Thursday, December 27, 2018
President Trump has initiated a partial government shutdown, saying lifting it depends upon funding for the border wall. The Democrats say under no circumstances will they fund the wall, but they might provide a little for a fence. The Democrats are strong advocates today for open borders: Open borders for economic refugees Open borders for political refugees Oven borders for children Open borders for criminal victims Open borders for criminals Open borders for drug traffickers Open borders for terrorists The theory is that they want open border to keep replenishing the Democratic voting base. Poor immigrants vote for the candidates that can take care of them; that means Democrats, the party of government, in the big cities. They also want open borders in support of the undocumented immigrants who seek their families to join them in America. It’s also true that they do not want to give President trump anything that makes him look successful. All that is true, but that’s not why they are unwilling to compromise on funding. Both the President and the Democratic Leaders understand that 2020 may depend on the President’s success or unsuccess in closing the borders. Voters understand that candidates make promises that they either will not or cannot keep. Some candidates will say anything to get elected. (Think of the Democrats who promised never to vote for Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House). Some promises though transcend the status of a promise to the level of a covenant. They may become the theme of an election campaign. For example, President George H. W. Bush’s “Read My Lips; No New Taxes” defined his 1988 campaign against Governor Dukakis of Taxachusetts. He breached it two years later in exchange for promises of spending cuts. The cuts never came. Even if they had, he lost the support of conservative Republicans. They deserted him in 1992, throwing their votes to H. Ross Perot, thereby electing Governor William Jefferson Clinton President. The Republican coalition consisted of three major constituencies: the Eastern Establishment, Religious conservatives, mostly Pro-Life, and political and economic conservatives. President Bush represented the Eastern Establishment, which could provide financial backing, but few votes. The President lost the conservatives, which left the Pro—Life Republicans in his base. They knew though that he was Pro-Choice in 1980. Breach of the promise cost him reelection. President Trump’s Make America Great Again Campaign had several planks: Appoint conservative judges Stay with the Evangelicals America First with bringing jobs back to America Lowering Taxes Building the Wall, with Mexican funding He successfully appointed two conservative justices to the Supreme Court and dozens to the appellate and district courts. He got Turkey to release evangelical Presbyterian Pastor Andrew Brunson after 24 months of detention. He also got American hostages released from Iran and North Korea. He’s making progress on getting factory jobs back to America - no thanks to General Motors Employment is booming under President Trump and the unemployment rate is dropping. Taxes have been lowered. Most American workers should see it in their payroll withholdings. The Wall remains to be built. The mainstream media is at war with the President, constantly trashing, demeaning and often defaming him. The President can never do anything right in their eyes. They would still find fault even if he were to resign. Reports are that members of the media communicate with each other during the evening to agree on their talking points for the next day. The Democrats are vehemently anti-Trump. Several federal district and appellate judges comprise the Judicial Resistance to the President. Hollywood damns the President. The Professoriate opposes the President. Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller and his anti-Trump lawyer are doing everything they can conceive of to “get” the President on behalf of the Deep State. His base has remained loyal throughout, and his approval rating is showing a rise. It’s all down to the Wall. If he reneges on the Wall, it will be déjà vu all over again with “Read My Lips, No New Taxes” and President Bush. Very few voters expected Mexico to pay for the Wall, but they expect the President to crack down on illegal immigration. The Democrats know this; thus their hardening on the Wall and unwillingness to compromise. Their problem is that the inevitable senseless murder spree by an illegal immigrant will destroy their position in the public’s eye.
