Posts Tagged History

WHO OR WHAT ARE WE FIGHTING IN THE MIDDLE EAST? WHY? WHAT DO WE HOPE TO ACCOMPLISH? AND WHEN WILL WE KNOW IF OR WHEN ITS OVER?

The First Rule of Warfare is to “Know Your Enemy!”  But, after the terrorist attacks on 9/11, George W. Bush declared a Global War on Terror.  So, what does that mean?  Have we been fighting a tactic: Terrorism?  Are we fighting for Good, versus Evil?  What exactly is IT?  Also, is the fight, against this uncertain opponent, limited to the Middle East, or might it be global in scope?  Unfortunately, as the “Coalition” was gearing-up to invade, George Bush waved the red flag—citing the Crusades.  How damn ignorant can one man have been?

Ever since those terrorist attacks, many in Washington have attempted to assign the role of our new invisible adversary to Islam.  Why didn’t Bush confront the Saudis, since 15 of the 19 terrorists were Saudi nationals?  By falsely accusing Global Islam to be our new Enemy, the Administration had enabled our real enemy to gain more strength, while America tilted at windmills!

Many of us in the more secular West have trouble understanding the role of Religion in other cultures.  Until approximately 1500 AD, Western Europe was considered to be somewhat of a cultural backwater, as compared go the Great Empires of the world.  The source of all power was universally thought to be the King, Caliph, Bishop, etc, who was believed to have received it from God.

Eventually, however, Europeans began to question the role of the Kings, as well as the Pope, as they also began to doubt that the Earth was the center of the universe.  As people began to think for themselves, an Intelligentsia evolved, which explored science, philosophy, geography, economics, etc.

As that transition occurred, Western Europe jumped ahead of the rest of the world in knowledge, in adventure, and in understanding how things worked.  So, while Europe had become more secular, the importance of Religion, however, had not changed among the other great civilizations of the world!

Muslims seem to have maintained a feeling of commonality with one another, around the world.  For instance, many of those who fought in Bosnia, Chechnya, and Croatia, toward the end of the Twentieth Century, have answered the call to Jihad in the Middle East. Similarly, Muslims from Asia, Australia, Europe and North America, joined-in as well. Accordingly, how do we fight something that we cannot define, nor do we even understand?

We hoist our arrogance on our Military; but, two major powers have not faced-off in battle since the middle of the last century.  Frankly, American GI’s are: too weighed-down by all of the high-tech firepower that they carry on their backs; the sometimes unreliable air cover; conflicting command structures; and the lack of loyalty, by local soldiers, for the general that we propped-up to head the country.  Meanwhile, the enemy can travel light, knows he has little that can disappoint him, and he can blend in with the populace; BUT…he is also fighting for a cause!

Rather than funding a large invading army, with firepower out the gazoo, we should focus a sizable portion of the State Department budget on devising vital parts of the cultural infrastructure, which is so lacking.  By helping build that missing support structure, out in the villages, America can eliminate the environment in which terrorist groups and religious extremists thrive.

For instance, three or four decades ago, much of South and Southeast Asia had been in a  situation similar to that of the current Middle East.  Poverty and illiteracy were rampant! Also, that part of Asia has considerably more Muslims than does the Middle East.  Through the transformation, perhaps following Japan’s lead, the local infrastructures began to change.  Education, industry, viable health care, a functioning economy, and the standard of living began to rise.   A better lifestyle goes a long way in combatting terrorism and extremism.  Also, preventing war is more cost-effective than waging it, and it saves lives!

NOTE:  For a much more in-depth explanation of how western Europe transformed, here is the comment on my Books That I  Recommend tab:  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?

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ISTANBUL ON THE POTOMAC!

Donald Trump, that fellow who resides in the White House, appears to be as narcissistic as The Sun King, and he has the vindictive nature of a small child, who just won’t quite! Donald is so spoiled that he only sees or hear things, which only he “knows” to be true, and his actions bespeak only those that are in his best interest.  So, after five and a-half months, holed-up in the Executive Mansion, is he now ready to make Washington into His Kinda Town?

