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How Donald Trump Played America—and Himself

October 23, 2016


President Dwight D. Eisenhower (serving from 1953 to1961) once said: Never question another man’s motive. His wisdom, yes, but not his motives. Wise words indeed, and especially relevant as the U.S. presidential election campaign—circus may be more appropriate—lurches forward to November 8th.

Plenty of people, including your faithful correspondent, have expressed their views, insights and horror on Donald J. Trump’s attempt, and associated behavior, for the crown jewel of President of the United States. This sickening spectacle, a first since the country’s independence in 1776 (there have been plenty of looney political events in its history), has prompted many to question Trump’s motives.

It certainly begs the question: is Donald Trump that unhinged and dangerous, given his propensity for spontaneous rantings and threats aimed at whomever gets in his crosshairs? Or is he more the cunning strategist, playing to America’s underbelly (Hillary Clinton’s “basket of deplorables”), having an alternate plan if he loses the national election? Indeed, one could argue that Trump never had any expectation of winning the presidency, instead looking at his run for office as a springboard to further building his brand post-election.

And what would that hypothetical plan look like?

Some observers have postulated that Trump may want to create his own Trump TV news show or cable network, something along the lines of the wacky Fox news network and its rag tag band of pseudo journalists.


Or maybe The Donald aims to develop a new reality show targeted at the White House. That would be in keeping with his reality series The Apprentice, a pretend show about the business world.

Keep in mind that Donald Trump is less a businessman (his floundering Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City finally closed its doors in October 2016) and more the masterful self-promoter, analogous to the P.T. Barnum of the 21st Century.


As of writing this leadership post, the media has essentially concluded that Hillary Clinton has won the election. That’s how the media operates, attention span of a budgie and overly quick to conclude. Not long ago it was Trump who was likely going to win. However, what’s at stake here, as more seasoned journalists and political observers have pointed out, is: a) the Republican Party faces dissolution, and b) a Trump loss could create a huge socio-political chasm across America. That would spell disaster if the world’s longest-reigning democracy becomes in effect a one-party state.

In 1993, Canada’s Progressive Conservative Party, once proud and strong, began its implosion following a national election in which the Liberal Party gave it a sound thumping. A decade later, the PC party was no more as it merged with the radical right Canadian Alliance to create the Conservative Party. The point is that change can come swiftly and unforgivingly to those in politics who don’t pay heed to voters.

Like a desperate rat that’s cornered (to borrow from Vladimir Putin’s story as a young man growing up), Donald Trump has been lashing out viciously at whomever pisses him off, and especially following the second debate with Hillary Clinton. It raises the question, therefore, of how much of his behavior is truly spontaneous and uncontrolled, as opposed to playing to his core supporters and also following his playbook (assuming there is one).

Witness his statement at the third and final Presidential debate on October 19 in Nevada. When asked by Fox news moderator Chris Wallace if he would accept a Hillary Clinton victory on November 8th, Trump replied that he didn’t know at that point, noting that he’d keep people in suspense. This contradicts his response at the second debate when asked the same question. At that debate he replied yes he would. His VP running mate Mike Pence has also stated that Trump would accept a Clinton win. This flip flop is more than just a Donald Trump moment. There seems to be an underlying current of: “Just watch me, folks; there’s going to be some big stuff happening if I lose the election.”

One doesn’t have to pretend to be a fear monger to legitimately suggest that even in a Hillary Clinton election victory that Trump will make every effort to bring down the country’s political system, from the Office of the President to the Republican Party to helping spawn violence in the streets. The latter is not an overly dramatic statement.

Indeed, while financial historian Niall Ferguson predicted “blood in the streets” following the 2008 financial meltdown, which didn’t quite occur, your correspondent’s humble view is that it will likely happen following November 8th. Witness the disgraceful fights that have taken place at political events. And yes, it has gone both ways, with Trump supporters beating on Clinton supporters, and vice versa.


Fostering violent behavior seems to be one of Donald Trump’s special competencies, something he condones based on his public statements at rallies. Therefore, it should be expected that following his defeat at the polls on November 8, Trump will pour gasoline on the expected fury from his legend of supporters. It will be ugly and frightening to watch, whether within the United States or from other across the Atlantic Ocean.

What’s so sad about the 2016 nomination process and national election campaign is that the United States has so many inter-twined domestic and global issues to address. And being the world’s dominant military power (for now) and political force for democracy in a world where it’s fast disappearing, a huge amount of national energy is being diverted due to the Machiavellian aims of a half-rate reality show host and bumbling real estate business man.

One couldn’t write a script for a TV series based on what’s been unravelling in the United States and have it accepted by the producers. Take the craziest TV series, such as the cult-followed Dallas in the eighties, and the 2016 U.S. presidential contest tops it.

