Fed needs to be looked at for conflicts of interest

The Federal Reserve is run by people who have connections with banks and investment houses.

So what happens when those interests conflict with those of the general population?

Banks and investment firms will want QE3 because they can make money off it and provide society with nothing in return.

Bernanke says further QE will drive stocks and financial markets higher.

Stocks and financial markets are not the economy. 

If a company is objectively worth a billion dollars and already has a market capitalization of 5 billion dollars, what on earth do we accomplish by raising it’s market capitalization to 10 billion dollars?

What do consumers and retailers gain from increasing prices of food, gas and other commodities?

I see in an article on Jackson Hole that Bernanke has supposedly “refuted” the arguments against QE.

That QE makes commodity prices go up is notorious and irrefutable.  These markets are constantly reported to go up on anticipation of QE. What conceivable argument could Bernanke make that this does not happen? 

Or maybe, notwithstanding that it was increasing commodity prices precipitated the financial crisis, it is his position that increasing commodity prices so that consumers and retailers are poorer is good for the economy.

The markets are not the economy.  Remember when things happen that are bad for the economy, like layoffs, moving manufacturing offshore to cheaper sites, and drops in wages, the markets tend to go up.

Then there is the claim that QE created 2 million jobs.

It was recently revealed that jobs just rose to the same level as at the start of Obama’s presidency.

So when there is no net increase, what is the basis for coming up with 2 million jobs?  It’s like Bernanke is channelling Romney.

Moreover, QE2 by increasing commodity prices has probably slowed the recovery.  Extra money going to international energy and resource companies is money that isn’t spent locally.

Liquidity issues, if they arise, should be dealt with by way of adding the minimum liquidity required, and targeted, so as to deal with that problem but not create unnecessary inflation.

The point of adding liquidity is so that viable businesses don’t close their doors because of an artificial problem.

Buying up government bonds so that companies that already have liquidity will plant their money elsewhere does not accomplish that objective except perhaps indirectly and in the discretion of other institutions.

Fed members need to remember that when they make decisions they are only wearing one hat.

If they are getting confused about that, well, the basis for giving the Fed free reign is they are supposed to be a neutral independent body.


More about the future of agriculture

There was an interesting claim recently that  a third of crop land is used to grow food for animals.  It is an interesting claim if true but i’d like to see how it was calculated.

One of the difficulties with claims such as that the world will have to move to vegetarianism is that “the world” doesn’t do anything.

The issue is what will happen to individual farms owned by individual farmers or businesses owned in an enormous number of jurisdictions.

Unless we wind up in some biblical antichrist scenario where all the decisions are made by a central authority, “the world” isn’t going to do anything.

As for specific jurisdictions, well…

I know that a lot of small farmers farm hay because it is low maintenance and even the harvesting doesn’t eat up that much labor.  You can have a regular job too.

How do you make those people farm other things that are more labor intensive and capital intensive? 

Unless you adopt a “use it or lose it” policy, you don’t.

There are also issues with converting feed crops to people crops.

Is the land and soil suitable?

Will you require more irrigation?


One of the key issues here is how the land is calculated.

If say a rancher has 100,000 acres of grassy land for his cattle, it may be that his ranch is environmently sustainable long term without irrigation.

It may also be that most or all of the land is totally unsuited to cereal or vegetable crops.

So shutting down a cattle ranch and making it grow soybeans isn’t automatically 100000 acres in the win column for the vegans.  In many cases soil, water, everything would have to be brought in and it could easily be uneconomical.

Syria- republicans only favor government intervention in cases of “forceable” or “legitimate” genocide

Yes, I’m actually mocking the republican positions on rape and abortion.  It’s hard to think of any plan for Syria that has an up side.

I’m wondering who else has realized that a person who is trying to rationalize that some rapes are not bad or in some kind of gray area has probably committed rape personally.  That’s the profile.  Otherwise why be so defensive on the rape issue and try to euphamize it.   It isn’t necessary to the abortion issue.  There’s more going on psychologically.

I also see the funding issue for abortion as, when properly handled, an entirely different issue than an abortion.

When I say, if the issue is handled properly, what I mean is that the rules do not de facto make abortion illegal by say preventing facilities that have government funding from performing them.

But as a matter of principle I don’t  see that government should be paying for people’s lifestyle choices. 