During his time in office, with numerous sabbaticals at his various resorts, he has seemed to be mad at the world, attacking everyone in sight.  Here’s the Short-List of his targets:  Obama and Clinton; all three major Intel Agencies; members of any and all minority groups; both the DEMs and the GOP; the print and broadcast media, at every opportunity; Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos, perhaps as a corporate leader who just won’t kowtow to him; and on, and on.  Equally as bad, is the mass disruption, which Donald has spread overseas, in our name!

Donald Trump acts as if HE owns the place, and that anything that he does, while in office, should be whatever he wishes; because, you see, Donald John Trump is above the Law—or so he seems to thinks!   Now, we can consider Trumpie to be just another loose cannon; but, his actions certainly appear to be more evil than that.  Remember that Donald has literally offended every one of the nations which we have long-term alliances with, while cozying-up to some of our most dangerous adversaries.

Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping are too ensconced in their long-term leadership roles, as Communist dictators, in systems that have been in existence for some 70 years.  But, Donald Trump did invite Recep Tayyip Erdogan, President of Turkey, to visit him in the White House, about six weeks ago.  Turkey had been founded in 1923, as a secular democracy, and over the course of time, it had transformed itself into a Western-style nation.  It is also a NATO ally Istanbul, its largest city, is strategically located west of the Bosporous Strait, which, separates Europe from Asia.

Erdogan had been thrown out of office in 1998, and imprisoned, when he was the Mayor of Istanbul.   e was sacked for trying to spread his conservative Islamic views.  He returned to political life as Prime Minister in 2003, and became President of Turkey in 2014.  Ever since then, he has once again, been trying to instill his conservative Islamic fervor, and thus transform the nation into one more to his liking.

Just consider any of today’s authoritarian nations—China, Cuba, North Korea, Russia, Turkey—and the many commonalities are quite obvious.  Trump is possibly observing how President Erdogan has been re-building Turkish Society, and perhaps getting ideas, but with an American twist.

Human rights have been diminished during the Erdogan Era, as there are other civil rights violations, such as:  peaceful civil disobedience has been dealt with harshly; media has been forced to accept the government’s viewpoint; disloyal corporate leaders have been replaced, and many businesses have been nationalized; and Islamic Law is being gradually installed.  Also, he has made the Kurdish minority into a boogeyman for many of Turkey’s problems, and questions abound as to whether last fall’s unsuccessful coup was, in fact, staged–thus giving him the reason to take an even harsher stance!

Donald Trump has been moving on many of these same issues.  Consider just a few: his Regime is trying to diminish many of the human rights issues by continually attacking the media, and using fake news and falsified facts coming from the White House in order to shift public thinking; middle and upper-level civil servants have been denied work if they do not Pledge Loyalty to Trump; jawboning corporate leaders to follow his wishes; and why are there three generals in his Cabinet?

I cannot honestly say that Donald Trump is trying to transform America into an Authoritarian State; however, there are many similarities with various dictatorships, and  one one can be perceived as more insidious than the next.  At present, except for the Travel Ban, and the apparent over-active protection given to police officers—in very questionable circumstances—Donald hasn’t tried to change too many of our laws to meet his needs.  But, just let your mind wander as to what might be in store for Americans in the future!

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WORLD WAR II INTERNMENT CAMPS ARE STLL AN EXPLOSIVE MEMORY!

Today, the last Saturday in April, commemorates one of the darkest days in American history, especially for Japanese-Americans and, as it appears–today’s Muslims.  We Americans always seem to act like we’re the Good Guys, in the White Hats; but, save that for the movies.  Because, that’s just not really US!

Just consider a few of our Crimes Against Humanity:  widespread Human Slavery from pre-Colonial America, through the mid-19th Century; stealing the ancient tribal lands of Native Americans, and relegating them to barren reservations, barely capable of sustaining life; and the massacre of 550 Vietnamese old men, women, and even nursing babies, by the “Men” of the U. S. Army Americal Division, at My Lai4,  in 1968.