Donald Trump, in his own self-perceived brilliance, may believe that he’s put one over on a large segment of America, that he’s played his supporters like a grand puppet master. The problem is that Trump appears to have lost his playbook, now ad libbing as he desperately attempts to achieve whatever his desired goal. The scary part is that we’re living—all 7 billion planetary inhabitants—a B-grade movie that’s the real thing. And one man, supported by a cast of millions, appears to be controlling America’s future.

The great sadness is even if Trump doesn’t become president, we live in a country where half the people think he should be.
— Bill Maher (Twitter, October 16, 2016)

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Samsung’s Failed Executive Leadership

October 16, 2016


Being the top leader of an organization, whether in the public or private sphere, is no easy task. What’s more appropriately called executive managerial leadership (as opposed to the overused, feel good term “leadership”), those at the helm of companies or government agencies have huge responsibilities. The context and inner workings of companies versus the public sector is quite different. However, top executive leaders in both areas face unrelenting change caused by technology advancement, demographics, consumer-citizen evolving needs and wants, legislated regulation, geo-political events, climate change—just to list a few key change drivers.

When mistakes happen, especially big ones that may endanger the health and safety of the public, the proverbial buck stops at the desk of the individual leading that organization.

Recently, South Korea’s huge Samsung Electronics Corporation has been in the news—big time. The Samsung fiasco with the exploding Galaxy Note 7 smart phone has been an eye-popping exercise in incompetent management from the top. The seriousness of the problem is exemplified when consumers have to return their phones in fire resistant bags, a first in mobile phone history.

Samsung Electronics is a major manufacturer of lithium-ion batteries, semi-conductors, chips, and hard drives for such well-known companies as Apple, Nokia, HTC and Sony. And of course, it’s a dominant player in the consumer arena, producing TVs, laptop computers and cellular phones.

That Samsung Electronics (370,000 employees in 80 countries) told consumers to return their Galaxy Note 7s when the problem arose may sound like competent senior management. Except that the problem continued with the replacements. As one commentator on BBC America put it, the problem is likely due to the controller in the phone which is overcharging the lithium-ion battery, which have a tendency to explode when overcharged.

The bizarre thing is that Samsung’s top executives delayed in going public to apologize. Indeed, there was a certain degree of bumbling in communicating to the public. The top executives in South Korea left the task to mobile communications division president Dong-jin Koh to issue an apology many weeks later, head bowed to the South Korean press (below photo).


Finally, Samsung declared 40 days after first reports of exploding Note 7s that it would cease production. However, the company was still bumbling along on how consumers were to return their smart phones. Airlines didn’t want them on board, officially banning them by mid-October. And no top Samsung Electronics executive has gone to North America to issue an apology to their customers. One would think that, given the magnitude of the disaster, the CEO would have actually flown to the United States to demonstrate visible corporate leadership.

As it is, Samsung faces huge losses, $5.5 billion and counting; very serious brand erosion; and consumer flight to other Android smart phone producers and Apple. The Christmas shopping season is about to commence.

Samsung’s pushing out the Galaxy Note 7 was seen as its attempt to beat Apple to market with its own iPhone 7. With haste comes risk and increased likelihood for mistakes. Given Samsung’s engineering and workaholic culture, it’s a shame that the company pushed aside quality control and safety for the prize of beating Apple to market with a new version of a smart phone. Now it will pay the price.

Concurrent with the Galaxy Note 7 fiasco, Samsung has been having problems with its washing machines which have been reported to vibrate out of control and blast through walls. A federal class action lawsuit has been recently launched in the United States.


The most cited instance of effective executive managerial leadership during a consumer crisis involving health and safety is Johnson & Johnson’s handing of its Tylenol brand in September 1982 when an unknown number of its product was deliberately contaminated with potassium cyanide. Seven people, including a young boy, died from the poisoned capsules. J&J immediately took action, recalling 31 million Tylenol bottles. A few contaminated capsules were found as a result of the recall, and fortunately no further deaths occurred. The perpetrator was never arrested.

At the time of the event, J&J controlled 35% of the market; immediately after the deaths and recall its market share plummeted to 8%. However, following a public apology from CEO James Burke, and after a year of $100 million in investing in more safety procedures with its Tylenol brand, J&J’s market share shot back up. (Burke, who died in 2012 was awarded the Medal of Freedom from President Clinton in 2000.)

Doing the right thing in a moment of crisis is what separates top notch corporate leaders from the rest of mediocrity. It can be painful, in terms of a company having to go backwards before it can go forward to grow again. And losing face is often a problem for humans. But acknowledging immediately that mistakes were made, that the health and safety of consumers is what’s truly top priority, that the company apologizes without reservation, and that an effective action plan is being initiated will move a company forward.

