Can there be fake truth?

July 31, 2018

We certainly see and hear a lot about so-called Fake News these days. So extend that thought to include the concept of Fake Truths. It was, to a certain extent, Fake News that claimed to the world that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and therefore an invasion of the country to prevent their use against other countries in the area was justified. That news turned out not to be true; it was based upon faulty intelligence andfact erroneous assumptions and conclusions by the intelligence community – essentially fake truths. The real truth later came out that there were no weapons of mass destruction found in Iraq. So, was that fake news? Not really. It was news fabricated out of false or bad information (fake truth) that was provided by normally reliable sources and embellished a bit by politicians eager to justify a decision that likely had already been made. The news media, always hungry for a good story, took it and ran with it.

In today’s post to his blog Jack’s Winning Words, Jack Freed uses this quote from Buddha – “Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon and the truth.” Unlike opinions or assumptions or prejudices, the truth stands the test of time and inspection and is always trying to find a way to get out. William Shakespeare said “the truth will out” in the Merchant of Venice. 

It is interesting that the definition of the word truth leaves some leeway for doubt or later correction. Look it up on-line an you will get these three definitions –

the quality or state of being true.

“he had to accept the truth of her accusation”

that which is true or in accordance with fact or reality.

“tell me the truth”

a fact or belief that is accepted as true.

” I believe that is true”

It is that third definition that applied to the Iraq weapons of mass destruction item of fake news that the Bush administration at the time used to justify its action to invade the country. We will probably never know how much the intelligence was fudged or faked to get to that conclusion; but, for a while we all believed that it was the truth.

These days, our attention has been re-directed to the news of Russian interference in the last presidential election. There are almost certainly nuggets of truth within the surprised emojiintelligence reports and more of them are bound to come out as the truth struggles to the surface. It is not hard to imagine a bunch of Russian hackers (be they military, the intelligence community or civilians) deciding to see what they could do to influence the election or undermine our concept of democracy. It is also not hard to imagine that a contact within the political apparatus of any of the candidates would find a receptive ear to anything that might give them an advantage. After all, politics is not practiced to the highest of moral standards. However, it might prove to be as false as the weapons of mass destruction news to jump all the way to conclusions about collusion or conspiracy. Stupidity, yes. Poor judgement, most certainly. Self-serving, of course.

However; leaping to accusations of collusion, or worse, before the truth is fully out, serves only the third definition of truth. I think we need to work our way through theFacingFactsWordCloud first two definitions before we form our beliefs about what the truth really was. The good news is that Buddha and William Shakespeare were both right and we will eventually see the truth come out. Let’s all hope that Jack Nicholson was wrong in the movie A Few Good Men. Let’s hope that we can handle the truth.  The truth will out and there will be time enough then for a reckoning.

Advertisements

Choices, choices, choices…

July 30, 2018

The primary elections are coming up in a little over a week and the choices ae hard to figure out. Do I vote for the homophobic bigot or the gay socialist? How do I choose between the scallywag and the scoundrel? What is the difference between the near-do-well and the do-nothing candidates? Is one candidate less of an opportunistic professional liar than the other is? So many questions and so many bad answers.

For some, I suppose, the sleaze factor in our modern politics is just an accepted part of the game; although I have a hard time imagining that one wakes up one morning and decides to enter a profession where character assassination and mudslinging aredebaters required skills. The allure of power is very compelling and apparently sufficient to overcome common sense, personal morals and a sense of good taste in most of the political candidates. One almost feels sorry for those unwilling to lower themselves into the pit that is our current political arena. There is no way in this era of dark-money, PAC-based, mudslinging that their good names will not be dragged down to the level of their opponents.

We do not have a political environment that is necessarily based upon the voters making educated and considered choices; but, rather one that is highly susceptible to appeals to emotional messages based upon our fears and insecurities. The electorate tend to seek arrogantout and vote for those candidates with whom we can best identify in the never-ending “Us vs. Them” battle of self-interest. Since those battles are almost always based upon fear, the candidates who can best feed upon and amplify those fears often get our attention and our votes. The poor candidate espousing doing what is “right” is seldom heard above the shouts of “protect what is ours.”

There is, of course, a case to be made that this system has been with us from the beginning of the country. Political battles from the very beginning of our nation wereThomas Jefferson often filled with unsubstantiated accusations that one of the candidates was somehow unfit to serve. The Chicago Tribune did an interesting article about the history of political mudslinging during the last presidential election – see http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/commentary/ct-campaign-mud-slinging-history-flashback-perspec-1002-md-20160930-story.html.  Somehow, the nation has survived a long procession of elected scoundrels (at least that’s how the winners were characterized by their opponents during the election cycle).

