Monday, June 10, 2019

As Climate Change Black Death Surrounds Us
  U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo explains the
  conservative "old deal" to address Climate Change

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, speaking on behalf of what is Republican thinking, laid out policy regarding Climate Change.

In an interview while he was in Europe, Pompeo explained that the Paris Agreement was an "aspirational" document but otherwise worthless because its "enforcement mechanisms were near-nonexistent." He argued that it represented a “real burden … on the [U.S.] and its economy and its workers and ordinary people in places like Kansas that I come from.”

Instead, Pompeo explained that we Americans will...
  • responsively reorganize our society, 
  • relocate as needed, and
  • rely on future technological innovation 
...instead of developing governmental policy as suggested in House Resolution 109 - Recognizing the duty of the Federal Government to create a Green New Deal and creating the bureaucracy needed to implement it.

Before becoming Secretary of State, Pompeo served as CIA Director for the Trump Administration leaving his seat representing Kansas House District 4 which he had held since January 2011. He was a member of the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party. In the 2010 Republican Primary when another Republican candidate began to gain on him, Koch Bros funding assured his victory.

Pompeo did not "come from" Kansas. He did not evolve from some rural experience in the Plains States. A native Californian who graduated from Los Amigos High School in Fountain Valley, Pompeo is a West Point graduate who served only 4+ years as an officer in the Army and is an attorney who received his JD degree in 1994 from Harvard.

In 1998, when he was 34, Pompeo came to Kansas with three West Point friends, Brian Bulatao (who at the time worked for Bain Capital and who was confirmed by the United States Senate as Under Secretary of State for Management on May 16, 2019), Ulrich Brechbuhl (who since May 3, 2018, has served as Counselor of the United States Department of State), and Michael Stradinger. In Wichita they acquired three aircraft-part manufacturers along with a fourth in St. Louis, Missouri. They obtain venture funding from Bain Capital (Mitt Romney was that company's first CEO), Koch Industries, and Cardinal Investment (founded by another West Point/Harvard graduate).

One other fact Pompeo offered about himself in a speech places in ideological context the importance of the statements he made about Climate Change policy.

Simply put, Pompeo is the face of an evolving American conservative activism that is blending Neoconservatism and Neoliberalism under what appears to be unfocused freewheeling President Donald Trump.

And, as mentioned by Pompeo, the core conservative Climate Change view is addressed the following policy statement:
  1. Yes, the climate is changing;
  2. Yes, a the changing climate likely will have impacts, perhaps some significant ones;
  3. No, we do not have an accurate prediction of what those impacts will be in the years 2025, 2050, 2100 or 2200;
  4. Individuals and businesses should recognize that over the next decades a need to adapt to changing climate conditions may arise requiring geographical relocation;
  5. Nations should recognize that over the next decades a need to adapt to changing climate conditions may arise requiring a responsive, evolutionary reorganization of society;
  6. Individuals, mostly through businesses as facilitated by free nations, will create technological advances which will allow for adaptation to and reductions in impacts from Climate Change;
  7. The United States Government in response to Climate Change at this time should not create complex economic and social policies, and the bureaucracies to implement them as suggested by the Democrats in H.R. 109, instead continue to rely upon the private sector and the states to address problems as they arise.
Since it is unlikely that the Democrats can get control of the U.S. Senate in the foreseeable future, it would appear that Pompeo's conservative policy will prevail into the next decade. And it would be a mistake to dismiss the policy statement.

Earlier this month, a Reuters report World's biggest firms foresee $1 trillion climate cost hit indicated that:

    More than 200 of the world’s largest listed companies forecast that climate change could cost them a combined total of almost $1 trillion, with much of the pain due in the next five years....
    The companies anticipated a total of $970 billion in extra costs due to factors including hotter temperatures, chaotic weather, and pricing of greenhouse gas emissions. About half of these costs were seen as “likely to virtually certain.”
    Many companies also saw a huge potential upside if the world can de-carbonize in time to avert the bleakest climate scenarios, which scientists see as an existential risk to industrial civilization.
    Fossil fuel companies who submitted responses to the study reported $140 billion of potential opportunities in the drive toward a low-carbon economy - more than five times the $25 billion value of the risks they identified...
    With climate action focused on limiting the burning of coal, oil and gas, CDP urged investors to question why fossil players seemed so confident of benefiting from an energy transition that would render their existing business models obsolete.

It might be tempting to minimize this news except that it is based on a study initiated by the G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors. At their request the Financial Stability Board (FSB) established the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) and its recommendations resulted in reporting from 6,937 companies (more information is available here).

And so as many of the Democratic candidates seeking to run for President in 2020 embrace the Green New Deal of Democratic Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Donald Trump has a simple answer - individual American's and their businesses using their ingenuity will deal with Climate Change when and as needed. (The unsaid corollary is: and those who can't deal ...well... we already have too many people.)

Or Americans could choose to depend on the Democrat of their choice who says "I'm from the government and I'm here to help you." The problem with that is even if Trump loses, the Senate stands in the way.

Meanwhile some of the states are taking serious action such as California as explained in Embracing Inclusive Capitalism Plus within The California Green & Gold Deal as Newsom leads.

The 21st Century Climate Change Black Death is happening now.
                                                                                                          If you're new to this blog here's the link to the listing of the 30+ previous posts in the Blog regarding Climate Change and the Environment.

This post is a part of a series:  climate change black death surrounds us 

Friday, June 7, 2019

Climate Change Black Death Is a Loser Issue
No, we're not Australia, but Democrats need to pay heed to what just happened in the Aussie election

Since the last post here in the  climate change black death surrounds us  on April 23, 2019, the May 18 Australian election results were announced.

Australia Election Results: Prime Minister Scott Morrison Seizes a Stunning Win according to the New York Times.

Stunning? For Australian's...
  • If you read conservative publications and talk to the unremarkable suburban voter next door, no.
  • If you are a pollster who again got it wrong, yes.
  • If you are a member of the center-left Labor Party (ALP) talking mostly to other members of the Labor Party or young environmentalists or anyone but someone who doesn't think like you, yes.
  • If you are a climate change advocate like the Australian woman, Nicky Ison, pictured on the left, yes.
In another article using "stun" also 'What have we misread?' Labor faithful in shock after stunning election defeat we read:

    This was the climate change election, wasn’t it? This was about generational change. This was the election which would usher in a new active purpose for government.
    None of that happened, and understanding why will take weeks to work out. For the Labor faithful, the first emotions were raw. “What happened?” asked Tiani Rutledge-Wilkes, an interior designer, who said she had no idea what had gone wrong. She thought the ALP would win, and had her nails painted “Labor red” for the occasion. “What have we misread?”
    “It’s just not the polls [that got it wrong] but all the experts.”

Indeed just two weeks prior to the election the headline said Climate change takes centre stage in Australia's election explaining:

    As political leaders travel across Australia to deliver their election talking points in farms, factories and sports fields, they are criss-crossing a country in the grip of a rolling climate emergency.
    In the year leading up to the election on 18 May, huge swathes of eastern Australia have endured their worst droughts in a century. There have been apocalyptic scenes along the Murray Darling river system in which up to 1 million fish have died. In Queensland, floods have wiped out half a million cattle and bushfires have burned close to pristine rainforests. In the usually cool southern state of Tasmania more bushfires have raged across 190,000 hectares of land and devastated old-growth forests.
    Last year was Australia’s hottest year on record and as winter begins many of the country’s major cities are staring down the barrel of water restrictions with Sydney, Melbourne, Darwin and Brisbane all facing the prospect of dams at just 50% capacity.
    But on the campaign trail, through warming cities, blackened bush and scorched outback, the two contenders for prime minister are trumpeting starkly different messages about what, if anything, should be done to address the crisis.
    The prime minister, Scott Morrison, represents the ruling conservative Liberal party. The slogan-loving former head of Tourism Australia came to power after toppling his more moderate predecessor, Malcolm Turnbull, in 2018.
    Morrison’s stance on climate change can be summed up by an address to parliament in 2017 while brandishing a lump of coal. In a speech supporting fossil fuels, he goaded the opposition: “Don’t be afraid. Don’t be scared. It won’t hurt you. It’s coal.”
    The idea that many in Morrison’s party consider climate change and its effects to be something to be laughed at is not hyperbole from the left. In 2015, the former prime minister Tony Abbott – who once called climate change “crap” – was caught on camera laughing at a joke about rising sea levels in the Pacific.

