Class Warfare Blog

May 21, 2015

GOP Paving Way for Islam and Sharia Law

The recent Pew Survey on religion made the claim that if the trends now current in religious affiliation continue, Islam will soon replace Christianity as the world’s most popular religion.

And you can put part of the blame for that at the feet of the GOP.

It is becoming clear that there is a very tight link between economic security and religiosity. In Western societies which are well-to-do, what do we have to worry about? Cell phone costs, picking up the dry cleaning, whether the TiVo will pick up you favorite show while you are at work? In societies that have less economic security, people worry about keeping their jobs, whether they will have enough to eat, whether they can afford to educate their children. In which societies are you more likely to find many people praying for divine intervention?

Jesus, can you pick up my dry cleaning? Uh, not.

Religiosity is strongly correlated with insecurity. Christianity, in its hey day, was the religion of the “poor” and the “weak” (aka women). Now that Christianity is rich and powerful and abusing its position, people are drifting away. Islam is growing in leaps and bounds among the poor and oppressed.

But, the GOP?

The GOP is burning the midnight oil to ensure that poor people in this country stay poor and that middle class people become poor. They are trying mightily to make sure that Black and Brown people cannot vote and feel even more powerless. And the poor will then embrace the religion of their oppressors? Uh, no, they will embrace the religion of the poor and weak … Islam. Right here in River City!

May 19, 2015

Living the Lie in Conservative Wonderland

(This is only the second half of a very interesting post, but the part that most bears upon my topic. SR)

Michael Perelman: The Dysfunctionality of Slavery and Neoliberalism
by Michael Perelman, a professor of economics at California State University, Chico who also writes at Unsettling Economics

Posted on May 19, 2015 by Yves Smith (Naked Capitalism blog)

“By the late 19th century, David A Wells, an industrial technician who later became the chief economic expert in the federal government, by virtue of his position of overseeing federal taxes. After a trip to Europe, Wells reconsidered his strong support for protectionism. Rather than comparing the dynamism of the northern states with the technological backward of their southern counterparts, he was responding to the fear that American industry could not compete with the cheap “pauper” labor of Europe.  Instead, he insisted that the United States had little to fear from, the competition from cheap labor, because the relatively high cost of American labor would ensure rapid technological change, which, indeed, was more rapid in the United States than anywhere else in the world, with the possible exception of Germany. Both countries were about to rapidly surpass England’s industrial prowess.

“The now-forgotten Wells was so highly regarded that the prize for the best economics dissertation at Harvard is still known as the David A Wells prize. His efforts gave rise to a very powerful idea in economic theory at the time, known as “the economy of high wages,” which insisted that high wages drove economic prosperity.  With his emphasis on technical change, driven by the strong competitive pressures from high wages, Wells anticipated Schumpeter’s idea of creative destruction, except that for him, high wages rather than entrepreneurial genius drove this process.

“Although the economy of high wages remained highly influential through the 1920s, the extensive growth of government powers during World War I reignited the antipathy for big government. Laissez-faire economics began come back into vogue with the election of Calvin Coolidge, while the once-powerful progressive movement was becoming excluded from the ranks of reputable economics.

“This environment ushered in the short-lived roaring 20s, which were followed by the Great Depression and the reemergence of a strong central government under the New Deal and World War II, which opened the door for Keynesian economics, which has some affinity with the economy of high wages. Keynesianism enjoyed a few decades of strong influence until the dynamism of the Golden Age petered out, in large because of the economic distortions created by the Vietnam War.

“With Barry Goldwater’s humiliating defeat in his presidential campaign, the famous Powell Memo helped to spark a well-financed movement of well-finance right-wing political activism which morphed into right-wing political extremism both in economics and politics. Symbolic of the narrowness of this new mindset among economists, Milton Friedman’s close associate, George Stigler, said in 1976 that “one evidence of professional integrity of the economist is the fact that it is not possible to enlist good economists to defend minimum wage laws.” Stigler, G. J. 1982. The Economist as Preacher and Other Essays (Chicago: University of Chicago Press): p. 60. In short, neoliberalism was surging ahead and the economy of high wages was now beyond the pale. These new conditions gave new force to the southern “yelps of liberty.” The social safety net was taken down and reconstructed as the flag of neoliberalism. The one difference between the rhetoric of the slaveholders and that of the modern neoliberals was that entrepreneurial superiority replaced racial superiority as their battle cry.

