Saturday in the park – great day for a walkabout

Spring has definitely sprung. The flowers have blossomed and the green leaves have returned. It is a good day for a walk in the forest. Especially, now that I have taken my antihistamine for the pollen.

As I walk, I will likely think of the news of the day and time. In no particular order, I might chew on the following thoughts.

I saw where a mother and daughter were sentenced for their role in the January 6 insurrection. As their roles were less violent, they were given 36-month sentences where they need not go to prison. Yet, the thought continues to occur to me, how many people have to be convicted of crimes for people to realize that doing what the former president wants is not a good thing?

In this same vein, the ever flip-flopping minority House leader Kevin McCarthy has been revealed in a recording to blame the former president for the insurrection saying he would ask for him to resign. This is not a surprise as he was critical of the former president on the floor of the chambers shortly after the insurrection. That was, of course, before he was called to Mar-o-Lago to bow before the king and repent. Now, his flip-flopping is back in the limelight and the former president denies telling McCarthy he had some culpability.

Russia is flexing more muscle in Ukraine with more troops and attacks. This is a bolder step to save face and may prove difficult for Ukraine. It is hard to filter through the noise to find out the truth. I feel sorry for the people of Ukraine who are props standing in the way of a malevolent bully. Too many have died and will die, as civilians do not matter in the eyes of this autocrat. I see some offer of settlement where Russia can claim some part of Ukraine in the future. It is sad that this bully must be rewarded for his invasion, while the Ukraine and Russian civilians must bear the brunt of the pain.

I see Boris Johnson is taking a page out of the Richard Nixon playbook. When things are tough at home, go on the road. Nixon did his best work in China while being investigated for the Watergate break-in. Speaking of Nixon, there is a new miniseries out called “The First Lady” which goes back and forth looking at three first ladies – Betty Ford, Michelle Obama and Eleanor Roosevelt. Ford was hoping to retire to Florida when her Gerald got asked to replace the convicted Vice President Spiro Agnew (that was an omen). Then, Gerald became President when Nixon resigned before he could be impeached and convicted. Betty was none too happy with this turn of events, but made of the best of it.

The governor of Florida has decided to punish DisneyWorld for daring to be critical of his “Don’t say gay” law. He led an effort to abolish a state tax break the amusement empire was getting. This is not the first and won’t be the last time the governor has been petty. He is taking a page out of the playbook of the aforementioned Mar-o-Lago resident. Ironically, since the famous resident sees the governor as a huge threat to his possible campaign, he has already started dissing the governor. I am sure they both will go pretty low in their back and forth – as they just cannot help themselves.

I just realized this post includes a host of folks who will go down infamy, rightfully so. At least I mentioned a few first ladies with good reputations to salve these wounds.

Wednesday wanderings in early March – Ukraine focused

It looks like a beautiful day here, but like many I am glued to the news of what is happening in Ukraine. As for here, last night all three of our adult children gathered with us and it was a delight to hear and participate in the conversation.

Here are a few wanderings for this first Wednesday in March.

-I read where China delegates are having conversation with Ukraine leaders. That has to stick in the craw of the malevolent acting autocrat in Moscow.

-I also read Trump’s former National Security Advisor John Bolton said Trump would not have stood in Putin’s way if he invaded Ukraine on Trump’s watch. I have no trouble believing that to be true, as Putin could steer Trump any way he wanted.

-The Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky is doing what a leader should do. He is right there with his people telling the Russians and their malevolent acting autocrat we will not back down. Ukraine may not prevail, but one has to admire Zelensky and his people’s moxie.

-I read that Russia may start defaulting on debts if the invasion takes too long. Long military campaigns cost money and that is money Russia does not have a lot to spare. The Russian people know this even though they are mostly too scared to go out with the tens of thousands protestors and say so given the 6,000 arrests.

