Across the pond

A couple of stories from across the pond in America have caught my eye recently, the sort that may have been overlooked by the media over here…

US Cadbury ban
Ex-pats and other fans of UK made Cadbury’s chocolate products are currently stockpiling large quantities of their favourites, as a ban on the British made stuff is about to come into effect to prevent “brand confusion”…or perhaps because the leading US firm Hershey doesn’t want to face up to any competition.

You may enquire, don’t we have a free trade agreement with the US? How can they just ban stuff like this? Well because there are loopholes in such trade agreements covering issues such as health regulations, corporate branding and environmental legislation. And suffice to say, there ain’t a lot a lawyer needs to drive a bus thro such rules.

If you think they’re being a bit hard on Cadbury, try buying Haggis in the US or Marmite and Irn Bru! It is literally easier to buy crack cocaine in parts of the US, given the consequences of US government regulations. Yes, to the yanks an AR-15 or uzi can be safely handled by a 11 year old, but letting people eat offal or drink a can of ginger is just downright reckless endangerment. :??:

Americans like to pride themselves on being the land of free enterprise and small government, however the reality is that they are nothing of the sort. Many of the same Tea party type who wave their “get big government off my back” placards will be the first to start whinging if foreign or out of state competition threatens their jobs. Congressmen in Washington therefore come under enormous pressure, both from well funded lobby groups for one industry or another, as well as from their constituents, to try and protect jobs within their state and free markets be damned.

Good examples include the US steel industry, the debacle over the KC-X tanker aircraft (where a European aircraft beat a US designed one to the contract, prompting congress to restart the competition & re-write the rules to make sure the “right” aircraft won), generous farm subsidies (which makes it almost impossible for other food producers in Africa or South America to compete on grain prices) as well as the Medicare budget (a massive free subsidy to big pharma) as well as numerous subsidies to the US fossil fuels and nuclear industry.

And if you think that Congress is bad, the individual US states are even worse. Take for example, the recent banning of sales of electric cars from Tesla Motors in several US states. In part this was due to the pathological hatred of many Republicans for anything green, but mostly it was done to protect vested interests in the established auto industry, as well as jobs in local auto dealers from an upstart company like Tesla.

These policies are so engrained in the US political system it can lead to all sorts of laughable absurdities. Such as arch-climate denier Rick Perry talking up the success of Texas wind farms in reducing America’s carbon footprint (Texas has more wind farms now than any other US state). The rest of the GOP seems to develop selective deafness whenever this comes up. Same as the Democrats will ignore one of their own from a coal mining state voting against the president on any climate change issue. As its assumed that he will do whatever needed to protect local jobs, regardless of the implications for party politics….or the polar bears!

I’m reminded of the situation in Nigeria, whereby corruption is so endemic within the country, its simply assumed that any politician who wins office will “share the cake”, i.e. reward his friends and family with cosy jobs and kick backs. A politician who actually tried to tackle the country’s corruption would likely be in for a very short stint in power and likely be ostracised by his community afterwards.

Anyway, I bring this matter up as it does represent one of the dangers with UKIP and the Tory proposals for leaving the EU. Crucial to such a move would be securing a free trade agreement with both the EU and most of the rest of the world (as existing treaties with other trading blocs would have to be renegotiated). And much like the SNP seemed to assume they were entitled by right to sharing Sterling, there is no guarantee whatsoever that UKIP will get what they want here.

But as events in the US show, even if they get a free trade agreement with the EU, it will be all too tempting in many situations for politicians, either side of the channel, with jobs in their district under threat, to try and find loopholes in any such trade agreements allowing them to restrict the sale of UK goods (or visa versa).

As one libertarian blogger points out (hardly the sort of person we can accuse of pro-EU basis) if a company ships its goods across the channel and the French ceases them (for a perfectly legal custom’s inspection….which they are then very slow to complete), what is he supposed to do in a Brexit situation? Well at the moment he could go directly to the EU or failing that his MEP…hoping and praying that MEP isn’t a member of UKIP, as they aren’t terribly active in their jobs. With the UK outside of the EU, it has to be raised with the department of Trade, who talk to Foreign affairs, who would then talk to the EU (possibly via the WTO), who would then pass it down the food chain the other side. And knowing how governments work that means it would be six months to year before anything gets done (in the best of circumstances), by which stage most SME’s will have run out of operating capital and gone bust, rendering the whole argument moot.

