A history lesson, courtesy of The Economist:

…few economists think the Smoot-Hawley tariff (as it is most often known) was one of the principal causes of the Depression. Worse mistakes were made, largely out of a misplaced faith in the gold standard and balanced budgets. America’s tariffs were already high, and some other countries were already increasing their own.

Nevertheless, the act added poison to the emptying well of global trade (see chart). The worldwide protection of the 1930s took decades to dismantle. And bad monetary and fiscal policies were at least based on the economic orthodoxy of the day: economists would tear each other apart over the heresies of John Maynard Keynes. On protection, there was no such division. More than a thousand economists petitioned Hoover not to sign the Smoot-Hawley bill. Bankers like [J.P. Morgan partner Thomas Lamont, who begged President Hoover to veto the bill] sided with them; so did editorialists by the score.


Smoot-Hawley did most harm by souring trade relations with other countries. The League of Nations, of which America was not a member, had talked of a “tariff truce”; the Tariff Act helped to undermine that idea. By September 1929 the Hoover administration had already noted protests from 23 trading partners at the prospect of higher tariffs. But the threat of retaliation was ignored: America’s tariffs were America’s business. The Congressional Record, notes Mr Irwin, contains 20 pages of debate on the duty on tomatoes but very little on the reaction from abroad.

A study by Judith McDonald, Anthony Patrick O’Brien and Colleen Callahan* examines the response of Canada, America’s biggest trading partner. When Hoover was elected president, the Canadian prime minister, Mackenzie King, wrote in his diary that his victory would lead to “border warfare”. King, who had cut tariffs in the early 1920s, warned the Americans that retaliation might follow. In May 1930, with higher American tariffs all but certain, he imposed extra duties on some American goods—and cut tariffs on imports from the rest of the British empire.

He promptly called a general election, believing he had done enough to satisfy Canadians’ resentment. America, wrote the New York Times, was “consciously giving Canada inducements to turn to England for the goods which she has been buying from the United States.” Canadians agreed. King’s Liberals were crushed by the Conservatives, who favoured and enacted even higher tariffs.

All this, of course, is history. There are plenty of reasons to think that the terrible lesson of the 1930s will not have to be learnt again. …

That article was published in 2008.  Welcome to 2016.

Screenshot from 2018-03-01 14-54-50

POTUS allegedly was advised by his protectionist advisors to impose steel tariffs of 24 percent but chose 25 because he likes round numbers.


Proving Trump right

When he’s not boasting about how he’d totally run into a mass shooting situation unarmed and generally being a national embarrassment, the President occasionally stumbles into making a good point.

After Charlottesville, Trump took to twitter (of course) to defend statues of Confederate generals, and wondered if activists will move on to demanding the removal of monuments to people who didn’t take up arms against their country:

…in a burst of tweets on Thursday he renewed his criticism of efforts to remove memorials and tributes to the Civil War Confederacy.

“Robert E. Lee. Stonewall Jackson – who’s next, Washington, Jefferson? So foolish,” Mr Trump tweeted.

“Challenge accepted,” declared some activists in California:

After two days, reaction to Wednesday’s Arcata City Council decision to remove the statue of President William McKinley from the Arcata Plaza features both celebration and dissent. The council had the choice to authorize the statue’s removal or to let Arcata voters make the call. At the urging of Councilmember Paul Pitino and dozens of speakers that night, the council gave McKinley his marching papers.

Statue opponents have since taken rhetorical victory laps on social media, while statue supporters are claiming that pro-statue opinion wasn’t given a chance to be heard, and that this resulted in the council making a decision that had widely been expected to be put before the voting public.

The Arcata City Council voted 4–1 to delete McKinley, along with the plaque designating the Jacoby Building as a historic landmark, after lengthy public testimony condemning the statue as a symbol of racism, repression, genocide, imperialism and of being an ongoing, government-sponsored insult to indigenous people. Speakers offered a mix of history, humor and caustic criticism in support of statue removal.

City Councilmember Michael Winkler, the sole elected official to support a ballot measure instead of a council decision on the matter, claims Mayor Sofia Pereira allowed a “disruptive, intolerant” mob to dominate the public process (see below). Winkler further likens the anti-McKinley forces’ comportment to that of the Tea Party and President Donald Trump.


…McKinley served in the Union Army during the Civil War, gaining a field promotion for battling the Confederacy. He later became America’s 25th commander in chief.

Sterling attended Wednesday’s meeting, and shared the view that the council’s decision was taken without benefit of democratic process. He objected to the sole pro-statue speaker, citizen Owen Moore, being repeatedly interrupted and jeered into silence by the crowd.

Sterling said one of the anti-statue activists made a “racist” remark about Moore, objectifying him as a “white guy.” When Sterling objected, the activist tried to physically fight him in Council Chamber. At that, Sterling decided not to speak. Other McKinley statue supporters in attendance apparently made the same decision, leaving without incurring the wrath of the crowd by offering an unpopular view.

If you think the United States’ very existence is an unredeemable sin, I guess it stands to reason that you’d draw no distinction between someone who fought to break up the country and someone who fought to preserve it.

Here in Halifax, while I’m sympathetic to calls for the Cornwallis statue’s removal (I support moving it to the Citadel), I am under no illusions about it ending with him.  My money’s on the next target being the Churchill statue in front of the old library.

How Jose Ines Garcia Zarate avoided a murder conviction

Garcia Zarate, an illegal immigrant who had already been deported several times, was acquitted of murdering 32 year-old Kate Steinle on a San Francisco pier, and the President of the United States is responding with his usual restraint:


Mind you, some anger is understandable considering that Garcia Zarate wasn’t legally in the country to begin with, and was arguably on the streets because of San Francisco’s “sanctuary city” policies:

The judge in the trial did prohibit discussion of Garcia Zarate’s immigration status and the mention that he was deported to Mexico, but returned to the U.S. five times. Instead, jurors were told to focus on the events surrounding Steinle’s death.


