Sunday, November 29, 2009

Rummy versus Personnel Strength

I have posted on more than one occasion that Secretary Rumsfeld did not want the expense of the military personnel strength to interfere with his wheeling and dealing "business ways". Every service member in uniform, competed and interfered, by law, with his desire to execute his desires as freely as possible. How's that for a strong statement. Here's why I say that those in uniform competed and interfered, by law, with his desires:

In the private sector, if the CEO needs money for new equipment, he has several ways of getting it. One is to borrow, another is to increase sales, and another is to divert funds for one expense item to the desired purchase. Laying off employees and extracting higher productivity from the remaining work force, for example, allows the salaries and benefits not paid to be diverted to other corporate uses. Or, the employer can find a way to reduce individual salaries and benefits to diver the funds thereby saved.

In the US military budget process, there are three categories of budgeted funds that bear explaining:

1. The Personnel Account (PA). These are the funds specifically identified by Congress to meet the direct payroll and selected benefits requirements of the uniformed military. And, the monies in PA are virtually impossible to divert to other expense items. Unlike XYC Corp, the Secretary of Defense, or any other member of the Defense dept cannot simply reduce pay or the number of uniformed military at his discretion to divert PA funds to other use once a budget has been approved. Nor can money from other accounts be used to make up shortfalls in the PA. The jargon for this is that the PA is "Fenced".

2. The Operations and Maintenance Account (O&M). These are the funds with which the day to day operations of the military are conducted. Civilian payroll, supplies, repairs, contractor services, utilities, bullets, uniforms, and so on come from this account. Fund managers have a degree of discretion in executing these accounts. If you delay hiring a replacement civil servant, the salary not disbursed can be used elsewhere, within some limits.

3. Procurement Accounts. These are the funds designated to buy "big ticket" items, and quite often they have not only dollar, but unit quantity specifics.

Now, for every soldier on the payroll, a part of the Defense budget is and can only be used for his pay, allowances and certain benefits. Further, unless you want the people up in arms because you wouldn't provide food, uniforms and medical care for the troops, a certain portion of the O&M account is basically out of the Defense Secretary's control, as it must be spent to accomplish these ends, and every fellow in uniform requires food, uniforms, medical care, equipment, etc. In short, a huge portion of the Defense budget is "Fenced" to support the people in uniform, or is driven by circumstances to support the people in uniform. Even O&M funds that are, on the surface, available to support things of the Defense Secretary's choosing, are tied to personnel strength levels to a great degree.

One would be a fool to think that Congress is willing to write a blank check to the Defense Dept. Unlike XYZ Corp, that can try to increase sales to get more money to fund internal priorities/desires, DOD can only work with what Congress sees as the TOTAL expense level it will accept for the Defense Budget. If a SecDef wishes to spend 10% more on missiles next year, he very well may have to give up something in exchange, just a a CEO with no hope of increased sales/revenue must fore go an expense item to use that money elsewhere. But, unlike his corporate CEO counterpart, the SecDef cannot play fast and loose with the PA to meet his internal expense priorities.

Now, Mr Rumsfeld was seduced by technology to increase the "lethality" of the armed forces. One aspect of lethality is that each service member can kill more bad guys with technology than without, and the next logical conclusion (if you want to call it "logical") is that therefore, fewer troops can kill the same numbers of bad guys with better "toys". Now, in an auto manufacturing plant, technology can decrease payroll expense without reducing the plant output. But the DOD really has more in their mission than killing and blowing up things, and Phase IV is one of them, or at least the potential for Phase IV operations. But, Phase IV operations, by their very nature, are not lethality based, and are very manpower intensive. So, if you can avoid Phase IV responsiblities, you can reduce manpower requirements.

How antagonistic was Rummy toward manpower costs? Well, he openly expressed irritation that his budget had to divert his attention to and pay for "grocery stores, department stores and hospitals that no proper private sector employer had to provide". When reminded that the Exchanges were not supported by budgeted funds, they dropped out of his cross-hairs. To reduce the number of medical staff being paid out of the PA, we simply had their stateside billets converted to contractors paid out of the O&M accounts, adjusting staffing as necessary to manage the O&M dollars as he saw fit. Or, shifted patient care from military hospitals to nearby civilian hospitals to move that expense to the TRICARE (insurance) account.

