Wednesday walkabout – October 9, 2019

It looks like a good day for a walkabout. As I walk, I will ponder a few random musings.

I said this then, but will reiterate it now. The five states who canceled their Republican presidential primaries may want to reconsider. A poll reported by The Washington Post noted an increase to 28% of Republicans who support an impeachment inquiry. And, 18% of Republicans support the removal of Donald Trump as president. That is almost 1 out of 5 Republicans.

For those trying to figure out Brexit, our friend Jill has had three guest British bloggers (Roger, Colette and Frank) who have offered detailed summaries of Brexit. Their perspectives and context are excellent. If Brexit moves forward, please join me in a wish for a planned exit. A “no-deal” Brexit will add many challenges to a complex process. Politicians who hope it will go well should be remlnded hope is not a strategy. See below for three links.

Americans are a largely uninformed body of people. We care too much about entertainment and sports to delve into global news or even domestic news for that matter. So, the news we are screwing over Kurdish people in Syria is probably not registering with many. Simply, the Kurdish forces were the “tip of the spear” to defeat the ISIS caliphate. Now, we are abandoning them because the president lacks an understanding of that history. The Kurds are an enemy of the Turkish leadership, so it is a delicate issue. The dilemma is the president lacks the delicate touch.

Greta Thunberg continues to impress people across America and the world, while unsettling climate change deniers. She has toured America popping up at a climate change student strike in Iowa, then meeting with Native Americans regarding their pipeline concerns. Kim Kardashian is outspoken with her admiration. This is informational only because of her sphere of influence. Yet, another denier made a tongue in cheek threat to this sixteen year old advocate. Regardless of one’s position, threatening anyone, much less a 16 year old, is beyond poor form.

Threatening name-calling, labeling, and denigrating are short-cuts to people who don’t have a good argument. They are code words to influence less informed people. So, my advice is when you hear or read such, dig deeper, especially focusing on the opposing argument.

https://jilldennison.com/2019/10/08/-the-brexit-conundrum-colettes-view/

🇬🇧 The Brexit Conundrum — Roger’s View

🇬🇧 The Brexit Conundrum — Frank’s View

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Wednesday walkabout once again

It is a Greenwich time Wednesday, so I thought I would meander over several paths on my walkabout. So, get out your hiking boots and let’s go for a walk.

On one path, I thought of the passionate advocacy of the young kids over insufficient climate change action. Greta Thunberg is a hero to our planet and her efforts should be applauded. A couple of months ago a conservative Australian pundit decided to attack her person making fun of her having Asperger’s syndrome. He was roundly and rightfully criticized.

It was followed up yesterday by a Fox News guest speaker who equated Thunberg’s Asperger’s with a mental illness and was roundly and rightfully denounced even by the Fox network. Then there is the US president who likes to denigrate people tweeting “tongue-in-cheek” how happy she looked. Many of us had predicted the president would act true to form because he simply cannot help himself from picking on critics. And, he called himself the “Chosen One” recently. Chosen by whom for what?

Down another path, I thought of poor Boris being ruled against by the UK high court for canceling parliament for so long before Brexit. Right now, the UK is so ill-prepared for Brexit, that who would think canceling parliament could even resemble a good idea. Yet, while Boris is short on doing his homework, he is never bashful. Let me say this for the umpteenth time, Brexit is not the best of ideas in the view of many financial people, but I understand the rationale. Yet, please do not let people that don’t know any better convince the UK a “no-deal Brexit” will be OK. It will be about as big a disaster as can be imagined. Brits should be worried that the US president thinks it will be OK as he is as studious as Boris.

Moving on to another path, the US president does not think it is wrong to try and strong arm a country for dirt on an opponent. He also does not think it is wrong to avoid the whistleblower rules. Both of these are crimes. I will not be surprised to learn that the departures of Dan Coats and Sue Gordon, two well thought of Intelligence leaders, in August are related. When people say the Mueller report cleared Trump, it did not. He obstructed justice and would have done more if some folks followed his orders. He continued to obstruct Congress after then. Yet, the Mueller report also showed a lot of poor action and behavior on his staff in courting Russian officials. Mueller did not delve far enough, but I feel he would have found more. But, what he did find showed sloppiness that was easily taken advantage of.

