On Stupidity

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything of substance here. Of course, after you read this you may determine I still haven’t posted anything of substance. You be the judge…but I don’t necessarily need to hear your verdict. 🙂

In fact, I’ve been awaiting a shipment of Drivel. Turns out it has been sitting in a cargo container at the Port of Baltimore for quite some time. The COVID-19 pandemic has been messing with a lot of things in our supply chain, eh?

You might remember the story of this blog. I started it right after a National Emergency was declared due to the COVID-19 pandemic. You also might remember that one of my first rants was about stupid people. Truly, no insult is intended when I suggest people are being stupid. When someone is stupid, I argued then on the basis of a definition from Google Dictionary, it is because that one is “showing a great lack of common sense.” That definition has recently been updated by Google Dictionary from the Oxford Languages to read as follows: “having or showing a great lack of intelligence or common sense.

No insult is intended because, in fact, all of us have been stupid at some time. There is no sin in stupidity, thankfully, because I have been among the stupidest of the stupid. Indeed, I have been the Prince…no, make that King…no, make that Emperor of Stupid. I won’t go into the details. You’ll have to trust me when I say that I’ve been truly stupid at times. Because I have to count myself among the stupid, it is hard to point fingers at other stupid people.

Still, it is important for us to talk about stupidity because of its danger.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German theologian and minister who was also concerned about stupid people. His interest in stupid people grew as he watched Adolph Hitler come to power in Germany prior to World War II. His observations grew into a Theory of Stupidity. Now, I’m not going to try to explain it because this video from Sprouts School does it so much better than I ever could. Before you read on, take the next 6 minutes to watch it. You won’t regret it.

Welcome back! Pretty fascinating stuff, huh? You can read the excerpt from Bonhoeffer’s papers that inspired this video and I hope you will. The video uses much of that text word-for-word. It is useful to have the text in front of you for your reflection. But let me pull a couple of interesting quotes from that text and include them here.

You’ve probably noted already that Bonhoeffer could take issue with one aspect of the Oxford Languages definition. He might not agree that stupid people can be lacking intellect. On the other hand, though, he might agree because he also writes:  

The impression one gains is not so much that stupidity is a congenital defect, but that, under certain circumstances, people are made stupid or that they allow this to happen to them. 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer 

The reason for their stupidity, Bonhoeffer argues, is that they are made stupid or that they allow it to happen to themselves. Indeed, people may not only sacrifice their common sense but their intellect to others. How and why that happens Bonhoeffer wonders.

Upon closer observation, it becomes apparent that every strong upsurge of power in the public sphere, be it of a political or of a religious nature, infects a large part of humankind with stupidity…The power of the one needs the stupidity of the other.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

This quote reminds me of a video I saw on both Twitter (not always a reliable source) and in Newsweek (a usually more reliable source) during the past few days. Here’s the gist of it from the person who posted it on Twitter:

End Times preacher Sharon Gilbert says that an alien imitated her husband, and then it tried to have sex with her, and then it claimed to be Xerxes, and then Jesus got involved, and then the alien turned out to be a reptile with a posse of gargoyles.

@hemantmehta

I know. You are wondering if this is an accurage rendering of the clips. I did too. It is but, really, you need to go back to the links above and watch it for yourself just as I did to be sure.

Two things are noteworthy to me in the video clips. First is the banner that runs under the video. You can make a donation and receive The Great Delusions dvd set by Josh Peck. Uh huh. Second, at the end of the video that same Josh Peck, who is one of the two guys listening to this story and nodding along in rapt belief says, “Well, the Bible says…” and then the video cuts off. Don’t you also want to know how in the world Josh Peck connects ANYTHING she said with the Bible?!?

However, this behavior from Josh raises an even bigger question: Can Josh Peck even recognize a great delusion when it is sitting six feet from him? Of course, this distance calculation does assume they are practicing “social distancing” and why wouldn’t they, right?

Sharon Gilbert is an evangelist who specializes in End Times fear mongering. She talked about this close encounter of an alien hook-up on Jim Bakker‘s television show (yes, he still has a show). Now, consider who she is and what she wants in light of Bonhoeffer’s quote about “every strong upsurge in power” whether of a political or religious nature. I’m not sure which kind of power she is craving but it could, of course, be both. Do people listen to her and follow her, thereby granting her power? According to her Twitter account, over 6,700 stupid souls do follow her. Again, “stupid” is not an insult. These are people who, in Bonhoeffer’s words, have been made stupid and allowed this to happen to themselves. I’ll let you count for yourself the number of people in that one video segment (including Jim Bakker whom you only hear) who are clamoring for so much power over others.

Stupid people are on my mind again because we are now over two years since the Novel Coronavirus first appeared on the scene in China. We are 20 months…yes, 20…since the National Emergency began. Through 2021 we have all been yearning for a return to “normal.” Yet, we learned this week COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. in 2021 are higher than they were in 2020, even with vaccines widely available, accessible to most Americans, and usually free. Look, I know there are legitimate reasons why people cannot take the COVID-19 vaccines, but stupidity should not be one of them. Let’s be honest…stupidity accounts for millions of people refusing the vaccine.

Yesterday, as American’s were celebrating a mostly “in person” Thanksgiving, news was breaking about a new “heavily mutated” COVID-19 variant in South Africa, Botswanna, Belgium, Hong Kong, and Israel that is scaring the pudding out of epidemiologists and researchers. Overnight, European countries that were reopening are closing again to travelers from South Africa. Earlier today, Friday, November 26th, the World Health Organization named the new variant Omicron. In the same article New York Times reports the U.S. is closing its borders to seven countries in Africa. Curiously, though, we are not closing to Hong Kong, Belgium, and Israel. Hmmm.

Bear in mind what Bonhoeffer said about stupid people. They are more dangerous than evil people.

Why is this?

