Showing posts with label Roger Carlton. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Roger Carlton. Show all posts

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Viral and veracity are very different words.

This post by Roger Carlton, columnist for the Graham Star newspaper in Robbinsville, NC. 

Don't get your dander up. This column is about the Roe in Roe v. Wade who recently passed away. 

The column does not take a position on the issue. That is for each of us to decide and for the courts to resolve in a civilized society that believes in the Rule of Law. What this column is about is the manner in which advocacy groups use and abuse the power of traditional and social media to make their case. 

Jane Roe's real name was Norma McCorvey. She was an abused child who spent years in a Texas reform school.  Her first child was born out of wedlock and raised upon court order by her mother. She wanted to terminate her second pregnancy. Rather than go to an abortion mill, she told her doctor that she had been raped in an attempt to have an abortion in Texas where the procedure was illegal. She was denied.

Two young lawyers, Sarah Weddington and Linda Coffee, took up her cause. They chose her to make the test case because she could not afford to travel to a state where the procedure was legal and because of her very difficult and sympathetic personal history. The Wade in Roe v. Wade was Dallas District Attorney Henry Wade. 

Norma signed the affidavit to file the case in March 1970 more than 50 years ago. The U.S. Supreme Court found in her favor in 1973 which was long after the baby was born and given up for adoption. So the plaintiff in this case never had the abortion she sought.

Many years later, Norma McCorvey went public in a giant media splash and said that she no longer believed that a woman should have the right to choose. She became the poster child for the Reverend Randall Terry and his Operation Rescue. She was their Oscar winning spokesperson. Norma knew she was being used and was a willing player because she was paid $456,911 as documented in IRS required annual reports for non-profits. These payments are called benevolence gifts.

The pro-choice movement was devastated. They had largely deserted Norma after the case was resolved because she wasn't pretty enough, said what she thought sometimes profanely and had a sordid reputation. Actresses and other spokespeople just played better in the court of public opinion and in the eyes of the media. Norma really resented this.

No story is over till its over. Nearing death, Norma recanted. She said that her change of mind was not what she truly believed. She said "Sometimes women just make mistakes." The media splash this time was not nearly as great, most likely due to the focus on Covid 19 and embarrassment over being duped.  She really believed that reversing Roe v. Wade would cause unthinkable chaos. That conclusion will become clearer as the many state Supreme Court cases are joined and wend their way to the U.S. Supreme Court.  

Friday, May 22, 2020

Live Long and Prosper...The New U.S. Space Force

Welcome our guest today, Roger Carlton, columnist for the Graham Star
Newspaper in Robbinsville, NC.

This columnist has great respect for the military. Our son-in-law is a graduate of West Point and served with honor in Iraq. I considered both Roy Bahr and Mel Greene to be friends. They served in the military and supported veterans till they both recently passed on. In balance, there have been many military mistakes and successes over the years. Our country remains free due to the military's heroic actions. In fact, our right to dissent has been protected by the military and that is very important.

This past week, the White House took great pride in announcing that a new branch of the military had been established. The U.S. Space Force now joins the Air force, Army, Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard. Just what we need in a time of multi-trillion dollar deficits, the highest unemployment rate since the Great Depression and a country torn apart in the debate between scientific management of the coronavirus pandemic and the politics of pre-election economic ruin. 

To go back in history, when President Kennedy gave his inaugural speech, he boldly went were no president had gone before by committing that we would put a man on the moon by the end of the decade. This was a response to the threat of the Russians who had gained an early lead in the space race. Sadly, President Kennedy did not live to see the delivery of his promise by the civilian National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) when we landed on the moon in 1969. 

The great debate that was settled by President Johnson and Congress was that the military would provide the astronauts and the civilian NASA would provide the technology and governance of the program. This was a partnership and not a competition. Space would be shared by all humanity as would the next 50 years of technological wonders. This has worked even to the point that Russia launches missions to the International Space Station from their Bakonur facility because we gave up the Shuttle program. The astronauts come from different countries and live together in outer space.

