Category Archives: Life’s Lessons

Lessons from Bangalore Kidnapping

  • Stratfor just had interesting article on ways to minimize chances of being kidnapped.

    Having personal experience, I pay attention to articles like this…now.

    Last place I expected to be kidnapped was at the drive through window of my bank. Had I been paying more attention I may have averted situation entirely. (Failing to notice that no bank employee was at drive up window. Watching my mirrors to see bank robber with mask and guns coming toward my vehicle would have enable me to just drive off. Surprise factor would likely avoided any gunfire from robber. Picking up gun when he through first one through window. Turning it on him would have produced stalemate.

    I thought I was someplace safe…my mistake

    Like most victims, I had lot of things I could have done…had I been  paying more attention to my surroundings.

    Student in the Stratfor article was abducted from restaurant on his way home from university. His motor bike was his normal mode of transportation. But it was in the shop…which meant shop employees knew he would have to alter his mode of transportation home.

    Keys kidnappers use to identify potential victims:

    -Visual that victim is in higher economic bracket than most.

    -Career of parent that tips off economic status of family.

    -Anything that “tips” kidnappers that your status could benefit them.

    -May kidnappers have business or people that alert them to potential victims.

    Steps to minimize chances of kidnapping.

    -Always be aware of your surroundings. Are there a group of  people where they normally would not be? Anyone observing you? Someone suspicious parked across street?

    -Adjusting one’s personal routine. Don’t go home the exact same way every day, choose different side of the street, etc.

    -Identify choke points when traveling, on foot, public or private transportation. You may not be able to avoid choke points but if you know where they are, you know to be more aware of your surroundings.

    -When dropping off vehicle for repair, keep quiet about how you will be getting around. Don’t give the shop employees information they could use against you. Applies to any business you frequent. Less they know about you the safer you are likely to be.

    -When varying your routine, pay attention to restaurants or businesses you step into. Take a quick “read” on the business and the attitude of employees and customers. Is this business you would normally visit? If not, move on.

    -Pay attention when checking out of a store, or placing an order at fast food restaurant. Anyone hanging around close by? Anyone showing more interest in you than normal?

    -Be sure you know where you are and your surroundings before accessing your cell phone, email, or texting. When outside or in different place than normal, spend as much time glancing around your surroundings as you do on your cell phone. You can’t afford to spend 2 minutes ignoring your surroundings. Only takes few seconds for someone to put hand over your mouth, get you off balance and force you into a vehicle…especially if they have a knife or gun in your ribs.

    -If you find yourself in a kidnapping situation pay attention to all the little details. Nerves of your attackers, their dress, what are they paying attention to (often tip you off on a way to escape), try to engage them in conversation, or at least listen to them, to learn as much as you can. (This can be bad thing to do if kidnappers appear highly agitated.)

                   When I was kidnapped in bank robbery I quickly saw that kidnapper was very     nervous. Probably had not planned  on kidnapping anyone.  That knowledge enabled me to help kidnapper calm down by talking calmly and in low voice, and giving him some options. That eventually enabled me to escape. What worked in my instance would not have worked had the kidnapper been highly agitated. Key was getting a read on kidnapper so I could figure out what  could help me out of the situation.

    -Keep friends and family apprised of any potential threats you become aware of…including potential bad business deals.

    -Understand that any behaviors that make you stand out, like fancy cars, expensive private schools, etc., are things kidnappers look for. It doesn’t mean not having those things, just be aware where you are using them. Drive a nondescript vehicle through the worst part of town, not your Ferrari.

    Most kidnappings are for financial gain. But that doesn’t mean they can’t still go bad.

    Be aware of your surroundings.

Stratfor Daily Intelligence Brief: Sept. 1, 2016 is excellent source of information about world events…presented without political agenda. There are universal lessons to personal security.

Major Banks Charging Negative Interest Rates

Lots of speculation on when major banks would start charging customers to keep their money in the banks. Appears it is happening much faster than most experts thought.

Earlier this week Dutch bank ABN Amro was first large bank to announce it would pass negative interest rates to customers as early as Oct 1. Then Royal Bank of Scotland, one of largest banks in UK sent letters to business customers that if could impose negative rates also.

