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Another Obama administration foreign policy “triumph”

In another “foreign policy triumph” for the US, Afghanistan, a client nation of the US for over a decade, is apparently turning to an old patron:

Afghanistan, battered by worsening security, is reaching out to an old ally and patron—Russia—just as the Kremlin is seeking to reassert its position as a heavyweight on the world stage.

President Ashraf Ghani has asked Moscow for artillery, small arms and Mi-35 helicopter gunships for his country’s struggling military, Afghan and Russian officials say, after the U.S. and its allies pulled most of their troops from Afghanistan and reduced financial aid.

“Russia is seizing the opportunity,” a U.S. official said.

Certainly, there are plenty who are aware of the old saw, “the graveyard of empires” and will shrug this off as good riddance. Let Russia deal with it.

Of course the point is that Afghanistan is turning to Russia mainly because it doesn’t have any confidence in the US anymore. We all understand that Afghanistan is both tribal and corrupt. But that goes with the territory, literally and figuratively. Russia is unlikely to worry to much about that.

It also demonstrates on a micro level what we are seeing on a more macro level. With the decline of US influence in the area, Russia is taking the opportunity to assert its own. Whether you care one whit about Afghanistan, this is a disturbing trend. And, just as obvious, our “leaders” haven’t a clue on how to stop the trend. Obviously Afghanistan feels that their worsening security is inextricably linked to US decisions. The country appears to have no confidence in the US.

Unfortunately, that ‘no confidence’ vote didn’t originate in Afghanistan. It has been echoed by other countries in the region as well … to include Israel.

The foreign policy of this administration, that of Mr. Obama, Ms. Clinton and Mr. Kerry, have seen the withdrawal of the US in the area and a diminution its prestige and power.

Some may cheer this, but the bottom line is that such actions (or lack thereof) have made the region and the world a much more dangerous place than it was in 2008.


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Colleges: First Amendment outdated?

That, at least, is the result of a survey recently completed:

To put some numbers behind that perception, The William F. Buckley Jr. Program at Yale recently commissioned a survey from McLaughlin & Associates about attitudes towards free speech on campus. Some 800 students at a variety of colleges across the country were surveyed. The results, though not surprising, are nevertheless alarming. By a margin of 51 percent to 36 percent, students favor their school having speech codes to regulate speech for students and faculty. Sixty-three percent favor requiring professors to employ “trigger warnings” to alert students to material that might be discomfiting. One-third of the students polled could not identify the First Amendment as the part of the Constitution that dealt with free speech. Thirty-five percent said that the First Amendment does not protect “hate speech,” while 30 percent of self-identified liberal students say the First Amendment is outdated.

This is simply the latest proof that colleges and universities in this nation are turning from bastions of free speech and academic freedom to institutions that are enabling and enforcing “speech codes” that student activists demand. The result is the death of “robust intellectual debate” on campus. Now administrations feel moved to “protect” those who are uncomfortable with uncomfortable ideas. And they demand penalties and the quashing of those ideas. The very notion that our great institutions of higher learning have bought into this anti-intellectualism should be an anathema to them. But instead they support these sorts of movements.

Just recently Williams College began an “Uncomfortable Learning” speaker series to provide “intellectual diversity” on campus. Ironically, it then disinvited conservative writer Suzanne Venker when, according to the college, her proposed visit was “stirring a lot of angry reactions among students on campus.” Obviously her ideas went beyond “uncomfortable learning”, however Willams College now defines that phrase. But one thing is clear, Williams College is about as committed to “intellectual diversity” as Hillary Clinton is to the truth.

Given all this, is anyone even remotely surprised to see supposed intellectuals who are the products of this sort of education system calling for the jailing of “climate deniers” and the banning of their speech? Free speech is dying in this country and it is doing so in the very institutions that should be its staunchest defender.


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Economic Statistics for 22 Oct 15

Existing home sales rose a strong 4.7% in September to a 5.55 million annual rate. On a year-over-year basis, sales are up 8.8%.

The FHFA House Price Index rose 0.3% in August, and is up 5.5% on a year-ago basis.

The Conference Board’s Index of Leading Indicators fell back -0.2% in September, mainly due to the fall in building permits.

The Kansas City Fed Manufacturing Index almost rose out of negative territory, rising from -8 to -1 in October.

The Chicago Fed National Activity Index rose from -0.41 to -0.37 for September, still indicating broad weakness in the economy.

Initial weekly jobless claims rose 4,000 to 259,000. The 4-week average fell 2,000 to 263,250. Continuing claims rose 6,000 to 2.170 million.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index fell -1.7 points to 43.5 in the latest week.

The Fed’s balance sheet fell $-3.3 billion last week, with total assets of $4.501 trillion. Reserve bank credit rose $6.0 billion.

The Fed reports that M2 money supply fell by $-18.7 billion in the latest week.

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Is the UN focus on “global warming” immoral?

Bjorn Lomborg thinks it is.  In today’s Wall Street Journal, he takes exception with the UN’s continued pushing for a “solution” for “climate change”, formerly known as “global warming”.  Lomborg thinks that it ignores the real problems out there and this focus on global warming takes money away from them for what is, at best, a marginal problem.

