Wear sunscreen and other advice

The following post is from eight years ago, but still resonates, at least to this old guy. I hope you will agree

Back in the late 1990s, there was a song that was quite popular with the young crowd. Song is too generous. It is basically an old guy like me who gave words of advice from the perspective of someone who had made more mistakes than the younger listeners primarily because he had more years behind him than they had. The kids called it “The Sunscreen” song as it started and ended with those words of advice – wear sunscreen.

So, in this spirit, I offer some words of advice, which may be helpful or may just be redundant. Hopefully, the reader will find some benefit in a one or two comments. So, in no particular order, here a few thoughts from an old fart.

Context is everything. Please try to understand the context of everything you hear or read. Anyone can be made foolish by taking their words out of context.

Spin doctor is a nice euphemism for “paid liar.” Don’t ever forget it is the job of the spin doctor to perfume any pig. See the above about context.

Try to understand the source of information. Is it reputable? There is a lot of uncensored data on the Internet which is not worth the binary code it is written in. Also, be even more wary of politicians who cite data. Many surveys are sponsored by political parties under mainstream names.

You can be too connected. Folks, take a break and stop looking at your I-phone. Companies love the fact that you are doing your job at 10 pm or on vacation – don’t. Trust me it will still be there when you return or better yet, someone else will solve an issue that was not that important to begin with.

It is not possible to be texting or on the I-phone while driving and not be distracted. “Mythbusters” did a neat driving test which showed you could drive better inebriated than when on a cellphone.

Just because you can does not mean that you should. Computers have enabled us to do wondrous things. Yet, they also provide temptations to do things that you probably should not do.Computer actions leave interesting trails, so your employer or significant other can see when you given in to temptations.

Getting elected to public office costs way too much money. So, politicians need funders to get elected. As a result, the best a politician can be is mildly subjective. This is the best case for term limits I can make. Maybe the backers would not contribute as much if their return on investment is time limited.

Be careful with your personal information. You have to be zealous in guarding against your information. ID theft is a painful process. Be careful in what you put in the public domain. It is very easy to get to. I have been down that road several times to keep the wolves at bay.

Your name is the most important asset you have. Quoting Liam Neeson in the movie “Rob Roy,” “honor is a gift you give yourself.” What do you want people to say about you when they hear your name spoken? He is a good man or he is a jerk.

While it is important to work, do not let it define who you are. I work hard, but when I had a health scare a few years ago and was in the ER with wires attached to me waiting for my wife to show up, I can assure you I did not think of work. I was thinking of my family.

Don’t play the lottery. If you have the urge, just give the money to a person in need instead. You will feel better about it and they will benefit. If you play it, you are just throwing money out the car window.

Laugh at yourself. When you make mistakes, it will make it easier on you and others. Also, if you do screw up, make it right. You won’t regret remedying an error.

Find out what you love to do and find a way to get paid doing it. Sometimes you may have to try on different jobs to discover this.

You can never have enough cups of coffee with people. Meet people, listen to them. Life is more enjoyable over conversations. Also, remember, you have two ears and one mouth, use them in that proportion. You are not as smart as you think you are, so listening makes all the difference.

Tell someone you love to have a good day and ask how it was at the end of it. Those little questions day in day out matter.

Finally, quoting Ted from the movie “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” – “Be excellent to one another and party on dude.” The best rule Jesus gave us was golden. It still makes sense today. And, have fun because life is too short.

Straight talk from Tom Hanks on COVID-19 – there is a part we can all play

Last night, Tom Hanks was interviewed by Lester Holt on NBC News (the three plus minute interview can be linked to below). Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson caught COVID-19 while traveling and self-quarintined in Australia. Hanks tends to be worth listening to, as he speaks in a straightforward, reflective and unthreatening manner.

When Holt asked him about the concerns and uncertainties of many, Hanks noted how to address such by doing what is asked of us. Hanks said what we have been asked to do to help each other and our community is the least we can do. It is disappointing that it is even an issue as there is a part we all can play. Wear a mask, socially distance and wash your hands. Something so simple that requires so little effort.