Management is doing things right. Leadership is doing the right things.
– Peter Drucker

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To Tithe or not to Tithe: The Moral Question

October 9, 2016
collection-plateThe use of the words “tithe” or “tithing” in modern society have their origin long before Jesus Christ was born. A tithe today means typically giving 10% of your gross annual income to your church. The Mormon faith (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) is perhaps the best known of the churches where tithing is mandatory. An investigation by Reuters found that the Mormon Church (1.5% of the U.S. population) has an estimated worth of about $40 billion, collecting $8 billion annually in tithes. The Church acknowledges that most of its revenue stream comes from tithing. However, Bloomberg BusinessWeek in 2012 found that Mormons have invested in everything from building mega shopping malls to theme parks to media and insurance.

Many Protestant and evangelical churches also strongly urge or expect their members to contribute 10 percent or more of their family income annually. Freewill offerings, whether regular or periodical, are in addition to a family’s tithe.

Your correspondent, confirmed in the United Church of Canada back around 1970 but a longtime non-practitioner, was surprised to learn that tithing is also pushed by this church. Of interest is that the Catholic Church (your correspondent is married to a Catholic) doesn’t push tithing as it did in the past. However, during the Middle Ages the Catholic church in Europe collected a tax of its own, which was separate from the taxes imposed by the king; in other words, a tithe.

Some commentators on the topic of tithing have suggested that because of its traditionally large congregations, the Catholic Church didn’t need to levy a tithe. Instead, passing the collection plate at Mass is typical form, along with appeals for donations to, for example, building funds for maintenance and improvements. However, this is not the same as tithing. Take a moment to read this CNN piece on the Sunday Stickup.


So when, where and how did tithing first start?

When looking back in history the concept of what is a tithe is open to interpretation. However, the word tithe is noted specifically in the books of Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. In Hebrew and Greek a tithe means one tenth. Definitions and practices vary. Under Mosaic Law, it’s said that there were in effect three tithes for the Israelites: a) a levitical tithe of crops and livestock given to the Levites at various times of the year; b) an annual festival tithe; and c) a tithe paid to the poor once every three years.

The practice of giving a tenth of one’s income and/or livestock, property or crops to the church in support of the clergy and those in need took centuries to evolve. During the Middle Ages, tithes were imposed on peasants and farmers for using the Church’s land. Indeed, the Roman Catholic Church had what were called tithe barns where the seeds, grains and animals collected from peasants were stored. Of course, kings and queens levied their own taxes to fund wars and to maintain the living standards of the royalty. It’s been suggested that perhaps the tithe concept was reinforced with royalty because it was easy to count on ten fingers.

Over the centuries, tithing became more focused as a practice, notably in the more conservative and fundamentalist churches. In this case church members, regardless of economic means, have been expected to contribute at least 10% of their incomes to the church. In addition to being used to pay pastor and staff salaries, overhead expenses and social programs, tithes can help fund building repairs and expansions. Indeed, one discovers on various websites the statement that tithing is giving to God. This isn’t just incorrect but a manipulation of the Bible to suit the financial aims of a particular church.

Tithe combo lock.jpg

The Barna Research Group, which conducts empirical research into cultural and religious issues, reported on the large drop in tithing in the United States in the early 2000s. The Group also made the strong statement on the practice of tithing:

“Strangely, tithing is a Jewish practice, not a Christian principle espoused in the New Testament. The idea of a tithe – which literally means one-tenth or the tenth part – originated as the tax that Israelites paid from the produce of the land to support the priestly tribe (the Levites), to fund Jewish religious festivals, and to help the poor. The ministry of Jesus Christ, however, brought an end to adherence to many of the ceremonial codes that were fundamental to the Jewish faith. Tithing was such a casualty. Since the first-century, Christians have believed in generous giving, but have not been under any obligation to contribute a specific percentage of their income.”

Manipulating books of faith is not uncommon. Just as many Christian denominations, along with Mormons, have re-interpretated certain sections of the Bible to suit their needs on the subject of tithing, so, too, have some Muslims done the same with the Quran. No where in this book of faith does it say that women must wear hijabs, niqabs or burkas. But it’s expected in some segments of Islam. The Quran simply makes reference to women dressing “modestly.” That, in itself, is left wide open to interpretation.


The confusion in the literature on tithing, with various interpretations of history and what the practice involves today, speaks poorly on Christianity and its future efforts to both retain and attract new members. Your correspondent is curious as to what extent do practitioners feel guilty about not being able to pay 10% of their family’s annual income to their church. Some research suggests that in some Christian churches that a mere two percent of family income is given by congregational members. Here are three questions on which to reflect:

1) What percentage of people have left their churches because of not being able to afford giving 10% of their income? In particular, those churches that have a strong stand on giving 10% of income.

