Tariff terrors?

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Made in China, Rock 'n' Roll at 2:31 pm by George Smith

From the Dept. of Just Sayin’: In the dollar store, almost everything is from China. I shop at the dollar store for almost everything! Like tens of million in the rigged US economy.

If President Trump slaps a 47 percent tariff on everything from China, the dollar store becomes the buck and a half store. Ten crappy plastic disposable razors for 99 cents becomes five or six crappy plastic disposable razors for the same.

I’m talking about the fact that multiplying a very small amount by a percentage equals still a small amount. (100 pennies x 50 percent = 50 pennies. 100 pennies plus another 50 equals $1.50)

Now, if you buy at Target, where it’s all from China but more high-button, your pair of Chinese-made plastic fake leather, call them pleather, shoes for 30 bucks is now about 45. If they last only two weeks before cracking this may give you pause.

Expensive luxury items made in China, think Apple, become more exclusive and the company takes a hit. Or maybe it doesn’t.

Apple, the corporate tax dodger, is innovative. It will attempt to shift manufacturing to another serf labor country. Also, consider that America’s shoeshiners, the detail workers for the plutocracy, like the brand. They can afford to be soaked for another two or three hundred dollars.

During the election, Trump attacked Apple. Of course, who knows what his position will be tomorrow? You could always ditch your iPhone for a 10 buck LG smart burnphone and a pay-as-go card at the supermarket.

Across the pond at the Guardian, a curious article on Brexit and the rise in price of American-made goods like Gibson and Fender guitars due to devaluation of the English pound:

British guitar buyers could soon be playing the Brexit blues as price rises caused by the slump in the value of the pound feed through to music stores.

Prices are increasing by double digits as top US brands such as Gibson and Fender increase list prices to make up for the weaker purchasing power of sterling.

Anthony Macari, co-owner of Macari’s on London’s Denmark Street, said: “We are seeing increases of 10-15%, not just on American guitars but on guitars coming in from Europe and China. Everyone is catching up.”

Who in the working class in England could afford to buy new Gibsons, though? They’re largely high end pieces. Zero or bad credit? Forget it.

It’s part of the reason the guitar rock industry is flat. Think that wonderful term from teh Great Recession, delinquent or non-performing assets.

Well, there are always “Chibsons,” Chinese counterfeits sold through Alibaba. (Furthermore, are counterfeits subject to tariff?) Or Epiphones and Squiers, still cheap from China.

Here, if Trump actually implements a 47 percent tariff on them the rock bottom models only rise from 80-110 dollars to 160. It’s the Mexican-made Fenders where such a tariff would really begin to bite into Fender’s business since they’re the mid-level price instruments. A tariff shoves their prices up into the lower range of an American-made Fender, rendering the Mexican manufacturng facility uncompetitive.

But the American-made guitar industry has been in the doldrums for a long time. Classic rock is no longer hip with young people; neither is playing the electric guitar. Rising prices due to trade war just might not mean that much for the industry domestically.

A newspaper piece, fresh today:

“The industry’s challenge — or opportunity — is getting people to commit for life,” said Andy Mooney, Fender’s chief executive officer. “A pretty big milestone for someone adopting any form of instrument is getting them through the first song.”

The $6 billion U.S. retail market for musical instruments has been stagnant for five years, according to data compiled by research firm IBISWorld, and would-be guitar buyers have more to distract them than ever. So how do you convince someone to put down the iPhone …

“Fender says it hauls in about a half-billion dollars a year in revenue and is on track to grow in the high single digits this year,” continues the piece. “That’s still down from its $700 million in revenue in 2011 …”

What do do? What to do?

There’s not a lot that can be done. The electric guitar, the basic models, anyway, are as near perfect in design as possible. Adding software and chips to them has been sngularly meh. Largely, no one cares, who already plays.

Fender thinks development of tuning apps may be one answer. I’m not sold but I’m the old white coot.

What’s left is to curry and maintain the high-end snob market, embracing the American-based artisanal business model for the few left with any money, now that the middle class is largely gone. “[The] most devoted … evolving into collectors, their walls hung with high-end instruments,” is how the newspaper puts it.

