That white privilege thing

Usually when Dr. Phil comes on, I leave the room. Seeing people yell at each other is not therapeutic for me. Yesterday, my wife said you need to see this one as it was an interesting group discussion on race relations and white privilege.

In one powerful, illustrating exercise, young adults of both genders and several races, religions, sexual preferences, and countries of origin stepped forward or backward based on answers to a series of questions. At the end of about thirty or so questions, white people tended to be at the front of the room, while other races tended to be at the back.

As a now 60 year-old white man, I can pretty much go anywhere I want without repercussions. And, I need not have to worry for my life when I am stopped by the police or state patrol. A black man in his Sunday best has to move very slowly and visibly when stopped, thinking if he does not it may be the last thing he does on earth.

The show’s panel was a mixture of various races and invited audience guests offered their input. Listening to each other is a key takeaway. Understanding more about micro aggressions is also important (unintended slights). A white police officer said we should not use our badge as a threat, but as a heart to reach out to others.

A few white audience members felt they are victims and ostracized for being white. One woman lost her job for doing her job, as a video went viral with commentary that here was another white woman judging others. One woman grew up in a blue collar neighborhood and she felt disenfranchised as the blacks got more opportunities.

Perspective and context mean everything. A good example is captured in the movie about Jackie Robinson called “42.” Pee Wee Reese, the white shortstop for the Dodgers, went to see the owner Branch Rickey when he received a death threat for playing with a black ballplayer. Rickey said you got one threat and then proceeded to pull out gobs and gobs of death threats toward Robinson to illustrate his point.

Is there unfair back lash on some whites, absolutely?  But, people of a different color, religion, sexual preference, etc. have received gobs and gobs of discrimination over the years. And, lately under the divisive leadership of a certain US President, white supremacists, bigots and racists feel more empowered. Their hatred has become more normalized – and that is not good.

I often cite the lines written by Oscar Hammerstein about bigotry in the movie “South Pacific.” “You have to be carefully taught, by the time your are seven or eight. You have to be carefully taught to hate the people your parents hate.” We are not born bigoted, it has to be taught. By listening to each other, maybe we can teach the opposite. It should be noted a black man, who has convinced over 200 KKK members to give up their robes, did so by listening and asking questions. He heard them, which allowed him to be heard.

We are a potpourri of different people, but inside we are all the same. Let’s relish in our differences, but know we have the same foundation.

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Anatomy of a Liar

One of the biggest factors of more autocratic governments is difficulty with the truth. Vladimir Putin, for example, may be the world’s most adroit liar. This is a key reason that the US President’s frequent problem with the truth give people concern over where the country is headed.

Looking at the anatomy of a liar, several things jump out. At the center of these untruthful leaders is a large ego that bristles at any kind of criticism. For this very reason, a liar tends to take credit for all things good and deflect blame to others for all things bad. Close to home, it is not uncommon for the US President to claim things he did not work on as “disasters” and things he did as “beautiful” or the “best ever.”

A favorite tactic of a liar is to keep things simple and repeat it over and over again. Using labels and calling people names are key parts of this strategy. When delivered with bombast, these lies seem very convincing. Smugness is also a common tactic to delivery. Smugness and bombast do not make you right, but unfortunately people are fooled by them. As for Trump, when he punctuates a thought with “believe me,” he is most likely lying.

In today’s news, several lies are jumping off the page. Saudi Arabia continues to come up with a changing storyline on the killing and dismembering of a reporter. Putin continues to deny strong evidence he tried to poison a former Russian agent on British soil and interfere in the 2016 US election. He also tried to interfere in the French election, but Macron’s people knew this and placed incorrect emails in the trove they stole to lessen the impact.

As for Trump, he lies everyday at a rate of more than 2 out of 3 statements per Politifacts. He is even worse at his pep rallies, where he lies 3 out of 4 times. I have long ago stopped believing anything Putin says. I also chose to do the same with Trump. To be trusted, one has to be trustworthy. And, therein lies the rub.

Tired of this who wins and loses reporting

The media is not biased in the way many people think. Their greatest bias by far is toward conflict. Bad news will outsell good news any day. But, to keep readers and viewers interested, the media likes to pit people against one another. This is one of the reasons we are more polarized in America. Conflict sells, too,

This conflict is exacerbated by news outlets that spin the news for a target audience. I am reminded by the old joke when a relative from New England visits his cousins in Alabama. He is asked to kill their dog who has become rabid. Headlines in northern newspapers said “Visiting relative kills rabid dog.” The Alabama newspapers said “Damn Yankee shoots beloved pet.”

I have long been perturbed by TV news who put talking heads side by side on the screen to portray an issue as fifty-fifty. Yet, one side may be supported by a large majority, whereas the other is not. Climate change coverage is a good example. It is not fifty-fifty issue, as in the scientific community it is more like 97 to 3. Yet, when portayed as 50-50, a skillful arguer can win a debate to influence opinion, but that does not make them right.