2) Does tithing create two classes of congregations: those who are part of the inner, select club because they contribute at or above the 10% mark, and those families who don’t have the economic means?

3) How many people have held back from attending church because they can’t afford to pay this share of their family income (e.g., young people encumbered with onerous student loan debts and parents working for minimum wage)?

In addition, how racially and ethnically mixed are the religions that practice tithing? For example, only three percent of Mormons are black, yet blacks account for 13.2% of America’s population. Latinos make up 17% of the U.S. population but a mere three percent of Mormons. And when one broadens out to view how African Americans are distributed among religions, they’re skewed into what’s called black Protestant churches; the other two Protestant categories are evangelical and mainstream.


Let’s revisit the United Church near your correspondent’s home. Right there in plain view on its website is the statement that members contribute “well over 10%” of their total income. Well, that’s a turn off to those who are working poor or financially squeezed middle class people.

Let’s consider some hypothetical examples on tithing and family income. First up is a couple with no kids who earn a combined $120,000 a year. The tithe in this case is $12,000 annually. No big deal or impact on such a couple.

Next up is a couple with three children who earn a combined $80,000 a year. Forget about a $12,000 tithe, as in example one. Here we’re talking $8,000 annually. Yet the costs of raising children are high and climbing. Don’t even think about college. Just getting them to high school graduation is expensive.

And finally there’s the case of a single parent with two children, in which the dad earns $35,000. A $3,500 a year tithe sounds paltry compared to the previous two examples. However, here the father struggles daily to meet his kids’ basic needs. Does he even have health insurance if he’s an American. Or even in Canada with its single payer, physician-specialist shortage model, does he have supplementary medical and dental insurance?

Tithing is a deeply personal experience. It involves an individual making a financial decision, based on multiple factors and unique circumstances, on how much and how often he or she can contribute to the church. Peer pressure, the perceived power from the church, guilt or any other reason should not play a role in this decision-making process. But it does, unfortunately. That’s the reality of organized religion.

Tithing at its most pernicious level excludes segments of society from a socio-economic perspective, and by association race and ethnic group. Your correspondent’s personal view is that the concept of tithing in today’s society is morally wrong. One would like to think that Jesus Christ would want people today to contribute what they can reasonably afford without feeling any guilt or peer pressure. And that they give their time, skills and effort to helping their particular church grow and remain strong, especially in its capacity to help the less fortunate and congregational members in times of emotional and spiritual need.

Take a moment to share your personal experiences and opinions on the subject of tithing.

If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.
— Jesus Christ

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Designated Survivor: A Trumpian Nightmare

October 2, 2016


When it premiered on November, 6, 2001, the FOX series 24 came close to never making it to TV. September 11—dubbed 911—had occurred only two months previously, the devastating attacks in a matter of hours by a handful of terrorists which led to sweeping changes in America’s national security, law enforcement and military institutions. The country changed that day in profound ways.

So when 24 commenced, it was with a huge amount of trepidation by FOX. How would the American public react to a fictional TV show about terrorism so soon after 911? Yet the series lasted eight seasons for 192 episodes. Jack Bauer, played by Canadian actor Keifer Sutherland, knew how to catch and interrogate terrorists in Dick Cheney fashion. In typical American media culture, Jack Bauer was held up as a national hero, with the underlying tone that wasn’t it too bad that this bad-ass terrorist fighter wasn’t indeed real.

Fast forward 15 years exactly to another Keifer Sutherland TV thriller: Designated Survivor, which debuted on September 21st. Although just at the start of this new made-for-TV series on ABC, it has delivered a powerful visual impact on the chaos that would reign in the event of a massive attack on Capitol Hill.

In the series, most of the Cabinet, the President, Vice-President, Speaker of the House, Supreme Court judges and others are wiped out in a brutal terrorist attack during the State of the Union address. President Tom Kirkman, played by Sutherland, is in another building watching the address on TV when the attack occurs. His position in the Cabinet to that point was Secretary of Housing and Urban Development; hours before the attack he was informed he was to be demoted and sent to Montreal in an ambassador role.

The bombing of the Capitol building changes that in seconds. Kirkman’s whisked to the White House by the Secret Service where he faces absolute chaos in the Oval Office (below photo: Kirkman visiting the remains of the Capitol).


Granted it’s a TV show, but in episode two the chaos and anxiety present in the Oval Office is palpable when President Kirkman attempts to speak to a large number of advisors and officials. No one listens to him, despite having been just sworn in as President. Those in positions of influence and direct contact to the Office of the President are becoming unglued as they react without thinking, throwing advice and demands for decisions at Kirkman. His chief of defence staff wants to bomb Iran for a provocation in the Straits of Hormus. Within minutes, the President exits the Oval Office to seek refuge in his Cabinet boardroom so that he can think, and then act.

