Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Can Hillary weather this latest scandal?

I got a bit of a kick out of a John Fund article that asserted that Hillary’s Democratic backers were getting panicky about Hillary Clinton’s chances amid the current scandals.

Here’s where I got a bit of a laugh:

Democrats privately believe that the Clintons can recover from the e-mail and foundation scandals because it’s unlikely reporters will ever find a “smoking gun” that explicitly links foreign donations with public actions. But Democrats also know that other scandals may soon be unearthed. And if they do, not only will Hillary Clinton prove unable to establish herself as an “authentic” candidate, she also will establish herself as a pro at conducting an “authentic” cover-up.

Seriously?  One more scandal?  A few more scandals?

What IS the magic number?  Please tell us.

Bill Clinton’s speaking fees go up and his speeches just happen to be in countries where the Secretary of State – that’d be Hillary Clinton – can help them get what they want.  The foundation they both are a part of spends 10 to 15% of 500 million dollars on the charities it supposedly is fundraising for.  The woman’s emails when she was Secretary of State are gone – well, except those she chose to have us see.  And her emails about the foundation?

Private and on the same server that she willfully set up in contravention of a well known rule that required her to do her official business on her official email address.

But, you know, there’s no “smoking gun”.

Yeah, if you’re a crack addict with the IQ of a turnip.

These are the Clinton’s though, and there seems to be no end to the number of times this criminal gang is let off the hook.  Laws, you see, are for the little people.

~McQ

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More stray voltage

Has anyone been following this “raisin taking” case before SCOTUS? It has to do with the government literally taking a portion of a producers crop because they want to keep prices artificially high:

The forced transfer is part of a 1937 program that requires farmers to turn over a large portion of their raisin crop to the government so as to artificially reduce the amount of raisins on the market, and thereby increase the price. Essentially, the scheme is a government-enforced cartel under which producers restrict production so as to inflate prices.

And, of course, you know who loses – consumers. And producers. But note the program’s birthdate – yup, a New Deal bit of nonsense that should have long been trashed. Given how the oral arguments went yesterday before the SCOTUS, it may soon see the dumpster. The government first tried to argue that it really wasn’t a “taking”. That didn’t go well. So:

[Deputy Solicitor General Edwin] Kneedler put most of his emphasis on the argument that there is no taking because the Hornes and other raisin farmers actually benefit from the program that confiscates their raisins. In the words of Justice Antonin Scalia, the government’s argument here is that the Hornes are actually “ingrates” who should be grateful for the government’s largesse. As several justices emphasized, even if the Hornes really do benefit from the confiscation of their property, that does not change the reality that a taking has occurred. The fact that property owners benefit in some way from the taking of their property may affect the level of compensation they are owed. But it does not change the reality that a taking has occurred in the first place. Justice Samuel Alito noted that the government’s logic leads to the conclusion that there is no taking in any situation where the government seizes personal property for purposes that might potentially benefit the owners in some way.

The most important argument, and the one usually overlooked or ignored, is as follows:

If private firms tried to establish a similar program on their own, the government would bust them for a blatant violation of antitrust law.

So why is our government doing it?

The Advice Goddess (Amy Alkon) takes on “trigger warnings” and does a very credible job explaining why they and those who would impose them should be ignored:

I’ve thought this for a while. They are yet another way for people who have done nothing noteworthy to get attention and have unearned power over others.

In fact, she entitles her piece “Trigger Warnings: A Form of Covert Narcissism.”  She also quotes a Kent State professor who “gets it”:

Kent University’s professor of sociology Frank Furedi claims that calls for trigger warnings are a form of “narcissism,” with a student’s desire to assert their own importance acting as more of a factor than the content they are exposed to.

In other words, it’s a form of avoidance they can lay on the person who “triggers” them.

This brings me to my favorite line in the Alkon trigger warning piece:

And as I’ve noted before: If you are so emotionally traumatized by the normal college curriculum, you do belong in an institution, but not one of “higher learning.”

Indeed.

