The MBA reports that mortgage applications rose 25.5% last week, with purchases up 27% and refis 24.0%. This huge jump is the result of new disclosure rules, under the TILA-RESPA regulatory change.
The Gallup U.S. Job Creation Index was unchanged in September at 32.
Consumer credit rose $16.0 billion in August, with revolving credit up $4.0 billion.
Thomas Sowell discusses the rash of political charlatans we’ve been plagued by over the recent decades.
He blames them for the condition we’re in, policy-wise. But he puts equal blame on “we the people” for continuing to support them and their policies:
Political charlatans are not the whole story of our social degeneracy on many fronts. “We the people” must accept our own share of the blame because we voted these charlatans into office, and went along with their ever-increasing power over our lives.
When it came to charlatans taking ever larger amounts of our own money to finance ever more big government programs, we stood still like sheep waiting to be sheared. We remained as meek as sheep when they turned schools into places to propagandize our children to grow up accepting more of the same.
All the while we had the power to vote them out. But we couldn’t be bothered to look beyond their magic words. Even now, many are too absorbed in their electronic devices to know or care.
Most voters, it seems to me, are like magpies – distracted by shiny things and never able to see the danger that exists in reality. Sowell uses “the legacy of slavery” as one of his points of discussion. I’m going to add a lengthy quote that pretty succinctly tells the story of how we allowed political charlatans to distract us with a problem that seems to not have existed and used it to gain greater control over our lives while, in fact, making the “problem” worse”
Here again, rhetoric distracts attention from questions about logic or evidence. The “legacy of slavery” argument is not just a convenient excuse for bad behavior, it allows politicians to escape responsibility for the consequences of the government policies they imposed.
Although the left likes to argue as if there was a stagnant world to which they added the magic ingredient of “change” in the 1960s, in reality there were many positive trends in the 1950s, which reversed and became negative trends in the 1960s.
Not only was the poverty rate going down, so was the rate of dependence on government to stay out of poverty. Teenage pregnancy rates were falling, and so were rates of venereal diseases like syphilis and gonorrhea. Homicide rates among non-white males fell 22 percent in the 1950s.
In the wake of the massive expansion of the welfare state in the 1960s “war on poverty” program — with the repeatedly announced goal of enabling people to become self-supporting and end their dependence on government — in fact dependence on government increased and is today far higher than when the 1960s began.
The declining rates of teenage pregnancy and venereal diseases in the 1950s both reversed and rose sharply in the wake of the 1960s “sexual revolution” ideas, introduced into schools under the guise of “sex education,” which claimed to be able to reduce teenage pregnancy and venereal diseases.
Black labor force participation rates, which had been higher than white labor force participation rates in every census from 1890 to 1960, fell below white labor force participation rates by 1972 and the gap has widened since then. Homicide rates among non-white males reversed their decline in the 1950s and soared by 75 percent during the 1960s.
None of this was a “legacy of slavery,” which ended a century earlier. But slavery became the rhetorical distraction for the political magicians’ trick of making their own responsibility for social degeneration vanish into thin air by sleight of hand.
Now you can point to many negatives the “War on Poverty” brought us … Sowell highlights the big ones. But the most important changes were two-fold. One: it created more dependency on government (and it helped tear the nuclear family apart among the poor) and it created an illusion that government (which mostly meant “Democrats”) cared more than any other institution.
The political charlatans had created a false problem and a false narrative which has had disastrous results in the long run. But those changes it created were manifestly worth it according to certain of the political class, because it increased their power. And the narrative that has been built about this program (and the “legacy of slavery”), along with the narrative that has created the “cult of the victim”, has hidden the huge problems created by government intrusion and instead has created a myth which says “more government is good government”.
So you end up with an entire segment of the voting public duped by this “shiny” narrative and either too lazy or too incurious to look below its surface. That’s the formula for political success on one side and national decline on the other.
The question, then, is how do the defenders of liberty catch the attention of the voting magpies and help them catch a clue? Facts apparently don’t matter. And alternate narratives don’t seem to stick.
If you can answer that question, you’ve hit upon a way to help save this country. I’ve been trying to come up with a way for 40 years.
I wish you luck.
A drop in exports, combined with a surge of new iPhone imports, increased the US Trade Deficit to $-48.3 billion in August.
The Gallup Economic Confidence Index dropped another point in September, to -14.
Reebok reports that last week’s retail sales rose, but only to a weak 0.9% on a year-ago basis, from the previous week’s 0.7%.
And I bet you don’t even have to guess about whom I am talking:
David Petraeus testified last month to the Senate Armed Services Committee on U.S. policy in the Middle East. Regarding Syria, the former general and CIA director urged a credible threat to destroy Bashar Assad’s air force if it continues to bomb its own people. He also recommended “the establishment of enclaves in Syria protected by coalition air power, where a moderate Sunni force could be supported and where additional forces could be trained, internally displaced persons could find refuge, and the Syrian opposition could organize.”
