Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Beware the Correction, For One Thing Is Certain: IT WILL HAPPEN!

A must read if ever there was one, but beware, it takes some resolve to do so!  I recommend a Johnnie Walker Blue, neat, as the perfect reading partner.  Here's Peter Tenebrarum's Irrational Exuberance On Steriods - The Correction Will Be A Real Doozy

Simple: The Impact of ZIRP

Quite simple really, as math does not lie.  Read How $10,000 In The Bank In 2008 Lost Over $7000 Of Wealth by 2013. Read the entire post, but here's a simple chart to drive home the point of central banking's destruction of wealth:

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Nutrition 101

Great starting point for a new repository on nutrition.  Let's start off by debunking the myths that are killing us.  All new updates will be in RED BOLD going forward:

New: 6 Awesome Health Benefits of Coffee  and 10 Superfoods You Can Add to Your Coffee

New:  Eating These 3 ‘Fatty’ Foods Can Make You Thinner


Always A Must Read:  The Last Anti-Fat Crusaders  And WHO are the last of these crusaders? The government.  Crony-capitalism KILLS.

Always A Must Read:  Looks Like The Medical Establishment Was Wrong About Fat 

How to Lose Weight by Identifying Hidden Sugars in Your Diet  Disclosure: I firmly believe that the ONLY way to lose weight it to eliminate sugar.

Top 9 Anti-aging Antioxidants  Disclosure: I take Resveratrol and Alpha-lipoic acid daily. 

8 Impressive Health Benefits of Turmeric

My Top 5 Superfoods

Our Secret Weapon: The Green Drink

Study: Eating High-Fat Dairy Lowers Type 2 Diabetes Risk

12 Signs You Need to Eat More Protein

What’s the Deal with Fiber? 

Breakfast—Not the Most Important Meal After All... 

Butter Is Back—Processed Foods Are Identified as Real Culprits in Heart Disease

10 Reasons Green Tea Is The Healthiest Drink In The World

Top 10 Destructive Nutrition Lies Ever Told

Not All Carbs Are Bad: How You Can Tell the Difference

4 Foods That Have Surprising Medicinal Benefits

Study Shows That Coconut Oil Can Help Reduce Belly Fat

10 Shocking Facts About Processed Food

Four Great Fat Rich Foods To Start Adding To Your Diet

High-Carb Diet May Increase Your Risk of Dementia

The Health Benefits of Coconut Flour • A Gluten-Free Flour Substitute

John Yudkin: The Man Who Tried to Warn us About Sugar  [1.5hr video in the article is worth the time.  Sugar is a killer, plain and simple; followed by wheat]

5 Lies About Healthy Food That Are Making You Fat  [your body needs fat; plenty of it! Same with cholesterol.  Please, read the following books: Wheat Belly; Grain Brain]

7 Foods For Teeth That Your Dentist Wants You To Eat More Often  [not so sure about #6, as any sweetener will trip insulin production to some degree. I'm still researching this!]

10 Surprising Benefits of Walnuts You May Not Know About

11 Charts That Show Everything Wrong with Our Modern Diet

18 food replacement hacks worth giving a shot

7 Unexpected Ingredients You Might Eating For Lunch Today

15 Best Anti-Aging Foods You Need To Start Eating Now [Note: I'd say '14' ... be careful about #3: stay away from wheat! And, I'm not on board with the 'anti-aging' - they're just good foods]

All Salt is Not Equal

10 Amazing Benefits of Oolong Tea You Didn’t Know

Supplement Alert: Antioxidants May Protect Cancer Cells Instead Of Protecting Us From Them  [note: key word here is "may" ... more studies need to be conducted, and, the raw data and methodology for THIS study needs to be peer reviewed as well]

The Benefits of Coconut Oil

6 Things You Need To Know About Protein

How To Win An Argument With A Nutritionist

The Top Foods That Lead To Inflammation–Avoid These At All Costs

7 Super Foods That Will Make You Live Longer

8 Foods that Speed Up Ageing While Promoting Sickness:
4. Artificial sweeteners are worse than sucrose. Ignore the aspartame and diet soda trap, too. You should actually avoid all sodas, including diet soda. Aspartame is a neuron excitoxin that can excite brain cells to death, putting you in the fast lane to dementia or even brain cancer.

"One-third of Americans have nothing saved for retirement"

Veronique de Rugy's RX For Growth: Revive Savings, Enable Start-Ups, Cancel ZIRP, Tax Consumption, Eliminate Wage Taxes is a must (startling/scary/common sense therefore it will never happen) read.  It's a simple solution, a simple message, and therein lies its own demise: simplicity is a losers game as far as politicians are concerned.  Complexity is the key to survival for the political elite and their cronies.  Baffle'em with bullshit and credentials! Make the masses afraid, convince them that change is dangerous and to trust the words "we know what we're doing".  Worse yet, convince them that when the shit hits the fan and the economy tanks despite the interventions, it wasn't "their" fault and in fact, the answer lies in doing more harm, sorry, doubling down on the madness!  Complexity - the Darwinian version of "survival of the fittest" for the self-proclaimed intellectual class.  Here's de Rugy's entire piece: [note: emphasis in the original, and for the record, I DISAGREE with the emphasized points in their entirety!]

One-third of Americans have nothing saved for retirement, according to a study published in August by the financial data aggregator Bankrate. That grim factoid joined a growing chorus of reports highlighting Americans’ dismal savings habits. In 2013, the National Institute of Retirement Security (NIRS) determined that 84 percent of Americans are falling short of “reasonable” retirement savings targets. Data from the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College reflect a similar trend, and a recent PBS poll found that 92 percent of Americans believe we face a retirement crisis and that government should act now.

The reality is not quite as grim as these reports suggest. The American Enterprise Institute’s Andrew Biggs took a hard look at the NIRS numbers and concluded that “the substance of the NIRS study should give pause to anyone considering drastic policy actions.” One reason is that the study uses savings guidelines outlined in a 2012 Fidelity Investments report. But Fidelity suggests that people have enough money saved to enjoy 85 percent of their working income, while the Social Security Administration says most financial advisors recommend a lower 70 percent pre-retirement earnings target. The study also ignores that lower-income earners receive larger Social Security payouts, so their savings do not need to be as high.

Still, there’s plenty of bad news to go around. America’s personal savings rate is a fraction of what it once was. According to data from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, personal savings rates fell from a high of 17 percent in April 1975 to a low of 2.2 percent in September 2005. Since September 2007, there has been a noticeable increase in savings-probably because the experience of watching assets melt in the crisis triggered an impulse to pay down debts. But if history is our guide, this uptick in savings is likely to be short-lived.

