Later On

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Archive for July 16th, 2017

Joe Scarborough has some harsh words for the GOP

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In the Washington Post:

I did not leave the Republican Party. The Republican Party left its senses. The political movement that once stood athwart history resisting bloated government and military adventurism has been reduced to an amalgam of talk-radio resentments. President Trump’s Republicans have devolved into a party without a cause, dominated by a leader hopelessly ill-informed about the basics of conservatism, U.S. history and the Constitution.

America’s first Republican president reportedly said , “Nearly all men can stand adversity. But if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” The current Republican president and the party he controls were granted monopoly power over Washington in November and already find themselves spectacularly failing Abraham Lincoln’s character exam.

It would take far more than a single column to detail Trump’s failures in the months following his bleak inaugural address. But the Republican leaders who have subjugated themselves to the White House’s corrupting influence fell short of Lincoln’s standard long before their favorite reality-TV star brought his gaudy circus act to Washington.

When I left Congress in 2001, I praised my party’s successful efforts to balance the budget for the first time in a generation and keep many of the promises that led to our takeover in 1994. I concluded my last speech on the House floor by foolishly predicting that Republicans would balance budgets and champion a restrained foreign policy for as long as they held power.

I would be proved wrong immediately.

As the new century began, Republicans gained control of the federal government. George W. Bush and the GOP Congress responded by turning a $155 billion surplus into a $1 trillion deficit and doubling the national debt, passing a $7 trillion unfunded entitlement program and promoting a foreign policy so utopian it would have made Woodrow Wilson blush. Voters made Nancy Pelosi speaker of the House in 2006 and Barack Obama president in 2008.

After their well-deserved drubbing, Republicans swore that if voters ever entrusted them with running Washington again, they would prove themselves worthy. Trump’s party was given a second chance this year, but it has spent almost every day since then making the majority of Americans regret it.

The GOP president questioned America’s constitutional system of checks and balances. Republican leaders said nothing. He echoed Stalin and Mao by calling the free press “the enemy of the people.” Republican leaders were silent. And as the commander in chief insulted allies while embracing autocratic thugs, Republicans who spent a decade supporting wars of choice remained quiet. Meanwhile, their budget-busting proposals demonstrate a fiscal recklessness very much in line with the Bush years.

Last week’s Russia revelations show just how shamelessly Republican lawmakers will stand by a longtime Democrat who switched parties after the promotion of a racist theory about Barack Obama gave him standing in Lincoln’s once-proud party. Neither Lincoln, William Buckley nor Ronald Reagan would recognize this movement.

It is a dying party that I can no longer defend.

Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Jon Meacham has long predicted that . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 July 2017 at 9:20 pm

Idaho’s not so libertarian and backing the individual as you probably think

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Conor Dougherty reports in the NY Times:

Idaho achieved a notable distinction last year: It became one of the hardest places in America for someone to quit a job for a better one.

The state did this by making it easier for companies to enforce noncompete agreements, which prevent employees from leaving their company for a competitor.

While its economy is known for agriculture — potatoes are among the state’s biggest exports — Idaho has a long history as a technology hub. And the new law landed in the middle of the tech world, causing a clash between hungry start-ups looking to poach employees and more established companies that want to lock their people in place.

“We’re trying to build the tech ecosystem in Boise,” said George Mulhern, chief executive of Cradlepoint, a company here that makes routers and other networking equipment. “And anything that would make somebody not want to move here or start a company here is going to slow down our progress.”

Alex LaBeau, president of the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry, a trade group that represents many of the state’s biggest employers, countered: “This is about companies protecting their assets in a competitive marketplace.”

Versions of this clash have played out nationwide, as state lawmakers consider whether to make it easier or harder for companies to block workers from jumping to competitors. Both sides in the debate, which bridges party lines, say they are trying to create an environment in which local businesses can thrive.

For the most part, states have been moving toward making it easier for people to switch teams, but Idaho went the other direction with legislation that was friendlier to employers. The resulting law was particularly strict because it put the onus on employees to prove that they would not harm their former employers by taking the new jobs.

