Saturday, July 28, 2018

Conservatives Silly To Discount New Liberal Up-start Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

A sanity check reveals that many conservatives may be guilty of the cardinal sin of being so vain they fail to recognize the potential of  Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to become a force to be reckoned with if she grows into her new role within the Democratic party. While Ocasio-Cortes is still a political novice she has seized the hearts and minds of a number of liberals searching for a fresh young face free from the baggage of corruption that plagues so many politicians. To not see this young woman as a political threat screams of the same kind of hubris and haughtiness displayed by those that declared there was no way in hell that Donald Trump would ever be elected President.

Trump Haters Love This New Kid On The Block!
The fact is this young lady, like Barack Obama, is in a cultural sweet spot. To the many voters who "don't see color" this personable energetic progressive latino woman who speaks Spanish as well as English may just be the answer for a society that has cast blame for many of society's woes upon the white men that have monopolized the power structure. Because of this, I'm a bit appalled how rapidly many conservatives have brushed aside the idea she might be an issue or thorn in their side for many years to come. Her potential to gain a motivated and dedicated following should not be underestimated. Using terms like millenniums, moral courage, idealist and fairness she has a way forward and because of her youth plenty of time in which to evolve.

Efforts to diminish her by labeling Ocasio-Cortes as stupid may only galvanize support for her as those drawn to her are forced to defend her from attacks. While those of us a bit more well seasoned may see her as naive because of her youth many of her followers are in the same place or blinded by the failure of current leaders to address their needs. The message and the empathy Ocasio-Cortes projects to these people coupled with the promises she represents of both "free stuff" and a larger voice can be very appealing. As a bonus Ocasio-Cortes paints a picture that what she brings to the table are win-win propositions for the masses in a country of rapidly growing inequality. Adding to her allure is that all this can and will be paid for by simply having the rich and those who have taken advantage of us paying their "fair" share. 

28-year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
 Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (born October 13, 1989) is an American politician, educator, community organizer, and political activist. [1] On June 26, 2018, Ocasio-Cortez won the Democratic primary in New York's 14th congressional district, defeating the incumbent, Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley, in what has been described as the biggest upset victory in the 2018 midterm-election season.

An article published in the Daily Caller blasted how this "new face" of the Democratic party botched yet another simple question about her political views that sheer spunk and tenacity couldn't overcome. It went on to say that on last night's Daily Show, host Trevor Noah pitched Ocasio-Cortez perhaps the slowest softball he could by simply asking her to explain how she's planning on paying for her "Medicare for All" agenda along with her other ideas on funding Democratic Socialism. "This is an excellent question," she replied then she took off on an answer that did not compute but centered around fairly taxing the rich and slashing military spending.

As a proof of just how polarized the nation has become the Huffington Post ran a rather positive piece about the same Daily Show appearance that took a totally different view of what happened. Here they write that host Trevor Noah "grilled her" and how she spoke about the need for America to re-prioritize what we want to accomplish as a nation. Ocasio-Cortez is then quoted as saying, “Really, what this is about is saying, health care is important enough for us to put first. Education is important enough for us to put first. And that is a decision that requires political and moral courage, from both parts of the aisle. Period.” (The Huffington Post contains the total interview-click here)

Ironically, it is possible that the angst our media stirs up may be what drives America to occasionally choosing a leader promising to bring us together. It will be interesting to see whether Ocasio-Cortez can avoid the trap of demonizing her opponents if so she will gain even more stature. In the same way, many white voters decided to elect Obama and saw the act as regulating racism into a thing of the past many voters might be willing to give Ocasio-Cortez more credence for having the answers than she deserves. One thing we can be sure of and that is when it comes to politics often it is not about facts or even the truth but whether you can sell your vision to the voters.

Friday, July 27, 2018

National Debt Exploding Is A Fraud Cast Upon Us All

Click (Here) To View National Debt Clock
While we fixate on an improving GDP the national debt is not just growing but it is exploding. A marvelous take on the soaring national debt was recently presented by James Grant on The Sounding Line. It was followed by Jim Chanos speaking on fraud Chanos states, "The fraud cycle follows the financial cycle and so as you’ve noticed for the last eight or nine years… we’ve been in a pretty epic bull market." Both these speakers noted the dangers faced when central banks venture down the path of QE by greatly expanding the supply of fiat money and how the journey ultimately ends in tears.

America is not alone in spending far more than it takes in and running a deficit, however, that does not make it right or mean that it is sustainable. Much of our so-called economic growth is the result of government spending. Both Grant and Chanos claim this has created a false economic script and like a Ponzi scheme, it has a deep relationship to fraud. History confirms that during such cycles the argument flourishes that, "this time is different" but always, in the end, proves wrong.

When first unveiled in March of last year the 2018 financial year budget was projected to be $440 billion. An under-reported and unnoticed report was issued last week by the Office of Management and Budget which is required to from time to time review and update the U.S. federal budget. The report titled the “Mid-Session Review” paints a far bleaker forecast of the deficit going forward than originally predicted. The last report issued in February indicated we were looking at a deficit of $873 billion now for the fiscal year ending on September 30th they are predicting the deficit will come in at $890 billion. This means the deficit is now expected to roar in at double what they predicted in March of 2017.

To many people, such a miss would bring up the question of whether the discrepancy in the 2018 budget is an outlier or a sign of incompetence. This is especially troubling when we look forward to finding the next batch of numbers has also been ratcheted upward drastically increasing next years budget deficit as well. What was projected as a total budget deficit of $526 billion for 2019 Fiscal Year has now been revised to a staggering $1.085 trillion. These numbers, of course, are presented assuming the economy will move forward without a recession or slip into crisis. This moves them away from reality and opens the door to the likelihood if wrong the deficit will be far worse.

