Category Archives: opinion

Donald Trump’s Advocacy Without Inquiry

We have all met folks whose opinions are not flexible. Discussing things with these folks usually leads to argument. It gets personal. and nothing gets resolved.

The problem is wide spread. And it is easily resolved. Lafley and Martin bring out the solution in their book “Playing to Win”. They write

In any conversation, organizational or otherwise, people tend to overuse one particular rhetorical tool at the expense of all the others. People’s default mode of communication tends to be advocacy  — argumentation in favor of their own conclusions and  theories, statements about the truth of their own point of view.

They suggest a different form

The kind of dialogue we wanted to foster (at Proctor and Gamble) is called assertive inquiry. Built on the work of organizational learning theorist Chris Argyris at Harvard Business School., this approach sincere expression of your own thinking (advocacy)  with a sincere exploration of the thinking of others (inquiry). In other words, it means clearly articulating your own ideas and sharing the data and reasoning behind them, while genuinely inquiring into the thoughts and reasoning of your peers.

How do you do that?

To do this effectively, individuals need to embrace a particular stance about their role in a  discussion. The stance we tried to instill … was a reasonably straightforward but traditionally underused one “I have a view worth hearing, but I might be missing something.”

We are all good at assertion. We are less practiced at inquiry. But if we want to do exchanges at the highest possible level, that is a skill that we must master.

So what about Donald Trump? Have you ever wondered where his opinions come from? What is the basis for his conclusions? Sometimes he refers to facts — which are often false. But he NEVER leaves room for inquiry. There is never any opportunity for LEARNING.

For this reason alone, the sooner we can get beyond this dude, the better. We can do better and we need to do better.

Shotguns For Everyone!

No one ever accused Wayne LaPierrer of being a moderate. That was clear several years ago just after Sandy Hook, when he passionately claimed guns had nothing to do with the massacre.

And he said this

“There is no greater freedom than to survive and protect our families with all the rifles, shotguns and handguns we want,” LaPierre said in 2014.

Hmmm … in other words the best we can get from life — the most freedom — is just to “survive and protect”? That suggests that the world outside is very dangerous indeed.  And it is so dangerous that we cannot even entrust our survival and protection to police. We have to do it ourselves.

Where does this bizarre fear come from?  I could perhaps understand this as a holdover form 9/11. But the reality is that since 9/11, the police, security services, and military have done the heavy lifting in defending us. We have not had to resort to blasting terrorists with shotguns just to survive.  And based on results alone, US security services seem to have done a good job for us (I leave out whether they have injured others).

So why don’t we trust them?  Why do some persist in thinking that only they can defend themselves with their own guns`?Think about it for a moment. Even if the danger were so severe, would we rely primarily upon individuals who often lack basic training in  armed combat? Would that be our first line of defense? Of course not.

And btw, that is what the founding fathers decided when they tried to rely on “guys with guns” (the militias) to fight the war of 1812. It was a disaster, so they started using professional troops, which, BTW, eliminated the main purpose of the Second Amendment to the Constitution.

It says

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Get that part about a “well regulated militia” being necessary for security? That was the conventional wisdom back in 1776. It proved to be wrong.  A well regulated militia is not necessary for the security of a free state. That is why we have the army, navy, air force, etc.

So why can’t these folks see that they are bonkers? Here is the good news. While they may not see it, a lot of other folks do. And I believe this is re-shaping American politics.  The grown ups in the room are starting to realize that they have lost control, and they want it back. This, I think, is the reason why we are seeing the huge amount of protest since Trump took office.

My guess is that Mr. LaPeirre knows this and is frightened by the prospect that grown ups may start asserting themselves in policy decisions. He probably realizes that Trump has pushed things too far into bizarroland and a lot of folks want out. So Mr. LaPeirre is doing what you would expect him to do. He is trying to deligitimize the protesters, suggesting that they are paid for left wingers. Ah well, These are strange times. And let’s hope that they are short lived and the grown ups start having their say.

At last some sanity on gun control?

Perhaps it is just me, but I thought that the US Supreme Court judgment  for the majority  in D.C. v. Heller was bonkers. Justice Scalia wrote that opinion, which appears to take an “originalist” view of constitutional interpretation.  But when you read the text, it is mainly about grammar – not history. So I would question whether it is in fact of that school of thought at all.