The following Op-Ed from the NY Times, “Internment, America’s Great Mistake”, by George Takei (“”Mr. Sulu”, on StarTrek), beautifully conveys the sorrow and hardship, that many Japanese-American had to endure—by someone who was there. As Mr. Takei noted, he was expected to “Pledge Allegiance to the Flag”, every morning, while living in such a “Camp”.  And to add the harshest insults to War Heroes, when Japanese-American men returned to their Homeland, after fighting in World War II, they too were placed in the same “POW” Camps, with their families!

Along with the many Japanese and other Americans remembering that Darkest Day on America, many of whom were born after The War, there are also a number of Muslims.  Just two days ago, eight Iraqis were deported to Iraq, and many other Muslims wonder if they, too, might be sent “back” to a land they had never known. Once again, is this what Humanity is all about?

As Donald Trump has reached Day #100, we can only be happy that he hasn’t blown -up the planet yet.  But, as each day passes, I can only think how wonderful it would be to have a Parliamentary Government, and with a “No Confidence Vote” scheduled first thing on Monday! morning

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THE KOREAN PENINSULA—A POTENTIALLY MUCH MORE DANGEROUS SITUATION THAN SYRIA!

By now, most people are aware that: America fired 59 Tomahawk Missiles on a Syrian airfield; that act was a violation of both the U. S. Constitution and the U. N. Charter; the Syria Air Force bombed the same city (without Sarin gas) just a few days later; the Pentagon has not suggested any sort of long-range plan in Syria; but, there have been suggestions that the U. S. is considering either placing nuclear weapons in South Korea, and/or sending a team of (assumedly) special ops to assassinate North Korean Dictator Kim Jong-Un.

In 1950, Chinese Prime Minister Zhou Enlai told several foreign diplomats that China would enter the Korean War if the U. S. crossed the 38th parallel, into North Korea.  General Douglas MacArthur, Commander of U. N. Forces—disobeyed direct orders—crossed the 38th, and continued on to the Yalu River—the Chinese Border.

The Chinese. as Zhou had said, entered the war in a big way, and the Armies of the Two Koreas, plus the U. S., have been encamped at the DMZ ever since.  Although there was considerable Signals and Human Intelligence ,reporting a very significant massing of Chinese troops at the Yalu River, Mac Arthur disregarded it—at his own Army’s peril!

During the second (I believe) Presidential Debate last fall, Donald Trump had suggested that China should just invade North Korea and be done with the irrational Kim Jong-Un.  The result from such an action, however, would force a direct confrontation between nuclear-armed China and the U. S., across the DMZ.  So, here we are, 65 years after that War, and the Chinese seem to understand the potential danger of a nuclear build-up on the Korean Peninsula.  But, why doesn’t Donald Trump get it ?

The Pentagon has deployed a Carrier Strike Force to Korea with the USS Carl Vinson, and three guided missile destroyers, all of which have been temporarily docked in Singapore.  Japan must also be included in any strategic Korean Plan, along with Taiwan, which lies off the southeast coast of China.  I believe that, if China deploys ships to the Formosa Strait, which separates Taiwan from the Mainland, Donald Trump should be very, very careful in making his next move. China proved, once before, that it does follow-through i protecting its interests!

North Korea  has an 880 mile (1,420 km.) border with China, as well as a very small one with Russia.  But, neither of the two nuclear superpowers have common borders with Syria.  Additionally, the U. S. apparently has no long-term plans for Syria.    

America does, however, have a very long, and semi-permanent, presence in South Korea.  With a total of approximately 77,000 U. S. Troops in East Asia, and roughly two-thirds of them in nearby Japan, the situation appears to be more dangerous than Donald Trump’ s first major “Adventure”, in Syria.