Debt Has Grown Faster Than Wealth Across The World
Not only should the sheer size of these numbers trouble us but we should remember that until last year some Washington optimists were forecasting that deficits would begin to decline in 2020 and that we would even have a small surplus of 16 billion in 2026. The updated revisions have washed away this glimmer of hope and replaced it with trillion dollar deficits not only next year but in the year after and even more of these going forward. Interestingly, a read of the summery that begins on page one of the Mid-Session Review comes across as a promotional piece using terms like MAGAnomicics both praising and touting the Trump administration for its vision and great work.

This is a time where it would be wise to remember numbers don't lie but the people using them do. Washington specializes in putting lipstick "On A Pig." and this report is an example of how they re-frame a colossal train wreck into something more palatable. The report even goes so far as to assure us that the deficit will fall to 1.4 percent of the GDP in 2028, currently, it stands at 4.4 percent. Those of you who have followed this blog know that I have written about the national debt on several occasions and in an article at the end of last year it was pointed out that many Americans no longer consider this an important issue. As a result of having survived with little effect what was years ago described as a financial cliff we have become emboldened and now enjoy a false sense of security. Today instead of dire warning we hear news from Washington and the media how the stock market continues to push into new territory and all is well.
Past Estimates Have Been Very Very Wrong

Those who have been through bankruptcy will tell you that running up debt is far easier than paying it off. We should also be aware that figures released by the U.S. Treasury are for public consumption rely on accounting tricks which massively understate how much debt is really being accumulated. The myth that a scenario of growth coupled with a falling deficit will allow us to outgrow many of the problems we face brings with it a false optimism and hope. It is important to remember predictions of future spending and revenue often turn out to be wrong. The chart to the right predicted that by 2019 the national debt would top 12 trillion dollars. Projections made by the government or any group predicting budgets based on events that may or may not happen at some future date are simply that, projections or predictions and not fact.

This means that such numbers most likely will prove to be totally unreliable. The ugly truth many people ignore is that starting last year entitlements became the driving force that will carry the deficit higher and higher into nosebleed territory. Even though we have seen deficits reach unprecedented levels the deficits in our future will be dramatically worse. Any claim that Washington has the budget deficit back under control is a total lie. We are currently mired in the midst of the greatest government debt bubble in the history of the world. Circling back to the talk James Grant and Jim Chanos participated in at the New York Historical Society, both men make it perfectly clear they see what is being cast upon us is a giant fraud and we should be dubious of those making promises this will end well.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

The Future Of America's Deep State May Be In Peril

The term "deep state" refers to the theory that there exists a coordinated effort by entrenched career power brokers in government to influence state policy without regard for democratically elected leadership. Events during the last few months and several embarrassing revelations have eroded the credibility of what many people view as America's Deep State. This has added to the feeling that change is in the air as well as creating an aura that something is very very wrong inside the beltway. One of the side-effects of the polarization of American is that citizens on both sides of the political spectrum have come to feel betrayed by those they elect and the government in general. The men our institutions have held up as symbols of our virtue have seen their reputations tarnished as more and more it appears their agenda has been skewed by bias, for personal gain, or institutionalized inertia. James Clapper the former Director of National Intelligence, the FBI's James Comey, and John Brennan the former CIA director are all falling from grace.

The Deep State Has Sabotaged Trump's Russian Peace Effort
The proof of decades of deceit continues to trickle out drip by drip causing us to be dubious of anything we have been told or led to believe. The Deep State has many tools at its disposal to maintain the status-quo the most notable being a lazy and complicit media or what we often refer to as the free press. It has become clear that propaganda is not simply a tool to be used to soften the hearts and minds of those who oppose us but also as a weapon to manipulate the American people into a sheep-like state where we can be controlled by those in power.

The intelligence apparatus put together to help us win World War II did not disband but merely morphed into a giant fear spreading monster fueled by the military-industrial complex seeking power and profit. With the aid of technology, spying has gone mainstream as hundreds of billions of dollars have flowed into a system collecting, cataloging and storing information on all of us. This has allowed espionage and often illegal clandestine operations to flourish at the cost of common sense. This translates into a world where big-brother knows where we are at every minute because of GPS and watches us from cameras in the sky and through our own electronic devices.

James Clapper even tells a lie about his lies!
In a world where so many issues are presented to us in black or white, good or evil, and people have become comfortable in turning to their smartphones for answers we face, the real danger is that society will fail in devising a suitable path forward. The fact this is happening at a time when the world is changing ever faster also complicates and lessens the possibility of a good outcome. The question of where to go from here in a complicated world simply reinforces the difficulties we face. A good example of just how messed up and how devoid of ethics the intelligence system is the recent revelation by James Clapper in a CNN interview that former President Obama instigated the ongoing investigations into Donald Trump and those in his orbit which is destined to further inflame the political divide.

John Brennan as CIA director, another disaster?
The constant flood of bad actors paraded in front of us has revealed the Deep State does exist and is corrupt to its core. Equally disturbing is that we have come to accept the idea that even when willingly committing acts punishable by law these individuals will be held unaccountable. The phrase that, "the emperor has no clothes" comes to mind, however, the fact this is recognized does not alter the fact or necessarily constitute immediate change. Those engaged in carrying out the mission of the Deep State often use the argument of the greater good as justification of their sins this proves denial can be a strong force but just as strong is that it is reinforced with years of momentum galvanized by money and power.

To those of us with a libertarian tilt and a dislike of big government, the Deep State by its very nature is an annoyance. Even if we try to coalesce around the conclusion the enemy of my enemy is my friend political and cultural polarization and the lack of a clear path forward tends to paralyze efforts to bring about meaningful change. We should remember that over the decades failures within and the intentional misdirection of America's intelligence community has contributed to millions of deaths and destroyed a countless number of lives across the world. This all calls into question whether the world would have been better off without these so-called public servants. This is an issue that could be debated until the end of time but what is clear is the fact we could have done much better.  

