To really understand both local and world events, you need to identify all of the significant players. Some players are quite easily identifiable. Others are not always so easy to find or understand.

One group of actors present in every scene but not always plainly visible I refer to as “warlords”. A warlord is generally an individual who derives some measure of wealth and power through dominance over a domain, and who is willing to use destructive means to maintain that dominance. Put differently we are largely talking about ego-driven individuals with wealth and power, relatively untroubled by any need for “moral” behavior. (Yes, I know this isn’t exactly someone else’s definition – Tough).

You can find “warlords” pretty much everywhere. In the USA a warlord will invariably employ lawyers (sometimes politicians), and will use legal action and the threat of legal action as a means of intimidation and coercion. In other countries where the “rule of law” is less well established, the local warlords are more likely to use direct violence - thugs, para-military or military organizations.

I believe that if we look closely at the economic ties of “insurgents”, “rebels”, “freedom fighters”, and some of the nastier governments in power – in the background you will nearly always find one or a collection of warlords. In every case, to understand events you must carefully follow the flow of money (weapons are not cheap) to really understand the roots of the conflict. The mainstream news almost never offers any insight along these lines, and so almost never offers more than a record of superficial events.

How else to describe the beginnings of events like those that occurred in Yugoslavia, as the country dissolved into a collection of conflicts?

I wonder if the US “intelligence” community really follows through on this sort of information? If so I would expect some sort of record of this insight into past (and sometimes current) events. Yes, I understand the classify-everything-unless-forced mindset. The best proof of value for the money spent would be to sponsor a historical record of events reflecting the insight (one would hope) offered by the intelligence community to government leaders. On the other hand, if the intelligence community offers poor or bad insight, then I could understand the desire not to have this exposed.

To steal a notion from Butler Lampson – this is an end-to-end test. If the intelligence community offers good insight to the government, this should make it’s way into the historical record, and should add considerably to history. If the intelligence community did a poor job – well we would like that in the record as well.

What bought this to mind was Apple (a company I otherwise respect) acting like a bully, using the law as a means of coercion (and by extension, lawyers as thugs).

There are local examples. About a decade ago the Navy announced the intended closure of two local Marine bases. Since the bases were surrounded by over-priced southern California suburbia, this made the cost of operation and cost of living higher than elsewhere. The impact to the local economy from closing the bases would be almost nothing. If they had to choose a bases to close, it made sense that these would be on the list.

Almost instantly there was a political group put together to promote turning the larger base (El Toro) into a commercial airport. On this surface, this almost seemed to make sense - a large open space, with existing runways, and a county with a growing need for air travel. Dig just a little deeper, and suddenly almost nothing made sense. The existing Orange County airport (SNA) had just spent nearly a billion dollars on a massive upgrade, and the new airport would be too near the existing airport. The proposed use of the existing runways would have airliners taking off uphill and downwind directly towards a series of progressively taller hills. (Ask a pilot - this is an amazingly bad idea). The non-sense did not end here - but the question you have to ask is why this notion went anywhere at all.

As it turns out, the main backer of this nonsense was a very rich local guy, whose wealth was largely tied into local (rental) real estate. Every time real estate values go up, he can re-finance his existing holdings, take out the increased value, and buy more real estate (sound like a game of Monopoly?). Naturally anything that would keep real estate values from rising would also limit his future gains. Even worse - if prices dropped he could very quickly find his economic position very strained!

Since the decommissioned bases were in prime locations, the huge amount of new space once it reached the market is sure to hold down prices (at the very least). This would have a direct impact on the bottom line for anyone whose wealth was tied up in real estate. The political and legal battles that followed could well have been titled “Meet your local Warlords (or their lackeys)”.

The new airport notion was eventually recognized as complete nonsense and defeated. The local warlords did not lose, in fact for their investment they got a considerable delay. Little or no of the new space has yet reached market. In this time the local real estate prices rose considerably, and likely the warlords of real estate have seen considerable profit.