EXECUTIVE INTELLIGENCE SUMMARY – 22 APR 16
The National PMESII section is a break down of national- and regional-level Political, Military, Economic, Social, Infrastructure, and Information events and trends. Appendix: Collection of acronyms and definitions used.
[wcm_nonmember] In this EXSUM…
- Alt-Right Party to Emerge from Republican Ashes?
- Conflict with Russia and China is about Global Order
- Financial SHTF for Several States & Many Municipalities In Coming Years
- More Americans Concerned About Crime Now Than in Last 15 years
- La Niña: Get Ready for Another Rough, Dry Summer
- Local Law Enforcement Spies Intelligence Collection
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Political/Government: Alt-Right Party to Emerge from Republican Ashes?
For months, I’ve been reluctant to weigh in on the presidential election. For starters, there are just too many unknowns — lots of predictions and gut feelings, but a lack of factual evidence. I think that a case can be defended that both the mainstream Democrats and establishment Republicans prefer Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump, hence their #NeverTrump rallying cry. We’re still a few months out from July’s Republican National Convention, and there’s a great chance that Donald Trump will have the rug pulled out from under him. What the establishment Republican Party wants to do to Donald Trump will make what they did to Ron Paul in 2012 look like a playground slap fight. By all indications, it’s unlikely that Donald Trump is going to be nominated at the convention by the Republican establishment. Those with the keys and those who make the rules don’t like his anti-establishment flair.
Where the Republican Party goes from July is certainly the million dollar question. Back in 2009, trends forecaster Gerald Celente predicted that a third party candidate would win the 2012 presidential election (Celente was only partially wrong — a member of the American Democratic Socialist Workers Party was elected as a democrat). While the prediction was a wild one, the roots of the prediction — namely that, for several election cycles now, a growing number of Americans clamor for a third party — were on point. A Gallup poll from 2013 reported that 60% of Americans believed that a third major party should be included into the political spectrum. But from which of the two major parties will a third emerge? I don’t see the Democrat Party breaking along the lines of liberal progressive and Marxist socialist, because the two factions are so alike. Given the anti-Republican atmospherics from within the Republican Party, if a third major party is to be established, it’s possible that the grassroots conservative voting base, after failing to reform the Republican establishment’s moderation, sees its way to creating a new party. According to a Gallup poll from last year, nearly 50% of Republicans identify as religious conservatives.
Alternative Analysis: While mainstream and leftist news outlets bemoan the alternative-right, America-first sentiment surely is exhibited among many in the Republican Party. The alt-right consists largely of conservatives who believe that Western Civilization is under attack and that the values of Liberty and self-determination that made traditional America so great should be preserved at all costs. The alt-right is the voting bloc most likely to form its own party, especially if led by its most prominent member and the Republican establishment continues its trend leftward.
Is the time ripe for a major third party? Once Donald Trump is sidelined by the mainstream Republican Party, he has limited political options. Trump is vindictive, if anything, so right now I’m willing to bet that July won’t be the last time we see his name associated with the presidential election. His run as an alt-right independent is the wrench that may kill the Republican establishment’s machine, if he’s not derailed before then.
Military/Security/Defense: Conflict with Russia and China is about Global Order
The base element of Middle East conflict is which faction will control the region — Sunni or Shia? Syria, Iraq, Yemen and other nations have become playgrounds for Saudi- and Iranian-backed proxy groups fighting for regional supremacy. In the same way, conflict involving NATO/U.S. and Russia in Europe, and China in southeast Asia, can be pared down to a battle for global order. Each of these areas — the Middle East, to include North Africa, Europe, and Southeast Asia — is a potential battleground for the next world war.
There’s blood in the water, so to speak, as the American dollar, power, and influence declines in the 21st Century. The West — namely U.S., NATO, and other European nations — are struggling to hang onto global hegemony in the face of rising powers such as Russia and China, which both contribute to and feed off the West’s declining power. It should come as no surprise that America’s days are numbered, which is to say that Russia and China pose a serious threat to the current global order.
And that’s why there’s such a push to confront Russia and China. A near-peer conflict, if won, could extend the rule of the empire by decades, if not longer. Whether America experiences a soft landing or a crash is moot at this point. It’s going to experience some turbulence and there are those who want it to be re-born, so to speak, as the eventually cashless and centrally-controlled model for global society. Dick Morris, a former Clintonian, in 2009 said on Fox News that the conspiracy theorists were right. “[T]hose people who have been yelling, oh, the UN is going to take over… they’ve been crazy, but now they’re right.” And the only way to accomplish their model society is to confront the threats to the current order, including domestic ones. Russia and China pose the greatest strategic threats, followed by American Constitutionalists.
