The big question for Trump is “WHY?”

By George Smith

WHY?

It’s the start of a question psychologists will tell you not to ask unless you want to put the person to whom the question is directed into a defensive posture.

Fair enough.

But, president Donald J. Trump and members of his administration have taken actions for the past two-plus years that require…no, demand!…the “Why?” question.

WHY:

  • Did Trump promise to drain the swamp then appoint unqualified ultra-wealthy people and industry lobbyists (all who donated generously to his campaign) to cabinet positions?
  • Has the president not released his tax records as every other president has done for the past several decades? (And it has nothing to do with any pending audits, as clarified by the Internal Revenue Service.)
  • Is the administration so gung-ho to supply Saudi Arabia with nuclear technology and weapons after that country brutally killed two resident Americans?
  • Did the president’s son-in-law use a common smartphone app in violation of federal regulations to have backdoor conversations with the brutal Saudi prince directly connected to those murders?
  • Does the president stoop to name-calling and shape-shaming rather than conduct himself as a global diplomat and leader of a major global power?
  • Does he engage in the seemingly constant habit of making undeveloped and often hair-brained ideas public and official via tweet that affects government officials and agencies and millions of Americans?
  • Has this administration had more turnover in key positions, from White House staff to cabinet posts, in 29 months than any president has in four years, and most presidents have in two terms?
  • Is the president so enamored with dictators and despots, calling leaders of Russia and China “strong” when those regimes are on record as participating in inhumane treatment of opponents and journalists, including imprisonment and murder?
  • Does the president lie daily, knowing his every word is chronicled and can be easily checked?
  • Are his followers so easily duped by his persona, buying his lies like they come from the lips of a god, rather than from a flim-flam man with a long history of embellishments and falsehoods in business and in life?
  • Do evangelicals praise him a man of faith when he is not religious in the slightest, believes in money and power over all things, has lived a life that is stark contrast to biblical teachings, is a philanderer, adulterer, cheat, fraud…add your own descriptive phases here.
  • Does the president turn his head when one of his chosen cabinet members misuse  public money to create an empirical environment for themselves and then blows up when anyone disagrees with him on any decision?
  • Make a pretense of being a hard-working president when he spends more time in “executive time” (watching TV and watching more TV) and playing golf than any president, including Obama, who Trump berated for playing too much golf.
  • Are millions of tax dollars used to enable Trump’s golfing habits and public money spent at Trump-owned resorts and golf clubs around the country and in Europe?
  • Would Trump embarrass himself and the nation by calling American Meghan Markle, newest member of the royal family, “nasty” at the beginning of the official visit to England, and then deny saying it even it was recorded?
  • Is the president so anti-immigrant? He is a second-generation immigrant; he has married two immigrants; he recently had his in-laws brought to America via the “chain migration” policy, which he is on record as thinking it “abhorrent.”
  • Has the president never commented at length on the separation of families of immigrants seeking asylum in the United States?
  • Did the administration recently announced an end to legal aid and English classes for migrant children in U.S. detention centers?
  • Did the president campaign on lowering the deficit and then advocate programs that immediately increased the debt by $2 trillion?
  • Would a tax cut the president promoted as “costing the wealthy a lot of money” do exactly the opposite and save the nation’s  biggest companies and richest one percent of Americans billions in taxes overall with no explanation from the administration?
  • Would the president excuse his bone spurs deferment during the Vietnam War by saying in his official capacity he is bolstering the military through funding increases?
  • Are there no penalties for the fraud charges which resulted in the shuttering of Trump University and Trump Foundation (which was used as a personal piggy bank by Trump)?
  • Did the president end federal fetal tissue research when the material is collected mainly from the umbilical cord, and the research has shown amazingly positive results that could have helped thousands of citizens?

WHY?

There are many more questions and virtually no viable and believable answers have come from the administration.

