Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Oil production as a weapon

Just an interesting thought.

Saudi Arabia, among others in the middle east, have been getting rich off oil for decades.  So has Russia.  The Saudis, for one, have used these riches to spread a radical version of Islam through  out the world.  Russia has used its money to begin to rebuild its empire (and military) again and bully its neighbors.

What if the flow of oil money could be cut to a fraction of what it once was?  Wouldn’t that have the effect of at least slowing the ability of these nations to act as they are now?  While I have no idea the level of the effect, it can’t help but have some.

So why aren’t we, as a country, exploiting this?

Oil production in the United States will reach a record high by 2021 as efficiency gains help domestic producers to combat the low prices that are likely to force hefty output cuts this year and next, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said on Monday.

After an initial dip this year and next, U.S. output is expected to climb to 14.2 million barrels per day (bpd), the IEA said in its medium-term outlook, citing the “free-for-all” that has come to characterize today’s oil market.

Because, let’s face it, this is good news for the US and especially for the US consumer.  For one thing it seems to be breaking the OPEC cartel’s stranglehold on pricing.

An agreement this month between major OPEC and non-OPEC producers to freeze output at January’s levels to bolster the oil price was viewed as unlikely to have any significant short-term impact.

Again, a positive.  The day of sheiks dictating how much oil you’ll get and how much you’ll pay seem, if this report is true, to be over.

The pain of oil prices falling to about $30 a barrel — their lowest since 2003 — has been widespread, but it has hit OPEC countries particularly hard.

At current crude prices the IEA estimates that oil export revenue for OPEC as a whole will drop this year to $320 billion from a peak of $1.2 trillion in 2012 and $500 billion last year.

So good old American know-how and efficiency developed in the private sector has made it worthwhile to pump shale oil at a profit.  And that is having a fantastic effect for the consumer in the market as well as helping to cut funds to those who would use them to act aggressively in the world.

Seems to be a win-win to me.

But then, if we had a government that actually was on the ball and saw the advantage to this, we wouldn’t have a president who is proposing a $10 a barrel tax on oil would we?

~McQ

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Stray Voltage

A little reading for you about how awful the Obama Syrian policy (or lack thereof) has been using Samantha Powers own words against her and the administration.

Even die-hard supporters of President Barack Obama’s “realist” approach to foreign affairs are nauseated by the White House’s Syria policy. New York Times columnist Roger Cohen, a vocal supporter of the nuclear weapons agreement with Iran, is fed up with nearly five years of the “fecklessness and purposelessness” of a Syria policy that “has become hard to distinguish” from Russian President Vladimir Putin’s. “Syria is now the Obama administration’s shame,” Cohen wrote last week, “a debacle of such dimensions that it may overshadow the president’s domestic achievements.” Ambassador Dennis Ross and New York Times military correspondent David Sanger also published articles excoriating Obama’s policies in Syria. There is a military solution, it’s “just not our military solution,” a senior U.S. security official admitted to Sanger. It’s Putin’s.

Think  of the charge of “war crimes”, something the Dems used to love to try and hang on George W. Bush.  It’s a pretty negative review.

Speaking of negative reviews, here’s one for the laughs it brings.  All you ever wanted to know about Kanye West and then some.  Kanye will not be happy, but I chuckled all the way through it. Some good points, in general, are made, not just about West:

West’s prepubescent views on everything Kanye haven’t stopped over the past decade, but everyone is too scared to mock him because he’s black and they don’t want to be called racist. He’s aware of this, so when his clothing line fails he says it’s because people were too “racist” to buy his stuff (this from a guy who gets to wear the Confederate flag on his bomber jacket). His clothing line was made up of people wearing brown nylons and strange “skin-colored” sweatshirts that looked like they were made out of Nazi lampshades. We recently learned that this foolish mistake put him $53 million in the hole and he took to social media to beg Mark Zuckerberg to bail him out to the tune of $1 billion. No word yet on why you get to be $947 million in the black when you screw up that badly. Forbes’ two cents is Yeezus might be able to get the money tax-free.

Read the whole thing … it’s worth it.  Another example of the Emperor having no clothes – in this case, literally.

Another example of the absurdity of the claim that ID laws “disenfranchise” minority voters:

On Tuesday, however, it was the state of Wisconsin that had the last laugh. Just one business day after Oliver predicted mass disenfranchisement due to voter-ID laws, Wisconsin held its first election with the voter-ID requirement. And according to a study by the University of My Eyeballs, turnout increased 55 percent statewide over the last similar spring-primary election.

