Global Thoughts 5 December 2016

Philly Pops Ball at the Bellevue in Philadelphia
Philly Pops Ball at the Bellevue in Philadelphia — an evening of ballroom dancing to a 65 piece orchestra

I’m so glad that the World Series had such an exciting finish in its 7th game. I wanted to let my kids stay up to participate in a shared national experience other than another presidential debate. It’s a good thing they went to bed; I left the game at 12:15am when it went into rain delay in the 10th inning. Imagine keeping a kid up 4 hours past their bedtime not to see it finish.

I went to Staples office supply store and they were selling a ream of recycled paper for $12. You can buy new paper for $4. Doesn’t it make sense at a certain point to just throw this stuff away?

Jeremy was being rained out of his parkour sessions so he went with his trainer to the American Museum of Natural History. His trainer offered to pay for admission but Jeremy went up to the membership desk and said that his parents were members whose children were entitled to free admission, spelled out our last name and gave our address, and told them to look it up in their computer. Not only did they get in free, but they also got tickets to a special exhibition.

Elizabeth is writing beautiful poetry in school. Lately she has been writing poems that give a new take on famous poems from the past. She tells me that her teachers are “brilliant.” I’m very glad that she enjoys school so much and I’ve never known anyone to say such nice things about their teachers at that age.

img_5191My mother in law sent us over a list of the Top 10 Best Selling books in Australia as of the week ending August 13, 2016. A kids book, The 78-Storey Treehouse, was #1, and considering there are roughly 2 lines of text per page, it is interesting that it qualifies as a top selling book. Actually, 3 books from the Treehouse series are in the Top 10 and it is an Australian series. The books on the list don’t look too exciting; the third one on the list is about things gone awry at a family barbeque. Problem in Australia is that books are terribly expensive due to protectionist policies against foreign authors. Lower prices would probably expand the literary offerings in that country.

Jeremy was really angry at me for not agreeing to get him a hamster as a pet, so he took my credit cards hostage and said I wouldn’t get them back till I gave him his ransom. As a prank, he then took markers and made our toilet water red with magic marker, stained the bathmat to look like blood, and put a stickie on the toilet bowl reading “I WILL KILL YOU.”  I was thinking of putting a recording of a large barking dog in his room with the door closed and telling him one day as he came home from school that his new pet was inside.

Jeremy’s teacher censored his classwork making some kind of art involving Trump because he used too many bad words coming out of his mouth. Elizabeth told her teacher that we don’t let her read the New York Times because it had all those bad words on the front page from Trump.  I think many people are looking forward to this campaign coming to an end real soon. Israeli newspapers seem to have it all figured out; by mid-October they were confidently inserting into their news reports names of future cabinet officers in a Clinton administration, such as secretary of defense and national security advisor. Clinton’s team is a well-established commodity outside the US. (As you might guess, I wrote this paragraph in October. When I visited in December, a senior foreign ministry official from that country told me that they expected Trump to win. I wonder if they really guessed that in October.)

I think that if Pay Per View wants the fight of the century, they should arrange a grudge match between Joe Biden and Donald Trump. If you recall, Biden made a speech saying that he would like to get Trump behind a gym. The BBC wrote an article considering the matchup and what each side would bring to the match. Biden was known to pack a good punch and neighborhood kids were warned to stay away from Trump who used to beat kids up. It would be a great bonanza if the winner donated the proceeds to a charity.

The day after the election, my son asked my wife if Mr Trump would blow up the world. She said probably not, hoping she is right.

I would like to see a group of billionaires such as Warren Buffett, Haim Saban, Mike Bloomberg, Mark Zuckerman and George Soros all get together and each chip in half a billion dollars to fund a new political party in the US. Everyone is putting money into malaria and various diseases in Africa; America is broken and needs a new centrist party. I figure 5 billion dollars ought to be enough to field 600 candidates for congress, governorships and the US presidency.

A friend of ours who is a Republican was recently offered a job in the Trump administration. He was surprised because he had not supported Trump but they said they didn’t care because they couldn’t afford to limit their search to people who had supported him. He refused because he didn’t want to give up his job to work for an unpredictable person who might fire him a year down the road or do crazy things. The word out there is that the new president is having a hard time getting good people to work for him and that means they are going toward the bottom of the barrel toward highly ideological people to get people on board. Doesn’t look promising for the country.

Me, about 45 years ago, when I was in Kindergarten. Ringmaster at the Circus, destined for leadership.
Me in a photo recently found, about 45 years ago, when I was in Kindergarten. Ringmaster at the Circus, destined for leadership.

