Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Stop Idolizing George Floyd

It is sad that Black Lives Matter has made such a point of honoring George Floyd.  He is a human being and should not have been killed by the police.  However, he was a convicted felon for a violent crime, in addition of being a drug user, a poor father, and generally a failure in life.  He was being arrested for committing a crime while being high on drugs.  He was a drag on the US economy and a bad example of the human race. 

The fact that he is being held up to such esteem by the black race indicates what a terrible state the black race is in.  There are many wonderful black individuals, but the black race looks pretty awful.  Africa is a failed continent, populated by the black race.  Why haven’t blacks made something of Africa.  Latin America is dark or brown because of the black intermarriage, and it too is a failed continent compared to the Northern Hemisphere.  Is the Southern Hemisphere failing because if is Southern, or because it is mainly populated by black and brown people? 

Black and brown people need good models for their race like Colin Powell, not failed criminals like George Floyd.  The fact that they honor George Floyd shows how violent, how uncivilized, how uneducated their race is.  They blame it on white oppression, but slavery ended 150 years ago.  Many blacks left the segregated South, but still failed to succeed in the northern US, turning cities like Detroit into spreading slums.  I would like to see an example of a failing city with a majority white population that improved itself as black people moved in and made it a better city.  I would like to see one; most examples are the opposite – nice cities that ran down as more black people moved in. 

When I was at the American Embassy in Warsaw, Poland, I went down to Silesia to survey the coal mines there and to see what their environmental impact was.  The Pole who was escorting me made a point of taking me to an apartment house lived in by coal miners. He wanted me to see how neat and clean they were at home, despite their dirty occupation.  This is the kind of example the blacks need. I’m sure such an example exists, but I don’t know of it.  Blacks should publicize it, instead of praising a criminal like George Floyd. 

Friday, June 18, 2021

Election Interference

 

President Biden’s meeting with President Putin has brought the issue of election interference back into the spotlight.  Although this is a genuine issue, it is not as serious or one-sided as the Democrats claim it is.  Democrats are obsessed with it because they need someone to blame for Hillary Clinton’s loss to Donald Trump in the 2016 election.  They cannot accept that they lost the election because they ran a bad campaign on issues that did not appeal to the American people.  The Democrats failed to understand that there are millions of Americans who are very unhappy with the policies pursued by Democrats. 

To me, one of the main failures of the Democrats was their policy on immigration.  When I served as a US vice consul in Sao Paulo, Brazil, I felt that one of my main duties in issuing tourist or immigrant visas was to avoid giving visas to people who were going to be a drain on the United States.  Under US law, the US was open to people who could support themselves and make a contribution to the success of the country, but it was not open to people who were going to become a “public charge” by going on welfare after their arrival.  Immigrants also had to have a job or skill that would not displace an American worker.  Many of the people currently being admitted to the US will be public charges, at least for several years.  Adults will have no jobs at first.  Unaccompanied children will have no one to support them for years.  They are unskilled and the jobs they eventually get will probably not be very productive.  Many Americans support generous immigration laws, but current Democratic policies ignore the existing laws and just let people in.  If the US wants more generous immigration laws the Congress should pass them, and the administration should enforce them.  Currently there are restrictive laws and no enforcement. 

Trump recognized that the Democrats had alienated a large part of the electorate by promoting free immigration.  Economically, he wanted to reduce many restrictions on American business, such as taxes and regulations.  Hillary’s main appeal was to intellectuals on the one hand, and to Hispanics and blacks on the other.  She and the Democrats ignored the great American middle, which ended up electing Trump. 

Putin or his henchmen did not do anything that American political players have not done.  Dirty tricks are part of electoral politics.  So, would it be okay if the Republicans did the same thing to the Democrats that Putin did?  What the Russians did may have been somewhat illegal, but it was not egregious.  It was sad that so many silly Americans were influenced by it, but that’s the fault of the American education system, not Putin.  So, the main offence was “foreign” interference.  But Putin over the years he has been in power has certainly seen what he would interpret as American interference in Russian elections and in his other efforts to retain power.  We say we only want fair elections, but Putin sees it as a direct attack on his leadership.  He maintains power by undemocratic means, but he does not share Americans’ attachment to free and fair elections.  There have been very few free and fair elections in the thousand years of Russia’s existence.  We say we are spreading democracy; Putin says we are interfering in his government.  Should the CIA inspire Russian citizens to rise up and assassinate Putin, and if not, where do we draw the line on what is proper or improper in interfering in Russian politics?  He

In an ideal world, Putin would mind his own business, but this is not an ideal world.  The US is not perfect.  Black and brown Americans shout their condemnation of America from the housetops.  Putin quoted American protesters in his meeting with Biden.  In theory, American democracy is strong enough to withstand criticism from Putin and from domestic protesters.  Let’s hope that it is. 

