SocraticGadfly: 6/9/19 - 6/16/19

June 14, 2019

John Horgan, Freudian?

It sure sounds like the Scientific American writer, science popularizer and philosophical scrivener of sorts is just that, about halfway through this piece, where he claims that a bit of animal research offers corroboration for Freudianism.

Sorry, John, but I don't see that at all. Nor does our mutual friend Massimo Pigliucci, who linked it in a recent readings roundup. I said in a comment there that I was "gobsmacked." He said "it surprised the hell out of me."

All I see it as supporting is the idea of animal imprinting as studied by Niko Tinbergen and Konrad Lorenz, and neither of them was close to being a Freudian.

There's also a false dichotomy at play. Just because we still don't know much about consciousness, and that other, themselves sometimes bad stabs at the issue are problematic, doesn't mean that Freudianism deserves any serious consideration.

Hint: It doesn't.

And noting that Christof Koch says it does? To me, that's not an attestation to Freudianism; given Koch has jumped into the empty pool of panpsychism, if anything, it's an attestation AGAINST Freudianism. (So are other ideas of his on consciousness.)

Also, not all of the other attempts are as bad as Freudianism. Ev psych might be just about as pseudoscientific.

But others, like even the maligned behavioralism, have generally made themselves more open to scientific study than Freudian claims. That's part of how we know psycholpharmacology falls short itself. The "neurotransmitter theory" hasn't worn well.

THAT said, most these other stabs, for this and other reasons, aren't as bad as Freudianism. While meds don't work well for depression, they do in some cases work better than placebo. AND, while they do have a variety of bad side effects, they do offer a fair amount of relief for schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, etc.

Indeed, Elyn Sacks, subject of one chapter on John's most recent book, takes her meds for schizophrenia while also seeing a Freudian therapist. And, she says she would take the meds through even worse side effects than those she actually experiences. I think she's wrong on Freudianism as the particular counseling modality she seeks out, but not wrong on supplementing her psychotropic medications with counseling.

In addition, to riff on Jerome Groopman's piece, when Freud (and Jannet) in studying "hysterical" women realized they were coming across a boatload of cases of women alleging they'd been sexualy abused as children (and likely were), they dropped this like a hot potato. It was after that that Freud started pushing his "repression" ideas. The background on that is thus pretty sick.

Related to that, most these other theories at least make attempts to move the ball forward. Can't say that I've heard of Freudianism doing that, either.

At least it wasn't a Jungian conference.

That said, given the ardor with which, and duration of time over which, John has held to the "maybe there's something there" on Freudianism makes me wonder if there are personal as well as professional reasons at play.

I will give Horgan credit for running a piece by Frederick Crews in his own space. Whether it convinces Horgan of anything or not, I don't know, but I kind of doubt it.

June 13, 2019

Royce West ain't running against John Cornyn
nemmind, he must have found Pullman baggage handlers

A week ago, it was reported that Royce West continues to "do his due diligence" about running in the Dem primary to face John Cornyn.

Reality? Royce is taking about as long to shit or get off the pot on this decision as Joaquin Castro, and having lived in his state senate district most the previous decade, I say he'll probably get off the pot.

Update, July 10: The fact that Gromer Jeffers is breathlessly announcing today that Royce will have some announcement on July 22 (scribblings uncritically passed on by Kuff) only increases my guess that he is either
A. Not running
B. Will suck in the race if he does run.

July 21: OK, so he is running. I'll make sure that his baggage gets better known. And, with pleasure.

First, he likes his little south Dallas barony that being a part time legiscritter allows.

Second, he took a pass at challenging Cornyn on a previous cycle. He also took a pass on running for Dallas County DA in the year that Craig Watkins won. This is probably in part related to No. 1, and in part related to other things. Related to that? He and former Houston black state senate peer Rodney Ellis both have taken powders in the past on other statewide runs. Royce has done this enough, though, unlike Joaquin, with less public deliberation, that he's kind of the Hamlet of south Dallas politics.

And point the third?