Wednesday, December 26, 2018
The 40-60 million Kurds of the world have a simple dream: Independence. The history of the past century shows the Kurdish people regularly tossed aside, if not betrayed, by diplomacy and the Great Powers. The Turkish Sultans were a spent force before World War I. The Young Turks, Djemel Pasha, Enver Pasha, and Talaat Pasha, had seized control. They tossed out the existing sultan and replaced him with a figurehead. The Three Pashas made the disastrous decision to join the German side in the war. The Ottoman Empire, “The Sick Man of Europe,” which once spanned three continents, was shrinking for decades. It collapsed as the Ottomans were on the losing side in World War I. The victorious Allies agreed to carve up the Ottoman Empire. Even Turkey proper was to be cut into pieces. There was to be no Turkey! Greece was most avaricious and covetous against one of its historic enemies. Iraq, Lebanon, Syria emerged from the detritus of the Empire, but no Kurdistan.. The Ottomans may have been defeated, but not the Turkish people. They found a hero, Ataturk, and waged the successful Turkish War of Independence resulting in an independent Turkey, consisting of Thrace and Anatolia. Alas for the Kurds. The Allies agreed during the war to create an independent Kurdistan, carving comprising southwest Turkey, northern Iraq and Syria, and northwest Iran into Kurdistan. Ataturk’s victory in Turkey prevented the dismemberment of Turkey. There would be no independent Kurdistan. The Kurds unsuccessfully rebelled in 1925, 1930, and 1937-8. They were no match for Ataturk and the Turkey army. The Shah of Iran and Iraq engaged in a border dispute in 1970. The Shah with the backing of the United States encouraged the Iraqi Kurds to rebel against Iraq. The Kurds were supplied with arms and funds as they held their own against the larger Iraqi forces. Then in 1975 the Shah and Iraq reached a border agreement. The Kurds were abandoned, indeed betrayed, by the Shah and united States. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger is famously known for a common quip he uttered after hearing of the Kurdish reaction to the “betrayal;“ Fuck the Kurds if they can’t take a joke.” Saddam Hussein retaliated against the Kurds, even using gas. The Allies, led by President George H. W. Bush, encouraged the people of Iraq to rebel against Saddam Hussein during the first Gulf War. Saddam survived and he again struck out at the Kurds. The United States, which could have, but didn’t stop the Iraq attacks on the Kurds, stood by. Then came the quick ISIS conquest of much of Iraq and Turkey. The Kurds, the YPG fighters, provided the troops on the ground with United States backing to roll ISIS back into a small pocket in Syria. The Kurds currently occupy the historical Kurdish territories in Iraq and Syria, comprising half of the Kurdish lands. Turkish President Recip Erdogan is scared. He fears that the Kurdish enclaves in Iraq and Syria will form a safe haven and inspiration for the Turkish Kurds, the PKK (People’s Protection Units), fighting for independence in Turkey. Much of the area is leery of an independent Kurdistan. The Turks are using brutal, mostly unpublicized, tactics against the Turkish Kurds. President Erdogan said: “In the upcoming months, on the ground in Syria, we will follow a style of inclusion that eliminates both P.K.K.-Y.P.D. elements and remnants of Daesh. This should be known.” (Daesh is the Arab acronym and what President Obama referred to as ISIS.) The Kurds are threatening to release 1,000-2,000 captured ISIS fighters. President Erdogan made it clear; he intends to remove the Kurds from their base in Syria, seizing much of the Syrian oil fields in the process. The YPG has been protected to dare by 2,000 United States military soldiers in their territory. President trump announced a pullout of U.S. forces from Syria, thereby throwing the Kurds overboard, in essence betraying them – yet again. The presumption is that the Kurds will be no match for the Turkish planes, tanks, and artillery. If though the Kurds have a large stock of surface to air missiles and anti-tank weapons, it will be a very interesting, and bloody, contest. The Kurds are betrayed. Israel feels betrayed, and the Pentagon is apoplectic. Turkey’s Kurdish problem is of its own making. The Kurdish part of southeast Turkey was the historic Armenia. The Armenian Genocide created a vacuum in Southwest Turkey. The Kurds came down from the mountains and occupied the now virtually deserted lands. The Armenians were a peaceful people. The Kurds are fighters who yearn for independence.