Friday, July 20, 2018

China's Economy Continues To Wobble

Investors need to pay more attention to what is really happening in China rather than the stir up over Trump's recent trip to Europe. Other distractions have a way of allowing us to see the "forest from the trees" such as footage released from a  CNBC interview that was released just after 6 a.m. ET on Friday morning. In the piece, President Trump said he's "ready to go to 500 billion and slap tariffs on every single Chinese-made product entering the U.S." Showing a bit of impatience with the current process of dealing with China he stated, "I’m not doing this for politics. I’m doing this to do the right thing for our country." With so much of China's economic success coming as a result of a massive trade surplus with America it is not difficult to make a case that the economy of China is often given far too much credit for stability.

Rapid Growth Slowing - Now What?  (Click To Enlarge)
Rapid growth over the years has created an illusion of strength that discounts its total dependence upon exports to fuel malinvestment driven by corruption and poor judgment. The financial missteps in China have continued and it will only be when their economy falters that we will learn to what extent or hear more stories about how they have masked their problems. The largest indication of problems ahead come from data recently released pointing to the slowest investment growth in over 22 years. This is a clear indication that regulatory crackdowns in the banking sector are starting to filter through to the broader economy.

While the Chinese have made progress in diversifying their economy, the country still relies heavily on making and exporting toys, clothes, car parts and other goods to the United States and elsewhere. Within months the United States trade conflict could escalate as another $200 billion in Chinese goods get targeted with tariffs. The IMF has warned that growing trade tensions between America and the rest of the world could shave as much as 0.5% off growth by 2020, costing the global economy 430 billion dollars. While the Washington based organization made a concerted effort to spin this off as a rebuke of President Trump by saying the U.S. would find itself particularly vulnerable "as the focus of global retaliation" and could suffer most as a relatively higher share of its exports are taxes in global markets many economists see China taking the brunt of the pain.

Shadow Banking Is In Collapse
The topic of a trade war is so sensitive in China that several sources working for Chinese media report that China’s censors are scrambling to control the trade war narrative by giving the media a list of dos and don't when reporting on the topic. Those briefed on these internal instructions told the South China Morning Post that they were told not to “over-report” the trade war with the U.S. and be extremely careful about linking the trade war to stock market falls, the depreciation of the yuan or economic weakness to avoid spreading panic. “When you report a fall in the stock market index or a weakening in the yuan’s exchange rate, you can’t use ‘trade war’ in your headline,” one source with an official Chinese media outlet stated. Concern over the impact is so high that China has gone to a full court press approaching the EU to join them in pushing back against tariffs.

Still of greater concern than just tariffs the figures we are seeing warn of problems in many areas of China's economy and indicate that massive debt is taking a toll on growth as money is siphoned away from investment to service past obligations. Chinese stocks are in bear market territory and the currency is weakening. The answer to Chin's problems will most likely not come from the World Trade Organization where Beijing has filed a complaint about a batch of levies by America in response to alleged violations of intellectual property or a new round of money flooding into its banking system. The fear is more credit while juicing growth and ramping up spending on big projects like highways and airports but could undermine efforts to break the country’s addiction to borrowing.

The latest news is that the Yuan is again sliding and in offshore trading has reached the lowest level since July 12, 2017. This was in response to the PBOC weakening its fix on the onshore yuan below 6.7 for the first time since the the start of the yuan drop in June and Beijing launching a quasi-QE, in which the central bank announced the introduction of incentives that will boost the liquidity of commercial banks, helping them to expand lending and increase investment in bonds issued by corporate and other entities. It will do so by using monetary policy instruments such as its medium-term loan facility (MLF). Many currency traders view this as an indication China is comfortable with a gradual depreciation of the yuan going forward. It must be noted that the yuan has fallen more than 4% in the past month making it the worst performer among 31 major currencies.

This somewhat sneaky way of adding liquidity into the system through the banks rather than directly by the central follows a record collapse or decline in shadow banking. The fact is that for years growth in China has been fueled by its government expanding the money supply and debt. This has distorted markets across the world. It is even responsible for causing housing prices to soar in many parts of Canada. This is why it is so baffling that many economists have chosen to ignore or given a pass to the ramifications of China's policies as they affect the big picture. This has accelerated since the global financial crisis of 2008, China's local governments and state-owned companies borrowed heavily to build cities and roads, invest in businesses and bolster financial markets. The spending spree resulted in a domestic debt hangover, particularly among some of the country's bloated and inefficient state-owned companies. This has created an unstable situation that continues to fester.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

How Dare Russia Spy On Us, We Would Never Do That!

While we are being told how Russia is the worst, please take a deep breath and remember this little jewel. This article published in October 2013, left a bit of egg on the face of America's National Security Agency when they were found to be monitoring the mobile phone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Informed sources in Germany said she was "livid" over the reports and convinced, on the basis of a German intelligence investigation, that the reports were utterly substantiated.

While President Obama assured Merkel it was not happening Berlin promptly signaled that the rebuttal referred to the present and the future and did not deny that Merkel's communications had been monitored in the past. Asked by the Guardian if the US had monitored the German Chancellor's phone in the past, a top White House official declined to deny that it had. This is all a bit sad don't you think.

Angela Merkel's call to Obama: are you bugging my mobile phone?

