Friday follies and foibles

While I am sick and tired of being sick and tired with tribal politics and traitorous actions, let me offer a veritable potpourri of follies and foibles this Friday. In no particular order:

The Ukraine forces sank a big Russian ship or at least it is submerged. Russians say everything is OK and it is being towed back. I am reminded of the knight in “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” who said after losing yet one more appendage, “It is a flesh wound.”

Republican appointed US District Judge Reggie Walton on Thursday called Donald Trump a threat to democracy, accusing the former president of instigating a mob of “weak-minded” followers to attack the US Capitol on January 6, Politico reported. While Trump did not offer a rebuttal, it is expected that he will call the judge a loser, Trump-hater and/or witch-hunter. It is also expected Trump will make no mention that Walton was appointed by a Republican.

Intel is proceeding with a new computer chip factory in Lorain County Ohio. Yes, that is in the United States, so you read that right. What I also find interesting is the community college started teaching microelectronics about nine years ago creating a workforce that could be drawn upon. Call me crazy, but that sounds like some excellent forward thinking and evidence when politicians stop bitching and moaning and start listening to people, good things can happen.

The Intel example offers a truism. Much change of significance occurs because of people and organizations getting together toward a common cause or idea. So-called leaders are usually followers, not unlike the buck leading herd of deer. People think the buck leads the herd to where they go, but observations reveal the herd will react to threat or noises and move with its leader following.

This is a key reason at the 2016 GOP convention, when the presidential candidate said “I, alone, can solve our problems,” that was just total BS. A good leader knows the best ideas come from those closest to the action, be it the customer or a process. In other words, the buck better listen to the herd or he and others might get eaten by the wolves.

We need to make our concerns and ideas heard by those we elected. And, we need to make sure they hear us. We also need them to tell us the truth and stop the tribal BS. I am sick and tired of being sick and tired.

Heinous things going on in Ukraine

Two news reports out of Ukraine the last two days disturbed me. The first was on CBS’ “60 Minutes” and the second was on the regular newscast of BBC World News America. I will not go into detail, just highlight the gist of these heinous things.

The news of the Russian troops Bucha Massacre has already hit the news. But, on CBS this past Sunday, we saw President Zelenskyy touring the area with tears and anger on his face. Vladimir Putin says he is not targeting civilians. Like most of what Putin says, that is not to believed. Zelenskyy notes that downed Russian pilots have been found with maps of civilian targets. Putin was trained as a KGB agent in the art of disinformation. That speaks volumes.

The second news piece was of the raping and killing of Ukrainian women by Russian soldiers. It was not unusual for the husband to be killed while the wife was being raped in a house next door. It was not unusual for the wife to be killed after being raped, sometimes with her throat slit. I am not saying all Russian troops are doing this, nor are those telling the stories. One woman said some of the troops are bad, some are good and some are evil. The acts, though, are heinoous.

Followers take on the personality of its leaders. If the leaders support, tolerate or look the other way, the soldiers can do heinous things. Targeting civilians, especially hospitals, is criminal in my view. History shows that civilian sites sometimes got bombed by accident, but the magnitude and extent of the bombing in this case, reveals an amoral and malevolent autocrat at the top of the heap condoning, if not supporting the action.

Let me also note I am not too keen on American opinion hosts and conspiracy parrots helping to whitewash what is going on here. That includes the recurringly untruthful former president, who admires the amoral and malevolent autocrat. Why is a question that should be asked? Of course, I am not too keen on these folks, in general, as to me they are misusing their power to disinform and misinform. Like with Putin, take what these conspiracy parrots say with a grain of salt. Believing what folks like Trump, DeSantis, Greene, Cawthorn, Boehbert, Gosar, Carlson, Ingraham, Jones et al say is a fool’s errand. That is what I think.

Collaboration does not mean you have to be best friends

Like relationships, collaboration is hard work. If it wasn’t, it would happen more often. One of the push backs I sometimes receive when I say we need more collaboration is why should we when the other side does not do it? There is a short-sighted belief that one has to collaborate with only their best friends. The short answer is very little gets done when you do not involve all needed parties in the discussion.

