I will not be surprised

I will not be surprised if the Mueller investigation finds that the President of the United States has been compromised by Russia. There is too much lying, ignoring and self-preserving going on by the man in the White House. In fact, if it turns out he is not, that will surprise me. At the very least he is an unwitting agent of Russia. Just ask yourself why he did not impose sanctions on Russia nor has he shown alarm over the Mueller findings that Russia has attacked the US and is still doing so?

I will not be surprised if Congress does not do a damn thing about better gun governance. I am so proud of the young people calling for a march begging for action. Yet, Congress and the President don’t have the backbone to do the right thing and do what a significant majority of Americans have asked for – background checks and elongated waiting periods. These actions should be no brainers, but the NRA dictates subservience to Republicans and some Democrats.

I will not be surprised if Congress cannot reach compromise on the immigration bills, especially with the ever-changing President putting his fingerprints on discord. He upset the proceedings on Friday, a few weeks after he stabbed Senators Lindsey Graham and Dick Durbin in the back and asked Senators Tom Cotton and David Perdue to lie for him. What all legislators have discovered is the famous self-proclaimed negotiator is not trust worthy. If you do so, it is at your own peril.

I will not be surprised if we have more school shootings in the near future. I will not be surprised if the British parliament decides against Brexit. And, I will sadly not be surprised if one of the leader of Norh Korea and United States does something too provocative. On the school shootings and North Korea issue, I hope I am dead wrong. On the former, with our gun laws, it is very hard to stop a dedicated individual shooter. On the latter, I am not confident that judgment can temper ego with respect to these two leaders.

 

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Too many questions and not enough answers

While I should be upbeat about the 105th consecutive month of economic growth in the US, the still very high stock values in the market on an uptick since January 2009 and the historically low unemployment rate, I know that too many folks are not feeling the love from this growth. But, I want to set this issue aside for now and just ask some “why” questions as I am beyond frustrated with our failure to address too many issues.

Why can’t our so-called leaders address our never ending gun violence in the US? Yesterday’s tragedy will happen again, just like what was predicted following the last one a few weeks ago. Our so-called leaders are too busy trying to keep their job and need to do their job. It is more than a gun issue, but we need to do something about various causes. Our GOP friends like to say it is a mental health issue, but then try to repeal the ACA and not encourage the expansion of Medicaid. And, Congress permitted last year folks on Social Security disability for mental health reasons to be added back to eligible gun buying rolls.

However, it is a gun access issue as well and the majority of Americans support background checks on all sales and elongated waiting periods. I would do more, but these are “no-brainers.” Yet our spineless Congress and President will not act. Part of my thoughts and prayers are for our leaders to grow a backbone and do something. We need not worry about foreign terrorists as our domestic terrorists do just fine without them in killing innocent Americans.

Why do we fail to act on Russia interfering with our democracy? The leaders of our intelligence agencies testified under oath to the Senate Intelligence Committee that not only did the Russians influence our 2016 election, they are continuing to sow seeds of discord driving Americans apart, and will influence the 2018 election. Yet, the President does not want to talk about it and did not extend the Congress approved sanctions on Russia two weeks ago. I would add that Congressman Nunes who is the head of the House Intelligence Committee and author of a memo that has been criticized by the FBI as inaccurate is refusing to call for a similar briefing under oath. It is surmised he is fearful of the same leaders disparaging the veracity of his memo. Is it not the job of the committee to get a briefing or should we just ask Sean Hannity to do it?

Why does are debt problem not elicit more reaction from the public? My former GOP party seemingly no longer cares about the deficit and debt since we have a Republican President. We have made our massive debt problem worse with the last two major pieces of legislation, but it does not seem to matter to the public or these so-called leaders. Both parties are to blame, but taxpayers will be left holding the bag as we have further mortgaged our future to heat up a good economy. It makes no sense, unless you look at this through a donor’s lens, which is the real reason for the tax cuts.