Germany sees credible evidence of US monitoring of chancellor as NSA surveillance row intensifies.
Please Barack, Tell Be It Isn't So!
When asked how he had communicated with Merkel during an EU summit in Brussels in 2008, then French president Nicolas Sarkozy said: "We call each other's mobiles and write text messages."
It seems the US National Security Agency tapped phone calls involving German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her closest advisers for years and spied on the staff of her predecessors, according to WikiLeaks. A report released by the group suggested NSA spying on Merkel and her staff had gone on far longer and more widely than previously realized. WikiLeaks said the NSA targeted 125 phone numbers of top German officials for long-term surveillance. 
So much for those living in a glass house not throwing stones. Thank goodness for the loud bipartisan outrage over Russia getting up into our business because it is only all the noise that helps us forget our past sins. 
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Monday, July 16, 2018

Amazon Exploits Break From USPS - Very Unfair!

An article published on MarketWatch in the latter part of May stated that President Trump personally pressured Postmaster General Megan Brennan to raise the charges Amazon and other firms pay to ship packages. This is a debate America must have! Brennan resisted Trump’s demand pointing out that the rates are set in contracts and that the Amazon relationship was beneficial for the Postal Service and noted that many other companies also partner with the service for deliveries. How Brennan defines "beneficial" and whether the deliveries are profitable are two different animals. Also, even if they are beneficial to the USPS using Brennan's definition we should consider they are coming at a great cost to both brick and mortar stores as well as to other shippers using the system. 

In mid- April President Donald Trump signed an executive order creating a task force to study the United States Postal Service. Trump said that USPS is on "an unsustainable financial path" and "must be restructured to prevent a taxpayer-funded bailout." The task force will be assigned to study factors including USPS's pricing in the package delivery market and will have 120 days to submit a report with recommendations. Trump's claim the service could be charging more may not be entirely far-fetched. A 2017 analysis by Citigroup supports his claim by concluding that the postal service was charging below-market rates as a whole on parcels. Hopefully, the study will also bring into the light the fact the USPS provides companies shipping from China and many other places with super low rates while outgoing packages from Americans get slammed.

This May Become The Face Of Amazon's Delivery Venture!
Back in February The Wall Street Journal reported Amazon was ready to launch a delivery service for businesses that would compete toe to toe with United Parcel Service Inc. and FedEx Corp. Amazon's plan which they claim will save them money may prove easier said than done. Many companies have tried over the years to break into this difficult market and failed because they underestimated the difficulties of building out and operating a complex delivery network. Customers depending on receiving an important order have little tolerance on damaged or misdelivered packages and the cost of cleaning up these problems far outweigh the benefit of a less expensive delivery.

Without a bit of transparency and hearing the opinions of a few learned souls with nothing to gain I have a difficult time thinking we are getting the whole unvarnished truth. Rather than presenting facts, the MarketWatch story sighted other Marketwatch articles and an article in the Washington Post that is owned by Amazon's CEO Jeff Bezos. The articles appear to circle around giving each other substance and collaborating that there was nothing to see here. One of the articles centered around comments from an analyst that was bullish the stock and had a buy rating on the stock who defended his position by saying that comments made by President Trump concerning the USPS losing money on packages they deliver for Amazon were motivated by hope it would damage Bezos

Package Delivery Is Often Very Challenging
In another one of these pieces, the author validates their position that complaints of shipping rates being too low is a "nothing burger" by treating the opinion of former Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe as a bonified fact. In the past, Donahoe has “unequivocally stated” to UBS analysts that Amazon is profitable for the USPS. Donahoe retired on February 1, 2015, after a 39-year career at the service. Donahoe said that Amazon’s business would fall under the “competitive products” category, which has rules guiding pricing. “By law, competitive products must cover their costs, including both operating costs associated with the service provided (sorting, loading, etc.) and an allocation of 5.5% of the USPS’s institutional/fixed costs (which has a fairly broad definition).

Still, numbers can be manipulated to mislead and even before claiming this has happened it is important to recognize some deliveries are far more expensive to make than others. The contract between Amazon and the USPS is said to expire in October and in light of this President Trump has issued an executive order for an analysis of the U.S. Postal Service’s financial situation which should clarify what Amazon and others should be paying. As it continues to struggle with losses year after year the United States Postal Service is an example that something as basic as delivering a package can be costly and no easy task. This is especially true when you are responsible for taking it the last mile or to the doorstep located down the road, up the hill and through the woods in sparsely populated areas. Amazon started taking most of its packages directly to the Postal Service in 2013, a way of avoiding the expensive last leg of the delivery in high-density metro areas as well as on America's backroads.

The fact the USPS goes to these locations on a regular basis doesn't mean Amazon "deserves" the right to be able to tag along at the same rate they would pay for a package delivered across the street. The true or real cost of putting Amazon packages in the hands of consumers is not easy and forces us to circle back to another big issue and that centers around the cost to society and other American retailers. Any benefit to or claimed by the USPS is quickly negated by the cost of businesses and retailers forced to close all across America from unfair competition created by taxpayers subsidizing cheap deliveries for Amazon packages. It must be noted that the toll on communities is massive when local stores and businesses close and jobs are lost. While online sales have their place in the area of commerce local retailers and distributors of goods should not be put at a disadvantage.

This Is Not Right! The USPS Should Not Discriminate'
When you consider that the USPS has had to purchase special equipment such as larger trucks to deliver packages for Amazon it is not difficult to reach the conclusion the USPS is simply in cahoots with Amazon or willing to sell out rest of American businesses for a few dollars in revenue. It should be noted that Sunday deliveries also hurt small businesses especially those which can't afford to expand the hours to seven days a week. Package deliveries should at a minimal be both profitable and not discriminate. This means they should be done for every other company at exactly the same price and terms. While Jeff Bezos would like the USPS to be a subsidiary of Amazon ready to do his bidding and calling it is not. To give a company special breaks that funded by taxpayers is in many ways simply un-American. This is especially true when the company is hellbent on exploiting the brick and mortar stores that add so much to our communities.

