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Perhaps it’s an unwritten message from President Obama to Al Qaeda: Like Luca Brasi, Osama bin Laden now “sleeps with the fishes”. Of course the burial at sea also has the advantage of eliminating the possibility of creating a shrine to one of the most famous of the world’s terrorists, although it is unlikely he could compete favorably for the title of greatest terrorist of all time if we also consider Adolf Hitler, Genghis Khan, Oliver Cromwell, Attila the Hun, or Josef Stalin. Perhaps he might deserve a more appropriate title, like Terrorist of the Decade. Soon to be forgotten, in two generations he will be nothing more than a footnote in history – if that.

However, there is a legacy he leaves behind that may affect the world for a long time to come: he taught us mistrust. Bin Laden’s message to the world was that he could not be trusted, nor could his followers. It didn’t matter if you knew them or not. It didn’t matter whether you were in the fight or not. It didn’t even matter if you knew what the fight was about or if you even knew there was a fight. You were in danger from bin Laden and his gang of murderers. It sounds like insanity, doesn’t it? Perhaps it was. Perhaps it is. Even so, it will have a lasting impact on how we live.

Anyone who used to fly on airplanes before 9/11 and who now flies on airplanes is well aware of bin Laden’s legacy. But it’s not only aviation that is affected. Governments around the world now take all sorts of measures to protect things that we never thought needing protecting; things like subway systems, sporting events, ocean liners, water supplies, natural gas depots, and so forth. The list could go on and on because during Osama’s attempted  reign of terror nothing was truly safe. Not that they ever were, because accidents happen all the time anyway. But Osama thought that he could force something to happen by his actions. However, Osama is gone and the political world has been little changed by the actions of Osama and his Al Qaeda followers.

Even so, his legacy is all around us – a legacy of mistrust. How long will it permeate world society? One can only wonder; however, there is another aspect of Osama’s legacy: the way he died. A U.S. Navy Seal Team surprised him in his home in the middle of the night and killed him in a heartbeat. Death from above.  This is terrorism turned upon itself. It wasn’t long after Osama was killed that another Al Qaeda leader, thought to be Osama’s successor, was killed without warning by a Predator drone, and only recently another Al Qaeda leader was killed at a police roadblock in Somalia. It would seem that the members of Al Qaeda have also received a legacy of terror from their leader. For the foreseeable future they must live with the knowledge that they might die at any moment without warning. He who lives by the sword…

It seems that all that Osama bin Laden succeeded in doing was increasing the uncertainty level in an already very uncertain world.

It is interesting to note that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan do not seem to have had much involvement with the recent losses experienced by Al Qaeda. This, of course, is to be expected. The Iraq War had nothing to do with Al Qaeda. It was an attack on Saddam Hussein by George Bush with a trumped-up charge about “weapons of mass destruction” that Iraq did not possess. Could it be that it was more likely revenge for Saddam’s earlier attempt to assassinate the first President Bush? Certainly Saddam was captured and hanged. But there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and Saddam hated Al Qaeda, so it wasn’t that. So far, the U.S. government has never given a satisfactory explanation of what the Iraq war was all about. We just know that it had nothing to do with fighting terrorism. Remember when Vice President Cheney was talking about a different kind of war that would be fought clandestinely? It would be our secret agents against Al Qaeda’s secret agents:

In 2001, Vice President Cheney appears on NBC’s Meet the Press and says, “We also have to work, though, sort of the dark side, if you will. We’ve got to spend time in the shadows in the intelligence world. A lot of what needs to be done here will have to be done quietly, without any discussion, using sources and methods that are available to our intelligence agencies, if we’re going to be successful.”

I guess that wasn’t going so well and that’s why we sent the army into Iraq and Afghanistan. So far we have spent a little over 1.2 trillion dollars on these two wars (that’s $1,200,000,000,000.00 approximately). I guess that is also part of Osama’s legacy. We have spent our fortune conducting a traditional war against an untraditional enemy.  However, in the end, it was the spy vs. spy approach that killed Osama bin Laden. Nevertheless, couldn’t the cost of these two misguided wars be considered his legacy because that was the excuse the Bush administration gave for waging them? Of course these wars were not paid for by taxes (we borrowed the money from China), so now we are in debt up to our eyebrows and the national and world economies are teetering on the brink of another collapse. Could this economic catastrophe also be part of Osama’s legacy, although most certainly an unintended one?

