Friday Talking Points [479] -- Welcome To The Trump Trade War

[ Posted Friday, April 6th, 2018 – 18:33 UTC ]

First, Donald Trump announced new tariffs on steel and aluminum. Then China reacted with $3 billion in tariffs on U.S. goods (mostly farm goods -- fruit, nuts, and pork). Trump hit back with the threat of tariffs on $50 billion in Chinese goods. The Chinese, not to be outdone, announced that if this happens they'll be slapping their own tariffs on $50 billion in American goods -- most notably, soybeans. Trump then tripled down, announcing further tariffs on $100 billion of Chinese goods. So begins the great Sino-American trade war of 2018. Or, as we like to call it, the Trump trade war. Why not give proper credit where it is due, after all?

The stock market reacted to the latest salvos by dropping over 750 points today. It clawed back some of this at the very end of the day, but it was yet another day of volatility. The markets were down for the whole first quarter of this year, for the first time in a long time. The Trump bump has given way to the Trump slump, in other words. Also, the March jobs report was pretty underwhelming, and wages still have yet to rise for millions of hardworking Americans.

Now, a quick historical quiz: what were Republicans saying just three short months ago about the economy? Back in January, before stocks took their first dive, the GOP was pleased as punch with the gigantic tax cut they had just passed for the wealthy and corporations, and they all were optimistically predicting that the economy would now "be unleashed" and thus soar to new heights. We would all, to use a memorable phrase, soon get tired of all the winning.

That was then. This is now. The supposed magic of the tax cuts has not lived up to its billing, to put it mildly. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down around 3,000 points from its previous high (at the end of January). And we're smack in the middle of a trade war, with no end in sight. Just the thing to inspire confidence!

For his first year in office, Trump largely coasted on the continuing Obama economy. Since the Republican Congress couldn't seem to pass much of anything at all, the economy (and to a large extent, the federal budget) continued on autopilot. Since the Republicans passed their tax cuts, however -- and since the trade war began -- this is now unquestionably the Trump economy. We may all be in for a very bumpy ride, folks. In fact, Trump was so preoccupied with China this week that he seems to have forgotten to fire any of his top advisors -- but, hey, there's always next week, right?

The most ironic thing about the tit-for-tat tariffs with China is that the hardest hit American industry is unquestionably going to be agriculture. Farm country. Which overwhelmingly voted for Trump. We explored this subject in detail earlier in the week, but what it boils down to is that the Midwest, the Plains, and the South are all in for a whole lot of economic pain if the trade war lasts longer than a few months. Just the thing to convince your base to turn out and vote in November! "Don't worry about making payments on your farm's mortgage, because we're really sticking it to the Chinese!" is not going to sound very convincing, to put this in snarkier terms.

Speaking of surfing the incoming blue wave, Democrats chalked up a big win in Wisconsin this week, as they won an open seat on the state supreme court -- which hasn't happened since 1995. In January, Democrats picked up a Wisconsin state senate seat in a district that voted for Trump over Clinton by a margin of 17 points. And now Scott Walker is one scared little puppy, since he's up for re-election in November. He's issuing dire warnings about the incoming blue wave, and we certainly hope all his fears come true in November.

In other blue wave news, a poll just out in Tennessee shows the Democrat (ex-governor Phil Bredesen) up by 10 points over Republican Marsha Blackburn in their Senate race. In Tennessee! Looks like the big blue wave might reach pretty far inland, folks.

Other good news on the election front: 2018 has officially set a record for "most women running for Congress ever," as the total climbed to 309 women candidates across the country (the previous record was 298 in 2012). Now, not all of them are Democrats (although most are), and not all of them will make it through the primaries, but we have to say that's an impressive showing! And the total could go even higher, as not every state has reached its filing deadline yet.

And an extraordinary poll revealed that an astounding one in every five Americans has taken part in either a political protest or rally since the beginning of 2016. That translates to tens of millions of citizens, which is why it is such a jaw-dropping figure. Out of those who had protested, 70 percent disapprove of President Trump. Respondents also were eager to volunteer for congressional campaigns later this year. At this point, predicting the height of the blue wave is still impossible, but it's got all the makings of an enormous tsunami.

As previously mentioned, Trump actually didn't fire any top aides this week, which is somewhat notable for this administration. Sad but true -- Trump firing someone by tweet has now become the norm. But two top advisors seem to be clinging to the front bumper of the bus in a desperate attempt not to get completely thrown under it.

First up is White House Chief of Staff John Kelly. In the past month or so, Kelly has become more and more marginalized by Trump, and is slowly being cut out of all the major decision-making processes. At this point, it's tough to know when the final straw will drop for him (or what particular straw it will be), but an article on his woes closed by officially putting him on the deathwatch:

Kelly, who took the job last July, had previously told confidants he hoped to be on the job for a year. One person familiar with his thinking said the chief of staff recently voiced doubt he would make it that far.

Didn't we run a contest here to guess Kelly's tenure a long time ago? We suppose we better go look it up to see who played the long game....

Also on the deathwatch (in much more visible fashion) is the head of the E.P.A., Scott Pruitt. At this point, it is tough to even try to keep up with all the Pruitt scandals, because they've been coming pretty fast and furious all week. Let's see, there was the condo room he rented from an energy lobbyist... oh, excuse me, the lobbyist's first name on the lease was crossed out with a pen and his wife's first name inserted (at some point in time). Even with a sweetheart deal, Pruitt reportedly was late with his laughably-low rent. Oh, and his adult daughter used another of the bedrooms, although that wasn't part of the lease at all. Then there were the two massive raises he pushed through for two of his buddies who followed him to the department (one of these raises was for over $56,000, it bears mentioning). Then he lied about his involvement with these raises on national television. Of course, there are plenty of older Pruitt scandals as well, such as his love of private jets -- he reportedly wanted a private jet lease for his own use but found out it'd cost the taxpayers $100,000 per month, so he backed off. Then there were the five people who pushed back against his high living and got either demoted or fired, such as a security detail agent who was "removed from the team and had his gun and badge taken away" after voicing concerns about the massive security detail Pruitt demanded. And then there's always his super-secret "cone of silence" phone booth he had installed in his office, of course.

