Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

How well has Obama done in the foreign policy arena?

Well it is much easier to list his abject failures than any success, that’s for sure.  But what about Syria?  Well, in term of incompetence, it is the tragic gift that keeps on giving:

One little boy in a red T-shirt, lying face down, drowned, on a Turkish beach, is a tragedy. More than 200,000 dead in Syria, 4 million fleeing refugees and 7.6 million displaced from their homes are statistics. But they represent a collective failure of massive proportions.

For four years, the Obama administration has engaged in what Frederic Hof, former special adviser for transition in Syria, calls a “pantomime of outrage.” Four years of strongly worded protests, and urgent meetings and calls for negotiation — the whole drama a sickening substitute for useful action. People talking and talking to drown out the voice of their own conscience. And blaming. In 2013, President Obama lectured the U.N. Security Council for having “demonstrated no inclination to act at all.” Psychological projection on a global stage. . . .

This was not some humanitarian problem distant from the center of U.S. interests. It was a crisis at the heart of the Middle East that produced a vacuum of sovereignty that has attracted and empowered some of the worst people in the world. Inaction was a conscious, determined choice on the part of the Obama White House.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and CIA Director David Petraeus advocated arming favorable proxies. Sunni friends and allies in the region asked, then begged, for U.S. leadership. All were overruled or ignored.

In the process, Syria has become the graveyard of U.S. credibility.

Syria, Libya, Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Russia, Iran, you name the country, it is pretty probable that the situation is worse there or our relationship with the country is worse.

Foreign policy is one of the exclusive jobs of the executive branch.  A crook and a clown have held the Secretary of State’s job now, and the disastrous results are in.

Now one of them wants to be President to carry on this “legacy”?

Oh, goodie.

~McQ

 

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Economic Statistics for 3 Sep 15

Chain store retailers today are posting mostly higher rates of sales growth for August than July, the 4th straight month of improvement.

Challenger reports 41,186 lay-off announcements in August, and far lower than July’s 105,696 which was skewed by a big Army cutback.

The nation’s trade deficit narrowed to $-41.9 billion in July following an upward revised deficit of $-45.2 billion in June.

The Gallup U.S. Payroll to Population employment rate fell -0.2% to 45.3% in August.

The PMI Services Index rose 0.4 points in August to 56.1.

The ISM Non-Manufacturing Index fell -1.3 points in August, to a still-high 59.0.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index fell -0.6 points to 41.4 in the latest week.

Initial weekly jobless claims rose 11,000 to 282,000, which is still historically low. The 4-week average rose 3,250 to 275,500. Continuing claims fell 9,000  to 2.257 million.

The Fed’s balance sheet rose $0.8 billion last week, with total assets of $4.476 trillion. Reserve bank credit fell $-9.3 billion.

The Fed reports that M2 money supply rose by $33.1 billion in the latest week.


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Israel, the new Czechoslovakia

Who knew Richard Cohen reads QandO?  Today’s headline on his op/ed:”Iran: The Obamacare of Foreign Policy”.

Of course he means it differently than I did yesterday.

There was no “better deal” — the fantasy of all those who hate Iran and hate Obama (which of them more is often unclear). The nuclear deal has become “such a luscious piece of Republican propaganda,” William Luers, the director of The Iran Project, whose goal is to improve American-Iranian relations, told me. And a long election season has already begun.

Or said another way, the “deal” was the goal. Not a good deal or the best deal, but any deal.  Any deal at all.

My guess is Chamberlin had exactly the same goal in mind when he returned from Munich. And we all know how that turned out.

Sorta like Iran thinks this is going to turn out:

“The US officials make boastful remarks and imagine that they can impose anything on the Iranian nation because they lack a proper knowledge of the Iranian nation.”

Also today, a senior commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps said they have work to do.

The IRGC’s top commander in Tehran province, Brigadier General Mohsen Kazzemeini, told operating units undergoing drills in the capital that “they (the US and the Zionists) should know that the Islamic Revolution will continue enhancing its preparedness until it overthrows Israel and liberates Palestine,” according to Fars.

“And we will continue defending not just our own country, but also all the oppressed people of the world, specially those countries that are standing on the forefront of confrontation with the Zionists,” Kazzemeini said.

Yessiree … peace in our time!

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 2 Sep 15

The MBA reports that mortgage applications rose 11.3% last week, with purchases up 4.0% and refis up a very strong 17%.

The ADP Employment report shows only 190,000 net new private sector jobs were created in July.

