The day before

May 9th, 2019

WSJ:

China’s government has turned to state media to carry a message to the public: Stay calm and confident knowing that Beijing is in control.

The message—carried in newspaper editorials, read aloud on state television and circulated on social media—is meant to allay doubts and criticisms of the country’s leadership and prevent investor panic. “We remain calm, despite chaotic clouds flying all over,” an opinion piece in the People’s Daily newspaper said on Wednesday, referencing a poem by Mao Zedong, the Communist Party chairman who led the country for decades.

To avoid any confusion, online talk that doesn’t toe the line has been widely censored, according to monitoring services.

Chinese leaders often turn to the mixture of state-media messaging and censorship to guide citizens’ thinking and to avoid any fallout for Beijing, according to media watchers. That is especially the case when there is a risk of fanning grass-roots anger against foreign nations, even when aligned with Beijing’s interests. Several anti-Japan protests have spiraled into vandalism and violence in past years, with some protesters also using the demonstrations to vent criticism of Beijing.

King-wa Fu, a censorship expert at the University of Hong Kong, said Beijing is clearly seeking to tamp down the issue domestically, with even some pro-government posts on the topic censored online. But that information vacuum, he said, has also caused confusion.

The event that touched off the latest spiral in tensions—tweets from President Trump last Sunday that threatened new and higher tariffs to punish China for perceived backsliding in trade negotiations—were reported obliquely if at all, leaving investors bewildered.

“The government wants to cool down the negative side of the news,” said Mr. Fu. “But censorship can’t really stop the spread. The government can’t keep all investors in the dark.”

The Communist Party’s Propaganda Department, to which all media ultimately answers, didn’t immediately respond to a faxed request for comment on Thursday.

We’ll see what happens. Until then, there’s this.

Very odd indeed

May 8th, 2019

Reuters:

The diplomatic cable from Beijing arrived in Washington late on Friday night, with systematic edits to a nearly 150-page draft trade agreement that would blow up months of negotiations between the world’s two largest economies, according to three U.S. government sources and three private sector sources briefed on the talks.

The document was riddled with reversals by China that undermined core U.S. demands, the sources told Reuters.

In each of the seven chapters of the draft trade deal, China had deleted its commitments to change laws to resolve core complaints that caused the United States to launch a trade war: Theft of U.S. intellectual property and trade secrets; forced technology transfers; competition policy; access to financial services; and currency manipulation.

The stripping of binding legal language from the draft struck directly at the highest priority of U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer – who views changes to Chinese laws as essential to verifying compliance after years of what U.S. officials have called empty reform promises.

Lighthizer has pushed hard for an enforcement regime more like those used for punitive economic sanctions – such as those imposed on North Korea or Iran – than a typical trade deal. “This undermines the core architecture of the deal,” said a Washington-based source with knowledge of the talks.

Changing any law in China requires a unique set of processes that can’t be navigated quickly, said a Chinese official familiar with the talks. The official disputed the assertion that China was backtracking on its promises, adding that U.S. demands were becoming more “harsh” and the path to a deal more “narrow” as the negotiations drag on.

Liu is set to arrive in Washington on Thursday for two days of talks that just last week were widely seen as pivotal – a possible last round before a historic trade deal. Now, U.S. officials have little hope that Liu will come bearing any offer that can get talks back on track, said two of the sources.

To avert escalation, some of the sources said, Liu would have to scrap China’s proposed text changes and agree to make new laws. China would also have to move further toward the U.S. position on other sticking points, such as demands for curbs on Chinese industrial subsidies and a streamlined approval process for genetically engineered U.S. crops.

As Marty Zweig used to say on WSW, “it doesn’t look good Lou.”

