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NAFTA Sticking Point Number One: The Dairy Industry

by John Brian Shannon

One of the main sticking points in the ongoing NAFTA re-negotiation is Canada’s regulated dairy industry vs. America’s market-driven dairy industry. And it shouldn’t be.

The dairy industry in Canada uses a system called ‘Supply Management’ to produce only as much milk as is required (with no waste) for the Canadian market, and unlike the American dairy industry it isn’t an export-driven model.

Yet, it’s the United States under President Donald Trump that is pressing Canada to accept American milk into the Canadian market. That same United States subsidized its dairy industry to the tune of $22.2 billion (2015) a number that increases every year. In fact, without massive subsidies American dairy producers would go bankrupt in a year.

U.S. dairy subsidies equal 73% of producer returns, says new report

“Based solely on the USDA’s national average farm-gate price and national average costs of production, Clark says American dairy farmers lost money every year from 2005 to 2016. The report figures support granted to U.S. dairy farmers in 2015 represented approximately $0.35 per litre — almost three-quarters of producers’ revenue.” — RealAgriculture.com

Why President Trump or anyone in America’s dairy industry would want to subsidize Canadian consumers by $1 per gallon is a complete mystery.


American Milk Has High Levels of Growth Hormone and Antibiotics that are Illegal in Canadian Milk

Not one gallon of U.S. dairy product is allowed to be sold in Canada for this reason, although some Canadians do cross the U.S. border and are allowed by the Canada Border Services Agency to return with small amounts of American dairy products for their own consumption (but not for resale).

There are up to 20 chemicals, hormones and antibiotics in milk and Monsanto’s glyphosate is toxic to dairy cows

“According to the Daily Mail, a study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry released information that cow’s milk contains traces of anti-inflammatory drugs such as niflumic acid, mefenamic acid, ketoprofen, diclofenac, phenylbutazone, naproxen, flunixin, diclofena. The researchers also discovered hormones (both natural oestrogen and 7-beta-estradiol), antibiotics, anti-fungal drugs, steroids and Anti-malaria drugs (pyrimethamine) in milk and dairy products.” — excerpt courtesy of SeattleOrganicRestaurants.com

Will Canadians want to purchase dairy products sourced in the United States where such growth hormones, chemicals and antibiotics are on the ingredient list? Likely not.

However, those living in poverty might. Prison administrators in Canada who feed thousands of people every day might enjoy saving $1.00 per gallon of milk and save even more by purchasing American cheese and other dairy products — those savings courtesy of the American taxpayer.


Canadian Cows are Happy Cows!

(Because they don’t have to take bovine growth hormone or other nasty medicines or chemicals)

The happy cows at Harmony Organic in Ontario, Canada

The cows at Harmony Organic in Ontario, Canada are happy because they don’t have to take bovine growth hormone or other chemicals or drugs. Image courtesy of HarmonyOrganic.ca

But it’s not all cowbells and sunny meadows for the Canadian dairy industry. Canada employs the Supply Management system which plots exactly how much milk will be required annually and the country’s milk producers must comply.

Canada’s dairy industry regulates the supply to ensure the optimum amount of milk for the Canadian market without the oversupply spikes or undersupply crashes that other countries experience due to market forces.

It means that every year some amount of Canadian dairy product is poured back onto the fields so that prices will stay high enough for Canada’s milk producers to stay in business. While pouring milk on fields re-adds vital nutrients to the soil it’s an expensive way for farmers to condition their soil. Consequently, it doesn’t happen very often.

Canada’s dairy industry is sized to fit the Canadian market and very little of the country’s milk is exported, therefore, American milk producers rarely compete with Canadian milk producers anywhere on the planet.

Canada’s dairy industry contributes about $20 billion CAD to Canada’s GDP, which is smaller than the $21 billion USD that the California dairy industry sells to Californians — but California also exports an additional $44 billion USD worth of dairy products to other U.S. states — and good for California! Both the Golden Bear state and other U.S. states benefit from the excellent growing and production conditions in California.


Summary

The Canadian industry threatens no other country’s dairy industry as it’s sized for Canadian needs alone — therefore, one wonders why President Trump wants to flood the Canadian market with subsidized American milk and other dairy products.

And the reason Trump wants to export U.S. dairy products is because there’s a huge supply glut in the United States which means that dairy producers there must either downsize or find new markets.

