If the Administration Won’t Pay Attention to Russian Interference Then We Must

The good news:  “Nevada is organizing cybersecurity under a new central hub, according to the Secretary of State’s Office, and is among more than 35 states sending officials to a cyber security incident response training at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center in Massachusetts later this month.” [LVSun 3/18]  That’s the good news…it’s more questionable to observe it’s been 530 days since the Department of Homeland Security first issued a warning about Russian interference in our national elections.

“The Obama administration on Friday formally accused the Russian government of stealing and disclosing emails from the Democratic National Committee and a range of other institutions and prominent individuals, immediately raising the issue of whether President Obama would seek sanctions or other retaliation.

In a statement from the director of national intelligence, James R. Clapper Jr., and the Department of Homeland Security, the government said the leaked emails that have appeared on a variety of websites “are intended to interfere with the U.S. election process.” [NYT 2016]

Nevadans have been assured the state was not a direct target of election interference at the systemic level. [LVSun 3/18]  In other good news Nevada did address the cybersecurity matter in AB 471 the title of which was:

“An act relating to cybersecurity; creating the Nevada Office of Cyber Defense Coordination within the Department of Public Safety; providing for the powers and duties of the Office; requiring the Nevada Commission on Homeland Security to consider a certain report of the Office when performing certain duties; providing for the confidentiality of certain information regarding cybersecurity; requiring certain state agencies to comply with the provisions of certain regulations adopted by the Office; and providing other matters properly relating thereto.”

Translation from the legalese: Nevada took coordinating cybersecurity seriously enough to require state agencies to get on the same page.  This includes the Secretary of State’s office and its related election jurisdiction.

It would be nice if the federal government were taking this issue as seriously as the states.   A quick review:  On December 9, 2016 President Obama ordered a review of Russian attempts to “hack” the American elections. The president-elect dismissed the warnings from the intelligence community saying in effect these were the people who said Iraq had WMDs. [USAT]  On December 28, 2016 President Obama expelled 35 Russian diplomats and closes Russian compounds in New York and Maryland.  Nothing happens officially to punish Russian agencies and individuals during the early months of the current administration.  On May 17, 2017 the Justice Department appoints Special Counsel Robert Mueller who is tasked with discovering if any US laws were violated on the part of US citizens and others.

As news of Russian interference trickled out in the press more interest in the issue came from congressional quarters, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) introduced S. 341 (Russian Sanctions Review Act) on April 27, 2017.  By July the interest increased to the point that HR 3364 passed the Congress almost unanimously, it was signed into law on August 2, 2017.  No action was taken by the executive branch to implement the requirements of the law immediately.

Indeed, it was March 15, 2018 before the Department of the Treasury issued enhanced sanctions on Russia, releasing the following statement:

Today, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated five entities and 19 individuals under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) as well as Executive Order (E.O.) 13694, “Blocking the Property of Certain Persons Engaging in Significant Malicious Cyber-Enabled Activities,” as amended, and codified pursuant to CAATSA.

The list of individuals and entities sanctioned was remarkably similar to the Mueller investigation list of those indicted for interference and illegal activities.

The current administration has not convened any cabinet level coordinated meetings to date regarding Russian interference in US elections, a sore point with Senator Benjamin Cardin who issued a minority report from his Senate committee. [pdfOne recommendation was prescient:

“U.S. and European governments should mandate that social media companies make public the sources of funding for political advertisements, along the same lines as TV channels and print media. Social media companies should conduct comprehensive audits on how their platforms may have been used by Kremlin-linked entities to influence elections occurring over the past several years, and should establish civil society advisory councils to provide input and warnings about emerging disinformation trends and government suppression. In addition, they should work with philanthropies, governments, and civil society to promote media literacy and reduce the presence of disinformation on their platforms.”

And, so we continue. The president congratulated Putin on the occasion of his reelection in an election characterized by eliminating competition and blatant voting fraud.  Nevertheless, the drip continues… reports of social media manipulation, stories about the machinations of the super PACs, Cambridge Analytical, Facebook, and so forth. We know that 21 states were “hacked” in 2016, we know that one was penetrated, and we know that Nevada — fortunately — wasn’t one of them. However, that doesn’t mean we don’t have a stake in this game.

