A few why questions – sample letter

The following is a draft letter I forwarded to my newspaper. It is short and sweet given their word limitations. I hope they will print it. Please feel free to adapt and use if you like the concept:

I am troubled by a few why questions:

– why did White House staff try to hide the president’s so called perfect call?
– why would Ukraine leaders meet with Lev Parnas if he did not have the “juice?”
– why would real diplomats be kept in the dark by the Giuilani/Trump shadow diplomacy?
– why did Rep. Devin Nunes not recuse himself if his name appeared in the Parnas documents?
– why do 63% of Europeans feel the US president is untrustworthy (per a recent Pew survey)?

Please feel free to share any success or sample letters that you have gotten printed or sent to Senators and Congressional representatives.

Parnas evidence, GAO assessment on Ukraine funding and Yovanovitch intimidation

As the Donald J. Trump impeachment trial started out with the serious and sober presentation of the articles of impeachment and swearing in by the Chief Justice, two news bullets of the last two days are shaping the trial. With the evidence from Lev Parnas, who is one of Rudy Giuliani’s henchmen, and his interview that notes “of course Trump knew” what Parnas was up to, coupled with the non-partisan GAO stating Trump’s withholding of funding of Ukraine broke the law, the president and those close to him have questions to answer.

As an independent and former Republican voter, I have been asking Senators for some time to call witnesses as we need to get to the bottom of this. I want to hear from Messers. Bolton, Pompeo, Giuliani, and Pence among others. Rep. Adam Schiff noted nine witnesses that Trump denied access to obstructing Congress. Having watched these honorable diplomats and public servants testify under oath and at great risk, having watched Rep. Devin Nunes not recuse himself from the questioning since his name shows up in the dirt gathering, and seeing the president’s people try to hide the “perfect phone call” from view, I have concerns about the president as a national security risk.

I am also concerned about the treatment to defame and intimidate an honorable diplomat named Marie Yovanovitch as she would not play ball with the Giuiliani and Trump narrative. This is beyond bad behavior and could be criminal. But, there is one thing I am very clear of as he did it out in the open – the president obstructed Congress. How any reasonable person could say otherwise is beyond me. We are not a kingdom – we are a Republic with three equal branches of government.

Politico published the attached piece called “Parnas and Ukraine bombshells jolt impeachment trial” yesterday. Please click the link below and read the article. It is important. It is up to Americans to demand the Senate to remember their oaths to the Constitution and that oath they just took with the Chief Justice.

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/parnas-and-ukraine-aid-bombshells-jolt-impeachment-trial/ar-BBZ1PJl?ocid=spartandhp

We must applaud political courage

Earlier this week, two Republican Senators, Mike Lee and Rand Paul, said the briefing by the White House on the assassination of the Iranian Soleimani, was not just poor, but the worst of briefings. I applaud their political courage to push back on the president for less than satisfactory explanation. I have called each Senator to share my thank you as an Independent and former Republican voter.

I had the same type of kudos for the parade of diplomats and other public servants who testified under oath and at great risk to the House Intelligence committee about their concerns over the shadow diplomacy being used by the president in Ukraine to strong arm action for his personal benefit. I watched these witnesses speak under oath about how we should be doing our best to nurture and protect the young democracy in Ukraine. On the flip side, I saw a president, not under oath, berate these public servants for being less than truthful, without really addressing the need to protect the interests of Ukraine.

Political courage seems to be in short supply these days. At the same time the two Senators were sharing their concerns, a US Congressman was being questioned for the release of a doctored photograph. The intent of the photograph which showed the preceding president shaking hands with the current Irani president, whom he has never physically met, seems to be less than meritorious. Yet, when questioned, the Congressman was flippant and disdainful of the reporter.

Unlike the two Senators’ political courage, the act and the response by the Congressman is poor form. We need our legislators to be among our better Angels, not our worst demons. With it so easy to disinform these days, we need our legislators to avoid such temptation, and to condemn it even when it is done on their behalf. We all must be truth seekers.