Monday, December 10, 2018
The qualities of a great leader are not well defined. Several studies have attempted to assess successful leadership. Factors often include communication, empathy, strength, passion, inspiration, integrity, transparency, focus, trust, calmness. Examples could include Winston Churchill who stiffened the British people during the depths of 1940-41, and Mayor Rudy Giuliani who projected clam immediately after 9/11 even if he could not provide immediate answers. FDR reassured the American people in his 1933 inauguration speech, President Kennedy with the soaring rhetoric in his inauguration speech, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in many of his speeches. Some speakers project charisma, but many leaders simply project steady calmness in the eye of a storm. Whatever it is, British Prime Minister Teresa May lacks it with Brexit in England. She entered into negotiations in secret without conviction and from a position of weakness. The EU negotiators quickly sized her up. France President Emmanuel Macron has now failed the leadership test. Charisma is not filling the leadership gap. His popularity with the French people has slipped to 23%, half that of President Trump. So much for empathy! The French economy is so riddled with statutes and bureaucratic regulations that it is sclerotic. Economy growth is slow. Inequality if rising. The past two presidents of France, Francois Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy, failed to reform the economy. The French voters said a plague on both houses, the left and the right, the socialists and the conservatives. The young, charismatic Emmanuel Macron entered the race for France’s presidency like a breath of fresh air in 2017. He won a landslide election with 66.1% of the vote. The once socialist ran as a centrist liberal with a new political party, the En marche. He won a mandate to reform the economy and remove the shackles of the over-taxed, over-regulated economy. France is the most heavily taxed nation in the developed world. The effective tax rate is 46.2% of GDP, close to twice that of United States’ 27.2%. He’s made some steps along the way France had a wealth tax intended redistribute the wealth. It raised only €5 billion, but sent capital out of the country. He limited it to only real estate. He made it easier for employers to hire and fire workers. Taxes on business and capital were cut. Tax breaks were enacted for the lower and middle classes. So far, so good, but then he got diverted by the Paris Accords and climate change. He imposed a substantial increase in the gas tax, he said, to discourage the use of fossil fuels and fund alternative energy. The residents of Paris can rely on mass transit, but rural residents, small business, farmers, truckers, the middle class, lower income citizens, and assorted souls rely on gas and diesel fuel. This tax was the tax increase that finally awoke the French. He had earlier increased the social security tax. The President’s initial response to the complaints was not Marie Antoinette’s “Let Them Eat Cake,” but an updated “Let them Carpool.” His response was poorly received in a country with a history of revolution, street violence, and bloody riots. Other statements in the past include telling a jobless man to just cross the street. He told retirees with small pensions to stop complaining. Leaders can’t be tone deaf. The people have risen in protest over the past four weeks, protests turning to riots and damaging the Arc de Triomphe. One of the restrictions in French law is that French drivers must have florescent yellow vests in their vehicles for safety reasons in case of an emergency. Many of the protestors are wearing their yellow vests, thus giving rise to the “Yellow Vests” Movement. The original protests were spontaneous, generated by social media. Extremists, often violent, have joined, and perhaps corrupted, the movement. Unions are now demanding the repeal of his limited reforms. The French economy is taking a hit; tourism is down; restaurants are hurting. The charismatic President Macron’s tax increases exhibited a failure in leadership. Leaders need to communicate their reasons and enlighten their followers. He said it was to fight climate change; that was the end of the matter. His campaign did not mention (fuel) tax increases. Thus, it was a surprise to the 70% of adults drive to work in France. It seemed like yet another tax increase on the French. Not to those affected by the increases. These are the people who voted for Brexit in the United Kingdom, Donald Trump in the United States, and the new conservative government in Italy. These are Hillary Clinton’s “deplorables.” These are the people ignored and shunted aside in the global economy by the global elites and political classes. His leadership mistake was to stake his government on a global issue at an immediate cost to his citizens. The French people were not told why they would have to sacrifice for climate change. Leaders can lead their people, but not too far ahead and after educating them. The Paris Accords are very weak, and as the New York Times reported Saturday not being met. China and India don’t have to comply for several years. His attitude in office is one of aloofness. He is an elitist who knows what’s best. He had not been seen or heard from in recent days until earlier today. So much for communication! He addressed the French people, but it was a pre-recorded speech. It lacked the power of a live broadcast. It was as if his heart and soul were not in his concessions. He said “I might have hurt people with my words” as he also said “I take my share of responsibility.” Stepping up with a pre-recorded message is not stepping up. He may smooth the waters, but he lost what the Chinese call the “Mandate of Heaven” to govern. He failed the leadership test. He promised to raise the minimum wage by 7% and abolish taxes on overtime. He will also scrape the proposed tax hike on pensioners. The new fuel tax is history – at least for now. He old socialism came through. He asked employers to give their employees an end of year bonus.
