cheekos

I recently retired after 39 years in Financial Services. Along the way, I believe that I learned a lot, not only about Economics and Financial Markets; but, about a number of other topics. In today's World, everything is connected--Foreign Affairs, Politics, Medicine, Education, Technology, etc. Also, with today's ever-changing World, it is important for everyone to keep up with what is going on--both at home and abroad. We have to be very curious.

Homepage: https://thetruthoncommonsense.wordpress.com

My Dad aka Cheeks

Hello everyone, this is Marissa – “Cheeks’s” daughter. We wanted to let you know that my dear father sadly passed away this past January. Writing on this blog, researching the articles, and emailing / commenting with many of you was time that brought him much happiness in his post-retirement years. As his daughter, I enjoyed seeing him having fun (or getting angry at US politics), and having a sense of purpose.

This is a copy of a eulogy I gave at his Celebration of Life. He was certainly one of a kind and will be missed tremendously. Thank you for being part of his life and following his journey on “The Truth on Common Sense”.

In Joe’s own words, a little bit about him.

“I started this Blog in February of 2012–shortly after I retired.  My intentions are to write about literally anything and everything.   Although I spent my entire career in the Financial Services Industry, I have had many other experiences throughout my life.  I tend to be somewhat philosophical–perhaps a people-watcher and an observer–but, I have always thought that a person should take a little from everything they do, everywhere they go and everyone they meet with them on Life’s Journey.

I have always thought of myself as somewhat of an International Person; so, you will find many events and ideas from far beyond our shores, which separate America from the World beyond.  I welcome your thoughts on the topics that I have written about; but, either way, thanks for visiting my blog.

Throughout this Blog, you will notice a re-occurring theme: Make Peace, not War!  Young Men (and, now Women) shed blood and die in War (on both sides),  General Officers establish Careers and Old Men (Corporate Profiteers) generate unseemly profits.  During my 4 1/2 years in the U. S. Army, after Infantry OCS, I was Commissioned in Military Intelligence, spent one and a half years in Vietnam and, then, one year at our Intelligence Agency’s General Headquarters, in Arlington, Va.   So, I saw Communications Intelligence (“COMINT”) and Security (COMSEC) from both ends of the Spectrum.  At that time, I was still too Young and Foolish to realize the Dangers of War.  Now, I know better!

Wars should only be fought as an absolute last resort.  Take care of the returning Troops–Men and Women–by all means.  But, let’s stop building those Monuments to War, and use those funds to Celebrate Peace!   Create scholarships, establish international forums for civilians and academia, form projects for people to work together in worthwhile efforts, etc.   And most certainly, keep the Defense Industry Lobbyists out of the Pentagon and the Halls of Congress.

Hello everyone. I want to thank you all for being here with us today. We are so thankful for each of you who are with us, or who are thinking of us today in the Philippines, Sweden, Tokyo, New Jersey, Jordan, or anywhere else in the world. We feel the love and support, and we love you all so much.

I keep coming back to the same thought – I’m heartbroken yet simultaneously so damn grateful. I got to have a close relationship with a wonderful Dad for 39 years. There was not one moment where I doubted that he was proud of me, loved me beyond measure, or would do anything for me (and my mom, brother, and my own family).  I knew that my mom, brother, and later my son Henry were the most important people in his life. How many people are aware that they are that loved, respected, appreciated, provided for, and deeply cared for their entire life?

Even at a young age, I felt very special to my Dad. I have a vivid memory at 2-1/2 the night before my brother was born. My Dad created a special Father/Daughter dinner with his number one Princess before he left for the hospital and everything changed. We dressed up, and we dined outside on the patio by moonlight and candles to make the occasion monumental. He poured apple juice in a nicer cup, and insisted that we eat every shrimp cocktail (our favorite) by linking our arms or feeding each other. That was Dad. He was worried that I would have a tough transition being the only child, and he wanted to make sure I felt how loved I was.

Dad did the did the bedtime routine each night. But he put his creative spin on it. To walk to bed, we had a different way each night — walking on his feet or holding us like ET in a bike basket. He’d told stories about Marissa and Andrew the Astronauts – kids in a parallel Universe kind of like us. We treasured those stories, it encouraged our own imaginations and creativity from an early age. He loved to sing and had a strong voice. The problem was that he sang us the most depressing songs and to this day I cannot listen to “Yesterday” by The Beatles without crying. Other songs in his repertoire was Somewhere Over the Rainbow, Edelweiss and others from Sound of Music, and The Rainbow Connection from Kermit the Frog. That was our song, and he said one day both knew when I got married one day we’d have to dance to it at our wedding. And I’d say, I don’t want to grow up and get married!

We had a happy childhood. Most importantly, he played with us. He taught us to ride bikes, he threw us around in the pool. We wrestled, played basketball, went fishing once (epic disaster). He built a swing for us. He let all the kids climb all over him. He and Mom took us and the little boys in Mother’s group to a construction site to watch the bulldozers. He found happiness in our own, and truly fostered whatever interests we had, whether it was art, science, space, or anything else. He told us we could do anything and believed in us.

He was so proud of Andrew’s knowledge – and would delightedly recount how Andrew once corrected a pilot on something technical about his own F-14 plane. In later childhood, Dad helped coach Andrew’s sports and made sure all the kids got to play and have fun. He liked to play 20 questions with us while waiting at Wings N Things for dinner, and his favorite question was, “Is it bigger than a bread box?” We’d laugh – what’s a bread box?

