Rainy days and Mondays, especially today, get me down

Karen Carpenter sang “Rainy days and Mondays always get me down.” This weekend was a yet another sad chapter in America’s history. Plus, we learned 31 people died in a ferry capsizing in the Philippines. In California, an eroding cliff collapsed next to the shore killing three. And, Russia and China are coming down hard on protestors. These are signals.

In America, we have decided we cannot do anything to stop mass gun shootings. We have decided the politics are too hard to do the needed things that would help. We could start by acknowledging that we average 100+ gun deaths a day even without the mass shootings. Many of those deaths are suicides. Some of them are accidental shootings of kids who find a gun in the house. And, some of the homicides are due to mental health issues, lack of civil discourse, hate crimes, or drug crimes. The common thread is access to a weapon without better governance.

Yes, we must act on these signals. We must call hate speech on the carpet, especially if it comes from someone who is in a position of leadership. Dog whistle racism and xenophobia are fuel to a fire for some extreme thinkers. The ones who want status quo in gun laws will say “now is not the time” for change to gun governance. Apparently, “never is the time.” The ones who want status quo will say “that change would not solve this instance.” Yet, doing nothing at all is not solving much.

There are things we can do that, in sum, will help make a difference. If it saves a few lives, that is good. I want politicians to get in a room and I want them to check their politics. I do not care who wins and loses a political game, but it is obvious the dead people and their families are losing. It amazes me how little we did after Sandy Hook. We even had a conservative shock jock say for years Sandy Hook was not real. He is on trial for his hateful rhetoric for the damage he has caused to Sandy Hook families and should be.

The Philippines tragedy is terrible, but not getting much play here. It seems we don’t pay attention like we should when the weather sends us signals. Overloading ferries can be OK in calm waters, but it is a disaster when waters are rough, especially after two earlier ferries had issues. I think failing to heed signals causes far too many deaths. Here in the US, we are whistling past the graveyard in preface to the next infrastructure collapse. Around the world, we have signals telling us to plan ahead on eroding seashores, increasing floods with stalled and repetitive storm systems, increasing droughts in other areas and elongated and bigger forest fires. We need to act on these signals.

In Russia and China, the signals are telling us that we must not be like that. Civil protest is more than fine, yet we must emphasize the word civil. Yet, a regime that crushes the spirit of those who question things, is one that is sowing more seeds of discord, not fewer. A regime that squelches and controls the media is not one that wants to hear the truth. I am watching the mini-series called “The Loudest Voice,” about Roger Ailes and his creation of Fox News. He purposefully controlled what and how things were said, that he started believing his own BS.

Truth matters. Facts matter. Diligent preparation in the face of those facts matter. When people ignore problems, white-wash or deny the truth, and squash those who are trying to tell you those things, the future is hamstrung. As I say often, I do not care what people’s politics are, as usually they are a mixed bag like me, conservative on some things, progressive on others. What I do care about is when people ignore or massage the facts to make their tribe win. I a more concerned about the people who die, who struggle, who become infirmed, who are jailed inappropriately, etc. That is what our leaders should be concerned about and not spreading fear, hate and division to win an election.

 

The week that was

Looking back at the week ending April 27, 2018, a few things jump out at me as examples of larger problems.

The US Congress heard a speech from a President that spoke of staying the course on America’s global role in security, free trade and environmental issues. He also warned of the unhealthy focus on narrow nationalism and promoted the ideals of the American experiment. Unfortunately, the speech was given by Emmanuel Macron of France and not the US President.

Yet, the US President did make news when he nominated another poorly vetted candidate this time for the VA director role. He was already a curious choice, but he and the White House were obviously not prepared for the discovery of potential peccadillos in his past. This is a recurring problem for the White House where too many candidates withdraw, should not have been nominated or are approved with some later being fired or resigning as past or new problems surface. It should be noted there are too many articles and biographies that do not define “due diligence” as a strength of the President.

Between two tragedies in Canada and the US, it shows that terrorism need not be imported. Four people died at a Waffle House in the Nashville area, while  ten people died on the streets of Toronto. The larger problem that is revealed time and again, it is very difficult to stop a motivated lone assailant. The only thing that has a chance is an invested community who cares about what happens there. Neither of these people were from an actively tracked hate group, which number over a thousand. Nor were they part of an extreme religious terror group.

On Thursday, a boyhood and even adult idol of mine, Bill Cosby, was found guilty of three counts of sexual impropriety. While the trial involved only one of his victims, the number totals over 60. This is very sad  that someone so present in the public eye for fifty years could harm so many people.

