Saturday, August 19, 2017

Friday, August 18, 2017

Unintended Consequences

I like to think of myself as an optimist.  You know, the glass half full and all that.  I try to look at the best in people and look for positive outcomes in any situation.  At least I try to do that.  I'm not always successful, but I try.  I'm also pretty good at looking for 2nd and 3rd order effects.  If this happens, then what is the outcome and, maybe even more importantly, what will be the effect down the line.  It's really taking the "if/then" problem to the next level.

So with the events of the last week, I'm heartened to see some of the impacts and outcomes.  I wrote about it just a few days ago here.  At the end of that rant, I hoped for the dismissal of Steve Bannon and that President Trump would come before the American people and apologize or at least explain himself.  Well...lo and behold, Bannon is out.  Now he's just the latest in what is becoming a list of folks leaving, but from I can tell, he's a bit of an odious character.  At minimum he is an arrogant and controlling functionary who is not particularly prone to bringing people together.  So he's out.  Now we'll see what impact that has.  What public role does he take?  Whatever it is, it will show his true character.

There are come other positive impacts that I think have started to emerge.  The best one is the pretty dramatic and across the board condemnation of the various white supremacist groups.  Not there was very much support in the past, but these knuckleheads have now become real pariahs.  People are starting to realize that their numbers are small and insignificant in the scheme of things.  That they can be made irrelevant by shining a light on them.

There has also been increased dialog across the board about the issue of monuments and memorials that are related to the Confederacy and the Civil War.  There have been a number of loud voices providing an almost hysterical demand to tear them all down.  But thankfully, those voices seem to be in the minority.  And really a small minority.  Polls show and I think it's true that most folks don't want to erase history.  I've said previously that I'm for ensuring that they are displayed in context and with correct historical descriptions as well as ensuring that local authorities make decisions based on a thorough discussion with the community.  I think that will happen.

The antifa is another odious group that have been outed for the despicable anarchists that they are.  I'm hoping (remember, I'm an optimist) that law enforcement now realize that if these guys are involved in any sort of demonstration or event, there is a need for overwhelming force and a structure to control them at all times.  One thing for sure, if there is another event in which the antifa thugs do their normal violence, law enforcement will be clearly to blame.

So there's a bit of light coming from the end of the tunnel.  But there is still one big issue.  Trump has to moderate his voice if he's going to be successful.  He's got to reach out to minorities and other groups and bring people together.  Or at least try to do that.  Because if he doesn't he'll be increasingly isolated and rendered ineffective.  And it will be a long three and half years!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Epic Fail II

I wrote about the epic failure of Congress to get the new health care bill that they had been promising for 7 years passed last month.  You can read it here.

Now there is another epic failure that the Trump administration is dealing with and it is arguably worse by several magnitudes.  And this one is entirely self-inflicted.  Unless you're living under a rock, you've seen all the stories, analysis and outrage coming out of Charlottesville, VA.  The Reader's Digest version is that a disparate group of white supremacist assholes had a two day rally in a park where there was a statue of Gen Robert E. Lee to protest the removal of the statue.  I'm sure you've seen all the hubbub about removing statues, memorials and really traces of the Civil War from everyday life.  I also wrote about that here and here.

So predictably there was a big backlash and an effort by "antifa" groups to disrupt this event.  Now make no mistake, the antifa are a group of violent, anti-government thugs who aim to disrupt and in many cases do harm.  But on this side of the aisle there were also a lot of peaceful protesters who abhor the Nazis, neo-Nazis, KKK, and all ther other groups purporting to be only preserving the white race.  And also predictably, there was violence and in an ultimate tragedy, the loss of life.  One of the white supremacists drove a car through the protesters, injuring many and killing one.

And let's not forget the role (or absence) of law enforcement.  This was the first epic fail of this whole sordid mess.  They stood by and did very little to stem the violence.  It's no secret that Charlottesville is a bastion of the Democrats and is certainly a hub for anti-Trumpism.  So it is natural to speculate that there was a method in their madness.  Who knows.  All I know is that they could have prevented it.  They could have taken action.  And that they didn't resulted in a death.

But then we come to the epic failure.  Trump came out relatively soon and condemned violence "on all sides".  And of course this was met with scorn and outrage from the media, politicians from both sides of the aisle, and a large number of the populace.  A few days later he had clearly been schooled by his staff on what to say and came out (on teleprompter) and condemned the KKK, white supremacists, Nazis, etc.  But is sorta didn't seem sincere.  And then yesterday during a confrontational and rambling press conference he reverted to his original statement that there was violence on all sides.  He said there were peaceful people on both sides trying to protest or support the issue.

And then it went nuclear.  CEOs resigned from his Industry Board.  Politicians are moving away from him as fast as possible.  His staff is in perpetual spin mode.  Talk radio is exploding.  Long time conservative voices are now wondering what they got themselves into.  Check out this article by a very respected conservative journalist.  Of course, he is digging in.  He is railing about fake news and despicable journalists.  He is disparaging the CEOs.  He is trying to change the subject.  In other words, he's being Trump.

So here's my take, for what it's worth.  The white supremacist, neo-nazi, KKK, alt-right bigots don't deserve the time of day.  They deserve to be shunned and vilified.  They need to be made a pariah of decent society and ridiculed into the ash bin of history.  Full stop. Some want to make this about protesting the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee in a park in Charlottesville.  That is a smoke screen.  If you have any doubt, check out this poster advertising the event.  This has little to do with the right.  This has to do with neo-nazi scum and perpetuating their sick views.  If you're a normal American and you wanted to attend an event that would include a rational discussion regarding the idea of removing Civil War memorials, you would not choose this event as one in which there would be any reasonable discussion.  Because this is about hate and oppression.  The other issue that is a smoke screen the issue of the First Amendment.  Everyone has a right to speak.  Well, I agree.  But the city doesn't need to give them a platform and a place that is ultimately volatile.  Don't let them spew their hate where it will instigate violence or is a place that is hard to control.  Put them in a box.  Let them talk, but put them someplace that can be controlled.  I don't know how to say it any stronger, these people are abhorrent and need to be shunned.  And when a light is shined upon them and they are shunned, no one would show up to their event and it would become irrelevant.  As I've said previously, we have examples of how to do it.  Martin Luther King jr, Nelson Mandela, etc, etc, etc.  It can be done.









Now what about the antifa?  Well, they are a bunch of thugs who use violence to achieve their goals.  The ends clearly don't justify the means.  If you don't really know what the antifa is, there is a pretty good article here.  I'm all for stomping out fascism.  I just finished a biography of Churchill and it was clear that if English leaders had listened to him in the 1930's, Hitler wouldn't have wreaked the havoc that he did.  But these antifa assholes are beyond the pale.  No decent citizen would support their activities.






I've already mentioned the failure of law enforcement, but that can't be mentioned enough.  When these violent groups come together, there has to be a controlling agent that provides structure to ensure safety.  That is fundamental.  They didn't do that.  In fact, it could be argued that they let it happen.  That is unsat.





