Posts Tagged History

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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PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU SHOULD CAUTION DONALD TRUMP NOT TO FOLLOW THROUGH ON HIS ABSURD PROMISES IN JERUSALEM!

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government is a fragile patchwork of numerous small parties, many of which are hard-line conservatives, who are dedicated to preserving Israel as One Jewish State!  That’s why Netanyahu never saw eye-to-eye with President Barack Obama, who believed that it was in the best interests of the American People to seek a Two-State Solution.  And perhaps, it was best for all!

It is ironic that Mr. Donald Trump and the Republican Party have been trying to side with the Israeli Hard-Liners, as a means of currying favor with the American Jewish Community, which tends to vote Democratic.  President Obama, on the other hand, seems to have been working toward a Two-State Solution, with the conviction that it would better provide for the human rights of all people—Arab and Jew!

Donald Trump, however, had pledged to Prime Minister Netanyahu, back in September, to move the American Embassy to Jerusalem.  Following the Six-Day War in 1967, Israel had moved its capital to Jerusalem; but, only a handful of foreign embassies followed.  By 1982, all but two—Costa Rica and El Salvador—had returned to Tel Aviv.

General John Mattis, Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Defense suggested, in Senate Hearings, that the American Embassy should remain in Tel Avid, especially since many key Israeli government offices—such as Defense and the IDF—are located there.  If Trump were a rational man, wouldn’t he re-consider moving the Embassy, while thinking about why no other nations had done so?  And what the implications might be?

General Mattis further predicted that a One-State Solution would probably result in Israel becoming an Apartheid Nation.  This coincides directly with the Analysis column in today’s Jerusalem Post, which suggested that the U. S. recognition of Jerusalem as the capital, and the movement of the U. S. Embassy, would lead to a “New Intifada”.

Moderate Arab Leader, King Abdullah of Jordan, is quoted as having predicted such a war.  That J-Post Analysis is linked, as follows: http://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/Analysis-If-the-US-Embassy-moves-to-Jerusalem-are-we-looking-at-a-new-intifada-478535.

If Trump does push forward with such a move, a dangerous situation would prevail for Israel and the Palestinians, and for the United States, regarding our diplomatic standing in the Middle East.  America would also risk any hope of ever being considered an honest broker or negotiator, in the future, between Israel and the Palestinians.  Lastly, considering the vital role that the U. S. plays, as a backstop to Israeli National Security, Prime Minister Netanyahu should also think long and hard, and perhaps discourage Donald Trump from taking the actions that he had promised!

NOTE:  I would like to welcome my readers from Guam.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“LAND OF THE FREE, AND HOME OF THE BRAVE?” REALLY?

Yes, the actual lyrics of our National Anthem really do end with a question mark.  That’s a key point, since so many Americans have no clue as to what those words mean, or what the song even stands for.   Most people just stand, because they feel…that’s what you’re supposed to do! Colin Kaepernick, who plays quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers team in the National Football League, has brought a lot of attention to himself, and to our Anthem, because he doesn’t stand when it is played.

Kaepernick recently said: “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.  To me, this is bigger than football, and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way.  There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

A number of other athletes—both past and present—have defended Colin Kaepernick’s right not to stand for the playing of the National Anthem before ball games.  Interestingly, the many soldiers who have served in America’s wars, throughout our history, have similarly defended his right to either stand or not stand.  Isn’t that what freedom is?

A number of politicians and other public people have declared Kaepernick’s refusal to stand as disgraceful. But consider: would’t Colin have saved himself a whole lot of rebuke and aggravation by just standing? Maybe so; But standing to honor something that he does not respect is truly insincere.  In this case, isn’t standing-up, or sitting down, in the face of adversity, a form of bravery?

Frankly, I have always wondered why the National Anthem is played before sporting events, or the Pledge of Allegiance is recited before school.  Shouldn’t love of country, belief in your God, or anything else that you hold to be self-evident be a personal matter?  These things should be retained in your thoughts and your heart, and not forced on others.  And once again, isn’t that what Freedom truly means?

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