Free Markets, Free People

Daily Archives: March 25, 2011


Law enforcement and show business–the two should never mix

Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Steven Segal have apparently teamed up to give Segal’s reality show about law enforcement some umph.  It has led to a pretty bizarre and dangerous bust.  But not “dangerous” in the way you might think.

Apparently Arpaio called out just about everything with a badge to bust a, wait for it, suspected cockfighting entrepreneur.

No, really:

Of course Crooks and Liars, where the vid comes from had to sensationalize even further an already outrageous story by saying a “tank” was used.

It wasn’t a tank.  It was an armored car (and an ancient one at that).

armoredcar

But to take down a suspected cock fighter, it took Arpaio, tens of deputies, a SWAT team, bomb robot and armored car?  Oh, and a film crew — don’t forget the film crew.

This is the point Radley Balko makes constantly about the militarization of the police in this country.  If they have it, they want to use it.  And when you use things like armored cars and SWAT teams, bad things can happen.

One of the things police don’t seem to do very well is due diligence intelligence work.  Had they spent any time whatsoever watching the place they felt compelled to use the armored car and SWAT team on, they’d have discovered that the owner was there alone, unarmed and … asleep.

Guys like Arpaio scare the living crap out me.  Good police work doesn’t require “overwhelming force” the vast majority of the time.  And this was obviously one of them.  It makes sense in military doctrine when you attack an enemy.  Police, on the other hand, enforce the law.  They should be trained and required to use only the force necessary to do that.  The opportunity for something to go horribly wrong are increased every time an operation like this is mounted.

It obviously wasn’t necessary to destroy property like Arpaio did here to arrest this man.  But then, it wouldn’t be much of a show for Segal if all that happened was a couple of deputies knocking on the door and arresting a sleepy man for suspected cock fighting would it?

The tail, in this case, is wagging a very dangerous dog.

~McQ


The US: Massive energy resources and an incoherent energy policy

As Peter Glover says, writing in the Energy Tribune, this ought to be the lead story in every American paper and on every American news show.  But it’s overshadowed by Japan, Libya and other developments in the world.

America’s combined energy resources are, according to a new report from the Congressional Research Service (CSR), the largest on earth. They eclipse Saudi Arabia (3rd), China (4th) and Canada (6th) combined – and that’s without including America’s shale oil deposits and, in the future, the potentially astronomic impact of methane hydrates.

The US and Russia are the two most resource rich countries in the world.  Here’s the chart that shows how huge our advantage is:

 

worldfossilfuel

 

Note it says “Oil Equivalent” on the left side.  That’s because it includes coal.  Yeah, that icky, nasty stuff that we’re trying to ban or make it supremely expensive to use.

The CRS estimates US recoverable coal reserves at around 262 billion tons (not including further massive, difficult to access, Alaskan reserves). Given the US consumes around 1.2 billion tons a year, that’s a couple of centuries of coal use, at least.

In fact, the US has 28% of the world’s coal.

Natural gas?

In 2009 the CRS upped its 2006 estimate of America’s enormous natural gas deposits by 25 percent to around 2,047 trillion cubic feet, a conservative figure given the expanding shale gas revolution. At current rates of use that’s enough for around 100 years. Then there is still the, as yet largely publicly untold, story of methane hydrates to consider, a resource which the CRS reports alludes to as “immense…possibly exceeding the combined energy content of all other known fossil fuels.” According to the Inhofe’s EPW, “For perspective, if just 3 percent of this resource can be commercialized … at current rates of consumption, that level of supply would be enough to provide America’s natural gas for more than 400 years.”

So, the possibility of 400 years worth of NG, a couple hundred years worth of coal – but what about oil?

 

americasoil

 

Well shucks, seems we have the potential to be quite free of foreign oil, doesn’t it?

While the US is often depicted as having only a tiny minority of the world’s oil reserves at around 28 billion barrels (based on the somewhat misleading figure of ‘proven reserves’) according to the CRS in reality it has around 163 billion barrels. As Inhofe’s EPW press release comments, “That’s enough oil to maintain America’s current rates of production and replace imports from the Persian Gulf for more than 50 years”

Of course that all assumes we do something about taking advantage of the resources we have and actually putting ourselves in a position where we’re not at the mercy of foreign sources of the same sorts of product.

Obviously and hopefully, we’ll come up with affordable and available renewable energy products while we’re doing that. 

However, we have no coherent energy plan from this administration.  Instead it seems to have gone to war with the oil industry and is doing everything it can to slow its ability to find and exploit these resources.  19,000 jobs and 1.1 billion in earnings have been lost since the imposition of the administration’s moratorium.  Both former Presidents Bush and Clinton have spoken out against the delays.   And the administration remains in contempt of a court order which ordered them to speed up the permitting process.  As a result the EIA has estimated a loss of 74,000 barrels a day of production due to the moratorium this year.

Meanwhile our President touts foreign oil, our investment in it and claims we’ll be its “best customer”.