“One final irony: evangelical Christians were at the forefront of the abolitionist movement. Today, some of them are providing the firepower for the epidemic of neoliberalism.

So, our current Conservative Class is suppressing wages (and votes), which suppresses both income and innovation and then offers ideas like “we can innovate our way out of Climate Change” and “the poor need to get a job” and “if you want to improve your lot in life, start a business, innovate.” The sheer stupidity of it all is gob smacking.

Ignorance of the History is no Excuse (Baseball)

Filed under: History,Sports — Steve Ruis @ 1:07 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Ichiro Suzuki has just tied Babe Ruth for 38th place on the all-time Major League hits list since 1900 with 2,873 hits. When asked to comment on his achievement Ichiro said: “Obviously, when you think of Babe Ruth, he’s a home run hitter. I never saw him play, and don’t know too much about him. For me, I’m just such a different type of player. I like to get hits and use my legs to get different types of hits and obviously he’s hitting home runs.”

I like Ichiro. He is an incredably good baseball player, and he is from Japan, but ignorance is no excuse, especially when it involves the best all-around baseball player of all time. Here are some of the Babe’s stats:
Batting Average .342
Home Runs 714
Hits 2,873
RBI 2,213
Pitching W/L Record 94-46
ERA 2.28

Ichiro has risen to the Babe’s level in one category: hits. Note that the Babe played for 22 seasons, Ichiro has played for 14 (now in his 15th). They have the same number of hits but the babe has a much higher batting average. The difference? Ichiro has 574 walks while the Babe had 2174, a difference of 1600 walks. That was 1600 times more the Babe wasn’t given enough of a chance to get a hit.

Mr. Ruth was in the top ten all-time in the following categories:

  • 3rdon home run list – 714
  • 10th in batting average – .342
  • 2ndon RBI list – 2,213
  • 1ston all-time slugging % – .690
  • 2ndon all-time on-base % – .474
  • 1ston all-time OPS – 1.164
  • 4thon all-time runs list – 2,174
  • 6thon all-time total bases list – 5,793
  • 3rdon all-time walks list – 2,062

Please notice that Babe Ruth had 150 pitching decisions to his name, including seven wins in the World Series. In doing so he set a record (since broken) for consecutive scoreless innings pitched in World Series (29.7). He also was a very good fielder, an excellent baserunner, and had a very good arm from the outfield. There was nothing he could not do. And while Ichiro has a lifetime batting average of .317 BA with 490 stolen bases, note that the Babe was not just swinging for the fences. (With a lifetime batting average of .342, it means that roughly half of the time you were hitting better than that.)

Babe Ruth transformed baseball from a strategic game to a power game (power hitters require power pitchers to balance the competition). One baseball researcher (Bill Jenkinson) went through newspaper accounts of one year of the Babe’s career and calculated what his home run total would have been had the Babe been playing in parks that had the dimensions of today’s fields (instead of the cavernous fileds of the 1920’s) and with today’s rules (a ball that left the field in play but landed out of bounds was ruled a foul ball then but a home run today). His total (for 1920) would have been 104 home runs! Some of the Babe’s outs were mammoth fly balls caught just inside the fences then that would be 40-50 feet into the stands now.

To put this into context, in 1919 the Babe led MLB with 29 home runs, but there were only 447 homers hit in all. This means those 29 home runs constituted six percent of the total. In 2012 there were 4934 home runs hit in the Majors; six percent of that total, 296, is more than any one team hit. Then he hit 54 in one season, then 59, finally 60.

And, at the same time, he was hitting for a high average but still was walked frequently to avoid his bat. Oh, the Babe “only” stole 123 bases. But realize that base stealing on the powerhouse Yankee teams was not a priority. If it had been, I expect the Babe’s numbers to have been much higher.

Babe Ruth may be thought of as the pre-eminent power hitter, but that was only one of an overwhelming set of skills.

* * *

Postscript From time to time I post something on baseball, because … how could one not?

 

Oh, But Free Trade Is the Enemy

In an op-ed piece in the New York Times today, NAFTA negotiator William M. Daley extolled the virtues of free trade, titling the piece “Free Trade is Not the Enemy.”

