Wednesday, May 15, 2019

John Oliver explains trade

I have a habit of following up a serious post with a humorous if not downright silly one, as I did for the polar vortex, Howard Schultz exploring a run for president, the Green New Deal , and most recently the Media Bias Chart placement.  Today, I'm doing the same for yesterday's MSNBC's 'Morning Joe' and CNBC's 'Fast Money' expound on the U.S.-China trade war and its fallout with Trade: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO).

Donald Trump is waging a trade war that hurts a lot of American workers. Maybe he would understand that if our heavy-handed documentaries about the global trading system were more informative.
Last Week Tonight uploaded this video eight months ago, but it's still current.  Our Cartoon President is like a stuck clock on the issue of trade.  Unfortunately, I don't think this is one of the two times a day when he's correct.


  1. Fun video by Oliver, even though, as you say, it's a bit dated. Still relevant, though. I rarely watch vids. I can read books or websites for hours, but I get sorta ADHD with video material on the laptop. I keep thinking "I should be finishing my read of that article on another tab I have open, or folding some laundry, and hey, what about whipping up something to eat from the leftovers in the fridge..."

    I listened to this whilst eating pancakes and getting mentally geared up to go to a polling place to pass out "how to vote" cards for the Greens. Listening I can do, especially if I'm doing something else that does not demand "top-of-consciousness" attention. It's fun to listen to Oliver's Pommy accent, particularly when he's saying "motherfucker."

    Ah well -- soon off to accost voters (national Parliamentary election today.) It's good fun. Citizens expect to pass through a line of people waving flyers telling them what various parties recommend in Australia's ranked multiple-choice voting system. I try to make it funny, with quips like "If you're sick of the big parties!" or "Who's leaning Green today?" And when the polls close, I'll be "scrutineering." That means watching the Australian Election Commission's paid workers when they unseal the ballot boxes, dump the paper ballots onto a table, sort them by which candidate got the voter's #1 choice, then eliminating the piles with the fewest votes. THOSE ballots are shuffled onto the candidates that each voter marked as their #2 choice, so the person's vote is not entirely ignored. From then, it goes to the top 2 vote-getters, and the winner at that polling station is determined. Combine the results from polling places across the electorate, and bingo! we have a winner. It's pretty quick -- less than 2 hours -- and honest, with observers from Labor, us Greenies, sometimes the Liberals (the conservative party), Socialists or other minor parties looking on. Much better than black box electronic voting. It's one of the reasons I have a bit of faith in this country, because everyone has to vote (or face a small fine) and the counting is done transparently, so who's in Parliament can be said to represent the will of the people.

    1. Welcome back, Bukko. Glad you enjoyed the video.

      LOL, "Pommy." I've heard two explanations for that term. One is that it refers to the Brits looking like apples (pome is the technical name for the kind of fruit that apples are). The other refers to "Prisoner of Mother England."

      Happy campaigning and observing for the Greens in the Australian Parliamentary election. Just for you, I might cover it next week. Stay tuned.

    2. The "Prisoner" origin for Pom is sometimes referenced here, with relish (convict ancestry used to be a source of shame from Settlement up to the 1960s or so, but now it's a source of larrikin pride. "Larrikin," BTW, is Aussie slang for someone who's mischievous, rowdy, maybe mildly criminal, but loveable.) The more likely explanation hews closer to your first, but with a different fruit: pomegranate. Also red, and grown in parts of the Raj where colonial overseers came from, and what happened to pale English skin when exposed to the relentless rays of the Southern Hemisphere.

      FWIW, another rosy-faced slang word I learned through reading Brexit coverage is "gammon." This is a put-down term for florid-looking right-wing British politicians including Boris Johnson, who are pushing to leave the EU. In grocery store terms, "gammon" is a type of pink ham. Gotta love those Brits -- a term that's as nasty as "redneck" but with a little bit of hammy humour to it.

    3. The prison colony origin of Australia also shows up in an explanation for why Aussies are more fun than Americans: "America got the Puritans while Australia got the prisoners. The Aussies got the better deal."

  2. As for the election, faaaark... The Greens member of parliament for Melbourne, the one I've been campaigning for, was re-elected to his seat. He's a decent guy, honest, down-to-earth, deals well with constituents who come up to him at events, local punters seem to love him. Inner-city Melbourne is super progressive, which is one of many reasons I like living here. But the Greens didn't pick up any more seats in the lower house in Canberra, despite a lot of ground-game effort by volunteers like me. They can't afford media ad blitzes, so it's old-school door-knocking, setting up stalls at community events, handing out leaflets... Not the big-money carpet-bombing that American R's and D's use.