So the white supremacists are terrible and the antifa are terrible.  So what's wrong with Trump's language?  What's wrong is that by saying both sides had violence he making a moral equivalence between an abhorrent and fundamentally anti-human (and certainly anti-American) group and a group of protesters that most likely did include some who were there to protest peacefully.  To most people, as bad as antifa is, there is no moral equivalence.

There is an expectation that our President will inspire us and will uphold the values that most Americans find vital.  He didn't do that.  He has been confrontational and unequivable in his belief that he was right.  He's not.  Many have said that things he's done could doom his Presidency.  I didn't believe that before this episode.  But this could mushroom out of control, if it hasn't already.  He needs to correct this wrong and put it behind him.  In my view he should do two things.  First is that he should come before the American people from the Oval Office and in a clear and calm manner condemn the alt right in no uncertain terms.  There can be no equivocation.  Second, he needs to dump Steve Bannon.  As long as Bannon is around, this issue isn't going away.  I fear it might already  be too late, but this is a time for a huge mea culpa if ever there was one.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Advice

Saw this over on FB and thought it was pretty good, especially for those of us over the hump and heading down the other side.  Thought I'd post it here and take from it what you will.

Many of us are between 65 and death, i.e. old. My friend sent me this excellent list for aging . . . and I have to agree it's good advice to follow. I'm particularly interested in tune with #19.
1. It’s time to use the money you saved up. Use it and enjoy it. Don’t just keep it for those who may have no notion of the sacrifices you made to get it. Remember there is nothing more dangerous than a son or daughter-in-law with big ideas for your hard-earned capital. Warning: This is also a bad time for investments, even if it seems wonderful or fool-proof. They only bring problems and worries. This is a time for you to enjoy some peace and quiet.
2. Stop worrying about the financial situation of your children and grandchildren, and don’t feel bad spending your money on yourself. You’ve taken care of them for many years, and you’ve taught them what you could. You gave them an education, food, shelter and support. The responsibility is now theirs to earn their own money.
3. Keep a healthy life, without great physical effort. Do moderate exercise (like walking every day), eat well and get your sleep. It’s easy to become sick, and it gets harder to remain healthy. That is why you need to keep yourself in good shape and be aware of your medical and physical needs. Keep in touch with your doctor, do tests even when you’re feeling well. Stay informed.
4. Always buy the best, most beautiful items for your significant other. The key goal is to enjoy your money with your partner. One day one of you will miss the other, and the money will not provide any comfort then, enjoy it together.
5. Don’t stress over the little things. You’ve already overcome so much in your life. You have good memories and bad ones, but the important thing is the present. Don’t let the past drag you down and don’t let the future frighten you. Feel good in the now. Small issues will soon be forgotten.
6. Regardless of age, always keep love alive. Love your partner, love life, love your family, love your neighbor and remember: “A man is not old as long as he has intelligence and affection.”
7. Be proud, both inside and out. Don’t stop going to your hair salon or barber, do your nails, go to the dermatologist and the dentist, keep your perfumes and creams well stocked. When you are well-maintained on the outside, it seeps in, making you feel proud and strong.
8. Don’t lose sight of fashion trends for your age, but keep your own sense of style. There’s nothing worse than an older person trying to wear the current fashion among youngsters. You’ve developed your own sense of what looks good on you – keep it and be proud of it. It’s part of who you are.
9. ALWAYS stay up-to-date. Read newspapers, watch the news. Go online and read what people are saying. Make sure you have an active email account and try to use some of those social networks. You’ll be surprised what old friends you’ll meet. Keeping in touch with what is going on and with the people you know is important at any age.
10. Respect the younger generation and their opinions. They may not have the same ideals as you, but they are the future, and will take the world in their direction. Give advice, not criticism, and try to remind them that yesterday’s wisdom still applies today.
11. Never use the phrase: “In my time.” Your time is now. As long as you’re alive, you are part of this time. You may have been younger, but you are still you now, having fun and enjoying life.
12. Some people embrace their golden years, while others become bitter and surly. Life is too short to waste your days on the latter. Spend your time with positive, cheerful people, it’ll rub off on you and your days will seem that much better. Spending your time with bitter people will make you older and harder to be around.
13. Do not surrender to the temptation of living with your children or grandchildren (if you have a financial choice, that is). Sure, being surrounded by family sounds great, but we all need our privacy. They need theirs and you need yours. If you’ve lost your partner (our deepest condolences), then find a person to move in with you and help out. Even then, do so only if you feel you really need the help or do not want to live alone.
14. Don’t abandon your hobbies. If you don’t have any, make new ones. You can travel, hike, cook, read, dance. You can adopt a cat or a dog, grow a garden, play cards, checkers, chess, dominoes, golf. You can paint, volunteer or just collect certain items. Find something you like and spend some real time having fun with it.
15. Even if you don’t feel like it, try to accept invitations. Baptisms, graduations, birthdays, weddings, conferences. Try to go. Get out of the house, meet people you haven’t seen in a while, experience something new (or something old). But don’t get upset when you’re not invited. Some events are limited by resources, and not everyone can be hosted. The important thing is to leave the house from time to time. Go to museums, go walk through a field. Get out there.
16. Be a conversationalist. Talk less and listen more. Some people go on and on about the past, not caring if their listeners are really interested. That’s a great way of reducing their desire to speak with you. Listen first and answer questions, but don’t go off into long stories unless asked to. Speak in courteous tones and try not to complain or criticize too much unless you really need to. Try to accept situations as they are. Everyone is going through the same things, and people have a low tolerance for hearing complaints. Always find some good things to say as well.
17. Pain and discomfort go hand in hand with getting older. Try not to dwell on them but accept them as a part of the cycle of life we’re all going through. Try to minimize them in your mind. They are not who you are, they are something that life added to you. If they become your entire focus, you lose sight of the person you used to be.
18. If you’ve been offended by someone – forgive them. If you’ve offended someone - apologize. Don’t drag around resentment with you. It only serves to make you sad and bitter. It doesn’t matter who was right. Someone once said: “Holding a grudge is like taking poison and expecting the other person to die.” Don’t take that poison. Forgive, forget and move on with your life.
19. If you have a strong belief, savor it. But don’t waste your time trying to convince others. They will make their own choices no matter what you tell them, and it will only bring you frustration. Live your faith and set an example. Live true to your beliefs and let that memory sway them.
20. Laugh. Laugh A LOT. Laugh at everything. Remember, you are one of the lucky ones. You managed to have a life, a long one. Many never get to this age, never get to experience a full life. But you did. So what’s not to laugh about? Find the humor in your situation.
21. Take no notice of what others say about you and even less notice of what they might be thinking. They’ll do it anyway, and you should have pride in yourself and what you’ve achieved. Let them talk and don’t worry. They have no idea about your history, your memories and the life you’ve lived so far. There’s still much to be written, so get busy writing and don’t waste time thinking about what others might think. Now is the time to be at rest, at peace and as happy as you can be!
AND, as Alan's message suggests. REMEMBER: “Life is too short to drink bad wine.” Or, in my case, bad Arnold Palmer.