He's got too much of a black eye potential from old Dallas Inland Port shenanigans, as both I and Jim Schutze know. He also was MIA on some south Dallas development issues next to his beloved UNT-Dallas. And, the inland port issues would raise his connections with John Wiley Price. Read everything with my Royce West tag for more.

This all said, back to Royce's baggage, individualized..

Yeah, most of it is more than a decade old. But, you know Cornyn would bring it up in the general election, along with West's apparent continuing ties to John Wylie Price. That's why he took a pass in 2014. And, if he does run in 2020, it will be on a gamble that his baggage is enough further away that he can avoid it.

But can he? After all, JWP went on federal trial just over two years ago. He beat the rap, tis true, but prosecutorial ineptitude was one factor. And even fellow Dems like former Dallas County Judge Jim Foster say that Price and West are "joined at the hip." That Snooze piece (you didn't deal with it, Gromer) mentioned other past conflicts of interest that Royce has had. Shit, the toothless Texas Ethics Commission fined him in 2010. And I haven't even mention West's ties to convicted Dallas County constable Derick Evans, who also had other ethics issues beyond what got him convicted.

He's got other baggage that's not even tied to JWP or Evans.

Like grifting off his legal contracts with Dallas ISD, then trying to get the Lege to allow said contracts, in the future, to be hidden from the public. Go here for more.

And, if a Sema Hernandez is a good-government progressive, or if GOP-lite ethics cop Chris Bell jumps in, there's a chance it becomes an issue already in the primary.

A House race in a safe district avoids all of that. If PB&J steps aside before Royce gets close to aging out himself.

And, to a lesser degree, ties to Our Man Downtown is why Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins won't run.

As for how well Royce would do in a primary? Contra a commenter at Kuff's site talking about him "holding his own" in the Valley, there is no "holding his own" there. With Sema Hernandez in the race plus Adrian Ocegueda as a definite vanidad candidate, West — and others who aren't Hispanic — are fighting over a fairy small bag of bones, and West isn't well known in the Valley.

Plus, there's already an African-American candidate in the race. And, while Michael Cooper may be relatively unknown, he's already run a state race, losing the 2018 primary for Lite Guv.

That said, other than possibly Cooper, none of the candidates float my boat and Royce wouldn't either. Sema sold her "progressive" soul for a mess of Beto endorsement pottage. M.J. Hegar? Too ConservaDem, starting with the military.

Two other questions.

One, if he loses, does this make Stephen Young of the Dallas Observer right that new mayor Eric Johnson is first in line to replace Eddie Bernice Johnson?

Young thinks Eric Johnson is next in line for that seat, but I disagreed a month ago. If she refuses to retire, in 2022 or later, he may be next in line, but not right now.

Second, does some up-and-comer finally primary him in 2022?

If I'm right about him not running for the nomination to try to defeat Big John, and also right that he, not Eric Johnson, is currently first in line for Eddie Bernice's seat, how long does he hold the No. 1 ticket there?

Through 2024 is my answer.

Back to the current race.

As for how well Royce would do in a primary? Contra a commenter at Kuff's site talking about him "holding his own" in the Valley, there is no "holding his own" there. With Sema Hernandez in the race plus Adrian Ocegueda as a definite vanidad candidate, West — and others who aren't Hispanic — are fighting over a fairy small bag of bones, and West isn't well known in the Valley.

Plus, there's already an African-American candidate in the race. And, while Michael Cooper may be relatively unknown, he's already run a state race, losing the 2018 primary for Lite Guv.

That said, other than possibly Cooper, none of the candidates float my boat and Royce wouldn't either. Sema sold her "progressive" soul for a mess of Beto endorsement pottage. M.J. Hegar? Too ConservaDem, starting with the military.

June 12, 2019

Celebrating 75 years of Big Bend National Park

Yes, Big Bend National Park officially achieved that federal status 75 years ago today. Texas Monthly released a special issue earlier this year; here is a selection from it.

Unfortunately, work changes and other things have interrupted what was, last decade, a string of enough visits, usually around Thanksgiving, to make me a "regular."

