CHILD LABOR PRACTICES INTERNATIONALLY, AND THE ILL EFFECTS IT HAS ON CHILDREN AND THE SOCIETIES THEY LIVE IN

Contrary to popular belief in our country, child labor is alive and well in many parts of the world.  Africa, Latin America, Middle East, Asia and the Pacific are areas where the practice is most evident.  The one commonality that these countries have with each other is poverty.  Non-elite families in these countries have to scrape just to earn enough money for food, and starvation is often the alternative to either pressing their children into local labor or actually selling their children into some type of slavery.  It is a complex problem that tends to justify itself out of economic necessity.

There are numerous articles on this subject.  The estimates for how many children are participants in the child labor market vary widely.  From what I could find, they go from 100 million all the way to 218 million as of 2018, being that there is no official count of child laborers, so these are guesses.  Regardless, this is a major problem in 3rd world countries.  Poverty seems to generate this societal problem.

That is the crux of the problem, poverty.  Poverty drives the need for additional income.  The exploitation of children is a logical approach to acquire additional income, but the unintended consequences are severe.  When children are exploited in the workplace, they have a much higher rate of physical injury, due to the propensity to be put in dangerous job situations, and their lack of experience using dangerous tools and lack of PPE’s to protect their health.  Young children are put in a position where they can be permanently damaged physically which will have a direct relationship on their earning ability later on in life. 

In some countries, primarily in Africa, children are drafted into the military or paramilitary groups, with a high rate of mortality.  They also are often drafted into the international sex trade, subject to disease and early death.  Those that survive these conditions to adulthood are then saddled with serious mental health issues.

Child labor practices also preclude 3rd world societies from economic and social improvement.  Children engaged in work are not being educated and that perpetuates the cycle of poverty, with no way out.  This is the true moral dilemma of the practice.  With no way out of the cycle, poverty appears to be a permanent fixture in those affected societies. 

It is morally reprehensible for child labor to be a permanent fixture.  The big question is how to stop this vicious cycle and give these children and their countries the ability to advance up the economic and societal ladders to join the rest of the world in peace and prosperity.  We, as citizens in the 1st world can insist on our retail buyers to only source goods from companies that do not use child labor.  We can crack down on child sex trafficking and insist on children not being used in militaries.  That would put a dent in the problem, but the underlying reason for the practice, poverty, would not then in any way be addressed. 

Most if not all of these countries do not have the assets to fund adequate public schools, or to offer any government assistance to poor families that would be educating, rather than working their children.  It points to the need for the international community, possibly the United Nations, to have a dramatic push to assist these countries in developing their children through education.  Supplanting family incomes through food distribution in order to make it possible to educate children for the future, rather than to work them for present needs.  Only then would the international community have an impact on this problem.

Now the question is, will anything actually get done?  Most of these countries that embrace child labor are corrupt dictatorships or pseudo-democracies that would have little interest in change, unless it had a direct and immediate benefit to their income and power.  Chances are that any assistance, if offered, would not trickle down to those that needed it most.  With Nationalism on the rise, it would be doubtful that many countries would be interested in contributing to costly programs that would have little if any direct benefit to their immediate national interests.  With political leaders worldwide mostly focused on “short-term” interests, it is doubtful that this problem will be eradicated any time soon.

WHAT IS TRADE PROTECTIONISM, AND WHAT ARE THE ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL CONSEQUENCES?

Image result for pictures of protectionist trade

Trade protectionism are restrictions on the free flow of international trade, and it takes on many forms.  The intention is to protect a nation’s economic well-being.  It can take the form of tariffs to protect home industries from foreign competition by levying fines to make the outside goods less competitive.  It can be quotas, which are restrictions of certain goods that can be imported from other nations.  It can be subsidies, which are payments made by a government to a private industry, which can be direct cash transfers, lines of credit (low interest), or government ownership of common stock.  Governments can also impose local content requirements in order to internalize at least a portion of the manufacturing of the finished good.  Rules and regulations can also be put in place by governments to make it next to impossible for imports to enter the country.  Antidumping policies can be enforced to prevent other nations from selling their oversupply of goods at below the cost of manufacturing.  Currency manipulation is also a method of restricting imports while lowering the cost of a nation’s exports, much like what China does today.

All of these methods restrict free international trade, some for good reason, and many just to protect inefficient industry in their own country.  Politicians use reasons like “protecting our legacy industries” in order to sell the idea.  They also sell trade restrictions on the basis of national interest, protecting industries that support the military complex, thus making it a matter of national defense.  Administrative trade policies are often initiated on the argument that it protects the safety and health of consumers, and so to anti-dumping policies are also sold to the electorate as some sort of protection from unfair foreign competition.

The consequence is that consumers pay more for less.  The politicians that implemented these restrictions usually get re-elected because they did their job of selling the policies in question as a net “benefit” to the electorate, protecting health, safety, national defense, or a variety of other reasons left to the creative processes of these same political actors.  Other possibly unintended consequences are inflation cause by currency manipulation, trade wars, and infant or legacy industries that intentionally do not modernize for efficiency because of artificial protection.

