August 09, 2002
Did you see the following news story?
SCANDAL IN THE WHITE HOUSE
Certainly there is a political dimension here. Enron’s chairman did meet with the president and the vice president in the Oval Office. Enron gave $420,000 to the president’s party over three years, and donated $100,000 to the president’s inauguration festivities.
The Enron chairman stayed at the White House eleven (11) times.
The corporation had access to the administration at its highest levels and even enlisted the Commerce and State Departments to grease deals for it. The taxpayer-supported Export-Import Bank subsidized Enron for more than $600 million in just one transaction.
BUT…the president under whom all this happened wasn’t George W. Bush. It was William Jefferson Clinton.
Things are not aways what they seem.
Derivatives: Will they take down our Stock Markets?
The first question is what are derivatives? The second question is why may they bring down the markets? These are good questions.
A derivative is a financial security such as an option or future whose value is derived in part from the value and characteristics of another security, the underlying asset. The underlying asset is usually a commodity, bond, stock, or currency. You ìbet” that the value derived from the underlying asset will increase or decrease by a certain amount within a certain fixed period of time.
A derivative is usually a contract rather than an asset. You buy a promise to convey ownership of the asset rather than the asset itself. Because the legal term of a contract is much more varied than property ownership it has a special appeal to investors. It provides for a ìsophisticated” management of risk. This is why it appeals to the large securities firms. This form of investment certainly is not for the beginning investor.
This makes it just right for Companies such as JP Morgan, Citigroup, Golden Sachs, and Morgan Stanley. They are in the business of making as much money as possible for their Shareholders. They are large enough to take great risks with ìtheir” money. The italics are there for a purpose.
Some of these Companies suffered major losses with the collapse of Enron, Worldcom, Global Crossing, Williams Communications, and others that ran out of money. That’s because they had loaned billions of dollars to these companies. These loans were carried as “assets” on the books of the banks. But when their debtor companies collapsed, the lender ìbanks” are required to report these loans as non-performing. They are no longer assets for the bank, now they are losses. Billions of dollars in assets are suddenly billions of dollars in losses.
Not to worry, the major money that they make is made in betting with their derivatives. JP Morgan alone has over $23 trillion of derivatives on their books. They have made money on these bets in the past. What will happen if the underlying asset that they are betting on goes the wrong way? Not to worry. They have hedged their bets, and are betting both ways. What will happen if one side of the ledger ends up not having the money to pay off their bets? Remember, it takes two to bet.
Where have we heard this before. These types of transactions is what was occurring at the energy trading desk of Enron. In part it is what brought them down. Currently Dynergy may be the next Company to suffer Enronitis. Williams lost over $400 million dollars in their energy trading business, and brought them to their knees. They are currently in the process of selling off all their capital assets in order to survive. If they are able to make it, they will be a much smaller Company. Can this continue?
How many of you remember Long Term Capital Management? LTCM. It was necessary for them to be bailed out with taxpayers money.
If that is a stretch, than I am sure that there are those of you that went through the Savings and Loan crisis. Money is king, as long as you have plenty of it. If you do not, than just go to your local government and have them print some for you. Look at what just happened in Brazil. They were just at the point of defaulting on their loans.
Who loaned Brazil the money intially? Go no further than your friendly securites Companies. I cannot tell you their names, but their initials are JP Morgan Chase, and Citicorp. Together, they have outstanding loans to Brazil of ~$30 billion. Since those would not be a good loans to put in the non performing column, they had to go and get the IMF to loan Brazil money to put off the time frame for a little longer.
It is interesting that the money was given to Brazil with no conditions. They do not even have to be good boys, but now they have the funds to pay their ìbanks” the interest on their outstanding loans.
What will our Fed do next? They need to raise rates to wring out the excesses in our economy. Will this be pleasant? NO! The thing that must become known is that if they do not do this now, that it will be much worse down the road. But with elections coming our Government is afraid to raise rates. What will it do to the Stock Market? What will it do to the consumer markets ? So lets wait awhile on that one.
Instead, the talk is that money will be made much cheaper. This is going on in Japan today. Soon, at a local bank near you, they will pay you to borrow money. What do you intend to do with all that money? They are talking about reducing rates to banks to 1 %. Get ready for easy money. The true definition of inflation is that there is an increase in the money supply.
