Friday follies, post-Groundhog Day edition

TGIF. Of course, when you’re retired, Friday’s do not hold the same meaning. But, let’s celebrate anyway. Here are a few follies for this Friday.

I read today Donald Trump was a huge Brexit proponent but is now blaming Brexit for his Scottish golf courses losing money to the tune of 3.7 million pounds. He should have realized this beforehand as the EU facilitated easy travel to play his courses. But, that would have required more rational thinking as a business person. Someone should have explained it to him. Of course, the banks tried to tell all Britons about the dilutive impact of Brexit, but too few believed them. This is not a surprise, except to Boris, Nigel, Donald and crowd.

Speaking of making it difficult to transact commerce, when said golf course owner placed tariffs on everyone as US president, he failed to understand history that tariffs don’t work, as they punish the wrong people – the customers and those who serve them. When it costs more money to buy something or replenish inventory to sell, buyers find a different path forward. For example, when the US made it difficult to do business with our buyers and sellers, people went elsewhere. So, it disrupted markets that had taken years to build. As an example, tractor sales in the US declined, while they increased in Brazil. Why? China was getting more food harvest from Brazil than before due to retaliatory tariffs.

One thing that Republican House leadership should have realized when they put some of their extreme members on Committees, is they elevated the platform of these folks. A key thing the House leaders failed to learn about Trump and are failing to realize now, is the past inane comments are only part of what they need to worry about. The future inane comments or the undiscovered past ones are the ones that should keep them up at night. But, the known past ones are fair game, as well. AOC noted in response to GOP criticism of Democrats about Jews that it is hard to take that comment seriously when the GOP put a woman on a committee who has commented on Jewish space lasers as a source of problems.

What troubles me about these committee assignments of the more extreme members of the House is it is one thing to have a gerrymandered district being represented by someone unqualified to do so given their bent toward inane and denigrating comments, but when they are placed on committees, they are representing us all. That is harmful to our country. Whether it is the Republican or Democrat party, they must police their own, otherwise it harms the party and country. Republicans like to pick on AOC, Ihlan Omar Nancy Pelosi, eg, but they are not on the same level like some of the extreme folks representing the Republican party. I can disagree with AOC, Pelosi and Omar and still respect their opinions. I cannot say the same for more than a few extreme folks in the House.

The sad part about these follies is they all are true. We are the ones who have to suffer the fools and foolish behavior. We need to stop following fools’ errands. We deserve better governance than we are getting. We deserve civil and truthful discourse.

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I encourage you to reach out to your elected officials

This may not do as much good as it needs to or we would hope it would, but we need to let elected officials know we are paying attention. A couple of key themes:

  • we need you to more consistently tell us the truth and value those who do, not those who don’t – sadly, the names of those who don’t are well known;
  • we need you to make more fact-based decisions rather than what funders, spin doctors and opinion hosts may tell you and others – it is hard enough to govern when you use facts, but nigh impossible when you don’t;
  • we need you to recognize both major parties do not have all the good ideas and both have some bad ones – one party has a bag of ideas with too many holes in it and the bad ideas are rushing out, a key reason they are letting more extreme opinions drive the bus;
  • we need you to work toward solving real problems not ones spin doctors said will cause wedge issues and garner votes;
  • we need you to work together in a civil manner using that Jesus message whenever possible that was so important it was called golden;
  • we need you to recognize winning and losing an argument is secondary to getting the best solution; and
  • we need you to recognize you work for us, the citizens of the country, state, county or city – use your time wisely toward that end and be accountable.

As parents, we learned long ago that who your kids play and associate with matter. It is a key reason we always wanted their friends to be welcome at our house. We got to meet them. So, elected officials need to know who they value and spend time with matter. Do you want to be known for hanging around someone who acts like a bully, denigrates people and is untruthful, or do you want to be known for hanging around someone who is a truthteller and seeks to hold people accountable? It is your choice, but we are watching.

I bruise you, you bruise me, we both bruise too easily (an encore post)

The following is an encore of an earlier post that still remains relevant.

After breaking up with Paul Simon, Art Garfunkel sang a beautiful song written by Jimmy Webb, who wrote several of Glen Campbell’s hits (“Galveston,” “Wichita Lineman,” “By the Time I Get to Phoenix”), The 5th Dimension’s “Beautiful Balloon,” and “MacArthur Park,” which was a huge hit in the 1970s as sung by the actor Richard Harris (who was the first Dumbledore for Harry Potter fans).

