Focus on doing your job, not keeping your job

I think many of us are tired of the gamesmanship that is going on in the halls of government. Both sides do it, but for a long while the former Republican Party has embraced untruths and even conspiracies as talking points. It used to be politicians would run off rhetoric, but govern more off facts. Now, facts are deemed less utile.

I want to say to people like Senator Ted Cruz or Lindsey Graham, it is OK for us to disagree on policy issues, but you are a Senator of the United States of America. I expect you to tell the truth, nothing less. You do disservice to our country when you do not and abet others who do the same.

Our problems are hard enough to solve when we deal with facts, but nigh impossible when Senators, Governors, Representatives just parrot BS, because someone told them they better. This is especially true when the one telling them to do so has such a fragile ego that painful truths must remain untold or white washed. Or, when truth tellers do share the truth, they need to be respected not vilified for not going along with party political messaging.

We need to hold our legislators (note I avoid the word leaders) to account to address problems and not political gain. We need these legislators to focus more on doing their job than keeping their job. The word leader applies to legislators that can do that and not those who see which way the political winds are blowing. And, it certainly does not apply to a person whose decisions try to protect a fragile, enormous ego.

Being caught lying used to be embarrassing

Few people outside of Arizona may know the name of Republican Senator Jon Kyl. He uttered one of my favorite lines when he was caught in a lie that reveals so much. After wrongfully saying that 90% of Planned Parenthood’s activities were abortions (it is actually 3%), he said the following when questioned.

Per the HuffPost, “so why did Kyl say 90 percent? CNN got a hold of him and relayed his response: apparently it wasnot intended to be a factual statement‘ and was supposed to merely illustrate that Planned Parenthood subsidizes abortions.” In essence, he is saying it is your fault for believing what he said.

This emboldened quote from the Senator is his legacy with me. When I think of Kyl, I think of his being untruthful. Yet, it did not bother him to lie. It was just modus operandi. I expect politicians to embellish and even lie, but I want them to at least be chagrin when they are confronted with proof they are lying. And, it is not just one party.

When I think of the seditious former president, it is hard to only think of his untruthfulness, but that is at the heart of who he is. He also bullies and denigrates people and throws them under the bus if they dare criticize him. But, he is a notorious and well-documented untruthful person. But, it does not seem to matter, as he has convinced his followers that everyone else is lying or just doesn’t like him, which is a toddler’s argument.

Because we live in a post-truth society, people who are untruthful can get away with an awful lot. That has been the seditious former president’s one great talent – muddy up all waters to make everyone look bad, so he is OK by comparison. And, his sycophants cover for him. They are being Kyl-like in their support and lack of shame.

His followers do not want to hear the truth. Then, they would have to consider if it is possibly true. If a MAGA follower was a good friend, you could ask if I knew you husband routinely lied to you, had cheated on you twice, once over eight months, who grabbed women by their private parts and then bragged on it, who had a person go around to people he affronted and pay them for their silence, and then berated and bullied anyone who dared criticize him, would you stay married to such a man? The person I just described is the former president.

Lies do matter. The former president’s legacy long before he was ever president would include the words bully, egomaniacal, and sexual misconduct, but make no mistake, the first word would be untruthful. Taking the former president at his word is a fool’s errand.

Not all Republicans are racist

The following is a comment I placed on our friend Jill’s post called “Republican Party – the party of bigots,” which can be linked below. She is referencing an editorial by columnist Eugene Robinson of The Washington Post.

To say all Republicans are bigots is a little unfair, but to not recognize those who are the most bigoted white people are tending to be in the Trump Party also misses the mark. The former president’s attorney/ fixer Michael Cohen said under oath to Congress, “Donald Trump is a racist, he is a con-artist and he is a cheat.” It meant something to me that Cohen, who has paid off many people to be silent about information damaging to the former president, used the words “Donald Trump is a racist” first.