In a world in which malnourishment continues to claim at least 1.4 million children’s lives each year, 1.2 billion people live in extreme poverty, and 2.6 billion lack clean drinking water and sanitation, this growing emphasis on climate aid is immoral.

For instance, says Lomborg, according to a recent study, if the UN spent .57% ($570 million) of the $100 billion climate-finance goal on mosquito nets to help control malaria, it could reduce malaria deaths by 50% by 2025 and save approximately 300,000 lives.

Instead, the UN is more interested in the world’s largest wealth redistribution scheme.  Somehow the scam has rich nations happy to pledge their citizen’s money and poor nations lining up to receive it.  How much will actually go toward addressing the real problems Lomborg highlights is anyone’s guess, but if history is to be a guide, not much.  There’s a reason the poorer countries are poor and that has much to do with who is in charge.

Anyway, Lomborg points to the obvious, or at least what should be obvious, in terms of this rush to be “green” and what the world (and the UN) could be doing instead:

Providing the world’s most deprived countries with solar panels instead of better health care or education is inexcusable self-indulgence. Green energy sources may be good to keep on a single light or to charge a cellphone. But they are largely useless for tackling the main power challenges for the world’s poor.

According to the World Health Organization, three billion people suffer from the effects of indoor air pollution because they burn wood, coal or dung to cook. These people need access to affordable, reliable electricity today. Yet too often clean alternatives, because they aren’t considered “renewable,” aren’t receiving the funding they deserve.

2014 study by the Center for Global Development found that “more than 60 million additional people in poor nations could gain access to electricity if the Overseas Private Investment Corporation”—the U.S. government’s development finance institution—“were allowed to invest in natural gas projects, not just renewables.”

Wow.  Electricity.  Its been with us for over a century.  We all know its benefits.  We all know how well its access could help lift those without it out of poverty.

Yet the UN is more interested in chasing the chimera of “global warming” and its unproven science.  The reason, of course is power.  Money and control equal power.  And this scheme with $100 billion changing hands under the auspices of the UN offers undreamed of opportunities for those in the UN to engage in an unprecedented level of graft.  There just isn’t the level of opportunity in helping the world’s poor gain electricity.

As you’ve heard many, many times … follow the money.


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Economic Statistics for 20 Oct 15

A light week of economic stats starts with the Housing Market index, which rose 2 points to 64 in October.

September housing starts rose a much stronger than expected 6.5% to a 1.206 annual rate, but permits were weak, falling -5.0% to 1.103 million, annualized. 

Redbook reports that last week’s retail sales improved to 1.3% on a year-ago basis, from the previous week’s 1.1%. Still weak, though.

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Why is Bernie Sanders so popular?

Essentially three reasons – youth, “progressive” leftists and economic illiterates.  And, yes, they can be all three.  But not necessarily.

Back in May as Sanders was emerging as a presidential candidate, many were caught by surprise that an avowed socialist could pile up the numbers he was getting.

Bernie Sanders, a Senator for Vermont and currently the only declared challenger to Hillary Clinton for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, is the only member of Congress to describe himself as a socialist. For much of the Cold War socialism evoked images of military parades in Moscow’s Red Square, but for Sanders, and many of America’s self-declared socialists, their aim isn’t to bring revolution to America but to make America more like Sweden and Norway.

And, of course, that’s precisely what we’ve seen Sanders continue to do – tout the European model to hide the well-deserved reputation that socialism really has among the historically literate.  Apparently it has worked.  YouGov did a poll at that time and discovered the source of Sanders support.  While 52% of Americans have a favorable view of capitalism, only 26% have such a view for socialism.  Where is that favorable view to be found?

 Among younger Americans, however, attitudes are a lot more divided. 36% of under-30s have a positive view of socialism, while 39% have a positive view of capitalism.

Among older Americans, who actually lived through the era of socialism and watched its pernicious effects, only 15% view it favorably while 59% view it negatively.  So we have a whole generation growing up who have no experience seeing the reality of socialism played out in front of them.  Instead they’re pointed to a couple of socialist Potemkin villages and told that’s how it can be.  Don’t expect them to read the recent trashing of the Nordic model that is so obvious to those who have even an inkling of economic savvy.

Of course, we shouldn’t be surprised, as the Democratic party continues to move further left, that they support socialism more and more.

Democrats (43%) are also much more likely than either independents (22%) or Republicans (9%) to have a favorable view of socialism. Democrats, in fact, are as likely to have a favorable view of capitalism (43%) as socialism. While only 9% of Republicans see socialism in a positive light, 79% have a good view of capitalism.

History, apparently, has no relevance with the left.  Nor do facts or economic laws.  They’re sure that the only reason the magic of socialism hasn’t been successful and produced the utopia they’re sure it promises is it just hasn’t been done right … yet.

To a good portion of them, Bernie is the man to make that happen.

And, probably just as important is this is the same contingent that helped put our current occupant in the White House and keep him there for 2 terms.


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