Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Economic confrontation

This is one of the crucial issues. Do you believe that the government can allocate the resources of our country better than the individual? If yes, then you are like my wife. A life long Democrat who does not understand that her way of life and standard of living are directly dependent upon implementation of this concept.

Conservatives believe that our country's history has proven that the resources of our country are allocated much more effectively and wisely when the individual owns 'skin in the game'. After all, humans will take much more care of a house if they own it, rather than someone else. This concept applies to just about ALL property.

I work retail. I see this every day. People open items and just toss the items back into the box. If they owned that item, they certainly would not treat it in anything like that manner. After all, when they purchase that very same item, it needs to be perfect and unopened. Only if they themselves opened it, would they purchase that item. When you lend something out, is it handled as well as you handle it? I doubt it. I make great efforts not to lend anything out for just this reason. I am VERY selective whom I lend things to for this reason.

The conflict of government allocation of resources is coming to a head. The financial problems our country faces (On ALL levels of government: Federal; state; city and local) have reached a breaking point. The Democrats and unions do not understand this. They barely understand the most basic financial and economic principals. This is demonstrated time and again when they refuse to accept any retreat in benefits that they have acquired. (This is a natural tendency) An example:

In 1992, the basements of numerous buildings in Chicago were flooded. My company moved us into another building. Once power was restored, we were moved back and water bottles were stationed throughout the building because the water was not known to be safe for drinking. After 6 months, this had been corrected and the bottles removed. A huge uproar was the result and numerous meetings were held. The representative of the building (It was being rented) stated that it cost more than $150,000 a year to maintain the bottles. The company ate the cost for 6 months, but it would have to lay off some people if they were maintained. We voted on it. Out of more than 40 people in my meeting, I was the only person who voted to remove the bottles. I asked several people why they voted the way they did. The answer that I received was "I do not believe them." (Please note: Most of these people were college graduates.) This is what we face when we attempt to remove entitlements and benefits. This is a complete misunderstanding of economics and cost of production. Unions are particularly poor at these subjects.

Once potential bankruptcy is obvious, unions have been known to make exceptions. Many times, not even then. The members just do not believe that the financial situation is as bad as is being presented. Immense damage had already been done before they reach this point, and still many times refuse to believe what they are being told. What is even more troubling is that our country is facing this type of situation and many people just do not recognize how bad it is or how important it is to deal with it. It will take some type of economic shock to potentially wake them up. That will be way too late.

This is why we are seeing so much unrest concerning state governments and the cutbacks. Hell, even the NFL is being impacted and they are supposedly awash in money. What is generally not recognized is that it does not take much of an economic shock to make a company bankrupt. They operate more efficiently than just about any other economic organization and as a result are susceptible to all kinds of disruption. All we need today is some type of major disruption in the economy of the U.S. and we will be in trouble the like which has never been seen by us before. This is why the conflict at the state level is becoming so heated. Some people see this. This makes it worth risking more in fighting. Hence a greater level of pressure is being applied, which adds to the stress in this conflict.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Misunderstanding the fundamentals about warfare

Thursday, (3/24/11) I was driving to work and listening to Hannity on the radio. An interviewee who was a President Obama supporter was speaking. I did not catch the name, but something he said was very important. The discussion was about our intervention in Libya. He was very respectful overall but he did say that most of the listeners (Conservatives) did not understand how President Obama was preventing World War III. He went on to say that today, we are not seeing the US flag being burned like we were after our invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. The conversation went on to specifics about Libya.

What I find most interesting about this is how he recognized the overall size of the conflict. We are looking at World War III and at least he understands this. What I don’t get is how we are now avoiding this confrontation. True, we are not seeing the open hostility to the US in the form of flag burning like we were a few years ago. What I don’t agree with this interviewee is how our current President has changed all of these people’s minds.

Do you know of anyone who has changed his or her mind about the Israeli-Palestinian issue? This is like changing your mind about abortion. I made up my mind about abortion in 1972, just like I made up my mind about Israel and Palestine about the same time. When it comes to issues at the heart of violence like the Israeli-Palestinian issue and Islamic terrorism, people just do not switch sides. (Once again, think about the people who supported slavery) What they will do is expose themselves given the right set of circumstances. Like after 9/11. Another situation was after the US invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.

I have studied warfare for more than 40 years. People do not change their mind about issues of this type just because the other side changes leaders. The south would not give up the slaves no matter who talked to them or what the other side did. One of the biggest problems we face today is identifying who our enemies are. After all, this is the terrorists best ally. The ability to hide. Anything that we can do to make them want to come out into the open is a very good thing. This interviewee seems to think that the issues at the cause of World War III are like some type of election. Given the right people, we can convince them that war is not a good option and that we have another that is better. History has demonstrated that all this does is push the confrontation off to another day. Another thing that this interviewee does not understand is that time is not on our side. It is only a matter of time before nuclear weapons or some other WMD is deployed. As far as I am concerned, that will be the beginning of World War III.

