It’s axiomatic “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help…” How many times this has been passed around in “joke form” lies beyond count, but as Peoplenomics subscribers have been reading of late, Ures truly has been trying to write a book about how we really can turn America around and gain back some of the leadership roles we used to hold.
For now, however, as noted:
- We have the most people in jail of any other large country in the world
- We tolerate government lying to use in uncountable ways. The most recent little “stretch” came in the report that the Census faked a jobs report which was touted in the last election. Hats off to John Crudele of the NY Post for reporting what the rest of the press-sycophants, many of which land gov’t jobs, seem unable to bring themselves to reveal.
- And, even when we do (occasionally) figure out we’ve been lied to (Mideast war premises make the case here) we just can’t seem to get up the gumption to a) reassert Congressional authority for war-making and b) we can’t seem to impeach anyone, no matter how grave the moral missteps.
This is just some of our national problem. Other aspects (political correctness disease, not to mention a gourmand’s appetite for the Free Lunch) also figure in to things.
Then there are mornings like this one where a logical framework or design pattern jumps out at me, demanding to be given voice, so people can adjudge for themselves, the correctness of our mental framing constructs.
Case #1 – Regulating Energy Scarcity
I mentioned the other morning that Oilman2 if out on a rig in the Gulf of Mexico presently, where he’s trying to bring in a new well. But he’s got a problem – common to all exploration types – trying to find “up and coming rock stars” in the oil industry…
You remember me talking to you about the “missing generation” in the oilfield?
Recap: The last downturn was in the mid 1980’s. Several colleges eliminated their Petroleum Engineering programs due to lack of enrollment. The tech bubble ate many prospective oilfield entrants in the early 1990’s. Our business did not really rebound until about 1997. The issue is that there are not enough experienced personnel. Drilling is not taught in college, engineering basics are. Drilling Engineers are made via on-the-job training as entry level apprentices….
I am 56, last year of the boomer generation, The other supervisor is 61. The guy managing the rig is 63. The next oldest guy on this rig is 36, and he has a whopping 7 years experience as a supervisor of manual laborers (roughnecks). The median age of the other 29 guys here is 29!
To be frank, it takes a good 10 years in the tank to make a respectable drilling engineer. Younger guys will poopoo this, but I would stack 20 of them against a guy with 20 years. Experience is key when dealing with mother nature and pressure.
Right now, operations that traditionally take 3 hours are running 7-8 on my rig. Experience lack is the predominant problem, and second to that is crazy safety regs that require a safety meeting every time you change task. Doesn’t matter if you di the task last week – same damn safety meeting going over the same old shit…Mark twain would be proud of this particular bureaucracy.
Production volumes are falling and drilling costs are rising.hmmm… wonder what THAT means in a few years…
So we see that – just like in the price/unit volume sales curves done in business schools – that there is a point at which everything used to be optimized. There was a tradeoff between safety and “getting ‘er done” because the longer a rig has a bit down, the more natural hazards the rig workers are exposed to.
What’s happened, in this case, is that additional regulation has come along which now requires (as I understand it) helicopter ditching training (on a recurring basis) that makes it a requirement that you get dumped in a pool of water, upside down in the dark, and then scramble (holding your breath) to get out of the upside down underwater chopper as a safety training mission.
Dark? Annually? Records of training, inspection of records of training, inspections of inspections of records, retention of records of records inspections and correspondence…why it does spiral upward. And in the process, if as is the case outline above, getting the job done now takes 2.5 times as long (care to pencil out the day rate of a jack-up drilling rig, crew, services, and inspections many times monthly at $25,000 in government charge-back expenses) and the payoff is the same.
All of which means new Gulf oil will be coming online slower, which seems to be fine and maybe it’s just a super-secret way to keep new oil costs leveled so the discovery/production spikes here on the backside of Peak Oil don’t get too wild. There’s just no telling.
But it just adds cost,. that’s for damn sure. And care to guess what happens to those costs? Hint: They get embedded in the wholesale price which then gets passed along to….care to guess who?
Case #2 Closing Down Nerve Gas Depots
This is another dandy example which really ought to be in my little ebook SuperCountry which goes through a whole smorgasbord of “best practices” which are readily available for the borrowing (or stealing) which could improve the competitive and social standing of America.
One of our readers happens to be an expert employed in the destruction of old nerve agents, who read with some interest our report on last weekends earthquake near the Hanford atomic junkyard up in the Pacific Northwest and our mention that this was just 41 miles from the Umatilla Army Depot which is now nearly decommissioned.
As our information reports (with a good bit redacted to keep his identity secret) it has a familiar ring to it:
I have not read the article, but from the pictures I see from the sites, Pine Bluff is a flat field, Anniston is about 80% there, and Umatilla is right behind.
We know this because we all got Stay bonuses for not ditching the sites and staying until they released us. I asked to be let go in xxxxxx’s first RIF because there was work around then and I wanted in on it. So they let me go in xxxxxxxx.
That locked in the stay part, but we are all watching the last two sites, Anniston and Umatilla, because we get a bonus for closure as well, for each site, and for all three together. (The Tooele site was a different contractor.)