There have been too many opportunities both missed and exploited by the former president to clearly say he is not a racist. The easiest example is Trump settling a court case on housing discrimination, then being taken back to court as he did not abide by the terms of the settlement (he lost again). Or, the Obama Birther story he perpetuated for several years, which helped jumpstart his political career.. Of course he is racist. Then, there is Charlottesville, where he doubled down on his racist remarks after being chastised the first time.

There is a subtle difference in two mantras that is important. The BLM movement is saying my rights are important while the white supremacists are saying my rights are more important than yours. That distinction speaks volumes. People who look the other way or cheer when a corrupt, deceitful and racist former president stokes fires of hatred are abetting his efforts. That may not make them racists, but it certainly does not make them anti-racist. 

Republican Party … The Party Of Bigots | Filosofa’s Word (jilldennison.com)

Republican Party ‘engulfed in lies and fear’ per another former Republican legislator

In an article this weekend called “Former GOP lawmaker: Republican Party ‘engulfed in lies and fear'” by Jonathan Easley of The Hill, yet another former lawmaker is sharing his concerns about how far his party has fallen. Here are a few paragraphs from the article, plus a link below.

“Former Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.) argued in a pre-taped interview that ran Friday that the Republican Party has lost its way and become ‘engulfed in lies in fear.

Curbelo and former Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) teamed up as part of the nonpartisan debate series IntelligenceSquared U.S. to argue that many within the GOP are knowingly pushing a lie that the election was stolen out of fear of retaliation from former President Trump.

In his opening remarks, Curbelo said that by embracing former President Trump’s election claims, which preceded the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, the GOP had lost its credibility and damaged democracy.

‘Here we only have two [political parties] and in order for one to be able to hold the other accountable, it has to be viable. It has to have credibility. With a majority of the voters in the country, it has to be a reasonable choice for most people,’ Curbelo said. ‘And the problem we have today in our democracy is that the Republican Party is losing that position. Why? Because it has lost its way. Because it’s a party engulfed in lies and in fear.’

Curbelo, a moderate conservative, lost his South Florida swing district in 2018 by only about 4,000 votes in what was a big year for Democrats. He has emerged as a vocal critic of Trump and the direction of the GOP.

In the Intelligence Squared debate, he argued that many members of Congress know Trump’s election claims are false but that they lack the courage to stand up to him, knowing that it could cost them their seats.”

Let’s be clear. Fear has long been a tool of the untruthful and bullying former president. He even bragged to NBC’s Lestor Holt in an interview that is his modus operandi. That even led two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Bob Woodward to entitle his book on the Trump White House “Fear,” based on 750 hours of interviews. But, lying is also a tool of the former president as he is well-documented from multiple sources and data points as routinely untruthful.

So, the fact the former president lied about rampant election fraud is not a surprise. If he is talking or tweeting, he is most likely lying. Or, as Thomas Wells, an attorney said about him in 2016, “Donald Trump lies every day even about things of no consequence.

What bothers me more is Republican legislators – Gaetz, Gohmert, McCarthy, Scalise, Jordan, Nunes, McConnell, Hawley, Cruz, Graham et all lying for this untruthful person. Too many continue to believe what Attorney General William Barr called “bulls**t” about the former president’s toddler-like election fraud claims.

To give the former president’s claims the appropriate reporting, use your best four year old voice and say “I didn’t lose. I won by a lot. It was stolen from me.” That is the veracity of the petulant and seditious former president’s claims. As his niece Mary said, her uncle will burn it all down to avoid losing. It should be noted that seven people are dead because of an insurrection he caused.

Former GOP lawmaker: Republican Party ‘engulfed in lies and fear’ (msn.com)

A disgusting lack of leadership

The following are the views of a former Republican and now Independent voter. I did not vote for the former president either time and remain puzzled why people would vote for such a well-documented untruthful, egomaniacal bully.

