Doublespeak – Donald and his disciples

Donald Trump’s latest press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, said in her first press conference she would not lie to us. She then proceeded to emulate her boss’ untruthfulness. Last week, she said the US is the envy of the world in how we have handled COVID-19. That is not in the ballpark of being correct. That is doublespeak.

Per Wikipedia, doublespeak “is language that deliberately obscures, disguises, distorts, or reverses the meaning of words. Doublespeak may take the form of euphemisms, in which case it is primarily meant to make the truth sound more palatable. It may also refer to intentional ambiguity in language or to actual inversions of meaning.”

“The term ‘doublespeak’ originates in George Orwell’s book ‘1984’ (Nineteen Eighty-Four). Although the term is not used in the book, it is a close relative of two of the book’s central concepts, ‘doublethink’ and ‘Newspeak’. Another variant, ‘doubletalk’, also referring to deliberately ambiguous speech, did exist at the time Orwell wrote his book.”

Back to McEnany’s statement, the US has less than 5% of the global population, but 24% of the global COVID-19 deaths. Americans are restricted in traveling to many countries as the world is appalled at our mishandling of the pandemic. Doublespeak.

The president has misinformed us from the get go, but he is now playing Pollyanna saying it will go away soon and is not that bad. That is doublespeak. He finally wore a mask at Walter Reed Hospital to see veterans, but disdained its use, except for one brief part of a factory tour. Failing to wear a mask is its own form of doublespeak.

An ABC/ ISPOs poll said 67% of Americans disapprove of his handling of COVID-19. 67% also disapprove of his handling of the racial injustice issues. He has demeaned Black Lives Matter, he has looked past the many diverse peaceful protests to highlight the few more violent ones, and he has used code words to demean Black protestors. Adding to previous racial remarks, he has fanned the flames of division through his doublespeak.

Now, he is trying to re-litigate the Mueller and Ukraine investigations as he fires or forces out public servants who testified under oath at great risk over their concerns, as well as commuting the sentence of Roger Stone and having his Attorney General whitewash Michael Flynn’s case after he pleaded guilty to lying twice. This is doublespeak.

Robert Mueller penned an op-ed that everyone should read. He reiterates what they uncovered and the guilt of Stone and the others. The Attorney General cannot whitewash Mueller’s op-ed like he did with The Mueller Report.

This president will be remembered for his corruption, deceit and denigration of the media, hard-working civil servants, the law, our allied relationships and American ideals. And, it is greatly disappointing that so many Senators, Congresspeople and staff have contributed to and abetted his doublespeak.

Doublespeak is not new to Trump. Five Trump biographers noted before the election Trump has a problem with the truth. A simple example is how he got his money. He has boasted he got a $1 million loan from his father. An analysis by financial reporters, published in The New York Times in the fall 2018, noted his father transferred over $400 million in various ways before he died to his son to avoid taxes. Doublespeak.

Finally, he boasts he built the economy, yet the truth is he continued it. When he was sworn in, we were in the 91st consecutive month of economic growth. It went on for another 38 months before the recession. So, taking full credit for the economy is Doublespeak.

When Greed Leads

In the infamous movie “Wall Street” with Michael Douglas playing the shoe-shined, spit-polished, and dressed to the nines villain, Gordon Gekko, he uttered the phrase “greed is good.” As he found out, for greed to be considered in the same ball park as good, it needs a lot of caveats. We all want more, so each of us has a greed gene inside of us, but unadulterated greed, is not good.

In the US, many of our problems can be traced to greed. We pay CEOs in the US twenty to thirty times higher than CEOs are paid in other countries, when we look at the ratio of CEO pay to pay of the average worker. While the UK and Canada and other places are more like 15 to 1, the US ratio is more like 350 to 1. Having worked with a lot of CEOs in my day, I do not believe US CEOs are worth that differential. To perpetuate this wealth and income levels, in our country we use reasonably legal, but somewhat unethical means to gain political favor. It is not a surprise with the high cost of running for office, that so many legislators retire from service with much more wealth than they started with. That wealth did not come from a legislator’s salary. In other words, our greed perpetuation is much more legitimized.

Yet, in other countries, greed has led to rampant corruption and bribery. The evicted President of the Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, is the most recent example of living high on the hog at the expense of a country in need. Apparently, he built himself an estate with the all the finishings, personal golf course, included. While Ukrainian people experienced severe economic difficulty, he was well above the fray. However, any leader willing to shoot  on his own citizens with sniper fire, speaks volumes about his character, but that deserves its own post. Russia is now giving him asylum as their leaders value corruption as a skill.

What I have witnessed in my years as a business person, is the more totalitarian the leadership, the more corruption exists. Hosni Mubarak, when he was ousted as the Egyptian leader was worth US$ 81 Billion. So, while Egyptians were getting by on US$ 2 per day, Mubarak was not so economically challenged. It is like a current day “Animal Farm” where George Orwell described the pigs living quite nicely inside the house, while the other animals toiled away for nothing.