Motivation Monday


Our Identity and Our Voice

Sometimes something comes along that is so good, so powerful, so accurate that I just have to share it.  Such is the case in today's Frank Bruni column in the NYT.  If you've been reading at all you know I'm a sometime fan.  I can sometimes resonate with his writing and sometimes he infuriates me.  I guess that is true of most of the opinion writers out ther though.

Anyway, check his column today entitled, 'I'm a White Man.  Hear me out.' here.  I'm also going to paste it below because I'm not sure that the NYT will allow it to stay up for free.  For me, this sentiment is one I've felt over and over the last several years.  It seems that more and more intellect is giving way to identity.  And it's a shame.

"I’m a White Man. Hear Me Out.

Frank Bruni
AUG. 12, 2017

I’m a white man, so you should listen to absolutely nothing I say, at least on matters of social justice. I have no standing. No way to relate. My color and gender nullify me, and it gets worse: I grew up in the suburbs. Dad made six figures. We had a backyard pool. From the 10th through 12th grades, I attended private school. So the only proper way for me to check my privilege is to realize that it blinds me to others’ struggles and should gag me during discussions about the right responses to them.

But wait. I’m gay. And I mean gay from a different, darker day. In that pool and at that school, I sometimes quaked inside, fearful of what my future held. Back then — the 1970s — gay stereotypes went unchallenged, gay jokes drew hearty laughter and exponentially more Americans were closeted than out. We conducted our lives in whispers. Then AIDS spread, and we wore scarlet letters as we marched into the public square to plead with President Ronald Reagan for help. Our rallying cry, “silence = death,” defined marginalization as well as any words could.

So where does that leave me? Who does that make me? Oppressor or oppressed? Villain or victim? And does my legitimacy hinge on the answer?

To listen to some of the guardians of purity on the left, yes.

Not long ago I wrote about Evergreen State College, which was roiled by protests after a white biology professor, Bret Weinstein, disparaged the particular tack of a day of racial healing. He raised valid points, only to be branded a bigot and threatened with violence.

That reception was wrong. I said so. And a reader responded: “I don’t need one more white male criticizing young people of color.” Other readers also homed in on my race — or on the professor’s: “Weinstein will be fine. He’s white.” That automatically and axiomatically made him a less compelling actor in the drama, a less deserving object of concern, no matter his actions, no matter his argument.

Mark Lilla, a Columbia University professor, got a big, bitter taste of this late last year when he wrote, in The Times, about the presidential election and “identity politics,” which, he argued, had hurt the Democratic Party. He maintained that too intense a focus on each minority group’s discrete persecution comes at the expense of a larger, unifying vision.

Many people disagreed. Good. But what too many took issue with was, well, his identity. “White men: stop telling me about my experiences!” someone later scrawled on a poster that was put up to advertise a talk, “Identity Is Not Politics,” that he gave at Wellesley College.

“But I wasn’t talking about their experience or my experience,” Lilla pointed out when I spoke with him recently. “I was talking about an issue.”

In a new book coming out this week, “The Once and Future Liberal,” he asserts that “classroom conversations that once might have begun, I think A, and here is my argument, now take the form, Speaking as an X, I am offended that you claim B. This makes perfect sense if you believe that identity determines everything. It means that there is no impartial space for dialogue. White men have one ‘epistemology,’ black women have another. So what remains to be said?”

Race, gender, sexual orientation, class: All of this informs — and very often warps — how we see the world. And for much too long, this country’s narrative has been scripted by white men, who have also dominated its stage and made its rules. Our advantage, as a class, is real and unearned.

The “check your privilege” exhortation asks us, rightly, to recognize that. It’s about “being aware of systemic injustice and systemic inequality,” Phoebe Maltz Bovy, the author of the recently published book “The Perils of ‘Privilege,’ ” told me. And she applauds that.

But she worries that awareness disclaimers and privilege apologies have ferried us to a silly, self-involved realm of oppression Olympics. They promote the idea that people occupying different rungs of privilege or victimization can’t possibly grasp life elsewhere on the ladder.

In her book she mocks the inevitable juncture in a certain kind of essay “where the writer (probably a cis White Lady, probably straight or bisexual, probably living in Brooklyn, definitely well educated, but not necessarily well-off) interrupts the usually scheduled programming to duly note that the issues she’s describing may not apply to a trans woman in Papua New Guinea.”

Should we really have say and sway only over matters that neatly dovetail with the category that we’ve been assigned (or assigned ourselves)? Is that the limit of our insights and empathies? During the Democratic primary, a Hillary Clinton supporter I know was told that he could not credibly defend her against charges of racism for her past use of the word “superpredators” because he’s white.

That kind of thinking fosters estrangement instead of connection. Lilla noted that what people in a given victim group sometimes seem to be saying is: “You must understand my experience, and you can’t understand my experience.”

“They argue both, so people shrug their shoulders and walk away,” he said.

Across a range of American institutions, we need more diversity. We need it to expunge and guard against the injustice that Bovy mentioned, and we need it because it’s indeed a portal to broader knowledge and greater enlightenment. That means that white people — men in particular, even Google engineers — must make room in that narrative and space on that stage.

But I question the wisdom of turning categories into credentials when it comes to politics and public debate. I reject the assumptions — otherwise known as prejudices — that certain life circumstances prohibit sensitivity and sound judgment while other conditions guarantee them. That appraises the packaging more than it does the content. It ignores the complexity of people. It’s reductive.

Thomas Chatterton Williams, the author of the memoir “Losing My Cool: Love, Literature, and a Black Man’s Escape From the Crowd,” got at this in an essay about privilege that he published last year, writing: “My black father, born in 1937 in segregated Texas, is an exponentially more worldly man than my maternal white Protestant grandfather, whose racism always struck me more as a sad function of his provincialism or powerlessness than anything else. I don’t mean to excuse the corrosive effects of his view; I simply wish to note that when I compare these two men, I do not recognize my father as the victim.”

At the beginning of this column I shared the sorts of personal details that register most strongly with those Americans who tuck each of us into some hierarchy of blessedness and affliction. So you know some important things about me, but not the most important ones: how I responded to the random challenges on my path, who I met along the way, what I learned from them, the degree of curiosity I mustered and the values that I honed as a result.

Those construct my character, and shape my voice, to be embraced or dismissed on its own merits. My gayness no more redeems me than my whiteness disqualifies me. And neither, I hope, defines me."

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Cool Pic



"I'm Offended by That"



She's Not Even Trying!




Thugs

By now you've heard and seen (how could you not?) the horrific scenes coming out of Charlottesville, VA showing the clashes between a bunch of white supremacist assholes and a bunch of folks who wanted to confront them violently and cause news and harm.  Well, they all have gotten their 15 minutes of fame.

The white supremacist assholes have been able to spew their repugnant and dangerous bullshit.  You know, the Confederacy will never die, white people are the new oppressed race, we need a pure society, blah, blah, blah.  We've all heard it before and it is nauseating.  That they have a right to meet and rant a bunch of crap is without doubt.  That they should is not.  They shouldn't.  It incites hate and is despicable.  Supposedly it was to protest the city's decision to take down or relocate a statue of Robert E. Lee.  I won't go into the whole debate about this new phenomenon of moving Confederate statues as I posted about it a few months ago when New Orleans was doing it.  Bottom line is that generally I'm in favor of moving them to a more appropriate place (a battlefield memorial) than a city park.  But that's just me.  But I think this was just an excuse for these white supremacist assholes to cause hate and discontent.  They are low lifes.

