Archive for May 2018

More Than A New Voice

May 30, 2018

For many who believed Donald Trump was a terrible choice for America, there is little in his first term that would give one pause over that belief.  President Trump has been a national disgrace in dealing with foreign affairs and foreign leaders.  The President has been for, and then against, a wide range of domestic issues.  And, the President’s wanton disregard for the “Emolument” clause has brought the specter of a two bit, third world Presidency to the forefront. 

The Republican controlled Congress has amazingly been silent on President Trump’s behavior and cheered his partisan behavior on issue such as unfunded tax cuts, abandonment of 11 million undocumented residents, and naked attacks on groups hated by evangelicals such as LGBTQ, pro-choice, and women’s rights.  

As midterms approach, the question being asked more often is whether Democrats can put forward a “voice” whose message will persuade enough voters to return Democrats to control of Congress.

So, what might that voice say to voters to earn their vote?

Jobs.  From the 2016 Presidential election results it should be clear that emphasis on any other issue(s) without first establishing believable policies which will produce better jobs are non-starters.  “I’m With Her” or “Inclusion”, while admirable, miss the hot button for most Americans.   Even retraining proposals, while essential, are not the “voice” under employed or out of work Americans want to hear.

Keeping America’s Promise.  Republicans see the growing deficit and debt as an opportunity to make the case for sharp reduction in entitlements (Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security) and a wide range of healthcare and “safety net” programs.  Republicans are prone to say when referring to the growing national debt, “America has a spending problem not a taxing problem”.  For most Americans, however, even the ones who are resolutely Trump supporters, simply cutting entitlements, healthcare, and safety net items is tantamount to breaking a promise the US Government has made to all Americans.

Restoring the American Dream.  The bulk of Americans (bottom 98% of incomes) do not believe they will achieve more than their parents.  Income inequality has continued, if not accelerated, to grow under President Trump.  Democrats need to emphasize policies which will allow ALL boats to rise, not just the top 2 % of earners.

But is that all it will take?

Maybe.  These three points will speak to most Americans.  If Democrat candidates follow a reasonably moderate path and speak animatedly about Jobs, Keeping America’s Promise, and Restoring the American Dream, the chances of Democrats gaining majorities in Congress are good.  But is that enough?

Probably, it is enough to flip Congress for the next two years but Americans are suspicious of politicians and their slippery words.  Sustaining Democrat control and winning the White House in 2020 will take more.

What is needed, more importantly, is a quiet commitment for integrity and avoidance of personal gain associated with Congressional business.  There is no way either party can deliver on campaign promises when Congress members are preoccupied with personal gain or distracted by integrity issues.

Feeling Uncomfortable

May 27, 2018

It is rare these days to pick up a newspaper or to listen to the television news and not hear a report about someone who created an abusive work environment, usually with the intent of unwanted sexual advances.  There appears to be widespread disgust for those who have used their positions of power to intimidate subordinates, or have used drugs or alcohol to render the victim defenseless.  The #MeToo tag appears to have emboldened many women to come forward and report offenses committed to them years ago.  Shockingly, the reported incidents were not “one offs” but instead the perpetrator had a hidden history of similar behavior with other women.  Hmmm.

So now that women are coming forward and naming names, will the world be a better place?

Undoubtably, for those cases involving abuse of power such as positions of authority, application of physical force, or use of drugs or alcohol, there is no place for persons who fit this modus operandi.  But what about those cases where what might have been consensual the night before, now feels “uncomfortable”?

Or, what about the “going away” or “Christmas” parties where the “merriment” of the evening years ago might not feel the same years later?  This week the “Voice of God”, Morgan Freeman was outed for making some of his former associates feel “uncomfortable” in the work place.  Hmmm.

Whether Freeman is guilty of Weinstein-like serial encounters or something akin to “he said-she said” at the local Cheers bar is not clear at this time.  The words likely to be remembered, however, is “he made me feel uncomfortable”. 