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A NATION IN DECLINE

By Ron Munden  — 6 June 2019

“America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”
— President Abraham Lincoln

For the last 30 years I have said that the United States is a country in decline.  I thought that within 100 years that the U.S. would drop to a second-tier nation status like France and Italy.  I predicted the decline would happen because of our failing education system, the country always focusing on the short term rather than addressing long term problems.  Also, the decline in the moral fiber and the courage of our people.  I think my generation did not match up to “the greatest generation” and those generations that followed my generation have done no better.  Finally, the United States has become a nation driven by greed.

Let me carve out one group of Americans – our military personnel are the exception to the characteristics that I described above.  Unfortunately, the military is only about 10% of our population.  Not enough to carry the rest of us free loaders.

In the past couple of years, I have revised my outlook.  I think Abraham Lincoln’s prediction is correct and I think the country is on a 25-year fight plan to losing the freedoms we know today.  We might touch down sooner.

Several factors have accelerated the nations race to the bottom.  First the rapid increase in income inequality is increasing discontent and government leaders actively work to divide our citizens, not unite them. The nation’s lack of interest in climate change will introduce major stressors and instability throughout the world.

Recently in an interview one historical writer said the United States is in a war and the war is a civil war.  That comment is validated every time I take a look at social media or read anything that echoes how people feel.  Increasingly I find myself being drawn on the battlefield even though I know that it is a battle that no one will win.

We are quickly becoming a nation of hate and discontent. 

At some point those in charge will have to make a decision:

  1.  Let the nation disintegrate and break into parts or
  2.  Institute a totalitarian form of government — taking away many of the freedoms we know today in order to preserve order.

What will Happen?

In my opinion, the direction is clear.  The “money people” will not want to lose what they have and they will welcome a totalitarian form of government that preserves order.

It has been a good run for the country but things are about to change.  In the future the United States will move from a true democracy to a totalitarian body dressed in democratic outerwear.  The United States we know today will be gone.

This will happen weather you believe in global warming or not.  Not addressing climate change will just accelerate the rate of decline.

Footnote 1: While I do believe that Mr. T has wet dreams at night about becoming that totalitarian leader.  It will not happen.  He was born 15 or 20 years to early.

Footnote 2:  My son and I are the only remaining living members of my family.  He is in bad health and most likely I will outlive him.  The Munden clan will not be here in 20 years.  I’m glad.

Footnote 3:  Even though some other nations are beginning to spend money and other resources on addressing the world’s most pressing problem, the United States is not.  Since the United States is not being proactive, its failures will impact all nations so in 25 years every nation may find itself in decline.

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CHANGE IS IN THE AIR – MOBILIZE MARSHALL

By Ron Munden

By Ron Munden

I think many will agree that over the past 10 years I have written more critical articles about Marshall than anyone else.  I hope so because that has been my goal.

In 2006, I was appointed Project Manager for the Tourism Task force over the objection of then City Manager Frank Johnson.  This is the only time that I worked on a City project.  The entire experience was less than perfect but there was one incident that convinced me that I should not waste five minutes working with the City.

By 2007, the Task Force had selected a contractor and the contractor had provided the first deliverable.  They provided a list of 54 best practices that should be implemented in preparation of the detailed tourism plan that was the final deliverable.

I was confident that we could complete these 54 items during the 6 months that we would be waiting for the final plan.  Before returning to Marshall I had worked for the Department of Defense {DoD} for over 30 years and most of that time had successfully managed a variety of projects.  Based on that experience I wrote a web-based project management software package based on proven project management techniques.  The software provided tools for managing the implementation of each task and just as importantly it provided transparency so every citizen of Marshall with a web-browser could review the status to the project whenever they wanted.

I loaded the first set of data into the software so I could demonstrate it to the Task Force.  At the next meeting I provided the demo.

The software included all the standard project management date like:

. Item due date

. Item completion date

. Responsible organization

. Responsible person

. etc.

I was shocked at the response to the demo.  Assistant City Manager Janet Cook explained that was not the way that we did things in Marshall.  She explained that the city did not assign specific due dates. When Marshall developed a project plan, due dates would state, “to be completed in the 2nd quarter of next year.”  And most disturbing, I assigned responsibility for completing a task to a specific person.  The City would never do that.