On Friday, I read that Senator Mitch McConnell would support the seditious former president if he were the 2024 presidential nominee. Note, this is after McConnell denounced the former president for his role in the insurrection against a branch of government, which of course, put McConnell and his colleagues in danger. And, unsurprisingly, Mr. McConnell chose not to vote to convict the former president before he admitted said person was guilty.

This is a disgusting lack of leadership in a country that needs this party to help offer some form leadership. But, as of this writing, people who voted as leaders to impeach or convict the seditious former president, have been vilified, censured and threatened. Yet, these seventeen folks knew this going in and voted to impeach or convict anyway. That is leadership. What Messers. McConnell, Graham, Hawley, Paul, Cruz, McCarthy, Scalise, Gaetz, Gohmert, et al have done is cowardice and sycophancy to someone who almost caused their deaths.

Reading McConnell’s statement in support of a traitor is seditious in its own right, in my view. This former president planned and staged a big lie about rampant election fraud. And, too many Republican so-called leaders were silent. The former president set the stage for the insurrection through his lies, that even his Attorney General labeled as “bulls**t” before he was fired for so saying. Republican election officials and judges even pushed back on the former president’s lies, yet they also got death threats.

Our country needs two viable political parties or more. Yet, we need the people in leadership positions in these parties to be leaders and not sycophants. The seditious former president is the most corrupt and deceitful president in my lifetime including Richard Nixon. I have been pleading with Republican Senators for three years asking what will it take to hold this former president accountable. Apparently, even traitorism does not qualify.

The former president was right when he said he could shoot someone on 5th Avenue and it would not matter. What he did not say is he would hand the gun to McConnell and blame him. Our country deserves better than this.

Freedom Summer Project – those who braved Mississippi burning (a reprise)

The following post is a reprise of one I wrote in the summer of 2014. I felt the story needed a new telling during Black History Month.

Fifty years ago this summer, over 700 students from across the country, joined in the Civil Rights battle in Mississippi, where African-Americans had been demonstratively and, at times, violently denied their basic civil rights, especially the right to vote. These students joined together with the Student Nonviolent Coordination Committee (SNNC) under the guidance of Bob Moses, who had been slowly organizing SNNC since 1960. These students, were predominantly white, but included all races and ethnic groups.

The fact that many were white helped bring further attention to the ongoing tragedy going on Mississippi, perpetuated by those in power as the young students lived within the African-American community, taught through Freedom Schools young students about African-American history, literature and rights, items that had been absent from their curriculum. The Freedom Summer project can be viewed up close with an excellent documentary being shown on the PBS American Experience. A link is provided below.* I would encourage you to watch the two-hour film as it can tell a story that requires footages of violence, overt racism, and brave people who spoke up, like Moses, Fannie Lou Hamer, Rita Schwerner and countless others.

Hamer is the face of the effort as evidenced by her speaking passionately in front of the 1964 Democratic Convention committee about how she was arrested, beaten, and tormented when she and others tried to register vote. Schwerner is the widow of one the three Civil Rights workers, Michael Schwerner, who along with James Chaney and Andrew Goodman, were abducted and killed by the KKK who came to abet the efforts of those in power in Mississippi. The widow rightfully pointed out the fact that two of the abducted (at the time) were white, was the only reason people in America started paying attention. She noted it is a shame that many African-Americans had died or were injured merely trying to exercise their right as citizens. Before the 1965 Voting Rights Act, less than 7% of African-Americans in Mississippi were allowed to register due to ostracization, intimidation, and complex constitutional literacy tests.

Since I cannot begin to do justice to this subject, I encourage you to watch the documentary. It will make you ashamed that this could happen in America, while at the same time making you applaud the magnificent courage of all involved, especially those African-Americans who had lived and would continue to live in this Apartheid like state once the freedom summer students went home. Yet, it took the deaths of these three young folks to galvanize and empower people.