I am cherry-picking his comments as I will not repost the entire article (also I do not have permission to do so). Here are two paragraphs:

{ … }

There is no path to middle-class prosperity without tearing down barriers to American exports. By 2030, the world economy is expected to grow by $60 trillion, with almost 90 percent of the growth occurring outside the United States. Our success depends on how much of that new wealth is spent on American products. But today, of the 40 largest economies, the United States ranks 39th in the share of our gross domestic product that comes from exports. This is because our products face very high barriers to entry overseas in the form of tariffs, quotas and outright discrimination.

When barriers disappear, we prosper. In the 17 trade deals the United States has concluded since 2000, our balance of trade in the blue-collar-goods sector went from minus $3 billion to plus $31 billion, according to an analysis of government data by the centrist policy institute Third Way, on whose board I sit. According to the International Trade Administration, export-related jobs pay 18 percent more than similar jobs in the same sector.”

{ … }

Mr. Daley argues for “balanced trade,” not free trade in his arguments. He talks about “balance of trade,” for example. And, nobody could be against that, creating a level playing field upon which to trade. But still, developing economies have to protect fragile new industries if they are to survive (everybody has voted with their feet on this practice), so some things will get protected. And we do have to protect all from predatory trade practices. But “free trade” advantages the developed nations over the undeveloped. Why would any undeveloped nation want free trade? Well, if they were desperate enough. (There is a precept in economics that “the only thing worse than being exploited is not being exploited.” Lovely people, economists.)

I also find it interested that we had a really huge total trade deficit as recently as last month but he is referring to a particular sector (the “blue collar goods sector”) in which we had a trade surplus.

He also speaks in gross generalities. For example, “When barriers disappear, we prosper.” I remember the 60’s political cartoon, where Tonto says to the Lone Ranger, “What you mean “we,” white man?” in response to a threat from marauding Indians. It is very, very clear that the “we” in Mr. Daley’s comment is in the aggregate, but the last 40 years of free trade agreements and other “innovations” have resulted in the rich gaining the profits and the poor and middle class paying the consequences.

Mr. Daley is, shall we say, well-to-do and has many, many rich friends and colleagues. It does not surprise me in the least that he supports a policy that benefits the rich over the poor and middle class. That we would accept his not very well-made arguments is another thing altogether.

Even some economists are coming around to the position that more free trade is not necessarily good for the U.S., especially not now.

Free trade suppresses wages in the U.S. and costs us jobs. Right now, It is the Enemy.

* * *

Postscript I wrote this before I read Paul Krugman’s blog on the same op-ed piece. Dr. Krugman’s conclusion (based upon different objections): “If this is the best TPP advocates can come up with, this is not looking like a good idea.

 

 

 

May 18, 2015

Well, Duh! Them Damned Liberals, Again!

According to the N.Y. Times recently “People are less likely to marry if they grow up in certain places, especially liberal ones.”

Hello? Conservatives are people who like the status quo, who wish to preserve the structures of society as they are (to conserve means …). Liberals are more venturesome when it comes to societal structures. This virtually guarantees the above fact, by definition.

Unfortunately, this will be turned into a Fox News Narrative in which “them damned tree-huggin’ Liberals are a’gin marriage, except for queers!”

I am one of those Liberals. I am against marriage as it is constructed now. It is basically an institution that has outlived its usefulness. This is nowhere more evident than in the symbols in wedding ceremonies that are now all false representations: the white dress, the ring, the gathered witnesses, etc.

Clearly marriage is an institution that is, at best, in a state of flux. Most Americans will become “serial marriers,” that is they will marry and divorce, only to re-marry, then divorce again, only to re-re-marry, etc. Marriage has become a short-term contract and for that, I have no qualms. I oppose it not because of its now short-term nature, but because it as a waste of time and resources. Couples would be better off sitting down with a legal expert to fashion their marriage contract.

What I see missing is a long-term component of this contract covering any children of those marriages. Currently children do not come up in a marriage contract. Marriage contracts are personal, so the government doesn’t enforce them (save the occasional “deadbeat Dad law”). A long-term contract, covering any children from the marriage, should be a contract enforceable by government. We all have an interest in making sure all children are cared for, are sheltered, fed, educated, etc. Them feeling loved would be nice but that will not become part of the contract, unless a “full-employment for lawyers bill” sounds desirable to someone with lots of money to buy such a law.

Decent countries do this. In France, if you fail to provide for your children, expect a 16 tonne weight to fall on you. They do not mess around. They also support quality parenting by providing generous parental leaves, and a lot of other considerations for working parents.