Why the dependence on contractors in Iraq? Because one hires them on an "as needed" basis and pays them out of O&M funds. If the need for fuel transportation drops, reduce the contract requirements and spend the money elsewhere. GI fuel truck drivers cost the same amount whether they deliver fuel or not, and those PA funds cannot be shifted.

Now, as to what I saw as evidence that Rummy wanted to strip the military down to a "shock and awe" capability only? First, there was a numeric ceiling on the force for the invasion of Iraq. Now, any student of the military will tell you that personnel numbers are meaningless. Operational thinkers work with "Force Packages". There is a warfighting difference between 2,500 troops and a Brigade Task Force, and there are also different types of brigades, based upon the type of warfare (light infantry, armor, etc). "2,500 troops" tells us nothing about the capability of the resulting force. Yet, Rumsnamara was not going to entertain more than 250,000 uniformed personnel in theater, regardless of the force composition needs. Thus, significant and necessary combat service support units were left off the battle roster. Thus, the 3rd ID, for example, had difficulty getting rations when the operation lasted longer than anticipated, and contractor logistic support was not available. And this diddling with "non lethal elements" being left behind by design can be traced directly to SecDef.

To be able to really "conquer" an enemy and stand up, over time, a new state, requires, as GEN Shinseki so gracefully stated, many, many more soldiers than just invading and toppling the army and government of another nation. If we are to have a military capable of conquering another nation and properly occupying it, the size and type of Army Rumsfeld envisioned, small and lethal, but nothing else, will never get the job done. I'm not saying that we ever could have stood up an acceptable and functioning government in Iraq. What I am saying is that if it is possible, we did nothing to make that happen, and that nothing was by the intent and design of one Donald Rumsfeld.

So, we are not, nor never have been facing an "insurgency" in Iraq. What is going on there is no different that the chaos in New Orleans when the forces of nature kept the civil authorities from providing basic and effective public safety services. No police, fire, water, electricity, sanitation result in a break down of the social order and you end up with looting and other associated crimes. And like Iraq, some of the criminals were from outside New Orleans. The difference in Iraq is that after the total destruction of the elements maintaining the social order, the follow on structure was too little and too late. It's not an "insurgency" but a totally failed occupation.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

This turkey bites!

I'd like to join Publius in wishing the entire MilPub - patrons and waitstaff - the happiest and most peaceful of Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving has always struck me as among the most American of holidays; invented here, founded on a half-ounce of history larded with ten pounds of myth and outright bullshit, centered around a perfectly denatured "religious" occasion and (in modern times) represented by eating too much good food and professional sports.

And since you can't get more Thanksgiving than Star Wars, here's my gift to you all this year: this is an "All-Terrain Turkey Eliminator" walking tank, as envisioned by my little man, who cares nothing for the holiday other than he gets a week off from school.All the best from the four of us here in Portland to all of you, wherever you are.


Just when I was wondering what to be thankful for in this, my year of general malaise, brought on by economic distress and stupid wars, I came across this. That's right, folks, the phony shit kicker from Texas, the walking embodiment of the old slur about all hat and no cattle, is gone from the scene. Yes, his successor, despite all of the strong words during the campaign, all too often seems intent on emulating the Crawford Clown, but this post isn't about that.

I say we should just take our blessings where we can. Me, I'm blessed by still being on the right side of the grass and by not having any family or close friends leave me this year. I'm also blessed in having a wonderful spouse and kid, both of whom deserve high marks for putting up with me all these years. And, in the huge blessing department, my daughter is in the process of moving from the San Francisco area to Cambridge, MA, where, just after the first of the year, she will take up new duties as an associate director with a large biotech firm. Boston in the winter: ugh. Boston as a warm weather destination: nice. Boston any time, with my kid there: very good news.

I'm thankful to FDChief, for doing the heavy lifting in putting this blog together. And to the other MilPub bloggers: You make my days brighter and the heavy lifting not quite so heavy. I salute you. I may sometimes disagree with you, but I always respect you. I especially hope Al and Seydlitz, our friends abroad, find a way to carve out a little piece of America on this most American of holidays. Further thanks go to other members of our blog family: to my friends Lisa and Jim, from Ranger Against War, and to all of you who take the time to read our maunderings and to make a contribution. I consider you all friends.

A couple of years ago I asked one prominent military blogger about his practice of "moderating" (read censoring) reader comments, "What are you afraid of?" I noted that, IMO, reader comments were often the best part of a given post, and that I disagreed with any actions taken to censor them. I did not get a satisfactory answer; in fact, I was invited to "get lost." At that point, I decided that no matter how brilliant or well informed this blogger was, if he couldn't stand the heat, participating in his blog wasn't worth it. I bring this up only to note that no one posting on this blog is afraid of comments. Keep 'em coming.