This is problematic, because low savings means less capital accumulation, without which economic growth slows and well-being stagnates. A long list of academic papers documents the connection between the decline in savings over the decades prior to the recession and declines in things like domestic investment and real wage growth.

At the Brookings Institution, economists Ian Hathaway and Robert E. Litan recently released a paper showing that American business is increasingly dominated by older firms. That finding has troubling implications. The literature shows that young firms are the engine of job creation in America-not small businesses, despite what you read in the press and hear from the politicians-so fewer new businesses means fewer new jobs. And one reason for the decline in the number of new businesses, says the Cato Institute’s Mark Calabria, is the decline in the personal savings rate. “According to the Census Bureau’s Survey of Business Owners, the number one, by a long shot, source of capital for new businesses is the personal savings of the owner,” he has written.

Faced with this evidence, progressives would like to beef up Social Security. But the program already faces a $10 trillion funding shortfall, and economists have found that its existence creates disincentives to work and save. In other words, a bigger Social Security program could make a serious problem worse. “Workers’ payroll taxes are used to fund Social Security benefits, and some studies have estimated that every $100 of Social Security wealth crowds out $40 in private saving,” says Jason Fichtner, an economist at the Mercatus Center and former Social Security administrator. Fichtner also noted in testimony before a House Ways and Means subcommittee in May 2013 that Social Security’s “current design offers substantially negative incentives to work, especially for younger seniors and for secondary earners.” Exiting the labor force earlier does not just decrease the individual’s income security; it decreases the net output and productivity of the economy as a whole.

Fichtner thinks the government should give people incentives to save more. “For those in lower-income brackets, tax credits could be expanded to provide better incentives for saving,” he wrote. “Even something [like] encouraging auto-enrollment whereby employees would automatically be enrolled in a retirement savings plan (with the option to opt out) could go a long way toward increasing personal savings.”

Not everyone agrees. Matthew Mitchell, also of Mercatus (where I work), is opposed to the government creating incentives to save. “People often talk as if saving is always objectively better than consuming,” he says. “But that is like saying beer is objectively better than wine. The truth is that value is subjective. I may think that right now in my life, it makes sense to save the next dollar I earn rather than to spend it. But just because that is the right choice for me does not mean it is the right choice for you.”

Fichtner wants to increase private saving so that taxpayers are not asked to foot the bill for people’s bad decisions. A reasonable concern, but when government tries to encourage people to do one thing over another, it usually leads to malinvestment. Resources artificially flow to certain goods above and beyond the point where any real value is created. That leads to bubbles, and when they pop, as the Great Recession has shown us, the loss of wealth can be disastrous.

If people are saving too little but incentives to save more could lead to malinvestment, what should be done? Let’s start by eliminating policies that penalize savings or artificially boost consumption. Replacing our current tax system with a consumption-based tax would create a more level playing field between consumption and savings. Ending the Federal Reserve’s zero-interest policies would eliminate their large disincentive to defer consumption. And eliminating efforts to buoy homeownership would get us out of the business of encouraging people to take on more personal debt in exchange for an investment that, thanks to the Fed’s monetary policy, offers weak returns.

Replacing Social Security with private accounts would help as well. In a 1997 paper for the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, economist Julia Lynn Coronado looked at the quasi-privatization of social insurance in Chile. Its effect, she found, was an increase in national savings of 2 percent of GDP.

Social Security is broken. Future seniors already face a 25 percent cut to their benefits when the trust funds dry up in 2033. We might as well put the program out of its misery and, in the process, remove one of the biggest disincentives to save.

"Down Goes Hagel! Down Goes Hagel! Down Goes Hagel!!!"

The title of this post is penned with my best impersonation of Howard Cosell in mind as he is calling the knockdown of then world champion, Joe Frazier, by challenger George Forman.  So, Chuck Hagel goes down resigns as the Secretary of Defense, who by the way, was the only Republican in Obama's cabinet.  The entire episode is a travesty, as if we are to believe he really "resigned".  Many "insiders" believe he "resigned" because of his views on ISIS for example, that are not harmonious with this nation's Imperial President.  To this point, it is still absolutely disgraceful that this nation of ours cares for even a nanosecond about a group that poses no existential threat to this country.  If this is what passes for "leadership" in Washington, send in the clowns, please - wait - hold that thought - they've already been "elected". 

Some worthy reads on this sorry affair: 

ISIS' First Administration Casualty: Chuck Hagel Resigns Under Pressure From Obama

Chuck Checks Out: Hagel Fails to Adapt to Obama’s Controlling White House

New York Times Alters Hagel Story to Eliminate Obama's Dismissive Analysis of ISIS 

Obama’s Capitulation To The Neocons——Twice In One Day  [an excellent description of our imperial president]

Europe's Being Left Behind (well, not that the view from the front is much better either!)

A must read from Daniel Hannan entitled World economy leaves Europe behind: [emphasis mine]

I love the idea that prosperity can be decreed by a G20 communiqué. World leaders in Brisbane have airily committed themselves to two per cent growth. (Why only two per cent? Why not 20 per cent? Or 200 per cent? Who knew it was so easy?) Meanwhile, in the real world, the divergence between Continental Europe and the rest of the planet accelerates.

The Eurozone has technically avoided its third recession in six years. Having contracted sharply in the second quarter of this year, it managed 0.2 per cent growth in the third. But it seems unable to shake off its debilitating condition.

Six years after the credit crunch, every other continent has recovered robustly. Europe alone appears to have contracted a chronic disease.

That infection has spread right across the continent. By far its three largest economies are France, Italy and Germany, accounting among them for two thirds of the Eurozone. All three are experiencing recurring bouts of illness.

France managed to return to growth largely because of a massive injection of government cash in healthcare. This, though, is hardly a solution. Au contraire, it is more of the medicine that sickened the patient. France last ran a balanced budget in 1974. This can’t carry on.

Italy has now contracted for 12 consecutive quarters. Indeed, to a single approximation, it has not grown since the euro was launched.

But if the malaise in France and Italy was predictable, Germany’s slowdown is a shock. Until now, the EU’s largest state had been carrying the single currency. It acted partly from a sense of historical responsibility – a sincere if incorrect belief that European integration made war less likely – and partly because, so far, the euro has brought advantages to Germany.

It’s true that the meltdown in the Mediterranean forced German taxpayers to write out IOUs to more profligate governments. But it also pushed down the value of the single currency, thus allowing German exporters to benefit from an artificially cheap exchange rate.

So far, like Atlas, Germany has been able to bear the weight of the euro on its shoulders. But it’s starting to sweat and sway. German exports, hitherto the Eurozone’s great success story, are now falling faster than at any time since the global crisis began.

