Miscellaneous Friday Musings

Happy Friday everyone. If your weekend has started already, make it all you want and need it to be. Here are a few miscellaneous musings for the week that was, in no particular order.

Not that I am a Carly Fiorina fan, but I do give her credit during the GOP debate for her matter-of-fact way in which she dismissed Donald Trump’s remarks about her looks in the Rolling Stone interview. He made his situation worse with a horribly insincere and wincing retort that he thought she had a beautiful face. He missed the point entirely – a woman’s looks are less relevant than her ability to lead others. Yet, he made a similar screw-up earlier when he responded to Rand Paul’s criticism of Trump’s childish comments, by again commenting off-hand about Paul’s looks.

Beyond the childish remarks and labeling, what will eventually bring Trump crashing down is his history of trying to screw people over and his inability to explain a detailed answer to any questions. The only truth that Trump knows is he exploits others for gain and when they no longer are of service, casts them aside and leaves the problems for someone else. By the way, most companies do not file for bankruptcy and they especially do not do it four times. He also uses his bravado to mask a lack of awareness of issues and resolutions. “I will be an unbelievable President on this issue.” OK, show us.

The refugee crisis is a mess and all countries need to lend a hand. Some countries are choosing to close up shop. These folks are in need, but there are so many that the burden of help and eventually welcoming to their new homes has to be spread around. There are some Middle East counties that have exhausted all resources to help, even with financial support. There are others who could pick up some slack. But, the reasons they are leaving have to be dealt with and that is hard. I am hopeful that productive discussions can emerge from the larger powers to determine some path forward as it is a conundrum, yet it cannot continue.

Pope Francis, the most respected leader on the planet today, is coming to America. He brings his important and on-point message that we must focus on our global poverty and climate change problems. He correctly notes the latter affects everyone, but especially the poor who tend to live in areas that are more susceptible to environmental concerns. I wrote a post recently about all the issues being related. These two issues are exacerbated by global corruption in leadership, even in America, and the maltreatment and undervaluing of women. We must treat women better for their own sake, but also for the sake of commerce, innovation and leadership.

I mention this last point in that it is not unusual to find women in important roles in the world. Angela Merkel, the prime minister of Germany is one of the strongest and most respected leaders on the planet. Christine LaGarde is the managing director of the International Monetary Fund. Janet Yellin is the Chairperson of the US Federal Reserve. Park Geun-hye is the current president of South Korea. And, the US has had many notable female Secretaries of State such as Madeleine Albright, Condoleeza Rice and Hillary Clinton. It also took a bipartisan group of female senators to end a government shutdown led by Ted Cruz in 2013, who threatens to do it again. Note to Cruz, give it a rest.

I hope we listen more to this Pope and the voices of women in leadership positions. We have many issues in the world, yet we need to talk about them more in a reasonable way. We men tend to compete more in the game of politics, meaning I must win and you must lose. Yet, in that kind of game, we all end up losing. Watching this debate the other night was evidence of that as the real problems of America and the planet were not discussed much at all. And, that is a problem for us all.

Everything is related

There is an old saying that when a butterfly flaps its wings, it can be felt as a gust of wind around the globe. The point is to say everything on our earth is related. We impact each other and our environment and the opposite is also true. Too often, we lose sight of this context, and we miss the bigger problems while solving some smaller problem.

Just to get the thought process going, here are a few interrelated issues that provide some greater context for our problems.

One of the greatest issues facing the planet is global poverty, including the United States. Poverty impacts many issues through lack of opportunity, lack of education, lack of socio-economic mobility, greater crime, fewer role models, lack of investment in the local economy and, because of all this, lack of hope. If economic opportunities are minimal, crime can take its place. Note, poverty is an equal opportunity offender affecting urban areas, rural areas and now it is finding its way into the suburbs.

