UNWELCOME VISITOR – Rich Paschall

45 Comes To Town, by Rich Paschall, Chicagoan

The day after being booed at a World Series game and listening to chants of “Lock Him Up,” the Tweeter-in-Chief came to another place he is not welcome. The Supreme Windbag came to the Windy City to hurl insults and hate at the locals. By the way, it is believed that the term “Windy City” came about as a description of past politicians rather than anything to do with the weather. If that belief is true, than he fit in with the liars of another era.

He likely felt it was OK to insult us. No dignitary met him at the airport. They would not want to be seen with him. None showed up to his hate filled speech later in the day. We have to hold ourselves to a higher standard, methinks.

The orange one probably took great delight insulting the city he was visiting. After all, President Obama lived here. Hillary Clinton is also from this area. Anything to do with those two politicians is likely to bring baseless insults from the one who never took the high road in his life.

Chicago Water Tower (Photo credit: Nicholas G. Mertens)

We have been down this road before when number 45 promised to “Send In The Feds” to deal with the violent crime here. Although there is crime here, just like any major city, it is nothing like the resident of the White House claims it to be. Imagine, if you can, the following insult claimed by Trump while in Chicago:

Trump: “Afghanistan is a safe place, by comparison, that’s true.”  

Obviously, it is not true. BBC research pegged the death toll in Afghanstan at 2307 in the month of August due to violent crime. That is about the number for the last 5 years combined in Chicago. Yes it is too high here, but it has come down in each of the last three years without help from any federal troops.

Trump: “Chicago has some of the toughest gun laws in the United States.”

False. The restrictions are actually less now that a decade ago. Attempts by the city to strenghten guns laws end up in court. Fights against the city are often led by the NRA.

Trump: “I’ve done more than any other president has done for the police”

OK, you be the judge.

The orange one claimed that Chicago was embarrassing to the nation due to the crime here. If that is true, there are many other cities providing the orange one with greater embarrassment. USA Today puts Chicago at number 21 on the list. Their statistics and methodology are well explained. Indianapolis is at 13.

As methodology changes for studies, sometimes the order of cities changes on the list. This may depend on the size of cities included, the type of crime classified as “violent,” and the source of the figures. Most use the FBI numbers in their rankings. World Atlas puts Chicago at 17, while Indianapolis climbs to number 10.

If we are just talking about murder rates per capita, then Chicago is 24th on the list, while two Indiana cities are higher. I mention the Indiana cities because it is the home state of the vice president. I don’t hear Agent Orange promising to send troops to help out Mike Pence.

If Chicago is not at the top of the violent crime list, as the supposed leader seems to suggest, than the real problem is not Chicago. It is gun violence in America. The president and the Republicans certainly do not want to tackle that issue. The NRA might stop contributing to their campaigns.

The vindictive one does not seem to want to do anything presidential. Instead he continues to try to divide Americans through insult and accusation. Our recently elected mayor was having none of it and responded:

The Superintendent of Police Eddie Johnson responded to the lies and insults against the city, the police force and the superintendent himself. He came to a press conference with the facts and conducted things in a professional manner, including thanking those police for doing their job protecting a man who was busy insulting them.

Chicago is a world-class city with big city, urban America problems. Its challenges are worse than some but better than many. Rather than taking vindictive potshots at one of America’s best, a leader should be lending a helping hand here and to the many other cities where help is needed. Perhaps it is the lack of support or the volume of protestors that has the orange one riled up. He received about 13 percent of the vote here in 2016. His performance here recently makes it unlikely he will do any better next time around.

SOURCES: 25 Of The Most Dangerous Cities In America, USA Today, August 14, 2019.
The Most Dangerous Cities In The US, worldatlas.com, October 21, 2019.
The 30 cities with the highest murder rates in the US, The Bismark Tribune, April 15, 2019.
Gun rights lawsuits take aim at Illinois, Chicago, by Dahleen Glanton, Chicago Tribune, March 8, 2012.
Is Chicago worse than Afghanistan? Fact-checking President Trump’s critiques of the city, BY  AND , wgntv.com, October28, 2019.
See also: SEND IN THE FEDS, “The Streets of Chicago,” by Rich Paschall, SERENDIPITY, February 5, 2017.

