Search Results for: mexico

MIGHT DONALD TRUMP’S DISREGARD FOR MEXICO JEOPARDIZE OUR BORDER SECURITY?

Last January, I compared the current disastrous situation with Mexico, which Donald Trump created, when he announced his candidacy in June of 2015.  Mr. Trump always seems to need objects, which he can later blame for his own mistakes or inadequacies.  In fact, ever since Trump’s irrational attacks on Mexico began, the possible reaction could present a much clearer and more dangerous situation.

In October of 1962, President John F. Kennedy averted the Soviet Union’s installation of Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles in Cuba, by establishing a blockade of U. S. naval ships around the island nation.  Allowing ICBMs, just 90 miles from our shares, would have been courting a similarly dangerous situation, between the two nuclear superpowers.  Luckily, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev “blinked”, and the ships returned to Russia.

Given Trump’s raucous attacks over the past two years, current Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, who had previously been lagging in popularity, has dropped even farther in the polls.  The Mexican economy has stagnated, partially due to a halt in corporate investments until Donald Trump decides, for sure, what the status of NAFTA will be!  Keep in mind, as well, that Russia and now China, have b been building trading relationships throughout South America, and Mexico might be of interest to them.

Ironically, as America tries to determine whether there was any possible Russian involvement in our Election, last November, Donald Trump has apparently contributed toward a probable Presidential turn-over in Mexico.  If Donald would have considered the facts—only 5.6 million undocumented Mexicans were in the U. S. in 2016, as compared to 6.4 million in 2009, according to a new Pew Research Report—we wouldn’t be in this situation.

Senior Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the leftist former Mayor of Mexico City, appears favored to win the Presidential Election on July 1.  Andres Oppenheimer writes that, when he interviewed Lopez Obrador, two years ago for the Miami Herald, he sounded exactly like Communist Hugo Chavez, the deceased former President of Venezuela.  Lopez Obrador further places the blame, for the current deadly riots in Venezuela, on the political opponents of current President, Nicolas Maduro.

U. S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s comment, earlier this week, announced that the Trump Regime would no longer insist that countries we deal with, must abide by our values.  Those would include Democracy and Human Rights.  In that case, Donald Trump; might develop a closer relationship with Mexico, if the favored Lopez Obrador, who might have Communist tendencies. is elected President.  Of course, Donald might then have to accept the ramifications—of having either China or Russia, literally on our doorstep!

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WHAT MIGHT THE DANGERS BE IN HARASSING MEXICO?

I was a senior in high school, in October of 1962, during the Cuban Missile Crisis.  Soviets ships were heading toward Cuba, with ICBMs, and President John F. Kennedy erected a naval blockade.  Eventually, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev blinked, and the ships headed back to Russia.  I wondered at the time whether I would be receiving my Diploma in June, or serving in the Army somewhere.  However, might we be approaching a similar impasse today—but, with Mexico?

When Donald Trump announced his candidacy, in June of 2015, he attacked the Mexican People and, since then, he has gradually expanded his target base to include all Hispanics, and every other demographic, except for older white men.  In a recent post, I described my views of Donald Trump’s proposed trade, tariffs and currency manipulation policies; but, for now, I’m focusing on the potential impact of harassing Mexico, on our National Security.

Granted, several of our recent Presidents haven’t shown Latin America the attention that they should have—including Barack Obama and George W. Bush.  Presidents Vladimir Putin, of Russia, and Xi Jinping, of China, on the other hand, have each made a number of visits to our southern neighbors, promoting trade.

If we treat a neighbor, who is also one of our largest trading partners this way, how could we assume that other countries won’t take notice. Trade is generally based on necessity, partnership and courtesy. Necessity alone just won’t cut it, since there are generally other nations that can offer the same goods and services.

Mexico is much larger than Cuba, with ten times the population and 20 times the area.  So, any joint military exercises with our Enemies, re-fueling and re-tooling bases, or even more nefarious activities, might be somewhat harder to monitor.  And, given today’s technological advances—since the Cuban Crisis—ICBMs are almost irrelevant.  So Donald, tell me again what the rationale is behind harassing our southern neighbor, across our 2,000 mile common border?   And have you given consideration to the much broader implications–like National Security?

NOTE:  During the Cuban Missile Crisis, Air Fore Chief-of-Staff, General Curtis LeMay advised President Kennedy to bomb Moscow. He was known as an unstable hothead. But today, with National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, as well as Donald Trump, baring those same characteristics, anything might happen!

NOTE #2:  Mexico has a Plan to fight back, as described in the NY Times and is linked, as follows:  https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/24/business/economy/nafta-mexico-free-trade.html?ref=economy

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DONALD, YOU CLAIMED THAT BAD NEGOTIATORS HAD WORKED ON TRADE, IRAN’S NUCLEAR AGREEMENT, CLIMATE CHANGE. SHOW US WHAT “THE WORLD’S GREATEST” CAN DO!

Throughout his Presidential Campaign, Donald Trump complained about: the Trans-Pacific Partnership; adverse trade agreements with Mexico and China; the six-nation nuclear agreement with Iran and, of course, any of President Barack Obama’s accomplishments!  He often tied the two points together: we negotiated bad deals, because we have bad negotiators.

But, can’t Mr. Trump see that he now has the best possible negotiating team, and the Negotiator-in-Chief is personally available to turn things around!  Surely the (presumed) Author of “The Art of the Deal” can bring all of his super negotiating skills to bear. 

