Trump the African Dictator

We were warned by Trevor Noah, prior to the election, that Trump sounded a lot like an African dictator. Unfortunately, every day he and his regime are becoming ever more like one. The constant posturing for the sake of his ego, the lavish personal spending, the inability to accept criticism and of course the massive levels of corruption.

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Your tax dollars hard at work….

Trump promised to “drain the swamp” but instead, he’s done the opposite, with his cronies and family members increasingly using the assets of state for as their personal play things, be it to go shopping in Europe, holidays, or business trips abroad. The Secret service is at risk of going bankrupt given the huge bill its run up guarding Trump during his trips to Florida every weekend (where the state pays the cost of putting him up in his own hotel) or protecting and providing transport for his relatives on business trips to sign deals abroad, something that is in clear violation of the constitution.

Again, this is all reminiscent of the sort of corruption African autocrats are famous for. However, there is another aspect of African autocracies that Trump demonstrates – his supporters. African dictators maintain their hold on power through violence and intimidation of voters (which least we forget, Trump supporters also engaged in last election), but that only goes so far. A key feature of their rule is the fact that they have a core group of supporters, typically 20-33% of the population who will back them no matter what.

Make no mistake, the supporters of African dictators such as Mugabe or Obiang Nguema are well aware of the corruption and abuse of power that goes on. But they back such dictators regardless of this, because they are a member of the same tribe. Indeed, some even see a silver lining to such corruption as they expect the dictator to “share the cake. They look the other way to him embezzling billions in state funds in the hope that a few crumbs fall from the table which they can scoop up. Indeed, a candidate who actually ran on a promise to “drain the swamp” would probably lose votes.

And this is the role many in the Republican party have now fallen into. Many still back Trump not because they are unaware of the corruption allegations, or because they don’t understand just how serious his abuse of office is. Actually quite the opposite. The GOP is now a tribe, a cargo cult and they see it as necessary that they back their leader regardless of how bad he gets or how big a cliff he dives the country off.

This in of itself suggests that the conventional wisdom, that we must merely wait for investigations against Trump to conclude and see him impeached, or wait for the next election and see the GOP devastated in polls, might not work. If he’s this bad now and a hard core of the GOP are still backing up, its not going to be that straight forward to unseat him. And don’t expect future elections in the US to be free and fair.

Instead, we need to start treating Trump the same way that any African autocrat is treated if he is to be removed from power. And that means recognising that the checks and balances aren’t going to work. It means refusing to recognise his office and refusing to do business with any firm that does business with him or his companies (a list here, TK Maxx and Amazon being the key ones in the UK, along with Uber of course).

Indeed a boycott of US industry as a whole (encouraging firms to re-register themselves abroad and thus threatening a collapse in tax revenue) is really the only way forward. Its exactly how they brought down the apartheid regime in South Africa.

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The trouble with trade: Walmart

One has to worry about the consequences of a US/UK trade deal. As I’ve said before, getting a trade deal isn’t the problem, its the concession the UK will inevitably be forced to accept as part of that deal.

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This week Liam Fox tried to argue that on the one hand they’d ban chlorinated chicken from the UK and in the same sentence so what if we do allow it. Well if you adopt the first position, banning US food products and cars (many of the larger SUV’s will fail current UK/EU environmental standards) the Americans will respond in kind and what exactly will we be trading with the US? On the other hand, if you allow Chlorinated chicken or steroids in beef, you’ll be cutting yourself off from the EU market.

A case in point of everything that is wrong with the US is Walmart. For those unfamiliar with Walmart they are a large supermarket chain known for engaging in fairly unethical practices. Quite often they’ll move into a town and quickly put all of the local business out of business very quickly, turning a once thriving high street into a ghetto. Walmart often offer a full comprehensive range of services. You can get groceries, firearms, fast food and have your car’s wheel’s balanced while you wait. So when I say all of the business in the high street goes, I mean all of it.

As the company is run and operated by a family of staunch neo-conservatives, they have been known to use their companies de-facto monopoly on sales to censor content of  books, CD’s or videos solid in their store. So while they’ll allow you to buy Die Hard with vengeance (despite is sex and violence), they’ll rate anything from Michael Moore as “non family friendly” and ban it from their shelves.

And they achieve their monopoly by vastly undercutting the competition, something they can do by squeezing their suppliers mercilessly. They squeeze their staff salaries so far that many are dependant on welfare. Of course this means indirectly Walmart are in receipt of subsidy from the state and they are often able to pressure counties and towns into offering them tax breaks or free highway construction in return for them setting up in an area (big government get off my back…accept when its propping up my monopoly). And they have a harsh anti-union policy. Any time a union has been successfully established in a Walmart, they’ve shut the store down.

But the problems with Walmart get worse when they decide to leave. After having milked a community dry, destroyed the town centre and devastated the local business community, they are known to just up and leave, often simply because of a slight drop in sales, usually because the local economy is struggling through some temporary problem.

Of course this means the largest employer in said town disappears overnight, making a bad situation much worse, while leaving locals with a long drive to the next town over to get basic groceries. In short it can lead a once vibrant town to basically die, all some very rich people with more money than they know what to do with, can get that little bit richer.

Now granted, the UK has its fare share of problems with aggressive supermarkets and town’s desperate for cash willing to bend over backwards to help them, even when they should really tell them to piss off. For example in Oxford they have a wonderful covered market, which the council (desperate for cash due to the austerity) has raised the rent on local traders by 50% …..twice….leading many to fear for its survival. Meanwhile they’ve been offering tax breaks to the likes of Starbucks to set up in town and paying for road infrastructure to the benefit of Tesco’s.