Why do we allow EPA DIrector Scott Pruitt to lie so much about climate change without repercussion, echoing the lines of his boss? Like the debt, our so-called leaders are ignoring a growing problem. It would be nice if they helped, but Pruitt and Trump are being left at the kids’ table, while the grown-ups move forward. Fortunately, the cities, states, universities and companies are moving forward with renewable energy and conservation measures. The renewable cost is more comparable to fossil fuel cost and they do not leave a negative footprint. Plus, when the present value costs of environmental degradation, clean-up and risk are factored in, renewables are cheaper. We could do so more with federal leverage, but at least the President has galvanized other to act since he won’t.

These issues are four of several that need to be addressed, but are not. Our democracy and planet our under attack. These should not be partisan issues. I am independent former Republican voter and these are representative of the issues I am trying to increase awareness of. Ask your legislators what they plan to do about them. If they do not respond or respond to another question, find out who is running against them. A good thing created by this President is very qualified people will be running for more offices.These are real issues. Let’s work on addressing them.

 

 

Bless his heart or God love him, we are all imperfect

There are two expressions that either precede or follow a phrase where someone’s imperfections are mentioned. A Southern minister once told a group that “Bless his heart” is used to sand over a more offensive indictment. In other parts of the country, “God love him” would fill that role.

“She does not have the sense to get out of her own way, bless her heart,” someone might say. “He is not the sharpest knife in the drawer, God love him,” another might add. Invariably, the author of the quote would have their own imperfections.

We are an imperfect lot, all of us. Mark Twain famously said, “Common sense is not all that common.” Having been a manager of people and a HR consultant, one of the observations a colleague made sticks with me. “Every employee thinks they are above average, but that cannot be true.” If you contrast the self-grading performance to that of managers or peers, the self-grading would tend to be higher.

So, maybe we should use “Bless my heart,” when we self-reflect. “I need to do better at giving people the benefit of the doubt, bless my heart.” Or, “I need to not be critical of something I know little about or without knowing the context it was offered, God love me.”

Let me close with a great lesson from Dr. Wayne Dyer, the late, renowned self-improvement speaker. He used a term to “defend the absent.” So, if he was in a conversation which went in a direction of running someone down, he would defend the person’s actions since they were not here to defend themselves. “You know that does not sound like something (that person) might say,” he would interject.

We are all imperfect, bless our hearts. Let’s do better to listen to each other and understand points of view and the context in which they are offered. I am reminded of a Black man who convinced KKK members to turn in their robes – he did so by asking questions and listening to the answers. What a novel idea!

Strange definition of good men

Someone famous has come to the defense of two men, in essence, claiming each is admirable or a good man. While defending people is normally a good quality, choosing to defend these men, and being relatively silent on women they impacted shows a lack of judgment, ethic and empathy. Saying good things only about the accused and not the alleged victims or the issue shows a tone deafness to women who come forward.

These two men are accused of domestic violence against their three ex-wives. Rob Porter had two restraining orders against him from each of his two wives, Colbie Holderman and Jennifer Willoughby. So, two judges thought the claims of the women were valid so as to issue such an order. David Sorenson was accused by his ex-wife, Jessica Corbett, of being verbally and physically abusive. These accusations were shared with the FBI, which is important, as lying to the FBI is a crime.

The fact these two men were still awaiting security clearance to serve in the White House is important. A boss might ask of the FBI, “Why is this taking so long? Is there a problem?” Or, per some news reports, they may have been aware much earlier. But, the story goes beyond these two men and to two other men – John Kelly and this famous man, Donald Trump. They have both botched this mess and, instead of acting as leaders, they are relatively silent on the victims or what the two men are accused of.

The President did not say one word about the victims on Friday or the alleged heinous act of Porter, choosing only to defend Porter and wish him well. Then, even after the rightful push back, he doubled down on Saturday using different words to say the same thing. The closest he got to the victims was to call the accusations “some true and some false.” The other sad story is Kelly’s reaction and concern over when he knew. Kelly is supposed to be the grown-up in the room, but this is yet another time when he has said or done less than thoughtful things, just like his tempestuous boss.

At least the Vice President gave recognition over his concerns over the actions and the victims. One can defend someone, but not condone the actions and support the victims. Domestic violence experts note it is not uncommon for an abuser to make up for (or hide) his heinous actions by being over-the-top pleasant to others in the work place. So, Porter can be a great guy to have on your team, but be a criminal abuser at home. Domestic violence is all about control, so the abuse is not just physical, it is mental.

