Sunday, May 27, 2018

Finally, The Review of "Homo Deus." Another Rant.

While on a road trip, an elderly couple, Jack and Martha, stopped at a roadside restaurant for lunch.

After finishing their meal, they left the restaurant, and resumed their trip.

When leaving, the elderly woman unknowingly left her glasses on the table, and she didn't miss them until they had been driving for about forty minutes.image

By then, to add to the aggravation, they had to travel quite a distance before they could find a place to turnaround, in order to return to the restaurant to retrieve her glasses.

All the way back, the elderly husband became the classic grumpy old man.image

He fussed and complained, and scolded his wife relentlessly during the entire return drive.

The more he chided her, the more agitated he became.

He just wouldn't let up for a single minute.

To her relief, they finally arrived at the restaurant.

As the woman got out of the car, and hurried inside to retrieve her glasses, the old geezer yelled to her,

While you're in there, you might as well get my hat and the credit card.imageimage

And :

Political Differences Explained

If someone asks you what the main difference is between most of the Obama supporters and most of the Trump supporters, instead of stammering and stuttering and looking for the best answer, just tell them that the Trump supporters sign their checks on the front, and most  Obama supporters sign their checks on the back.


And finally:

Angela Merkel arrives at Passport Control in Athens airport.

"Nationality?" asks the immigration officer.

"German," she replies.


"No, just here for a few days."
Barriers mostly work. Progressives often do not. "Israel begins construction of underwater barrier to prevent Hamas infiltration by sea. The Jerusalem Post reports the barrier, which will stretch out into the Mediterranean from the southern town of Zikim, will be completed by the end of this year."
Obviously the mass media are so prone to over-react and find fault with Trump very being  they wind up exposing their bias and culpability. (See 1 below.)
Trump and Iran's nuclear ability. (See 2 below.)

Harvey led off in hand cuffs, Hillary speaks at commencements. Is there something wrong with this picture?  You decide.
Always have thought Obama was involved.  So typical of his duplicity. (See 3  below.)
I have read many good books in my day but none more challenging as "Homo Deus."  I promised, when I had time, I would review and I am but the concepts Harari expresses are so wide/deep I am not sure I can do him/them  justice. (See 4 below.)
Finally, another rant. (Se 5 below.)


By Melanie Philips

So has peace in our time with North Korea been cancelled?

When President Trump abruptly called off his prospective meeting with North Korea’s chairman Kim Jong-un yesterday, the media immediately crowed that his strategy had gone belly-up, that it showed how incoherent and altogether rubbish his foreign policy was and that we were now right back where we started.
Once again, the media merely exposed its own shallowness.
A few hours earlier a high-ranking North Korean foreign ministry official, Choe Son Hui, called US Vice-President Mike Pence a “political dummy” for suggesting last Monday that, if North Korea didn’t conclude a deal with the US, it could end up like Libya. Choe also suggested that Pyongyang was ready for a “nuclear showdown” should diplomacy fail.
US officials have further reported that, when the deputy Chief of Staff and his team went to Singapore last week as arranged to work out the logistics for the June 12 summit, the North Koreans never showed up.
Yesterday Trump took the initiative and cancelled the summit, thus putting Kim on the back foot. He did so with a highly nuanced letter which balanced regret and hope with a clear threat: “You talk about your nuclear capabilities, but ours are so massive and powerful that I pray to God they will never have to be used.”
With this, Trump slapped down Kim’s threats as pretentious overreach. Two can play at the threat game, and the one that has more credibility is the incomparably more powerful US. If Kim didn’t make the deal, ran the Trump message, the consequences for North Korea from either economic strangulation or military action would be terminal.
Lo and behold, within a very short space of time Kim was practically begging for talks to resume, saying he was willing to meet Trump “at any time”. To which Trump replied in similarly emollient vein, telling reporters that “if and when Kim Jong-un chooses to engage in constructive dialogue and actions, I am waiting’’.
This doesn’t sound like Trump has fallen flat on his face as the media are suggesting. It sounds more like a negotiators’ trial of strength in which Trump has the upper hand – and is playing it as such.
The Dealmaker-in-Chief is surely using a strategy to beat down not just Kim but also China. For China, Kim’s protector, is absolutely key to all this.
Last Monday, Trump called out China for having a “porous” border with North Korea. This followed reports that Chinese companies had increased trade with North Korea and even helped it skirt sanctions by allowing its ships near its ports, thus undermining American pressure on Kim.
On Wednesday, Trump called out China for undermining the summit. It appears there had been a second, hitherto unknown meeting on May 7/8 between Kim and China after which, say US officials, North Korea’s attitude changed.
On May 16, a North Korean official spoke of objecting to the “complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearisation of the [Korean] Peninsula” and US statements calling for total decommissioning of nuclear weapons. Yet North Korea had previously expressed a commitment to denuclearisation. So it went back on itself. Well there’s a surprise.
So it’s back to square one? Not so. Trump’s aggressive strategy has already produced one big and one more ambiguous result. The big one was the return to the US of the three American hostages who had been imprisoned in North Korean labour camps for months. The media has conveniniently forgotten that.
The more ambiguous result was that, hours before Trump called off the summit, North Korea appeared to blow up an underground nuclear testing site – although this has not been verified because only journalists were allowed to attend without the international experts the North Koreans had promised would also be there.
In sum, it looks as if, having humiliated Kim by exposing his weakness, Trump is now ratcheting up the pressure again.
Trump is proving to be an international negotiator like no other. He busts wide open the fundamental assumption of today’s defeatist and demoralised west – that it must never, ever walk away from a negotiation but must keep talks going whatever it takes. The results of that core assumption are all around us – that the bad guys in the world always, but always have the upper hand.
Trump’s approach is very different. America is the biggest beast in the jungle, he says to the bad guys, and don’t you ever forget it. This is the only way the bad guys in the world are ever going to be made to crumble. And so of course those tribunes of western demoralisation, the BBC and the Guardian, CNN and the New York Times, are falling over themselves to denounce him.
None of us knows what has actually been going on between the US, China and North Korea. And no-one, including President Trump, can say whether his strategy will work. But given the complexity of the situation, the contradictory signals and the evidence of minds being concentrated for the first time in both Pyongyang and Beijing, it would surely be prudent to wait and see before attempting to pass judgment.
For this is a long haul. Anyone who really thought the proposed meeting between Kim and Trump would defang North Korea just like that merely illustrated their own limitations.