The Space Force tosses that successful history into a Star Trek warp speed black hole. The insignia is remindful of a combination Nike swoosh and Star Trek uniform patch. There are many questions to be raised about scientific research for all humanity versus military dominance. Budgets come to mind as does the need for efficiency and enhancing cooperation among the military branches. If there is a need for this new branch, certainly no case has been made to the American public by our political or military leaders. More specifically, are we sending a signal to the world that we are weaponizing the space program?

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Photo by Roger Carlton

Located on Lake Santeetlah facing south across the the lake using my Apple I-Phone 7. The time was around  6:30 am and the shot lasted for less than 10 minutes. The early bird catches the best image.


Roger Carlton is columnist for Graham Star newspaper. He was once a writing student of mine. He has developed a great eye for photography. I believe this view is from his lovely home on Lake Santeetlah in western North Carolina.

Roger says the Graham Star is using some of his photos on the front page of the newspaper. Who says life can't get better after retirement? Roger has found a new calling with writing and photography. He spent his working years in city management. We are happy to have him as part of Writers' Circle around the Table.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

We have all had our fill of COVID-19 news.

Enlightening words from Roger Carlton, columnist for the Graham Star newspaper.

The death tolls, monumental human suffering, acts of human kindness, heroic efforts to tame the beast and economic impacts on millions of unemployed workers will be in our memories forever. There is one more aspect that needs some thought. It is the "Effectiveness Trap" as expressed by Brett McGurk.

First, who in the world is Bret McGurk?
He is an American diplomat who has served in senior national security positions under Presidents Bush II, Barack Obama and Donald Trump. Most recently, he served as Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL. He is a Distinguished Professor at Stanford University.

It is pretty easy to conclude that he is a smart guy who has served presidents of both parties in a distinguished manner. Most importantly, he quit his role when the decision was made to pull out of Syria. That was a great loss to policy-making, but an ethical stand because he thought it was a terrible mistake.

The Effectiveness Trap keeps men and women from speaking out – as clearly or often as they might – within the government. And it is the trap that keeps people from resigning in protest and airing their dissent outside the government. It is one of the great moral questions for a senior government executive or advisor.

 It is the predicament in which Drs. Fauci and Birx find themselves daily in COVID-19 press conferences regarding the Administration's efforts to contain the medical, economic and political crisis with which their leadership is confronted.

 This columnist did not think much about the moral dilemma for these two heroic doctors, until they were confronted with how to react to the question raised regarding ingesting bleach as a potential preventative for the impacts of the virus. A simple "not a good idea" would have been the best answer in a normal world.

 But Washington is not a normal world and probably never has been. So the good doctors made the right moral decision and maintained their effectiveness for the greater good of our society. They did not quit in protest. These heroes just told the truth and maintained their leadership role. That is why we trust them. Their decision-making and recommendations come from scientific knowledge and unbiased concern ... not the politics of the moment.

We should all think about the effectiveness trap. When do you say, as immortalized by Johnny Paycheck in his 1977 hit,Take This Job and Shove It?
Here's the question. What did Johnny Paycheck know when he performed these lines 43 years ago?

 "I been working in this factory for nigh on 15 years.
All this time I watched my woman drownin' in a pool of tears,
 And I've seen a lot of good folks die that had a lot of bills to pay.
I'd give the shirt right offa' my back if I had the guts to say …"

Think about how you would end the verse as you go to the polls in November.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

From 26 to 2....the Democratic Presidential Candidates Have Dwindled

Thanks to Roger Carlton for this post where he gives his thoughts on the political situation of today. 
Roger is columnist for Graham Star newspaper in Robbinsville, NC.

Roger Carlton
Remember the ant and the rubber tree plant. 
That ant had high hopes and so did a whole bunch of Presidential candidates. In that popular song by Doris Day the ant moved the rubber tree plant because he had high hopes. So what happened to those political high hopes held by so many candidates of promise?

