The B word

July 9th, 2014

A Democratic congressman:

He’s so close to the border. And let me say this: when I saw, and I hate to use the word bizarre, but under the circumstances, when he is shown playing pool in Colorado, drinking a beer, and he can’t even go 242 miles to the Texas border, and plus, if he doesn’t want to go down to the border, there’s the Air Force Base where HHS is holding some of the young kids from the border. He could at least make that trip to San Antonio…I think it’s worse if he doesn’t even show up. Either way, he’s going to be tied into this humanitarian crisis. he either can roll up his sleeves and go down to the border, or he can just look aloof and detached

Meanwhile, the administration lectures Israel while it’s being attacked by Hamas. B word indeed. (If Democrats are now saying these things on TV, what are they saying behind closed doors?)

Another day…..

July 8th, 2014

Forbes:

NOAA established a network of 114 pristinely sited temperature stations spread out fairly uniformly throughout the United States. Because the network, known as the U.S. Climate Reference Network (USCRN), is so uniformly and pristinely situated, the temperature data require no adjustments to provide an accurate nationwide temperature record. USCRN began compiling temperature data in January 2005. Now, nearly a decade later, NOAA has finally made the USCRN temperature readings available. According to the USCRN temperature readings, U.S. temperatures are not rising at all – at least not since the network became operational 10 years ago. Instead, the United States has cooled by approximately 0.4 degrees Celsius, which is more than half of the claimed global warming of the twentieth century.

Not possible. The aliens control CAGW. Seriously, why all the fuss about CO2 when there is often 100x that amount in water vapor in the atmosphere? Here’s an interesting piece from a professor on the generally ignored issue. Why is this deemphasized in favor of the truly minuscule amount of CO2?

Some numbers on the UC’s

July 7th, 2014

ICE:

97% of UC’s not from Mexico come from Guatemala, El Salvador, or Honduras. Almost 30% are 10-14. A third of UC’s are girls. 95,500 UC’s are expected in FY2015.

Here are pictures of what this mess looks like. As we have asked previously, what kind of parents would abandon their young daughters this way?

No problem

July 6th, 2014

LAT:

The number of immigrants under 18 who were deported or turned away at ports of entry fell from 8,143 in 2008, the last year of the George W. Bush administration, to 1,669 last year, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement data released under a Freedom of Information Act request. Similarly, about 600 minors were ordered deported each year from nonborder states a decade ago. 95 were deported last year

Hmmmm. At that pace, you could clear up the problem of 52,000 in only 31 years.

Another charming fellow

July 5th, 2014

Ibrahim al-Asiri:

The 32-year-old, originally from Saudi Arabia, is a leading figure in the Yemeni-based al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and has been the brains behind a number of high-profile aircraft bomb plots. These have included the so-called “underpants bomber” who tried to blow up a plane as it approached Detroit airport on Christmas Day 2009, and the ink cartridge bombs uncovered at Dubai and East Midlands airport the following year…

Asiri’s fanaticism is such that he even blew up his own brother, Abdullah, in a failed attempt to assassinate Saudi Arabia’s head of security. Asiri built a device that was concealed in his brother’s rectum and detonated by remote control from a mobile phone. Abdullah was killed instantly, although the Saudi official suffered only minor injuries.

Intelligence officials believe Asiri is now trying to develop a device that will escape detection by even the most sophisticated scanning equipment. His latest technique is to use an explosive known as pentaerythritol tetranitrate, or PETN, which has no odour, and therefore foils sniffer dogs and X-ray machines.

Telegraph: Travellers at Heathrow were subjected to “vigorous” body searches…It is feared that Western jihadists fighting in Syria and Iraq, including hundreds of Britons, have been recruited as would-be suicide bombers.

Insane

July 5th, 2014

NYT

As federal officials have begun to send the expected 240,000 migrants and 52,000 unaccompanied minors who have crossed the border illegally in recent months in the Rio Grande Valley to cities around the county, Murrieta so far is the only place that has managed to turn them away. The reactions have been mixed

A country without borders is not a country. Read this vividly reported and disturbing piece by Major Garrett. These people are unhinged. It will be interesting to discover what percentage of Americans are okay with this unprecedented madness and why.

Today’s lesson

July 4th, 2014

King-craft: “they always bestrode the necks of the people”

we have Judge Douglas giving his exposition of what the Declaration of Independence means, and we have him saying that the people of America are equal to the people of England. According to his construction, you Germans are not connected with it.

Now I ask you in all soberness, if all these things, if indulged in, if ratified, if confirmed and endorsed, if taught to our children, and repeated to them, do not tend to rub out the sentiment of liberty in the country, and to transform this Government into a government of some other form. Those arguments that are made, that the inferior race are to be treated with as much allowance as they are capable of enjoying; that as much is to be done for them as their condition will allow.