It also took the organization of a more representative Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party of whites and blacks that went to the national convention to unseat the representatives sent by the state party, who were all white. Since morality was on their side, they almost succeeded, but they ran into the politics of Lyndon B. Johnson, who used his power to squelch the effort for a greater good – he could not help in matters if he did not get elected and he saw this as a means to interfere with that mission, no matter how noble the cause. LBJ accomplished great things for African-Americans, but politics is an ugly thing to watch up close and he looks manipulative in the process.

While their efforts fell short at the convention, their efforts were huge contributors to the passage of the Voting Rights Act the next year. But, one of the young folks who went to the Freedom Schools and is now a PhD., noted that learning about their African-American culture and civil rights that had been denied them, may have been the greatest achievement. I applaud their efforts and bravery. We still have a way to go and are seeing some battles having to be refought with several states passing restrictive Voter ID Laws. Three states have had their new laws ruled unconstitutional, while others are in court now. Yet, just because our President is multi-racial does not mean we are there yet. So, let’s keep in mind the battles these brave folks fought and not let their civil rights be stepped on again, no matter how cleverly masked those efforts.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/films/freedomsummer/

Need for light rail and a little history lesson on collusion – a reprise from 2012

The following was written in 2012, but it provides a history lesson of why we need to dig deeper to understand sources of information. There is a reason collusion is such an ugly term. It should be noted cities are sharing ideas to make traffic flow more easily to lessen congestion and smog.

With the needs for better traffic planning in larger cities to alleviate congestion, diminish smog and let people move more freely, there has been a growing push for light rail lines. These lines are electrified trains that run adjacent and across traffic at crossing lights. They have tended to be more economical to build and run than the major subway and elevated train lines serving our largest cities. With the environmental concerns over global warming and the need for less fossil fuel usage, you would think these developments would be a slam dunk.

Unfortunately, projects like these are fighting uphill battles as part of the budget cuts and cost estimates. Unlike an operational budget issue, these capital projects are building assets that would benefit the communities and address the issues noted above. There is no doubt we need the best cost estimates possible to make these things happen and we should blend federal, state and local money to do so, but we should not be making this so hard. For some reason, the conservative right has latched onto this issue and for the reasons noted above have been more adamant against their development. The skeptic in me thinks there is more to this than just the budget issues, as we want to continue our focus on driving rather than riding. To me, a vibrant transit system is needed for a cosmopolitan area. Otherwise, we are just creating a congested, environmental problem.

What is interesting to me is a significant number of cities in the US had electric rail systems before they were destroyed and replaced by buses and cars in the 1930’s and 40’s. What is disturbing is how this came about. I would like to say this was done with good stewardship, but the unfortunate reason is several companies with a vested interest in the outcome, colluded to monopolize the bus industry and replace the destroyed electric rail or trolley system with their buses and cars. In 1949, after the fact, GM, Firestone Tires, Standard Oil of CA, Phillips Petroleum and Mack Trucks were found guilty of “conspiring to monopolize” the bus industry and using buses and cars to replace the electric trolley system that companies they owned had bought up. This conviction was upheld in appeal.

Wikipedia has a good summary of how these companies went about it. Search on “General Motors Conspiracy” and you can pull it up.  In fact, GM set in motion this plan to “motorize” the mass transit system dating back to 1922. And, if you look at the names of the fellow conspirators, you will note that two are oil/ gas companies, one is a tire company, one is a maker of buses and one is a maker of cars and trucks. These motorized road vehicles companies and fuel companies conspired to destroy an electric, rail based system that relieved congestion and smog. Even if their motives were altruistic, this would not seem like good transit planning.

Why do I mention all of this now? Two reasons. First, I want people to know why it is important to look beneath the source of information and data on any issue, but especially those which include oil and gas. There is too much money at stake and, as noted above, stranger things have happened. Just today, it was announced the President is supporting fracking to my chagrin, but is wanting the chemicals used by the oil/ gas developers to be disclosed. Yet, the industry lobbyists have battled down this ruling to be they only need to disclose this after the fact. So, they will be permitted to frack and only disclose the toxic chemicals that could leak into the water supply afterwards. To be candid, we need to move away from fossil fuels as quickly as we can. The best way to do that is to drive less with those oil/ gas-powered vehicles. Electric rail systems are a key part of that strategy.