When I was 11, I had a CCD teacher that was fire and brimstone. He told all the kids we’d go to hell for numerous reasons. Very dramatic. I told my dad and he was angry. He called the school and was invited to attend the class. And oh, he did. Joe Huber folded his legs into a fixed seat child’s desk in the front row, and sat through the class. Us kids all thought the teacher was nuts, and I was proud that my dad believed me and tried to do something about it. Later on they told Dad he could volunteer to teach the class instead if he wanted, and that ultimately dissuaded him — but the teacher did tone it down a bit.

He never complained if we asked him to take us to a friends’ house, or pick us up for the movies or the mall. I think I was asked to some events in middle school because my parents were known for being generous with the rides, and wanted to make sure everyone had a ride home. I knew then that my parents were different than some parents (and perhaps their circumstances were different – you never know), however I’ll never forget seeing a friend’s face relax into relief when I’d confidently say – don’t worry, I know my dad will take you home. We’ll give you a ride. Sure enough, he always did.

Sometimes I felt a little jealous of the close relationship that Andrew and Dad had, because they were so interested in the same things. But I was always included, and it didn’t make me feel left out. It made me feel good that they were best friends, as Andrew inscribed to Dad in a book he once wrote. “This book is dedicated to my Dad. He is not only my Father, he is also my Best Friend.”

In high school he walked with me in the rain across the football field when I was on the Homecoming Court. Other people wore ponchos, but he didn’t want to wear one so we wouldn’t ruin the look. It didn’t match my dress borrowed from the Kumik girls. However, I paired up the dress with black combat boots for the wet grass. We made quite the duo, and he gallantly held the umbrella for me.

He taught us to ride bikes, and later cars. He told me to drive into a McDonald’s drive through and I sideswiped the Buick before paying for the meal. I don’t think he was even mad, but he still made me drive home after taking a quick break to decompress in the McDonald’s parking lot.

He wasn’t a phone talker, unless you were a client perhaps, since he really enjoyed his clients. He’d tell me that he didn’t care how much money his clients had to invest, you treat them all the same. But you could call back the lady with 10M back first. He felt strongly about helping his clients properly invest so that they could enjoy their entire lives, and achieve the goals they wanted. And he kept many of his clients, many through his 39 years! I remember him sending me an email to see if it would make sense to a 6 year old girl named Alex, the granddaughter of a client who gave her some money to start learning about investing. It was adorable. He went above and beyond.

We didn’t talk much in college, and he’d always pass the phone to mom or say he had to go to the bathroom, but you could always count on a page filled birthday card sharing his heart with some humor and teasing, often in rhyme. Later he got into email, and many of you know that Dad loved E-mail! We’d laugh how he’d send so many articles, you didn’t have time to read them all, and he would get annoyed if you didn’t respond back in 24 hours with a book report summary. But Dad! I’m swamped at work, when doI have time to read all these articles? Sometimes I’d read them and respond so he’d know I cared, but he knew. Just as I knew that these emails were not necessarily about me needing to do homework. They were Joe Huber code for – you’re important and special to me and I was thinking of you and I Love you! One day years ago I got aggravated that he was giving me a hard time about a damn response, I think he must have been bored at work! Haha. And I thought – one day I’m going to miss getting his damn emails more than anything. I have a folder dedicated to just his thousands of emails, and I never deleted one. Tiny electronic love letters from my Dad telling me that he missed me in code.

He taught us to think for ourselves, to question things, to how to problem solve, and to trust our own opinions. If we’d ask if he liked a friend of ours, he’d respond — “it doesn’t matter what I think. It’s YOUR friend. It matters if you like them.” That’s actually quite progressive, because it meant that our opinion had merit and value. And from an outspoken and strongly opinionated man like Dad, that must have really been important to him.

One of the happiest times in our family’s life was when Daniel Gadd came to live with our family. Daniel became a second son to my parents, and a real brother to Andrew and me. Somehow the Universe aligned to give our family and him to each other when we needed it, and we have been grateful ever since. We kept in touch with Daniel, and after Andrew died in 2005, he visited in 2006, then 3 or 4 times since. He introduced us to his now wife-Sandra, then children Norah and Alfred. We have the happiest memories of sitting on the couch with them, talking about life, politics, and everything. Nobody will ever replace Andrew, or that hole in our hearts after he passed, but seeing Daniel and his family grow over the years, getting to know them — was a butterfly stitch that healed it a bit.

Which brings us closer to my own son, Henry. The first time Dad got to meet Henry, he drove the airport with my mom, and bolted out of the car as soon as they pulled up. Dad usually acted blasé, but all facades were off when it came to Henry. As soon as we got home, he and mom sat next to Pickles on the sofa just gazing at him. Dad was smitten. On the return trip home, Dad sat in the backseat holding Henry’s hand the entire time.  In the past year, he wrote 10 essays to Henry about his life, in his own words, he said,

“Previously when your Mommy was arriving or leaving from the Airport, Lola drove. When you were four months old, Your Mommy brought you to visit, and so that mommy and Lola could show you off to our friends and neighbors. Well, on the trips were you were coming or leaving, I made sure that I was in the car, and the back seat, of course, so that I could sit with our new Baby Grandson—Henry Andrew “Pickles”.