Another article explained: "It was billed as the climate change election, and the climate lost." How exactly did Climate Change lose? Let's begin with Ms. Ison, who based on any information you can Google is a smart, energetic, focused advocate for Climate Change reduction policy who has been writing in the Australian edition of The Guardian. On May 2, she shared in After Extinction Rebellion, Australian politicians are on notice – change is coming her views that that the ALP policy position was unacceptable:

    This is the challenge for climate campaigns and movements in countries like Australia. How do we shift from where we currently stand to where the ALP’s climate policies are considered the bare minimum of what is needed?

When the choice for voters in a country experiencing major impacts of Climate Change is between a coal advocate and the more "progressive" choice of the Labor Party, the losing progressives change leaders and the new one creates a headline New Labor leader Anthony Albanese calls for end to climate wars.

As noted in a previous post political parties are only winners and losers, and losers can't implement policy ideas, even good ones. Democrats in the U.S. in 2020 must, of course, embrace socialism and the Green New Deal. No point in not being a loser. Or maybe Trump will be seen as more of a loser, who knows?

Nonetheless there is some irony in this headline this week Human civilization faces "existential risk" by 2050 according to new Australian climate change report. The report titled Existential climate-related security risk: A scenario approach, which you can download here, includes a forward by the former chief of the Australian Defense Force Admiral Chris Barrie. The report's authors offer this overview of its contents:
  • Analysis of climate-related security threats depends significantly on understanding the strengths and limitations of climate science projections. Much scientific knowledge produced for climate policy-making is conservative and reticent.
  • Climate change now represents a near- to mid-term existential threat to human civilisation. A new approach to climate-related security risk-management is thus required, giving particular attention to the high-end and difficult-to-quantify “fat-tail” possibilities.
  • This may be most effectively explored by scenario analysis. A 2050 scenario is outlined in which accelerating climate- change impacts pose large negative consequences to humanity which might not be undone for centuries.
  • To reduce such risks and to sustain human civilisation, it is essential to build a zeroemissions industrial system very quickly. This requires the global mobilisation of resources on an emergency basis, akin to a wartime level of response.
And the Report offers the following policy recommendations:
  • Recognise the limitations of policy-relevant climate change research which may exhibit scientific reticence.
  • Adopt a scenario approach giving specific attention to high-end warming possibilities in understanding medium-range (mid-century) climate and security risks, particularly because of the existential implications.
  • Give analytical focus to the role of near-term action as a determinant in preventing planetary and human systems reaching a “point of no return” by mid-century, in which the prospect of a largely uninhabitable Earth leads to the breakdown of nations and the international order.
  • Urgently examine the role that the national security sector can play in providing leadership and capacity for a near-term, society-wide, emergency mobilisation of labour and resources, of a scale unprecedented in peacetime, to build a zero-emissions industrial system and draw down carbon to protect human civilisation.
The idea of Climate Change being an existential threat is hardly news to this writer who has noted that both the U.S.and China have formally acknowledged that severe Climate Change is inevitable during this Century and that it will have catastrophic results in many locations. The U.S. military is officially and actively focused on dealing future catastrophic impacts of Climate Change on U.S. military facilities.

Nonetheless, while the United States is not Australia, political acknowledgement of the need to address Climate Change both by reducing carbon emissions and begining the adaptation process will not be treated favorably by the voters in about 30 of the 50 states.

The 21st Century Climate Change Black Death is happening now.
                                                                                                          If you're new to this blog here's the link to the listing of the 30+ previous posts in the Blog regarding Climate Change and the Environment.

This post is a part of a series:  climate change black death surrounds us 

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Rare Earth Elements: Is a struggling California mine going to save our near-term economic future

Many American companies are holding their breath to see what China is going to do with its, and California's, rare earth elements (REE's). But despite the fact that the Trump Administration in 2017 picked up the pieces of a Democratic failure from 2010, you probably had never heard of REE's even a year ago.

The American news media makes it difficult to follow the real activity of the Trump Administration. It is as if they are parents noticing that their 7-year-old kid used bad words, called other kids names, and yelled a lot without noticing the kid was quietly killing cats to see what happens when they die. And liberals love the coverage. For instance....

On December 20, 2017, liberal media darling NPR ran a story From 'Covfefe' To Slamming CNN: Trump's Year In Tweets. They did not report on that day, or any future day, that the President signed Executive Order 13817 which directed his Administration to develop “'a strategy to reduce the Nation’s reliance on critical minerals' that are largely imported" because of the graph to the right.

The Executive Order was among the important actions taken by Trump in his 11th month in office to prepare for the Trade War with China he would initiate a month later by placing tariffs on solar panels and washing machines. (Oh yeah, and I think that month he called somebody a name in a tweet which got extensive news coverage.)

As explained here during Trump's first month in office in a February 16, 2017, post Why you should fear Trumpism's Steve Bannon: war with China within 8 years and other reasons militant hostility towards China was being advocated from the beginning within Trump's campaign organization.

As explained two years later in a post The U.S. "China threat" disinformation industry. It's ramping up agitation for a war with China in East Asia which America cannot possibly win! "

    One change is recent. In December 2017 and January 2018, the Trump Administration put forth a National Security Strategy and National Defense Strategy that shifted from a focus on terrorism to a focus on China-as-a-hostile-nation. Not surprisingly, key national security positions  are being filled with China hawks from a variety of viewpoints - Neoliberals and Neoconservatives, as well as economic nationalists, all of whom for their own ideological reasons want an aggressive policy toward China.

If you have followed the escalation since that post on February 16, 2017, you know that most recently China indicated it would stop exporting rare earth element (REE) minerals to the U.S. in response to the U.S. hostility. Which brings us to an article published this week U.S. to Ensure Rare-Earth Supply Amid Trade War With China which discusses the newly released Commerce Department Report A Federal Strategy to Ensure Secure and Reliable Supplies of Critical Minerals.

China had given policy-makers reason to be concerned about our dependency on rare earth mineral imports.  Rare earth minerals are used in magnets, catalysts, alloys, glasses,electronics, hybrid vehicles, wind turbines, hard disc drives, portable electronics, microphones, speakers, petroleum refining, diesel additives, alloy making, fuel cells, Nickel-metal hydride batteries, LCD and plasma screens, fiber optics, lasers, medical imaging, tracers in medical applications, fertilizers, water treatment, REE-enriched fertilizers, and feed additives for livestock.

Since 2007, China has restricted exports of REEs and imposed export tariffs, both to conserve resources and to give preference to Chinese manufacturers.  In 2009, China supplied more than 96% of the world's REEs. In 2010 as noted in the Popular Science article Shortage of Rare Earth Minerals May Cripple U.S. High-Tech, Scientists Warn Congress:

    Experts testified that China's state-owned mines had set artificially low prices for the rare earth market, and that Chinese manufacturers had also forced most U.S. rare earth and permanent magnet manufacturers out of business. Rare earth magnets represent a major component in Toyota's Prius hybrid and other clean tech.
On September 22, 2010, China quietly enacted a ban on exports of rare earths to Japan, a move suspected to be in retaliation for the Japanese arrest of a Chinese trawler captain in a territorial dispute.

