Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Trump Rescues America from the “Paris” Global-Grifter Great Climate Con

In taking a big step toward fulfilling a core campaign promise to improve American business competitiveness and the jobs that flow from that, President Donald Trump last week withdrew the United States from the Paris climate agreement.  Despite frequent and widespread intentionally-misleading references to that accord as a “treaty,” it is nothing of the sort as it was never affirmed by the Senate as a treaty but rather was simply Obama’s personal commitment.  Donald Trump is a different president with different commitments. 

The whole tale of this Paris accord serves as an especially emblematic example of the underhanded way foreign governments have been taking advantage of the United States, retarding its competitiveness while sucking up American money, supported by the American Democrat Party.  The United States has been the Europe’s cash cow for 70 years, effectively subsidizing their welfare state while they ignore their NATO financial obligations.

The supposed purpose of the accord is to address global warming.  To start with, I remain unconvinced that man-caused global warming is real.  Earth’s climate is always changing.  Not long ago in geologic terms we have had a Little Ice Age, and in fact some observers believe that the earth is coming out of a long-term relatively cool period.  The important, bottom line is that science means skepticism and requires hypotheses to be proven with methodology and data honestly obtained, shared, and reproduced.  However, many global warming believers have not behaved like scientists but rather like religious fanatics, shouting down skeptics, at best ostracizing them and at worst threatening to imprison them for climate change “denialism” (e.g., Robert Kennedy Jr.).  As to climate “facts,” there is evidence of widespread fraud and dishonesty in the climate “science” community regarding measuring and reporting data.  And finally, the elitists who preach the global warming gospel themselves do not behave as if they really believe it (e.g.:  global warming high-priest Al Gore’s Saudi oil-money mega-million dollar payoff for opposing cheap American fossil fuel energy; his many mansions with the energy footprint of mid-sized American towns; and his international jet-setting in private planes with other rich, preening climate hypocrites like Leonardo DiCaprio).     

Now to the Paris climate accord.  The best summary of the issue that I have seen comes from Oren Cass of the Manhattan Institute, who made the following key points via twitter [the emphases in italics are mine]: 
  • The accord failed a year before Paris, in 2014 in Lima, when the world abandoned the pretense of reaching a firm climate agreement.  Instead, [the revised accord] established a new process where each country chooses whatever voluntary commitment it wants, [and] all are automatically accepted.
  • The Paris conference itself was largely a collation and stapling exercise.  Of course they reached an "agreement."
  • But this agreement came at the expense of acknowledging or addressing the actual tradeoff at the heart of climate policy: Developing countries need to build a lot of fossil-fuel infrastructure to develop as quickly as possible; doing so locks in emissions.  If you don't want them to build fossil-fuel infrastructure, you have to tell them to develop more slowly.  They're not interested in that.
  • Unsurprisingly, these developing countries made Paris commitments to continue with business as usual. And then everyone applauded.
  • But the individual commitments made in Paris, and thus their sum, do not depart from the trajectory the world was already on.  Strangely, climate activists seemed enthusiastic – almost as if they cared more about the optics of agreements than climate action.
  • Further, President Obama, did make an aggressive commitment on behalf of the United States. This created a terrible dynamic.  Reviewing progress each year, countries with weak commitments would be applauded for "success," [but the United States would] be chastised for falling behind.
  • This is now happening: "China, India to Reach Climate Goals Years Early, as U.S. Likely to Fall Far Short"
  • Why would the United States remain party to such an agreement?  There has been little argument that we should do it for "the climate."  Instead, the [argument for the “agreement”] seems to be that if a debating society exists, one must attend.  Weak pledges and noncompliance are OK, just not honesty.

The important take-away from this overview is that to the insider globalist bureaucrats the Paris accord really isn’t about the climate.  As the saying goes, follow the money.

On June 1, Trump announced his decision to withdraw from Obama’s commitment; from the Wall Street Journal (link):  

Mr. Trump, framing his decision mostly in economic and political terms, pointed to the agreement’s lesser requirements for the world’s other leading carbon emitters, China and India.  He voiced his concern for protecting the environment and eschewed any reiteration of his past claims that climate change isn’t real, but he said his decision is rooted in protecting the country’s interests.  “This agreement is less about the climate and more about other countries gaining a financial advantage” over the U.S., the GOP president said.