I am reminded of the late Senator John McCain, when running for president in 2008, correcting a woman when she attacked the character of Barack Obama. He told her that Obama was a fine person, but he and Obama just disagreed on issues and policies. I miss the Senator and his political (and military courage). We need to emulate him and the recent actions of Senator Lee and Paul.

Saturday in the park (a muddy one to ponder muddy agreements)

The weather report for Saturday is better than our rainy Friday. Even if the sun emerges through the morning clouds, it may leave very muddy walking paths. So, as I take a muddy stroll, join me as I ponder a few muddy things.

Agreements between multiple parties are hard and take work. They are not perfect, but they provide opportunities to improve them. Leaving them when your co-signers ask you not to must be for very important reasons. Under the tutelage of the current US president, previous agreements are “disasters,” primarily because he did not work on them. Another key reason is multiple party agreements require give and take and focus on relationships.

Early on, the US pulled out of an agreement called the Trans Pacific Partnership with Asian countries, the US, Australia and Canada. It was an imperfect agreement, but was defined to better enable competition with China. What is still very underreported is the other ten or so countries went forward without the US and signed a refined agreement, which is now in effect.

Around the first of June, 2017, the US president decided to pull the US out of the Paris Climate Change Accord. We are one of a handful of countries who have decided not to be a part of this historic agreement. Remember the song, “You and me against the world?” That is the US. Ironically, the announcement was the day after Exxon Mobil shareholders voted to require management to share with them progress on addressing climate change (this followed two similar votes for energy companies in May).

Other agreements like NAFTA have been modified and rebranded, but the changes are not as material as the pomp and circumstance promoted. The agreement allowed for change and could have been repurposed a year earlier had the president not interjected last minute changes. This is a good example that agreements allow for parties to make changes at certain times. They need not be thrown out, especially when the throwing out is more optics than substance.

Finally, the Nuclear agreement with Iran and six countries, including the US, was also imperfect. But, it allowed for dialogue, auditing and commerce. Against the wishes of the six other countries and his key advisors in the Defense department, the president pulled out of the agreement. He also chastised the other five non-Iranian partners for not so doing and imposed more sanctions. So, rather than have a better, but tenuous relationship with Iran, we have escalating tensions with “no off ramp” per former Chair of Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullens.

Agreements require hard work, collaboration and respect for the relationships. By their nature, they are long term in scope. When they are viewed through a transactional lens, especially one bent on perception than reality, their imperfections can be highlighted. If you have concerns (and all parties have them), the answer is go to your partners and suggest to fix them. Devaluing the relationship is extremely shortsighted and can be dangerous. That last word is on many people’s minds today.

A path forward

As we end one decade and start a new one, there are plenty of posts and articles telling us what is wrong with the world. I agree we have numerous challenges, but please remember this one truism – negative news has a higher bounce than positive news.

Since the many good things happening don’t get reported with the appropriate frequency, it is hard to avoid getting despondent. Our friend Jill has a weekly summary of about three to five good news stories (see link below to a recent one). These folks are the “points of light” the elder George Bush spoke of. We must shine a spotlight on these exemplars.

Pulitzer Prize winner Nicholas Kristof wrote a year-end column (see link below) called “2019 has been the best year in human history – here’s why.” He largely makes the above point, but cites the following observations:

“The bad things that you fret about are true. But it’s also true that since modern humans emerged about 200,000 years ago, 2019 was probably the year in which children were least likely to die, adults were least likely to be illiterate and people were least likely to suffer excruciating and disfiguring diseases.

Every single day in recent years, another 325,000 people got their first access to electricity. Each day, more than 200,000 got piped water for the first time. And some 650,000 went online for the first time, every single day.

Perhaps the greatest calamity for anyone is to lose a child. That used to be common: Historically, almost half of all humans died in childhood. As recently as 1950, 27% of all children still died by age 15. Now that figure has dropped to about 4%.”