As Japan and China were (and are) the only sources for rare-earth magnetic material used in the U.S., the Democrat-controlled House Committee on Science and Technology scheduled on September 23, 2010, the review of a detailed bill, a bill which ultimately died in committee in the Democrat-controlled Senate, to subsidize the revival of the American rare-earths industry, including the reopening of the Mountain Pass mine.

Almost all Americans, including most Californians, are unaware that the only producing rare earth mine in the United States is the Mountain Pass Rare Earth Mine, an open-pit mine of rare-earth elements on the south flank of the Clark Mountain Range, just north of the unincorporated community of Mountain Pass, California.

The Mountain Pass deposit was discovered in 1949 by a uranium prospector who noticed anomalously high radioactivity. The Molybdenum Corporation of America bought the mining claims, and began small-scale production in 1952.

Production expanded greatly in the 1960s, to supply demand for europium used in color television screens. Between 1965 and 1995, the mine supplied most of the worldwide rare-earth metals consumption (see graph).

In August 2015, it was reported that the mine was to be shut down following a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing by its owner Molycorp which had outstanding bonds in the amount of $US 1.4 billion. A year later Molycorp Inc. emerged from bankruptcy as Neo Performance Materials, leaving behind the mine as Molycorp Minerals LLC in its own separate Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Affiliates of two U.S. investment fund advisors, JHL Capital Group LLC and QVT Financial LP plus a Chinese distributor of RRE's Shenghe Resources Holding Co., a non-voting 10% shareholder which provides technical advice and acts as the main distributor of MP’s products for processing in China, acquired Mountain Pass in July 2017 with the goal of reviving America’s rare earth industry.

Operating under the name MP Materials mining operations resumed in January 2018. According to the South China Morning Post (SCMP) article Caught between Trump and its biggest market, America’s sole rare earths mine is an unusual victim in the US-China trade war: "The operator of the Mountain Pass mine in California said it will kick-start its own processing operation by the end of 2020, after China last week more than doubled an import duty on concentrates to 25 per cent effective June 1." (Click on the image below to view the mine website.)

Getting this up and running as fast as possible seems like a no-brainer  But complex economic and environmental issues control the agenda as mentioned in the SXMP article. Even the Trump Administration had to forego simplicity as the U.S. has not retaliated against the Chinese tariffs on REE's even though Trump wanted to impose a 10 per cent tariff in July.

The mine has a history of environmental issues.  It was acquired by Union Oil (Unocal) in 1977.  A few years later problems became evident, per Wikipedia:

    In the 1980s, the company began piping wastewater up to 14 miles to evaporation ponds on or near Ivanpah Dry Lake, east of Interstate 15 near Nevada. This pipeline repeatedly ruptured during cleaning operations to remove mineral deposits called scale. The scale is radioactive because of the presence of thorium and radium, which occur naturally in the rare-earth ore. A federal investigation later found that some 60 spills—some unreported—occurred between 1984 and 1998, when the pipeline and chemical processing at the mine were shut down. In all, about 600,000 gallons of radioactive and other hazardous waste flowed onto the desert floor, according to federal authorities. By the end of the 1990s, Unocal was served with a cleanup order and a San Bernardino County district attorney's lawsuit. The company paid more than $1.4 million in fines and settlements. After preparing a cleanup plan and completing an extensive environmental study, Unocal in 2004 won approval of a county permit that allowed the mine to operate for another 30 years. The mine also passed a key county inspection in 2007.

The ultimate problem facing the United States and the Trump Administration is that whether American companies pay tariffs on imports of REE"s and products containing REE's, or ultimately use products derived from American REE's. Either way costs are going to rise on things Americans use.

“This trade war, and the fact that the US has not retaliated against the unilateral tariff on our products highlights [America’s] reliance on Chinese rare earth products supply,” Las Vegas-based MP Material’s chief executive, Michael Rosenthal, told the South China Morning Post (link above). “It focuses American manufacturers’ and government officials’ attention back on what we are trying to do and can do.”

The State of California and local communities can benefit from the success of the Mountain Pass Mine as can be seen from their employment site:

You should hope they find the employees they need in this low unemployment time  and, somehow, find a Congressional majority that can assist because there is something you'll need next year that depends on one of the REE's.

In the meantime, we need to ignore Trump's tweets as they do not constitute any lawful directive or official policy - just keep watching for stories about dead cats. One dead Chinese cat could mean a lot of dead American soldiers, sailors and pilots.

Monday, June 3, 2019

The 2019 California Democratic Party Convention: Political parties are only winners and losers, and losers can't implement policy ideas, even good ones.

This past weekend an event occurred critical to the continued success of the California Democratic Party - the 2019 California Democratic Party Convention.

From the press coverage of the Party’s Convention in San Francisco, you would never know an important decision was made. Unfortunately, the personality-oriented press covered the campaigning of 14 (of 23) declared Democratic Presidential candidates at that convention.

Unfortunately, past accomplishments - implemented policies such as low- or no-tuition college in their home states (i.e. Bernie Sanders' high tuition Vermont) - are not the measurement being used by the voters or the press to find an attractive candidate. In the 21st Century it is having an exciting personality and catering to bias, not ability and past policy successes, that appeal to Americans.

Fortunately, picking among the Democratic Presidential candidates at that convention was not on the agenda. Instead most of the delegates were looking at political reality.

The first reality facing the delegates to 2019 California Democratic Party’s convention was there will be a Presidential and Congressional election in 2020 which creates a set of facts:
  • In the 2020 Democratic National Convention, California's delegates will be pledged to potential nominees based on an complex primary vote apportionment system - no one candidate will get all 495 of the California delegates; 272 will be elected from Congressional Districts, 90 will be elected at-large, plus 133 will  be California's Party Leaders and Elected Officials (PLEO's) of whom 54 will be pledged and 79 unpledged. At the end of the Presidential election process, California's Electoral College votes will go to the Democratic candidate regardless of the nominee.
  • Neither of California's U.S. Senators is up for election.
  • If the National Democratic Party shifts to the left in its Presidential nominee, even with smartly focused hard work a few California House seats that shifted to the Democrats in 2018 will shift back to the Republicans - not many, but combined with what happens across the nation maybe enough to cause the Democrats to lose the majority in the House.
  • Or maybe the economy will collapse in which case all bets are off regarding the national election.
The truth of the matter is that the national election necessarily must be almost irrelevant to the California Democratic Party's for 2020. That is because the second reality surrounding the 2019 California Democratic Party’s convention was there will be a state election in 2020 which creates the following set of facts:
  • Governor Gavin Newsom in  2018 ran on a vision that included guaranteed health care for all, a ‘Marshall Plan’ for affordable housing, a master plan for aging with dignity, a middle-class workforce strategy, a cradle-to-college promise for the next generation, and an all-hands approach to ending child poverty; his 2019 budget proposal before the Legislature represents an effort to move forward in these areas best served by the current Democratic supermajority in the State Senate and the Assembly.
  • With regard to policy, Convention delegates adopted 14 policy proposal resolutions that can be divided into 5 categories: 
    1. federal policy matters over which the state has virtually no control including the U.S. Census citizenship question, the Federal cannabis ban, the Muslim immigration ban;
    2. existing state policy matters which the state already has the desired policy in place including Reproductive Rights and a Green New Deal (click to read 6 posts on  The California Green & Gold Deal );  
    3. changes in existing state matters including an overhaul of Proposition 13 as it applies to non-residential property, tweaks to rent control law, a charter school moratorium proposal, support for a bill which just passed the Assembly limiting police use-of- force, ending a University of California labor dispute, and a prohibition of affiliation between publicly funded universities or hospitals and any religious-affiliated hospitals which “openly discriminate against women and LGBTQ patients” and require doctors to follow religious codes that conflict with the party’s platform;
    4. criticizing a private non-profit organization, Kaiser Permanente, for not having adequate numbers of mental-health care clinicians available; and
    5. setting Party internal policy by providing for sexual harassment and implicit bias training and establishing a boycott of the Terranea luxury resort near Los Angeles.
  • At stake in the 2020 election is the Democratic super-majority in the Legislature which is essential to achieving goals. A Party organization is needed that can do the hard work to retain that super-majority - the only important purpose for having the convention and about which a decision of some import was made.
What was not covered by the national press was the election Saturday evening of Rusty Hicks as the California Democratic Party chair.

