…Abridging The Freedom Of Speech, Or Of The Press…

Posted February 7, 2018 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: Donald Trump, Uncategorized

Tags: , ,

There is probably no part of the Constitution or its amendments which has historically more defined the United States than the first Amendment. And, within the first amendment, it is the phrase about freedoms of speech and the press which tower above the rest of the first amendment as well as the rest of the Constitution.

For this reason, the current Trump Administration “war” against “fake news” is so serious.

There are no perfect forms of government, at least recorded in history. While democracies seem to have faired the best, democracies never the less have been susceptible to populist takeovers.  In most case, failed States or authoritarian leaderships have followed.

Kingdoms, dictatorships, or utopian forms have had periods of stability and productivity, but usually cease working when a change of leader (leadership) takes place. For over two hundred years, America’s democracy and capitalistic economy has flourished.  Why?

Economists have multiple explanations for America’s economic growth and wealth accumulation.  It is America’s political process with its orderly change of power that shined, especially when compared to the rest of the world. A free press calling the government to task AND the individuals right to express agreement or disagreement with government policy has served the country well. So what could go wrong?

  • An extremist Government – President Trump in cahoots with a “puppy dog” Republican controlled Congress can use the “bully pulpit” and a “carrot and the stick” tactic to influence free speech and the press. The “bully pulpit” is a powerful instrument and particularly useful if applied to worthy causes. Spreading misinformation, suppressing oversight, and rewarding only supporters can turn the bully pulpit against free speech/free press. A compliant Congress which abdicates its checks and balances duties, only adds to the danger.
  • Corporate Unlimited Spending – The Supreme Court has ruled that corporation are people and accordingly can spend unlimited amounts of money promoting any view the corporation may have being the subject public policy or a politician. The Court in essence said corporations are entitle to free speech, and the more money one has, the more free speech one has.
  • Social media limitations – In the 2016 Presidential election, social media such as Twitter and Facebook were distorted in their content delivery by “fake” content. Automated retweeting, liking, and outright fake news reports gave many social media users a distorted reality. Minor or outrightly false issues were elevated to the appearance of highly newsworthy.

Ones first reaction might be “how could the President not realize how important a viable, independent press is”, or “how could the Supreme Court conclude that a corporations could express an opinion, bak this opinion with so much money and not realize this situation is patently unfair.  How is corporate spending to promote a view compare to an individual’s free speech”, or “where is the ethical responsibility of social media companies, who want no regulations on themselves, yet allow their sites to operate without adequate checks on the accuracy of reports, masquerading as authentic, done by others”?

The American form of free speech and free press depends upon a diversity of opinions since it is not possible to know whether information presented is based solidly upon facts. In authoritarian regimes the first freedom to disappear is freedom of the press, followed quickly by free speech. Loss of first amendment rights, will free and fare elections be far behind?

President Trump’s behavior has been unwise and despicable to be sure.  Free speech and press freedom, however, are also under attack from unbalanced political spending (corporate spending versus individual spending) and a social media ripe for misuse.  Americans must come to recognize that all that keeps America free and open is our right to freely expressing our opinions and the press to write about them.

Fox News can call MSNBC a purveyor of “fake news” but President Trump should not.

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Infallibility

Posted February 4, 2018 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: Uncategorized

Tags: , , ,

Pope Francis made the headlines recently for courageous but possibly (probably) making a dead wrong observations. The Pope responded to criticism of Bishop Juan Barros by accusing his accusers of speaking without proof.

The subject, not surprisingly, involved covering up priestly sex abuse. Why would the Pope do something like that?

Who knows for sure but the Pope had appointed Barros a Bishop and has drawn criticism for this from a number of voices within the church clergy, notably Cardinal O’Malley of Newark, NJ. Hmmm.