Thinking of Al and Seydlitz, residing in nations where this distinctly American holiday isn't celebrated, takes me back some 30 years or more to when we resided in Bayreuth, FRG. As the person in charge of operations for a large swath of the border with Czechoslovakia and East Germany, I devoted much time to social gatherings with West German government officials. We hosted a Thanksgiving dinner with some of them. And, of course, along with the turkey and the stuffing, we served corn, that most American vegetable. And then I had to talk my German friends into eating the corn.....

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, everybody.

Monday, November 16, 2009

A Broad, Sound View of War . . .

Today more than ever it is vital that a broad, sound view of war, beyond the petty maxims of the practitioners, should become the common property of every citizen, so that all those striving toward understanding may communicate with each other.

Carl von Clausewitz, Letter to Fichte, 1809

William F. Owen has published a noteworthy article in the Armed Forces Journal:

. . . Yes, the U.S. Army needs restructuring, but the demise of the Warsaw Pact in 1991 provided a far greater strategic justification for change — and still does — than fighting insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan ever could.

U.S. forces are drifting toward viewing counterinsurgency and war-fighting as distinct forms of activity. They are not. They are inextricably linked, in terms of equipment, training, doctrine and education. Thus the Victorian expression of “big wars and small wars.”

War is not changing. The aims and purpose of organized violence for political gain are enduring and unchanging. Insurgencies are war, and most if not all of the observations made in the Army’s new FM 3-24 “Counterinsurgency” manual could have been written in 1991 or earlier. Future wars will be born of future politics, not “globalization” or the Internet. Yes, there will be “unknown unknowns,” but they are just that: unknowable. New words won’t change that. . .

Language is basic, communication necessary. Propagandists will tell you that language is power.

The words we use do make a difference, words do have specific and concrete meanings, they are a basis of social communication, unless of course following Thucydides we are in political turmoil in which the inability to communicate with words reflects political chaos. In chaos, words that can be linked to interests take on these new meanings, subverting the old meanings, making everything in effect political, a matter of contention. Societies cannot withstand such conditions for long without suffering serious effects.

Prior to this quote, William Owen does a number on "hybrid warfare", another item in the current menagerie of pseudo-strategic notions and potions (N&S).

"Today, we no longer need strategic theory, such an outmoded concept" the N&S guys and gals say, "it's all about politics, which as everyone knows is a thing of the past. We no longer do politics. We just follow and applaud."

Ahhh, the marketplace of "strategy" which is so easy to find, just follow the most current jargon . . . and other loud noises. That being of course because we no longer do "strategy" in the meaning of how our government is organized and structured to do strategy, that according to Clausewitzian definitions . . . not since Cheney decided he wanted to do everything off the books . . .

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Broken Contract?

Tim Egan has a fairly vituperative post up over at the NYT.

I don't agree with his conclusions: I think the American public, left, right and center, are too complacent, too stupified and too cowed to do any "raging" at anyone. Look at the peasant mentality of the "teabaggers" - ramping and stamping about "government interference" in their sorry little lives while the limos of the wealthy glide by toasting the largesse they are receiving from that government. Look at the way the rest of us - all of us - are willing to stand by and let a minority of fanatics insist that our supposedly nondenominational governments hold up a monotheist religious standard for who gets to form a domestic contract with whom.

No. We are, by and large, sheep for the slaughter.

But I do agree that our ruling class has largely become the wholly owned subsidiary of the rentier and corporate classes. If we're going to be outraged about something, why aren't we outraged that 44% of our congresscritters are millionaires?

We rebelled against a king and his aristocratic cronies for that?

And I loved his snarky comparison between the Bull Moose Republicans of yore and the RoboGOP and RoboDems of today.

Anyone with any other thoughts?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Best to my fellow Marines and Veterans

Yes, a day late to wish a "Happy Birthday, Marine", but the warmth, respect and affection is still there.

With equal warmth, respect and affection, our thoughts are with our fellow veterans on this 11th of Nov. For me, it's fitting, however how accidental, that one day follows the other.

