When a known liar calls someone else a liar

Call me a crazy, but I have a few stupid questions.

– When a known liar calls someone else a liar, whom should you believe?

– When a known liar says everyone is against him, including the media, the deep state, and those who just don’t like him, whom should you believe?

– When a known liar has to consistently adjust his story or tell you what has been recorded was never said, whom should you believe?

– When a known liar consistently says things without factual basis, to the extent the media is obligated to report it as such, whom should you believe?

– When a known liar parrots conspiracy stories that come from highly dubious sources, then echoes them as a true, when other sources repeat what he said, whom should you believe?

– When a known liar, whose history includes suing people and entities or sending cease and desist letters under the threat of lawsuit when they have unflattering information, sues to stop the release of a book being published, whom should you believe?

This person has said the author of an unflattering book “is a liar.” Yet, this author corroborates sworn testimony by very reputable diplomats under oath, who testified at a great risk. This author added the sworn testimony and impeachment hearings did not go far enough, as the same modus operandi was used with other countries.

Whom should you believe? The person whose fixer attorney called “a racist, a con-artist, and a cheat” under oath or the one whose book that person does not want you to read?

Brazil, Russia and America – tell tale signs

Three countries that have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic are Brazil, Russia and America. A key similarity is their three leaders down-played the pandemic. And, Messers. Jair Bolsonaro, Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump continue their misinformation to this day.

A pandemic expert who participated in a Bush task force on pandemics, said mission one is to tell people the truth. He noted Singapore remained opened, but the leaders told people the truth, told them what they needed to do with social distancing, wearing masks, washing hands, testing, and tracing, and because of being truthful, people did what they were asked. Singapore has had a far better handle on this than these three countries.

In an article in The HuffPost called “Brazil is the new epicenter of the global coronavirus pandemic” by Travis Waldron, the following quote jumps off the screen, “Bolsonaro’s denial and incompetence have led to a predictable surge in cases.” Brazil has had national two health directors resign in the last two months over differences with the Bolsonaro who has been encouraging gatherings and shaking hands in public. Brazil has roughly 7% of the global COVID-19 cases and deaths.

In Russia, Vladimir Putin has also downplayed not only the virus, but has made sure the numbers are watered down. While publishing 7% of the global COVID-19 cases, the deaths have been published at only 1%. Per a Time article, “Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin admitted on May 7, the real number of infections in the capitol city was at least three times higher than the official figure.” Putin’s folks deny that the number fudging is happening. But, we should never forget how leaders in the predecessor Soviet Union denied the massive problem of the Chernobyl meltdown.

Not to be outdone, the US leads the way. With about 5% of the global population, the US has over 31% of the COVID-19 cases. The US president actually said this was a “badge of honor” due to our testing. Yet, we have not done near enough testing and people getting sick is not a badge of honor. Further, we have 28% of the reported global deaths. From the outset, the president naysayed, downplayed, even said the Democrats were making this into a hoax. The misinformation continues to this day with false bravado, failing to push national interventions on masks and testing, not wearing a mask, promoting cures, citing incorrect data and even stating we should try to ingest disinfectant. But, the key is we missed 6 weeks of planning to prepare ourselves and that failing rests on the shoulders of the person we needed to be presidential.

Fortunately, governors of both political parties have made more fact based decisions based on their states. And, for the most part, the American people have come together to help each other. The governors who have tried to follow the president’s lead, find themselves risking their populations more than they should. And, one that tried to read the president’s mind, found himself criticized by the president when the public reacted negatively. The sad truth is the US president’s mission one is not telling the truth – it never has been on any issue – it is to make himself look good and win the reelection. When someone makes decisions based on errant goals, the problem will continue.

The hard truth is COVID-19 will linger with us for some time and will spike again in cases and deaths. Some of that uptick is occurring now in areas. COVID-19 cares not about geography or party. The president is not incorrect when he says more testing increases the number of detected cases, but that is only part of the story. The more people gather together, the pandemic will rear its ugly head and increase occurrences. We must be smart about how we interact with society and others in the many months ahead. And, we need people in leadership positions to tell the truth.

