Monday, February 6, 2017

More About Negotiating, Ballad of the Gullible, Letter to the Post, Brooks Speaks Out and a Pathetic Woman

Poetry Time

I understand New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof recently ran a poetry contest on his blog asking readers to submit original poetry dealing with the new Presidency.  By the time that I got there, the “comments” section had been maxed out and was closed.  Nevertheless, here is the poem I would have submitted had I been able to:

The Ballad of the Gullible

Never shopped in Whole Foods
Nor tuned to NPR.  
And my idea of heaven
Is takin’ in NASCAR.
Don’t like reading print books,
Nor list’ning to a poem.
Got me a Smith and Wesson
To fortify my home.
You may think me a fool,
Raise up my glass of wine,
But buddy, please believe me,
The Donald is just fine.

These are precisely the voters which the Democratic Party failed to reach last year.  

If you wish, you can sing this!  We could have an on-line chorus!  But for the time being, you can just make up your own tune.  If you give it a try, I suggest you accent the syllables which I’ve underlined and highlighted as follows (Next to last syllable in odd numbered lines, syllable before that one in even numbered lines).  Just somewhat extend them.  But do with it as you wish:

1    Never shopped in Whole Foods
2    Nor tuned to NPR.  
3    And my idea of heaven
4    Is takin’ in NASCAR.
5    Don’t like reading print books,
6    Nor list’ning to a poem.
7    Got me a Smith and Wesson
8    To fortify my home.
9    You may think me a fool,
10  Raise up my glass of wine,
11  But buddy, please believe me,
12  The Donald is just fine.

But my poem never got on Kristof's blog.  A poem submitted by a neighbor, Joyce Golden, did and here it is for your enjoyment:

Chief: mirror mirror
Who is the fairest in the land?
Mirror: well, "I'm really not sure"
Chief: but they talk only of me,
          They made me their grand
          Prize winner!
          Their gamer-in-chief
Mirror: maybe, you need a new
          Mirror...                                      Joyce Golden 1/27/17

Are any of you out there poets, or aspire to be one?  Send your work in for inclusion in the blog!

Jack Lippman                                                           

The Strength of a Negotiator

A negotiator’s position is strengthened when the person with whom he or she is negotiating is kept in the dark about what their real goals are.  A few examples follow.

A car salesman has quoted you a price on the car you want.  You know it’s too high.  You ask for a lower price.  He tries to get you to commit to how much you really want to pay.  But of course, you don’t tell him the truth.  But he can work with any number to increase his profit, particularly if there is a trade-in, lease expiration, financing or new leasing involved.  It’s harder if the number you’re trying to agree upon is going to be a one-time cash payment.  Even then, he can work with “extras” like dealer fees, pin striping, extended warranties, useless “undercoating” and special wax finishes, all of which he can use to build up the profit.  But finally, when the two of you agree upon a price, the salesman then gets up and goes back to get the sales manager to agree with it, and that person may have his own ideas as to what the price should be.  He knows how long the dealership has had the car on its lot and how much interest it is paying on the financing the dealership uses to purchase the car.  His price might differ.  So the selling price may change again.  And if you get up, threatening to “walk,” that may affect the dealer’s price as well. That’s what negotiations are all about.

You put your house on the market.  You know exactly for how much similar houses in your neighborhood have been selling, and you’d be satisfied with that price.  You tell your agent how much you want and he or she puts it on the market for about 15% more than that price because, automatically, the buyer is going to offer less than you want for your house.  You get a “low ball” offer, but aren’t sure how much more the buyer is willing to pay.  Your agent says to wait for other offers.  They all seem to be low-balling you.  One is willing to pay the price you are willing to sell for, but is having difficulty getting a mortgage.  The agent asks you if you are willing to hold the mortgage.  You wisely say “no.”  Another buyer offers that 15% inflated price, but you find that he plans to convert your house to a “sober home” for recovering addicts.  You know your neighbors too well to do that.  But finally, you sell your house for what you hope is a fair price four months later.  Maybe.

This is the way business negotiations are carried on.  I repeat that the key to success is hiding what your real objective is.  That’s why the car salesman never tells you the exact price that the car can be sold for while still providing a fair profit for the dealer and his or her commission.  Maybe he can sell it for more than that amount.  Most of the time that is what happens.  And if it doesn’t, the salesman might not be around much longer.  And the prospective buyer of a home would be foolish to come out with the maximum price they are willing to pay; no more than the seller would announce the minimum amount that he or she is willing to take for the house.  A strong negotiator hides his true position.  Not to do so would weaken his ability to negotiate.

Well, this way of doing business has now spread to government, where it does not belong.  But since the democratic process put the “King of Negotiators” into the White House, and made the word “deal” part of the lexicon of governmental operations, we had better get used to it.  The Administration is not going to reveal its health care proposal to replace the Affordable Care Act and it is happy to let the Congress toss a whole bunch of proposals into the mix.  Keeping everyone in the dark about their real intentions regarding health care protects whatever plan they may have from attack.

And the same thing goes for trade policy, foreign policy, economics, etc., etc.  Traditionally, proposals in these areas were stated in a straightforward manner.  Everyone knew where everyone stood.  Negotiations then took place to arrive at some sort of decision, usually a compromise.  But to compromise, one must know the position of the other side. Even when a “real” position has been other than a publicly stated position, the other side usually is well aware of that through private, unpublicized discussions.   Hence, negotiations can still be based on knowledge of where both sides really stand, even though that information may not be out in the sunlight.

