Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Resurrecting the past

Back in the 90s, I worked for a now-defunct radio station, KMNY AM 1600, in Pomona, which went by the name “Money Radio”, and was the main business and financial news radio station in Los Angeles. From 9am-1pm every weekday, I did a program called “The Business Day”.  Recently, I found several cassette tapes of various interviews and special reports I did at Money Radio from 1994 to 1996. Some of the material is the broadcast version, some of it is the raw interviews.

I’ve decided to digitize them, since they are all 20 year-old cassette tapes, and are really at the end of their useful lives. In fact, one of them broke simply by rewinding it, forcing me to repair it, something I haven’t had to do for years.

A couple of things leap out at me as I re-listen to the cassettes while recording them to MP3 format:

1. I’m not sure why my voice was so high. I think it’s a tape speed issue. Some of these sound like a frickin’ Mickey special on Radio Disney.

2. I’m surprised at how many of the issues are still relevant, and are almost unchanged from 20 years ago.

3. I don’t remember cassette sound quality sucking so bad at the time. Digital fidelity has made cassette sound quality appear awful. I think it’s because a) the cassettes are so old and b) the station used really crappy cassettes for air checks, so the sound probably wasn’t that great in 1995.

Anyway, I thought you might be interested in a taste of the stuff, So here’s some links to the digitized files. Most of these are 42-ish minutes long, as they are mainly 1-hour programs without commercials. There are some pauses between each segment of the hour.

1. An interview I did with then-Labor Secretary Robert Reich. This is the raw interview I did in the production studio, but it was broadcast exactly as recorded, with only a broadcast intro and outdo added to the interview when aired on 4/19/95. Link

2. Reform in Congress, broadcast on 6/17/94. Link

3. A collection of weekly interviews from 1995-1996 with Roger W. Robinson, President of RWR, Inc., and former Chief Economist for the National Security Council under Ronald Reagan. He was always a fascinating guy to talk to. The collection starts with an interview done on about 10/25/95. Link

4. Smoking and the tobacco industry, broadcast on 6/17/94. Link

5. The economy with Dr.  J.S. Butler, aired on 9/4/95. Link

6. Inflation, aired on Thanksgiving Day, 1994. Link

7. Foreign affairs with Roger W. Robinson, aired on 2/19/96. Link

8. Tort reform, aired on 12/2/94. Link

9. International trade, with Dr. Henry Nau, aired sometime in 1995. Link

NON-MONEY RADIO BONUS TRACK

I also have some even older stuff. Now this one is short, and has nothing at all to do with politics or economics. It’s what you heard if you were listening to me on the Canadian Forces Network in Brunssum, the Netherlands, at 8 o’clock on the morning of Saturday, 27 April, 1991. It’s the oldest air check I can find, so far. I edited out the music breaks, so it’s mainly my interstitials. I notice the sound quality on my CFNB air checks is way better than my KMNY ones. Probably because I didn’t use shitty cassettes when I made them. This is Memorex, baby. Link


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Dietary Guidelines

Dietary guidelines – the Washington Free Beacon got a triple Drudge link yesterday pointing to an article on the new USDA guidelines for making sure we’re being good little tax payers and can continue to be good little tax payers (until we get to be 75, at which point we should just die so as to prevent being a burden on society and our families).

Obviously someone in the Drudge organization wanted to get attention on this yesterday, but not as a red-letter item.   However, it has or had, three links to it, which I always view as meaning they understand people click for reasons of personal interest, and they provided three reasons, all of which to me boiled down to ‘hey, you kinda concerned about government intrusion into your personal life????’.

What all three links jumped to is a high level review of the new Dietary Guidelines recommendations that the USDA is unleashing on us.

I’m (actually) going to review the PDF from the USDA in detail but the highlights of the article show some scary possibilities for connections at a high and obvious level.

Considering right off the top of my head,  the beautiful union of  what I call the Affordable Insurance Scam (ACA/Obamacare), and Net Neutrality rules:

the government thinks it can monitor pretty much anything you do to your body on the theory that they’re now helping to pay for your healthcare.  So they recommend ‘trained interventionists’ will help out at work sites, food sites, businesses, schools, the community….to help you manage your weight problem.

and…tax increases, of course, because it’s essential we keep Moloch’s fires burning ya know….so they’re recommending sin taxes on desserts (yeah, seriously) and I’m sure soda, and chips, and yeah….

And finally the USDA thinks it’s a good idea to monitor our ‘screen time’ to see if we’re spending too much time sitting in front of a TV or, I’ll wager, a computer, kindle, cell phone.

Sure, I could be reaching, but I’m fairly sure it will eventually tie to the recent drive they have in saving our Internet with Net Neutrality regulations.   I say I could be reaching, but they said that when we observed the nanny state would soon outlaw transfats too.   Open the gate, they’ll see a need to come on in.