On the other hand, who would have thought President Bush would act so irresponsibly as to conduct two wars for which he had no money? Come to think of it, since the US and world economic collapse was probably the last thing on Osama’s mind, it’s probably not right to say that it is Osama’s legacy. Let’s call it George Bush’s legacy; that would be more accurate.

So what did Osama accomplish? He made us mistrust each other more than usual. He temporarily increased the uncertainty in an already very uncertain world for everyone, including his own misguided followers.

Compared to George Bush, it’s not much of a legacy is it?

 

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About ten years ago, inspired by the movie, Jurassic Park, I began to wonder whether it might be possible to clone a mammoth, an animal that has been extinct for about 10,000 years. I figured that because some of these animals have been preserved fairly well in the frozen lands of northern Siberia, some of the DNA might be intact. It seemed to me pretty clear that Michael Crichton’s idea of getting DNA from a preserved insect that had bitten a dinosaur was a little far-fetched. However, finding intact DNA in a well-preserved mammoth might be more likely. So – I decided to write a novel about the idea. I figured that would be easier than actually cloning a mammoth…

Well, it turned out  that writing one’s first novel is not so easy after all. While the first draft was completed in 2001, I found that I really needed to rewrite it – several times. Then, after I had written the best version of the novel that I could – I put it aside, because I didn’t think it was good enough. A few years later, while living in Ireland, I decided to take another crack at it. So, I rewrote the novel again with major changes. I liked it a lot better this time and only rewrote it two more times before I thought it was ready to publish. (Come to think of it, it might have been easier to just clone the mammoth.)

The basics of the story never changed: a Japanese professor decides to clone a perfectly preserved mammoth, and like in all good thrillers, things start to go wrong. Then they go very wrong. I won’t tell you the whole story, but if you are interested, you can buy the paperback version, or if you have a Kindle reader, you can download it from Amazon by clicking this link. Now, I’m not writing this just to call attention to my book – at least not entirely anyway. I decided to write this because something strange, perhaps even eerie is going on.

While reading yesterday’s Irish Independent newspaper online (I love this paper, they have so much world news that the U.S. press ignores), I came across an article about cloning mammoths. It seems there is this Japanese professor who thinks he knows how to do it and plans to do so by extracting the DNA from a well-preserved mammoth that was found in Siberia. He thinks he could have a cloned baby mammoth in about four years. I wonder if he has read my book? I mean the part about where things start to go wrong and then they go horribly wrong? Probably not, I’ll bet.

A few years ago, cloning was pretty controversial, but the idea seems to have become accepted now. Even so, I don’t think we are being served cloned lamb or beef yet, are we? And, I haven’t heard of any cloned babies being born yet – but they certainly could be, I suppose. I think we have the technology. But the idea of cloning an extinct animal – seriously – that should be considered very carefully. Now, if we are talking about an animal that went extinct in the recent past, like the Passenger Pigeon, because people hunted it to extinction – well, maybe that would be OK. But animals that became extinct eons ago may present dangers that we haven’t considered. These animals are no longer a part of our world and reintroducing them might cause unforeseen problems. I don’t think the professor in Japan that is referred to in the Irish Independent foresees any downside to his project – and that is what worries me because that is exactly like my novel. Really.

Perhaps, we need to have some sort of international body that considers certain types of advanced research and allows or disallows certain experiments. I can think of a couple of physics experiments that would fall in that category. I suppose there are several other biology experiments, medical experiments, chemistry experiments, and even computing experiments (like embedding computers in people) that might cry out for some oversight beyond that of the individual experimenter.

Mary Shelley implicitly warned us about this topic a century ago when she wrote her novel, Frankenstein. So far, no one has taken her warning seriously. You see, we only take warnings like that after the fact.

Someday, that strategy will prove to be too late.