In a world where women (rightly) are seeking equal opportunity and equal pay, how can there not be many more “uncomfortable” moments when a male boss must tell a female subordinate “your performance needs to improve”.  And for someone feeling uncomfortable for performance perception reasons, how appealing might #MeToo become?

Religious Freedom The Catholic Way

May 22, 2018

In Philadelphia, foster parents are selected by private social service agencies using criteria provided by the city of Philadelphia.  As part of the cities “non-discrimination” policy, all qualified applicants should be considered regardless of religion, color, ethnicity or gender orientation.  Non-Discrimination means just that no one is disqualified for reasons unrelated to whether the candidate is trustworthy with the economic and emotional means to become a foster parent.  Sounds pretty clear to me.

Hold on, says the Catholic Social Services Agency, what about our religious freedom. Hmmm. Consequently, the Philadelphia Catholic Services Agency filed a law suit in Federal Court claiming the City was not treating them fairly.  Hmmm.  

So to be clear, the issue does not involve fitness (economic or emotional) to be a foster parent.  Rather the suit is about a  which groups of people or more to the point which groups cannot be considered as foster parent candidates due to a religious intolerance directed towards gender orientation.  Like many other Catholic dogma views, Catholics are not content to practice their dogma by themselves.  For example, the Catholic Church is free to decide who can be members of its churches. 

If the Catholic Services Agency does not want to interview same sex couples for foster parents openings, then CSA should not seek business from Philadelphia which clearly states that all qualified (economic and emotional) residents should be considered.  The Philadelphia CSA apparently sees “hypocrisy” differently.

Sadly Philadelphia’s decision to honor its non-discriminatory policy will deprive the city of what otherwise was a very competent services provider.  For Catholic Services Agency, backed with money from someplace, there could be another chance to challenge in court for the right to discriminate in the name of religious freedom.

The President’s Agenda

May 18, 2018

The 7/24 News Media has been feeding from a cornucopia of sensational White House statements, either directly from the President or those reported by subordinates, which in total are contradictory and poorly thought through as policy.  These reports and statements, however, must serve some purpose.  What might it be?

President Trump has acted like a tyrant and at times like a two bit, third world dictator.  His criticism of the FBI, the Intelligence Services, and the Courts (not to mention the media itself) smack of efforts to distract the public while lining up popular support should he steps over the line (for example actually try to shut them down.  But why?

As a New York developer and the leader of the Trump Brand businesses, the game of life is all about getting a “cut”.  To think President Trump is not attempting to take full advantage of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in a similar way is to be naive.  

For the past 70+ years, the US has worked, regardless of Administrations, to build a world where reliance (and trust) in the US was accepted by most other countries and was paid for by their good behavior towards other countries.  This world order avoided the need, for the most part, for the US to fight “colonial style” wars, or for that matter other nations to engage in such wars either.  And, not to forget, the world economy along with the US economy, has grown handsomely over this period.  Hmmm.

Along comes President Trump and he says he knows better.  America first, Trump says.  Trade, existing treaties, or multi-nation agreements are all up for discussion if not outright cancelation.  Hmmm.

The President boasts that his Administration has accomplished more than any previous Administration in its first 17 months.  If dangerous or outrightly bad policy counts, then maybe the President has a point.  But, to be fair, it could be too soon to know whether the “Trump Agenda” will turn out good or “less good” for America.  

Negotiating trade deals “bi-laterally” is ready made to develop all sorts of unintended consequences.  Whats good for China may not be so good for trading partners in the EU, or Japan or South Korea.  And, expecting European partners to join the neoconservative death march against Iran when Iran has not violated the nuclear agreement is begging for trouble.

The world is much smarter than President Trump gives it credit for.  At some point it may occur to other nations to counter US sanctions with sanctions of their own but against the US.  And even more scary, what if countries like Germany or Japan forsake their cooperative relationship with the US and return to national aspirations similar to those they possessed in the 1930s?