USPS Has Worlds Largest Civilian Vehicle Fleet
The USPS has morphed over the years into something far different than originally planned. For example, in 1917 it outlawed the mailing of people, this was several years after a young child was mailed from her parents to her grandparents in Idaho. In 2015 it had 617,254 active employees and today it is the operator of the largest civilian vehicle fleet in the world. It should be pointed out that rather than expanding to delivering to Sunday most USPS watchers have for over a decade advocated dropping Saturday deliveries as its importance declined with the fall of first class mail.  Also, a case can be made that any shift of business away from UPS, FedX or any other delivery company will not add jobs but merely shift them from one company to another. The bottom-line here is that far more goes into deciding the optimum shipping rate than simply whether the USPS makes money.

In January, Postal Service spokesman David Partenheimer wrote an op-ed in The Hill pushing back against calls for it to raise package rates saying,“Some of our competitors in the package delivery space would dearly love for the Postal Service to aggressively raise our rates higher than the marketplace can bear so they could either charge more themselves or siphon away postal customers,”  however, this totally misses the point and confuses the real mission or mandate of the USPS and muddles American values. It is not the job of government subsidized entities to compete with free enterprise. While this highlights the difficulty of determining what is fair it does little to blur the fact some policies simply are not good for America.

The idea Amazon is entering the delivery business world should force any logical investor to question why their stock is trading at a PE 300 time future earnings. It is insane to think any "delivery company" can ever be worth such a high multiple. I almost have to laugh when people say the stock market has not disconnected from the economy and reflects the health of the American economy. Some investors remain oblivious to the fact much of the market gain has been in just a few stocks known as the FAANG stocks. These few stocks have far outpaced the rest of the market when it comes to gains in value. Both UPS and FedEx have over the years honed their delivery systems for maximum efficiency and cut cost to the bone. The packages these companies deliver are often far too valuable to trust to low paid employees that come and go through a revolving door. It is understandable that Amazon wants to mitigate shipping cost but to think they are going to do it on the cheap is a reach.  

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Footnote; The articles below looks at Amazon's plans to enter the delivery business and why President Trump is so concerned about Amazon.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Mr. Trump Goes To Europe As The Whole World Watchs

It seems President Trump has learned little in the way of humility during his time in office and he made that clear during his recent visit to the Euro-zone where he has stepped on quite a few toes. Too clever by half is an old British saying, it refers to someone who is too confident of their own intelligence in a way that annoys other people. Often the reason a person gets labeled this way is because they come across as arrogant. The word braggadocios has been used to describe Donald Trump, synonyms for this word according to are blowhard, boaster, bragger, show-off, and windbag. None of these are very flattering and over time such behavior has a way of wearing on people which often results in a backlash accommodated with negative consequences.

Anti-Trump Protesters Made Him Feel Unwelcome
Following a meeting with NATO where he may have stirred up some rather bad feelings, he has moved onto the UK. In a visit that has been described as contentious by many mainstream media outlets Trump's tendency towards arrogant behavior has him coming across like a bull in a china shop. This only adds fuel to the fire within the thousands of people who are taking part in a series of protests during his stay in the UK. Trump’s lack of decorum, dignity, and statesmanship emerged in an interview with The Sun timed to coincide with his UK visit. After Theresa May rolled out the red carpet for President Trump and wife Melania during their first night in Britain, Trump came out swinging and bashed her by mounting an extraordinary attack on the PM’s exit negotiation. Trump also revealed she had ignored his advice on how to toughen up the troubled talks and said he believes Mrs. May has gone “the opposite way.”

Going even further Trump warning Mrs. May might have killed off and made a lucrative US trade deal very unlikely. Trump said: “If they do a deal like that, we would be dealing with the European Union instead of dealing with the UK, so it will probably kill the deal.” Trump then suggested former foreign minister Boris Johnson, who quit May's cabinet on Monday, would be a better leader than May, and criticized London Mayor Sadiq Khan as "terrible" and unwelcoming. Donald Trump’s damaging comment that could severely damage Prime Minister May, highlight what many of his detractors see as a total lack of decorum. During the interview, it is said Trump also;
  • Accused EU leaders of destroying its culture and identity by allowing in millions of migrants
  • Tore into London Mayor Sadiq Khan for not standing up to terrorists
  • Blamed Khan for spiralling crime in the capital
  • Insisted former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson would make “a great Prime Minister”
  • Denied once branding Theresa May a “bossy schoolteacher”
  • Maintained he would keep ties with Russian tyrant Vladimir Putin despite the Salisbury Novichok poisonings
  • Demanded Britain and other Nato countries spend more on defense
  • Spoke of his sadness at feeling unwelcome in the capital by anti-Trump protesters
  • Claimed millions of Brits backed his policies
The day after the interview Trump made an effort to roll back some of his harshest comment using the fig leaf of "fake news" for misleading people of his true feelings. While it is true that the media seems to revel in "Trump bashing," it could be argued he brings about much of this problem himself. Back in mid-April of 2017 in an article, I opined on how Trump often came across as a bit too clever for his own good. At the time the polls showed Trump lacked broad support and his favorability ratings couldn't seem to get out of the cellar.

Trump Often Comes Across As Too Clever By Half
Ironically his bombing of a Syrian air base in reaction to a chemical attack that killed children did receive kudos, however, it was from never Trump people, neocons, and liberals who believe in intervention. In fact, many of the supporters that constitute his base were a bit down in the mouth about getting involved. One way to gauge how President Trump's base is reacting to his moods is how they react to the tweets he sends out at any time of the day or night. When he twitters the President is able to bypass the mainstream media but it often gets their attention and a fair amount of negative coverage. Still more important is the reactions to the messages he twitters can vary greatly among those who voted him into office.