Unfortunately, Donald Trump can be almost as irrational as Mr. Kim, of North Korea.  So far, however, Donald has dodged a bullet in Syria, at least so far; but, I surely don’t trust him in Korea, where China will be a much more serious, and powerful, opponent!

NOTE:  Welcome to my readers in China, Taiwan and Malta!

 

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THIS ST. PATRICK’S DAY, NOT ALL OF THE IRISH EYES WERE SMILING!

As the Irish are one of the oldest, and most easily assimilated groups of immigrants, St. Patty’s Day has come to be a day of celebration, not only for the Irish, but for many Immigrant groups.Ω even those who might seem to be flying under the radar—because they are of European stock. But they realize that Trump’s racially-motivated immigration ideas today could turn against all other groups tomorrow.  So, they stand together! 

Sure, Donald Trump might have toasted Irish Prime Minister Enda Kelly with green beer, on Thursday, and both men had-on green ties, and the fountain on the White House’s south lawn glowed green, for a day or two.  The undocumented Irish find little solace in those hollow events, however, due to the fact that they entered the    U. S. on perfectly legal Visas, and remained here after they had expired.  Besides the Irish, many others, like the Polish, the Mexicans, Nigerians, Filipinos, etc., are hard-working taxpayers, who are raising families here.

Perhaps the Irish won’t be the first group to be deported; but, how can they ever be sure that, as Trump or some other demagogue like him, works their way down the list of nationalities that, at some point, they might be next!  As much as Trump talks about creating jobs, he doesn’t realize that immigrants often are the reason for economic expansion as they add (usually) younger workers, entrepreneurial and technological skills, and they also increase the consumer base, as more spenders can grow the economy exponentially.

Undocumented immigrants normally enter the U. S. incrementally, and they are eventually assimilated into our society.  Unfortunately, racist actions do make it difficult for some, such as today’s Muslims, and of course blacks after centuries of living in America!

In 1981, 120,000 Cubans came ashore in Miami, in just two months time, and they were quickly assimilated into the local, very large Cuban-American community.  That many refugees, arriving in one area, and being quickly assimilated was, of course, an aberration.  Even though some of those “Marielitos” were, as Donald Trump would say, “Bad Hombres”, their proportion generally pales when compared to the overall percentage of criminals in American society.

So, while Mr. Trump was toasting Prime Minister Kelly at the White House, Joe McHugh, Ireland’s Minister for the Diaspora and International Development visited the Aisling Irish Community Center, in Yonkers, N. Y.  Aisling is one of a number of community centers that provides social services, health screenings and other assistance to, what it calls, the “forgotten Irish”.  Staff members at Aisling, and other such centers, say that anxiety is peaking because of Trump.  Minister Joe McHugh, said, after his visit: “They live in fear.” But why?

Is this what America has come to:  like those billionaires, who have more money than they could ever hope to spend, and they just seem to want more?  Everyone of us are descendants of people who had come from somewhere else–even the Native Americans.   And for all of those “god-fearing Christians”, I surely wonder how you can mouth the words: “Do unto others…”

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DON’T ASK ME TO ORGANIZE MY RECOMMENDED BOOK TAB!

I’m sure that some people would find the “Books that I recommend” list much easier to use if everything were organized into quite distinct categories, such as: Politics; History; Science—or, at least, Fiction and Non-Fiction.  But, that’s not how my mind works.  It’s just too cluttered!

Consider the most recent addition (and yesterday’s post): “Three Days in January”. President Eisenhower left the Presidency 57 years ago; but the real story, I believe, is a combination of:  World War II and Early Cold War History; reflections back to our Founding Fathers, and what their intentions were, with regard to the Constitution; contrasts of the Leadership styles between Ike and JFK, and the lack thereof with Trump. and, lastly, the peril which the Military Industrial Complex might present today, especially in the hands of a Fool.   Now tell me, how would you categorize that NY Times Best-Seller?

