That trust thing is important

The following link is to piece written by the very articulate Mind of Brosephus. Here is a version of the comment I posted thereon.

As an independent and former Republican and Democrat, people who pay attention know what my favorite conservative pundit Michael Gerson has defined, “the Republican Party is in decay.” When a party vilifies its truth tellers and aggrandizes its liars, it lacks veritas and gravitas. When it requires its candidates to promote The Big Lie and a former president who has betrayed his oath to the constitution, then it is a party that cannot be trusted.

How can people take seriously a party that plays up an obvious lie? And,sadly The Big Lie gives perceived impunity for the GOP to lie about more things. This is before one considers the party has not voted on a platform since 2016, meaning they really don’t care to articulate what they stand for other than just denigrating everything and taking away rights and benefits. We need a viable conservative voice, but this current GOP vintage is not it.

Granted, Democrats are also known to embellish, but what I am mostly referring to in the GOP is a requirement for its mainstream candidates to swallow hook, line and sinker an obvious disproven lie to placate a certain base of voters hopelessly devoted to someone who is a well-documented by multiple sources and people to be highly untruthful in his words and actions. To be frank, this is not a good look for Republicans.

Oh, and by the way, those who said the Republican were better at the economy than the Democrats should check out a few data points. For example, under an even number of Democrat and Republican White Houses since 1921, under which presidents were the most jobs created? The answer still surprises even Democrats as they are lousy marketers – Jobs created under Democrats dwarf those created under Republicans at about a 2 to 1 rate.

Advertisement

Needed truths are long overdue

The following is a letter I sent to my newspaper for publishing. It will likely get passed over as I think it is too soon since the last one was printed, but please feel free to adapt and use. By the way, I posted a variation of this on my Senators and Congressman’s websites.

It is long time past due for elected Republican leaders to step up and speak needed truths. Otherwise, my former party will continue down a perilous path destroying any remaining veritas and gravitas. The former president’s Big Lie needs to be squelched now before the country becomes further divided. He also needs to be charged for his seditious actions which endangered members of Congress and our democracy. And, his misappropriation of confidential classified documents has put us in danger.

Right now, I am in disbelief that elected officials continue to forget their oath. We need them to be better than they are being. The truth matters. I am quite disillusioned in the Republican Party. Democrats are far from perfect, but I can argue policy emphasis with them. With the Republican Party members, I find myself arguing the truth versus whatever it is being espoused by too many in the party.

What I have observed in this campaign season, while all politicians embellish the truth and lie to some extent, with many Republican candidates the truth is not even a consideration, as when one believes a Big Lie, small truths are easy to ignore. I watch some commercials and say that is not true or that is long reach. The lies are that obvious to this independent and former Republican voter.

Be mindful of what you say

We should be mindful of what we say as what sounds good may not be all that good or not possible. On occasion, I may question someone as to “do you really believe that or you just saying that for affect?”

A key news item of yesterday is a famous shock jock has lost a second court case for denigrating the bereaved loved ones of the Sandy Hook school shooting victims consistently referring to the shooting as a hoax. He wanted to sound cool to his conspiracy thirsty followers, but paying out multiple hundreds of millions for saying inane and hurtful things is not a recipe for success.

I have seen on more than one occasion a follower of a well-known individual say a variation of “I like him because he speaks his mind.” The problem with this individual is he really is not conversant on many issues, so speaking his mind is not necessarily a good thing. In fact, he looks smarter the less he talks.

This same person while president took credit for creating a great economy from day one, when he actually inherited a, you guessed it, great economy in the third longest economic growth period ever in US history. His followers had believed his campaign BS that the economy was terrible, when it was not, so he convinced these same naive folks that “he alone” saved the economy.

Another president was once criticized by the same people for being Muslim and also attending a Christian church whose minister is a tad rebellious. OK, which is it – Muslim or Christian? He cannot be both for different arguments. As funny as this sounds, this contradiction continued all the way to the election.

The same president was also criticized by some for starting the housing recession. What needs an answer is how is that possible when the housing recession was underway when he took office. In fact, Senator John McCain, his opponent, wanted to postpone a presidential debate to go back to DC and discuss, you guessed it, the housing recession. Just for those who don’t want to realize this point, debates occur before the election.

While more jobs were created under a president from the 1990s than under any other president, including FDR who was president for three terms and a couple of months, he had a major problem of being a philanderer. What still amazes me is his wife stood by him, but took crap for so doing. This came from the same crowd whose religions frowned on divorce. She is not perfect, but at least people should be singing from the same hymnal to criticize her. What did Tammy Wynette sing, something about “Stand by your man?”

