Free Markets, Free People

Dale Franks

Dale Franks’ QandO posts

Exactly how often do cops shoot people?

Well, actually, we really don’t know.

D.Brian Burghart is the editor of the Reno News & Review, the city’s alt-weekly. Driving home one day, he came across the aftermath of a police shooting, and became curious about it. So he started to look for the figures on how often officer-involved shootings happen. And he couldn’t find them. Anywhere.

Nowhere could I find out how many people died during interactions with police in the United States. Try as I might, I just couldn’t wrap my head around that idea. How was it that, in the 21st century, this data wasn’t being tracked, compiled, and made available to the public? How could journalists know if police were killing too many people in their town if they didn’t have a way to compare to other cities? Hell, how could citizens or police? How could cops possibly know “best practices” for dealing with any fluid situation? They couldn’t.

So, he decided to create one. He’s spent the last two years building a crowd-sourced database of officer-involved shootings at Fatal Encounters. And it hasn’t been easy, as he explains:

The biggest thing I’ve taken away from this project is something I’ll never be able to prove, but I’m convinced to my core: The lack of such a database is intentional. No government—not the federal government, and not the thousands of municipalities that give their police forces license to use deadly force—wants you to know how many people it kills and why.

It’s the only conclusion that can be drawn from the evidence. What evidence? In attempting to collect this information, I was lied to and delayed by the FBI, even when I was only trying to find out the addresses of police departments to make public records requests. The government collects millions of bits of data annually about law enforcement in its Uniform Crime Report, but it doesn’t collect information about the most consequential act a law enforcer can do.

I’ve been lied to and delayed by state, county and local law enforcement agencies—almost every time. They’ve blatantly broken public records laws, and then thumbed their authoritarian noses at the temerity of a citizen asking for information that might embarrass the agency. And these are the people in charge of enforcing the law.

Frankly, I find this all too easy to believe. After all, a database of officer-involved shootings would be an enormously useful thing to have for the police, in order to draw lessons about best practices. But, an even more important use is for the public to use the data to provide better visibility and accountability for police operations. And the latter reason, I strongly suspect, is precisely why the police don’t want such a database. The police interest in coming up with best practices is far outweighed by their interest in preventing increased transparency.

The attitude of the police seems to be that of Colonel Jessup in “A Few Good Men”:

I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it.

But, here’s the thing: The very essence of a free society is the open ability to question the manner of how those we entrust to defend us provide that defense. It’s what prevents us from becoming a police state. I would argue that we’re already on the cusp of becoming one.


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Economic Statistics for 21 Aug 14

The PMI Manufacturing Index Flash for August rose 1.7 points to 58.0.

The Philadelphia Fed Survey for August rose a sharp 4.1 points to 28.0, a rise not supported by the report’s underlying indices. Both new orders and shipments slowed by half, while unfilled orders are shrinking and delivery times are improving. All of these are symptomatic of slowing activity. The headline number is not a a composite of components but is based on a single subjective question in the survey. This month, at least, the answer to that question seems at variance with the other indices in the report.

Existing home sales rose 2.4% to an annualized rate of 5.15 million units in July.

Initial jobless claims fell 14,000 last week, to 298,000. The 4-week moving average rose 5,000 to 300,750. Continuing claims fell 49,000 to 2.500 million.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index fell -0.2 points to 36.6 in the latest week.

The Fed’s balance sheet fell $-19.0 billion last week, with total assets of $4.412 trillion. Reserve Bank credit fell $-3.7 billion.

The Fed reports that M2 Money Supply fell by $-8.7 billion last week.


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Economic Statistics for 19 Aug 15

The Consumer Price Index rose 0.1% in July, at both the headline and core level. On a year-over-year basis, the CPI is up 2.0% at the headline level, and up 1.9% less food and energy.

July housing starts jumped 15.7%, to a 1.093 million annual rate.

ICSC-Goldman reports weekly retail sales fell -1.3%, but were up a strong 3.8%% on a year-over-year basis. Redbook, meanwhile, reports a slowing to 3.7% in retail sales over last year, compared to 4.8% last week.


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Economic Statistics for 15 Aug 14

The Producer Price Index for total final demand slowed to  0.1% in July. Prices excluding food & energy rose 0.2%. Prices excluding food, energy, and trade services increased 0.2%. Prices for goods were unchanged, while services rose 0.1%. On a seasonally adjusted year-ago basis, PPI final demand was up 1.7 %. Excluding food & energy, PPI final demand was up 1.6%.

The New York Fed’s Empire State Manufacturing Survey fell to 14.69 in August vs. 25.60 in July.

Net foreign demand for long-term U.S. securities fell to $-30.2 billion in June. Foreign accounts were heavy sellers of Treasuries and corporate bonds.

Industrial production in July rose 0.4%, while capacity utilization in the nation’s factories rose 0.1% to 79.2%.

The Reuters/University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment index in August fell -2.6 points to 79.2.

E-commerce sales rose a very sharp 4.9% in the second quarter of 2014, compared to 3.3% in the first quarter.


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Observations: The QandO Podcast for 15 Aug 14

Observations: The QandO PodcastOn this week’s podcast, Michael tweets a Lefty, and Dale watches a Mustang video.

The podcast can be heard in different ways:

  1.  Play on Stitcher. (Please remember the feed may take a couple of hours to update after this is first posted.)
  2. Direct link to the MP3 file.
  3. RSS reader via the is podcast RSS Feed.

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Stitcher.