But then there are the protesters on the other side.  There is little doubt that they were pissed and wanted to get some attention.  Most of them are generally pissed off most of the time and have been pissed off since Trump won.  I think this was really just a good excuse to get out there and throw a few punches.  They are usually a far left crowd that has little in common with the average American. But they are arrogant, aggressive and relentless.  They mostly don't want to engage in dialog.  They just want to call names and throw punches.  Well, today they got what they wanted.  It was a full on free for all.  And ultimately, one of the white supremacist assholes got in a car, plowed into them and killed someone.  Tragic.  Tragic all around.  That Americans would do this to each other is nothing short of tragic.

A couple of things come to my mind when thinking about this whole situation.  First is I wonder how many people were really involved when you take away all the media idiots and the police.  I bet it wasn't enough to fill a medium sized stadium.  Second, is the treatment that the media gives something like this.  On cable it's an inundation of coverage with views from every angle and talking heads, so-called experts and useful idiots offering 'analysis' on and on and on.  Third, the ultimate goal of the protesters has been met.  They got attention (a lot of attention) and they got the media to blame President Trump.  He came out and condemned the violence, but was immediately crucified for not blaming the white supremacist assholes more vigorously.  But the truth is that there was plenty of blame to go around.  But that will never get out.

And fourth, and this is probably most important, is that the protesters didn't really want what they claimed to be seeking.  What they wanted was attention and to blame Trump.  Because if they really wanted to make a statement there are plenty of examples they could have followed.  Think Martin Luther King, Jr.  Think Nelson Mandela.  Think Rosa Parks.  Think of so many others who have shined the light on violence, prejudice and oppression.  If the story is about you, it's not about the white supremacist assholes.  The light doesn't get shined on them because the media is too gullible and stupid to see the reality. And that is a shame.  Because the reality is that this small group of white supremacist assholes who in no way are reflective of America today, would fade into oblivion if a bright light was shined on them.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Friday Funnies

On vacation this week so had to find something easy.  Far Side never lets me down.



Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Snowflakes

We hear a lot about this in the media but this testimony makes it real.   Everything goes in cycles and I can only hope that the latest trend on college campuses to stifle free speech is a temporarily phenomenon.  But from everything we hear, I'm not particularly hopeful that it's just a passing fad.



Sunday, July 30, 2017

Cool Pic

I could live here!


Anagram

Never thought about it, but this is good.


Add a Vegetable and it's Complete



Attack Squirrels

You just never know what the next threat is going to be!


Weird...weird...weird

Every once in awhile while I'm surfing around the net I come across a photo that is just weird in the extreme.  This is one of those...


Cool Pic



It Could Happen!



Motivation Monday


Discrimination

I've been watching the ridiculous comments about the issue of transgender acceptance in the military. It's really quite amazing.  So here's the short history.  Last year in his effort to remake the military by social experimentation, Obama opened up the ranks to transgender people.  I guess he thought it was akin to accepting black people or gay people.  It's not.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand that anyone who is going through this kind of experience has significant physical and emotional challenges.  They will need extensive surgery, continuing medical care, ongoing drug administration, and psychological counseling that will probably never end.  Of course, a guy like Obama and his sycophants would never get that someone with those kinds of problems should not be remotely qualified for military service.  That's because, like a lot of things he mandated, he had no experience in real life so he could cavalierly make an edit that dramatically impacts the millions currently serving.

But a guy like me telling it like it is makes no difference.  A guy like me trying to explain the realities of military service and the incompatability of someone going thru a sexual transition will be written off as another old guy not in tune with the times.  That's okay.  Because there are others with a better way of expressing themselves who can explain far better than me. You can read a great blog post about this issue here.  Andy has captured the dynamic of the issue far better than I ever could.  Let me just say that I associate myself with his remarks to an extreme degree.

As I've said over on FB as I shared his post, it's not about discrimination.  If people want to change sexes, have at it.  I don't understand it, but have at it.  I still maintain that some are committed and some are not.  Unless we're talking surgery, we're talking dress up.  But like I said, knock yourself out.  Do what you want.  Just don't try and say it's normal.  Don't try and say there is no impact to other aspects of life.  And don't think you can upset what is a balance of action in the military.  Because you're talking about the defense of the nation.  And that's nothing to be taken lightly.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

I try to be moderate in most things.  I'm not a rabid partisan for most politicians or causes.  I guess the exception was Hilary.  I was strongly and unalterably opposed to her as our President.  I've detailed the reasons over the last year or so and don't need to regurgitate it all here.  But for the most part I try and see both sides and advocate for what I believe is in the best interests of the country and the population as a whole.  

I've not been a never-Trumper nor a member of the resistance.  Like Obama, I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt and give him a chance to produce.  My assessment after six months is that he's done some good things, some bad things, has been slow off the mark on several things, and still has a ton of stuff to work on if he's going to live up to the hype and have a chance at reelection.  But there are several major issues that continue to flummox him and if they continue, his chances of success are greatly diminished.  First is the all-out, never-ending disdain and antipathy of the press.  They are clearly out to get him and are doing a good job.  They can use "anonymous sources" and get away with anything and accuse him and his administration of anything.  Second is the rock-solid block from Democrats to anything Trump.  Maybe they can't beat him, but they can sure slow him down and make him look ineffective.  Third are leaks.  I don't know what's being done about them, but it appears not much.  If he doesn't get a handle on leaks, they will continue to trip him up.  There are others but finally, and probably most importantly, he is his own worst enemy.  Every time he starts to get momentum he shoots himself in the foot with an ill-advised tweet or comment.  It's maddening for those of us who would like for some of his initiatives to get implemented.  

Which brings me to a strong reading recommendation.  I'm a big fan of National Review.  I think their writing is mostly conservative but the writers there usually will call a spade a spade.  They will agree when appropriate and call someone out when appropriate.  I particularly like Jonah Goldberg.  His writing is smart, clever, and usually something I really resonate with.  He has a Friday column called "The G File" that is well worth reading.  You can subscribe on their website.  This week's column is just totally spot on from my perspective.  You can read it here.  You're welcome!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Epic Fail

You know what I'm talking about.  That the Republicans can't get anything done on repealing and replacing Obamacare despite the promises of the last 8 years is nothing short of unbelievable.  I won't list or debate the merits of all the options and alternatives because not being able to get this done overshadows whatever might be in the final bill.  They have to be embarrassed and ashamed.  Oh wait...what am I thinking?  They are politicians.  They clearly don't give a shit.

Choosing health care as the signature issue to fight for was as just stupid.  They had to know this was going to happen.  In their dark little secret place, they had to know that this was going to happen. These assholes talk about doing their best for "the American people".  Please.  They don't give a shit about the American people.  And anyway, when we talk about this health care issue, we're only talking about 20 or 30 million people.  Not small by any means, but not a huge number of people.  They act as though this is something that if it doesn't get done it will impact every living, breathing American.  Once again...bullshit.