Hanks noted earlier that he and Rita are doing fine after quarantine and are participating in blood work studies now that they are back home. He said they both have fewer antibodies, so they remain at risk of getting a recurrence. He said their symptoms were a little different, with both feeling at first they were a little “punky.” They have been open about their illness, treatment and recovery so that people are aware.

Please watch the interview from the link below. It is refreshing to hear straight talk from someone who we feel we know from his career and how he has conducted himself. I kept thinking these are the simple messages more people in leadership positions should be saying.

https://www.nbcnews.com/nightly-news/video/full-interview-tom-hanks-on-coronavirus-pandemic-87167557813

That Trump anchor

That Trump anchor is getting heavier. Republican Senate candidate are realizing the president’s decline in the polls is impacting their chances as reported in an article by Politico today called “Election forecast: Trump, Senate, GOP in trouble.”
Per the Politico article, 75% of voters think the country is going in the wrong direction as Trump’s approval ratings fall further beneath already underwater averages.

It goes on to say “President Donald Trump is now an underdog to win a second term and Republican majority in the Senate is in serious danger.” RealClear Politics, which averages poll results, reports Arizona Senator Martha McSally is behind in a close race to astronaut Mark Kelly, North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis is behind in a close race to state legislator and decorated vet Cal Cunningham, and Senators Joni Ernst (Iowa), Cory Gardner (Colorado), Susan Collins (Maine) are also closely behind in their races to Theresa Greenfield, John Hickenlooper and Sara Gideon, respectively.

With his ongoing misinformation and lack of leadership on COVID-19, with his racist tendencies adding gasoline to racial injustice issues and tensions, with his ongoing corrupt tendencies to punish people who try to protect our country against his deceit and ineptness in doing his job not bothering to read or pay attention, the Trump anchor is pulling others down with him.

And, it is not going to get better. COVID-19 is getting worse in America and he is hoping it goes away. Hope is not a strategy. Although, there was some hopeful news in May and June of some of the unemployed going back to work, the economy is going to continue its malaise into 2021, as more closings occur. The last half of June started to show fall off from the first half results.

After winning in 2016 on fear and a nationalistic campaign, he is doubling down on those themes, at a time when most of the country has left him behind on the problem of racial injustice. He had support when he made a prop out of Colin Kaepernick when he knelt to the national anthem, but Trump chose not to understand the reason why Kaepernick was kneeling. The fact a Vietnam vet knelt with Kaepernick did not register. Trump is shouting in the wind, but fewer are listening.

Now, Democrats, a word of caution. Do not count the seats as won yet. You must get out on and vote. There is an old saying that if you are going to take down the King, you better take him down. As economic advisor to presidents of both parties, Robert Reich said Trump is a clear and present danger to our country and world. If he were to win, America and the planet would be in dire trouble with an uncontrolled Pandora.

Official Secrets – a true story about government lying

A few Americans may know the name Valerie Plame. It is highly unlikely Americans know the name Katharine Gun. But, a few Brits might. They are both heroes for calling their respective governments on the carpet for the same event – the illegal invasion by the US, UK and its allies into Iraq.

More on Plame later. There is an excellent movie released in 2019 (directed by Gavin Hood) called “Official Secrets” starring Keira Knightley as Gun. But, who is she and why is she a hero? Katharine Gun was an analyst for the UK’s GCHQ, the UK counterpart to the US’ NSA. She read a memo from a NSA department head that asked the UK to join the US to spy on other members of the UN Security Council to pressure them into voting in favor of invading Iraq. In other words, the US wanted the UK to help them lie to support a war where innocent people would die and British (and American) soldiers would be at risk.

Now, Americans likely do not know a seven-year British inquiry investigated the Iraq invasion beginnings and found that Prime Minister Tony Blair and President George Bush misled the British people about the rationale to invade Iraq. But, let’s scroll back to right before the invasion when Bush was seeking support from the UN Security Council.

At that time, Peter Goldsmith, the UK attorney general, held the position that unless authorized by the UN Security Council, the invasion would be illegal. But, after meeting with the Americans in Washington, he changed his opinion to rely on the fringe position of using the 1991 UN Security Council OK for the Gulf War. In other words, if the UN Security Council did not agree this time, the US would invade under this pretense and that is what occurred.