-Again, the malevolent acting autocrat may prevail on the military side, but he has already lost big time. In the course of two weeks, he has managed to galvanize NATO and the EU and show to the world the kind of person he is. Future investment in his country will return at some point, but it may take longer this time.

-Finally, per my previous post, please listen to and watch people on the news and opinion shows who know what they are talking about. Former Moscow bureau chief for Fox Jennfier Griffin and Dr. Fiona Hill are two experts on Russia and are among a handful worth listening to. The last people to listen to are opinion hosts who are more entertainers than news people, especially when they are not known for being truthful.

As Senator Mitt Romney said on Sunday, supporting a leader of another country who is bent on taking freedoms away is not something to admire. We should be firmly against this kind of tyranny. Sadly, those who are so doing are acquiescing to a former president who admires that type of aggression and that kind of leader.

Republican Senator Mitt Romney states two obvious truths

Yesterday during an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Republican Senator Mitt Romney spoke two obvious truths that fellow Republicans need to listen to and heed.

First, Romney said that it is “unthinkable” and “almost treasonous” for anyone who loves freedom to also support Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Utah senator had been asked about the “pro-Putin sentiment” held by some factions of the Republican Party.

Second, the Senator spoke a humorous but needed truth about the poor actions of two of his Republican colleagues. He was asked yesterday about the attendance of Congressional Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar at a right fringe conference staged by a known white nationalist.

He cited a quote by actor Strother Martin from the movie “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” “Morons. I have morons on my team.” While I am not a fan of calling people names, the “actions” by two of the more extreme members of the GOP are indeed moronic. They each had time to consider should they really be speaking at this conference yet did so anyway. Unfortunately, this type of behavior is not unusual for these two people.

To be frank, applauding the efforts of known malevolent and untruthful tyrant is a bridge too far. Republicans Ronald Reagan and John McCain are rolling over in their graves over this inexplicable support. As for Representatives Greene and Gosar, we need our elected officials to represent our better angels, not our worse demons. We are all bigoted to some extent, but we must guard against racist behavior

I hope Senator Romney’s words get the attention they deserve. They are much needed for too many now in his party. And, are words of advice for others.

Saturday in the park – a few grumbles while I walk

I have shared before that I like to cogitate as a I walk. Often, this time permits me to organize a few thoughts for a post, but it also allows me to have fictional arguments with people who are not present that pay attention to spurious news sources. It is when those arguments become aloud that other folks give me more space. Fortunately, some may think I am on the phone.

I have a few grumbles in mind that I want to share:

-Disenfranchised groups of people do not often have voices at the table; this is a key reason I advocate for those in need. What bothers me most is when these folks are harmed by folks who are basing decisions more off perceptions or sound bites than truth. 900,000 Americans have died because of a poor response due to COVID, and yet some elected officials have made it political because it is easier to win votes posturing than to fix the problem. We also have a prison system industrial complex that is part of a new Jim Crow era where far more inmates are non-whites who committed the same crimes as whites that went free.

-What also bothers me is when people are harmed or killed because of decisions made by so-called leaders. Folks in the Ukraine are dying because of Vladimir Putin’s ego and the fact Russia’s struggling economy is largely based on fossil fuel exports. Like he has done before, Putin has invented a reason to invade another country. And, take it to the bank, he will do it again making up a similar reason. Putin plays a long game, while the western leaders play a short one; being an autocratic leader, he does not trouble himself with how Russians react, as he will just have opposition “handled.” Over 1,700 anti-war protestors were jailed in Russia earlier this week.

-Americans and Brits should not be too pompous about involving ourselves in other countries, as our histories have been based on that very fact. The US helped Iran’s military overturn an elected leader in 1953 to establish the Shah of Iran – this is a key reason Iranians do not trust us. And, the US invaded Iraq under false pretenses with the guise of “Weapons of Mass Destruction” and we involved the UK and other allies. A UK study came to the conclusion that the US president George Bush and UK prime minister Tony Blair misled UK citizens. Of course, the British Empire was built based on imperialism.