If government pays for optional abortions, why not for fertility treatments?

Because of the economic costs of unwanted kids I think it would be better to treat a gratuitous abortion as a taxable benefit so that there is some deterrance to irresponsible behaviour but not an insurmountable obstacle to an abortion that would be for the best.

Rape, incest and the like are in a whole different category.  We don’t make victims pay for prosecutions and jails or police investigations.  I can’t think of a reason why they should have to personally pay other costs of cleaning up after a crime.   The principle of deterrance of irresponsible behavior doesn’t have any application there.

Of course all this should be taken in the context that funding for optional abortions is definitely not one of the 1000 most egregious subsidies in the US and it probably isn’t in the top 10000.

So if you really are trying to run government like a business instead of running it according to some hillbilly christian version of sharia law, it isn’t high on the priority list.

All the same, when the issue is funding rather than banning, pro choice and anti abortion are both moot.  It’s an issue on which I’m pro wallet.   It’s an affront that somebody can bear no personal responsibility for her own unilateral choices but require all of society, which had no input, to take 100% responsibility.

Harry Shearer’s article “in praise of waste, fraud and abuse”

Shearer makes a good point about the army engineer corp skimping on the New Orleans dikes to save $100 million and then the government spending more than $100 billion later to clean up the resulying mess.

While I agree with the general direction of the comments, I don’t agree with the conclusion that this is what happens when you run the government like a business.

Spending $1000 to avoid spending $1 isn’t running government like a business.  Not unless the business you are referencing is Sears, Lehman Bros or Enron.

That is my central problem with right wing governments. 

They don’t and have never run government like a business.

They invariably try to run government into the ground, spending too much money on things that don’t add any value, like the military, eliminating any program that provides a net benefit, privatizing any profitable asset at firesale prices to their buddies, etc.

Most right wing savings are analagous to “saving” money on your car by never adding coolant, never changing the oil and not washing the road salt off in the winter.

You may make the balance sheet look better today but does that mean you don’t pay? By god do you ever pay.

I think the army engineer corps is guilty of military thinking, not businesslike thinking.

You know that if you don’t shore up the levies more, eventually they will fail. 

Preventing the failure will cost another $100 million dollars.

If you ask your bosses for that, they will get angry. You won’t get ahead and you might get fired because logic cannot influence right wing bosses. You also will not get the money whether you ask for it or not.

So you engage in malicious obedience.  You do what you are told even though you know it is wrong and inimical to your mission, wash your hands of it and let somebody else clean up the inevitable mess.

That pretty much sums up the right wing/ old school military way of doing things, doesn’t it?

But that’s not running things like a business.

Scientists’ prediction of vegetarianism should be off base

Plant crops produce more food per hectare/acre than animal crops.

There is more to the issue though than food production per area.

The issue is more, what is the most effective long term use of agricultural land.

Creating more food by acre is not necessarily more efficient use of the land. 

Eventually you have to bring organic material back on to farmland.  Otherwise the soil is just going to get thinner and thinner every year.

Eventually, we will have to bring in the same weight of organic material to agricultural property as is coming out of it, or allow it to lay fallow for years to recover.

So if you move more weight out, you will have to move more in- with the consequences for example in terms of fuel.

That is not the end of the analysis either.

Herds grazing can lead to a stable ecosystem as happens occasionally in nature.  It is not inherently high maintenance.

Viewed from that perspective, we should be considering what is the sustainable level of use for property where no rehabilitation of habitat or conservation efforts are necessary.

On the other hand, if you want maximum use of property, you have to bring in soil, fertilizer and probably irrigation.

The irrigation creates the additional problem that over time soils become salinated and less usable for agricultural purposes.

Agriculture is all about hard realism and logistics.  There is no room for sentimentality in assessing what is and what isn’t sustainable. 

If you manage to take an additional ton of food per hectare out of some farmland neither God nor morality is going to replace the ton of organic material that has been removed.  Some guy on a truck is going to bring it in and some guy on a tractor is going to spread it around.  If you don’t replace it, you have to wait until nature does through e.g. natural erosion.   Soil deposits are generally built up over millenia.  You could be waiting a while.

Morality, whether real or perceived, does not obviate mathematics or logistics.