The Climate Change Nazis are just not happy with “liberal democracy” because, you know, it depends on the will of the people instead of the will of the all knowing elite. Some selected passages from a piece by  Mark Triffitt (Lecturer, Public Policy at University of Melbourne), and Travers McLeod, Honorary Fellow in the School of Social and Political Sciences at University of Melbourne:

… Specifically, the failure to tackle climate change speaks to an overall failure of our liberal democratic system…

… Successfully tackling climate change and other big policy challenges depends on making tangible the intangible crisis of liberal democracy.

It means understanding that liberal democracy’s governance machinery – and the static, siloed policy responses generated by such democracies – is no longer fit for purpose.

So, solution? (I bet you can guess):

[D]emocratic powers should be transferred to unelected bureaucrats, who would still somehow be “accountable” to parliament, despite having “staying power” beyond individual political cycles.

Or in their own words:

Granting more decision-making power to institutions independent of the government of the day, but still accountable to parliaments (such as the Parliamentary Budget Office or Infrastructure Australia). This would increase the capacity of policy planning and decision processes to have staying power beyond individual political cycles.

Yes, because when the party in power is the same party that wants whatever the bureaucracy wants, oversight is so exceptional and wonderful and our freedoms are protected to the nth degree – not!   There are closet despots everywhere, and especially among the climate alarmist crowd.

And finally there is the Hill/Billy update, this one concerning a uranium deal with the Russians:

The latest installment in the ongoing saga of shady Clinton Foundation finances is a story involving a deal in which Russians took take greater control of a major U.S. uranium company, Uranium One.

The details are somewhat involved, but the gist is that because the takeover deal involved uranium, a strategic asset, it required approval from then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Around the same time the deal was going through, the Clinton Foundation took millions of dollars in donations from a foundation run by the founder of Uranium One and did not disclose the transaction, in defiance of an arrangement made with the Obama administration to identify Clinton Foundation donors. In addition, Bill Clinton was paid $500,000 by a Russian financial firm linked to the Kremlin for a speech in Moscow as the deal was happening. The New York Times has an extensive report, building on work from Peter Schweizer’s book about the Clinton Foundation’s foreign funding, Clinton Cashhere.

The questions raised by the story are obvious: Did the millions in donations to the Clinton Foundation, and the hundreds of thousands of dollars paid to Bill Clinton for his speech, have any influence on Clinton’s decision as Secretary of State to approve the project?

Seriously?  You have to ask that question?

The reaction to the story from team Clinton, meanwhile, does not exactly inspire confidence that the Clintons have been entirely transparent about what transpired.

For example, Fox News reporters, also drawing from Schweizer’s book, dug into various aspects of the story, and found evidence that officials from Kazakhstan’s state-owned energy company Kazatomprom visited with Bill Clinton at his home in New York to inquire about a possible deal with Westinghouse, which is also involved in the nuclear energy business. When contacted about the meeting by Fox News, a Clinton Foundation spokesperson denied that the meeting had ever happened. But when Fox News produced photos of the meeting, the Clinton spokesperson changed the story and said that it had happened.

In short, Clinton’s spokesperson flatly lied about a meeting Bill Clinton had with foreign officials, and admitted the truth only when presented with evidence to the contrary.

“Flatly lied”.  Or as most would put it, “business as usual”.

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 23 Apr 15

Coming after yesterday’s strong existing home sales, new home sales for March were very disappointing, falling sharply by -11.4% to a 481,000 annual rate.

The Markit PMI manufacturing index flash for April fell -1.1 points to 54.2.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index fell -1.2 points to 45.4 in the latest week.

Initial weekly jobless claims rose 1,000 to 295,000. The 4-week average rose 1,750 to 284,500. Continuing claims rose 50,000 to 2.325 million.

The Fed’s balance sheet rose $4.3 billion last week, with total assets of $4.490 trillion. Reserve bank credit fell $-1.4 billion.

The Fed reports that M2 money supply fell by $-40.6 billion in the latest week.


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Stray voltage

So many things, so little time.