When people become stupid they relinquish their intellect and common sense to another person who needs them to do this so they can feel powerful. Whether it is an End Times preacher, a spouse, a colleague, a boss, a leader, a politician, or even a president it matters little. The effect on the stupid person is the same: they give up the ability to think critically for oneself. They become a mindless clone for person who seeks to control them like a puppet. As the Bonhoeffer video illustrated, they even begin to sound like the person who has taken their intellect, sense, and power. Hence, they become a weaponized minion of the powerful one.

If we are to find our way out of the pandemic, we’ve got to help free the people who are stupid about the pandemic. Bonhoeffer writes,

Yet at this very point it becomes quite clear that only an act of liberation, not instruction, can overcome stupidity. Here we must come to terms with the fact that in most cases a genuine internal liberation becomes possible only when external liberation has preceded it. Until then we must abandon all attempts to convince the stupid person. 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Frankly, I’m not sure what “external liberation” looks like in this situation, especially in an age when social media holds so many people captive to the unadulterated, unmediated crap it flings at us.

I do believe in the power of relationship to help people find a way out of stupidity. Daryl Davis, in his TEDx Talk, gives us some hope for how to use relationship to liberate people from their stupidity. However, like Davis, we have to find the will to act and the courage to engage.

If you liked this TEDx talk, you may also enjoy the longer documentary from PBS about Davis, Accidental Courtesy.

Remember, as Bonhoeffer wrote, “The power of the one needs the stupidity of the other.”


Farewell to Facebook…er the Meta-verse

In case you hadn’t heard, Facebook has a new name. The new name for the company that we used to know simply as Facebook is Meta. The name change came at a time shortly after Frances Haugen (aka The Facebook Whistleblower) went public with everything she knew about the nefarious company and its leadership. At a time when the company is being seriously questioned about its power and its abuse of power, it decides to announce that it desires even more power…you know, Meta power! Sigh. Now, doesn’t THAT give you confidence in the leadership of Meta?

For me, that was it. I decided to leave all things Facebook in October. Honestly, I can’t remember when I’ve felt better! It’s a great feeling to be unhooked from that time, brain, and soul sucking platform. Okay, so that’s how I experienced those platforms it and I respect you if that is not your experience. Just don’t try to Messenger me. You can still reach me through this blog or in the following ways:

Leaving all thing Meta means I won’t be sharing this blog on Facebook, What’s App, Messenger, Instagram, etc. You are welcome to share it in anyway you like. I’ll still speak to you and count you as a friend. But my divorce from Meta is now final.

The COVID-19 Pandemic Returns…or Did It Never Leave?

Who doesn’t want to put the COVID-19 pandemic behind them? I do. My unconscious desire to do so must be stronger than I knew. I have one browser dedicated to the COVID-19 monitoring sites but it has been months since I visited them. Until today. What I found was unnerving. But you can see for yourself.

In my Edge browser I have permanently appearing tabs for:

National Public Radio (NPR) reported on July 16th what the IHME data is beginning to show: a steady increase in the number of deaths nationally for the first time in nine months. In fact, by November 1, the number of deaths in the U.S. by COVID-19 will be close to exceeding the number of deaths from 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, approximately 675,000. Yes, the population of the U.S. in 1918 was much less than it is now so the percentage of the population that died was higher then. Still, 675,000 moms, dads, grandparents, children, friends, colleagues, etc.

We have protocols that work for preventing the spread of the COVID-19, even the Delta variant which is now responsible for most infections in the U.S. You know, them, so let’s say them together: Masking, maintaining physical distance, and getting fully vaccinated. However, as you’ve heard by now, not everyone is doing all three, and some are not doing any of the three.

As NPR reported, Anthony Fauci told Meet the Press on July 4th that 99% of recent COVID deaths were among the unvaccinated. This week CDC director Rochelle Walensky added that 97% of COVID-19 hospitalizations were due to unvaccinated individuals. Also on the 16th, the website AL.com reported that nine children were hospitalized in Alabama hospitals with COVID-19 and one was on a ventilator. All of this has led Walensky to state the facts as they are. This is now “a pandemic of the unvaccinated.

Sorry for the upcoming sports analogy, but, geez, this feels like one of those moments when we could have put away the game but then we…well, we blew it. We took our eyes off the ball, we started celebrating before we crossed the goal line, we thought the clock had run out, we thought we could just tap it in – apply any other “almost but not quite” sports analogy you like. The fact is, we are failing and, still, the solutions are so simple. We can be better than this. But are we? I hope the 2121 history books show that we were.


This just in before publication this morning…the New York Times is reporting on a new Kaiser Family Foundation poll. The poll indicates that some who have been resisting getting vaccinated are changing their minds. This is good news and small step in the right direction. There are three themes that have emerged from the data that explain why they are changing:

  • Seeing that millions of other Americans have been safely vaccinated.
  • Hearing pro-vaccine messages from doctors, friends, and relatives.
  • Learning that not being vaccinated will prevent people from doing some things.

Shingles Shot

I went back in time yesterday at the point of a needle. As the Walgreen’s pharmacist pushed the needle in, I was transported back to Doc DeYarman’s office in Morning Sun, Iowa.

Doc DeYarman’s office was on the second floor of one of the buildings that lined our single main street in Morning Sun. I don’t remember him clearly. He gave me my childhood immunizations and was my doctor until I was about 10 years old…then he moved away. I’ve always felt a little responsible for that in the same way that I’ve felt responsible for the death of my piano teacher. I had one lesson…then she died. I must have been a really hopeless student and, perhaps, all the wailing and kicking I did in the doctor’s office disqualified me as a patient, too. Happily for me, he only moved away.

Because I saw him so early in my life I do not have many clear memories of him. I do remember laboriously climbing the stairs to his office. With each step I took, my feet seemed to get heavier, my anxiety and dread escalated, and I would begin to whine that I was feeling much better and didn’t need to see him after all.

I’m sure this was the Doc’s coat. But could this be Doc too? https://www.historicalemporium.com/

I also remember his scary white coat. Seriously…I really think it was just like this one, with straight up collars, like mad scientists wear in the movies.

