A Better Mousetrap

Mousetrap1

Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door.

Americans believe in better mousetraps. That’s because they used to build the best ones in the world. Nowadays things are changing and they build mainly military products, which are great for killing people and enriching arms peddlers but not so great for making friends. Nor are all their military projects successful. Take the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter project, for example, the fattest military procurement operation in history. That atypical multi-purpose fighter plane, known among insiders as “the plane that sunk the Pentagon,” is a lemon in all of its unwieldy versions. According to one qualified critic, Pierre Sprey, “Its only purpose is to channel billions of dollars to Lockheed Martin.” 

In 1953, Charles E. Wilson, then the president of General Motors, told a congressional committee, “What is good for General Motors is good for the country,” and he was essentially right. GM was then the leading automobile manufacturer in the greatest manufacturing country the world had ever seen. Detroit was the undisputed industrial capital of the world in the first six decades of the 20th century. In the 1930s Gary, Indiana, the world’s leading steel producer, was actually cloned on the Russian steppes as Magnitogorsk, Russia’s steel city. Magnitogorsk aspired to be a model of industrial greatness and is still making steel today, though it has become a world-class showplace for contamination and dysfunctional industrialism. Think Flint, Michigan.

Here’s today’s automobile production reality (2017 figures from ceoworld.biz):

  1. China: 24.81 million units
  2. Japan: 8.35 million units
  3. Germany: 5.65 million units
  4. India: 3.95 million units
  5. South Korea: 3.74 million units
  6. United States: 3.03 million units
  7. Spain: 2.29 million units

What Happened to America’s Mousetrap Dominance?

Times change. The United States’s industrial dominance was consolidated during World War II with her prodigious production of tanks, planes, liberty ships and all the materiel that goes with winning a war. Post-war America, rich in Texas oil and floating in near-obscene abundance, saw no reason for varying the formula that put them on top. So they continued to build massive cars run on cheap gasoline, with no regard for what the Germans and the Japanese were doing. The Americans had already conquered them once and had nothing to fear. That’s why they took an inordinately long time to notice that the Germans and the Japanese were building better mousetraps. They took so long, in fact, that there was no catching up and their once all-powerful auto industry turned to the Great American Rust Belt. Today it exists solely thanks to government bailouts, and no one knows for how long.

Not to worry, though, as a select group of brilliant American businessmen had already discovered and were exploiting the new dream business, and it wasn’t manufacturing.  It was a money-spinner that was quicker, easier and more profitable than manufacturing grommets. It was financial services, 21st-century capitalism’s answer to alchemy. As academic, Christopher Witko, explains in an article in The Washington Post (March 29, 2016): 

… many observers believe that this expansion of the financial sector comes at a high cost. Scholars and politicians alike point to the “financialization” of the economy — and an increased reliance on the financial sector to create growth — as the root cause of many of our economic problems. The list includes income inequality, growing household debt, slow growth and the instability manifested in the 2008 global economic crisis.

Is this to suggest that financial operators are highly motivated to influence politics and policy in favor of their sector’s growth? It seems obvious and goes a long way to explain the meteoric rise of Washington’s financial-sector lobbyists. The more “adjustments” they can achieve for their bank and hedge-fund clients the more money everybody (except the American taxpayer) makes. And plowing some of that money back into ever-more-sophisticated lobbying efforts further oils the machine and keeps it spinning.

Who’s Doing the Great Mousetraps These Days?

Two countries are very much in the news in this respect lately, China and Russia, the former for their world-beating Huawei G5 fifth-generation high-speed communications kit and the latter for the S-400 anti-aircraft missile. Both new products touch raw nerve ends in the United States, and for obvious reasons. The Trump administration actually banned Huawei in the States–and in the process left Huawei’s founder’s daughter floundering under house arrest in Canada for allegedly violating American commercial sanctions, leaving the poor Canadians holding the ball.

