Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Does U.S. Energy Independence mean US$ Independence for the Rest of the World?

For over 4 decades the U.S. has been an International Debtor - and a big one. There is an old saying:

"If you owe the bank $1 Million, they own you. If you owe the bank $100 BILLION, you own them."

I think that that is very instructive in noodling the following untested hypothesis:

When the U.S. becomes "energy independent" (and it will, one way or another) of the Rest of the World ("ROW") the ROW will become US $ independent.

Or something like that.

Right now, the US$ is unquestionable the world's "reserve currency". But isn't that status a mathematical fact and necessary outcome of being the world's biggest debtor in a fractional reserve banking world? How can the US$ be the world's reserve currency without the US$ DEBT that comes with running a massive trade deficit which was mostly for Oil? Well, I guess it still could be... but The Powers That Be would have to come up with a new mechanism for that... and that would require the cooperation of certain nations that would have no discernible interest in continuing US$ hegemony.

Oil imports have fallen from 12mm + per day to around 5mm per day over the past 7 years. Fracking gave us 4mm+ of that, ethanol another 900k, and efficiency accounted for the balance. Those 7mm (7 MILLION!!) barrels per day of imports that have disappeared? They are NEVER coming back. Not ever. So its all up to U.S. and Canada producers (and Canada will become ever more 51st State-ish in this environment. Apologies, Eh?).

So without that trade deficit for oil, which was financed with funny money (and domestic production has been and will continue to have to be financed with REAL money) it is not readily apparent to me why the ROW would be so interested in trading with each other in US $'ers. Or where the $'ers would come from in the first place if they are not being lent into existence to finance the trade deficit.

For those that might say "well, the U.S. was a major Oil exporter at one time. What's the big deal?" Yes, we were a relatively major oil exporter at a time when the world's currencies were tied to Gold - that was a world with Gold as the "reserve currency". That is not the case now.

If my hypothesis is anywhere close... well, there are serious implications for U.S. financing of its budget deficits and social services deficits and the currency itself. After all, currency valuations are subject to the same supply and demand dynamics as any other commodity.

Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

No Reasonable Purpose other than the Self Serving

Q: Anyone reading here know the difference between a hero and a terrorist?

A: You can negotiate with a terrorist.

And who define themselves and are presented as "heros" in our culture?

People with guns. 

Think about it. Every day, farmers, commercial fisherman, roofing contractors risk their lives to put food on your table and keep the rain off of your head. And often they do it for a lot less money than a police officer gets paid (well, maybe not with Alaska fisherman... they seem to do very well).

Anybody ever hear of a government agency lowering their flags to half staff because a roof repair worker fell off of a roof in an effort to keep a family dry?  Or a commercial fisherman drowned or farmer hacked up by his tractor in an effort to keep you food on the table of the Average American?

Of course not. These people are doing these jobs for their own self interests and accepting the risks associated. The same thing that police officers and firemen are doing - yet even though police and fire public servants have much safer jobs somewhere along the line someone needed a hero and - Viola!

Our Hero.

They get paid every friday, have more vacation, sick, and holiday time than fisherman, roofers, or farmers... but somehow "we" owe "them" our gratitude for their "service".  Bullsh#!. Every payday I am square with the farmer, the roofer, the fisherman, and the police officer. I owe them nothing more, and the first 3 owe me nothing more, but that is not true of a police officer. He does owe me something. We entrust him with powers of arrest and death for the sole purpose of maintaining order not for the purpose of extracting and extorting money from the citizenry. Yet that is precisely what the job of police officer has become for the majority of an officer's time while on duty.

Look in the file of any local police officer. How many arrests for violent crime or serious property crime versus how many traffic citations? They are not here to maintain order. They are here to extort money. What was (if it ever was) "serve and protect" has become "cite and collect". Just try and do an outside "time motion study" of a police department. Just try. We can't even get an accurate count of the number of people killed by the police. And that is not an accident.

You doubt this? California is home to 1 in 8 Americans. Yet most of California's killings by police are not reported to the FBI!! Here, read it and weep. Or be disgusted. Or sick. I am. The Copely decision (here is a link to a copy of that disaster) is just one more incestuous back scratch between the police, prosecutors, and the prosecutors' future job in the judiciary.  Yet police will claim that only 400 people per year are killed by local Law Enforcement Officers across the U.S. in any given year. This is a national disgrace.

The crazy thing is that violent crime is in absolute free fall across the U.S. It is unfortunate that the writer of this article can't (or won't) get his facts completely straight. The ONLY number that matter is the per capita rate. He uses this initially, and then moves over to absolute numbers for his percentage declines. For example, while all rapes are down 35%, since 1970 rapes per capita are down 90%!!

