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Where To Go During The Collapse- The Best Places In America to Go During An Apocalypse! (This Article Illustrates Each Place With A Detailed Image) by Milan Adams

Where is the best place to live in the US during and after the apocalypse?

While trying to figure out the answer, I’ve looked inside of prepping blogs to find a consensus for the criteria known to be essential for any place to survive in during the wake of such an event. That is, any event that can potentially destabilize society to the point of no return to normal any time soon. It will be important for you to have whatever supplies you need ready ahead of time before you travel to your destination. So start getting ready.

That being said, the criteria for the best area to survive in can be broken into three categories:

1. Human factors, 2. Natural factors, and 3. Economic factors

Human Factors:

  • Low population density (40 people per sq. mile or less)
  • Distance to major/minor cities (50+ miles away)
  • Distance to military bases (50+ miles away)
  • Distance to nuclear power plants (100+ miles away)
  • Distance to interstate highways
  • Low poverty rate
  • Low violent crime rate

Natural Factors:

  • Easy access to fresh water
  • Abundance of wild game
  • Low natural disaster risk
  • Dense forest cover
  • Adequate soil textures
  • Adequate rainfall
  • Low drought risk

Economic Factors:

  • Higher job growth
  • High abundance of non-renewable natural resources available for extraction (coal, oil, natural gas, metals and minerals, lumber, etc.
  • Higher educated citizens

Now that we know what to look for, I’ll narrow down a map of the U.S. by one category at a time using other maps I have compiled. The “Orange” counties are those disqualified, which will then become and remain dark gray when the next factor is applied. For simplicity reasons, we’ll focus on the continental U.S. But before starting I will say that the state of Hawaii is probably a fairly safe place to be considering its isolation, moderate climate, and the Polynesians have managed living there by themselves for millennia.

I highly recommend this book: The Home Doctor – Practical Medicine for Every Household – is a 304 page doctor written and approved guide on how to manage most health situations when help is not on the way.

If you want to see what happens when things go south, all you have to do is look at Venezuela: no electricity, no running water, no law, no antibiotics, no painkillers, no anesthetics, no insulin or other important things.

But if you want to find out how you can still manage in a situation like this, you must also look to Venezuela and learn the ingenious ways they developed to cope.

The first most important thing is population density or lack of it. This is common sense since you don’t wanna be around massive numbers of unprepared people when SHTF. Ideally anywhere under 40 people per square mile is best. The blue shaded counties are where to go.

Next is proximity to major and minor cities. A distance of at least 50 miles away is best.

Stay out of counties that contain Interstate highways as the most desperate people will use them traveling in search of resources.

We are now isolated from any major threats from large populations and groups of people. But, there is still the possibility of martial law being put into effect. So it’s best to keep our distance from military bases.

And nuclear reactors, in case of meltdowns occuring during grid failures.

The last places to “watch out” from are areas with already high poverty and crime rates. When they no longer can depend on Uncle Sam for their existence, it will get ugly. Avoiding these areas may potentially eliminate our options in the Southern states but I would like to keep them open for now for climate reasons. We’ll use a 25% poverty rate limit for the south and 20% everywhere else. (The south includes WV, southern MO, and eastern half of OK and TX)

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I won’t make any exception for violent crime rates. Those will be applied evenly across the board. Lighter counties are safer.

We are now looking at a map of what are probably the “safest” counties in the United States. But now that the potential for human threat is minimized, we must figure out where is the best place to settle down based on what resources there will be available. The most important thing is easy access to fresh water always within close proximity.

Next in my opinion is wild game abundance, which you need for food during winters and harsh growing seasons, and for protein in general.

You wanna be safe from natural disasters such as tornadoes and hurricanes. Given recent events I think it’s safe to eliminate the lone county remaining in Florida.

This is a potentially controversial assumption, but the amount of forest cover over an area may be a good indicator for how much local resources there will be for us to utilize for our way of life. Everything from ecosystems that support wild game and edible plants to having plentiful amounts of lumber if needed (especially in the winter). Forests are just as useful as farmland. At least 25% forest cover is beneficial.

We need to grow food. This requires a number of things. Most important of them are good soil textures and rainfall. Drought-prone areas must be avoided. Warm climate isn’t necessary and depending on your environment you can expect to have different lengths of growing seasons. I will subtract all these variables all at once from the next map.

The best soil textures are ones with a close to even mixture of sand, silt, and clay, together known as loam. This mixture holds nutrients best. Anywhere on the scale from sandy loam to clay loam will work for most vegetables, fruits, wheat, nuts, and other produce.

This map is just for reference. Knowing your plant hardiness zones is key to scheduling your growing seasons with which types of produce you can expect to grow based on the average climate of your zone. Generally speaking, your options get wider the more south you go with more varieties of produce able to grow in warmer climates. There is also the potential for yielding not just one but two or more crop yields in a year with longer growing seasons in warm climates.

Rain should be 20 inches or more a year. So anything from dark green (40″+) all the way to light orange (20″) is good. Of course avoid regions that most often experience drought.

With all agricultural factors considered, this is what’s left on the map.

A variety of choices are left spanning different parts of the US. These are places that have everything we “need” to survive. You can perhaps at this point choose to pick whichever is closest to where you currently live. It is arguable that depending on the nature of the apocalyptic event the local economy may or may not make a difference on your quality of life. But let’s see where factoring it leads us.

A strong local economy in a rural area can indicate the presence of a stable natural resource based economy be it agriculture, mining, logging, etc. These resources can potentially be very important for the economic growth of the area and in the rebuilding of other economies through the exporting of these resources. It’s best to pick the areas with current stable job growth with high natural resource reserves.

Areas with 2.5%+ job growth with heavy natural resource reserves and industries:

The culture of where you live can be rather important. To borrow from one commenter, “You need a community. No matter how much of a bad ass you are you have to sleep sometime. It is great to consider things like natural resources and growing conditions, but you also need people with the knowledge to put those attributes to work for the community.” Areas with a high concentration of college graduates can indicate the presence of a college or of other skilled service providers which can potentially contribute to the needs of a community in areas such as healthcare, engineering, agriculture, etc. Areas with a population of at least 20% college graduates would be good.

We have 5 finalists:

Archuleta Co., CO

Hinsdale Co., CO

San Juan Co., CO

Hubbard Co., MN

Highland Co., VA

At this point, let’s eliminate by comparing.

For extra isolation, eliminate Highland County, VA.

For better access to water, rain, and wild game, eliminate Archuleta County, CO.

For a place with less poverty and crime, stay out of San Juan County, CO.

At this point the decision for me comes down to the potential for future economic growth and a population that is more wilderness survival conscious, which leaves us our winner….