Let me mention just three examples, two from America and one from Denmark.

After World War II, President Harry Truman appointed former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt to lead a team to help establish the United Nations. She was joined by some Republican elected officials, who were not huge fans of Ms. Roosevelt. After seeing her in action insisting that human rights had to be a key part of the mission of the new global group swaying opinion to her point of view, these Republicans said something interesting. They said we take back every bad thing we ever said about Eleanor Roosevelt.

After the Revolutionary War, Benjamin Franklin wanted to return home from Paris where he was quite successful in raising funding for the war effort from France. Instead, he was asked to lead a delegation of three to forge a peace agreement with England along with John Jay and John Adams. Per the Ken Burns documentary on Franklin, Adams did not care for Franklin especially his extracurricular activities, yet the men put their feelings aside and worked on what turned out to be the most one-sided peace agreement achieved to-date in favor of the former British colonies.

With Denmark largely below sea level, climate change has been considered with serious intent. Rising sea levels have always been a concern to this small country, but now the prognosis was alarming. The elected leaders knew they needed a long-term plan that would survive no matter which party was in power. They could ill-afford the flip-flopping of strategy every election cycle. So, collaboration across party lines was critical. And, they forged such a plan.

The Denmark example is illuminating. They responded to a “burning platform” issue. Yet, elected officials should not wait for the platform to burn. They should care less about binary win/ lose issues and work on solving problems. We need them to work together to get something done. And, we need to focus on issues of import not contrived ones that make the other side look bad. To be frank, I am extremely tired of this we/ they tribalism.

An American Hero to France – an encore tribute to Anne Morgan

I wrote this post only a year ago, but the surprising story of Anne Morgan deserves more publicity on this last day of Women’s History Month.

Last night, my wife and I watched a PBS documentary about the youngest daughter of J.P. Morgan, called “Anne Morgan’s War.” A link to the documentary is below. Quite simply, this already strong advocate for human rights, helped rebuild a northern France devastated by The Great War (World War I). Surprisingly, her efforts started even before the war was over as the Germans pulled back.

She was reported as the first philanthropist who married a financial acumen with her efforts to help. She allowed her good friend and colleague Anne Murray Dike be the Executive Director, while she took care of raising and managing the money. And, as women, both had uphill battles to help people.

For example, she recruited a brigade of 350 women, many nurses and doctors to help this war torn area, but female doctors could not practice as doctors in France at the time. Nonetheless, her team impressed everyone with their education, experience, acumen and ability to drive and fix vehicles. It should be noted, she wanted to give back to France who had helped America during its revolution.

Yet, her story is largely a secret in America, even though she is heralded in France. In fact, many of the speakers in the documentary are French historians. I must confess, I was totally unaware of her many contributions, which pre-date and follow her heroic actions in France.

From Wikipedia:

Anne Tracy Morgan (July 25, 1873 – January 29, 1952) was an Americanphilanthropist who provided relief efforts in aid to France during and after World War I and World War II.[2] Morgan was educated privately, traveled frequently and grew up amongst the wealth her father, banker J. P. Morgan, had amassed. She was awarded a medal from the National Institute of Social Science in 1915, the same year she published the story The American Girl. In 1932 she became the first American woman appointed a commander of the French Legion of Honor.

From 1917 to 1921, Morgan took residence near the French front, not far from both Soissons and the “Chemin des Dames” at Blérancourt, and ran a formidable help organisation, The American Friends of France (it employed several hundred people at a time, volunteers from abroad and locally recruited staff), financed partly out of her own deep pockets, partly with the help of an active network in the States.[13] The AFF (aka American Committee for Devastated France) was active in succoring noncombatants, organizing a health service that still exists in Soissons, a workshop to provide basic furniture to bombed-out families, a holiday camp for children, and a mobile library that was taken over by the library in Soissons, and so on. She returned in 1939 to help the Soissons evacuees.Anne Morgan and Anne Murray Dike, ca. 1915

Anne Murray Dike, a doctor, joined Anne Morgan in France. The estate of Blérancourt was transformed into a museum and inaugurated in 1930, one year after the death of Anne Murray Dike. The two were rewarded for their services, and they later developed a romantic relationship.[14] Dike is buried in the village cemetery at Blérancourt.[15]

The documentary is about 55 minutes in length, so it is worth the effort of your time.

