Monday, September 20, 2021

The American Work Ethic Is In Rapid Decline

The attitude our society has towards work has become rather blase. A slew of government mandates to stay home and cash giveaways have dampened the enthusiasm of many people to return to work. If you don't need to, why subject yourself to something most people find rather unrewarding and often unpleasant.

This has begun to be reflected in our youth becoming less interested in rushing off to get expensive college educations. Adding to this is the notion many careers may not exist or are not worth the cost or investment to get them. Many people think, for example, by simply being a doctor you are going to rake in the dough. however, when you think about it, it is a career with many drawbacks. How many people want to constantly deal with the weird problems demanding patients have and endless paperwork in an environment where they can be sued at any time.

This casual indifference to work is growing in people of all ages. The days when people were inspired to work and save for the future may never return. The general consensus is that when you work your fingers to the bone is all you get is bony fingers. Part of the blame falls upon the government's effort to eradicate poverty at the expense of the middle class. One of the side-effects of Obamacare, or the Affordable Care Act if you prefer, is that by working less, it is possible to drop your income to where your health insurance is paid by the government saving the average American thousands of dollars a year and making those forced to pay the higher rates angry. 

The idea of hard work and savings for the future has also been undermined by savers getting paid next to no interest on the money they save and then being forced to pay taxes on the little they are paid. Adding to their pain is the fact that inflation is destroying the buying power and value of the money they worked so hard to save. It does not help that many taxpayers see the government simply pissing away the money they pay in taxes, a glaring recent example is the billions and billions of dollars worth of equipment left behind in Afghanistan. 

The dropping participation in the workforce is not entirely driven by the pandemic. Compounding the problem is the growing perception that working any harder than absolutely necessary makes you a chump. The strong socialist vibe coming out of Washington is enough of an indication that "getting ahead" in life is becoming less possible so why swim against the current. When coupled with demographics and our culture that almost encourages people to grow ever more self-centered. Emphasizing the individual as more important than the big picture has big ramifications.

People want to retire younger and enjoy living rather than working, especially if by working harder and longer, in the end, you find you are in the same place as someone who lived on the dole. We have reached the point where those dedicated to their careers are often ridiculed as greedy or unable to balance priorities. Saying such as, "few people on their death bed find themselves wishing they had spent more time at the office" diminishes the importance of work.

The feelings about work that seem to be filtering through society have a corrosive and damaging effect. Yes, there is a difference between work and a job which many people seem to forget. Work is an activity involving mental or physical effort done to achieve a purpose or result. A job often has more to do with where you work and who benefits from your labor. Workers often do not understand that if they only put in a minimal effort they may actually be a money-losing liability to their employer. Using the definition above removes many of the things people do because it brings them true enjoyment or a sense of satisfaction, in short work is often work and in many cases boring drudgery.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects workforce participation to continue falling

The lack of a motivated workforce hurts productivity and helps drive inflation it also feeds back into reducing the formation of new small businesses.
If you want people to work and work hard, you need to provide them with an incentive rather than bash them. The current amount of paperwork, financial risk, and other factors such as being able to find people willing to work massively reduces the probability of most new businesses succeeding.

While Americans seem unconcerned and nonchalant about this shift in priorities and praise it as a good thing, it is important to remember too much of a good thing can be detrimental to your health. While America is "ramping down" other countries are "ramping up" and when all is said and done, it is more difficult to get jobs back than to lose them. Oddly enough, the desire to work less seems to have resulted in some Americans having to work far more to take up the slack. This is causing resentment to build towards those unwilling to carry what is seen as their share of the burden.

Even as I was writing this Bernie Sanders was on, Face the Nation talking about how America needs the immigrants flooding into the county, his reasoning is we need workers. In my opinion, Bernie is wrong and we should be wary of his argument, more open immigration does not get you significantly more "hard workers" just more people. More immigration does not solve the issue of a declining work ethic. The bottom-line here is that hard workers get far less credit and kudos than they deserve, expect this to continue in coming years.

(Republishing of this article welcomed with reference to Bruce Wilds/AdvancingTime Blog)

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

The War On Cash, Is It A Real Thing? The Answer Is Yes

In our bizarre economy, we hear many things, and ideas are constantly being thrown out to us. This all tends to flow together and help us develop a strategy as to how we should cope with the changing times. One thing we continue to hear is that a war is being waged to eliminate cash. Not only are most people going along with this but many have embraced the notion. 

