Politics 09 March 2018
How Did It Come to This?
Our nation has all but thrown away its reputation as leader of the free world for up-and-coming banana republic. Warren Buffett once said that “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that you'll do things differently."
That sentiment seems to be completely lost on our current White House occupant and his team of downward-spiraling misfits. Our current theatre of the absurd actors seem to believe that they're reality show contestants. Somehow, albeit barely, we've survived Trump's first year in Washington.
But the damage already rendered to our democratic institutions, at home, and to our alliances abroad will linger long after he leaves office. Global confidence in U.S. leadership has fallen to a new low, according to an opinion survey conducted across 134 countries.
The U.S. rating is down nearly 20 points from the 48 percent approval rating in the last year of President Barrack Obama's administration, Gallup reported. He evidently believes that a seemingly booming economy vindicates all. It doesn't.
Over the past year, the stock market has boomed, GDP growth has improved and unemployment is at an almost 17-year low. However, job gains were lower than any of the past six years and wage growth was less than last year. Trump inherited an economy that was on a good trajectory with solid job growth and low unemployment.
Trump's own mark on the economy will be based on the long-term impact of his new tax laws. The most significant (economic) questions going forward are how much growth will tax reform generate, and what will Trump do with the various trade agreements such as NAFTA?
These may determine what will likely happen to the U. S. economy and the stock markets over the next few years. Listening to Trump boast about the recent surge of the stock market, one might get the impression that the bull run of 2017 was greater during his first year than any other.
In fact, of the few areas where this president produced higher numbers than his predecessor, most were dubious achievements: the 2017 deficit under Trump climbed to $666 billion, up from $585 billion in 2016.
The national debt crossed the $20 trillion threshold and is projected to rise faster in the future. And America's trade deficit, which candidate Trump famously blamed on poor presidential dealmaking, was worse during Trump's first year than in any of Obama's eight. Like most of Trump's boastful pronouncements, his claims clash with reality.
America's standing across the globe has been greatly diminished by isolationism and vitriolic tweets. Trump insulted the prime minister of Australia, despite that country having stood by our country for nearly a century. He also attacked Germany, our most steadfast ally in continental Europe, leading Chancellor Angela Merkel to tell her countrymen that they can no longer depend on the United States.
But Forbes noted that the stock prices grew at a faster pace during the Great Depression. Even Obama's first year in office saw the broad S&P 500 Index exploding by 23.5 percent compared with last year's 19.4 percent clip. Wage growth also declined after Trump became president.
Trump also insulted France's young leader by expressing support for his right-wing opponent and withdrawing-contrary to U. S. interests-from the Paris climate accords. He even blasted both the British prime minister and mayor of London after a terrorist attack.
If that wasn't bad enough, Trump reaffirmed his well-documented poor character with a disgusting slur against people from El Salvador, Haiti and countries in Africa. Trump's ally-bashing was matched by his elevating the status of dictators and racist organizations. His kowtowing to Putin was as unrelenting as it was disgraceful.
Not much has changed since 2015, when he praised the Kremlin autocrat as a “strong leader" who “gets things done." Trump also praised President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines for a bloody drug war marked by extrajudicial killings. He even saw fit to lavish praise on Turkish autocrat, Recep Tayyip Erdogan for human rights abuses, giving him “high marks" and that it was “a great honor" to meet him.
Donald Trump. Photo courtesy of NBC
Our unrepentant Commander-in-Chief is cementing his legacy...
The most damning legacy of Trump's first year is simply that he has ruled as an unapologetic racist and sexist, incapable of empathy and anything that slightly demonstrates leadership.
He provided comfort to white supremacists after Charlottesville, attacked black athletes to garner cheap political points and fought-tooth-and-nail-to close America's doors to anyone who doesn't look, think or act like his most fervent sycophants.
At least 22 women have accused Trump of sexual misconduct...
In a 2005 recording obtained by The Washington Post before the presidential election, Donald J. Trump talked about in vulgar terms to Billy Bush, then the host of “Access Hollywood," how he can get away with assaulting women, because he's famous.
Bush is no longer employed by “Access Hollywood," and Trump is now the 45th President of The United States.
Following the October 2016 release of the now infamous “Access Hollywood" tape, in which Trump was recorded as boasting about grabbing women's genitals in 2005 many women came forward. Some others made their stories public months before the tape's release, and still others came forward more recently.
Trump has dismissed all of the allegations made against him as “fabricated" and politically motivated accounts pushed by the media and his political adversaries, and promised to sue all of his accusers after the election is over. Although Trump has not made good on his promises to sue these women, one-Summer Zervos-has sued him for defamation.
