Did you see the roll-out of the new Trump Tax Reform Plan yesterday? Have you actually read it? If you have, it probably didn't take you more than a minute or so as it's really not a "plan", but just a few bullet points. Here it is if you're interested:
That's it. This is what The Prez and his Team have been working on for the past 98 days. Honestly, it looks like something I might have whipped out at 2am the night before a college paper topic outline was due. I give it a half hour effort, max.
In short, it's insulting. It seems at first glance to give a break to the middle class by increasing the Standard Deduction, but also seems to take away some possible deductions, too, most notably property TAX deductions. Property INTEREST deductions appear to be left intact. What will the middle-class bottom line look like? Probably either "revenue neutral" (Gubment speak for "no change") or maybe a slight tax cut, just enough to give the incumbent Congressman a good shot at re-election, which is all he cares about.
On the other side, corporations, notably including privately held corporations like Trump, Inc, will make out like absolute bandits! It will result in tax cuts, on paper at least, to small businesses like mine, but it will be a drop in the bucket compared to what the ultra-wealthy will get. Let's face it, this is simply another wealth transfer to the rich. They haven't even made much of an effort to disguise it. We reportedly already have approx $1.7 TRILLION +/- parked in short term investments looking for a better place. Another trillion dollars isn't needed....there is NO shortage of investment capital.
The bean counters say the tax cut will leave the Treasury short by approx one TRILLION dollars, to be offset by the ever popular "future growth" somewhere in the future. Maybe. Hopefully.
The one possible good thing in there: The one-time opportunity for corporations to bring back earnings from overseas that they haven't before now because of the higher taxes that would be due here. This has been done before (so much for "one-time") with minimal success, as it didn't create the new jobs it promised. Instead companies used their windfall for stock buy-backs and dividends, which *big surprise* went primarily to the already wealthy.
Those who read my protestations will again probably accuse me of being a pinko anti-capitalist, but nothing could be further from the truth. I am an ARDENT capitalist, one who understands it is the middle class that is truly the goose that laid America's golden egg, and who is trying to see to it it isn't slaughtered. Right now, in Washington at least, words like mine are like a lonely voice in the forest.
When you stiff the middle class and concentrate too much wealth in the hands of too few, you get Czarist Russia 1917 (revolution), America 1929 (Great Depression), TWA under Carl Icahn, (bankrupt), Eastern Airlines under Frank Lorenzo (kaput), etc. When companies share their wealth, you get wildly successful stories like The Staubach Companies (Roger Staubach), Broadcast.com (Mark Cuban), Ford (after Henry Ford doubled employee wages), Southwest Airlines, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and more. The owners actually made MORE money thanks to the efforts of their grateful employees than they EVER made before. Come on people....this ain't rocket surgery!
Rough landing ahead. Hold on.
Thursday, April 27, 2017
Wednesday, April 26, 2017
Saturday, April 22, 2017
Do any of you remember back when commercial flying was considered glamorous? For us it meant looking forward to going on vacation and NOT having to drive daaaaays to get there. Flying was a special event. Flying was actually fun! A window seat was prized....there's nothing to compare with looking down on terra firma from 30,000 feet! And since it was expensive, it was a rare treat for us commoners.
My, how times have changed. Today air travel is a dreaded chore. With the introduction of low-cost airlines, everyone can now afford to fly....and they do. The roads to the airport are congested, the parking lot is overflowing, and the lines inside the terminal are loooooooong everywhere you turn. And then you come face-to-face with the infamous TSA, where they strip search you and feel you up, just to make sure you don't have more than 3 ounces of toothpaste on you. Oh, and maybe a bomb.
My point is, your nerves are usually frazzled and your snarl is out before you even board your plane. And this is what flight attendants have to deal with every day.
