Thursday, June 8, 2017

President Trump's Trade Policy Agenda

POST-GAZETTE
President Trump's Trade Policy Agenda
by David Trumbull
June 9, 2017

On March 1, 2017, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative released President Trump's 2017 Trade Policy Agenda, I quote from the document:

"In 2016, voters in both major parties called for a fundamental change in direction of U.S. trade policy. The American people grew frustrated with our prior trade policy not because they have ceased to believe in free trade and open markets, but because they did not all see clear benefits from international trade agreements. President Trump has called for a new approach, and the Trump Administration will deliver on that promise."

President Trump wasted no time in implementing that "fundamental change in direction." On the Monday after the Friday he took office for his first term, he reversed what was supposed to be one of President Obama's most significant foreign policy and trade achievements. On January 23. 2017, President Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership ("TPP"), the largest free trade agreement ever signed.

Among the eleven countries other than the U.S. were six with whom we already had free trade agreements. Apparently, they were included to just to make the deal bigger. Among the other five: Brunei, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Vietnam, two, Japan and New Zealand, are modern, Western-style democracies with level of economic development comparable to the U.S. In other words, if a good bi-lateral free trade agreement can be negotiated with any nation, those two would be good candidates.

As for the rest of the lot to whom President Obama wanted to give preferential access to our market. Well, according to the U.S. Department of State --

The Socialist Republic of Vietnam is an authoritarian state ruled by a single party, the Communist Party of Vietnam. There are severe government restrictions of citizens' political rights, particularly their right to change their government through free and fair elections; limits on citizens' civil liberties, including freedom of assembly, association, and expression; and inadequate protection of citizens' due process rights, including protection against arbitrary detention. The government maintains limits on workers' rights to form and join independent unions and does not enforce safe and healthy working conditions adequately. Child labor persists, especially in agricultural occupations.

The most significant human rights problems in Malaysia include government restrictions on freedoms of speech and expression, press and media, assembly, and association. Restrictions on freedom of religion are also a significant concern--including bans on religious groups, restrictions on proselytizing, and prohibitions on the freedom to change one's religion. Other human rights problems include deaths during police apprehension and while in custody; laws allowing detention without trial; caning as a form of punishment imposed by criminal and "sharia" (Islamic law) courts; restrictions on the rights of migrants, including migrant workers, refugees, and victims of human trafficking; official corruption; violence and discrimination against women; and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex persons. The government restricts union and collective-bargaining activity, and government policies created vulnerabilities for child labor and forced labor problems, especially for migrant workers.

Brunei Darussalam is a monarchy governed since 1967 by Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah under emergency powers in place since 1962 that place few limits on his authority. The most serious human rights problems were the inability of citizens to choose their government through free and fair elections, restrictions on religious freedom, and exploitation of foreign workers. Other human rights problems include limitations on freedoms of speech, press, assembly, and association. The partial implementation of a sharia-based penal code continues to raise significant human rights concerns. The country did not ratify the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which it signed in 2015.

Do these sound like the governments we should be do favors for? Thank you President Trump for pulling us out of the swamp that is the TPP.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Fake News and the Fake Clinton Narrative

So now there is a book out (which I have not read) revealing problems within the Hillary Clinton campaign for the presidency that doomed the otherwise inevitable election of the most qualified candidate to every run for president. Losing campaigns are, invariably, followed by analyses that show that despite the outward appearance that everything was fine, there were problems known at the time to only the campaign insiders which explain the unexpected loss.

I don't buy it. I was not so bold as to confidently predict a Trump victory, I did, however, throughout the campaign, tell friends that she was not, as our fake lying news said, a prohibitive front runner. I had no special insight into the inner workings of the Clinton campaign, I didn't need any to know that her campaign had trouble from the start.