So can we expect a third world war in which America’s most ardent defenders of nationalism are expected to fight? Will the world war boost economies and re-direct domestic turmoil to a foreign foe? The answer is, and has always been, yes. The real question for Liberty-loving Americans is, are we willing to lose a global war in order to save the nation?
Economic/Financial: Financial SHTF for Several States & Many Municipalities In Coming Years
Stanford University’s Hoover Institute published a report this week detailing the pension shortfalls for over 500 municipalities across the U.S. The gist is that cities are under funding pensions and over estimating their net rate of return for pension funds. For instance, the author cites that states and municipalities expect a return rate of 7.6% per year, whereas a return rate of 3% per year is more accurate. The author comes to the conclusion that structural reform — increases in pension funding, cuts to benefits, and/or tax hikes — will be necessary to meet pension demands. Through 2014, local and state pension funds were underwater by over $3.4 trillion, and as the market stays flat or consolidates, that number will grow larger.
(AC: More bailouts. Congress is now mulling over additional legislation that could include a bail out for Puerto Rico, the island territory that can’t pay its bills, either. And the idea of having the federal government bail out states like Illinois, New Jersey, and California — bastions of liberal economics — is floating around the Beltway, too. It’s a problem likely to be tackled by the president in four to eight years, which does not bode well for the nation’s finances in the next five to ten. A federal bail out is probably not going to be paid back solely by the bailed-out state, but by all American tax payers.
And it’s likely to create issues for solvent states like Texas and much of the Mountain West. Tax payers from solvent states are going to be footing the bill for insolvent states, or alternatively, the federal government will be printing money in order to bail out the failed states.
After the American Revolution, the newly-created federal government agreed to take on the debt the states incurred during the war. Through the Funding Act of 1790, the federal government took on some $21.5 million in state debt, to be paid off by taxing the states. But the problem was that states like Georgia and New Hampshire — which had just $300,000 each in debt — were now taxed to help pay off Pennsylvania’s $2.2 million and and New York’s $1.2 million in debt. The Act was criticized as unfair, and for good reason. But there is a precedent for federal bail out of state debts, and unless the market outperforms beyond investors’ wildest expectations — which won’t be happening under the watchful eye of the invisible hand — be ready to hear about the need for the federal government to save insolvent states.)
Social/Demographic: More Americans Concerned About Crime Now Than in Last 15 years
According to a recent Gallup poll, more Americans are more concerned with crime now than in the past 15 years. Fifty-three percent (53%) of Americans are concerned a ‘great deal’ about crime, compared with just thirty-nine percent (39%) in 2014.
(AC: The report rightly points out that crime is still down overall in the past 15 years, but that’s not to say that crime will stay low. There has been a small increase in crime in 2015, compared to 2014. There are a few things we must keep in mind when we talk about crime trends. The first is that one of the largest reasons for a drop in crime is simply a decrease of young people, compared to older ones. According to a Brookings study, sixty percent (60%) of known criminal offenders are aged 30 or below. Americans aged 40-50, by and large, are less likely to be involved in criminal behavior under normal conditions.
The second thing to keep in mind is that perception of crime trends and crime trends themselves are often not the same. Despite crime decreasing over the past 10 years, many Americans perpetually believe that crime is increasing. Much of this can be attributed to what’s called frequency bias. To give a recent example, in the past three weeks, there have been three murders in the Austin, Texas area. The first two cases received so much attention that some area residents thought that Austin was on the verge of a murder epidemic; that one of the safest cities in American for its size was on its way to becoming one of the most dangerous. Frequency bias occurs here when murders have happened in the Austin area but received little attention, so residents didn’t know that these crimes had been committed. But now that there were two murders in the same week, they assume that the murder rate for the past year is similar to the murder rate for the past week.
So what does this mean to us? It means two things; the first of which is that we should be experiencing a growing opportunity to speak with our neighbors about crime. A problem (criminality) leads to a solution (neighborhood watch) which leads down the path of community security and self-sufficiency. And the second is that it’s important to understand baseline criminality for our areas. If we don’t know the baseline — what’s normal — then it could make it more difficult for us to identify what’s abnormal, or trick us into believing what’s perfectly normal is abnormal.