As Glover says:

Meanwhile US energy policy persists in pursuing the myth that renewables are the economically viable future, with fossil fuels already, as the president said in January, “yesterday’s energy”. With 85 percent of global energy set to come from fossil fuels till at least 2035 no matter what wishful thinkers may prefer, current US energy policy – much like European – is pure political pantomime.

Couldn’t agree more.  We sit on a veritable treasure trove of natural resources which could actually make us energy independent and we have an administration which is doing everything in its power to not just keep us dependent on foreign oil, but to increase our dependence.

~McQ


Old taxes never go away, they just reinvent themselves in a more intrusive way

With the debt and deficit problems our government has managed to accumulate, they’re always looking for new and more inventive ways to get in your wallet.  And it seems, technology may be the most productive way to do so.

You see, we’ve been paying taxes at the gas pump that pay for “transportation improvement projects”.  But there is a problem.  Government mandates that have raised gas mileage standards, hybrids and the possibility of masses of electric cars has suddenly given the tax takers the willies.  That may mean much less revenue originating at the gas pump.

What’s a looter to do?  Well turn to a different way of collecting that tax – tax total vehicle miles traveled (VMT).  Up to now that’s been problematic says the CBO.  But fear not, there’s a solution:

"In the past, the efficiency costs of implementing a system of VMT charges — particularly the costs of users’ time for slowing and queuing at tollbooths — would clearly have outweighed the potential benefits from more efficient use of highway capacity," CBO wrote. "Now, electronic metering and billing are making per-mile charges a practical option."

And what government would do is mandate metering equipment be installed on all new cars and trucks:

"Having the devices installed as original equipment under a mandate to vehicle manufacturers would be relatively inexpensive but could lead to a long transition; requiring vehicles to be retrofitted with the devices could be faster but much more costly, and the equipment could be more susceptible to tampering than factory-installed equipment might be," CBO said.

So how would it be collected?

The report added that VMT taxes could be tracked and even collected at filling stations. "If VMT taxes were collected at the pump, each time fuel was purchased, information would be sent from a device in the vehicle to a device at the filling station," it said.

CBO also suggested different VMT tax rates might be assessed to different vehicles because heavier vehicles do more road damage, and rates might change depending on whether miles are driven at peak use times or during less congested hours.

Of course, the obvious solution is to just collect at the pump for others at an ‘average’ rate.

What about electric cars?

Yeah, haven’t figured that one out yet, have they?

CBO did acknowledge that privacy concerns may be a hurdle to implementing a VMT tax because electronic tracking of miles driven might provide too much personal information to the government. However, CBO noted that some have proposed restricting the information that would be transmitted to the government.

Well I feel better already. 

Technology is a wonderful thing.  It has given us a way of life and benefits that previous generations most likely couldn’t even imagine.  But there’s a downside to it too.  Especially when government gets its hands on it and uses it as a tool to intrude into your privacy.  Another mandate designed to help government better keep track of  your travels and ensure you pay your “fair share”?  Yeah, no echoes of Big Brother in that at all, huh?

~McQ


Meanwhile in Egypt …

I hate to throw out the old “I told you so”, but it appears Egypt is trying to go according to my prediction.  That is, the Muslim Brotherhood – the best organized of the opposition forces – would take the lead in forming the “new” Egypt and the military – which has held power for 60 years – would find a way to retain its power.  The New York Times reports that’s exactly what seems to be happening:

In post-revolutionary Egypt, where hope and confusion collide in the daily struggle to build a new nation, religion has emerged as a powerful political force, following an uprising that was based on secular ideals. The Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist group once banned by the state, is at the forefront, transformed into a tacit partner with the military government that many fear will thwart fundamental changes.

Emphasis mine.  As I’ve mentioned previously, “secular” may not mean what you think it means in an Islamic country.  And I’ve all but worn out the David Warren quote, but again which group has the “simplest, most plausible, most easily communicated “vision?”  That means:

It is also clear that the young, educated secular activists who initially propelled the nonideological revolution are no longer the driving political force — at least not at the moment.

Indeed, my guess is that the moment is lost for them for good.  Why?  Because it isn’t in the best interest of either the MB or the military to let that particular “political force” reemerge.  So:

As the best organized and most extensive opposition movement in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood was expected to have an edge in the contest for influence. But what surprises many is its link to a military that vilified it.

“There is evidence the Brotherhood struck some kind of a deal with the military early on,” said Elijah Zarwan, a senior analyst with the International Crisis Group. “It makes sense if you are the military — you want stability and people off the street. The Brotherhood is one address where you can go to get 100,000 people off the street.”

And there you have it.  Result?

“We are all worried,” said Amr Koura, 55, a television producer, reflecting the opinions of the secular minority. “The young people have no control of the revolution anymore. It was evident in the last few weeks when you saw a lot of bearded people taking charge. The youth are gone.”

So much for the “Twitter” revolution.

~McQ

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