Since then, the US has seen an ongoing series of gun related violence, with all too many mass shootings. The situation seemed to be hopeless. That is until the fourth circuit issued its judgment in Stephen v. Kolbe that says perhaps the second amendment is not that insane. Here is the first sentence of that majority opinion

On the morning of December 14, 2012, in Newtown, Connecticut, a gunman used an AR-15-type Bushmaster and detachable thirty-round magazines to murder twenty first-graders and six adults in the Sandy Hook Elementary School.<

Finally someone has had the guts to say what so many have been thinking. A civilized society cannot stand for this type of violence perpetrated solely because of open access to military grade weaponry. The state must have the ability to ban assault rifles. from private use.  And while this is open to further political debate, we should agree that  the words of the men who founded the country two hundred years ago do not stand in the way of that debate.  they were not nuts.

Amen brother!

Time to Attack Sweden?

For some years now, Sweden has stood out  in its willingness to accept refugees. The Swedes argue that this should be the norm. But the reality is that they have been more open than most. And, this means that hard line anti-immigrant would love to see Sweden’s policy unravel.

Enter Donald Trump, with his regular blast of hot air. Relying on a Tucker Carlson Fox interview, Trump asserted that Sweden basically is now a war zone.  He said

“You look at what’s happening in Germany. You look at what’s happening last night in Sweden — Sweden — who would believe this? Sweden, they took in large numbers, they are having problems like they never thought possible. You look at what’s happening Brussels, you look at what’s happening all over the world,”

 The White House tried to walk this back,  because there were no events “lost night” in Sweden. Their spin is that Trump refers to the series of violent events that have taken place over time – not a single incident.

So what is going on there? City Hub takes a look at the city that has been at the center of the controversy – Malmö.

… Malmö’s violent crime figures would make the mayor of an average American big city weep with longing. With 12 murders in 2015 among a population of 342,000, Malmö’s murder rate is two thirds that of Western Europe’s real murder capital of Glasgow, and half that of Los Angeles. By contrast, Washington, D.C., has a murder rate almost seven times higher, while the rate in St. Louis, Missouri is just under 17 times higher. In relatively safe Sweden, those 12 murders are still cause for rightful alarm, but as this piece makes clear, Malmö’s crime figures aren’t just low compared to most American cities—they’re not even the highest in Sweden.

So no war zone. Of course, AFTER Trump shot his mouth off, there was a riot in Stockholm.  Thanks Donald!

What if Donald Trump Just Wants More Money?

The Trump presidency has not been without its dramas. Indeed, one might be excused for thinking that creating daily drama has been the motivator for many of its decisions.

Here is my speculation – Trump wants to create as much turmoil as possible. Why? I think we can rule out that he is doing it because he is crazy. He may be overly narcissistic, but I do not believe that he is irrational. If he is not, there is a rational explanation.

Most likely it is to distract attention. To anchor us onto the daily drama while the important stuff goes less noticed. And what could that important stuff be? I do not think that it is political. Trump is aware that he is alienating the majority of voters with his endless messtoids from the White House. Indeed, it is not inconceivable that Trump is purposely fanning the flames in order to get kicked out — at the right moment.

if it is not political, the next best option is that it is financial.  So let’s say that he is in this for money. It has to be big, big money to make all this worth while. Not just a few more hotels and golf courses, though those are nice. Something really, really big.

Where could he get his greedy little hands on that kind of dough? It would likely be oil money. There is less control over where international flows of oil money go. So who will give it? There are not that many candidates.

Russia, a la Putin, is the main candidate. Putin wants stuff from the US that as president, Trump may be in  a position to deliver.  Putin wants influence in Ukraine and an end to sanctions. And he wants to weaken NATO. And in return? Well, let’s just say that Putin controls the oil wealth of his country — which is considerable.

This may be why we hear yet again about backroom efforts to do a deal with Russia.

It might not because it would be a good deal for the US or Europe or Ukraine. But it could be THE deal that would make Trump one of the richest dudes on the planet. After that, who cares about the presidency?

What do you think?

From Kert Davies at HuffPO

Thus the signs of a possible arrangement: The Trump and Putin camps are acquainted. Putin helps Trump become president. Trump ends the sanctions that are holding back Putin’s economy, especially the Exxon-Rosneft deal. That the two men seem to share a love of autocratic government, of pressuring the media and judiciary to do their bidding, and of mingling their financial interests with their government power, does not lessen concerns that such a corrupt deal has been taking place in front of our eyes.

The World Has Not Ended!

