For about 20 years, Ray Keating wrote a weekly column - a short time with the New York City Tribune, more than 11 years with Newsday, another seven years with Long Island Business News, plus another year-and-a-half with As an economist, Keating also pens an assortment of analyses each week. With the Keating Files, he decided to expand his efforts with regular commentary touching on a broad range of issues, written by himself and an assortment of talented contributors and columnists. So, here goes...

Sunday, May 31, 2020

History Channel’s “Grant” Documentary: A Long Overdue Masterpiece

by Ray Keating
The Keating Files – May 31, 2020

The History Channel’s Grant documentary ranks as a long overdue masterpiece. 

This miniseries tells much of the story of Ulysses S. Grant, the general who led the Union Army to victory in the Civil War and served as a two-term president of the United States in the aftermath of that bloody conflict and during Reconstruction. And the creators of Grant offer this biography in straightforward, honest fashion. It’s not hagiography; it just sound history. 

But by simply treating Grant fairly, and therefore coming to recognize his noteworthy accomplishments, this documentary serves as part of a much-needed corrective to the abuse that Grant has suffered at the hands of biased, revisionist pro-South historians who sought to justify the Confederacy’s actions. Tragically, as the Civil War moved further back in time, more Americans simply forgot their history, and proved amazingly susceptible to the southern “Lost Cause” spin and re-writing of the causes, purpose and execution of the Civil War. Most bewildering perhaps is how many historians bought into this.

Consider that when Ulysses S. Grant died in 1885, and for a good time thereafter, he was recognized as one of the great leaders in American history – along with Washington and Lincoln, for example, as Teddy Roosevelt noted. But subsequently, Grant’s reputation plummeted, to the point of being relegated to the status of a drunk, a butcher and a corrupt president. 

But the Grant documentary shows us a very different man – a great leader, though certainly with flaws and weaknesses as is the case with all of us, who played a central role in saving the Union and ending the atrocity of slavery in the U.S. It was President Abraham Lincoln and Grant who completed the Founders’ work when it came to what was stated in the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

Grant’s perseverance is made clear, for example, in terms of facing assorted failures and working to support his family under dire circumstances. In fact, it was mainly long separations from his family, coupled with periods of inaction, that led to his drinking. His masterful abilities as an aggressive military strategist and to see how battles developed while on the ground were highlighted in the miniseries, as were his victories that were essential to the Union prevailing, along with some terribly costly mistakes as well. But hearing Grant’s own words, we gain insights into his humility, and an unflagging willingness to take responsibility for his actions and the results of his decisions.

The Civil War takes up the bulk of this documentary, but some time also  is spent on Grant’s presidency. From that, we see a man who again took responsibility, fought for equal rights for former slaves, and was anything but corrupt. There was more to say about and for Grant and his presidency, including positive steps taken by him and Congress that provided a sound foundation upon which the U.S. economy would grow for decades to come (see my recent column on Grant that covers some of this).

We also see something very special about Grant at the end of his life. While suffering from terminal cancer and facing bankruptcy, he fights on trying to write his memoirs and save his family from poverty. He finishes the book, dies three days later, and the memoir becomes one of the greatest books written by any president, and it does save his family from poverty.

The production value of the series is top notch, with Justin Salinger at the center, exceling in his portrayal as a steely, determined Grant. Malcolm Venville deserves high praise as the director of the miniseries with its often-powerful reenactments, and kudos to the various executive producers involved, including Ron Chernow, Pulitzer-Prize winning biographer and author of Grant, and Academy-Award winning actor Leonardo DiCaprio. 

Before the miniseries aired, since we live in the age of Twitter (and that’s not a positive thing these days), DiCaprio tweeted about the miniseries. It was nice to see him sum matters up this way: “Ulysses S. Grant was regarded as one of the greatest military commanders in United States history, and as the 18th President, he united a country that was divided during the Civil War.” Straightforward and correct.