 Keep in mind, that if we do leave the TPP—a trade pact, which consolidates the fastest-growing region on earth under one “roof”—we will be offering our seat to China.  And, President Xi Jinping will be quite pleased to replace us, and assume our leadership position,

The nuclear agreement with Iran, which was thought to be only a couple of months away from having The Bomb, has truly accomplished its very important purpose!  Tehran shipped both 95% of its plutonium and its centrifuges out of the country, in June of 2014, when the negotiations began.  So, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s worst nightmare—a nuclear-armed Iran—has not come to pass.  Psst: Israel has had an entire nuclear arsenal itself, for decades!

And lastly, remember that New World Order that Trump has been dissing—off and on—whenever it suits his purpose?  That’s the UN, NATO, the IMF, World Bank, the WTO, etc.  Guess what?  Those organizations, established after World War II, have: enhanced the global economic recovery: promoted world peace; and further led to a better functioning world.  

As Donald Trump must surely know, the best time to drive that hard bargain is when you are in a position of relative strength!  America did not suffer the double whammy, of both The Great Depression and a Major War being fought on U. S. Soil, during the 1930s and 40s.  Yes, we fought in the War, lost a lot of good men, and drained our National Treasury.  In the end, however, we were in much better shape then either the vanquished, or even the other victors.

America must retain a leadership position when aid, assistance and leadership are needed to:  reverse global climate change; provide financial, medical and manpower assistance in combating medical pandemics; and we must remain in the forefront in responding to natural disasters.  Helping people in times of distress, helps prevent future wars!  

Following any military confrontations, we must act benevolently, if we win, and be thankful if we lose.  Outrageous reparation payments should never be assessed on the vanquished.  The harsh treatment forced on Germany, by the Allies after World War I, merely laid the groundwork for an even deadlier World War II, just 20 years later.  After World War II, however, America instituted the Marshall Plan, by providing $13 billion ($130 billion in 2015 dollars) to help re-build European economies.

Donald Trump should re-consider some of his misguided ideas, and the harsh rhetoric that he has been using to attack a number of global and regional institutions.  As long as the U. S. still maintains a level of stature, Mr. Trump should reflect on another Republican President, Theodore Roosevelt, who was often associated with the phrase: “Speak softly, but carry a big stick!”

NOTE:  If anyone wonders why I was so easy, on Donald Trump, in writing this post, just read the prior post, where I had questioned whether anyone would want his hands on the key that launches the nukes.   In past posts, I have used every name in the book, in referring to Donald Trump.

I took a somewhat different approach this time.  Donald says the negotiators on the deals that he wants to replace–mostly everything–were really awful.  But now, with His Team, led by him as the Negotiator-in-Chief, I say:  Go for it!  Donald, it’s time to “Put-up, or Shut-up!”

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GERMAN CHANCELLOR ANGELA MERKEL WILL MEET WITH DONALD TRUMP ON FRIDAY. WHICH SIDE WILL HE GET—CHARMING ANGELA, OR NASTY?

Raised in East Germany, where her father was a minister, Mrs. Merkel earned a Ph.D. in physics, and worked as a scientist.  After the Berlin Wall fell in 1989; however, she entered politics, and has been the German Chancellor for the past ten years.  As Donald Trump will find, Angela Merkel is anything, but the quiet hausfrau.  An article from popular German periodical “Spiegel” provides more detail for Friday’s meeting.

They will meet at the White House, in what is hoped to be the beginning of a friendly relationship-building process.  So far, Germany and the European Union believe that the Trump Regime will be more pragmatic than previously expected, due to the ouster of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.  They believe that the new NSA, H. R. McMaster, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, are more rational presidential advisors whom they can work with, in order to maintain a strong Atlantic Alliance.

Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary Mattis and Secretary of Homeland Security, John Kelly, calmed fears, at the recent European Security Conference, in Munich, where they all reaffirmed America’s support for NATO.  Although there was no discussion, on the part of the Americans, about the European Union,  Chancellor Merkel hopes to update Trump on its purpose, its history, and the simplification it provides the U. S., in dealing with one entity, rather than all 27 E. U. member nations.

Germany has noticed some changes in Trump’s actions, post-Inauguration, which it believes are showing a more open-minded person.  At least so far, the Iran Nuclear Agreement is still in place, and he hasn’t moved the U. S. Embassy in Israel, from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.  Mrs. Merkel also recalls that, on January 28, Donald Trump called her, so that she might explain the Russian Policy with regard to Ukraine, before he called Russian President Vladimir Putin.  That was certainly a positive note.

Mrs. Merkel believes that Trump has more trust when dealing with business executives than with politicians; so, she is bringing the Chairmen of two of Germany’s blue chip corporations—Siemens and BMW—to join-in the Friday meeting.  They will explain the number of jobs that Germany creates in the U. S., the fact that one-third of its foreign investment goes to America, and that German auto makers build more vehicles in this country than it exports to us.

Chancellor Merkel is also prepared to demonstrate her nasty side; but, only if she must.   Germany’s trade relationship with America is an important one and, if Trump begins a trade war with China and Mexico, Germany is ready to go on the offensive.  Among Germany’s defensive weapons are:  counter-tariffs, in response to America’s.  It could also allow German corporations to write-off American tariffs and taxes; and Germany could lower its own tax rates so that its companies will remain profitable.

There is another tool that German exporters, as well as American importers, are concerned about:  Trump’s suggested “border adjustment tax”, which might not be in compliance with World Trade Organization rules.   This tax would be deductible for American companies for goods that they export overseas; however, the cost of importing products, or foreign components for inclusion in domestically manufactured products, would not be deductible.

The entire E. U. is prepared to take the border adjustment tax to the WTO.  Additionally, the European Commission has been reviewing Google for competition violations, and McDonald’s and Starbucks for tax evasion; however, that list may potentially be expanded.