But while the world has not ended, a gorgon may be upon us! Gorgon? Yes, if you are not aware, or do not recall what a gorgon is,

The Gorgons were two monstrous sisters whose bodies were covered with impenetrable, grey, foul-smelling scales, and whose hair was made up of living snakes. And the description just gets worse from there; they had hands made of brass, tusks erupting from the sides of their mouths, sharp venomous snake’s fangs and climbing up on the gross-factor, they both had scraggly, unkempt beards dangling down from their scaly chins. Yep, beards. Hanging out of their mouths were black, lumpy tongues that spoke of death and rot. And just when you thought this vision of pure slimy grossness couldn’t get any nastier, the sisters had slitted, yellow snake’s eyes that could turn any living being into stone just by making eye contact with them. Makes even the worst wake-up-get-ready Monday look pretty good when you think about what the Gorgons had to work with!

The most famous gorgon of course, was Medusa. She had been a beautiful young priestess in a temple dedicated to Athena. But Poseidon fancied her, and being a god, he thought nothing of forcing himself upon her, thus defiling the temple. Athena was furious! Apparently, she felt that the young priestess was to blame for this defilement, and so she turned the young girl into, yes, a gorgon, and deposited her on a deserted island. Indeed, Athena had quite a temper!  Medusa hung out there, gaining quite a nasty reputation for her deadly stare, and for rarely cleaning the place. Later, Perseus  would  find a use for Medusa’s head and so he lopped it off and deposited in a sack that he carried around.









I go through this history to provide some background to Donald Trump’s recent press conference and subsequent tweet. At his press conference, President Trump lost his mind. He thought he was in control. And his obviously misplaced self assurance made things much worse.

What caused this? My own theory is that as he got started, Trump had a vision. The vision was that gorgons were returning to life. They were coming to claim him! They are the press! Looking into their eyes would be the kiss of death. And so, he reasoned, one must deflect and demur, dodge and parry! One cannot be honest! Ever! And with these thoughts foremost in his mind, Trump behaved in a most peculiar manner. Again, he thought he was being clever. He thought that the audience would see that the room was full of gorgons. But to those not aware of his inner torment,  and not aware of the gorgons before him, Trump looked quite mad..

BTW, this is a rather historic moment. Historic because Donald Trump belongs to  s rather historic group of people . Donald Trump belongs to that segment of society who believe that modern capitalism has no dark side. They want  their unlimited energies to be unleashed! There is nothing to fear! There is nothing to fear, especially, when republicans control all levels of government!

As Sir Kenneth Clarke informs us, this energetic attitude was germinated in 17th century Holland, and with the restoration of Charles II to England. it took root there.  Science and poetry had not yet been estranged from each other. European man saw no limits to his scientific, and industrial potential. He was full of curiosity and ambition.  This led to the industrial revolution, and heroic materialism, and eventually to Donald Trump. Donald Trump believes in the ascendancy of this group!

But then suddenly Trump had visions of gorgons besieging him! He lost it during an important press conference. That night, he tweeted that the press is the enemy! He is quite sure that the press are gorgons returned to afflict us all! To ruin the wonders that his brand of crony capitalism could create! We all must be warned!

But there is a deeper level  still to Trump’s thoughts. He is only dimly aware of this deeper level as he stares approvingly in the mirror. The deeper level whispers to him that he was the maiden in Athena’s temple. He has become the gorgon, Medusa. And worst of all, Perseus is coming.

Stay tuned!

The This is Not a Rant Rant

From the president

“Tomorrow, they will say, ‘Donald Trump rants and raves at the press,'” he said. “I’m not ranting and raving. I’m just telling you. You know, you’re dishonest people. But — but I’m not ranting and raving. I love this. I’m having a good time doing it. But tomorrow, the headlines are going to be, ‘Donald Trump rants and raves.’ I’m not ranting and raving.”

Hmmm … that was yesterday, and today, surprise! The press is reporting that the Donald was indeed ranting and raving. And of course, he was. Or perhaps a better word for it is “venting”. Trump couldn’t help himself from “letting it all hang out”.

And what hung out was a lot of nonsense. His misstatements are not just slips of the tongue. don’t believe me? How about this

After one of the numerous attempts by reporters to get Trump to answer questions over his ties with Russia, the president – unprompted – brought up the possibility he could order an attack on a Russian spy ship in international waters off the US coast. But to do so, he said, would not be good for relations with Moscow.

“The greatest thing I could do is shoot that ship that’s 30 miles off shore right out of the water. Everyone in this country’s going to say ‘oh, it’s so great’. That’s not great. That’s not great. I would love to be able to get along with Russia.”

huh? Everyone would say that is great?  You get the idea. The question is how will we deal with the fact that the president has lost it. … if he ever had it in the first place.