But Trump likes Pruitt, mainly because he is a human buzz saw when it comes to overturning environmental regulations meant to protect all Americans from rampant pollution and death. So he may yet survive, even though he's generating roughly a scandal a day in the media nowadays.

Chris Christie, who knows a thing or two about how the Trump team handled the transition period, appeared last Sunday on a political show to vent his frustration with how he was unceremoniously shown the door when attempting to run the Trump transition (which he called "brutally unprofessional" for good measure). He also had some choice words about Pruitt: "I don't know how you survive this one, and if he has to go, it's because he never should have been there in the first place." Tell us what you really think, governor!

What else? Cecile Richards, head of Planned Parenthood, has a new book out where she tells the story of Ivanka and Jared's ham-handed effort to essentially bribe her into betraying what her organization stands for. The wonder-kids offered her more federal money if Planned Parenthood would only totally stop performing abortions. She writes that it was "surreal, essentially being asked to barter away women's rights for more money."

Bob Mueller's investigation grinds on, and he got his first jail sentence this week -- 30 days in the hole for one of the peripheral figures. This certainly won't be his last conviction and sentence, that's for sure. One interesting note from Mueller's team surfaced this week, but was largely lost in all the other news:

Armed with subpoenas compelling electronic records and sworn testimony, Mueller’s team showed up unannounced at the home of the business associate, who was a party to multiple transactions connected to Trump's effort to expand his brand abroad, according to persons familiar with the proceedings. Investigators were particularly interested in interactions involving Trump's longtime personal attorney and a former Trump Organization employee.

So there's that to look forward to, sports fans!

And finally, before we get to this week's awards, we have an update from one of last week's. Representative Elizabeth Esty has announced that she will not be running for re-election, because of the scandal detailed in last week's Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week. A little late, but the right thing to do nonetheless.


Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week

By the rules, we cannot hand out the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award to the person we would most like to this week, because she ran in what was technically a non-partisan judicial election. So while we can offer our hearty congratulations to the next state supreme court justice in Wisconsin, Rebecca Dallet, she is not technically qualified for the MIDOTW. Her 12-point win was pretty impressive, though, and it sure scared the heck out of Scott Walker (as icing on the cake).

Fun Badger State supreme court trivia: there will now not only be two Rebeccas on the court, but a whopping six of the seven justices will be women.

The teachers in Oklahoma and Kentucky deserve recognition as well, but once again, they are not a partisan organization.

Democrat Beto O'Rourke, who is running to take on Ted Cruz in the Senate race this fall in Texas, deserves at least an Honorable Mention for his continued fundraising prowess. While Cruz hasn't reported his first-quarter totals yet, O'Rourke raised an astonishing $6.7 million last quarter. Previous to that, he outraised Cruz in three of last year's four quarters, but only managed to pull in between $1.7 million and $2.4 million each time. O'Rourke reportedly raised his first-quarter haul from more than 141,000 contributions, of which he said "about 70 percent" came from within Texas, and the average donation was "a little over $40."

Cruz, meanwhile, was asked by an irate constituent this week whether he'd be willing to take a DNA test "to prove he is human." Here's the full quote, from a woman with seven pre-existing conditions:

If you force me into a high-risk, you will either bankrupt me or kill me. I take these threats of medical aggression personally and seriously, and I can assure you I'm not the only Texan who does. My question is: Will you pledge to submit to a DNA test to prove that you're human?

Cruz refused to provide a straight answer, so make of that what you will.

But our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week this week is actress Cynthia Nixon, and all the other Progressives trying to oust some eminently oustable so-called Democrats in New York state. HuffPost took a fairly deep dive into what's been going on:

For years, a breakaway faction of Democrats helped Republicans control the state Senate in New York, one of the country's most liberal states.

On Wednesday, all that appeared set to change. The group of turncoats, known as the Independent Democratic Conference, have tentatively agreed to return to the mainstream Democratic fold, striking a deal that could ultimately hand Democrats unified control of New York government.

And progressives -- who've spent the past few years hammering the breakaway Democrats -- are declaring victory. Activists and the candidates they support see the outcome as evidence of the effectiveness of primary challenges against the IDC members, as well against New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the Democrat who brokered the agreement. They do not plan to let up anytime soon.

"The heat is clearly on. They wouldn't have agreed to come back to the Democrats, if they did not believe that their seats were at risk," said Alessandra Biaggi, a former Hillary Clinton campaign staffer challenging state Sen. Jeffrey Klein, leader of the Independent Democratic Conference.

The eight members of the IDC participate in a power-sharing agreement with Senate Republicans that affords them committee leadership posts and controversial financial stipends known as "lulus."

. . .

IDC critics have also drawn attention to the fact that under the current system, New York's budget negotiations are hammered out between four men -- Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R), Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D) and IDC Leader Klein who has been accused of sexual misconduct by a former staffer. IDC-enabled GOP domination of the state Senate prevents Democratic Senate Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, a black woman, from playing the leadership role in negotiations that Democrats' numerical majority would otherwise afford her. If Democrats regain control of the chamber, Stewart-Cousins would be the first black woman in charge of a legislative chamber in New York history.

This year, members of the IDC face their first serious primary threats. Biaggi is one of seven Democrats challenging IDC members with the backing of major progressive organizations like the Working Families Party. (State Sen. David Carlucci is the sole IDC member without a progressive challenger.)