Most economists believe that these types of protectionist activities do more harm than good.  Few economists agree with President Trumps contention that tariffs can be used exclusively for bargaining chips to eventually lower most if not all trade barriers.  Time will tell if President Trump is right, but so far, he has re-negotiated NAFTA to the mutual benefit of all involved, has China close to a rightly needed agreement on fair trade, and has the EU coming somewhat closer to the negotiating table.  If he loses this bet it could cost him the election in 2020.  A side-note is that congress has to ratify these re-negotiated agreements, and the Democrat House is refusing to put the re-negotiated NAFTA agreement on the floor for a vote in order to stop the President from having a political victory before the 2020 election.

ISRAELI/PALESTINIAN CONFLICT, IS THERE A REACHABLE SOLUTION?

Palestinians riot on the Gaza border, April 12, 2019. (Hassan Jedi/Flash90)
Palestinians rioting recently at the Gaza border April 12, 2019

In 1867, Samuel Clemens visited the land called Palestine.  He found it to be a desolate place, with very few humans and with lands devoid of any useful purpose.  In fact, his assessment was very insightful.  Palestine at that time was not a nation, but simply a place holder for the Ottoman Empire, where nomads traversed through, going from one point to another in the Middle East.  There were few cities and the area was lightly populated.  An Ottoman census at that time put the population of the area at approximately 400,000 souls.

In fact, there never was a Palestinian state.  The only self-governing state on that land was Israel itself before it was conquered, and up until 1948, the area was conquered and controlled by outside political actors, the last one being the British.  So, if there never was a self-ruled country called Palestine, what is this conflict all about?

This conflict is mostly about religion.  Sure, there are other factors like ethnic, national, and historical, but religion is the biggest stumbling block.  Both of these religions are apocalyptic.  Fundamentalists on the Islamic side believe that Jerusalem is the place where the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven, and therefore needs to be under Muslim control to protect its sanctity.  Likewise, Jewish fundamentalists are avid in their claim for the city, stating that the city is sacred to them as the original capital of historic Israel, and home to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall, both highly sanctified sites in Judaism.  From both fundamentalist sides of this conflict, Jerusalem is indivisible. 

We also have to explore the apocalyptic side of the conflict.  Muslim fundamentalists believe that Israel and Palestine need to be under the control of Islam before the end of days.  This is clearly stated in their Hadith, and implied in the Qur’an.  Likewise, Jewish Fundamentalists believe that the biblical land of Israel needs to be completely restored before their Messiah comes.  Once again, the nasty head of indivisibility rears its ugly head. 

Israel in the past has been amenable to a 2-state solution, but the Palestinians have not been interested.  Hamas has taken a hard line on this issue.  However, I believe that the Palestinians are overstating their adamance on this issue.  Jared Kushner is about to propose autonomy for the Palestinians, where economic concessions and self-governance will be offered them within the confines of the Jewish state itself.  His thought is that since both the Israeli’s and the Palestinians want the same land, this would be a suitable compromise.  This will have the full support of both Israel and the USA.  However, Hamas is funded by Iran, a fundamentalist country hell bent on the total destruction of Israel.  The plan, although given some support by Palestinians, has seen that same support fade with the announcement that the USA is building a new Embassy in Jerusalem.

Will cooler heads prevail, and give this new plan the attention it deserves?  In my estimation, probably not.  History looks to repeat itself with failure.  There are just too many obstacles to overcome.  Although fundamentalists on both sides are in the minority, their voices are loud and their actions can quickly turn violent.  Additionally, with Iran in the mix, success seems even less likely.

A NEW TRADE DEAL WITH CHINA: WINNING FOR EVERYONE

Map of China

I remember back in the late 1980’s, when I was a National Account Manager for a company that sold products to Home Centers, Big box retailers, and Paint stores.  At that time there was a big push to put all production into China.  The likes of Home Depot, Lowes, Walmart, Target and other big retailers had massive meetings with all their vendors, threatening to “knock off their products if they didn’t eventually produce them in China, and then pass the savings on to them”.   If it were humanly possible, companies formed partnerships with Chinese manufacturers and made their products in China, shutting down their domestic production operations.  This was commonplace, and was the only way for many companies to stay in business.

At the same time, other companies that made capital equipment, electronics and other types of products saw the advantage of using cheap Chinese labor to make their products and rushed into China to cash in on the cheap labor.  They had to transfer technology and form a partnership with Chinese firms to do so, and they willingly accepted the terms forced upon them.  They also thought that they were paying the price to enter what would potentially be the biggest market in the world, and that cherry was too enticing to pass up!

