Skimming the News: Random Tidbits, Thoughts and Ideas

Unintended Consequences that Should Have Been Foreseen

One of Donald Trump’s signature campaign issues was foreign trade. He explored the issue with nothing more than populist hype, either not caring about the consequences that implementing his promises might bring, or simply not understanding the complexities of the issue. Two stories, one from Politico and one from The Guardian, highlight those potential consequences.

Politico reported today that “In moves that strike hard at President Donald Trump’s rural base, the 11 other nations that participated in the now-defunct Trans-Pacific Partnership are pursuing 27 separate negotiations aimed at undercutting U.S. exporters, according to a POLITICO analysis. Continue reading “Skimming the News: Random Tidbits, Thoughts and Ideas”

Hiroshima Revisited

IMG_0446 Kennon and I visited Hiroshima on the front end of my 2010 international trip, and I posted the following story. Sunday, August 6 is the anniversary of the bombing that devastated the city and killed approximately 200,000 people.  This article is reprinted here as a reminder.

Our day in Hiroshima was enlightening, but difficult.  The Peace Park and the Peace Museum are reminders of the violence that lurks in the hearts of (mostly) men, and serve as warnings about the ultimate fruits of war.

The first sight to greet Kennon and me as we entered the park was the skeleton of a multi-story building and its once-famous dome. When America’s atom bomb exploded 1900 feet in the air, the building’s inner structure instantly collapsed and burned, incinerating everyone inside. Continue reading “Hiroshima Revisited”

To Hold or to Bluff?

CNN’s Jim Acosta suggested during a press conference that President Trump’s new immigration proposal did not match up with American values. To make his point Acosta cited the poem inscribed on the Statue of Liberty’s base:


Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

Acosta pointed out that the poem did not “say anything about speaking English… Aren’t you trying to change what it means to be an immigrant coming to this country if you are telling them they have to speak English?” He added, “It sounds like you’re trying to engineer the racial and ethnic flow of people into this country as policy.” Continue reading “To Hold or to Bluff?”

London Postcard: A City of Contrasts

London is at an interesting intersection of two contrasting phenomenon. On the one hand it is the capitol of a nation that has elected to pull out of the European Union and retreat into the womb of sovereignty; on the other, it is a kaleidoscope of ethnic diversity: Anglo, Indian, Middle Easterners, Caribbean Islanders, Eastern Europeans, and Asians. I had conversations with people from Hungry, Romania, Spain, France, the USA, China, and India.

Since March, London has been attacked three times by terrorists and suffered a devastating fire in a high rise housing complex that took dozens of lives–––the deadliest London fire since World War II. Yet the people are out and about enjoying the parks, theaters, stores and restaurants.

Conservatives dominate the UK parliament and are leading the march toward Brexit. But London’s mayor is a liberal, a Muslim man who marched in the city’s Gay Pride Day Parade. This liberal in a nation governed by conservatives is the most popular politician in the United Kingdom. There is hope on the horizon.

The British Open: A Teaching Moment

I had a morning through noon engagement outside of town on the Sunday before my departure, but returned to  London in time to watch the last nine holes of The British Open golf championship in a pub near the train station.

It was nice to hear a room full of British men and women clapping their hands and cheering for two young Americans who were leading the tournament as it made the final turn.

As the two leaders approached the 14th tee, a woman seated next to me in a row of barstools was effusive in her cheering for Jordan Spieth. Why? The 23-year old from Texas had led the tournament through the first three rounds, but faltered badly on this last day and had dropped into a draw. He hit an errant drive on the 13th that flew not only out of the fairway but over the rough, over a hill and onto the downslope that paralleled another hole. On the way to earth the ball hit a spectator who was watching two other golfers, and it ended up in a thicket.

Not only had Spieth lost the lead and fallen into a tie in what many golf fans consider the world’s premier tournament, he now had to take a penalty and hit a blind shot back across the hill. He faced the certain prospect of falling at least one stroke behind and in danger of a complete collapse.