Can we not get passed the Black and White part of these discussions (Liberals, bad, ugh.) and get to the gray?

An Affluenza Epidemic

A young person was in court because he caused the death of several people and was facing manslaughter charges. His lawyers (he had the best, his family was rich) made a novel argument. The young person was a child in a wealthy family and he had not been taught right and wrong, at least not right and wrong as it is known to most of us. Amazingly the judge bought this defense and let the kid off the hook. The press dubbed the defense the Affluenza Defense. The implication was that being rich was something of a disease and we should look at the rich, not as wrongdoers, but as suffers of a disease (at least in court).

I don’t think we looked at this carefully enough. I don’t think this just applies to court proceedings.

I have been wondering aloud why it is that the rich need so much money. The fact that they are accumulating wealth at record paces means that they are not spending it. If they are not spending it, they do not need it; they merely want it.

Now I know why.

Affluenza.

Catching this disease seems to occur during the first stages of wealth accumulation. The more money rich people have, the more focused they are on not losing it. Having to pay taxes or even their own worker’s wages becomes anathema. Orders are given to minions to increase profits and reduce costs. More. They need “more.”

If they have more wealth, then a loss will be less and less significant. If you lose a million dollars and you had only a million dollars, you are broke. If you lose a million dollars and you had a billion dollars, you have $999 million left. (Having gotten through college by looking in the sofa for spare change to buy food, if I lost a million dollars I would be fucking looking for it.)

This is how “conservatives” are born. A focus on conserving things is not something one who has nothing does.

But, one thing leads to another and all roads lead to “more.” Affluenza becomes full blown when you have the fancy car or cars, a fancy house or houses, a boat or boats, an airplane or airplanes, and your monthly expenses are less than your income, so wealth is still being accumulated. You have paid for expensive college educations for your kids … what else is there? Maybe you set up trusts so your kids have something to fall back on should your corporate cronies don’t come up with a good enough starting position for them.

Then what?

Then you enter the realm of the philanthropists class … or you enter the realm of the diseased.

Rich people used to figure out “good causes” to support and used their accumulated riches to help their fellow citizens. It was the thing to do. Maybe a foundation was created (a list can be seen before any PBS show) or a charity was formed and the money that was accumulated flowed out. It was “trickle down” in nature, but as long as there were relatively few rich people it was workable. Their philanthropy earned them respect from their communities.

But then business CEOs figured out how to rig their pay boards (aka Corporate Boards) and started accumulating massively. Soon the most common rich person was a corporate executive. These people were trained by our best business schools and learned that “profit is good” and if that is true, then the guy in charge when the profits were made should benefit, heck, even if profits weren’t made, they should benefit.

Affluenza.

How do we treat such a disease? I am sure that devout Christians will see the hand of God in this. It is because of Affluenza that the rich will not get into Heaven. They are unclean. The only solution is the one that worked before: high marginal income tax rates (the ones that apply only to the very accumulative, and do not affect the non-rich). By re-instituting the high marginal tax rates that we had in the 1950s and 1960s, then the rich could get rich, but when they suffered from Affluenza, the government would siphon off the excess wealth and use it to benefit us all by providing sound roads and bridges, a better electrical grid, freedom from hunger and treatment of disease, etc. With the pressure of greater and greater wealth removed, the rich can recover and become normal again. It is a treatment that worked in those decades and it could work today.

Don’t let the rich suffer any longer.

Call your Congressmen and Senators today and back the Affluenza cure. Every rich person we save is another candidate for Heaven.

And Then You Create Profit … and Then What?

More and more is being written about the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal (the TPP) which is amazing in that the writers have no idea what is in it. Even the negotiators were privy to only the section they were working on. (There is not even a consensus on how many sections there are in the treaty.)

TPP supporters say it would be a boon for all the nations involved, that it would “unlock opportunities” and “address vital 21st-century issues within the global economy,” and that it is written in a way to encourage more countries to sign on. Yada, yada, yada. They don’t know what is in the deal either.