1. The ninth-year curse. Since WWII the history of the presidency has been eight years of a Republican in the White House (1953-1961), followed by eight years of a Democrat (1961-1969), followed by eight years of a Republican (1969-1977). The pattern was broken by Carter who served but one failed term and Reagan/Bush with 12 years of Republican presidency. After that we reverted to pattern with eight years of a Democrat (1993-2001) and eight years of a Republican (2001-2009). All other things being equal we should have expected eight years of Obama to be followed by a Republican. The lying mainstream press insisted that Clinton had the advantage because she was of the same party as the popular incumbent. They conveniently ignored that in 1960 Nixon, VP to popular incumbent Eisenhower, could not overcome the ninth-year curse any more than Gore in 2000 could turn Bill Clinton's popularity into a victory in the ninth year. Her party registration was, from the very beginning, a liability, not the asset that the press said it was.

2. The lying mainstream press repeated that she was consistently ahead in the polls and had an insurmountable advantage. In fact, to my knowledge, there was no reputable poll that indicated that. The polls showed a slight lead, so small that a true account would have reported it as neck-and-neck. Further, there was one extremely telling number. Clinton never got above 49% in the polls, with Trump trailing slightly in the mid-40s. Clinton was not the incumbent, but she was running as if she were the incumbent seeking a third term. One rule of thumb, that anyone who follows political races knows, is that, in a two-way race, if the incumbent is polling at below 50%, the challenger will win. You learn this in "Campaign 101," undecideds break for the challenger.

3. Related to #2 was the fact that Clinton, by one important measure, was one of the most qualified persons to run for president. As former first lady, senator, and secretary of state she had ample Washington experience and universal name recognition. Yet, with all that going for her she could not get above 49% in the polls in a race against someone who had never held public office and was prone to intemperate utterances not typical of someone seeking the most powerful job on the planet. It didn't take a tell-all-book after the fact to tell me that her candidacy was in trouble.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

What's Your Favorite Christmas Movie?

POST-GAZETTE - Res Publica
What's Your Favorite Christmas Movie?
by David Trumbull -- December 23, 2016
Democrats’ favorite Christmas movie is "Miracle on 34th Street."
Republicans’ favorite Christmas movie is "It's a Wonderful Life."

I first heard that aphorism at a holiday party nearly two decades ago. It’s been around longer than that and I haven’t been able to determine who first said it and when.

On the face the saying makes sense. After all, what better movie for adults who still believe in Santa Claus than Miracle on 34th Street? Besides (watch out for plot spoiler) the picture’s crisis is resolved when a huge federal government agency —- the Post Office —- comes to the rescue. And with a divorced mother rearing a child alone, Miracle features a non-traditional family, surely a plus in the eyes of liberals.

It’s a Wonderful Life, on the other hand, celebrates the infinite worth of an individual human being, a worth that far exceeds even the biggest financial fortune. In Wonderful Life the hero’s crisis is resolved (another plot spoiler) by the spontaneous voluntary action of family, friends, and local community; emphatically not by the government. The film also shows people in fervent prayer, not to some generic higher power but to the God of the Bible as worshipped by the Protestant and Catholic believers shown in the picture. That alone must drive some liberals nuts when the film is broadcast over the public airwaves.

But the game can be played the other way. Wonderful Life presents negative stereotypes of bankers, so much so that when it was released some Hollywood observers (but not, as is erroneously asserted on some liberal websites, the Federal Bureau of Investigations) charged that it was a vehicle for communist propaganda. The charge is easy to ridicule today, but in the 1940s communist infiltration of the motion picture industry was a real and serious threat to American values. Now look at the favorable treatment—not to mention free advertising—that Miracle gives to two large department stores! Main Street Republicans surely must find that refreshing compared to the negative views of business that Hollywood gives us today.

The lesson? It’s just a movie! Enjoy them both, or whichever ones you choose to watch this holiday season. Santa’s list does not include your political affiliation, but he does have a lump of coal for those who would strip our public life of all sense of Wonder at the Love of God and thankfulness for all Miracles big and small.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

The Electoral College Trump Card

POST-GAZETTE - Res Publica
The Electoral College Trump Card
by David Trumbull, December 9, 2016

If we went by the popular vote, Secretary Clinton would be the next president. FALSE.