As I said last week to staff of Republican Senators, what will the Senator have to rationalize next week, next month or next year about the president? And, what may have scared them the most is when I said he or she won’t know if the sin has already been committed or will be committed in the future. The whistleblower stuff had already been committed. That should scare the hell out of Republicans. And, should because they have fed this monstrous behavior. The president is a clear and present danger to our democracy, our planet and the Republican party.

 

 

You can’t comb over climate change

“You can’t comb over climate change,” the sign read at the Climate Change strike yesterday. This metaphor speaks volumes about a huge problem that a certain person in leadership continues to hide like thinning hair.

The kids get it. Their passion and acknowledgement of the existential threat to our present and future is even applauded in halls of government. Yet, it shames these legislators who still do not act because their funders tell them not to.

I am both a tree-hugger and a capitalist. I have actually said this to legislators in open forum, which usually draws a chuckle. Yet, i am more than gesting. I left the Republican Party a dozen years ago in large part due to their ostrich-head-in-the-sand stance on climate change. My thesis is I could not be a member of a party that is ignoring the greatest threat facing our planet. There is no Planet B.

The cost of failing to act now will dwarf the cost of action. But, the economics go deeper. The cost of renewable energy is more on par with fossil fuel costs from a production standpoint. When all costs are factored in – acquisition, environmental degradation, transportation, burning, maintenance, health, litigation – the cost of renewables is actually much cheaper than coal and cheaper than natural gas. The dropping costs of renewables continues to drive the increase in their use. Iowa actually gets over 35% of its electricity from wind energy, eg. Even Texas gets over 16% of its electricity from wind.

Being a capitalist, the place for investment is in growth industries, not retrenching ones. Coal has been in demise for the entire decade. Solar jobs are 5X more than coal jobs. And, per the recently passed oil tycoon, T. Boone Pickens, natural gas was needed to buy time before wind and solar decreased in cost. He said this in the first half of this decade.

So, the future financials favor renewables. Yet, then we must add in that climate change thing. We must address the heating planet being worsened by humans. If we don’t, it is more than just our kids we need to worry about. We need to worry about us.

The kids get it. Adults, are you paying attention?

Wednesday walkabout

There are a lot of things to ponder this Wednesday, so let’s go for a walkabout. A young sixteen year old from Sweden has twice spoken candidly with members of the US Congress. Two take aways from Greta Thunberg’s comments:

– do something
– listen to the scientists

Yet, while she has been here, the US president’s head of the EPA, a former coal lobbyist, has rolled back an Obama regulation on clean water and overruled California’s ability to have tougher emissions standards for autos sold there. Call me crazy, but this 60 year old man sides with the 16 year old and the climate scientists.

The US president should thank Boris for taking some of the spotlight away from his inane antics. The UK is headed toward a cliff and Boris is saying follow me as he hits the gas. Brexit will be challenging enough, but a no deal Brexit would be a disaster. The British public should listen to the business community who is sharing its concern. An inability to govern this issue has been evident from the outset.

Somebody blew up oil refineries in Saudi Arabia. Iran is the most likely culprit. It is my guess someone is testing the waters with hawk John Bolton gone. Sadly, we are in this mess because of Trump’s decision to back out of a deal all other parties begged him not to, including US military and intelligence leaders. So, Trump’s building a coalition will be harder with our not listening to allies in the first place.

Finally, I am in the middle of Malcolm Gladwell’s latest book, “Talking to Strangers.” The thesis is we are horrible judges of when strangers are lying to us. Meeting the person actually is detrimental to the effort. A comment I just read is belief is not the absence of doubt; it’s the absence of a sufficient number of reasons to doubt. Fascinating read.

Have a great rest of the week.

A nice thing about our country

Our country is weary of having a person in a leadership position who is seemingly in the eye of every storm. He seems to be the lone constant in personal, political, company, country and media attacks. Even his supporters lament some of his tweeting habits.

Yet, our imperfect country has some nice things going for it. Here are a few thoughts.

– when our leaders do not address our real problems, companies, cities, states and people can step up and do more;
– when the president cannot get out of his own way and then has his people spend time, energy and their integrity defending his inane comments, we can choose to tune him out;
– when the president is untruthful more than he is not, we can choose to not believe a word he says or tweets;
– when leaders rationalize indefensible comments as normative, we can push back on them;
– we can choose to act on conservation, climate change and guns by voting with our feet; companies pay attention. Why? What creates profits and jobs are customers.

