Vetting – why it is important

This is a word that is often used without people fully understanding what it means. It has several definitions, but the vetting I am referring to means the following:

“the process of investigating someone thoroughly, especially in order to ensure that they are suitable for a job requiring secrecy, loyalty, or trustworthiness.”

One of my major concerns throughout the incumbent president’s regime has been the Senate abdicating its oversight role over the White House on appointments or the lack thereof. I could also share my greater concern over removing Inspectors General or people who testified under oath, but that is something I have covered before.

The Senate is supposed to sign off on candidates nominated by the president for a number of high level positions. They also must go through additional background checks. One of the tactics the president has used to avoid scrutiny is to appoint temporary replacements that serve beyond a few months – this has been highlighted as a risk by those Inspectors Generals.

It has become even more important as the president has overseen a White House with the most turnover ever. It is in a constant state of flux. One of the reasons is the president values loyalty over competence. So, when someone does not genuflect enough or serve his needs, the person is removed. As Thomas Wells, a long time Trump attorney, wrote before the 2016 election, if you are on Trump’s good side, don’t get used to it.

Then, you have those who are just tired of working for a mercurial and untrustworthy man. From the 750 hours of interview Bob Woodward conducted for his book “Fear,” the president wants people to be scared of him. So, they walk on eggshells around him. Having been in business for over 34 years, that is a horrible business management model. You want good people who know their job and tell you what they think, regardless of how you react to it.

Yet, why I am raising this now is the president and his cronies are pulling out attacks on Hunter Biden using his father’s name to illegally garner favor. This story has been investigated and no wrongdoing has been found, but the latest efforts have been categorized by US Intelligence as Russian propaganda.

But, here is what puzzles me. Donald Trump’s daughter and son-in-law work in the White House with no official jobs. I do not know if they are paid. But, I do know they were not vetted by the Senate, yet are doing work a vetted person would be doing. In fact, Kushner was denied security clearance for six months for not being forthcoming about financial interests. Plus, the CIA said Kushner was a security risk as he was shopping around for someone to pay off a $1.2 billion loan balloon payment, which has now been paid.

This should be concerning. Plus, one of my beefs about the Ukraine extortion story last summer that led to Trump’s impeachment is why is Rudy Giuliani running a shadow diplomacy effort, at odds with the efforts of others, without being vetted by the Senate? This concerns me as Giuliani still is playing some kind of role in further of his earlier efforts. Since helping New York city respond to 9-11, Rudy has fallen precipitously to a cartoon character.

Even Trump does not care to vet people. He once told reporters its was their job to help him vet the candidate. No sir, it is your job to pick a vetted candidate. It makes you look bad and wastes America’s time when you pick an unworthy candidate. A good example is he picked his own doctor to run the VA, which has multiple businesses and hundreds of thousands employees. You need someone who can run a complex organization. The doctor withdrew his name.

Vetting is crucial. The Senate has dropped the ball big time, in my view. We are not an autocracy. These are some of the many reasons why I say the current incumbent is the most corrupt and deceitful president in my lifetime. Sadly, there are more reasons to say this.

Stress is a significant influence

Stress is an obstacle for us all, most often being harmful to performance whether it is a big test, big game or big presentation. It impacts both your memory and confidence causing self-doubt.

John Smoltz, the retired baseball pitcher was known for his ability to perform well in big games. But, he would tell folks he was not elevating his game, he was able to perform at the same level, as the stress made opponents play worse. This is a reason coaches like to replicate stressful game situations in practice to prepare players, but it is hard to emulate actual game stress.

Malcolm Gladwell wrote in his latest book, “Talking to Strangers,” how stress affects people’s ability to remember things. One of the subjects he delved into is PTSD due to torture made it a less effective means to get information from prisoners. A famous terrorist who planned the 9/11 attacks revealed over thirty pieces of information with torture, but most of it was fabrication. About 1/2 of the pieces of infotmation occurred after the terrorist was jailed. He would say anything to stop the torture. This is a one reason former Senator and Vietnam POW John McCain was not too keen on the US torturing people – the other is torture demeans the image of the country doing it.