In short, unless we as SHTF intelligence analysts have an accurate picture, then we run a high risk of producing faulty intelligence, which leads to poor decision-making.)
Infrastructure/Energy: La Niña: Get Ready for Another Rough, Dry Summer
Although rain and snowfall has brought some relief to drought-stricken California, 95% of the state is still under drought conditions — and this is through the wettest part of the year. While the state is better off than this time last year, it’s entering into historically drier seasons, which means the reprieve is likely over. As of 01 April, reservoirs in Arizona, California, Nevada, and New Mexico are still at below average levels for the year, according to the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Meanwhile, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) last week issued a formal watch for La Niña, the opposite weather pattern of the rainy El Niño, putting a 70% likelihood of a very dry rest of the year for California and the Southwest.
[AC: We can likely expect the same kinds of reports from California’s normally-rich growing valleys that we saw last year. California has been able to weather (no pun intended) the current four-year drought for two reasons. In the past two years, there have been record water transfers from agriculture to the municipal and industrial sectors, and from northern California to southern California. The second reason is the use of wells and ground water for irrigation, industrial, and municipal consumption, which has accounted for around 70% of surface water shortfalls. But since using that water use is unsustainable — i.e., an increasing number of wells and a lower rate of ground water replacement result in less water to pump from the ground and more energy to do it — groundwater is no long-term solution to California’s drought.
As long as the drought continues, California will continue to shed agriculture jobs, most of which are seasonal and filled by migrant workers. But the economic impacts expand outside the agricultural sector, targeting the businesses and services that migrant workers typically use. In total, conservative estimates put employment losses of between 10,000 and 20,000 jobs, and economic losses around $2-3 billion per year. In short, the California drought is unlikely to cause national SHTF conditions in the near-term. The current drought, historically, has lasted decades, hence its name, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation. Should these drought conditions occur over a longer period of time, we’ll likely see continued migration to wetter areas in the Mountain West, and specifically the American Redoubt, with worsening conditions increasing those outflows.]
Information Systems/Surveillance/Communications: Local Law Enforcement Spies Intelligence Collection
One significant trend we’ve observed in local and state law enforcement agencies (LEA) is the use of Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) collection, especially through social media. The use of social media by LEAs to track criminality is nothing new, but the contracts from local police departments to purchase the software suites is a developing trend.
Take San Diego, for instance, whose police department just signed an $18,000 contract with Geofeedia, a social media monitoring service based in Chicago. Using the Geofeedia software, patrol officers, detectives and crime analysts are able to draw boundaries on a map — much like our Areas of Interest — from which social media posts are monitored. One of the techniques I teach in the SHTF Intelligence course is setting up alerts in your area for social media posts. We can use websites like If This, Then That to alert us when anyone uses social media to check into your local tactical shop or gun range, for instance.
Posts from Instagram (where users post photos), Twitter, Facebook and a host of other sources can contain geotags, which can be automatically plotted on a map, giving LEAs potentially real-time information on the whereabouts and activities of individuals in the area. All this data that’s being monitored is open source — that is, it’s open and free to any third party — so there are no legal boundaries for using this software. But there are privacy concerns associated with the practice. Those concerns are placed squarely on the shoulders of the social media users themselves. Neighbors or criminals could just as easily retrieve the data, so it’s not something that’s uniquely available to law enforcement.
As part of our Intelligence Preparation of the Community, we should not only be investigating the capabilities of our LEAs, but also assessing their commitment to the Constitution and the rule of law. One of my greatest fears for this nation is that, through worsening economic conditions, we slip into the depravity experienced by much of Latin America, where corruption is a problem from the bottom to the top of LEAs. Corrupt authorities in a without rule of law scenario, who are armed with this real-time social media tracking, could wreak havoc on our abilities to maintain secure communities. The time to do our homework is now.
Lastly, we at Forward Observer at working on similar software, built for community security. The power of open source information and automation is too great not to make good uses of it for overall preparedness and security. I don’t have a roll-out date, however, I wanted subscribers to know that it’s in the pipeline.
AC: Analyst Comment; an opinion, explanation or clarification
EXSUM: Executive Intelligence Summary
LEA: Law Enforcement Agency
NOAA: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
OSINT: Open Source Intelligence