SCETV Presents | Anne Morgan’s War | PBS

Fox Reporters killed in Ukraine offer perspective

After the news earlier in the week that two people reporting for Fox News were killed in Ukraine, it should be a moment of clarity for some of their opinion colleagues back in the studio. Here is a letter I forwarded to my newspaper editorial section for consideration.

Per NPR, “A veteran video journalist for Fox News, Pierre Zakrzewski, and freelance journalist Oleksandra Kuvshynova were killed outside Kyiv after the vehicle they were traveling in was struck by incoming fire on Monday, the network has announced.”

And, yet as they died seeking the truth, opinion hosts in the Fox News studio still spread pro-Putin disinformation. It dishonors the deceased when folks like Tucker Carlson and Brian Kilmeade purposefully spread propaganda that is being aired in Russia. People should not give credence to opinions disguised as news whether it is on MSNBC or Fox, but especially from these two opinion entertainers.

After I sent this, I did see where the Russian Foreign Minister applauded Fox News coverage of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Coming from a country who is jailing people for dissenting views on the invasion, that is truly false praise. Former President Ronald Reagan is turning over in his grave at this point.

Merchants of Doubt – those who lie for a living (a reprise)

I wrote the following post in 2015 and it still resonates today. Especially when an invasion is occurring of another country, where fossil fuel is a backdrop to the reason and producing more fossil fuel in the states is being pursued as a panacea, rather driving harder to use less of it.

I have written before about the public relations efforts of the fossil fuel industry to convince people everything they do is perfectly safe. The efforts also play on our minds and hearts that they create jobs and safer communities, at the same time they are stealing our lunch money. One in particular post plays off the five D’s of public relations – deny, discredit, disinform, diffuse and defray. A new documentary is out which highlights these efforts called “Merchants of Doubt” written by Robert Kenner and Kim Roberts and directed by Kenner.

The story focuses on those who mask science, use science out of context and in many cases distort the truth to tell consumers the products they are buying are not harmful. The public relations consultants use these folks to present an alternate truth which is fed hook, line and sinker to politicians funded by these industries. The documentary begins with the smoking industry to convey the message smoking is not addictive. The PR merchants had a unified campaign which led to several CEOs of the companies lying in front of Congress in the face of scientific evidence to the contrary.

But, they did not stop there, as if you can sell cigarettes are safe, you can sell just about anything. They helped sell folks that the flame retardants in fabric would save lives using a scientific study taken out of context as evidence. When the scientist who led the study found out about this years later, he said that is not what the study found. The flame retardants actually caused cancer in owners of the sofas, caused cancers in the firemen and women who were putting out the fires while not really retarding flames. Yet, the industry staved off regulation, until it was discovered the industry was funding what appeared to be supportive charity to kids, but was really a PR sales engine to obfuscate the truth. There is another documentary on this subject called “Toxic Hotseat.”

Yet, the two biggest campaigns have unfolded in the last few years dating primarily back to the time of “An Inconvenient Truth” about global warming. The PR folks started with a campaign that “global warming is hoax,” and were (and are) so successful about it, Congress has had people to testify on these subject. And, the current Environmental Committee chair, Senator James Inhofe, is a denier who recently brought a snowball into the chambers to reiterate global warming is a hoax. Anytime you see one of these bumper stickers or hear the new party line of “I am not a scientist” to offer contradictory opinion, remember these merchants of doubt. The answer to this statement, by the way, is “neither am I , but I can read.”

