While my guitar gently weeps

George Harrison of The Beatles was overshadowed by the prolific song writing duo of John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Yet, he was an excellent song writer as well. One of his best songs he wrote paired him with Eric Clapton – “While my guitar gently weeps.”

I use this song as a metaphor as many of us are exhausted by the US President and his daily lying and bullying, that we just feel like weeping. But, while we weep, important things are not getting done and some things that should not be are occurring. So, while our collective guitars gently weep;

– our planet continues to heat up and wildfires become more prolific, drought areas become more parched, farms are more at risk, and our coastal cities have many more days of sunny day flooding;

– our oceans have islands of plastic both above and below the surface, landfills are teeming with plastic, especially after China stopped taking plastic shipments at the first of the year and our coral reefs are dying due to a multitude of factors;

– our US debt has passed an unhealthy level of $22 trillion and is expected to grow to over $33 trillion by 2027, with this fiscal year deficit getting closer to $1 trillion, likely exceeding it next year (this is on annual budget of $4 trillion);

– our allies no longer trust the US and its bullying President, so we will continue to suffer as other countries and companies therein seek other avenues for their supplies and products looking for market stability – they will deal with us, of course, but are finding other sources, as well; and

– our democracy is under threat by a regal minded and thin-skinned man who lives in the White House who denigrates any person or entity that does not adequately genuflect to his greatness, which is far more perception than reality.

There is, of course, many other reasons to weep. We need to address real problems and not cause other ones. We are exhausted by the focus on one man 24×7. It is truly all about The Donald.

I sure wish to hear George and Eric playing this song and make it all better.

Advertisements

Tuesday’s gone with the wind (and context)

One of my favorite songs from the southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd is “Tuesday’s Gone,” written by Allen Collins and Ronnie Van Zandt. Here is the first stanza:

“Train roll on, on down the line,
Won’t you please take me far away?
Now I feel the wind blow outside my door,
Means I’m leaving my woman behind.
Tuesday’s gone with the wind.
My woman’s gone with the wind.”

This song is a quick lesson in context. If you listen to the song, you get the impression the singer is doing the leaving in the relationship. Yet, there is one simple line that reveals the context of why he is on that train.

“Tuesday, you see, she had to be free.”

The woman did the leaving. And, the man decided to leave town to escape the source of his blues.

Many things in life and in politics are heard or read without knowing the full context. Context matters to enlightened understanding. We are told that immigration is a huge problem and immigrants are taking American jobs. Immigration is a concern, but it is not as big a problem as portayed and the jobs being taken tend to be those which Americans don’t flock to. If immigration was stifled, certain industries would be in a heap of hurt.

We are told we must place tariffs on China, but why are we placing them on our friends? What we are not told, is there are mechanisms we could tap with the World Trade Organization with the support of our allies to gain concessions from China. Economists note that we are forgoing working together as a unified front. But, a key contextual item is collaboration is hard work, where the collective group gains.

Context matters. Songs, poems and stories can reveal context in a subtle matter. But, it is important for us to ascertain the context. Otherwise, we may solve the wrong problem in the wrong way.

From the mouths of those who ardently support the US President

I must confess, I do not expect many pearls of wisdom to come from a Donald Trump pep rally. The purpose is to get a supportive crowd riled up. The use of truth is irrelevant and unimportant. I am certain some truths find there way in, but per The Washington Post, at a rally in Montana, the rate of lying was a whopping 76%. That is actually higher than his recurring rate of 69% as measured by Politifacts.

Many of Trump supporters are fine people. To say otherwise is unfair. But, the blind acceptance of anything the man says does give me pause. The blind acceptance that all criticisms of the man are fake is equally troubling. Then, there are the more strident people. The Guardian interviewed several at last week’s Wilkes-Barre pep rally.

Among several interviewed, who felt the President was doing an “A+” job noting his accomplishments without a lot of context, there was one that stood out. One man, who will remain unnamed is very happy with how Trump is treating the rest of the world. I will leave off an extra pair of quotes and refer to him by (the man), but the next three paragraphs are from the article, with the offensive words modified.

“He said ‘grab ’em by the p***y’. And I get exactly what he meant by that. Grab these countries where they’re weak. Take them down if they want to think we’re weak. Grab ’em by the p***y,” (the man) said.

The Guardian pointed out that Trump was talking about women when he was recorded making those remarks, but (the man) was steadfast.

“Well, they thought so. But I took it in other ways. Grab the whole world that’s against us by the p***y bring them all down if they don’t like us, fight us. Grab them by the p***y. Get them in their weak spot.”