Hicks, who won 57% of the vote in Saturday’s election running against six other candidates, is president of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, (LA Fed). It is comprised of over 300 local unions that represent over 800,000 workers in virtually every key industry – transportation and goods movement, entertainment and media, janitorial and hospitality services, education, construction, government, retail health care and communications.

In November 2014, Hicks, then 38, was unanimously elected to the position of President of LA Fed and was unanimously re-elected to a new 4-year term on December 18, 2017.

Back in 2006, Hicks became the LA Fed’s Political Director. Under his leadership, LA Fed’s political program facilitated important electoral wins and the passage of significant public policies, including raising Los Angeles’ minimum wage and affordable homes and good, local jobs for Angelenos (Build Better LA). In 2012, he led the effort to qualify and pass Proposition 28 modifying legislative term limits that brought new stability to the State Legislature.

Raised by a single mother in Fort Worth, Texas, Hicks saw first-hand the challenges of attaining the American Dream. His mother was a bookkeeper, his grandfather a grocery clerk and his grandmother a teacher’s aide. Their hard work inspired Rusty to a life of service to ensure that the voices of working people are heard on the job, in their communities, and at the ballot box. This is why Hicks served as the California Political Director for the 2008 Obama for America campaign.

Hicks holds the rank of Lieutenant in the United States Navy Reserve where he serves as an Intelligence Officer. In 2013, Rusty completed a one-year deployment to Afghanistan where he supported the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Afghanistan. His accolades include the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Navy Achievement Medal, and the Afghanistan Campaign Medal.

He is also a graduate of Loyola Law School and Austin College. He resides in Pasadena with his wife, Sandra Sanchez, and their dog Charlie.

Bay Area activist Kimberly Ellis, who has served since 2010 as Executive Director of Emerge California that seeks to identify and help more women and minorities in California be elected to public office, received 36% of the vote. With Ellis appealing to supporters of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and, having worked only in political activism, concerns were expressed that the recently floundering Party organization needed to regain the discipline and energy to retain the Democratic legislative majorities (and hopefully the current supermajorities).

Hicks had the backing of six of the state’s eight statewide officeholders, most of the major unions and a wide range of California legislators and members of Congress, all of whom were aware that despite its superficial reputation as a Democratic stronghold, California's electorate geography looks like the Assembly District map to the left. In fact, by-county results of Governor Gavin Newsom's election in 2018 is shown below.

According to news reports Hicks said he has plotted out a plan for his first 100 days as party leader, including increasing efforts to train grass-roots activists and to reach out to conservative and moderate areas of California, including the Central Valley.

The reality was clear for California Democrats who want to win. As noted in the Politico article Labor anger over Green New Deal greets 2020 contenders in California:

    Blue-collar union workers in solidly Democratic California are rejecting "Green New Deal" politics, a possible preview of troubles for 2020 presidential hopefuls in Rust Belt states like Pennsylvania and Ohio.
    Robbie Hunter, president of the state Building and Construction Trades Council — which represents more than 400,000 workers — says that dozens of his members plan a major “Blue Collar Revolution” demonstration Saturday morning at the California Democratic Party convention in San Francisco, which will be attended by 14 of the Democratic presidential contenders and 5,000 delegates and guests.
    The effort aims to send a message that the party is in danger of eroding a critical base if it continues to back the Green New Deal resolution being pushed in Washington, D.C. by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and her allies. Hunter argues the measure's goals could endanger thousands of jobs in the Southern California oil industry alone.
    “All it does is do what the Democratic Party seems to be very good at lately — which is export our jobs, while doing nothing for the end game, which is the environmental,’’ Hunter said.
    “The Green New Deal may be the darling of the Democratic Party — but it really divides the Democrats on a fault line, which is more of the elites against the working class Democrats who are concerned about losing their jobs," said Jessica Levinson, a member of the Los Angeles Ethics Commission and a professor who teaches politics and ethics at Loyola Law School.
    Lifelong union members “don’t necessarily want to be retrained’’ for other, greener work spots — “nor is it even possible,’’ says Levinson. She predicts with the 2020 election looming, Democratic leaders will have to wrestle with the fact that “unlike the Mueller report and impeachment and indictment — people vote on whether or not they’re going to lose their job.”

With the election of a leader from organized labor, the focus to win of the California Democratic Party ought to inspire a shift in other state Democratic Parties and the National Democratic Party. Across the nation Democrats have one, and only one, problem which can be seen on this map:

California Governor Gavin Newsom this past week invited any women living in the states that just passed abortion restriction laws who need an abortion to come to California. That also should have communicated the obvious. If you live in a state colored red, your problems won't be with the Supreme Court, the President, or Congress.  Your problems will be with the members of your state legislature - they need to be replaced.

You achieve that by having state parties run by people who focus on getting Democratic candidates elected not on economic and social policy details. When you don't have that focus, preferring to talk among yourselves and looking down on the laboring class, you get abortion restriction laws and bathroom use restriction laws - in other words you lose bigly.

People who got elected have designed California's Green and Gold Deal, an approach that seeks to address the economic issues related to Climate Change policy. So far it has worked and it needs to continue that way. Otherwise, candidates entranced by the green lights off to the left will make us all losers.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Is America's Manifest Destiny The Phone War???

The United States has launched an attack on the future of 1.4 billion Chinese people, a war that must be known as The Phone War.1


The Manifest Destiny History and
National Security Lies Behind...
The Phone War (Part 1)

During the first two years of Trump's Presidency, the Administration's foreign policy seemed fuzzy, difficult to pin down. This has been due to the differing views of cabinet members and advisors.

But one thing has been made clear by Trump - he does not want to get the U.S. bogged down in any foreign military adventure stating in his 2019 State of the Union Address: " Great nations do not fight endless wars."

Within that same speech, President Trump expressed the underpinnings of his political views and, if you can, as you read these words imagine them coming from a great speaker such as Jack Kennedy:2

    What will we do with this moment? How will we be remembered?
    I ask the men and women of this Congress: Look at the opportunities before us! Our most thrilling achievements are still ahead. Our most exciting journeys still await. Our biggest victories are still to come. We have not yet begun to dream.
    We must choose whether we are defined by our differences -- or whether we dare to transcend them.
    We must choose whether we will squander our inheritance -- or whether we will proudly declare that we are Americans. We do the incredible. We defy the impossible. We conquer the unknown.
    This is the time to re-ignite the American imagination. This is the time to search for the tallest summit, and set our sights on the brightest star. This is the time to rekindle the bonds of love and loyalty and memory that link us together as citizens, as neighbors, as patriots.
    This is our future -- our fate -- and our choice to make. I am asking you to choose greatness.
    No matter the trials we face, no matter the challenges to come, we must go forward together.
    We must keep America first in our hearts. We must keep freedom alive in our souls. And we must always keep faith in America's destiny -- that one Nation, under God, must be the hope and the promise and the light and the glory among all the nations of the world!

Americans need to be aware of the Trump Administration's emerging approach to international relations created deliberately (or accidentally, if you just can't bring yourself to give him any credit). While within his Administration Trump has chosen to play key advisors off against each other and to use a bombastic style in communicating to the world, he has a policy intent expressed in the quote above.

