Reading Between the Lies

If you’re smart, you believe half of what you hear. Brilliant is when you know which half.
Robert Orben

In my younger years I had a friend who was a great storyteller. He spun stories of his various adventures in travel, career and financial success and seducing women. His stories enthralled many a stranger or new acquaintance. My friend’s tales were entertaining and always showed him in a positive light. The sad part was that my friend was starting to believe in his stories. He could not differentiate between truth and fiction. He believed in his lies.

Lies and exaggerations are the verbal currencies of politics, business, advertising, culture and social media. The more outrageous and fanciful the lie or exaggeration, the more likely it is to spread and to be believed. Indeed, in politics, many campaigns spin fake news in order to stoke contributions and support.

Followers of professional wrestling are labeled as “marks.” Marks totally buy into the character branding of the wrestlers, the contrived storylines and rivalries and that the match results are not scripted. They have not understood that pro wrestling is entertainment, not sport. Great athletes performing choreographed feats of strength, agility, strikes and body slams.

Politics also has “marks.” They are known as “Trumpsters.” Donald Trump has worked with World Wrestling Entertainment in the past. He has participated in a Wrestlemania storyline and his casinos sponsored Wrestlemania events in the past. One of Trump’s Cabinet appointments was Linda McMahon who along with her husband Vince owned the WWE. January 6, 2021 was Trump’s political version of Wrestlemania. Trump promoted the event and his “marks” thought that they could overturn the results of a fair election process. Just like a “battle royale,” Trump’s followers battled Capitol police and even used not so hidden foreign objects just like “heel” wrestlers do to cheat in their matches.

George Washington purportedly said in his youth, “Father, I cannot tell a lie.” There is very little evidence that Washington ever said those words. It’s part of the myth around our first president. Sadly, no modern day politician could ever say that phrase with a straight face.

I have picked on politicians and their lies. However the business world is replete with lies, exaggerations and spin. One cannot trust the accuracy and integrity of quarterly corporate results, CEO guidance, product and service capabilities, mission statements and denials of corruption, regulatory malfeasance, sexual harassment and mismanagement.

Photo by Joshua Miranda: https://www.pexels.com/

We’re Toast

Coronavirus has killed over 1.01 million Americans. 74.2 million people voted for Donald Trump in 2020. What’s the greatest national tragedy? At least, we have developed vaccines and other medical protocol to control a pandemic. The Trump plague will be with us for decades and will not just affect us but future generations too.

After his testimony at the January 6 Congressional hearing on how Trump pressured him to appoint phony electors, Rusty Bowers, the Arizona House Speaker said a truly remarkable thing. He said that he would vote for Trump again.

Really?

You’ve just testified how Trump tried to override an accurate and legal election result plus you witnessed the storming of the Capitol fomented by Trump and you would vote for him again?

For a man who has witnessed 70 years of American history, these are very depressing times. While advances in technology, medicine and science have largely been mind boggling positive, our national politics, culture, civility, judgment and educational systems have remarkably declined.

We are a country that cannot agree on facts, science, history, truth and the meaning of decency. Civil conversations today? How? We are cursed liked the workers on The Tower of Babel, unable to communicate civilly or constructively. No greater example of this is to watch a session of Congress or a political debate. Or better yet, postings on social media…

So now there is a “wailing and gnashing of teeth” about this week’s Supreme Court rulings? Did you really expect the wisdom of Solomon to emanate from men and a woman appointed by a failed businessman, corrupt politician and reality star? Democrats, liberals and journalists expecting a different result are as naive as the stupidity passed on by the Court.

While I appreciate the calls to vote out pro-life politicians and pack the Supreme Court, to quote Carole King, “And it’s too late, baby, now it’s too late.” You are now at the mercy of a noted judicial scholar and husband of Ginni Thomas and at least four or five others who have an agenda to roll back social and racial justice progress for the past seventy years.

My guess is the current furor over the abortion rights decision will sadly dissipate. There may be some demonstrations and continued expressions of anger and grief. Do I think abortion rights will be the focal point of a national referendum? Maybe. Our national memory is very short. We’ve already largely forgotten the young children massacred at Uvalde. As their dust was scattered in Texas, so was our national attention.