And back in the day, in the prospective flight attendant's imagination at least, there could be nothing more glamorous than traveling the world, visiting exotic places, meeting the rich and famous, and actually being paid to do it! *dream job* They were just conveniently not told that before you could do all that you first had to spend years flying the quick turnarounds to Lubbock or Tulsa or Des Moines. Once you acquired some seniority, THEN you might could bid for a glamour destination with an overnight. In reality it was and still is a hard job.
This brings us to where we are today, namely highly publicized violent maulings on aircraft, and just this weekend, a near fistfight between an offended passenger and an American Airlines flight attendant. When I first saw the cellphone video of the confrontation my gast was totally flabbered!
I've had the privilege of personally knowing many flight attendants over the years, a few very well, and I can tell you that what was shown on that video is NOT the way 99.999% of flight attendants behave. In the American Airlines incident, the (male) F/A was very recklessly handling a stroller belonging to a traveling mother with her child, who was almost struck. Strike 1. Then another passenger, outraged by what he saw, got up out of his seat and aggressively threatened the F/A. Strike 2. Finally the F/A freaked out and got right back in it with his finger in customer #2's face. Strike 3!
But did you also notice the other flight attendants getting the crazed(?) F/A out of the way, pushing him behind the bulkhead away from the situation, and trying to calm things? (On a related note, did you notice the pilot come out of his hidyhole with his thumb still firmly inserted up his posterior, NOT [noticeably] taking control of the situation? He should have....it was HIS aircraft!) Flight attendants regularly have to deal with upset passengers, and I know for a fact they calmly, tactfully, but quite firmly take control and bring order back to their cabin. They're well trained and very professional.
If you don't like paying $25 for checking an extra bag, don't blame the F/A. She isn't getting a dime of it. If you don't like the crappy food they serve, don't blame the F/A. She didn't prepare it. If you don't like being told to turn off your electronic devices, don't blame the F/A. She didn't make the rule.
Flight attendants can have bad days just like the rest of us. They go through divorces, family sicknesses, financial problems, etc, just like we do. Life isn't easy in "the tube". Yet in virtually every instance they still put on a smile, come to work, and serve us. And the few who crack under the pressure, well, I guess they're just in the wrong line of work.
IMO American Airlines, no doubt learning from the earlier United Airlines fiasco, responded perfectly to this situation. They apologized immediately and publicly, and even upgraded their mistreated passenger and her family to First Class for the rest of their international travel.
Wanna have a nice flight? Try this: Discretely give your flight attendant a small (still factory wrapped*) box of Andie's Candies (delicious chocolate mints), or something similar, and invite her to share them with the rest of the flight crew. After all they put up with, it's a gesture they'll appreciate, and I promise they'll respond with the best TLC you could ever imagine.
* so they'll know it hasn't been tampered with....you can't be too careful these days
Friday, April 21, 2017
The first round of the French presidential election is this weekend, and it has the potential to be as much of a world changer as did Donald Trump's election in the US last year. The big Wild Card will be how well National Front candidate Marine Le Pen does.
The five leading candidates are on this first-round ballot, with the top two going on to the final election ballot next month, assuming no one receives a 50% true majority in this first test. Ms Le Pen is expected to make it to the final round, and that's why much of the western world, and Europe in particular, is holding their breath.
Their unease is because Ms Le Pen is friendly towards Russia, has received campaign financing from a bank close to Putin, and is likely to follow Britain's lead and will try to take France out of the European Union, and perhaps the Euro Zone (the common European monetary system), as well. She isn't too keen on France's NATO participation, either.
Ms Le Pen and her party are anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant (read: anti-Muslim), and ultra-right-wing nationalist. Many say her "France First" theme is a take-off of Donald Trump's "America First". Both she and Candidate Trump slammed international trade agreements (harmful to their economies), NATO (outdated and too expensive), and have questioned sanctions on Russia. Le Pen has even said quite clearly that she would end sanction on Russia if she was elected, and offered no objection to their "annexation" of Crimea.