The difference in the UK is that there are laws limiting the size of supermarkets, protecting small business from monopolistic pressure and employees from union busting companies. Now, I would argue the trouble is that these laws don’t go far enough and are sometimes broken by the supermarkets (who know they can get away with a lack of enforcement). But post-brexit there is a very real risk that all of these protections will disappear as part of any trade deal. So we could well see ASDA (owned by Walmart) pursuing a Walmart like reign of destruction across many of the UK’s small market towns. So if you voted for brexit, congrats, because this, like so many things, this is what you voted for.

To shoot and terrorise

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The shocking murder of a Australian women at the hands of US police last week has highlighted the massive problem that American gun culture has created. If being killed by one of the millions of people with guns in the country wasn’t enough of a risk, there’s also the risk of being killed by the cops who are supposed to be there to protect them. The statistics speak for themselves, you are 70 times more likely to be killed by the police in American than you are in the UK and 28 times more likely than in Germany.

Of course, was this story about someone who was black, or a migrant from Mexico rather than Australia, it probably won’t have attracted this much attention. But at least the cops in Minneapolis are being consistent in their cover up (equal opportunities incompetence). The body cameras were suspiciously turned off at the time (as was the dash cam on their car). They’re claiming they heard a loud noise, then they said they feared an ambush (from a blonde woman in her PJ’s?), which all sounds a bit like the excuses Oscar Pistorius was making after he murdered his girlfriend. Next thing you know they’ll claim the dog ate the evidence.

There is in essence a fatal flaw in the right to bare arms mantra of the the NRA. Ya, you’ve got the right to bare arms, but those rights also give the cops the right to blow you away (or anyone else who looks suspicious). Tell the cops they can take your gun from your cold dead hands and they’ll say, well suit yourself, bang!

Now this is not to say there haven’t been deaths at the hands of police in the UK. For example the death of Jean Charles de Menezes at the hands of British police (they thought the Brazilian was a suicide bomber) or the death of Ian Tomlinson (which they initially tried to blame on anti-capitalist protestors). But you’re talking a handful of incidents every now and then, compared to what is a daily event in the US.

And again this is only a fraction of the 33,636 total gun deaths in the US per year, nearly a hundred a day. As the BBC recently reported (in a documentary), in one weekend back in 2015 there was 184 shootings and 87 deaths.

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In the US a gun owner is statistically 5 times more likely to accidentally shoot himself or be killed by the cops than he is to be killed by a terrorist

In short the carnage on the streets of the US is many times worse than that inflicted by ISIS in recent attacks across Europe. It is to say the least deeply ironic how the NRA try to use the fear of terrorism to justify mass gun ownership. In truth, it is no wonder there’s not been many terrorist attacks in the US, because ISIS knows they’d struggle to kill any number significant enough to feature as more than a blip on the total US firearms related deaths per year or even per day.

Of course the reason why US cops are so jittery is precisely because of this high gun crime rate. They know full well that right to carry laws and lax gun controls means every little incident they get called out too, be it a drunk being rowdy, a domestic incident or a cat up a tree in the wrong part of town could result in them facing a stand off against an armed attacker. Every hobo, kid or any sudden movement could be someone with an AR-15 looking to blow them away.

By contrast, police are less jittery in Europe because its a lot less likely they’ll encounter someone armed with a gun. Now while it is true that some European countries have very strict gun laws, Ireland or the UK for example, this isn’t true across all of Europe. Joerg Sprave discusses German gun laws on his vlog and as he reveals you can buy quite a lot of firearms in Germany legally, even things like the MP5 (which is banned in many US states!). Switzerland too has fairly liberal gun laws. The difference between these countries and the US is that there is no 2nd amendment, you have no right to bare arms, the state may allow you to do so (but its at their discretion), if you can prove you have a legitimate reason to want to own one (and saying you want to shoot people or for self defence will generally mean instant disqualification) and you’re not a criminal or insane.

There’s also few carry laws in Europe and how firearm incidents are treated is very different. In short, if you bring a gun into any situation, regardless of the circumstances, e.g. you caught a burglar in you’re own home and he attacked you, you’ll be going to jail unless you can explain how it is you happened to be armed at the time and why you had no other choice (in Germany guns must be kept in a locked gun safe and the ammo in a separate location, so the cops would legitimately question how you could find and load the gun in advance).

And keep in mind, as Joerg also points out in another video, German self defence laws are anything but liberal, they give you quite a lot of leeway to defend yourself, family, property or even your honour. But the one thing they don’t give you the right to do, is act like an asshole and run around with a gun, while drunk or stoned mumbling about your 2nd amendment rights.

Now granted the situation isn’t universal across Europe. In the UK you catch a burglar in your house you are practically obliged to invite him downstairs for some tea and crumpets. But my point is that while there are guns in circulation in Europe, they are more strictly controlled.

So while police in Europe do need to be wary of the possibility of a gun appearing in any incident, it is a fairly rare event. Criminals in Europe, while they will have access to firearms, they will generally not carry them around on a routine basis because A) that would give the cops a reason to arrest them straight away and B) they can’t get a gun license (because, oddly enough, we don’t allow those with a criminal record to own a gun in Europe), so any firearm they acquire will be via the black market, which will be very expensive. Hence, the cops this side of the Atlantic aren’t as jittery as police in the US.