So, on August 7th, we will once again hold our collective noses and vote for the candidates whom we found to be the least onerous. Admittedly, it is sometimes hard to votesee the good that is within those for whom we vote, since their opponents and their PACs have covered them with so much mud. And, remember that this primary election is like one of the undercard matches at a WrestleMania extravaganza. We haven’t seem anything yet. Wait until the main event, when the real fireworks start going off. You want mud? We got mud. Let the real mudslinging  begin!

Ahhh, politics. Choices, choices, choices. Get out and vote on August 7th. At a minimum you can then sport one of those bumper stickers that reads, “It’s not my fault. I voted for the other guy.”


There needs to be a new middle ground…

July 9, 2018

In today’s post to Jack’s Winning Words, Jack used this quote – “Divide and rule is a sound motto.  Unite and lead is a better one.”  (Goethe)

Goethe’s words certainly offer a better solution than continuing down the destructive path of divisive politics that our country is currently on. What’s missing is someone charismatic enough to unite the country around a new direction and provide that leadership. I don’t see that person coming from either current political camp. Both Republicans and Democrats seem intent on solidifying their opposing positions and purging their ranks pf any who would dare to compromise with the other side. By focusing upon political purity they have silenced the moderates in either party who used to be able to work together for the common good of America.

Recall the words of the Stealer Wheel song – Stuck in the Middle with Youclown car

Clowns to the left of me,
Jokers to the right, here I am,
Stuck in the middle with you

Perhaps that’s where we all are right now, with clowns to the left and jokers to the right.

It is well past time for a new, third party, positioned in the middle, to emerge from this political melee. There will always be those who gravitate towards the extreme right or left positions, but they need not hold the rest of the country hostage to their ideologies. Instead of the anarchist approach of  “get the government out of everything”; or the “government knows best on everything” approaches of the two current parties, a platform based upon compassion, fairness, fiscal constraint and inclusiveness for all politiciaN SPEAKINGneeds to be championed by a leader who can inspire people to rally around the cause of a better America for all. Right now I don’t see that leader within the current political environment; he he/she is out there somewhere.

While it would seem to be a very uphill battle to start an entirely new political party, I just don’t see the willingness within either of the existing parties to embrace enough change in their current positions to be able to occupy the middle ground.  Perhaps that is just a leadership issue within both parties. Forming a new party would allow for the discarding of old positions and political baggage. There has already been one example of the ability of a single charismatic person to rally enough support to create a new movement and a new party – witness Ross Perot and his Reform Party of The United State of America. While that effort ultimately failed, it did prove that someone with enough financial backing and a strong message could make a significant dent in the American Political scene. Imagine the change that could occur if a really strong leader with the right message were to rally America towards the political center.

There will always be those who gravitate to the extremes on either political side and theydisagreement2 will not go away, but both extreme would be marginalized into the disgruntled little camps that they deserve to be, if there was a strong alternative in the middle providing the leadership needed to get things done for America. I suspect that a good number of politicians, who now swallow their pride and compromise their own values in order to cow tow to the litmus tests of their parties, would break ranks and switch a strong and sensible middle party.

What can we as ordinary citizens do? One thing is to stop supporting the extremes from either party and start finding (and voting for) better people to represent us. Start making noise for things, instead of just against things. Start running for offices ourselves, if we don’t see those that we can support running. Start doing and not just complaining. There needs to be a new middle ground and that starts with all of us who are already there. Let’s find that new leader to rally around.

Have a great week ahead.


Don’t just talk…DO!

June 28, 2018

From a recent post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog comes today’s inspirational quote – “It’s a common delusion that we make things better by talking about them.”  (Dame Rose Macaulay)

It seems that we’re seeing a lot of talking about things lately, but very little doing something about them. That’s especially true in politics these days, where talking aboutdebaters things seems to be the only thing that the politicians can actually accomplish. The two sides of our political system have become so polarized that here is no room for getting together to work out a compromise, so all that is left is calling news conferences and slinging accusations and mud at the other side.

I’m not sure if it is hate or fear that is really behind the polarization that has taken place, but it sure isn’t the “Love thy neighbor” that Jesus espoused. Perhaps another saying from a recent post to Jack’s blog holds the secret to resolving the mess that we find ourselves in –

“I do not want the peace that passeth understanding, I want the understanding that bringeth peace.”  (Helen Keller)

There is currently little effort made towards understand on either side of the political divide, so very little actually is done. Understanding does take effort and a willingness to try to see a different point of view. Reaching compromises and getting things done happy greetingcannot be accomplished by hurling sound-bites at each other from behind the hardened barriers of ignorance, mistrust, hate, prejudice and bigotry. There must be a willingness on both sides to drop the shields and seek common ground by understanding the motivation for differing views. I hope that out of that understanding will come peace, compromise and actions to get things done. One can only hope.

Have a great rest of your week. Don’t just talk…DO!

