Thursday, February 25, 2016

5 reasons I will never vote for Donald Trump

Okay, Republican friends, I know that there are at least a few of you out there.  Trump supporters.  I think its time we had a serious discussion because I’m way beyond a little worried right now.  Trump is rolling through primaries like a freight train, “winning” the contests, although not in any case with a majority of the votes.  And yet, he could end up taking the nomination.  At this point, some might even say it is likely.  Or “inevitable.”  Which, I admit, scares me.  You see, I think a Donald Trump nomination could be very bad for the Republican Party, and also potentially very bad for the United States.

I’ve also watched Trump’s supporters unquestioningly backing him up on social media.  No matter what outrageous things he says or does.  Critique seems to roll off their collective backs like water off of ducks.  Perhaps you’re one of “Trump’s people,” emotionally committed to the Real Estate billionaire and beyond the reach of logical argument.  Knowing that I may be wasting my breath, I’m going to offer some thoughts as to why you should reconsider casting your vote for Trump.  Here are the five things that worry me most about Trump as a potential political office holder.

  1. 1.       We have little idea what Trump will do as President.
  2. 2.       Trump will likely be terrible working with Congress.
  3. 3.       Many of the things Trump is promising are almost impossible to deliver.
  4. 4.       Trump’s chief business skills are unlikely to translate well into the political arena.
  5. 5.       Trump is the candidate most likely to deliver the White House to the Democrats.

Now I’ll examine each of these points in greater detail.

We have little idea what Trump will do as President.
Conventional Presidential candidates develop their backing primarily through the ideology they express.  Democrats follow democrat principles, Republicans follow republican principles, Libertarians…, well, you get the idea.  While following the party ideology with small but meaningful variations might seem like more of the same stuff we’ve been getting, it is, at least, predictable.  And I’ll argue “Predictable,” is good when it comes to politics.  It means before we vote for someone, it is fairly clear where they stand on issues and how they will handle them once in office.

Donald Trump, however, is not an ideologue.  This is nowhere more evident than in his recent reversals in position on issues such as a single-payer health care system, or common core (he was both for and against this in the same speech!)  There is no obvious, underlying set of beliefs driving his position on issues.  In short, the man is an opportunist, unfettered by any hampering philosophy, and ready to decide issues in a seemingly random fashion as they pop up during his Presidency.

Does this mean that Trump will be a bad President?  Not necessarily, but it does mean that he will be unpredictable.  And what about his campaign “promises?”  Will he “build a wall” as he has promised during the campaign?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  It depends on how he is weighing things at the time the go/no go decision arrives.  Will he repeal and replace Obamacare?  Probably, but with what?  The short answer is, with whatever he deems to be the “best” option at the time.  What will that be? It is quite obvious in the way he handles himself in his speeches that he is working hard to keep all options open.

Ambiguity on domestic policy is bad enough, but as long as Mr. Trump plans to follow the Constitution (and I have a few doubts about this vis-à-vis the discussions surrounding the 14th amendment), Congress can check some of the most egregious ideas he may toss out.  Unpredictability in foreign policy, where the President has a much freer hand, however, scares the heck out of me.  What would Trump’s response have been to Ukrainian crisis?  How about Syria?  The other candidates in the race follow ideologies that would make their responses reasonably foreseeable.  With Trump?  I honestly have no idea what he might do.  And remember, in this arena, the wrong decision can lead to war.

Which is why I conclude that as President, Donald Trump would be the most dangerous leader of our country in more than a century.  Think about the risks….  I don’t want my kids dealing with the legacy of a potentially disastrous Trump Presidency.

Trump will likely be terrible working with Congress.
I suppose we could argue that the political polarization and gridlock currently experienced in Washington, DC couldn’t get much worse, but I think we would be kidding ourselves.  We’ve suffered through almost six years of precious little legislation passing Congress (I give Obama a pass on his first two years, as his party had control of both House and Senate, and at that time he was able to advance his agenda.)  Do we really want to elect as President a man that is unlikely to be able to rally his own party, let alone work with the opposition?

While Trump might not be an ideologue, the vast majority of our Congress does follow conventional party ideologies.  Do we really think that when Trump wants to trash our global trade agreements and start over that Congress is just going to sit there and say, “Sounds good to me.”?  I suspect that he will, instead, be undermined by the legislative branch of the government at every turn.  By members of both parties.

And based on Trump’s demeanor during the campaign, at least thus far, I can’t see him reacting well to this.  Rather than bridging differences and finding common ground, Trump’s style would be better described as “winner take all,” with a good bit of retribution thrown in for good measure.  I’ve personally already observed plenty of this during the current administration and am hoping our next President to be the kind of executive that can get the country’s business done by using a combination of finesse and compromise.  Of all the Republican candidates for President, Trump is being the least likely to be successful doing this (which, given Cruz’s continued presence in the race, is saying something!)

