Is He A Goner?

The polls seem to be saying so. 50% approval for Biden and 36% for Trump. Of course the polls also showed a Hillary victory.

And then you have all those wealthy, powerful, influential big-business operators who may not love Trump but do love his tax cuts and deregulation and will spend their money on the devil they know will take care of their bottom line.

However, Trump seems to have lost hold of the reins of government. He’s started governing by executive order because he can’t get things through Congress. That will sour a lot of his supporters both wealthy and in poverty because the courts are no longer giving him a free ride. He’s been slapped down for diverting billions from Defense to build sections of his border wall with Mexico. So much for “Mexico will pay for it.” Americans will have to pay forward — and back-pay as well

His not-well-thought-out play for better relations with North Korea went totally off script. Al Assad ended up  in control of Syria, mainly because Trump said he did not like the Kurds and that they just stood around while we did the bombing. Russia’s totally ensconsed  in Syria now and able to hook up that country with Iran — another client state.

Now he wants the Supreme Court to toss out Obamacare. His own base depends on Obamacare for affordable medical services and coverage for their children through early adulthood. They may not love it theoretically  because it is a form of national healthcare, but without it they cannot afford what insurance companies charge in a open market with no controls.

He has not brought back coal or coal jobs.

His former national security adviser has dissed him in a new book, and next month his niece’s book calls him The World’s Most Dangerous Man.

Oh, and the Covid-19 infections and deaths are piling up while he says no problem, I’ve got this all under control and without a mask.

Okay, so I don’t like the man or his policies. But I could live with both (I survived G.W.) if I didn’t see him fumbling about for meaningful governance. If only he had made a great bringing-us-together speech at Tulsa. But he’s no Lincoln at Gettysburg. My wife always points out that Abe read everything he could get his hands on so he could better understand Americans and their hopes and dreams.

Inside people say Trump isn’t much for reading. He watches TV.

Remember Chance Gardiner (Peter Sellers) in the movie Being There?

“I like to watch.”


The Man In The Room Where It Happened

I’ve finished the John Bolton book The Room Where It Happened.

Final impression: One reason to vote for Joe Biden is that he would not let Bolton anywhere near White House policy discussions.

It was Bolton who coached Donald Trump on how he could nuke the North Korea border with the South and wipe out all those artillery guns presumably aimed at Seoul. And he told Trump he rated war with North Korea at fifty-fifty.

He’d gladly get it on with Iran, too. Bolton’s problem as a conservative, America-first policy wonk in an awakened century is that he believes the rest of the planet has to march to America’s band music. The UN is worthless globalism governance. Nuclear control treaties are a waste because everyone but us will cheat. Slapping financial penalties on those who march to some other music is the way to bring compliance.

And if only the White House occupants would adopt his national security advice we’d Make American Great Again. Just don’t offer him any second tier advisor jobs because he’s a top tier man and can’t be bothered with somebody else’s policy — he makes policy that the president can embrace.

John Bolton

Despite those horrid, egotistical self-revelations by the former National Security Adviser, he’s done a marvelous job of describing a White House that’s out of control and gives Americans on the fence another reason not to allow Trump a second term.

Bolton does not like trying to reason with our adversaries. He thinks it’s a waste of time to suggest avenues of cooperation and incentives. You could not send him to talk with the Iranian ayatollah or the North Korea dear leader and ask what we could do to dial down our confrontations. Maybe quit referring to Iran as a “radical Islamic terrorism state” and North Korea as a “rogue state”? Not Bolton.

Some other places are not as immune to insensitive presidential remarks as we are. Trump called the Late Sen. John McCain “no war hero” because he was captured and in  one tweet said “If Hillary Clinton can’t satisfy her husband what makes her think she can satisfy America?”

We took that in stride. Rude and crude? Yes but no protest marches. Just chuckles and “oh, well, that’s just Trump being Trump.” But in the culture of countries such as Iran and North Korea, Trumpian insults practically amount to declarations of war. Most diplomats know that and avoid that. Trump is not a diplomat. So he’d go down that road every time Bolton egged him on. He often said “we think a lot alike.”

I sense that if Trump had kept Bolton on at least through these four years there would have been no tell-all book such as this one. Bolton wanted to be known as similar to Henry Kissinger with Richard Nixon, or maybe Otto von Bismarck, prime minister  and counselor to King Wilhelm of Germany, who prodded the king into three wars against Denmark, Austria and France.

So, a good trade-off: we get a tell-all book but no war (yet) with Iran or North Korea.

I’ll take that!

