Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Stray Voltage

I’d love to tell you this comes as a surprise, but in reality, yeah, not so much.  As I’ve been saying for years, I’m fine with solar power as a concept, but in execution, it’s not at all ready for prime time.

A federally backed, $2.2 billion solar project in the California desert isn’t producing the electricity it is contractually required to deliver to PG&E Corp., which says the solar plant may be forced to shut down if it doesn’t receive a break Thursday from state regulators.

This is the one that burns birds out out of the sky.

PG&E PCG, -0.02%   is asking the California Public Utilities Commission for permission to overlook the shortfall and give Ivanpah another year to sort out its problems, warning that allowing its power contracts to default could force the facility to shut down. The commission’s staff is recommending that it grant the extension Thursday.

You can probably count on it getting a “break” since a) it’s California and b) government only requires accountability from the little people and c) … solar! (Turn a blind eye to those burnt birds littering the ground.  Environmentalism and animal rights are only important when greedy corporations stand to profit.)

Meanwhile, elect Hillary, she’ll get rid of the coal mines and coal miners jobs and then we’ll simply die in the dark.

Welcome to machine world!  Robots are going to soon be taking over all those “$15 minimum wage” jobs soon:

Domino’s have developed possibly the greatest use for robots yet – safe and secure pizza delivery in what the company claims is a world first.

The company is testing pizza delivery by robot in New Zealand, known as the Domino’s Robotic Unit (DRU). The three-foot tall battery-powered unit contains a heated compartment for storing up to 10 pizzas, and is capable of self-driving up to 12.5 miles, or 20 km from a shop.

Economic reality says that when labor prices itself out of business and there is an cheaper viable alternative, people usually go with the alternative.  That’s because economic law is based in human nature, not pie-in-the-sky social justice.

You may have heard of the results of the YouGov survey that showed Millennials have a much higher regard for socialism than capitalism.  No, well, look at the Bernie camp and figure it out.  Helen Raleigh says we have to “educate” the generation about the perils of socialism because they’re to young to have seen it in action and seen the results.

She says:

So if you are a survivor of socialism, whether from the former Soviet Union, China, Cuba or Venezuela, speak up and share your stories. Don’t limit yourself to just your families and friends. Make yourself available to your community, especially neighborhood schools. Contact the local high schools and ask them if you can come to their social science or history class and speak to the kids directly. I’ve spoke at several high schools before. Rather than telling them that 20-30 million Chinese people died during the three famine caused by Mao’s disastrous policy, I shared with them the story of an uncle I never met. He was born during the famine. My grandmother was too hungry to produce any milk to feed him, and there was no baby formula available. He died in my grandmother’s arms. While I was sharing this story, those teenagers were spell bound. No one was checking their iPhones. Many of them came to shake my hand afterwards and said “thank you.” It was a rewarding experience for me.

One problem, Helen.  Where this is really needed would likely find you booed off the stage, while The New Red Guard demonstrated and called you a racist and hate monger.  Other than that, you’re precisely right.

Melissa Click, the asst. Professor fired by the University of Missouri because of her conduct, just won’t go away and has a new whine now:

As a Media Studies scholar, I understand how the increased surveillance resulting from advances in technology like digital recording and wireless broadband has come to mean that our mistakes will be widely broadcast — typically without context or rights of rebuttal — exposing us to unprecedented public scrutiny.

But I do not understand the widespread impulse to shame those whose best intentions unfortunately result in imperfect actions. What would our world be like if no one ever took a chance? What if everyone played it safe?

It has nothing to do with “shaming”, Ms. Click.  It has to do with accountability.  Intentions don’t mean squat.  Actions do.  Welcome to the real world.  Now, go away.

And finally, this visual pretty much says it all, doesn’t it?

Part-MVD-Mvd6755462-1-1-0

Have a good weekend!

~McQ

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A corrupt, inept and bullying government is cause for change

Glenn Reynolds makes the following observation while talking about Merkel’s refugee debacle (one with which I agree):

Fascism, like communism, is an opportunistic infection of the body politic, one that occurs when the institutions — and officeholders — of liberal democracy are too corrupt, or too weak, or both, to sustain business as usual. If you don’t like this outcome, don’t be weak and corrupt.