What are these arguments? They are the arguments that kings have made for enslaving the people in all ages of the world. You will find that all the arguments in favor of king-craft were of this class; they always bestrode the necks of the people, not that they wanted to do it, but because the people were better off for being ridden.

Timelier today than ever, n’est-ce pas? HT: PL

Hmmmm…..

July 3rd, 2014

As John Adams wrote on this date a long time ago:

Britain has been filled with folly, and America with wisdom. At least, this is my judgment. Time must determine. It is the will of Heaven that the two countries should be sundered forever. It may be the will of Heaven that America shall suffer calamities still more wasting, and distresses yet more dreadful.

If this is to be the case, it will have the good effect at least. It will inspire us with many virtues, which we have not, and correct many errors, follies and vices which duces refinement, in States as well as individuals. And the new governments we are assuming in every part will require a purification from our vices, and an augmentation of our virtues, or they will be no blessings.

The people will have unbounded power, and the people are extremely addicted to corruption and venality, as well as the great. But I must submit all my hopes and fears to an overruling Providence, in which, unfashionable as the faith may be, I firmly believe

Sounds kind of modern, neh? Except that the role of folly is now played by this country. HT: AS

Mariel Boatlift 2.0

July 2nd, 2014

The Mariel Boatlift was first regarded as a humanitarian issue. It morphed into something else as it enabled Fidel Castro then to empty Cuba’s prisons, asylums and hospitals. It appears that Mariel Boatlift 2.0 was contrived to hit the news big time just as Lindsey Graham and Eric Cantor won easy anti Tea Party victories. So the news would tout the bi-partisan demand for comprehensive immigration reform aka amnesty and the angle was that it’s all about the children. The children! When Cantor lost decisively and unexpectedly, the air went out of the bi-partisan angle to the media narrative. Pity. It was supposed to be effective political theater for election season, planned last year for roll-out now. As with so much of what this crew in Washington does, the media planning was excellent, but the executive competence was nil. So it’s now a disaster and a political loser, the only remedy for which is cover up and threaten whistle-blowers as usual.

It’s notable that the administration structured the narrative such that they were merely responding to a crisis that somehow appeared out of nowhere, a common enough technique if you find truth to be an inconvenience. (“Seit 5.45 Uhr wird jetzt zurückgeschossen!“) But it was very naive to expect this to remain a cute story for long, not when the kids include criminals and others who have measles, scabies, chicken pox and strep throat as well as mental and emotional issues, up to and including suicide. Nowhere have we seen the media pose these questions: what kind of parents would abandon their kids in this way, and what would be the characteristics of the children that they would choose to abandon? Mariel Boatlift…

Compare and contrast

July 1st, 2014

From WaPo:

My own eyes show rising ocean levels. They show the Arctic ice cap shrinking. They show massive beach erosion, homes toppling into the sea and meteorological records indicating steadily increasing temperatures. The Earth, our dear little planet, just had the hottest May on record. My eyes read projections that are even direr — drought, stifling heat, massive and more frequent storms, parts of coastal cities underwater and, in the American Southeast, an additional 11,000 to 36,000 people dying per year from the extreme heat.

From elsewhere:

Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies. Rivers and seas boiling. Forty years of darkness. Earthquakes, volcanoes. The dead rising from the grave. Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together – mass hysteria.

Possibly related: “We call Bill the Crust Master, because his pies, I don’t know what he does, whether he puts crack in them”

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss

June 30th, 2014

NYT

More on WWI

June 29th, 2014

Max Boot:

The 100th anniversary of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand on June 28, 1914, has come and gone, prompting a lot of reflections on the significance and implications of World War I. Even if Gavrilo Princip’s shots were only the excuse, not the real cause, of the Great War, it is hard to exaggerate their significance.

The conflict swept away the entire Ottoman and Habsburg empires along with the governments of Germany, Austria, Turkey, Russia, and other states. It led to the creation of the modern Balkans and the modern Middle East. Nazism, fascism, and Communism – all the great ideological ills of the 20th century – would never have become as virulent as they did absent the devastation wrought by the 1914-1918 conflict. There would have been no Stalin in power, no Hitler, and there would have been no World War II – and hence no Korean War or Vietnam War

Today’s bad guys are on the march and the West dutifully fails to notice. Ah well.

100 years ago

June 28th, 2014

Read page 5 of Churchill’s book here. Think this age could measure up at the rate we’re going? HT: PL

Today’s readings

June 27th, 2014

In some ways it’s like we’ve gone back a decade. Here’s Blackfive, for example. Been a long time! History keeps repeating in tightening spirals; well that’s only partly true, since crazy things unknown to us back in ancient days seem almost matter-of-fact today, at least to some. Speaking of old times, we don’t care about soccer and Tom Maguire tells us why. Let’s round negative things out with Jay Cost and Austin Bay. Finally, a couple of pieces on the arts, one entertaining and one that is something else entirely. Have a nice day!