After Trump announced that he was not renewing Obama’s personal pledge (again, personal since the US commitment was never a treaty), the reaction from the left wing, both foreign and domestic, was fast and furious.  Even some weak-kneed, dopey nominal Republicans like Mitt Romney had a harsh word.  Many accord supporters referred to it as a “treaty” (e.g.: Bill Clinton; some American national news organizations) that the United States “cannot just get out of” (European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker).  But they lie.  They know full well that it is not a binding treaty and that all they had was an Obama personal pledge and nothing more.

So what’s going on?  Why the vehemence?  Well, we must ask cui bono? – who stood to benefit from Obama’s “aggressive” pledge to the Paris accord, and just what did that pledge consist of?  For one thing, it consisted of an Obama promise to shovel, for starters, $3 billion in American taxpayer money to some international climate group to promote renewable energy in the world.  The New York Times reports that Obama has already transferred $1 billion to the United Nations “Green Climate Fund.”  (And the three biggest global polluters – China, India, and Russia – have so far contributed nothing.)  Who controls and disburses all that money – unelected globalist elitists, no doubt, with gargantuan expense accounts.  And who would stand to make mega-bucks from all that additional spending on alternative energy projects – none other, for example, than big-time Democrat donor and Obama pal Tom Steyer, who’s made a fortune in alternative energy off government contracts funneled to him by Democrats.  Steyer, seeing this gravy train cut off, unsurprisingly did not take Tramp’s withdrawal very well, calling it “a traitorous act of war against the American people." 

Moreover, the Paris accord contained restraints on manufacturing that impeded American competitiveness.  One European auto executive lamented that if his American manufacturing competitors were not held back in their energy use by this accord then he would need his government to compensate for the heightened American competitiveness.  Here’s what the Paris Accord has meant for American business, from a horse’s mouth (link):  

"The regrettable announcement by the USA makes it inevitable that Europe must facilitate a cost efficient and economically feasible climate policy to remain internationally competitive," Matthias Wissmann, president of the German auto industry lobby group VDA, said in a statement on Friday [June 2].

"The preservation of our competitive position is the precondition for successful climate protection.  This correlation is often underestimated," Wissmann said, adding that the decision by the Unites States was disappointing.  The VDA said electricity and energy prices are already higher in Germany than in the United States, putting Germany at a disadvantage[Emphasis mine]

Another European bureaucrat worries that without all the American money to support the accord, presumably meaning, in no small part, money for the high salaries, swanky hotels, and fancy meals for bureaucrats like himself, he is “unsure about its future.”  And so it goes.

Every reasonable person wants to do all that is necessary to sensibly and efficaciously promote and maintain the cleanest environment possible somewhere short of having all humans commit suicide.  Clean air and clean water are essential and must be responsibly protected.  But ginning up global warming hysteria based on fudged data and biased models – whose implications and predictions have repeatedly failed to materialize – is a con, driven partly by faith-based neo-religious frenzy, partly by hypocritical moral preening, and partly by nefarious profiteering.

This Paris climate accord is part of that big con, as globalists seek to reduce American competitiveness while grabbing a mountain of American cash for themselves, all in the name of addressing the global warming hysteria they themselves have created.  In this hustle they are aided and abetted by many American Democrats who see themselves less a part of America than as part of a global elite entitled to live the high life off the backs of the tax-paying, hard-working benighted rubes in the country whose traditional values they disdain.     

R Balsamo


Commentaries by Oren Cass on this subject:

The most recent:  We’ll Never Have Paris: The climate change agreement was designed as a feel-good, do-nothing program – https://www.city-journal.org/html/well-never-have-paris-15231.html?platform=hootsuite

https://www.manhattan-institute.org/html/leading-nowhere-futility-and-farce-global-climate-negotiations-7816.html

Sunday, June 4, 2017

The Battle of Midway, 75 Years On

Lt. Commander John C. Waldron
Today is the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Midway, in which the American navy defeated a superior Japanese force and turned the trajectory of World War Two in the Pacific. 

After their strategic loss at the Battle of the Coral Sea a month earlier in May, 1942, the Japanese were determined to win a decisive victory over the Americans in one final, massive naval engagement.  Their hope was that the Americans would sue for peace after the destruction of the naval force that served to protect their west coast from invasion.  The Japanese plan was to invade Midway Island, which lies at the far end of the Hawaiian Island chain, over one thousand miles west of the American naval base at Pearl Harbor.