In 2015, my husband and I decided we’d like to move to Florida. I’m so glad that we made this decision and moved here in July that year. My parents, ever generous – said, come stay with us while you figure out your next step. For a person who never thought they’d move home again, this was unanticipated, but we decided to take them up on this generosity. And I’m so happy we did. That was 912 days that I got to see my Dad every day. Or 820 days if we assume I was traveling 10%, because that’s the type of question dad would bring up. But I’m his daughter obviously, so I factored that in.

It was fun to get to know Dad on a different level. We had gotten much closer after Andrew died. I wanted Dad to know that he meant just as much to me as Mom did. And I hope he knew that. My dad liked to be gruff, but if you can’t tell from this way too long essay, he was a big hearted, sensitive man inside a faux-grumpy exterior who showed love with emails, and teasing people.

We would talk about books he was reading. Some of them I’d read on my commute. One in particular was “The Undoing Project” by Michael Lewis. He piqued my interest when he kept chuckling out loud and insisting on relaying incidents about the odd couple Israeli psychologists who later won the Nobel Prize for Economics for their research on decision making. It’s no spoiler, but one of them, Amos Tversky dies in the end. These two real people became friends off of the page, and I came to love them as my dad did. I bawled on the drive home when Amos died, and was so glad to come home, drop my bags, and curl up next to my dad on the sofa and sob, “AMOS DIED!” And proceed to cry loudly. “I know.” He said while we sat there enjoying a moment. Mom thought something bad had happened, and we said she needed to join our book club already. That book will stick with me, as will that moment.

I got to give him a kiss goodnight daily. I got to roll my eyes when he’d make the exact same joke on my lateness each morning, “leaving already?!” because some of the time I was miserable at my new job and didn’t want to go at all. But I never regretted moving here, or living with my parents – even when I missed my freedom and the belongings now forgotten about in storage. I knew that this was a magical time and I would never look back on my life and not be immensely grateful to have spent so much time with my parents, and to see them get to know my husband and son. You don’t get that much time with people. A wedding, a vacation, a holiday, a funeral. But sometimes, you get a span of 912 days and boy are you grateful you took it.

I was so proud that he poured so much of his time and energy into writing in his retirement. He wrote 1279 posts in 6 years, which is an average of 213 per year. It was a labor of love, and he had a following that he engaged with via email, and sometimes arguments in the comments section. He’d check his hits each night, and it made him really happy. I’m glad I can remember how happy my dad was in his final years.

We didn’t talk a lot every day. Life was different. Dad told me himself, go take care of your boys. They need you. But I said, yes, but I also have one dad, and I want to see you too. We got to have hard talks when his health started declining. Beautiful, heart-wrenching, and wonderful talks. We talked about Vietnam, and his heart hurt about the young men and women who died there (on both sides). We talked about trips we took as a family. He got choked up telling me how his own Father gave him a hug and he knew he was proud after I was born, and Pop-Pop saw Dad as a father himself. He’d laugh that his mom asked him to buy her a set of fancy China when he was in Vietnam, and he said – where the hell was I going to buy the china, doesn’t she know we’re at war in a camp? He loved his siblings and was so proud of them. Especially how Uncle Denny built Pop-Pop’s Locksmith business into an empire and how he had such good business sense and a love of learning. He was so proud of his sister Annemarie, and thought she was one of the smartest people he knew, with a whole lot of grit and determination. He liked to tease his cousins Nancy and Mary about their times helping him sell newspapers on the boardwalk. He was proud of his many nieces and nephews, including the ones who are nieces / nephews / goddaughters by choice. He’d mention each of them in an email or in conversations, depending on the topic and their interests. Most notably, Amanda who is here. I know how much Dad loved Amanda, because she was one of the only people he would speak to for hours after a holiday dinner, even when she was 11 years old. He would have loved that a brilliant, gorgeous, successful female executive was emceeing his celebration of life that he pretended he didn’t want. But he also wanted whatever Mom and his family needed, so he’d be happy with this.

One of the last “big” conversations with him, I was so sad, because I knew he wouldn’t be there to see things I would do that would have made him proud. And I realized something important. It doesn’t matter – it’s not the things that we do, it’s who we are. It’s how we treat people. It’s what we stand for. It’s when we choose to speak up for an injustice. That’s what makes us – US. Not a goal or a project. Those are great too, but it’s the little moments.As I told him a couple of months ago, “You were the best father. And I am the luckiest girl (and so was Andrew). I loved you just as you are – no regrets – I wouldn’t change a thing. I’m proud of you, and I love you for WHO you are, not for anything you do. And I will miss you so much. And so many of the things I’m proud of myself about my own character, about half of them come from you – even though you’ll argue that they are all inherited from Mom. And I know you’re proud of me for who I am, so it doesn’t matter if you don’t see me do things. You love me for me.”

So do you understand why I’m heartbroken and also so lucky? I got to call that lovable pain in the ass my dad, and one of my best friends. I will miss him so much, we all will – but I hope his love of learning and knowledge will inspire you in your own unique way.

Maybe you email or call someone to tell them they are special to you today. Or really think and identify what is most important to you in your life. You could pick up a book just to read something new. Start a passion project or a hobby. Maybe you call a local representative to voice your opinion when it matters. Update your will or contribute to your IRA (he’d love that one). Or make a donation to a cause you care about. Or go through a McDonald’s drive thru and sideswipe your Buick. Play with your kids or grandkids. Do something that lights you up.