Another of our greatest issues relates to our resources for air, water and food. These are all exacerbated by climate change, which makes fresh water more dear, harms our coasts with encroaching seas made worse when hurricanes hit ashore, intensifies our drought areas, makes more frequent our forest fires, and impacts our fisheries and crops. Right now, with about 7 Billion people, if we consumed on average like a North American, there would not be enough resources. That should be telling and it will only get worse. When I think of renewable energy, I see it as a way not only to save our planet due to climate change, but as a way to preserve our fresh water which is used to create energy with fossil fuel or nuclear power, not to mention the huge amount of water needed to frack for natural gas.

It is not a surprise that Pope Francis has raised these two issues as his major concerns in his recent encyclical. He will be talking more about these when he comes to the US. Our leaders need to listen to what he has to say as his message is dead-on accurate. And, he relates the two issues, as people in poverty are more impacted by environmental issues and climate change. It should be noted a poor fishing village in Bangladesh went away with rising sea levels. Tens of thousands of fishermen and their families had to move to already crowded cities to find work they did not how to do.

But, I don’t want to stop there as there are two more issues that impact both of the above issues. First, global corruption is widespread and hits home in the US. It is not as apparent, but think of the amount of money to get elected in our country. These funders are buying influence. So, once the votes are cast, the average voter pales in comparison to the funders and their lobbyists. It has always been this way, but it is now heightened with the obscene amounts of money to get elected. Yet, it is worse in other places. Global poverty exists because leaders keep the money in their pockets, even money donated to help those in need.

Second, the maltreatment of women affects us all. The Chinese proverb that women hold up half the sky is true. If a religion or cultural mores treat women as a possession denying opportunity, they are doing themselves a huge disservice. They are competing in a world with only half its resources. Women tend to be more collaborative than men, as men have a greater tendency to compete on more issues. I call this a zero sum game – I must win and you must lose. If you remember the movie with Russell Crowe called “A Beautiful Mind,” about the schizophrenic, but brilliant economist John Nash, he won the Nobel Prize for a theory called the Nash Equilibrium which is still used today. In essence, if we pursue goals where we all succeed to a degree, the whole group would be more successful than if we each tried to maximize our own profit. Treating women like chattel flies directly against Nash’s economic theory.

So, these are the biggest issues facing our planet in my view. They do relate to each other. Yet, we need to start addressing these issues on a concerted basis or we will not be living very nicely in the future. I would start with treating women better, as their ideas and commerce will help us fight the other fights. Yet, we need to start fighting those issues as well.

So, it is not OK for the Pope to talk about poverty and climate change?

There have been a series of comments by Republican presidential candidates and leaders directed at Pope Francis for having the nerve to talk about helping people in poverty and doing something about climate change. They have basically told him to stick to religion and one even said “helping us be better people.” I am having a hard time coming to grips with these comments, but I guess these folks felt like they had to say something to counteract the veracity of the Pope’s message. And, some of the candidates are even Catholic, no less.

Let me first say I agree with the messages of the Pope who is probably the greatest leader we have on the planet today. No, he is not perfect, but he is speaking about issues the Catholic Church has always stood for, helping people in need. More global charities to help the poor have been started by the Catholic Church and other churches for that matter than any other source. So, for the Pope to speak on poverty is part and parcel with the history of the church and Jesus’ teaching to look after who he called “the least of these.”

Further, the Christian bible and other religious texts are filled with passages about taking care of the environment, so speaking to climate change as a source of concern is also part and parcel with the history of the church. The Pope has noted that people in poverty are more impacted by climate change and environmental problems than other folks. So, his message on climate change has a dual purpose. Yet, with him coming to speak to Congress, we will witness a mountain of public relations unleashed on his right to speak to these issues. To be frank, this will backfire on the assailants and should.

But, to make these comments even more bizarre are the comments that are seemingly condoned by religious leaders who support the Republican Party. So, by virtue of the Presidential candidates’ silence, the following comments must be OK.

– Reverend Franklin Graham’s consistent indicting rhetoric toward Muslims and LGBT people. Contrast this to the Pope’s comments of a year ago when asked about gays, when he responded, “who am I to judge?”

– A minister in Maiden, NC who says we should put gay people behind an electrified fence, so that they will die off, a message which was reinforced by a minister and public official in Alabama.

– Pat Buchanan who says the Supreme Court gay marriage ruling could start another Civil War.

