Archive for category Politics

Those God Damned Republicans

The main mentor of my adulthood was clearly David Aldrich, a Berkley grad who majored in history and philosophy.  An activist, and writer like no other.  Dave passed away a year ago but you can still read his extensive blog at http://davald.wordpress.com 

One of my favorite stories from Dave was when he talked about his father.  I played some golf with Dave and his dad up in Everett, Washington many moons ago.  His dad was a character indeed.

Dave, like myself, grew up in a traditional Catholic family home with reasonably progressive values.   The senior Aldrich was a union member and strong advocate of democratic principles.

One of Dave’s strongest memories of his father were times when his dad was watching the news or reading the paper, decipher what they were up to and would just holler out “Those God Damned Republicans.”

That’s exactly how I feel most days.

 

 

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Smoot-Hawley

I’m always struck by when conservatives decide to come forward and warn about Trump’s next shoot from the hip plan.  Today, Americans for Tax Reform leader Grover Norquist proffered this tweet:

@GroverNorquist  In 1930, 1028 American economists signed a statement against the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act. It passed. Trade war started. Depression followed. The statement was printed in the Congressional Record with 1028 economists signatures below.

What’s interesting to me about this is that it’s further evidence that Trump is simply “winging it” when it comes to economic and foreign policy.  He has no thought out plan, just impressions from watching too much television over the years.  “We’re getting ripped off” is the over-simplified theme that seems to be coming from the White House.

Several key Republicans disagree including Speaker Ryan and Senate Majority leader McConnell.  That’s the difference between being smart enough to understand that an issue is complex verses someone like Trump who thinks every issue is easy and can be painted as black and white.

Are there enough Senators to stand up to the anointed one?  I doubt it.  Fasten your seat-belts it’s going to be a rough ride.

Smoot-Hawley From Wikipedia:

The Act and following retaliatory tariffs by America’s trading partners were major factors of the reduction of American exports and imports by more than half during the Depression.  Although economists disagree by how much, the consensus view among economists and economic historians is that “The passage of the Smoot–Hawley Tariff exacerbated the Great Depression.

From the link above:

The Smoot-Hawley Tariff of 1930 Significantly raised import re-strictions, reduced trade and prosperity, provoked protectionist retaliation by for- eign governments, and damaged the spirit of peace, cooperation, and goodwill.

Economists mustered a remarkable protest to the bill. The chief author seems to have been Paul H. Douglas. In his memoirs, In the Fullness of Time (Har- court Brace Jovanovich, 1972, 71), Douglas wrote:

The six months at Swarthmore were crowded with activity. With Clair Wilcox I drafted an appeal to President Herbert Hoover urging him to veto the Smoot-Hawley tariff, which raised duties to their highest levels. In this we pointed out how the increase in duties on imports decreased the ability of other countries to buy goods from us. Also, it would provoke them to retaliatory tariffs. No fewer than 1,028 economists signed the appeal, and I think poor Hoover wanted to take our advice. His party was so strongly committed to protection, however, that he felt compelled to sign the bill, with the result that all our predictions came true. The Depression deepened and the Western democracies fell apart. Our letter did make it somewhat easier for Congress later to pass Cordell Hull’s reciprocal-trade bill, and thus helped to lead the way to a reversal of our trade policy.

The text below is in the Congressional Record, signed by 1028 economists.  I’ve highlighted a few key statements in bold.

The undersigned American economists and teachers of economics strongly urge that any measure which provides for a general upward revision of tariff rates be denied passage by Congress, or if passed, be vetoed by the President.

We are convinced that increased protective duties would be a mistake. They would operate, in general, to increase the prices which domestic consumers would have to pay. By raising prices they would encourage concerns with higher costs to undertake production, thus compelling the consumer to subsidize waste and inef- ciency in industry. At the same time they would force him to pay higher rates of profit to established firms which enjoyed lower production costs. A higher level of protection, such as is contemplated by both the House and Senate bills, would therefore raise the cost of living and injure the great majority of our citizens.

Few people could hope to gain from such a change. Miners, construction, transportation and public utility workers, professional people and those employed in banks, hotels, newspaper offices, in the wholesale and retail trades, and scores of other occupations would clearly lose, since they produce no products which could be protected by tariff barriers.

