Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Race To, And Now From, The White House

Last month--and for about a two year period before that--we had "the race to the White House" in full tilt while we now seem to be experiencing "the race from the White House," similarly hectic. (Don't know about you, but I am getting winded from all these races!) While President-elect Donald Trump is busily engaged in a "victory lap" of sorts in celebration of the "Miracle Of November 8 That Salvaged The United States From Certain Ruin"--or, according to CNN's own "Last Angry (black) Man," Van Jones, that day was, as he referred to it, "Whitelash!--President Obama is desperately making an attempt to salvage what remains of his so-called "legacy." And doing a rather poor job of it, too.

The most recent example, on Tuesday, December 6, at MacDill Air Force Base, of this President's "Chicken Little" approach to publicly advising, mentoring, scolding, and sometimes tutoring President-elect Donald Trump, is the shallow and patently inaccurate assessment of the current state of the war on terrorism Obama put forth rather presumptuously as testament to his own effectiveness as Commander-in-Chief in fighting it. The facts do not bear out his soapbox preaching on how we must "... embrace Muslims to defeat terrorism," or "The United States of America is not a country that imposes religious tests as a price for freedom," and his way-off-the-mark claim that "we are breaking the back of ISIL." (He is the only American I have heard refer to ISIS as ISIL.) Most significantly--and most wrongly--perhaps the most off-course of all his unsound observations was, "If we stigmatize good, patriotic Muslims, that just feeds the terrorist narrative."

Of course, all of this diatribe, all of this malarkey, all of this blarney is directed at President-elect Donald Trump in response to Trump's hardline approach to terrorism, terrorists, and Syrian refugees--as well as other of what Obama considers unwarranted belligerence on Trump's part. While Obama is nonconfrontational, reserved, sheepish, and tentative, Trump is ballsy, bold, and brash.

The irony in this comparison is that I think Obama wishes he could be more like Trump whereas Trump wishes he were as genteel and laid back as Obama.

Despite the president's admonition against doing so, no one has ever mentioned any attempt to stigmatize anyone. What is of concern to most Americans as potential victims of terror attacks are these Middle East refugees flocking to our country as a perilous and unfettered result of our failed immigration policies--and the president's own careless and ill-thought-out policy to admit hundreds of thousands of Syrians to our country--and the threat some may pose to Americans wherever they live. Limiting the numbers and even the ethnicity of immigrants is the right of any nation. It is part and parcel--indeed, the very basis--of the concept of sovereignty. The main consideration against allowing countless refugees to flood our shores--from anywhere, but especially from the Muslim countries of the Middle East region that is a hotbed of radical Islamic ideology--is first and foremost, and must always be, the safety of our own citizens.

Our national security is at stake. Indeed, your life, my life, our families' lives, our friends' lives--everyone is a potential target now. Accept it! Unless we recognize the threat and act accordingly, the front lines of the war on terror will be drawn at our doorsteps in the very near future, if not already there! Despite even the most stringent selection and vetting precautions, the potential exists--no, is imminent--for terrorists to slip by our immigration screening, not to mention illegal entry through our porous borders, and enter our country intent on bringing a "Paris" to New York City. Or Los Angeles. Or a city near you.

No one has said that every Muslim is a terrorist.That is surely not the case, but all the terrorists we read or hear about in the world today, certainly all those who have done and intend to continue to do us harm, are Muslims. It wasn't Irish Catholics who flew those three deadly "missiles" into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a field in Pennsylvania on 9/11, killing more than 3000 innocents; it wasn't Protestants who set off pressure cooker bombs in Boston, Massachusetts, during the marathon on April 15, 2013, killing 3 and injuring 140 others; it wasn't Baptists who murdered 5 members of our military in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in July, 2015; it wasn't a Lutheran couple who destroyed Christmas for most all of us--and killed 14 innocent attendees of an office meeting and Christmas party on December 2, 2015, in San Bernardino, California; it wasn't a Jewish man who slaughtered all those young revelers in Orlando, Florida, on June 12, 2016, leaving 49 people dead and 53 wounded. No, in each case--and numerous other instances of mayhem here in the United States--it was radical Islamic terrorists, most of whom immigrated to this country. Need I continue?