As news spreads around the country hours after the attack, reaction turns violent. Muslims in Michigan begin to get rounded up and beaten by police under orders from the governor. President Kirkman phones the governor who at first hangs up on him. The governor later backs down under threat from Kirkman.

In the frightening scenario that Donald J. Trump became President of the United States on November 8, 2016 (technically President Elect until sworn in on January 20, 2017), the Designated Survivor title for this leadership post serves as a warning for Americans: you can’t undo an emotional decision for whatever reasons drove you to make it.

What’s emerging so clearly from Designated Survivor is the critical need for a President to act calmly and rationally in a time of extreme national crisis. Could Donald Trump do that? A man who has the attention span of a fifth grader, who throws insults at those who question or confront him, and who wants to “bomb the shit” out of terrorists. Indeed.

Take a moment to read My Pal Vlad: Leadership on a Slippery Slope to gain some insight into Trump’s admiration for Vladimir Putin, a head-of-state leader who has thumbed his nose at the international community by invading countries of his choosing and purportedly ordering the assassinations of political opponents. And check out The Whole World is Watching and Donald Trump’s Dystopian America for additional perspectives of what may lie ahead under a Trump presidency.

The election of Donald Trump would cast a dark cloud over America in many ways. And in a time of crisis, such as with an effective and targeted terrorist attack on the locus of American political power, a Donald Trump presidency would risk the entire civilized world.

Sober, reflective judgement is the hallmark of an effective President of the United States.

I have made the tough decisions, always with an eye toward the bottom line. Perhaps it’s time America was run like a business.
— Donald J. Trump

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My Pal Vlad: Leadership on a Slippery Slope

September 25, 2016


This is a story about two leaders. And as we’ll see shortly, leadership is not always as clear cut as we’d like to believe. It can, indeed, reside on a slippery slope.

He was born to Maria Shelomova in Leningrad on October, 7, 1952. His birth came a mere eight years after the siege of Leningrad. The boy and his parents lived in the squalid, cramped quarters of public housing (two brothers died early on in the mid-1930s). His father, who was in his early forties at the time, worked in a train factory, while his mother worked a variety of physical menial jobs.

As a young boy, he shared space outside with thugs and misfits, learning to use his fists at an early age. Because he was picked on, and as a human response to survival of the fittest, he learned how to fight. The smallest insult, perceived as humiliation by him, prompted an instant beating. He later became active in judo, an activity he became proficient at as an adult.

Vladimir Putin learned long ago never to take any prisoners in a figurative sense, and in a literal one he has, according to several informed security experts, been linked to the assassinations of those who have opposed him. His ascent through the ranks of the much feared KGB was largely unnoticed by the CIA and other foreign intelligence groups. Putin’s rise was largely aided by President Boris Yeltsin in the nineties, such as when he was appointed deputy chief of presidential staff in 1997.

Putin Sunglasses.jpg

In a telling recounting of an event that occurred when he was a young man, Putin came face-to-face with a rat that he had corned in an alley. The rat sprang at him, teaching Putin a lesson that he has carried for life: when cornered fight back, to the death if need be.

Putin has been called a narcissistic autocrat. That shoe fits fairly well. However, Putin’s behavior, past and present, is more akin to that of a sociopath who found his way to power by employing Machiavellian principles, as laid out in The Prince. One definition of a sociopath is: an individual possessing a psychopathic personality whose behavior is antisocial, often criminal, and who lacks a sense of moral responsibility or social conscience.

There’s a congruence with Niccolò Machiavelli’s description of The Prince, wherein he states: “It is much safer to be feared than loved because …love is preserved by the link of obligation which, owing to the baseness of men, is broken at every opportunity for their advantage; but fear preserves you by a dread of punishment which never fails.”

For those who follow international politics and who are aware of the high polling numbers that Putin has been receiving in Russia, don’t be misled. Much of this is based on fear and respect for a man who will do whatever it takes to maintain power and to remain top alpha dog. Remember the rat story.


The other man was born on June 14, 1946, in Queens, New York City. And it so happened that with that birth came the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth. The second youngest of five children, the family lived in a two story tudor revival home. His father sent him at age 13 to a military academy in an effort to straighten out his mischievous ways. Later as a university student at Fordham University in the Bronx he transferred to the Wharton School of Finance and Commerce where he specialized in real estate.

Avoiding having to serve in the U.S. military during the Vietnam War by means of several deferments, he began working full-time in the real estate industry. And from that point on Donald J. Trump began his meteorite rise, with a number of flame-outs along the way, to real estate tycoon. However, his greater success, given his propensity for bankruptcy, has been his rapid ascent to mega reality star host.