So what the heck is up with ever increasing police budgets? Part of it is the Federal effort to support the economy out in "fly over land" (the U.S. between New York and California). Part of it is to provide jobs for veterans returning from war with little to no skills - but they can carry a gun or a stretcher. Never mind that these people are willing to kill their fellow man and to put human beings in cages for decades over a non-violent "crime" and that the U.S.  has the largest prison population in the history of mankind... never mind that they don't know the difference between Malum en Se and Malum Prohibido.... challenging this system has, so far, been an effort in futility. And challenging our "heros' will be met with derision, ad hominem attacks, vitriol, and rage. Well, given the police use of steroids this should not be unexpected. (Does any one out there, besides me that is, have a problem with enforcers of our drug laws using illegal drugs?)

And is it any surprise that the kind of person that wants to carry a gun for a living and is willing to use force is more likely to use steroids than say, lawyers or doctors? You tell me.

But the internet changes everything. We have data, or proof of the lack thereof, at our finger tips. The U.S. needs far better management of far fewer Law Enforcement officials. We will all be safer for it.

Police Training has become a Danger to Americans

Yesterday I participated in a discussion with a group of Law Enforcement Officers ("LEO's") regarding the use of force.

What I gleaned from the discussion was nothing short of mind bending.

The complete lack of effort on the part of the LEO's participating to understand the mathematical and statistical implications of their assertions compounded by their dismal view of civilian command of military, police, and other civilian authorized use of force agencies left me dumbfounded and disgusted.

Society needs law enforcement personnel. We don't need law enforcement personnel that believe that their authority derives from any other place than the people that they serve. Violent crime is in free fall in the United States. Yet Law Enforcement has become increasingly militarized and desensitized. How did this happen?

This particular group of LEO's was using a video from a police killing from 1998 in which a man exits his vehicle during a traffic stop, acts erratically, and then reaches into his vehicle retrieving an assault rifle and engages in a shoot out with the officer. It appears that the criminal has either killed or seriously wounded the officer and then he drives off.

It is truly a grotesque thing to watch.

In looking at the video and listening to the commentary from the LEO's it occurred to me that using this video for training must be done with great care. Of course LEO's should be trained to handle the incredibly remote possibility that a non-felony stop could result in a lunatic jumping out of his car with an assault rifle. Yet no mention of the dangers to the rest of us from LEO's amped up and traumatized by watching such videos. The people training these LEO's must have a better understanding of statistical analysis and probable outcomes.

How many times per year does a shoot out occur from a non-felony motor vehicle stop? (Please... the response that "if even one shoot out"... is not relevant to the discussion of statistical outcomes. I understand that it IS relevant to an individual officer. That does not mean that the risk of Law Enforcement can be shifted to the citizenry, but of course that is precisely what is being tacitly suggested and accomplished) Now, how many interactions with "innocent" people are escalated into a confrontation? How many of those are due to the officer's stress and "training" (from watching such videos and training for the infinitesimally low probability that an officer will face such a circumstance)? Had it occurred to any of the LEO's that I was speaking with that the risks in any LEO/citizen confrontation are overwhelmingly borne by the citizen? And that those risks evolved this way because of the statistical nature of their training? Not even a little bit. These were all tough guys (and gals) not mathematicians or statisticians.

So what happened when someone with analytical skills approached them to think of this problem in another way? Attacks, insults, invective, etc... they were completely incapable of thinking about this problem in any way other than by training for more use of force and any civilian authority that did not see it their way was not supportive of Law Enforcement.

Something, the stress of this training perhaps, or a lifetime in a media soaked environment of violence in which Liam Neeson solves every problem (on an AIRPLANE!!) with a burst of gun fire, is making some LEO's act in deplorable ways towards the innocent civilians that they are sworn to protect. How many times have we seen videos of LEO's pointing their GUNS at people that were merely recording them with a cell phone? It happened so often that a U.S. Circuit Court had to make a ruling that doing so was a Constitutionally protected right and that any State laws prohibiting such recording were Unconstitutional.

Where was the outrage on the part of Law Enforcement that one of their own would so callously threaten the life of another human being? It was not to be found.

And there is another problem here.

Civilian authority needs to stop using Law Enforcement for tax collection, and Law Enforcement, if it wants to repair its image, must be a leading force for change. Whenever I see a local LEO's patrol car on an interstate highway doing radar duty I cringe. That officer is not serving his local population. That officer is serving his union's and the local fiefdom's need for more revenue. This is occurring precisely because crime is in free fall and the number of officers required to meet the security needs of the community is far less than the number on the payroll, and the rest of us are having to deal with unnecessary confrontations with LEO's, an event the average person views only 2 or 3 steps below having a root canal.

Law Enforcement has a problem here. The U.S. has experienced a rash of police involved killings and shootings of innocent and unarmed civilians during traffic stops and in response to 911 calls in which the caller's description of events is taken at face value and turned out to be nothing but drama - and another innocent person lies dead in the ground with no one being held responsible. Were all of these confrontations necessary to maintain order? The short answer is "No".

I had the poor taste to bring this up with these LEO's. Rather than listen to the view point of a politically seasoned guy with fair statistical and analytical skills I was confronted by an authoritarian know-it-all attitude. Sound familiar?