April 2015 Archives
So, we're having the hottest year on record, but economic growth was suppressed by the abnormally cold winter? I mean, c'mon, if you're going to BS us at least get your stories straight.
Jeremy Warner writes that widespread negative interest rates demonstrate that the world is fighting for every scrap of demand. If you're young enough, stay employed and ride out the coming correction by staying fully invested.
The flip side of the cheap money story is soaring asset prices. The bond market bubble is just the half of it; since most other assets are priced relative to bonds, just about everything else has been going up as well. Eventually, there will be a massive correction, in which creditors will suffer sickening losses.
Nobody can tell you when that moment will arrive. We live in an "extend and pretend" world in which economies pathetically fight between themselves for any scraps of demand. One burst of money printing is met by another in an ultimately futile, zero-sum game of competitive currency devaluation.
Baltimore hasn't had a Republican mayor for almost 50 years, so don't blame "America" as a whole for the city's problems: blame the Democrats who have run the place. Pray for Baltimore and that its leaders find wisdom.
In 2012, after four years of his own failed policies, President Obama won a whopping 87.4% of the Baltimore City vote. Democrats run the city of Baltimore, the unions, the schools, and, yes, the police force. Since 1969, there have only been only been two Republican governors of the State of Maryland.
Elijah Cummings has represented Baltimore in the U.S. Congress for more than thirty years. As I write this, despite his objectively disastrous reign, the Democrat-infested mainstream media is treating the Democrat like a local folk hero, not the obvious and glaring failure he really is.
Every single member of the Baltimore city council is a Democrat.
Liberalism and all the toxic government dependence and cronyism and union corruption and failed schools that comes along with it, has run amok in Baltimore for a half-century, and that is Baltimore's problem. It is the free people of Baltimore who elect and then re-elect those who institute policies that have so spectacularly failed that once-great city. It is the free people of Baltimore who elected Mayor Room-To-Destroy.
It appears that some prominent scientists and researchers have been hired by the Global Warming Policy Foundation to look into the adjusted surface temperature records for the last 150 years or so. The GWPF is generally skeptical of anthropogenic global warming, but hopefully the inquiry will be rigorous and transparent enough that its conclusions, whatever they are, will be above reproach.
Their inquiry's central aim will be to establish a comprehensive view of just how far the original data has been "adjusted" by the three main surface records: those published by the Goddard Institute for Space Studies (Giss), the US National Climate Data Center and Hadcrut, that compiled by the East Anglia Climatic Research Unit (Cru), in conjunction with the UK Met Office's Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction. All of them are run by committed believers in man-made global warming. ...
For this the GWPF panel is initially inviting input from all those analysts across the world who have already shown their expertise in comparing the originally recorded data with that finally published. In particular, they will be wanting to establish a full and accurate picture of just how much of the published record has been adjusted in a way which gives the impression that temperatures have been rising faster and further than was indicated by the raw measured data.
Happy Monday! If you're looking for some encouragement, check out this bullish article about imminent American energy dominance. We've got the right combination of geography and culture to harness oil and natural gas resources that no one else in the world can touch.
"We're just fifteen years into a 150-year process," said Steve Mueller, head of Southwestern Energy, the fourth biggest producer of gas in the US.
Our buddy Putin in Russia is worried.
Russian president Vladimir Putin warned at the St Petersburg economic summit last year that US shale gas was abruptly changing the international order, with serious implications for his country. The early effects have forced down global LNG prices, creating a rival source of gas supply in Europe.
Any future American cargoes would further erode Gazprom's pricing power in Europe, and erode the Kremlin's political leverage. The EU already has a large network of import terminals for LNG.
Lithuania has just finished its "Independence" terminal, opening up the Baltic states to LNG. Poland's new terminal should be ready this year.
Russia has the gepgraphy, but not the know-how or culture to support fracking.
Lukoil analysts say Russian extraction costs for shale are four times higher that those of US wildcat drillers. Sanctions currently prevent the Russians importing the know-how and technology to tap its vast Bazhenov basin at a viable cost.
John Hess, the founder of Hess Corporation, said it takes a unique confluence of circumstances to pull off a fracking revolution: landowner rights over sub-soil minerals, a pipeline infrastructure, the right taxes and regulations, and good rock. "We haven't seen those stars align yet," he said.
