Trump’s nuclear threat and pressure on businesses is a return to tactics of past presidents…

December 26, 2016

President-elect Donald Trump’s call for a build-up of the U.S. nuclear arsenal sounds alarming but it can also be viewed as nothing more than the realization that while we may have won the Cold War, we did not eliminate the threat of forces that aim to destroy us at any sign of weakness. And although his staff has tried to walk back his comments, they are or were what they were. He wants to make sure we have the most bombs and most effective bombs and best capability to deliver them.

(I am not a Trump fan — wished his presidency was not true, but it is. This is not just a nightmare.)

Trump wants to put Russia and North Korea and Iran and the Islamic terrorists and anyone else who might want to do us harm on notice — there will be consequences.

Of course we know the consequences in most cases would be the destruction of the whole world or at the minimum a major catastrophe that would do irreparable harm to the world and all of its inhabitants.

But there you are, weapons that are so dangerous that they protect us by the notion of “mutually assured self-destruction”, I think is the phrase.

(While for the time being maintaining nuclear superiority seems paramount, I believe we should still work towards the goal of the world-wide elimination of nuclear arms, but how do you keep them from rogue nations and terrorists and wind up being caught unarmed and unprotected? a true conundrum. But I’d prefer more rhetoric on nuclear disarmament than proliferation nonetheless.)

Trump was not the first to sound the nuclear challenge or warning. It’s just that he is a little more out there with it and has the tool of instant communication with everyone in the world: Twitter. And although I personally do not use or read Twitter directly, like everyone else I can get his tweets via the traditional media.

But grandfatherly and peace-loving (five-star general hero of WWII) President Eisenhower way back in the 1950s put The Soviet Union and communist China on notice that we were ready to use our nuclear arsenal to stop aggression if need be.

And would you believe it? Eisenhower made this warning and pledge by announcing that the U.S. would protect that other China, the Island of Formosa, Nationalist China, Taiwan, the same nation we no longer recognize (except Trump has signaled a possible change in that), lest we offend the mighty communist China.

And just like Trump, Eisenhower was quizzed by reporters as to under what circumstances would the U.S. actually use nuclear weapons (again; we had dropped two nuclear bombs on Japan to end WWII).

It just so happens that I watched a video of Chris Matthews grilling Trump on under what circumstances would he actually use nuclear weapons. Trump was what some would call evasive but I think he said the right thing, that is one cannot say, a decision has to be made at the time, but what purpose would there be to have nuclear weapons if people thought you would never use them ever? And then by chance I watched a documentary on the Eisenhower administration. Ike answered reporters’ questions on the same subject much the same way.

In General Eisenhower’s case, he was a soldier who knew you don’t give enemies your plans, you keep them guessing, off balance. Trump, as a business negotiator and like a poker player, knows about keeping adversaries off balance and not showing his hand.

And, OMG! I really sound like a Trump apologist now — but I am not! I can’t stand the guy. But we are stuck with him as far as I can see — probably for the next four years at least.

And here’s something else I noticed in a kind of comparison between the nominal Republican Trump and a Democratic saint, JFK. While there is concern that Trump inappropriately applied pressure to at least two private businesses, Carrier to not send as many jobs to Mexico and Boeing about the high cost of building planes for government contract, I also just read about how JFK used strong-arm tactics against U.S. Steel to get it to raise its wages, on behalf of his supporters in a labor union, and then to get it to rescind what appeared to be a retaliatory raise in the price of steel — threatening to sick the FBI on them to reveal details of business trips, such as who stayed with whom at hotels, among other things. I mean Richard Nixon, who originally lost the presidency to JFK, was eventually hounded out of office for doing things like harassing adversaries with the FBI and the IRS. And I am no Nixon apologist either. It’s just that the more one reads (even sifting through slanted stories and out-and-out fabrications) the more one realizes how dirty politics is all the way around.

Trump takes things a bit further by doing so much bad stuff in public. He has no shame, maybe because many of his supporters have none either.

And maybe in the end it will simply be how much the public as a whole is willing to put up with him.

His staunchest supporters may eventually ask: what have you done for me? Or what have you done for me lately?

And what could make or break our new president, possibly more soon than later, will be his first foreign crisis, that is one originating from outside or unequivocally affecting U.S. interests in some other part of the world.

And then neither tweets nor bluster nor outrageous behavior will suffice.

p.s.

I guess the new thing is that he is saying so much while the lame duck president is still in office — it’s a fast-paced world.


