Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters

I have always appreciated when excellent word smithing matches up with equally marvelous music. And, the pairing need not come from one person, as Elton John and Bernie Taupin demonstrated time and again.

One of their clever songs came off John’s 1972 “Honky Cat” album. “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters” is John’s matching Taupin’s direct lyrics about a time in New York City, when it was less safe than it is today. The story is Taupin heard a gun shot outside his hotel room and penned a song to reflect his angst. John wrote sad, but reminiscent music which he sings so well.

Here is the middle portion of the song including its famous chorus.

“This Broadway’s got
It’s got a lot of songs to sing
If I knew the tunes I might join in
I’ll go my way alone
Grow my own, my own seeds shall be sown, in New York City

Subway’s no way for a good man to go down
Rich man can ride and the hobo he can drown
And I thank the Lord for the people I have found
I thank the Lord for the people I have found

While Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters
Sons of bankers, sons of lawyers
Turn around and say good morning to the night
For unless they see the sky
But they can’t and that is why
They know not if it’s dark outside or light”

Several references stand out. The commuters of all persuasions not knowing if it is dark or light. While they may have Mona Lisa painted smiles or the hypertension of a Mad Hatter, they do feel safety in numbers or in a cadre of friends who serve as a port in the storm.

The other reference is to Broadway which offers a glitzier image of New York, a polished apple, so to speak. New York has been reborn, but there was a time when the city needed its underbelly to match the hype. It took a lot of effort through leadership and consistency but is once again quite the destination. I am reminded of the story of a paint crew who would paint over graffiti overnight, then do it again. The consistent effort was symbolic revealing more than an attention to detail,

Maybe we should update the song to reflect our Mona Lisa smiles and Mad Hatter hypertension on social media.

The Bail Project

This week on PBS Newshour, Robin Steinberg, the Executive Director of The Bail Project discussed their mission. A former public defender, Steinberg established The Bail Project to combat mass incarceration of people who could not afford bail.

In America, she noted that 75% of those incarcerated are there because they could not afford bail. They either pleaded guilty to a crime of which they were accused or are awaiting trial. Bail was created as a form of release, but it is not a choice for far too many. Steinberg said you don’t want innocent people in jail for crimes they did not commit.

She added in our country we believe people are innocent until proven guilty and that should not depend on race or income. So, her organization posts bail for these individuals, so they can be home preparing for their trial. She added the money is returned once they stand trial and could be used again.

This idea has merit and is both sustainable and replicable. We already have over-crowded prisons coupled with many prison guard vacancies. Avoiding prison will help avoid recidivism and not expose innocent people to more hardened criminals.

Looking at their Board of Directors, I noticed three names: actor Danny Glover, singer/ songwriter John Legend and billionaire businessman Richard Branson. Hopefully, their notoriety and support will help others become more aware.

Isn’t he CUTE – my four favorite Trump lies

Since my memory is so poor and the lies told by Donald Trump in this campaign season so prevalent, I resorted to the use of an acronym CUTE to remind me of my four favorite Trump lies. These are not necessarily his best ones and with a track record at year-end 2015 of telling the truth only 24% of the time, there are too many to choose from.

I mention these as people will tell me that they are for Trump because he tells the truth or says what we want to say. As for the latter, I would grow concerned if you really wanted to say some of the bigoted and xenophobic stuff he babbles on about. As for the truth, based on his history and campaign statements, I would not equate what The Donald says with the truth. So, if the opportunity presents itself at a future cocktail party, remember the 24% figure first. But, if you need a few fun examples, here are four CUTE Trumpisms which are not truthful.

C = Crime: To inflame a crowd, The Donald said 81% of white homicides are committed by black assailants. Actually, the percentage is more the opposite as the FBI notes that it is only 15%. I think this exemplifies Trump at his worst as it is intended to enrage a strident fan base and blame a group of people. There is a reason so many white hate groups, like the KKK and Nazi party, endorse The Donald.

U = Unemployment: The Donald said the current unemployment rate of 4.9% is not correct. He heard it was more like 30% and one report said 42%. This number is published monthly by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It is 4.9%. When you look at underemployment, it is higher, but nowhere near 30% or 42%. It should be noted if unemployment were that high, we would be in a severe depression.

T = Taxes: He has said this numerous times including the New Hampshire debates, where no one corrected him. The Donald said we are the most taxed country in the world. Not even close.  Per one measure ratioing taxes to GDP, we are 27th out of the top 30 wealthiest nations. Using a measure of taxes per capita, we are 17th. In fact, per the Paris based Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development, we are well below the average taxes per GDP rate for their 33 surveyed countries.

E = Environment: His most colorful lie may be the most ludicrous thing said by any candidate, including some of Ben Carson’s inane statements. The Donald said global warming is a hoax invented by the Chinese to steal our jobs. Really? I guess those 97% of scientists, 195 countries, and every major science organization who follows these issues, are all wet. I guess since Trump said it, we don’t have to worry about it. Rather than quote facts, let me ask if it is a hoax, why is Exxon-Mobil being sued by the New York State Attorney General for misrepresenting to investors and shareholder the impact of climate change on their business? Why does Duke Energy factor climate change impact on their water reservoir evaporation loss models?

The sidebar story is there is a reason some of the GOP candidates are reluctant to call Trump out on these untruths. The reason is they are an extreme or even mainstream version of the narrative the GOP wants Americans to hear. The last statement on global warming is ludicrous, but not too different from other candidates who deny climate change. John Kasich is a lone wolf in this slate of GOP candidates who notes the real concern of man-influenced climate change. No one corrected Trump on the most taxed country in the world comment, as that is what the GOP wants Americans to believe. The other two fall into the category, as well.

As I have said  before, our world is complex. It is hard enough to govern when we use factual information. What we don’t need is people advocating stuff that either they know is a lie to gain votes or don’t know which is equally bad. Given his track record of making stuff up, my money is on the former. And, that is no way to govern.