We’re headed over the same waterfall.  Over the years, we’ve seen our republic sink into political cess pit of the worst sort.  Corruption, cronyism, selling of political favors, governmental bullying, factionalism .  Add to that uncontrolled and unpunished bureaucratic over reach, government infringements on rights to a previously unheard of level, the law used as an oppressive tool instead of a protective one and uncontrolled spending resulting in massive debt.

The government, as first designed, has ceased to function that way.  The lines of separation between the 3 branches of our government have become so muddled and indistinct that that the government is almost unable to do its most basic job.   What we’ve seen is the willful ignoring of the Constitution by all three branches that has brought us to the point that those in power are now thought of more as enemies of the people than representatives.

Paul Rahe points out one of the reasons we’re where we are today:

The truth is that modern liberty depends on the power of the purse. All of the great battles in England in the 17th century between the Crown and Parliament turned ultimately on the power of the purse. The members of Parliament were elected at least in part with an eye to achieving a redress of grievances, and that redress was the price they exacted for funding the Crown. Our legislature has given up that power. Our congressional leaders claim – once the election is over – that they have no leverage. If that is really true, then elections do not matter, and a redress of grievances is now beyond the legislature’s power. Absent that capacity, however, the legislature is virtually useless. Absent that capacity, it is contemptible — and let’s face it: the President and those who work under him have showered it with contempt.

That basic contempt for the law, the demonstrated weakness when it comes to doing their job, their capitulation to special interests and greed and their ignoring the fact that the vast majority of people, on both sides of the political isle, are fed up with them and what they’ve built is where the electorate’s rage is grounded.

Tell me, does this remind you of any period or periods in history?  Certainly faint echoes at least.  Many of the dynamics at work then don’t exist now, but the fact that government wasn’t working for the majority in those two instances can also be said about what is happening here now.  Why else would a billionaire reality TV show star and a clueless socialist be as popular as they are?

It is another cry for drastic change in the way our representatives do their job and the way our government is run.  Obama was the same thing.  Now the choice is even worse.

Lump that all in with a historically and economically illiterate citizenry and it is a dangerous mix.

This is all headed for a showdown somewhere down the road, either soon or in the near future.  The question is, what will survive the event when it happens?  And is it possible that we can somehow see a leader emerge who can articulate the building rage (Sanders and Trump can do that) and actually LEAD us to reforming government to the point that it is again on the track it was originally supposed to be on?

For the first question, I have no idea.  As for the second, I have no confidence that such a person exists at this point and if he or she does, that this is at all recoverable.

~McQ

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The GOP’s plan to have a brokered convention

Or, let’s pretend we follow the rules when it is to our advantage, but let the people believe they’re a part of the process otherwise:

Political parties, not voters, choose their presidential nominees, a Republican convention rules member told CNBC, a day after GOP front-runner Donald Trump rolled up more big primary victories.

“The media has created the perception that the voters choose the nomination. That’s the conflict here,” Curly Haugland, an unbound GOP delegate from North Dakota, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Wednesday. He even questioned why primaries and caucuses are held.

Haugland is one of 112 Republican delegates who are not required to cast their support for any one candidate because their states and territories don’t hold primaries or caucuses.

Even with Trump‘s huge projected delegate haul in four state primaries Tuesday, the odds are increasing the billionaire businessman may not ultimately get the 1,237 delegates needed to claim the GOP nomination before the convention.

That last line, of course, is the out.  No 1,237 delegates, no automatic nomination, regardless of what the majority of the electorate want.  Of course, that electorate is largely ignorant of “the rules”.  As for the 112 “at large” delegates, also known as the “fudge factor”, anyone want to guess who names those delegates and to whom they’re beholding?  Clue: it isn’t a candidate the establishment doesn’t want.

So:

This could lead to a brokered convention, in which unbound delegates, like Haugland, could play a significant swing role on the first ballot to choose a nominee.

Ya think!

