Lesson 1: History repeats itself.
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.
Posted in Investment Primer on August 22, 2017
Posted in Investment Primer on August 20, 2017
If you read one book this year, let it be “I Was Told to Come Alone,” by Saoud Mekhennet, This book is the culmination of the author’s journey to analyze and answer a question by Maureen Fanning, the widow of a New York City firefighter who had died in the collapse of the World Trade Center, on 9/11. Mrs. Fanning directed the title question toward Saoud who, although German-born, is of Turkish/Moroccan descent.
There are two key factors in Ms. Mekhennet’s background that, perhaps, make her the ideal person to even attempt to understand this multi-facetted dilemma:
- As the child of immigrant “guest workers,” Saoud felt the harsh reality of discrimination, oftentimes not being considered “German, German,” even though she tutored other German students in “German”. Many young Muslims in Europe, who perceive being rejected by society, are prone to radicalization.
- Saudi’s parents were born into different sides of the Sunni/Shia schism; however, they and their family have lived as secular Muslims. In fact, Saoud didn’t understand the religious divide, until in her later teens, but without the emotional biases. The instability caused by this problem, within the Muslim World, continues to fuel the flow of Muslims toward the West.
Ms. Mekhennet’s journey took her to various countries in the Middle East, North Africa, South Asia and Western Europe, during which, Saoud interviewed a number of al-Qaeda, ISIS and Taliban leaders. Even though those interviews placed her at considerable personal risk, as a journalist, Saoud Mekhennet knew that they were vital to her understanding of both sides of the issue.
A considerable amount of this book is devoted toward Ms. Mekhennet’s attempt to understand how and why young European Muslims have become radicalized, and join the Jihad. Is it a legitimate cause, necessary to save the Islamic way of life, or is it a false reality, based on a hijacked version of Islam–merely replacing one version of beliefs for another?
Throughout the book, Ms. Mekhennet often questions the false assumptions of such ideas as Weapons of Mass Destruction, false intelligence reported by various Western agencies, and the lack of concern for civilian deaths. Basically, if we throw off our parochial views and narrow-mindedness, we might begin to understand that there is plenty of blame, for the entire terrorism issue, to go around.
As somewhat of a summation to her journey, Saoud Mekhennet points out that “…some people in Western countries don’t see the hazards of setting standards for others, as if our way is the right way and the only way. This is the same argument that ISIS makes.”
NOTE: And oh, by the way, toward the very end of her journey, Ms Mekhennet solved one of those pesky questions that was on everyone’s mind, when she unmasked “Jihadi John”, who played a key role in those ISIS videoclips!
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!
Posted in Investment Primer on August 12, 2017
CONSIDERING WHAT KIM JONG-UN’S ACTUAL MESSAGE WAS, THE CURRENT DANGEROUS SITUATION MIGHT BE MORE ABOUT TRUMP, THAN NORTH KOREA!
Unfortunately, as American media coverage seems to be stuck in the All-Trump, All Day mode, perhaps we may be jumping to conclusions—fearing that long advertised Nuclear War? That’s the problem with escalating emotions: rational thought can be overlooked. Perhaps, Kim Jong-Un, however, might be the saner man!
North Korea did not boast that it would actually target Guam, nor was a nuclear missile threatened! According to CNN, “North Korean plan(s) to fire four missiles near the US Pacific territory of Guam.” It might just be verifying its range capability, are there are still questions about the veracity of its warhead miniaturization efforts! Consider the North’s past missile launches.
On prior occasions, launches have been mostly into the Sea of Japan, between the Korean Peninsula and Japan. Following the most recent launch, Japan said thai it might have landed in it’s waters. Territorial infringement aside; however, North Korea hasn’t hit anything, as yet! Does Kim expect to do so with Guam? Maybe, maybe not! Also, let’s not overlook the North’s recent release of a Canadian prisoner as, perhaps, a sign of peace!
If Mr. Kim did target the island of Guam, North Korea would certainly be bombed, in return—perhaps even the capital of Pyongyang! But, why would Kim risk that? Maybe he’s just an irrational dictator, of a country that has been isolated by the World Community, and wants some recognition for assumedly joining the Nuclear Arms Club!
Let’s suppose, for a moment, that Kim Jong-Un did intend to launch a nuclear missile, and that he realizes that the overwhelming retaliation would annihilate his nation. Why wouldn’t he strike San Francisco, Seattle or, perhaps, Honolulu, instead of Guam?