If we open up too early, get used to these headlines

“Another Smithfield Food plant has been struck by the coronavirus” by Kaelan Deese of The Hill. The following are the first two paragraphs. These headlines will happen regardless of the precautions in the future. Yet, if we open to soon, then they will be quite frequent.

“The Health Department in Bladen County, N.C., confirmed that another Smithfield Foods processing plant reported one or more positive cases of the novel coronavirus.

The department’s director, Teresa Duncan, said agencies both local and national are working to protect public health and ensure the safety of employees while further mitigating the spread of the virus, according to a press release obtained by local outlet WECT.”

I fully understand the need to look for ways to get economic activity going. But, do not let anyone tell you it is safe to go back to work without exposure. That simply is untrue, whether it comes from a protestor or a president. Taking the president at his word is a fool’s errand.

I do suggest masking up and getting take out from your favorite restaurants as a means to help others, provided the restaurant is taking precautions. For places that don’t seem to have their act together, they do not get a return visit for now. Last week, a restaurant had organized curbside service quite well, to the extent that masks and gloves were used and the returned bank cards, pens and clipboards were disinfected. I suggest keeping a bottle of disinfectant in your car, as well.

Be safe. Be socially distant. Be smart. Listen to the truthtellers.

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/another-smithfield-food-plant-has-been-struck-by-the-coronavirus/ar-BB12Qua0?ocid=spartandhp

Former Trump official is voice that the GOP needs to hear

Morgan Chalfont of The Hill has penned a piece called “Scott Gottlieb becomes key voice warning Trump GOP on coronavirus” (see link below). Gottlieb is the former Trump appointed director of the Food and Drug Administration who resigned his position for personal reasons after two years. Per the article, Gottlieb is a doctor and cancer survivor and is well thought of by members of the GOP and others.

While he forewarned the White House and Congress at the end of January that COVID-19 was a major concern and called it pandemic before the WHO called it such, he apparently is making needed in roads. Even though the president has tried to rewrite history saying he did not naysay virus, he led the GOP efforts to downplay it, which is still amazing to me. Gottlieb’s comments finally broke through and his message is getting heard by the GOP in March.

The article notes a key reason he is getting heard is he is not indicting people, but that does not stop him from disagreeing with actions. In early March, he said the country is in for a hard couple of months. This kind of candor is needed and I am, at long last, glad people are listening.

Note this has not stopped the flow of misinformation from the president, but it is good to see the issue being addressed with more seriousness of purpose. I saw an editorial cartoon that is fitting – a person was praying for God to ask the president to stop talking. We need to hear more from those who have expertise and medical background like Drs. Fauci, Birx and Gottlieb.

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/scott-gottlieb-becomes-key-voice-warning-trump-gop-on-coronavirus/ar-BB12cdCi?ocid=spartandhp

All over the place

My favorite conservative pundit is David Brooks, who appears every Friday on PBS Newhour and NPR to recap the events of the week. I have found his voice one of reason, even if I do not agree with everything he says. I have also read several of his books on subjects like building character and community.

He has been an even-tempered critic of actions, decisions and behaviors of the US president. Last Friday, he used the word “inconstancy” of the president as a great risk in addressing COVID-19. The president will change his position within the hour, he consistently misinforms where it needs to be corrected, and he naysayed the severity of the coronavirus through the end of February, so we lost six weeks.

And, the misinformation continues today. So, much that NPR and other news outlets stopped covering his press conferences live. Building off Brooks’ term, I would say the president governs “all over the place.” He will change his tune due to criticism in the news or if he likes a message from one of his sycophants.

One of the better news shows happens to be a comedy show called “Last Week Tonight” starring John Oliver. The focus of this past Sunday night show is the danger people are being placed under by poor leadership, but also by sycophants.

