Sanctions and Wariness

Congress has passed and sent to President Donald Trump a bill that increases sanctions against Russia, particularly its energy sector, and against Iran and northern Korea.  It also adds limits Trump’s ability (and State’s) to ratchet those sanctions up or down in real time in response to Russian—or Iranian or northern Korean—behavior, a fillip that adds a question to whether he’ll sign it (his veto likely would only delay the thing; the bill was passed with veto-proof majorities in both houses).

Germany is “wary” of those sanctions.

The Betrayal of Lisa Murkowski

Lisa Murkowki is a Republican Senator from Alaska who voted against even opening debate on repeal and replace of Obamacare.

Murkowski has betrayed her constituents.  She betrayed them this week by trying to block debate on repeal and replace.  Or, she betrayed her constituents when she lied to them in 2015 with her vote in favor of repeal in the full knowledge that her vote didn’t matter because then-President Barack Obama (D) would veto the matter.

Republicans and Obamacare

In a Wall Street Journal editorial about Republican Senators’ timorous attitude toward actual repeal and replace of Obamacare now that what they do matters, the editors had this remark toward the end of their piece:

One vote to watch would repeal ObamaCare with a two-year window to replace it, which is similar to a bill that 51 Senate Republicans voted for in 2015. We’ll see how many have changed their minds.

We’ll see how many have changed their minds.  The rest of that sentence is this: …now that their vote has actual consequences, and they can’t hide behind their virtue signaling.

200 Years of History, Summarized

This set of graphs, via Mark Perry at AEIdeas, tells the tale.  The full article is Max Roser‘s at Our World in Data.

The graphs are easier to read in Roser’s article.  Following are Perry’s “captions” for each of the graphs.

  1. In 1820, 90% of the world population lived in extreme poverty vs only 10% today.
  2. In 1820, 83% of the world population had not attained any education vs 14% today.
  3. In 1820, 88% of the world population was illiterate vs only 15% today.
  4. In 1820, 99% of the world population was not living in a democracy vs 44% today.

Labor Under the Radar

Rather, a labor reform bill making its way (too slowly, IMHO) in the House.  The bill has some interesting items in it:

  • require unions to obtain permission from workers to spend their dues on purposes other than collective bargaining
  • mandate a recertification election upon the expiration of a collective-bargaining agreement if a workforce has turned over by more than 50%
  • take card-check off the menu of options for holding a union election
  • allow employees to withhold their personal contact information from unions

What’s not to like?

What’s holding up the bill?

Space-Based Defense

LtGen James Abrahamson, USAF (Ret) and Ambassador Henry Cooper, who were directors on President Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative, had some thoughts on this in their recent Wall Street Journal Letter to the Editor.

Brilliant Pebbles, the space-based interceptor we advocated, promised a high probability of kill (over 90%) of all of a “limited” strike of up to 200 attacking re-entry vehicles—the number then controlled by a Russian submarine commander. It’s better than anything we have today. It became the SDI era’s first formally approved ballistic-missile defense system, with a validated cost estimate of $10 billion in 1988 dollars (now $20 billion) for concept definition and validation, development, deployment and 20 years operation of that constellation of 1,000 Brilliant Pebbles. This isn’t expensive….

Brexit Works

It’s already paying dividends for the EU in the form of potentially extensive free market reforms as the continent begins to compete with a freed Great Britain for commerce.  Here are some doings in the competition for the financial industry currently centered in Great Britain.

France has promised changes to cut labor costs and Italy is changing its tax regime to make it less burdensome for bankers and other professionals. Spain’s markets regulator is trying to make Madrid more international by hiring native English speakers to revise and edit all communication the agency sends out in English.

Minimum Wage and Automation

Is technology—automation—really going to kill jobs?  No.  As many, including me, have written before, automation is only going to shift the nature of jobs.  Minimum wage laws are killing jobs, and will continue to and at increasing rates, by making robots cost effective despite their high up-front costs.

Wal-Mart, for instance, used to employ humans to track individual stores’ cash and manage their books.  Now at roughly 4,700 Wal-Marts, roughly 4,700 of those employees have been replaced by a machine that can track the books and while counting bills and coins at rates of 480 and 3,000 per minute, respectively.  Because it’s Wal-Mart, those folks, where they’ve wanted to, have taken jobs elsewhere in their store at the same pay, but those jobs are at risk, too.  Cashiers are being replaced by automated check-out stands, for instance.

It’s Time

…to sweep the ones we can’t trust from the Republican Party of Castrati and from Congress.

When Republicans voted on the repeal-only bill in 2015, they knew Mr Obama would veto it, making their vote largely symbolic. Of the GOP senators currently in the chamber, 49 voted for it at the time.  …

Moreover, many GOP lawmakers have already acknowledged that they would vote differently now that the stakes are far higher….

Now that these persons have to take action more concrete than virtue signaling, they’re exposing themselves as porch dogs.  They’re betraying their country, and more specifically, they’re betraying their constituents, to whom they promised for the last seven years, they’d repeal Obamacare and replace it.

A Union

doesn’t like Amazon buying Whole Foods.

[United Food and Commercial Workers International Union President, Marc] Perrone plans to file a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission, arguing that letting Amazon buy Whole Foods would trigger a wave of store closures and eventually quash customer choice.

With a straight face, he argued in his complaint (which somehow fell into The Washington Post‘s hands before the filing) that

Regardless of whether Amazon has an actual Whole Foods grocery store near a competitor, their online model and size allows them to unfairly compete with every single grocery store in the nation.