As is so often the case with documentaries in recent times, they can rise or fall based on the experts who are relied upon, put on screen, and quoted. Venville and the Grant team chose wisely, including Doug Douds, Colonel USMC retired and professor of U.S. Army War College; Caroline E. Janney, director of the Center for Civil War History at the University of Virginia; and Joan Waugh, author of U.S. Grant: American Hero, American Myth. Of course, Chernow also lends his expertise on screen, as do several others.

Directly addressing in the documentary Grant’s dramatic decline in terms of reputation, Doug Douds explained, “The Lost Cause narrative is really an effort of the South to say, ‘How did we sacrifice so much for a cause so bad as slavery?’ So they changed the narrative. ‘No, no, it was about state’s rights and independence.’ And so that narrative has become the predominant narrative, and I think, a part of it gets buried in there is the role of Grant.”

These revisionists managed to turn history on its head, transforming Robert E. Lee, the traitor, into the hero, and Grant, defender of the Union, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, into the villain.

Thankfully, the realities of what the South was doing and what the North was defending come out in this miniseries. For example, the reason for why so many men in the North fought was addressed by Caroline E. Janney. She observed, “Many people in the United States thought this experiment that the Founding Fathers had put in place was in fact still an experiment and was in jeopardy. This notion of fighting for the Union was tied up in believing that what the Founders had created was in fact worth fighting for, and worth saving.”

And then we have Grant’s own words throughout. And they include the following direct declaration, which comes early in the miniseries: “There were but two parties now: traitors and patriots.”

And at the close of the war, regarding Lee’s surrender, Grant reflected, “I felt like anything rather than rejoicing at the downfall of a foe who fought so long and valiantly and had suffered so much for a cause, though that cause was, I believe, one of the worst for which a people ever fought.”

If you didn’t see this six-hour series when it aired on the History Channel last week, have no fear. It’s available for streaming now at, and I trust it will be available soon via other streaming services, and for purchase in digital and Blu-Ray formats. Grant warrants inclusion in your own history library (if you don’t have a book and video history library, then this is the time to start), as well as being spread far and wide to classrooms across the entire Union – south, north, east and west. 

As I wrote in my previous column on this topic, Ulysses S. Grant deserves to be recognized as one of the greats in American history for his accomplishments on and off the bloody fields of the Civil War. Thanks to the History Channel’s Grant miniseries, more Americans will understand and agree.


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Ray Keating is a columnist, economist, podcaster and entrepreneur.  You can order his new book Behind Enemy Lines: Conservative Communiques from Left-Wing New York from Amazon or signed books at His other recent nonfiction book is Free Trade Rocks! 10 Points on International Trade Everyone Should Know. Keating also is a novelist. His latest novels are  The Traitor: A Pastor Stephen Grant Novel, which is the 12th book in the series, and the second edition of Root of All Evil? A Pastor Stephen Grant Novel with a new Author Introduction. The views expressed here are his own – after all, no one else should be held responsible for this stuff, right?

Also, tune in to Ray Keating’s podcasts – the PRESS CLUB C Podcastand the Free Enterprise in Three Minutes Podcast 

Friday, May 29, 2020

PRESS CLUB C Podcast with Ray Keating – Episode #11: Government Violating Basic Freedoms

Ray Keating looks at problems with government violating basic freedoms – ranging from the grave and extreme example of the Chinese communist totalitarian regime to a populist attack on free speech at home. Indeed, Keating is explicit is noting that President Trump’s executive order targeted at social media and other online companies has nothing to do with conservatism. Tune in now! 

Other stuff...

Order Ray Keating’s new book Behind Enemy Lines: Conservative Communiques from Left-Wing New York –  signed books  or at  Amazon

And one of Keating’s newest books is  Free Trade Rocks! 10 Points on International Trade Everyone Should Know, which is available at  Amazon  in paperback or for the Kindle edition, and signed books at

Sign up for Ray Keating’s email list at

Please take a look at all of Keating’s Pastor Stephen Grant novels, which are available in paperback and for the Kindle at, and signed books at

And check out business and career lessons from nerds via “Chuck” vs. the Business World: Business Tips on TV at Amazon and signed books.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Free Enterprise in Three Minutes with Ray Keating – Episode #64: Is the “Business Cycle” a Poor Choice of Words?