Finally, the Muslim or Christian president noted above, got into trouble with a line to sell his new Affordable Care Act noting, “If you like your doctor, you can keep you doctor.” His advisors should have told him that was a promise that could not be kept, as any network will leave off doctors you want, which is why you check it out first. It sounded good, but was not true.

So much of what comes out of the mouths (or fingers) of politicians, opinion entertainment hosts, shock jocks, and social media are based on words that sound good, but may not be true. Some politicians and others have earned the right to not be believed at all, which is a pretty scathing indictment. The last former president fits into this category, as he rivals the shock jocks in lack of veracity.

What should you do about it? Find good sources of information. Read, listen and/or watch several of them. Do not take what an opinion host says as the truth, as it is at best embellished. Stop reading, listening and watching conspiracy sources. Conspiracy stories are made up to distract you. And, for the most part, take what a politician says with a grain of salt. Some politicians are much worse than others, but just check the facts to be sure.

Sucking the oxygen out of the room

I have written often about relevant issues not getting discussed as certain politicians and sloppy reporters and opinion people would rather discuss sensationalized and exaggerated issues, which may not be that big of a deal to begin with. Or, worse, the party complaining the most chose not to act to leave an issue open to blame the other side for its failure to address it. This last step is happening too often for my tastes. It truly sucks the oxygen out of the room.

When Donald Trump used “build that wall” as his bumper sticker theme in 2016, immigration was a problem, but down on the list of issues causing disenfranchisement in people in run-down areas. The two main culprits of companies chasing cheaper labor and technological advancements would not fit on a bumper sticker. Plus, it is hard to fear a robot like you can an illegal alien brought in as cheap labor in some industries. But, it should be noted when his bluff was called on his number one issue and Senators Dick Durbin and Lindsey Graham got him to agree on a wall funding for DACA being made law, he reneged on his promise in a matter of a few hours as not solving immigration was better as a campaign issue.

Right now instead of discussing more our US and global water crisis, our poverty and hunger problems, the threats to our civil rights and democracy, the need to further stabilize health care costs and access, the continuing threats to inflation and climate change, etc., we spend far too much time speaking about things that are not really problems based on some variation of “fear the other” as a threat. When I see “fear the other” issues being bandied about, I just move on as these are purposeful wedge issues to garner votes.

We just passed a good, but imperfect Inflation Reduction Act that included elements to reduce the deficit with increased taxes on the wealthy, help with renewable energy investment and stabilizing health care premiums continuing what happened with the pandemic funding. Although Republican led states will benefit from this, no Republican voted for it. If a party is going to complain about inflation, why did no one vote for it? No legislation is perfect, but no one, even when your state benefits?

Democrats have just done a similar ploy delaying a vote of the marriage equality act until after the election. It is arguable that it could not have passed, but the Democrats feel some lame duck moderate Republicans will be more inclined to vote in favor after the mid-terms. Yet, the bill had support and some momentum. Some Republicans in tough campaigns wanted to vote for it.

Politics has become a new sport with a zero-sum mindset – I must win and you must lose. We even have folks who taunt the other side. In this construct, the people who lose are the voters and citizens of our country and other countries. When the US fails to be a responsible global partner and citizen, then the rest of the world thinks less of us. Botching our pandemic response showed that the US cannot effectively deal with a major issue. The January 6 insurrection showed that even the US can look like a Banana Republic. The unproven bogus election fraud claims planned and touted by the losing former president, made us look like an autocratic country pretending to look like a democracy.

We must strive toward our better angels and civilly discuss our problems truthfully and factually. If any leader from any party cannot do this, then he or she needs to resign. And, we certainly do not need them running for office. Full stop.

Civil discourse and truth are needed – letter sent to the editor

I sent this letter into the editor of my newspaper yesterday. I hope they publish it. Please feel free to adapt and use.

It continues to trouble me that too many Americans are following the lead of extremists and committing violence when they don’t agree with something. It also troubles me that we are letting sources of disinformation and propaganda like QAnon, InfoWars, select politicians, et al inflame our opinions. Please ignore these folks as they are doing our nation a disservice.

As an independent who leans progressive on some issues and conservative on others, I can assure you neither party has all the good ideas and both have some bad ones. We must have civil discourse and bipartisan agreement to move important solutions forward. And, we need to use facts and speak truthfully or the solutions will miss the mark.

