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WEEKLY WONK

Originally Published: 12/31/2016

Globalization Backlash:  A backlash to globalization appears to be gaining strength worldwide. U.S. politicians Bernie Sanders (I, VT) and Donald Trump both campaigned on curbing or eliminating free trade deals. Trump called for increased tariffs and limits on immigration. And populist and nationalist governments have gained ground in Europe and Asia. Brits voted to withdraw from the European Union. To Josh Feinman, chief global economist for Deutsche Asset Management, this all looks like the period leading up to World War I. In his report, Backlash Against Globalization: Déjà vu?, he wrote: “The first great globalization wave, in the half-century or so before WWI, sparked a populist backlash too, and ultimately came crashing down in the cataclysms of 1914 to 1945.”

 

Feinman’s Theory:  His theory is relatively simple. From 1870 to 1913 Europeans left low-wage countries in Europe for resource-rich lands like the United States and Canada. At the same time, countries lowered their tariffs on imported goods and embraced trade. And while these changes spurred the Industrial Revolution, the wealthier countries, like the U.S., also experienced greater inequality. Trade enriched some people but left others behind, triggering unrest and a political backlash. The countries gradually introduced more trade barriers and restrictions on immigration. The U.S., with support from American workers, passed a law in 1921 that imposed strict quotas on immigrants, especially those who were poor or from outside northern Europe. With the World Wars and the Great Depression, globalization collapsed, and nationalist movements and economic isolationism reigned. Feinman suggests that this cycle is happening again. Massive migration, unfettered trade, and greater inequality have led to the political backlash that is occurring. And he appears to be of the opinion that if it continues, we will be rushing into more world wars and great depressions. Feinman concludes: “So far, these are mostly risks. Cooler heads may well prevail.” But, he warns, stopping globalization - and, I may add, the further domination of the world’s wealth by a few - may well be a disaster. Considering he works for an asset management company, a company that manages all that money, he may well have a personal stake in this theory. Still, it’s something to think about.

 

Arizona Legislative Alerts has compiled a 50-week strategy to resist what is happening in our country. While the strategy is geared toward Arizona, the suggestions are easily applied to any state. The recommendations for this week are to make a New Year’s Resolution to get involved; make your own action plan; and start writing or calling Congress to express your opposition to the nomination of General James Mattis as Secretary of Defense. This week watch Keith Olbermann talk about our new corporate overlords. Hint: He discloses the new Republican Social Security plan.

 

Gitmo:  Obama intends to release as many as 19 detainees held at Guantánamo Bay prison, “in a final sprint to pare down the inmate population at the military prison.” If these transfers occur, that will leave about 40 detainees still there. (Washington Post)

 

Foreign Travelers:  The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has “quietly” started asking foreign travelers to the U.S. for their social media accounts. The program “aims to spot potential terrorist threats but which civil liberties advocates have long opposed as a threat to privacy.” (Common Dreams)

 

China:  It is banning all commerce in ivory by the end of 2017. (NY Times) Hope this helps the elephants.

 

France:  A small village now has the world’s first solar road called Wattway. It’s only about a half a mile long, but it’s a start. It will be used by about 2,000 motorists a day during a 2-year test period “to establish if it can generate enough energy to power street lighting in the village of 3,400 residents.” (Guardian)

 

Israel:  Last week the UN Security Council unanimously passed a resolution demanding Israel cease Jewish settlement activity in Palestinian territory. (TWW, Israel, 12/24/16) Senator Ted Cruz (R, TX) has vowed not to appropriate any money to the UN until it reverses its decision. (The Hill) He’s talking about the dues we pay for membership.

 

Syria:  Damascus went for several days with no water. According to Deutsche Welle, rebel groups dumped diesel fuel into the city’s water source, “prompting authorities to shut down pipelines.”

 

Michigan:  It passed a law banning banning plastic bags. Yes, this means localities cannot pass ordinances banning plastic bags. (Washington Post) It joins the ranks of Arizona, Idaho, and Missouri, that I know of. If anyone knows of any other states, please email me.

