Saturday, June 16, 2018

ICE and the Disappearing Children

The story of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) separating children from their parents, ostensibly for baths, never to return the children triggered me as a historian.

In the Nazi concentration camps the gas chambers were disguised as showers. The victims were told they were going to take delousing showers so they would peaceably enter the chambers.
The plumbing looked right so they had no suspicions until hydrogen cyanide gas started spraying from the shower heads.

Children's concentration camps is not entirely a Trumpian invention.
The Nazis liked to put children in separate camps. It made selection for their medical experiments easier when there were no adults around to protect the little ones. But mostly separating children from parents is integral to the psychological torture of both adults and children that gives psychopaths their joy.

ICE has earned itself a Gestapo-like reputation where ripping children from their parents arms and placing them in inhuman kennel-like conditions may be the least of their human rights abuses.

ICE routinely kick in doors and arrest whole families for the crime of having Hispanic surnames. Even if they are American citizens. Even deporting American citizens to foreign countries. Even shooting citizens in their ethnic cleansing purges.

Then, you knew I'd get there, we have ICE "losing" over 1500 children. They have plenty of excuses from being lousy bureaucrats who've simply misplaced  hundreds of kids to all the children are criminals who have gone into "hiding."

Of course, "losing" their children could be just another psychopathic torment ICE is inflicting on parents. Or it could be infinitely worse. Disappearing children was a weapon of the fascist dictatorship of Argentina in the 1970's. It was a weapon so potent that it still torments mothers 40 years later.

Has ICE begun killing illegal immigrants? We know ICE is evil, there is ample evidence for that. With all they do already, murder is not too big a step deeper into depravity. I'd like to believe that they have not begun killing innocents but I am certain there were many Germans in Frankfort in 1941 who liked to believe their countrymen were not murdering Jews in Poland.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Christmas In June

Kim Jong Un had a short wish list and got everything he wanted from Trump.

End US-South Korea military corporation
Trump agreed to halt all joint military exercises. The next step in Kim's plans is the withdrawal of US troops from South Korea.

Appear equal to the US president
Kim got effusive praise from Trump, something he denies US allies like South Korea.

Give up nothing but vague promises
Done.

Make Dennis Rodman cry
Okay, that was probably not on Kim's wish list but he got it so...Kim for the win.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Trump Tariffs, Trump Deficits = Trump Inflation

Four German marks would buy one dollar in 1921. By 1923, the exchange rate was four trillion marks to the dollar.
Economics can be devilishly complicated but there are rules of thumb.
  1. Deficit spending is inflationary.
  2. Tariffs are inflationary.
  3. Recessions/Depressions are deflationary.
This is why the Federal Reserve during the Nixon/Ford/Carter presidencies hiked interest rates to usurious levels, nearly 20%. They wanted to induce a severe recession to, in the words of Gerald Ford, Whip Inflation Now!

Trump is flipping two inflation triggers at the same time.

His tariff wars against Europe, Canada, Mexico, China (the entire world except Russia) will cause the inflation of prices of imported goods and domestic goods built using imported materials. Also, by removing price competition, retailers will increase prices just because they can.

Trump's deficits will exceed $1 trillion a year by the end of his term. Double that if the US goes to war with Iran. Double it again if the Fed hikes interest rates to induce a recession.

There is one more rule of thumb that applies.

A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

If you need something, buy it now. Every day you wait the price will go up and the value of your savings will shrink.
There is a story of a man in Duesseldorf bringing a wheelbarrow of cash to the market to buy food. He ducked into the store for a moment to find out the current price of bread, it changed hourly. When he went back outside to fetch his cash he found the wheelbarrow had been stolen but the money had been dumped on the ground, The thief thought the worthless reams of cash weren't worth the effort of stealing.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Now Comes the Fox News Doublethink

Trump has cancelled his delusional chance at the Nobel Peace Prize by backing out of meeting with the North Korean dictator. Yawn.

The interesting bit will be Fox News turning on a dime from declaring hourly how Trump's dedication to the Korean summit was the greatest thing in the history of mankind to declaring with equal verve that the summit was never going to happen and how Trump is the greatest leader in the history of mankind for not meeting with Kim Jong-Un.

