PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU SHOULD CAUTION DONALD TRUMP NOT TO FOLLOW THROUGH ON HIS ABSURD PROMISES IN JERUSALEM!
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government is a fragile patchwork of numerous small parties, many of which are hard-line conservatives, who are dedicated to preserving Israel as One Jewish State! That’s why Netanyahu never saw eye-to-eye with President Barack Obama, who believed that it was in the best interests of the American People to seek a Two-State Solution. And perhaps, it was best for all!
It is ironic that Mr. Donald Trump and the Republican Party have been trying to side with the Israeli Hard-Liners, as a means of currying favor with the American Jewish Community, which tends to vote Democratic. President Obama, on the other hand, seems to have been working toward a Two-State Solution, with the conviction that it would better provide for the human rights of all people—Arab and Jew!
Donald Trump, however, had pledged to Prime Minister Netanyahu, back in September, to move the American Embassy to Jerusalem. Following the Six-Day War in 1967, Israel had moved its capital to Jerusalem; but, only a handful of foreign embassies followed. By 1982, all but two—Costa Rica and El Salvador—had returned to Tel Aviv.
General John Mattis, Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Defense suggested, in Senate Hearings, that the American Embassy should remain in Tel Avid, especially since many key Israeli government offices—such as Defense and the IDF—are located there. If Trump were a rational man, wouldn’t he re-consider moving the Embassy, while thinking about why no other nations had done so? And what the implications might be?
General Mattis further predicted that a One-State Solution would probably result in Israel becoming an Apartheid Nation. This coincides directly with the Analysis column in today’s Jerusalem Post, which suggested that the U. S. recognition of Jerusalem as the capital, and the movement of the U. S. Embassy, would lead to a “New Intifada”.
Moderate Arab Leader, King Abdullah of Jordan, is quoted as having predicted such a war. That J-Post Analysis is linked, as follows: http://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/Analysis-If-the-US-Embassy-moves-to-Jerusalem-are-we-looking-at-a-new-intifada-478535.
If Trump does push forward with such a move, a dangerous situation would prevail for Israel and the Palestinians, and for the United States, regarding our diplomatic standing in the Middle East. America would also risk any hope of ever being considered an honest broker or negotiator, in the future, between Israel and the Palestinians. Lastly, considering the vital role that the U. S. plays, as a backstop to Israeli National Security, Prime Minister Netanyahu should also think long and hard, and perhaps discourage Donald Trump from taking the actions that he had promised!
NOTE: I would like to welcome my readers from Guam.
BARACK AND MICHELLE OBAMA, WE’RE SO VERY, VERY HAPPY TO HAVE HAD YOU AS OUR PRESIDENT AND FIRST LADY. SORRY TO SEE YOU GO!
Since the Presidential Election, Donald Trump supporters have been saying that those who did not vote for Donald Trump—a majority of Americans—should “Get over it!”, give him chance, and that we should show him some respect. My simple response is “Why?” So far, both prior to the Election and since, Donald Trump has not given most of us any reason to believe that he has actually changed his stripes. Once a cad, always a cad!
Donald Trump can observe a True Leader, and a Great President, by watching the Tuesday Night Farewell Speech of Current President Barack Hussein Obama, which was broadcast from Chicago’s Grant Park. Obama wanted to return to where it all began, in his Hometown. But, it was truly meant for All of America! He was Our President too! Not Blue States, or Red States, but the President of All America!
If Mr. Trump watches that video, he will see a Love-Fest! Tears of joy, to have had Obama as out President for eight years, and tears of Sorrow, in knowing that it will come to an end, much too soon! Barack Obama was the President of all the people, and he did not base that on the size of their checkbooks, their business connections or what they might add to his political stature. Barack Obama has given as much as he has received—Love, Honor and Respect. And, let me add honesty!
So far, Donald Trump’s House of Cards seems to be showing signs of premature crumbling: working class Americans are realizing that their first-time ever Affordable Health Care is in serious jeopardy; his Cabinet nominees have been contradicting his avowed policies in Senate Hearings; and Congressional members of Trump’s own party have begun to question his business loans from foreign governments, his admiration for Russian President Putin and, again, a viable replacement, if they repeal “Obamacare”.
So Trump fans, don’t expect that, based on a number of questionable acts and errors, that Donald Trump has become a Leader overnight, much less worthy of being loved, honored and respected. As far as many of us are concerned, Donald J. Trump is just the fox who has—horror of horrors—been placed in charge of the chicken coop!
