Three important developments clamor for discussion since our previous issue: the policy recommendations, foolish and sound, in the wake of the Parkland, FL school shootings; the delayed reactions to the successful flight of the SpaceX Falcon rocket; and the trade war threat of the Commerce Department’s recommendation for steel and aluminum tariffs and import quotas.
Policy recommendations in the wake of the Parkland, FL school shootings
We could perhaps make short work of a discussion on this subject with two images:
Our nominations for the absolutely worst proposal comes, surprisingly, from the weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal. Columnist Holman W. Jenkins, Jr., argues that “Technology can redefine the mass-shooter problem“:
License-plate readers track our travels. Cellphone towers can triangulate our location. Face recognition is increasingly deployed in conjunction with security and traffic cameras; in China, police officers have it built into their spectacles. Not to mention the stupendous amounts of personal data we willingly hand over to businesses….But technology potentially changes the equation in important ways. Big data may not be better than psychologists at predicting who will commit a mass shooting a year or two from now, but it can help us know who might be planning one next week: Who got kicked out of school, failed to show up for a court-assigned counseling session, made a big purchase at a gun store, posted a deranged or threatening message on social media, prompted an uptick in alarmed social-media chatter by friends and acquaintances….In another few years, unless you cut yourself off from the network (which will arouse its own suspicions), you will be findable in seconds. A police drone overhead will be able to focus its cameras on you or the vehicle or building in which you are to be found.
Bravo, Mr. Jenkins. You’ve basically adopted Premier Xi’s Big Data solution for 1984-style control of the Chinese population and Xinjiang’s Uighurs.
Less imaginatively, the Journal’s weekend columnist Peggy Noonan trots out the time-worn and previously tried trope of “banning assault weapons such as the AR-15,” clueless to the fact that any semi-automatic self-defense weapon could be used as an assault weapon and that therefore she is either foolishly singling out one such weapon — or calling for almost the entire US semiautomatic firearms-owning citizenry to be disarmed. Good luck with that.
Happily the stated policy of the Journal’s editorial board, versus some of its columnists, overlaps our proposals, which are
- To fire FBI and other government officials who fail to act on important intelligence and citizen tips concerning deadly threats (9/11, Parkland);
- To court martial military and fire government officials who fail to act on violent threats (Fort Hood) or fail to forward violence convictions or court orders to the gun registry (Sutherland Springs, TX)
- To recommend that states establish similar reporting requirements for officials, clerics, psychologists, and therapists who become aware of an individual or individuals threatening death or injury to others (Virginia Tech);
- To recommend that all public assemblies, including schools, churches, buses, and trains have or permit one or more designated armed personnel, as appropriate for the size of the gathering, either in the form of police (uniformed or plainclothes) or armed civilians. (San Bernardino, CA Christmas Party). Training programs for such civilian personnel would be desirable. No more “gun free zones.”
This is the armed, alert, and responsible citizenry and accountable-government model to minimizing mass murder.
We could tell this story in pictures too:
But there’s much more going on than a few cartoons could possible tell. Robert Zubrin of the Mars Society explains that with the SpaceX Falcon success, “The Moon is now within reach. Mars is now within reach.” His article is a “must read.” This was not just American back-thumping. Quartz reports:
When SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket debuted this month, China’s aerospace community was mostly envious, noting that their equivalent rocket, the Long March 9, would not be ready for another decade. One story in state media observed that “to put it more bluntly, this time the Americans showed us Chinese with pure power why they are still the strongest country in the world.”
The head of Europe’s space program watched the US company launch its enormous, largely reusable new rocket, and was also inspired.
“Totally new ideas are needed and Europe must now prove it still possesses that traditional strength to surpass itself and break out beyond existing borders,” wrote Jan Wörner, director general of the European Space Agency, on his official blog. He expressed dismay that rockets now being built by Europe’s space company, Arianespace, won’t be reusable, which puts them at a deep cost disadvantage to SpaceX. He called for a re-thinking of Europe’s rocket program.
Commerce Department recommendations could spark trade war if President Trump accepts them
The following is based on the weekly trade report of our correspondent on this subject, LC.