So now I think we have come to a point in the country that there are really 4 main political parties.   There are the conservative Republicans.  There are the moderate to liberal Republicans.  There are the traditional progressive liberal Democrats and the far left Bernie Democrat Socialists.  Of course there are few others like the Libertarians but they are usually pretty small groups.  So each of the Congressmen or Congresswomen or Senators identifying with one of those groups.   Instead of having to deal with and compromise between two factions, we now have four.  That is damn near impossible.  There are two things that motivate most of these assholes on capital hill.  I bet you thought I was going to say power and influence, or some such nonsense.  No...what motivates them is anything that might hamper their ability to get reelected and the money they need to get reelected.  It has become nauseating to listen to them bloviate on and on and on when they get a microphone stuck in their face.  So I no longer listen.  These guys are assholes!

All I've got to say is that they better get something done on infrastructure and tax reform, or they are dead meat.  People are pissed now because the Republicans are so stupid, but they'll be really pissed if they are unable to get one thing done.

The media (another bunch of assholes) have said blamed Trump for not trying hard enough to influence Congress.  That is clearly bullshit.  He has cajoled, met with them, compromised, wined and dined and everything short of begging and they have essentially flipped him off.  So if I were him I'd walk away.  Let them fend for themselves.  Get what you can done, done.  Don't aim too high because you now know you're dealing with a bunch of spineless assholes.  And it doesn't look like it's going to get any better.

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Passion of Sports Fans

Never underestimate the incredible power of sports to raise unbelievable passions.  Check this out.

https://bars.tl/Vu6u/uQhHb2pcRE

Of course, this should be tempered in case you live in San Diego.  Since the Judas's left, it's been sorta blah...


Motivation Monday


Sunday, July 16, 2017

Cultural Implosion?

Okay, so I couldn't stay away.  Too much going on.  Too many things to comment on.

Like everyone I've been watching the latest revelations about the Trump campaign meetings with the Russian lawyer.  At first I (like many) thought it was probably much ado about nothing.  Then I thought it was just the kid making a pretty big screw up.  And then as more details dripped out (memo to politicians...get it all out fast.  Bad news doesn't get better with age) it became obvious that there was at least an attitude that if we can get dirt on Hillary by any means, even from a foreign government, then that's okay.  Well...that's not okay.  In fact it's a pretty big not okay.

And here's what happens when a screw up this blatant comes to light.  At least for me it's what happens.  I start to look at other things and question other things.  For a long time now Trump has been touting accomplishments, statistics, that he's making America great again, blah, blah, blah.  And it's obviously a lot of bullshit.  I mean, there are some good things that have occurred, but I don't remotely believe that there have been dramatic accomplishments and turnarounds.  And I don't think many others believe that either.  Trump's credibility is wearing thin.  Simple as that.  After six months it seems that he believes that if he says it, it must be believed.  There are a hard-core of supporters who will believe him because they hate the other side.  But I think the country is still mostly in the middle.  And they will only believe so much.  There is a good blog article in National Review this week by Jonah Goldberg, a pretty serious and smart writer who is no liberal, who lays it out pretty well.  You can read it here.  Here's my favorite bottom line quote:
"Trump’s more-credible defenders certainly may be right that this is all the result of ineptitude and amateurishness. These guys are like a mix between Ron Jeremy and a yoga master in their ability to step on their own johnsons."
There is another piece that you should check out from Frank Bruni of the NYT.  I know, I know...NYT.  But I find Frank to be among the few writers in the MSM who I can usually find something to agree with.  Check out his article about "Six Long Months of President Trump" here.  I don't agree with much in the article but I think he does point out how corrosive we've all become.  And a large part of the blame lies at Trump's feet.  There is little doubt about that.

And it you look at Congress, you're just nothing but depressed.  They can get nothing done.  They aren't interested in compromise and accomplishments for the people.  They only have self-interest.  They mostly just spout platitudes and bullshit.  They can't fix a broken health care system for poor people because they are too self-absorbed.  This even when both sides say a fix is needed.  If they can't do this, can they ever get to tax reform, which is so much more important for the country as a whole?  I'm having my doubts.  And I think most people think the same thing.  So both the Executive branch and the Legislative branch are severely broken.  Severely.

A third article caught my attention this week.  Jamie Dimon, the CEO of J.P. Morgan offered some really honest comments at an earnings call and WSJ had a short writeup about it.  I'm going to paste the whole thing because it's short and pretty good.  And it hits the nail on the head.
Jamie Dimon Goes Off
The J.P. Morgan CEO savages Washington’s anti-growth culture.By The Editorial Board
Jamie Dimon sure knows how to liven up an earnings call. While reporting quarterly results on Friday, the J.P. Morgan Chase CEO let loose with a high-quality harangue against the political class and Washington gridlock that drives down economic growth and hurts the people at the bottom of the income ladder.
“Since the Great Recession, which is now eight years old, we’ve been growing at 1.5% to 2% in spite of stupidity and political gridlock,” said the dean of Wall Street CEOs, who was just warming up. “We are unable to build bridges, we’re unable to build airports, our inner city school kids are not graduating.”
“I was just in France, I was recently in Argentina, I was in Israel, I was in Ireland. We met with the prime minister of India and China. It’s amazing to me that every single one of those countries understands that practical policies to promote business and growth is good for the average citizens of those countries, for jobs and wages, and that somehow this great American free enterprise system, we no longer get it.”
The banker who was once a target of Obama regulators must feel liberated because he even dared to defend tax cuts for business: “Corporate taxation is critical to that, by the way. We’ve been driving capital earnings overseas, which is why there’s $2 trillion overseas benefiting all these other countries and stuff like that. So if we don’t get our act together—we can still grow.”
Tell us how you really feel, Jamie: “I don’t buy the argument that we’re relegated to this forever. We’re not. If this administration can make breakthroughs in taxes and infrastructure, regulatory reform—we have become one of the most bureaucratic, confusing, litigious societies on the planet.
“It’s almost an embarrassment being an American citizen traveling around the world and listening to the stupid s— we have to deal with in this country. And at one point we all have to get our act together or we won’t do what we’re supposed to [do] for the average Americans.
“And unfortunately people write about this saying like it’s for corporations. It’s not for corporations. Competitive taxes are important for business and business growth, which is important for jobs and wage growth. And honestly we should be ringing that alarm bell, every single one of you, every time you talk to a client.”
Mr. Dimon has said he’s a Democrat, and some of his friends say he might be looking to run for President. If Republicans can’t rally the nerve to pass their agenda, he might find a receptive constituency.
So as I look around there is huge reason for despair.  But here's the bottom line for me.  Even with the craziness, even with the corruption and hyper-partisanship, even with the lack of progress, there are reasons for optimism.  I think Trump has done pretty well on the international front.  That is an area fraught with danger, but so far he's doing okay.  I see some flashes of brilliance in his actions.  So far those things have been obscured by some crazy tweet or outlandish claim.  If he can steady the ship, then maybe he's got a chance to accomplish some things.  I don't necessarily think he will do that, but one can always hope.  His Supreme Court appointment was great and there's reason to believe that future appointments will be as well.