Cecilia Maelstrom, the E. U. Trade Commissioner, has been visiting other countries and regions in order to maintain free and open trade, in case the U. S. isolates itself through protectionism.   Other regions, such as Asia-Pacific and Latin America, in turn, are also considering taking similar actions.  If Donald Trump does, in fact, lead America into a trade war, we might find ourselves isolated from an ever-interconnected Global Marketplace.

NOTE:   Welcome to my readers from (the former Soviet) Georgia!

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ITS TIME TO PULL THE PLUG ON THE DONALD J. TRUMP PRESIDENCY!

As I watched his Campaign Rally, this afternoon, from Melbourne, Florida, I can only say that Donald J. Trump has, indeed, gone stark raving Mad!  Yes, that’s right—he’s campaigning for President, and continuing to spew divisiveness!  Just the fact that someone, who has only been in office for one month, and has demonstrated quite clearly that he is incompetent, and in way over his head, is already out campaigning for “Four More Years!”

This has got to be initiated within the Republican Party, as I suggested in a recent post, because they control both Houses of Congress.  Congress is the Branch of Government, which is authorized to oversea the President and, frankly, Trump and his entire staff need to go!  Donald Trump, who apparently has never encountered discipline or oversight, has been acting as if he is above the Law, as well as the Constitution.  And anyone who has stood by, enabling such behavior, is complicit in the danger that he represents for America.

Several days ago, while holding a joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Donald Trump not only made derogatory comments about an election that was more than three months past; but, he also defended the National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn, who he had only fired a couple of days before.  Also, rumors abound that, at least one of Flynn’s former deputies, from when he was fired by the Army in 2014, might still be working on the National Security Council Staff.

Our allies and trading partners, around-the-world, seem to be planning for a period in which America is no longer a close friend.  He offended Australia, one of our closest allies, both in the Pacific and the Middle East, when he made an offensive, and rude, telephone call to Prime Minister Turnbull.  He failed to comprehend America’s long-time One-China Policy, when he called the President of Taiwan.  And, virtually all of South America is siding with Mexico, and forging closer ties with European and Asian trading Partners.

The most ignorant tactic that Trump has attempted so far, however, is how he is treating Europe—somewhat like a piñata.  Both V. P. Michael Pence and Secretary of Defense, James Matthis, have been attending a meeting of European Defense Ministers, this past several days.  When they reaffirm America’s support for NATO, but make no mention of the European Union, it can make one wonder—don’t they know that many of the members of one, also belong to the other?

Up to a point, anyone can say that new Administration commonly have different Plans; but, with the Trump Regime, there doesn’t appear to be any concrete Plan!  Admiral Robert Harvard reportedly turned-down the role of National Security Advisor, since he couldn’t name his own staff.  However, word also got out that he made-up his mind after watching Trump’s press conference, yesterday, in which he vehemently attacked the Media. General David Petreus also reportedly insists on naming his own staff, if appointed. And, let’s not forget that Trump has politicized the NSC by naming Steve Bannon, his Chief Political Strategist, to it–as a Permanent Member!

Considering all of this nonsense—disruption within the West Wing, the Lying Game, attacking the Media, favoring Loyalty over Competence, and paying tribute to a fired National Security risk—that just sets the stage for utter chaos!  When someone forgets that he put the car keys in the freezer, or walks two blocks from home and doesn’t know where she is, its time for an Intervention.  Well, with Donald Trump already on the campaign trails, let’s Intervene before he loses the Keys to the Nuclear Arsenal!

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Books That I Recommend

During my forty year career, I hardly ever read a book, and then only an occasional one which was work-related.   Approximately six months ago, I began reading books from our County Library.  So far, I’ve had great luck in my selections, and I would like to list a few of them. OVER TIME, I WILL MAKE ADDITIONS TO THIS LIST.  If you don’t find one that might interest you, perhaps consider another!

GLOBAL PUBLIC HEALTH—TWO ALL-ROUND FEEL-GOOD STORIES:

Epic Measures:  by Jeremy N. Smith.

Christopher Murray, a Harvard-trained M.D, with an Oxford, Ph.D. in Medical Health Economics, challenges the Global Health Establishment and wins.  His tool is a data base of virtually every known disease, broken-down by country.  The free on-line “GMD Compare” is linked, as follows: http://vizhub.healthdata.org/gbd-compare/.

Mountains Beyond Mountains:  by Tracy Kidder.

Paul Farmer, a fellow resident at “Brigham” with Chris Murray (cited above), and Jim Yong Kim, vowed to “Save the World”, and they are working on it.  Farmer and Kim, through their Partners in Health, also challenged the Establishment, and appear to be winning.  PIH has taken top-flight health care to the poorest of the poor, in Haiti, Mexico, Rwanda, and a Siberian Gulag.

THE AMERICAN HEALTH CARE SYSTEM:

Reinventing American Health Care:  How the Affordable Care Act will improve our terribly complex, blatantly unjust, outrageously expensive, grossly inefficient, error prone system:  by Emanuel, Ezekiel J.

Dr. Emanuel is a Professor of Oncology and Medical Ethics at the University of Pennsylvania, and was a key architect of the Affordable Care Act (derisively called “Obamacare” by the Republicans). program currently provides health insurance to some 25 million previously uninsured Americans. Dr. Emanuel acknowledges that any Health Care, or Insurance, System can always be improved upon.

When Breath Becomes Air:  by Paul Kalanithi

A young neurosurgeon, who way about to take the next step, in a most successful career, has the tables turned on him.  At age 36, he is diagnosed with lung cancer, and begins to face the hard reality, but as the patient, rather than the physician.  Dr. Kalanirh, a lover of Literature, Emailed his best friend to advise him of his terminal cancer, included: “The good news is:  I’ve outlived two Brontes, Keats and Stephen Crane.  The bad news is that I haven’t written anything'”  This book,  indeed, is a wonderful, and compelling one!

