Free Markets, Free People

Bruce McQuain

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If only everyone else would do this …

Instead of running around (and talking) in circles.

You’re going to say things that are going to offend and outrage some people (regardless of what  you say – politically you’re on the other side, so that, in and of itself is “offensive”), even if what you say isn’t really offensive or outrageous.

[Ben] Carson’s response to the howls of the PC left is the right one: We’ll call it “apathetic conviction.” He’s not outraged by the outrage; he simply doesn’t care. The outrage bores him. And no response is better calculated to rob critics of their power than boredom. You’re offended by my comments? I’m trending on Twitter? Wake me when the shame-storm is over, and then let’s debate my arguments on their substance.

And that’s the way to handle it.  As soon as you back down or apologize, they own you.  When you jut your jaw out and essentially say, “welcome to the real world, now grow up”, they’ve lost their power.  Carson’s response is an adult’s response.

Time to take these children’s pseudo-power away from them.


Bottom line in the Middle East

And it is fairly obvious from here:

Maybe Putin will save Assad, maybe he won’t. But people and governments in the Middle East will long remember that Obama’s definition of leadership meant abandoning our allies in Baghdad, showing the back of his hand to our friends in Jerusalem, cozying up to the liars and killers in Tehran, waging an effete air campaign against ISIS, and dithering while Syria descended into an almost unimaginable humanitarian crisis.

In the broader region, Obama’s leadership left Libya in ruins and wide open to ISIS penetration, alienated Egypt, decreased our leverage in Pakistan, and accomplished almost nothing in Afghanistan except to turn it into a safe haven for pederasts.

Obama’s disastrous failure to lead in the Middle East has helped to flood Europe with refugees and potential terrorists, encouraging the rise of Putin-like far-right parties throughout NATO and the EU. Meanwhile, Moscow appears set to flagrantly violate Obama’s New START agreement, building up its arsenal of deployed nuclear warheads above the impending caps. Our own arsenal continues to shrink, already well under the 2018 limits.

However, the president does see an opportunity coming soon to turn all this around, telling Kroft that “my definition of leadership would be leading on climate change, an international accord that potentially we’ll get in Paris.”

Obama fiddled with the thermostat while the world burned.

So I’m off the grid for a few days (enjoyably so) and find not much has changed.

And, given that, now we’re in the middle of “reaping the whirlwind”.

Meanwhile, the dope in the White House is all about fighting “climate change” which apparently doesn’t deal with whirlwinds.  His Secretary of State reminds us he’s “concerned” about the Russians and the Middle East, which, you know, is pretty proactive for this administration.

And our erstwhile or, perhaps “former” allies in the region?

They’re shopping for a new patron.


Political charlatans and the damage they’ve done – is it reversible?

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.


Arrogance, ignorance, incompetence and narcissism all in one package … lucky us

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.

Remember that?

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.


How do you argue with those who base their arguments in fantasy?

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.



Biden – the best hope for Democrats?

According to TIME, he is indeed!

If Vice President Joe Biden does decide to make a run for the presidency in 2016 he’ll start off the race as the most popular candidate in either party, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll out Tuesday

In the poll 40 percent of Americans say they have a positive impression of the Vice President and former Senator from Delaware, while just 28 percent have a negative impression—an enviable differential of +12 points. That outperforms Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders (+10) and Sec. of State Hillary Clinton (-8), as well as leading GOP candidates Ben Carson (+8), Carly Florin (+7) and Donald Trump (-33). 

Were the election held today, Biden would outperform both leading Democrats in head to head matches with leading Republicans. The Vice President loses, however, in hypothetical matches with both leading Democrats, winning 17 percent to Sanders’ 35 percent and Clinton’s 42 percent.

TIME goes on to say Biden’s popularity can probably be attributed to the fact he hasn’t announced and hasn’t been subject to the serious scrutiny that candidates receive.

You think?!

But it is telling that someone who isn’t in the running (but has broadly hinted at doing so), and has a reputation of a gaff-o-matic (as well as being a bit of a intellectual lightweight) could command the numbers he does now, given the “inevitable” one’s presence in the race (of course, much the same can be said about Trump).

As we all can imagine, Biden’s “honeymoon” would end soon upon his announcement as a candidate.  He provides a “target rich” opportunity for opponents and detractors alike.  And in an election cycle in which the voters are clearly expressing their dislike of establishment candidates, Biden is the ultimate insider.

But it would make the Democratic side of the election much more interesting if he was to announce.  And certainly, much more entertaining!


Pact with Iraq, Syria, Russia and Iran announced prior to UN talks with Putin

If ever there was proof of Russia’s intentions in the Middle East, it can be seen in a just announced 4 nation pact there:

Iraq joined Russia, Iran and Syria in a new agreement to strengthen cooperation against extremist group Islamic State, extending the Kremlin’s reach in the Middle East as it rivals Washington for influence.