GIFTS, DREAMS, AND MAKING IT HAPPEN – Marilyn Armstrong

The lie has become so ingrained in our culture that we accept it without question. Today, I question it, its validity and its basis. Just because it has become our national motto doesn’t make it right.

This is the lie we tell ourselves and our children:

“If you want it bad enough and try hard enough, you can achieve anything. If you don’t achieve it, it’s because you gave up, didn’t try hard enough. Not achieving your dreams makes you a failure.”

That is not true.

We cannot achieve anything because we want it. Trying terribly hard can take you only so far. The rest of the distance requires actual ability in that field of endeavor, talent to make a dream come true.

You can’t be a blind artist. You can’t be a tone-deaf musician. You can’t write when you’ve no gift for words. You can’t be physicist if you find mathematics incomprehensible. You can’t be a carpenter or an engineer if you cannot visualize in three-dimensions. You can’t take pictures if you don’t see them in your mind’s eye. That’s not defeatism. It’s reality.

I don’t know when being a pragmatist became synonymous with defeatism. It infuriates me when someone tells me I shouldn’t give up on a dream because if I keep trying, I will succeed.

No, I won’t. It isn’t going to happen. It was never possible. I know what I can do. I know what I can’t do. Being told that I should never give up my dreams makes me want to whack the speaker of this un-wisdom upside the head.

I’m in favor of dreams as long as you know the difference between a dream and an expectation. I’m in favor of knowing who you are, evaluating your talents, recognizing your abilities. Everyone has dreams. Everyone has gifts. Sometimes the two coincide so that you can ride your dreams into a golden future. This outcome is not in everyone’s cards.

I wanted to be a musician. It wasn’t an outlandish dream. I had started piano when I was only four. I continued with it all through my school years and was in college, just one credit shy of completing my B.A. in Music when a professor took me aside for a chat.

He said: “You do well in your courses. You get As in everything, so there’s no problem with grades. Except I see you. Your heart isn’t in it, not the way it needs to be. Music requires total commitment. Maybe you would be happier doing something else. Keep music as a hobby. Do something you’re really good at, really passionate about. Being a second-rate musician won’t make you happy.”

Piano lessons

I was mortified. Crushed. I played pretty well. I suffered from terminal stage fright, but I had a good ear and I loved music. I still do. Yet when I gave it serious thought, I knew the truth. I would never fully commit to music. It was not the right path for me.

My real talent lay in words. I could write as soon as I could read. It was as natural to me as breathing and I never even thought of it as a gift because it was so easy. I just figured anyone could do it. I had to do some major rethinking and revise my self-image. It was painful and difficult. I never gave up playing the piano, but it stopped being my professional goal. As a bonus, when I stopped trying to become a professional musician, I began to enjoy music more.

I refocused my energy on writing and immediately, life turned around. I stopped plodding and began to fly. I never took a writing class. I just started working as a professional writer from my first job after college and never did anything else professionally for the next 40 years.

If Dr. Deutsch (thank you, Herb, you really gave me a push in the right direction) had not sat me down and told me the truth as he saw it, I’d probably have continued down a road that would have led me nowhere I really wanted to go. He didn’t buy the lie and refused to let me buy it.

No one can create talent. That’s why talents are called gifts. You get them free of charge along with the breath of life. Yet we keep hearing that lie — try hard and you can make it happen. We waste years trying to achieve the impossible while dismissing the achievable. We neglect real gifts in favor of magical thinking. What a waste!

Dreams are not the goal. Creating a good and satisfying career and life should be the goal. We all need to take stock of ourselves, look hard at what we do well, focus on our strengths, hone our talents, and plan a future that works.

The freedom you gain when you stop trying to do the impossible and put your whole heart into using your abilities is inestimable. You stop feeling like a failure. You get to love your work. You can dump the dead weight of dreams as well as the guilt and frustration of not fulfilling them. Just because you can’t be a ballerina doesn’t make you a failure. Being a lousy dancer when you could have been a great something else IS a failure  … a lose-lose for you and society.