We owe it to ourselves to keep track of state efforts to thwart foreign efforts to attack our voting security systems.  We need to think about the security of our state election rolls and related systems. We need to support efforts to improve the technical acumen of our state and local election officials.  We need periodic updates from our Secretary of State on steps taken by our government to upgrade our voting equipment, and secure our registration.  We also need to pay more attention to how social media is used and abused to cause disruptions to our politics and political discussions. We need to pay attention.

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So Long Facebook

I’d mused about shutting down the Facebook feed (page) before now, but this item from Financial Times sealed the deal:

“Facebook has had time to prepare, after all. It first learnt of the allegation that Cambridge Analytica had broken its rules on using data from the network in 2015. However, Cambridge Analytica has denied using Facebook data in its model. Facebook has more recently been assailed by waves of criticism — amply described in a recent investigation by Wired magazine — about its role in the crisis of fake news and election influencing.”

Why would I be upset about this?  Here’s more from the New York Times on Cambridge Analytica:

“The firm had secured a $15 million investment from Robert Mercer, the wealthy Republican donor, and wooed his political adviser, Stephen K. Bannon, with the promise of tools that could identify the personalities of American voters and influence their behavior. But it did not have the data to make its new products work.

So the firm harvested private information from the Facebook profiles of more than 50 million users without their permission, according to former Cambridge employees, associates and documents, making it one of the largest data leaks in the social network’s history. The breach allowed the company to exploit the private social media activity of a huge swath of the American electorate, developing techniques that underpinned its work on President Trump’s campaign in 2016.”

There’s more from the Times here.  And more from the New York Daily News.  And from Wired.  And, what took Facebook so long to deal with this issue? The answers from the Atlantic.

Techdirt explains why this time is “different:”

Of course, there is one major difference between the Obama one and the Cambridge Analytica one — which involves the level of transparency. With the Obama campaign, people knew they were giving their data (and friend data) to the cause of re-electing Obama. Cambridge Analytica got its data by having a Cambridge academic (who the new Guardian story revealed for the first time is also appointed to a position at St. Petersburg University) set up an app that was used to collect much of this data, and misled Facebook by telling them it was purely for academic purposes, when the reality is that it was setup and directly paid for by Cambridge Analytica with the intent of sucking up that data for Cambridge Analytica’s database. Is that enough to damn the whole thing? Perhaps.

So, this will be the past post that automatically goes to the DB Facebook page.  I do apologize if this presents an inconvenience for some, but I really don’t feel I can use, support, or continue to participate in a platform from which data can be mined without proper notice and with the common courtesy to inform users of the collection activities.

Thanks for reading.

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FYI: Retirement funds, pensions, and educational savings plans invested in gun manufacturing?

First, please read the June 2016 article from Mother Jones which describes the ownership of the gun manufacturers who, in turn, direct the agenda of the National Rifle Association.   And now for some financial information:

Sturm Ruger and CompanyNASDAQ reports the company is 88.79% owned by institutional investors. The top five institutional investors are Black Rock (2,948,467 shares), Vanguard (1,659,697 shares), Capital World Investors (1,490,248), London Company of Virginia (1,355,076 shares), Voya Investment Management (777,224 shares)

Blackrock offers college savings plans, retirement investment plans, factor investing, and ironically “sustainable” investment programs.  Vanguard advertises its IRA accounts, retirement savings accounts, and pension plans.  Capital World Investors manages equity and mutual funds for its investors.  The London Company of Virginia is reported as “The London Company of Virginia, LLC is an employee owned investment manager. The firm primarily provides its services to individuals. It also provide its services high net worth individuals, investment companies, pension and profit sharing plans, charitable organizations, foundations, State or municipal government entities, and corporations.”  Voya Investment Management advertises its mutual funds for its investors.  The firm primarily serves insurance companies. [Bloomberg]

