Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Syria – so now what?

Our local Noble Peace Prize winner has put himself in quite a quandary, hasn’t he? He’s decided that since he thinks Syria has used chemical weapons, it is our business to intrude on what is essentially a civil war, and give arms to an opposition whose makeup includes Islamic terrorist groups. Because, you know, some “bright line” has been crossed … or we think has been crossed, and according to R2P (apparently) we have to “P” or something (I guess the horrific numbers of death just weren’t enough to invoke that until chemical weapons, huh?).

Of course an obvious possibility in this case, since the Syrian government thinks that it is being punished for the use of chemical weapons, is they’ll now say “screw it” and use them liberally. I mean, why wouldn’t they? Even if they haven’t used them, there’s no “up” side anymore for them not using them now is there? World condemnation? We’ll we’re in the middle of manufacturing that right now, aren’t we?

Meanwhile you might remember that we “reset” relations with Russia because that darn Bush administration had screwed them up so royally.

Russia, a veto-wielding member of the U.N. Security Council, will not permit no-fly zones to be imposed over Syria, Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said on Monday.

“I think we fundamentally will not allow this scenario,” Lukashevich told a news briefing, adding that calls for a no-fly zone showed disrespect for international law.

Oh. Wait. Didn’t they tell us if a Republican was elected we’d see relations with Russia head back toward the Cold War era (btw, what Russia is alluding to is hurrying the deployment of the advanced S-300 missile system if we persist in this nonsense)?

Syria is a “no-win” situation for us if we intervene. Most of the intel I read says the opposition is riddled with Islamic extremists and Islamic extremist groups. Is it wise to arm such people? Well, a sane person would say “no”. A sane person would also stay the heck out of interfering in Syria.

But there are scandals to be dampened and distractions to be made. Because, you know, the Chosen One’s rep is much more important that a sane foreign policy or the lives of our military members.

~McQ

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Observations: The QandO Podcast for 16 Jun 13

This week, Bruce, Michael, and Dale discuss Scandalpalooza and Syria.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here.

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Economic Statistics for 14 Jun 13

Here are today’s statistics on the state of the economy:

Producer prices jumped 0.5% in May, while the core rate, ex-food and -energy, rose 0.1%. On an annual basis, prices rose 1.8% overall, and 1.6% at the core.

The nation’s current account deficit for the 1st Qtr came in at a smaller-than-expected $106.1 billion.

Foreign demand for long-term US securities rose to $-37.3 billion in April, the third consecutive monthly outflow of capital.

Industrial production was unchanged in May, while capacity utilization in the nation’s factories fell 0.2% to 77.6%.

The Reuter’s/University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment index fell 2.2 points to 82.7.

~
Dale Franks
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We can’t have ObamaCare effect these folks – they’re “federal employees” for heaven sake!

When I read articles like this they infuriate me.

Dozens of lawmakers and aides are so afraid that their health insurance premiums will skyrocket next year thanks to Obamacare that they are thinking about retiring early or just quitting.

The fear: Government-subsidized premiums will disappear at the end of the year under a provision in the health care law that nudges aides and lawmakers onto the government health care exchanges, which could make their benefits exorbitantly expensive.

Why?  Because there doesn’t seem to be any ability to relate their problem with the problems they’ve imposed on business through their ramming through this horrific legislation we call “ObamaCare”.  Even with the effects beginning to be understood, like that above, they don’t get it:

Rep. John Larson, a Connecticut Democrat in leadership when the law passed, said he thinks the problem will be resolved.

“If not, I think we should begin an immediate amicus brief to say, ‘Listen this is simply not fair to these employees,’” Larson told POLITICO. “They are federal employees.”

But apparently it is “fair” to the employees of business who, in some cases, will see 100% plus increases in their premiums.  It only becomes a problem when it effects who?  Why, ‘federal employees’, of course.  You know, our so-called “public servants”.  And then, apparently, only that subset of federal employees that work for Congress.  They seem oblivious to the fact that the same thing is happening in thousands of places and effecting multi-thousands of businesses.  Freakin’ clueless.

Even as mad as this made me, I got a chuckle out of this:

If the issue isn’t resolved, and massive numbers of lawmakers and aides bolt, many on Capitol Hill fear it could lead to a brain drain just as Congress tackles a slew of weighty issues — like fights over the Tax Code and immigration reform.

