Stories floating in the air

Between the US President and his three prominent spokes people, Sean Hannity, Sarah Huckabee-Sanders and Rudy Guiliani, there are numerous stories about what happened, what was said, what was tweeted, etc. floating around in the air. The mercurial President lives news cycle to news cycle, having the attention span of a child. So, he is prone to say or tweet something that changes a bad news paradigm. The truth is less relevant. Which is germane, as he tells stories like a child. “But, mom what about Joey or Susie. They did it too.”

Trump changes his stories so much, to me the stories are floating around in the air like comic strip bubbles. So, it is truly hard to keep track of his lies. He simply wears people out that they get numb to his prolific lying. He denied it then and denies it now, but of course he was aware about payoffs to women to keep them quiet about his many indiscretions. He, of course, knows about those indiscretions which he also denies. We just need to believe he was giving them money to keep them quiet about something that he said did not happen.

And, he of course, knew everything about Junior’s meeting with the Russians in a building that Trump owns about getting dirt on someone. Throwing dirt is Trump’s modus operandi. I was tickled to see how Sanders defended Trump who has been accused of using animal terms or lack of intellectual prowess to denigrate his African-American critics as racist tactics. Her defense is Trump is an equal opportunity attacker of critics, not using those precise words. In other words, he is jerk to people of all races.

Guiliani says now Trump never talked to James Comey about Michael Flynn. Really? I guess next he will say Flynn never talked to the Russians about a back channel or eliminating the sanctions. Or, Flynn never lied to Mike Pence about so doing, which was the stated reason he was fired. I am still trying to figure out what this doppelganger did with the old Rudy. Rudy used to be well thought of, now he is a barking dog that has a hard time keeping track of the floating stories.

At that might be the best analogy. Trump lies and changes stories so much, it is hard for him and his spokespeople to keep track of the floating stories. To me, that is sad to say about the President of our country. He lies so much, he cannot remember when he has lied and what he said earlier.

To be frank, I do not mind people being more conservative than I am on certain issues (I am actually fiscally conservative, but socially progressive). What I do mind is that conservative people try to rationalize this President, when it is quite apparent that he lies more than he tells the truth. I do mind when they accept as facts whatever Trump says, when he admits to not liking to do homework to know the facts. But, this belief in less than accurate news is precedes Trump, which is a key reason he was able to win them over.

So, my advice is to stick with good news sources. They are the ones that print retractions when they get it wrong and admit to it. Also, start from the following basis point. Do not believe a word the President says and take with a large grain of salt anything anyone on his team says. You will be more right than wrong if you do. As Omarosa said, “in Trump world, everyone lies.” That may be the truest thing she ever said, and she would know.

 

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Do you have standing?

Do you have standing? What does that mean? It is a legal term that asks whether you are personally impacted by what you perceive as a slight.

Before the US Supreme Court ruled that gay marriage was a protected right, it first ruled on California’s Proposition 8. This state law banned gays and lesbians from marrying. What was interesting is a conservative and liberal attorney joined together to fight this injustice. The key part of their argument was do people who marry have any impact on other people? They argued successfully that other folks do not have standing to prevent such marriage.

If what I do with my life does not impact you whatsoever, even though you may not like it, you do not have standing. And, vice versa. I have no standing in what you do, as long as you are not harming me. If you choose to have multiple affairs, marry a lesbian lover, worship as a Muslim, Evangelical or Universalist, or walk around naked inside your house, that is your business. I do not have standing to take legal action about my complaint. It is only when you harm me, that makes it an issue.

I mention this as people who want their freedoms somehow forget this point when they look to deny yours. This is a human shortcoming we must guard against. My rights cannot be more important than another person’s. This is where religious freedom laws often go a bridge too far. They remind me of when African Americans could not eat in a whites only restaurant. They had to go around back and get a to-go order.

When I see the Supreme Court say it is OK to decline service because of religious freedoms, let’s change the equation around and see if it stands up. Could a Muslim bakery refuse to provide a wedding cake to a wedding between a Muslim and a Baptist or interracial couple as these run counter to their religious beliefs. What about a Catholic bakery that refuses to make a wedding cake for a second marriage? What about a gay baker refusing to serve an Evangelical couple who openly advocated against his rights?

Even though the Supreme Court narrowly ruled that the baker could deny service to a gay couple’s wedding, it was a narrow ruling. Yet, did the baker have standing? He was not harmed by the gay couple. Go back to the previous examples to see the slippery slope.

I write this today as a result of the second anniversary of the Charlottesville riots. While groups have a right to peaceful assembly and protest, there is a subtle but important distinction on standing. A white supremacist who advocates against equal rights for non-whites does not have standing. A Black man’s rights do not impact the White man’s. Yet, someone who is protesting that you are advocating against my equal rights does have standing. A white supremacist is infringing on another’s rights.