Chinese hacking was and still is in play.  The Chinese have stolen military secrets, including technology to build hi-tech military planes and warships.  They have also stolen product manufacturing information on many varieties of US products that have had great “value added” benefits in the marketplace.  They also have been paying American citizens in places of power for technology transfers, and this has been an ongoing theme.  The theft of American technology by the Chinese is epidemic, and has cost the USA as much as $600 billion annually, according to the Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property.

Obviously, something needs to be done.  Other administrations have avoided any confrontation with China for various reasons, but mostly because companies wanted the cheap labor to be more competitive.  It reached a point where we were potentially losing more than we were gaining and President Trump decided to act.  He did so in a very unconventional manner, using a strategy that he was firmly criticized for.  Many economists and Progressive politicians were firmly against using tariffs, and they painted dire consequences for us if he used this to promote behavior change with trade.

The President decided that he had to act.  He used tariffs to get the attention of China.  He realized that their countries economy was built by and remained tied to high growth that was the result of exports.  He applied targeted tariffs to products that would get their attention, and it worked.  They retaliated with tariffs of their own, but since the balance of trade was in their favor, their tariffs had little effect on our economy.  In retrospect, our tariffs had the opposite effect. 

Our imports from them are the most robust of all their trading partners.  We import almost $500 billion in goods from China, which is close to 20% of all their exports. (www.worldstopexports.com/chinas-top-import-partners)  The tariffs are starting to take their toll!  “Exports from China tumbled 20.7% year-on-year to USD 135.2 billion in February 2019, the most since February 2016 and far worst than market expectations of a 4.8% decline, amid weakening global demand, ongoing trade tensions with the US, and a series of lunar New Year holidays which started in February.”  (HTTPS://tradingeconomics.com/china/exports)

Contrary to the “experts”, this strategy is working.  China is hard at work negotiating a fair-trade deal with the US.  Trump says that this trade deal has “a very good chance of happening”.  “The hardest issues have already been resolved, but the two countries still have to hash out intellectual property theft issues and certain tariffs.  (www.cbsnews.com/news/trump-meets-with-chinese-vice-premier-liu-he-as-ttade-talks-appear-to-wind-down-live-stream-2019-04-04/)  Another site says that “Deal is close, enforcement is sticky point with China”.  (www.agweb.com/mmobile/article/more-trade-talks-with-china-this-week

It looks increasingly like this deal will pan out much the same way as the NAFTA negotiation.  Trade between the two countries will be fairer, and will most likely benefit both the US and China.  Bad practices on the part of China will be curtailed, and a sense of respect will be a requirement on both sides.  Intellectual theft will be curtailed, and no longer will there be a requirement for companies to turn over patented information in order to penetrate the Chinese market.  This has the potential for both countries to benefit, and with more economic intertwining, it will also dampen the march to a new “Cold War”. 

As a retired person, I don’t think this turn of events will have a direct impact on my personal life, but it will on my children and grandchildren.  With a fair-trade policy, and closer ties with this rival, my people will have the opportunity to thrive economically in this new environment.  They will also have a level of tension lowered, so that they will not necessarily worry about conflict with this growing powerhouse of a country that will be a big player with international politics in the future.  This is a great policy for America, and a great policy for China.  Everyone wins, and tensions are reduced.  I look forward to this deal coming to fruition in the next 4 to 8 weeks.

REFERENCES

www.agweb.com/mobile/article/more-trade-talks-with-china-this-week  “Deal is close, enforcement is sticky point with China.”

www.cbsnews.com/news/trump-meets-with-chinese-vice-premier-liu-he as-trade-talks-appear-to-wind-down-live-stream-2019-04-04/  “Trump says trad deal has “Very good chance of happening”.  By Grace Segers  4-4-2019  “Hardest issues already resolved, but the two countries still have to hash out intellectual property theft issues and certain tariffs.”

www.worldstopexports.com/cinias-top-import-partners  1.  US $479.7 billion in imports from China (19.2% of Chinese exports)

HTTPS://tradingeconomics.com/china/exports  “Exports from China tumbled 20.7% year-on-year to usd 135.2 billion in February 2019, the most since February 2016 and far worst than market expectations of a 4.8% decline, amid weakening global demand, ongoing trade tensions, with the US and a series of lunar New Year holidays which started in February.”

JUSSIE SMOLLETT IS NOT THE STORY, BUT A SYMPTOM OF SOMETHING MORE SINISTER.

The hallmark of the American justice system is the concept of “Equal Justice under the law”.  This means that all citizens are expected to obey the laws of the land, and those that do not are treated equally under our justice system.  This is a concept that sets our system apart from all others.  It was embedded in our constitution so that we would be a nation of laws, not just of men. 

The phrase “EQUAL JUSTICE UNDER THE LAW” is engraved in front of the Supreme Court building.  It is there because this concept is the backbone of our Judicial system.  The 14th Amendment of our Constitution addresses this concept in detail, and the Supreme Court has upheld the concept without fail for over a century. 