-You have to laugh at this one, I don’t care who your are.

In late February, the City University of New York announced that it had tapped Princeton economist and New York Times blogger Paul Krugman for a distinguished professorship at CUNY’s Luxembourg Income Study Center, a research arm devoted to studying income patterns and their effect on inequality.

About that. According to a formal offer letter obtained under New York’s Freedom of Information Law, CUNY intends to pay Krugman $225,000, or $25,000 per month (over two semesters), to “play a modest role in our public events” and “contribute to the build-up” of a new “inequality initiative.” It is not clear, and neither CUNY nor Krugman were able to explain, what “contribute to the build-up” entails.

The left often times seems intent upon removing parody as a means of criticism by becoming parody proof.  And you wonder why tuition continues to spiral out of control?

-Special Snowflakes rule academia anymore, and they’re not fans of free speech. Collective tantrums apparently work. From the inaugural “Disinvitation dinner”, George Will:

“Free speech has never been, in the history of our republic, more comprehensively, aggressively, and dangerously threatened than it is now,” Will, who’s had his fair share of protests, panics, and bans, told the audience.  Today’s attack isn’t just about process, he noted: It’s “an attack on the theory of freedom of speech,” with a belief “that the First Amendment is a mistake.”

All you have to do is watch how speakers who rub the dominant feminist culture on any campus the wrong way are treated:

Witness Christina Hoff Sommers, a well-known author, former philosophy professor, and, most recently, a YouTube star. Sommers, who describes her approach as “equity feminism,” is a refreshing change from mainstream modern feminism, which long ago click-clacked aboard the crazy train, ripped up all return tickets, and then hit the bar in the club car hard — not in a fun way, alas, but rather to weep and mutter various bad words over low-grade apple martini knockoffs garnished with mascara smears. Partnering with the American Enterprise Institute, Sommers has made a splash with her “Factual Feminist” video series, in which she calmly challenges and debunks oft-accepted and frequently absurd feminist talking points.

Bad news for those in the cocoon.  So, instead of being intellectuals and curious, they retreat to their “safe spaces” or ensure that the speaker can’t be heard by themselves or others.

Sommers’ approach, in other words, is straightforward, fact-based, and lucid. But this, as the zealous, easily wounded students at Oberlin College and Georgetown University demonstrated over the past week, simply will not do. Faced with a speaker who thinks outside the box, campus groups lit up in protest. Students taped their mouths shut. Others heckled and jeered Sommers as a “rape apologist.” Still others advertised alternate “safe spaces” for students “traumatized” by a speech.

“The students were so carried away with the idea that I was a threat to their safety,” Sommers told the website Campus Reform, that Oberlin officials “arranged for security guards to escort me to and from the lecture to protect me from the safe spacers.” This sounds sane, if it’s Opposite Day.

What’s a good comparison of the state of places of higher eduction that have enabled such behavior?  Well this seem right to me:

If you’ve ever been to a junior high slumber party, you might recognize the following scenario: In the midst of high jinks and general good times, suddenly one girl will drift off to a corner. Her feelings, somehow, have been hurt. Slowly, a few sympathizers, clear suckers for drama, make their way into her corner. They rub her back, ask why she’s crying, and, even if the answer is absurd, spend the rest of the evening casting baleful looks at the rest of the girls, who are oblivious, living large, sucking down Mountain Dew, and gleefully watching movies their parents would never allow them to watch. (In my case, this was almost always “Dirty Dancing.”)

Cowardice might not be fun, but for some, self-pity — cowardice’s common companion — certainly is. This is especially true if someone else is egging you on. Sadly, huge swaths of today’s college campuses, supposedly pinnacles of higher learning, have morphed into a giant preteen slumber party with an alarming population of sulking corner girls.

Indeed.