The war can be won today by using conventional weapons. But we must act today. Libya is only a sideshow. It is by no means the epicenter of the conflict. WMD are most likely not going to be deployed because of Libya, one way or another. WMD will more likely be deployed because of Pakistan, Iran or Israel*. This is why Afghanistan and Iraq are so much more important. Once WMD are deployed, conventional weapons can still be effective, although not nearly as much as they are today. The pressure to retaliate with the use of our own WMD will be immense. President Obama is not avoiding all of this. His actions are pressing toward it.
* Please note that I say BECAUSE of one of these countries. Israel and/or the US are the most likely targets. Pakistan and Iran are the most likely sources.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The war is growing

When running for office, President Obama appeared to be the most anti-war of all the candidates. He was not in favor of either war in Afghanistan and Iraq. He only wanted to get out of both. (March 2008 was his initial target for withdrawal from Iraq) We, the United States, had no business being in either country. I am certain that his actions in Libya are against his wishes. He was forced to act because of events. I am certain that because the rebels were about to be wiped out, the military action was given the green light in order to prevent this outcome. The point here is that the war is growing, despite the efforts of a President who is about as anti-war as can be imagined. The entire region is simmering.

The Telegraph: 3/22/11

Egypt: Muslim Brotherhood gains upper hand

"Islamist reformers seemed to be gaining the upper hand over their secular rivals in Egypt on Monday after gaining a boost in a referendum on constitutional change."

This is not a surprise. However, now that our attention is on Libya, many here and elsewhere will not notice this important ‘CHANGE’. We are losing the war. What is probably not understood by many is that these isolated events are actually part of a much bigger conflict. Many see these events as unique situations that are not connected. This is an incorrect view.

Violence is expanding throughout the Middle East and North Africa. This does not tell us that we are winning or losing. What this does do is create new combat veterans. With all of this combat going on, we can expect many new veterans to crop up all over the world. We can expect terrorist activity to rise to a new level as new terrorists are ‘created’. Actually, this is only doing what the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have begun. However, what is different here is that the enemy is choosing where to fight. The strategic initiative has been lost. In addition, the enemy is not taking anywhere near the losses that they were taking in Iraq. This will allow them to deploy these new assets elsewhere in the world, at places of their choice.

The idea that all of these governments, or even a significant portion of them, will now become functional republics is likely to prove to be absurd. You never can really tell, because humans will do the dandiest things. However, human nature does not change. We can expect the populations of these areas to choose that with what they are most familiar and comfortable with. Remember how the south chose to fight for slavery? The Islamic part of the world has an entirely different culture than we do. It is very possible that they will choose Islamic governance, or some hybrid that is based upon Islamic law. This does not bode well for the interests of the United States and the ‘West’. And if any of these governments become more actively supportive of Islamic nationalism, the rest of the world will be in the cross hairs.

Saturday, March 19, 2011


After the stimulus bill was passed two years ago, I have been expecting a rapid rise of inflation. Then I found out that much of the money was not to be spent until 2010. This was a smart move politically. In the past, the effects of spending like this would be felt 6 to 9 months later. In other words, the fall of 2010 would see an improvement in economic activity and the inflation would not show up for another 6 months to a year after that. This has not worked out the way it was expected to. The economy has not reacted to the stimulus and inflation is only showing up in the commodities market. (So far)

I still believe that high inflation is coming our way. However, what some experts are saying is that what is holding it back is the high unemployment. After all, if a significant portion of our population is out of work, the amount of money flowing is curtailed. The goods are still available, but the extra supply of money is not reaching the population. Hence only a little inflation.

This concept has some merit, although even if true, this will only postpone the inevitable. Sooner or later, the spending has to catch up with us. What I suspect (And some experts also see) is that when inflation does start up, it will be very rapid. I had expected that it would start slowly with interest rates going up over a period of a year or two, then begin to take big jumps. Interest rates will probably be a lagging indicator. Commodity prices are an early indicator and they are already making upward moves.

If we are going to see a rapid rise in inflation, I would expect that it would begin sometime later this year or early in 2012. A year and a half to two years after the spending began to really kick in. It is difficult to tell if the rise will be so steep as to cause the problems that I wrote about in recent posts, but it should be enough to at least rival what happened in the late 1970’s. As with any prediction, I can be full of it. However, if you are worried about a rapid increase in inflation, it is best to begin to make your preparations today and plan to be ready by the end of this summer. Well, you can’t really be ready, but better off than you would be if you did nothing.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Emergency planning (Part II)

The second major threat is hyperinflation. This is where the money supply is expanding so rapidly that prices are going up on a daily basis, perhaps hourly. The best thing you can do in this situation is to understand that hard items that are useful tend to hold value.