Congress congratulated themselves for passing a paltry gun control bill that was quickly offset by the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down laws limiting guns in public places. So the Supreme Court is taking us back into the 50’s. No, not the 1950s but the 1850s.

I have read a number of books about Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945. What strikes me is the utter denial of the German people as to what was going on particularly as it related to the inhumane treatment of European Jews and the curtailement of civil liberties for many groups. We seem to be in a similar state of denial. There is no unity. There are very few principles that we agree upon. Very few shared sacrifices. We are led by old people with their old ideas and prejudices. I keep waiting for new leadership by a younger generation.

Until this happens, We’re toast!

Winter Ponderings

Stupidity has spread faster than omicron in this country. Omicron is transmitted by air, stupidity spreads generally by social media and right wing blogs and networks.

Omicron’s ill effects are mild and short term (for the vaccinated). Stupid’s effects are long term and spur many and various variants, most uncontrolled and impervious for remedy.

January 6, 2021 is a metaphorical “Fort Sumter” on the current civil war in the United States.

Does anyone think long-term today? Companies and their shareholders don’t. Politicians don’t. Sports franchises don’t. We live in an era of instant gratification. Many if not most of the public demand instant results. A first year coach in any sport gets critical comments from his team’s fanbase if the wins and losses aren’t to their exaggerated expectations.

My description of a woman I know: “She is as cold as a blizzardly blustery late January sundown in Buffalo…”

At age 69, I should have developed an immunity towards being disappointed and hurt. I have not. While I am more philosophical about experiencing those emotions, I have not developed an antibody for the sadness I feel.

Observations that I have read and found worthy of repeat…

Having been retired for about three years, I look back on my “career” in various positions as defining a job as an inconvenient interruption between weekends. Phil from Philadelphia (comment on NYT article Public Displays of Resignation: Saying ‘I Quit’ Loud and Proud)

“It is simple: depending on others is misery; depending on yourself is power.”
—Robert Greene, The Daily Laws

“To keep Trump and his epigones away from high office, it isn’t enough to have the moral high ground. It’s like something Adlai Stevenson supposedly said once when a voter told him that every thinking person was on his side. “I’m afraid that won’t do,” he replied. “I need a majority.” Democracy needs a majority.” (Bret Stephens NYT Covid 3.0, Biden 2.0 and Trump Number …1/10/22)

2021: This Was The Year That Was

A sampling of headliness throughout 2021:

Judge dismisses Gohmert’s attempt to force Pence to decide election (1/1/2021)

‘I just want to find 11,780 votes’: In extraordinary hour-long call, Trump pressures Georgia secretary of state to recalculate the vote in his favor (1/3/2021)

Mob Incited by Trump Storms Capitol (1/6/2021)

Majority of Americans want Trump removed immediately after U.S. Capitol violence – Reuters/Ipsos poll (1/8/2021)

House Republicans Reportedly Terrified of Crossing Trump on Impeachment: They ‘Fear For Their Lives’ (1/13/21)

The worst final popularity rating ever for a first lady belongs to Melania Trump (1/19/21)

‘Tompa Bay’ is Titletown: Tom Brady, fierce defense lead Tampa Bay Buccaneers to Super Bowl victory (2/7/2021)

Senate acquits Trump for inciting Capitol riot even as bipartisan majority votes to convict (2/13/2021)

Almost Half of Republican Men Say They Won’t Get the Coronavirus Vaccine (3/12/21)

Home Prices Soar in Frenzied U.S. Market Drained of Supply (4/9/2021)

US Navy vid shows UFO whizzing through sky before dropping into ocean as ex-pilot says ‘military sees them all the time’ (5/15/2021)

During Covid-19, Most Americans Got Richer—Especially the Rich (WSJ) 6-27-21

US COVID-19 cases rising again, doubling over three weeks (7/14/21)

US life expectancy in 2020 saw biggest drop since WWII (1.5 yrs.) 7-21-21

1 in 500 Americans have died of COVID since 1st US infection (9/15/2021)

Jamie Dimon says bitcoin is ‘worthless’ (10/11/2021)

Weekly jobless claims fall to 184,000, the lowest level in more than 52 years (12/8/2021)

One Percent of All U.S. Seniors have Died from Covid Since Beginning of Pandemic: NYT 12/13/2021

Two Days of Infamy: One Act of Leadership

Two days of infamy. The first we commemorate on its 80th anniversary today, the attack on Pearl Harbor by Japan. The second day of infamy, 1/6/2021 was when our democracy was attacked in plain sight by a crazed and violent mob at the U.S. Capitol provoked by incendiary speeches by a desperate and defeated President and his delusional sycophants.