Proponents note that the statute applies only to “key employees” who tend to have more responsibility and better pay. But employment lawyers say Idaho companies tie down all levels of workers, not just top executives, with tough employment contracts. And indeed, the new law has roots in a yearslong fight waged by a woman who never finished high school but built a career selling tech-training services, only to be sued when she left for a better-paying job.

The most extreme end of the spectrum is California, which prohibits noncompete agreements entirely. Economists say this was a crucial factor behind Silicon Valley’s rise, because it made it easier for people to start and staff new businesses. But as states like Utah and Massachusetts have tried to move closer to this approach, legislators have run into mature companies trying to hold onto their best employees.

When Mike Schultz, a Republican state representative in Utah, introduced an ultimately successful bill last year to make such agreements harder to enforce, incumbent businesses were his biggest opponents. “But then you had the new entrepreneurs, and most of those guys were in favor of doing away with noncompetes,” he said. “Those are the guys out there growing and trying to hire people.”

A recent survey showed that one in five American workers is bound by a noncompete clause. They cover workers up and down the economic spectrum, from executives to hairdressers. Despite their widespread use, these agreements often catch departing workers off guard because they are rarely highlighted during interviews and are usually tucked inside employment contracts that are full of impenetrable legalese few people can understand.

The growth of restrictive employment contracts dovetails with a broad pattern in the labor market: People don’t quit their jobs as much as they used to. The share of workers changing jobs has been on a long-run decrease since 2000, according to research by the economists Steven J. Davis at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business and John Haltiwanger at the University of Maryland.

One explanation offered by economists is that a bloat of regulations has made it harder for employees to change careers or move across state lines. The barriers include employment contracts and occupational licensing laws that cover a third of the work force and require people to spend months or years training to do even basic service jobs.

The impact has fallen disproportionately on start-ups and high-growth companies, which tend to be against strict employment agreements because they are primarily concerned with growth.

“The noncompete is a two-edged sword,” said Matthew Marx, a professor at Boston University’s Questrom School of Business. “Although it enables companies to retain their employees, it makes it harder for them to recruit workers with relevant experience.”

It also ends up hurting wages, because most people get raises when they switch jobs. This goes far beyond defectors to the economy more broadly, and Idaho’s tech scene shows why.

An Answer to Poaching

Boise is one of America’s most remote metropolitan areas. Despite its Rocky Mountain setting, or perhaps because of it, the city and surrounding suburbs grew to prominence and affluence thanks to homegrown businesses like the semiconductor giant Micron Technology, a former start-up itself, as well as the J. R. Simplot Company and the Albertsons grocery chain.

Over the past several decades, these companies got so big that the city gained a reputation as a hub for Fortune 500 headquarters. Today, however, a new group of entrepreneurs is building on Idaho’s tradition of homespun growth. . .

Continue reading.

“Poaching” is the pejorative term for when a company offers a fair market salary to a person employed at another company that does not pay the employee a fair market salary, and the employee leaves. Companies really don’t like it when employees leave, and they also don’t like to pay competitive salaries, so they turn to the government if they can, in order to keep salaries capped well below fair market value.

Companies, in fact, hate free competition and the free market. They want to play a game that’s rigged in their favor.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 July 2017 at 7:09 pm

Holy moly! UAE hacked Qatari government sites, sparking regional upheaval, according to U.S. intelligence officials

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Karen DeYoung and Ellen Nakashima report in the Washington Post:

The United Arab Emirates orchestrated the hacking of Qatari government news and social media sites in order to post incendiary false quotes attributed to Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad al-Thani, in late May that sparked the ongoing upheaval between Qatar and its neighbors, according to U.S. intelligence officials.

Officials became aware last week that newly analyzed information gathered by U.S. intelligence agencies confirmed that on May 23, senior members of the UAE government discussed the plan and its implementation. The officials said it remains unclear whether the UAE carried out the hacks itself or contracted to have them done. The false reports said that the emir, among other things, had called Iran an “Islamic power” and praised Hamas.