According to economists “trade” increases overall prosperity by eliminating less productive jobs. In theory, the workers find new jobs. In practice, studies show that global competition is increasing unemployment and reducing wages here. In fact, eliminating less productive jobs is the reason for any trade deal: to reduce the costs of creation of sellable goods by requiring fewer workers or less pay or both. Consider the flood of cheap goods coming into the country through the Wal-Mart pipeline. People benefit from having less expensive choices available when they shop (if they shop at Wal-Mart; I do not). But for each of those categories of goods, if Americans are to compete and sell comparable goods, they must do it with similar wages (impossible to match Viet Nam there) or by having the work done by fewer people. Since 1980, productivity of American workers has soared, wages have changed very little.

By this mechanism, the benefits of trade are not distributed evenly. The Plutocrats rake in large amounts of cash, but it doesn’t get shared out with workers. “The argument was always that the winners could compensate the losers,” said Joseph Stiglitz, a Columbia University economist and Nobel laureate. “But the winners never do. And that becomes particularly relevant when we have a society with as much inequality as we have today.”

So, if the corporations pushing for this deal get their way, more American jobs will be lost, American wages will be depressed either more or longer (which we all pay for in the form of governmental supports for those in need) and profits will be made … then what?

Already American corporations are making record profits. What are they doing with them? Anything to help the American people? Or are they just enriching their CEOs and shareholders. The data says the latter. The “rewards” of trade are going to the wealthy. The costs of trade are being born by the middle class and poor. At the same time, the poor are being demonized by Conservative politicians (“They should go get a job.”) as the jobs they could get are being shipped overseas so the corporate owners of the GOP can make even more profit.

Consider the Wal-Mart model; this is the effect of global trade in miniature. Goods are manufactured overseas with cheap labor and those goods are brought to this country and sold to the less affluent in the U.S. (Any business whose main selling point is their prices are lower than their competitors is not marketing to the affluent.) Wal-Mart has “created” a great many jobs in their stores. Those jobs do not pay well, often at the minimum allowable wage and then Wal-Mart counselors train their workers how to get federal supports for their crappy wages so they won’t quit because they can’t afford to live on what Wal-Mart pays. Plus the advent of a Wal-Mart store means the death of many other local businesses which cannot compete (job losses). So better paying jobs are displaced by poorer paying ones. And wealth flows to the “Wal-Mart heirs,” the children of the founder of Wal-Mart, who now apparently have accumulated as much wealth as has the bottom 40% of the entire U.S. citizenry.

Then what?

Is that the goal? To concentrate as much money into the hands of the fewest people? Why? Who benefits? Even the people who have accumulated those riches do not benefit as they are accumulating amounts of money that cannot be spent (they were already very, very rich, getting richer didn’t change their lifestyle even a tiny bit). What are they going to do with their riches? So far, the strategy is to a) sit on it or b) buy political influence to slope the playing field even more in their favor, to accumulate even more riches.

Then what?

Then what?

Is our thinking so stultifying capitalistic that we just think “profit is good?” Having been involved in a number of businesses, I can say that the lack of profit is bad, and some profit is good, but are there no other indicators on the scale of profits? I, for one, will keep asking “Then what?” as money is not a thing in itself. Why these people need so much of it that they are driven to harm their fellow citizens to get it is still a mystery (or a disease).

As a sop to American labor, the Environmental, Labor and Intellectual Property Standards United States negotiators stress that the TPP would seek to level the playing field by imposing “rigorous labor and environmental standards on trading partners, and supervision of intellectual property rights.”

Right.

We can’t trust Iran to keep a nuclear deal because it is a theocracy and we have a poor history with Iran (mostly our doing). But we can trust Viet Nam to keep the labor standards in this trade deal because, well, it is a communist country that we fought a vicious war with for most of a decade. (Like they are going to have legitimate labor unions … right.) Nobody seems to point out that violations of those labor agreements create benefits for the companies doing the trade, so they will be unlikely to “blow the whistle” on abuses.

The next stage in this drama is to immerse us all in so many details that our eyes will glaze over as lobbyists line up to top off the campaign coffers of our Congressional representatives.

Oh, the same economists who say “trade is good” are also saying trade deals, like the TPP, are no big deal, that globalization of trade has mostly been fueled by things like the containerization of cargo and the Internet.

Really?

Then why are corporations lining up to spend many, many millions of dollars jamming this deal through Congress if “it is no big deal.”

Follow the money people. (Hint: it is flowing straight out of your pocket into theirs.)

May 17, 2015

Et Tu, Pew?

