Beware of folks – a few quick lessons taught us by the books on the former president

There are many books about the former president, both before, during and after his presidency. Some have been written by excellent authors who have done their homework. There are lessons to be gleaned on how not to act which need to be highlighted.

Beware of folks who claim all criticism is fake news or from sources who just don’t like them. These are a toddler’s response to mom finding her child’s hand in the cookie jar. “Mom, that is fake news.”

Beware of folks who cannot articulate a point of view without name-calling or labeling something. That is like defining the ingredients from the name on the jar. It is a short-cut to arguing and an attempt to mask a lack of understanding.

Beware of folks who take credit for all things good, even if their role was small or nonexistent, and blame others for all things bad, even if they had a heavy hand in things. A leadership consultant used that phrase often to define how to spot a leader.

Beware of folks who need fixers or sycophants to rationalize or make problems go away.

Beware of folks who bully other people into acquiescence. There is a name for people like that. A bully.

Beware of folks who have a hard time with the truth. Start with the base of not believing a word they say and then add back when they actually tell the truth on occasion.

Beware of folks who will blame institutions of people as scapegoats for their failings. Institutions are not perfect, but they tend to be served by hard working people who are more trustworthy than politicians.

Beware of people who refuse to be accountable for their actions. It is my fault or I could have done better will go a long way.

Yet another Republican legislator speaks the truth about the former president

David Brennan of Newsweek penned the following article called “Arizona Republican Paul Boyer Says Donald Trump ‘Started an Insurrection’ Amid Election Spat,” which continues a steady trickle of Republicans speaking out against the former president.

Arizona State Sen. Paul Boyer has hit back at former President Donald Trump, with whom the Republican lawmaker is engaged in an online spat over the latter’s continued false claims of electoral fraud and peddling of conspiracy theories.

Boyer is among the Arizona Republicans calling on the state GOP to end its election audit in Maricopa County, an investigation that Boyer and others say is increasingly reliant on debunked conspiracy theories.

Trump released a statement on Thursday dismissing Boyer as a ‘RINO’—a Republican In Name Only—and accusing the state senator of “doing everything in his power to hold up the damning Forensic Audit of Maricopa County which has been taking place over the last 90 days.

It is good to see an increasing, but still small number of Republicans call the former president out for his untruthful and seditious words and actions. As no surprise, the former president struck back with his customary name-calling. RINOs has been his new label as now, it is not just Democrats, Independents and the media pushing back on him. Republicans are so doing. But, there is truly only one constant in this equation.

Arizona Republican Paul Boyer Says Donald Trump ‘Started an Insurrection’ Amid Election Spat (msn.com)

Find your moments

The talk has turned political. You are at work, a reunion, a party, at church, etc. What should you do? Do you exit the conversation voting with your feet? Do you lean-in with disagreement? Or, should we channel our inner Daryl Davis and listen? Listen not to respond, but listen to hear first, understand second. Then, you can respond..

Who is Daryl Davis you may ask? Davis is a black man who has had numerous discussions with members of the KKK, actually convincing over 200 of them to quit the KKK and give him their robes. How does he do it? He asks them questions. Then he listens. He said people just want to be heard. If you listen, then you have the opportunity to ask questions.

What you choose to do is your call, but if you give like you want to get, you might get heard. If you look for some common ground, you might get heard. If you avoid name calling, you might get heard. If you do the opposite of the above, you will be just getting a glazed over look. I also recognize you must pick your audience and time, as some folks are more strident in their views. Plus, being critical in a large group puts people on the defensive.

On this latter point, one could say “That is an interesting viewpoint, let’s talk about it after dinner?” I have spoken with friends and relatives who are ardent MAGA fans. I have also spoken with some relatives who like to argue.

But, even with these folks, you can find common ground. The most strident of MAGA fans will usually agree with this statement, “I wish Donald Trump would tweet less as he is his own worst enemy.” I can usually say something like this without getting someone’s dander up. When he was removed from Twitter, they did all of us, including the former president, a favor. We now hear fewer of his divisive opinions.