Some people view carrying cash as dangerous or burdensome. This also dovetails with their desire to spend more than they can afford, when using a credit card it is far easier to continue spending money you do not have. All things considered, when asked, is the war on cash a real thing being directed from those on high, sadly we must answer yes. Cash reflects "options for the people" and it appears those in charge of such things want in gone.

Currencies were developed to facilitate and ease transactions between individuals and businesses. The war on cash is simply another way Washington can continue to show its favoritism towards big business. Small businesses often rely more on small cash transactions and often lack the ability to process other forms of payment. It is ironic that while big businesses and companies like Amazon flourish with each move government makes, the small businesses on Main Street are left worse off.

Your Wealth Will Be Locked In A Computer
A cashless society where records are made and kept reflecting every transaction we make even down to buying a candy bar also allows the government to monitor our every move. This is something Big Brother-type governments strongly aspire to under the guise it will extend its ability to protect us or tamp down on crime, tax evasion, and corruption. For some reason, they seem to think this will allow them to collect more taxes, yet it comes at the same time they continue to tilt the tax code in favor of massive companies.

The way the government has handled coins during the pandemic is a clear indication of its unconcern over the role cash plays in our economy. When coin shortages developed, little or no effort to straighten out the mess was instituted. Considering the massive number of coins sitting unused in jars and cans across America it is a situation that could easily be resolved. In fact, coinage has yet to return to full use following the pandemic, and claims of coin shortages persist. 

This Is Far Too Common
Another place this "war on cash" is showing its head is that as of July 1st my bank started to charge a "cash handling fee" of 13 cents per hundred dollars. Simply put, banks want and feel they are in a position to charge customers for the "inconvenience" of having their employees handle cash. 

Let me be clear, banks, saving accounts, and other vehicles designed to hold cash are paying little or nothing in the way of interest. With the numbers just out that the CPI is up for the 15th straight month, cash is under assault.  this reflects the fourth straight month above 5% on a year-over-year basis. 

While this is the first time the month-over-month CPI has come in below expectations since November 2020 that is not something worthy of celebration. The CPI is routinely criticized for understating and not accurately portraying the true rate of inflation. Another issue is this could be merely the Delta variant's impact creating the illusion inflation is not rising as rapidly as some people think. 

We Should Be Concerned
Inflation, currency debasement, and a slew of other problems have always haunted those holding fiat currencies. This does not mean placing your wealth into one of the new cryptocurrencies is the solution. It does not help that in our world where everything seems to be manipulated, central bankers and their ilk all seem to be moving in the same direction. The masses are trapped in a box and the sides are slowly being moved inward.

Because central banks must keep a lot of liquidity in the system in order to keep it functioning, we have the potential of reaching the place where we drown in paper money and inflation soars. This would signify the end of this war on cash and that cash had lost. It is difficult to justify leaving your wealth in cash that is rapidly losing its value. As we stare into the face of rising inflation and possibly lower negative interest rates the reality that all fiat currencies are in trouble and this is just one big Ponzi scheme becomes very apparent. 

How fast events unfold is impossible to predict. Just as important is the order in which the four major currencies fail. We have good reason to be concerned about this because it has the potential to strip us of our wealth and cause major disruptions throughout society. Until then, which may be years away, cash has value and plays a very important part in our lives. 

(Republishing of this article welcomed with reference to Bruce Wilds/AdvancingTime Blog)

Monday, September 6, 2021

"Nothing To Hide," A Poor Excuse To Justify Surveillance

Many people claim they have nothing to hide and use that as the reason they don't object to the expanding web of surveillance being weaved over them. These people ignore the fact we are surrendering our right to freedom when we as a society go down this path. The reality is that when someone knows all about you and your deepest thought they gain tremendous power over you. This is directly linked to the ability to control you.

This weekend on a short trip I came across a couple of annoying examples of the government dirtying the waters and making our lives more difficult and less free. These include turning parts of the interstate system into a toll road then not taking cash as payment and so-called "photo enforcement" of traffic laws. While many states have gone to using cameras to some extent for enforcing traffic laws, the practice remains highly controversial. Whether it is incorporated in the notion of reducing labor, streamlining the system, or ending counterfeiting or money laundering, the above can complicate our life. Tech is not the gift of freedom many people think. It could be said we are being boxed in and many of our options are not being preserved. 

