Category Archives: International

The Veteran

USA_armed_forcesAnyone who served or is currently serving in the military realizes they’re doing a job that most won’t do. It’s a 24/7, 365 day committment.

They come from diverse backgrounds. They are volunteers who do the things that allow everyone else the freedom to say and become what they want.

At the time of their induction, they have given an oath which says they’re willing to lay down their life if necessary to preserve yours.

How many people do you know that will protect you from every threat imaginable in order for you to keep living the life you choose?

They don’t make policy. They’re often used to carry out policy which can be good or bad. It’s everyone’s responsibility to be informed well enough to make good decisions at the ballot box, and to select people who choose wisely how the military is used.

Freedom is full circle choice. To act as if it’s someone else’s job, is to think in ignorance. We all preserve it by learning to be responsible for our own actions. The military is a reflection of our own lives carried out on a massive scale.

If you or I are only interested in ourselves, our wants, to the exclusion of all others,  this will become the work, the policy of our nation. The military will act on that policy and our relationship with the rest of the world community will have the same impact abroad as we have at home.

veterans_day_2018

If you want peace in the world, find a way to live it locally so it will be that way globally.

_________________

 

Rewriting History to Fit Your Ideology

The Suffocation of Democracy

I read a preliminary description of a book as this author has written. I have to wonder, how can he refer to himself as a historian? This book is nothing more than his distorted view of history to fit his politics. Imagine how this would read if the author actually gave a factual explanation of history instead of as a means to bash individuals or political party? I was unable to find this book on Amazon.

Adolf_Hitler_Buckeburg_1937

When I listen, read or watch someone compare the current political climate in the USA to Nazi Germany, this is when almost all credibility of an individual is lost. Plain and simple, we are not living in a fascist state, nor are we in any immediate danger of that being introduced, not from the Trump administration or the current crop of Congressional GOP. To make such a claim is either incredibly naïve or highly motivated deceptive political misappropriation. In fact I’m amazed this person refers to himself as a historian. Hysterical yes, historian no.

The author’s references and description of current USA politics with respect to Nazi Germany is fallacious. The author claims that United States isolationism of the 1920’s & ’30’s can be compared to conservatism today.

Our current Congress and President has nothing in common with Nazi Germany and Hitler. Making these assertions as if they’re facts isn’t harmful, but taken collectively, incite destructive emotional behavior and a disconnect from reality.

Hitlers-manifest-ramblingsIt’s another attempt to tabulate and correlate all of the popular political prejudices. It plays to an audience, like Hitler did in his speeches, with a lack of historical depth to document his incredibly naïve or misleading suppositions.

History is complicated and a detailed topic. I dislike the use of it to portray events and people with incorrect information in order to claim special insight. This author’s technique isn’t unusual, I’ve seen other people take advantage of the lack of knowledge of most people and infuse it with their offbeat pronouncements or comparisons.

The 20th century was one of the worst centuries in recorded history. Scarred by two global conflicts, many violent regime changes, and the displacement of millions of refugees, it was rife with villainy and intrigue. No era, or major human endeavor operates in isolation. In order to dispel some of the myths which this author, Christopher R. Browning begins to weave, I will attempt to explain topics which need much more depth than many will care to read. I’m not going to bother tackling his anti-Trump, anti-GOP, anti-Mitch McConnell statements. To do so really does nothing to get at the core of his writing, and almost anyone that reads this has their mind made up about the GOP and Trump, anyways.

Let’s examine the United States historical position on isolationism. This alone is a huge topic, because much of the stage was set from our previous conflicts, the Civil War, Spanish American War, and World War I. 

The United States has been involved with one war or another since its inception. The Civil War was an unavoidable, bloody conflict, leaving the worst human losses for our country to date. I’m not going to spend time on it’s cause or reasons, just know that many older people, including veterans were still living well into the first two decades of the twentieth century. That left an indelible memory for all those who lived through it.

In the closing period of the 19th century we had the brief Spanish American War. That’s one of those conflicts that should have been avoided, but it gave the US some of that false bravado we liked to get caught up in.  World War I wasn’t anything like the quick and relatively bloodless Spanish American War. The European war started 3 years before we decided to enter it. From our involvement, we gained a taste of what a world wide conflict could begin to look like, and there were a lot of men that came back from that war damaged physically and mentally.