I am greatly offended by this man’s remarks. Like the offensive US President, after being pointed out that he was mixing metaphors, he doubled down on the insulting (and off base) language. I recognize fully this is one man. And, while  he is more offensive than others would or might be, the sentiment is probably widely felt in that audience.

Yet, let me focus on the meaning of the man’s words. Bullying and placing tariffs on our allies does not make America great. It makes America alone. We cannot shrink to greatness, which we will continue to see in the many months ahead, if changes are not made. As I have said before, bullying our friends is far worse  than the actual tariffs, so just fixing the tariffs won’t undo the damage of breaching good faith and trust. So, this metaphor is not only offensive, it is misguided. It causes other leaders and businesses to consider non-US options for customers and suppliers.

But, this metaphor goes beyond the bullying. This man is saying it is OK that Trump can speak of doing this to women. Per twenty women, this type of sexual misconduct is an example of what Trump did to them. One or two accusers is one matter, but twenty is more than a trend. And, he is on record (after denying it repeatedly), that he is aware of at least two payoffs for affairs on his current wife. So, using Trump’s highly offensive “locker room talk,” which I have never heard in any locker room, but especially ones which Trump might frequent, is flat out insulting.

These folks may think Trump can do no wrong. I strongly disagree. He is a daily embarrassment to decorum and the office of the President. He chooses to demean anyone who dares to criticize him, including the press. Then, there are his policies and actions, when reviewed in context, do not paint the same picture as these supporters contend, with or without offensive metaphors.

A few select statements

A counterpoint response to my comment that the President needs to tell the truth more than he does not, might be “all politicians lie.” Yes, they do, but he laps the field at a 69% rate of untruthfulness per Politifacts.  But, he also makes decisions off his supporting lies.

One that gives me concern is “You can win a trade war.” History has shown this not to be true and we will soon be finding out as Canada just added their retributive tariffs to those of the EU and China. By the way, the lone constant in these three tariffs is the US. The impact is already showing up in economic decisions by companies,

Today he said “the tax cut is the reason for our economic miracle.” That is a stretch in that we are completing 108 consecutive months of economic growth today, which is the second longest in US history. He has only been President for a little more than 17 months and the tax cut has only been in effect for 6 months. As for the long term, I am worried about the tax cut increasing our huge and increasing debt. To be frank, the tax cut will help some short term, but hurt us in the long run.

Yesterday, he noted again “Russia said they did not meddle in our election,” to me implying his tacit support. But, the US intelligence asserts with high confidence that not only Russia did, but the Trump campaign benefited from it. Plus, they said the Russians are still influencing opinion and sowing seeds of discord. The question we must ask is why? Why say this? Why let it go on? Why is Congress not more assertive to get to the bottom of this? Why do you people believe him when he calls the investigation a witch hunt?

Finally, the Affordable Care Act is in need of stabilization and select improvements. Instead, it has been sabotaged at the expense of Americans, once by Congress in 2015 and just last summer by the President. When he defunded payments to insurers for copays and deductibles for families making less than 2 1/2 x poverty limit, he said “it would only impact insurer profits.” That is simply untrue. The CBO noted that the impact would increase the debt by $10 Billion. Why? As insurers raise premiums as a result of picking up this unfunded tab, the premium subsidies would climb by $10 Billion. That means it effects taxpayers by that amount.

The sad truth is there are numerous instances where lies and oversimplified problems and solutions have caused policy decisions. It is hard enough to solve problems when we use facts. It is nigh impossible when we don’t. The truth matters.

 

 

 

 

 

Two experts raise concern over US treatment of allies and tariffs

I watched two separate interviews, one last week on PBS Newshour with a representative of the Council on Foreign Relations and one this morning on CBS Morning News with Ian Bremmer, the head of The Eurasia Group. I felt they both framed the issues and concerns very neatly.

The former noted while Trump has accurately raised concern over China and their pilfering of intellectual capital and trade deficits, he does not have a coherent strategy. It was noted that his tactics are less than effective, especially since this issue affects our G7 allies. It would be far better to work in tandem with our allies to put pressure on China, rather than place tariffs on them as well. He also noted the World Trade Organization has several levers that could be deployed to help with this effort.

As for the lack of coherence, Trump rightfully noted the intellectual capital is the greater concern, but said if China bought more goods from the US, that would be enough. If your biggest issue is theft of intellectual capital, buying more goods does not address that issue.

As for Bremmer, he has interviewed representatives of the G7 who attended the less than fruitful summit in Canada. He said the other members outside of the US all noted the relationship with the US is very far from the “10” that Trump assigned to it. He noted that between Merkel and Trump, it is about as dysfunctional as it gets. He added that other G7 countries worry that Trump has fewer reasonable voices advising him, so there is no one to reach out to that will get in the President’s ear.