The vast majority of farmers, also, would lose. Their cotton, corn, lard, and wheat are export crops and are sold in the world market. They have no important competition in the home market. They can not benefit, therefore, from any tariff which is imposed upon the basic commodities which they produce. They would lose through the increased duties on manufactured goods, however, and in a double fashion. First, as consumers they would have to pay still higher prices for the products, made of textiles, chemicals, iron, and steel, which they buy.

Second, as producers, their ability to sell their products would be further restricted by the barriers placed in the way of foreigners who wished to sell manufactured goods to us. Our export trade, in general, would suffer. Countries can not permanently buy from us unless they are permitted to sell to us, and the more we restrict the importation of goods from them by means of ever higher tariffs the more we reduce the possibility of our exporting to them. This applies to such exporting industries as copper, automobiles, agricultural machinery, typewriters, and the like fully as much as it does to farming. The dif culties of these industries are likely to be increased still further if we pass a higher tariff. There are already many evidences that such action would inevitably provoke other countries to pay us back in kind by levying retaliatory duties against our goods. There are few more ironical spectacles than that of the American Government as it seeks, on the one hand, to promote exports through the activity of the Bureau of Foreign and Domestic Commerce, while, on the other hand, by increasing tariffs it makes exportation ever more dif cult. President Hoover has well said, in his message to Congress on April 16, 1929, “It is obviously unwise protection which sacri ces a greater amount of employment in exports to gain a less amount of employment from imports.

We do not believe that American manufacturers, in general, need higher tariffs. The report of the President’s committee on recent economics changes has shown that industrial ef ciency has increased, that costs have fallen, that pro ts have grown with amazing rapidity since the end of the war. Already our factories supply our people with over 96 percent of the manufactured goods which they consume, and our producers look to foreign markets to absorb the increasing out- put of their machines. Further barriers to trade will serve them not well, but ill.

Many of our citizens have invested their money in foreign enterprises. The Department of Commerce has estimated that such investments, entirely aside from the war debts, amounted to between $12,555,000,000 and $14,555,000,000 on January 1, 1929. These investors, too, would suffer if protective duties were to be increased, since such action would make it still more dif cult for their foreign creditors to pay them the interest due them.

America is now facing the problem of unemployment. Her labor can and work only if her factories can sell their products. Higher tariffs would not promote such sales. We can not increase employment by restricting trade. American industry, in the present crisis, might well be spared the burden of adjusting itself to new schedules of protective duties.

Finally, we would urge our Government to consider the bitterness which a policy of higher tariffs would inevitably inject into our international relations. The United States was ably represented at the World Economic Conference which was held under the auspices of the League of Nations in 1927. This conference adopted a resolution announcing that “the time has come to put an end to the in- crease in tariffs and move in the opposite direction.” The higher duties proposed in our pending legislation violate the spirit of this agreement and plainly invite other nations to compete with us in raising further barriers to trade. A tariff war does not furnish good soil for the growth of world peace.

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Doubling Down

Liberals have been getting excoriated for being worthy of the elitist label since November, 2016.  Ostensibly that’s the reason Hillary lost.  Liberals forgot to pay attention to the Trump voter’s concerns.

I’m calling bullshit on that one.  Hillary lost for a whole host of reasons, but her failure to attract the white supremacist / bigotted / Duck Dynasty crowd wasn’t even close to a key reason.  She took the right position there.

Time and again, when called out for behavior the crosses the lines of decency Trump doubles down on his position and hardens his base.  That’s fine.  There are a percentage of hard core Republicans out there that wouldn’t be swayed if the FBI found a stash of kiddie porn in his desk drawer.

I’m quite fine with doubling down on elitism.  Democrats have better candidates this time.  Mobilize the sane and leave the insane behind.  I have no plans to reach out and “really understand where Trump voters are coming from.”   I really don’t care at this point.  Call me whatever label you want.  I’m more concerned about being on the right side of history.

 

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No Undue Attention

Back in the 1970’s streaking was all the rage.  I remember going to Portland Beaver baseball games and some knucklehead would take off towards the outfield with no clothes on and cause a fair amount of commotion while the game was put on hold.

Initially, when it happened on national TV, the networks would put a spotlight on the spectacle, which they figured out was the wrong thing to do because it just made more wanna-be streakers get into the game.

Eventually they learned that the best policy was to go to commercial break and never give the person any air-time.  That seemed to put an end to that.

Trump is the same way.  He masterfully hogged 90% of the air-time during the primaries with his extreme positions on immigration plus a steady flow of insults and tweets.  The networks fell for it and are still falling for it.  This is the problem.