Many of the things Trump is promising are almost impossible to deliver.
This problem seems to occur with most Presidential candidates.  They overpromise and underdeliver, labeling their political foes as obstructionists and complaining that’s the reason they didn’t deliver the entire package (Bernie Sanders fans, watch out for this one!).  For example, several of the Republican candidates have put out “flat rate” tax proposals.  Based on a cursory review of the taxes that would be collected under such a plan, these plans all appear to be unworkable.

Trump, however, appears to be taking overpromising to a new level.  For example, he claims Mexico will pay for the wall.  You must be kidding me.  Any Mexican politician that agreed to this would commit political suicide.  He also claims he will turn the tables on China and reinvigorate manufacturing in the United States.  That can happen only if we’re okay touching off a rate of inflation that will make hyperinflation during the Carter administration look like the bush leagues!
On this last point, I have to add some color.  I’ve been a manager and owner in the manufacturing industry in the United States for thirty years.  I’ve watched as the governmental policy of free trade has slowly bled manufacturing companies until most either died or moved the substantial portion of their operations overseas.  I’ve also seen consumers benefit greatly from this policy through the availability of cheap foreign-manufactured goods.  It isn’t all bad.  The policy is a trade-off which has provided short-term benefits to consumers at the long term expense of manufacturers.  And it has taken forty years to play out to the point we are at now.  No way will Trump reverse this trend in four or even eight years.  And, quite frankly, even if he succeeds in driving manufacturing out of China, one of the last places in the world it will go is back to the US, where costs are vastly higher than they are in pretty much any developing nation.  Much as I’d love to embrace the concept, I recognize it as a pipe dream.

Trump’s chief business skills are unlikely to translate well into the political arena.
Back when Donald Trump was a media phenomenon with a TV program and his property development business, I used to grouse that he “gave people the wrong impression about what a business executive does, and about business in general.”  Fundamentally, Trump is a deal guy who has an amazing ability to brand and market himself.  My impression of his style is that he takes big risks based on gut instinct (primarily, in the real estate sector), and makes sure to protect his back side with tightly-worded contracts with bankruptcy providing the final “out.”  Furthermore, he has worked his brand incessantly, successfully building a reputation as a modern day “King Midas” when it comes to development projects.

I readily admit that he must have an awesome team backing him on the operations side of his business, and to his credit, he appears to delegate decision making.  But I suspect he wouldn’t last six months running a real business like Microsoft, Ford Motor Company, or Hewlett-Packard.  Those businesses don’t survive on one hit wonders, but instead require workable, long-term strategies, a steady hand, and lots of attention to detail.  Trump, instead, appears frenetic, deal-focused, and ready to cast off a loser far too readily for my taste (for example, his multiple bankruptcies).  Unfortunately, shepherding the country resembles running Ford a lot more than managing the Trump empire.

As President, you can’t escape today’s problems, particularly not to chase after the next opportunity.  You have to solve problems, no matter how knotty they might be.  And you can’t delegate like Trump does on the operational side, either.  When you’re the President, the buck stops with you.  Not with some subordinate that can become the “fall guy” if things go wrong.

I picture a Trump-come-President flitting from one project to another, spending precious little time on any particular item.  In one, he makes a reckless bet about how a foreign power will react in delicate negotiation.  In another, he delegates important details to subordinates that might take the initiative the wrong direction.  He populates his cabinet with business people – many of whom have previously worked for him, and that he trusts.  And while some private sector experience would be helpful at the top level of government, you also need people that have put in the years there.  Does Carl Icahn, a corporate raider of questionable repute and a Wall Street insider, really sound like the kind of person we want as Secretary of the Treasury?

Trump is the candidate most likely to deliver the White House to the Democrats.
The polls already show that Trump is the weakest candidate of the top three Republicans against the Democrat’s nominee (Clinton or Sanders).  Dems are already salivating over the beating their candidate will deliver to Trump.  They envision their candidate making him look like a clown, or, at the very least, like a nut job.  Admittedly, the Republican candidates probably felt the same way about him, too, in the early going of the campaign.  And if you’re a Trump fan, you’re probably already saying, “bring it on.”

But there are a couple of factors that you may not have considered.

The Trump phenomenon appears to be one primarily rooted in anger.  The Democrats have their own anger, too, but very little of it is likely to be channeled toward Trump-as-the-solution.  Those left-leaning angry voters are with Bernie Sanders right now and are extremely unlikely to make the ideological jump to Trump and the right (assuming he stays on the right, that is.  See item #1).
The middle of the political spectrum is likely to face a choice between a Socialist or a confirmed liar and a wild man who has been portrayed as a caricature.  I’d guess most will decide the Socialist or the liar are a safer bet.