This is a humbling time to make predictions. America voted in a person with many people hoping that he doesn’t really believe the things he says. Lots of people including Jews voted for Hitler in 1932 hoping the same thing and then finding out Surprise Surprise that the man really believed what he said. I am rather nervous about what he might do but I try to remember that the president is only the president and that Washington has good experience at eating presidents for lunch when they don’t like them. Bureaucracy knows how to stall executive action, lobbyists count for a lot, and the whole House of Representatives is up for election in 2 years.

Some comments on the elections:

  1. 42% of women (53% of white women) voted for Trump. More Hispanics and Asians voted for him than voted for Romney 4 years ago. Not a lot more but about 10% more. I don’t know how fewer blacks voted in this election than normally vote but when I saw counties in Michigan with significant black populations going Trump’s way, I had a bad feeling about how the ultimate outcome would be. And the truth is that 100,000 black votes either way should not decide a presidential election. Trump actually won because he had a lot of votes in a lot of states from a lot of people who voted for him and who did not vote for the other person. If you didn’t vote, you can’t complain if you didn’t like the result.
  2. The lesson I learned 4 years ago and which I wrote about in following the 2012 election was that white men do not decide presidential elections. One-third of the electorate consists of minorities. I tried to keep that in mind because 4 years ago I was mistaken when I thought that Romney would win. Now I’ve been screwed again because I thought Clinton would win, except that I did note in October that the big unknown was how many people would vote for Trump that were not telling pollsters that they would, and depending on how many people that turned out to be, was the possibility that he might win. Turns out an awful lot of people did that. Droves of angry white men who had not voted in 20 years or who had previously voted Democratic came out and became Republican voters. Trump led with non-college-educated white men by 36%. So I was both right and wrong – angry white voters don’t decide elections but they do when everyone else either doesn’t vote or enough of them vote the same way they do. The longer term view is that over the next 10-20 years the number of white older men is declining and so will their ability to do what they did now. Younger people tend to be more open to new ideas, favor globalization and are less prejudiced against gays and minorities.
  3. Both the Democratic and Republican parties were repudiated by the masses of their voters, even though the Republicans won. The clearest sign of this is that Trump owes nothing to the GOP Party and is free to completely ignore them. The parties allowed fringe elements to take over their parties and the centrists fled. They ran crappy centrist candidates for years and alienated everyone. Jeb Bush, George Bush Jr., Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, John McCain, Mitt Romney – even Barack Obama was a mediocre candidate without any prior experience but he won because the Republicans put out such lousy candidates in comparison. Who were the candidates to beat this year? Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush? There are so many people I know in my synagogue or just in real life that I would vote for a lot faster than any of these people. America needs these parties to either truly reform and put up decent centrist candidates or we need a new political party. The silver lining to Trump might be that the parties actually are forced to get with the program or step aside to a new party. So far the Democratic party is moving even more left which only shows that they don’t get it.
  4. I made it clear here for over a year that I found Hillary Clinton to be a horrible choice. I wound up voting for her most reluctantly because I felt that I had the responsibility to vote for somebody and did not think that Trump would be good for the country. I also knew that my vote was meaningless in any event since I am in New York, where Hillary won 89% of the vote in Manhattan. Over the campaign I came to feel that maybe she would actually be a decent president, but obviously many other Americans were not willing to stomach this person. The night before elections a truck drove around our neighborhood with a sign that said “I despise Trump and flies. The more I think of Trump, the more I like flies.” That was a reason to vote against someone, but not for someone.  And that’s what did her in. People just hated her so much that they wouldn’t vote for her, no matter what.
  5. I mentioned on this site during the past year that there is a feeling in America that this is not a monarchy state, and that there is something wrong with having two families put up all the presidents, especially if they are flawed. It can’t just be the Bush and Clinton show and family business of the presidency. We have 300 million people here, and it has to better than this. Obviously people felt strongly enough about this that they voted in someone who wouldn’t be hired for a normal job, let alone the presidency, but he won precisely because people didn’t want more of the same people who were credentialed “professionals” or those who lived their lives plotting and CYA’ing themselves to be president.
  6. The stock market didn’t crash. Probably because the Republicans won across the board and this makes up for the fact that Trump surprised the markets with his win (which markets don’t like). The end of divided government means that something will get passed in Washington. Hope you like what it is, but at least something will happen and lower taxes and undoing of regulations is good for business, at least in the short term. Markets prefer certainty over the endless gridlock we’ve endured and are in it for the short term. If you’re a bank and an insurance company, this is manna from heaven. Obamacare and Dodd-Frank are probably going out the window piece by piece.
  7. My brother said that you can’t call 60 million people bigots and racists. That insults too many people’s intelligence. A lot of people who voted for Obama 4 years ago voted for Trump this year. Corruption lives on both sides of the aisle in Washington and neither of these two people are angels even compared to the other. People had reasons for voting. Howard Stern has had Trump on his show for years; Hillary was invited several times and never accepted. That was probably a mistake. People respect the Howard Stern show. I’m sure that if Howard Stern ran for president he’d win in a landslide.
  8. Now for some original humor, as if you needed some. I don’t know how Mexico will pay for the Wall, now that their peso was devalued 30% in less than a week…..I can’t wait to see Governor Christie become the Secretary of Transportation. I assume that if Democratic Governor Cuomo doesn’t get with the program, we’ll see tremendous flight delays over New York City’s 3 airports (if this is unclear, Google articles about the George Washington Bridge scandal)….. I’ve become a fan of Global Warming. I figure that if the winters in Canada warm up, it will be a better country to live in. Ba da bum….
  9. This is not a joke – lobbyist firms in Washington are being engaged like crazy after the election. The outsiders might have won, but now that they won they have absolutely no idea how Washington works and they are supposed to take charge. They have to hire all these lobbyist-insiders to show them how.
  10. Fox News is partly responsible for this. 24 hours a day of white trash television labeling anyone who would work with a Democrat as a traitor. Conservative ideas dumbed down to the point where know-nothing is the only way to go. If Washington has become a completely polarized place where people can only scream and are excoriated if they work together, you can lay plenty of blame at Fox. Their chieftains made billions doing this, and they have helped make a country broken and created a lot of hatred among people. They can wave lots of American flags, but I’m not proud of what we’ve become. It’s one thing to have a difference of ideology. This election went way past that; you have two halves of a country that cannot respect each other when Fox is waving the flag calling the other half devils and ruining the careers of anyone that doesn’t tow their line of Americanism.