Yes, they will encounter the odd dump street punk who takes things too far (or a jihadi), but these are rare events. As a UK drug cop once told me, you can tell when your dealing with hardened criminals, because they will never get caught with anything incriminating, chill out straight away, not say a word (other than “where’s my lawyer?”) and co-operate fully. Its the angry young crack heads who start shouting and running their mouth (with the cop diligently writing it all down in their little notebook, while going ya, ya, sure mate as they searching him/his car/home and finding plenty to lock him up on) those are the ones you have to watch out for, as they can kick off at the drop of a hat.

So all in all, one has to conclude that the high rate of police deaths (if not gun deaths in general) in the US are clearly a result of America’s lax gun laws. And naturally incidents like this unfortunate event in Minneapolis simply breeds distrust in the cops and the authorities.

Worryingly, this might well be the entire intent of the extreme gun policy taken by Republicans. As this article discusses there’s been a long standing effort by some wealthy neo-liberals to destroy trust in US institutions, as this strengthens their hand. If nobody trusts the police, they’ll turn to vigilante’s and private armies, which means any billionaire becomes immune to prosecution, because there’s no way he can be arrested.

And Trump plays into this. His supporters, even though they are all too aware that he colluded with the Russians, is engaging in African dictator level corruption in the White house, simply don’t care, they’ll back him whatever happens. Which is exactly what the rich elites want. By undermining the office of the president, Trump ensures it will scarcely matter who is president in future, it could be Ralph Nader, Bernie Sanders or Jeb Bush, they will essentially be a toothless figure head.

And the thing gun advocates need to realise is that sooner or later a crack down is going to come (not least because once these lax gun laws have served their purpose the Republicans will turn against them). People will tire of the carnage and they’ll vote for parties who will change things.

Its worth remembering that while the 2nd amendment is quite old, how it is interpreted now is a relatively new phenomenon in the history of the US gun legislation, barely a decade or two old. Prior to this the situation was very different. So by wedding the 2nd amendment to this carnage, they are simply guaranteeing that if and when that crack down comes, it will be repealed, all of their gun rights will go and they will look on the “liberal” gun laws of Europe with envious eyes.

Comey Fired

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As you’ve probably heard Trump has fired FBI chief James Comey for the controversial manner in which he handled the investigations into Clinton’s emails. To be fair this is no real surprise, as I mentioned at the time, if anything Comey should have not only been fired, but prosecuted. His actions directly effected the outcome of the election. Recall that Hilary was well ahead in the polls prior to Comey announcing his new investigation (which then disappeared due to lack of any evidence a few days later), and recall that she won the popular vote and was only denied the presidency as a result of a few thousand votes in one or two states.

What is a cause for concern is how Trump went from praising Comey for this before the election, yet now he’s firing him for it! And given that Comey recently began asking for additional resources for his investigation of Trump’s connections to Russia, needless to say one is forced to put two and two together. Trump claims he’s acting on the advice of Jeff Sessions, his attorney general. However Sessions was also cheerleading Comey on prior to the election.

To say the least, it looks dodgy as hell. Now had Trump put together an independent panel to investigate Comey (and several others involved in this pre-election leak) and left it up to the courts and the house justice committee to sort out (this would probably have been Hilary’s response if she had won) then fair enough. But this sudden action is very suspicious. And for someone who is supposedly very good at firing people, Trump really screwed this one up. He fired Comey by e-mail. Apparently Comey only found out by watching a news report, which he initially thought of as a prank. One could scarcely think of a worse way to fire someone.

Ultimately, the real mistake Comey made (as did Putin) above all else, was trusting Trump. If there’s anything we’ve learnt since January is that Trump can’t be trusted, nor relied upon. Ask any of his former business partners and they’ll tell you how they got screwed over by this two faced, lying, megalomanic. I mean he spent half of Comey’s sacking letter talking about himself. The reality of the Trump administration is that there is no grand master plan. He’s literally winging it as he goes along and he has no thought for the consequences of his actions.

Of course, the real surprise, or maybe its not so much of a surprise, is the sound of silence from the GOP. While the democrats seem quite keen to launch an investigation (the first phase of a presidential impeachment), the Republican policy seems to be to stick their fingers in their ears and say nah, nah, nah not listening. Yet they were talking of impeaching Hilary in her ball gown!

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The Republicans are such hypocrites. The truth is they don’t care about the possibility that we have a Russian agent in the White House, they don’t seem to mind the fact that Trump’s openly abusing his office for financial gain, nor that he’s a sex fiend whose had to pay out millions in compo (I mean religion’s clearly not that important to republicans!). And they completely ignored Comey’s violation of electoral laws, same as they ignored G.W. Bush and his illegal war built on lies. But Hilary sending a few emails from home or Bill engaging in some boorish behaviour (wrong yes, but mild compared to what we know Trump has gotten up too) are the worst crimes in world history.

The reality is that the Republicans simply see politics as some sort of sick twisted game. They don’t care about the long term consequences for the world or their country, they just want to win and win by whatever means necessary.

The libertarian slavery paradox

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The Political compass as libertarians see it

I happened to be watching the remake of the TV series Roots recently (based on the Alex Haley novel) and it did occur to me how it creates a bit of a troubling problem for libertarians. They like to see themselves as the ultimate liberals at the opposite end of the political compass to nazi’s and authoritarians. However I would argue that logic would dictate that any libertarian society would inevitably eventually become a slave owning society.

