Saturday, in the park (good day for a walkabout)

It has been a windy spring thus far, with the temperatures going up and down. Call me stubborn, but I hate having to switch on the heat, then A/C, then heat again. So, I just turn it off and grab a blanket or change into shorts as needed.

It is a great today for a walkabout, but I will definitely need to hold onto my hat. Yesterday, my wife and I were going to lunch at a restaurant outside on the patio, but we had to weigh down menus and napkins….and hair. My wife left a hair band or clip at home, so she would have been eating through her wind-blown hair. So, we went back inside.

Looking back at the news of the week, a couple random thoughts come to mind.

– Mark Twain is alleged to have said it is better to let people think you are a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt. Some Senators questioning a very well credentialed judge for the Supreme Court should have remembered this. Questions on her rulings are fair game, but these folks should not waste our time with inane questions or looking at their social media to see if their inane banter plays well with a fervent base of voters.

-Speaking of fools, I have been using the phrase believing what (someone) says as the truth is a fool’s errand. I have usually reserved this for a former president who is well documented by data and multiple people as not being very truthful. But, it applies to the current autocratic and malevolent acting leader of Russia or any one of several conspiracy parrots here in the US, disguised as serious journalists, when they are nothing more than entertainers.

-Along these lines, the conspiracy parroting usually follows the recipe of one teaspoon of a small, exaggerated truth, with healthy cups of flights of fancy. Note to the listener or reader – the more sensational it sounds, it is likely a conspiracy story and not the truth. People have gone to jail for believing and acting on the BS of folks like Alex Jones, Donald Trump, Tucker Carlson, et al. And, these folks have been sued for defamation. Carlson’s own employer threw him under the bus in court, when they said Carlson is not a news person, so his comments should not be considered as news.*

-I fully recognize that Democrats are far from perfect and some have said some inane things as well. But, for the most part, I feel I can argue policy emphasis with Democrats, whereas with Republicans, I feel I am arguing what is truthful. The conspiracy parrots have woven their story so well (and it is six times more read per a social media analyst, as the truth is not as sensational), those who do not do their homework end up believing the BS. I am not saying Democrats don’t lie nor all Republicans are untruthful, but we need the truthful people in the GOP to speak up routinely and call out the lies and for them to be applauded by the party for doing.

It frustrates me to feel this way. I have shared the need for the truth tellers to speak up with numerous Republican legislators. We need a more viable conservative party, but right now the one we have is adrift, untethered to the truth and lawfulness. That is what this independent and former Republican and Democrat thinks.

*Note: Anytime a Republican pulls out the Hillary Clinton pinata to beat on, know that person is in trouble. Clinton has not been in politics for a few years, but her lightning rod name is one that can be used when the speaker is trouble. It should not be lost on anyone, that the former president is suing Clinton for defamation for saying he spoke with the Russians during the 2016 election (which is well documented as a concern in The Mueller Report). This is typical SOP (standard operating procedure) for the former president – distract from his own troubles.

Monday morning you sure look fine (miscellaneous musings in early March)

With a nod to a lyric from a classic Fleetwood Mac song, allow me to throw down a few miscellaneous musings on March 7, 2022. I have been consumed by Ukraine’s courageous attempt to stave off the malevolent Russian force who is attacking for some made up reason, so many of my writings of late are around that topic.

The former Attorney General William Barr has noted several interesting things of late as he promotes his book on his time serving the former president. One that caught my eye this morning noted the former president does not care whether his fraudulent election claims are true, he just wants his fan base to believe such as his worst fear is being seen as “a loser.” Before Barr was fired, he noted in a group meeting to the former president that his election fraud claims were BS, which enflamed his mercurial boss. As the former president’s niece said, her uncle would burn it all down to avoid losing the election. That is why he will never concede.

Americans better be prepared to do their part in helping Ukraine as gas prices continue to rise. Putin is counting on us soft Americans to cave to enable his efforts to steal a country. What he did not count on is a former comedian being tough as nails telling him to go screw himself. President Zelenskyy is doing what a real leader should do. His opponent has misled his people, lied to his troops in harm’s way, arrested protestors, shut down internet access, and published disinformation as he always does. That is not leadership – that is autocracy.