Thank you for being here today.

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DONALD TRUMP’S SCHEMING AND SCAMMING NEVER STOPS

This is a re-publishing of a post, which I had first sent out on January 23, of 2017–just a couple. days after Trump’s Innauguration.  It is based on what his Tax Plan had in mind, at that time.

Keep in mind that it was written on January 23; however, the similarities with the recently-signed Bill, I believe, are remarkable.

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WILL DONALD TRUMP’S TAX CUTS REALLY BOOST THE ECONOMY?

Cutting taxes can stimulate the economy; but, they must be made the right way, they only boost the economy when they are for the middle class and small businesses!  Middle income families, say $35,000 to $100,000 in annual income, tend to be “Consumers”.  They would probably spend the additional tax savings, by patronizing small, local businesses.  Higher income families, on the other hand, say upwards of $400,000 in income, tend to just “accumulate” additional money in investment accounts, since they already have enough to meet both essential and discretionary needs.

Small businesses are more labor intensive and, when business increases, they respond by hiring more workers.  Large corporations, on the other hand, have more flexibility in absorbing revenue increases by:  upgrading systems, scheduling increased hours for current staff, and through a greater use of technology.  For them, tax cuts rarely lead to job creation; that is, unless they lead to expansion into new products and markets!

The Trump Tax Plan seems intent on providing everyone something for nothing!  Throughout the campaign, Trump vowed that his tax cuts would be “Tax Neutral”, meaning that there would not be an increase in the National Debt.  Bipartisan tax groups, however, have suggested that his cuts would increase the National Debt substantially over the next decade.   As always with Trump: any and all of his comments are vague, and subject to change!   Just be sure to read the fine print!

Cuts in the Corporate Tax Rate, and Tax Holidays, as we have seen in the past, might just be used to:  buy shares back, thus enhancing the stock price; increase stock dividends; and increase  executives’ generally exorbitant salary and bonuses, which are based on that same share price.   Lastly, being capital-intensive, large corporations tend to invest more in technology, further reducing their reliance on labor.  Increasing employee wages, however, just never seems to come-up for consideration.

Side-stepping Donald Trump’s “Alternative Facts”, tax neutral means one of three things: a cut in existing programs; other taxes and/or fees would offset the tax cuts; or the National Debt would be increased, which has been denied.  But most tax analysts report that the current GOP Tax Plan, which was released Wednesday, was only an outline.  So, where will they find the funding to re-fill this basket with “the loaves and the fishes”, over and over again?  

I have heard the term “Consumption Tax”, which Donald Trump seems to have taken from the GOP tax playbook.  A consumption tax is basically a National Sales Tax, and it would just be added to the state sales tax on most purchases.  A NST is regressive in the sense that it represents a greater portion of the middle income family’s disposable income.  There might be some exemptions from the NST.  In Florida, for instance, our State Sales Tax does exempt skyboxes and yachts, but just not toilet paper!

By taking Affordable Health Care away from some 20 million previously uninsured Americans, part of that funding might be used to finance the tax cuts.  But again, the people at the lower-end suffer, as they must decide between going without health care again, or paying-up for it, if they have a serious illness.  This mens that taking money away from the Consumers, slows–rather than boosts–the economy!

The amounts deducted from the annual Income Tax return—Exemptions for the number of dependents and the Standard Deduction—might be frozen, or not adequately adjusted for inflation.  Aside from that, the trump Treasury staff, if one ever arrives in place, will just take a little slice from here and there to fill the gap.  Once the smoke from the Tax Cut Scam has blown over, I expect that we will see the National Debt creep up, as well.

Basically, I envision that the Trump Tax Plan will mostly be a Give-away, to the Wealthy and larger corporations—and hardly boost the economy at all!   Middle income families and small corporations should not be content with the left-overs.  Don’t be satisfied!   Call or Email your Senators and Congressman.  Tell them that, if the Trump Tax Cuts are intended to boost the economy, they should start where it will do the most good—the middle class and small businesses.  Anything else is just a Give-Away to the Upper-Income Class!

 

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TODAY, BITCOINS SEEM TO BE ALL THE RAGE TO SOME “INVESTORS” WHO THINK THAT THEY ARE ON TO SOMETHING NEW. INSTEAD, PERHAPS THEY ARE REALLY ON TO SOMETHING OLD…VERY, VERY OLD!

Tulips were first introduced to the Dutch, when they were brought from Turkey in 1593.  The varied colors and heartiness truly appealed to the people as they became somewhat ubiquitous throughout the land.

During the 1630s, Dutch citizens, even those who did not normally invest, began trading Tulip Bulbs.  It was difficult to price the bulbs, however, as there was no exchange from which to price them.  Accordingly, the price was set at whatever the buyer was willing to pay.  That meant, however, that the market “value” moved in one direction only…UP, and the value only changed when the next bulbs were sold.

What is Money anyway? According to the traditional definitions of money, there are three:  1. A store of value;  2. A means of exchange; or  3. A standard of value.