Covering up may seem different from complicity since the reason for covering up might be tied to protecting the church’s good name. Bishop Barros could feel justified by saying the alleged perpetrator had been removed from his post and no longer able to abuse. And Bishop Barros may have weighed the perpetrator’s good deeds with charges of alleged sexual abuse and felt pity for the perpetrator. Sound Christian like?

Complicity, however, does not exclude the possibility that covering up is a form of complicity. When someone “covers up” sexual abuse, this act empowers other abusers to abuse again. So what’s a Pope to do?

The Pope has claimed that he was unaware of any substantiated charges against Bishop Barros and therefore considered that his accusers were speaking with malice. On a pure logic basis, unsubstantiated charges amount to slander so right and wrong become difficult to separate. So, what’s a Pope to do?

There is probably no greater stain on the Catholic Church’s reputation than charges of pedophilia. No only have courts awarded huge sums of money to victims costing the church millions, but as an institution which claims to speak for god (or god’s words), are church members being asked to believe god is ok with abuse of children? Or, is god ok with abuse if the abuser raises lots of money for the church or by extension, a private citizen donates a lot of money to the church, does that person receive a “get out of jail” card?

There is no greater issue facing the Catholic Church’s relevance than clergy sex abuse. As the church’s head, Pope Francis needs to proactively lead the church towards  elimination (or at least the minimization) of occurrences. In the business world, CEO’s appoint senior executives, often called “compliance officer” to ensure a company complies with relevant laws or social norms.

At the very least, Pope Francis ought to have learned from this incident that his “organization” is, at best, half heartedly committed to ending pedophilia.

Warning Signs

Posted February 3, 2018 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: Donald Trump, GOP, Mitch McConnell, paul ryan, Politics, Republican Party, Uncategorized

For most of 2017, the media, and through the media, America was focused upon a dysfunctional President. Imagine a chief executive “tweeting” Presidential thoughts and feelings as if the social medium was a proper channel for conveying thoughtful, strategic, or purposeful thinking.

All the while, right before our eyes, a Republican controlled Congress was demonstrating to Americans how not to govern and how not to have the long term interest of Americans in view. A deliberative body became fully under the influence of “populist” fever.

Critical subjects such as

  • Immigration – where are workers going to come from when American population growth is below one (.7%)
  • Infrastructure maintenance – how will the US repair or improve the roads, bridges, and ports that link Americans together and deliver goods and services which fuel the economy.
  • Military spending – when the US already spends almost as much as all other nations combined and yet finds itself in times of new security threats (such as cyber warfare and nuclear proliferation) searching for more funding.
  • Healthcare – what is Congress’ answer for finding a fair, quality driven, and affordable health care delivery policy in a world where the US spends twice as much per capita compared to other modern countries and the US still does not ensure coverage to all its residents.
  • Human rights – how can Congress speak to the Constitution’s First Amendment recognizing religious rights without also condoning discrimination.
  • Income inequality – in a capitalist system, how can the natural consequence, where the rich become richer, be harassed to meet the financial needs of States and the Federal Government.

This list contains serious problems and opportunities for which there are no slam-dunk answers. Does the Republican lead Congress believe the answer will just come, or are they content to live well themselves and pass the strategic issues onto someone else?

In 2017, Americans witnessed a government which gave little evidence of wanting to fix anything.  Instead Congress tried to deliver less healthcare than what was already a second rate system among like countries at a cost twice as much.

Americans also saw a Congress pass “tax cuts” without addressing any of the needs for infrastructure or defense spending. And, as for the other knotty problems, Congress invested no time to thoughtful study. This lack of willingness to engage tough problems, other than from a populist slogan perspective, may be the most significant of the problems facing the country.

These are huge warning signs that American elected officials are AWOL, even though many have time to appear on talk shows.   The fruits of their labor make it clear.

What are the odds that this view is mistaken, hmmm,  between zero and zilch.

Making Sense Of The Russian Investigation

Posted February 1, 2018 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: Donald Trump, Uncategorized

Tags: , , ,

On display in Washington DC, for everyone to see, is a political party unfit to govern. One can rightly question how much worse Republicans are than Democrats, but there is simply no defense for the President and those Republicans in Congress supporting him.