Something has gone wrong!  It seems that in the last decade, the concept has been eroding.  Just look at rulings from the 9th circuit court, the Trump “collusion and obstruction investigation” and the numerous lives ruined in this corrupt process, and the exoneration of Hillary Clinton in the face of her felonious activities.  It seems that if your connected you can literally get away with anything, but if you’re on the wrong side of the Progressive movement, you will suffer egregiously! 

This lopsided broken justice system needs to be fixed, and it needs to be fixed immediately.  Jussie Smollett needs his case to be reviewed by the Illinois Supreme Court and brought back to trial.  Prosecutor Foxx and her team need to be held accountable and charged for subverting justice.  In like fashion, all those that were complicit in exonerating Hillary Clinton need to be held accountable, as do all those that were responsible for the illegal and disastrous Trump Collusion and Obstruction investigation.

The stakes are just too high!  Our system needs to be fixed.  If it is not addressed and soon, the whole Justice system we count on for our society will crumble.  If we cannot count on equal justice, the American way of life is doomed.  Our nation cannot withstand this judicial anarchy.

In our country, “Equal Justice under the law” is not optional!  It is mandatory and needs to be upheld at all costs.  We need to bring order back into the system, and we need to do it now!

THE MUELLER INVESTIGATION, MEARLY ONE ACTOR IN A MUCH BIGGER PLAY!

I find it interesting that people are looking at the Mueller investigation as a separate event.  It was not, it was a part of a larger political shift that went awry.  That political shift started 11 years ago when a dark horse, a Manchurian Candidate was presented to the American people.  That candidate was Barack Obama, a one term Senator that came out of nowhere.  A half black, half white metro-sexual that took the political scene by storm, with slick marketing and a vague message of hope and change that somehow resonated with the majority.  He promised to “Fundamentally transform our system” and somehow that message was candy to our ears.  We did not hear any explanation for the change he was to pursue or the transformation he had in mind.  We were wrapped up in electing the “First black President”, a moment in history that as a society we could not pass up.  With few exceptions the media was extolling his virtues and money came roaring in to his election coffers.  Before we could catch our breath, we had a new President, one that was set on giving us something new and shiny, change and transformation that he had promised.

We were told to ignore the fact that his mother was an atheist and a leftist, his grandparents were leftists, and he was mentored by the likes of Bernadette Dohrn and Bill Ayers, both Weather Underground terrorists and Communist leaning leftists.  He was also mentored by Frank Marshall Davis, a known Communist radical.  We also were told that his relationship with the Reverend Wright, a USA hating leftist preacher was nothing to worry about.  We were told that he was a Democrat, and not someone that ran for state office in Illinois as a member of a Marxist new party, affiliated with ACORN.  There were many other warning bells ringing, but the MSM’s ignored them and we were told they amounted to nothing.  We now had this man in the office of the President of the United States, and he was all about bringing his promise of change and transformation to bear.

Fast forward 8 years.  The 2016 election is here.  President Obama has come to the realization that our government with its 2-party system and checks and balances is a tough cookie to transform.  It seems that each time he attempts to do something big, it is like pushing on a giant glob of jello, where it moves, but when the pressure is lifted, it bounces back to where it was in the first place.  It is apparent that it will take more than the 8 years he has had to do this “fundamental transformation”.  He needs to have a backup plan, and that plan is to give Hillary Clinton, a fellow Progressive the blessing and support to become the 45th President of the United States. 

Hillary is now running for President, and has the most money anyone has ever had to make this run.  Everything seems in place for her.  She even has wrested control of the DNC and uses that to effectively kill any competition in her own party.  She buries her nearest competitor, Bernie Sanders, with dirty tricks and so called “SUPER DELEGATES” that she lobbies in advance for their support, insuring she gets the Democrat nomination.  In most everyone’s minds, she is a shoo in to become the next President.

Something unexpected happens.  Instead of having a run of the mill Republican as her competitor for President, along comes Donald Trump, a billionaire that is not part of the political system, someone that does not have allegiance to anyone except the American people.  Someone that cannot be bought off, someone that cannot be controlled in any fashion.  The race is on, and all the rules have changed.  She is now in the fight of her life, a fight that she is destined to lose. 

She commissions a fake dossier from Fusion GPS, who hires Christopher Steele to work with the Russians to create this damning document accusing DJT of crimes that make him vulnerable to Russian influence if elected.  It also questions his moral center, implying that he is not fit for office.  The dossier is disseminated to all 16 intelligence agencies of the Federal Government and eventually the media, and is used to open up a counter-intelligence investigation against the Trump campaign.  This costed the Clinton campaign and the DNC millions of dollars, and was the hope that DJT could once and for all be damaged beyond repair. 