Hinsdale County, Colorado

I welcome any suggestions from you for additions, corrections, or edits to help accurately improve the results I have found and will perhaps make updates to everything based on them in the future

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Food Confiscation: How to protect your food stores and production from government confiscation

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(Step by Step)The Only Video You Need to Become Self-Sufficient on ¼ Acre

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Some Scary thoughts

The Fall of Minneapolis

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Anti Civil Rights ideas & "Friends" Being a Stranger in a very Strange Land Born again Cynic! Grumpy's hall of Shame Gun Fearing Wussies Paint me surprised by this Some Scary thoughts You have to be kidding, right!?!

And some Folks wonder why I am “paranoid”

Federal investigators asked banks to scour customer transactions for terms like ‘Trump’ or ‘MAGA’ and purchases at stores including Dick’s Sporting Goods and Bass Pro Shops after the Capitol riot, shocking Republican probe claims

  • Federal officials investigating Jan. 6 asked banks to filter through customer transactions including key terms like ‘MAGA’ and ‘Trump’
  • The government has been ‘watching’ Americans who frequent Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s and other outdoors stores that sell guns
  • The Treasury Department also warned banks of ‘extremism’ indicators like the purchase of a religious text, like a Bible 
  • Top Republican Jim Jordan says the transactions have ‘no apparent criminal nexus’ and is demanding information from Treasury

Federal investigators asked U.S. banks to scour customer transactions for key terms like ‘MAGA’ and ‘Trump’ to identify ‘extremism’ in the aftermath of January 6, shocking details uncovered by Republicans reveal.

According to bombshell documents obtained by the House’s ‘weaponization’ committee led by Chairman Jim Jordan, the federal government has been ‘watching’ Americans who frequent outdoor stores that sell guns – or who are religious.

Treasury Department officials suggested that banks review transactions at sporting and recreational supplies stores like Cabela’s, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Bass Pro Shops in order ‘to detect customers whose transactions may reflect ‘potential active shooters.”

Federal investigators suggested that banks use search terms like ‘MAGA’ and ‘Trump’ to identify purchased that could be associated with ‘extremism’

Transportation charges for travel to areas with no apparent purpose could be an indicator of ‘extremism,’ according to the letter

Subscriptions to news outlets containing ‘extremist’ views would also be an indicator for financial instructions to look at, according to the material the Treasury provided to banks.

‘Did you shop at Bass Pro Shop yesterday or purchase a Bible? If so, the federal government may be watching you,’ Jordan posted on X.

‘We now know the federal government flagged terms like ‘MAGA’ and ‘TRUMP,’ to financial institutions if Americans completed transactions using those terms,’ he wrote in another post. ‘What was also flagged? If you bought a religious text, like a BIBLE, or shopped at Bass Pro Shop.’

The federal officials may have illegally provided financial institutions with suggested search terms for ‘identifying transactions on behalf of federal law enforcement,’ said Jordan.

DailyMail.com reached out to the Treasury Department for comment.

Jordan is also demanding information from a Treasury official, Noah Bishoff, after the alarming documents came to light.

‘Despite these transactions having no apparent criminal nexus — and, in fact, relate to Americans exercising their Second Amendment rights — [the Treasury] seems to have adopted a characterization of these Americans as potential threat actors,’ Jordan wrote.

Purchases from Bass Pro Shops could also be an indicator of extremism

The committee also obtained documents indicating officials suggested that banks query purchases with keywords such as ‘Dick’s Sporting Goods’

‘This kind of pervasive financial surveillance, carried out in coordination with and at the request of federal law enforcement, into Americans’ private transactions is alarming and raises serious doubts about [the Treasury’s] respect for fundamental liberties.’

‘In other words, [the Treasury] urged large financial instructions to comb through the private transactions of their customers for suspicious charges on the basis of protected political and religious expression,’ said the committee’s letter to Bishoff.

House Speaker Mike Johnson on Thursday called the revelation ‘yet another glaring example of the weaponized federal government targeting conservatives.’

Republicans are also requesting that Bishoff appear before the committee for a transcribed interview by January 31.

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All About Guns Grumpy's hall of Shame Gun Fearing Wussies Paint me surprised by this Some Scary thoughts

After 2 Million FOID Card Holders Rebel Against Pritzker, Democrats Target Illinois Gun Owners’ Driver’s Licenses By: Illinois Review

On Wednesday, State Senator Julie Morrison, the Majority Caucus Whip, introduced legislation that could result in Illinois gun owners’ losing their driver’s licenses without due process, less than two weeks after 2 million Firearm Owners Identification (FOID) card holders rebelled and chose not to register their firearms in protest of Gov. Pritzker’s assault weapons ban that he signed into law last January.

In a video statement released on Thursday evening, Illinois State Rifle Association president Doug Mayhall said, “Now the anti-gun legislators are coming after your Driver’s License!”

Mayhall went on to explain Senate Bill 2720, which “proposes that when a FOID card is revoked – and the FOID card holder does not comply with Section 9.5 of the FOID Act by surrendering their FOID card to authorities – the gun owner may not be issued a driver’s license; renew a driver’s license; retain a drivers license; or be issued a permit to drive under the Illinois Vehicle Code.”

The legislation also requires the Illinois State Police to notify the Secretary of State’s office and report anyone that fails to comply with Section 9.5.

But the issue is more troublesome than simply having your FOID card revoked according to Mayhall.

“Under the Red Flag Law – there can be an ex parte case filed against you. In other words, someone can say you are a problem and go before a judge without you present. You then can lose your FOID card and not get a hearing for at least two weeks.

So what’s the bottom line here? A person under this bill can be falsely accused and lose their right to drive without a single hearing.”

The loss of a driver’s license can have serious implications, and it has the potential of completely disrupting one’s livelihood – including someone’s ability to get to and from work.

The timing of the legislation to coincide with the January 1st deadline of Illinois’ gun registry and the one year anniversary of the assault weapons ban is not accidental, as Mayhall pointed out.

“After Governor Pritzker was left embarrassed when less than 2 percent of the 2.4 million FOID Card holders registered their firearms by the January 1st deadline, he’s now looking for new ways to target and harass gun owners.”

The legislation is awaiting a committee assignment, and the Democrats maintain a comfortable 40-19 supermajority in the state Senate.

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Darwin would of approved of this! Hard Nosed Folks Both Good & Bad Paint me surprised by this Some Scary thoughts You have to be kidding, right!?!

Report: U.S.S. Carney Intercepts Missiles Fired by Iran-backed Houthis near Yemen by JOEL B. POLLAK

Iranian-backed Houthi rebels fired missiles Wednesday at the U.S.S. Carney off the coast of Yemen, according to news reports.

ABC News reported:

A U.S. Navy destroyer has been involved in a security incident in the Red Sea, a U.S. official said Thursday.

The USS Carney encountered multiple missiles launched by Houthis in Yemen and fired missiles in response, the official said.

The Houthi missiles were not thought to have been fired at the ship.

CNN added:

A US Navy warship operating in the Middle East intercepted multiple projectiles near the coast of Yemen on Thursday, two US officials told CNN.