Cuomo, often blamed for failing to leverage his power against the IDC and Felder, has also elicited a left-leaning primary challenge from Cynthia Nixon, an actress and progressive education activist. Nixon has made Cuomo's alleged complicity with the IDC a major theme of her run.

But at a Manhattan steakhouse meeting Tuesday evening where Klein, the IDC leader, and Stewart-Cousins, the Democratic Senate leader, were both present, Cuomo played the role of peacemaker. He publicly called on Klein to rejoin the mainline caucus as Stewart-Cousins' deputy, the New York Times reported and HuffPost confirmed from a Democrat close to Cuomo. Stewart-Cousins tentatively accepted the deal with a handshake at the time, and her caucus has since embraced it, though many details still need to be worked out. For Stewart-Cousins, it is an improvement on a November proposal blessed by Cuomo in which she and Klein would serve as co-leaders.

The Progressives weren't that impressed, however:

"Grassroots groups are not gonna let up the pressure particularly when a lot of these candidates are getting momentum," said Sean McElwee, a Manhattan-based left-wing activist and policy writer affiliated with No IDC New York. "Spending 2, 4 or 6 of the last 8 years caucusing with Republicans -- the Democratic base isn't gonna forget that in a second because you had a steak dinner with Andrew Cuomo."

For her part, Nixon slammed the governor for supposedly allowing the IDC to persist for so long. Her campaign distributed dozens of links to articles suggesting he facilitated the arrangement and allowed it to continue so he could avoid voting on more progressive legislation.

"If you've set your own house on fire and watched it burn for eight years, finally turning on a hose doesn't make you a hero," Nixon said.

She also tweeted:

Today's announcement on the IDC deal shows the power of our movement. Power concedes nothing without a demand. We demanded -- and now a terrified establishment is throwing voters a bone.

Andrew Cuomo and the rest of them are, quite obviously, running scared. The whole point of this new arrangement is to circle the wagons against primary challengers:

A condition of the deal is that neither former IDC members, nor mainline Senate Democrats would back primary challenges against incumbent members.

That means that the IDC's challengers cannot expect support from the mainline caucus.

Which is pretty ironic, because "circling the wagons" is what they should have been doing all along, rather than let the Republicans run the chamber even though they were in the minority.

The moral of this story is that Progressive primary challengers are already starting to make a difference in the world of Democratic Party politics. We are awarding this week's Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award to Cynthia Nixon and all the Progressive challengers of the members of the I.D.C. (Jessica Ramos, Zellnor Myrie, Robert Jackson, Alessandra Biaggi, and Rachel May).

Something stinks in the swamp known as Albany, and it has stunk for a very long time now. The I.D.C. challengers and Cynthia Nixon deserve a lot of credit for fighting back against such an odious arrangement. We have no idea what their chances will be in the primary, but already their campaigns have made a difference. For that, all the Progressives taking on both Cuomo and the I.D.C. in New York are the winners of this week's MIDOTW. Good luck in the primaries!

[As a rule, we do not provide links to candidate webpages, but you can learn more about these candidates on the "No IDC New York" coalition pages, if you're interested.]


Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week

Since we're on the subject, we're also awarding the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week to everyone in the so-called Independent Democratic Conference in New York state politics. As well as (the article is unclear on whether he's actually a member of the group or not) "conservative Brooklyn Democrat Simcha Felder," who also has been caucusing with the Republicans.

Governor Cuomo tried to brush off any suggestion that their own political skins could have anything to do with the new agreement, but his effort was not notably believable:

Cuomo insisted at a Wednesday afternoon press conference that primaries did not affect the timing or terms of the agreement. Instead, the policies of President Trump and the Republican Congress, as well as the two looming special state Senate elections on April 24, one of which is competitive.

"What we're saying here today is we have a common enemy," Cuomo said flanked by Stewart-Cousins and Klein. "And the common enemy is defeating Trump and Ryan and McConnell and defeating their agenda and taking over the New York state Senate so we can protect the state the way it needs to be protected."

However, Cuomo also revealed at the press conference that his re-election campaign would be coordinating closely with the campaigns efforts of Senate and Assembly Democrats. He framed the effort as a demonstration of his commitment to retaking the Senate, but it could also potentially create the perception that Nixon is running against the entire slate of New York Democrats.

A key matter of contention for progressives is the timing of the breakthrough almost immediately after the passage of a state budget in which Cuomo, together with IDC and state Senate Republican leaders, notably excluded key liberal priorities. Cuomo also chose to schedule the special elections for open state Senate seats vacated by two mainline Democrats only after the new budget's deadline.

Critics do not consider the new budget adequately progressive. IDC primary challengers highlighted that it failed to abolish cash bail, pass a state-level version of the DREAM Act or add new protections for vulnerable home renters. It also didn't incorporate an Assembly bill that aims to mitigate the impact of climate change on the state, they added in their letter.

"Now that the budget is done he can play like a progressive," McElwee said.

There's really no excuse for this kind of behavior, really. If you're going to turn your coat politically, then do so. Declare yourself a Republican. Or, at the very least, become an Independent. But whyever would any politician still call themselves a Democrat when they are handing power of one of the legislative chambers over to the Republicans?

After all, if they had done so, then none of them would even be eligible for an award with the title Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week. As it is, though, they all seem like the poster children for the "throw the bums out" Progressive movement. We sincerely hope New York Democratic voters are paying attention.

[You can see who is in the IDC on their Facebook page, if you'd like to let them know what you think of their actions.]


Friday Talking Points

Volume 479 (4/6/18)

Congress was away for the second week of their spring break vacation, so there wasn't much to work with on the legislative front. Luckily, state-level Republicans leaped into the fray and provided plenty of fodder for this week's talking points. Sometimes Republicans can be quite sneaky about achieving their real goals, and then again sometimes they don't even bother to try to disguise what they're doing. This is one of those latter times, obviously.