U.S. Moves to Shutter All Iranian Nuclear Enrichment Sites in Major Reversal of Obama Policy

Pompeo call to kill Iran's nuclear program gaining traction

The Trump administration, in a major reversal of Obama administration policy, is seeking to shutter every Iranian nuclear enrichment site, including its heavy water reactors, which could provide Iran with a second, plutonium-based pathway to a nuclear weapon, according to U.S. officials and others familiar with the policy shift.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in his first major policy address, called on Iran to shutdown its heavy water nuclear power plants, which were allowed by the Obama administration under the landmark nuclear agreement and laid the groundwork for Tehran and Russia to ink multi-billion dollar deals to build new nuclear reactors throughout the country, construction that is already underway.

Pompeo's demand is being met with support within the Trump administration and on Capitol Hill. Opponents of the nuclear agreement told theWashington Free Beacon it jibes with ongoing efforts by Congress to strangle Iran's nuclear enrichment facilities.

Iran's nuclear reactors have been a tension point since the nuclear deal was put in place due to the Islamic Republic's production of heavy water—a nuclear enriched byproduct—beyond the amounts allowable under the agreement. In order to ensure Iran was not caught breaching restrictions on heavy water under the deal, the Obama administration used taxpayer money to purchase Iran's excess heavy water, a policy that was immediately reversed by the Trump administration.

In response to Pompeo's speech, Iranian officials have again threatened to abandon the nuclear deal and restart high-level uranium enrichment to levels that cold be used to fuel a nuclear weapon.

"Iran must declare to the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] a full account of the prior military dimensions of its nuclear program, and permanently and verifiably abandon such work in perpetuity," Pompeo said in his Monday morning speech.

"Iran must stop enrichment and never pursue plutonium reprocessing," Pompeo said. "This includes closing its heavy water reactor."

Pompeo's speech sets the stage for the United States to reimpose harsh economic sanctions on Iran that could cripple its already ailing economy and force the Islamic Republic to negotiate a better deal or face regime collapse, according to one senior administration official familiar with the White House's strategy.

"In his refreshingly direct and fact-based speech, Secretary Pompeo formalized President Trump's historic announcement that the United States was leaving the JCPOA two weeks ago," the official told the Free Beacon. "Rather than the willful blindness that characterized the old policy of trying to cajole Tehran into pursuing a nuclear weapon slowly, the secretary clarified that our policy is now to prevent them from getting one altogether."

Pompeo, in alignment with Trump, also sent a message to the Iranian people that the United States supports their democratic efforts to topple the hardline ruling regime.

Pompeo "also made a strong statement of solidarity with the Iranian people, who are the traditional friends of the American people, and who have suffered too long under this autocratic theocracy that is preventing Iran from a secure and prosperous future as a welcomed member of the international community," the official said.

While the Obama administration worked to implement a scheme in which it would pay Iran with taxpayer dollars for its excess heavy water, GOP leaders on Capitol Hill worked to outlaw any further deals.

Rep. Ron DeSantis (R., Fla.), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee who led efforts to expose these Obama-era payments to Iran, told theFree Beacon the Trump administration's new efforts to shutter Iran's nuclear enrichment sites represents a policy more in line with reality.

"As someone who has passed amendments to prohibit American taxpayers from reimbursing Iran for its heavy water, I believe Secretary Pompeo is right on target in demanding that Iran cease plutonium processing and enrichment activities," DeSantis said. "A militant Islamist regime cannot be permitted to have any nuclear capacity."

Other sources on Capitol Hill told the Free Beacon the Obama administration allowed Iran to cheat on the deal and then helped it get back in line by sending Tehran taxpayer dollars.
"The Obama administration's purchase of Iranian heavy water gave away the game," said one senior GOP congressional aide who was closely involved in the Iran deal debate. "The Iranians deliberately cheated and violated the deal just to see how the Obama/Kerry team would respond and, wouldn't you know it, the United States responded by literally paying the Iranians to stop violating the deal."

"Then, the State Department turned around and told Congress and the American people that all this showed the deal was working," the source said. "Today they're still using the same line."

Iranian leaders continue to lash out at the Trump administration as they scramble to save the deal and ensure European nations continue doing business in the country.
Iran has vowed to leave the deal if economic assurances are not given by the Europeans, who have already been examining plans to skirt new U.S. sanctions.