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Anyway you look a the recent shooting in Tucson, it is a tragedy. I suppose all Americans can agree on that. However, as the nation gets over the shock and grief of the murders, I suppose we will soon begin pointing the finger of blame. I’m here to help.

In order to understand what happened in Tucson, it is necessary to recall a little U.S. history concerning the treatment of people with mental disorders. At one time, many years ago, the U.S. government was actively involved in providing care for people who had severe mental problems. There were mental hospitals in most states that were funded by the Federal government. It was a rare sight to see someone staggering along the sidewalk, mumbling to themselves. Today, that is commonplace. Why? Because of a fundamental difference in philosophy among Americans. We have, in this country, pretty much two camps. One camp sort of believes that we, as a society, should all work together for the common good. This group believes in high quality public education, government support of health care, and so forth. The other group is the rugged individualists whose philosophy is pretty much “you are on your own”. They believe that people should take care of themselves and they don’t want their tax dollars being used to help someone who did not provide for themselves.

At one time, the people who believed that government existed to help the people were in power. They created a system of mental hospitals to provide the type of care for the severely mentally disturbed that families just could not provide. This was the American way for many, many years. But all that changed in the late 20th century. A severe blow was dealt to this system when, under President Reagan, the Community Health Centers Act was repealed. This was the beginning of the end of Federal involvement in mental health care. Times and attitudes were changing. The people were voting more for States Rights than for a strong Federal government. Eventually, the responsibility for the care of mentally ill people transitioned to the individual states to handle as each state saw fit. The move has been a disaster.

When the Federally funded mental hospitals were closed and the Community Mental Health Centers were no longer funded we began seeing something new. There were homeless people wandering in the cities. They were obviously mentally ill. They were unable to care for themselves. It is that way today. Perhaps 30% of the homeless people are severely mentally ill, unable to care for themselves, unable to cope with the system or life on the streets. When winter comes some die on the streets of exposure. And we do nothing, except look away.

So, what does this have to do with the shooting in Tucson? During the past 40 to 50 years many of the Republican dominated states of the American West have clamored for states rights – and they still do. During this time they have obtained more and more authority and become more independent of the Federal government. They make their own rules now. However, with this new-found authority comes new-found responsibility. The State of Arizona has its own policies on how to deal with the mentally ill.  It has its own policies on who can own a gun. It has its own policies on how much ammunition one can buy. The State of Arizona also has the responsibility to keep its citizens safe. It has the obligation to ensure that it is not negligent in allowing dangerous people to have the opportunity to commit murder and mayhem.

The State of Arizona failed, not because it couldn’t protect it people; it failed because it didn’t. If Arizona had a system of mental hospitals for the severely mentally ill the young man who caused so much harm would have never had the opportunity to do so. All the signs were there, but there was no system in place in Arizona to take action. The mental hospitals don’t exist anymore. Mentally ill people are now integrated into society. Why? Because it is less expensive than caring for them. It was a business decision by President Reagan and many other Republican leaders. Ultimately, it is a question of philosophy. What kind of country are we and what are our values? The truth is we are a divided nation. So we leave these questions to the individual states.

The court case will probably go on for a long time. There will be endless analysis of who said what and who did what. Even the parents will be called in and interrogated. Why didn’t they stop their son, they will be asked. As if they could imagine this would happen.  The finger-pointing will begin, as it always does. Some will say it is Sarah Palin’s fault. Some may blame Glenn Beck for inciting hatred on his TV show. Some will blame Rep. Giffords for not taking sufficient precautions. Some will blame the young man’s school and teacher for not taking stronger action. And everyone will be heading for cover, trying to avoid blame. However, the blame belongs to none of these because they didn’t have the knowledge or the power or the duty to prevent the disaster. There is only one entity that can be rightly and legally blamed because it failed in its duty to its citizens in so many ways.

Blame Arizona.

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Or should I have entitled this, “The Insane Right Has Guns”?