   Cleanup on aisle Trump [part 1]

Trump couldn't have gotten this one more wrong if he had tried, really.

"Early in the week, Trump tweeted, and I quote: 'Border Patrol Agents are not allowed to properly do their job at the Border because of ridiculous liberal (Democrat) laws like Catch & Release. Getting more dangerous. "Caravans" coming. Republicans must go to Nuclear Option to pass tough laws NOW. NO MORE DACA DEAL!' Let's just take that one bit at a time to show how laughably wrong Trump truly is. First, 'catch and release' is not a Democratic policy -- just ask George W. Bush. The border has not gotten notably more dangerous, in fact border crossings are at incredibly low levels right now. Republicans aren't even considering using the 'nuclear option' in the Senate -- which would mean permanently jettisoning the legislative filibuster -- because even if they did they would not have the votes. Trump's hardline immigration plan only got 36 Republican votes in the Senate, which is far short of even a simple majority. As for 'no more DACA deal'... well, Trump seems to be the last person in Washington to realize that this deal is not just dead -- it is now pushing up the daisies. In fact, pretty much everyone else was aware of this fact over a month ago. I guess someone finally told Trump -- or maybe Fox News did a segment on it or something?"


   Cleanup on aisle Trump [part 2]

Trump has been giving more off-the-cuff speeches, which is always a danger for him, because you never quite know what he'll say.

"In a freewheeling speech this week, Trump decided to announce that American troops will all be coming out of Syria 'very soon.' Remember back in the presidential campaign when Trump made so much political hay over Barack Obama following an agreement (signed by George W. Bush) to withdraw our troops from Iraq? Trump thundered and fulminated against 'warning the enemy what your strategy is' and swore up and down that he'd never, ever do such a rash thing. However, Trump now reportedly wants all the troops out of Syria in five or six months at the most, despite all the generals over at the Pentagon who think the idea is a disastrous one. So much for listening to the generals, eh? So much for broadcasting a military pullout timeline being such a bad thing, as well, it seems. I mean, is there any campaign promise Trump made that he hasn't broken into dozens of tiny pieces yet?"


   Kentucky Republicans show their true colors

Gotta love all that winning!

"Kentucky's Republicans just passed a tax bill that is breathtaking in kowtowing to the wealthiest of the wealthy. They effectively shifted a major part of the state's tax burden from the highest income-earners to the lowest, in one fell swoop. The original Washington Post headline is really all you need to understand what just happened: 'Kentucky Lawmakers Pass Tax Cuts For Wealthy, Tax Hikes For Other 95 Percent.' But don't worry, Kentuckians who aren't in the tippy-top income bracket, it'll all doubtlessly trickle down to you someday. At least the Republicans in Washington try to disguise their real aims, or at the very least give lip service to knee-slappers like 'most of the tax cuts will go to the middle class.' But it seems in Kentucky, they can't even be bothered to attempt to disguise their real aims at all."


   Arizona Republicans show their true colors

Shhh! It's a secret!

"Out in Arizona, Republicans are also acting pretty unashamedly. There was a time when it used to be Republican orthodoxy that the smaller the government, the better. Ask them about national education standards, and you'll get some form of this reasoning. But it turns out that local isn't always best, sometimes the state government has to step in and slap down all those liberals in urban areas who vote in sane laws. Seems the citizens of Tempe voted for a ballot initiative that would have forced outside groups spending money on local elections to disclose their donors. An astounding ninety-one percent of the people voted for this measure. It was so successful that Phoenix was considering a similar law. So the state legislature hustled through a law which expressly forbids localities from enforcing any such law, all so that more and more dark money could flood their state's elections. A recent national report on dark money spending concluded that 'Arizona was by far the worst state observed during the 2014 election cycle, with more than $10 million in dark money spent that year alone.' So there's obviously an ocean of cash up for grabs over on the Republican side. No wonder they didn't want their own citizens knowing who is footing the bill for their campaigns. Yet again, Republicans are fighting hard to keep all elections as rigged as humanly possible."


   Florida Republicans show their true colors

Speaking of rigging elections...

"In Florida, meanwhile, the Republican governor is appealing a court ruling because he also wants to fight hard to keep his state's elections as rigged as he can. A federal judge ordered Rick Scott to come up with a fairer process that the travesty that currently exists for felons to regain their right to vote after they have paid their full debt to society. The judge ruled that Florida's current system is not only designed to handle a tiny fraction of the people eligible (insuring decades-long backlogs), but also that the panel charged with reinstating ex-felons' voting rights showed a clear bias towards restoring conservatives' rights while denying the franchise to those with opposing political views. The entire system was ruled unconstitutional, but of course Rick Scott is appealing because he wants to continue to pick and choose who he allows to vote in his state. The system is patently unfair, and Scott is just fine with that, obviously."


   Obamacare still going strong

Some good news for Democrats who are teeing up health care as the number one issue to run on in November.

"The Trump administration and the Republicans in Congress have done all they can in their misguided attempt to kill Obamacare. They slashed the time available to enroll in the system by half, they yanked all the money for ads to inform people to sign up, they did everything they could to see that premiums would go up, and through it all Obamacare just had another pretty good year. Even after all those attacks on the signup process and the system itself, 11.8 million Americans signed up this year, a drop of only 400,000 from last year. Additionally, since Donald Trump got elected, he has managed something neither Obama nor the Democrats could previously -- Obamacare is now popular. A majority of the public approves of the system, and the number who oppose it has plummeted. The more they try to kill Obamacare, the more it bounces back. And Democrats know that affordable health care is now the number one issue on voters' minds. In other words, the 'kill Obamacare' effort by Republicans has completely backfired."


