What is the matter with big media when over and over for the last 2 days it played the prepared tapes of 3 Americans held in North Korea. They were allowed to say how well they were taken care of, but hoped the United States negotiates their freedom–exactly what North Koreans wanted them to say as NK’s act of publicity is now playing second stage to Ukraine, Somalia, and ISIS. Then some movie star’s private pictures were lifted to be shown to anyone who wants them on the internet. Neither of these stories have the significance of NATO announcement that it is forming a strike force of 4-thousand troops to hit flash points in Eastern Europe wherever needed within 48-hours. Or the Ukraine government saying the world is on a precipice of a great war the equivalent of World War-2. Now just 2 days from the NATO summit meeting in Wales, Russian President Putin is recorded in one of his all too often braggadocio moments claiming he “could take the Ukraine capital of Kiev in 2 weeks, if he wanted to.” The NATO strike-force announcement to be made official at the meeting in Wales later this week has Russia recating it would now have to revise its military doctrine to “account for military dangers and military threats” of NATO expansion. Russia claims NATO broke its promised to never admit Poland and 2 of the 3 Baltic states of Estonia and Latvia. Poland, and the 2 Baltic States, fearing Russian expansionism, are inviting NATO troops on their lands. Poland joined NATO in 1999 with Estonia and Latvia following 2004. Both Russia and the western allies fearfully accuse the other side of expansionism. Fear turns to aggressiveness. Putin explained last April, “When the infrastructure of a military bloc approaches our borders, we have grounds for certain apprehensions and questions. We wanted to support the residents of Crimea, but also followed certain logic: If we don’t do anything, Ukraine will be drawn into NATO sometime in the future. NATO ships will dock in Sevastopol, the city of Russia’s naval glory.” Russia annexed Crimea, a part of Ukraine, in March.
Ukraine’s defense minister Valeriy Heletey told NATO foreign ministers: “A great war has arrived at our doorstep, the likes of which Europe has not seen since World War-II.” We are now at a point similar to the beginnings of World War-I when both sides were sure the other side would blink…and they were wrong. Russia continues to intervene, unabated in eastern Ukraine and of course with Ukraine considering its present connection with NATO, a partnership, the 28-member coalition appears ready to put commitment into practice, if need-be. President Obama’s work has achieved a more group action where the United States would participate but not lead as it did in both Afghanistan and Iraq. NATO leaders meeting in Wales this week are expected to adopt the strongest declaration so far against Russian war activity in eastern Ukraine. Most NATO ministers agree it was a mistake to allow a Russian takeover of Crimea as that decision only enticed President Putin to grab more of Ukraine as he has been achieving since the start of this year. President Obama flies to Wales this Thursday for what may prove to be NATO’s most important summit since the North Atlantic Treaty Organization was signed April 4, 1949. The ministers are expected to formally agree to develop a new strike force of 4-thousand quick response troops ready to be on Eastern European battle sites within 2 days. This show of force is intended to demonstrate to Mr. Putin NATO’s collective readiness. Before the start of the Thursday meeting, President Obama flies to tiny Estonia where President Taavi Roivas says: “The security situation has changed and we need to rethink our plans and reinforce our allies so we can be 101 per cent sure that all member states are equally and strongly protected.” President Obama sent this unusually tough message to Putin: “Don’t even think about messing around in Estonia or any of the Baltic areas in the same way that you’ve been messing around in Ukraine.” ISIS is not on the agenda but Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will be meeting with their NATO counterparts on how to deal with the growing terrorist problem. But ISIS is secondary to the Russian aggressiveness against Ukraine issue.
