On the Common Good

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Common good is at the center of any and all relationships involving two or more people. Although organizations embrace common good when developing a mission statement, putting it into action is easier said than done.

As a concept, common good may be easy to define as the benefit of society as a whole, but developing a meaning in today’s complex society would be difficult. After all, common good engages philosophy, morality, economics, culture, politics, religion, and more while having different meanings to different people and different groups. Even the Preamble to the US Constitution states, “… promote the general Welfare and secure the blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.” Is this statement same as common good?

Democracy depends on governance for the common good, but what that entails today may be a complex story in itself. Personally, I don’t have much confidence in elected officials being able to agree on a definition, let alone other aspects that would follow. However, common good is a concept that is so foundational, failure to agree is like trying to construct a building without a strong foundation.

To engage and implement common good, people must agree on the common facts. Even with agreement, disagreement on how to get to the common good is understandable – actually very likely because the different ways exist on achieving the common good. In the US, although Democrats and Republicans may agree on a common good, they may have fundamental differences on how to get there – and that’s fine.

However, declaring and accepting fake news fundamentally prevents agreement on the common facts – so doing for the common good would not only be highly improbable – but probably impossible.

If democracy is about the common good, then democracy must have reasonably well-informed citizens. Unfortunately, society includes those to whom truth is the enemy – the fools and liars who are misinformed and underinformed – let alone those who use a partisan lens to selectively filter the facts.

Life today is about information and fast access to it. The problem isn’t information’s availability or the mainstream media – not even the biased nature of well-known media personalities and outlets who feed red meat to their hungry flock.

A problem is the biased nature of a large slice of the public that selectively determines their preferred news source based on one that provides a message to hear – a message aligning with their predetermined view of the world.

A problem is when listeners determine immediate judgment on a legitimate news report because they have to protect their personal interests.

A problem is that given a fast and open information system, good journalism can give way to favoring expediency over accuracy.

A problem is that too many accept reports from obscure outlets as reliable because the story supports the preferred narrative the person desires.

A problem is that the truth is no longer a high priority.

All of these problems come together to prevent people from agreeing on the common facts – therefore no hope for acting for the common good. Perhaps that’s the greatest dangers to democracy.

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On Trumpian Nostradamus 2

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Being that enough readers understood my first set of predictions about the Trump Administration for 2018, I went back to the crystal ball to see if I could find 10 more prognostications. Here’s the scoop.

1) President Trump negotiates a peace and economic agreement with North Korea; therefore avoid nuclear war. At the joint signing session, he embraces Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un while eating a taco bowl from the Trump Tower Grill and proclaims this agreement to be the greatest deal in the history of human existence. Kim Jong-un also announces an agreement to bring a Trump Tower Grill to Pyongyang.

2) President Trump unites the United States and China by building the greatest bridge in recorded history that joins Seattle and Shanghai. Because everyone knows he can build things, he will call it the Trump Bridge for Humanity, then proclaim it as the greatest architectural and engineering feat in human history that will never be outdone.

3) President Trump supports the final report issued by Special Counsel Investigation led by Robert Mueller. After lauding Mueller and his team, President Trump pardons everyone involved including himself, and invites all pardonees to enjoy celebratory taco bowl from the Trump Tower Grill.

4) President Trump ends Russia-US tensions by negotiating the most unbelievable deal in modern history as he becomes the first person ever to lead two independent countries at the same time. Known in Russia as Czar Genius, he proclaims Vladimir Putin to be the head of all oligarchs in Russia, primary advisory, and Global Ambassador.

5) President Trump negotiates an agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians. The deal – a really big fantastic deal for both sides – something no US president has ever been able to do – actually the best deal ever for not only the Middle East, but for the world.

6) President Trump buys 3 failing media outlets: CNN, Washington Post, and New York Times – and vows to turn them into the biggest and greatest news organizations that will only reports real news.

