Posts tagged ‘tariffs’

Collusion? Chaos as Policy?

Here is a report from the Daily Beast Cheat Sheet:

A new New Yorker profile of Trump-Russia dossier author Christopher Steele reports on a lesser-known memo the former MI-6 spy allegedly discussed with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators. According to the report, in late November 2016, Steele relayed information from his Russian sources that senior Kremlin officials had intervened to block Mitt Romney as President-elect Trump’s choice for secretary of State. Reporter Jane Mayer writes that Moscow had asked Trump to appoint someone who would be willing to lift sanctions related to Ukraine and cooperate with Russia’s involvement in Syria. Romney, long a vocal hawk on Russia, declined to comment for the report. The White House said the former GOP presidential nominee was never a first choice for the job, and declined to comment on “any communications that the Trump team may have had with Russia on the subject.”

Okay, they deny it.  They deny a lot of things that are absolutely. My guess is it is true and Republicans will normalize this when it comes out as consulting with our allies on a good fit.  Think about that.  Again, if this were Obama, how do you think Republicans would react to Russia weighing in on our choice of Secretary of State.  Note the guy who got the nod was unknown to President DFF and was a Russian advocate for lifting sanctions.  Suspicious?  Of course it is.  Note the story today about the State Department receiving $120M to counter Russian meddling and they have spent zero.  What does that tell you?  Again, imagine if Obama had done this.

Meanwhile as the noose tightens and Jareed and Ivanka start to unravel, in a peak of anger, President DFF issues a policy on aluminum and steel.  While President DFF’s enablers are out there trying to pretend this is the way he works and it is good for the country, the Daily Beast reports:

Donald Trump “emphatically” promised to exempt Australian steel and aluminum from import tariffs during a meeting with Australia’s prime minister last year. The vow was witnessed by senior lawmakers on both sides, including U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, and chief economic adviser Gary Cohn, Australia’s national broadcaster, ABC, reported. The promise was made in the “steel cage,” the president’s mobile secure-communications pod, on the sidelines of the G-20 meeting in Hamburg, Germany, in July 2017. The Australian government has, therefore, been stunned by statements by U.S. officials that there will be no country-specific exemptions to the tariffs. The tariffs were announced in an impromptu fashion by Trump last week, when he said that he intends to impose a 25 percent tax on imported steel and 10 percent on aluminum, on national-security grounds. Australia exports about $500 million of steel and aluminum to the U.S. a year. The U.K. has also been blindsided by the move; Prime Minister Theresa May raised her “deep concern” over the proposed new tariffs in a phone call with Trump on Sunday. The EU is said to be preparing retaliatory measures.

Now we can quit pretending.  He was thinking about this and it was a wild outburst.  This is not going to end well and those who try spin it, are doing a great disservice to the country.  There was clearly an obstruction of justice (why is the critical question), there was clearly money laundering and maybe pay for play by the kids, there was clearly collusion and we are just waiting to see who, we know the Russians tried to affect the outcome of the election, and we know that nothing has been done about it.  How much more do you need?

The America that President DFF and his cronies envision is a nightmare version of the American dream and an attack on the fundamentals on which our Constitution was founded upon (Enlightenment ideas).  Yesterday we watched the Oscars trying to celebrate our most basic value, diversity and the freedom for anyone to be creative.  In the meantime on the other side of the country the swamp that the Know Nothings wanted to clean up has grown exponentially and they are in denial about it.  We are in a fight for who we are, and when the realization of who and what President DFF is and represents hits home, we will enter very dangerous times as there is not telling what he might do while Republicans fiddle.  Hey, it is just Monday.

Problems without Solutions

Sometimes you read something that nails a problem and yet leaves you thinking, okay, but what is the solution? I ran into this in my professional life (Project Manager) where people would download their concerns, without a way forward. Of course I would challenge them on that, “So what’s your plan?” Usually I would get the I am just a peon defense, but if you don’t like something what good is your ire without a thought out way forward? I read two articles this morning that fit that bill, one by George Will on the problems with tariffs, and one by Steven Livetsky and Daniel Ziblatt on the problems with our Democracy.

