Keystone Kops in the White House


THE KEYSTONE KOPS IN THE WHITE HOUSE

“My fellow-Americans,” Donald Trump said in his weekly address on Friday, “It’s an exciting time for our country. Our new Administration has so much change under way— change that is going to strengthen our Union and improve so many people’s lives.”

It’s exciting, all right; in fact, it is hard to look away. Just when you think things can’t get worse for the Trump Administration, it drops another clanger on itself.

Three weeks ago, the White House unveiled its revised anti-Muslim travel ban, which the federal courts immediately froze, on constitutional grounds, just as they had blocked its predecessor. Last week, there was the ignominious failure of the G.O.P. health-care bill, which Trump had personally endorsed, although he seemed blissfully unaware of some of its contents. And this week there was the still-developing saga of Devin Nunes, the bumbling head of the House Intelligence Committee, who unwisely tried to do the President a favor and ended up being publicly humiliated.

It is now perfectly evident that Nunes, in claiming he had evidence that Trump and his aides had been caught up in “incidental surveillance” during the transition, was doing the White House’s bidding and trying to create a diversion from James Comey’s confirmation that the F.B.I. is investigating whether Trump’s campaign coördinated with Russia.

According to a Times report, Nunes obtained access to intelligence information from at least two Administration aides when he visited the White House on the night of March 21st, though he initially denied coördinating with anybody who works there. One of the White House staffers was reportedly a member of the National Security Council, and the other was a lawyer in the office of the White House counsel who used to work for Nunes’s committee on Capitol Hill.

So far, Nunes has managed to cling to his committee post, but he has about as much credibility left as a thief caught inside a bank vault. At Friday’s White House press briefing, Glenn Thrush, of the Times, asked Sean Spicer, Trump’s spokesman, whether it was normal for the head of an investigatory committee to roam the White House complex at night and meet two mid-level staffers to see sensitive information. Spicer didn’t have much of an answer, of course. But the larger story here goes beyond Nunes and his nocturnal wanderings.

It concerns the White House’s competence—or lack thereof. Ten weeks ago, when Trump stormed into office attacking the media and promising a blitzkrieg of new policies and initiatives during his first hundred days, the dominant emotion among people who hadn’t voted for him was fear. Many commentators, myself included, warned about the dangers of democratic erosion, and sales of George Orwell’s “1984” soared.

Today, there are still plenty of reasons to be concerned about Trump and his illiberalism. The White House’s recent decision to dismantle President Obama’s clean-air regulations offers fresh testament to the malevolence of the Trump Administration’s agenda, and next week’s meeting between Trump and Xi Jinping, China’s President, will be a reminder of the enormous responsibilities that rest on a President’s shoulders. But, even among ardent Trumpophobes, fear and foreboding have been supplemented by wonderment at the White House’s string of gaffes. These days, instead of Big Brother, it often looks like the Keystone Kops are in charge.

In an interview with Tucker Carlson, of Fox News, a couple of weeks ago, Trump hinted that the White House had some information about possible surveillance by the Obama Administration that it would like the public to see. “We will be submitting certain things, and I will be perhaps speaking about this next week,” he said. The surprise wasn’t that the White House would subsequently use a political ally (Nunes) as a conduit. It was that the operation was handled so clumsily that it backfired almost immediately. “It’s hard to know who is dumber: the Trump White House for giving Nunes the info or Nunes for accepting it. Pure Amateur hour,” Dan Pfeiffer, a former director of communications in the Obama White House, tweeted on Thursday.

Pfeiffer isn’t a neutral player, of course. But the Nunes fiasco is hardly an isolated incident. Consider the fallout from the health-care debacle. Since the moment that Paul Ryan pulled his Obamacare-replacement bill from consideration in the House, Trump’s options for pursuing other elements of his domestic agenda, and perhaps even resuscitating health-care reform, have been clear. He can move even further to the right, to placate the members of the recalcitrant Freedom Caucus, or he can abandon them and try to win over some moderate Democrats.

