Trump MBA: The Art of Negotiating 101

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While everyone is concentrating on the recent interview of an overaged porn star trying to extend her 15 minutes of fame, while writing a cheap crime story, the president has again improved the US position in the world. With the announcement that President Trump was going to impose a tariff on steel and aluminum, the economic experts went nuts. Tariffs are counterproductive, tariffs will cost more jobs then they save, this will start an all-out trade war with the rest of the world, etcetera. The problem is that we have been taught over the years to only see the close in results on a narrow timeline. We have lost the ability to see a larger picture over an extended period. In other words, we have lost the ability to think and reason out situations.
Much of this has been the result of politicians learning to respond to news cycles in the past and to the present day 24/7 news coverage. Politicians on both sides of the aisle have learned to be circumspect in any statement and not take a firm position. The exceptions are those who demand ideological purity. Then along comes Donald J. Trump, a complete amateur in the field who speaks his mind and is willing to change position as needed to accomplish a needed end. Add to this the fact that he accomplished the impossible by defeating the anointed one for the presidency causing the news media to declare all out war. We need now return the American people to the point where they can think and reason.
Trump is a negotiator and as anyone who has negotiated knows, the first thing to do is set up the conditions of the negotiation. In the case of the tariffs it appears that the initial conditions were just that, setting the stage. Since the declaration of the tariffs the President has exempted counties such as Canada and Mexico and has begun trade negotiation with several others. One such negotiation was with South Korea which has now agreed to reduce the amount of steel exported and to double the number of US manufactured cars to be sold in the country. While South Korea is the third largest exporter of steel to the US we have also begun to negotiate with China which has now come to the table.
We must also look to the claims of the tariffs on US production and employment, which the talking heads scream will be negatively impacted. To begin most steel used in the US is domestically produced. Of what is imported 26% comes from Canada and Mexico which we have said is already exempted from the tariffs. South Korea accounts for an additional 10% of imports. To find the rest we see Brazil contributes 14%, which now brings us to 50% of all imports. The rest of the worlds top ten contributes another 27% and the balance of the world adds 23%. All this imported steel represents around 25% of all steel used in the US. Domestic with US mills are running at about 75% capacity. This means US mills can cover the loss of imported steel. The problem is not in the amount of steel however it’s the cost. All of this is not to confuse the issue but to point out that this issue, unlike what many are claiming, is complicated and needs thought, not emotion to reason out.
Because of several factors US manufactured steel is more expensive then imported steel, tariffs are designed to compensate for the difference. Which leaves two potentials, products that use steel will increase in price or the price of those products must come down. There is also the probability of US steel manufactures finding ways to reduce the cost of steel, which likely would cost jobs as efficiencies increase. The Trump administration has cut several cumbersome regulations and passed a tax bill that gives both corporations and most Americans additional income therefore we can look to market equilibrium containing pricing.
What have we learned, first that we should not react to actions without thinking about them in the long term. Second many negotiations begin without the intent that they will meet all the initial demands. Which brings us to the conclusion that nothing is black and white. That all things are negotiable if both side understand the rules and that obviously both sides don’t always understand the rules. There will be an impact on US markets, but it will not be the end of the world.

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Syrian Kurds, Turks and Kawa the Blacksmith

