A few hard truths

In the land where entertainment and sports news get much more attention, a few hard truths need to be communicated. On the first Saturday of the new year, here are a few of those truths.

Our capable intelligence community is convinced with a high degree of certainty that Russian elements influenced the 2016 Presidential election and continue to sow seeds of discord to disrupt the US. This is a continuing attack on the US by a foreign entity that our President and this Congress have largely chosen to ignore. My suggestion is to ask your Congressperson, Senators and President what they plan on doing about it?

The US Tax Plan was passed to a lot of fanfare and chest beating under the guise of stimulating the economy, but it still needs a larger sales job on disbelieving Americans. Giving a lot of money to rich people and corporations is supposed to trickle down, yet do we need to add $1.5 trillion more to an increasing debt? Do we need to further stimulate an economy that has had 103 consecutive months of economic growth dating back to June, 2009? Do we need to stimulate an economy that just posted 2 million added jobs for the seventh year in a row, with a continuing run up of the US stock market? Nonpartisan economist groups have posed the same questions.

Let me get this straight, is the Republican Party for states rights or for federal rights? It seems to differ based on where the power lies. The White House has announced that 95% of coastal areas will be subject to offshore drilling to the dismay of governors who want to foster their tourism and fishing industries. Further, the Attorney General wants to crack down on states who are now selling regulated medical and retail marijuana changing an earlier Obama order to allow states to do this. Both of these decisions are getting heavy nonpartisan pushback from state leaders and it is my understanding the White House was asked not to do this.

Finally, the US continues to declare the cut in funding to countries that do not cooperate with us. This is not necessarily new, but we seem to be bullying others more and to what end? We are not the biggest funders to these places and China, India and Russia are easily picking up more influence as we decrease ours. The Pakistan PM basically said it is not a big deal if they lose US funding. The question to ask as we beat on our chest, is who are we trying to convince, the other country or a base of uninformed voters?

That is all I have for today. Unfortunately , the answers to these points can be summed up in one ugly word, “politics.” Have a great weekend and 2018. One thing is for certain is it will be interesting one.

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Be not afraid – a memorable hymn

We attended a funeral today for the father of my daughter’s friend who passed way too early at age 53. Growing up Catholic and singing harmony with her father in a small church, my wife recognized immediately the encouraging hymn “Be not afraid” that the congregation was asked to sing.

I knew this would be both memorable and melancholy for my wife as she sang it beautifully next to my whispering voice. She and her father sang well together. Here are the words, crafted by English author Alfred J. Hough, which are poignant next to the beautiful music of Charles Hutchinson Gabriel.

“You shall cross the barren desert but you shall not die of thirst
You shall wander far in safety though you do not know the way
You shall speak your words in foreign lands and all will understand
You shall see the face of God and live

Be not afraid, I go before you always
Come follow me and I’ll give you rest

If you pass through raging waters in the sea you shall not drown
If you walk amidst the burning flames you shall not be harmed
If you stand before the power of hell and death is at your side
Know that I am with you through it all

Be not afraid, I go before you always
Come follow me and I’ll give you rest

Blessed are the poor, for the Kingdom shall be theirs
Blessed are you that weep and mourn for one day you shall laugh
And if wicked men insult and hate you all because of me
Blessed, blessed are you

Be not afraid, I go before you always
Come follow me and I’ll give you rest”

Whether you are religious, the words offer a great example of the comfort that be gleaned at a time of grief and need. These hymns are mileposts in our lives and can remind us of earlier moments. To me it reminded me of the times my wife would rehearse on Saturday evening with her father and perform in the church service the next day.

“Be not afraid” are comforting words. I hope they were for my daughter’s friend and her family.

 

Invasion of the Ladybugs

This December has brought a new set of guests to our home. We are being invaded by Ladybugs! They tend to congregate in groups in one of our vaulted ceilings in the den area. They seem to follow the heat as it rises.

We read this phenomenon is not uncommon and our new guests bring no harm. However, just now, my wife was shrieking over one flying onto her neck. I am sad to report we have vacuumed up over fifty of them from our ceiling, usually when a dozen or so have gathered. Right now, we are back up to five.