Last weekend, Reince Priebus, the White House chief of staff, indicated that the White House would follow the second strategy, and other Administration officials floated the idea of reaching a deal with congressional Democrats on tax reform and infrastructure spending. But Trump himself didn’t appear to have been let in on the plan—he continued to bait and berate the opposition party.

“The Democrats will make a deal with me on healthcare as soon as ObamaCare folds – not long,” he tweeted on Monday. “Do not worry, we are in very good shape!” On the same day, in a pair of tweets, the President also went after his favorite Democratic target, Hillary Clinton. “Why isn’t the House Intelligence Committee looking into the Bill & Hillary deal that allowed big Uranium to go to Russia, Russian speech . . . money to Bill, the Hillary Russian ‘reset,’ praise of Russia by Hillary, or Podesta Russian Company. Trump Russia story is a hoax. #maga!”

On Thursday, Trump directed his fire at the Freedom Caucus. In a tweet, he said that they would “hurt the entire Republican agenda if they don’t get on the team, & fast. We must fight them, & Dems, in 2018!” This lumping together of the Freedom Caucus and the Democrats came the morning after a group of conservative activists visited the White House for what was billed as friendly policy session. If Trump had decided to declare war on the right, he evidently hadn’t informed the members of his staff who arranged that session.

Mixed signals are nothing new from the Trump Administration. On Thursday, a reporter form Axios, the news site, sat in on a strategy session attended by Priebus, Steve Bannon, and Jared Kushner. The session was “on background,” which meant the reporter couldn’t identify who said what. But, on Friday morning, Mike Allen, Axios’s editor-in-chief, reported that one of the officials in the meeting “views the Trump White House in terms that could be applied to the iterative process of designing software. It’s a beta White House.”

Allen went on, “The senior official . . . said the White House was operating on similar principles to the Trump campaign: ‘We rode something until it didn’t work any more,’ the official said. ‘We recognized it didn’t work, we changed it, we adjusted it and then we kind of got better . . . [T]his was much more entrepreneurial.’ In the White House, he said, ‘we’re going to keep adjusting until we get it right.’ ”

No word on how long this adjustment process might take, or what role the man with the itchy Twitter finger might play in it.

Playing for Change


This year’s sixth annual Playing For Change Day is September 24, 2016.

Here’s some of what happened in 2012, as musicians around the world Played to make the world a better place.

Sing along, dance along, hum along, work for change!

Namaste,

Barbara

 

 

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Don’t Let Fear Stand in Your Way


I wanted to share another TED Talk with you, by Priya Parker.  Priya is an advisor to leaders and organizations on strategy, vision and purpose. Her company, Thrive Labs, works with individuals and teams to help them identify what they care about most and align it with market realities. Her research includes identifying what are the driving factors that lead people to thriving and what blocks them from it. She helps organizations keep and grow their culture and values as they scale. Drawing on 10 years of conflict resolution facilitation in the United States, India and the Middle East, Priya designs visioning and innovation labs that help organizations grow from the root.

 

She shares 7 techniques on how to know if you need to reboot your life.  It’s an interesting take on life, and encourages us to overcome our fears and follow our passions, whatever they may be.

 

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Adventures


Well, I am 98% unpacked and have visited the youngest grandchildren. A year ago, I thought that I was now at an age where I was too old for adventures. Then, I began to think about moving and as most of you know, I have moved to Asheville. It has been an adventure. You are never too old to change your life. Never to old to face new challenges or to see the world from a new perspective.

 

I am sitting at my desk in front of my bedroom windows listening to a symphony of toads, frogs, locusts, fish in the river, wind gently caressing the leaves on the trees along the river and the sound of traffic. My health does seem to be doing some better and my spirits are up.

 

I have had visits with old friends, I miss newer friends and I am beginning to make connections in the city. My oldest grandchildren fell in love with Asheville. They live in NC, on the coast. It is much more humid and somewhat warmer there.