One of the officials said the missiles were fired by Iranian-backed Houthi militants, who are engaged in an ongoing conflict in Yemen. Approximately 2-3 missiles were intercepted, according to the second official.

The officials said it was unclear what the missiles were targeting. It’s possible the missiles were fired at the USS Carney or launched towards another target.

A Pentagon briefing is expected Thursday afternoon.

This story is developing.

—————————————————————————————–I am getting the feeling that A. Not a lot of Folks are scared of us. & B. That somebody is just spoiling for a serious fight. God help us all!! Grumpy

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Some Red Hot Gospel there! Some Scary thoughts

THE ENTERPRISE OF DEATH WRITTEN BY WILL DABBS, MD

32

The mechanism really doesn’t make all that much difference, the end result is the same.

It really doesn’t matter what you did. By this point, none of that really matters. Once these gears start turning there is no stopping them.

Nobody has to think about anything — and that’s intentional. There is a big book, and at each stage of the operation those tasked with its execution need only turn to the appropriate page and do what it says. It helps absolve those who must undertake this macabre operation of any undue moral responsibility. They were just doing what the book directed.

Twenty-four hours in advance, the prison SWAT team reports to your cell to move you to the observation area. You can walk along with them peacefully or not, but they will move you.

The observation cell has entire wall constructed of nothing but bars. It’s here where you take your last meal. The prison makes every reasonable effort to accommodate this request. Some poor guy sits and stares at you for the full 24 hours. This is to keep you from killing yourself. The government will not be denied.

A few hours before the big event, the SWAT team shows up again, this time to move you from the holding area to the place of execution. There is a series of stone steps leading down to the death room. As I walked down these steps, I couldn’t help but imagine what it might feel like to do this for real.

Two walls are one-way glass, one window is for government witnesses and the other is for the victim’s family. The inside is covered with acoustic soundproofing. The ceiling is formed from those banal institutional ceiling tiles, but more on those in a minute.

Once in the room, the SWAT team ensures you stretch out peaceably on the table. There are extensions for your arms. The table looks like a cross, and the thing is festooned with straps. Your arms, legs, torso and head are securely affixed. There can be a little movement but not much. I assumed the position. This may seem unduly dark, but I wanted to know how it might feel.

Paramedics then start a large bore IV in each arm. Physicians are intentionally excluded from the process as this would be such an egregious violation of the Hippocratic Oath. The IV lines run through a pair of innocuous-looking holes in the wall. And then you wait.

This is the lethal injection room at San Quentin (Ca.) Penitentiary.
Mine was a bit different. (Source: Wikipedia)

 

There is a bank of five identical telephones with sequential phone numbers standing side by side. Should there be a last-minute stay there is no way word won’t get there in time. On the other side of the wall are two little closets. Inside each closet is a handcrafted wooden contraption to hold the mystical elixir affixed to each IV line. One is normal saline, the other is something else. On the wall is also a pair of lights, one red and the other green.

Meanwhile, the subject of this exercise stares at those accursed ceiling tiles. Think back to the last time you were enduring some ghastly dental procedure or other. It’s like that, but much worse.

There is a little microphone hanging down from the ceiling; a tiny corner of one tile carved away to accommodate its cord. At the appointed time the warden enters the room and reads the charges against you. The condemned then has three minutes to say anything they want. The warden actually has a stopwatch. At the end of three minutes the warden turns and leaves whether you are still speaking or not. When you die, you die alone.

Gravity is ultimately the engine behind this enterprise. The IV bottles sit inverted in their holders. The executioners enter their closets and wait for the lights. When the lights change, they each flip the bottles upright and leave, never seeing the object of the exercise. This is by design.

As I lay on that hard table, technically padded but only just, I was so viscerally struck by those ceiling tiles. They’re the last thing one sees. It doesn’t matter what a heartless bloodthirsty monster you might be, the process of bringing you to this point will invariably break you. You have absolutely no control over anything.

Our actions have consequences, and this is a really big one. The ponderous machinations of the legal system tend to separate cause and effect substantially in situations of such exceptional gravitas. However, Lady Justice is a cold-hearted lass. She ultimately extracts her due.

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Some Red Hot Gospel there! Some Scary thoughts War

“The Future of Warfare is Devastation”

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Karma can be a bitch! Some Red Hot Gospel there! Some Scary thoughts

Complex Systems Won’t Survive the Competence Crisis by HAROLD ROBERTSON Key words – “Meritocracy and the new political imperative of protected-group diversity on a collision course”

 Ilya Mirnyy/Firefighter in field, 2020

At a casual glance, the recent cascades of American disasters might seem unrelated. In a span of fewer than six months in 2017, three U.S. Naval warships experienced three separate collisions resulting in 17 deaths. A year later, powerlines owned by PG&E started a wildfire that killed 85 people. The pipeline carrying almost half of the East Coast’s gasoline shut down due to a ransomware attack. Almost half a million intermodal containers sat on cargo ships unable to dock at Los Angeles ports. A train carrying thousands of tons of hazardous and flammable chemicals derailed near East Palestine, Ohio. Air Traffic Control cleared a FedEx plane to land on a runway occupied by a Southwest plane preparing to take off. Eye drops contaminated with antibiotic-resistant bacteria killed four and blinded fourteen.

While disasters like these are often front-page news, the broader connection between the disasters barely elicits any mention. America must be understood as a system of interwoven systems; the healthcare system sends a bill to a patient using the postal system, and that patient uses the mobile phone system to pay the bill with a credit card issued by the banking system. All these systems must be assumed to work for anyone to make even simple decisions. But the failure of one system has cascading consequences for all of the adjacent systems. As a consequence of escalating rates of failure, America’s complex systems are slowly collapsing.

The core issue is that changing political mores have established the systematic promotion of the unqualified and sidelining of the competent. This has continually weakened our society’s ability to manage modern systems. At its inception, it represented a break from the trend of the 1920s to the 1960s, when the direct meritocratic evaluation of competence became the norm across vast swaths of American society.

In the first decades of the twentieth century, the idea that individuals should be systematically evaluated and selected based on their ability rather than wealth, class, or political connections, led to significant changes in selection techniques at all levels of American society. The Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) revolutionized college admissions by allowing elite universities to find and recruit talented students from beyond the boarding schools of New England.

Following the adoption of the SAT, aptitude tests such as Wonderlic (1936), Graduate Record Examination (1936), Army General Classification Test (1941), and Law School Admission Test (1948) swept the United States. Spurred on by the demands of two world wars, this system of institutional management electrified the Tennessee Valley, created the first atom bomb, invented the transistor, and put a man on the moon.

By the 1960s, the systematic selection for competence came into direct conflict with the political imperatives of the civil rights movement. During the period from 1961 to 1972, a series of Supreme Court rulings, executive orders, and laws—most critically, the Civil Rights Act of 1964—put meritocracy and the new political imperative of protected-group diversity on a collision course. Administrative law judges have accepted statistically observable disparities in outcomes between groups as prima facie evidence of illegal discrimination. The result has been clear: any time meritocracy and diversity come into direct conflict, diversity must take priority.