In 2013 — the last contested statewide supreme-court election — around 364,000 voters turned out in Wisconsin. On Tuesday night, that number skyrocketed to about 564,000 voters. Even the 2011 Supreme Court primary, which took place during the electric Wisconsin public-union battle, drew only around 420,000 voters — well short of Tuesday’s total.

And the turnout bump wasn’t due to rural Caucasians flocking to the polls en masse. In the city of Milwaukee, which is 53 percent ethnic minority, the vote nearly doubled, from 34,000 to 65,000. Earlier, local election watchers had predicted a turnout of about 30,000.

Georgia, my home state, has had a voter ID law for a few years and have had exactly the same experience.  This is the “global warming” of voting.  Or said another way, if they keep repeating the big lie often enough, it has to be “true” doesn’t it – regardless of whether or not the facts destroy the myth.

So how are we doing economically and how is that reflected in the job market?  Well, Dems are going to tell you we’re at “full employment” because the fudged unemployment rate is around 5%.  This chart gives lie to the claim:

-1x-1

Women fare slightly better, but as you can see, the US is bottom of the barrel when it come to “employment to population ratio” for men. Heck of a job there, Dems. Oh, and Bernie says he’ll fix this.  Just sayin’.

Pertaining to the GOP and SCOTUS, file under “predictable” and cross-file under “stupid” as in “Stupid Party:

The playbook is the same every time. Even in the face of less consequential political fights, Republicans start out talking tough. Then, leadership allows the weakest liberal members to begin dissenting from the party line and even trash talking the party to the media. Next, leadership says they have to embark on the legislative process to be fair but still oppose the initiative and will personally fight against it. Then, depending on how many votes it needs to pass, they decide whether to throw in with the liberal Republicans.

And sure enough:

Yesterday, the dominos began to fall. While Sens. McConnell, Hatch, and other senior leadership members were still talking tough, liberal Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) announced his support for Obama to put forth a “consensus” nominee. And although Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), the Majority Whip, reiterated his desire that the next president fill the vacancy, he said that holding hearings is entirely up to the Judiciary Committee Chairman and scheduling a floor vote is entirely up to McConnell.

And then:

Obama knows how to push the RINO buttons. He will nominate someone who comes highly recommended in the legal field and it will be a big “first.” Perhaps the first transgendered Muslim immigrant to be picked. He knows Republicans are very sensitive to looking like “obstructionists,” especially in the face of such “historic” progress.    At that point, it will become a slow bleed. You will see Sens. Murkowski, Collins, Kirk, and other liberals join with Heller and call for “fair hearings.”  (How eerie that just two weeks ago, I called for Sen. Grassley to be replaced because his spot on the Judiciary Committee Chairman is too vital for someone so fickle.) Grassley will undoubtedly cave to pressure and that will get the ball rolling.

And once the nominee goes through the meat grinder of confirmation hearings, how can he not get a floor vote?  To that end, the weakest members of the committee, beginning with Lindsey Graham, will likely vote the nominee out of committee and onto the floor.

How many times have you seen this happen?

Freedom of speech is a wonderful and protected right.  But one thing some people seem never to understand is that it doesn’t shield you from the consequences of your “speech”:

In the wake of Beyonce’s controversial Super Bowl halftime performance of her new song “Formation” — which critics say contains an anti-cop message — police and politicians around the country have been speaking out against it.

But the criticism could be manifesting itself in practical ways, given what’s happened since police in Tampa, Florida, got a request to work her April 29 concert in town.

Usually off-duty officers sign up to work concerts and sporting events for extra cash, but to date no officers have signed up for the show, WTVT-TV reported. And given it’s expected to sell out, that could be a security issue.

That’s a great way for cops to get their message across.

Speaking of no one signing up, I got a huge laugh from this story.  You remember Ed Schultz don’t you?  Once with MSNBC and now with Russian (propaganda) TV?  Well, like Kanye West, Ed has become a little full of himself.  Ed decided to start a “Super PAC” feeling pretty sure he could save the middle class:

Last year Ed Schultz started the Americans for a Strong Middle Class Super PAC.

“I feel like I am perfectly positioned with my national platform, with my name and visibility and credibility with the middle class, to be the person to head up this super PAC,” he told  told the Fargo Forum. “We are a 527; we are a nonprofit; we are incorporated in Washington, D.C., and we are going to get involved in issues around the country that are vital to a strong middle class, with our focus on jobs and wages, health care, education, trade agreements and justice.”

“Middle class issues are here to stay,” Schultz continued.