We don’t know where they are coming from, as this is all new. We gummed up a few cracks in window sills, but they still come. We speculate they are coming in from the fireplace or maybe when we let the dog in and out.

I hate that we have to vacuum them up, but if we did not, we would become vastly outnumbered and they may stage a coup. Apparently, they are randy creatures and come spring we would be quite popular  with bugs and their offsprings. Still it is a shame, since they are such helpful creatures in the garden.

 

Help me understand

In probably the best example of tribal thinking in America is the stark contrast in character between the last two Presidents and how Evangelicals have papered over the holes in that of the current incumbent. The reason is the current President will do their bidding, which is questionable, but let’s set that aside for now.

Help me understand how a man who does very little to exemplify Christian behavior is given a hall pass while his predecessor who is devout, raised a wonderful family with his only wife and had no scandals in eight years is demonized?

Help me understand how a man who is a habitual and prodigious liar, an admitted and accused sexual assaulter, a demeaning bully and a narcissistic man can be viewed without concern. How can a man who is such a negative example to Christians and non-Christians be permitted to bring out the worst in us?

For the ultimate goal of whom he might appoint to the Supreme Court and other courts, we have a President who is making America into a pariah around the globe, galvanizing white supremacists into action, diminishing civil rights, demonizing the media while he is such a prolific liar and attacking anyone who dares criticize him. Jesus would weep at such a man for the hatefulness he has espewed.

Help me understand how I can be proud of the man who is in the leadership role of our country, when he embarasses us on a daily basis? I wish I did not have to say this, but I do not believe a word the man says. Help me understand why I should?

Threatening others is not a great sales strategy

The US President made an ill-advised move to declare Jerusalem Israel’s capitol saying the US would move its embassy there. The dilemma is it’s a lightning rod of a change, with Palestinians laying claim as well. Yet, after the UN Security Council voted 14 to 1 against this declaration with the US being outnumbered, Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, extended the President’s threat to cut funding to the countries who voted against the US.

Well, in a show of defiance, the entire UN body voted 128 to 9 against the US decision. Some small African nations, who heavily rely on US funding, acquiesced to the threat. Several countries abstained since the did not want to unsettle the sensitive President, but the sizable vote count should serve as an embarrassment to him. In sports and politics that would be called a rout.

It is my guess the President will remain defiant as it is not in his nature to admit a mistake, but one thing the President absolutely detests is being made to look bad. We should not forget his recorded comment that asked Enrique Peña Nieto, the Mexican President, to say openly Mexico would pay for the wall as “it was making him look bad” if they did not.

We should remind the President that his decisions and comments are what are making him look bad. When he announced that the US would be withdrawing from the Paris Climate Change Accord on June 1, it was the day after Exxon-Mobil shareholders voted against a management recommendation to require management to disclose what they are doing to battle climate change, the third fossil fuel based company to be so required in May following shareholder votes at PPL and Occidental Petroleum. The shareholders did what the President would not, go against the wishes of a petroleum company’s management.

To further illustrate US isolation on this Paris withdrawal, we are the lone county not to participate once the withdrawal becomes effective. We are also one of the biggest polluters, which seems fairly un-neighborly to thumb our nose at the rest of the world. Our country was also not invited to a climate change planning conference earlier this month in France. The US did have representation from several states, cities and business leaders who have picked up the baton the President dropped, but our government was not represented nor wanted.

My biggest fear going in with the bullying President was his not supporting climate change action. But, the greater fear is making the US a pariah in the world, someone who threatens other countries. If a country has a choice to deal with the US President or not, unless avoiding pain or accomplishing gain is compelling, the answer may be “no, thank you” more than it would have been before this President took office. Threats will not help in this cause, as illustrated at the UN.

China is benefitting from our retrenching position in the world. Xi Jinping is a more rational and trusted leader than the US President. Even domestic US leaders know not to trust the President at his word, including Republicans who suffer in silence. Lying and bullying are not admirable traits. Fortunately, leaders like Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron are picking up the mantle as true leaders of the Western world.

In closing, if there is a visual metaphor of the bullying US President, it occurred during a meeting with fellow NATO leaders in Brussels earlier this year. President Trump appeared to shove Prime Minister Milo Dukanovic of Montenegro aside in order to position himself front and center for photographers. A bull in a china shop, so to speak.