And this is where the smugness creeps in (like this fellow really wanted the rules “to keep up”):

“The rules haven’t kept up,” Haugland said. “The rules are still designed to have a political party choose its nominee at a convention. That’s just the way it is. I can’t help it. Don’t hate me because I love the rules.”

Of course, if Trump hits the delegate total before the convention, it’s all moot.  But, the Republican version of the Democrat’s Super Delegates build in a fudge factor that could be the difference between a Trump nomination and a brokered convention.  And once the convention gets past the first ballot, it is anyone’s ballgame … well, except Trump.  The establishment, would again, rule. The people?  Well, get over your frustration, your betters will decide what’s best for you … by the rules!

So?  So anyone who thinks that the parties would really leave the choosing to “the people”, get a clue.  Both sides have “rules” that help the process deliver an acceptable candidate to the established party.

Because, well, you’re not to be trusted with such a decision.

~McQ

 

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Economic Statistics for 16 Mar 16

The Consumer Price Index fell -0.2%, but prices less food and energy rose 0.3%. On a year-over-year basis, prices are up 1.0% overall, and 2.3% at the core.

Housing starts rose 5.2% to a 1.178 million annualized rate while permits dropped -3.1% to 1.167 million.

Industrial production fell -0.5% in February, as capacity utilization in the nation’s factories fell -4.0% to 76.7%.

The Federal Open Markets Committee left short-term interest rates unchanged, with a Fed Funds target rate of 0.25%-0.50%.

The Federal Open Markets Committee projected today that annual GDP growth will not exceed 2.3% for the foreseeable future.

The MBA reports that mortgage applications fell -3.3% last week, with purchases up 0.3% and refis down -6.0%.


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Watching the Trump protest thing

There’s something very interesting going on in conjunction with the Trump protests recently in Chicago, St. Louis, etc.  It reveals how intolerant the left is, again, and it also points to where this sort of vile and violent behavior is born:

College students now are growing up on campuses strongly influenced by the radicals of the 1960s, which has been fertile ground for an increasingly illiberal and disorderly definition of “peaceful protest.” . . .

Trying to silence speakers they don’t like, along with using human chains and other protest tactics to take over central spaces, violates a norm cherished all the way up to the Supreme Court: that a person who has rented an auditorium has a right to speak, no matter how atrocious the sentiment expressed.

Well, except when lefties are “triggered” by the speech.  Then the speech is deemed illegitimate and rightfully, as they see it, suppressed. The irony, of course, is they and the media call Trump Hitler while it is the protesters demonstrating all the foul attributes of the Nazis.

Interestingly, it comes as as surprise to some members of the media that Trump’s supporters see through the media spin on this and aren’t blaming the left’s actions on Trump.  They think it has to do with ignorance or agreement.  Instead, it likely has to do with seeing through the charade that both the media and the left have put together.

Now it is certainly one thing to protest a candidate peacefully (everyone has that right), but when protesters are committed to violence and confrontation, they’re likely to find it.  You have to remember, the protesters had to travel to the Trump rally to get what they wanted.  No one sought them out for that.  The protesters have also admitted organizing to shut down Trump.  Again, they made a conscious decision to interfere in the other side’s right to hear their candidate.  And they did it precisely like they’ve done it countless times on the college campus where someone had the temerity to invite a speaker who disagreed with their views.

Heather MacDonald lays out the case for the left being the source of the divisiveness we now suffer and are suffering during this political season.  It’s just in their DNA it seems, and as pointed out above, it has its roots in radical academia:

To the mainstream media, Black Lives Matter’s claims and academic identity politics are not “divisive,” they are simple truth. But if you don’t accept those truth claims — and the data refute them — the vitriolic anti-cop rhetoric of the last year and a half, and its underpinning in academic victimology, easily match the alleged divisiveness of anything that Trump has said.

Anyone … from whence were most of the “media” birthed?  Of course they don’t see them as a problem for the left.  They’ve been raised in the culture of left academia and leftist propaganda is their “normal”.  Naturally they don’t see anything inflammatory in the rhetoric of the left or the left’s political candidates.

