Farewell to the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department, Part I

I recently served my last day with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department.

I leave with mixed feelings. I learned a lot about a noble profession. I learned a lot about how to deal with people. However, it just wasn’t right for me anymore.

I spent 6 ½ years with the world's largest Sheriff's Department. I was a security assistant – not a deputy. All I had was a radio, pepper spray, and some handcuffs. I was a glorified scout. If there was trouble, I used my radio to call for deputies and supervisors.

I spent my first two years in an administrative position, doing clerical work such as entering traffic collision reports and assisting with discovery searches for audio and video recordings of interrogations. I learned that the Sheriff’s Department gets sued all the time. Some claims and lawsuits have merit; most don’t. The Sheriff’s Department’s policy, most of the time, is to settle claims and lawsuits without fighting. This teaches people that they can easily get money from the Sheriff’s Department by filing a claim or a lawsuit. Call it litigation lottery.

I then transferred to Court Services Division to get some more field experience to decide whether I wanted to be a deputy. I quickly discovered that I should not be a deputy. Being a deputy or other sworn officer means being three things: an armed lawyer, an armed psychologist, and an armed social worker. Sometimes, it’s armed EMT as well. I would be a good armed lawyer; the others, not so much. Law enforcement personnel spend their days, nights, weekends, and holidays dealing with people who are angry, rude, irrational, crazy, lying, violent – or all of the above. It shouldn’t be a surprise that law enforcement personnel have to use force to enforce the law. I suggest that critics and haters of law enforcement try a ride-along sometime (in a rough area, not Beverly Hills or Brentwood), or stand a watch at a court checkpoint like I did. They’ll quickly find out that persuasion and kindness and restraint don’t always work. This is law enforcement, ladies and gentlemen – the key term here is force. We’re not talking about teatime at the faculty lounge.

On a typical day at the weapons screening checkpoints, the lines were usually long. Many people came in with bad attitudes and prohibited items. What’s prohibited? Here’s a hint: if something is prohibited at an airport, it’s probably prohibited at a courthouse too. Message to the public: Leave the weapons, the booze, the drugs, the tools, and anything sharp at home. Try leaving the attitude behind as well. I promise that law enforcement personnel really don’t give a damn about your race, or your biological gender or chosen gender, or your religion, or anything else. Just go along with the program. Obey the law. One more thing: Security personnel didn’t compel you to come to the court. Nor can security personnel fix your ticket or provide legal advice. So don’t get mad at them for not doing so. For more on reducing interactions between law enforcement officers and civilians, see Part II.

It wasn’t all bad. I will miss the camaraderie of working with my brothers and sisters in arms. I will miss the shared experience of butting heads with checkpoint clowns and then guffawing about it with my partners at the checkpoint. I will miss the salty locker room jokes and banter – yes, the same kind that landed President Trump in trouble during his campaign. (Oh no – men using salty language! Women never, ever use salty language, right?) I have some fun LASD memories. For example:

  • The day we had to evacuate the court because of a mechanical problem. First, we herded out the public, many of whom were reluctant to lose their places in line or to have their hearings interrupted. Next, we herded out the civilian employees, most of whom wanted to remain at their desks and get some free time because they knew that the court was unlikely to burn down. Finally, the inmates were brought out of the court lockup, with leg chains and handcuffs, and guarded by deputies armed with rifles and shotguns. The inmates’ friends and families started cheering for their homies, and the deputies were yelling at them to shut up. Finally the problem was resolved and we all went back in. A fun circus, but I’m glad that only happened once.

  • A customer reported a used syringe in the planter by the main entrance. The senior deputy detailed yours truly to put on some gloves to fish out the used syringe and drop it in the sharps container. Please, people, shoot up at home, not in public.

  • Locking my keys in my car while trying to get in the court’s back garage gate, thus blocking the exit of the inmate bus. The senior deputy was not pleased.

  • Serving during Valentine’s Day at a court which has an office of the Los Angeles Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk. Lots of couples came to get married that day. I can testify that many of the brides were dressed in such a way as to make it abundantly clear that they were not concealing any weapons.