One of the other things I have found will get heard is focusing on real issues, not contrived ones. Issues like concern over the decline in fresh water, the increase in plastics in the ocean, the impact of climate change making forest fires, droughts and flooding worse, the increase in food waste, the increase in US debt and deficit, the decline in our infrastructure, etc. are safer than wedge issues created to divide us.

If someone wants to speak about wedge issues or issues that you disagree with them on, find your moments. If you ask questions and listen, you may find an opportunity to discuss. But, the key is to listen – hear them first. I have found that too many people are not too keen on the why’s and far too keen on the who’s. My tribe said this, so this is what I believe.

If you listened to them articulate what an opinion show host said or what someone on social media said, then you can say, “I hear what you are saying, but do you truly believe that?’ Or, you might say, “I must confess, I don’t find that to be true.” Again, if we listened, we can push back in the manner we wished to be pushed back on. Yet, if you lead without listening, your push back may not get heard.

I recognize fully the above discussion won’t solve our problems, but if our goal is to get heard, we need to start by listening. Last night, I shared with my sons that Senator Bernie Sanders is out talking with Republicans to hear what they are saying, so he can share his thoughts. I do not agree with everything Bernie says, but I have always appreciated his candor and being forthright with folks.

Wedge issues are designed to divide us. Often they are designed to sell fear which wins elections. Fear does not solve anything, so we must move past that and speak with others who may not hold our opinion.

A Republican voter sent the following letter to the editor

The following letter by a “lifelong registered Republican voter” appeared in my newspaper’s Letters to the Editors. I agree with what is said by someone who is as disillusioned and concerned as I am about the direction of the Republican party. It was under a banner of “GOP Censorship.”

“I’m a lifelong registered Republican voter disturbed by the GOP’s elitist push for censorship. From the manufactured outrage over Critical Race Theory to tortured justifications for unconstitutional voter suppression legislation, Republican conservatives are showing themselves to be thin-skinned, intolerant and frankly ignorant about the basic ideas of what makes America great.

This reflexive obedience to elite authoritarianism by millions of Christian Republican conservatives didn’t start with the Trump administration. Sadly, it doesn’t look as it will end with it, either. The majority of patriotic Americans must stand vigil against this tide or repression and fear.”

I will leave his name off, but he does include it. This may be a letter you could share with your Republican friends seeking their input. If it will do any good, you could say the person who posted this letter and agreed with its findings is a former Republican and independent voter, who left over thirteen years ago over concerns on the GOP stance on climate change, gun control and truthfulness.

Breaker Morant – a terrific Aussie film about a true story

The following post was written a few years ago. My wife and I re-watched another great film from Australia yesterday called “The Man for Snowy River.” It reminded me of this movie, which remains a favorite of mine.

When I am asked to list my favorite movies, I will usually include a film made in 1980 in Australia called “Breaker Morant.” The movie did not get enough airplay here in the US, so if you missed seeing it, that would not have been a difficult task. The movie was directed by Bruce Beresford, but starred several terrific actors who would go on to fame – Edward Woodward (an English actor), Bryan Brown and Jack Thompson. A key role was also played by a younger actor, Lewis Fitz-Gerald. Woodward would play in the US television series called “The Equalizer” while Brown would appear in a number of films like “Fx” and “Australia.” Thompson would also appear in “The Man from Snowy River,” another favorite of mine from Australia, as well as “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.”

The movie is about three men who were convicted as scapegoats for committing war crimes they had been authorized to perform during the Boer Wars in South Africa. The men were part of a guerilla team called the Bushveldt Carbineers, who had to resort to unusual tactics to remain safe and be effective. It is based on a true story from the novel “Scapegoats of the Empire” by George Witton. Lt. Harry Morant, played by Woodward was a former horse-breaker on which the title is based. He is a former Englishman of society who is forelorned over a lost love, so he has devoted his career to helping the military fight in faraway places. He is also an acclaimed poet, which is part of his fabric and the movie.