Mainly through photos, and just a few links, like that dead century plant silhouetted at sunset. I hope to show you why I was a regular. That included a couple of visits to the neighboring Big Bend Ranch State Park, to Terlingua, to Marfa, to Judge Roy Bean history and other spots in the area. And, driving from a place like the Metroplex, I also stopped a couple of times at San Angelo on the way back, when taking back roads. Fort Concho is always worth a visit there. But I digress.

Let's start here with this link of some of the best hikes, and this link with more easy and moderate hikes. The official National Park Service main map will give you more ideas of what's available.

Lost Mine Trail is a moderate difficulty trail with easy access on the way in to the Chisos Basin. It ends with a great overview of the east side of the Chisos Mountains and a canyon besides them, and even into Mexico.

This is a moderate-level hike. For people coming out from sea level, the challenge is increased by the altitude. You're at over 5,000 feet. Pace yourself. And, you're in mountains in a desert area, so dry air along with thinner air. Have some water on your hike.

Also note that I've seen a bear here once. So have many other visitors to the park. Runoff creeks from the Chisos are naturally good areas for shrubs and bushes with heavy fruit production as well as wildlife besides bears when they want meat.

At the top of the trail, you're essentially above the top of the "box" of the box canyon of Ponderosa Canyon. That's one of the few places in Big Bend you can see ponderosas. The trailhead is at the end of a rocky unpaved road that can be taken by 2WD cars, but at no more than 15 mph. If you don't mind the slow drive, it's a great hike.

Next? The Chisos Rim trail.

First, what I said about altitude and dryness apply here. You'll be over 6,000 feet once you get very far up the trail. But the views are more than worth it, especially when you work around more to the south.

That's seeing not just all the way into Mexico, but well, well into Mexico. As part of international cooperation that Trump doesn't get, that's national park land over there, too.

Emory Peak isn't the Rockies, but it does climb to over 7,800 feet. The trail to the peak itself is a spur off the rim trail.

It's a scramble, and literally. It's handhold climbing to the top of the peak itself, as shown at right.

Even if you don't go to the peak, the Rim trail, as shown by the view above, is still worth a hike for sure.

You climb from junipers into pines. You'll find piñons and other species here. Often, they'll have fresh sap, which smells so aromatic, especially in fall and winter, and will unplug any stuffed nose.

Besides the pines and mountain grasses, you may see many other things.

Like a century plant just about ready to bloom.

The trail is several miles, so, again, if you're not used to altitude, allow yourself plenty of time to climb.

Bears may be here on occasion. Ditto on mountain lions, though Grapevine Springs is the most common location in the park, it seems. (Unfortunately, I've never seen one.)

But, the flora is great even without the fauna.

Santa Elena Canyon can be beautiful near sunset. The sunset views take in both Texas and Mexico. The Rio Grande also reflects, in its width or lack thereof, both issues of climate change and seasonal drought within that.

The Windows Trail is fairly rugged, but the Oak Creek Canyon pouroff at end is a great view, also good near sunset.

The South Rim? Get up into the Chisos. Climb Emory Peak if you're game for a scramble near the end.

A nice early morning hike is the Lower Burro Mesa trail.

The inverse? The Upper Burro Mesa Pouroff trail can be nice in late afternoon. When you come back out, you can turn around and enjoy the sunset, as pictured.

The Chihuahuan Desert isn't as pretty at times, to some eyes, as the Sonoran or Mojave deserts, perhaps. But, it has its own sense of beauty, as reflected in pictures like this.

And, in a spot like here, a lesser-hiked trail, the existentialism of the park is good, too. You're alone.

Boquillas Canyon? I was fortunate enough to make the crossing to Boquillas, Mexico, before the park originally shut it down. It's open again, but not every day, and it's under human monitoring.

Mule Ears? Get up close to two volcanic plugs.

The whole old Ore Road area, whether you get to Ernst Tinaja or not, is great.

And, while Thanksgiving is my favorite time of year, spring is great, too. Yucca and wildflowers will both be in bloom by early April. That said, it can already heat up then: When I was once out there in mid-April, Presidio hit 100 my last day in the Big Bend Country.

