Monday, June 11, 2012

fighting the last war

Most of us are fighting the last war.  The Confederates turned out a lot of home taught unconventional fighters who bested the Union generals in the field, most who came from West Point and had been best in their class in fighting the last wars.  Vietnam was pretty embarrassing in that we kicked ass against World War Two foes, none of who showed up.  The current wars are just as embarrassing, a bunch of rug prayers who are fighting us to a standstill with some improvised explosive devices and machine guns.  We are trying to fight the last war, I think if I give the “leadership” the benefit of the doubt, but we should be fighting several wars ago.  Specifically, the Civil War.  The fact of the matter was that the Union forces were pretty worthless ( not to detract from the valor of the individuals, just to point out the incompetence of the generals.  If you can only win by sending your troops through a sausage grinder [ the Brits in WWI, the Soviets in WWII ] your leadership abilities suck ).  They may or may not have won this way just on the battlefield.  But what eventually won the war was a total and ruthless war on the civilian population.  Since we are either unwilling or unable to do this in Afghanistan or other theatre, we won’t win against insurgents. 
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What passes for leadership in the financial sector is fighting the last war.  They might think with their fancy algorithms, the super computers and the banks of college graduates manning the battle stations that they are up to date and modern, but in effect they are just playing the same old game.  Hump the taxpayers, get baled out, start over elsewhere leaching off real wealth.  Oops!  Where do they go next after they’ve sucked America dry?  Every other country out there is living on Monopoly money and chasing after diminishing returns as far as resources.  Here is where a little knowledge is a very dangerous thing.  They think they are smart enough to come up with the Next Big Save.  But you can bet there are no generalists amongst the leadership, only specialists.  No one is going to see any big picture outside of economics. 
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Most survivalists are fighting the last war.  Come a nuclear war, or a Great Depression, they might survive.  Total economic collapse, I have my doubts.  Multiple crop failures or oil disruptions, probably not.  If you are depending on the economy to provide you with a job, and the economy just keeps getting worse, how do you prepare?  How does that second job help, if your customer base keeps shrinking?  I’m not saying you shouldn’t develop a second source of income.  It just makes sense to diversify.  But what that second job WON’T do is pay a mortgage in town, finance a super retreat, or pay for oodles and gobs of freeze dried meals in #10 cans or buy that second or third pair of third or forth generation night vision goggles.  The economy is contracting.  People are losing their jobs.  Every single month.  Debt creation gives the illusion of growth, but at best it is weak and small comfort.  You are assuming the economy keeps you in a job until that magic moment it suddenly stops and suspends banker and military action.  You retire safely to your fortress and live out your days surrounded by a tank farm of propane.  If I visit you in Dumbass Fantasy Land, can I sleep with your wife?  I assume she is a hottie since you earn lots of money.
A second job is a cushion come the collapse.  You might be able to stretch out the modern day lifestyle a little bit longer.  But a home based business, say one run from your retreat, has a built in diminishing return to it.  If you work for a corporation, you can bask in the illusion of job security until suddenly-surprise!- you get a pink slip one day.  If you work for yourself, you can expect double the hours.  If you are really good and buck the trend and actually provide a new and unique service, you might surge ahead in profit.  Until the inevitable day when more and more of your present and potential customers get their pink slips.  The best company in the world still loses business if its customers are broke.  If you assume the economy won’t keep getting worse, or worse yet assume it will start growing again, you are fighting the last war.  Look at Omammy.  He grew up being a parasite, and it paid well.  No wonder he is confused that parasitism no longer works.  In a zero growth or declining economy, anything you do from the last war defeats you.  Thinking that you have decades to prepare, that your job will stick around and provide you the means to prepare lavishly, that you can grow and expand a home based business to do the same, it is all outdated thinking.  Just because we have been in a slow collapse for decades doesn’t mean we will be in the same situation for decades more.  Does anyone remember Tipping Points, or how about Perfect Storms? 
The fighters that thought about the next war rather than the last are few and far between, and remembered.  William Wallace, Rommel, etc.  But while they are celebrated, they certainly are not emulated.  It takes a lot of work to be different.  Most can’t be bothered to try.  Just lean up against the accomplishments of our forefathers and coast.  We are going with the tried and true, so you can’t blame us for screwing up a good thing ( the beginning of “Barbarians At The Gate”: A genius invented the Oreo.  We’ve been living off that inheritance-  That book was about the leveraged buy out of Nabisco ).  Fighting the last war always works.  Until it doesn’t.  You can dare to think it might be different next time, or you can skate along and hope for the best, living off the inherited genius of others.
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  1. Ah...the return of the Bison of old! The one who slaps us across the face, kicks us in the shin, and then gives us a knee to the groin.

    You're truly one of a kind Jimbo.

  2. Helloooooo! where the hell is everybody? I miss war. We used to kill a lot more people, take way more drugs, listen to kick ass music while we did it. Damn pussies! the rat

  3. A joke to make you smile:

    Late one night a helicopter had to fly into Seattle. On the way, the electronic navigation equipment shorts out and goes blank. It is dark and very foggy and the pilot becomes disoriented and gets lost.

    He says to the co-pilot: "Don't panic. All we have to do is find our position and then look at the chart to set a manual compass heading and we can find our destination."

    They fly low in circles, looking at the ground for any clues as to where they might be. Suddenly they see an office building with the lights on on the top floor. They fly over and hover outside the window.

    The pilot says to the co-pilot: "Take a sheet of paper and make a sign that says 'WHERE ARE WE?' and hold it up for the workers in the building to read". The co-pilot does this and the workers hear the helicopter outside their window and look out and read the sign.

    The office workers furiously write their reply and hold it up in the window. "YOU ARE IN A HELICOPTER" their sign said. The pilot smiles and says "Oh! I know exactly where we are!" He gives them a thumbs up and waves to thank them. He checks the chart and sets the compass heading and flies straight to his destination.

    Upon landing, the co-pilot says: "How in the hell did you know where we were?" "From the people in the office window" he replied. "When they answered our question with information that was technically correct, but utterly useless to us, I knew that that had to be the Microsoft Help-Line Call Center in Redmond Washington".