Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Straight outta Compton

Where do we find those responsible gun owners about whom we hear so much from the gun nuts?

Do you want a heater? Perhaps a nice little Beretta owned by a code enforcement officer who only took it out on weekdays.

Hardly any zoning violators were shot with this baby. Who'll be shot by the subsequent owners remains to be seen.

Nuts! Nuts! Nuts!

Eventually the Second Amendment to the Constitution will be repealed. Gun nuts cannot imagine such a thing, but that is because they don't know anything about their own history.

The slaveocracy could not imagine that slavery could ever be ended in the United States, and when William Lloyd Garrison founded The Liberator to achieve that, it seemed to most, whatever their views about slavery, that the slave power was unbeatable. Yet it was beaten

Similarly, it seemed impossible that the Constitution could be amended to outlaw the manufacture and sale of alcoholic liquors when that drive began. Yet it was accomplished.

The Second Amendment will not be abolished soon but perhaps it would be possible to mitigate somewhat the slaughter being fomented by the National Child Murder Association and its allies.

For example, so-called responsible gun nuts -- they think of themselves as responsible, I do not -- like to point to the rigorous training in firearms that peace officers are alleged to undergo.

Like everything else the gun nuts say, this is ridiculous. The recent shooting of man armed with a cellular phone in Sacramento provides a good example of how ridiculous it is.

Police officers are trained in elaborate protocols about how to react when confronting a man armed  with a cellular telephone. The training involves an alarm to other officers nearby when an officer perceives the miscreant has a gun. This is exactly like what birds do when one spots a hawk. And the police demonstrate just as much brainpower as the birds.

When an officer sees a man armed with a cellular telephone that he believes to be a firearm, he is instructed to yell: Gun! Gun! Gun! This amounts to an instruction to all the other officers to commit murder.

Imagine the situation. It is dark, no one is certain who is about or what they're up to. According to the protocol, the most suggestible, frightened, racist, or stupid cop in the neighborhood can be depended upon to identify the cellular telephone as a gun gun gun. And if any of the other officers present are less suggestible, frightened, racist or stupid, they will still immediately lower themselves to level of the worst of the police present and start shooting.

So as a modest proposal, I suggest that all of the tens of thousands I'm so-called firearms instructors in America stop teaching their pupils to yell Gun! Gun! Gun! when their imaginations run wild.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Our last trade war

Trade war!
I have been thinking over the commentaries I'm seeing about Trump's coming trade war and I am not impressed.

Trade wars are a bad thing, usually, but some of the predictions I have been reading do not match very well with our trade war with Japan.

Trump, for example, thinks that once we get the barriers up and the factories restarted foreigners will rush to buy American products. And some of the anti-Trumps think that a weaker dollar will increase our exports by making them cheaper to foreigners.

That isn't what happened between America and Japan. The yen went in a fairly short period from 360 to 120 to the dollar, and over a somewhat longer period to about 90. That is, the dollar weakened by a factor of 3 to 1 and eventually 4 to 1.
Did the Japanese start buying Fords? No. Why would a savvy Japanese consumer buy a crappy Ford when he could buy a reliable Toyota?

The trade war with Japan was fought with blunt instruments. Oranges, for example. The Japanese raised a tariff wall against American oranges in order to protect their growers of mandarins. This despite the fact that a navel orange and a mandarin orange are not really equivalent products.

The American orange growers thought that their troubles would be solved if they could just unload their oranges on the Japanese. Meanwhile they forgot to look after business and American groves are now in a bad way from citrus greening, disinvestment, anti-immigrant policies and the usual bad management that we associate with virtually all American businesses.

The United States can no longer supply our own demand, much less export, and we are now dependent on Brazil for our juice.

Back in the previous trade war,  the one with Germany, West Germany at that time, we thought  we could solve our chicken problem by selling cheap chickens to the Germans. The Germans did not particularly want cheap chickens, and we retaliated with a big tariff against German vans. American consumers did not then buy American vans. What savvy American consumer would by a crappy Chevy van when he could buy a good Volkswagen van?

