Category Archives: Other Issues

Posts on many other important geopolitical issues.

Shootings by police show their evolution into “security services”. It’s bad news for the Republic

Summary: Many things show the evolution in America of police into security services. Such as their frequent disconnect from the communities they patrol, and their increasing use of military equipment and methods. Perhaps we see this most clearly in their casual use of force, often disproportionate to the situation, with a near-total lack of accountability. Here we examine the grim numbers. We know little, but what we know should disturb us. But it doesn’t, which is an ugly symptom of the Republic’s weakness.

Lethal Weapons

Lethal Weapons“, The Economist, 23 August 2014

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The number of law enforcement officers killed as a result of criminal acts:

  1. 2004: 57
  2. 2009: 48
  3. 2012: 49
  4. 2013: 27

There are 885 thousand law enforcement officers in America, as of 2008 (120 thousand Federal, 765 thousand State/local). That’s a death rate from criminals of 3 per hundred thousand per year.

Number of civilians shot and killed by police:

  1. USA: 409 (in 2012, per FBI, plus one death by “other weapon”)
  2. Japan + Britain + Germany = 8
  3. The US population is 17% larger; US police killed 51x more civilians

British police fired their guns 3 times in 2012.

In 1994 Congress instructed the Department of Justice to “acquire data about the use of excessive force by law enforcement officers” and “publish an annual summary”.  They’ve ignored this, unlike their lavishly detailed account of law enforcement causalities. The total of 409 comes from voluntary reporting by the 18 thousand US law enforcement agencies. This article at FiveThirtyEight by Reuben Fischer-Baum and Al Johri explains why that is certainly far too low (more details here), and points to more accurate numbers. But we don’t know if the total is rising, or how rapidly.

Given this vacuum, attention has recently turned to some excellent nongovernmental attempts to compile this data, including the Fatal Encounters database, the recently created Gun Violence Archive and a new database created by Deadspin.

But one recent effort stood out for its apparent comprehensiveness: The Killed By Police Facebook page, which aggregates links to news articles on police-related killings and keeps a running tally on the number of victims. The creator of the page does not seek to determine whether police killings are justifiable; each post “merely documents the occurrence of a death.” …

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The feminist revolutionaries have won. Insurgents have arisen to challenge the new order. As always, they’re outlaws.

Summary:  Yesterday’s post took 2,200 words to explain a simple theory, because I took readers on a journey to “derive” the conclusions. Here’s the spoiler version, in which we “cut to the chase” — showing only the last section.

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Feminism is one of the big revolutions of our time, over-turning our concepts of romance and marriage. In response to its success, insurgents have arisen. It’s early days yet, too soon to forecast which side will win. Reviewers consider this one of the more shocking — and darker — posts of the almost 2,900 on the FM website. Post your reactions in the comments (at the original post). It’s the first of two posts today.

Settling for a beta

Feminism is a revolution, one with few or no precedents in history, now in the last stages of consolidating its victory.  We can only guess at the effects.  This post discusses one facet. I expect (guess) that as guys understand the new order, many will refuse to play. They’ll become insurgents — outlaws — from their designated role as beta males — expected to dutifully ask permission at each step of the romantic escalation (see “Feminism for Bros“), marrying a women at the end of her youth after she’s chased alphas (of whom she’ll dream), and dutifully supporting a family until and after your wife divorces you (40-50% of first marriages; higher for subsequent ones; most initiated by the wife).

Once men see the game, why would they play? An insurgency might begin, perhaps leading to a new revolution (or a counter-revolution).

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See the trends shaping our future. Be forewarned, so you can prepare.

Summary: We cannot reliably see the future. Every decade begins with confident forecasts, usually proven wrong. Too many variables, too many complex dynamics interacting. But we can examine individual trends, the usual work of the FM website. Here we pull together the threads, a mixture of challenges and opportunities that loom over the next ten years. In the comments list the trends you see at work!

Key to bright future

Today we give you a keyhole through which to see the future

Contents

  1. Climate change
  2. Demographics: the age wave
  3. The Debt Supercycle
  4. The new world of work
  5. The great monetary experiment
  6. The results of a low-investment nation
  7. Will growth continue to slow?
  8. Oil prices and new technology
  9. The next industrial revolution
  10. Implications of a technological singularity
  11. There will be war

(1)  Climate change

To see what is coming, I recommend relying on the IPCC’s probability ranges instead of alarmists’ certainties. Remember the uncertainties: the uncertainties in climate science, in the models that make the predictions, in technology (see below), and in the unknowable future public policy responses to climate scientists’ warnings.

The pause in surface temperature warming of the past decade has astonished climate scientists. Now they analyze its causes and forecast its duration. The public policy response might depend on answers to these questions, as the activists’ current strategy of attributing every form of normal weather to increased CO2 — despite the pause in the atmosphere’s warming — might not work if continued through the next decade. And who can say if the next decade will hold equal surprises?

I recommend reading the important things to know about climate change. See all posts about climate change.