The other is on how safe fracking is. The PR campaign has been equally robust on the safety of fracking and the significant number of jobs it creates. Yet, like the climate change deniers, this message is starting to break down with actual data piling up to the contrary. No process this hard and expensive is perfectly safe, yet that is what we are constantly told in commercials. Even if it were safe, it is only as safe as its worst operator and there are a lot of them. However, with the air and water pollution being caused by fracking, with the environmental degradation, with the earthquakes that have been proven to be causal with water disposal and correlated with the process itself and with the sheer volume of water used that cannot be reused, this is one Return on Investment that has been miscalculated.  The costs, especially the healthcare costs, are vastly understated.

Please understand why these merchants get paid a lot. They are very good at what they do. And, it is easier with the new information age, as everyone can have their own version of truth. It is critical for us consumers and citizens to question data sources, news sources and politicians. Trace the money. Who owns what and who funds what? Why should we get rid of all regulations? Do you stand to benefit from that change? We must be more skeptical of information as often it is opinion or advertisement conveyed as news. Some online sources look like news, but they are written by people to close to the action or in on the action. It makes it hard to get at the real truth. But, we have to.

Companies make money selling us things. They want our money. The will try to get it legitimately, they will distort the message and some will outright lie. The hard truth is climate change is here and causing problems already. We are late, but can still make a difference. A good truth is solar energy is one of the fastest growing employers in the country as the cost to produce continues to fall. Fracking will occur, but it is not as safe as it is portrayed and we need to move away from it primarily because of the vast use of water and the impact on our health. Chemicals are over used to grow things. The greatest threat to our civilization may be anti-bacterial resistant bugs that move beyond our bodies ability to withstand them.

These are real truths. So, do me a favor. If you hear the disclaimer, “I am not a scientist,” the next phrase should be taken with a grain of salt as it is like untrue. If anyone tells you something is “perfectly safe,” do not believe them. The only thing perfectly safe is the assurance you will die at some point. If anything sounds too good to be true, question it. And, look for cited and peer-reviewed data sources conveyed by people who have a track record of good journalism. A news organization that has been proven wrong on over half of their news stories by Politifacts would not qualify as a source of good journalism.

http://www.salon.com/2015/03/06/merchants_of_doubt_meet_the_sleazy_spin_doctors_who_will_stop_at_nothing_to_obscure_the_truth/

Over 13,000 Russian anti-war protestors now arrested

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/more-than-13-000-anti-war-protesters-arrested-in-russia/ar-AAUNN3r?ocid=msedgntp

In the above article, “…according to protest monitoring group OVD-Info…The group found that 13,022 protesters have been detained in 147 cities across Russia.

…This comes as Russia’s assault on Ukraine is in its second week. In addition to arresting protesters, Russia has cracked down on social media platforms and the press amid the ongoing invasion. The country has blocked access to Facebook and Twitter, and last week President Vladimir Putin signed legislation under which people found to be spreading ‘fake news’ about Russian forces could face up to 15 years in prison.”

And, just this morning, the Russian spokesperson said the hospital with women and children they bomb yesterday really held Ukrainian nationalist fighters. There is a reason Putin does not want his people paying attention to news. The lies mount – from not invading to invading, from not target civilians to admitting that civilians have been targeted, from not using conscripted soldiers to admitting using such fighters and so on.

The brutal truth is Putin is invading a country that has a lot of kinfolk in Russia, a move which many Russians are not to keen about. It is hard to lie about that. But, the key question among many is if Putin’s story is so correct and Ukraine was a danger to Russia, why is he arresting Russian anti-war protestors and blocking access to news?

Monday morning you sure look fine (miscellaneous musings in early March)

With a nod to a lyric from a classic Fleetwood Mac song, allow me to throw down a few miscellaneous musings on March 7, 2022. I have been consumed by Ukraine’s courageous attempt to stave off the malevolent Russian force who is attacking for some made up reason, so many of my writings of late are around that topic.

The former Attorney General William Barr has noted several interesting things of late as he promotes his book on his time serving the former president. One that caught my eye this morning noted the former president does not care whether his fraudulent election claims are true, he just wants his fan base to believe such as his worst fear is being seen as “a loser.” Before Barr was fired, he noted in a group meeting to the former president that his election fraud claims were BS, which enflamed his mercurial boss. As the former president’s niece said, her uncle would burn it all down to avoid losing the election. That is why he will never concede.