Think about it, in a libertarian society if someone owes you money or compensation for something, how do you get them to pay? Let’s suppose someone did a shoddy job tiling your roof, or he ran over your 6 year old kid and she’s now paralysed for life and needs expensive treatment, or someone simply defaults on their loans to a bank without paying (which is bad news for savers, recall there will be no federal insurance on banks under libertarianism, if enough borrowers default the bank goes under). Without a government, in a libertarian society with lax law enforcement and little to no regulations means that courts will be toothless. And without some sort of authority to enforce the law people, in particular the wealthy with their vast fortunes and private armies, can simply ignore the law. And those at the very bottom, can simply shrug their shoulders and say, well I’m broke, I’ve got nothing to pay with, I own no property, so your screwed, now if you’ll excuse me I’m going to go get drunk, then drive to the park and fire my gun at squirrels near where your children play.

And the thing is that this wouldn’t only be allowed in a libertarian society, it would be considered a perfectly moral act. Libertarians often claim to follow the philosophy of Objectivism, which basically amounts to saying that its okay to be a selfish jerk and that being a kind and caring person who gives the slightest thought for others is morally wrong. In such a society, it would be considered okay to default on debts and basically screw everyone else over. This will be normal. But if everyone did that, society would quickly fall apart. Banks won’t lend money to anybody, even those with good credit. Doctors would refuse treatment without payment up front (and patients with any sense would refuse to pay until the treatment was completed). Without some sort of a system (let’s call it “a government”) to make sure people honour their obligations, the whole economy would unravel.

Now libertarians would say, oh but we’ll just have this code of honour whereby if anyone does something bad we’ll give them a terrible review on Facebook or something. Ya, and is that actually going to help? Donald Trump went bankrupt four times, you’d think after the 2nd time people would have learnt the lesson not to lend him money. You’d think nobody, least of all libertarians would have voted for him, but here we are. There are a host of well known scams around, many of them simply modern takes on old con tricks, yet thousands still fall for them every day.

They have this TV programme on UK TV called “Rogue Traders” where they set up a sting operation and catch various con-artists, dodgy used car salesmen, telemarketing fraudsters, cowboy builders and rogue tradesmen and then essentially name and shame them. Thing is, very few end up out of business. Some of them keep appearing in multiple episodes, sometimes under a new name or sometimes openly trading under the same name (one even put “as seen on rogue traders” on the side of his van!). Generally what’s stopped these people becoming season regulars is that the authorities eventually caught up with them and put them out of business.

But in a libertarian society there’s no authority and no social safety net. So how do you enforce any sort of law or civil suit? My guess is that what will happen is when the repo men arrive to cart away someone’s stuff, if they don’t find enough stuff to pay the debt, they’ll take away the debtor and his family and force them to work off the debt. This is pretty much how slavery worked in a number of society’s throughout history and how the practice of bonded labour works to this day.

Now libertarians will no doubt say, no we’ll outlaw slavery. But its going to be impossible to enforce that when the rich and the powerful have their own private goon squad. And unfortunately even in this day and age there’s several parts of the world where bonded labour is still practised, despite laws outlawing the practice. And it tends to occur in places where the government’s authority is weak or corrupt. For example in Somalia and Libya, countries with little in the way of government and lots of guns (as close to a libertarian society as you’ll find!) there are active slave markets.

And there’s the second problem for libertarians, democracy would collapse pretty quickly in a libertarian society. Taking objectivism to its logical conclusion, the easiest way to win an election is to bribe election officials and intimidate voters. e.g. the wealthy landowner threatens mass evictions, the billionaire says his goons will go on the rampage if they don’t win the election. This is how African dictators can win elections with margins of +90%. And even if the wealthy lose the election, they can simply ignore anything the government does that they don’t like, as they are essentially untouchable in a libertarian society.

In a society whereby the wealthy can grow their fortunes unchecked and utilise the power it gives them without any checks or balances, then it becomes essentially impossible to have a democratic and free society. Take for example Rockfeller or the other billionaire’s of the “robber baron” era. With no government to break up his monopoly (and an Objectivist philosophy that basically said it would be morally wrong for him to give anything away to charity) his fortune would have grown even larger, his descendants would now not only control 90% of the US oil supply, but probably 90% of the US energy supply as well as many public utilities (e.g. internet access, water, hospitals, police, fire services, etc.). At this point, they become the defacto ruling royal family of the US, emperors in all but name, with the role of US president essentially becoming “ass kisser in chief” (you can just see the debate with Hilary and Trump demonstrating their butt kissing techniques).

Now libertarians will say, oh that would never happen, we’d just boycott the business of those we don’t like (in which case you need to go look up the meaning of the word “monopoly” cos that’s sort of the problem, you can’t boycott a monopoly!). Or they’ll argue that sooner or later another billionaire will build up an even vaster fortune and take over. Oh great, so because one rich asshole is better at screwing us over than some other rich asshole, he gets to be emperor instead. Ya, that sound way better than our current system of government!

The sad fact is that libertarianism only works if you ignore the last thousand years of history. A libertarian society would quickly become a feudal society, where the rich will grow vast fortunes unchecked and abuse their power without limit. Where the poor, if they are unable to pay the vastly overinflated prices the rich with their monopolies charge, will be at risk of being sold into slavery. Where speaking out will be impossible, as the press and internet are controlled by the rich. And those who do a Robin hood and fight back will be derided as socialists and terrorists.

In truth, if there’s anything that libertarianism is at the oppose end of the political spectrum to it is democracy and free markets.

Send in the Clown

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As I mentioned in a prior post, its quite obvious the UK’s foreign affairs are going to suffer as a consequence of brexit. A situation not helped by the fact the UK is stuck with one of the worse people you could possibly pick for the job at one of the worse possible times in the UK’s history .