In this context, Trump operates as an idiosyncratic individual outsider within a foreign policy group framework design which, historically for success, was dependent upon teamwork, tolerance, and mutual respect. But if you think it is accidental that Trump has cultivated relationships with the leader of Russia and the leader of North Korea, you don't understand his goal vis-à-vis disrupting China's potential relationships.

Within the last paragraph in the quote above from the State of Union are two phrases - "America first" and "America's destiny" - that are buried deeply in the American psyche. As explained in the previous post The very-American delusion behind Trump's foreign policy: The Bold 19th Century and 21st Century Women Architect-Advocates of America's Manifest Destiny, there is a theme to Trump's expressed foreign policy view laden with the mythical legacy of Manifest Destiny. It is also burdened by the impassioned fantasy of American Exceptionalism (a term coined by Joseph Stalin in 1929), and the emotional appeal of America First (used by Woodrow Wilson in his 1916 reelection campaign), all of which is based on Thomas Jefferson's Empire of Liberty idea first expressed during the Revolutionary War and which led to The Cold War. Let's consider these phrases.

Many on the political left fail to remember the American nationalism that began before there was a United States of America which we can trace as follows:
  • Empire of Liberty which as used by Jefferson in 1780 (during the Revolutionary War) to identify the responsibility of the United States to spread liberty across the world with a secondary goal to stop the growth of the British Empire;
  • Manifest Destiny used by Jane Cazneau in an editorial in 1845 to counter a European effort that had an "avowed object of thwarting our policy and hampering our power, limiting our greatness and checking the fulfillment of our manifest destiny";
  • America First used by President Woodrow Wilson in 1916 to remind voters that his isolationist stance had kept U.S. troops out of the burgeoning conflict of WWI in Europe but with the U.S. entry into the War became the title of a foreign policy that emphasizes American nationalism and unilateralism.(a popular song called “America First!” was dedicated to Wilson and published in 1917);
  • American Exceptionalism coined by Joseph Stalin in 1929 as "the heresy of American exceptionalism" in denying that the United States is inherently different from other nations which he recognized as an American expressed sense that its mythical history and mission to transform the world gives it a superiority over other nations.
  • Cold War described in 1945 by George Orwell as "the kind of world-view, the kind of beliefs, and the social structure that would probably prevail in a state which was at once unconquerable and in a permanent state of 'cold war'" with other states first used with regard to the post-WWII geopolitical confrontation between the Soviet Union and the United States in a speech by financier, stock investor, philanthropist, statesman, and adviser to U.S. Presidents Woodrow Wilson and Franklin D. Roosevelt which led to the American policy of political containment of a perceived political threat .
It is true that each of these terms has been used and misused over the years. It is also true that when Trump used "America First" in his inaugural address many writers in the mainstream media brought up a thorough review of the historical  misappropriation of the term built off an attack campaign against Wilson and no discussion of its first use by Wilson or what it might mean to American foreign policy.3

The mistake of getting all hot and bothered about Trump's inaugural address use of "America First" was the press effectively buried what he had said nearly a year earlier: “I’m not isolationist, but I am ‘America First' so I like the expression. I’m ‘America First.’”

This background brings us back to the clash with the Chinese that must be known as The Phone War.  The Administration's aggressive policy on 5G cellular technology has been effectively buried in the same loud "national security" ideological milieu surrounding everything from international trade to the constant conflict in the British-created "Middle East."

It seems that members of the American government security apparatus (during both the Obama Administration and the Trump Administration and including both Republicans and Democrats in Congress) have some problems with Huawei, China's preeminent cellular phone company.

Based on current news coverage, you would not know that the "problems" actually date back over a decade. Congress got involved in 2012 which generated this headline in Computerworld Politics, not security, behind Huawei, ZTE allegations, say analysts.

In 2013 Reuters published an article Former CIA boss says aware of evidence Huawei spying for China which implies credibility until you read:

    Hayden is a director of Motorola Solutions, which provides radios, smart tags, barcode scanners and safety products. Huawei and Motorola Solutions Inc had previously been engaged in intellectual property disputes for a number of years.
    Huawei Global Cyber Security Officer John Suffolk described the comments made by Hayden as “tired, unsubstantiated defamatory remarks” and challenged him and other critics to present any evidence publicly.
    “Huawei meets the communication needs of more than a third of the planet and our customers have the right to know what these unsubstantiated concerns are,” Suffolk said in a statement emailed to Reuters. “It’s time to put up or shut up.”

Of course, U.S. officials have neither put up nor shut up. Not that they are totally wrong about unscrupulous members of a government security apparatus. Let's review what we know about the U.S. government security apparatus ...

Back in 2013 Edward Snowden released a bunch of information about what the NSA was doing. As noted in an extensive article in The Guardian (if you haven't read it you should):

    ...His disclosures about the NSA resonated with Americans from day one. But they also exploded round the world.
    The debate has raged across time zones: from the US and Latin America to Europe and to Asia. Barack Obama cancelled a trip to Moscow in protest at Russian president Vladimir Putin's protection of Snowden. Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff cancelled a state visit to Washington in protest at the US spying on her....
    In Germany, a "livid" Angela Merkel accused the US of spying on her, igniting a furore that has seen the White House concede that new constraints on the NSA's activities may be necessary. Meanwhile, in Britain, prime minister David Cameron accused the Guardian of damaging national security by publishing the revelations, warning that if it did not "demonstrate some social responsibility it would be very difficult for government to stand back and not to act".
    US internet companies, their co-operation with the NSA exposed by Snowden's documents, fear a worldwide consumer backlash, and claim they were forced into co-operation by the law.
    Cell phones, laptops, Facebook, Skype, chat-rooms: all allow the NSA to build what it calls ‘a pattern of life’, a detailed profile of a target and anyone associated with them.
    And the number of people caught up in this dragnet can be huge.
    You don't need to be talking to a terror suspect to have your communications data analysed by the NSA. The agency is allowed to travel "three hops" from its targets — who could be people who talk to people who talk to people who talk to you. Facebook, where the typical user has 190 friends, shows how three degrees of separation gets you to a network bigger than the population of Colorado. How many people are three "hops" from you?

Now if you still don't get it, simply the United States government is the largest single organization on Earth invading the privacy of individual human beings, individual businesses, and foreign governments, both within an international scope and within the United States.4

What might startle some people is in that same year, 2013, the current Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs John Bolton set up the John Bolton Super PAC which raised $11.3 million for Republican candidates in the 2014 and 2016 elections and in 2016 paid Cambridge Analytica at least $650,000 for voter data analysis and digital video. You might remember the name Cambridge Analytica in relationship to both privacy invasion and Russian interference issues related to the election of Donald Trump.

Anyway, most Americans have forgotten the 2013 and 2016 news. But Bolton hasn't nor have other Administration Officials. And so we learn in May that the NSA-created malware used to by digital criminals in cyberattacks against U.S. cities, a tool picked up by hackers in North Korea, Russia and China leaving a path of destruction around the world, a fact which was never reported to Microsoft by the NSA. In fact officials say the agency shouldn't be blamed for not informing the tech giant that it had uncovered vulnerability, keeping the secret for over five years.

While American government privacy invasion goes on and on, while similar private sector activity goes on and on even while receiving scrutiny and financial penalties but little regulation, Bolton et al. are having us worry about China and, therefore, Huawei.

Now let's consider a phrase in a sentence in The Guardian article quoted above (emphasis added): "US internet companies, their co-operation with the NSA exposed by Snowden's documents, fear a worldwide consumer backlash, and claim they were forced into co-operation by the law."