Americans better be prepared to do their part in helping Ukraine as gas prices continue to rise. Putin is counting on us soft Americans to cave to enable his efforts to steal a country. What he did not count on is a former comedian being tough as nails telling him to go screw himself. President Zelenskyy is doing what a real leader should do. His opponent has misled his people, lied to his troops in harm’s way, arrested protestors, shut down internet access, and published disinformation as he always does. That is not leadership – that is autocracy.

I am long past tired of opinion hosts and politicians lying to us. Both sides stretch the truth, but I left the Republican party around 2008 as one reason is they had tendency to make things up. That was fourteen years ago and it has gotten worse. Sadly, people who support a person known for lying lie for him and rationalize his lies. It is embarrassing. To start with, do not believe anything that the former president or his TV sycophants say – the odds are well in your favor to be accurate. Do not believe anything the former president’s sycophants in Congress say – again the odds are well in your favor. We need a viable conservative party, but one that vilifies its truth tellers and promotes its liars is not one with a lot of veritas.

I know our friend Boris in the UK is a happy man with the news story of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, not the actual invasion. It has taken his woes off the front pages and allowed him to act more like what a Prime Minister should act like. The same may be true for the randy Prince Andy, excuse me “Andrew.” I know the Queen is likely very happy this Andrew thing is being put behind them. When your defense is to ignore the picture of him hugging an underage girl in a place owned by a convicted trafficker in girls (even though his only sentence was embarrassingly light), it does not make for strong argument.

Let me segue to another person known for his sexual misconduct, Harvey Weinstein. We have been watching a lot of old movies in the past several months. When I see Weinstein’s name as the film producer, my first thought is did he force himself on the lead actress? I was recalling the excellent work by Ronan Farrow on Weinstein and his enablers and one story sticks out. Actress Rosanna Arquette refused his advances and got on an elevator to leave the hotel where Weinstein planned his rendezvous. As she rode down the elevator, her thoughts drifted to “have I just ruined my career?” That is the power these sexual predators wield, whether it is due to money or royalty. And, the people that make me the most mad are the ones who cover everything up for their boss.

Russian oil company calls for end to Putin’s war

This interesting headline caught my attention yesterday. As you read this, please remember oil is the number one industry in Russia, accounting for a large hunk of their GDP.

Lukoil: Russian oil company calls for an end to Putin’s war by Charles Riley, CNN Business is an article with a major statement. The article can be linked to below, but here are a few salient paragraphs:

Russia’s second largest oil company has broken ranks with President Vladimir Putin.

Lukoil, which produces more than 2% of the world’s crude oil and employs over 100,000 people, has called for an end to Russia’s war in Ukraine.

The company’s board of directors said in a statement to shareholders, staff and customers that it was ‘calling for the soonest termination of the armed conflict.

‘We express our sincere empathy for all victims, who are affected by this tragedy. We strongly support a lasting ceasefire and a settlement of problems through serious negotiations and diplomacy,’ the board added.”

Two comments. First, this is not just one CEO saying this. This statement comes from a Board of Directors, who would take a sober vote on such matters. Second, they would not make such a vote if they did not feel Putin was in the wrong. These folks know what they are risking, but seeing civilians in Ukraine being harmed, protests in Russia and global reaction to Russia’s aggression toward Ukraine, they are making a statement to the world and too the Russian people.

https://www.msn.com/en-us/money/markets/lukoil-russian-oil-company-calls-for-an-end-to-putin-s-war/ar-AAUBqH8?ocid=msedgntp

Ukraine invasion raises questions about democracy (an editorial worth the read)

The following is an editorial in The Clayton Tribune by a moderate conservative writer named Dick Yarborough. It was forwarded to me by a moderate liberal friend who is from that area and knows the author. I find it to be a very compelling and hope that it will reach many Americans of all political persuasions. Or, at least it should. Its title is noted above as the title of the post. (I apologize for the appearance of the piece as I pasted it in).

