Friday, December 16, 2016

Likely Consequences of a Trump Presidency

Certain politicians are saying they don't want to openly state that the recent U.S. election was illegitimate. But anyone who has stayed informed of the facts knows it was. This article is not about the efforts of state legislators to disenfranchise old and poor voters, gerrymandering, or the proliferation of fake news sites.
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A foreign nation clearly impacted the results of the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election. The efforts of FBI Director Comey to change the outcome of the election notwithstanding, the election was close enough that the meddling impacted the results.  The United States intelligence community and corporate cybersecurity experts concur that the Russian government interfered throughout the presidential campaign. The specialists in these roles do not make such claims haphazardly. Their careers, the world's banking system and our military network security are based on the accuracy of any claims top cybersecurity people make.

Despite the Russian governments eagerness to hack other nations, the U.S. is still the most technologically advanced nation, by far.  This makes us both successful and vulnerable to targeted attacks. While certain firms or organizations may not always implement the best protection against intrusions from cyberspace, our top people know far more about computer security than any other nation.

How did our nation, known for upholding democratic values the world over, get to this point? That's a complex question but here are a few of the obvious reasons:
  1. One of the candidates openly requested that the Russians hack his opposition's email. The Russians were already doing exactly that. To support a foreign power, to effectively cheer Putin on while his hackers subvert a Presidential election, is treason. Those that consider Trump's off-the-wall comments to be simply jokes are gravely deluded. Careless comments of the most powerful leader on Earth, even poorly composed Twitter posts, can destroy people and jobs. This is cyberbullying on a scale never before imagined.
  2. The candidate that lost the popular vote by 2.8 million votes now states he will not attend regular intelligence briefings. Leading blindly while Daesh, the Taliban, al Shabab, Boko Harem, the Hakani network, the Chinese, and the Russians threaten is absolutely foolhardy.
  3. He wants to prosecute news reporters and judges. He wants to begin a trade war with our largest trading partner, China.
  4. Trump even wants to resume the torture program begun under George W. Bush. None of these acts even closely resembles a person capable of morally leading the U.S.. All of these and so many other demonstrations of ineptitude prove Trump capable of leading our nation, only to chaos and ruin, not success.
  5. Trump declares his first act in office will be to take away the health insurance of 20 million young or poor Americans.
  6. He refuses to divest his business holdings. Conflict of interest is yet another concept Trump has chosen to ignore.
  7. Trump intends to abolish Freedom of Religion by deportation of people solely based on religious orientation.
  8. Cyberwarefare is not something a President can take lightly. This form of war can destroy industries, lives and even nations. The U.S. is not innocent in this regard, we destroyed Iran's uranium centrifuges using computer espionage. The U.S. has interfered in the elections of other nations. President Obama has even promised some sort of retaliation for Russia's acts of war. Gandhi once stated, "An eye for eye leaves the whole world blind." But we cannot stand idly by while Putin invades our computer networks like he invaded the Ukraine. The Russians shot down an Airbus, has everyone but the victim's families forgotten this grotesque fact?
Don't expect the members of the Electoral College to step up to rectify this huge mistake. While some individuals do understand the consequences of confirming Trump, the collective will likely behave like obedient sheep. Just like animals being led to the slaughterhouse except these people clearly know an electric cattle prod and torture chambers lie ahead.

People, including members of the existing, if shattered, Republican Party, know exactly what lies ahead. Ineptitude in public office leads to charges of corruption and eventually impeachment. Has everyone forgotten Richard Nixon? That is exactly what will be happening long before Trump's four years in office come to an end.

Those who think Congress, as currently configured, would not vote to impeach do not know history. When our nation is brought to it's financial and moral knees during Trump's initial months in office, even hardline Tea Party types will have to confront their financially-ruined constituents. Emergency Rooms will struggle to handle waves of newly uninsured patients. Trade embargoes will cripple many industries. Those who conduct business or travel overseas will experience a spike in violent attacks. Every CEO of a major firm needs to get their hands on a copy of the book "Blindsided" by Bruce T. Blythe (New York: Penguin, 2002), now.

If he is permitted to continue in office World War 3 will start, perhaps only in the trade community at first but these will soon be followed by violent attacks on embassies, our citizens and our armed forces.

When Trump announces the resumption of the Draft Boards to build an army to fight his wars it will be too late for our nation to turn back. Don't count this or any other previously unbelievable scenarios out. Just like we cannot assume the Electoral College will deny Trump the office of the President, we cannot assume nuclear weapons will not be used by the grossly inept oligarchy being setup right now. Trump has stated so himself.

The first detonation of a nuclear weapon in a heavily populated area since Japan will mark the beginning of the end of mankind's existence on Earth. By that time the regrets of the Electors and the delusional people that voted for this vengeful misogynist will be too late. We will not even have a moment to hug our children one last time before the brilliant flash of light illuminates the end of civilization as we know it.

Few in the Press or in politics want to explore the certain tragic outcomes of a Trump presidency. The recent run up in U.S. financial markets provides only a temporary and false hope that things might go well. Trade wars will wreak havoc on everyone's retirement accounts. What is described above is only a glimpse of the human tragedy, the environmental ruin and the eventual scope of destruction possible. The world barely survived the last dictator bent on world domination. The weapons at the disposal of the U.S. President and other leaders today can mutually assure the destruction of all nations.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Voter Apathy

Over 40 million eligible voters did not turn out to vote last month, the lowest turnout since the 1940s. This poor voter turnout perhaps demonstrates the overall apathy of voters, especially when it comes to participating in mid-term elections. It also likely reflects on how disgusted people are with their elected officials overall.

