Civil war survey results are disturbing – note to Senators with a plea for leadership

The following represents a letter I posted on my two Senators’ websites and that of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. It is yet another plea for leadership, this time in the face of a survey result noted in the first sentence. Americans need to hear that elected officials have a steady hand on the wheel.

Seeing a survey that noted 40% of Americans (and 50% of Republicans) think that a Civil War is likely in the next ten years is disturbing to this independent voter. What also is disturbing are elected leaders who sow discord to garner votes. One Senator said if the former president is charged there will be rioting in the streets. From what I have read and witnessed, charging the former president may be appropriate and hold him accountable for his alleged and possible crimes.

We need Senators to be the leaders we deserve. Like many, I am very tired of these zero-sum games that are being played. We are the ones that pay the price for this gamesmanship. Please help manage real expectations not perceptions and wants. To be frank, it is a failure of leadership that this many Americans believe these things.

Please feel free to adapt and use. It is high time Senators start acting like leaders. And, if they cannot, they should resign. It is one thing for an entertainment opinion host to babble about BS, but when an elected official parrots that BS, it is shameful because most of them know better.

Veterans get screwed again

I am so very tired of politicians playing zero-sum games where they must make the other side lose, so they can get a political win. What uniformly happens is we the people get screwed. Just recently a bipartisan bill to help veterans with health care that passed in Senate by a large margin was slightly amended by the House and returned to the Senate for an expected passing.

Yet, enough Republicans decided to switch their vote and the veterans got screwed. Comedian Jon Stewart, who had led this cause along with a successful, but arduous 9/11 restitution cause a few years ago, has led a reaction that calls the Republican Senate members out for their bait and switch tactics.

Per the New York Times article this weekend, called “Jon Stewart blasts GOP after Senate blocks burn pit bill for Veterans” by Callie Patteson:

“Comedian Jon Stewart doubled down Friday on a viral rant ripping Republican senators who voted against advancing a bill that would boost benefits for veterans who were exposed to toxins from burn pits during their service in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Forty-one Republican senators voted against cloture Wednesday on the Honoring our PACT Act, accusing Democrats of using the measure to hide a ‘budget gimmick’ that would permit $400 billion in spending unrelated to veterans’ health care. 

During an interview with Fox News Friday, the former ‘Daily Show’ host insisted the bill was no different from the version that passed the Senate 84-14 in June.

‘This bill is purely based on toxic exposure health care and benefits to veterans,’ said Stewart, who urged viewers to look up the text for themselves.”

Maybe the GOP is scared that other things are getting passed which make Democrats look good. I just don’t know. I do know this is not the first time veterans have gotten screwed by politicians. The VA Healthcare system was in dire straits a few years ago with a huge need for more doctors, specialists, etc. Senator John McCain led a bipartisan effort to meet a planned request for a $64 billion bill to hire more doctors and get more resources. It was defeated and created an outrage from Veterans’ groups.

Then a debacle of backlog on appointments occurred in Phoenix a few months later and members of Congress asked how could you let this happen? A few more months later, $16 billion in funding was passed. Note this is 1/4 of the total requested and six months after being requested. The veterans again got screwed.

And, it should be noted only recently was funding provided for compensation for poisoning Marines and their families with toxic water systems at Camp Lejeune in NC. It took decades to admit there was a problem and more time to get the restitution. Decades is not an exaggeration.

I get tired of people who like to tout how hawkish they are but won’t help veterans when they get home. Politicians are OK funding battles but not the aftermath. They will say thank you for your service, but you are on your own when you get back. I fully recognize that Democrats are not perfect, but the GOP makes a great deal about being pro-military. To be honest, with respect to its troops, I do not see it. Neither should the veterans.

https://nypost.com/2022/07/29/jon-stewart-blasts-gop-after-senate-blocks-veteran-burn-pit-bill/

Tuesday Truisms

Rather than focus on a song title like “Ruby Tuesday,” “Tuesday Afternoon” or “Tuesday’s gone with the wind,” I thought I would stick to a short and sweet title – Tuesday Truisms. In no particular order are few truths to digest this Tuesday.