Distinguishing dreams from reality is a winning strategy. Like it or not, we live in the real world. Dreams are not real.

Don’t buy the lie.

THE TIME HAS COME TO SAVE THE WORLD – Marilyn Armstrong

So here we are, 100 years later, and it’s happening. Again. Or is that “still?”

We didn’t understand what happened last time the world decided to blow itself up — and we aren’t seeing it now. Depending on my mood, I blame it on poor education, international lack of honesty about how great nations became “great” nations. And, of course, greed.

God is dead and greed rules us. When saving a few pennies is, to a corporation, worth destroying a family’s livelihood and future, the world will continue to be a toxic muck.

So here we are again. Or, as I said — still here because maybe we never really left.

Lying to the public and each other with a determined willingly to believe the unbelievable because the lies make us feel better. Or less bad. Whichever.

Do we have to destroy ourselves before we look at our culture, our society, our world, and say “This is not the way? Let’s be better.” We need to be a lot better because there’s an awful lot to do. We better get to it.

PANTS ON FIRE – Rich Paschall

State of the Union Address, aka SOTU

Let’s get right to the point, something political speeches usually do not do.  The pronouncements made by the occupant of the White House fall into basically two categories: Lies, and True, but misleading.  It is not unusual for political leaders to take a tidbit of truth and spin it into something it is not.  They like to take any positive news and make the most of it. It is another thing, however, to just lie to the American people and expect to get away with it.

Believe me, folks.

Certainly, 45 and his minions must have known that the fact checkers would be scrutinizing everything he said, especially given his history of daily lies.  That did not seem to stop him from telling some whoppers designed to fire up his fan base.  Followers do not care how much he lies, much to the amazement of many Americans and people around the world.

A vast array of news outlets and independent agencies found a long list of falsehoods and misleading statements by the orange one.  Almost all posted a list of lies except one, the state-friendly FOX News.  They thought the others were just “nitpicking” in their comments on Trump’s supposed “facts.”

While I was reluctant to call the following statements “lies,” rather than “false,” “misstatement,” “error,” or “miscalculation,” I decided that “lie” will work just fine.  After all, the SOTU is an address that is planned well in advance.  The WH has an army of staffers.

Certainly, many of them are checking the facts and cautioning 45 not to say anything too inflammatory or incorrect. That did not stop him.  Maybe it is just more of his “willful ignorance,” but whatever it is, he certainly knows better, or should have.

“The U.S. economy is growing almost twice as fast today as when I took office, and we are considered far and away the hottest economy anywhere in the world.”

Lie.

The economy slowed in the fourth quarter last year and is expected to show that it slowed even more in January.  Further, a list of countries has shown greater improvement of economies: Poland, China, India, Latvia. Even Greece, struggling economically for many years, showed greater growth.

“We recently imposed tariffs on $250 billion of Chinese goods — and now our Treasury is receiving billions and billions of dollars.”

Misleading.

This is not a good thing as 45 seems to imply.  The US importer pays these extra duties and tariffs.  Usually they are passed along, so in reality, it is the American consumer who is being punished by tariffs.  Even more than this, previously profitable companies are hurting due to extra costs. GM and Ford both claim to lose about a billion dollars each to tariffs.

“My administration has cut more regulations in a short period of time than any other administration during its entire tenure.”

Lie.

Both the Carter and Reagan administrations cut regulations at a faster pace in a number of industries.

“We have created 5.3 million new jobs and importantly added 600,000 new manufacturing jobs — something which almost everyone said was impossible to do, but the fact is, we are just getting started.”

Lie.

Certainly, the White House has better access to the Bureau of Labor Statistics than we do.  His numbers are inflated and the pace of job growth is on par with a two-year period of the Obama administration.  Don’t tell him that, he will go crazy (crazier?).

“More people are working now than at any time in our history.”

Misleading.

The reason is by sheer numbers.  There are more people living here “now than at any time in our history.”