Some People Remain Optimistic
The picture to the right is one of many that appeared when searching for images showing people stand up and fighting. The idea of resisting new rules and mandates placed upon us conflicts with the idea we should all try to go along with what we are being told to do. Some people have even suggested and claimed those resisting the changes fostered upon us be labeled terrorists. 

This has drastically increased the fear of speaking out, which, was at one time considered a mainstay of a free society. The more I know and learn, the more appalled I have become concerning the direction society is taking mankind. Rather than making us freer, modern society is slowly squeezing and tamping down our right to go about life unimpeded and with a minimum of barriers blocking our ability to, shall we say, "freely move about the cabin."

This has gone to the point where our government thinks it should supply the poor and indigent with free computers and the internet to level the playing field. This in turn forces the rest of us to move in the direction of being "connected" or becoming irrelevant. Of course, being connected means it becomes easier for big brother to watch your every move and allows those in power to exert more control over those under their watchful eye.

The number of forces limiting freedom is on the rise. A new bill has been introduced that would specifically ban all unvaccinated individuals or only one injection from flying. H.R. 4980 that has been posted on, directs the Secretary of Homeland Security to ensure that any individual traveling on a flight that departs from or arrives at an airport inside the United States or a territory of the United States is fully vaccinated against COVID-19 

This comes at a time when many in mainstream media are calling for more restrictions on the movement of unvaccinated people. It also dovetails with other stories coming out during the pandemic involving drones equipped with thermal optic sensors and artificial intelligence to detect if a person was feverish. According to RT News, this dystopic technology has been deployed over Italian beaches. Local Italian media reports such "medical drones" will hover over the beaches of Ostia, a neighborhood of Rome, using thermal optic sensors to measure the temperatures of those on the shore to identify if they could who may be infected with COVID-19.

Officials denied the pilot program which was scheduled to begin was part of an effort to hunt for infected visitors to the beach. Wrapping it in the clock of  "this is all being done, for the greater good" Marta Branca, the head of the public health authority covering Italy's capital said, "It's just a way to make sure that an illness or an accident on the beach or at sea is detected immediately and not a single moment is lost in the rescue efforts." While we do not know if the drone had facial recognition software officials promised to respect privacy. 

In a recent article authored by CJ Hopkins via The Consent Factory, he characterized the so-called “New Normal” as a “global totalitarian ideological movement.” He claims that more and more people have come to see it for what it is, not “insanity” or “an overreaction,” but, in fact, a new form of totalitarianism, a globalized, pathologized, depoliticized form, which is being systematically implemented under the guise of “protecting the public health.”

The problem we now face is, how do we close the Pandora's box that has been opened? A good place to start might be to focus on freedom. We must start by recognizing the claim you have "nothing to hide" is a poor excuse to justify surrendering your freedom to those that care little about you. Drones flying around with thermal optics or facial recognition powered by artificial intelligence are simply part of the growing surveillance state that is increasing worldwide. 

Making this even a greater assault on our freedom is that unbeknownst by many is that we are paying for this. Talk about absolute power, imagine the potential to control people down to their simplest movements. A YouTube video on why people hate Jeff Bezos delves into Amazon's huge surveillance network starting at around the 11:55 mark. This highlights just how pervasive this spy network has become. 

Mainstream media continues to condition people to accept public surveillance and a Big Brother state under the umbrella of COVID or the greater good. Tax money has and continues to be diverted from more important venues to fund spying on the innocent and taking attention away from the guilty. This has created a scenario in which the noose will only continue to tighten around the neck of mankind. We must consider all the little changes we encounter during our day as part of the powers to be chipping away at both our freedom and our ability to defend our rights.


 (Republishing of this article welcomed with reference to Bruce Wilds/AdvancingTime Blog)

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

What's Happening In Afghanistan Has Made Us Less Safe

History shows an aggressive vocal minority can ride herd over a docile majority more concerned about getting on with life than controlling others. What Is Happening In Afghanistan is a good reason to not invite people into your country unless you are sure they embrace your values. Americans seem split down the middle on many issues and the carnage that is about to unfold in Afghanistan will prove that mixing people with different beliefs and values is not a recipe for social cohesion. The Taliban returning and taking control of Afghanistan appears to be a situation where a small group can rule by creating fear.