   The dumbest possible way

And finally, we end where we began, on the front lines of the Trump trade war. The following is from Republican Senator Ben Sasse, who hails from the farming state of Nebraska. He had a few choice words on the effects of the Trump trade war on his constituents. If the soybean tariffs materialize, look for this sort of statement from more farm-state Republicans in the very near future:

Hopefully the president is just blowing off steam again but, if he's even half-serious, this is nuts. China is guilty of many things, but the president has no actual plan to win right now. He's threatening to light American agriculture on fire. Let's absolutely take on Chinese bad behavior, but with a plan that punishes them instead of us. This is the dumbest possible way to do this.

-- Chris Weigant


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Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant

Cross-posted at: Democratic Underground


42 Comments on “Friday Talking Points [479] -- Welcome To The Trump Trade War”

  1. [1] 
    Speak2 wrote:

    Hey CW:

    So, you open with China. There's are intersting questions about what can China actually do, especially if they go to all-out "trade war" with us.

    Let's say that China quietly builds up it's ag and mft sectors (over a four- or eight-week period) while striking agreements with other nations to supply anything it's missing, subject to short-term non-disclosure concepts.

    China not constrained by our timelines. The president announces an action, and months need to pass before it's a reality. China can announce an action and it's already happened.

    So what if China just does really bad things to us.

    1. China will no longer import any goods from the US. All boats currently headed to China will be turned away. China has already upgraded it's local and set deals to replace us.

    2. China will no longer export any goods to the US. All boats headed out of China will be halted. The US will not receive any items, end-user or middle-product, from China.

    3. China will dissolve itself of all US debt. They will no longer purchase our debt. Instead, they will sell off our debts.

    3.5. China will threaten other nations (e.g. EU) to dissolve their US debt through their ability to purchase and sell or not sell debts.


    We'd be screwed, wouldn't we.

  2. [2] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Speak2 -

    Not to mention killing Xmas. I saw a show on PBS a few years back where someone forced a family to go through Christmas without anything from China. No Xmas lights (from previous years), but the biggest problem was NO TOYS. It's almost impossible to find toys that aren't made in China these days. It was a simple little exmample of how globalized trade has become, but it was pretty well done.


  3. [3] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    OK, been too busy for comments all week, so I'm going to try to get caught up this weekend.

    Here's yesterday's installment:

    Prime time, dammit! That's what I meant to say! PRIME TIME!


    Lemme try that Homer...


    Or, Homer saying "D'oh" maybe?


    ASCII art is a dying breed, but I always enjoyed it, personally...


  4. [4] 
    James T Canuck wrote:

    "All so" cough, cough...

    The "caravan" was more a charabanc of unfortunate souls, raped repeatedly by FOX PROPAGANDA INC. "hyperbolic truth" aside.

    I spat out my G&T (and according to my 10 year old daughter, my dignity,) at the Ted Cruz DNA challenge...silly question. This animal cooks his bacon with an AR, like he stands a chance of being declared human, scientific results notwithstanding.

    RIP those of the Humboldt Broncos that perished last night. All of Canada grieves. Keep your sticks on the ice.


  5. [5] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    Ever since the day that Adam Smith published "Wealth of Nations", which three centuries ago, spelled out the eternal truths of the fact that levels of material well being (aka 'living standards') of the entire world are maximized when every person and every region specializes in those things for which they have some sort of "comparative advantage(s)", and then get together and trade their products for those of others, the only people who have ever ever advocated for less than totally free trade have been 'special interests', meaning groups such as labor unions or individual corporations, who are willing to sacrifice the general welfare in favor of their own private greed.

    Now we can add to that list at least one asshole ignoramus narcissist.

  6. [6] 
    TheStig wrote:


    Adam Smith is no more the last word on economics than Darwin is the last word on evolutionary theory.

    I agree with your "asshole ignoramus narcissist" assessment of The Trump, but not to the archaic "invisible hand" mantra that seems to get you there.

  7. [7] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    The [9]

    Your response indicates an inability or an unwillingness to distinguish between 'Law' and 'Theory'. Smith himself would never claim to be "the last word on economics".

    There isn't a whole lot of Economics that qualifies as 'Law', but there is some. The principle of the operation of Smith's "Invisible Hand", under conditions of free markets and competition (meaning the absence of any degree of monopoly power on the part of the participants), qualifies as 'Law', as does the principle of supply/demand serving to establish market prices. Disputing that is equivalent to disputing the law of gravity.

    As far as we are aware, there is absolutely nothing about "evolutionary theory" that qualifies as 'Law'.

  8. [8] 
    TheStig wrote:


    You have the Law:Theory priorities backwards.

    A scientific law is a "just so story" based on repeated observations. It gives useful predictions, but the underlying mechanisms remain mysterious.

    A scientific theory is a set of linked hypothesis that predict what will happen and why it happens.

    A successful theory is more powerful than a successful law.

    Newton's mysterious action at a distance Law of Gravity is explained by Einstein's Theory of General Relativity. Einstein's Theory gives accurate predictions under circumstances where where Newton's Law fails. How 'bout them apples?

    Both laws and theories are subject to failure given new information. Adam Smith's "Law" that free markets do more social good than purposeful social interventions is, to say the least, controversial among modern economists - both theoretical and data driven. Look it up.

    "the reason that the invisible hand often seems invisible is that it is often not there." - Joseph E. Stiglitz, Nobel Prize winning economist

  9. [9] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    The [11]

    "The reason Joseph Stiglitz makes asinine comments about Adam Smith's "Invisible Hand" is that his fanatical liberal ideology blinds him to the realities of Economic science." - C. R. Stucki

  10. [10] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    Tbhe [11]

    BTW, as far as I'm aware, neither Smith nor anybody else ever claims that demonstrable economic facts/laws do more "social good" than do those who seek to control economies by means of "purposeful social interventions".