Before Goldsmith’s change of mind, Gun released the memo to someone who shared it with a news reporter played by Matt Bright. Then, she turned herself in. Gun violated the Official Secrets act, but she said our spying is supposed to make our citizens safer, not used to lie to them for an unjust war. She took a great risk and was charged with a crime after about a year of anguished waiting. *

Ben Emmerson, her attorney, played ably by Ralph Fiennes, built a case on her breaking that law out of “necessity” to save British lives which was a permissible defense. Knowing the Deputy AG, Elizabeth Wilmshurst (played by Tansin Greig), resigned over the AG’s change in posture and that documents of her resignation and Goldsmith’s council to Blair codified their concerns, Emmerson requested the files and Gun pled innocent.

Gun could have pled guilty and received a shorter sentence, but she risked it all to make the Blair government defend itself. Then, the surprise came in court. The government dropped the charges rather than have to release any incriminating documents. The Blair government did not want to reveal its decision-making process.

Gun’s actions were applauded as were Valerie Plame’s. Plame was a CIA operative whose husband, Joseph Wilson, was a former ambassador. Her story is told in the movie “Fair Game,” with Naomi Watts playing Plame and Sean Penn playing Wilson.

Plame asked her husband to use his connections to trace a lead on a supplier to Saddam Hussein’s alleged WMDs (Weapons of Mass Destruction). Wilson found the supplier to be unrelated to any WMD supplies, so he was unable to confirm this hypothesis. Yet, his report was misused and said he did find a connection. Wilson was angered at the betrayal of his work and wrote an op-ed in The New York Times saying so.

In an half-handed attempt to save face and denigrate Wilson, VP Dick Cheney’s staff member, Scooter Libby, outed Plame as a CIA agent in the press. This is a crime, of which Libby was found guilty and served jail time. To date, Libby is the only person to serve jail time for the invasion of Iraq. Plame testified to Congress about the secretive WMD research led by the Cheney folks and the efforts to discredit her and her husband.

Gun and Plame are heroes. 4,600 American and British soldiers died in Iraq with over 32,000 injured. The estimates of Iraqi deaths are between 150,000 and 1 million. And, we still have a presence in Iraq sixteen years later. Hussein may be gone, but the Middle East remains an unsolvable and unstable problem and the US reputation is viewed very unfavorably by more than Iraqis.

Gun said it best. I work for my country and its people. When a government lies to its people for unjust causes, she felt she had to speak up. She said she would do it again. Let me add one more thought – leaders must exhaust all options before they send its citizens into harms way. They owe it to them. Lying to enable war is beyond poor stewardship. In this case, it was illegal.

* London’s The Observer published the memo in a headline article after confirming its authenticity through several channels, which are portrayed in the movie. Yet, it made a simple, but huge mistake. An editor ran the article through spell-check and the system corrected American spellings of words like “favorable” and “recognize” with the British spellings of “favourable” and “recognise.” This change was seized upon by the Drudge Report who published the memo was fake, discrediting the article. All interviews with the reporter were canceled at that point. Per the movie, this was a contributing cause for Gun’s admission of leaking the document. She wanted people to know and recognized she was putting herself in jeopardy.

Monday, Monday Musings

The Mamas and the Papas sang the popular lament “Monday, Monday.” It was one of their biggest hits, and it allows me to use the title to offer some miscellaneous musings on this Monday afternoon. As we near the halfway point of the 2020 year, it has been a quite troublesome one. And, it is likely to get worse.

– Pandemics are equally opportunity offenders. Your race, country, ethnicity, political leanings, etc. matter not.

– Most people are smarter than our elected officials. Many years ago, I used to think the opposite. And, it may have been true with folks like Jack Kemp, Bill Bradley, Tip O’Neill representative of a more learned lot of legislators.

– Yes, many voters can be fooled, but for the most part, they will make better decisions than our leaders will, especially, when such leaders are well funded by donors to think a certain way. And, that may be their stumbling block, the elected officials are paid to do what they are told by large donors.

– To this point, if we took a collection of reasonable folks as a cross section, told them about the various problems armed with cost/ benefit summaries of various actions, they could do a better job than funded elected officials of addressing the issues.