Not your Heinz 57

May 8th, 2019

Before clicking on this, speculate on what 57% of a group might agree on. As a benchmark, note that Reagan got around that as a percent of the vote in 1984, so it’s a non-trivial amount of agreement. We were going to leave matters there, but hilarity has ensued. We quote from a “news” channel:

“In keeping with his practice of not having anything better to do, out came a tweet from President Seabiscuit. Remember when they used to give Mr. Ed peanut butter so it would look like he was talking on tv? This is sort of like if Mr. Ed had a Twitter-page and inhaled a jar of Skippy.”

Now we understand the 57%. A good portion of this country has gone insane. Bonus fun: VDH on James Cardinal Comey, a truly weird guy.

Doomed by the hucksters once more

May 7th, 2019

NYT:

Humans are transforming Earth’s natural landscapes so dramatically that as many as one million plant and animal species are now at risk of extinction, posing a dire threat to ecosystems that people all over the world depend on for their survival, a sweeping new United Nations assessment has concluded.

The 1,500-page report, compiled by hundreds of international experts and based on thousands of scientific studies, is the most exhaustive look yet at the decline in biodiversity across the globe and the dangers that creates for human civilization. A summary of its findings, which was approved by representatives from the United States and 131 other countries, was released Monday in Paris. The full report is set to be published this year.

Its conclusions are stark. In most major land habitats, from the savannas of Africa to the rain forests of South America, the average abundance of native plant and animal life has fallen by 20 percent or more, mainly over the past century. With the human population passing 7 billion, activities like farming, logging, poaching, fishing and mining are altering the natural world at a rate “unprecedented in human history.”

At the same time, a new threat has emerged: Global Warming has become a major driver of wildlife decline, the assessment found, by shifting or shrinking the local climates that many mammals, birds, insects, fish and plants evolved to survive in. As a result, biodiversity loss is projected to accelerate through 2050, particularly in the tropics, unless countries drastically step up their conservation efforts.

the report warns of a looming extinction crisis, with extinction rates currently tens to hundreds of times higher than they have been in the past 10 million years. “Human actions threaten more species with global extinction now than ever before,” the report concludes, estimating that “around 1 million species already face extinction

with humans continuing to burn fossil fuels for energy, global warming is expected to compound the damage. Roughly 5 percent of species worldwide are threatened with climate-related extinction if global average temperatures rise 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels, the report concluded. (The world has already warmed 1 degree.)

Blather, rinse, repeat. Hey hucksters, and there are a lot of you out there, please learn how to spell ZERO.

Stuck on stupid

May 6th, 2019

If you think Casttro’s Cuba had “very high-quality health care,” you win the Russel L. Honoré Award for being stuck on stupid. Exhibit A. Exhibit B.

Negative and positive and coo-coo bird

May 6th, 2019

Talk about a hoax. Yuck.

And now, for a bit of good fun!

This is fun too, of the coo-coo kind.

A timely suggestion for the administration

May 5th, 2019

Lately we’ve been railing against the disgusting and smug billionaire monopolists. In addition to all the other damage they do, they’re doing pretty well at destroying the First Amendment as they manipulate public opinion against conservatism, particularly among the young. They also don’t stop expanding their power, having done 431 acquisitions for over $150 billion over the last ten years.

So what is the administration doing about this? So far, not much beyond tweeting. Ridiculous, the time for action is now, and the opportunity is once in a lifetime. Imagine another issue on which Donald Trump could be perfectly aligned with Ralph Nader, Elizabeth Warren, and maybe even Snoop Dogg – it’s a pretty short list indeed!

Yes, we understand of course that there are important legal issues regarding these antitrust moves. As a piece in the Yale Law Journal observes (HT:ML), the “predatory pricing” at Amazon doesn’t gouge consumers, rather the opposite: the low prices are aimed at putting competitors and other nuisances to Bezos out of business. (Bezos, BTW, has been known to act precisely like Vito Corleone.)

The time to act is NOW; the situation is going to get even worse as time goes on.

A new cold war?

May 4th, 2019

Wretchard on Venezuela, China, and more.