– The State of Oklahoma GOP’s statement on Facebook equating feeding wild animals and people in need, which is particularly offensive  (see link below).

– Pat Robertson’s comments that hurricanes are God’s response to various civil rights changes. I always find this one of interest, as the last two GOP Conventions have been shortened a day by hurricanes. While one was in Tampa, the other one was in Minneapolis, MN not known for its hurricanes. So, Reverend Robertson, does that mean……

We have a global poverty problem which is also apparent in the United States. It is a shame that so many Americans go hungry and cannot make enough money to live. Also, climate change is real and is man-influenced. It does affect those in need more, as people’s livelihoods are being washed away. And, the Pope not only is right to speak about these issues, it is well within his rights to speak about them. By the way, he has a Masters in Chemistry, so he also has a scientific mind which adds some gravitas.

My strong advice to these candidates is to watch what you say. Your current position is in the wrong and if you follow the advice of your funders, it will haunt you. You are definitely barking up the wrong tree on this. This Pope has far more credibility than any Presidential candidate throwing mud at him.

https://mountainperspective.wordpress.com/2015/07/14/republican-christians-an-oxymoron/

Innovation is portable (and attractive)

Innovation is portable. This is a quote from David Smick’s book “The World is Curved.” Who is David Smick, you may be asking? He was an economic advisor to Congressman Jack Kemp, President Ronald Reagan and President Bill Clinton, two Republicans and a Democrat. His comment is telling in that he notes if we do not do our best to keep the innovators here, they will go elsewhere. And, when they go elsewhere, manufacturing from the innovation will be based elsewhere.

The US has the world’s best college and university system and it draws people from around the globe and country. So, we should grease the skids to make it easier for them to stay and innovate here post graduation. It would be a shame for the idea creation to start here and migrate to another country. As that will be where the job creation begins.

So, what do we need to do about it? We need to make sure our immigration laws are improved to make it easier to keep talent. Industry has been crying out for this, yet it is held hostage by a political gamesmanship to speak to a strident base. We need to reform our patent laws to make sure “patent trolls” do not interfere and sabotage the innovators. These trolls are extortionists who will use a key word or phrase in an idea by someone else to state that someone is violating a patent they filed (with no product or development behind it). What the troll wants is “go away money” without a court case.

We need to understand the historical marriage and timing of venture capital, government funding and other investor capital. Our nation has been forged on the interplay between these funding sources, as they are needed to perpetuate ideas and implement the initial manufacturing effort. The money is needed at various times in the process, with the government money sometimes in advance of the venture capital, sometimes in tandem with the venture capital and sometimes following it. The need varies based on the what is needed to get stuff off the ground.

There are numerous examples of joint investment. I spoke of one last night about an offshore wind turbine testing facility in Charleston, South Carolina. It is a joint venture between folks like GE and Siemens who make turbines, Clemson University, the City of Charleston, the US Department of Energy and the SC Department of Energy (although it may have a different name). The idea is to improve the efficacy of these offshore wind turbines making them more economical to use here in the states, as they are done elsewhere.

Another good example in Durham, North Carolina is a company called Semprius, which makes the most elegant solar photo-voltaic panel in the world, where 33% of the sun’s energy is convertible to electricity, a huge leap forward. This is a joint venture between Pratt-Whitney Rocketdyne, Siemens and the US Department of Energy. With solar energy taking off everywhere, but especially in North Carolina with about 23,000 jobs which have been growing at a 25% annual rate the last three years, it shows what innovation means to an area. Nationally, at year-end 2014, there are 174,000 solar jobs which have been growing at a double-digit rate over the last five years per annum.

It should be obvious that I picked two renewable energy examples, as these two sources not only have to be a key part of our future energy mix, but they have and will promote jobs as a result. And, not only is innovation portable – it is attractive to new business. So, this is where we need to fund more of our resources. It is good for our environment and it is good for business. And, per Pope Francis’ encyclical on climate change which is on point, it is good for God’s creation. Given that the Pope is also a trained scientist with a Masters in Chemistry, as well as a humanitarian, I think the world should listen to what he has to say on these issues. Especially, since he is echoing the findings of so many scientific bodies and panels.