Tulip bulbs fail on all three definitions:

1. Although tulips are supposedly perennials, most of the flower
lovers just assumed them to be annuals, and planted new ones each year.
2. I doubt that tulip bulbs were used for anything other than trading.  It would be difficult to expect a general store or local hunter to accept tulip bulbs in exchange for supplies or game for the dinner table.
3. How can anything become a standard of value if it is unvalued until it is traded, and then, only to the people involved in that particular trade.

So, how does the Dutch Tulip Bulb Bubble of the 1630s—call it what it was—differ from the Bitcoin Craze of today?  Not a bit, at all! Now, let’s consider, once again, the three traditional definitions of money:
1.   At what value do you regard an “asset” that hit a new all-time value of $14,000 one day last week, $16,000 the next, and $18,000 the following? But, what if some sellers decided to withdraw their money a few days later, and the price dropped to $11,000?  Then, what’s the market value?
2.   There have been a few Bitcoin traders who have accepted them as a means of paying rent; however, that has been very, very limited.  Mall retail stores, restaurants, your CPA, hair dresser, etc. an airplane vacation trip to London?  Better bring cash!
3.   Lastly, if the market value is ambiguous, there is no possible way to considering it as a lasting standard value.  Also, bubbles can be quite volatile; but, especially on the downside if many traders all wish to sell at the same time, and that can attract even more investors not to be left behind–as the market value plummets.

Bitcoins, like the Dutch Tulip Bulbs of four hundred years ago, are a Market Bubble, plain and simple!  Only other traders of the Bitcoins or Tulip Bubbles might wish to argue the point, and only those other participants in the bubble might even wish to join-in the discussion.

As the old saying goes: Caveat emptor!

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HOW DID THE HORRIBLE MISTAKE, WHICH WAS VIETNAM, HAPPEN?

NOTE:  Following France’s devastating loss at Dien Bien Phu, in July 1954, Viet Nam was partitioned at the 17th parallel. When the Geneva Agreements were signed, many Roman Catholics fled south, and elections were supposed to be held within two years, unifying all of Vietnam. South Vietnamese President Bo Diem’ however, never agreed to hold them

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In 2044 B. C., Chinese People began building dikes, roads and engaged in primitive farming in the Red River Valley of Vietnam.  Throughout history, Vietnam embodied much of Chinese culture, including Buddhism.  The country has always ben an agricultural nation.

During the 20th Century, Vietnam was ruled by China for 1,000 years.  Whenever there was a change in Dynasty, however, the Vietnamese fought for their freedom, but China always re-gained its control. And then, the French colonials ran Vietnam for two hundred years.

Unlike the Chinese rule, which was mostly territorial expansion, the French plundered the agricultural resources by making the locals work for them, and treated the Vietnamese People awfully.  The British and the Dutch were equally harsh in how they plundered the natural resources, and treated the locals in other parts of Asia.

During World War II, the American O. S. S. (Office of Strategic Services), which later became the C. I. A., was involved in sorting out the instigators from prisoners in the various Prisoner of War Camps.  Most OSS agents sent dispatches back to Washington, stressing that the Colonials should not return.

Mao Zedung, in China, Ho Chi Minh, in Vietnam, Sukarno, in Indonesia, etc., were all beloved by their citizenry, and they wanted them to lead.  As one Vietnamese man said:  We hated the Japanese; however, we knew that they would leave.  But, if we allowed the French to return, they would never leave.  Those sentiments were how the other Western Colonials behaved, as well.

President Dwight Eisenhower felt compelled to stand with the Western nations, who had been our Allies throughout WWII.  From then on, America was regarded as just another of the various Colonials, who were expecting to return to their plundering ways.

You might recall the “Domino Theory”, which was a key part of the basic rationale as to why America engaged in the Vietnam War, to begin with.  President Eisenhower gave a press conference in early 1954, just about the time that the Viet Minh, fighting for Vietnamese independence, were about to conquer the French at Dien Bien Phu.

“Ike” suggested that the four countries of Indochina—Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam were like dominoes, lined-up in a row.  And, once once fell to Communism, the rest would also fall, in turn.  After the Paris Peace talks for Vietnam, one of the Vietnamese representatives shot that theory down, however, when he pointed-out that Vietnam fought China for a thousand years.  Would we allow them in now?

With the 1954 Partition of Vietnam, most of the Roman Catholic minority fled south, from the North and the Central portions of the country.  This was a major problem for the Saigon government gaining the support of the People, 90% of whom were Bhuddist.  President Diem only admitted Catholics into his government, as well as the upper levels of his military.

To make matters worse, Diem had ordered his military not to fight; because, he said casualties made him “lose face.” Actually, he wanted the full force to be available, at all times, to rush back and defend him, in case of an attempted coup.  The Vietnamese Army preferred to just call in air and artillery strikes; however, they often killed more civilians, than than Viet Cong, the local guerrillas.

When the SeniorAmerican Advisors told the generals in Saigon that the Vietnamese Military refused to fight, regardless of how much they coerced them, they were ignored. And American junior Generals and Colonels, who tried to report what Washington didn’t want to hear, they were sometimes sent back to the Pentagon and forced to retire.

Washington and the American Saigon Command knew what news they wanted to hear: America and its Vietnamese allies would turn the corner:  with another 100,000 of our combat troops or another $10 billion would help; perhaps an additional six months; etc. And the Diem government was only too happy to tell it.  When I was there, in 1967 and ’68, there were more than 500,000 American GIs in the country.