If Le Pen ultimately becomes the French President, Russia will be the big winner. The thing Russia / Vladimir Putin wants most is to see the West weakened. A European Union without both Great Britain AND France might completely collapse, as might the Euro monetary scheme without the French. Weakened trade relations might see barriers arise again between countries now held tight by their economies, and a NATO without one of its most powerful members may not have the same resolve.
Putin knows he will likely never be able to go toe-to-toe with the power and influence of the United States and a united Europe. He sees that his best chance to restore Russia to its previous glory is to bring his opponents one-by-one down to his level. He likes leaders and countries that he sees as friendly or at least malleable. That's why Putin was so interested in seeing Trump elected President, and why he wants to see Le Pen elected now in France, and a Russia-friendly German candidate win later this year, too. He's been chip-chip-chipping away at us since the day he assumed power, and frankly, he's winning. If he wasn't, I wouldn't be writing this.
Once again, it's an interesting world we live in, and we have a ringside seat to some amazing history in the making.
Thursday, April 20, 2017
I had to look twice to make sure this story wasn't from the The Onion:
"Russia claims its Electronic Warfare troops can detect and neutralize any target from a ship's system and radar to satellites, rendering ships, planes and missiles useless." It went on to say, "You don't need expensive weapons to win. Powerful radio-electronic jamming is enough."
You can read it for yourself here if you like.
While this story dovetails nicely with my previous post, it seems just a little too far fetched to be believable. First of all, why would the Russians put this story out? Why would they admit to us how advanced they were? Unless....they had reason to believe that the US actually did have the technology to, for example, zap a North Korean missile at launch?
Taking it a step further, do they actually think we really could somehow take down their satellites or aircraft or other systems, too? Or is this story just their pathetic attempt to play "Anything you can do, we can do better"?
I'm wondering now if the hypothesis of my last post might have just received a (tiny) bit of credence? Do the world's Superpowers really have some revolutionary new technology that will make our traditional weapons systems obsolete, or are the surviving Twilight Zone writers back at it again pulling our chain?
Sunday, April 16, 2017
North Korea tried Saturday to launch a ballistic missile, and just like their last test attempt, it also failed. Crashed and burned big time, it did. The question now is WHY? Was it simply a case of inferior engineering, or something else? Sunday the former British Foreign Secretary suggested it was likely that a US cyber-attack was responsible for the North Korean missile's spectacular failure.
We've heard for years now about other countries successful hacks / cyber attacks on American commercial and public interests. Through all this I've been wondering, "What are we capable of doing to them?" Of course, barring a security leak, we'll never know for sure. But if science is truly on the cusp of being able to disable enormously expensive weapons systems with cyber commands from a dark, secure room somewhere, this could be a world "balance-of-power" game changer.
This potential new form of dominant warfare has far-ranging implications. For many decades there have been only two true superpowers, the USSR / Russia and the US, with the US generally believed to have a considerable edge. "Superpower" being defined as quantities and qualities of missiles, warheads, aircraft, submarines, tanks, etc. Only a select few advanced countries could get into our very exclusive club.
Now, with a relatively small financial investment, many smaller countries could soon find themselves in the Cyber Big Leagues. Surely tiny Israel is there right now, joining the US, Russia, and China in the top tier. Other potential members might include N Korea, S Korea, Japan, India, Iran, Pakistan, Turkey, and a few others you wouldn't think of as likely superstars.
Can you imagine the challenges to traditional spheres of influence where former minor league players can demand and win concessions from today's superpowers? Where most of today's massive aircraft carrier battle groups and nuclear-tipped missiles are made redundant? Where warfare will be (even) more about electronic / digital measures and countermeasures than about the actual hardware? Will today's heavyweights be able to gracefully and willingly share power?
For those who are today willing to appease the Tea Party's thirst for tax cuts at all costs, please think twice. Cutting funding in the wrong places, such as in education, especially in the nerdy fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, would likely come back to haunt us in the not-too-distant future. It's time to double-down on funding our future. Cyber-nerds sitting at computer keyboards may not be as sexy as a fleet of stealth bombers, but they will likely someday be far more important to our national security.