Estimate is the xxxx site will get the site bonus in Late 1st-early 2nd quarter so that should tell where they are.
Estimate on the three site bonus is last quarter 2014-early 2015.
All the plants are nearly flat to the ground, it is the Oregon State Environmental Department that will be the hold up as they will take the longest to accept the closure paperwork and declare the site closed.
Aha! Not to throw rocks at Oregon, however: I’m sure they are just doing what [heavily environmentally conscious Oregonians do, namely always err on the side of caution].
In one way, it makes sense. If someone came in and put some of the most dangerous chemicals on earth on Oregon soil, how would you certify that the site really was cleaned up, all skookum, and ready to go into some other use?
Well, you might hire some engineers, do some survey work, and then hire consultants, and these in turn would have to come in through some bidding process, which would result in delay upon delay upon delay. And then, there would be “expert time” on top of that: You would need to take reports and samples and then hit the limit global stock of organic chemistry experts who understand the breakdown of such goodies, and then go about their assessment.
But even before any of this stuff started, there would need to be bodies hired and that means budgets and budget all go through Salem (their state legislature) where who knows how long all the pieces take to come together. And then it all has to “go through the chairs” which means starting off as a proposed piece of legislation which would have to (minimally) snake its way through environmental and budget committees and then there’s all the back room horse-trading and so if Oregon is taking a bit of time, well, that’s just how things work anymore.
These two cases give a nice general outline of the problem of complex systems – they become “self-complexifying” at some level. In other words, one complicate problem (decommission nerve gas hidey-holes) triggers a subordinate problem (dealing with Oregon Environmental) which they sets off action at a supervisory and budget level (dealing with the legislature).
All of which would be fine, because it keeps the money going round, round, round,. Except that making policy decisions without a clear eye toward the self-complexification of modern life often yield very poor decisions which, in turn, drags us kicking and screaming to…./
Case # 3: Helping Out Enemies Help Themselves
Our third, and for now final, example of how complexification is twisting up out future may be seen by reading the NY Times report about how “A Russian GPS using U.s. Soil Stirs Spy Fears.”
If you don’t have time to read & grok the whole article, I understand. So let’s just set it up as the US doesn’t have the world’s only GPS system. The Russians have one of their own called Roscosmos and to make it work (better) the Russians want to put some ground-station antennas for it where?
Yep: Right here in the land of capitalists turned socialists turned central-bank holdup artists.
Of course the back story here is that the US just ran a long Cold War with the Russians from 1945 to 1990, by which time the Wall was down, Russia was de-nuking its military with the Start II program, and life was looking like there might be a “peace bonus” for the whole world to enjoy.
The problem is, of course, that neither the US or the successive Russian government of Prince Vlad can survive without a military/death industry because the global economy is still based on the “growth required” business model, implicit in embracing the concept of “interest” on investments.
Recall that elsewhere in my book, I argue that Sharia law’s ban on interest (and replacing it with one-time fees) would likely reduce (or maybe end) many underlying economic cycles of boom and bust, and that regardless about your feelings toward Islam, Sharia banking makes as much sense as that other technology developed in that part of the world and stolen by the west:
I contend that by failing (as a country) to embrace some “best practices” we walk away from an opportunity to neuter our national financial issues and, instead, are left in the vulnerable position where both we – and our enemies, past and present (we can’t trust the Russians fully yet, can we?) – are locked in an economic contest where there will be no winner.
A couple of our readers, one a level-headed Texas lawyer, and the other an advanced Texas academic we kind enough to include me in the loop as they discussed this point. They lawyer fellow remarked on this Russian satellite ground station issue:
This is, to say the least, an appalling idea. One has to wonder what the State Department people who are urging adoption of this proposal are smoking over at Foggy Bottom. Clearly, such Russian facilities will be used for espionage, not to mention making the targeting of Russian weapons aimed at our country more accurate (especially if we were to block foreign access to the American GPS in times of military crisis). This is especially so not only in view of Russia’s political and military proclivities, but also with regard to its much-ballyhooed renewed military alliance with China. That this proposal is even being considered seriously in Washington is insane. It is clearly time to be writing our congressmen and senators, as well as the President.
Not that that would help, anymore than the writing and phone calls about bailouts helped. But the Senior Academic Dude said:
I already shared this news story with my Pentagon colleagues and they were already aware of this insanity and strongly oppose it. The problem is that Obama’s State Dept. is loaded with idiots. This whole thing has been under discussion before Kerry became the new Sec. of State. So I don’t know what his thinking on this is.
And thus, we arrive at today’s lesson about complexity: In order to rule, one one master complexity at a different level. One must do three things, going forward, if we are to have a better country, or perhaps more ominously, to even survive as a country.
Each of these “cases” has embedded in it, one of the trail markers we can follow if we’re to actually do something about getting control of the future. These inferred rules are:
From Oilman2’s experience, the first rule may be:
We need to recognize the ripple-effects and interdependencies of complexity-links interests.
From our Nerve Gas Decommissioning expert, the second rule might be:
We need to better synchronize interdependent complex systems so they run more smoothly.