The song is called “All I Know.” The first stanza is as follows:

I bruise you, you bruise me

We both bruise too easily

Too easily to let it show

I love you and that is all I know

This song is intended as a love song between two people who often fight and have hurt feelings as a result. But, I would like to use this stanza as a metaphor for relationships between all of us in civil society that have gone awry.

We are too easily bruising each others’ feelings. We are also taking offense too easily, when we should not or should listen to hear rather listen to react. I was highly disappointed with the tenor of the most recently concluded political convention, when hateful remarks were the norm and not the exception. I am hoping that the one next week will be the antithesis.

As an independent voter, I don’t care if someone is conservative on a viewpoint or liberal. What I found is many people have a mixture of opinions. To this point, Ivanka Trump told the GOP audience she is an independent voter. And, she like me joins many unaffiliated Americans.

Yet, what I do not like is the lack of civil discourse and use of information which is not steeped in facts. This is modus operandi for too many politicians and opinion hosts and it is quite obvious to me who they are. The latter is a key reason I religiously check the two fact checking organizations summaries. But, let me set that aside for now and get back to the civil discourse.

I do not agree with everything the politicians or parties support. My disagreement may be material or it may be in emphasis. For example, President Obama has done a commendable job, but I am disappointed that he did not move forward on the Simpson-Bowles Deficit Reduction Committee’s report, he tends to like the use of drones where we need more governance, while he has moved the ball forward on climate change he is too fond of fracking, and he did not collaborate more with a highly uncollaborative and obstinate Congress, e.g.

What I can tell you is neither party has all of the solutions and sometimes are not asking the right questions. Neither party should be smug that their way is the only way or even the right way, especially with funding that fuels their opinions. Again, I don’t mind a conservative or liberal view, but let’s work off the right data and do so civilly, respecting each other’s opinions. And, let’s work with real solutions and not what easily fits on a bumper sticker. Bumper stickers are not policy, they are advertisements.

The debt is a huge problem. Climate change is a huge problem. Water resources are a huge problem. Poor gun governance is a huge problem. Poverty is a huge problem as is the declining middle class. Civil rights for all citizens, especially those most disenfranchised, are lacking in too many places. Infrastructure needs are paramount and fixing them will create jobs. Terrorism is important, but combatting it must be holistic and involve all of us.

Building actual and proverbial walls are not the answers. We must reach out to each other and solve these problems as the diverse Americans we are. No American is more American than the next. And, no less, either. So, let’s civilly discuss the issues in fact-based manner and demand our politicians do the same. If they cannot, then they should step down. I am really tired of those who feel they must name-call and shout opposition down.

I remember when (an update of an older post)

As I dressed for a long walk this morning, I was reminded of an old dressing habit. This prompted a reflective post (you can hum Nat King Cole’s “I remember you” as you read with me):

I remember when we used to cut the tops off athletic socks to make footies, as they did not make those when I was growing up, at least for boys and men.

I remember when phones were dialed and not keyed; if you did not complete the dial, the phone might call the wrong number.

I remember when there were three serious US news anchors whose words were gospel; Nixon once said when he lost Walter Cronkite, he lost the country.

I remember a time when we lived in blissful ignorance that all priests, pastors and evangelists were above board and not participating in criminal behavior.

I remember when both parties cared that the US President was exactly what he said he was not; Nixon said “I am not a crook,” but that was a lie.

I remember when Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King were assasinated, but was too young to remember JFK’s.

I remember when a country trio named the Dixie Chicks were condemned for sharing their concerns about the false pretenses of the US invasion of Iraq. The fact they had a right to do so is lost on many, but the fact they were dead-on accurate in their concerns, as determined by a British commission years later (which noted George Bush and British PM Tony Blair misled the British people), should not be set aside either.

I remember the moon landing and Neil Armstrong’s words of “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Sadly, I remember the Challenger blowing up with citizen astronauts aboard. It showed how difficult it is to leave and return to our planet.

I remember when a president was vilified for not wearing a flag pin and yet, some of those same people think it was alright for a later president to openly lie to the American people and invite and incite insurrectionists to storm the Capitol building because he could not face the music that he lost the election. But, the insurrectionist at least like to hug the flag.

I remember when the US celebrated its bicentennial and when we prepared for computers programmed in Cobol to recognize the new millennium.

On this last comment, my wife and I hosted a New Millennium Eve party. We got so interested in shooting fireworks with the kids, we forgot to put the lamb in the oven. That was the only time we cooked lamb, and almost did not then. We were eating at midnight when the year 2000 rolled in.

I hope I spawned some memories. Please share a few of yours. I remember when…

Tell me why?