The resulting norms have steadily eroded institutional competency, causing America’s complex systems to fail with increasing regularity. In the language of a systems theorist, by decreasing the competency of the actors within the system, formerly stable systems have begun to experience normal accidents at a rate that is faster than the system can adapt. The prognosis is harsh but clear: either selection for competence will return or America will experience devolution to more primitive forms of civilization and loss of geopolitical power.

From Meritocracy to Diversity

The first domino to fall as Civil Rights-era policies took effect was the quantitative evaluation of competency by employers using straightforward cognitive batteries. While some tests are still legally used in hiring today, several high-profile enforcement actions against employers caused a wholesale change in the tools customarily usable by employers to screen for ability.

After the early 1970s, employers responded by shifting from directly testing for ability to using the next best thing: a degree from a highly-selective university. By pushing the selection challenge to the college admissions offices, selective employers did two things: they reduced their risk of lawsuits and they turned the U.S. college application process into a high-stakes war of all against all. Admission to Harvard would be a golden ticket to join the professional managerial class, while mere admission to a state school could mean a struggle to remain in the middle class.

This outsourcing did not stave off the ideological change for long. Within the system of political imperatives now dominant in all major U.S. organizations, diversity must be prioritized even if there is a price in competency. The definition of diversity varies by industry and geography.

In elite universities, diversity means black, indigenous, or Hispanic. In California, Indian women are diverse but Indian men are not. When selecting corporate board members, diversity means “anyone who is not a straight white man.” The legally protected and politically enforced nature of this imperative renders an open dialogue nearly impossible.

However diversity itself is defined, most policy on the matter is based on a simple premise: since all groups are identical in talent, any unbiased process must produce the same group proportions as the general population, and therefore, processes that produce disproportionate outcomes must be biased.

Prestigious journals like Harvard Business Review are the first to summarize and parrot these views, which then flow down to reporting by mass media organizations like Bloomberg Businessweek. Soon, it joins McKinsey’s “best practices” list and becomes instantiated in corporate policies.

Unlike accounting policies, which emanate from the Financial Accounting Standards Board and are then implemented by Chief Financial Officers, the diversity push emanates inside of organizations from multiple power centers, each of which joins in for independent reasons. CEOs push diversity policies primarily to please board members and increase their status. Human Resources (HR) professionals push diversity policies primarily to avoid anti-discrimination lawsuits. Business development teams push diversity to win additional business from diversity-sensitive clients (e.g. government agencies). Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), such as the Black Googler Network, push diversity to help their in-group in hiring and promotion decisions.

Diversity in Theory and Practice

In police academies around the country, new recruits are taught to apply an escalation of force algorithm with non-compliant subjects: “Ask, Tell, Make.” The idea behind “Ask, Tell, Make” is to apply the least amount of force necessary to achieve the desired level of compliance. This is the means by which police power, which is ultimately backed by significant coercive force, can maintain an appearance of voluntary compliance and soft-handedness. Similarly, the power centers inside U.S. institutions apply a variant of “Ask, Tell, Make” to achieve diversity in their respective organizations.

The first tactics for implementing diversity imperatives are the “Ask” tactics. These simply ask all the members of the organization to end bias. At this stage, the policies seem so reasonable and fair that there will rarely be much pushback. Best practices such as slating guidelines are a common tool at this stage.

Slating guidelines require that every hiring process must include a certain number and type of diverse candidates for every job opening. Structured interviews are another best practice that requires interviewers to stick with a script to minimize the chance of uncovering commonalities between the interviewer and interviewee that might introduce bias. Often HR will become involved in the hiring process, specifically asking the hiring manager to defend their choice not to hire a diverse candidate. Because the wrong answer could result in shaming, loss of advancement opportunities, or even termination, the hiring manager can often be persuaded to prioritize diversity over competence.

Within specialized professional services companies, senior-level recruiting will occasionally result in a resume collection where not a single diverse candidate meets the minimum specifications of the job. This is a terrible outcome for the hiring manager as it attracts negative attention from HR. At this point, firms will often retain an executive search agency that focuses on exclusively diverse candidates. When that does not result in sufficient diversity, roles will often have their requirements diluted to increase the pool of diverse candidates.

For example, within hedge funds, the ideal entry-level candidate might be an experienced former investment banker who went to a top MBA program. This preferred pedigree sets a minimum bar for both competence and work ethic. This first-pass filter enormously winnows the field of underrepresented candidates. To relax requirements for diversity’s sake, this will be diluted in various ways. First, the work experience might be stripped. Next, the role gets offered to MBA interns. Finally, fresh undergraduates are hired into the analyst role. Dilution works not just because of the larger field of candidates it allows for but also because the Harvard Admission Office of 2019 is even more focused on certain kinds of diversity than the Harvard Admission Office of 2011 was.

This dilution is not costless; fewer data points result in a wider range of outcomes and increase the risk of a bad hire. All bad hires are costly but bad hires that are diverse are even worse. The risk of a wrongful termination lawsuit either draws out the termination process for diverse hires or results in the firm adjusting by giving them harmless busy work until they leave of their own volition—either way, a terrible outcome for the organizations which hired them.

If these “Ask” tactics do not achieve enough diversity, the next step in the escalation is to attach carrots and sticks to directly tell decision-makers to increase the diversity of the organization. This is the point at which the goals of diversity and competence truly begin displaying significant tension between each other. The first step is the implementation of Key Performance Indicators (KPI) linked to diversity for all managers. Diversity KPIs are a tool to embarrass leaders and teams that are not meeting their diversity targets. Given that most organizations are hierarchical and pyramidal, combined with the fact that America was much whiter 50 years ago than it was today, it is unsurprising that senior leadership teams are less diverse than America as a whole—and, more pertinently, than their own junior teams.

The combination of a pyramid-shaped org chart and a senior leadership team where white men often make up 80 percent or more of the team means that the imposition of an aggressive KPI sends a message to the layer below them: no white man in middle management will likely ever see a promotion as long as they remain in the organization. This is never expressed verbally. Rather, those overlooked figure it out as they are passed over continually for less competent but more diverse colleagues. The result is demoralization, disengagement, and over time, departure.

While all the aforementioned techniques fall into the broad category of affirmative action, they primarily result in slightly tilting the scale toward diverse candidates. The next step is simply holding different groups to different standards. Within academia, the recently filed Students for Fair Admissions v. President and Fellows of Harvard College lawsuit leveraged data to show the extent to which Harvard penalizes Asian and white applicants to help black and Hispanic applicants. The UC System, despite formally being forbidden from practicing affirmative action by Proposition 209, uses a tool called “comprehensive admission” to accomplish the same goal.