As for the President, I view this as a proxy for defending himself, as everything goes back to him and his fragile ego. He has been accused by 19 women of sexual misconduct. He has had numerous affairs, one of which he financially settled before the election. His first wife accused him of raping her in divorce court testimony, but later recanted. And, he would be his worst defense if ever put on trial as he has admitted to recurring sexual misconduct on at least three occasions, the most blatant of which is the Access Hollywood tape.

And, in the past few years, here is a summary of whom he has chosen to defend and not defend. He chose to defend Judge Roy Moore accepting his truth over the teenage girls (now women) whom he sexually harassed, stalked and assaulted. He chose to defend former Fox News President Roger Ailes who was alleged of sexual misconduct where settlements were reached and was eventually fired by his Board. The same support was given to Fox pundit Bill O’Reilly, who also settled claims with several women who accused him.

Trump described all of these accused in varying ways as good men. Yet, one man he did not defend was a prisoner of war and Senator, who he denigrated as “not a hero because he was captured.” He did not defend and denigrated two Gold Star parents who lost their child in war as they dared criticize him for not knowing what the constitution was all about. More sadly, I could go on.

Based on this man’s history of sexual misconduct and litigation, I remain incredulous he was elected President of the United States. His five biographers noted before the election, do not think this man will change and all of sudden become Presidential. When he slips up and does something that is such, it is actually newsworthy. Defending people is one thing, but not tolerating what they are accused of and giving credence to the victims’ claims is essential. Porter may be a good guy to you, but two judges thought he had to be restrained from seeing his wives.

Note: In the volunteer work I have done with working homeless families, about 1/3 of our clients lost their home as a result of a domestic violence situation. DV is all about control. If you know of anyone who cannot explain bruises or is missing family events on short notice or confides in you, encourage them to get help and find a way to get out. The abuser will not change, as the success rate of such is low.

Thursday Thumbnails

Happy Thursday. With some rambling thoughts, I decided to throw down a few thumbnail comments below for your digestion.

While I am elated that a bipartisan compromise was reached in the US Senate to possibly end these budget kick-the-can exercises, I must confess concerns that it would increase the debt. Yet, it frustrates me just as much to see members of the Freedom Caucus appear high and mighty against the effort after many of them voted for a tax bill to increase the debt by $1.5 trillion. That is what we call hypocrisy. Nonetheless we are avoiding the looming problem as the debt and interest cost build.

I must confess being tickled at the US President for fussing at the stock market saying it is not reacting well to good news. It reminds of a toddler fussing at the tide for washing his sandcastle away. The stock market is reacting to concerns over inflation and rising interest rates, as well as pulling back on some of the euphoria that had been baked in. My guess is the tide will erode a little more of the sandcastle before settling at a lower level. Less funny was the President inviting a government shutdown if Congress does not fund his wall.

I am delighted Chancellor Angela Merkel has reached an agreement to form a government in Germany. A coalition between her Christian Democrstic Union and the Social Democrats would result. The negative is it would leave the Alternative for Germany as the opposition party giving more voice to their zealous nationalism. Her leadership is needed there, but even moreso around the globe with the United States retrenching from its role with its tempestuous leader at the helm. She and Emmanuel Macron will be the leaders of a more global construct.

If you have not seen “The Post,” with Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks, please do so. The story is about the consternation as to whether The Washington Post should publish articles about The Pentagon Papers after The New York Times was forbidden to do so after its first set of articles. But, the story goes deeper as it is about a female publisher, Kay Graham, who stood up to everyone (all men) telling her she would be a fool for publishing the articles as she took her company public. She supported her editor, Ben Bradlee and they won their Supreme Court case advocating the freedom of the press. The similarities between the demonizing words used by Nixon and Trump against the press are striking. An interesting sidebar is while this debate was going on, a little break-in at The Watergate Hotel occurred.

That is all for this Thursday. I hope our Congress reaches a deal and keeps the government open. Next up DACA.