The paradox, or tragedy, which I’ve mentioned before, is that Leo Fender made his instruments and amplifiers for that middle class. And it is in the hands of that class, here and in England (where the musicians were working class) that the instruments rode to into the history books.

“But what about Wal-Mart?” someone from the old hoosegow screamed on my Facebook timeline. “Who is going to pay for all of this? WE ARE …”

I don’t entirely agree and am not actually opposed to potential trade wars with China or Mexico.

Hard as it is to currently believe, classical economics, as explained by a guy like Dean Baker used to call for rich nations like the US to perhaps run a trade surplus and export capital, while the emerging nations use the money to make things bought by their own people.

From Baker, last week:

In the economic textbooks, rich countries like the United States are supposed to be exporting capital to the developing world. This provides them the means to build up their capital stock and infrastructure, while maintaining the living standards of their populations. This is the standard economic story where the problem is scarcity.

But to justify trade policies that have harmed tens of millions of U.S. workers, either by costing them jobs or depressing their wages, the Post discards standard economics and tells us the problem facing people in the developing world is that there is too much stuff. If we didn’t buy the goods produced in the developing world then there would just be a massive glut of unsold products.

In the standard theory the people in the developing world buy their own stuff, with rich countries like the U.S. providing the financing. It actually did work this way in the 1990s …

Startlingly, I didn’t know this until I read his book, Rigged. Here in America, the received wisdoms have been just the opposite.

As a personal example, I can use five plastic crap razors from the dollar store instead of ten, twice as long. Now I won’t look so good on many days when they dull out but who cares?

What does happen if Wal Mart takes a hit?

From the archives — Fender.

Guitars made in China — the counterfeits.


Another one of the Good Boys on how to avoid the Apocalypse

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Made in China at 2:56 pm by George Smith

It’s very amusing in a mean way to see how shook up the pundits are at almost every newspaper in the country. And none more so than those at the New York Times. Faced with the somewhat less than remote possibility that HRC will have blown it by Tuesday, they’re using up all their digital wind in blandishments to those they’ve had absolutely no use for in the last decade. For the love of God, people, you cannot vote for Donald J. Trump. The glaring paradox is these lickspittles to wealth have much to do with why millions of people will be voting for DJT.

Yesterday it was grandee David Leonhardt and today it’s the top shelf chanteur for globalism, Tom Friedman. Friedman has spent his entire career writing how everyone below the super business class and tech industry has to suck it up and get used to the fact that cheap laborers in Asia have eaten everyone else’s hash so billionaires could thrive. There’s nothing for us here.

Maybe you can design T-shirts. Become a brand. Innovate! Disrupt! Write an app that is downloaded three million times. Get viral on Twitter with a billion followers. Say you can make medical radioisotopes at home out of lead foil and old radium paint and create new microorganisms that eat bark and shit gasoline and antibiotics in your garage. Start a company to harvest the plastic waste piles in China. Engineer 3D meat manufacturing or a thermostat that connects to the internet and promptly gets infected by malware. Make sure it all scales. Invent the next perpetual motion machine! Rent out your couch to someone with less money while you go back to living with mom and dad or a friend. See if you can lease your tool box. Stand in a ticket line for some rich person.

It was destiny that the lazy American be displaced and the jobs sent overseas. To each according to his talent in the global workplace. Plus, war is good. Someone in the Middle East has to “suck on it.”

Root hog or die!

And like Leonhardt yesterday, the seven figure whitemansplainer to beat all whitemansplainers, is sure the Trump Apocalypse will be bad. And he describes what will happen and what YOU must do.

It will “cause enormous instability and systemic vertigo.” Which is bad.

Friedman has no answers. It’s a short column. He’s so damn slack this time he doesn’t even go into the usual brain loop of asking a wise cabby in Mumbai or Singapore for advice to the wounded American voter.

Here’s what he does offer. A bromide: A plan and some ideas “can open new futures.”

IBM’s Watson wrote a pop song, “Not Easy,” that went to No. 4 in the Apple store for about 10 minutes this month, or something. Demonstrating computers can write shitty songs. And this is going to make songwriters who haven’t been able to make any money with their tunes for over a decade, what, exactly?