The most recent brouhaha is over a “secret” memo written by Representative Devin Nunes (or his staff) which allegedly contains accusation against the FBI and specifically against its investigation of President Trump in the FBI’s probing of Russian involvement in the 2016 election.

Pundits claim the White House, through its puppet “Nunes”, is attempting to discredit the legitimacy of Special Prosecutor Mueller’s efforts.  The strategy is to discredit the entire FBI, if necessary, to accomplish this.

Why would anyone do this?

  • Russian interference is a red herring. The US CIA routinely funds organizations to influence elections outcomes around the world. To think for a moment that Russia would not do the same defies common sense.
  • President Trump and many of his campaign staff are guilty of being overly zealous in conducting “opposition research” (getting dirt on Hillary), not trying to rig the election.   For reasons which are unclear today, Team Trump and a flock of Congressional Republicans have panicked at the appointment of a special prosecutor.
  • Consequently, Mueller will likely layout a wide ranging case involving obstruction of justice for many Trump campaign workers and the President himself.
  • The prospects of being charged with obstruction should not have panicked Trump or his staff. While obstruction of justice is a serious charge, the President would have faced impeachment which is at the end of the day a political process.
  • Republicans hold the majority in Congress. End of story. Why panic?
  • The most obvious reason is there must have been other Trump family motives in wanting expansive relations with Russian interests. Current financial arrangements seems probable.  In addition, the Trump family organization’s future need for money seems likely too. If the Special Prosecutor were to expose these money driven contacts too, then it would become much more difficult for Trump, Inc to conceal how it finances its many businesses.
  • This story gets messier.   President Trump’s investments and corporations around the world do business with the same despots which President Trump might be meeting with in his official capacity.  This would expose a smell that even President Trump’s bravado could not suppress.
  • But there’s more. The emoluments clause in the Constitution strictly forbids the President from accepting gifts and payments from foreign countries. Hmmm. The price of being President would have just gone way up.

The Special Prosecutor has also opened another Presidential scab. The Special Prosecutor appears “independent” of the White House and not one of “my guys” as President Trump puts it.

  • Step by step, Director Mueller’s investigation is drawing out a President who sees himself as the commander in chief of everything. Mueller is, without direct charges, showing that the President has no regard for the Constitution, past historical practices, or the rule of law.
  • President Trump appears to think that “his” Justice Department should answer to the President and disregard the Constitution or Federal laws if the President says so.

 

Ironically, from a meaningless conspiracy by Russian interests to use social media tools, available to the Koch Brothers or any one else, in a way to influence the election outcome, Mueller’s investigation is laying out Donald Trump’s natural proclivities…

Hail Trump or is it Heil Trump?

Over His Head, Or Lying In The Weeds

Posted January 29, 2018 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: Donald Trump, Uncategorized

Tags: , ,

International trade is a complicated subject.

  • There is always the issue of currency (what currency is a particular good offered in).
  • And of course there is timing (when would the goods or service be available, and where, and in what currency, at value when translated into the buyers currency.
  • One must not forget the issue of what recourse exists should the buyer have paid in full or in part and the seller has not delivered the good to the specified location, in the right amount and right specification.

Listening, however, to President Trump, trade is easy. Worse existing trade agreements are disasters, our Trader in Chief says.

Is he in over his head, or laying in wait in the weeds? Hmmm.

The President has said he does not like trade deals involving multiple countries, like the US trading with European Union, NAFTA, or groups of South Asian States. The President prefers one on one deals. One must assume the President prefers one on one because he thinks a contract more favorable to the US can be bargained. Anything wrong with that thinking?

Maybe. Let’s start with the recognition that nations should not be making unilateral trade agreements in the first place if you believe that free enterprise and entrepreneurship are the products of individuals, not countries.