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Argentine Inflation

 

From an Economist Magazine newsletter:
Argentina releases its monthly report on consumer prices today. High inflation is a persistent problem for the country. In April, the year-on-year figure was a staggering 40.3%.
Food costs play a significant role in Argentina’s inflation, and attempts to reduce them have pushed the government into a bitter battle with the farmers who supply the country’s famous bife. Last month Alberto Fernández, Argentina’s president, slapped a 30-day ban on meat exports. The country is the world’s fifth-largest exporter of beef and Mr Fernández hoped a glut would help freeze domestic prices. His plan temporarily backfired when the cattlemen went on strike, reducing supply, and prices rose. They have since levelled off.
The government must decide whether to extend or re-work the ban to allow some exports. Producers warn that thousands of jobs are at stake if the president does not stop trying to cure the meat market for his own ends.
 
 

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Reparations

Reparations is not about slavery; it’s about being black.  Slavery ended over 150 years ago. Blacks may claim the segregation lasted much longer, but many blacks moved from the South to the North where there was supposed to be no segregation.  They had the opportunity to make something of themselves, but they didn’t do much with it.  So now they just want money. 

America seems to be undergoing a transition in which blacks want a huge transfer of wealth from whites to blacks.  In fact, the immigration dispute reflects this same agenda.  Black and brown people around the world have been less successful than white people.  As a result, we see the mass migration from the southern hemisphere to the northern.  Africans are flocking to Europe.  Latin Americans are flocking to the United States.  These black and brown people are seeking a better life because they have failed to build one for themselves, just as black Americans failed to build themselves better lives after the Civil War. 

Now they have given up trying to better themselves and are just saying, “Give us money.”  Reparations are for being black, not for slavery.  It is easy to discriminate against blacks because blackness is so easily discernable, as opposed to religious beliefs or nationality.  Nevertheless, there are many successful blacks whose success demonstrates that blackness is not an insurmountable obstacle.  In fact, if blackness were identified with some particular skill or knowledge, it would be an asset instead of a liability. This seems to be the case in sports.  Blacks excel in sports, where football and basketball have both become dominated by black players.  If the same percentages were applied to sports that blacks want applied to other endeavors, teams could have only one black basketball player on the floor and football teams could have only two black football players on the field. 

Success in sports is good, but blacks need to do the same thing in other areas of life.  The last Oscars was devoted to awarding blacks, but the Oscars lost prestige because everyone recognized that they were given because of race and not because of the quality of the movies.  Blacks just ended up devaluing the Oscars, rather than improving their own image.  

Blacks need to prove themselves in areas other than sports and show business, rather than just asking for reparations payments because they were born black. 

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Remembering Fallen FSO Colleagues

 On Memorial Day I posted a blog remembering the men who were killed in Army artillery battery during the Vietnam War. I thought I should also remember the Foreign Service Officers I Knew who died in the line of duty, although not while I was serving with them. Their names of listed on the State Department Memorial Plaque.

John Patterson was in my A-100 class in Washington for beginning Foreign Service Officers. His first assignment was Mexico. He was killed while he was serving there. The AFSA (American Foreign Service Association) note says:

John S. Patterson served as U.S. vice consul in Hermosillo, Mexico. He was kidnapped by terrorists on March 22, 1974 and later found dead.

Tom Doubleday served with me in Bangkok, Thailand. He died while serving in the American Embassy in Monrovia, Libera. The AFSA note about him says:

Thomas P. Doubleday, Jr., was born in New York City in 1942. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Yale University and a master’s degree from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.

Doubleday joined the Foreign Service in 1965. He served in Bangkok, Saigon, Luanda, Lagos, the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, the Bureau of International Organizational Affairs, the Bureau of African Affairs, the Bureau of Personnel and the Bureau of Refugee Programs.

Doubleday’s final post was as a political counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia, Liberia. He died of a heart attack on February 8, 1993. During his lifetime, he received the Meritorious Honor Award.