And it wouldn’t be Friedman if there wasn’t a stab at a coinage — in this case, STEMpathy workers, as the new in demand thing.

“[Jobs] that blend STEM skills (science, technology, engineering, math) with human empathy.”

Friedman himself has never had any talent in science, technology, engineering and math, global or local.

As for empathy, not seeing that, either.

That’s Tom Friedman getting hit with a cream pie at a lecture. He got off rather lightly. Also note, I wasn’t kidding about him recommending to get on the plastic waste pile bandwagon in China.

And you, too, can have this tune for your device absolutely free (because, y’know, IBM Watson could’ve written it) here.


Dean Baker

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Decline and Fall, Made in China at 3:40 pm by George Smith

Dean Baker, founder of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, has been explaining how the economy has been rigged for some timee, eloquently so. And he has a new book, Rigged: How Globalization and the Rules of the Modern Economy Were Structured to Make the Rich Richer, that puts it all in one place.

Here Baker spends time discussing trade-agreement (or government granted) patent monopolies, one direct result of is which Americans pay usurious/ridiculous prices for life-saving drugs. Over the past year, it’s a topic he’s addressed again and again, and what to do about it.

I’ve cited him here — frequently. And I’ll be reading the book.


Going Full Hitler

Posted in Bombing Paupers, Culture of Lickspittle, Decline and Fall, Made in China, WhiteManistan at 1:01 pm by George Smith

From the Guardian today, two of the six-figure swells go full Hitler: “Accusations of betrayal. Demagoguery and hatred. The bunker in Berlin. Comparisons with Adolf Hitler have been tempting throughout Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign for the presidency – never more so than at its mad, destructive climax.

“The Republican’s presidential bid appears to have become the campaign equivalent of the last days of the reich, when Germany’s leadership raged at bearers of bad news from the battlefield, ordered non-existent divisions to launch counteroffensives, and embraced a nihilistic plan to burn it all down and take everyone along.”

Real close to our predicament, huh?

Berlin was in ruins, encircled by three or four tank armies, not Americans, but the Red Army which had been left to take down the Fuhrer for obvious reasons. It had born the vast weight of casualties inflicted by the Fuhrer’s armies in the war.

And Germany’s leadership, plural, was not involved. It was the Fuhrer and only the Fuhrer who moved “non-existent” units, OKW — the supreme command of the Wehrmacht, and OKH, the general staff of the German army, had given up. There’s was to stand idly by and send out the Fuhrer’s senseless commands.

In the US, the capital is not rubble. And young school boys are not everywhere, manning 88’s at street corners and jumping out of hiding places to fire Panzerfaust’s (rocket propelled grenades) at the Red Army. The GOP higher ups are not going to be captured and tried as war criminals. And the entire country is not in ruins.

There are no real similarities between the last days of the Third Reich and election 2016. C’mon. Tthe digital flights of fancy are just a matter of the pampered taking the time to make themselves the center of attention, in comparing the catastrophe of the election to what was the climax of the inferno of World War II.

No, collectively, we’re just not that important.

This is going to pass and after November and when Barack Obama finally leaves the scene, the United States will still have no effective government. And there will be no fighting of global warming because the global chemistry is in, we’re way too late. Wall Street will go on as usual because the new President appreciates that they live successful, sophisticated and complicated lives there.

But our lives will continue to be boiled down by tech in synergy with corporate America. The police will continue to kill African Americans at will and acquire armored fighting vehicles.

Eighty percent of evangelicals will have voted for the man, in spite of everything. The majority of the US military will have voted for him, in spite of everything. Louisiana, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, Arizona, Indiana and quite a few more states will have voted for him, in spite of everything. The six figure swells will be stunned, just stunned by the number of people who, even in losing, voted for Trump. And there will be no more mood to join together and accept things, even if only for a little while, than there is now. There will be less, much less.

The most expensive global military in history will keep behaving as if nothing is going on at home and continue to bomb the poorest places. That is, until maybe we stumble into a war with Russia, that country that took down the Fuhrer. And then we’ll have a great new series of events to write stupid similes and metaphors about, up until rubble-ization comes home.

They’re never going to get it until things begin to get torn down right around them.

