Help ask leadership a few questions that need answers

I do not have a crystal ball, but I do read and have read for more than a few years. I am not prescient, but I do recognize we have issues that are just not getting talked about enough or at all. Please help me ask a few simple questions of leadership – state and federal representatives, senators, governors, council member and county commissioners, etc.

  • since there is a global and US water crisis that will only be made worse by climate change – what do you plan to do about it now, not as it becomes even worse a problem?
  • since climate change is a huge problem by itself and shows up in utility, reinsurance, NGO, and governmental models with catastrophic impact, how do you plan to leverage further what others are already doing to combat it?
  • since America has fallen woefully behind other countries in infrastructure and we are just one expected train wreck or bridge collapse away from someone crying how could you let this happen, why is it so hard to figure out an infrastructure bill?
  • since any newspaper in any reasonably sized city will report daily local shooting deaths and with the every other day occurrence of mass shootings around the country, what do you plan to do about at least stemming the tide?
  • since a group of state governors and legislators are hell bent on restricting the rights of Americans to vote, why is it so hard to make sure federally that this sacred right is protected (and please do not cite the fallacy of election fraud the losing candidate in the last presidential election is touting still)?
  • since all Americans do not have practical access to civil rights protection, what do you plan to do about that to make sure they do?

These are just a few questions I have. Help me ask them and get answers.

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.

Freedom Summer Project – a needed revisit with a voter suppression and racism afoot

With a president who attacks the voting process (without dearly protecting it) and does not speak out against racism in our country, this past post on a terrible time in history is relevant of what we must not become again. The only change is adding six years to the time elapsed.

Fifty-six years ago this summer, over 700 students from across the country, joined in the Civil Rights battle in Mississippi, where African-Americans had been demonstratively and, at times, violently denied their basic civil rights, especially the right to vote. These students joined together with the Student Nonviolent Coordination Committee (SNNC) under the guidance of Bob Moses, who had been slowly organizing SNNC since 1960. These students, were predominantly white, but included all races and ethnic groups.

The fact that many were white helped bring further attention to the ongoing tragedy going on Mississippi, perpetuated by those in power as the young students lived within the African-American community, taught through Freedom Schools young students about African-American history, literature and rights, items that had been absent from their curriculum. The Freedom Summer project can be viewed up close with an excellent documentary shown on the PBS American Experience. A link is provided below.* I would encourage you to watch the two-hour film as it can tell a story that requires footages of violence, overt racism, and brave people who spoke up, like Moses, Fannie Lou Hamer, Rita Schwerner and countless others.

Hamer is the face of the effort as evidenced by her speaking passionately in front of the 1964 Democratic Convention committee about how she was arrested, beaten, and tormented when she and others tried to register vote. Schwerner is the widow of one the three Civil Rights workers, Michael Schwerner, who along with James Chaney and Andrew Goodman, were abducted and killed by the KKK who came to abet the efforts of those in power in Mississippi. The widow rightfully pointed out the fact that two of the abducted (at the time) were white, was the only reason people in America started paying attention. She noted it is a shame that many African-Americans had died or were injured merely trying to exercise their right as citizens. Before the 1965 Voting Rights Act, less than 7% of African-Americans in Mississippi were allowed to register due to ostracization, intimidation, and complex constitutional literacy tests.

Since I cannot begin to do justice to this subject, I encourage you to watch the documentary. It will make you ashamed that this could happen in America, while at the same time making you applaud the magnificent courage of all involved, especially those African-Americans who had lived and would continue to live in this Apartheid like state once the freedom summer students went home. Yet, it took the deaths of these three young folks to galvanize and empower people.

It also took the organization of a more representative Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party of whites and blacks that went to the national convention to unseat the representatives sent by the state party, who were all white. Since morality was on their side, they almost succeeded, but they ran into the politics of Lyndon B. Johnson, who used his power to squelch the effort for a greater good – he could not help in matters if he did not get elected and he saw this as a means to interfere with that mission, no matter how noble the cause. LBJ accomplished great things for African-Americans, but politics is an ugly thing to watch up close and he looks manipulative in the process.

While their efforts fell short at the convention, their efforts were huge contributors to the passage of the Voting Rights Act the next year. But, one of the young folks who went to the Freedom Schools and is now a PhD., noted that learning about their African-American culture and civil rights that had been denied them, may have been the greatest achievement. I applaud their efforts and bravery. We still have a way to go and are seeing some battles having to be refought with several states passing restrictive Voter ID Laws. Three states have had their new laws ruled unconstitutional, while others are in court now. Yet, just because our President is multi-racial does not mean we are there yet. So, let’s keep in mind the battles these brave folks fought and not let their civil rights be stepped on again, no matter how cleverly masked those efforts.

* http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/films/freedomsummer/

You don’t want to win the argument, you want to get your way

The title is a quote I read this week in Readers Digest, where famous people noted the best advice they ever received. It was offered by Paul Steiger, the former managing editor of The Wall Street Journal. This quote resonated with me as it sums up the objective of politicians. “You don’t want to win the argument, you want to get your way.” And, this is one of the problems.

