A sad party run by sad people

As a fiscal conservative and social progressive, I left the Republican Party about twelve years ago. My main reasons for becoming an independent were the Republican stance on climate change, an unhealthy focus on evangelicals and guns, and a tendency to make things up. These reasons still exist twelve years later.

The Grand Old Party is no longer grand and it really is no longer Republican. At the recent RNC convention, they did not vote on a platform, so as one reporter said, “the platform is whatever Donald Trump says it is.” In and of itself, this is the final takedown of the old flag and raising of the new Trump Party banner.

Further, evidence of the dissolution, is an Alternate Republican convention was held the same week. This convention brought together several groups of Republicans bent on the defeat of Trump in November. They include The Lincoln Project, Republicans for the Rule of Law, and Republican Voters against Trump. Two additional groups of former Republican governors and intelligence leaders have also come out against Trump.

The Trump Party is a sad group led by sad people. Here are a few things that seem to be the major tenets in of the Trump Party:

– Truth, decency and empathy are not valued
– Protecting Americans against the COVID-19 pandemic is less important than winning the election. Not informing Americans of known risks is inexcusable.
– Civil rights of non-whites is less important and protestors of all races seeking equality for blacks are “thugs.”
– Soldiers who fight for America are “losers” and “suckers” and if captured, not heroes. It is OK that a country can put bounties on our soldiers without pushback.
– Using the presidency for profit is acceptable and it is OK to extort and use other countries for personal gain.
– Any Inspectors General, whistleblowers or those who testify under oath over legitimate concerns about wrongdoing can be removed without questions.
– Finally, it is OK to say absolutely anything to further the cause. It is OK to malign the voting process without doing a darn thing to make it secure. It is OK to blame any person or group for things that are caused by the president. It is OK to name call any critic. Trump called two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Bob Woodward a “wack job,” but it was the president’s own words that are causing the furor.

These words make me sad for our country. It makes me more sad to know sycophants, rationalizers, and enablers have allowed this to happen. Names like McConnell, Graham, Cotton, Johnson, Nunes, Cruz, Jordan, McCarthy, Meadows, Miller, Kushner, et al should be remembered along with the Trump name as people who led to the demise of the Republican Party, our democracy and our planet. If this corrupt and deceitful person wins again, America will move even more toward an autocracy run by a sad person.

Soggy Sunday – raining on Boris and Donald

We are getting much needed rain from a storm called Nestor. I don’t think Nestor ever made it to formal hurricane status, but it did spawn some tornadoes in the Florida panhandle.

Speaking of rain, the British parliament rained on Boris Johnson’s Brexit parade. What does the future hold? The one thing that must not happen is a no-deal Brexit. Brexit will be challeging enough, but a no-deal Brexit would be a Trump worthy disaster.

Speaking of Trump worthy disasters, there are three that are in the news, although he backtracked on one under Republican pressure. In the middle of being investigated for abuse of power, he abused his power saying the next G7 conference would be at a Trump resort. “Unforced error” is the kindest definition of this announcement, which was uttered by Neil Cavuto of Fox Business. Trump changed his mind, but of course blamed others for this unwise decision.

The abandonment of our Kurdish allies ranks up there as a betrayal of our trust. As conservative pundit David Brooks said on Friday, how does it make South Korea feel, being surrounded by China and North Korea, to have to rely on the US led by such an untrustworthy person? Noted columnist Christine Flowers announced this week she is leaving the Republican Party because of this move and the rationalization by Trump supporters. Let me keep it simple – Trump screwed people that fought on our behalf.

Finally, after the testimony under oath by Marie Yovanovitch, Fiona Hill and others, a picture has been painted by these reputable public servants that the US president has been running shadow diplomacy through his personal attorney Rudy Guliani. Setting aside these efforts are designed to dig up dirt on the president’s opponents, we have more than a few people representing our government in positions of import who have not been vetted by the Senate, including but not limited to. Guiliani, Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump. With Trump’s chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, confirming what these state people testified under oath, we are left with a simple fact. The US president broke the law and abused his power. Do not let his sycophants try to whitewash this – it is wrong.

Keeping with this “Soggy Sunday” theme as rain pelts the president’s actions, as Creedence Clearwater Revival sang, “who will stop the rain?”

A simple question for GOP legislators

After watching the testimony of former Trump attorney Michael Cohen, a question comes to mind, one I have been asking GOP legislators. And, it is a simple one. “Is  Donald Trump the man you want to spend your dear reputation on?