American Outdoor Brands (formerly Smith and Wesson) includes Smith & Wesson, Gemtech Suppressors, Crimson Trace, and accessories. It is 74.96% institutionally owned. The top institutional investors are Blackrock (6,012,767), Invesco Ltd (4,858,400), Vanguard (4,508,410), LSV Management (2,148,948), Dimensional Fund Advisors (1,774,780), Voya Investment Management (1,655,896) as of December 31, 2017. [NASDAQ]  LSV Management provides investment services to corporate pension and profit sharing plans. [Bloomberg] Dimensional Fund Advisors offers a variety of funds for its investors, most recently noticed for increasing its position in Chevron. [LG]

Remington Outdoor Company is owned by Cerberus Capital Management.  Cerberus advertises its $30 billion under management. [Cerb]   The firm recently drew the attention of Bloomberg News in an article by Joe Nocera, “Cerberus, Guns, and the Legacy of Newtown.” [BN 3/14/18] (Highly recommended reading)

“What Cerberus did right, again in a business sense, was market guns, especially the AR-15. Feinberg helped popularize assault weapons, making them a must-have purchase for a certain kind of gun owner.

The first gun company to make an AR-15 was Armalite in the early 1960s, but it took over three decades for the gun to become a major factor in the business. Only when the culture of hunting began to be eclipsed by a more militaristic gun culture did the AR-15 become popular. At least part of this was due to gun advertising, which stressed both militarization and masculinity.

And no company took this advertising as far as Remington Outdoor. In 2010, it began an ad campaign that showed a picture of a Bushmaster XM-15 in a shooting position. The headline read: “Consider Your Man Card Reissued.” Another ad had the headline, “Forces of Opposition, Bow Down,” with a picture of an AR-15. Remington called one of its guns the Remington ACR — for Adaptive Combat Rifle.”

SIG Sauer is a privately held German firm, with SIG Sauer, Inc as its American branch. It’s been most recently in the news for securing a nearly $600 contract with the US Department of Defense to replace the M9 handguns.

Conclusions?  It’s a bit unsettling to consider that the pension plan into which a person might be investing in order to avoid being a burden on one’s children, is the same plan investing in the weapons used to lethal effect on those children?  Or, that the college savings plan might be tragically unnecessary should a child be killed by one of the products manufactured by the gun industry, supported by mutual fund investment companies?

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Single Issue Voters on the Horizon

I’m old enough to have been around when Mothers Against Drunk Driving was founded on September 5, 1980.  (Actually, I’m old enough to have been around for lots of things except The F/lood)  I’m also aware of an historical point which might be of interest to current gun reform advocates.   One of the issues faced by the organization as it sought to reduce the number of vehicular accidents caused by impaired drivers was how to differentiate between (1) legislation to control drinking and driving; and (2) measures to control alcohol consumption. [PSU.edu pdf]  To exactly no one’s surprise, attempts to address the second issue faced opposition from the alcohol and “hospitality” sectors. When MADD sought to promote legislation to reduce the BAC to .08 the industries fought back saying these measures would unfairly punish “social drinkers.”  Fast forward to the gun law reform issues.

Insert “law abiding gun owners” for “social drinkers” and we can see the problems faced by reformers taking on the NRA/gun manufacturers.  In actuality there are multiple facets of the gun issue which present hurdles for reformers. However, there is much room for hope.  For starters, the youngsters participating in Walk Outs, and who will presumably be the leaders in March For Our Lives, have already put a face on the problems.

Statistics are useful, but too often insufficient to move public sentiment — we know that on an average day in the United States of America 96 people will be killed by guns; that about 13,000 people per year will die by firearm; and, sadly each day an average of 7 children and teens will be killed by a gun. [ETres] Broadcasters have contributed by keeping the photographs of the deceased on air after mass shootings, but other victims of gunfire are relegated to the obituary pages, to be forgotten almost before the funeral services are completed.  More silence comes as part of the reaction to the fact that 62% of gun deaths in this country are suicides. [ETres]

Further progress may hinge upon how reformers cope with the “social drinker” analogy.  A social drinker is a social drinker until he gets behind the wheel of a 4,000 pound sedan and hits another human being causing injury or death.  A law abiding gun owner is a person who owns firearms, until he pulls out the gun and shoots another human being — or beings.