Rather than concentrate their forces, the Japanese, fortunately for the Americans, divided them into multiple prongs of attack.  The spearhead, and most important part, was a strike force of four aircraft carriers and some escort ships that provided the guns to defend against air attack.  Those Japanese carriers did not benefit from the considerable additional defensive firepower the Japanese could have deployed around them had they not split their forces.  The American naval force, the heart of which consisted of the aircraft carriers Yorktown, Hornet, and Enterprise, knew via superior intelligence the overall arrangement of the Japanese strike forces but not their location.  The Americans took a position to the northeast of Midway and waited for the Japanese to arrive.  The American air forces on Midway Island itself took part in the battle and served, in a sense, as a fourth carrier, although their planes were not as effective as those carrier-based.  The battle, once begun, turned on many factors, including American personal initiative and some good fortune in timing. 

A pivotal element of the battle was the courageous role played by a small squadron of the effectively-obsolete, slow and cumbersome Douglas TBD Devastator torpedo bombers and the history-changing personal initiative displayed by its commander John Waldron of South Dakota.  From Wikipedia:

[On] June 4, the 15 Douglas TBD-1 Devastators of [squadron] VT-8 launched from Hornet's flight deck in search of the enemy.  Before takeoff, [Lieutenant Commander John Charles] Waldron, [VT-8’s commander,] had a dispute with the Hornet's Commander, Air Group, Stanhope C. Ring, and Hornet CO Marc Mitscher about where the Japanese carriers would be found.  Despite having a contact report showing the Japanese southwest of Hornet, Mitscher and Ring ordered the flight to take a course due west, in the hopes of spotting a possible trailing group of carriers.  Waldron argued for a course based on the contact report, but was overruled. Once in the air, Waldron attempted to take control of the Hornet strike group by radio.  Failing that, he soon split his squadron off and led his unit directly to the Japanese carrier group.  Leading the first [American] carrier planes to approach the Japanese carriers [in the entire battle,] Waldron was grimly aware of the lack of fighter protection [as those fighters had run out of fuel,] but true to his plan of attack committed Torpedo 8 [squadron] to battle.  Without fighter escort, underpowered, with limited defensive armament, and forced by the unreliability of their own torpedoes to fly low and slow directly at their targets, the Hornet torpedo planes received the undivided attention of the enemy's … Zero fighters.  All 15 planes were shot down.  Of the 30 men who set out that morning, only one – [pilot] Ensign George H. Gay, Jr. – survived.  

Their sacrifice, however, had not been in vain.  Torpedo 8 had drawn down the fighter cover over the Japanese carriers, and also forced the carriers to maneuver radically, delaying the aircraft relaunching to which the Japanese were committed.  After further separate attacks by the remaining [later-arriving] two torpedo squadrons over the next hour, Japanese fighter cover and air defense coordination had become focused on low-altitude defense.  This left the Japanese carriers exposed to the late-arriving SBD Dauntless dive bombers from Yorktown and Enterprise, which attacked from high altitude.  The dive bombers fatally damaged three of the four Japanese carriers, changing the course of the battle.

American dive bombers returned early the next day to sink the fourth Japanese carrier, but not before that carrier sent off waves of its own planes that attacked and severely damaged the American carrier Yorktown, which was soon thereafter sunk by a torpedo from a Japanese submarine.  Having lost all four carriers of their strike force, the Japanese turned back toward Japan.  It was a great though costly American victory.

Ensign Gay, whose plane was the first of his squadron to take off from the Hornet that morning of battle, continued to serve after Midway.  From Wikipedia:

Gay [later] took part in the Guadalcanal Campaign with Torpedo Squadron 11, and he later became a Navy flight instructor.  He was awarded the Navy Cross, Purple Heart and Presidential Unit Citation for his actions in combat at Midway. He was also later awarded the Air Medal.  After World War II, he spent over 30 years as a pilot for Trans-World Airlines.  He often lectured on his Midway experiences, and authored the book Sole Survivor.…  [In] 1994, Gay died of a heart attack [at age 77]….  His body was cremated and his ashes spread at the place that his squadron had launched its ill-fated attack.

Churchill’s words after the Battle of El Alamein are just as apposite for Midway and the Pacific War – “This is not the end.  It is not even the beginning of the end.  But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."  The pivotal Battle of Midway, 75 years ago today.