As Mark Krikorian, Executive Director, Center for Immigration Studies, testified at the hearing before the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security, on November 19, 2015:
A wise man once said "The supreme function of statesmanship is to provide against preventable evils." Halting refugee resettlement from the Middle East would be just such an act of statesmanship... The president and members of Congress must necessarily put the interests of the American people before the interests of foreigners... If, nonetheless, we decide as a matter of policy to devote resources to humanitarian refugee protection... then we should base our decision-making on two principles: 1) Such policies must not pose a threat to the American people, and 2) the funds taken from the people through taxes for this purpose must be used to the maximum humanitarian effect.
In discussing the costs to taxpayers of bringing in the refugees, something politicians avoid addressing to us, Krikorian points out that the better solution is to provide for them there in their own environment, close to where they came from, especially since it costs twelve times as much to resettle a refugee in the United States as it does to care for the same refugee in the neighboring countries of first asylum. Mr. Krikorian sums his argument up thusly: "Given these limitations on resources, I submit that it is wrong-morally wrong-to use those resources to resettle one refugee here when we could help twelve closer to their home."

Speaking at the Special Operations Command, MacDill Air Force Base, Tampa, Florida, on Tuesday, December 6, to an audience of mostly special operations troops-the most tasked component of our military conducting the fight against terrorists worldwide and responsible for "knowing our enemy" intimately--Mr. Obama delivered what is thought to be his final speech on the war on terrorism in a manner that was perceived as an oblique prompt for Mr. Trump about "what we're fighting for."

Listening to his address, I could only sit in a state of disbelief and in a state of utter frustration at his stubbornness, a haughty trait that he has refined over his time in Washington, D. C., and his failure--even after eight years in the White House--to fully comprehend the most basic tenets of Islamic terrorism, jihad, and the Muslim religion's stated intent on world domination. My disparity with, and disgust for, President Obama's inconsistent assessment of his having been a highly effective Commander-in-Chief, a respected world leader, and president of what should be the most active, most effective nation in the world in the battle against the scourge of radical Islamic terrorism--whether they live in your hometown, anywhere, USA, or the bowels of their "caliphate" in Iraq and Syria--is becoming increasingly obvious, as is the case with many others.

I would suggest Mr. Obama look in the mirror to see what the true picture really is: That he has been a feeble and weak-willed President/Commander-in-Chief, has provided insufficient and incompetent leadership to our military, has paid scant attention to the threat to our nation preferring his own liberal agenda at home, and refuses even to utter the phrases "Islamic terrorism" or "Islamic terrorists." His intransigence is becoming more apparent the closer he gets to the end of his term. As he says himself, he is not running for election again so "Full speed ahead! Damned the torpedoes!" He now, either knowingly or as a result of his increasingly immoderate self-image and his inflated sense of self-importance at having been a President of the United States for two terms, reveals more and more of his true nature, gives us a clearer insight of his inner soul and ethos, every time he speaks in public. It is an in-your-face arrogance that bugs the hell out of me. How About you?

Most damaging of all has been his protracted "war" on our nation's military services--and the men and women in uniform--as witnessed by his tampering with established traditions, imposing morale damaging change for change sake, and denigrating war fighting capabilities by social engineering policies such as doing away with "don't ask, don't tell" as a rule against openly gay activity in uniform, opening up all combat positions to women as if the military is a civilian corporation where the government can regulate "equal opportunity" and the like. The final--and most obtuse, least logical--social engineering boondoggle (blunder may be a better term)--was the allowing of transgender individuals to join and openly serve in all branches at all ranks in our military. To add insult to injury, the military will even assist their change of sex medical needs at no cost--at the expense of other military personnel needing those scarce medical services!

Secretary of Defense Carter pulled a political slight-of-hand by announcing this new and drastic policy change on late Thursday afternoon before the July 4th weekend. It was barely covered in the news on Friday, and next to lost in the shuffle by Monday and Tuesday. The vast majority of active duty military are appalled at his, and Obama's, absurdity. Count the retired military as well. They are even more aghast. But all know that he did not come up with this "brilliance" or the other catastrophic and radical changes to our military on his own. President Obama, with his ill-begotten ideology on equal rights and justice, imposed these destructive ideas and, being the despot that he is, would accept no dissent on any of them though advised by the admirals and generals against most all of them. But still, he somehow considers himself a courageous, dashing, and superb Commander-in-Chief. That is the biggest joke in the entire military!