For the record

May 4th, 2019

The only thing uglier than an angry Washington is a fearful Washington. And fear is what’s driving this week’s blitzkrieg of Attorney General William Barr.

Mr. Barr tolerantly sat through hours of Democratic insults at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Wednesday. His reward for his patience was to be labeled, in the space of a news cycle, a lawbreaking, dishonest, obstructing hack. Speaker Nancy Pelosi publicly accused Mr. Barr of lying to Congress, which, she added, is “considered a crime.”

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler said he will move to hold Mr. Barr in contempt unless the attorney general acquiesces to the unprecedented demand that he submit to cross-examination by committee staff attorneys. James Comey, former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, lamented that Donald Trump had “eaten” Mr. Barr’s “soul.” Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren demands the attorney general resign. California Rep. Eric Swalwell wants him impeached.

These attacks aren’t about special counsel Robert Mueller, his report or even the surreal debate over Mr. Barr’s first letter describing the report. The attorney general delivered the transparency Democrats demanded: He quickly released a lightly redacted report, which portrayed the president in a negative light. What do Democrats have to object to?

Some of this is frustration. Democrats foolishly invested two years of political capital in the idea that Mr. Mueller would prove President Trump had colluded with Russia, and Mr. Mueller left them empty-handed. Some of it is personal. Democrats resent that Mr. Barr won’t cower or apologize for doing his job. Some is bitterness that Mr. Barr is performing like a real attorney general, making the call against obstruction-of-justice charges rather than sitting back and letting Democrats have their fun with Mr. Mueller’s obstruction innuendo.

But most of it is likely fear. Mr. Barr made real news in that Senate hearing, and while the press didn’t notice, Democrats did. The attorney general said he’d already assigned people at the Justice Department to assist his investigation of the origins of the Trump-Russia probe. He said his review would be far-reaching — that he was obtaining details from congressional investigations, from the ongoing probe by the department’s inspector general, Michael Horowitz, and even from Mr. Mueller’s work. Mr. Barr said the investigation wouldn’t focus only on the fall 2016 justifications for secret surveillance warrants against Trump team members but would go back months earlier.

He also said he’d focus on the infamous “dossier” concocted by opposition-research firm Fusion GPS and British former spy Christopher Steele, on which the FBI relied so heavily in its probe. Mr. Barr acknowledged his concern that the dossier itself could be Russian disinformation, a possibility he described as not “entirely speculative.” He also revealed that the department has “multiple criminal leak investigations under way” into the disclosure of classified details about the Trump-Russia investigation.

Do not underestimate how many powerful people in Washington have something to lose from Mr. Barr’s probe. Among them: Former and current leaders of the law-enforcement and intelligence communities. The Democratic Party pooh-bahs who paid a foreign national (Mr. Steele) to collect information from Russians and deliver it to the FBI. The government officials who misused their positions to target a presidential campaign. The leakers. The media. More than reputations are at risk. Revelations could lead to lawsuits, formal disciplinary actions, lost jobs, even criminal prosecution.

The attacks on Mr. Barr are first and foremost an effort to force him out, to prevent this information from coming to light until Democrats can retake the White House in 2020. As a fallback, the coordinated campaign works as a pre-emptive smear, diminishing the credibility of his ultimate findings by priming the public to view him as a partisan.

That’s why Mr. Barr isn’t alone in getting slimed. Natasha Bertrand at Politico last month penned a hit piece on the respected Mr. Horowitz. It’s clear the inspector general is asking the right questions. The Politico article acknowledges he’s homing in on Mr. Steele’s “credibility” and the dossier’s “veracity” — then goes on to provide a defense of Mr. Steele and his dossier, while quoting unnamed sources who deride the “quality” of the Horowitz probe, and (hilariously) claim the long-tenured inspector general is not “well-versed” in core Justice Department functions.

