Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Bottom line in the Middle East

And it is fairly obvious from here:

Maybe Putin will save Assad, maybe he won’t. But people and governments in the Middle East will long remember that Obama’s definition of leadership meant abandoning our allies in Baghdad, showing the back of his hand to our friends in Jerusalem, cozying up to the liars and killers in Tehran, waging an effete air campaign against ISIS, and dithering while Syria descended into an almost unimaginable humanitarian crisis.

In the broader region, Obama’s leadership left Libya in ruins and wide open to ISIS penetration, alienated Egypt, decreased our leverage in Pakistan, and accomplished almost nothing in Afghanistan except to turn it into a safe haven for pederasts.

Obama’s disastrous failure to lead in the Middle East has helped to flood Europe with refugees and potential terrorists, encouraging the rise of Putin-like far-right parties throughout NATO and the EU. Meanwhile, Moscow appears set to flagrantly violate Obama’s New START agreement, building up its arsenal of deployed nuclear warheads above the impending caps. Our own arsenal continues to shrink, already well under the 2018 limits.

However, the president does see an opportunity coming soon to turn all this around, telling Kroft that “my definition of leadership would be leading on climate change, an international accord that potentially we’ll get in Paris.”

Obama fiddled with the thermostat while the world burned.

So I’m off the grid for a few days (enjoyably so) and find not much has changed.

And, given that, now we’re in the middle of “reaping the whirlwind”.

Meanwhile, the dope in the White House is all about fighting “climate change” which apparently doesn’t deal with whirlwinds.  His Secretary of State reminds us he’s “concerned” about the Russians and the Middle East, which, you know, is pretty proactive for this administration.

And our erstwhile or, perhaps “former” allies in the region?

They’re shopping for a new patron.


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Car Bleg

So, here’s the deal. While I love doing car reviews—and I fancy that people enjoy reading them—doing them is a bit of a burden. It’s a burden either financially, because I have to rent the car for a few days, or in time and effort as I have to acquire them by…other means.

What I really need is regular access to a press fleet, and I haven’t been successful in being able to do that. So, I’m wondering, do any of you, dear readers, have any ability to help me get into the press fleet pool, or otherwise get access to review vehicles? If so, contact me at


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Economic Statistics for 8 Oct 15

Chain stores—at least those that still report monthly sales results—are reporting slightly higher rates of year-over-year sales growth for September.

Initial weekly jobless claims fell 13,000 to 263,000. The 4-week average fell 3,000 to 267,500. Continuing claims rose 9,000 to 2.204 million.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index rose 1.8 points to 44.8 in the latest week.

The Fed’s balance sheet rose $2.1 billion last week, with total assets of $4.486 trillion. Reserve bank credit fell $-1.3 billion.

The Fed reports that M2 money supply fell by $-46.6 billion in the latest week.

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Economic Statistics for 7 Oct 15

The MBA reports that mortgage applications rose 25.5% last week, with purchases up 27% and refis 24.0%. This huge jump is the result of new disclosure rules, under the TILA-RESPA regulatory change.

The Gallup U.S. Job Creation Index was unchanged in September at 32.

Consumer credit rose $16.0 billion in August, with revolving credit up $4.0 billion.

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Political charlatans and the damage they’ve done – is it reversible?

Thomas Sowell discusses the rash of political charlatans we’ve been plagued by over the recent decades.

He blames them for the condition we’re in, policy-wise.  But he puts equal blame on “we the people” for continuing to support them and their policies:

Political charlatans are not the whole story of our social degeneracy on many fronts. “We the people” must accept our own share of the blame because we voted these charlatans into office, and went along with their ever-increasing power over our lives.

When it came to charlatans taking ever larger amounts of our own money to finance ever more big government programs, we stood still like sheep waiting to be sheared. We remained as meek as sheep when they turned schools into places to propagandize our children to grow up accepting more of the same.

All the while we had the power to vote them out. But we couldn’t be bothered to look beyond their magic words. Even now, many are too absorbed in their electronic devices to know or care.

Most voters, it seems to me, are like magpies – distracted by shiny things and never able to see the danger that exists in reality.  Sowell uses “the legacy of slavery” as one of his points of discussion.  I’m going to add a lengthy quote that pretty succinctly tells the story of how we allowed political charlatans to distract us with a problem that seems to not have existed and used it to gain greater control over our lives while, in fact, making the “problem” worse”

Here again, rhetoric distracts attention from questions about logic or evidence. The “legacy of slavery” argument is not just a convenient excuse for bad behavior, it allows politicians to escape responsibility for the consequences of the government policies they imposed.