We cannot know who would have been elected had the election been decided by the popular vote. Neither candidate campaigned to win the popular vote, they campaigned to win the electoral vote. Had it been a contest for the popular vote both candidates would have deployed their resources quite differently which would have resulted in a popular vote different from what happened.

But Clinton can still win if the members of the Electoral College honors the popular vote. FALSE.

Mere stuff and nonsense. It's silly speculation on the part of persons with little understanding of how our republic works.

1. The Trump electors are pledged to Trump. In many states that pledge is legally binding. In 1952 the Supreme Court ruled that electors are not entirely free and that states can require that they be pledged.

2. The Trump electors were vetted by the Trump organization and/or the state Republican Party to assure that they would be loyal.

3. The Trump electors are in states that Trump won, why would they vote contrary to their pledge and contrary the suffrages of those who made them electors?

4. Trump won the electoral vote by a large margin, so even if, as has happened in the past, a very small number of electors were unfaithful, it wouldn't change the outcome. The only reason that past faithless electors were not charged under state law is that their acts did not change the outcome.

5. Yes, the Constitution appears to assume that electors have discretion, but that reading only makes sense in the early elections, when not all states even took a popular vote (for the first nine presidential elections they didn't even record the popular vote). In this election, the names of the electors did not appear on the ballot. No voter can honestly state he thought he was voting for [fill in the name of some elector] rather than Trump. Everyone knows that the election was state-by-state for Trump v Clinton (and third party candidates). Since the time that all states choose electors by popular vote, no unfaithful elector has ever influenced an election. A large number of unfaithful electors would, rightly, be seen as an attempt to overthrow the constitution and those votes would be voided, with the faithless electors facing legal charges.

The error is a result of reading the Constitution in a vacuum. The Constitution must be read in the context of laws written to enact its provisions, court decisions that clarify the meaning, and the actual practice of our democracy under the Constitution.

I am reminded of this: "In a Lecture of mine I have illustrated this phenomenon by the supposed instance of a foreigner, who, after reading a commentary on the principles of English Law, does not get nearer to a real apprehension of them than to be led to accuse Englishmen of considering that the Queen is impeccable and infallible, and that the Parliament is omnipotent." Newman, Apologia pro Vita Sua, 1864.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Presidential Mask Election Predictor

POST-GAZETTE - Res Publica
Presidential Mask Election Predictor
by David Trumbull -- October 28, 2016

Fun fact: sales of Hallowe'en masks of presidential candidates have predicted the outcome of every election since 1980 when Reagan masks outsold Carter masks. In every presidential election through 2012, the candidate whose mask sold the most was also the candidate who won the election.

It makes sense. People want to go with a winner. And for all the talk of evil, creepy, and scary things, Hallowe’en masks are at least as much about revealing as concealing. Once a year on October 31 we don fancy dress and walk "the road not taken" (to use a line from Robert Frost, whom we also celebrate this month, on October 23, (see Mass. General Laws, Chapter 6).

Spirit Halloween, the world's largest Halloween retailer, announced on September 29, 2016, that the Trump Masks were outselling Clinton masks. Spirit's Index has accurately predicted the outcome of every presidential election since 1996 based on their top selling candidate mask.

Inspired by the polarizing candidates, Spirit Halloween teamed up with Harris Poll to survey more than 2,000 U.S. adults, asking why they would dress up as either candidate this Halloween, given the choice between Clinton and Trump (chosen by 45% vs. 55%, respectively). Key findings include the following:

  • The top reason Americans chose Donald Trump is to be funny (39%), whereas the top reason Americans choose Hillary Clinton is because they like her (31%).