In fact, now that I think about it, this could be a picture of Doc because I don’t remember what he looked like. As far as I know, he may actually have been headless.

The only other thing I remember was the needle he used. I’m pretty sure there was just one that he used on everyone and it was just a sharpened Slurpee straws. Okay, that may be an exaggeration…it was probably a sharpened plastic coffee stirrers. Whatever it was, it was gigantic and it hurt.

Which brings me back to Walgreens. I can’t say that getting shots is my favorite experience (Gee, THANKS, Doctor DeYarman!) but as I’ve grown up and older, I find it a much more tolerable experience. Until yesterday.

As soon as she started pushing the vaccine into my arm it began to hurt and I feared I’d flashback to being a child in Doc’s second floor office. However, except for a moment when I imagined throwing myself on the floor and wailing like I was being attacked by a million honeybees, I was just fine. I stood up, thanked the pharmacist, walked out of the little medical privacy area (where such procedures are performed), and made my way through a crowd of people who had raced over to find out what was going on. (Perhaps my wailing was not imaginary?)

I did ask the pharmacist why the shot hurt so much. She explained that the vaccine for shingles is a slightly thicker liquid than for flu or pneumonia and many other vaccines. In fact, it has to be mixed by the pharmacist before it can be administered. Of course, I had to get the last word in so I said, “Okay, I get that. But does it still have to be as thick as maple syrup?” She laughed maniacally, as she pulled at the top button on her mad scientist’s coat, and said, “You know there are two shots you have to get for shingles now, don’t you? Just wait until you get your second shot, funny man!”

By the middle of the day yesterday my left arm was really sore. By nightfall I was not feeling well and by the time I went to bed I was updating my Last Will and Testament. I had a lousy night’s sleep and today my brain is not much good for anything except for writing a blog. Lucky you, huh?

Clemencia, my delightful spouse who possesses an infinite amount of optimism, reminded me regularly throughout the day “the pain of shingles is far worse than the discomfort of the shot.” I just hate it when medical people (of which she is a retired one) say, “This is going to be a little uncomfortable.” Then, of course, it hurts like H-E-Double Toothpicks, right?

Unfortunately, as in most things, she is right. Shingles is a horrifically painful disease and the “uncomfortable” shots are a preferred alternative.

Aside from being in a post-shingles vaccine delirium, why am I writing this today? Because everyone has a big decision to make about the COVID-19 vaccine when it is finally widely available. It will be important for as many Americans as possible to get vaccinated if we want to eventually live pandemic free. I know some folks are not comfortable with vaccines on principle. Some folks don’t like needles and getting shots. I’m in the latter group myself but this is really important. As Clemencia would say, “a little discomfort saves a lot of pain.”

The pain of COVID-19, as we now know so well, is not measured in sore arms and a lousy night’s sleep. It is measured in destroyed organs, the inability to be with loved ones in their final moments, and, of course, death.

Whatever your feeling about needles, shots, and vaccines in general, I hope to see you in a COVID-19 vaccine line sometime, somewhere soon.

Stay Calm…And Vote!

We are only a few days from the Presidential election in the U.S. Joe Biden has a stable lead over Donald Trump that is outside the margin of error (which is very good thing for those of us who have had enough of Trump and Trumpism). However, we need to stay steady in our resolve to vote and get others to vote who are similarly tired of the way things are under Trump. Yesterday a friend in the U.S. sent me this comment from Facebook made by a Canadian: “Living just North of the United States these last four years has been like living in an apartment above a meth lab.” Well said, eh?

These last few days are going to be tough. We are going to hear a lot of different things on the news and via social media. Some of it is going to make us smile, some of it will enrage us, some of it will make us cry…in other words, it is going the same as every other day since November 8, 2016. Okay, maybe they will be a little tougher because the collective anxiety of the country is rising.

Nate Silver, the data nerd behind the polling website FiveThirtyEight. wrote a really excellent blog piece this last week titled 8 Tips to Stay Sane in the Final 15 Days of the Campaign. Take a look at his blog and breathe a bit easier…but do not stop voting, campaigning, calling, encouraging, and gently pushing others to vote as well. I will not go into the details of how FiveThirtyEight calculates everthing but there are two things I want to highlight.

First, Silver and his cohort of other data nerds run 40,000 computer simulations on possible outcomes of the Presidential Election. In 88% of those, Biden wins.

Second, FiveThirtyEight continuously calculates the average of polls in the U.S. so when you see, for example, that Biden is leading Trump by 9.7%, that is an average of those polls. Now, it is also important to note that FiveThirtyEight has assessed the polls for bias, rigor, method, etc., etc. When you filter the polls, you find those that have a C or higher grade, actually give Biden a larger lead.

Silver’s blog is really interesting because he explains some of this in greater detail. He also cautions, though, that there are limits to statistcal modeling. This means that while Trump has only a 13% chance of winning, he only needed a 30% chance of winning in 2016 to pull it off.

So, let’s stay calm AND let’s keep focused on finishing strong!


In Other News…well, COVID-19 News Anyway

Last week we hit new daily high in the number of COVID-19 cases. We are nearly back up to the same level of confirmed infections as we were in the height of the pandemic in the Spring.

We learning that something now in the U.S. that we learned last March from Masks4All – masks work. Recent research is showing there is a correlation between the number of people who report wearing masks and the number of people who know someone COVID-19 symptoms by geography. Check out the striking graphic within the article. Those who are less inclined to wear masks know more people with COVID-19 symptoms.

Over time, we learn more about the Coronavirus. Sometimes we forget its full name, right? It is the NOVEL Coronavirus which means we never saw it before, had no best practices related to it, and have to learn about it as we go. So, as a result what we know today may be different from what we new yesterday. So, remember how the medical experts have been saying that social interaction with someone who is a carrier of the virus should be less than 15 minutes? Turns out that is 15 minutes over a 24 hour period…not 15 minutes, then take a bathroom break, then 15 minutes more.