Although the left likes to argue as if there was a stagnant world to which they added the magic ingredient of “change” in the 1960s, in reality there were many positive trends in the 1950s, which reversed and became negative trends in the 1960s.

Not only was the poverty rate going down, so was the rate of dependence on government to stay out of poverty. Teenage pregnancy rates were falling, and so were rates of venereal diseases like syphilis and gonorrhea. Homicide rates among non-white males fell 22 percent in the 1950s.

In the wake of the massive expansion of the welfare state in the 1960s “war on poverty” program — with the repeatedly announced goal of enabling people to become self-supporting and end their dependence on government — in fact dependence on government increased and is today far higher than when the 1960s began.

The declining rates of teenage pregnancy and venereal diseases in the 1950s both reversed and rose sharply in the wake of the 1960s “sexual revolution” ideas, introduced into schools under the guise of “sex education,” which claimed to be able to reduce teenage pregnancy and venereal diseases.

Black labor force participation rates, which had been higher than white labor force participation rates in every census from 1890 to 1960, fell below white labor force participation rates by 1972 and the gap has widened since then. Homicide rates among non-white males reversed their decline in the 1950s and soared by 75 percent during the 1960s.

None of this was a “legacy of slavery,” which ended a century earlier. But slavery became the rhetorical distraction for the political magicians’ trick of making their own responsibility for social degeneration vanish into thin air by sleight of hand.

Now you can point to many negatives the “War on Poverty” brought us … Sowell highlights the big ones.  But the most important changes were two-fold.  One: it created more dependency on government (and it helped tear the nuclear family apart among the poor) and it created an illusion that government (which mostly meant “Democrats”) cared more than any other institution.

The political charlatans had created a false problem and a false narrative which has had disastrous results in the long run.  But those changes it created were manifestly worth it according to certain of the political class, because it increased their power.  And the narrative that has been built about this program (and the “legacy of slavery”), along with the narrative that has created the “cult of the victim”, has hidden the huge problems created by government intrusion and instead has created a myth which says “more government is good government”.

So you end up with an entire segment of the voting public duped by this “shiny” narrative and either too lazy or too incurious to look below its surface.  That’s the formula for political success on one side and national decline on the other.

The question, then, is how do the defenders of liberty catch the attention of the voting magpies and help them catch a clue? Facts apparently don’t matter.  And alternate narratives don’t seem to stick.

If you can answer that question, you’ve hit upon a way to help save this country.  I’ve been trying to come up with a way for 40 years.

I wish you luck.


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Economic Statistics for 6 Oct 15

A drop in exports, combined with a surge of new iPhone imports, increased the US Trade Deficit to $-48.3 billion in August.

The Gallup Economic Confidence Index dropped another point in September, to -14.

Reebok reports that last week’s retail sales rose, but only to a weak 0.9% on a year-ago basis, from the previous week’s 0.7%.

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Arrogance, ignorance, incompetence and narcissism all in one package … lucky us

And I bet you don’t even have to guess about whom I am talking:

David Petraeus testified last month to the Senate Armed Services Committee on U.S. policy in the Middle East. Regarding Syria, the former general and CIA director urged a credible threat to destroy Bashar Assad’s air force if it continues to bomb its own people. He also recommended “the establishment of enclaves in Syria protected by coalition air power, where a moderate Sunni force could be supported and where additional forces could be trained, internally displaced persons could find refuge, and the Syrian opposition could organize.”

But Barack Obama does not agree. At his Friday press conference, the president described such views as “mumbo-jumbo,” “half-baked ideas,” “as-if” solutions, a willful effort to “downplay the challenges involved in the situation.” He says the critics have no answers to the questions of “what exactly would you do and how would you fund it and how would you sustain it.”

America’s greatest living general might as well have been testifying to his shower drain for all the difference his views are going to make in this administration.

Exactly right – because, you know, ‘smartest man in the room’ and don’t you forget it.  Anyone who champions actual, practical and doable solutions is, well, “downplaying the challenges” of the situation.

Really?  Seems to me that Petraeus addressed them specifically and offered solutions.

One problem.  They would actually mean Obama would have to get off his duff and actually DO something.


It’s not enough for him to stake and defend his positions. He wants you to know that he thinks deeper, sees further, knows better, operates from a purer motive. His preferred method for dealing with disagreement is denigration. If Republicans want a tougher line in Syria, they’re warmongers. If Hillary Clinton thinks a no-fly zone is a good idea, she’s playing politics: “There is obviously a difference,” the president tut-tutted about his former secretary of state’s position, “between running for president and being president.”