If President Trump wants to export American milk, here’s some food for thought; The total annual demand for milk in China is more than the United States could produce in 10-yearsand 1.35 billion Chinese citizens pay an average of $7.00 USD per gallon of milk while 327 million Americans pay an average of $2.39 USD per gallon.

American milk producers could charge Chinese consumers $5.50 USD a gallon (and not require U.S. subsidies due to the higher retail price in China) and still sell every gallon they could ever hope to produce!

America’s leaders must stop focusing on microscopic markets like Canada where the market is already saturated with established Canadian producers and concentrate their efforts on the huge unfilled demand economies like China where they pay so much for milk that American subsidies could be discarded entirely and U.S. dairy products would still be cheaper than what Chinese consumers pay now.

Unelected Operatives Attempt to Take Over the American Presidency

by John Brian Shannon

It’s happened in previous decades and it’s happening again. Unelected Americans working within a U.S. Administration are (apparently) circumventing the will of a democratically elected U.S. president.

It happened to president Reagan, to president Carter, to president Nixon, to president Kennedy (ushering in the loss of innocence in America, and destroying a noble family in the process) and it happened to Ike Eisenhower who was America’s five-star general and Supreme Allied Commander in WWII before becoming the president of the United States. And all these U.S. presidents were legally voted into office by American citizens via a rigorous democratic process.

America has a problem.


Were the Unnamed Operatives Elected to be President, or Was the President Elected to be the President?

Of course Donald Trump was elected to lead the American people, to have the privileges of the highest executive office in the land, and to hold the most powerful keys of the country’s armed forces.

In defense of the unnamed operatives; There’s no doubt that such people interfere in the proper operation of the White House for the most altruistic of reasons and believe wholeheartedly that they’re doing the right thing for the United States and feel very patriotic about the actions they take. Certainly they’re risking their careers to stand up for what they believe is ‘right’ for America.

Therefore, I sincerely and profoundly admire the motivations of such operatives, but the simple fact is they’re wrong to subvert the will of American voters who voted — not for political operatives to run the country — but for Donald Trump to run the country.

Whether I like or hate President Donald Trump as a person (or like or hate his policies) or whether I’m his biggest backer on both counts (I’m not) this discussion must be about democracy in America and who is, and who isn’t, allowed to tamper with the process.


Maybe Trump Is All The Anonymous Operatives Say He Is: Regardless, He’s Still the President

What if President Donald Trump really is everything his detractors say; “Amoral, Impetuous, Adversarial, Petty, Half-Baked, Ill-Informed, and Occasionally Reckless” or his worst sin I suspect, not being under their control as they would like?

These operatives want him under some kind of control — not because he is bad for the country — but because he’s big, powerful, and scary, and such people need to be kept under control! (Don’t they?)

In an anonymous Op/Ed posted at the New York Times today the operative or operatives wrote, “It may be cold comfort in this chaotic era, but Americans should know that there are adults in the room. We fully recognize what is happening. And we are trying to do what’s right even when Donald Trump won’t.”

Shocking that any unelected official would say it in any country about any leader — let alone in the United States of America — one of the best democratic nations in the world.

In some countries, writing or speaking such words might get you arbitrarily imprisoned for a number of years, it might get you dead, or it might be the reason you hideout in another country for the next 25-years.

Yes, I ‘get’ that he is big, powerful, and scary, and he doesn’t negotiate using the same tried and true methods as previous American presidents. And to some people that means they must step in to control the situation — because to them — it means the president is out of control.

Or is it they just don’t recognize that the guy really is some kind of weird genius who, using the weirdest methods possible (to them) gets his way (which to Donald Trump, means getting America’s way) and is a breath of fresh air to American politics.

He isn’t like the last holder of that office, nor will Donald Trump be like his successor whomever that may be. He’s a one-off, unique communicator, and definitely an agent of change for the country.

But in their own way, so were Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, and many others. Such a disparate and talented group of individuals American presidents are — and each one in his own way cut across boundaries to do great things for the country they love. You have to admire them as individuals regardless of which side of politics you’re on.

Whether you like Trump’s style or not, he is accomplishing things for the country. Bombastic, irreverent, loud and in charge, or however you want to term his style, he gets results and bad press — although I’ve seen harsher media coverage of a U.S. president.

All administrations have their chaotic moments. Most however, have plenty of experienced politicians working for them who know how to cover it with the White House press corps. But such is not the case with the Trump White House. Many people who work there are ultra-patriotic Americans who would take a bullet for their country, yet they might not have decades of beltway experience to guide them around Washington’s invisible traps.