As a response to the horrors of WWI, and the distant memories of the Civil War, many people in the US wanted nothing to do with the insanity of future international conflicts. Japan was soon engaged in their territorial scuffles, and Spain was in full scale revolt in the ’30’s. We had just put behind us, our memories of the conflict with Spain, and here they were, fighting among themselves, which potentially could start another European war. Germany was using this opportunity to perfect tactics they would use in a few more years in eastern Europe. We wanted nothing to do with another war. So, isolationism was the prevalent disposition in Washington.

Trying to discuss 20th century trade wars, and place them in context with current policies isn’t relevant. What was important, and set the stage for the world wide depression in the late 1920’s and 1930’s is where politics and economics came together and added fuel to the hate cauldron of Nazi Germany. Adolf Hitler was the perfect scoundrel to take advantage and replace a broken democratic republic with a fascist regime.

For reasons he doesn’t indicate in this write up (click on link at top of this post for reference), we might see some form of totalitarianism in this country if we continue to add annual deficits. The financial disarray is only part of the conditions which beleaguered post WWI Nazi Germany. 

Hitler achieved power and control for several reasons. If you wish to make comparisons to contemporary USA, you would have to understand the vast differences, as well.

1 – Germany was in financial ruin from World War I. The repayments demanded of it through the League of Nations, Treaty of Versailles, plus their own inability to recover through their own initiatives signaled their downward spiral. They diluted the currency, and ended up with hyper inflation. “Quantitative easing” is a favored technique of our central bank and endorsed by elected officials.

Their, “economic easing” began with more Reich Marks put into circulation. This came to a horrible end, as all of these inflationary death spirals do, hastened by over speculation and a collapse in trust of the currency. People were literally using wheel barrows filled with currency to buy bread.

2 – From the ashes of crisis the “savior arises”. As many times as these comparisons emerge, Trump and Hitler are not even close to the same person. So, if you can’t or won’t see the obvious differences, then no amount of reading or reasoning will work for you, and I’m truly sorry. For the rest of those who care to read on… Adolf Hitler came from a broken home. Never really became educated, and usually never finished what he started. He failed at labor, no craftsmanship. He had limited artistic skills, and he seemed to even have problems with obtaining and sustaining male & female relationships. In short, he was a born loser. For all you Trump haters out there, and those of you who want to believe the lopsided view of his business skills or his male & female relationships, he’s really a polar opposite of Hitler. Then, because conditions were just right, Hitler became a phoenix. Germany was a proud state, still had many veterans who believed their country sold them out. Many believed in the myth that the only reasons they lost WWI was due to their political leadership giving in to the people who wanted peace. Adolf_Hitler_politician_1921

3 – This is where we are much different in the USA from Germany in the 1920’s & 30’s. The country was broke, both in spirit and in economics.

Hitler’s behavior was closer to what we see from Antifa, or these other groups protesting with vagina hats. Crazy, rabble rousing behavior. Speaking at first to anyone who would listen in bars. He eventually caught the eye of another dysfunctional but wealthier and more influential man.

Hitler joined the National Socialist German Workers’ Party, later known as the Nazi Party. This political party was formed and developed during the post-World War I era.

It, along with Hitler rose to power very slowly at first throughout the 1920’s. Hitler was even arrested and imprisoned for his participation in a failed coup. The Germany of 1930’s was in a huge mess, and the vacuum of power permitted the Nazi’s to become participants in the national government. It’s difficult for anyone to watch him now, in those old propaganda films, but Hitler was considered a great orator. He knew how to wow the crowd. Yes, Trump has the ability to communicate, but he’s not in the league of spell binding speeches which Adolf Hitler could muster. Adolf_Hitler_Paris_1940

4 – Identify scape goats or shift the blame. Current politics in the US is in a free fall. There’s a definite crisis of leadership. I recognized it and saw it in the 2016 election process. If you’re honest, you should have seen both parties brought forth two candidates who for different reasons, should never have been the top of their party’s ticket. Well, that election happened, and despite the constant outcry from the die-hard Democrats, it’s over. They can look forward to midterms and 2020. Each party is blaming the other, and neither is acting in any mode other than trying to make the other team look bad and themselves look good. 

