Predictions about the next 4 years, after the first 18 days of Trump

Summary: After 18 days, we can make a tentative evaluation of the Trump Administration. We have seen how and who he appoints to key offices. We have seen how he formulated and implemented 8 Executive Orders, 12 Presidential Memoranda, and 3 Presidential Proclamations. It gives us enough information to draw some tentative conclusions about the competence of Team Trump. They’re disturbing conclusions.

Trump: Make America Great Again

Some powerful observations by Paul Krugman in “Dude, Where’s My Policy?

“…spare a bit of attention to what doesn’t seem to be happening. Has anyone heard anything, anything at all, about domestic policy development? Remember, after the election Wall Street decided that we were going to see a big push on infrastructure, tax cuts, etc.. Some analysts were warning that progressives should be ready for the possibility that Trump would engage in “reactionary Keynesianism.” Worrying parallels were drawn between Trumpism and autobahn construction under you-know-who.

“But if there’s a WH task force preparing an infrastructure plan, it’s very well hidden …Seriously, I’ve been saying for a while that there will be no significant public construction plan. Wall Street economists, at least, are starting to catch on. Meanwhile, that Obamacare replacement is still nowhere to be seen, with GOP Congresspeople literally running away when asked about it.

“Big tax cuts — and savage cuts to social programs — are still very much on the Congressional Republican agenda, and they could put it all together, hand it to Bannon, and have Trump sign it without reading. But I’m starting to wonder: surely they planned to unveil things during the Trump honeymoon, with the public prepared to believe that it was all done with the little guy’s interests in mind. Even pre 9-11 Bush could count on media goodwill and supine Democrats to ram through his tax cuts.

“But now? With massive public distrust, and media fully willing to do real reporting on the distribution of tax cuts, not “Democrats say that the rich are the big winners”? With the media infatuation on Serious, Honest Paul Ryan at least temporarily dented by his avid support for Muslim bans and all that? Maybe they’ll do it anyway, but it seems a lot less certain than it did in November.”

More details in the New York Times: “Trump and Staff Rethink Tactics After Stumbles“. It describes a White House on the edge of chaos, operating with plans or procedures, run by a president obsesses with polls and trivial. The article gets increasingly bizarre as it progresses.

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Audi’s Superbowl advert reminds us that class is boss in America

Summary: This brilliant analysis of Audi’s advertisement in the Superbowl reminds us that class is the unspeakable but dominant force in American society. Black men don’t have “male privilege” while rotting in prison from unjust convictions for rape. White coal miners don’t have “white privilege” while coughing their lives away with Black Lung. Neither Left nor Right want you to know this. Popular media is our mirror, revealing these truths that we cannot directly face.  {Second of two posts today.}

“It’s all about power and the unassailable might of money.”
— The great 21st century industrialist E. P. Arnold Royalton, in Speed Racer (2008).

Heroine of the Audi Superbowl advertisement

The Real Message Behind Audi’s Super Bowl Ad Isn’t Exactly An Uplifting One

Opening of an article by Jack Baruth at The Truth About Cars.

“The Internet is in the proverbial tizzy about Audi’s “feminist” Super Bowl advertisement, in which the automaker comes out in favor of equal pay for women.

“At first blush, the spot seems to be nothing but the usual corporate slacktivism, a feel-good fluff-vertorial making a “brave stand” in support of an issue that was decided long ago. I’m reminded of Joaquin Phoenix’s brilliant portrayal of Commodus in Gladiator, arriving in full armor as soon as he can do so without any risk. “Father, have I missed the battle?” Well, Audi, you’ve missed the war; if there’s a place in the United States where women are actually paid significantly less for doing the same job as men, it’s not evident from what I’m reading.

“After watching the one-minute advertisement carefully, however, I understood feminism, or equal pay, is the last thing Audi wants you to take away from it. The message is far subtler, and more powerful, than the dull recitation of the pseudo-progressive catechism droning on in the background. This spot is visual — and as you’ll see below, you can’t understand it until you watch it and see what it’s really telling you.

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A stagnant economy and a booming stock market, destined to realign eventually

Summary: Nothing has changed during the past year, except that the US stock market has zoomed to near-record valuations, With no visible support in Fed policy, or corporate and economic fundamentals. The economy remains locked in slow growth. The exciting growth stories are mostly noise or cherries picked from the flood of economic numbers. Are investors hoping Trump will defeat the fiscal conservatives in Congress and sign a massive stimulus program? It’s a risky bet.

Jigsaw puzzle mismatch

One amazing aspect of this US expansion cycle is its stability: slow steady growth despite large political and economic changes, foreign and domestic — combined with persistent (almost delusional) expectations for accelerating growth really soon. Another amazing aspect is the combination of slow economic growth and profit growth with high equity valuations. How long can this discordant picture continue?