Now the Republican Party has decided a good first step would be to shut down the government as soon as December 12. Technically, the GOP has simply said they will decline to fund the government budget if they do not get everything on their wish list or if the President decides to take any action whatsoever.

While it is difficult to determine the full cost of the last government shut-down, we can estimate it wasted billions of dollars. We know it led to a downgrade of U.S. debt by the major rating agencies, and therefore an increase in U.S. government borrowing costs. We know it led to thousands of government workers being idled. We know all sorts of government programs were disrupted, from Social Security to defense. The one thing that apparently did not happen is that GOP leaders learned a lesson.

An elected leader's first decision after an election should not be to shut the government down. This decision only goes to show the ineptitude of so many current members of Congress. It also demonstrates the lengths some government leaders will go to avoid taking any positive steps towards building a stronger nation.

If you don't like the current spending plans why not propose a new budget and start working out the details?

If you don't like the current health insurance mandate, why not propose a better solution? If you don't want your neighbors to be able to see a doctor when they get sick, why not just say so? Why not let Ebola or AIDS run rampant through our society?

If you don't want to find a solution to the current problems of illegal immigration, entitlements, soaring education costs and income disparity, speak out loud and clear about your intentions. The silence on these matters during the recent political campaigns only emphasizes how far certain elected officials will go to deceive the public. The silence about who is giving millions of dollars to certain elected officials leaves us wondering which billionaires are really in-charge of our future. The Republican-led push to shut-down the U.S. government makes many of us wonder if it made sense to hold elections at all.

Excellent brain science article, read it again!

The Contrary Investor

Looking over my stock portfolio I see my unrealized gains stand at 105%. I’ve held the majority of all the stocks in that portfolio for just about 4 years. That works out to 26% average annual gains. My ten year average is closer to 33% annually. I’m looking right at my financial figures, straight from my broker.
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There was even a Recession in that timeframe, wasn’t there? I mostly bought at the bottom. It’s important to buy stock at that point.

My brokerage does nothing for me but execute the trades I request through a web page. No special advice offered, no strategies suggested. I’m not one of their special customers, though one of their VPs called me to talk about my rate of return last year. Not to offer a job, oh no, just to remark on my rates of return.

Family members know about my investing prowess, but only my mother trusts me to make investments for her. I’m quite OK with that, don’t want siblings all angry with me over short-term losses.

What surprises me is when bankers and brokers do occasionally interview me, once or twice a year, they show no interest in my ability to research and buy stocks. None whatsoever. To a man, and sometimes a woman, every person I meet that works in the financial industry is consumed by commissions on the sale of specific products. They want me to sell funds with high expense ratios, life insurance or steer people to their staff of highly qualified, certified financial planners.

I have friends that work for Merrill, BOA and other big money firms. They tell me fund managers do employ people that do what I do, but I could never land a job as a Quant or Quantitative Analyst. I’m too normal, too earthy, I garden for cryin’ out loud. I spend too much time researching and don’t buy and sell frequently enough. 

The whole lot of them bring customers stunning average annual returns of 5 or 6%, before expenses. Steep losses some years. Meanwhile, back at The Farm, my retirement account gains average 26% a year. No kidding.

Yup, that’s me. I eagerly look forward to automated emails from my brokerage account, telling me such and such a stock has reach a price I like. I started letting computers help me invest in the 80s. Yes, Virginia, there were personal computers and email in the 1980s. I used dividends and returns from stock sales to buy my first IBM PC.

I don’t follow the investing rules you read in the newspapers, except for the one about holding long. I make up my own rules. I stick to certain industries and ignore others. I’ll hold huge amounts, while it grows, then sell it. I’ll put it in a 7% dividend stock for a few ex-dividend dates, waiting for the right time to buy another growth stock. That's called trying to time the market. The investment pros that get 5 or 6% returns advise against doing that. 

I sometimes buy foreign stocks, especially in dynamic India or Central and South America.

I do research sitting on benches in shopping malls or parked in a strip mall lot. That’s part of the reason I own Dollar Tree (NASDAQ:DLTR) and Apple (AAPL) shares. I look at current photographs, and spot trends that the newspapers won’t be talking about for months. I buy those trends before they are trends and sell them high, before the kids have even tired of the fashions or games.

I especially like to look at what certain firms stocks do seasonally, year after year. Stocks charts are simply road maps to desired financial results as far as I’m concerned. When you know a stock intimately, you know how it will respond to industry events, currency fluctuations and commodity price changes.

I dig dividends, I call them proven reserves. But frankly I use dividend stocks as high-interest savings accounts while I wait to buy growth shares at bargain prices. Try getting 7% interest on a savings account at Wells Fargo. Royal Dutch Shell (RDS) will shell out 7% if you hold their shares past the ex-dividend date.

This is how I manage my retirement money. Don’t ever expect to read about me in the newspapers. What I do is not newsworthy like the antics of one President-Elect. By the way, Twitter stock (TWTR), at -53% returns since inception, has never shown up on my my investing radar screen.

About the author: Obviously the writer buys and sells stock shares, including some of those mentioned in this article. He wouldn’t take advice about fishing lures from people that never fish. He assumes no responsibility for what you do with what is written here. Investing involves risks, but buying stocks is not nearly so risky as lottery tickets or casinos. He does not work in the financial industry, they have no interest in stock-pickers like him. Brokers, in general, seem not to care much about annual returns. That’s about all the author does care about in regards to investing. Is there any other reason to invest?