    Principles of economic science have zero connection to the arbitrary liberal concept of "social good". Economic science explains such things as how to achieve maximum economic efficiency (maximum outputs with minimum inputs). Economic science doesn't even recognize the existence of the concept of "fair".

  11. [11] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    The [11]

    P.P.S. "Where Newton's law fails"!!!!!?????

    It is my understanding that there ain't no such place. Perhaps you could elucidate?

  12. [12] 
    goode trickle wrote:

    So I just looked at the USTR list of proposed tariffs.

    One of the interesting areas this will impact is the defense industry given the large amount of semi-Conductors and memory chips imported from china used in almost all of our military aircraft and modern communications and navigation systems.

    Another thing to note is that this list also avoids any item that trump makes and imports as well as the constituent items that make up those items.

    I keep waiting to hear that since we are getting screwed by China and all those "others" that he and his family will be onshoring those jobs... so much for the "Made in america, Buy in America" belief eh?

  13. [13] 
    goode trickle wrote:

    Or in other words...

    Looks like we are going to have a trade war where everyone else has some skin in the game, while he has nothing to lose.

  14. [14] 
    TheStig wrote:


    "BTW, as far as I'm aware, neither Smith nor anybody else ever claims that demonstrable economic facts/laws do more "social good" than do those who seek to control economies by means of "purposeful social interventions".

    From Wealth of Nations, Book IV Chapter II

    But the annual revenue of every society is always precisely equal to the exchangeable value of the whole annual produce of its industry, or rather is precisely the same thing with that exchangeable value. As every individual, therefore, endeavours as much as he can, both to employ his capital in the support of domestic industry, and so to direct that industry that its produce maybe of the greatest value; every individual necessarily labours to render the annual revenue of the society as great as he can. He generally, indeed, neither intends to promote the public interest, nor knows how much he is promoting it. By preferring the support of domestic to that of foreign industry, he intends only his own security; and by directing that industry in such a manner as its produce may be of the greatest value, he intends only his own gain; and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention. Nor is it always the worse for the society that it was no part of it. By pursuing his own interest, he frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it. I have never known much good done by those who affected to trade for the public good. It is an affectation, indeed, not very common among merchants, and very few words need be employed in dissuading them from it.

    A similar statement occurs in Smith's earlier book "The Theory of Moral Sentiments."

  15. [15] 
    Speak2 wrote:

    Stucki [14]:

    Newton's theories couldn't explain Mercury retrograde, gets what happens at relativistic masses and speeds blatantly wrong, and can't explain why measurements of time and lengths are dependent on the relative velocities of the observers. Just to name a few places. Not to be snarky. These are some of the things that Einstein's theories helped us explain that Newton's theories got wrong.

  16. [16] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    The [17]

    OK, evidently I'm missing whatever connection you feel exists between that paragraph and your point, that "purposeful interventions" can be better than permitting everyone to pursue his own self interest.

    In fact, I think he's saying the exact opposite, right?

  17. [17] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    Speak [18]

    OK, I don't understand a word of that, but I've heard endlessly that all our efforts at space travel depend 100% on Newton's laws, with never a SINGLE REFERENCE to Einstein or that his contributions have superceded Newton's.

  18. [18] 
    TheStig wrote:


    Newton's Universal Law of Gravitation does not predict the observed precession of elliptical orbits. This was first detected in the mid 19th century for the Planet Mercury.

    The ULoG doesn't accurately predict the bending of light in a gravitational field.

    The ULoG doesn't predict the slowing of time in a gravitational field. For Newton, time is universal in all frames of reference, not relative. This a big deal if you depend upon a GPS system to accurately calculate your position.

  19. [19] 
    nypoet22 wrote:


    on perhaps a related topic, here is ritholtz briefly talking in my own wheelhouse, and in my professional opinion hitting it right on the nose - with real expertise, perceived expertise tends to go down rather than up:

  20. [20] 
    Speak2 wrote:

    Stucki [20]:

    Fair enough. Basically, for nearly everything any of us does in our lives, Newton's equations work just fine. Their predictive capabilities are great.

    Einstein completely and utterly changed the underlying theory and models. However, at the level of everyday existence, Einstein's predictions match Newton's (to a really serious level of precision, though the math is much more annoying).

    Also, however, Newton's models are completely wrong. If we're dealing with serious mass or moving very fast, then Newton's model gets stuff wrong. Einstein's gets it right (as far as we've been able to tell so far).

  21. [21] 
    TheStig wrote:


    Good link. Trump is a political hazard.

  22. [22] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    I'm shocked - SHOCKED, I tell you. Just watched tonight's '60 Minutes' expose, and discovered that there is a high likelihood that those gawdamn Russkies (you know the same people who were responsible for Trump's election), probably KNOW MY NAME AND ADDRESS, from having hacked my state's voter rolls!!!

    Of course, it leaves me wondering why it never worried me that my name and address are published in my local telephone directory, which they have been since about 1964, and which they still are today???

    Must be one of those 'ignorance is bliss' phenomena - or maybe it's actually because it's totally meaningless, and I don't really give a damn whether they know it or not!

  23. [23] 
    neilm wrote:

    Adam's Smith's "Invisible Hand" is not used by Smith to describe the concept that it is used today. The pertinent section of "The Wealth of Nations" doesn't use the term "invisible hand", however it is used elsewhere for different concepts:

  24. [24] 
    Kick wrote:

    James T Canuck

    RIP those of the Humboldt Broncos that perished last night. All of Canada grieves. Keep your sticks on the ice.

    So sad for your loss, Saskatchewan and Canadians.

