Category: Roundtables

Roundtable: Tariffs and Andrew Jackson and Pete Rose and I don’t know what the hell they are talking about

J:  Protective tariffs; bad idea, or REALLY bad idea?

G:  “As the currency continues to weaken, it makes U.S. dollar-denominated assets cheaper for foreigners.”

And here’s the full article:

John, I don’t really understand…well, a bit, yeah…but the article is basically saying that trade deficits aren’t really a problem, especially when the US Dollar is the standard. I am thinking you agree, and I would appreciate your thoughts (although I may regret it).

J:  The problem with trade deficits is that Trump thinks of trade (and most everything else, actually) as a zero-sum game. He thinks that if the US has a $100 billion trade deficit with China, China is winning and the US is losing. Of course, that’s not the way trade works, but that’s how Trump thinks. I’m also sure that he doesn’t know that the US has an enormous trade surplus in services ($280 billion annually.)

J:  OK, tariffs. President Trump is proposing new tariffs on imported steel, aluminum and imported cars. I think this is a REALLY bad idea. It’s bad for American consumers, as the tariff will be passed along by the manufacturers, and it’s bad for exporters because the target countries will retaliate by imposing their own tariffs on American imports. The only sector it’s good for is the American steel industry, which is a MUCH smaller portion of the economy than the industries that USE steel and aluminum.

G:  Dave Barrett, who was the Premier of BC in the early 70s, upon assuming power increased taxes on foreign companies extracting natural resources from the province. His defense against the hand wringing fears of these companies leaving BC: “They can leave, but they can’t take the fishes out of the rivers, they can’t take the minerals out of the earth, they can’t take the trees out of the forests.” Paraphrasing, yes. but that was the gist.

J:  The fear of companies leaving a province and pulling jobs out of the economy directly due to a tax is a little different than a tariff issue, but I understand where you’re coming from; if no one is fishing or lumbering or mining, all the natural resources in the world aren’t going to save your economy.

G:   No, what I was getting at is that we are in a global economy, and there are lots of options. The new Trump tariffs are just another move that tends to isolate the USA. What I am seeing is that the rest of the world will just find new partners to trade with. Now if you have a really significant lions share of something then you can exercise monopoly-like power over the price of it. But that ain’t the case here. Am I right?

Also, I mis-wrote that bit about taxes…it was something else, I just forget the term…like a price per ton of coal, that kind of thing.

J:  Ah, I understand; and of course, you’re right. The tariffs will just drive business elsewhere.

To your monopoly example, South Africa controls about 70 percent of the world’s supply of gem-quality diamonds. Therefore, these diamonds cost what South Africa says they do, for the most part; there simply isn’t anywhere else to go to get them. The US doesn’t control 70 percent of the world’s supply of any major materials, so we don’t have the same kind of leverage.

G:  Specifically regarding the steel and aluminum tariffs…maybe a new thread/topic…Carl Icahn, insider trading, general corruption…there’s too much to talk about.

G:  Separate topic: Government Corruption…surely this is the most corrupt federal USA government in my memory. Of course my historical perspective is not all that long. The Icahn thing would be a Clinton Whitewater scandal in a normal government, but with Trump it’s just another day at the office, isn’t it? Then there’s Zinke and Scott ‘fracking’ Pruitt. Man…

J:  Oh, I definitely agree with that. This level of corruption would have gotten most Presidents impeached prior to 2016.

G:  In Canada, Trudeau really gets a pass of unusually lasting power. Canadians are so exhausted and yet addicted to the Trump show that legitimate criticisms (and even ridiculous criticisms) are met with vague annoyance and shrugs.

J:  But what in the hell happened with someone inviting an attempted murderer to a state dinner?

J:  Although, I suppose we have you beaten on that one too; there are plenty of pics of Trump hobnobbing with boxing promoter and convicted murderer Don King.

G:  That particular faux pas was absorbed by a staffer falling on his own sword and apologising (Trump should use that tactic, but he is incapable of it)…half of the criticisms centered on Trudeau wearing India style garments and looking like a typical political suck up…but he just smiles, accepts those criticisms with grace and carries on.

There’s plenty of meat on the daily or weekly Trump scandals, but if he and they could manage Trudeau’s style under pressure it would be better for them. Oh, wait, maybe not…then the real stuff would get more coverage.