Kawa

The recent actions of Turkish forces and their allies have shown their racist intent by treating the people of Afrin as barbarians of old treated those they conquered. Looting, murder and rape are the order of the day. The west has seen a fair share of this type of barbarity. The Spanish conquistadors, Manifest Destiny and the destruction of indigenous people as the US pushed west, any war in Europe, and the rape of Nanking. History has not been kind to the perpetrators of these acts, and they will judge the Turks more harshly, in modern times this should not have been allowed but given the history of the region it should have been expected and stopped. The Turkish Government must be held fully accountable for this tragedy and brought to justice. As a member of NATO Turkey must be held to a higher standard.
The Turks have claimed the purpose of their attack on Afrin is part of the war on terrorism since the Syrian Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its military the YPG controlled Afrin. It is Turkey’s claim that the PYD is wholly part of the Turkish Kurdish group known as the PKK, which has been fighting Turkey for almost 40 years. While the two groups can be considered affiliated politically they are not one monolithic Kurdish movement as the Turks would believe. The PYD and the PKK may believe in the same basic concepts, but they have shown they will apply them differently. The PKK has been in direct conflict with the Turkish military inside of Turkey while the PYD/YPG has never attacked Turkey or its military. Non-the-less Turkey holds to the fantasy that they are one in the same and hopes if they say it often enough the world will believe. The west does not believe and have armed trained and fought with the Syrian Kurds against ISIS since the beginning.
In a widely distributed photo a of statue seen being torn down and defaced, is a statue of Kawa. Kawa has been identified as a Kurdish hero. Kawa is a mythological figure in Kurdish culture. A blacksmith who helped the people of an ancient Mesopotamian kingdom overthrow a cruel king and restore peace and prosperity. This was the beginning of a new day for the Kurds, Newroz in Kurdish, and Newroz is the Kurdish celebration of the new year on March 21th. Kawa is held up as a symbol to the Kurds that fighting for your rights you can overcome adversity.
The attack on Kawa’s statue not only indicates the level of destruction the Turks put Kurds through, but the level of hatred. This is an attack on the Kurdish culture which fits into Turkish history. Following the end of the Ottoman empire and during the establishment of the modern Turkish Republic, Kurdish identity came under attack. For most of the 20th century the Kurdish language was outlawed in Turkey, no books, newspapers, music or celebrations of Kurdish holidays were allowed. Recently these Turkish Jim Crow laws were removed, and Kurdish culture allowed to come into the light. This was a short-lived movement and once again all things Kurd are falling under Turkish censorship. In a country that claims to be democratic one in every three Kurdish politicians are in jail. This includes members of Parliament who have their immunity voted away and charged with supporting terrorism.
The Kurds have proven themselves to be a strong ally of the US and have shed blood for us. They have established the closest thing to a democratic government we have seen in the region. Turkey, once a democratic ally and strongly secular is sliding into a one-man dictatorship basing itself on a desire to reestablish the Ottoman empire, or at least restore lost territory.
Turkey must be brought back to its democratic roots or censured by the west and removed from NATO. Turkey has relied too much and for too long on the blind belief that they must be held in NATO at any cost. The reality is in the new paradigm of the Middle East the Kurds must be protected and allowed to continue their march toward democracy. The world must once again believe that the US will protect its friends. For some parts of Kurdish culture, the road forward is longer then for others, if however, we do not help we will only have one more enemy in the region rather then a strong friend and ally.

The coming of Bolton

 

With the announcement that John Bolton is going to replace H.R. McMaster as the National Security Advisor a rash of reporting has come out condemning the former UN Ambassador as a hot head and a war monger. His early rejection of the JCPOA (the Iran Deal) as bad for the world and his pronouncement that the US has a legitimate right to attack North Korean to end its ability to threaten the world with nuclear war. In an article in the Atlantic his statement on North Korea was called a radical idea and that it risks the “most destructive war in living memory.” These types of melodramatic declarations do nothing to help an informed decision. I would say the most destructive war in living memory was World War II. It must be pointed out that WWII began because democracies failed to confront dictatorships in a timely manner.
When the Obama administration was making its argument for the Iran deal the president told the nation there were two options, diplomacy or war. There of course many options in any scenario, and presenting only the extremes is a treacherous path to take. Let us look at a potential third alternative, diplomacy with the threat of war. We have tried diplomacy with North Korea for over 25 years we no success. If Kim Jung-un is of the opinion that it will always be diplomacy followed by sanction relief, followed by jettisoning what ever agreement you came to and carrying on your nuclear program until next time, diplomacy will not work.
In the case of Iran we negotiated away all leverage and financed Iran’s terrorist proxies. Kim can see the results of the JCPOA and how toothless the enforcement provisions are. Why then should North Korea negotiate in earnest? Presently the answer is John Bolton. With Bolton advising the president and Mike Pompeo at State, both hawks, the North Korean calculus must change. Hawk by the way does not mean go to war over everything but stand firm on principles and work for the best but never shy away from a credible threat of war. This is what Bolton brings to the table, not a crazy man but a firm man. If he can bring fear to the other side so be it. I suggest reading about the Cuban Missile Crisis, perhaps Bolton can chair EXCOMM.