R Balsamo

Related link:
El Alamein at 70 –“The End of the Beginning"

Sunday, May 7, 2017

The Battle of the Coral Sea, 75 Years On

Douglas SBD Dauntless Dive Bomber
These few days, May 3-8, mark the 75th anniversary of the pivotal Battle of the Coral Sea, off the northeast coast of Australia, in which the American military, for the first time since the outbreak of the war with Japan five months earlier, checked the Japanese advance in the South Pacific.  It was the first major engagement for American forces since the attack at Pearl Harbor.  Although considered a naval battle, for the first time in history the opposing warships never saw one another or even fired on one another – all the attacking was done by airplanes.

In the Solomon Island chain far northeast of Australia, the Japanese had advanced further south and had just invaded Tulagi with the intention of building an airbase there (and they would soon expand onto the larger, neighboring island of Guadalcanal).  From there land-based Japanese airplanes could attack supply and troop ships traveling from the United States to Australia.  Having broken the Japanese naval code, the American Navy knew that a Japanese fleet was planning to enter the Coral Sea, protected on its flanks by airbases on Tulagi and the north coast of New Guinea, and invade the southern coast of New Guinea at Port Moresby, just north of Australia.  If successful, the Japanese would have a base close to Australia from which they could stage air attacks and even an invasion.

The American Navy responded by sending a force of its own.  American carrier-based planes first attacked the Japanese ships around Tulagi.  Then the two fleets engaged in a fierce, running air battle.  The American attack planes were the well-regarded Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bomber and the effectively-obsolete Douglas TBD Devastator torpedo bomber; some large, land-based American B-17 bombers, flying out of Australia, also took part.  The American fighter was the Grumman F4F Wildcat.  The fleets initially had such trouble finding each other that later one American admiral called it “the most confused battle area in world history.”  The Americans inflicted heavy damage, but suffered the same as well, including the devastating loss of the Lexington, then one of only a handful of aircraft carriers in the entire American Navy.  The Lexington, converted from the hull of a battlecruiser, was slower and less-maneuverable than the purpose-built Yorktown, the other American carrier in the battle.
The USS Lexington under attack at the Battle of the Coral Sea (from Wikipedia)
In a weighing of ships, planes, and men lost, it was a tactical victory for the Japanese.  But after a feint by the American carriers Hornet and Enterprise, which had arrived in the Coral Sea just after the battle, it was the Japanese who withdrew and abandoned the invasion of the southern coast of New Guinea.  So in the end the slugging match was a significant strategic American victory.  Though badly damaged, the Yorktown was able to limp off to Pearl Harbor and be trussed up in a flurry of repairs, just in time to sail off and help win, a month later, the tide-turning great Battle of Midway.

R Balsamo

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Carmen at the Lyric Opera

Carmen resounds once again at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, and I was fortunate to take it all in last week.  The opera is the final and most popular work of French composer Georges Bizet, and the most famous of all French operas.  Bizet’s only other commonly-known work is the opera The Pearl Fishers, known primarily for its marvelous tenor-baritone duet Au fond du temple saint, the first version of which I think I ever heard is the famous one by tenor Jussi Bj√∂rling and baritone Robert Merrill.  Going back-to-back on Bizet, the Lyric has The Pearl Fishers on next season’s schedule.

Carmen of course tells the tragic story of the bold, seductive gypsy temptress who drives the beguiled Spanish soldier Don Jose into abandoning his duty and his gentle, innocent hometown sweetheart.  Don Jose falls hard for Carmen despite her telling him, quite openly, that she is an unfaithful lover, and when she eventually leaves him for the dashing toreador Escamillo tragedy ensues.  We see through vivid action and marvelous music how passion can be the road to ruin.