J:  So the criticism is mainly about his pandering to Indian interests, and getting snubbed by the Indian PM? I’m sure there’s more but I’m only passingly familiar with the situation. I know he was roundly criticized for parading his family in Indian garb; and frankly that does seem a bit much.

G:  I admit that I am similarly more captivated by American politics than Canadian politics. It’s the Trump phenomenon, again and again.

Canadian politicians are shameless like a southern politician in a cheap movie. They don ceremonial dress when courting native or cultural constituencies quite often, usually to jeers from the general population.

G:  John, I’m making some headway on the Andrew Jackson book. I guess there are some superficial similarities between him and Trump, but I think a closer examination shows major differences:

  1. Trump is all about himself, Jackson was sincerely all about America
  2. Trump measures value only in terms of money, there is none of that in Jackson
  3. Jackson was sincere in his patriotism, even though his racism was far more destructive

I’m sure to see even more as I go along…I’m about maybe one sixth of the way.

J:  I agree with you on all three points. Jackson was indeed an unabashed racist, but that was the default position in early-19th-century America. He was hardly alone in that. Jackson deeply distrusted banks and bankers, and to this day is the only President ever to pay off the national debt. He gave no thought whatsoever to his own personal finances and, as a result, was frequently in difficulties. And, finally, he was unalterably opposed to dissolving the Union, and his firmness in dealing with South Carolina’s secessionists probably delayed the Civil War by a generation.

J:  There are some wonderful lines in that book; I won’t spoil them for you but they do make you nostalgic for the gentlemanly ways of the era.

G:  Yeah…I was reading those letters between Eaton and Emily Donelson. I had to read them about three times to realize what they were, without question, actually saying, and how strong and firm the messages were. The authors explanations were helpful beyond measure, otherwise I would have missed it completely.

J:  The veiled language of the day is difficult for 21st-century readers, but the writer (and recipient) knew exactly what message was being conveyed.

G:  Yes. I’m not nearly as subtle and not nearly as firm in character as Emily, I think. But then, I’m probably not a gentleman, either.

Just thinking that those letters and other writings of the day…I guess we could say ‘the writings of the elite and educated,’ make an interesting contrast to the language of the average man and woman as it appears in Huckleberry Finn (as an example).

That book was revolutionary in its day for many reasons, not the least of which was the use of ‘common’ language.

J:  Twain was one of the first writers to use the vernacular in first-person. Before him, even stories told in first-person (like “Moby Dick”, “Treasure Island”, etc.) used the “elitist” language rather than the “common” talk.

G:  A full, unrushed reading of Moby Dick would probably be impossible for a modern reader. Remarkably enough, I have a favourite quote from that book:

“What I’ve dared, I’ve willed; and what I’ve willed, I’ll do! They think me mad – Starbuck does; but I’m demoniac, I am madness maddened! That wild madness that’s only calm to comprehend itself! The prophecy was that I should be dismembered; and – Aye! I lost this leg. I now prophesy that I will dismember my dismemberer.”

I only know this because the Robby Benson character from the old movie, ‘One On One,’ quotes the first part to his tutor and eventual girlfriend (in the movie, I mean).

And it’s a big damn book…yet that one bit requires the reader to examine it, not just skim it looking for the violent bits. Who the hell has time for stuff like that any more?

T:  That’s a great insight, Gary … I mean, even guys like us, who have read hundreds, thousands of books – John may have read 15-20 thousand by now – hardly have time to sit down and read a long novel.

I spend half my life trying to figure out how to channel what I write to get to an audience. The one common denominator, over and over, is “get to the point; I’m busy.”

That’s what the larger reading force thinks. I hope we have a bit more patience than that, but often we don’t, because we are simply too busy. Like you said, Gary. “Who has time for that stuff anymore?”

G:  But the answer to that question is…everybody, if you’re not too impatient. I even skim stuff that I am finding interesting and entertaining, every single word. But the longer the writing is, the more I get impatient because there are other things I always want to get to.

It’s like you’re enjoying a piece of lasagne, but you are aware that there’s some fried chicken available…can’t sit there and savour what you’re eating right now?

I recently finished Blue Highways. It’s a damn good book, but to my regret, I skimmed a lot of it.