It Is Done, America Has Left
 Some people argue that overall, the average Afghan being conservative and religious has little problem with this. That is one way to explain how the government supported by America fell in 11 days. I tend to think a combination of other factors led to our Afghan effort dissolving before our eyes. 

Whether America was viewed as an interloper and outside force trying to exert its force upon Afghans, corruption and our arrogance certainly played their part. Then there were all the signals we would leave behind and betray those that helped us, which we did. Those signals did little to instill confidence in those wanting to bring about change. Last but not least the Taliban were willing to bring to the table a brutal reality many people find unacceptable, that is, join us or die.

Many sayings apply to what we seeing happening before our eyes. Things such as success has many fathers and failure is an orphan. Even the proverb you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. It would be wrong to say the story ends here, we, meaning the people that do such things, will spend countless hours and a great deal of our money "looking into" and "studying what went wrong" expect no one to be held accountable.

The President Decided But Didn't Plan
Have no doubt, fingers will be pointed at those involved for not years but decades. The President who ultimately created the withdrawal of our troops had a plan which amounted to, "just do it and hope for the best." This means he will forever carry the shame for what has and is about to happen. Standing before the American people defiantly saying the buck stops here and promising ISIS K will pay for its actions does nothing to lessen his blame or make him appear competent.

While it is difficult to predict how events will unfold we should expect the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan has Long-term ramifications. Whether we are talking about the Taliban, ISIS, or Al-Qaeda which remains a militant Sunni Islamist multi-national organization, we are talking about people most of us view as America-hating terrorists. One of the most mind-blowing parts of all this is President Biden in an act of massive stupidity has left usable billions and billions of US military hardware and explosives in the hands of these people.


Like the rings flowing from a stone landing in a pool of water what is occurring in Afghanistan is likely to spread. An emboldened Taliban with its estimated 75,000 fighters now have the courage to flex their newfound muscle. Over time this may mean millions of people are killed by those sharing their beliefs. The inspiration and justification for acts of war come in many forms. Religion has always ranked high on this list. It is also a key reason things may not remain contained. 

Taliban Parade Of "Captured" Weapons
Efforts to muddy the water with a feeble and pathetic defense by the President claiming he decided on the wise course does not make it so. His decision to trust the Taliban is filled with danger. Like many people looking at this mess, my big problem is how this was done. President Biden can only hope hurricane Ida, wildfires out west, and Covid-19 news may distract Americans from the wheels now set in motion. 

The ugly reality we face is that with new confidence flowing from their victory over America and the huge arsenal listed above our enemies stand rejuvenated. It is silly to think they will not expand their goals or that this is truly over. While many people will argue letting these weapons fall into enemy hands was part of the Military-Industrial Complex's goal to continue an "endless war" that only makes it worse.   


 (Republishing of this article welcomed with reference to Bruce Wilds/AdvancingTime Blog)

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Markets Are Focused On The Fed And Tapering, Not Jobs

Markets are not focused on jobs as much as it is about when tapering will begin. Some economists are going as far as calling the last "a remarkably strong jobs report." I beg to differ. Let's be clear, most of these are not new jobs but simply people returning to the slots made when Covid-19 disrupted the economy. A huge X factor here is of course how Covid-19 fear is handled going forward.

The fact is, Covid-19 is not going to disappear completely and we will have to deal with it one way or another. Yes, jobs are being restored and much of this is being pushed forward by some states no longer giving out the "bonus" unemployment benefits showered upon us by the Federal government. This has resulted in a drop in the number of workers claiming they are no longer unemployed. It has also dropped the unemployment rate.  

While jobs and getting people back to work is most likely a key factor in the action the Fed decides to take, in some ways it is far more important. Getting people back to work is key to productivity which is necessary if we want the economy to recover. Paying people to stay home produces nothing and is a burden upon society. This is why investors being preoccupied with when the Fed will taper rather than unemployment is misplaced. Of course, I'm looking at "the long run."

A recent article in Barron's titled; "The big job gains are over, says this economist. But The Fed Is On The Right Track." gave me pause. If almost ten million people that were in the workforce prior to the pandemic don't, or are slow to return to work, the economy is about to lose a great deal of productivity and this means a great deal of pain in coming years. As far as the Fed being on the right track, so far there is little indication the Fed is about to do much of anything.