(2)  Demographics: the age wave

The coming crash of US consumer spending as Boomers retire with high levels of debt, low savings, and small pension incomes. Experts have warned about this for decades, yet it will catch us by surprise.

Also we’ll confront the consequences, after so many warnings, of underfunded pension plans. Both public plans (see articles by Bloomberg and by CNBC and private plans (see this by Fitch).

(3)  The Debt Supercycle

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Students, cheerleaders, & lawyers all exploited as they scramble for the few opportunities in New America

Summary: One astonishing aspect of the structural changes reshaping America is how fiercely we work to avoid seeing them. Such as the transformation of employment. Breaking unions was the first and essential step. Now comes the larger changes: shifting jobs from full time with benefits and job security into temporary, insecure, part-time, no-benefits — at lower wages.

Here we see four snapshots of this structural change in the power relationships of employers and workers — as people become increasingly desperate for opportunities. We close our eyes to these changes, since seeing the 1% build a New America on the ruins of the old would upset the even tenor of our lives.

Buffalo Jills

Buffalo Jills at Ralph Wilson Stadium on 9 August 2012. Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images

“To get the man’s soul and give nothing in return -– that is what really gladdens Satan’s heart.”
— C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (1942)

Contents

  1. Cheerleaders mistreated for profit
  2. Internships: opportunities for the affluent
  3. Entry level positions for lawyers
  4. For More Information

(1)  Cheerleaders mistreated for profit

Cheerleaders for professional sports teams pay much of their own expenses, work long hours, and earn a pittance — all in the service of fabulously profitable sports businesses.

The Cheerleaders Rise Up: NFL cheerleaders are putting down their pom-poms and demanding a better deal“, Amanda Hess, Slate, 23 April 2014 — Excerpt:

In 2014, the cheerleaders revolted.

This January, rookie NFL cheerleader Lacy T. kicked things off when she filed a class action lawsuit against the Oakland Raiders, alleging that the team fails to pay its Raiderettes minimum wage, withholds their pay until the end of the season, imposes illegal fines for minor infractions (like gaining 5 pounds), and forces cheerleaders to pay their own business expenses (everything from false eyelashes to monthly salon visits).

Within a month, Cincinnati Bengals cheerleader Alexa Brenneman had filed a similar suit against her team, claiming that the Ben-Gals are paid just $2.85 an hour for their work on the sidelines.

And Tuesday, five former Buffalo Bills cheerleaders filed suit against their own team, alleging that the Buffalo Jills were required to perform unpaid work for the team for about 20 hours a week. Unpaid activities included: submitting to a weekly “jiggle test” (where cheer coaches “scrutinized the women’s stomach, arms, legs, hips, and butt while she does jumping jacks”); parading around casinos in bikinis “for the gratification of the predominantly male crowd”; and offering themselves up as prizes at a golf tournament, where they were required to sit on men’s laps on the golf carts, submerge themselves in a dunk tank, and perform backflips for tips (which they did not receive). The Buffalo Jills cheerleaders take home just $105 to $1,800 for an entire season on the job.

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Watch corporations strip-mine their future (and ours)

Summary: Al Qaeda (Bin Laden’s organization, if it still exists in meaningful form) is a threat to America. A greater threat are our CEO’s, some of whom who have discovered discovered a formula to vast personal wealth: leverage the company up (borrow), use those funds to buy back stock (boosting earnings per share), cut capital expenditures (capex) to boost short-term profits, pay most of the profits in dividends — all of which disguises massive payouts to senior managers (via salary, benefits, pensions, golden parachutes, grants of stock and stock options, etc). They’re strip-mining away America’s future. Slowly people begin to fit these pieces together. Today we help you to do so.

Executive Pay

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Contents

  1. An example of how it’s done
  2. Cutting capex: short-selling the future
  3. For More Information

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(1)  An example of how it’s done

List most stories about corporate finance, it’s complex. These articles clearly explain the game using IBM as an example (just one of many), but have to be read. The excepts are just teasers.

(a) Stockholders Got Plundered In IBM’s Hocus-Pocus Machine“, Wolf Richter, Testosterone Pit, 17 October 2013 — Opening:

I’m not picking on IBM. I’m almost sure they have some decent products. So they had a crummy quarter – the sixth quarter in a row of sales declines. And their hardware sales in China have collapsed since Snowden’s revelations about the NSA and its collaboration with American tech companies. But in one area, IBM excels: its hocus-pocus machine.

IBM isn’t alone in its excellence and isn’t even at the top of the heap in that respect. There are many corporations like IBM, mastodons that successfully pull a bag over investors’ heads, aided and abetted by Wall Street with its “analysts,” and by the Fed, to hide the stockholder plunder taking place behind a billowing smokescreen of verbiage.

(b) Big Blue: Stock Buyback Machine On Steroids“, David Stockman, at his website Contra Corner, 17 April 2014 — Opening:

The Fed’s financial repression policies destroy price discovery and honest capital markets. In the process these deformations turn financial markets into casinos and corporate executives into prevaricating gamblers. To be specific, most CEOs of the Fortune 500 are no longer running commercial businesses; they are in the stock-rigging game, harvesting a mother lode of stock option winnings as the go along.