Semper Fi! and Present Arms! to you all


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

We learn war no more

Sunday, November 8, 2009, approximate time, 1112 hours, worship songs have been sung, and the worship leader begins to pray…

“…Father G-d, as we approach Veterans day, we ask that you bless our soldiers and their sacrifice for our freedoms that we enjoy. Bless them G-d, and protect them as they fight in distant lands, protecting us and the freedoms we enjoy…”

My heart is no longer in the prayer.
My mind is now engaged which is usually a bad thing for the person I’m focusing on, or institution which I’m in.
I’ve been having issues with many in Christianity today because of their rabid devotion to the secular issues of this world, but this prayer…yes, this prayer brought it home for me.
As I said, it’s a bad thing when I start thinking in the middle of a worship service, but there I was…thinking.
And these are my thoughts.

Do you have any clue what you are praying?
You all are thanking these men and women for doing things they wish they had never done.
You are thanking them for seeing things they wish they had never seen.
You are blessing them with a hell they wish they had never been part of.
You are thanking them for slaughtering people.
You are thanking them for butchering men, women, and children.
You are thanking them for delivering wholesale destruction on someone else’s nation, someone else’s community, someone else’s places of worship, and more so, someone else’s homes.
You are asking the Lord G-d Almighty to bless the destructive capabilities of our nation which has no peer in this world.
And my one and only thought is this…have you lost your mind?

You want G-d to bless our soldiers, then be more specific with the blessing…bless our soldiers with peace.
Bless them with compassion so that they may show compassion.
Bless them with hope so that when they come back home they don’t turn on their own family, their own community, their own nation.
But most of all, bless our Nations leaders with a brain.
With common sense.
With an overall burden of knowledge that war only causes more problems, and that someone, somewhere has to have the balls, the courage, the compassion of the divine, and a concern for humanity that enough is enough.

Because the prayer you just prayed…is not a good prayer.
It is a bad prayer.
A very, very bad prayer…and I refuse, nay, I will not pray such a prayer.

So, as I have ponder that moment, I have come upon the prayer that I will pray.

So this is my prayer for Veterans and soldiers on Veterans Day.

May the sovereign G-d that you know or do not know watch over you.
May he bring you out of the maw of the dragon, and back to your home.
May the G-d of heaven and earth teach you peace of mind, peace of heart, and peace of soul.
May the Lord G-d Almighty caress you with compassion, may he cradle you in love, and may you be a living expression of that love.
To love without hesitation.
To care without concern.
To live a life without fear.
May G-d bring you the joys of life you have taken, or seen taken and may your only burden be concern as a teacher of caution for our future.
May you be the voice of history that we, who do not know the hunger of the dragon, heed your experience and learn from your life that you may willingly share.
And may G-d give us a spirit of discernment and a teachable heart to listen your wisdom.
So with all our love, may G-d give you all that you need, but most of all, may G-d give you the peace of the spirit that your soul may linger in the fields of life a moments time longer, and may we all walk in the paths of a quiet life.
May your knowledge, your experience be our knowledge, our experience so when we say “no more war,” it is not out of ignorance, but out of your knowledge that we understand the scripture, “and we will learn war no more.”

That is my Prayer, and may G-d make it so.


Monday, November 9, 2009

We Are the People! - The Fall of the Berlin Wall - 9 November 1989

Alexanderplatz, East Berlin, 4 November 1989

With all the hoopla about the 20th Anniversary of the Fall of the Wall, perhaps we should ask ourselves what exactly is the significance of this event and all the various events associated with that Annus mirabilis of 1989 and revolutions that swept away Stalinist Europe.

A good place to start in considering a retrospective is with Timothy Garton Ash's 1989!. Much to understanding those times is to get a "feel" for the electricity that was in the very air that people breathed. Ash was in Poland, East Germany and Czechoslovakia at just the right times and experienced the moods among the crowds. In his essay he relies on several concepts to help explain not only those events but how they have since been interpreted. For instance the idea of hindsight bias, or simply, "what happened had to happen" or simply deterministic fate. In regards to the Berlin events this runs "Communism was at an end, the German Democratic Republic (GDR) was broke, they needed a way out and simply sold out to the West". This goes hand in glove with another dubious notion that Ash doesn't mention in this essay, but is so very common, that is that those in power always call the shots. This notion is the basis of all government conspiracy theories, that is when something happens those with the power made it so. Common people, even organized in great numbers never really make a revolution, maybe a nudge, but not really a difference . . . 1989 proves that wrong and makes the use of mass action possible given the right motivations, conditions and contingencies.