Following the upward revision to 2nd Quarter GDP, productivity for the Quarter has been revised up to 3.3%, with labor costs down -1.4%.

Gallup’s U.S. job creation index held unchanged at 32 in August for the 4th consecutive month. 

Pulled down by petroleum and coal products, factory orders rose a lower-than-expected 0.4% overall in July, but the durable good orders component rose a strong 2.2%.

The Fed’s Beige Book reports that 11 of 12 districts report only moderate to modest growth with the Cleveland district reporting only slight growth.


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Stray Voltage

“There’s a lot of ignorance, they are claiming that they’re uncomfortable. I don’t believe for a second that they are. I think this is pure and simple bigotry,” Perry told local news station KMOV.

That’s a quote from a gay fellow who has decided he’s really a girl,  wears a wig and dress and therefore  believes he is “transgendered”.  In fact, he’s merely a cross-dresser since he’s not had any sort of treatment or surgery to change his gender.

As you might imagine, his demand that he be able to use the girls locker room (instead of a gender neutral bathroom available to him) has been met with stiff resistance by the girls of the school (and their parents).

A few back his demand:

But another 40 students expressed their support for Perry, who has identified as female since the age of 13.

Good for him … that doesn’t make him a female.  Biology 1o1.  He may want to revisit it, speaking of “ignorance”.

The above reminds me of a great rant I read this week:

The perpetually offended want to wrap themselves in metaphorical bubble wrap to ensure that no offense, no bad word, no insult – perceived or otherwise – grinds sand into their delicate vulvas. And they take it as a given that you must conform to their standards – protect them, spoil them, shield them from all possible indelicacies – or else…

That’s precisely what is happening in the school cited in the first paragraph.  Attention seeking narcissists and their “ignorant” backers demand others “conform to their standards” or else … bigots!

Read the whole thing.

A couple of CUNY professors write approvingly of the rise in the minimum wage (they claim government must set a floor for wages – uh, no, that’s what a market is for) but note a great number of disadvantages in doing so, among them:

Second, there are two reasons why minimum-wage increases do not significantly affect poverty rates. In 2010, only 12 percent of minimum wage workers lived in households with incomes below the poverty threshold ($23,000), and only one-third in households with incomes less than double the poverty threshold. Indeed, almost half of minimum-wage workers lived in households with incomes above the national median. Thus, the minimum wage is not well targeted to the poor.

In addition, among poor or near-poor households that do gain wage increases, most will lose significant government safety-net benefits. With higher incomes they qualify for less in food stamps, earned income tax credits, and housing and child-care subsidies. With increased payroll taxes, these households could easily give back at least half of their wage gains. For a significant share, it could be more than three-quarters.

They’ve almost convinced me that the raise would be worth it. Of course, getting all those off government benefits would never mean a tax roll-back, would it, so screw ’em.

But they do pop the bubble of the effect on poverty.

President Barack Obama locked in enough support in Congress Wednesday to ensure he can overcome bipartisan opposition and implement a landmark nuclear accord with Iran.

Yes, friends, the Democrats have again sold you down the river.  This is the Executive Department equivalent of ObamaCare and as usual, the Democrats have to pass it to see what is in it.

The NY Times remarks on the problem with murders in a number of US cities, to include, New York City:

Cities across the nation are seeing a startling rise in murders after years of declines, and few places have witnessed a shift as precipitous as this city. With the summer not yet over, 104 people have been killed this year — after 86 homicides in all of 2014.

More than 30 other cities have also reported increases in violence from a year ago. In New Orleans, 120 people had been killed by late August, compared with 98 during the same period a year earlier. In Baltimore, homicides had hit 215, up from 138 at the same point in 2014. In Washington, the toll was 105, compared with 73 people a year ago. And in St. Louis, 136 people had been killed this year, a 60 percent rise from the 85 murders the city had by the same time last year.

Name two things these cities all have in common.

And finally the “blender test” as applied to Hillary Cliton’s email excuses:

MSNBC host Joe Scarborough tore into Hillary Clinton defenders Wednesday morning, saying anyone who believed her email excuses was too stupid to be trusted with household appliances.

“She’s Secretary of State,” the Morning Joe host said. “This is her only server. You would have to be really, really stupid–”

“It’s the blender test: Do I trust you with a blender in my home to not stick your hand in there and get it all gnarled up?” Scarborough continued. “If you believe that Hillary Clinton’s only account did not receive and send classified material in high volumes, then you should not be allowed within five feet of a blender.”