And the real, incredibly important bottom-line.  Hillary the criminal is not President.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

On a Break

I haven't been posting much lately.  Too much going on.  Too many distractions.  I become frustrated by some useful idiot and by the time I get around to commenting, someone else has come along that has usurped the previous idiot.  It's just all so tiresome.  So I'm taking a break.  Don't know when or if I'll be back.  I'll leave the blog open so you can continue to check the blog roll if you're interested.  Or not.  As is always the case, up to you.  But for now...I'm on a break.


Friday, June 30, 2017

Friday Funnies

I'm thinking this is a good tutorial on how NOT to do online dating.  




Thursday, June 22, 2017

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Atlanta

We just spent a week in Atlanta at the Rotary International Convention.  The event was wonderful with incredibly uplifting motivational stories, a mind-boggling display of service opportunities, and a chance to make new friends.  I could write whole post on Rotary, but will save that for another time.  I'm going to be installed as the President of the local chapter here in Rancho Bernardo on July 1st and I'm sure as I go through the year there will be plenty of opportunities to comment on this wonderful organization.

But beyond the convention itself and the many, many activities and events that we participated in, was the city of Atlanta.  I'd never spent much time there.  I think I've stayed overnight a few times while passing through and, of course, had been in the massive airport a ton of times.  It is one of, if not the, biggest airports in the world.  And I'm sure it's the busiest.  As a Delta hub, it is a crossroads for many, many flights every day.  And all in all my experience is that they are pretty efficient.

Atlanta, and beyond that Georgia, turned out to be a very pleasant surprise.  The city is clean, upbeat, the people are for the most part friendly, and it seems like the infrastructure works well.  The Governor of Georgia and the Mayor of Atlanta both spoke at the convention and they were very impressive.  The Mayor especially had a great message.  They are in the growth mode.  They've recognized that for their people to thrive and the city to provide the services required for this growth, they need to stimulate economic growth.  And they've done that in spades.

The Mayor told us that they are working hard on infrastructure and it showed.  There is a lot of building going on.  He also told us that they are working hard on the homeless problem and are getting a handle on that.  I don't remember the figures, but it was impressive.  And they have reduced the veteran homeless rate to near zero.  Near zero!  Imagine that.

We stayed downtown close to the Convention Center and it is incredibly vibrant.  The Convention Center is massive.  I read somewhere that it is the 2nd or 3rd largest in the country.  Rotary had 42,000 attendees and they handled it with ease.  Next door is the CNN center and it is a big draw.  Around the corner is the Georgia Dome, a great football stadium.  And next door to the Georgia Dome they are building a new state of the art stadium called the Mercedes Benz stadium.  And they are keeping the Georgia Dome!  Across the street from that is Phillips Arena, a new facility for the Atlanta Hawks basketball team.  Down the road is the new stadium for the Atlanta Braves, the newest baseball stadium in the country.

We ventured out to the suburbs for an event and there is growth everywhere.  There are several smaller business hubs that are thriving.  The bedroom community of Alpharetta where we went was just idyllic.  Beautiful countryside, affordable homes, great schools, and plenty of industry.

I'm not sure how they are doing it, but whatever they are doing, it's working.  I suspect it has to do with lower taxes and a favorable business environment.  It probably also has to do with minimal government regulations and minimal government meddling in people's lives.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Thoughts on Climate Change

I recently had a post that reflected on the U.S. leaving the Paris Climate Accords.  You can read it here but I am generally pleased with this outcome.  Since that action we've seen everything from general approval to concern to hysteria.  It's the hysteria that concerns me.  As I've said in previous posts, at some point the hysteria has to abate.  At some point the leftists and Socialists have to decide that they want to try and work to accomplish something, even if means compromise.  At least in my optimism I hope that happens.

A former Priest and good friend writes a weekly blog on a number of subjects.  He is a wise and thoughtful man.  He started life as a New York lawyer and that gives him a bit of a different perspective.  In retirement, he is back to practicing law and specializing in Immigration and God knows there's a lot of work in that area.  Copied below in it's entirety is his latest post on the Paris Accords.  I'm putting this up there because I think it's one the most balanced and pragmatic looks at this subject that I've ever seen.  I don't agree with everything he says, but I think he makes some great points.  If you're not of the religious persuasion, you'll probably not care or read the last section about a Christian response, but that's okay.  I'm a big fan of reasoned and logical thought.  That is what this piece is in spades.

Reflections on the Withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Climate Accord

There was shock around the world at President Trump’s action to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Accord. “World reacts to Trump’s move: ‘He’s declaring war on the planet’ said the Toronto Globe & Mail. Maureen Dowd of The New York Times put it none too subtly when she titled her article, “Trump Stomps Planet Earth.” Labeling President Trump “the existential threat to the planet,” she went on to say, “You know you’re in trouble when beclouded Beijing, where birds go to die, replaces you as the leader on climate change.”

Climate change is an emotional, contentious issue. Passions run high, whether you are an environmental activist in the Pacific Northwest or a coal miner in West Virginia.

There are, in my judgment, four possible responses to climate change. You can deny it, ignore it, manage it or try to prevent it.

To deny climate change defies the scientific evidence that temperatures are indeed rising with profound implications for our planet.

To ignore climate change is irresponsible, especially considering the massive population shifts that will result from droughts, famine, civil unrest and refugees fleeing their homelands.

To manage climate change makes sense if you believe that changing climate is part of the natural evolution of the planet and that human beings only have a limited ability to affect what inevitably will happen.

To prevent climate change by reducing carbon emissions is a worthy goal, even if that means significant changes to our present way of living.

The only two viable responses to climate change are to manage it proactively but also try to prevent or minimize its negative effects on the planet.

Thankfully, no one, not even President Trump, wants a sick planet, polluted air or massive numbers of people suffering from breathing disorders. Nor does anyone deny that earth’s temperatures are getting slightly warmer with rising ocean levels, glacial melts, intensified storms and more frequent droughts, which often affect the most vulnerable and poorest communities. Climate change is happening is – there is little doubt about it.

The Point of Contention

The issue that divides people is not whether the climate is changing, but how much of climate change is man-made due to carbon emissions in the atmosphere and how much is the result of the natural evolution of the planet. Since the beginning of life on earth, there has been climate change. There have been extremely cold periods – the Ice Age, for example – and there have been relatively hot periods such as during the age of the dinosaurs.

So climate change is not new, but since the industrial era human beings have affected the climate by carbon emissions in the atmosphere. As an example, in the first half of 2016 average temperatures were about 1.3 degrees Celsius (2.3 degree Fahrenheit) above the average in 1880, when global record-keeping began. The Paris Accord seeks to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. If countries begin to reduce their present levels of greenhouse emissions by lowering their reliance on fossil fuel, there is every reason to hope that the goal set by the Accord can be achieved.