It was a good learning experience, but it’s time for me to move on. I will be working with computers, not the public. That’s much easier for me.

And whenever I see LASD or other law enforcement personnel on duty, I’ll say to myself, “Thanks for making it possible for the rest of us to live our lives in peace. Thanks for doing a job that I couldn’t do. Do whatever you need to do to come home alive and uninjured.”

People who want to get rid of law enforcement should be careful what they wish for.

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Review of The Case for Mars, by Robert Zubrin

Robert Zubrin was part of NASA, founded the Mars Society, and is president of Pioneer Astro, a company he founded to develop technology that would be useful for colonizing Mars. He also founded Pioneer Energy, which provides technology for managing and exploiting natural gas. In other words, he’s an experienced engineer who knows what he’s talking about. In The Case for Mars, he uses plain language rather than scientific or political jargon to explain why establishing a permanent base on Mars is essential to the United States.

He starts by explaining the reason why a 1990s plan to go to Mars failed. To make a long story short, it was too complicated and too expensive. He’s right that $450 billion is expensive, but that figure is less than the current spending for the military and less than Social Security/Medicare. Follow the money, and you will conclude that war and entitlements have a higher priority in Washington D.C. than creating a new frontier and the new riches that would go with it. Zubrin then goes on to explain in detail how successive missions to Mars could establish a self-sufficient base which could then become a self-sufficient colony for immigrants from Earth – and all for $50 billion rather than $450 billion.

The real meat of the book is when Zubrin goes into detail on why we must go to Mars. Put simply, Zubrin says that the human species needs a frontier. He discusses many problems we see in the United States today: the banality of pop culture, increasing bureaucracy, and an anti-tech ideology. Some might call that last statement strange, given the recent proliferation of smartphones and other smart devices, but his argument is that these are incremental rather than revolutionary. There is also the political polarization chronicled in The Big Sort and in many other articles and books. Zubrin argues that people need a place where they can be free to experiment and to start new societies. In homage to Frederick Turner, who lamented the closing of the American frontier in 1890, he states that Mars can be our new frontier.

I agree with part of this thesis. Certainly, Mars is far away; about 150 days of space travel. Radio, which moves at light speed, takes 20 minutes to arrive; communication with Earth will be a matter of e-mail and pre-recorded audio and/or video statements rather than instant telephone conversations or text messages. No code enforcement, no red tape, no poking, prying, etc. A can-do culture will evolve very quickly, because it must. There will be no sending for supplies or help from Earth on a whim, not when rockets will take at least 150 days to arrive.

On the other hand, Mars is not Earth. The important difference between Mars as a frontier and North America as a frontier is that a settler in North America who didn’t like what was going on in his settlement could just hit the trail. The air was free to breathe, the water was free to drink, the construction materials (wood, dirt, stone) were there for the taking, the animals and fish were free to eat. No high technology was needed for the agrarian society that the United States once was. Law enforcement of that time did not have any high tech such as helicopters, drones, and cellphone tracking to catch suspects. None of this will be true for a Martian colony, which will be an organized high-tech society from the beginning. Dissidents will not be able to saddle up and ride off into the sunset.

There’s also the matter of who does the settling. Canada and the United States ended up as free societies because of who settled these countries: the British. Had France or Spain settled North America, society here would be different. Culture matters, as David Landes and Samuel Huntington described. The Collected What If?, a collection of alternative history scenarios, includes an interesting view of Chinese colonization of North America. Zubrin alluded to the importance of culture when he said that the colonization of Mars could be a grand project to cement the increasingly loose alliance of Western nations. The colonization of Mars by nations hostile to the United States would give these nations a tremendous resource base with which to dictate terms to the United States – and their Martian colonies would not be very free.

So why hasn’t Zubrin’s plan become policy, despite the fact that his plan is much cheaper and very beneficial?

First, there is a general lack of faith in the future. Faith needs victory to be kept alive; in a 24-7 news environment describing political polarization, corruption, and incompetence, as well as a constant drumbeat of terrorism and war, it’s little wonder that the future is a matter for cynicism rather than faith. Ray Bradbury wrote about this in his short story “The Toynbee Convector” (published in an an anthology of the same name).