….and just before Labor Day at that! “Unheard of in corporate America,” chimes Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations, Christopher Mackin. “It’s like 1776 — we get to pick who governs us.” Market Basket workers from the lowest paid to the managers in this grocery chain serving 2 million customers in Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire saw the demise of their jobs with the firing of manager Arthur T. Demoulas by other family members. The supermarket chain workers struck 6 weeks ago, demanding just one thing: The return of Arthur T. Demoulas who appreciated the hard work of those under him. The strikers were soon supported in public rallies with Arthur T. becoming a cult figure for the American worker. Even Governors Deval Patrick of Massachusetts and Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire sided with the worker as opposed to the other side of the family which could see quick profits by cutting services and employees. The shoppers boycotted the markets run by cousin Arthur S. Demoulas who was losing progressively millions a week. With the grocery shelves emptied, the family gave in late Wednesday night, agreeing that Arthur T. Demoulas, known as a friend of labor would return to head the stores. Cousin Arthur S. and his family members agreed to sell 50.5 percent to Arthur T.s’ side for a total store value of about 3.2 Billion dollars. This is unprecedented–a takeover by the workers of such a large corporation. New Englanders are imbedded with the ideals of the right of free expression, and they still practice it in their town meetings, just as they did 225 years ago. What worked here may signal that management can and should get along for the benefit of the workers as well. Over in Boston, M.I.T. Sloan School of Management professor Thomas Kochan has studies showing “employees are the most valuable asset in this business.” His conclusion: “Market Basket has done more to educate us on how to manage a business than any business case study that’s been written to this date.”
President Obama’s handling of the war in Ukraine is worse than Neville Chamberlain ceding parts of Czechoslovakia to Hitler in 1938. At least the British Prime Minister had a signed paper to wave toi the cheering crowd. I understand we can’t expect all presidents to be American war veterans, but this American president should spend some time with a basic book on military strategy. He needs to learn not to repeatedly telegraph the enemy what he’s going to do and not do. There is an invasion going on right now as thousands of Russian troops are crossing into eastern Ukraine and the President of the United States assures President Putin that the U.S. will not send troops. Obama has yet to refer to it as an invasion or even an incurson. Recently, he assured ISIS there would be no U.S. ground troops in the current battle for Iraq. He’s been hard to believe since he backed off his threat to bomb Syria if President Hafez al-Assad dared use poison gas. Well, Assad used it killing hundreds and Obama did nothing in retaliation. Again today, he threatened Russia with more economic sanctions. Look at Cuba. Over 60 years of U.S. sanctions have failed to derail communism. Sanctions hurt equally those who initiate them and those who receive them. There are 77-hundred German companies dependent right now on Russian sales. Sanctions hurt both sides. President Obama should go on reading that basic military strategy book to find you must match your side with at least comparable equipment or get out of the battle. Kiev government troops were doing just fine against the Ukraine separatists, having only 2 major cities left to conquer. Then came Putin’s fake humanity convoy of 270 trailers arrives. Out came the tanks, high powered professional troops. Militarily, they had the high ground on the Russian side of the border. Their troops are in the position of conducting numerous hit and run operations into eastern Ukraine, returning safely back to the Russian side. Do the Ukraine troops have a row boat to chase them. Until now, it’s been two ragtag Ukraine armies fighting it out. Russia changed all that last week…and now it’s Russian troops aiding the green separatists against inexperienced Kiev government troops. The Russians have the highest sophisticated war equipment and plenty of it. The separatists are well fed and equipped. Obama has made no mention of matching that for the Ukraine government troops. A draft was ordered, starting today, but what’s that inexperienced army going to do against the Russian pros on the other side? Like Hitler with Czechoslovakia, Putin put his foot in the water around the start of the year over Crimea–found he could get away with conquering and was then encouraged to take more of eastern Ukraine. Now he’s on a drunken binge and can’t stop til he takes all of Ukraine, which will certainly make Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania nervous. But with strong public support at home, Putin’s ready for a long fight and is confident his troops will somehow survive the French sanction of “no brie for you Russians.” Bet they’ll hold out longer than the French farmers who are already complaining.
As we move toward another first Friday of the month’s Labor Department Unemployment release it’s good to note how inaccurate the figure has become. Because of the questionable numbers, I always suggest we don’t take a single month’s numbers too seriously–good or bad–and average the last 3 months for a more meaningful represention of what’s going on with the economy. First-off the number is designed to look better than the economy is by eliminating all those people so discouraged they are no longer looking for work. Hey they are alive in America, need to be fed, housed, doctored with dollars and yet just because they are so discouraged they’ve given up hope of finding work they are no longer listed as unemployed in the numbers which twist the truth of the true picture of the monthly unemployment report. We are not sure how effective the Labor Department’s effort to eliminate those partisan surveyors who aim to cook the books on the side of their party’s affiliation. A positive or negative result has a major effect on how the nation votes. With all the growth in scientific surveys, polling has become progressively inaccurate over the last 20 years because the public is being hounded by phony surveyors claiming they are from the government to gain entrance into personal information. It’s hard to know who is telling the truth. The telephone itself is weighted to the elderly while millions of the young are much harder to reach with their cell phones. Texting won’t solve the problem. Compare my graduate school original research project when virtually everyone contacted was interested in answering my questions, to today’s telephone polling success rate of only 9 percent. People born after 1980 are far less interested in answering a poller’s questions. Then a large portion of those willing to be surveyed in the beginning refuse to be surveyed a year later corrupting the figures on how many are unemployed. The same people willing to say they had a job refuse to say they are now out of work. Then there’s what’s called the Tea Party effect with more Americans reluctant to acknowledge they now have jobs while Obama remains president. The Labor Department’s unintended inaccuracies strongly suggest we take the monthly unemployment report way too seriously with the stock market jumping this way and that on a tenth of a percentage point. Americans have lost truth in media, churches, banks, labor unions and even the education system. People aren’t as trusting as they were when I knocked in 600 doors back in my college days and as a result we don’t know as much about who we really are or where we want to go.