But what about Republicans?  Won’t they show up in numbers to carry the day?  Conventional wisdom says Republicans will rally behind whomever the nominee is and vote for him.

I have serious doubts.  I can only speak for myself at this point, but given the above considerations (particularly, the first one) I will not vote for Donald Trump.  I voted in my first presidential election in 1980, and in all those years I have never failed to vote for the Republican candidate.  But this year, should Trump walk away with the GOP nomination, I won’t.  I’m not going to take responsibility for putting a potentially dangerous person in the White House.  Better to grind it out for four or eight years with another Democrat and hope for continuing gridlock, than go for the wild card.
And I don’t think I’m alone.

In conclusion.
Mr. or Ms. Trump supporter, please think this through carefully.  I get it that you’re angry.  I understand that Trump is giving voice to things that concern you.  But also, be realistic.  What’s important is that the country survives and thrives.  Maybe Trump is the prescription that will create that environment over the next four years, but I seriously doubt it.  The odds are high that you will be quite disappointed in a Trump Presidency (just as many Democrats have been disappointed in the Obama Presidency).  In addition, don’t discount the possibility that a non-ideologically anchored President could put our country and our future at great risk.  Or that he could alter the way our country works in irreversible ways.

And remember, Rome was a Republic before the rise of the Emporers.  A balance between governmental powers is what keeps our country strong, not having a strongman in the ultimate administrative position that forces changes down from on high.  This, above all, reflects the wisdom of our country’s founders.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Un-Sleep Clinic

For a number of years now, I've had trouble sleeping.

Not the relatively common sleep apnea, but something else.  Something strange that I couldn't identify.  Sleeping drugs helped, but always seem to leave me feeling groggy the next day.  I decided I needed to understand the root cause of the problem, and hopefully that will lead to some kind of improvement in my sleep.

You see, I can get to sleep without difficulty.  The issue is staying asleep.  This started years ago, and probably was the result of my preferred sleep position -- on my stomach with arms above my head.  I'd wake up during the night with an arm (or two) asleep or a sore back, then roll over.  Again and again.

Later, when I couldn't last long in this position (even though when first getting in it, it feels soooo good), I started sleeping on my sides.

A few months ago, I hurt my right shoulder (long story, but nothing terribly serious) and was left with only one side to sleep on.  During the night, however, I continued to rotate into one of the now several positions that leave me in pain in short order.  The number of times I was waking up has been increasing, quality of sleep is decreasing.

Eventually, I started wondering if there might be "something else" going on, hence my trip to the Sleep Clinic last night.

If you're already having trouble sleeping, the Sleep Clinic is definitely not someplace where you're going to do better than average.  In fact, my night's sleep was quite a bit worse.

I arrived at 8:40, at which time the technician told me they were having "computer problems" and the whole thing might have to be cancelled.  He asked me to hang loose, and he'd let me know in a little while.  So I sat in quiet room reading until about 9:40, at which time he returned saying everything was "fixed."  It was then we began the preparations.

There were 6-8 probes glued to my head above the hairline, and another 9-10 placed around my neck and face.  The wires were all gathered and bundled behind my head, making me feel like I'd just had wire hair extensions added for the night.  Additionally, there were four probes on my legs, and two on my chest that were all gathered into the bundle.  I also had a chest strap and a belly strap wrapped around my torso -- snug, but not uncomfortable.  The final dressing was a sensor that went between my nose and mouth -- taped down and then looped around my ears -- and an oxygen sensor on my right index finger.

I was firmly attached to the instrumentation.  In fact, there were so many wires glued/stuck on me that I wondered if someone pulled hard enough, would I lift off the ground?

Sitting in the chair, none of this seemed "that bad," but under the covers it was a different story.

As an "active sleeper," I normally change positions at least a dozen times a night and often more.  But with all these wires attached to me, it was quite difficult to move.  I turned off the light at 10:30, but figure it took at least an hour -- and several awkward repositionings -- to doze off for the first time.  I ended up waking fully every time I needed to shift around -- the number of times I did that, I hesitate to estimate.  Suffice it to say "a lot" would be in the ballpark.  I remember thinking at one point that I would never get to sleep, and at another point just wishing the night was over and I was on my way home, no matter how tired I'd feel.

Nevertheless, I was sound asleep when the tech came to tell me it was time to get 5AM!  I showered, dressed and drove home in a bit of a fog.

Might be a good Saturday for an afternoon nap.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

In a Funk.

I found out a couple of days ago that my favorite boss of all time recently passed away.  This man was a great supporter and a mentor to me.  He certainly had a greater influence on my career and my management style than any other person I ever worked with.  I recall here just a few of his humorous (but often ironically accurate) sayings:

"...that's like drinking your own bathwater."
"Add a little fresh thinking to everything you do."
"They say there are no bad deals, only bad prices.  I'm here to tell you thay're wrong."
"I love it when the facts agree with my preconceived notions."
"I consider myself vertically and diametrically challenged."