I am long past tired of opinion hosts and politicians lying to us. Both sides stretch the truth, but I left the Republican party around 2008 as one reason is they had tendency to make things up. That was fourteen years ago and it has gotten worse. Sadly, people who support a person known for lying lie for him and rationalize his lies. It is embarrassing. To start with, do not believe anything that the former president or his TV sycophants say – the odds are well in your favor to be accurate. Do not believe anything the former president’s sycophants in Congress say – again the odds are well in your favor. We need a viable conservative party, but one that vilifies its truth tellers and promotes its liars is not one with a lot of veritas.

I know our friend Boris in the UK is a happy man with the news story of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, not the actual invasion. It has taken his woes off the front pages and allowed him to act more like what a Prime Minister should act like. The same may be true for the randy Prince Andy, excuse me “Andrew.” I know the Queen is likely very happy this Andrew thing is being put behind them. When your defense is to ignore the picture of him hugging an underage girl in a place owned by a convicted trafficker in girls (even though his only sentence was embarrassingly light), it does not make for strong argument.

Let me segue to another person known for his sexual misconduct, Harvey Weinstein. We have been watching a lot of old movies in the past several months. When I see Weinstein’s name as the film producer, my first thought is did he force himself on the lead actress? I was recalling the excellent work by Ronan Farrow on Weinstein and his enablers and one story sticks out. Actress Rosanna Arquette refused his advances and got on an elevator to leave the hotel where Weinstein planned his rendezvous. As she rode down the elevator, her thoughts drifted to “have I just ruined my career?” That is the power these sexual predators wield, whether it is due to money or royalty. And, the people that make me the most mad are the ones who cover everything up for their boss.

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.”

Wednesday wanderings – Valentine edition

I hope everyone had a pleasant Valentine’s Day. As I hum Dion’s big hit “The Wanderer,” allow me to roam around with my thoughts.

They call me the wanderer
Yeah, the wanderer
I roam around, around, around

Just an observation, but the elected and appointed officials who seem to be making the biggest stir about the January 6 House commission are the ones who should have the biggest concerns. Representative Jim Jordan made a stink last year when he was nominated and refused to be allowed on the committee. The fact he is a person of interest would have been a huge conflict of interest. Yet, this is not the first time Jordan has been accused of something – six wrestlers on the Ohio State University said they told then wrestling coach Jordan they were being sexually assaulted by the sports doctor there, which Jordan denies. This doctor molested several hundreds of male athletes.

Yet, if he was seated, this would not have been the first time conflict of interest occurred, as Representative Devin Nunes was allowed to be on the first Trump Impeachment committee. Nunes’ name was noted in the records of Lev Parnas, one of the folks who testified. That is a conflict of interest and he should have immediately recused himself. However, per multiple news reports, Nunes is the same person who had to step down as House Intelligence chair at the request of his own party, because he was leaking information to the White House.

The west needs to stick to its concerted push back on Vladimir Putin. This may be a ruse to threaten, ask for the moon and settle for something more than Putin has. Yet, Putin also knows if he invades Ukraine, the west will likely back down and he will end up with more territory and the sanctions won’t last forever. Putin has been playing this game a long time. I am sure he wishes he had his stooge still in the White House, who did not know he was being taken advantage of by the Russian leader.

I sure do wish Congress would stop all of its posturing and do their jobs. A retiring Congressman said that he spent about 35% to 40% of his time raising money. He would go across the street, sit in a cubicle and make phone calls. This is one simple area that could be changed that would help America. Stop trying to keep your job and do your job. I also do not want to hear you kowtowing to what your party wants – do what you think is right. I am tired of this zero-sum game BS that replaces legislative discourse.

I applaud Joe Biden for looking to nominate a black woman to the Supreme Court. Yet, he should have had his picks vetted sooner. One thing his predecessor did right for his party, he adopted and published a list of conservative bent judges he would consider before he was elected. That was a smart move on his part. Of course, I am not keen on our SCOTUS becoming more partisan. This is what happens when the 60 vote Senate approval rule was dropped to a majority. I want fair judges, not partisan ones.