Second, neither major political party in the United States really believes in going to Mars, or in any other great space enterprises such as orbital solar power. They are too occupied with Earthly affairs. It was a Democratic President, John F. Kennedy, who inspired the nation to land humans on the Moon. Nowadays, the Democratic Party seems much more concerned with identity politics.

The Republican Party, the party which claims to represent free enterprise, is missing in action too. The Republican Party tends to believe in major spending only if there is a direct link to military or law enforcement. The 2016 Republican platform had much to say about coal and other fossil fuels and about reducing regulations in the United States – and very little about space. That’s a shame, because establishing a Martian colony can be done in a free enterprise way.

Instead of everything being done by government agencies, the government can simply announce prizes for going to Mars and for other achievements which would contribute to spaceflight and colonization. Zubrin goes into great detail about this. The late Dr. Jerry Pournelle was also an advocate of prizes to encourage space enterprise. The beauty of prizes is that the government need not spend any money until someone achieves the goal. Anyone attempting to claim the prize would have to raise money from the private sector. And of course, an enhanced space presence would contribute to U.S. national security, which is a traditional Republican concern. The recent attention by Congress and President Trump to creating a U.S. Space Force is encouraging.

Zubrin’s book is well worth reading, both for his explanation of how we can get to Mars, but more importantly, why we must. It’s a shame that our “leaders” haven’t bothered to take his advice.

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Further reading:

Dolman, Everett. Astropolitik. A hard-hitting book detailing why the United States should seize control of Earth orbital space.

Heinlein, Robert: The Rolling Stones. An enjoyable science-fiction story describing the adventures of a family who leave their home on the Moon to seek their fortunes on Mars and in the Asteroid Belt. This could become reality if Zubrin’s plan gets taken more seriously.

Sagan, Carl: Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space: Speculation about humanity’s future in space. Sagan takes a much more international view of space travel than Zubrin. The photos are amazing.

Review of Scales on War

I recently read Scales on War: The Future of America's Military at Risk by Major General Robert Scales, U.S. Army, Retired.

General Scales’ passion for improving U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps infantry really comes through in his book. His concern is reminiscent of Robert Heinlein’s classic Starship Troopers. (Note: Read the book; don’t watch the movie. They are NOT the same.) As Heinlein put it:

“The Mobile Infantry is the Army. All the others are either button pushers or professors, along merely to hand us the saw; we do the work.” (Italics in original text.)

Damn right. What we see in Scales on War is that the U.S. Department of Defense has gotten away from these basic truths. Instead, there is too much of a focus on high-tech instead of plain old-fashioned infantry and artillery (which was General Scales’ branch). Arthur C. Clarke warned about this several decades ago in his short story “Superiority,” which was first published in 1951. General Scales puts it bluntly: “Every dollar wasted on trillion-dollar gizmos is a dollar taken away from those who actually fight our wars.” Well said.

It’s fair to say that the U.S. must keep up with technology in order to fight “peer competitors,” which is Pentagon-babble for Russia and China, and it’s fair to say that infantry won’t be the only arrow in Uncle Sam’s quiver. However, it really shouldn’t be too much to ask that the Army get rid of the M-16 and its derivative, the M-4, both of which tend to jam, and equip all regular infantry units with the same reliable rifle used by Special Operations Forces such as the Navy’s SEAL Team Six and the Army’s Delta Force. It shouldn’t be too much to ask to equip those rifles with the same aiming aids that are freely purchased by civilians for hunting. It also shouldn’t be too much to ask that the Army’s artillery be improved so that soldiers on the ground have a source of fire support in addition to having air support. Lastly, it shouldn’t be too much to ask to improve psychological and cultural training for soldiers and line officers so that they can better survive the horrible physical and psychological demands of combat and so that they can better reach out to residents of the countries they are deployed to. As General Scales points out, none of these improvements cost as much as big-ticket weapons such as the F-35.