And yet, those who are sceptical of the Paris Accord wonder if the carbon taxing, higher energy costs and perhaps a lower standard of living are worth the pain to achieve results that are unlikely to have much impact on the climate. New York Times columnist Ross Douthat wrote that those who question the Paris Accord “accept that the earth is warming and that our civilization’s ample CO2 emissions are a major cause. They doubt, however, that climate change represents a crisis unique among the varied challenges we face, or that the global regulatory schemes advanced to deal with it will work as advertised. And they raise an eyebrow at the contrast between the apocalyptic, absolutist rhetoric with which these schemes are regularly defended and their actual details, which seemed mostly designed to enable the globe’s statesmen to greenwash the pursuit of economic and political self-interest.”

The question is whether, “If every country does what the Paris Accord requires them to do, will the planet really be better off – and by how much?” And could the world achieve equally positive results by other means than by requiring sweeping carbon taxes and a full-fledged war on carbon fuels? Instead might it not be more beneficial to focus on innovation and mitigation – innovating existing technologies, developing new technologies and mitigating the effects of climate change to insure quality of life for everyone?

The Paris Accord

One of the fundamental problems with the Paris Accord is that there is no mandatory mechanism to insure the agreement is enforced by each country. Each country determines its own contribution it should make to mitigate global warming. There is no mechanism to force a country to set a specific target by a specific date. Nothing is binding in international law, since there is no obligatory language in the agreement. Nor is there any mechanism to force a country to set a realistic target and achieve it. One might say, as James Hansen, a former NASA scientist categorized it, that the Accord is filled with “promises” but “no firm commitments.”

The only mechanism in the Accord is the requirement that all countries report their progress every five years, with the first evaluation in 2023. What if a country has not met expectations? There is no penalty, just a “name and shame” system. As the agreement provides no consequences if countries fail to meet their commitments, that makes it increasingly difficult for the Accord to meet its laudable goals.

Given the non-mandatory nature of the Paris Accord, we may ask: “Why did President Trump make the decision to withdraw?” I think three reasons led to his decision.

First, politics played a role since Trump promised on the campaign trail to withdraw from the Accord. Trump can now say to his supporters that he fulfilled yet another campaign promise.

Second, Trump did not like that the Accord asks developed countries to commit $100 billion a year to a Green Climate Fund until 2025. This money would go to developing countries for actions on climate change, adaptation and mitigation. It was Trump’s view that the United States was already giving a substantial amount of money in foreign aid to developing countries.  Moreover, the President was concerned that the United States would end up funding a major portion of the $100 billion, a large amount of that money directed to China and India. In the President’s judgment, the money spent abroad could better be spent at home.

President Trump may be right. At this point, the United States has given $1 billion to the Green Climate Fund. No other nation has contributed anything. Given that the vast majority of NATO members do not pay their 2% fair share, is it reasonable to expect the world’s developed nations to pay their fair share into the Green Climate Fund? President Trump was fearful that the United States would end up carrying most of the burden, and in this he may be right.

Third, the Paris Accord has always been about the controlled distribution of economic wealth. The Green Climate Fund was just part of what was designed as a plan to transfer wealth from the developed to the developing countries. The “carbon-trading tax” was to be the fundamental financial instrument to reshape the economies of developed countries – a global tax on all people to control behavior and lifestyles through a market-based trade vehicle under U.N. exclusive control. To President Trump and his advisers, this carbon-trading tax would have disastrous consequences for the United States economy and subvert the national economic interests of the country.

In summary, President Trump could have left the Accord in place and ignored it – that would have been the politically expedient thing to do. However, in the scheme of things, the withdrawal of the United States from the Accord will not matter. The countries of the world, including the United States, will continue to move towards a greener, cleaner environment, but without the excessive regulations and carbon taxing envisioned by the Accord.

Let me share 6 reasons for being optimistic about the planet’s future. I also want to share 3 concerns in the transition to a greener, cleaner world.

Reasons for Optimism

First, despite President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Accord, the federal system in the United States guarantees that the nation will continue to promote environmental stewardship.  Most of the major cities in the United States have made the decision to abide by the goals of the Paris Accord. So have a number of states and major corporations in the country. Governor Jerry Brown of California, Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York and Governor Jay Inslee of Washington have joined together to form the United States Climate Alliance. Major corporations have announced their intention to continue working for a greener planet, including General Electric, Mars, Disney; Tesla, Apple, and many others. Moreover, the United States is already more than halfway to the 2025 emissions reduction set by the Paris Accord, and even without carbon taxing there is a strong likelihood the nation will meet its goal.

Second, although some corporate executives have resigned from the President’s Council of Business Advisers over the withdrawal from the Paris Accord, most have chosen to remain on the Council as a voice for environmental stewardship. Most members of the President’s Council of Business Advisers have agreed to remain on the Council, not because they agree with the President’s action but as a voice for economic policies that are consistent with a cleaner, greener environment. Among the advisers remaining on the Council include Mary Barra of General Motors, Michael Dell of Dell Technologies, Alex Gursky of Johnson and Johnson, Andrew Liveris of Dow, Brian Krzanich of Intel, Denise Morrison of Campbell Soup, Doug McMillon of Walmart, Ginni Rometty of IBM, Indra Nooyi of PepsiCo, Jamie Dimon of JP Morgan Chase, Wendell Weeks of Corning, and Richard Trumka and Thea Lee of the A.F.L. – C.I.O. These advisers will help insure that business development and economic growth are consistent with environmental stewardship.

Third, American cities are moving aggressively

Fourth, innovation and technology development are making green energy affordable and more widely used by private homeowners. Almost all households in America today have LED lighting, and almost all appliances now selling on the market meet strict energy standards. New homes have an energy rating that allows buyers to know the typical amount of energy that will be used in the home. In addition, solar power is becoming more affordable with an increasing number of homeowners having solar panels installed on their roofs.  Innovation, research and development, technology deployment and renewables are making America cleaner and greener.

Fifth, President Trump is a savvy negotiator and it may well be that he is using the withdrawal from the Paris Accord as a pretext to negotiate a new and better deal. The United States withdrawal from the Accord doesn’t officially take place until 2020. That gives President Trump and his team three years to negotiate a better deal. If the Europeans are open to re-negotiating the Accord, there is every reason to believe that a more realistic framework on climate change can be achieved. There are those in the Republican Party that want to see that happen. As conservative scholar Oren Cass of the Manhattan Institute put it in a tweet after the President his announcement, “Hopefully someday, we’ll get a reality-based climate agreement that helps prepare for and adapt to whatever climate change brings.”

Sixth, there is a legal argument to be made that the United States was never a member of the Paris Accord since the agreement never received the “advice and consent” of the Senate. Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution grants the president power “with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur.” The Obama Administration did not submit the Paris Accord to the Senate as a conventional treaty. The Administration knew that ratification would have failed to achieve a two-thirds majority in the Republican controlled Senate. That led President Obama to craft a non-binding global warming deal without Senate approval. There is, therefore, a serious question whether the United States was ever formally “in” the Paris Accord. It also made it much easier for President Trump to withdraw from the Accord, since no Senate action is required. However, a revised Paris agreement negotiated by President Trump may well get the approval of the Senate, binding the country to a new set of standards.