It will be classic Orwellian doublethink.
To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them, to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it, to believe that democracy was impossible and that the Party was the guardian of democracy, to forget whatever it was necessary to forget, then to draw it back into memory again at the moment when it was needed, and then promptly to forget it again: and above all, to apply the same process to the process itself -- that was the ultimate subtlety: consciously to induce unconsciousness, and then, once again, to become unconscious of the act of hypnosis you had just performed. Even to understand the word 'doublethink' involved the use of doublethink. ~ George Orwell, 1984

Friday, May 18, 2018

Another School Shooting

The Houston event is the 22nd school shooting of the year, that's a little more than one a week. There have been 34 deaths, to date, with at least 60 wounded. What we have learned so far...

'Thoughts and Prayers'
Texas politicians seem to have learned not to use that shopworn phrase anymore. Now they have edited out the thoughts and are just claiming to be praying. Not even bothering to think about it anymore.

Talks and Prayers
The old plan of praying for a few days and then ignoring the shooting doesn't work anymore. The new plan is forming a "roundtable commission" to talk the issue into torpidity. Then ignore it. Paralysis by analysis.

Middle-class Kids
Did you ever notice that most of the mass casualty school shooting are done by middle-class suburban kids? Given their parents socio-political leanings (conservative gun culture) they have access to the enhanced weaponry needed to kill multiple people.

Some Idiot on MSNBC
Advocated installing metal detectors at all schools just like at airports. While they might work in compact urban schools, they are a joke for sprawling suburban schools with multiple points of entry. Short of installing prison-like fencing around all 100,000 schools in the country then hiring teams of TSA trained guards for each school, this is a stupid idea.

Besides
Hormonal, angst fueled teens with serious rage issues will simply move on to the local shopping mall. Then we'll have to install metal detectors and prison wall around stores, which will not be great for the nation's economy.

Best Solutions
Are the simplest. Keep guns away from children, the mentally ill, and socially irresponsible (require individuals to receiving training, pass a test, and have a license to own a gun). You know, like with a car. Require gun owners to have liability insurance for each gun they own. You know, like with a car. And require a gun's owner to be legally liable for any death or injuries caused by their gun. You know, like with a car.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Israel and Me

The Jordan River is much smaller than its reputation.
While a gentile, I have always been a Zionist. Always in this case beginning somewhere between the first time I read The Diary of Anne Frank and the 1967 Six Day War. I saw then, and still do, Israel as the rightful homeland of a people who have been tormented throughout the centuries by Christians and Muslims, Babylonian horsemen and Roman legions, Czarist Russians and Nazi Germans, Catholic inquisitionists and KKK bigots.

Israel was never as noble as I had wanted to believe. One of its tactics during the 1948 War of Independence was to force out Muslim civilians from strategic villages and cities like Haifa and Jaffa. On April 9, 1948 the terrorist organization Irgun attacked the peaceful Arab village Deir Yassin and massacred the residents, killing men, women, and children. In 1977, the leader of the Irgun during the massacre, Likud leader Menachem Begin, was elected Prime Minister of Israel.
The "Separation Wall"
Begin began a program of moving Israeli settlers into the Arab lands captured during the Six Day War. Likudnik Ariel Sharon added walling off Arab populations from Israel proper and the Jewish enclaves in the West Bank most reminiscent of the Berlin Wall
and the wall built around the Warsaw Ghetto to keep Jews confined following the Nazi occupation of Poland.
While I was in Jerusalem last month the Israeli Defense Force sought to quell riots at the prison-like wall surrounding the Gaza Strip by killing scores of Arabs and wounding hundreds. One Israeli official said they had to kill women and children to get at the terrorists hiding behind them.
Gaza
Israel is again attacking and killing people in Gaza protesting the new US embassy in Jerusalem.

Yet, through all this I still love Israel and want her to exist and thrive. Not for the reasons of American evangelicals, they believe Israel must exist so that Armageddon can come and kill all the Jews conveniently gathered in one place, but that the Jewish people deserve a place where they can finally live in peace.

