Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The homeland defense

Recently, the commander in chief of the armed forces of Sweden opined his country could probably defend against a foreign invasion for about seven days. Seven days! No more? As you can imagine heated discussions began. 

As my mother is Swedish and therefore speculating I know something of the realities of this country, my first reaction was: It all depends on who the invader is. If for example Norway brought along the oil Sweden does not have, perhaps not even a single bullet would suffice, as no one would like to register the death of a single Norwegian soldier died. If instead the invader was the "archenemy" Russia, they may wish to have ammunition for 7 months, if for 7 or 70 years is not possible. 

And I wondered: For how many days are the military in Venezuela prepared to defend their homeland? I imagine that there the answer would depend on who answers ... and we might be better off not hearing it. 

Back to Sweden: If the preparation of the military is just for seven days, for how many days is the Swedish citizen willing to defend his country? I say this because this is as or even more important than the capacity of the military for the final result, and countries such as Sweden who have abolished compulsory military service, might be signaling some lack of wanting. 

And I ask: How many days would the Venezuelan be willing to defend? Would it be the same regardless of whether the invader is Brazil, Colombia, Cuba, the United States, Russia or China? 

Getting back to Sweden: Today, what means preparing for war? I ask this because if I were Defense Minister of a country, before asking more from the military, I would perhaps wish to prohibit all youngsters between 11 and 18, during one full year, to use all modern digital communication tools. And this in order to make them learn about the real world, in a real way and not only by virtual means. For example so they learn to orient themselves with a compass and must not always depend on a GPS to tell them where they find themselves.

And I wondered: what does it mean in Venezuela to defend the country from a foreign invasion, when we can’t even defend the access of our youth to their own streets, leaving these in the hands of the underworld? 

Back to Sweden: And are the territorial boundaries the most important frontiers to defend? What about communication boundaries, or regulatory boundaries? A country such as Sweden which became what it is because of the ability and willingness of its citizens to take risks, and in whose churches they prayed "God make us daring", now, and without realizing it, has allowed all its banking system to be invaded by a Basel Committee which with its regulations imposes a stupid aversion to what they perceive as risky. What can be more risky for a country than an exaggerated risk aversion? 

And I wondered: And are the borders of our land really so important when some military and some civilian, without one single bullet, seem willing to give up so much of our national sovereignty to another country? 

And I calmed myself somewhat by thinking that in truth seven days are few and insufficient days, only if the invader’s invading capacity is of eight days or more. 

PS. By the way my mother does not harbor any fear that hordes from the Venezuelan plains, commanded by a Genghis-Zamora-Khan, would invade Sweden. Phew what a relief!

Translation from El Universal, Caracas

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Negotiations at the Fed’s pawn shop

From what we hear some want the US government to go to the Fed’s-pawn-branch and pawn, for 1 trillion US$, a freshly minted commemorative platinum coin that has a face value of 1 trillion US$, and use the money to pay part of what it owes to the Fed. 

Some say that would not be inflationary since “none of the money represented by that coin could be spent until appropriations were passed by Congress and signed by the President.” 

Why did I not think of it before? I have an old beautiful and magnificent painting painted by an aunt of mine who passed away a long time ago, and which must be worth a real fortune. Why do I not take it to the bank and have them take it in partial payment of my credit card debt, so as to allow me some availability of funds under the debt ceiling they have imposed on me? In return, me and my wife would promise not to use that window of opportunity... except for things really important. 

Of course, if the transaction is carried out, both me and the bank must keep this very quiet since if my neighbors would find out, there could be a run on the bank, as they for sure would not want to run the risk of having their savings for their children being paid back tomorrow with that old lousy ugly painting that I have had to keep hanging in my house only because my family wants me to respectfully commemorate my aunt’s works.

Really, how would markets react to the US substituting “In a trillion dollar platinum coin (or two) we trust” for “In God we trust”?

When you have a painting hanging on the wall that the markets, for their own reasons, have decided is worth a lot, and based on that they lend you money, you do not even talk about hanging a new painting on your wall without running severe risks.