Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Last week was a helluva week:

Tariffs… almost every single person in the world screaming “THEY’RE BAD!”… yet, we have more of them now*

Quitting… Gary Cohn resigns as White House chief economic advisor… something to do with the working dynamic he had with Trump

More quitting… rumors that Trump is going to “clean house” re: his staff… after such a short time in office, that doesn’t seem quite right

Meeting… Trump and Kimmy of North Korea are going to meet… then conditions to meet seem insurmountable

Scandal… given Stormy Daniels developments, looks like Trump might have some ‘splain’ to do to Melania… and the American people

Campaigning… Trump is helping out some special election in Pennsylvania… and overtly reminds us what an immature, embarrassing, divisive 4th grader we have for a President

The market should have been roiled (I love saying that :)… but we had an interesting jobs report on Friday:  More jobs… which is good… but less pay… which apparently is also good (although it sounds counter-intuitive) because it keeps inflation in check… which may keep rising interest rates in check.

All of those things should have meant “off-setting penalties” (so to speak).  But instead we rallied sharply on Friday… almost like the market said, “who cares how screwed up our politics  are?!”

Feels more manic than normal to me.

 

*Disclaimer:  If the U.S. is really getting jerked around in international trade, then I like what Trump did.  (Here and here.)  Problem is always can you really believe Trump?

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I just read something that had this quote in it:

But the government quickly mounted a propaganda push, blocking some articles and publishing pieces praising the party.

Is this a quote about the Trump Administration?

Nah, it’s just about, oh, CHINA TAKING A MASSIVE STEP BACKWARD AND ELIMINATING TERM LIMITS FOR THEIR DICTATOR, ER, I MEAN PRESIDENT.

But it’s telling — SCARY — that it’s exactly what the Trump Administration does.  EXACTLY.

 

P.S.  It’s also scary that Trump’s response was:

I think it’s great. Maybe we’ll give that a shot some day.”

People aren’t sure whether he was joking or not… it doesn’t matter… that’s something The President Of The United States — defender of the U.S. Constitution — doesn’t joke about in public… unless he wants to invite comparisons with a Chinese dictator!

Trump is getting blasted for — all of a sudden — unilaterally — announcing he’s levying a 25% tariff on steel and 10% on aluminium.  Outside of the steel and aluminium industries, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone supporting his actions.  Heck, there are even executives within those industries that don’t support his actions.

I disclaimed in my previous post on this topic that I’m no expert on trade, but the more I hear about how the rest of the world treats us in trade, the more I continue to agree with Trump that it’s time to create a more balance playing field.

But now, I’m even liking the way he’s doing it.

Apparently many of the trade structures in place had their origins in the 40’s… for example, helping a war-torn Japan and Germany get back on their feet (and not repeating the mistakes of the aftermath of WWI), helping an embryonic China move into the modern world, and so on.

Huh?  That’s was about 80 years ago!  For the last decade I’ve watched — first hand — tech companies tip-toe around China… either burdened with requirements that make us non-competitive… or, worse, getting blocked altogether.

I’ve been writing about Autodesk recently.  It occurs to me that they can be, in fact, the poster child for this entire topic!

AutoCAD is the de facto standard technology tool for construction all around the world — except China.

Want proof?  While China is always a big topic in many companies’ earnings call, the word “China” wasn’t even mentioned in Autodesk’s last two earnings transcripts (here and here).

Why?  Because there’s a Chinese company called ZWCAD that makes an AutoCAD-clone product and guess which product the Chinese government wants sold in China?

A Chinese company, by the way, that was caught red-handed stealing AutoCAD intellectual property.

So I continue to be with Trump on this issue… and upon further reflection am happy he’s playing the “mad man” card and throwing it directly in their grill.

America is, after all, the world’s biggest market.  If we’re really getting taken advantage of, then it’s time we stopped getting taken advantage of.

I’m very surprised I’m about to say this — but maybe this one is within Trump’s wheelhouse:  His juvenile, bullying, play-ground antics may be the most effective way — may be the only way — to get everyone on the playground to play fair.

I’ve often said that running a company with too little money is easier than running it with too much money.

I know that may sound counter-intuitive.  But not having money sharply clarifies what is important and forces you to focus on just the critical priorities.

In contrast, when you have too much money, the world is your oyster (so to speak)… so everything is possible… so most of the time you end up trying to do everything… regardless of how important — or unimportant — it is to the mission.