I am a Zionist, albeit a frequently sad and disappointed one.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Pence: It's a Private Matter

Mike Pence opined today that Michael Cohen's criminal solicitation of bribes for access to Donald Trump is a "private matter" of no interest to him. Others before him have held similar beliefs.
The Saint Valentine's Day discussion was a private matter between members of Bugs Moran and my business organizations and of no interest to law enforcement. ~ Al Capone
The cash withdrawal I made from the First National Bank of Mason City was a private transaction protected by the Banking Privacy Act. There is no reason for the public, press, or government to get involved. ~ John Dillinger
The forced recruitment of Patty Hearst by members of my social circle is a private matter between Miss Hearst and myself. Patty, the Symbionese Liberation Army, and I wish the FBI would halt their intrusive hunt for her and allow our relationship to evolve naturally. ~ Field Marshal Cinque aka Donald DeFreeze
The movement of vacationing Russian soldiers into Crimea and eastern Ukraine is purely a personal matter. The soldiers brought their tanks and other weapons simply to insure their comfort during their stay. You never brought your own pillow on a trip? The international community should respect the privacy of these men and allow them to recreate among the Ukrainian people as they see fit. ~ Vladimir Putin

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Trump Is the Absence of Joy

One of the things traveling taught me is how much joy there is to not obsessing with every insane massination of our disaster-in-chief. That doesn't mean I haven't been paying attention.

Closing the Circle
Michael Cohen paid off Stormy Daniels and other women Trump knew in the biblical sense. Cohen was reimbursed. That reimbursement seems to have come from a Russian oligarch. The question that begs an answer is what motivated a Russian with close ties to Putin towards such generosity? The word "bribe" comes to mind. Not bribing Cohen, who is a worthless individual, but bribing Trump by paying his illegal debt. I can't think of any other logical answer.

Rudy the Lip
Giuliani's friends say his has always been like this (running his mouth like a broken faucet and then claiming the things he has said were facts are now just unsubstantiated rumors from some unknown source and not him). Which just means Rudy is not senile as we thought, he's been a raving lunatic for several decades. I can buy that.

Iran
Trump spiking the Iran nuclear deal does not, necessarily mean the end of the deal. It could mean isolating the United States from the rest of the world who will continue to support the deal and strengthen their ties with Iran.

Of course, if John Bolton and Benjamin Netanyahu have their way the US, acting as a client state of Israel, will invade Iran with an overstretched military ill-suited for combat in Iran's mountainous terrain. This is the same military that has failed to defeat the Taliban after seventeen years fighting in Afghanistan. Lest we forget, Russia will provide Iran with all the arms it needs to bleed the United States to death.

And Now
I'm going back to my happy place.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

The Best Part of Traveling Abroad


Is that for the last ten days absolutely nobody mentioned Donald Trump. I talked with a lot of people about a lot of topics but none of them were the Orange Menace. It may have been out of politeness over our national embarrassment or, as I assumed, a total disinterest in our buffoon-in-chief, but the disinterest was a blessed relief.
The second best part is being half a globe away from the plant life I am allergic to. It is only when I travel I realize how low maintenance sinuses and nostrils are for most of humanity.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Bye for a couple of weeks

I feel a little guilty for leaving the United States now when I might be needed to join the Resistance should Trump attempt to dissolve the Justice Department, but my travel plans were made months. However, I'm visiting Israel which may be involved in a war with Syria, Russia, and Iran by the time I get there. So, karma.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Will the Last Trumpite Please Remember to Turn Off the Lights

Paul Ryan is skedaddling just a month and a half before the filing deadline for candidates in Wisconsin. Republicans now will be scrambling for a replacement who will have little time to get together a campaign staff and fundraising apparatus. So far all the have is a white supremacist Paul Nehlan and Nick Polce who has to date raised $325 for his campaign.

The Democrat in the race, Randy Bryce, has raised nearly $5 million for the campaign.

