Is a Trade Deal a Panacea?

About this Anglo-American trade deal, which John Bolton says will be a reality. Actually, he says we can do a lot of mini ones, sector by sector, sounds good to me, as it does to a lot of Brits. A bit of a dark cloud over it comes from Stumbling and Mumbling via our friends at Notes on Liberty.  They say this:

Brute facts tell us this. As part of the EU, the UK and Germany have the same trading rules. Last year, however, Germany exported $134bn of goods to the US whereas the UK exported only $65.3bn. Per head of population, Germany’s exports to the US were therefore 60% higher than the UK’s. Much the same is true for other non-EU nations. Last year Germany exported $11.8bn to Australia whilst the UK exported just $5.9bn, a per capita difference of over 50%. German exports to Canada were $12bn whilst the UK’s were $7.3bn, a 28% per capita difference. German exports to Japan, at $24.1bn were 2.2 times as great per head as the UK’s. And German exports to China, at $109.9bn were three times as great per capita as the UK’s $27.7bn.

Now, these numbers refer only to goods where Germany has a comparative advantage over the UK. But they tell us something important. Whatever else is holding back UK exports, it is not trade rules. Germany exports far more than the UK under the same rules.

As for what it is that is holding back exports, there are countless candidates – the same ones that help explain the UK’s relative industrial weakness: poor management; a lack of vocational training; lack of finance or entrepreneurship; the diversion of talent from manufacturing to a bloated financial sector; the legacy of an overvalued exchange rate. And so on.

There is truth in that, but I don’t think it’s the whole truth. One, Germany is something of an outlier, it has designed itself to be dependent on exports, in a sense it is like China that way. And also like China, that makes it vulnerable to events elsewhere.

But there is something else that bothers me with the UK, yes, but even more with all of Europe. They appear to have no confidence in themselves, the EU is essentially an economic Maginot line, not designed to make the members more profitable but to prevent them from going broke.

I pay more attention to the UK, so I see it more there, but I think it pervasive. I see few innovations coming out of any of these countries. The British, like us, used to idolize their inventors and entrepreneurs, now they seem to envy them and attempt to destroy them. And above all, they appear to have become welfare babies, completely unwilling to take a risk, no matter how well-considered. This is especially prevalent in the political realm where absolutely no one will call out the politically correct nonsense that Westminster insists on. This is the primary reason for the Brexit debacle, and perhaps including a fair amount of corruption, as well. Even to the point where the British are losing essential freedoms, like speech, as the government tries to protect the useless mouths. And then there is the seditious BBC (and Channel 4), if you think CNN is fake news, you should try these!

Now mind, this is probably not a majority of Britons (or quite a few other nationalities in Europe) but it does appear to be a majority in the City of London/Westminster, in other words in the political/government/big business sphere. For Britain to truly prosper as it once did, it will somehow have to overcome the blob that is holding it back.

That is something a trade deal cannot do for the British. In truth, we’re fighting the same battle.

The ‘Melting Pot’: Some Lessons

melting_potFirst off, when Jess says she’s been doing some spring cleaning, believe her, she wields quite a broom! But let’s take what she said yesterday, and detail it out a bit.

My background is very similar to hers, except being in the US instead of the UK. But I’ve spent some time in cities, although not really living in any of them, as she is now. But when you study American history, well immigration and how we became Americans is a lot of the story.

She’s decidedly right, no matter how multi-cultural, and multi-racial a society is, most people like to live and work with people that are a good bit like themselves. That becomes somewhat less true as income and education levels increase, but it’s always true. The old WASP acronym NOKD (not our kind, dear) is more about human nature than it is specifically about what we used to call ‘Preppies’. That doesn’t preclude mixing things up, especially in pursuit of a higher goal. Theodore Roosevelt found that cowboys and Yalies got along pretty well, at least in Cuba in the 1st US Volunteer Cavalry (the Rough Riders). Another interesting thing about that unit was that the Lieutenant Colonel was a guy called John Pershing, his nickname was ‘Blackjack’ because he had commanded a troop of the 10th Cavalry, one of the black regiments, the Buffalo Soldiers.