7) President Trump scraps the Iran Nuclear deal because it was Obama’s fault – but then renegotiates a much better, more fair deal – actually an unbelievable deal – the best deal that Iran has ever seen – a deal that also includes building a Trump Tower in Tehran – and yes, it includes the Trump Tower Grill so Iranians can eat the world-renown Taco Bowl.

8) After taking credit for no deaths from commercial plane crashes in 2017, President Trump blames President Obama for a recent plane crash.

9) President Trump announces that he will build a wall along the southern US border that Mexico will pay for. The wall – a big, beautiful wall – one more beautiful than anyone imagined. The top of the wall includes a running lane, a fishing pier allowing fisherman to cast lines from the top of the wall into the Rio Grande River, and food venues serving tacos from the Trump Tower Grill.

10) President Trump describes himself as humbled, honored, and as the greatest humanitarian in human history after being awarded multiple Nobel Prizes.

On a Year Later

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At 12 noon on 20 January 2017, Donald J Trump became the 45th president of the United States. I intentionally timed this post for publication to meet the one year anniversary of him taking the oath to ask this question: What has he learned about holding the highest office of the land? What has he learned being a business person without any experience in holding any political office in any level of government? What has he learned about occupying the Oval Office, the setting for who many consider as the Leader of the Free World.

Yes, What has he learned? Below are ten key points that I believe he has learned about the presidency since his inauguration one year ago.

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On Trumpian Nostradamus

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I’m not a regular on the prediction circuit, but I could resist gazing into a crystal ball on this topic. I’m going out on a limb with a baker’s dozen of predictions for 2018 about President Trump.

President Trump will exaggerate a fact.

President Trump will use Crooked Hillary as a defense.

President Trump will proclaim a report as fake news.

President Trump will forget and deny he made a previous statement.

President Trump will deflect an issue.

President Trump will do something that he will describe as incredible, the best, biggest, and greatest.

President Trump will ignore polls because they are biased.

President Trump will mock someone.

President Trump will contradict himself.

President Trump will criticize mainstream media outlets as the Washington Post, New York Times, CNN, ABC, CBS, and NBC.

President Trump will deny any collusion with anything.

President Trump will tweet something stupid, disrespectful, false, and boastful.

President Trump will blame the Obama Administration for something.

On Leadership

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Leaders treat people the way they want to be treated

Leaders build themselves up by building up others

Leaders surround themselves with the best people

Leaders give the team credit for success, and place failure on themselves

Leaders are not afraid to take risks and make mistakes

Leaders are aware of their leadership style and learn how their style comes across to their team

Leaders are effective communicators

Leaders respect others

Leaders care about the people involved

Leaders are honest and demonstrate integrity

Leaders are able to get people engaged and leverage the strength of others

Leaders empower people

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Leaders building competencies and focus on the right things

Leaders are able to tolerate frustration and stress

Leaders deliver results

Leaders are active, expressive, optimistic, and energetic

Leaders have a sense of duty and carry a high standard of excellence

Leaders are thick-skinned

Leaders are practical, logical, and to-the-point, yet flexible and open to change

Leaders are secure – no need to seek approval

Leaders are socially aware and careful in their social interactions

Leaders envision the future and convince others and lead them in a new direction

Leaders are alert and focused

This man is not a leader

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On an Electoral Reflection

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This idea has festered in my mind long enough, so it’s time to get these thoughts of this true independent’s chest.

For about 5 weeks following the November 2016 election, a good thing happened. We heard a lot about the Electoral College – a system we learned about in school – a system we hear about every 4 years – a system many people know little about – let alone Federalist Paper No. 68 (and I say that with confidence).

Election 2016 was interesting in many ways. It was not only the third time in US history the candidate who won the presidency lost the popular vote, but 2016 marked the highest vote differential of the three (0.8%, 0.5%, 2.8%). What if Mr. Trump won the popular vote by 2.8% but Mrs. Clinton won the Electoral College? Surely the messages would be predictably reversed.

Since the election, we heard some voices declaring that it’s time to amend the Constitution to disband the Electoral College in favor of a popular vote. The losers were the complainers while the winners boosted about the wisdom of the Founding Fathers.