 


Let’s make US bigger…get out and vote…

May 9, 2018

In a recent post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog, Jack uses this quote – “All the people like us are, WE, and everyone else is, THEY.”  (Rudyard Kipling)

Recently, as a people, WE have let the differences that we use to differentiate WE from THEY dominate our conversations and our lives. We have let differences, whether real or perceived, split us into camps and set those camps at war with each other. Along the way, accountabilityWE lost the ability to find compromises; the desire through give and take to find enough common ground to allow for peaceful and mutually beneficial coexistence. Instead, we have retreated further and further away from compromise and into heavily armed and fortified positions; our fortifications made up of hate, bigotry and arrogantdistrust and our weapons those of hateful speech and actions.

WE have even let that distrust and hate creep into our religions, where Jesus’ Great Commandment to “Love one another as I have loved you” has devolved into “love only those who practice the same religious beliefs as WE do”. WE allow ourselves to distrust and hate Them – those who don’t practice our Christian faith. We become religious bigots and believe that our God is somehow different from the God that THEY pray to, just because they use a different name for Him. We allow the hand of man to get in the way of the hand of God.disagreement2

In reality thee is only US – the busy little creatures walking, riding and flying around on this little, insignificant ball of rock that is floating in the endless universe. If WE screw this up and destroy or home through pollution or wars or hate there is no THEM to blame, only US. If we are to save it for future generations, it will be US who make the changes needed and find the ways to live together in peace and harmony. That process begins when WE, in this camp, decide that WE need to find a way to reach out to THEM and seek compromise and peace. That starts by going back to the commandment predjuicesto love one another.

As with most things, the needed changes start with each of US. We must break away from the positions of hate and distrust that may have led us into one of the camps and start implementing Jesus commandment to love one another as He has lived us. Do not fear what you do not understand. Rather try to see what you can learn from that different point of view. You may never “understand”, but perhaps you can better appreciate the perspective on life from that point of view and find a way to compromise with it in peace and harmony. No good can come out of fear or hate because of the other person’s ethnicity, or color, or sexual preferences, or religion, or anything else that sets them apart. The enrichment of our lives comes from accepting and learning from those differences. We need not embrace their lifestyle to be enriched by it; but we do need tohands-across-the-gap love them and accept them as Jesus loved us. We need to include them in our US.

WE can all make US bigger this year by listening for and voting for those candidates who truly understand the concept of US rather than spouting venomous defenses of their positions against THEM. Both major parties have lots of WE vs THEM candidates. In fact, both parties have developed “litmus tests” for their potential candidates to help them “purify” and strengthen their positions of distrust and hate. Fortunately, there are still rational voices of moderation and compromise to be found. Seek them out and support them, no matter their party affiliation, for they are the only candidates who may be able to coalesce into a big enough US in the political middle to save US all. They will probably not have the strong support of their own parties, since they likely don’t cow-tow to the extreme party lines; but that is a good testament to their ability to do the right things to find compromise and achieve some level of harmony that is currently sadly lacking.

voteThis election season, let us all try to avoid the WE vs. THEM candidates and find the champions of US that are out there. Get out and vote for US.


What are you willing to pay for?

April 4, 2018

Every now than then I can’t help but make a post here about the current state of affairs in my Village, state and the nation.This is one such post. I’ve gotten it out of my system pot hoilesans will return to my normal focus on faith-based inspirational messages with my next post. One cannot ignore the crumbling infrastructure all around and not see the root causes of that deterioration.

“In this world, you get what you pay for.” ― Kurt Vonnegut, Cat’s Cradle

That quote has been used in commercials and elsewhere, but seldom in politics, where some apparently believe that you can still get, even if you ae unwilling to pay for it.

The recent rise into power of the conservative political party has resulted in numerous tax cuts that have left state and local governments destitute and unable to pay for basic infrastructure services or education – two of their primary roles. Many local governments are barely able to continue to provide police and fire protections, with some even having to abandon those services, too.

Voters seem happy to see tax cuts and then can’t figure out why their roads and bridges are crumbling or the teachers in their schools are striking. Yet, when election time rolls around, these same politicians will still be blaming their political opponents of being “tax and spend” liberals. Well, duh; how do you think things get fixed if you don’t raise fund through taxation and then spend it to make the needed repairs or to reward the educators and public safety officials in our communities?

There is certainly a valid argument that too much of the money raised through taxation goes to waste through corruption or out of control administrative expenses. Those are issues that need to be tackled in order to get the most out of our tax dollars; however, the conservative’s approach of starving those problems out of the system by reducing the amount available doesn’t seem to be working either.

Certainly, government work rules that have evolved over time that support a large management and supervision overhead need to be reviewed and reworked. Anyone who has ever watched a city street or sewer crew at work can see that there appear to be more people standing around supervising that there are actually doing the work. There is room for great improvement and savings there. Currently, those same workers are sitting back in the Department of Public Services garage because there’s no money to pay for the materials for them to use to do the repair jobs.

