Wednesday Night #1878 Steel & Steele

Written by  //  March 7, 2018  //  Wednesday Nights  //  No comments

Great thanks to Gerald Ratzer for putting together a most interesting WN last week with Dr. Gavin Winston and Dr. Mark Roper, though it was sad to learn that Donald Trump appears to be right (perhaps for the wrong reasons) about the NHS as a model for Medicare/Obamacare reform.
It may be the only thing Trump has been right about  – although opinion seems to be moderating a wee bit about some aspects of  the Tax Bill.

Steel, Tariffs & Trade
Certainly this week’s news about his intention to impose  25% tariffs on steel and 10% alumin[i]um has been met by emotion ranging from horror to disgust by just about everyone  at home and abroad except for the US steel companies. As Russell Berman points out:  “Republican leaders fear a trade war that would dampen the economic benefits of their tax cuts, which the GOP is depending on to stave off heavy losses in November’s midterm congressional elections.”
The departure of free trade advocate and  director of National Economic Council Gary Cohn is an inevitable loss. Equally inevitable – and lamentable – is the ascendancy of Peter Navarro
The Atlantic sums up the problem:
Republicans Can’t Stop Trump’s Trade War
Congress has the power to block the president’s proposed tariffs on steel and aluminum. Why aren’t lawmakers using it?
The hastily arranged announcement horrified the veteran free-traders who lead the GOP in Congress: not only House Speaker Paul Ryan, but also the chairmen of the House and Senate committees with jurisdiction over trade, Kevin Brady of Texas and Orrin Hatch of Utah, respectively. Trump has rebuffed the efforts by Republican lawmakers and some of his own advisers to slow his drive for tariffs, and GOP leaders appear to lack either the will or the votes in Congress to block him legislatively.
… Republicans were clearly hoping the White House would roll back Trump’s announcement over the weekend, either by putting off the tariffs or by making clear that key U.S. trading partners would be exempted.
… Congress could stop Trump from imposing the tariffs tomorrow if it wanted to. The Constitution gives the legislative branch explicit authority “to regulate commerce with foreign nations.” And just last month, on a 400 to 2 vote, the House passed legislation that extends for three years a program that reduces various tariffs for businesses.
But over the last 50 years, Congress has delegated the bulk of its trade power to the president, and there isn’t much expectation that it’ll wrest it back anytime soon.
Amidst the talk of trade wars, Brookings examines How Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs could affect state economies
Most disturbing is the report that  Trump was angry and ‘unglued’ when he started a trade war, officials say
There were no prepared, approved remarks for the president to give at the planned meeting, there was no diplomatic strategy for how to alert foreign trade partners, there was no legislative strategy in place for informing Congress and no agreed upon communications plan beyond an email cobbled together by Ross’s team at the Commerce Department late Wednesday that had not been approved by the White House.
“No one at the State Department, the Treasury Department or the Defense Department had been told that a new policy was about to be announced or given an opportunity to weigh in in advance.”
Ian Bremmer of Asia Group writes: Trump is so obsessed with winning that he might make America lose

Steele, espionage & the Russia probe
One of the things that obviously weighs on Trump is the Russia Probe and as the plot thickens each day, Christopher Steele is again in the news. The 12 March edition of The New Yorker has a lengthy – and fascinating – feature:
Christopher Steele, the Man Behind the Trump Dossier
How the ex-spy tried to warn the world about Trump’s ties to Russia
If you aren’t exhausted by all that information, you should also read The Digger Who Commissioned the Trump-Russia Dossier Speaks and/or Trump’s Miss Universe Gambit
Inevitably John le Carré has been consulted about the reliability of Christopher Steele; the most engaging piece, an imagined Q&A with George Smiley,  was published in The Daily Beast Clive Irving: What Would Le Carré’s Master Spy Think of Trump and Russia? – an elegant way of expressing the author’s opinions.

Unrelated – or is it? – news of espionage cum possible Russian involvement: the mysterious case of  Sergei V. Skripal and his daughter. “If his current misfortune [British understatement at its best] does prove to be a poisoning, it reflects “more cracks forming” in the rules governing the murky world of espionage.  …  Rather than being a defector like Litvinenko, Mr Skripal arrived in Britain as part of a sanctioned swap. And rather than being a visible critic, he had faded, as old spies tend to, into quiet obscurity. As the Economist drily remarks: “To target him now would be a breach of cold-war etiquette.”  While the death of Alexander V. Litvinenko is evoked, most reports are quick to point out that the stories are very different.

Europe
Germany, finally, has a new government, while Italy might be said to have a new non-government
We had hoped that gradually Steve Bannon would fade away. No such luck, as he has invaded Europe with his populist message “liberation could be found in a combination of nationalist populism and blockchain-powered cryptocurrencies, which some believe will eventually make central banks redundant.” Maybe he should have a chat with Nouriel “Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies represent the mother of all bubbles” Rubini about cryptocurrencies.

Coke, Nestle Near Ownership of World’s Second Largest Aquifer
A concerted push is underway in South America that could see the Guarani Aquifer, one of the world’s largest reserves of fresh water, soon fall into the hands of transnational corporations such as Coca-Cola and Nestle.
Environmental groups, social movements, and land defenders warn that the exploitation of the freshwater reserve could see the 460,000-square mile (1.2 million sq. km.) reservoir sacrificed for the short-term profits of agribusiness, energy, and food-and-drink giants.
One friend notes “In the Bahamas when you ask for bottled water you get what looks like any other bottle of water except for one thing, the water comes from the sea and is desalinated and filtered. I was astounded because it tasted delicious. I don’t know what it costs to do this but it just goes to show that it is possible and there certainly is a lot of ocean.”

Bits & Pieces
Thanks to Quartz for  “The Nose”, an entertaining and fact-filled post – who knew that  a scent called “Queen of Hungary’s Water” created in the 14th century  —a cure-all and elixir for the 70-year monarch—is considered the first European fragrance? Several versions are still sold today. How many of you know that WN has been graced by the presence of a   ‘Nose’ in the form of entrepreneur and innovator Isabelle Ramsay Brackstone  of Lili Bermuda?

In case you haven’t noticed, the NYT  now has a Montreal-based correspondent, Dan Bilefsky who often choses quirky subjects for his  pieces. Generally, his views are refreshing, reflecting the fact that he has been away for 28 years, Two recent columns are Is  Leonard Cohen the New Secular Saint of Montreal?  and In Montreal, a Berlin Wall of the Mind?  Regarding the latter, at least one reader objects to his statement that “While the younger generation of Anglophone residents will confidently pronounce ‘St.-Laurent,’ some of their parents stubbornly cling to ‘St. Lawrence’,” and points out that the older generation resolutely clings to “the Main”.

Robbers steal $5 million in cash from Lufthansa plane
Five crooks held up security guards at a Brazilian airport and drove off with a large stash of cash from a German cargo plane. Brazilian media say the criminals only took six minutes to pull off the heist.

The world’s oldest message in a bottle was found on an Australian beach. It was tossed from a German ship into the Indian Ocean in 1886.

Super Monster Wolf is a crop-saving demon robot – and it is really, really ugly!

While many are away for March Break, the stay-behinds are very welcome – no demon robots will greet you, only wagging tails of real four-footed creatures.

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