Let’s start with George who points out that the latest tariffs placed on washing machines and solar panels by President DFF is really rent seeking by Whirlpool and solar manufactures, paid for by Americans who will simply see higher prices subsidizing not real innovation or improvement by American companies:

Fomenting spurious anxieties about national security is the first refuge of rent-seeking scoundrels who tart up their protectionism as patriotism when they inveigle government into lining their pockets with money extracted from their fellow citizens. Sugar producers are ludicrously protected in the name of “food security.” Most U.S. steel imports come from four important allies: Canada, South Korea, Mexico and Brazil. The coming steel tariffs/taxes will mean that defense dollars will buy fewer ships, tanks and armored vehicles, just as the trillion infrastructure dollars the administration talks about will buy fewer bridges and other steel-using projects. As Henry George said, with protectionism a nation does to itself in peacetime what an enemy tries to do to it in war.

And of course he is right, but… The but is what happens with imports that wipe out jobs or drive wages down to slave level? I guess in the perfect market place, innovation and competition would create new jobs, or create better washing machines and solar panels to properly win back the American dollar. But that is not what happened in middle America, so what is the solution?

Certainly if we can create a better market place economy with more competition with less rent seeking, there would be more “creative destruction” and these workers could move on to other jobs. But we have not seen that and the real issue is not to just be against tariffs, but what to do about workers who suffer from creative destruction (dynamic process of creative destruction: new ideas originate and spread, old ways of doing things are displaced, and resources are reallocated from less to more productive combinations of capital and labor). While conservatives are wild and somewhat right about the market place, they look the other way from the wreckage left in its wake. It’s that balance thing.

Okay, next up is Livetsky and Ziblatt on what they are seeing happening to our democracy. The article talks about seeing opposition as legitimate (mutual tolerance) and the loss of forbearance:

To function well, democratic constitutions must be reinforced by two basic norms, or unwritten rules. The first is mutual toleration, according to which politicians accept their opponents as legitimate. When mutual toleration exists, we recognize that our partisan rivals are loyal citizens who love our country just as we do.

The second norm is forbearance, or self-restraint in the exercise of power. Forbearance is the act of not exercising a legal right. In politics, it means not deploying one’s institutional prerogatives to the hilt, even if it’s legal to do so.

Okay, but let’s not forget who started this game in 2009 with the approach from Mitch McConnell and the Republicans to make Barack Obama a one-term President. It was a scorched earth policy to use every trick in the book to make his administration fail. The authors seem to recognize the Republicans are playing this game with this, but want to sanction Democrats for fighting back:

Perhaps the most consequential was the Senate’s refusal to take up Mr. Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. Since 1866, every time a president had an opportunity to fill a vacancy before the election of his successor, he was allowed to do so (though not always on the first try). The Senate’s refusal to even consider an Obama nominee violated a 150-year-old norm.

Democrats are beginning to respond in kind. Their recent filibuster triggering a government shutdown took a page out of the Gingrich playbook. And if they retake the Senate in 2018, there is talk of denying President Trump the opportunity to fill any Supreme Court vacancy. This is a dangerous spiral.

American democracy retains important sources of strength, including vast national wealth, a vibrant media and civil society, and a robust judiciary and rule of law. But the norms that once protected our institutions are coming unmoored. President Trump has accelerated this norm erosion, but he didn’t start it. Intensifying polarization, driven by an extremist Republican Party, is making constitutional hardball a new norm for party politics.

The lessons of history are clear. Extreme polarization can wreck even established democracies. America is no exception. As long as Americans do not overcome their deepening partisan animosities, democracy remains at risk — President Trump or no President Trump.

Okay, but what are Democrats suppose to do, turn the other cheek, be the only adult in the room? This is how they lost in 2010, 2014, and 2016. While you can pine away at what is surely the slow destruction of our democracy, you could note that it is being caused by one party and rational debate went out the window years ago. What should be the appropriate response of Democrats, principled capitulation?

I think not, and while the Democrats learned shutting down the government is not the right tactic, the authors owed us the responsibility of pointing out who is the major player in this game and a reasonable way forward. This is what you see a lot in writing today to try to reach both sides, not pointing out who is the real problem. And it fails every time because those who play this game don’t give a wit about a reasoned approach to democracy, only winning. Now when you face this reality, isn’t it their responsibility to also give us a way forward to bring reason and civility back to politics? In the meantime, I will give you mine in this blog, and right now the only way I see to win back America is to fight fire with fire. Got a better idea?


