More Random Thoughts and Musings: Friday Fun Edition

Trump windsor

Now this is interesting.  Her Majesty decided on a nice BLUE outfit.  A nice Democratic blue ensemble.  The Independent has more.  Perhaps she didn’t get a laminated copy of his election map? Neither, apparently, did the Evening Standard’s estimated 250,000 London Protesters. Faux News was pleased to call them “rowdy.”  And then the indictments came down, just before Orange Foolious’s meeting for his performance review with Putin in Helsinki. Timing in indictments, as in the preparation of Pilau Rice, is important.

Meanwhile, the Russians remain “unapprehended” as the Chicago Tribune reports nearly half the children under the age of 5 separated from their parents remain apart from their families. The ACLU has called for the Misadministration to hand over information regarding reunifying children with their families.

House Republicans may want some separation from the Misadministration after their Strzokanalia (©@Karoli) proved to be a “terrible day for Republicans.”  Stephen Colbert has more. He usually does.

Today seems not the day to shut the TV machine down. Thus, there may (or may not) be more updates to this post as the Blimp Baby Flies, The Brits march, the Misadministration squirms, and GOP members of Congress muse about how to salvage their tattered party banner.  The Queen showed her ‘tea guests’ the exit in about 58 minutes…wishing we could do the same.

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Random Thoughts and Backfill

trump baby blimpOkay, it’s official. At 18,000£ this is beyond my budget, but it will be so nice to see it in flight tomorrow.  That’s $23773.99 at today’s exchange rate. I can go the 99¢, the rest of it not so much.

So lovely to hear The Angry Man Baby say he wants to meet with former British foreign secretary Boris Johnson.  Precisely what Prime Minister May doesn’t need at the present time as she works to rebuild her rather fragile coalition in the wake of the Brexit debacle.  But, what does AMBaby know of this, he’s not even familiar with the term “hard Brexit.”  Click on that link and a British newspaper will explain it for you.

Now, there IS some news ringing pleasantly in my ears –> Jacky Rosen is outpacing Dean (I have more positions on more issues than the Kamasutra) Heller.  This, I could learn to like very much. Democrats also appear to be doing rather well in the voter registration department, at least according to reports from early this month.

I have an idea!  If the Angry Man Baby wants to see all of Agent Peter Strzok’s non-work related messages to his lover, then let’s swap — Strzok hands over the mushy gushy and Trump hands over his tax returns for the last 20 years?  Fair enough?

obama uk visit

Check out the photo on the left — the Obama state visit to the UK — and compare that to the BBC’s version of Trump’s “working visit” to the Isle this week.  First off, notice the ties the gentlemen are wearing.  Obama = white tie event in Buckingham Palace. Trump = black tie event at Blenheim.  Obama = Queen Elizabeth II herself is in charge of the events, formal and informal, and there were informal social meetings.  Trump = being hosted by QEII’s youngest son Edward, Earl of Wessex, at a Palace — just not one anywhere all that close to London.  Trump =definitely not at Buckingham Palace for a meeting with QEII, he only gets one quick introduction in Windsor.  Wagers his reception from what interested public there might be won’t look anything like the “Harry-Meghan” wedding thing? Somewhere some British bookie is making odds…

Meanwhile, on a sadder note.  CBS reports that “under 3,000” migrant children have NOT been reunited with their parents.   The Misadministration is trying to parse the term “eligible” children such that children of parents who have already been deported aren’t eligible, and thus “don’t count.”   I  still can’t stomach the comment from Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar that the Misadministration is performing great acts of “generosity and charity” by reuniting families. 48 hours after the comment and I still can’t swallow it. There is still obviously NO plan. No coordination. Cruelty begets incompetence.  It’s time for the cruelty to end.  it should never have started.