Options for you

If you are with one of major banks consider moving some savings to smaller bank or credit union. For now, leave your checking account where you have it. Just start protecting your emergency savings.

Security Ideas for Strategic Planning

Was just reading interesting article on protective security measures by Scott Stewart in Stratfor. Turns out there are many similarities to Strategic Planning.

Author was in business of providing protective services to government officials, religious figures, royalty, business executives and ultra luxury individuals.

Professional protective security people certainly understand weapons and self defense. They realize that if they have to rely on these they actually have failed to do their job. True protective service entails anticipating situations and being prepared for them in advance to avoid confrontations. When confrontation is probable, goal is to structure confrontation on terms the protective service experts dictate.

Action is always faster than reaction. Just watch a football game. Proactive approaches involve “excellent situational awareness, thorough logistics planning, good security assessments, careful trip and individual site security advances, liaisons with counterparts and strict operational security. Protection teams can also employ powerful tools such as protective intelligence investigations, threat and psychological assessments of people with an unusual interest in the protectee, and countersurveillance detection teams.”

Leaders use the same approach when doing their strategic planning, whether it’s to address an emergency or a surprise in business, or to do the annual strategic plan, or long term plan based on business outlooks years out.

It’s already June, are you hitting your strategic plan for first half of year? What adjustments are necessary for second half of 2016? What are your plans for 2017 if economy holds strong? Starts to soften? Either nationally or just in your market or,selective market segments?

What’s Important to You?

World is in different place than ever before. That’s true with every generation over the history of time. Ah, but do you know what pitfalls are this time? Have you taken steps to minimize effect of disasters, natural or government induced?

What’s different this time?   Most countries are broke.

So what are most countries doing? And why do you care?

They are relying on printing presses creating a rapidly expanding money supply.  Historically this has happened to many countries at one time or another. We all know the boom bust times in various South American countries.

This time it’s happening at the same time to most industrialized countries at the same time. Think China, Japan, Great Britain, US, India, almost all of Europe and Africa. Governments are increasingly tied to each other in the ways they exchange money and honor currencies.

Japan and China own trillions of the US debt. Countries have huge amounts of actual US dollars. That means re-pegging the value of US dollar won’t work. In past we were tied to gold standard. That would no work in US this time around. Countries that hold trillions of dollars outside the US could still sell the currency for any amount they wanted and US could not stop it.

Back in 2009 US public and private dept was in neighborhood of $55 trillion. That debt had significant impact on US economy. Today, US public and private debt has climbed to $65 trillion. Total US debt is up 150% since 2000. Additionally rest of world has added another $57 trillion in public and private debt.

This is referred to as “hot money” lending. But does it matter? McKinsey points out that debt, around the world, is outpacing economic growth. When economic growth can’t finance all these loans, only governments are willing to step into the breach.

This debt can only be paid off in 3 ways:

-Paid off by the people, businesses, and countries that took on the debt.
-Declaring the debt null and void…destroying relationships with those who provided the money in the first place. This has been used by many countries over the history of the world…but never by a number of countries in a very short period of time. No one knows the effect if several countries started down this path.

Federal Reserve Richmond, VA branch recently reported that 61% of all liabilities in US are now guaranteed by the government, implicitly or explicitly. In 1999 the percentage was 45% (mostly Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac). Today more and more of our financial institutions rely on the government to access credit.

Unfortunately, government guarantees are not shown on any government balance sheet…in US or elsewhere in the world. Governments are relying on massive currency and interest rate manipulation to fund themselves. World has never experienced anything like this by the major economic powers of the world.

Sooner or later this bubble will pop, like many others have over the years. But when?

Nobody knows. But what it means for your personal wealth is known. The biggest threat to your wealth isn’t a stock market crash. Instead it’s from confiscation and/or devaluation by our government. Think Greece last year that took 25% of savings from citizens bank accounts.

In the 1930’s people and companies suffered massive losses. But the actual wealth didn’t disappear. Wealth transferred from creditors to lenders. This time around we will have the above, but will also have major collapse in governments politically. The US government has pledged a large amount of the wealth of the citizens to other people…through all kinds of government programs. We are all familiar with Detroit bankruptcy. That will occur within America and many other countries…within a few years.  What’s a few years? Again, no one knows for sure, but within 10-20 years seems realistic.