The Obama Administration, meanwhile, did everything within its power to eliminate any problems with Hillary’s various crimes.  Using the FBI and the DOJ, Hillary’s use of an unprotected private server for even Top Secret messages, her destruction of 30,000+ damning e-mails, destroying electronic devices and wiping out the hard drive on her personal server were forgiven.  In an unusual and illegal pardoning, James Comey, Director of the FBI actually made a public statement that there was nothing there, no illegal activity on the part of Hillary’s use of the server and destruction of e-mails and devices.  We were told by James Comey “that no charges are appropriate in this case.”  He did not have the authority to make such a statement, that was the purview of the Attorney General alone, but it was left to stand by the Obama Administration. 

It seemed the fix was in.  Trumps campaign was sullied by the fake dossier.  Intelligence agencies were monitoring his campaign with everything at their disposal.  FISA warrants were pulled and spies were inserted into his campaign to find damning information and to disrupt the campaign itself.  Hillary still had more money than Trump, and she was advertising at a rate that was never seen before.  The smart money was betting on her victory, a bet that was active until the last second of the election!

The American people were tired of the false promises of Obama.  We knew that Hillary would just be an extension of his lies.  To the surprise of the political pundits, Donald J. Trump was elected President of the United States.  There was shock and dismay on the left.  How could this happen?  They needed another plan.  A plan that would at best take this new President out, or at least insure that he would not be a 2 term President.  The insurance policy that they came up with was the Mueller investigation.  Surely, he with 12 seasoned partisan lawyers and 40 FBI agents, with an unlimited budget would find something, anything that would put this President, this big mistake down. 

That brings us to present.  In spite of their efforts they could not find any chargeable offense with the Trump campaign or the President.  They made the effort, even ruined many people’s lives trying to get them to give up something, anything disparaging about the President, but to no avail.  The irony is that their effort to put this President down has given him one of the greatest gifts he could hope for.  They gave him his honor back, and a big tool for him to use to guarantee a 2nd term!  It is interesting to note that when good men stand up to evil, they more often than not are the winners.  Our President is a winner.

THE IMPORTANCE OF CITIZENSHIP

The glue for any nation is its citizens.  A nation’s citizens are those that embrace the values of the nation.  They understand what constitutes the very essence of their nation, and are willing to stand and if necessary, suffer the ultimate sacrifice so that their fellows can live in the nation that they so love.  Every citizen is entitled to the rights and privileges of their citizenship, and they understand how valuable those rights are. 

In our nation each citizen has the obligation to understand the constitution that sets down the rules that we live by.  This document stands out above all others, and insures our liberty and freedom, and sets limits to what the role of government is in our private lives.  It is the document that has catapulted us beyond all other nations.  It is truly the reason why our nation stands alone in its greatness, both internally and on the world stage.

Our country has always been open to those from the outside.  Those that came here historically have come because they understood that we stood for liberty, freedom, and the right to pursue happiness based on their own efforts.  They knew that in America, everyone owns the fruits of their labors, and that there is an absolute right to buy and own your own property.  When they came, they knew that they would be required to embrace our laws, defend our nation, askew any other allegiance to another nation, and most importantly to learn and embrace our Constitution.  They also knew that to be American is to speak English.  This is what people did to become American, and yes, our country is the only one in the world where anyone with the right attitude has the ability to be one of us.  This cannot be accomplished anywhere else. 

Over the years the idea and the value of citizenship has been eroded. Many people now come here illegally.  They do not come for liberty, freedom, or the right to buy or own property.  They do not come here to become an American.  They come here because of our broken immigration laws, knowing we will let them in illegally and our social welfare system will take care of them from cradle to grave.  They do not embrace the value of being American, they keep their own national identities, their own languages and customs, even flying their own flags when invading our borders.  They are the anthesis of what our ideal immigrant has been.  They are no longer expected and pushed to be an American in the traditional sense, but once here, they are here to stay, and with anchor babies and chain migration, they become a larger, and a very parasitic part of our society. 

We also have a broken educational system.  Our primary and secondary public schools no longer teach students about Americanism.  Instead of reinforcing young minds to the greatness of America, teaching civics, how our government works for the people and the Constitution that is to guide them in that governance, they are taught about the evils of American society.  They are taught about slavery and how our nation held onto that horrific institution.  They are lessoned in how Americans stole their country from Indians and Mexicans.  Instead of being educated in the virtues of Capitalism, Socialism is embraced as the economic system that promotes fairness and equality.  They are indoctrinated in anti-Americanism.  They are falsely told that the rest of the world is more honorable and just than we are.  This has created generations of people that no longer value American Citizenship, people willing to tear down what we have to emulate the rest of the world, a fallen world that cannot compare to the advantage of being American.  They have not been educated to be citizens, they have been educated in anarchy.

With our broken immigration system, the devaluation of citizenship, and our broken educational system, we find ourselves in an unenviable position.  We find ourselves with some people in power that do not value our country or its values.  We have generations of pseudo-citizens that do not know the value of what we have, and listen to these new leaders when they discuss Socialism, Social Justice, and righting the wrongs of America.  We have the very illegal aliens that have come to our country for their “free ride” voting illegally with the nod of approval from these new leaders and pseudo-citizens, voting for Socialism and the destruction of our society.  We find ourselves in an untenable position, where our negligence has led to the possible overthrow of all that is American.