Those munificently rising stock prices and options cash-outs owe much to the Fed’s campaign to suppress interest rates and fuel stock market based ”wealth effects”, but the CEOs are doing their part, too. They have become full-time financial engineers who use the Fed’s flood of liquidity, cheap debt and soaring stock prices to perform a giant strip-mining operation on their own companies. That is, through endless stock buybacks and M&A maneuvers they create the appearance of “growth” while actually liquidating the balance sheet equity and future asset base on which legitimate earnings growth depends.

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The Ukraine crisis gives us a peak behind the curtain into the workings of our government

Summary: Every geopolitical crisis provides us with information about our nation and our world. They provide peeks into the machinery hidden behind the government’s secrecy and journalists’ narratives. The Crimean crisis, a small area inside Russia’s sphere of influence, hyped by our hawks into a world-shaking incident, provides a rich lode for mining insights. Helping us, doing the heavy lifting, is one of our top defense analysts, Chuck Spinney. See the last section for links to other useful articles about this.

Military spending

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Ukraine: Manna From Heaven for the Green Line and Beyond Crowd

Franklin “Chuck” Spinney

From his website, The Blaster
26 March 214

Posted with his generous permission

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Most Americans know very little about the immediate origins of the crisis in the Ukraine and their government’s involvement in it. They know even less about its deeper roots, that reach back into Russian view of American duplicity in breaking its verbal promises not to expand NATO and the European Union eastward (useful summaries can be found here and here).

These promises were interpreted quite reasonably by the Russians as a quid pro quo for Mikhail Gorbachev’s agreement to

  1. the unification of Germany,
  2. the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, and
  3. the withdrawal of Soviet forces from eastern Europe.

Gorbachev’s dream of a common European Home was always fanciful, but today, Ukraine proves it is in tatters.

If one is to believe the reportage in the mainstream media, the duly elected but decidedly corrupt government of the Ukraine was overthrown by a spontaneous revolt of the freedom-seeking Ukrainian people. But it is also clear from leaked recordings of phone conversations and the bloviations of U.S. “pro-defense” legislators that members of the U.S. government were at least tangentially involved, as were Ukrainian neo-fascists.

There is much more, however.

 

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What did we learn from our intervention in Libya?

Summary:  As the cries for war rise again in America, let’s reflect on the consequences from our last several interventions. We bomb foreign nations hoping to build better societies; repeated failure doesn’t discourage our hawks. Third in a series about lessons learned from our wars after 9-11.

Three years ago:

“Yesterday, in response to a call for action by the Libyan people and the Arab League, the U.N. Security Council passed a strong resolution that demands an end to the violence against citizens. It authorizes the use of force with an explicit commitment to pursue all necessary measures to stop the killing … We have made clear our support for a set of universal values, and our support for the political and economic change that the people of the region deserve.”

Speech by President Obama, 18 March 2011

Libya war cartoon

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Contents

  1. An important moment in time
  2. Assessing the results
  3. Lessons learned
  4. Other posts in this series
  5. For More Information

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(1)  An important moment in time

Before our intervention in Libya, I cautioned that it likely would have bad — perhaps horrific — results. A well-known expert in military and foreign affairs disagreed, advocating humanitarian military action. Here is his rebuttal to my analysis:

You just have not seen enough people bleed to death.

As I wrote before Obama’s speech, that’s an emotionally compelling response.  It claims the moral high ground, seeking to preserve life and end tyranny.  It claims authority through the speaker’s military experience, since we believe that Yoda was wrong and wars do make us great.  If said loudly and firmly to a crowd it evokes applause (to American audiences; probably not so much in Europe or Asia).

Now the echoes of our bombs have died away. Our special operations forces have mostly left. Now we can tally the results. Now begins the vital task of learning from our experience. My first conclusions is that America’s foreign policy will continue to be a series of failures so long as views such as this are heard without revulsion.

We don’t own the result in Libya. There is no “pottery barn rule” (believe nothing Thomas Friedman says). The people of Libya have agency, and have the final responsibility for their nation. But as a superpower we have great power. For both our future and the world’s we must learn from our experiences.

So what has followed our intervention in Libya, which we were told was almost certain to produce great results?

(a) Political Killings Still Plaguing Post-Qaddafi Libya“, New York Times, 11 March 2014 — Excerpt:

Libya has suffered widespread bloodletting in the aftermath of the 2011 revolution. Over 1,200 people have been killed nationwide in the last two years, victims of revenge, power clashes and spiraling crime.

Political divisions within the elected General National Congress, with groups backed by rival militias, have rendered the appointed government almost powerless. The power struggle kept Prime Minister Ali Zeidan under threat of dismissal for months before he was voted out of office on Tuesday, and left the country without an interior minister since August, when the last one resigned.

No place has been harder hit than the country’s second-largest city, Benghazi, the birthplace of the Libyan uprising. More than 100 prominent figures, senior security officials, judges and political activists have been assassinated in two years, and the wave of killings is decimating local leadership and paralyzing the government and security forces.

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