The year started uneventful enough, the leader of the GDR telling the world that the Wall would last "for another 100 years" and who was to disagree with him? The leadership elites of both East and West had become accustomed to the stability the Cold War brought, to the predictability and sustainability of keeping both sides as they were. This did not consider the feelings and aspirations of the people in the Warsaw Pact or even Russia (as opposed to the "Soviet Union"). Clausewitz wrote that the material side of organized force was a "simple wooden handle" as opposed to the moral side which was the "shining, well-honed steel blade". This also assumes that the leadership wielding the sword know what they are doing with it.

There must have been something in the world's air, since in China a democratization movement developed between April and 4 June when it was brutally crushed. What had sparked that protest had been a funeral of a popular official, but the reaction was particularly marked in eastern Europe, where it divided the leadership between hardliners who supported what the Chinese government had done and those who saw the "Chinese example" as something to be avoided at all costs. It is here perhaps were Mikhail Gorbechev, who influenced the events of 1989 more than any other leader, exercised the most significant effect rejecting the Chinese example as an option, or at least the option of using Soviet Troops to do what the PLA had done.

In Poland, Solidarity was elected into office in the first free elections since 1945, and Gorbechev and Glasnost were attempting to rethink "the system " in the USSR. Change was in the air, but at what point would it be seen as too much and at what point would the "Chinese option" kick in? Tensions were high and the situation only needed a bit of a push to set the whole unstable structure in motion, but towards what?

The Hungarians in effect lit the fuze with a picnic in August by opening up a section of their border to Austria as a sort of party between two neighboring towns. This followed a limited crack in the Iron Curtain that the Hungarians had made in May. What they did not anticipate was that over 600 East German vacationers would "crash the party" so to speak and cross over into Austria. Suddenly Hungary became the favorite vacation spot for East Germans, and the Hungarians failed to do anything to stop them. The GDR responded by refusing to allow people to travel to Hungary, but then those wishing to flee started gathering in West German embassies in Prague and Warsaw. This created great pressure both inside and outside the GDR.

At the same time as the "pull" to get out, there was an internal "push" for reform across the GDR. Weekly demonstrations started in September, but gained a much greater momentum on 9 October with the first Monday demonstration in Leipzig following the 40th anniversary of the GDR on 7 October. The Leipzig demos climaxed with the one of 23 October drawing over 300,000 people, gaining Leipzig the title "Hero City" or Heldenstadt der DDR. The reason for the title was clear since in September and October going out to demonstrate against the GDR government meant possible arrest, later police harassment and physical abuse. For instance on 8 October 500 were arrested, and many more beaten, at a peaceful demonstration at the Gethsemane Kirche in East Berlin, which was another center of the protest. The government tried to quell the protests with the semblance of change, Erich Honecker and most of the old line resigned on 18 October, only to be replaced by Egon Krenz who was even less popular than Honecker had been. Krenz had visited China earlier that year and praised the "Chinese example". This only spurred the demonstrators on more which in turn led to the largest demo of them all, one million at Alexanderplatz on 4 November, five days before the fall of the wall.

The "push" met the "pull" with the freedom trains which transported 12,000 East Germans who had been held up in Poland and Czechoslovakia to West Germany during the first week of October, the one event proving a catalyst to the other since the trains were required to pass through Leipzig . . . It was one of the greatest mistakes the GDR leadership made during the whole crisis, but not the biggest nor most spectacular.

That honor belongs to GDR Politburo member Günter Schabowski, who in one of the best examples of the importance of being clear with your meaning at public speaking events botched a news conference and told the people of the GDR they were free to travel outside the country "immediately" (this is a youtube link since you have to see this to believe it). The looks on the Border Guard (including Stasi Passkontrolle) officers is amazing.

The rest is history as they say, although what did happen could have turned out a wide variety of less favorable ways (especially for the Eastern Europeans) and even some more favorable (in terms of economics) than what it fact did occur. This becomes clear when comparing the events in Berlin with those in Prague which also required a whole sequence of contingencies to occur.

What stands out for me is the potential effect of the common person, what people can do for themselves if properly motivated and willing to go through a period of adversity and even pain. That and keeping your wits about you, not reacting violently to power, but making power appear impotent by its inability to instill fear. Get the uniformed "keepers of the peace" to start doubting not only their power but their purpose and watch what happens. Perhaps that is the big message from 1989, that any political elite would not want you to know.