We did not learn many new things, but Cohen provided a lot of context for the modus operandi of his former boss. There are many takeaways, but the ones that should be very worrisome to the GOP are the following:

– the New York prosecutors are looking at other possible criminal wrongdoings of the President;

– the President knew of the Wikileaks dump of emails early on;

– the President asked Cohen to lie about the Moscow real estate development.

But, a reaction to an ongoing line of questions from the GOP Congress representatives, should have given them pause. Cohen said he had done exactly what they are doing for ten years, protecting Donald Trump. He added it won’t end well for you.

So, the question is a simple one. Rather than remembering an oath to protect our constitution, blind loyalty to a someone because of tribe seems to be the preferred path. They have worked hard to build a reputation. Is this the man you want to spend your dear reputation on?

Sunday summaries

I hope your weekend is going well. Several topics have toyed with me writing a full post, so I will resort to a brief summary of a few. In no particular order:

The royal family of Saudi Arabia has done a pretty inept job of lying to the world about what happened to Jamal Khashoggi. It is so unartful that even the US President, who is not known for truth and wants just to do transactions, is being forced to admit they must be lying. I applaud other world leaders and even more than a few US Senators for stepping up to cry foul. My guess is this will eventually lead to the fall of Crown Prince MSB as he is embarrassing the family and country and this is adds to a growing list of notorious screw-ups.

Heading north to Great Britain, there were an estimated 750,000 British folks that protested in the streets of London yesterday asking for a new Brexit vote with actual facts being disseminated. While I fully understand the rationale of those who want Brexit, from the outset, Brexit will be harmful financially to Great Britain. Many financial companies and EU headquarters have either moved or are planning to move to an EU site. Plus, Scotland and Northern Ireland continue to talk openly of votes to leave Great Britain should it occur. If that is not enough, it is believed that Vladimir Putin has had a hand in the disinformation as he did with the 2016 and current 2018 elections in the US.

Returning to the US, candidates of my old Republican Party are taking a lot of heat over their positions on healthcare over the years. They should. Not only has this party not tried to improve and stabilize the Affordable Care Act, they have sabotaged and made it worse. It should be noted politicians don’t seem to understand a lot about healthcare. Here is a letter I sent to my newspaper that will give you a sense of what has transpired.

It seems healthcare is a key issue this election. Surveys the last eighteen months have indicated the majority of Americans want the Affordable Care Act stabilized and improved. Yet, the GOP leadership has tried to repeal it and actually has sabotaged its success making premiums higher than they otherwise would have been. The Senate’s defunding by 89% of adverse selection payments to insurers, the President’s defunding of payments to insurers to help people in need with co-pays and deductibles and the fight in states like NC to not expand Medicaid have increased exchange premiums and driven more carriers out of markets. This retired actuary, benefits consultant and benefits manager believe these measures have harmed Americans and people should know this.

Finally, a story that should get even more airplay than it is relates to the voter suppression attempts by the Georgia gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp in his role as State Secretary. Whereas an ethical person would recuse himself from overseeing elections, Kemp has been pretty blatant in his efforts to make it harder to vote. I do not like the voter ID laws, gerrymandering districts and aggressive voter suppression tactics being done in my own and other GOP led states. These are Jim Crow-like. Yes, Democrats have done similar tactics, but what is being done the last eight years has been an orchestrated effort by a group called ALEC, funded by the Koch Brothers.

I am pretty tired of this the “ends justifies the means” rhetoric. I see what can happen when people cheat. They cheat to get elected and cheat once they are there. The US President is not only enriching people who donated to his efforts, he is enriching himself by using his position to make more money. This self-dealing is actually illegal. And, when people cheat, it devalues our country and state governance.

 

 

 

Because it is not true

Earlier this week, I listened to an interview on NPR with Jake Tapper. He was there speaking about his new book, but the interviewer asked about his several interviews with Kellyanne Conway. During one taped interview early on in the Trump Presidency, she was lamenting that the mainstream media was not covering certain statements made by the President. One example, in particular, noted the President saying the murder rate is at the highest it’s ever been in 47 years. Tapper said the reason we did not cover it is “because it is not true.”

Tapper said we should not cover things that are obviously not true and asked why Trump cannot stick to the the truth. Conway would not answer the question and was running out the clock. Tapper told the interviewer, listening afterward to her not answer the question, he should have stopped her sooner. But, he did not want to come off as a jerk. She half-heartedly concurred when he pressed, but said why don’t you cover veterans’ issues or the economy?

Tapper said he would love to cover those things. We spend our time chasing whatever Trump tweets or diverts us to. It would be great to discuss real issues and progress to address them. He said Trump does himself a disservice when he lies.