The irony here is that the Chinese G5 system is at least two years ahead of its American competitors in development, and they have no hope of catching up any time soon. So urgent is their need for the Huawei equipment in order to deploy their own G5 services that they pressured President Trump into lifting the ban. How did the Chinese get so far ahead? As they weren’t busy running consecutive wars around the world, they had the time and resources to devote to technological development. So they built a better mousetrap.

Looked at from the outside–and it’s difficult to observe these highly-secret military matters from the inside–it seems the Russians stole a march on the Americans with the S-400, an anti-aircraft missile that will shoot down anything from the size of a football, at any speed, at any altitude and from a long way off. Not only that, but after American stalling for years on the sales of the–admittedly inferior–Patriot missiles to their allies, the Russians are merrily peddling the S-400 around the world, including to US Middle East partner, Turkey, a bitter pill for Uncle Sam. The Russians were helped greatly in this by the fact that the S-400 is not only superior to its American counterpart. It’s also less than half the price.

What Will the Americans Counter With?

That’s not quite clear yet. Their research-and-development and industrial resources having been relegated in recent years in favor of military adventures and tax cuts, they’re reduced to using their once-reliable strategies of smoke and mirrors. “Once-reliable” because President Trump, with his bold frankness and naive bravado, has drawn the curtain back on United States geopolitical objectives and strategies, and the Americans now have trouble taking the world by surprise. Broken treaties and repeated lies have convinced the world that they can no longer be trusted. It’s unlikely they will win this race with their usual black-ops public-relations campaigns,  patriotism, bluster, threats, false-flag operations or their new favorite recourse: sanctions. None of these ploys look promising anymore. Nothing works like a better mousetrap.

Thanks for sharing.

What Went Wrong, America? 2/2

maga

The West Virginia Coal Wars 

The West Virginia Mine Wars are a dramatic and often overlooked chapter of American history. In the early 1900s in the coalfields of Southern WV, miners faced desperate circumstances. Below ground they withstood some of the worst working conditions in America. Above ground they dealt with brutal mine guards and a mine guard system that controlled the politics and economy of the region.

In 1921 mountaineer families from the nearby hollows, African Americans from the Deep South, and immigrants from places like Hungary and Italy all came together to fight for the right to unionize and basic constitutional rights. From August 20 of that year, miners began rallying at Lens Creek , approximately ten miles south of West Virginia state capital of Charleston. Estimates of total numbers vary, but on August 24, between 5,000 and 20,000 miners began marching from Lens Creek into Logan County. Many of the miners were armed. Continue reading “What Went Wrong, America? 2/2”

Washington’s Hollow Men Write Their Own Ticket–and Yours 1/2

Trump_Cabinet_Categorized

The “experts” in President Donald Trump’s first cabinet.

We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats’ feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar

T.S. Eliot
(Full text here.)

Beware the Lycanthropic Superpower

There’s a prima facie case for believing that President Donald Trump’s dubious curriculum and limited intellectual and moral capacities are sufficient justification for asserting that he exercises very little power in the White House. What, after all, can a man who doesn’t read contribute to decision making at the world’s highest level?  That leaves us to believe he’s just a straw man, a placeholder for the oligarchs that really run the United States in every significant respect. The obligatory next question is: Do the oligarchs themselves embody the necessary intellectual and moral capacities?

Since the only values recognized by the USA’s neo-con ruling class are economic in nature they are the only values the Trump administration proposes and promotes. They give no credit to human, nor historical, nor esthetic nor ethical considerations. The mythical “market” rules: just the bucks and the bling, and the faster the better. They know this scenario is essentially based on lies but they will continue to employ it as long as it works.

In matters of international politics the values of the American strategists of permanent war are equally bleak, just brutal smash-and-grab tactics, applied around the world, their aim to consolidate the United States as the world’s pre-eminent lycanthropic superpower.

What Ever Happened to the Free and Fair Election?