There is a lot of discussion circulating about the latest Pew survey of religious inclinations of Americans. Most of the hubbub is about increasing numbers of people who declare their religion as “none.” At the same time, many of the evangelical sort are insisting that their god did, indeed, come to Earth “in the flesh” and died to “save us.”

And there we sit.

Can any conversation be had?

I have a great many questions about the evangelical world view described above. For example, if Yahweh wanted to come to Earth, why did he not just put on human guise and come. Why did he create another version of himself who had to be born of a woman and live an uneventful life for just a three-year campaign? Does no one question why he chose to waste so much of His time? (I mean He actually “learned” a craft and studied Torah.) And why did He create a simulacrum of himself? Could He not just have multi-tasked and come himself?

And from what were we to be saved? Ah, it was from His very own curse in the story of Adam and Eve. So, instead of reinventing human sacrifice, why didn’t He just rescind the curse? (“My bad, folks. I am calling it off. Didn’t quite work out as I intended.”)

I also want to know why He is so needy. Why does He create beings for the sole purpose to adore him? Isn’t that more than a little narcissistic?  He creates a “man” out of mud to tend his garden. Okay, that makes some sense. Since he is all powerful, He could just tend it with a thought, but that could get boring, so why not make a being that wasn’t predictable, one that could amuse? But right away, the “man” pisses Yahweh off and he curses him and all of his descendants. Uh, wait a minute, why did his Gardener need to be able to reproduce? How big was this Garden? How many Gardeners were needed? Could he not have made an army out of mud, surely there was a lot of mud available, with the three rivers and all? And when the mud men died, they could be easily replaced the same way. (Instead of “ashes to ashes,” we would have “mud to mud.”)

Yahweh at first made only the “man.” A “woman” came as an afterthought, only because the “man” seemed a little lonely, not having any other of his people to converse with. (Like God, the angels, the Cherubim, and all the other bims and phims weren’t good enough company!) So, if Eve were an afterthought, created from the need of the “man,” why was the “man” made to plug into the woman from the beginning? And why progeny? Since He was immortal, would He have not been up to his ass in Gardeners in short order? And did He want, as it states clearly in scripture, a gardener or a worshiper? Is this the first mention of a “bait and switch” scam? (“I need you to tend my garden … uh, (sotto voce) and, well, worship me.”)

What the Pew survey doesn’t get at is this: do people really believe such childish stories represent reality and, if so, why? So many of the events in the Book of Genesis contradict the image of their god as “all knowing” and “all powerful.” God apparently wasn’t powerful enough to keep the serpents out of His garden, not was he powerful enough to do His own damned gardening. And the gardener He created wasn’t powerful enough to do the job (an engineering failure), in that the first thing he required was a staff to help him. Nor did this all knowing god have any idea what Adam and Eve were up to when they “ate of the fruit.” He had to go question them. (Alright, what have you two scamps been up to?) Later we find this god is angry, confused, disappointed, vengeful and any number of other mental states that indicate cluelessness. He is constantly having to get the Israelites to do things for Him.

The real puzzlement is not the statistics, but the fact that people spend no time investigating what they believe and why. And, if a real, all powerful, all knowing god told us what to believe, you would think that would rise to the number one priority of “believers.” The puzzlement is that it does not. The Jews seem to be serious about this in that a sizeable fraction of the adult male population list “Torah study” as their occupation. Christians, meh, not so much.

May 15, 2015

I Am So Tired of “Why Are They Opposing Free Trade?”

So-called Progressives and Liberals are characterizing the Democratic opposition to the TPP is “opposing Free Trade.” How can they make this characterization? Do they know what is in the TPP? Apparently it is a bad deal, full of pork for multi-national corporations. Much of it has nothing to do with trade (I say apparently, as none of us can see it). Why is opposition to a bad deal, painted as opposition to Free Trade itself? This is a basic “straw man” strategy. Create a clearly unreasonable version of reality and attack that.

This strategy is based upon the idea that Free Trade is a declared “good thing.” It is not, especially for developing economies. Can you name a single major economy that was built on Free Trade? (Hint: there are none.) All were established under various protectionist schemes (which sounds bad to our ears but is actually necessary). Remember Japan? How we could not sell rice there, or beef, or produce, or cars? They built the second largest economy in the world that way. China is still doing it (which is why we are attacking China with the TPP). Free Trade is an offensive weapon of wealthy nations against poorer ones. They get our “advanced goods” at prices that will prevent them from developing the capacity to make such things for themselves and we get their natural resources, many of which cannot be replaced, regrown, etc. Free Trade policies are basically “stick to your knitting” orders that fix people into what they are doing now. Free Trade, being a “good thing,” in and of itself is a conservative meme with no basis in fact that has been bought into widely.