Apparently the U.S. technology community believes they should obey the law particularly when it involves spying around the world.  Bolton et al.agree. But when the U.S. technology community believes they should obey the law in other countries (i.e. Google in China), the American security apparatus doesn't agree. And, of course, it is simply unacceptable that foreign companies such as China's Huawei might be coerced by Chinese law.

Curiously, regarding Hauwei violating anyone's privacy or national security, not one piece of evidence of any kind has been offered. This is curious because on March 22, 2014, articles in the New York Times and the German weekly news magazine Der Spiegel explained in detail that the NSA had hacked Huawei. As explained in the NY Times:

    One of the goals of the operation, code-named “Shotgiant,” was to find any links between Huawei and the People’s Liberation Army, one 2010 document made clear. But the plans went further: to exploit Huawei’s technology so that when the company sold equipment to other countries — including both allies and nations that avoid buying American products — the N.S.A. could roam through their computer and telephone networks to conduct surveillance and, if ordered by the president, offensive cyberoperations.
    “Many of our targets communicate over Huawei-produced products,” the N.S.A. document said. “We want to make sure that we know how to exploit these products,” it added, to “gain access to networks of interest” around the world.
    The documents offer no answer to a central question: Is Huawei an independent company, as its leaders contend, or a front for the People’s Liberation Army, as American officials suggest but have never publicly proved?
    Two years after Shotgiant became a major program, the House Intelligence Committee delivered an unclassified report on Huawei and another Chinese company, ZTE, that cited no evidence confirming the suspicions about Chinese government ties.

As noted at the time by Jack Goldsmith former United States Assistant Attorney General during the George W. Bush Administration:

    The Huawei revelations are devastating rebuttals to hypocritical U.S. complaints about Chinese penetration of U.S. networks, and also make USG protestations about not stealing intellectual property to help U.S. firms' competitiveness seem like the self-serving hairsplitting that it is.
    “The irony is that exactly what they are doing to us is what they have always charged that the Chinese are doing through us,” says a Huawei Executive.

The fact is Huawei isn't a national security threat as that has been traditionally defined. Rather Huawei is a private sector threat to the American private sector dominance role as the world's 21st Century technology leader. And the threat is in 5G technology.

In addition to a commercial market, 5G represents a revolution in military technology - the future landscape of warfare and cybersecurity could be fundamentally changed by 5G. It is being identified by many military experts as the cornerstone of future military technology. (Right now, at least, is is more susceptible to hacking, but that probably can be addressed in the future.)

There's just one problem about 5G as explained in The Washington Post:

    As U.S. officials have pressured allies not to use networking gear from Chinese technology giant Huawei over spying concerns, President Trump has urged American companies to “step up” and compete to provide the next generation of high-speed, low-lag wireless service known as 5G.
    There’s just one problem: Barely any U.S. companies manufacture the technology’s most critical components.
    The absence of a major U.S. alternative to foreign suppliers of 5G networking equipment underscores the growing dominance of Huawei, which has evolved into the world’s biggest supplier of telecom equipment, sparking fears within the Trump administration that a 5G network powered by Huawei’s wireless parts could endanger national security. And it throws into sharp relief the years-long retreat by U.S. firms from that market.

Four companies supply gear for 5G networks: China’s Huawei and ZTE, plus Sweden’s Ericsson and Finland’s Nokia.

Simply, while individual Americans spend very large sums to buy Apple phones, while the American investment community marvels and compliments Apple for the profits it made last week, while members of Congress assure that our military is stuck buying tanks and aircraft they don't need, and while the American military leaders fume about all this stupidity, China's Huawei in particular was looking towards the future of its business with the blessing of the Chinese government.

In other words, we're losing the technology competition. And first the Obama Administration and now the Trump Administration is just not having any of that.

The Obama Administration pursued the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement which subtly would have reduced China's impact on world trade with Obama arguing "if we don't pass this agreement—if America doesn't write those rules—then countries like China will".

However, because it was a long document dealing with complex details which many in leadership positions lack the skills to read or breadth of knowledge to place in a big picture context, criticism came from all sides - corporate interests, plus opposition from the left ranging from Democratic Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders to Noam Chomsky and Robert Reich.

So Congress rejected it and Americans replaced Barack Obama with Donald Trump as President. America moved away from trade agreements, which gave the appearance of capitalistic competition through regulated private sector exclusivity, towards direct governmental intervention in the private sector economy effectively declaring The Phone War.

But no part of our government has encouraged an open policy debate discussing the why's, how's, and goals of  The Phone War. Instead we've been offered propaganda that simply isn't true. Of course, one must acknowledge that discussion of facts apparently ceased to be accepted as a methodology for developing policy generally in the American public arena around the beginning of the 21st Century.


We're Launching a 21st Century Asia-Pacific Cold War to
Undermine Chinese Technology and Trade Successes
The Phone War (Part 2)

It has been said that President Donald Trump has respect for Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Nonetheless, the Trump Administration (as did the Obama Administration) considers the competitive situation between the U.S. and China as very intense and threatening. The basic attitude is that it is imperative that the U.S move to check:
  1. China's rapid technological rise which in the critical 5G technology has surpassed the rest of the world and 
  2. Xi's Belt and Road Initiative which has made some expansion and leadership inroads into the globalized economy including Europe (see the post here War with China? Hardly! Instead, you need to know about the Belt and Road Initiative gains in Europe). 
As noted in previous posts, these policy choices, which have bipartisan support, derived from 19th and 20th Century worldviews, a 21st Century worldview clearly expressed by the Director of Policy Planning at the United States Department of State Kiron Skinner at a security forum March 29:

    So in China we have an economic competitor, we have an ideological competitor, one that really does seek a kind of global reach that many of us didn't expect a couple of decades ago, and I think it's also striking that it's the first time that we will have a great power competitor that is not Caucasian.

All of this sounds like a realistic view despite its racist component. But no one places it in the context of a lesser-quoted statement made by then Vice-President Xi to a group of overseas Chinese while visiting Mexico on February 11, 2009, regarding the 2008 financial crisis affecting the Atlantic oriented world filled with complaints about Chinese foreign trade:

    There are some bored foreigners, with full stomachs, who have nothing better to do than point fingers at us. First, China doesn't export revolution; second, China doesn't export hunger and poverty; third, China doesn't come and cause you headaches. What more is there to be said?

It might be tempting to dismiss that statement except at the same visit Xi said "it was the greatest contribution towards the whole of the human race made by China to prevent its 1.3 billion people from hunger."

These public pronouncements were shocking to the Communist Party establishment at the time and reporting on them in the state-run news media was delayed.  They didn't reflect the official Party story.

Like Donald Trump, Xi is a product of his culture and his life which was explored in the post The story of China's new leadership generation as evinced by the life and words of its President.

One of the more absurd elements of American propaganda about China can be found in an article ‘Not on my watch’: China won’t be number one in the world, says Donald Trump which offers this:

    China’s economy was “not great” at the moment, Trump said. “Our economy has been fantastic. Because they were catching us, they were going to be bigger than us. If Hillary Clinton became president, China would have been a much bigger economy than us by the end of her term. And now it’s not even going to be close.”
    The president also said he believed China wanted to replace America as the world’s leading superpower, and it was “not going to happen with me”.
    “I think that’s their intention,” he said. “Why wouldn’t it be? I mean they’re very ambitious people, they’re very smart.”
    Economists at HSBC Holdings in 2018 projected China was on course to be the world’s biggest economy by 2030. The nation’s gross domestic product will stand at US$26 trillion in 2030, while US GDP will rise to US$25.2 trillion, according to the HSBC projection.

The flaw in the discussion in the article is that it ignores population size. If the U.S. and China's national GDP's were exactly the same, that in no way implies that the economies would be the same. Unless you think an economy exists to light up a scoreboard, you have to measure it in terms of the impact on the people.