Every newscast is all Trump, all day.  Good or bad news, it doesn’t matter.  It’s always about him and that’s exactly how narcissists like it.

I’ve recently decided to just turn anything with him on it off.  Similar to the streakers, no undue attention.  The Mueller investigation will take its course.  I have faith in the voting public when the chips are down.  If he can barely govern with control of the House and Senate, there’s hope for a complete meltdown if he loses at least one house.

I don’t even think he won the election now.  It’s quite apparent that voter suppression in swing states affected the outcome which was decided by less than 1%.   He’s not my president.  I don’t need to listen to a word he says.  It’s all bluster anyway.

I never thought I’d be sitting here rooting for $5/gallon gas, but here I am.  Bring it on.  That would be very bad news for Republicans, and anything that’s bad news for Republicans makes my day.

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WHCD 2018

I watched the 20 minute segment of Michelle Wolf at the White House Correspondents dinner.  I have to admit, 2 jokes crossed the line for me.  One is, I don’t think abortion is funny.  I’m politically to the left of Bernie Sanders and pro-choice, but I think trying to make a joke out of this issue is extremely bad taste.  The other one had to do with fat-shaming.  Sarah Sanders deserved all the other criticism she received — especially about defending the lies with a straight face, but crossing over into fat-shaming for that event wasn’t cool.

Having said that, the other 19:40 of the routine was pretty funny and in the spirit of the first amendment — well deserved counter-punching.  No administration in my lifetime is more deserving.

The debate about this issue on Twitter is epic.  I think a discussion about just how raunchy we want the event to be is a worthy topic of discussion.  But here’s the rub for me.  Trump supporters — you do not get to participate in the discussion.  I’m sorry, but your outrage is selective.  Here’s a link that provides a fairly comprehensive summary of Trump insults.  You like a guy who speaks his mind, I get that.  But there are dozens of references where he crosses the line of decency and …. crickets.

Had any of the Trump supporters shown outrage at any of the insults from the reference link, then they should be welcomed to the conversation.  But since they remained silent, they are not invited.   Go find something else to do.

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GODFATHER I OPENING ACT REDUX

In the opening scene of The Godfather, Don Vito entertains guest at his home in New York during Connie’s wedding.  The faithful line up outside of his office for their turn to ask a favor of The Don, who can deliver because well, he’s the Don.

Trump must have had this scene in recent memory when he decided to pardon Scooter Libby.  George W. Bush wouldn’t do it and according to insiders, Cheney was furious that the GWB wouldn’t throw him a bone and pardon his chief of staff, never mind he was convicted of lying to the FBI.

From Wikipedia

Libby was indicted by a federal grand jury on five felony counts of making false statements to federal investigators, perjury for lying to a federal grand jury, and obstruction of justice for impeding the course of a federal grand jury investigation concerned with the possibly illegal leaking by government officials of the classified identity of a covert agent of the CIA, Valerie Plame Wilson, the wife of former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV.

The worst part about Trump’s pardon is the message it sends to other civil servants.  “We don’t care if you lie to the FBI or obstruct justice.  That’s fine with us as long as you were a loyal member of our team.”  Thousands of public servants just got this message loud and clear.  Ethics be damned.

 

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Blame Game?

My son told a story from high school a while ago where a fellow student dared to streak across the stage at a drama performance with a hoodie on.  Of course the administration had an extensive investigation into the matter but even though everyone knew who did it, the mystery was never solved because they couldn’t prove it.

When I was in the 3rd grade, if someone dared to cross the line and there was blame to attribute anywhere, it rarely took Sister Mary Antonine more than 5 minutes to resolve the case.  It didn’t hurt her cause that she had an ample supply of rulers in her desk drawer.   Usually she took care of the matter and we moved on back to learning in the shorted period of time possible.

I bring this up because ‘the blame game’ as it were, isn’t necessarily a fun game to engage in.  But sometimes it’s necessary.  Take the issue of public safety around guns for example.  Looking at the data and doing a very rudimentary correlation between NRA contributions and congressional members who vote against universal background checks, how could you not draw the conclusion that republicans are to blame?  Of course they are.  It’s not rocket science.

So the answer is yes, I’ll engage in the blame game and I’ll conclude, as Sister Mary Antonine would have, that this is an easy one.  See charts below.  I rest my case.

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