None the less this is not Germany in 1933 & ‘34. When Hitler was appointed Chancellor in 1933, his rise to the top was meteoric. The Enabling Act passed in March 1933 gave Hitler total authority, and thereafter constitutionally exercise dictatorial power without legal objection. He had ultimate executive authority, because of their crisis. This is when and where you can see anyone who isn’t playing dirty with the facts and fails to realize the greater danger in that behavior was on full display with the previous Democrat administration. Here’s what one of them said to his President,

You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. And what I mean by that is an opportunity to do things that you think you could not do before.”

Rahm Emanuel

President_Trump_podiumLet that sink in for a moment. While you want to think about ways the third Reich and the GOP are similar, may I suggest you do a lot more reading and consider for a moment that where we are now, isn’t anywhere near to Germany of the 1920’s or ‘30’s. We might find ourselves there at some unpredictable date in the future because of our fiscal irresponsibility. We’re just not there now. We don’t have Brown Shirts (look them up), we don’t have the SS, nor do we have a government as shady as what once was the Clinton administration.

References:

Another Harley-Davidson Story

Harley-Davidson is an ongoing story in the news, not because it’s a huge company, rather it’s an American icon. An icon that President Donald Trump used to spread his message about keeping American manufacturing here.

Then came an announcement that normally wouldn’t receive much attention outside of the motorcyclist industry and its loyal biker cadre. Harley-Davidson, the big HD, was going to move some of its production to somewhere in the EU, due to increasing costs for motorcycle imports into those markets. The reason announced, increasing costs, due to increasing tariffs.

Paul Krugman is an American economist who is currently Distinguished Professor of Economics at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, and a columnist for The New York Times. A regular contributor to the NYT of economic opinions, most especially, anti-Trump. He’s almost gloating with glee to add this latest on how he thinks the disastrous Trump economic policies are beginning to be exposed in the latest announcement by Harley-Davidson and the subsequent comments of displeasure by Donald Trump.

Paul_Krugman_at_the_German_National_Library_in_Frankfurt

Paul Krugman – public domain image

His column, Trump Versus the Hog-maker, excoriates the increasing pressure the Trump administration has placed on international trade, which for years hasn’t been the “open market”, many had supposed.

I prefer you click on the above link and read his post before you continue with mine. I’m going to refer to it and other announcements which I will provide in links.

If you’re not familiar with Donald Trump’s reaction to the Harley-Davidson offshore production announcement, click in this link to read as background.


Let me start with a few givens…

  • I’m not an economist.
  • I don’t know how the long-term effects of the Trump influenced economic decisions will play out over time.
  • I don’t think Paul Krugman, or any other economist knows how they will work out, either.
  • His June 28th opinion column is less about economics and more about politics.
  • By the end of this post, I’m more interested in you thinking about what’s being told to you, rather than just accepting it, because someone with huge public recognition says it to be so.

Let’s also start with a few pragmatic assumptions.

  • Paul Krugman doesn’t want to see the economy fail to prove his point, right?
  • Donald Trump doesn’t demand fair trade policies just because he thinks it will only benefit himself, right?
  • Harley-Davidson made these offshore production decisions before Donald Trump made any tariff proclamations?

Wait a minute? What was that last assumption?

Let’s examine what has taken place by rewinding to the past HD proclamations, and what are the industry trends.
— Quoted from CNN article June 26, 2018 – Trump vs. Harley-Davidson: What’s Really Going On? —
Harley says moving more production overseas is its “only sustainable option” in the wake of the growing trade war.

So what’s really going on?

Americans are buying fewer motorcycles. People outside the United States are buying more, and Harley wants to build bikes closer to its international customers.

Last quarter, Harley’s sales in the United States fell 12%, but they grew 6.8% in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. In Latin America, sales grew 7%.