“We have to stop using the criminal-justice process as a political weapon,” Mr. Barr said Wednesday. The line didn’t get much notice, but that worthy goal increasingly looks to be a reason Mr. Barr accepted this unpleasant job. Stopping this abuse requires understanding how it started. The liberal establishment, including journalists friendly with it, doesn’t want that to happen, and so has made it a mission to destroy Mr. Barr. The attorney general seems to know what he’s up against, and remains undeterred. That’s the sort of steely will necessary to right the ship at the Justice Department and the FBI.

Oh yeah, it’s Strassel, not us. The thing we worry about is just how far these DC crooks will go to avoid being outed and charged as the serious criminals Clapper, Brennan, Comey, etc. are.

The moral superiority cover story

May 4th, 2019

We assert that being creepy and felonious, a la Cardinal Comey, needs a cover story. The cover story is moral superiority. See this Tucker Carlson video. The other day we said that the billionaire monopolists of Facebook, Google, Amazon, etc., were probably worse than the monopolists the Sherman Act targeted. It is “probably” no more: these guys are worse, and self-made worse through their self-congraturlatory cover stories.

Klavan on faith and western civ

May 4th, 2019

Here. Interesting.

Some May 4 thoughts

May 4th, 2019

FA:

One hundred years ago, on the evening of May 3, 1919, a group of Chinese students met inside an empty lecture hall in Beijing. World War I had ended in an armistice the previous fall, and the victorious powers were gathered at Versailles to negotiate a peace treaty. China, which had contributed to the Allied war effort, believed that it had earned if not an equal seat at the table, then at least the right for its voice to be heard. But during their negotiations, France, the United Kingdom, and the United States secretly agreed to cede disputed Chinese territory to Japan, which had also supported the Allies. As the American diplomat Edward T. Williams wrote, “China was betrayed in the house of her friends.”

News of the decision reached China on the morning of May 2. From rickshaw men to state ministers, Chinese citizens lapsed into despair. The nation’s youth, in particular, felt the blow like the loss of a limb. Born into the final act of imperial China, they grappled with the disparity between their lot and that of a more developed world and burned with a sense of what was at stake — an ordeal as grave as the survival of China itself. They were the inheritors of a fallen empire. Their country’s humiliation was their anguish. A protest had been previously planned for the following week, but such was the clamor in the room, the intensity of the students’ convictions, that they knew they could not wait. They would march the next day — May 4.

The march marked the birth of the storied May Fourth Movement, a national cultural and political awakening that, over the past century, has come to symbolize the birth of modern China. It was a time of profound reflection and remarkable plurality of thought, a period of radical openness and possibility christened by historians as “the Chinese Enlightenment.” In a land of symbols and ceremonies, its yearly anniversary continues to evoke a powerful cultural resonance. “The movement is not obsolete . . . not merely a historical event,” wrote the state-run newspaper China Daily in 2009, on the 90th anniversary of the protest. “The discussions and contentions over it have never ceased.” Indeed, claims to the May Fourth legacy were recorded even before the streets had been cleared. In a poem penned the very day of the protests, a student at Peking University wrote that he and his peers had marched “to purge clear the shame from Chinese hearts and minds.” He wrote, “We’d do anything to save China.”

For the fledgling nation’s educated and elite, saving China was foremost on everyone’s mind. Once conceived as the center of human civilization, the Chinese empire had entered the twentieth century limping, crippled by an unrelenting succession of crises. Barely a decade into the new century, the Qing dynasty collapsed, replaced by a flawed republic that quickly succumbed to corrupt warlords and foreign aggressors.

Out of these conditions, however, rose a generation of writers and scholars, trained in Japan and the West, who balked at the shackles of Chinese tradition and looked abroad for tools of progress. Beginning in the 1910s, hundreds of new journals and magazines printed their first issues, wrestling with the most pressing subjects of their time, their insatiable appetite for modernity reflected in titles such as New Youth, New Tide, New Life, New Epoch, New Society, New Literature and Art—new everything. The collective fervor came to be known as the New Culture Movement, a swirl of ideas and activity that spurned the past, contested the future, and elevated the individual to a prominence not seen before or since. Culture was politics, and politics was culture. The nation brimmed with new plans for structuring life and society, while systems that had dominated for millennia were left in the dust.

