Wednesday, February 27, 2019

The biggest danger to the US

My siblings and I are all politically involved. We follow the news. We consider the issues. We decide on our policy preferences. It's a legacy from our mother who was always politically involved, even with so many children to raise.

We don't all see eye-to-eye. I had a fascinating argument with my brother, until I cut it short because he was yelling too much. He wants the Dems to play hard ball. Specifically, he wants the Dems to increase the size of the Supreme Court if and when they get the political muscle to do so.

I'm horrified by this possibility. And I realized that I'm deeply distrustful of Dems these days. They remind me of the radicals in the 1970s who wanted endless new social programs, extremely generous welfare, and high taxes to support it all. Worst than that, the Democratic Socialists want to nationalize the energy sector, and maybe banks too. And this faction seems to be growing in its influence.

Republicans have been warning for decades that Dems wanted to turn this country into Venezuela. For some Dems, it's probably true. I remember Dems looking at the changes in Venezuela when Chavez came to power, and hoping that they would succeed. There would be a new model for socialism, one that the US might consider following.

Venezuela turned out the way the GOP predicted, not the way the sympathetic Dems hoped. But you can't teach some people anything. They are immune from learning even simple lessons. So it is with some Dems and socialism. Some of them actually want to follow a Chavez-like model, thinking it will be OK for the US because ... [some unfathomable reason].

I don't want these Dems to gain power. I'm still glad I don't have to deal with the embarrassment of what Hillary won't have done as president--her waffling, her mealy-mouth policies as she tries to sound tough. I greatly dislike Trump with his bombast, indifference to truth, and hate-mongering, but I like some of what he's doing. We should have reduced immigration back in 2001, if not sooner. We should be enforcing immigation law. It's not crazy to have a summit with North Korea. It's not crazy to tell European countries to carry more weight in NATO. It's good to negotiate harder on international treaties. It's good to give military commanders more leeway in military decisions instead of micromanaging from the top. I wish I could have all these outcomes without Trump, but it's not likely to have happened. Other establishment politicians would probably have failed, just like the previous ones did. So I hate Trump but like some of the results. I hoped it would be this way when Trump was inaugurated, so I guess I'm lucky it's followed one of the rosier scenarios.

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So it was easy to figure out how the Dems scare me. Certainly, it might not happen, but I think the risk is there. So what is the biggest risk with the GOP? Maybe I have a blind spot, but I couldn't think of one as scary as with the Dems.

Food shortages, so military in stocked markets
Image: philipparrish.com

Extras. Read the mess that Chavez inherited on his initial election (the end of the article). Praise for Chavez and his social programs. Optimistic prediction for Venezuela, so obviously not the conservative media. The same outlet overturns its optimism and explains some reasons for the crisis. Chavez wasn't so good, even economically, since other South American countries battled poverty well without policies leading to collapse. Venezuelan ex-pats in Florida burn Bernie. I wonder if they support current democratic initiatives that have a strong socialist favor.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

February links

Russia investigation update. Roger Stone is finally indicted. It appears he was the conduit between Wikileaks and the Trump campaign. It was suspected before, but there are some juicy emails providing strong evidence. Chris Christie suggests that Trump's campaign team were so green that they didn't realize they were being worked by the Russians. Well, that's the interpretation by a CNN pundit of Christie's view. Russians are also using pieces of discovery material to create fake information to spew onto the internet. Of course they'll be doing that.

Countdown to Brexit. Ireland has prepared, businesses are not generally ready. This would make Brexit even bumpier, with greater negative effect on the UK economy. Please, admit it's time for a revote.

Attraction of alt-right politics. If you're white man, this may be your best hope for securing a place in the in-group, particularly if you're lower middle class or working class. That's how gangs recruit too.

Hard choices. A teenage girl was being molested by her foster father in a small town. She didn't feel she can get anyone to help from within her town, but got help from a fellow online gamer. However, he asked for proof of the abuse in the form of video. It sounded sick to me, but then his reason made sense. If he was going to come from out of state to pick her up, they better have very strong evidence of the abuse, like a video. So the gamer took her from her abusive home, prompting a search, discovery, etc. The savior is facing 15-30 years in jail for requiring a video.

Economic overview. Lots of debt, and lots of money (liquidity) looking for a place to go. I've been well aware since 2008 that the world is awash in money. I've been trying to figure out what it means. One thing - I'm not afraid of world-wide collapse. (The libertarian nightmares aren't haunting me.)