Oliver notes this theme that danger to the American economy is far worse than people dying is beyond misguided. It is dangerous. He highlights words by the president, conservative host Glenn Beck and the Lt. Governor of Texas who downplay the health risk and speak of economic Armsgeddon.

As Oliver points out it is easy to talk big with others taking the risk with their lives. Then Oliver points out the economic fall out of overwhelmed hospitals and people dying. We are witnessing even now the cost of early inaction.

We must focus on the health of people first and foremost. I fully understand the need to help financially people who are in need due to layoffs or hours reduction.

Yet, while we missed opportunities to plan, we cannot miss any more. We must listen to the truthtellers and ignore those who are politicizing and trying to obfuscate the truth.

As Oliver addressed critics, he said he wants the president to succeed at helping fight this virus. But, he cannot be when his primary mission is how he looks. Perhaps Brooks comment a few months back is the more pertinent one – the president lacks common decency and a sense of empathy. That speaks volumes.

Listen to the truthtellers

We need to listen to the truthtellers on the COVID-19 pandemic. They are the ones who deliver facts, seek more data and don’t pat themselves on the back. They will also say we don’t know yet, more often than the back-patters.

An ER nurse earlier in the werk said what has surprised her is the number of people between ages 25 and 54 that are coming in with the virus. Last night, PBS (or it may have been ABC) reported that younger folks who have diabetes (or pre-diabetes) or asthma are at higher risk. So, everyone is at risk to some extent.

We are behind where we need to be due to both the naysaying (calling it a hoax) from the White House and sheepish other politicians, the elimination of the Global Pandemic group in 2018 and the elimination of some US CDC epidemiologists in China in 2019. We are doing things now that should have been planned back in January. The legislators were forewarned by National Security folks, so the pandemic risk was known.

Even still, too many have parroted the president’s early naysaying (which lasted to the end of February) and more have gotten sick or died, even a few parroters. This echo effect is what is dangerous given the misinformation which continues to today.

David Brooks, the conservative pundit, called the “inconstancy” of the president on these issues as a major risk. He cited the president’s downplaying of needed ventilators one hour and issuing an emergency declaration for more ventilators the next. He tends to react to remedy any bad press rather than plan ahead.

I heard yesterday, NPR and other news outlets are not broadcasting the White House press conferences wall-to-wall” due to the misinformation from the president. They do report on what the truthtellers are saying, as good information is discussed. But are they are not covering the president’s talking points live.

So, folks young and older need to listen to the doctors and truthtellers. Their lives may depend on it.

Sidebar: If one of your friends, colleagues, relatives, bosses or other co-workers routinely bragged on what a great job they were doing, what would you reaction be? If the boss’ direct reports bragged on the boss on a routine basis, again what would your reaction be? The same question should be asked when it happens at the uppermost leadership levels in our country.

Be careful of what you read, even if comments in your own blog

As an independent voter who tries to stay well read from legitimate sources, I continue to get puzzled by the level of vitriol and zeal in some comments on various blogs. I do not mind if someone is more conservative than me on some issues or more progressive. Tell me what you think without telling me I must be insane for believing the way I do or someone else does.

I read in the news Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard is dropping out of the race and supporting Joe Biden, even though she does not agree with all of his positions. Of course not, there is not a candidate running that anyone can rightfully claim they agree with every position he or she has taken or is taking. If they do, then they are not being truthful with themselves.

I don’t agree with everything Biden or Bernie Sanders posit, but I would vote for either one over the incumbent president who I view as corrupt, untruthful and bullying. Both Biden and Sanders are decent people. I cannot say the same for the current president, who will only do something decent if it helps his image.

But, my main thrust is be mindful of your sources. There is one progressive blog I follow where I am convinced a frequent and lengthy contributor is not what he or she seems. I actually think the person is a Trump or Russian troll doing very zealous and heavy lifting to garner victory for the incumbent. I may be wrong, but the zeal and frequency of comments far exceed that of the blog’s host who welcomes other opinions.