Monday, April 09, 2018

Trump News of the Day

FBI Raids Cohen
I've known a lot of lawyers, more than average for someone who is not a career criminal. Michael Cohen, Trump's jackleg shyster, always struck me to be on the lower rung of legal intelligence. Sure, he's good at threats and would have made a fine enforcer for Dutch Schultz back in the day, but as a lawyer he sucks.

When Trump threw Cohen under the bus last week by claiming he had no knowledge of the Stormy Daniels NDA, Trump gave clear probable cause of Cohen having committed fraud. That just adds to Cohen's double dealing with Russia. Based on what I've seen of Cohen's lawyer, David Schwarz, Cohen is in deep shit. Schwarz is even dumber than Cohen.

Suck It Farmers
Trump has told American farmers that they will have to be good patriots and suffer (with bankruptcy) for Trump's ego trade war with China. Of course there are always winners and losers. And while American farmers will be the big losers, the big winner will be Trump's BFF Vlad Putin. Russia's vast agricultural production will be happy to take over trade to the Chinese.

Syria Quandary
Trump wants a big, splashy attack on Syria, especially now with the Cohen news, but where? All of Assad's government military bases have Russian troops or advisors attached. Attacking them means killing Russians. That would miff Putin and Trump is afraid of Putin. ISIS troops are dispersed and there is no convenient concentration of forces to bomb. He could bomb a few isolated camps but that isn't nearly showy enough.

He could order an attack on defenseless civilian neighborhoods or firebomb a wide swath of the Syrian desert, kill a few score Bedouins, and claim a huge victory.
Faces of the enemy.

Friday, April 06, 2018

China Trade War - History Matters

It bears repeating. China will not meekly surrender in a trade war.
China has a history in trade wars unlike anything the United States has ever experienced. If Trump could read he would do well to study the history. The humiliation of China during and after the Opium Wars is taught in Chinese schools from an early age. It is a lesson seared into Chinese consciousness - never again. The Chinese will not allow themselves to suffer indignities.

Trade deficits with China are a recent thing, only a couple decades old. China didn't really emerge on the global stage until it joined the World Trade Organization in 2001.
American businesses, like dress maker Ivanka and tie seller Donald, have gone to China seeking sweatshop labor that is illegal in the United States. The products are then marked up extravagantly for sale in the US. American businesses have made billions of dollars from this "unequal" trade. Ford sells more cars in China than in the United States, earning $1.5 billion from the Chinese market in 2016. General Motors has done even better. Trade with China has made American fatcats significantly fatter.

From the Chinese perspective they have been more than fair. They help American businesses be prosperous and use the trade surplus to invest in American bonds, keeping US interest rates low. They see it as a win-win. Trump wants to create a lose-win scenario where China is the big loser.

China has the second largest economy in the world and is leading the United States in emerging technologies like solar power. The Chinese may view this trade war as a dying gasp of a fading superpower that seems determined to return to the 19th century.
They will not be submissive in facing the US. The Chinese do not remember the 19th century kindly.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Trump Hits the Bottom of the Barrel

Trump's recent hiring decisions are not the cream of the crop.

The VA
When Harry Truman wanted to solve problems with the Veterans Administration he appointed four-star general Omar Bradley. Bradley had a deserved reputation as a soldier's general, someone who cared about the men under him, and a superb manager of large, complex organizations. His 12th Army Group held four armies and nearly one million men.

Trump is appointing the last guy to give him a prostate exam. Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson is probably a competent physician, although his overly effusive description of Trump's health makes that questionable. He has never commanded more than a handful of doctors as physician supervisor at Camp David and director of the White House medical unit. The VA has over 370,000 employees and 152 medical centers plus over 1400 out-patient facilities.

Trump Hires Matlock
Trump's new personal lawyer for the Russia probe has never been employed at a major law firm and never served as a defense attorney. He is an elderly, cracker-barrel attorney who is a part time assistant to the Georgia Attorney General. His CV is replete with unpublished articles about medieval history. I'm sure he is folksy and will be able to entertain Mueller's crack team of prosecutors with stories about sixth century popes but Andy Griffith would probably have been a better choice.