In a bit of good news, turns out a 14-year-old may have discovered a potential COVID-19 treatment at home...in her free time…while sheltering in place. Sure makes me feel like I’ve a sloth during the pandemic.


In Other Scary News…

Trump now has the ability to replace civil servants with loyalists. Does this mean Dr. Anthony Fauci is about to be terminated? Stand by!


In Other Infuriating News…

Just as I was putting this blog to bed I got a text from a good friend from my native state of Iowa. He and his spouse tested positive for COVID-19 today and both are showing symptoms. By age and underlying health conditions, both were at risk for contracting the virus and now both are at risk of complications.

The couple has done everything they can do to avoid infection…masking up, social distancing, and even staying away from community activities, including their church where they have been been very active. We are talking very small town Iowa here. Community and church activities are nearly unavoidable but they have been avoiding them when possible, and when it wasn’t, masking and distancing on their own. They were also trying to shelter in place until the derecho that blew threw Iowa in late Summer destroyed their home. They have been in the process of rebuilding it but they have been camping out at a borrowed home in the area.

How could this happen?!? Because Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds is an idiot and has been in lockstep with the Grand Master of Idiots from day one. Add to that, too many people in Iowa who have been following her idiotic lead by not masking up or keeping distance. Just as the legacy of Trump will be the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans, Reynolds legacy will be the deaths of thousands of Iowans.

Four months ago, while my adopted home state of Maryland was struggling to breathe under the weight of COVID-19, Iowa was still largley untouched. Today, according to the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 tracker, Iowa is now catching up. There are over 117,000 confirmed cases in Iowa (not counting my two friends yet) to Maryland’s 141,000+. In terms of deaths, Maryland has registered 4,100+ deaths to Iowa’s 1600+ but it may be only a matter of time.

That’s what it was back in May when COVID-19 was pummeling Maryland and it was still “fake news” to Governor Reynolds…no, wait, it is STILL “fake news” to her because it is to the Grand Master Idiot as well.

Tonight I’m angry that my friends are sick. I’m worried sick about them. This did not have to be! They did the right things, so how did it happen? Because there is a pervasive fallacy that masking protects the wearer. That’s not even half true. In reality, masking protects everyone from you and from me! You and I cannot know for sure that we are not asymptomatic carriers.

Wearing a mask, keeping distance, and washing hands is an act of compassion and caring. It shows our character, our values, and our true patriotism because we understand that, really, we are all in this together. Is that too much to ask? Or is idiocy preferred? We’ll know soon enough now.


Beau of the Fifth Column

My friend K.D. introduced me to Beau’s YouTube talks. I’ve watch several now and I must say, I’m pretty impressed. A pretty thoughtful guy though I don’t think Beau and I would agree about everything. Still, I think I could have a very interesting, useful, and respectful conversation with him. With the holidays and family gatherings coming up – hopefully more virtual than in person, please – Beau’s got some pretty solid advice in this video. Check it out!


The View from Jeff

Jeff continues to align his drawings this month with prompts from Inktober.

Jeff Explains: Todays prompt is “Radio” and it made me think of the boombox in the dressing room of my Bantam A hockey team – the Regina Pythons.

With Appreciation

This week we watched the 33rd Hispanic Heritage Awards on PBS. I usually avoid award shows like…well…the coronavirus. However, being married to a proud Colombian who has made amazing contributions to her adopted country, it seemed appropriate (and wise) to set aside my disdain for award shows and tune in. Besides, it was only an hour long. Any award show, no matter how bad, can usually be endured for sixty minutes.

This year the awards went to Jessica Alba, Selena Gomez, Bad Bunny, Linda Rondstadt, and the majority of the 3 million farmworkers who are Hispanic and Latino who have continued to put food on our tables during the pandemic. There was also a powerful tribute to John Lewis whose work in civil rights also benefitted Latinos and Hispanics. I was moved by the rendition of the National Anthem performed by the all women’s mariachi group Flor de Toloache, whos NPR Tiny Desk Concert you can see below.

The tribute to farm workers was powerful. It was also a humbling reminder of the privilege I enjoy, even at those times when I feel under appreciated and overlooked for everything I think I do.

The tribute to Linda Ronstadt was one of my favorite segments because I have always been a fan of her music and because the tribute featured one of my favorite music groups, The Mavericks, performing several of her hits with various female singers in the lead. Ronstadt no longer performs due to progress supranuclear palsy. The video below features The Mavericks but it is not a Linda Ronstadt song. It is my favorite song by the group and it is an amazing song to dance to to (yes, it is a cha cha…kind of a fast cha cha, but great fun!).

I feel appreciative today after watching the show. If you have about 55 minutes, I recommend you watch the Hispanic Heritage Awards. I think it will inspire you and remind you, as it did me, how much richer and better we are as a country because of those who have come here (as my ancestors did in the late 1800’s) believing in the promise of the United States of America.


Mostly Speechless

Was that a debate?

Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis.

“Road trip” to wave to his fans outside the hospital in Bethesda.

Weird photo op on his return to the White House (yes, he was breathing heavily after climbing the steps…because he is still sick!).

Clueless.

Desperate.

Idiot.

One last thing…here is something you may have missed in the news. It is footage of Trump and a couple of his advisors engaging with some of the people outside the White House to witness his return from the hospital. Really, it is worth the two minutes it takes to watch it.


The View from Jeff

Jeff Logan is celebrating Inktober, which is really lucky for us! During Inktober artists commit to doing a drawing each day of the month based on a prompt. Today features of Jeff’s Inktober drawings based on the prompt, “Bulky.” You can follow Jeff throughout Inktober at his Instagram page.

Jeff explains: Next day of Inktober drawing prompts. Today’s word is Bulky. Made me think that the weather is nice but winter is coming … and with it winter coats!