Some blame the tit-for-tat economic sanctions with Russia, imposed because of the war in Ukraine. Others argue that a weak euro disguised the effect of years of underinvestment. Whatever the explanation, German analysts have slashed their growth forecasts. A report by the country’s five leading economic institutes, the so-called Wise Men, says that the economy has “stagnated”, and predicts a rise in unemployment.

We can’t console ourselves with the thought that the Eurozone has been failing to recover because it has been concentrating on paying off its debts. On the contrary, borrowing continues to grow. Bad debt at Eurozone banks is now estimated to be 18.9 per cent higher than previously thought, at about 880 billion euros – equivalent to nine per cent of the entire Eurozone economy. Italy’s national has grown to 133 per cent of GDP; Belgium’s to 107 per cent.

It’s no longer credible to keep blaming the sub-prime crisis. Every other continent has bounced back convincingly. So, indeed, has Britain, which is now the fastest-growing economy in the G7. The EU’s problems are older and deeper than the credit crunch.

The long-term indicators for Europe are dire. While the single currency has certainly accelerated the EU’s economic decline, it did not cause it. The underlying problem may be simply stated. Too few people are generating wealth and too many are consuming it. Europeans are spending more and more time in education, and living longer and longer after they retire. Many of them spend the few years in between working for the government.

Europe’s working age population peaked in 2012 at 308 million, and will fall to 265 million by 2060. The ratio of pensioners to workers will, according to The Economist, rise from 28 per cent to 58 per cent – and even these statistics assume the arrival of a million immigrants every year.

Emmanuel Todd, arguably France’s leading demographer, has observed that these figures disguise big variations within Europe: Britain and Scandinavia have much younger populations than the Continent. He points out that the Anglosphere – the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Britain – will soon be more populous than mainland Europe, and concedes that Britain would be better off with the other English-speaking democracies.

He’s right. We are now members of the only trade bloc on the planet that is shrinking. The calculation we made when we joined what was then the EEC in 1973 turned out to be wrong.

Back then, we looked across the Channel and saw what looked like a thundering success story. We noticed that our pounds were worth less and less each time we visited Germany, and read clever articles about how the “Rhineland model” of economics was better than our own. We decided to hitch our carriage to what seemed the most powerful locomotive on the planet.

In retrospect, our timing could hardly have been worse. Western Europe had indeed spectacularly outperformed the UK between 1945 and 1973, as it bounced back from the artificial low of the Second World War. Britain, in contrast to most Continental states, had amassed a colossal debt in the struggle against Hitler, and spent the next three decades inflating it away, with calamitous effects on our economy.

But the picture changed with the oil shock of 1974. Suddenly, Western Europe was no longer the runaway success we thought. Far from hitching our carriage to a locomotive, we had shackled ourselves to a corpse.

Worse, we had done so at precisely the moment when common-law and English-speaking economies around the world were beginning a growth spurt that endures to this day. In 2013, the Commonwealth’s economy overtook the Eurozone’s.

All the core Anglosphere countries are projected to grow next year by between 2.5 and 3.1 per cent. India, according to the IMF, will grow at 6.4 per cent. But we can’t sign a bilateral free trade agreement with any of these countries. We surrendered our trade policy to Brussels on 1 January 1973.  [Semper Ratio: I predict none of these projections will come to fruition]

The case for being in the EU has been overtaken by technology. You could just about make the argument, in the early 1970s, that regional trade blocs were the way forward. But no one seriously believes that in the Internet age. Geographical proximity has never mattered less.

Perhaps, decades from now, the past 40 years, during which we sundered ourselves from our hinterland and artificially redirected our trade to Europe, will be seen as an aberration. When Charles de Gaulle vetoed our entry into the EEC, he gave a very good reason. Britain, he explained was “insular, maritime and linked by her exchanges, her markets and her supply routes to the most diverse and often farthest-flung of nations.”

Indeed. And those far-flung nations would make a far more natural trade bloc than the EU, bound as they are by language and law, habit and history. After all, the whole purpose of commerce is to swap on the back of differences. It never made much sense to abandon a diverse market, which comprised agricultural, industrial and service economies, in favour of a union of similar Western European states.

David Cameron can hardly have failed to notice, as he looked around the G20 table, that his European colleagues are the ones with the worst problems. Britain is in the wrong place.


History Revisited: Time to Bury Lenin

A worthy read, in not just for the history lesson itself, on Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov Lenin, from Doug Bandow entitled Bury Lenin’s Body and the Rest of Communism: In Red Square He Lies in State, Mocking Humanity.  Yes, it's long past time indeed.

The IRS Scandal

* Updated ... see the new items in RED below.  Curious timing ... hmmm, after the election? *

So, the IRS has "lost" the emails of Lois Lerner, who is being investigated for the targeting of specific political groups.  Seriously, think about this in juxtaposition with the past year's worth of revelations into the NSA that has just about every word spoken sucked up into a massive database - and the IRS "lost" emails.  You try using this excuse when you get audited by the IRS - yeah, good luck 'wit 'dat.  Below are some of the best writings on the entire sad episode in the declining American state.

The IRS Says It Lost a Bunch of Lois Lerner's Emails.  That Deserves More Scrutiny.

Seven More Pieces on the IRS's emails (note: this post itself contains many additional links)

18 1/2 Minutes vs. 2 Years: Which is Worse

The Dog Ate My E-mails: For Two Years

Hard Drive Containing Ex-IRS Official Lois Lerner’s Emails Reportedly Destroyed. Were There Server Backups?

Missing E-Mail Is the Least of the IRS's Problems

Darrell Issa Fuming Upon Learning Lois Lerner's Hard Drive Was Destroyed

Trail Of Lost IRS Emails Might Lead To White House [What, you're surprised?  Really?]

Archives official: IRS didn’t follow law on missing emails


Who’s Behind IRS Targeting? Don’t Ask NPR

How are Obama and the IRS getting away with a blatant coverup

Clarity on the Missing Emails

The IRS Scandal: Who’s Really Being Gullible?

Lois Lerner Warned IRS Employees to “be cautious about what we say in emails” 

GOP skeptical of Justice IRS probe

Seriously?:Justice Department investigators didn’t know about missing IRS emails until they heard about it on the news

To paraphrase one of our previous presidents: It all depends on the what the meaning of the word "smidgin" is

IRS Official Says Even More Employees Had Computer Problems, May Not Be Able to Comply With Congressional Subpoenas

 IRS can’t get its story straight: Official says he’s not sure whether email backup tapes were destroyed 

Wait...IRS Backup Tapes of Lois Lerner's Email May Exist After All?

Whoa: Disgraced ex-IRS official Lois Lerner really, really hates conservatives  [note: the GOP used the IRS in the same way]

IRS E-mails: The Perfect Storm  [note: let's hope so]

Justice Department confirms the Lois Lerner emails still exist, proving that IRS officials are a pack of liars

Here’s more evidence the IRS really doesn’t want Congress to know what Lois Lerner may have been doing

Will IRS’s Strategy of Destroying Evidence Pay Off?

