Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Currency Manipulation. Who Is Manipulating Whom?

During the presidential campaign, President Trump repeatedly accused China of manipulating its currency, devaluing the Yuan, to gain advantage in its trade with the United States.  Devaluing the Yuan makes Chinese goods cheaper in the U.S. and U.S. goods more costly in China.  This was, in Trump’s view, a source of the large trade deficit with China, and loss of U.S. manufacturing jobs.

On occasion he also accused the European Central Bank of devaluing the Euro to give Europe an advantage in trading with the U.S.

How have China and Europe responded to these charges and threats of possible U.S. restrictions on imports from China and Europe?

On January 2, 2017, US$1= Yuan 6.95.  On August 29, the rate was US$1= Yuan 6.59.  That represents an appreciation, a revaluation, of the Yuan of 5.2%.

Similarly, on January 2, 2017, Euro 1=US$1.0465.  On August 29, the rate was Euro 1=U$1.2048.  That represents a revaluation of 15.1%.

Are China and Europe manipulating their currencies by appreciating them?  That makes no sense since a stronger currency would reduce exports from China and Europe to the U.S., unless they want to head off U.S. restrictions on their exports to the U.S

Or, is the U.S. manipulating the dollar by devaluing it, the flip side of Chinese and European appreciation, to gain an advantage trading with China and Europe to reduce U.S. trade deficits?  Are the Federal Reserve and the Treasury guilty of currency manipulation against China and Europe, and such other countries as Japan?   Are the Fed and Treasury conspiring with Trump to reduce trade deficits?

Who is manipulating whom?

Friday, August 25, 2017

Protecting Chinese Americans And Other Asian Americans From Charges of Racism, Slavery And White Privilege

Many Chinese-Americans have the surname Lee.  All of a sudden, thanks to ESPN and one of its football announcers named Robert Lee, any Asian with the first name Robert and last name Lee, spelled L-e-e, has become identified with the Confederate General Robert E. Lee, and thus a symbol and presumed supporter of racism, slavery and even White privilege, as strange as that may sound.

The Chinese language is divided into numerous dialect and sub-dialect groups.  Depending on which classification you select, there are as many as 11 major spoken dialects and numerous sub-dialects within each group.  Many of these are mutually unintelligible.  The written language, consisting of thousands of Chinese characters (ideographs), is largely the same in each dialect even though its pronunciation differs among dialects.

Take, for example, former Nationalist General Chiang Kai-shek.  That Romanization (spelling) reflects Cantonese pronunciation.  In Mandarin, his name is spelled Jiang Jieshi.

The spelling of Hong Kong’s former Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa reflects his Shanghainese ancestry.  In Mandarin, his name is spelled Dong Jianhwa

Now to ESPN and Confederate General, slave owning Robert E. Lee. Singapore’s late leader Lee Kuan Yew’s name is spelled on the pronunciation of the Hakka dialect.  In standard Mandarin, the national language, his name is spelled Li Guangyao.  Every Chinese America whose first name is Robert and last name is spelled Lee should immediately change it to Li, current Mandarin spelling.

Ditto for any Korean American or other Asian American whose first name is Robert and last name is spelled Lee.

It is necessary to compile a list of one-syllable last names of prominent slave owning Confederates.  In so doing, every Asian American with the same spelling of his last name can change it, thereby avoiding DISCRIMINATION by those protesting discrimination, prejudice, and white privilege.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

President Trump Goes To War: Afghanistan Redux

In his maiden foreign policy speech of August 21, 2017, President Donald Trump sketched out his plan for “winning” the war in Afghanistan.  Trump also warned Pakistan that if it did not stop harboring terrorists, he would cut off several hundred million dollars in aid and attack Taliban sanctuaries inside Pakistan.  His plan marks a continuation of the war as fought under presidents Bush and Obama, but with changes in the rules of military activity favoring U.S. forces.

Trump’s decision to send more troops to Afghanistan, staying as long as necessary to “win,” reversed his campaign pledge to withdraw.  As he put it, campaigning is one thing, but sitting behind the desk in the Oval Office facing reality is another.  (Why any voter would ever choose a candidate on the basis of his or her foreign/military policy proposals put forth during a campaign is a great mystery.)

In one bold move, Trump intensified the war on Islamic terrorism in Afghanistan and extended it to another Muslim country, Pakistan.  The tone and manner of his speech were very presidential.

