Push for TPP Is Just Like Push for Iraq War

William DaleyEveryone — and by everyone, I mean Dean Baker and Paul Krugman — is going after William Daley’s silly OpEd in The New York Times, Free Trade Is Not the Enemy. It’s about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), so you know that it’s nonsense. The TPP is not a “free trade” agreement. Baker is starting to turn blue talking about this. Some ideas just won’t die. This deal will do primarily two things: give businesses more power to sue governments and restrict free trade by strengthening intellectual property rights. You have the right to feel as you want about these things, but given that they aren’t popular ideas, they are being shielded. Krugman, who’s been agnostic about the deal is now turning against it. He quoted Daniel Davies in the context of the Iraq War, “Good ideas do not need lots of lies told about them in order to gain public acceptance.”

The biggest howler in Daley’s article is his claim that out of the 40 largest economies in the world, the United States ranks 39th in the “share of our gross domestic product [GDP] that comes from exports.” Oh! My! God! Baker and Krugman both offer economist rebuttals to this claim. But I think I’ve come up with a better way to think of it. Imagine that the world had only two countries: Big and Little. Big makes 99% of the world’s stuff and Little makes 1% of the world’s stuff. Let’s also assume that there is no trade deficit — a reasonable assumption, at least in the long term. So imagine that Little exports everything it makes in exchange for an equal value of stuff that Big makes. That would mean that Little is exporting 100% of its GDP, while Big is only exporting a paltry 1%!

It’s quite simple, really. That’s probably why Daley doesn’t understand it: he’s a rich and famous lawyer and banker and political mover and shaker. He can’t be expected to understand, you know, facts and concepts. What my example shows is that big economies effectively do a lot of exporting to themselves. Imagine if we took Big and divided it up into 99 little countries. Each of them would then be exporting quite a lot — almost all of it to the other 98 countries and almost none of it to Little. Or if you want to take it to the limit: imagine that Little and Big merged into one country and became Huge. Then there would be no exports at all. Yet there would be just as much trade!

This is such nonsense. And what it reminds me of is the lead-up to the Iraq War. The proponents of TPP have decided that this is something they just want to do. They may be like Thomas Friedman, who has a Pavlovian response to the issue, “I just knew two words: free trade.” Or they may just be corporate hacks, like I expect that William Daley is. Regardless: the decision comes first and then the justification is developed. And in the case of the TPP — just like in the case of the Iraq War — the arguments in favor of it are bad. That’s even true of the ones that aren’t clearly disingenuous.

What’s more, if TPP goes through (and I figure it is more likely than not), we will look back on it in two decades and see that actually, it did cost the United States jobs. And just like with the Iraq War, people will say, “But how could we have known?” The answer will be the same: by not being determined to ram the TPP through and by actually listening to opponents and not coming up with clearly specious arguments to support it. But it won’t matter. The same kind of people will be in power and they will not have learned anything from the past.

See Also

Check out my article, No Trade Deals Until Our Economy Is Fixed. My point in that article is related to this one. Basically, I argue that it doesn’t even matter if the TPP worked as its proponents claimed. If it did cause GDP to increase faster than it normally would, all the extra revenue would go to the rich. So why should the rest of us support it?

Police Body Cameras Are Not a Panacea

Police AbuseBody cameras are already in use in some police departments across the country, and those departments have not changed their stated or actual missions. Body cameras won’t solve police brutality. They will be used to justify how police already serve their own interests. After all, body cameras don’t address the real problem, which is police themselves.

—Anonymous CopwatchNYC Activist
Body Camera Guidelines No Panacea

New Horizons and Pluto’s Space Debris

New HorizonsGiven the kinds of politics I write about, there wasn’t much going on over the weekend. Luckily, there days, there is always a lot going on with Pluto. New Horizons is still just under two months out from its ridiculously close approach to the planet, but there is something new all the time. At this point, the NASA scientists seem to be on a knife’s edge. They are afraid that New Horizons might be destroyed as it makes its rendezvous. There are a lot of things to worry about.

New Horizons was launched at the fastest speed ever for a NASA rocket. According to Space.com, the spacecraft is moving at 32,570 mph relative to the sun. So if it were to run into an object smaller than the head of a pin, the spacecraft could be destroyed. And New Horizons is headed into what looks like a pretty dirty planetary system.

When New Horizons was being planned, we only knew about one moon: Charon, which is so big (1,205 km diameter) that Pluto and it constitute a true binary system. By the time it launched in 2006, we knew about two more moons. In June 2005, 91 km diameter Nix was discovered, followed closely in July by 114 km diameter Hydra. And since then, two more moons have been discovered: ~25 km diameter Kerberos and ~15 km Styx. These last two moons indicate that Pluto may have a ring system. (Note that 15 or 25 km may not sound like much, but the Chicxulub impact, which killed the big dinosaurs off, was estimated to be just 10 km across.)

So Pluto is looking to be quite the space dump. And New Horizons would seem to have quite a chance to run into debris that is quite a lot larger than a pin head. As a result, NASA is using New Horizons itself to look for potential problems. In that effort, we have this processed image that includes all of the moons that we know about. Scientists think that as the the spacecraft gets closer, new (smaller) moons will be found. It should be interesting.