  25. [25] 
    TheStig wrote:


    Works by Smith and Darwin are frequently cited and infrequently read in their entirety. Both authors are a tough slog for modern readers. Both are dealing with game theory concepts without the mathematics to make their arguments concise. They include a lot of tangential concepts that are rarely mentioned today. I have a immense respect of for both authors, but they are not light reading.

  26. [26] 
    TheStig wrote:


    Newton does all his mechanics with momentum and no direct mention of energy, It works, but it's a bit backwards and high heels compared to modern classical physics.
    All diamonds benefit from careful polishing.

    Einstein was wrong about quantum physics and cosmology. If not wrong a few times, you aren't pushing hard.

  27. [27] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    The [28]

    Disagree about the "tough slog" characterization re "Wealth of Nations". I always thought that every concept within his treatise falls under the heading of 'Common Sense'!!!

    I wouldn't know about Darwin. I've not read his works, but based on what most people understand about the subject, I've always supposed that his theories simply represent conclusions that he gleaned thru observation, which sound eminently reasonable but are by their very nature, pretty much unprovable, seeing as how there's no realistic way to test them.

    And perhaps worst of all, there's the gaping hole in all the theories about how life evolved, when you cannot first demonstrate how life was created!!

  28. [28] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    The [29]

    I'M not qualified to say much about Einstein's stuff. The VERY concept of "spacetime" is totally without meaning for me. But that stupid gawdam thing with the bowling ball on the trampoline is utter nonsense!! It looks reasonable to most observers because we relate it to here on earth, but if you put a bowling ball on a trampoline out in space, it wouldn't distort the mat at all.

    And why is it a problem that "gravity can't travel faster than the speed of light???" Why does it have to travel at all? Can't gravity be a constant attraction between all matter with mass, sorta like magnetism doesn't have to 'travel' to get somewhere, cause it's ALWAYS THERE!

  29. [29] 
    John M wrote:

    [25] C. R. Stucki

    "I'm shocked - SHOCKED, I tell you. Just watched tonight's '60 Minutes' expose, and discovered that there is a high likelihood that those gawdamn Russkies (you know the same people who were responsible for Trump's election), probably KNOW MY NAME AND ADDRESS, from having hacked my state's voter rolls!!!"

    Actually it gives them much more than that, coupled with the information gotten from Facebook and U.S. census data. With that, it gives them things like: Your political preferences, your general income level, your personality profile, your spending habits, your gender, your sexual preference, what your likes and dislikes are, your entertainment choices, who your friends and family are, tracks your movement to a certain degree, etc. All kinds of stuff.

    [31] C. R. Stucki

    "But that stupid gawdam thing with the bowling ball on the trampoline is utter nonsense!! It looks reasonable to most observers because we relate it to here on earth, but if you put a bowling ball on a trampoline out in space, it wouldn't distort the mat at all."

    Actually it would still distort the trampoline, since the bowling ball still has mass, which is the crucial element. But it would not do it to any appreciable degree so as to be easily discernible, as compared to say the distortion Jupiter would cause if it could sit on a big enough trampoline.

    "And why is it a problem that "gravity can't travel faster than the speed of light???" Why does it have to travel at all? Can't gravity be a constant attraction between all matter with mass, sorta like magnetism doesn't have to 'travel' to get somewhere, cause it's ALWAYS THERE!"

    The easiest comparison might be to the ocean and a tsunami. The ocean itself stays right where it is. The water near say Japan doesn't actually travel to off the coast of California. What is transmitted though is the energy in a form of a wave. Just like gravity waves causes ripples in the fabric of space, without actually physically moving space from one location to another. Same thing if two people hold a bed sheet between them and move it up and down. Waves travel along the sheet between the two people, without then actually trading parts of the sheet itself. And since it is a form of energy that it is being transmitted, and light is essentially energy, gravity waves can't travel faster than the speed of light either.

  30. [30] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:


    I realize that your "Jupiter on a really big trampoline" analogy probably makes sense to you, although I have no idea WHY it does, but remember, the trampoline mat has mass and presumably, empty space does NOT, and we're actually not talking about distorting matter, we're talking about distorting SPACE, which to me is utter nonsense. You only claim it makes sense to you by re-naming empty space as "spacetime", right?, So now were back to the fact that "spacetime" itself makes no sense to most people.

    Your tsunami comparison also makes no sense to me. Who says gravity IS energy, and who says gravity has to be transmitted, in the sense of 'moved'? Why can't it just always be everywhere? Even the folks who claim to believe in and to be able to detect, gravity waves, seem to indicate that they are uncommon at best, so evidently gravity works fine even when it's not being 'transported', right?

  31. [31] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    John Re my[25]

    No, the damn Ruskies can't get anything like that from voter registration rolls. Only name and address. But hey, what good is it to them to have all that other stuff you isted? I can see maybe to try to sell me something, but to influence my political ideology, as in changing my candidate preference, that's pretty far fetched.

  32. [32] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    I can see maybe to try to sell me something, but to influence my political ideology, as in changing my candidate preference, that's pretty far fetched.

    Once upon a time the idea that someone could put a rock in a box and sell it for a profit was far-fetched, but back in the '70's someone did exactly that, and made a fortune selling 'pet rocks' to millions of eager customers. And if I'd have told you then that there would be bottled water billionaires today, you'd have been skeptical, to say the least.

    So, apparently, it's all in the sales pitch. Turns out, you can market a rock in a box if you sell it as a novelty, and market tap water in plastic bottles if you sell it as a convenience (and health product).

    And of course, if you'd have told me just a few years ago (has it been that long?) that the Republican base could be turned out to vote for a thrice-married mob-connected playboy real estate buffoon, and that he'd have across-the-board evangelical support to boot, well...

    You get the point, I'm sure.

  33. [33] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    Balthy [35]

    OK, yeah, I do "get the point", but as one who has never bought either a 'pet rock', OR a single bottle of tap water, I don't really relate to it.