To the contrary, nations ought to busy themselves negotiating the elimination of trade restrictions, or any other barriers which other countries erect “to protect” their own cottage industries. Protecting local industries should be a last resort used only when another country persists in dumping goods and services or sets up barriers for free and fair trade.

“Protectionism” stifles innovation and creativity, and leads eventually to making a nation’s protected industries second class. In addition, protectionism tends to reinforce similar behavior in other trading partners neutralizing any sort after trading advantage “protection appears to offer.

In theory, however, why should not a collection of bi-lateral agreements, if cleverly constructed serve the US well?

The primary reason is that global commerce is too complicated to predict future impacts. World commerce is tied to changing global conditions (currency shifts, droughts, wars, technology obsolescence, innovation, changing demand, etc), this very nature of global trade can make what is in high demand today, unwanted tomorrow.

For this primary reason, trade negotiations and agreements are most productive if they are focused upon “free trade”, that is, to the extent possible, the absence of quotas, duties, tariffs or other secondary methods of limiting trade such as inspections, vague safety standards, special packaging etc.

Trade restrictions, of course, are also political favorite. “I will contribute to your campaign or party if you help me limit competition from Country X”. This is true for the US, and it is probably even truer for most trading partners. Accordingly, were the US to strike a bi-lateral trade agreement which was favorable to the US, Trump experience would suggest that our advantage would come at the expense of the trading partner.

Why does anyone think that the trading partner’s government could survive if the foreign government was perceived to have negotiated a “bad” deal?

President Trump’s Administration has put its toe into global market manipulations with placing duties on imported solar panels (as opposed to filing a complaint with the WTO). This unilateral action, aimed squarely at China and South Korea claims exporters from these two countries are being helped unfairly by their Governments. While this is an important charge to question, the US solar panel industry comprises both making solar panels and installing them.

The new duties will flow, almost certainly, to consumers’ pockets as installers are forced to pass the duties surcharge onto their customers. The consequence is likely to be higher costs for Americans who install solar panels, or translate into job losses in the solar panel installation businesses as demand drops due to increased costs. Without significant increased productivity, the US solar panel making industry will not see increased sales for the same reasons.

This outcome seems ironic and points to President Trump possibly being in over his head in world trade dealings… On the other hand, a shrinking solar panel industry would take a lot of pressure off the legacy fossil fuel energy concerns… who were large supporters of Candidate Trump. Hmmm.
So the question remains, is President Trump in over his head, or just laying in the weeds waiting to held his friends?

Regaining The Center, Again

Posted January 24, 2018 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: Donald Trump, GOP, Politics, Republican Party, Uncategorized

Tags:

The Trump Presidency along with the 115th Congress have given renewed meaning to “Regaining The Center”. Beginning with the appointment of Justice Neil Gorsuch, an extreme conservative jurist, to the failed attempts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, to the “trickle down” theory tax cuts, and now to the food fight over immigration, Republicans have pushed the center point of American ship of State and it is now listing dangerously to the right. Will the mid-terms in November provide urgently needed relief?

In any healthy democracy, everyone should recognize that there is not just one way to do things. Most initiatives have a certain momentum and often produces results beyond the stated goal. Over reach, unintended impact, and sometimes simply not achieving the promised results justify a course correction. Variations around some center point, should be expected, if not sought.

In this regard, Democrat Administration followed by a Republican one should be seen as a positive rather than a negative just as the inevitable, a Democrat Administration will replace the Republican one. Unfortunately, extreme conservative or progressive views have little regard or appreciation of the center’s value. For these ideologues, politics is a zero sum game and their personal roles are to drive our country as far to their ideological extreme as possible.

This one dimensional view of politics, Democrat versus Republican or Progressive versus Conservative, however, fails to capture another dimension. Specially, the political world can also be viewed along an axis with poles called authoritarian and anarchist.  There are way points called strict law and order at the authoritarian side, and libertarianism along the anarchy path. Family values, religious themes lie on the authoritarian axis side while women’s and human rights (LGBT included) lie in the libertarian direction.