For all the possible factors leading to an increase in public awareness of impaired driving, and a reduction of impaired driving from a 1973 rate of 36.1% to a 25.9% rate in 1986, [PSU.edu pdf] it isn’t too difficult to infer a correlation to MADD publicity and awareness campaigns, leading in turn to the enaction of stronger statutes to curb drunk driving in the 1980s.  Similarly, continued publicity of gun violence should lead to consideration and eventual enaction of laws to reduce the lethality of gun incidents.  What is needed is organizational structure to capture and extend the energy demonstrated by young people who are quite evidently fed up with being educated behind “secure” walls and being shot at — either in their schools or on their streets. There are several organizations already in place to accomplish this.  [Everytown, the Brady Campaign, Moms Demand Action, Giffords.Org, Giffords Law Center, and an umbrella group Coalition to Stop Gun Violence.] Unlike the original MADD efforts, the organizational structures are already in place.  This situation should present an advantage for gun law reform advocates.

One of the most impressive portions of the young people’s efforts is their focus on political action, specifically getting young people registered to vote.  For those not yet eligible to vote, students are encouraging other students to write and call their governmental representatives.  This activity is a proven way to get people involved and to keep them activated.  Student action in concert with the existing organizations’ efforts presents a strong start for reform efforts.

The strong start doesn’t mean there aren’t significant obstacles to effective reforms.  The first tactic of the NRA is nearly always a stall game.  While the clichéd line “It’s too early to talk about this…” has been swatted down by the Parkland, FL students, that doesn’t mean there won’t be suggestions to “study the problem via the good offices of a commission.”  Paralysis by analysis is a standard NRA tactic to avoid action.

The second tactic is diversion.  It really isn’t Guns, it’s mental illness, it’s violent video games, it’s some elusive factor which is the “root cause.”  The argument goes that if we don’t address the “root cause” then we will not really “solve the problem.”  The problem is simply that too many people have access to entirely too much firepower, and some of these people kill other people.

The third prominent tactic is the snail paced regulatory and subsequent litigation route. For example, instead of outlawing the sale of bump stocks the White House has opted to advise departmental creation of rules under the rubric current Federal legislation.  The development of rules is time consuming, and is often followed by even more time consuming litigation.  This shirt-tail cousin of paralysis by analysis is an effective way for politicians to posture in support of gun regulation without actually doing anything.

The kids have it right:  The only way to avoid paralysis by analysis, “root cause” distractions, and regulation/litigation is at the ballot box.  Candidates for public offices can ignore, dismiss, or diminish their appeals, but will do so at their electoral peril.

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No Toleration for Intolerance, and other matters

No, I don’t feel one tiny little bit of need to be one tiny little bit magnanimous or even a tiny little bit of need to be tolerant of the Oaf in the Oval Office — or the politicians who enable him.

I feel no need to be tolerant of those who rally the uglies.  The uglies are those who think calling out African American congressional representatives (see: Frederica Wilson and Maxine Waters)  and addressing them with epithets is appropriate from an Oval Office occupant.  And, what’s with calling out Jemele Hill of ESPN?  What do these three have in common?  Oh, yeah, I get it.  It’s obvious.  The Oaf’s performance in Pennsylvania was enough to curdle any and all positive feelings toward a once proud office and a once proud political party.  It’s OK to be outraged, in fact if a person isn’t outraged then it’s time for a reality check.

I feel no need to be tolerant of a government which cannot seem to find voice when our closest ally on this planet is told that a nerve agent attack in Salisbury “looks” like the Russians did it, but “we” will wait for a conversation with Prime Minister May before making a statement.  WE have already heard from the Prime Minister. She was all over the TV landscape yesterday with strong words in their Parliament. She was concise. She was forceful. She was measured but emphatic.  WE can take her word for it. She doesn’t need to reveal sources and methods in order for US to believe her.  In fact, I used up my blogging time yesterday watching BBC News, and following their news and analysis.  There wasn’t anything nebulous about the coverage.  However, WE have an Oval Office Occupant who can’t bring himself to say anything negative about one of the most egregious thugs on this planet.   Why it is even necessary to ask: Now, will we implement the sanctions against Russian passed almost unanimously by Congress last year?

