Wednesday wanderings in early March – Ukraine focused

It looks like a beautiful day here, but like many I am glued to the news of what is happening in Ukraine. As for here, last night all three of our adult children gathered with us and it was a delight to hear and participate in the conversation.

Here are a few wanderings for this first Wednesday in March.

-I read where China delegates are having conversation with Ukraine leaders. That has to stick in the craw of the malevolent acting autocrat in Moscow.

-I also read Trump’s former National Security Advisor John Bolton said Trump would not have stood in Putin’s way if he invaded Ukraine on Trump’s watch. I have no trouble believing that to be true, as Putin could steer Trump any way he wanted.

-The Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky is doing what a leader should do. He is right there with his people telling the Russians and their malevolent acting autocrat we will not back down. Ukraine may not prevail, but one has to admire Zelensky and his people’s moxie.

-I read that Russia may start defaulting on debts if the invasion takes too long. Long military campaigns cost money and that is money Russia does not have a lot to spare. The Russian people know this even though they are mostly too scared to go out with the tens of thousands protestors and say so given the 6,000 arrests.

-Again, the malevolent acting autocrat may prevail on the military side, but he has already lost big time. In the course of two weeks, he has managed to galvanize NATO and the EU and show to the world the kind of person he is. Future investment in his country will return at some point, but it may take longer this time.

-Finally, per my previous post, please listen to and watch people on the news and opinion shows who know what they are talking about. Former Moscow bureau chief for Fox Jennfier Griffin and Dr. Fiona Hill are two experts on Russia and are among a handful worth listening to. The last people to listen to are opinion hosts who are more entertainers than news people, especially when they are not known for being truthful.

As Senator Mitt Romney said on Sunday, supporting a leader of another country who is bent on taking freedoms away is not something to admire. We should be firmly against this kind of tyranny. Sadly, those who are so doing are acquiescing to a former president who admires that type of aggression and that kind of leader.

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.