From Taibbi, at Rolling Stone:

Trump’s shocking rise and spectacular fall have been a singular disaster for U.S. politics. Built up in the press as the American Hitler, he was unmasked in the end as a pathetic little prankster who ruined himself, his family and half of America’s two-party political system …

That such a small man would have such an awesome impact on our nation’s history is terrible, but it makes sense if you believe in the essential ridiculousness of the human experience. Trump picked exactly the wrong time to launch his mirror-gazing rampage to nowhere. He ran at a time when Americans on both sides of the aisle were experiencing a deep sense of betrayal by the political class, anger that was finally ready to express itself at the ballot box.
The only thing that could get in the way of real change – if not now, then surely very soon – was a rebellion so maladroit, ill-conceived and irresponsible that even the severest critics of the system would become zealots for the status quo.

In the absolute best-case scenario, the one in which he loses, this is what Trump’s run accomplished. He ran as an outsider antidote to a corrupt two-party system, and instead will leave that system more entrenched than ever.


Free Tradin’

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Decline and Fall, Made in China, Shoeshine at 12:00 pm by George Smith

Hillary Clinton Said She Made The Argument For Openness In Trade Since American And Foreign Manufacturers Wanted Access To Markets Oversees. “I thought I was doing pretty well. I’m making the case, making the argument for openness, fairness, transparency, claiming, look, Malaysia manufacturers want access to markets overseas as much as American manufacturers, Indian firms want fair treatment when they invest abroad, just as we do, Chinese artists want to protect their creations from piracy, every society seeking to develop a strong research and technology sector needs intellectual property protection to make trade fair as well as freer. Developing countries have to do a better job of improving productivity, raising labor conditions, and protecting the environment, on and on.” [06262014 HWA Remarks for GTCR (Chicago, IL).docx, p. 5]

Clinton Said That The United States Saw Fewer Jobs With Greater Competition With Free Trade But Thoughtful Policies In The 1990s Saw An Economic Boom. “But certainly increasing productivity, fewer jobs is the simplest, greater competition from abroad as the world began to really open up and I think there was a reversal to some extent fueled by technology but also fueled by thoughtful policies in the 90’s where there was this, you know, economic boom that created 22 million new jobs and lots of people, you know, took advantage of that.” [05162013 Remarks to Banco Itau.doc, p. 44-45]

Hillary Clinton Said Her Dream Is A Hemispheric Common Market, With Open Trade And Open Markets. “My dream is a hemispheric common market, with open trade and open borders, some time in the future with energy that is as green and sustainable as we can get it, powering growth and opportunity for every person in the hemisphere.” [05162013 Remarks to Banco Itau.doc, p. 28]

Hillary Clinton Praised TPP. “Greater connections in our own hemisphere hold such promise. The United States and Canada are working together with a group of open market democracies along the Pacific Rim, Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Chile, to expand responsible trade and economic cooperation.” [Canada 2020 Speech, 10/6/14]

Clinton: “People At The Heart Of The Private Sector Need To Keep Making The Argument That A More Open, Resilient Economic System Will Create More Broadly Shared Prosperity.” “I think we all, not just public officials or outside analysts, but people at the heart of the private sector need to keep making the argument that a more open, resilient economic system will create more broadly shared prosperity than state capitalism, petro-capitalism or crony capitalism ever will.” [Clinton Remarks to Deutsche Bank, 10/7/14]

Hillary Clinton Said Scrap Recycling Demand From Asia Was Helping Improve Our Trade Balance And Fuel Our Economic Recovery. “I’m also delighted to learn that scrap products are a key export for the United States. By helping meet the demands for raw materials from emerging economies in Asia and elsewhere, you’re improving our trade balance and fueling our economic recovery. We’re talking about 20 to 30 billion in exports every year. And I looked at the program for this conference and was fascinated by all of the different issues that that leads you to study and learn about.” [Hillary Clinton Remarks at the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries Convention, 4/10/14]

Clinton: “When My Husband Was Elected In His First Two Years He Made A Lot Of Changes. […] He Passed NAFTA, Alienating A Lot Of The Democratic Base.” “But, I think it’s important to go back just for another historic minute. When my husband was elected in his first two years he made a lot of changes. And he passed a tax program to try to get us out of the deficit and debt situation that we were mired in after 12 years of quadrupling the debt. He passed really strong gun control laws, taking on the NRA, no easy matter to do in American politics. He passed NAFTA, alienating a lot of the Democratic base. We fought for healthcare reform unsuccessfully.” [Remarks for CIBC, 1/22/15]



Another public service announcement

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Made in China, Ricin Kooks, WhiteManistan at 1:27 pm by George Smith

Translated, another plug for Old White Coot, still under construction. But a great 20 minute listen with the hit, “Ricin Mama,” featuring Blind Poison CastorSeed on blues harp.