Remember that it can also push 100 in late October. Have adequate amounts of water. If you're not used to altitude, pace yourself if you're hiking even at the lower portions of the Chisos Mountains themselves, near the Basin visitor center and hotel area.

Beyond the black bears, there's plenty of other wildlife in the area.

Grapevine Hills is the top spot for mountain lion, though, sadly, I have never seen one there.

Almost any place of high human traffic, especially at lower elevation, will have javelinas. Protect your food supplies from them as thoroughly as from black bear.

Rattlers of various species live in this country, as do scorpions. If you're camped out, always check your shoes or boots at the start of a new day.

Besides the poisonous ones, you'll find interesting fun critters like the lubber at left. (They're cousins of grasshoppers.)

And, if you're there in fall, not spring? Cottonwoods will be yellowing on stream beds, with bigtooth maples and sumac turning orange in the mountains.

Besides moves and other things causing some interruptions, I don't hike in general as much as I did years ago. My first 20-plus mile hike (dayhike, not backpack!) was in Big Bend. I did a few others since then. I've hiked at least a little bit in just about every section of the park other than the river except where non-4WDs can get to. As Ed Abbey found out about 70 years ago, you don't take a car on interior roads at Big Bend if the map tells you that you shouldn't. Not that that would have stopped Cactus Ed anyway.

Finally, a bit of a sad note. The Park Service itself, and third-party charities, talk about undervisited parks. Yet, as of noon, neither the National Park Foundation nor the National Parks Conservation Association had anything on Twitter. (The foundation eventually retweeted an Interior tweet, but nothing on its own.) The Sierra Club had something; the Lone Star Chapter for Texas didn't. Center for Biological Diversity didn't — and with its mix of montane, desert and riparian environments, including things like relict populations of bigtooth maples and many songbirds, it is an area of biological diversity. THe first two are the biggies, though, as they're specifically in support of national parks.


And, going by matters of "focus" on some Twitter accounts I checked, that's it ... it's a matter of focus. It's like someone said several years ago about the ACLU; it had moved from being a civil liberties org into being more of a general liberal activist group.

That's why #GangGreen enviros — or, in the case of the NPF, corporate capitalist bagmen who neoliberalized the centennial of the National Park Service with the shambolic help of Dear Leader — don't get my money.

June 11, 2019

TX Progressives offer choice, and choices!

Are tariffs on against Mexico or back off? And, how much additional danger than ever before does the dunes sagebrush lizard face with former Comptroller Susan Combs now confirmed as Assistant Secretary of the Interior? Your guess on both of those issues is as good as that of Texas Progressives as we offer up this week's Roundup. We also note that the death of a person in Sunday's severe weather in Dallas is a reminder of where we live.

The Texas Observer documents the failure of the Heidi Group, anti-choice wingnuts’ idea to replace Planned Parenthood.

An adoptee shoots down anti-choice Religious Right people, saying if it were “the solution” to abortion, it would have solved it long ago.

More in choices! On to political choices.

The Texas Green Party held its state convention the past weekend. Updates will be posted as available. The national meeting is in late July. And, in more good news, Gov. Greg Abbott has signed HB 2504 into law, which generally (though with some speed bumps) greatly eases third party ballot access.

Related to that, SocraticGadfly looks at the latest bad jurisprudence from Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, part of court liberals who often hate the First or Fourth Amendments, explaining that this is why Democrats' "Oh the SCOTUS" cry doesn't work on him.

The Trib asked all 38 Texas Congresscritters, counting Senators, if they had actually read the Mueller Report. Disagreeing myself with the Trib’s take, most Rethugs DID frame their responses in a partisan way while trying to sound nonpartisan, by talking about “election security” and ignoring that Mueller did NOT “clear” Trump on conspiracy to obstruct justice and related.. Will Hurd is the ONLY exception. This also ignores that 11 of 24 Rethugs refused to even respond, itself arguably partisan. 