The structural changes taking place in the economy are very dangerous.  In addition to not enough workers rushing to return to work, the 4% year-over-year growth in wages screams future inflation. With this comes the potential tail risk of soaring inequality which is something we should not overlook. Some people think companies will not continue offering higher wages in the future but it is very possible a self-feeding loop may have begun.

A toxic brew is being created by current Fed policies that highlight its role as the great enabler. If the Fed was not on its current path other countries would be unable to pursue similar pathways without damaging their currencies and economies. This is creating a rather soggy foundation on which to build a solid recovery. The only way to really move forward is to face our problems and clear the zombie companies that are growing in number from existence. 

The whole idea that more job openings exist than unemployed workers most likely ignores the fact many companies are on a "full-court press" to hire workers on many different platforms. This means multiple ads being placed for the same job slot. Another factor is that, for now, companies are looking to hire more workers than they need with the thought that before long many of these workers will quit or they can cull them at any time. It could prove all the misguided interest in tapering is masking the real state of the jobs market.

Something is broken in the economy and the wild gyrations we continue to see in part are rooted in the fact many Americans are still collecting money from pandemic emergency unemployment claims. This has created a strange relaxed environment in which it seems many Americans would be happy to see the current subsidized and artificial version of the economy continue to roll on forever. Since people have yet to see the problems caused when governments run up huge debts from deficit spending, little concern is being generated and reality is being ignored. 

The biggest problem before us is that tapering is easier said than done and politically unpopular. QE has made the wealthy and powerful much richer and they "control the strings." Risk can build slowly and while some people predict a massive deflationary cycle may happen in the future as defaults surge, it is just as likely inflation is being baked into the whole financial system. This makes strong stagflation the most probable scenario we face in the future. 

(Republishing of this article welcomed with reference to Bruce Wilds/AdvancingTime Blog)

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Food Stamp Increase Means Higher Food Prices For All

With the stock market banging out new record highs each day and so many jobs available, it is odd the Biden Administration feels the need to boost the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP by 25 percent. This constitutes the largest single increase in the program’s history. This significant and permanent increase in benefits will be available indefinitely to all 42 million SNAP beneficiaries.

The increase is projected to cost taxpayers an additional $20 billion per year. It coincides with the end of a 15 percent boost in SNAP benefits that was ordered as a "pandemic protection measure." Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the change means the U.S. “will do a better job of providing healthy food for low-income families.” It will move the amount of the average monthly per-person benefits for qualified recipients from $121 to $157. Never think for a moment this is all about feeding the poor, it is also about pumping up the GDP and profits of many big companies.

Unfortunately, whenever the government increases its role in any sector of the economy history shows it generally has a profound effect on the prices charged to consumers. For proof, we only need to look at healthcare costs and college tuition. In this case, we should expect the same thing to occur to food prices. What does the big increase in the SNAP program mean to consumers both on this program and the rest of us? It means we should expect a big jump in prices in supermarkets across America.

This is not about just simple supply and demand, it goes beyond hunger and directly towards what people "want to eat" which is not necessarily what is good for them. Of course, there are a lot more people concerned about raising the funding for this program than those that care about the needs of the poor and downtrodden. Some of the biggest supporters of SNAP are the companies selling food to those on the program. A person that has grown cynical about government spending might even go so far as to say SNAP is more about enriching food producers and grocers than feeding the hungry.

Before recent expansions, SNAP dumped out around $60 billion in benefits in 2019. Half of these benefits were spent at superstores like Walmart and nearly 30 percent were used at supermarkets like Safeway but today we are seeing a shift towards online shopping. Currently, more than 258,000 firms are authorized to accept SNAP benefits. When it comes to the government being upfront as to where SNAP money goes, don't hold your breath.

A case can be made that taxpayers and the general public have a right to know how much money retailers get by redeeming food stamps. This extends to companies such as Walmart, Amazon, and even the convenience store down the street. An article in the HuffPost three years ago bashed the lack of transparency and what many taxpayers consider a lame excuse for not disclosing how and where the money is spent. The fact is we need and have a right to know exactly how much was spent and at exactly which stores. The government argues that disclosing dollar figures for individual firms would hurt their business and such details should be exempt from the Freedom of Information Act.

This Woman Is Probably Not On SNAP

An audit of how and where SNAP money is being spent would go a long way in clarifying the effectiveness of this program. Throughout the program’s history, politicians and news reporters have obsessed over just what people were purchasing with their benefits. Decades ago, President Ronald Reagan talked about “strapping young bucks” buying T-bone steaks.  