The hacks and posting took place on May 24, shortly after President Trump completed a lengthy counterterrorism meeting with Persian Gulf leaders in neighboring Saudi Arabia and declared them unified.

Citing the emir’s reported comments, the Saudis, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt immediately banned all Qatari media. They then broke relations with Qatar and declared a trade and diplomatic boycott, sending the region into a political and diplomatic tailspin that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has warned could undermine U.S. counterterrorism efforts against the Islamic State. . .

Continue reading.

Tump took it all, hook, line, and sinker. Boy, is he easy to play! Mainly because he lacks most of a State Department and pays no attention to the one he has, plus being totally ignorant of history and foreign policy, and a moron to boot.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 July 2017 at 4:01 pm

Trumping the Empire

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From TomDispatch.com:

[Note for TomDispatch Readers: In September, Dispatch Books will publish the next in our line-up of explorations of imperial America: Alfred McCoy’s remarkable In the Shadows of the American CenturyKirkus Reviews has praised it as “sobering reading for geopolitics mavens and Risk aficionados alike, offering no likely path beyond decline and fall.” Among the impressive range of comments we’ve gotten on it come two from Pulitzer Prize winners. Novelist Viet Thanh Nguyen, author of The Sympathizer, writes that McCoy “persuasively argues for the inevitable decline of the American empire and the rise of China… Let’s hope that Americans will listen to his powerful arguments.” And historian John Dower states that the book “joins the essential short list of scrupulous historical and comparative studies of the United States as an awesome, conflicted, technologically innovative, routinely atrocious, and ultimately hubristic imperial power.” As with all his work since the CIA tried to stifle his classic first book, The Politics of Heroin, back in the early 1970s, McCoy’s is leading-edge stuff and a must-read, so reserve your copy early by clicking here. Tom]

I was 12. It was 1956. I lived in New York City and was a youthful history buff. (I should have kept my collection of American Heritage magazines!) Undoubtedly, I was also some kind of classic nerd. In any case, at some point during the Suez crisis of that year, I can remember going to the U.N. by myself and sitting in the gallery of the General Assembly, where I undoubtedly heard imperial Britain denounced for its attempt to retake the Suez Canal (in league with the French and Israelis). I must admit that it was a moment in my life I had totally forgotten about until historian Alfred McCoy, whose new Dispatch Book, In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power, is due out in September, brought it to mind again. And I certainly hadn’t imagined that Suez might have any applicability to this moment. But almost 16 years after this country’s disastrous “war on terror” was launched and with yet another major Middle Eastern city in rubble, we are undoubtedly witnessing a change in the balance (or imbalance) of power on this unruly planet of ours — and who better to make sense of it than historian McCoy?

Think of him as a modern Edward Gibbon, writing in the twenty-first century on the decline and fall of a great empire. However, unlike Gibbon, who wrote his classic book on Rome centuries after its empire had disappeared from the face of the earth, McCoy has no choice but to deal with American decline contemporaneously — in, that is, the very act of its happening.

I had a canny friend who assured me a couple of decades ago that when European countries finally started saying no to Washington, I’d have a signal that I was on another planet. So we must now be on Mars. I was struck, for instance, by a recent piece in the Guardian describingthe G20 summit as “the ‘G1’ versus the ‘G19.’” In other words, it’s increasingly Donald Trump’s Washington against the world, which is the definition of how not to make an empire work. Since imperial decline may, in fact, have been a significant factor in bringing Donald Trump to power, think of him as both its harbinger and — as McCoy so vividly describes today — its architect. Tom

The Demolition of U.S. Global Power 
Donald Trump’s Road to Debacle in the Greater Middle East 
By Alfred W. McCoy

The superhighway to disaster is already being paved.