“THE MEMO”

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The release of the memo from the House Intelligence Committee is coming.  To start I have no idea what is in “The Memo.” Like all of you I know its four pages long and is an executive summary of the committee hearings on the investigation of alleged Russian interference with the 2016 election and collusion by the Trump campaign. Some say it is devastating and will expose corruption and criminal activity in the highest reaches of the FBI and the Obama administration writ large. Others say it is cherry pick information without context designed to destroy the FBI and attack the news media. The Democrats on committee wrote their own memo which is not going to be released with the majority memo. It will however be released to the House members for review, so we can be sure it will be leaked.
What facts do we then have to guess what is in the memo, none. We can only infer from actions taken and what has been leaked as well as rumors, what we may see in the memo. Many on both sides of the aisle are concerned it will contain classified information. I hope this is not the case and that it will be a summation like the report released by the Intelligence Community detailing what they knew of Russian activities in the 2016 election. While based on classified information it was a summation with sources and methods redacted.
What we do know is it will cause a major debate across the country. It will not likely destroy the FBI as an institution but will cause a shakeup in senior management. Will it cause a disruption of the ongoing special investigation by Robert Mueller, we don’t know but suspect it will have an impact based on the reaction the news of the release has caused on the left. Will it have context, probable not, it’s a summation of a year long investigation.
What is the one thing we know? After going to the committee vault and reviewing the memo, as well its hoped at least some of the underlying documents, FBI Director Wray retuned to the FBI and the next day Deputy Director McCabe was gone. Beyond the memo is talk of a devastating report from the FBI’s own Inspector General on the handling of the Clinton email investigation. This all follows on the heals of revelations of two FBI agents text messages who were involved in both the Clinton and the current Mueller investigation, being biased against Trump and pro Hillary. While it is OK for people to have opinions, it is not OK for investigators to text about attempts to direct the outcome of their investigation to a foregone conclusion.
The questions to be answered by this memo should be, was the FBI weaponized by the Obama administration, did the bias of the investigators influence their ability to conduct the investigation. Has the investigation into Russian interference been tainted to the point that it must be ended? The last question, is the memo based on political bias and should it be disregarded.
When you read this memo, it should be with some skepticism since it is coming from only one side, but it should be read without prejudice. It will likely contain enough truth to decide if the actors named have hurt the country. It will be bad for the nation if the FBI was politicized but it will not have been the first time. During the red scare of the ‘50s and the civil rights movement of the ‘60s the FBI was weaponized against our citizens. These revelations will not destroy the nation but hopefully make it stronger.
So PLEASE THINK when the memo comes out. Use your sense of reason and not emotion.

Congress Do Your Job

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As the countdown to a government shutdown continues the politicians seem more interested in assigning blame then getting to an answer that would keep the government running. What this all comes down to is whether or not it is more important to keep thousands of government employees at their jobs providing service to America or in making political points. On the other side we have a debate on whether it is more important to approve a short term stop gap measure or put thousands of people out of work to demand a full budget. In other words, politics as usual.
I heard the House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi tell a press conference that the Democratic representatives held together against what she said was a bad Republican bill, of course there was nothing in the bill that the democrats objected to other then it did not have everything they wanted in it. I think it is time that the people told their representatives that we are less concerned with party loyalty then having the people we hire, do their jobs. While the Republicans can get a bit of a pass this time, they did exactly the same thing in the last shutdown period.
I personally believe we do need to address those immigrants who were brought over as children and know no other home then the United States. Some will say they had time to get US citizenship, but many did not know they were illegal till adulthood. But this can be fixed without holding the government hostage.
Its time to remind the congress that they have one major job assigned to them by the constitution, pass a budget, ONE JOB. It is time they did it.