If Trump ramps-up our Nuclear Arsenal, as he has suggested, what does he think China and Russia will be doing? In the end, Donald seems to be brandishing his childish image of a Tough Guy, as he looks for more and more places to send young Americans “In(to) Harm’s Way!” But this time, he might be endangering the entire World!
NOTE: The U. S. is already bombing insurgents in southwest Philippines, and today he also threatened military attack on Venezuela.
“What Trump should know about the Cuban Missile Crisis”, By Michael Hobbs August 9, The Washington Post
Michael Dobbs is the author of “One Minute to Midnight: Kennedy, Khrushchev, and Castro on the Brink of Nuclear War.”
Hearing President Trump threatening to bring “fire and fury” down on North Korea because of its nuclear defiance reminded me of an incident during the Cuban missile crisis. The State Department had gotten slightly ahead of the White House by mentioning the possibility of “further action” by Washington — and President John F. Kennedy was irate.
He called State Department spokesman Lincoln White to reprimand him personally and to stress the need to coordinate and calibrate all public statements. Otherwise, an already dangerous crisis could escalate uncontrollably. “We got to get this under control, Linc,” he fumed. “You have to be goddamn careful!”
Studying the 1962 nuclear showdown for my book “One Minute to Midnight,” I concluded that the real risk of war arose not from the conscious designs of Kennedy, Nikita Khrushchev or even Fidel Castro. It stemmed from the possibility that the opposing sides could trigger a nuclear conflict that nobody wanted through miscommunication and freak accidents, which became increasingly likely at higher levels of military alert. The same is almost certainly true of the present crisis with North Korea.
The nightmare of an accidental nuclear war was very much on Kennedy’s mind during the “13 days” when the world came closer than ever before, or since, to blowing itself up. He had recently read a book by historian Barbara Tuchman, “The Guns of August,” that described how a previous generation of statesmen had blundered into World War I, with nobody really understanding why. Kennedy was determined to avoid a similar chain of unpredictable events involving atomic weapons.
For a student of the Cuban missile crisis, the fact that our current Twitter-happy commander in chief is surrounded by sensible, highly competent generals is only partly reassuring. The missile crisis showed that there are some decisions that only a president can make. There were times when JFK was in a minority of one in the Excomm, the committee set up to manage the crisis, in his willingness to compromise with Khrushchev. Only the president had the overarching sense of history to consider the interests of future generations of Americans, and ultimately all of humanity.
As is no doubt the case today, the generals assued Kennedy in October 1962 that the United States enjoyed overwhelming nuclear superiority over its adversary and could easily wipe the Soviet Union off the map. But this did not comfort the president, who asked the obvious question: How many Americans would die if just one Soviet missile landed on U.S. soil? The answer was 600,000.
“That’s the total number of casualties in the Civil War,” JFK exploded. “And we haven’t got over that in a hundred years.” He later acknowledged that the 24 intermediate-range Soviet missiles in Cuba constituted “a substantial deterrent to me.”
Given the explosive rhetoric of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, it is understandable that President Trump should be tempted to respond in kind. Classic game theory teaches us that you can gain an advantage over your opponent if you can convince him that you are madder than he is. In the game of chicken, with two cars heading for a frontal collision, the driver who swerves out of the way first loses.
During the Cuban missile crisis, the “crazy man” role was played to perfection by Castro, the only leading actor who was seriously prepared to risk a nuclear war. Patria o muerte — “fatherland or death” — was, after all, the slogan of the Cuban revolution. Asuming the role of madman has always been part of the arsenal of the weak against the strong, whether in the case of Cuba or North Korea or the Islamic State. It gives the weaker player an advantage it would not otherwise have.
Playing chicken is, however, a dangerous indulgence for the leader of a nuclear superpower. During the 1962 crisis, the two “rational” players — Kennedy and Khrushchev — ended up making common cause against the “madman” Castro. Despite everything that divided them, they had a sneaking sympathy for each other, an idea expressed most poignantly by Jackie Kennedy in a handwritten letter to the Soviet leader following her husband’s assassination.
“You and he were adversaries, but you were allied in a determination that the world should not be blown up,” she wrote Khrushchev. “The danger which troubled my husband was that war might be started not so much by the big men as by the little ones. While big men know the needs for self-control and restraint, little men are sometimes moved more by fear and pride.”
As President Trump girds for a possible nuclear confrontation with North Korea, we can only hope that he will prove to be a big man rather than a little one. Out-crazying Kim Jong Un is a scary proposition. Game theory also teaches us that, if neither driver swerves, everybody goes up in flames.