Now we are entangled in an even greater war against Islamic radical terrorism, from Libya in the West to Pakistan in the East, with Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Russia in between, not to mention the boatloads of Arab and North African migrants, some terrorists among them, pouring into Europe by land and sea.

Moments after Trump’s speech, China’s Foreign Ministry announced China’s continued support for Pakistan.  President Xi Jinping has already pledged $48 billion in contracts for Pakistan as part of his  “One Belt, One Road” initiative.

Pakistan’s gross domestic product is around $300 billion.  Its government spends about $40 billion.  U.S. economic and military aid to Pakistan is less than one percent of its budget.  Threatening its cutoff will not frighten Pakistan.  China will likely make that up and more in additional aid to Pakistan.

What if Pakistan requests military assistance from China, including troops and equipment to be stationed inside Pakistan near the Afghanistan border?  U.S. military activity in Syria is constrained by the risk of hitting Russian troops or engaging Russian aircraft in combat.

Lots to think about.  Only time will tell if the results from Trump’s approach to Afghanistan will be any more successful than those of his two predecessors.  I’m from Missouri, the “show me” state.

PS.  Someone forgot to inform Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that Trump twice proclaimed “we will win” in his speech.   At his briefing of August 22, 2017, Tillerson acknowledged that the U.S. might not win, but that neither would the Taliban.  The stalemate would force the Taliban to the negotiating table.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

What Did Trump Do Wrong?

Trump did not launch two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq

Trump did not overthrow Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, who had abandoned his nuclear weapons, and thrust Libya into civil war.

Trump did not displace over a million civilians from their homes in Syria and the Middle East

Trump did not cause hundreds of thousands of civilian casualties in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, and other countries.

Trump did not involve the U.S. in the Saudi War in Yemen.

Trump did not sign a deal with Iran, putting it on the road to acquiring nuclear weapons.

Trump did not kick the North Korean, nuclear-armed ICBM threat down the road for the 16 years of Presidents Bush and Obama, and President Clinton before that.

As John R. MacArthur so aptly put it in his Article, “Living With Trump” (reproduced in Harper’s Magazine, August 19, 2017):

“Loathing for Trump makes people forget that, among other horrors, a coalition of Republicans and Democrats has already wasted around $3.7 trillion in Iraq and Afghanistan, sacrificed the lives of nearly 7,000 American soldiers, and wounded more than 52,000. Today, Bush is considered a practically serious portrait painter and Hillary a feminist martyr. Obama, the architect of the famous 2009 so-called surge in Afghanistan—a military intensification that accomplished nothing other than polishing up his image as commander-in-chief—is admired and missed like no other political figure.”

The Middle East is in much worst shape in 2017 than it was in 2001.

On the domestic front, Trump did not preside over the worst financial and economic crisis since the Great Depression.

Trump did not preside over the slowest economic recovery in modern American history.

Trump did not make a mess of the U.S. health care system and insurance market.

So, what did Trump Do Wrong?

Trump won the election.  He kept Hillary Clinton from assuming her “rightful place” in the White House.

Trump does not speak nicely like other politicians.

Trump is rolling back excessive regulations.

Trump wants to downsize the federal government.

Trump appointed a conservative, Neil Gorsuch, to the Supreme Court and continues to appoint conservative jurists to federal district and appeals courts.

Trump wants to cut tax rates.

Trump is presiding over large gains in the stock market.

Trump is presiding over job gains and stronger economic growth.

Trump is presiding over a rise in consumer confidence.

There it is.  Maybe if Trump invades a Middle-East country or two, presides over a financial crash and appoints liberal jurists, he will become acceptable.  But he will also have to speak nicely, stop tweeting, and act presidential.  Will those measures and gestures turn the tide?

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Ten Steps To Increase Conservative Ideas On Campus

Diversity has been and remains the watchword on America’s college and university campuses for half-a-century.  In practice, diversity means affirmative action to increase the number and percentage of women and minorities among undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, and high-level administrators.

Progress has been substantial but uneven.  U.S. Department of Education data show that degrees awarded to women in 2017, at all tertiary levels from Associates to Bachelors, Masters, and Doctoral, outnumbered those awarded to men by a ratio of 141/100 (58.5% female).  Women earned 62.1% of Associates, 56.7% of Bachelors, 58.3% of Masters, and 52.2% of Doctoral degrees.  Men remain a majority in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics).