I have said many times I don’t like being lied to and, too often, it is obvious the President or one of his spokespeople are lying. I also think his spin doctors know they are lying. As for their boss, I believe he lies so much, he has a difficult time knowing when the truth ends and lies start. It is constant marketing schtick – just say anything to get the sale. I know there are many fine professional salespeople, but Trump exhibits the worst in all of us.

I found Tapper to be a breath of fresh air. Like many reporters, he wants to get it right. But, like many reporters, he realizes how hard it is do so with a man who lies far more than he does not.

 

A speech in my dreams

With everyday life seeming more nightmarish with a divisive leader of the world’s current largest economy, I must retreat to a daytime reverie to find a speech I would dream to hear. It would go something like this:

“My fellow Americans, I have come to the realization my Presidency is a lightning rod for division. I have no one else to blame, as President Truman said so well, the buck stops here.

While I did not create division, I used it to get elected. I decided to accentuate a we/ they environment which worked too well. Unfortunately and to my chagrin, I continued to use this approach to govern. Now, we are more divided.

That stops now. We cannot condone people acting on their bigotry toward other people. We are all protected under our constitution with equal rights. We all must have the opportunity for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

From this day forward, I will become a better President. I will endeavor to tell the truth at all times. I will treat all Americans and our allies with respect. I will do my best to make Americans proud and be a role model in the world.

I realize I am my biggest enemy. My lying and demeaning behavior has made me less trustworthy. The sad truth is our country is now less trusted as a result. I must change and be the leader you deserve.

But, I need all of you to treat others like you want to be treated. Listen to each other to understand, not just respond. I will do my best to change, but hold me accountable. If I do not change, please ask Congress to admonish me. It is that important.

We have a great country, but I need to live up to our ideals. I have not done so thus far. For that I am sorry. ”

President Donald J. Trump

A person can wish can’t they?

He is lying, she is lying, they are lying

Many things puzzle me these days. One that is near the top is shouldn’t a man who says everyone else is lying and that people should only believe him, be viewed as the lone constant in a world of lies?

Using the science principle of Occam’s Razor, we should consider the simplest answer may be the most believable. A man who says everyone else is lying may be the one who is lying. It becomes even more believable when the man has a history of untruthful commentary as measured by his five biographers, an attorney who worked with him for years, and  Politifacts.

Of course, I am speaking of the man who occupies the White House. I was thinking of this for two reasons. This week, Pulitzer Prizes were awarded to both The Washington Post and New York Times for reports on Russian meddling. You may recall this as being labeled “fake news” by this man, but apparently the Pulitzer people disagree.

The other reason is former FBI Director has been labeled as a liar, leaker even a criminal by the man in the White House. I have seen several people who know Ccmey vouch for his truthfulness and integrity. While I have seen people attack Comey on behalf of Trump, I have not witnessed people saying how truthful the President is.

A PBS/ NPR/Marist poll this month noted while 61% said the FBI is just doing its job, 31% said the FBI is being unfair to Trump. As an Independent, to me the only people the FBI is unfair to are people that lie to the FBI. Five people have pled guilty to Robert Mueller for lying to the FBI, one person is due in court and one had his office and home raided. There seems to be an awful lot of lying going on around and including the President.

As SC Republican Congressman Trey Gowdy said, if the President is innocent, it would help if he started acting like it. The only person being unfair to Trump looks back in the mirror each morning while he shaves.

Let me close with the story of over 200 former Justice associates of both Messers. Mueller and Comey writing a letter to Congress to make sure Mueller and team are allowed to finish their work.

 

Sorry Meatloaf, two out of three IS bad

One of the most popular songs from a singer named Meatloaf off his stellar first album is called “Two out of three ain’t bad.” If you are not familiar with his work, the album is called “Bat out of Hell” and it is end to end one of the finest rock albums ever produced.

But, with due respect to Meatloaf and Jim Steinman, who wrote the songs, in the case of the man sitting in the White House, two out of three is bad. You see, that ratio equates to 67% when rounded and it is two percentage points less than 69%. And, the latter represents the measured rate of mostly false, false and pant-on-fire false statements made by the President of the United States (per Polifacts).

Saying this more frankly, the President is on record as lying more than two out of three times. Think about that – for every three statements, two are not true. And, that is bad.

Being President is all about character. When a person lies like this, it is hard to fathom that person having character. If you layer in his demeaning and denigration of others along with his self-professed sexual assaults, he does not represent what makes America great. In fact, he embodies the worst traits in us. That is sad.