The recent events in Tucson, Arizona will be argued – they are already being argued – by both sides of the gun issue. Nevertheless, all must agree that this event should not have happened. Was it the fault of Sarah Palin just because she labeled Representative Gabrielle Gifford’s district with a gunsight? Let’s not be silly, right Sarah? After all, just because Gabrielle complained about the gunsight  imagery and that it would have consequences does that really mean that anyone would have somehow been inspired by that? Does it? Surely no crazy person would have been influenced by that, right Sarah? Sleep well, Sarah. It was just a horrible coincidence – wasn’t it?

It would be easy to talk about the current political climate and how ever since the Tea Party spun itself up that politics have become ugly. There is a lot of nastiness in general, untrue accusations about the birth of our President, untrue accusations about health care and “Death Panels”, and untrue accusations about the disastrous state of the economy being due to President Obama instead of the insane economics of George Bush. It goes on and on. Gross lies and misrepresentations from the extreme right. Its proper name is propaganda. The question we must ask now is this: have they finally gone too far?

However, before we go there, we need to take a look at one of America’s sacred rights (it seems to have the same quality as a religious belief), the right to bear arms. The Second Amendment to the Constitution (apparently the writers of the Constitution had forgotten about this, so they had to put it in as an amendment). The entire extent of the Second Amendment reads simply, “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.” That’s it. A couple of years ago the U.S. Supreme Court demonstrated its knowledge of the English language by ruling that the right to bear arms has nothing to do with being in a Militia. This is the same Supreme Court that recently ruled that corporations have the same free speech rights as living people. Our Supreme Court is undoubtedly inspired by Humpty Dumpty in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, where he says, “When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean – nothing more nor less”.

Speaking of the Constitution, would it be possible to talk about it rationally for a moment? Let’s face it. It is a document written by people who lived in the U.S. over 200 years ago and it was written to address their needs. They were intelligent people, these writers of the Constitution, and they knew that times change and needs change. So, they put in the ability to amend the Constitution by their successors. The people who wrote the Constitution did not believe they were writing as religious document that could not be questioned, modified, or improved. That is the whole reason they built in the capability to write amendments. They were sensible people. Unlike a lot of people we hear on far-right-wing television and radio today. You know who I mean.

We seem to have reached a point where we are unable to conduct intelligent discourse amongst ourselves. Everything is presented as a life or death decision. I guess that’s how you sell “news”. The problem is that this is poisonous news and it is poisoning our country. A case in point is the recent mass murder that took place in Tucson. The killer, by all accounts, is nuts. His classmates in school were afraid of him. One of them even said they thought he might bring a gun to class. He was, by all accounts, nearly incoherent. He couldn’t say a complete, meaningful sentence. Oh, and another thing – he had a gun. And he used it. Now, any sensible person would say that crazy people should not have guns – but not the gun lobby and the far extreme right. For these people guns are a sacred right enshrined in a sacred document – the Constitution.

“The time has come,” the walrus said, “to talk of other things”. Indeed. We Americans need to begin a sensible discussion about this subject, the subject of guns. I don’t want insane people to have guns. I also don’t want insane people to be brain surgeons or airline pilots. The airlines have figured out how to keep the insanity out of the cockpit. Same for the hospitals – there’s no insanity in the operating room. So why can’t we keep guns out of the hands of the criminally insane? And please, don’t tell me because it is our God-given right for all Americans to bear arms. The more we, as a people, persist in deluding ourselves about issues that only require common sense solutions, the more we will find that we are building an insane culture that can’t even make sense of the English language (sort of like the Supreme Court). It’s time for the ranting fanatics like Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, and the rest of the Fox mob to just back off – they are stirring up the crazies – and I suspect they know it. It is time for a little civilization in America.

As Lewis Carroll said, “If you drink much from a bottle marked ‘poison’ it is certain to disagree with you sooner or later”.

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It has been about 2,000 years since the man we now call Jesus, but whose Jewish name was most likely Yehoshua or Yeshua, lived in the land of Judea (from which we derive the word Jew). There are an endless number of theology books that have been written about his teachings and a very large number of churches created, all of which profess to know his true message. The problem is that these churches tend to disagree, some almost completely, about exactly what he said and what he meant by the words he said. The issue is compounded by the fact that he wrote nothing himself and the major sources of information about his teachings , the Gospels, were written long after he died.

