Category Archives: opinion

Class, All those in favor of a trade war, Please Raise your hands!

If you raised your hand, consider this

The impacts of Donald Trump’s trade war could be felt through the global economy for decades to come, if patterns followed during the last true trade conflict in the 1930s manifest themselves in 2018, according to research from Oxford Economics.

It has been a long time since the great depression.  None of the decision makers who put up the trade barriers that led to it are around any more. And only a few of our elderly were aware of how policy was discussed back then. Here is a reminder

NO ONE UNDERSTOOD THAT RAISING TARIFFS WOULD HAVE LONG TERM NEGATIVE ECONOMIC EFFECTS.

WE ONLY FIGURED OUT LATER THAT THE SMOOT – HAWLEY TARIFFS WERE A MAJOR CAUSE OF THE DEPRESSION, AND PROLONGED IT.

THE EXTENDED DEPRESSION  HELPED CREATE THE CONDITIONS THAT LED TO THE SECOND WORLD WAR

And Captain Donald Trump is guiding us directly towards the same situation. Indeed, for no apparent reason other than he feels like it, Captain Trump is creating that situation. The captain is brewing up a storm that we are about to sail into.

And what about Congress? The fact is that Trump is acting beyond his presidential powers in playing with tariffs. This is Congress’s job. Trump  should only do this as a matter of national security. But the Republican dominated Congress has not even discussed this, let along stepped in to take control.

A conclusion is in order. Your kids could do a better job of running the country than this crowd. They would at least understand the idea that: trade wars lead to disaster.

Hmmm … is that so hard to understand? I wold love to ask the president some day when this is all behind us. “Did you have any clue what you were doing?”

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Once Again, It’s Never Trump’s Fault

You have to give credit to Donald Trump for at least one thing —- whenever he creates a mess (which he does on a regular basis), he finds someone else to blame. hE IS GOOD AT THAT!

The latest example of this just happened. Bob Mueller has indicted 12 Russians for conspiracy to influence the US presidential elections in 2016 who were in cahoots with at least one so far  un-indicted  high level Trump Campaign advisor. Trump immediately says it is Obama’s fault. He should have caught them and it is not his fault because he was not elected yet. 

To see through this, imagine you are a shop lifter. You are caught after you leave the store without paying for your loot. Your defense? “It’s the store’s fault. Security should have stopped me before I left the store!”

Whatever Obama did or did not do, the fact remains that Mueller has uncovered serious wrongdoing during the campaign. In other words, Mueller is doing exactly what he is supposed to do. And if Mueller uncovers evidence that Trump himself or other Trump colleagues violated the law, the supposed defense that Obama should have caught them before they left the store is, using a technical legal term, bananas.

Next argument – society is to blame!

NATO Just Had a Bad Day, and No One Knows Why!

Donald Trump blew into town for the annual NATO Summit with an agenda. It was not an agenda to strengthen NATO, which is peculiar because that is clearly what Congress wants him to do. From Bloomberg

Even as Trump was heading to Europe, the U.S. Senate voted 97-2 on Tuesday for a non-binding resolution supporting NATO. The U.S. House followed up Wednesday with its own version. House Speaker Paul Ryan called NATO “indispensable,” but he added that Trump is correct in prodding other countries to pay more for their defense.

But this is what happened

President Donald Trump began this week’s NATO summit with more broadsides against US allies, tarring Germany as “totally controlled by Russia” and again exhorting members to increase domestic defense spending to “2% of GDP IMMEDIATELY, not by 2025,” misstating the non-legally-binding guideline to reach that spending level by 2024.

Of course, Trump knows that Republicans who control Congress will ignore all of this. And he knows that they will ignore whatever happens when Trump meets Putin in a few days.

The disconnect is obvious. Out of the blue, the president is tearing down an alliance that was created by the US, and that serves US interests. It is not because the American people want this. And it is not because Congress wants it. It is a whim of Trump the individual.

Whether you are a Democrat or a Republican, it is time to reflect on how this person is damaging the US.

  • Despite intelligence community assessments and the conclusions of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Trump is ignoring the ongoing threat of further Russian meddling in US elections.
  • Trump is degrading the rule of law by meddling in Department of Justice and FBI investigations for his own personal reasons.
  • Trump has started trade wars that could very easily spark a global recession . despite the fact that Congress, and not the president is supposed to have control over tariffs except when national security issues require presidential action. There is no claim that national security is at stake here.
  • Trump is damaging key US relationships with its allies and embracing leaders who are openly hostile to US interests
  • Trump is playing politics with global security in his grandstanding with North Korea and Iran
  • The Trump Administration has pursued policies that are abhorrent to core US values like separating parents from children at the border without any system for reuniting them.
  • Trump and the Trump Administration repeatedly misrepresent facts that are critical to debate while accusing the media of spreading “fake news”. The effect is to degrade public discord and reduce trust on our institutions and weaken a core value of freedom of the press.

The above list is not complete. We will find out more. But meanwhile, itsn’t the above enough to think about how to stop this madness? Congressional Republicans have the power to do this at any given moment. They have chosen not to, which speaks volumes about who these people are.