Remember the old chinese curse: “May you live in interesting times!”
It is time for all Americans to come to the realization that we will all be working until we are 80. At that time we can decide if we can afford to retire. Thank God, jobs are plentiful.
Somehow, this all reminds me of a book I read long ago, Atlas Shrugged! If you haven’t read it, you might want to take a look.
Remember things are not always what they seem. Until next time.
Terence R. Wilken
Editor in Chief RWWNL
June 16, 2002
The wonders of modern technology. The last time that I wrote an article, the server went down, and I lost everything. Well, I have learned my lesson, and now am writing in a word processor, so at least I have my original article. Live and learn. I received an article that really gets to the point of what I have been trying to say. Let us begin.
This addition will take you into the mind of the Editor. The object of this newsletter in the past has been to get the reader to think. We need to understand what the government and the securities Companies have been doing to us. What we are seeing today has been occurring for the past 8-10 years, but is just now coming to light. In order to demonstrate that what we read is not necessarily what is accurate, please go to the following URL:
When you have read this article, come back and I will tell you the facts.
Go and get the check book Martha, the markets have gone down again. Now is the time that we have to buy more. That has been what the stock sellers have been telling us for years. The markets will always go up. Buy on the dips. There is no consequence to corporate bad investments, bad marketing, or bad accounting. They can only make money, so let us join the club. It seems that no one has ever heard of the business cycle. We have made it a thing of the past. That was what our parents had to live with. We have learned from their mistakes, and figured out how to never have a down turn in the economy ever again. Our parents went through the great depression. That can never happen again.
In order for the government to continue to keep our thoughts in the ìproper” frame of mind, it has become important for them to insure that the markets show some sparks of life. Have you noticed that markets have not gone down two days in a row for months. Somehow they always amazingly come back at the end of the second day. Of course I am sure that that is a normal thing, and the markets come back because they are fairly valued. After all CNBC cannot be telling me untruths! Wait until next year. I for one have been enjoying the bull and bear commercials. For some reason the bear has been made a much more likable character.
Now it is time to discuss the article. Have you read it? That is important you know. What did you get from the article? If you came away with the impression that the oil industry is on their last legs, than that is exactly what the writer intended you to feel. The entire petroleum tanker fleet is going to the bottom of the oceans, and there is absolutely nothing that we can do about it. ìIt is caused by super-rust.” ìThis is a virulent form of corrosion that has destroyed hundreds of ships.” We are doomed! Sell that SUV tomorrow morning. We are polluting the world! We will not be able to transport oil across the oceans any more.
I have been a corrosion engineer for over 30 years, and I have never heard of ìsuper-rust” Does corrosion occur? Of course. Sea water is the most corrosive medium for steel that presents itself to corrosion engineers. When tankers put to sea, the external surface areas of the ship are in contact with sea water, and can corrode. When the tankers have completed their trip, they must put on ballast in order to make a return trip to pick up more product. This ballast is seawater. During this part of the trip, corrosion can occur both on the exterior and interior of the vessel. Is there a way to minimize the corrosion that occurs? The answer is yes. The steel can be coated or painted in order to place a barrier between the steel and the seawater. This alone can slow down the corrosion rate. This of course requires that the coating be repaired or maintained on a regular basis in order for it to do its job properly. (There was some truth in the article) In addition to coatings there is a system that can be installed on the vessel that can almost eliminate corrosion. This system is called cathodic protection. It has been used on ships and tankers for well over twenty years. It works!
The normal corrosion rate of steel in seawater can be between 10-12 mills a year. Since this can occur on both sides of the steel in tankers, the corrosion rate can be double this. This is normal, and only occurs when the vessel is in service. When the vessel is in port or at rest, the corrosion rate is much smaller than this The corrosion rate is what is presented in the article as more than seven times the ìnominal” rate, when in fact it is what is considered normal. What is the solution to this normal occurrence? The practice is to build in a corrosion allowance in the metal thickness of the equipment being used, use coatings, and install cathodic protection. This should be standard practice.