What Trump Knew and When He Knew It

What did Trump know about the Coronavirus? It was the biggest national security threat of his presidency and far worse than anyone imagined.

When did he know it? January 28, 2020

Why did he not speak up then?

“I wanted to always play it down,” Mr. Trump told Mr. Woodward on March 19. “I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.”

The New York Times, September 9, 2020

When did Trump finally speak the truth about the virus to the American people, including all of those who have pinned their hope on him? Today is September 10, 2020 and we are still waiting.

I had only one nerve left and Trump has finally gotten on it. That’s all I can handle today. More over the weekend.

In the meantime, in case you run into Trump in the grocery store…


“Hopefully it Won’t Take Terribly Long”

The U.S. political conventions are as inescapable as the pandemic for two weeks. We are halfway through. The Democratic Party had its convention virtually and the Republican Party is having its virusly…I mean…not quite virtually. The GOP, at Trump’s urging and likely insistence, is still bringing together about 500 people (over 300 of which are delegates) in Charlotte, North Carolina the first few days of its convention.

Not to worry though. The GOP is requiring masks, testing, physical distancing, and bluetooth technology to track delegates’ movements. That’s right. The GOP, which has many members who are all about individual rights all the time, will have to submit to wearing a badge that allows them to be monitored 24/7 while at the convention. Gee, I do not remember wearing a tracking device to attend the Democratic convention last week. I do not even have an Alexa to watch over me and I am even careful to avoid saying “Hey Google!” anywhere near my phone.

Even Steve Scheffler, a Republican delegate from Iowa and president of the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition, has to wear a tracking badge though, as he told NPR Morning Edition Saturday today, he is not very happy about it. He said he would follow the rules because that is what they need to do to get Trump renominated (not really, as the Democrats effectively demonstrated last week). However, he also said, “But I don’t like where this might be going down the road. Maybe mandatory masks today, maybe mandatory vaccines tomorrow.” So I guess you still do not wear a seat belt, Steve?

Amid all these precautions the Charlotte Observer is reporting one tiny, little flaw in the GOP plan:

Quick-turnaround testing for coronavirus is in place for the convention but results won’t be immediately publicly-disclosed, officials said Friday. After the event is over, an “after-action” report will be released but the timing of that is unclear.

County Public Health Director Gibbie Harris said Friday: “Hopefully it won’t take terribly long” to release the report. Additionally, the county’s regular release of COVID-19 case data may later show whether the large event affected Mecklenburg’s recent positive trends. Health leaders have said it can take up to two weeks for local data to reflect such an impact.

Hanna Smoot & Alison Kuznitz, August 21, 2020, The Charlotte Observer, retrieved from: https://www.charlotteobserver.com/article245107450.html

Thank you, Gibbie Harris, for writing the epitaph for every person who dies of COVID-19 in the United States under Trump’s watch: “Hopefully it won’t take terribly long.”

I am wondering…at what point do QAnon and the other Tinfoil Hatters wake up and realize what Kathryn Olmsted so eloquently states in the last line of her book, Real Enemies:

If antigovernment conspiracy theorists get the details wrong – and they often do – they get the basic issue right: it is the secret actions of the government that are the real enemies of democracy.

Kathryn S. Olmsted, Real Enemies: Conspiracy Theories and American Democracy, World War I to 9/11, p. 240.

Every government has secrets it tries to cover up. Yet the Trump administration appears to traffic (as in a “rush hour”) in secrets and covert plans to benefit Trump, his family, and his allies. Most cleverly it uses conspiracy theories to cover it’s own actual conspiracies…and it seems to be working, at least for the QAnon and Tinfoil Hat crowd.

“Now wait just a dang a minute, Tom, that sounds like your own Tinfoil Hat conspiracy theory.” Frankly, I would agree except that even the recently released Republican majority Senate Intelligence Committee report on the 2016 election revealed some of those Trump conspiracies.

I am not a fan of any political convention. I was a delegate for my precinct in Iowa many years ago and was supposed to go to the county convention but found a way out so my alternate would have to go. What a relief! Even small political conventions are a turn off to me. I still watch them out of a sense of civic duty but I do so distractedly – while muti-tasking.

However curiosity got the best of me last week and I wanted to see how the Democratic Party would do a virtual convention. Since it was only for two hours each night I decided to sit down in front of the television on Monday night and actually watch the convention. I got hooked. I watched all four nights of the convention and mostly loved it.

Why? For this reason: “We the People” who were featured throughout the event. There were times, of course, when we had to put up with the “party elite” making their speeches and some sounded like they were still campaigning. Amy Klobuchar was the worst offender and I had way too much of her at the convention. I understand, though, that each of the Democratic candidates had to have their consolation-prize-moment on stage.

Still, “We the People” stole the show. From the opening National Anthem (one of the most emotionally powerful performances I have ever seen) to Brayden Harrington just moments before Joe Biden spoke to accept the nomination on Thursday night. I absolutely loved the images and voices of “We the People” throughout the United States and its territories.

My very favorite part was the roll call vote from all the states and territories. I wondered how the Democratic Party would pull that off. It was a tour of all states and territories through video as delegates delivered their votes for the last two standing candidates – Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders. We saw U.S. citizens and delegates from the Northern Mariana Islands in the West to Puerto Rico in the East, from Alaska in the North and Texas in the South. Often the delegates were standing before iconic images in their states or territories, such as Diamond Head in Hawai`i.

Despite a few technical challenges and awkward pauses, the Democratic Party did an extraordinary job taking their convention fully virtual. In fact, they may have redefined how future conventions will look. The participation of “We the People” overcame the technical glitches, snafus, and the energy of a live audience. It is difficult to imagine how the GOP can have a better convention.

There is one thing the Democratic Party was able to do that the GOP cannot in 2020: include the images and voices of former Democratic presidents. Every living former Democratic president was involved in the convention to give their support to Joe Biden. Even some whose legacies have been tarnished by questions of character, such as Bill Clinton.