Ross Ramsey notes that Texas Republicans are squeezed between the Scylla and Charybdis of tariffs and Ill Eagles and Trump’s rhetoric and idiocy on both. (Much of the agreement Trump announced with Mexico was negotiated months ago, too, despite lies from people like the thuggish Border Patrol union. In turn, THAT should be a reminder that unionism isn't a blank-check good thing.)

Dallas has sold the Bobby Lee statute that used to be in Lee Park, which needs to be renamed back to Arlington Park, or given the new name of Turtle Creek Park, or something. 

Sadly, Jim Schutze’s appeal to vote against the Snooze didn’t work, and Eric Johnson, an even bigger political suck-up than Ron Kirk, is Dallas’ new mayor. All Dallas County runoffs are here. Stephen Young of the Dallas Observer laments how the results leave Dallas' old guard with new strength on the city council.

Ron Nirenberg was re-elected to run San Antonio, also in runoff. Robert Rivard wraps up the San Antonio runoff; Heywood Sanders also notes the emerging political divide in San Antonio.

Grits shows how the Lege gutted criminal justice reform. Besides Lite Guv Danny Goeb, the biggest offender was ConservaDem John Whitmire. Hey, Texas Democrats? Wake me up when somebody successfully primaries him.

Brains’ latest Democratic prez candidates update focuses on jostling for debate entry.

Jacobin notes that the circular firing squad currently blazing away at the NRA shows its power is overrated.

Dr. Carlos Tirado bemoans a lost opportunity to prevent overdose deaths.

Kate McLean looks at the questions Pearland ISD continues to face about race relations in its schoo
Off the Kuff crunches the numbers in that Quinnipiac poll showing Joe Biden ahead of Donald Trump in Texas.

The Lunch Tray looks forward on its ninth birthday.

June 10, 2019

A win for Texas Greens, it seems (now official)

Update June 10: Gov. Greg Abbott has signed into law HB 2504!

I don't totally like the idea of candidates nominated by convention rather than primary paying filing fees, because, as Ballot Access News notes in describing Texas HB 2504, such fees were intended to pay the state and counties the costs for holding primaries.

That said, there is a silver lining.

The bill drops the ballot access hurdle from 5 percent to 2 percent, and says that a statewide race anytime in the last five elections counts. That was an amendment to the original bill, with bill author Drew Springer making it his own amendment.

It's the right thing, even if Springer is doing it for anti-Democrat political machination reasons to get Greens on the state ballot again.

The bill was referred to the Senate's State Affairs Committee for a public hearing on Thursday, May 16. Update, May 18: It passed there with little problem. As of the end of day on May 19, it appeared to have passed two readings for sure from the whole Senate. David Bruce Collins has details, including the party-line vote, not all Republicans understanding it, and the amendments that were swatted down. Surprisingly, two of the four were to cut the filing fees or else redirect them and only one was to make the ballot requirements more stringent. The fourth, interestingly, was to eliminate all barriers entirely, but as Dem. Sen. Rodriguez voted with the party line against the bill, this may not have been a serious amendment.

Then on May 20, it passed its third reading.

David Bruce Collins has more, including the filing fees involved (which aren't cheap for third-party candidates, as the state details). It's almost a poison pill, and since that's the core of the legislation, and has been introduced by Springer in past sessions, it seems very anti-Libertarian deliberate.

That said, Wes Benedict, former executive director of Texas Libertarians, has already said his party will likely challenge the fees portion of the law in court should it pass.

And, THAT would be the best result — lowered ballot access without the fees. That said, DBC notes that candidates can go the petition signature route upon nomination rather than paying fees. Those signature requirements are less than party ballot access signature requirements.

Update, July 11: That lawsuit — a federal lawsuit — has now been filed by a combo of Libertarians, Greens, other third parties, and individual plaintiffs.

(With the bill's being signed into law, DBC now also has an update, and promises he'll try to figure out when potential Green candidates can start the process of petition signatures in lieu of fees.)

Sidebar: In his original piece, DBC discusses running a state-level modified version of the safe states strategy, where Greens won't run in things like lege races (but yes, I presume, still on statewide offices, or prez???) where Dems have a good chance of winning — IF Dems call off the cock-block maneuvers etc., like the CCA Place 5 filing in 2014. He carefully says only that he envisions it, not that he supports it.


