Global view of America and Trump worsens

Earlier this week, Business Insider posted the following article, “Trump is less trusted than Putin and Xi and the US is hitting historic lows of approval from its closest allies.” The full article can be linked to below, but I note several key paragraphs that speak for themselves. I also encourage you to click on the link to Jill’s similar post, which includes quotes from non-Americans, and is an excellent read.

“The United States’ image has soured within the international community, hitting all-time lows among key allies since Pew started polling two decades ago.

Among the 13-countries surveyed include Canada, France, Germany, UK and Japan. The results showed that people have less confidence in Trump as a leader than Russia’s Vladimir Putin and China’s Xi Jinping. Majority of the publics also say Trump mishandled the US’s coronavirus response.

President Donald Trump has on average received low approval ratings from Americans during his time in office — and new data shows people around the world continue to view him very negatively.

In Canada, one in five people expressed confidence in Trump, a drastic drop from 51 percent who held that view a year ago.

Similarly, Germans gave the US some of ‘its worst ratings,’ the authors note, with only 10% who said they have confidence in Trump, compared with 13% in 2019 and 86% in 2016 while Barack Obama was president.

Most people across the 13 countries surveyed said they have less trust in Trump to ‘do the right thing’ than they do in Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Only an average of 16% said they have confidence in Trump as a leader, versus 19% who said the same for Xi and 23% for Putin.

Overall, the report found that roughly 34% of people expressed a positive view of the US. Pew Research Center conducted its survey to 13,273 respondents from June 10 to Aug. 3.

Though Trump has consistently been rated low by the rest of the world over the past four years, the study released Tuesday depicts a deepening downward trend of the US’ international reputation, likely due to his coronavirus response — the US has the world’s highest reported death toll, which is nearing 200,000.

All 13 countries ranked the US lowest for its handling of the pandemic, averaging a mere 15% who said the country has done a good job.

Germany, on the other hand, gained the highest ratings, as a median of 76% said they have confidence in Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has been praised internationally for leading an effective coronavirus response in the Western European country.

The Pew poll comes amid renewed criticism nationally against Trump for how he dealt with public health crisis, after damning audio recordings revealed that he publicly downplayed the virus’ severity at the onset of the outbreak.”

In short, America is less trusted because its president is untrustworthy. He is relentless in his disregard for the truth. So, my strong advice is to start from the basis to not believe a word the president says or tweets. The odds are well in your favor.

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/trump-is-less-trusted-than-putin-and-xi-and-the-us-is-hitting-historic-lows-of-approval-from-its-closest-allies/ar-BB194Kdq?ocid=msedgdhp

How The World Sees Us Now

When a heart is empty – words from conservative pundit David Brooks

I have shared before David Brooks is one of my favorite conservative pundits. I read his columns and have read two of his books, “The Road to Character” and “The Social Animal.” I even went to hear him speak when he came to town, as he focused on remembering community and community gathering places. Monday’s editorial column by Brooks is called “When a heart is empty.”

Brooks highlights how an unfeeling, self-absorbed author named Emmanuel Carrere is forever altered by a crisis, when he loses his granddaughter to a horrible tsunami. Per Brooks, Carrere “develops a deep and perceptive capacity to see the struggles of others” and he writes about the change in “Lives Other Than My Own.”

Brooks uses this change to contrast it being “opposite of the blindness Donald Trump displayed in quotes reported by Jeffrey Goldberg in The Atlantic and Bob Woodward in his latest book about the administration, ‘Rage’

Brooks goes on to say “Trump can’t seem to fathom the emotional experience of their lives (the deceased soldiers he called ‘losers’ and ‘suckers’) – their love for those they fought for, the fears they faced down, the resolve to risk their lives nonetheless.

If he can’t see that, he can’t understand the men and women in uniform serving around him. He can’t understand the inner devotion that drives people to public service, which is supposed to be the core of his job.

The same sort of blindness is on display in the Woodward quotes. It was stupid of Trump to think he could downplay COVID-19 when he already knew it had the power of a pandemic. It was stupid to think the American people would panic if he told the truth. It was stupid to talk to Woodward in the first place…

It is moral and emotional stupidity. He blunders so often and so badly because he has a narcissist’s inability to get inside the hearts and minds of other people.”

There is more, but the gist of the piece can be gleaned from these quotes. Brooks said earlier this year, “Donald Trump does not have a sense of decency or empathy.” He reiterates this theme above. And, there is a line from one of my favorite political movies “The American President” with Michael Douglas and Annette Bening. “Being president is entirely about character.”

Narcissism and pandemic misleading

The following is a brief letter I sent to my newspaper. Please feel free to adapt and use. Note I softened the last line from the word that I think best defines the actions – sociopathic.