This much we do know: he lived and taught in the land of Judea. He ran afoul of both the Jewish leadership and the Roman leadership of the land and he was executed by the government of the Roman Empire for what we would today call treason. It seems that he had somehow acquired the title “King of the Jews” and, of course there could only be one king in the Roman Empire, and that was Caesar. He had also drawn the ire of the Jewish theocracy by teaching that the religious laws of the land were not the laws of God and need not be followed. Furthermore, he went around forgiving people who had broken the religious laws of Judea, thus robbing the priests and leaders of the Judea of their power over the people. For a theocracy, either Jewish or Roman, (and they were both theocracies) this was an unforgivable sin.

For centuries after his death his followers were persecuted by the Roman Empire in an attempt to quell the growth of the movement he had started. It was only when the Roman Emperor Constantine declared tolerance for Christians in the year 313 than the attitude of the Empire began to change. It wasn’t too long afterward that Christianity was declared the official religion of the Roman Empire and all the laws of the Roman Catholic Church were incorporated into the laws of the Roman Empire. The Roman Empire had become a worldwide theocracy. Over the centuries many of the old Judean theocracy laws were included in “Christian” teachings, and “Christian” theocracies eventually came to Europe, first as part of the Roman Empire and later as Protestant “Christian” theocracies, such as England. The mixing of public law and religious laws eventually followed the Puritans to America and became part of American life with Christian prayers being said in public schools at the start of the school day, Christian holidays becoming state holidays, and so forth. It was accepted as normal by the people. The question is this: is this what Jesus had in mind? Is this why he was willing to die by Roman torture? The answer, of course, is no.

At the core of the New Testament story is the continual adversarial relationship between the theocracy of Judea and the teaching of Jesus. The reason for this is the nature of theocracies: they impose their will upon the people under threat of punishment by God. All you have to do is convince the people that your government is in touch with God and you have total control of the people. This method of control has worked well for thousands of years, not only for the Christian countries, but for countries that espouse other religions too. The initial teaching of Jesus was simple – the government does not speak for God.

However, as time went on and Jesus fell under heavy criticism from the religious leaders of  Judea, he also rebuked their teachings. It wasn’t long before he was teaching that neither the government nor the priests speak for God. Well then, you might ask, who does? The response of Jesus  to this is what he told his followers: I will send a counselor to you, the Holy Spirit of God, who will advise you about what is right or wrong. When Jesus was gone there would be no priest or governor to interpret the will of God because each person will be informed directly by the Spirit of God. Or, as Jesus also stated, the Kingdom of Heaven is within you.

The key message of Jesus was not that he was establishing a new religion, it was that men do not need the established religions in order to be in contact with God. His words were the words of treason against all theocracies. His words were the words of freedom for all individuals. His words were the rejection of the existence of any theocracy or priest – there was no need for an intermediary between you and God – in fact, this would be the only way you could ever experience God. You have to do it yourself. That was his message.

Now, 2,000 years later, as millions, perhaps billions celebrate Christmas, it is worth remembering that this man who gave his life for his message of defiance to theocracies was striking a blow for all of us to be free of religious leaders, like the present Pope, who say that pedophilia is OK, or other leaders of other religions who call for “Holy Wars”, or others who call for you to give 10% of your money to them because God wants you to, or those who say you must be a virgin, or those who say you must not eat this or you must not wear those clothes, or those who say you must not think this or say that. The list goes on and on of “religious” people who would control you, who tell you they speak for God, when of course they do not.

So why should we celebrate Christmas? Because in doing so we celebrate the life of a true hero of the world who 2,000 years ago stood up and defied the Roman Empire and the Jewish theocracy, and sacrificed his life, on behalf of every one of us. He  spoke out on behalf of freedom and the ability of each man to know God without the assistance of any other man.

We should celebrate the life of Jesus because he taught us that we are free of theocracies, because the Kingdom of Heaven, i.e. the Spirit of God, is already within all of us.

