The emperor has no clothes

At a recent cabinet meeting, the leader asked for comments beginning with his second in command. Kim Jong Un, it is an unbelievable privilege to serve you. The next cabinet leader said I am blessed to serve you oh great leader.

Cabinet leader after cabinet leader continued fawning over their leader, making sure they each stroked Kim Jong Un’s ego. None dared to mention the country had a hard time feeding its people or that funding their military may not be the best use of their funds.

None dared risk the wrath of their leader citing his inane statements and policies or delusional behavior. They dared not say “the emperor has no clothes.” His temper is legendary. His inability to digest and benefit from criticism is as well.

This emperor only wants to feed his immense, but oh so fragile ego. Yet, the problem for us is this emperor is not Kim Jong Un. His name is Donald J. Trump and he is President of the United States. And, he has no clothes. The sad truth is his cabinet of sycophants know this.

A few mid-week musings

Since we are at mid-week, let me offer a few miscellaneous musings, mostly good with a few bad. Let me start with some good news:

A Federal appeals court in the Chicago area ruled that the LGBT community is protected under the 1964 Civil Rights amendment even though they were not specifically listed. The court case was around a community college professor who contended she was fired for being a Lesbian. The ruling was 8 to 3, but will of course be appealed to the district court in Indiana.

On what appears to be good news, but falls way short, the North Carolina General Assembly passed a repeal to the discriminatory HB2 law, yet left the most important piece of discrimination therein. They rolled back the change on the transgender bathroom issue, yet left in place the exclusion of the LGBT community from protected status for discrimination. Reviewing the above ruling in Chicago, it is apparent that feature is unconstitutional.

The electric car maker Tesla blew past expected deliveries this past week for their first quarter with over 25,400 cars. Tesla is on pace to deliver the high-end of their 45,000 to 50,000 first half of the year estimate. What is interesting the stock market is valuing the future for this company and its current market capitalization value is $48 Billion which is now higher than Ford at just under $45 Billion. Tesla is owned by Elon Musk who is leveraging his battery technology to aid in solar and wind energy storage, working on a key project to help Australia with an outage problem.

Reuters reported today that utility companies are not being influenced by our President’s fight to end the war on coal. With the exception of one of 31 companies, a two-thirds majority said it would not impact their plans to move to cheaper and cleaner natural gas and increasingly cheaper renewable energy sources. The other companies were silent. In a piece I read last year, we are passed the tipping point on renewable energy and it was postulated about utilities why would they invest in an expensive coal-fired plant that will be obsolete before it is completed?

On the bad side, I am increasingly concerned by Bashar al-Assad and his willingness to gas people. This man has a history of doing this and then lying to reporters and other leaders about it. It would be great to see the UN powers come together and say, we will help end this war in your country, but you must step down now or face charges of war crimes. While our former President did many good things, his handling of Syria was not one of them. He and Congress let the world down by not spanking this SOB for his last gassing of civilians. I am a peaceful person, but there are times when you must stand up to evil.

Then, there is North Korea who remains a threat as it is run by a petulant tyrant. China must join with the rest of the world in helping put a lid on this man’s chest beating. Otherwise, we leave it in the hands of our own mess maker. While I trust some of his military advisors in doing the right thing, I have little confidence in our leader solving this problem without some diplomatic help. What at least should scare North Korea is our President is a loose cannon, as it scares me.

Well, that is all for now. Have a great rest of your week.

 

Odds and ends for a Friday

Mother Nature is wreaking havoc with flooding in France and Texas. Our expatriate friend Lisa from Ecuador is living in a community that has experienced devastating earthquakes which have taken many lives and will cost over $3 Billion to repair. And, this is on top of the encroaching seas which continue to wreak havoc in her seaside community causing folks to move inland. So I feel guilty about the beautiful day we are having here and wish for others to experience the sunshine.

Here are a few odds and ends on this Friday.

Violent protesting is not the answer – in response to maybe the most divisive, bigoted and narcissistic candidate we have ever had in the US in The Donald, protestors have become more physically demonstrative outside of his rallies. This needs to stop. Civil protest is more than OK, but violent protest has no place in our country. I recognize fully this leader-wanna-be has used his false bravado to encourage forcible put downs of protestors which is as far from presidential as you can get, but doing the same in protest is not the answer. The answer is don’t vote for this globally disastrous candidate.