In the light of day, it is robustly clear that President Obama is on a "victory tour" of his own---a veiled attempt to leave office with a positive popularity rating among Americans, and to preserve the waning remnants of what he hoped would be a sterling, unimpeachable claim to a legacy for the ages, a solid foundation for historians to positively evaluate his presidency and not be too harsh on him--if that is now at all possible. Quite accurately and appropriately, the speech at MacDill on how to fight terrorism "the right (Obama) way" was characterized by Jack Hellner on the distinguished website American Thinker. Jack wrote a bog entitled, "Obama praises Obama's policies for 'breaking the back' of terrorism."

I cannot improve on the observations of Senator John McCain on Barack Obama's race to the finish of his eight year term of office by publicly patting himself on the back at every opportunity, and by misleadingly insinuating a victory he neither has earned the right to appropriate for himself, fails to truly understand the requirements of, nor has come even close to winning anything against--yes, those words he loathes, banned from being uttered in the White House corridors since the day he moved in--radical Islamic terrorists. His stubborn stance is compounded as evidenced by his "come hell or high water" insistence that he, and only he, knows how to wage battles of this nature--the rest of us are dumb-struck "infidels" of sorts.

The feisty McCain said it best when he categorized Obama's bloviating speech--and to members of our military no less who know better--as:
President Obama's speech was nothing more than a feeble attempt to evade the harsh judgment of history... But to the American people, our emboldened enemies, and our dispirited allies, his legacy on counter-terrorism is unmistakably clear: a disastrous withdrawal from Iraq, the terrorist rampage of ISIL, an indecisive approach to the war in Afghanistan that has empowered the Taliban, and an indifferent approach to the carnage in Syria on which our terrorist enemies have thrived. No rhetorical conceit will alter history's verdict.
Major Dennis Copson is a retired United States Marine, veteran of the Vietnam War, and is a resident of Oceanside, California. He is a freelance writer and editor.
By Major Dennis Copson

Friday, January 06, 2017

Hello Technology, Goodbye Jobs

As the Internet of Things takes over, it will do more than provide convenience. It promises to steal nearly all existing jobs. Without change, this is bad news all around for pretty much all of us.

And now we can finally pay attention to more important matters...

Top of mind: the future unemployment rate.

It's gonna be high.

Very high.

Painfully high.

So high that it sparks riots among people with no hope for employment - the young and agitated Americans for whom cheap accelerants such as alcohol and drugs are easily available while the American dream is not. They're going to take to the streets to raise hell and destroy property and demand some sort of government intervention to lift them out of the misery to come.

That's certainly not going to help the economy, regardless of this new president or the next one.

It will, however, have sharp and painful impacts on you and me and our collective wallets.

In the not-too-distant future, this is what will happen:

  • Your refrigerator will monitor the bar codes on the products inside, and it will know when your inventory falls below preset par levels.
  • When you're low on, say, malt liquor or mayonnaise, the fridge will automatically order refills from the local Grub-o-rama.
  • Grub-o-rama's automated systems will dispatch a drone to grab the items in a warehouse and pack them into a driverless delivery vehicle.
  • That vehicle will arrive at your door ferrying a delivery bot with (quite literally) more technical aptitude than the entire Apollo space program that landed a man on the moon. It will communicate directly with the smart lock on your door that keeps thugs and scallywags out of your house, but which is intelligent enough to unlock itself for the delivery that your refrigerator told the lock to expect. The fridge will have established a one-time, unhackable security code that it shared with both the smart lock and the delivery bot.
  • The delivery bot will enter your house, open the fridge, deposit the products and retreat. The door will secure itself afterward.

Best I can tell, that takes every single human job function out of the transaction.

There's no bored order-taker, no warehouse runner tasked with retrieving and packaging your malt liquor or mayo, no cashier to take your payment and no driver to deliver the goods to your home.

Even you're out of the equation.

As the Internet of Things takes over the planet, it promises to do way more than make our lives simpler and more convenient. It promises to pretty much steal most of the jobs that exist today. And I'm not talking about menial jobs such as warehousing and delivering.

I'm talking about skilled jobs in law and medicine, policing and architecture, writing and financing, and, well, pick any job really, and there's a very good chance technology will replace the human component.

This is bad news all around for pretty much all of us.

Growth Without Humans

In eras past, new technology regularly spawned new types of jobs that replaced those automated out of existence. This time, though, something really is different. Technology is putting us on a path much different than the past.

Consider Facebook.

It has created vast wealth for a severely limited number of people associated with the company as either founders, managers or investors. The company has roughly 1.8 billion users who generate $25 billion in profits for those founders, managers and investors. Yet the company employs about 13,000 workers. Facebook could easily double or triple its business without adding many more workers because the technology that runs the show can easily replicate itself for the next billion or so customers.