I feel no need to take his sycophants like Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Moscow Oblast) seriously.  Rep. Nunes is perfectly free to make a complete fool of himself with his issuance of a report clearly intended to exonerate the Oval Office Oaf.  Except it won’t.  Representative Nunes evidently believes it is more important to protect the OOO than to determine to what extent the current mis-administration was aligned with Russian efforts to interfere in our electoral processes and institutions.  Rep. Nunes is marching alongside those who find it impossible to conduct serious inquiries and thereby suggest serious legislation to resolve problems which led to the Russian interference.

I feel no need to support an administration the prime characteristic of which is the cacophony of a one man band playing off key and out of rhythm.   The Oval Office Oaf doesn’t even have the courage to fire people face to face.  He sends a body-guard to fire the former Director of the FBI, he sends a tweet to fire a Secretary of State, he is a coward.  He may want “conflict” but he can’t handle confrontation.

Item:  He conducted a skit about DACA at the White House.  He was all for a compromise, he would take the political heat, he would sign a bi-partisan bill. Until — he got a bi-partisan bill delivered to him for his approval and suddenly he didn’t want to take the political heat, and he caved to the racist opponents of immigration reform.

Item: He conducted a skit concerning gun reform at the White House.  He was all for several proposals which might reduce the lethality of mass shootings. Until — he met with the leadership of the NRA, and suddenly he was carrying their water in oversize pails.  There’s precious little reason for anyone to visit the White House to present proposals on most important subjects because the Oval Office Oaf will make comments and express concern only to reverse himself faster than a used car lot inflatable air dancer in a hurricane.

I feel no need to be tolerant of an administration beset with moral and ethical issues. Granted there have been embarrassments in all administrations.  However, this one is beyond the range of our previous imagination.  One year into an administration and key members can’t get a security clearance?  At least one person who was under investigation for “serious financial crimes,” was fired from the White House only to find immediate employment with the re-election campaign this week.  Who hires people who are under investigation for “serious financial crimes?” Four Cabinet officials have been ‘reprimanded’ for their questionable travel and expenditures. Four, and it’s only 400+ days into an administration.

Presidents need not be saints, and Heaven knows a few of ours haven’t been, but pay offs to a porn star?  That’s a new one.  Yes, supporters of James Blaine in the 1884 election would chant “Ma Ma Where’s My Pa?”  The rejoinder from advocates of Grover Cleveland’s candidacy was “Gone to the White House, Ha Ha Ha.”  However, none of our former Presidents faced allegations of sexual misconduct from 19 women.

And then there’s the money.

“…an investigation by The New York Times into the financial maze of Mr. Trump’s real estate holdings in the United States reveals that companies he owns have at least $650 million in debt — twice the amount than can be gleaned from public filings he has made as part of his bid for the White House. The Times’s inquiry also found that Mr. Trump’s fortunes depend deeply on a wide array of financial backers, including one he has cited in attacks during his campaign.” [NYT]

His claim that he’s had “nothing to do with Russia” is pure nonsense.   For all the salacious interest in the Oval Office Oaf’s sexual misconduct — the more fruitful segments of current investigations are likely encapsulated in the Nixon era maxim “follow the money.”

In the mean time, I do not intend to “follow the President,” and I do not wish him well as he undercuts environmental protections, consumer protections, financial consumer protections; our standing among nations, our relationships with our allies, and our prestige in the world.  Nor do I intend to grant him any accolades for continuing his divisive, irrational, and racist rhetoric.  One campaign filled with that was sufficient.

I do take some comfort knowing that 65,853,516 people in this country may agree with me.