Second, I mention this as conservatives are asking for fewer regulations and the elimination of some agencies. I worked in business and can say with certainty – businesses need to be regulated – it is that simple. If we don’t they will take advantage of situations to maximize short-term profit. The collusion verdict noted above was too late. Industries pay lobbyists a great deal to take the teeth out of regulation. The EPA has been fighting an uphill battle for years. We actually need the EPA to do more, not less. And, nowadays industries need only contribute to campaigns to share their viewpoints and push their desired outcomes. It costs too much money to run for office. This makes the lobbyists work easier.

In closing, I would ask that we all try to understand the stories beneath the news. When we see people against ideas that seem to be for the greater good, we should ask  ourselves why and look into it. Otherwise, we will miss the more elegant solutions and may avoid finding out who is more interested in an outcome than others. Not everyone is altruistic.

The quotable John Adams

Per Wikipedia, “John Adams (October 30, 1735 – July 4, 1826) was an American statesman, attorney, diplomat, writer, and Founding Father who served as the second president of the United States, from 1797 to 1801. Before his presidency, he was a leader of the American Revolution that achieved independence from Great Britain, and he served as the first vice president of the United States. Adams was a dedicated diarist and regularly corresponded with many important figures in early American history, including his wife and adviser Abigail Adams and Thomas Jefferson.”

Since he was prolific as a writer and thought leader, Adams left us with many quotes to demonstrate his thought process in context of such an important part of our history. Here are only a few courtesy of “The Quotable John Adams” edited by Randy Howe.

“I am a mortal and irreconcilable enemy to monarchy.”

“My fundamental maxim of government is never to trust the lamb to the wolf.”

“You ask, how has it happened that all Europe has acted on the principle, ‘that Power was Right’…..Power always sincerely, conscientiously….believes itself right. Power must never be trusted without a check.”

“The substance and essence of Christianity, as I understand it, is eternal and unchangeable, and will bear examination forever, but it has been mixed with extraneous ingredients, and they ought to be separated.”

“Old minds are like old horses; you must exercise them if you wish to keep them in working order.”

Is there no way for two friendly souls to converse together, although the bodies are 400 miles off. Yes, by letter. But, I want a better communication. I want to hear you think, or to see your thoughts.” (note from one of many letters to his wife and best friend Abigail).

“I cannot be, I know, nor do I wish to see you, an inactive spectator….We have too many high sounding words, and too fee actions that correspond with them.”

“I am more and more convinced that man is a dangerous creature; and that power, whether vested in many or a few, is ever grasping, and like the grave, cries ‘Give, give!'”

The above covers concern over power to a limited few, to the need for separation of church and state, to admonitions of the need to have a thirst for learning. HBO did an excellent mini-series on Adams derived from the many letters between John, played by Paul Giamatti, Abigail, played by Laura Linney.

The most impactful part of the mini-series is when John impressed his more rambunctious cousin Samuel Adams that the rule of law is important. This came to a head when John defended in court some British troops who had been unfairly accused of killing some rabble rousers before the American Revolution. Samuel wanted them to hang, but John said they must get a fair trial.

Doing things the right way matters. The rule of law matters. Even in times of strife.

Pay me now or pay me later

Seeing what is transpiring in Texas with the lack of advance planning, it reminds me of painful history lessons. There is an age old problem in governing and public service. When things hit the fan, it is often due to problems that were not fixed due to budgets and were left to linger.

Politicians are good at blaming others and asking how can you let that happen? They tend to overlook their role in the process. Here are a few real life examples:

When some one in a social worker’s care has a horrible episode, the fact the social worker is serving 160 people versus the best practice 16 to one does not get enough consideration as a root cause. Think about it, due to budget cuts, one social worker is serving 10X the number of people which is ideal. That is drive by social work, not counseling.