This is not, of course, or should not be, a "Green Party" bill nor a "kneecap the Dems" bill.

It should — and maybe actually could — help other third parties. Establishmentarian Kuff, who agrees with Brains and I on the motives behind the bill, admits to having little like for third parties, which is probably one of the biggest reasons Brains and I don't have more interest in him. And don't mind saying so. Like Progress Texas, Kuff just isn't actually progressive when you get down to it. (P-TX left this off a list of good bills to watch, which is why I refused to run them in my version of the May 20-24 Texas Progressives roundup.)

If Libertarians aren't religious conservatives, and Tea Party GOPers aren't enough of that, maybe the Constitution Party — if it will stop imploding even worse than the Greens — seeks state ballot access. And implode they continue to do: DBC documents the latest woes with Harris County Greens, traditional the biggest driver for the state party, losing their website domain. He then updates this June 12 with new but mysterious news. The website is back up, but the registrant is in Florida but unnamed, the host company won't disclose the name of the primary contact and this is otherwise silencio.

Maybe it's the family of old frenemy ACTUAL FLATTICUS!

And, on the left, if the Greens do implode more, maybe the SPUSA can get on the ballot. I'll probably write more about this if/when Abbott signs.

Single payer backing politicos?
You can't kowtow to hospitals (or doctors)

That includes ESPECIALLY you, Bernard Sanders.

Yes, America's Health Insurance Plans, ie, the health insurance industry and lobby, is the big stumbling block on single payer.

The actors are fake, but concerns behind those they represent are quite real.
But, "bribing" hospitals (and doctors) with promising to leave untouched fee-for-care service, and actual fees, to get single payer passed, is no way to do it.

Jon Walker calls out both Sanders, and also other single-payer or single-payer-lite Dems, AND Physicians for a National Health Program, on just this issue.

Walker is totally right as far as he goes.

But, he doesn't explicitly ask the question of what's your ultimate action if you can't beat hospitals and doctors down enough.

Since he compared American prices to British ones, I'll tell you my answer.

It's incorporating at least some elements of a British-type National Health Service here in America.

I know that Sandernistas or whatever think Bernie's work for single-payer is the bomb.

No, it's not.

It's better than nothing, but per Walker, and per myself, it's not the bomb. It's a small hand grenade.

I've said before that I don't want individuals going broke OR the government going broke over health care costs.

That's still true, and Sanders' small hand grenade (along with other single-payer Dems who don't address the cost issue) doesn't touch that.

I know the Bernie backers don't like to admit that his answers aren't always perfect.

He IS the best Democratic candidate. But, his answers aren't always perfect.

Per the stock photo, how much, in the US, with results varying from state to state, are we paying doctors for stuff that physicians assistants or nurse practitioners could do? How much are we overdoing the medical mantra of "get a second opinion" to having third and fourth opinions offered? How often, per the liked of pieces by John Horgan, are we paying doctors to be overaggressive in their diagnoses — and prescriptions for action — on things like prostate cancer? How much do hospitals go along with this to get "their cut" of doctor's admission fees? How often are we ignoring interlocking doctors' consultancy fees?

(On the "you don't need a doctor" department, I'm not sure how much better Europe is than us, but, on law, they have the equivalent of "super-paralegals" who get a bachelor's degree in law and have for decades done most of the corporate legal legwork.)

Much of this part is specific to doctors in hospital settings, due to the independent contractor type relationship they have with hospitals, and which nurses — and NPs and PAs — generally do not. The issue of racist hospital patients wanting white-only staff illustrates this.

Beyond this, anybody who takes a scientifically critical look at modern medicine knows what a whole book now says — too many doctors overtreat and overprescribe. Single-payer done right has to address this.

And even Greens may not be perfect on this.

Dr. Margaret Flowers busted the chops of Beto O'Rourke on his single-payer head fake. (And Sema Hernandez has yet to cop on accepting a head fake as reality.) BUT .... I've tweeted her this very blog post and have yet to hear back.