The Isaiah “Ike” Shon Case

This is the 48th year since the unsolved, underworld-style killing of 54-year-old Bishop Realty and American Security Bank executive Isaiah “Ike” Shon. What the police call a “cold case.”

Shon was shot in the head and his body dumped at a Hawaii Kai construction site in April of 1972. It was classified “underworld style” because on the surface it looked like an obvious message: mess with us and this will be what happens to you.

But then something else came up. Investigators discovered that Shon had a romantic relationship with the wife of a prominent Honolulu attorney, and a Hawaii Kai journalist had seen a car stopped at that body site that night — the license plate seemingly matching that of one of the attorney’s sons.

But everybody who could have been involved had an alibi. Shon’s car had been left, lights on, at an entrance to a school by the Marco Polo condominium, where he had an office. $100 in a money clip was found, but not in his pocket. It was on the seat of the car.

The investigation petered out and the case was filed away. Then Charles Marsland was elected city prosecutor and began looking into murders that could involve high level people. His chief investigator went to pull the Shon file at HPD. It was empty!

So that was that. As Honolulu Advertiser reporter Gene Hunter noted, it was one of several homicides HPD’s murder squad dropped in those years.  A clean getaway by the killer in a case that should have been a slam dunk for experienced homicide detectives.

Why did HPD say the murder of a respected real estate man bore similarities to underworld killings? If police knew or suspected the answer to that obvious question, they weren’t talking to journalists or the public. Who could have stripped the file of all the gathered evidence? HPD didn’t know. Was the killing personal revenge over an affair or payback for some business deal gone bad? Never answered.

You got the feeling that HPD never wanted to ask or answer many questions. This one was a hot potato! It could have led to one of the most prominent people in Hawaii’s political and union history.

Can the case be revived? Doubtful without that file. One of the principal suspects is dead. The other has a clean record as a local lawyer, married and with a family.

Somebody knew something and anonymously called the Honolulu Advertiser to share some information, but then got cold feet and could not be reached to tell more.

I figure you never know — that person might still be alive, maybe with a bad conscience.

Maybe I’ll get a message tip.

But is the killer still alive? There’s some reason to suspect it was the husband of the unfaithful wife who did the shooting with his son’s kidnapping assistance. The husband is dead. The son is alive.

Isaiah Shon’s remains occupy a prominent gravesite at Oahu Cemetery.


“Don’t Worry, Be Happy”

A former journalism colleague of mine has posed a theory that I found interesting.

He said that the United States is now more than $23 trillion in debt, about $17 trillion of that technically owned by the citizenry and another $6 trillion “borrowed” from the Social Security Trust Fund.

More coming up because of unemployment payments and business loans.

As the personal finance website The Balance points out “It’s unlikely America will ever pay off its national debt. It doesn’t need to while creditors remain confident they will be repaid. Most creditors don’t worry until the sovereign debt is more than 77% of GDP, according to the World Bank.”

So my ex-colleague posits that at some point our money system really faces collapse because payoff on the debt becomes impossible.

He’s into crypto-currencies like Bitcoin, which I consider to be an impossible option in the real word, but it does raise some questions about our personal indebtedness and creditors who may become not confident that they will be repaid.

About 190 million of us have at least one credit card carrying an average of $8,800 in debt. So as individuals, not as a government, we’re about $1.7 or $1.8 trillion in debt we hope we can slowly repay with interest.

I was reading an ad for a local financial consulting firm that promises you can be taught how to generate income that will free you from your debt and even from the necessity of continuing to work. I was thinking “yes, that might be possible if I started a for-a-fee financial consulting firm.”

Debt seems to be an American birthright. Especially now in a low interest environment. But NerdWallet warns that if your debt exceeds 40 percent of your after-tax income, you’re headed for big trouble.

Washington Post columnist Michelle Singletary says “When deciding to buy on credit, repeat to yourself, ‘Is this a need or a want?’ It’s a question that will give pause before a purchase and slow down spending.

“And when you’re thinking about getting a loan, live by the mantra, ‘Cash is better than credit.’”

Let’s talk that bad word default.

The Consumer Federation of America released a study reporting that $137 billion in federal student loans is in default, up 14 percent from 2015.

If the U.S. were similarly to default, it would essentially stop paying the money it owes Treasury bond holders. The likelihood is that markets around the world would plunge and global interest rates would rise. Taxes would have to be jacked up at a time of a huge recession. Goldman Sachs estimates that $175 billion would immediately be withdrawn from the US economy.

Think of today’s debt situation this way:

If the total U.S. debt were a stack of $1,000 bills, it would be more than 1400 miles high. In just $1 bills, it would extend past the moon.


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