People wonder why drug prices in America are so much larger than in other countries. A key reason is quite simple. Other countries do not allow the pricing of Research and Development (R&D) in the cost of the drug. So, Americans pay for a huge share of the R&D costs. This is a key reason why the industry fights against the US government negotiating prices for Medicare.

When the recent testimony and findings of the House Select Committee are reviewed, just set aside the culpability on the planning and execution of the insurrection for a minute. There are two truisms that are clearly evident that need to be loudly stated. First, the insurrection does not happen if Donald Trump is not president. Full stop. This statement needs no further explanation and truly speaks on its own. Second, Donald Trump did not lift a finger after being pleaded with for 187 minutes to help elected officials and stop the attack on the Capitol. Security details were talking with the Vice President not the person who could have cooled the jets of the seditionists. Full stop. Then you can factor in his role in the planning and execution which does not look good either.

Oh, Boris. We will miss you when you are gone. A sure sign that Boris was not up for the task of British Prime Minister was evident when the Brexit marketing team to get people to vote for such did not want Boris or Nigel involved in the planning. That spoke volumes to me. So, knowing Brexit was not going to go well from the outset, then pairing it up with Boris to lead the way, it was not a recipe of success. The British people deserve better. They deserve the truth and truth tellers.

Speaking of the truth and truth tellers, please ask yourself why people who know they are going to be vilified for saying something, say it anyway. Names like Cassidy Hutchinson, Fiona Hill, Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger should be remembered well for their courage and upholding the constitution. Yet, if you mention their names in MAGA circles, you will get a different response. Some would rather believe the likes of not very credible sources like Greene, Gosar, Jordan, Trump, Giuliani, Bannon, Stone, McCarthy, Hannity, Carlson, Ingraham, et al. By the way one person who was on this list, Mr. Cawthorn, who did not win reelection, is in more legal troubles being accused of using campaign funds for personal benefit.

As for what is happening in Ukraine, the story is hard to follow given the eagerness for both sides to claim success. I start from a position of not believing much of what Vladimir Putin says given his bent and training to misinform and disinform. There is a reason Trump admires him so. Yet, that does not mean Russia is not inflicting damage. So, Ukraine continues to make this fight linger on and in several areas have withstood the Russian offensive. To me, you need to look past the bluster of Putin. He cannot afford to make this fight go on too much longer and he certainly cannot afford to attack a lot of other countriies. That would be economically and militarily suicidal in my view. Yet, what he has accomplished is galvanize other countries against him and make him even more of a pariah.

That is all I have for now. Have a great week.

Tuesday’s gone with the wind – a few more windy remarks

Using one of my favorite Lynyrd Skynyrd songs, “Tuesday’s gone” one more time, let me offer some more windy remarks. This is in deference to many politicians who tend to be big bags of wind with contrived and exaggerated truths.

  • I know everyone is anticipating the Roe v Wade impacting ruling from the Supreme Court, but another major ruling will affect jurisdiction over corporations, making it easier on these entities to cut corners. I have said before, the primary reason Republicans like conservative judges is not things like Roe v Wade, it is to help companies avoid having to be held liable for their misdeeds. Everything else is window-dressing to that primary purpose.
  • The Wizard of Oz-like actions of the most recent former president is underway to get people not to look behind the January 6 insurrection curtain. If they do, they will see a person pulling everyone’s levers to mask his own actions of sedition and deceit. It will not surprise me if the former president is brought up on charges by the Attorney General after this for his role in the insurrection. It will not surprise me if a few congressmen are brought up as well.
  • I truly would hate to be Joe Biden right now. This imperfect man has Republicans who are told to blame him for everything, pretty much in lock step, and he has progressives who do not like that he is not going far enough. So, he will continually get low marks on ratings as he truly cannot win. Has he made mistakes? Yes. Is he as bad as being portrayed? No. And, after the deceitful, bullying, seditious and denigrating actions of his predecessor, he is truly a breath of normalcy.
  • Boris Johnson needs to say a prayer every night and thank Vladimir Putin for getting him off the front page with negative news about him. Putin has become what he should always have been known as, a pariah in the world. It is no one else’s fault but Putin’s for the invasion. I miss that Senator John McCain has passed away, as he was Putin’s largest nemesis and he would be all over this issue. McCain would also be all over the former US president.

That is enough wind-blowing for now. Tuesday’s gone with the wind…

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/