The revelation the president admitted he knew of the pandemic risk, while misleading us, downplaying it and calling it a hoax, is troubling. Epidemiologists and historians have noted mission one in pandemics is tell people the truth, then they are prone to follow healthy safety directions. When we needed leadership, he passed and decided not to create a panic, which is absurd and deadly.

Help me understand, what kind of person holds several rallies without caution, knowing the virus is air borne, putting his most faithful fans at risk just to garner applause? This is beyond narcissism, in my view.

A sad party run by sad people

As a fiscal conservative and social progressive, I left the Republican Party about twelve years ago. My main reasons for becoming an independent were the Republican stance on climate change, an unhealthy focus on evangelicals and guns, and a tendency to make things up. These reasons still exist twelve years later.

The Grand Old Party is no longer grand and it really is no longer Republican. At the recent RNC convention, they did not vote on a platform, so as one reporter said, “the platform is whatever Donald Trump says it is.” In and of itself, this is the final takedown of the old flag and raising of the new Trump Party banner.

Further, evidence of the dissolution, is an Alternate Republican convention was held the same week. This convention brought together several groups of Republicans bent on the defeat of Trump in November. They include The Lincoln Project, Republicans for the Rule of Law, and Republican Voters against Trump. Two additional groups of former Republican governors and intelligence leaders have also come out against Trump.

The Trump Party is a sad group led by sad people. Here are a few things that seem to be the major tenets in of the Trump Party:

– Truth, decency and empathy are not valued
– Protecting Americans against the COVID-19 pandemic is less important than winning the election. Not informing Americans of known risks is inexcusable.
– Civil rights of non-whites is less important and protestors of all races seeking equality for blacks are “thugs.”
– Soldiers who fight for America are “losers” and “suckers” and if captured, not heroes. It is OK that a country can put bounties on our soldiers without pushback.
– Using the presidency for profit is acceptable and it is OK to extort and use other countries for personal gain.
– Any Inspectors General, whistleblowers or those who testify under oath over legitimate concerns about wrongdoing can be removed without questions.
– Finally, it is OK to say absolutely anything to further the cause. It is OK to malign the voting process without doing a darn thing to make it secure. It is OK to blame any person or group for things that are caused by the president. It is OK to name call any critic. Trump called two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Bob Woodward a “wack job,” but it was the president’s own words that are causing the furor.

These words make me sad for our country. It makes me more sad to know sycophants, rationalizers, and enablers have allowed this to happen. Names like McConnell, Graham, Cotton, Johnson, Nunes, Cruz, Jordan, McCarthy, Meadows, Miller, Kushner, et al should be remembered along with the Trump name as people who led to the demise of the Republican Party, our democracy and our planet. If this corrupt and deceitful person wins again, America will move even more toward an autocracy run by a sad person.

Five minutes of your time – listen to candid wisdom on COVID-19 mishandling

If people want to get a sense of the failure of the president to lead us during the COVID-19 pandemic, following his admission and confirmation he lied to the American people (and continued to do so) about the risk of COVID-19, please click on Scottie’s post which has a five minute commentary by a very smart man who goes by the name Beau of the Fifth Column. Even a few minutes of the commentary will give you the gist.

The fact the president misled Americans on the dangers of COVID-19 is not news. The fact he admitted he knew and lied is. What the president fails to realize then, during his misleading press conferences and tweets, and even today, is too many people believe his BS. And, too many sycophants furthered his lies and downplayed the danger.

Too many Americans have died and more will. Too many Americans have gotten sick and more will. And, putting this in terms the president might understand, dying and sickness is not good for the economy. When people get sick when we reopen stores, schools, rallies, etc. without seriousness of purpose, it is predicted and predictable people will get infected.

I will say this bluntly. This calls for the resignation of the president.

Let’s talk about Trump, Woodward, and bad days….

Ten reasons to believe Trump disparaged the military (per Bill Press of The Hill)

Two letters to my newspaper framed the issue. One from a veteran said it is easy to believe Trump disparaged the troops based on his past actions and words. Another said she felt it was a “smear job” and encouraged the anonymous sources to come forward. Bill Press of The Hill wrote an opinion piece called “Trump gives military middle finger salute.” In it, he cites ten reasons to believe the story by a reputable source and corroborated by four other sources, is true. The highlighting of three reasons is my doing for emphasis.

“Admittedly, it’s hard to imagine any American president, Republican or Democrat, calling our soldiers, especially those killed in battle, ‘losers’ or ‘suckers.’ Still don’t believe it? Let me give you 10 reasons why you should.

One, Trump ducked military service in Vietnam by getting five deferments, including one of them for ‘temporary’ bone spurs – based on a diagnosis written by a New York podiatrist, according to his daughters, as a favor to Trump’s father. Two, this is the same Donald Trump who bragged to radio host Howard Stern in 1997 that his ‘personal Vietnam’ was dating in the ’90s without getting STDs.