If you’re still using dead tree products to read of course you’ll be okay.  They probably think it more healthy to remain sedentary reading a book for 5 hours than it is remaining sedentary viewing information from a screen for 5 hours.   Probably because they figure Americans just don’t DO that.

Which is part of the reason we’re where we are today really.  We’re proving we really are morons.

So, here’s the USDA recommendations.

And those recommendations even on the surface scare the crap out of me because unlike the good old days when the government could ‘recommend’ things, now they don’t recommend, they use their power over the national purse, over business regulations, over utility regulations, and the power of tax enforcement to ‘recommend’ things by way of financially punishing us to help correct our erroneous (not in agreement with what they want) ways of thinking and acting in our private lives.

We’re not quite there, yet, but data gathering is a tool, a resource, and a creepy way of watching everything you’re doing if you’re not using cash for your purchases.   Your WalMart purchase doesn’t just show dollar amounts to the world.

“I see you bought 3 pounds of cane sugar, 2 lbs of butter, 2 dozen eggs, 2 gallons of fat milk, and 10 lbs of refined white flour…..why?”

Not there yet, but the capability is there, and all that has to happen is someone like the Obama administration decides they can regulate to the businesses that they need that information for health care purposes.

Oh, and don’t reflect on over 40 years of being told, by this same government, that refined grains were great for you, or that dietary cholesterol was really bad for you.

All in all, it’s working out to be pretty twisted but not really that surprising given our betters view on who’s in charge here and who works for who.

I’m pretty sure Khrushchev and Brezhnev and the rest of the Homburg hat wearing politburo weren’t necessarily worried about your diet as long as you kept your head down, kept quiet, and did your part like a good little soviet comrade.

Excuse me, is that tiramisu you’re eating there Winston?

 

 

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How not to fight the problem of ISIS

If, in fact, you believe that Marie Harf was winging it and stating her own opinion about Islamic extremists (oh, wait, “frustrated job seekers”) needing jobs, etc., get a load of Sec. of State John Kerry:

“Why do people make what to many of us would seem to be an utterly wrongheaded choice and become the kind of terrorists that we’re seeing?” he asked. “It’s a question that we need to approach with humility, but also with determination, because you cannot defeat what you don’t understand.”

“Certainly, there is no single answer,” Kerry continued. “In our era, poisonous ideas can come from almost anywhere – from parents, teachers, friends, preachers, politicians – from the pretty woman on a radical website who lures people or the man in the next cell who proselytizes while in prison.

“They might grow from pictures seen on the nightly news or from acts of discrimination or repression that you don’t think much about on the day of occurrence, but which come back to haunt. It could come from the desire to avenge the death of a loved one,” he said.

“In some cases, they may come from a lost job or from the contrast between one family’s empty dinner plate and a fancy restaurant’s lavish menu. The poison might even come from within, in the form of rebellion against anonymity, the desire to belong to a group, people who want a moment of visibility and identity, or the hunger for black-and-white answers to problems that are very complex in a remarkably more complicated world.”

In general, he has a point. Depending on the problem, people are motivated by all sorts of things to become part of that problem.  And it makes sense to remove that motivation.  Figuring that out is how you put a strategy to defeat the problem.

Specifically, however, it isn’t at all hard to figure out what motivates ISIS and THAT is the problem we face today.

The motivator? Islam.  The “holy texts”.  The desire for the Caliphate set up under precise rules set out by Islam’s founder.  That is why they fight.  That’s why they do what they do.

Sometimes you just have to apply Occam’s razor for heaven sake.

So, to recap: what motivates those who proclaim ISIS and the Caliphate is their religion.  That’s it.  How they were “radicalized” is less important than the fact that they were and are now a threat.  And understanding what motivates that threat is how you put together a strategy to defeat them.

Instead we get this institutional load of liberal angst that, for the most part, is nonsense.  Why can’t they bring themselves to face and name the problem? They don’t have any problem in identifying “right-wing domestic terrorists”  Why not religious terrorists?

As I said, it certainly makes sense to remove the “underlying cause” of the problem … if that’s possible.  But if we think we can somehow be a credible force in doing that, we’re wrong.  We – the US, Europe, the West – aren’t in any position to do that since we are identified as the enemy of everything they hold dear.  More importantly, it has nothing to do with jobs or dinner plates.  It is a religious movement.

So when you finally realize that attacking the “underlying causes” of something like ISIS is a fool’s errand, what should you do?

Well, this will be unpalatable to some out there who have been raised in the “precious princess” society we’ve enabled, but you have to “go medieval” on them.  You have to obliterate them.  You have to make it not worth pursuing their fantasy and something that those who might choose it decide to reject.