In fact the American military has always had a lot to do, especially in wartime, with bringing our disparate groups together.

But those are exceptional. More common was the Irish migration in the 1840s and 50s. They knew all about discrimination, and that had much to do with why they stuck with their own people. They only began to be accepted during the civil war, and units such as the storied Irish Brigade, from New York, and the Confederate one, from Texas, had much to do with it. They were also overrepresented in the Army during the Indian Wars and provided the bulk of the labor force that built the western railroads.

And if I look back at my own family, they migrated from Norway in the 1880s and 90s, to entire communities of Norwegians, and continued to be Norwegian outposts in mostly Dakota, Minnesota, and Iowa, speaking Norwegian until the First World War. None of that implies that any of those settlers, Irish or Norwegian, or any other, had any real loyalty to anything but the United States, they all gave up almost everything they knew and loved, including most of their families, to come here, but it was hard.

That’s the thing, acculturation is hard, even if you’re fairly similar, like an Irishman in New York, where the laws are even fairly similar, and it simply takes a long time. Is America good at it? Yep, we are, but we’ve never made it easy on anybody, from John Winthrop on down. The melting post is a crockpot (slow cooker) essentially. But you know, Lutefisk is improved by Colman’s mustard and a taste of Jalapeno peppers. It takes generations to acculturate people, usually it starts with the children in school, and often churches have helped. We have found that being a bit hard is good, for instance, a common language is nearly essential, and a common dream is very useful. But expecting somebody to get off the boat and be a fully formed and functioning American (or Christian, for that matter) is quite simply a pipe dream.

We can help, probably more than we ever have, with English as a second language programs, citizenship programs and such. I imagine there are similar things in evangelization, they are a good idea, but we are not going to take a Mexican, or a Syrian, and make them into an instant American, or Scotsman. Can it be done? Not instantly. But, I’m not sure the UK doesn’t have some of those answers itself. It seems to me, as the Empire shrank, and the UK let so many former colonials in, they found that they had indeed, become pretty much Englishmen, even if they looked a good bit different. Like our immigrants, they became what they wanted to be, and they were prepared to do the work necessary to make it so.

And that may be the main lesson: If the immigrants don’t want to acculturate, they won’t, and if they don’t, they weaken the society, not strengthen it. Vetting is essential, especially for permanent residents.

A bit of Nostalgia

I ran across these yesterday and thought you might enjoy them as well.

One for the cousins


And one for us


And a great disaster


What Muslims think: and why do we care

This is definitely worth reading, and thinking about. So much of opinion is driven by polling (or is it, really, maybe polling is driven by something else as well). In any case, this highlights how easy it is to draw false conclusions from polling, especially when viewing filtered results.

Do you have sympathy with young Muslims who leave the UK to join fighters in Syria? It’s a hard question to answer: perhaps you’d wonder who the ‘fighters’ were. Or whether the ‘young Muslims’ were 14-year-old girls, groomed by fanatics to be jihadi brides. But if you answer ‘yes’, you may be surprised to find yourself described as having ‘sympathy for jihadis’. Such are the perils awaiting British Muslims who respond to opinion poll questions.

The Sun this week found itself in a row about a front-page headline: 1 IN 5 BRIT MUSLIMS’ SYMPATHY FOR JIHADIS. The poll, by Survation, had asked a rather different question: what level of ‘sympathy’ the respondents had ‘with young Muslims who leave the UK to join fighters in Syria’. A small proportion — 5 per cent — had ‘a lot of sympathy’, and 15 per cent had ‘some sympathy’. But sympathy lay with the young Brits, not the Isis jihadis — and there is a difference.