But despite all the wonderful music, so evocative of the Spanish setting, the realistic subject matter and the immorality of the main characters did not initially endear the opera to Parisian audiences.  Bizet died suddenly at age 36 just a few months after Carmen’s premier in 1875, and we are left wondering if disappointment played a part.  But Carmen has become one of the world’s favorites.  In his extensive review of the art form titled The Opera, Joseph Wechsberg highlights Carmen as “a perfect opera.”  It anticipates the Italian verismo form, which portrayed the everyday life, often brutish, of everyday people made of real flesh and blood.  The enticing Act 1 habanera, Carmen’s lusty number that snares Don Jose, is perhaps the most recognizable scene in the opera; an indication of its popularity is its appearance in the movie Going My Way, where famed mezzo Rise Stevens gives a spirited performance at the Metropolitan while watched in the wings by Bing Crosby as Father O’Malley.  Carmen’s rhythmic Act 2 seguidilla puts the finishing touches on Don Jose’s enchantment.  I’m not sure, but I may have first heard the rousing Toreador song in a Looney Tunes cartoon.  Then there is the great Act 2 tenor aria known as the Flower song for the bright red rose through which Carmen had selected Don Jose as her next lover, and Micaela’s Act 3 heart-felt pleading aria to Don Jose elicited enthusiastic applause at the performance I attended.  The Prelude and the Interlude are wonderful, and popular, orchestral pieces, and were performed very well by the Lyric’s orchestra.
 
The mood was set from the start of this production with the vivid, lush blood-red curtain that caught everyone’s attention as we took our seats.  The set though was a minimalist one, so common these days, but given that limitation it was surprisingly creative and effective.  The relatively brief ballet numbers added zest to the performance; of particular note was the exceptionally-creative and visually-arresting dance opening in Act 4 in which flowing dresses were used as bull-fighting capes against a flaming red background – the performance elicited an approving gasp from the audience.  The one disappointment, a small one, was the insertion of a distracting, writhing sideline ballet sequence between a shirtless man with a bull-head hat and a toreador in Act 4 while Don Jose and Carmen were having their final confrontation.  Sometimes, even in opera, less is more.     

The music is, of course, spectacular and we come to hear it all.  Georgian mezzo Anita Rachvelishvili was in fine voice in her Lyric debut as Carmen, although I thought she could have acted more seductively in her movements.  She has sung the role of Carmen at the Metropolitan, and The New Criterion music critic Jay Nordlinger wrote of her “big, glowing, smoky voice” in a 2012 performance.  American tenor Brandon Jovanovich was strong as the callow and hapless Don Jose.  He recently appeared last fall at the Lyric as Aeneas in Berlioz’s grand opera masterpiece The Trojans and did a great job in that role.  Nordlinger caught Jovanovich a few years ago at the Met in Shostakovich’s opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, and wrote of him:  “I always knew him as a solid and appealing lyric singer [but] I had no idea he could pull off [this role].  Jovanovich was like a young Marlon Brandon. And he could sing: freshly and ruggedly, easily and commandingly.”

Italian soprano Eleonora Buratto was warmly received as the innocent Micaela, who contrasts sharply with the bold, alluring Carmen.  Lyric Opera Ryan Center alums/members, Americans all, were strong in their roles:  Christian Van Horn as the toreador Escamillo, Bradley Smoak as Don Jose’s superior officer Zuniga, and Diana Newman and Lindsay Metzger as Carmen’s friends Frasquita and Mercedes.  The Lyric chorus, including a talented group of kids, was terrific, as usual.

As is so unfortunately common in opera these days, the director changed the setting of the story in order to insert some sort of additional meaning or send some personal political message.  Rather than write his own opera, he hijacked someone else’s.  In this case, director Rob Ashford moved the story from early 19th Century traditional Spain to the 1930s during the Spanish Civil War – so instead of bright, traditional Spanish dress we get many performers plainly clothed in drab colors.  But the greater offense was the director’s transmogrifying the men with whom Don Jose takes up after his desertion from smugglers to revolutionaries fighting for “liberty.”  In an interview in the program, the director gives his reason – “The [Spanish Civil] war was often described as Fascism vs. Democracy – so it seemed a good parallel for the opera.”  Unfortunately director Ashford is completely unfamiliar with the relevant history despite opining on it.  In the Spanish Civil War, the “revolutionaries” were the traditionalists, commonly characterized as fascists, who were supported by Nazi Germany; that side was fighting communists and anarchists, loyal to the radical socialist government, who were supported by Communist Soviet Union.  There were horrible atrocities on both sides, and neither side was remotely fighting for “democracy” or “liberty.”  A modest proposal is that opera directors stick to operas as written and stay away from subjects about which they are unfamiliar.  The Lyric has a dramaturg on staff, but it needs an historian as well.

I first saw Carmen at the Lyric in the early 1980s, with Placido Domingo as Don Jose.  Quite coincidentally, just one week earlier also at the Lyric we attended a wonderful concert headlined by the now 76 year-old Domingo.  I had forgotten the exact year of that earlier Carmen, but the concert’s program informed me that it was 1984.  I’m fortunate to have seen Domingo at both ends of his remarkable career.