1) Paper currency goes up so fast that you must spend it immediately. Then you trade for what you need. The barter system becomes the norm.

2) Gold and Silver will be more of a stable currency. Experience has shown that hard commodities like gold can be used to purchase other hard commodities, like weapons. Hard commodities are not as useful when attempting to purchase expendable items like food, water and fuel.

3) A six-month supply of food is recommended. Back up water, fuel and even gas is recommended. For example, I keep the two gas cans in the garage full. I empty them into the cars at the beginning of each month then I re-fill them. I have a spare propane tank for our gas grill. I may purchase a 2nd backup. Dehydrated food can have a shelf life of many years.

4) Begin a vegetable garden if you do not have one. Expand if you don’t have one that provides extra supplies on a yearly basis. Any and all food will be in demand.

5) Gas and fuel of all types will be in demand. Alternative forms of transportation may become necessary. Fuel prices may be so high that people will avoid driving unless absolutely necessary. Bicycles can provide an alternative on a limited basis.

6) If hyperinflation does hit the US Dollar, the barter system will replace money. You will need to become proficient at exchanging items. Everyday items will be extremely expensive. Shoes, clothes, soap and toiletries: Yes, toilet paper.

Many will disagree with this statement, but our President has placed the U.S. on the strategic defensive. This means that anyone living in or near a major city is now in the front line. With all of the financial problems in Europe and the U.S., things can easily spin out of control. People will fight over scarce resources. We are already beginning to see this. (Wisconsin is only a minor example) The question is how far will it go before it settles down?

Hopefully, none of this equipment will be needed. I do attempt to make things as inexpensive as possible, not to mention useful even if things DON’T become extreme. If anything does, at least you may have some equipment that is in demand and is readily tradable for something else. At best, it just may help save your life.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Libya and airpower

In the desert environment, control of the air is a dominating position. Aircraft and missiles are far more effective here than just about anywhere else. This is also an ideal environment for mechanized units. All the side that has control of the air has to do is basically what we did in Iraq. Supply is heavy. For sustained combat, trucks are needed. They don’t stand a chance in the open desert. So just move and surround the areas of resistance. The battlefield is isolated and all you have to do is move in. Then move on to the next one.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Emergency items and planning. Part I

I saw an ad on TV last week talking about emergency planning in case of a natural disaster. This is a good idea anyway, but I thought with all of the unrest that we are seeing today, it may be a better idea to go into a little more detail.

The biggest advantage anyone can have for the unexpected is to have a plan. The two major threats today are some type of physical disaster (Part I) and hyperinflation. (Part II)
In a physical disaster situation, a major decision that must be made immediately is to ‘hunker down’, or to flee. Do you set up in your home, or do you flee to a destination far enough away to be out of danger?

If you decide to flee, it will help a great deal if you already have a number of potential destinations. Do you have relatives in a nearby state or area away from where you live? Or friends who you can rely upon? You will also require at a minimum a ‘bug out bag’. Search on Google for details. A ‘bug out bag’ is a survival kit to keep you going for 3 days. The seven items listed are:

1) Water: One liter of water per day per person.

2) Food: Energy bars or back pack meals.

3) Clothing: Boots or shoes, long pants (Not blue jeans) 2 pair of socks, 2 shirts (One long sleeve and one short sleeve) A jacket that is warm and protects from rain, Long underwear, a hat, a bandana. (30 uses for bandanas)

4) Shelter: A tent or tarp and a way to set it up. A floor tarp is necessary to stay dry. A bedroll.

5) First Aid kit: Build your own. The prepackaged kits can be OK, but probably don’t have the right mix.

6) Basic gear: 3 ways to make fire (Prefer 5 ways) Small pot/large cup to boil water. Backpacking stove and fuel are better. At least 2 dependable flashlights and a backup set of batteries. A knife is the most used and versatile tool in the bag. Be careful what you select here.

7) Weapons: A firearm is best although your knife can be a backup. A walking stick or club can also be used.

If you decide to ‘hunker down’, you will be advised to have a variety of supplies available.
Here is a condensed list of what we have so far.

1) Flashlights and radio. Battery backups for all. Hand crank so no need for batteries and/or backup power supply. I am looking into a solar power generator that would supply power and recharge any batteries that we would need. This may require an inverter to convert DC to AC power. I have seen articles that say this can be obtained for as little as $300.00. More realistic is $500 to $600.