Another phenomenon is the “kick the can on down the road” approach to tackling the tough decisions and jobs that need to be resolved. Politicians are always looking ahead to the next election and are more concerned about staying ion power than doing the right things now. They fear being called a tax and spend liberal more than they are concerned about being considered to be a do-nothing politician. In Michigan term limits were supposed to do away with the perceived evils of career politicians; but, instead just resulted in a legislature where no one has any experience and still the people in the office for their shorter terms are more concerned with the next election than solving the current problems. That has resulted in partisan gridlock, since none of the legislators knows how to work towards the compromises that are required to govern.

More recently, a lopsided conservative majority at the state government level has resulted in ill-advised tax cuts that have left the State unable to carry out many of its primary functions, especially where infrastructure repairs and replacements are concerned. A recent local newscast covered the cost of the pothole filled roads in Michigan and concluded that the costs far exceeded the money returned to taxpayers by the latest round of tax cuts. Decrepit bridges falling down and killing or injuring people will be the next thing that we start to see. People will complain, “Why aren’t they doing something about this?” The answer that will never come out of the politicians’ mouths is that there is no money for those repairs or replacement because we cut the taxes. They’ll find something or someone else to blame.

So, the question that made up the title for this post is, “What are you willing to pay for?” Are you more willing to drive on pothole filled road or cross dangerous bridges than to pay for their repairs? Are you OK with kids who fail the most basic educational assessment tests because they don’t have books or maybe heat or motivated and well -paid teachers at their schools? Maybe you are also OK with headlines that point out that – “Last on List: Michigan Ranks Worst Among State Governments for Integrity”. These are all things that can be turned around and fixed and the solutions start at the ballet box. We all need to demand more from the people who represent us and make the laws of our country, our states and our local governments. Being excellent at playing kick the can on down the road should not be a point of pride for those people, but a point of shame for which we hold them accountable.

There is a chance coming up later this year for you to make a difference. So, every time you hit a pothole this year, think about the politicians who made that possible and remember that when it’s time to vote. It’s time to remember that you get what you pay for. The lobbyists certainly understand that, since they paid for the politicians who are in office now. This time it’s your turn. Get out and vote for someone willing to do the right things, not just the politically expedient things. What are you willing to vote for?


Shake the world with your gentle message…

June 1, 2017

I generally save the various quotes that retired pastor Jack Freed uses in his blog Jack’s Winning Words. Sometimes I pick one out later to write about and sometimes more than one may catch my eye as fitting together to support a thought. Such is the case today with two quotes from past post’s on Jack’s blog.

“In a gentle way, you can shake the world.”  (Gandhi) – and –

“One message at just the right moment can change your entire day.”  (Megan Murphy)

We can never know what the impact will be of a kind word at the right moment or maybe a word of sympathy. Perhaps you will be on the receiving end and it will make your day brighter and change your attitude towards things. Perhaps you will have the opportunity to extend a kind word to someone else and change their day because of it. In either case, that gentle and kind word will shake the world of the person receiving it.

We currently have a President who regularly shakes the world with his messages, mostly delivered in tweets on Twitter. I’m sure that his words, though seldom gentle, change the entire days of many other world leaders. Unfortunately, he seldom picks the right moments to deliver those words and the shakeups that they cause are not always for the better.

None of us ordinary people have that level of platform from which to speak; however, I would submit that our kind and gentle words can have a dramatic effect on a wide number of people. If you’ve seen the breakfast food commercial where one cheerful person (supposedly happy because of his great breakfast) passes on his little sunshine halo to a few people who then pass it on to others; then, you’ve seen the impact of a smile and a kind word. It’s like the ripples that spread out across a pond when one throws a pebble into it. The people that you impact have impacts on others, and so on and so on.

The Mackinac Policy Conference at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island is being held this week. It is sponsored by the Michigan Chamber of Commerce and brings together the important political and government leaders in Michigan for discussions on topics of common interest. One of the three key topics that is on the agenda is a discussion of how to restore civility to the political process in Michigan. The same discussion could be had at the national level. Perhaps the answer is to start with a kind and gentle word between the parties and see if that beginning encourages discourse and compromise rather than the bitter partisan fighting that goes on now. Perhaps the message should be “Let’s talk” instead of “Let’s fight”.

For all of the rest of us, maybe a gentle message to our representatives in government that we’d rather they find a way to common ground and solutions on the issues, rather than standing their own partisan ground, might help. At least it would let them know that we are not happy with the extreme positions that prevent compromise and too often lead to gridlock in government. Shake your world today with a well-timed gentle message of encouragement and hope. Share your sunshine halo and see what a difference it may make.