But as long as Trump feels he is accomplishing good things for the country, he’ll stay on as the country’s leader. But he’s the kind of person who would resign if he ever felt he wasn’t contributing to America’s success. Such is his love for the country.


He’s the President for as Long as ‘We The People’ Say He Is

Barring ill health or accident, Trump is the President for the next 2 1/2 years.

The position of the American president is, by careful design, the person elected to carry out the will of the people and is the person most responsible for, and the most responsive to, United States citizens. It goes with the office.

The president of the United States works for the American people and his loyalty must be to them, and ultimately is accountable only to them. But those who work for the president, work for the president and are accountable to the president, not to voters.

Therefore, if these operatives feel they can do a better job as president, they should submit their resignation (and, if they feel the need) post a copy in the New York Times outlining the reasons they worked to subvert the decisions of the elected president, and at the next election run for the top job themselves.

It’s an honourable way to register their disappointment with the nation’s chief executive.

Trump and Putin Change the U.S. – Russia Conversation

by John Brian Shannon

Q: What could be worse than another Cold War between the United States and Russia?

A: Nothing. There isn’t anything that could be worse than another Cold War breaking out between nuclear armed superpowers that could conceivably destroy all life on the planet many times over. At the push of a button.

Boom! In an instant we’d be blinded by a flash and our bodies would heat up to 3 million degrees within seconds and everyone on Earth would end up floating around as carbon dust at 100,000 feet before finally settling down on top of the nuclear-winter snow that would cover the entire planet for about 40-years. (Nuclear weapons experts call that snow/radioactive carbon dust mixture, ‘grey goo’)

It’s a miracle it didn’t happen during the 40-year long Cold War, but we came within seconds of such annihilation many times over the course of those perilous four decades.


What the Helsinki Meeting Represents

For some people, the meeting between America’s President Trump and Russia’s President Putin represents an opportunity to catch either president in some sort of verbal gaffe, or to capture a sound-bite and milk it for all it’s worth — while for others, a meeting between the two major nuclear powers represents the best opportunity in the 21st-century to reverse the downward spiral in relations between the two nuclear hyperpowers.

That’s what is at stake here.

Anything else (and that means everything else!) just isn’t important when you’re playing at that level.

Whether 12 or 13 Russians may or may not have interfered in the 2016 U.S. election is orders of magnitude less important than the chance of nuclear war breaking out between the nuclear superpowers.

Also orders of magnitude less important is the purported (but not proven) collusion between Trump’s people and certain Russian citizens who may, or may not be spies or some kind of fixers or operators, and also orders of magnitude less important is Hillary’s purported carelessness in using a non-government (and therefore, non-secure) server to send or receive classified emails that Russian agents (purportedly) were able to hack and read. (That’s a lot of ‘purportedly’s’ — but everyone in America is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law)

And yes, those are all very interesting stories that will probably have a long shelf life and keep reporters buzzing until a bigger story replaces them.

But let’s not get distracted by sensational headlines, nor should we be complacent and forget what’s really at stake.

The leaders of two nuclear powers met, apparently had a businesslike and friendly meeting, and important matters were discussed. That in itself was almost a miracle after the goings-on between the two superpowers over the past decade, which between them, possess over 13,300 nuclear warheads, while the rest of the declared nuclear powers in the world account for a total of 1065 nuclear weapons.

G7 comparison: Estimated Nuclear Warhead Inventories, 2018. Federation of American Scientists

Estimated Nuclear Warhead Inventories, 2018. Federation of American Scientists


Building On A Successful Helsinki Meeting

Rather than let the present momentum lapse, President Trump and President Putin must ‘strike while the iron is hot’ and schedule some arms control talks.

“If not us, who? If not now, when?” — President John F. Kennedy

In 1963, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (which banned atmospheric atomic and nuclear bomb testing) was signed by the United States and the Soviet Union and in 1996 was passed by the UN General Assembly.

The Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT I) was signed and ratified by both sides in 1972 which paved the way for SALT II in 1979 which was signed by both parties in 1979 but not ratified due to unrelenting bad press in the United States. However, both sides decided to adhere to the terms of SALT II even though it was never ratified. Which is the only reason we see near-parity in nuclear warheads and delivery vehicles between the United States and Russia today.

To keep the present momentum going, SALT II could be re-signed and ratified to pave the way for a SALT III treaty to be created — as per the original plan.