In any event, I have generally trusted the American voters to make the right choice. I am hoping that their wisdom, though not understood by me at present, will over the long run, prove to be correct. In the alternative, you can consider that the Egyptians voted in Morsi and after a year the army got rid of him.

At the Western Wall at my 50th year.
At the Western Wall at my 50th year.

In honor of my 50th birthday earlier this year, I made a 3-day visit to Israel. I flew with Delta, which turned out to be a good thing since a pilot’s strike on El Al would have caused havoc with my return flight. El Al has had poor relations with its pilots for several years with wildcat strikes and substitute crews flying European charter aircraft, and it is to be avoided. Delta’s business class is 1:2:1 and is probably the best thing in the air going to Israel; United is 2:2:2, and El Al even in first class is 2:2:2. Delta is getting new planes in 2017 that will have privacy screens for their seats. For most of the flight they keep the lights off so you can get some sleep.  Using the VIP service upon arrival was useful because the arrival hall was busy. Hotels are busier than I expected; Israel is overall pretty full with tourists even in mid-November. Upon arrival, I tried using the express train to Tel Aviv for the first time. Just 10 minutes and one stop from the airport for a $3.50 ticket you arrive at Haganah Station in South Tel Aviv and then it is a $10 taxi ride to the Sheraton hotel, which is right where most of the hotels are. I got from the airport to the hotel in less than 30 minutes which was pretty good especially since I arrived at rush hour. When you get to the train station, you might save money by crossing the street and hailing a taxi instead of getting into one that is waiting at the station. Also, crossing the street puts you in the right direction. The airport train runs every 30 minutes during the day and the entrance is just below the taxi stand. Can’t wait for them to have a train that runs to Jerusalem. All said and done, it probably pays to just take a taxi to Tel Aviv and not try to beat the traffic or the roughly $30 taxi fare.