Friday, May 28, 2021

Richard Perle

 

Much of my early career at the State Department was spent dealing with Richard Perle’s office at the Pentagon on nonproliferation and technology transfer issues.  Perle was Assistant Secretary of Defense for Global Strategic Affairs under President Reagan. 

Perle’s political career started with a job as a staffer for Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson of Washington.  Perle was one of several Jewish staffers for Jackson who went on to have long, influential careers in Washington, including Paul Wolfowitz, Eliot Abrams, William Kristol, and perhaps others.  Their most notable accomplishment was their work on the Jackson-Vanik Amendment, which eventually enabled hundreds of thousands of Jews to emigrate from the Soviet Union to Israel and the United States. 

He is most famous as the reputed leader of the advisers who persuaded President Reagan not to agree at the summit in Reykjavik, Iceland, with Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev to eliminate all nuclear weapons in the US and the Soviet Union.  However, some claim that Perle’s role is an urban myth, and that Reagan would not have agreed in any case. 

The two issues on which I clashed most frequently with Perle and his staff were missile proliferation and the COCOM regime which controlled exports to the Soviet Union.  Perle was a hawk on both of these issues; he wanted an agreement that allowed zero missile proliferation, and wanted the allies to approve zero high tech exports to the Soviet Union.  These issues came together because they both involved very specific lists of hardware and technology that could not be exported. 

My connection to the issues was supplying intelligence on potentially damaging high tech exports by other countries and by American firms involved in illegal transactions.  My first introduction to Perle was when he tried to end the US participation in IIASA.  IIASA (International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis) still exists, but was much more controversial in the 1970s because it served as a meeting place between Soviet and American scientists in Austria.  Perle was concerned that technology was leaking to the Soviets.  I first heard of it because the Secretary of State’s science adviser came down from the seventh floor to ask me to help him research IIASA and hopefully defend continued American participation in it.  Since IIASA still exists, Perle lost, but I presume he restricted US participation while he was focused on it. 

COCOM stood for Coordinating Committee, a group of export control experts who met periodically in Paris to coordinate guidelines for exports to the Soviet Union.  For me, the main intelligence focus was on whether a member was exporting something on the controlled list.  Perle would have sold nothing to the Soviets, but American businesses were interested in selling, as were companies in other countries that were members of the committee.  There were a lot o gray areas about whether something was covered or not, and how restrictive should the controls be.  Should they cover all computers, even small, personal ones, or only big, powerful ones?  There was a lot of argument about sophisticated, numerically controlled machine tools.  What tolerances should be allowed? 

My main interaction with Perle’s office was regarding missile proliferation.  President Jimmy Carter’s adminsitration had been working on a treaty that would apply to missiles the same kind of limits that the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) applied nuclear weapons.  When Carter was defeated, the Reagan administration picked up the idea and pursued it.  A big problem was that the NPT was in deep disfavor among the nations that we most wanted to join it, potential proliferators like India, Pakistan, Argentina, Brazil, North Korea, Israel.  They saw the NPT as highly discriminatory, allowing nations that already had nuclear weapons to keep them, while preventing non-nuclear states from getting them.  This perception of unfair treatment of the haves versus the have-nots carried over into the issue of missile proliferation.  Other friendly, developed countries like the G-7 were reluctant to try to push a new, similar treaty down the throats of the developing countries.  Gradually the idea of an arms control treaty evolved into a suppliers’ agreement not to sell missile hardware and technology to problem countries.  Perle and his office wanted the absolute maximum controls, while American businesses and other countries wanted to be about to sell items that were less sensitive.  Arguments over lists went on endlessly. 

The head of the COCOM office in the State Department was Bill Root, who had been doing export control for years.  Before Richard Perle arrived on the scene, his office was probably somewhat of a backwater, routinely working with the military, American businesses and other interested parties on what should be controlled.  When Perle arrived, his office was suddenly front and center.  Perle’s intransigence led to many disputes with our allies in Paris, who wanted a less restrictive regime. 

Because I was working on developing lists of controlled items for the missile proliferation agreement, I sometimes worked with Bill Root and his office because they had similar lists for COCOM.  The specifications in the COCOM list were a good model for the missile list, so that they would be understandable by businesses who wanted to know what they could sell.  One day while Bill Root was helping me with the lists, he got an urgent call.  It turned out to be Richard Perle.  I left so that he could take the call.  When I came back later that afternoon, his office told me that he had retired from the State Department and left. 