Utopias don’t end well

June 26th, 2014

Wretchard has some thoughts. Meanwhile, there’s fiddling. (And just plain weird stuff that affects numbers that are vanishingly small. Did we say weird?) Our thoughts on the utopians go back a decade. BTW, we think Wretchard is correct and the backlash against the western insanity of recent years is going to be pretty ugly when it comes.

The post postwar era

June 25th, 2014

VDH has a disturbing piece about how the uniquely successful last 69 years have now been more or less squandered. Wretchard has a good companion piece on who showed up when the adults left the room. Finally, we take a quick look at the utterly disgraceful role played by the media in abetting this senseless tragedy.

Revisiting tulipmania

June 24th, 2014

Once again we return to the grooveyard of forgotten oldies to reproduce a piece, this time from the spring of 2008, when oil was approaching $147 a barrel. If the to-date highly successful maniacs in Iraq can figure a way to cause oil chaos, no doubt they will. So far the speculators are on the sidelines, meaning things will get pretty crazy if they all suddenly rush in on the same side of the trade. Stay tuned.

Back in 2008, Hedge fund operator Mike Masters’ Senate testimony on oil speculation, recommended for our review by Dan Dicker in the piece below, reads as quite an indictment of so-called Index Speculators. By the way, the Index speculators are “Corporate and Government Pension Funds, Sovereign Wealth Funds, University Endowments” and other investors who probably thought that sub-prime was the New, New Thing a few years ago. They are by far the largest participants in commodities trading now, though they were a small fraction of trading only a few years ago:

Commodities prices have increased more in the aggregate over the last five years than at any other time in U.S. history. We have seen commodity price spikes occur in the past as a result of supply crises, such as during the 1973 Arab Oil Embargo…unlike previous episodes, supply is ample…What we are experiencing is a demand shock coming from a new category of participant in the commodities futures markets…Index Speculators…distribute their allocation of dollars across the 25 key commodities futures according to the popular indices: the Standard & Poors – Goldman Sachs Commodity Index and the Dow Jones – AIG Commodity Index…

Demand for futures contracts can only come from two sources: Physical Commodity Consumers and Speculators. Speculators include the Traditional Speculators who have always existed in the market, as well as Index Speculators. Five years ago, Index Speculators were a tiny fraction of the commodities futures markets. Today, in many commodities futures markets, they are the single largest force. The huge growth in their demand has gone virtually undetected by classically-trained economists who almost never analyze demand in futures markets.

Index Speculator demand is distinctly different from Traditional Speculator demand; it arises purely from portfolio allocation decisions. When an Institutional Investor decides to allocate 2% to commodities futures, for example, they come to the market with a set amount of money. They are not concerned with the price per unit; they will buy as many futures contracts as they need, at whatever price is necessary, until all of their money has been “put to work.” Their insensitivity to price multiplies their impact on commodity markets.

Furthermore, commodities futures markets are much smaller than the capital markets, so multi-billion-dollar allocations to commodities markets will have a far greater impact on prices. In 2004, the total value of futures contracts outstanding for all 25 index commodities amounted to only about $180 billion. Compare that with worldwide equity markets which totaled $44 trillion, or over 240 times bigger. That year, Index Speculators poured $25 billion into these markets, an amount equivalent to 14% of the total market…

One particularly troubling aspect of Index Speculator demand is that it actually increases the more prices increase. This explains the accelerating rate at which commodity futures prices (and actual commodity prices) are increasing. Rising prices attract more Index Speculators, whose tendency is to increase their allocation as prices rise. So their profit-motivated demand for futures is the inverse of what you would expect from price-sensitive consumer behavior.

You can see from Chart Two that prices have increased the most dramatically in the first quarter of 2008. We calculate that Index Speculators flooded the markets with $55 billion in just the first 52 trading days of this year. That’s an increase in the dollar value of outstanding futures contracts of more than $1 billion per trading day. Doesn’t it seem likely that an increase in demand of this magnitude in the commodities futures markets could go a long way in explaining the extraordinary commodities price increases in the beginning of 2008?

There is a crucial distinction between Traditional Speculators and Index Speculators: Traditional Speculators provide liquidity by both buying and selling futures. Index Speculators buy futures and then roll their positions by buying calendar spreads. They never sell. Therefore, they consume liquidity and provide zero benefit to the futures markets.

Masters’ recommendations to Congress are fairly sweeping:

Number One:…Congress should modify ERISA regulations to prohibit commodity index replication strategies as unsuitable pension investments because of the damage that they do to the commodities futures markets and to Americans as a whole.

Number Two: Congress should act immediately to close the Swaps Loophole. Speculative position limits must “look-through” the swaps transaction to the ultimate counterparty and hold that counterparty to the speculative position limits. This would curtail Index Speculation and it would force ALL Speculators to face position limits.

