An interview with Putin in 2035

Good morning. This is Natalia Smirnov with Fox/ RT News. I am here with Tsar Vladimir Putin in the first of a series of interviews looking back on his career. Good morning Comrade Tsar.

Q – Comrade Tsar, what do you see as your greatest achievement?
A – I believe the reconstitution of the New Soviet Republic. We are once again a country of great importance.

Q – What were the key events leading to this ascension?
A – Clearly, the fall of a united west was most critical, but that took a lot of planning. I also believe our alliance with China helped show the world that we are the future.

Q – You mention a lot of planning, what do you mean by that?
A – It took proactive and reactive planning to accomplish our goals without using military might. My training allowed us to take advantage of social media to spread our messages and take advantage of opportunities.

Q – You mention opportunitues . What do you mean?
A – The crisis in Syria allowed us to gain a new friend, but expose Europe to millions of refugees that strained their economic and political systems. Brexit was another key as it greatly weakened the UK which is now down to England and Wales, but also damaged the EU. Clearly, getting a friend in the US White House who was malleable was a huge plus. The disruptive influence weakened both the west and the US. It enabled us to form an alliance with the US, especially when their debt overwhelmed their ability to do things.

Q – What were some of the obstacles?
A – We had to take the good with the bad. Having a US leader we could influence was good, but his unpredictable behavior added chaos to the equation. We learned to stroke his ego to get what we wanted. Another is France, Germany, Canada and Japan don’t always go along with us and China. Since the US became an autocracy, they are a better partner.

Q – One final question for this session. What concerns you most?
A – Sadly, it is water and food supplies. We have way too much sea water and too little fresh water. These desalination plants cost a lot of money. And, the world has had to relocate too many people from coastal cities. Look at the US city Miami – it is disappearing right in front of us. Plus, we are having to grow more and more crops indoors. With the loss of bees and hotter climates, growing crops outside is a challenge.

Thank you for your time Comrade Tsar. We look forward to our next visit.

It takes more than a sickle to hack like this

The CIA and now FBI have our President-elect and his supporters with their dress over their head based on their strongly held concerns that Russia attempted to influence our election in favor of the President-elect, hacking not with a sickle but something more high tech. I had a friend who would use this analogy to describe someone’s frustration based on his daughter’s example of getting madder and madder with her inability to get her dress off over her head.

The President-elect and his supporters have condemned this story as unproven and having no impact on the election. The line of attack most used by Trump and his PR people is that there is no evidence of hacked machines, conveniently ignoring the fact that the influence is more to do with what happened before the voting took place.

Trump and his PR folks also blame the liberal media and leaders, which seem to have converged as a composite evil entity. They are in cahoots against this victimized truthful man his supporters imply. And, if so important, why did the President wait until Clinton lost to bring this up his supporters say? The last statement has been said often, but also been confirmed as false as the evidence exists that proves the President-elect is being untruthful. He is saying don’t believe your own eyes and ears, believe me alone.

As for the former claim that story is being made up by the composite liberal enemy, there are several key Republican senators, including Senators Mitch McConnell. Marco Rubio, John McCain and Lindsay Graham among others, who have said this must be investigated. I have not heard the word liberal used to define these senators. And, as an Independent voter who cares about our country’s governance, I agree with these Senators.

The truth needs to be discovered as these are serious claims made by our intelligence community that must take their job seriously. We need to think of this as if the President was named John Smith and came from the ABC Party. We cannot have Russia or anyone hacking anything to influence our elections, period.

I have also seen editorialists say with conviction that this did not have any impact on the election because it did not change votes. The latter claim is unknown as I have seen security experts discuss back in July that impacting certain machines in select districts was doable and someone was pinging the machines looking for weaknesses. But, the larger issue is more clear to me as I have feared Russian involvement when I first saw reports that pointed fingers at them beginning in July.

One candidate, his team and the press got to read daily feeds of emails from a key staffer of the other candidate. They also got to read emails from larger dumps of hacked data from the other candidate’s political party. That did not seem fair then and as Senator Marco Rubio said in October, this is not right as it could be us (the GOP) the next time. My guess is the RNC emails would have been more entertaining with such infighting and angst over their candidate.

But, let me be as frank as possible. To say that reading your opponents’ emails did not have any impact on the election is a false statement. This is akin to a football coach reading key planning remarks (along with the media) made by the other team’s coaches. It had to have an impact, especially in light of fake news and biased news sources that were like rabid dogs looking to exploit information. And, given the word email becoming a leaky faucet when used with the word Clinton, more meaning was conveyed with each new daily talking point eroding her consideration drip by drip.

One final point should be noted. If the Russians did hack RNC and other emails, what assurances does our President-elect have that those emails won’t be used against him if he happens to do something that the Putin does not like. Putin is a KGB trained agent and it was not surprising to learn that he has a hand in disinformation efforts. If you do not believe this, note a senior newscaster from a Russian American News television network resigned on the air because she was being told what to say by Putin.

 

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.