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DYI Guide to Orange Blimpy’s Potential NATO Disaster

Proposition One:  Yes, the Orange Buffoon can be, and probably is, too uninformed and too downright stupid, to comprehend what his ridiculous comments and assertions mean in terms of the overall diplomatic and military alliances among western nations.  After all, he’s the one who’s pulled out of the Trans Pacific Partnership leaving the field to the Chinese in the region; the one who pulled out of the Paris Climate Accords leaving nations which tailored their policies to meet our objections to the Kyoto standards wondering what happened; and, the one who is undercutting the renegotiation of NAFTA, while making the G8 the G7 Plus 1.  So, why should we expect any other behavior from him?

Proposition Two:  He is committed to distributive negotiation/bargaining (as previously noted) and lacks the will and the commitment to engage in the more difficult, nuanced, and  complex forms of integrated negotiations.  Further, he does not have a firm grasp on facts, and those he may manage to grip he places out of context or uses in inappropriate settings.  And, now off to the NATO races…

NATO background and history:  See Department of State, Office of the Historian, “Milestones” which is no longer maintained, but still available.  This will provide information about NATO from 1945 to 1952.  NATO itself has a page devoted to the history of the alliance.    This site offers an update into current NATO perspectives such as:

The 21st century will not be all about peacebuilding, however. Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014 and its aggressive actions against Ukraine have been a sobering reminder of the importance of NATO’s core task: collective defence. This, coupled with the Syrian conflict, the rise of ISIL and terrorism (and often home-bred terrorism), has become a brutal reality across many continents. Meanwhile, tensions rise as migrants seek refuge from conflict in countries that are struggling with the weight of ethnic and religious strife, demographic pressures and economic underperformance. Cyberattacks are becoming ever more frequent and ever more destructive. And through social media and other means, the opponents of liberal open societies are spreading disinformation and propaganda that seek to undermine the values that NATO has always sought to protect and promote. Altogether, the complexity of the current security environment is such that NATO’s flexibility is, yet again, put to the test.

NATO funding and support:   Again, NATO itself maintains Internet publications of the various types of funding and mutual assistance projects associated with its core missions.  Please note that most of the contributions are indirect (national) as when countries send forces, equipment, and supplies to assist operations; or, provide assistance to the US for its operations in conjunction with NATO interests.  There are direct contributions and a system is in place to provide coordination and oversight.  Readers will also find it useful, I think, to read the 2014 Wales Summit Agreement on NATO, which can be found here.

Again, NATO is NOT a country club with dues. It is NOT a protection racket. No one “pays” to support it. It IS a mutual defense league.

Who is meeting the 2014 defense spending criteria? For starters, the US is spending 3.6% of its GDP on defense.  Forbes has a handy, up-to-date, interactive showing the percentage by country for defense spending.  While I periodically disagree with some of Forbes’ editorial policies, I usually have no reason to quibble with their statistics.  I’d recommend this source for accurate information on national defense spending.  At this point it might be advisable to return to the brief aphorism of British general Lord Hastings Ismay.  “The purpose of the new treaty organization founded in 1952, Ismay asserted, was “to keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down.”

The French, in particular, may have their reasons for finding a reassertion of German militarization problematic — as in 1870August 1914  to November 1918, and May 1940 to April 1945.  We should probably be understanding if they are a bit edgy on the subject.

We should also see NATO from the “keep the Russians out” perspective of the Baltic States.  See: “Trump Derides NATO as ‘Obsolete.’ Baltic Nations See It Much Differently.” in the New York Times, June 10, 2018.   See also, Business InsiderRussia appears to be building up its military bases near a weak point in the NATO alliance, June 10, 2018.  I’m rather glad not to be an Estonian right now.  I don’t want to be Ukrainian now either. See Radio Free Europe.  Ukraine’s water supply in Sky News.  Russian texts to Ukrainian soldiers in Unian Post.  And, then there’s that thing with Crimea.

Meanwhile, we can only hope that the US House of Representatives will follow the Senate’s lead in offering resolutions in support of the NATO alliance, and that Congress will continue to hold fast to the Magnitsky Act and the sanctions, although that little junket by Congressional GOP Moscow Mules over the 4th of July has me a tad worried.

Buckle Up. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

 

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It’s Tuesday: Do We Know Where Our Children Are?