However, there is not a single living former Republican president, or presidential nominee, who is likely to appear to support Trump next week. There is a profound message communicated by their absence that the GOP needs to receive.

The worst part of the Democratic Party convention was the coverage provided by the PBS Newshour which I was forced to watch on the last night. It was not only bad, it was so bad that even the Newshour’s anchor, Judy Woodruff, acknowledged it on air last night (Friday, August 21). It pains me to report this because I am a fan and supporter of PBS. They had way too many talking heads and analysts (one that was far more biased than PBS usually tolerates) and they just would not shut up. PBS kept cutting away from the convention to give us more of their commentators and analysts. Even CNN did not cut away except for at the top of each hour for the obligatory commercial breaks. Frankly, CSPAN was the best place to watch the convention as it seemed to be simply a direct feed with no commentary.

Thursday was especially painful because both internet and cable were out at our house. The only station carrying the convention we could get over the air was PBS. We were stuck. The PBS coverage was so inadequate I decided to take Dolly for a walk to calm my inclination to drop the televison off our balcony.

How bad was it? It was so bad I began to mutter Gibbie’s epitaph. Given how things have gone the past three and a half years, I suspect I will begin to mutter it midway through the first night of coverage of the GOP convention – even if I watch it on CSPAN.


The View From Jeff

Jeff explains: Coming this fall to a theatre near you…

Chickenman – Episode 94 – Only 3 Left!

It is election day in Midland City and Benton Harbor (the former Winged Warrior) is on the ballot for the Police Commissioner’s job.


When Is It Worth the Risk?

check out “american rehab”

Reveal is a podcast from the Center for Investigative Reporting. Until recently the podcast has featured only free-standing, individual episodes. I have found them to be interesting. Often I have been left wanting even more information.

Last Winter and Spring Reveal was slated to offer its first-of-a-kind series but it was delayed until the Summer due to the pandemic. Last week I just finished listening to the eight-episode series American Rehab. It was one of the most compelling podcast series I have ever heard. It was the culmination of a three year investigation into the drug and alcohol rehabilitation movement started by Synanon and its larger, more powerful offshoot Cenikor.

My interest in the topic is both personal and professional. Professionally, my master’s degree is in mental health counseling with a specialty in addictive and compulsive disorder treatment using group therapy modality. Personally, I’ve been through a treatment experience which used some of the same techniques as Synanon and Centikor, hence my interest. My treatment experience was related to a diagnosis of co-dependency, not to alcohol and chemical addiction, as the adult child of an alcoholic. Co-dependency is a common issue for people who grow up in alcoholic and drug addicted families as I did. I’m not revealing any new truth here, by the way. I’ve written extensively about the experience in at least one book I published in the late 1980s, in various trade articles, and in this blog fairly recently.

My treatment experience included something similar to what is decribed in the podcast as the Synanon Game or what has also been called “verbal attack therapy.” To be clear, though, my experience was not as intense as that which is described in the American Rehab podcast, but it was not the most pleasant thing either.

What I found particularly interesting, though, was the last episode, which was finished in the midst of the pandemic. It brought together the Trump administration’s mishandling of the pandemic with America’s opioid epidemic in a most compelling way.

The reason Reveal decided to investigate Synanon and its prodigy in the rehab world because of the sketchy origin of the practices that are still used, including the use of work without pay. You will be surprised by the well-known recovery programs and institutions that use some of the horrific Synanon-inspired practices including work without pay, which is, in fact, a form of slavery. Even more, you will be shocked to learn of several of the major U.S. corporations that get free laborers from Centikor and other Synanon-inspired rehab groups.

On the Reveal website you can find resources from the American Rehab series worthy of a closer look. One is a database of rehab groups around the country that use Synanon inspired strategies, including forced work without pay. You can search by state. I was surprised by what I found in my home state of Iowa.

Even if you are not a podcast fan, I think you will find American Rehab to be one you cannot put down until the end.


when is it worthwhile to risk contracting covid-19?

As the presidential election draws near amid the many voter suppression tactics being undertaken by Trump (denegration of mail-in voting; attempts to further weaken the U.S. postal service; etc.), I have been wondering what to do about voting.

In Maryland we can request an absentee ballot and vote by mail. We also have early voting, from October 22 to October 29, 2020. Our polling place is only a half-mile from where we live. It is in a Senior Center that undoubtedly will be using many protocols to protect people given so many voters there will be older and, therefore, at high risk for contracting COVID-19. So we have options.

Still, the option of in-person voting still has a greater risk. That brings me to my first reflective question: What is my tolerance for risk when it comes to COVID-19? Clemencia and I have been doing a good job of self-isolating since mid-March. Our social life has not suffered much because we stay in touch with people through our work on Zoom and we also meet with friends and family via Zoom regularly. The only thing that has been missing is ballroom dancing. Well, for me, golf too.

There is a second question that follows the tolerance question: Are there any circumstances that would cause me to take the risk of exposure to COVID-19? In fact, there are several. However, they are all circumstances over which I have no control…such as a fire or medical emergency or natural disaster impacting me or a family member.

When it comes to circumstances over which I do have control, there is only one that would compell me to take the risk: If it is the only way I could vote my conscience to preserve a liberal democracy in November. (You may find it interesting to also look up “illiberal democracy,” by the way, because that is what we are dealing with in our country today.)

What about you? What do you feel so strong about that it would move you to risk COVID-19 infection?


with appreciation…

A friend and frequent reader from Hawai`i, Judy Clark, shared some resources from One Shared Future for self-care in the midst of this pandemic. Hawai`i had done a very good job of managing the pandemic in its early stages but now, like many other states, is succumbing to the impact of COVID-19. These resources are well-appreciated in the Islands and I hope those of us on the mainland find them useful was well.

Also, Judy sent me a brief interview she did for a local televions feature, Island Focus. She does a really nice job of articulating the value of nonprofit organizations and youth involvement, especially during this pandemic. If you are a nonprofit leader you may find some her framing useful as well.