Probably the greatest compliment a writer can receive is a reader saying that they never skimmed…

J:  I don’t know how many books I’ve read, but I’m sure it’s in the thousands. The best ones, at least to me, are the ones that move along narratively without an enormous amount of exposition. I mean, it’s mildly interesting that Abraham Lincoln’s grandfather was a dirt farmer in Kentucky, but I don’t need to read 10 pages on the hardships of 18th-century dirt farming.

T:  I tend to read the same books over and over, so I am sort of the opposite of a skimmer. Rather than read a little of a lot, I tend to try to devour what I do take the time to read. I want to remember it – all of it.

I can’t imagine how I could find the time to even watch television now … I barely turn it on, except to unwind late at night, and even then I usually just open up some old sitcom file I downloaded and watch that.

G:  I used to re-read my favourite books all the time, but not so much the last 3 or so years. Maybe I’m sensing a shortness of time in which to enjoy reading and think I ought to look at newer (to me) stuff.

On the other hand, I am tending to read more for entertainment than information as I get older…I’m kind of, I dunno, hedonistic? I’d rather enjoy myself than educate myself. At least as a tendency…those two things aren’t mutually exclusive, after all.

T:  I have a weird question for you guys:

Heinlein loved to talk about the 1/2 of 1 percent that changed the world … for most of history, that small segment of society – the manically creative segment – has been tortured, hunted down andoften killed, just to stop them from, well … from changing the world.

Nowadays, we mostly kill terrorists, which is no different, really – I’m sure Socrates and Galileo were considered terroristic by their antagonists – but doesn’t it seem like today’s terrorists, rather than being creatively chaotic, are mostly just stupid assholes? Is it just me?

G:  Creative people are despised because they threaten the comfort of our own conclusions. But it’s hard to differentiate between someone with challenging ideas and someone who is just an idiot.

Carl Sagan had an article years ago where he talked about people with ridiculous ideas who defended themselves by saying, ‘Yeah, well, they laughed at Columbus, too.’ To which Sagan replied, ‘Yes, but they also laughed at Bozo the clown.’

To which I immediately thought: ‘Gee…people laughed at Bozo the clown?’

T:  We laughed at Columbus, and then we cried. Chuckles, we hardly knew ya.

Clown funerals are so convenient … you only need to park one car.

J:  What would happen to Jesus today, if he did return to Earth? Chances are, he’d end up in an insane asylum somewhere. The mental hospitals of the world are full of Jesuses (Jesii?); who knows if the REAL one is in one, somewhere.

T:  Yeah, bust up one temple and they burn you to death in Waco, Texas. I’m joking, but was David Koresh all that different from what we know of ole’ Jess Josephson?

G:  Maybe he’s in the White House. Have you ever read the Coptic bible? Not the whole thing, just some selected sayings or teachings of Jesus Christ (to be fair, right thinking people argue against the Coptic bible being legitimate). Anyway, if you buy that it’s valid…guy’s a nut case.

J:  I don’t know enough about Koresh to really compare him in depth to the late JC, but superficially they do have some similarities; charismatic, messiah complex, martyred for their cause. I don’t think any of the Branch Davidians carried on after Waco, though, if any of them survived.

G:  I don’t know if you ever read or remember this, Terry, but I got into it on a religious thread at BJOL and one time I handed out four quotes presumably from the bible, but (sneakily) one of them was actually from Charles Manson. No one challenged the quotes, even the bible believers.

J:  Speaking of sneaky tricks… wine tasting is BS, and here’s the proof. Wine tasters couldn’t taste the difference between white wine dyed red and actual red wine….

The Legendary Study That Embarrassed Wine Experts Across…

G:  Right. Both this article and the thing I did…they both contain an aspect of ‘getting the hook in.’ Once you get the hook in, the victim’s previous beliefs (their biases) are activated and their critical objectivity is compromised.

It’s dirty pool, but also instructive, if we can get over being messed with.

J:  It’s instructive, if only to re-emphasize how easy it is to be fooled. I remember how Uri Geller was happy to perform his spoon-bending tricks in front of scientists, but refused to perform them in front of James Randi (a former professional magician turned professional exposer of charlatans.) The scientists could be fooled by Geller’s deception because they weren’t EXPECTING him to try to deceive them; Randi, however, knew exactly how the trick was done and exactly what to look for. And Geller knew that Randi knew, hence the refusal.

