Trumbo – a great movie about a dark time in America

Earlier in the week, I was watching the excellent movie called “Trumbo” about the black-listed screenwriter Dalton Trumbo starring Bryan Cranston and an excellent cast such as Helen Mirren, Diane Lane, Elle Fanning and John Goodman to name a few. I missed it the first time around in 2015 when it was released.

The movie was written by John McNamara and Bruce Cook, on whose book the movie is based. It was directed by Jay Roach. Trumbo was one of the Hollywood Ten who were blacklisted early on for alleged communist activities. He spent time in jail for being in Contempt of Congress for refusing to name names. Trumbo would go on to ghost write two Oscar winning screenplays for “Roman Holiday” and “The Brave One.” He would perpetuate an underground screenwriting group and eventually, Kirk Douglas and director Otto Preminger, would let him sign his name to the movies in 1960 with “Spartacus” and “Exodus.”

I was reminded of the House Un-American Activities Committee, which began in 1947 and was in exisentence until 1975, that started these investigations leading to Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s communist witch hunt efforts. It should be noted that 1975 is the year following Richard Nixon’s resignation. Nixon was a key ally of Sen. McCarthy. It should be noted Nixon kept an enemies list due to his paraonoia. Nixon did some good things, but he turned out to be a crook.

What is interesting is McCarthy’s attorney through this dark period was Roy Cohn. Cohn later became a mentor to a young real estate developer in New York named Donald J. Trump. Trump’s biographers wrote that Cohn told Trump to never apologize and sue everyone. Trump has followed these mandates for his entire career.

Bringing this full circle. Trump is the most corrupt and deceitful president in my lifetime, including Nixon. But, both me were influenced by Sen. McCarthy who led this dark period in American history who made up things to support his claims. It should be noted that both Nixon and Trump blame the press for not sufficiently kowtowing to them. As the Sec. of the Army asked famously of McCarthy, “have you no sense of decency, sir?” The same could be asked of the current US president.

So, we must protect America against those who wave the flag and tell people it does not stand for the things that it does.

Debt, risk and lies

The following is a comment I posted on our friend Jill’s blogpost where she has penned an excellent letter firing the president. See below for a link. There is good back and forth between two of her followers, which is good for its content and civility, the way it should be. Since the debt came up as one issue, as a failing of many presidents including Obama, I used that as one example. These are the views of this independent voter who has been a member of both parties and defines himself as fiscally conservative and socially progressive.

Just taking the debt as one issue, while Obama will be remembered as a pretty good president, to me a key failure was to put on the shelf the Simpson-Bowles Deficit Reduction Act. Dems and Reps did not like it as for every $1 of tax increases it asked for $2 of spending cuts. Obama should have said, let’s start with this and make changes. What both parties fail to understand is we need both spending cuts and tax increases to solve the debt – the math will not otherwise work.

That was when the debt was about half of what it is now. I find the Freedom Caucus who got elected on reducing the debt the height of hypocrisy when they voted for a tax law change in December 2017 that increased the debt by $1.5 trillion – we did not need that, so now when we spend $2 trillion because of COVID-19, we have to go deeper into the well to borrow money.

On top of the many reasons not to vote for Trump (climate, environment, corruption, chaos, lying, global leadership retrenchment, et al), his cavalier short term financial focus to prop up a long running pretty good economy to be a little better for a little while was indicative of why he had six corporate bankruptcies and other failed investments. Even on the COVID-19, his primary focus has been his image, first, the stock market second (his proxy for the economy) then the people, third. This is not a recipe for good decisions and is one reason for his inconsistency.

But, at the heart of all of this, is I do not believe a word the president says and that makes me sad. All presidents lie to some extent, but this one is the most corrupt and deceitful president in my lifetime including Richard Nixon and he was a crook.

But, before we burn the government down, please read Michael Lewis’ “The Fifth Risk,” which reveals the true risk heightened by this “chaotic and incompetent” president’s White House (per conservative pundit David Brooks) and that is the gutting and hamstringing of people who know what they are doing to serve us. Could they be more efficient, always? But, for the very large part, they are dedicated public servants trying to do a good job. Lewis based his book on the required briefing materials prepared by the outgoing administration that went largely unread and not even picked up when briefings went unattended by incoming (or not even appointed) Trump people.

YOU’RE FIRED!!!

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.

Voting for Trump is not a favorable vote for Bernie

Note the following is a comment I made on our friend’s Jill’s recent post. See link below.