That climate change thing is real – I  mention above about the encroaching seas on Ecuador and have talked before about the impact already occurring on Miami, Norfolk, Bangladesh and the Cartaret Islands, but my favorite lie of the above candidate is “global warming is a hoax invented by the Chinese to steal our jobs.” I have said before The Donald, who is on record as lying over 75% of the time by nonpartisan fact checkers, knows he is lying, but in this example we have proof. It turns out the Trump golf course in Ireland has formally petitioned the Irish government to permit him to build a sea wall to prevent the rising seas due to climate change from encroaching on his golf property. But, you said….

With friends like these, who needs enemies – Why this is not talked about more is amazing, but our allies have come out strongly against Trump given his statements and lack of awareness of global issues. Yet, The Donald does have the support of Vladimir Putin and now Kim Jong Un of North Korea. Putin is very adamant against Clinton and wants The Donald in charge. People need to ask themselves why? Here is a KGB trained man who knows how to manipulate and is in favor of Trump. Here is a man who makes sure Russian TV programs have purposeful light criticism and heavy support of Putin, as a means of propaganda. Don’t you think he is salivating at an egomaniacal, thin-skinned, and bombastic leader like Trump who will tick of our allies and make Putin look more statesmanlike?

Brazil and Venezuela have made governing a farce – There are known problems around the world with poor and corrupt governance, but it seems to have been heightened in these two countries. Brazil is about to host the biggest athletic show in the world, yet its leader, Dilma Rousseff  was suspended and is about to be impeached for cooking the books to make things look better than they are. Not to be out done, the Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has ticked off everyone by seizing control of businesses who have had to shut the doors because of cash flow problems. The country has relied too much on oil and with the downturn in oil prices, their economy has been devastated. Plus, he has ordered military exercises, which cost money, but basically are for showmanship. Dialogue is non-existent at this point and that needs to change, as oil prices are not soaring back anytime soon.

That is all I have for now. I think if there is a theme above, we must have reasonable and accountable leaders to run our governments. Our problems are real and we deserve leaders who will govern, govern with facts and not step on folks.

 

 

But, he has a 80% approval rating

Some times phrases are used in the news in a way that portrays them as solid information. On more than one occasion, when referencing Vladimir Putin and his ability to look people in the eye and lie to them about Russia’s role in Ukraine, it is noted “but he has a 80% approval rating.” This piece of information is said like Russians must be OK with his performance because it is so high. What the news person fails to realize is “of course, it is high; if you were in the 20%, your life may be in danger.”

What happened this past week to opposition leader Boris Nemtsov who has shot dead from behind within a couple yards of the Kremlin is not an anomaly. Opponents of Putin have a way of finding themselves in prison or no longer living. So, with his KGB like affinity and desire to recreate the USSR footprint, disagreeing with Mr. Putin is not a good business to be in. It is like “The Outlaw Josey Wales” movie, where the bounty hunter says being a bounty hunter “is a living.” To which, Wales responds, “Dying ain’t much of a livin, boy.” It is not much of a living opposing Putin, even though it still must be done.

This is not unlike the approval ratings of Saddam Hussein or Kim Jong Un. Both experienced approval ratings in the high 90% range. I think they were cognizant of not saying 100% as that would appear as a false positive, so they fudged the numbers downward. In Russia, with a more free society over the last twenty years, those 20% still believe they have the ultimate freedom to do and say what they want. Yet, there are still enough people around who remember and can counsel to not be on someone’s list. Nemtsov was on such a list and was about to call Putin out with evidence of his lying about Russian involvement in Ukraine.

Of course, I like to keep things simple. If you are not involved in Ukraine, why are European leaders bothering to talk to you? By speaking with them is that not prima facie evidence that you are involved in Ukraine more so than you let on?

So, news people, the next time you cite the 80% statistic, you may want to caveat that the percentage is likely artificially high. The Russian people deserve to know the truth about what is happening, so they can reach their own conclusions. They are not hearing the truth from the state controlled news there.

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.