Saturday, December 8, 2018
President George H. W. Bush’s funeral service Wednesday at the National Cathedral was on a blustery day. The weather was appropriate for the former President. He was a great man, a brave war hero, a skilled diplomat, a warn and generous person, compassionate, a dedicated public service, but a poor politician buffeted by uncontrollable forces. He cared for all Americans, but was characterized as a patrician, wimp, out-of-touch, part of the old WASP Elite. The media is commemorating the late President George H. W. Bush as the last great Republican after the earlier death of Senator John McCain. Yet, they loathed the two when running for President. The media celebrates RINO Republicans, such as Senator Jeff Flake or dead Republicans. They’’ll mourn you when you’re dead, but crucify you while alive. They extol the two as the anti-Trump. President Bush represented the end of an era. Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford and Bush 41 all served in WWII. Carter and Bush 43 also served. President George H. W. Bush was caught in the change of paradigms when the parties would strive to reach a compromise versus the total partisanship of today. George H. W. Bush was a war hero in World War II, having flown 58 sorties by his 20th birthday. He enlisted the day he turned 18. He was also politically heroic in running for Congress in Texas. He was elected in 1966, becoming one of only two Republican Congressmen from Texas. He had campaigned for the Senate in 1970, but that was a lost cause for Republicans at that time. George Herbert Walker Bush was a dedicated public service. He may have grown up rich, bur he practiced noblesse oblige. He served in Congress, the first ambassador to the Peoples Republic of China, Director of the CIA, Vice President, and President. It was his duty. People could easily misjudge President Bush because he believed in and practiced quiet diplomacy rather than engage in histrionics. He did not do a victory dance on top of the Berlin Wall after it fell. The media says the death of President George Herbert Walker Bush marks the end of civility in American politics. The media seems to be suffering from acute memory loss or selective amnesia. They trashed Bush 41 and Bush 43, not to mention Reagan, Ford, McCain, Romney, and now Trump. They reviled the Republican predecessors of President Trump. The difference today is that deep down, they totally loathe President Trump. Words used to describe President Bush in the past few days were class, dignity, willing to compromise, loyal, gracious, compassionate, a dedicated public servant. Those were not the words used to describe him in 1992. Only 7% of the journalists admitted to voting for him. His Thousand Points of Light in his 1988 Acceptance Speech were mocked. The media may be commemorating President Bush today, but they excoriated him while in office. They labeled the man who enlisted in the Navy the first day of his 18th birthday and flew 58 combat missions in the Pacific a “wimp,” while giving a pass to Governor Bill Clinton, a draft dodger. George H. W. Bush was a philanthropist; William Jefferson Clinton a philanderer. Texas Governor Anne Richards famously said of Vice President Bush in her keynote address at the 1988 Democratic National Convention: “Poor George, he can’t help it. He was born with a silver boot in his mouth.” (Sweet revenge for the Bushes: George W. Bush defeated her reelection in 1994). He had two middle names. Who does that in modern America? The elitist preppie was out of touch with the people whereas Bubba was one of them. The President Bush purportedly did not know what a scanner was or the price of a pair of socks. The castigation for not recognizing a scanner is an example of fake news. The President was shown a new model scanner that could weigh groceries and read mangled and torn barcodes. A reporter at the scene wrote he had “a look of wonder” on his face. He was obviously amazed at the advance