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May 2019

May 3 ... Juan Guaidó is described today (in the Washington Post) as having struck out in his attempt to replace Venezuela's ruler, Maduro — his third attempt at a nationwide insurrection having whizzed past him this past week. Reasons given for his failure: the military largely continuing to stand with Maduro. It is claimed that to succeed a coup needs a broader consensus and a sense that it's inevitable (as when Gaddafi overthrew Libya's monarch back in 1969). Some say Guaidó's coup needs a military force (as Gaddafi had, and Lenin too in 1917 when military men were sick of the Great War) or like the US might provide with an intervention. Some in the US favor an intervention to liberate Venezuelans from tyranny, corruption, and deprivation. Some others look forward to the Maduro regime mitigating its mistakes, or they want to leave the Venezuelans to liberate themselves, and they complain about the inevitable: Maduro able to blame imperialism. Many in the US say that don't want another attempt at regime change. Secretary of State Pompeo's talk of the Monroe Doctrine and Latin America belonging to the US is being described as bluster. Some are crediting the Maduro regime for not striking against Guaidó and the demonstrators with greater force. (US and European intervention against Gaddafi in 2011 was a move against his war or slaughter against the Libyan populace.)

May 6 ... A ceasefire between Israel and Palestinians in Gaza began this morning — a tentative end to a couple of days of violence that began with rockets launched from Gaza. About 600 rockets are described as having been fired towards southern Israel. Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system is described as having been overwhelmed, intercepting only 150 of the rockets. Four Israeli civilians were killed. Israel countered with airstrikes against more than 300 targets, killing at least 22 Palestinians. The fighting happened during talks between Israel and Hamas about Israel easing restrictions on Gaza in return for calm, the Palestinians looking forward to expanded fishing rights and an easing of trade restrictions. The Israelis are blaming two organizations in Gaza: Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PJI). Israel's military describes the PJI as having instigated the attacks. Some accuse the PJI of a futile attempt to put pressure on Israel. (The PJI is labeled a terrorist organization by the EU, Japan, Canada, New Zealand and others, and Iran is described as a major PJI financial supporter.)

May 8 ... More talk of survival catastrophe, this time a 1500-page UN report, a three-year study projecting the killing the biodiversity that makes our way of life possible. In a Washington Post column today the "conservative" (but Trump critic) Kathleen Parker writes that,"What’s clear is that there’s no time for delay or partisan bickering. What’s different now is the degree of acceleration... Meanwhile, the world’s population is expected to reach nearly 10 billion by mid-century, according to the United Nations. Already, it has tripled since 1950. Collectively, we humans have altered 75 percent of Earth’s land and more than half of the marine environment." Not everyone is with her. Someone speaks of "a globalist attempt to eliminate national sovereignty, introduce global socialism and evaporate individual liberties - all in the name of squishy and every-changing studies backed by a coterie of leftists, hysterics, and nincompoops." New Yorker magazine writes of other attitudes that will resist any adequate remedy.

May 9 ... The 18-year-old highschooler, Devon Erickson, who went on a rampage a couple of days ago, killing one and injuring 9, appeared in court today, his head bowed in shame. Ideologically he is a leftist, critical of President Trump and Christians. He is like the mass shooter in Montreal back in 2006, Kimveer Gill, a 25-year-old who disliked capitalists and racist homophobes (and killed one and injured 19). Both Erickson and Gill appear to have been upset with society, with people in general (abstractions), their shootings horrible elevations of self. Erickson was with a younger female friend who appears to have been transitioning to male. A report describes Erickson's car as having “F— society,” “666” and what looked like a pentagram spray-painted across it. His weapons belonged to his parents: two handguns and a rifle. The latter he did not use in the shooting. His distraught mother told reporters that she doesn’t know why her son opened fire on his classmates. It appears to be another instance of parents not being close enough to their child to know a lot about what was in his head, and the kid caring little what he would be doing to his parents. And some must see a copycat aspect to the shooting regarding the choice of method in expressing dissatisfactions.

May 14 ... The trade war between the United States and China led to a big drop in stock prices (600 points on the Dow) yesterday, with bonds and commodities also signaling warnings of an economic slowdown. It started years ago with consumers in the US choosing to buy lower-priced goods made in China. Various US manufacturers shipped their operations to China in order to compete. Referring to China, candidate Trump complained that, "The money and the jobs they've taken from us ... is the greatest single theft in the history of the United States." The United States has the world's worst trade imbalance (in goods and services), far worse than the second worse — Britain. (Germany has the most favorable trade balance.) The US imports much more than others, especially pharmaceuticals and automobiles. President Trump gave up on free trade. In 2018 he said "Trade wars are good and easy to win," and he initiated a global tariff on steel, a tariff on European autos, and tariffs on Chinese imports. The Chinese retaliated with tariffs against US goods. By the end of 2018 the two countries began negotiations. Four days ago (May 10th), the Trump administration applied more tariffs, and China has retaliated with tariffs of a lesser amount ($60 billion vs $200 billion). Meanwhile, according to BBC News, an improvement in a balance of trade for the US since the trade wars began is not apparent. And, in the Washington Post, columnist Catherine Rampell opines that "Democrats should be shouting Trump's trade failures from the rooftops."