One of my other blogging friends was visited by a Russian troll to the point the blogger had to block the commenter. How can one tell? You really can’t. I may be dead wrong, but I worry how blogs can be taken over by someone who tries to own your blog. I have had a few bizarre commenters in the many years, one where the theme of the post is hijacked for other messaging.

So, please be careful of what you read and where you read it. Misinformation abounds. So, does disinformation. Do I worry that this is or may happen to my blog? Of course. I do not mind passion or zeal. But neither give someone permission to take someone’s head off. I fortunately follow some very good bloggers who welcome push back, provided it is done civilly. I am fortunate many of these bloggers follow mine in return.

So, let’s just be civil. Let’s remember that Golden Rule which can be found in most religious texts. Just like politicians, there are no perfect bloggers or commenters. This one included.

The greatest coronavirus risk is in the White House

Per Reuters “Breakingviews – Donald Trump is rising risk factor in virus battle” this morning before the additional precipitous stock market decline “Donald Trump is becoming a growing risk factor in the virus battle. The U.S. president’s address to the nation on Wednesday night sparked more market panic. A $50 billion pledge for small businesses hit by Covid-19 is good, but his speech lacked public-health remedies, was full of mixed messages and focused on a Europe travel ban. He’s missing both diagnosis and cure. Trump’s primetime speech followed his administration’s trend of inadequate and confusing responses since coronavirus cases started rising in the United States.” A link to the full editorial is below.

The Washington Post echoed these remarks in an opinion piece called “Trumps oval office failure.” A link to the editorial is also below.

About three years ago, after the absolutely disastrous travel ban that was implemented without vetting, advance communication or planning was pulled after two days, conservative pundit David Brooks gave us a clarion call. He said the Trump White House is “equal parts chaos and incompetence.” Sadly, per the book by Michael Lewis called “The Fifth Risk,” the White House started out that way by firing the entire transition team, trashing their research of candidates, leaving positions unfilled, not attending scheduled briefings of how the many government departments work.

Even after filling many jobs, this White House has the highest turnover rate of any of the previous ones, the boss is walking powder keg who people try to keep from blowing up and who has a disdain for study and, as a result, push back on poor decisions is not occurring as it was when a few capable people were there. Plus, there is no consistent planning or communication messaging. To say it is willy-nilly, would not be an overstatement.

So, along comes a real crisis. Not one that is on a distant shore, but one that is here. We need a leader who is calming and we know will shoot straight with us. The president does neither in calmer times, so it is not a surprise he is not so doing in a crisis. I have shared with our Senators for many months the president is a national security risk and a threat to our democracy, our country and our planet. I wish I was off base in my feelings, which are not my own.

If we want stabilization and planning, the best the president can do is let some one else handle it. He needs to step back and let someone who is first and foremost trying to solve the problem, solve it and be the face to America. What I see is a president whose first mission is protecting his own brand, then second helping people. That cannot be the priorities of the US president.

One of my wife’s friends, who is a huge Trump supporter, made the comment to her “at least we have the right person in the White House.” That statement could not be further from the truth.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-breakingviews-idUSKBN20Z0GR
https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/opinion/opinions-trumps-oval-office-failure/ar-BB115UhK?ocid=spartandhp

Interviewers – please listen to the responses

I have written a variation of the post on a number of occasions. One of my pet peeves is interviewers who ask a question, then proceed to talk over the response of the guest. This happens often on Fox’s night time shows in that Roger Ailes wanted his interviewers to beat up certain guests. Yet, it is not restricted to Fox, MSNBC, etc. This practice is done by more than a few news oriented talk shows.

It becomes more frustrating when a guest is on who actually is more expert or researched in a particular area. To hear a less informed talk show host talk over a more learned guest is poor form. To Bill Maher’s credit, he has a number of guests from various walks of life and different points of view. Yet, I consistently get frustrated when he interrupts a very good point, just because he may not like the answer.