“Freeman” is a well-researched historical novel about Racism in post-Civil War rural Mississippi.  That book, not only depicts the reality of how both blacks and whites regarded one another, at the time; but, it also provides some insight as to Racism, as it is today in America today, and particularly, in the rural South.

“Moneybag” is nominally a book about baseball; but, it is really more about the use of statistics in player personnel management.  The Oakland A’s had one of the very smallest budgets in Major League Baseball; however, for a time, they compiled better Win-Loss records than all but a few of the league’s 30 teams.  The A’s realized that some of the more pedestrian statistics, such as: on-base average; total bases and “small ball”, won more games than often considerations: physical looks: home runs and fielding.  For the owners, that approach was more “cost-effective”.

Statistics has also played an increasingly important role in general decision-making theory.  Much of what is pointed-out, by Michael Lewis, the author of “Moneyball”, is based on the insight of the two Israeli Psychologists, who are his main subjects in “The Undoing Project”.  Those psychologists won the Nobel Prize for, get this, Economics, in 2003.  Their research has led to: the creation of the new field of Behavioral Economics; revolutionized Big-Data studies; advanced evidence-based medicine, and helped rationalize government regulation.

NOTE:  If anyone can devise an algorithm, which will organize my “Books That I Recommend” tab, please send me the “For Idiots” version, so that it can install itself.

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STAGFLATION: COULD IT OCCUR AGAIN HERE, DURING THE DONALD TRUMP ERA?

Stagflation is the coincidence of high inflation during a recession, and it has only happened once in the U. S., during the 1970s.  There was a mild recession in 1972, and although the Fed and the Treasury had each provided stimulus, President Richard Nixon wanted to boost the economy, to enhance his re-election chances.  But, when Nixon took matters into his own hands, he just made the situation worse—much worse!

President Nixon implemented wage and price controls and, simultaneously, took the
U. S. Dollar off the Gold Standard.  Initially, the dollar surged in global markets; however, when Great Britain tried to exchange $3 billion, in dollars for gold, the dollar plummeted.  As the global markets abandoned the dollar, the price of gold skyrocketed from $30 per ounce, to $120.

During a normal recession, as the economy slows, and unemployment rises, inflation is generally weak.  In such cases, the Fed would flood the economy with cash, to stimulate the economy, and thus promote consumer spending and hiring.  In a stagflation situation, however, stimulus measures intended to enhance employment, would just make the inflation problem even worse.  And, that just leads to a sure case of: “Damned if you do, and dammed if you don’t!”

Businesses couldn’t pass the higher prices on to customers due to the price controls. So, the only alternative businessmen had, rather than to raise prices, was to cut its expenses by laying-off workers.  But, that only made the recession worse.  But, prices kept rising, even though they couldn’t be passed on.  Demand also increased as people thought prices might rise even more in the future.

Paul Volcker, as Chairman of the Fed, finally solved the stagflation problem.
He raised the “Fed Funds” (short-term intra-bank lending) rate by two full percent in one day in 1981, up to 20%, and that slammed the breaks on the economy.  Incidentally, the higher interest rates also strengthened the dollar, which helped alleviate inflation.

Now, I’m not predicting a return of stagnation to the U. S. economy; but, with Donald Trump’s bull in the china shop mentality, and his apparent ignorance of the issues; I can only wonder.  He has also handicapped himself by appointing  mostly inexperienced ideologues with which to fill-out his Regime.  As I have been following the financial markets, and monitoring his attempt to micromanage the various industries, I sure have my doubts about positive economic outcomes ever becoming reality.

I would prefer raising an awfully scary issue, and being wrong; rather than not have suggested such an abnormal situation at all.  In 2008, as America went through The Great Recession, we were extremely lucky to have had such a smooth transition, from the Bush Financial Team to the Obama Team.  All experienced pros, who worked well together, took the political heat and did what was best for America.  I’m surely not expecting any such thing from the Donald Trump Regime!

NOTE:  If you use a financial professional in your investing, ask her or him what they think the chances of stagflation might be.  Chances are, they have never even heard of the term.

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