I have written separate posts on the relative veracity of Biden and Sanders. I have commented on a couple of progressive sites as well. I will vote for Sanders if he is the nominee, but I favor Biden. I am an independent who is fiscally conservative and socially progressive. I believe in helping people, but we need to make sure we pay for it and are getting a ROI (i.e. – is this the best way to help?).

Biden and Sanders are genuine and decent people. Neither are perfect, but I don’t find myself questioning the veracity of what they say. None of these descriptions fit the bill with the incumbent. I also recognize what too many don’t that America’s economic system is a blend of fettered capitalism with socialist underpinnings. That simple statement would blow people’s minds.

The question we need to ask is what is the proper balance? That question does not fit on a bumper sticker which is how the president got elected. I am just saddened that our reputation around the world has declined with 64% of Europeans not trusting the president trusting Putin and Xi more. To be frank, I am surprised it is not higher in distrust, as I don’t trust a word he says.

And, neither does Bernie Sanders who calls him a “pathological liar.” So, when I see Bernie fans say they would vote for Trump over Biden it is a puzzlement. I think it is an insult to everything Bernie stands for. I would also caution my more ardent Bernie friends to make sure who they are getting their information from, as it easily might be a Trump supporter masquerading as a Bernie Bro. Trump has and will stoop low to get reelected.

Finally, my friend Bernie is not getting the votes like last time. I was pulling for a good interview on “60 Minutes,” but his subtle answer to a question about Cuba cost him Florida in huge way. One Democrat said it may have lost Florida for the Dems if he wins the nomination. Trump cannot win if he does not carry Florida.

So, I do hope we rally around Biden. Otherwise, the climate change and environmental fights will be lost for a key four year period (per Greta and AOC) and SCOTUS will likely become a 7 to 2 conservative majority along with other judges. This point galvanizes Republicans as Mitch McConnell knows he can shape a future of jurisprudence that favors big business and is diminishes civil rights for forty years.

Discord & Dissension — Part X — Bernie or Bust?

A fool’s errand

The president of the United States said yesterday that reporters are trying to get the coronavirus so that they can infect him. In a long list of bizarre, blatant and mere exaggerated lies, this comment may be his most idiotic. Mind you, there is a lot of competition for the prize as most idiotic. But, to think someone would endanger themselves and their family to get the president sick is just beyond reason.

The fact the president is untruthful is not news. Even Tucker Carlson admitted to such on his Fox News program last fall. Why that is not more of a problem to Carlson is beyond me? Lately, I have been using the following phrase to define how we should react to the president’s persistent untruthfulness. “Taking the president at his word is a fool’s errand.”

When Trump supporters tell me I just don’t like the president, the truthful response is I do not like that I cannot trust the president of the United States. But, I am not alone. In a poll of Europeans several weeks ago, 64% said they do not trust the president of the United States. Even more alarming is they trust Vladimir Putin and Xi Jingpeng more.

The president should not lie in everyday matters. Senator Bernie Sanders rightfully calls him a “pathological liar.” Trump’s former National Economic Advisor Gary Cohn called him a “prodigious liar.” John Dowd, an attorney working on the Mueller investigation on behalf of Trump called him a “f**king liar.” And, the list goes on, but I often use Thomas Wells, an attorney for Trump, who wrote in 2016, “Donald Trump lies everyday, even about things of no consequence.” The only thing Wells got wrong is the frequency is higher. He lies several times a day.

Yet, in times of crisis, we must look to the president for telling us what is going on. But, we cannot with this person. He protects his image or the perception over the truth. He simply cannot be accountable or own the truth. He said earlier this week it is the media that is causing the stock market to fall. Per the president, it has nothing to do with the coronavirus unpreparedness and impact it is having on people doing things. And, it has nothing to with Saudi Arabia and Russia causing an oil glut or the general softening of the growth in the global economy.

As I have said to others, I no longer watch the president as it is unsettling to count the lies in real time. I prefer to read them and judge for myself. I start from the bottom not believing a word he says or tweets. Then, I go from there. To me, it is sad to feel that way about the president. Other presidents have lied, but not with the frequency and volume that the incumbent does.