Finally, she said that she thought we should sit back, take some deep breaths and do nothing until the contractor provided the final report because the contractor might change their minds on these 54 best practices during the next six months.

The Task Force voted.  All the city employees on the Task Force voted to do nothing.  A couple of hotel representatives on the task force agreed.  The other private sector representatives voted to proceed.  It was a split vote.  I decided not to push it.

In Ms. Cook’s brief three-minute description of how Marshall managed projects, she described a system that violated every project principle that I had been taught in my 32 years in DoD and my three years at Booz Allen Hamilton.

That was the day that I gave up on Marshall successfully completing any project.

The Task Force did nothing during the next six months.  On the night the final tourism plan was approved by the City Commission, the City Manager announced that he was abolishing the task force.  Using Marshall’s “breathe deep and do nothing” project management system, the City spent over $3 million dollars of Hotel Occupancy Tax money and accomplished nothing.

The City has used those same techniques during the last 10 years on the yet to be completed Memorial City Hall renovation project.

For over ten years I have felt that Marshall was hopeless.

But starting in 2019 I feel CHANGE IS IN THE AIR.

Saturday’s “Mobilize Marshall” meeting validated this feeling.

I think many strategic plans are as worthless as the paper they are printed on.  In Marshall’s case I would substitute “always” for “most.”  But that was the past — today I feel different. 

For the first time since I returned to Marshall, I heard magical words coming from a Marshall City Manager’s mouth.  Words like “accountability”, “measurement”, etc.

Also, based on my brief observations and conversation, I think that Marshall now has a City Manager with leadership skills and is a subject matter expert on managing a city.  I get the feeling that when he says something, he means it. A rare trait.

With the exception is the period Buzz Snyder was the interim city manager. In the 18 years that I have been in Marshall we have not had a city manager with leadership skills.  In that time none have had broad city management skills.

I think the new City Manager, Mark Rohr, can successfully lead the charge to “mobilize Marshall.”  History may prove me wrong, but I don’t think so.

Finally, based on conversations with key city employees, I think at least some bought into Mr. Rohr’s management style and are eager to follow his lead and improve Marshall.

Twelve years ago, I lost all hope that Marshall could ever succeed.  Today I think the stars have realigned and success is possible.

It is time for Marshall to reject the “breathe deep and do nothing” attitude.  As they say, “Lead, follow or get out of the way.”

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Beware of “opinion” writers

By George Smith

To an editor, publisher, columnist or investigative reporter, personal insults or fits of screaming heebie-jeebies by members of the public over something written cannot be taken to heart.

Those brave souls of print and electronic media have a job, an important job, to do. Period.

In more than 50 years of writing, typing and computering editorials, analyses and commentary on everything from the price of silver and how and why it effects everyday citizens to city council and county court faux pas, from instances of fraud or pure political bedevilment by elected officials to uncloaking crooked law enforcement officers, and from outing pot smokers and alcoholics in newspapers’ pressroom to teachers faking standardized test scores … the stories and follow-up opinion pieces must be written.

For many opinion writers, it’s a simple task to judge the public reaction of articles before they are written; after a time in the gossip-caldron around the coffee machine or café table, the majority of folks (even those who did not read the article) to form a “fir” or “agin” opinion.

There have been times when my fingers paused before pounding out a statement of opinion that I knew would not sit well with some friends, co-workers or family members. That poignant pause did not last long; I seemed to always “err” on being true to myself, rather than bow down to outside forces that hovered about.

I have always bound myself to the personal rule that nothing I write is intended to evoke support or choruses of Huzzah! from anyone, from readers to company executives; my opinions were my own and aimed at doing nothing but provide, hopefully, an environment of thought for someone…for anyone. And on the opposite side of the commentary spectrum, I have never written an article with the sole intent of upsetting any person or group, but did believe in advance that something I wrote would be upsetting to someone.