in technology. The New York Times rewrote the the short line to report he was “dumbfounded” by the scanner. The tale of his being out-of-touch was widely disseminated. President Bush used phrases like “deep doo doo,” “Big Mo” and Voodoo Economics” that sounded funny to many Americans. He talked at times like Mrs. Malaprop to the media’s amusement whereas they ignored the seemingly infinite gaffs by Joe Biden and similar misstatements by President Obama. He was only a one term President, but like President James K. Polk, he accompanied much. President Polk annexed Texas, reached agreement with Great Britain on the Oregon Territory at the 49th parallel, acquired the Southwest through the Mexican-American War, and created an independent treasury. Bush 41 presided over the fall of the Berlin Wall, the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the end of the Cold War. He watched the independence of the former Soviet republics in Central and Eastern Europe. He fought for the reunification of Germany after the fall of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact. He did not publicly humiliate in a victory lap Prime Minister Gorbachev of the Soviet Union. He further entered into the SALT Treaty (Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty) with Russia. He put together a coalition of western and Arab nations to drive Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait. He successfully supported the enactment of the Americans With Disabilities Act. He became the first Vice President since Martin Van Buren to be directly elected to the Presidency. He was also the last Republican to win California in a Presidential election. The preppie WASP from New England became an adopted son of Texas, but could not leave his twang behind. Several reasons account for his reelection loss to Governor Clinton. The media opprobrium certainly played a role, but it could not have done it on its own. His raising of taxes was the primary reason. The public expects politicians to breach promises, even perhaps to lie, but his 1988 Pledge “Read My Lips; No New Taxes” was more than a promise; it was a covenant. His 1992 reelection campaign was doomed when he raised taxes. His son, President George W Bush, never made the mistake of raising taxes during his 8 years in office. He agreed to raise taxes in exchange for spending cuts. He was snookered by the Democratic Congress which promptly raised taxes, but never came through with the spending cuts. The Republican Party had three main constituencies: 1) the Eastern elite; 2) economic conservatives; and 3) pro-life forces. He lost his base by raising taxes. The once great Eastern Establishment was substantially diminished, and he alienated the economics conservatives by raising taxes. That left pro-life as his constituency, but they knew he had earlier been pro-choice. Another reason was that he seemed lethargic against the young, energetic, charismatic Governor Clinton. The Governor relentlessly ran for the Presidency, while President Bush adhered to the tradition that campaigning began with the Labor Day weekend. The entry of H. Ross Perot into the election provided 19 million Americans with an alternative to the two front runners. The story was that Perot ran because of a deep seated animus to President Bush. The final blow to his campaign came four days before the election when Special Prosecutor Lawrence Walsh indicted former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger on charges arising out of the Iran Contra controversy. A judge later threw out this indictment because the statute of limitations had lapsed. The American public was suffering from Bush Fatigue by election day. Governor Clinton won with 43% of the vote compared to 37% for President Bush and 19% for H. Ross Perot. He deserved better in 1992 and America has paid a steep price for his defeat. America lost a man who enjoyed the zest of life. The so-called wimp was parachuting out of planes in his 90’s.