Prof. Erb feels put upon

Scott Erb commented in Bruce’s post, which is aptly titled, “Delusional”. Speaking of delusional, here is Prof. Erb’s comment. Ready it slowly. Caress it with your mind. Savor the overweening self-righteousness of it before I respond:

Apparently you choose to delete my replies rather than post them.  Not surprising.  You know I’m right and have predicted all this, and you aren’t honorable enough to post those statements.  OK – you’ll delete this too, I’m sure.  That proves to me that you know I’ve been right, and you’re too scared, chicken and dishonest to allow it on your website.  Thank God you don’t have the responsibility to teach or impact the next generation.  By deleting my posts you prove that you’re scared of the truth.   I pity you, but know that you’re passing – your way of thinking is of the past, and will soon be gone.  My way of thinking is winning the cultural war.  And you know it!  Thank you for admitting defeat by deleting my responses.  You’re scared of the truth!  It’s very satisfying that you decided to delete – that proves to me you know I’m right!  :-)

This is a serious accusation, and, as such, deserves a front-page response.

Dear Prof. Erb;

Delete this comment? Oh, no, I have no intention of doing that. Indeed, I am putting it out where everyone can see it.

In case you haven’t been reading the blog, we had to transfer the web site to a different hosting plan. I’ve been writing about it since Friday.

This transfer process means that the WordPress MySQL database containing all the content has to be exported. After that, the domain has to be transferred from the old IP Address to the new one, which starts the  process of propagating the server change to the Internet, worldwide, through the DNS system. As a result of this unavoidably lengthy process, several hours pass between the time the site content’s database is copied over and users are directed to the new web site. A lot of people who commented during this process also lost their comments, because those comments didn’t exist when the database was transferred to a new server. I left a post (still available until sometime tonight) at the top of the old site yesterday warning that this would happen. So, sadly, you’ll have to temper your satisfaction with the the knowledge that you were not, in fact, the victim of a nefarious scheme. I didn’t even know you had commented, and the loss of your–and everyone else’s–comments after yesterday morning was due entirely to the timing issues inherent in transferring an existing database-driven web site to a new web hosting system.

The truth is that neither Bruce nor I care enough about your turgid literary ejaculations to take the effort of going into the admin section, finding them, and deleting them. If either of us really cared about your doltish ramblings and their <sarcasm>devastating effects</sarcasm>, we’d simply ban you from commenting. That takes even less trouble than finding and deleting your moronic screeds, and we don’t even care enough about you to do that.  Why would you possibly think that, after years of freely allowing you to infest the comments section, we would pick those particular comments to delete? Perhaps you felt that they shone with particularly blinding beacons of your brilliance, to which our only possible response could be to delete them, before the shining rays of your genius corrupted our entire weltanschauung. If so, it must be particularly irksome to know that your uniquely gifted wisdom was lost due to unavoidable technical issues. Perhaps you should consult a professional about these feelings of persecution, though. Failing that, you might simply get over yourself.

Oh, and as a professor of business at an accredited, non-profit, 4-year university, I do, In fact, “teach or impact the next generation.”  Indeed, I have been employed in formal classroom instruction and curriculum development in the military, government, private industry, and academia since 1987. So, sadly, your academic superiority trump card, pathetic as it is, is certainly not applicable to me. Think of it: every term I have a new crop of students to “teach or impact”, as I toil away in the fields of academe. Where is your God now?

Your comments above amply demonstrate the monumentally smug self-regard and intellectual imperviousness to reality that causes so many of our commenters to react badly to you. Certainly, it usually causes me to spurn you as I would spurn a rabid dog. Happily, the self-importance and ignorance of your comment, coupled with its wildly inaccurate allegations, made it too precious to ignore. I would even go so far as to call it “classic Erb” in its grandiose wrongness in every material aspect.

By the way, why are you commenting here? I’m pretty sure you promised to go away and never come back a while ago. A man should keep his word. Anyway, if you had a shred of decency, and something more than a Rain Man-like grasp of human interaction, you’d apologize abjectly to me for this unfounded accusation.


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Economic Statistics for 14-15 Aug 13

I missed yesterday’s stats, since I was building the new site. So, let’s catch up.

The MBA reports that mortgage applications fell -2.7% last week. Purchases were down -1.0% and re-fis fell -4.0%.

July retail sales were unchanged in July. retail sales less autos, and retail sales less autos and gas both rose 0.1%.

The Atlanta Fed’s Business Inflation Expectations survey for July reports businesses expect unit costs to rise 2.0% in the next 12 months.

June business inventories rose 0.4%, but a weaker 0.3% sales increase left the stock-to-sales ratio unchanged at 1.29.

Weekly initial jobless claims rose 21,000 to 311,000. The 4-week average rose 2,250 to 295,750. Continuing claims rose 25,000 to 2.544 million.

Import prices fell -0.2% in July, while export prices were unchanged. On a year-over-year basis, import prices rose 1.0% while export prices rose 0.4%.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index rose for the first time in three weeks, up 0.6 points to 36.8 in the latest week.

The Fed’s balance sheet rose $21.8 billion last week, with total assets of $4.432 trillion. Total reserve bank credit rose by $11.5 billion.

The Fed reports that M2 money supply shrank by $-34.4 billion in the latest week.


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QandO is Alive

Welcome to the new QandO. The old site has passed away, and , with it, many maintenance headaches. For you, the user, the site should operate much faster, thanks to being transferred to a modern server, using modern technology.

Enjoy.

Also…first post!