I waited around today to see if by quitting time, i.e. 5:00 pm Pacific Time where I’m located, the Mis-administration had managed to locate and begin reuniting families torn apart by its egregious, heinous, unthinkable, incomprehensible, immigration policy.  It’s 5:02 pm and nothing.

As of two hours ago CNN reports the Orange Stink Blossom’s crew fell “short on first family reunification deadline. “Fell short?”  How about failed miserably?  How about only four — that’s four — children under five years of age have been reunified?  They hope they will be able to reunify another 34 by the “end of the day.”   And then, this:

“One child can’t be reunited with family because the government has not known their parent’s location for more than a year, according to the government. That child and his or her parent may be U.S. citizens, according to the filing.

It’s possible that some parents who have been deported may opt not to have their children rejoin them, since some might have a case for asylum or other relief ― or even another family member in the U.S.” [HuffPo] (emphasis added)

As several news outlets and commentators have pointed out, there was no plan to reunite families because the entire point of the pointless exercise in Zero Tolerance (meaning zero tolerance for any more non-lily-white-immigrants) was to create an unwelcoming atmosphere such that people from “sh*thole” countries wouldn’t want to become Americans. [CNN] [NewYorker] [Salon] [NYMag] [Politifact] How many of the 5,140,000 related items (some repeats) retrieved by Google in 0.49 seconds do I have to link before it’s perfectly obvious there was NO PLAN. Why wasn’t there a plan?

Because Orange Stink Blossom uses the language of exterminators when speaking of non-lily-white immigrants who “infest” our country. [NYMag] He conflates immigrants with gang members, asylum seekers with drug and human traffickers, and he tells us they are invading our country. [NYT] Two youngsters attending the Orange Stink Blossom’s rally in Montana observed that Mexicans were coming over here and overpopulating us. [Rawstory] Just for a quick reality check, the city of Great Falls, Montana is 84.9% white, 4.1% Hispanic. [Census]  Hardly sounds like “overpopulation” to my ears.

What it does sound like within my cochlea is good old fashioned racism, xenophobia, and demagoguery.   Children aren’t intrinsically racist or xenophobic, they must be carefully taught.  Unfortunately, there are too many tutors.

There are women who  hit nonagenarians with bricks whilst yelling “Go Back to Mexico.” There are neighbors who call the cops when African Americans go to swimming pools, have barbecues in the park, exit an Air B&B, deliver newspapers, sit at Starbucks, and canvass a neighborhood during an election campaign. There are ignoramuses who shout invective at a lady wearing a Puerto Rican flag decor shirt — unaware Puerto Ricans are American citizens.  The good news is that there are a number of people of good will with cellular phones who upload video of these vile interactions for all the world to see.  Some of the practitioners of hate, racism, and cruelty have discovered their employers wish not to be associated with them — they damage the brand.

It’s 5:45 PM, still nothing.  There was no plan because MAGA only means “great” if by “great” the country was “great” during the long brutal life of the south’s Peculiar Institution. Or “great” when NINA signs appeared in shop keeper’s windows to keep the seanteach folk at bay. . Or “great” when Native American children were “acculture-ized” in boarding schools?  Or “great” when Jim Crow laws allowed white people a comfortable separation from their browner skinned fellows so that they might not have to notice some POC were just as bright, just as hard working, just as religious, just as worthy, just as much children of an Almighty God as themselves?  Sad that, should a person’s self worth be quantified and reassured by skin — an ectodermal tissue so thin it can be cut with a piece of paper.

However, it’s all too easy to transform discomfort into fear, fear into loathing, and loathing into hate.  And, too easy to manipulate that hate into action by giving it permission to indulge its worst elements.   Perhaps it’s time to return to Lincoln’s first Inaugural Address:

“I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

It’s 6:00 PM. Time to find the children, to reunite them with their mothers and fathers, to ease the strain on their bonds of affection, to give comfort at their hearthstones, and to listen to the better angels of our nature.