We all have equal rights. Mine are no more important than yours. And, vice versa.

 

What is this 314 Action?

You do not have to be an engineer to know that 314 with a decimal added after the three is Pi. So, it should not be a surprise to learn that 314 Action has something to do with math or science. What it represents is an attempt to get more scientists elected to office. Their mission statement is below.

“314 Action was founded by members of the STEM community, grassroots supporters and political activists who believe in science. We are committed to electing more STEM candidates to office, advocating for evidence-based policy solutions to issues like climate change, and fighting the Trump administration’s attacks on science.

Why ‘314 Action’? Because Pi is everywhere. It’s the most widely known mathematical ratio both inside and out of the scientific community. It is used in virtually everything we encounter in our daily lives — and like Pi, science is all around us. Too often, legislators choose to ignore science in favor of convenient beliefs or intuition. We are committed to electing more leaders who will use their training as STEM professionals to influence policy-making. Evidence-based reasoning should be the foundation of legislation related to issues like climate change, and gun violence.

314 Action is also devoted to aggressively advocating for a pro-science agenda in Washington, D.C. and in local and state legislatures. We will leverage our network of pro-science advocates to organize and effect change in areas where science is being maligned or disputed. As a unified STEM and pro-science community, we can combat the all-too-common attacks on basic scientific understanding.”

It greatly troubles me that our country is in desperate need of more STEM education and professionals. Yet, the current party in power denigrates scientists who are not supportive of their recommendations. That is more than a tad hypocritical. Under Scott Pruitt, the Environmental Protection Agency has done a great deal to forget the word “Protection” in its name. Several judges have admonished Pruitt’s team efforts for the EPA’s lack of homework and data behind its recommendations. This will likely continue under his successor.

Science matters. Data matters. Scientists endeavor to get it right. They question themselves regarding the veracity of their research and find fault when shortcuts to research were taken. I was listening to NPR earlier this week about the efforts journalists go through to get it right. One said, when you read a source, look how they handle mistakes. Do the admit, correct and make visible the mistakes? If they don’t, find another source. Scientists are like that. I think we could use more than a few in our legislature and other offices.

Below, is a link to their endorsed scientist candidates. This is rather refreshing.

http://www.314action.org/endorsed-candidates-1/

That Jesus saying

That Jesus saying. You know the one I am talking about. In my bible it says something about “do unto others.” What I told my kids quite often is the paraphrase “treat others like you want to be treated.”

We should aspire to be like this, but we are human and fall short of this goal. Often, we recognize this and make amends or feel poorly about ourselves for offensive behavior.

Even when we vehemently disagree with someone, we should approach them the same way we want to be approached. The best way to discuss differences is through reasonable dialogue. Facts help. Listening helps even more. A colleague used to ask “help me understand,” as a way of starting dialogue when he had a hard time understanding where someone was coming from.

We must not emulate the coarse behaviors exhibited by the President of the United States. When we do, truth and civil discourse suffer. This kind of behavior sows seeds of division. It also harms our country damaging our reputation and trustworthiness around the world.

We must not follow the suggestions of Congresswoman Maxine Walters to harass members of the President’s team. That is not how she would want to be treated and is a very slippery slope. And, unless a patron is causing an uproar, service providers should not decline service because they disagree with a patron’s politics. That is also a slippery slope.

As an Independent voter and former member of both parties, neither party has all the good ideas and both have some bad ones. We must listen to each other and work toward solving real problems. We must reach out to our politicians, but do so in a civil way. People can be strident in their opinions without being a jerk. I reach out to leaders often with this modus operandi in mind.

My blogging friends Jill and Gronda published excellent posts on this subject yesterday. I would encourage you to read them. Let me leave with this thought to remember along with Jesus’ powerful words courtesy of an old boss. “You have two ears and one mouth. Use them in that proportion.”

A few more Sunday sermonettes

Happy Sunday. No, I won’t be preaching this morning, but I will be trying my best to speak a few truths.

It easy to blame someone else or some other entity for your troubles. The European Union is not perfect, but has helped many countries through hard times. When they are helpful, country leaders pat themselves on the back. When times are tough, it is nice to have a scapegoat. Relationships are hard work, but countries need to think hard if they want a divorce from the EU before they have the “what do we do now moment?”

Speaking of relationships, the man in the White House tends to have transactional ones. A pundit said he counts few friends saying he touts a “me against the world” mindset. If he keeps on ticking off our allies, this description will be very apt. Unfortunately he will drag the US down with him.