But Barack Obama does not agree. At his Friday press conference, the president described such views as “mumbo-jumbo,” “half-baked ideas,” “as-if” solutions, a willful effort to “downplay the challenges involved in the situation.” He says the critics have no answers to the questions of “what exactly would you do and how would you fund it and how would you sustain it.”
America’s greatest living general might as well have been testifying to his shower drain for all the difference his views are going to make in this administration.
Exactly right – because, you know, ‘smartest man in the room’ and don’t you forget it. Anyone who champions actual, practical and doable solutions is, well, “downplaying the challenges” of the situation.
Really? Seems to me that Petraeus addressed them specifically and offered solutions.
One problem. They would actually mean Obama would have to get off his duff and actually DO something.
It’s not enough for him to stake and defend his positions. He wants you to know that he thinks deeper, sees further, knows better, operates from a purer motive. His preferred method for dealing with disagreement is denigration. If Republicans want a tougher line in Syria, they’re warmongers. If Hillary Clinton thinks a no-fly zone is a good idea, she’s playing politics: “There is obviously a difference,” the president tut-tutted about his former secretary of state’s position, “between running for president and being president.”
You can interpret that jab as a sign Mr. Obama is urging Joe Biden to run. It’s also a reminder that Mr. Obama believes his Syria policy—the one that did nothing as 250,000 people were murdered; the one that did nothing as his own red lines were crossed; the one that allowed ISIS to flourish; the one that has created the greatest refugee crisis of the 21st century; the one currently being exploited by Russia and Iran for geopolitical advantage—is a success.
No kidding. And the arrogant look he has for those who disagree is simply the bomb. He, and I don’t know how else to describe this, ignorantly and arrogantly thinks he’s doing the right thing and actually succeeding. Either that or he is indeed the smartest man in the room only when the room is empty of everyone else.
For instance, the Petraeus recommendations are not only good, they’re backed by experience and a good outcome:
As for what a serious Syria policy might look like, the U.S. proved it was capable of creating safe havens and enforcing no-fly zones in 1991 with Operation Provide Comfort, which stopped Saddam Hussein from massacring Kurds in northern Iraq the way he had butchered Shiites in southern Iraq.
And what has President Dither done? Well, certainly nothing that could be conceivably considered a coherent policy by anyone but a sycophant. In fact, unless you consider doing nothing a “policy”, well, he’s done nothing.
But he knows best, because “there’s a difference” between “running for President and being President.”
In terms of this Presidency, I fail to see the difference.
Gallup’s US Self-Reported Consumer Spending Measure fell slightly from $89 to $88 in September.
The PMI Services Index fell -1 to 55.1 in September.
The Fed’s Labor Market Conditions Index fell to 0.0 in September from 2.1 the previous month.
The ISM Non-Mfg Index fell -2.1 points to 56.9 in September.
Ah, yes … another sicko rampages and the same old bromides are offered as a cure. More laws. Fewer guns. Yatta, yatta.
Let’s face it, if restrictive laws were the answer, we wouldn’t have a drug problem, would we? And we’ve tried prohibition before, haven’t we? How’d that turn out?
What we have among the gun grabbers is an argument based on a false premise. It goes, “if we restrict or ban something (guns), we’ll have less of something (in this case, violence and death) else.” To believe that premise, you have to believe that the “something” is the problem and the only problem, and not anything else (i.e. the culture or human nature (or both)). You have to believe that if you “ban” that something (and in this case the “something” is an inanimate object), that alone will achieve the goal (less violence and death).
There is absolutely no rational basis for such a conclusion, especially when banned object is inanimate. Dumb. Can’t act on its own. It isn’t the “cause” of the violence and death. It may be the instrument, but the cause is holding the gun, or knife, or club or rock, or explosive.
The obvious extension of such thinking is cars cause accidents, spoons make you fat and beer makes us alcoholics. If we just banned them we’d have no accidents nor would we get fat and there would be no alcoholism. There is no one that will admit to believing that (and at least with the last, we have practical experience to refute the belief). Yet those who want gun control willingly put forward that argument when it pertains to guns and are amazed when others not only don’t agree but tend to deride them and their argument (and privately, they likely question their ability to reason critically).
So to those of you who know all of this already, I apologize. I know … basic reasoning 101. Nothing really magic here.
However, this is the argument those who would ban guns (and “cleverly” try to hide that in phrases like “common sense gun laws” and “more rigorous background checks”) use daily. And, unfortunately, there is a rather large segment of the population who abandoned critical thinking (and knowledge about history, economics and all sorts of important and useful subjects) a long time ago that buy into this nonsensical argument.