Three, New York businessman Donald Trump fought repeatedly to ban disabled vets from selling goods on Fifth Avenue. ‘Whether they are veterans or not,’ he wrote in a 2004 letter to then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg, ‘they should not be allowed to sell on this most important and prestigious shopping street.’ Four, according to his niece Mary Trump, when Donald Jr. told his father he was considering joining the military, Trump said he would disown him.

Five, as candidate for president, Trump spent a week disparaging Gold Star parents of Army Capt. Humayun Kahn, after his father spoke at the Democratic National Convention. Six, he also insisted that John McCain was no ‘war hero’ because he was captured and later, as president, resisted honoring McCain’s death. ‘We’re not going to support that loser’s funeral,’ he reportedly told his staff.

Seven, he told the widow of slain Army Sgt. La David Johnson ‘he knew what he signed up for.’ Eight, in 2017, according to the Washington Post’s Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig, he told top generals at the Pentagon: ‘I wouldn’t go to war with you people. You’re a bunch of dopes and babies.’ Nine, he called four-star General and former Defense Secretary James Mattis ‘not tough enough’ and ‘overrated.’ Ten, when our intelligence agencies reported that Russia was paying Taliban terrorists a bounty to kill American soldiers, Donald Trump did – absolutely nothing.

Given that history, no wonder not one military leader has stood up to deny the Atlantic’s report. They know the truth. Donald Trump’s been bad-mouthing the military all his life.

The full editorial is below. The words that Trump have been alleged to have said are entirely in character. The choice of words and the targets are meaningful and consistent.

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/press-trump-gives-military-middle-finger-salute/ar-BB18Osjk?ocid=msedgdhp

Monday musings – insignificant or significant

Life offers many experiences from the insignificant to significant. Approaching my 62nd birthday, I can share that more than a few things people believe are significant are not really important. Conversely, little insignificant things may have been gateways into something more meaningful. As Robert Frost wrote, the road not taken has made all the difference.

The girl or boy you did not ask out, as your friends labeled the person too different, might have opened your eyes to wonderful experiences.

Being prevented by your parents from attending a party may be mortifying for a teen, but does not make that big a difference in the big scheme of things.

To this point, the most well-adjusted Hollywood couples, live away from the superficial Hollywood scene. They crave the reality, not perception.

Being genuine is far more important than being popular. Choosing to help or listen to someone with a problem, is far more important than being “liked.”

Changing your mind on a major decision may prove embarrassing, but it is usually for the best. Life events are worthy of as much introspection as possible. I have never regretted unwinding a major decision.

Saying “no” may be unpopular, but it is also more than fine to decline. People sometimes overcommit and end up letting people down.

Take the time to ask your older relatives about your heritage before it is too late. I still have unanswered questions, especially after doing research online. Knowing your lineage and history is gratifying, even if the history reveals some warts. Our kids love to speak of their roots.

Finally, one of the things my wife and I miss with the COVID-19 limitations is talking to people we encounter on our travels, near and far. A trip to Ireland was seasoned by chatting with Oola, who grew up in a corner of Belgium, very close to two other countries, eg. Take the time to talk to folks. It may make all the difference.

An interesting economic tidbit – trade deficit

A relatively small economic news item is worth noting given the amount of attention given by the president. In an article by the AP’s Martin Crutsinger entitled “US trade deficit surges in July to 12-year high,” the US trade deficit “surged in July to $63.6 billion, the highest levrl in 12 years…”

Per the article, “the Commerce department reported…the gap between what America buys and sells to foreigners, was 18.9% higher than the June deficit of $53.5 billion. It was the largest monthly deficit since July 2008 during the 2007 – 2009 recession.” The increase was “driven by a record 10.9% increase in imports” with a corresponding “8.1%” fall in exports.

Let that sink in. We are living in unique times with the pandemic. But, the whole world is exposed, not just the US. There are two points to be made.

First, the president has placed tariffs on major trading partners, who responded in kind. As economists have long noted, no one wins a trade war. Buyers just find less costly sources.

Second, America has so woefully handled the COVID-19 pandemic, the world is aghast. With around 4% of the world’s population, the US has around 22% of the global COVID-19 deaths. And, sadly the deaths continue. This truism runs in direct contrast to what the president touted at the RNC.

With other countries less impacted than we are, they can get closer to normal than we can. But, our folks can still buy from home. So, these numbers are not a surprise. As with any issue, the only way to solve a problem is to admit it exists.

Tuesday’s Gone with the Wind – a few thoughts

With all due respect to “Ruby Tuesday” and “Tuesday Afternoon,” I chose this song title for my random Tuesday thoughts. “Tuesday’s Gone with the Wind” has the right melancholy feel.