From a numbers standpoint, if the two national GDP were equal, the per capita wealth of China would be 24% of that of the United States. In other words, assuming the money is a measurement of how well the people live in the economy, China's 1.4 billion people individually have far less than the 0.33 billion people in the United States.

Right now according to the IMF’s World Economic Outlook Database, April 2018, the Gross Domestic Product using the purchasing-power-parity (PPP) valuation on a per person basis, the Chinese economy is about $16,536 per person while the U.S. is $57,029 per person. In terms of meaning to the average citizen, the U.S. economy is 3.45 times larger than China's.

There is absolutely no chance China's per capita wealth will equal the U.S. in the foreseeable future. Remember that back in 2008 Xi said "it was the greatest contribution towards the whole of the human race made by China to prevent its 1.3 billion people from hunger."

In terms of the total economy, China's competition represents no threat to the average American which would rise to the level of "war" - maybe to shareholders of some tech company, but not to the average American.

And as noted here in the post War with China? Hardly! Instead, you need to know about the Belt and Road Initiative gains in Europe a nuclear war between China and the U.S. would have two losing populations even if only the U.S. launched nuclear weapons. The post also asks the question "does anyone seriously think we could win a non-nuclear "land war" against 1.4 billion people who live in a country that at it's closest is about 6,000 miles away across an ocean?" And it also points out "the U.S. may be the largest naval power, but in contrast to China we need it just to get raw materials and other imports from, and goods exported to, Africa, Asia and Europe. China has road access to Africa, Asia and Europe."

In other words, rather than the rejected Obama Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, the Trump Administration has chosen to initiate an unsubtle Asia-Pacific Cold War requiring no Congressional vote. But make no mistake about it, this did not begin with Trump's election. As explained in the Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia Pacific's 2013 annual publication Regional Security Outlook chapter titled THE U.S. ‘PIVOT’: A Preamble to the Asia Pacific’s Cold War?:

    Politically, militarily and economically, America is back (in Asia)! Yet rather than a fervor for Asia, it seems preoccupied to be back with a political ‘vengeance’ to not be outdone by the world’s most populous nation (China) which has now overtaken the U.S. as the world’s largest manufacturer and replaced Russia as Washington’s peer power.
    It began in Australia in November 2011, when U.S. President Barack Obama announced the stationing of Marines in Darwin by saying that “as we (the U.S.) plan and budget for the future, we will allocate the resources necessary to maintain our strong military presence in this region”. He added, “we will preserve our unique ability to project power and deter threats to peace”....

But what isn't being said (and wasn't said by Obama) is that the Cold War of the second half of the 20st Century began because the Soviet Union used troops to occupy parts of Europe and threatened further expansionist military activity which ended with its loss of the Soviet–Afghan War.

Since 1951, while occasionally flexing its muscles when threatened, The People's Republic of China has shown no territorial expansion intentions beyond territory like Taiwan, originally annexed in 1683 by the Qing dynasty of China, that has been contested since it claimed independence of the Chinese Mainland after the losing army of the Chinese Civil War fled there to occupy it.

Already offered in this blog are over 50 posts here that extensively discuss issues related to China. Five posts here explore the reality that is 21st Century China which all Americans should understand and should serve as the underlying information for a debate about starting a new cold war, this time against China.

Of course there is another block of information Americans should understand and should serve as the underlying information for a debate about starting a new cold war. Consider...

Designed by Apple in California. Assembled in China. These words on the back of iPhones described the technology world order for decades - American engineering of devices manufactured in China to give the world affordable quality technology.

Do we now want The Phone War, an Asia-Pacific Cold War???  Apparently.

In October 2018 before US midterm elections, US Vice-President Mike Pence accused Beijing of using every tool at its disposal to undermine the US political system and warned American companies, including tech giant Alphabet, which owns Google, to disengage from China until the country stops actions aimed at undermining the US’ “most cherished ideals”.

But we need to understand that China has 1.4 billion people, nearly double the population of the United States and the European Union combined.

At the beginning of the Millennium the Chinese government for political reasons erected a "Great Firewall" blocking US online services from Facebook to Google. It had the effect of boosting the domestic internet industry massively and creating a separate Chinese ecosystem with its own innovations.

But with China pursuing its own tech ambitions, the Trump Administration has acted to cut 1.4 million Chinese and their tech firms off from American scientific know-how thereby pushing the world into a hard tech divide. Are we ready for this? Is it really a good idea?

What "most cherished ideals" of ours is China undermining?

Let's cut to the what is Mike Pence's bottom line for everything - the Christian fundamentalist right. The Chinese government inhibits, even arrests, Christian fundamentalists as they do all religious activists including those among their 22+ million Muslims, at least 10% of whom a fundamentalist and potential terrorists. Regarding Pence's view of China, as noted here in the post The U.S. "China threat" disinformation industry. It's ramping up agitation for a war with China in East Asia which America cannot possibly win!:

Today nuclear war is an abstract for most Americans. But not all Americans. As explained in the October 16, 2018 post "We’re modernizing our nuclear arsenal" to save the word of Jesus, Pence warns China and the world at the Koch funded Dr. Strangelove institute:

    Last month, Beijing shut down one of China’s largest underground churches. Across the country, authorities are tearing down crosses, burning bibles, and imprisoning believers. And Beijing has now reached a deal with the Vatican that gives the avowedly atheist Communist Party a direct role in appointing Catholic bishops. For China’s Christians, these are desperate times.
    We’re modernizing our nuclear arsenal. We’re fielding and developing new cutting-edge fighters and bombers....

It may be hard to understand for rabid right-wing Americans, but China's government has to govern 1.4 billion people. Given the chaos going on in the U.S. and Britain, do we expect those 1.4 billion people to enthusiastically embrace our form of government?

In fact, they have had 4,000+ years of government experience which tells them that having a kind of "emperor" works ok. The last time their governing system collapsed was when the West imposed its type of government and religion on them.

Let's become indignant about China's anti-religion government after Mike Pence has Trump open the United States to 14.5  million Muslims from the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region to be relocated as indicated in the map (which is about the same size and contains the same number of non-Muslim people as Xinjiang). They would become instant citizens who have an official language other than English while Pence tries to figure out what to do with 1.45 million potential Muslim fundamentalists who want to impose Islam beliefs on Christian fundamentalists through law, much like Pence's Pro-Life Christians are doing in many states.

But maybe the "most cherished ideals" threatened by China is our mythic free enterprise system in our great capitalist United States?

In the Part 1 we noted that in 2013 when Snowden released NSA documents it was reported: "US internet companies, their co-operation with the NSA exposed by Snowden's documents, fear a worldwide consumer backlash, and claim they were forced into co-operation by the law." So no, even though China is called "communist" in fact the U.S. government meddles in corporate business affairs all the time, particularly when it comes to tech.

Still, the Chinese mythic economic system is "communist." Except Huawei, which the Trump Administration is attacking, is a privately owned corporation as is the multinational technology company Lenovo (which in 2014 bought Motorola Mobility) and almost all the other Chinese tech companies.

Hence, one might see a story like the one to the left. Yes, the conference was hosted by Quingdoa Communist Party officials. And Chinese venture capitalists know that as their wealth grows their behavior will be carefully scrutinized. Success in China isn't measured in the wealth of the 1%. As President Xi said "it was the greatest contribution towards the whole of the human race made by China to prevent its 1.3 billion people from hunger."

But still, using direct governmental intervention in the private sector economy under a Republican President and Congress, the U.S. government has launched The Phone War, an Asia-Pacific Cold War.

It appears we are about to get what we, or at least our Christian right and Neocons like Mike Pence and John Bolton, want. On Wednesday, May 29, 2019, the official newspaper of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, the People's Daily offered some advice to Americans in an editorial titled “United States, don’t underestimate China’s ability to strike back”:

    We advise the U.S. side not to underestimate the Chinese side’s ability to safeguard its development rights and interests. Don’t say we didn’t warn you!