Around that time, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, specially Air Force Chief of Staff Curtis LaMay, kept recommending that we bomb the North back to the Stone Age by targeting railroads; bridges; industrial plants, etc.  Common sense, however, would have suggested that agricultural nations would have very little industrial infrastructure to bomb.  The industrious North Vietnamese People had a solution for the bombs that were raining down on them—make bomb shelters out of the craters.

Perhaps the best example of what America failing to understand Vietnam was the ”Protective Hamlets” strategy.  Whole villages were destroyed, and the farmers were re-located to small hamlets, generally miles away rom their land.  The peasants were let out in the morning so they could work their farms, and return to the hamlets in the evening.  There were two major problems, however, with that solution.

Some of the farms were so far from their land, that the farmers had to walk as far as ten miles, each way, carrying their tools to and from work.  Also, a major part of Buddhism is ancestor worship; but, with the burial mounds are back at the farm, the ancestors are left behind each day.  That’s why we were not “Winning the Hearts and Minds” of the majority Buddhists, and this idea, in effect, was sending them over fight for the Viet Cong.

Additionally, as with most non-industrial countries, the government of South Vietnam was rife with corruption. America financed the Saigon Government; but, Diem and his key associates made sure to send sizable portions those funds to their offshore bank accounts.

We were in Vietnam under false pretenses, and the troops seemed to have been kept their for political reasons.  Previously, the VC or the North Vietnamese always attacked in small hit-and-run ambushes.  Over Tet, the Lunar New Year holiday, of late January 1968, Secretary of Defense Robert Mc Namara was convinced that the attacks would be limited to the  Khe Sanh Marine base and the large city of Da Nang, both of which were in the north of South Vietnam.  As it turned out, the local VC and the North Vietnamese Army attacked the South at many locations, and with sizable force. From that day forward, the war in Vietnam was recognized as being not winnable.

Newly-elected President Richard Nixon, however, decided to keep the war going until January 1973, in case he needed the extra push. How many innocent soldiers, marines, airmen or sailors were killed during those additional five years—just in case Nixon needed the extra political push.

NOTE:   It truly breaks my heart when I think of the more than 58,000 (mostly) young Americans who died in that senseless war, which we had no reason to be in, in the first place.  I have a few friends that I know were killed; but, how many did I know in Naval ROTC that died; boot camp, language school at Monterrey, CA and Infantry OCS, where some young Lieutenants lead from the front, but left their minds behind. But, the total of 58,000+ killed in a senseless war, even 50 years later is still just too difficult to fathom.

If you are in Washington, near the Mall, visit the Vietnam Memorial, either at sun-up or at dusk.  I believe that you will find it a very emotional experience.  Perhaps it is the only war memorial that can be truly viewed as an anti-war memorial. Also, the names of those killed, which are listed on it, have grown over time.

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KEN BURNS LINK:   The following link, about the showing of select clips a The Kennedy Center from Ken Burns’ series, followed by a panel discussion–with a number of present and former Congressional and Administration members–from The Washington Post, is a great introduction to the topic of Vietnam:

 The Daily 202: McCain and Kerry outline lessons from Vietnam after watching new Ken Burns documentary
  September 13

With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve

THE BIG IDEA: Hundreds of Washington insiders gathered last night in the Kennedy Center Opera House for an advance screening of Ken Burns’s new documentary on Vietnam.

Before he showed half a dozen choice clips from his 10-part, 18-hour film, which premieres Sunday, the director asked everyone who served in the military during the war to stand so they could be recognized.

John McCain and John Kerry were among those who rose, along with other famous veterans like Bob Kerrey and Mike Mullen.

Burns then asked anyone who protested Vietnam to also stand. Dozens did.

“I couldn’t tell the difference,” the director said, referring to the two groups.

The veterans, including McCain, joined the audience in applauding the antiwar demonstrators.

That moment set a tone of reconciliation and harmony for a discussion about one of the darkest and most divisive chapters in American history.

— Forty-two years after the fall of Saigon, McCain believes “it is the right time to take notes.” “There has to be a period of time after a conflict where the passion cools,” he said during a panel that followed the screening. “Maybe we can look back at the Vietnam conflict and make sure we don’t make the same mistakes that we did before.”

“Their leaders didn’t lead, whether they were military or civilian,” said the Arizona Republican, who spent 5½ years as a prisoner of war after getting shot down on a bombing mission over Hanoi in 1967. “By telling the American people one thing, which was not true, about the progress in the war and the body counts, it caused a wave of pessimism to go across this country, which bolstered the antiwar movement. We can learn lessons today because the world is in such turmoil: Tell the American people the truth!

McCain said he visits the Vietnam Veterans Memorial as often as he can to take in the names of the more than 58,000 Americans who died. “Depends on the weather,” he said. “Sometimes once a week. Sometimes once every couple of weeks. I try to go very early in the morning or when it’s near sunset. … It’s really an incredibly emotional experience. … These young men died because of inadequate or corrupt leadership.”

As chairman of the Armed Services Committee, McCain is managing the defense reauthorization bill on the Senate floor this week. Whenever troops go into combat, he explained, it is essential that the country decides “what victory means” and, then, “do not forget it!”

“We need to be able to have leaders who will lead and who will be able to give (the troops) a path to victory so that we will not sacrifice them ever again in a lost cause,” McCain said.