So anyone in UKIP deluded enough to think that leaving the EU won’t have a negative economic impact (for some crazy reason some seem to think it will have a positive impact!) is living in cloud cuckoo land.

Climate liabilities
Its becoming increasingly difficult for climate change deniers to counter the weight of evidence in support of anthropogenic climate change. Increasingly deniers are forced into relying on crack pot conspiracy theories that often accuse scientists of being part of some giant global conspiracy. When its pointed out to them that such claims are libellous, they promptly retreat behind the bastion of free speech, that they are usually very quick to deny their critics, on issues such as gun control for example.

However, a court in Canada has now ruled that no, this isn’t a free speech issue, such comments are libellous and has awarded a cash settlement to a climate scientist who had been accused by a tabloid of having “a warmist agenda”. This case does have much wider implications, notably as a much larger and more significant case is looming between Micheal Mann and the Republican CEI and National Review.

It is perhaps worth reflecting on the fact that what shut the tobacco lobby up wasn’t government legislation, but a constant barrage of expensive litigation. Could we be seeing the start of the same for the fossil fuel lobby?

US Measles epidemic
There’s a measles epidemic ongoing in the US. While infection rates are low so far (as in “only” a few thousand) but one of the problems with this disease is its highly contagious nature and hence its ability to spread like wildfire. This is having all sorts of implications, with health advice to avoid bringing kids to parks, public areas or daycare centres.

And just so we’re clear, measles is not a harmless disease. While many of those reading this blog, who got measles before vaccines were widely available, may not have suffered serious ill effects. Keep in mind that globally, measles kills tens of thousands per year. So the advice would be, vaccinate you’re kids and get vaccinated yourself if you’re not sure you’ve had it.

Who do we have to blame for this? Well, all of these tinfoil hat wearing anti-vaccine types…who seem to have a habit of also being climate change deniers as well as believing in other crack pot conspiracies (MH17, 9/11 was a setup, Kennedy, etc.). Are they willing to admit their error? well no, of course not!

Ultimately one could argue the real disease here isn’t measles, but a condition called Republican Mental Lock-in Syndrome :crazy:. Whereby, those on the right can’t admit that they are wrong about anything, ever. Even when confronted with overwhelming evidence to the contrary, they will instead perform acts of extreme mental gymnastics to concoct all sorts of outlandish conspiracy theories to satisfy their ego.

Scary Nukes
An ongoing story that’s some elements of the US media have been ignoring is the state of America’s nuclear weapons. Crippled by funding and obsolete and maintenance hungry equipment, questions are being raised as to the safety and reliability surrounding America’s nuclear arsenal. Some stories talk of blast proof doors propped open with a crow bar (as the mechanism has failed), of missile units with only one set of tools (so they can only do maintenance on one missile at a time….they have to Fed Ex the tool kit around and hope it doesn’t get lost in the post when a war starts!). Oh, and apparently the computers that arm the missile rely on floppy disks….and I mean the really big old floppies! 88|

To make matters worse, morale within the US nuclear weapons program is very low. :zz: Largely because if you want to kill your career as a US officer, the surest way to do so, is to go on Armageddon watch. While you’re fellow officers are getting that all important front line experience, or learning new skills (useful in their future career outside the military), you’re stuck in a bunker underneath hicksville, playing solitaire while surrounded by equipment that should have become museum exhibits many decades ago. Indeed one has to question whether its such a good idea to put clinically depressed officers in charge of the nukes? |-|

Either way, so long as country’s like the US choose to have nuclear weapons, they have an obligation to maintain these weapons in a safe and secure manner. And personally I’d question the point of spending hundreds of billions on a weapon system you don’t plan on ever using. And if the US, or other superpowers, are unable to maintain their stockpiles then they have invalidated their right retain them.


2 thoughts on “Across the pond

    • Coke is perfectly safe, its made from natural ingredients including…well…coke!

      I think its that slogan of Irn bru “made from girders” that confused the Americans, they are known to not understand the concept of irony.


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