If the visionaries of New Culture readied the kindling, the students on May 4, 1919, lit the fire. The movement secured its place in Chinese history by consolidating diffuse ideals for the future under the unifying banner of nationalism: “How,” they asked, “might China rise again?” Some pressed for greater political freedoms. Others attacked the country’s Confucian heritage. Still others believed they were joining the fight against imperialism. For China’s vocal liberal wing, calls for “Mr. Science” and “Mr. Democracy” emerged as a rallying cry, becoming for many synonymous with the movement itself. At its heart, May Fourth succeeded because it stoked the same deep yearning in everyone—the wish to save China.

Out of the movement’s bonfire leapt one ember that would catch and ignite into its own great flame. Taking inspiration from the Russian Revolution, China’s early Marxists began as a fringe study group on the campus of Peking University, steadily disseminating the language of class struggle and revolution to a national audience. In July 1921, around a dozen Marxists gathered for a secret meeting in Shanghai. Buoyed by support from the Soviet Comintern, they formally established the Communist Party in China and presided over its first party congress. Among the delegates was a local cell leader named Mao Zedong. May Fourth had catalyzed a turn in Mao’s worldview: sensing the need for a more structured politics, he abandoned his previous anarchism and plunged into Marxist­-Leninist theory. It was, he later reflected, “a critical period of my life.”

Ever since, the Chinese Communist Party has rooted its origin story in the romance and defiance of May 4. The party’s official history books trace a direct line from its founding back to the movement, which is credited with “wakening the Chinese national consciousness” and “preparing the fundamental conditions of the founding of the CCP.” Mao hailed the movement as the party’s “chief landmark,” which produced in China “a brand-new cultural force, that is, the communist culture and ideology guided by the Chinese Communists.” According to party lore, the spirit of May 4 was finally realized in 1949, when the communists declared victory in the nation’s civil war, announcing the establishment of the People’s Republic of China.

The Communist Party’s appropriation of May Fourth would exert powerful effects on its rule. The movement’s intensity had made a profound impression on Mao, who spoke of it as a “cultural revolution” as early as 1940. The first decades of the People’s Republic saw a tremendous embrace of his vast nation-building project, but his plans began to unravel in the 1950s with the disastrous policies of the Great Leap Forward. As Mao’s failures mounted and his grip on power loosened, he retreated into the one program he knew best: revolution.

Cloaking himself in the rhetoric of May 4, Mao launched the “Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution” in 1966. He called for the nation’s youth to “bombard the headquarters” of society and purge it of all “reactionary” elements, ranging from top party leaders to members of the students’ own families. He incited his “Red Guards,” impassioned young devotees throughout China’s cities, to “smash the four olds”: old thinking, old customs, old habits, and old culture. Chinese youth had formed the backbone of the May Fourth Movement, but their cause, Mao believed, had since been betrayed, and it would fall upon the shoulders of a new generation to revive the revolution. As the historian Rana Mitter has noted, the Cultural Revolution displayed many of the key features of the May Fourth Movement—“obsession with youth, destruction of the past, arrogance about the superiority of one’s own chosen system of thought”

The Cultural Revolution, oh yes, that little thing. Millions of people were tortured and killed, and some charming cannibalism took place.

Remarkable

May 4th, 2019

WSJ: “The economy added a seasonally adjusted 263,000 jobs in April—the 103rd straight month of gains—and joblessness fell to 3.6%, the lowest level since December 1969.” The current rate is even more impressive considering that in 1969, roughly half a million working age Americans had been deployed to the moon and Vietnam.