As an editor and/or publisher in myriad cities in four states, I have been a member of various civic clubs. Rotary, for the most part, was my preferred club because in many chapters the local movers-and-shakers are members; being a part of that group is a good way to keep abreast of any errant changes in a community’s business pulse.

Before I joined any Rotary Club, I made it clear that Rotary’s Four-Way Test created a problem for a member who peddled news and opinion for a living. The Four-Way Test, repeated at most clubs at every meeting, is:

  • Is it the TRUTH?
  • Is it FAIR to all concerned?
  • Will it build GOODWILL, and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS?
  • Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?

I had no problem with Nos. 1 and 2, but Nos. 3 and 4 sometimes got a little dicey for a newshound. For example, writing a story about a fellow Rotarian who is charged with embezzlement probably wouldn’t pass the “smell” test for the last two questions.

If what I wrote/write is TRUE and FAIR (meaning the facts are right and all known sides of an issue are given), that had to be a good enough standard of excellence for any published works, printed or electronic.

I can think of several hundred times when reporting on a story and a personal commentary let to unrelenting verbal abuse, even picketing and boycotting of the paper. On two occasions, I was physically assaulted because of an opinion column or an editorial.

Writing about unpleasant occurrences that one knows is going to cause heartache and emotional problems should never be taken lightly. Every effort must be taken to give both sides of any controversial news story (and, sometimes, there is only one side and at other times, multiple sides) and give equal treatment when appropriate.

Some readers do not see the difference in a news story and an opinion column or editorial; that is where a lot of misperception and anger enter into the situation.

A news story should be fair and balanced (not the Fox News “fair and balanced” type of presentation or the Al Sharpton one-issue programs) with information given to views/readers to allow them to dissect it and make up their own mind about relevance.

Opinion programming or stories are simply opinions tossed up in the air like wheat, often filled with pabulum-like fillers and buzzwords to give a one-sided perspective to an issue.

But stop and think: There’s nothing wrong with that, really. You have opinions, as do I and so does everyone else. Opinions are cheap to come by; many people form them after just overhearing a conversation or by reading a headline or hearing a one-sentence screed on talk radio or TV.

In the world of reputable opinion writers, opinions are the fruits of often-intensive research and examination and are intended to enlighten, inform, entertain and educate the audience.

Of course, there are those writers who simply want you to follow their ideology as presented without thought or research. They are the charlatans of the opinion world and are as deadly intellectually to their “flock” as are many evangelistic preachers who spend more time talking about money as they do about God.

Good writers? Bad writers? They are out there in droves. The hard part is figuring out which is which. But you can use the first two steps of Rotary’s Four-Way Test as a good starting point.

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Pedantic

By George Smith

That’s a word that describes Vice President Mike Pence perfectly and his view of what a Christian should be.

Well, that is just one word and one way of looking at America’s No. 2. A couple more would be “punctilious” and even “fussy.”

Pence is a walking, talking contradiction: He’s a relatively quiet man who seems content to literally stay in Trump’s shadow, but in an instant he chameleons into a showy, know-it-all when it comes to showcasing his individual brand of Christianity. 

His personal religious brand is a subdued, mis-directed version of the money-grubbing, televangelists: He doesn’t ask for money, he demands you believe the way he does about religion or your opinion does not count. 

Pence appears to professes he is at a level of  Christian belief that has risen above the fight of good vs. evil we mortals face daily. Yet he gives his unconditional loyalty to a man who is a serial adulterer, an admitted sex addict, an obnoxious, lying bully and who proudly confessed to be an abuser of women. 

Pence, a self-described  “man of God,” puts his pious self forefront on the dais of self-righteouness; he pulpit pounds his beliefs into those that are baptized in the tweeted fire and brimstone of the right-wing doctrine of The Honorable Donald J. Trump.

Pence wants folks to think of him as the conscientious adult in the administration. However, his desire is severely compromised by his obsession with pleasing Trump and garnering praises the president’s base (which he idolizes and shares his gilded feelings for his lord and master’s every belittling, demeaning, juvenile, policy-changing, official-firing, economic- or warfare-threatening tweet). 