Above all it requires the acquiescence of the people. "It takes a thousand trucks going in and out to launch a (drilling) spud. Not every neighbourhood wants that," he said.
Certainly not in Sussex, Burgundy, or Bavaria.
The 21st Century will be another American Century.
We tend to look back on the past and note a few differences here and there, and then our minds fill in all the blanks with similarities to the present. Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry takes a small step to correct this enormous blind spot we all have by writing a bit about how Christianity invented children, and how modern humanity takes the worth of a child for granted. (Well, except for abortion.)
We have forgotten just how deep a cultural revolution Christianity wrought. In fact, we forget about it precisely because of how deep it was: There are many ideas that we simply take for granted as natural and obvious, when in fact they didn't exist until the arrival of Christianity changed things completely. Take, for instance, the idea of children.
Today, it is simply taken for granted that the innocence and vulnerability of children makes them beings of particular value, and entitled to particular care. We also romanticize children -- their beauty, their joy, their liveliness. Our culture encourages us to let ourselves fall prey to our gooey feelings whenever we look at baby pictures. What could be more natural?
In fact, this view of children is a historical oddity. If you disagree, just go back to the view of children that prevailed in Europe's ancient pagan world.
The New York Times builds on Peter Schweizer's book, "Clinton Cash", with an investigation into Russian nuclear giant Rosatom's purchase of American owned uranium supplies around the world. It's hard to summarize the details, because transactions like this are inherently complicated, so read the whole article if you want to really understand it. Conflicts of interest abound, but it doesn't look like there's a smoking gun quid pro quo. The appearance is bad enough.
As the Russians gradually assumed control of Uranium One in three separate transactions from 2009 to 2013, Canadian records show, a flow of cash made its way to the Clinton Foundation. Uranium One's chairman used his family foundation to make four donations totaling $2.35 million. Those contributions were not publicly disclosed by the Clintons, despite an agreement Mrs. Clinton had struck with the Obama White House to publicly identify all donors. Other people with ties to the company made donations as well.
And shortly after the Russians announced their intention to acquire a majority stake in Uranium One, Mr. Clinton received $500,000 for a Moscow speech from a Russian investment bank with links to the Kremlin that was promoting Uranium One stock.
At the time, both Rosatom and the United States government made promises intended to ease concerns about ceding control of the company's assets to the Russians. Those promises have been repeatedly broken, records show.
It's inconceivable to me that Hillary Clinton could win the presidency with a history like she has, but then I was shocked when Obama won re-election.
North African refugees frequently attempt to flee to Italy from Libya by boat. The crossing is extremely dangerous and hundreds to thousands of people seem to die each year making the journey. It's worse than it sounds though: apparently Muslim refugees are throwing Christians overboard to their deaths.
Italian police said Thursday that 15 African Muslim migrants have been arrested after witnesses said the refugees threw 12 Christians into the Mediterranean following a brawl. ...
During the crossing, the migrants from Nigeria and Ghana -- believed to be Christians -- were threatened with being abandoned at sea by some 15 other passengers from the Ivory Coast, Senegal, Mali and Guinea Bissau.
Eventually the threat was carried out and 12 were pushed overboard. The statement said the motive was that the victims "professed the Christian faith while the aggressors were Muslim."
The surviving Christians, the statement said, only managed to stay on board by forming a "human chain" to resist the assault.
Is this an isolated crime? Or do Muslim refugees commonly murder Christians at sea? Hopefully the investigation will look deeper than this single incident.
Update: President Obama has nothing to say about the persecution of Christians.
(HT: Stephen Green.)
James Taranto notes that the Left support speech by corporations, as long as the speech lines up with the Left's viewpoint. Everything makes sense once you realize that the modern Left is totalitarian.
The Times's position is that corporations (with the convenient exception of "media corporations" like the New York Times Co. itself) have no rights under the First Amendment. That view underlay its histrionic objections to both Citizens United and last year's Hobby Lobby v. Burwell, in which the high court extended the religious-liberty protection of the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act to corporations that objected to the ObamaCare abortifacient mandate on conscientious grounds.
But now the Times is urging corporations, and executives acting in their corporate capacity, to speak out aggressively in favor of a political cause the Times supports. How could they even do so without free speech?
