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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HOWEVER SUBLIMINAL THE RACISM, DONALD TRUMP PROVIDES THE SPARK!

Throughout history, mankind has been resentful of others.  Back in pre-History, various Hominoid species fought each other for supremacy.  Slavery came to America some 400 years ago as White men assumed to own Africans, brought forcibly to the Colonies.

Over the years since, various ethnic groups, peoples of other religions or beliefs arrived, and more recently, people of different orientations emerged.  Women had demanded equality!  Rather than accept, assimilate and take advantage of these changes, many Americans have preferred to maintain the established order—the status quo!

Enter the demagogue to provide that spark, hell-bent on instigating the “Divide and Conquer” strategy.  Adolf Hitler took that approach in 1930s Germany when he attacked, in succession: the Communists; the Socialists; the Trade Unionists; the Jews…and then, they came for “Me”.  The point of German Lutheran Pastor Martin Niemöller’s eloquent poem “First they came…” was the cowardice of German intellectuals to speak-out, as the Nazi’s purged each successive target group, and thus conquered the entire population by dividing it.

Donald Trump has been using the very same Divide and Conquer strategy, that Hitler did some 80-85 years before, when he announced his candidacy, in June of 2015.  After making vague comments about ISIS, China and Japan, he laid into Mexico.  “They’re bringing drugs.  They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.  And some, I assume, are good people.”  How nice of Donald too acknowledge that not all Mexicans are bad!

After Mexico and the Mexican People, Donald Trump directed his hate-speech at ISIS, Syrians and the Middle East, seemingly tossing them all together as if to suggest that all Muslims are terrorists!  Notice the biased logic?  And of course, as he supports law enforcement, regardless of videos of violent action taken predominantly against Blacks, Donald Trump’s divisiveness is ever-vigilant, and always provocative.

Among Donald Trump’s questionable comments and actions, once he moved into the White House, was his appointment of Steve Bannon, as a Councillor to the President, and his Chief Strategist.  To the horror of many, Trump had also appointed Bannon as a permanent member of the National Security Council, which he has since rescinded.  Before joining the Trump Regime, Bannon had been the Executive Chairman of the Breitbart News website, which he had declared to be “the platform for the Alt-Right“ in 2016.

Besides spewing his own racist hate speech throughout his short political career, by positioning Bannon as one of his chief advisors, Donald Trump has brought a key symbol of White Supremacism into the White House with him!  In fact, Steve Bannon seems to be one of just a very small number of Donald’s trusted Advisors, along with First Daughter Ivanka Trump, and son-in-law Jared Kushner.  No wonder the Hate Groups feel empowered!

Yesterday, when referring to the removal of statues of Confederate generals, Donald Trump suggested that: “(You) can’t change history, only learn from it.”  Unfortunately, Donald’s historical studies haven’t seemed to have progressed beyond “Hitler, Adolf!”

Question for Donald Trump:  You have vowed to eliminate the various Islamic terrorists groups, which are intent on harming us, just because we differ from them.  Well tell me: How do you differentiate ISIS, al-Qaeda and those other groups from the very White Supremacist elements in America, who also wish to cause harm to Americans who differ from them?  Can you explain that, Mr. Trump?

NOTE:  One of my more popular posts, “Who’s the Puppet Master behind Donald Trump’s Shadow_Government?”, written back in March, had suggested that Steve Bannon was, indeed, the Puppet Master, pulling the day-to-day strings behind Donald Trump’s Regime.  I still believe that!

 

 

 

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DONALD, “JUST BEGUN!” REALLY? THAT JOBS REPORT, ON FRIDAY, HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU! JULY WAS JUST THE 83RD STRAIGHT MONTH OF ECONOMIC GROWTH!

The Department of Labor announced that 209,000 new non-agricultural jobs were created last month, as compared to analysts’ projections of 175,000.  (Agricultural jobs are generally extracted, because they are seasonal, and vary by region of the country.)  The unemployment rate dropped incrementally to 4.3%, from 4.4%.

Donald Trump, as usual, claimed credit for the employment uptick, as well as the stock market slowly edging upward, past 22,000 on the Dow.  But, let’s put the economy into context!  What part of Donald Trump’s Agenda did he sign into law, which might have stimulated the economy, created an uptick in the labor market, or removed the disruption and uncertainty that has surrounded the Trump Regime, since Day One?    Not a damn thing! Also, it’s lucky for America that he hasn’t!

Consider his Economic Agenda.   His Tax “Reform” is not a reform; rather, it just replaces the Bush Tax Cuts, for the Top Two Percent, which had expired in 2010.   He talks about a needed Infrastructure Plan; but, where is it?  And, his Trade Policy is complete lunacy: opting-out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and enabling China to join, and probably take our leadership role; while, at the same time, he is also disrupting our trading agreements and strategic alliances with Canada and Mexico, and he has alienated the entire Continent of Europe.   No, Donald, you have not accomplished anything, at all!   And, perhaps, that’s to our good fortune!

