Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Tinfoil: Who Are Donald Trump's Foreign Policy Advisors?

The world order shook when Donald Trump accepted a congratulatory call from Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen. At first, it looked like more ignorant Trumpery. But it has since become clear that it was long-planned by foreign policy hawks:
Immediately after Trump won the Nov. 8 election, his staffers compiled a list of foreign leaders with whom to arrange calls. “Very early on, Taiwan was on that list,” said Stephen Yates, a national security official during the presidency of George W. Bush and an expert on China and Taiwan. “Once the call was scheduled, I was told that there was a briefing for President-elect Trump. They knew that there would be reaction and potential blowback.” — Washington Post, Trump’s Taiwan phone call was long planned
The New York Times has since reported that Bob Dole Worked Behind the Scene on Trump-Taiwan Call.

This has weakened the One China Policy, a long-standing diplomatic compromise dating back to 1972 wherein China agreed to leave Taiwan alone, and the USA agreed to say that there was only one China (and never mind who governed it), made by none other than Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon. Since that time, China has become a major US trading partner and US capitalists have moved much manufacturing to China. The One China Policy has long been unpopular with US hawks, who want conflict with China, and who Trump is sympathetic too. But how would this work in practice? As with the ACA repeal, no-one seems to know how to abandon the One China Policy without dire consequences.

Trump has been refusing national security briefings and, apparently, contact with the State Department, and seems to have foreign policy advisors he has not yet named. So who are these advisors?

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Protectionism and Jobs: It Could Work, But…

If trade barriers barriers are raised, I speculate it could be  jobs will be created. BUT. We know this history. It is the history of the Soviet Union, which forbade trade which capitalist countries. The USSR did, indeed, make consumer products on its own. Shoddy, expensive ones which everyone hated. Bootleg Western products were prized. Consider US-made automobiles; they are among the least reliable and comfortable.

I don’t see how the USA can produce consumer products at anything like the price or in anything like the quantity that foreign producers do; all the US ability to do so has been taken apart. (Much of it was shipped to China by none other than Mitt Romney.) Meantime, though, we’ll be putting up with appalling quality at high prices.

There's probably other negatives here I can't see, but I'm pretty sure they are yuge.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Health insurance: return of the bad old days

Richard Mayhew, at Balloon Juice, is an insurance industry middle-manager who writes at Balloon Juice. A week ago he wrote a piece entitled "Recission and the Bad Old Days," about all the excuses insurance companies could use to withdraw coverage and dump people into medical bankruptcy. Which of course is an excellent reason to maintain or improve on the ACA.

But I wonder…Mayhew was in the health insurance industry well before the ACA was passed. How did he sleep at night, knowing what was paying his salary? How did any health insurance employees sleep?

And the Trump administration is committing to bringing those times back.

Why So Many Bad Doctors?

Dr. Ben Carson, who everyone remembers from the Republican primary as being uninformed and uncompassionate, is Trump's choice for Director of Housing and Urban Development. Now the word is that Dr. Tom Price, who is anti-abortion, homophobic, ammosexual, and who wants to turn Medicare into an underfunded and inadequate insurance system, is going to be head of Health and Human Services.

Does anyone else think it is odd that such horrific people have medical licenses? Dr. Carson, I gather, is at least an excellent surgeon, but I doubt that Dr. Price is even that. Doctors, as licensed professionals, are required to act ethically. How did Price ever slip through?

Monday, November 28, 2016

Two Baskets

This is from Hillary Clinton's speech, in which she called out that fascists of the alt-right who supported Trump and was roundly blasted for calling all of Trump's supporters deplorable. She was right, and has been consistently misquoted.

Now, she probably ought not to have said this. People hate hearing they are wrong, especially when they are. And her husband's administration had a big part putting people into the second basket, the people who "feel that the government has let them down, the economy has let them down, nobody cares about them, nobody worries about what happens to their lives and their futures, and they’re just desperate for change." Still, I am not at all sure that saying it made much difference. Her words were endlessly twisted during the campaign, apparently out of simple sexism. When Trump said something awful and crazy, he got the benefit of the doubt; when Clinton said something decent, sympathetic, and valid, she got blasted.

So here's the "two baskets" quote, and as things go more and more wrong in a Trump administration we can remember that she got it right.

I know there are only 60 days left to make our case — and don’t get complacent, don’t see the latest outrageous, offensive, inappropriate comment and think well he’s done this time. We are living in a volatile political environment. You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right?

[Laughter/applause]

The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic — you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up. He has given voice to their websites that used to only have 11,000 people — now how 11 million. He tweets and retweets their offensive hateful mean-spirited rhetoric. Now, some of those folks — they are irredeemable, but thankfully they are not America. But the other basket — and I know this because I see friends from all over America here — I see friends from Florida and Georgia and South Carolina and Texas — as well as, you know, New York and California — but that other basket of people are people who feel that the government has let them down, the economy has let them down, nobody cares about them, nobody worries about what happens to their lives and their futures, and they’re just desperate for change. It doesn’t really even matter where it comes from. They don’t buy everything he says, but he seems to hold out some hope that their lives will be different. They won’t wake up and see their jobs disappear, lose a kid to heroine, feel like they’re in a dead-end. Those are people we have to understand and empathize with as well. —Time.com

Sunday, November 27, 2016

25 years to losing

I've discussed the short-term reasons for the Democratic electoral loss in "It's the Sexism, Stupid." But the long-term reason is 25 years of support by both parties for the interests of the wealthy over everyone else. So when Trump offered even a tiny bit of hope, enough voters latched on to it to make common cause with the basket of deplorables and, here we are.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

The Case for Auditing the Vote

Or, Jill Stein may have done us an actual service.

J. Alex Halderman:

Were this year’s deviations from pre-election polls the results of a cyberattack? Probably not. I believe the most likely explanation is that the polls were systematically wrong, rather than that the election was hacked. But I don’t believe that either one of these seemingly unlikely explanations is overwhelmingly more likely than the other. — J. Alex Halderman, Director, University of Michigan Center for Computer Security and Society, medium.com

Ron Rivest:

“I wouldn’t be surprised, in light of the DNC, that major voting systems have been compromised,” said Ron Rivest, a founding father of modern encryption systems and a Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor who won the Turing Award, computing’s version of the Nobel Prize. “We do need to be concerned about the integrity of our voting systems in the face of possible attacks by foreign nation-states.— bostonglobe.com

Barbara Simons:

“If it’s a swing state, those votes could conceivably decide which party wins that state,” said Barbara Simons, past president of the Association for Computing Machinery and an adviser to the US Election Assistance Commission. — bostonglobe.com, previous cite.

These are not lightweight figures. Rivest in particular is a major figure in cryptography. We may be doing this for all the wrong reasons, but it’s a worthwhile thing to do; audits ought to be routine.

Still, going to be one more excuse for Republicans not to count votes. But then, they don’t need excuses.