Chew on that thought for a while.
Chew on that thought for a while.
Thursday, April 13, 2017
Back in the early days of the Cold War all us little kids were taught to dive under our school desks to shield ourselves from an incoming Commie nuclear attack. (I'm still questioning the wisdom of letting little kids crawl all over lead-lined desks all day, but that's a topic for later.) I'm sure this would have worked great so long as the Rooskies attacked between the hours of 8 am and 3:15 pm, and respected recess, lunch times, and summer vacations.
Things are different today. First, the Russians are likely not our main existential threat. Russia's Vladimir Putin no doubt remembers the concept of "Mutually Assured Destruction" or MAD, which meant both sides knew if they launched an attack on the other, they themselves would be vaporized in retaliation about five minutes later. Putin may be an evil bully, but he isn't stupid. He knows he can get what he wants via something virtually untraceable back to the Motherland: cyber warfare.
Nor is China a likely existential threat to America. Their version of modern Communism....let's call it Communism Lite....likes making a profit, and we're their biggest customer. We need to keep each other happy. Neither of us has much to gain, but a tremendous amount to lose, by nuking the other.
Iran....they could be, likely WILL be an existential threat to us sooner rather than later. Our nuclear deal with them of a few years ago was, in retrospect, a joke. They're probably still laughing over how gullible we were. Their radical Islamic leadership would probably be willing to write off a few million of their own people in exchange for poking an infidel in the eye. The good news for us here in 'Merica is that Israel is geographically much closer and has vastly more to lose than we do, so before Iran can truly threaten us, Israel will....umm...."handle it". *wink*
North Korea, however, is another matter. Their people might be perpetually on the verge of starvation, but Kim Jong Un still lavishes money on his nuclear program. I doubt he's concerned about a few million of his people being wiped out in a nuclear retaliatory strike....the MAD concept probably means nothing to him.
Prez Trump thinks China can control them, but I have my doubts. Even if China cuts N Korea off today, it's too late. That train has already left the station. China is probably thinking if they
piss him off anger Kim Jong Un, he might someday lob a few nukes their direction, too, so they're tippy-toeing their way around "The Little Fat One" as well. For the time being I'm not particularly worried about Crazy Kim hitting my zip code with an ICBM....he'd probably have a tough time even hitting Texas! As a geopolitical junkie, I'll admit this one is going to be "interesting" to watch play out.
Have I missed anybody? Is there anyone else you can think of that might have a nuke or two set aside with our name on it?
And most importantly, now that you're an adult, do you have a Big Boy or Big Girl desk you can fit under? ;)
Monday, April 10, 2017
I've studied this mess in Syria for a long time now and what I've learned is that it is, even though the diplomats won't say it out loud, a giant "cluster fuck". You really need a program to figure out who are the bad guys and who are the....umm....badder guys.
We seem to think of those involved as the guys in the black hats vs the guys in the white hats, and of course we're for the guys in the white hats. But there really are no white hats. The black hat guys are definitely Syrian dictator Turd al Assad and his allies Russia, Iran and the Hezbollah militia Iran sponsors. Then the....let's call them the very dirty gray hat guys....are the "rebels". Except there is no one united rebel group, but instead a bunch of other a-holes who sometimes fight against Assad & Friends whenever they aren't fighting each other.
According to this BBC article from several years ago there were no less than 20 different groups fighting in Syria. Since then Russia and Turkey have gotten involved, too. And lets not forget, what we today know as ISIS began as one of those rebel groups fighting Assad. Are one of these other rebel sub-groups likely to be the Son of ISIS next year? If we side with one or even a few of these groups, we'll just piss off the others. It's like a giant, never ending game of whack-a-mole.