I believe that’s the problem with our military spending.  We have too much money.  We already can bury every other country in the world with thousands of nukes… yet we feel like we need to spend more… because… we can…

… because all we have to do is just rack up some more deficit spending.

What does this mean in terms of dollars and cents?  Way over half of our government’s discretionary spending goes to the military!

If that number was way smaller, I guarantee you that we’d get a lot more done simply by being forced to focus on our top priorities.

Whether you like him or hate him, Senator Rand Paul (KY) recently wrote an interesting piece that touches on this, entitled, Is Our Military Budget Too Small, Or Is Our Mission Too Large?  It’s short and well worth the read (underlining is my emphasis):

     Is our military budget too small, or is our mission too large?  Since 2001, the U.S. military budget has more than doubled in nominal terms and grown over 37% accounting for inflation. The U.S. spends more than the next eight countries combined.

It’s really hard to argue that our military is underfunded, so perhaps our mission has grown too large. That mission includes being currently involved in combat operations in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia, Niger, Libya, and Yemen. We have troops in over 50 of 54 African countries. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost over a trillion dollars and lasted for over 15 years.

Unfortunately, none of these wars have been authorized by Congress, and Afghanistan and Iraq have gone far beyond their original authorizations. And when all combined, these wars are draining our treasury. A country can only remain strong as long as it remains solvent.

In Afghanistan, we spend about $50 billion each year. Where does the money go? For troops and weapons, of course, but billions have also been spent on roads, bridges, and schools for Afghanistan. Seems a shame that bridges, roads, and schools crumble here while we persist in nation-building abroad. Maybe it’s time to do some nation-building at home.

Don’t get me wrong. I supported going after the jihadists who attacked us on 9/11. But that mission is long past over. We killed the plotters and their supporters. The question we need to ask is, “When will the Afghanis be able to defend themselves?”

Most conservatives believe welfare should be temporary, and that ultimately the able-bodied must stand on their own. Foreign assistance is no different. If the U.S. coddles and comforts and does all the fighting, the Afghanis will never become self-sufficient. People argue that the Taliban will take over Afghanistan. Not if the Afghanis stand and fight. We’ve given them 15 years of training and billions of dollars of the most sophisticated weapons known to man. Surely, the time for them to step up and fight is now.

Is it worth one more American life to try to build a nation for people unwilling to fight for their own country?

The recent 21% increase in the military budget will buy a lot of weapons, but it won’t win the war in Afghanistan. President Obama already tried that. Obama increased our troops to around 100,000, and, sure enough, the Taliban ran and bided their time for the inevitable troop withdrawals.

The Taliban now controls a sizeable area of Afghanistan. I just can’t, in good conscience, ask our soldiers to go back to Afghanistan to take back the same villages they’ve taken twice, first in 2002 and then again in 2010.

Candidate Trump wisely ran on a platform that the Iraq War was a mistake. But President Trump is surrounded by Generals who’ve never seen a war that they believe cannot be won. And so the wars continue.

My hope is that President Trump will remember Candidate Trump and tell the Generals who surround him: “Enough is enough. I’m bringing the boys home.”

 

And, I would add, “… so we can stop spending so much money on non-prioritized military stuff… so we have a hope of balancing our OUT-OF-CONTROL deficits!”

 

I just finished Season 5 of House of Cards.

I wasn’t as taken with 5 as the previous 4.

I like “big reveals,” but I think subterfuge can be abused and that’s not fair to the audience.

With that said, I do think there are two new characters that are particularly intriguing, however:  Jane Davis and Mark Usher.

Now, I don’t like the way they were introduced — here are two major, major political power brokers that the Underwoods had never heard of… that seems unrealistic to me.

However, each are intriguing… and their relationship is intriguing… because, unlike the blatant world of D.C. politics, they seem not to be seeking the spotlight.  Instead, they are operating “in the shadows”… true puppet-masters.

You know what I think?  I think they’re ALIENS.  They are too mysterious.  Too subtle.  Too all-knowing.  They really, truly seem to care not for material wealth, but rather for completely altruistic, humanitarian goals.  Almost as if they know better… as if they are from the future… or from an alien race… or both!