Thanks for both of these, Judy!


chickenman – episode 89 – Only 9 Left!

Chickenman is being bested by the Very Diabolical armed with a bowl of lumpy oatmeal.


M.I.A. and at the 19th Hole

A BLM Protester & KKK Member went to a BBQ…

No, that’s actually NOT the opening line of a weird joke. It almost happened this past weekend in Zinc, Arkansas. A group of Black Lives Matter protesters showed up in Zinc to protest near the home of Thomas Robb, the National Director of the Ku Klux Klan. The protesters were met by locals with guns. Police, however, were present to ensure protesters and locals kept the peace and, apparently, they did. This link to an article at Daily Mail.co.uk features a number of photos taken during the encounter in Zinc.

The BLM protesters said they wanted to open a dialogue with local people and, as the photos show, there was some success. The protesters also brought BBQ and all the trimmings with them. They invited everyone and anyone to lunch but it is not clear that any of the locals did.

I liked what the BLM protesters were trying to do and I hope they continue these kinds of tactics throughout the country. Some of my research has focused on the issue of intractable ideological conflict on highly sensitive issues.

Copyright 2013 by Thomas W. Klaus – LEADING IN CONFLICT: INSTITUTIONALIZING CONFLICT THOUGH LEANING RELUCTANTLY INTO THE FIGHT

The model above comes out my research into intractable conflict and represents how some conflict tends to become never ending. In an intractable conflict we may feel so worn out from previous battles that we don’t feel we can fight any more and, in fact, we don’t want to fight anymore. Then a new battle in the conflict emerges and at some point we feel we’ve got to enter the fight. Soon enough, the “gloves come off” and we are in it to win it. However, as happens in intractable conflict, the combatants exhaust one another and both eventually get to their corners only to vow again, “I can’t fight anymore.”

Racism is one of many ideological conflicts we see in American culture and society that is seemingly intractable and never ending. Just as the infinity loop indicates above, it is an iterative conflict until we find the courage to break the cycle. The ability to engage in genuine dialogue is key to getting us out of the loop. Dialogue is not discussion, debate, chatting, or negotiating common ground. It is suspending our words and first impressions, listening, hearing, and finally speaking with respect and understanding.

Kudos to those BLM protesters and Zinc locals who were able to engage in dialogue! Keep going!


POTUS M.I.A.

One of the most disturbing pieces of news over the weekend came from a surprising source – Dr. Deborah Birx. She is the woman with the scarves who would stand with Dr. Anthony Fauci behind Trump during the infamous Coronavirus Updates. She was often thought to be grimacing at the mis-information being provided by Trump yet she rarely contradicted him.

This weekend Dr. Birx told CNN the virus was now “extraordinarily widespread.” With these two words Dr. Birx confirmed the same thing Dr. Fauci has been trying to tell us for quite sometime and something we’ve known instinctively but did not want to admit: we are in deep, deep doo doo.

Trump did not like this very much. In fact, he Tweeted that he thought Birx had been influenced by criticism of her from Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

So what is the President of the United States (POTUS) doing about the pandemic? Fortunately, he is on the front lines of protecting America’s golf courses, especially those that bear his name.

Trump Golf Count is a website that tracks whenever Trump takes time to play golf since his inauguration. So far, including those few times when he went to a golf course but might not have played, it is 268 as of August 2, 2020. In fact, this past weekend, he played on both Saturday and Sunday at his course in Potomac Falls, Virginia.

Now, I’m a golfer and I love to play, so I do not fault any golfer for taking any opportunity he or she can to hit the links, including Trump. However, 268 times in the approximately 1,277 days he’s been in office? Seriously, that means nearly 21% of those days have been spent on the golf course. Doesn’t that seem a bit excessive…given:

  1. Trump was so critical of President Obama for golfing too much (it is estimated that Trump plays, on average, 91 rounds per year as president while Obama’s average was less than half that at 42 rounds per year);
  2. It has cost American taxpayers more or less than $138,000,000 at a time when our economy is, at best, struggling; many people have lost or are losing their jobs; and a growing number of people have to scramble just to have enough to eat;
  3. Trumps latest golf outings both came on the same days that Congressional representatives and “White House officials” (which suggests to me one of them might actually be Trump, but nope, it isn’t) were in negotiations on a new pandemic relief package that has stalemated; and,
  4. Worst of all, we are in the midst of a pandemic that has now killed more 150,000 Americans and is likely to kill more than 200,000 by the election in November.

Fortunately, Mr. Trump’s heel spurs have not prevented him from fighting the good fight on our behalf on America’s…well, HIS…golf courses. Thank you, Mr. President! Have another Diet Coke, on us as always, at the 19th Hole, please.

Why is Donald Trump M.I.A. on COVID-19? After reading Mary Trump’s book I have a theory and it is quite simple: It is because Trump never developed the competencies he claims and he is in way over his head. Look, I didn’t say it was going to be an earth-shattering, innovative theory, only a simple one.

Trump’s father, Fred Trump, had those competencies, but Donald Trump does not. Donald Trump became expert at spending money, making bad business decisions, going bankrupt, and getting his father to bail him out and cover up his missteps. Add to these that Trump never really worked for anyone but his father and we can begin to understand why Trump prefers to hide out on a golf course than face the responsibilities of the office he holds. Fred Trump knew the “art of the deal” but Donald only knew the art of getting bailed out of trouble. Like Nero, infamous for fiddling while Rome burned, Trump is puttering about in luxury, enriching his own golf courses with Americans’ taxes, while those same Americans die.


For Your Consideration

If you’ve ever wondered how the myth of Donald Trump came to be, you’ll find this 18-minute segment from The New Yorker Radio Hour to be quite informative. It describes how the guy who gave us “Survivor” also gave us “The Apprentice” and made Donald Trump appear far more competent than he has proven to be, especially under pressure. Listen to An Insider from “The Apprentice” on How the Show Made Donald Trump.

