Showing posts with label Tom Friedman. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tom Friedman. Show all posts

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Unraveling of Democracy

It’s all so overwhelming, so disheartening, everything this country has stood for through so many presidencies, and now being sold to the highest bidder (I’m talking about principles).  A transactional President.  Let’s make a deal, Trump elbowing his way to the center of chaos, his ego knowing no bounds.  How could this have happened?  But more importantly, what can be done?


Let Congress and the appointee of the Justice Department do their job now investigating possible collusion with Russia in the election, presuming they are not thwarted.  I’ve argued in a previous entry that even without collusion, the gas-lighting, the poor timing of Comey coming out about more Clinton emails, and the exposure of the DNC communications by Wikileaks probably was just enough to tip the scales in four swing states.  Russia may have merely been the conductor of this dissonance, or, worse, perhaps the financial ties of the Trump empire to Russian oligarchy run deep.  Subpoenaing those tax returns that are under perpetual audit might do much to make that clearer. Hopefully that lies in the future.

Meanwhile, we are watching the dismantling of decades of foreign policy, trade, and environmental policy agreements, by a know-nothing administration under the cover story of creating jobs at all costs to our allies, and our environment.  Why? A show for his base. Corporatocracy.  Profit for those in power, sliding towards autocracy.

The withdrawal of the US from the Paris Accord to reduce greenhouse gas emissions puts us in a select group with just two other countries, Syria and Nicaragua.  There are some 200 others still in the agreement.  Even Rex Tillerson, an ex CEO of Exxon, has advocated staying in the agreement.  So why does Trump want to withdraw?  Yes, we’ll hear about jobs (a canard, pure and simple, more the consequences of automation and that argument ignores the opportunities to create new jobs in technology and alternative energy) but it’s probably Trump’s ultimate f**k you to the world, something that obviously gives him pleasure.  He certainly doesn’t care about what people think, but that goes for psychopaths as well. 

“It is time to put Youngstown, Ohio, Detroit, Mich., and Pittsburgh, Pa., along with many, many other locations within our great country before Paris, France,” he said. “It is time to make America great again.”  But this is not at the expense of Paris, Mr. President, it’s at the expense of the world including our own country.  When Mar-a-Lago is knee deep in sea water, perhaps you’ll rue removing this country from a position of leadership in climate change issues.

His first foreign trip was revealing.  In Saudi Arabia, he obviously felt right at home.  In fact, it sort of looked like Mar-a-Lago and his quarters in Trump Tower, the glittering gold, the grandiose chandeliers, the kind of digs and “respect” to which he feels entitled.  And he did “deals” -- $110 billion in arms. Ka-ching, ka-ching!.  But outside that comfort zone it was different. 

Trump left a “message” in the Book of Remembrance at Yad Vashem, Israel's memorial for the Holocaust.” "It is a great honor to be here with all of my friends – so amazing & will never forget!"

“My friends.”  “Amazing.”  That’s it.  Just a few words, so vapid.

Here's what Barack Obama, then in the middle of his first presidential campaign, wrote when he visited in July 2008:  "I am grateful to Yad Vashem and all of those responsible for this remarkable institution. At a time of great peril and promise, war and strife, we are blessed to have such a powerful reminder of man's potential for great evil, but also our own capacity to rise up from tragedy and remake our world. Let our children come here, and know their history, so that they can add their voices to proclaim 'never again.' And may we remember those who perished, not only as victims, but also as individuals who hoped and loved and dreamed like us, and who have become symbols of the human spirit."

Is it no wonder he hates Barack Obama?  No matter how much wealth he amasses, he will never have an ounce of Obama’s humanity or intelligence or capacity for empathy.   

His G7 meeting with the Europeans was a disaster, they sizing him up for what he is: the ugly American.  Swaggering, braggadocio, nouveau riche, bullying his way past Montenegrin Prime Minister Dusko Markovic for a photo-op, he assumed an alpha male pose and scowl.  It inspired the author of the Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling, to tweet “You tiny, tiny, tiny little man.”  I’m afraid that’s what most Europeans now think of us and our leader.  Shouldn’t that matter to all Americans? These are among (or were) our most steadfast allies.

Frankly, I'm ready to accept a President Pense if impeachment or resignation is the result of the investigation. Never thought I could type those words.

Read Tom Friedman’s breathtakingly brilliant op-ed piece in yesterday’s NYT,  Trump’s United American Emirate.  It is so succinct, prescient, a sadly true overview of what this country is becoming under Trump.

I’ve often praised Tom Friedman, even nine years ago writing a tongue in cheek piece advocating him for President.  In retrospect, I should have been serious.    

Read his entire essay.  Not a word should be missed.  But I am concluding by quoting some of his main bullet points:

Merkel is just the first major leader to say out loud what every American ally is now realizing: America is under new management. “Who is America today?” is the first question I’ve been asked on each stop through New Zealand, Australia and South Korea. My answer: We’re not the U.S.A. anymore. We’re the new U.A.E.: the United American Emirate…..