Another ground-breaking series, Star Trek, had to deal with these kinds of story arcs, too.  They invented the “Prime Directive,” essentially:

“A guiding principle of the United Federation of Planets prohibiting the protagonists from interfering with the internal development of alien civilizations.  …  This conceptual law applies particularly to civilizations which are below a certain threshold of technological, scientific and cultural development; preventing starship crews from using their superior technology to impose their own values or ideals on them.”  (Source:  Wikipedia)

Sure, Captain Kirk may not have ever stepped over the line with the Prime Directive, but you can damn well be sure, in the name of entertainment, he stepped right up to the line several times.  Just like Jane and Mark have been doing.

Now, I know you may say that Star Trek had to come up with the Prime Directive because, after all, the entire show was all about aliens, i.e., space ships and space outfits, five year mission, seeking out new life and new civilizations, boldly going where no [man] has gone before, etc., etc.

But — using Kellyanne Conway logic — I think that misses the point, because there now what appears to be ALIENS on House of Cards!

So you’ve heard the proof here first.  I now can’t wait for Season 6… and to hear Jane and Mark say:  “Two to beam up, get us out of here now!

;)

For some reason, I feel compelled to share an email thread I’m having with a friend.  It might represent the birth of a new political party… The Moderate Party.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

From: Royal Farros
To: Mark
Sent: Tuesday, July 11, 2017 110:05 PM
Subject: From Royal Farros… re: WTF…

Hey, Mark! Hope all is great, it’s Royal Farros, it’s been a long time!

I just read about your WTF and the following quote:

          “We can’t just startup and be like, ‘Hi, we’re a new party and we’re going to run all these people for office.’

Years ago I would have agreed with you. But I’m not so sure now. I wouldn’t say I’m a political guy… but I am a responsible citizen, follow issues, and vote. I was a lifelong republican… because when I grew up, for lack of a better way to say it, that was the “business” party… the party that was fiscally responsible.

Hasn’t seemed that way for a few decades, though. In fact, I got sick and tired of extremist hijacking the political agenda… for both parties.

I wish there was a party for me… fiscally conservative and socially liberal. There isn’t, so I “unaffiliated” in 2016.

I was blown away to find out that, as of 2016, the largest political party was neither republican or democrat but — as I’m sure you know — unaffiliated… by a wide (and widening) margin.

So, maybe there’s a party for me… call it the “moderate” party… which is where, I believe, the majority of Americans stand. It just needs to be organized. Maybe you *can* just startup a party?

I may be way off base here, just sharing some non-expert thoughts.

Best–

–Royal.

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From: Mark
To: Royal Farros
Sent: Tuesday, July 11, 2017 10:36 PM
Subject: Re: From Royal Farros… re: WTF…

Thx for the note.

Youre saying dont bother with dem party. Start a new one?

Sent from my iPad

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

From: Royal Farros
To: Mark
Sent: Tuesday, July 11, 2017 11:33 PM
Subject: Re: From Royal Farros… re: WTF…

Mark–

Always amazing to me when a small, hot, killer start-up gets acquired by a big, lumbering giant. The small company always believes it’s going to somehow change the big company. But that never happens. Inevitably the small company gets chewed up in the machinery.

So, yes, I think:

* It would be easier to start a new party… than to try to deal with the “politics” — and I mean that quite literally — of changing one or both parties.

* Technology has disrupted just about every industry out there… and in 2016, add “politics” to that list. Proof? The Dems with a massive war chest, a massive infrastructure, massive mindshare, and a supposed massive lead… couldn’t beat a blowhard with a Twitter account.

* People — especially young people (yikes! did I just say that?) — are tired of the same old crap… on both sides of the isle. I heard tonight that a big Republican is becoming (or threatening to become) unaffiliated. I suspect a lot of moderate politicians don’t really like aligning themselves with the loonies in their parties. Said even more strongly, there probably are a lot of moderate Democrats and Republicans that share more core values with each other than the extremist in their parties. All of this means that a new moderate party would probably have a fair number of qualified incumbents from both sides of the isle signing up — bringing with them a ready-built voter base.

The iParty. ;)

–Royal.

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Trump often ridiculed Obama for playing golf and even went as far as saying that if he became president he was “not going to have time to go play golf.”

This chart from BusinessInsider shows why it’s difficult to take anything Trump says seriously:

TrumpGolf

Forget about yet another false statement, President Trump spent almost 20% of his first 100 days playing golf?  Really?  Nothing better to do?