I personally have no problem with Prez Trump striking the Syrian airfield last week as punishment for them using internationally outlawed chemical weapons. But for those who want us to get more involved I must ask, what's the desired outcome? If it's to see Turd al Assad abdicate his dictatorship, who's going to replace him? Will he be any better than Assad was? Will he be able to pull his opponents together in a big coalition for the benefit of all the Syrian people? Haha! Don't hold your breath. Look for more of the same, or even worse. The age-old tribes and sects there are just born to fight....they're hopelessly savage. And the poor, average Syrian family is just caught in the crossfire. :(
The one thing I hope we've learned is that RUSSIA CAN NOT BE TRUSTED TO KEEP ITS WORD. Russia's Putin brokered an agreement 4 (?) years ago whereby they would see to it Assad turned over ALL their chemical weapons. Russia / Putin lied! They made a good show of it, but they DIDN'T disarm the Syrians of their chemical weapons. There is no way Turd al Assad would have disobeyed his Russian benefactors....they're the only reason he's avoided being lynched....and used chem weapons without Putin's knowledge.
Ronald Reagan got it right 30 years ago when, speaking of the Russians, he said, "Trust, but verify." Today Russia has shown that they can hide from us anything they want, therefore there is no sense even pretending to trust them.
Regarding Russia and Syria today, we simply can't trust these war criminals to police each other.
Saturday, April 8, 2017
Today was our area's first arts festival of the 2017 season. Deep Ellum is a
freaky eclectic district just east of downtown Dallas of bars, tattoo parlors, and VERY LOUD music, and now they've cashed in on the art fest craze in a grand way, too. Although you can't tell by this picture, the scenery *wink* was SPECTACULAR, and fortunately for me, K declared it a "look / just don't touch" event. Fair enough.
I'm not sure if this flattened-bottle-cap banana sculpture is meant to go in the living room or in the back yard next to the kids swing set and fort?
What can you say? Willie is always smiling and irreverent, in good times or bad.
Unsurprisingly considering their usual clientele, the show didn't open until 11 am, and is open until 11 pm. Then the party begins. Last year they had a dog / costume parade, and it was advertised again this year, too, but I couldn't find it. *pout* But with 6 blocks of...umm..."unusual" artists to check out, there was no disappointment.
Besides the usual art fest street food, the permanent local restaurants were doing a booming business. We had some superb Tex Mex cuisine, and enjoyed an excellent vantage point to see lots of eye candy, too.
It was a very laid back, casual show, except for the chickens. The chickens were apparently pissed.
K bought me this nice sterling silver and leather wrist thing, and I bought her a pretty silver necklace from the same husband / wife artists. I'm pretty sure we bought them a nice dinner out tonight. ;)
Two more shows in the next month, Cottonwood (Richardson) and Southlake, both very good. And at the end of the month I'll be at the North Texas British Car Show at White Rock Lake. Good times!
Thursday, April 6, 2017
How Donald Trump would like for us to see him
Until recently the US stated position on Syria was that Assad must leave office. Last week, however, Sec State Tillerson said, no doubt with Prez Trump's approval, that the people of Syria would decide Assad's fate. Read: we're staying out of it. And as no one should be surprised to learn, Assad heard this and felt emboldened to do whatever he wanted. He chose to hammer some of his people with Sarin gas as a lesson to all those who opposed him....and the world, including Donald Trump, was repulsed.
Today Prez Trump said Assad crossed a red line when he killed innocents yesterday. What? Did...did Donnie John just say "red line"? Whoa! Let's review: He's under assault at home. The legislative agenda he ran and won on has so far struck out. The wolves are nipping at his heels. This crisis in Syria is a chance for him to break out and actually do something, and IMO he's just the Gambler to roll the dice. I think he'll do something militarily. I think he'll gas up the jets and send them on their way.
Will it work?
My extensive military background (zero) says on a micro level, yes. Yes, we can spank Assad any time we want. It will risk killing some Russians who are in Syria to prop up Assad, but Russia simply doesn't have the capability, short of all-out nuclear war, to do anything, and they aren't crazy enough to start WWIII over the little Turd al Assad. Russia's power is greatly overblown at this time....they can talk the talk, but they aren't yet ready to walk the walk. With the first Tomahawk impact, Assad will likely experience his first of many changes of underwear. But on a macro level....