Let's start with the debate debacles: The format was horrible. Point counterpoint is no way to inform the voting public of the character of the candidates or the merit of their proposals. Raising your hand for recognition demeans the office. It is what elementary school students do. It would have been so much better to give each candidate five minutes to express their five top problems and solutions. Brief and to the point. Frankly it means nothing to this writer to hear what one candidate thinks about another. Would you expect a candidate to say that their opponent's position is better than their own?

The pundit debate monitors did a terrible job of focusing the issues and controlling the screechers. Half the debate time spent on Medicare for all and no questions about climate change and the explosive growth of mass murder borders on malfeasance by someone who calls themselves a journalist. In this environment, the candidate with the best one liners seemed to be heroic to the debate monitors and the candidate with manners and who followed the rules was labelled weak. Did anyone make their decision on who to vote for based on debate performance? Doubtful.

The billionaire factor. One candidate spent $250 million starting nearly a year ago with a single message. He was the best person to beat President Trump. Could you figure out what he would do once elected? Another candidate spent $500 million in a few weeks telling us his role as Mayor of New York gave him the credentials to be a good President. Probably true but his total of 20 minutes of debate performance negated a lifetime of business, philanthropic and political success.

Please keep one thing in mind. The total primary expenses through Super Tuesday were nearly $900 million. The money went mostly to media so this kumatai slugfest was a source of untold profits for the media moguls and their stockholders. No wonder the Wall Street Journal vilifies one of the candidates as being a Socialist without explaining what that means. To put the dollars into perspective more money has been spent so far than the taxable value of 80 percent of the property in Graham County.

With all due caution to avoid political incorrectness the gender, gay, racial and religious factors remain top of mind with many voters. Let's be honest. It took 143 years from the end of the Civil War to elect an African American President and it has been 100 years since women were granted the right to vote. While the two remaining candidates don't fit into the definition of diversity, let us hope that they will select a capable Vice President running mate who comes from one of the groups that made capable candidates available but could not put them across the line for the top job.

The fire in your gut concern. 
Many of the candidates had great resumes but bland personas. Bernie consistently railed against the oligarchs on Wall Street and the outrageous profits made by the medical companies. He wanted you to believe that the money changers needed to be thrown out of the Washington temple and he was the candidate to do that. Joe Biden said wait a minute. We can't afford all this. He was calm and did not point his finger at you. All the rest of the candidates fought for a place in the continuum of recognition by the media and failed to find a sweet spot. 

Finally, voters saw through the opposition dirt researching and did not hold a candidate responsible for some stupid behavior or slip of the tongue 30 or more years ago. Who among us hasn't said or done something that they regret. Joe Biden helped his son with getting a lucrative job for which he was unqualified. Bernie praised some political strongmen with whom he was enamored many years ago. Has not the current incumbent in the White House done the same for his children and their spouses? Does he not cotton up to the current strongmen of the world? 

All these factors taken together whittled down a broad and diverse group of candidates to two old white guys. 
Perhaps Darwin's theory of survival of the fittest best describes the primary process to date. There are a few more big primaries. It seems that all the debate smoke and mirrors will now pare down to who has the best chance to beat President Trump. Is that any different than four years ago when the question was who had the best chance to beat Hillary Clinton?  

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Do You Love Your Children and Grandchildren?

Guest post by Roger Carlton.

Say Whaaaat???? Have you gone crazy???? Of course, I love my children and grandchildren. I hug them. Listen to their problems and wipe away their tears. Feed them and care for them. I want to raise them to be good moral people. That columnist must have gone crazy to ask such a question.

Well, if you think I am crazy, that headline achieved its goal. It got your attention. This columnist really believes you love your children and your grandchildren, but you need to think about that love not just in the present. The future is just as important and you have the chance to show that long term love at the polls.