But, what do we do about those negative stories with a higher bounce. They are real and concerning. Here are few thoughts, some of which may be Pollyanna-ish:

– engage in thoughtful discussion asking probing questions and listening – only then will you be permitted to offer your thoughts that may be heeded (“Help me understand,” “That is an interesting view, why do you believe that to be true?”, etc.).
– advocate your beliefs, focusing on the issues, not the people are parties; often one party is not 100% wrong and the other is not 100% right.
– write and call legislators – they may not be listening, but we need to let them know where we stand; calling is better, but don’t chew the head off a staff member – give it like you want to get it.
– write to the news paper, publications or other blogs, again focusing on the issues and not just wanting to disrupt.
– avoid name calling, labeling, denigration, smugness and raised voices – all of these are masking poor arguments; when I hear name calling or labeling, it raises a red flag (unfortunately, a certain global country head does this often).
– avoid less than credible sources – be a truth seeker; if they do not print or post errata when they get it wrong, it is not credible; fact check claims made by various sources, especially those who have a habit of sensationalism or conspiracy BS.
– finally, understand that almost every issue is more complex than portrayed, so solutions are less black and white; be wary of easy fixes and panaceas.

Happy New Year to all. Happy decade to all. Let’s be civil and active truth seekers.

Good People Doing Good Things — Little Things Mean A Lot

https://www.iol.co.za/news/opinion/2019-has-been-the-best-year-in-human-history-heres-why-39896456

We cannot solve US debt by charging more on our national VISA

The math problem is large. We have $23 trillion plus in US debt today, per the US debt clock. It is projected to increase by $10 trillion by 2027 FYE (September 30, 2027) before the tax cut in December, 2017. The tax cut added $1.5 trillion to the debt projection over ten years. A later budget change added $500 billion over ten years.

The budget bill just signed last week will add $500 billion over ten years per the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, yet they note all laws passed in 2019 have added $2.2 trillion over ten years. That would make it at least $37 trillion. So, a good working number is $37 trillion sans any action by the end of 2029 FYE.

Tax increases will not solve this problem, nor will spending cuts. Both are needed. Once the interest cost approaches the defense cost, we have a serious problem. At $37 trillion in debt, the interest cost to maintain it inches closer. So, it truly matters not what Democrats or Republicans like, some poor souls in charge will take the heat for trying to solve a problem passed along by poor financial stewards. It will be akin to the Greek people not liking the EU or responsible Greek leaders when they said Greece was in debt trouble.

What frustrates me is the GOP Freedom Caucus who got elected on debt reduction is the biggest bunch of hypocrites. They screamed bloody murder when the debt was $8 trillion, then $13 trillion, but are passing debt increases misleading the public that the tax reduction would pay for itself – no tax bill has ever done that and this one did not. But, Dems are not without fault. What should scare us all, we should be reducing the deficit with a pretty good economy, yet the deficit is growing and will exceed $1 trillion next FYE. What happens when the economic growth softens even more than it has over the past year.

So, my plea to all is dust off the Simpson-Bowles Deficit Reduction Plan and do even more. I am trying to tell folks what they need to hear, not what they want to hear. If I was a young person, I would be screaming bloody murder at inaction on climate change, guns and debt. Debt is not as frightening as guns and climate change, but it is a huge problem.

Senator Murkowski is on the side of the angels

In an ongoing effort to highlight political courage, Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska continues to fight for the soul that has been trampled on in the Republican Party. She is concerned that Senate Leader Mitch McConnell is coordinating with the White House on the impending trial. An article on her stance is provided in the link below.

Americans should step back and think about that, regardless of political party. The Senate Leader is coordinating with the defense while he sets up the trial. To make matters worse, Senators like Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and John Kennedy of Louisiana have bragged that they do not plan on being impartial. Really?

Senator Murkowski says this is not right. She is correct. It is not right. Senators McConnell, Graham, Kennedy et al took an oath to the US Constitution. They did not swear an oath to the GOP and certainly did not swear one to the person in the White House. It matters not what party someone is, this is not right. If people are telling you it is, you should ask them a why question.

Please join me in applauding the courage of Senator Murkowski. Swimming against the tide in your own party, with a vindictive leader, takes chutzpah. Kowtowing to such a leader is, to be frank, shameful and not courageous at all. Murkowski is on the side of the angels.

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/republican-senator-disturbed-by-mcconnells-coordination-with-white-house-on-impeachment/ar-BBYm9e8?ocid=spartandhp