Brown plays Lt. Peter Hancock, who is Morant’s trusted friend, but a man with faults and desires which make him less than perfect like everyone else. Fitz-Gerald plays a more naïve young soldier who gets caught up with the others just doing as he is told. Thompson plays the second lead character as Major J.F, Thomas, an unprepared, but eventually very capable and practical attorney who defends the three in a court-martial trial. He was picked because the leaders wanted someone not to defend them well, but the opposite occurred.

The three are on trial as the British leadership wanted to distance themselves from the Bushveldt Carbineers’ tactics, which were successful. They also were on trial for killing a priest who was a Boer spy before he could get back to share his reconnaissance. The tactics included placing the captured military leaders in the front of returning horse soldiers from battle, as it dissuaded the Boers from attacking them. This was a guerilla type war, where new practices were being done and confirmed at the higher ranks.

Yet, as the war was winding down, the British leadership needed to provide a peace-offering, so the three were put on trial as scapegoats. I will hold off on the conclusion, although some of it is obvious from the title of the book. If you do watch it, know that the movie shows the horror of war, the lack of humanity that can be all-encompassing and how soldiers just doing their job often pay for the sins of their leaders. I also like the fact that they do not promote the three on trial as better men than they are, especially Hancock and Morant. These are cynical and worldly men who realize what they are up against.

If you have seen it or take the chance to do so, I would love to hear your feedback and thoughts.

Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein levels GOP after General Milley book

In an article by Ken Riley of Mediaite called “Carl Bernstein Absolutely Levels GOP for Ignoring Threat Posed By ‘Crazy, Delusional, Authoritarian, Dangerous, Criminal’ Trump,” Riley reports on comments made by Bernstein in an interview on New Day. Excerpts from the article follow, but the entire article can be linked to below.

“Bernstein joined New Day on Thursday to discuss ‘I Alone Can Fix It: Donald J. Trump’s Catastrophic Final Year,’ the incoming new book about General Mike Milley from the Washington Post‘s Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker. He was specifically asked for his thoughts about how Milley not only compared Trump to Adolf Hitler, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff also began to formulate a backup plan in case Trump tried to launch a coup.

Bernstein began by commenting that the report, while ‘extraordinary,’ merely confirmed, ‘what we already knew, that we had a crazy, delusional, authoritarian, dangerous, criminal president of the United States.

His character, his authoritarianism, his recklessness, his homicidal negligence through the pandemic. All of this was known to our leaders, and the party of Trump and the party of McConnell and what we saw in the insurrection. These are all things that were embraced up until the last minute by McConnell and Republican leadership. And they continue to be embraced: Trumpism, in all its derangement, terror and horror.

As the conversation continued to address the full connotations of Milley’s remarks, Bernstein offered his disgust over the likelihood that they will be ‘dismissed immediately’ by the Trump movement. As he mused on Milley directly tying neofascism to Trumpism, Bernstein asked ‘how did we get to a place where the leader of the American military compared the president of the United States to Hitlerian fascism?’”

I truly am tired of writing about the most deceitful and corrupt acting president in my lifetime, which now must include the word seditious to describe his actions. His actions and statements are overt and it puzzles me how so many critics can be so easily dismissed. His followers have shown a desire to stick with a person who is well-documented by numerous resources and people as untruthful.

It may go down in history as one of the biggest con jobs. But, don’t take my word for it, just read some of what the former president’s Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said. Or, if you don’t like his comments, the former president’s Secretary of Defense James Mattis said “Donald Trump does not even try to unite us.” Yet, the most all encompassing comment comes from Michael Cohen, the former president’s attorney and fixer (why one needs a fixer is in and of itself a concern), when he said under oath to Congress “Donald Trump is a racist, he is a con-artist and he is a cheat.”