There are two obvious wild cards.  The first involves the US mid-terms where should Democrats gain control of the Senate or even better both houses of Congress, the President’s Agenda is dead in the water (beyond Executive Orders).  The second wild card is the Mueller investigation where speculation reported (by others) this week suggests the possibility that President Trump has been living a life of serial sexual associations including hints of several concubines, and financing this life style with dirty money.  Such revelations could lead to serious campaign and/or income tax law violations.  Any Russian collusion would be just icing on the cake.

It looks like this will be a long, hot summer.

The Iran Reveal

May 10, 2018

This post requires the reader to remember (or research) the early years of George W Bush’s Presidency.  “W” was only slightly more prepared to become President than our current President.  “W” possessed an amazing lack of curiosity and an utter disinterest in details.  DJT has, he thinks, an intellect that does not need details which effectively puts him in the  same league as “W”.  But in a side by side comparison, “W” stands taller.

So, going back to the beginnings of the Bush years, one finds his White House full of neo-conservatives.  This group’s core were signators to PNAC (Project for the New American Century) and they were sure they knew how the Country should apply American military and economic strength towards any country that stood in the America’s way.

From PNAC, America inherited the likes of Dick Cheney, Scooter Libby, Donald Rumfled, and a few more.  From this group, America received wholesale collection of American citizen telephone data, the tragic and unexplainable Iraq invasion and occupation, and a photo black out on returning dead servicemen. 

The prosecution of the Iraq War was initially brilliant but once the Iraq military collapsed, the American occupation was exposed for what it was, wholly unprepared to administer Iraq and apparently ignorant of the Sunni/Shiite complexities.

President Trump has simplified America’s Middle East policy.  Israel and Saudi Arabia are good, Iran and Syria are bad.  From this shallow perspective, President Trump concluded, despite much advice to the contrary, that withdrawing from the Iran Nuclear Deal was not only in America’s best interest, but Trump thought it strange that Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and China did not see it his way and withdraw also.  Hmmm.

Trumpian logic rest on the assumption that the world needs the US militarily and economically and the US can simply dictate to the rest the terms the US finds acceptable.  There is no doubt that most countries seek protection based upon America’s military and economic strength, but this ignores political reality.

There are factions is most all other countries as divided and vehemently opposed to other political groups as Tea Partiers are to Progressives.  Consequently, finding unity of purpose alone is very difficult.  The Iran Nuclear Agreement represents a tremendous accomplishment.  To simply trash the Iran Nuclear Agreement, especially when Iran was in compliance, demonstrates a woeful knowledge deficiency in international affairs.

Trump and his anti-Iran advisors hold the view that the US can push back the hands of time and reimpose leak proof sanctions.  Not going to happen.  Until Iran restarts its nuclear weapons projects, the rest of the world will buy Iran’s oil and other goods and pay for them with Euros and Yuan.  Investment in Iran will follow a similar path.  And Iran will continue to fund Hamas and Hezbollah.

Sheldon Adelson, Benjamin Netanyahu, John Bolton, and a host of other conservative intervention-ers will cheer President Trump’s decision and along with other draft avoiders, wave the flag when the US is forced to send troops back to the Middle East. 

Can 46,000 Be Wrong?

May 7, 2018

Yesterday, in Philadelphia, 46,000 area residents, gathered together on North Broad Street near Temple University in the early morning hours.  Grouped in “corals” from elite to no so fast, amateur runners waited for the 8 o’clock start.  The weather forecast had predicted rain which is a fun spirit killer, but instead the weather remained overcast and  a perfectly runner friendly cool.

Philadelphia’s Broad Street runs north to south and roughly bi-sects the city.  The Street is six lanes (4 for traffic, two for parking) and on race day all six lanes are open for runners to head south, around City Hall, past South Philly, and into the Navy Yard, 10 miles away.

The “Broad Street Run” is so popular that entrance is by lottery.  Bib numbers as high as 46,000 were visible.  Other than a few elite runners along with a few wheel chair participants, the remainder of the 46,000 came in all sizes, shapes, and outfits.