Perhaps these improvements will be made. General Scales speaks well of General James Mattis, USMC, who tried to put into practice several of the improvements mentioned in Scales on War. Now Mattis has been promoted to Secretary of Defense, which will give him more power to make these improvements. Sadly, Secretary Mattis has to deal with Congress, which tends to take more interest in big weapons systems. In other words, while the mission of the U.S. Department of Defense is “to provide a lethal Joint Force to defend the security of our country and sustain American influence abroad,” Congress has, de facto, re-interpreted this mission statement to say “provide job security for us and for our corporate backers.” Can you say “complacency” and “ignorance” and “corruption”? General Scales certainly does. Read his book!

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Sink the Bismarck!

I recently watched Sink the Bismarck, a movie made in 1960. Unlike many movies that are “based on a true story” (meaning very loosely based), this movie followed what really happened very closely.

Bismarck and her sister Tirpitz were the biggest battleships deployed by Nazi Germany during World War II. The Bismarck, escorted by the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen, was sent out to wreak havoc among Allied shipping in the North Atlantic Ocean. The Royal Navy sent many different ships to stop the Bismarck and the Prinz Eugen. In May 1942, Bismarck and Prinz Eugen engaged the Royal Navy’s Hood and the Prince of Wales. During a brisk action, Bismarck blew up the Hood, which was the Royal Navy’s pride and joy, and for a time the largest warship in the world. After that, the Royal Navy was even more determined to sink the Bismarck. A few days later, a Swordfish torpedo plane launched from the Royal Navy carrier Ark Royal damaged the Bismarck’s rudder. (It takes a special kind of bravery to fly in an open-cockpit biplane, over the cold North Atlantic Ocean, into heavy anti-aircraft fire.) She was helpless the next morning when the Royal Navy’s Home Fleet, with the battleships King George V and Rodney, came for her. After 90 minutes of hammering with 356-millimeter (14-inch) and 406-millimeter (16-inch) gunfire, the Bismarck was sunk.

The movie was impressive. Yes, there were a few scenes in which it was painfully obvious that I was looking at a model ship in a pool of water. But overall, the movie was well done and followed very closely to what really happened. The producers even spliced in some real combat footage. The moment in which the Hood was blown up was spectacular. Curiously, most of the footage of the final battle between Bismarck and Rodney and King George V showed only the latter firing – there was no footage of Rodney firing, even though an earlier scene showed Rodney and King George V sailing together.

The human element was well done too. Much of the movie took place in the Royal Navy’s headquarters underground in London. The tension was very visible. One of the main characters, Captain Shepard of the Royal Navy, is a spit and polish, very formal, very crisp fellow – until he hears that his son, a Swordfish tail gunner assigned to Ark Royal – went down at sea. Then his façade cracked. There is also a moment where a Royal Navy officer bows his head as he watches the shattered Bismarck sink. One also sees the pride of Admiral Lutjens and Captain Lindemann on board the Bismarck after sinking the Hood.

I enjoyed this movie! I’d rather watch a movie with primitive special effects than a movie that’s all special effects but not much plot, as many seem to be right now. If you like war or action films that are realistic, Sink the Bismarck is for you.

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Fleet Week 2017 and Miramar Air Show 2017

I went to Fleet Week Los Angeles on Labor Day weekend, and the air show at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar (San Diego) on 09-24-2017. They were fun! I love events like this: lots of noisy military hardware, lots of good hamburgers and other food, and the kind of shameless American nationalism that gives liberals conniption fits. Oh yes, one more thing: wear a hat and lots of sunblock!

I forgot to get online reservations for Fleet Week earlier in the year, so I was lucky to get a tour of USS Anchorage, described by the U.S. Navy as an “amphibious transport dock.” Put simply, that means that the USS Anchorage and her sisters can beach themselves and then offload Marines and their vehicles and weapons.

USS Anchorage appeared to be a well-run ship. Now the Navy needs to find out why there have been a lot of collisions recently. It appears that there has been some tampering with the Global Positioning System.

I also had the chance to put on some of the body armor used by the U.S. Marines. That stuff is heavy. I’m a hiker and fairly fit, but usually all I carry is a day pack with water, a sandwich, and some protein bars. To carry weapons, ammunition, radios, food, water, etc., while wearing that heavy armor, in hot weather or high altitude, under enemy fire – well, my hat is off to soldiers and Marines who do this every day. The next step is the powered, self-contained armor suits described in Robert Heinlein’s military classic Starship Troopers, but we’re not there yet. (Do yourself a favor: read the book, don’t watch the movie.)