Carl Bernstein Rips Republicans Ignoring Threat From Trump (mediaite.com)

What would happen if…

The Mamas and the Papas sang the lamentation “Monday, Monday.” It is the least favorite day of the week, poor Monday. People do not want to go back to work and the snooze delay on the alarm gets a workout. So, let’s brighten this Monday by asking a few what if questions. What would happen if…

  • All the money used to house, protect, garden, compensate and communicate for royal families with no power was instead used to provide scholarships or housing to people in need. Queen Elizabeth, you have been grand, but your role is not really that needed to run the country and being a ceremonial mascot (as my Political Science professor termed it) is an expense we do not need.
  • Legislators, presidents and other elected officials had term limits. OK, will give you senators and presidents two terms, three for Congress members. And, no lobbying immediately following your tenures. If donors knew there is a time limit on their investment, they may be less inclined to fund candidates. With limited time, the candidates may devote more time to doing their jobs – right now two Senator terms counting twelve years amounts to less than eight years of work given the estimated fund raising time.
  • Fact checkers at a press conference are armed with super-soaker water guns and each time the politician lied more than a little, he or she would get soaked. By the end of one of the former president’s press conferences, he would have one wet suit.
  • Politicians who name call or label folks are sent to a corner to sit in time-out. Ted, go back in your corner. Not that one, that one is reserved for Donald. When you can debate without name calling, we will let you back into the discussion Of course, we may need more corners to rooms.
  • Politicians should be like pro golfers and wear their funders’ logos on their shirts and visors. In fact, they should shed the suits, as that gives the appearance of more gravitas than many deserve by their words and actions. We will then see that said politician is funded by these six organizations. And, none of the euphemistic PAC labelling – tell us who really supports you. NRA, Exxon Mobil, Dupont….

That is enough for now. In my view, the world would be a better place if we did any of the above. It would be more fun and truthful, as well.

Wednesday wanderings early in July, 2021

Crosby, Stills and Nash sang:

Just a song before I go
To whom it may concern
Traveling twice the speed of sound
It’s easy to get burned”

Simon and Grafunkel added:

“Slow down, you move too fast
You got to make the morning last
Just kicking down the cobble stones
Looking for fun and feelin’ groovy”

In our 24 x 7 world of social media and pseudo and real news sources that tell us what to think, everything seems like a problem of urgency. Isn’t this horrible and we must act? Part of this is very real, as in this big world, something bad is happening somewhere. Since “if it bleeds, it leads” or is there is conflict between sparring legislators, it makes the news.

Good news stories do get reported, but in inverse proportion to their occurrence. The good news stories are far more common and everyday, but are not deemed newsworthy. I recall a silly example on a music show called “Where are they now?” which usually highlights a band that had success, then fell apart. They filmed one on the group Kansas, but it never aired. Why? The band members were all living normal lives, so it was not titillating.

Yet, the other part of these pervasive bad news stories, which can be tragic and dispiriting, is the news that needs to be talked about, but does not get much coverage. Here are a few.

  • We have a global fresh water problem that is only being made worse by climate change.
  • That climate change problem is no longer a future event – it is brandishing its fangs now with more wildfires, droughts and stalled weather patterns, along with more intense hurricanes and tornados.
  • On the good news side, renewable energy is growing at a rapid rate now that cost of production is economical and fossil fuel companies are being held more to account by shareholders and judges..
  • There is a poverty and hunger problem in the US and abroad. Too many Americans go to bed hungry. Too many Americans live beneath or at paycheck to paycheck.
  • The US has a huge debt and deficit burden that was already bad before the pandemic relief and tax cuts – now it is far worse, with interest cost becoming an increasing part of the budget.

These issues don’t get talked about enough. Even on the better news stations, the focus is way too much on which political party benefits from an issue. The issue itself gets less reporting than who benefits. In fact, wedge issues are seized to beat the other party over the head with, even if the problem has been around for years. I have long grown weary of problems not being addressed, because of optics. Do something.

But, back to CS&N and Simon and Garfunkel, let’s also balance all of this with the good stuff that is going on every day. I recognize there are too many folks that are wound way too tight. They seem looking for a fight if some thing or some person makes them do something. Get over it. The world does not revolve around you. If you have to wear a mask to get in some place, then you know what you need to do.

Yet, we should endeavor to leave all of our encounters on a better footing. Somewhere in some book I read, some guy called this rule golden. Something like treat others like you want to be treated. Now, that is something to evangelize.