Ray looks at the business cycle, what it means, and wonders just how relevant “business cycle” talk actually is. Tune in now!

China Moves to Crush Dissent and Freedom in Hong Kong – Relevant Excerpts from “Deep Rough” and “The Traitor”

by Ray Keating
The Keating Files – May 28, 2020

Life, art and oppression in communist China – no one should be surprised.

On Thursday, the Chinese communist government took the grim step of overriding the partial autonomy of Hong Kong. That is, tossing aside the promise to allow self-government in Hong Kong (the “one country, two systems” governance) for 50 years, as agreed to when the British handed Hong Kong over to the Chinese government in 1997. China’s legislature on May 28 voted almost unanimously to impose “national security” laws on the territory. (By the way, The Wall Street Journal reported, “Some 2,878 lawmakers voted for the resolution, with only one dissent. Six abstained, and one didn’t cast a vote.” Hmmm, what’s going to happen to those eight?)

This, of course, is nothing less than the Chinese government – led by President Xi Jinping – moving to crush any kind of dissent. It is what totalitarian regimes do, and the rest of the world should learn and be deeply concerned, while also asking: What might be next regarding Taiwan?

I penned a column last week on the major challenges presented by China. In addition, I addressed assorted issues relating to China in my two most recent Pastor Stephen Grant novels – Deep Rough and The Traitor.

Please take a look at the following excerpts from each book – Chapter 1 from Deep Rough, which highlights actual events that occurred in Tiananmen Square as seen by a fictional character, and Chapter 1 from The Traitor, which features a pro-freedom gathering in Hong Kong, with a different outcome.

From Deep Rough...

Chapter 1

June 3-4, 1989 – Tiananmen Square

Serious doubts never really entered the mind of Zhu Gao – until this particular night.

During his previous five years with the Ministry of State Security, or MSS, Gao had lost some nights of sleep wrestling with various actions he had taken. But in the end, his justification always fell back on working for the Communist Party, for the State, and for the common good. Gao knew the threat that counter-revolutionaries posed, and that they often had to be dealt with harshly.

Indeed, his twinges of guilt were just that – merely occasional twinges.
Along with a few others from the MSS, Gao stood looking out a large window of the Great Hall of the People. Peering into the darkness, the group watched a brutal massacre play out across and around Tiananmen Square. One of Gao’s colleagues, a man with apparent foreknowledge of the evening’s events, had brought sets of the new night-vision goggles the MSS had received. 
While Gao remained quiet, the other MSS officers urged the tanks, armored personnel carriers and soldiers forward. Referring to the tens of thousands of students, who had been joined by workers and others over the weeks of protest, one officer said, “It was dangerous to allow these enemies of the State to spread their vicious lies. Why did it take so long to act?”
Another person declared, “They wanted civil war, and now they are getting it.” 
Someone else stated in matter-of-fact fashion, “If I were in charge, they would all be made an example of – annihilated quite publicly.”
The response offered by still another MSS officer was, “Perhaps such overdue justice is at hand.”
Gao stood immobilized, simply staring down on horrors that had just begun, with the night-vision instrument still in his hand. He finally raised the goggles, and slipped them on over his eyes. The green tint didn’t make what he watched unfold over the coming hours any less real.

*                      *                      *

Gao focused in on a man who pushed a woman clear of an approaching tank. The tank then drove over him.

*                      *                      *

He barely needed to move his head to witness a set of soldiers moving in formation away from their personnel carrier while indiscriminately spraying bullets into people attempting to flee.

*                      *                      *

Massive vehicles rolled into the crowds, and over men and women as if they were far less than human.

*                      *                      *

Gao spotted a child on the ground. As a woman attempted to run to him, she was felled by gunshots. Others who tried to reach the child met the same fate.

*                      *                      *

Students locked arms. Soldiers gunned them down, with their bodies then run over by tanks and trucks time and again.