The second thing was the cluelessness of those in power on all sides. Even Gorbi, who was the most influential, had no idea what the effect of his actions would be and went a bit hard line later on. Of the Allied leaders, Pappy Bush probably comes out the best (especially when compared to Thatcher who made even Krenz appear "reform minded") in that he got out of the way of German reunification. During the 1990s there were a whole series of former officials who came out with memoirs explaining how they had known all along what was going on - ninty-nine point nine percent of which is self-serving tripe imo. At the time we (as in strategic intelligence collection) were being told to either "expect anything" or it "will all blow over". It was the ops who were able to adjust well to quickly changing events, less so the managers in my experience. Those closest to the streets were the most clued in, those high up on the food chain, in positions of bureaucratic power, the least.

Where was I on 9 November? It was a Thursday so I was home from work with the family watching TV (usually switching between East and West German and AFN) and heard Schabowski's statement. "WOW, this is big!" I tell the wife and head for Checkpoint Charlie by way of the U-bahn getting off at Koch Strasse. There already were crowds gathered on the West Berlin side and climbing a light pole (I could do stuff like that 20 years ago) I could see hundreds of East Berliners patiently waiting. At this point the corrected version of the new travel law came out and people were spreading the news on our side that it would only come into effect on the 11th, that is the people would have to apply on the 10th and be able to travel the next day. So I went back home, feeling as I was a bit guilty for leaving the wife at home alone with our sick daughter. What I didn't realize until the next day was that Ossies had lost their fear of the system and the GDR authorities had lost their faith in it. The "push" met feeble resistance and kept pushing, so the local border guard commanders simply opened the borders and kept their troops in barracks lacking any coherent orders from above.

The next day my office opened a screening center in a former elevator factory and over the next days I screened scores of "pullers" whereas the "pushers" were mostly back in their East Berlin beds by noon. Some of the first to desert - and those I interrogated - were those who would have under different conditions been those most relied on to enforce the "Chinese option".

In spite of all the work I had to do, I was in a state of euphoria during that entire time and into Spring 1990. It was the most sublime period of my life.

One more link: 20 Years After the Wall

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Where Goeth the Economy?

Here’s the new thread that picks up from where Pluto posed good questions based on his valid observations:

My academic training and research was heavy on labor market theory and much lighter on economic theory. What I fear is being missed is the disruption to the labor market that is being suffered, along with the economic and structural factors that will prolong the disruption as well as emerge from the disruption. There's some "The Chicken or The Egg" issues here, as far as I see.

My research was in "dual labor market" theory, and predominantly the structural side. I had colleagues who looked at the sociological side, and we shared data, as the phenomenon is both structural and sociological in nature. In short there are two distinct labor markets, "Primary" and "Secondary". The Primary market is what we normally think of in terms of desirable employment. Earnings are a statistically predictable factor of education, experience, age, tenure on the job, etc, and jobs have established reasonable security and upward mobility ladders, even if that ladder is simply longevity raises. Job turnover in the market is modest.

The Secondary market shows none of the above predictors of earning, stability and upward mobility. Earnings are predicted by the prevailing minimum wage and hours worked. The market is oft times colloquially referred to as "burger flipping", for example, even though there are numerous other industries in the farm and service sectors involved.

I looked at the structural reasons why such jobs exist (actually the industries that were characterized by a predominance of such jobs), and there is more to that than fits in the allowable space here. The sociologists looked at the incumbents in the labor market, and germane to our discussion here is that once someone spends 18-24 months or so in Secondary labor market employment, the probability of entering or returning to Primary labor market employment decreases drastically, without regard to the person's education, experience, etc. Amongst ourselves, we called it the "Roach Hotel" phenomenon - many check in, but few check out. It is not unusual, for example, for even a scientist who has to “flip burgers” for a couple of years to remain in that state. The contributing factors are complex and many.

One major question was if the residency in Secondary labor market employment was a product of the nature of the employing industry or the laborers themselves. The answer was strongly suggested to be both. It was a saprophytic relationship, more or less. At least at that time, and while I have been away from the field for nearly 30 years, what we learned then would be generally applicable now.