MCAS Miramar was lots of fun too. The Marines demonstrated a combined air-ground attack using F/A-18 Hornets, AV-8B Harrier jump jets, AH-1 SuperCobra attack helicopters, M1 Abrams tanks, V-22 Osprey troop transports, and Huey troop transports. The Osprey had a troubled history. The tilt-rotor design is innovative in that it gives the vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) capability of a helicopter with the speed of a regular aircraft; the initial trouble seems to have been in transitioning from vertical to horizontal flight.

Lots of walking around, so I inhaled a half-pound hamburger for lunch. Thanks to the Marines for providing water bowsers so that I could keep my water bottle topped off. VMFA-314, the “Black Knights” Marine Corps F/A-18 squadron was there; this squadron was featured in the movie Independence Day, which was also shamelessly nationalistic.

You don’t have to agree with every military action undertaken by the United States (I don’t) to enjoy Fleet Week and air shows. Just go to see vintage and modern war machines in action. Go for the food, the noise, the sights, the shameless nationalism, and the excitement. Go have fun!

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Dunkirk: Simply Amazing!

I recently had the pleasure of watching Dunkirk at the Arclight Hollywood on 70-millimeter film with my friend Matthew Mishory, an accomplished film director. This movie about the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) from Dunkirk was amazing! It was very historically accurate. The aircraft shown were British Royal Air Force (RAF) Mark 1 Spitfires, the German Luftwaffe (air force) Messerschmitt 109 fighter, the Junkers 87 Stuka dive-bomber, and the Heinkel 111 medium bomber. Kudos to the producers for giving the Stuka its infamous Sirens of Jericho – the sirens mounted on the aircraft’s landing gear that added to its reputation for terror. The Spitfires were flying in the prewar three-plane elements that were soon discarded for the reason that if one pilot maneuvered to defend another, the third would be left by himself, vulnerable to attack. The dreamlike scene toward the end of the movie, when the Spitfire, out of fuel, glides without power over the beach for a long time after shooting down a Stuka, has an element of truth to it; the prototype Spitfire “floated on landing, as if it could not bear to return to Earth.” My only beef with the air element of the movie was that the RAF’s Hurricane fighters weren’t featured. The Spitfire got most of the glory in the history books, but the Hurricane was a similar eight-gun single-engine fighter and did a lot of good work at Dunkirk and during the Battle of Britain.

The evacuation by sea was also well covered. It really was true that a flotilla of small civilian craft were assisting the Royal Navy’s destroyers. (The Royal Navy destroyer was accurate too; it appeared to be one of the O and P class.) It was also true that the Royal Air Force was not able to stop every German air attack on the evacuation. Air Chief Marshal Hugh Dowding of the Royal Air Force’s Fighter Command had been warning Prime Minister Winston Churchill that he had been losing many aircraft and pilots in France even before the evacuation, and that committing too many fighters to defend the evacuation would have meant none left for the Battle of Britain. Sad to say, many Luftwaffe (German air force) attacks on the evacuation went unopposed. This led to much anger at the RAF. At the end of the evacuation, Marshal Dowding had only 283 fighters left to face over 1000 German aircraft based in occupied France and Norway. It is also true that the Spitfires and Hurricanes had short range; they could not remain over Dunkirk for long.

Of course, the British were quite lucky to have evacuated all those soldiers. The only reason that Dunkirk became known for the great evacuation is that German Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt was ordered to halt the advance of his ground forces because Hermann Goering, Reichsmarshal of the Luftwaffe, persuaded Adolf Hitler to let the Luftwaffe finish off the BEF. Had that not been the case, then most of the BEF and other Allied soldiers would have been killed or captured, and the United Kingdom would have been left without most of its regular army. That would have left only the Home Guard, an irregular collection of those too old or too young for regular military service, to repel an invasion, albeit with the help of the Royal Navy and the RAF. As it is, most of the BEF’s tanks and other heavy weapons had to be abandoned at Dunkirk.