For years the beneficiaries of SNAP used "actual stamps" but now their funds are put on debit cards that are far less visible in checkout lines. A big reason taxpayers are kept in the dark is that retail trade associations, such as the Food Marketing Institute have swooped in arguing the stigma flowing from negative attitudes toward food stamp recipients can create problems for those on the program. Some even went so far as to argue it might cause landlords to increase rent if they discovered tenants were getting SNAP benefits.

A troubling development for many local grocery stores is that online retailer Amazon has been approved to accept SNAP also known as EBT in most states. It could be said, Amazon has used its purchase of Whole Foods, to backdoor its way into this lucrative market. This really muddies the water when it comes to how and where poor people shop for food. 

While Amazon rushs to claim they will provide products at great prices, the reality on the ground is it puts massive pressure on brick and mortar community grocers located in poor communities and forces them out of business. Grocers located in low-income areas often have a lot of problems with shoplifters making it difficult to be competitive. Online shopping only makes things worse as lazy patrons throw these local stores under the bus in response to the promise of shopping made easier, free Amazon Prime, and more from the predatory behemoth retailer.

The SNAP program has opened to Amazon millions of new customers that previously were unable to get credit-cards because of bad credit. An internet search shows that Amazon has tightly latched onto the program as another way to grow ever larger by feeding at the government teat. It is important Americans understand what is happening behind the curtain of the SNAP program facade. 

SNAP is as much about moving people into purchasing more expensive items than simply feeding the poor. Grocers and food producers love the program because it is another way to tap into the government's spending machine. Of course, when you search for, "Online Grocery Shopping Sites" it should not be a surprise that Amazon is already near the top of the list. As a result of Amazon pushing into these areas, it can be argued we will see a big increase in the number of places where people claim "food deserts" exist.

A big issue is what those on the program buy and how it affects their spending. For example, poor John or Jill that has ten dollars in cash slated for food would use their SNAP card instead of cash. This then allows them to use the money for something they consider more important such as a lottery ticket, beer, or cigarettes. It also translates into people on SNAP being able to afford food items that many hard-working Americans others feel they cannot afford. The fact recipients are able to shift spending or do what could be called "substitute shopping" muddies the issue of just how helpful the program is.

A Lot Of SNAP Money Goes To Buying This

A USDA website while noting the difficulty looked looks into what foods are typically purchased by SNAP households.  An interesting chart on the above site shows that generally less healthy foods are purchased by those on the SNAP program. This includes what is known as "prepared foods" which are often much more expensive per ounce than their unprepared counterparts.

Food Inflation has recently been in the news a great deal and is taking its toll on the working poor who were already struggling well before the virus battered the economy. SNAP was designed to supplement the food budget of needy families so they can purchase healthy food and move towards self-sufficiency. Instead, it has become a generous gift to grocers and the companies that prepackage snacks and foods. Anyone that has traveled to other countries will immediately notice not all foods are packaged in small hard plastic and pumped full of preservatives. 

These packaging practices have been a big factor in driving food prices higher. In 2018 analysis reported the three largest food and beverage companies in the U.S. are PepsiCo., Tyson Foods, and Nestle, all of these are big beneficiaries of SNAP. This is a subject I have written about in the past, when looking at the SNAP program, I contend, a great deal of money could be saved if purchases were limited to a few "approved items" and basic foods. This would eliminate much of the wasteful spending going to items such as snacks and sugary beverages.

From all indications, one group that has not been a huge beneficiary of rising food prices are framers. A new report released on August 4th of 2020 by the American Farm Bureau Federation shows farm bankruptcies have continued to increase. AFBF found bankruptcies rose 8% over the prior 12 months. To be clear, in the past, during times of hardship, many consumers were forced to shop more carefully and buy less expensive foods. This is exactly what the grocers and food producers that love SNAP do not want to happen.

(Republishing of this article welcomed with reference to Bruce Wilds/AdvancingTime Blog)

Monday, August 16, 2021

Sad Afghanistan, Most Of Us Gave Up Hope Long Ago

When it comes to Afghanistan most of us gave up hope long ago. Below is a post that was published here on August 11, 2013. Being right is not something we cannot always be proud of. The chaos now occurring paints a sad picture going forward for those living in Afghanistan that hoped the Taliban would slip gently into the night.