American fee-for-service medicine and everything connected to it — overdiagnosing, backscratching consulting arrangements and more, is almost as big a problems as AHIP in first and #BigPharma (plus medical device manufacturing) in second. And, it's not like pediatricians, as she is, engage in this to the degree high-dollar specialists do. But? Physicians can be tribalist themselves. And she is big on Physicians for a National Health Program.

Jill Stein is not as active in the organization as Flowers. But, she too has officially saluted its version of single payer.

Here's another story that talks about how part of America's health care problems is doctors and hospitals overcharging, overtreating and more, all for money.

And, here in Texas, while not writing explicitly about single-payer, Chronicle columnist Chris Tomlinson explains how, in fighting the new law on surprise medical bills, doctors and hospitals will do everything they can for your last dime.

June 09, 2019

Trump's tariff trip-ups (newly updated)

President Donald Trump continues to shoot himself in the foot in his tariff war with China, and the Trump Train riders continue to sign blank checks, doubling down on motivated reasoning and going beyond cognitive dissonance. (That happens when you simply refuse to read news or otherwise ingest information you know will challenge your POV.)

After his announcement of his newest round of tariffs against Beijing, it has responded with its own plans for new tariffs starting June 1.

Update, June 1: Trump, never smart enough to accept a half-loaf on anything when he thinks he can get a full loaf on one of two issues — tariffs and immigration — has given real tariff new stupidity news with his 5 percent until you stop the migration threat to Mexico That's just after he cut some Mexican, and Canadian, tariffs to try to get the Senate to pass NAFTA 2.0, aka USMCA.

Update, June 4: And now, the Senate GOP is reportedly considering a formal vote of disapproval against these tariffs. Trump fired back that these tariffs are distinct from NAFTA 2.0.

Update, June 8: After announcing those planned new tariffs against Mexico, he has now removed those again, while lying that they forced Mexico to act. Most of the agreement announced Saturday was negotiated months ago and most of the add-ons Trump tried to get this last week were rejected. And the whole drama was created by the drama queen himself. And much of the GOP Washington establishment has refined the old IOKIYAR acronym to now read IOKIYAT.

Update, June 9: Trump is now an officially bigger idiot than ever, and wrecking the work to present an actually good case against free trade, when he says he still could impose new, "profitable" tariffs on Mexico. Tariffs are NOT — and not designed to be — "profitable." And, Trump is now also busted lying that Mexico had agreed to more U.S. ag imports. Anybody who knows what NAFTA did to the Mexican farm industry would know prima facie that was likely a lie.

Update, June 10: Never Trumper Rethugs are also pointing out Mexico "pantsed" Trump, and yes, that's in the headline. Bloomberg points out how these failures (and getting called out on them) may make Trump more dangerous.

Update, June 27: Xi just gave Trump a "go fuck yourself" laundry list of things he needs to do before he'll play ball with him.

Read on for how this relates to Trump having at least some good ideas, but incredibly stupid execution, vis-a-vis China.

Before I go into the weeds of Trump's stupidity here, a couple of caveats.

First, I'm not a member of either "duopoly" party.

Second, I'm not a free-trader, but I'm not an anti-free trader either. Per the likes of Adam Smith and other classical economists, I support free trade between countries that are on a relatively equal basis (and with the additional caveat of transparency needed in that trade).

That means countries that have roughly equal labor rights, environmental protections, intellectual property and copyright protections, etc.

In other words, free trade with Canada or the EU? Bring it on. Ditto with Japan.

In all of these countries, there might be some details to worry over, but ... the basic idea holds. Bring it on. Ditto with the new "tigers" of SE Asia, once they reached this level. For instance, free trade 25 years ago with South Korea or Taiwan? No. Today. If we think they're at "that level," bring it on.

And, of course, China is not at that level. Despite talk of it greening up, it has horrible pollution problems, and not just the smog of air pollution. Plus, we've imported our pollution over there, with dirty Chinese industries then redoubling it. China has little labor rights, etc., and little intellectual property protection — as they steal everything, how could they respect intellectual property. (Well, they don't steal all of it; in many cases, Western companies agree to surrender it in exchange for Chinese manufacturing entry.)