HOLD THE PRESSES: The news just reported (8:20 PM) that the US has launched 50 cruise missiles at Syria. I guess my point/post is now moot.
Over the next few days and weeks President Trump will be proven either a hero or a goat. Interesting times. Stay tuned.
Tuesday, April 4, 2017
Master spy novelist John le Carre in Hamburg, 1964
You might be good, Mr. le Carre, but I think this one is even beyond YOUR imagination. The embryonic plot: A neophyte politician shocks the world and is actually elected President of the United States. He's strong in economic theory and practice, but has to depend on others to give him advice on foreign matters. But who?
Enter a former Navy SEAL, let's call him "Eric", working on behalf of the President-Elect, who travels quietly to The Seychelles, a small island archipelago in the Indian Ocean, to meet with a representative of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Oooo....let's have the meeting be set up by a Middle Eastern Prince! The purpose of the meeting is to establish a "back channel for high level communications" between the two powerful leaders. Or is it?
Eric is adept at working in the shadows, having founded a "dark" para-military / security firm (something sinister sounding....Blackwater!) that makes him a fortune thanks to years of lucrative US government contracts. Some of it, say a quarter million dollars, is later donated to the campaign of the President-Elect. Oh, and to pique your interest even further, let's have Eric's multi-billionaire sister be the new President's Education Secretary, and a major campaign donor herself.
At about the same time, the President-Elect's National Security Adviser-designate, "Mike", a former
But Mike, after spending a career in national security and counterintelligence, somehow forgets (?) that the Russian Ambassador's phone is always tapped, and on one of his innocent calls he is recorded discussing with Sergey the possible removal of the crippling economic sanctions the US imposed on Russia after they invaded a neighbor. When his lie becomes known, Mike is dismissed by the new President after only 3 weeks on the job.
Still, the press, smelling there is more to Mike's past, keeps digging. They soon learn that while he is advising his neophyte American candidate (who was elected by promoting "America First"), Mike is accepting a half million dollars in remuneration for advising someone "close" to the autocratic leadership of Turkey, too. In fact, after an attempted coup in Turkey, Mike meets with senior Turkish representatives to suggest how the suspected coup leader, now residing in Pennsylvania, USA, could be quietly "removed" from the US without going through the proper American extradition process.
Mike is a surprisingly sloppy intelligence operative, failing to file the proper paperwork with the country whose uniform he wore for 33 years, as representing a foreign government. Mike also attends several events in Russia, having dinner seated right next to none other than the Russian President himself, while actually receiving $33,000 from the Russian government-controlled TV news outlet RT for his attendance.
Claiming innocence, Mike files his paperwork late, but fearing he (and his 6-figure military pension) might be in serious trouble, offers to tell all he knows about....he won't say exactly what....in exchange for legal immunity. (Should Mike now have a surrogate start his car for him? *boom!* Interesting subplot?)
Still another Presidential adviser, "Rock", no, even better, Roger "Stone" admits he met up numerous times with a known Russian spy years ago, but shared nothing of value, claiming he just thought his "friend" was part of the Russian UN delegation. Even though the Russian spy was recorded as saying he thought Mr. Stone was an "idiot", Roger is later brought on board to advise the new American President "how the world works."
Not enough....I need more intrigue? OK, so how about if the President's own son-in-law, "Jared" (no, not the Subway perv), a young real estate mogul of note, quietly meets with a Mr. Sergey Gorkov, Russian President Putin's hand-picked man to be the CEO of state-owned Vnesheconombank. Jared says it is to discuss personal banking matters, never mind that Vnesheconombank is itself on our officially sanctioned "do not touch" list. Sergey, however, apparently doesn't get the memo, and tells us all it was to discuss those same sanctions that General Mike somehow forgot to mention.