The chorus to the popular Beatles’ song “Tell me why?” goes:

“Tell me why you cried
And why you lied to me
Tell me why you cried
And why you lied to me”

I have been a broken record on the need to ask more “why” questions of politicians. In so doing, maybe their “undergarments of untruths” might begin to show from beneath their outer appearances. And, if they evade answering, ask it again. Politicians do not want their lying to be discovered. Plus, some lie so much, they don’t know where the truth stops and the lies begin.

Here are few questions to help bare those undergarments of untruths.

  • Why did the new Republican majority in the US House vote to defund a recent request to increase funding to the IRS on the very same day (per CNN) that “Allen Weisselberg, former President Donald Trump’s long-time chief financial officer, was sentenced by a New York judge to five months in jail for his role in a decade-long tax fraud scheme after testifying as the state’s witness against the Trump Organization.” No one likes the IRS, but they perform a needed function and this request was to make improvements and restore funding that the previous president took away. I believe his name is Trump, and his organization will be sentenced later in the week.
  • Why do Republicans only care about the deficit when a Democrat is in the White House? And, why is that same former president making hay over the debt and deficit when he did absolutely nothing about it for four years. In fact, he made it about $2 trillion worse with his tax cut that mainly benefitted the wealthy and corporations per the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. Republicans touted this tax cut would pay for itself, but that line of thinking has been horse excrement for a very long time and still is. Democrats could be much better at addressing the debt and deficit, but they are better at it than Republicans.
  • Why do people follow so-called leaders who have the most shallow of egos? Whether their name is Kim Jung-Un, Jair Bolsonaro, Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump et al, why do these supposed strong acting men act like babies when they don’t get their way? Jung-Un’s bio reads like a Greek God’s citing all of his Olympian conquests and successes. It may even say his excrement has no odor. Neither Bolsonaro and Trump can tolerate losing which shows abysmal failure of fortitude. And, Putin has screwed up royally with his Ukraine invasion and continues to add gasoline to the fire rather admit such.
  • Why are books being banned when people can easily download them from online sources? (Note: This question is courtesy of our friend Scottie’s blog). There is an old line if you want to get more people to read or watch something, ban it. My favorite banning story was I believe espoused by Senator Ted Cruz. Cruz wanted to ban “Fahrenheit 451” which is a book about banning and burning books, with the title indicative of the temperature at which a book would burn. Ironically, Cruz once did a fillibuster by reading “The Lorax” by Dr. Seuss on the floor of the Senate. This fossil fuel proponent was reading a book about protecting the environment.
  • Why does anyone follow some of the inane and mean-spirited acting people who are now in the halls of legislature, including the US Congress? Gerrymandering has created safe districts where people who should not be in these positions can find themselves elected, as so few people vote in primaries. These folks are rather overt in their comments and actions and it should cause a lot of head scratching. I want civil discourse with folks using actual facts when they are doing our business. So, we should ask these folks to explain themselves when they denigrate opponents and untruthfully opine. Direct questions like do you really believe that or you just saying it would help?

Maybe we should change the lyrics to “Tell me why you MAKE me cry and why you lie to me?”


Saturday in the Park – a few musings for a walk

With all due respect to the band Chicago, one of their most popular songs is the theme for today’s potpourri of topics – Saturday in the Park. So, put on some good walking shoes, add a pair of sunglasses and let’s go for a stroll in the park. A jacket might be required.

After a seemingly endless number of votes, the US Congress has a new Speaker of the House. Sadly, to get elected he chose to make concessions to the most strident group of elected officials, rather than work with the Democrats who will be needed to get the people’s work done.

Unfortunately, this independent and former Republican voter does not hold the new Speaker in high regard as he has missed so many opportunities to be a leader. As one example, he made a great speech laying the blame for the insurrection at the feet of the former president, but then proceeded to erase what he said when called to Mar-a-Lago. I am not a huge fan of Nancy Pelosi, but this is a noticeable step down and this concerns me as the focus over the next two years will not be on productive matters in my view per the stated goals of the caucus.

On a positive note, I was glad to see Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and President Joe Biden make a joint appearance at a bridge in Kentucky that will be improved by the infrastructure legislation. We need more of this show of bipartisanship in our country. Kudos to both the infrastructure investment and collaboration.

I read where the outgoing president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro trashed their version of the White House on his way out. Given his expected temper tantrum over the election results, following the lead of the former US president’s, it was not a surprise to read what he did following the election.

