America falls on the Corruption Perceptions Index

This is probably not what those Americans with red ball caps with MAGA on them envisioned when they signed up on Team Donald. Per watchdog group Transparency International, in 2017 the US fell four grade points from 75 to 71 on the Corruption Perceptions Index falling out of the top twenty. A score of 100 means a country is very clean and a score of zero means it is very corrupt.

Per an AP articles called “US Rank on corruption index seen as a ‘red flag,'” The “ratings reflect a deterioration of rule of law and democratic institutions, as well as rapidly shrinking space for civil society and independent media,” the Berlin-based organization said.

The organization also said, “A four point drop in the CPI score is a red flag and comes at a time when the US is experiencing threats to its system of checks and balance, as well as an erosion of ethical norms at the highest levels of power.” Full democracies scored an average of 75 on the CPI, meaning we have fallen beneath the curve.

This is not a surprise and is confirmation of what I have been asking of Senators and Congressional representatives to do. My questions have been two-fold. (1) What will it take for you to remember to whom you swore an oath and do your job pushing back on a President who is damaging our relationships with our allies and demonizing the free press and anyone who dares criticize him. (2) Is this the man you wish to spend your dear reputation on?

To be brutally frank, I am at a loss and I tell them so. Unfortunately, the staffs are the only people who hear my concerns and emails get a boiler plate response. It truly saddens me to say I don’t believe a word the President says, as the odds are in my favor. It further saddens me that so-called leaders of our country have looked the other way when simplistic solutions to complex problems are deployed as panaceas. It is hard enough to govern with truth and facts, but nigh impossible when the man in the White House has run off his advisors and wasn’t really listening to them in the first place.

Please join with me and ask our leaders to remember their oaths. Doing the right thing should not be as hard as it has become, but we must go down that path. We have some hard truths that continue to evolve about this President, with six of his relationships pleading guilty or being convicted and one under indictment. As the 37th President found out, when people are going to jail it is no longer a witch hunt. And, it is not ironic the man under indictment also worked for the 37th President.

We are better than this. If we told the US soldiers, that freed the remaining Jews from the death camps at the end of WWII, the leader of the free world in less than 75 years would be Germany, they would not have believed you. It is hard to fathom, but it is true. That is what is at stake. Is this what MAGA means?

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That big undo button the President has in his mind

Since there is such a fuss over “button, button, who has the largest button,” let me build on this theme with another button that comes to mind. For some reason, the President believes he has an “undo” button that can make people forget what has happened.

The most recent example is in response to the comments made by Steve Bannon, Trump’s former Chief Strategist, that are derogatory to the President and his family. In trying to diminish Bannon, Trump said Bannon was just a staff member who did not greatly help Trump’s election and never got one-on-one meetings with the President. Call me crazy, but Chief Strategist sounds kind of important and we should not forget that Bannon was given an unheard of security clearance usually reserved for Generals. As for the one-on-one meetings, there are pictures of the two of them meeting, which look like no one else is in the room.

Of course, he changes his stories so often, he presumes reporters don’t remember he said things. The infamous meeting with Donald Trump, Jr., Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort and several Russians is now being referenced as treasonous and unpatriotic by Bannon. Yet, we should not forget that the President has changed his story twice on his knowledge of this meeting. First, he said he had heard about it shortly before the news broke. Then he changed the story to knowledge the month before the news broke as he funded $50,000 into Junior’s defense fund. Then, he changed it again and said he was aware of the meeting before it happened, but did not attend. Now, Bannon implies more to the story, asking the question why was the meeting held in Trump Tower?

The above story will likely haunt his son and son-in-law more than it will him, but his story changing as to why he fired James Comey, may come back to haunt him for obstruction of justice. Firing Comey was not the wisest move on Trump’s part, but he added fuel to the fire by doing the following: firing Comey without the courtesy of telling him or his communication people who had to plan on the fly in the White House shrubbery, deviating from the story as to why Comey was fired two days later in an interview with Lester Holt saying it was due to the Russia thing, and then providing altering versions of the story in future tweets.

For me, I am not going to let him off with an “undo” button. He has pushed that button so many times, it has worn out. My thesis is simple. If he is not guilty of anything, then why does he act so guilty with his story changing? And, for those who want him to testify to remedy all questions, there is an interesting story about a deposition he once did, when the opposing attorney made him recant under oath 30 lies he had told. When you change your story so much, it is hard to remember the truth.

Corruption may be the greatest threat we face

I have written before about the greatest long term risks facing our planet as noted by the World Economic Forum – the global water crisis and poorly reacting to climate change. I would add that population growth would pose further risk.

When I first wrote about this, a British missionary in Nigeria noted he would place corruption high on the list. Why? His reasoning is the leaders of countries throughout the world skim off the top and place friends and family in places of power to do the same. So, the majority of folks become disenfranchised as money and investment are compromised and go into the pockets of these leaders.

This disenfranchisement leads to terrorists being listened to until it is too late. It leads to leaders controlling the messaging often using people’s fears to control them. It leads to a breakdown in institutions to help people and guard against those controlling messaging.

After the missionary’s counsel and observing what has happened in the past few years, I agree that corruption is right up there with the more natural risks. A few examples might help illustrate why I fully agree with him.

South Korea has a flourishing economy with overt freedoms and investment. To the north, the North Korean people live hand-to-mouth and are the closest thing to the “1984” model we have on earth. Kim Jong Un controls everything from the messaging to the money and you dare not give the slightest hint of non-support.

Vladimir Putin is the most clever corrupt leader on the planet. He controls all messaging in Russia and actively wages cyber war adroitly using Social Media to sway pro-Russia sentiment. Some unknowing sycophants like our President praise him as a strong leader. He may be strong, but he and his oligarchy are quite wealthy at the expense of everyone else.

President Duterte of the Philippines is relatively new to the game, but his corruption leads directly to the genocide of anyone who has touched illicit drugs or openly disagree with him. The negative impact of this man on his country will continue to expose them to human rights concerns.

Corruption abounds with Erdogan in Turkey who used a failed coup (which he may have staged) to remove significant numbers of intellectuals, judges and government officials who shared opposing views. The corrupt leadership in Iraq after Saddam Hussein fell led to ostracized Sunnis allowing ISIS to take hold. Hosni Mubarak of Egypt was removed from office with US$80 billion while the average Egyptian lived on US$2 a day. President Mugabe of Zimbabwe was just removed in a coup after years of corrupt leadership and before he passed the official baton to his younger wife to do more of the same.

But, we in the western world should not pat ourselves on the back too much. We hide it better through lobbyists and funders of politicians. Make no mistake, these folks give money to curry favor. In the US, we have a billionnaire President with several billionnaires in his cabinet who rode a wave of a populist movement. This would be funny if it were not so sad. His followers need only look at the proposed Tax Reform bills that heavily help the rich in America at the expense of our future. He masks this subterfuge with bombast, lying and a sharply critical tone of dissent and the press.

The downside of all this corruption is the disenfranchised are impacted and have little voice. We are also selling out our future for the bottom lines of folks with more digits to the left of the decimal point. We must speak to corruption and not let it infiltrate further into our world and country. It impacts everything else we need to fix.