Sunday sermon-ettes, the sequel

Good Sunday morning all and enjoy the day. A few tidbits have been bouncing around in my head, so I will commit them to writing for your review and critique. The tidbits are light on religious tone.

Guns and butter: For some reason, in the US we spend more time discussing protecting the right to own a 34th assault weapon than feeding 34 people. We have far too many food deserts in our country where the closest food is a convenience store. Far too many in our country are undernourished. Yet, pick up any local paper on any day of the week, and you will find multiple gun killing stories. Better gun governance is essential, but it is a nonstarter with the NRA who is more interested in gun sales. I think our priorities are off.

Kicking poor people in the teeth: Along those same lines, our President is pushing the Republicans in the Senate to vote on whether to kick 22 million Americans in the teeth or 34 million, many of whom are in poverty or near poverty. It should be noted the President said he would not touch Medicaid. I guess that detail escapes him in his desire to have a photo op of him signing something.

Brexit is a hard pill to swallow: The word Brexit sounds like one of those new fangled drugs to cure something you did not know you should worry about. I think voters were not told the whole story and many are wishing they had a do over. As foretold, the financial companies who based their EU regional business in London, are making definitive plans to move. Bank of America just announced a move to Dublin, Citigroup is moving folks to Frankfurt and other places, and Japanese banks are doing likewise. While I  understand the desire to fully govern your future, the UK is harming its future growth. That is not just my opinion, but that of financial experts.

Shrinking to greatness is not a good strategy: Speaking of financial growth, limiting relationships with other countries is not conducive to growth. And, a venture capitalist noted that what creates jobs is customers. Plus, when we discuss global trade, we need to reflect the whole picture and that is the foreign owned companies who make things here with American workers. Why? Selling big durable products is more cost effective and less risky if they are not shipped from abroad. Just ask BMW, Toyota, Husqvarna, Michelin, Mercedes, Volvo, Mitsibishi, etc. about their plants here in the US.

The bible says many things: There is a minister who upsets a few applecarts by preaching that the bible should not be cherry-picked to support points of view. His obvious example is in Genesis where God tells Adam and Eve to go forth and multiply and then gets mad at them when they like being naked with each other. The question is how did they know how to go forth and multiply? The minister’s premise is we should take away the overarching messages that are taught therein and remember the context of when the bible was written.

So, on that note, go enjoy your day, whether you choose to practice your multiplication tables or not.

 

Around the world in one hundred eighty days

The US President has just completed his first six months in office and his 180 days have been a lengthy and chaotic affair. Each week has seen bizarre story after another and, just when it looks like we can go no lower, the President can slip under an even lower limbo bar.

The sad part is he not only affects the US, he has created an untrustworthy relationship with pretty much every leader around the globe. Even leaders who are on his side likely do not trust the man as far as they could throw him. Conservative writer Ross Douthat wrote recently, “as soon as you give Donald Trump the benefit of the doubt, he will disappoint you.”

A recent Pew Research Poll of 37 countries said trust in the President has fallen from 64% with Obama to 22% with Trump, a fall of 42 points. Think about that. Pulling out of agreements like the Paris Climate Change Accord and having to be shamed into fully supporting NATO reveal a man whose words do not mean that much. As a result, neither does our word as a country.

This is a key reason we try to honor earlier commitments. But, with Trump saying everything done before is a “disaster,” he feels he has to prove it by destroying it. As a result, other leaders may choose to work with more dependable countries.

Finally, when he layers in his destructive tweets, he seems to forget or not care that his tweets maybe contradictory to earlier statements made in person with another leader. The sophomoric tweeting is not enabling good governance.

So, until he is removed from office, we will have to suffer with the world. God only knows what the next 180 days will bring.

Gone to seed

We have a poverty problem in the United States. Too many of our declining middle class did not rise to the next strata, falling instead, to near poverty and into poverty. Yet, we do not talk about this problem enough. We have let their ladders out of poverty, go to seed along with their environment.

Poverty should be succinctly defined, as it is often misdefined along with simplistic diagnoses. Quite simply, poverty is the lack of money. The causes are many and complex, so the solutions must be holistic.