When a train wrecks on an old trestle bridge, the fact the bridge has never been fixed and is only patched up does not get enough consideration as a root cause. When the next train derails, read the fall out from politicians and dig beneath the finger pointing at the actual causes, not who did what.

When Katrina devastated New Orleans, people forget the Army Corp of Engineers said the levees could not stand a direct hurricane hit a few years before. Nothing was done about it and the levees failed. We should also remember the Houston area has flooded twice with one-hundred year hurricanes that were four years apart.

And, In Texas, the vulnerability of their independent electricity system is a festering problem. So, when the system is overwhelmed like it has been with the icy storms, it fails.

Avoiding disasters by planning is a rare commodity in governance. No one wants to pay for it. Plus, so-called leaders do not get sufficient credit for pre-planning like they should. They get more credit for fixing a problem later after the fall out, if they ever get around to it.

As we speak, we have thousands of car and train bridges in need of repair, we have antiquated electrical grids, we have poor water piping (think Flint), etc. When the Olympics was not awarded to Chicago a few years ago, it was due to our aging infrastructure, even then.

A good example of pre-planning occurred in my home city of Charlotte. The city built an Intermodal distribution facility which was placed on the property of the international airport. Easily accessible to this facility are train and truck distribution centers and highways for trucks. They took advantage of shipping in/ out by plane, train and truck.

This is the kind of planning that is needed with infrastructure improvements. The fixes have to be holistic in evaluating the problems and hopefully make the process better in the end.

Exodus of Republicans

In an article yesterday by Jason Lange and Andy Sullivan of Reuters called “Analysis: Exodus of Republican voters tired of Trump could push party further right,” the departures away from the now Trump party are growing. Here are a few paragraphs, with a link to the article below.

A surge of Republicans quitting the party to renounce Donald Trump after the deadly Capitol riot could hurt moderates in next year’s primaries, adding a capstone to Trump’s legacy as president: A potentially lasting rightward push on the party.

More than 68,000 Republicans have left the party in recent weeks in Florida, Pennsylvania and North Carolina, crucial states for Democrats’ hopes of keeping control of Congress in the mid-term elections in 2022, state voter data shows. That’s about three times the roughly 23,000 Democrats who left their party in the same states over the same time period.

Compared to the Republicans who stayed put, those who fled were more concentrated in the left-leaning counties around big cities, which political analysts said suggested moderate Republicans could be leading the defections.

If the exodus is sustained, it will be to the advantage of candidates in the Republican Party’s nomination contests who espouse views that play well with its Trump-supporting base but not with a broader electorate.

That could make it harder for Republican candidates to beat Democrats in November, said Morris Fiorina, a political scientist at Stanford University.

‘If these voters are leaving the party permanently, it’s really bad news for Republicans, Fiorina said.

Most of the defectors switched to having no party affiliation or joined a minor political party, though many registered as Democrats, according to publicly available voter registration data that is regularly updated by states….

Diana Hepner, 76, a retired attorney in Florida’s Nassau County near Jacksonville, described herself as a fiscal conservative who was turned off by Trump’s rhetoric.

‘I hung in there with the Republican Party thinking we could get past the elements Trump brought,’ she said. ‘Jan. 6 was the straw that broke the camel’s back.’

Hepner, who joined the Democratic Party, hopes she can be a centrist influence on its nomination contests.

The above should be a clarion call to those who now call the Trump party home. Yet, these calls and others made by Republicans pushing back on the seditious former president, have been largely written off by the MAGA base. At some point, there must be reckoning.

While I firmly believe the former president’s political career is over, his influence will remain. As long as the party base buys into the conspiracy and lies he (and his sycophants) peddles, he will have a voice. As I have noted before, the best thing to do about the former president is to ignore him.

Analysis: Exodus of Republican voters tired of Trump could push party further right (msn.com)