The rhetoric of Democratic presidential contenders is just as incendiary. Hillary Clinton says it’s a “reality” that cops see black lives as “cheap.” Bernie Sanders says the killing of unarmed black people by police officers has been going on “decade after decade after decade.” In fact, among the 36 “unarmed” black men killed by the police last year (compared with 31 unarmed white men), a large percentage had been trying to grab the officer’s gun, were pummeling the officer with his own equipment, or were otherwise so viciously fighting with the arresting officer as to legitimately put him in fear for his life.

This is the result of the Bill Ayres faction taking over our colleges and universities.  They’ve spawned “The New Red Guard”, and The New Red Guard is now moving out into the streets.

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 15 Mar 16

Producer Prices for Final Demand fell -0.2% in February, were unchanged less food and energy, and up 0.1% less food, energy, and trade services. On a Year-over-year basis, prices were unchanged overall, up 1.2% less food and energy, and up 0.9% less food, energy, and trade services.

Retail sales fell -0.1% in February, both at the headline level, and less autos. Sales less autos and gas rose 0.3%.

After 7 months of contraction, the Empire State Manufacturing survey rose from -16.64 to 0.62 in March.

Business inventories rose an unwanted 0.1% in January, while a -0.4% drop in sales drove the stock to sales ratio to a hefty 1.40, the highest since May 2009.

The Housing Market Index was unchanged at 58 in March.

Foreign Demand for Long-Term U.S. Securities fell -12.0 billion in January, mainly on sales of US Treasuries.

Redbook reports that last week’s retail sales fell to 0.6% on a year-ago basis, from the previous week’s 0.7%. Sales remain weak.


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Stray Voltage

Interesting:

Just west of Midway Airport, in the bungalow belt dominated by Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, some Democrats are defecting to The Donald.

“Right here, I’m a Donald Trump voter,” says retired city plumber Tom Izzo.

“So many Americans are out of job, but we got all these illegals working here. Something’s got to happen,” he says.

Izzo represents a bit of a trend. In 2008, just 6 percent of Chicago primary voters selected Republican ballots. This year, it’s up to 10 percent. And that’s not far away from the 13 percent back in 1980, the year Ronald Reagan attracted so-called blue collar Reagan Democrats.

I’d agree … there is certainly some of that.  But there is also a good bit of voting for Trump in the primaries with no intention at all of voting for him in the general election, but instead, for Hillary.  That said, among blue collar workers, the illegal immigration issue is where both parties are completely disconnected from their voters – or at least those voters who make up the bulk of their base.  You know … the one’s from “flyover” land.

Meanwhile, the pot (and plot) continues to simmer:

Former Hillary Clinton IT specialist Bryan Pagliano, a key witness in the email probe who struck an immunity deal with the Justice Department, has told the FBI a range of details about how her personal email system was set up, according to an intelligence source close to the case who called him a “devastating witness.”

Yeah, we’ll see.  Right now it’s only “devastating” in the media.  We’ve all but been warned that the DoJ is not eager to pursue this at all. And, of course, to this administration specifically, and Democrats generally, the “rule of law” is an inconvenience.

You remember Margaret Thatcher famously saying that socialism worked fine until you run out of other people’s money?  Well, a disbelieving Venezuela is learning the truth of that statement the hard way:

Thatcher’s axiom did eventually catch up with Venezuelan socialism. Even when oil prices were hovering above $100 per barrel, the government’s finances went increasingly into the red. Now that a barrel of Venezuelan crude is trading at only $25, the situation has reached a breaking point. External debt has gone up by 115 per cent in the last decade and inflation is out of control: the IMF says it will reach 720 per cent this year. The situation is so bad that the government recently had to use 36 Boeing 747 cargo planes to import five billion notes of its worthless currency.

Behind the macroeconomic figures is a deepening humanitarian crisis. The government lacks the dollars to pay for imports which, compounded with price controls and their devastating effect on production, has caused widespread shortages. People queue for hours only to find empty shelves in government-run supermarkets. Even if they’re lucky, they can only buy a few products— in return for which they must undergo fingerprint scanning under the country’s rationing system. A national poll found that the percentage of Venezuelans eating two or fewer meals a day increased by more than 10 percentage points last year. Looting is now a common occurrence.