Boris Johnson spent the days immediately after America’s strike against Syria running away from reporters. There was a certain deer caught in headlights factor to it all. Then he announces he’s cancelling his scheduled trip to Russia “on advice from Washington”. This is an unprecedented move. While part of the EU it was generally expected that the UK will conduct its own foreign affairs. The EU would try to make sure we’re all on the same page and don’t contradict one another, but Britain’s foreign affairs was the UK’s business. Can you imagine the outcry if under Tony Blair, there was a crisis and we were told that the foreign secretary had cancelled a trip on advice from Brussels. It rightly led to Boris being labelled as Trump’s poodle. I mean what next, is he going to need a note from his mum any time he has to leave the country?

Next Boris came up with a ham-fisted plan for more sanctions against Russia, which were promptly rejected by the G7, leaving him standing there looking pretty stupid. The reality is that brexit doesn’t mean empire 2.0 it means the UK becoming not the partner of the US, but Trump’s sidekick. I don’t even mean we’re Robin (he gets the odd line and to fight occasionally), perhaps the word “minion” is better. Basically we’re mini-me or random task to Dr Evil.

Also one has to acknowledge that Boris Johnson was set up to fail. No doubt acting under advice from Cameron, May appointed him to the job in the full hope that he’d screw it up and destroy his chances of ever becoming PM in the process. But that said, he has made a number of unforced errors, and his floundering over this Russia/Syria issue is merely the start.

Firstly there was that whole flap about bringing back the Royal yacht Britannia, so that he could use it to negotiate trade deals with China. A couple of slight problems with that….not least that Bejing is about 100km’s inland! Then he began fighting a turf war with trade secretary Liam Fox (another one set up to fail). Then he picked a fight with Italy over Prosecco, made several very silly comments to the Germans and French (don’t mention the war!). And of course prior to the US election he managed to insult Trump, Obama & Hilary. The term bull in a china shop doesn’t quite cut it.

Given how highly the Tories were prioritising brexit and the delivery of article 50, you’d think he’d have put some thought into the likely consequences of it. The EU’s position on Gibraltar clearly caught the Tories by surprise, hence all the silly comments about going to war, or sending warships (you’re going to threaten a NATO ally, over the fact that they will impose the same customs and border controls on the enclave that the UK proposes to apply to the EU?). But you could see this one coming a mile off. The EU wants to at least give Scotland (and possibly other regions) the opportunity to join the EU, they don’t want the Spanish to try and veto that. So quite clearly, making a concession to the Spanish on Gibraltar was an obvious horse trade. Why didn’t Boris see that coming and try to head the matter off?

Normally at this point we’d discuss when should a lame duck minster like him resign, or when will he be sacked. But there’s the problem he won’t resign, because if he does his career is over. And Theresa May can’t sack him, well not until he really screws things up (starts a war with Brazil, tries to get to first base with Melania Trump, etc.), because sacking him would defeat the purpose of putting him in the job in the first place. Instead the UK will have to cope with the fact that we’ve got a upper class twit as foreign secretary at the very time we can least afford it.

The Trump who came to tea

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It is becoming increasingly obvious that Theresa May’s decision to invite Trump over to the UK was premature and ill advised, to put it as diplomatically as one can (a cluster-fuck screw-up from a stand-in PM would be a less diplomatic way of describing it).

Trump’s disastrous performance at press conferences, his erratic behaviour, conflicts of interest and of course the resignation of his national security adviser in record time, have all contributed to a view that his will be a chaotic and probably shortlived presidency. Already his job approval numbers have plunged in just a few days, to a point it took Nixon 8 years and a Watergate scandal to reach. In my view it is only a matter of time before there is some move to unseat him.

Keep in mind that only a minority of Republicans need to join forces with the democrats to unseat him. The prevailing wisdom was that this was unlikely to happen any time soon, as the GOP need him more than he needs them. That if there was a move against him, it would likely happen either just before, or after the mid term elections (depending on whether the GOP feel they would be better served by removing him from office prior to or after the mid terms). Aside from the impeachment option, Trump’s erratic behaviour does raise the possibility of removal via the 25th amendment. While this would require the support of the cabinet, recall that most of his cabinet it are the sort of odious cronies who can be easily bought. Trump I suspect may have forgotten that someone might make them a better offer.

So the danger for the brexiters is, they invite Trump over, put the country through the political mess of mass protests, embarrassing the queen and parliament, etc., only for him to then be removed from office shortly afterwords. Aside from the political damage this would do, it could have serious consequences if for example there’s a Scottish independence referendum campaign ongoing. Voting for independence just to piss off Trump, might just swing the referendum the way of the SNP.

And needless to say it could put the UK in an awkward position in terms of negotiating with Trump’s successor, doubly so if the democrats win in 2020. Recall that it would be illegal for the UK to even start negotiations with the US until they are out of the EU in 2019, so baring a ridiculously fast turn around on a trade deal its likely to fall to the winner of the 2020 election to complete these negotiations. And the chances of that being Trump aren’t particularly high.

So Theresa May may well have just made it harder for her to get a favourable trade deal, than better. So why did she do it? this could be a potential resigning issue. Well the answer tells us a lot about the post-brexit UK. Notably that the country is desperately short of friends and as a result we’re going to have to let Trump and his grubby (small) rapist hands near the Queen. Obviously given the weakness of the UK’s position, its unlikely we’ll be getting a favourable trade deal with anybody, not the EU, not China, nor the US.

Getting a trade deal is certainly possible, in much the same way that if you go down to a used car lot, and you are suitably desperate you’ll come away with a car (you’ll pay a lot more than you’d like to and it might break down on the way home, but you’ll get a car). The problem is that the devil is in the detail and its likely the UK will have to concede a lot.