There were also thoughts early on about using a nuclear bomb to stop communist aggression in Vietnam but as is usually the case it was determined to be impractical. Instead we used conventional weapons to destroy the country to try to save it (a little sarcasm and a paraphrase of the infamous quote of an American officer on the ground).

From thisdayinquotes.com:

On February 7, 1968, American bombs, rockets and napalm obliterated much of the South Vietnamese town of Ben Tre — killing hundreds of civilians who lived there.

Later that day, an unidentified American officer gave Associated Press reporter Peter Arnett a memorable explanation for the destruction.

Arnett used it in the opening of the story he wrote:

   “It became necessary to destroy the town to save it,” a U.S. major said Wednesday.
   He was talking about the grim decision that allied commanders made when Viet Cong attackers overran most of this Mekong Delta city 45 miles southwest of Saigon. They decided that regardless of civilian casualties they must bomb and shell the once placid river city of 35,000 to rout the Viet Cong forces.

After Arnett’s story was published in newspapers the next morning, February 8, 1968, the unnamed major’s remark became one of the most infamous war-related quotes in modern history.

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The Christmas message should be one of peace but also one of readiness for defense…

December 25, 2016

MERRY CHRISTMAS 2016!

If ever there was a time to wish for world peace it is now. Always at Christmas there is the call for peace on earth and good will toward men. Too bad so many have so much bad will.

But it is the way of humanity. We fight over finite resources and power over those resources and power over each other, kind of connected to who gets the resources.

There were two major world wars last century and since then wars have gotten somewhat smaller in scale but oh so deadly still. And we use up so much of those resources fighting over who gets the resources.

But we also fight over what religion to believe in or what kind of people, of what race, should be in charge, but all that really gets back to who gets the resources.

With the spread of Western-style democracy at the end of World War II it had seemed we had turned a corner on the road to world peace. Then there was the Cold War between the forces of democracy and the forces of communist tyranny (communism, some weird form of socialism that always amounts to a dictatorship that provides no more freedom than a fascist government, even though it is supposedly on the other end of the right/left political spectrum).

But the Cold War ended with the fall of the Soviet Union, which collapsed under the weight of an arms race and militarism it could not afford with its unworkable economy that could not respond to what its populace wanted or needed.

But lest we get too smug here in the West, others in the world want their share, and did not grow up in the same culture and did not have the same opportunities as we have had in some cases.

Some see how we have it and choose to emulate it, even choose to come here and join it. In fact, that was part of the downfall of the Soviet Union or more directly the old Soviet bloc of the Eastern European satellite nations forced to be under Soviet domination after World War II by the Russian army that passed through them to defeat the Nazis of Hitler’s Germany who had invaded Russia. After decades of the forced drab life under communism, thanks to modern communications slipping in, the people of Eastern Europe saw how the other half lived and wanted that too.

But then there are the opportunists, greedy people who use the ignorance and needs of others to preach hate and rally them to their side not to help humanity but to secure power for themselves. And they enlist the support of others with the promise of some greater glory either here on earth or in the after life. Desperate and confused people do strange things, such as wage wars of terror.

And, it goes the other way. Opportunists in the West and outright bigots alike stoke the fears of the populace and preach hate against immigrants or even people who remain in other parts of the world but who are not directly aligned with us in the name of fighting terror.

(I do not mean to say nor imply there is not reason to fear terrorists or even those who would destroy our own culture. We just have to correctly identify the enemy and not ruin what we have in the process.)

It’s kind of an endless cycle.

But every year at this time we talk of peace on earth. In some wars, such as America’s Civil War and World War II, in some cases soldiers on either side stopped shooting each other on Christmas (I’ve read in the Civil War they even exchanged needed items), only to resume fighting once the day of peace was over.

But I do wish those in power would talk more of peace than war and would talk more of cooperation than of divisions in society. Of course there will always likely be battles to fight, but more talk of peace and less vitriol might lessen the amount of violence.

But actual pacifism in words and/or deeds encourages the forces of evil.

You gotta talk nice but be ready to beat back the enemy at the gates and let the enemy know of your readiness.

Peace On Earth and good will to all!

p.s.

The violence in neighborhoods and streets across the nation to me is just another facet of the fight over resources. Some want to get them the easy way, some want to work for them, some want a chance to work for them, some are just frustrated, and some are just confused over the mixed messages of society — and then there is always evil.

 

 


Even while respecting civil liberties we need to do more than just put potential terrorists on a list…

December 22, 2016

Still wondering how effective so-called terrorist watch lists are. Certainly I think we need them, but why is it that most of these terrorists who commit murder and mayhem are said to have been on the watch lists?

