Global Trade and Tariffs

While the US President proceeds with tariffs, 11 countries sans the US just signed the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership that will reduce tariffs among theses countries. This is the infamous TPP that the President pulled out of early in his Presidency.

David Smick, an economic advisor to Presidents Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton said both Presidents loved global trade. It should be noted that more jobs were created under these two Presidents with Clinton #1 at 22.9 million and Reagan at #3 at 16.1 million (FDR was second). While we need to be mindful of and help employees impacted by job loss, we need to recognize global trade is accretive to the US economy and creates more jobs. We do well when we all do well.

As one global economist said, tariffs and trade wars are how recessions start. So, in protecting some jobs, we will likely be impacting negatively a much greater number.


Take ten – the most and least trusted news sources

The University of Missouri Reynolds Journalism Institute conducted a survey of over 8,700 people last year. The mission was to determine the most trusted and least trusted news sources.

Per a link to the survey from an article in, “the questionnaire asked respondents to name three news brands they typically trust and three they don’t. Kearney (the survey leader) took a look at brands that came up at least 10 times and compared how often they were mentioned as trusted versus mentioned as not trusted. These lists show the relationship between positive and negative mentions. The responses were opened ended, and some answers aren’t actual news brands.

Mentioned as trusted:

The Economist
Public television
The Guardian
The Wall Street Journal
Los Angeles Times
The Dallas Morning News

Mentioned as not trusted:

Occupy Democrats
Social media
Huffington Post
The Blaze”

I found these results quite interesting for several reasons. The obvious is an individual who is listed as one of the least trusted sources of news. He would be the one telling everyone to trust only him and other news is “fake news” when it is disagreeable to him. Also, the appearance of Breitbart and Infowars on the least trusted list is telling, as well as Occupy Democrats whose name sounds biased.

On the positive side, the names on the most trusted list are very deserving in my view. Personally, through a combination of trial and error and recommendation, I frequently use five of the top ten sources – Reuters, BBC, NPR, PBS Newshour and The Guardian. I have read occasional articles by The Economist, but need to check them out more. A blogging friend, who passed away a few years ago, suggested I check out Reuters and The Guardian. I remember him well for that.

If you are getting your news from one of the least trusted ten, please stop. I would suggest you give a few of the sources from the top ten most trusted a view. Using multiple good sources helps me learn new things and gain perspective.

With the person mentioned in the bottom ten also occupying the White House, it is important we get our news from good sources and not him. He is deserving of his position on the bottom list with a 69% “mostly false or worse” frequency per Politifacts. It is important to us and a key to our democracy. Who prescribes such – only our founding fathers.

People make a difference

The significant majority of the news is about what is not working in the world. What we focus on far too less is what is working well. People make the difference. People can overcome bad structure and even governments.

We see it first hand during disasters when people help those who have lost their homes and loved ones. But, it also happens everyday in the normal course of living.

We see it in helping homeless families climb a ladder out of poverty and into sustainable housing. We see it as someone delivers meals to shut-ins and speaks with them about their day.

We see it when people volunteer to read or tutor kids who are failing behind. Or, as my wife says just give them a soft place to land. This also helps the teacher who may not have the benefit of a teaching assistant.

We see it in the people who greet and speak with customer service people in stores or on the phone. We see it in the many donation drives for coats, school supplies or food. We see it in the countless volunteer coaches, choir leaders, scout leaders and school leaders.

We see it in people who listen to the point of view of others. A Black man said he was able to get KKK members to give up their robes and change their ways by listening first and then asking questions. Our friend Jill has written recently about the loss of civility. We need to follow these examples and practice it more.

A famous person once said the only way to change the world is one person at a time. That has always been the case. So, let’s embrace civility and celebrate what is good about it. And, please remember, kindness is not a weakness.

Saturday’s Alright for Fighting

One of Elton John’s more boisterous songs is the title of this post. It is OK to stand up for the rights of others and yourself, but we need not resort to physical fighting. We must do so with our words that express our ideas. Words that are hurtful or demean are a verbal form of fighting.

I mention this as we must not follow the example of how the President chooses to communicate. We must be civil and listen to each other’s ideas and perspectives. Name calling is a shortcut when the speaker does not have a good argument. When I hear the President or anyone else name call, it makes me pay attention to the opposing side’s argument. The same holds true when he berates people.

The sad truth is people who act like this do so to be tough and bully others into doing things their way. Eventually it wears thin and others won’t want to be around people who act this way. It is one reason the White House has so much turnover. It is reported the latest departure is due to her being constantly berated by her boss. It came to a head when she admitted under oath she told “white lies” on his behalf.

Our issues are complex and deserve rational and reasoned debate. The causes are often multi-faceted and deserve holistic solutions. They do not need to be based on whims or inaccurate information. They do not need to be rashly done without vetting, especially when others need to be aware of and can plan for them. The rash decision by the President to impose tariffs is a good example because it caught the White House staff, members of Congress, our trading partners, investors and business leaders off guard.

This should not be how important decisions are made. We should rationally talk through them and look at their ramifications. We should invite input as complex issues need to be vetted. They need buy-in. This one was not. Tariffs may sound good, but they usually have devastating results. As one global economist said “this is how recessions start.”