Here are some questions that you might think about to ensure a good future for your children and grandchildren:

  *   Does the candidate believe in protecting the environment or are they a climate change denier?
  *   Does the candidate respect people of all genders?
  *   Does the candidate have the patience and analytical ability to make key decisions that consider all the options?
  *   Does the candidate have the ability to compromise in order to get things done?
  *   Will the candidate have a moral compass that keeps him or her from doing things for their own personal gain?
  *   Does the candidate respect our rich history of accepting immigrants as long as that is done in a controlled manner?
  *   Will the candidate be able to control their desire for revenge when someone does not agree with them?
  *   Will the candidate be  bipartisan once in office?
  *   Will the candidate be able to draw honest, trustworthy, motivated and energetic people into their administration?
  *   Does the candidate believe in paying fair taxes?
  *   Does the candidate have a vision that defines a better world for everyone?
  *   Does the candidate extinguish fires or pour gas on them?

Early voting begins February 3rd and ends February 29th. Absentee ballots must be requested by February 25th and returned by 5:00 pm on March 3rd which is the day of the election. This is a primary election which winnows down the number of candidates for many offices. The final election is November 3rd. You don't have to vote for the political party in which you registered. The Elections Office can explain that to you.

Those are just a few questions to think about as you select a candidate. Thank goodness we live in a democracy and have the right to vote in a hopefully honest election. Please remember that you are selecting a candidate not just for today. Focus on the future for your children and grandchildren. Please don't squander your vote or decide not to vote at all.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Should Military Justice Be Different?

Roger Carlton
We welcome an article today by Roger Carlton, columnist for the Robbinsville, NC newspaper, The Graham Star. 

Military justice is different from civilian justice, and it should be.
 Fighting a conventional war like Vietnam or World War II is governed by the Geneva Conventions and Protocols which are 70 years old and basically designed to overlay the act of war with a degree of humanity. These are two concepts that are very difficult to align.

The United States has five military branches that are governed by senior officials that make up the Joint Chiefs of Staff who report to the Secretary of Defense and the President who is Commander In Chief. The Department of Homeland Security is also involved. The key point is that a civilian is at the top of the command chain. Oversight of the entire defense process including spending and declaration of war is provided by Congress through committees and eventual votes. At least that is how it is supposed to work to ensure a balance of power between the military and civilian authority.

Recently this extraordinary balance fell apart. 
It has happened before. President Truman had to terminate General Douglas MacArthur because he exceeded the authority granted by the Commander In Chief during the Korean War. Truman was no wimp. He made the ultimate decision to drop two atomic bombs on Japan to end World War II.

Recently a Navy SEAL posted pictures of himself with the corpse of an Islamic fighter.
After eight tours of duty, he was charged with many counts and served time in the brig. With long established military justice procedures followed, he was exonerated of all charges but one and sentenced to time served. That should have been it, but the White House decided to intervene. In fact, the President had ordered the Navy Secretary to release the Navy Seal from the brig which he declined to do. Such direct communication from the White House around the Secretary of Defense is highly unusual and violative of long-standing protocols. The Secretary of the Navy was dismissed after his own admitted mistake of not following the chain of command.

The Navy Seal had offered to voluntarily resign. The questions were at what rank since he had been busted down a rank, would his discharge be honorable or what is called "general under honorable" and could he keep his SEAL Trident pin. The Navy Secretary was told by the White House to restore his rank and give him the pin. These decisions should have been made by what is called peer group review. This means people make these decisions who have stood in the shoes of those in the line of battle and have broad perspective unvarnished by politics. Political interference instead resulted in the Navy Secretary being ordered to restore the pin.

This political interference in a tried and true process is enormously disrespectful of our military. 
We have the best military because they understand their role as guardians of democracy. Our military is highly trained, well equipped and disciplined. With few exceptions that are handled internally, these folks should be left alone to do their job. I learned from my own experience as a City Manager overseeing police chiefs for most cases of police discipline.There are exceptions to ethical conduct at the local level as well. However, I found it very difficult to insert myself into the decision-making process of someone looking down the barrel of a gun.