Turning from gender to minorities, there has also been substantial progress in all tertiary levels.  Here are the percentages of enrolled students by race and ethnicity.

                                                               1980      2014
White:                                                     84           57
Black:                                                       5            13
Hispanic:                                                  2              8
Asian:                                                       2             7
Other (mixed, undefined):                         6           16

Black enrollment now matches the Black percentage of the U.S. population.  Chinese enrollment now slightly exceeds its U.S. percentage.   The most notable change is that Non-Hispanic White enrollment has declined by 25% among all students, putting it below Whites who constitute 62% percent of the U.S. population.

Progress has been much slower for women and minorities among faculty and high-level administrators.  One reason is that it has taken time to create a pipeline of doctoral women and minority students to move in and up the ladder of faculty and administrative ranks.  Universities are exerting great effort to recruit women and minority faculty and elevate them to high-level administrative posts.

Diversity is still largely defined in terms of gender, race, and ethnicity, with LBGTQ added to the mix.


This brings us to diversity of ideas, ideology, politics, or intellectual diversity in general.  University faculty is overwhelmingly liberal/Democrat in political orientation, as high as 90 percent in top-ranked schools.  There is growing concern among some educators, commentators, and politicians that universities no longer provide students with a diversity of ideas, as evidenced in violent student protests against conservative speakers on campus.

As noted in a previous post, Stanford’s former Provost John Etchemendy (2000-17) has described the monolithic political culture at Stanford (and other universities) as the “enemy within.”  The following excerpts [shorted for brevity] are from his remarks to the Board of Trustees in February 2017.

"But I’m actually more worried about the threat from within.  Over the years, I have watched a growing intolerance at universities in this country – not intolerance along racial or ethnic or gender lines – there we have made laudable progress. Rather, a kind of intellectual intolerance, a political one-sidedness that is the antithesis of what universities should stand for. It manifests itself in many ways: in the intellectual monocultures that have taken over certain disciplines [emphasis added]; in the demands to disinvite speakers and outlaw groups whose views we find offensive; in constant calls for the university itself to take political stands. We decry certain news outlets as echo chambers, while we fail to notice the echo chamber we’ve built around ourselves.
"This results in a kind of intellectual blindness that will, in the long run, be more damaging to universities than cuts in federal funding or ill-conceived constraints on immigration.
"It will not be easy to resist this current. As an institution, we are continually pressed by faculty and students to take political stands, and any failure to do so is perceived as a lack of courage. But at universities today, the easiest thing to do is to succumb to that pressure.  What requires real courage is to resist it
"The university is not a megaphone to amplify this or that political view, and when it does it violates a core mission. Universities must remain open forums for contentious debate, and they cannot do so while officially espousing one side of that debate.
"But we must do more. We need to encourage real diversity of thought in the professoriate, and that will be even harder to achieve [emphasis added].  It is hard for anyone to acknowledge high-quality work when that work is at odds with, perhaps opposed, to one’s own deeply held beliefs. But we all need worthy opponents to challenge us in our search for truth. It is absolutely essential to the quality of our enterprise.
"I fear that the next few years will be difficult to navigate….The first step is to remind our students and colleagues that those who hold views contrary to one’s own are rarely evil or stupid, and may know or understand things that we do not. It is only when we start with this assumption that rational discourse can begin, and that the winds of freedom can blow.  (Stanford’s motto is Die Luft der Freiheit weht (The wind of freedom blows.)"
On June 30, 2000, nearly installed President John Hennessy and Provost John Etchemendy issued a statement on diversity, which Hennessy read at a Faculty Senate meeting.

The key points in the statement are reproduced below.  To show how this statement can be used to increase diversity of ideas, I have struck out the words “women and minority (ies),” replacing them with “conservative(s).”

For many years Stanford University has had a commitment to enhancing the diversity of its faculty. This commitment is based, first and foremost, on the belief that a more diverse faculty enhances the breadth, depth, and quality of our research and teaching by increasing the variety of experiences, perspectives, and scholarly interests among the faculty. A diverse faculty also provides a variety of role models and mentors for our increasingly diverse student population, which helps us to attract, retain and graduate such populations more successfully.