Carmen has permeated popular culture.  There are some non-traditional appearances of the opera’s story and music that I particularly enjoy.  In 1984 pop music star Malcolm McLaren released an album of pop adaptations of some well-known opera selections, and his riff on Carmen and the Habanera is quite entertaining.  The creative Oscar Hammerstein II transposed Carmen’s story and lyrics to the early 1950s in the American South and Chicago in the film Carmen Jones, which featured an all-black cast with Dorothy Dandridge in the title role.  Finally, the British duo Opera Babes sing a wonderful duet with words put to the Carmen Interlude, an enchanting piece of music; they have performed some of their entertaining repertory, including the piece from Carmen I would like to think, at the Los Angeles Opera House with none other than Placido Domingo.

R Balsamo

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Left-wing Media Howls About Trump Press Conferences

After eight years of Obama calling only on lap-dog liberal and ultra-liberal media outlets, after his actually trying to exclude Fox News from the White House Press Corps, and after his repeated bashing of private citizen Rush Limbaugh by name, and then after the mainstream liberal media’s continual smearing of Trump with Fake News such as, for example, that he was a frequenter of Russian prostitutes and is the incarnation of Hitler, the left-wing media is now cataplectic that at press conferences Trump is calling on non-left-wing news and commentary media outlets! 

How dare Trump not call exclusively on left-wing media outlets!  The end of the First Amendment! cries one pseudo-journalist, who displays his pathetic ignorance of what the First Amendment actually means.

The days of just three liberal national TV news networks and the New York Times filtering their way all the news Americans would see are long over, and it’s about time.  Their monopoly on the news is over. 

Looking back, the left-wing media’s infatuation and “slobbering love affair” with Obama was so bad that books have been written about it, and we were spurred to mock it in this post:


R Balsamo

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Trump Democrats Were There To See All Along

Ever since the election of Donald Trump, the conventional wisdom among the liberal punditry is that his election was a stunning “surprise” that hardly anyone saw coming.  Those experts were shocked by Trump’s strength among blue collar voters, who swung the election his way.  It was a close election in many critical states, to be sure, but Trump’s strength not only among blue collar workers but also among blacks and Hispanics was no surprise to anyone paying attention without political blinders on. 

In January, 2016, the Republican response to Obama’s State of the Union speech focused neither on Republican proposals nor on Democrat missteps but rather on stopping Trump.  At that point he was the early frontrunner in the Republican nomination process.  Trump’s anti-illegal-immigration stance was extremely threatening to the established elites of both parties, including Paul Ryan, the Republican Speaker of the House.  In response to the Republican elite’s anti-Trump barrage, on January 14, 2016, almost 10 months before the election, I posted this comment on this blog:

Open borders to basically any and all immigrants, a point we seem to be halfway to already, would for generations depress wages, already stagnant, for low- and medium-skilled workers in the United States.  Trump’s opposition to open borders and calls for tighter controls on immigration explains his strong support among blue collar workers, traditionally Democrats, even among blacks and Hispanics who understand the deleterious impact more immigration will have on their jobs and wages.  The Democrats want open borders to gain more Democrat voters, and they figure the workers who support them blindly will stay blind.  The Republican party elites, funded by business interests, want open borders to access a bottomless cup of cheap labor.  The American workers get screwed and they’re rightfully “angry” about that.  Those “Reagan Democrats” who now see clearly what's going on want to return to the Republican Party, but Paul Ryan and the elites of Republican Party don’t want them.  They’d rather have Hillary Clinton, corrupt to the bone, with open borders and cheap labor.  Republican elites would be happy to “pay to play” with Hillary – they think they can make a lot of money with her and her crowd; with Donald Trump and the “angry voices” of his supporters, not so much. 

Trump’s electoral strength should not have come as a surprise to anyone in touch with America.  It only took open eyes to notice and open ears to listen to the people struggling from the effects of open borders that have flooded this country with cheap labor and from the outsourcing of jobs to low-wage foreign countries.

R Balsamo

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Muslim Migrants in SE Asia – Where Should They Go, & Can All the Worlds’ People Come to the United States?