The 9/11 attackers were on a watch list and yet let onto the airliners. And in the latest terrorism in Germany, well the suspect, on the loose as I write this, was on the German authorities’ watch list. They even had reason to believe he was actively planning something.

But in Western democracies we prize freedom of movement and rightfully so. Police cannot legally detain a person or take someone into custody on a mere suspicion not backed up by some kind of clear evidence. If we were to allow otherwise think of what might happen. Over-zealous authorities or ones on a personal or political vendetta could grab and detain people on trumped-up (excuse the expression) charges.

But we know that the predominant source of this spate of terror that is being inflicted on the world is from groups who identify themselves as Islamic — therefore we usually refer to them as Islamic terrorists, even though it is felt or hoped that these people do not represent all of or even any of true Islam, at best, or perhaps better put, worst, they represent an extreme sect of the religion, with a distorted view, although some charge it is not really distorted at all.

(Christians were fairly extreme in the Middle Ages.)

With the attack in Germany at a Christmas market, President-elect Donald Trump is basically saying I told you so, in reference to his campaign position in favor of banning the entry of Muslims into the U.S. It has been said that he has modified his position to a ban on those coming from terrorism hotbeds, and I think he has sometimes used the phrase a temporary ban, as until we can get a handle on the situation. Actually, as much as I detest Trump, I have a hard time arguing with that proposition, which seems, dare I say it? common sense.

Even in cases where the suspects or perpetrators were not on a watch list, they had contacts with people who were. This is especially true in the case of so-called “home-grown” terrorists who are “radicalized”, as they say.

I know the authorities often have their hands tied in situations where they have seemingly convincing or obvious information but cannot act because of civil liberties restrictions. I would in no way propose sacrificing our civil liberties in the name of fighting terror. However, people coming into the U.S., or say, coming into Germany, don’t have the rights of citizens of the respective countries (and some legal expert might argue with me on this — and win I guess). And non-citizens it would seem would be subject to deportation (or should be) if there is a reasonable concern they are up to no good. And it would seem the standard for deportation in such cases would be lower than that of detention for a citizen.

And when it comes to home-grown terrorists or those from abroad but under the radar — I guess if you see (or hear) something, say something. I mean stockpiling weapons might be a clue. It’s amazing and scary how often we read that there were clues, such as terrorists telegraphing their plans by public statements or stockpiling weapons in their apartments.

And of course not all terrorists wear the Islamic label. Just wanted to be fair, clear, and accurate about this.

And I don’t want to fall prey to inadvertently spreading fake news, but I know in some of my reading it has been charged that the outgoing Obama administration scrubbed some names from watch lists in the interests I think of not making anyone and everyone who is somehow connected to Islam a suspect — and that is my own interpretation.

In these troubled times we have to be fair and true to our values but we also have to be prudent and not ignore the obvious.

If I say suspicious things or act in a suspicious manner at an airport, I will almost surely be detained by the TSA or other police or authorities. While we cannot or should not broaden that to everywhere, neither can we walk around blind to the threat.

Authorities need some latitude, but latitude that is held in check, as it is supposed to be now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Raising interest rates is good for all of us…

December 14, 2016

The Fed is expected to raise interest rates today after years of 0 interest for banks who purchase money to lend to you. Pretty good deal, huh? They pay nothing and charge you a lot.

So what does the raise in interest rates mean to you, the average consumer?

An article in CNN Money says:

American savers have struggled for years, earning next to nothing at the bank. Now they could be a step closer to light at the end of that tunnel and earn a little more interest on savings account deposits.

When the Fed raises short-term rates, banks pay customers higher interest on their deposits. But how much higher and how fast they will go up will depend on whether the Fed will keep raising rates.


And while I know little about money it seems higher interest rates is good. Higher interest rates allow consumers to make money on their own money, just like the banks (except on a smaller scale of course) and they discourage reckless borrowing that got us into the Great Recession in the first place.

When you have your money in various interest-bearing accounts you are a lender (not directly of course). I was told when I was just a kid better to be a lender than a borrower. Too bad I did not really get it until so many years later.

Borrowing has its place (if for no other reason than if no one borrowed you would have no one to lend money to), but living totally off of borrowed money is the road to disaster for an individual or a nation.

And of course one trick to investing is to somehow use other people’s money or O P M, as they call it. President-elect Trump could fill you in on that.

So I know some things about money, but almost too little too late.

 


What can we possibly do about atrocities in Syria?