The Commerce Department on February 16th recommended that the US impose tariffs and import quotas on foreign-produced steel and aluminum under Section 232 of US trade law. Section 232 concerns protection of industries critical to national defense. The Commerce Department took so long to prepare these recommendations that President Trump has only until March 11th to decide on the steel recommendations and March 19th for the aluminum ones. It is believed that the Commerce Department took so long because it has a very weak case to make that military production is threatened by steel and aluminum reports.
That Defense Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson are among the officials who oppose actions under 232 (and reportedly caused the delay in concluding the investigations) suggests that they don’t recognize a threat. Other reported Administration opponents of 232 actions include NEC Director Gary Cohn and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, while Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats just reported in the annual Worldwide Threat Assessment that “US allies’ and partners’ uncertainty about the willingness and capability of the US to maintain its international commitments” may force them closer to China and Russia.
It’s also relevant that the Defense Department produces a report for Congress every year on US industrial capabilities, describing on the status of sectors and industries important for defense and identifying any vulnerabilities and programs undertaken to deal with them. These reports in recent years have not flagged problems due to imports or recommended taking any action against steel and aluminum imports.
Moreover, the fact that the Commerce recommendations would allow exemptions for steel or aluminum products that are in short supply domestically undercuts the purpose of the remedies, which is presumably to force a buildup in domestic capacity in just those areas where it is inadequate. On the other hand, the report doesn’t show a plunge in US steel-or aluminum-making capacity, indicating why the report focuses on the broader threat to the economy, not just to metal production needed for defense.
Some also argue that “Imports Are Not Shrinking Steel-Industry Jobs, Progress Is.”
A recent letter to the President from fifteen steel-using manufacturing associations states that “Our members make everything from steel wire used… military aircraft, fabricated steel plate… for military vehicles and many types of machined and formed steel [consumer] products…. Collectively, [our] members represent 1,003,854 jobs at 30,631 facilities, compared with 81,873 jobs at 880 facilities in the US basic steel industry. [emphasis added] Our member companies source the majority of their steel [domestically], but they also require continuing access to global supply chains…. However, we believe that restrictions on basic steel imports will actually adversely impact national security, the economy, and the steel industry itself. We are very concerned about the unintended and disastrous consequences which Section 232 restrictions on imports of basic steel products would have on our industries.” Similar arguments have been made by aluminum-users.
If Trump adopts the Commerce Department recommendations, retaliation will follow from US allies as well as China. Both the European Union and China are preparing retaliations focused on US states whose support Trump will need in the 2018 primaries. But Trump is reportedly leaning toward adopting Commerce’s recommendations.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership alternative
If so, the gains to the US economy from the Trump-Republican tax reform will likely go up in smoke. Trump has a better alternative if his better angels should prevail: rejoining the Trans-Pacific Partnership, now going under the revised acronym CPTPP.
While agriculture groups continue to be in the forefront of those promoting a return to the pact, this week 25 Republican senators led by Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) sent President Trump a letter “in support of your recent comments expressing interest in re-engaging with the TPP.” As Daines’ office noted, “The letter comes a week before President Trump is scheduled to meet with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull at the White House,” where trade and the TPP are expected to be prominent topics.
The letter says: “we ask that you prioritize engagement with the TPP…. economic engagement with the 11 nations currently in the TPP has the potential to substantially improve” US competitiveness, jobs, exports, and wages, and “fully unleash America’s energy potential, and benefit consumers,” building on the President’s regulatory reductions and tax reform. “Further, TPP can… strengthen ties with our allies in the region, counter the influence of the PRC, and increase pressure on the PRC to adopt substantive… economic reforms. Re-engaging on TPP would also provide another platform to modernize trade with Canada and Mexico.” Therefore, “we encourage you to work aggressively to secure reforms that would allow the US to join the agreement…. and we stand ready to work closely with you.”
The meeting with Turnbull is shaping up to be particularly important. The Australians, like the Japanese, strongly prefer to have the US in the pact and Turnbull is aware of what US demands might have a chance of winning agreement from the TPP-11 and which would be rejected. So if the President is seriously considering rejoining (tip: he probably isn’t), his conversation with Turnbull should clarify the situation.
hat tips: Nicomachus, LC, Powerline
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