Conor Lamb and Consequences

Posted March 14, 2018 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: Donald Trump, GOP, Republican Party, Uncategorized

Tags: ,

Yesterday, in the Pennsylvania 18th District, Conor Lamb prevailed over Republican Rick Saccone in an election of dubious consequences. The 18th District has in recent years been a relatively safe Republican seat due largely to the disaffected large union population and generous gerrymandering.  President Trump carried this district by 20 points as an example.

So, what was so bad about Saccone or what was so good about Lamb?

Interviews with Trump voters in the 18th and several other districts across the country have revealed that many Trump voters are souring on the President as a person but overwhelmingly like the President because “Trump  gets things done”. Hmmm.

This comment suggests that these voters were disgusted with other politicians claiming they would change this or that, and in the end do nothing.

So, let’s look at some of President Trump’s successes. Lamb did not reject the President’s actions but asked 18th District voters what consequences might follow,.

For example,  Republicans gloated about tax cuts. Lamb asked, what government programs, important to the 18th District, might not happen or might need to be cut back when the Federal Government realizes it has too little money.  How about badly needed investment in roads, bridges, and ports?

Lamb did not say tax cuts are unfair or a bad idea because they grossly benefit the already wealthy (which they do). Rather Lamb framed the Trump action in terms where the consequences would be real to his district’s voters. Lower taxes would also put pressure upon Medicare, Medicaid, and social security Lamb said. Infrastructure projects would be slowed along with the new jobs that would be associated with development.

The key to Lamb’s approach was treating respectively potential voters, many of whom had voted for President Trump. He did not slam Trump as a person but kept the focus upon the President’s policies and what the consequences would likely be.

Even with healthcare, Lamb refrained from advocating universal healthcare but instead spoke of the right of all sick Americans to receive healthcare they could afford. Read more of Conor Lamb’s policies.  Hmmm.

Lamb’s intangibles came through as honesty and bias for action. Lamb appears clean-cut, honest, and hard working. In this contest, that was enough.

Don’t Cry For Me, Mr Tillerson

Posted March 13, 2018 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: Donald Trump, Uncategorized

Tags: , ,

The breaking news this morning was the firing of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the naming of his replacement, CIA Director Mike Pompeo. Should anyone care?

The answer is either, yes – everyone should, or no, no one should. Hmmm.

Please unpack this statement.

The change has been long rumored and there have been multiple incidents where if Tillerson’s boss in the private sector had undercut him as President Trump has, Tillerson would have tendered his resignation and gone his own way. Given Tillerson’s preference for logic and a deliberate approach, Tillerson was bound to experience constant conflict with his boss. Trump’s strategic vision comprise plans for the moment and are subject to complete reversal if the President perceives a more desirable (for him) outcome which might be achieved with different tactics.

Our President is a win-lose deal maker. Trump wishes to win and doesn’t care what impact a loss has for the other person. In business, that may be fine, but in global relations, a deal where country Z may experience a loss,  the loss may multiple into political upheaval bringing on a new regime far more hostile to America’s interests.

Tillerson was at least one voice of reason and stability in Trump’s cabinet. Mike Pompeo is untested even with his short stay as the CIA Director. Pompeo may be too eager to please and with his rise in stature, susceptible to hubris in his new job. And with so many examples of an unmoored Trump (withdrawals from TPP and Paris Climate Agreement, entering North Korean negotiation without a plan, and driving a wedge between the US and its traditional allies by asserting tariffs and demanding renegotiations of existing treaties, one must reasonably conclude that losing Tillerson is a loss.

On the other hand, there is no evidence Mike Pompeo will bring anything new or different to the State Department. And there is even less evidence, Pompeo will put discipline into President Trump’s agenda. What you see is what you get. So it is arguable that no one should be worried because nothing substantive has changed.

So, don’t cry for me (and the American public), Mr Tillerson. Instead, recognize that you could have never succeeded at your post and for sure, never receive any credit. Mr. Tillerson, you should view your sacking as a result of the Stormy Davis effect. Standard Trump procedure is to change the subject and give the media something different to chase after, especially if the other subject was getting too close to home.

So, don’t cry for me, Mr Tillerson. You are now free to live a sensible life knowing you tried your best, in a no win situation, and did it with dignity and honor.

How To Negotiate

Posted March 11, 2018 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: Donald Trump, Uncategorized

Tags: , , ,

The international stage offers the world examples of how to negotiate in difficult and complex situations. And at the end of the day, for populists leaders, “might makes right”, is the only real barometer.