Federal Aviation Administration
He hasn't picked him yet, but high on Trump's list for director of the FAA is John Dunkin, his personal pilot. The post has been empty for over a year. The previous administrators have had both significant private sector management experience and governmental experience in the field.

Bush the Younger's choice, Marion Blakey, had run a consulting firm that specialized in transportation issues and had previously been chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board. Dunkin's major accomplishment is avoiding turbulence so as to not upsetting Trump's stomach.

National Economic Council
The new Director, Larry Kudlow isn't an economist, but he plays one on TV.

CIA
Gina Haspel's principle experience is running CIA torture camps in Thailand and destroying video evidence of CIA torture. At least she is experienced.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Rick Santorum: Asshole of the Week


There were a lot of candidates. Dom Giordano, a Philly radio magpie, accused the teen activists fighting gun violence of acting "as if they are bulletproof." Actually, it was their knowledge that they are not bulletproof that has powered their activism. But the winning loser is Mr. Frothy.

Santorum thinks students shouldn't be involved in useless political activities (politics is how Santorum has spent his entire career). They should do something useful like learning CPR (so they will know how to revive the victims of the next mass shooting). He wants them to abandon their powerful united efforts to change the country and focus on weak, individual hobbies.

Friday, March 23, 2018

FBI Director's Reading Habits

It is interesting to know that FBI Director Chris Wray appears to think century old pulp fiction is intelligence research. Last month, Wray told a Senate committee, "One of the things we’re trying to do is view the China threat as not just a whole-of-government threat, but a whole-of-society threat on their end."

China a threat to the whole of American society? That's classic racist Yellow Peril stuff.
But he is supposed to be a reasonable voice in the administration. Sounds like just more 19th century bigotry.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

John Bolton: National Security Advisor

As each day passes I am less and less worried that I will outlive my retirement funds. Sure, the stock market is collapsing and inflation will rise as the Trump tariffs cause trade wars and product shortages, but we'll all be dead in a couple of years or so either from global nuclear war or a fascist take over. So...

Why Trump's China Tariffs Will Fail

Some countries have seminal events that shape them decades and even centuries in the future. For China, one of those events was the Opium Wars.
Two hundred years ago, Europe, most notably England, was running a trade deficit with China. China made things that European consumers wanted like silk and tea while Europe didn't produce anything the Chinese found useful.

England had one potential cash crop, massive poppy fields in India but China soon made it illegal to import opium and confiscated over 1200 tons of opium in British owned warehouses in Canton. England and the East India Company were outraged.

The British sent an army and their fleet to compel the Chinese to legalize the narcotic trade and won an easy victory. China was forced to allow the free trade of opium, pay over half a trillion dollars (inflation adjusted) in reparations, and give the port city of Hong Kong to the British.

A decade later, the British decided the Chinese were not sufficiently subservient to British interests and, joined by France , Russia, and the United States, attacked Chinese coastal cities. Again, the Western forces had an easy victory and forced the Chinese to surrender more concessions and pay additional reparations.

This short YouTube film gives a good and entertaining overview of the history.

Why History Matters
China calls this the beginning of their Century of Humiliation when China was the victim of multiple foreign exploitations. Surrendering to Westerners in a trade conflict is unthinkable. Each Trump tariff will be met with a firm response. And this time the Americans are the ones with the addiction, to Chinese electronics.

Americans may view this trade war as transactional, just business. To the Chinese, a trade war is an existential attack on their nationhood. They will fight harder.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Republicans Hate Law Enforcement

There was a time when being a Republican meant being tough on crime and being the biggest supporters of law enforcement in the country.
There was a time when Republicans were at the forefront of hunting down Russian spies seeking to subvert American freedoms.

But that was long ago. Today, being a Republican means hating the FBI and doing everything in your power to undermine the FBI's credibility and undermining its efforts to uncover and combat criminal conspiracies.

Today, being a Republican means inviting Russian agents to penthouse meetings, encouraging Russian spies to corrupt American elections, and protecting those people working with Russian spies to attack America.