That seems like a rhetorical question but isn't. Opponents of free speech, such as the Times editorial board, do not oppose speech. They oppose freedom. Authoritarian and totalitarian regimes may not brook dissent, but they encourage speech in favor of the regime. Totalitarian regimes frequently compel pro-regime speech.
J. D. Tuccile makes a great point about this IRS pity party.
Whether they worked in Manhattan or Peoria, IRS veterans talk about something else that kept them at the service: the feeling of camaraderie. It was nice that they appreciated one another, because nobody else did. "You go to a party, and if you say you are from the IRS, half the people move into the other room," says Richard Schickel, a former senior collections officer in Tucson who retired in December 2013. "After a while, your wife and relatives get tired of listening to your stories. They say, 'How could you take those people's houses and their businesses?' The only place you get understanding is with other IRS people."
I guess we're supposed to feel sorry for these IRS employees, but Mr. Tuccile makes an insightful observation:
You know...When the people who live with you and (let's assume) love you recoil from you in shock and horror because of your behavior so that the only refuge you can find is among others guilty of the same conduct, perhaps you should consider the possibility that you're doing something really bad.
I don't think that the families of most government employees feel this way -- IRS families may be unique. We should consider why this is the case.
Austin Bay rattles off a list of reasons that people don't trust President Obama -- using a weaving metaphor! What's not clear is whether the President intentionally or unintentionally over-promises and under-delivers.
Obama's "historic understanding" has the sad woof and warp of so many of his administration's domestic and international policy efforts: glowing, inspirational, dramatic rhetoric disguising episodic, hodge-podge, ill-considered, poorly planned and often hastily organized operations. "If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor" is a domestic example. When Obamacare arrived, many Americans learned they could not keep their preferred doctor. Obama said Americans would eventually love the health care law. A substantial majority despises the legislative monstrosity. Now a foreign policy example: Obama's promise to "reset" U.S.-Russia relations. For Vladimir Putin, Obama's reset was a setup. Putin's Russia is now a neo-Fascist expansionary nuclear power slowing carving and digesting Ukraine. Obama's "red line" threat to punish Syria's Assad regime if it used chemical weapons against civilians, and his failure to do so when the Syrians used nerve gas, is another example.
Obama has an enormous trust problem; the man does not keep his word. But his obedient, word-mongering national media corps consistently fails to call him on this grand malfeasance.
It's no coincidence that tax day is opposite of election day (April and November): this is the time of year we're all reminded of how confusing and inefficient our tax system really is. The IRS complains that it doesn't have enough money to administer the system properly, but what about the rest of us? What citizen is happy with the time and effort it takes us to deal with the system?
When callers do get a real person, they can forget about asking questions that require expertise. These are now considered "out of scope." The customer-service agents have been instructed to only tell callers what tax forms they need, where to get them and where to look for online information. Staff can no longer offer line-by-line assistance, provide guidance on tax planning or tax law, or help make payment arrangements.
The IRS doesn't know what it's doing, so how are we supposed to? Instead of pouring more money into the IRS, we need to drastically simplify our tax code to make compliance easier for everyone. Simplification is a separate issue from raising or lowering revenue. We can make a revenue-neutral tax system that is simpler for the government and for citizens.
Meanwhile, this statistic demonstrates the opposite of what the IRS probably intends:
And with 5,000 fewer agents than four years ago to go after tax cheats, officials estimate that $2 billion in revenue will go uncollected.
Each of these agents was only generating $400,000 in revenue? When you subtract the cost of their employment and the value of taxpayer time to deal with the hassle, it seems like a no-brainer to lay them off.
Says Ace of Spades, who advocates quitting the TV addition for personal and political reasons. I mostly agree, which is why I don't have cable, satellite, or broadcast TV. My wife and I probably watch five hours of TV a week on Netflix or the like. The kids watch more, but mostly educational shows and zero commercials.
It's hard to fill your time with productive and edifying experiences!
When we were kids, not a one of us thought about the lives we would live when we were adults and thought, "Some nights, I swear, I'm gonna just come home from work and then watch five hours of TV straight!! Whoopee!!"
TV is compromise, TV is defeat, TV is acceptance, TV is mediocrity.
And it's an industry held almost entirely in Enemy Hands, by the idiot descendants of carnival-barkers and pornographers who just happened to realize that every new technology which permits people to live less life will be a financial winner.
We can free ourselves and maybe, even, free this country.
We can Kill The Messenger.