Pluto's Moons - New Horizons

The team working on New Horizon has a few options if it looks like the probe will be heading through a debris field. They could orient the probe so that it shields itself. Or better: it could take a different route. The team has come up with three alternatives — two very similar, but one that will take New Horizons so close to Pluto that it will compromise the images taken. But given that there are models of just where new moons and debris are likely to be, they think the current route is good.

I hope so.

Marco Rubio Is Wrong: We Are Safe

Very Old Power SawOn Sunday, I was with my father over at Sturgeon’s Mill — a steam powered sawmill that dates back to the 19th century. Once a year, they fire it up. It is loud, with steam everywhere. And it filled me with a sense of dread. Everywhere on the property are reminders that life for people a hundred and fifty years ago was extremely hard and dangerous. I’ve provided a photo of one of the many bits of rubbish on the site. This is the 19th century equivalent of a power saw. The user connected a belt between it and a motor and then used it to cut logs. There is basically no guard and I have no doubt that people often lost lives and (literally) limbs.

Sturgeon’s Mill was part of the logging industry. Logging is still the most dangerous job in American. And it is far more safe now than it was then. The mill is now very much like a museum and there are many pictures of the people who worked at and around the mill. These were hard men. They couldn’t just assume that they would live into old age. There were many ways to die, and they saw that on the job every day. Many people in other countries face the same thing. But things have gotten infinitely better since that time.

Safe - Marco RubioAs a result of this, it is deeply offensive when politicians stoke fear in people and talk about how we aren’t safe. And this is just what Marco Rubio is pushing as his new foreign policy, “The fundamental problem we have in America is that nothing matters if we aren’t safe.” Just on the merits, it isn’t true. Squirrels aren’t safe, yet they still have to go out and gather nuts. The idea that we must be “safe” before we can’t deal with anything else is the thinking of a coward. And let’s face it: for a long time, the rhetoric of the Republicans has been the rhetoric of cowards. Brave people don’t beat their chests.

This, of course, is all about terrorism, which understandably freaks people out. It’s similar to people’s fear of sharks. Most people would choose to be killed by a bear rather than a shark. But the truth is that sharks kill quickly. Everything I know indicates that being killed by a bear is a slow agonizing process. Terrorism is almost no threat — even for people outside the country. Last year, the CDC reported, “Motor vehicle crashes — not crime or terrorism — are the number one killer of healthy US citizens living, working, or traveling in foreign countries.” And just like with logging, cars are far safer than they used to be.

Jonathan Chait referenced the Nazi dentist torturer Christian Szell in Marathon Man, Morbid Marco Rubio Asks America, “Is It Safe?” He doesn’t put it this way, but Rubio’s kind of demagoguery is a form of torture. Even if one is safe, it is traumatic to be afraid — to be constantly told that you are not safe.

But Americans are safe. We are vastly more safe than we used to be. And the things we should worry about are simple things: workplace safety, careful driving, washing your hands before you eat. But look at Rubio’s plan: he wants to get rid of Obamacare, which would make the millions of people getting insurance through the plan far less safe. At the same, his Taken foreign policy ideas will also make us less safe when it comes to terrorism. They remind me of Tom Clancy Combat Concepts.

We are safe. But we will be less so if we allow Marco Rubio to become president.

Morning Music: Charlie Parr

Charlie ParrOur Midwest correspondent, JMF, turned us on to the incredible Charlie Parr. Parr is from Minnesota (Austin!) and according to JMF, he “lives in his car and cooks food in the engine block driving from gig to gig.” That may be, but he has a very polished online presence, and so it’s got to be a now-and-then thing. On the other hand, Parr clearly presents that kind of image in performance.

According to Wikipedia, he has been influenced by two of my favorite musicians: Mississippi John Hurt and (especially) Charley Patton. JMF offered up his song Cheap Wine. But that is just not enough Charlie Parr. So here he is on 30 Minute Music Hour on Wisconsin Public Television. It’s like a very small scale Austin City Limits. And if you must, you can jump to the 10 minute marker and hear him do “Cheap Wine.” Enjoy!

Anniversary Post: Off With Anne Boleyn’s Head!

Anne BoleynOn this day in 1536, King Henry VIII had Anne Boleyn‘s head chopped off — after less than three years of marriage. She was a vile woman — convicted of adultery, incest, witchcraft… Wait, witchcraft?! Oh, that’s right: she didn’t do any of these things. It was just that Henry wanted to marry Jane Seymour. Boleyn had given birth to the future Queen Elizabeth I. And then she had three spontaneous abortions — all male. And Henry really wanted an male heir. So: off with her head!

What makes the whole thing worse is that Henry’s difficulties getting healthy children born were almost certainly his own fault. It’s either that, or he just had incredibly bad luck. I’ll go with “almost certainly.”

It is hard to see any king, but most especially Henry, as anything but a psychopath. Certainly, he didn’t seem to think that women had a purpose other than to pop babies out for him. But the idea that you would put someone to death just so you can move on to the next baby incubator is truly outrageous. I understand that there was politics going on behind the scenes. But he could have just annulled the marriage like he did with Queen Catherine. He was a monster.

On the plus side, Anne Boleyn: you never had to see him again!