Friday, January 27, 2017

President Trump Proposes that American Consumers Pay for "The Wall"

This week President Trump floated the idea of a 20% tax on Mexican imports to pay for the ridiculous wall he intends to have built along the Mexican-US border.  As several economists and legislators immediately pointed out, that would mean Americans and not Mexicans are paying for the wall.   From a CNN Money story on the subject:
"The notion that a 20% tariff is a way of forcing Mexico to pay for the wall, it's just a falsehood. It's a way of forcing American consumers to pay for the wall," says Edward
Alden a trade expert at the Council on Foreign Relations
Here's why.

First, about 6 million U.S. jobs depend on trade with Mexico, according to the U.S.
Chamber of Commerce. Experts say those jobs would be jeopardized if Trump restricts trade with Mexico.

Americans will very likely face higher prices for many things -- from cars and computers to avocados and Corona. A litany of products imported from Mexico would be more expensive.  
There are other less obvious ways a blunt tariff could come back to bite Americans. Higher prices on some products mean that Americans would have less money to spend on others.

That would end up costing jobs. That's what happened in 2009 after President Obama used tariffs on Chinese tires. It cost more jobs than it saved because prices for tires went up, one study found.

And a Trump tariff would apply to many more products, so the ripple effects would be a lot broader.

That brings us to who pays for the wall. When the U.S. government applies a tariff on Mexican goods shipped into the U.S., Mexican companies don't pay the tariff -- American companies pay it. Companies usually pass the increased cost of goods down to consumers, hence the higher price tag.

So yes, a 20% tariff would pay for the wall. But Mexico would not be paying for it. American consumers would ultimately pay the price. Literally. 
It's Economics 101, a course Trump apparently never took in college.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

2016 Ends With Yet Another "Hottest Year" Claim

You knew that as 2016 closed out we would be met with another "hottest year ever" claim.  That, of course, prompted another round of alarmists warning that we're running out of time to save Planet Earth. And, once again, the real facts tell a different story.

The average temperature in 2016 was only .01 degrees Celsius warmer than it was in 2015. That is well within the .1 degree margin of error.   While 2015 was .17 degrees Celsius above 2014, a warmer 2015 and 2016 was undoubtedly due to the fact that they were both El Niño years.  When you go back to the end of 2014, another year claimed to be "the warmest ever," you'll find the difference was only .02 Celsius from the year before, which is well within the .1% margin of error.

Of course, you can't just stick a thermometer in the Earth and take its temperature.  Adjustments are constantly being made to how these temperature records are calculated.  It's been argued that the "adjustments" have been politically inspired to make today's temperatures look warmer while those decades earlier to look much cooler than they were.  I wouldn't rule that out. Unfortunately we've allowed science to become so politicized, including with respect to global warming..  Any scientist who dares to question the orthodoxy, i.e. that dangerous man-made global warming is dooming the planet, is ridiculed professionally and doesn't receive government grants for studies that might dare challenge this orthodoxy.

This week, EPA nominee Oklahoma Senator Scott Pruitt, a long-time critic of former President Obama's climate change policy, testified that he believed climate change was real and that man has been a contributor to that change. Some environmentalists were shocked. They shouldn't be. The climate on good old Planet Earth has been changing for 4.5 billion years so we shouldn't assume that it suddenly stopped changing under our watch. As far as man having an effect on climate, you only have to see the difference in temperature between warmer cities and the cooler rural areas surrounding those cities to know that the activity of man affects temperature readings. The debate should have always been about how much of an effect and the negatives and positives that come with living in a warmer climate. Increased CO2 levels, for example, have been tied to larger crop yields and greater drough resistance of those crops. Warmer temperatures also means a longer growing season in certain places.

The bottom line is the scientists have no way of measuring the impact man-made activity has on the climate, no way of separating it out from what could very well be a natural increase in temperatures due to endless climate change.  It has always been a guess, nothing more than that. Alarmists have also too long gotten away with the starting assumption that today's climate is the ideal and that a warmer climate, and higher CO2 levels, is a bad thing.  That assumption should be questioned.  Man has historically done better when the climate has been warmer, including warmer than today.

Now that there is new leadership in Washington, I hope we can can finally have a truly honest debate about global warming, its ties to man, the positives and negatives associated with living in a warmer climate, and a cost-benefit examination of any proposed steps to combat global warming.  Maybe something good can come out of the Trump administration, after all.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Is The Era of Championship Sports Teams Being Honored by the President at an End?

Today, the Chicago Cubs visit the White House to be honored by President Barack Obama. Championship sports teams being invited to the White House to be recognized by the President of the United States is a tradition that probably dates back to 1924, the year when the World Champion Washington Senators visited Calvin Coolidge at the White House.  Gradually the practice expanded to include other sports besides the national pastime of baseball.

One has to wonder if, with the ascension of Donald Trump to the Presidency, this nearly 93 year tradition will be coming to an end. The timing on the Cubs visit, five days before President Obama leaves office, is no accident.  In the past, teams that won the World Series have visited the White House during the regular season.   To avoid the politically dicey situation involved with a President Trump, the Cubs instead opted to have the trip early.

The winning sports teams that follow won't be able to sidestep the Trump issue simply by moving dates on a calendar. Imagine the 2017 Super Bowl and NBA Champions, teams filled with African-Americans, wrestling with the decision of whether to be honored by a President Trump, especially after his recent insult of a civil rights icon. Or a major league baseball team, stocked with Latino players, considering the same issue. Or switching gears, how about a women's team, such as the Connecticut women's basketball team, perennial champions? Do they put aside Trump's comments about women to be honored by him? Many, understandably, won't want to do that.