Home Depot can't add exponentially more customers without a commensurate investment in new stores. General Motors and Maytag cannot build and sell exponentially more cars and refrigerators without paying the costs of adding more production facilities. That creates real jobs and generates an investment in the economy.

But technology is just bits and bytes and pieces of code, replicating itself over and over and over an infinite number of times without the added cost of a single penny.

Indeed, technology is reaching the point where it doesn't even need workers for maintenance and repair. Worker bots and other pieces of coding can monitor other pieces of technology and address problems before they even happen. Technology is smart enough that it can now create its own technology, as Google recently demonstrated when it allowed a security program to figure out its own security algorithm without input from a human - and it succeeded.

It's all very cool and Star Treky and futuristic, and it promises a radically different world of convenience for us humans - at least on the Jetsonian cartoon side of this rapidly accelerating tomorrow.

On the other side is a very dark and dystopian Blade Runner world in which wealth aggregates among a select few and meaningful jobs are rare, if they exist at all.

Change or Face the Consequences

At some point in the very near future, nearly six of every 10 jobs in the developed-world economies will require no human activity, or so says a study from Citi and Oxford University.

The World Economic Forum posits that in less than four years, at least 5 million developed-world jobs will vanish forever because technology automated it out of existence.

Forrester Research estimates 12 million American cubicle-dwellers across a host of white-collar sectors - 13% of today's total U.S. workforce - will be jobless by 2025.

This represents a fundamental crisis for modern capitalism and for Western politicians, regardless of their party's platform.

Idle hands are the weapons of revolution.

People need a way to pay for their lives, and not just for some lifeless, utilitarian existence. Robotics and artificial intelligence do not square with that need. They kill jobs and care not about the human consequences.

Politicians will have to care, or they will face bloodshed in the streets and violent overthrow.

There are a few potential solutions:

  • Limit the number of jobs technology can replace by forbidding companies from implementing certain types of technology. (That's probably not going to work.)
  • Pay every American a "universal income," a basic monthly stipend to live on. That might work for a while - but it raises much bigger challenges: How does government pay for this when there are limited employment taxes and sharply reduced consumer/business taxes? And how will people living on a universal income and without access to a job afford expenses like property taxes or vacations or the niceties of life? The concept could be as malevolent as it is beneficial.
  • Tax the hell out of technology to pay the cost of a universal income. Probably likely, but this is a catch-22: If the only income people have is a universal income, they can't afford much in the way of new consumer-tech items, which limits the income the tech company earn, which limits the taxes it pays to fund the basic income.
  • Get rid of money and replace it with some other means of commerce. Also possible, though socially, politically and structurally disruptive on an immeasurable scale.
  • Your Protection Against the Upheaval

So, what are we to do?

We can't change what's coming at us at warp speed. (And science is even working on warp speed, in case you care.)

Taxation is going to go much, much higher. I expect politicians will look to double the highest income-tax rates on individuals and businesses. They will double or triple capital-gains rates and eliminate numerous, if not all, deductions.

We could get to the simplified point where there's no longer a tax form to fill out and no IRS. All money will be electronic, and the government will simply deduct its pound of flesh from every bit of income that flows into your life.

That's a world for gold and other items with which you might barter for a haircut or those Fourth of July fireworks to celebrate all the wonderful freedoms we (used to) have.

As a lifelong world traveler, Jeff Opdyke has been investing directly in the international markets since 1995, making him one of the true pioneers of foreign trading. He is Investment Director for The Sovereign Society and a weekly contributor to The Sovereign Investor Daily.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

How Prepared Are We?

The Boy Scout motto: Be Prepared! How often have we heard this phrase. Yet there are those lingering questions about the preparedness of this country in the event that some calamity will strike this country. Is the United States prepared for any natural disaster, energy grid collapse, worsening economic conditions, a pandemic, terrorist attack, or famine? These are just some of the contingencies that can unfold onto the United States in just a matter of days that will make America look like the aftermath of what Hurricane Katrina did to New Orleans. All it would take is just one of these disasters to occur. The fragile economy and infrastructure of the United States would slide into an Abyss that this country might not ever climb back out of. Remember the aftermath of 9-11? Just a few days after that terrorist attack massive layoffs began triggering an economic crisis that many feel was the initial start of the current financial and economic catastrophe the United States is faced with today.