None of this is difficult to see. At the beginning of every month I post a brief look at graphs of the economy. The conclusions are almost too obvious to state. Let’s do it again. The fantastic gap remains, waiting for the event to bring the economy and stock market back into alignment.

See the rest of this article at Seeking Alpha.

A whistleblower challenges NOAA’s climate data

Summary: An insider at NOAA has blown the whistle on improper practices at NOAA. This might be the most serious challenge to practices at the major climate science institutions since release of the “Climategate” emails. This occurs when they are vulnerable to scrutiny and pressure from Team Trump. The broad significance of Bates’ claims remains unclear, as are their validity. Here is a summary. It’s a story worth following.

whistleblower

Lots of pearl-clutching over this — David Rose at the Daily Mail published “Exposed: How world leaders were duped into investing billions over manipulated global warming data.” The Mail is a British tabloid (i.e., big headlines for sensational stories, lots of graphics). Rose is an award-winning investigative journalist who has written for the BBC, Vanity Fair, London Observer, and The Guardian. See his bio and Wikipedia entry. We rely on journalists such as Rose to provide information and perspectives that contradict the institutional consensus.

For those that prefer hard news, we can skip the Daily Mail and go straight to the source: “Climate scientists versus climate data” by John Bates at Climate Etc. Bates is a distinguished principal scientist at NOAA, and has long been involved in both setting procedures for insuring data integrity and supervising its climate data products. See his bio at LinkedIn and the American Geophysical Association (elected to the Board in 2012). He is an insider to the workings of NOAA’s climate machinery. His report deserves close attention. The following quotes are from Bates’ article at Climate Etc.

Bates’ claims at Climate etc.

In the opening he gives an introduction of his case.

“The most serious example of a climate scientist not archiving or documenting a critical climate dataset was the study of Tom Karl et al. 2015 {aka K15), purporting to show no ‘hiatus’ in global warming in the 2000s {see NOAA’s press release}…. The study drew criticism from other climate scientists, who disagreed with K15’s conclusion about the ‘hiatus.’ (Nature: “Making sense of the early-2000s warming slowdown“). The paper also drew the attention of the Chairman of the House Science Committee, Representative Lamar Smith, who questioned the timing of the report, which was issued just prior to the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan submission to the Paris Climate Conference in 2015 {details here}.

“In the following sections, I provide the details of how Mr. Karl failed to disclose critical information to NOAA, Science Magazine, and Chairman Smith regarding the datasets used in K15. I have extensive documentation that provides independent verification of the story below. I also provide my suggestions for how we might keep such a flagrant manipulation of scientific integrity guidelines and scientific publication standards from happening in the future.”

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Stratfor looks at the stupidity and evil of collective punishment

Summary:  This essay by Strafor comes at a critical time for America, reminding us about the folly and evil of collective punishment. Asides from the bad ethics, demagogues use allegations of collective to arouse public passions for their own political gain — which distracts us from focusing on our actual enemies.

Stratfor

Striking a Balance Between Security and Freedom

By Anisa Mehdi at Stratfor, 4 February 2017.

In the winter of 1917, the French freighter Mont Blanc, laden with picric acid and TNT destined for the European war effort, headed into the great harbor of Halifax to join a convoy bound for Bordeaux. A Norwegian ship, the Imo, was leaving Halifax at the same time, destined for New York. Its mission was to bring food and supplies back to people in German-occupied Belgium and northern France.

On that cold December day, it should have been an ordinary passing of two ships. But as a result of miscommunication, navigational protocols were violated. Seamen, civilians and members of the Royal Naval College of Canada looked on in horror as the Mont Blanc and the Imo collided. The impact caused a fire on the French ship that eventually caused its explosive payload to ignite. For Haligonians, all hell broke loose. As well as destroying much of the harbor, the resulting blast killed almost 2,000 people. The captain of the HMCS Acadia, located 15 miles (24 kilometers) outside of Halifax that day, estimated the smoke rising from the seat of the explosion to be more than 2 miles high.

The Halifax disaster {Wikipedia} was the largest man-made explosion on Earth until World War II, when the United States’ atom bombs destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.

The small German population of Nova Scotia came under attack as the slogan “Place the Blame” riled people toward vengeance. Because who else could be responsible for the calamity besides the Kaiser? And weren’t all Germans, therefore, collectively culpable? At first, reports emerged of rampaging crowds stoning neighbors with German-sounding names. But less than a week after the explosion, before the fires were even put out or all the bodies recovered, let alone buried, the Canadian military ordered the arrest of every German citizen.