I have some questions. How many of you had heard of the Erika before this article? The article also states that each year from 1995 to 2001, an average of 408 tankers broke apart at sea or barely escaped that fate. Why are not the environmentalists keeping us informed? The Intertanko reports should be on the cover of all the newspapers to show the horror of this disaster in the making. I want to know. What did they know, and when did they know it. The American people have a right to know. I do not know what we will all do with this information, but we need to know it. The answers to the questions would tell us just how truthful the author is. The Intertanko site is only for operators and industry people. I could not access the information that this author presents.
For those who would like to know, I have written the author (Richard Martin) of this article. I told him that I would be responding to his article, and would be happy to allow him the opportunity to respond. I have not heard from him.
Until next time. Thanks for reading.
Terence R. Wilken
Editor in Chief RWWNL
April 28, 2002
I certainly hope that you loaded up on equities as I told you to do in my last issue. You would have been doing your civic duty. It is important for all of us to help the economy by spending all that we have, and if we run out of money, why borrow more. Of course, we would be a lot poorer now, but why should we be different that most of the Companies that make up the Dow and Nasdaq?
Even with the markets going down, the price to earnings ratio is still in the range of 40-60 in the Nasdaq. What that means is that if you invest $40 in a stock that has a P/E ratio of 40, it will take 40 years for the Company to earn back what you just invested. Of course, the talking heads will tell you that it is the forward looking earnings that you want to look at. The Company will make more in the future. What they forgot to tell you is that this will only be the case if we all continue spending. Is that in the cards? I for one have made a decision to quit all spending except for what I really need. We have all spent more that we should have, and it is time to stop.
It has been a long time dream of every Company to be the biggest in their market. All Companies must grow! They must sell more wigets that the last year. If there are three Companies that sell wigets, than it is important to pick up market share to grow, and to create a larger demand for wigets. We all must have more.
It is time for this to stop. If you have been reading the articles on this site, you would know that we have now reached the peak of our energy supply, and that if we keep using it at the current rate, our grandchildren will not have the same standard of living that we have today. Of course we have been taught by our government that this is the proper way to live. Look at the social security program if you must. The ponzi scheme cannot go on forever. Some day the money will run out, and there will be no more.
Now we are seeing the same thing with the water supply in our country. Several areas in the USA are seeing water shortages. This is even true in the town that I live in. We normally use 18 million gallons a day during the summer. We are now in a water crisis and are restricted to 6 million gallons per day. The NIMBY’s are already out in force. Why we must water the golf courses, and make sure that we fill all the swimming pools “for the children”. My plants cannot die. I must have a pretty lawn this summer. Why ME? It will be OK if everyone else cuts back as long as I can have all the water that I want. Why, I can pay for it! Sound familiar?
Listen to the stock market guru’s. Productivity is up. Do you know how that works? If you can make 10 wigets with ten people and you lay 2 people off and still make 10 wigets, you have just increased productivity by 20 %. If you have just lost your job, feel patriotic about it as you have just contributed to the increase in productivity.
The GDP went up. Feel good numbers. The GDP went up because Companies decided to add to their inventories. Did they sell more? No, but they made the GDP go up, so they are among the patriotic members of our economy.
Get ready for our economy to suffer in some way. It still is not clear if we will have inflation because of the money that Alan Greenspan has pumped into our economy, or if we will suffer deflation. Either way, we are in for a bumpy ride. For what it is worth, get ready. Just hope it is not too late for that.
The only good thing about a slow down in our economy is that we will be using less energy and natural resources. There are other things that we will need to worry about, but that will be in a future article.
Happy investing out there.
Terence R. Wilken
Editor in Chief RWWNL
April 2, 2002
It is time. Better late than never. Back again with another issue of the RWWNL.
It is time to sell the family jewels, and hock every thing that you have. If you just happen to be one of those people that do not have any thing to sell–Do Not Worry. Just log into DiTech.com. They will be happy to give you all that you need or want. They can dispense dollar bills that look like wallpaper or paper towels. Just order which type that you like, and roll off whatever you need. Make sure that you put most of your money into the stock market. If you do not want to listen to me, just tune into CNBC, and they will confirm everything that I am telling you. We are going to be in for one of the biggest bull runs in history. It will make the 90’s look paltry.