There is renewed data from the Journal of Scientific American indicates that coronal mass ejection pulses are being emitted form the Sun more frequently and the likely hood of one blast would send the United States back into the stone age. This along with the increased threat of a rouge nation or organization detonating a nuclear warhead in the atmosphere will produce electromagnetic pulses that would destroy all electrical components rendering not only the United States helpless but other countries would fall victim to their hideous plan. This is one of the biggest reasons to reinforce our energy grid. Our energy grid is so fragile, hasn't been updated or reinforced since it was put in place, and our lack of a concise energy policy have all contributed to the vulnerability of the United States.

The US strategic grain reserves necessary for the population to remain free from starvation is at the lowest level in over 50 years. Instead of focusing on the future likely hood of starvation the policies of our own government put the lives and safety of Americans at grave risk by exporting our grain reserves instead of shoring up our own supplies. There is only enough grain in reserve to make just a half a loaf of bread for each person in the entire United States; about 300 million people. If this isn't bad enough today even without a natural disaster happening 16 million children continue to face hunger and starvation right now in the United States. This figure will only increase as long as the current economic picture remains.

There are many areas that need to be addressed today if the United States expects to be fully prepared for any eventual disaster. It is not a question of if any disaster occurring it is the 100% probability a disaster will occur and is the United States actually prepared in all matters ready to act to secure the safety, stability, and the economy? Right now, the United States is not even remotely ready nationally to respond effectively in the event that a major catastrophe happens. In fact since 9-11 and Hurricane Katrina the United States is actually worse off than we were before.

The first element in getting this nation ready is to recognize the facts. In denying the severity of any eventuality is putting millions of Americans at risk and jeopardizes the future to this country. This is so apparent in the States along the Gulf Coast where Hurricane shelters are so inadequate that only a hand full have back up generators, alternate water sources and proper sanitation. There is no excuse to jeopardize the lives and safety of United States Citizens where monetary constraints are the prime criteria. A national priority must prevail to equip every state with the necessary funds necessary for explicit purpose of ensuring the safety of all it's citizens.

One of the first steps to actually have this nation be able to follow through with the necessary preparations for any catastrophic event the economy of the United States has to drastically improve and that starts with reducing the unemployment figures to a national level of under 4%. This can only be accomplished with governmental intervention with corporate America. Their again use history as a guide in what worked under FDR in the 1930's. A New-New Deal, a National Economic Reform Agenda is now warranted to spring board the jobless rate toward that 4% unemployment rate. Putting people back to work through governmental programs like the WPA of the 1930's is necessary to jump start our sluggish economy. Once we start reducing the unemployment figures through government sponsored programs with living wages consumer spending will increase pushing demand for more goods and services. This will encourage more of our businesses to hire more people just to keep up with the now increased demand. We have to remember two very sound economic principles. " Give the people what they need and want at a price they can afford business will continue to grow." The other basic principle " The more people with more disposable income to spend and pay down debt is the greatest economic stimulus that any society can have."

Utilizing these basic economic concepts along with implementing statutes that would require financial institutions who complied with the United States Government in repayment of their initial bailout funding easing of the credit scores criteria when it comes to granting any type of loan. Financial institutions currently have raised the criteria for granting, say a loan for re modification of their mortgage to stave off foreclosure so high that the homeowner can't qualify by the banks standards for any of the government sponsored programs to lower their monthly payment. They are consequently stuck trying to make mortgage payments they can no longer afford. This in turn leads to banks foreclosing on the property and every one looses. The easing of credit scores for home owners as well as business owners is paramount to economic recovery.

One of the biggest hurdles in improving the overall economic outlook is for Institutional Investors like financial institutions have to realize that providing more capital is essential for business expansion. Whether it is for small business startups of major business expansion the criteria for granting any type of financial assistance is now predicated on the credit score if you are a small business owner. Lager companies criteria are based not only on their credit standing with their current creditors but are contingent on other factors such as company assets, accounts receivable and accounts payable. Their again credit scores have to be lowered so that these business and individuals can be granted the financial capital needed to carry out the long term economic expansion that is so crucial for continued long term economic growth.

When the United States implements National Economic Reform with following through on these initiatives the future, economic outlook and the security of this nation will finally become a reality. The preparedness of the United States to react and provide for the safety, economic stability, and our national security in the event that a catastrophic disaster occurs will be assured.
By Dr. Tim G Williams

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