While a few Republicans are active traitors (Steve Bannon), most are merely "useful idiots," to use an old Russian phrase for the dupes they con into helping them.
Their greed for either money or power, or both, allows them, and along with them us, to be led to slaughter by a Russian strongman they don't even realize is their master. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

So Much News, So Little Time

1. The Future Takes a Stand
The big news today is not the Conor Lamb victory, it is the nationwide student movement against guns and gun violence. Nothing frightens establishment politicians like student movements. Want proof? The Chicago GOP is suing the Chicago public school system for not threatening retaliation against student protesters.

2. Death of a Genius
The greatest mind of our generation has passed this mortal coil to enter immortality. Stephen Hawking shined a light into the universe's blackest holes while inspiring thousands of people to study physics and millions of people to ignore handicaps and chase their dreams. The history of humanity has seen few people like Stephen Hawking and we are all diminished by his loss.

3. On Putin's Orders
First came the news that Vlad Putin vetoed Trump's choice of Mitt Romney for Secretary of State; picking instead the Putin approved recipient of Russia's Order of Friendship Rex Tillerson. Next came Trump's spokesman Sarah Sanders repeatedly refusing to even whisper the word "Russia" in connection to the nerve gas attack on a Russian ex-spy in London. Then Tillerson backed the British position that Russia was behind to nerve gas attack.

The very next day, Trump fired Tillerson. Can there be any question that the order came from Moscow and Trump followed that order obediently. We can assume that Pompeo will only keep the job as long as he is an obsequious toady to Putin.

4. Okay, Yeah, and Lamb
Sure, Conor Lamb ran a brilliant campaign while his opponent, Rick Saccone, was a lazy slug. Sure, Lamb was not a San Francisco liberal but a good fit for a blue-collar district. Still, this was a district where a Republican dead skunk would defeat a Democratic Jesus Christ. Trump won the district by twenty points. Trump campaigned for Saccone. Trump even sent his son to campaign for Saccone.

And Conor won by a whisker in a district where he should have had no chance. Republicans today are bleating sour grapes in the face of another epic failure. I feel like visiting a petting zoo and caressing a lamb.

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Jeff Sessions and the New Fugitive Slave Act

Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions got the wrong end of the stick when he compared California's resistance to the roving gangs of immigration agents snatching up and deporting peaceful people in the state. Sessions compared it to slavery when the more apt comparison is to the Northern response to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.

The Fugitive Slave Act made it illegal for Northerners to assist an escaped slave seeking freedom. Like Sessions wants to force Californians to assist in the capture of immigrants, the Act compelled Northerners to actively participate in the hunt for blacks on pain of fine or imprisonment. Two Quakers were charged with treason for refusing to help slave hunters.

Several states passed laws forbidding state officers from helping the slave hunters. Massachusetts made it illegal for any state official to return a person fleeing slavery and disbarred any lawyer who represented slave masters.
California is on the right side of history and the right side of morality in this fight. It is Sessions who is treating people like chattel. The ICE raiders may have a perverted federal government on their side but Gov. Brown has the people of California behind him in this fight.

The people, united, will never be defeated. ~ 1960's civil rights slogan

Monday, March 05, 2018

Who Is This Peter Navarro Person?

I have the misfortune of knowing Peter Navarro. It was a quarter century ago, I was a leader of the San Diego chapter of the Sierra Club and Navarro was an economics professor in Orange County with dreams of political power. He saw in San Diego's vibrant environmental movement a possible tool for his delusions of grandeur.

Peter formed his own organization, PLAN!, ostensibly to fight rampant urbanization but really as an ego tool to promote himself.

I found myself working on a couple initiative campaigns with him. Peter was rude, crude, more interested in throwing bombs than making a reasoned case. He was Trumpian before that was a thing. We lost the first campaign in no small part due to his toxic participation.

We both served on the fundraising committee for the second campaign. The initiative was written by Sierra Club lawyers, it was so solid not even the building industry opposed it. Peter used his position on the committee to pretend to raise money for the campaign but he directed the cash to his personal organization. We won but Navarro's backstabbing has starved the campaign for funds and had we even a tepid opposition the initiative would have failed.

