An alternative tactic

Maybe we should just take a different tactic with those elected officials who have a modus operandi of saying inane and hurtful things. In short, if they cannot articulate facts or reasoned arguments, then maybe we should just ignore them until they do. The tactic is “I don’t have time for this.”

I watched an interview courtesy of Scottie’s blog between Jon Stewart and Larry Summers, an economist and economic advisor to several presidents. Stewart, as per usual, was an informed interviewer and asked rational questions even pushing back on Summers. It was such a delight to see such discourse as opposed to interviewers and public officials who are just shouting at the wind.

We know the names of these folks and each can come up with a list which includes similar blowhards. So, I think we should just ignore these folks until they come back to the table with reasoned argument. We have too many important issues to spend time on contrived ones or ones argued at a higher decibel level.

Our elected officials owe us that.

A different way to govern

Since Congress has many issues it should be dealing with but is avoiding the subjects, I would like to pose a different way for them to govern. It would require them to show up in chambers and not let us watch an empty room on CSpan.

My suggestion is to break key topics into manageable segments – Social Security, Medicare, Defense, Gun governance, etc. – using a facilitator for discussion with small bipartisan groups. A room of twenty four congresspeople would be broken into tables with a task. A nonpartisan group would pull together changes and cost or cost savings. The table would then debate and come up with workable solutions for the entire group.

Then, the group would present changes to the whole room to ferret out a workable set of ideas for consideration en masse. Once vetted further following the meeting, the group would vote for recommendation to the entire body.

I have seen this facilitation example work well in groups of different people to solve specific problems. There is a group called Fix the Debt that has an exercise to fix Social Security. In 45 minutes, the table groups, armed with options and cost savings could come up with workable ideas.

What I like about this approach is it gets legislators talking with each other. To make it work even better, we would need to ban lobbyists from the building. Right now, we have too much money influencing what goes on. It is worth a shot. Tell me what you think and of any other ideas to get them to work together.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell calls Tucker Carlson on the carpet for cherry picking footage

Aila Slisco of Newsweek wrote an article that needs reading called Mitch McConnell’s Fox News Denouncement Sends MAGA Into Meltdown.” This is following Tucker Carlson of Fox News airing relatively peaceful moments of the Janaury 6 insurrection describing what he is seeing as more of a vacation. McConnell took issue with this approach as noted in some select paragraphs (a link to the full article is below).

“Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has joined some of his GOP colleagues in condemning Fox News host Tucker Carlson‘s reframing of the January 6 Capitol attack, sparking a MAGA meltdown on social media. McConnell… said on Tuesday that he thought the way Carlson presented newly aired surveillance footage taken from the Capitol on January 6 was a ‘mistake.’

McConnell took a different stance when asked about the footage, backing a statement from U.S. Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger, who said the ‘outrageous’ presentation had ‘conveniently cherry-picked from the calmer moments” of the riot to reach ‘offensive and misleading conclusions.'”

Two key points. Last year at the discovery portion of the Dominion Voting Systems trial, management of Fox News tried to distance themselves from Carlson saying in court, what Carlson says on his show should not be confused as news, as he is not part of our news team. In the past two weeks, emails from Carlson, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, several producers and owner Rupert Murdoch revealed that eveyone knew Donald Trump’s election fraud claims were untrue, but they chose to gaslight their viewers for ratings and money.

As an independent voter and former Republican and Democrat, I chose not to watch Fox News or its counterpart MSNBC. And, I would especially forego the opinion shows as they are opinions, not facts, as Fox management said about Carlson. If people are getting their news from the likes Carlson, Hannity, Ingraham, Maddow, etc., please stop. They are giving you opinion and in some cases like Carlson, they are purposefully disinforming folks. The history of lying by the former president has a longer shelf life because of the unprofessional and even unethical actions of these opinion hosts.

I find it interesting that Carlson continues to double down on disinformation when so many eyes are upon him. Not only has McConnell raised issue with Carlson’s latest claims, but so have other Republican Senators as well as the Capitol police force and some widows.

Again, if you must watch people like Carlson, please view it for what it is – entertainment. He is telling you a bedtime story, often where the wolf is just misunderstood and not dangerous. In Carlson’s world, he highlights that the wolf thinks people just don’t like him.

Thursday thoughts – pollen and politics

It is a rainy Thursday. Hopefully, it will knock the pollen out of the air for a few days. Living in a city known for its tree canopy, produces a lot of pollen to breathe in.