Let us all learn something from this. Keep politics out of a process that is damaged by interference. 

Follow chains of command until the situation has become so egregious that you have to go around the chain. Support the whistleblowers who have the fortitude to do the right thing. Have faith that the voters will see through the veil of toxic fog that defines our democracy today and do the right thing next November.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Have We Lost the Message of Thanksgiving?

We have a new column by Roger Carlton today. Roger is a columnist for the Graham Starr in Robinsville, NC. We enjoy his well-researched and well thought out words and ideas.

This is Thanksgiving and Roger gives us food for thought.

Regaining the Lost Message of Thanksgiving

When 102 brave Pilgrims aboard the Mayflower landed at Plymouth Rock in 1620, these intrepid travelers had no idea of the hardships they would face. By the end of the first winter only 51 survived.

If it wasn't for the Wampanoag Native Americans showing up in a friendly manner, the survival of the colony might have been in question. A festival of sorts lasted two days in which the Wampanoag and the Pilgrims shared venison, vegetables, beer and liquor. The men held games while each group struggled to understand the language  of the other. A treaty was struck which lasted nearly 50 years. 

This first get-together morphed into a variety of celebrations. The federal government was hesitant to name a national holiday because the original intent of the celebration was to give thanks to God for the positive events of the previous year. Many people objected to the federal government sponsoring a holiday that incorporated a religious foundation. 

The editor of a popular magazine "Godey's Lady's Book" campaigned for a national holiday. On October 3, 1863, during the height of the Civil War, President Lincoln proclaimed a national day of thanksgiving to be held on Thursday, November 26th.

President Franklin Roosevelt tried to help the Depression era economy in 1936 by moving the holiday to the third week of November thereby extending the shopping season. Thus began the commercialization of Thanksgiving. Many states refused to change the date and Roosevelt's attempt to boost sales failed after two years.

So has Thanksgiving morphed into nothing but a starting point on the Black Friday to Christmas Eve lunacy that the great American marketing machines have created?

I fear that is the truth. With appreciation for the many people who work hard to prepare a wonderful meal to celebrate the holiday, are there discussions regarding the benefits we receive from our threatened democracy? 

  • Are there thanks offered to a higher power which takes many forms in our diverse country? 
  • Are we rushing to complete the meal to beat the crowd seeking the Black Friday early deals at our local retailer? 
  • Do we ask how many turkeys the President will pardon politicizing even that great tradition.

We should all revisit the meaning of Thanksgiving and rejoice over the wonderful place in which we live.

Let's give thanks for what we have and what we can become.
My best wishes to all for the holiday season.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Impeachment Is A Complex Process

Many thanks to Roger Carlton, columnist for the Graham Starr Newspaper for another post this week. He gives us a clear picture of what is ahead. Roger lives in Robbinsville, NC.
Roger Carlton, guest writer

Whether you are an R, D or an I is unimportant. 
Whether you lean left or right or are in the middle of the political spectrum is unimportant. Whether you are for or against the wedge issues of today like gun control or right to life is unimportant. What is important is that our democracy is about to go through the torture of an impeachment process for President Trump.

This column is about the process of impeachment and draws no conclusions about the allegations made by a whistle blower regarding the President's conversation with his counterpart in the Ukraine. You will be able to decide for yourself as the process unfolds over the next few months.

Impeachment means that the President and other high federal officials may be removed from office as defined in Article 2 Section 4 of the Constitution for Conviction of Treason, Bribery, or other High Crimes and Misdemeanors.

What this phrase means is that the incumbent has abused the power of the office. The allegations made by the whistle blower and the transcript of a telephone conversation, which included the American and Ukrainian presidents, have caused House Speaker Nancy Pelosi  to end her recalcitrance and authorize the House Judiciary Committee to investigate. They can draw up Articles of Impeachment should the Committee so determine.