Alan Greenspan has loaded the plane with as many dollars as it will hold. If we run out of fuel, we can burn the money to take us to an easy landing. There is always more where that came from. The Fed can print all we need. If things start getting bad, why we can even give the money away at no cost to the borrower. We can start taking after the Japanese model.
We have no inflation. Unemployment is going down. Companies are replacing their inventory. The dollar is still strong. People can now get cheap money, and are ready to spend again. The future is great!!
Never mind that housing prices are going up. Do not worry that the price of oil has been steadily climbing. Has anyone noticed that the price of commodities have been going up as well? Even food is costing more at the piggly wiggly. They must be one of the profiteering businesses that we need to control.
The US is still one of the strongest economies in the world, but there are some troubling things going on in our world. We have several wars going on. The people in our country have almost exhausted themselves in their spending spree. Our government has taken over where we could not go on. Government spending is going through the roof. Our treasury secretary is already raiding payments meant for our government servents retirement plans in order to make current payments. The congress will not raise the debt ceiling, so they have to get it from somewhere. The deficit is still going up, and now at a faster rate. Go check our current national debt. You did put that in your favorites, didn’t you?
It is time to start spending less. It is to the point where it is not only the right thing to do, but we may now have to. We have mortgaged our home’s at 125% of their value. We now have three cars, two televisions, three computers, a vcr, dvd, and all sorts of other trinkets. What else do we need. Our life style must change. This is not only important to us, but to our children. It is time!
I will be back again. Thank you for your interest. Invest wisely out there. We are in for some trying times.
Terence R. Wilken
Editor in Chief RWWNL
March 3, 2002
Finally part III of feelings on terrorism. There have been many things happening in the World. We can be thankful that we have not had another incident. This has not been through lack of trying on the part of the terrorists. We must continue our vigilance.
Since Alan Greenspan has told us that all is right with the economy again, we are all OK now. All we have to do is sit back and watch another 10 years of growth. The business cycle has been cured. More on this in later issues. Here now is part III.
Israel has been on the receiving end of terrorism from the Palestinians for a long time. Every day we are hearing about another suicide attack on the civilians of Israel. Everyone says that if only Israel will talk with the terrorists, that all will be OK. The Palestinians do not have a homeland. No other Arab or Muslim nation will give up part of their land for them. The Palestinians want the land that Israel has. Israel took part of this land away from them many years ago. They took the land because the Palestinians were terrorizing them. Now if only Israel will give it back, all will be OK again. In order to get their land back, they will use terrorism to achieve their goals. There is no way to convince either side that the other side is right. There is something seriously wrong with this picture.
CNN and others are now able to take their polls. They have found that over 70% of the Arabs and Muslims do not like America or Americans. That is not a bad problem by itself. The only problem that this presents is that there are elements of this population that are willing to die in order to right the wrongs that we have done to them. What have we done you ask? Why, we have spent time on their holy land. We have visited them. We disagree with the way that they treat women. We have tried to convert them to our religion. There are many reasons that they use in order to hate us. There is no end to this feeling, and there are no words that will change this opinion. They are willing to die to get us back for all these wrongs. There is nothing that we can do to change this behavior. Even the mothers of the martyrs want their other children to grow up and die for this cause. Talk will not work. The only thing that will work is to fight back. That means that we have to put our military in harms way.
Israel has learned this lesson. The Arabs have come up with a solution. Give the land back, and we will support a peace process. There are those who think that this will work. I for one do not. These people want all of the land back, not just a part of it. Until they have accomplished this, terrorism will not end. Time is on their side.
They are a growing population, and we in our good deeds mode have allowed many of them to come to our country. We did not track them, and even now when we know who they are, we cannot find them. They are within our country, and can pull off another 911 at some point in the future. This has become a way of life to them. Losing their life to put terror into the minds of their enemy is what they live to do. They cannot be talked out of their commitment.
A Vietnam has been created here in our own country. They have taken away our safety, and provided us with ìno safe ground”. This is not a good feeling for people who have not had to feel this way before. We must now protect everything that we share. We must also look out for our own interests. This has been happening already. People will never again allow hijackers to take over a plane in our country. I know that we will take action even if it means that our own lives are at risk. I can tell you from experience that fatalism is not a way of thought that one wants to live with.