Some like to say it is due to lack of virtue. Some like to say it is due to lack of work ethic, while others may claim it is due to drug use or alcoholism. When I work with people in poverty, I witness hard working, often pious people. I see people with a lesser propensity to do drugs than general society.

If we recognize the simple definition of poverty as lack of money, we can focus our attention on providing ladders out of poverty. We can invest in the communities that have gone to seed, both with economic and social capital. We can start with redeveloping depleted assets. The term coined with a successful program in Atlanta is ABCD – Asset Based Comminuty Development.

ABCD could focus on repairing and not closing a community school, recognizing the during and after school value it offers. Or, it could be redeveloping a gone to seed golf course or empty textile or tobacco mill. Or, it could be repurposing a mall to be a school, church, charity or governmental building. Replacing or refurbishing blighted assets makes a huge difference.

Coupled with these investments must be education and career development, or social investments. Jobs and careers are scarce in too many areas. Opportunities must be introduced and nurtured to make them sustainable. STEM education, apprenticeships, trades skills are part of an all of the above tactical strategy,

But, we must be mindful of four negative trends in areas that have gone to seed – crime, opioids, food deserts  and single families. Community policing by people living in the community is key. Targeted help with the opiod epidemic is important. Better food choices must be available as they may not have a grocery market. And, we must have holistic sex education and access to planned parenthood tools and birth control.

What we cannot have is kicking tens of millions off health care insurance. We cannot reduce an already minuscule food stamps program. We need to think about improving the minimum wage.

These are just a few ideas. But, first we need to address what people in poverty lack – money.

 

 

 

Tuesday’s Gone with the Wind

With a shout out to one of my favorite Lynyrd Skynyrd’s songs “Tuesday’s Gone with the Wind,” here are a few tidbits for this Tuesday.

It should not be lost on anyone that two of the biggest players in wind energy are two of the largest manufacturing companies in the world – Siemens and GE. With Iowa at almost 1/3 of its electricity provided by wind and oil rich Texas at 13% and the largest US wind energy state, this is much more than a breeze and just shy of a gale.

What the ranchers and farmers in the Midwest and in other areas have learned, is leasing their land to wind mills earns annual income and let’s them continue to use the land. In North Carolina, for example, one farmer leased his farm for eleven wind mills for annual income of $55,000. With the variability of profit margin associated with working the land, this adds some stability.

Thinking of a different kind of wind, the Senate leader is a particularly blowhard. Now, that the third effort to revise the Senate ACA repeal and replace has fallen apart, he is still reluctant to take the more appropriate path. Rather than working with all members of the Senate following normal procedure for legislation, he now is talking about a full repeal vote, without replacement. Not only is that malfeasance in my view, it runs contrary to the wishes of most Americans. The fact the President suggested it does not improve the veracity of the idea.

Folks, please pay attention to the good and bad things happening. We can no longer assume our elected leaders will act with the necessary diligence and stewardship.

 

 

 

Ides of July – the heat is on

Summer is in full force here in the Northern Hemisphere. If I don’t get my yard work started before Noon, it is not happening. I worked through 12:30 pm today and am a worn out camper.

Speaking of heat, the Senior and Junior Donald are feeling the heat right now. More than a few conservative reporters, pundits and legislators are concerned over Junior’s zeal to collude with Russia and his evasive storytelling. As Charles Krauthammer noted in his column, the ability for Senior to claim this is a media and Democrat witchhunt is now over.

Continuing with the theme of heat, a large chunk of Antarctica sea ice fell into the ocean. The fact that it was the size of Rhode Island should be a wake up call. Melting sea ice won’t directly increase sea level, but the buffer it provided to land ice is gone. And, as land ice melts, it will become a problem for sea levels. The best description I heard is the sea ice melting is like losing the white edge of your finger nail exposing the more painful parts.