“I am going to break two
rules today. First, I am going
to leave the friendly confines
of Georgia and comment
on world events. Second,
I am going to talk about
world events that may have
changed drastically by the
time you read this. That is
because this column runs
around the state in different
places on different days but
I have a finite deadline in
which to get these thoughts
to you. Unfortunately, world
events don’t care about my
deadlines.
That brings me to Russia’s
invasion of Ukraine. As I
write this, Russian President
Vladimir V. Putin has ordered troops into that country in an unprovoked attack
while blithefully ignoring
protestations from most of
the rest of the world.
President Joe Biden and
our European allies have responded with economic sanctions including freezing the
overseas assets of wealthy
Russian families, blocking
international transactions
by some Russian banks,
suspending a gas pipeline
project to Germany and
threatening more sanctions
to come. Somehow, I have a
feeling Putin is not shaking
in his shuba. Undoubtedly,
he presumed this would happen. Reports say he is sitting
on a large amount of cash,
ready to ride out sanctions.
So, why the invasion and
why should we care? The answer is that Putin thinks we
are too weak to do anything
about Ukraine or any other
invasions he may choose to
initiate in the future. Not
militarily weak. We have
plenty of bombs and missiles.
We are perceived as weak
people in a form of government that is waning.
As the New York Times
observed recently, “Putin
and his inner circle believe
that liberal democracies are
in decline, a view that (President of the People’s Republic
of China) Xi Jinping and
other top Chinese officials
share.” That group also
includes Iran, Venezuela and
North Korea.
A study by the Economist
Intelligence Union in Great
Britain, shows that in 2020
only 8.4 percent of the world
population lives in a full
democracy, while 41 percent
live in a flawed democracy,
15 percent live in a hybrid regime and 35.6 percent live in
an authoritarian regime. In
short, democracy is indeed
in decline.
The U.S. is considered a
“flawed democracy.” We enjoy the right to vote and basic civil liberties but, among
other things, we have little
trust in our institutions,
including our government.
There is also a troubling
propensity to try and squelch
freedom of expression,
thanks to anonymous cowards who use social media in
an attempt to intimidate and
threaten those with whom
they disagree.
We are a flawed democracy
because we are a deeply-divided democracy, more concerned with our own self-interest than in the welfare of
each other and with seemingly little interest in coming
together. We are polarized
by race, political philosophy,
political correctness, age,
sex, religion, income, rural
vs. urban. The Economic
Intelligence Union says the
U.S. has “a degree of societal polarization that makes
consensus almost impossible to achieve.” No wonder
Putin, Xi Ping, Ali Khamenei
and other assorted tinhorns
think we are imploding in on
ourselves.
They see a bunch of pubescent millionaires playing
games that add no value to
our society while making a
big show of disrespecting our
nation’s flag and our National Anthem. And they are
treated as heroes by a segment of our population.
They see a group of outof-control zealots storm the
seat of our democracy like in
some Third World country,
vandalizing and looting and
assaulting law enforcement
officers because they didn’t
like the outcome of the presidential election. And they
are treated as heroes by a
segment of our population.
They see a segment of our
population obsessed with
destroying our past like
Taliban terrorists, forgetting
Pres. John F. Kennedy’s admonition, “Let us not seek to
fix the blame for the past. Let
us accept our own responsibility for the future.”
They see hyphenated
Americans, as if where we
came from is more important than where we are.
(When you see me hyphenate
“American,” you will know
an imposter got hold of this
space. I submit we are all
Americans, all the time. No
hyphens. Period.)
Our democratic way of
life is priceless and not to be
taken for granted. An earlier
president, John Adams said,
“Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes,
exhausts, and murders itself.
There never was a democracy yet that did not commit
suicide.”
Disrespect our flag. Disrespect our Capitol. Disrespect
our country. Disrespect each
other. And watch our democracy commit suicide. The
autocrats are waiting.”

Whether one agrees with every statement made above, I find its theme and purpose something that we each should consider and conduct ourselves accordingly.