There is one more area that we have to go to. We must be willing to lose life in order to save life. In Vietnam we lost over 50,000 good soldiers. That War may not have been the one to fight, but I can tell you that those who fought in that war were as heroic as those that lost their lives in WWII, Korea, Desert Storm, Somalia, and now Afghanistan. American soldiers are willing to lose their lives in the service of their country, and for the life styles of those who survive them. We do not want to allow this to happen for a cause that is not just, but stopping terrorism is one cause that I think all of us would be willing to die for. Let us hope that it does not take another World Trade Center for us to really decide that this is a War that we must win. Our only other choice is to start living like Israel. Are we willing to accept death in order to allow these people to have the freedoms of their faith? Let us hope not.
The problem that we face is that there is only a small percentage of the population of these groups that we must stop. The question that must be put forth is as follows: Why does the silent majority of these populations not put a stop to this terror? If one stands by and allows others to commit acts of violence, than they become part of the problem. If they need help, than they must ask for it. If they do not, than they become part of the problem, and will end up in harms way.
In Part II, I led you down a path of thought. If people are killed in a one-time incident, I do not consider that terrorism. It may be wrong, but it is not terrorism as we are learning the definition. Terrorism is a constant and long-term battle to get your ideas across with the use of violence. At the end, only lives of both sides are lost. Do we really want to live this type of life?
See you next issue.
Terence R. Wilken
Editor in Chief RWWNL
February 10, 2002
Time again for another dose of your favorite newsletter.
First of all, I want to say that I am glad to be a part of this website. I have been reading the other articles, and although I do not always agree, it sure gets one to think. The ideas presented here are designed to get the readers to do some studying on their own, and to help them make there own decisions on what they need to do in their own lives. That is all that any of us can ask. Thanks to all who take the time to put their ideas up for others to see.
Did all of you see what the markets did on Friday? They went up. CNBC was very excited. Will it keep up? Only time will tell. After all, it had gone down for the previous five days.
There is one thing helping to hold up our markets. It is the exchange rate. Currently the dollar is very strong in comparison to other international currencies. This has allowed our country to buy products from other countries at a very good price. It has helped to keep inflation down. It has kept the price of commodities down. It has helped keep our country stong! Other countries want to invest in our markets in order to bet on a country with a strong currency. They want to invest in the good old USA. The only problem is that this might change.
Alan Greenspan who is the head governor of the FED (you all did your studying-yes?) has decided to push our dollar supply in order to keep us strong. The so-called “Broad Money Supply” (M3) has increased by about $ 1 trillion dollars, or 14 % in the past 52 weeks. This was done in order to get all of us to spend. We must spend in order to keep the worlds markets going. We must buy the cheap foreign goods so that they can continue investing in our economy. This has to be the way of the new world order.
The only problem with this idea is that it creates debt. Debt as a percentage of disposable income is as high as it has ever been, over 100 percent. Things are the same in the corporate world. The debt to equity ratio in the corporate world has also been increasing. Look at what is happening to our biggest companies, and now even to our best auditing firms. We are all becoming concerned and looking for who will be the next Enron. Greed is good. Remember that saying? Well that is only true for the players at the top. It sure does not work for those who just work for a living. Many lives were devasted by job loss, and many others lost their retirement savings forever. One can put some of the blame the employees themselves. They had become greedy, after listening to the talking heads that told them everything was going well, and would only get better. Where else have we heard that before?
Maybe the solution is one that you have read about here at the RWWNL. Tie our currency to gold. The real merit of a 100 percent gold dollar is that it severs the link between politics and money. It stops the credit cycle, making it no longer possible to pyramid dollars upon dollars into a house of cards.
The Federal Reserve, the central bank of the United States was founded by Congress in 1913 to provide the nation with a safer, flexible, and more stable monetary financial system. Are they doing their job by pouring dollars into our system to keep it afloat? Again, time will tell.
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Now for more of my thoughts on terrorism. After 30 years some of my ideas have changed. I for one have been looking back, and looking forward. Prior to the terrorist attacks of September 11, I had made a decision to look at what I had been through in another light. I was becoming patriotic. After the devastation of 911, I am in hopes that we can keep the country on track to curb terrorism in our world. Here goes:
No Safe Ground (part II)
Terrorism. What is it? I decided to look it up in my Webster´s dictionary.