Racism, Diversity and Cultural Appropriation

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Social divisions are more prevalent now more then ever. The United States, once a melting pot, is breaking down into individual groups that are becoming more and more antagonistic to each other. While many will say this is driven by racism I contend it is based on the loss of diversity in the original meaning of the concept. The United States is the most heterogeneous society in the world, a mixture of cultures and languages unknown in the rest of the world. After the Second World War the US began to address the problems of racism, not all at once and not with a massive single movement, but a beginning. There is no need to rehash the civil rights movement other then to say had society not come together as a single force, the movement would have failed. One thing that helped us come together was the way the neighborhoods developed in the 50s and 60s. Unlike the intercity neighborhoods of the past, that were Jewish, Italian, Irish or black, the new neighborhoods were diverse. The neighborhood I grew up in was a mix of Italian, Irish, and black. The neighborhood my children grow up in was less easily defined. In this neighborhood while there were some families whose parents could be defined by ethnicity or race most were a mix. Apart from the two Ukrainian families, that came over as refugees, as did my mother-in-law from Germany, most had mixed ancestries and we knew them as Americans.
This is what was meant as diversity. We accept everyone’s background and culture and meld it into a single culture. How many of us who are not Italian eat pasta, not Polish eat Kielbasa, not Mexican eat taco’s? Even those most American of meals, the Hamburger and the Hot Dog come to us from Germany. Because of economic expansion even those last bastions of homogeneity such as the south and mid-west have broken down. Why then have we lost all the progress we made in the past decades and are back to an us versus them mentality, or are we.
The popular view is that the US is breaking down into racial and political subsets that are building barriers and preparing to do war with the others. This is a popular view in most news and information outlets. If you believe the popular viewpoints then all white American males are racist misogynistic Neanderthals, filled with hate and armed to the teeth. On the other side all African-American males are rapist and/or murdering drug dealers, and if not, then they are victims of police brutality because all police are racist who arbitrarily pull over all blacks and given the chance, shot them. No where do we read about a society that is civil and populated by people who practice common courtesies and act with common sense. This of course is explained through the old adage “Dog bites man is not news; man, bites dog, is news.” In this day and age of a 24/7 news cycle and instant reporting any story that fits the current narrative is splashed across any outlet available, regardless of truth and with no time to verify. Does this mean racism does not exist, of course not. Racism exist in this country and almost everywhere else, but to what extent does it impact the majority of citizens.
Today we celebrate the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King who once said “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” This is in fact where we were headed, we were moving forward into a colorblind society and we continued to absorb other cultures and grow as a nation, then it stopped and now we are moving backwards. To once again quote Dr. King: “If you can’t fly, then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.”
The vast majority of Americans today have continued to move forward. In the 50 years since the seminal year of 1968 much has changed in race relations and social interactions. Racial equality is both legally mandated and generally accepted. So how did we get the white supremist movement. We did not just get it, it was always there. The Klan, the neo-Nazi’s and the other groups calming white supremacy are not new nor are they a large part of white society. Their size and power has been grossly distorted by a news media anxious to build up subscribers and viewers in a shrinking market. The election of Donald Trump on a populist platform accelerated the use of racial division in the news and as a political weapon even though it was driven by false and fallacious reporting. Even before Trumps election there were groups that needed to exacerbate the racial divide. On college campuses we have seen calls for black only dorms, classes and black only areas, which I s the absolute opposite of what we need for racial equality. This is the worst thing if you truly need to have a vibrant and diverse campus.
The main reason any society needs diversity is to grow. To grow all sections of society must join together and function as one. Accept from each those things that help the community grow and reject those that are not in line with the societies norms and values. What do I mean by rejecting some aspects of a culture? Let’s start with female genital mutilation and move onto Sharia law, or any practice that rejects equality. Diversity does not mean separation it means inclusion.
Lastly, we need to get over the concept of cultural appropriation. What that means is one cultural taking over another and claiming it as its own. It does not mean wearing a sombrero to a collage Cinco de mayo beer bash. When I wear Kurdish clothes to a Newroz celebration it is not cultural appropriation it is cultural appreciation. Wearing an Hawaiian shirt to a luau or a shamrock pin to a St. Patrick’s Day parade is OK.
Let’s honor Dr. King today and every day and move forward as a single people with a diverse culture.