A few paraphrased quotes for fun

Politicians, pundits and so-called experts say the darnedest things. And, they tend to forget that they have been recorded. The sad truth is some do not care, as they have “evolved their opinion” or “changed their mind.” Nonetheless, these quotes provide nice vignettes into the absurd world of our leaders and so-called thought leaders. It is a reminder that every thing you see and hear should be taken with a grain of salt.

– In 2008, both current Speaker of the House John Boehner and Senate Leader Mitch McConnell said these statements on camera. “Climate change is real and man-influenced and we need to do something about it.”

– Roughly in 2007, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and then current Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi did a television commercial together. Newt said “I was wrong about global warming. It is a problem and both Nancy and I agree we need to do something about it.”

– In 2014, both Boehner and McConnell said roughly “The science is not clear on climate change.”

– In his 2012 Presidential election run, Gingrich said, “I was wrong to say I was wrong about climate change.”

– Last month, Presidential candidate Rick Santorum in response to a question about Pope Francis’ paper on the Catholic Church’s concern over doing something about climate change, “We need to leave this to the scientists.” The Pope not only is supporting what governing scientific bodies are saying, but he also has a Masters in Chemistry, so technically he has some science qualifications.

– A public relations person who is well-compensated by the fossil fuel industry portrays himself as a scientific expert and argues on the split screen shots with scientists on talk shows. In the documentary movie “Merchants of Doubt,” he made fun of scientists saying they were “boring” and took pride in selling a story of climate change being a hoax. These scientists have spent a life studying the problem, but sometimes find it hard to articulate a complex argument into sound bites. When he was asked by Glenn Beck if he was an independent, unbiased expert, he lied and said he was.

– Former Congressman Bob Inglis of South Carolina, who was a climate change skeptic, traveled to Antarctica to see for himself. He came away convinced that the science was real and climate change is the problem as advertised. On the floor of Congress, he made a speech about his findings and that we need to do something about it. He was trounced in the next election by a fossil-fuel backed candidate. He now travels around telling his story as a Republican supporting the need to act on climate change and faces uphill battles everywhere he goes.

Man-influenced climate change is here and is causing problems around the world from Ecuador to Bangladesh to the Cartaret Islands to Miami to the Everglades to Norfolk to Texas to California. The drought areas will become worse and they are. Forest fires will become worse and they are. Sea-level rise will encroach into low-lying areas and it is. Hurricanes will hit shore from an elevated water level and be worse like Hurricane Sandy. And, chemicals in the ground will heat up like a crock pot.

The world can ill-afford a President or politicians to not recognize climate change for the problem it is. Please ask questions of politicians why they believe the way they do and what framed their opinion.

Religious Support for the Environment

A Catholic Nun, a Muslim Imam and a Jewish Rabbi walked into a room. Per the Rabbi, there is no punch line as this is not a joke, as all three came to discuss how their religions support treating the environment well. The discussion was called “Interfaith Perspective on Caring for the Planet.” After viewing a movie called “Stewardship and Lost Rivers,” co-produced by two professors at University of North Carolina at Charlotte, which featured numerous religious leaders of various faiths, it is very apparent that each religion supports doing something about man-influenced climate change and treating our environment well for our children and grandchildren’s sake. In fact, Pope Francis will be publishing a position paper that says these very things later this summer, in advance of the next United Nations global meeting in Paris on doing something about climate change.

The Catholic Nun, who is one of 25 Climate Action leaders in the US Catholic Church, was keen on equating poverty and maltreatment of the environment. She noted that people in poverty are more impacted than others due to the placement of environmentally harmful energy sources nearer poor neighborhoods and the inability to easily pick up and move or seek medical help for illnesses perpetuated by pollution and energy waste product. Also, climate change seems to hit impoverished low-lying areas with sea rise and encroachment into farm land and fresh water supplies. In fact, one of the co-producers of “Stewardship and Lost Rivers” who was present used the term “eco-racism” to define the inordinate onus placed on the impoverished.