Politicians owe us the truth. If they cannot shoot straight with us, they need to resign or not run for office even if they happened to have served before. Full stop.

Serious-minded people

Let me start out with the following firm belief of mine. I wish others who think winning at any cost gives politicians a free pass, would heed this belief of mine. I am not in favor of name calling, but I would say if people in or running for office want to be taken seriously, they need to be serious-minded with their comments. Saying obvious untrue things is not a step down that path. Full stop.

I am not naive enough to think politicians will stop lying altogether. To get elected, they will continue to overstate or even invent their role when good things happen and understate or blame the other side when bad things happen. And, if things aren’t too bad, many will even tell you it is bad to drum up fear. If things aren’t good enough, they will search for ways to make them even better sounding.

What bothers me greatly is when I see elected officials say or write things I know are not true, and even worse, many likely know it is not true as well. When I see such tales being told, it leaves me with two options to believe – either they really do not know they are saying untrue things or they are purposefully lying. Some politicians, like the former president, are so untruthful, they may not know where the truth stops and lying begins. As my colleague used to say in a voicemail greeting, “Always tell the truth, as you don’t have to remember as much.”

Unfortunately, we have allowed politics to become such a zero-sum game, meaning “I must win and you must lose,” we lose sight of the bigger picture. If nothing gets done or things get done to further the causes of a strident or well-heeled few and not a greater good, we all end up losing. When we make issues of import political, dividing people into two camps to play these inane zero-sum games, we all lose.

People may not be aware of this, but the PR folks who publicize these combative court cases for TV shows scour the cases around the country and find cases they can blow up into a big deal. Some of the cases present themselves as they bubble up, but some are found and honed for this purpose. Politics has become the same way. The PR people scour the country for news they can make into wedge issues. This is why many of us have never heard of an issue until it is presented to us with a bow that this is a huge problem.

So, once the wedge issue is created, the sides form and the lying begins in earnest. And, once the lying gets into the minds and keystrokes of others, it is extremely hard to erase that mindset. This is why we must be assertive in calling out untruths. In short, people who are in your tribe will believe BS if it makes the other side look bad.

This is misinformation and disinformation. This is right out of “1984” where the term “doublespeak” was created by George Orwell. But, let’s call it plainly what it is – lying.

When a US Senator says you can catch AIDs from the COVID vaccine, then when confronted says it may be true, that is lying.

When a former president says at least a dozen times that the tariffs imposed on China will be paid for by China (being refuted each time by economists that consumers pay the cost of tariffs), that is lying.

When a now US Congressman says he was not told by his wrestlers when he coached that the university doctor was fondling them as he did with over a thousand athletes (many after he was told), when six of his wrestlers said they did on the record, that is lying.

When a former president says you can keep your own doctor to sell the roll out of the new healthcare plan, that is lying.

When a former president says COVID is a hoax, or it will all go away soon when people start dying, while placing people in danger and ignoring what he is being told, that is lying.

When a US Congresswoman says a prominent Jewish family is using lasers from space to cause wildfires and profit from them, that is lying.

When a former president says he did not have sexual relations with his intern when he obviously did, that is lying.

When a former president hires over 1,000 attorneys before an election, naysays the process beforehand, and does his part to make it harder for people to vote by mail, then says the election was stolen from him an assertion he has failed miserably at proving, that is lying.

We need to hold our elected officials to account. We are owed the truth. And, when they don’t tell us the truth, we need to take action by voting for someone else. We need serious-minded people. The truth matters.

Holiday wishes for politicians, candidates and voters (ten years later)

Happy holidays to all. I wanted to close the year with a few holiday wishes to various constituencies – politicians, candidates and voters – as we move into a full campaign year. Please note this piece was written ten years ago, but still holds true.

For all parties, I strongly encourage you to read “That Used to be Us” by Thomas Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum. The subtitle is ” How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We can Come Back” and I think it should be required reading for all politicians and candidates. The voters would be benefit greatly as well as it will help us keep the first two groups honest and focusing on the right things.

I wish for politicians and candidates to focus on things of import and less on platitudes. The 2012 Republican presidential debates have tended to focus on less important things and we need to ask tough questions about where we are as a country and how do we do what is needed on the major issues of the day. We have tended to dumb down the debates about issues that have been decided (abortion) or that run counter to what is actually happening (global warming). It is hard for me to take someone seriously who wants to do away with the EPA or will choose which judicial rulings he will obey.