While I have written before about stress, I repeat it now after the news Brionna Taylor was killed in her own home when a botched middle-of-the-night police raid ended up with her being shot eight times. A no-knock warrant executed during the night seems to heighten stress of all concerned. She is dead and her parents are owed answers.

So, if we can minimize the stress through planning, training, and mitigation, performance will be improved. And, maybe lives will be saved.

White Americans must speak out against white racism

The following was written by Pastor John Pavlovitz at john.pavlovitz.com in Wake Forest. I have shared his writings before and his words resonate with more than just me.

“Ahmaud Arbery is dead because he was a black man.
He was hunted down by two white strangers in broad daylight because he was two things: he was black and running, which was enough reason for them to grab weapons and get in their truck and chase him down and assassinate him in the road.
Being black and running was Ahmaud’s crime.
To some white people, you can’t be black and running,
you can’t be black and standing outside a convenience store.
you can’t be black and sitting in your car eating lunch,
you can’t be black and playing in a park,
you can’t be black and watching TV in your apartment.
To some white people, you can’t be black.
For far too many white people, such things are probable cause for calls to the police and screamed threats and physical intimidation—and immediate executions.
This is the unthinkable reality of the America we still live in, and in this America there are only two kinds of white Americans: there are white racists and there are white anti-racists.
Not professed anti-racists, who click the roof of their mouths, feel an initial wave of sadness at news of murders of jogging black men—and then move on with their day.
Not anti-racists who endure grotesque racist dinner table diatribes from their uncles and mothers and husbands, and choose not to speak because they don’t want to deal with the blowback at home.
Not anti-racists who sit through incendiary Sunday sermons from supremacist pastors, and somehow find themselves in the same pew the next Sunday and the Sunday after that and the Sunday after that.
Not anti-racists who absorb vile break room jokes and outwardly laugh along while internally feeling sick to their stomachs.
Not anti-racists who scroll past the most dehumanizing memes and videos from people they’ve grown up with and gone to high school with, not wanting to engage the collateral damage of publicly confronting them.
In the presence of this kind of cancerous hatred, the kind that killed Ahmaud Arbery, the kind that is having a renaissance here in America—there aren’t moderate grey spaces to sit comfortably and observe from a distance.
No, this is a place of stark black and white extremist clarity:
You oppose the inhumanity or you abide it.
You condemn the violence or you are complicit in it.
You declare yourself a fierce and vocal adversary of bigotry—or you become its silent ally.
White friends, we are being asked to be speak clearly because when we do, we place ourselves alongside those people who deserve to get up today and run and stand outside convenience stores and sit in their cars and play in the park and relax in their homes—and we place ourselves across from the bigots who feel they will never be held accountable for not wanting them to do these things.
To be clear—this outward stance doesn’t erase our privilege or exempt us from our prejudices or remove the blind spots within us that perpetuate inequity. Those are realities we’ll have to continually confront in the small and close and quiet moments of the remainder of our lives. It doesn’t dismantle systemic racism or the institutional inequalities woven into our nation, which we benefit from.
But what our outward declaration will do, is to let other white people know where we stand: our neighbors and and pastors and co-workers and family members and social media friends.
It will place us decidedly on the side of black men jogging in their neighborhoods.
It will place us in unequivocal opposition to white men choosing to become judge, jury and executioner to a stranger, who have grown up never acknowledging the value of a black like—because so few white neighbors, pastors, co-workers, family members, or social media friends told them otherwise.
As of this writing, Ahmaud Arbery’s white murderers are still free, and whether they remain free or not, the malignant racism that engineered his death will be showing itself again today.
It will shout its inhumanity across tables and in pulpits and in break rooms and on our news feeds and in presidential tweets—and we who live with the unearned privilege of having children and fathers and sisters who can run and stand outside convenience stores and sit in their cars and play in the park and watch TV in their homes—without fearing the taunts and punches and bullets of irrational strangers, we have an obligation to speak explicitly and loudly now.
White Americans need to condemn white racism in America, or be guilty of it.
I want to be someone who condemns it.”