The logic of the SALT agreements is clear: The SALT I treaty limited Anti-Ballistic Missile sites and froze the number of missiles each side could possess, while SALT II established numerical equality in nuclear weapon delivery systems and also limited the number of Multiple, Independent Re-entry Vehicles (bombs) per missile, while the proposed SALT III was designed to draw down and place firm and verifiable caps on the nuclear bomb arsenals of both the United States and the Soviet Union to around 2400 each.

Before the present momentum between the two leaders fade, both men should push their respective administrations to re-commit to SALT II (as a formality) and ratify it before the end of 2018.

That would allow the necessary time to author a fresh SALT III agreement and schedule a signing ceremony for both SALT II and SALT III at the same time.

It’s not rocket science, it’s politics. But previous leaders just couldn’t get it done. Both sides have wanted to do this for almost 40-years, but (very suspiciously) something always cropped-up at the last minute to prevent forward progress on this most important of geopolitical issues.

“Things don’t happen, things are made to happen.” — President John F. Kennedy


Turning Nuclear Bombs into Electricity

At the end of the Cold War a deal was struck between the United States and Russia whereby excess nuclear bombs (remember; any number of nuclear bombs higher than 2400 for the United States and for Russia is complete overkill from a strategic defense perspective) were sold-off to nuclear power plants and used to produce many years worth of high grade, clean electricity.

The program was called the Megatons to Megawatts program and was called one of the greatest diplomatic achievements ever by Harvard’s Matthew Bunn.

The problem is that it had just begun to hit its stride when President Barack Obama cancelled the program unilaterally, and after not much fanfare (only one NPR article) M2M ended.

Assuming both superpowers want to pare-down their nuclear arsenals to 2400 each, that leaves them with 4050 bombs (United States) and 4450 (Russia) to dispose-of. That’s 8500 bombs-worth of clean nuclear power, folks! For example, that’s enough nuclear fuel to power America until the year 2100 at present rates of nuclear fuel usage.

It’s a shame that this noble program was ended long before the most amount of good could be obtained from the Megatons to Megawatts program.

Right now, President Trump could phone President Putin and offer to resume this super-successful program — and he might find a willing partner in Putin who seemed fine with M2M until it was suddenly cancelled in 2013.

Building on success is so much better than re-inventing the wheel, as the saying goes.


A Plug for the Big 5 – as Opposed to the G7

The trouble with the G7 is that the United States GDP, military, number of nuclear bombs, and balance of trade (and in many other metrics) is bigger than all the other G7 nations combined! The U.S. is just too big! It’s the proverbial elephant in the room. The other countries just can’t relate, so they overcompensate.

The recent problems between the U.S. and other G7 members at the recent Charlevoix G7 summit are systemic — the fault isn’t with any of the members. Whatsoever.

And now is as good a time as any for the United States to champion the creation of a new organization, an organization dedicated to superpowers and near-superpowers like Russia, China, Japan, and the EU. Alternatively, if one of those countries or blocs didn’t want to join, The Commonwealth of Nations bloc could join instead.

In such an organization, members would find that the problems that superpowers and near-superpowers encounter would be similar problems and that solutions might also be found to be similar. At best, the world’s major powers could work together on their common problems, while middle powers could create the middle-power ‘Next-20’ Group, or N20.

In that way, superpowers and near-superpowers would be grouped together (logical) and middle powers would be grouped together (also logical) and the previously noted systemic problems would disappear, allowing politicians to roll up their sleeves and get to work on common issues instead of struggling with one giant stuck in a group of middle powers.

Read about the astonishing differences between the U.S. and the other G7 powers here.


Geopolitical Momentum is Vital and Precious – It Must Never Be Wasted

Now that the two presidents have had their first major meeting that seemed to go very well, it’s time to capitalize on the goodwill before events sweep away those good feelings and opportunities bigger than the sky are (again) allowed to slip away!

Whether the next phone call between the two men is about restarting the highly-successful Megatons to Megawatts program, or plans to meet with President Xi Jinping to discuss the Big 5 organization, or build onto the world-changing SALT treaties — or to discuss some other plan the two presidents discussed — now is the time to build on the initial meeting success and thereby positively change the conversation between superpowers and change the entire conversation that is happening in the global media because no other, better story appears to replace all that sniping.

One of the ways leaders lead effectively is to know when it’s time to change the conversation the media is having with itself and with its viewers.

I respectfully suggest, that time is NOW.