If we are to take our country back from the brink of extinction, we need to protect our borders, not only with a wall, but with laws that discourage illegal aliens from coming.  We need to close the loopholes that make it possible for them to come and live off our largess.  Not only eliminating loopholes they exploit to come in, but to eliminate any possibility for them to enjoy social welfare that they have never contributed to.  We need to strengthen our citizenship requirements, not only for those born here, but for those that wish to be American.  We need to come back to basics, or we soon will be just another failed nation in the annals of history. 

Lessons from the Shutdown: Why the Second Deal Worked

This article was co-authored by Bartholomew J. Timm and James Bailey

To understand why the deal on the government  shutdown and border security reached by Congress, and signed by the President, succeeded the second time, it’s a must to understand why it failed the first time. As Santayana extols, “those that ignore history are destined to repeat it.”  In today’s news cycle, a month ago is history. 

What did we learn?  The December shutdown threw, in sharp relief, the difference between what to do from what not to do. That poor practice can be as instructive as good practice.  That negative role models are as powerful as positive ones.  Frankly, failures are as, if not more, important than successes. 

A few basic principles. 

Negotiations can be convoluted and contentious and confounding.  But they don’t have to be intransigent. Ignoring three principles of well-established sound negotiation practice prevented the first negotiation from moving forward and resulted in a stalemate and the longest government shut down in U.S. History.  These concepts are deceptively simple:

1.     Binary positioning paints corners that are difficult to emerge from.

2.     Public proclamations are tantamount to playground bravado.  

3.     Principal players should let others do their talking until necessary

To the first point, toxicity was injected the moment that the President and Speaker drew a line in the sand (publicly, which we’ll get to).  President Trump stated he would not sign any budget that did not include $5.6B for a wall at the US-Mexico border.  Speaker of the House Pelosi immediately responded: “Absolutely no money for the wall, not even one dollar.”

This is a prime example of binary thinking: 1 or 0.  This “all or none” thinking and resultant  proclamations leads both sides to believe that the shutters have closed and neither party can pry them open. Wall or No Wall. $5.6Billion or Not $1. Government shutdown or no government shutdown. State of the Union address or no Address.

Yet we know there are a myriad of options between these dichotomies. Take the largest stumbling block, “the wall.”  There could have been some “physical barrier,” language that the president advanced but that gained no traction. It could have been allocating funds for “advanced technology” at legal entry points where most narcotics and their derivatives like fentanyl, find their way into the country.  These were prevented from being part of the first negotiations because of binary thinking.

Common ground involves identifying terms in a mutually acceptable manner.  Words matter.  If parties can agree to what certain terms mean, progress is guaranteed.  If not, at the very least they must agree that those terms may be modified.  Border security, the “wall,” even illegal immigration, are terms that, if agreed upon, provide a linguistic base for progress.  There is an old saw that “you can’t solve a problem you can’t define.”

Inherent in the term, “partial government shutdown” was the notion that it is not binary; yet all the discussions were about government being open or shut, as if those were the only available options. Some members of both parties suggested that more of the government could be opened, but the principals at the public negotiating table only talked in binary terms.

This brings us to the other two lessons we can learn from the first failed negotiation. 

Exacerbating the problem of binary thinking, is when principals of the opposing parties make public proclamations about what is, or is not, an acceptable outcome. This public posturing created the risk, and inevitability, of the shutdown. Not only did they fall prey to binary thinking by defining just two options, but by doing so in public they made it that much more difficult to step back from, or alter, positions. Let’s call this self-cornering.  Unwittingly, they were publicly wedded to an outcome that did not seem to be feasible. What may have been intended as a starting point for negotiating become a line in the sand.

In negotiations, in business or in government, public proclamations should be in the vaguest of terms. In this case, loosely defined platitudes like, “We would like the most secure border we can achieve at this time” or “We want open arms with a balance of secure borders.” would have been interpreted by both sides and the media differently.  That’s the point; because they are not well-defined, there is room for the parties to actually negotiate and change position without losing face or risking public condemnation for hypocrisy. Some people call this diplomacy, which seems to have worked well for the last century or two.  We’re not talking about “waffling”, but rather keeping avenues open so that all options that serve the greater good can be validated. 

By negotiating in public, both sides were trapped by their promises to far ranging constituencies that could not be backed away from, and they were forced to dig in deeper. Just like boys posturing in the playground, publicly proclaiming “double-dog dare you”, leads to escalating commitments that severely limit movement.  It became about positions, not resolutions. About saving face instead of saving grace. In addition to creating expectations, public statements are reputational, and can have long-term consequences, like the longest government shut down in history.