It’s the latest of many polls since 9/11 which ask Muslims if they have sympathy for the devil. Typically, these polls declare that a significant minority does. Even if just 5 per cent are found to entertain crazy ideas, it’s then argued, that amounts to 130,000 people. But what is seldom asked is: what about the non-Muslims? Given that you’ll find a significant minority agreeing with any crazy proposition — Elvis still being alive, light sabers being real — how much weight should we attach to the polls which purport to identify embryonic British jihadism? […]

Not so very long ago, Muslims were being left alone and Catholics were being asked whether they had sympathy with IRA attacks. Even in day-to-day politics, those with religious convictions are always interrogated about whether their faith clouds their judgment, while those with secular stances whose judgment may prove equally unsound are left alone. […]

If you torture the data for long enough, you can show anything. Any poll of any group in Britain will always find a small minority supporting the bizarre or the deplorable — that doesn’t make the whole group gullible, or crazy. And it certainly doesn’t mean that the average British Muslim harbours any sympathy for the Islamic State.

Source: What Muslims think » The Spectator

If you remember, it was Mark Twain you commented that “Figures don’t lie, but liars can figure”. Sometimes the lies are innocent and inadvertent, but sometimes they aren’t. And even innocent lies are not the truth, and we shouldn’t be navigating ships of state by them. I don’t know how British Moslems feel about IS, and they don’t either. Every one of us has a plethora of feelings and they vary from hour to hour depending on what we just watched, read, or happened in the world.

The answer for us, and for our countries as well, is to do what we think is right, and just, without regards to polls. We have the same right to exist, prosper, and be happy as anyone else, so there is no need to defer to lowlifes as ISIS. We deserve to live our lives in peace, and that is the first obligation of our governments, along with guaranteeing our freedom. It’s a hard job, but hey, they volunteered. And we’re paying them pretty well, too.

Leftover Turkey Day and How Do We Solve a Problem Like Syria

English: Iraq Defense Minister Abdul Qadir pre...

English: Iraq Defense Minister Abdul Qadir presents a gift to U.S. Army General David Petraeus during a farewell ceremony in Baghdad on September 15, 2008. Petraeus turned over command of Multi-National Forces – Iraq to Army General Raymond Odierno on September 16. Petraeus has served in three command positions in Iraq since 2003. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A little bit of leftover business from Jess’ new post yesterday, she also had a message for us as Americans:

As some of you know, I spent a year in America when I was younger, and that intensified a love of America that came from a crush on John Wayne and a love of American films. It’s so easy, looking and admiring that great nation, to forget how precarious were its origins, and now, with so much political correctness, almost to have to apologise for them. But those brave Pilgrims might easily have suffered the fate of those Vikings who had tried to establish settlement much earlier, and in fact almost did suffer that fate. But their faith in God which led them to cross a vast ocean in vulnerable wooden ships, kept them firm and saw them through. May that be said of us all – and let us always give thanks to Him who alone is truly worthy of all thanks and praise.

I don’t think truer words were ever spoken written.

 But that isn’t to say that all of our problems are due to political correctness, although it has much to do with why we can’t seem to solve them. As Jess and I both know, in order to solve a problem first you have to define it, and then define a plan for dealing with it. And that is much of the problem with IS (which someone this week defined as Islamic Scumbags, which I like). A retired British officer wrote about this in The Spectator this week. You need to read the whole article, but I’m going to give you a few highlights.

Like most British soldiers of my generation, I fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. Few would now justify the reasons for invading Iraq; most of us who fought there at first recognised the amateurish nature of the strategy and its lack of realistic political objectives. But in 2007, under General Petraeus, the coalition adopted a new strategy that was underpinned by coherent policy. This stemmed from the recognition that unless common cause was found with moderate Sunnis, a workable Iraqi polity could never be established.

The rapid improvements that flowed from this change were impressive but disgracefully shortlived. The US departure from Iraq in 2010 allowed the Shi’ite Nuri Al Maliki a free rein to threaten Sunni interests and explains the Iraqi half of today’s tragedy in the Middle East.

In the other half, the West has shown similar strategic illiteracy in Syria. Efforts to excite opposition to Assad were unsupported by even the remotest understanding of what might follow. Just as with Saddam and Gaddafi, no credible alternative to Assad waits in the wings.