I haven’t quite decided yet what I am going to write about this cold Sunday morning, the empowerment of the Trump election to bullying and bigotry, or about the real state of jobs.  I have kind of jumbled emotions here.  I am still very very angry at the people who either voted for Trump thinking he was their savior, or the false third-party “principled” vote.  Both are rubes (I think that better captures it than idiots.  A rube is a naive or inexperienced person.  Ignorant comes to mind).  So I will start with the real state of jobs. The narrative tells us we weren’t listening to rust belt America and Trump was.  Now for reality.

When a way of life dies off, there will be collateral damage.  So in that sense we should have been listening.  The rest of it is total nonsense.  One story-teller explains that when he was young, you were almost guaranteed a good manufacturing job when you graduated from high school.  Now that is gone and nobody is listening to them.  So Trump tells them he will bring back their jobs and they are all a twitter.  The rube effect. Those jobs are never coming back no matter how many tariffs you put on companies or how many trade deals you walk away from.  The pace of technological change, automation, and global competition will see jobs come and go much more quickly than ever before.  All Trump is doing is selling the rubes snake oil to feather the beds of his rich 1% cohorts and make things so much worse for the rubes.

Let me give you an example of my life.  I went to college in 1964.  It was affordable.  I got a degree in electrical engineering and yes I did have a guaranteed job when I graduated in 1968, the Vietnam war.  As a young officer I went to a missile and drone R&D unit to develop technology.  I got a pilot’s license there. Then I went to navigator school and learned navigation. Next reconnaissance F4 training to learn about, well, reconnaissance.  I went to survival school, several. I got trained in how to resist torture.  I went to war.

I came back and ended up in another school for B-52s and became a radar navigator (bombardier) learning about nuclear weapons and total annihilation.  I went to school at night and got my Masters Degree in Civil (Structural) engineering.  I got out of the AF and went to work first for the state of California, then the Navy in Texas, then the Army Corps of Engineers in New Orleans, Texas, and then Sacramento.  I got my Masters Certificate in Project Management and learned all about environmental cleanups, unexplored ordinance, chemical weapons, construction management, and contracting.

Do you get the drift?  Even an old fart like me had to be continually reinventing myself, learning,  growing and moving to where the work was.  Oh, and it was fun (at least most of it).  That is the reality of today.  So don’t cry to me Argentina.  While I was ahead of my time, that is the reality you all face.  Ask a medical doctor or any professional and he will tell you it is a life of constant learning only now it is more accelerated.

So while we feel your pain, grow up, that world you are wallowing in is never coming back.  Certainly we should face those challenges with a government that understands that turbulence that is now built into our lives and provides a path for us to cope and evolve.  That would include (as I had) affordable education, healthcare, and a retirement system that guarantees a fixed income based upon earnings.  Then we are free to follow our dreams, or move on when things change.  You really are then responsible for yourself. But the rubes voted for an idiot and bought into snake oil and we are all going to suffer because they were angry.  Tough, grow up and move on.  Vote for a government that will enable growth and learning, not steal your money and give it to the 1%.

Okay, one last thing, that enabling thing.  Donald Trump has enabled victimization, rudeness, and of course racism and hate.  The incidents where people are acting out are increasing.  Somehow they are entitled to tromp all over you and not respect your space.  Joy Reed on MSNBC put together some phone videos people had taken to show these people acting out, from demanding they did not have to take a number at the meat counter like anyone else, to some rube in an airplane lecturing the rest of the passengers on the new day under Donald Trump.

This comes from extreme anger and bitterness and an ex-white supremest explained it this way:  You blame everything on someone else.  Nothing is your fault, but those others are holding you back.  The anger simply grows and grows because you fail to take responsibility for your plight.  So now they have been given a license to act out that nonsense because the Donald has legitimized it.  We are in for some very turbulent times and there is no measuring the damage this man is doing to our country.  Thank you rubes.  Your ignorance is boundless. I don’t give a fuck about understanding you.  You need to grow up.