As you read this, please know that law enforcement say domestic terrorist groups dwarf Muslim terrorist groups in the US. Yet, much of their funding is for the latter, not the former. The significant majority of these groups are white nationalist in nature.

But, the above speaks to those who are not in a terrorist group. They are people who let racial profiling dictate vigilante action. I have written several times before, as a white man in America, I can pretty much go anywhere I want. Yet, a black man, even when he is dressed in his Sunday best, is at risk.

Vigilante justice is illegal for a reason. It was illegal (but condoned) during the days of Jim Crow and remains illegal today. I am not saying all racists are white, as racism knows no color. Bigotry can rear its ugly head in any society. But, white nationalism is on the rise in America and followers feel more emboldened. That makes me sad.

We must speak out against hate. We must say this is not right. No matter who does it. I am reminded of black man named Daryl Davis who has talked over 200 KKK members out of their robes as he convinced them to leave the KKK. How did he do it? He asked them questions and listened. Then he posed a few more. We need not all be like Daryl Davis, but we can say we do not appreciate that kind of language, humor or treatment of others when we see it. Or just vote with our feet and walk away.

https://johnpavlovitz.com/2020/05/07/white-americans-need-to-condemn-white-racism-in-america/

We must applaud political courage

Earlier this week, two Republican Senators, Mike Lee and Rand Paul, said the briefing by the White House on the assassination of the Iranian Soleimani, was not just poor, but the worst of briefings. I applaud their political courage to push back on the president for less than satisfactory explanation. I have called each Senator to share my thank you as an Independent and former Republican voter.

I had the same type of kudos for the parade of diplomats and other public servants who testified under oath and at great risk to the House Intelligence committee about their concerns over the shadow diplomacy being used by the president in Ukraine to strong arm action for his personal benefit. I watched these witnesses speak under oath about how we should be doing our best to nurture and protect the young democracy in Ukraine. On the flip side, I saw a president, not under oath, berate these public servants for being less than truthful, without really addressing the need to protect the interests of Ukraine.

Political courage seems to be in short supply these days. At the same time the two Senators were sharing their concerns, a US Congressman was being questioned for the release of a doctored photograph. The intent of the photograph which showed the preceding president shaking hands with the current Irani president, whom he has never physically met, seems to be less than meritorious. Yet, when questioned, the Congressman was flippant and disdainful of the reporter.

Unlike the two Senators’ political courage, the act and the response by the Congressman is poor form. We need our legislators to be among our better Angels, not our worst demons. With it so easy to disinform these days, we need our legislators to avoid such temptation, and to condemn it even when it is done on their behalf. We all must be truth seekers.

I am reminded of the late Senator John McCain, when running for president in 2008, correcting a woman when she attacked the character of Barack Obama. He told her that Obama was a fine person, but he and Obama just disagreed on issues and policies. I miss the Senator and his political (and military courage). We need to emulate him and the recent actions of Senator Lee and Paul.

Are we safer? – not so per The Washington Post editorial

The following editorial by Joe Scarborough called “Trumps ignorance has created an international crisis” appeared in The Washington Post. It is not an isolated opinion, as variations of concerns can be found in other publications. Yet, this is the first one where reference to the president’s “ignorance” of history and the gravity of the situation is not reassuring to us or our allies.

My concern is the assassination has galvanized hatred toward the US in the martyred Soleimani. Instead of more reasonable relations with Iran via the Nuclear Agreement, by going against the wishes of our five allies who co-signed the agreement, we are escalating tensions with “no off ramp” per former Joint Chiefs Chair Admiral Mike Mullens. And, we have destabilized our relations with Iraq as well.

Yet, what troubles as much is how we have harmed our relationships with our allies. The US is not trusted because our president is untrustworthy. How does this make us safer? Coupled with the national security risk following the Ukraine shadow diplomacy and strong-arming and the answer is we are not safer under this president.