"If the conditions prior to the pre-nuclear deal era prevail again after the U.S. withdrawal and Iran is deprived of the nuclear deal advantages, then Iran will have no reason to remain committed to it," Iranian Ambassador to Russia Mehdi Sanayee said in a Tuesday interview.
Other Iranian leaders have begun calling for the full-scale suspension of the deal, which would pave the way for Iran to restart its most sensitive nuclear enrichment work.
"We are not necessitated to declare that we have withdrawn from the nuclear deal but we'd better suspend (implementation of) our nuclear-deal undertakings because the agreement is not in trouble," Mohammad Javad Larijani, the secretary of Iran's Human Rights Council, told the country's state-controlled press organs late Monday.
3)  Hunting witches, finding spies
What did Barack Obama know and when did he know it? Those Watergate-era questions are increasingly relevant today in the rapidly expanding government-media debacle once intended solely to ensnare Donald Trump.
With revelations already reaching into the Obama White House, I suggested four months ago that the deep state’s disinformation campaign was becoming more aggressive.
As the Spy-gate story made headlines, Charles Hurt of The Washington Times connected the latest dots: “The Obama administration perverted one of the most powerful, clandestine spying operations in the world and used it to spy on political opponents, punish them and, ultimately, silence them through extortion.”
Those charges were dismissed by former Democratic officeholders (and current media commentators) such as former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and CIA Director John Brennan.
But just like Watergate, glib defenses were swiftly eclipsed by more troubling revelations. Sharyl Attkisson pointed out eight signs of a “counterintelligence operation deployed against Trump’s campaign.” These signs were eerily similar to information operations mounted against her as a CBS News reporter pursuing stories the Obama White House preferred to conceal.
But these “witch hunts” are only parts of a much larger story. During the last four decades, the American intelligence establishment has surpassed the “military-industrial complex” President Dwight Eisenhower famously warned against. Instead of silently guarding American freedom, our intelligence agencies are rapidly morphing into a far more malevolent presence — one apparently capable of executing a silent coup.
I saw those tendencies early in my career as a Cold War intelligence officer in West Germany when my battalion commander confided an ominous secret. Army counterintelligence agents had spied on expatriate Democrats in West Berlin. That jaw-dropping idiocy occurred just when we were already overrun with Eastern Bloc spies and left-wing terrorists busily planting bombs on U.S. military installations. Inevitably, those dark secrets became public in a wave of headlines and angry recriminations. The oversight committees which today operate on both sides of Capitol Hill were meant to improve political accountability of intelligence operations.

But congressional leaders mostly spent the next 20 years presiding over the fundamental transformation of American armed forces. While we could never match the numbers of Soviet armies and navies, information-based technologies provided an effective American response. Reagan-era defense programs used more and more information to acquire targets at longer and longer ranges. Our mantra: What could be seen could be hit and killed, often with a single shot.
Both Gulf wars demonstrated the lethality of the new “extended weapon system” reaching from Washington-based intelligence agencies to the bridges and cockpits of our ships, fighters and front-line foxholes. As Moore’s Law observed, computers and processors kept getting smaller; everything else did, too, except the budgets of those agencies. They grew steadily larger, more numerous and more self-confident. The once super-secret National Security Agency now had public relations officers and even its own website.