I wish for politicians and candidates to think more before they speak. Our problems are complex and deserve well thought out answers. Herman Cain was toast long before his personal crises, as he had not done any homework in preparation for the most important job in the world. I also wish for politicians to tell the truth or use meaningful information to support a cause. Not all data is equal and biased survey data needs to be identified and ferreted out. I have taken a survey gleaned by Newt Gingrich’s team and, frankly, it was biased from the outset and I told them so.*

I wish for politicians and candidates to collaborate with others. They do not have all of the answers and some don’t have a good hand to begin with. So, it is imperative they collaborate with others across all spectrums. This is a major reason I am an independent voter. Collaboration is the key to our success.

I wish for voters to take everything a politician says with a grain of salt. With the infamous words uttered by Senator Kyl earlier this year when he was caught in a lie, “please don’t interpret my comments as being factual,”  he gave us the proper advice. Senator, we will take that advice to the bank. We will not believe anything you say from this point forward. The Democrats should not gloat as they have tended to misrepresent a fact or two, as well.

We voters also need to keep the politicians and candidates between the white lines. We should consider all portrayed facts or survey data in the right context. Who conducted the survey? Where did the facts come from? Does this person have a history, both good or bad, with the subject? Some congressman are supported by lobbying groups and they will vote 100% of the time on issues in favor of the lobbyist’s cause. Their opinions should be discounted as being overly biased.

Our problems need serious people and serious discussions to address them. Going back to the book noted above, we have wavered from our mission, but we can rectify our problems if we think long term and approach our problems together. If we continue our partisan bickering, we will likely fail in these endeavors.

Thanks for reading. I wish for each of you and all of us, a prosperous New Year.

*Note: Herman Cain, the pizza chain tycoon, got early press in his presidential candidacy for his simple 9-9-9 tax plan, as he called it. The problems started appearing when he could not explain what it meant and he started contradicting himself. Newt Gingrich, the former Speaker of the House, started out strong in 2012 in his presidential run, but he fell by the wayside when his over-confident manner rubbed too many the wrong way. People forget his own party removed him as Speaker for similar reasons in the 1990s.

Focus on the issue not the blame

News and opinion shows spend far too much time on who is to blame and much less on the issue at hand. The issues are what matters, not who did or failed to do something. Just to throw a few things for your consumption.

In the US, both political parties have screwed up in Afghanistan dating back at least to the 1980s. By my count that includes four Republican presidents and three Democrat presidents. Because of our lack of homework and understanding, the US diminishing its involvement has led to the Taliban gaining a foothold in the 1990s and returning to power in 2021. The only time it was more stable was when we were there even in small numbers. I fully understand the desire to leave, but leaving totally will not help with stability in that country.

The issue with COVID and the Delta variant are hospitals are being overrun by patients. Too many are not vaccinated or taking sufficient precautions. For some governors and state legislatures to go out of their way to deny public health measures is beyond poor stewardship. These incumbents in leadership positions are trying to win political points by gambling with people’s lives. I find this abhorrent. And, it continues. If you know someone who is not vaccinated, the best advice you can give them is please speak with your doctor. Two outspoken COVID naysayers died in the last two weeks, one a legislator and one a conservative radio host. And, yesterday, a woman released from the hospital for COVID treatment went home to find her husband dead from COVID.

It was good to see nine attorneys representing the former president get sanctioned in a Michigan court for the frivolous lawsuit on election fraud in that state. The attorneys have been ordered to pay court costs for the two separate lawsuits and their actions have been referred to the state Bar Association. The law license of Rudy Giuliani has been suspended in New York state and Washington, DC as he faces two court cases, one for defamation against Dominion Voting Systems. And, we should not forget the US Attorney General for the past president was fired for telling his boss in front of others the election fraud claims were BS, using the actual word. Believing the former president is truly a fool’s errand.

In 2021, we have seen more of what climate change scientists have been warning us about. About ten years ago, I read a report conducted with Mercer Investment Consulting, the largest pension trust managers in the world, the World Economic Forum and various universities and think tanks. These trustees were worried about climate change costing multiple tens of trillions in US dollars due to larger and more wildfires, longer droughts, stalled weather systems on top of the rising sea levels causing coastal degradation and more intense hurricanes. Since then, our fresh water is also a worsening concern. This week, I saw piece on the risks due to climate change published in an insurance industry report regarding company and people’s assets in harm’s way. These are financial people who are concerned about financial risk. If that does not wake up well-funded naysayers, then maybe nothing will. By the way, I feel the numbers bandied around ten years ago are on the low side.