Finally, an unconfirmed report out of China notes that one reason North Korea may be eager to give up nuclear testing is they blew up their testing site. The report said an underground blast may have punctured a hole in a mountain and released some radioactive material. From what others have noted is Kim Jong Un likely does not want to give up the nuclear weapons they created and their conventional forces could do great damage by themselves to South Korea. But, this unconfirmed report is interesting nonetheless and offers a potential explanation for a willingness to talk. Setting this aside, Kim Jong Un wins by getting on the world stage in a meeting room. Yet, talking is far better than the alternatives for keeping a lid on things.

Many other interesting things have happened. Our friend Jill has an excellent summary on Ben Carson’s housing plan which will triple the rents for people in need. Maybe he should have remained a surgeon where he could help people.

That’s all folks. Have a great weekend.

 

Prayers are not enough

There is an old joke where a man prays and prays for God to let him win the lottery. After years of praying, he asked God why have you forsaken me and deny me winning the lottery? The clouds parted and God said “It would help if you bought a ticket.”

After yet another gun tragedy, many have offered prayers in public places for the victims and their families, even in the halls of Congress. Being a religious man, I am all for praying, but after so many gun tragedies, it is time we “bought that lottery ticket” and take legislative action. The status quo is not working and legislators are simply not doing their job.

I have written variations of this several times and will have to write it again in the future as our Congressional representatives are too concerned with upsetting the NRA than trying to solve an obvious problem. For example, we have 300 million guns, one for each person in the US, and have over 30,000 gun deaths per year. Japan has an average of one gun per 100 people and had 27 gun deaths for the whole country last year. And, that increased from 8 the year before.

Yes, gun deaths are a mental health issue. They are also a lack of civil discourse issue, they are a drug crime issue, they are a violent entertainment issue, but make no mistake they are an access to gun issue. This is especially true for guns that can kill far too many at one time. But, mass shootings are only part of the problem – the bigger problems happen every day, suicides and homicides. 2/3 of our gun deaths are suicides.

There are measures that can be taken that will help if done holistically. We could begin with by unwinding the horrible legislation that Congress passed and Trump signed that allows 75,000 Social Security mentally health disabled people to be left on the OK to buy a gun list. We could also stop attacking the ACA and its Medicaid expansion which provide mental health benefits. These two practices fly directly in the face of calling gun deaths a mental health issue,

We could follow the lead of states with tighter gun laws and lower gun death rates and start conducting background checks on all purchases and have more elongated waiting periods. We could require gun safety training that must be renewed. We could encode all bullets to help with crime solving and finger print control weapons to prevent child deaths.

And, I am firm believer that no citizen should have fully automatic weapons or even semi-automatic weapons. These weapons have no place in a non-military person’s hands.

King Solomon encourages us to use our brains in Proverbs. Why would God give us this wonderful creation between our ears, if He did not expect us to use it? I have spoken before that people pray for miracles, but isn’t our brain a wonderful miracle that can help solve problems? We are the solution to the problem.

We must act. Our legislators must act. If they do not, we need to share our concerns and share them again. It is obvious doing nothing is not working.

Perhaps too much is being asked of too few

The title of this post came from a lyric to a song called “Patriot’s Dream” by Arlo Guthrie. Let me repeat it for emphasis – perhaps too much is asked of too few. What does this mean in today’s world?

This weekend we saw a 32 year old woman killed who was doing what she always did – protesting injustice. There she stood with mind, body and soul standing up to hate. She said with her presence it is not right that you violate what Jesus and others told us and unfairly demonize others who do not look like you do. And, in our country it is not right to deny rights to other citizens.

We have allowed too few to stand up and do what is right. This woman had more courage in her tiny body than many of those whose hearts are filled with hate. We all need to join with her efforts to fight injustice. Hate cannot carry the day.

What can we do? We must shine spotlights on hate. Just like roaches, when the light is turned on they will scatter. It takes a lot of energy to hate and it will wear you down. The easier path is to treat others with dignity and compassion.

We must ask of our religious and political leaders to speak more of tolerance and doing what is right. If they choose not to, then we must seek new leaders. We cannot condone bigotry from our leaders and especially from the pulpit.

Seeing the wave of support against these hate mongers is encouraging. But, we must continue the fight against bigotry. We must avoid using the violence in so doing, but we must stand strong against those who do. And, remember the words of another song about bigotry by Oscar Hammerstein in “South Pacific.”

“You must be carefully taught by the time you are seven are eight, to hate the people your parents hate. You have to be carefully taught.”

Or, we could teach love instead.

 

 

More mid-week musings on D-Day

I would like to make a shout out for the memories of those veterans who stormed the beaches at Normandy and for those who are still alive to tell about the necessary horror of doing something so difficult. Imagine being on ship in transit knowing there was a good chance you might not see the next morning sun.