-George W. Bush told us there were weapons of mass destruction as reason for invading Iraq. That was a lie.
-Bill Clinton said he did not have sexual relations with that woman. That was a lie.
-Barack Obama said if you like your plan, you can keep your plan. That was a lie.
-Ronald Reagan told us he did not sell arms to Iran to fund the Contras in Nicaragua. That was a lie.
-George HW Bush said read my lips, no new taxes. That turned out to be a lie.
-Richard Nixon said I am not a crook. That was a lie.

Yet, while I can likely note a few others by the above, I can easily name a half dozen lies the incumbent has said in about five minutes. Given more time, I can think of a few dozen. Googling would list a host more.

So, to the Trump fan who said he is just rough around the edges, or to the one in the commercial who said you can trust Donald Trump, please note the following. Trump is more than rough around the edges. And, the US is less trustworthy because our president cannot be trusted. So, my strong advice to people is “taking the president at his word is a fool’s errand.”

A weekend at Bernie’s

Yesterday, I spoke of the value proposition of Joe Biden. While I need not tell this to those “who feel the Bern,” Bernie Sanders value proposition needs more selling to those who may not be so enthralled. But, what is missing from a true evaluation is needed context.

The US economy is not a pure capitalistic system and, has been much less of one, since the changes required by the Robber Baron period. To be frank, this is the period Donald Trump wants America to return to and with the tax cuts and vast deregulation, we have come closer than before to this oligarchy period. Since that time, we have added several “governors” on capitalism and layered in some socialistic underpinnings to protect those in need. On the former, think interlocking boards, collusion, monopolies, insider trading, and bankruptcy restrictions and protection. On the latter, think Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Unemployment, Workers Compensation, food stamps, etc.

So, the US is a fettered capitalistic economic system with socialistic protections. And, to make this even more obvious, if we did not have bankruptcy protection, Donald Trump would not have any money as his companies have declared bankruptcy six times. This context is needed, as the debate we should be having is what is the right balance?

Bernie is pushing for several changes that would add more socialistic protections for people. He has also discussed the government taking over the quasi-governmental, but publicly traded utility industry, to address climate change. Addressing climate change is key, but is that the preferred path forward? As an independent and former Republican and Democrat, I would much prefer the argument to be shaped with the context I note above.

As an example, Medicare for All is something to consider, but it should be evaluated with detailed cost projections on what it means for various groups of people and taxpayers. There are many considerations such as should it be obligatory, should it be an option, should it be an extended version of the current system to younger retirees, etc.? As this will take time to evaluate, shoring up the ACA is needed. I mention this as if Democrats don’t keep the House and get 60 senators, Medicare for All will have difficulty getting considered. But, if framed as something to study, it may get consideration.

While Bernie is much scarier to some as much as he is appealing to his base, it would behoove us to consider the following. Bernie is a decent person with integrity and compassion. None of these three words could be legitimately used to define the current president. It is all about Donald Trump. It is that simple.

I believe Bernie is not as scary as portrayed by the right and he should not be as aspirational beyond what he can deliver. Just like tax cuts, free stuff sells. But, everything has a price tag. The better answer is what makes the most sense to do, based on impact and cost, and the fact we have $23 trillion in debt, expected to grow to $35 trillion. If Bernie is the nominee, I would prefer him to offer needed context to his discussions. Otherwise, he is getting people wound up for disappointment.

Planting trees is a good start

I read this week House Republican minority leader Kevin McCarthy is pushing for a bill to require the planting of a million trees. Some members of the Republican party are now openly admitting climate change is a problem after over twenty years of varying degrees of denial.

The rationale is to two-fold. These members realize younger voters know climate change is a problem to deal with. These members also are pushing a carbon capture narrative to permit the unabated use of fossil fuel energy.

This is a good start for the Republican party, but a necessary strategy has two vital components:

1) take more carbon out of the atmosphere

2) put less carbon into the air

Focusing only on one or the other is half the battle. Fortunately, coal is on the demise in most places around the world. In the US, more coal-fired plants have been retired under Trump’s tenure than under the last three years of Obama’s. With all his bluster, Trump cannot stop the demise.

The key is to diminish natural gas, which has less carbon impact than coal, but creates a larger methane and water problem. While methane has a shorter life than carbon, it is more potent a problem.

We should embrace planting more trees. We should also increase mangrove areas near seashores which absorb a lot of carbon and protect against rising tides. And, as noted in the documentary “Ice on Fire,” there are a number of other carbon eating measures.

These with increasing solar, wind, and tidal energy sources and continued urban and agricultural climate efforts will help put less carbon in the air. The answer is all of the above and more.