I speak from experience. i bought my first Volkswagen van in 1970 at the height of the trade war and later on three more Volkswagen vans. It never crossed my mind to buy an American one. You would've had to pay me to take Detroit iron.

As I write this as I write this the rumor mill says Trump is going to impose $60 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods. That is a trivial amount compared to overall US-China exchanges. I do not know what is going to happen but I expect it will be bad for everyone, or just about everyone.

As Texas Guinan used to say to the big  butter and egg men, "Hiya, suckers!"

The summit that ain't

I have bet one amero with a friend the Trump and Kim never meet.

There is no document from the North Korean government requesting a meeting. Nothing oral either. Just a comment from a South Korean.

Trump got rolled. Again. That's what happens when you don't do staff work.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Allianz catches up

What took it so long?

“In our view, its intrinsic value must be zero,” Stefan Hofrichter, the company’s head of global economics and strategy, wrote in a recent web post. “A bitcoin is a claim on nobody – in contrast to, for instance, sovereign bonds, equities or paper money – and it does not generate any income stream.”

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Keeping up

So, in the course of one 8-hour day, Trump got rolled by North Korea, Canada & Mexico. I bet the Iranians are so envious they could just spit.

So, Bannon goes to France and smooches the neo-nazis. How long before the people who castigated RtO for calling Bannon a racist admit I was right. (The best thing about restating obviousnesses is the very high hit rate.)

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Pinhead's pinpricks

Before we get all bent out of shape about tariffs on foreign steel and aluminum, let us note that imports of steel and aluminum amount to about 1/500th of the U.S. economy.

Yes, the tariffs are a bad idea; and yes, Trump is an economic nitwit living in a mercantilist mindset that was abandoned by everybody else over 200 years ago. And yes, we are not going to win any trade wars with anybody.

Still, everybody get a grip.

I recall in the early 1970s when I was first starting out to report on American business and reading the Wall Street Journal wall-to-wall, there was a plaintive advertisement that ran every day for months: a Pennsylvania foundry was soliciting to make gray iron castings at a capacity of 250,000 tons per year.

The reason that it didn't have any work was China – still a pariah in international trade in those days – was dumping gray iron castings at ridiculously low prices and driving foundries around the world out of business. But it turned out the Chinese castings were worthless crap just like everything else China makes. The Chinese foundries didn't even wash the greensand before reusing it. The forgings were pitted and full of voids and quickly rusted away.

China still dominates by tonnage in gray iron castings, but nobody who needs really high-quality ones goes there. Mexico also exports a lot of gray iron into the United States. But there are several foundries still operating here.

One of them, I noticed, in Alabama even announces on its Internet page that it was founded in 1970 – in the middle of the Chinese invasion -- with the intention of proudly serving American companies with good old-fashioned American cast iron.

So China is left with the international market for things like cast iron park benches, but when  it counts it counts, companies that need high-quality forgings take their trade elsewhere. A quick search found a 2010 survey which commented that Chinese quality control was "weak but improving." That's very slow progress.

China at that time held 36% of the world market (for iron forgings generally, not just gray iron) and workers in Chinese foundries were making 50 cents to a dollar an hour.

American, Japanese and European founders primarily serving the automotive industry pay more, and get more.

Trump's ridiculous policy will not save any American jobs, net, but his claque won't ever know that, just as they don't know that his promises about Carrier jobs were a heaping pile of crap.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Shut up, Monica

Monica Lewinsky shows up in Vanity Fair looking for attention, again, this time claiming that her fling with Bill Clinton represented a gross abuse of power by him.

No it didn't. Many gross abuses of power have been revealed to the public lately, but we recall that before setting out for Washington Lewinsky told her friends that she was out of earn her presidential kneepads.

Lewinsky miscalculates, again.