My guess is most teams will simply forego the trip than risk the inevitable protests and conflict.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

No, Donald Trump, CNN Didn't Report "Fake News"

Much has been made by my fellow conservatives over Donald Trump's tumultuous news conference in which he refused to take a question from a CNN reporter because supposedly that outfit reported "fake news." Of course, with so many things Trump related, his charges against CNN simply are not true.

What CNN reported is that both President Obama and President-Elect Trump were provided by intelligence agencies with a two page summary of a 35 page memo which summary indicated that Russian operatives claim to have compromising personal and financial information relating to Trump. The 35 page memo, written by a British intelligence officer, had already been widely circulated among intelligence officials, members of Congress, and other government officials.

CNN did not publish the 35 page memo, like news outlet Buzzfeed did, nor did it claim the allegations contained in the summary or the memo were correct. CNN merely reported the fact that Trump and Obama had been briefed on possible compromising information held by the Russians. For CNN not to report that fact would have been the height of journalistic irresponsibility.

Of course, that didn't stop Trump from going on a tirade against "fake news" CNN and the intelligence agencies, which he claimed were the source of the leaked memo.  There is nothing to celebrate when a political leader tries to bully a free press, to try to stop journalists from doing their jobs.  Our freedom to speak freely, to question those in power, depends on a free press.

Sadly it doesn't seem to matter to my conservative friends that so much of what Trump said yesterday was flat out wrong.  They have fallen into Trump's "cult of personality" and celebrate anything he does, regardless of how off base he is.   I often feel like my friends have joined a cult.  Someday they'll wake up and realize that the cult leader is nothing but a fraud, and that they've been duped.  That day is not today, not tomorrow, but someday.

Monday, January 9, 2017

State Lawmaker To Introduce Bill To Raise Indiana's Age Of Consent From 16 To 18

Fox 59 reports on the development:
State Rep. Karlee Macer, D-Indianapolis, told our news gathering partners at the Indy Star the bill would give prosecutors and judges another tool to hold people accountable for preying on children.  
“I think what’s happening in our state with our children right now is a crisis,” she said.Macer said the bill would create a criminal offense called “indiscretion,” which
Rep. Karlee Macer (D-Indianapolis)
could be filed against someone at least 23 years old who engages in sexual conduct, fondling or touching with someone who is at least 16 but younger than 18.
It is already against the law in Indiana for those in positions of power, like teachers, coaches and mental health professionals, to have sex with someone under 18. But it’s not a crime for other adults to have sex with someone as young as 16.  
Most Hoosiers probably assume that in Indiana the age of consent is 18.  But Indiana's law is 16, which puts the law in line with most which have sub-18 year old consent laws.  

There is a reason why most states haven't opted for age 18 consent laws.  Laws that to try to shield 16 and 17 year olds from sexual activity are utterly doomed to selective enforcement.

I have learned to be wary whenever the argument we need to change the law to give law enforcement (police, prosecutor, judges) "another tool." The argument is always that just because law enforcement has those tools does not mean they will be used.  It is the "trust us" approach to law enforcement policy. While I do admire and appreciate their work, there are plenty examples of law enforcement officials abusing tools when they are given them.  There is no greater example than what has happened with civil forfeiture, which has turned into policing for profit.

Raise the age of consent to 18?  Bad idea.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

President-Elect Trump Slams Intelligence Community in Advance of Friday's Briefing

On Friday, the intelligence community is to brief President-Elect Donald Trump on Russian hacking of DNC emails.  In advance of that meeting, Donald Trump took to his Twitter machine to mock the "intelligence" of that community.
Although Trump suggested that they had an intelligence briefing set for Tuesday, which was delayed
until Friday, in fact there was no meeting scheduled on Tuesday.   The meeting was always to take place later in the week and Friday was the very first day it was scheduled for.

The frightening thing about Donald Trump and his legion of followers is that they believe they get to replace actual facts with their own made up ones whenever they want. Undoubtedly the Trumpkins are at this moment on social media spreading Trump's false claim about the meeting being delayed to allow the intelligence community more time to build a case.

In the very next tweet Trump's penchant for disbelieving facts if they don't fit his narrative is on full display:
If Assange said he didn't get the emails from the Russians, and that's what Trump wants to believe, then that makes it a "fact" in Trump's world.  Does anyone believe that any amount of proof put forward by the intelligence community on Friday will have any impact on Trump?   On more than one occasion during the campaign Trump was presented with video of him saying things and, quite incredibly, he still denied making the statements.

Trump was briefed about Russian hacking last fall long before the election. So it is silly to claim that this issue is simply some post-election maneuver by President Obama to discredit Trump.  It is not a new issue.  But consider this:  What if Trump's defensiveness on the Russian hacking issue is not because of disbelief but because the Trump campaign had contacts with Putin's government in which the Russians were encouraged to hack the DNC emails?

Russian officials have already admitted they were in contact with the Trump campaign before (and since) the election.  It is not really much of a stretch to consider that those discussions included the email hacking and other ways Putin could aid Trump in winning the election. That might explain Trump's man crush on Putin and his eagerness to help the Russian cause as President.

I am afraid that some time in 2017 we're going to have an Alexander Butterfield Watergate moment in which it's revealed that not only were there Trump Campaign-Russian communications about the email hack, some of those communications were recorded.   What happens then?