So in essence the situation with this Trump visit more or less confirms that the UK will be a lot worse off after brexit than it was before.

Delayed reaction

One of the problems with Brexit and Trump, is that while both are expected to cause serious economic damage, often to the very people who voted for such policies, but it might be sometime before the full impact of this is realised, as the primary risk is the long term damage.

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Indeed we are already seeing the effects. For example, recent rationing of vegetables in the UK. The supermarkets blame unseasonal weather in Spain. However, relatives I have in Spain, Ireland and Germany and they report that while yes supplies are down and the price of certain vegetables is up, there’s no rationing. The obvious explanation is that the drop in supplies in Spain has pushed up the prices. But with the UK pound having dropped in value by 20% the UK supermarkets are being outbid by their competitors from the rest of Europe who can pay the Spainsh growers in euros.

Similarly brexit has been disruptive to businesses, 58% of firms say so. There’s been many job losses since brexit, the banks are already quietly moving out of London. But employers, aware of how politically sensitive any such claim would be, are going out of their way to avoid saying so, often blaming other factors instead. e.g. we’ve seen a few redundancies in the uni. The official reason is that the research units they worked for didn’t bring in enough money….what they don’t mention is that the main source of research money was from the EU! The UK government has promised to pick up the tab for research, but we’ve certainly not seen any of that money, so now people are losing their jobs.

In another example, we have the recent revelation regarding NHS overcrowding. Well in part this is due to the fact that the NHS has been chronically underfunded since the Tories took office. But brexit has made it increasingly hard for it to recruit. They, like universities (we’ve been unable to fill a number of vacancies since brexit), will find it difficult to recruit staff from abroad to plug staffing shortages, as foreign staff will be fearful of the impact of brexit. The reduced value of the pound makes UK salaries look less attractive (and the rise in racist incidents and xenophobia doesn’t help either!). So the end result, waiting times go up and granny’s reward for voting leave is she’ll be waiting longer for that heart operation.

Politicians are experts at taking credit for something that happens through no action that they have taken (often despite their policy rather than because of it). At the same time, they are also very quick to try and avoid blame for something that is very much their fault. But the problem is that a lot of the time the effects of their term in office don’t show up until after they’ve left office.

Case in point, the Great Recession. The Republicans have tried to blame everyone other than themselves for this, Bill Clinton, Obama, Hilary, working class people, the tooth fairy, etc. The reality is that the two people who have to take the bulk of the blame for the financial crisis are Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. Their policy of deregulation, neo-liberal turbo capitalism and the rat race “greed is good” attitude it brought with it, set up a massive bubble in the world financial system. A bubble that finally popped in 2007.

And the warning signs were there right from the start. There were numerous scandals, with companies going bust, billions lost and the government forced to step in, cheque book in hand to rescue reckless gamblers. LTCM (Long Term Capital Management), the Junk bonds scandal of the 80’s, Stratton Oakmont (of Wolf of Wall street fame), the Guinness trading fraud, the failure of Barings bank or BCCI, the American savings and loan crisis, ENRON etc.

Indeed, its worth noting that a number of these scandals and failures listed above occurred within the term limit of both Thatcher and Reagan, or their immediate successors. So nobody can plead ignorance and say they didn’t realise the dangers. And it was in this era that the concept of “too big to fail” was established. The lesson many on Wall street took away from these early scandals was that no matter how badly they screwed up, the government would bail them out. Profits had been privatised and risk had been socialised.

This is not to say all other presidents in between escape blame. G. W. Bush was clearly asleep at the wheel in the lead up to the crisis. There was a massive property bubble building and a huge rise in credit. A number of experts were warning that this wasn’t sustainable. He and his advisers should have realised the danger and taken away the punch bowl before the party started to get rowdy.

Bill Clinton often gets blamed for the crisis because he repealed the depression era Glass-Steagall act. However, we have to put this decision in the context that the banks were simply by-passing the act (via overseas subsidaires), in part thanks to legislation passed under Reagan and trading in derivatives had been left unregulated by the Reagan Adm. (which was ultimately the trigger for the financial crisis) Clinton’s options were to do nothing, or get rid of the act and then try to replace it with something that actually worked. So in and effort to get a GOP controlled congress to play ball with him and regulate derivatives, he signed a repeal as a concession (one that had been put on his desk by Republicans, i.e. they initiated the repeal, then pressured Clinton into signing it, not the other way around as its often presented). Of course Republicans being the backstabbing two faced gits that they are, they simply took the repeal and didn’t put in place any new regulations.

To draw an analogy if was Thatcher and Reagan who designed and commissioned the warehouse made of matchwood with no fire exits and crammed full of oil soaked rags built right next to an orphanage. Newly appointed fire safety officer Bill Clinton should have done something about it. But as it was already built and afraid of catching flak from the powerful builders lobby and their Mafia allies, he caved into pressure and just signed off on it without inspecting the building. It was however ultimately nightwatchman Bush, who was asleep on duty in the warehouse when it went up in smoke. And it was likely his habit of smoking indoors and his failure to extinguish his cigarette that caused the fire to start in the first place.

In short, yes it would be unfair to blame Reagan and Thatcher alone for the financial crisis, G. W. Bush, Gordon Brown, Blair, Clinton and anyone who with a credit card who spend money they didn’t have prior to the crash, we all need to take some of the blame. But clearly it was these two who set the world on the road to ruin. But the problem is that the bomb didn’t go off within their terms, hence they didn’t get the blame. Indeed there are (as noted) some Trump voters who blame Obama for the crisis, even thought he wasn’t in office until well after the crisis had started.