With this context, we are also breathing a lot of polluted discourse. I wish the rain could filter out some of this inane and mean-spirited banter. The elected and once-elected people who occupy chairs better suited for more rationale, diligent and kind people are well known.

We each can compile lists of such people and compare likely seeing many of the same names. If done in secret, I am sure their fellow party politicians would come up with the many of the same names. These folks need a disclaimer when quoted saying something like the views of this person stated here are not verified as factual and should not be construed as such. This is not how we should be represented.

Yet, we are. And, in a tribal numbers game, people in that group just want to win, whatever that means. It is ok if a politician is a prolific and consistent liar, just win. The failure of this paradigm is if one lies and cheats to win, they will lie and cheat at anything. You can take that to the bank.

We need to demand more of our politicians. We need civil discourse. We need them to work together. We need a system of election that reduces the amount of money to run to hopefully lessen the influence of funders. We need term limits. And, we need the truth.

Like pollen, which not only gets in your lungs, it gets everywhere, the lying does the same.

Playing both ends against the middle – a reprise from 2014

I wrote the following post about nine years ago, so long ago I reference a post written by an old friend named Hugh who has passed on. I hope the link still works. The thrust of this piece is funders are not stupid, so they fund both sides, one more than the other, just to hedge their bets.

This has always been a problem, but with the vast sums of money that it takes for a US politician to get elected, large industry groups end up supporting both sides and play the ends against the middle. When you tack on the monied lobbyist influence and reasonable, even-handed legislation does not stand a chance. The end result is we are closer to oligarchy in this country approaching the days of the Robber Barons, which Teddy Roosevelt adamantly fought. Roosevelt was against corporate funding whatsoever, but now with recent court decisions, companies are given freedoms to control elections and elected officials.

If you look at the largest and most influential industry in America, the fossil fuel industry, it is easy to see why we still debate over man’s influence over climate change and that fracking should be viewed as perfectly safe because the pretty and earnest spokeswoman tells it is so on the excellently crafted commercial. I have said this before, but they are not my words – the fossil fuel industry pretty much owns the Republican Party in the United States. Oh, I am sure we could argue degrees of influence, but there should be little debate that the fossil fuel industry can get the attention of the GOP.

The sad part of the equation is they also fund Democrats, as well. While they would prefer the Republicans to win, because of the canned legislation ready to be enacted for their betterment through organizations like ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, if the Democrats win, they have that base covered. Coupling that with a heavy lobbying effort and these legislators don’t stand a chance. While the President has espoused moving the ball forward on addressing climate change and has done some good things, we have been fracking like there is no tomorrow, which is an intended pun.

In fact, with Republicans in Congress bashing the EPA efforts, someone high up in the Administration has on more than one occasion asked the EPA to cool their jets. This is one reason EPA Director Lisa Jackson resigned in December 2012 shortly after a report on fracking water poisoning in Pennsylvania was released that was watered down in the headlines. Since no one reads anything any more, people went with the headlines which were less forthcoming about the problematic results. I guess she was hoping someone would have her back in this hard fight. I am likely over-simplifying the reasons, but she was a frustrated camper when she left.

I could have easily picked on another industry group, such as the NRA. There is a reason that goes beyond Republican obstinance that works against getting some legitimate and wanted legislation done. But, the key takeaway is funders can play both ends against the middle in a fight no one knows is going on outside of government halls. In the case of the fossil fuel industry with connections and money, they are a formidable power to reckon with. So, this more than anything is why the EPA is a target. They stand in the way of the industry making decisions where the environmental impact is not highlighted as much as it needs to be. Other environmental groups have had to become more active to lend their voice to the understaffed and under supported EPA. If you hear “we should do away with the EPA” at a cocktail party, you should ask the person, “do you really mean that?”

So, the heavy lifting is going to fall on us citizens. We have to be better informed. We have to ask more questions about why people are advocating something that does not feel right. We cannot rely on party politics to dictate what we do. We need to get our information from reputable and multiple sources. There are too many so-called news sources and pundits that are giving out misinformation and disinformation, or at best spin-doctored news. If you are watching a news source that mentions Benghazi more than half a dozen times, you are not watching a reputable news source.

Let’s keep these folks honest. We have our work cut out for us.

Also, please check out my friend Hugh Curtler’s post on “Corporate Persons” from this morning.

