More candid observations

In keeping with the theme of my previous post, the following are some diplomatic candid observations:

– Help me understand why the people in the White House seem surprised that North Korea is not going to give up its nuclear weapons? I applaud their and the the South Korean’s effort and energy, but we seemed to be a little naive that Kim would cave.

– Saying something under oath in front of a judge who will sentence you carries a lot more gravitas than tweeting or saying something to a favorable interviewer. Under oath, Michael Cohen said he committed illicit acts at the direction of the candidate. I realize Cohen is not a Boy Scout, but his words under oath should carry some weight.

– A man of character died Saturday on what would have been my parents’ 67th anniversary. Senator John McCain was an imperfect man with whom I did not always agree, but he was very honorable public servant. Character and honor are two words that are not top of mind when I look to define a certain man in a US leadership position. I think it speaks volumes that McCain asked such a man to be excluded from attendance at his funeral.

– It is nigh impossible to stop bigoted thoughts or the teaching of children about bigotry. But, we must shine spotlights on behaviors that strip away at other people’s rights or promote one group’s rights over that of another. We must share our disagreement with hate speech. The easiest thing to do is vote with your feet and avoid people and places that enable bigoted thoughts. Confrontation is difficult, but listening, questioning and commenting can be done civilly with some. Or, it can take the form of openly applauding the efforts and successes of people who seem to be targeted with hate speech more than others.

– Finally, one’s reputation is the dearest thing we own. Rob Roy said your honor is a gift you give to yourself. This is why it is puzzling so many Republican legislators are spending their dear reputation supporting a man who daily brings dishonor to the Presidency and would throw them under the bus if needed. Please note my intentional avoidance of the use of “leader” in my descriptions.

We Americans and others around the world are craving an honorable leader. And, as said in the movie “The American President,” being President is entirely about character.

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From whose perspective?

A mentor of mine had a very common question he would ask of colleagues. A colleague (including this one) would be recounting that a client meeting went well. The mentor would simply ask “From whose perspective?”

Let this question sink in. I mention it today as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met the past few days with his North Korean counterparts. At the same time he was recounting how much progress was made, the North Koreans were sharing their view. What we saw as progress, they referred to it as the US’ one sided “gangster-like” demands.

Further, there is footage of the North Korean officials asking Pompeo if he slept well on the second day of meetings. After he said he did, they said you should not have after the previous day’s meeting results. This statement is pretty telling that perspectives vary.

I am all for dialogue between countries that have issues. That is far better than the alternative. The Presidents of the US and South Korea deserve credit for rhe discussions with Kim Jong Un. But, it has been clear from the get go, the expectation levels are vastly different. Also, the preparation levels were and are very different. The North Koreans have studied this issue far more than the US leader’s team. For example, the key question we failed to understand is “why would North Korea cede a nuclear arsenal that they built to get people to respect and fear them?”

Perspective matters. This same mentor advised to “put yourself on the other side of the table.” In other words, do your best to understand what the other side wants and would accept. It applies to more than these discussions.

May I ask why?

On the final day of May, it seemed like a good time to ask some why questions. In no particular order:

May I ask why US leaders believe North Korea would give up all of their nuclear weapons after taking so much time, effort and money to build them? I am happy dialogue is occurring, but we need to manage our expectations.

May I ask why people would trust leaders who make sure their most viable opponents are not permitted to run against them? Call me crazy, but this is prima facie evidence that the leader’s story cannot stand up to scrutiny (think Putin, Maduro, el Sissi to name a few).

May I ask why legislators at the state and federal levels are trying to avoid normal process to pass legislation? Take it to the bank, when legislators avoid normal process, the issue is political and the people end up losing.

May I ask why someone who harps daily on his innocence, cries that everyone is against him, declares routinely that it is a witch hunt and often changes his story, should be believed? Using the scientific concept of Occam’s Razor, it is easier to believe that there is not this vast conspiracy against the man and far easier to believe this untruthful man is lying.

May I ask why many of us are forgetting what Jesus and other religious leaders told us and treating others so poorly? We need to walk the talk more, as to be frank, words are cheap. And, we need to hold our leaders accountable to be our better angels, even when they don’t hold themselves into account.

May I ask you offer comments, reactions and questions in response?