There are a whole lot of people out there who don’t need to be in the same room as a blender, then.

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 1 Sep 15

Motor vehicle sales rose a strong 1.5 percent to a 17.8 million annual rate in August.

Redbook reports that last week’s retail sales fell to 1.3% on a year-ago basis, from the previous week’s 1.7%, as sales weakness continues.

Markit’s PMI Manufacturing Index fell -0.8 points in August to 53.0.

The ISM Manufacturing Index fell -1.6 points to a lower-than-expected 51.1 in August

Construction Spending rose 0.7% in August, with a year-over-year increase of 13.7%.

The Gallup Economic Confidence Index fell -1 point to -13 in August, an 11-month low.


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All lives matter … except to the media

Unfortunately, the broader point expressed below is dead on right:

Who gets believed, in our age of ever-present media, is who talks the loudest. Donald Trump, for example.

Then there’s the Black Lives Matter movement, with its clamorous dedication to the idea that white racism is behind the killing of black men around the country, nothing else — not circumstance, not misjudgment, not fear — just out-and-out racism, end of discussion, period, shut up.

And so, because they interrupt Democratic party candidate rallies and shout down speakers, they’re suddenly “believed” to be a potent and credible group.

But they’re not. They’re just loud.  And rude. Kanye West rude.  They may represent a good portion of the black population, at least in some form or fashion (i.e. the general belief that, in fact, black lives do matter), but any group that chants,  “Pigs in a blanket! Fry ’em like bacon” pointed at the police isn’t about saving black lives.  And the various factions which have taken leadership in this group have made that very clear its not really about black lives.  One even challenged blacks to kill a white, take a picture and send it to them. Yeah, that’ll ensure black lives matter won’t it?  A couple of days later, an officer is gunned down in cold blood refilling his patrol car by a cowardly murderer who happens to be black.

And if you say “all lives matter”?  Well, this vocal minority will boo you and try to shut you down.

There’s a larger point here though:

The media, which lean overwhelmingly left, and the political fraternity, with its own leftist component, don’t fool around much with narratives that contradict left-wing (aka “progressive”) essentials. Among these essentials: the conviction that American whites, having racked up a record of racial oppression, are due for a comeuppance. On such terms, a dead white cop, shot by an inner-city (or in the Harris County case, a suburban) black man isn’t half so interesting a story as an inner-city black man shot by a white cop.

That’s right, the media and the narrative they unwaveringly carry and push has culpability in the violence and unrest we suffer today.  It also has culpability in setting race relations back 30 years in favor of this false narrative.  Advocacy journalism has now replaced fact and research based journalism, much to everyone’s detriment.

The narrative and support of the narrative helps paper over the real problems and shift the blame on the less favored:

Excluding racism as a grievance causes you to fall back on more embarrassing factors: e.g., the country’s moral/cultural climate, wherein Doing Whatever You Feel Like Doing is the normal expectation; when “guilt” for the past can be made to compensate emotionally for present-day failures and shortcomings; when government remedies (gun control, more spending, etc.) can be represented as more urgent than any morally reparative work likely to come out of home or school or church.

It becomes more important, on these paltry terms, to haul away a statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis from the University of Texas main mall (as happened over the weekend of the Minnesota fair demonstrations and the Harris County execution) than, say, to pray for human reconciliation on terms profounder than modern academic leaders are likely to understand or commend.

And we suffer because of it.

This is what decades of progressivism have wrought.  A morally rudderless nation, becoming less and less free and led by incompetent politicians who kowtow to vulgar and racist tribes by trying to make common cause with them … for their “votes”.

What a world we live in.

~McQ

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When you shift blame to others, problems never get solved

Problem:

“Here is what I would like for you to know,” writes Ta-Nehisi Coates in his new book, which is addressed to his 14-year-old son. “In America, it is traditional to destroy the black body – it is heritage.”

Mr. Coates is being widely described as the heir to James Baldwin, the novelist and social critic whose powerful work on the brutal realities of race galvanized an earlier generation of Americans. Much of the nation remained segregated then. Black people were denied their voting rights, and racists blew up little girls in churches.

As Mr. Coates tells it, nothing has changed. Instead of being gunned down by the Klan, black men are gunned down by the cops. Racism is still the essence of America. White prosperity was built on black suffering, which created the privileges that white people enjoy today. Black-on-black carnage (as in Chicago, where gun crime is epidemic ) is the poisoned fruit of white supremacy, and is embedded in a structure that is dominated by whites. If you are white, you have an unfair advantage based solely on your skin colour. You are part of the problem.