December 13, 2016

Can I just ask something? What are we to do about the reported atrocities in Aleppo, Syria, where the government has taken over the city and it is said that its forces are wantonly shooting civilians?

As horrific as that sounds or is, such things have taken place in other areas of the world, such as in the various regions of Africa. I mean the United States can’t just go in there and save people can it? We would have to have an invading army and then we would just get bogged down in that and be accused of imperialism and no doubt civilians would be killed in the process (nearly always unavoidable in such situations). And the very people we might save would later no doubt rise up against us. And why is it the responsibility of our soldiers to fight the bad guys in other parts of the world? What is the responsibility of the people themselves in that part of the world? I realize there are rebel forces in Syria fighting the murderous Assad regime, but they are splintered into different groups and some of them are aligned with so-called Islamic extremists (such as our arch enemies ISIS and Al Qaeda).

And where is the UN in all of this? And really, what good is the UN? And would we really want one-world government (no)?

The Middle East is stuck in the dark ages of tribalism and is suffering from it. But only those who live there can fix it I would think.

On the other hand, the Western powers have a right and responsibility to protect their own interests, and the unrest in the region continually threatens our interests.

What goes on there is our business if for no other reason than all the unrest has resulted in a wave of humanity, refugees, that has invaded the West in its flight from terror and hunger and is taxing the resources of the host countries and threatening social institutions and culture of the West as well.

Do we have to go back to the old system of taking over these lands and ruling them as, say, protectorates because they cannot take care of themselves?

I don’t have an answer for this. And it is hard to bear the thought of the hardships and the sheer terror people face in places such as Aleppo.

p.s.

And then after writing all of this I read on the CNN site:

Before they go to kindergarten, children in Chicago learn to hit the floor at the sound of gunfire.

One child age 16 or younger is murdered in the city every week on average. This has been happening for more than a quarter century, police records show. Neither homes nor streets are safe. Those are the first and second most likely places to get murdered in Chicago since 2001.

….. I say we must address the safety of our own.


An expansion of our ‘news’ sources has had negative consequences…

December 12, 2016

Just read an opinion piece that says now that we don’t all sit down and watch the old Evening News with Walter Cronkite and then think that we know “that’s the way that it is”, not everyone is seeing or reading the same thing and it has led to mass confusion and a plethora of so-called news sites that spew out half-truths, propaganda, and just plain lies. People no longer seem to know or in some instances even care what the truth is. And with people able to customize their so-called news watching or reading to just things they may be interested in — there goes any chance of critical thinking and open minds.

Of course Cronkite was not the only television anchor man of his time, but he was the icon. Did he not go to Vietnam and tell the American people it was hopeless? And was that not the end of major public support of the war if there ever was any?

At one time it seemed worrisome that the big three television networks seemed to have a lock on the news. And major newspapers or major newspaper chains did too.

Oh wouldn’t it be nice if the public had more sources to choose from, maybe ones that might present a different perspective? That probably was the thought by many, even within established journalism itself.

(I try to avoid the term “media” when possible because of the pejorative nature it has taken on. Referring to the common understanding of the word is like lumping journalists in with shady used car salesman.)

Well we got our wish. Along came the internet. You can now get your “news” on demand. Some of it is tailored just to your own interest, no opposing views or inconvenient truths to pollute it. Some of it is a little distorted. And now a lot of it is just plain false, just fake news, put out there in many cases not to push a point of view but just to get you to click onto it so the purveyors of it can get advertising dollars based on views.

Also, it had been my observation through my many years (67) that even though I was interested in current events and politics from an early age, many others were not. I had a best friend. I liked his folks — nice down-to-earth people. But I found it odd that as soon as the evening news came on they would switch the channel. Maybe they read what they needed to know in the newspaper, but I think the father just read the sports page.

But what I am trying to say is that there was a large portion of the public who did not pay attention to current events and they did not vote. They were just out of the picture. But nowadays nearly everyone has a “smart phone”, well I don’t, but I do have instant access to the internet; I still use a flip phone because it serves my purpose — making actual phone calls. And I keep promising to get a smart phone. And now everyone has access to all kinds of stuff. But not everyone uses critical thinking. And a lot of people like to read what they think or what their own prejudices predispose them to believe.

Hence, the power of fake news. It may have cost Hillary Clinton the election (although most people think she herself is what primarily caused it) and it prompted at least one nut case to attack a pizza parlor in search of an imaginary child sex ring run by Clinton.