These charges must be crystal clear as to what laws are violated and must be written so that the American public understands what the alleged infractions are. There should be no hemming and hawing as happened when Robert Mueller testified regarding his probe into Russian interference in our election process.

The House of Representatives receives the Articles of Impeachment and then votes with majority rule to forward the Articles of Impeachment to the Senate which acts as judge and jury except in cases of presidential impeachment when the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court presides.

A two-thirds majority of the Senate is necessary to convict. The President is then removed and the Vice President takes the office. The new President then picks a Vice President who must be confirmed by both the House and the Senate. The new President and Vice President serve until the next general election which is in November 2020.

The American public is tired of all this partisan activity and now we will be confronted with a whole heap more of tired. Keep in mind that impeachment has been tried before. Eight Presidents have been threatened with impeachment and only two have made it to trial before the Senate.

Andrew Johnson, who became President after Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, was impeached over his attempts to fire Secretary of War Edwin Stanton. President Johnson failed to force the post Civil War southern states to allow former slaves to vote and other rights granted by the Thirteenth Amendment. Stanton openly argued with President Johnson. Congress passed the Tenure of Office Act to protect Stanton. The fight continued until Johnson's impeachment passed the House of Representatives and eventually failed in the Senate. Stanton resigned and the next President Ulysses S. Grant nominated Stanton to the Supreme Court. He was confirmed by the Senate but died four days later at the age of 55. Talk about irony.

President Nixon would have been impeached over the Watergate affair but had the good grace to resign prior to putting the country through the trauma. It has been alleged that Henry Kissinger brokered a deal that incoming President Ford would pardon Nixon if charges were brought and he was convicted as a civilian. President Ford did pardon Nixon for any crimes he might have committed. It cost Ford his re-election bid. 

 President Clinton's Impeachment over the Monica Lewinsky affair passed the House but failed in the Senate. So no President has ever been booted from office by the impeachment process.

One thing is for sure. This process will be ultra-political and the evidence and testimony presented will have only marginal impact on the ultimate decisions by both sides of Congress.

Educator Laurence J. Peter summed it up when he said, "Some problems are so complex that you have to be highly intelligent and well informed just to be undecided about them."

Let's  be both informed and patient as this nasty business unfolds the way the Framers wanted when they established the process more than 200 years ago.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Birth of Constitution Important

Roger Carlton, columnist for Graham Starr newspaper

This week the Constitution of the United States is 232 years old. 
The Constitution is the governing document that establishes the form our federal government takes and the powers and limitations on those powers. The original document was not meant to be rigid and was amended in a 10 Amendment Bill of Rights in 1789 two years after the Constitution was adopted. 

We are still arguing about the meaning of these rights such as limiting freedom of speech, the right to bear arms and the limitation on establishing an official religion. We even tried to ban alcohol in the Eighteenth Amendment and the failure of that approach to create a better world was mercifully repealed thirteen years later in the Twenty-first Amendment. 

Thirty-three amendments have been proposed by Congress and sent to the states for ratification and twenty-seven have passed. Just to show how our Congressional representatives think things need to change, there have been 11,770 proposed amendments during the past 232 years, and thank goodness, less than one-fourth of one percent have passed. Perhaps all these attempted amendments show why we have such busy courts.

Remember that the Declaration of Independence got the ball rolling in 1776 which has come to be known as Independence Day or the Fourth of July. I read that marvelous document in its entirety while writing this column. It is worth 15 minutes of your time to do this as well. 

Here are a few conclusions from my reading.
The bulk of the document is a long list of grievances against British King George II. Perhaps the most important grievance is embodied in the words, "A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people." 

Of equal importance are the words, "We hold these truths to be self evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness." 

Well, to further prove that the Constitution is a living document, it took a Civil War and the Thirteenth Amendment to end slavery and women were not given the right to vote until the Nineteenth Amendment which was approved by Congress in 1919 (100 years ago} and ratified by the States in 1920.