Added to these were more buildings, super computers and super-grade civilians to manage their steadily growing bureaucracies. Savvy agency leaders had long since learned how to manipulate their congressional counterparts, ensuring that super-sized budgets arrived regularly even after the Russians gave up and went home. A half-century after their creation, the FBI and CIA rarely spoke, so September 11 admittedly came as a shock. Still, the tragedy offered opportunities for old Beltway pros who had seen a thing or two. While remaining discreet in public, they were more candid in private: “Sure, we presided over the greatest intelligence disaster since Pearl Harbor but, with the nation under attack, now you need us more than ever.”
Rightly or wrongly, nobody was ever fired or disciplined for pre-September 11 malfeasance. Even better, George W. Bush dealt with his scattered and chronically disorganized intelligence community by creating yet another super agency, the Directorate of National Intelligence. Allegedly, DNI was supposed to supervise whatever agencies actually existed; no mean feat since they lacked common travel agents or even ZIP codes. Without any ideas of its own, Congress obediently acceded, creating a whole new intelligence fudge factory.
Even if it seems like a re-run of “The Sopranos,” can you possibly understand why a thoroughly self-absorbed intelligence establishment would regard the eight years of Barack Obama as an insider’s paradise? Even more so if Hillary Clinton succeeded him? They collectively assumed that Hillary’s elevation would ensure that any “irregularities” — like her notorious file server and pay-for-play schemes — would remain hidden. Slick intelligence operatives like James Clapper and John Brennan easily manipulated their square-headed FBI colleagues into those now-familiar madcap adventures with Russian dossiers and fraudulent FISA warrants.
So for now, Mr. Trump’s job is to hang in there and survive. The purges will follow in due course.
 Ken Allard, a retired U.S. Army colonel, is a military analyst and author on national security issues.
4) "Homo Deus" is " a.brief history of tomorrow" and has as its central theme religion vs science and how man has evolved from being "trapped" by religion and placing his faith in God to where he is now, more or less, liberated because he finally discovered the existence of "ignorance" and thus, is capable of intellectually freeing himself.
In Part one, Harari discusses whether man is superior to other life forms or is just a bully. He describes how man treats pigs as if pigs have no feelings, sensations and/or emotions. He hypothesizes all mammals have emotions because they too are a biochemical algorithm which is vital for survival and reproduction.
His explanation of what an algorithim is and its role is a recurring theme.
In Part two, Harari discusses the importance of humanism and discusses what kind of world man created. Is modern history shaped by the life and death struggle of scientific knowledge versus religious superstition? As science dispelled darkness man has become increasingly secular, rational and actually prosperous. Whereas religion is interested in order, science is interested in power. Humanism, however, linked religion and science in man's quest for truth but. in time, this ;linkage could crumble and be replaced by a different kind of deal between science  and some post humanist religion.
As man embraces modern culture and rejects the belief in a cosmic order he is free to do anything he wants. Once man broke away from religion's strictures he realized life was not a zero sum game and economic growth was not only achievable but critical. Man then tried a series of economic approaches and came to realize capitalism was preferable to all the other economic systems because capitalism produced more growth than socialism, communism etc. Harari does accept the fact that unbridled growth can also create climate issues so there has to be an awareness and  balance.
A  consequence of  man seeking growth is that when he does so, at any cost, he creates other issues and problems because you cannot sustain growth without order and meaning which go hand in hand with authority. Furthermore, Harari accepts the fact that unbridled growth can also create climate issues so there has to be an awareness and balance. Finally, as man began to believe he knew best he no longer embraced objective yardsticks which became replaced by subjective feelings,"in other words if it feels good-do it." (Is this not what drove us in the '60's?)
Man has moved from Knowledge = Scriptures x's logic, to Knowledge = empirical data x's mathematics,  to Knowledge = experiences x's sensitivity. 
The applications of Knowledge=experience x's sensitivity has changed not only our popular culture but also more weighty issues such as  the way we view war, Harari suggests. He illustrates this thought through art which shifted it's focus upon the prominence of  a king on a horse towering over the battle to a painting by Tom Lea  entitled "That 2000 Yard Stare" which depicts a weary soldier with a blank look in his eyes.
As humanism spread, Harari suggests it split into three main branches: the orthodox maintains each human being is a unique individual and man's knows best, ie. liberalism.
Social humanism, the second, took a different course and emphasized not our own feelings but on what other's experienced. One's views went from turning inward to global.
Evolutionary humanism, the third offshoot, roots itself in the firm ground of Darwin and embraces conflict as something to applaud not lament. It elevates the fittest, Nietzsche's "Blond Beast" concept.
In the third section  of "Homo Deus," Harari discusses whether man can continue running the world and what will be the impact of biotechnology, artificial intelligence etc. and what new religion will replace humanism, ie. is there a time bomb in the laboratory? Will science make man obsolete and vulnerable to his own success in devising his own replacement?
In the chapter on decoupling Harari discusses :
a) Will humans lose their economic and military usefulness and thus, their value?
b) The system could find value in collectivism but not individualism.
c)The system could find value in only some individuals who will constitute a new elite of upgraded super humans but what about the "remaining deplorables/ the useless class?" Will IBM"s "Watson" gain the upper hand as a man assembled algorithm  can function beyond/more efficiently/more effectively than it's creator? Does a man created artificial intelligent entity need to have feelings to function? Perhaps not if the algorithms function.
Will/can man be replaced? Will liberalism be replaced? There are three  threats, ie. humans lose their value completely, retain value only if they remain collective, and some will be elevated to an upgraded class of humankind.
Harari leaves the reader with the question of what happens when techno-humanism is able to alter mental abilities and shape future minds. Also, will collection of data  become increasingly important and subvert man's freedoms and life itself?
In many ways the tectonic plates of social order are under attack , are moving against each other. The social order I grew up with has become radicalized.  The halcyon days of the '50's were bombarded by the dysfunction of the '60's. In the process, much progress was made, many wrongs were righted and/or, at least, addressed. Techology improved man's living comforts but at what cost to his relevance, his freedoms and his security?
Certainly a society still driven by a radical adherence to religion, ie. Islamism, should not offer much attraction but when radicalism is mixed with an inability to reason, when  attacks on a system of values is challenged and when constitutional guarantees and respect for law are abandoned anything is possible. Change for the sake of change becomes rootless. Political operatives who disregard restraints are a serious threat and when their desire to go against orthodoxy, which has been tested and proven effective, is held in contempt and  these actions are not challenged, it is only time before the train leaves the tracks. Is that where America is?  Is that where the world is? 
Can Trump clean up the mess he inherited? Has Obama's ego and supreme belief in his superior intellect and accumulated mistakes of those who went before, make Trump's mission an impossible one?  How can Trump accomplish much/anything  when so many Americans are unalterably focused on his aberrant behaviour they cannot credit him with any of his achievements? Can Trump thread the negotiating needle with N Korea and Iran when he is asking them to give up that which has brought them to such prominence? Can Trump overcome a determined Democrat Party hell bent of being obstinate solely because they believe this posture is the road to regaining power?
Time will tell.
Meanwhile, I urge you read "Homo Deus" because my review does not do Harari's brilliant mind justice and his ideas will leave you challenged if not a bit exhausted.
5)There are major events happening in the oil markets and the EU, Oil suddenly dropped substantially on Friday. Trump sent a tweet saying oil prices went too high. The Saudis saw that while in an oil meeting and decided to increase supply so that oil settles around $60 from the $70 level it had been at.  Russia is going along with this. That means oil will remain around $60-$65 or so, and gas prices in the US will likely remain in the  $2.50-$3.00 range, keeping inflation in check this summer. It also means the fracking industry is assured of a price level that will justify more production and new wells. All good for the US economy. The new Iran sanctions mean their oil will get hit and decline, while the oil industry in Venezuela collapses. Both mean less world supply that the Saudis, US frackers and Russia will have to replace. Bad for Iran, good for the US. Combined with the oil decline, is a decline of substance in interest rates to back below 3%. All of this is good for economic growth and reducing inflationary pressures. Th oil price decline is likely to last for a long period, which is very helpful to growth and consumer spending. Good for stocks.

The EU is where the next economic pressures are happening, and will get worse. Italy had its election, and the far right won, but they are going to bust their already busted budget with higher spending. The EU rules are now being breached.  Spain is in political turmoil with a corruption scandal that has led to political instability. The new Iran sanctions will mean several large EU companies will have to end their Iran deals or get sanctioned, and there is nothing Merkel and Macron can do to stop it.  Brexit is nearing happening. Lastly, Trump is insisting on new trade rules which will further crimp EU exports.  All in all, the EU is potentially going to have some serious issues to deal with this year and next. This is why, all along, I have felt the European stock markets were no place to invest other than for short term trading. The political and economic risks are just too high compared to the US.

For comparison, the ten year was 12% in 1980 vs around 3% today, so when taking heads and young analysts get all in a dither about the ten year rate at 3%, keep it in perspective. Those people are too young to know what high rates really means. 3% is still historically very low, and not much of a disincentive to economic growth.  4.5% mortgage rates are still far below what many of us recall as the norm of 8% or more.  We once thought 8% was a good rate. The issue in housing is lack of inventory at the lower end, and a lack of sellers of existing housing.  Home prices have risen a lot over the past few years, and it is not economically as good for developers to build lower cost houses due to all the very excessive regulatory costs and higher land costs in places like CA and NY, and that is the real issue, not mortgage rates.