No more.  Now we have a “Negotiator-in-Chief” who thinks he can beat the world with his ability to “deal.”  He wrote a book, didn’t he, entitled “The Art of the Deal.”  (It was really ghost-written.)  The problem is that the rest of the world doesn’t do business that way.  Negotiations must be based on knowledge, not exaggerated bargaining positions, nuances, emotional appeal, fuzzy facts and fuzzier numbers.  And there is no bankruptcy procedure for the United States of America if a “deal,” be it domestic or international, goes sour.   This is the world, not a car dealership nor a guy trying to sell his house.  This is the problem.

Letter to the Post
Here’s a letter I wrote to the Palm Beach Post (I’ll let you know if they print it) about the International Red Cross Ball at Mar-a-Lago this past Saturday evening.  There were three thousand demonstrators there, but most were kept on the western side of the Intracoastal Waterway, far from the party.  Here’s the letter:

“I was sickened by the article in Friday’s Post Accent section about the International Red Cross Ball at Mar-a-Lago.  The cause may be a good one but the description of the attendees was disgusting.  Women wearing jeweled tiaras?  Trumpeters and a Marine color guard heralding the entrance of guests?  These wealthy people, living under the illusion that they are our country’s nobility, should somehow be shipped back to the late nineteenth century European society which died in 1918, and from which the United States separated itself by fighting the Revolutionary War.  And most appalled should be the President’s populist supporters.” 


David Brooks Addresses Fellow Republicans

In a recent New York Times column, David Brooks said that “many Republican members of Congress have made a *Faustian bargain with Donald Trump. They don’t particularly admire him as a man, they don’t trust him as an administrator, they don’t agree with him on major issues, but they respect the grip he has on their voters.” Read more of what Brooks had to say by clicking right here!

David Brooks is a very insightful writer.  But sometimes his heart dominates his brain.  Shortly after the election, he wrote that Trump would probably resign or be impeached within a year.  Three months later, I doubt that he would voice that bit of wishful thinking again.  He is counting on the Republicans who made their *Faustian bargain to eventually see the light and renounce their allegiance to the Trump Presidency. “So sooner or later,” he writes, “all will have to choose what side they are on, and live forever after with the choice.”

The devil, however, has his personal gatekeeper standing in the way of that happening the way Brooks would like it to happen.  His name is Bannon.  And for some strange, yet inexplicable reason, the President has made some sort of deal with that gatekeeper’s boss.  Click here to read the column.
*As the Germanic legend, the operas and the plays would have it, Dr. Faustus sells his soul to the Devil in exchange for, among other things, earthly power.

And while we're talking about the President, let me add that Donald Trump, while in the business world, had been accustomed to doing whatever he wanted to do, and if someone objected, they could sue him.  Well, he must learn that is not the way our government works.  Instead, we have a delicate balance between the Congressional, the Executive and the Judicial branches of our government established by the Constitution, and the President heads only one of them.  Lack of respect for the Courts on all levels, and lack of respect for elected representatives in the Congress can only serve to immobilize the Executive branch.  And watching over this, as established by the First Amendment of the Constitution, is a free press.  Attempts by any of the three branches to weaken that free press should be resisted by all Americans, regardless of their politics.  
We must all be like Peter Zenger, whose lawyers successfully argued way back in 1734 that "truth" is a defense against charges of libel.  It still is.  


Poor Kellyanne Conway  and Truth

This pathetic woman is truly deserving of our pity.  She has been depending on warped sources of information like FoxNews and the Breitbart organization for so long that she has lost the ability to distinguish truth from falsehood.  Her recent ridiculous statements about “alternate facts” having as much credibility as “facts” are not only disgraceful but an insult to the legal profession of which she supposedly is a member. 

A lawyer can construct a defense based on half (or quarter or eighth) truths and sometimes even lies, trying to assemble enough evidence to get a court to believe them, but that does not turn such evidence into facts, even though they might get a client off.  This poor woman doesn’t understand that.  And if she does, that makes her even more pathetic.  That makes her a downright liar.

Her latest comment about a non-existent “massacre” in Bowling Green, Kentucky, is the result of her having gotten too much information over the years from un-documentable right-wing sources, as have too many Americans.  It seems she no longer can distinguish truth from falsehood.  As I have stated in a prior posting, the super-salesman in the White House has the same problem because highly successful salespeople really believe what they are saying, whether it is true or not.  As ridiculous as it seems, the President should get a pass because of that.  He knows no better.  But attorney Conway should know better.  She has no place in any White House, especially one that has built-in problems of its own with truth.

And related to this problem, this morning on NPR's A-1 program (wherever you are, try to listen ... it's the replacement for the retired Diane Rehm), a member of Trump's transitional team was being interviewed.  Host Josh Johnson questioned the member's claim that the team was "non-partisan," because the gentleman was a fellow at the Heritage Foundation.  The gentleman claimed that since the Foundation had no official party affiliation, their views, which he espoused, did not make the team "partisan." 

We must be very careful with the meaning of words and what passes for "truth" in Washington today, more than ever.  (For those who were not aware of it, the Heritage Foundation promotes right-wing conservative values.)


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