Two people have tried to commit suicide by castor this year. One, in Boulder, was successful.


One tremendous headache

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Cyberterrorism, Extremism, Made in China at 1:10 pm by George Smith

Blacked out for a few minutes during the middle of the debate.

I’ll be voting for HRC despite her being a pedant who talks nonsense about reviving the middle class through the fostering of small business. Sell your curios on eBay, in other words. Innovation!

Everything Trump said except the opening bits on trade and globalism sounded like gobble.

I blacked out again when the debate got to cyberwar, Putin being behind hacking us poor Dems and Trump going on about his 10-year old son being good with computers. Neither of the candidates has anything worth listening to on the subject. A few extra points off for HRC who assuredly knows about Stuxnet and our cyberwar with Iran but who insisted upon putting up a facade indicating the country’s behind in capability.

Blanked for a third and fourth time when it got to arguing about who was more likely not to use nuclear weapons first against a theoretical enemy. Trump seemed to say he would adhere to no-first-use then appeared to reverse himself seconds later.

Still unanswered, how to fix the wreckage caused by “free trade” in the US. Clinton had nothing for it last night. Expected nothing, got nothing.

However, since she’s going to be president she ought to have to keep answering for it, not just send her husband out the next day as cover:

“Mr. Clinton, who was president 1993 through 2000, acknowledged that the international trade deals have not always worked out as well as planned.” [the Toledo Blade]

“Not always worked out as well as planned,” accurate but like saying, “Deepwater Horizon was a bad oil spill.” It kinda leaves a lot out.

From Politico:

“Her opponent blamed NAFTA, but that’s not really what happened. You want to know what happened? It’s really important you understand this, because any president who wants to trade with other countries has got to take this into account.”

Clinton said Carrier wanted to break the union in a rush toward profits and in turn blew off an offer from employees to try to save the Midwestern plant from going to Mexico.

“They wanted to break the union, make the money in a hurry and give it to their activist shareholders, we used to call them raiders, and give it to their CEO. So an American president, until we go back to being a stakeholder country, where corporations take account not just their most active shareholders, but their workers, their communities and their customers and their future, we have to be a lot more careful,” Clinton said. “And that is something we have all learned.”

The Clintons would love to squirm out of this by throwing up a dust screen of nit-picky details. Economists, and authors like Thomas Frank, have written quite a bit about how NAFTA was made to give corporate wealth power at the expense of labor.

In this case, Bill Clinton is being slippery and it’s because his wife is extremely vulnerable in this area.

So it’s a choice between the teacher’s pet and the class clown. Between Reese Witherspoon and Jack Black.Barbara Ehrenreich, today

And do listen to all 90 seconds of China Toilet Blues from “Old White Coot.” It helps me out, if only psychically.


The Opinion of Free-Trade Hating Cat

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Made in China at 2:43 pm by George Smith

Free-Trade Hating Cat sez: “I will never again sleep or lay upon an air-conditioner not made in America. I curse Carrier and all like them. This window a/c box is from the time when we still made stuff. I checked.

“And another thing! So-called free-trade resulted in the great cat murder of 2007, when shitty corporate American scum conspired with a Chinese firm to pump up cat and dog food with melamine filler, a plastic poison that caused painful death and heartbreak! I wasn’t alive them but I know an old-timer in the neighborhood who was and he told me it was horrible and he was lucky to still be alive.

“I hate globalism and what it has done to millions of cat owners! Rowrr!”