Your predecessor assumed an economy with the worst Recession since The Great Depression of the 1930s, a 10.0% unemployment rate, and a stock market, which had dropped by more than 50% in the previous 18 months.  He went to work, rolled-up his sleeves, fought the Republicans who lectured him and obstructed him every step of the way.  But, President Obama got things turned-around, and without a Tweet or a photo-op!

I believe, Donald, that if you check with your Secretary of Labor, you will find that the continued growth of the economy is due to the fact that the U. S. has just enjoyed its 83rd straight month of growth in a row.  Oh and by the way, President Obama saved General Motors and Chrysler Corporation, and kept 1.9 million Americans working.

Employees of those companies, including their parts and component suppliers, finance subsidiaries, insurance companies, dealerships, etc,  continued working, paying taxes and contributing to our economic growth.   So Donald, don’t you dare pretend to take credit for President’s Obama’s great economic accomplishments!

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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 mid-summer of 2016, 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!

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 Bloomberg and Carl Pope 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.

FINANCIAL:

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.

HEALTH CARE / MEDICAL SCIENCE:

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.

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

The Caine Mutiny: By Herman Wouk.

This is a great fictitious novel, about the boredom that goes on on many Navy ships—as the everlasting preparation for action is only intermittently interrupted by the real thing. What set’s this book apart from many other books about WWII, in my opinion, is the consideration of Mental Health. Wouk had served as an officer on two DMS’s, Destroyer Minesweepers, similar to the USS Caine, in the Pacific, during the War.

NoteI was unsure as to which category to add this to; however, I believe that it might have been one of the first general circulation books to include Mental Health issues. Accordingly, I have listed The Caine Mutiny in the Health Care/Medical Science category.

The recent popularity of this 66 year-old novel might be due to the possible similarity in personality disorders, often ascribed to Donald J. Trump and the fictitious Lieutenant Commander Philip J. Queeg,

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!

The Rosie Project:  By Graeme Samson.
A hilarious, fictional 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.

FOREIGN AFFAIRS / NATIONAL SECURITY / WARFARE:

NEW ADDITION:  I Was Told to Come Alone:  By  Souad Mekhennet.

Undoubtedly the best, most compelling book that I have read all year!  Non-fiction, no less!  As a young journalist, born in Germany to Turkish and Moroccan parents, Saoud Mekhennet began a journey, which included interviewing leaders of al-Qaeda, ISIS and the Taliban.  Ms. Mekhennet’s journey was an attempt to answer a poignant question, posed by Maureen Fanning, the widow of a firefighter, who was killed at the World Trade Center.

Mrs. Fanning, knowing that Souad was a young Muslim woman, of Arab descent, looked directly at her and asked:  “Why do they hate us so much?”  Ms. Mekhennet realized that there was no simple answer, and that the question must to be considered from both perspectives:  that of the West, as well as that of the Islamic World!

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!

By H. R. Mc Master.  Written by the Donald Trump’s current National SecurityAdvisor, this book exposes names, and dates, of what led up to the first of our nation’s three longest and unnecessary wars.   Based considerably on documents released through the Freedom of Information, Dereliction demonstrates how the American People and Congress can be deceived.

Breach of Trust:  By Andrew J. Bacevich.
Bacevich, a West Pointer who spent 22 years in the Army, and is now a Professor of History and International Relations, describes the transformation of the U. S. Army, after Vietnam until today. His conclusion is that America should return to the Citizen-Soldiers, that served us well, at Concord, Bull Run, as well as Leyte Gulf and Normandy Beach, rather than the Professional Warriors of today.

America’s War–For the Greater Middle East:  By Andrew J. Bacevich.

Bacevich follows-up his book, “Breach of Trust”, by describing America’s continuing unnecessary, and open-ended engagement in the Greater Middle East.  Rather than 2001, when President George W. Bush sent the U. S. Military into Afghanistan, and two years later into Iraq, our open-ended involvement in that Region goes back to 1980.  And what have we accomplished?

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

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.  Related blog post.

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.

Asia’s Caldron, By Robert D. Kaplan.
This is apparently a follow-up to Mr. Kaplan’s “Monsoon” (cited above), in which he suggested that America’s strategic focus should be on the Indian and Western Pacific Oceans, rather than the Atlantic. In Asia’s Caldron, he narrows that focus even further—at least, with regard to where the U. S. Military is most needed—to the South China Sea, which lies between Indonesia and the Philippines.  Related blog post.

NEW ADDITION:  Imperial Grunts, By Robert D. Kaplan.

Mr. Kaplan, the author of the two books, listed above, is a journalist who writes about various Foreign Policy issues.  In Imperial Grunts, he describes two U. S. Military units–twelve-man Army Special Forces A-Teams and the U. S. Marine Corps, both of  which prefer to deploy in small units.  Both seem to agree that the larger deployments are less effective, and that decisions are best made by the leaders who are directly involved.  Kaplan covers the various units by being imbedded in various SF a “Grunt” teams, around the world.