“The border city of El Paso, Tex., used to have extremely high rates of violent crime — one of the highest in the entire country, and considered one of our nation’s most dangerous cities.”

Lie.

El Paso did not have a high crime rate.  Prior to the 2008 border barrier, they were second lowest among cities of similar size.  It is about the same today.

“As we speak, large, organized caravans are on the march to the United States.”

Misleading.

Many plan to stay in Mexico due to new policies there regarding visas.  Some said they will try to enter the US. They did not say they would try “illegally.”

“Lawmakers in New York cheered with delight upon the passage of legislation that would allow a baby to be ripped from the mother’s womb moments from birth.”

Lie.

“Cheered with delight?” Cruel to even suggest this happened. NY state passed a state law to protect the right to choose in case the Supreme Court, now with two Trump extreme right wingers on board, should strike down Roe v. Wade. Abortion after 24 weeks would remain very restricted.

“We had the case of the governor of Virginia where he stated he would execute a baby after birth.”

Lie.

Worse than the lie above.

This is just a handful of the false or misleading statements handed out by 45 in the 82-minute marathon.  There are plenty of sources for checking the facts if you think there is any point to it.  If you are to the left of the aisle, you probably figure most of the SOTU was not true. If you are a supporter of 45, you likely ate up every word of it.  It makes you wish the president would go back to the practice of submitting the address in writing.

Sources:

State of the Union Fact Check: What Trump Got Right and Wrong,” http://www.nytimes.com, Feb. 5, 2019.
Dem response to the State of the Union,” http://www.politico.com, Feb. 6, 2019.
Bizarre State of the Union ‘fact checks’ fall flat, as media accused of nitpicking,” http://www.foxnews.com, Feb. 6, 2019.
Trump’s tariffs have already cost Ford $1B; now it’s planning layoffs,” http://www.nbcnews.com, October 8, 2018.
Trump State of the Union 2019: Which president delivered the longest State of the Union? Shortest?http://www.al.com, Feb. 5, 2019.
Intelligence briefers warn of ‘willful ignorance’ on Trump’s part: report,” http://www.thehill.com, Feb. 3, 2019.

WHEN HONESTY IS THE BEST POLICY – Rich Paschall

To Tell The Truth – Rich Paschall


At times it may seem OK to tell the “innocent little lie.” You may want to “protect” someone from the truth. You may not want to hurt them. You may want to save bad news for a “better time.”  Maybe it is not the other person who can not handle the truth, maybe you are just too uncomfortable with it.

Of course, we may think it is perfectly alright to tell children little lies, or even big ones because we do not want to hurt them or crush their childhood fantasies. We may wish to wait until the right time to tell children there is no Santa Claus. I’m sorry if no one told you that before now. You may even want to keep the fantasy of the Easter Bunny alive, or the Great Pumpkin. Some children’s holidays are built on stories that are exaggerated or simply untrue.

superheroes

Then there is the matter of superheroes. There was a time when I wanted to believe in Superman, and Flash and the Green Hornet. Then there was Batman and Wonder Woman, well, the whole Justice League actually. Didn’t you? Why crush a little one’s belief in these characters? They may wish to dress up as these superheroes at Halloween, or other times because they believe.

The issue of life and death looms as a major area to toss around the lies. “Where do babies come from?” might be cause for lies because the parent is uncomfortable with the topic.  It may be the same as “Where does the dog, parakeet or even Aunt Martha go when she dies?”

There could be plenty of stories handed out to cover that. Eventually, children stop asking because they know parents are lying. At a certain age, they may even be bold enough to call them on it.

When does the time come when we dispense with these little lies in favor of the truth?  When should we just tell children the real story, no matter how awkward or painful?  That is probably best decided on a case by case basis, but what if the lies go on and on?

Does the legacy of lies lead to people who grow up thinking it is OK to lie?  Perhaps some tell so many lies to protect their children, it becomes habit long after the necessity passes.  Perhaps children learn that in some situations it is just OK to lie and therefore they adopt the habit themselves.  After all, the message was sent at a young age that there are times when it is perfectly alright if we do not tell the truth.