That is enough for today. Let me know your thoughts.

Sunday soliloquy

A soliloquy is defined as an act of speaking one’s thoughts aloud when by oneself or regardless of any hearers, especially by a character in a play. Since William Shakespeare’s birthday is tomorrow, per advance reporting by Kim, I hope you will join me for these thoughts and offer a comment or two. I will try to use fewer words than the bard.

I am puzzled by an ongoing problem. People are usually mortified to learn they have been fooled or left out of something. Then, why would they get information from such disreputable sources who have been proven time and again to lack veracity? It could be repeated conspiracy stories from social media, a legislator, an opinion host or a former legislator or just erroneous use of facts or wanna-be facts. Strong suggestion – check your sources and stories, especially if the name of the source cites someone named Trump, Johnson, Gohmert, Taylor-Greene, Nunes, Hannity, Cruz or Carlson.

It matters not which political party a member of a legislative body belongs to, when he or she dishonors the office, either severely or on a routine basis, the member must be punished under the rules of governing body, ranging from censure, removal from committees or removal from office. And, it must not be “gotcha” politics – to be frank, a political party should try to clean up a mess before it gets to the actions of the whole body. The Catholic Church learned much too late, they needed to clean up its pedophile priests problem as it tainted the reputation of the whole. Police departments are only beginning to learn this truth about needing to address those over-zealous folks in their ranks. There are no perfect people, so why should we expect any group to be perfect?

Groups of people, whether they are legislative bodies, companies, organizations, or governments must not and should not punish the truth tellers in their midst. There are many reasons to have concerns about actions of the former president, but his firing of inspectors general and people who testified under known-in-advance risk disgusted me. Congressional sycophants of the former president left these honorable public servants hanging as they rationalized his deceitful, corrupt and even seditious actions. He is “just rough around the edges” we would hear. Lying is not rough around the edges, it is deceitful.

Let me close with a note to Democrats. Please do your best to govern. If one of your party has acted poorly, chastise his or her actions and remedy the matter. Just because it is your tribe does not make it OK. Bill Clinton balanced the budget and more jobs were created on his watch than under any other president, but he still was a womanizer who had one known affair in the White House and lied about it. Joe Biden, Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi et all will make mistakes – own up to them and remedy them where possible. And, when a member says something inane or mean-spirited – say so.

We need truth tellers in both parties. We need honorable public servants. Right now, democracy is under attack, which is directed at the wrong problem. Our problem is not the wrong people voting, it is not enough people voting. Where our elections really have concerns is in the amount of money it takes to get elected. A legislator, at best, will be mildly subjective because of funding to get elected. This is the best argument for term limits and legislating out the Citizens-United and McCutcheon SCOTUS rulings. Maybe if the money influence wanes, less money will be funded.

The truth matters – shoot straight with people

I shared with Scottie on his blog a friend who battles COPD responded to my wife that COVID-19 is all hoax. This person who calls the White House incumbent, “my president,” was responding to my wife’s comments that we are playing it safe, wearing masks, socially distancing, minimizing trips to the store, etc. This made me sad, as if she gets COVID-19, she will likely not fare well.

So, I wrote her a brief, heartfelt text wishing her well and closing with be safe. I said with her battles with COPD she needed to be careful. I noted there is a lot of misinformation out there, but to-date 149,000 Americans have died and, sadly, more will. She responded with a thank you and I’ll try. I hope some of my plea and well wishes sank in. There was no mention of politics. Whether she agreed with what I said, she knew I was thinking of her well-being.

An epidemiologist professor and researcher, who was on a George W. Bush pandemic trouble-shooting team, noted mission number one in a pandemic is tell people the truth. The US botched this in 1918 and has botched this in 2020. Between a president, who for some reason, thought it was better politically to naysay the pandemic calling it a hoax as late as February 27, and some caution-to-the-wind governors like in Florida, Georgia and Texas, unsurprisingly, the pandemic has continued. This is not a second wave, as the first wave never went away. What is happening now is not unexpected.

The truth matters. And, just to illustrate this point further, another friend said she was in the doctor’s office last week and she and the nurse spoke hopefully of this COVID-19 thing going away. Another patient said, it will go away on November 4 as it is a democrat hoax. So, I guess those 149,000 people are not really dead.