Music for while you read

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Decline and Fall, Made in China, Rock 'n' Roll, WhiteManistan at 1:10 pm by George Smith

Old White Coot — field recordings in stereo! Collect them as they come. Perfect for readings on the Culture of Lickspittle.


Retraining Camp (continued)

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Made in China, The Corporate Bund at 1:17 pm by George Smith

In the discussion of the rise of Trump the only thing the six figure explainers consider is the anger of those left behind by the great leap forward of globalism. They’re the factory workers displaced by offshoring and trade deals written to hand power to corporate leadership at the expense of everyone else. They, the angry, are the unskilled and uneducated. And white, of course.

But if you’ve paid attention the educated and over-educated have gotten a rum deal, too, depending on where you stand and if you’ve been able to read basic English and understand minus numbers most of your life.

So today’s post considers a note from a reader, one that keys in on the domestic information technology worker, citizens considered to be pretty far from uneducated and unskilled.

An introduction, by way of an excerpt from Computerworld:

When a company decides to outsource IT jobs overseas, there is no protection for U.S. workers. Professional accomplishments are irrelevant. Degrees — whether in computer science, mathematics, or in some field that has allowed them to figure technology out — do not matter. The internal awards of merit, the five-star performance reviews are meaningless. The unpaid hours, at nights and on weekends, make no difference. The workplace turns cold, hostile, indifferent.

“The Democrats, having sold out to corporate America years ago, have no choice but to fall back on the retraining fallacy,” e-mails a blog reader. “Otherwise they’d have to point out that their donors are screwing us and doing that might stop the money train.”

It’s a common story. And one wonders why it hasn’t occured to the six-figure explainers that this very educated class of workers is also really angry about the alleged “meritorcracy” of America and the universal benefits of globalization.

For example, from last year, a story in the LA Times, one of many on a Disney maneuver, one curtailed by its increasingly bad optics:

Disney has canceled recent plans to replace employees in 30 technology positions with workers from an agency known for outsourcing jobs to immigrants on temporary work visas.

Employees of Disney/ABC Television in New York and Burbank first heard of the layoffs in late May. In recent weeks, before the company reversed course, some of the employees were asked to help train their successors, mostly via teleconference but also in person in some cases …

Keith Barrett, who had been a technology employee at Disney World for more than a decade until he was forced into retirement earlier this year, posted on his Google+ account that companies should address skills shortages by repositioning or training existing employees.

“In short; if you are laying off your good performing and long term staff, especially in bulk numbers, and replacing them with inexperienced, cheaper non-hires, you aren’t using the H-1B program to increase your staff by hiring rare skills,” Barrett wrote. “You are using it to cut costs.”

At the Center for Economic and Policy Research, Dean Baker is not particularly impressed by a LA Times article on how post-NAFTA, Mexico has boomed and this has been good for American workers.

It means, Baker says in the post’s hed, the you redefine “boom” as “downward:”

[The] promotion of the post-NAFTA Mexican boom continues. The latest guilty party is the Los Angeles Times which devotes a lengthy piece to telling us how the boom is not just good for Mexico, but also the United States. Mexico’s per capita GDP growth since 2008 is less than 0.7 percent. This is a growth rate for a developing country that would more typically be described as “pathetic” than a boom.

Made curious, I went to read the LAT’s piece.

The newspaper’s reporter and editors interpret graphs in a very unusual way. If you page down, you’ll see a graphic labelled “US factories slowly climb back …”

The climb back, for this year being a negative 0.2 percent in employment. That would be a loss, in arithmetic class.

And the values preceding it are not particularly impressive. From 2011 – 2015, alleged good gains in employment seem to hover around 1 percent or less, hardly anything to crow about. On the other hand, there are nice pictures of Mexican workers in automotive factories in Nuevo Leon and San Luis.

There is a great bit in the piece:

“In the process, workers like Zarate are being lifted into the middle class by the thousands … That sounds like an exported version of the American dream, circa 1965, in places such as Dearborn, Mich., or Marysville, Ohio.”

That’s some soaring description. And so don’t you think, if you’ve stumbled in here by accident and still have a well-paying job, that you, like, ought to selflessly sacrifice it right now so that somewhere else in the world a ca. 1965-like middle class American dream might bloom?

What crap.

Warning: Tasteless.

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