Finally, please provide more heat on Republican Senators before they pass one of the more unpopular and damaging pieces of legislation to repeal and replace the ACA. Not only will the CBO score this poorly, but it is opposed by the National Governors Association, the American Hospital Association, Blue Cross and Blue Shield, the American Cancer Society and AARP to name a few. I encourage these Senators to work with Democrats to improve the ACA, which is the preferred choice of the American public.

If the Republicans pass this into law, they have not seen the heat it will bring on their party. This law will harm Americans and the party who passes it.

Notable Notaries

The other day presented an opportunity to witness a terrific slice of Americana. “Witness” is the operative word, as my sister and I needed to sign nine closing documents in front of a notary and two witnesses, who also happened to be notaries all of whom worked at our bank.

What fascinated me as I was driving to send by Fedex the documents to the attorney, is the realization of the demographic make up of our legal witnesses. While all female, one was an American whose accent reflected an Eastern Europe upbringing. The second was an American of Mideastern heritage, while the third was an African-American.

To me, this moment of reflection made me proud to be an American. Our melting pot of immigrants makes our country a great place. To be hyper-critical of immigrants and people who do not look like you do tears at the fabric that makes us great.

For our President to convey a message that some people are more American than others is hogwash. Another’s rights are just as important as mine, not more or less. That is what makes America great not running down others who some feel are less a citizen than they are.

The Great Russian Rationalization

As the retreating lines in the sand continue to be drawn with the lying, denial and story changing, there is an interesting process underway. As the Russian meddling story gets closer to the White House, more than a few so-called news sources and supporters of the President are doing the “Great Russian Rationlization.” Fortunately, there is growing number of conservatives who are realizing the President has been less than truthful to counterbalance the rationalization effort.

Yet, these rationalizing discussions are increasing because of the growing credibility of the Russian meddling story. With the Donald Trump, Jr. emails and meeting with a Russian attorney and investigation into Jared Kushner’s digital data mining role, the story should no longer be downplayed as a witchhunt, the favorite dismissal line of the President. So, these so-called news outlets are openly discussing that collusion may not be a crime, this meeting is just bad judgment, this is not conspiracy, treason and so on.

Attorneys, news agencies and supporters can talk all they want, but if Ronald Reagan were alive, he would rake these folks over the coals. A Watergate prosecutor said on NPR earlier this week, this could be construed as a conspiracy with a foreign entity to accept value in violation of the Federal Elections Campaign Act. The contention by Junior that no services were proffered is moot in the mind of the prosecutor as he went to learn about such.

It should also be noted that Senior’s FBI Director nominee, Christipher Wray said yesterday under oath to a Senate committee that the investigation of Russian meddling is not a “witchhunt” directly refuting the President’s assertion that it is. He supports the effort of Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller who he holds in  high regard and calls a “straight shooter.”

Setting aside the Great Russian Rationalization, here is what we know.

– the President is on public record for firing the FBI Director over the “Russian thing.”

– the testimony under oath by former FBI Director James Comey spoke of the President’s coercion to drop looking into the issues related to Michael Flynn.

– the President and several of his team have been confirmed to have lied about Russian meetings during the campaign and transition leading to the firing of Michael Flynn, the recusal of Jeff Sessions from the “Russian thing,” and Junior confirming with his own words that he lied several times about the meeting. Further, the President lied about no one having contact with the Russians.

– the changing stories as information filters out. I refer to this earlier as drawing retreating lines in the sand. Call me crazy, but this gives me the impression of people with something to hide. I would add do not assume Senior or Junior are telling the truth now.

Yet, four things convince me Trump was more than an unwitting pawn in the Russian meddling. He has been embarassingly nonchalant about a major crime against the US by Russia. He has been overtly friendly with the Russian leaders in meetings believing them over the advice of his intelligence community. He has numerous business and financial ties to Russian investors and lenders. And, per six authors who wrote about Trump’s history, the President has a very difficult time with the truth.

My strong advice to legislators who support this President “no matter what” is to remember they swore an oath to the United States of America. And, do they really want to be remembered for blindly supporting a man whose word means so little? To be brutally frank, people can perfume this pig all they want, but to me it looks and smells like conspiratorial acts may been committed. One thing is for certain, this story will not be going away.