Forget the Philips curve that says inflation goes up when unemployment goes down. There is new research that says this theory has not been valid since the nineties. So when you hear talking heads on TV talk about the Philips curve, just ignore that. We see now in the US wages are not rising as much as predicted, as unemployment nears record lows. Globalization and tech has changed all the relationships between cause and effect. If oil stays around $65, as it is likely to do, and wages stay somewhat in check, then inflation stays low. Unclear if it happens. Low inflation, good economy.

The recent Fed pronouncements suggest they are more focused on controlling inflation and less on employment, which is taking care of itself. That is OK for now so long as they do not overdo it and raise rates too much, squelching the economic growth we are experiencing.  It is good that they seem to understand this quite well. Powell is a realist and former business man, not an academic. Do not expect the Fed to overdo it on rate increases. All of this is going to help the economy and will help make it possible for the Republicans to hold the House. New polls suggest the old rule,  “It is the economy stupid,” still is the real driver, and 75% give Trump credit for the economic growth we never had under Obama. In the voting booth people care much more about their economic and job situation than some dumb stripper and a discredited investigation of collusion. The most recent poll has the Republicans even or slightly ahead in the generic polling for November.  Reason given -- the economy which voters say is most important to them. Impeach Trump, and vote no on tax reform and everything else Trump, does not sell well outside of San Fran and Hollywood. Voters feel good now, and feeling good about your job security and wages, and balance sheet, and security, translates to votes. Most people have learned to ignore the mass media and all their vitriolic about Trump. Academia is completely out of touch with grownup reality.

A strange thing happened to blue states like CA and NY and CT whose governors railed against the tax reform. Their tax revenues went up by anywhere from hundreds of millions to over $1 billion as corporations reported much improved earnings, and as state tax law was conformed to federal law and eliminated many deductions. You do not hear any of this,  but it bailed out CT this year from a disaster fiscal problem, and helped CA and NY materially exceed their revenue forecasts. So ignore Cuomo and Brown and the others screaming about the Trump tax reform- it was a huge help to their budget problems and covered their over spending.

Because the new tax bill limits interest deductions to 30% of income, some companies are using convertible debt, sale leasebacks, and other forms of financing to get around that issue.  This is especially true in tech where convertible debt is now being used extensively. For tech companies the premium on conversion is averaging 33% over market, and many are now paying zero interest. So the companies are safer because there is nil or no interest burden, and they get to issue equity at a  33% premium over market at no added cost. Why investors pay to get a right to convert at a 33% premium and no interest is beyond me, but they scoop it up. The 30% limit in general is keeping debt more in line with earnings, so maybe it will help mitigate the next recession due to much lower debt service for many companies. That would be a very good outcome if it happens.

Shopping centers are still struggling in many places. Like everything in real estate, it is about location. Shopping center owners have been creative in replacing big box tenants like Toys R Us with medical office, more restaurants, and other things, and by making centers more places to go for food and entertainment, but this does not work everywhere. Retail is still a tough place to be as an owner or investor as we saw from the pricing on the GGP deal.

The Dems are looking even more clueless and stupid as the N Korea situation unfolds. They and their media flunkies like John Harwood rushed to say Trump “did not know what he was doing,”, Kim had a gigglefest”, “the letter should have been worded differently”.  In fact Trump did exactly the right thing by calling off the meeting. I don’t know what is really going on, but it is a reasonable assumption that Xi called Kim to Beijing just as the trade talks heated up and told him to push back so Trump would come crawling to Xi to get help with Kim.  Trump called the bluff. In fact by walking away, Trump send a huge message to Kim, Xi, Iran, the EU and Putin—The era of weak Obama who was willing to grovel and circumvent his constitutional obligation to let the Senate vote, to get the deal with Iran, is over.  Now the new sheriff is here to  tell you how it has to be, or else. Trump did what any good negotiator would do in a analogous situation. You don’t let the other guy reverse course, and start to insult you, and not show for key meetings. Instead you walk away and let him crawl back and be left in the weaker position, which Kim now is.  Xi sees he cannot use N Korea to lever trade.  Iran and the EU see Trump really will shut down Iran and sanction EU companies that defy US sanctions. Walking away was the perfect move, and set the table now for revived meetings as we saw Saturday in Korea. Now Kim and Xi know Trump means denuclearization, or no deal. It changed the whole discussion. Reporters have no clue about negotiations-they are scribes who report and often make up fairy tales, so their opinions do not matter.

As the Republicans push for the files from DOJ, the onion is peeling back on what more and more appears to have been a orchestrated conspiracy led by Obama and Jarrett to get Trump. The cover up is starting to unravel. Whether there was an informant, or as Clapper called it-”a spy”, we all need to know what was really going on and why, and what was the real basis for the collusion investigation, since we now know for a fact there was no intelligence suggesting it had occurred. Who decided to start it, why, and where is the paperwork. Why was there an informant (spy) trying to gather information. What was the basis for that. It appears there was a cover up of Hilary’s email issues. There was a conspiracy (insurance policy) to go after Trump. Per Strozk-“Obama wants to know what we are doing.” Why?  What did he know and what was his and Jarrett’s involvement.  What was Brennan and Clapper involvement. What role did the dossier play.  Why were over 200 unmaskings happening by Susan Powers who had no reason to ask for those.  Why was Flynn  charged with lying if the FBI agents involved said he seemed not to lie. There are a myriad of other issues, and we are just at the start.  Clearly Rosenstein is hoping the Dems get control of the House so he can bury it all as he is somewhere in the midst of it. We await the IG report in a week.  Why hasn’t the Senate issued its conclusions on collusion yet. What is Burr waiting for. You gotta love it when the Dems in Congress claim Congress has no right to exercise its constitutional obligations for over sight of the FBI and DOJ, except when it comes to gong after Trump, then having Congress drag out investigations is just fine. Were it not for Nunes, we would never know all this. That is why they tried to sideline him with false ethics claims. My bet is, this really is far worse than Watergate, and someone is going to talk to avoid jail. My liberal friends who think I am out of line and dreaming on this topic will see when it all gets revealed.