So any lingering Kennedyesque thoughts about us should be banished, I explained. Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay no price, bear no burden, meet no hardship, support no friend, oppose no foe to assure the success of liberty — unless we’re paid in advance. And we take cash, checks, gold, Visa, American Express, Bitcoin and memberships in Mar-a-Lago.

The Trump doctrine is very simple: There are just four threats in the world: terrorists who will kill us, immigrants who will rape us or take our jobs, importers and exporters who will take our industries — and North Korea. Threats to democracy, free trade, the environment and human rights are no longer on our menu.
Climate Change: More violent storms; higher water levels

Friday, December 19, 2008

Another Ponzi Scheme

Tom Friedman made this observation but here’s some more documentation from the New York Times:

While Bernie Madoff was “making off” with his illegal Ponzi scheme, ignored by the SEC in spite of sufficient smoking guns everywhere, Wall Street, the banking industry, and mortgage brokers, went blithely along with it’s own “legal” Ponzi scheme:
* Borrowing cheap money courtesy of the Fed
* Lending it out with exotic mortgage deals, including nothing down zero interest rate loans, the interest being added to the principal, to borrowers of little ability to pay back the loans, except if real estate values pyramid to infinity
* Packaging these subprime mortgages into CMOs to be sold to gullible investors throughout the world – emphasizing their safety because of “diversification” and AAA debt ratings conferred by rating agencies, based on chimerical insurance contracts issued by under capitalized firms.

Everyone in the Wall Street food chain got rich. As the Times article pointed out, in 2008 “Merrill handed out $5 billion to $6 billion in bonuses that year. A 20-something analyst with a base salary of $130,000 collected a bonus of $250,000. And a 30-something trader with a $180,000 salary got $5 million.” The head mortgage trader for Merrill, Dow Kim, had a salary of $350,000 but with his bonus he “earned” $35 million.

But these riches were based on income that really did not exist, the profits that we, as taxpayers are now trying to restore to our financial system via the bonanza bailout program. Meanwhile, Bernie Madoff is allowed to stay out of jail, putting up “his” Manhattan townhouse as bail, bought with funds of his clients, and Wall Street wiz kids walk around with what is really taxpayer money.

“As a result of the extraordinary growth at Merrill during my tenure as C.E.O., the board saw fit to increase my compensation each year.” — E. Stanley O’Neal, the former chief executive of Merrill Lynch, March 2008

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Friedman for President

It is not surprising that the most emailed article from yesterday’s New York Times, is Thomas Friedman’s “Dumb as We Wanna Be”

I’ve missed reading Friedman who just completed a sabbatical book-writing project that expands an article he wrote for the magazine section a year ago:
The book version, Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution--and How It Can Renew America, will be published in August.

Why not start a write-in campaign to elect Friedman President? He always seems to have the right perspective on foreign policy and our economic and energy crisis. I also like his even-tempered demeanor. Someone once said you have to be crazy to want to be the President of the United States. Maybe that is the problem with a plan for his Presidency. Friedman is not crazy.

He calls Clinton and McCain’s proposal for a summer gas tax “holiday” political pandering (Amen) and a form of money laundering, borrowing from China, moving it to the oil producing nations, leaving a little in our gas tanks as the broker for the transaction, but also leaving our children with the debt. The analogy would be funny if it were not so sadly true.

But the rest of the article goes to the core of the problem, not having a game plan to achieve energy independence, and helping to repair our decaying environment along the way, something I’ve also ranted about:

The ongoing political shenanigans over this issue and the lack of a plan are enough to make me sick. I had thought our current administration was just too clueless to grasp the importance of leading our nation to energy independence through alternative solar, wind, and geothermal technologies. Imagine my shock at seeing Laura Bush recently conducting a TV tour of their home in Crawford, Texas, which is replete with geothermal heating and cooling and a system for capturing rainwater and household wastewater for irrigation. I would have expected this from Al Gore, but George Bush?

His public environmental policies are in direct contrast to what he has done in his own home. So it is not a question of not knowing better, it’s knowing better but not leading our country to a better place, an immoral travesty of the public trust. Where would we be today if we had thrown down the gauntlet at the beginning of his Presidency? By delaying a commitment to energy independence, we have made the goal even more difficult as we must now start with massive debt, and a devalued dollar.

Instead, we pour resources into ethanol with the unintended consequences of food shortages and burgeoning food prices. Sounds like a good plan, subsidize the farmers to buy seeds and fertilizer (at triple the cost vs. last year), squeeze out food crops and tax our water resources, buy oil for the energy needed to convert crops to ethanol (be sure to take on more debt to get that oil), and continue to watch fuel prices escalate in spite of increasing ethanol additives, while paying much more for all food staples (hoarding rice along the way).

Yesterday the Federal Reserve laughably said, “readings on core inflation have improved somewhat” (which excludes food and energy). Maybe it’s time we go back to the Consumer Price Index as a fairer measurement of inflation so government has to face the real facts.