 

North Carolina:  A North Carolina judge blocked the changes to the state elections board passed by the legislature to reduce the power of the new Democratic governor Roy Cooper. (TWW, North Carolina, 12/17/16) The new law was supposed to take effect tomorrow but the judge’s order temporarily blocks it for 10 days to allow more time for a hearing. He will also be having hearings on other aspects of the law. (NY Times) And outgoing governor Pat McCrory (R) has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to stop a court-ordered special election “for more than 2 dozen state legislative districts in 2017 - special elections in which Democrats could have an opportunity to pick up seats in North Carolina’s GOP-dominated legislature.” (Washington Post) If you remember, a federal court found last summer that North Carolinas districts were racially gerrymandered. (TWW, North Carolina, 8/13/16)

 

The Counted:  So far this year 1,058 people have been killed by law enforcement, up from 1,045 last week. That’s another 13 people killed by cops this week. (Guardian)

 

Prisons:  The Brennan Center for Justice released a report estimating that about 576,000 inmates nationwide, about 40%, could have been spared imprisonment without meaningfully threatening public safety or increasing crime. “The current sentencing regime was largely a knee-jerk reaction to crime, not grounded in any scientific rationale.”

 

Russian Hacking:  President Obama announced retaliation against Russia for its interference in our election. He’s ordered sanctions on 2 Russian agencies, 3 companies “that are believed to have provided support for government cyber operations,” and 4 Russian cyber officials. “The administration will also shut down Russian-owned facilities in Maryland and New York that Obama said were used for intelligence activities and would declare 35 Russian operatives ‘persona non grata,’ meaning they would be required to leave the United States.” If you’re curious, the Washington Post has a piece on the Maryland country house. Something revealed in this Washington Post report that I haven’t heard before is that, during the election, the Russians harassed some U.S. diplomats overseas. The Kremlin is clearly unhappy and “issued a stark warning to the U.S., saying it would respond in kind to the U.S. expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats and other sanctions.” (Washington Post) Later, Putin said he wouldn’t expel any U.S. diplomats from Russia in response. “Putin said Russia’s response would depend on U.S. attitudes to Russia under the new administration of Donald Trump, who has repeatedly spoken positively of Russia and Putin.” (Guardian) But, I wonder if the Russian hacking just done on a Vermont utility had anything to do with retribution. (Washington Post)

 

ExxonMobil Chemicals:  About 25% of ExxonMobil’s net profits are from petrochemicals. It’s a huge part of its business. These chemicals end up in a wide range of consumer products such as “plastics, tires, batteries, detergents, adhesives, synthetic fibers, and household detergents.” Among their chemical products are phthalates, a chemical used to make plastic pliable. “Phthalates are in everything from food containers and plastic wrap to rattles, pacifiers, bottle nipples, and teething toys for babies.” According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 75% of Americans have at least 5 of the chemicals in their bodies. “Numerous independent studies have linked the chemicals to health problems, including cancer, neurodevelopmental effects, endocrine disruption, and adverse harm to the male reproductive system.” Congress banned some of these phthalates in 2008 and temporarily banned a few others. It directed the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) to study them. CPSC found these chemicals should be banned from children’s toys, yet they have not been banned, primarily due to lobbying from ExxonMobil. (The Intercept)

 

Solar Panels:  2016 is the year that “solar panels finally became cheaper than fossil fuels.” According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), solar and wind is now the same price or cheaper than new fossil fuel capacity in more than 30 countries.

 

National Monuments:  President Obama created new national monuments. The Bears Ears National Monument is a “sacred tribal site in southeastern Utah.” 5 tribes - the Hopi, Navajo, Uintah, and Ouray Ute, Ute Mountain Ute, and Pueblo of Zuni - will together have responsibility for protecting the area. The Gold Butte National Monument in Nevada is in the area of contention with the Bundy family. (TWW, Welfare Cowboy, 4/26/14; Oregon, 3/26/16) Obama has “invoked his executive power to create national monuments 29 times during his tenure, establishing or expanding protections for more than 553 million acres of federal lands and waters.” (Washington Post)

 

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