But he didn’t pound his club, cuss and stomp angrily through the crowd in search of the ball. Instead, he walked calmly up the hill, sought out the man who the ball hit and shook his hand. It was a moment of grace from a young man who was looking at a humiliating defeat in front of a worldwide television audience

Emma, the woman to my right, noticed his gesture and she loved it. Many of the men in the pub ridiculed Spieth as a choker, and sarcastically suggested the handshake was the gesture of a loser who wasn’t tough enough under pressure.

He ended up with a bogey and fell one stroke behind with five to play. He had seemingly lost his momentum. But, as if buoyed by Emma’s shouts of encouragement, Spieth proceeded to finish his round with a barrage of incredible golf shots, going birdie, eagle, birdie, birdie, and par to win going away. Emma was beyond ecstatic, cheering loudly for his every movement.

When it was over and Jordan Spieth had become the youngest man since 1979 to win the British Open, Emma stood and spoke: “The lesson here, blokes, is that you will be rewarded for good behavior. Good guys definitely can finish first. Jordan got good juju for what he did and the golf angel rode on his shoulder those last five holes.” She had all of us in the pub on our feet laughing and cheering.

I am not sure what “good juju” is, but I would love to have an email address for the golf angel. Maybe I cold get a reservation for her to ride on my shoulder the next time I play a round.

Postcard From London

Coffee Shop Conversations: Is There Hope for America?

I am in London to work on my millennial-elder project. On Thursday I met and talked with four British college students at a Café Nero coffee shop.  All four are interested in and well read about US politics.  All four are baffled, wondering how a great democracy that thrilled the world with Obama’s election can tumble so far so fast. They are not sure if we will ever recover.

But the general sense I am getting from talking with various folks in the UK is that they have more hope in us then we have in ourselves. As a vacationing Canadian academic I met at a sidewalk cafe said, “The world covets American leadership. It seems that no matter how bad things might appear to be, America has always been a light that leads out of the darkness.”

When I asked how he could think this after our years of blundering through Iraq, Afghanistan and other skirmishes of choice––– and now by blundering in our domestic politics with the election of Trump–––he responded, “The redeeming thing about your country has always been your resilience. You recognize and acknowledge your faults, then turn onto a new path.

“After the Bush years you elected Obama, and despite a brutal assault on everything he tried to do, he made a positive mark internationally on issues of climate change and human rights. He confronted brutal dictators, and supported international cooperation and partnerships. He stood firm in repudiating the “American first and America alone” philosophy of his political opponents.

“Electing Trump was a huge setback for the U.S. and for the world. The question now is whether that disastrous mistake becomes a death march away from hope and into the darkness of isolation; or, a resurgence of your natural progressive spirit that will lead into the renewed light of hope.”

The British Press and US Politics

The Guardian’s Steven Thrasher wrote: “Six months into Donald Trump’s term, and Democratic politicians’ ability to be an opposition party is, in a word, pathetic. When the poll came out saying that “Democrats stand for nothing more than opposing” Trump, I thought to myself, ‘If only that were true!’

“But they can’t even do that well. When House Democratic Caucus chairman Joe Crowley was asked by the Associated Press just what his party’s core message was, he “hesitated” and then said, “That message is being worked on.”

Who Is to Blame for Obamacare repeal Failure?

Molly Kiniry writes an American Values column in The Sunday Telegraph. Today she wrote about the apparent demise of the Republican commitment to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). “Who is to blame” for the failure, she asks. “Some point to Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader who failed to corral his party into backing an Obamacare replacement. Others say McConnell was left with an impossible task by Paul Ryan, Speaker of the House of Representatives, who steered the bill through the lower chamber fully aware it would be dead-on-arrival in the Senate.

“But the sad truth is that this morass is no one’s fault. Rather, it is a symptom of a deeper disease in Washington. The modern two-party system prevents meaningful legislative action except in emergency situations. Individual politicians are so dependent on the party machine that none will break ranks, even if their constituents would benefit from bipartisan cooperation. Disloyalty to party can lead to swift retribution or an evaporation of funding.”

Later in her article she writes, “A failed healthcare system means sick children out of school, and missed cancer diagnoses. This is the sort of human misery which no responsible government should inflict upon its own people—and precisely the sort of indifference which has relegated the Republican Party to the pariah status among those concerned about the welfare of America’s poorest.”