Give an Ass the World Stage and This Is What You Get

The president of the U.S. was invited to Great Britain. I suppose the Brits thought they had no choice given the U.S.’s place in the world. In any event, the visit is turning out to be their worst nightmare.

Upon arriving in London, President Trump royally criticized the Prime Minister and lauded her chief adversary, saying Boris Johnson would make a great prime minister. In other words, Trump is trying to topple the British government.

If a foreign leader came to America and acted this way, we’d show him the door in short order and rightly so. But, of course, the U.S. is the world’s military and economic power so other nations have to put up with this embarrassment of a president and bite their tongues. For now.

I can’t help but think the day will come when the U.S. will have to pay the price for its outlandish, bullying, disrespectful behavior. And, if so, no one can say we don’t deserve it.

Beware the Unintended Consequences

Harley-Davidson is going to move some production off shore due to the trade war President Trump started. If they don’t, the prices of their bikes in the E.U. would increase, leading consumers to choose competitors’ products. This one hits home for me because, as Secretary of Community and Economic Development for Pennsylvania, I orchestrated a project to keep Harley’s production in York, PA. Now some of those jobs will be lost.

We’re going to see this unfold all across the country: jobs lost due to the trade war. I suspect Mr. Trump would tell us, though, that we’ll also see job gains in certain industries and companies, and that the gains will more than offset the losses. I don’t know; we’ll have to wait and see. What we can be certain of, however, is that prices will rise and quality will suffer. But if you’re someone who gets a job due to the tariffs, perhaps you won’t care. As for everyone else, well, we’ll just have to pay  more. And put up with inferior products in certain cases.

The interesting aspect of this war to watch will be the unintended consequences. There always are unintended consequences and, usually, they’re the hardest ones to anticipate. Sometimes, though, they can end up being the most significant.

It’s a good lesson to remember, Vera: sometime when you think you’re solving a problem, you’re actually creating a bigger one. The key is to think it though and try to identify all possible outcomes. It’s probably not possible to anticipate everything, but if you hope to become a good decision maker and someone who’s more valued in the labor market than the average person, then it’s important to be able to see what others miss and to avoid the big mistakes.

Whether the trade war will go down in history as a big mistake is yet to be determined. If it is, then the vast majority of us will end up paying the price and the man who’s most accountable may skate.

That’s life.

An Ideal For Which I Am Prepared to Die

Is there such a thing — an ideal for which I am prepared to die? Maybe not. Maybe I lack the courage. Maybe I feel I have too much to lose and not enough to gain. Maybe I think it’s a lost cause.

Injustice has been on my mind a lot lately now that injustice, cruelty, and racism are once again ascendant, this time under the presidency of Donald J. Trump and other similar autocrats around the world. It’s easy to feel powerless in the face of injustice. It’s easy to feel devoid of courage — a coward, if you will. No one likes to feel like a coward.

Looking back through history, it’s clear change for justice and truth often, if not always, comes from the hard, sacrificial work of courageous people — people who were willing to sacrifice their freedom and livelihoods and, sometimes, even their lives. Truly courageous people.

Last week I listened to Nelson Mandela’s remarks to the court when he was being put on trail during white South Africa’s attempt to quell the equal rights movement and preserve apartheid and white supremacy. Here is a portion of his remarks, Vera. It will be well worth your time listening to them someday. He closes by saying, “It is an ideal, for which I am prepared to die.” “It” is the freedom and equality of his people — Africans (people of dark skin) who were being subjugated and oppressed in their own land.

No education in justice can be complete without also reading the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. in what has become known as his Letter from Birmingham Jail. You can find it here. It’s a letter that should be taught in every church in America, but, of course, it isn’t. The fight is not over.

One of my favorite bloggers, Yves Smith, recently wrote: Continue reading

Is Your Government Moral Per Se?

Recently, in defending the Administration’s immigration practices, Attorney General Sessions said:

“I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained the government for his purposes.”

It’s not the first time the Bible and, in particular, the Apostle Paul, has been used to justify governmental action and quell dissent. For a long time, slavery was the beneficiary of such moral reasoning.