The IRS Scandal, Day 474

The IRS Won’t Say Why It Wiped Lois Lerner’s Blackberry After Congress Began Questioning Her

Emails Reveal Lois Lerner Thought It Was “Dangerous” for a Top IRS Staffer to Talk to the Treasury Inspector General Alone

November 25, 2014:

New:   Whoops! IRS Watchdog finds thousands of ‘lost’ Lois Lerner emails

New:  Inspector General Finds Lois Lerner Emails IRS Claimed Were too Difficult to Recover 

New:   Contrary To IRS Lies, Some 30,000 Lois Lerner "Forever Lost" Emails Have Been Recovered

Quote of the Day (and a Lesson on the Impact of Government Subsidies)

"The problem is not with the TFA [Trade Facilitation Agreement ], but rather with the high price that the global community seems ready to pay for it.  India has asked that it be allowed to exceed the level of domestic agricultural subsidies to which it agreed twenty years ago in the Uruguay Round negotiations.  For the first time in history, those talks led to limits on the ability of countries to use trade distorting agricultural supports.  Those subsidies had been rampant, often leading to surplus production that depressed crop prices in global markets.  Farmers who were being subsidized generally were happy enough with that arrangement, but it was a very different story for unprotected farmers in other countries.  Many of the world’s farmers are quite poor to start with.  Government-driven decreases in commodity prices make them even poorer." - Daniel R. Pearson, India Tosses out the WTO’s Agricultural Subsidy Disciplines


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Assessment of 2016 Presidential Candidates

Why 2016’s Hopefuls Are Hopeless - a classic by P.J. O'Rourke

Health Repository: Exercise and Medicine

A health repository for superb articles on exercise and medicine.

Check back often - your health depends on it!

New:  Looks Like The Medical Establishment Was Wrong About Fat

Link Between Vitamin D Deficiency and Dementia Confirmed

Basic Tips For Being Healthy

Brushing and flossing are good for your brain?  [Answer hint: YES!!!!]

5 Surprising Factors That Make You Pack on Pounds


Extremely Important: Fluoride Treatment  5 Ways to Detox Fluoride

7 Facts about trans-Resveratrol

Walking More May Be Key for a Longer, Healthier Life

Study: Exercise Protects The Brain Against Depression

Nutritional Approaches to Mental Health

To Protect Your Heart, Your Sodium to Potassium Ratio Is More Important Than Your Overall Salt Intake

7 Tips to Ignite and Maintain Your Digestive Fire [note: I'm not so keen on #7, i.e., while I support the need for fiber, I'm not convinced of "whole grains" being the best source]

How Sugar Harms Your Brain Health and Drives Alzheimer’s Epidemic (aka "Sugar Kills and You Won't Even Know It - Literally")

Why Do People Gain Weight? (aka "Never Eat in These 11 Situations" - also explains the "freshman 15" though not explicitly)

9 Signs You Need to Eat More Fat

Must Read: Ketogenic diet beats chemo for almost all cancers Note: Doctor Thomas Seyfried is no quack!

Maybe We Don't All Need Annual Physicals

Fasting diets like the 5:2 'can help prevent diabetes by reducing cholesterol after 10 to 12 hours'

Is Alzheimer’s Caused by an Infection?

Are These the Reasons Why You’re Not Losing Belly Fat?

Top Ten Ways the American Health Care System Fails

The Importance of Vitamin D for Normalizing Your Cholesterol Levels

How To Workout At Home Without Equipment Or Weights  I liked this, but the language is unnecessary IMHO.  I guess I'm just getting old.

Hero’s Workout Styles You Can’t Miss My favorite set of exercises.  These come courtesy of Neila Rey's Free Visual Workouts

80% of Strokes Are Preventable

The Best Exercise There Is, Hands Down  easy, here it is:
The single best exercise there is, hands down, is the one you’ll do.

69 Kettlebell Exercises That Quickly Help You Get in Shape

7 Simple Ways To Be Healthy And Avoid Getting Sick [watch the video on sugar!]

7 Benefits of the Bulgarian Split Squat

Can exercising for just 60 seconds a week transform your health? 

How To Lose Fat Fast

Ketogenic Diet Improves Insulin Sensitivity and Numerous Aging Markers

Free Visual Workouts

6 Illustrated Guides To Different Types Of Meditation

Set Goals by Time Instead of Distance or Quantity  [IMHO this is the critical success factor to getting back into an exercise routine.  Don't set distance or quantity goals, i.e., '2 miles' or '20 reps'. It works]

15 Reasons to Sprint More This Year

Placebo Effect Dictates Therapeutic Effect of Headache Medication

Flame Thrower: Top 10 Natural Ways to Reduce Inflammation


Here's Math That Will NOT Work (aka "Math Never Lies")

I do not possess the will to repost Go Figure - 86 Million Full-Time Workers, 148 Million Govt. BeneficiariesRead it and let me know how it'll work out.  Everything's fine so the MSM and the government tells me.  I'm going out for a beer.  This is all I can post:

According to the Congressional Budget Office study that was just released, approximately 60 percent of all U.S. households get more in transfer payments from the government than they pay in taxes.

Some Reads on the Iran & U.S. Nuclear Negotiations

There's been much on, off, on-again negotiations with the United Nations Security Council members plus Germany (referred to as P5+1) and Iran on the latter's real or imagined nuclear weapons ambitions.  Let me repeat a few points that I have voiced many times on this medium about this subject:
  1. Sanctions of any time are an act of war, period.  Sanctions do not hurt the elite, i.e., the government officials, in any way as they do civilians.  
  2. Iran is surrounded by enemies, and has the right to protect itself as does the United States, Israel and Russia for example.
  3. Israel does not even acknowledge it has a nuclear weapons program.

With those few points mentioned again, here are some interesting readings on the latest goings on with respect to Iran and the P5+1:

Iran Nuke Deal: A Matter of War or Peace 

The Nuclear Deal That Iran’s Regime Fears Most   [ah yes, an Idealist]

GOP Peace-Wreckers At Work: Senators Corker, Kirk And Rubio Seek To Sabotage Iran Nuclear Deal  [the Realist]


Williams and Sowell on Intellectuals and Elitist Contempt

Walter Williams' Elite Contempt for Ordinary Americans and the Sage, Thomas Sowell's Beware of Our Betters are required reading in order to understand the American oligarchy. 

Nope, Nothing's Wrong With This ...

... absolutely nothing ... well, then again ...

Seriously my fellow Americans, this is NOT good and it can only end poorly ...