Emperor Has No Clothes problem:

Mr. Coates’s book, Between the World and Me, has been lionized by the white intelligentsia. “Extraordinary,” said The New Yorker’s David Remnick. David Brooks, the usually level-headed New York Times columnist, sincerely asked if he, as a white man, has the moral standing to question any part of it. The Times’s film critic, A.O. Scott, called his writing “essential, like water or air.”

But some are skeptical of all this rapture. “This is more than admiration. It is an affirmation of enlightenment,” observed Carlos Lozada, the Washington Post’s book critic. “The more radical Coates’s critique of America, the more tightly America embraces him.”

Reality:

The racial horrors of the past are undeniable. But the reality of black life has changed immensely since the ’50s. Black governors, mayors, and a president are the new normal. Black families are far more prosperous. Although discrimination has by no means disappeared, social attitudes have undergone a revolution. Yet even as racial attitudes and racial equality evolve, enlightened people rush to don the shroud of guilt.

Yes they do, and for what reason I have yet to fathom.  I feel none of the supposed “guilt”, but then I’m conversant with history and understand that while blacks did suffer slavery in this country it was whites who stopped it and whites who’ve ensured that blacks are accepted as equals in today’s society.

Now I understand that’s heresy to the progressive mind.  And that it is my “white privilege” that allows me to believe that.  Except I grew up when Jim Crow was alive and I lived in the segregated South and I happen to know what it was like and how very far we’ve come since then.  So, unlike most of those today who parrot the grievance line, I actually know what it was like then.  And the statement above is completely true – “the reality of black life has changed immensely since the ’50s” – but you wouldn’t know it to listen to the left today.

Denial of reality and the result:

Much of the liberal establishment today is obsessed with white supremacy, and what to do about it. Schoolteachers are required to take “cultural proficiency training,” so that they can “recognize the impact of systemic oppression of people in America who are not heterosexual white men.” The New York Times is currently publishing an exhaustive series on white privilege that features interviews with intellectuals such as Joe Feagin, a (white) sociologist who claims that Americans are no less racist than they ever were (they just disguise it better), and that children are indoctrinated into racism from the time they’re babies. When Mr. Coates published an article in The Atlantic last year calling for trillions in reparations, it was received with widespread enthusiasm.

And, of course, guys like Feagin have absolutely no scientific proof of anything.  It’s pure poppycock pop science.  This drive by the progressive left to don the mantle of “white guilt” is one thing – if they want to feel guilty, let them.  But when they talk about messing with my life because they’ve chosen to feel this guilt, the ball game changes.  While they’re entitled to their fantasy, they’re not entitled, through the force of law, to fund their fantasy (i.e. reparations in payment for “white guilt”) with my money.

The problem with the fantasy:

The political commentator John McWhorter argues that the doctrine of structural racism according to Mr. Coates has become a new form of liberal religion. His book is not so much an intellectual argument as a fiery testament from the pulpit. White progressives have embraced the gospel because it allows them to feel absolved from the charge of racism. By professing their guilt, they can also display their virtue to their peers. “You have original sin, you have this guilt, you acknowledge your guilt,” Mr. McWhorter said in a recent podcast. “What you’re doing is being religious – eating the wafer and life goes on.”

Mr. McWorter calls this a form of social signalling. Whether it really helps to ease racial tensions in America – or advance the cause of black people – is beside the point. “When you acknowledge your white privilege it doesn’t do anything for us,” he said. “It has nothing to do with creating change.”

The religion of structural racism allows everyone to duck the profound challenges still faced by the black community. It disempowers people and absolves them of responsibility. If structural racism is to blame for black violence, then communities will never be able to heal themselves. Mr. McWhorter argues that blaming white racism for the existential crisis in black communities like Chicago’s is a monstrous evasion.

Indeed it is.  As long as one group is able to shift the blame for that group’s problems on another group, the first group will never face or solve their problems.  And that’s precisely what is happening.  Aided and abetted by progressives.

Secondly, McWorter is right …. “structural racism” has become a religion, primarily because one has to take it on faith it exists since no one can point it in reality.

Sad but true note:

Where is today’s equivalent of Martin Luther King? Tragically, he doesn’t exist. And if he did, nobody would listen to him. He’d be booed off the stage as an Uncle Tom. The tragedy of race relations in America today is that nihilism and rage are a bigger draw.

Obama had a chance and he chose to go in the opposite direction.

We now live with the result.

~McQ

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