such as rising seas or higher temperatures – can make those places less desirable to live in, hurting property values and, in turn, the amount raised by taxes.”

To illustrate this risk, the same day I read a reprint of this article in The Charlotte Observer, the local paper ran a story on the town of Fair Bluff, NC which has been flooded twice in that past four years due to Hurricanes Matthew and Florence which lingered over their area. Sitting near the Lumber River, the citizens of Fair Bluff saw the river rise well beyond flood range. The previous flood of this magnitude occurred 90 years before. Sadly, the population and business is declining due to rebuilding costs. As a result, so is the tax revenue to provide services.

There is a huge financial impact of climate change on the lives and business of people and communities. Rebuilding a town that may continue to be in harms way adds to the risk and some people are choosing to relocate. And, It is not just small towns. Houston has had two major floods over the past five years, as well. Houston has felt on a larger scale what Fair Bluff has felt. Not only do the rains of the Hurricane sit over them, the rivers upstate overfill and flow toward the sea. This causes extra flooding.

So, Moody’s is improving their ability to assess repayment risk to bondholders. A city that has rebuilt or prepared poorly is at greater risk of flight of people, businesses and tax dollars. What should also be alarming to American citizens is while Moody’s is taking forward thinking action, the US government is stripping climate change reports from their websites and demoting, transferring or running off Ph.Ds who are expert in measuring and addressing climate change. In short, we are throwing away a technical advantage that could help the US and the world.

Repeating what Ms. Durand said above, “You can’t mitigate what you don’t understand.”  So, please ask all politicians what they plan to do about climate change including the US president. And, a question for those who still buy the hoax stuff, why is Moody’s spending all of that money on a hoax?

 

Of course, Trump is a racist

Of course, Donald Trump is a racist. The evidence is overwhelming dating well before he was president through today.*  He is the president of our country, so we need him to be one of our better angels, not our worst. He sets the tone, as does any person in a leadership position. So, we must encourage him to act like a leader.

Yet, what his actions say counter his words condemning four women of color telling them to leave the country, a dog whistle racist remark, while saying he “does not have a racist bone in his body.”

His actions say it is OK for a white man to criticize our country, even distort the truth in so doing. Make America Great Again was sold on denigrating the way it was.

His actions say it is OK for a white man to call people names like loser, failure, and ugly who criticize or accuse him rather than push back on the issues.

His actions say it is OK for a white man to be untruthful and bully people including our allies and trading partners at the same time getting cuddly with non-benign autocrats.

His actions say it is OK for a white man to try to obstruct justice or have active and numerous conversations with nefarious foreign sources to help win an election.

His actions say it is OK for a white man to grab any woman by her private parts or walk in on them while they are changing clothes as he has bragged of and been accused of. I won’t even speak of other accusations.

His actions say it is OK for a white man to call Mexicans rapists, ban people coming from Muslim majority countries, equate people wanting to preserve their civil rights with white nationalists who want to take them away and claim we don’t want immigrants from “shithole countries.”

And, his actions say it is OK for a white man to mock disabled people, demean a war hero because he was captured and insult a Gold Star family because they dared to criticize him.

I am not condoning any politician for cursing at another or being unfairly critical of a group of people based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual preference, religion, etc. We must demand civil discourse from our elected officials. But, it is OK to be critical of Israel policies just as it is OK to be critical of America’s just as the current president did when he was a private citizen.

We must call out racism when we see it. And, when someone has to preface that he is not a racist, look further. And, we need our leaders to be our better angels. Yet, that does not let us off the hook – we must be civil in our discourse.