When Will the U.S. National Debt Exceed $18 Trillion? 

Sometime in the next two to three weeks, the total public debt outstanding for the U.S. government will exceed 18 trillion dollars. If you were to ask us to pin down a precise date, we would say sometime around December 9, 2014, given the rate at which the national debt has been increasing during the federal government’s current fiscal year:

when-will-us-national-debt-exceed-18-trillion

Since the start of the U.S. federal government’s 2015 fiscal year on October 1, 2014, the national debt has grown at an average rate of $2.08 billion per day.

If it helps put these very large numbers into a more human scale, when the U.S. national debt reaches $18 trillion, that will work out to be about $124,275 per U.S. household, which is up from $81,984 per U.S. household at the end of the 2008 fiscal year. And the new figure would be on top of your mortgage, car loans, student loans, credit cards, et cetera that you might also have.

But unlike those tangible things, where you can at least point to your house, your car, your education, or even the Christmas presents you might be buying this upcoming Black Friday, can you point to what you personally got in return for that $42,291 worth of additional debt per household that the federal government accumulated during the last six years?

If you cannot, is it really worth it?

Friday, November 21, 2014

Note To Rand Paul: You Blew It!

Rand Paul missed an opportunity - a big one. 

I'm still miffed that Senator Rand Paul voted against the USA FREEDOM Act this week.  While I understand the explanation he gave for doing so, I vehemently disagree with his reasoning.  This was such an opportunity to make what many have said would have been only a small change in the NSA's overreach, and yet he missed it nonetheless.  I'm both disappointed and pissed off, almost as much as when he stated back in January of 2013 that an attack on Israel would be considered an attack on the United States (see my post).  I came across Ronald Bailey's thoughts on Paul's actions, and he articulates how I feel, much better than I can myself.  Here's USA FREEDOM and Rand Paul:
In June 2013, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) introduced the Fourth Amendment Restoration Act, a bill declaring that "the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution shall not be construed to allow any U.S. government agency to search the phone records of Americans without a warrant based on probable cause." The legislation was aimed specifically at stopping the National Security Agency (NSA) and other federal agencies from interpreting the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and the USA PATRIOT Act in ways that allows them to clandestinely collect and winnow through Americans' telephone and other electronic records. I entirely support the bill, but the sad truth is that it has garnered not a single cosponsor and it has gone nowhere.

What has gone somewhere, though this week it was stopped in its tracks, is the USA FREEDOM Act. This bill aims to limit the NSA's bulk collection of Americans' phone data under Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act. Specifically, it restricts the FBI to seeking the records related to specific individuals, phone numbers, and email accounts based on a "reasonable, articulable suspicion" that they are associated with a foreign power or its agent engaged in international terrorism or activities in preparation for such terrorism. The FBI would also no longer be able to engage in electronic dragnets by demanding to see the records of every customer of a telecommunications service provider or everyone who lives in a particular zip code or city.

Other provisions dealt with National Security Letters which are administrative subpoenas that the FBI uses without judicial oversight to directly order companies to turn over the banking, telephone, and Internet usage records of their customers and then gag the companies from telling anyone that they did so. In order to forestall agencies from reinterpreting NSLs to permit dragnet surveillance, the bill set the same standard on NSLs as it did on searches under Section 215, that is, limiting them to specific individuals, accounts, phone numbers, and so forth.

The USA FREEDOM Act would also increase the transparency of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court by allowing it to appoint a privacy advocate in certain cases, seek technical information about the operation of surveillance programs, and require the disclosure of significant decisions relating to Americans' privacy rights.

Earlier this week, the bill needed the votes of 60 senators in order for debate on the bill to proceed. It garnered only 58, and so it did not make it to the floor. One of the 42 voting against was Sen. Paul.

"I think NSA reforms are necessary and I will continue to fight against bulk data collection," Paul explained in an emailed statement. "Last night, I stood on principle by opposing a bill that included a provision reauthorizing elements of the Patriot Act that violate the Bill of Rights. I have always been steadfast against the Patriot Act and I will continue to do all I can to prevent its extension."

Paul specifically objected that the act would extend three provisions of the PATRIOT Act beyond their June 1, 2015, sunset dates to 2017. These include bulk collection of records under Section 215, secret "lone wolf" surveillance of non-U.S. persons not affiliated with any terrorist organization, and roving wiretaps that allow one authorization to cover multiple devices—say, a suspect's cell phone, computer, and tablet.

Cato Institute policy analyst Julian Sanchez tells me that while the lone wolf surveillance provision is "somewhat concerning," it has never been used. With regard to roving wiretaps, further restrictions such as a requirement for a probable cause warrant should be implemented, but the idea that law enforcement should be able to legally track the communications of a terrorism suspect across multiple devices is reasonable. Sanchez makes the further point that the USA FREEDOM Act would actually amend Section 215 to limit bulk collection, so extending it to 2017 would be much less problematic.

Most civil libertarians agree with Sen. Paul that the bill is far from perfect. Nevertheless, they wanted the debate to proceed. "I respect that Sen. Paul has been trying to reform the NSA for a long time, but it is disappointing that he voted against moving forward on the bill," says ACLU legislative counsel Neema Singh Guliani. "It is a huge step back, a huge lost opportunity."

Similarly, Electronic Frontier Foundation legislative analyst Mark Jaycox praises Paul as "a very good advocate on privacy" but adds that "it was disappointing that he voted against debating the bill." Jaycox argues that if Paul thought the bill was too weak and needed strengthening, he could have offered amendments during the debate. If those amendments had failed, the senator could have voted against it at that time. Both Guliani and Jaycox believe the USA FREEDOM Act is a good first step in a long process of ending domestic surveillance abuses.

"I have not heard a single person plausibly argue that we will get more robust and more far-reaching reform now that this bill has failed," says Sanchez. "I am with him [Paul] in spirit, but I don't see how this works strategically."

On the other hand, Sanchez' Cato colleague Patrick Eddington suggests that the June 1, 2015, sunset date on the three PATRIOT Act provisions will make congressional debate on NSA surveillance reform an urgent matter this coming spring. As that date approaches, NSA enablers such as future Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell may be frantic to save some Section 215 surveillance capabilities.

Eddington believes that there is a strong enough bipartisan libertarian/progressive coalition in the House of Representatives to allow the sunsetting provisions of the Patriot Act die in June, if no agreement on substantial surveillance reforms is reached. Since the USA FREEDOM Act failed, Eddington thinks that pressure for surveillance reforms will build as more and more information comes to light about just how egregiously the NSA and other agencies are violating Americans' Fourth Amendment rights.

Maybe so. But The New York Times is reporting that an artful interpretation of Section 215 could well make it essentially permanent without further congressional authorization. If so, Paul's stand will have accomplished nothing.