With it taking so much money to get elected, politicians are beholden to an oligarchy of donors whose influence is significant. They are the kinds of people who want their calls answered or returned immediately. When you shell out tens (or hundreds) of millions of dollars, you want the representative to represent your interests.

Being right or winning an argument is irrelevant. These folks just want to get their way. This is a key reason non-sensical arguments continue in the public vernacular. The oligarchy wants its way. They want to perpetuate their business model at all costs, even if the model is dangerous to people or the environment. They want to be protected if the market starts to buy fewer of their product, as free market capitalism to them is only I can get help, not you.

If you think about major issues, be it doing something about climate change, paying people better, governing gun use and sales better, protecting the financial interests of consumers, making sure people have access to health care, etc., the oligarchy does not want anything standing in their way. They want their economic engine firing on all cylinders.

Being right matters little. It is even more true today, when these folks can spin-doctor and influence pseudo news sources to make folks believe that their revenue generation is more apple pie than getting all people a square deal. This is why it is critical to advocate for change in our voting and campaign laws. They do not want to change the laws, as their influence has been enhanced by recent changes. This is why it is also critical to stay informed from good sources of news and information.

We can win arguments, but it takes effort. We win by knowing, understanding, repeating and advocating the right thing. It is already an uphill climb, so we better get our mountain boots on and start. That is the only way the right way will be the winning way.

This North Carolina Voter is Embarassed by New Voter ID Law

My state of North Carolina is getting more national attention, but not the kind that puts us in a favorable light. This on the heels of a legislative session that brought us notoriety in the New York Times, Esquire Magazine, Real Times with Bill Maher, and various science magazines. The recent Voter ID Law is the latest example, which is
unfortunate. From this Independent, former GOP voter’s vantage point, the new
Voter ID Law solves for the wrong problem. The signficant problem in our country
is not the wrong people voting, it is not enough people voting. Our country and
state lag behind other democracies around the world in the numbers of voters who
turnout at the polls. We should be passing laws to enable more voters, not block
the path for more voting.

The ID part of the law is one element of the blocking. As a 54-year-old white man, it is hard for me to walk in the shoes of people who are disenfranchised or discriminated against by how they look. I can empathize, but I truly don’t have that perspective. And, I am amazed by the recent Supreme Court verdict that says we have insufficient discrimination in our country to continue parts of the national law to assure voter
non-discrimination. I wonder what country they live in, as discrimination still
exists today. This North Carolina and laws like it from around the country are prima facie evidence that this discrimination still exists – it is codified now.

When you add the voter ID with the elimination of Sunday voting, with the elimination of same day registration, with the reduction in time period for early voter, with the elimination in straight party ticket voting, with campaign disclosure changes, with the elimination in early registration and with not standing by your political advertisement, I see a law that is horribly flawed and not serving the mission of the people. One of its drafters was on PBS Newshour last night and kept referring to a survey that said 60% or 70% of North Carolinians support this law. First, off which is it – 60% or 70%? Second, I would like to see the survey as I would wager it is from a biased sourced and did not ask about all of the stuff passed with the Voter ID part of the law.

To this point, this morning, The Charlotte Observer reported the results of the newest NC poll by Public Policy Polling (PPP) on the new Voter ID law. only 39% of NC voters support the law, with 50% opposed to it. Tom Jensen, the PPP pollster noted that while the ID part of the law is supported by more voters, when the other parts of the law, many of which are noted above, are added in the law becomes “a loser.” For example, only 33% of voters support the restriction to the early voting period, with 59% opposed with even higher opposition with Independents and Democrats.

My GOP friends have told me and I have read claims that this is law is not designed to suppress the vote and is not Jim Crow like. Of course it is. Almost every feature passed in the law will be harmful to African-Americans who tend to vote Democratic. To say otherwise, is an insult to my intelligence. This is why our Attorney General in NC who is a pretty smart guy, is having a crisis of conscience. He will be asked to defend law suits claiming unconstitutionality and discrimination when he knows the litigants are correct.
I don’t know if the courts will be unduly influenced by the Supreme Court, but
in this person’s view I agree with the AG. This law is unconstitutional and
makes NC look backward.

I know a few of our legislators have shown a bent to label folks, if that makes what has been done alright. Anyone against the law is a liberal Democrat. One of the same folks has called anyone a tree-hugger for wanting to protect the environment, and so on.  I am not a liberal Democrat, but that should truly not matter. I voted for our GOP governor nine times in his campaigns over the years for Charlotte mayor and NC governor. He led Charlotte as a moderate and I was hopeful he would be able to hold back the tide against poor legislation like this, rather than sign it. Based on his signing this law among other laws passed this year, there will not be a tenth.

This law should be repealed along with a few others that are harming people and our economy. It is not in our best interests. Our taxpayers will have to spend a lot of money
defending something that is indefensible.