  • About 1 out of 4 Republicans (23%) and Democrats (27%) who indicated that they would dress up as the opposite party’s candidate would do so to frighten America.

  • Twice as many Americans who would choose to dress up as Donald Trump say they would do so to mock him, compared to Americans who would choose to dress as Hillary Clinton to mock her (32% vs 16%).

The Washington Post, for an October 25th story, contacted Rubie's, the world's largest designer and manufacturer of Halloween costumes, and found out that the "Donald Latex Mask" is outselling the "Hillary Latex Mask" by a ratio of three-to-one.

At www.buycostumes.com, one of the largest online retailers of Hallowe'en costumes, Trump masks are outselling Clinton masks.

What mask are you wearing this Hallowe'en? Personally, I'll go with something more traditional and keep politics out of it.

Friday, September 30, 2016

The courage, perseverance and spiritual fervor of Christopher Columbus

POST-GAZETTE - Res Publica
The courage, perseverance and spiritual fervor of Christopher Columbus
by David Trumbull - September 30, 2016

"The governor shall annually issue a proclamation setting apart the month of October as Italian-American Heritage Month, in recognition of the significant contributions Italian-Americans have made to the commonwealth and to the United States and recommending that said month be observed in an appropriate manner by the people. After consultation with Italian-American groups, the governor may include in the proclamation such contributions as he shall see fit." --Mass. Gen. Laws, Chapter 6, Section 15EEEE.

"The governor shall annually issue a proclamation setting apart the second Monday in October as Columbus Day and recommending that it be observed by the people, with appropriate exercises in the schools and otherwise, to the end that the memory of the courage, perseverance and spiritual fervor of Christopher Columbus, discoverer of America, may be perpetuated." --Mass. Gen. Laws, Chapter 6, Section 12V. (Emphasis added.)

It is fitting that we celebrate Italian heritage during the month in which we commemorate Columbus. Columbus sailed under the Spanish flag, but he was a native of, and learned his craft in, the Italian peninsula. His historic voyages opened communication, commerce, and migration between the Old World of Europe and the New World of the Americas. Columbus' voyages of discovery led directly to Spanish settlements. The New World that became, with time, the many nations of South, Central and North America and the islands of the Caribbean began with Columbus. The United States, today a sea-to-sea continental nation with citizens and residents whose ancestors lived in every corner of the globe, likewise traces her beginnings to Columbus, a man of Italian birth and heritage.

That America owes her very existence to Columbus was recognized early in the history of our republic. As early as 1738 "Columbia" had entered the English tongue as a name for the 13 British colonies in North America that became our original 13 States. When our Constitution went into effect in 1789 it provided that the seat of the federal government would be a "district" apart from any individual state or states. That district was named, appropriately, the District of Columbia and our national capitol remains Washington, D.C. However, over time, attitudes changed.

By the 1820s, with the rise of immigration, especially German and Irish Catholics, native-born Americans --Protestant English, Scots and Ulstermen -- found Columbus an increasingly embarrassing hero. He was an Italian employed by the Spanish -- Southern Europeans considered "dirty" and "stupid" races in the thrall of a superstitious church. The drive to recognize Columbus with a national holiday was largely the effort of a Catholic fraternal organization, the Knights of Columbus. The most organized and vocal opponent of the K of C was the Ku Klux Klan. The arguments around the 400th anniversary of Columbus' discovery -- that he enslaved and killed indigenous Americans when he wasn't busy forcing them to convert to the Catholic Church -- were the same charges we heard at the 500th anniversary in 1992 and continue to hear. When you hear them, consider the original source.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Today is Straw Hat Day

May 15th is Straw Hat Day the beginning of the season when men may wear their straw boaters and Panamas rather than the fur felt fedoras, porkpies, homburgs, and bowlers that we wear (You do wear a hat, don't you?) the rest of the year. For more information see http://www.thefedoralounge.com. Straw hats may be worn until Felt Hat Day which is September 15th.