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*Note: A few items to ponder:

  • Trump has settled the same court case twice for discriminatory renting practices to African-Americans, the second time when he was sued for failing to address items he promised to in the first settlement.
  • Trump took out a full page ad to sway public opinion on five black teens and young adults who were convicted and later exonerated by DNA for raping and killing a jogger in Central Park.
  • Trump made his political inroads by saying repeatedly for years that President Obama was not born in America. If this had been a white President, he would not have done such. When he finally said he was wrong years later, he blamed Hillary Clinton (I know the latter is not racist, it just shows that he is not accountable).
  • Trump has said Mexicans are rapists, banned travel from Muslim dominant countries, and noted we do not want immigrants from “shithole countries” naming a few of them along the way.
  • Trump equated people defending their rights to those of white nationalists who were saying the rights of non-whites do not matter during the Charlottesville protests – this led to the eventual resignation of Gary Cohn, his National Economic Advisor, who is Jewish and almost resigned immediately, but stayed onto get the Tax bill passed.
  • Trump treated Puerto Ricans differently and condescendingly after the hurricane disasters than he did people from Florida and Texas.
  • Trump is less concerned how refugees and immigrants trying to enter the US are treated once they are detained. It was thing to have a harder-line policy, but treat people like chattel is not very Christian-like.
  • Trump’s latest efforts are dog whistle comments that have been hurled at people of color or non-WASP ethnicity for multiple decades.

 

The Mueller Report – my synopsis

I have read the Mueller Report. Several things are clear from this official document of an important investigation.

– the Russians had an orchestrated influence on the US presidential election actively using social media and hacking and releasing information obtained from Democrat campaign files;

– the highly researched effort officially documents the US president has a very hard time with the truth and the legality of certain actions and his aides know that;

– the US president repeatedly attempted to obstruct justice (see example below);

– while not crystal clear from a legal standpoint that he coordinated with Russia, the US president had a relationship with Russia he (and Michael Cohen) lied about and there were changing stories, deleted texts/ emails/ messages, and an incredible naiveté not recognizing that interfacing with Russians during the campaign was improper; and

– the US president was and is obsessed with the investigation, but with the results thus far and still pending, this is definitely not a hoax or a witch hunt.

One of the paragraphs I found telling relates to the president continually trying to get White House Counsel Don McGahn to change his story that the president ordered him to fire Mueller. McGahn would not fire Mueller or change his story as reported in The New York Times. The quote is as follows:

“Substantial evidence indicates that in repeatedly urging McGahn to dispute that he was ordered to have the Special Counsel terminated, the President acted for the purpose of influencing McGahn’s account in order to deflect or prevent further scrutiny of the President’s conduct towards the investigation.”

While there are other examples, this summary of intent is clear indication the US president tried to obstruct justice.

While the Mueller report noted there was no clear evidence the US president coordinated with Russia, Mueller notes with the missing information including an interview of the president, they may have come to a different conclusion. To me, overt coordination was not necessary as there were so many links between Russian influencers and campaign officials and with their active social media/ hacking, the Russians accomplished their goal with unwitting participants.

So, I concur with the Republicans for the Rule of Law, now former Republican Congressman Justin Amash and more than 1,000 plus former federal prosecutors that there are grounds for impeachment. But, I think the Republican Party should be in lock-step with the Democrats. To me, the Republican leaders must recognize publicly what many discuss in private per several highly researched books.

 

When you ask a question

I have written about this before, but am consistently reminded of it watching a variety of talk shows, including news and news-opinion shows. A pet peeve of mine is someone asking a question and not letting the person answer it. This is followed closely by people who interrupt another person asking a question.

Watching the Showtime mini-series “The Loudest Voice,” about Roger Ailes leading the creation of Fox News, he valued his talk show hosts talking over guests who were making fact-based arguments that countered the mission of the station. That mission was to tell conservative viewers what they wanted to hear.

But, it is not just on Fox, as it occurs on CBS Morning News, Real Time with Bill Maher, The View, etc. I appreciate many of Bill Maher’s opinions as he is well-informed, but I see him often derail good conversation from his guests. Let them talk I say to the TV screen.