Leaders need to live up to the role they have been elected to serve. In a democracy, they serve us. They need to tell us the truth and to work together to do serve our needs. Governance is hard enough when they do those things, but nigh impossible when they don’t.

May 35 and December 37 – two fictitious dates for real events – a needed reprise

June 4 in China is the anniversary of a horrible event when the Chinese government forcibly put down a protest in Tiananmen Square in 1989. Yet, few know about it in China. Seeing a young man stare down a tank in the square is the most memorable occurrence. But, China has done its best to erase this event from their history arresting some protestors in Hong Kong a few years ago who tried to honor the memory of those who died that day..

I have written before about May 35 which is a real reference to an imaginary date. Per the attached article in the New York Times, it is a reference to what happened in Tiananmen Square in China on June 4, 1989, which has been expunged from Chinese history, including internet search references to that date. So, to make sure the Chinese kids remember this protest which was brutally squashed by the Chinese army, historians established a May 35 web link.*

In America, too many sycophants in the Republican Party are doing their best to erase further discussion of the insurrection incited by the former president on January 6. In their minds, we cannot have people thinking the former president’s lies about election fraud, his invitation of zealous members of his base to Washington, and his winding them up and pointing them at the Capitol building had anything to do with people storming the Capitol.

So, to make sure we don’t forget this heinous day in our country, nor the former president’s role and continuing untruthfulness about election fraud, maybe we should start calling it December 37 like the enterprising Chinese people did to avoid the memory being erased.

People died at these events. Elected officials of all stripes were put in danger. We owe it to them to remember who caused the insurrection that day. We cannot do anything about China’s delete key, but we can remind folks here that January 6 would not have happened if the former president did not have such a fragile ego and could not accept the fact he lost the election. Or, as his niece said in November, her Uncle cannot handle failure, so he will burn it all down to avoid losing the election.

May 35 and December 37. Bad days in China and the US. People in leadership need to be held accountable. People have gone to jail or have been fined for their actions that day in the US. But, we need to hold accountable the so-called leaders who caused this and let it go on, including the former president. Many Republicans have testified under oath and at great risk of the former president and other people’s roles. His defenders have not made their comments under oath. Why is that? To me, we cannot punish the bad actors without punishing those who greased the skids for them.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/24/opinion/global/24iht-june24-ihtmag-hua-28.html?_r=0eal

Tiananmen Square incident | Summary, Details, & Facts | Britannica

At some point we need good governance

There is an old adage which goes something like when your opposition is damaging its own mission, don’t stand in their way. For over five years, I have shared my concerns with my Republican representatives in Congress and State legislature that rationalizing the untruthfulness and bullying antics of the former president is not a good path forward. I often asked what will it take for you to realize that something must be done?

Yet, here we are two years after the former president invited and incited a seditious action against a branch of government and there are still elected followers that believe what he says. Call me crazy, but his misdeeds are overt, yet the gaslighting that he and his sycophants have done have put up a powerful barrier to the truth.

Right now, the party of Trump is revealing their confusion and conflict. One editorialist termed it a “circular firing squad.” I am sure some resolution in the US House will be achieved, but what will it look like? As an independent and former Republican and Democrat, my hope is a the more rational Republicans who have not yet been run off can work with the Democrats to vote in a moderate Speaker of the House.

I must confess it does not trouble me too much that Kevin McCarthy cannot garner enough votes. However, it troubles me even more that more extreme folks like Jim Jordan are being bandied about. I am leery of such an untruthful person as Jordan being in charge after watching him the last several years and being aware of his lying at Ohio State University that allowed other wrestlers to be sexually assaulted by a groping doctor.

We citizens deserve better than we are getting. Democrats are imperfect, but at least they are focusing on policy issues and are concerned about a former president who acted seditiously. Many Republicans agree with that concern and some even testified under oath, but too many are scared to go on record and shut down the election denial that is still being discussed along with exaggerated and contrived issues. The truth is needed. Civilized debate and collaboration are needed.

Please join me in holding legislators accountable and demanding they tell us the truth and work together.

Being silent is not enough – a reprise from last January

Last year about this time, I wrote this plea to leaders in the Republican Party. As an independent and former Republican (and Democrat earlier), this message still holds true, although major strides were made last year. In the mid-terms, Democracy held serve as many of the election deniers were defeated at the polls. We saw some significant pieces of legislation occur on a bipartisan basis, which is the way it should be. We also saw the business of the former president found guilty of tax fraud by a jury, which means it was not a witch hunt as any formal criticism is often called.