The week that was

Looking back at the week ending April 27, 2018, a few things jump out at me as examples of larger problems.

The US Congress heard a speech from a President that spoke of staying the course on America’s global role in security, free trade and environmental issues. He also warned of the unhealthy focus on narrow nationalism and promoted the ideals of the American experiment. Unfortunately, the speech was given by Emmanuel Macron of France and not the US President.

Yet, the US President did make news when he nominated another poorly vetted candidate this time for the VA director role. He was already a curious choice, but he and the White House were obviously not prepared for the discovery of potential peccadillos in his past. This is a recurring problem for the White House where too many candidates withdraw, should not have been nominated or are approved with some later being fired or resigning as past or new problems surface. It should be noted there are too many articles and biographies that do not define “due diligence” as a strength of the President.

Between two tragedies in Canada and the US, it shows that terrorism need not be imported. Four people died at a Waffle House in the Nashville area, while  ten people died on the streets of Toronto. The larger problem that is revealed time and again, it is very difficult to stop a motivated lone assailant. The only thing that has a chance is an invested community who cares about what happens there. Neither of these people were from an actively tracked hate group, which number over a thousand. Nor were they part of an extreme religious terror group.

On Thursday, a boyhood and even adult idol of mine, Bill Cosby, was found guilty of three counts of sexual impropriety. While the trial involved only one of his victims, the number totals over 60. This is very sad  that someone so present in the public eye for fifty years could harm so many people.

Finally, an unconfirmed report out of China notes that one reason North Korea may be eager to give up nuclear testing is they blew up their testing site. The report said an underground blast may have punctured a hole in a mountain and released some radioactive material. From what others have noted is Kim Jong Un likely does not want to give up the nuclear weapons they created and their conventional forces could do great damage by themselves to South Korea. But, this unconfirmed report is interesting nonetheless and offers a potential explanation for a willingness to talk. Setting this aside, Kim Jong Un wins by getting on the world stage in a meeting room. Yet, talking is far better than the alternatives for keeping a lid on things.

Many other interesting things have happened. Our friend Jill has an excellent summary on Ben Carson’s housing plan which will triple the rents for people in need. Maybe he should have remained a surgeon where he could help people.

That’s all folks. Have a great weekend.

 

I will not be surprised

I will not be surprised if the Mueller investigation finds that the President of the United States has been compromised by Russia. There is too much lying, ignoring and self-preserving going on by the man in the White House. In fact, if it turns out he is not, that will surprise me. At the very least he is an unwitting agent of Russia. Just ask yourself why he did not impose sanctions on Russia nor has he shown alarm over the Mueller findings that Russia has attacked the US and is still doing so?

I will not be surprised if Congress does not do a damn thing about better gun governance. I am so proud of the young people calling for a march begging for action. Yet, Congress and the President don’t have the backbone to do the right thing and do what a significant majority of Americans have asked for – background checks and elongated waiting periods. These actions should be no brainers, but the NRA dictates subservience to Republicans and some Democrats.

I will not be surprised if Congress cannot reach compromise on the immigration bills, especially with the ever-changing President putting his fingerprints on discord. He upset the proceedings on Friday, a few weeks after he stabbed Senators Lindsey Graham and Dick Durbin in the back and asked Senators Tom Cotton and David Perdue to lie for him. What all legislators have discovered is the famous self-proclaimed negotiator is not trust worthy. If you do so, it is at your own peril.

I will not be surprised if we have more school shootings in the near future. I will not be surprised if the British parliament decides against Brexit. And, I will sadly not be surprised if one of the leader of Norh Korea and United States does something too provocative. On the school shootings and North Korea issue, I hope I am dead wrong. On the former, with our gun laws, it is very hard to stop a dedicated individual shooter. On the latter, I am not confident that judgment can temper ego with respect to these two leaders.

 

Four disasters this week

Between the horrible earthquake outside of Mexico City and Hurricane Maria, two disasters are harming people. This is on top of the two terrible hurricanes that hit Texas (Harvey) and Florida and the Caribbean Islands (Irma) in the past three weeks. We need to help those impacted and who may still be impacted as Maria continues onward. At last count, 245 people in Mexico City and the area have died from the earthquake and Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, etc. have been decimated by Maria.