Do not take anything below as an endorsement of how the Biden Administration has handled this situation. To say they have done a piss poor job is an understatement. This is one of those situations where there is more than enough blame to go around but hiding at Camp David reflects poorly on the President. Of great concern to all of us is the huge amount of arms and equipment that is now falling into the hands of our enemies, we can only pray none of it comes back to haunt us.

                      Afghanistan's very bleak future

Many Americans have recently tried to block Afghanistan out of their thoughts, going forward little exists to be excited or optimistic about. As with Vietnam, it seems that we may have to settle with claims of "peace with honor" as we rush for the exit. This reminds me of the experience the French had in Algeria. After years of effort, the French did not achieve victory, they only proved how difficult and expensive some of these missions can become. The announcement by President Obama that American troops would be departing leaves many people wondering about the void we will be leaving and how it will be filled.

A Place Where Violence Rules

America intends to leave only a small contingency to train and give "U.S. support" capabilities to the Afghans, this would include counter-terrorism operations. NATO says a 187,000 Afghan force is in place to provide security and protection for the Afghan people. A major problem is that the Afghan Army has been plagued by inefficiency and endemic corruption. Training efforts have been drastically slowed by the corruption, widespread illiteracy, vanishing supplies, and lack of discipline, this became apparent when U.S. trainers reported missing vehicles, weapons, and other military equipment, including the outright theft of fuel provided by the U.S.

To say the many problems in Afghanistan can be overcome may be optimistic, death threats have been leveled against U.S. officers who have tried to stop Afghan soldiers from stealing. Afghan soldiers who find improvised explosive devices often snip the command wires instead of marking them and waiting for U.S. forces to come to detonate them. This just allows the insurgents to return and reconnect them. U.S. trainers frequently remove the cell phones of Afghan soldiers hours before a mission for fear that the operation will be compromised. American trainers also have to spend large amounts of time verifying that Afghan rosters are accurate and are not padded with "ghosts" being "paid" by Afghan commanders who quietly collected the bogus wages.

Then there is the issue of desertion and insider attacks. Desertion has been a significant problem in the Afghan Army. One in every four combat soldiers quit the Afghan Army during the 12-month period ending in September 2009, according to data from the U.S. Defense Department. Beginning in 2011, insurgent forces in Afghanistan began using a tactic of insider attacks on the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and Afghan military forces. In the attacks, Taliban personnel or sympathizers belonging to, or pretending to belong to, the Afghan military or police forces suddenly attack ISAF personnel, often within the security of ISAF military bases and Afghan government facilities.

With Karzai scheduled to step down next year, the Afghan people have reason to be concerned about their future. The challenges facing Afghanistan are both vexing and formidable. Many people are concerned as to the cost and commitments to security going forward and if the Taliban will play a role, their attitude towards women would most likely set back much of the progress that has been achieved. Currently, the future of American's future involvement is not carved in stone, but it looks like a fast exit is coming. According to Obama, any agreement on troop withdrawals must include an immunity agreement in which U.S. troops are not subjected to Afghan law. American is looking to legally protect its troops after a series of damaging incidents and disclosures involving American troops in Afghanistan occurred.

High-profile military incidents like the one involving U.S. troops posing with body parts of dead insurgents and a video apparently showing a U.S. helicopter crew singing "Bye-bye Miss American Pie" before blasting a group of Afghan men with a Hellfire missile, the 2012 Afghanistan Quran burning protest, and the Panjwai shooting spree has created fractures in the partnership between Afghanistan and the NATO troops. These incidents have undermined the image of foreign forces in a country where there is already deep resentment due to civilian deaths. It has also added to the perception among many Afghans that U.S. troops lack respect for Afghan culture and people.

Considering the strained relations between Afghanistan and the United States it may be time to exit. President Obama stated "We achieved our central goal, or have come very close to achieving our central goal, which is to de-capacitate al-Qaeda, to dismantle them, to make sure that they can’t attack us again,” he then added. “At the end of this conflict, we are going to be able to say that the sacrifices that were made by those men and women in uniform have brought about the goal that we sought.” The fact is many Americans may feel this is an optimistic view of the situation by a President who like many of the American people know or are inclined to think we have spent way too much achieving very little. 


 (Republishing of this article welcomed with reference to Bruce Wilds/AdvancingTime Blog)