But, greed is not restricted to country leadership, as there are numerous examples in industry whether it be for profit or non-profit. On the latter, we have witnessed many seemingly altruistic, even religious people get caught up in greed. My favorite quote is from Reverend Jim Bakker of the Praise The Lord club who solicited millions from unsuspecting donors and lived in a house with solid gold faucets. Bakker was quoted as saying “The Lord wanted me to have nice things.” Bakker went to jail for his false advertising to people and poor stewardship with their money. Unfortunately, he has company from other religious leaders with convictions of tax evasion, bilking funders, poor stewardship, etc.

Yet, the true greed gets back to the CEO suite of for profit companies. We are only beginning to touch the issue of better governance of CEO and CEO direct reports’ pay. The issue of relativity of CEO pay to the average worker is telling. I have worked with organizations that are very egalitarian and leaders make an appropriate level of income. However, I have also worked with, consulted with and known many CEOs who are simply greedy sons of bitches. As an example, one CEO was not only paid very well, he never paid for anything that he could get the company to pay for. The company paid for his daughter’s wedding because he invited clients. And, one of his classic lines when he was being apprised of a potential benefit program for employees was to hold up his hand to stop the talker and ask “what’s in it for me?”

So, it comes down to we the people have to be as vigilant as possible. We have to question leaders whether they are in industry, philanthropy, religious organization or government. We need to challenge them to be the best of stewards with our money and resources. And, we need a healthy dose of skepticism. We need to dig underneath why someone is recommending something. Do they have a vested interest in the decision? It never hurts to ask. As the answer may be one that needs to be heard by many.

Some more odds and ends from around the globe

From the death of Nelson Mandela to the reaction to Pope Francis’ essay on being less about material wealth and reaching out to those in need, the news has been interesting as well as moving and puzzling.

Mandela’s death has caused an outpouring of celebration of his life as one of the greatest leader’s of this planet. People from all persuasions, countries, ethnicities and races have been moved by this man. Many wrote articles and posts, as I did on the previous post, about how we feel about what he did for the world and South Africa. Yet, there are always some who choose not to join in. A small South Carolina town sheriff refused to lower the American flag to half-staff as requested by the President, because “we should reserve that tribute for an American.” It should be noted other places in the town flew flags at half-staff.

Rush Limbaugh was in the news for calling Pope Francis a Marxist since he was not in favor of unfettered capitalism and we should all look to help those in need. The fact that the US moved toward fettered capitalism in response to the Robber Baron greed period where lower economic classes were exploited is lost on Rush and his band of merry men. There is a movement afoot among the 1% (and those who aspire to be) to go back to the Robber Baron period claiming there is war on the rich. The war is over – the rich won. We have one of the greatest economic disparities in our country’s history and have continued to decline in rankings in social economic mobility. Poverty is an US as well as global problem. And, the Pope is the best leader we have globally on this topic. The same could not be said for the provocative radio host.

George Orwell’s books “1984” and “Animal Farm” are prescient as well as historical. “Animal Farm” shows how the rulers in a communist system can make out like bandits, but it probably applies to any system unless the people can keep track of what is going on. It was reported this week that JP Morgan Chase has had an active “Sons and Daughters Program” to build business in China. The straightforward idea is to hire the sons and daughters of Communist party officials to curry favor. If you’re not keeping score, this is bribery. “1984″ is alive and well with Big Brother spying electronically on everyone. Of course, even Orwell could not have predicted that retailers and online vendors have taken spying to a new level to sell you more products or services.

It does not pay to be a relative of Kim Jong Un. The boy emperor sacked his very powerful uncle Jang Song Thaek. He has already “purged” his ex-girlfriend, ex-wife and is reported to plan to “purge” the wife of his sacked uncle. Purge means what you think it means. On the good side, his country made up for a mistake and released an 85-year-old American who was visiting, but had fought in the Korean War over 60 years ago. I guess he was not as dangerous as first thought. And, by the way, North Koreans should take note South Korea continues to flourish.

Before people place Putin on a pedestal, note that his country continues to use strong-arm tactics to get its way both inside and outside his country. Ukraine citizens are in revolt over their President relenting to Russia’s pressures not to join the European Union. Putin’s goal is very obvious in that he wants to rebuild the Soviet empire, but is using economic clout as his weapon. And, people who disagree with him in his own country are more than frowned upon; they are dealt with. One of his challenges is Russia has young people who never grew up under the Soviet iron fist who want social and economic freedoms to continue.

So called American leaders and pundits who beat on their chest and want to go to war rather than use diplomacy have a right to their opinion, but I don’t see them putting their fannies on the line. When I hear this “invade” or “bomb” rhetoric, my first thought is “what do you plan to do when they fight back and you have no clear-cut plan?” Haven’t we learned anything from Iraq or Afghanistan? Winning battles does not mean victory – in fact, the US has lost far more than lives with what we have done in these places. You win hearts and minds by helping people with commerce. You make it easier for the citizens of a country to make a living and you will do far more to help your influence than destroying something. Syria is very complicated, especially when Russia and China did not support the UN call to action. The world missed a chance to intervene early on. Now it is a mess (there is a better word beginning with cluster..).  What does victory look like? I recognize trusting Iran is difficult, but we should try to work with the new regime to see if this is a better path forward. The President and Secretary of State John Kerry deserve a lot of credit for not giving up on Mideast diplomacy.

Enough odds and ends for today. Let me know what you think of these thoughts. Have a great week.