Unfortunately for Ed, his PAC isn’t.  A couple of weeks ago, Big Ed quietly folded Americans for a Strong Middle Class Super PAC.

Only none of that actually happened. According to Mediate, Schultz ran up $10,345.44 in legal fees, $3,000 in web design fees, and a $100 loan and only collected $25 in donations to the organization which was apparently headquartered at a UPS store in downtown Washington D.C.

I’m sorry I coughed up a lung laughing at the donation total.  That’s about what Big Ed’s ideas are worth, and, in the market place of ideas, that’s what he was able to bring in.  Capitalism – don’t you love it?  No wonder the left hates it.

Finally, I love it when a loony law is field tested:

Seattle Parks and Recreation is facing a first-of-a-kind challenge to gender bathroom rules. A man undressed in a women’s locker room, citing a new state rule that allows people to choose a bathroom based on gender identity.

It was a busy time at Evans Pool around 5:30pm Monday February 8. The pool was open for lap swim. According to Seattle Parks and Recreation, a man wearing board shorts entered the women’s locker room and took off his shirt. Women alerted staff, who told the man to leave, but he said “the law has changed and I have a right to be here.”

“Really bizarre,” MaryAnne Sato said. “I can’t imagine why they would want to do that anyway!”

Oh, my … hoist on their own petard, eh?  The other lung was coughed up on this one.  This isn’t bizarre at all.  This is precisely what critics of this sort of stupidity said would happen.

According to the SJW’s who pushed this “gender inclusiveness” law, all one has to do is “feel” like another gender and they’re in like Flynn.  Apparently, at least that day, this guy was feeling particularly female.  And yet, those exposed to the “woman” felt the situation was “bizarre”.  Imagine.

Loved this quote – by the way, he’s talking about the new law and the SJWs:

“Sort of works against the point they’re trying to make. They’re causing people to feel exposed and vulnerable with the intention of reducing people feeling exposed and vulnerable,” said pool regular Aldan Shank.

Exactly right, sir.  This is how laws that sound wonderful in drunken dorm room bull sessions end up when put into practice.   As usual, never factored in is something called “human nature”.

Funny that.

Have a great weekend!

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 18 Feb 16

The Conference Board’s index of leading indicators fell -0.2% in January.

The Philadelphia Fed Business Outlook Survey remained negative in February, coming in at -2.8.

Initial weekly jobless claims fell 7,000 to 262,000. The 4-week average fell 8,000 to 273,250. Continuing claims  rose 30,000 to 2.273 million.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index fell -0.2 points to 44.3 in the latest week.

The Fed’s balance sheet fell $-2.7 billion last week, with total assets of $4.484 trillion. Reserve bank credit rose $12.6 billion.

The Fed reports that M2 money supply fell by $-73.1 billion in the latest week.


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The SCOTUS circus

Of course, everyone with the IQ of an onion knows it’s coming.  Harry Reid and Barack Obama, who last filibustered a SCOTUS nominee, insist that the GOP forget all of that and dance to their tune – i.e. do it and do it now.

But, as Charles Lipson points out, even onion heads know that the following is reality:

No. 1: No nominee for the high court can get through the Senate before the election. No one.

No. 2: President Obama and the Democratic candidates for president know that. So do Republicans. All God’s children know it.

No. 3: Since the nominee will not be approved, Obama will use the opportunity to advance other goals. He will propose someone who burnishes his own progressive credentials and shows why control of the court depends on the November election. Putting Senate Republicans in an awkward position would be a nice bonus. But the target is November.

Exactly.  It is all about political theater now and that is going to be what we are going see from now until November.  Lipson has a couple of other points, but it is point 7 that sums it up:

No. 7: All the rest is political theater, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

This is now all about political gain in November and Bollywood will have nothing on the actors in this little play when it is finally time to cast those votes.

I should put a caveat when speaking of people with the IQ of an onion understanding all of this.  That doesn’t apply to the GOP Senate which is already fraying at the edges.  Apparently such a lofty IQ is not a prerequisite of duty as a Republican in the Senate and because of that, it wouldn’t at all surprise me if they don’t cave and play the Democrat’s game.

Because, you know, if they do this time, maybe the media will like them.

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 17 Feb 16

January housing starts fell -3.8% to a 1.099 million annual rate. Building permits fell -0.2% to a 1.202 million annual rate.

Producer prices rose 0.1% in January, and were up 0.4% less food and energy, and 0.2% less food, energy, and trade services. On a year-over-year basis, PPI-FD is down -0.2% overall, but up 0.6% less food and energy, and 0.8% less food, energy, and trade services.