Shortly after, our lame duck President, in his last days in office, expels 30+ Russian diplomats as punishment for Russia's meddling in the recent American election. Vladimir Putin just smiles, looks the other way, and doesn't retaliate, greatly pleasing the new President-Elect.
Whew! Enough? OK, so how did the neophyte politician ever manage to get elected in the first place? By a stroke of supreme luck he manages to hire Paul, an accomplished political handler, away from ousted Ukrainian President (and confidant of Russia's Putin), Viktor Yanukovych. And just like that....Wah La....Hail To The Chief!
Now my mind is truly mush. I'm exhausted. I'll have to finish my work-in-progess after I get some much needed sleep. Maybe I can watch the news tomorrow and get some more inspiration. *wink*
Nite all. :)
Saturday, April 1, 2017
Donald Trump campaigned on "America First", and for better or worse, he's delivering on it. Among his demands is that NATO members should start pulling their weight financially. They had previously agreed to each spend 2% of their GDP on defense, collectively strengthening NATO, but so far all but the US, Greece, the UK, Poland, and Estonia have reneged. The German Foreign Minister recently said it was "quite unreasonable to believe Germany would spend 2% of its economic output on the military."
Last year the United Kingdom voted to separate themselves from the European Union, aka Brexit. And now Scotland is again making noises about separating itself from the UK.
Marine Le Pen, the leader of the French National Front Party, who vows to follow the UK's Brexit lead and get France out of the EU (Frexit?), is on the short list to become the next President of France. She also says she will strengthen French relations with Russia.
Speaking of: The Russia of Vladimir Putin is punching above its weight class. It's expanding militarily, although still for now exhibiting more bluster than true power. At home it's an economic basket case, but Putin still has visions of Russia regaining the glory and prestige it had back in the days of the old Soviet Union. They meddled in the recent US election (fact), and right now are meddling in the upcoming elections of France and Germany. Their cyber-warfare capabilities are immense and expanding, and we don't seem (?) to have a way to counter them.
Russia is leaning heavily on some of their former Soviet Republic neighbors, occupying Crimea, and now actively stirring things up in the Balkans (south-eastern Europe). Meanwhile, back at home, the Putin regime is under pressure to reform, which he isn't about to let happen. Although it's seldom reported in the press, there is considerable public discontent with Putin. And what often happens when a leader wants to deflect attention away from discontent at home?
The leader of Turkey, Recip Erdogan, an avowed Islamist, is consolidating power, slowly but surely dismantling the secular state established there after WWI. He is rapidly filling the power vacuum left by crumbling neighbors Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and others. Turkey is a long-time member of NATO (another eventual nail in NATO's coffin?) , but not a member of the European Union. (They applied, but so far have been rebuffed).
North Korea is perfecting their nuclear arms at a steady pace. So far no one has been able to convince them to cease and desist, not even their benefactor communist neighbor, China. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has shown nothing but contempt for the rest of the world and seems hellbent on seating himself at the Big Table with the major powers. He doesn't seem frightened by the concept of "Mutually Assured Destruction", which for 40 years kept the US and the USSR from attacking each other. We don't seem to have any feasible way to dissuade North Korea.
The United States, traditionally the most stable country in the world, is still stable, but feeling some tremors. We need some truly dependable allies, but they seem to be few and far between (see above).
Our climate is changing. It's getting warmer almost everywhere. Whether this is due to natural cycles or man-made factors, who knows? But instead of playing it safe and being pro-active, we're looking the other way and just chasing the Almighty $$$.
Folks, we need to get our shit together. Look back through history and you'll see we've been in hellacious messes before and gotten ourselves out, and we can now, too, assuming it's part of God's Grand Plan. But just like in those past situations there will be a serious price to pay.
The soft life we've been living for many generations may be coming to an end, which actually isn't a bad thing. To eventually prevail we'll need to stop thinking in terms of "me, me, me" and start thinking of the common good for a change.
And as a personal request, can we please get all this worked out before next football season? *wink*
aka Chuckles :)