ORIGINS OF HUMANITY:

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, by Yuval Noah Harari

A great historical and scientific explanation of Who we are, Where we came from, and How we got here. The obvious idea is to understand our past in order to contemplate our future. Namely, what We, as a Species, will become in the future?

OUR ENVIRONMENT:

Climate of Hope, by Michael Bloomberg and Carl Pope 

As many nations and politicians have dropped the ball on correcting today’s Environmental Dangers, Michael and Carl describe how some 7,000 local governments have stepped-in to fill the void.  They focus on the far-reaching problem from a four-pronged perspective:  Business; Government; Philanthropy and Environmental.  Convincing business that a healthy environment works sure helps!  (A blog post, describing his book, is linked, as follows.)

The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future:  by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway

Two scientists have written a science fiction novel, which predicts what the Earth, that Mankind passes on to successive generations, might be like. We must change direction, in order avoid assured destruction.  Related post on this book.

Three Days in January:  by Brett Baier

This book provides a most interesting combination:  a biography of President and General Dwight David Eisenhower; the historical “Passing of the Torch”, from “Ike” to President John F. Kennedy; and a treatise in leadership at the very highest levels. Ike’s constant referring to our First President, George Washington, and the intentions of the Framers of our Constitution are provided as context for today’s political reality.  Also:  Ike warned against The Military Industrial Complex!

THE FINANCIAL CRISIS (4Q07 TO 1Q09): Two Books

Stress Test:  by Timothy F. Geithner

Tim Geithner was President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York at the beginning of the crisis and, then, he moved over to take Hank Paulson’s place, as Secretary of the Treasury during the First Obama Administration. The FRB-NY implements the Federal Reserve Board’s Monetary Policy.  Why did the Government Bail-Out Wall St, and not Main Street?

Too Big to Fail: the inside story of how Wall Street and Washington fought to save the financial system from crisis–and themselves:  by Andrew Ross Sorkin

Respected Wall Street journalist—as a reporter from the NY Times and morning host on CNBC-TV—Mr. Sorkin describes the crises from outside the Government, with numerous excerpts of discussions and interviews with the Wall Street participants

The Many Facets of Racism/Bigotry:

Freeman:  by Leonard Pitts, Jr.

In this well-researched historical novel, Mr. Pitts describes life, in the Deep South, given the uncertainty of what life had become in the vanquished south, immediately after the Civil War.

Born A Crime:  by Trevor Noah:

Trevor Noah uses the same whit, which he displays on TV’s The Daly Show, to describe the exploits of a Naughty Boy, born illegally in South Africa.  He further provides a caustic analysis of the life of Non-Whites under Apartheid.  Racism from another angle!

Tears We Cannot Stop:  A Sermon to White America, by Michael Eric Dyson.

Georgetown University Professor Dyson, who is also a Baptist Minister, explains to White America what it means to be black—truly Black, in America. As a sociologist, Dyson explains that, until we come to terms with our own racism, which has been stewing for 400 years, we will never advance as a Society.   Relevant blog post.

Shoot like a girl : one woman’s dramatic fight in Afghanistan and on the home front:  by  Mary Jennings Hegar

This is a very compelling story about one women’s fight, against sexism in the Military, first to become a pilot, then to be recognized for her capabilities in combat and, then, her fight in civilian life for the next generation of females to advance in all military combat assignments.  At 5′ 4″, Major Jennings Hegar demonstrated that the little “guy” can, and often will, win.

The Plot Against America:  by Philip Roth

Another historical novel, as told through the eyes of eleven year-old “Philip”, growing-up in a Jewish neighborhood, in pre-World War II America. The setting is famed aviator Charles Lindbergh, an avid Nazi-Sympathizer, defeating incumbent President Franklin D. Roosevelt, for the Presidency, in Isolationist America. The ironies with the current political environment abound.

Mankind, and our Sense of Humanity:

Tribe–On Homecoming and Belonging:  by Sebastian Junger.

Tribe is a wonderful book, that calls on a number of academic fields, in order to describe Mankind’s search for a sense of belonging. Mr. Junger traces this Tribalism from Colonial America, the WWII London Blitz, returning war veterans with PTSD, the lasting psychological effects on rape victims, etc.  His book “War” is also an outstanding, sometimes academic, journey into the minds and internal operation of Men in Combat. The outstanding review of Tribe, from the Guardian (UK) is linked, as follows: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/jun/22/tribe-by-sebastian-junger-revie

NEW ADDITION: GRIT, by Angela Duckworth

Throughout this book, Professor Duckworth searches for the answer to one of psychology’s most intriguing questions: To what extent are Accomplishments due to Talent, as compared to hard work? Are we born with the capability, or must we practice, or compete to achieve it? In essence, is it: Nature or Nurture?

During her research, Angela Duckworth has worked with, interviewed, visited with, or collaborated with: West Point staff and cadets; Pete Carroll and the Seattle Seahawks; various corporate CEOs; Bill and Melinda Gates; college coaches; Olympic Athletes; other social scientists, and even her own daughters. This is not another of those Self-Help books; however, some of the lessons learned, by Ms. Duckworth, can make you a better: leader; teacher; co-worker; organizer; parent, etc.

War and Understanding:

My Lai 4:  A Report on the Massacre, by U. S. Troops in (hen South) Vietnam, and Its Aftermath, by Seymour M. Hersh

Sy Hersh won a Pulitzer Prize for uncovering, what I believe, was the very darkest hour of the U.S. Army. Elements of the Army’s Americal Division massacred some 550 Vietnamese old men, women, children, even suckling babies—for no other reason, perhaps other than “scoring body counts”. The Courts Marshall went nowhere.

