Confusion has its cost

My wife and I were listening to a favorite CD on a day trip by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young called “So far.” It is the first album recorded after Neil Young joined the band. One of the songs is called “Helplessly Hoping.”

The song title is an excellent metaphor for what many feel about the tenure of the US president. A key line of the song echoes a concern that I have – “Confusion has its cost.”

Going into this administration, I expected a heavy dose of untruthfulness, bullying and name calling from the president. I expected concerns over policy decisions he might make, pulling out of the Paris Climate Change Accord, being an example. Sadly, I have not been surprised on these fronts.

What has surprised me is the level of chaos and incompetence present in the White House. And, I am not alone in this assessment. Conservative pundit David Brooks uses the term “equal parts chaos and incompetence.” Together, they cause confusion.

There is confusion around inconsistent messaging, unstable decision-making, overshadowing or derailing emissaries, being swayed by biased or misinformed sources, and a disdain for study or receptivity to input counter the president’s set notions.

This confusion has a cost. Other leaders have lamented they do not know who speaks for America. Republican leaders feel the same, but can only grumble under their breath. Perhaps, the best metaphor for the Trump presidency is his communication people hiding in the bushes to discuss what to say about Jim Comey being fired. Not only did the regal-minded Trump not tell Comey he was fired, he failed to tell his communication staff.

Ron Christie, a former Bush communication official noted that well run White Houses have monthly, weekly and daily talking points. I think one reason the daily press briefings went away, is the lack of such.

Confusion has its cost. Our reputation, our word, our commitment, our governance require clarity. Another measuring rod is White House turnover, which is much higher than previous administrations.

Letter from a Republican candidate in 2000

In The Charlotte Observer today, a letter from a former Republican candidate for Lieutenant Governor in 2000 was printed. Andy Nillson wrote a letter entitled “Trump’s power must be checked by GOP.”

Nillson’s letter echoes what non-Republicans and a handful of Republicans are saying. Below is his letter, which speaks for itself:

“Lately, the truth that many Republicans like me are realizing is that the our president is not upholding the ideals of our party and our country.

His administration violates duties of office with callous indifference. And President Trump expects Republicans to fall in line behind him, regardless.

I have been most appalled by the president’s mishandling of foreign policy matters – especially the Ukraine situation – and his conduct during the Mueller investigation.

His power must be checked by other Republicans. Congress must do its duty to bring forth all of the evidence so the country can move forward. We cannot repeat Watergate. It will set Republicans back 50 years.”

These letters from courageous Republicans need to be highlighted. Please feel free to share this letter with Republican legislators and others.

I know Trump followers will dismiss Mr. Nillson as a RINO (Republican in Name Only), so his opinion can be discounted. Sadly, Trump’s party does not bear much resemblance to the Republican Party.

This is not Democrat witchhunt. I agree with Nillson’s comments. Republicans must remember their oaths to the US constition and think more of protecting it than the incumbent president. Nillson, like Nebraska GOP State Senator John McCollister, should be applauded for their political courage.

Puzzlement

I am puzzled. I have been concerned for a long time about actions and behavior of the current occupant in the White House. Why am I puzzled?

We have a national security risk in the White House and his actions are being explained away by his sycophants as just Trump being Trump. That may be true as he has been an untruthful bully who strong armed people for many years. He now thinks he is a king, when he is only president.

While three expert witnesses said the president committed an impeachable offense, we have a one expert witness say he needs to see more evidence to confirm impeachment. I respect his opinion, so the president needs to stop obstructing justice and let people who heard him abuse power to testify. More on the cover-up would be nice, as well.

It apparently is not enough for a higher up to order you to work with the president’s attorney to exploit Ukraine. Who else would have that authority, that attorney relationship and something to gain from the exploitation?

This abuse of power fits into a larger narrative of a president who is taking a wrecking ball to our global reputation and relationships, while cozying up to autocratic leaders. There is a reason so many leaders talk about ways to deal with this impetuous person as do US GOP leaders.

The NATO meeting is yet one more example of the chaos he is causing. While asking for NATO countries to pay their share is a fair request, denigrating people does not serve us well. Seemingly every issue he involves himself in is contentious.

I am puzzled why this is not more obvious to his followers. Part of the reason is they are asked to look the other way with a sophistry by talking heads on a favored news station. What I see is abuse of power, corrupt behavior, obstruction of justice, and an active cover up.

It is a puzzlement, but here is one more. You know the sycophants are worried about other shoes that will drop. That has to keep them up at night. It should.