This leads to the third point: principal players laying low until critical moments.  President Theodore Roosevelt, and President Jimmy Carter both earned the Nobel Peace Prize for helping overcoming intransigence on the part of world leaders. Before the Treaty of Portsmouth in 1905, Tsar Nicholas II Emperor of Russia publicly drew a hard line regarding any territorial concessions.  The Empire of Japan drew an equally hard line regarding their interests in Manchuria and Korea. President Teddy Roosevelt offered to act as an intermediary and in three weeks, in 12 sessions, was able to negotiate a peace agreement. He did this by negotiating privately, not with the two Emperors, but with delegates.

In 1978 President Anwar Sadat of Egypt publicly expressed his positions on a number of items and his disappointment with Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, who likewise spoke openly of his positions and disappointment. President Carter requested and obtained a summit meeting which re-opened dialogue. After the Camp David summit the negotiations did not involve the leaders interacting directly, but most often through President Carter or others, often sprinting between cabins at Camp David. 

Violating these three simple principles are why the December calamity failed and the February one succeeded.   A bit of chronicle displays how the process was righted. 

First, the President and the Speaker fought but then compromised on a secondary issue: having the State of the Union Address. These weren’t huge compromises, and they weren’t long-term – but they were a start, and signaled the possibility of compromise on the primary issue of  border security.

Second, they withdrew from conducting the negotiations publicly and put together teams to develop tangible outcomes. The vocal demands of the President and the Speaker were part of the negotiations; they were still present, but they were no longer omnipresent. These teams were able to explore alternatives without the glare of public spotlight, and with few if any of the details made public. When negotiating, the less said publicly, the better.  

Third, the teams worked in relative anonymity, which greatly helped the process. As Harry S. Truman famously quipped, “A great deal can be accomplished as long as you don’t care who gets the credit.”  With public egos out of the way an agreement could be reached that belongs to both sides, and to neither side.

We can see that the two negotiations contrasted with each other and with the positive outcomes achieved by Presidents Roosevelt and Carter, show that having the final decision-maker at a public negotiation table is almost always a very bad idea. The President and Speaker are prideful creators.  Legitimately so.  But pride is an emotional thing that obscures the logic of reconciliation.

Thinking beyond binary options, not committing oneself publicly, and delegating details to third-parties are just common sense.  Principles are not compromised in doing so.  Rather, they are realized to advance the common good.  We don’t pretend to pass judgment on the President or Speaker or Republicans or Democrats, or the press. Our goal is identify ways to fix the problem, not fix the blame. 

It’s natural to think in ones and zeros.  Doing so makes the world simpler and linear. Telling others what you’re going to do is a form of braggadocio that is stuffed with self-importance.  Removing yourself from the details is an act of surrender that’s hard for anyone who craves control, as do the principals in this crisis. 

“Common sense ain’t common,” says Will Rogers.

We’ve offered just three lessons.  None of them are mysterious or difficult to implement.  Applied in the second negotiations, they led to resolution.  Agreements are not stumbled upon or discovered like continents or planets.  They are made.  And the way they are made matters. 

Bartholomew J. Timm is a retired professor of management at George Washington University and Georgetown University
James Baily is Professor and Stacy and Jonathan Hochberg Fellow of Leadership Development at the George Washington University School of Business

THE SUPREME COURT IS FAST TRACKING A VERY IMPORTANT ISSUE!

Standing in the top row are Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch, Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Associate Justice Elena Kagan

The Supreme Court today did something very unusual.  They decided to take up the issue of citizenship on the upcoming census.  Why is that so unusual?  It is unusual because they are bi-passing the 2nd District Appeals court, a move that they have not done since 2004.  They did this because there is a very big constitutional question about how the census is being used.  The Trump Administration contends that not asking the question “Are you a citizen” inflates the numbers of people in Congressional Districts, people identified erroneously as legal citizens. 

There are between 20 and 30 million illegal aliens in our country.  There are over 37 million legal green card carrying aliens in our country.  That means there are somewhere around 60 to 70 million aliens in our country, none of which should be counted as people (citizens) in the census.  That is very important for a number of reasons, reasons that many American citizens are just now starting to understand.

There are 435 Congressional Districts today, with each one representing approximately 711,000 people.  These districts have the ability to elect 1 congressman per district.  Congressional districts also have a direct role in how the Federal largess is redistributed throughout our nation.  That includes funding for many social programs, infrastructure programs and a host of other programs in each district.  Every 10 years a census is done by the Federal Government to determine among other things, what the population of citizens is in each district, to determine where new districts should be formed, and where older districts with population decreases should be retired. 

