Too often we miss the point

Between tribal politics and some media too aligned with tribes, we miss the key points. Examples are in abundance.

On the Greenland issue, the issue is not wanting to buy Greenland, which other presidents have voiced. The issue is how it was raised. The president was scheduled to visit Denmark. The time and place to broach the subject was face-to-face. And, if the answer was no, the president could have been prepared to discuss a joint investment. All of this could have been done without offending a key ally.

Brazilian president Jari Bolsonaro has decided that the burning Amazon is not good for optics. Yet, the concern is it horrible for the planet. Now, he says he will accept the financial help from the G7 if French president Emmanuel Macron apologizes. The planet’s lung is burning – fix the problem. Your ego is secondary.

British prime minister Boris Johnson keeps  saying a no-deal Brexit is manageable. This runs counter to what CEOs are saying. Don’t tell us it is, tell us what you plan to do to mitigate the problems. The point is Brexit is a huge undertaking and it continues to appear the UK government is ill-equipped to address this. So, until Johnson is more forthcoming, Brits should  be skeptical. Suspending parliament is an autocratic move, the US president would envy.

Oh, Prince Andrew. You can say you did not do what you have been accused, but footage of you seems to betray your words. Jeffrey Epstein was someone you should not have been around. The fact two famous womanizers – Bill Clinton and Donald Trump – did so does not help your argument. The point is why do important men believe they can treat people like they own them and get away with it? Sadly, until the people who aid, abet and hide these crimes stop, these high powered men will continue to do so.

Finally, why is the US president such an errand boy for Russia? Here is a country that attacked the US to influence the election and is continuing to do so. They are denying travel visas to members of Congress which has Congress in a bipartisan uproar. So, the president is insistent that Russia rejoin the G7 glossing over why they were kicked out. Why is Trump so rewarding of Russia? That is the point. A clear message from the Mueller report is the significant level of contact between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.

Those are the points that need to be made. And, we need leaders and the better media to step up and make them.

Two Western Leaders came to Washington

Last week, the two leaders of the western world met with the US President, who has ceded the US role in the world. Emmanuel Macron, the President of France, and Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany visited with Donald Trump.

Of course, the US has the most powerful military in the world. We’d better as we spend far more than other countries. Yet, with our pulling back on diplomacy and the number of diplomats, with our imposition of tariffs on even our allies, with our retrenching from global agreements and with an unprecedented level of untruthfulness, we have ceded our global leadership role to China, overall, and Germany and France in the western world. And, while the UK remains important and formidable, I am sad to say Brexit will precipitate its decline from these ranks.

Macron and Merkel beseeched the US President to remain in the Iran Nuclear deal signed by seven parties (including the four countries above). As with other issues, Trump does a lot of chest beating without the benefit of being factually accurate. John Oliver of “Last Week Tonight,” does a nice job of defining the terms of the agreement and noting three untruthful things the US President says about it.

And, at least Macron openly requested the US to remain in the Paris Climate Change accord. We know this as Macron was allowed to speak with Congress and did so with an eye to the future and a statesman like flair. Yet, Merkel did not get such an opportunity. It puzzles me why Trump does not like her as his contempt easily shows.

He dotes on Macron, but he looks like he would rather be elsewhere when he is with Merkel. Is he jealous because Putin will actually listen to her? Is he superficial to not like her because she does not have a model’s shape or looks? Or is it her policies of openness to refugees? Or, it may be she is a student of understanding issues and he is not?

Nonetheless, she sees the future in the appropriate light as does Macron. “Narrow-minded nationalism” is something we must guard against Macron said to the US Congress. Global trade and relationships make the world safer.

I firmly believe if Trump remains in office for four years (and God forbid eight years), history will judge this period as when the US gave up its leadership role in the world. And, this happened with others not firing one shot, just a well-orchestrated influence campaign by the Russians who want a weaker west. But, don’t trust my judgement. Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and former State Department official Ronan Farrow has penned a book called “War on Peace” that notes the same premise with definitive examples. The decline in diplomacy is a huge mistake – we sent two people to a global issues meeting, while China sent twenty. They worked the rooms.

This is a sad state of affairs. We have listened to a populist President who does not care to know historical context and is not beholden to the truth. He has listened to people who want us to retrench. And, there is one thing for certain, we cannot shrink to greatness. It matters not what the ball caps say at Trump rallies.

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.

 

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.

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.