Number Three: Congress should further compel the CFTC to reclassify all the positions in the Commercial category of the Commitments of Traders Reports to distinguish those positions that are controlled by “Bona Fide” Physical Hedgers from those controlled by Wall Street banks. The positions of Wall Street banks should be further broken down based on their OTC swaps counter-party into “Bona Fide” Physical Hedgers and Speculators.

There are hundreds of billions of investment dollars poised to enter the commodities futures markets at this very moment. If immediate action is not taken, food and energy prices will rise higher still. This could have catastrophic economic effects on millions of already stressed U.S. consumers. It literally could mean starvation for millions of the world’s poor.

Some prefer a laissez-faire approach to market imbalances such as this. But it was the decoupling of futures markets from delivery acceptance obligations that caused tulipmania after all. Thoughtful regulation of futures markets is not in itself unreasonable, just as it is not in the stock market. Personally, we’d prefer public floggings of the offenders.

Lightning speed, from nowhere

June 23rd, 2014

WRM: “The rise of ISIS/ISIL is a disaster that must be examined and understood. How could the U.S. government have been caught napping by the rise of a new and hostile power in a region of vital concern? What warning signs were missed, what opportunities were lost — and why?” No one had heard of these people a month ago, and all of a sudden they’ve taken over half a country and have a major social media powered PR machine. They’ve even got branded clothing lines as well as snuff films. It’s hard to believe that no one saw this coming. (BTW, what’s up at the State Dept?)

Res ipsa loquitur

June 22nd, 2014

NYT:

For too many years, we failed to rein in the excesses building up in the nation’s financial markets. When the credit bubble burst in 2008, the damage was devastating. Millions suffered. Many still do. We’re making the same mistake today with climate change. We’re staring down a climate bubble that poses enormous risks to both our environment and economy. The warning signs are clear and growing more urgent as the risks go unchecked. This is a crisis we can’t afford to ignore. I feel as if I’m watching as we fly in slow motion on a collision course toward a giant mountain. We can see the crash coming, and yet we’re sitting on our hands rather than altering course. We need to act now, even though there is much disagreement, including from members of my own Republican Party, on how to address this issue while remaining economically competitive. They’re right to consider the economic implications. But we must not lose sight of the profound economic risks of doing nothing. The solution can be a fundamentally conservative one that will empower the marketplace to find the most efficient response. We can do this by putting a price on emissions of carbon dioxide — a carbon tax. Few in the United States now pay to emit this potent greenhouse gas into the atmosphere we all share. Putting a price on emissions will create incentives to develop new, cleaner energy technologies. It’s true that the United States can’t solve this problem alone. But we’re not going to be able to persuade other big carbon polluters to take the urgent action that’s needed if we’re not doing everything we can do to slow our carbon emissions and mitigate our risks. I was secretary of the Treasury when the credit bubble burst, so I think it’s fair to say that I know a little bit about risk, assessing outcomes and problem-solving.

This is the man who made the single most idiotic and near-catastrophic financial decision in the entire world since 1930. Feel free to follow his current advice.

A modest proposal

June 21st, 2014

As almost everyone paying attention knows now, this Washington crew is all about: (a) emotional narratives planned way in advance to advance their agenda and demonize opposition; and (b) spin-and-cover-up in case of snafus. Lights, action, camera! Example from last year’s planning sessions: let’s get the final push for amnesty to coincide with a big Lindsey Graham victory next year in 2014. See? Bi-partisan, get it? Hmmmmm. Better start advertising in Jan 2014 a few new agents for photo ops with the 65,000 cuties, ok? And on and on. Can you possibly doubt this massive media-political collusion at this point? The WoW was planned far in advance as a core theme for the 2012 election, and was introduced by the very nexus of political-media collusion on January 7, 2012 to start the new year right. And on and on and on. It’s the same tiresome story, over and over again.

So when we see the opposition is talking about page 27 of some letter and looking for smoking guns, we wonder, what’s up with that? Toss the green eyeshades and get with the big picture, especially since the media are going to publicly report the spin, however ludicrous it may be, as making any issue at hand a 50-50 thing at best for the opposition. So forget being accountants and go for the gut as best you can. We recommend ridicule, simple and repetitive to gain it some brand equity with the masses. Our leading candidate would be, “if you like your (issue specific thing), you can keep your (issue specific thing). Period.” You’ve heard that somewhere before, yes? Stop with the “nobody believes you.” Instead, make the witness repeat after you, “If you like your email, you can keep your email. Period.” Make him say it three times; if he won’t then you keep repeating it. “If you like your greatest achievement, you can keep your greatest achievement. Period.” And so forth.

Oh, BTW, this proposal isn’t original. It’s rule number five.