So one has to worry that history is about to repeat itself. Trump and Brexit will both have lasting long term impacts on the global economy. Potentially, we might well look back in a few decades time and point the finger at this moment as the point where Western capitalism and democracy failed. But it will take a while for such damage to appear. Indeed, given that Trump’s plan seems to be to cut taxes and increase public spending, we could well see a temporary jump in the economy, even thought he’ll just be starting another unsustainable bubble.

The US has a major problem with its national debt. As I discussed in a prior post, if something isn’t done about it, sooner or later the US government will go bankrupt. And Trump is talking about borrowing anything from $10 trillion to $20 trillion. This could potentially double the debt and push it to levels equivalent to nations like Greece or Italy. At the same time, his racist, xenophobic and anti-science policies will stifle investment. The next generation of investors and entrepreneur’s will bypass America and go elsewhere. Already in fields such as renewables or biotechnology America is falling behind its rivals. Tariffs and protectionism, will just make things worse in the long term.

In short, Trump policy will make it very difficult for the US government to raise tax revenue to pay off its debts. And with the baby boomers retiring the US needs to start raising income just to pay the pensions of those retiring. At some point, it could be a few years time or twenty, the US government won’t be able to raise the cash to pay its obligations, never mind service its debts and it will default. Of course the likelihood is the markets will see this coming and stop to lending any money to the US government, leading to a sovereign default.

Now Trump supporters will say, so what that’s only bad news for China and those pricks on wall street, isn’t it? Well two thirds of America’s debt is internal, that is to say held within the US. And American pension funds are the main holder of US treasury bonds. If the US were to default as Trump has implied, he’d be bankrupting every pensioner and saver in America. Print more money? That will destroy the value of the dollar, which is bad news for billionaires like him or anyone on a fixed income (such as pensioners). In short, there is no way that Trump or any of his successors (whether Democrat or Republican) can dig their way out of this hole without screwing over pensioners and baby boomers, or in other words the very people who put him in office. Trump’s economic policy is essentially the same as Argentina’s prior to the crash in 2001.

In Britain Theresa May has committed the UK to an economic policy that is also unsustainable. Brexit is going to be expensive, perhaps a cost of up to £66 billion just to leave and maybe as much as £25 billion per year to fund all those subsidies she’s promised to those who will lose out (car makers, universities, farmers, etc) as well as the loss of trade. Put quite simply that’s unsustainable. There was something of a stopped clock to Osborne and Cameron’s obsession with deficit reduction. In that they were doing it because they couldn’t bring themselves to spend public money on the poor and the needy (who’d just blow it all on stuff like pasties and rent). But that’s not to say that the UK hasn’t got a big problem here, one that will get worse with time as more and more baby boomers retire.

Digging the UK out of this hole becomes difficult post-brexit. Making it harder for young Polish workers to come in and take over paying the taxes that pay for the pensions of retiring British workers isn’t helping matters. Quite apart from making it harder for companies to recruit (i.e. longer waiting times in hospitals, you won’t be able to get a plumber, train and bus strikes and delays become more common, etc.). Letting the value of the pound slide leads to high inflation, which means pensioners take a hammering and workers start demanding higher wages (anyone paid in sterling reading this has essentially taken a 20% pay cut this year thanks to the falls in the value of sterling).

Cutting public spending? Well the two biggest line items in the budget are the NHS and the welfare bill. And pensions and working tax credits are the main source of welfare spending, not unemployment benefit (tiny by comparison). In short, there is no way the UK can dig itself out of this hole that doesn’t screw over the very pensioners who vote Tory and voted overwhelmingly for brexit. My advice to any pensioner is don’t retire....ever!

In fact here’s a prediction, my guess is that what will finally push the US over the edge will be its greatest ally the UK. You can just see the scenario. The UK, at some difficult to predict future date, goes broke as a result of brexit and defaults on its debts. American banks post huge losses. Worried the US might be next and needing cash in hand to prevent a run on their reserves, they all dump their holdings of US treasury bonds. The US government finds it impossible to obtain credit and defaults as well.

What about the IMF? Well do you think China or the EU is going to be terribly helpful after Trump and Brexit? They’ll rescue themselves and their own banks but that’s it. Keep in mind that some bankers may actually be able to profit handsomely from the crisis, the same way they profited during black Wednesday.

So the real danger with Trump and brexit is the long term lasting impact they will have, not the short term. Its important to realise this and when things do hit the fan, remember how we got here. And also as we go along, remember that while many may be reluctant to admit it (particularly those who voted for these clowns in the first place!), but both are already having an impact on the real economy and on people’s lives.

In memory of the Bowling Green victims

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We’re rapidly approaching the anniversary of the infamous Bowling green massacre. On the 7th of February 2011 nobody was killed by ISIS terrorists, although two of them were arrested. Our sympathies go out to the non existent victims of this fake tragedy.

Seriously thought, this is taking “alternative facts” aka lying and deceit to a whole new level. Its ironic how so many of those who support populists claim that they do so because regular politicians lie, when the Trump team exists in a truth and fact free zone. Newsbiscuit have a take on this story here.

Of course, there was an ulterior motive to this, it was no simple slip up. An inconvenient fact for Trump is that the only Americans killed by terrorists during Obama’s watch, were home grown terrorists, not refugees. And the two deadliest of those three attacks took advantage of America’s lax gun laws. Quite apart from the regular massacres and spree shootings carried out by white male Americans on a daily basis.Something Obama did try and do something about, but Republicans blocked it.