To this last point, companies like Google, Amazon, IKEA, Walmart, Facebook, etc. and states like California, Texas, Iowa, North Carolina, etc. are active in renewable energy. Walmart, Dick’s and Albertson’s are stepping up on gun sale restrictions. Even ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell are paying attention on climate change due to shareholder pressure.

If leaders choose not to lead, we can all do more. It sure would be nice if they helped some, too. If they do not, they become less relevant.

And the band played on – letter to the editor

My local newspaper printed my letter to the editor based on the theme of a recent post. Please feel free to adapt and use it, if you agree with the concept.

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I feel like citing the song lyric “and the band played on” in reference to elected leaders ignoring problems which will only get worse. On climate change, environmental degradation, increasing US debt, aging infrastructure, and insufficient gun governance, we have ticking time bombs. The kids get what is needed on climate change, environment and guns. But, debt and infrastructure must also be dealt with. And, not addressing the former makes the latter harder.

These are the questions we must be asking our politicians. If they are evasive or give poor answers, do not vote for them. We don’t need a wall. We need safe bridges and railways.

 

And the band played on

“And the band played on” comes from a powerful protest song called “Ball of Confusion” sung by The Temptations in the late 1960s and written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong. It was also the movie title for a 1993 movie about the slow action to address AIDs during the 1980s..

“And the band played on” is a metaphor pulled from the band continuing to play as the Titanic sank. It is used unflatteringly to address inaction by leadership to address major problems. The Temptations pleaded for action to address inequality, maltreatment of Blacks, the Vietnam War and so on. The movie noted how little the White House cared until they realized that heterosexual people could get AIDs as well.

As of this writing, a sixteen year old girl named Greta Thunberg is stepping onto our shores to address climate change. This young hero began her quest for action last year and became a catalyst for student strikes pleading for action. When her critics encouraged her to be a kid, she said she would love to, but the adults are not addressing this issue, so she said she had to do so, since, her generation will be left with the unsolved problems.

Yet, while she is here to address these issues to the United Nations and those in Washington, the US president is rolling back restrictions on methane and carbon release, which was announced yesterday. Further, the president blew off a G7 meeting to discuss climate change and the burning forests in the Amazon.

This type of action from the US president is what I feared most from his winning the 2016 election. I feared reversal of action on climate change from the federal level and the environment becoming second fiddle. Yet, I must confess the environmental degradation caused by this president and the EPA under the watch of fossil fuel lobbyists Scott Pruitt and Andrew Wheeler has been worse than I expected.

Inaction by this White House would actually be an improvement. On top of announcing the US’ departure from the Paris Climate Change Accord, the rolling back of Obama’s climate plan requirements, deletion  of climate change data from the EPA websites and the forcing out or redeployment of climate change scientists is harmful to our planet and country. We are behind on acting because of similar actions when the second Bush White House was filled with fossil fuel people like Vice President Dick Cheney, including Cheney making sure fracking companies were not exposed to the requirements of the Clean Air Act and Safe Drinking Water Acts (please Google the 2005 Energy Act and Dick Cheney or the Halliburton Loophole).

Fortunately, there are some good things happening in America in spite of this president. Five automakers are ignoring the rollback of increasing MPG requirements under Trump and siding with California’s new requirements. Their thesis is we want younger people to buy our cars, so we better care about the environment because they do. It should be noted that it was announced today that 67% off Republicans between the ages of 18 – 34 believe we must act on climate change. Their leadership can no longer hide on this issue due to fossil fuel funding of their campaigns.

And, other states, cities and companies are addressing climate change with efforts to remove carbon from the air and put less of it there. Wind and solar energy have taken off as costs have declined and other measures like tidal energy, battery storage,  are under way. I wrote recently about these efforts based on the documentary “Ice on Fire.”

The younger generation gets this. And, to be frank, if the Republican Party does not change its paradigm, they may become obsolete. The band can no longer play on. The Titanic is sinking and we must act. I hear criticism about AOC and the Green New Deal. I recognize it is imperfect, but as I tell people, at least it is a plan. We must come together and figure it out. This is far more urgent than politicians are letting on. Please ask them what they plan to do and if they do not answer satisfactorily, do not vote for them. And, please join voices with the young Ms.Thunberg. She should be heeded.