Doing the math, there could be as many as 84 congressional districts just with the alien population as it stands today.  We know that many illegal aliens do not historically participate in the census, so it is unlikely that figure would stand.  Many legal aliens do.  Regardless, states with a high number of aliens of all stripes benefit from the count, with California alone it is estimated that between 5 and 8 Congressional Districts would be at risk if the alien population was not counted as citizens in the census.   New York State could lose as many as 5 seats.  New York alone would lose as much as 7 billion federal dollars, and California as much as 15 billion dollars.  The stakes are high for blue states that offer sanctuary to illegals, and they are horrified that the Supreme Court may rule that the citizenship question may be upheld!

Another reason to be concerned is that by allocating congressional districts according to aggregate population as opposed to the population of citizens, it gives aliens, those whose voices should not be heard at the ballot box a voice in the direction of our country. This is not only unconstitutional, but it is an affront to our political system. Our system is a Democratic Republic, where citizens alone are represented by elected officials. Nowhere in our Constitution is there a provision for foreign nationals to have a voice in the direction of our country. With the broken way the census is conducted, that is exactly what is happening now.

The ACLU is speaking up on this issue: “Adding a citizenship question to the census would cause incalculable damage to our democracy,” Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, said in a statement Friday. “The evidence presented at trial exposed this was the Trump administration’s plan from the get-go.”  ACLU said the district court found that Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, New York and Texas face a “certainly impending” or “substantial risk of losing a seat” in the House and that numerous states would “lose funds from several federal programs” if the citizenship question is included. 

Nancy Pelosi issued a statement today, showing just how important this issue is. “The Census is a pillar of our democracy, ensuring that all are equally counted and represented.

“As the district court found, the Trump Administration’s efforts to add a citizenship question to the Census would obstruct Congress’s constitutional responsibility to carry out an ‘actual Enumeration’ of the ‘whole number of persons in each State’ and maintain oversight of this cornerstone of our democracy, according to the Commerce Department’s own administrative record and calculations.  It found further that the Trump Administration’s proposed citizenship question violated procedural and substantive safeguards established by law.

“The House’s amicus brief articulates the compelling interests behind the accurate and complete enumeration of the Census:  the House’s own institutional integrity.  The Trump Administration’s efforts to compromise the Census would jeopardize the accuracy of the apportionment of the House, as well as the allocation of federal funds to states and localities, undermining the integrity of the Congress and its ability to represent and serve the American people.

“The proper conduct of the Census requires that the district court’s ruling be affirmed promptly to ensure the integrity and timely execution of this vital institution of our democracy.”

Many other politicians from blue states are also speaking out!  They are terrified that our Presidents Supreme Court picks will tip the court to uphold the constitution.  If that happens they will be left holding the bag for the cost of their ill-advised decisions. Will Chief Justice Roberts go with upholding the constitution?  Will he once again be the “swing vote” to uphold the lower courts ruling?  Time will tell, but it is not a slam dunk, and if the lower court is upheld, count on the blue states winning with more Liberal congressmen and more federal money in their pocket.

Bottom line folks is that the Democrats rig the system, and get illegal votes, inaccurate census counts, and that is how they get more people in congress. That is how they get more money to take our system down. That is how they retain power.

MADURO OUT!

The dictator Maduro has been put on notice.  The USA just shut off their money supply, and also effectively shut down their oil industry, their only real source of capital.  Canada, USA, Central American countries, All countries in South America except Uruguay and Bolivia, The EU, Australia, and others are backing the head of the Venezuelan Legislature, Juan Guaido as the rightful President of Venezuela. 

The people of Venezuela are starving, and the inflation rate is now over 8000% and rising.  The promise of Socialism turned one of the richest countries in the world into a living nightmare, incapable of even feeding its people.  The corruption is rampant, and those that actively support Maduro are the only ones enjoying the largess of their once great oil industry.  This jewel of South America is now just a shell of what it once was, and the people are in the streets screaming for change. 

Maduro refuses to step down or hold new elections to certify his standing as President.  He has the military at his side, along with 25,000 Cuban military and Russian mercenaries to ensure that he is not deposed.  He also has the blessings of Turkey, China, Russia, Syria and Iran, who in lockstep promote him as the legitimate leader of his country, and at the same time Russia threatens the USA about the use of military force in what they call an illegal and immoral coup.  Uruguay, Bolivia and Mexico pay lip service to the legitimacy of the Maduro regime. 

Russia and China have a lot to lose if Maduro is ousted.  Both countries have lent the regime billions of dollars, money that likely will not be paid back by a democratically elected government.  Both countries also have a strategic investment in the regime.  China is looking at Venezuela as a prime supplier of oil to power its economy, and both Russia and China are moving towards using Venezuela as a prime source for instability in the region.  They want to minimize our sway over the Western Hemisphere, and keeping Maduro in power is a big part of that plan.  Russia also needs their own oil revenue to fund their government, and a free Venezuela with foreign investment in their oil fields, which have the largest amount of proven oil reserves in the world, would decimate the Russian economy with lower oil prices. 

Our President is supporting regime change.  He has stated that all possible actions are on the table, including the military option.  The new Cold War between Western Democracies and the China/Russia alliance just got warmer!