“Verdant canopy of lies” – resume inflation is growing

Jack Shafer of Politico wrote the following opinion piece earlier this week that should concern each of us called “Opinion | The George Santos Caucus Is Growing – Resume inflation on Capitol Hill is getting out of hand.” Here is the first few paragraphs, with a link to the article below.

“The verdant canopy of lies tended by Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) requires no summary here. They’re so thick and leafy that they now block the sun from the forest floor. But he’s not the only freshman member who struggles when self-reporting. According to a recent Washington Post investigation, Anna Paulina Luna (R-Fla.) can’t keep her ethnicity straight, claims to have grown up destitute and neglected when she didn’t, and appears to have incorrectly portrayed herself as the victim of a home invasion. (Luna has contested the Post story and won one correction and a clarification.) Meanwhile, Rep. Andy Ogles (R-Tenn.) has claimed to be an economist (he’s not), re-rendered his minor position as a reserve sheriff’s deputy into a career as a crime-fighter cracking down on sex trafficking, and inflated his participation in non-degree classes at Vanderbilt and Dartmouth into claims of having attended their graduate schools.”

Resume inflation is not a new thing and has been going on for years. But, now it is far easier to check whether a person is embellishing their resume or flat out pulling a “Santos.” The young congressman has been so over the top with his “canopy of lies” that he may be removed from Congress by his own Republican constituents. He is facing an ethics investigation at long last after the Speaker realized the Santos problem would not go away. Yet, it should have never gotten this far. The leaders of his party should have loudly cried foul and not placed Santos on two committees.

We deserve better than this. We already know many politicians cannot be trusted to tell us the truth more than they do not, but lying about who you are and what you have accomplished to such a degree is just simply not right. There is a reason why some politicians want to squeeze out the press and restrict what books you can read. They want to make it easier to lie to our faces.

Everyone has told white lies and untruths over the lives. To say they have not would cause a question. Some have told only a bare minimum and felt bad out them when they do, while others approach the same level of lying of certain politicians whose names evoke whether they are being deceitful when mentioned. Santos is in a master class of resume inflation.

To be frank, an investigation is warranted and if found culpable, action should be taken against Santos. At the bare minimum, he should be censured and be prevented from serving on any committees. Just because he can represent his district does not mean the rest of our country should be exposed to such deceitful governance. Yet, if culpable, then he should not be seated in my view. The lawsuit members of his own party in his district are pursuing to have him removed is interesting.

The question that should be asked is “how can you trust a person who has lied to this extent? Yet, in our tribal politics “our liars are better than your truth tellers.” In Santos’ party it goes further than that “our liars are better than our truth tellers.” And, that is an embarrassingly scary thought. We need the truth. We need to know who you are if you want our vote.

Deny, Discredit, Disinform, Diffuse and Defray – The Five D’s (a second reprise)

The following post was written almost nine years ago, before the former president walked down the escalator to announce his candidacy. He showed how to manipulate these five D’s, but his albatross was he could not control the one guy at the toggle. So, he often gets in his own way and the way of his helpers.

The five D’s. As a now 55-year-old man, I have witnessed over time the aggressively managed handling of criticism whether it is in politics or in big business. In my view, the defense could be summed up in the following order – Deny, Discredit, Disinform, Diffuse and Defray – where you keep drawing lines in the sand as you retreat. With each D and line drawn, you want to see if that will stave off the criticism.

The fossil fuel and petro-chemical industries have been deploying these tactics for decades, as what they do for a living is not easy and has a history of impacting the health and welfare of humans and the environment. When you add money on top of these approaches, it takes an Erin Brockovich to make any headway against them. Yet, what people fail to realize is these five D’s are an aggressive risk management strategy.

But, the approach is definitely not limited to big business. Vladimir Putin is probably the best games player around. He knows your weaknesses and hot buttons, so he has and continues to use these approaches. In the US, politicians value and pay dearly for spin doctors like Karl Rove, who in essence are paid liars. Their job is perfume any pig that comes their client’s way. However, most politicians who have won more than one election become increasingly artful in these defense tactics – Nixon, Reagan, Clinton, Obama and the Bushes – all could be considered good at these approaches. With Nixon, the lies caught up with him as he taped himself. He only resigned once the courts ordered him to release the tapes that showed he was not only paranoid, but ran a burglary and disinformation ring out of the White House.