The latest technique, which was recently brought to light, shows UC admissions offices using the applicants’ high schools as a proxy for race to achieve their desired goal. Heavily Asian high schools such as Arcadia—which is 68 percent Asian—saw their UC-San Diego acceptance rate cut from 37 percent to 13 percent while the 99-percent-Hispanic Garfield High School saw its UC-San Diego acceptance rate rise from 29 percent to 65 percent.

The preference for diversity at the college faculty level is similarly strong. Jessica Nordell’s End of Bias: A Beginning heralded MIT’s efforts to increase the gender diversity of its engineering department: “When applications came in, the Dean of Engineering personally reviewed every one from a woman. If departments turned down a good candidate, they had to explain why.”

When this was not enough, MIT increased its gender diversity by simply offering jobs to previously rejected female candidates. While no university will admit to letting standards slip for the sake of diversity, no one has offered a serious argument why the new processes produce higher or even equivalent quality faculty as opposed to simply more diverse faculty. The extreme preference for diversity in academia today explains much of the phenomenon of professors identifying with a minor fraction of their ancestry or even making it up entirely.

During COVID-19, the difficulty of in-person testing and online proctoring created a new mechanism to push diversity at the expense of competency: the gradual but systematic elimination of standardized tests as a barrier to admission to universities and graduate schools. Today, the majority of U.S. colleges have either stopped requiring SAT/ACT scores, no longer require them for students in the top 10 percent of their class, or will no longer consider them. Several elite law schools, including Harvard Law School, no longer require the LSAT as of 2023. With thousands of unqualified law students headed to a bar exam that they are unlikely to pass, the National Conference of Bar Examiners is already planning to dilute the bar exam under the “NextGen” plan. Specifically, “eliminat[ing] any aspects of our exams that could contribute to performance disparities” will almost definitionally reduce the degree to which the exam tests for competency.

Similarly, standards used to select doctors have also been weakened to promote diversity. Programs such as the City College of New York’s BS/MD program have eliminated the MCAT requirement. With the SAT now optional, new candidates can go straight from high school to the United States Medical Licensing Examination Step 1 exam in medical school without having gone through any rigorous standardized test whose score can be compared across schools. Step 1 scores were historically the most significant factor in the National Residency Matching Program, which pairs soon-to-be doctors with their future residency training programs. Because Step 1 scores serve as a barrier to increasing diversity, they have been made pass/fail. A handful of doctors are speaking out about the dangers of picking doctors based on factors other than competency but most either explicitly prefer diversity or else stay silent, concerned about the career-ending repercussions of pointing out the obvious.

When even carrot and stick incentives and the removal of standards do not achieve enough diversity, the end game is to simply make decision-makers comply. “Make” has two preferred implementations: one is widely discussed and the other is, for obvious reasons, never disclosed publicly. The first method of implementation is the application of quotas. Quotas or set-asides require the reservation of admissions slots, jobs, contracts, board seats, or other scarce goods for women and members of favored minority groups. Government contracts and supplier agreements are explicitly awarded to firms that have acronyms such as SB, WBE, MBE, DBE, SDB, VOSB, SDVOSB, WOSB, HUB, and 8(a).

Within large employers and government contractors, quotas are used for both hiring and promotions, requiring specific percentages of hiring or promotions to be reserved for favored groups. During the summer of 2020, the CEO of Wells Fargo, was publicly shamed after his memo blaming the underrepresentation of black senior leaders on a “very limited pool” of black talent was leaked to Reuters. Less than a month later, the bank publicly pledged to reserve 12 percent of leadership positions for black candidates and began tying executive compensation to reaching diversity goals. In 2022, Goldman Sachs extended quotas to the capital markets by adopting a policy to avoid underwriting IPOs of firms without at least two board members that are not straight white men.

When diversity still refuses to rise to acceptable levels, the remaining solution is the direct exclusion of non-diverse candidates. While public support for anti-discrimination laws and equal opportunity laws is high, public support for affirmative action and quotas is decidedly mixed. Hardline views such as those expressed in author Ijeoma Oluo’s Mediocre: The Dangerous Legacy of White Male America—namely that any white man in a position of power perpetuates a system of white male domination”—are still considered extreme, even within U.S. progressive circles.

As such, when explicit exclusion is used to eliminate groups like white men from selection processes, it is done subtly. Managers are told to sequester all the resumes from “non-diverse” candidates—that is, white males. These resumes are discarded and the candidates are sent emails politely telling them that “other candidates were a better fit.” While some so-called “reverse discrimination” lawsuits have been filed, most of these policies go unreported. The reasons are straightforward; even in 2023, screening out all white men is not de jure legal. Moreover, any member of the professional managerial class who witnesses and reports discrimination against white men will never work in their field again.

Even anonymous whistleblowing is likely to be rare. To imagine why, suppose incontrovertible evidence was produced that one’s employer was explicitly excluding white male candidates, and a lawsuit was filed. The employer’s reputation and the reputation of all the employees there, including the white men still working there, would be tarnished. That said, we can expect to see more lawsuits from men who feel they have little to lose.

This “Ask, Tell, Make” framework, under various descriptions, is the method by which individuals with a vested interest in more diversity push their organizations toward their preferred outcome. Force begins requesting modest changes to recruiting to make it “more fair.” Force ends with the heavy-handed application of quotas and even exclusion. The American system is not a monolith, however, which means that the strength of the push and its effects on competency is not distributed evenly.

Competency Is Declining From the Core Outwards

Think of the American system as a series of concentric rings with the government at the center. Directly surrounding that are the organizations that receive government funds, then the nonprofits that influence and are subject to policy, and finally business at the periphery. Since the era of the Manhattan Project and the Space Race, the state capacity of the federal government has been declining almost monotonically.

While this has occurred for a multitude of reasons, the steel girders supporting the competency of the federal government were the first to be exposed to the saltwater of the Civil Rights Act and related executive orders. Government agencies, which are in charge of overseeing all the other systems, have seen the quality of their human capital decline tremendously since the 1960s. While the damage to an agency like the Department of Agriculture may have long-term deadly consequences, the most immediate danger is at safety-critical agencies like the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

The Air Traffic Control (ATC) system used in the U.S. relies on an intricate dance of visual or radar observation, transponders, and radio communication, all with the incredible challenge of keeping thousands of simultaneously moving planes from ever crashing into each other. Since air controlling is one of the only jobs that pays more than $100,000 per year and does not require a college diploma, it has been a popular career choice for individuals without a degree who nonetheless have an exceptionally good memory, attention span, visuospatial awareness, and logical skills. The Air Traffic Selection and Training (AT-SAT) Exam, a standardized test of those critical skills, was historically the primary barrier to entry for air controllers. As a consequence of the AT-SAT, as well as a preference for veterans with former air controller experience, 83 percent of air controllers in the U.S. were white men as of 2014.