    Re "the Republican base turning to vote for . . .", I rationalize that by telling myself they were not voting for Trump, they were voting against Hillary. I'm aware that it isn't strictly true, but it's the only way I can keep from going out of my mind.

  34. [34] 
    Kick wrote:


    Once upon a time the idea that someone could put a rock in a box and sell it for a profit was far-fetched, but back in the '70's someone did exactly that, and made a fortune selling 'pet rocks' to millions of eager customers.

    I kept begging my father for a pet, and he kept putting me off... "later," he says. One day while traveling in New Mexico he stops at a gas station, he goes in while the service attendant (remember those?) fills the car, washes the windows, checks the oil. Dad gets back in the car with a box and said he had gotten me that pet I had been begging for. Imagine my surprise when I opened the blasted thing and found a dang rock in a "bird nest" with an instruction manual. I named him "Hudson," and my crazy dad thought it was an homage to his restored 1938 Terraplane automobile. *LOL* Duh!

    While his packaging and instructions are long gone, my Pet Rock Hudson is alive and well, and I wouldn't part with him. :)

  35. [35] 
    Kick wrote:

    The current President of the United States is the most ignorant president ever, ever... like nobody has ever seen before.

    Poor Mafia Don; it is so unfair to raid his fixer. *shakes head*

    Seriously, though, Trump is an illiterate and incoherent moron and pathological liar who talks like a fifth grader, with his body language speaking even louder than his wee small words. Have you ever noticed how every single diatribe of the BLOTUS sounds exactly the same? The hallmark of a blathering idiot with really nothing to say except the same shit over and over, the type who think they're the smartest ones in the room because they're too stupid to realize they're basically a broken record playing the same few grooves repeatedly.

    What kind of fool, jughead, ditz, fathead, halfwit, chump, dunce, ignoramus, ninny, loon, dope, chump, cretin, numbskull, moron, imbecile, dimwit, nincompoop, dumbo, jackass, dork, blockhead, doofus, knuckle-dragger peabrain, jerk, twit, bozo, asshat would go on a 10-minute rant insulting his own DOJ, those who are investigating him, and referring to a bunch of Republicans as "the other side"?

  36. [36] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    my Pet Rock Hudson is alive and well, and I wouldn't part with him. :)

    That's hilarious. I too, have a rock named Hope. I'll post a pic once I get my cellphone up and running again.

  37. [37] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    That should have been punctuated:

    I too have a rock, named Hope.

  38. [38] 
    John M wrote:

    [33] C. R. Stucki

    "I realize that your "Jupiter on a really big trampoline" analogy probably makes sense to you, although I have no idea WHY it does, but remember, the trampoline mat has mass and presumably, empty space does NOT, and we're actually not talking about distorting matter, we're talking about distorting SPACE, which to me is utter nonsense."

    You DO realize that the trampoline is ONLY an ANALOGY, and not an ACTUAL trampoline, it is only a VISUAL AID. The trampoline itself is only a stand in representation for space, and in reality has NO MASS itself.

    The fact that empty space itself has no mass of its own IS THE POINT. Space, as a CONCEPT, can be thought of as flat, but curves, or forms a dimple or well, in the presence of an object like a planet or a star that HAS mass in proportion to how much mass that object has.

    Think of space as flat ground. A star is something big sitting on it. The bigger it is, the deeper the hole in the ground that the star makes over a wider area. That's ALL that it is trying to get you to understand.

  39. [39] 
    John M wrote:

    [34] C. R. Stucki

    "But hey, what good is it to them to have all that other stuff you listed?"

    It can be used by the Russians as an analytical predictive tool, it can be used for espionage purposes, to target crucial key individuals, recognize patterns, blackmail, seek out people's weaknesses and how they are vulnerable, target who they are most likely able to recruit or subvert, figure out how to disrupt societies, spread disinformation, cultivate contact with politicians.... all kinds of things.

  40. [40] 
    John M wrote:

    [33] C. R. Stucki

    "Your tsunami comparison also makes no sense to me. Who says gravity IS energy, and who says gravity has to be transmitted, in the sense of 'moved'? Why can't it just always be everywhere? Even the folks who claim to believe in and to be able to detect, gravity waves, seem to indicate that they are uncommon at best, so evidently gravity works fine even when it's not being 'transported', right?"

    Physics and science says that gravity is a force that acts on matter, just like nuclear forces and "electro"-magnetism. Gravity ONLY exists in a location that HAS matter, and its influence falls off with distance. The further you get away from the source, the less you can "feel" it. Those are ALL reasons why it CAN'T be EVERYWHERE, at least in the sense that YOU mean. If gravity weren't being transmitted, it would NOT be working AT ALL. A light is not working all the time unless something is actively shining the light to begin with and therefore transmitting it, right?

  41. [41] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    John M [41] 3rd para

    We seem to agree, space (as the "concept") is defined as 'The absence of matter', or in other words, as NOTHING, NADA, ZERO, etc? So how can it have a "shape"? There ain't nothin' there to form a shape!! Sorry, I can't think of 'space' as "flat ground" - makes no sense.

    [42] OK, taking your word on that, but still thinking it's all ridiculous.

    [43] last para

    Near total agreement here, except would point out that gravity falling off with distance does not mean it ever goes to zero. The gravity of every single atom extends to infinity, altho it does get pretty wimpy eventually. That means it CAN be everywhere at all times, right?, and it DOESN'T need to be transmitted, because it never goes away! It is NOT comparable to a light beam, which does 'go away' soon as it's extinguished.

  42. [42] 
    Kick wrote:


    That's hilarious. I too have a rock, named Hope.

    So... unlike Benedict Donald, your Hope will never desert you. ;)

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