“The President and Provost wish to emphasize Stanford's continuing interest in and commitment to increasing the diversity of our faculty and to providing access to equal opportunities to all faculty independent of gender, race, or ethnicity political ideas. More specifically, we assert our commitment to the following steps, some of which reaffirm existing university policies, and others that extend those policies:

“1. Faculty searches are obligated to make extra efforts to seek out qualified women and minority conservative candidates and to evaluate such candidates. It is the obligation of the search committee to demonstrate that a search has made a determined effort to locate and consider women and minority conservative candidates….Department chairs and deans have the responsibility to make sure that these obligations have been fulfilled.

“2. We will make use of incentive funds and incremental faculty billets to encourage the appointment of candidates who would diversify our faculty, such as women and minorities conservatives in fields where they continue to be underrepresented….[we] hope to accelerate this process by encouraging departments and schools to take advantage of opportunities to appoint additional equally qualified candidates from underrepresented groups conservatives who are identified during searches but who (for reasons such as their area of specialization) may not be the first choice of the search committee.

“3. The Provost has established an Advisory Committee on the Status of Women Faculty Conservatives and is in the process of forming an Advisory Committee on Faculty Diversity Conservatives.  These committees will work with the Provost and his staff to explore ways in which we can foster the goals of diversity of gender, racial and ethnic ideas.

“4. We will continue to monitor and report on the representation of women and minorities conservatives on the faculty, as well as their tenure and promotion rates, on a yearly basis to the Faculty Senate.

“5. We will support and mentor all junior faculty conservatives, and we will continue to use a review process for tenure and promotion that is based on a candidate's contributions to research and teaching and that is appropriate for the candidate's area of scholarly interest.

“6. We will continue to evaluate faculty salaries, with special emphasis on women and minority conservatives faculty salaries, through an objective methodology (the so-called quintile analysis). Any inequities in salaries for women or men, minorities or non-minorities conservatives will be sought out and corrected.

“7. We will also monitor the distribution of University resources that support individual faculty research programs, including both research funds and space, to ensure that the distribution of the University's resources is not based on improper factors (such as gender, race, or ethnicity conservatives). Any such inequities discovered will be corrected.

“8. We seek to increase the representation of women and minority faculty conservatives in leadership positions in departments, schools, and the University administration.  Such criteria will also form a part of the yearly review of all faculty leaders.

“9. Attracting and retaining the best faculty members in an increasingly diverse society requires us to have a university that is supportive of faculty diversity, both in the composition of the faculty and in their scholarship. Stanford University seeks and promotes an academic environment for each faculty member that is collegial, intellectually stimulating, and respectful of his or her contributions and accomplishments. Such an environment should enable the highest quality scholarship and teaching, and provide every faculty member a voice in department decision-making.

“10. Realizing that small pool sizes and pipeline problems continue to affect the availability of talented women and minority conservative faculty candidates in many fields, Stanford will continue a strong effort to seek out and support graduate students who bring diversity to our university. As an institution, we will encourage women and minority conservative students to pursue academic careers.

We call upon all our colleagues to engage actively in this important effort.

See how easy that was.  An eleventh step would be to lunch a monthly president/provost sponsored conservative speaker program on campus.


We’ll see.  He will state that Stanford subscribes to the principle of academic freedom, the free and open exchange of ideas. Time will tell if conservatives and conservative ideas are increasingly a reality at Stanford and other colleges and universities.  I will be delighted should they come to pass.  I’m from Missouri, the “show me” state.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Summer Reading List For Stanford’s Class Of 2021

(This post caps off a four-part series on the entering college and university classes of 2021.)

On July 16, 2017, Stanford News published a story on Stanford’s Summer Reading List for its entering class of 2021.  The following are excerpts from the story, written by Taylor Kubota, shortened (without changing the content or context of the story) for readability.