Note:  There are a number of Special Ops units, among the various services; but, the “Green Berets” do much more than just engage in Unconventional Warfare.  Their missions are patterned after those of the World War II OSS, in which they form the nucleus of local military units, instructing, advising and, when permitted, engaging in combat along side them.

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.

Flash Points—The Emerging Crisis in Europe:  By, George Friedman.
If you have an interest in the direction(s) in which Europe might be transforming itself, this is an in-depth analysis, on a geopolitical basis. Mr, Friedman, the founder of Stratfor and, now, on-line publication “Geopolitical Futures”, is a recognized authority on Geopolitical Intelligence. In essence, Friedman takes the past and projects it forward!

POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY:

Churchill & Orwell:  By, Thomas E. Ricks.

Quite an interesting dual biography about two giants of the 20th Century. Winston Churchill and George Orwell (nee: Eric Blair) never met, but there were certain parallels in their lives. Both stood against any form of authoritarianism—albeit from different directions—at a time when such a stance wasn’t popular in Great Britain

The Plot Against America:  By Philip Roth.
A 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.

POLITICS:

This Fight is Our Fight: By Elizabeth Warren.
Senator Elizabeth Warren’s book provides an excellent overview of how our Federal Government functions; but, it just doesn’t work properly for the averages American. And, for all those former Trump supporters, welcome to Sanity. Senator Warren surely is the power source, firing-up the “I Didn’t Vote for Trump” Citizens!” Al

Franken, Giant of the Senate: By, Al Franken. 
Al Franken, a former satirical comedian—writer and performer—is best-known for his 15 years on Saturday Night Live. For the past seven years, he has mostly disposed of the humor, so that he might be taken seriously in his new role as a U. S. Senator. This book is a most worthwhile read: blending humor, politics and what the actual role of a Legislator should be.

NEW ADDITION:  Insane Clown President:  By, Mtt Taibbi.

Matt Taibbi is a Contributing Editor for Rolling Stone Magazine, and is widely followed for his  political coverage.  Insane Clown Prince is a succession of his various columns, as an on-the-bus journalist, during the 2016 Presidential Campaign.  His story begins in August of 2015, and runs through until the bitter end.  Mr. Taibbi provides some thought-provoking insight as to why Hillary Clinton might have lost, and Donald Trump won. 

All the President’s Men:  By Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward.
Although this book reads like fiction, it is an extremely intriguing—step-by-step—
—account of the authors’ investigative reporting persistence, along with those of numerous journalists from other media outlets nationwide.  That collective effort was instrumental in bringing-down the Presidency of Richard M. Nixon.  The painstaking attention to detail, and professionalism, are admirably portrayed on every page.  At times, I had to remind myself that this book was published in 1974.  THE BENEFIT OF A FREE PRESS WAS NEVER MORE EVIDENT THEN…TODAY!

RACISM / BIGOTRY / SEXISM:

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.

Killers of the Flower Moon:  By David Grann.
This is a true story about a series of murders on the Osage Indian Reservation, in  1920s Oklahoma.  The case had been mishandled by various law enforcement agencies, including the small investigative arm of the U. S. Justice Department.  J. Edgar Hoover, Acting Director of the FBI, called on a former Texas Ranger, who went to work in solving the case.  This was the first major case of the newly formed, and now fabled agency.  An Osage journalist had questioned, at the time, whether the Court would consider the death of an Indian to be murder, or just animal abuse?

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.

SCIENCE / TECHNOLOGY:

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.

SOCIAL SCIENCES:

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?  The linked blog post is partly based on “Sapiens.”

THE BROKEN LADDER, How Inequality Affects the Way We Think, Live, and Die: By Keith Payne.

This intuitive book delves deeply into the New Science of Inequality. It goes well beyond what we might think of as Income-Inequality, as a relatively new economic phenomenon, for it draws on the full range of the Sciences. As someone who spent a career dealing in economics and finance, I found this book to be truly superb in expanding my understanding of the subject matter.

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 Guardian (UK) provided this excellent Review of Tribe-On Homecoming and Belonging.

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.

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.

UNCATEGORIZED:

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. The authors also have another book, “A Path Appears”, which offers suggestions about how you can hep, but bypass corrupt officials.

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.

NEW ADDITION: On Writing: By, Stephen King.

Yes, THE Stephen King who is best-known for his horror novels; however, this great read is a combination of: his childhood, as background; his education in literature; how he got started, and ascended to considerable fame; and some useful hints about writing. This is a must read for the would-be novelist, the blogger, the high school English teacher, or anyone who provides written proposals in their career. Mr. King a;so provides a Book List, at the end, for anyone looking for some good reading material.

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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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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