Iraq’s Defense Ministry said Sunday that the country had signed an intelligence and security cooperation pact with Russia, Iran and Syria, pledging to cooperate in collecting information about Islamic State. The deal effectively formalizes years of military collaboration among the four nations, which have intermittently been allies since the 1980s.

Wonderful.  And who, pray, is on the outside looking in and surprised by the pact?

U.S. officials appeared to be taken by surprise by the announcement of the four-nation security pact and said they were still struggling to understand Mr. Putin’s long-term strategy for the region. Mr. Kerry, they said, kept open the possibility that the White House and Kremlin could coordinate, if not cooperate, in fighting Islamic State.

“We’re just at the beginning of trying to understand what the Russians’ intentions are in Syria, in Iraq, and to try to see if there are mutually beneficial ways forward here,” said a senior U.S. official who attended the Kerry-Lavrov meeting. “We’ve got a long way to go in that conversation.”

“Just in the beginning of trying to understand”?  Translation: “we’ve been caught flat-footed and hadn’t a clue that high-level talks between Russia and Iraq were happening”.  While Kerry may feel they have a “long way to go in that conversation,” Russia has obviously moved beyond the talking stage and is in the “taking action” stage.  The intent seems to be obvious to everyone but our State Department.

ISIS is the catalyst, or at least the excuse, for this alliance.  And most experts agree ISIS is mostly a result of the poor Iraq policy followed by the US after the Obama administration took over.  What Iraq is signaling here is no confidence in the US and with the pact, seems satisfied to let the US remain outside, looking in.  Why?  Well, take for example the fact that Russia sold fighter aircraft to Iraq last year to boost its ability to fight ISIS.  Where was the US?  It had delayed a promised shipment over political considerations.  Iraq is now negotiating with Moscow to buy more advanced weaponry.

Additionally, the Obama administration and the Russians and Iranians are at cross-purposes when it comes to Syria.  Both Russia and Iran have been very clear they support the Assad regime and hope to strengthen it.  The Obama administration has repeatedly said that Assad has to go.

What basis there are for talks between Russia and the US (at the UN this week) remain a mystery.  But what is very clear with the announcement of this pact just prior to those talks is the US enters them with an incredibly weak hand.  It has very little to use for leverage to get its way.  But one thing that can be determined for sure –  this administration’s past actions, or lack thereof, have put the US in this weak and unenviable diplomatic position.

Outfoxed again.  How “surprising”.


Obama’s weakness is Russia’s strength

One of the many lowlights of this administration has been its many foreign policy failures.  Many, if not most, are attributable to a lack of leadership and an abdication of the US’s role in world politics.  As most observers of international politics have understood for centuries, when one power withdraws or becomes weak, other powers will both test it and fill the vacuum their withdrawal creates.

The NY Post editorial board provides a perfect example of this administration’s poor “policy” concerning Syria:

Secretary of State John Kerry says Syrian despot Bashar al-Assad has got to go. Where have we heard that one before?

Of course, it’s been a regular refrain of President Obama and both of his secretaries of state — Hillary Clinton even more than Kerry — for years now.

Kerry repeated the demand after talks with the British foreign secretary last week — but with one new wrinkle: Assad must step aside, said Kerry — but there’ s no rush. He added: “We’re not being doctrinaire about the specific date or time; we’re open.”

Not only is he not being “doctrinaire” he’s broadcasting weakness like a clear channel radio station.  “We’re open” tells the world they haven’t a plan, a demand, or frankly, a clue.  He’s telling Syria, and specifically Assad, that there is nothing to fear from the US.  Nothing.

Remember those red lines we drew?  Disappearing ink.  Once they were crossed, it was like they never existed.

Cue the power vacuum.  And, who moves in?

And the situation just got infinitely more complicated by Russia’s active military involvement in Syria. As Kerry said, the Russians “are bringing in more equipment to shore up Assad at the same time they say they are going after” ISIS.

That position, he said, has “a lack of logic.”

No: It makes perfect sense when Washington has abdicated leadership. Nature abhors a vacuum — especially on the world stage.

Exactly.  What, you may ask, is in it for Russia?  Well, for one it can put a thumb in the eye of the US (and it is).   But it also helps reestablish old “client links” that the former USSR had in the area.  And, as Russia works with Iran to defeat ISIS, it establishes links there and it is in a position to have a big say in Iraq.  And it certainly makes sense that should Russia help Assad hang on and retake the country, Putin would have a solid client state in the middle east from which to base Russia’s influence operation.

So what has the US done?  Well, according to testimony given last week before Congress, we’ve spent half a billion dollars training up 4 or 5 soldiers in an anti-ISIS effort.  In fact, the effort has been so poor and haphazard that the chief anti-ISIS coordinator, ex-Gen. John Allen, is leaving out of frustration with the lack of a strategy or results.

Meanwhile our Secretary of State is left weakly complaining:

Meanwhile, Kerry complains that “Assad has refused to have a serious discussion and Russia has refused to help bring him to the table in order to do that. So that’s why we are where we are.”