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I expect that everyone would agree that in order for a country, state, or city to function it needs money.  For millenia these entities have obtained money, and still do, via a variety of charges imposed on the people in these locales. We usually call these charges “taxes”.  Over the centuries many types of taxes have been created: income taxes, excise taxes, property taxes, estate taxes, road use taxes, automobile taxes, boat taxes, sales taxes, poll taxes, Social Security taxes, value added taxes, financial transaction taxes, capital gains taxes, and so forth. There seems to be a semi-infinite list of the different types of taxes.  Why?

Indeed. Why do we need so many types of taxes? The fact is we don’t. The reason we have all these different types of taxes is that governments generally become corrupt and one special interest group or another gains an upper hand and uses their power to shift the tax burden to another, less powerful group of people. After a few centuries of this process we are left we a rat’s nest of taxes that manages to tax the some dollars over and over again, while other dollars never get taxed at all. There has never been a better demonstration of the power of special interests and oligarchs.

The solution is a single tax that is fair for all people and raises sufficient money so that the country, state, or city can perform its functions appropriately. The answer is not the so-called “Fair Tax” – a deliberate and viciously deceptive misnomer if there ever was one. That miserable concept is in fact one of the most unfair tax concepts ever created. It is simply another example of how the wealthy oligarchs of this country try to impose their merciless will upon the average person. The “Fair Tax” is nothing more than a national sales tax. The problem with this is that it taxes everything you buy: bread, milk, clothing, newspapers, gasoline, medical care, school supplies – everything you need to live – at the same rate as it taxes the playthings of the extraordinarily wealthy –  things like 10 carat diamonds, 100 foot yachts, thirty room mansions, and so forth. So what’s wrong with that? The problem is that even the fabulously wealthy don’t buy a lot of those items so these things don’t produce a lot of tax revenue.  Most of the budgetary needs of the cities and states have to be made up from the sales of bread and milk and so forth. In this way the poor and indigent, the vast numbers of people living paycheck to pay check, and the families struggling to just get by pay pretty much the same tax as the wealthiest billionaires on most days. It is, in fact, “The Unfair Tax”.

The fairest tax of all is the graduated income tax: it is a tax that taxes small incomes very lightly and massive incomes heavily. Those who can pay the most do so and those who cannot afford to pay anything don’t pay anything. Beyond being extraordinarily fair, the graduated income tax has another potential: it can, by itself, pay all the expenses of the budget of a state, city, or country. And that is a very good thing.

Consider our present situation. You have a job and maybe you make $1,000 a month. You pay $100 income tax per month. Then you take your money and you go out and by gas for you car. Suppose you buy $10 worth of gas. You only really get $9 worth of gas because the other dollar is for the gasoline tax – and really, it’s just a tax upon the money you have already paid an income tax upon! Then you go to the grocery store and buy food. Same thing. Then you buy clothes.  Same thing – you pay taxes on money that has already been taxed. Then you get your property tax bill in the mail. You’ve already paid for your house (with money that was taxed) and now you have to pay a tax again based upon how much you paid for the house. Your money that was already taxed is being taxed again – and it will be taxed again next year, and the year after, and the year after. Indefinitely.

Our entire system of commerce contains taxes upon money that has already been taxed at least once. It is the poor and middle class who suffer the most from this system because, proportionally, they have a much larger tax burden than the wealthy who have written all sorts of income tax, and other tax exemptions, for themselves into law and then pay only a small percentage of their income for the necessities of life – after all, they don’t worry about a sales tax on food because you can only eat so many hamburgers, even if you are a billionaire.

If the leadership of this country really wanted to give a boost to the economy they would scrap our present complex system of national, state, and local taxes and create a single, sole, nationally controlled graduated income tax – and then outlaw all other forms of taxation. The government would then distribute these tax dollars to various states and cities in a manner proportional to their population so they can perform their functions of government. Such a tax would be fair and useful for the common good.