In the case of guns, those who would take yours also live with a number of fantasies they (at least when it concerns guns) consider to be fact and the underly their “argument”. A) Laws will stop unwanted actions and outcomes. B) Banning something effectively removes it from society. And C) Criminals will obey the law and the ban. Again, no thinking human being can intellectually buy into those fantasies. Laws don’t stop unwanted outcomes (they proscribe the behavior and punish the law breaker who behaves in that manner), banning usually has the opposite effect, creating a black market in the banned item (and giving it a certain chic) and finally criminals, aka “scofflaws” will not obey the law nor will they honor the ban. They never have … thus the name.
So, here’s my question – how do you argue with people who insist on fantasy based arguments?
Ok, so it’s sort of rhetorical – the answer, as you all know, is “you don’t”.
You don’t waste your time or your effort on people who seem unable to separate fact from fiction/fantasy and critical arguments from bunk.
The problem, of course, is if you remain silent, then the “low information” types are left with a single, screechy and strident voice that misrepresents facts and figures to back their fantasies.
And we all know that if they get enough of that type, things like “prohibition” happen (and frankly, it is a miracle of sorts that prohibition actually was repealed … government rarely gives up any power it gathers to itself).
If you want to see a civil war in this country, it likely won’t be about race, or abortion, or even a hundred other wedge issues.
It’ll be about guns and who is or isn’t allowed to keep them.
It’s been said, a lot recently, that on the world scene Vladimir Putin understands he’s playing chess, and Barack Obama thinks he’s playing checkers.
We should be so lucky.
Our feckless back bench leader isn’t even playing a game that was based on the same board as the one Putin is playing on. In chess and checkers at least some of the fundamental principles carry over and there is some strategy involved beyond tick tack toe where you can always play the game to a draw.
Back in 2013 when President Present was drawing his first red lines and threatening Bashar Assad in Syria with a fate similar to the one he so expertly delivered to Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, the Russians let him talk until he’d used his vaunted powers of speechifying long enough and then stepped in, saved their Assad from being dragged out of a spider hole and shot, and embarrassed President “Red Line” and Secretary of State “Unbelievably Small” by delivering a fait accompli in ‘securing’ the Syrian chemical weapon stockpiles on behalf of their client.
At the time the usual plethora of sycophants declared that Obama had masterfully gotten everything he wanted, stopped Assad, neutralized the chemical weapons and should possibly consider selecting wall space for his next Nobel Prize owing to his brilliance in implementing effective credible foreign policy.
Forward to current day.
President Obama mid-week demonstrated yet again that he is totally out of his depth, and actually far worse than that, demonstrated the people he’s surrounded himself with for advice, are as lackluster and simple as he is. They might be fine when figuring out how to smear an opponent out of an election in the United States, but on the world stage they probably shouldn’t be allowed to touch the brooms used to clean up the set once the curtain has come down, the lights come up and the actors head to the “after” party.
In a more than adequate display that he has no knowledge of world history. he declared Russia was going to find itself “in a quagmire” in Syria. This is a favorite of the liberal left, and harkens back to the swamp we experienced in South Vietnam between 1961 and 1973. They like the quagmire thing because the Vietnam era was when a good many of the liberal left bravely earned their credentials on college campuses making the quagmire worse while avoiding experiencing it what their blue collar brethren in the jungles of South East Asia.
They also like to point out that the Russians, wearing their spiffy Soviet Union outfits, experienced a similar quagmire in Afghanistan during the Reagan era. Really that only puts the Russians in company with damn near every major power that carried arms to the foot of the Hindu Kush since before Julius Caesar observed Gaul was divided into three parts. Afghanistan has always been, and I think always will be, nothing but a meat grinder for “conquering” armies.
But there’s an added wrinkle to that particular quagmire that bears a remarkable similarity to our experience in Vietnam.
In Vietnam we were fighting the indigenous forces of the Viet Cong and the Army of North Vietnam, officially, and the Peoples Republic of China and the Soviet Union unofficially. In Afghanistan the Soviets were officially fighting the tribes of Afghanistan (who adopted internecine fighting as a hobby several millennia ago and have never found any other hobby since) and, unofficially, the forces of the ‘west’ lead primarily by the United States.
So the boggy water, marsh grass and alligators for both quagmires was being greatly supplemented by outside forces in Vietnam and Afghanistan. That’s called a proxy war. It’s been done for ages, and it’s the fundamental ingredient of a quagmire. President Precious has decided that talking will eventually solve the wars in the Middle East, singularly unable to observe historically the only time there is NOT war in the Middle East is when some ruthless bastards show up and ruthlessly enforce some version of peace on the locals. While he’s sure that Syria is going to be a Russian quagmire, because that appeals to progressive schadenfreude, he hasn’t pointed out who’s going to supply the continuous outside source of bog water and alligators this time to make it one.