From Donald Trump’s first days in office, news of the damage to America’s international stature has come hard and fast. As if guided by some malign design, the new president seemed to identify the key pillars that have supported U.S. global power for the past 70 years and set out to topple each of them in turn. By degrading NATO, alienating Asian allies, cancelling trade treaties, and slashing critical scientific research, the Trump White House is already in the process of demolishing the delicately balanced architecture that has sustained Washington’s world leadership since the end of World War II.  However unwittingly, Trump is ensuring the accelerated collapse of American global hegemony.

Stunned by his succession of foreign policy blunders, commentators — left and right, domestic and foreign — have raised their voices in a veritable chorus of criticism. A Los Angeles Times editorial typically called him “so unpredictable, so reckless, so petulant, so full of blind self-regard, so untethered to reality” that he threatened to “weaken this country’s moral standing in the world” and “imperil the planet” through his “appalling” policy choices. “He’s a sucker who’s shrinking U.S. influence in [Asia] and helping make China great again,” wrote New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman after surveying the damage to the country’s Asian alliances from the president’s “decision to tear up the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade deal in his first week in office.”

The international press has been no less harsh. Reeling from Trump’s denunciation of South Korea’s free-trade agreement as “horrible” and his bizarre claim that the country had once been “a part of China,” Seoul’s leading newspaper, Chosun Ilboexpressed the “shock, betrayal, and anger many South Koreans have felt.” Assessing his first 100 days in office, Britain’s venerable Observer commented: “Trump’s crudely intimidatory, violent, know-nothing approach to sensitive international issues has encircled the globe from Moscow to the Middle East to Beijing, plunging foes and allies alike into a dark vortex of expanding strategic instability.”

For an American president to virtually walk out of his grand inaugural celebrations into such a hailstorm of criticism is beyond extraordinary. Having more or less exhausted their lexicon of condemnatory rhetoric, the usual crew of commentators is now struggling to understand how an American president could be quite so willfully self-destructive.

Britain’s Suez Crisis

Blitzed by an incessant stream of bizarre tweets and White House conspiracy theories, observers worldwide seem to have concluded that Donald Trump is a president like no other, that the situation he’s creating is without parallel, and that his foreign policy is already a disaster without precedent. After rummaging around in history’s capacious closet for some old suit that might fit him, analysts have failed to find any antecedent or analogue to adequately explain him.

Yet just 60 years ago, a crisis in the ever-volatile Middle East overseen by a bumbling, mistake-prone British leader helped create a great power debacle that offers insight into the Trumpian moment, a glimpse into possible futures, and a sense of the kind of decline that could lie in the imperial future of the United States.

In the early 1950s, Britain’s international position had many parallels with America’s today. After a difficult postwar recovery from the devastation of World War II, that country was enjoying robust employment, lucrative international investments, and the prestige of the pound sterling’s stature as the world’s reserve currency. Thanks to a careful withdrawal from its far-flung, global empire and its close alliance with Washington, London still enjoyed a sense of international influence exceptional for a small island nation of just 50 million people. On balance, Britain seemed poised for many more years of world leadership with all the accompanying economic rewards and perks.

Then came the Suez crisis. After a decade of giving up one colony after another, the accumulated stress of imperial retreat pushed British conservatives into a disastrous military intervention to reclaim Egypt’s Suez Canal.  This, in turn, caused a “deep moral crisis in London” and what one British diplomat would term the “dying convulsion of British imperialism.” In a clear instance of what historians call “micro-militarism” — that is, a bold military strike designed to recover fading imperial influence — Britain joined France and Israel in a misbegotten military invasion of Egypt that transformed slow imperial retreat into a precipitous collapse.

Just as the Panama Canal had once been a shining example for Americans of their nation’s global prowess, so British conservatives treasured the Suez Canal as a vital lifeline that tied their small island to its sprawling empire in Asia and Africa. A few years after the canal’s grand opening in 1869, London did the deal of the century, scooping up Egypt’s shares in it for a bargain basement price of £4 million.  Then, in 1882, Britain consolidated its control over the canal through a military occupation of Egypt, reducing that ancient land to little more than an informal colony.