Once inflation takes off it can have devastating effects quickly. Think back to the Carter years when inflation in US hit 20%.

US, and most countries of the world can’t sustain government spending that is vastly outstripping tax revenues coming in. Sooner or later the piper has to be paid.

Previously the world would have a 1930’s situation where loans would be called. Difference then and now? Governments were not the primary financiers of the world debt.  Banks and financial institutions had the primary role.  If government can’t pay all the people that have been promised money there will be riots on massive scale.

So what can individuals do?

10,000 doctors every year are refusing to serve Medicare patients. That means many people won’t be able to get doctors appointments. What you can do? Doctors, not participating in Medicare are starting to charge patients monthly fee to see them. In effect doctors are signing up the patients they want to see to give doctors the income they want. These patients at least are assured medical opinions will be available to them. Start understanding medical coverage options in other countries…like Costa Rica or Panama (there are lots of others.) Those two countries have doctors that were educated in US and majority speak English. Last those countries are just few hours away and charge fraction of US doctors and hospitals.

Above is only one example. Many people have majority of their wealth tied up in value of their homes. What happens in major downturn when housing prices drop? In 2009 housing values dropped by over 50% in some markets. For most Americans that means there houses are worth far less than they paid. What can you do? Work to eliminate as much debt as possible, especially credit card debt and auto loans. If you can, pay off your house…or go to 15 year mortgage. Objective is to reduce debt so you can cover any remaining debt in a down turn.

Wages have remained flat in US for many years. How many? Depends whose figures you want to use. Assuredly since at least late 1990’s. Differences in years typically depends on rate of inflation that is applied.

To minimize this, acquire the things you need if times get tough. For some that’s food storage, for others it’s cash, or other products and supplies that are important to them.  If there’s run at supermarkets toilet paper becomes pretty valuable. Natural disasters have cleared the shelves of supermarkets many times. The economy doesn’t have to tank to cause major disruptions. People who have taken, even just a few steps, to prepare for emergencies that would affect them sleep better.

Most people live day-to-day. They assume things won’t happen. They listen and believe the media. Remember, no government cares much about their citizens. We are each just a number. Any of us that think differently aren’t thinking.

Theodore Roosevelt’s Ideas on Immigration

Theodore Roosevelt’s ideas on Immigrants and being an AMERICAN in 1907.

‘In the first place, we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed, or birthplace, or origin. But this is predicated upon the person’s becoming in every facet an American, and nothing but an American…There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isn’t an American at all. We have room for but one flag, the American flag… We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language.. And we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people.’
Theodore Roosevelt 1907

Recent article on immigration on LinkedIn got me thinking about  immigration issues around the world. Immigrants trying to force their way into Europe, but not anywhere in Europe, to the countries with the best jobs. Syrians and other immigrants from Africa just trying to get out. Closer to home,  illegal immigrants coming across from Mexico, many with criminal past or criminal intents. Many from  other countries that are just using Mexico as a conduit into US.

Countries are trying a “one size fits all” approach to immigration. It’s not working.
Appears there are 3 immigrant issues:

-Those desperate to save their own lives and lives of their children from despots. These people, for most part, would take any jobs, and probably do anything to assimilate into the country they go to. These groups are from all walks of life, uneducated and unskilled to highly educated and highly skilled.

-Very selfish immigrants looking to improve their lives who demand that country they immigrate to meet their demands and adapt to their cultures. They don’t expect or want to learn language of their host country, may not want to adapt their religious practices to the customs of their host country, and some want to bring their own legal system with them instead of adapting to their host country.

-Immigrants looking for hand outs from country they move to. Without any real interest in the country they are immigrating to and without any intent of adapting to assimilate.

Foreign governments also are taking three approaches

-There are despotic governments that are just trying to eliminate certain ethnic types to “purify” their country. For political and/or religious grounds.

-Countries where the government simply can’t function well enough to take care of all the population. Some are well meaning. Most of these countries, are just struggling to stay in power and are spending lot of their economic resources trying to “keep the lid on” internal uprisings.

-Still other governments are interested in exporting the criminal element in their societies. Or exporting terrorism.

Countries facing a large influx of immigrants need 3 approaches as well. One immigration policy doesn’t fit all situations.