The Coldest Winter:   by David Halberstrom

This is about “The Forgotten War” (as some Vets called it)–Korea.  The story runs from the highest political offices, Truman, State, the Pentagon, to General MacArthur, who believed that he out-ranked God, and on through the chain-of-command, from generals to grunts in the foxholes.  The politics of this War, including MacArthur being relieved–and rightfully so, makes for a compelling story of that Era.  I had not been aware of the divisiveness within America–similar to today, which was caused by MacArthur’s quite quickly-deflated political aspirations.

Code Warriors:  NSA’s Codebreakers and the Secret Intelligence War Against the Soviet Union. By Stephen Budiansky

This story begins with the joint British-American Cryptologists during World War II, who broke the Nazis Enigma Code, and follows the feuding military factions, in the Battle of Signals (all electronics) Intelligence, and then some.  As NSA was formed, in the 1950s, to coordinate the entire SIGINT effort, the feuding continued, but with another Agency, the newly-formed Central Intelligence Agency.  Washington politics and in-fighting at its worst

Foreign Affairs:

NEW ADDITION:  Monsoon: by Robert D. Kaplan

This would be an excellent read for anyone interested in Foreign Policy, or perhaps Chess. Mr. Kaplan, suggests that today’s Atlantic-Pacific Ocean focus is outdated. A new Two-Ocean Policy is becoming more relevant—one based on the Indian and Western Pacific Oceans. Besides China, Kaplan suggests that a rising India will become increasingly evident, as the two Asian Giants counter one another.

The world’s trouble spots—the Horn of Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, Iran, the Indian Subcontinent and Southeast Asia—are all in, or near, the Indian Ocean. Also, with Energy Security currently of the highest importance, the two choke holds in the global transit of Oil and LNG—the Malacca Straits and the Gulf of Hormuz—are both in its path.

Against All Enemies, by Richard A. Clarke

When terrorists attacked America, using jetliners, on September 11, 2001, just think of the questions that Richard Clarke, the “Counterterrorism Czar” had to deal with:  close our skies, land all flights, none leave or enter; what about flights in-bound from Europe, low on fuel; where’s the President and where do we take him; First Lady, VP; casualty report; get first responders rolling, and call for back-ups; close harbors; casualty report; etc.  And, that’s just part of Chapter One.

Feel-Good Stories:

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide;        by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.

This book tells the stories of a multitude of people—victims of sexual slavery, non-existent health care, decade’s-long civil warfare, etc—who discovered ways out, and had the charity to, then, help others. You might find other, similar books by this husband and wife team of interest.

I Am Malala:   by Malala Yousafzai

I actually read this book last year; however, it is just too good not to include.  The theme–the importance of Education, especially for young women in  the developing world–fits right in with Half the Sky, by the Kristofs, just listed above.  Malala won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 for literally standing up to the Taliban, in Pakistan, receiving a bullet in the face–and a long hospital stay in  London.  Buy the book, if you can, and donate it to a school library near your home.

The day the world came to town : 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland

by Jim DeFede

On that fateful day, when America was under attack, by airliners being flown by terrorists into skyscrapers and the Pentagon, and passengers caused one to crash in a Western Pennsylvania field, the Government closed the skies over the U. S. What options did the 29 in-coming airliners have, as they were running low on fuel after having crossed the Atlantic?

No major city, either in Canada or the U. S. wanted to offer a runway to land on. This book is a heartwarming tribute to the gracious People of Gander, Newfoundland, who displayed the human kindness the no one else could or would!  A related blog post is linked.

The Rosie Project, by Graeme Samson

A hilarious romantic novel about a middle-aged professor of genetics, with Asperger’s Syndrome, deciding that he needs to find a wife. So, he draws-up a 16 page questionnaire for candidates to complete. Need I say more? Bill Gates’ wife, Melinda, suggested that he read it, since it deals with the focused mind of a logically-focused person.

The Second Machine Age, Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies, by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee

This book describes how today’s Technological Revolution, the Digital Age, is taking-over where the Industrial Revolution had begun. Now, as then, innovation often doesn’t necessarily precede applications, the two of which might come in either order or simultaneously. And in same cases, intermediate inventions or applications might be required.

Thought Provoking Books:

The Journey That Saved Curious George,  By Louise Borden, and Illustrated by Allan Drummond.

This is the classic instance of the more interesting back-story, about how the little monkey, who always gets into trouble, managed to escape the Nazis.   Curious George’s creators, Margret and H. A. Rey, both German Jews, took quite a round-about journey, with the manuscripts, while leaving in Paris.  There are generations of older fans of the 76 year-old George, who might enjoy reading the story.  My four year-old grandson, Henry, however, will have to read it to himself, when he is ready.

Moneyball:  By Michael Lewis

In this story, the little guy wins.  Once upon a time, the Oakland A’s, with one of the smallest budgets in Major League Baseball had a better record just about all of the other teams, that had bigger budgets, and paid players much higher salaries.  They challenged the Establishment, using statistical analysis, in managing their teams.  A great read, even if you’re not a baseball fan.

The Undoing Project:  by Michael Lewis

This is quite a hilarious book, about two Israeli Psychologists: Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky. Their ground-breaking work on decision-making theory: created the new field of Behavioral Economics; revolutionized Big-Data studies; advanced evidence-based medicine and more rational government regulation.

Hillbilly Elegy, by J. D. Vance

After World War II, many people from Appalachia moved-up, to southern Ohio and Indiana, searching for a better way-of-life. But, they retained their Hillbilly culture—extreme poverty, lacking job skills or a respect for education. Actually, Appalachia moved north with them. This is J. D. Vance’s personal story about how he escaped, gained a good education and began a successful career; but, he still shares many of those same Hillbilly values.