If the TPP were “just” a Free Trade treaty, why is it secret?

Why did one of the trade negotiators say it was secret because “if people found out what was in it, they would oppose it?”

Why cannot a summary of the articles in the TPP be shared. The details are the details, but not even a rough sketch can be made public? (If they say “it is complex, and people may misunderstand” I will scream. Make it understandable.)

Instead of arguing about the concept of Free Trade, argue about this bill. Stop generalizing. Most of the previous blockbuster Free Trade Treaties worked out poorly for American Citizens and gangbusters for corporations. They sold those as they are selling this. The strategy is to get all of the cards on the table and then hold guns to the heads of the players, daring them to not do what was wanted. When Fast Track Authority goes through, then the lobbyists will be unleashed and cash will flow in rivers. If this is so good for the American people why are wealthy corporations the ones pushing it through? Is it out of altruism on their parts?

We are right to be suspicious.

If you want to know what the core of the TPP is, it is this. The previous agreements (NAFTA, etc.) allowed our corporations to take their production capacity overseas and use the cheaper labor they had there to make goods to sell in this country at prices we were accustomed to paying. They made mountains of money doing this. But look what happened. Ask foreigners to make our most vaunted products for us (iPhones, etc.) and, voila, all of a sudden they steal those technologies and start making their own. (Don’t be shocked. England did, Germany did it, we did it. It is a normal part of “growing one’s own economy,” since everybody does it.)

The TPP is mostly about protecting that intellectual property from “theft.” That is those sitting on their mountains of cash saw some of it leaking out around the edges and were offended and are retaliating. The thing is, it will not work. There are not enough lawyers in the world to make such schemes work. The basic law of technology is you have to innovate or fade away. American car manufacturers learned that the hard way. They wanted protection well past the normal stage and they paid for it.

The problem is that while the plutocrats are figuring out basic economics they are exporting our jobs overseas and our standard of living is dropping like a stone. Free Trade has consequences. Using the front edge of that sword, we forget about the back edge. While we are undercutting their capacity to make our goods, their goods are eliminating our capacity to do the same. Remember when we made textiles and clothing here? Remember when we made furniture here? Remember when we made appliances her? Remember when we made televisions here? The TPP facilitates “more of the same” behavior like we have had over the last 20 years. When there are no more such jobs what kind of country will we be?

May 13, 2015

Debate Whiners or Winners?

According to an article in the N.Y. Times, the GOP is looking for a way to determine debate winners in the upcoming presidential debate season (G.O.P. Seeks Strategy for Debates Amid Expanding Candidate List).

Really? C’mon, we of the sports world figured this out a long time ago. Here’s how.

Let’s say there are 16 candidates. In the first debate, you pair them off randomly. Each pair gets asked the same question and the audience via their applause (low tech) or electric voting buttons (higher tech) or the entire TV audience (even more tech) determines which of the two answered the question better. The winner goes on, the loser leaves the stage. In the second round, there will be eight winners who get paired off and again a question is asked of each pair; winners stay, losers leave. Eventually you have a final pair, maybe they get more face time. They get asked two or even three questions, the voters vote and, ta da, an unambiguous winner is crowned.

Now it gets interesting! Based on the results of the first debate, the candidates can be ranked from #1 to #16 in debate performance. In the next debate, the pairings are #1 and #16, #2 and #15, etc., that is the better debaters get the easier opponents in the next rounds. After several debates, the highest-ranked debater is declared the winner.

None of this namby-pamby winning by scoring pundit opinions and spin doctors, this process would produce real winners of the debates. And what could be more democratic? Let the people decide!

And to make it more interesting, you could trim the list of debaters after the first three debates, say, cut the list to eight people. After the next three, cut to four. As the number of participants goes down, the number of questions that could be asked before an audience vote can go up. Think of the pressure to perform! Candidates melting on stage! Candidates blubbering “It’s not fair” as they are led off! Imagine the spectacle! Vegas could offer a betting line….

Now this doesn’t determine who the best candidate is, but certainly we would know who the best debater is.

Let the Games begin!

 

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