The economic crisis is having a particularly nasty impact on healthcare. According to the Venezuelan Pharmaceutical Federation, only 20 per cent of the drugs that doctors require are available. People must rely on social media to scout the country for medications for their loved ones. The lack of spare parts means that much medical equipment is useless: 86 per cent of X-Ray machines are out of service, for example. “Babies born prematurely are dying like little chicks” was a February headline of El Nacional, Venezuela’s last independent daily. It quoted a resident doctor in one of the public hospitals saying that, due to the shortages, they cannot save the lives of all patients. “We are operating under war conditions,” she said.

So, despite all the examples and all the warnings, things go exactly as they were predicted to go in that country.  Meanwhile, in this country, we have a significant portion who feel that “free stuff” is their entitlement and are feeling the “Bern”.  To me, given all the examples of what they want that have failed in the world, this say a lot about their intelligence … or lack thereof.

The Obama blame game … again:

Barack Obama has sharply criticised David Cameron for the UK’s role in allowing Libya to become a “shit show” after the fall of the dictator Muammar Gaddafi, in an unprecedented attack on a British leader by a serving US President.

Mr Obama said that following a successful military intervention to aid rebels during the 2011 Arab Spring revolt, Libya was left to spiral out of control – due largely to the inaction of America’s European allies.

In a candid US magazine interview, Mr Obama said: “When I go back and I ask myself what went wrong… there’s room for criticism, because I had more faith in the Europeans, given Libya’s proximity, being invested in the follow-up.”

Well one thing he didn’t ask himself is “what would a real leader do”, because he has no idea what leadership entails.  But he knows a lot about casting blame for failures in which he should have been leading.  And, of course, real leaders don’t do that.

Radley Balko points to another encroachment on liberty:

A while back, we noted a report showing that the “sneak-and-peek” provision of the Patriot Act that was alleged to be used only in national security and terrorism investigations has overwhelmingly been used in narcotics cases. Now the New York Times reports that National Security Agency data will be shared with other intelligence agencies like the FBI without first applying any screens for privacy.

Yes, that’s right, the NSA is sharing data domestically now … and it has nothing to do with either national security or terrorism … as initially promised.

Anyone surprised?

And a final update about “The New Red Guard” involves Western Washington University where TNRG wants control:

Students at Western Washington University have reached a turning point in their campus’s hxstory. (For one thing, they’re now spelling it with an X—more on that later.) Activists are demanding the creation of a new college dedicated to social justice activism, a student committee to police offensive speech, and culturally segregated living arrangements at the school, which is in Bellingham, up in the very northwest corner of the state.

Seems legit. No totalitarian tendencies showing there, are there? Well, maybe, just a tiny bit:

At the heart of this effort lies a bizarrely totalitarian ideology: Student-activists think they have all the answers—everything is settled, and people who dissent are not merely wrong, but actually guilty of something approaching a crime. If they persist in this wrongness, they are perpetuating violence, activists will claim.

The list of demands ends with a lengthy denunciation of WWU’s marginalization of “hxstorically oppressed students.” The misspelling is intentional: “hxstory,” I presume, was judged to be more PC than “history,” which is gendered, triggering, and perhaps violent. It’s easy for me to laugh at these clumsy attempts to make language obey the dictates of political correctness—but I laugh from a position of relative safety, since I am not a WWU professor.

On the other hand, if a member of campus were to insist on the proper spelling of the word, would he or she (or xe) have to answer to the Committee for Social Transformation?

Of course they would. But seriously, knowing this sort of nonsense is rampant at this University, why would any parent want their child to go there? That’s a question the University of Missouri is trying to answer as we speak.

Oh, and one more thing to note – “Student-activists think they have all the answers—everything is settled, and people who dissent are not merely wrong, but actually guilty of something approaching a crime.”

Sound familiar?  Yeah, think RICO and “climate deniers”.  Gee, wonder where they learned that?

Have a great weekend!

~McQ

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