Yet, another key bugaboo is not covering the impact of an issue, but instead focusing on who wins or loses. I truly think it focuses attention on the wrong thing. Here is a series of examples where we should focus on the issues, not on who benefits by the decision or event.

– It is good that the US is talking to North Korea. It is true we need to be mindful that Kim will likely never give up his nuclear weapons and is using this to drive a wedge between the US and South Korea, but talking is better than the chest-beating  and name-calling that was going on last year.

– It is good the NC minister was released by Turkey. The Senators and President should be applauded for this. I am also certain a lot of behind the scenes folks helped pave the way.

– While it is good the tax law change is helping a pretty good economy be a little better, we should not celebrate we borrowed from our future debt by $1.5 trillion to do so. The increasing debt which is currently at $22 trillion will provide growing headwinds to the economy as annual interest cost eventually becomes one of the biggest budget items.

– We should be mindful of the impact on the economy by tariffs. Supplies and sales pipelines are increasingly impacted and will provide headwinds maybe beginning as early as the quarter that just ended. The second quarter results were positively impacted as companies accelerated purchases before the tariffs became effective.

– Leaving the Paris Climate Change Accord is just an abysmal decision. We stand alone against the world. Coupling that with the significant attempts to make it easier for polluting companies, it will cost us dearly in money, health and lives. Fortunately, others are picking up the baton that our leaders are dropping.

– Civil rights are important for all. Our leaders should be beacions of that message and critical when others feel the rights of one group are more important  than another’s. My rights are important, but not moreso than anyone else. That is how our great country works.

There are so many more that we can draw from such as gun governance, healthcare, human rights, etc. I personally don’t want to hear if some leader or party benefits from a change or event. I want to know how it helps Americans and our world. Read past the conflict to understand the issues. Everything need not be contentious.

Smugness and righteous indignation hide other faults

Reading two pieces today, reminded me of two stories about politicians that are often fairly smug with people with whom they disagree. They also deploy what I call faux righteous indignation, which is insincere at best and disingenuous at worst. The stories involve Senators Orrin Hatch and Ted Cruz.

Senator Hatch has been a lynchpin on two separate Judiciary hearings for the two Supreme Court justices who have been accused of sexual assault and harassment. His faux anger at both tried to  belittle the efforts of the women and elevate the men. His posturing aided the approval of these men.

Yet, the story that reminded me of another Hatch effort appeared today regarding the lack of oversight of the $50 billion supplemental drug industry. Hatch has led a crusade over the years to keep the supplemental drug industry less regulated. As a result, contraemptive and even dangerous chemicals find their way into these drugs. Yet, people believe these drugs are regulated and safe like medical drugs. They are also sold by retailers pushing product. People have been negatively impacted by these drugs. Smugness won’t change that. Action will. It should be noted Hatch has received many donations from this industry and his son is employed in such.

Senator Cruz has been a lightning rod for years holding up legislation. He has been quite strident and smug in his beliefs to the point of dysfunction. To me, his claim of solving Washington’s problems ring hollow, as he is representative of the problem – he refuses to collaborate.

As I was writing a comment about the need for more women in Congress, I was reminded of how ten female Senators stopped the US from reneging on all of its debts, a problem caused by Cruz when he  single-handedly shut down the government over Obamacare. Since Cruz is a Tea Partier, he was less concerned if we reneged on our debts. Yet, other countries were begging us not to do this as was the World Bank.

These ten women stepped in at past the 11th hour and negotiated a deal. Reneging on commitments does not show well. They saved the US from itself and uncollaborative people like Cruz. It should be noted that if Cruz was so concerned by the debt, why did he vote to pass the Tax Bill last December increasing the debt by $1.5 trillion? The word your searching for is hypocrisy.

Hatch is retiring from the Senate after this term. It truly is time for him to go. Cruz is in a competitive race with his Democrat opponent – Beta O’Rourke. He will likely win, but we will have a more collaborative Congress if he does not. To be frank, the only good thing about Trump winning the GOP nomination is Ted Cruz did not.

Smugness and righteous indignation do not make the person right. Many people reacted favorably to Judge Kavanaugh because of his righteous indignation. When you see it, dig deeper and ask more questions. There usually is more there.

 

 

Let’s rise up

A terrific singer named Andra Day provided an anthem for women, but also forward thinking men as well. It is called “I’ll rise up.” Here is the final chorus which says let’s all rise up.

“Rise like the day
I’ll rise up
In spite of the ache
I will rise a thousands times again
And we’ll rise up
Rise like the waves
We’ll rise up
In spite of the ache
We’ll rise up.”

There has been a building crescendo worldwide, but especially here in the US, to say women matter. Women are tired of being taken advantage of by sexual predators, violent and controlling partners and men in power telling them what they can do with their bodies. Women are tired of people ignoring or demeaning them when they complain or accuse a violator. Women are tired of kitchen table issues like equal pay and healthcare gettimg ignored. Women are tired of nothing being done about gun governance which takes to many of their children and themselves.