2) Reserve of fresh water. 1 liter per person per day. Tablets for making unknown water supply safer to drink. A filter to make water safe for drinking is also available. Collapsible water bottles will be useful. You could drain the water heater and tanks that supply water for the toilets.

3) Spare blankets and canned food. We rotate food supply to keep it fresh. Energy bars are easily transportable. The stores have only a 3-day supply of food. It is recommend having a 3 to 6 month supply of food at home. Freeze dried or dehydrated foods have a shelf life of many years.

4) Plan of action: Do you leave the area as soon as possible, or do you ‘hunker down’ and wait a few days for the dust to settle before you move out? Where will you go if you had to leave the general area?

5) Cash on hand. Credit cards, debit cards, cash stations may not work. Cash may be important to have. Even small amounts of Gold and silver can be of great value. (Note* gold and silver may not be good to purchase fuel and food. It should be good for purchase of arms and ammunition)

6) Three ways to make fire. Lighters and matches. Candles may become very important. A flint or magnifying glass may be used.

7) Backup transportation: The EMP from a nuclear explosion may destroy ALL electronic devices. Cars will be disabled and stop immediately. Can you walk or have bicycle backup?

8) Medical supplies. A first aid kit is a good start. Bandages along with tape, crutches and splints may be useful. Build your own kits. The all-in-one packages are likely to have too much of things that you don’t need and not enough of things that you do. They are a beginning only.

9) Weapons for defense: People will probably panic. They just may take violent action. Not that anyone wants this to happen, but it may be very useful to have a night club or some other hand held weapon to defend yourself with. Your knife can be useful here. A pistol is recommended. A shotgun and rifle have more functions. Binoculars may be useful.

Saturday, March 5, 2011


President Obama is not a moderate, despite the appearance that he strives to cultivate. He was supposed to bring us and many other parts of the world together. What he actually does is create enemies. The rancor that I see in political affairs today really bothers me. Representatives are leaving their states to prevent measures that they don’t agree with. This does not seem like what President Obama was elected to provide. He was supposed to unite the United States as well as many of the nations of Earth. Compromise and getting along with everyone was to be the order of the day. I certainly hope that he is not as effective in the Middle East as he has been domestically.

On top of this, the financial problems being faced by ALL levels of government are bound to lead to all kinds of unrest as the various levels attempt to grapple with the problem. We are only seeing the beginning of the confrontations, as the solutions/penalties have not even begun to bite.

I know that President Obama believes that he "saved us from falling off a cliff." If this mess is not corrected properly, the United States just may help push the world off a cliff. After all, other parts of the world are far more vulnerable to economic shocks than we are. We may be setting the world up for another Greece, but on a much larger scale.

I just keep remembering what President Obama said after the stimulus was passed. "People thought that this would cause Armageddon, but I went out this morning and it was a beautiful day." I really don't think he understood what the worry was all about if he really thought that Armageddon would be triggered the next day. It is two years later and some type of economic cliff is much closer now. Either a large dose of inflation or a major downturn in economic activity as draconian cuts becomes the order of the day. Either way, plenty of unrest and conflict over scarce resources can be expected. I doubt that he sees any of this.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Unions protect workers

This blog concerns conflict. The financial problems that our governments (Federal, state, city and local) are facing will require draconian measures to correct. This will lead to all types of conflict over the scarce resources. And Unions will attempt to prevent scarce resources from being removed from their sphere of control. Even though I am no fan of unions, it is human nature to protect what you already have. I cannot ever blame anyone for that.

While union protection of workers jobs is admirable; it is a distinct handicap for the employer. One of the problems that are overlooked is that within a union, it becomes much more difficult to rid the organization of people who are not working out. This is even more so when connected with ANY government organization. Non-union government employees are already almost impossible to remove. Unionized workers are even more so.

I suppose in some cases, the person really should not be fired, but I find it unlikely to be the majority of the cases, by far. I work in a non-union company and the vast majority of people I have seen fired had to be. In the past, I have worked in union shops and knew a number of people who should have been removed but were not. A good friend is a union steward and has given me plenty of examples of people who should have been fired but he protected that persons job because that is his job as a representative of the union. As a direct result, the ability to improve the quality of any organization is jeopardized, if not impossible.

This is a major issue with teaching in particular. If teachers cannot be fired or removed, the quality of the product, our future, is questionable. This is an issue worth fighting over. (I am speaking metaphorically, not literally although it could come down to physical violence) I suspect that this is a major reason as to why we are seeing such an emphasis upon this issue in Wisconsin and Ohio. And this issue will probably be seen in many other places as well, as our various levels of government attempt to grapple with the financial problems that we face.