The latest dust-up over the fate of a group of illegal migrants stranded in New Guinea living on Australian charity encapsulates the great challenge the Western world faces from migrants dissatisfied with their own countries who arrive as low-skilled, welfare-dependent, and often culturally-hostile uninvited guests.  

In the waning days of his presidency, after Trump was elected, Obama agreed to take a thousand or two Muslim migrants off Australia’s hands and bring them to the United States.  This arrangement has now come to the attention of President Trump, and he and probably most Americans are unclear why the United States, having in recent years already taken in more migrants than most any other country in the world, should take in still more, let alone those in Asia who are currently on an island near Muslim Indonesia.  The Australian government doesn’t want them but is stuck caring for them, so it was delighted that Obama, on his way out of office, offered them free tickets to the United States.  It’s no surprise that Trump, elected as much as anything else on his promise to tighten immigration and seal our porous borders, looks askance at this.  Australia knew full well not only that Obama was a lame duck when he agreed to take these migrants but also that this hushed-up transfer would be very unpopular with most Americans, so no tears for our friends down under.

The big-picture point here is that every person in the world disenchanted with his or her current country cannot migrate to the United States.  The United States simply does not have enough space or resources to care for everyone in the world who would like to come here.  The rest of the world must be made a better place in which to live, and although the United States undoubtedly will continue to help others toward that goal, as it most generously has in blood and treasure for over a hundred years, it is not capable of, nor morally responsible for, ensuring that all other countries of the world are acceptable places in which to live.      

R Balsamo 

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Off the Bookshelf: Sloan’s My Years with General Motors

I’ll never get through the many books I’ve been saving up to read if I keep revisiting old favorites.  I’ve just finished my third time cruising through My Years with General Motors by Alfred P. Sloan, the man who steered General Motors into the giant, influential corporation it is today.  I bought my copy in May of 1995 and first read it then; I know that because I've used the folded receipt as a bookmark.  The book is partly a history of the General Motors company and partly a history of the early automobile industry.  It is also a case study on developing an organizational structure that can properly manage and lead a growing company, and evolve with it.

Sloan was a young MIT-educated engineer who in 1898 at the tender age of 23 seized a risky opportunity to take over a failing company that made bearings used in machinery.  He and a partner slowly built it up through hard work, attention to cost-effective manufacturing, technological advancement, and responsiveness to customers.  Eventually in 1916 he sold the company to the fledgling General Motors, which then was a holding company of a hodge-podge of automobile manufacturers and related parts producers patched together by wheeler-dealer Billy Durant.  At that point Sloan took the second big risk in his life, trading his large stake in his company for mostly stock in General Motors, whose future, especially given Durant’s inattention to sound business administration, was uncertain.  Sloan survived many trying times as a senior executive under Durant’s erratic leadership, given that almost all of his net worth was tied up in the company stock.  But Sloan’s high risk, high reward gamble paid off in time.  By the early 1920s Durant was deep in a financial crisis, and eventually Sloan emerged as the chief executive.  He righted the ship by further developing the management techniques which had made him a successful businessman, methods that became the foundation of modern business management.

Although there are some dry parts when Sloan gets to discussing organizational structure and finances, most of the book is a very engaging read for someone with a general interest in the history of the American automobile industry.  The narrative covers a wealth of topics from the early days of the automobile, including:  Durant’s wheeling and dealing from his original base in Buick to buy the group of automobile companies that would become GM; the engineering and manufacturing issues presented by resident engineering genius Charles Kettering’s attempt to develop a competitive air-cooled engine; the success of GM’s consumer-focused business model – “a car for every purse and purpose” – against Ford’s failed “any color as long as it’s black” approach; the development of leaded-gasoline and high-compression engines; GM’s groundbreaking role in the development of the diesel-electric motors that would supplant steam power in railroad locomotives; the company’s struggles to survive the Depression; the challenges of shifting to production of military vehicles and war materiel during the Second World War; and the styling revolution led by the legendary Harley Earl.        

My Years with General Motors seems to be regarded as one of the seminal books on business management.  In an introduction, business administration guru Peter Drucker calls it “a must read.”  The cover of my paperback edition quotes Bill Gates saying that Sloan’s book “is probably the best book to read if you want to read only one book about business.”  I certainly cannot gainsay this sentiment.  But I read the book mostly for its narrative history and stories of engineering challenges encountered and solved.  Sloan’s book is a great read even for non-MBA types interested in how the great vehicles of today came to pass.

R Balsamo