If you are distressed by the above — and if you are not distressed, please explain why you think the above is not a matter of concern — the best you can do is to vote, get your friends to vote, and get your friends’ friends to vote in order to take control of Congress away from Republicans and allow Democrats to stand up to Trump and Trumpism.

The November midterms are the most important elections of this generation. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that everything will be ok without your efforts. It will get worse if we sit back as if we are at the movies. No superheroes will zoom in to save us from ourselves. And we will not be able to leave the theater when we no longer like the story line.

What if Men Got Pregnant?

If you question the positive effects of the enlightenment on the quality of life in the west, consider this bit of data from merry olde England

In the Seventeenth Century around one in four children died before the age of ten. The average woman gave birth to six or seven children. Half or fewer than half were likely to survive to adulthood.

And that does not convey the dangers of birthing to the mother. If that shocks you, read on. The full story is even more shocking.

Things have gotten better, but not as quickly as you might have thought. Consider this

  • While women had served as physicians and spiritual healers since ancient times, in mid-19th-century America there was not one female M.D.
  • The first successful (menstrual) pad appeared in 1921, when the Kimberly-Clark company introduced Kotex (the name derived from the phrase “cotton-like texture”).
  • Margaret Sanger opened America’s first birth control clinic on October 16, 1916, in Brooklyn, New York.
  • In 1931 New York gynecologist Robert Tilden Frank delivered a paper in which he noted his interest in “a large group of women who are handicapped by premenstrual disturbances.” Frank was the first modern physician to speculate that these “disturbances” were linked to the ovarian cycles.
  • In May 1960, the FDA approved the sale of the first oral contraceptive, the birth control pill Enovid — or simply, The Pill.
  • groundbreaking technical advances in mammography led to the creation in 1969 of low-radiation mammograms, and the modern era of mammography was born.
  • Growing out of the fortuitous meeting of 12 women at a 1969 women’s liberation conference in Boston, the book Our Bodies, Ourselves revolutionized views about women’s bodies and sexuality.

In other words, we just woke up to the idea that women have special health needs that men do not understand. And a major aspect of their health needs relates to child bearing. My question — if men gave birth instead of women, would we be discussing whether men would have the right to choose whether to go forward with a pregnancy?

Moving Beyond Capitalism?

Before you decide that I am some sort of communist, socialist, or other socially undesirable miscreant, hear me out!

I am a strong believer in what capitalism has provided us. The marriage of invention and capital to unlock and exploit invention  to create products and services has been amazing! I love it!

And I recognize that what I love is not perfect. It fulfills certain functions but it is not the ultimate expression of human creativity. Why not? Because of its externalities. These externalities are becoming more obvious in the digital age, as the mechanisms we rely on through our capital based systems start to break down.

Al Wenger writes about this in “The World After Capital” – and here are two glimpses of his thinking

These problems can be addressed if we recognize them as fixable problems. That requires 2 things. First, it requires a politics that is focused mainly on the future rather than the present and the past. Politicians need to be accountable for the future that political systems create. Second, it requires better channels for discussing the future that we can create. Let’s face it, current media sucks in this regard.

So, let’s get there!

Mitch McConnell Apparently Has Lost His Memory!

I saw this in the news today

The Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, excoriated Democrats for declaring their opposition to Judge Kavanaugh even before his nomination was announced.

Hmmm … is this the same McConnell who refused to allow hearings on ANY nominee made by Barrack Obama let alone a vote on the Senate floor?

It seems that Senator McConnell has no shame whatsoever or that he has no memory of the partisan stunt that he pulled off single handedly a little more than a year ago.

Which do you think is the case?

The Rotten Roots of Modern Conservatism

It is a puzzle to many liberals – how do conservatives think about policy? For example, how could they be against helping people get health care at reasonable cost? At first blush, it seems that it is the manifestation of mean spirited selfishness. And that is true – with a twist.

The twist is that there is an intellectual core to this school of thought. That intellectual core preaches that a selfish society is a better society. There is no “shared interest”, just pure self-interest. When that self interest gets diluted, it loses its intellectual vigor.

That school of thought is not from Adam Smith. It  has instead a more modern progenitor – Ayn Rand. Rand wrote two books that lay out her ideas – The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. And modern conservatives treat these books are the words of a prophet.

BTW, One of the most devoted Ayn Rand true believers used to run the Federal Reserve – Alan Greenspan. Greenspan could not imagine that self-interest could lead to the demise of institutions that were essential to supporting it. And that is precisely what happened in the 2008 meltdown. Greenspan was dumbfounded and remains so today.

Robert Reich discussed Rand in the video below – and if you want to be part of the  political debate that rages these days, you might want to take a look and decide for yourself whether Rand was  a prophet of a quack social psychologist.

I have labelled Rand’s influence “rotten”. Why? For two reasons. First, there is a major difference between playing a game with passion (something Rand would approve of) and ignoring whether the rules of the game are biased towards one side (something Rand would suggest we do). Second, Rand’s approach to making society work runs headlong into a discovery that we have made about innovation. Innovation is not an act of individual ego. It arises out of social connection. And celebration of unbridled ego therefore, is a recipe for a less prosperous society.