  • Russia offers one example with its occupation and annexation of Crimea. One must recognize that Crimea has historic ties to mother Russia (as does nearby Ukraine). When the Soviet Union ran into financial difficulties and essential collapsed, the surviving “Russian Federation” tossed off the Crimean financial responsibility and “gave” the country to the Ukraine.Time passed and the present Russian Government decided to take back Crimea. So, in addition to historic ties between Crimea and Russia, the Crimean population is heavily salted with retired Russian military and government officers.Despite the international agreements, Russia simply said it was the will of the people and marched its troops into Crimea.
  • Another example of negotiation was presented by Israel. The Israeli government stated that there were legitimate claims by Palestinians and also by Israelis. Therefore, Israel divided the lands in question into two parts (about 50/50), and claimed one part outright for themselves. Israel then turned to the other half and said to the Palestinians, “let’s begin to negotiate”. The only question remaining would be over whether the Palestinians would have any land left after this second round of negotiations.
  • President Trump has now offered us a refresher on how authoritarian bullies negotiate. Trump simply makes a claim with no apparent justification and states that claim will be the starting point for a second round of negotiations. For example, the President has decided certain portions of NAFTA are not advantageous for certain US interests. Trump Administration negotiators were unsuccessful in resolving this issue in the frame work of the entire NAFTA agreement. End of story, no not quite.
    President Trump has decided on extremely weak grounds that steel and aluminum imports have weakened US capability to manufacture these basic metals in time of national emergency. Voila, a 25% tariff on steel and a 10% one on aluminum which is imported. And guess which countries would like to be exempt from these tariffs?
    President Trump has granted Canada and Mexico exemptions from the tariffs “temporarily” while negotiations continue on NAFTA. Hmmm. Do you wonder what will happen if Mexico and Canada do not cave on NAFTA negations?

All three of the negotiation styles are hallmarked by “bullyism”. “Might makes right” can help the negotiator rule the day in the short term but not without a stiff penalty. Russia has been hit with punishing sanctions. Israel has been isolated in the world court of opinion. And President Trump, who seems only interested in how anything he does or says benefits himself. is on a path (and taking Americans with him) to isolation and moral bankruptcy in world opinion and respect.

Hail to the Chief.

Trade Wars, Shallow Thinkers, Infield Cutters

Posted March 6, 2018 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: congress, Donald Trump, Uncategorized

Tags: ,

Chaos managers are a special breed of leaders who seem to others as thriving on turmoil and disagreement. While some leaders are better than others in times of uncertainty, some find that creating turmoil first allows them to achieve over other ambitions. President Trump is helping America see what chaos management can bring.

This past week the President announced (sort of) that he will impose a 25% tariff on imported steel and 10% on imported aluminum. The stated rationale was national defense implying that current steel imports were hurting domestic steel producers so much that in war time America would be at a disadvantage.  While this is a serious concern, the facts do not support this claim. The US produces over 70% of the steel it consumes.  Further America imports steel from a variety of countries with Canada being the largest. Does this mean Canada represents a national security threat?

History books might be helpful for the Trump Administration. Trade wars too often lead to unintended and unforeseen blow back on the trade war initiator. Far worse, trade wars fuel nationalism and not so long after, shooting wars. And once a trade war begins, putting an end, without loss of face, becomes very difficult.

So, why would President Trump think for a minute about actions which could lead to a trade war?

IMO, I would offer three reasons

  • Management by chaos. The President’s leadership skills are meager and it appears he prefers authoritarian styles. The Republican controlled Congress members are mostly in the pocket of wealthy special interests and consequently are handicapped in decision making, especially if it is for the good of the country. With little evidence of a unified Congressional alternative, “divide and conquer” is the theme of the day. There is no adult in the Oval Office.
  • Shallow Thinking. The Trump Administration has been marked by extreme ideological urges. Repeal and replace Obamacare without any real replacement is an example. Offering lower cost health insurance which either insures far less Americans or offers Americans less insurance coverage, is not a thoroughly considered option. Reducing taxes when the nation’s budget is already unbalanced and simply cutting social welfare programs is surely politically unattainable. The result will be budget deficits twice as large as before. Sound like a plan well thought through?
  • Infield Cutters. Shallow thinkers who are determined to make change often resort to “infield cutting”. Think of an athletic event like a 1500 meter race. In this scenario, one of the runners decides to cut across the track infield, shortening the runner’s distance say to 1000 meters, and crosses the finish line first. Cheating for sure, but winning as measure by crossing the finish line first. Hmmm. Doesn’t that sound like President Trump?

Actually, these three reasons are really enablers. Always lurking in the background of Trump initiatives is the search for a more basic reason, like a deal to make more money.

Could it be that President Trump and his close supporters see a chance to alter “world order” and step in, on the ground floor, and write new trading deals?  Hmmm, that does sound like our President.

Gandhi Lessons

Posted March 4, 2018 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: Uncategorized

Tags: , , ,

The movie “Gandhi” (starring Ben Kingsley) reminded me of the ever present contradiction with which most of us live among. Gandhi inspired fellow Indians (both Hindu and Muslim) to convince England to grant India independence. His vision entailed a multi-religious country where each Indian could worship their god freely.

In the end, however, fears between the Hindu majority and the Muslim minority lead to independence of two separate countries, Pakistan and India.

The fears were not some detached, esoteric feelings, but rather ones supported by mob violence examples. Fear and divisive language amplified the anxiety rampant in the poor Indian sub-continent. The birth of India (and Pakistan) traveled a bumpy road. Through out this process, Gandhi counseled for non-violence and peaceful co-existence.

Sadly, Gandhi’s life ended at the hands of an assassin. The assassin was not a Muslim, but a radical Hindu extremist who felt Gandhi’s influence was slanted too much towards Pakistan (and against Hindu values).