While it is highly likely man-influenced climate change has made the hurricanes more powerful, two other disasters are clearly man-made and harmful to people. For one, we have to travel to Myanmar and Bangladesh as the government of Myanmar is doing an ethnic cleansing of a minority group of Muslims called Rohingyas. Over 400,000 Rohingyas have sought refuge in Bangladesh to escape the raping, killing, beating and burning of their homes. Sadly, the leader of Myanmar is Aung San Suu Kyi, who won a Nobel Prize for standing up to the military rulers she has replaced, has stood silent.

The other disaster was embodied in the US President who did his best impersonation of former USSR Premier Nikita Khrushchev. During the Cold War, Khrushchev beat on his table with his shoe and announced to the United Nations crowd that if you don’t watch out “We will bury you.” This is beyond the pale of decorum and tact and painted the Soviet Leader as a pariah, rightfully so.

Scrolling forward fifty plus years to this week, the current White House incumbent spoke to other world leaders at the United Nations in a bombastic manner that could not be confused with civil discourse or diplomacy. Compared to low expectations, Trump had some presentable parts of his speech, yet he falls way short when compared to his predecessors. Beating on his chest, he told the world he would have no problem in killing tens of millions of North Koreans wiping the country from the face of the earth.

While a few more controlling leaders are OK with Trump’s bombast, many leaders have been critical of the Nikita-like speech. I have witnessed in interviews the UN Leader, the President of France, the Leader of the International Monetary Fund, the current Mayor of New Orleans and the former Mayor of New York each show their dismay over Trump’s words and bombast. There are others. Watching the body language of General Kelly, Trump’s Chief of Staff, during the speech was very telling.

Long before this, Trump has shown to other leaders, he is not trustworthy or knowledgeable about global affairs. A Republican global advisor to Mitt Romney even used the word “ignoramus” to define the President’s foreign policy. Trudy Rubin, one of the best writers on global affairs, said Trump “Does not care to learn what he does not know.”

But, Trump has done even more, as evidenced by his speech. He has made America out to be a pariah in the world. That is highly frustrating to this American. I clearly recognize North Korea is a dilemma. I also fear the man who will make our decisions on this as he has little understanding of the situation and will likely stir up matters where cooler heads are needed.

When boys with toys start comparing egos and name calling, it makes military action a higher probability. We should not confuse being tough or having seriousness of purpose with sounding tough – the White House incumbent does not understand this. And, one thing Americans, the majority of whom support military action, need to think about is the other side will shoot back and millions will die in South Korea, Japan and maybe in the US. We only need to watch the documentary series on The Vietnam War to understand what happens when we think we are invincible and don’t tell the truth to the American people. Let’s seek diplomatic solutions.

Monday, Monday

With a shout out to the Mamas and the Papas, I borrow their song title to share a few miscellaneous thoughts this Monday.

Kim and Trump scare me as they see who has the longest private part. I hope cooler and more rational heads prevail. I keep thinking neither man is that stupid to launch a nuclear warhead, but the probability is higher than it was a year ago.

Just to make sure the White House incumbent does not understand the risk climate change poses, even after Hurricane Harvey was made worse as a result, he appoints another climate change denier to head NASA. It is one thing to not having scientists in positions that should likely have them – Departments of Energy, EPA and NASA- but they should at least not pretend they know more than scientists do. Their arguments ring shallow.

The White House incumbent will be telling us this week what he plans to do with kids of undocumented parents who were brought here. These over 800,000 kids and young people have the backing of business leaders and Congressional leaders. Speaker Paul Ryan says leave this to Congress, but he fails to recall Obama acted because Congress would not, even after a bipartisan Senate bill was passed. The business leaders see this as an intellectual capital issue as well as a fairness issue. Trump has been all over the place on this issue, so who knows.

Thank goodness the waters are subsiding in Texas and Louisiana. It will be a long, arduous struggle to repair and rebuild. Someone mentioned earlier said it would be quick, which are just words. I hope our Congress can help in funding. And, I wish FEMA, HUD and the EPA well in helping these people.

Have a safe week. If you are religious, say a little prayer for wise actions by incumbent heads of state and helpful public servants for those in need.