Jobs won’t do that.  Dropping packages of money on them won’t do that.  They have the job they want and they’re the richest terror organization going.

What we have to do is systematically and completely destroy them – root and branch – by using everything reasonable at our disposal.  Now, I understand that’s sort of difficult with a religious death cult, but I’d bet, once the reversals started and the ISIS death toll rose, the marginal jihadis would think twice about joining up.  Right now, there’s little downside.

Bottom line? If you want to stop the “pretty woman on the radical website” from having an impact,  destroy her story so thoroughly that she can’t spin her web of lies credibly anymore – and then take down her freakin’ website.

But as long as we try to avoid naming the problem and take half-measures while wringing our hands like a bunch of old women, the problem will both persist and get worse.

And trying to lay the load of “nuanced” crap Kerry pushed out there on the problem of ISIS avoids naming the problem and thus identifying a workable strategy which certainly guarantees it will persist.

Anyone who is surprised by that simply hasn’t been paying attention.  After all, look who is in charge.

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 19 Feb 15

Initial weekly jobless claims fell 21,000 to 283,000. The 4-week average fell 6,500 to 283,250. Continuing claims rose 58,000 to 2.425 million.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index rose 0.3 points to 44.6 in the latest week.

The general business conditions index of the Philadelphia Fed’s Business Outlook Survey fell 1.1 points to 5.2 in February.

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

The Fed’s balance sheet fell $-4.8 billion last week, with total assets of $4.497 trillion. Reserve bank credit rose $11.5 billion.

The Fed reports that M2 money supply fell by $-9.8 billion in the latest week.


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Economic Statistics for 18 Feb 15

Net foreign demand for long-term US securities rose $35.4 billion in December, mainly on US selling of foreign securities. Foreign accounts were actually net sellers in the month.

The MBA reports that mortgage applications fell for the 5th straight week, down -13.2%, with purchases down 7.0% and refis down 16%.

Housing starts fell -2.0%in January, to a 1.065 million annual rate, though that is an 18.7% increase over a year ago.

The Producer Price Index for Final Demand fell -0.8% in January, while prices less food and energy fell -0.1%. Prices less food, energy & trade services fell -0.3%. Overall, prices for Goods fell -2.1% while Services prices fell -0.2%. Prices on a year-over-year basis:

PPI-FD: -0.1%
PPI-FD less food & energy: 1.5%
PPI-FD less food, energy & trade services: 0.9%
PPI-FD Goods: -3.9%
PPI-FD Services: 1.9%

Redbook reports retail sales rose 3.2% on a year-ago basis, up from last week’s 2.1%.

The Fed reports that Industrial production rose 0.2% in January, while capacity utilization in the nation’s factories fell -0.3% to 79.4%. Manufacturing output rose 0.2%.


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Doubling down on stupid

That’s what Ms. Harf did yesterday (see below), after she caught flak all over the place for her absolutely clueless argument concerning ISIS and … jobs.  Appearing with Wolf Blitzer, here’s how it went down:

When Wolf Blitzer observed that the poverty-breeds-terrorism theory is hopelessly flawed and that high-profile attackers like Osama bin Laden and Mohamed Atta were relatively comfortable and privileged, Harf declined to acknowledge his point. Though she issued an emphatic “absolutely” so as to convey that she was, in fact, listening to Blitzer and understood the words that were coming out of his mouth, she instead plunged into a pre-canned attempt at damage control as her response:

“If we looked around the world and say long-term we cannot kill every terrorist around the world nor should we try, how do you get at the root causes of this?” she asked. “Look, it might be too nuanced of an argument for some like I’ve seen over the past 24 hours some of the commentary out but it’s really the smart way for Democrats, for Republicans, military commanders, our partners in the Arab world think we need to combat it.”

There’s really no other way to interpret that. If you don’t think that statements like “we can’t kill our way out of this war” and asserting that ISIS militants “lack opportunity for jobs” oversimplifies the crisis in the Middle East, Harf does not believe that you are her intellectual equal.

Good lord, Ms. Harf – sometimes it is better to remain silent and be perceived a fool instead of opening your mouth and removing all doubt.  Nuanced?  Nuanced?!

It is a stupid and uninformed argument.

Stupid!  Uninformed!

Sorry, I’m not feeling a “nuanced” rebuttal is warranted.

As Noah Rothman concludes:

That she would flatter herself into believing that she had spoken over the nation’s heads reflects the hubris that explains her insultingly naïve belief that this abhorrent ideology can only be defeated by an army of career counselors.

Indeed.

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 17 Feb 15

The Fed’s Empire State Manufacturing Survey fell to 7.78 in February from January’s 9.95.

The NAHB housing market index fell -2 points in February to 55.