More of the same stuff

May 3rd, 2019

Kotkin:

If our secular elites have a religion, it revolves around the environment. Elements of the old plutocracy remain, such as those old-line energy firms and manufacturers resistant to the orthodox green approach. But the leaders of virtually all the top tech companies — Apple, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook work assiduously to identify themselves with what are seen as environmental values. The coffers of environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, receive huge donations, often as high as $100 million, from wealthy moguls like Ted Turner, Michael Bloomberg, and Richard Branson.

As in the Middle Ages, environmental activism has adopted an apocalyptic tone; when President Obama was elected, NASA’s James Hansen, one of the icons of the climate change movement, opined that the new Chief Executive had just “four years to save the earth.” In 2008, ABC claimed that Manhattan would be “underwater” by 2015, and such claims are routinely accepted in media, academic, and political circles without much skepticism. Like the Medieval church, the acolytes of this movement have little patience for rational debate; those — including one of the founders of Greenpeace and former members of the UN International Panel on Climate Change — who have raised objections to the current direction of climate advocacy find themselves demonized and marginalized.

In California, arguably the global center for climate alarmism, green policies have helped raise energy and housing prices to unaffordable levels, creating the highest poverty rates in the country. This has occurred even though per capita emissions reductions were less than those of 39 other states. California has also exported greenhouse gas emissions, most famously by manufacturing in coal-heavy china, thereby reducing its own carbon footprint, but not that of the world.

NYC has 0.001 of world population and allegedly will ban hot dogs. CA has 0.005, and you can get 6 months in jail for giving somebody a plastic straw. Progress!!!

Monopolists, then and now

May 3rd, 2019

Please read this piece on Amazon and its aggressive intrusion into shipping and the “disintermediation and the monetization of those capabilities”. They are allegedly trying to co-opt or eliminate competitive shippers to make Amazon the only dominant force in internet sales. Hey, creating a monopoly as best as you can is Business 101. Now, some history:

By 1870, Rockefeller and new partners were operating two oil refineries in Cleveland, then the major oil refining center of the country. The partners incorporated (under a charter issued by the state of Ohio) and called their business the Standard Oil Company.

To give Standard Oil an edge over its competitors, Rockefeller secretly arranged for discounted shipping rates from railroads. The railroads carried crude oil to Standard’s refineries in Cleveland and kerosene to the big city markets. Many argued that as “common carriers” railroads should not discriminate in their shipping charges. But small businesses and farmers were often forced to pay higher rates than big shippers like Standard Oil.

The oil industry in the late 1800s often experienced sudden booms and busts, which led to wildly fluctuating prices and price wars among the refiners. More than anything else, Rockefeller wanted to control the unpredictable oil market to make his profits more dependable.

In 1871, Rockefeller helped form a secret alliance of railroads and refiners. They planned to control freight rates and oil prices by cooperating with one another. The deal collapsed when the railroads backed out. But before this happened, Rockefeller used the threat of this deal to intimidate more than 20 Cleveland refiners to sell out to Standard Oil at bargain prices. When the so-called “Cleveland Massacre” ended in March 1872, Standard controlled 25 percent of the U.S. oil industry.

Rockefeller saw Standard Oil’s takeover of the Cleveland refiners as inevitable. He said it illustrated “the battle of the new idea of cooperation against competition.” In his mind, large industrial combinations, more commonly known as monopolies, would replace individualism and competition in business.

Rockefeller planned to buy out as many other oil refineries as he could. To do this, he often used hardball tactics. In 1874, Standard started acquiring new oil pipeline networks. This enabled the company to cut off the flow of crude oil to refineries Rockefeller wanted to buy. When a rival company attempted to build a competing pipeline across Pennsylvania, Standard Oil bought up land along the way to block it. Rockefeller also resorted to outright bribery of Pennsylvania legislators. In the end, Rockefeller made a deal with the other company, which gave Standard Oil ownership of nearly all the oil pipelines in the nation.