1. The use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce for political purposes.
2. The state of fear and submission so produced.
3. Government or resistance to government by means of terror. That still leaves a lot to the imagination, and all of us have thought of more definitions.
This leads me to September 11, 2001. That is a day that none of us will ever forget. The number 911 will now mean something entirely different. When we are asked to dial 911, we will think of the twin towers or the world trade center. We may even think of the fire fighters who also lost their lives. We may even have friends or relatives who were involved. I know that I will. I hunted for weeks before I found that a friend of mine had escaped just prior to his tower collapsing. This ìincident” will forever haunt us.
This however begs one question. Why? Terrorism certainly is not new. It happened to our overseas embassies. It happened to our navel ships. It happened to our military. In all the occurrences before, our President promised to get to the bottom of it. He promised that the persons who committed the terrorist attacks would pay for their acts. In one case he even sent in a few cruise missiles, and then walked away. As we all know, that certainly did a lot of good. A War created from small minds will not work. A War that only goes after part of the problem will not work. The only solution is to go after those who create terrorism.
Committing suicide is wrong. That is what most people think. If you commit suicide, you cannot see your God. That is a bad thing.
However, if you commit suicide and take others with you that do not believe right, then you are a martyr or a hero. That is a good thing. Your God will greet you as one who has done well. How do we stop this? What do we do?
There have always been terrorists. There will always be terrorists. Talk will not work. For some reason, there is a mind-set in some people that their way is the only way to live and to think. Look at our government. If you are a republican or democrat you understand terrorism. If you are a conservative or liberal you understand terrorism.
You are right, and the other side is definitely wrong.
If you do not believe me, just watch one addition of crossfire on CNN. Even if what I am saying makes absolutely no sense, by god, I will stand by my party or MY ideals! The only difference is that in most cases, violence is not used. One must only have the loudest voice. This is not always true. Remember the people who bombed abortion clinics? They did this to stop the wrong. They did not believe in Abortion. Violence was the ONLY solution. In this case, the loudest voice was not good enough, and one had to use different tactics. Their way was the right way even though it was not legally correct. In their minds, what they were doing was the right way to accomplish their goals. We had to use violence to stop Randy Weaver. We had to use violence to stop the ìCrazy´s” in Waco Texas.
Why does that not fit into our definition of terrorism? Think about it. Go back to Webster´s.
We now have a new sheriff in town. His name is W. He has decided to go where no man has gone before. He is going to go after the terrorists, and after all those who harbor terrorists. It is amazing how many parts of the world this will involve. The idea that violence is the solution (in the minds of the terrorists) is inherent in the mindset of many cultures, and many people. This mindset must be stopped or changed. The alternative is not acceptable. We can continue to ignore terrorism because it is occurring somewhere else, or we can do something about it. Talk alone will not resolve this problem. Who do we talk to? The solution is to go after the terrorists. They must be stopped. There must be no safe ground for terrorists. They must learn the lessons that I learned 30 years ago in the jungles of Viet Nam. They must learn that there is ìNO SAFE GROUND”.
They must be constantly looking over their shoulder for retribution. It is harder to commit terrorism in this environment. Terrorism does not belong in this world. It must be stopped. We will probably have to go through several sheriffs. Let us hope that they all have the will and stamina that W has.
Stay tuned for part III. It is on its way to the publishers.
Terence R. Wilken
Editor in Chief RWWNL
February 3, 2002
Did you watch the Super Bowl today. The Patriots won in case you missed it. This was not supposed to have happened. All the sports talking heads told us that this game would be won by Saint Louis by several touchdowns. Tomorrow, I am sure that you will hear that the best team did not win. Hopefully that will not be what is really felt. I for one felt that the Patriots would win. Of course my views are one of a right wing wacko.
If you watched the game, you may have learned how to invest. I actually had my money on the Patriots. When all say it can never happen, then is probably when it will occur. This is the contrarian way of looking at what is going on in the world. When it is raining in Brazil, it is time to buy coffee. There is really a book by that title. It provides a good look at how to best invest in the current market.