 

 

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Covid Was Not a War

 

The Covid pandemic was often compared by news media to a war. The war analogy has been used to justify the huge expenditures and budget deficits associated with the response to Covid.  However, Covid was not like a war.  Wars kill young people in the prime of life; Covid killed unproductive old people a few years before they would have died anyway.  Covid took much less of a toll on the economy than a war involving the same number of people would have.  You could even argue that Covid was a net plus because it reduced the amount that would have been expended to care for old people in nursing homes and other care situations.  There was a corresponding increase in medical payments for end-of-life treatment in hospitals by doctors and nurses.  But overall, the effect of Covid was much less than a war would have caused. 

The only corresponding increase in deficits and debt has been those incurred during World War II. In World War II, people made many sacrifices to support the country. Food and gasoline were rationed. People bought war bonds to finance the war.  Neither the Trump nor the Biden administration has asked Americans to sacrifice anything for the war on Covid.  Instead, the government has handed out more and more benefits, such as the $9,000 FEMA payment for funerals of people who died from Covid.  Medicare and Medicaid paid many of the Covid medical expenses.  In short, it was almost the reverse of World War II; instead of the people helping the government fight Germany and Japan, the government helped people fight Covid. 

The Treasury and Federal Reserve expended trillions of dollars to make sure than no one suffered economic hardship as a result of Covid.  In retrospect, they may have done too much because Covid was not as damaging as people thought it would be.  Information technology kept many businesses going.  The main losers were restaurants and in-person retail stores, but many retail stores successfully converted to on-line sales.  There were dislocations, but certainly not a depression, or even a recession.  It was pretty much business as usual but carried out in different ways.  At first, people thought the housing market would collapse because people would be afraid to show homes for sale or to visit them.  Instead, the housing market turned white hot, with sales and prices going through the roof, in part spurred by interest-free money made available by the Fed.  The stock market has also gone through the roof after the initial losses around March 2020 when the pandemic first began to hit the population.  Many investors make huge profits in the markets.  Again, people expected the devastation to be much worse than it was.  Many people died, but not so many productive people.  Service and travel industries were hit hard, but others not so much.  Gains in information technology largely made up for losses in the service industries, like restaurants and airlines.  Even many restaurants adapted by converting to take-out. 

After the initial losses in early and mid-2020, the US economy came though fairly well, with relatively few sacrifices required of the American people, except a request to wear masks.  It’s ironic that the supposedly patriotic Republicans were the most vocal resisters to the few sacrifices that the government requested, wear a mask and get vaccinated. 

While there are still questions about how Covid started in China, it looks like as soon as the government became aware of it, it cracked down strongly.  The epidemic stated just as the 2019 Chinese New Year would normally have created the biggest travel days of the year, but the government stopped or postponed it.  As a result, China came though the epidemic much better than the US did and in a much shorter time.  This has benefitted the Chinese economy significantly vis-à-vis the US economy. 

Although the US came through the pandemic much better than I initially expected, I remain worried about what comes next. The Fed and the Treasury have made sure that no one suffered terribly from it, but there may be a cost in out years.  There are now huge government debts that must be repaid somehow someday, and it looks like there will be further budget deficits into the foreseeable future.  One way to escape debts is inflation; if money is worth less, the debt is easer to pay off, because you are paying cheaper dollars.  This inflationary pressure is in addition to more normal wage and price inflation caused too much money in circulation, thanks to the largess of the Fed and the Treasury.  If US inflation increases significantly, it will undercut the world’s use of the dollar as the international currency, perhaps replaced by China’s currency if it becomes the world’s leading economy.  Cryptocurrencies will further complicate the situation, if not bitcoin, perhaps cyber currencies backed by national governments. 

The US dollar because the world’s currency partly because of World War II.  The US was much less affected than the other belligerent countries.  The Marshall Plan revived western Europe, and benign occupation of Japan and Germany allowed them to recover.  Meanwhile the US had suffered fewer casualties than many of the other warring countries, hundreds of thousands, rather than millions (Soviet Union, China, Japan, Germany).  The US became the factory and the banker for the world.  There is a possibility that the pandemic will do the same for China.  China may not be as generous following the pandemic as the US was following World War II.