I think NFL players need to stand, and are over paid employees when on the field, and they need to do what the boss tells them.  They have no right to protest while on the job. Young blacks need to read their history and see that racism today is a fraction of what it was just 10-15 years ago. Black unemployment is the lowest in history, and blacks run Fortune 500 companies, they are mayors of major cities and police chiefs. One was president. If you are black, work hard and study hard, like other people, you have full opportunity to succeed. 

It was nice to see Harvey Weinstein in handcuffs.


Saturday, May 26, 2018

Atlanta, Nashville, Louisville, Peerless Rye Tour, Clinton and Blue Ocean Restaurant. America Coming Back. Litchfield Beach/Atlanta Friends and 85th Birthday Celebrations.

These are dear friends from our Atlanta neighborhood days and for us it was our 27th year of going to Litchfield Beach, South Carolina which is some  87 miles north of Charleston.

Bottom left photo and left to right first row:  Mary Anne Hudnall,  Joanne Majeska,Gail Davidson, Lynn. 2d row: Drew Davidson, Gil Hudnall, Ric Majeska Bob Hamilton,Myself and Susan Hamilton.

We rent a five bedroom house on the beach, generally each couple fixes one dinner and we eat out two nights.

Top left photo and middle right photo is my third 85th birthday celebration at Litchfield.

Before going to Litchfield we went to Atlanta to stay with our dear friends, The Habers.  Lynn arranged for a special private dinner at my favorite Atlanta Restaurant and invited several dear friends. to join us.  It was both a surprise and a very thoughtful, wonderful evening.  Lynn is an amazing and thoughtful wife. Lynn prepared a gentle roast entitled "Happy 85th." I am beyond lucky.
From Atlanta we proceeded to Louisville for our granddaughter's shower. Emily is getting married in August to Landon who she has known from her early school days.

On the way to Louisville we stopped in Nashville to visit our grandson, Emily's brother, Kevin who is completing his contract as a TV investigative reporter with Chanel 4 (NBC affiliate.)  Kevin's new position will be with the Louisville affiliate of CBS and, in addition to continuing his investigative reporting, he will  be trained to be a weekend anchor. Kevin's wife, Andy had already left for Louisville with Archer, their magnificent pooch.

Kevin took us to a great local bakery for lunch.

From Nashville we drove to Louisville and while there Lynn arranged for an 85th birthday dinner at our daughter (Amy) and son in law(Steve's) condo. They gave me an Apple Lap Top as a birthday gift. We were joined by our oldest daughter (Debra) and her husband  (Martin) and their son (Elliot) and daughter-in-law (Elizabeth) and Olivia, our first great grandchild.

Lynn had arranged with a local chef to use her recipe's of my favorite foods.  It was a very special evening and dinner which even included my favorite candies. My oldest daughter, Debra, assisted by my editor-daughter, Lisa, prepared a wonderful "recap" of my life and Lisa flew my grandson, Henry, in from California, as a special treat.

The next day Steve, our son-law, took the men for a tour of a downtown  Artisinal Rye Distiller (Peerless Distilling Co.)  The owner, Corky Taylor, is the fourth generation and told about his family and the history of the distillery.  His great grandfather was Jewish, came from Europe and eventually owned The Parker House Hotel in Chicago, along with  several banks and a major distillery in Tennessee.

Corky's father sent him to McCaullie Military school (Chattanooga, Tenn.),a sport competitor of my own prep military school, (Ga. Military Academy /College Park, Ga.) Corky's initial roommates were the Allman brothers as well as Al Gore. Corky's  father was the military aid to Gen. Patton (his role was portrayed in the movie "Patton") and Patton gave Corky's father his famous coral handle pistol as a reward for outstanding/loyal service.

 Before Corky opened the Peerless Distiller he worked on Wall Street with Jeffries.

The actual tour was conducted by a young employee.

Peerless is a rye whiskey and they currently produce some 2000 cases a year. Each bottle sells for between $125 to $135 and remains in it's ash barrel for 4 years The distillery was so clean you could eat off the floor.  Corky mentioned this in his talk. His military influence.

Kentucky produces over 90% of the nation's bourbon and now artisinal rye seems to be on the rise.
It was a very interesting day and I have no doubt Peerless Rye, which has already been declared the best of its kind, will thrive.

After we left Louisville we drove to Litchfield but when we came to Clinton, N. Carolina it was Sunday and we stopped at The Blue Ocean Restaurant. The time was around 1:15 so the place was packed with after church customers.

A few observations:

The restaurant holds probably some 300 people.  The tables were filled with black and white families, all dressed in their Sunday finery. Most of the waitresses were white.  The scene could have been a painting by Normal Rockwell.

Clinton is a small college town and the black families were comprised of fathers and mothers, with grandparents and children. The same was true of tables with the white families. You don't see this as much when you go to big urban communities because far too many, particularly black  families, are lacking a father.  I had just finished "Sapiens" and it discussed man's evolution from hunter to farmer and subsequently urban  dweller and how the modern family has broken apart.

I also thought about Hillary's derogatory comment about "deplorables."  The citizens of Clinton fit that categorization but to my mind they are the backbone of our nation. I don't want to over-romanticize but the customers of Blue Ocean are God fearing, hard working and solid. They probably own guns and certainly own and read bibles .

As for the food, it was fantastic , plentiful and very reasonable.  In fact, if you produced a current church program you got a 10% discount. Service was outstanding.