NOTE:  Please leave a Comment, whether you found a recommend book helpful or not, in your quest for rational knowledge.  TKS, CHEEKOS.

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BOOKS THAT I RECOMMEND:

During my forty year career in Investment Services, I hardly ever read a book, and then only an occasional one that was generally work-related.  Approximately six months ago, however, I began reading books from our County Library, on a multitude of topics.  So far, I’ve had great luck in my selections, and I would like to list a few of them.  OVER TIME, I WILL MAKE ADDITIONS TO THIS LIST.  If you don’t find one that might interest you, perhaps consider another!

GLOBAL PUBLIC HEALTH—TWO ALL-ROUND FEEL-GOOD STORIES:

Epic Measures, by Jeremy N. Smith.

Christopher Murray, a Harvard-trained M.D, with an Oxford, Ph.D. in Medical Health Economics, challenged the Global Health Establishment and won.  His tool is a data base of virtually every known disease, broken-down by country.  Knowledge of country-specific diseases enables more accurate, disease-specific appropriations.  The free on-line “GMD Compare” is linked, as follows: http://vizhub.healthdata.org/gbd-compare/.

Mountains Beyond Mountains, by Tracy Kidder.

Paul Farmer, a fellow resident at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, with Chris Murray (cited above), and Jim Yong Kim, all three vowed to “Save the World,” and they are still working toward that goal.  Farmer and Kim, through their Partners in Health, also challenged the Establishment, and appear to be winning, as well.  PIH is providing high-quality health care to some of the poorest and remotest locations on Earth:  Haiti, Mexico, Rwanda, and a Siberian Gulag.

THE AMERICAN HEALTH CARE SYSTEM:

Reinventing American Health Care: How the Affordable Care Act will improve our terribly complex, blatantly unjust, outrageously expensive, grossly inefficient, error prone system: by Emanuel, Ezekiel J.

Dr. Emanuel is a Professor of Oncology and Medical Ethics at the University of Pennsylvania, and was a key architect of the Affordable Care Act (derisively called “Obamacare” by the Republicans).  This program currently provides health insurance to some 25 million previously uninsured Americans.  Dr. Emanuel acknowledges that any Health Care, or Insurance, System can always be improved upon.

ORIGINS OF HUMANITY:

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, by Yuval Noah Harari

A great historical and scientific explanation of Who we are, Where we came from, and How we got here.  The obvious idea is to understand our past in order to contemplate our future.

ENVIRONMENTALLY-BASED SCIENCE FICTION:

The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future, by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway

Two scientists have written this science fiction novel, which predicts what the Earth, which Mankind is currently passing on to successive generations, might be like.  We must change direction, in order to avoid assured destruction.

THE FINANCIAL CRISIS (4Q07 TO 1Q09):

Stress Test: by Timothy F. Geithner

Tim Geithner was President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York at the beginning of the crisis and, then, he moved over to take Hank Paulson’s place, as Secretary of the Treasury during the First Obama Administration.  The FRB-NY implements the Federal Reserve Board’s Monetary Policy.  The book reveals the thinking from inside the Obama Financial Team.

Too Big to Fail:  the inside story of how Wall Street and Washington fought to save the financial system from crisis–and themselves,  by Andrew Ross Sorkin

Respected Wall Street journalist—as a reporter for the NY Times and a morning host on CNBC-TV—Mr. Sorkin describes the crises from outside the Government, with numerous excerpts of discussions and interviews with the Wall Street and Government participants.

Historically based Racism in America:

Freeman, by Leonard Pitts, Jr.

In this well-researched historical novel, Mr. Pitts describes life, in the Deep South, given the uncertainty of what life had actually become, in the vanquished south, immediately after the Civil War.

The Plot Against America,  by Philip Roth

A historically fictional novel, as told through the eyes of eleven year-old “Philip”, growing-up in a Jewish neighborhood of Newark, NJ, during pre-World War II America.  The hypothetical situation assumes that famed aviator Charles Lindbergh, an avid Nazi-Sympathizer, defeated incumbent President Franklin D. Roosevelt, for the Presidency, in Isolationist America.  Published in 2005, the ironies with the current political environment abound.

Mankind, and our Sense of Humanity:

Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging, by Sebastian Junger.

Tribe is a wonderful book, that calls on a number of academic fields, in order to describe Mankind’s search for a sense of belonging.  Mr. Junger traces this Tribalism from Colonial America, the WWII London Blitz, returning war veterans with PTSD, the lasting psychological effects on rape victims, etc.  The outstanding review, from the Guardian (UK) is linked, as follows: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/jun/22/tribe-by-sebastian-junger-review.

War and Misunderstanding:

My Lai 4: A Report on the Massacre and Its Aftermath,  by Seymour M. Hersh

Sy Hersh won a Pulitzer Prize for uncovering, what I believe, was the very darkest hour of the U. S. Army.  Elements of the Army’s Americal Division massacred some 550 Vietnamese old men, women, children, even suckling babies—for no other reason, perhaps, than “scoring body counts”.  The Courts Marshall went nowhere in what seems to have been a massive cover-up–by many men, up-and-down the Chain-of Command.

Feel-Good Books:

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide
by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.

This book tells the stories of a multitude of people—victims of sexual slavery, non-existent health care, domestic abuse and murder, decade’s-long civil warfare, etc.  Once they found a way-out, they had the humanity to, then, help others.  You might find other, similar books by this husband and wife team of interest.