Please read the attached brief editorial. It will not be reassuring.

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/opinion/opinions-trumps-ignorance-has-created-an-international-crisis/ar-BBYGezL?ocid=spartandhp

Our Republic is under attack by its president says a retired admiral

An increasing number of people with gravitas are going on record to heighten concerns over the abuse of powers and attempts to obstruct such from view by the US president. Thomas Friedman has penned an excellent editorial along these lines (below is a link to a blog which includes Friedman’s piece). He contrasts the political courage and heroic words under oath of Former Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch to the words at various rallies by the US president calling those who criticize him as enemies of the state.

Also, below is a link to a summary of an editorial by retired Admiral William McRaven, who led the raid on Osama Bin Laden among other career accomplishments. He has penned a piece that is simply called “Our republic is under attack from the president.” As he notes, this is not just McRaven’s opinion as an unnamed General took him aside and said the president is a threat and has to go. The summary starts out with the following statement:

“Former Adm. William McRaven (Ret.) argued in an op-ed Thursday that President Trump is ‘destroying’ the United States, warning that the future of the country is ‘in peril if Trump is not removed from office.'”

As more reasoned voices who mitigated Trump’s worst instincts and impulses have left the building, the nation should be concerned. We have an unshackled president who prides himself on not doing any homework. As conservative pundit David Brooks said yesterday – the score after the Kurds were abandoned is Erdogan 56, Trump 0. GOP Senate Leader Mitch McConnell said the following in a editorial in The Washington Post about the grave mistake to withdraw support from the Kurds:

“Withdrawing U.S. forces from Syria is a grave strategic mistake. It will leave the American people and homeland less safe, embolden our enemies, and weaken important alliances. Sadly, the recently announced pullout risks repeating the Obama administration’s reckless withdrawal from Iraq, which facilitated the rise of the Islamic State in the first place.”

I have long believed the US president is a clear and present danger to our democracy, to our planet and to the Republican party. The latter group is beginning to realize that fact. I hope it is not too late. They need to call upon a dose of that political courage of Ms. Yovanovitch and others who are telling the truth knowing a vindictive president will react.

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/ex-special-ops-commander-our-republic-is-under-attack-from-the-president/ar-AAIWxE8?ocid=spartandhp

The Words Of A Wise Man

After his death, a second amendment supporter, leaves a message on gun violence

The following posthumous editorial appeared in The Charlotte Observer on August 6, 2019. It speaks for itself.

“Larry Swenberg died of ALS this spring, a few months before gunmen killed 29 people in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. Swenberg, a retired doctor of veterinary medicine in Durham, was a gun owner and avid hunter, but he was horrified at mass shootings inflicted by assault-style weapons. His wife, Gwen, sent us this op-ed from her husband last week, before Dayton and El Paso. One of his last wishes, she said, was to leave a message for his fellow Second Amendment supporters — and all of us.:

I am a 73 year-old retired doctor of veterinary medicine and a political independent who is neither a politician nor a Washington insider, but a citizen pleading to stop the carnage of assault weapons. I am a former hunter, recreational shooter, current gun owner, supporter of the Second Amendment, but never an NRA contributor.
In my plea for sanity, I prioritize assault weapons because of their availability and their ability to produce mass carnage. In the wake of a mass shooting in New Zealand committed with an assault weapon, it took five days for the country to ban the weapon. Our country’s ban expired in 2004, and the gun lobby and the NRA has spent millions to buy its continued extinction.

If your goal is to kill the greatest number in the shortest time, this is the weapon of choice. Many cry foul here, saying it is the shooter, not the weapon that is the problem. If you honestly prioritize human life over personal desire, then you must acknowledge the risk of assault weapons in the wrong hands as responsible for oft repeated slaughter of the innocent.