Trump, Inc. is a podcast from WNYC and ProPublica which has been doing in-depth, investigative reporting on Trump, his family, and members of his administration. The project began in 2018 and I listened through what I thought was the full series as I found the episodes very informative and very interesting. In revisiting the website today I learned the podcast has continued up to the present time. Time to put in my earbuds!


chickenman – episode 87

Chickenman finally confronts the Very Diabolical.


July 21, 2020 – An Audience of One

minimalist strategy planning

Last week I had to turn down a potential client who wanted me to lead a strategic planning process. It’s not that I didn’t like the client or that I’m work adverse. It just didn’t feel right ethically.

A strategy plan is developed in relationship to the context in which an organization or group exists and functions. In fact, the strategy is all about how to negotiate the context or environment to ensure organizational effectiveness, sustainability, or overall success. A strategy plan, which usually is a multi-year plan, is dependent on the context being reasonably stable. It assumes the context will be mostly stable throughout the lifetime of the plan. Traumatic disruptions do occur, of course, often in the form of an immediate crisis that occurs and then passes in a matter of weeks. Even then it may be necessary to put the plan on pause or make some adjustments to it.

What if, though, the context is unsettled, unstable, and uncertain? You know, like in the midst of a raging pandemic that seems to have no end in sight? That makes strategy planning nearly impossible. To begin a contract to lead a strategy planning process in the current environment is not only unethical, it would be a nightmare to do. Until the context and environment settles into some time of regular routine (note, I did not say “normal”) again, I’m encouraging my clients to avoid long-range strategy planning.

However, we want to be able to plan. Plus, our understanding of “best practices” for organizational development have conditioned us to have a strategic plan in place…whether we pay attention to it or not, right? (By the way, there was a fascinating segment from On The Media last weekend about “shifting baselines” that relates to this post and is quite interesting and worth a few minutes of your time.)

The alternative is what I call, for a lack of a better term, “minimalist strategy planning.” It sounds fancy, eh? In fact, it is really just the practice of adaptive leadership but, sometimes, folks just need to hear the words they expect to hear.

Early in our pandemic year (back in April which seems a long time ago now), I worked with several colleagues on putting together some resources for nonprofits. The resources were anchored in adaptive leadership. You can access that series, Leading in Crisis, Part 1 and Part 2, at this top of the page titled Work in the Time of COVID-19 on this website and by just clicking on the previous link.

We created those resources believing they would be obsolete within weeks as we all went back to our “normal” lives with the passing of the pandemic. Now, three months later, I am seeing the resources still offer relevant, solid advice for negotiating the future. They allow us to practice “minimalist strategy planning” as we feel our way through these current times.


an audience of one

I’ve been reading Mary L. Trump’s book on her famous, powerful uncle, Donald Trump, over the past few days. It is a fascinating insider’s view of the Trump family, particularly Donald. What makes it quite powerful is that, by virtue of her training as a clinical psychologist, Mary Trump is able to also write the book from a unique professional perspective.

By the way, in case you were wondering, Mary Trump does not diagnose her uncle. She does suggest the possible diagnoses from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual that could explain his behavior, but she stops short of making a diagnosis.

Though I’m still working my way through the book, the one idea that sticks with me is the degree to which Donald Trump has played, throughout his life, to an audience of one: his father, Fred Trump, Sr. Have you ever noticed, in pictures of Trump in the Oval Office, that a picture of his father sits on the credenza behind him? It is as if he is looking over his shoulder…as he seems to have done in life, from the time of Donald’s birth.

This is a point at which I have some empathy for Donald Trump because I have also played to an audience of one for most of my life. In my case, that one person was my mother. It took me until I was over 50 years old and she was 88 years old that I was finally able to exit her theater. Until that moment the sub-plot of my life was to find a way to win her approval and her love. If she ever felt any of these, she did not express them to me. To the best of my knowledge, I don’t know that she ever expressed them to my sisters either.

Many people have an audience of one they are playing to. It is far more common than we’d like to admit in a culture that worships at the altar of bootstrapism – usually described in terms such as self-efficacy, self-sufficiency, autonomy, and independence. Without help we give away our lives in the pursuit of something we will never get from that one audience member. Our desire to play that part in the hope of even a little applause can drive us to other and self-destruction. The stage lighting blinds us making it difficult, if not impossible, to see that we are responsible for our actions in the play by virtue of our choice stay on stage, in the theater, and pursue the approval of the one.

In truth, we are all responsible for ourselves – our actions, our beliefs, our attitutdes – regardless of who is in the audience and what their approval means to us. Hence, I feel empathy for Donald Trump but he is still responsible for managing it in a way that is healthy for himself, his family, and the country that he has been entrusted to steward.

This last weekend Donald Trump sat for an interview with Chris Wallace of Fox News. Kudos to Chris Wallace for a very powerful and revealing interview. I have been watching or listening to him recently on his Sunday morning interview show and have been increasingly impressed with this skills as an interviewer and competency as a journalist.

As I watched the interview this morning I was very aware of Trump’s audience of one. I’m convinced he does not share that same awareness. I’ve put a link to the interview below. It is approximately 40 minutes in the length and it is well worth the time to watch it. Be mindful who Donald Trump’s audience really is -it’s not his base, contrary to what he and many pundits believe. It is his father whose disapproval he has feared more than anything in his life. It is Donald Trump’s refusal – or inability – to get off the stage that Fred Trump, Sr. built, where he is continuously playing to his father, that makes him so very dangerous to all of us in this moment.


chickenman – episode 82

The Masked Maternal Marauder (Chickenman’s mother) has to step in for him while he continues his flight across the Atlantic.


the view from jeff

Jeff explains: With the return of professional hockey I am afraid that I may strain some unused cheering muscles!! I will need to enter in slowly with low stakes cheering – maybe one of the eastern playoff games first.
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