That year, the FAA added a Biographical Questionnaire (BQ) to the screening process to tilt the applicant pool toward diverse candidates. Facing pushback in the courts from well-qualified candidates who were screened out, the FAA quietly backed away from the BQ and adopted a new exam, the Air Traffic Skills Assessment (ATSA). While the ATSA includes some questions similar to those of the BQ, it restored the test’s focus on core air traffic skills. The importance of highly-skilled air controllers was made clear in the most deadly air disaster in history, the 1977 Tenerife incident. Two planes, one taking off and one taxiing, collided on the runway due to confusion between the captain of KLM 4805 and the Tenerife ATC. The crash, which killed 583 people, resulted in sweeping changes in aviation safety culture.

Recently, the tremendous U.S. record for air safety established since the 1970s has been fraying at the edges. The first three months of 2023 saw nine near-miss incidents at U.S. airports, one with two planes coming within 100 feet of colliding. This terrifying uptick from years prior resulted in the FAA and NTSB convening safety summits in March and May, respectively. Whether they dared to discuss root causes seems unlikely.

Given the sheer size of the U.S. military in both manpower and budget dollars, it should not come as a surprise that the diversity push has also affected the readiness of this institution. Following three completely avoidable collisions of U.S. Navy warships in 2017 and a fire in 2020 that resulted in the scuttling of USS Bonhomme Richard, a $750 million amphibious assault craft, two retired marines conducted off-the-record interviews with 77 current and retired Navy officers. One recurring theme was the prioritization of diversity training over ship handling and warfighting preparedness. Many of them openly admit that, given current issues, the U.S. would likely lose an open naval engagement with China. Instead of taking the criticism to heart, the Navy commissioned “Task Force One Navy,” which recommended deemphasizing or eliminating meritocratic tests like the Officer Aptitude Rating to boost diversity. Absent an existential challenge, U.S. military preparedness is likely to continue to degrade.

The decline in the capacity of government contractors is likewise obvious, with the largest contractors being the most directly impacted. The five largest contractors—Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Dynamics, Raytheon Company, and Northrop Grumman—will all struggle to maintain competency in the coming years.

Boeing, one of only two firms globally capable of mass-producing large airliners, has a particularly striking crisis unfolding in its institutional culture. Shortly after releasing the 737 MAX, 346 people died in two nearly identical 737 MAX crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia. The cause of the crashes was a complex interaction between design choices, cost-cutting led by MBAs, FAA issues, the MCAS flight-control system, a faulty sensor, and pilot training. Meanwhile, on the defense side of the business, Boeing’s new fuel tanker, the KC-46A Pegasus is years behind on deliveries due to serious technical flaws with the fueling system along with multiple cases of Foreign Object Debris left inside the plane during construction: tools, a red plastic cap, and in one case, even trash. Between the issues at ATC and Boeing, damage to the U.S.’s phenomenal aviation safety record seems almost inevitable.

After government contractors, the next-most-affected class of institutions are nonprofit organizations. They are entrapped by the government whose policies they are subject to and trying to influence, the opinions of their donor base, and lack of any profit motive. The lifeblood of nonprofits is access to capital, either directly in the form of government grants or through donations that are deemed tax-deductible. Accessing federal monies means being subject to the full weight of U.S. diversity rules and regulations. Nonprofits are generally governed by boards whose members tend to overlap with the list of major donors. Because advocacy for diversity and board memberships are both high-status positions, unsurprisingly board members tend to voice favorable opinions of diversity, and those opinions flow downstream to the organizations they oversee.

Nonprofits—including universities, charities, and foundations—exist in an overlapping ecosystem with journalism, with individuals tending to freely circulate between the four. The activities of nonprofits are bound up in the same discourses shaped by current news and academic research, with all four reflecting the same general ideological consensus. Finally, lacking the profit motive, the decision-making processes of nonprofits are influenced by what will affect the status of the individuals within those organizations rather than what will affect profits. Within nonprofits, the cost of incompetent staffers is borne by “stakeholders,” rather than any one individual.

While all businesses subject to federal law must prioritize diversity over competency at some level, the problem is worse at publicly-traded corporations for reasons both obvious and subtle. The obvious reason is that larger companies present larger targets for EEOC actions and discrimination lawsuits with hundreds of millions of dollars at stake. Corporations have logically responded by hiring large teams of HR professionals to preempt such lawsuits. Over the past several decades, HR has evolved from simply overseeing onboarding to involvement in every aspect of hiring, promotions, and firings, seeing them all through a political and regulatory lens.

The more subtle reason for pressure within publicly-traded companies is that they require ongoing relationships with a spiderweb of banks, credit ratings agencies, proxy advisory services, and most importantly, investors. Given that the loss of access to capital is an immediate death sentence for most businesses, the CEOs of publicly-traded companies tend to push diversity over competency even when the decline in firm performance is clear. CEOs would likely rather trade a small drag on profits margins than a potentially career-ending scandal from pushing back.

Whereas publicly-traded corporations nearly uniformly push diversity, privately-held businesses vary tremendously based on the views of their owners. Partnerships such as the Big Four accounting firms and top-tier management consultancies are high-status. High-status firms must regularly proclaim extensive support for diversity. While the firms tend to be highly selective, partnerships whose leadership is overwhelmingly white and male have generally capitulated to the zeitgeist and are cutting standards to hit targets. Firms often manage around this by hiring for diversity and then putting diversity hires into roles where they are the least likely to damage the firm or the brand. Somewhat counterintuitively, firms with diverse founders are often highly meritocratic, as the structure harnesses the founder’s desire to make money and shields them from criticism on diversity issues.

The most notable example of a diverse meritocracy is Vista Equity Partners, the large private equity firm founded by Robert F. Smith, America’s wealthiest black man. Robert F. Smith is one of the most vocal advocates for and philanthropists to historically black U.S. colleges and universities. It would be reasonable to expect Vista to prioritize diversity over competency in its portfolio companies. However, Vista has instead been profiled for giving all portfolio company management teams the Criteria Cognitive Aptitude Test and ruthlessly culling low-performers. Given the amount of value to be created by promoting the best people into leadership roles of their portfolio companies, one might imagine this to be low-hanging fruit for the rest of private equity, yet Vista is an outlier. Why Vista can apply the CCAT without a public outcry is obvious.

The other firms that tend to still focus on competency are those that are small and private. Such firms have two key advantages: they fall below the fifteen-employee threshold for the most onerous EEOC rules and the owner can usually directly observe the performance of everyone inside the organization. Within small firms, underperformance is usually obvious. Tech startups, being both small and private, would seem to have the right structure to prioritize competency.

The American System Is Cracking

Promoting diversity over competency does not simply affect new hires and promotion decisions. It also affects the people already working inside of America’s systems. Morale and competency inside U.S. organizations are declining. Those who understand that the new system makes it hard or impossible for them to advance are demoralized, affecting their performance. Even individuals poised to benefit from diversity preferences notice that better people are being passed over and the average quality of their team is declining. High performers want to be on a high-performing team. When the priorities of their organizations shift away from performance, high performers respond negatively.