Trump’s silver spoon was not a figurative one. In 1978 his father, Fred (once one of the richest men in America), loaned Donald almost $1 million as part of the building of the Grand Hyatt Hotel near Grand Central Station. Later on, Donald borrowed $9 million from his future inheritance when he encountered financial difficulties (as stated in a 2007 deposition).

Today, as one of the world’s most polarizing public figures, Donald Trump’s net worth is estimated by financial experts at around $4 billion, though he insists it’s closer to $10 billion. But his greatest success has been winning the Republican leadership ticket to take on the much despised Hillary Clinton for the position of the President of the United States.

That Donald J. Trump is the greatest reality star in the history of television is not an overstatement. How a bumbling business man has been able to pull the wool over the eyes of millions of Americans, not to mention a segment of the media, can only be explained by: a) the deep disgust that Americans rightly hold towards Congress, b) a profoundly ignorant portion of the U.S. adult population, and c) Trumps insatiable ability to lie without reservation and to be believed by many Americans.


So that brings us to Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. There almost couldn’t be two more dissimilar men, with the exception of one particular common trait: they’re both narcissists, with Trump likely being the bigger one of the two. From a sociopath perspective Putin has Trump over the barrel. However, it needs to be pointed out that Trump exhibits his own sociopathic tendencies. His faux empathy for working Americans rings hollow when one considers how Trump’s supporters idolize him yet he doesn’t love them back. For example, we don’t see Trump meeting face-to-face with working people in their kitchens. Indeed, it took a while for germaphobe Trump to start shaking hands with his supporters. Someone pass the Purell, please.

When Trump gushes over his new pal, Vlad, it becomes a nauseating affair of pandering to one of the world’s most powerful politicians and, by coincidence, a purportedly head-of-state murderer. Trump’s near homoerotic behavior towards Putin causes one to pause to question The Donald’s judgement. And yes, both men are proficient at lying through their teeth and for making outrageous, crude remarks. On that point, Trump and Putin are running neck and neck.

But does Donald J. Trump not get it? Is he so of touch with reality and so poorly informed on geo-political issues that he’s essentially clueless about Vladimir Putin? Has he not read any biographies on Putin, or familiarized himself with the Russian president’s geo-political aims and adventures? Right, Donald doesn’t read books.

This a very sad time for America, the world’s oldest contemporary democracy. The Land of the Free deserves more than this. Check out this interview on CBC Radio with conservative talk show host Charlie Sykes, whose frankness about the Republican Party having lost its way is a wake-up call.

In the face of this dark chapter in America’s political history, the world can only hope that from this, regardless of the election result on November 8th, that the country will make a self-correction during the period leading to 2020. It will be painful, but from that will emerge a re-born Republican Party that will provide the much-needed two party system that has driven the economic success of the United States.

This is America’s urgent leadership challenge.

Nobody should have any illusion about the possibility of gaining military superiority over Russia. We will never allow this to happen.
—Vladimir Putin

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The Whole World is Watching

September 18, 2016


I love living in Canada and being a Canadian. In typical Canadian fashion, I’m not a flag waver nor engage in what often seems at times adolescent patriotism south of the border. But I have to share a secret, not only mine but that of my fellow 35 million Canadians: we can’t seem to get enough of the political circus that has been going on for the past year in the United States. Canadians are great voyeurs, and have a certain competency at crapping on Americans in order to build themselves up. And that’s not something of which to be proud.

It doesn’t matter where you’re at—grocery store, work, gym, you name the place—Canadians are having a ball watching the world’s greatest reality show star inch his way to the White House. All the while, the first woman in U.S. history to run for President is desperately trying to repel accusations thrown at her on several fronts. Her teflon shield seems to be getting badly chipped in the process.

It’s a very sad state when instead of Americans rejoicing that finally a woman has a shot at the White House—a sad indictment for the world’s oldest existing democracy since 1776—many voters are either repulsed by Hillary Clinton’s political baggage or indecisive of whether to vote for her on November 8th.

Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton meets with civil rights leaders at the National Urban League in the Manhattan borough of New York

In a recent leadership post I wrote on the U.S. election, and which appeared on another social media site, an American (Trump supporter) told me essentially to butt out since he couldn’t give a “shit” what Canadians think. Well, I can understand that comment to a point. Except, as I pointed out to him, not only do Canadians have a big stake in the November 8th outcome but indeed the entire world has a stake, a huge one at that. For example, about 75% of Canada’s exports go to the U.S. (at one time it was as high as 83%). Commercial vehicle flow across the border is extremely important to Canada. Cooperation on security and defence for our two countries is of utmost importance.