With that bravery in mind, a shout out is needed for all the police officers and civilians who have stood up to terrorists, whether they are Islamic extremists, white supremacists, or with mental issues they cannot control. I am so saddened by the loss of lives and their families who have to mourn and deal with their deaths. There is no honor or glory in killing innocent civilians – you are simply a murderer, no more, no less.

While not as dramatic as terrorism, the US President pulling out of the Paris Climate Change Accord was an extremely poor move. Especially with his speech citing his reasons teeming with untruthful statements. With the President mentioning jobs, he seems to be overlooking the double digit growth rate in renewable energy jobs. Per John Oliver on his recent show “Last Week Tonight,” with China investing US$ 361 billion to create 2 million renewable energy jobs, the President is creating jobs with this move, just in the wrong country.

Speaking of China and climate change, Governor Jerry Brown of California signed an agreement with the China to join together to fight climate change and promote renewable energy. By itself, if measured as a country, California is the 7th most prolific generator of solar energy. It should be noted that several other states are joining with California to support the Paris Accord.

Our President has greatly harmed America’s global leadership by pulling out of the Paris accord. We will no longer be at the grown up table as a country and will be ignored on these issues. Fortunately, we are passed a tipping point on renewable energy and these states, cities and businesses will carry our banner for us working with the rest of the globe. The President does deserves credit for galvanizing Americans to support fighting climate change.

Vernacular needs to change

If we want to address real problems in our country, we may want to change our vernacular. When we hear something routinely called or framed a certain way by a politician or news network, we may accept that as the only truth. Yet, it may gloss over the greater problem.

For example, the far greater terrorist threat in the US is not from so-called Islamic extremists. It is from domestic terrorism that more often comes from white supremacist groups. There are over 1,100 hate groups being tracked by law enforcement groups and their hate crimes prevalence dwarfs that of Islamic extremists. Yet, funding to police the domestic terrorists has declined much to the chagrin of law enforcement.

Another example is freedom of the press is under siege and its attackers tend to shout fake news, when criticism comes their way. The best way to address the fake news is to get the story right. I see a greater amount of earnestness in legitimate media to do just that. I would also ask why the shouters of accusations of fake news tend to be the ones who routinely change their story. The White House has announced yet again a change in communication strategy with a new resignation. One thing they have not tried is something so very simple. It is called the truth. I think the reason it has not been tried is the truth may bare some unflattering and illegal activities.

So, when you hear someone shout fake news, consider the source. There is enough fake news out there, we all need to be on our guard and the purpose of the shouter may be use that prevalence  to his advantage. When I hear the President speak or read his tweets, I tend to not believe a word he says. The odds are in my favor.

So, to sum up, accusations of “fake news” are now being used to cover up lying, so pay attention to the source and let’s call lying for what it is. And, when a white supremacist kills multiple people, that is domestic terrorism and is just as evil as any other terrorism. Maybe if we call things what they are, we can better address the issues.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Goodbye Ruby Tuesday – a few random thoughts

With due credit to the Rolling Stones, we approach the end of a gem of a Tuesday. We are celebrating our daughter’s 20th birthday at her favorite restaurant. It is a joy to see the woman she has become, with her sense of purpose, humor and morality.

With the latter in mind, let me speak to those who are our moral compasses during these much needed times. The first shout out goes to Angela Merkel who has now become the leader of the free world. She has taken the mantle that the current US President has ceded with his retrenchment mindset and fondness for authoritarian leaders. She has a better grasp of right and wrong than our leader and sees the advantages of mutual trade and trust.

Another shout out goes to the three men in Portland who interceded to protect two Muslim American women from the verbal abuse of a white supremacist. Two of them (Ricky John Best and Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche) paid with their lives, while the third (Micah Fletcher) was injured. It should not be lost on anyone that one of the deceased (Best) was a veteran who fought for the rights of the Muslim women to practice their faith with our freedom of religion. I have purposefully avoided the use of the killer’s name who I view as a domestic terrorist.

Finally, a shout to Dusko Markovic, the Prime Minister of Montenegro. His graciousness exemplified how to handle maltreatment, when our brutish President shoved Markovic aside as he moved to the front of the group for a picture of the NATO leaders. This was not the worst thing our President did while in Europe, but it is emblematic of his bullying nature where everyone stands in his way.

We need to recognize those who do the right thing, especially when the cost is so severe. Former news anchor Dan Rather gets it, as he admonished the President for saying nothing about the Portland terrorist act. The President did finally say something, but he used a less popular channel than he normally uses when he feels slighted or threatened.

Have glorious remainder of your week. May it be a gem. And, let’s applaud those gems among us. We need their morality.