With increased auto production, industrial production jumped 0.9% in January, while capacity utilization in the nation’s factories rose 0.6% to 77.1%. Manufacturing rose 0.5%, as well.

The Atlanta Fed Business Inflation Expectations Survey was unchanged in January, at an annual 1.8%. 

E-commerce retail sales rose only 2.1% in the 4th Quarter of 2015, compared to the 3rd Quarter’s 4.2% rise.

Redbook reports that last week’s retail sales little changed at a weak 0.7% on a year-ago basis, from the previous week’s 0.6%.

The MBA reports that mortgage applications rose 8.2% last week, with purchases down -4.0% but refis up 16.0%.


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Dangerous ground or much ado about nothing?

The FBI, in the wake of the San Bernardino terrorist attack, has gone to court and gotten a judge to order Apple to write software to decrypt the iPhones the two terrorists used.  The FBI has been unable to decrypt them on their own.

Apple has refused to comply.

After reading much of the back and forth between government and Apple, I’m with Apple.  As the Electronic Freedom Frontier said:

The government is asking Apple to create a master key so that it can open a single phone,” it said Tuesday evening. “And once that master key is created, we’re certain that our government will ask for it again and again, for other phones, and turn this power against any software or device that has the audacity to offer strong security.”

It’s about violating your privacy by being ordered to hand the government the key with implied permission to use it. Think Pandora’s Box.  Forget security, you may as well not encrypt a phone if a master key is available out there.  We’d love to believe the government when it says it will only use that software once, but anyone with a modicum of intelligence (and experience with governments) knows how likely that is.  And, well, we also know how well our government does cyber security, don’t we Ms. Clinton?

Er, anyway – the government is using a 18th century law, the All Writs Act, to claim that it can demand such software from Apple.

The law lets judges “issue all writs necessary or appropriate in aid of their respective jurisdictions and agreeable to the usages and principles of law.”

A little word salad that has the government claiming it has every right to make this demand do just about anything it chooses (if it can get a judge to say so).

Marc J. Zwillinger, a lawyer for Apple, wrote in a letter for a related case in October that the All Writs Act could not be interpreted to “force a company to take possession of a device outside of its possession or control and perform services on that device, particularly where the company does not perform such services as part of its business and there may be alternative means of obtaining the requested information available to the government.”

The government says it does not have those alternative means.

Mr. Cook’s statement called the government’s demands “chilling.”

“If the government can use the All Writs Act to make it easier to unlock your iPhone, it would have the power to reach into anyone’s device to capture their data. The government could extend this breach of privacy and demand that Apple build surveillance software to intercept your messages, access your health records or financial data, track your location, or even access your phone’s microphone or camera without your knowledge.”

This is another indicator of how corrosive the “War on Terror” has been to our liberties.  It’s like slow drip acid, with every drop another assault on what we once took for granted as protections against an invasive government.  And our government has been more and more invasive as concerns our privacy since this “war” began.

Sometimes, looking at what the government attempts to do in the name of security, you’d think the terrorists had won, wouldn’t you?

~McQ

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Scalia’s death and the state of politics in this country

It would have been nice if the Democrats could have at least let the body get cool before making political demands and unleashing the usual hate, but then that is the state of politics in this country.

Frankly, I mourn Antonin Scalia as one of the few important bastions against the “living Constitution”, defined constantly on the fly as whatever the left wants it to be.  Lately it’s been all about granting liberties willy nilly (which, the smart person would realize, would mean they can “ungrant” them as well as those that you thought were inalienable, such as your 2nd Amendment right).  That was one of Scalia’s greatest fears and why he stood athwart the path that led to that.

And, of course the hate – the woman who tweeted that she hoped, as he’s always want to do, that Clarence Thomas followed Scalia’s example this time.

And the politics – the conveniently amnesiac Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer demanding that the GOP accept and approve the Obama nominee immediately – whoever that might be.  And don’t pay any attention to what they’ve said or done in the past, it is the duty of the GOP to play their game.

Of course, if the GOP has any desire to remain a mainstream party, they better grow a brain, spine and develop some guts and follow Nancy Regan’s advice – “just say no”.  Obama’s had 8 years to work his tragic magic on this country, we don’t need to be giving him a lifetime appointment to continue the work.

Enough.

Finally, the possible silver lining – do Trump supporters really want him naming a SCOTUS justice?  Or Hillary, if Trump in the GOP nominee?

~McQ

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