One thing many people find troubling is that after just a short time in office Trump has brought America to the brink of war, and I don't mean with just one country or foe. You can flip a coin as to whether it is the Korean peninsula that will light up with a nuclear glow, Europe erupting into conflict with Russia, or we will awaken to find thousands of American troops being dispatched to the Middle East. Years ago an attorney cautioned me that when negotiating a deal I sometimes came across as a little coy, I have always questioned his terminology, however, admit that when I was young and leaning far into the wind I might have gone a little too far. My point is when you play fast and loose the potential that you may lose control of events increases dramatically.

Some Trump Supporters Remain Concerned
Also feeding into his credibility is the issue of Trumps "flip-flops," needless to say they do not bode well for those seeking stability and wishing to go to bed at night wishing or thinking they will awaken to a world where little has changed. And let me be clear, we are not talking about what might be labeled as minor issues. We are focused on some of the key issues of the day leaving many of us a bit puzzled.

The mainstream media is quick to point out Trump's shortcomings and makes a big deal over ever falling out he has with his staff he remains brash and bold and supremely confident. While he claims he's running a well-oiled machine others give the impression that a revolving door needs to be installed to accommodate those rapidly becoming disenchanted with the way things are being run. Inside the White House, a bubbling cauldron of different ideas are competing for power and the President's ear. With this in mind, everyone should remember it was a populist message of draining the swamp that resulted in his election and while often discounted as "common folk" these voters are not necessarily as simple-minded as the pundits might lead you to believe. 

For many Americans supporting Trump was not easy or did not come naturally, however, they saw Hillary Clinton as even less acceptable. A series of recent flip-flops on positions are beginning to irritate and concern parts of his base. If this continues they will begin to doubt what he is really about. If voters who supported Trump become convinced he is playing them for fools it is likely they will loudly voice their discontent. In some way we are looking at a choice of style, Trump has repeatedly said he likes to play cards that are unexpected to keep the opposition off balance, however, when you unsettle those who support you it has a way to come back and haunt you.

Trumps failure to move healthcare reform forward in any real way coupled with Republicans pathetic excuse for an answer to improve healthcare has raised doubt about those currently in power to deliver on other issues. Trump's prediction that Democrats will own ObamaCare if it falls apart is no longer valid. A recent poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation shows a majority of voters, 61 percent said they now blame Trump and Republicans for “future problems” with the healthcare law. Since the GOP is in control of the government “they are responsible for any problems with it moving forward.” The same situation exists as far the implications to the economy and national debt in coming years following his so-called reforms in how corporations are taxed.

While some of this can be explained away as a strategy change or that he is evolving it has and should raise concern. Part of the problem is we were promised better than this, and not only better but quickly, we were promised we would win so much we would get tired of winning. To hear Trump talk at times you get the idea he thinks it is all about him. For example, Trump has both praised and blamed himself for the strong dollar. “I think our dollar is getting too strong, and partially that’s my fault because people have confidence in me,” said Trump. This means whether he realizes it or not, by taking credit for things not directly flowing from his position he also opens and creates the situation where he may also be blamed and have criticism heaped upon him for things out of his control.

It should be noted this trip includes the President's all important with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki and he may be engaging in a bit of pre-meeting posturing. Still, considering just how polarized America is any event playing out poorly or a few bad news cycles can put Trump in a precarious position. A little humility on the part of Trump would go a long way towards defusing the anger that is beginning to smolder as his supporters witness a flip-flop here and a flip there. With Trump detractors eagerly awaiting the day when he fails and receives his comeuppance Trump best remember who his friends are and that in Washington he has very few of them. There will be bad days, there always are, and before they erupt Trump would be wise to remember the message he put before the people if not the populist most likely unleash their wrath upon him.
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Sunday, July 8, 2018

Putin Holds The Key To Peace In Both Syria And Ukraine

The meeting between President Trump and Russian leader Vladimir Putin could mean that peace could be in the offing. When America was busy considering whether to elect Trump as President I originally published a piece that indicating Putin's influence. The less war oriented Trump was seen at the time by many voters as someone who might be able to throttle back the carnage in Syria and Ukraine. One of my readers commented that both conflicts in Syria and Ukraine represent pro-USA rebels attempting to take control of non-USA aligned nations. Since the election, the influential Washington Post that is very supportive of the military-industrial complex has on many occasions thwarted and squelched the idea of this meeting painting it as a capitulation to Russia. Below is the article mentioned earlier.

published September 12, 2016 
            Syria And Ukraine Have Putin In Common
Syria Bombing Has Destroyed Whole Cities
Last Saturday top Russian and American diplomats cheered the details of the potential breakthrough deal resulting from weeks of negotiations. The talks between the U.S. and Russia have reportedly produced a sweeping new agreement which includes a nationwide ceasefire and coordinated strikes against ISIS as well as al Qaeda-affiliated militants. Also, it will result in and allow increased humanitarian aid to areas of Syria badly besieged by the country’s long, bloody civil war. Most people understand that Syria can no longer be viewed as a stable country with a bad leader, it has become a humanitarian disaster.

The pictures being broadcast across television screens throughout the world of city streets bombed and blown to smithereens, dead women and little children killed by cluster bomb attacks show Syria to be a country far different from what we were facing when we decided to go into Iraq. The proof many Americans have chosen to ignore the situation was shockingly revealed when Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson drew a blank during a live interview on MSNBC when he was asked what he would do to address the situation in Aleppo, perhaps the most devastated city in the five-year civil war in Syria. "What is Aleppo?" Johnson replied when asked how he would address the crisis there. "You're kidding," journalist Mike Barnicle said. "No," was Johnson's response. 