 

 

 

 

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Soy Beans: Wherein DB goes off again on her soy beans while readers roll their eyes.

soy beans

A note to patient and loving readers: These are soy beans.  I know, I’ve regaled you with soy beans before.  However, please allow me some latitude to discuss them once again.  The blessed little beans are illustrative of many issues related to the mis-administration of the Angry Man Baby occupying the White House and his minions.  

Let’s begin with what we do with soy beans, and please let’s get past the soy sauce and soy milk bit.  A sixty pound bushel of soy beans will yield about 11 pounds of crude soy bean oil and 47 pounds of soy bean meal.  The beans are about 18% oil and 38% protein.  Trust me, this is good — and it’s especially good for animal feed.  [NCsoy] Thus, most of the commercial use of soy beans goes for animal feed and a smaller amount goes for human consumption wherein we get back to the soy sauce, soy milk, soy flour, and our tofu.  But wait! There are other commercial and industrial uses for soy by-products as well and here’s a partial list:  Biodiesel fuel; biocomposites creating everything from countertops  to furniture to flooring to particle board and even to recycled newspaper. A person could sit at a kitchen counter containing soy while reading a newspaper containing soy, printed with soy ink, while the toddler marks the kitchen wall with a soy based crayon.  A person could escape all this because there are hydraulic fluids and lubricants which are soy based, and even automobile upholstery can be manufactured with soy containing elements.  In short, DB rants about soy beans because they can be environmentally friendly little Glycine Max’s which don’t have just a market, but have several markets — agricultural, commercial, and industrial.

Who grows these things?  We do. The United States of America leads the world in soy bean production with about 108 million metric tons per year.  Brazil produces about 86.8 million metric tons annually.  Argentina grows approximately 53.4 metric tons per year, and China adds another 12.2 million metric tons annually.  India comes in around 5th place in world production with 10.5 million metric tons, then Paraguay chips in another 10 million.  Canada produces approximately 6 million metric tons, Ukraine adds another 3.9 million, and Bolivia grows 3.3 million metric tons.  Last but not least Uruguay comes in with annual production of 3.2 million metric tons.  [WorldAtlas] Notice something about the names of the countries on this list?

One thing that pops out is that one country, China, has been singled out as a competitor, while the others are traditional American allies in diplomatic terms.  Remember that thing about integrated and distributive bargaining?  Recall that integrated bargaining requires negotiators (on trade and other matters) to consider their mutual interests along with the issues upon which they have issues to resolve.  Hold this thought.

Now consider Farmer Jones in eastern Nebraska who grows soy beans and sells his 60 pound bushels to a grain dealer — in dollars.  The financial markets kick in, as with every other commodity there is “future trading.”  At the moment, China, the largest soy bean importer has reduced its purchases of US soy beans, the price of soy beans got so cheap that other countries started to increase their orders from American dealers.  [Bloomberg] Sounds good so far, but caveat emptor.  This puts soy bean values at “fire sale” levels for our allies in Brazil, Argentina, India, Paraguay, Canada, Ukraine, Bolivia, and Uruguay.  So, let’s talk about Brazil for a second or two.

Back in 2011 the US and Brazil signed an Agreement on Trade and Economic Development.  Here comes that integrated bargaining component again, because the framework isn’t just about who sells what individual products to whom, but how the two nations can expand direct trade and investment relationships, incorporating reducing trade barriers and sharing innovations.  It appears to be working, at least if we note the report from the US Trade Representative: “U.S. goods and services trade with Brazil totaled an estimated $88.2 billion in 2016. Exports were $55.2 billion; imports were $33.0 billion. The U.S. goods and services trade surplus with Brazil was $22.3 billion in 2016.”   And, there’s some other nice bits:

The top export categories (2-digit HS) in 2016 were: mineral fuels ($5.0 billion), aircraft ($4.8 billion), machinery ($3.6 billion), electrical machinery ($3.1 billion), and optical and medical instruments ($1.7 billion).

U.S. total exports of agricultural products to Brazil totaled $899 million in 2016. Leading domestic export categories include: wheat ($316 million), prepared food ($54 million), dairy products ($47 million), cotton ($47 million), and feeds & fodders nesoi ($42 million).