German Chancellor Angela Merkel appears resigned to the fact that the sole Leadership of Europe is being thrust upon her. In more normal times, the German Chancellor would share that role with the President of France, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and the President of the United States. So much has changed, however, during the past six months.
Following the British Brexit vote in late June, Prime Minister Theresa May has taken the reins of Great Britain, as it prepares to exit the European Union. It will, however, continue on as the most important European military force in NATO. In Paris, it seems obvious that Francois Hollande will soon be ousted as the President of France. And of course, the Election Victory of Donald Trump, in the United States—with his uncertain commitment to the Atlantic Alliance, and his growing fondness for Russian President Vladimir Putin—have left Merkel as the only experienced Head of State, in both the E. U. and NATO!
With eleven years of leading Europe’s largest nation, as well as the dominant economy, Mrs. Merkel is generally unflappable, decisive and able to quickly grasp complex issues. But, her aides now believe that she has recently been showing signs of stress and anxiety, ever since the American Election on November 8. An interesting article, from popular German periodical “Spiegel”, is linked as follows: http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/donald-trump-angela-merkel-anticipates-frosty-relations-with-u-s-a-1128442.html. Be sure to click on the second part, at the bottom!
While watching a video of Trump’s rally in Pennsylvania, as part of his “Victory Tour”, she was flabbergasted that he: claimed a landslide victory, when there was none; blasted the Press for reporting the Truth, as it should; and the audacity to suggest that he had matured as a statesman, even when he hasn’t. Chancellor Merkel recommended that the entire National Executive Committee of the Christian Democratic Union, her party, watch the entire hour-long video of that address.
Mrs. Merkel quoted one particular remark in her recommendation, something that truly caught her attention. She cited it verbatim: “There is no such thing as a global anthem, a global currency, a global flag. We salute one flag, and that is the American flag.” Germany has been trying to make amends for what another demagogue, Adolf Hitler, did in the late 1930s and early 1940s. Never again!
Part of Angela Merkel’s anxiety is that most people, perhaps even his closest associates, don’t have any idea of what Trump’s intentions are, or what he might actually do. When various representatives of the German Foreign Ministry have contacted Trump confidantes, such as Jared Kushner, his son-in-law, or Secretary Henry Kissinger, they just couldn’t fill-in the blanks either!
The only positive note in Germany’s confusion is the high praise that every General who knows Retired General John Mathis, from Afghanistan or NATO Headquarters, in Brussels, has for Donald trump’s nominee for Secretary of Defense. They described General Mathis as a man who is not easily intimidated, and who is a champion of the Trans-Atlantic Alliance. They also believe that he will make that clear to Trump.
When it comes to Mr. Trump’s appointee for National Security Advisor, Retired General Michael Flynn, however, the German Officers unanimously hold him in contempt. One even suggested that Flynn seemed to have given very little thought to killing Afghan civilians, in Kabul, as so-called “collateral damage”. The Germans are quite concerned about Flynn coordinating National Security Policy for the President, which they believe will not be overly friendly toward the trans-Atlantic alliance.
There might be one other serious problem, just waiting to happen—a potential nuclear arms race in the Middle East. Consider the facts:
1. Donald Trump has vowed to repudiate the Nuclear Agreement with Iran. Approximately three years ago, in an address to the U. N. General Assembly, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that Iran was just two-or-three months away from building a nuclear bomb. Once formal negotiations, over the Nuclear Arms Agreement, began in June of 2014, however, Iran closed its labs and sent almost all of the centrifuges and plutonium out of the country. So, here we are today, and without a Nuclear-Armed Iran!
2. Early in 2016, Donald Trump suggested that he would help Japan and Saudi Arabia build a nuclear bomb. Does that really mean “build”, or perhaps just sell or give one to the Saudis?
3. Israel has already had a nuclear arsenal—not just one bomb, or two—for several decades!
Consider that, if the United States pulls back—away from Europe, the Middle East, Asia-Pacific, and let’s not forget Latin America—wouldn’t that leave us embracing the same Protectionist-Isolationist Policies, which led to the great Depression and World War II? No one really knows what “Make America Great Again” is really supposed to mean. Perhaps, not even Donald Trump!
This is why Germany is concerned. Just think back to Trump’s remark, in Pennsylvania: “There is no such thing as a global anthem, a global currency, a global flag. We salute one flag, and that is the American flag.” Like Germany, the whole world should definitely be concerned. Scared even!
Psychologists suggest that a good way to understand a somewhat complex idea—especially for those over 50—is with charts and graphs. For stocks, however, there is a three-dimensional object that surely you have seen—probably threw it down, like me! The Rubik’s Cube! Now, I’m not suggesting that you solve it; rather, just picture it! But, the six-sided cube, with three smaller blocks on each edge, meets our needs perfectly.