Peter then struck out on his own with a third initiative that was to be his launching pad for a campaign for mayor of San Diego. The initiative was badly written with dodads included for every progressive cause from labor to environmentalism. Unfortunately for Peter, the law requires initiatives to be single issue and Peter's was an over decorated Christmas tree.

Republicans took it to court over the labor provisions. Peter offered to cut them out even though labor had provided the signature gathering manpower. The judge ruled, rightly, that he couldn't rewrite an initiative after the signatures had been gathered and tossed the initiative.

No matter, Navarro ran for mayor of San Diego in 1992 against Republican career politician Susan Golding. Peter started out with a big lead but squandered it through his general ineptitude. Still, the race was neck and neck before the final debate.

Golding calmly goaded him into an unhinged tirade that doomed his chances. Peter lost. Peter lost three more times, for the county Board of Supervisors, Congress, and the San Diego City Council. Then Peter wrote an unpublishable book blaming everybody he ever met for the losses.

Peter didn't want political power for what he could do for people but what he could do to people.

To Peter there are two types of people in the world, people who worship him and people who should be destroyed. I remember his unrestrained glee when my mentor in the Sierra Club, Emily Durbin, died. She didn't worship at the alter of Navarro, instead she worked selflessly to protect the environment. I still have a lingering hatred for Peter for that alone.

Peter Now
Peter is supposed to be a China trade hawk but his steel tariffs will have no effect on China (they send the US almost no steel) but it will start a bitter trade war with our friend and neighbor, Canada.

This is completely within his long time habits - ignore the actual important issues and instead inflict the maximum pain on the maximum number of people. For nearly 30 years Peter has sought power and now, finally, he has it. He has the power to prove his superiority by crushing those he feels are beneath him. He feels everybody is beneath him.

Peter wants his trade wars. He wants war with Canada and Europe and Mexico because he thinks they are weaker than China and he can damage them more than he could hurt China.

It's who Peter is, a bomb throwing anarchist.

Friday, March 02, 2018

Tariffs Are a 19th Century Solution

Trade wars are good, and easy to win. ~ Donald the Mad
I guess we should be happy that Trump is bored with starting a nuclear war with North Korea. Now he wants to start a global trade war.
1880 Republican Platform
When George Bush imposed tariffs on imported steel in 2002, the goal was to save steel jobs and help Republicans in Ohio and Pennsylvania. The result was that more people lost their jobs as a result of the higher steel prices than were employed in the entire steel industry.

There were steel shortages as the US steel industry was unable to meet domestic demand. The US trade deficit actually increased because the cost of finished products, like automobiles, rose in the US making imported cars more attractive. Facing retaliatory tariffs from a united international trading system targeted to punish Republicans in Florida and Michigan, Bush withdrew his tariffs in less than a year.

A Brief Tariff History
Tariffs were a common tool used 150 years ago to protect domestic industries from more powerful manufacturing nations like England and Germany. Whether they worked or not then is problematic; the Gilded Age was great for the mega-wealthy but coincided with the Long Depression with high unemployment and extreme poverty for the working classes.
If you were steel magnate Andrew Carnegie, tariffs made life better than good; if you were employed by him life sucked and you worked until you died.

The most famous tariffs were the Smoot-Hawley Act during the Great Depression. They didn't cause the depression but they made it worst. Our tariffs and the retaliations slowed international trade to a crawl, isolating nations into individual islands of misery.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

How a Republic Falls

You know the old saying, "those who don't study history are condemned to repeat it." How the Roman Republic fell into dictatorship is an object lesson for our times.

Proliferation of Weapons
gang of Oath Keepers
In the first century BC, it was illegal to carry weapons in the city of Rome. A supporter of Julius Caesar named Clodius ignored the law and organized armed gangs to harass citizens and disrupt elections. In response, a supporter of Caesar's rival, Pompey, named Milo (I really didn't make up these names) organized his own gangs of armed gladiators to harass other citizens and intimidate Caesar's followers.