NOW we can get to Trump's problems.

First, anything with EU or Canadian steel was nothing other than a rounding error and we did worse. The tariffs on Canadian paper were a bailout request by a hedge fund company and ignore the way the US allows below-cost timbering in national forests. Other EU tariff issues generally fall into the same category.

And, while Mexico isn't on the same level as the US, it may be ahead of China's level, plus is not the same economic threat.

So ... IF Trump hadn't been so stupid to do these other tariffs, he might well have had allies.

The EU is the third heavyweight in global trade. (Japan is a distant fourth, and has no real regional allies in SE Asia beyond following the US lead — or such was the pre-Trump case.)

The EU, like the US, has had ongoing concerns about intellectual property as well as manufacturing issues with China.

But, no. Donald Duck had to go piss the EU off first.

That said, this leads to problem No. 2.

For Trump, trade is and remains all about traditional industrial manufacturing.

For a man who allegedly created alleged wealth in the FIRE sector, not manufacturing, his blindspot to trade in services — including but not limited to intellectual property — is baffling even by Trump's standards of inducing bafflement.

If his tariffs — and related actions — were broader than they actually are, he might get more US support. But, they're not.

Third is Trump's wishful thinking misreading of China.

It's a different wishful thinking than that of the majority of establishment R's and D's, that "engagement" would get China to liberalize its society politically. But it's wishful thinking of its own, and just as dangerous.

In his warning to China after it announced its latest countertariffs, he seems to think that he can bully a country with a long, long, proud history, that's entering a resurgence to get to near where China's economic status was on the global stage for the majority of the period 0-1600 CE.

Beyond that, the likes of Chinese President Xi Jinping laugh up their sleeves at Trump. All bark, no bite.  And, his personalizing this surely makes the Chinese leadership think that he is thin-skinned and feels like he's losing.

Westerners personalizing things with East Asians generally backfires, anyway. Based on a visit to South Vietnam when he was Veep, LBJ seemed to have personalized the Vietnam War as him against Uncle Ho. And we know how that ended.

Also, as I noted elsewhere, even if "state capitalism" and not communism, and not a "demand economy," China still has a central economic control, and has of course NOT liberalized due to engagement.

That leads to point the fourth. With state capitalism, plus Xi already being guaranteed a post-Deng precedent setting third term, he doesn't have to battle on Trump's terms. And both Western financial media and China-/oriented mass media have already indicated he isn't now and he won't be in the future.

Then there's the issue of Trump bailing out farmers — but not other industries affected by the tariffs. A nail factory that closes in a small town may be small. But, its 50 employees now out of work may be almost as many as the total number of farmers in that county if it's partly exurban and not totally rural.

Politico, in my "personalizing" link, rightly notes that he's got two directly conflicting impulses at play. Wall Street took a bath last Monday when Trump announced the new tariffs then did his usual boastful tweeting.

Politico, though — and the rest of the establishment to the degree Politico represents it — does get one thing wrong, though.

That's the claim that both Trump and Xi are maybe not rational actors.

Au contraire. Xi has not started a single round of tariff battles. He and other Chinese brass HAVE cultivated the EU since Trump started the tariff wars, and pointing at Trump's EU tariffs, have gotten it to stay out of the fray. When Xi has launched countertariffs, they've been on the farm products, and other things like Kentucky bourbon, clearly in red states. And, they've been done with greater flexibility.

No, Xi has been incredibly rational.

I'm not saying Wall Street, or small businesses that aren't farms, are going to jump in to support Bill Weld in the primaries. But, what if a few more people stay at home in November 2020?


More and more, I see Trump not as an idiot, but in THIS WAY (and ONLY this way, The Resistance, hence all caps) to be like a Hitler or Stalin. He seems to think that his believing something to be so makes it so.

No, he's not the only person in the world who occasionally indulges this, but he has a high capacity for it.

And, speaking of "the resistance," Trump's combination of stupidity and fake news on tariffs does NOT give the pustulence excuses for its own tariffs fake news.