The Pearl Harbor attack was met with a declaration of war by the President and Congress. A nation became united in its determination to win a war and defend its democracy. Men signed up for the military, women took over jobs in industry and manufacturing to help in the war effort. Americans sacrificed so that needed resources and materials would go to our military. Maybe more importantly, we had a leader, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who had prepared the country for war. Roosevelt covertly aided England to help in their national survival. During an election year (1940), FDR reinstituted the draft knowing it could hurt his re-election chances. He placed the interests of the country before his personal interests.

pictures of FDR by Harry Podlinski

The Capitol attack was met by indifference and denials by the Republican party, even though its Vice President was a target by the mob. Instead of a united country, there was significant support for the insurrection. In 1941, Congress united and declared war. In 2021, many Congressional members ran from their responsibility with the same alacrity as they ran from the mob. Some members of Congress who aided the mob are still in office. Instead of action, a Congressional “commission” was created to investigate what clearly happened that day and who was clearly responsible for incitement and violence.

History calls Americans alive during the 1940s as the “Greatest Generation.” What will history call the Americans living in the past five years based on our political discord and antipathy to science and reason? One generation dedicated to saving democracy; one ready to abandon it.

Note: Photo taken of FDR was by Harry Podlinski, my father-in law and amateur photographer.

In Primo Aspectu (at first glance)

Joe Biden should not run for a second term. I always viewed him as a placeholder until a younger man or woman ran for the office. In a sense he is like Gerald Ford—-a good man providing some needed relief and a period of decency and calm after replacing a corrupt prior president and administration.

***

That being said, Biden generally does not deserve some of the low poll numbers or extreme criticism that he has received from less than one year in office. The economy is strong. People are going back to work. There are no troops in Afghanistan after 20 years. We are working with our allies again. The infrastructure bill will add jobs to various states and communities as well as improving local economies by fixing roads, bridges and transportation services. 

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My hope is that the following people do not run or do not get nominated as the Republican candidate for President: Donald Trump, Mike Pompeo, Mike Pence, Florida Governor Ron Desantis, Nikki Haley, Ted Cruz or anyone remotely associated with the Trump Administration or supporting it.

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Currently the Democrats are looking at losing both the House and Senate in next year’s mid-terms. However if the Supreme Court decides to revoke Roe v Wade or support additional measures by States to restrict abortions, that may energize the Democratic party and could mitigate potential losses.

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Omicron, the new Covid variant, is headed this way from Africa or Europe, if it is not here already. I think most Americans are tired of Covid precautions and I sense that many will roll the dice and avoid any lockdowns, vaccinations or other preventive measures if they are mandated or recommended by the government or CDC.

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Count me as slightly suspicious that both Moderna and Pfizer announced that they can produce a counter vaccine to Omicron. A scientist from South Africa had described the effects of Omicron as relatively mild. Slight cough and fever that lasted 2-3 days. Most of the people who had the new variant were reportedly unvaccinated. So do we really need a new vaccine?

***

Unless I see dozens of people consisting of White House officials, high level Trump flunkies, with Congressmen and Congresswomen indicted, convicted and sent to jail, then I would view the Congressional hearings on 1/6/2021 as a waste of time. I know Trump will not be indicted but Steve Bannon and Mark Meadows can take his place in prison.

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Totally confused by Penn State providing James Franklin a 10 year contract based on his mediocre record so far. I think the only guarantee Franklin can make is that the Penn State program will be better than Rutgers.

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I thought fans of English football (soccer) were fanatical. But they may be in second place after the fans of football teams in the SEC, many of whom are crazy.