And now we have a President-elect who capitalizes on the phenomenon of just saying something without regard to truth knowing that either a large portion of the public will believe him or that they might not even care. I mean they are so used to reading what they want to read that anything works for them as truth or is a good replacement for it.

What to do?

We might actually go back to teaching the basics of reading and composition writing where one can make a case based on evidence. We might stress history and civics and literature. We might teach the importance of civic responsibility and that good public policy goes beyond who can make the most money no matter what the means.

Really for the educated and responsible there might not be much we can do in the short run except keep the faith and challenge those who lie by demanding some real evidence.

And we also have to examine our own critical thinking and keep open minds.

But this new form of fascism, a kind of re-incarnation from the 1930s and 40s, where public information is devoid of truth and is just propaganda designed to support tyrants at the top who shout nationalism, has to be resisted.

Ironically, the narrative that has been used to support the new fascism is that all along a cabal of elites at the top have been running things and now the people are standing up.

I think those people who think that they are standing up will soon realize that they have been caught up in a con game and will be forced to sit down by the very person they chose.

 

 

 


On the death of John Glenn and men like him: the real heroes did not have to brag…

December 9, 2016

The death Thursday (12-8-16) of John Glenn at 95, first American astronaut to orbit the earth in space, reminded me of how different it is now than then, then being the early 1960s. It was an exciting and exhilarating time. We had a young Democratic Party president from a super-rich family who did not see government as the enemy but more of an engine to do good for a nation on the move. And he did not spend time bragging on himself (even if his father had bragged on him).

I don’t recall Glenn bragging on himself either, it was just apparent. It did not need to be said.

President John F. Kennedy declared that we would land a man on the moon within the decade, and we did, and this was done by the government, but that government mission also had a major spinoff of so many uses and products in the private sector. And think of all the government contracts for private industry — all the employment. But only government could have gone out on a limb to do this.

The populace as a whole was not anti-government but it did buy into the argument during the new president’s campaign that our country was in stagnation and needed to move forward. There was an economic recession. And the Democrats argued that we had fallen behind the Soviets in missile technology and production and the space race during the Republican Eisenhower administration. In 1957 the Soviets had shocked the world by launching the first space satellite. It looked like they had surpassed the U.S.

I remember the family going out into our backyard in the Central Valley of California and watching Sputnik pass overhead like a moving star.

But the reality was that we were not really behind, maybe just a bit more cautious. For one thing, the Russians had sent up some capsules previous to their official flights, with dogs and reportedly even with at least one human cosmonaut, who did not survive. We sent up at least one chimpanzee before sending a man up. Both the chimpanzee and the man made it back.

But then after the Soviet Union beat us in manned flight into space, we soon sent Allan Shepard up and then Gus Grissom, both flights simply going up and then down, and then John Glenn, who actually orbited the earth. We were solidly back in the game and took the lead over the Soviet Union.

Glenn was lucky he made it back to earth. On the way down the heat shield on his capsule was disintegrating. He could feel the heat and see the sparks or flames, but later said he knew the only thing to do was to keep calm and apply his training — if the worst happened it would be over in an instant.

JFK of course was assassinated in 1963. But in 1969 we were the first and only nation to put a man on the moon.

All this glory thanks in large part to a president who had been a World War II hero and astronauts like Glenn, veterans too. Glenn served in both WWII and the Korean War.

Glenn went on to be a U.S. Senator from Ohio, a member of the Democratic Party, but a centrist in public policy for most of his long tenure, and he had other successful endeavors throughout his life. By all accounts he was an unassuming man, more given to hard work and service to his country, not so much boasting.

Today we have a billionaire headed to the White House who made his money by questionable means and who is boastful and who is disrespectful to the institutions of government and to war veterans — bashing John McCain, who served years in North Vietnam as a prisoner of war and refused to succumb to their propaganda trick of offering him an early release so they could make it look like the son of a Navy admiral got special treatment and maybe even betrayed his country.

President-elect Donald Trump claimed he was not impressed with McCain because he got captured. Trump dodged his way out of the service during Vietnam. Trump also insulted the family of a fallen American soldier in the war in Iraq. Trump may or may not have rescinded some of his remarks in both cases or had others do it for him, I forget, but that is what he does when someone criticizes him or he thinks they did — he lashes out like a child, usually on the social network device of Twitter, where you can spew out random thoughts without thinking in an instant for the world to see.

I can’t imagine such actions from the likes of JFK or Glenn or men of that stature.

Our society has changed. It seems we no longer revere such people or there are few such people to revere.

Trump says he will “make America great again”.

But I think it is the likes of people as him that is threatening our decline.