The company you keep

Even parents who are not helicopter parents have concerns over the friends their children make. These friends can be positive or negative influences. My wife and I opened our house to our kids’ friends – we loved the chaos, but also got to meet them.

Speaking of the company you keep, on yet another Friday night cleansing, the president announced he would commute the sentence of his confidant Roger Stone. Stone was convicted of lying to Congress and more and is a self-professed dirty trickster, which still puzzles me why anyone would brag about that?

Stone is a contemporary of Paul Manafort, who also went to jail for more than a few malfeasances related to unreported foreign dealings and income. Manafort served as Trump’s campaign manager for over four months.

Michael Flynn pleased guilty to lying to the FBI twice, but that does not seem to matter now to some. What is also not reported enough, is the FBI did not pursue other legitimate charges of not reporting relationships with foreign governments and conducting government business before being sworn in. The FBI wanted his help, so they made a plea deal.

And, it still puzzles me why the president commuted the sentence of disgraced former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich. Blagojevich marketed for money the Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama when he became president. That is both illegal and highly unethical.

These are the kind of people the president values. Maybe this is part of the reason he fawns over autocratic-type and brutal leaders from Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Philippines, North Korea, Brazil, etc.

It also interests me how he demeans, denigrates and eventually forces out people who are more loyal to the Constitution than to him. People who testified under oath at great risk over concerns, Inspector Generals who wrote reports or raised concerns inconsistent to whatever tactic the president was employing and, of course, whistleblowers who raised concerns with the hope of some protection have come under fire. Names like Alex Vindman, Fiona Hill, Michael Atkinson, Mitch Behm, Glenn Fine, Christi Grimm, Steve Linick, et al are American heroes run out of Dodge by the corrupt sheriff. It also is frustrating to watch Senators and Congresspeople throw these folks under the bus.

I have been a broken record with Republican Senators and my two Republican Congressman (the first had to resign over unreported conflicts of interest) sharing my concerns about the most corrupt and deceitful president in my lifetime, including Richard Nixon. I would ask them what will you have to defend next week, the week after, next month…?

I recall Republicans making a big deal out of Obama not wearing s flag pin. How unpatriotic! But, now it is OK that a president prefers the company of criminals, he takes the side of Putin over his own intelligence people, he does not bother to study key briefings endangering Americans, he is far more untruthful than he is not beating up on those who try to tell the truth, so badly botching a COVID-19 response using misinformation and finally promoting racial injustice dividing America.

These are questions that stymie me, and the sycophants who look the other way are abetting this corruption. But, don’t take my word for it, Google all those names above and determine for yourself. Ask why are the various groups treated so differently by this president?

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.