U.S. exports of services to Brazil were an estimated $24.9 billion in 2016, 11.4% ($3.2 billion) less than 2015, but 235% greater than 2006 levels.  Leading services exports from the U.S. to Brazil, in 2015, were in the travel, transport, and telecommunications, computer, and information services sectors. [USTR]

Thus, the Brazilians are exchanging their Brazilian reals (current exchange rate 0.26/dollar) to buy US mineral fuels, electrical machinery, processed food, medical equipment, telecommunications systems, computer gear, and IT services from us, among other trade goods and services.  Now, ask the question: Do we really want their soy beans on the market at fire sale prices earning fewer “reals” when we want them to exchange those “reals” into US dollars to buy travel, computer, and IT services?  Fuel? Medical equipment? Aircraft? Our agricultural products? At what point does our “winning” come back to haunt us?

Or, consider this from our competitor’s side of the frame. China.  Again, with our little soy beans:

While the Asian nation is targeting a slew of American farm goods in this round of taxes, soybeans are the top agricultural commodity the country imports from the U.S. by far. The oilseed, used to make cooking oil and animal feed, accounts for about 60 percent of the U.S.’s $20 billion of agricultural exports to China. Before the tariffs were announced, a study by the University of Tennessee forecast that a 25 percent duty would spark a drop in American shipments of at least $4.5 billion. Brazil, already the world’s biggest soybean shipper, is set to be the biggest winner, filling the gap left by the U. [Bloomberg]

Wow, there comes Brazil again! Now the Chinese are exchanging their yuan (current exchange rate 0.15/US dollar) for Brazilian reals in order to buy their Brazilian soy beans.  And those grain deals? — they aren’t being made with US grain dealers in dollars, they are being made using yuan/reals.  Lower demand for the US dollar? There’s a delicate balancing act playing out in international currency markets every day. In our integrated system of international trade the old distributive system of winners and losers doesn’t serve very well. The agricultural market is connected to the futures market, the futures market is connected to the commodities market, the commodities markets are connected to the financial markets, the financial markets are connected to the currency markets… “foot bone connected to ankle bone, ankle to leg, leg to hip, hip to back bone,” right up the economic body with the old song as metaphor for the global economy.

And, we haven’t even talked about whether or not we want China to pick up more of our national treasuries to keep financial markets steady?  So, this is why DB gets excited about her soy beans, and other components of US trade and economic development.  It’s not that I am fascinated with soy sauce on my chow mein, or even on my potstickers, but because the little beans are illustrative of wider, larger, economic issues which seem much more important than whether my soy sauce is embellished with hot peppers.

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Distributive Bargaining, or How Not To Make Friends and Influence People

Okay, we know that our baby boy in the White House isn’t exactly one to pore over reports, briefs, and academic papers, but his behavior in several realms is beginning to attract notice from those who do — especially people who muse about such things as distributive bargaining.  This first drew publicity back in August 2017 when experts were dismayed at his use of distributive bargaining in inappropriate settings. [HuffPo] Harken back to the early days of baby boy’s dealings with Mexico and Australia, over The Wall and refugees.

“Nobody wants to feel taken. Effective negotiators recognize that once we understand each other’s underlying interests, we can truly invent options for mutual gain,” said Shapiro, who wrote the book Negotiating the Nonnegotiable: How to Resolve Your Most Emotionally Charged Conflicts. “These leaders behind closed doors need to feel comfortable sharing information with one another so they can start figuring out options that address each of their constituency’s interests.”

Mexico didn’t want to feel “taken” by The Wall, nor did Australia want to be “taken” by being strong armed into breaking a U.S-Australian deal on refugees.  Unfortunately, baby boy’s negotiation style fits into the classic distributive bargaining definition:

‘The ultimate aim, under distributive bargaining approach, is not to come to a win-win kind of situation but that one side wins as much they can. Both parties will try to get the maximum share from the asset or resource which needs to be distributed.”[EconTimes]

Nothing creates instant impasse quite so well as setting out intractable positions and demanding one side accept terms which are in essence a loss in order to appease the more bellicose of the two bargainers. Baby boy is the more bellicose of the bargainers.  At this point, it’s relevant to address the difference between distributive bargaining and integrated bargaining.