Framing the US Constitution was not a meeting of wise men stroking their beards while contemplating decisions for a document to serve as the foundation of a new country. Discussions were fierce. Egos were bruised. Not every person got their way but, in the end, a collective wisdom prevailed – a wisdom guided by those seeking what would serve the common good for all and for a nation.

Although small states and slave states had issues with the popular vote, the Founding Fathers were skeptical about the voters especially if the popular vote yielded an unwise decision. So, the Founding Fathers wanted a system to act as a check-and-balance on the voters. After all, the Constitution provided of system of checks and balances within the government. The Electoral College was a way to do so other than using state legislatures or the House of Representatives.

In Federalist Paper No. 68, Alexander Hamilton explained the Electoral College was to, “ensure that the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications.” The best analogy I heard was the Electoral College being akin to a judge reviewing a jury’s decision (which they can do).

Was 2016 the time Alexander Hamilton had in mind? Maybe.

Is the Electoral College’s role as a check-and-balance against the people’s vote necessary in the 21st Century? Absolutely, so I unquestionably stand with the wisdom of the Founding Fathers supporting the existence of the Electoral College.

The Founding Fathers envisioned the Electoral College to be composed of people “selected by their fellow citizens from the general masses, will be most likely to possess the information and discernment requisite to such complicated investigations.”

The Founding Fathers also envisioned the members of the Electoral College to do the right thing. To be of independent mind in the face of adversity. To represent a nation, and then fulfill their Constitutional responsibility by doing what is right for the nation.

If it’s not the voters, not the Constitution, not the concept of the Electoral College, is there a problem? If so, where?

The problem obviously lies is the implementation because the Constitution left the selection process to the states, which would be state legislatures that are elected by the people. Although practical on paper, the adopted methods by the states are not the way to implement the desires stated Federalist Paper No. 68. States developed processes based on the political parties – therefore the political parties hijacked the check and balance to have a system that favors them.

Who picks the electors? The political parties.

Who do the political parties select? Loyalists, local party leaders, local officials, donors,etc.

If each party in a state has electors, who has the final vote? In most states, the party of the presidential candidate who won the popular vote in that state become the electors.

Can electors change their mind, thus go against the state’s result? In some states, yes – but in most states, No! Electors who do not follow their prescribed vote may face fines, legal charges, dismissal, and/or replacement.

Are these electors the ones “most likely to possess the information and requisite for such a complicated investigation” and “free from any sinister bias”?

Absolutely not! The electors are party hacks put in place by the party hooligans to follow the party’s self interest – NOT for the people and NOT for a nation as the Federalist Paper clearly explains. The electors are present for the party under the ruse of acting for the nation. The Electoral College is not even remotely close to what the Founding Fathers envisioned for the nation and its people.

The parties are interested in themselves. The parties are interested in adopting their preferences upon the people. The parties only see the world through a biased lens with the settings they prefer. In other words, the parties are not the unbiased, high-minded people who will look out after the best interest of a nation if and when the people make a mistake!

In the farewell address of this nation’s first president, George Washington was correct.

[Political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.”

George Washington
Saturday, September 17, 1796

Abolition of the Electoral College is not the answer. Giving power the popular vote is not the answer. Reforming the Electoral College process is the answer, but there is a problem because that requires those with power would have to relinquish the power – and we know that’s not going to happen.

On a Worthy Read

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Walls can surround to keep something out. Walls can also surround to keep something in. Either way, walls divide. Walls are barriers – and barriers can come in different forms.

Rick Steves is a respected travel guru in the U.S. – especially specializing in Europe. His shows and books are very well done, and one we appreciate for our travels. We have not taken any of his tours, but everyone that I know who has rave about them.

A new American president has made quite a splash in the news. Although he states his desire to be a president for all, his actions do not support his statement. After all, actions are more powerful than words – or as I like to say, behaviors and actions demonstrate one’s true value.

Rick Steves has a perspective about building a wall and actions that act like a wall. To me, this is a worthy and powerful read. Click here to read it.