Don’t give your power away

An old friend who passed away far too early was a high school counselor. She would counsel kids who were in stress over real or perceived slights with the following two tandem pieces of advice:

– Do not give your power away. Things happen. You are the only person who can control how you respond.

– If you choose not to take offense, you are not offended.

Putting these two together let’s you control your reaction. People try to get your goat. People try to lure you into a fight. Some folks are even malevolent about this process. These folks take delight in watching you blow up.

Being able to laugh it off or make a jocular reference to a piece of teasing or taunting is an art form. Self-deprecating or deflecting humor is a good tactic. If you are uncomfortable about using humor, changing the subject, walking away and not responding are also good strategies. If it is your blog, you can simply saying “Thank you for sharing your opinion.” And, move on.

This can be difficult, but if you let your pride or temper get the best of you, then you have ceded your power. I must confess I have ceded my power more times than I care to admit. Invariably, self-reflection will occur as to why I bit the bait.

These are simple words. If you don’t take offense, you are not offended. I am not saying to forget the slight, but you need not give the author your power. People can vote with their feet. If someone relishes in doing this, minimize or eliminate contact with that person.

Finally, I am not saying people should not push back. My advice is pick your battles. Don’t argue with a street preacher is a good analogy. And, push back the way you want to receive it. Civility and frankness are not mutually exclusive.

May the Force be with you – don’t click

Black Friday turned into hefty cyber sales. Today, is officially Cyber Monday, so the expectation is high for even more sales. However, a key financial lesson is if you don’t buy, you save even more money. So, use the Force to not click.

I realize I am not telling anyone anything new. But. people want your money, so they will make it easier to get it. I think there has been a trend toward more personal purchases from holiday gifts. It is clear the car commercials have gone down that path to lower year-end inventory. If you must buy a car, your best savings will be at the end of December not the beginnning.

Yet, resist the urge as much as you can. I tell people you can go broke saving 1/2 off if it leads to more purchases. The other reason to resist is the hyper-commercialization of Christmas. This is a key reason I am frustrated with the infringement on my favorite holiday of Thanksgiving.

So, use the Force. Resist the urge. Don’t click on Submit or click far less. Black Friday and Cyber Monday lead to Red Debt.

Immortality in crosswords

It is often said you can’t live forever, but in crossword puzzles that is not entirely true. With the right name, you will be recurringly remembered. It is not necessarily the most famous names that come up. It is the names with at least a couple of vowels.

UMA Thurman is a popular actress, but her first name is even more popular in crossword puzzles.

ERMA Bombeck was a witty columnist and author. But, her first name lives on.

ENYA is an enchanting Irish songstress, but her solo name appears often.

Herman Melville’s most famous novel is “Moby Dick,” but in crossword puzzles “OMOO” beats it hands down.

Melville’s more read novel does show up, but its tormented Captain AHAB is the answer to many a puzzle question.

ALMA Gluck was a famous actress, but her first name lives on in puzzles. The same goes for IDA Lupino.

While Charlie Chaplin was the star, his last wife OONA is very popular in crosswords with three vowels.

Several deities appear with some frequency – ODIN, HERA, OLAF.

Even a pair of tennis playing sisters will periodically come up – SERENA and VENUS.

Finally, while he was most famous for playing Obi Wan Kenobi, ALEC Guiness lives on with the crossword Force.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. If you do crossword puzzles, please share a few of the names you use with some frequency.

Travel safely and sanely

As we head into my favorite holiday week, the weather is starting out on a less than friendly basis. So, please take extra care to travel safely and reach your family destinations. I can assure you the interstates and airports will be crowded and at a standstill at times. If you look in the dictionary I-95 is code for stationary and an airport is a gathering place.

So, to manage expectations consider the following. First for flyers:

– you will wait in airports and have a hard time finding a parking space,
– your plane will be delayed and may be canceled, and
– your plane will be crowded.

How you let this affect you is your ball to play. You can let it bother the heck out of you or you can take it in stride. As I waited for my checked bags once, a woman commented on how calm and relaxed I was. I was sitting with a book and was waiting for the bags to come in. My standing up at the carrousel was not going to make them come faster.

Now for the drivers:

– you will be accompanied by many drivers on the road,
– you will come to a halt due to accidents and rubberneckers, and
– you will get irritated on occasion with fellow passengers.

How you let this affect you is your ball to play. Following distance is our friend. Rest areas break the monotony. Listen to your kids play lists – I had a ball with my kids doing this as they take pride in sharing. Find those side roads to avoid only interstate driving.

Please travel safely (and sanely). Giver everyone a hug for me when you get there. Happy Thanksgiving.