-Finally, not knowing or understanding history leads us to make decisions that are repeats of earlier bad decisions. Senator Jim Webb of Virginia, who had been in the Defense department and is a Vietnam veteran, stood up in the Senate and said if we invade Iraq, be prepared to stay there for thirty years. That was about twenty years ago, and we are still there. Also, not planning to fight an invasive war, not defining what success looked like, not defining an exit strategy, etc. leads to disastrous results. No foreign army has won in Afghanistan – ever. The terrain and tribal nature of the country do not permit control. This is why the soldiers and sailors invented a term that applies to poor planning – it begins with “cluster” and ends with a derogatory term for intercourse.

The common people are the ones who get hurt by misinformed and egotistical leaders. The line from the movie “Troy” comes to mind to explain this in the context of war. “War is old men talking and young men dying.” That includes women as well. It also goes beyond wars.

Just a few truisms

Since elected officials are now too busy running for office to actually participate in the duties of said office and with a certain pseudo-elected autocrat invading another country because he wants to reconstitute the USSR, we should focus on a few truisms. This is especially important given we have so many sources of information that is not news, but disinformation, the USSR wannabe guy’s modus operandi.

Now, I understand, a well-documented untruthful person has his own social media site. Rather than do a fact check on it, they should save time and just report when they slip up and tell the truth, which would be newsworthy. “Donald Trump told the truth today. Now other headlines.”

Here are a few truisms we should keep in mind as we read and watch statements alleged to be news.

-do not believe anything the former president of the US says. Full stop. The odds are well in your favor of being accurate if you follow this simple rule. A key thing to remember – it is always about The Donald. Yesterday we learned from The Donald that the reason Putin invaded Ukraine is because the election was stolen from Trump. Really?

-do not believe anything Putin says. Full stop. Again, the odds are in your favor. Anyone who knows history knew Putin would invade Ukraine months ago. His saying he would not is just his normal schtick. A former Russian TV producer said Putin has a heavy hand in not just news presented on Russian TV, but also sit-coms and dramas on the network. He will let them poke fun at simple governmental problems, but he will make sure they sing praises to Putin as well.

-as scary as Putin is, the person you need to be leery of is Xi Jinping. China’s ability to affect commerce, resources, investments, etc. have long made it destined to be the number one economic power in the world. The fact his subordinates can easily squelch any dissent makes his statements of greater concern. So, I would not believe much of what China’s leadership says either given their ability to craft the message. We should not forget “June 4” cannot be searched on Chinese websites as they do not want anyone knowing of the Tiananmen Square uprising on that date.

-while scary with his nuclear weapons, Kim Jong Un is not very believable either. HIs comic book list of successes in his bio are quite funny to read. No one knew he had superpowers. He is noted to be one of the greatest at almost any task, at least per his bio.

We need to focus on facts in a world where facts are the enemy to some. I know the above folks should not be trusted to tell us the truth, but what frustrates me most is when sycophants cover for their lies or rationalize them. This is especially true when they know they are so doing. They do it because they know they can get away with it.

So, another step to take is take everything any politician says with a grain of salt – they earned that right. Some are more truthful than others, but the words out of many of their mouths is politically calculated. And, that is not good for the truth.

Wednesday wanderings in late February, 2022

It rained this morning, so I am hoping it won’t impact my walkabout later today. Our Australian friends adapted this term “walkabout” and I have always had a fondness for it. One definition is simply a “walking tour,” but it is also defined as “a journey on foot undertaken by an Australian Aboriginal in order to live in the traditional manner.”

So, whether I make it on my walkabout or not, here are few musings I would likely have as I wandered.

-Vladimir Putin has planned to do what he just did for many months. You don’t amass troops and send blood supplies to the front line to just say howdy. For those who believe anything Putin says, I suggest you go back and read some of Senator John McCain’s speeches about Putin, sometimes given at the same conference the Russian leader had spoken at before. Putin is a KGB trained agent in the art of disinformation. Disinformation is a fancy word for orchestrated lying.

