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.