As soon as I was able, I left the major federal highways and took the blue back roads and also noted many of the small towns we drove through were coming back.  Their modest downtown areas were tree lined, with new street lights etc.  While we were still driving in Kentucky we took a detour to explore Midway College/University and had dinner in Berea at the Daniel Boone Hotel's restaurant.  Berea College was established to educate and provide vocational training for Appalachian students.  Berea charges no tuition and provides work for its students to help them defray their remaining educational costs.  Students wait on the tables, built the furniture in the hotel's bedrooms etc. Berea is known for its nursing school.

America is coming back based on new building we observed. Louisville is actually booming and has become a destination city for those who want to go on the State's Bourbon Tour just as Alabama has become  known for their Golf Tour.

Meanwhile, the super sensitive liberal management of Starbucks caved to a PC'ism Racist charge and The NFL told players they cannot kneel on the field but can hide in the dressing room during the playing of our Anthem.  The college that caved to students who drove whites off campus is suffering from the backlash and the firing of Professor Weinstein, who decided he would stay on campus and teach. He was subsequently  fired and demanded and received  $500,000, because his rights were shredded by a feckless university administration.

This year, as in the recent past, liberal commencement speakers were 4 to every conservative one but I believe liberalism has gone too far and we are fast reaching a Tipping Point and a reversal is forming. The college that fired the professor has lost returning students, applications are down and financial contributions from alumni have caved.

Meanwhile, it would appear Obama-Trump haters were so concerned he would win over their anointed queen they did some strange things regarding surveillance of his campaign.  (See 1 and 1a below.)

If I am wrong, then you can bend over and kiss America good bye.

Below are a series of historical responses/come backs.

When I get the time I am going to try my hand at reviewing "Homo Deus" written by the author of "Sapiens" which I reviewed in a previous memo.
A letter to the world written many years ago but still relevant. (See 2 below.)

A new report claims that a significant number of rank-and-file FBI agents are chomping at the bit to expose Obama-era leaders, alleging corruption and even criminal violations of the law.

These agents are signaling that the only way they can safely and legally blow the whistle is if Congress subpoenas them individually to provide information about their former bosses.
“There are agents all over this country who love the bureau and are sickened by [James] Comey’s behavior and [Andrew] McCabe and [Eric] Holder and [Loretta] Lynch and the thugs like [John] Brennan–who despise the fact that the bureau was used as a tool of political intelligence by the Obama administration thugs,” Joe DiGenova, a former United States Attorney for the District of Columbia, told the Daily Caller.

“They are just waiting for a chance to come forward and testify.”

In a statement to the Daily Caller, an unnamed FBI agent claimed, “Every special agent I have spoken to in the Washington Field Office wants to see McCabe prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. They feel the same way about Comey.”

“All Congress needs to do is subpoena involved personnel and they will tell you what they know. These are honest people. Leadership cannot stop anyone from responding to a subpoena. Those subpoenaed also get legal counsel provided by the government to represent them,” the agent added.
Former FBI Assistant Director James Kallstrom made similar statements when asked last December about morale at the bureau.

“Well, I think there’s a lot of patriots that have had it up to here with what’s going on, and they’re going to step forward and tell people what the shenanigans have been,” Kallstrom told Fox News’ Stuart Varney. “How they shut down the Clinton Foundation investigation, how other things were done that are so anti-what the FBI and the United States and this country is about.”

Paul Sperry of RealClearInvestigations reported last Thursday that Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz has “found ‘reasonable grounds’ for believing there has been a violation of federal criminal law in the FBI/DOJ’s handling of the Clinton investigation/s,” adding that the top watchdog official has “referred his findings of potential criminal misconduct to Huber for possible criminal prosecution.”

1a) The Real Constitutional Crisis

The FBI and Justice Department continue evading congressional oversight.