Bottom line: If you like war movies that are historically accurate, go see this one!

Do you want me to write, research, or proofread for you? Contact me today!

For further reading:

Barker, Ralph. The RAF at War. Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1981, pp. 36-39.

Hallion, Richard P. Designers and Test Pilots. Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983, p. 73.

Kaplan, Phillip, and Richard Collier. The Few: Summer 1940, the Battle of Britain. Blandford Press, 1989; Orion Publishing Group, 2002, pp. 44-45.

Astonishing Prescience: Creating a New Civilization, by Alvin Toffler and Heidi Toffler

I recently reread a book I picked up in the 1990s entitled Creating a New Civilization: The Politics of the Third Wave by Alvin and Heidi Toffler. Much of the book was derived from their earlier works War and Anti-War and Powershift, but there is also new content in this book. The book’s thesis was that global civilization has three waves: an agricultural First Wave, an industrial Second Wave, and a Third Wave based on knowledge and communication. I was astonished to see how much they had gotten right. Here are some highlights:

The importance of knowledge is key to the Third Wave. Certainly, knowledge was required in the old days of pure agriculture and mass industry. But now, there is much more emphasis on knowledge. “Businesses, governments, and individuals are collecting and storing more sheer data than any previous generation and history,” said the Tofflers, well before “big data” became a household term. It’s not enough to have knowledge – it needs to be used, changed, learned, and transmitted between those businesses, governments, and individuals. Knowledge reduces the need for capital, resources, energy, time, and labor. And as the Tofflers were careful to emphasize, “not all this new knowledge is “correct”…much knowledge is unspoken…and it includes not simply data…but values, the products of passion and imagination, not to mention imagination and intuition.”

Since we all have different values, different passions, and different knowledge, the rise of the de-massified society was easy for the Tofflers to predict. De-massified society refers to less emphasis on mass production and mass media and more emphasis on choice and customization, whether in products, media (such as all of our LinkedIn pages), politics, religion, or anything else. We can see this on websites like Amazon, which has just about anything. 3-D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, make customization even easier; individuals can even buy their own 3-D printers.

The Tofflers didn’t miss their chance to give the two major political parties a dose of reality. Here’s what they said about each:

“The Democrats’ reflexive reliance on bureaucratic and centralist solutions to problems like the health insurance crisis is drawn straight from Second Wave theories of efficiency.”

Exactly. Government is essential for some things, but not for everything. There is much that the private sector and nonprofits can do. Some government oversight may still be necessary. And let’s not forget individual responsibility for health: eat right (at least most of the time – I’m not perfect either!), get some sleep, and get some exercise! Neither the government nor HMOs can do this for you; you have to do it yourself. Exercise and healthy eating need not be dull!

“Republicans tend to play down potentially immense social dislocations that are likely to flow from any change as profound as the Third Wave…Free-marketism and trickle-downism twisted into rigid theological dogma are inadequate responses to the Third Wave. For example…electronic services might well slash the number of entry-level jobs in the traditional retail sector, precisely the place undereducated young people can get their start.”

Again, exactly. Exhibit one: Amazon.com’s Kiva robots that reduce the need for human workers in fulfillment centers. The robot hamburger maker is here too. The manufacturer’s cofounder, Alexandros Vardakostas, bluntly stated that this device “isn’t meant to make employees more efficient. It’s to completely obviate them.”

Here’s how I would interpret this for anyone who has graduated from high school and isn’t sure what to do next: You must learn a skill or trade…but universities with their extortionate tuition rates are not the only path to a skill or trade that pays well. Yes, you need university for some fields, such as doctor or nurse or lawyer. But for many other fields that are skilled and pay well, you can attend a trade or technical school. That’s what I’m doing to earn my CompTIA A+ certification. All I’m doing is studying for that certificate. No other classes, unless I want them. I study on my own time; no need to be in a classroom; no semesters or quarters. This is much cheaper than a four-year degree at a university. You can do this too! (The Tofflers would have called this the de-massification of education.) Show recruiters that you’re valuable; don’t expect the government to take care of you. (There has been much talk about the universal basic income, along with some pilot projects, but I do not see this becoming a nationwide program anytime soon.) Get a skill ASAP, because the truly unskilled jobs that cannot be shipped overseas will be automated bit by bit.