But we will never do that because, despite the fact that we vote for senators and representatives, we live in an oligarchy. Even our now corrupt Supreme Court rules that wealthy, and inanimate, corporations have the same free speech rights as living people – a ruling that defies sanity but allows the wealthy owners of these corporations to drown out the voice of the individual citizen. We live in a society where lobbyists carry bags of money to our elected officials, and they, in turn, create legislation on demand – for a fee. We live in a society where the financial burden of paying for the expenses of the country is placed squarely upon the poor and the middle class while many of the most wealthy pay nothing – yes, nothing – in taxes. And our Congress likes it that way.

A single, fair, graduated income tax is all this nation needs to function. Furthermore, the lifting of all sales, excise, transaction, property and other taxes upon commerce would produce a gigantic stimulus for our economy. There is, however, only one problem with my dream of having only one truly fair tax for all.

It will never happen.

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Ask anyone who has ever bought a used car. Negotiation is an art, a skill. It is not something that is innate. It is not something they teach you at Harvard. It’s something you learn from experience, from buying and selling merchandise on a daily basis in a bazaar or other situation where the buying and selling is brisk. Just travel to Asia and the Middle East if you want to see how it is done. Most Americans who wander into these areas as tourists are prime targets for merchants who happily charge tourists ten times or more the usual selling price for goods.

Which brings me to President Obama. My advise to the President: don’t plan any vacations to the Middle East or Asia – unless you plan to bring a lot of money. The recent “deal” the President agreed to with the Republican Party concerning taxes is evidence enough – when it comes to bargaining, the man is a neophyte, a rank beginner, a bumbling, misguided, do-gooder who has no idea or stomach for tough negotiations. He says he got a good deal for the American people, but in reality all he got was exactly what the Republicans want.  Perhaps President Obama needs to be taken aside by one of his advisors and told the truth: “Mr. President, when it comes to negotiating, you just don’t have the right stuff. ”

I hear that Donald Trump is now considering a run for the Presidency. Would he make a good negotiator? Probably, but I would guess he would be a Republican negotiator and their lineup is already pretty strong. Just look at the implacable faces of Mitch McConnell and John Boehner. (By the way, I know he pronounces his name sort of like “Baynor”, but shouldn’t it be “Boner”? Or is it more like the Germanic sounding “Burner”? Just a thought…) Look at the eyes of these people – their slack expressions – their humorless gaze. There isn’t an ounce of compassion or caring in either man. Obama is trying to deal with cold fish, sharks. He doesn’t realize that sharks don’t make deals with minnows –  they eat them. It’s amazing that a man can reach the Presidency and still be so naive. I’m sure George Bush knew the score – so did Cheney. They never, for a heartbeat, thought about deals or compromises. They just made up laws, declared emergencies, did whatever it took to get their way; and as for Congress, they were told to just get out of the way – and they did, without a peep.

Recently, Donald Trump said that he might consider running for President. Hey, we had a Republican movie star President already, right? Remember Ronald Reagan? He didn’t destroy the country’s economy – at least not totally anyway. So, if it’s a choice between Sarah and the Donald – who would you choose? Maybe, if the Republicans bring on the Donald, the Democrats should also turn to Hollywood. I’m thinking William Shatner here.  Would he make a good negotiator? Just listen to his Priceline commercials. What other qualifications would he need? He knows how the game is played – “No!” he shouts to foolish neophyte negotiators.  “Lower! Lower!” Shatner has learned to be a tough Negotiator, and he always wins! But our poor, polite, Harvard educated President doesn’t. He just doesn’t have the tough negotiating experience. He doesn’t know how to negotiate, and he doesn’t know when he is getting a really bad deal.

Negotiating is all about bluffing. Who will walk away? Who will give in? How much does the other side really want it? How much do I want to give up? It’s about risk. It’s about taking chances. Will the other side walk away from a deal? What if they do, can I live with that? Apparently, Obama was afraid the other side would walk away from the very first moment, and he was afraid of what would happen if they did – more afraid than the Republicans were. The question is would they really have walked away – or at the last minute would they have made a real deal? It seems we’ll never know now.

There is, however, one thing I do know: if I ever go out to buy a used car, I will never ask President Obama to come and help me negotiate the price – but William Shatner?

In a heartbeat.

 

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