Women are tired of being kidnapped and trafficked as sex slaves or servants. And, more globally, women need to be supported for saying we are not a possession to be sold, beaten or killed and we need not go through genital mutilation to satisfy an archaic religious practice written by a men.

Now, is the time to rise up. Women are running for political office in tremendous numbers in the US. They are reacting to a misogynist bully who shows what leadership does not look like. Their global sisters are using the opportunity to make a stand.

Rise up and vote. Rise up and take a friend to vote with you. Rise up and make sure your family votes. Rise up and vote for equal rights for all, for our environment which is being destroyed and for our future which is threatened by existential crises like climate change, poverty and inequality. Rise up. It is time to make a huge statement. I am with you.

A simple example of accountability that speaks volumes

The following is a brief example, but speaks volumes as a window into the US President. At one of his pep rallies the past few days, the President ridiculed the former Senator Al Franken from Minnesota, who resigned after accusations of sexual harassment. But, the President was not ridiculing the allegations, he was mocking him for resigning.

Let me be clear on this. The President of the United States was mocking a Senator who did the right thing accepting accountability for his actions. He screwed up, acknowledged it and resigned. The President saw this as weakness. The crowd cheered, but why?

I have written before how the President is not accountable. He rarely accepts blame for anything he does that goes awry. According to his biographers, he was taught by his mentor Roy Cohn to do two things – never say you are sorry and sue everyone. Think about this. He sues everyone or threatens to any time he perceives maltreatment. Before the election, his company lawsuits averaged 1 1/2 per week.

Now, he may have said he is sorry, but I can’t think of one top of mind, in spite of many opportunities. Typically, he changes what he said or backs off, then comes back later to double down. My favorite story to illustrate Trump at his worst is arranging a press conference before the election with the sole purpose to say that he was wrong about Obama’s birth certificate issue.

We need to be reminded that Trump had been raising the birther issue for several years increasing his notoriety appealing to his future base. Yet, when it came time to accept accountability, he blamed Hillary Clinton. Her campaign in 2008 made up the birther issue was his rationale. The idea may have come from them, but they did not execute on it. Trump did for several years, repeatedly. This avoidance of accountability was vintage Trump.

We teach our kids to be truthful, be civil, be responsible and be accountable. Trump is only responsible to himself and his base, everything else is secondary. He tells the truth only 31% of the time and even less when at a pep rally. He certainly is not routinely civil. From several sources, his tirades are legendary indoors as well as out. But, accountability is a trait he severely lacks. Why did people clap at his rally? Because he was ragging on a Democrat. But, that Democrat did the right thing. He was accountable.

 

Two Americans win Nobel Economics prize on Climate Change work

Per an article this morning in Reuters, “Americans William Nordhaus and Paul Romer, pioneers in adapting economic theory to take better account of environmental issues and technological progress, shared the 2018 Nobel Economics Prize on Monday.”

Romer, with New York University, and Nordhaus, with Yale, developed models on the economic impact of dealing with climate change. Reuters cited the Nobel Academy in Stockholm, “‘Their findings have significantly broadened the scope of economic analysis by constructing models that explain how the market economy interacts with nature and knowledge.'”

This news is important as Americans still provide global leadership inspite of the dearth of leadership in the White House and EPA. America is moving forward on renewable energy, but our efforts are in spite of the absence and antagonistic actions of federal leadership. Arguably, more than any other issue, voters must ask their candidates where the stand on climate change actions and protecting the environment.

It is interesting that this came today as the headline article in The Charlotte Observer is “NC Leaders share concern about climate change.” These are 60 business, advocacy, former government and university leaders who have been brought together to speak to various problems. 45 of them responded to the question of climate change and, of the 45, only two naysayed climate change – one called it a hoax, while the other said it is real, but the jury is out on man’s influence. Think about that – 43 out of 45 define the problem and offer solutions.

Per these leaders, ideas include ceasing building on lands prone to flooding. NC has had two 500 year floods in two years, the same with Houston, Texas. Miami may be inescapably lost to continued flooding due to rising seas and porous limestone. The term we must understand as well is “sunny day flooding,” which happens more and more throughout the year.

These Nobel prize winners note we have to address the problem now while the costs are more manageable and can be sustained. The best teachers are the Dutch, as they have managed sea water encroachment for years. But, the impact also includes more and intense forest fires and the faster depletion of already dear water sources.

We have major problems occurring that Washington is not talking about and, in some cases, is making it worse. We must address climate change and invest more in  renewable energy, consider better coastal and flood plain building and consider a carbon tax. We must address fresh water loss that is hastened by climate change that is affecting farmers and other Americans. And, we must address pollution by companies and the growing mountain of plastic.

There are economic models that call to mind the old Fram oil filter commercial – you can pay me now or pay me later. Now, is far cheaper. Ask your politicians more questions and vote accordingly. If they do not admit there are problems, do not vote for them.