So, if we declared independence in 1776, won the Revolutionary War in 1783 and adopted the Constitution in 1789, how were we governed during those  years? 
There was an interim document called the Articles of Confederation which established an interim form of government. This document was adopted in 1777 but not ratified by the states until 1781. It is nothing short of a miracle that reasonable people could come to a series of compromises that carried us through the the Revolutionary War and the brief period until the Constitution was written during a long hot Philadelphia summer. There were 55 Framers and 39 were signers. The youngest was Jonathan Dayton (26) and the oldest was Benjamin Franklin (81). The average age was  forty-two.

Please join me in celebrating the birthday of the Constitution of the United States. 
The democracy for which it creates guidelines and the fact that the basic document cannot be changed without an amendment process has kept us together through the Civil War and numerous crises. The Preamble to the Constitution says, "In order to form a more perfect Union." The word "more" says it all. 

If the Framers wanted a static document, they would have left the word "more" out of the document. There were approximately 2.5 million people in the 13 colonies in 1776 and there are 330 million people in the United States today. We have a lot "more" work to do to figure out how to preserve and enhance democracy in today's complex times, but we have the foundation to do that in the Constitution.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Tariffs: Terrific or Terrible?

Roger Carlton, columnist for the Graham Star newspaper is sharing another of his articles with us today. We can learn much from Roger's insightful words. As writers, we cannot be fearful of what some readers might oppose. Writers are here to make the world think, to show others what they might have missed. Let us know what you think. 

There is no shortage of hot topics for this column. 

This week Hurricane Dorian has been top of mind as well as a new mass shooting in Texas. Politics and who told the biggest lie or made the biggest gaffe has kept the pundits and talking heads busy as they desperately try to fill 24 hour per day news cycles. Buying Greenland from Denmark was a big story that far exceeded the Louisiana, Alaska and Gadsden purchase coverage many years ago. In my view the story that impacts the most people in Graham County is the trade wars with China.

Let's see if we can agree on some definitions
A "tariff" is used to restrict imports by increasing the price of products or services. There are two types of tariffs. The first is product specific like a $1000 tariff on a vehicle made in another country. The second is ad valorem which means that the tariff is a percentage of the price of a product. In either case, the producing country does not pay the cost of the tariff nor does the importing company. The cost is passed on to the consumer eventually. No one in the producing company or the import and distribution chain is in business for charitable purposes. Costs must eventually be passed on to consumers or you go out of business.

"Free trade" means that goods and services flow without limitation between countries and "restricted trade" means that barriers or limitations are placed on the goods. The cons of free trade are that it erodes national sovereignty and encourages a race to the bottom in wages/benefits, worker protections are diminished and product quality erodes. The pros of free trade are that it encourages competition, lowers prices to consumers and forces companies to innovate. The risks of restricted trade are loss of jobs and market share in the country imposing the tariffs, the receiving country will retaliate with their own tariffs and a trade war may ensue. 

A "trade war" is when countries try to damage each other by targeting certain products that are key industries or have political clout which puts  pressure on the elected and appointed decision makers. A trade war began after the Smoot Hawley tariffs were enacted in 1930 to protect Depression era industries from foreign imports. It increased 900 tariffs by an average of 40 to 48 percent. This worsened already terrible economies in Europe and was a contributor to World War II as Hitler and Mussolini appealed to economically stressed people who needed someone to blame for their problems other than their own leaders.

"Intellectual property" is a key issue in the confrontation with China. This basically means that our patents and designs/processes are stolen by Chinese manufacturers. There are many cases of this and the cost to protect designs is so great that some companies find it difficult to compete with foreign manufacturers. "Anti-dumping" regulations means that foreign companies cannot sell in the United States at prices below those in their own country and if they do monies are paid into a fund to help the impacted companies in the United States. 