And speaking of spree shootings we have have evidence that the attack carried out in Quebec city was a right wing gun nut and Trump supporter. And the response from the white house?….silence, they’ve scarcely acknowledged that it even took place.

Meanwhile in other news, the post-brexit UK government has just announced that the vegetable ration has been increased. Good growing conditions in Spain and the heightened value of the pound means supermarkets have been able to increase supplies to 3 items per person. All hail the dear leader!

A failure of checks and balances

There’s quite a few Americans hoping against hope that America’s anti-fascist circuit breaker, the electoral college will trip up the Trump presidency before it even starts. There’s plenty of good reasons why it should, the latest revelations regarding how Russia assisted Trump’s campaign, his questionable cabinet picks and the clear signs of potential corruption, with him trying to use his office to further his own business interests. However its not going to happen. Yes it probably should, but it won’t.

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If there’s one thing Trump is correct about its how the US political system is broken, although he’s not going to mend it. His cabinet picks, a bunch of greasy brown envelope wielding Washington insiders and Goldman sachs bankers (quite a number of whom are close to Putin), should tell you all you need to know on that front. He could well prove to be the straw that breaks the camels back. Indeed its worth noting that the US is already one step away on the democratic Index from “flawed democracy” status….and that’s based on 2015 number prior to this election.

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Trump’s proposed secretary of state has many skills that suit him to his new job….of kissing Putin’s ass!

Firstly its worth remembering how the electoral college came about. It goes back to the founding of the US itself. The founding fathers were aware of the criticisms from the ancient Greek world regarding the dangers of democracy. They understood how a demagogue could manipulate the public into supporting him and cease power, thus ending democracy in all but name. And there was a perfectly good demagogue waiting to take over – King George, the original mad king himself. A historical fact of history that is often forgotten is that not everyone in America wanted to become independent. No, there was a sizeable number of Royalists who wanted to stay part of the UK.

So the founding fathers had good reason to be concerned. Their logic therefore, was that the people should essentially elect them to the electoral college and they would then pick the president, treading the actual vote as a sort of advisory election. Hence if the public voted for Benedict Arnold or something (make America British again), the founding fathers could just ignore that and put someone else in charge.

However, over the years this fact has been forgotte. Most of the electors these days are party insiders within the GOP and democrats. We are talking about the most odorous, party hacks you’ll ever find. The sort who both parties have to keep in back room positions out of public sight. Most of this bunch won’t get out of bed unless there was a brown envelope with a bribe waiting by the bedside from the carpet manufacturing industry. And they won’t wash unless there was another one waiting from the cleaning products lobby in the bathroom. The idea that this lot are going to rescue America from Trump is somewhat fanciful to say the least.

Now okay, I’m making an unfair generalisation. Yes there are some honest electors who take there job very seriously and have actually read the constitution. Indeed two electors are actually suing the state of Colorado as we speak to be given the chance to vote the way their conscience dictates. However they are likely to be in a minority, just take a look at the election results. The bulk of them will see Trump as an opportunity to loot the treasury as the city burns. About the only advice I’d give is to invest in the manufacturers of brown envelopes, because there will be a lot of them being used with Trump in charge.

And keep in mind there are some in the democratic camp who also aren’t happy about how Bernie Sanders was treated. Now with out going into the details of the rights and wrongs therein, my point is its just as likely that some of those in the democratic party will not support Hillary as those in the GOP will not support Trump. Indeed, recall that Colorado voted democrat. So those electors I mentioned earlier, are likely trying to avoid having to vote Hillary and might even support Trump.

So the great democratic circuit breaker is likely to fail, which begs the question, what exactly is the point of the electoral college? If there ever was a time for it to deny someone the white house now would be the time to do it. If they’re just going to be robots why have them?

Some say the electoral college is there to give smaller states more rights. Excuse me, isn’t that what the Senate is for? Rhode Island has the same number of senators as California, that’s whopping x40 over-representation for one state over another. What more do these states want?

And there’s a perfectly sensible way it could be abolished and still make Presidential elections a state by state contest. Have the election in two rounds. In the first round of voting, for a candidate to win he must carry +50% of the nationwide popular vote and +50% of the vote in at least 60% of all states. If no candidate achieves this, all but the top two candidates are eliminated and the election is repeated a few weeks later with a straight national popular vote runoff. This would ensure that whoever wins gets at least +50% of the vote in a majority of states.

Better still, let the Vice president be picked by the Senate (meaning the smaller states), with them picking from among retired governors. This is basically how Presidential candidates pick their VP’s anyway, so we’d just be making it a bit more democratically accountable. While also reminding who is ever in the White House that they can’t afford to neglect smaller states. By contrast the current system means we face the absurdity of a candidate who has not only failed to win the popular vote, but only got 46.5% of the vote (times the turn out that’s a support base of just 25% of the electorate).

And speaking of the Senate, there are others hoping that the Senate will block the basket of deplorables that Trump’s picked for his cabinet. Again, this is not going to happen. Many of Trump’s cabinet are lobbyists who have been greasing the sweaty palms of these senators with bribes campaign funds for years. Its kind of lacking in credibility for senators to get up and say “you’re a crook….and I know that because you helped to fund my re-election campaign”.

Yes there are some honest senators on both sides of the aisle. They can slow the process down, embarrass these nominee’s maybe even force one or two of them to withdraw. But they’ll be up against a corrupt majority who’ll vote them all in eventually.

America is founded on a principle of checks and balances. But all the indicators are that those checks and balances are about to fail, and likely too is America’s time as the world’s leading state. Indeed, its worth remembering how racism, populism and a push back against inequality and diversity may have helped bring down the Roman empire.