With what has happened to Enron, and now will happen with companies that were involved with them, it is time to learn how the money system really works. If you are not one of the big boys, you really have to view your retirement in a whole different light. It is time to start learning.
Do you know how our money supply really works? The federal reserve is not really a government organization. It is a private corporation made up of the biggest banks in America. They are the bankers banks. There are twelve banks located within the United States. They have a board of governers that make our monetary policy. The current chairman of this committee is Alan Greenspan.
You can not borrow any money from these banks, however the government can. The government says loan me $ 1 billion dollars, and it is done. These banks charge interest to the government for the right to push that button on their computer to put $ 1 billion dollars into the hands of our government so that they can do good for us. How nice to have such an arrangement. Since we of course can not do this, it is not smart to play with the big boys. Enron could not even play with the boys who know how to move around in this type of environment. I for one think that there will be more Companies that will fall into this category.
Has anyone looked at the S&P lately. They have some really nice companies that you might consider investing in. One should know that the current price to earnings ratio in this index currently stands at over 40. What this means is that the price of the stock divided by its annual earnings is over 40. Would you really invest in a company that would take 40 years to return the money that you paid for it? And most of these companies are not even paying a dividend. If earnings go down, it will even take longer. The market is not really a friend to the current investor. Be careful out there.
I promised you more on my feelings about terrorism. I am going to start with the first part of what is to be a three part series. This first part is my feelings about a war that I fought in over 30 years ago. I have finally come to a point in my life where I can look back. There are still holes in my memory where I can not go. I have decided that I will continue to look back, and let the memories come back as they will. What you see here was written over 30 years ago. I can tell you that it is not in chronigical order. It was written in a very short period of time, and was my feelings at the time that it was written. I will expand further in future articles. Well here goes. Part I.
NO SAFE GROUND FATAL-ism
Thoughts from a survivor
In Country, Vietnam August 3, 1969 to August 4, 1970
Stepping off the plane in Vietnam was one of the scariest moments in my life. The plane ride had been very uneventful, and quiet. Everyone on the plane kept to themselves, and did not want to become emotionally involved with anyone else on board. The stewardess’s tried to maintain a jovial mood, but you could see in their eyes that it was only superficial. The only thoughts that I carried off the plane with me were the last words of my drill sergeant. “You will never come back from Vietnam alive. You are too tall an individual, and will make too good a target.” He told me this with tears in his eyes, so I knew it was coming from his heart, and he really felt it to be true. Since I was 6 feet 6 inches tall, and weighed close to 200 pounds at that time, and he was a “short” vietnam returnee, I felt that there could be some validly to his statement.
The first three months in Vietnam followed this same pattern of thought. Fear was the single largest emotion I carried with me. I was assigned duty in a 4.2 inch mortar platoon. This assignment was necessary because three of its members had been wounded, and had returned home.
In the first three months, the fear of dying was ever prevalent. The main latrine at the large firebase was hit several time in succession. Each time one or more soldiers died. One soldier hid under a jeep during a rocket attack. A rocket hit the jeep directly, and left no piece larger than a basketball. Several soldiers were in a bunker below ground. A rocket hit the bunker, and the soldiers were either killed or wounded. It became obvious during the first 3 months that there was “No Safe Ground.”
After approximately three months in Vietnam, I noticed my attitude changing about my future. I had survived for three months not because I was a good soldier, not because the enemy was so weak, not because the American military was so strong and had issued me the best survival tools; but because I just happened not to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. It didn’t matter what I did or did not do. It did not matter what the Army did or did not do. Survival or death was not in my or the Armies power to control.
For the next six months the squad I was in lived under this belief. We had all been assigned duty within a month of each other. We didn’t wear flack jackets. We didn’t always run to a bunker when we had mortar or rocket attacks. It didn’t matter.
One incident validated our philosophy. I was ready to board a helicopter one afternoon. I was to be the last one on. A higher ranking soldier bumped me from the flight at the last minute. I was extremely disappointed, as I was in process of leaving Vietnam for R & R. Later I found out that the helicopter had been shot down by an RPG (Rocket propelled grenade). There were no survivors.