Letter to Editor on persistent election fraud claims

I sent the following letter to my newspaper based on a front page headline of how various Republican Senator candidates are addressing “The Big Lie” of the former president.that way too many Republicans believe. Please feel free to adapt and use, if you concur.

Front page headlines reveal that Pat McCrory (former NC Governor running for Senator) would vote to certify the 2020 election results. Of course he should and I am puzzled that this was and remains an issue in my former party. Several dozens of Republican election officials and governors have audited, certified and confirmed the election results. Further, dozens of Republican judges have ruled in over 60 court cases against the former president’s accusations of election fraud, with him winning one small case.

The US Attorney General William Barr was fired in December for calling the former president’s claims BS, as was the head of election cyber security, Chris Krebs, in November after claiming the election was very secure. Now we learn that Michigan just did an extensive audit led by a Republican state senator that confirmed the results as fair and, this weekend, a former president of Fox News took his network to task for spreading misinformation on the election fraud claims and usage of COVID masks.

People can choose whom they wish to believe – a person who has a well documented history of untruthfulness from multiple people and sources or these many Republican (and other) officials who told this person he is wrong and not telling the truth. People died resulting from the January 6 insurrection because of these untruths and we should never forget that. Full stop.

Former Fox News president criticizes network for spreading election fraud and mask misinformation

In an article in The Daily Beast called “Former Murdoch Exec: Fox News Is Poison For America” by Preston Padden, he pulls no punches about his former network. His words speak for themselves as indicated in the following sample paragraphs (the whole article can be linked to below)..

“Rupert Murdoch, who I served for seven years, has many business and journalistic achievements. He owes himself a better legacy than a news channel that no reasonable person would believe...

But, in recent years things have gone badly off the tracks at Fox News. Fox News is no longer is a truthful center-right news network. The channel (especially the leading prime time opinion programming) has contributed substantially and directly to:

  • the unnecessary deaths of many Americans by disparaging the wearing of life-saving COVID masks;
  • divisions in our society by stoking racial animus and fueling the totally false impression that Black Lives Matter and Antifa are engaged in nightly, life-threatening riots across the country;
  • the unnecessary deaths of many Americans by fueling hesitation and doubt about the efficacy and safety of life-saving COVID vaccines [Fox News provided me examples of pro-mask/vaccine on-air comments, but in my opinion, they were heavily outweighed by the negative comments of the highly rated primetime opinion hosts];
  • former President Trump’s “Big Lie” that the election was stolen from him by providing a continuous platform for wild and false claims about the election—claims refuted by more than 60 judges, Republican State election officials, recounts in numerous States and Trump’s own Attorney General; and
  • the January 6, 2021 violent assault on the U.S. Capitol by continually promoting former President Trump’s “Stop The Steal” rally;

Fox News has caused many millions of Americans—most of them Republicans (as my wife and I were for 50 years)—to believe things that simply are not true. For example, Yahoo News reports that 73% of Republicans blame “left-wing protesters” for the January 6 attack on the Capitol. Of course, that is ludicrous. All one has to do is look at the pictures or videos of the attack to see that the violent mob was comprised of Trump supporters. Similarly, a poll by SSRS in late April found that two-thirds of Republicans either believe or suspect that the election was stolen from Trump—60% saying there is “hard evidence” that the election was stolen. As noted above, this ridiculous notion has been thoroughly refuted. But millions of Americans believe these falsehoods because they have been drilled into their mind’s night-after-night by Fox News.

I encourage people to read the entire article. I used the word misinformation in the title, but much of this is purposeful disinformation. I can argue with someone on political positions, but what I don’t like is politicians who are lying about basic facts. And, their lying is aided and abetted by talk show hosts on Mr. Padden’s former network.

Take it to the bank, Mr. Padden will be painted as a disgruntled former employee. But, this independent and former Republican (and Democrat) voter does not see anything in his major assessment to quibble about. What confuses me is most people do not want to be made to look foolish. Yet, apparently believing what Fox is spoon-feeding is OK.

Former Murdoch Exec: Fox News Is Poison For America (msn.com)