A few hard truths

In the land where entertainment and sports news get much more attention, a few hard truths need to be communicated. On the first Saturday of the new year, here are a few of those truths.

Our capable intelligence community is convinced with a high degree of certainty that Russian elements influenced the 2016 Presidential election and continue to sow seeds of discord to disrupt the US. This is a continuing attack on the US by a foreign entity that our President and this Congress have largely chosen to ignore. My suggestion is to ask your Congressperson, Senators and President what they plan on doing about it?

The US Tax Plan was passed to a lot of fanfare and chest beating under the guise of stimulating the economy, but it still needs a larger sales job on disbelieving Americans. Giving a lot of money to rich people and corporations is supposed to trickle down, yet do we need to add $1.5 trillion more to an increasing debt? Do we need to further stimulate an economy that has had 103 consecutive months of economic growth dating back to June, 2009? Do we need to stimulate an economy that just posted 2 million added jobs for the seventh year in a row, with a continuing run up of the US stock market? Nonpartisan economist groups have posed the same questions.

Let me get this straight, is the Republican Party for states rights or for federal rights? It seems to differ based on where the power lies. The White House has announced that 95% of coastal areas will be subject to offshore drilling to the dismay of governors who want to foster their tourism and fishing industries. Further, the Attorney General wants to crack down on states who are now selling regulated medical and retail marijuana changing an earlier Obama order to allow states to do this. Both of these decisions are getting heavy nonpartisan pushback from state leaders and it is my understanding the White House was asked not to do this.

Finally, the US continues to declare the cut in funding to countries that do not cooperate with us. This is not necessarily new, but we seem to be bullying others more and to what end? We are not the biggest funders to these places and China, India and Russia are easily picking up more influence as we decrease ours. The Pakistan PM basically said it is not a big deal if they lose US funding. The question to ask as we beat on our chest, is who are we trying to convince, the other country or a base of uninformed voters?

That is all I have for today. Unfortunately , the answers to these points can be summed up in one ugly word, “politics.” Have a great weekend and 2018. One thing is for certain is it will be interesting one.

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The biggest global risk to the west

Ian Bremmer, the President of the Eurasia Group and a CBS News Correspondent cited his group’s report on CBS This Morning regarding the greatest global risk. In essence, he said the number one risk is an emergent China filling the void being left by a retrenching US from the global leadership stage. Here is what Bremmer said in the interview about China.

“They  have the strongest leader in Xi Jinping they’ve had at least since Mao [Zedong]. And because the United States is America first, it’s transactional. It’s unilateral. It’s undermining a lot of alliances. You put those things together and suddenly you actually have a China that is willing to engage in what is increasingly a geopolitical vacuum,” Bremmer told “CBS This Morning” on Tuesday.

“In other words, this is the first time we’ve ever seen as U.S. leadership erodes, no one else has been standing up. Now the leader of China is saying we’re prepared to stand up whether it’s on climate or the global economy, you know, regional security, you name it, that’s a big change for the world.”

Bremmer cited an easy example. The US President said he is going to cut funding to Pakistan as they are not doing enough to combat terrorism. The sad truth is it really does not matter that much, as China supports Pakistan more than we do and will step up. I mentioned in a recent post that twice now, Xi Jingping followed the US President at two world events in Davos and Vietnam. The Chinese leader gave the speech the US President usually gives regarding working together globally. Trump spoke of maximizing only American interests.

Not only is this counterproductive, it will actually hurt our share of the global pie making us less relevant.There are two things to note. First, the position that Xi is advocating used to be a foundation of the US Republican Party. The party sold its soul to support the short-sighted and bullying President who gives the illusion of being a populist.

Second, the US cannot shrink to greatness. We are actually doing pretty well as a country and were so when Trump took office. It is the distribution of wealth that is the problem and this President has done very little to resolve that problem. Lessening our global position not only will hurt our economy, it will make us less safe.

If Trump continues in office through one term, this period will be viewed by historians when the US made an unforced error and ceded its global leadership position. This is the exact opposite of what the President should be doing.

 

 

If you give a mouse a cookie

The childhood book by this name reveals that some are never satisfied when you do them favors. I was thinking of this as I thought of the litany of things done by a self-promoted populist on behalf of his true benefactors, the wealthy mice. He started with cookies, but the list goes on.

If those onerous environmental regulations were getting in the way, he just rolled back a few of them. Plus, if those scientists and their data were problematic to polluting businesses, he just fired a few, ran off a few and deleted access to important research data.

If access to public lands and what lies thereunder was a roadblock, he just cut back on the national parks and gave easier access to developers. What is land, if it cannot be exploited for short term gain? As a rancher put it, when the developers come, the profits go to Houston and Calgary, but the degradation is left for them long term.

If paying taxes is preventing investment in employees or business, even though conpanies are sitting on cash, then he gave the mice more money. The key is how much will flow into investment and employees and how much will be used to make the executives look good?

Along the way, there are some photo ops to say look what is happening, but the mice seem to be the ones who are getting the cookies and added benefits. As one energy consultant noted, the President has done a lot for coal owners, but not much for coal workers.