Eddington suggests that another avenue for surveillance reform may open up later this year. Back in June, the House of Representatives passed an amendment to the Department of Defense appropriation bill that would prohibit the NSA from spending any money on warrantless FISA Section 702 searches and on efforts to install backdoors in encryption standards. the NSA has interpreted FISA Section 702 to allow a backdoor search loophole that sweeps up Americans' emails, instant messages, Facebook messages, and Web browsing history.

On December 11, the continuing budget resolution that funds federal operations for fiscal 2015 will run out. As Congress hastily tries to get home for Christmas, there is a chance that it will pass a giant omnibus appropriations bill that must be approved all at once. If so, the June DOD amendment would make it through and thus stop NSA Section 702 searches and agency efforts to undermine encryption standards.

Both Jaycox and Guliani also have some hope that the federal courts will come to the rescue. A number of lawsuits are challenging the constitutionality of various surveillance programs. All too often courts give deference to the decisions made by the political branches, especially when it comes to alleged matters of national security. Nevertheless, there is some possibility that litigation might overturn some aspects of the national security surveillance state.

"Paul made a call that he clearly thought was in the best interests of the country," concludes Eddington. "I think it is more than likely that time will prove him right." I hope so. But there may come a time when Paul rues the day he allowed the perfect to get in the way of the merely better.

Die Already! 5 Economic Myths That Continue to be Inflicted Upon the Ignorant

5 More Economic Myths That Just Won’t Die by Corey Iacono: [note: be sure to read an additional five  myths that won't die via the link below:]
Still seeing Internet memes that get economics painfully wrong? Often, the same anti-market assertions get repeated enough that they are taken as true. Unfortunately, these myths are much older than the Internet.

The digital age offers greater exposure for the falsehoods, but it also gives us a more powerful tool to counter the claims with a dose of economic literacy. Basic economic theory is enough to undo most of the disinformation, but sometimes people need to see the data before they're willing to open their minds to the economic way of thinking.

My previous Freeman article "5 Economic Myths That Just Won’t Die" barely scratched the surface. Here are five more assertions of "common knowledge" that the empirical evidence shows to be untrue.

Myth 1: Immigrants take American jobs and reduce American wages.

Contrary to the conventional wisdom, which asserts that immigrants reduce wages, research on US immigration published by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) has shown that “immigration has a positive net effect on native employment.” A study published by German economists on immigration in wealthy countries has shown that immigrants have a “positive impact on GDP per capita and a negative impact on aggregate unemployment, [as well as on] native and foreign born unemployment rates.” According to a review of the empirical evidence on immigration and American wages published by the Brookings Institution,
Economists find that, on average, previous waves of immigrants [have] tended to boost American wages. In fact, studies have shown that immigration has caused small but positive gains in wages of American-born workers of between 0.1 percent and 0.6 percent between 1990 and 2006.
Many claim that immigrants come to the host country to take advantage of welfare benefits, ultimately costing the government a fortune. However, a Harvard University review of the empirical evidence on the economic impacts of immigration found that “on average, immigrants appear to have a minor positive net fiscal effect for host countries.” To give a specific example, despite Sweden’s extensive welfare state, a recent study found that the net fiscal contributions of Romanian and Bulgarian immigrants were “substantially positive.”

Myth 2: Multinational corporations are shipping our jobs overseas.

This argument typically comes from the anti-globalization crowd. In their view, corporations ship American jobs overseas to countries where they can treat their workers like animals and pay them barely enough to live. The implication of such beliefs is that trade should be restricted for the benefit of both the foreign-born workers who are being exploited and the native workers who are having their jobs outsourced.

But this worldview is lacking one crucial component: evidence. Most people simply take it to be true that an American job shipped overseas is an American job lost and that multinational corporations exploit their workers. However, according to a study by the US International Trade Commission,
Foreign affiliate employment in high-income countries is complementary with US parent employment (US employment in manufacturing is higher when foreign affiliate employment in high-income countries is higher); foreign affiliate employment in low-income countries seems to have no effect on US parent employment. This last point runs contrary to the claims of the opponents of offshoring that posit that jobs abroad replace jobs at home.
In other words, American multinational corporations that offshore jobs to their foreign affiliates aren’t actually reducing their domestic employment.

Also, offshoring jobs to high-income countries is associated with an increase in employment in the domestic parent company. Other studies corroborate this finding. One review concluded, “The empirical evidence to date, while still tentative, actually suggests that increased employment in the overseas affiliates of US multinationals is associated with more employment in the US parent rather than less.”

Furthermore, in regard to the claim that multinational corporations exploit their workers, a review of the evidence published by the NBER finds that
As an empirical matter … there is virtually no careful and systematic evidence demonstrating that, as a generality, multinational firms adversely affect their workers.… In fact, there is a very large body of empirical evidence indicating the opposite is the case. Foreign ownership raises wages by both raising labor productivity and by expanding the scale of production, and, in the process, improves the conditions of work.
Opponents of globalization and freer trade often rely on their arguments being taken at face value, and when taken at face value their arguments are quite persuasive. However, the underlying assumptions of their arguments are demonstrably false.

Myth 3: Government spending and hiring alleviates unemployment.

Two economists from the University of Delaware, Burton Abrams and Siyan Wang, used data from 20 developed countries over three decades to examine how government spending as a share of GDP affects the unemployment rate (when accounting for other relevant factors). They found
That increases in government outlays hamper economic growth and raise the unemployment rate. Moreover, different types of government outlays are found to have different effects on growth and unemployment, with transfers and subsidies having a larger effect than government purchases. In addition, Granger causality tests suggest unidirectional causation from government outlays to economic growth and the unemployment rate.
These findings are notable because they don’t just establish a correlation; they use causality tests to find that government spending causes higher unemployment, not the other way around. Research by other economists arrives at similar results.

Moreover, scholars have examined the relationship between public employment and private employment. Using data from a sample of developed countries over the years 1960 to 2000, European researchers found, “On average, [the] creation of 100 public jobs may have eliminated about 150 private sector jobs, slightly decreased labour market participation, and increased by about 33 the number of unemployed workers.”

And recent study by the International Monetary Fund comes to the following conclusions:
High rates of public employment, which incur substantial fiscal costs, have a large negative impact on private employment rates and do not reduce overall unemployment rates … Public-sector hiring: (i) does not reduce unemployment, (ii) increases the fiscal burden, and (iii) inhibits long-term growth through reductions in private-sector employment.
All this evidence suggests that bigger government isn’t the solution to persistent unemployment. In fact, there is reason to believe that bigger government results in undesirable employment outcomes.

Myth 4: “Conservative” economic policies lead to slower employment growth.