The Tel Aviv Sheraton has improved since the last time I stayed there, just after 9/11 when it was 92% empty and it felt so weird to be there. The upper-tier rooms are very good; I was upgraded to the Ambassadors Suite which has a big terrace on the top floor and is a beautiful suite. The club lounge has better food than you normally see at a Sheraton. The reason kids under 18 can’t go into the lounges is that they have open bar there. The gym is one of the better hotel gyms in Israel; the pool outside was heated, the location is good with easy access to the beach promenade which is pleasant to walk along, and the Olive Tree Restaurant was excellent and as good as anything you’d find in the city. If you book far in advance, you can get a promotional rate including dinner for 2. The spa was the weak point; the locker room was the dirtiest I’ve ever seen. The Kempinski hotel which is to open next year is further south just next to the Intercontinental, which is far from anything, although in a sense you need a taxi to anywhere from your hotel. I visited The Norman which is the #1 boutique hotel and which recently joined Amex’s Fine Hotels and Resort program. It has few facilities and it is boutiquey and its restaurant is not kosher. Unless you want to be in that residential neighborhood, I would skip it. The other thing I went to see is the Sarona district which used to be the Kirya (defense ministry) which they demolished and turned into a big food hall building, apartment buildings and a courtyard with some shops. It is nice to see if you are in the area. Tel Aviv in general remains a pretty run-down city except for a few new glassy towers.

From Tel Aviv it is a 2 ½ hour drive to Mitzpe Ramon, which is about an hour past Beersheva in the desert. I wanted to visit the Beresheet Hotel, which was billed as a new luxury destination spa that was on people’s must-see list and a popular stop for people having family tours to Israel. Along the way about half an hour before Mitzpe Ramon, I stopped at Kibbutz Sde Boker to visit the hut where David Ben Gurion finished out his life and was buried. The desert view from the gravesite is beautiful. There is a video about his leadership and it is a trait sorely lacking in today’s world; Ben Gurion was fixated on what he thought the People needed, not what they wanted. He probably wouldn’t get past a party primary today.

View from the main building of the hotel toward the crater.

The Beresheet hotel has beautiful rooms and the common areas are very nice. Lots of cookies and fruit awaited my arrival. Dinner and breakfast buffets were excellent.  The gym and spa were disappointing; not much of either, especially as a destination resort. Rooms promising a crater view (and charging extra for it) really don’t deliver that view and you could opt for a cheaper room. The advantage to the upper tier suites is privacy with your plunge pool, but in November you probably aren’t going swimming outside anyway. There is an indoor pool and Jacuzzi in the main building. A family suite is the way to go if you are a family of 4, with a separate bedroom with twin beds. The presidential suite is built for 6. I was supposed to go on a star-gazing tour but it was fogged out. The next morning I went on a 3 hour jeep and rappelling tour; the jeep ride is basically riding on rocks in the middle of a desert crater and after about 20 minutes it is somewhat painful and boring. The rapelling is fun but not recommended for kids unless you have a second guide come along who catches them at the bottom of the descent. I descended alone about 150 feet and was not thrilled to not know where the bottom was and how to get the gear off, with nobody around to help me and being pretty close to the edge of a cliff. That probably wouldn’t be allowed in the US. This hotel is nice for a one night stay but I would be climbing the walls here any more than that. The hotel has a huge list of day-time activities that would warrant a longer stay if you can manage not to be bored in the evenings.

Rappelling into the crater.
Rappelling into the crater.

Another 2.5 hour drive takes you to Jerusalem. For over 10 years I’ve watched them build the Waldorf Astoria hotel and I finally got to stay there. The rooms set the standard for Jerusalem; there are certainly many chandeliers there. The hotel has no real gym, no pool open even though they built 2 of them, no spa and the lobby restaurant serves dairy food only until 6:30pm (then just coffee and cake or there is an expensive meat restaurant).  The hotel has been open for nearly 3 years and it still lacks many facilities you expect. Except for one or two rooms, they have no views of the old city or virtually anything else. At this hotel and at the Sheraton, I woke up in the middle of the night with a sore neck from the pillows that are hard as a rock. Next time I go to Israel, I will bring not one but two pillows. The lobby is dark at night and the whole place feels like a temple creating its own history but you are standing in it rather than being part of it. Having stayed in the Mamila, Citadel, Waldorf and the King David, which are the 4 top hotels in this district, the latter remains my favorite. It has the views, excellent food, an adequate gym and spa, the rooms are pretty, and it is a place with warmth where you feel that you are returning to a familiar place where you remember the staff and the staff remembers you. It is the kind of Coming Home feeling you want when you make repeat visits to Jerusalem. No hotel has really nailed it all down here, but I hope the Ritz Carlton or Four Seasons will someday come in and get the job done.