    Greens held their own in the Aussie Senate, whose role is mainly to put a check on acts of the lower house. It forces The System to have bipartisan compromise, because the ranked-choice voting system means lots of minor parties get a few reps in the Senate, not a duopoly like the U.S. It takes a long time to count all the Senate votes; distribute the preferences of peoples' first, second, third choice, and/or what deals the parties cut amongst themselves for people who voted a straight ticket instead of ranking their one-to-six top candidates. Aussies are accustomed to not knowing THE VERY SAME NIGHT who's going to be in the Leg. Part of the laid-back "No worries; she'll be right" vibe.

    The reason I'm bummed is that Labor (they spell the party's name the American way here) did NOT turf out the conservative Liberal Party (as in Adam Smith-style economic free-trading liberalism) as was widely expected. Lefties here are in as much shock as Dems were in 2016. The Libs and their coalition partners in the National (i.e. "country folk") Party aren't as venal as Rethugs, but they're getting there. In the pocket of the coal industry, doing nothing about climate change, giving tax breaks to "the top end of town" and austerity for the "battlers" (people who are "doing it hard.") It says something bad about Australia that enough of the citizenry (especially in Queensland, the state that approximates the Amerikkkan South) are willing to support such a selfish mob. Fits right in with Trump and Brexit. And Orban in Hungary, reich-wing populists in Italy, Poland, the rising AfD in Germany, etc.

    I reckon humanity is doomed. The masses are not wanting to be progressive when they have a choice. Fear and greed win. That is what our species of monkeys with machine guns IS. Kunstler's yeast people saying "More sugar in our bottle! We're gonna keep dividing like there's no tomorrow!" And there won't be. Probably within your lifetime and mine; definitely within my daughter's. Our species had a chance but we voted for extinction.

    Ah well, not EVERYONE will die. Do you read doomers such as Dimitry "Collapse Gap" Orlov and Archdruid John Michael Greer? We're not going straight off a cliff to the Dark Ages -- their "Long Emergency" theories are more like falling down a flight of stairs, with each bump dropping civilisation to a lower level. Get ready for a new word: "gigacide," meaning "a billion deaths." Not by organised effort of genociders using weapons (although they will play a role) but just because shit stops working, people go anarchic and death comes sooner than it otherwise would have, in a million small ways.

    1. The "humanity is doomed" theme is the reason I gave the blog its name. I realized that humans are like Moties, doomed to crash their civilizations over and over again. Since that aspect of Moties was taken from the Pak, Niven's alien human ancestors, that's not a coincidence.

      And, yes, I read Greer. In fact, I have a label just for the posts he inspires. As for Orlov, I read a few of his posts and decided I don't care for him. I think he's a bad influence on American doomers.

      I'll respond to the rest of your comment when I feature it in a post about the Australian elections. I hope you don't mind.

    2. How could I object to you doing something on a blog that is, after all, yours?

      It's been decades since I read Niven, and I get "Ringworld" mixed up with some of the other hard science fiction books in their oeuvre. The thing I remember best from the university "Science Fiction as Literature" courses where they were included was that Niven/Pournelle always had ONE indestructible, eternally existing material that the plots depended on. Which could not exist in a universe governed by Newton's laws, but hey, sci-fi depends on a suspension of disbelief.

      I liked the mid-2000s Orlov, but he has gone off the "rah-rah for Russia" deep end during this decade. Fair enough; he's from there, but I'd like it better if he extended his scepticism to everything instead of having a blind spot. Plus he's slipping into conspiracy theory cuckoo-land. In the comments to one of his most recent posts, Orlov said he believed the Fukushima tsunami was deliberately caused by the United States exploding a nuclear weapon undersea, over a fault line, as a way of damaging the Japanese economy. Paranoia about evil American intentions aside, this would seem to violate laws of physics, because the energy from a nuke would not be powerful enough, or its effects targeted enough, to create a tsunami. Those waves have a LOT of energy involved in moving that mass of water -- not something that we puny humans could manage.

      OTOH, there seems to be a tsunami disaster-in-waiting in the Canary Islands that could swamp cities on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean with some carefully done demolition. One of those many potential civilisation-ending events such as the Yellowstone caldera supervolcano and the New Madrid fault line along the Mississippi River. So many things out there, entirely natural, that could squash us like bugs...

    3. Thank you. I've posted your election comments and my responses as A conversation about the Australian election with a reader from Down Under.

      That's a good point about Niven. Actually, his "Ringworld" stories feature two, General Products hulls and scrith.

      Both of those are reasons why I'm not a fan of Orlov. That idea about the earthquake is such BS on so many levels. I'm a geologist, for starters, so I know the mechanism doesn't work. It's one of the reasons "View to a Kill" is one of my least favorite Bond movies. That doesn't even get into the motives. Why Japan?

      Oh, I'm quite aware of the possibility that the flank of La Palma could collapse, causing a tsunami. Just the same, thanks for reminding me.