Two of the worst terms in America are RINO and DINO. They mean Republican (or Democrat) in Name Only. They are used by tribal party members as an insult to someone who is not towing the party line. As an unaffiliated voter who has been a member of both parties, I find these labels offensive. We pledge allegiance to the country, not some party. If someone uses this term, do yourself a favor and pay attention to what the target of their labeling is saying. It likely has more veracity than the claimant’s argument.

The United Nations came out with a report Friday defining how Trump’s policies are detrimental to the poor in America. America has a poverty problem that predates Trump. Too many are living paycheck to paycheck and some are even beneath that. This President and Congress’ solution is to give a huge tax break to wealthy people and companies. And, if the repeal of the Affordable Care Act went through, it would have been even worse. America has fallen in the global ranks on upward socio-economic mobility. It matters more to whom you were born than merit in getting ahead.

On a positive note, Costco raised its minimum wage from $13 to $14 an hour and Walmart increased theirs from $9 to $11 an hour. And more states and cities are making planned and new increases. These are steps in the right direction. It would have been nice for Congress to have increased the minimum wage along with the tax decrease which impacts corporations annually. It would have helped pay for some of the lost tax revenue if companies had to increase pay for those in greatest need, plus this money would be spent as they need it more than the 1% group.

Thanks for letting me preach. Any Amens or rebuttals? Other truisms?

This zero-sum discourse needs to stop

What does zero-sum discourse mean? It means framing topics in terms of who wins and who loses. I fault politicians, pundits and reporters for this mindset. This mindset preceded the current White House incumbent, but he views most everything through a very short-term transactional lens. Did I win?

The dilemma in discussing who wins and loses on actions, speeches or tweets is it takes the focus away from the issues. Does this decision help or hurt the people, environment or region?

I heard a news discussion on whether the US pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal helps or hurts Trump’s image? That is the wrong question among many better questions. Does it make the US safer? Does it make the world safer? Are we harming our relationships with our allies? Are we making a fact based decision as other leaders are questioning the veracity of this decision? And, so on.

Whether it is healthcare, debt, taxes, environment, financial protection, etc., I do not care who wins or loses politically. When people care too much about winning or losing, I can tell you who gets screwed – it is the people they represent.

Americans want Congress to address healthcare, with the majority saying to fix Obamacare. Instead, the President and leaders in Congress have sabotaged it over the past three years making premiums even higher. They want to see it politically fail while screwing American people.

I am tired of the lack of collaboration. I am tired of the abuse of factual information. And, I am tired of this zero-sum discourse. To be frank, our leaders need to stop trying to keep their job and start doing their job.

Let’s fix the larger gun death problems

Mass shootings are very tragic and heart wrenching. Homicides are also tragic. Yet, the biggest gun problem and another tangible and avoidable problem make up between 60% and 70% of annual gun deaths in America. The lion’s share of gun deaths in America are suicides. Last year, over 23,000 of the 38,000 plus gun deaths were suicides. This ratio is not unusual and tracks pretty well year in and year out.

The other much smaller, but more avoidable gun death problem is accidental shootings. And, tragically the ones doing the shooting or getting killed are children who come across a weapon. To lose a child is the worst nightmare I could possibly imagine. But, to lose one because you did not put away your gun, is even more traumatic. The gun owner has to live with the guilt. While accidental shootings are about 2% of gun deaths, they seem to be ones we should be able to avoid irrespective of one’s fervor for the 2nd Amendment.

After each mass shooting, there is concern registered by kids and parents about not letting this happen again. The people for and against more gun control go into camps with some saying now is not the time, while the others asking when is the time. I must give a huge amount of credit to the Parkland kids and others around the country who are forcing action. But, outside of a little lip service in Washington, nothing tangible happens. They may regret inaction come November.

These past few months, the barest of minimum change was done, but there was the President of the United States speaking before the NRA convention last week. He was the one who taunted Congress representatives for not standing up to the NRA. These were obviously just words, which we should be used to by now. With this said, I do give kudos to Florida who acted a little more demonstrably than DC.

To prevent more suicides, background checks on all sales with elongated waiting periods are needed. Doctors must be permitted to ask patients if there is a gun in the house as the propensity for suicide is much higher than one without. All it takes is an impulse and it is over. We must add more psychologists and counselors to schools. The greater gun risk is a depressed student taking his or her life. And, we should expand Medicaid in the remaining 18 states along with its mental health benefits.

As for the accidental shootings, the majority of states require guns to be locked up at home, but why do not all states have such a requirement? I have shared this before, but I asked my father-in-law to lock up his weapon, as I did not want his grandkids around a loaded weapon. He did so. One idea that has merit is requiring a finger printed trigger, where only the owner can use the weapon.

Please note that none of the above speaks of taking weapons away. These steps would help reduce the number of suicides and accidental shootings. Even if the number is only 100, 500 or 1,000, those are lives saved. Isn’t this what it’s all about?