Having been reared in the Christian faith, I find such reasoning ludicrous. After all, it was the state that executed the leader of this faith tradition and it was the state that executed Paul. The suggestion that Jesus thought one should always obey the government or any human authority for that matter is ridiculous on its face. Continue reading

Are Republicans Stupid? Immoral? Or Both?

The poll of roughly 1,000 adults aged 18 and over was conducted June 14-15, shortly after President Trump’s historic summit with the North Korea dictator. According to the results, 19 percent of Republicans indicated they had a favorable view of Kim . . . . That compared slightly better than the perception of Pelosi, who had a 17 percent favorable, 72 percent unfavorable rating among self-identified Republicans. – The Daily Beast

That’s right: Republicans have a more favorable opinion of the dictator who’s tortured and executed his own people for political reasons, and who has held innocent Americans and others against their will (in one case, resulting in the death of an American man), than they do of one of the leaders of the opposition party, Ms. Pelosi. That’s how far it has gone. That’s how stupid or immoral some of these people are. Continue reading

America Has Lost Its Soul

“He trusts me and I trust him.” Donald Trump speaking about North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.

This comes on the heels of Mr. Trump slandering Canada’s prime minister (publicly calling him a liar) and one of Trump’s top aides saying there was a “special place in hell” for people like Mr. Trudeau.

As for the ruthless Korean dictator, Trump said the dictator was “very open and very honorable.” That’s just a taste of the praise heaped on Kim by Trump.

Of course, if you were born in North Korea, the dictator might look different to you. He rules with an iron fist. People aren’t free to travel and there’s no such thing as freedom of speech.

Many were allowed to starve to death during famines. Many are interned for political purposes and tortured. Executions are used for political purposes. In short, the man is a ruthless dictator who is hostile to every democratic principle embedded within the U.S. Constitution. Yet he’s the man our leader admires and adores. And the leaders of democratic nations receive Trump’s contempt and scorn.

This is the leader you elected, America.

America has lost its soul, and it’s far from certain it will ever be able to reclaim it.

P.S. Meanwhile, North Korea and China played Trump like a fiddle.

Piggy Bank B.S.

Our child-president proclaimed last week, “We’re like the piggy bank that everybody is robbing and that ends.” Then he and his minions insulted the leader of our closest ally. One of his minions even went so far as to say “there was a special place in hell” for Prime Minister Trudeau. It seems this White House only has praise for dictators and tyrants. But back to the piggy bank. Continue reading

A Nation of Laws?

Yesterday President Trump wrote, “I have the absolute right to PARDON myself.” He also tweeted, “The appointment of the Special Councel [sic] is totally UNCONSTITUTIONAL!” (Never mind that no serious constitutional scholar, or decent first-year law student for that matter, believes that.)

There you have it: we’ve elected someone who thinks he’s above the law. We’ve retraced history and have elected someone who thinks he’s a medieval monarch.

Nothing this man says or thinks surprises me. Not even this. But it’s a stark reminder of how fragile our democracy is. To think that such a demagogue could garner the support of enough people to get elected is scary.

I do think most of America’s success as a nation is owed to the preeminence of laws over men. We have been a nation of laws, albeit an imperfect one. But the imperfection is neither surprising nor troubling for humans are innately imperfect.

The principle of law is being tested today in ways unseen in the past century. Not even the outlaw president of the 1970s (Nixon) took it this far, although he was tempted. The difference then is there were responsible members of Congress, even of Nixon’s own party, who held the law in higher regard than the man. That’s not the case today; hence, the risks are greater. Today, Congress is full of small-minded cowards who are way over their heads.

I don’t know how it will all play out, Vera. I don’t know if my generation will pass off to yours a vibrant democracy, or one that is in its death throes — or, worse yet, one that can be found only in history books. It seems some of my fellow citizens fail to hold the principle of rule by law in high regard. And there were enough of them to elect this demagogue to office. So it’s impossible to know where all of this will lead. Continue reading