Part of this stems from the crisis of confidence experienced by both the US and UK as a result of Iraq and Afghanistan. The prevailing judgment is that all interventions are ill-advised, especially those involving boots on the ground. The best the West can do is to bomb from a safe distance and make half-hearted efforts to raise local militias. Bombing and drone strikes have their place if properly targeted, but no aircraft has ever held ground. Without western forces, local militias will continue to be highly unreliable.

[…] Until there is a change of policy, Obama is unlikely to provide the lead that he should. And Cameron has shown no appetite to have the sort of relationship that Churchill had with his military chiefs, preferring instead the advice of his intelligence agencies. Agency heads can give you the intelligence, but they are unqualified to determine the solutions.

(Emphasis mine) I think that is a good nutshell description of the problems we face in the UK and US.

The House of Commons should therefore ask itself the following questions:

— What is the political objective and is it realistic?

— Can a grand coalition of the willing be created under US leadership which can coalesce around the same political objective?

— If a grand coalition cannot be created (without for instance Russia and Iran), how would this affect the strategy?

— What military resources will be needed to achieve the objective?

— If, for political reasons, the right military means are judged unacceptable (notably ground forces), then would doing nothing be better than doing something?

— After the political objective has been achieved, are we willing to show strategic patience and stay the course?

If the government can produce sensible answers to these questions, then its strategy should be supported. But if not, the House of Commons would be wise to wait.

So emphatically should Congress, because we know the executive hasn’t the knowledge or the will to, and it should resume its rightful place as one of the keys of the American system, which seems nearly as doubtful, as is anybody doing the work of defining this problem and then its solution.

As I said above, you should read the whole article. It is: How to defeat Isis, by a retired British commander.


This Column Is Exactly What ISIS Wants

paris-attack-friday-13 (1)This insane silliness is beeing heard all over the formerly free world.

Because when we argue for the annihilation of terrorists, the terrorists win.

President Obama was in Manila yesterday getting worked up about the only thing that really grinds his gears, the GOP. “I cannot think of a more potent recruitment tool for ISIL than some of the rhetoric that’s been coming out of here,” he said of Republicans, who were demanding a pause in the influx of Syrian refugees.

Oh, c’mon! Not one? I can. In fact, I can think of a bunch, because ever since Paris was attacked by a group of religiously unaffiliated men who happened to also yell “Allahu Akbar!” before randomly shooting civilians, liberals have offered an array of conceivable causes for the proliferation of terrorism. There’s Republican rhetoric, of course. Climate change. People drawing mean cartoons about Islam. Blowback for various wars Americans have started without any provocation whatsoever.

The problem is that no matter what the GOP says these days it is “doing exactly what ISIS wants” — the most popular platitude this side of ‘those Syrian refugees are just like Baby Jesus.’

ISIS wants war, you say? Well, it doesn’t matter how many civilians it beheads or how many mass graves it fills or how many Western cities they terrorize, we’re not going to give into those bastards! Because when we annihilate the terrorists, we’re doing exactly what they want.

Source: This Column Is Exactly What ISIS Wants

Maybe we should quit worrying so much about what ISIS wants, and concentrate on what we want, say and end to ISIS. If we did that it might be clearer what the path forward is.

Then there is this, Powerline:


One of my friends in intel in Europe said tonight they got one cell in France but they believe there are others in Belgium, Spain, Germany and “other countries.” Their big worry at the moment is the possibility that these guys are trained or training to do swarm attacks on soft targets in major cities, where 2-4 guys drive to a location, shoot everyone in sight, then drive to another location, repeat, etc., until the police catch up to them. Since the police are always responding to the last place hit, there’s a certain amount of luck involved.

I commented that we’re very unprepared for that and he said the Europeans are even more unprepared, especially the British, where the cops don’t have guns (most of them). Imagine if you had three or four carloads of guys driving around to predetermined locations, shooting and scooting, how quickly the law enforcement response would be overwhelmed. It is, I have to say, a very low tech but rather daunting, not to mention frightening possibility.


That is, I suspect, a tactic that is going to be hard to counter, and as they said, especially in Europe, which long ago became supposedly a gun-free zone. Or as we call them here, ‘a target’/


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