This puts us in very special company. The phrase “Don’t say we didn’t warn you” was only used two other times in history by the People’s Daily — in 1962 before the China-India border war and ahead of the 1979 China-Vietnam War.

And so many supposedly well-informed Americans started learning something, among the hundreds of important things Americans don't know about China. In 2017, China produced 81% of the world's rare-earth supply, mostly in Inner Mongolia, although it had only 36.7% of reserves. Australia was the second and only other major producer with 15% of world production.

Despite the fact that you are among the 20-25% of American high school graduates that took biology, chemistry, physics, and pre-calculous, you may not remember what rare earth is.

A rare-earth element is one of seventeen chemical elements in the periodic table including  cerium (Ce), dysprosium (Dy), erbium (Er), europium (Eu), gadolinium (Gd), holmium (Ho), lanthanum (La), lutetium (Lu), neodymium (Nd), praseodymium (Pr), promethium (Pm), samarium (Sm), scandium (Sc), terbium (Tb), thulium (Tm), ytterbium (Yb), and yttrium (Y).

And being one of those high school science nerds, you probably remember we are significantly dependent upon a supply of rare-earth elements (though the popular-press-for-shallow-thinkers has focused mostly on things like smart phones and electric cars). Per Wikipedia:

    ...Some important uses of rare-earth elements are applicable to the production of high-performance magnets, catalysts, alloys, glasses, and electronics....  Rare-earth elements in this category are used in the electric motors of hybrid vehicles, wind turbines, hard disc drives, portable electronics, microphones, speakers. Ce and La are important as catalysts, and are used for petroleum refining and as diesel additives. Ce, La and Nd are important in alloy making, and in the production of fuel cells and Nickel-metal hydride batteries. Ce, Ga and Nd are important in electronics and are used in the production of LCD and plasma screens, fiber optics, lasers, as well as in medical imaging. Additional uses for earth elements are as tracers in medical applications, fertilizers, and in water treatment.
    REEs have been used in agriculture to increase plant growth, productivity, and stress resistance seemingly without negative effects for human and animal consumption. REEs are used in agriculture through REE-enriched fertilizers.... In addition, REEs are feed additives for livestock which has resulted in increased production such as larger animals and a higher production of eggs and dairy products. However, this practice has resulted in REE bio-accumulation....

Chinese President Xi Jinping made a high-profile visit last week to one of the country’s major rare earth mining and processing facilities in Ganzhou, Jiangxi province (quick, find Ganzhou, Jiangxi province on a map without using your rare earth dependent device).

The ultimate reality of The Phone War is already appearing. As noted in Everyone’s winning the US-China trade war except the US and China:

    he tariffs imposed on goods traded between the United States and China are re-shaping the global economy, but not the way the chief antagonist in that battle, US president Donald Trump, has predicted.
    While trade with China has fallen slightly, the statistics also show that imports to the United States from other developing economies are fast increasing. In other words, the White House’s nationalist trade policy is changing where the United States sources its imports, not growing production at home.
    The overall trade deficit hasn’t gone away, with US government data from 2018 showing a record high US trade deficit of $891 billion. The reason is simple—US businesses looking to import cheap goods abroad are simply turning to different markets. One obvious choice is Mexico, where the United States had a record high trade deficit in March 2019, and from other advanced economies—imports from Germany and Japan hit record-high levels in March as well.
    As the Council on Foreign Relations’ Brad Setser pointed out, one of the biggest winners is Vietnam, which has seen its trade with the United States increase dramatically. While some at the US Treasury are examining the situation for signs that Vietnam is artificially devaluing its currency to be more competitive in global markets, Setser concluded that “the recent jump in its surplus (and the surplus of many other East Asian economies) is almost certainly the consequence of Trump’s tariffs on China.”
    Which makes sense, considering the country’s recent development trajectory as a kind of China in waiting, making everything from furniture to consumer electronics. Some Chinese companies have simply moved their factories into Vietnam in response to the new tariffs, while its participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a global free trade deal, has integrated it more deeply into existing supply chains. It’s a similar story with Malaysia, also a TPP member.

The rare earth threat cannot be ignored, but in 2018 U.S. imports accounted for just 4% of China’s rare earth shipments. Other sources such as Australia and Malaysia could replace the Chinese supply but costs would increase. As with everything else used as a weapon in this game, there would be two losers, the U.S. and China.

Much of the Huawei situation is like this. Yes, the imposition of embargoes by the Trump Administration preventing the export to China of chips from Intel and advanced Android functions  from Google will create problems for Huawei. It had become the world's second largest smart phone company, second to Samsung as seen in the chart below:
There is no question Huawei will be hurt in terms of worldwide sales. But Huawei will in all likelihood have its own operating system to replace Android in a relatively short time and will replace any chips not available in the U.S. And OPPO and Vivo are both Chinese companies.

This brings us to another fact about launching The Phone War -  As indicated in the chart below, China represents 20%+ of the smartphone market, the U.S. 4.5%.

Only an idiot would think the Chinese firms won't end up with nearly exclusive access to the Chinese market and, oh, they don't need English language apps from Google.

Of course, phones really aren't the hot issue in technology - it is the 5G implementation which for almost all of the United States hasn't even begun. Yet we've started an Asia-Pacific Cold War ostensibly over possibilities related to 5G.

With regard to all of this in the context of international relations and the Climate Change crisis,it is discouraging to consider together these statements:
    So in China we have an economic competitor, we have an ideological competitor, one that really does seek a kind of global reach that many of us didn't expect a couple of decades ago, and I think it's also striking that it's the first time that we will have a great power competitor that is not Caucasian. - Kiron Skinner, Director of Policy Planning, United States Department of State

    Beijing is pursuing a comprehensive and coordinated campaign to undermine support for the President, our agenda, and our nation’s most cherished ideals. - Mike Pence, Vice-President of the United States

    There are some bored foreigners, with full stomachs, who have nothing better to do than point fingers at us. First, China doesn't export revolution; second, China doesn't export hunger and poverty; third, China doesn't come and cause you headaches. What more is there to be said? - Xi Jinping, President of the People's Republic of China

    What will we do with this moment? How will we be remembered? - Donald Trump, President of the United States

Let us hope that we will not be remembered as the nation that started The Phone War!5

  1. This is not to be confused with The Phoney War, a relatively quiet eight-month period at the start of World War II in Europe - that's not the subject of this post.
  2. There is a term that defines Trump's failure to effectively present these thoughts: 
  3. The irony of trying to use the pre-WWII America First Committee's antisemitism against Trump apparently is lost on many who should be more worried about investments in Kushner Companies from Isreali interests and Kushner family's investment in West Bank settlement projects and donations to a Jerusalem hospital prior to the decision to move the American Embassy there which signal Jared Kushner's pro-Israel stance.
  4. Politico's May 30, 2019 Morning Cybersecurity briefing explained: "A coalition of human rights groups, tech companies and security researchers today signaled opposition to a proposal from U.K. Government Communications Headquarters officials to give law enforcement the ability to to view encrypted messages. “The ‘ghost key’ proposal put forward by GCHQ would enable a third party to see the plain text of an encrypted conversation without notifying the participants,” wrote the coalition, which includes Apple, Google and Microsoft as well as organizations like New America’s Open Technology Institute, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Center for Democracy and Technology. The idea “poses serious threats to cybersecurity and fundamental human rights including privacy and free expression,” according to the coalition."
  5. Then again, I'm an old guy who started coding software in 1970 and am truly disappointed that the proliferation of smartphones is the predominant outcome of many thousands of manhours of labor. Maybe our civilization should fail if this is the best we can do with our Western technology.