The same goes for Joy Behar on The View and Gayle King on CBS Morning News. They both have strong opinions, many I may agree with, but all too frequently they derail good conversation or speak over the guest. Let them talk I say to the screen.

My best example is a Fox host had a guest who had written a well-researched book about the life of Jesus. When he was asked to come on Fox, it was obvious he was there to be verbally beat-up by the host. It was so overt, he asked if it was OK for him to talk. His opinion did not matter.

Two other practices stand in the way of good discussion. The first is the side-by-side talking heads, which make a very unequal issue look like a 50/50 debate. John Oliver once addressed this by having 97 scientists come out to debate three over climate change. Often the 50/50 debate pits an extreme view against a normative one; so if the extreme view wins the debate, viewers feel that makes the good talker’s position correct. It just means they are a better talker over two minutes. Again, with climate change, a glib marketer would often win short debates with scientists who found it difficult to boil points down to short sound bytes.

The second is the interviewer asking the question with the answer in it. This is prevalent on 60 Minutes, where too often the interviewee repeats what the interviewer said. That is force feeding in my mind – let them frame their answer.

This is a key reason I watch PBS Newshour. They have informed guests, who act civilly toward each other and the host. When they are not civil, they tend not to be invited back. The host lets each have time to talk and counter the other. Often, there is mutual agreement on many points, which makes you think more when they differ.

So, interviewers, ask your question, then let people talk. You might learn something.

A lot of stress balls are needed

Dr. Tara Narula on CBS Morning News cited a statistic today from Workforce Initiative that 64% of people feel stressed at work. In an earlier survey, the American Psychological Association noted the following about stress:

“63% – The percentage of Americans who say the future of the nation is a significant source of stress. That’s higher than the percentage who are stressed about money (62 percent), work (61 percent), or violence and crime (51 percent).”

We are a stressed out nation. I actually think these numbers understate the extensiveness of stress, it just may be some folks have been able to put lids on the simmering pots.

I believe stress levels have increased by the divisiveness in our country and a highly contentious president where too many things become issues, when they need not be. He did not create division, but he exploits and perpetuates it on a regular basis. He truly wears me out.

So, what can we do about it? First, we need to disconnect more from our social and work media. On the latter, companies like you working off the clock on their behalf. If you cannot quit cold turkey, manage your activity in set pockets of time. As I told a colleague, it does not impress me that you sent an email at 10:30 pm. Disconnect and take some down time.

As for social media, please recognize when you look at Facebook, Instagram, etc., you are seeing the Sunday dressed version of a person’s life. They tend to post the polished versions of what is happening. They tend not to share the warts that they hide from the public. I recognize some folks over share, but I don’t want to be that aware of another’s life, as you may overreact when it is not wanted or needed.

Second, we need to better govern our news sources. I am guilty of this, but need reduce the hours of watching and reading and focus on reputable sources. I do focus on better sources, but often over-indulge. Watching so-called experts shout at each other is not news. Watch shows that let people talk civilly. Watching night time talk show hosts or high-volume online hosts is not news, it is opinion disguised as news. And, read and watch news that state when they get it wrong.

Third, here are two additional rules of thumb. Be careful of getting news from public figures. Before 24×7 segmented news sources, politicians used to campaign off rhetoric and govern off facts. Now, far too many govern off rhetoric. And, take anything the president says or tweets with a grain of salt. Not only is he noted to be very untruthful by several data sources and former associates, he self-professes a preference not to study issues, bragging on his gut instinct. So, he is not a very good source of news.

Fourth, find healthy, sustainable outlets for stress management and avoidance. The word sustainable is as important as healthy. We are creatures of habits, so we should replace a stress causing habit with a stress reducing one. Doing a walk, jog, yoga, pilates, workout or meditation need not be too time intrusive to help. Or, it could be reading a book or magazine or watching a favorite show.

Stress abounds and there are not enough stress balls. But, before we succumb to that stress, remember the words of advice from Mister Rogers – you do not have to be sensational to be loved.