-One of the dilemmas in pushing back on Putin, like Xi Jinping, he plays a long game, while the west plays a short one. Being an authoritarian leader means not caring too much what the people in his own country think. Western leaders are not so fortunate. Putin has long known he can do bad things to acquire territory, accept sanctions, make a few concessions to get sanctions removed and keep the territory he stole. It is a repeating plot that he is doing here and he will do again elsewhere.

-I am glad Biden is president rather than his Putin infatuated predecessor. Biden will at least be able to build a coalition as he has done, while his predecessor would have difficulty in so doing because of how he treats every relationship like a transactional one. The sanctions will be tougher, but the best thing is the more unified response against Putin’s aggression. What troubles me is the Russian people have to pay for Putin’s egomaniacal pushes, yet as noted above, he really does not care what transpires at home.

Those are my miscellaneous thoughts. America is far from perfect and has made mistakes that have breached trust (WMDs comes to mind), but fortunately we stumble in to doing the right thing on more than a few occasions. Mr. Putin is just trying to rebuild the Soviet Union and Ukraine is known for its abundance of resources being known as the “breadbasket of Europe.”

Saturday soliloquys

A soliloquy is defined as follows: an act of speaking one’s thoughts aloud when by oneself or regardless of any hearers, especially by a character in a play. In other words, it is a nice word to use when you are caught talking to yourself. Fortunately, with mobile phones, some folks will think you are just on the phone and not talking to anyone.

Yet, when I walk or hike, I will be the crazy man talking to himself. This is what our political discourse has made me do, as we have too many people in position of authority who think it is OK to not tell the truth. What frustrates me most is they know they are lying and yet, do so with impunity. So, I have corrective make-believe conversations with folks who are the more dominant prevaricators.

Strangely enough, talking to myself may seem insane, but it actually helps with my sanity. Usually, these conversations are precursors to a post the next day. Yet, I will confess I must be a sight. Mothers may walk to the other side of the street with their strollers when this crazy man approaches. So, as I walk later today on this beautiful Saturday, here are a few discussion points for my soliloquy:

-people who believe anything Vladimir Putin says are on a fool’s errand. He was a trained KGB agent in the art of disinformation. He plies his skills every day, as he plays a long game while other leaders play a short one. He will invade and take sanctions, knowing at some point the sanctions will be stopped and he will have another country. Take it to the bank.

-the former US president does not email as he does not want a trail of his deceitful words and actions. Not keeping, shredding and flushing records made as required is not a stretch given his modus operandi as reported by reputable sources. I am not sure of the flushing, but I am sure of the avoidance and shredding of records.

-Joe Biden is not perfect, but he is not the former president. He is decent person, who has always had a hard time saying too much. Yes, he is old and yes he has made some mistakes, but at least we do not have to hear from every day on any issue. The Republicans and progressives are trying to paint him with the same brush as his predecessor. The words decent, truthful, magnanimous, et al are not top of mind to define the former president. And, by the way, Biden inherited an economy reeling from the pandemic, while Trump inherited an economy in its 91st consecutive month of economic growth, but Trump takes credit for turning around an economy that was already doing pretty good.

-Presidential historians have already judged the former president as in the bottom five of presidents. The primary reasons are his poor handling of the pandemic and the Big Lie and insurrection he precipitated. This is on top of his efforts to tear down institutions and denigrate public servants who do not acquiesce to his wishes. As one historian said, the pandemic and Big Lie taint any good thing he may have done.

-history will also not be too kind to Governors Greg Abbott and Ron DeSantis of two of the most populated states in the country. Their politicization of the pandemic has a huge effect beyond the poor handling of the former president. Putting the lives of children and adults as a secondary to making a political tough guy statement is both insulting and dangerous. I will add their politicization of the Big Lie to squelch voting they do not like does not make them look like leaders.