First, when criticism is made against what you do or have done, you deny it aggressively. That is absolutely not true will be words usually spoken. Note, with false claims, denial does not mean the accuser is correct as that is part of the defense strategy under discredit. Putin claims that Ukraine is fascist, but you really cannot call Ukraine fascist if they are trying to have democratic elections. The toxic fracking slickwater is not getting into people’s water supply, is a good example of denial. The NSA is not spying on Americans is another one.

Second, when the denial ceases to work, the discredit strategy begins. Sometimes, the discrediting comes with the denial. The Putin example is a good one. The global warming is a hoax is a prime example, where the fossil fuel industry through its public relations engine wanted to paint Al Gore and all of his imperfections as the reason why global warming was not happening. He lives in large mansion and is using this as a publicity stunt. Name calling or branding people comes part and parcel. Using terms like Hitler, Apartheid or Stalin to paint something you dislike is a common tactic. I have often been called an Environmentalist, which I am, but the term is used to smear me because it is meant to construe that I do not care about jobs. The fact that there are tens of thousands of jobs in solar energy in my own state and they are growing in number, seems to get overlooked as unimportant.

Third, if denials and discrediting don’t work, disinform. This probably frustrates me most, as it is a very common tactic on partisan news shows, to spin the truth, overlook the issues or just lie. I tell people often and write on this blog and emails for people to stop watching Fox news and its counterpart, MSNBC. Your are better off watching no news as the spins can be so severe that you are not informed –  you have been propagandized. The real truths include: Global warming is not a hoax. Fracking is not perfectly safe. Creationism is not science. Voter fraud is virtually non-existent. Business is not inherently bad, but needs governance. Protecting our environment costs us less in the long run. While there are a few abusers, people on food stamps are not gaming the system.

Fourth, if we are still in trouble, the next line in the sand is to diffuse. This is a measured  mea culpa which allows some concessions, but does so on your terms. You have already thought through beforehand what would be an acceptable position to come to, when the avalanche of truth gets too big. You have done some internal investigations and found there is some truth in what we are being accused of, so we will fix it. You are right, climate change is real, so we are going to focus on natural gas, as it burns cleaner than coal. The data breach is bigger than we first imagined, so we are doing the following. We are only getting Metadata and not listening to your phone calls and reading your emails.

Fifth, if this fails, then we need to defray. We need to settle claims as quickly and expeditiously as possible. We must avoid class action suits. We need to divide and conquer. Pay people a pretty penny, but limit the number of pennies and limit the number of hands. No one goes to jail. We just pay out of expenses what we have already accrued when the problem first reared its head. Or, let’s recall every car that has any minor defect now. This will be far cheaper than the potential lawsuit.

The five D’s. Next time criticism is flying toward someone or some entity, watch how the issue is handled. Usually, the higher the revenue stream potential, the more aggressive the defense. The truth is usually further away from the speaker with the most to gain financially. Not always, but often enough.

Fox News hosts knew the election fraud claims were BS, yet lied anyway

An article based on the Dominion Voting Systems defamation lawsuit against Fox News indicates some interesting findings. In “Fox News hosts thought Trump’s election fraud claims were ‘total BS’, court filings show” by Richard Luscombe of The Guardian, the Fox News opinion hosts were none too keen on Trump’s election fraud claims. Sadly, they went ahead and spread the lie further like manure on a planted crop.

Here are the first few paragraphs with a link to the article below.

“Hosts at Fox News privately ridiculed Donald Trump’s claims that the 2020 election was stolen while simultaneously peddling the same lies on air, according to court filings in a defamation lawsuit against the network.

Rightwing personalities Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham are among those named in the $1.6bn action brought by Dominion Voting Systems, the seller of electronic voting hardware and software that is suing Fox News and parent company Fox Corporation for maligning its reputation.

‘He’s acting like an insane person,’ Hannity allegedly wrote of Trump in the weeks following the election as the host continued to push the so-called ‘big lie’ during his top-rated prime time show, aided by a succession of election deniers he had on as guests.

Even billionaire Fox owner Rupert Murdoch was dismissive of the former president’s false allegations, the filing alleges, calling them ‘really crazy stuff’ in one memo to a Fox News executive, and criticizing Trump’s scattergun approach of pursuing lawsuits in numerous states to try to overturn his defeat.

Using the words of the hosts and owner against them is telling. It reveals they knew better, but went ahead with gaslighting their audience while defaming Dominion along the way. It also shows that even allies of Trump’s knew he was full of that manure the hosts ended up spreading as well. In the process, they have damaged their reputations, their network, the Republican Party and the United States of America. I hope they are proud of the path they took. And, I hope their watchers are paying attention to this.