Rigging Elections
While bribing elections officials had been illegal, and common, for years, Caesar and Pompey stepped things up in 56 BCE. The elections that year were postponed for months because of street violence by Clodius. These riots were organized by both Caesar and Pompey to freeze out their rivals and insure total control of government. When the elections finally happened the Triumvirate won as much through intimidation as popularity. Pompey then oversaw the election of lesser offices (Praetors and aediles) and openly used armed thugs to force the result in his favor.

Legislative Gridlock
The Roman constitution was designed for consensus, actions by the upper class (senators) could be vetoed by the public assembly (tribunes) and vice versa. But, as government became polarized between Caesar's populists and Cato's conservatives, consensus became impossible. The constitution called for two co-consuls to share the leadership of the government.

Yet in 59 BCE, Caesar's first as head of government, his co-consul was threatened and humiliated to the point he spend most of the year hiding out in his house. In 52 BCE, Pompey was granted sole consulship (without an election) in the hope he could get something done.

Constitutional Crisis
The Roman Republic had lasted for over 400 years, its constitution surviving invasions and civil wars. In these closing years of the Republic, Romans began seeing their constitution not as guideposts but obstacles. Increasingly, the constitution and Roman law was being ignored for convenience sake.

Law Breaker-In-Chief
When Caesar crossed the Rubicon River in 49 BCE with his 13th Legion he was breaking the law. Had Caesar returned to Rome without his army he would have been arrested and tried for the many crimes he had committed in the previous decade.

No, I am not comparing Trump to Caesar. Caesar was intelligent, brave, decisive and ruthless in his quest for total power. Trump is a cowardly senile idiot who may stumble into a dictatorship just to cover up his money laundering.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

American Police State: School Zone

A couple years ago while walking Jerusalem's Old City, I stumbled upon a children's Purim party. Watching over the costumed children having fun were two uniformed men carrying automatic weapons. It was a bizarre sight, young children running around laughing while soldiers stood over them to prevent religious extremists from slaughtering the innocent.

It's a social deformity that Republicans want to bring to schools around the United States.

Of course, there are differences between Israel and the US.
  • Israel is at war with Palestinian terrorists; Americans just love guns so much they want everybody to have them all the time everywhere.
  • Israel uses highly trained professionals (soldiers, police); Americans just want to pass guns out to underpaid teachers and hope they will figure out what to do.
  • Israel treats a rare school shooting as a national tragedy; in America it's just another Tuesday.
  • Israel has strict gun laws; America has more guns than people and acts like guns are more important than people.
America the Beautiful?

Thursday, February 15, 2018

The American Slaughter

Another day, another mass shooting.
The Numbers
Americans die annually of gun violence (15,590 in 2017) at a rate close to the worst year of the Vietnam War (16,899 in 1968). Americans were outraged at the carnage of that war while this home front war butchery is accepted by most as routine.

During the entire nine year Iraq War 4,424 Americans dies. That many Americans die by guns (96 per day) every seven weeks in this country.

The Non-Debate
We are told repeatedly that discussing gun control immediately after a tragedy is "too soon" but after 48 hours it becomes too late as there is probably another mass shooting to be too soon to talk about. There have been thirty mass shootings in the first 45 days of 2018.

Suffer the Children
Children are special targets. In 2017, a quarter of those shot to death (3,966) were aged 17 or younger.

School Shootings
There have been seven school shooting in the first seven weeks of 2018, killing 20 and wounding 39. There were 226 throughout the entire one hundred years of the 20th century. So far in the 21st century we are only 14 shy of matching that total.

The Constitution Is a Suicide Pact
"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." Why is it that nobody reads the first half of the Second Amendment?

The Predictable Outcome
  • NRA politicians will vomit their standard "thoughts and prayers" although they likely gave neither a second thought nor a first prayer.
  • Liberal politicians will declare that "something must be done" and then do nothing.
  • Whatever gun caused the latest bloodshed will see its sales skyrocket as collector fetishists demand the newest celebrity firearm while wannabe mass murderers want something with proven killing potential.
  • Rinse off the blood and wait too short a time for the next one.