Stanford’s Three Books program prompts students to think about sustainability and equity
Earth systems Professor Noah Diffenbaugh aims to engage first-year students in challenging discussions with his Three Books selections centered on sustainability and equity.
Following 13 years of tradition, Stanford’s incoming, first-year students have received a special package for the summer: three books, carefully curated by a Stanford faculty member. Their assignment is to read all three prior to New Student Orientation, which will include a panel discussion with the authors.
The Three Books this year are Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert and Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward (Image credit: L.A. Cicero)
 “In my research, I’m interested in understanding what it is about the physical climate – heat waves, drought, floods – that most impacts people and ecosystems,” Diffenbaugh said. “Once you begin to examine the relationship between people and the environment, it becomes clear that the big global challenges for this generation lie at the intersection of sustainability and equity – the two are inextricably linked.”
Diffenbaugh selected the books Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, BA ’11; The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert; and Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward, BA ’99, MA ’00, a former Stegner Fellow in Stanford’s Creative Writing Program.
Engaging in difficult discussions
At the heart of Diffenbaugh’s decisions regarding this year’s Three Books is the desire to encourage students to think deeply and thoughtfully about challenging issues that lack clear-cut solutions. Diffenbaugh also believes the ability to work through these complicated topics will benefit students far beyond their academics.
“There are larger-scale discussions going on now, not just on campus, but nationally and internationally, and one of my goals is that our students are able to engage with those in a constructive way,” he said. “These books deal with highly charged topics where there’s no obvious solution. So, how do we have a reasoned discussion that leaves space for free speech and the free flow of ideas, where people can disagree and allow their views to evolve as a result of the dialogue? That’s an ongoing challenge, and this is an opportunity to wrestle with that experience right at the outset of college.”
Tied together
Beyond the fact that each book addresses difficult, timely issues, they are also unified by this year’s theme. Together, this collection shows how the realities of sustainability and equity can seem to exist in parallel but are, at their roots, intertwined.
Homegoing and The Sixth Extinction run in parallel, with Homegoing examining the history of how people have treated each other, and The Sixth Extinction examining the history of how people have treated the rest of life on Earth,” Diffenbaugh explained. “Salvage the Bones really brings those two together and examines the ways in which environmental vulnerability is shaped by poverty and access to both material and nonmaterial resources. It also speaks to the power of human resilience, even in the face of extreme environmental conditions and extreme inequality.”
A panel featuring all three authors, moderated by Diffenbaugh, will take place at Memorial Auditorium during New Student Orientation. This panel will be simulcast at the Pigott Theater for pre-major advisors and interested staff or faculty. Students participating in online discussions on Stanford Canvas can submit topics and questions for the panel.
In August, Stanford faculty and administrators chosen by Diffenbaugh will be hosting “Three Book Chats” on Canvas for students to get a preview of academic life at Stanford.
Descriptions of the 2017 Three Books program selections:
·       Homegoing is a novel that follows the lineage of two half-sisters born in different villages in Ghana and their descendants through eight generations. It details the troubling history of slavery on both sides of the Atlantic and the lasting impacts it had on those who were taken and those who were not.
·       The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History lays out the five mass extinctions that have occurred on Earth and makes a case, through science and narrative that the sixth is now underway, caused by human activity. This was the 2015 Pulitzer Prize Winner in General Nonfiction.
·       Salvage the Bones takes place in the 12 days immediately surrounding Hurricane Katrina, which Ward experienced firsthand. Its subjects are the Batistes, a family of five who, in advance of the storm, are already facing poverty, death of a parent, alcoholism and teenage pregnancy. This book won the 2011 National Book Award for fiction.
Comment On The Three Books
Professor Diffenbaugh is a highly regarded expert in his field of earth systems, environment and energy.  But that does not make him an expert on Africa and poverty, subjects of two of the books.
A true progressive might charge Professor Diffenbaugh with cultural appropriation, or worse, a White privileged member of the Western patriarchy condescending to select a book on persons with African roots.  An African or African-American Studies professor, preferable female, should be selecting a book on two half-sisters in Ghana and their descendants.  Similarly, a professor who has experienced poverty, or death of a parent, or alcoholism, or teenage pregnancy, yet surmounted one or more of these obstacles to achieve academic success, should be selecting a book on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina on poverty stricken families.
The third book lies squarely in Professor Diffenbaugh’s ambit, but is biased in favor of the global warming side of the debate.  In fairness, he should also have selected a book that disagrees with man-made global warming so students could read and discuss both points of view.

Perhaps Stanford’s new provost, Persis Drell, in keeping with her remarks to the Faculty Senate on April 27, 2017, will advise next year’s faculty member entrusted with selecting the Summer Reading List to include a diversity of viewpoints.