Few people doubt that the government lies to us sometimes — or daily in the case of 45 — for national security, or to protect us from some inconvenient truth.  We have entered into an era where commentators and politicians do more than just spin the news. They make it up. They out-and-out lie “for the national good.”

Does that make it okay?

The polarization of America and its political parties seems to come, at least in part, from the untrue stories that each side is telling.  It is bad enough that members of the general public knowingly repost items on social media they know are not true (see Hate, Anger and Social Media), but politicians and their supporters sometimes appear to be doing the same. Do you believe everything your elected official tells you? Really?

In a world made up of “pretty little liars,” do we trust anyone?  Perhaps you have seen the syndicated television show “Cheaters.” In it a spouse or at least a mate has come to suspect that the other person has been telling lies and wants the Cheaters detectives to find out the truth. I have never seen an episode where the one being investigated was not lying to their mate.  Yes, I have seen the show too often. It’s like watching a train wreck. You know it’s not going to end well, but you can’t keep from looking.

Do you know when it’s okay to lie to your spouse or close friends? Never. Aside from the story you told to pull off a surprise birthday party or a spectacular marriage proposal, the answer is never. If you believe it’s okay “to protect the friendship,” then you are not as close as you think.

When a friend and I had an issue to sort out early in our friendship, we ended the conversation saying the only thing that could hurt our friendship was not telling the truth. Any problem could be overcome. We declared honesty as the only policy.

Cannstatter Volksfest

So less than a year later, in a beer hall in Germany, my friend asked me a personal question that I was not prepared to answer.  I thought about it only for a few seconds as the conversation about honesty replayed in my head, and I told him the truth. Then he wanted to know why I never said anything, so I told him that too.

It was fine. It may have been a surprise and the reason may not have sounded good, but it was the truth. I may never tell him everything, but the importance of friendship means that lies cannot be told. A friendship built on a foundation of truth will not crumble.

HATE, ANGER AND SOCIAL MEDIA

A Firestorm of Misinformation, Rich Paschall

There are always items in the news that bring out the social media commentators. There’s the economy, some collusion, and Supreme Court appointments. There are Trade tariffs and Trade Agreements. There is religious freedom and freedom of speech. It is that Freedom of Speech thing that lets the haters and misinformed run rampant on the internet.

© 2007 Nuno Pinheiro & David Vignoni & David Miller & Johann Ollivier Lapeyre & Kenneth Wimer & Riccardo Iaconelli / KDE / LGPL 3 with permission.

© 2007 Nuno Pinheiro & David Vignoni & David Miller & Johann Ollivier Lapeyre & Kenneth Wimer & Riccardo Iaconelli / KDE / LGPL 3 with permission.

In the social media world, it looks like a lot of people have time to create graphics with so-called information and historical quotes (internet memes). Some are very artistically created with nice pictures of a president or other important historical person in the background. If you are on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter enough, you may think some of these historical figures are speaking out of both sides of their mouths. One of my favorite internet memes states “The problem with quotes found on the internet is that they are often not true. – Abraham Lincoln.”

Many of the quotes are easily disputed. I like to type the first phrase of an internet quote or meme into Google search to see what I get. Sometimes I immediately get proof the quote is false. Sometimes I find the quote is true, but it was said by someone else. It seems popular to attribute interesting political and social quotes to George Carlin, even if someone else said it. Do we think a quote is more believable if a more famous person said it? The George Carlin website actually has a section devoted to “Bogus Carlin Quotes.

I have often seen a quote attributed to former President Jimmy Carter. It says “If you don’t want your tax dollars to help the poor, then stop saying you want a country based on Christian Values, because you don’t.” While it seems like something Carter may have said post-presidency, he did not say it. Yet, it is frequently re-quoted all across the internet. Many sites will use it to drive home their point by indicating what this thoughtful and highly regarded human being has to say.

It was actually said by comedian John Fugelsang (Snopes.com here).  I guess if the quote comes from a comedian rather than a former president, it is harder to beat people over the head with it.

In addition to a simple Google search for the quote or alleged fact, you can go to websites dedicated to debunking internet stories.