The assassin killed Gandhi for reasons connected with protecting his religion, his god, and his “deeply held religious views”. Not seeing a common humanity amongst all Indians, the assassin deemed Gandhi a threat and one that needed to be eliminated.

From the earliest records, the power released by dividing masses into groups and then setting one group against the other is well known. When organized religions arose, they saw selfish opportunity in pitting one against another.   Over centuries, religious groups  gained wealth and power making tacit (or even explicit) deals with political leaders.

Gandhi was killed by someone who was extreme in his “deeply held” Hindu views.
Over the past few years, under much different economic times, America has been living a precursor-like period to Gandhi times.

Deeply held religious views have been accepted by American courts and legislatures as justification to deny social services, personal dignity, and individual human rights to some other fellow Americans.

  • Because one person, with deeply held religious views, does not condone certain birth control means, and is not required to use them, that person feels the right to deny others using them.  Reference Hobby Lobby.
  • In another well publicized case, deeply held views around homosexuality has lead to merchants denying service to members of the LBGT community. Again no one is asking anyone to live a gay lifestyle but on what basis is it just to deny gays the same dignity of others. Reference Masterpiece Cake Shop.
  • And without a doubt, the most difficult to understand and probably the most religiously hypocritical is the expression of deeply held religious views that only a man and a woman can marry. Similar deeply held views felt self confident if not sanctimonious that marriage could only be between a white man and a white woman or a black man and a black woman. What type of god teaches that?

Gandhi was killed by someone who was serving the teachings of his Hindu sect as best he could understand it. His religious leaders, for what ever the reasons, professed views which encouraged objectification. Some objects were dangerous or of no value, and these objects needed to be cast off.  Gandhi became one of those objects

Too many American evangelicals and fundamentalists see the world similarly. They pick and choose from the bible what will populate their “deeply held” religious views.  These religious leaders seem to possess no counterbalancing cohesive view of all humanity.

This “deeply held” crowd seem unable to separate what is a choice of others to what is required of them. And most pointedly, the “deeply held” members appear unable to see the inherant contradiction between all their “deeply held views”.

Listening to these evangelical and fundamentalist spokespersons, “Love thy neighbor is wonderful, but one does not need to make him/her a cake”.  Isn’t this the sign of a neurosis which has the potential to grow into a psychosis?

Questions About Guns

Posted February 26, 2018 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: congress, Donald Trump, GOP, NRA, Uncategorized

Tags: ,

The big question this week is how long will the news media keep reporting on the Parkland, Florida mass school shooting and in particular whether any changes to gun laws will follow. Here are three questions and some observations.

The Second Amendment speaks to the “right to bear arms” but does not refer to what type of arms. Were the founding fathers speaking of single action, ball and cartridge muskets, or did they perceive the coming of bullets and the civil war lever action repeater rifles?

The Supreme Court construed the 2nd Amendment as the right of any citizen to possess a gun for personal protection in the home. The Supreme Court noted that Congress and States legislatures could pass reasonable controls clarifying what type of guns, and where beyond the home, guns could be used. The Court also stated that reasonable controls could also include suspending a citizens right to a fire arm if due process was served.

Question #1: Fully automative guns, both hand and long guns, are illegal to possess, why is it accepted that a military style AR-15 (and other similar brands) are ok?

Leading politicians, Governors, Representatives, and Senators (not to mention the President) are all citing the need to study this latest incident carefully. Most all these politicians sigh and confess that it is difficult to see what could have been done to have avoided the Parkland shootings. These pro-gun politicians allow that tougher background checks, while good, would not have prevented Nikolas Cruz from acquiring legally his AR-15, extra clips and unnecessarily large amount of ammunition (because the FBI did not act upon tips called in by concerned citizens).

Question #2: What is the logic that allows Cruz (age 19) to legally buy an AR-15 when Cruz could not by a hand gun nor buy beer?

Probably the most often heard statement when a pro-gun politicians is asked about simply banning assault weapons is that most AR-15 owners are law abiding citizens and why should they have to surrender their 2nd Amendment rights? These politicians then follow with they support stronger background checks as long as the Federal checks do not inconvenience those lawfully seeking a weapon.

If you listen carefully, pro-gun supporters might accept some toughening of background checks (but not national gun registration list), accept the idea of mental health screening (but no government capability to link gun ownership to some future mental health condition), and at the end of the day, believe guns in the hands of good people is the best defense to guns in the hands of bad people (more guns is the answer to Parkland).

Does this sound disingenuous?

Question #3: If the conclusion to this open discussion does not include further restrictions on availability of guns (e.g. assault weapon ban, restriction on clip size, age and training criteria before guns could be owned), why should we not expect another “Parkland” or “Las Vegas” type mass shooting again soon?

When our politicians discuss publicly guns and gun control, they present a disquieting image which screams their words are insincere.  Some try the “wise man” approach (our society is very complex and the restrictions being suggested will not eliminate gun violence and seem very unfair to law abiding citizens), while others dismiss the subject as inevitable (guns don’t kill, people kill).

Comment: How can our youth not become further disenchanted with government and our elected leaders?