Yet, each religious leader echoed what was noted in the film regarding the wishes of God, Allah or a supreme being to treat the environment well for future generations. The Rabbi told the story of a man who was planting a tree that would not bear fruit for 75 years. When he failed to attend a meeting with a potential Messiah, he said he needed to finish planting this tree, as a tree bearing fruit was here when he came along and, irrespective of whether this is the Messiah, people will need the fruit from the tree. This is echoed in Deuteronomy where God tells the armies if they must wage war, to avoid cutting down the fig trees, as people will need to eat regardless of who wins.

Each religious leader discussed our need to be good stewards with our resources, in particular, water which is important in all religions symbolically and spiritually, but as well as to survive. I spoke with the Imam afterwards, and he noted because water is so dear in the Middle East, Muslims can use sand instead of water in their prayers. We discussed in Steven Solomon’s book “Water: The Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power and Civilization,” Solomon notes that Saudi Arabia is oil rich and water poor, which will cause huge problems in the not-so-distant future. Sounds like Texas, Oklahoma and California to me.

This topic resonated with me, especially when poverty and the environment were linked. We must do something about man-influenced climate change and its impact on the world. We need to treat our resources of air and water as dear as they are and will become in the future. As noted in the movie, there is no “Planet B,” as this is the only chance we get. We cannot rewind and change what we have done, but we can alter the future course. It is great to see religious leaders, like the Pope and these three folks, embrace the need to act to address our environmental concerns and poverty, as well. We should follow the instructions in our religious texts and join them.

A tale of two religious leaders

One of my greatest pet peeves is bigotry from the pulpit. I feel that it is a misuse of power to use influence from the pulpit to promote exclusion or put down another’s religion. Two religious leaders made the news yesterday about statements they made online or in public. They show the good and bad side of religion. It is my belief when religion is inclusive it is at its best; when it excludes it is at its absolute worst.

On the good side, Pope Francis continued to show that he is a new kind of pope. His interest in addressing the needs of the impoverished and disenfranchised and promoting peace are exemplary. He is slowly turning the battleship in the harbor which is the Catholic Church. He noted that freedom of speech is important, but he cautioned that when one speaks of religion they need to tread more thoughtfully. He is not condoning terroristic actions by extremists, but he is just sharing the counsel of wisdom. The old rule of thumb for peaceful family dinners is you don’t talk about religion or politics at the table comes to mind. The same can be said on a broader scale.

Freedom of speech is valued, but it is not fully understood around the globe what that entails. I remember the line from one of my favorite movies “The American President” when Michael Douglas noted America is advanced citizenship. You have to want it real badly. You have to tolerate someone shouting at their lungs against what you have been shouting at your lungs in favor of. Many around the world are not ready for that. So, when you add the extra passion of faith and someone makes fun of that faith, it is hard to swallow and extremists can be influenced to do unreasonable things. This is a different way of saying there is great power in freedom of speech, so you may want to use it more judiciously at times. You can still indict unenviable and unreasonable actions, but tread a little more cautiously when speaking of a religion.

On the negative side, Reverend Franklin Graham is at it again with his vitriol condemning the entire religion of Islam rather than the extremists. His organization, Samaritan’s Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelical organization do so much good around the world, that he only detracts from these efforts when he espouses condemning language. The fact he has 70,000 likes on his comments is also disturbing, which validates my argument. When a faith leader espouses bigotry from the pulpit or from his website, he is misusing his influence to divide. He is actually doing the exact opposite of what I would prefer a religious leader to do. And, to be brutally frank, when I think of WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?), I do not think the Jesus from my bible would condone denigrating others. In fact, Jesus was consistently more irritated with the religious leaders of the day, who in His mind misused the church power and resources.

In my simple mind, it is pretty straightforward. Treat others like you want to be treated. That is Jesus’ advice to the world and echoes that of other religious leaders. The Pope gets this. Even though I am not Catholic, I feel Pope Francis is one of the most important leaders in the world right now. Previous popes had forgotten this power and focused on less important things which diminished the focus on helping people. This Pope is walking the talk and I hope other leaders follow his lead down the better path forward.