May 15 ... Teamsters Union president, James Hoffa Jr, complains that goods made in the US are not getting to China. On the News Hour last night he claimed that making Americans pay more for products from China (tariffs) would encourage the Chinese to buy more goods from the US. "It has to be an equal trade," he said. Some see Hoffa's take on our trade deficit as far out simplistic. Some prefer that other simplicity —free trade— and think we should attack our deficit problem with adjustments in our buying habits, not tariffs.

May 16 ... The Washington Post describes "big corporations — even oil companies — as moving closer to the Green New Deal, as "increasingly calling for action" and "teaming up with several prominent environmental groups to call on President Trump and Congress to put in place a long-term federal policy as soon as possible to protect against the worst impacts." The Post writes that the science and need to act are "increasingly undeniable."

May 17 ... India’s governing political party is supporting and demanding history that matches Hindu myths and Hindu nationalist ideology. The government of Prime Minister Narenda Modi and various state governments run by his party are deleting chapters or passages from public school textbooks that contradict their ideology. They are adding their own versions to the textbooks, versions that contradict genetic evidence from archaeological sources and support theory concerning race (Aryans). (NY Times). Modi, however, has admonished the Hindu nationalist who recently described Mahatma Gandhi's assassin (an act committed in 1948) as a patriot.

May 19 ... Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-NY on the House Oversight and Reform Committee, this past week asked Daniel O'Day, CEO of the manufacturer of Truvada (an HIV prevention drug) about the drug's list price in the US at $2,000 a month while in Australia that cost is only $8 dollars. Committee chairman Elijah Cummings asked O'Day, "How can our system allow a company to take a drug treatment that was developed with taxpayer funds and abuse its monopoly to charge such astronomical prices?" O'Day replied that one reason for the price difference is US government regulation. Committee member Chip Roy, R-Texas, told O'Day, "I hope you make a lot of money," and he complained of having to hear an attack on "the capitalistic system that produces and distributes medicine that is saving lives around the world." Committee member Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, accused the Democrats of wishing "to demonize the company for making a profit.”

May 22 ... NY Times columnist Thomas Friedman writes that "Trump’s instinct that America needs to rebalance its trade relationship with Beijing ... is correct." Friedman writes that Xi Jinping will have to recognize that China can no longer enjoy "the trading privileges it has had over the last 40 years." Friedman writes of China having curbed competition against Huawei in China and of Huawei using its clout and pricing power to undercut multinational telecom companies such as America's Qualcomm and Sweden's Ericsson. Friedman claims that if the US and China don't find a way to build greater trust, globalization will start to fracture and "we’ll both be poorer for it."

May 23 ... In India, a big win for the capitalist-oriented Hindu nationalist party. Prime Minister Modi wins another five years in power. The main opposition alliance, headed by Rahul Gandhi's Congress party, has admitted defeat — a defeat for secularism and left-of-center politics. Modi, described as a workaholic and introvert with a frugal lifestyle, thanked the nation for the faith it has placed in his alliance. He said its "humbling and gives us strength to work even harder to fulfill people's aspirations." BBC News describes Modi as winning on "a combination of nationalist rhetoric, subtle religious polarisation and a slew of welfare programmes... Mr Modi is a strongman, and people possibly love him for that." According to the BBC, his success comes despite joblessness having risen to a record high, farm incomes having plummeted and industrial production having slumped.

May 26 ... The Trump administration has cited threats against Saudi Arabia by Iran as justification for selling precision-guided munitions, other bombs and ammunition and aircraft maintenance support to Saudi Arabia. Yesterday, Iran's foreign minister described the deployment of more US troops to the Persian Gulf region as "extremely dangerous and a threat to international peace and security." Trump's policies have aroused greater hostilities toward the US in Iran, and US investigators believe that people supporting Iran have used explosives to damage four ships. Senator Rand Paul says Secretary of Defense John Bolton is looking for a fight with Iran. Yesterday, President Trump was described as not wanting pressure against Iran to explode into open conflict. Meanwhile, Iran remains concerned about the treatment of Shi'a in Saudi Arabia, Iran supports the Shi'a Houthi in the war in Yemen, and it supports Shi'a elsewhere in the region, including Iraq and the Shi'a and Alawites of Syria. Iran's foreign minister says his country seeks balanced relations with its Gulf Arab neighbours and proposes signing a non-aggression pact but will defend itself against any aggression.

May 28 ... In elections for the European Union's parliament (751 seats) the various Green parties are making gains that the Washington Post describes as putting them in a "king-making" position (deciding who to join in a coalition). Traditional mainstream parties of the center-right and center-left are losing seats. The nationalists and Eurosceptics are making "modest gains," especially in Italy, Hungary, and Poland), and it looks like they will hold about one-fifth of parliament's seats. The PVV party of the Dutch nationalist politician Geert Wilders is losing all of its seats. The Greens are described as doing particularly well in large cities and among young voters.


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Copyright © 2019 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.