G:  About creative people being persecuted more in the past than now. There’s a connection there, I think, that emphasizes the importance of art and entertainment in protecting creative and even revolutionary (especially politically revolutionary) thought and ideas.

It’s protective cover, especially if it’s not too deep, just deep enough to hide things from brief perusal by censorious minds. If you have an unsettling insight, best to hide it inside a glorious cinematically pleasing movie, or great song, inside of romantic ballads or adventurous stories.

No wonder that artists are both prized by some or most but feared and hated by authoritarians everywhere.

T: What were the quotes? I bet I can pick it out. I know Manson’s schtick well enough that I might have even caught you in the act, had I read the bit. It would be like sneaking a Heinlein quote by me; I might recognize it.

J: I was going to say that if anyone on BJOL would have busted you for a Manson quote, Gary, it would’ve been Terry.

G: Here they are; I had some trouble tracking that BJOL post down, but anyway…

1. From the world of darkness I did loose demons and devils in the power of scorpions to torment.

2. Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.

3. If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death.

4. Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.

Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. – Charlie, from his speech in the courtroom, with the jury out. After he was done, he told the girls they didn’t need to testify.

If I remember correctly, the “sword” was his family.

I’m 99 percent sure this is correct, and 1 percent worried that it’s number four. You chose your quotes well – I should be 100 percent sure.

G: Is that your final answer?

T: Lol .. yes, that’s what I think it is … but it doesn’t ring right. He wouldn’t use that language. Did you paraphrase?

G: No, I just sourced stuff from the internet. But…the answer was number one, “From the world of darkness I…”

T: Where did it come from?

G: Oh, I don’t know, such a long time since that BJOL posting. But let’s see, let’s look up Charles Manson quotes…here we go, it was from Charlie Manson Quotes – BrainyQuote

T: I found that – but they don’t source it.

T: Normally I wouldn’t care, but the quote itself doesn’t ring right to me.

T: Like it was paraphrased

T: It doesn’t matter though … it’s interesting that you chose a Manson quote as your cypher, I think. Manson himself quoted others all the time. Between the bible, Heinlein, Hubbard and the Beatles, you can find most of Charlie’s rap.

G: Well, anyway, the point is that lots of religious thought is nucking futs.

T: No argument here.

G:  And perhaps the most sane comment was the one from Dickie Roberts (or David Spade if you prefer).

T:  We should do a thing … take turns putting up two quotes and two names, and seeing who can get them right.

T:  “How’s the meat?”

“How’s your pork?”

A- Stephen King

B- Pete Rose

C- Winston Churchill

D- Margaret Thatcher

G:  I’ll take a shot at it…how’s the meat, Margaret Thatcher, how’s your pork, Stephen King…?

T:  I’ll wait for John to answer. You want to put one up?

G:  I will…might take me hours to come up with something…

J:  How’s the meat? – King How’s your pork? – Rose

T:  The correct answer to “How’s the meat”” is Rose, referring to the local females in Spring Training. As reported by the guys who wrote the original Rotisserie League manual, Dan Okrent and Glen Waggoner (and others, I can’t remember which one of them actually reported it).

“How’s your pork?” was on one of the buttons worn by Randall Flagg, the walkin’ dude from Steven King’s “The Stand.”

T:  So Gary, you got one correct. John, you got the right names, but you had them backwards.

G:  The Stand is one of his best. I was especially moved by the tragic story of Harold Lauder. Damn, better avoid this invitation to an unrequested segue. Boy, looking at that word…hard one to pronounce if you’ve never heard it before.

T:  The Stand was his best, in my opinion. I eventually stopped reading his books, as much as I enjoyed his characters, because – like he did in the Stand, actually – he loved to murder his most sympathetic characters. When he killed Maddy in Bag of Bones, for no reason within the plot – it was just murder for murder’s sake – I decided that I had had enough. I “segued” into different authors.

G:  Quotes:

  1. Every day is Auschwitz for the animals.
  2. I had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion.

Possible Sources:

Sister Theresa

Jack Kerouac

Charles Bukowski

Robert Silverberg

Bonus question; who said this:

I am defeated, but sit here clutching my laptop and my trusty baseball bat.

J:  1. (to a vulture perched on the end of his bed) “You’re wasting your time.” 2. “An honest politician is one who, once he’s bought, STAYS bought.”