I had a great dinner at Gabriel Restaurant, French cuisine in the middle of downtown Jerusalem. The chateaubriand for two was excellent. I visited the recently renovated Tower of David museum just inside Jaffa Gate which is reachable via the Mamila Mall which has a staircase that goes right in there. The sound and light show has good effects but is too long and boring but you could buy a combo ticket with your museum admission and walk out after half an hour. Next to the Western Wall is Robinson’s Arch, which is the unofficial place to have an egalitarian (men and women together) prayer service which is important if you want to have a Bat Mitzvah ceremony for a 12 year old girl, something you can’t do at the Western Wall. This is basically a small area along the Western Wall just before the gated entrance to the “kotel” – the designated prayer area where most people go to pray. It’s fine for what it is and everyone should just live and let live.  I had a few conversations in Jerusalem with friends. One of them is a supreme court judge, one is a peace activist, one is an ambassador with the foreign ministry, and one of them is a college professor and analyst.  It’s actually gratifying for me to sit with people I’ve known for 25 years, who have paid their dues, and to see them moving ahead in the world.

At the Little Red Lighthouse below the George Washington Bridge in NY City.
At the Little Red Lighthouse below the George Washington Bridge in NY City.

Here are some thoughts I heard: The reason Israeli Arabs are getting so much money from this government is that specifically they are getting money from Mr Bennet’s party that has the Education and Justice ministries. Much like his predecessor the National Religious Party used to do, this money is meant to secure votes in the party’s primary elections for leaders who gave out the money. They don’t expect Arabs to vote for the party in the general elections but primaries are another matter. Political Islam is getting a bad rap from all this ISIS and Al Qaida stuff going on. How you feel about the two-state solution depends to a large degree as to whether you accept the demographic argument that Arabs will within a generation become a majority if it was only a one-state entity. Leftists accept this premise; rightists dispute the premise and feel that the demographic analysis is wrong. They say that the count of Palestinians includes a million people who left the territories and are probably never coming back. Or it counts people in Gaza who no longer are part of Israel. Or that Jews are having more kids than people realize. Anyway, the demographic argument is not a showstopper for either side.  One person recently up in the Golan notes that Israeli soldiers are dealing craftily with a good number of factions in the Syrian civil war that all come to the border to get things they want.  A good number of Israelis on the right are hoping that Trump will be good for Israel.  Some people say they anticipated his victory. Russia filled a void in Syria that Obama left for them. Meanwhile, the Israelis have to deal with Russia like it or not, but they coordinate their actions in Syria with the Americans. Some hope that Barghouti would join up with Dahlan and Fayyad to make a good Palestinian ruling triumvirate; the Israelis in charge are not sure that Barghouti would be useful and are in no rush to let him out of jail. They view him as a guy who did too many bad things and who doesn’t deserve to be let out of jail. Mandela he ain’t. Abbas might be out the door soon but nobody really knows who comes after. No successor to Bibi Netanyahu is on the horizon; Lapid was the name most mentioned to me as a person who would get votes, but whether he would get enough votes is another matter.

Pool and ocean scenes at the Dorado Reserve in Puerto Rico. That's Elizabeth surfing!
Pool and ocean scenes at the Dorado Reserve in Puerto Rico over Thanksgiving weekend. That’s Elizabeth surfing!

img_5241 img_5270-2My conclusions: Israel generally looks good and people feel good about the future there. The roads are excellent; the mass transportation is being built up and when you watch TV you see commercials aimed at people who are tech savvy, travel a lot and want to buy expensive things, whilst in the nearby countries TV commercials sell toothpaste and detergent. Netanyahu can look back on his years as a steward who did not initiate problems in the neighborhood or cause surprises, and who oversaw a great move forward in the country’s infrastructure. We read bad news all the time and you get the sense that people don’t want to live there and that the place is going to the dogs. That’s true all around it, but I don’t feel the negativity inside the country.  I usually feel that Arabs I see outside Israel don’t really internalize the permanence of Israel and keep thinking it wouldn’t last 5 minutes without America or that it will eventually crumble under its own weight. Israelis who deal with Arabs tell me that they think I’m wrong, and that the Arabs they talk to fully understand what’s going on in Israel and wish they could have it in their own countries.  The Israelis are increasingly engaging with China, India, and Russia, and if America and Europe want to isolate or boycott Israel, they are making sure they have plenty of alternatives (and so far the Europeans have enough of their own problems to keep them busy and Trump is not Obama with regard to Israel). Asian airlines are increasingly flying into Israel and it is always surreal how many places you can fly nonstop from Israel at all hours of the day. At Ben Gurion airport there is an exhibit about all the technological innovation going on in the country that has affected the rest of the world. It is just tremendous, all of this coming out of a little country. The peace process is considered at this point to be of little interest in the Arab world, especially with the uncertainty of all the countries surrounding Israel. Nobody knows if Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon or even Saudi Arabia will be what they are 5 years from now.  Only Saudi Arabia has a young prince making waves and plenty of people around him hoping he’ll fail so that they can put the screws back in place for another generation. Israel by comparison is a stable reasonable place run by a guy who has outlasted nearly everyone else around him and who does not make mistakes or surprises. He’s actually considered a rather good neighbor. Pretty nutty, huh?