 

I have a sense of anticipation and curiosity. I truly do not know what is coming. This feels exciting. I am on the third floor and no longer have a garden which I miss very much. The mountains and the river are full of so much life and I am going to do whatever exploring I can do.

 

A young woman I know told her mother she wouldn’t be able to help her because she did have a life. She does, but so does her mother and all of the rest of humanity. It is important to remember that we share this lovely world and taking some time to give to others is a privilege. We enrich each others lives and we can change someone’s day with a smile or a thank you.

 

As I sit here writing to you and smelling the beautiful air, I realize that the haters, liars, the selfish are not happy, or content. They are outside of this creation we call Mother Earth. I am glad I began this new life and I am sure many adventures are coming to my life. Some all ready have and have been exciting and some were harder, but I am here and grateful to the Universe for my courage to start a new life. Don’t let change scare you and don’t run from adventures. They could be the best things in life you have ever experienced.

 

Hugs to all, Barbara

 

 

A Red Rose for those who have died in  War and for will in the Future

A red rose for all of you who are making changes in your life and in your world. 

 

 

 

Pray together to increase the power

Pray together to increase the power

Race and Police


The New Year brings with it a clean slate but not in every aspect. I think we will find that Race is an exception. It is sad but true that America is still a racist country. Why? Please read Tom Foreman’s article.

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The following article is excerpted from CNN January 3, 2015

By Tom Foreman, CNN

 

(CNN)

I obey the speed limit, use turn signals, and don’t cruise around with broken tail lights. I don’t have substance-abuse problems, unless you count Diet Dr. Pepper. I live in a safe neighborhood, and no one in my family has a criminal record. I like to think all of that is why I spend virtually no time worrying about the police.

Yet there’s another big reason: I’m white.

The way most white people see the police, and the way most black people see them, is separated by a gap so wide it may as well be a canyon.

That gulf has been cast into sharp relief by events in Ferguson, Missouri, where a grand jury declined to indict white police officer Darren Wilson in the death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown. That sparked protests around the country, as did a decision in New York not to indict a white police officer in the death of Eric Garner, an unarmed black man who police confronted while investigating allegations that he was selling cigarettes illegally.

Those cases collectively have come to stand as a kind of national Rorschach inkblot test, with people looking at the same events and reaching different conclusions. Some people adopted the phrase “black lives matter” to protest police treatment of minorities, while others countered with “police lives matter,” and — maybe in search of a more universal middle ground — “all lives matter.”

 

People immortalized Garner’s last words — “I can’t breathe” — on T-shirts and protest signs and social media posts. Those on the other side of the national divide fired back with slogans such as “I can breathe” and “Breathe Easy, Obey the Law,” arguing that if you just obey the law, you will avoid encounters with the police altogether.

One of our latest CNN/ORC polls put numbers on the gap in public opinion.

Asked “How many police officers in the area where you live … are prejudiced against blacks?” 17% of whites said “most or some,” but more than twice as many non-whites — 42% — felt that way. “Does the U.S. criminal justice system treat whites and blacks equally?” Whites: 50% said yes, compared to 21% of non-whites. True, plenty of blacks and whites buck those trends, and no racial group can be treated as a monolith in these matters, but leanings — writ large — remain.

Those opinions may grow out of the fact that police tend to arrest blacks at rates disproportionate to their share in the general population. FBI figures, for example, show that blacks made up 28% of all people arrested in 2013; they make up about 13% of the U.S. population.

But plenty of people have long suggested those numbers are deceiving; that police pursue black suspects more vigorously because they are predisposed to believe blacks are guilty, and those suspects are often less educated and not as financially prepared to defend themselves. The result, they argue, is a self-fulfilling prophecy: a larger percentage of blacks are arrested and convicted because police spend more time chasing them down.

Accordingly, when an unarmed teen gets shot and killed by a cop in Missouri, or a man in New York dies after being choked by an officer, some people see evidence of police targeting and brutalizing minorities.

