Criminal Minds

Another mass murder resulting  the usual running off in all directions.  Ban the type of weapon used.  No fortify and arm the schools. Someone dropped the ball.  What we seem to overlook is normal people don’t commit mass murderer.  Abnormal people do.  Further, in most cases the perpetrators have exhibited behaviors that gave us clear indications they were capable of acts most wouldn’t even entertain.  What we don’t have is a method to connect the dots necessary to prevent them from acting.  Millions of people watch “Criminal Minds” a TV series that follows a team of FBI profilers tracking down people who commit horrific crimes.  The idea is to use characteristics to create a profile of the criminal in order to make an identification.  In other words, mass murders have a different set of traits that set them apart from the general populace.  Indeed, if you went to the FBI and asked them for a general profile of those capable of mass murder they could provide it. What is needed is a way to reverse the procedure of using the profile to catch the bad guys after the committing of crimes to a way to fill in the profile before the crimes take place.

The FBI with a comprehensive profile based on the idiosyncrasies of mass murderers refined and combined with a super data collection system would give us the basis to identify them before they act.  We already have tip lines but these would be far more effective with a questionnaire filling in the blanks on a profile.  Extended to the internet, someone who sees abnormal behavior such as cruelty to animals could log on to the FBI tip site and find the questionnaire to be filled out. A person conflicted by what they had observed would see cruelty to animals is something needed to be reported.  The questionnaire could alert observers to the kinds of behavior we need to know about.  At the same time they would be assured the information provided would be correlated with other reports. This is where big data comes in.  With the proper algorithms all reports would be in one place to be aggregated and ranked.

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With all the Trump White House News dominating each and every news cycle, it has been widely overlooked the US backed coalition in Northern Syria repelled an attack by Assad government forces.  Over 100 of the Assad forces possibly including Russians were killed. There were no coalition losses.  This group, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), is made up of 2000 US troops working with Kurdish and Arab militias.   The Assad forces are an alliance of other Syrians, Hezbollah and Iran with Russian support.  It’s well-recognized the Kurds are the backbone of this US led coalition that took the Issis Capitol Raqqa.  The Trump Administration has loudly claimed victory over Issis with this success.  The coalition is still battling Issis remnants and other extremists groups in Northern Syria to keep them from reconstituting.  To further complicate the situation, Turkey on Syria’s northern border with Russian acquiescence is attacking Kurdish forces in the Northwest Syria Afrin enclave and threatening the Kurdish elements of the coalition.  One has to ask, how did our troops end up surrounded by threats, what are we hoping to accomplish and do we really have a workable middle east plan?

The pro Assad alliance in Syria is basically a Shia Army hell-bent on reconquering the majority Sunni Country by any means possible including  chemical weapons.  Remember those were supposed to removed from Syria by the Russians.  No wonder refugees have moved into coalition held areas. So in addition to preventing a resurgence of extremists, the coalition is trying to keep  the Syrian tragedy from getting even worse. This is nothing new for the Kurds.  When so much of Iraq including Mosul fell to Issis, many of those fleeing this horror found refuge behind the guns of the Kurdish Peshmerga.  It’s hard to visualize the recapture of Mosul without Kurdish support. Both in fighting ISiS and our humanitarian efforts the Kurds have been our best ally.  In theory Turkey is our NATO ally.  Under Pres. Erdogaon this almost daily proves to be less true.  An Islamist, he has moved his nation closer to Iran and Russia and away from the West.  In Turkey there is a large  Kurdish  concentration  in the Southeast part of the country, along the Syrian border.  Turkish mistreatment of these Kurds has a long history and Erdegon  has if anything made things worse.  A successful Kurdish uprising is his worst nightmare. He might have treated the Kurds right, but that ship has sailed. Turkey like the Assad Alliance feels the need to crush the Kurdish areas along the Syrian border as a matter of survival

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Simple Interest

In our 1/2/18 post “2018” we suggested that the only group that could supply new funds to push the stock market higher was the public at large.  The figures for December and January are in they show this group’s participation was the greatest since the “Great Recession.” They bought pushing the market to the stratosphere. Unfortunately, with no more new money available, the market was set up for a change of direction.  The reason given for the subsequent sharp down move was rising interest rates.  The bulls argue the market hadn’t had a correction for an abnormally long time and was overdue. In any case interest rates are historically low. Even the recent rise and the projected Federal Reserve moves should be easily handled by worldwide growth. After all, economic expansions in the past faced much higher rates and still thrived.  In the US profits will be greatly enhanced by the recent tax revisions.  Wages and optimism are rising.  Solid reasons for expecting the economic expansion to continue accompanied by rising profits.  This should be reflected in higher stock prices.

On the surface this makes a lot of sense but what if the recent interest rate rise even from such low levels is indicative of a much more dangerous situation?  In our series the Long Journey to “More” the post Free Capital to Finance “More”  attempted to show how the world’s central banks led by our Federal Reserve had caused massive distortions to the traditional risk pyramid.  Instead of a base of relatively safe assets tapering up to high risk, we had a pyramid of mostly risky assets.  With so much risk already, investors might really be reluctant to go after the really high risk/high reward ventures.  We thought this might help explain the tepid growth throughout the era worldwide “Quantitative Easing.”  The theory behind the central bankers move to zero or negative interest rates was to drive up the value of risk assets giving their owners gains resulting in a “wealth effect.” This would result rise in greater consumption driving growth.  Some economists claim this indeed added to growing  GDPs.  The consensus in the US is that it added about 1/2% to our GDP.  Even granting this might be true, it has left investors far and wide with horribly unbalanced portfolios.  Across the board they’re out of line with normal risk tolerance.

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“I think it’s a disgrace” Trump

“It’s terrible, You wanna know the truth? I think it’s a disgrace You wanna know what’s going on in this country, I think it’s a disgrace” so says Pres. Trump in support of the Memo released from Rep. Nunez’s Republican majority House Intelligence Committee.  He’s right of course, just not in the way he thinks. Nothing before this 3 1/2 page document highlighted how much the right has fallen in line with President Trump.  Legislators,  pundits, editorial boards, website and talk radio hosts are dancing to the Trump tune.  Now the right had every reason to unite with the President on taxes, judges and regulations.  These were on the right’s wish lists long before Trump traveled in their direction to run for President.  However, his problems with the Russian probe are of his own making and have nothing to do with the aims of the right.  Why then are they for the most part rallying to the defense of Trump and this ultra partisan memo?

Last week, traveling to their to their West Virginia Retreat,  Republican members of congress were looking forward to taking  bows on the tax cut and the economy.  Polls were up ticking. They were going to present their agenda going forward as a springboard for success in the 2018 elections.  Instead, this memo drowned out their upbeat message focusing the nation’s attention on Trump’s Russian problems even before its eventual release.  Maybe the wreck of the train taking them to the retreat was an omen.  Why rush the memo out. without waiting for the Democrats minority report as is customary? By not waiting, their memo could only be seen as a partisan attack on the Mueller investigation. Even though they never shared Trump’s pro Putin stance which drew the original scrutiny to his campaign, they were sucked into Trump’s mess.  Amazingly, one of the few recent bi-partisan Congressional Acts, putting additional sanctions on Russia for interfering with our election, lies dormant because Trump to date has refused to implement them.

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