-Immigrants fleeing for their lives need to be assimilated. Those immigrants also need to be carefully screened to assure they are not criminals in their own countries or terrorists or religious extremists unwilling to adapt to host country. These immigrants must be willing to learn the language of their host country, agree to follow the host countries laws, and agree to take the jobs that are suitable for them. They need to be disbursed within a country, that means they can’t form mini cultures within their host country. That also means the host countries have to work hard to enable the people to assimilate as painlessly as possible.

-Immigrants looking for free ride, or to impose their culture in their host country need to be deported back to their country of origin. That means countries need to adopt standards that let them deport people for up to several years. Most immigrants are smart enough to tell host country anything the host country wants to hear, to get in. Agenda of these immigrants may not surface for months or years. When those agendas come out the immigrants must be dealt with.

-Immigrants that foment unrest in their host countries need to be dealt with very harshly. At very least they need to be deported and not allowed to visit the host country…ever again. If, after deportation, they sneak back in, they need to be dealt with using strong corporal punishment. They have already demonstrated their country of origin can’t keep them in. They have already demonstrated they don’t care about their host country.

No country is rich enough to accept all immigrants who want to come.

Each country needs to come to grips with this. As rich as world thinks US is, we can’t assimilate millions of immigrants who don’t speak English, when majority lack education or skills to perform jobs we need done. Majority of immigrants need at least a few years to adapt to their host country. Countries of the world, including US, don’t have the financial reserves to accommodate all the people who want to immigrate. Most countries are already facing financial difficulties taking care of their own citizens who need help. Each country has an obligation to take care of their own citizens before helping others.That’s harsh, but it is an economic fact of life.

Politicians of the world, wake up. The world is way to complex. Countries can no longer afford “one size fits all” policies.



Remind Your Political Representatives

Our elected representatives have forgotten some basics. Following is very simple. If you agree, pass them along to your representatives. You can be sure those looking for handouts are continually contacting elected representatives. Time for rest of us to stop nodding our heads and start to speak up.

“No society ever thrived because it had a large and growing class of parasites living off those who produce.”

There are those that truly can’t care for themselves should receive help. That was the original intent of these programs.  Anyone on welfare or getting food stamps, housing assistance, etc. should be required to work 20 hours a week on public assistance projects. I suspect the first to step forward will be the people with disabilities. Most of them understand what they could do to contribute to their own welfare and they want to contribute.

We need to stop calling all public assistance programs  ‘Entitlements’.  Welfare, Food Stamps, etc., etc., are not entitlements. They are tax-payer funded handouts.

Social security and veterans benefits are ‘Entitlements’ because the people receiving them are entitled to them. They were earned and paid for by the recipients.

Let your elected officials know you understand the difference between ‘hand outs’ and ‘entitlements.’ Do they? Pin them down. What are they going to actually do?

Fed Policy is Destroying or Crippling Whole Industries

Just read interesting article on role the Federal Reserve (Fed) in US and their counterparts in other countries are impacting business negatively.

We all know that cranking up the  printing presses creates money out of thin air. That’s  normally, inflationary, which is why politicians like it. Politicians love to spend money. If politicians think they might have to pay it back they want to pay it back with cheaper dollars.

Printing money drives down the cost of capital. Low cost capital encourages companies to expand faster than economic need dictates…think about all the money invested in the oil and gas industries in recent years. Production in US has doubled in the last 6 years…but demand has not doubled.

Creating wealth in the past always started with saving money. Governments are trying to change that with the printing press. It’s working on the mass population.

Now individuals, businesses, and countries can borrow money and make purchases with very little down. They don’t even need the assets to “back” the money they have borrowed. Money creation, done relatively slowly, creates inflation. Done very rapidly, like the world is experiencing now, and money creation can be deflationary before it becomes inflationary.

When the cost to borrow money is almost nothing, it encourages speculation. Today, most major corporations have plenty of working capital to invest, but are they investing it wisely? Or just spending money? Even stock buybacks can be costly if companies are buying their own stock at inflated prices.

Interest rates used to be set based on actual demand for capital. Now they appear to be based on the whim of the Fed and other governments.

Fed has Created at Least 2 Financial Market Bubbles

First is the above mentioned capital that has flowed into gas and oil industries. $5 trillion in last decade, most financed with junk bonds and spent by relatively small, Texas based, oil and gas companies. This is primary reason Texas has created as many new jobs as the rest of the country combined.