*                      *                      *

Young women held their hands up apparently begging for their lives. Their pleas were met with bayonet thrusts.

*                      *                      *

After hours of death, still more was unleashed. Several soldiers seemed to be directing streams of survivors to an exit, presumably to safety. Instead, they were met by prepared machine-gun positions, and mowed down.

*                      *                      *

His MSS colleagues had left, but Gao remained. After Tiananmen Square had been sanitized of life that sought greater freedom, he watched as bulldozers scraped up the remains of thousands who had been murdered. The bodies were burned. Water tank trucks rolled up, and the incinerated remains of people were hosed down drains.
The Chinese government would say that 241 people died in Tiananmen Square. But the day after the massacre, the British ambassador cabled his government relaying details of the atrocity, stating that more than 10,000 had been murdered. The CIA in due course would quote a Chinese military source confirming that the Chinese communist government’s own internal estimate stood at 10,454 dead.
Zhu Gao eventually moved away from the window. He found the restroom, and wretched over and over into a toilet. He then slowly cleaned himself up with his head down. Gao finally looked up, and stared into his own eyes in a mirror.

From The Traitor...

Chapter 1

“It’s kind of breathtaking,” whispered Paige Caldwell, as she looked out at more than 500,000 citizens of Hong Kong gathered in and around Victoria Park.
Caldwell’s comment was captured by a tiny, two-way communication device hidden in her right ear, and transmitted to three of her colleagues from CDM International Strategies and Security.
Chase Axelrod responded, “After President Bo Liang’s death, they’ve gotten a whiff of freedom.”
Charlie Driessen added, “Maybe they’ll give us a statue next to Queen Victoria, or at least a nice thank you.”
Through gritted teeth, Caldwell  scolded, “Charlie.”
“Yeah, yeah, sorry, but it’s just us.”
Sean McEnany chimed in, “Never assume anything.”
Driessen grunted in response.
The four were in Hong Kong at the behest of the CIA. The Agency wanted to be close to Andy Faan, a leader in the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement, and turned to CDM to do the job. In fact, CDM was able to serve as private security for Faan in addition to protections that the pro-democracy groups were able to supply – which was, to say the least, limited.
Faan sat on a stage in a folding chair, alongside other speakers. These protestors were working together to oppose efforts by the mainland Chinese communist government to grab greater control over Hong Kong’s political and legal systems, as well as its economy.
The CDM group was spread out around the stage, with each dressed to blend in with the crowd. The tools of their trade – Glocks and tactical knives all around – were well hidden from casual or even prying eyes, yet still easily accessible if needed.
The event approached the two-hour mark.
Driessen whispered, “I’m with these guys, but somebody needs to be ready with the hook when they go on too long. And each one, so far, has gone on too long.”
McEnany replied, “Stop bitchin’, Charlie. This is history.”
Driessen grunted, once again. His sarcasm and sometimes indecipherable utterances kind of matched Driessen’s look, which featured barely tamed but thinning hair, an unruly mustache, and rumpled clothing.
Caldwell added, “Putting aside Charlie’s complaining, his point is a reminder that we’ve probably got another two hours before Faan takes the stage to close this thing out.”
Axelrod was covering the area behind the stage and a large dark curtain. Backstage had been rather quiet since the event kicked off, while McEnany patrolled in front of the stage, and Caldwell watched from the left side and Driessen the right. 
Some 90 minutes later, McEnany moved toward an area set aside for the media. He had passed by the group several times already, but in this instance, a correspondent with the Xinhua News Agency, an organ of the Chinese government, started to slip a phone into his jacket pocket, stepped forward, and bumped into McEnany. The phone fell to the ground, and the two men bent down to retrieve it. As they did so, the correspondent, Ping Ho, whispered, “The Ministry of State Security is going to arrest Faan after he speaks.”
McEnany grabbed the phone. As they stood up, he handed it to Ho. McEnany merely said, “Excuse me.”