The Rosie Project,  by Graeme Samson

A hilarious fictional novel about a middle-aged professor of genetics, with Asperger’s Syndrome, deciding that he needs to find a wife, for his “Wife Project”.  So, he draws-up a 16 page questionnaire for candidates to complete.  Need I say more?  Bill Gates’ wife, Melinda, suggested that he read it, since it deals with the structured mind of a logically-focused person.

The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies,  by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee

This book describes how today’s Technological Revolution–the Digital Age–is taking-over where the Industrial Revolution had left-off.  Now, as then, innovation often doesn’t necessarily precede applications, the two of which might come in either order, or even simultaneously.  And in same cases, intermediate inventions or applications might be required.

Hillbilly Elegy, by J. D. Vance

After World War II, many people from Appalachia moved-up, to southern Ohio and Indiana, searching for a better way-of-life. But, they retained their Hillbilly culture—extreme poverty, lacking job skills or a respect for education. Actually, Appalachia moved north with them. This is J. D. Vance’s personal story about how he escaped, gained a good education and began a successful career; but, he still shares many of those same Hillbilly values.

The Rothschilds : a family portrait, by Frederic Morton

The true story of a poor man, who sends his five sons to the major capitals of Europe, creating a global financial dynasty.  There are many financial lessons to be gleaned from this book:  the origins of global banking;  the reasons for some of the most basic securities laws;  business intelligence (Intel);  and the relationship between commerce and politics.

The Hunt for Red October,  by Tom Clancy

Yes, the fiction adventure movie was great, but the book was even better.  American naval forces compete with Soviet naval forces to find and “destroy” (retrieve) a run-away technologically state-of-the-art Soviet sub.  All the while, the Americans don’t know if the Skipper has gone berserk, or is trying to turn it over to us.  Once again, the Pentagon wonders where Clancy gets his spot-on information.

 

 

 

 

 

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WHY I DUMPED MY APPLE STOCK A WEEK AGO MONDAY!

FULL DISCLOSURE:  I do not provide specific investment advice on this blog; however, I did sell all of my Apple stock last Monday.  Now, I did this for my personal reasons, and I certainly am not suggesting that you should consider selling the stock, as well.  Apple is still a great and admirable corporation, and I might even buy some back in the future.  I believe, however, that the manner in which I approached that decision might be of interest to some readers.

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I came to my conclusion, to re-shuffle my portfolio, oddly enough, while lying on a hospital gurney, waiting for a very simple procedure.  At the time, I realized that I wanted to have a bit more liquidity until I knew more about who would be on Trump’s Financial Team, and what his final agenda might be.  At least, he would still have to go through Congress, once he takes Office, and prior to making any devious moves.

In September of 2008, President George W. Bush told the nation that we were looking into a financial abyss.  The markets were a little skittish, as they always are during a Presidential hand-over; but, the anxiety was quite a bit worse due to the  financial crisis.  

Luckily, the transition from Bush’s Team to in-coming President Barack Obama’s went smoothly.  The next Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner, was merely moving over from the Fed-New York.  So,  everyone involved were experienced hands, and known quantities–both domestically and globally!

My concern this time around stems from Trump’s lack of policy knowledge, his unpredictability, and many of his ideological views that just do not stand-up to the “smell-test!”  His vow to impose tariffs on imports from Mexico and China would result in counter-tariffs on our exports to those countries.  Additionally, such Protectionism could lead to higher prices, an economy weakened by reduced consumer spending, and significantly higher unemployment.  In fact, that outcome would certainly work counter to Trump’s promise to bring the jobs back!

As the world’s largest corporation (by market capitalization), and one that assembles its iPhones in China, Apple would certainly be at the top of Donald Trump’s list of companies to harass.  I also sold a much smaller amount of First Solar since his preference to ignore the value of new technology will probably harm the overall Renewable Energy Industry.

As I liquidated Apple, I shifted some of the proceeds into Sector SPDRs, which are ETFs that invest in just the corporate components of one particular sector (i.e,. Energy, Health Care, Telecom, Utilities, etc.) within the S & P 500 Index.  ETFs trade like stock; however, when an investor buys even a narrowly-defined sector, they get the strong companies, along with the weak.  I have linked the inter-active web site, which enables the reader to check the performance of a particular sector at various time-frames.  The link is as follows:  http://www.sectorspdr.com/sectorspdr/tools/sector-tracker.

For instance, I believe that the Energy SPDR, which is composed mostly of oil, gas and coal companies would benefit by having less competition from renewables, under Trump.  Health Care, with Trump’s threat to repeal “Obamacare”, is one to watch, since we do not know what, if anything, will replace it.  Telecom might prosper from the elimination of “Net Neutrality”; but, Utilities would be harmed if his protectionist trade policies result in higher inflation, and rising interest rates.

I tend to consider myself to be a Macro-Investor. There are so many extraneous factors that impact the financial markets, which many investment professionals either ignore or simply do not understand.  But the markets can be effected by trade policy, global political alliances, health care pandemics, and cultural discrimination, among other things.  In essence, financial markets do not exist in a vacuum.

NOTE:  If you have any questions about this post, just leave a Comment below.

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SO FAR, TRUMP’S TRADE POLICY FOCUS—TARIFFS AND CURRENCY MANIPULATION—IS ABSURD!

Throughout Donald Trump’s Presidential Campaign, both during the Primaries and the General, he has focused his rhetoric on bringing industrial jobs back to America. Perhaps it doesn’t matter that many of those jobs have transferred into the service industry, been upgradeded into the Digital Age or been replaced by new technology.  Needs sell, facts don’t!

Two of Trump’s more often expressed promises have been that: he will slap tariffs on Imports from Mexico and China, and he will rein-in Chinese currency manipulation, so its value won’t be overstated.  Once the harangue is brushed away, however, these  assertions don’t make much sense!  Let me separate the two and, first discuss Tariffs and, then consider Currency Manipulation.  Boring? Yes, but bear with me!