Consider the green (or any color) face of the cube. Large, Medium and Small companies are represented by the top, second and third rows across, respectively. You will undoubtedly see the term “Cap” after one of those sizes, from time-to-time, which refers to the amount of capital that the various companies have to work with.
The left-hand column includes “Value” stocks, which are generally more mature and somewhat more stable. “Growth” stocks are represented by the right-hand column, and are normally newer, and more volatile, but not necessarily to any dangerous extent. “Blend” companies, listed down the middle, have some of the characteristics of both value and growth. So, a large-cap value company would be represented by the upper left-hand block in our visualization, and a small-cap blend would be in the middle block on the bottom row.
For the investor who wishes to keep things simple, and doesn’t want to invest in individual stocks or bonds, Exchange-Traded Funds are a good option. ETFs tend to replicate all of the securities in a particular index, for instance: the Standard and Poor’s 500; stocks of one industry; foreign securities, etc. Most securities firms offer a wide range of ETFs for you to choose from. I have found two companies especially helpful: Sector SPDRs, for adding greater weight by replicating just the component securities of a particular industrial sector of the S & P 500; and iShares for a wide range of Foreign securities, on a Regional, Country or Global basis. ETF Tracker, although not a distributor of ETFs, is a good source of information.
Investors shouldn’t place all of their money in companies of just one type—large or small, value or growth. Similarly, it can be risky to bet it all in one Industrial Sector, such as: Energy; Health Care; Technology or Utilities. In fact, a good way to suffer a big loss is to invest only in: industries that did well last year, figuring that that trend will continue; industries that suffered last year, expecting a turn-around; or industries that you know well. And never, ever go whole hog, by investing heavily in the industry that you earn your living in!
Remember that the Rubik’s Cube is three-dimensional. But, let’s extend that third dimension—the depth, perhaps—out to include, say, nine or ten blocks. That would compare to the approximate number of basic industries in our Economy. Diversify among, at least a range of sectors, but you don’t have to invest in every one, in order to diversify. If you prefer. you need not invest in individual stocks.
I would also suggest considering a fourth dimension, which you may or may not feel comfortable in doing–Overseas Securities. Research material is in short supply for many individual Global (U. S. and Foreign) or just Foreign Securities. Besides Mutual Funds, Exchange-Traded Funds might be a good alternative–both for Domestic and Foreign Securities–for the investor who wants to keep things simple.
Whether you are interested in investing in individual securities, mutual funds or ETFs, be sure to check the web site(s) of securities firm(s) you deal with, or with particular mutual fund companies. It’s important, when you consider investing in mutual funds that you know the details: how they have ranked in their respective categories; what their investment goals are; big mutual funds often become more of an index fund, but with much higher prices; and how long the investment manager has been working on that fund.
The Bond Market is quite difficult to explain, at least in a scatter-shot approach, such as a blog post. And, unfortunately, most brokers don’t understand the bond market, since it doesn’t have the pizzazz that the stock market does. Over the years, however, I have written a number of blog posts on the Fixed Income market, which you can read by clicking on the “Investing” Tag, at the right.
NOTE: As always, if you don’t find what you’re looking for, send a Comment, which I will try to respond to.
ENERGIZED BY TRUMP’S ELECTION VICTORY, THE GOP VOWS TO REPEAL, AND REPLACE, “OBAMACARE”. BUT, WITH WHAT?
House Republicans have voted 50 times already, to Repeal the Affordable Care Act, which they derisively call “Obamacare”. Over the six years, since ACA became Law, they have constantly been attacking it; however, the GOP has never presented a rational plan to substitute in its place. Additionally, looking at the World around us, all 19 of the other most-industrialized members of the OECD have Universal Health Care. Shouldn’t that tell the Republicans something? What do those nations know, that we don’t?
Let me respond to some of the GOP’s fallacious attacks on ACA. Web sites always seem to overload when a new program, that potentially expects tens of millions of applicants, has some problems at the start! Health insurers did cancel some older plans; however, they replaced them with updated ones, in order to qualify under ACA. Many medical conditions, which had been covered, were added—such as Maternity and Pre-natal care for young women! Annual insurance premiums did not rise as much as they would have, had ACA not been in effect! Also, the “Mandate” that required Americans to buy insurance, which might be subsidized if necessary, is necessary to eliminate the potential refusal of coverage, by the insurance companies, for “Pre-existing Conditions”!