  1. Andrew Jackson
  2. John Quincy Adams

III. Theodore Roosevelt

  1. Simon Cameron

G:  I’ll go with Sister Theresa for 1 and Kerouac for 2.

 

G: Man, I remember both of those, but have no idea. I’ll say Simon Cameron for the vulture thing (I don’t know who he is, but it sounds like something from fiction; maybe he’s a writer). I’ll say Teddy Roosevelt for the honest politician quote.

 

G:  By the way, I think the politician quote is used by Heinlein somewhere in one of his books, too.

 

T:  G, I don’t know much about your authors so I’m unlikely to get them right, but I’ll guess. 1, Bukowski. 2, Sister Theresa.

T:  J,  I thought the first one was by the Judge from the Stand, lol ….

I’ll guess 1 – Andrew Jackson. 2 – lots of people, but who was first? I’ll go with the oldest one, John Quincy Adams.

T:  1. “I feel sorry for the homeless guy’s dog. I mean, he’s got to be thinking, ‘this is the longest walk I’ve ever been on.'”

  1. “She was her mother’s apple pie on the fourth of July … SHE WAS A HOOKER!”

a- Jerry Seinfeld

b- Telly Savalas

c- Sam Kinison

d- Norm MacDonald

J:  Gary had them right but reversed; it was Teddy with the vulture and Cameron with the honest-politician line.

T:  John, you should guess mine now, before Gary gets to it. He’s probably going to get both right.

J:  I’ll go with Seinfeld for 1 and Kinison for 2.

T:  Your guesses were logical … Seinfeld could do the homeless dog joke easily, and Kinison used to yell HOOKER! a lot

T:  Let’s not tell Gary you got them both right

T:  oh wait

T:  I should have said that on messenger

J:  LOL

T:  I don’t even know if he’s here – he might have gone for a walk or gone out.

G:  T:  1 is Norm MacDonald, no doubt in my mind, 2…I’m tempted to say Telly Savalas, so I will.

G:  T:  I was having dinner. I didn’t peek, which may be obvious due to the Savalas answer, I suppose…still not peeking

T:  Oh, I was pretty sure you knew, lol … I sent John the video links, so he knew I was lying.

G: Man, I forgot to provide final answers for my challenge: John, you got one, Terry, you got nothing.

  1. Every day is Auschwitz for the animals. Robert Silverberg
  2. I had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion. Jack Kerouac

And nobody wanted to answer the bonus question…so I refuse to provide an answer…

G:  Roger Bannister takes the Stairway to Heaven

He died today, age 88. His most famous moment took place at Empire Stadium here in BC, about a 40 minute drive from where I live. The stadium is located within the Pacific National Exhibition grounds.

My wife and I were watching the feature about him (one of those three minute deals they run on television whenever anybody of any note dies). She says, “I guess that (his great race against John Landy, a match of the only two men to ever break the 4 minute mile at that time) is why his statue is at the entrance to the PNE, eh?”

“Really,” I say. “I never noticed that.”

This says something about me, I guess.

But, never mind my myopic attitude towards statuary. Bannister was one of the most famous athletes of the last century. Was the title of this post in bad taste? I don’t think so…

T:  I’d say the punnage was subtle to the point of obliquity (is that a word?), but not in bad taste. It took me a while, stairing at it, before the pun ascended into the attics of my brain.

G:  I enjoyed my own pun so much, I missed your stairing pun completely. You oughta be ashamed of yourself.🙄

T:  Oh, I am.

T:  I read about his 4-minute mile when I was young, and I remember what a big deal it was. I’ve been waiting decades for someone to run a 2-hour marathon, but I don’t think anyone has even threatened it yet.

Milers used to be rock stars … Bannister and Landy, Jim Ryun, Sebastion Coe, Steve Ovett. John Walker, Filbert Bayi, Peter Snell … Ryun and Coe in particular were super famous in their time, I remember.

Some Morrocan guy I’ve never heard of holds the record now. I had to look up some of the first names, it’s been so long.

Bannister, unlike a lot of historic athletes, aged very well. It helps to be a doctor.

G:  Sebastian Coe…most remarkable Sebastian since Cabot.

T:  Was that the butler from Family Affair?

 

G:  T:  Yes, his character was Mr. French.

T: Well, that’s a boring last line.

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