Very briefly, however, Secondary labor market industry has grown since the days of my graduate/dissertation research (76-82), and more industries have developed employment practices and relationships that have Secondary market characteristics. I must state here that I returned to active military service in 83 and left that world behind, so I am not as closely involved with the material. However, from my view, many jobs have been "converted" to employment with at least some Secondary market structural characteristics since 82, and I would offer "independent contracting" as an example, due to the inherent instability therein. Pay may be higher in some fields of contracting, but surety of employment from one contract to the next is not predictable, future earnings are not predictable and all too many contracts limit future employment options (contract or direct hire by contractor, contractor's clients or competitors and their clients) in a given field. As an aside, many "independent contractors" do not meet the eligibility criteria for unemployment benefits when their contract is terminated. Thus, in my view, over the past two decades, we have actually created a new, higher pay category of Secondary-like (and thereby imprisoning and unstable) employment.

A second concern is that we created good jobs in "bubble" fields that appeared in the short term to be traditional Primary market employment, but because of the unsustainable growth, were not. Home construction for example. The underlying causes of these jobs was tenuous and non-sustainable at best.

So, to the conclusion. The current crash and high unemployment has eliminated many jobs in the Primary market. Further, the “Secondary-like” fields, such as those that employ contractors at reasonable pay, is displacing Primary market jobs, undermining employment security. That puts millions into the “desperate for work” category who will accept anything to hold their heads above water. Typical answer – “temporary” Secondary market job, if it can be found.

Whether we want to accept it or not, I fear that this recession is profound enough to reshape the overall labor market. The “engine of growth” of the past three decades, irresponsible and boundless personal credit and debit, was not, is not and cannot be sustained. Consumers account for 70% of our GDP and cannot continue the debt fueled spending spree. Home values for many, now at 1999 levels, will not rise to the mortgaged value for another 8 years or so, trapping many people with “upside down” mortgage situations into paying to hold on until they finally get some equity, sell at a loss or allow foreclosure. There will not be home equity to finance consumer spending for a few years, if that trend return at all.

Thus, the trend of our nation’s wealth moving more and more into the hands of the top few will continue. Manufacturing companies and other “necessary” industries will staff at “lean and mean” levels, or shift manufacturing to lower cost overseas facilities/sources to maximize profits. Employment in Secondary labor markets will grow disproportionately as the portion of the population that does not amass wealth will grow, and we will see the “underclass” expand.

And, to address the implications for foreign policy, as more and more of the population becomes economically disenfranchised, the remaining holders of wealth will entertain more and more adventures overseas if it doesn’t conflict with their economic goals, while many of the poor and nearly poor will accept it as a result of their feelings of helplessness and/or the only source of national pride available.

That’s the “Readers’ Digest Condensed Version” of a very complicated issue. Please feel free to pick at it, challenge it, reject it and/or expand on it. Nothing would make me happier than to find I have reached an inaccurate conclusion.

How’s that for cynicism? Now, in closing, all of us at the university that were working in dual labor market theory at the time agreed on one point. It was a depressing subject.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Cold, Dead Fingers

In the previous post, Publius noted that "...we have events at Fort Hood today. A major with an Arabic name, maybe helped by two others—still unknown‚greases 12 GIs, wounds 31. Arabic name. Huh. Anybody think this won't profoundly affect the dialog?"

As Spencer Ackerman notes here, it already has.

The frustrating thing about this is what it reveals about:

1. How lazy and incompetent our "news media" are. I have gotten to the point where I ignore the first 24 hours of coverage because the news agencies rush to get everything into print or on the air regardless of its veracity. The sad part is that I suspect that many Americans get most of their "information" from just this period. By the time the actual facts emerge Joe and Mary Lunchpail have lost interest.

2. The degree to which we just don't frigging LEARN. Didn't we go through this one before? Weren't we wrong then? Why, then, all the bloviating about this incident as some sort of betrayal of an Islamic Fifth Column?I think we've all talked about this at some point, but, once again, this sad and sorry tale brings out the degree of dysfunction in our polity. We're often badly informed and then use that misinformation to stoke our fears and stupidity. In a system based on the premise that the People are Sovereign a People so easily fooled and so prone to emotional foolishness - the People as Fool - are a dead weight and a crippling liability.

Update, 11/6 p.m. The American People need help being fooled. And shout-radio has just the man Mike "Savage" Wiener.

According to Paul Campos "Yesterday Savage was obsessing on how nobody was going to be allowed to say that the army base shooter, Nidal Hasan, was an Islamic terrorist."

I'm gonna rant here for a bit.


I call bullshit on the "terrorist".

More. I say that if Nidal had been one of ours, and had done what he did in a jihadist madrassa in Lahore, instead of the "Soldiers Readiness Processing Center" at FHTX we'd be writing him up for a DSC.