The “race” also has the spectator component.  Friends and family pick cross streets were they can find access and then spread out along Broad Street.  Bands pop up every so often and play spirited music (the theme from Rocky being a must).  Signs, the bigger the better, also dot the sidewalks.

With the stage ready, along come the runners.  For a little over two hours, 46,000 runners travel down Broad Street hooting and hollering, and slapping high fives with those along the sidewalks.  

Police presence, in this day and age is a must.  For this race, Bicycles and foot patrolmen (and women) provided most of the security.  Visibility must have been the secret ingredient and thankfully there were no incidents (other than possibly a couple of runner stumbling from exhaustions).

To appreciate the significance of Sunday’s Broad Street Run, one needed to look across the street, and the forward to the many rows of advancing runners.  Tall, short, thin, and not so thin, white, black, and all shades of brown, long hair, short hair, and no hair running for the simple fun of running. 

Judging by their faces, the 46,000 must have thought America was already great.  I wonder, however, when they returned to their homes whether they thought their President was about tear down the nation’s institutions, ruin the economy, or display a cruel and uncaring American face to the world?  Hmmm.

For about one and a half hours Sunday morning, however, the 46,000 runners seemed content to just enjoy the run.  

We Live In Dangerous Times

May 3, 2018

The Trump Presidency has been a cockup since it began in January of 2017.  Nepotism, conflicts of interests, collusion allegations, and smutty associations were all out there before the public.  At first, most reporters danced around what to call the President Trump’s aversion for truthful statements.  A few brave souls claimed the President lied and if the meaning of lying is to convince someone else that black is white, then for sure the President lied and pretty much lies everyday.

On the other hand, is someone lying who compulsively spins a story that he thinks sounds better and more appropriate to make a certain point. (For example religious leaders often console the grieving with stories (totally unprovable) that the deceased loved one is in heaven.  Few call out these religious figures as liars.) 

The President tells stories do not lack passion.  The President might even believe them to be true.  However, even the simplest of fact checking can determine his statements are almost always wrong and inaccurate.  Hmmm.

The famous Mueller investigation is getting close to really pinning the President in a corner and most likely revealing to the world wholesale collusion by the President, his children, and his closest associates with dirty money sources (many Russian), coincident with his candidacy.  The most recent Stormy Davis news that the President did in fact know about the payment for her silence just before election day, and subsequently reimbursed his lawyer Michael Cohen for the $130,000 Cohen paid Davis for the event “that never happened”.

Amazingly there are still many Americans that will go to bat for the President and consider all criticism “fake”.  Even more surprisingly, there are members of Congress who are willing to overlook their Constitutional responsibility to provide a “check and balance” on the Executive Branch. Fortunately there are  many more Americans who recognize the President does not speak in truthful ways and probably his word cannot be trusted when he justifies executive actions.  If he can not tell the truth about the size of his inauguration crowd, how can one expect him to give a rational reason for abrogating the Iran Nuclear Agreement?

There is surely a tipping point where the President will be caught in denial on something so egregious that Congress (and the public as a whole) will have to say “enough is enough”.  That could bring impeachment and the Country would have to welcome President Pence.    Hmmm.

Vice President Pence is a speech reader, that is he repeats a carefully crafted, nuance filled, speech which falls carefully within the approval of his financial backers (Koch Brothers and the Mercers).  Pence’s speeches will not contain surprises but will hardly represent policies which will raise all boats.  And, lest we not forget, Pence is an evangelical’s evangelical.  Roe v Wade, Planned Parenthood, and gay/women’s rights would be squarely in his cross hairs.

Speaking of cross hairs, Vice President Pence is publicly a big fan of guns and the NRA along with law and order in general.  This week while campaigning for Republican mid-term candidates in Arizona, Pence gave a very warm shout out to convicted (and pardoned) felon Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

The current President is problematic and there is good reason to wonder if he can last one term.  The dangerous times we live in comes starkly into focus when one contemplates Vice President Pence becoming President Pence.