Saturday solutions for stewing

Get out your crock pots and Dutch ovens! It is time to stew a few ideas throughout the day to see if they have merit. This is not intended to solve world problems, but are some changes that might help. We can only try.

I love Pope Francis. He is entertaining the idea to slightly alter the end of the Lord’s Prayer. It sounds reasonable, but here is a more provocative change that will help many Catholics – allow Priests to be married again. What you might say, again? Yes, Priest were married until the 1100s, when it was banned, with some continuing to be married into the 1500s, as they did not get the memo. This would reduce pedophilia in the Priesthood and attract a more community-minded type of minister, who knows about the trials and tribulations of relationships.

Money and the influence it buys is a huge problem in the US. Here are a few changes. Pass a 28th amendment that says money does not equate to free speech and overturns Citizens United and McCutcheon decisions by the Supreme Court. The former greases the skids for dark money and the latter lets big donors influence local races they have nothing to do with. If you are not a voter in that location, you should not be able to fund the race. The other amendment is to shorten the election process and offer term limits as we do for the President. This will be cheered by many. Twelve years is enough for a Senator and Congressperson.

The Washington Post did an in-depth piece that counted the number of out-and-out, provable lies made by the last two Presidents. Our friend Gronda did an excellent piece on this last week*. The verdict, Obama in eight years had 18 lies, averaging to two per year. In ten months, Trump had 103. To add to this, a study was done by Politifacts that concluded Trump lies 69% of the time as President and 70% of the time as a candidate. But, this is not new, as his five biographers and ghost writer for “The Art of the Deal” said Trump has a problem with the truth. Stew on this comment – if you see Trump talking or read his tweeting, the odds are that he is lying. He said the FBI is in tatters, which is directly contradicted by two people he appointed – Jeff Sessions and Chris Wray, the head of Justice and FBI. He also keeps saying there is no collusion….

Finally, the best line I heard by a pundit was quite simple. People considering running for office – if you have sexually assaulted or harassed someone in the past – please save us the time and you the embarrassment and do not run for office. It will come out. I personally do not know why supporters of Roy Moore and Donald Trump cannot fathom that they each sexually assaulted and harassed women. The sad truth is one got elected and one almost did. But, neither should have won as both are men of little character. We have not heard the last of Trump’s travails, although he will deny it.

* https://grondamorin.com/2017/12/15/the-truth-about-president-trump-versus-president-obama/

How could you let that happen?

I have written before how legislators can play a heavy hand in creating the circumstances for something to happen, then when something bad does happen, say “How could you let that happen?” An example I have used a few times is when funding is cut and social workers are asked to take on 160 clients when the most effective client to social worker is rate is more like 16 to 1. You do not need to be good in math to recognize that is ten times the number of clients each should have.

So, when something bad happens to a family or person being served out of the 160, the legislators will claim “how could you let that happen?” This frustrates me as I see first hand the hard job social workers have and how many qualified ones are quite excellent at what they do. They are counselors, mentors, nudges, shoulders to cry on and providers of some tough love when needed. Yet, the countless times they do their job does not make the news. Only when they don’t makes the news.

In North Carolina, this story is highlighted once again when short-staffed prison guards are put in harm’s way. This apparently is not unique to NC, as I see bill boards advertising the need for prison guards in other states. Earlier this year, a female prison guard in a male prison was beaten to death by a prisoner. She was overseeing about forty prisoners in an onsite work program. She had been fearful for her safety given this oversight long before she was killed.

The NC General Assembly who cut funding on staff and salaries set up the circumstances for this to happen. And, yet last week, the two chamber leaders politicized the issue and laid blame on the new governor for not doing enough. Per The Charlotte Observer today, the editors said this is a new level of chutzpah. They likened it to a child killing his parents then asking for leniency since he was an orphan. It is some chutzpah to cut funding and ask “how could you let this happen?”

This is not the first time nor will it be the last. But, I do not care what political party you are, we cannot tolerate and condone these kinds of statements and behavior. Do not take your sand toys home, then claim other kids do not want to play with you. That is a child’s story not a so called leader’s. The fact the US President does it is no excuse.