This effect was likely seen in a recent paper by McDonald, Keeves, and Westphal. The paper points out that white male senior leaders reduce their engagement following the appointment of a minority CEO. While it is possible that author Ijeoma Oluo is correct, and that white men have so much unconscious bias raging inside of them that the appointment of a diverse CEO sends them into a tailspin of resentment, there is another more plausible explanation. When boards choose diverse CEOs to make a political statement, high performers who see an organization shifting away from valuing honest performance respond by disengaging.

Some demoralized employees—like James Damore in his now-famous essay, “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber”—will directly push back against pro-diversity arguments. Like James, they will be fired. Older, demoralized workers, especially those who are mere years from retirement, are unlikely to point out the decline in competency and risk it costing them their jobs. Those who have a large enough nest egg may simply retire to avoid having to deal with the indignity of having to attend another Inclusive Leadership seminar.

As older men with tacit knowledge either retire or are pushed out, the burden of maintaining America’s complex systems will fall on the young. Lower-performing young men angry at the toxic mix of affirmative action (hurting their chances of admission to a “good school”) and credentialism (limiting the “good jobs” to graduates of “good schools”) are turning their backs on college and white-collar work altogether.

This is the continuation of a trend that began over a decade ago. High-performing young men will either collaborate, coast, or downshift by leaving high-status employment altogether. Collaborators will embrace “allyship” to attempt to bolster their chances of getting promoted. Coasters realize that they need to work just slightly harder than the worst individual on their team. Their shirking is likely to go unnoticed and they are unlikely to feel enough emotional connection to the organization to raise alarm when critical mistakes are being made. The combination of new employees hired for diversity, not competence, and the declining engagement of the highly competent sets the stage for failures of increasing frequency and magnitude.

The modern U.S. is a system of systems interacting together in intricate ways. All these complex systems are simply assumed to work. In February of 2021, cold weather in Texas caused shutdowns at unwinterized natural gas power plants. The failure rippled through the systems with interlocking dependencies. As a result, 246 people died. In straightforward work, declining competency means that things happen more slowly, and products are lower quality or more expensive. In complex systems, declining competency results in catastrophic failures.

To understand why, one must understand the concept of a “normal accident.” In 1984, Charles Perrow, a Yale sociologist, published the book, Normal Accidents: Living With High-Risk Technologies. In this book, Perrow lays out the theory of normal accidents: when you have systems that are both complex and tightly coupled, catastrophic failures are unavoidable and cannot simply be designed around. In this context, a complex system is one that has many components that all need to interact in a specified way to produce the desired outcome. Complex systems often have relationships that are nonlinear and contain feedback loops. Tightly-coupled systems are those whose components need to move together precisely or in a precise sequence.

The 1979 Three Mile Island Accident was used as a case study: a relatively minor blockage of a water filter led to a cascading series of malfunctions that culminated in a partial meltdown. In A Demon of Our Own Design, author Richard Bookstaber added two key contributions to Perrow’s theory: first, that it applies to financial markets, and second, that regulation intended to fix the problem may make it worse.

The biggest shortcoming of the theory is that it takes competency as a given. The idea that competent organizations can devolve to a level where the risk of normal accidents becomes unacceptably high is barely addressed. In other words, rather than being taken as absolutes, complexity and tightness should be understood to be relative to the functionality of the people and systems that are managing them. The U.S. has embraced a novel question: what happens when the men who built the complex systems our society relies on cease contributing and are replaced by people who were chosen for reasons other than competency?

The answer is clear: catastrophic normal accidents will happen with increasing regularity. While each failure is officially seen as a separate issue to be fixed with small patches, the reality is that the whole system is seeing failures at an accelerating rate, which will lead in turn to the failure of other systems. In the case of the Camp Fire that killed 85 people, PG&E fired its CEO, filed Chapter 11, and restructured. The system’s response has been to turn off the electricity and raise wildfire insurance premiums. This has resulted in very little reflection. The more recent coronavirus pandemic was another teachable moment. What started just three years ago with a novel respiratory virus has caused a financial crisis, a bubble, soaring inflation, and now a banking crisis in rapid succession.

Patching the specific failure mode is simultaneously too slow and induces unexpected consequences. Cascading failures overwhelm the capabilities of the system to react. 20 years ago, a software bug caused a poorly-managed local outage that led to a blackout that knocked out power to 55 million people and caused 100 deaths. Utilities were able to restore power to all 55 million people in only four days. It is unclear if they could do the same today. U.S. cities would look very different if they remained without power for even two weeks, especially if other obstructions unfolded. What if emergency supplies sat on trains immobilized by fuel shortages due to the aforementioned pipeline shutdown? The preference for diversity over competency has made our system of systems dangerously fragile.

Americans living today are the inheritors of systems that created the highest standard of living in human history. Rather than protecting the competency that made those systems possible, the modern preference for diversity has attenuated meritocratic evaluation at all levels of American society. Given the damage already done to competence and morale combined with the natural exodus of baby boomers with decades worth of tacit knowledge, the biggest challenge of the coming decades might simply be maintaining the systems we have today.

The path of least resistance will be the devolution of complex systems and the reduction in the quality of life that entails. For the typical resident in a second-tier city in Mexico, Brazil, or South Africa, power outages are not uncommon, tap water is probably not safe to drink, and hospital-associated infections are common and often fatal. Absent a step change in the quality of American governance and a renewed culture of excellence, they prefigure the country’s future.

Harold Robertson is an asset class head and institutional investor at a multi-billion dollar pool of capital.

Categories
Some Scary thoughts

From HMS Defiant – ON NATIONAL STRENGTH AND WILL

A study of history shows that the United States rose to dominate the world after World War II due to its transcendent wealth and manufacturing and maintained its dominance even as the politics of the nation slipped to encompass outright stupidity at the very top of politics and saw the jobs and manufacturing flow out of the United States and soon followed by the wealth.

Where the international currency had been dominated entirely by the dollar it isn’t anymore thanks in large part to the stupid and insane policies of the Fed and the US Government as it tried to use $hegemony to trim our rivals (not our enemies, just rivals) and so we come to what is left at the end and it isn’t what you think.

There is very little remaining of the military I spent 30 years in and my father spent 26 years in and his father spent 30 years serving.  The debacles go all the way back to our involvement in the dissolution of Yugoslavia and persist right through Desert Storm, Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom and encompass all the myriad little SNAFUs along the way such as Mogadishu and the rest of Somalia and Sudan and Iran.

The officers selected to run our military services were all selected by the handful of officers approved by Bill Clinton who then went on to pick more like themselves for the 3 and 4 star commands which led to an overwhelming number of idiots, morons and incompetent boobs at the help of all 4 military services and things are only getting worse at an accelerating rate because the blinders are off now and the People can see what a travesty military service has become.