Summer Zervos (R). Photo courtesy of Business Insider
During the second presidential debate, Anderson Cooper asked Trump point blank whether he had either kissed women-without consent-or had groped them. Trump asserted that “nobody has more respect for women," Cooper persisted, “Have you ever done those things?" Trump denied that he had, saying: “No, I have not."
And yet, in Trump's own words, he reveals an entirely different narrative of repulsive behavior. During an April 2005 interview with radio host Howard Stern, he said that he regularly walked into contestants' dressing rooms on the beauty pageants he owned while women were not dressed: "I'll go backstage before a show and everyone's getting dressed and ready and everything else. And you know, no men are anywhere. And I'm allowed to go in because I'm the owner of the pageant," he said. "You know they're standing there with no clothes. And you see these incredible-looking women. And so I sort of get away with things like that." Despite all of Trump's denials, 50 percent of voters-59 percent of women and 41 percent of men-surveyed in a Quinnipiac poll released December 19 think the president should resign as a result of the sexual misconduct allegations against him.
One accuser, Samantha Holvey, who recently spoke out again about her experience with Trump as a Miss USA pageant contestant, said that while his election was painful, she and others see the #MeToo movement as an opportunity to “try round two." At least 22 women have accused President Trump of sexual misconduct between the 1970s and 2013...let that sink in for a moment. He has consistently denied all of the allegations, calling the women “liars." But if there's one common theme, when it comes to Trump, it's that he has a consistent pattern for sexual misconduct and then denying it.
Once again, the question begs asking, how did it come to this?
It is one thing to read and another thing to understand what you are reading. Not only do you want to understand, but also remember what you've read. Otherwise, we can safely say that if we're not gaining anything from what we read, then it's a big waste of time.
Whatever you read, there are ways to do so in a more effective manner to help you understand better. Whether you are reading by choice, for an upcoming test, or work-related material, here are a few ways to help you improve your reading skills and retain that information.
Read with a Purpose
Never has there been a shortage of great books. So, someone recommended a great cookbook for you. You start going through it, but your mind is wandering. This doesn't mean the cookbook was an awful recommendation, but it does mean it doesn't suit nor fulfill your current needs or curiosity.
Maybe your purpose is more about launching a business. Maybe you're a busy mom and can't keep office hours, but there's something you can do from home to help bring in more money, so you want information about that. At that point, you won't benefit from a cookbook, but you could gain a lot of insight and find details here on how-to books about working from home. During this unprecedented year, millions have had to make the transition to work from home, and millions more are deciding to do that. Either way, it's not a transition that comes automatically or easily, but reading about it will inform you about what working from home entails.
When you pre-read it primes your brain when it's time to go over the full text. We pre-read by going over the subheadings, for instance, the table of contents, and skimming through some pages. This is especially useful when you have formal types of academic books. Pre-reading is a sort of warm-up exercise for your brain. It prepares your brain for the rest of the information that will come about and allows your brain to be better able to pick the most essential pieces of information you need from your chosen text.
Highlighting essential sentences or paragraphs is extremely helpful for retaining information. The problem, however, with highlighting is that we wind up highlighting way too much. This happens because we tend to highlight before we begin to understand. Before your pages become a neon of colored highlights, make sure that you only highlight what is essential to improve your understanding and not highlight the whole page.
You might think there have been no new ways to read, but even the ancient skill of reading comes up with innovative ways; enter speed reading. The standard slow process shouldn't affect your understanding, but it does kill your enthusiasm. The average adult goes through around 200 to 250 words per minute. A college student can read around 450 words, while a professor averages about 650 words per minute, to mention a few examples. The average speed reader can manage 1,500 words; quite a difference! Of course, the argument arises between quality and quantity. For avid readers, they want both quantity and quality, which leads us to the next point.
Life is too short to expect to gain knowledge from just one type of genre. Some basic outcomes of reading are to expand your mind, perceive situations and events differently, expose yourself to other viewpoints, and more. If you only stick to one author and one type of material, you are missing out on a great opportunity to learn new things.
Having said that, if there's a book you are simply not enjoying, remember that life is also too short to continue reading it. Simply, close it, put it away and maybe give it another go later on, or give it away. There is no shame or guilt in not liking a book; even if it's from a favorite author. It's pretty much clear that you won't gain anything from a book that you don't even enjoy, let alone expect to learn something from it.
If you're able to summarize what you have read, then you have understood. When you summarize, you are bringing up all the major points that enhance your understanding. You can easily do so chapter by chapter.
Take a good look at your life and what's going on in it. Accordingly, you'll choose the material that is much more suitable for your situation and circumstances. When you read a piece of information that you find beneficial, look for a way to apply it to your life. Knowledge for the sake of knowledge isn't all that beneficial. But the application of knowledge from a helpful book is what will help you and make your life more interesting and more meaningful.