Talk about silver linings to storm clouds.

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 13 Jan 13

Here are today’s statistics on the state of the economy:

Initial jobless claims fell 12,000 last week to 334,000. The 4-week average fell  7,250 to 345,250. Continuing claims rose 2,000 to 2.978 million.

May export prices fell -0.5% while import prices fell -0.6%. On a year-over-year basis, export prices fell -0.9% while import prices fell -1.9%.

May retail sales rose 0.6%, while sales ex-autos and ex-autos and -gas both rose 0.3%.

April business inventories rose 0.3%, while wholesale sales fell -0.1%.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index fell more than 2 points to -31.3.

~
Dale Franks
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Don’t drink “the employment picture is much better” Kool-aid

Why?  Because it isn’t really better.  Oh, it may be marginally better than it was a year ago but that’s not saying much at all.  In terms of real progress?  Yeah, not so much.  The National Journal says:

The U.S. jobs picture is bleaker than the most recent jobs reports may make you think. The economy added 175,000 jobs last month, but at the rate things are going, it would take almost a decade to get back to prerecession employment levels. A Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey report released Tuesday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics digs in on the bad news: The number of job openings in the U.S. actually fell by 118,000 in April to 3.8 million.

How bad can 3.8 million job openings be? The Economic Policy Institute looks at the number and sees that “the main problem in the labor market is a broad-based lack of demand for workers—and not, as is often claimed, available workers lacking the skills needed for the sectors with job openings.”

Here’s a chart they put together to visually make the point:

An economy on the mend is generating jobs at such a pace that it is competing for workers.  As is obvious, that’s not the case in this economy, nor has it been the case for quite some time.

In a word, the employment picture sucks.  Anyone pretending otherwise is doing exactly that – pretending.  And they can toss around all the numbers they like, the bar charts above tell the real picture – business is not hiring and the reasons are multiple, most having to do with government intrusion (see ObamaCare for one example).

~McQ

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And the beat goes on …

And on and on and on:

“We now have an elephant in the room, and its name is peak oil.” —Kjell Aleklett, Professor in Global Energy Systems

Lord I wish I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard that in the last 30 years. And always in the face of something like this:

Nearly a third of the world’s technically recoverable natural gas and 10 percent of its oil can be found in shale formations, according to anew report by the Energy Information Administration.  Thanks to fracking and horizontal drilling, there’s a bounty of oil and gas available to countries around the world .

This report, which has a much larger scope than previous reports, bumped up the estimated global amount of technically recoverable shale gas by 9.3 percent. In its regional breakdown North America looks like a big winner. Of the 41 countries surveyed, Mexico had the seventh and Canada the ninth largest reserves of shale oil, while the US was second only to Russia. Meanwhile, the US, Canada, and Mexico were in fourth, fifth and sixth place, respectively in the EIA’s ranking of the largest technically recoverable shale gas reserves.

Of course part of the reason the peak oil crowd continues to issue it’s predictions is it seems tied into, well, another bit of a scam:

Are you optimistic about the future? Do you think that politicians will, at some point, address the problem of peak oil?

I’ve been working in this field for many years now, and it’s sad to see how little has been done. The measures that have been taken have been implemented largely because of climate change. Energy challenges such as peak oil are closely linked with climate-related issues, so victories within the field of climate change tend to be victories for peak oil as well. The good news is that we have started to tread the right path. Ultimately, we have to act. Whichever way you look at it, we won’t be able to use as much energy in the future as we do today.

I’m sorry, but that’s just nonsense.  A) there’s no reason, at least at this point, that we can’t use as much energy in the future as we do today, and B) perhaps that energy will come from a different source but not necessarily.  Unless, of course, these sorts of people have their way. More importantly though, politicians need to be kept strictly out of this business.

As we note often, this isn’t about energy or climate-related issues – it’s about control.

Make the warnings scary and dire enough and we’ll pitch control over to them.  See “war on terrorism” as a case study.

Meanwhile, in the back forty, a certain cow is still mooing the same old song:

Former Vice President Al Gore lamented today that scientists “will not let us link record-breaking” tornadoes in Oklahoma and elsewhere to climate change because of inadequate record keeping on the twisters.