Secretary of State John Kerry said in Geneva, "Today, Sergei Lavrov and I, on behalf of our presidents and our countries, call on every Syrian stakeholder to support the plan that the United States and Russia have reached, to ... bring this catastrophic conflict to the quickest possible end through a political process." Kerry also expressed hope the peace deal, worked out through their marathon peace talks, “has the ability to provide a turning point,” this will, of course, depend on whether all sides honor a cessation of hostilities set to begin at sundown Monday. I'm afraid those who have used and subscribed to the highly scripted talking point that Putin is a "thug and a bully" must be cringing because Russia is instrumental in this agreement.

For a moment let us be optimistic and pray we are moving in the right direction to ending Syria's civil war. Several years ago I began to advocate the best solution will ultimately be to push towards a breakup of Syria with Assad or one of his people in control of the Alawite area in exchange for freeing the remaining part of the country to rule itself, and I suggest we should not be surprised if things move in that direction. Many reasons exist as to why the deep wounds the Syrian people have suffered will not heal and why they can no longer live as one big happy family. This brings me to the crux of this post and far-fetched idea based on what both Syria and Ukraine both have in common, and that is Putin. Because of this, we are now in the unique situation to resolve two major conflicts at once if the desire to do so outweighs the egos of the players as well as their petty differences and the lust for making money from producing weapons of war.

Picture Ukraine Front Lines-War Is Hell
It is simple to see a similar agreement that eastern Ukraine would also become a sovereign nation this would go a long way in getting Putin to put Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's feet to the fire and move him towards agreeing to surrender part of his country. It is clear that Syria is to broken to be fixed and if Assad remains in power those who have suffered and been displaced will never forgive him and live under his rule, however, a change in ruling factions is also not a viable solution in that it would unleash a wave of killings and reprisals. Remember the Shiite-related Alawites rightly fear an Al Qaeda led triumph as the worst possible outcome, they would make the mass killing of Alawites their first priority. The secular leaders of the Syrian rebels, clustered in the exile group known as the Syrian National Council, also must worry about the extremist threat they themselves would face if the Assad government fell. 

As I pointed out some time ago the ramifications of Ukraine becoming a major battlefield are also very ugly. They would include Russia cutting off the flow of natural gas to the west and this would devastate an already troubled Europe. The idea of America getting involved or jumping into a war in Ukraine would have been hard to imagine a few years ago and has little upside while the potential for it to escalate into a major shooting war is real. Allowing events to deteriorate into a major war or possibly into what some see as World War III is very real. The location of such a military confrontation right in Putin's backyard would be a strong advantage for Russia and it is silly to think Putin and Russia would back down. This means poking the bear is not a smart move.

Even after all the American blood and treasure spent in the Middle East, we find Putin holding most of the cards. His motivation for supporting and pushing Assad towards peace lies in the fact we live in a complex world and Putin would tie such a deal to a solution in Ukraine. If inclined such a deal could be negotiated and it would constitute a big win-win for the people living in two troubled areas. Like children trading baseball cards both parties want something, for America, it is the end of strife in this war-torn area and the halt of millions of refugees flowing into other countries and upsetting world order, for Russia, it is allowing eastern Ukraine to also go its own way. This would mean America would end encouraging and financing a war on the Russian border for little reason other than to spite the Russian leader.

With Americans tired of war and frustrated after years of spending a fortune in the Middle East with little to show for our efforts, we are facing a debate as to which is the "best worst choice" in how to proceed. The media has been fast to point out the complexity of the situation and how muddy the politics will be going forward, This includes the formation of an often talked about no-fly zone in Syria which could cost about $1 billion a month and that risks the loss of U.S. aircraft and pilots. Again I say, it has become clear no easy answer or silver bullet exist for the problem plaguing Syria and the whole region, it is also clear America's military-industrial complex does not hold the key to a peaceful resolution. This means it may be time to cut a deal.

Footnote; I do not see Putin as a leader with saint-like qualities, he is tough and hardcore. at the same time, I see Obama's so-called reset with Russia has been a dismal failure. America's policy towards Russia seems to have become an ego match between the two leaders and time again Obama has come up short, this has driven Russia closer to China and constitutes a major mistake in foreign policy. The large joint naval exercise currently underway highlights this view. More on this in the article below.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Immigrants Right To Enter The Land Of Plenty

The idea immigrants should prove they are worthy of entering America or shall we call it "The Land Of Plenty" seems odd to many, however, the concept is not new. Immigrants rushing or coming to America or any land can in some ways be compared to those prospectors seeking gold during what is known as the Klondike Gold Rush. During the few short years between 1896 through 1899, a great many people headed to the Yukon and Klondike region of Canada and Alaska. It is said as many as 100,000 people arrived in the region at the time but only around 35,000 or so prospectors that set out for the Klondike actually made it there and of those approximately 4,000 actually found gold.

Trail Over White Pass - Picture By E. A. Hegg
Years ago when I was in Skagway, Alaska and ventured up into the Yukon I heard the story about the deadly trial to the goldfields. In addition to the boat passage up the Yukon, there were several trails being touted as the best route to the goldfields but three of those were so long and hazardous that a great many men and their animals died on the trial. The most popular of those was the 550 mile Skagway Trail over White Pass but it was far from easy and became known as‘Dead Horse Trail’ after the many carcasses that littered it.

The point I'm attempting to make is that unless you are extremely lucky and fortunate to be born into a place of wealth and luxury to enter such a place usually comes at a price. American in its infancy with vast empty lands to fill bantered about the slogan "give me your tired and your poor" but those coming to America often did not find a rose garden free of thorns. Things have changed and the situation evolved as the country matured and life today is far easier than the struggles faced by the pioneers. The reality of today is that we live in a world where the total population has soared making quality rather than quantity very important. One issue that muddies the water when it comes to immigration is the claims many of those seeking a new home make that they are refugees fleeing from prosecution or hardships. This immediately brings up calls for compassion but that is a far different issue and even then to be fair we are forced to ask what is the intention and expectations of those wishing to cross our borders.

