Sunday, March 5, 2017


"Trump is the first free trade-bashing populist to win the White House." I read this recently and found it struck an amusingly creative yet unarguable way to describe him. His underlying protectionist and anti-globalist rhetoric is not dissimilar to what Bernie's socialist democratic platform was on issues like the TPP. Listening to Trump talk about the economy is like listening to a drunk, racist uncle explain a sensitive subject while offering no concrete details or tangible insight- only corrosive language and more confusion.Bernie on the other hand, whenever he leads in a speech with "And let me make it very clear" with that iconic hunch and finger wave, you know it's about to get good.


In my opinion, understanding the details of the TPP ( which were largely shrouded in mystery for a long time ) is an important factor for me in how I am choosing to judge Trump's administration solely based on the merit that if he achieves economic advantages for the country as a whole, as a person of color with a business dependent on international trade- I can and will deal with the attacks on progressive issues completely separately.

The TPP, now cancelled under Trump, is an undisputed crown jewel of economic negotiations perilously furthered by the Obama administration. But similar to how I despise in how the administration chose to handle the Wall St. bail out and the financial crisis- it is extremely important to acknowledge the critical mass in which the unchecked consolidation of multi national corporate interests thrived under neoliberal economic policies fueled by mainstream free trade fanaticism and finance economics driven speculations.

Unfortunately, what these narratives didn't drum up were the many causes for a five alarm bell like how the TPP undermined U.S. sovereignty by giving corporations the right to challenge our laws before international tribunals. Or that unlike most trade agreements, there was no indication the TPP came with an expiration date. Unlike the infamous unequal treaties of the past which were largely achieved through "gunboat diplomacy" and colonization which forced a uniform tariff rate on other countries rather than allowing them to set their own. The effects of these "not so free trade" policies are only part of how capitalist countries have historically inhibited developing nations from creating their own infant industries as America was able to during our Protectionist Century which lasted from the 1830's to WWII. Together with slavery, federalism, and protectionism, America was able to grow by leaps and bounds by also boasting the highest average industrial tariff in the world. Globalization that was driven by outright imperialism rather than market forces are said to have led the escalation between leading capitalist countries into the first World War.

About 78% of last year's imports from developing countries arrived with no tariffs, quota limits, or other barriers. Unequal treaties of the past have led to not only the economic retrogression in places like Asia and Latin America- but it has also allowed for the path of least resistance for globalization ( or Americanization) to continually operate as an unsustainable, expansionist and therefore modern form of colonization through the phenomena of multi national corporatists. The illusion that China is the source for all things cheap labor in 2017 is inaccurate as three consecutive 10% increases in the national minimum wage from 2013-2015 have resulted in clothing and electronic giants long since moving to Vietnam where the TPP posed to exclusively benefit from a zero tariff relationship with twelve countries, including Vietnam. Currently US/Vietnam trade supports $30.6 billion dollars in imports. 40% being zero tariff goods like cell phones, furniture, and coffee while the rest high tariff goods like mass market sneakers for instance can land in the US currently anywhere between a 15%-48% tariff rate.

On the other hand, the TPP broke progressive ground in this way "Finally, an area where TPP is doing genuinely new and innovative things is in labor standard, where it will likely be the most elaborate, enforceable, and "liberal" agreement the US has even concluded. Assuming US negotiators are reasonably successful, this will cover laws, implementation of laws, and capacity-building programs in labor rights, child labor prevention, minimum wage policies, and workplace health and safety policies." In this sense, it is a great stride for globalists- but at the benefit and cost of who? Some would argue that while establishing a more modern labor standard for some of these developing nations is a great thing- but at what cost? Clearly if multi national corporatists are the entrenched beneficiaries of this maximized "free trade" deal- it would be at the expense of not only the American worker but the American entrepreneur who still believes in the idea of a genuine "free market" to compete.

Currently Trump is threatening a 45% tariff on Chinese made goods. But it's important to point out that while I think it is fiscally irresponsible to omit details of his plans for negotiations and therefore is leaving an intentional gaping hole of market speculation and public chaos- this 45% could already account for some of the import duty laws that exist for certain goods or it could be another layer of duties. Literally nobody knows. 98% of all shoes sold in the US come from outside of the country, and it's been this way for a long time. I believe this is largely due to the government inherently choosing to not implement protectionist policies for American manufacturers when there were still skilled laborers and supply chains that were in a position to not only be maintained, but invested in.