Ho nodded.
The two men continued walking in different directions.
McEnany waited for the cover of crowd noise before relaying Ho’s message to his team. “Not sure if you heard that, but I was told that the MSS is going to grab Faan after his speech. And before anyone asks, yes, this person would know and is reliable. I fully trust him.”
Caldwell whispered, “Shit.”
Axelrod reported, “They’ve got to know that he’s supposed to leave from behind the stage. I’m not spotting anything signaling the MSS, at least not yet.”
Driessen offhandedly added, “Apparently, the new Chinese president isn’t all that different from the old one.”
McEnany volunteered, “If they take Faan, no one’s going to see him again. Plan B or C?” The muscular, five-foot-ten-inch McEnany continued his casual movements, including scratching the scalp underneath his short blond hair.
During their prep for the event, CDM had come up with two alternatives for extracting Faan if a situation like this developed. Plan B called for getting him out before he spoke, then to a CIA safehouse. Plan C was a post-speech strategy to move Faan off the stage and into the crowd, and in the confusion, lose whomever was after him. Again, the short-term destination would be the safehouse. When Caldwell informed Faan of the options on the previous night, he didn’t seem too keen on either, offering no real response.
Axelrod said, “He’s never going to go for B. He’ll insist on speaking.”
Caldwell said, “Yeah, you’re right. Plan C presents all kinds of risks, but it’s better than just letting the MSS arrest Faan.” She paused, and then said, “Okay, I’ll make my way to Faan and let him know the situation. After that, we’ll move into place to move him when he’s finished speaking.”
She received affirmative responses, and made her way around the back of and then onto the stage. Caldwell’s beauty usually shone through, including her black hair, steely blue eyes, full lips and freckles, but she was skilled in emphasizing it when needed, or as was the case now, limiting it with rather mundane, even drab attire. Few seemed to take note of her moving into an empty chair, and whispering into Andy Faan’s ear. “We’ve received reliable information that the MSS is going to arrest you after your speech.”
Faan turned his head, raised an eyebrow and looked into Caldwell’s eyes. “You are sure?”
Caldwell nodded. 
Faan said, “I am going to speak. I am not leaving.”
“I understand. That means we’ll need to go to Plan C.”
Faan sighed, and remained silent.
At the microphone, the declarations by one of the pro-democracy speakers generated cheers among the crowd.
Caldwell asked, “Mr. Faan, Plan C?’
“I suppose we don’t have a choice.” He paused, and looked out at the hundreds of thousands of people gathered. The expression on his face changed. “Ms. Caldwell, be ready with Plan C. But perhaps I can get more people on our side by shedding some light on the current situation.”
Caldwell stared at Faan. “Is that the best move?”
Faan replied, “I’m not saying this because I am the target, but this is a clear example of why we are gathered here today. The Chinese government wants to control our ability to speak out, and they want to make those who would disagree with them disappear.”
Caldwell nodded. “I understand. I’m going to remain on the side of the stage, and will signal you if, or when, we spot the MSS people. My team will be ready for whatever happens.”
“Thank you.” He leaned in closer. “How did you come across this information?”
Caldwell paused. She answered, “A friend of ours and of freedom working in the Chinese state media.”
Faan smiled. “A well-placed patriot. Please thank him, or her, for me.”
“We will.”
An hour later, as Andy Faan began to speak to the throng of people, three dark SUVs stopped some 60 yards away on one of the streets leading to the park. Two men exited from each vehicle, with the drivers remaining behind the respective wheels. All were dressed in black.
Axelrod spotted them immediately. He reached inside his jacket, felt the Glock and then checked his knife. Axelrod’s skills with both were matched by his size and strength. His six-foot-three-inch body was capable of unleashing a fury well beyond what he used on the gridiron during college. He reported, “The MSS thugs have arrived.”
Driessen said, “I hope Faan knows what he’s doing.”
Caldwell replied, “Me, too.”
When Faan glanced in her direction, Caldwell nodded at him.
She whispered to the CDM group, “He knows.”