Without even thinking about why we felt this way, or how it was affecting us, or whether we had any options, we had all become fatalists. While on the border of Cambodia waiting to invade, our battalion was under constant and heavy mortar and rocket attack. One evening, after several weeks without a bath, our squad decided to search for some water to bathe. The water tanks were all the way on the other side of the base. Five of us with our shorts, thongs for our feet, and a towel draped around our neck took off in search of water. Mortar rounds came in, but not once did we detour from our goal. We finally located the tanks. They were empty. We walked back to our area in disgust. How dare the Army not furnish us with water to bathe. That night several solders were killed or wounded. Each day soldiers were killed that were in “secure areas”. There was “No Safe Ground.”
One evening our squad had been assigned duty at Fire support base Dees. We came under heavy shelling. It was the worst mortar attack that I had experienced in Vietnam. It went on for what seemed like hours, but I am sure today that it could not have lasted for no more than 15-20 minutes. We stayed huddled together all night, with very little sleep. The next morning we found out what had happened. The shrapnel was OD (Olive Drab). We identified the pieces as coming from our own 4.2 inch mortar shells. A South Vietnamese Company, utilizing weapons given to them by our military, had made a mistake in coordinates. They had fired aproximately 60-100 rounds on our position. We were not even spared the possibility of death from our own allies.
The final three months of duty in Vietnam returned our minds back to our original thoughts. Fear took over again. We now knew what we hadn’t known before. It appeared to us that by far the largest percentage of soldiers who were killed or wounded in Vietnam were either individuals who had been in Vietnam less than three months, or who had less than three months left on their tour. One Sergeant came into country with only 6 months to serve. His tour had been delayed. He was so happy for himself, because Army foul ups had kept him at home for a large part of his tour of service. He was hit on the left side of his face by shrapnel. He got to return home after less than two weeks in vietnam. It was learned that one of the young kids in our Company had made it to Vietnam by lying about his age. He had been in vietnam for about 8 months, but the Army decided that it must send him home. Three days before he was to return home, he was shot by one of our own soldiers. We knew that the most dangerous part of our tour was still to come. Most of the soldiers in our Company saved their R & R trips for the last part of their one year of service.
Fatalism helped us survive. Fatalism helped us maintain our sanity. Fatalism helped us to live one day at a time. Each day became a day closer to going home.
The soldiers in Vietnam learned that there was absolutely no guarantee of a chance of survival. The Army may not have always provided us with the best of food, clothes, or water; but there was no lack of weapons, and ammunition. We had the best available conventional weapons. Our ammo sacks, and ammo bunkers never seemed to run low. This didn’t matter. Our chance of survival did not depend on anything we or the Army could do for us. There was and is “NO SAFE GROUND.”
Unless EVERYONE dies, war is not winnable. There are no winners and losers in war. All participants turn out to be losers sooner or later. WWI was fought, and finally was stopped because of a lack of able bodied men to carry it on. It took 30 years for all sides to raise armies to be able to fight over the same “cause” again. The soldiers in battle inherently understand this “truth.”
Today, I know that in WWII my father held on to the same philosophy of fatalism that I had in Vietnam many years later. My father fought with the Americal Division on Guadacanal. One evening an American Company was returning from a days mission. One of my dads friends on a 50-caliber machine gun mistook them for Japanese, and opened fire. seventeen shells were fired before the gun jammed. Thirty five soldiers lay dead and wounded. Snipers were a constant threat to life. My dads thoughts and conversations about his experiences in war led me to realize than he felt his survival did not depend on anything that he or anyone else could do. He had the same fatalistic attitude that I carried through 6 months of Vietnam.
I have often tried to figure out why the obvious is so difficult for the Generals to see, why the obvious is so difficult for the Congress to see, why the obvious is so difficult for our President to see. They reside on “SAFE GROUND.” They reside in the most secure bunkers. They reside on Capital Hill. They reside aboard Air Force One. They don’t become fatalists. They feel that War is Winnable. They have no reason to look for any other solution. As long as this attitude prevails at the highest levels of military and civilian authority, there will be “NO SAFE GROUND.”
Stay tuned for Part II.
Terence R. Wilken
Editor in Chief RWWNL