"If US companies did re-shore manufacturing, prices would also go up due to the much higher costs, particular for labor, of making goods in the US. New Balance, which is the only sneaker manufacturer to still produce a significant amount of its shoes- about 25%- in the US- charges from $165 upto $399 for it's American-made shoes." And these are the retail prices from a multi national corporation who owns private factories Stateside and have notoriously engineered their efficiency from cutting raw materials to shipping finished shoes- from eight days down to three hours.

"What Trump's proposed policies would likely mean, however, is that shoes ( and other goods ) would get more expensive for consumers - perhaps a lot more. The US sneaker industry could start to look like Brazil's, according to Powell, where Nike sneaker costs significantly more than it does in the US. Nike Air Max 2017 runs about $240 in Brazil versus $190 in the US." as pointed out in a great article on Quartz.

But the conversation that we should be having is how to put certain politics aside in hopes of creating new jobs in tech and higher value manufacturing (while renewable energy prospects seem extremely bleak in this administration). What is inescapable is the now highly politicized nature of how Silicon Valley chooses to interact and work with the new administration. My problem is the continual focus on unrealistic and political scapegoats of industries that have long since disappeared. And we can't afford to create media sensationalized barriers towards the bearings of an actual conversation that needs to be had- because it stands to benefit the entire country economically. Unfortunately, life does not follow ideology and in this new era of knee jerk politics, it's becoming more important to create your own conclusions independent from media companies that answer to shareholders just like any other big business.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017


Chomsky addressing the path ahead with keen insight that has largely been unaddressed.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

ROME

First post of 2017 are photos from my Christmas trip to Rome. While abroad, I've barely used my camera as I've been working with factories and suppliers the past month so definitely haven't had time for anything else. I was hesitant to go to Rome at first because I still need ACL surgery, and I heard that Rome required a lot of walking. Let's just say "a lot of walking" is a total understatement. It requires tons of walking. I went anyway because it was Christmas and all the factories were closed anyway so I figured I would just make the best of it. Rome is totally inconvenient as a spoiled, mass transit utilizing person that lives in New York. Although they have a subway and buses, the subway lines aren't really conducive to exploring the more interesting parts of Rome. Getting a bus ticket, one needs to go to a tobacco shop to purchase so speaking Italian is somewhat required for basic transportation purposes. Also private car companies like UBER are pretty much illegal. Taxi's are only available at designated areas throughout the city which is similar to Milan. 


I'm glad I went because there's no doubt in my mind that I will go again. Four days wasn't enough time to see nearly as many things as I wanted to see. One important tip when going to Italy is that if you want to see any exhibit or anything that is remotely "touristic", it is smart to consider booking a ticket ahead of time as it's almost impossible to show up to anything and expect to get in without waiting in a massive line. And I mean massive, especially in the summers as I can imagine. If you are a fan of ancient history, Rome is basically as good as you can get. I've been to Istanbul and while Turkey is really beautiful, Rome is just on it's own level. It's historic religious significance between The Vatican and the hundreds of gilded churches throughout the city are a testament to why the city has been dubbed "The Eternal City". I was surprised to find that the Sistine Chapel does not allow for photos for none other than "trademark purposes". I was also fascinated to discover that Rome is truly a melting pot of Asia, Africa, and European immigrants and influences. I didn't get that vibe when I was in Milan, but I think there's definitely aspects of the Ancient Roman Empire that have continued to thrive in the present day. You can literally walk down the street and casually see a pyramid or an ancient Egyptian obelisk. The amount of casual history rooted in the midst of a cosmopolitan city like Rome is truly awe-inspiring. While the magnitude of many of these ruins and structures leaves one completely dumbfounded.




Christmas Tree at The Vatican





Pedestrian bridge crossing over to The Vatican.


An American girl came in and ordered a pizza next to me. While many people in Italy speak really basic English, it was super annoying to have to witness so many Americans not only refuse to learn how to say thank you in Italian - "grazie" ( so easy?) but this girl not only ordered food but would elaborate in English about her food- as if she was in America and we happened to be in a Fake Italian Disneyland restaurant or something. It was embarrassing.



Just ruins on the way to work, NBD.






The infamous Jewish "ghetto" area. I had these bomb fried Jewish styled artichokes at a restaurant here. I'll have to take a photo next time I go back- although it basically looked like burnt leaves. Ha.




The Pantheon






















Inside an abandoned shop. So many of these mom and pop shops are so old. You can see how old the furniture is.


I've always wanted to go to the Colosseum. Finally got to go.












Just only THEE colosseum in the middle of the road, NBD.