-Let me close with dear Boris. When Monday Night Football aired in the early 1970s, one of the announcers was a retired Quarterback named “Dandy” Don Meredith. When the outcome of the game was no longer in question, he would sing an old Willie Nelson song – “Turn out the lights, the party is over. They say that all good things must end. Turn out the lights the party is over. I am so glad we parted as friends.” Boris, Dandy Don is starting to sing, so you may want to pack up and leave.

Have a great day. Enjoy the walk or hike on the trails. And, as Roy Rogers would sing, “Happy trails to you, until we meet again…”

To defeat bullies, punch them in the nose with facts

With the proliferation of social media, it has never been easier to lie, misinform and disinform. To autocrats like Vladimir Putin, who was trained as a KGB agent on disinformation, it is like shooting fish in a barrel. People might say Putin is not such, as he stands for election, but jailing your opponents and controlling the airwaves, does not lend itself to a fair election. This is disinformation in its own right.

The only way to beat bullies who lie, misinform and disinform, is to not believe them and do our homework. Folks like Trump, Kim, Xi, Cuomo, Morrison, Johnson, Nunes, Gosar, Taylor-Greene, Cawthorn, Gohmert, DeSantis, Abbott, et al, do not want to be questioned on facts. They do not handle it very well.

I have many favorite stories about the last former US president not being aware of details, but when one reporter questioned him after the umpteenth time he had said he passed a bill, she pointed out the bill had been passed in 2014 and he was not president until 2017. He was clueless that he did not sign the bill. It is harder to argue when you just don’t know.

If you read Kim’s bio, he is God-like with super-human powers. Really? I expect people like Xi, Putin, and Kim to control the narrative. That is what they do. The uptick in right wing extremism is correlated to Putin’s hackers and trolls controlling the narrative in other countries. He has succeeded in making the west more unruly, due to his shenanigans. My guess is even Putin is amazed at how easy it has been. Common sense is not all that common, Mark Twain is alleged to have said.

What frustrates me is how gullible Americans, Brits, and Australians have been to elect people who overtly lie and bully people to submission. The fact they do this is not newsworthy. The fact that people elected these folks is. Here in the states, we could very well reelect a person who is trying his best to mask evidence that he betrayed his country on top of trying to “burn it all down” as his niece put it, because his shallow ego cannot take losing.

Johnson, who would daily thank his lucky stars for Trump, as he looked better in comparison to the US president, is ironically Prime Minister during the sluggardly Brexit execution as his selected blindness to facts helped precipitate the leave vote. Of course, seeing Johnson get elected was stunning to me, but pales in comparison that we Americans elected a person who has a measurable track record of being untruthful and cheating people as did Trump.

So, what do we do? Read and watch several credible sources of information. What is credible? First, they are not opinion shows. Second, the decibel level is lower with less screaming and yelling and more civil debate. This is a reason I like NPR as one of my sources – thoughtful people sharing news and their opinions whether you fully agree with them or not. Third, the amount of namecalling and labeling is less. Fourth, they will disclose conflicts of interest and provide errata when they get something wrong.

People used to be upset when they found out they were fooled. Now, when fooled by misinformation, they just go back to the source to confirm the facts are not real. The last former US president will have many legacies which will go down in infamy, but the one which may be the worst legacy is calling criticism “fake news.” This term is now used worldwide.

Here is a person who has lost about 64 out of 65 court cases (I lost count above sixty), saying the election was stolen from him and lost every audit and review of election results, and his fans still believe him. That is an unfathomable track record of losing, yet it is fake news according to the former president. Those followers may want to ask why his attorneys are forking out $175,000 in court costs for frivolous cases in Michigan, announced last week. And, one attorney of his has been suspended in two locations (DC and New York) and another is facing disbarment.

Facts. Details. Questions. An untruthful and bullying person’s worst fears.