History is about to Repeat Itself in Kurdistan

Hitler and Chamberlain

“APPEASEMNET” Giving into someone in order to avoid potential conflict”

As my readers know I like to connect current events with their historical forbearers. It has always amazed me how many people can recite George Santayana warning that “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” and how few live its caution. Today in Kurdistan we are witnessing a repeat of history which bought the world to a great war and in the end introduced us to the atomic age.
Following the devastation of World War I most of the world was exhausted and did everything to never have a major war again. The war to end all war was not, and the mechanisms set up to prevent the next war failed. They failed because the participants refused to accept the fact that there are times when force must be used to stop a greater violence.
The League of Nations and its member states set up high ideals and moved forward with great expectations, but when faced with actual crisis that revolved around its main charter it proved incompetent. The attempts at resolving the problems through diplomacy or attempts to bring the parties to the table were an absolute failure. The inability to resolve the Japanize invasion of Manchuria, or the Italian assault on Abyssinia (today Ethiopia) as well as both the league and the great powers to respond to German rearmament, and the reoccupation of the Rhineland and Europe conceding the Sudetenland, all in the hopes of evading war. One action of the league that may have been considered a success was the resolution of the Mosul question, rejecting Turkey’s claim to the province of Mosul as historic Turkish territory and awarding Mosul to Iraq under a British mandate for 25 years to ensure the autonomous rights of the Kurds. The intent however did end as failure.
The result of all this was that the aggressor nations of Germany, Italy, Japan, and the Soviet Union saw the weakness of the world and exploited it. The League of Nations was toothless without the British or French military and the leaders of those nations were still so traumatized by the last war that a military option to any problem was just not considered.
Today we see much the same happening in the Middle East. Aggressor nations have been testing the west and finding it war weary, attempting to extract itself from current confrontations while avoiding new ones. While viable diplomatic solutions are advanced, with no threat of war they are simple rejected. When they are successful, such as a ceasefire in Syria, it is temporary and used to rest and rearm the combatants.
Iran is currently the most dangerous aggressor by far. Its direct use of its military through the IRGC and indirect use by proxies including Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces, Hezbollah and Hamas. These forces have given Iran control of Iraq and Lebanon as well as much of Syria. This control gives Iran a land bridge from Iran to the Mediterranean. It has effective control of Iraq and Lebanon and Syria.
How could this happen? Let us continue the lessons from history. Consider the disputed territories in Iraq as the Rhineland/Sudetenland of the 1930’s. Germany marched into the Rhineland to diplomatic outrage but no action and then used diplomacy to take the Sudetenland without Czechoslovakia’s input or presence. These last are examples of the west failing to stop aggression in the hopes of stopping aggression. When Iraq, under the direction of Iran, violently seized Kirkuk and the other disputed territories from the KRG without warning, the west allowed it in the hope of ending aggression.
Following failed diplomacy and a worthless embargo of Japan the Japanized attacked Pearl Harbor with the intent of reducing the US military and removing its power from the Pacific. Japan had shown itself to be ruthless in its military conquests prior to Dec 7th ,1941 and continued it brutality up until the end of the war. The Iraqi PMF has shown itself to be brutal with the mass slaughter of Sunni civilians following its occupation of cities such as Fallujah. This has continued even into the disputed territories. The US can stop this by extending military protection. Recently however the PMF have declared the US military as the new targets and the leader of Sadr’s militia, Abdullatif al-Amidi, has called on the Iraqi parliament to force the removal of all US forces from Iraq.
In the end this will result in an eventual all out war in the Middle East. This war will not be confined to the current areas. As we have seen, Saudi Arabi has been pulled into the battle in Yemen and is under attack by forces trained and supplied by Iran. The leadership of Iran has also said that the next war will result in the destruction of Israel. Russia has already staked out its claim in Syria and Turkey is drifting rapidly into dictatorship set on recovering at least part of the Ottoman Empire (Mussolini was intent on reestablishing the Roman Empire.)
It is always hoped that war can be avoided but history has shown us that diplomacy works best when both side understand that there is a military option available and that the other side is willing to use it.