Still, facts often fit into this debate like broken Legos, if at all. In both Ferguson and New York, police supporters point out that the men who died were being approached about possible criminal behavior and did not do what the officers asked of them. That’s a formula for trouble, they say, regardless of race.

 

Want more complications? Consider this: About a quarter of the nation’s officers come from minority groups, and they too are making those arrests that so disturb some people in minority communities. That suggests this friction may be partially about black and white, but also tied to a pro-police mentality that sees blue first. And by the way, there are still plenty of places like Ferguson where the overwhelming prevalence of white officers in a largely black community creates a feeling of apartheid for some minority residents.

It all plays out in so many heated ways. Protestors flood the streets and some observers see overdue demands for change, while others see pointless rabble-rousing and destruction. In New York, officers turned their backs on Mayor Bill DeBlasio on the grounds that he supported protesters outraged by the grand jury decision not to indict a police officer in Garner’s death. Anger at the mayor deepened after two New York police officers were killed in ambush by a man who had posted on Instagram: “I’m Putting Wings On Pigs Today. They Take 1 Of Ours, Let’s Take 2 of Theirs.”

Some see well-founded, fair objections, while others see brazen disrespect. On it goes, each action honestly generated from within a worldview, and yet seen in a wildly different way by those who use another lens.

The divergent views were captured neatly after a Facebook post from Mike Rowe, who stars in the CNN series “Somebody’s Gotta Do It.” Someone asked what he thought of the protests in California triggered by events in Ferguson. He said those protests made him 90 minutes late for a holiday dinner in Alameda, California, where the deaths of Brown and Garner dominated conversation.

“My conservative friends were focused on the fact that both men died while resisting arrest, and were therefore responsible for their own demise. They wanted to discuss the killings in light of the incredible risk that all police officers agree to assume,” Rowe wrote. “My liberal friends were focused on the fact that both men were unarmed, and were therefore victims of excessive force. They wanted to discuss the killings in the context of historical trends that suggest bias plays a recurring role in the way cops treat minorities.”

He said it was clear by dessert that both sides wanted law and order.

“But the conservatives were convinced that order is only possible when citizens treat cops with respect. Liberals, on the other hand, were arguing that order can only occur when cops treat everyone the same,” he wrote. “And round and round we went.”

More than 115,000 people offered a range of views in their comments on Rowe’s Facebook post. Nearly 65,000 people shared the post, with each spawning more comments from more people with more views.

When these events happen, people always say “At least we’re talking about the problems. That’s a start.” I’m not so sure. I’ve covered versions of this debate for close to 40 years now, and it hasn’t changed much.

Some are so convinced of police bigotry, they will not stomach the slightest allowance that maybe officers are taking on a hard, dangerous job in which judgment calls can be fairly made and still wind up fatally wrong.

Some others are so certain that this is all just so much liberal whining, that they cannot tolerate even a reasonable review of police conduct, suggesting that it constitutes an erosion of respect and support for people they consider de facto heroes.

I suspect if any real progress is to be made in this national discussion, it will have to be started by people who don’t fully buy into either camp. And the discussion probably can’t include poisoning phrases like “black underclass” or “white privilege,” because those are conversation stoppers — not starters.

 

 

The man who helped me get my first job in television was an excellent investigative journalist named Norman Lumpkin. He made his reputation as a rare African-American TV reporter in Montgomery, Alabama, grappling with inept public officials, scheming businessmen, and, yes, shady cops. He was my friend and mentor. One day Norman called me aside to criticize a story I’d just done on divorces, noting that I had not included any black families. I took offense.

“This isn’t a story about race,” I said.

“It’s always about race,” Norman said.

“Well, I don’t judge people that way.”

“We all do.”