– Intolerance is not a healthy attribute and is harmful to many. Our friend Roger notes, the only allowable intolerance is of intolerant actors and actions.

– Speaking of intolerance, it would be a nice change for our country if its president did not walk around with a can of gasoline fueling racist fires. A leader would condemn racism, not tweet about how the racist is maltreated.

– Finally, it disappoints me that too many are so wrapped up in themselves, they refuse to help others and wear masks and/ or socially distance. If a store does not ward off non-mask wearers and take precautions, then we should find other venues that do.

COVID-19 could care less if your feelings are hurt. As my brother-in-law, who served in the USAF said, it is not like your being asked to storm a beach at Normandy, so wearing a mask is not too great a burden.

The Black Tax

For the African-Americans reading this title, they will immediately know what it means. For those who are not and do not know, it is important that you do know. The best description of what it is can be found at the end of the most recent broadcast on HBO of “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.” This show focuses on the impact on sports and society of COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter racial injustice protests. A link to his description is below.

For those who do not know who Bryant Gumbel is, he is a long time news and sports reporter who is also a Black man. For a few years, he left sports to host NBC’s “Today Show,” but returned to his roots of reporting on sports. I find his show to be the best sports commentary show around because he and other talented reporters do deep dives on the stories. To be frank, the sport is secondary to the human interest story.

This show is no exception. At the end of the show, Gumbel updates a real life shooting of a promising baseball talent named Robbie Tolan, the son of former major league player, Bobby Tolan. He was shot in his front yard after an office accosted his mother over the belief the car parked out front was stolen. It turned out the officer entered one digit wrong on the license tag number. The mother was in her pajamas at 11 pm. The son said loudly take your hands off my mother and the officer turned and shot. No warning. He just shot.

The young man survived after months of hard recovery, but Tolan’s dream of a baseball future would not come true. The police officer was acquitted of any crime, returned to the force and later received a promotion. Tolan has written a book about his travails called “No Justice: one white police officer, one black family.”

Then, Gumbel told us about the Black Tax. It not monetary – it is a burden that is paid everyday. It is the daily burden of being treated as an unequal citizen. It is the daily burden of worrying about the life of yourself, your kids and your grandkids. It is the burden of being pulled over or accosted by police officers for being Black like the suspect they believe you are. It is the burden of being considered less able for a position you are applying for. It is the burden of having to check your response to obvious racial denigration. It is the burden of having to suffer people saying something that would not be said to a white person, “you are a credit to your race.”

Gumbel concludes by saying it is exhausting to have to carry this burden. It is bothersome that we have not resolved to fully deal with the racial injustice. Black lives matters is more than just a slogan. It is a hope for equal footing.

https://people.com/tv/bryant-gumbel-explains-black-tax-hbo-real-sports/

She looked the hater in the eyes

Peaceful protests are happening in huge numbers around the country regarding Black Lives Matter. There is danger from both the COVID-19 virus as well as counter protestors. From what I have seen, most of the protestors are wearing masks and they are outside, but they still need to be very careful.

As for the other risk of counter protestors, here is what one young black woman named Samantha Francine did. Her actions are captured in an article written by Asta Bowen in the Jackson Hole News and Guide on June 10 called “Looking hate in the eye in Whitefish.” Here are few paragraphs. A link to the article is below.

“What happened here was much less dramatic. On a fine afternoon in the pretty ski town of Whitefish, a group was gathered to raise signs of support for Black Lives Matter. One large, angry man descended on the scene, cursing in people’s faces and grabbing at signs, as the group chanted, ‘Peaceful! Peaceful!’ Within minutes a policeman had escorted the man from the scene.

But amid the commotion, one image burns bright: We see the intruder from behind, towering over a young black woman, as he gets in her face. Her sign, ‘Say Their Names,’ has dropped to her side, but her feet are planted firmly. She has just put up her sunglasses, meeting his assault with a steady, silent gaze. Though the encounter lasts only a moment, the impression is enduring. Her name is Samantha Francine, and she embodies the change we need. As we adjust to life under the pandemic, it is time to accept that yet another plague is upon us, and that is the disease of dehumanization. We condemn first and ask questions later — or never. We judge on sight, we dismiss and damn; we polarize and partisanize until the rift has grown so wide there is no reaching across.