Garcia Zarate, who also used the name Juan Francisco Lopez Sanchez, had been deported five times before the deadly encounter. He had finished a federal prison sentence for illegal re-entry into the United States and was transferred in March 2015 to San Francisco’s jail to face a 20-year-old charge for selling marijuana.

But three months before the deadly encounter on the pier, Garcia Zarate was released after the district attorney dropped the marijuana charge — despite a request by federal immigration authorities to detain him for yet another deportation.

His immigration status, however, has nothing to do with whether he is guilty of murder.  Writing for the conservative site RedState, Sarah Rumpf explains why he was likely acquitted:

…The main issue is that the defense was able to present a credible case that the shooting was an accident, and the prosecution aggressively overplayed their hand. Add in a misguided police interrogation strategy and you have reasonable doubt…


…we have a defendant with zero connection to Steinle. He had a history of drug crimes but no known violent crimes. The bullet that killed Steinle hit the ground and then ricocheted upwards. There was a video possibly showing another group of people disposing of the gun where Garcia Zarate said he found it.

Reviewing the SIG Sauer website shows [the handgun used in this case, which had been stolen from a federal officer a few days before] cost $1,000 or more. You can see how defense counsel could easily argue that a homeless illegal immigrant would be unfamiliar with one.

All of this adds up to the defense presenting a plausible explanation for how Garcia Zarate could have fired the gun and killed Steinle by accident. That’s reasonable doubt. 

The prosecutors were under tremendous political pressure. People wanted Kate Steinle’s killer’s head on a platter, even before Donald Trump ever tweeted her name.

So it’s not that surprising that “San Francisco prosecutors told the jury that Garcia Zarate intentionally brought the gun to the pier that day with the intent of doing harm, aimed the gun toward Steinle and pulled the trigger,” as the Chronicle reported, adding that the Assistant District Attorney also “spent much of the trial seeking to prove the gun that killed Steinle couldn’t have fired without a firm pull of the trigger.”

This seems to be a classic example of prosecutorial overreach.They pushed hard for a first degree murder verdict, which requires not only proving that the defendant killed the victim, but that he did it intentionally, and that it was premeditated (planned or thought out beforehand). [emphasis in original]

For the record, Garcia Zarate was convicted of a firearms offence, and it will likely head to his deportation.  Again.

One quick but important note: Garcia Zarate is not going free. The jury did convict him of a lesser charge of being a felon in possession of a gun, and he now awaits sentencing, which will be 16 months, two years, or three years in state prison. He has already served two years and will get credit for that time, but even if he is not given the maximum sentence, there is an outstanding U.S. Marshals Service warrant against him, and despite the sanctuary cities policy, San Francisco apparently does turn over undocumented immigrants to the feds when they have a warrant. So he is either getting deported, or spending more time in prison first, and then getting deported.

This case does raise real concerns about American immigration and border policies – the very concerns that arguably got Trump to the White House.  It should not be an excuse for the President to call into question the integrity of his own country’s justice system.  But then again, look who we’re dealing with.

I’ll give federal prosecutor (and veteran blogger) writing under the name “Patterico” the last word:

…My gut tells me that prosecutors were handed a flawed case with a bad interview. Once the defendant has a lawyer appointed, deficiencies in the interview will never be clarified. I’m reluctant to play armchair quarterback from the comfort of my living room.

There’s plenty to be angry about here. San Francisco’s self-righteous sanctuary city policy clearly cost Kate Steinle her life. The man who handled the gun that shot her had no business being on the streets of San Francisco. He should have been deported, yet again. But thanks to leftist lawmakers, he wasn’t, and a beautiful young woman died as a result.

But that fact alone does not make this verdict wrong. Once you understand the law, it’s easy to see that the verdict may well have been correct.

The only undeniable crime here was committed by San Francisco leftist policymakers. If anyone needs to be held accountable now, it’s them.


Should they stay or should they go?

I’ve gone back and forth on the question of whether Trump’s top officials and cabinet members should resign in protest, or stay and try to keep him as under control as possible.

Jamie Kirchick makes a strong argument for the latter:

…now that Trump is president, and barring his unlikely impeachment or resignation, it is essential that he be joined in the cockpit by competent, experienced, patriotic individuals, who, unlike their Commander-in-Chief, put the best interests of the country before their selfish and venal desires. To the extent they can, they need to wrestle Trump from the controls—perhaps by convincing him to be a largely ceremonial president. At the very least, they can lessen the damage Trump can do. Ultimately, it is better to have them there than to have Trump flying alone. Which is why it’s unfortunate to see commentators urging high-ranking administration staffers to resign.


…Unlike newspaper columnists and Twitter denizens, people working for the President of the United States do not have the luxury of sniping at him from the safety of the sidelines. Joe Scarborough, who transformed himself from one of Trump’s loudest media cheerleaders to moralizing scold without expressing even a scintilla of atonement in between, is calling for mass resignations.

Who does these pundits think will fill the positions of White House Chief of Staff and Defense Secretary were Kelly and Mattis to go? Very likely the kinds of conspiracy theorists and nationalists whom McMaster has been tirelessly cleaning out of the National Security Council, and who would have thrived were his predecessor Mike Flynn still around. Indeed, for all the administration backstabbing and high drama that has filled headlines over the past several months, such palace intrigue is far better than the alternative: an administration purged of reasonable individuals and replaced by Bannonites.

It is precisely when things get so bad that we want trustworthy individuals to serve. With any hope, they will be able to land this administration to safety.

If we make it through this alive, the tell-all books about the Trump Administration will be amazing.