But he does understand the concept of a proxy war, or someone said it to him so he could repeat it in context because his next demonstration of cluelessness was for him to declare that Syria was not a superpower chess board contest.
Of course that is exactly what this is.
If you aren’t already alarmed at his failure to grasp the obvious it might be a good time for you to start, and invite your friends and neighbors because it’s going to make for, as the apocryphal curse says “interesting times.”
Syria is not going to be a quagmire for Russia, and Bashar Assad, or his son or brother(s) are going to be in charge when the chemical clouded explosive debris laden dust has settled over Damascus.
The Russians had no hesitation in using any kind of fiendish device they could invent to squash the Afghan tribes on behalf of their clients and they will have no hesitation in doing so in Syria because no one is going to stop them. No proxy war you see.
Bashar Assad isn’t too particular about who he has to destroy, or whose villages, and families he has to destroy, to restore his control of Syria. Neither are the Russians.
Syrian refugees (actually refugees from all over the Ummah) are pouring into Europe creating various crisis situations to keep the EU more than busy, and at each others throats over who will provide meals and housing and who will pay the bills.
The Russians have allied themselves with the upcoming hegemon, Iran, in the Persian Gulf, using President Red Line and Secretary of State Unbelievably Small to create a treaty that will probably result in Iran being a nuclear power within the next 2 years.
The Russians have – acquired the Crimea in a blatant territorial grab that easily rivals Hitler occupying the Sudetenland, provided aid and comfort to a “rebellion” that shot down a commercial air liner killing hundreds of passengers in the Ukraine and stepped up their aggressive behaviors in border breaching and response testing that easily rival their former behaviors as the Soviet Union.
The Russians and the Chinese are participating in large scale cooperative military ‘exercises’ – for any progressive squishy liberals, that does not mean the Chinese are now teaching the Russians Tai Chi.
And this week Russia announced, in a signal to all those former Soviet satellites and their European ‘friends’, that they’re increasing the size of their armed forces by roughly 20%. Why they need to do that isn’t clear to people who don’t think we’re playing superpower chess, but the move won’t be lost on the Eastern Europeans.
Ah, but all this ruthlessness will surely lead to “War Crimes!” you say. Sure. Russia on behalf of Syria deliberately bombs villages earlier this week (after we sorta threatened we’d take away their iPhone or something) and five days later the world mumbles it ‘may’ be a war crime – the US tags a hospital in Afghanistan by accident yesterday and within 12 hours the world is screaming for a war crimes tribunal.
You can bet the UN will be sure and let the world know that the US won’t be allowed to behave like that and President Precious will send someone to apologize while Russia and Syria continue killing at will and cleaning up ‘the quagmire’.
That’s superpower chess on display.
They have tested the steel of Barack Obama, and have discovered it’s suitable for lining the bottom of your oven or making hats to keep out alien thought control beams.
There used to be someone sitting on the other side of the chess board from Russia or China, who understood that as nasty a job as it is, someone has to counter their moves in superpower chess.
Now we have a collection of people playing Tick Tack Toe while Putin moves any pieces he wants, any way he wants, on an unopposed chess board.
The base doesn’t like him, he’s in favor of Common Core and amnesty, no one outside the Donor Class wants a Bush v. Clinton race, there’s still bad feeling from his brother’s presidency – all of those are problems for Jeb Bush.
But I think another big problem is just how the guy looks. Trump keyed in on this with his “low energy” comments. His overall demeanor doesn’t communicate that he can get anything done.
Human beings are driven by first impressions. They are formed within seconds, or even a fraction of a second. Realize that most people are not like us. Many have never seen an image of Jeb Bush before this campaign. So they form a first impression of him when they see him on the news or in a debate.
I think that first impression is that he’s just old and tired. In fact, I think, for some of them, he reminds them of a movie character that is the epitome of old and tired: Norman Thayer, Jr, from On Golden Pond.
See what you think. See if, at first glance, the gallery below just looks like four pictures of the same guy:
I think anyone who looks this much like an 80 year old actor portraying an 80 year old curmudgeon is going to have some serious problems getting anyone excited about his candidacy.
This week’s finely-crafted podcast is available on the Podcast Page.
A weak 142,000 net new jobs were created in September, far below expectations. The unemployment rate remained unchanged at 5.1%. Average hourly earnings were unchanged, and average weekly hours declined -0.1 hours to 34.5 hours. The labor force participation rate fell -0.2% to 62.4% as 236,000 people left the labor force. The labor force participation rate is the lowest since October, 1977, continuing the decline in the labor force that began in 2000.
This decline is why I no longer calculate the unemployment rate using pre-crisis average LFPR. We no longer know what the “correct” LFPR is, or should be.
Factory Orders declined -1.7% in August, with non-durables down -1.1% and durable goods down -2.3%. Core capital goods fell -0.8%. This is a very weak report all around.