I loved seeing the electric car commercials at the Super Bowl. Plus, there was one commercial on solar panels and how efficacious they have become. The fossil fuel industry continues its very well funded push to dissuade others on the vagaries of climate change, the country grid is not ready or the new technologies are not ready to fully replaces fossil fuel sources, but the tipping point has been reached. A key reason fossil fuel rich Texas leads the country in wind energy is the state legislature approved the expansion of the infrastructure to glean the electricity from where it is produced by wind mills.

Finally, Boris needs to start saying his good byes. Now that Prince Andrew has settled his lawsuit on alleged sex with a minor, Boris will get full bore reporting on his many poor judgment personal decisions. As with other politicians, the act is less important to the series of judgment lapses. How can we trust you with anything important when you keep making less than wise decisions on things that are common sensical.

That is all for now. Come on Dion, let’s finish our walk.

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…”

Brazil, Russia and America – tell tale signs

Three countries that have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic are Brazil, Russia and America. A key similarity is their three leaders down-played the pandemic. And, Messers. Jair Bolsonaro, Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump continue their misinformation to this day.

A pandemic expert who participated in a Bush task force on pandemics, said mission one is to tell people the truth. He noted Singapore remained opened, but the leaders told people the truth, told them what they needed to do with social distancing, wearing masks, washing hands, testing, and tracing, and because of being truthful, people did what they were asked. Singapore has had a far better handle on this than these three countries.

In an article in The HuffPost called “Brazil is the new epicenter of the global coronavirus pandemic” by Travis Waldron, the following quote jumps off the screen, “Bolsonaro’s denial and incompetence have led to a predictable surge in cases.” Brazil has had national two health directors resign in the last two months over differences with the Bolsonaro who has been encouraging gatherings and shaking hands in public. Brazil has roughly 7% of the global COVID-19 cases and deaths.

In Russia, Vladimir Putin has also downplayed not only the virus, but has made sure the numbers are watered down. While publishing 7% of the global COVID-19 cases, the deaths have been published at only 1%. Per a Time article, “Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin admitted on May 7, the real number of infections in the capitol city was at least three times higher than the official figure.” Putin’s folks deny that the number fudging is happening. But, we should never forget how leaders in the predecessor Soviet Union denied the massive problem of the Chernobyl meltdown.

Not to be outdone, the US leads the way. With about 5% of the global population, the US has over 31% of the COVID-19 cases. The US president actually said this was a “badge of honor” due to our testing. Yet, we have not done near enough testing and people getting sick is not a badge of honor. Further, we have 28% of the reported global deaths. From the outset, the president naysayed, downplayed, even said the Democrats were making this into a hoax. The misinformation continues to this day with false bravado, failing to push national interventions on masks and testing, not wearing a mask, promoting cures, citing incorrect data and even stating we should try to ingest disinfectant. But, the key is we missed 6 weeks of planning to prepare ourselves and that failing rests on the shoulders of the person we needed to be presidential.

Fortunately, governors of both political parties have made more fact based decisions based on their states. And, for the most part, the American people have come together to help each other. The governors who have tried to follow the president’s lead, find themselves risking their populations more than they should. And, one that tried to read the president’s mind, found himself criticized by the president when the public reacted negatively. The sad truth is the US president’s mission one is not telling the truth – it never has been on any issue – it is to make himself look good and win the reelection. When someone makes decisions based on errant goals, the problem will continue.

The hard truth is COVID-19 will linger with us for some time and will spike again in cases and deaths. Some of that uptick is occurring now in areas. COVID-19 cares not about geography or party. The president is not incorrect when he says more testing increases the number of detected cases, but that is only part of the story. The more people gather together, the pandemic will rear its ugly head and increase occurrences. We must be smart about how we interact with society and others in the many months ahead. And, we need people in leadership positions to tell the truth.

Anatomy of a Liar

One of the biggest factors of more autocratic governments is difficulty with the truth. Vladimir Putin, for example, may be the world’s most adroit liar. This is a key reason that the US President’s frequent problem with the truth give people concern over where the country is headed.