It is important for ACA to be retained, and improved when necessary, as it was always expected to be. That “One Payer” system, by the way, does not mean just “One Provider “, as had been suggested by the nay-sayers. For instance, my Wife and I each have Medicare, and we still go to all the same doctors, and facilities, as we had before. When a One Payer system is established, the costs of health care can be reduced considerably. And, that is how ACA had always been intended to work!
When the overall participant pool increases, insurance companies are able to estimate the various medical factors more accurately, across the larger number of participants. That allows for more accurate health care expense projections, as well as a reduction in administrative expenses. For instance, the Medical Loss Ratio, under ACA, requires that insurance companies spend at least 80% of the premiums on Health Care, and no more than 20% on Administration.
Over the past six years, the two alternatives to ACA, which some Republicans have floated, are: a “Voucher” system (Speaker Paul Ryan), which means out-sourcing insurance coverage; and “Block Grants” (Mr. Donald Trump), which distributes funds to each of the states, so each might meet their health care needs, as they wish. Vouchers do not guarantee minimum services, co-pay limits, or maximum percentage used for administration. Block Grants have neither national consistency, nor federal oversight–and they are subject to the vague whims of each state. Neither Vouchers nor Blcok Grnts necessarily works in the best interests of the average consumer.
Lastly, the assumed underlying reason for the GOP’s numerous attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, currently enjoyed by some 20 million previously uninsured Americans, is Money. The maximum tax rate for higher income individuals was raised partially to help fund the ACA. Most of those tax-payers, all of whom assumedly have gold-plated health insurance plans themselves, seem to feel that they shouldn’t have to help make life a little safer for those at the bottom of the economic ladder. And apparently, these are the people that the Republican Party prefers to cater to.
RACISM HAS GRADUALLY BEEN DESTROYING AMERICA’S PUBLIC SCHOOLS, AND BETSY DeVOS MIGHT BE MORE CAUSE THAN SOLUTION!
On May 17, 1954, Thurgood Marshall, Chief Counsel for the NAACP, successfully argued the case of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, before the U. S. Supreme Court. In it’s ruling, SCOTUS overturned the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson decision, which established the “Separate, but Equal” status in America’s Public Schools. The divided school systems, however, were anything, but “Equal”. Institutionalized-racism might a be better term! In 1967, Mr. Marshal was sworn-in, as an Associate Justice, on the U. S. Supreme Court.
Racism remains ever-present within our Public Schools today. Some is institutionalized, and some is political. Consider several of the more appalling varieties:
1. Since real estate taxes are a primary funding source of public schools, the “White Flight” of higher-income families to the wealthier suburbs, generally in separate counties and school systems, results in better-funded suburban schools, as compared to those in the Inner Cities (i. e. Chicago, Detroit, and Philadelphia).
2. Some states allow smaller “independent School Districts” to be formed in wealthier areas. Higher income families seek larger, more-luxurious housing, which leads to higher property taxes and, thus, to better-funded public schools. (Similar to #1 above.)
3. Politicians often create the atmosphere where newer, and better, schools are located in wealthier areas, with some minority students bused-in. Accordingly, these schools have better teachers, and newer equipment and facilities, as compared to public school schools in poorer parts of town.
4. Charter schools may be established separately from the public school system; however, they receive funding from it—thus reducing the local system’s financial resources. Charters are generally able to be more selective in the students they admit, but there is often little correlation between selectivity and performance. Prerequisites for the corporate organizers of Charters, as well as the administrators and teachers are often dubious, depending upon the particular state.
5. Vouchers transfer a portion of the per-student amount,received by the school system, from the state and local government, to private schools that accept them. Since private school tuition and fees are usually much more expensive than the voucher provides, poor families generally cannot afford the differential for their children to attend, especially if they hame several children in school. But, wealthy families get a freebie!
It is difficult to expect that Donald J. Trump, who has vowed throughout his campaign that he will use Charter Schools and Vouchers to “improve our Educational System”, will not nominate an Education Secretary who will not advocate for “School Choice”, as well as other forms of institutionalized racism. If Mr. Trump really did want to improve the American Educational System, he would nominate someone with actual education experience—rather than someone who ereportedly contributed $11 million to his campaign!
Betsy DeVos, who is Trump’s nominee for Education Secretary, is a member of the super-wealthy DeVos Family of Amway Fame. Mrs. DeVos is active in the National GOP, advocates for School Choice, and was one of the architects of the Detroit Charter Schools Program, which apparently has performed on a par with the City’s overall failed and underfunded Public School System.
Betsy DeVos is hardly a realistic solution for America’s Educational System!