 

 

Rainy Weekend Musings

Being on the east coast of the US, we are getting the rain that is so needed out west with the droughts and forest fires. Blending with other fronts, Hurricane Joaquin is promoting the continual showers, but I am surprised this illegal alien has been allowed to touch our shores given the hateful rhetoric going on in one of our political parties here. I am sure one candidate will ask why did they give it a Spanish name, just as one candidate criticized Former Governor Jeb Bush for answering a question in Spanish that was asked in Spanish.

Seeing the President’s anger and disappointment yesterday with the latest shooting speaks to the feelings of most people in the country, even responsible gun owners. But, our politicians do not care what people think, as they only care about funders like the NRA who makes them wet their pants and skirts. Surveys have shown all Americans, even Republican voters where guns are more sacrosanct, favor better background checks on all gun transactions and extended waiting periods. Neither of these actions take guns away, but are in the right direction. Yes, other actions are needed, but doing nothing is not the answer. Otherwise, our new slogan is “Welcome to America. I hope you are packing heat.”

Vladimir Putin is the best liar on the planet. And, he does not care. He will lie and two days later speak of his real position, but reporters seem reluctant to say that is different from what you said the other day. We are after ISIL he says initially, then when Syrian rebels are bombed that are nowhere near ISIL, his Secretary of State says “a terrorist, is a terrorist, is a terrorist.” Of course, he also said he is all for supporting a government and accuses the US of supporting the rebels. Yet, Mr. Putin, aren’t you supporting the rebels in Ukraine against a government? Truth be told, the effort to be battle extremists needs the support of Russia and others as it is a collective problem. But, I would encourage him to not be too much in bed with someone who has launched chemical weapons on his own people and has killed 200,000 of his countrymen. It is bad optics.

It is invigorating to see the United Nations meet in New York. Leaders tend to behave better even when they speak their mind, which may be at odds with others’ views. That is a great construct that all  leaders are entitled to speak. Coming together can only help find some common ground on issues. Yes, there are disagreements, but seeing the side meetings that occur to address issues is wonderful. And, this year’s festivities had extra gravitas with Pope Francis speaking about global poverty and climate change, two of our biggest problems in the world.

Finally, it was nice to see the US Senate working in a bipartisan manner on important legislation. Senators Cory Booker and Mike Lee led an effort to put forward a bill to significantly address our criminal justice issues and unfairness along with the overcrowding in federal prisons. This effort brought strange bedfellows into the mix and the result is very positive. The Senate will vote on the bill and, if passed, send it to the House, where collaboration has not been as apparent. Let’s hope we see this ray of hope on how governance should be done and listen less to people who just want to pitch a hissy fit in the middle of the theme park, one who thinks this qualifies him to be president.

That is all I have for now. Have a great weekend.

 

 

 

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.

If you need to wear a mask have you given up the high road?

For the all of the flak that Vice President Joe Biden takes for sometimes saying the wrong thing, he oftentimes can say the painfully obvious truth. On his visit last week to the Ukraine, Biden admonished Vladimir Putin and Russia by saying “stop supporting people who wear masks.” This applies far beyond the boundaries of Ukraine. As I was watching the training footage of Al Qaeda the other day, almost every person was wearing a mask. I fully realize it is a head covering pulled down over the face, but the key goal is anonymity.

Sitting in my comfortable seat in a country where it is OK for me to register my dissent, it is very hard for me to place myself in this situation. It is easy for me to send emails and vocalize my concerns to elected officials or as a shareholder to a CEO, which I often do. For those that live in a corrupt and/ or fascist country, anonymity in showing your dissent may be vital to keep yourself and your family alive or out of harms way. This caveat cannot be emphasized enough, as in countries like these, dissent is not tolerated. But, when dissent begins to harm people who simply get in the way, I find that troubling and I find that there can be an element of cowardice behind the mask. It is one thing to protest. It is another to kill innocent people.

Call me crazy, but at my age, I would observe that if you need to hide your identity behind a mask, then you are likely up to no good. Or, to put it another way, you may have given up the high road on how you have chosen to disagree with something. When I see people covering their faces, unless it is for religious reasons, to protect the sun and wind from the face or because the regime is so corrupt, it usually registers that the person is doing something they would be less inclined to do if someone saw their face. This issue becomes cloudy when you have a government that will harm protestors or their families.

I have been taught that the worse a person’s argument, the louder they yell or more they name call. If someone is using labels to define an action they do not like, that means their argument is poor. It usually means they are identifying someone else as the reason for your anguish and asking you to hate them. In my country, we have politicians and religious leaders call things Nazism or Apartheid when they want to demonize something. Even Putin knows America’s weakness, so he also is calling American’s actions as Nazism in Ukraine, when in fact, his troops are acting as instigators across the border in masks and unmarked uniforms. To me, the name calling is a way to mask intent or real discussion of the issues because your points are poor.