And from our Russian satellite ground station discussion, a third rule might be:
We need to discern who is choosing among complexity-presented choices and be able to model not only policy drivers, but question fundamentally whether they have sufficiently modeled the outcomes of competing complexity alternatives to make an optimized choice,
Or, if the coffee hasn’t kicked in yet: Do you see it? Do you understand it? And, having seen it and understood it, do you have even a frigging clue what the best practice decision is?
As of this morning, for most peeps&asleeps they don’t even see it. A very few will understand complexity, and even fewer still will take the time to model the future, and thus make good decisions. There’s a high level of risk implied when making complex decisions based on ideology and inclination rather than x-iteration models. Data trumps gut.
We continue to patiently await the arrival of some of the best practices and (well articulated) evolutions in public policy. But you’ll notice, I’m sure, that we’re not exactly on the edge of our chairs expecting their imminent arrival.
Take a Breath: Correspondent’s Correspondence
Junior Editor in Training DJ sent a rather coherent note…the kind of clear thinking that escapes most people:
Also worth noting that ENENews commentators have been discussing 8-9 new fissures have opened under ocean off East Coast, & those & others in Pacific are rapidly releasing H2S to TWICE THE LIVABLE parts-per-billion (ie, tipping point) – a possibly more imminent threat than Fuku – in the comments section of posting about starfish & sea stars “grisly melting” from inside out http://enenews.com/nbc-news-grisly-disease-decimating-starfish-populations-from-orange-county-to-alaska-scientists-alarm-as-animals-starting-eating-each-other-then-melting-away-similar-problem-on-east-co and it then linked out to arctic-news.blogspot.com/2013/10/unfolding-methane-catastrophe.html which I have not yet had time to read. Per Wikipedia, H2S is corrosive to Everything, explosive in AIR, flammable, very deadly – & common in nat gas & volcanoes (as well as swamps, sewage, wells). I actually could smell it the other night, for the first time in a few years. The couple other times I have smelled it in past years I didn’t know what it was. If money was no object I’d have better bug-out options ready now – but H2S will likely be inescapable anywhere on the globe when seas fill & the air is rapidly depleted of oxygen – ie, we become Mars or Venus. Maybe soon. (Just makes you want to give up). Venus’ atmosphere is Hot, deadly, & choked with gas. May be a coincidence, but Venus is AKA the Morning Star – associated with “light bearer” or “Lucifer,” & what’s the thing associated with him? Sulfur.
Concerned as the world climbs into it’s Handbasket at the East Coast “desk,”
PS – Your “living on the desktop” threat board is a good idea.
PPS – Right Now, several volcanoes are erupting, the worst Typhoon to strike land just hit, the record Tornadoes just hit, Ison is above, the Perseid Meteor Shower is going on, & there’s been an unusual halo around the full moon. Used to be unusual events happened every few years, then months, now all at once. Daily the records fall. Disasters are supposed to increase in magnitude & frequency like a woman in labor in End Times. Until this week, I thought we were in a lull.
Note to JEIT (jr ed. in training) DJ: Good observations, but you need to begin at a city desk first, if you live in a city of 25,000 or larger. Otherwise as a rural desk, like my Rural East Texas desk.
From there, you can move up to a sub-regional desk. Southern New Jersey, for example.
Then up to a State desk.
One you achieve that grand and exalted status, you then become eligible for a full regional desk. We’ve got plans for citizen regional editors, one per federal region. We already have a couple of good editors in the Israel Region, but we seem to be having difficulty keeping editors in the Iraq or Afghan regions.
From there the career track is to East or West Coast editor, or Asia or Europe, except Bernard Grover already occupies the Asia desk.
Another of our readers is about to move to Ecuador so now I’m not sure if they will have to report to country editor Bruce, or whether we will have to break Ecuador into reporting regions because there are now 15-20-thousand expats down there.
So that’s the general layout: No pay, modest anonymity, but a marvelous opportunity to contribute to reasonable public discussion. Plus, no UrbanSurvival contributor has ever been kidnapped by small military splinter groups; just for the record. (IRS audits don’t count.)
Oh, and if your insights are especially keen on economic matters, you might be able to follow in the tracks of Maria Bartiromo who has decided to bail from CNBC and is heading to Fox Business News. Will she get to ride in a RupeJet?
Come to think of it, I was going to forward a resume to CNBC but I just don’t think my hair works, know what I mean?
Somebody who reads the column on a regular basis send a dandy email which pointed to the Forbes story about how “Walmart store holding Thanksgiving charity food drive – For it’s own employees!”
When I read articles like this, the question I keep asking myself is just how long will people pretend to work when they employers pretend to pay them?
At some point, it is going to be literally pointless to even bother trying.
So as we prepare to “mount up” on the great Treadmill of Life for another morning, the question always comes down to the four choices:
- Is there a Glass?
- Is the Glass half full?
- Is the Glass half empty?
- It it too early for a Glass?
All we can say it that Question #4 is definitely out of order, but if you check back with me this afternoon, say around 5 PM, the answer is subject to change!
Write when you break even, or sooner if so moved…