Starting with the last part of the title “Gone with the Wind,” it reminds me that the entertainment world has finally figured out the famous movie and book are racist and poor renditions of the events surrounding the Civil War. We actually discussed this misrepresentation by the movie and book in my World Literature class in 1977. But, propaganda about the war has been around since white slaveowners got poor whites to fight for a more righteous cause of states’ rights than the real one to let them keep slaves.

Remember how states’ rights were cited by the president for delegating his responsibility to fight COVID-19. Yet, states’ rights are less important if he must flex his law and order muscles. Both the Kenosha mayor and Wisconsin governor asked the president not to come to Kenosha as he would not help calm the situation. Well, he is coming to get his photo shoot, but he should not be surprised if he is not well-received. Uniting people is not the mission of this president as noted by General James Mattis, his former Secretary of Defense.

The president’s actions and words concern me on so many levels. One is his fanning the flames of racial unrest to win an election. He offers it is not his doing, but he is the one walking around with a gasoline can. All lives and Blue lives, of course, matter, but those mantras denigrate the message of Black Lives Matters. What this white washing misdirection does is ignores that too many Americans do not feel Black lives matter or that Blacks are overstating their strife. And, the president is catering to these groups with his divisive rhetoric and gasoline.

The vast majority of BLM protests are peaceful and civil. They are also well attended by multiple racial groups. But, the smaller few need to cease the violence. It devalues the message. Violence also feeds directly into the hands of the president who looks for wedge issues. In three and half years, many have become weary of this me, me, me focus of the president who cares more about his perception than solving problems. These things are happening on his watch and he is making things worse, not better.

On the Blue side, the police must better police themselves. They need to weed out any bad actors and recognize, address and train-to-minimize bad actions. A former FBI domestic terrorism expert said she shared with the Justice Department that a few police officers are sympathetic with white nationalists. But, the police union and management must stop doing what the Catholic Church did for decades and ignore bad apples. They do spoil the impression of the whole bunch. Just like only a few priests were pedophiles, only a few police are overly racist.

Fixing problems requires leaders to acknowledge them. And, understand them. As I noted earlier, using problems to be a wedge issue to win does not solve the problems. It makes them worse.

Go-away pay

Seeing the latest executive, this one with a last name of Falwell, walk away with “go-away” pay totaling $10 million, it reminds me of a broken recording playing the same song over and over again. Mr. Falwell left his leadership position because he embarrassed the reputation of Liberty University with his sexual activities with his wife and another. Could he have survived if the university was not a Christian founded one or his name was anything but Falwell? We will never know.

What further troubles many is Falwell was not fired for “cause” under his employment contract. He was let go with a severance payment. My educated guess is the Board of the university did not want to risk a law suit and fire him over cause. There are a few viable reasons for this conclusion. The directors may have their own employment contracts with their employers and do not want to go on record identifying what they think “cause” is. Another reason is money. The university may spend in legal fees and damaging publicity what they spend to make Falwell go away. It is easier to pay someone to go away. Plus, they have worked with him, so he earned some goodwill with the Board.

Yet, this is not new. It has happened since the invention of executive employment contracts. It is reported, Roger Ailes, the creator and president of Fox News, got $37 million in go-away pay after being credibly accused of multiple cases of sexual misconduct. Further, like other entertainment companies, it is reported Ailes tolerated an old-boys club where other “talents” also were accused of sexual misconduct. It is reported a famous “talent” was also paid go-away money, eg. Ailes could have been charged with “cause,” but refer to the reasons above as to why he was not. I would add a fourth for him as the Board wanted to honor his creation of this news/ entertainment network.

Sadly, it does not stop with sexual misconduct. CEOs can wreck a company’s reputation or financials and still walk away with go-away pay. I know of more than a few situations where this has occurred. And, the severance is usually a 1 to 2.99 times multiple of pay. The reason for the decimals is severance pay above 3 x compensation causes some tax issues. So, companies do what they can to keep the amount below that threshold.

Executive severance pay is a key feature of employment contracts. Most often it is deployed in merger situations where companies sell themselves and the leadership of the selling company walks away with golden parachutes. Having worked in consulting and in large companies, I can assure you that the executive ranks of a selling company spends too much time talking about severance at the expense of making the transition work. What is less an issue is these executives stopped trying to make their old company work and realized it was easier to sell and jump out of the plane with that golden parachute.

The further down the totem pole finds average workers who just get let go if they do wrong. Or, the severance pay may be only a few weeks of pay. So, having a contract means you can usually walk away with money when you make yourself expendable. Only when right-sizings, downsizings or RIFs (Reductions in Force) occur, do the lower paid folks walk away with a little more.