Looking at the anatomy of a liar, several things jump out. At the center of these untruthful leaders is a large ego that bristles at any kind of criticism. For this very reason, a liar tends to take credit for all things good and deflect blame to others for all things bad. Close to home, it is not uncommon for the US President to claim things he did not work on as “disasters” and things he did as “beautiful” or the “best ever.”

A favorite tactic of a liar is to keep things simple and repeat it over and over again. Using labels and calling people names are key parts of this strategy. When delivered with bombast, these lies seem very convincing. Smugness is also a common tactic to delivery. Smugness and bombast do not make you right, but unfortunately people are fooled by them. As for Trump, when he punctuates a thought with “believe me,” he is most likely lying.

In today’s news, several lies are jumping off the page. Saudi Arabia continues to come up with a changing storyline on the killing and dismembering of a reporter. Putin continues to deny strong evidence he tried to poison a former Russian agent on British soil and interfere in the 2016 US election. He also tried to interfere in the French election, but Macron’s people knew this and placed incorrect emails in the trove they stole to lessen the impact.

As for Trump, he lies everyday at a rate of more than 2 out of 3 statements per Politifacts. He is even worse at his pep rallies, where he lies 3 out of 4 times. I have long ago stopped believing anything Putin says. I also chose to do the same with Trump. To be trusted, one has to be trustworthy. And, therein lies the rub.

Wednesday wonderings

Happy Hump Day to all! Please permit me some alliterative license to wonder this Wednesday about a few events in the US and around the world.

I wonder what folks in Russia are thinking when their leader sanctions state sponsored cheating to win the medal count in the Olympics? To be kicked out of the Olympics was a surprise, but necessary result.

I wonder what folks in America, who do not believe the Russians influenced and are still influencing our elections and civil discourse, think after seeing the Russians banned from the Olympics. Let me say it plainly, if Putin is willing to cheat over Olympic competition, don’t you think he would cheat in influencing elections that would be in his favor in other countries?

I wonder what Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa was thinking when he was quoted in the Des Moines Register to support the Tax Bill favoring wealthy Americans, “I think not having the estate tax recognizes the people that are investing. As opposed to those that are just spending every darn penny they have, whether it’s on booze or women or movies.” This quote is highly offensive and betrays a line of thinking that is too often felt by those who “have.” No, Mr. Grassley, most Americans are living paycheck to paycheck to buy groceries, medicines, day care services and to pay rent (or mortgages),utilities and bills. I called his office to share my concern over the Tax Bill and to register that this quote is in extremely poor form.

I wonder what the US President is attempting to accomplish with citing Jerusalem as the capitol city in Israel? This move is being condemned by almost every nation as unnecessary and inflammatory. Is it to appease an evangelical base in the US or is it part of some master peace plan? If the latter, many experts I have listened to note that this will likely derail any peace process. Even the ones who have not been totally against it, say if it is to be helpful, then there are very subtle and delicate words that must be used. I am not confident that this President is up to that task, as it is not in his nature. Even beyond his prepared words he will use today, he has shown a bent to unwind progress with his inability to leave it alone.

I wonder why some people are having a hard time believing that Senate candidate Roy Moore sexual assaulted and harassed teen girls. It was not a secret that the man trolled malls looking for pretty teens to exploit. And, he cannot defend himself as his words get in the way. Mr. Moore, did you know these girls or not? When you have trouble answering the question, it means two things to me. Either you are lying or there are so many you cannot possibly remember them. One thing is for certain, they remember you.

I wonder why GOP Congressional leadership are using robocalls and commercials to sell me on their Tax Bills. Only 29% of Americans support the bills and 64% of Americans think the bills favor the wealthy. As a I said in emails, voicemails and conversations with staff of these politicians, we cannot increase the debt as these tax bills do (and should be reducing it) and please do not tell me how much they favor the middle class, when it is obvious who greatly benefits from them. Our friend Gronda refers to them as the “Donor Relief Fund.” Please let them know of your concerns.

I wonder.