Just over two centuries ago the United States of America was cast in the Constitution as a democracy, albeit limited and imperfect. Women and slaves couldn’t vote, for example, and the election of the President was indirect, via an “electoral college” created by the Twelfth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The Founding Fathers didn’t trust the unwashed masses; neither has any US American administration since. Even so, it was a step forward over Europe’s absolute monarchies.

Then, as now, the authenticity of a democracy depended upon free and fair elections. Without elections free of fraud and outside influence a “democracy” is a democracy in name only. Flash forward 231 years. How is the United States doing today in matters of preserving democracy? Not terribly well, it seems. Today the great election influencer is money. According to the Wikipedia, in 2009 the Washington Post estimated that there were 13,700 registered lobbyists and described the nation’s Capitol as “teeming with lobbyists.” The ratio of lobbyists employed by the healthcare industry, compared with every elected politician, was six to one, according to one account. (Could this be why the United States doesn’t have proper universal health care, like nearly every other country in the industrialized world?) This is just healthcare lobbyists; the ratio of the total is more like 16 to one. Someone has to pay all these lobbyists. Who pays and what do they get in return?

According to Tom Murse, writing on the ThoughtCo.com website,

Lobbyists are hired and paid by special interest groups, companies, nonprofits and even school districts to exert influence over elected officials at all levels of government. Lobbyists work at the federal level by meeting with members of Congress to introduce legislation and encourage them to vote certain ways that benefit their clients. But they also work at the local and state levels as well.

What does a lobbyist do, then, that makes him so unpopular? It comes down to money. Most Americans don’t have the money to spend on trying to influence their members of Congress, so they view special interests and their lobbyists as having an unfair advantage in creating policy that benefits them rather than the good of the people. 

Lobbyists, however, say they simply want to make sure your elected officials “hear and understand both sides of an issue before making a decision,” as one lobbying firm puts it. Together they spend more than $3 billion trying to influence members of Congress every year, according to the Center for Responsive Politics in Washington, D.C.

PACs and Super PACs Thicken the Plot

The “political action committee” (PAC) dates from a 1943 CIO union initiative, but it has come a long way since then. Its latest iteration, from, 2010, is the Super PAC, thanks to two judicial decisions that revolutionized campaign financing in the United States. A Super PAC may not make contributions directly to candidate campaigns or parties but may engage in unlimited political spending independently of the campaigns. Unlike traditional PACs, they can raise funds from individuals, corporations, unions, and other groups without any legal limit on donation size. (Emphasis mine.)

That is to say, they can exert massive influence the outcome of elections. The bottom line is that big money, whether individual billionaires, companies, trade associations or unions, can now virtually buy legislators. The process is admittedly indirect but mortally effective. The United States government has become a commodity in their much-vaunted free-market economy. It has passed from democracy to “democracy.” There is only one limit on the power of the Super PAC: how much money are they willing to spend?

Add to the lobbyists and the Super PACs, the legislators’ self-arrogated right to redesign their congressional districts to assure their own re-election (gerrymandering), a grotesque and anti-democratic practice that is also legal.

gerrymandering1

The Spanish philosopher and essayist, José Ortega y Gasset, wrote in his Meditaciones del Quijote, “Yo soy yo y mi circunstancia y si no la salvo a ella no me salvo yo.” (I am myself and my circumstances and if I don’t save them I don’t save myself.) President Donald Trump is himself and his advisors, and he doesn’t seem capable of saving either them nor himself. Without personal resources, without civilized criteria, nor advisors who are more than neophytes, party hacks and generals, the President is a hollow man.

Go to part 2/2
Read more rantings in my ebook, The Turncoat Chronicles.
Thanks for commenting and sharing

 

Así se quedaron los estadounidenses con el gentilicio “americano”.

gentilicios

.

Puestos a acaparar…

¿Por qué los estadounidenses se auto-denominan “americanos como si fueran los únicos”?

Gracias por comentar y compartir.