In later years, I drifted apart from this friend.  There were times when I thought about him and wondered how life was treating him.  More frequently, I applied some of the lessons he taught me while giving a silent nod in his direction.

But I didn't go far enough.  I didn't look him up.  Didn't call.  Didn't make that greater effort to try to stay in touch.

Now it's too late, and I'm left with only regrets about what I should have done.

Monday, April 29, 2013

First Evening Fishing of the Season

One of the great pleasures of living on a lake, is sizing up the current weather, and walking down to the dock to cast a line into the murky depths.  Tonight was the first time this season that I wet a lure.  Alas, without a nibble.  As my brother would say:  "tonight the fish won."

I was joined by Candace, Sarah and Thomas, all of whom lasted approximately five minutes when nothing was hooking itself to their Zebco poles.  They, however, companionably stayed with me while I continued fishing, tossing rocks into the water, and trying (with some success) to snatch flies out of midair.

Even without any success, I love hearing the frogs croak, the birds chirp, and seeing deer in the distance, making their way from their hidey-holes deep in the trees toward unplowed fields searching for the last remnants of last year's crop.

And all was right with the world.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Doing the Teaching Thing...

I've been teaching a class at Creighton this semester, and that has put a pinch on my available time for other activities.  This blog has been one of the casualties.

Time to actually be at the class has been stolen from my time at work.  Time to prepare for the class has come from my writing time.

Now, I find I'm counting down the days until the end of the semester, when I will get that time back.

Not that there haven't been rewarding aspects to the class.  I enjoy the interaction with the students -- they are enthusiastic about soon starting their careers, and are looking forward to finishing school (they are all seniors).  They have interesting, and sometimes odd, takes on the world.  For example, in their world, Apple Inc. is taking over and is ultra-popular, whereas in my world, they are a quirky company with a failed computer business model and were only able to survive and thrive by releasing a series of very successful consumer electronics products.

But preparation is a huge drag.  I spend close to five hours per case reading and preparing my teaching plan. And there are two classes per week, so with the travel time, office time, grading time and everything else, I'm spending close to fifteen hours a week on this "hobby."  It is seeming a lot more like "work" than "fun."

And I never worked so cheap in my life.  The compensation is, to put it mildly, pathetic.

So, I'm now contemplating -- if asked -- would I agree to do this again.  Do the positive aspects outweigh the negative ones?

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Professor Spears

A few people have asked me how the teaching gig at Creighton is going thus far, and I thought I'd respond here.

It's been quite a few years since I read/reviewed cases, and had somewhat forgotten how much work it can be.  Every case that I'm teaching this semester is new to me, and while many of them have teaching notes (that help the instructor distill the teaching points, and develop a lesson plan), about a third don't.  So I'm spending quite a bit of time preparing for class.  Definitely more than I expected.  I guess there will be a payoff if I decide to teach the course again.

There are a lot of things to juggle during the class session.  Attendance, keeping track of class participation, making notes on the case opening, getting the next lesson ready (including the "teaser" questions), and finding volunteers for the next case opening.  I've tried to be very thorough in my prep, but it still seems like I forget something I wanted to do or say during each class.

The students have been fun to interact with -- most don't appear to be bored, and they are clearly learning new things.  This is the first experience with the case method for most, so I'm sure it is a little confusing and intimidating right now.

But I can see they (and I) am going to need a break here or there.  I've now lined up three top shelf outside speakers to come and address the class on some aspect of strategy that they've dealt with in their business careers.  I'm sure that will be a nice change of pace.

Overall, the jury is still out as to my long term interest in continuing to pursue teaching.

Friday, January 4, 2013


Just in case my plate wasn't full enough (and believe me, it was), I've agreed to teach a course as an Adjunct Instructor next semester at Creighton University's College of Business.

Many moons ago, when I began this career transition, teaching at the college level was one of the things I had on my list of potential jobs to explore.  While I must admit I haven't been super-diligent about following up everything on the list -- conducting more of a search for serendipity than a targeted and exhaustive exploration of all options -- when this opportunity basically dropped into my lap, I wanted to take the time to give it a real try.

The course I'll be teaching is one required for seniors called BU 471:  Strategic Management.  One of the other instructors in the department described the course as a "capstone" -- which means it is used to pull concepts together from a number of specific disciplines into an integrated subject.

The course is taught using the case method -- the same method I used during my MBA -- and I think that cases are a well-suited way to cover subjects that aren't particularly cookie-cutter.

So I'm excited about the opportunity, and also a little nervous as I've never tried this type of challenge before.  While I'm pretty comfortable with the subject -- Strategy -- I'm not so familiar with working in the University environment.

It should be...educational.  Both for me and the students!