Gayle King of “CBS Morning News” is in the same boat as Maher. On occasion, she can be a good interviewer, yet more often, she has to interrupt the guest. Joy Behar on “The View” is of the same ilk. Behar, like King or Maher, will have some good points, but she will interject them to sideline good conversation on too many occasions.

I also like “60 Minutes,” but quite often the interviewer will provide the answer in the question. This leaves the respondent the duty to just agree with what was said. John Oliver did a wonderfully funny piece where he showed about two dozen “60 Minutes” interviewers answering their own questions. When piled on top of each other, it is just plain funny.

Jim Lehrer, of “PBS Newshour” fame, passed away a few weeks ago. He was known for not making the interviewer the story. Ask the questions and let the response occur was a mantra of his. But, listen to the response, as the next question may not be the one you planned to ask.

The Lehrer example reminds me of a philosophy I had when I coached Little League baseball. Make sure the kids knew what to do, then shut up and sit on your hands in the dugout and let them play. Let the answers come and listen and watch. The watching is important as a person’s body language may give away uneasiness over an answer. Carter Page, who was caught up in the Russia investigation, was on PBS Newshour a couple of times. It became obvious that he was not as forthcoming with the truth as he should have been.

I have decided to reduce some stress in my life. So, rather than watch multiple news shows, I have pared back. If I watch “BBC World News America,” I will pass on “PBS Newshour.” I also am watching “CBS Morning News” less, as well as “Real time with Bill Maher.” And, if a good guest appears on “The View,” I may tune in.

So, interviewers please let the guests answer your questions. It will not make you less smart if you do. And, in the end, we all may learn something.

Let me leave you with a thought. ABC’s Good Morning America had the parent and step-parent on one morning when their daughter went missing. By letting them talk, it became apparent they were hiding something. As it turned out, the parents had killed the daughter (I will leave off other horrific details). I recognize this is an extreme example, but if people are allowed to speak, we may learn something, just maybe what they did not want us to know.

A tribute to Jim Lehrer

One of my main sources for televised news is the PBS Newshour. It is an even-handed news report, that offers expert commentary in a civilized way. This approach traces itself to initial and long-time host, Jim Lehrer, who died on Thursday. He began the show with Robert MacNeil, primarily covering the Watergate impeachment hearings. It is apropos he died during the current impeachment trial.

From a CBS News report, the following is an excerpt about Lehrer.

“Over a career that spanned 50 years, Lehrer moderated a total of 12 presidential debates, more than anyone in history, including all the ones held in 1996 and 2000. He also wrote 20 novels, three memoirs and several plays and earned dozens of journalism awards and honorary degrees. Former President Clinton bestowed the National Humanities Medal on Lehrer in 1999. The American Academy of Arts and Sciences elected him a fellow and, alongside Robert MacNeil, Lehrer was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 1999.

Mr. Clinton honored Lehrer in a tweet on Thursday, writing ‘I liked and admired Jim Lehrer. He believed news is a public good, not a commodity. And he was always completely on the level in reporting, interviewing, and moderating debates. His life was a gift that strengthened our democracy.'”

Key themes of the news he broadcast included rules like:
– don’t make the story about you
– keep news clearly separated from editorial opinion
– assume there is more than one side to a story
– respect those being interviewed and covered
– ask simple questions and let the interviewee provide the answers
– guests must be civil to each other and the hosts and vice-versa

To many do not follow these simple rules. Last month, he noted the challenge that news broadcasts have now. In a news world of division, it is difficult to report when the news includes lying, so as to avoid being called divisive. He said we are not there yet. But, we must try.

Join me in honoring an honest and informed newscaster. David Brooks said tonight, “Jim had a moral ecology” which is similar to what MacNeil said saying “Jim had a moral intelligence.” He sought the truth and did it with a civil demeanor. Well done, Jim Lehrer.