As late as 1950, in fact, Britain still maintained 80,000 soldiers and a string of military bases astride the canal. The bulk of its oil and gasoline, produced at the enormous Abadan refinery in the Persian Gulf, transited through Suez, fueling its navy, its domestic transportation system, and much of its industry.

After British troops completed a negotiated withdrawal from Suez in 1955, the charismatic nationalist leader Gamal Abdel Nasser asserted Egypt’s neutrality in the Cold War by purchasing Soviet bloc arms, raising eyebrows in Washington. In July 1956, after the administration of President Dwight Eisenhower had in response reneged on its promise to finance construction of the Aswan High Dam on the Upper Nile, Nasser sought alternative financing for this critical infrastructure by nationalizing the Suez Canal.  In doing so, he electrified the Arab world and elevated himself to the top rank of world leaders.

Although British ships still passed freely through the canal and Washington insisted on a diplomatic resolution of the conflict, Britain’s conservative leadership reacted with irrational outrage. Behind a smokescreen of sham diplomacy designed to deceive Washington, their closest ally, the British foreign secretary met secretly with the prime ministers of France and Israel near Paris to work out an elaborately deceptive two-stage invasion of Egypt by 250,000 allied troops, backed by 500 aircraft and 130 warships.  Its aim, of course, was to secure the canal.

On October 29, 1956, the Israeli army led by the dashing General Moshe Dayan swept across the Sinai Peninsula, destroying Egyptian tanks and bringing his troops to within 10 miles of the canal. Using this fighting as a pretext for an intervention to restore peace, Anglo-French amphibious and airborne forces quickly joined the attack, backed by a devastating bombardment from six aircraft carriers that destroyed the Egyptian air forceincluding over a hundred of its new MiG jet fighters. As Egypt’s military collapsed with some 3,000 of its troops killed and 30,000 captured, Nasser deployed a defense brilliant in its simplicity by scuttling dozens of rusting cargo ships filled with rocks and concrete at the entrance to the Suez Canal.  In this way, he closed Europe’s oil lifeline to the Persian Gulf.

Simultaneously, U.N. Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld, backed by Washington, imposed a cease-fire after just nine days of war, stopping the Anglo-French attack far short of capturing the entire canal. President Eisenhower’s blunt refusal to back his allies with either oil or money and the threat of condemnation before the U.N. soon forced Britain into a humiliating withdrawal. With its finances collapsing from the invasion’s soaring costs, the British government could not maintain the pound’s official exchange rate, degrading its stature as a global reserve currency.

The author of this extraordinary debacle was Sir Anthony Eden, a problematic prime minister whose career offers some striking parallels with Donald Trump’s. . .

Continue reading.

In the things Trump is doing now, there is no do-over. Events move on. New alliances are made, new agreements are struck. When the US tries to re-engage, it will find that things have changed considerably.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 July 2017 at 2:52 pm

A Trump supporter reveals his blind spot(s)

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I posted an answer to the Quora question “What would it take for Trump voters to finally realize that Trump is a big liar and the danger Russia presents to the US is a serious matter?”

I thought my answer, at the link above, was reasonable and certainly was consistent with the responses I had seen from core Trump supporters. But then one such supporter started a comment thread to the post (click “Comment” beneath the post, then click “All” to see the previous comments). In the thread he perfectly exemplifies the very thing I had discussed in the post.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 July 2017 at 2:33 pm

Turkey thighs in the oven

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I’m making this recipe again, this time with diced pancetta and just a little olive oil. No excess fat this time. I noticed that, aside from the “preserved” lemons and tomatoes, there’s not much acid in the recipe, and the tomatoes are not terribly acidic. So I added 1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar to the pan and to the recipe. This time I followed Mark Bittman’s original suggestion and used red wine as the liquid. Ready in 5 hours.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 July 2017 at 12:20 pm

A great read, profiling an interesting life

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Definitely read this long profile of the guy who more or less created using helicopters for TV news.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 July 2017 at 7:03 am

Posted in Daily life

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