An application to run for office

After the ongoing resume embellishment travails of newly elected and embattled congressman George Santos (R-NY), I want to mention a dialogue with one of our Canadian blogging friends VJ. During the course of the conversation about vetting candidates, I made the following suggestion.

I am positive candidates must register their candidacy for an office in the elections’ offices. Yet, do they have to complete a detailed resume? Where have you worked, what is your education level, etc.? I am thinking when we fill out an application for health coverage under the Affordable Care Act or submit our tax returns online, we must sign a statement that, subject to perjury, the information given is accurate. My guess is the candidates need not go into that much detail, but they should given how easy it is to embellish or even lie about one’s resume.

The untruthful representations of Santos in his resume are many and significant. And, to top it off, he has been accused and charged with various crimes that he was not forthcoming about, in the US and Brazil. They are so severe, the leaders of the Republican Party in his district are investigating bringing a lawsuit to have him removed from office for misrepresentation. He is also being investigated by the House Ethics Committee for violations.

There are more than a few examples of senior businesspeople who have resigned over false resumes. Top of mind, there was a CEO who resigned years after he told folks he was an Olympic medalist swimmer. That was not ever the case. Usually, the resume embellishment is around completing university degrees which were merely started but left unfinished. One woman who was an executive in a college administration noted she had three degrees, when she had none, eg.

People of all stripes put their best foot forward on resumes. Some fudge the truth to accomplish that mission, while a few just flat out misrepresent facts entirely. Yet, there are consequences. I had a acquaintance who said he completed his Masters, when he was a semester short. Lucky for him he was not fired, but he did have to take a cut in pay, as his starting salary reflected that assertion.

My guess is Santos will resign as the hounds close in on him, even though he says he won’t now. But, his example shows how easy it is to do and how easy it is to catch, if someone spends some time to look into. I am surprised that his staff or that of his opponent did not flag this.

We deserve the truth from our elected officials. And, that should begin with who they are and what their relevant experience is. So, let’s have that application and make them sign the form noting being charged with perjury for lying is an option. Maybe fewer lies will be told.

Take the time to get it right (and validate subconscious advice)

One of the sad truths about living in a social media prolific world is everything becomes a “now culture.” Immediacy is the preferred action over acting on the best solution. Having said this, I do recognize what General George Patton said about “a good plan today will beat a perfect plan tomorrow.” But, the word “plan” is involved in both sides of the equation.

Reacting is not a plan, unless you have to act quickly given the urgency of the matter. Even then, your subconscious set of experiences will kick in and help you decide. In Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Blink,” he identifies your subconscious tells you things all the time. He likens it to your collective experience and observation skills and habits.

In his book, he notes an art expert knowing a painting is a forgery at first sight, but not knowing why until further investigation. Or, a firefighter knowing something is amiss about a fire as it is burning funny asking his team to back out quickly. These decisions were based on years of experience, but were subconsciously made.

On any given issue, especially ones where politicians and their public relation spin doctors are involved, quick action is rewarded, while taking your time to get it right is seized upon as complacency. Sadly, the spin doctors will encourage quick action that can be apologized for later. Yet, this happens in real life all the time. A spouse may think the other is having an affair when that is not the case. Yet, the spouse may act rashly and harm the situation.

Yet, like the subconscious giving us information, we also need a baseline set of ethics and morality doing the same. We need to take the time to get things right, but when we need to move a little more quickly, we should try to focus on solving a problem rather than winning some zero-sum game making sure the other side loses. This is done all the time in politics and we need to move away from it. There is one clear loser in a game of zero-sum politics – the citizens. We are the ones who lose when hasty decisions are made or are made to win some fictitious battle.

So, what does this meandering post tell us. Take the time to get it right. Use the facts to help you decide. Don’t devalue what your subconscious is saying, but try to validate those instinctive urgings. And, don’t try to force-fit your research to meet your initial reaction. A person who is not skilled in an area will have a different gut instinct from those who are.

Your subconscious is based on knowledge and experiences; it cannot be made more accurate just because it exists. It has to have some basis for the subconscious advice it is giving for the circumstances at hand. The gut instinct of an experienced firefighter has a more sound basis than that of a trainee, for example. In the example above, the fire was burning on the floor below, so if the firefighters had not backed out, they would have fallen through the floor to their deaths.