Axelrod interrupted, “Crap.”
“What is it?” replied Caldwell and McEnany at the same time.
“The MSS apparently has backup. Two troop transports just pulled up not far beyond the SUVs. The Chinese army is arriving.”
Caldwell said, “Shit. We should have gotten Faan out of here while we could.”
Driessen responded, “He wasn’t going to let us take him anywhere.”
Axelrod offered, “Well, at least I’m not seeing anything beyond the three SUVs and the two troop trucks.”
Driessen asked, “Is that good news?”
McEnany speculated, “It might be. It tells me that they’re not looking for a bloodbath ... hopefully.”
“The troops haven’t moved out of the trucks yet,” reported Axelrod.
McEnany observed, “It’s all up to Faan now.”
About twenty minutes later, Faan had the massive crowd hanging on every word.
Driessen commented, “Geez, they love this guy.”
“He’s the real thing,” commented McEnany in matter-of-fact fashion.
Faan lowered the microphone and took a deep breath. He then said, “Before we leave here today, I want to remove any doubts about what we are saying and why we are here. The mainland communist government does not like freedom, whether it be freedom of speech, religion or the press. That government does not seek to protect our natural rights, but instead, they seek to make government the creator and denier of rights.”
Axelrod said, “Six MSS agents are moving forward.”
Caldwell looked at the curtain hanging behind Faan. She said, “Chase, let’s help Faan show what’s happening.”
Axelrod paused, and then said, “The curtain?”
“I’m with you.”
The two moved into place, while Faan continued speaking.
When Andy Faan finally said, “I have received what I consider to be accurate information that the Chinese Ministry of State Security is planning to arrest me when I finish speaking.”
The six MSS agents had climbed the stairs and were waiting on the other side of the curtain. Hearing Faan’s words, they froze.
Axelrod, who understood most of the Cantonese being spoken, said, “Now.” Caldwell and Axelrod pulled open the large curtain, exposing the six MSS agents to hundreds of thousands of increasingly angry and outraged residents of Hong Kong.
Faan glanced behind him, turned back to the microphone, and said, “These apparently are the men sent to arrest me. But this is bigger than me, my friends, This is about all of us, and about basic human freedoms being crushed by an abusive regime.”
Shouts of anger and calls for freedom rose up from the crowd.
Driessen said, “What the hell is going to happen?”
Each of the CDM personnel placed a hand on their gun. The MSS agents did the same. In the distance, the members of the People’s Liberation Army started moving out of the troop transports.
But one of the MSS agents raised a hand to cover an earpiece in an apparent effort to hear more clearly as angry shouts grew louder from hundreds of thousands of people.
The six MSS agents suddenly turned, and moved rapidly down the stairs and away from the stage.
As they climbed back into the SUVs and the vehicles pulled away, followed by the troop transports, Faan led the crowd in a chant of “Freedom!”
Later that night, Sean McEnany sent an encrypted message to Ping Ho: “Thank you, once again, for your work and courage. The information you passed along saved Andy Faan and might have saved the pro-democracy, pro-freedom movement.”
Ho responded, “I do what I must. I thank God for you and your friends. You are taking risks when you do not have to do so.”
McEnany replied, “Stay strong, my friend, and God bless.”

Get the paperback and Kindle edition of Deep Rough at Amazon via
Signed books are at

Get the paperback and Kindle edition of The Traitor at Amazon via
Signed books are at


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Ray Keating is a columnist, economist, podcaster and entrepreneur.  You can order his new book Behind Enemy Lines: Conservative Communiques from Left-Wing New York  from Amazon or signed books at His other recent nonfiction book is Free Trade Rocks! 10 Points on International Trade Everyone Should Know. Keating also is a novelist. His latest novels are  The Traitor: A Pastor Stephen Grant Novel, which is the 12th book in the series, and the second edition of Root of All Evil? A Pastor Stephen Grant Novel with a new Author Introduction. The views expressed here are his own – after all, no one else should be held responsible for this stuff, right?

Also, tune in to Ray Keating’s podcasts – the PRESS CLUB C Podcastand the Free Enterprise in Three Minutes Podcast