While we were distracted, look what oozed in through the keyhole

On December 5, 2017, the Department of Labor under the guidance of the self-proclaimed populist President offered proposed regulations that would affect tipped employees. The 60 day comment period just expired, so unless the push back was convincing this proposal may become regulation. The proposal unwinds an Obama regulation which prohibits an employer from garnishing tips from workers who make at least the $7.25 minimum wage.

It should be noted that restaurant workers have a lesser minimum wage of only $2.13 which has been in place for twenty plus years. They can be paid an hourly wage this low, provided their tip income brings their total hourly pay to $7.25. As of May, 2017, the average combined wage and tip income for restaurant workers was $11.82 per hour.

In essence, the proposed regulation would allow an employer to garnish the extra tips above a total wage rate of $7.25. Now, the employer could be altruistic and reallocate this tip income to all workers, such as the cooks and buspeople (those that clean off the tables). This could also include the tipped worker who would receive a reallocated portion, but less than the direct tips garnished.

Yet, a very troubling part of the proposal is the employer could keep the tips and not reallocate them to workers. It is noted therein that the tips could be made for structural improvements or to reduce menu prices. Note, this is a low margin business, so it would not be a leap to see more than a few employers not reallocate all or any of the money. This is especially concerning within an industry where some managers exploit all and harass female workers (note read “Nickeled and Dimed in America” by Barbara Ehrenreich on working in minimum wage jobs that perpetuate poverty).

Per an article in The Washington Post (see link below), “‘There is no way to do a good face estimate and maintain the fiction that this rule isn’t terrible for workers,’ said Heidi Shierholz, who previously served as chief economist for the Labor Department, in a conference call on Thursday arranged by EPI.”

Many things concern me about this. If the employer were made to reallocate the garnished tips to other workers including the affected worker, then it would be more understandable as an employment term. A worker could then decide to work elsewhere if they felt they could make more there. It should be noted that in some cities that are phasing up to a $15.00 per hour minimum, some restaurants are going without any tipping, but that is understood beforehand and communicated to patrons.

The troubling part is the employer being able to choose to keep some or all of the money, provided the below market minimum wage is used. Help me understand how this helps those masses of people who voted for a man to make their lot in life better. Coming on the heels of other changes that have been made to favor Wall Street, such as the Tax Bill, this President does not look very much like a Main Street man.

What are your thoughts? Have you ever worked in a restaurant?

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/posteverything/wp/2017/12/21/the-trump-administration-wants-to-let-employers-control-workers-tips-an-interview-with-heidi-shierholz/?utm_term=.ce1e8158cb54

And the band played on

Earlier this week, a fifteen year old decided that he should bring a gun to school in Marshall County, Kentucky. Two teens are dead and 18 more are wounded. Less noticed is that there were 81 other shooting incidents that same day in America leaving 28 dead and 40 wounded per the LA Times.

Per the New York Times, the Marshall County shooting was the eleventh on school grounds just this year, with three occurring the very same week in Winston-Salem, NC, New Orleans, LA and Italy, TX, Just toward the end of last year, there were shootings at the following high schools:

– 9/13/2017: Freeman High School in Rockford, WA where a 15 year old killed one and wounded three students.

– 9/20/2027: Mattoon High School in Mattoon, IL where a 14 year old wounded one student.

– 12/7/2017: Aztec High School in Aztec, NM where a 21 year old former student killed three students.

The two horrific shooting tragedies last year at a church in Texas and concert in Las Vegas were not enough to elicit action – now isn’t the time to make knee jerk actions we were told by serious minded leaders in the pocket of the NRA. I am still dismayed that after Sandy Hook Elementary shooting which killed twenty-six, now was not the time was said then as well.

Well, let me ask a simple question. When is the time? How many children, teens and adults have to die for it to be time. The LA Times reports that 60% of Americans want  gun laws to be stricter. An Elon Univeristy survey a couple of years ago pegged universal background checks and elongated waiting periods at even higher rates of preference by Americans.

To be brutally frank, we are well passed time. For those who give the standard NRA fed response that certain changes would not stop certain crimes, the answer is “obviously doing nothing isn’t preventing them either.” Politicians it is time to stop worrying about keeping your job and start doing your job. We need leaders to think  more like parents and grandparents and less like politicians scared of lobbyists.