Kerry, who captained a swift boat in Vietnam before returning home to protest the war, echoed similar themes and alluded to the Trump administration’s credibility gap.

“Vietnam has always stood out to me a stunning failure of leadership,” said the former secretary of state. “We were operating without facts back then. In today’s world, it’s (also) really hard to figure out what the facts are. And people won’t honor facts. You know what they are, but you have your ‘alternative facts.’”

The 73-year-old spoke of feeling betrayed by “the best and the brightest” who he had looked up to in the American government. He singled out Robert McNamara, who was secretary of defense under John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson.

“I thought I had felt all the anger I could feel about the war, but I hadn’t until I read ‘A Bright Shining Lie’ by Neil Sheehan,” Kerry said, referring to the classic book that came out in 1988. “All the way up the chain of command, people were just putting in gobbledygook information, and lives were being lost based on those lies and those distortions.”

Martha Raddatz of ABC News, who moderated the discussion, asked Kerry how society can learn “the right lessons” from Vietnam. “A lot of people don’t,” he replied. “It’s that simple.”

The five-term Massachusetts senator said that war should always be “a choice of last resort” after diplomatic options have been exhausted. He spoke of the need to have an endgame before going in. “So many missed opportunities,” Kerry said, shaking his head. “I hope never again will any generation have to face a moment like we did.”

Kerry explained that his combat experience as a young man has been “tricky” at times, and that he tried to not let it overly color his approach to the world during his tenure at Foggy Bottom. “I wanted to make sure I wasn’t a captive of Vietnam,” he said. “Not everything is Vietnam!”

— By sparking new conversations, Burns and his co-director, Lynn Novick, hope to heal old wounds. Famous for his in-depth explorations of the Civil War and World War II, the director highlighted additional parallels between Vietnam and the present moment: “Mass demonstrations taking place all across the country against the administration … A president certain the news media is lying … Asymmetrical warfare that taxes the might of the United States military … A country divided in half … Huge document drops of stolen, classified material into the public sphere … Accusations that a political campaign reached out to a foreign power during a national election to affect the outcome.”

“So much of the division that we experience today, the hyper-partisanship that besets us, we think the seeds of that were sown in Vietnam,” Burns said.

— Kerry recounted his work with McCain in the 1990s to normalize relations with Vietnam, which grew out a conversation they had during an all-night flight on a CODEL to the Middle East. “We decided consciously to work on this because we felt very, very deeply that the country was still at war with itself, and that we needed to move forward in the relationship with Vietnam in order to be able to move forward with the relationship here at home,” Kerry said. “We wanted to be able to talk about Vietnam as a country, not as a war.”

As the 2004 Democratic nominee for president spoke, the 2008 Republican nominee interjected to say that Bill Clinton deserves credit for backing them up at a time (before he got reelected) when it was not politically easy.

— Former defense secretary Chuck Hagel, who enlisted to fight in Vietnam and received two Purple Hearts as an infantryman, praised the documentary for humanizing the war. “We too often don’t humanize the mechanics of war,” the former Nebraska Republican senator lamented. “We say, ‘Well, we’re going to send six or seven divisions or three battalions or squadrons of planes.’ But what does that mean to the men and women who are fighting and dying? … As secretary of defense, I saw that from many years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq. The same was true for Vietnam.”

NOTE:  Two books, which I have on my Recommended Public Affairs Tab, which are arguably the two best on Vietnam, are as follows:

The Brightest and the Best, by David Halbersham.

Perhaps the most widely acclaimed book on Vietnam, I believe, along with Bright and Shining Lie, by Neil Sheehan, tell two sides of what until then, was our longest war.  The two books, however, relate it from different perspectives.  While Sheehan recounts the war mostly as related to him by subordinate officers in Vietnam, Halberstram portrays it mostly from the political perspective, back on Washington.  

Both reported that America was losing the war, and the generals only wanted to receive good news from the field.  Many lies and omissions were also bandied about in Washington, as President Lyndon B. Johnson placed more emphasis on his Great Society, and running for President in his own right.  Read both, if you can!

A Bright Shining Lie, by Neil Sheehan.
This is the most exquisite, well-written and comprehensive (790 pages) book that I have read about Vietnam, or any war! It won the Pulitzer Prize for Non-Fiction in 1989.

Sheehan made numerous trips to South Vietnam, oftentimes going out with combat troops on missions; because that is where wars or fought! Our War was mismanaged at the highest civilian and military levels; because, no one understood the culture, nor was flexible enough to consider more relevant ideas and strategies. Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon used the War for their own political purposes.

Additionally, America didn’t understand the Saigon Elite, and the string of unpopular puppet governments that we helped establish. Each of those South Vietnamese governments had two primary concerns: use the Army to prevent an overthrow; and manage both the civilian and military bureaucracy for their own corrupt enrichment.

 

 

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JOE BIDEN’S BOOK, “PROMISE ME, DAD” IS A TREMENDOUS READ, ESPECIALLY FOR ANYONE GOING THROUGH SERIOUS HEALTH ISSUES THEMSELVES.

As many people know, former Vice President Joe Biden lost his first wife and infant daughter in a traffic auto accident, many years ago, while out Christmas shopping.  Their two young sons, Beau and Hunter, ages four snd three survived, but after many weeks in the hospital.  Over time, as the two boys became successful, grown men, they were Joe’s closest personal advisors.