(Now also for the record I don't think Nidal was a hero, whatever his motive. I think he is a whacko, and I think we'll find his brain housing group is pretty effed up.)


When I first read about this my thought was, oh, great, some sick fuckstick gone and shot up the Main PX, or a shoppette, or the Commissary. I expected to read about not just my soldier brothers dead but their wives, kids, girlfriends, and civilian buddies all randomly shot down by this SOB. But...

It seems like the SOB was a choosy SOB. 13 KIA: 12 GIs and one DoD civilian. I have no idea of the WIAs, but so far the guy seems to have killed soldiers and only soldiers. Unarmed soldiers, sure, but...

Look at it this way. For the better part of 10 years the Army paid me to train to kill enemy soldiers. I trained to kill them with my cannon battery from miles away. For all practical purposes they might as well have been unarmed. Pregnant women troopers? Yep. I'da killed 'em. Young peach-faced privates right off the rice paddy? Deader'n shit. My job was to kill the enemy, destroy his fighting power. Not to give him a fair fight. Shoot him in the back, blow him to bloody rags with high explosive...whatever it took. If I could have caught him unarmed in a "Deployment Center"? Battery six, mothafucka, and xin loi for your ass.

And guess what?

We're at war with Al Qaeda, the Talibs and a half-dozen other odds and sods Islamic organizations. All of us. The guys on the MSR out of Ramadi. The joes manning the LP/OPs in the Panshir Valley. And the casuals milling around the "Deployment Center" at Ft. Hood.

You and me, too. "Total war"? Ever hear of it Got lots of pregnant women, kids and everything else killed in places like Dresden, Coventry, Hiroshima, Hue. You do what you need to to defeat The Enemy.

If this guy HAD been an AQ covert ops dude?

These people were just as much his legitimate prey as any GI in full battle rattle in an M998 on the main road to Kandahar.

If he had been an active enemy when he kacked them (and not just a nutjob on a spree) he was no more a goddam "terrorist" than I would have been calling for a battery three with WP in effect on a helpless convoy of North Korean signal service troops.

So. If you ask me:

1. Once he recovers from his gunshot wounds "Abu" Nidal Hasan needs lots of electroshock therapy. Lots.

2. Mike "Savage" Wiener is a goddam crank with a sock for a brain, and

3. If any significant portion of the U.S. public other than goddam sock-brained crank Mike "Savage" Wiener thinks an enemy killing U.S. soldiers - anywhere, anytime, anyhow - is "terrorism" rather than "war" it's time to piss on the fire and call in the dogs because the U.S. public wouldn't know a fricking war if it bit them on the fricking ass. The People as Fool. Jesus wept! WASF!


We now return you to your regularly scheduled weekend

Monday, November 2, 2009

Hey, Rocky..!

There was a long-running gag on the old "Rocky and Bullwinkle Show" where the moose would dress up in his stage magician outfit and shoutout to his pal the squirrel "Hey, Rocky! Watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat!" Whereupon he would reach in and pull out a tiger that would gnaw on his arm, or a rhino which would paste him all over the stage. His best effort resulted in his pulling Rocket J. Squirrel out of the hat, at which point Bullwinkle announces "Well, I'm getting close!"

Our good friend at the Washington Post appear to have a copy of Bullwinkle's magic book, the chapter dealing with "foreign internal defense". And yesterday they let the squirrel out of the hat regarding what they and their friends - the neocon Right, the "serious" pundits and legislators who are hawkish on "defense" - consider pulling out of our military strategy hat:
"If it's necessary to pacify Afghanistan to protect U.S. security, goes the taunt, must we also intervene in Somalia and Yemen? The presumed answer is: "Of course not -- and therefore why bother with Afghanistan?" The more sensible response is: If something is not done soon about these lawless places, one or the other may well become the next Afghanistan..."

"...if something is not done soon..."

"if something is not done soon..." (gee...I wonder what that "something" could be? You think..?)

Imagine that; these very serious people believe that we should be sending soldiers to be policing - not just the hinterlands of Islamic Central Asia - but...SOON...the Gulf and North Africa as well.

Speaking as a retired con man high school teacher and platoon sergeant, it's usually not a good idea to show the marks students (troops) all your future scams lesson plans (op orders).

It scares off the fools and shortens the take.

(h/t to Pat Lang over at Sic Semper Tyrannis)