Other leaders do not trust him both within and outside the United States. Why would they? When he makes one of his impulsive decisions that makes his staff scramble, he often makes an untrue statement to support it. He did this with the new tax law, the defunding of an ACA subsidy that helped people in poverty, and  the DACA is dead statement he made his weekend.

The truth matters. Character matters. We need them to matter to the President.

Truth does matter

“We pay more taxes than anybody else in the world,” said President Trump on August 10, 2017 having said similar statements on more than a few occasions.

“You know this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story,” said the President to Lester Holt on May 11, 2017 which he has said on multiple occasions.

The cut in the subsidies will only affect the “gift” to the insurance companies, said the President to his cabinet in October, 2017 when he defunded some ACA subsidies to the companies to repay them for subsidizing co-pays and deductibles for people making less than 2 1/2 times the poverty limit. He used variations of this theme on several occasions to defend his cuts to financial help to those in need.

The two common threads of these statements are they are all lies and were uttered consistently by Donald Trump. Yet, this should not be a shock to anyone as the man has a hard time telling the truth.

Per Politifacts, on 483 measured statements by the President, 69% of the time they were either mostly false, false or pants-on-fire false. In other words, more than 2 out of 3 statements he makes or tweets should not be considered as true.

In a fairly recent interview with The New York Times, the reporters measured the President averaged lying every 75 seconds. The Washington Post counted 1,950 false or misstated claims in his first 347 days. This is consistent with statements made by his five biographers who note Trump has a hard time with the truth.

But this is not news to most Americans per a Quinnipiac Survey. The survey said 62% of Americans do not think Trump is honest. And, in a University of Missouri Journalism survey, the President was listed in the bottom ten of trustworthy news sources, meaning the ten least trusted sources.

The truth matters. The Russia thing is real, whether it links directly to Trump or not, as intelligence officials say he is at minimum an unwitting participant in the meddling. In fact, General Barry McCaffrey, the most decorated retired four star general said this weekend that the President is a “serious threat to national security,” based on his adoring view of Putin.

On the taxes comment, we just reduced taxes with this lie laying groundwork. We are increasing our debt by $1.5 trillion to try to make a pretty good economy even better. On the health care subsidies, this lie covered for a change that will increase our debt by $10 billion meaning it impacts taxpayers as well as non-subsidized premium payers, not insurers.

Our problems are complex and they are hard enough to solve when we deal with the truth. When our leader lies and others support his lies, solving problems become even harder. The truth matters. And, with respect to his many alleged affairs and sexual misconduct, I would bet on the women’s stories as being more true than his defense.

Take ten – the most and least trusted news sources

The University of Missouri Reynolds Journalism Institute conducted a survey of over 8,700 people last year. The mission was to determine the most trusted and least trusted news sources.

Per a link to the survey from an article in Marketwatch.com, “the questionnaire asked respondents to name three news brands they typically trust and three they don’t. Kearney (the survey leader) took a look at brands that came up at least 10 times and compared how often they were mentioned as trusted versus mentioned as not trusted. These lists show the relationship between positive and negative mentions. The responses were opened ended, and some answers aren’t actual news brands.

Mentioned as trusted:

The Economist
Public television
Reuters
BBC
NPR
PBS
The Guardian
The Wall Street Journal
Los Angeles Times
The Dallas Morning News

Mentioned as not trusted:

Occupy Democrats
BuzzFeed
Breitbart
Social media
Trump
Infowars
Yahoo
Internet
Huffington Post
The Blaze”

I found these results quite interesting for several reasons. The obvious is an individual who is listed as one of the least trusted sources of news. He would be the one telling everyone to trust only him and other news is “fake news” when it is disagreeable to him. Also, the appearance of Breitbart and Infowars on the least trusted list is telling, as well as Occupy Democrats whose name sounds biased.

On the positive side, the names on the most trusted list are very deserving in my view. Personally, through a combination of trial and error and recommendation, I frequently use five of the top ten sources – Reuters, BBC, NPR, PBS Newshour and The Guardian. I have read occasional articles by The Economist, but need to check them out more. A blogging friend, who passed away a few years ago, suggested I check out Reuters and The Guardian. I remember him well for that.

If you are getting your news from one of the least trusted ten, please stop. I would suggest you give a few of the sources from the top ten most trusted a view. Using multiple good sources helps me learn new things and gain perspective.

With the person mentioned in the bottom ten also occupying the White House, it is important we get our news from good sources and not him. He is deserving of his position on the bottom list with a 69% “mostly false or worse” frequency per Politifacts. It is important to us and a key to our democracy. Who prescribes such – only our founding fathers.