Why in the world should Assad have a serious discussion with a paper tiger?  Or Russia for that matter?  What in the world is the downside for either if they don’t cooperate?

More disappearing red lines?


Hillary Clinton’s latest position of political convenience – opposition to the Keystone pipeline

As one might imagine, her opposition comes as somewhat of a surprise:

Her comments made her the last major Democratic presidential candidate to come out against Keystone, a project that has dragged through more than seven years of wrangling and several environmental reviews that appeared to favor the pipeline — most of them produced by the State Department when Clinton was secretary. Obama remains the project’s biggest wildcard: He hasn’t said whether he will grant or deny a permit for the pipeline, or when he’ll decide, even as Republicans lambaste him for repeatedly postponing the issue.

As secretary, Clinton had galvanized a nationwide activist campaign against Keystone with her off-the-cuff remarks in 2010 that the department was “inclined” to approve the $8 billion-plus project. That was her last substantive public statement on the issue until Tuesday.

But then, when poll numbers are sinking and momentum is waning, what better than to flip-flop (when you favor the candidate, it’s called a “pivot”) and throw a bone to a particular core constituency to shore up that vote? Its a move any political opportunist would surely applaud.

Why the Keystone XL pipeline has remained such a political football remains a mystery.  All the past routing problems that first held up the pipeline have been satisfactorily resolved.   And, after all, there are 2.3 million miles of existing oil and natural gas pipelines in the US.  Why has this one remained in the news?

Simple answer?  Politics.  It’s about voting constituencies and keeping them happy.  It certainly isn’t about what is best for the US.

As The Hill points out, it has now officially taken longer for the federal government to review the Keystone XL pipeline’s permit application than it did to build the entire transcontinental railroad 150 years ago.

Amazing and typical.  As for the party that continues to tell us it is for jobs and economic growth, it blatantly turns its back on both with its opposition to the pipeline’s approval:

Consider the economic opportunity this $5.4 billion pipeline presents. The Canadian Economic Research Institute estimates it could add $172 billion in U.S. economic growth over 25 years. Meanwhile, President Obama’s own U.S. State Department estimates construction would support over 42,000 jobs. Nearly 10,000 would be skilled—aka, well-paying—jobs like steel welders, pipefitters, electricians, and heavy equipment operators.

There’s also the potential for gas prices to go even lower than they are today. According to a February 2015 report from IHS, a leading energy research firm, the “vast majority” of Keystone XL’s refined oil will stay right here in the U.S. In other words, it could further add to America’s surging oil supply that has sent gas prices plummeting over the past year.

And yes, as mentioned, that’s the US State Department estimate made while Hillary Clinton was SecState.

Environmentalists live with the fantasy that if the Keystone pipeline is blocked, the oil to be found in the oil sands of Canada and in North Dakota will simply have to be left in the ground.  Of course, that’s nonsense.  Instead is it is shipped by rail, a much less safe and less efficient means of transportation (but one that does amply reward a Democratic donor) than a state of the art pipeline :

This is especially so when you consider pipelines—particularly new, state-of-the-art ones like Keystone XL—are the safest mode of transportation. Ensuring we’re using the safest and most efficient methods possible only makes sense.

Indeed.  So, why is Hillary Clinton opposed to safe transportation of oil and gas, the jobs and income that would come from the construction of the pipeline and economic boost it would give our economy?

Perhaps someone will ask her that at the first Democratic debate.

Yeah, I know, I’m laughing too.


No surprise here: Half of Americans see government as a threat

One of Mr. Obama’s stated campaign goals was to make big government “cool” again.  If the latest Gallup poll is to be believed, he and his administration have done precisely the opposite.

Almost half of Americans, 49%, say the federal government poses “an immediate threat to the rights and freedoms of ordinary citizens,” similar to what was found in previous surveys conducted over the last five years. When this question was first asked in 2003, less than a third of Americans held this attitude.

The reasons vary but the top four are telling:


Gallup does a bit of equivocating in its analysis, but finally makes a fairly obvious point about its results:

Still, the persistent finding in recent years that half of the population views the government as an immediate threat underscores the degree to which the role and power of government remains a key issue of our time. As a case in point, a question in this same survey asked Americans to name the most important problem facing the nation, and found that issues related to government were the most frequently mentioned. Plus, numerous other measures show that the people give their government some of the lowest approval and trust ratings in the measures’ history.

In the age of terror, citizens are finally waking up to what its cost in freedom has been.  They’re finally beginning to notice that government has grown much more powerful, intrusive and costly.  There seems to be more corruption and cronyism.  They’ve also noticed it has become much less responsive and efficient.  In fact, in many areas it is downright inefficient and broken.  If you look at the top 4 reasons though, it’s the intrusiveness of government that has most people worried.

The survey deals with government as a perceived threat and it is clear, since 2003, that perception has grown by 19 points from 30% to 49%.  That’s significant and, if I had to guess, will only go higher in the last part of the Obama administration.

The man who planned to make government “cool” again, as he has with so many of his other plans, has failed.   In the long run, that’s a good thing.


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