So if you want to take the position that eating meat is evil, we can have that debate, just don’t back it up with junk science.


Empire State shooting

Standard police issue sidearms have a few difficulties.

One of the larger difficulties, as was shown by the recent Empire State building shooting, is that the accuracy of handguns is not great.

Another problem is that if you don’t have time to draw before an altercation there is a risk that you get shot with your own gun.   The ease of getting a gun out of the holster goes both ways but doesn’t help that much if somebody is coming at you within 20 feet or if an altercation escalates after you go hands on.

When anybody, including police officers, gets into a life and death situation, they get flooded with adrenaline and can’t think clearly.  It increases the blood pressure as well and in combination that tends to impair thinking, give tunnel vision and diminish hearing, and impair motor skills.

The accuracy of handguns is not wonderful in the first place.  Compound that with an adrenaline dump and there is a risk of spraying bullets everywhere.

I remember hearing of a case where police got in a shootout with four people who were in a car.  After the criminals surrendered, the cops discovered that they had hit the car 30 times but not tagged anybody.

It is hard to recreate the sensation of a life and death situation in a training environment. 

You see sometimes the same kinds of problems in professional sports, where in big games football players may develop butter fingers under pressure, hockey players may miss checks, baseball players may take a simple fly ball in the gonads, etc.

The sports situations are situations where the person has been in the similar situations before, the level of training is elite and the stakes are lower, compared with cops getting dumped into probably their first shootout situation with no time to call for backup or do much of anything but react.

We don’t know what the gunman would have done if the police hadn’t stopped him immediately. He apparently put his affairs in order prior to the shooting and pulled out his gun again when police stopped him, so he didn’t have any intention of being taken alive.   We don’t know what he would have done if he wasn’t stopped- taken hostages?

In the circumstances hitting him with 7 of 16 shots was not bad.

It takes an average of 3 9mm shots to drop a guy, but that depends on the circumstances, the two most important being whether you hit the central nervous system and how much adrenaline the target has on board himself.

The heart is not always the best target because you can hit the heart and miss the central nervous system.  The shooter on that tower in Texas many years ago took a bullet through the heart and kept shooting for another 45 seconds.  Adrenaline can do that. 

If you hit the central nervous system instead the target goes down like a sack of potatoes whether he’s high on adrenaline or anything else.

That’s a fairly tight shot though, especially if using a handgun at any kind of range when wired on adrenaline. 

So it was a situation where police had to fire on a crowded street and there was the additional complication that the hollow point bullets, instead of keeping casualties down, sprayed shrapnel everywhere. 

Hollow points may be ok for keeping bullets inside the body of a target but that doesn’t help if they miss the target and shrapnel is a problem.  I assume that they probably mushroom when hitting walls or vehicles too, which has plusses and minuses.  They may be questionable for a shootout when there are suspects in a vehicle or if you need to crack an engine block.

I think I’d like to see police having sidearms with longer barrels and a position for the second hand.  Not rifle sized, but big enough to get more stability and accuracy and a much greater potential for taking down a person with the first shot.  Something that uses handgun bullets rather than rifle bullets would be preferred because the point is to increase accuracy, not power and the potential for collateral damage. 

I’m sure the police involved feel awful about the civilians hit but it could have been worse so we shouldn’t be second guessing them.

I think something along the lines of machine pistol designed for semi-automatic use only might be more appropriate though. 

Fifty shades of hypocrisy

The popularity of the book “fifty shades of gray” has finally outed a politically incorrect fact: that female oriented pornography for many years has made Hustler look like a Presbyterian publication by comparison.

I note that some organizations want to burn it: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/27/fifty-shades-of-grey-burning_n_1833457.html?utm_hp_ref=canada&ir=Canada

That plan is somewhat misconceived as purchasing books in order to burn them will cause the bookstores to re-stock and give more royalties to the writer, without accomplishing anything.

I am sure that some feminists are aghast and faced with something of a dilemma.  Condemning male oriented porn as objectifying women is one thing.  They can spin it into some kind of us vs. them nonsense. 

When the target audience is female the thesis that pornography objectifies women for male sexual gratification becomes strained. 

We do not need to wax philosophical and come up with justifications for it or against it.   It’s protected free speech which means there doesn’t have to be any academic or legal resolution of it.