Sunday, December 2, 2018
GM announced major plant closings, job cuts, and cutting car models. This time its assembly plants in Lordstown, Ohio, Hamtramck, Michigan, and Ontario, Canada, as well as transmission plants in Baltimore and Warren, Michigan, are earmarked for closure. No plant closure would be necessary if GM could sell cars. What else is new? GM consistently had problems marketing downsized cars that Americans were willing to buy since the two Arab oil embargoes of the 1970’s. The once industrial goliath has been losing market share for five decades, slipping from over half of the U.S. auto market to hovering around 17%. Its been cutting assembly plants for decades from Massachusetts to California, laying off tens of thousands of blue collar and white collar employees. Ask Buick City, St. Louis Truck, Wilmington, South Gate, Oakland, Detroit Cadillac, Norwalk, Framingham, Janesville, Willow Run, North Tarrytown, Baltimore, Oklahoma City, Fremont, Saginaw, Pontiac, Ypsilanti, Linden, Van Nuys, and Doraville. The GM bankruptcy gave GM a fresh start. It wiped out the pension liabilities, shuttered factories, cut dealers, walked away from toxic facilities, wiped out products liability claims, and emerged with a multibillion dollar tax loss carryforward, shielding it from federal income taxes for years. GM though could still not design and build cars Americans wanted to purchase. The Japanese and Koreans ate GM’s lunch in sedans. The Japanese and Germans control the luxury car market. “Cadillac” is no longer the standard of luxury cars. GM car sales in California, the largest market in the US, are negligible. Buick and Cadillac survived the bankruptcy only because they are big sellers in China, which is now GM’s largest market. Vehicle sales (cars and light trucks) peaked in 2016 at 17,547,028. Sales have slipped since then, with sedan sales leading the downturn. The top selling vehicles in October were the Ford F-150 pickup, Dodge Ram pickup, Chevy Silverado pickup, Toyota RAV 4, Honda CRV, Chevrolet Equinox, Nissan Rogue, Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, and Honda Civic. Only the last three were cars; the top seven were pickups or SUV’s. 60% of GM’s sales in October were trucks and SUVs, up from 50% five years ago. Detroit is increasingly unable to compete in car sales. The imports are also dropping, but in smaller numbers from a higher base. They are feeling the pain less. Once again, GM is behind the curve. Fiat Chrysler announced in April 2017 that it will concentrate on Dodge Trucks and Jeeps. The only cars it will continue to produce are the Chrysler Pacifica Minivan, Chrysler 300, the Dodge Challenger and the Dodge Charger. The Charger, Challenger, and Chrysler 300 are built on the same platform. Ford in April, 2018 said it would discontinue all car models except for the Focus Active, a crossover hatchback, and Mustang. $11 billion is being reallocated from cars to trucks, SUVs, and electrics. GM at its peak could successfully lead from behind. It did not need to innovate because it had the resources to respond and adapt. No longer! GM’s travails are shown by the Chevy Volt. It announced the hybrid Volt as the future of the new General Motors during the 2010 reorganization with projected annual sales of over 100,000 units. The Volt was a flop, starting with its initial list price of $40,280. The remodeled Volt in 2016 started at $33,170. GM’s assumption must have been the large federal ($7,500) and state tax credits would make it affordable, such that that the car would pay for itself over time with fuel savings. GM sold 113,489 Volts in the United States from mid-December 2010 through December 2016. Many of those “sales” were low-priced leases. By way of comparison, Tesla has sold over 500,000 higher priced all-electric Teslas, while the Toyota Prius passed 1 million sales by April 2011. Companies respond to the market or go out of business. Detroit is responding to the changing dynamics of the domestic auto market. GM is shifting billions from cars to autonomous cars and electric vehicles. It paid $1 billion in early 2016 to acquire Cruise, a San Francisco self-driving company with 40 employees. It now has over 1,000 employees. It is further prioritizing factory investment in China and Mexico, away from the United States. President Trump is upset. He won Michigan and Ohio on a Make America Great Again Campaign, restoring manufacturing jobs to the heartland of America. He’s threatened to cut off the subsidies for electric vehicles and impose tariffs on imported cars. He said: “You know the United States saved General Motors, and for them to take that company out of Ohio is not good. I think she’s going to put something back in soon.” Mary Barry, GM's CEO, sees the future a self-driving cars, electric cars, and ride sharing networks. Time will tell if her vision is correct. General Motors executive Mark Reuss took his son to see the shuttered Buick City complex in Flint, Michigan. His son asked: “Why did this happen dad?” Mark Reuss responded: “This happened because we could not compete.” GM could not compete!!!!!