The NRA’s seven-million-dollar senator, Richard Burr of North Carolina, blithely maintains a ban would infringe on Second Amendment personal freedom. Are speed limits a similar infringement? This attitude reflects a disconnect which is mind numbing. This character flaw is common among politicians and America’s gun-owning public. People who fail to see blood on their hands for their inaction do so because guilt for their acts of omission is simply not a quality of their character.

The High Court has affirmed the congressional right to regulate firearms. Therefore the belief that the Second Amendment guarantees the right to own an assault rifle is wrong. If politicians past and present had any integrity and not just self-interest, poor judgment or a lack of conscience, we would not have the cumulative carnage of assault weapons we presently have. Had Congress recognized its sin of omission and sought penance through action, we would not have the empty solace of our collective thoughts and prayers.

Think about this when you sit in a church pew, go to work, or enjoy hobbies: we all have the blood of omission on our hands, despite those who live in denial. So long as assault weapons are available publicly, the pathologically demented will use them to massacre the most numbers in the shortest time.

An author whose name I don’t recall wrote a person’s god is that to which ultimate allegiance is given – money, fame, power, etc. if you prioritize the petty position of a firearms over public safety, then your god is a gun no matter how many hours you sit in a church or bow to Mecca. You then are a first order hypocrite and must simply own this fact. It is a tragedy some people feel a felony must be committed to protect the public’s safety.

An assault weapons ban will not solve America’s gun violence but it would stop mass carnage in minimal time. Demand nothing less of Congress and the White House.”

 

 

Independent comment pushing back on “A false narrative links the GOP and racism”

An editorial appeared in my local paper called “A false narrative links the GOP and racism” by J. Peder Zane. I will let you find the article on your own, but the premise is to say Democrats have cried wolf on racist remarks for a long time, in his attempt to defend the indefensible. So, the accusations on the current president are just more of the same in Zane’s view.  Here is my email to Mr. Zane pushing back on this premise.

Dear Mr. Zane,

I read with interest your editorial published today in The Charlotte Observer. As a 60 year old white man from the south and an independent and former Republican voter, I disagree with your premise. I know dog whistle racism when I hear and see it and, while your coin of phrase “yellow dogs” being the only ones hearing it is clever, it is offensive. Nixon used it as part of his southern strategy and I saw Jesse Helms use it recurringly in its most artistic form. And, three years ago, I equated Donald Trump’s campaign comments with George Wallace and his racist remarks. This is not a new phenomenon.

To be frank, I have grown weary of my former party’s leaders defending a retreating line in the sand of indefensible behavior by the person who occupies the White House. I have shared such concerns often with my two and other Senators pleading with them to condemn the latest set of the president’s behavior, tweets or remarks. I also ask them, what will they have to defend next week? We are better than this. And, our leaders must be our better angels, not our worst.

But, don’t take my word for it. Leaders in Sweden, Germany, UK, Ireland, EU, New Zealand and Scotland have condemned his racist  remarks toward the gang of four. Yet, let me close with a quote form a Texas judge from an article in The Washington Post in response to his racist remarks and doubling down on them earlier this month.

“A former top Texas judge says she has left the Republican Party over President Trump, after his racist tweet telling four congresswomen to ‘go back’ to where they came from.
Elsa Alcala joins a small group of conservatives alienated by Trump’s remarks as most of the Republican Party sticks with the president — including through his latest attacks on Democratic representatives of color, three of whom were born in the United States.
‘Even accepting that Trump has had some successes (and I believe these are few), at his core, his ideology is racism,’ the 55-year-old retired judge wrote Monday in a Facebook post. ‘To me, nothing positive about him could absolve him of his rotten core.’”

I realize you are a popular conservative-bent editorialist, but so are George Will, David Brooks, Michael Gerson, Erik Erickson and others who have pushed back on this president and his behavior and words. So, I will ask you the same question I have also asked GOP Senators – is this the man you want to spend your dear reputation on? These conservative-bent editorialists have said no.

Keith Wilson
Charlotte

Endangering people to win politically is not leadership

One of the sad and scary truths with a president who lies, demeans, denigrates and bullies his critics is his more strident followers believe his rhetoric. A consequence of this stirring up of emotions is it places people who are critical of the president in danger of bodily harm or death.