Promise Me Dad, a quote from Beau, that after he is gone, Joe would run for President, if at all possible.  Biden, in fact, formed a uniquely personal relationship with President Barack Obama,  Even more importantly, that Joe Biden promised Beau that he would be OK.  Some might see this book about a Vice President; but, it is really a story of a Great American Family!

The thoughts in this book were interspersed as Biden fulfilled his duties as Vice President; however, there were many remembrances, both of Joe’s first tragedy, and having to raise two young boys as a single Congressman; and then, what the growing family went through in trying to save Beau’s life.  And throughout it all, the doctors were heroic in doing all they could.  Joe Biden supported civil rights, defended the Police, and exhibited respect and empathy to all.

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BIG MAY BE BEAUTIFUL, DONALD; BUT NOT IN WARFARE!

As usual, Donald Trump just barges in and disregards the the advice of his Joint Chiefs of staff, and the generals in his Cabinet, regarding any build-up of the Military.  For instance, the recently-commissioned USS Titan of the Seas carrier cost $11.4 billion.  Also on the drawing board is another carrier, the JFK. One can only assume, however, that the Kennedy, scheduled to be commissioned in the another five or six years, will have a somewhat larger price tag.

When a carrier sails out of port, it also requires a support fleet of cruisers, destroyers, submarines, re-supply ships and tankers for re-fueling. Earlier this year, the newest destroyer, the USS Zumwalt was commissioned.  It had a price tag of $4.6 billion; however, the ship’s compliment required only 143 sailors to man it, or just less than half the size crew of the previous most-recently commissioned, and much smaller, destroyer.

Given theses numbers, it is difficult to fathom what the total expense of just one carrier is, when the protective and support cast is included.                

The range of the jets, which take-off from a carrier is only a few hundred miles, and then they must return to the carrier, half way through their fright before they run out of fuel.  Both China and Russia, on the other hand, each have land-based missiles—with a range of over 1,000 miles—that can shoot-down any jets or missiles.

So the question is: are there any rational reasons to invest such vast sums on one carrier group, when they may serve little purpose? Over the past decades, the Navy has been reducing the “silhouette”, or target size of such large ships.  In fact, a guided missile in most cases, fired from a smaller ship, especially a submerged submarine, can serve the same purpose, more effectively, at a considerably lower cost and with little risk.

In fact, ground troops can also benefit from also when they are deployed in smaller, more disciplined groups, and with well-defined missions. Massive armies with super firepower just tend to get in the way, and are not necessarily a match for primitive combatants, who can easily blend in with the local populace.

Lastly, as I have mentioned previously, the unnecessary troops have been known to get into trouble, and even commit deadly atrocities.  The best thing that could happen, even before engaging in what might be deemed an unnecessary war is to question, terribly, terribly hard, why we should enter it.

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MANY RETAIL SECURITIES BROKERS MIGHT BE AUTOMATING THEMSELVES OUT OF THEIR CURRENT JOBS!

About ten years ago, Wall Street laid-off 100,000 highly compensated securities professionals; because, their jobs were being performed by computer-based algorithm-reading machines.  (An algorithm is just a complex set of mathematical rules and formulas.) Eventually, many local retail brokers might very well suffer the same fate, especially as brokers voluntarily send accounts to be similarly managed by computers.

When I retired as a financial advisor six years ago, there were three basic types of brokerage accounts.  The securities firms, however, were encouraging their brokers to use mostly one type, rather than the other two.

Our Regional Manager suggested that the brokers could work more efficiently—and earn greater commissions—by just packaging the paperwork, and shipping the accounts off to the home office.  The various investment portfolios would supposedly be managed by a team of analysts at that point.

Personally, I wonder if that “team” really meant the same type of algorithm-reading machines.  Perhaps, I could be wrong; however, why couldn’t a similar computer program be managing retail client portfolios, just as it has been managing institutional accounts on Wall Street?  With such accounts, the clients have no no one-to-one contact with any person who is involved with the management of their accounts.

Also, the securities brokers have no chance to add personal value to the situation, which is an important quality for individuals to establish in order for them to prevent the automation of their jobs.  The firms suggest that the brokers can generate greater commissions; because, they spend less time on each account, as they pass them up-the line. But, there is little chance to add anything to the relationships as the brokers act somewhat like a worker on an assembly line.

The old traditional commission-based accounts have long since fallen by the wayside as they are felt to offer few chances to generate commissions.  Additionally, once the accounts are initially invested, many lie unchanged for years to come–earning nothing for the brokers.

The third type of account is a fee-based one, like the first; however, with these, the broker manages the various portfolios in consultation with the clients.  Sure, they consumed more time, and reduce potential revenues; however, these accounts enabled brokers to work with their clients and their portfolios.  Additionally, why would a securities professional want to get involved in the securities markets if it were not to spend their time helping clients understand and invest in those very same markets?

In essence, brokers who just send the accounts to the “home office” become a paper-pushers, and they remove themselves from the real business at hand?  And at some point, the firms will begin to reduce commissions, and eliminate some brokers, since fewer can push more paper than before.

I’ll take dealing with clients and stocks, bonds and mutual funds, any old day.  Lastly, my value-added will protect me somewhat from such computer-generated automation!

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