I am all for making things easier, but we need smart regulations that protect Americans from short cutting and corruption. We must pay for things as well, and debt and environmental costs are dear. Saying they don’t matter is poor stewardship as our children and grandchildren will have to pay the price for our avoidance.

The weather outside is frightful

The weather outside is frightful. Inside it’s so delightful. And, since we’ve no place to go, let it snow, let it snow, let is snow.

Please think good thoughts for those who are exposed to the severe cold and wintry precipitation. May they stay warm and travel safely if they must. We will be in the teens here over several nights, but our Minnesota based friend, Hugh, said he awoke to 19 below, Fahrenheit. Yikes!

I also want to emphasize the word “weather.” The US President either purposefully or unknowingly confused climate with weather. If purposeful, his intent was to play up to the “climate change is hoax” crowd among his followers. Unfortunately, this becomes an annual confusion effort which is either cynical of filled with malintent. Someone needs to tell the President that it is summer time in the Southern Hemisphere and 2017 set a new record for average heat around the globe. A few days of frigid weather in December north of the equator and June south of the equator will not alter that fact.

It would be nice if the President did not forsake the US global standing and stay engaged as a leader on climate change efforts. We have some of the leading climate scientists and data in the world. We are also one of the two biggest carbon emitters. Fortunately, other state, city and business leaders will keep the US moving forward leveraging the many good efforts.

Have a wonderful 2018. Let’s move this ball forward. Our children and their children need us to.

Threatening others is not a great sales strategy

The US President made an ill-advised move to declare Jerusalem Israel’s capitol saying the US would move its embassy there. The dilemma is it’s a lightning rod of a change, with Palestinians laying claim as well. Yet, after the UN Security Council voted 14 to 1 against this declaration with the US being outnumbered, Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, extended the President’s threat to cut funding to the countries who voted against the US.

Well, in a show of defiance, the entire UN body voted 128 to 9 against the US decision. Some small African nations, who heavily rely on US funding, acquiesced to the threat. Several countries abstained since the did not want to unsettle the sensitive President, but the sizable vote count should serve as an embarrassment to him. In sports and politics that would be called a rout.

It is my guess the President will remain defiant as it is not in his nature to admit a mistake, but one thing the President absolutely detests is being made to look bad. We should not forget his recorded comment that asked Enrique Peña Nieto, the Mexican President, to say openly Mexico would pay for the wall as “it was making him look bad” if they did not.

We should remind the President that his decisions and comments are what are making him look bad. When he announced that the US would be withdrawing from the Paris Climate Change Accord on June 1, it was the day after Exxon-Mobil shareholders voted against a management recommendation to require management to disclose what they are doing to battle climate change, the third fossil fuel based company to be so required in May following shareholder votes at PPL and Occidental Petroleum. The shareholders did what the President would not, go against the wishes of a petroleum company’s management.

To further illustrate US isolation on this Paris withdrawal, we are the lone county not to participate once the withdrawal becomes effective. We are also one of the biggest polluters, which seems fairly un-neighborly to thumb our nose at the rest of the world. Our country was also not invited to a climate change planning conference earlier this month in France. The US did have representation from several states, cities and business leaders who have picked up the baton the President dropped, but our government was not represented nor wanted.

My biggest fear going in with the bullying President was his not supporting climate change action. But, the greater fear is making the US a pariah in the world, someone who threatens other countries. If a country has a choice to deal with the US President or not, unless avoiding pain or accomplishing gain is compelling, the answer may be “no, thank you” more than it would have been before this President took office. Threats will not help in this cause, as illustrated at the UN.

China is benefitting from our retrenching position in the world. Xi Jinping is a more rational and trusted leader than the US President. Even domestic US leaders know not to trust the President at his word, including Republicans who suffer in silence. Lying and bullying are not admirable traits. Fortunately, leaders like Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron are picking up the mantle as true leaders of the Western world.

In closing, if there is a visual metaphor of the bullying US President, it occurred during a meeting with fellow NATO leaders in Brussels earlier this year. President Trump appeared to shove Prime Minister Milo Dukanovic of Montenegro aside in order to position himself front and center for photographers. A bull in a china shop, so to speak.

Note to young folks – Republicans are leaving you holding the bag

As a former Republican, now Independent voter, it is very hard to defend what my former party stands for. What used to be a party that boasted fiscal stewardship with a little heart, now is fiscally narrow-minded and mean-spirited. There are three major themes that have emerged during the Trump version of this party, all of which are leaving young people holding the bag.To summarize, they are:

  1. ignoring a huge debt problem, making it worse with the Tax Bill,
  2. ignoring the impact climate change is having and will have on our planet, and
  3. ignoring the wishes of young adults eliminating net-neutrality, demeaning civil rights of those who are not white heterosexuals, and denigrating free press.

Note, I placed three separate, but related issues into the third basket, as I see each in a composite context to restrict the rights of information to the masses.