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I originally thought it was dumb to rename Woodrow Wilson High School in Camden based on the allegations that Wilson was a racist. But based on cursory research, there may be  justifications to make the change. Wilson, among other racist actions, policies and thoughts, supported the Ku Klux Klan.

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Review: Peril by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa

Authors Bob Woodward and Robert Costa closed this book with the following warning based on a conversation with Donald Trump.

“Real power is – – I don’t even want to use the word – – fear,” Trump told us.

“I bring the rage out. I do bring rage out. I always have. I don’t know if that’s an asset or a liability, but whatever it is, I do.”

Could Trump work his will again? Were there any limits to what he and his supporters might do to put him back in power?

Peril remains.

I have read a number of the retrospectives of the Trump presidency particularly as it relates to his last year and last days in office. There is nothing in this book that presents Trump in a positive light. There are plenty of examples of him being a bully, arrogant, insensitive and just plain stupid. Despite entreaties from many in his cabinet, among advisers and even from his daughter Ivanka, Trump continued to believe that he was cheated in the 2020 presidential election. There is very little doubt that he caused the insurrection on January 6, 2021.

Most of the highlights of this book have been reported through various media. Here is my list of observations and analysis from this book:

Mike Pence was a coward. Yes he finally did the right thing by validating the election. But it appears to the reader that he was looking for a way to accommodate Donald Trump’s wishes to overturn the election results. Pence even sought the advice of that well-known constitutional scholar, Dan Quayle, as to what to do. Quayle thankfully told Pence that he had no role in overturning the election. Even after a Trump mob wanted to hang him, Pence returned to the White House and tried to mend a relationship with a man who mocked him and treated him very poorly during their four year administration.

General Mark Milley was a voice of reason during a very precarious period in our nation’s history. He understood the danger that Donald Trump represented and was very concerned that Trump would create either a war or some type of foreign policy crisis so he could stay in office. In particular Milley assured the Chinese that there would be no military actions against them. There were a few countries that were very concerned that Trump would initiate a military attack against them.

The benefit of this book was to see the campaign of Joe Biden and his first few months as President. The contrast in decency between Biden and Trump is very evident throughout the many anecdotes in this book. Unfortunately the Democratic party does not shine. Too much infighting. Lack of party discipline and unity. Too much influence by West Virginia senator Joe Manchin. One gets the sense that Biden is a placeholder and does not possess the necessary influence to put forward a transformative domestic agenda and get it passed in Congress.

Interestingly enough, there is not a lot of coverage about Vice President Kamala Harris. Biden had spoken with South Carolina congressman Jim Clyburn prior to the South Carolina primary and Biden indicated he was favorable to Kamala being on the national ticket. There is little indication how much influence Harris possesses in decision making or policy.

If you are going to read just one book about the end of the Trump presidency in 2021, this book is the best to read. Just don’t be surprised if Woodward has to write another sequel in 2024 about the re-election of Trump.

Chuck Grassley: A Profile in Courage…Not!

88 Year old Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa demonstrating the typical courage of a Republican running for re-election.

“While the ultimate responsibility for this attack rests upon the shoulders of those who unlawfully entered the Capitol, everyone involved must take responsibility for their destructive actions that day, including the former president. As the leader of the nation, all presidents bear some responsibility for the actions that they inspire — good or bad. Undoubtedly, then-President Trump displayed poor leadership in his words and actions. I do not defend those actions and my vote should not be read as a defense of those actions.


President Trump continued to argue that the election had been stolen even though the courts didn’t back up his claims. He belittled and harassed elected officials across the country to get his way. He encouraged his own, loyal vice president, Mike Pence, to take extraordinary and unconstitutional actions during the Electoral College count.”



Statement for the Senate Record by Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa
United States Senate
On the Senate’s Acquittal of former President Donald Trump
February 13, 2021
“I was born at night but not last night. So if I didn’t accept the endorsement of a person that’s got 91 percent of the Republican voters in Iowa, I wouldn’t be too smart. I’m smart enough to accept that endorsement.”


Republican Sen. Charles Grassley embraced Donald Trump’s return to Iowa on Saturday, October 9 at a Trump rally, standing by the former president as he repeated his false claims of voter fraud and a stolen election to a crowd of thousands.

October 9, 2021