With Islamic extremist groups, Americans are infidels. That is a convenient label which is often used to paint America as an enemy. America is far from perfect and our leaders disappoint, but infidels? Give me a break. There is a former Islamic extremist in Great Britain whose new mission is to reach as many young Muslims as possible and say don’t let the extremists blame others for your shortcomings. He is telling these people that extremists are using their religion to divide people, hold people down (especially women), hold back freer flowing economies and not allow people to live a safer, secure life and raise their families worshipping their religion in peace. These are the kind of people who fear Malala Yousafzai and her power when she becomes educated. She is the kind of person who can shame people into acting against these extremists.

We have a worldwide poverty problem. We have a worldwide human rights problem directed at women. We have a worldwide corruption problem where people in power take and take and don’t help those in need. My blogging friend George Dowdell (www.georgedowdell.org) notes until we address this corruption problem, the have-nots will always have an uphill battle. Let’s begin with rebelling against extremists. We can start with those wearing masks. If you are using the mask to promote violence and hate, then your message is one we don’t need. If you have a grievance, come out in the open. If you are wearing a mask, you have given up the high road.

 

Reflections on the week it was – intimidation and bigotry abound

Looking back at a few occurrences over the course of the week, I observed Vladimir Putin is quite good at influencing outcomes and bad behaviors. Even ministers are not immune from his lessons of bigotry. This is a key reason he is unlike other Soviet leaders (word intentionally used) as he is a very skilled, scary and corrupt politician.

Crimea election shows 96% plus favor joining Russia

History has shown when you intimidate voters, the election results will favor your cause. A few weeks before, North Korea voted to continue with Kim Jong Un with 100% of the vote. Something about killing your own Uncle for not bowing low enough or clapping hard enough has a tendency to sway voters. Saddam Hussein used to win elections with 98% of the votes as well. Hussein was not too tolerant of dissent, but was smart enough to allow 2% vote against him to show the world he is fair. I would not want to be in the 2% in Iraq back then or 4% in Crimea this week, as you might not be around much longer..

In Crimea, the native Tartars and pro-Ukrainian voters decided to stay home, since there was evidence of dissenters disappearing and having big “X’s” marked on your door can make you feel unwelcome. Yet, I found an interesting statistic. One district had 124% turnout. That is a turnout any Tammany Hall politician would love. It appears, if you had a Russian passport, you could vote. So, people who are not even citizens of Crimea voted to join Russia. You could have sensed something was amiss when reporters were having their cameras thrown to the ground and independent election officials were not allowed in to verify results.

Two final comments. First, if Crimeans want to join Russia, I understand that, but at least have a fair, democratic, and constitutionally (Ukraine’s not Russia’s) supported vote and not one that looks and smells like it was rigged as this one was. Second, as I said in an earlier post, I would not put it past Putin to send in his own thugs to stir up trouble in a community and then send in troops to provide security. This is an old school strong-arm tactic and I believe it was used in Crimea and is being used in other parts of Ukraine. PBS Newshour corroborated this with their belief last night when they spoke of a seemingly orchestrated set of eleven demonstrations in an Eastern Ukrainian city at the same time. It is too much a part of Putin’s nature to believe he did not puppeteer this outcome in the manner I described.

Franklin Graham applauds Putin for denigrating the LGBT community 

Reverend Graham published an article that said he admired Putin’s stripping away the rights of the LGBT community in Russia. He did not support other things Putin has done, but he took a shot at our President and Attorney General for supporting non-discrimination of gays and lesbians and heralded Putin for discrimination. From the bible I was taught, Jesus was inclusive. In fact we used to sing a bible song, “Red and yellow, black and white, Jesus thinks we are out of sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.” I have searched my memory banks, but cannot recall an exception on whether they were gays or lesbians in the song or in Jesus’ Golden Rule.

I have a very low tolerance for bigotry from the pulpit and have written several posts about my distaste for when ministers misuse the faith the congregation has placed upon them. Per the song from the movie “South Pacific,” you have to very carefully taught to be a bigot. My mantra has been when religion is inclusive it is at its best and when it is exclusive it is at its worst. Let me go one step further. When religion is bigoted, it is wielded as a weapon to divide. I have known many ministers in my day and they are by and large the most wonderful people and give much of themselves. But, just because someone is a minister does not mean they are immune to biases and mistakes. They are imperfect just like everyone else.

What disappoints me about the younger Graham is his father was so admirable in cutting a path of inclusion for all. Using an old phrase, he was a “Big Tent” preacher who wanted everyone to come and hear the word of God. That is the way it should be. Franklin would ask you to complete a survey and if you checked the wrong boxes, you would not  be allowed to enter the tent. He needs to spend some more time with his father and ask for guidance on how to be inclusive.

I will reiterate what I said before. Vladimir Putin is a thug, but a skilled one who uses people’s biases to divide and achieve his purpose. Franklin Graham took the bait and tried to appeal to a base of bigotry that is being cultivated in our country. I am hopeful many will see Putin’s true colors through this process and will not tolerate bigotry from anyone, but especially a religious leader.