A personal thought: I sat with my 17 year old niece who is currently in Jerusalem for her year between high school and college taking the starving student to dinner, which is what my uncle did for me in 1983 when I was 17 doing the same kind of program. On this visit, I also sat with my parents taking them to dinner, who of course had visited me at that time. I feel at 50 that everyone around me and myself have moved one chair to the right; i am now where my parents were and i see where i was, and where i am going. It has in certain respects gone rather quickly and I am not sure that I am where I am supposed to be at this point, but I have no regrets and lots of hope for the future. I remember attending a speech by Morris Lapidus at the age of 92 who was the architect of many iconic hotels and landmarks of Miami Beach and him saying that before he was 50 he labored in total obscurity. So life can begin anew at 50 even if one is not sure that he has made his mark by the age of 50, and no one knows what lies in store for better or worse.

Year-End Predictions: At the end of this month for the end of year break, we are heading to the Limmud conference in the UK. I have given addresses there in 2001, 2002 and 2006 and the title of this year’s session is what has changed or not changed about the Middle East in the past 15 years since I first spoke at the Limmud conference and what have I learned from what I’ve seen the past 15 years. I’ve been reviewing the texts of those addresses which you can find right here on Global Thoughts and it is humbling reading them now as I try to make sense of it all. I will report back next month. This is a trying time to make year-end predictions; we are cursed, as the Chinese say, to live in interesting times. I like to think as a religious person that God has his plans and laughs at Man’s. At this point, we will just have to wait and see. Either we are looking at true randomness born of incompetence or a refreshing throw-off of generations of orthodoxies that governed the basis for American interests. What I mean is that till now it didn’t really matter who was the president because we all pretty much knew what American interests were. Even in the Cold War with the Soviet Union there were rules of the road that both sides understood and wanted to observe to keep overall stability. Now someone is becoming president who either doesn’t really care what America’s interests are or is going to redefine them. Obama wasn’t sure if America cared about certain world issues but wanted mostly to avoid getting burned and sucked into things that would distract him from essentially putting America first (ironic, huh?). Trump basically says he doesn’t care about certain world issues. We don’t know yet if he is refusing national security briefings because he doesn’t care or because he wants to deny that he was told not to do something because of a conflict of business interest or because it would cause trouble (ie: talking to Taiwan). Perhaps Bibi Netanyahu told him that the state department is a bunch of losers and you can avoid them just like he holds his own foreign ministry at bay.  Either way, it will be a rough ride as everyone adapts because the old rules are out the window for now. Countries will have to weather a storm for the next few years where those who counted on American protection might be given short shrift; countries such as Egypt, Turkey and Saudi Arabia will get closer to Israel in order to ensure their case is heard in America. Countries in Eastern Europe are probably petrified and are wondering how much they have to suck up to Russia to survive but not get too close to the bear. The Philippines can claim they want to play the US against China and make a bit of noise doing it, but most countries do not trust China or Russia and the only real alternative they have in the world for the things that matter emanate from America. They will assume that after Trump American foreign policy will revert to familiar patterns and just like Bibi Netanyahu waited out Obama, leaders around the world will wait out Trump. I predict there will be trouble ahead in terms of stability and economy, but then you never know — it could be brilliance that shakes up a country that feels it needs new ideas and a different type of leadership. Generally I have felt that you can’t really change fundamental rules — you can’t run companies without budgets, for instance. Some will say that’s bunk, but I haven’t seen it work yet and the world is filled with discarded people who thought they could rewrite the rules of business or politics. Stocks still carry their value long term based on fundamental criteria. Countries also have fundamental rules that govern them — the challenge right now is to determine which of those rules truly are fundamental and which should be discarded by virtue of an open mind. This is a time of reckoning and it will take some adjustment — after 9/11, I also recall a time of reckoning but after a year or two, we realized that the world had not really changed. Has the Middle East changed over the past 15 years or is it just our perceptions of what we expect that have adjusted these past 15 years? So too we might find that things in flux are less than they appear. We’ll just have to play this out awhile and see.


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