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FYI: I’ll Just Leave This Here

March 6, 2018  “A South Carolina white supremacist who praised racist mass shooter Dylann Roof and longed to commit violence against Jews, Muslims and people of color has reached a plea deal with federal prosecutors that will likely result in a relatively short stint in federal prison.”  [HuffPo]

March 2, 2018   “Nikolas Cruz left at least 180 rounds of ammunition — inside magazines that bore Nazi swastika symbols — at the scene of the Parkland school shooting.Along with his AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, Cruz abandoned at least six magazines that each contained 30 bullets at the scene of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, according to two sources who spoke on condition of anonymity.” [SunSentinel]

December 16, 2016  “Dylan Storm Roof’s website hinted at why he chose “historic” Charleston to shoot nine people to death at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in South Carolina. Along with a long, hate-filled screed, the 21-year-old included photos of himself burning an American flag, taking aim with Ca pistol and posing proudly at sites connected to the Confederacy.” [CNN]

August 6, 2012  “Before he strode into a Sikh temple with a 9 mm handgun and multiple magazines of ammunition, Wade Michael Page played in white supremacist heavy metal bands with names such as Definite Hate and End Apathy.” [CBS]

January 7, 2010   (DC Holocaust Museum shooting) “Prosecutors said that von Brunn, an admitted white supremacist who lived most recently in Annapolis, had been planning the assault for months and that he hoped “to send a message to the Jewish community” that the Holocaust was a hoax. “He wanted to be a martyr for his cause,” a prosecutor said in court.” [WaPo]

July 28, 2008  “Jim David Adkisson told investigators all liberals should be killed and admitted he shot people Sunday morning at Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church, according to a search warrant affidavit obtained by CNN affiliate WBIR.” [CNN]

Generally speaking —

August 22, 2017  “Terrorists murdered 3,342 people on U.S. soil from 1992 through August 12, 2017. Islamist terrorists are responsible for 92% of all those murders. The 9/11 attacks, by themselves, killed about 89% of all the victims during this time. During this time, the chance of being murdered in a terrorist attack committed by an Islamist was about 1 in 2.5 million per year.

Nationalist and Right Wing terrorists are the second deadliest group by ideology, as they account for 6.6% of all terrorist murders during this time. The 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, the second deadliest terrorist attack in U.S. history, killed 168 people and accounted for 77% of all the murders committed by Nationalist and Right Wing terrorists. The chance of being murdered in a Nationalist or Right Wing terrorist attack was about 1 in 33 million per year.”  [Forbes]

ADL 2017 Report 

“Unlike 2016, a year dominated by the Pulse nightclub shootings in Orlando, Florida, committed by an Islamic extremist, a majority of the 2017 murders were committed by right-wing extremists, primarily white supremacists, as has typically been the case most years.”

I’ll just leave this here.

 

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Filed under Gun Issues, Hate Crimes, Politics, terrorism, White Supremacists

Dear Mr. President: You Flunk (Sophomore General Business)

One can only imagine Mrs. Barnberner, imaginary teacher of high school sophomore level General Business grading the Oval Office Occupant’s essay — all 280 characters of it — on international trade.  “F.”

What’s worse is that he thinks he’s on to some great thing … a trade war… a war to rectify the “advantages” taken by foreign countries in our trading relations.  Dear Mr. President, you obviously don’t have a clue about what a trade deficit means, and that it can mean different things in different contexts.  Let me make this simple for you:

Example, after purchasing a small mending plate with screws from my local hardware store I have a $3.49 trade deficit with the enterprise.  I bought the little package, paid for it, and did not sell a single thing to them.  Therefore, I have a 100% trade deficit with them.  This is NOT a bad thing.  I do not wish to manufacture my own metal mending plates.  I do not wish to manufacture my own screws.  I wish to buy these from a reliable, legitimate, source.  I will pay them in coin of the realm and go home to my “wreck it and run” project.

Therefore, one cannot assert, with any level of economic competency, that trade deficits are a negative in all contexts.   That said, there are other reasons you, POTUS*, have flunked this exam.

When discussing sales it’s important to remember that we measure both Goods and Services.

