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various, 2019-01-29

January 30, 2019

I’ve been away from this blog for a while, and over at the project syndicate peanut gallery, to get my daily news/rant fix. Anyhow, some brief notes for the diary function. Notes on 2020 election pre-season at the very end

China-US – confrontation heating up.

This is the big item, dwarfing all others.

Events recap:

  • Huawei CFO and heiress Meng Wanzhou as well as Huawei the company indicted in the US for various charges ranging from sanctions violations and ancillary charges, to industrial espionage. Extradition is apparently requested from Canada.
  • Various USG statements about how Huawei and ZTE are national security threats in a vital industry. (UPDATED – Strangely, Cisco, the US network equipment player, pulled out of the industry completely some years ago is not a top player in wireless, and Lucent was bought by Alcatel which was then bought by Nokia. This leaves Nokia, Ericsson, and Samsung as the non-Chinese players in the top 5 wireless. (link)? Cisco is a/the leader in fiber optic networks and wired networks. This is also a developing area, as opto-electronic switching and network equipment in the 100Gbit range is on its way. Neither this nor wireless is my area of expertise.
  • Trudeau fires Canadian ambassador for off-script remarks that were too sympathetic to  Meng.
  • China trade talks ongoing with a new round due to start this week. The previous round ended in a quiet failure.
  • Soros hops on board the anti-China train via speech at Davos, with an almost surreal (in my opinion) exhortation for the US government to free the Chinese people from the techno-censorship-surveillance-social-control regime that they do live under. Media filled with stories generally in support of the narrative, which is bipartisan.
  • What can all this accomplish? It will force people in both the US and China and in third countries to make a binary choice – eliminating any kind of compromise or middle ground.
  • Is there any chance of persuading or forcing the Beijing government to give up? Can  public support in China be swayed to force Beijing to reform? Didn’t work the slightest bit for Russia. Being on the receiving end of belligerent rhetoric tends to unify people – completely obvious. The intended audience is other countries – ones who aren’t heavily dependent on trade with China (so not Taiwan or Japan, despite their basic agreement with the US position).
  • Where will it lead? It will lock in the “dual containment” strategy for US geopolitics. That means simultaneously having a cold war type relationship with both Russia and China.
  • Is it dangerous (for the big countries)? Not really. Everyone has nuclear weapons, so any direct fighting is out of the question – and it would be even without the nukes. Proxy wars are always an option though. Haven’t had one in southeast asia in a while . . .
  • Are there other downsides? Yes. Both countries will now get more militarized and paranoid, accelerating the regressive right wing syndrome that’s already growing too much as it is.
  • Is there a way to stop it? Probably not 😦  Short of a global economic disaster (e.g. very large scale breakdown in trade), I think the pro-conflict forces are too numerous and too entrenched.

Brexit – impressive political gridlock. I thought a compromose (semi-soft) brexit could be made that doesn’t hurt any of the parties too much. I was wrong. Extension is a perfectly good way out also (EU officials giving half a dozen unmistakable hints in the past week inviting the UK to pursue this path), and I hope they do that. (UPDATE- today’s UK Parliament proceedings defeated amendments related to extension, but they’ll be back). Besides extension, the options start getting ugly. Hard brexit or crash-out splits the country (Scotland and perhaps Northern Ireland will prefer the EU to the UK, if a choice is forced on them). Soft-brexit, no-brexit, or repeat referendum will piss off the Leave voters. The UK’s long standing Labour/Tory power structure will then go the way of so many other analogous center-left/center-right structures elsewhere in the EU, and give way to an unstable mix that gives further-right elements considerably more influence.

France – The yellow jackets are the big news. Macron’s popularity sure didn’t last long. They don’t have elections for a couple of years, but I’m curious how Macron gets out of this one.

Turkey Vague warning signs of overlevered emerging market. Depending on other international events, and especially interest rates. No immediate threat, but it would again threaten a refugee wave (i.e. shakedown to extract financial support from EU), which in turn threatens further right wing politics in the EU.

Venezuela – The usual. Maybe a parting policy type gift from T Rex, former head of Exxon, who was one of the companies dispossessed by re-nationalizing the Venezuelan national oil company under Chavez in the early 2000s.

Syria – Trump claims desire to pull out troops, immediately contradicted by neocons. Trump obviously not in charge of things. Although Trump actually made the right call, maybe it’s half good that he isn’t in charge. But it’s also half really-scary. Hardly comforting to know various factions in the US national security world are freestyling it, especially considering all those departments have been stocked with aggressive interventionists for the last 18 years at least.

US, 2016 election fallout: Roger Stone indicted. Finally, Mueller got someone who engages in dirty election campaign tricks. Vindication for the Hillary 2016 campaign and all the noise in the past 2 years? Not quite.

US, 2018 election fallout: With a secure majority in the House, Democrats finally have a means to obstruct the Trump administration. So far, Trump’s $5-6 Billion for the “wall” seems defeated. (hey, wasn’t mexico supposed to pay for that?). I wish, probably in vain, that Pelosi will be as firm on other even bigger issues that will come up.

US, 2020 election preview: The pre-season started, I suppose. Several candidates announcing. Some preliminary comments – I’ll stick to just the Dem. primary race since it’s way too soon.

  • Biden and Sanders seem to be the top candidates in the handful of polls that I glanced at so far. Neither has announced, technically – not even sure if Sanders will run. Warren, Harris, and O’Rourke are the other top ones in my opinion.
  • In early polls, remember that it’s a multi-way race. The “progressive vote” is likely to be split. In a way this gives Biden an advantage, since he can dominate his niche — “moderate” (i.e., conservative) Democrat. When looking at the 10-way polls, if we see something like  Biden-23 Bernie-20 Warren-15 Harris-10 O’Rourke-10 , what does that tell us about the Democratic party’s preferences?
  • California goes earlier this time around. Super Tuesday will be really super – but there won’t be early primaries in ANY midwestern (or mountain) states, other than Iowa.
  • Candidate impressions, at this early stage (note: i’m pretty darn biased)
    • Sanders
      • proven vote getter, broad enthusiasm, universal name recognition
      • single handedly dragged Democratic party discourse into the present
      • scored some victories such as Amazon minimum wage, even while Trump admin controlled the entire gov’t
      • impeccable progressive bona fides, multi decade legislative record
      • wins on Health, wages, etc. (top issues with Democrats per polling)
    • Warren
      • also good progressive issues
      • slightly lower favorability than Sanders per polls
    • Biden
      • most impressive resume (Senator and VP)
      • has the conservative-democrat niche mostly to himself (for now)
      • his legislative record is full of pretty shameful programs (Clinton Crime Bill, Patriot Act, no-bankruptcy-for-student-loans) that are going to be hard to defend to the modern Democratic party
    • Harris
      • This cycle’s Clinton equivalent in a number of ways.
    • O’Rourke
      • This cycle’s Obama equivalent. Obvious charisma. Also a Clintonite Democrat (i.e., largely pro-status-quo), it turns out.
  • Trump – i’ll just say one thing – his dismal net approval rating now is higher than it was during the 2016 campaign. Don’t underestimate his chances. Also, there’s nothing he would like better than a primary challenger, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets one.

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