The most popular is Snopes.com. It calls itself “the definitive Internet reference source for urban legends, folklore, myths, rumors, and misinformation.” It has to work extra hard to keep up with the mountains of internet crap published daily. Still, I usually find out whether some really convenient quote to prove a point is actually true or false. Usually they are false.

AARP.org has published a helpful list to identify fake news. Seniors are often the victims of internet scams. Just about everyone can use the links they provide to verify whether a story is true or not.

Fake news?

Despite easy access to the truth, haters choose to believe whatever is posted on the internet if it can be twisted to support their position. Then they can take the misinformation and share it with their friends, who in turn do the same. I like to post an article or link into a comment under these false memes, but it does not seem to matter. Comments continue to be made after mine in support of the lie, as if posting the true story meant nothing. It is infuriating, to say the least. Wanting to believe the lie seems to be a sign of the times

The anger and hate behind the false stories and memes was out in full force recently due to some “hot button” topics in the news. The Kavanaugh hearings brought us bad conduct by the nominee and various senators, which in turn brought out bad memes and fake stories about people on all sides. Dr. Ford was brave enough to step forward despite the media mayhem, but got hammered in the never important social media realm. The occupant of the White House helped the lies along with some outrageous lies of his own.

The tit for tat trade war with China involving tariffs by 45 has been hard on business. As a result corporations, China, the White House and even farmers are being blasted by one concern or another. International business is complicated and can not be clarified by some internet meme or someone’s right or left-wing blog post.

Vice President Pence brought out haters on both sides of the aisle when he chose to speak to an anti-LGBT group recently. His boss spoke there the previous year.

Any criticism of 45 or his minions will likely earn you a response concerning President Obama, the Clintons, illegal aliens or “the gays.” It does not seem to matter if the hateful response has anything to do with the original comment. We considered this “what about Obama?” type response recently in “Extra topical.”

Connected to social media

The bad part of social media is the ease in which hate, anger and lies are spread. Impressionable people can find support for their misguided thoughts, and feel they have backing for whatever hate or heinous acts they perpetrate. While we all support the idea of Freedom of Speech, it is safe to say our founding fathers had no idea how quickly lies could become accepted as truth, especially lies by the President of the United States.

And all of this happens in an era where the truth is so easy to find. If you are interested in truth.

See also: “George Didn’t Say That!” GeorgeCarlin.net/bogus.html
“Pence is first VP to speak at anti-gay group’s Values Voter Summit,” nbcnews.com
“Fake News Alert,” aarp.org
“Trump’s lying, mocking, despicable verbal mugging of Christine Blasey Ford,” E. J. Dionne, Jr., The Washington Post, October 3, 2018
“Extra Topical,” “What About Obama? Huh?” SERENDIPITY, July 15, 2018

MEDIA ISN’T FAUX BUT POLITICIANS ARE – Marilyn Armstrong

WHAT IS TRUTH? DOES IT MATTER?

I don’t have a lot of friends in the Republican camp, but there remain a few. It didn’t used to be such a gigantic divide, but it has loomed hugely since the last election.

The other night I heard from an old friend who lives down in the middle of Georgia. Not Atlanta. The less expensive part where the non-city folk live. She is a warm, sweet, kindly woman, but times they are a’changing.

I don’t know what I said — probably nothing I really thought about — and she said “But we don’t know what the truth is. The media just lies all the time.”

Pause. Longer pause.

“Garry spent his whole life in news and many of our best friends were or are in the news business. Sally, they DO NOT MAKE UP THEIR NEWS STORIES. They never did and they don’t do it now. They spend their lives searching for the facts. For proof. For truth. They do not lie.”

An even longer pause. “But what difference does it make anyway?”

If she cannot understand that there is an uncrossable gap between truth and lies, then what is there to discuss? Perhaps that is the bottom line of our current issues with truth, that so many people on both sides of the political lines don’t care about truth and don’t think truth matters.


If the truth doesn’t matter, then I am not sure what does matter.

For me, the truth always matters. I can’t imagine not caring about the difference between truth and lies.