General officers like Flynn and Boykin  aren’t just rare these days, the very conditions to bring them out are gone because they’ve been stamped flat. Only officers like former LTGEN Clapper will thrive in this environment. There should not be any room at the top for liars like that.

It says something when the entire United States of America can only build one nuclear submarine at a time because it doesn’t have enough qualified skilled craftsmen to build two nuclear submarines at the same time. Did nobody see that coming?

The surface warships designed and built for the last 20 years have been pure crap Littoral Combat Ships which can literally perform no military duties whatsoever because not one of the mission modules they were designed to operate (supposedly) has ever been embarked and deployed. Not a single module in 20 years. Included in the crummy design category must be the Zumwalt class of extremely large gunboats and the bleeding-edge-tech aircraft carrier, USS Ford.

The Army is short more than an entire infantry division because youngsters failed to materialize out of the old South to fill the ranks of a service that has largely lent its name, image and heritage to vilifying every single aspect of Southern pride and engaged in a never ending witch hunt for some white supremacy in the Army.

It looks like all the pillars of national power and prestige have been deliberately broken and thrown down by the people and the government running this country.

I wonder where they all plan to refugee to when this country “suddenly” goes 3rd world and no longer has electrical power 24/7 and fewer and fewer working roads and nowhere near enough fuel to fire the power stations and the cars and trucks that make this country possible.

It’s probably time for a long hard think about where we’re heading as a country and what we can do to shape a future that is better for all of us. Perhaps there is no future in being the global superpower and we should just stop doing it. We might say the same thing about many of the roles we have found ourselves inserted into over the decades.

Maybe we could end the war on drugs? With the vast amounts of lethal concentrations of fentanyl entering the country now, it’s just a matter of time until the addicts all kill themselves and what the Hell, states are busy legalizing all the fun drugs while still restricting access to things like sudafed….

End the war on poverty. We lost that one so it might be time to initiate a new war that deports the impoverished to someplace else such as California.

End all subsidies for public education at all levels from pre-school to College and let the maket forces sort out what college graduates we really need. It will probably turn out that we need about 1/20th of the ones we currently graduate from 4 year colleges.

We could collapse the entire FBI, CIA, NSA, DIA and the Homeland Security operations/intel centers and go back to the old school way where we only spy on our enemy, not everybody.

It bears some thinking about.

Categories
Some Scary thoughts

What Happens When The Competent Opt Out? BY TYLER DURDEN

By this terminal stage, the competent have been driven out, quit or burned out.

What happens with the competent retire, burn out or opt out? It’s a question few bother to ask because the base assumption is that there is an essentially limitless pool of competent people who can be tapped or trained to replace those who retire, burn out or opt out, i.e. quit in favor of a lifestyle that doesn’t require much in the way of income or stress.

These assumptions are no longer valid. A great many essential services that are tightly bound to other essential services are cracking as the competent decide (or realize) they’re done with the rat-race.

The drivers of the Competent Opting Out are obvious yet difficult to quantify. Those retiring, burning out and opting out will deny they’re leaving for these reasons because it’s not politic to be so honest and direct. They will offer time-honored dodges such as “pursue other opportunities” or “family obligations.”

1. The steady increase in workloads, paperwork, compliance and make-work (i.e. work that has nothing to do with the institution’s actual purpose and mission) that lead to burnout. There is only so much we can accomplish, and if we’re burdened with ever-increasing demands for paperwork, compliance, useless meetings, training sessions, etc., then we no longer have the time or energy to perform our productive work.

I wrote a short book on my experience of Burnout. I believe it is increasingly common in jobs that demand responsibility and accountability yet don’t provide the tools and time to fulfill these demands. Once you’ve burned out, you cannot continue. That option no longer exists.

For others, the meager rewards simply aren’t worth the sacrifices required. The theme song playing in the background is the Johnny Paycheck classic Take this job and shove it.

Healthcare workloads, paperwork and compliance are one example of many. Failure to complete all the make-work can have dire consequences, so it becomes necessary to do less “real work” in order to complete all the work that has little or nothing to do with actual patient care. Alternatively, the workload expands to the point that it breaks the competent and they leave.

2. Loss of autonomy, control, belonging, rewards, accomplishment and fairness. Professor Christina Malasch pioneered research on the causes of burnout, which can be summarized as any work environment that reduces autonomy, control, belonging, rewards, accomplishment and fairness.

Despite a near-infinite avalanche of corporate happy-talk (“we’re all family,”–oh, barf) this describes a great many work environments in the US: in a word, depersonalized. Everyone is a replaceable cog in a great impersonal machine optimized to maximize profits for shareholders.

3. The politicization of the work environment. Let’s begin by distinguishing between policies enforcing equal opportunity, pay, standards and accountability, policies required to fulfill the legal promises embedded in the nation’s social contract, and politicization, which demands allegiance and declarations of loyalty to political ideologies that have nothing to do with the work being done or the standards of accountability necessary to the operation of the complex institution or enterprise.

The problem with politicization is that it is 1) intrinsically inauthentic and 2) it substitutes the ideologically pure for the competent. Rigid, top-down hierarchies (including not just Communist regimes but corporations and institutions) demand expressions of fealty (the equivalent of loyalty oaths) and compliance to ideological demands (check the right boxes of party indoctrination, “self-criticism,” “struggle sessions,” etc.).

The correct verbiage and ideological enthusiasm become the basis of advancement rather than accountability to standards of competence. The competent are thus replaced with the politically savvy. Since competence is no longer being selected for, it’s replaced by what is being selected for, political compliance.

It doesn’t matter what flavor of ideological purity holds sway–conservative, progressive, communist or religious–all fatally erode competence by selecting for ideological compliance. Everyone knows the enthusiasm is inauthentic and only for show, but artifice and inauthenticity are perfectly adequate for the politicization taskmasters.

4. The competent must cover for the incompetent. As the competent tire of the artifice and make-work and quit, the remaining competent must work harder to keep everything glued together. Their commitment to high standards and accountability are their undoing, as the slack-masters and incompetent either don’t care (“I’m just here to qualify for my pension”) or they’ve mastered the processes of masking their incompetence, often by blaming the competent or the innocent for their own failings.

This additional workload crushes the remaining competent who then burn out and quit, go on disability or opt out, changing their lifestyle to get by on far less income, work, responsibility and far less exposure to the toxic work environments created by depersonalization, politicization and the elevation of the incompetent.

5. As the competent leadership leaves, the incompetent takes the reins, blind to their own incompetence. It all looked so easy when the competent were at the helm, but reality is a cruel taskmaster, and all the excuses that worked as an underling wear thin once the incompetent are in leadership roles.

By this terminal stage, the competent have been driven out, quit or burned out. There’s only slack-masters and incompetent left, and the toxic work environment has been institutionalized, so no competent individual will even bother applying, much less take a job doomed to burnout and failure.

This is why systems are breaking down before our eyes and why the breakdowns will spread with alarming rapidity due the tightly bound structure of complex systems.