Hillary Clinton has never shown herself to be a friend of Canada. To gain political points, she blamed Canada for the 911 terrorists, stating that they came across the border (they came from Saudi Arabia). She later blamed Canada for the huge power failure that struck northeastern North America on August 14, 2003 (it started at an Ohio power plant).

But this doesn’t make it any better with a potential Donald Trump presidency. The truly scary part is that no one knows (except maybe his immediate family) what his true intentions are and how he would behave both on the international stage and how he would lead America on numerous intersecting domestic issues. How many of Trump’s rantings and flip-flops are genuine as opposed to being fabricated, made up along the way, to appeal to disenfranchised voters?

Is the reality show ringmaster as crazy as they say, or as cunning as a fox? Is Donald Trump’s end game, now that he’s stumbled his way to where he’s at, to accept losing to Hillary Clinton and then launch a new realty show series aimed at smearing a Clinton presidency? And if he were to win on November 8th, would he bring in the TV crews and cameras to give Americans—and the world—a never-before-seen reality show from the White House?

President Seal.jpg

Where does the weirdest election campaign in U.S. history end? In Armageddon, if we’re believe those who oppose Donald Trump’s bid for the role of President of the United States? Or more cronyism and pandering to the rich and powerful if Hilary Clinton wins?

In less than two months we’ll find out which of these two polarizing figures wins the presidency. However, it will be months later for the world to start seeing the real intent and policy changes of a President Trump or President Clinton. For example, would Donald Trump actually show some compassion and common sense towards America’s huge number of illegal aliens? Would Trump have the back of NATA partners who face aggressive tactics from Russia? And would he re-think his strategy to hugely increase the deficit, and in turn the debt, of the United States through idiotic tax measures?

On the flip side, would a President Hillary Clinton actually shoot the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) in the head as she’s espoused, or cave to the demands of conglomerates? Would she show some love to Canada, a country to which she’s shown little interest in the past?

Regardless of who wins on November 8th, Canada is more or less screwed. And while Americans may believe that their national election is their business and their’s alone, there’s so much at stake this time that it’s the world’s business what happens in the United States.

Americans like to brag that they live in the best country in the world, that they have the right to intervene in countries on the other side of the world if they don’t like what’s taking place, and that what’s good for the United States is good for the world (aka their version of democracy). If that’s the operating premise for America at large, then the world has a vested stake in how that country leads itself, and by extension, the rest of the planet.

The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office.
— Dwight D. Eisenhower (34th President of the United States)

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Revolution or Police State? Beware the Pitchforks!

September 11, 2016


You show me a highly unequal society, and I will show you a police state. Or an uprising….It’s not if, it’s when.

It’s not often that you get a really rich person talking publicly about the dangers of growing income inequality in the United States. And especially the consequences of looming social unrest. Come to think of it, we never hear someone in the super rich club talking about the need to rebuild the middle class and to seriously address the huge numbers of Americans who live in, and at near, poverty.

Well, there’s one rich guy who not only gets it but who has increasingly become more vocal for a call to action by America’s elected representatives and business people. Meet Nick Hanauer, author of the opening quotation. (It should be acknowledged that investor and philanthropist Warren Buffet has spoken about America’s warped taxation system that favors the wealthy.)

Hanauer, age 57, was born in New York City (photo below). An average student, he earned a philosophy degree from the University of Washington. After graduating, he began work at his family-owned Pacific Coast Feather Company; he’s still the CEO and co-chairman. However, when he was a young man he displayed what he’s acknowledged as an appetite for risk, and began investing in numerous ventures over the years. One of his early investments was Amazon, serving as an advisor until 2000. He created, which later merged with Many other ventures line Hanauer’s CV, but of interest was his forming The True Patriot Network, a political action tank. He also helped create The League of Education Voters in the state of Washington.


An advocate of a higher minimum wage, Hanauer (pictured) wrote a commentary in 2013 for Bloomberg BusinessWeek, in which he proposed a $15 minimum wage. The following year, Hanauer and Eric Beinhocker published Capitalism Redefined. This is recommended reading. However, it was Hanauer’s commentary featured as a special report in Politico that caused people to sit up and pay attention.

The Pitchforks are Coming…for Us Plutocrats is an in-your-face, frank assessment of where America is at on the issue of income distribution. You can also listen to Hanauer in this TED Talk, where he makes an appeal to his “fellow plutocrats” to help initiate the needed socio-economic changes to reduce income inequality. Be sure to take to watch this illuminating video.

A contentious public figure in the past few years, owing to his TED Talks and media interviews, Hanauer’s viewed by right-wing capitalists, and many Republicans, as too left-leaning and too critical of America’s capitalist society. Based on developments over the past 20 years, from NAFTA to China’s entry to the World Trade Organization to the 2008 financial meltdown and ensuing Great Recession to the Occupy Movement to the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership, these criticisms hold little substance. American workers, especially those in manufacturing and information services, have gotten screwed.