Facing down blackmail. Jeff Bezos reported that a tabloid (which supports Trump) was trying to blackmail him using photos of an affair he had. The email threats have been released, and they are juicier than photos, which aren't all that rare these days.

Image: davidfeldmanshow.com

Saturday, February 16, 2019

The symbolism of the wall

Trump promised his loud rallies a wall on the border with Mexico, and that Mexico would pay for it. His fans ate it up, though it's hard to tell if they really believed it. The wall was supposed to close the 'open border.'

I'm not at all an expert on the border. I don't know if a wall will be effective, or just an expensive boondoggle. Very few in the US have the information to make an educated decision on that. Instead, they have grandstanding which has turned the wall into a symbol.

On one hand, the wall will close border to illegal crossings. Crime will drop. Drug smuggling will drop, Human trafficking will drop. Illegal immigration will drop. Deported criminals will stay safely away from the US. The US will finally have meaningful control of this problem area.

On the other hand, the wall is immoral (I'm not sure why, but maybe because it closes the US as a necessary refuge). The wall won't be effective because people will tunnel under, cut through, climb ladders and go over, fly in, and cross with illegal papers. It'll be harmful to migratory animals, cost way more than projected, ruin the landscape, and result in the loss of land to many landowners.

Wall proponents point to the wall on the West Bank of Israel, and how effective it's been. It's 440 miles long due to numerous jogs and fingers to enclose Jewish settlements on West Bank territory. Much of it is concrete slab, though some is stacked barbed wire thickets and some simple barbed wire fencing.

The US-Mexican border, in contrast, is nearly 2000 miles long. Jogs wouldn't be needed, but monitoring and maintaining that stretch is still a massive job. Some of the terrain is reportedly difficult to traverse and build on, so may be a natural barrier.

But the argument is not so much about the plausibility and efficacy of a wall. It's a back-and-forth, without hard data or expertise, of two factions that don't know much but adhere tightly to their positions. Is the wall necessary and effective for controlling negative outcomes associated with the border, or is it immoral, pandering symbol that we shouldn't spend $1 on (as Nancy Pelosi said). So what is an argument where there are no facts being used? A shouting match maybe? I'm not interested in shouting matches. Get me some experts, real experts, not fake ones. Thank you.

Israel building a border wall
Image: presstv.com

Extras. Trump's reelection slogan will be "Finish the Wall," which will continue the pattern of symbolism without substance.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

A test for Congress

I've been neglecting my blog, and I'm sorry. One reason is that the political situation isn't changing much. The players are staying the same with the same faults and strengths (mostly faults). The Dems continue to want to tax and spend, the GOP continues to want to spend and cut taxes, and Trump continues to bloviate with no substance behind it. Same old same old.

So Trump experimented with a shutdown, and that didn't work out so well for him or the GOP. He ended the shutdown by taking a deal to reopen government at status quo for three weeks. My sister (a federal worker) got to return to work and a paycheck.

During the three weeks, the less stubborn people in Congress would try to work out a deal, and Trump would perhaps throw bombs, but not have the power to nuke them as they worked.

I wasn't at all sure that the people chosen for the negotiation teams would be able to do it. Remember the epic failure of the sequester-alternative committee in 2011? That could certainly happen again, but it didn't. Cooler heads prevailed, and they made a deal.

Predictably, Trump wasn't happy with the results. Dems have a surprisingly strong hand because they can wait out the GOP, who are desperate to make a deal and not get blamed for another shutdown. The Dems were able to make a rock-bottom offer to the GOP, hold their breath, and the GOP negotiators blinked and accepted. (My guess, but the details of the deal will probably bear it out.)

That's how it's gone for the past 7 years. GOP is slow to negotiate, the clock ticks away, and the GOP have to take a crummier deal than they'd get if they'd laid out their positions at a reasonable point in the negotiation process.

If I ever see the GOP negotiating early, I'll let you know. Until then, the GOP can continue to expect unfavorable deals on everything that they can't pass via reconciliation. With the Dems controlling the House, that is everything for the next 1.9 years. My prediction: continued choking by the GOP. Same old same old.

Image: thedhakapost.com

Extras. An inside account of the negotiation, which worked because it was delegated to members of Congress who had respect for one another rather than adversarial relationships. The leaders kept out of the way, mostly. The deal almost fell apart on a poison pill (restricting the number of beds for deportees in process), but that was dropped.