Samantha just held her ground, looked the man in the eye, and listened.

She explained why: ‘I grew up with a single white father who taught us from a young age that things were going to be different for us just because of the color of our skin. He would constantly remind us that ‘no matter the threat, always look them in the eye so they have to acknowledge you’re human.’ In this moment, those are the words that went through my head. When I lifted up my glasses, he saw me. I saw him.’”

Peaceful protests are key. Violence is not the answer as it distracts from the message. But, acts of civil disobedience are immeasurable. She looked the hater in the eyes and let him rant. She listened to what he had to say, but she looked him in the eye to let him know she was there and she saw him.

I will add what she did was a daring and took nerve. It may not be the solution for many. But, listening to someone is an appropriate action. Then, you can ask questions about what they said. “Help me understand why you feel that way?” you could ask. If a black man named Daryl Davis can talk over 200 KKK members to cede their robes and quit, then anything is possible.

A message I want to leave with people is one I often repeat. One does not need to be a jerk to get a point across. In fact, the message will likely be heard if it is not shouted. It will also be likely heard if it is made after listening to the other’s point. As a parent, a truism is if you want your children to listen, lower your voice.

https://www.jhnewsandguide.com/jackson_hole_daily/state_and_regional/writerrs_on_range/looking-hate-in-the-eye-in-whitefish/article_8508e894-4871-5ad8-ad9a-6ee94820fbfb.html

Trump Environmental Protection Agency makes it easier to harm infants

The dramatic headline is designed to get your attention, so please forgive the theatrics. Yet, while the president distracts us with his chaotic, incompetent and untruthful actions and words about more headline issues, his misnamed Environmental Protection Agency has struck again.

Amanda Mills penned the following article on June 23, 2020 in the online publication “Nation of Change,” “Trump’s EPA rolls back regulation of chemical linked to brain damage in infants that can be found in drinking water.” I will include her entire brief article below.

“Last week, Trump’s EPA decided to roll back regulations of a chemical that causes brain damage in infants. This chemical, perchlorate, is found in rocket fuel and can also be found in public drinking water.

Environmental experts and Health professionals have been fighting this deregulation that was created during the Obama Administration.

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler claims this move ‘fulfills President Trump’s promise to pare back burdensome ‘one-size-fits-all’ overregulation for the American people.’

According to Associated Press, perchlorate from runoff contaminates the drinking water of as many as 16 million Americans, the Obama administration said in 2011 when it announced the EPA would act to set maximum limits for perchlorate for the first time.

Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) senior strategic director for Health Erik D. Olson says this decision is ‘illegal, unscientific, and unconscionable. The Environmental Protection Agency is threatening the health of pregnant moms and young children with toxic chemicals in their drinking water at levels that literally can cause loss of IQ points. Is this what the Environmental Protection Agency has come to?’

According to Common Dreams, the NRDC plans to challenge the order in court, claiming the consent decree did not allow for deregulating the chemical.”

I truly wish I were making these things up and kids will not be harmed by the president, but as evidenced by previous EPA actions and his blatant lack of empathy for COVID-19 victims, this is not really a stretch. As conservative pundit David Brooks has said, the president “lacks a sense of decency or empathy.”

These roll back of environmental regulations have been deliberate efforts to make it easier for industry to not worry about pollution. Environmental protections cost money. Sadly, when industry has not been permitted to get away with harming people, animals and the environment, it becomes a major motion picture as “Dark Waters” was last year or “Erin Brockovich” years before.

And, the troubling part is people who live in more rural or town areas near these facilities are the ones who get screwed or killed. These hard working folks make up some of Trump’s voters. The ecologist and biologist Sandra Steingraber has testified in front of Congress and the European Union parliament. She is has authored several books, her first being “Living Downstream” and her second “Raising Elijah.” In these books, it shows how industry outguns and outspends local people harmed by their pollution. It takes a Herculean effort to fight this injustice, hence the heroic movies when it does happen.

One thing Steingraber points out is our pollution metrics tend to measure the impact of pollution on a 50 year old man. That is the wrong metric. Kids have developing brains and lungs, mouth breathe more than adults, put their hands in their mouths more frequently, play outside more and are lower to the ground. They are more susceptible than adults are to chemical pollution. Plus, pregnant women are caring for two lives (maybe more), so we need to be extra careful with them.