Recently, opponents of the free market have taken to social media to compare the high employment growth of California, a state that raised taxes, to the low employment growth of Kansas, a state that lowered taxes. However, they ignore that Kansas has an unemployment rate of less than 5 percent, whereas California’s is 7.4 percent, one of the worst in the country. But besides that, these are cherry-picked statistics. One cannot determine the impact of a specific policy or policies on employment by using data from two states for only one year.

Luckily, researchers from the Federal Reserve have examined how “conservative” economic policies, which are actually classical liberal policies, affect employment growth. After controlling for around a dozen other confounding variables, the authors find that states with less government intrusion in the economy have faster employment growth. According to Thomas A. Garrett and Russell M. Rhine of the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis,
States with greater economic freedom — defined as the protection of private property and private markets operating with minimal government interference — experienced greater rates of employment growth. In addition, we find that less restrictive state and national government labor market policies have the greatest impact on employment growth in US states.

Further results suggest that labor market freedom and a smaller state government, which are two components of overall economic freedom, are important determinants of employment growth across US states.
On a similar note, economists Lauren Heller and Frank Stephenson examined data on the 50 states from 1981 through 2009. The authors found that, after accounting for other confounding factors, states with more economic freedom had lower unemployment, higher labor-force participation and higher employment-to-population ratios (the percentage of the working-age population that is employed).

Myth 5: Government spending is good for economic growth.

Research shows that in wealthy countries, further government spending leads to slower economic growth, even when the possibility of reverse causality is taken into account. A survey of the evidence on the subject undertaken by Swedish economists Andreas Bergh and Magnus Henrekson states, “The research is rather close to a consensus: the correlation [between government size and economic growth] is negative, and the sign seems not to be an unintended consequence of reverse causality.” And a World Bank study on the relationship between government and well-being in Europe concluded, “Make government more efficient, or make it smaller.”

It may be desirable for developing countries to limit the size of their governments as well. Research has shown that “important indicators of economic freedom such as openness to trade and small size of the government are robustly associated with poverty reduction.”

In 2013, economist Livio Di Matteo of the Fraser Institute, a Canadian think tank, published important research attempting to pinpoint the size of government (measured as government spending as a share of GDP) that maximizes economic growth. Using data from 70 countries over the period 2000–2011 and controlling for the effects of numerous other relevant variables, Di Matteo found that “annual per capita GDP growth is maximized at 3.1 percent at a government expenditure to GDP ratio of 26 percent; beyond this ratio, economic growth rates decline.”

For reference, in the United States, government spending as a share of GDP was over 40 percent in 2012. This ratio exceeded 50 percent in countries such as France, Denmark, and Sweden. Thus, these countries are at the point where their governments’ size and scope are likely detrimental to economic growth — and consequently detrimental to the advancement of the populace’s standard of living.

Conclusion

Claims should be backed by evidence. Unfortunately, people often forget to offer up data, and therefore claims that get repeated enough become accepted as “common knowledge.” Many people simply assume that the government can create jobs — or that one more employed immigrant means one more unemployed native — rather than bothering to look up the scholarly research on the matter.

Ultimately, it is wisest to be skeptical about any economic assertions until their authors provide convincing evidence.
Of course, in MY opinion, the biggest myth of them all is #5, or simply stated, Keynesian Economics in its entirety!

HT: Don Boudreaux

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Worthy Reads from Reason's Nick Gillespie

Did President Obama Just Break the Internet?

Why the FBI’s Suicide Note to MLK Still Matters 

3 Charts About Income Inequality, Transfers, and Taxes


My First Principles on War

After reading Doug Bandow's recent article on the Obama Administration's continued clusterfu*k in Iraq and Syria, purportedly aimed at battling a non-existential threat to the security of the United States, it occurred to me that my First Principles on the question of war would be as follows:

  • Don't do it.
  • If you need a scorecard or reference manual to simply know who your allies are, refer to the previous point.
  • Don't do it unless you're willing to take up arms and lead yourself (aka as the "don't hide behind the flesh of other people's children")
  • Don't do it unless you're facing an existential threat to the security of the country.  If the threat is determined to qualify as such a threat, refer back to the previous point.

Our Nobel Prize Winning President and His Administration

A real WTF?!!! headline and story from Doug Bandow entitled Obama Administration Loses Collective Mind: Sending Troops to Iraq, Targeting Assad in Syria?:
In 2009 President Barack Obama received the Nobel Peace Prize before doing much of anything. Since then he has initiated two wars, first in Libya and now in Iraq and Syria, and escalated another, in Afghanistan. Alas, he has demonstrated that it is bad to start wars unnecessarily, but even worse to wage wars foolishly.

The administration appears to have lost its collective mind. The president has added ground forces to the battle in Iraq and the military has suggested introducing thousands more. His officials reportedly have decided to focus on overthrowing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the name of fighting the Islamic State.

It is hard to know which of these ideas is worse.

The U.S. has been back at war in the Middle East for more than two months. The results have not been pretty.

The administration claims to have created a vast coalition of 60 nations, roughly 30 percent of the world’s countries. Alas, as in the past the celebrated gaggle assembled by Washington turned out to be mostly a PR stunt. The U.S. accounts for about 770 of the roughly 900 strikes on Iraq and Syria. The Arab states have done little in the air and nothing afoot. Only Iran, which Washington fears almost as much as ISIL, has put boots on the ground.

Most flagrantly AWOL is Turkey, which has tolerated radical fighters transiting through and even operating on its territory. Many of the Islamic State’s combatants came from Turkey and ISIL has targeted Turkish territory for its caliphate. Yet Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan only cares about the ouster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, once a close friend. And Erdogan expects the U.S. do the job for him.

Nor has the administration’s scattershot bombing campaign had much effect. Iraq’s Baghdad has not fallen. That was never likely, however. Kurdistan’s Irbil remains in danger. Syria’s Kobani is unconquered but in ruins, and thousands of its residents have fled.

The Islamic State quickly adjusted its tactics to minimize the vulnerability of its forces. By one count U.S. strikes have killed 464 Islamic State personnel and 57 fighters for Jabhat al-Nusra, an al-Qaeda affiliate. However, the estimated number of ISIL fighters trebled to as many as 30,000 just a couple weeks into Obama’s war.

Moderate Syrian rebels, most notably the Harakat al-Hazm and Syrian Revolutionary Front, favored by the administration have been routed in that country’s north. Many fighters defected or fled while abandoning their heavy weapons, including TOW anti-tank missiles and BM-21 Grad rockets, provided by Washington. Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken essentially admitted failure: “Unfortunately, every day there is going to be in some part of Iraq or some part of Syria, a community that is under siege, under attack, and is looking for help. We can’t be every place, every time.”