Refugees Risk It All In Overloaded Leaky Boats

The trip to a better life is often not easy, for those going to the gold fields. Writer Jack London described the journey along a trail that in some places was only a scant two feet wide with a five hundred foot drop in graphic terms. He wrote, ‘The horses died like mosquitoes in the first frost and from Skagway to Bennett they rotted in heaps.‘ Such situations tend to create desperate men and those who feed on the weak. The situation was so harrowing that prospectors were required to have at least enough food to last a year by Canadian authorities so they wouldn’t starve. We see a similar state of affairs today as people are willing to pay a great deal of money to risk not only their life but the lives of their loved ones to get on an overloaded leaky boat in hopes it will get them to the promises land.

The debate of what people "deserve" and whether those who have it should share is not new. Whether a person has landed in a place of plenty by luck or worked their way in by cunning or toil it is something to be valued. Borders are a creation of man and men set the rules as to who crosses them and on what terms. While it may seem unfair to exclude or deny individuals the right to enter these borders, we must remember that life is unfair and this is a reality of life. A lifestyle many people can only hope to obtain is worth protecting. As for those busy promoting the myth that more people equals growth the fact is that not all growth is good and size does not always translate into strength.

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Footnote; A solid GDP number can result in a feel-good moment that builds consumer confidence can also mask growing weakness in various parts of the economy. Quantity simply does not make up for poor quality, we are talking about two totally different animals. The false narrative that simply growing the size of an economy even by using deficit spending undercuts the importance of a solid economic and the long-term stability of the financial system. The article below delves into poor investments.
 http://Economic Growth Does Not Equal Economic Strength.html

Politicians Shy Away From Dreadful "C" Word - Conserve!

Why Are Politicians Afraid Of Conserving?
One thing this election has in common with those in prior years is that few politicians broach the subject of conserving our resources and creating intelligent policies to reduce waste and reuse what we have. An article I wrote years ago remains as relevant today as when I wrote it. The subject delved into how candidates shy away from the dreaded "C" word, conserve! It pointed out how the  Presidential candidates at the time did not even bother to mention pursuing an innovative initiative to conserve our resources. While there are many new and exciting ways to recycle and cut energy waste it seems public officials are almost afraid to talk about conservation. It is as if they will offend someone or that big business and their lobbyist have made this subject taboo. Maybe they just don't care about America or the planet on which we live.

Generally, Americans are a spoiled breed. The fact is a lot could be done at little cost. For example, it seems almost absurd that some Americans think the thermostat should be set at 68 degrees during the summer and 76 degrees during the winter, this is completely backward to what logic would dictate. By simply mandating lower heating and higher cooling settings in government offices and buildings would give the private sector the cover they need to adjust their thermostats accordingly in both offices and stores. Also, when it comes to transportation, a simple yearly fee on inefficient vehicles paid to the states when licenses are renewed would accomplish much in getting Americans to shed their gas guzzlers which would move America to a more fuel-efficient fleet. Halting the manufacturing of the low-end furnaces that are still being installed in many new homes, upgrading thermostats and phasing out the sale of light fixtures and appliances that fail to make good use of our remaining resources are just a few ideas.

We Should Pay Far More For Dumb Choices
Each school day millions of buses hit the road across America transporting children to schools across town and past the schools near their home. Every Saturday a massive fleet of vehicles leave post offices across the land to deliver mail that most Americans do not feel is important. The cost of policies like these go far beyond the cost of money being poorly spent, they take a toll on our planet. We need politicians who care about the hidden cost of short-term policy and have the courage to focus on long-term planning and sustainability. It is time voters demand politicians put this priority before their desire to serve big business and the lobbyist that shower Washington with money.

Over the last several years I have had reason to enter many large buildings and offices in the evenings or during weekends. It is truly amazing that on cold winters nights, weekends, and over holidays thermostats are not set-back. Yes all over America we heat empty buildings as though they are occupied. A fair number of computers and lights that are often left on long after everyone is gone for the day, it seems people don't care enough to make the slightest effort to turn down the heat or turn off a light. This is an awareness and an attitude problem and clearly, without a gentle nudge to conserve, Americans will continue to damage the environment and add to climate change.

Millions of homes across America still lack proper insulation or do not have programmable thermostats and these are often inhabited by those least able to pay large utility bills. Ironically public policy centers around giving these people more money to help pay their energy bills rather than helping them reduce the energy that is being wasted. We also see government mandates and rules related to the American Disability Act making buildings obsolete far before their time when the focus should be on improving their efficiency and extending their useful life. We cannot afford to continue removing and replacing buildings after only a few decades. A sensible way to create jobs and save many of these homes would be to back programs geared to making them more energy efficient.

Solid Waste & Landfill Facts

The U.S. Is The #1 Trash-Producing Country
  • About one-third of an average dump is made up of packaging material!
  • Every year, each American throws out about 1,200 pounds of organic garbage that can be composted.
  • The U.S. is the #1 trash-producing country in the world at 1,609 pounds per person per year. This means that 5% of the world's people generate 40% of the world's waste.

It is important to note that regardless of what many people think, innovation does not always involve spending huge sums of money. Innovation often means simply thinking of new ways to get the job done. While it could be argued that cutting back on waste would lower the GDP it would have many positive benefits such as improving our standing in the world community. As we conserve, pollution is reduced, America's economy will be strengthened by reducing the importation of energy, new jobs will be generated by the industries that address these needs, and damage to the climate from global warming lessened. Why are politicians so willing and eager to ask America's sons and daughters to risk life and limbs in foreign wars while unwilling to ask Americans to make such a minor sacrifice?

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Footnote; The article below explores our failure to deal with the issue of E-waste.