Sad to say, Alvin Toffler died in 2016. His wife and coauthor, Heidi Toffler, survives him. Their research firm, Toffler Associates, is located in Reston, Virginia.

Bottom line: Read this book, especially if you don’t have the time to read all of the Tofflers’ works. It really is amazing how many of their predictions turned out to be true.

History, Politics, Technology, and Fiction

Yes, the movie or book you’re writing might be fiction rather than a documentary. Nothing wrong with that; we all read and watch plenty of fiction. However, if your movie or book deals with a certain country or period of time, it would be well to know as much about that country or period of time as possible. In the age of social media, the ridicule that comes from making mistakes can go viral very quickly.

That’s what I can do for you. I can go over your manuscript and catch mistakes. I can catch errors such as that made in Star Wars: A New Hope in which Han Solo says that his Millennium Falcon made the Kessel run in “less than 12 parsecs.” Really? “Parsec” is a measure of distance, not time. It’s like saying you drove from Los Angeles to San Francisco in ten miles. George Lucas got away with that because a) Star Wars is still a fun series of movies, and b) there was no social media at that time to ridicule him for such an easily corrected mistake.

If you’re writing a movie or a book, and you want to focus on writing and/or producing and directing rather than research, contact me. I can help you. I can do the background research – the part that I love doing – so that you can do what you love doing. Contact me today!

History, Politics, Technology, and Investments

Mention investment and many people will think about purely financial matters: the company’s stock price, the payout per share, and whether the company had any problems recently.

Those are good places to start. But there’s more.

Think about what the company is doing. What services or goods is it providing? Is it just some new way to send pictures or wisecracks to people, as much of social media seems to be? Or does it aim to provide something that individuals, businesses, and governments really need?

Definition of really need: Energy is at the very top. Without energy, we will all be back in the Stone Age. Energy is needed for everything -- bringing food from farms and slaughterhouses to markets, to manufacture all the gadgets we take for granted, to keep the lights on and the water flowing – everything!!

Next are other physical items. One can live without social media (yes, call me ironic for saying such a thing on a website); one cannot live without food and water. Then there are the myriad other items that we need: clothes, books, cooking utensils, weapons (for individuals, security firms, and governments) and many more. If a company is making these things, has good sales, and is keeping its financial house in order, it’s probably a good bet.

Services: Some services are more recession-proof than others; health care comes to mind. No matter what the politicians come up with, people will still get sick or get injured, and all of us will get old. If a health care company is being well managed and has good sales, I’d definitely consider it.

Next, ask where the company is. Companies have to deal with governments where they are based or working, and how a government is run makes a huge difference in terms of whether prosperity is possible in the country that a government controls. Obviously, no country is perfect; this is Earth, not Heaven. However, one can’t go wrong by using the list of hallmarks of good government in The Wealth and Poverty of Nations, a most entertaining book by the late David Landes. Here is a condensed version:

1) Secure private property rights, which will encourage savings and investment.

2) Secure personal liberties against governmental tyranny and crime.

3) Enforce contracts.

4) Government should be stable, it should abide by publicly known laws, respond to grievances, be honest, and be moderate, efficient, and frugal.

I look at investment decisions from a political science and history standpoint. What was done in the past affects what we see today, whether in business or in government. Legislation, law enforcement actions, and military actions of governments affect other governments, businesses, and individuals like you and me. That’s the perspective I can bring to your investment decisions.

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Me and Betty Jane

Here I am with Betty Jane, a P-51C Mustang that I had the pleasure of taking a ride in back in 2015. The Mustang was an American fighter aircraft of World War II. It was an amazing flight! Imagine being lifted into the air by a big version of the engine in your car, instead of a modern jet engine. Now imagine fighting with just your eyes, your flying skills, and your guns. No onboard radar, no computers, no infrared sensors, no missiles. An amazing experience!