So, this is why the Trump EPA’s decision to permit easier pollution is so over-the-top callous. Please question this move. Make people stand up and explain why this is a good idea. As I have mentioned before, I knew of Trump’s negatives, but what I feared most is what Trump would do to our environment and climate change actions more than anything. This is just one more example.

A unifying person – a tribute to Carlos Santana, the person (a reprise)

The following was written and posted in 2014. The theme is so very relevant today as a much needed approach to emulate. Carlos Santana is known for his collaboration with singers and other performers.

I was watching an excellent documentary film on HBO about Carlos Santana, which included the lead up to and concert in his birth country of Mexico at the Festival of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The music is terrific, but the stories from Santana and his fellow performers, friends and family are enlightening and confirming. Santana received a Kennedy Center Honor from President Obama in December, 2013 for his life’s work and devotion to making great music and sharing it with us and his fellow performers.

As one of the best guitarists around, Santana has a gift of working well with other performers and using their talents to make beautiful music. In the documentary, he was described as a “unifying person” which may be one of the nicest compliments you could pay to someone. The story-teller said Santana had a gift for unifying diverse music and musical talents to make a unique and wonderful sound. Three quick stories, two from Santana and one from his wife Cindy Blackman, will provide great glimpses into Santana’s make-up.

Someone asked Santana how he was able to collaborate so well with other musicians in recordings and in performances. He said, “I just show up with a smile on my face and a willingness to work together with others.” If we could bottle that and give it to everyone to drink, what a difference that would make. A simple example of this was when Santana was talking to his fellow musicians about “not playing too loudly, so as not to drown out the voice of the singers.” I had heard him earlier describe that you have to provide some space for people to listen to the various subtleties of the music. To me, this is giving of himself to make the whole sound better.

The last example comes from his relatively new bride, Cindy Blackman, whom he married in 2010. She was describing how at the Kennedy Center Honors banquet, Santana went back to the kitchen to thank all of the chefs and wait staff for their help that night. He noted later in the documentary, many of us immigrants came to America and took jobs to have a chance to live in a great country. They work hard and we should acknowledge them.

I purposefully did not make this about his wonderful repertoire of songs. His music will live on. I was so moved by this quote of him being a “unifying person” I felt the need to share his example for us all. Muchas gracias, amigo.

He keeps missing the point

Turnout was low at the pep rally, about 1/3 of the arena per the official count. As expected, it is everyone else’s fault per the drawing card. I am certain heads will roll because of the low turnout and rumblings are underway. But, throughout all of this, the drawing card is missing the point. He violated the trust of his loyal fans by risking their health and lives.

Yes, there were a number that showed up to support the drawing card. Very few masks were used, well because the drawing card does not wear one, why should they? Very little social distancing occurred, even though it was easier with a 2/3 empty arena. Sadly, some of these folks and their relatives, friends, co-workers and chance encounters will be exposed to COVID-19.

While I am well beneath perfection, the drawing card has numerous flaws, none of which he will admit. But, one of his more egregious ones is the inability to be accountable for his mistakes and bad decisions. It rivals his inability to tell the truth with any consistency, as it is a cover-up defense mechanism.

To be brutally frank, the drawing card deserves very little trust. When his friend Howard Stern noted the drawing card could care less about his most loyal of fans, it was not a surprise. His wanting their votes, applause and support, was thrown to the wolves, when he staged a pep rally in the middle of a pandemic which is not going away, then required his loyal fans to hold harmless his campaign if they got COVID-19.

The preceding sentence is as good a metaphor for why this person does not deserve people’s trust as any. Loyalty to the drawing card is a one way street. In his defense, people might say he had Barr fire the New York prosecutor who is investigating Rudy Giuliani. But, in actuality he is more worried about the dirt that might come back on him. It is all about The Donald. Always has been, always will be. Every decision or statement circles back to that large ego.

So, the point being missed is the reason the turnout and poll numbers are low are due to one thing and one thing only. The person blaming everyone else. At some point, people notice when you show you do not care about them.