Finally, we saw the House Select Committee hear sworn testimony from a significant number of Republicans under oath who shared their concerns over the former president’s seditious words and actions leading up to, on and after January 6, 2021. It should be noted those who criticized these Republicans were not under oath when they did so. Again, if this was a witch hunt, why did these Republicans risk a great deal by testifying?

*************

The courageous few Republicans who are among the truth tellers in their party are strong in principle, but seem to be standing alone or in small groupings way too often. For their truth telling, they are knowingly vilified and some even receive death threats by fans of the former president. Yet, they do it anyway.

Most of the elected officials in the party are keenly aware that Congresswoman Liz Cheney’s question of is the Republican party going to be the party of truth or party of Trump a more than fair question. Yet, they have chosen to be silent. In essence, they are saying to themselves “Don’t poke the bear.” They want to avoid being highlighted by the former president and his bullying and untruthful bent, whose followers will join in the fray.

This spineless tactic is not new. Back in the heyday of the Communist witch hunts and Senator Joe McCarthy, the populist candidate had a huge following. The Republican even rivaled the popularity of President Dwight Eisenhower. From Jon Meacham’s book “The Soul of America,” the historian points out Eisenhower detested McCarthy for his baseless claims that he frequently made up on the spot. Yet, Ike would not publicly demean McCarthy for his claims, only to offer mild comments from time to time.

He and the other Republicans tolerated McCarthy. They remained silent. It was not until the most respected TV journalist Edward R. Murrow exposed McCarthy for what he was that his impact began to ebb. But, the impact of McCarthy’s baseless accusations lingered on for years. The famous question asked by a senior Army official of McCarthy, “Have you no sense of decency, sir?” could be asked of the most recent former president, another populist who tends to make baseless claims.

I encourage all of you who agree with the purpose of this post, to consistently let elected Republican and other officials know you appreciate their political courage for pushing back on the incessant and well-documented untruthful actions and words of the former president. And, let your Republican Senators, Congress person, and GOP leaders know you are concerned about this untruthful path the party has taken. The GOP has lost any veritas it had left. I even let them know how much I admire the courage of the truth tellers and it is a shame they are getting death threats.

The accusations of sedition toward the former president tend to focus more on what he failed to do last January 6. In my view as an Independent and former Republican voter, his consistent baseless claims of election fraud, which he has tried to prove and failed miserably in courts, audits and recounts, are what greased the skids for what happened on January 6.

As his niece said, “My uncle will burn it all down to avoid losing the election.” I knew he would act this way, but what makes me more frustrated are the sycophants who publicly cover for his Big Lie and the too silent many in party leadership who are letting him do it. And, what they fail to realize based on previous history and current actions, the former president will throw them under the bus in a New York minute, even placing them in physical danger with targets on their backs if they do not play ball with him.

The Blame Game

In our age of zero-sum politics, where one side must lose when the other side wins, the people who always tend to lose in these equations are the voters that put them there. Far too little gets done. Most legislators are too busy constantly running for office and blaming the other side to do what they were hired to do.

Quite simply, the “Blame Game” has to stop. Legislator, do your job, the one you were hired to do. When I see a legislator or wanna-be legislator online or TV and I hear the Blame Game start up, I turn it off. The other side is at fault for something.

I don’t want to hear it. What I want to hear is if that is a problem, what do you intend to do about it? Don’t just tell me why something is wrong or wrong in your mind, what is your solution to fix it? The corollary to this is only speak of real problems and do not waste my time on contrived or over-inflated ones. And, a second corollary to this is don’t tell me what a funder wants you to tell me.

Neither side owns all of the good ideas and both sides have some bad ones. And, both sides use the Blame Game. Yet, what frustrates me more than anything, one side has lost its way and no longer has a voted-on platform of positions and has become untethered to the truth. So, its followers listen to a litany of things that are wrong that I do not see as much of a problem. These are wedge issues that are heightened to demonize the other side and not really solve much else.

The other side is far from perfect, but at least speaks to the issues of import and have actually helped pass a few key pieces of legislation at the federal level. Yet, they have some blind spots as well, one of which is dealing with the debt and deficit. Yet, before the other side gets too smug about this issue, they have done a poor job of dealing with it as well. In fact, outside of some deficit relief in the Inflation Reduction bill, the only major piece of deficit reduction was in a sequestration fall-back that kicked in when Congress could not agree on a budget about nine years ago.

So, voters it is well within our rights and even duties to ask “what do you plan to do about it?” And, when the answer is not given, ask it again. If the answer is to blame someone, maybe we should just say “if you don’t have any ideas, maybe you should step aside and let someone else have a crack at it.”