In distributive bargaining the Big Point is the Walk Away Position.  That would be the point at which I would walk away from the car dealership if the make, model, and price of the vehicle in question wasn’t what comported with my financial situation and personal needs.  After all there are other dealerships, and I can safely ignore my other competitors.  If I were to consider my competition I’d want to engage in integrative bargaining, also sometimes called productive bargaining.

 “In integrative bargaining, each party works at understanding what the other really needs out of the negotiation. This, in turn, depends on being able to question the other party about their interests, or otherwise discover what they really are (i.e. it is possible for one party to lead into this process even if the other party initially is not cooperative). In integrative bargaining, parties will tend to avoid taking arbitrary “positions,” while still being assertive about their needs. This approach is clearly distinguishable from “distributive” or “positional” bargaining, in which the usual sequence is for one party to start unrealistically “high” and the other to start low, with successive offers narrowing the difference — without either party really understanding what the other seeks to achieve.” [BICK]

While we could say distributive bargaining is product driven, we could assert that integrated bargaining is process driven.  This is a bit too simplistic, but then our baby boy on Pennsylvania Avenue isn’t all that interested in complicated, nuanced, matters, so let’s keep it simple for him.

Much integrated bargaining was done during the negotiating process for the Trans Pacific Partnership — which had its problems, however being intractable and simplistic wasn’t one.  The bargaining also assumed there were not one but several layers and levels of interests involved.  The US wanted to get a handle on Chinese statutes on intellectual property rights. The Chinese were interested in involvement in a regional trade scheme.  The US was interested in Chinese purchases of US debt, thus keeping interest rates under control.  The Japanese were interested in securing their interests in the Pacific region with both the US and the Chinese, and with the Australians.  The Australians were (are) interested in securing markets for goods and services while maintaining strong diplomatic ties to western Europe and the United States.  And so on.  There were 12 nations in on the negotiations.  So, baby boy blew it up.  [BBC] See also: WaPo April 2017.

On the third day of his presidency, Trump signs an executive order withdrawing the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership. “Everyone knows what that means right? We’ve been talking about this for a long time,” Trump says as he signs the order. “Great thing for the American worker, what we just did.”  [WaPo]

Not. So. Fast.  First, on July 14, 2017 those 11 other nations which had been involved in the integrated bargaining over the TPP terms signed an agreement without the US.  They get what they wanted…we get to twiddle our thumbs?  And we’ve still not come to any agreement with the Chinese about their handling of intellectual property rights.  Punditty types on my television set are wringing hands and clutching pearls as the US and China descend into trade/tariff war territory — “but but but what about the intellectual property rights — the real issue between the two countries? — they moan into their microphones. What about it?

When Baby Boy shifted US bargaining from integrated to distributive negotiations he shaved off the need to consider the needs of our competitors and our interest in dealing with the issues on a multi-layered basis, and went straight for the Winner Takes All distributive bargaining model. So, if we’re wondering what’s going wrong in regard to our trade relations with our two largest markets, Canada and Mexico, and our problems with China, and our issues with the European Union… look no further than Baby Boy and his one size fits nothing distributive bargaining model.


More information at:

Economic Times, Definition of Distributive Bargaining.  Beyond Intractability, Distributive Bargaining. University of Colorado-Boulder, Distributive Bargaining.  Harvard PON Distributive Bargaining Strategies.  Small Business Chronicle, Distributive and Integrative Bargaining.

 

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I Want One Of These

trump baby blimp

I want one of these.  I have no earthly idea what I’d do with one, how I’d tether it, or how I’d secure it… or for that matter how to maintain it.  However, I do think every city and town in America should have one.  And lo and behold!  The baby blimp is headed on a world tour!

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