So, how do these propositions relate to “Regaining The Center”?

The “Center” is safer, like a safe harbor.

What is meant by safer is that the probability of damaging or irrevocably changing the character of the Country is much less. The American democracy experiment is premised upon a healthy dynamic between Federal and States rights. The founding fathers feared both the authoritarian leader (my way or the highway) and the rabble of the common man (short term gains without regard to the future).

The King-like leader or the self interest needs of common, uneducated men.

A strong Federal Government with three equal branches, our founders thought, should provide broad protection and security while individual States should provided a fertile base for individual growth and entrepreneurship. Hmmm.

As the public discussion strays from the center, greater room is provided for public discussion to be hijacked towards extremes such as theocracy, dictatorship, class division in one direction to full libertarianism (anything goes), masses driven wealth redistribution, incompetence through constant change in other direction.

The risks the current Trump and Republican Administration present is the likelihood that their underlying ideological proclivities are fundamentally about wealth accumulation and retention.

 

Their zero sum thinking drives their policies to, by necessity, taking from the poor/average person and shifting wealth to those already wealthy.

 

Their tactics utilize “smoke” such as immigration fears, foreign trade competition, and “us/them” labeling some Americans as preferred and others as unworthy to blind voters’ eyes from what is really taking place.

Only by “Regaining The Center” can we hope to provide room for data based, respectful discussions over which policies, laws, and regulations can raise all boats, not just those of the privileged.

Trapped By Words

Posted January 22, 2018 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: Donald Trump, foreign affairs, foreign policy, Iran, Iraq, Iraq War, John McCain, lindsay graham, Republican Party, Uncategorized

During the 2016 Presidential campaign, Donald Trump joined other Republicans who heaped criticism upon former President Obama for the existence of ISIS. Joining people like Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, Trump stressed that the Obama strategic decision to withdraw combat troops from Iraq was a sign of weakness and in a Trump Administration, there would be no weakness.

ISIS, Trump said, was a direct result of Obama’s foreign policy.

After one year as President, I wonder what President Trump thinks? I am not concerned about what he tweets but rather what he really thinks.

ISIS is just another name for al Qaeda or Taliban or Muslim Brotherhood or Hezbollah or Hamas. These radical Islamic groups have existed for many years and represent Muslim factions that seek power and find strict Muslim fundamentalism backed by guns as an effective technique to seize power and hold it.

History has shown that these groups can be held in check only through authoritarian measures.

Had Republicans owned up to George W Bush’s doomed decision to invade and occupy Iraq (and to a lesser extent, President Bush’s decision to allow the morphing of US Afghan foreign policy to nation building), in other words owning up to having opened Pandora’s box in the first place, a far more comprehensive foreign policy might have been found. Alas that did not happen.

So, today the Government finds itself surreptitiously increasing American military presence in Afghanistan and doing the same in Syria and Iraq. The current American posture is ready made for an unforeseen event (like a full scale ambush of US soldiers or an intra-region squabble between Middle East neighbors trapping American forces).

One might cut President Trump a break on this since Pandora’s box is open regardless if Republicans won’t own up. But the President is not going to get any break because he has chosen to side publicly with Israel when common sense would dictate the role of “honest broker”.

What could possibly motivate President Trump to announce moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem?

The US invasion and occupation of Iraq is now woven into the modern Middle East history. For the time being, radical Muslim fundamentalism has access to money and weapons.  There is also plenty of “ugly American” examples which appeal to poor, less educated Arabs and provide the necessary support military units need.

President Trump was, from day 1 of his Administration, trapped by the words of denial by his and other leading Republicans. During President Trump’s first year in office, he has managed to increasingly trap himself (and all of us too).   In a Middle East world where no exit can be seen, cautious words speak louder than foolish ones.