E-Commerce sales from the 4th Quarter of 2014 fell to 2.3%, down from 3.6% in the 3rd Quarter. Year-on-year, sales are up 14.6%, while e-commerce sales to 0.1% to account for 6.7% of all retail sales.


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ISIS doesn’t need killing. They need jobs!

To describe our State Department (and it’s spokes person) as boneheaded is an insult to boneheaded people.  Here’s State Department Spokesperson Marie Harf and, of all people, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews:

MATTHEWS: How do we stop this? I don’t see it. I see the Shia militias coming out of Baghdad who are all Shia. The Sunnis hate them. The Sunnis are loyal to ISIS rather than going in with the Shia. You’ve got the Kurds, the Jordanian air force and now the Egyptian air force. But i don’t see any — If i were ISIS, I wouldn’t be afraid right now. I can figure there is no existential threat to these people. They can keep finding places where they can hold executions and putting the camera work together, getting their props ready and killing people for show. And nothing we do right now seems to be directed at stopping this.

HARF: Well, I think there’s a few stages here. Right now what we’re doing is trying to take their leaders and their fighters off the battlefield in Iraq and Syria. That’s really where they flourish.

MATTHEWS: Are we killing enough of them?

HARF: We’re killing a lot of them and we’re going to keep killing more of them. So are the Egyptians, so are the Jordanians. They’re in this fight with us. But we cannot win this war by killing them. We cannot kill our way out of this war. We need in the medium to longer term to go after the root causes that leads people to join these groups, whether it’s lack of opportunity for jobs, whether —

MATTHEWS: We’re not going to be able to stop that in our lifetime or fifty lifetimes. There’s always going to be poor people. There’s always going to be poor muslims, and as long as there are poor Muslims, the trumpet’s blowing and they’ll join. We can’t stop that, can we?

HARF: We can work with countries around the world to help improve their governance. We can help them build their economies so they can have job opportunities for these people…

Good grief, these people don’t want better “governance” and they’ve got the job they want … building the Caliphate.  For heaven sake when are these ass-clowns going to wake up?

I’m again going to recommend an article that does the best analysis and explanation of ISIS that you’re going to find.  It is very clear that those who rally to the ISIS banner think they’re building a righteous future with the Caliphate and that what they’re doing is preordained by their religion.

But the fools who run this country and our foreign policy – that would be the White House and State Department – are terrified of facing the threat and calling it what it is.  It’s absurd and cowardly.  It makes them come up with the sorts of pitiful nonsense that Harf is told to go out and spread.

This is a religious movement which is based, at its very core, on Islam.  It is as religious a movement as you can get.  In fact, as explained in the Atlantic article I’ve pointed you too, it is based in a literal interpretation of Islam’s holy book and its history.  Let me hit you with that one particular quote again:

The reality is that the Islamic State is Islamic. Very Islamic. Yes, it has attracted psychopaths and adventure seekers, drawn largely from the disaffected populations of the Middle East and Europe. But the religion preached by its most ardent followers derives from coherent and even learned interpretations of Islam.

Virtually every major decision and law promulgated by the Islamic State adheres to what it calls, in its press and pronouncements, and on its billboards, license plates, stationery, and coins, “the Prophetic methodology,” which means following the prophecy and example of Muhammad, in punctilious detail. Muslims can reject the Islamic State; nearly all do. But pretending that it isn’t actually a religious, millenarian group, with theology that must be understood to be combatted, has already led the United States to underestimate it and back foolish schemes to counter it. We’ll need to get acquainted with the Islamic State’s intellectual genealogy if we are to react in a way that will not strengthen it, but instead help it self-immolate in its own excessive zeal.

Note what the author points out – that “pretending it isn’t actually religious … has already led the United States to underestimate it and back foolish schemes to counter it.”

See above!  Harf is just a symptom of the idiocy and cowardice that infests our highest levels of government.  When you refuse to actually identify the enemy and his motivation, you cannot hope to devise and develop a plan to counter his threat.  History is littered with the failure such nonsense brings.  Chamberlin thought Hitler could be reasoned with and would keep his word.  He was clueless.  And, as such, he developed a “strategy” that was an abject failure and, in fact, played right into Hitler’s hands.

Obama and Kerry are no different.  They refuse to face the reality of the threat.  That’s why we have no strategy, or at least no strategy (patience?  really?) that will counter the threat.  What they are doing is cowardly and reprehensible, not to mention being derelict in their sworn duties.  This is unacceptable, but then neither Obama nor Kerry have ever been mistaken as leaders.

And when you elect or appoint people with no leadership experience and no real world experience, you get this.  Something 50% of the idiots who live in this country approve of (sorry, I’m a little grumpy today).

~McQ

 

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