-The circus is back in town and the Hill/Billy act is just as tired and old as it used to be.  There’s a new book out pointing to how corrupt these people are … as if you needed a reminder.  The “dead broke” Clintons are multi-millionaires who’ve raised government influence peddling to new and even more corrupt heights.  And then we’re treated to the spectacle of Hillary flying coach and railing against the 1% and CEOs when she makes more money than any of them and her only child is buying a 10 million dollar Manhattan apartment.  Forget about questioning lack of accomplishment as SecState – look at the money the Clinton Foundation raked in while she was in office.  Quite an accomplishment wouldn’t you say?

Oh, and this:

“For three years in a row beginning in 2010, the Clinton Foundation reported to the IRS that it received zero in funds from foreign and U.S. governments, a dramatic fall-off from the tens of millions of dollars in foreign government contributions reported in preceding years. Those entries were errors, according to the foundation: several foreign governments continued to give tens of millions of dollars.”

They just missed it … and, they’ll get away with it too, hide and watch.

-And while you weren’t watching, Erica Holder, er, Loretta Lynch was confirmed as AG by the Republican Senate.

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 22 Apr 15

The MBA reports that mortgage applications rose 2.3% last week, with purchases up 5.0% and refis up 1.0%.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) House Price Index rose 0.7% in February, and is up 5.4% on a year-over-year basis.

Existing home sales surged 6.1% in March to a 5.190 million annual rate. On a year-over-year basis, sales are up 10.4%.


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Earth Day – 1970

You may or may not remember the first Earth Day in 1970.  Let’s just say the “time was ripe” given the social upheaval going on in the US.  And so, a great “teach in” was conducted on April 22, 1970.

Fifth Avenue in New York City was closed to automobiles as 100,000 people joined in concerts, lectures, and street theater. More than 2,000 colleges and universities across America paused their anti-war protests to rally instead against pollution and population growth.

Yes friends, population growth was the “climate change” of the first Earth Day and with it, the usual doom and gloom:

Imminent global famine caused by the explosion of the “population bomb” was the big issue on Earth Day 1970. Then–and now–the most prominent prophet of population doom was Stanford University biologist Paul Ehrlich. Dubbed “ecology’s angry lobbyist” by Life magazine, the gloomy Ehrlich was quoted everywhere. “Population will inevitably and completely outstrip whatever small increases in food supplies we make,” he confidently declared in an interview with then-radical journalist Peter Collier in the April 1970 Mademoiselle. “The death rate will increase until at least 100-200 million people per year will be starving to death during the next ten years.”

“Most of the people who are going to die in the greatest cataclysm in the history of man have already been born,” wrote Ehrlich in an essay titled “Eco-Catastrophe!,” which ran in the special Earth Day issue of the radical magazine Ramparts. “By…[1975] some experts feel that food shortages will have escalated the present level of world hunger and starvation into famines of unbelievable proportions. Other experts, more optimistic, think the ultimate food-population collision will not occur until the decade of the 1980s.” Ehrlich sketched out his most alarmist scenario for the Earth Day issue of The Progressive, assuring readers that between 1980 and 1989, some 4 billion people, including 65 million Americans, would perish in the “Great Die-Off.”

All of this was announced with great certainty and, frankly, a consensus of sorts.  The fact that it rested on theory and that science didn’t really support it seemed irrelevant.  It was, since the war in Viet Nam was winding down, the “next great cause!”  So the horrific prognostications were slung willy nilly and the press and activists ate them up.

Such beauties as:

In January 1970, Life reported, “Scientists have solid experimental and theoretical evidence to support…the following predictions: In a decade, urban dwellers will have to wear gas masks to survive air pollution…by 1985 air pollution will have reduced the amount of sunlight reaching earth by one half….”

“Solid experimental and theoretical evidence”.  Solid … like the hockey stick.  Theoretical … like climate models.  Reality – nothing like the prediction.

Sound familiar?

Ecologist Kenneth Watt declared, “By the year 2000, if present trends continue, we will be using up crude oil at such a rate…that there won’t be any more crude oil. You’ll drive up to the pump and say, `Fill ‘er up, buddy,’ and he’ll say, `I am very sorry, there isn’t any.’”