Let me state this plainly. That is not leadership. It is promoting criminal behavior. It is not becoming of a president or any other legislator or person, for that matter. And, it should not be tolerated regardless of who does it.

Three items of late come to mind. The president stirred up his audience beforehand, but after stretching the truth and taking statements out of context, he had his followers chanting “send her back” in response to his demonizing four elected representatives. And, do not believe a word the president said when he tried to weasel out of responsibility the next day. He knows precisely what he is doing – using racism to divide America to get elected. That is beyond poor form.

It does not stop there. A law enforcement officer in Louisiana said this weekend what Representative Omar needs is a bullet. Really? And, you are in law enforcement. These four Congresswomen are already receiving death threats before the president’s recent racist comments. And, take this to the bank – if there is an attempt to harm any of them, the president will again weasel out of any responsibility.

Finally, we seem to be headed down a path to autocracy. That is scary for our democracy. So, pay attention to what happened in Hong Kong yesterday. Pro-Beijing gangs beat and harmed about 45 pro-democracy demonstrators in a transit center. The police were not used as that would look worse. So, as done on the mainland, gangs of thugs beat dissenters.

Could this happen here? Easily. Has it happened here. Yes, but not on a government sanctioned basis. But, with this “wind-up-the-extremists” president, it only needs Trump to do what he does well  – use lies and half-truths to rile people up.

Finally, to be fair, we do not need Antifa extremists promoting violence either. We do not need people treating others they disagree with like they would not want to be treated. Civil discourse is critical. When people use violence it diminishes their argument and cedes the higher ground. And, legislators please condemn violence, racism, lying and bullying, no matter who does it and that includes the president.

Let me close with the fact multiple global leaders have condemned the US president’s racist remarks – including, but not limited to New Zealand, UK, Ireland, Scotland, EU and Canada. That ireveals Trump’s comments as not exemplary behavior.

An American hero – Bryan Stevenson

Who is Bryan Stevenson you may be asking yourself? Per Wikipedia:

“Bryan A. Stevenson is an American lawyer, social justice activist, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, and a clinical professor at New York University School of Law. Based in Montgomery, Alabama, Stevenson has challenged bias against the poor and minorities in the criminal justice system, especially children. He has helped achieve United States Supreme Court decisions that prohibit sentencing children under 18 to death or to life imprisonment without parole.”

He is an American hero who has helped free over numerous death-row prisoners who were wrongly convicted. Some of these people should not have ever come to trial. They were guilty by being Black. The DAs did not bother with ballistics tests, even when later challenged. The juries, judge and prosecutors were almost always white.

Stevenson got a new trial which freed one man who had been on death row for 30 years. Earlier attempts years before failed because a line of DAs would not take the time do a ballistic test. The man has still not received an apology for giving up 30 years of his life for a wrongful conviction.

Per the HBO documentary “True Justice:”

“Stevenson has argued five cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, including one that resulted in a ban on mandatory sentences of life without parole for children 17 and under. He and the EJI have won reversals, relief or release from prison for more than 135 wrongly condemned death-row inmates.” 

He has now helped establish a Civil Rights museum in Montgomery, AL. Part of this museum includes several shelves of jars of soil gleaned from beneath trees where Black men were lynched. And, there are two monuments for every county in America where lynching occurred. The second monument is for the county to take back to remind us of what evil intent can do. He is strident in his view that the death penalty following a pre-determined trial outcome is a legal way to lynch someone, so he feels it is imperative to link this to the lynchings.

In the HBO documentary, Stevenson noted how we do a terrible job in our country of admitting and learning from our mistakes. Germany has many places where plaques note the atrocitues of Nazism. Here, we try to whitewash history, including the “genocide” of Native Americans, a term which is rarely used, but is apt.

We need more heroes like Stevenson. He is very earnest and speaks with a thoughtful and quiet voice. It is refreshing to see such a man where substance matters over perception.