By 1880, Standard Oil owned or controlled 90 percent of the U.S. oil refining business, making it the first great industrial monopoly in the world. But in achieving this position, Standard violated its Ohio charter, which prohibited the company from doing business outside the state. Rockefeller and his associates decided to move Standard Oil from Cleveland to New York City and to form a new type of business organization called a “trust.”

Under the new arrangement (done in secret), nine men, including Rockefeller, held “in trust” stock in Standard Oil of Ohio and 40 other companies that it wholly or partly owned. The trustees directed the management of the entire enterprise and distributed dividends (profits) to all stockholders.

When the Standard Oil Trust was formed in 1882, it produced most of the world’s lamp kerosene, owned 4,000 miles of pipelines, and employed 100,000 workers. Rockefeller often paid above-average wages to his employees, but he strongly opposed any attempt by them to join labor unions. Rockefeller himself owned one-third of Standard Oil’s stock, worth about $20 million.

During the 1880s, Standard Oil divided the United States into 11 districts for selling kerosene and other oil products. To stimulate demand, the company sold or even gave away cheap lamps and stoves. It also created phony companies that appeared to compete with Standard Oil, their real owner. When independent companies tried to compete, Standard Oil quickly cut prices–sometimes below cost–to drive them out of business. Then Standard raised prices to recoup its losses.

Much of the trust’s effort went into killing off competition. But Standard Oil while Rockefeller was in command also usually provided good quality products at fairly reasonable prices. Rockefeller often declared that the whole purpose of Standard Oil was to supply “the poor man’s light.”

The Antitrust Movement: By 1900, the Standard Oil Trust had expanded from its original base in the East to new oil regions further west. At the same time, a wave of anti-monopoly sentiment swept the United States. Farmer organizations, labor unions, muckraking journalists, and many politicians attacked such combinations as the sugar and tobacco trusts. But they especially targeted the “mother trust,” Standard Oil.

By this time, nearly 30 states and the federal government had passed antitrust laws that attacked monopoly abuses. These laws usually rested on a set of legal and economic assumptions:

The common law, inherited from England, condemned the restraint of trade.
Monopolies tended to restrain trade by keeping prices high, suppressing product improvements, and making excessive profits. Competition among many independent firms was necessary to assure fair prices, high-quality products, and reasonable profits.

Starting with Ohio in 1887, 10 states and the Oklahoma Territory filed 33 separate lawsuits against companies affiliated with the Standard Oil Trust. In most cases, Standard lost in court. But Standard’s directors reorganized the trust shifted operations from state to state, and otherwise evaded court rulings to maintain their monopoly.

Since state lawsuits against Standard Oil were going nowhere, muckraking journalists pressed for federal action against the trust.

Starting in November 1902, Ida Tarbell wrote a series of 19 carefully researched articles in McClure’s Magazine. She detailed how John D. Rockefeller ruthlessly forced his competitors to “sell or perish.” She correctly identified railroad discounts, specifically outlawed by the Interstate Commerce Act of 1887, as key to creating Rockefeller’s Standard Oil monopoly.

Called “Miss Tarbarrel” and “this poison woman” by Rockefeller, Tarbell helped push the federal government to investigate the Standard Oil Trust. While publicly attacking Standard Oil and other trusts, President Theodore Roosevelt did not favor breaking them up. He preferred only to stop their anti-competitive abuses.

On November 18, 1906, the U.S. attorney general under Roosevelt sued Standard Oil of New Jersey and its affiliated companies making up the trust. The suit was filed under the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890. Under this federal law, “Every contract, or combination, in restraint of trade or commerce among the several States, or with foreign nations, is hereby declared to be illegal.” Standard Oil v. United States:

The Standard Oil trial took place in 1908 before a Missouri federal court. More than 400 witnesses testified. The government produced evidence that the Standard Oil Trust had secured illegal railroad discounts, blocked competitors from using oil pipelines, spied on other companies, and bribed elected officials. Moreover, the government showed that from 1895-1906 Standard’s kerosene prices increased 46 percent, giving enormous profits to the monopoly.