This is the true reason why the Stanley plant closed because Stanley received nearly $50 million in these dumping payments and only used $9 million to modernize the Robbinsville plant. Stanley lost a lawsuit on this issue and was required to pay back more than $20 million. The company management and directors decided to close the plant rather than pay back the money. The Chinese competition did not cause the plant closing. There is much more to this story but space does not allow a full account.

There is merit to acting tough in this trade war. 
Our negotiators certainly have the Chinese leadership's attention.The problem is that positions seem to change daily and the desired outcomes have not been explained clearly to those American workers and consumers who are impacted in their already skinny wallets and diminishing 401Ks if they are blessed enough to have one. Case in point. Agricultural exports to China were $24 billion in 2014 but will likely be below $3 billion in 2019. We deserve more than tweets and hollow accusations. Patience is wearing thin.

You might like to read other articles by Roger:

Let's Remember Lee Iacocca

Peter Fonda Passes of Lung Cancer at age 79

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Peter Fonda passes of lung cancer at age 79.

Today we have a guest post by Roger Carlton. He writes a column for the Graham Star newspaper. 

Sadly, this column has recently mourned the deaths of Senator John McCain and Lee Iacocca. Senator McCain was a Vietnam War hero and a political conservative with a strong sense of empathy. Lee Iacocca was a business leader who led the development of the iconic Ford Mustang and saved Chrysler from the brink of bankruptcy with the K-cars. You might ask why I would devote the same importance to Peter Fonda and that would be a fair question.

Image result for peter fonda
Peter Fonda and his sister Jane Fonda
Peter Fonda's father Henry starred in many great movies but the best was the 1940 movie version of John Steinbeck's "Grapes of Wrath." He played an undesirable ex-convict who had to lead his family from Oklahoma to the promised land in California to escape the economic hardships of the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression. At the end of this long drive in an old jalopy, they were stopped at the California border because the state could not absorb so many people, natives were afraid of the impacts of the uncontrolled influx and the cost of needed services could not be borne by the taxpayers. These American migrants were forced to stay in a holding camp. Is this starting to sound familiar? 

His sister Jane also made some wonderful movies including "Klute" and "China Syndrome." Her best movie, "On Golden Pond" was made with her father and was really a resolution of the very difficult life she and Peter had with their dad who was cold and aloof to his children and wife who eventually committed suicide. Please get over your distaste for Jane because of her ill-conceived trip to North Vietnam. That country is today one of our great allies and is profiting greatly from the trade war tariffs with China.

Peter's greatest contribution to cinema was 1969's "Easy Rider." The picture was made for $384,000 and earned $60 million at the box office. The cinematography of long scenery shots made you feel like you were riding the Captain America Harley chopper, the "Born to Be Wild" music of Steppenwolf and the first exposure to future super stars Dennis Hopper and Jack Nicholson all combined to capture the imagination of a generation broken-hearted by assassinations, news reports of hundreds of soldiers dying daily, the civil rights struggle and so much more. Peter took the money, became a recluse on an 80 foot yacht and finally made peace with his father in a wonderful picture called "Ulee's Gold" which was about an unhappy beekeeper who was forced to bring up his grandchildren and how that changed his life.

"Easy Rider" was a game changer for this columnist who was a college senior about to graduate the University of Florida and who was 1A in the draft. I saw the movie with friends. The ending when Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda were killed by some local folks in the swamps east of New Orleans who didn't like how these long haired hippies looked literally blew me away. Couple that last scene when the helicopter filmed shot pulls away as the motorcycles burn with another scene when Jack Nicholson's drunken college ex-football star turned unhappy lawyer character says "You know, this used to be a helluva country," and it is easy to draw a parallel with today's titanic struggles for the soul of America.

Great and memorable motion pictures capture the essence of transitional hard times. People who struggle to survive  fear the future either of their own accord or egged on by someone. This is nothing new and we are experiencing it today on steroids due to social media and 24 hour news shows. Watch the fifty-year- ago "Easy Rider" and join me in mourning the death of Peter Fonda. 

Roger appreciates your comments.