Please check the new NYT story, just posted on my Twitter acct. “Russia opening up a Third front in the Ukraine war. ” Thanks Bill @DouglasAB or Bill Deane
The first American killed fighting for ISIS was a loser here in the states, failing to accomplish anything of note worthiness. Job interviewers tell us they are more impressed by applicants who finish what they start than those who jump from school to school or job-to-job. Douglas McArthur McCain was in no way an accomplish-what-you start kind of guy. He was a big fan of Michael Jordan for a while–then lost interest in basketball. He attended 2 high schools in suburban Minneapolis but never graduated. McCain started having run-ins with the law in his late teens–relatively small stuff at first, marijuana possession, driving without a license and at least one theft. A neighborhood friend said, “I don’t think he ever knew what he wanted to do. He lost his anchor when his father died.” Searching, McCain shuttled between Minneapolis and San Diego, visited Canada and Sweden then late last year overseas to the MiddleEast through Turkey, an entry point to Iraq and then another porous crossing into Syria. He e-mailed back home only that he was in Turkey but for no specific reason. Likewise, national security here in the states, lost the trail in Turkey. There was no mention to his family that the wonderer had joined ISIS. However a Twitter net searcher found McCain had Twittered the world he had finally found himself through Islam, saying it was “the best thing” that ever happened to him. The 33 year old was ready to die in battle, “Ya Allah when it’s my time to go have mercy on my soul have mercy on my bros.” Tuesday night the White House confirmed his death. McCain met death 3 days ago in Syria’s northern city of Marea where ISIS has been fighting the free Syrian Army rebels for several weeks. McCain, with a Tunisian and Egyptian were caught as they sneaked up on the U.S.-backed rebels. All 3 plus dozens of other ISIS fighters were killed. McCain had been carrying several hundred dollars plus his American passport. The U.S. estimates there are about a hundred American citizens fighting their own nation in either Iraq or Syria. There may be a thousand more from European nations. The fact that McCain was fighting on the front lines and not back here in the U.S. on a terror assignment indicates ISIS is not yet ready to attack the United States directly. Spotting American terrorists is a far more difficult task than catching a suspect with a MiddleEast passport entering the U.S.; thus the major recruiting campaign for Americans to join the terror group. Perhaps we can conclude ISIS is pushing the final goal to destroy America on the back-burner for a while.
…and it’s all about taxes here and in Canada. While Congress enjoys yet another 5-week vacation, leaving the tax inversion problem for another day. Corporate taxes here in the U.S. are a little under twice what they are in Canada. Burger King Worldwide, Inc. agrees to buy the Canadian coffee and donut chain, Tim Hortons, Inc. for about 11-Billion to seal the deal. Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. is putting in 3-Billion in preferred equity financing. This of course puts Buffet in the middle of the U.S. tax controversy which has American corporations setting up their headquarters in other low tax countries such as Canada. Some countries have no corporate tax which entices corporations to hire more employees who will pay a much higher income tax or Value Added Tax. The merger joins 18-thousand restaurants in 100 countries, making it the third largest restaurant chain in the world. All that stands in the way is proof to Parliament that the deal is a net-benefit to Canada. American corporations, paying 39.1% in combined corporated income tax rates, the highest in the world while Canada is the 15th highest. Inversion’s the name and Congress better act fast as more and more American companies are saying goodbye for tax advantages. The Burger King side of the merger will continue to be managed here in the United States with the money soon coming from Canada.