Because, you know … “science” says so!  Yet we’re awash in the stuff thanks to real science and technology.  Scientific progress applied in technology is always ignored by the prognosticators of doom.

Oh and in case we have forgotten:

Kenneth Watt warned about a pending Ice Age in a speech. “The world has been chilling sharply for about twenty years,” he declared. “If present trends continue, the world will be about four degrees colder for the global mean temperature in 1990, but eleven degrees colder in the year 2000. This is about twice what it would take to put us into an ice age.”

“Present trends?” Well, thank goodness for “climate change” then, huh?

No?!

Of course not … that’s what this gloom and doom Earth Day will be all about.  Check back in about 45 years to see how wrong the “consensus” is from tomorrow’s big meeting as thousands of activist use fossil fuel transportation to meet and tell us how we must quit using fossil fuel transports to  save the earth.

~McQ

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How to increase China’s influence and enable China’s global energy policy in two words

And those two words are “Barack Obama”.

I don’t know about you but I’ve gotten real tired of seeing the US play the dope on the world stage these last 6 years.  I’ve touched on this before, but it doesn’t get much coverage and is indicative of how much foreign policy damage this administration is doing.  I touched on this earlier, but I’m fascinated by how totally tone-deaf and inept this administration appears to be.

The story, as the administration wants it to unfold:

The US government has stepped up pressure on the World Bank not to fund coal-fired power plants in developing countries. In a letter sent to the World Bank United States Executive Director Whitney Debevoise said, “The Obama Administration believes that the Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) have a potentially critical role to play in the future international framework for climate finance, and, in particular, to assist developing countries in mitigating greenhouse gas emissions and strengthening their economies’ resilience to climate risks.” Following Debevoise’s controversial guidelines, the axe has already fallen on Pakistan’s Thar Coal and Energy Project on the grounds that “the limited financing available from the Bank should be directed toward investments that address energy supply shortfalls in an environmentally sustainable manner’’.

So there Pakistan?  No coal fired plants for you! We have spoken!

Oh, wait:

Chinese President Xi Jinping is set to unveil a $46 billion infrastructure spending plan in Pakistan that is a centerpiece of Beijing’s ambitions to open new trade and transport routes across Asia and challenge the U.S. as the dominant regional power. The largest part of the project would provide electricity to energy-starved Pakistan, based mostly on building new coal-fired power plants.

It’s just blatant now … total disrespect for the US.  Even our ally in the region, Australia, has had enough.  Japan is tired of the posturing and pushing of ideology in support of something science doesn’t support much less prove.  More importantly, they’re not going to play ball anymore and aren’t making any bones about it.

Who do you suppose Pakistan is looking too for leadership in the energy sector now? Who do you suppose they might see as a champion of their economic growth?

The Geological survey of Pakistan reveals that 175 billion ton of coal is buried under the Thar Desert. These coal reserves alone are equivalent to total combined oil reserves (375 Billion Barrels) of Saudi Arabia and Iran. The coal deposits in Thar can change the fate of the country if utilised in a proper way. The coal reserves at Thar Desert are estimated around 850 trillion cubic feet (TCF) of gas, and are worth USD 25 trillion.  According to experts, if this single resource is used properly, we not only can cater to the electricity requirements of the country for next 300 years but also save almost four billion dollars in staggering oil import bills.

And if Pakistan feels that way, what about India?

India is hoping a new China-backed multilateral lender will fund coal-based energy projects, an official said, putting it in direct conflict with the World Bank, whose chief has maintained that it would stick to its restrictions on such lending. A senior Indian official told Reuters the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), sponsored by China, is expected to allow funding of coal-fired power plants that the World Bank has almost totally blocked. “When you have 1.3 billion people starved of electricity access and the rest of the world has created a carbon space, at this point denying funding is denying access to cheap energy,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

So now “rich America” is trying to force developing countries to forgo cheap energy in the name of  … ideology.  Hey, wasn’t Obama the guy always apologizing for the way he felt America bullied other countries?

Well, at least he only bullies allies.

~McQ

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