“But when you put more energy into a system, it gets more energetic,” Gore said at an environmental event in Washington hosted by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse.

Yeah, darn those scientists anyway. Oh, wait, I thought all his stuff was from scientists.  No?

As to that familiar tune?

“It is well-past time that we put a price on carbon and not just accept the price that it extracts from us,” he said.

He noted that some officials won’t pay for tornado shelters in public schools. But “if we’re having arguments about how to pay to recover” from storms, he said, that’s one more reason to fix the climate change that is leading to stronger storms.

Even if the “price” can’t be supported by science.

Got it.

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 11 Jun 13

Here are today’s statistics on the state of the economy:

ISCS-Goldman reports last week’s retail sales fell by -2.7% due to bad weather, while the year-on-year rate declined to 2.2%. Redbook, however, is reporting a 2.8% year-on-year same store sales increase, with no significant weather effects.

The NFIB Small Business Optimism Index rose 2.3 points to 94.4 in May.

The Labor Department’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey reports there were 3.757 million job openings on the last day of April, little changed from March.

Wholesale inventories rose 0.2% in April, against a o.5% rise in sales, resulting in a leaner 1.21 stock to sales ratio.

~
Dale Franks
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Common thread in all of these scandals? Abuse of power

That’s the conclusion Insty comes too in his USA Today column:

The NSA spying scandal goes deep, and the Obama administration’s only upside is that the furor over its poking into Americans’ private business on a wholesale basis will distract people from the furor over the use of the IRS and other federal agencies to target political enemies — and even donors to Republican causes — and the furor over the Benghazi screwup and subsequent lies (scapegoated filmmaker Nakoula is still in jail), the furor over the “Fast And Furious” gunrunning scandal that left literally scores of Mexicans dead, the scandal over the DOJ’s poking into phone records of journalists (and their parents), HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’ shakedown of companies she regulates for “donations” to pay for ObamaCare implementation that Congress has refused to fund, the Pigford scandal where the Treasury Department’s “Judgment Fund” appears to have been raided for political purposes — well, it’s getting to where you need a scorecard to keep up.

But, in fact, there’s a common theme in all of these scandals: Abuse of power. And, what’s more, that abuse-of-power theme is what makes the NSA snooping story bigger than it otherwise would be. It all comes down to trust.

Anyone who, in fact, trusts government these days is simply not paying attention or is a part of it.  As Reynolds outlines above, each and every one of the scandals mentioned do, in some degree or another, involve an abuse of power.  And an abuse of power is always an abuse of trust.  This administration has been just about as abusive of both power and trust as any in our history.

What should bother you is they don’t seem to care.   To me that points to a culture that has come to accept the fact – at least in their world – that government is all powerful and can do no real wrong.  It’s “for the people”, after all, that they commit these abuses.  It is also in the name of “security” – that all-purpose reason to grind away at the freedoms we enjoy and put us under more and more government control.

One of those old dead white men who helped found this country saw the possibility of the latter long ago.  In fact, he’d seen it in his lifetime and had done all in his power to escape it and to build a system that wouldn’t tolerate the types of abuses of power we do today:

“The means of defense against foreign danger historically have become the instruments of tyranny at home.” – James Madison

Bottom line, we’re saddled with an arrogant and abusive, totally out of control goverment that badly needs reigning in.  The problem – we need statesmen who can do that.  And we all know where we are in that particular case. Without, that’s where. We’re stuck with self-serving politicians.

By the way, are we really any safer since the draconian security measures have been implemented?

Anonymous government sources quoted in news reports say yes, but we know that all that snooping didn’t catch the Tsarnaev brothers before they bombed the Boston Marathon — even though they made extensive use of email and the Internet, and even though Russian security officials had warned us that they were a threat. The snooping didn’t catch Major Nidal Hasan before he perpetrated the Fort Hood Massacre, though he should have been spotted easily enough. It didn’t, apparently, warn us of the Benghazi attacks — though perhaps it explains how administration flacks were able to find and scapegoat a YouTube filmmaker so quickly . But in terms of keeping us safe, the snooping doesn’t look so great.

And it remains “snooping” regardless whether it great or not.

Is this the the type of country in which we really want to live?  Where we’re afraid of our own shadow and our government to boot?

~McQ

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