In 2017, Harley-Davidson said they would close their plant operations in Kansas City, and expand manufacturing in Thailand. That was long before Tariffs were announced.  (CNN June 26, 2018)

HD_motorcycle_shipments

Harley-Davidson is a publicly traded company and like any such company answers to stock holders. During this downward cycle, they’ve attempted to put the best spin on a market reality, their primary buyer base is getting older. Younger motorcycle buyers in the USA aren’t as large a percentage of the population as they were when looking back over 40 years. Any quick look at who is buying what kind of transportation in the USA will find, younger buyers have made a clear choice for trucks and cars, but not a large number of motorcycles. That’s different in Asia, where you can find motorcycles are far cheaper to buy and operate, than cars.

During the low-cost & easy to get a loan for luxury items prior to 2008, many an aspiring motorcyclist were caught up with the cache of the name, HD. Harley is also competing with their 10-year-old, like new bikes for market share. It’s now common to find 10-15 year old Harley’s with less than 10,000 miles,  many less than 5,000 on the odometer. stack of money

The problem for Harley-Davidson, like other companies when it comes time to explain things, they opt for any opportunity to get out from under adverse stockholder scrutiny. Harley-Davidson made the decision several years ago to move some of their production offshore. RideApart November 14, 2013 .

Harley-Davidson worldwide retail motorcycle sales were down 6.7 percent in 2017 compared to 2016. U.S. retail sales decreased 8.5 percent and international retail sales were down 3.9 percent.

During 2016, the company reported its best-ever retail sales results in Asia Pacific and EMEA. The company added 40 new dealer points internationally. (Europe-MiddleEast-Africa). PRN

“Our actions to address the current environment through disciplined supply and cost management position us well as we drive to achieve our long-term objectives to build the next generation of Harley-Davidson riders globally,” said Matt Levatich, president and chief executive officer, Harley-Davidson, Inc. “We finished 2017 with over 32,000 more Harley-Davidson riders in the U.S. than one year ago, and we delivered another year of strong cash generation and cash returns to our shareholders.”

Corporate Tax Rateharlyvintage-ad-2

For 2017, Harley-Davidson’s effective tax rate was 39.6 percent compared to 32.4 percent in the prior year. The increased tax rate was largely due to the impact of the write-down of deferred tax assets related to the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

The Company expects its 2018 full-year effective tax rate to be approximately 23.5 to 25.0 percent, down considerably behind the expected benefit of the new tax legislation.  HD 2017 Investor Relations

If you examine the individual components of a HD motorcycle, you will find some of the American brand name is first made overseas, then assembled in the US to claim it as an American made product. Wheel, brake, and electrical components are made outside of the US. It’s nearly impossible to determine the exact percentage of parts made in America. There are several thousand “manufacturing customers” of HD.
Here’s what can be easily found.

Menominee Falls, Wisconsin – Powertrain
Tomahawk, Wisconsin – Windshields, composite plastic parts
Kansas City, Missouri – Assembly, Powertrain <— Closed
York, Pennsylvania – Fabrication, Paint, Final Assembly
Manaus, Brazil – Assembles models sold in Brazil
Bawal, India – Manufacture of Street models for India, Italy, Spain, and Portugal

harley_vintage_3History is littered with defunct motorcycle companies, as well as resurrected ones. Many of the resurrected ones died again during the last recession.

According to a Harley Davidson 2013 annual report:

Six in 10 customers are from outside the United States.
Two out of every three new dealerships are in “emerging markets”.
>>>>
3.5 billion people live in cities globally
50% of the population is under 30
The strategy is to grow outside the US faster than growing inside the US
The strategy inside the US is to grow the ‘outreach segment,’ which includes women, young adults 18-34, African Americans, and Hispanics
In 2013, this outreach segment grew twice as fast as ‘core’ customers.

Their newest bikes, the Street 500 and Street 750, were engineered with the young urban rider in mind – smaller, more efficient bikes.

Harley-Davidson has committed to manufacture and assemble the motorcycles used in the United States. But companies aren’t blind to their ability to export motorcycles to the world at large, or to recognize other segments of their market, nor should they be. To expand in these new areas and markets, in many cases, they’ve opened facilities overseas or outside US borders. The flexibility to export using foreign facilities certainly doesn’t seem like a bad thing for an American company as it grows.

Analysts are divided about what impact the protectionist measures will have on the broader economy. That’s understandable. We’ve seen the greatest of prognosticators under the “Boffins hat” of an Economist predict the opposite of what does happen.