Pence’s kowtowing to Trump’s every mind-numbing whim is like a third grader fawning over a charismatic but horribly unprepared teacher. In this case, however, the “teacher” is in the second grade.

What is Pence thinking? What keeps him from projective vomiting when he has to smile at Trump’s half-baked edicts and asinine executive orders which have no basis in reality or in the rule of law?

Is Pence automatically assuming that when Trump is no longer president, he will be the de facto leader of the Republican Party? If that is his thought process, he is committing political hari kari. 

Win or lose in 2020, Trump is not going anywhere. If he wins, he will be free to go from half-cocked on issues to three-quarters cocked. And by the end of his second term, voters will be so tired of the vaudevillian horseplay and slapdash policy-making  they would assuredly vote for anyone but a Trump accolyte.

If Trump loses next year, and that is certainly possible, he will not just ride into the sunset. The taste of enormous power handed to him by virtue of the office he holds has unleashed a Stephen King-caliber monster in this president and he will do whatever takes to stay in power and continue mining the l thought control tunnel he has dug into his base of millions.

Mark this down after this November 2020 headline appears: “Trump Loses Re-election Bid Bigly”: As ex-president he will buy a cable channel (DJT-TV) with news by, for, and with Donald J. Trump, 24/7.

He will continue to run the Republican Party from outside the party…you know, like he does now.

And Pence and Graham and other boot-licking GOPers will have to be content to make appearances on the by-then-almost-defunct Fox News Channel and get  one-minute interviews on the Rush Limbaugh Jr. radio show.

This era of American politics is not over and it won’t be until the fat man goes toe’s- up.

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And open letter to my conservative GOP friends and relatives

By George Smith

The conservative political persuasion of 2019 is not the same as it was 40 or so years ago.

In the early ‘70s there was a growing tide of opposition to another president and with many less indictments, guilty pleas and convictions in that administration, that president was forced from office before he was impeached and convicted by a bipartisan Congress.

The majority of congressional leaders from both parties in both houses of government put country first before politics, put the good of the nation before party labels, placed a much higher standard for ethical behavior by government officials than is now being experienced.

Ideology – political and personal — has ramped up since Richard M. Nixon was flat-out told by members of every congressional faction, and especially from his own party members, to resign or be the first president to be impeached, convicted and removed from office. Back in 1973-‘74, our leaders were proud to put country before partisan political thought-speak and election results that too often take a backseat to rule of law.

Plain and simple…those politicians were patriots, not toady posterior kissers looking for a favorable nod from a sycophantic egoist with a style of governing akin to Capt. Bligh barking orders on the best way to herd gerbils.

Back then, unlike now, it was a case of folks with common sense and a love of country selecting justice over personal and party political power.

It’s not too late for those who back President Trump, despite overwhelming evidence of his incompetence in key areas of operating a government in an even-handed, logical factions, taking into account past lessons and future expectations and needs to say “bah-bye” to his amateurish governmental meddling and obsessive need for affirmation from underlings and his unwavering base.

The S.S. Trump is not a ship on which one needs to hang his or her future. That ship is already in troubled and turbulent waters; its hull is ruptured in many places; the engines are stuck on “Full Speed Ahead and Damn the Reef”; its captain Twitter-addled and cannot find his moral or ethical compass he lost decades ago.

,

Your leader does not care about the future of the world, nor of this country’s place in it. “Personal gratification” is the only thing on his to-do list…and his millions of supporters are co-signers on his plans for the future of the United States.

Open letter to my liberal and independent friends, etc.:

This is not the time to gloat or scream to the rooftops, “I TOLD YOU SO!”

Take this time to contemplate what future you believe will best serve your children, grandchildren and future generations and convey those thoughts to those you love and respect turn positive thoughts to social media accounts that promote fairness in thought and words; write to the letters to the editor section of area newspapers.

Despite your personal feelings about the goings-on in government, it’s time for all to put animosity feelings aside and do what is right…for you, your family, friends, county and the world.

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