“Trump said we have an $800 billion deficit. It sounds like he was actually alluding to how we bought “$810 billion more in foreign goods than other countries bought from the U.S.” as the AP cites from the Census Bureau. That leaves out our $244 billion trade surplus in services.” [jal]

Please recall, sir, commercial enterprises encompass both goods and services.  Goods are those things which are mined or harvested (primary industries) or things that are made from raw materials (secondary industries), AND there are tertiary (wait strike that, to keep it easy for you Mr. POTUS* let’s call them ‘thirdish’) industries and sectors –> financial, legal, transport, consultancy…etc.

Your automobile example is fraught with inconsistencies:

“TRUMP: “If the E.U. wants to further increase their already massive tariffs and barriers on U.S. companies doing business there, we will simply apply a Tax on their Cars which freely pour into the U.S. They make it impossible for our cars (and more) to sell there. Big trade imbalance!” — tweet Saturday.”

Where to begin?   Let’s start with the fact that Americans bought about 17.2 million motor vehicles last year.  The top selling item (15% of all sales) was the Ford F-series pickup truck line.  Europeans are not as enamored of gas guzzling V-8 engine, half and three-quarter ton pickups.   The price for a gallon of gas in Paris, France right now is about $5.54 per gallon.  [Money.cnn] A person can buy gasoline for $2.21 per gallon at the EZ Mart in Paris, Texas at last report. [Gasbuddy]  Getting the picture yet Sir?

For someone who makes much noise about being an international business tycoon, you Sire, are demonstrating an alarming lack of cognizance of  the structure of retail markets.  Europeans are beginning to purchase items in the Ford Ranger series [MFool] because the smaller, lighter, vehicles are more practical in their home markets. Lesson?  If we are not manufacturing products people want to buy in their home countries, it doesn’t have to be about taxes and tariffs — it could just as easily be a function of retail market interests.  You cannot make a Chevy Silverado or Ford F-150 as popular in down town Paris, France as it is in Paris, TX, just because the tariffs are lower — because you cannot make some “rues” wider in Paris and the price of petrol cheaper.

Not only is the automobile argument risible, but the general idea that trade wars are fun things to play with is equally ludicrous.

The president’s argument, in essence, is that high tariffs will force other countries to relent quickly on what he sees as unfair trading practices, and that will wipe out the trade gap and create factory jobs. But the record shows that tariffs, while they may help certain domestic manufacturers, can come at a broad cost. They can raise prices for consumers and businesses because companies pass on at least some of the higher costs of imports and imported materials to their customers. A trade war is also bound to mean that other countries will erect higher barriers of their own against U.S. goods and services, thereby punishing American exporters. [YahFin]

Since the POTUS* is talking about manufacturing, let’s stay there for a moment.  The US exports approximately $533 billion in capital goods annually.  These include aircraft (think Boeing), $57 billion in industrial machinery, $48 billion in semi-conductors, $43 billion in electrical apparatus (think GE), and $38 billion in telecommunication equipment. [Bal]  Now, since by their very definition, trade “wars” involve retaliation, imagine the retaliation impact on GE and Boeing?

A far better, but obviously more complex, response would be for the US to develop a MANUFACTURING POLICY.  What a concept!

And, back to my soybeans again, not all American exports are manufacturing.  There’s no rule in a trade war that tit has to be for tat.  Or, that tariffs on cars and trucks are matched with tariffs on our cars and trucks; the reaction could just as easily be on major American agricultural exports. Download and take a gander at the USDA yoy and monthly export spreadsheet located here.  There are some major amounts which should be noted. Look at grains and feeds, soybeans, red meats and products, and animal feeds.  There’s NO rule that says an increased tariff on steel and aluminum can’t be matched by increased tariffs on sorghum, soybeans, and animal feeds. This is not a difficult concept. It is, however, a segment in the overall lesson that no, trade wars are not easy to win. There really are no winners.

And we haven’t even explored some of the more complex elements in international trade policy — just the basics. The basics someone who actually stayed awake for 50% of the time in sophomore General Business class should understand.

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