Trying to solve that gun death thing

I am hopeful, but not optimistic that tangible change will be enacted by Congress to reduce the risk of gun deaths in America. The kids who are protesting have already brought on some change with Dick’s Sporting Goods, Walmart and Kroger announcing changes on gun sales policy and other companies eliminating discounts offered NRA members.

If change occurs it will likely be the result of the retailers paving the way and dragging Congress along. What we may end up seeing is something like integrated background checks and an age 21 restriction on assault weapons. We may see some funding for more security in schools. While these changes would help,  they are not near enough to help reduce most gun deaths and respond to what the significant majority of Americans want per repeated surveys. Here are a few thoughts:

– Let’s start with data and ask the CDC to track gun death data, which has been forbidden by Congress since the late 1990s. Then, we can measure progress of various initiatives.

– Next, we can ask for background checks on all gun transactions which should be a given since most Americans favor this. Plus, if someone is credibly reported on by a reasonable number of concerned citizens and a potential problem is deemed possible, the police must be able to seize weapons while more indepth review is undertaken via a legal process.

– Next, we could have an elongated waiting period, again favored by most Americans. Two-thirds of gun deaths are suicide, with suicide being the top reason for gun death in most states. Waiting a few more days will hopefully reduce impulsive suicides and may flag something.

– Then, we can address the mental health aspects. We could start by changing the law passed by Congress last year adding mentally disabled Social Security recipients to the eligible gun rolls. We could stabilize the exchanges under the Affordable Care Act and encourage Medicaid expansion both which have mental health benefits. We could also add funding for more school counsellors and psychologists which many states pulled back on. This could go part and parcel with funding more security in schools.

– Finally, we could reduce accidental deaths with more required training and finger printed triggers, so kids won’t do damage with weapons they find.

Personally, I would ban all assault weapons and bump stocks, but that is a hard sell in America.  I would not arm teachers as the solution to school gun deaths is not introducing 700,000 weapons to campuses, which would increase risk and not solve a problem. Shooting at someone shooting back at you is not something many are up to, especially if outgunned and in a chaotic environment. Let’s add security staff and measures.

Whatever we do, we must holistically addresses all gun deaths. I did not touch on poverty, drug industry, entertainment violence and lack of civility that cause gun violence. But, we must invest in these areas. What do you think? Am I off base? Do you have other ideas?

Why Comrade Trump Why?

I am puzzled. For some reason, the President of the United States has made decisions that benefitted Russia. Why?

The decisions range from failing to condemn Russia once incontrovertible evidence was presented that showed they meddled and still are meddling with our democracy to failing to do anything about the continuing meddling to failing to sanction Russia as recommended by Congress with at least 98% votes in each Chamber. And, there are other examples, such as not including Russia in a list of countries on trading sanctions with North Korea. Why?

The possible reasons might include: significant long term financial ties to members of the Russian oligarchy, desire for future investment for his business, admiration for a dictatorial leader posing as a democratically elected official, unwitting and now embarassing participation in Russia’s meddling in our election, unwillingness to admit such as it would damage the veracity of his election, collusion with Russian meddlers or being a compromised asset of Russia.

Unfortunately, various combinations of the above reasons could be true. To be brutally frank, the financial ties and admiration of Putin are givens. I also think his ego is having a hard time with the fact he may have been aided in his win. What the Special Prosecutor will determine is whether he was just an unwitting participant, involved in collusion or a compromised asset. Given where he gets information, at a minimum he was and is an unwitting participant. The meddlers noted how delighted they were (and are) when the candidate parrots their words.

Given the above and his (and others’) fluctuating storytelling and obstruction efforts, I find it hard to believe Comrade Trump is not more culpable. I truly hope this is not the case, but we will have to see what transpires.

Project management and execution matter

Business, philanthropy and government are littered with people with good (and not so good) ideas, but have little comprehension of how to execute them. The importance of project managers who can get those ideas to the finish line cannot be overstated.

My friend D is one of those people. My favorite story about D will reveal much about her thought process. During a major project, I was curious why she was having a multi-sectional report on our findings and recommendations produced in a haphazard fashion. She said simply we can produce the Introduction, Appendices and Sections 6, 7 and 8 as they are completed now. We will do the other sections summarizing our findings and results when they are completed.

This is a simple example as she and other project managers work with multiple entities and people to get things done. What complicates it further is people have other things to do. I describe my old kind of work as juggling while walking forward. The key is to keep walking, while trying not to drop any balls. D made this happen.

I was thinking of this today as we have leaders throwing out ideas, without any funding to get things done. Or, the solutions are inconsistent with a recognition that past funding cuts may have contributed to a problem occurring.

So, in all these kinds of organizations, ideas are important, but we need to have people that can make them happen and maintain the solution once implemented. And, they require funding.

Let me leave you with a true story. There is a neat movie called “Einstein and Eddington.” You likely have not heard of the latter, but may not know the former without his contribution. Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington, at much personal and legal risk, collaborated with a Albert Einstein, a German scientist when his government forbid it due to the Great War. What did he do? He proved Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. Einstein was the idea man, but needed someone to demonstrate through a specific effort that he was right.

Blessed are the doers and those who organize and manage their efforts. Without them, our ideas may remain as only that. And, blessed are those who realize the doers need funding.