By Kimberley A. Strassel
Democrats and their media allies are again shouting “constitutional crisis,” this time claiming President Trump has waded too far into the Russia investigation. The howls are a diversion from the actual crisis: the Justice Department’s unprecedented contempt for duly elected representatives, and the lasting harm it is doing to law enforcement and to the department’s relationship with Congress.
The conceit of those claiming Mr. Trump has crossed some line in ordering the Justice Department to comply with oversight is that “investigators” are beyond question. We are meant to take them at their word that they did everything appropriately. Never mind that the revelations of warrants and spies and dirty dossiers and biased text messages already show otherwise.
We are told that Mr. Trump cannot be allowed to have any say over the Justice Department’s actions, since this might make him privy to sensitive details about an investigation into himself. We are also told that Congress—a separate branch of government, a primary duty of which is oversight—cannot be allowed to access Justice Department material. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes can’t be trusted to view classified information—something every intelligence chairman has done—since he might blow a source or method, or tip off the president.
That’s a political judgment, but it holds no authority. The Constitution set up Congress to act as a check on the executive branch—and it’s got more than enough cause to do some checking here. Yet the Justice Department and Federal Bureau of Investigation have spent a year disrespecting Congress—flouting subpoenas, ignoring requests, hiding witnesses, blacking out information, and leaking accusations.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley has not been allowed to question a single current or former Justice or FBI official involved in this affair. Not one. He’s also more than a year into his demand for the transcript of former national security adviser Mike Flynn’s infamous call with the Russian ambassador, as well as reports from the FBI agents who interviewed Mr. Flynn. And still nothing.
Ron Johnson, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, is being stonewalled on at least three inquiries. The House Judiciary and Oversight committee chairmen required a full-blown summit in April with Justice Department officials to get movement on their own subpoena. The FBI continues to block a fuller release of the House Intelligence Committee’s Russia report.
Not that the documents that Justice sends over are of much use. Mr. Grassley this week excoriated the department for its routine practice of redacting key information, and for similarly refusing to provide a “privilege log” that details the legal basis for withholding information. His team recently discovered that one of the items Justice had scrubbed from the Peter Strzok-Lisa Page texts was the duo’s concern that former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe had a $70,000 conference table. (Was it lacquered with unicorn tears?) A separate text refers to an investigation that the White House is “running,” but conveniently blacks out which one. The FBI won’t answer Mr. Johnson’s questions about who is doing the redacting.
This intransigence is creating an unprecedented toxicity between law enforcement and Congress, undermining what has long been a cooperative and vital relationship. It is also pushing lawmakers ever closer to holding Justice Department officials in contempt or impeaching them. Congress hasn’t impeached a member of the executive branch (presidents excepted) since the 19th century. Let’s agree such a step would amount to a real crisis. And the pressure to use these tools to get disclosure is growing, as congressional Republicans worry about losing their oversight authority in the midterms, and suspect the Justice Department is stringing them along for that very reason.
Which is why Mr. Trump was right to order that Justice comply with Mr. Nunes’s demands for documents about the alleged FBI spy Stefan Halper and other information related to the catalyst of this investigation. As president, he has a duty to protect the reputation and integrity of the Justice Department—even from its own leaders. Forcing officials to comply with legitimate congressional oversight is far better than sitting back to watch those same officials singe the institution and its relationship with Congress in a flame of impeachment resolutions.
Mr. Trump has an even quicker way to bring the hostility to an end. He can—and should—declassify everything possible, letting Congress and the public see the truth. That would put an end to the daily spin and conspiracy theories. It would puncture Democratic arguments that the administration is seeking to gain this information only for itself, to “undermine” an investigation. And it would end the Justice Department’s campaign of secrecy, which has done such harm to its reputation with the public and with Congress.
2) An Open Letter to the World
Dear World,
I understand that you are upset by us, here in Israel.  Indeed, it appears that you are quite upset, even angry.
Indeed, every few years you seem to become upset by us. Today, it is the "brutal repression of the Palestinians"; yesterday it was Lebanon; before that it was the bombing of the nuclear reactor in Baghdad and the Yom Kippur War and the Sinai campaign. It appears that Jews who triumph and who, therefore, live, upset you most extraordinarily.
Of course, dear world, long before there was an Israel, we - the Jewish people - upset you.
We upset a German people who elected Hitler and upset an Austrian people who cheered his entry into Vienna and we upset a whole slew of Slavic nations - Poles, Slovaks, Lithuanians, Ukrainians, Russians, Hungarians and Romanians. And we go back a long, long way in the history of world upset.  We upset the Cossacks of Chmielnicki who massacred tens of thousands of us in 1648-49; we upset the Crusaders who, on their way to liberate the Holy Land, were so upset at Jews that they slaughtered untold numbers of us.
For centuries, we upset a Roman Catholic Church that did its best to define our relationship through inquisitions, and we upset the arch-enemy of the church, Martin Luther, who, in his call to burn the synagogues and the Jews within them, showed an admirable Christian ecumenical spirit.
And it is because we became so upset over upsetting you, dear world, that we decided to leave you - in a manner of speaking - and establish a Jewish state. The reasoning was that living in close contact with you, as resident-strangers in the various countries that comprise you, we upset you, irritate you and disturb you. What better notion, then, than to leave you (and thus love you)- and have you love us and so, we decided to come home - home to the same land we were driven out 1,900 years earlier by a Roman world that, apparently, we also upset.  Alas, dear world, it appears that you are hard to please.
Having left you and your pogroms and inquisitions and crusades and holocausts, having taken our leave of the general world to live alone in our own little state, we continue to upset you. You are upset that we repress the poor Palestinians. You are deeply angered over the fact that we do not give up the lands of 1967, which are clearly the obstacle to peace in the Middle East.  Moscow is upset and Washington is upset. The "radical" Arabs are upset and the gentle Egyptian moderates are upset.
Well, dear world, consider the reaction of a normal Jew from Israel.  In 1920 and 1921 and 1929, there were no territories of 1967 to impede peace between Jews and Arabs. Indeed, there was no Jewish State to upset anybody. Nevertheless, the same oppressed and repressed Palestinians slaughtered tens of Jews in Jerusalem, Jaffa, Safed and Hebron. Indeed, 67 Jews were slaughtered one day in Hebron in 1929.
Dear world, why did the Arabs - the Palestinians - massacre 67 Jews in one day in 1929? Could it have been their anger over Israeli aggression in 1967? And why were 510 Jewish men, women and children slaughtered in Arab riots between 1936-39? Was it because Arabs were upset over 1967?
And when you, dear world, proposed a UN Partition Plan in 1947 that would have created a "Palestinian State" alongside a tiny Israel and the Arabs cried "no" and went to war and killed 6,000 Jews - was that "upset" caused by the aggression of 1967? And, by the way, dear world, why did we not hear your cry of "upset" then?
The poor Palestinians who today kill Jews with explosives and firebombs and stones are part of the same people who when they had all the territories they now demand be given to them for their state -attempted to drive the Jewish state into the sea. The same twisted faces, the same hate, the same cry of "itbach-al-yahud" (Massacre the Jew!) that we hear and see today, were seen and heard then. The same people, the same dream - destroy Israel. What they failed to do yesterday, they dream of today, but we should not "repress" them.
Dear world, you stood by during the holocaust and you stood by in 1948 as seven states launched a war that the Arab League proudly compared to the Mongol massacres.
You stood by in 1967 as Nasser, wildly cheered by wild mobs in every Arab capital in the world, vowed to drive the Jews into the sea. And you would stand by tomorrow if Israel were facing extinction. And since we know that the Arabs-Palestinians dream daily of that extinction, we will do everything possible to remain alive in our own land. If that bothers you, dear world, well think of how many times in the past you bothered us.  In any event, dear world, if you are bothered by us, here is one Jew in Israel who could not care less.
This may come as a surprise to some but this letter to the World is not recent, although it could be.  It was written sometime before his assassination in November of 1990 by a man I had the honor and privilege to know and befriend in 1969 as a member of the Jewish Defense League, Rabbi Meir Kahane.