Today, these smaller companies are feeling the effect of lower gas prices. It is starting to spill over to the larger oil and gas companies.  Chevron lost over $2 BB in oil and gas operations last quarter. Last time it saw loss like this was 20 years ago.

Share buy back programs coupled with sharply lower oil and gas prices are having serious impact on these companies. Oil and gas companies either have to borrow more or reduce dividends or share buybacks. Either will cause a drop in share prices.

Second, Fed’s easy money policy has greatly increased subprime auto lending. Almost  the same as the subprime lending in housing market 10 years ago. People bought houses they couldn’t afford. Now they are buying vehicles they can’t afford. When bubbles burst, assets lose value…a lot of value..value that takes years to recover. Some is never recovered.

One company has $26 BB in outstanding auto loans, $21 billion of which are subprime.  And that’s  just one of several companies with billions in subprime auto loans. Moody’s expects 27% of these subprime auto loans to default. That effectively wipes out the projected profit margins.

Combine greedy lenders with irresponsible buyers and it’s a recipe with serious repercussions.

The housing subprime crisis occurred when people lost jobs and the stock market lost lot of value in 2008. Today stock market is close to all time high and employment is rising. Even average incomes are increasing…yet, loan defaults are high already.

Something is badly wrong in the underwriting and funding of new car loans.

What’s It All Mean?

Right now everything is good. When auto loans can’t be repaid, or oil and gas companies can’t repay loans we will have deflation short term.  I will start to reduce prices on both new and used cars. It will likely also reduce demand for gas.

When defaults occur credit dries up quickly…for consumers or businesses.

Fleet sales by auto manufactures to rental car companies account for 25% of new car sales. Rental companies dispose of vehicles within 1-2 years. As people default on their auto loans the auto manufactures, rental car companies, used vehicle sales, and those holding the loans will all be negatively affected.

Is All of this Just Conjecture?

No. January 2015 inflation hit negative territory…deflation.  (Measure used was Consumer Price Index including food and energy.) By June we had barely climbed out of negative territory.

The Fed’s printing press policies rather than creating instant inflation are creating deflation in select industries and creating deflationary conditions in others.

How about the rest of the world? Europe is in deflation, Japan spent couple decades in deflation. Asia saw deflation in 2013 and is now facing deflation again.

Practical Solution

None of us can impact the government. Each of us, as individuals, or companies, can increase savings and reduce or re-structure debt. Restructure leases and contracts, whether on buildings, equipment, with vendors, cell phones, or internet services.

Quote of the Day-Sept. 6, 2015

“Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small jobs.”
Henry Ford

Henry Ford (July 30, 1863 – April 7, 1947) was an American industrialist the founder of the of Ford Motor Company, and sponsor of the development of the assembly line technique for mass production.

Quote of the Day-Sept. 5, 2015

“The trouble with good advice, is that you often learn how good it is after not taking it.”
Frank Tyger

Brooklyn-born, Frank Tyger spent most of his career at the Trenton (NJ) Times (known today as the Times of Trenton).  At the paper Frank wore many hats including editorial cartoonist, humorist, columnist and Promotion Manager, earning him the nickname of “Mr. Times” amongst his colleagues and the Trenton community.

Frank’s editorial work focused on national and social issues of the day, and celebrated the humor and positive side of the human spirit.  His work appeared in The Times, and was reprinted both nationally and internationally in other newspapers and magazines.

Frank passed away on May 2, 2011 at the age of 8.

Quote of the Day-Sept. 3, 2015

“Success isn’t permanent, and failure isn’t fatal.”
Mike Ditka

Michael Keller Ditka is a former American football player, coach, and television commentator. A member of both the College Football and Pro Football Hall of Fames, he was the 1961 UPI NFL Rookie of Year, a five-time Pro Bowl selection and five-time All-Pro tight end with the Chicago Bears, Philadelphia Eagles, and Dallas Cowboys. His career included 3 Super Bowl championships as a player, and later coach of Chicago Bears. During his 11 years as Coach of Chicago Bears he was twice both the AP and UP NFL Coach of the Year. After Chicago he coached the New Orleans Saints for 3 years. Source: Wikipedia