I’ve thought of that clash many times, especially since Norman passed away, and I’ve concluded I was right to try to ignore race in a story that was about human values we all share. He was equally right to say race has a way of creeping into places where it doesn’t belong; like divorces, politics, and police work. And we were collectively right in trying to actually talk about our differences, instead of accusing each other and lapsing into hardened silence. Neither of us was being racist. We were trying, as friends do, to help each other understand. But then, Norman and I already knew we could trust each other.

And in too many places, police and the people they are sworn to protect, are not so sure of that.

 

 

Tying up Loose Ends


goodthinking

         Positive thinking and owning our actions

Well, here we are at the end of the year. As expected, we did not witness the end of the world. We are at the top of the fiscal cliff. We have survived another holiday season. I, for one, have enjoyed the time with family and with myself. Meditation to see where I stand at the end of this eventful year has brought me new insights.

I don’t believe in regrets. At every moment, I do the very best I can at that moment. Not all do, but that is their work if they choose to tackle the issue. I do believe in looking forward to issues that I want to change. Nothing ever stays stagnant. I realize some people don’t like change. It is not my favorite thing, however, it is a constant in every human life.

Change takes work, determination and courage. Deciding to change requires action; the first step. News media often takes a look back at the year. I like to do the same with the vision of hindsight. I can look at the small things and then pull back to see the big picture. Was I perfect, no. Were there times I could have made different choices, possibly. Would I do things the same way, I believe I would. Not that I did anything perfect. I didn’t, but I am today, who I am because of the love, time, kindness, prayer that I gave to others. Could I have done more? Yes. Will I change. Yeah! Why, because I believe we are on this journey because the Divine experiences life through us.

I believe in magic and harmony and peace. It is magic that I am here in this life, walking the path of my journey. The magic continues every morning I awaken and see the birds, the trees, my friends, and remember my annoyances. These are the items that make up each of our lives. The good, the bad, and the miraculous.

The magic in life

The magic in life

I realize that this past year wasn’t perfect for any of us, but we were blessed. How much depends upon your outlook really. An event could happen to me and I will find it awkward. The same event can happen to someone else and they will be thrilled. It is the way of our life.

We are also at a point in time where we can choose how to live with what has happened in the year. For me, I need only to look around me and if I missed blessings during the year, I am reminded of them now. If my heart wasn’t in the right place, and it isn’t always, I have to look that in the eye and own it. Often, we do not accept responsibility for our actions. We have to own them. Good or bad. We are responsible. So I suggest you take a few minutes and look inside. Own what is there and change what you don’t like to see. The year is ending but there is still time to tie up those loose ends. Then you won’t need to make New Year’s resolutions. You will have already begun the changes and will happily embrace what the New Year is bringing.

Year end inventory

Year end inventory

Ethics and the Heart


Presque Isle, PA.

I have been thinking about moral and ethical issues today. We get closer and closer to the election. We expect ethical behavior from our leaders and those who wish to be leaders. But, we who have private lives need to ensure that we also have ethics and good moral character.

I believe we should not shy away from raising a strong, clear, moral voice in these campaigns or in our personal lives. Jewish beliefs are that there are no short cuts to ethics and I believe that to be true. Moral principles have stood at the core of Jewish life.

The core of the Jewish people lead them to look to educate the children, to work in the community and to participate in all charitable acts. It is like breathing.

I have seen so many good works and true compassion and caring in the Jewish Community. Many Jewish teachings are very compatible with the teachings of other religions. Spiritual insights and wisdom have been passed down for centuries.

As a society, we need to teach our children character. We need to teach them to feel, to be outraged by injustice, show them dignity and an inviolable sense of self.

Whether you are Jewish, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Sufi, we all have to be responsible to our communities and to the Divinity in this world to act morally and with ethics and to teach the young among our societies the concepts of heroism, justice, fairness, hard work and education.

These can make a difference in our world. These can make a difference in elections and can make a difference in the place of women in all of our countries. We each need to start with our own hearts and then allow the Divine energy to flow outward and the ripple will bring change. It does begin with each of us. And each of us can be an example to someone else. When we change, the people around us in this life journey change also.

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