On the debt problem, we are currently at $20.6 trillion US debt. But, that is only part of the problem. In the fiscal year ended September 30, 2017, we had a $666 billion deficit with $3.3 trillion revenue falling short of the almost $4 trillion in expenses. The Congressional Budget Office projects the debt to grow by $10 trillion over the next ten years without the impact of the Tax Bill. That would put us at over $30 trillion in 2027. When the Tax Bill impact is thrown in, the debt could be as high as $32 trillion. Note, with a $3.3 trillion annual budget, it would take us ten years to pay the debt if we spent no other money and there was no interest cost on the debt. What this means is there will be a reckoning that will come in major tax increases and major spending cuts which will hit young adults,

Ignoring climate change is a fossil fuel industry funded requirement placed on Republicans. In the book, “Rancher, Farmer, Fisherman” by Miriam Horn, these hard-working folks see what climate change is doing everyday, yet they have to tiptoe around Republican politicians in their states to explain what is happening to water, crops, topsoil, fisheries, bayou, etc. without using the word climate change. Even though we have many great things going on to combat climate change in the US, our country was not invited to the most recent climate change planning event with other major leaders. Fortunately, our business, city and state leaders don’t necessarily need Washington to make a difference, but it would be great to see what we could do when DC is not putting up roadblocks.

The net neutrality issue is frustrating, as with the Tax Bill, it favors those with money and not those folks the President promised to help. What will backfire on the GOP, is young folks are passionate about this issue and know Ajit Pai’s name as the demonized head of the FCC. Yet, it goes part in parcel with the restriction of flow of information. The media are demonized because they dare criticize the President. Civil rights are being squashed unless you look like the President – what he said about Charlottesville is insulting and distasteful. And, communication companies like Sinclair are being greenlighted to buy even more local stations and influencing their content.

None of us can sit on the sidelines and let this happen, but especially our younger voters. If we do not demonstrably deal with the debt and climate change, these failures will come home to roost. But, the attack on the free flow of information by this President and his party is also dear. It is a way to combat the changing demographics in America that do not support the GOP. Instead of wooing new voters, the strategy is to step on others. This observation comes from a former Republican who left the party ten years ago.

Please lend your voice to fight for better stewardship. These leaders are not even talking about issues that are of import, such as our infrastructure, water and healthcare needs, in addition to the three problems noted above.

 

 

 

Wednesday Wanderings

One of my favorite hiking shirts draws comments given the slogan on the back – “all who wander are not lost.” In search for the right alliterative match to a Wednesday review of various and sundry topics, allow me to walk out “wanderings.” So, lace up your hiking boots and lets wander a bit.

Decency Won: The Senate vote in Alabama had a pleasant surprise with Doug Jones defeating Roy Moore in a close race. I applaud the citizens of Alabama for doing the right thing. Retiring Republican Senator Jeff Flake said, “Decency won.” This says it all. For those Moore proponents who say Moore is a fine man, that may be the case, but the three words that come to my mind are “bigotry, unlawfulness, pedophilia.” The middle word is overlooked as the former Judge was fired twice for disobeying the law. We all must obey the laws whether or not we agree with them, but especially our judges and senators. Jones is a good man and public servant.

Emmanuel Macron assumes a Climate Leadership role: A continuing frustration is the ceding by the US President of our leadership role in the world. Pulling out of the Paris Climate Change Accord is a key example of this, as the US President is too beholden to fossil fuel interests and money. French President Emmanuel Macron hosted a meeting this week where foreign leaders discussed dealing with climate change and a noticeable absence was Donald Trump, who was not invited. The US had people there, but not in a capacity of the federal government. The US is no longer at the adult table. Macron has followed through on inviting renowned scientists to conduct research in France and, out of eighteen grant recipients, 13 of them came from the US. Fortunately, good things are happening even in the US, but it would be nice if the federal government aided and abetted this important cause and did not throw up road blocks.

Nevada legislature reverses utility anti-neutral pricing on solar energy: In a huge change, the Nevada governor signed earlier this year a bipartisan law to overturn a highly contentious and job-impacting utility decision to pay solar energy homeowners less than they charge back for electricity. In short, when the sun shines more power is produced than needed and is sold to the utility. When the homeowner needs more electricity they buy it back from the utility who had been charging a higher rate after their decision. This cost jobs and new development and it did not take the legislature long to realize the sun shines a lot in Nevada and this is where the cheaper and cleaner energy future resides. So, they passed a law to get back to neutral pricing or close thereto, giving the utility a minor transaction fee. Now, the solar energy boon which stalled as a result of the utility action, has taken off again.

Joe Biden is a class act: Former Vice President Joe Biden is making the talk show circuit to discuss his new book about his relationship with his son Beau who died of brain cancer. When he stopped by “The View,” during the discussion Meghan McCain, daughter of Senator John McCain, broke down as she describe her father having the same cancer as Beau. Biden switched chairs with one of the co-hosts and comforted her and spoke to her and the audience. He said many encouraging words to give her hope and strength, but added her father was his best friend. If he ever needed him, John McCain would be there for him. His son Beau idolized McCain and spoke of his courage. Biden said John and him were brothers of a different father. They would argue over things, but deeply respect each other.

Thanks for wandering about with me. Please feel free to offer some of your reactions and wanderings.