You can interpret that jab as a sign Mr. Obama is urging Joe Biden to run. It’s also a reminder that Mr. Obama believes his Syria policy—the one that did nothing as 250,000 people were murdered; the one that did nothing as his own red lines were crossed; the one that allowed ISIS to flourish; the one that has created the greatest refugee crisis of the 21st century; the one currently being exploited by Russia and Iran for geopolitical advantage—is a success.

No kidding.  And the arrogant look he has for those who disagree is simply the bomb.  He, and I don’t know how else to describe this, ignorantly and arrogantly thinks he’s doing the right thing and actually succeeding.  Either that or he is indeed the smartest man in the room only when the room is empty of everyone else.

For instance, the Petraeus recommendations are not only good, they’re backed by experience and a good outcome:

As for what a serious Syria policy might look like, the U.S. proved it was capable of creating safe havens and enforcing no-fly zones in 1991 with Operation Provide Comfort, which stopped Saddam Hussein from massacring Kurds in northern Iraq the way he had butchered Shiites in southern Iraq.

Remember that?

And what has President Dither done?  Well, certainly nothing that could be conceivably considered a coherent policy by anyone but a sycophant. In fact, unless you consider doing nothing a “policy”, well, he’s done nothing.

But he knows best, because “there’s a difference” between “running for President and being President.”

In terms of this Presidency, I fail to see the difference.


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How do you argue with those who base their arguments in fantasy?

Ah, yes … another sicko rampages and the same old bromides are offered as a cure.  More laws.  Fewer guns.  Yatta, yatta.

Let’s face it, if restrictive laws were the answer, we wouldn’t have a drug problem, would we?  And we’ve tried prohibition before, haven’t we?  How’d that turn out?

What we have among the gun grabbers is an argument based on a false premise.  It goes, “if we restrict or ban something (guns), we’ll have less of something (in this case, violence and death) else.”  To believe that premise, you have to believe that the “something” is the problem and the only problem, and not anything else (i.e. the culture or human nature (or both)).  You have to believe that if you “ban” that something (and in this case the “something” is an inanimate object), that alone will achieve the goal (less violence and death).

There is absolutely no rational basis for such a conclusion, especially when banned object is inanimate. Dumb.  Can’t act on its own.  It isn’t the “cause” of the violence and death.  It may be the instrument, but the cause is holding the gun, or knife, or club or rock, or explosive.

The obvious extension of such thinking is cars cause accidents, spoons make you fat and beer makes us alcoholics.   If we just banned them we’d have no accidents nor would we get fat and there would be no alcoholism. There is no one that will admit to believing that (and at least with the last, we have practical experience to refute the belief).  Yet those who want gun control willingly put forward that argument when it pertains to guns and are amazed when others not only don’t agree but tend to deride them and their argument (and privately, they likely question their ability to reason critically).

So to those of you who know all of this already, I apologize.  I know … basic reasoning 101.  Nothing really magic here.

However, this is the argument those who would ban guns (and “cleverly” try to hide that in phrases like “common sense gun laws” and “more rigorous background checks”) use daily.  And, unfortunately, there is a rather large segment of the population who abandoned critical thinking (and knowledge about history, economics and all sorts of important and useful subjects) a long time ago that buy into this nonsensical argument.

In the case of guns, those who would take yours also live with a number of fantasies they (at least when it concerns guns) consider to be fact and the underly their “argument”.  A) Laws will stop unwanted actions and outcomes.  B) Banning something effectively removes it from society.  And C) Criminals will obey the law and the ban.  Again, no thinking human being can intellectually buy into those fantasies.  Laws don’t stop unwanted outcomes (they proscribe the behavior and punish the law breaker who behaves in that manner), banning usually has the opposite effect, creating a black market in the banned item (and giving it a certain chic) and finally criminals, aka “scofflaws” will not obey the law nor will they honor the ban.  They never have … thus the name.

So, here’s my question – how do you argue with people who insist on fantasy based arguments?

Ok, so it’s sort of rhetorical – the answer, as you all know, is “you don’t”.

You don’t waste your time or your effort on people who seem unable to separate fact from fiction/fantasy and critical arguments from bunk.

The problem, of course, is if you remain silent, then the “low information” types are left with a single, screechy and strident voice that misrepresents facts and figures to back their fantasies.

And we all know that if they get enough of that type, things like “prohibition” happen (and frankly, it is a miracle of sorts that prohibition actually was repealed … government rarely gives up any power it gathers to itself).

If you want to see a civil war in this country, it likely won’t be about race, or abortion, or even a hundred other wedge issues.

It’ll be about guns and who is or isn’t allowed to keep them.



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