Trade usually takes place between two countries; so, if if Country A imposes a tariff on imports from Country B, Country B often reciprocates and levies a tariff against Country A’s exports.  So, in the end, such trade wars are inflationary, the tariffs are passed-on to the consumers of each country.  Inflation rises, and workers in both countries may face job cuts.

For instance, the $25,000 Ford Fusion, which is imported from Mexico, might now cost $33,750, after the proposed Trump 35% tariff.  Assuming that less Fusions would be sold at the higher price, some Mexican workers would probably be laid-off.  But, so would some American workers in the U. S, who make many of the Fusion components, that are exported to Mexico.  Therefore, consumers and workers, in both nations, would lose!

The Chinese currency, the Renmimbi (or Yuan) has declined by 11% in value over the past 18 months, versus the U. S. Dollar.  The weakening Chinese economy caused the decline in the value of its currency.  Additionally, the Renmimbi became one of the (now five) “Reserve Currencies” this past October 1 and, as such, it is now generally acceptable in many international transactions.  Accordingly, the Renmimbi is now subject to greater scrutiny, with regard to possible manipulations, in order to maintain its new elite status..

Propping a currency up above its true value, however, would make Chinese products more expensive in the overseas markets and, thus, reduce sales.  The weak Renminbi also encourages wealthy Chinese to maintain their liquid funds in stronger overseas currencies, including the purchase of hard assets.  Currently, the U. S. Government is monitoring Chinese investments in America, which have doubled in value since 2015.

As far as these two components of Donald Trump’s Trade Policy, tariffs just serve no constructive purpose whatsoever, and manipulation of the Renmimbi appears to be non-existent.  Only time will tell us which among Trump’s vague policies: will receive Congressional approval,  might be enacted through executive order, and which policies were merely ideas that he had no real inclination to pursue.

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WHY DID THE GOVERNMENT BAIL-OUT THE BANKS, AND NOT HOMEOWNERS?

In late 2008, President George W. Bush, Secretary of the Treasury Hank Paulson, and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, met with the CEOs of the nation’s largest banks.  Bush stated that the nation was looking down into a Financial Abyss.  At that meeting, he announced that he had instructed Treasury to immediately transfer tens of billions of dollars to each of those banks and, later, the Fed Chairman suggested that there was plenty of more money where that came from.

Over the next six months, the stock market continued to plunge, and unemployment continued to climb, after Lehman Brothers fell into bankruptcy.  As cash liquidity and available credit vanished, businesses closed, and the housing market hit rock bottom as foreclosures surged.  Unemployed workers just could not stay current on their mortgage payments, and they reduced their consumer spending, as well.  

As a financial advisor during that time, I can attest to the fear and anxiety that many consumers, not just homeowners, felt during the so-called “Great Depression.”  The teamwork and creative hard work that the Fed and Treasury put in, during both the Bush and Obama Administrations, is still not adequately appreciated.  The common question was, and still is: Why Wall Street and not Main Street?

There are several parts to the answer:  the Fed and Treasury already had, at least, some of the necessary tools on hand to bail-out the banking system; while new programs to aid consumers, especially homeowners, and expand the social safety net, would need the approval of a dysfunctional Congress.  As such, the quickest response was a matter of financial logistics.  Main Street–think the Economy–absolutely needs a functioning Banking System.  Many financial analysts, at the time, referred to the economy as the “patient”, and they figuratively followed it’s virtual progress:  into ER: through Triage: OR: Post-Op: and beyond.

In that context, consider liquid money and the availability of credit as being vital to the proper functioning of the economy, similar to the flow of blood and oxygen within a human’s overall system.  And the credibility—both the capability and the willingness—of the government to build a firewall around the banking system, represents the hope for the patient’s survival.  That’s why the government threw lots and lots of money at the banks, beginning in October of 2008.

The Treasury and Fed did try to devise new programs to assist consumers directly:  extending unemployment compensation; food stamps; short-term loans; mortgage assistance; but, over time, they realized that they were merely using tools with low probability of short-term success.  Enhancing the liquidity within the banking system; however, and forcing banks to make credit available, had a much better chance of expanding the job market, and thereby resuscitating the economy.

Bailing-out GM and Chrysler, which are not even banks, demonstrated a great opportunity to jump-start the economy, on a top-down, rather than individual, basis.  By keeping those two corporate giants solvent, the government not only kept auto workers in the labor force; but, also those of:  the parts suppliers; steel companies; auto dealerships; auto insurers and finance companies, and a multitude of other American workers.  People who are employed pay taxes, buy homes and cars; patronize the retail stores, etc.  And consumer spending, in turn, just creates even more jobs, and so on!

Following the Stock Market Crash of ’29, and the subsequent Great Depression, new legislation was enacted, creating the FDIC deposit insurance and other financial safeguards.  At the beginning of his Administration, President Barack Obama initiated the drafting of new legislation—updated for today’s much more complex financial marketplace—to reduce the potential for other dire economic melt-downs in the future.  Unfortunately, the Dodd-Frank legislation has been watered-down by the Republicans in Congress, and after six years, they still want to repeal it.  When will they ever learn?

NOTE:  For anyone who has an interest in learning more about The Great Recession, I very strongly recommend “Stress Test”, a book by Timothy Geithner.  Mr. Geithner was intimately involved, both as Secretary of the Treasury and President of the New York Fed, throughout the Financial Crisis, as well as the various currency crises in Mexico and Asia, in the 1990s. That and other books relevant to that time are on the “Recommended Books” on this blog.

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