Hanauer points out that in 1980 one percent of the U.S. population controlled eight percent of the national income. The bottom 50 percent held 18 percent. Fast forward to today and the top one percent controls 20 percent (up 12 points); in contrast, the bottom half has only 12 percent (down six points). However, of more relevance than these numbers is understanding the distinction between income and wealth.

To be in the one percent club required an annual cash income of $500,000 plus in 2008. However, at the core of the one percent issue is wealth, encompassing assets less liabilities. On that front, one percent of Americans control about 35 percent of the country’s wealth. However, that share of the nation’s wealth has barely budged upwards since 1962 (only 2.2 percentage points). Wealth begets more wealth. It’s the massive disproportionate increase in income by the one percent between 1979 and 2007, up 275 percent, that raises eyebrows—and tempers. The middle class, in comparison saw its income rise by just under 40 percent.


The middle class has been squeezed relentlessly not just in the U.S. but in Canada, the UK, Europe, Australia and New Zealand, with wages stagnating in real terms, young people being underemployed and older workers being thrown to the curb as work is outsourced overseas. No wonder why Great Britons voted to exit the European Union (aka Brexit), when one considers how the country has been hammered economically outside of metropolitan London.

One can pick at some of Hanauer’s arguments, but the underlying point is that American society, as we’ve come to see it evolve into a post-WWII healthy middle class, is under extreme threat. The work of Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and Carter started to unravel with the later introduction of trade agreements that saw jobs outsourced overseas. President Reagan, who oversaw the growth of the U.S. debt by $1.86 trillion (more than even President G.W. Bush), did take on the Soviets and through a sustained effort with Mikhail Gorbachev saw a large reduction nuclear weapons.

It was under Presidents H.W. Bush, Clinton and G.W. Bush that China’s massive manufacturing hub was created and took hold. President Clinton, many have forgotten, signed the legislation to eliminate the Glass-Steagall act of 1933 (enacted under President Roosevelt) which was aimed at separating consumer banking from investment banking. And President G.W. Bush and his successor Barak Obama didn’t have much of a clue when it came to economics. In short, for the past two decades-plus it has been America’s plutocracy that has controlled the way forward for the US economy, and by extension Canada.

We hear about the “One Percent,” as portrayed by the Occupy movement” that not only spread across the U.S. and Canada but Europe, the UK, Australia, India, Brazil, Argentina and many more countries. But what’s really at issue is the .01 percent, those super rich people who as this two-part British documentary explains benefitted mightily from the exploitation of consumer debt, initiated by CITI bank. Watch The Super Rich and Us, Part One. And here for part two.


Many people have attributed the expression “The One Percent” to nobel prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz. While Stieglitz is a perceptive commentator on the socio-economic-class tensions prevailing in the US, it was actually President Franklin Roosevelt who coined the expression in the summer of 1914. It was at a public address in Reading, Pennsylvania, just when WWI was breaking out in Europe, and Roosevelt as Assistant Secretary of the Navy remarked in his address:

“There have been two kinds of successful politics devised in our system of government…. The first is the kind which seeks to build up party strength by obtaining … power based on the personal domination of a few men and the perpetuation in places of authority of those few men and their own appointed successors. That has been in the past, we must admit to our shame, a successful kind of politics, but the day of its success has just about come to an end…. The administration believes that the national government should be conducted for the benefit of the 99 per cent, and not, as has been sometimes been the case in the past, for the benefit of the 1 per cent….” (from Young Mr. Roosevelt, by Stanley Weintraub).

This is not the first time in history since the Industrial Revolution where extreme income and wealth inequality have become incendiary issues. Yet we, as human beings, like to consider ourselves as more sophisticated and educated compared to our forebears in the early 1900s and during the 1800s. We shouldn’t congratulate ourselves or feel superior, given our technology advancements. As a 21st Century society we’ve actually fallen backwards. The longer we wait to seriously correct the disparities in the economy, labor market and financial system, the longer and more difficult will be the road back. Hanauer’s correct about the metaphorical pitchforks. One has only to read some history on what happens when repressed people finally stand up and assert themselves.

The most ironic thing about rising inequality is how completely unnecessary and self-defeating it is. If we do something about it, if we adjust our policies in the way that, say, Franklin D. Roosevelt did during the Great Depression—so that we help the 99 percent and preempt the revolutionaries and crazies, the ones with the pitchforks—that will be the best thing possible for us rich folks, too. It’s not just that we’ll escape with our lives; it’s that we’ll almost certainly get even richer.
— Nick Hanauer (from “The Pitchforks are Coming”)

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