Some Concerns

Seventh, there is a divide between major corporations and small businesses on the reaction to President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Accord. Many major corporations have been working hard to promote a cleaner, greener planet. They have invested billions of dollars in new technologies that are driving costs down in expanding solar and wind energy. But the green revolution has not been as widely embraced by small businesses, in part because of government regulations and increased costs to do business. Small businesses cheered the President’s action. If the green revolution is to take hold in the country, then small businesses must benefit as much as large corporations.

Eighth, while much of urban America has embraced the green revolution, rural America has expressed anxiety and fear on how “going green” will affect their lives, lifestyles and jobs. In the educated, sophisticated centers of the nation, cities like Boston, New York, Denver, Seattle and San Francisco, the green revolution is already a reality – solar and wind power abound, while carbon emissions from oil and coal have been significantly reduced. However, in Appalachia and other parts of the heartland, oil, coal and fracking for gas are the foundations for local economies. Rural Pennsylvania, for example is fracking and enjoying increased prosperity while rural New York is prevented from fracking by state law and remains poor. In fact, cities like Buffalo and Rochester there is negative job growth – a decline rather than an increase in the job market – even as the national economy is approaching a level of full employment.

When Hilary Clinton said that she couldn’t wait to close the coal mines, she lost every coal mining county in the country. When Donald Trump pledged to helped build a “clean coal” industry, he won those counties. Two different economies, two different worlds, and two different ways of life – this is the divide between red and blue states. The environment is important, but so are people, families, and jobs. We need a green revolution that embraces people and insures jobs for their future.

Ninth, the cost of transitioning to a cleaner, greener planet has exasperated the divide between the rich on the one hand, and the middle class and poor on the other. Reducing carbon emission has a price to it. In many cases, at least in the short term, it may mean higher electric and gas bills. In Europe gas at the pump is between six and ten dollars a gallon. In some parts of Canada gas is close to $5.00 a gallon. Here in the metro Phoenix area, gas ranges between $2.23 and 2.39 a gallon. Most poor and middle class Americans would resist paying European prices for gas. For one thing, distances, especially in the west, are much greater than in Europe. And for another, people need their cars to drive to work, especially if they cannot afford to live where they are employed. Similarly, in southwest states like Arizona, air conditioning is not an option; just as in northeast states like Maine or Minnesota heating fuel is not an option in the winter. Wealthy people, like Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos can afford to pay higher electric and gas prices in support of clean energy, but many others cannot. At some point the economic disparity has to be addressed, perhaps by an added tax on the wealthy to subsidize the poor and middle class’ utility costs. I like the proposals of Glenn Harlan Reynolds, a University of Tennessee law professor who has suggested these taxes on the wealthy:

Tax the “blue zones.” Impose steep taxes on property in coastal areas that will be flooded by the sea-level increases that global warming brings. Taxes should also discourage people from building near oceans, rivers and lakes.
Ban private jet travel, or at least tax it heavily. The wealthy will have to fly commercial like the rest of us.
Impose a luxury tax on mansions. Any home more than twice the size of the average American home should be taxed at 25% of its value per year.
Tax yachts and luxury cars an additional 25% of purchase price to reduce their carbon footprints and have an annual tax of 10% of their value each year.

I would add one more – an increase in the income tax for multi-millionaires and billionaires to at least 50 percent of income. That is not too much to pay when you have so much to give, especially when the money goes to alleviate the hardship of those with far less.

A Christian Response

The week before the announcement of the United States withdrawal from the Paris Accord, President Trump had met with Pope Francis and said that he would read Laudato Si, the Pope’s encyclical on the environment and climate change. Given the President’s action, either he has yet to read it, or he simply disagrees with it.

And yet, the Pope’s encyclical is worth reading.  Laudato Si – On Care for Our Common Home – is a comprehensive overview of environmental stewardship from a distinctly Christian perspective. It is one of the finest treatments of the stewardship of the earth ever written and it deserves to be read by every Christian, Catholic, Protestant, Anglican and Orthodox.

I don’t agree with everything the Pope writes. The Argentinian Pope clearly does not understand capitalism or how a free market economy works. Still, his knowledge of liberation theology makes him a forceful advocate for the poor who are disproportionately affected by climate change. You cannot care for creation if your heart lacks compassion for your fellow human beings, the Pope insists. The stewardship of the earth and the dignity of every human being are integrally connected.

The most difficult part of the Pope’s encyclical – and I suspect the main reason President Trump rejected it (if he read it) is the condemnation of “extreme consumerism” in which the Pope wants wealthy Western nations, including the United States, to accept “decreased growth…in order to provide recourse for other places to experience healthy growth.” In contrast with the consumerist mindset, Christian spirituality offers a growth marked by “moderation and the capacity to be happy with little.” It is a matter of nothing less than a redefinition of our notion of progress.

This, I think, is a red flag for most Americans – the notion of decreasing GDP, lowering living standards and having to accept that “less is more.” The Pope seems to articulate a mentality of scarcity rather than abundance – as if there is only so much of the pie to be divided rather than expanding the pie to feed more people. To put it another way, the Pope seems more interested in the distribution of wealth than the production of wealth. For Americans, in contrast, an expanded and growing economy, and not a declining and contracting one, is the way to insure a healthy and prosperous planet. Innovation, technology, and free markets in a democratic society result in greater human progress and a higher standard of living for all. In other words, the answer is not socialism or a state-run economy of excessive regulations and bureaucracy but free market democratic capitalism.

If I could give one piece of advice to the Pope, it would be to read these two books: Milton Friedman’s Capitalism and Freedom and F.A. Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom. In my judgment, Friedman and Hayek are two greatest economists of the 20th century and what they have to say rings true today.

Principles and Policy

One of the great Anglican theologians of the 20th century was Archbishop William Temple. In his book Christianity and the Social Order, Temple made the useful distinction between principles and policy. Christians, he said, should be united on the core principles of the Christian ethic. Love of neighbor, human dignity, the equality of all persons, sharing generously with the poor, and caring for the sick, the weak and the vulnerable would be some of the key principles on which all Christians should agree.

However, on matters of policy Christians will disagree. Policy involves the implementation of Christian principles to specific problems.  If, for example, Christians have an obligation to care for the sick, what does that mean in instituting an effective health care system? If Christians believe in the equality of all human beings, how do we put that into practice when one group in society has been systemically discriminated against for generations? You get the idea: principles are general while policies are specific.

As we seek to be good stewards of the earth, we should keep in mind the first and most basic principle in the Bible: Creation is a gift from God.  In Genesis we read, “In the beginning when God created heaven and earth…” God created the world and it was “very good.” Then God created men and women, and put them in a garden. Over the years humans have threatened to turn that garden into a garbage dump – or worse, to destroy it completely. We have not always been good stewards of the planet, and we need to admit it.

That is why Christians need to study Scripture and Church teaching on the meaning of environmental stewardship. Then we need to develop and implement the policies that will make our planet the clean, green place that God created it to be.

In the end what is required is a change of heart. We need nothing less than an “ecological conversion” in which we see the intimate connection between God and all beings, and more readily respond, as Pope Francis put it, “to the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.”