Although Rockefeller was technically president of Standard Oil, he had retired from active management in 1895. But he remained the single largest stockholder. Rockefeller testified that Standard Oil achieved its position because its combination of cooperating companies was more efficient and produced a better product than its rivals. When cross-examined on how Standard Oil grew so dominant, the 71-year-old Rockefeller frequently stated that he could not remember.

Attorneys for Standard Oil contended that the large combination of companies making up the trust had developed naturally and actually saved the industry from destructive price wars. They also argued that since Standard Oil was a manufacturing business, it was exempt from the Sherman Act, which only addressed interstate commerce.

Both the trial judge and a unanimous federal appeals court agreed that Standard Oil was a monopoly violating the Sherman Antitrust Act. They also supported the government’s recommendation that the trust should be dissolved into independent competing companies. Standard Oil then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

On May 15, 1911, the Supreme Court unanimously upheld the federal appeals court and ruled that the Standard Oil Trust was a monopoly that illegally restrained trade.

So, is there a version of this tale going on today? The close relationships between the DNC, congress and senate members, the DNC “Mainstream Media”, and the elites at Google, Facebook, WaPo (Amazon), and others are obvious. They probably hate Trump just because they hate him – but there’s this: if they thought they could manipulate him into being a lackey for their side, why wouldn’t they simply do that?

Our answer, subject to revision is this: Trump’s calling fake news “fake news” is ultimately a threat not only to CNN, NBC, MSNBC, etc., and to their allies and backers at Amazon, Google, Facebook, etc., but to the whole monopoly game they are playing, rather like that of a century ago.

Final point: we like the piece above as entertainment and a view into how some parties might come together to make their “Profit Plus Perfection” vision a reality. However, without government strong-arm tactics (USSR, Cuba, Venezuela, etc.), such efforts usually end in failure. Stay tuned.

Ken Jennings was lucky

May 2nd, 2019

He was on Jeopardy for fifteen weeks in 2004. If it were today, it would be this via WaPo:

Night after night for more than two weeks, “Jeopardy!” champion James Holzhauer has crushed two opponents on the venerable game show like a pair of bugs. To the multitudes who have rooted Holzhauer on, I have just one question: Do you not see that this guy is a menace? The only thing more troubling, as a commentary on American culture, than his grinning, relentless, march to victory — regardless of when, or if, it ends — is that millions celebrated it. Like the number crunchers who now rule America’s pastime, Holzhauer substitutes cold, calculating odds-maximization for spontaneous play. His idea is to select, and respond correctly to, harder, big-dollar clues

Gosh, what an odd approach to a TV game show, trying hard to win. A billion years ago, we were on a TV show called High School Tournament, a junior version of College Bowl, and we actually got one answer correct! Take that, Ken and James!

From: “National System of Interstate and Defense Highway Act” to now

May 1st, 2019

That was in 1956, when the USA knew how to do some things, sort of: actually when we took I-80 in 1971, significant portions weren’t complete. Question: is a national defense highway as immoral as a controlled border?

All in all, another brick in the wall

May 1st, 2019

Angelo Codevilla quotes something or other:

(a) Whoever knowingly and willfully communicates, furnishes, transmits, or otherwise makes available to an unauthorized person, any classified information – (1) concerning the nature, preparation, or use of any code, cipher, or cryptographic system of the United States or any foreign government; or (2) concerning the design, construction, use, maintenance, or repair of any device, apparatus, or appliance used or prepared or planned for use by the United States or (3) concerning the communication intelligence activities of the United States or any foreign government; or (4) obtained by the processes of communication intelligence – Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.

cf Joe diGenova. If a bunch of these high ranking and privileged clowns don’t get locked up for a long time, the country is done, finished.

Duh!

April 30th, 2019

As we just discussed – it’s coming true.

Five lawyers needed?

April 30th, 2019

These predictions will be very interesting if true.