The Art of Deflection
August 6, 2019
My name is Tim Hsia and I’m the publisher of Daily Pnut. Prior to Daily Pnut I commissioned from West Point, served on active duty as an Army infantry officer, and deployed overseas. When I left active duty, I was fortunate to have family, friends, and mentors help me with my transition from service to school. Unfortunately, the vast majority of veterans have many challenges transitioning from the military to civilian life, especially when it comes to pursuing higher education opportunities. I have written about these challenges in an op-ed in the New York Times on Veteran’s Day in 2014 (Fix the GI Bill) with a fellow Service to School cofounder.
While attending graduate school I helped cofound Service to School, a 501(c)3 non-profit whose mission is the following: We provide free application counseling to military veterans. Our mission is to prepare transitioning military veterans for their next chapter of leadership by helping them gain admission to the best college or graduate school possible.
Jim Mattis, Seth Moulton, and Craig Newmark are all advisory board members, supporters, or donors of our organization. Recently, the Manton Foundation generously supported our organization and further challenged us to raise small donations. If 500 donors provide $5 or more between now and December 2019 then they will support us with another $25,000.As an organization we have helped thousands of enlisted veterans gain admission into great schools. I deeply believe that the veterans we help and will help will lead our nation in a servant leadership manner. I humbly request you consider providing Service to School a small donation.
“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” – Mahatma Gandhi
“Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
A Trade War Face Off
The stock market has seemingly dealt fairly well with the US-China trade war. National Holdings Corporation’s chief market strategist Al Hogan said investors were aware of the continued trade tensions, but were reassured that negotiations were ongoing and that neither side was prepared to escalate.
Then last Thursday President Trump announced 10 percent tariffs on $300 billion of imports from China to take effect on September 1. China retaliated by allowing its currency to fall, which makes its exports to the rest of the world cheaper and more competitive against US exports. Early Monday the yuan dropped to its lowest valuation in 11 years, a 7-to-1 yuan to dollar ratio, and Wall Street investors couldn’t join the global equity selloff fast enough.
Also on Monday China announced that its companies have halted purchases of American agricultural goods, driving the market further into the red. Both the Dow and the S&P 500 had their worst days of the year, and Nasdaq had its biggest decline since last October. “The escalation of the U.S.-China trade war puts us in a place where it’s almost impossible to calculate the collateral damage,” Hogan said.
China has long artificially propped up the value of its currency above the symbolic 7-to-1 threshold using a mixture of public and non-public methods, including ordering its massive state-run banks to buy up vast amounts of currency to strengthen the yuan, or renminbi. In a Monday morning tweet, President Trump again accused China of currency manipulation, and said the Federal Reserve should “listen.”
Broken Promises To A Fragile State
- Article 370 of India’s constitution gives ‘special status’ to the state of Jammu and Kashmir — which encompasses the section of the disputed Kashmir region controlled by India — including the power to have its own constitution, flag and autonomy over all matters except certain policy areas.
- In place since 1949, this special status has been a bone of contention in the country’s politics for years; revoking it was one of the promises made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ahead of recent national elections.
- On Monday, the government made good on its pledge and announced it was revoking Kashmir’s constitutionally guaranteed special status, a move that would tighten its control over the country’s only Muslim-majority state. The move was denounced as illegal by Pakistan, which also claims Kashmir.
- Apparently anticipating unrest over the move, India dispatched tens of thousands of troops to Kashmir, put local politicians under house arrest, cut off Internet and phone service and ordered tourists to evacuate. (CNN, NPR)
Well, Oil Be Damned
- Iran has reportedly seized an Iraqi oil tanker in the Persian Gulf, including seven crew members, for allegedly smuggling fuel. It is the third such incident in just two weeks amid rising tensions in the strategic waterway.
- The state news agency IRNA quoted Iran’s Revolutionary Guard as saying the ship was seized near Farsi Island last Wednesday and found to be illegally transporting 185,000 gallons of diesel. (NPR)
If All Your Friends Developed Nuclear Missiles, Would You?
- The Trump administration oversaw the US’s formal withdrawal from the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty with Russia on Friday. The treaty was signed in 1987 by President Ronald Reagan and the leader of the USSR, Mikhail Gorbachev. The INF was a milestone for arms control, the first treaty between Washington and Moscow to go beyond just limiting the level of nuclear weapons to require significant reductions.
- The reason President Trump gave for the withdrawal was that Moscow was violating the treaty and had already deployed one banned type of missile, an accusation the Kremlin denies.
- Regardless, the pact had been responsible for banning land-based missiles with a range of between 310 and 3,400 miles, reducing the ability of both countries to launch a nuclear strike at short notice.
- On Monday Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that Moscow would start developing short and intermediate-range land-based nuclear missiles if the US started doing the same. (Reuters)
The Art of Deflection
- President Trump blamed violent video games and mental illness for the apparent white nationalist-conducted mass murders last weekend. The president delivered his comments from the White House, with a portrait of George Washington in the background.
- Hours before his speech Trump tweeted that the media was responsible for “anger and rage” in the country; he also suggested combining background check legislation with immigration reform. Trump’s attempts to lay blame anywhere other than on his own racist, anti-immigrant rhetoric is belied by evidence showing hate crimes rose by 226 percent in counties where he hosted campaign rallies in 2016.
- Mental illness is a key talking point from the National Rifle Association, although the president of the American Psychological Association tells us: “[Research shows ] only a very small percentage of violent acts are committed by people who are diagnosed with, or in treatment for, mental illness.” (Guardian, The Hill)
- Video games don’t cause violent crime: Research indicates that, if anything, it’s the opposite. (Vox)
With Ross As Boss, Commerce Crumbles
- According to people knowledgeable about the inner workings of the Commerce Department, it isn’t working. 81-year-old Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross doesn’t hold routine meetings with senior staffers and spends much of his time at the White House trying to retain President Trump’s favor.
- A former outside advisor said staffers are very careful about how they schedule certain meetings that do occur: “There’s a small window where he’s able to focus and pay attention and not fall asleep.” With a disengaged Ross at the helm, constant infighting among top officials, low morale, and sudden unexplained departures of senior staffers, the rudderless department has reached its apex of dysfunction. (Politico)
First To Log In, First To Log Out
- People born in the mid-to-late 1970s are the last generation of humans on the planet to have grown up without the internet. Social scientists call them the Last of the Innocents.
- In his book The End of Absence, Vancouver writer Michael Harris calls people who grew up prior to the popularization of digital culture “digital immigrants” — they have lived both “with and without the crowded connectivity of online life.”
- Soon no person on earth will remember what the world was like before the internet. There will be records, of course (stored in the intangibly limitless archive of the cloud), but the actual lived experience of what it was like to think and feel and be human before the emergence of big data will be gone.
- The demise of the Last of the Innocents will mean the loss of an entire plane of human experience — the time when, faced with long hours of nothing to do, our attention was allowed to wander; when there was time for reflection and introspection and devoting attention to people we were actually with; when idle summer nights could be spent in the yard catching fireflies and days would be spent lying in the grass looking for faces in clouds. (Guardian)
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