Collective guilt {Wikipedia} is all too common throughout history, regardless of whether punishment is meted out because of political, economic or religious differences. The Jews, cruelly oppressed by Pharaoh. The Christians, persecuted by Nero. Non-Catholics on the Iberian Peninsula, tortured by inquisitors, and the reverse: Catholics, tormented by Oliver Cromwell. The consequences of collective blame and punishment — people leaving their homes en masse in search of freedom and safety — are also familiar. We see them today as people flee Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, and as refugees flood into Europe or knock at America’s door. Can looking back inform our present and mitigate the problems ahead?

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The Right strikes back! A philosopher reviews the Hunger Games films

Summary: Many modern films have CGI action obscuring the deeper issues they raise. So we turn to a philosopher, Kelley Ross, for this series of film reviews. Here he reviews The Hunger Games, showing its role in the ideological battles of our time. At the end are other reviews of these films.

“Books such as The Giver, Divergent and the Hunger Games trilogy are, whether intentionally or not, substantial attacks on many of the foundational projects and aims of the left: big government, the welfare state, progress, social planning and equality. They support one of the key ideologies that the left has been battling against for a century: the idea that human nature, rather than nurture, determines how we act and live. These books propose a laissez-faire existence, with heroic individuals who are guided by the innate forces of human nature against evil social planners.”

— “{Young Adult} dystopias teach children to submit to the free market, not fight authority” by Ewan Morrison in The Guardian — “The Hunger Games, The Giver and Divergent all depict rebellions against the state, and promote a tacit right-wing libertarianism.”

 

Review of “The Hunger Games”

Staring Jennifer Lawrence.
Directed by Gary Ross.
Written by Gary Ross & Suzanne Collins .
Released in 2012.

Review by Kelley L. Ross,
Posted at Friesian.

Re-posted with his generous permission.

 

The Hunger Games is a series of books and now movies that began with a 2008 novel by Suzanne Collins. It is set in a fictional and perhaps post-apocalyptic version of North America in which a malevolent “Capitol” has enslaved 12 subordinate “Districts” to supply its excessive desires for luxury and entertainment. As with the sacrifices to the Minotaur, every year each District sends a boy and a girl to the “Hunger Games,” where they hunt and kill each other until only one is left. This is supposed to engender pride in each District as its representatives fight for their lives, but it really is a way of punishing and humiliating the Districts after they lost an earlier rebellion against the Capitol.

Katniss Everdeen (played by Jennifer Lawrence in the movies) is a young woman from the mining town of District 12. As the story begins, she volunteers to replace her younger sister as the offering to the Hunger Games. She survives the Games, with her friend, Peeta Mellark, but in a way that angers the government of the Capitol, especially President Snow (played by Donald Sutherland), who plots to force them back into the Games in the second book (Catching Fire), so that they can be killed, but from which she is actually rescued by the forces of the rebellion that has been organized from the secret and hidden District 13.

In the third book, Mockingjay, the rebellion succeeds, the Capitol is overthrown, and Katniss is actually given the privilege of personally executing President Snow with her trademark bow. However, Katniss has come to believe that Alma Coin (played by Julianne Moore), President of District 13 and leader of the rebellion, has been using her for 13’s own purposes and has actually arranged the death of her sister in the final battle for the Capitol. Katniss shoots and kills Coin instead of Snow.

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A powerful defense of free trade by Ed Dolan, before Trump attacks it

Summary: Trump and other opponents of free trade make many bold claims about its harmful effects. Here Ed Dolan looks at the facts to see if they agree with Trump. That is nice to know before Trump attacks the global trade system, a pillar of the world order that has brought unprecedented prosperity to the world.

World trade

In Search of the Elusive Victims of Globalization

Guest post by Ed Dolan.

The 2016 US Presidential election has placed trade policy high on the national agenda. Both Bernie Sanders, on the Left, and Donald Trump, on the right, campaigned on overtly protectionist platforms. Now that Trump is in office, he has begun implementing his program of “buy American, hire American.”

In response, many members of the economics profession, always a bastion of free-trade sentiment, have taken a new look at something they always knew but did not always like to talk about: the fact that trade creates winners and losers. In a widely cited paper, “The China Shock,” David Autor and colleagues shows that the losses from trade shocks to the US economy are larger and more persistent than many had thought. Such research makes it understandable how politicians can assemble victims of trade shocks into winning coalitions.

Although Trump and Sanders have directed most of their critique of global trade at the way it creates losers in the US economy, other critics are more concerned with the effects on US trade partners. Taking advantage of the media attention drawn by their sometimes disorderly protests against the Seattle meetings of the World Trade Organization in 1999, these critics emphasize that trade creates victims in poor countries as well as rich.

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