Saturday, July 22, 2017

Foreign Intervention

POST-GAZETTE - Res Publica
Foreign Intervention
by David Trumbull - July 21, 2017

Okay, I'll admit it. If it weren't for foreign intervention in America, Donald Trump would likely not be president.

I mean that if the French had not intervened in the Revolutionary War, we likely would not have a president at all. We'd likely be one of the Commonwealth nations with a parliamentary system with a prime minister as head of the government and Queen Elizabeth II as titular head of state.

The American Revolutionary War began April 19, 1775, here in Massachusetts. The war became a fight for independence with the July 1776 adoption by the Americans' Continental Congress of the Declaration of Independence. The war ended with the signing of the Treaty of Paris, September 3, 1783.

As a young schoolboy, I was taught how the Americans used unconventional fighting methods and had the advantage of fighting, on their own land, for their own land. It helped, too, that their cause was just. Washington's aide, the French aristocrat General Lafayette, was praised, and the contribution of the French mentioned, but just barely. In fact, it is not at all clear that the Americans could have defeated the British without the assistance of the Kingdom of France. We also had support from the Dutch Republic and the Kingdom of Spain.

This year we commemorate the centennial of the United States' entry into World War I, on April 6, 1917. The war in Europe had been grinding on since the late summer of 1914. Just as French arms and men sent to America in the Revolutionary War may been the final necessary element of Patriot victory, so, too, the American Expeditionary Forces -- over a million strong -- under John Joseph "Black Jack" Pershing, broke the stalemate of the War to End All Wars.

The popular song, "Good-Bye Broadway, Hello France," (composed by Billy Baskette, with lyrics written by C. Francis Reisner and Benny Davis) -- a huge musical hit exactly one hundred years ago this year -- made clear the connection between French assistance to the U.S. in our war of independence and America's assistance to France in The Great War.

'Vive Pershing' is the cry across the sea.
We're united in this fight for liberty.
France sent us a soldier, brave Lafayette
Whose great deeds and fame we cannot forget.
Now that we have the chance,
We'll pay our debt to France.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

President Trump's Trade Policy Agenda

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.