What will come out as the Starburst Outburst, after the famous picture with leaders imploring Trump, he stood and agreed to sign a cooperation agreement that staff worked on until 3 am, including Larry Kudlow of the US. Then he reached into his pocket and grabbed two Starburst candies and threw them on the table saying “Angela, don’t say I never gave you anything.” This is about as demeaning as it gets, rivaling his refusal to shake her hand in the oval office.

The picture will be in future history books as a milepost of when the US turned its back on its allies. It will be in the section entitled “When the US ceded its global leadership position.” It is compilation of things that make me say this, not just the ill-advised tariffs.

They include: pulling out of an Asia-Pacific trade deal that went through without the US, announcing the pull out of the Paris Climate Change Accord, ignoring the pleas of allies to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal, pulling out of the United Nations Human Rights council, separating children from parents at the border and adding more demands after a NAFTA deal was crafted. Then, there is the bullying, lying to and lying about our allies. Shoving the Macedonia President out of the way is as good a metaphor as any.

The United States is becoming a pariah under Trump. Until the so-called Republican leaders acknowledge this, we will continue to be such. How low must we go?

 

Help me understand a few things

Happy Friday everyone. In a week of good and bad news as well as sort of good and bad news, help me understand a few things.

Help me understand how a person can start a fight with our friends and then convince his fans that it is one of our friends fault? That takes some gall.

Help me understand how someone brags on what a great negotiator he is and then routinely makes concessions to adversaries without getting much in return? It is great conversation is occurring with one adversary as we avoid who has the bigger button fight.

Help me understand how completely destroying large swaths of countries like Yemen and Syria without concern for the people makes anyone involved a good leader? Death and taxes used to be the only two sure things, but I would add people in need will always be pawns – this gives rise to terrorism, not avoid such.

Help me understand how the simple, but time consuming process of notifying stakeholders of decisions to gain their buy-in and input before the decisions are announced is lost on the person referenced in the first two questions above? Surprising people with decisions that impact them is not a good idea – the atrocious first travel ban or firing people without telling them are examples of such.

Help me understand how leaders who know the damage being done  to a country and its dear reputation by its front man, but choose not to act can still claim to be leaders? People need to watch Senator Bob Corker’s recent speech on the floor of the US Senate and then watch Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake of last summer. Their words are dead on accurate.

Help me understand how the lead attorney for a country can quote biblical passages to separate immigrant children from their parents at the same time numerous churches are using Jesus’ teachings from the same book to help immigrant children? The former is the epitome of what a friend calls “Cafeteria Christians.”

Help me understand how a country about to head off a cliff can continue to do so after recognizing a vote to drive off the cliff was aided by Russian influence and outright misinformation? Like in the country I live in, we tend to throw the baby out with the bath water rather than clean the water.

Continuing the water analogy, I think we the people should have an “out of the pool” loudspeaker. It should be used when  leaders do not work together and are not addressing obvious problems or oversimplifying their cause coming to wrong headed solutions,

I have spent almost twenty years helping people who have lost their home, even though they are working several jobs. I see what happens when problems are ignored or lied about. We the people need to tell our leaders to stop the BS and do their jobs. What I have discovered when I chat with them, the people who work for these so-called leaders also know their bosses are dropping the ball.

Please contact your Senators to support the Corker Tariff Bill

Senator Bob Corker (R) has posed a bill to assume Congressional governance over tariffs the President is imposing on allies as a matter of national security. Ironically, harming our relationships with allies makes us less safer, not more. It also makes us untrustworthy.

If you agree with Senator Corker, I encourage you to send a letter to your Senator and Congressperson. Here is a sample to modify as you see fit.

“Senator (or Congressperson), please support Senator Corker’s efforts to have Congress govern all tariffs. My long time fear that our President would cede our global leadership role is coming to fruition. Considering the introduction of tariffs on China is understandable, but doing so brazenly on our allies is just poor form. The tariffs, if not altered, will back fire on the US, but the worst part is we have made the US less trustworthy and unreliable.

Please rein in this President who has oversimplified and misused data to strong arm our friends. His belligerence is not helpful and demeans the office he holds. He also fails to consider the number of foreign companies who make things here – BMW, Doosan, Nissan, Mercedes, Hyundai, Toyota, Michelin, Fiat-Chrysler, Husqvarna, etc. Two of these companies are German, two are South Korean, two are Japanese, one is French, one is Italian and one is Swedish. This is what a global economy looks like.

We have trade deficits as we are a consumer economy moreso than others. Plus, the President is not factoring in the investments made in US Treasuries and buying of services. While he cited a deficit with Canada, we actually have a surplus, with these factored in.

Thanks for your consideration.”