The Free Syrian Army, the biggest Western-oriented insurgent group, also is losing fighters, perhaps 3000 in the last few months, largely to al-Nusra. This raises questions about how “moderate” the group actually is. Some of Assad’s opponents now are criticizing the U.S. Former U.S. ambassador Robert Ford explained: “they are burning American flags because they think we are helping the regime instead of helping them.” Residents of Raqqa, the ISIL stronghold bombed by American forces, blame Washington for higher food and fuel prices, as well as electricity outages.

Iraq’s Shiite majority has formed a new government—handing the Interior Ministry to a hardline Shia faction responsible for past atrocities against Sunni civilians. President Obama hasn’t even sold his policy to his own aides. One unnamed administration official told CNN: “It has been pretty clear for some time that supporting the moderate opposition in the hopes of toppling Assad, isn’t going to work.” Four months ago the administration announced that it planned to vet and train “moderate” insurgents; as yet not a single Syrian has been approved. Once begun, that process will take three to five months, followed by eight to nine months of training. Thus, it will be at least another year before the first U.S.-backed fighter is ready to do battle.

Moreover, last week reports emerged that the Islamic State and al-Nusra Front, long at odds, agreed to stop battling each other. The pact appears to have grown out of a series of informal local ceasefires begun last month and envisions the two radical groups fighting together. The administration’s plan for the “moderates” to defeat this strengthened radical axis and the Syrian government looks ever more fantastic.

Through everything the Islamic State is unbowed, accepting recruits, raising funds, slaughtering opponents, and launching attacks. The administration appears to have created its own variant of the infamous quagmire: continuing, desultory warfare with little effect other than to suck America deeper into sectarian strife. At the same time Washington is relieving Middle Eastern nations of the need to act in their own defense and making ever more enemies by intervening yet again in someone else’s quarrel. The Islamic State’s Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi responded to the U.S. campaign with a call to “erupt volcanoes of jihad everywhere.”

So the administration apparently is rethinking its policy. And preparing to make everything worse.

The president already has doubled U.S. boots on the ground, sending in another 1500 advisers to Iraq. Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stated in September that as many as 15,000 U.S. troops might be needed for “a ground component to the campaign” to retake Iraqi and Syrian territory seized by ISIL. Last week he said that the administration was considering sending American personnel to cooperate with Iraqi troops in the battle for Mosul and to guard Iraq’s border.

As yet he didn’t “foresee a circumstance when it would be in our interest to take this fight on ourselves with a large military contingent.” However, if, as is likely, the administration’s latest escalation has little effect, the administration will be under greater pressure with fewer options. Already this is as much America’s as Iraq’s war, even though the Islamic State did not attack the U.S.

However, Baghdad holds the key to defeating ISIL: either reconcile with or free Iraq’s Sunnis. The majority Shia must give the Sunni tribes and former Baathists who don’t want to live in the 7th century—the great majority of the population of Mosul, Anbar Province, and elsewhere—an incentive to confront the Islamic State. (Either federalism or independence would work.) But Baghdad has little incentive to do so if it believes the U.S. will do the fighting instead.

Equally foolish, administration officials reportedly want to shift their focus to wrecking the most competent military force opposing ISIL: the Syrian army. While escalating the conflict Obama officials have declared the Iraq-first approach to be “untenable.”

True, but not because America is not doing more. Baghdad holds the key in Iraq, while U.S. policy in Syria is internally inconsistent. Alistair Baskey, spokesman for the National Security Council, explained: “Alongside our efforts to isolate and sanction the Assad regime, we are working with our allies to strengthen the moderate opposition.” The first is the strongest opponent of the Islamic State, while the latter spends most of its time attacking the first. The president should not expect his policy to defeat anyone.

Yet the administration apparently is moving toward a Syria first strategy, based on the ouster of President Assad. Proposed steps include accelerating aid to the “moderates” and establishing a no-fly zone along the Turkey-Syria border. Rep. Ed Royce (R-Ca.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said he understood the proposal to be at least in part a response to pressure from Turkey and the Gulf States, which have funded radical forces in Syria against Assad and expect Washington to protect them from their folly. On the record administration officials speak of a reappraisal as part of a constant review process.

Focusing on Damascus would be twice stupid. First, it would mean essentially doubling down on the policy of supporting the weakest faction in Syria, whose members have been defecting to the radicals. Second, it would entail targeting what today is the strongest force resisting the Islamic State. A “moderate” victory against both jihadist and government forces is the least likely outcome. Far more likely, U.S.-supplied insurgents would weaken the Assad regime, perhaps enough to contribute to an ISIL/al-Nusra victory. Then the fun would really start, perhaps with mass beheadings in Damascus.

One reason Americans elected President Obama was their belief that he had learned from the Bush administration’s foolish misadventure in Iraq. That hope faded when the president launched his own war against Libya’s Moammar Qaddafy, which also had disastrous consequences. Now it appears that Sen. Obama’s famous 2002 speech denouncing the Iraq invasion reflected partisanship rather than prescience. Barack Obama no less than George W. Bush believes in trying to bring peace to the Mideast through war.

The Islamic State is evil, but until now it was not interested in terrorizing Americans. Rather, ISIL’s raison d’etre was establishing a Middle Eastern caliphate, or quasi-state, from the territory of several Middle Eastern countries which have large armies and para-militaries, and competent air forces. The administration used the tragic but limited plight of the Yazidi people as an excuse to micro-manage an entire conflict-filled region. As a result, the Obama policy could end up sacrificing the lives, wealth, and security of Americans for years to come.

Like a second marriage, Washington’s latest Middle Eastern excursion represents the triumph of hope over experience. It is hard to point to a military intervention in the broader region which has worked well: Lebanon in 1983, Iraq almost continuously since 1990, Somalia in 1992, Afghanistan for more than 13 years starting in 2001, Libya in 2011. Other forms of meddling have been scarcely more successful: drone warfare in Pakistan and Yemen, decades of financial, military, and diplomatic backing for Egypt, destruction of Iranian democracy in 1953, dismissal of Saudi-backed suppression of Bahrain’s Shia majority by its Sunni monarchy, and tepid support for Syria’s insurgents. Virtually every U.S. action has resulted in a worse reaction, including by al-Qaeda and now the Islamic State—the latter but one of many ill consequences of the Iraq invasion.

Despite this extraordinary record, the administration would have us believe that it can simultaneously destroy ISIL, rid Iraq of sectarianism, replace Bashar al-Assad with a Syrian Thomas Jefferson, contain Iranian influence, and convince a gaggle of hostile Middle Eastern states to work together to further America’s ends. The administration admits that it’s been tough going so far, but all we need to do now apparently is put more ground forces into Iraq and better target Assad.

President Obama told Americans in explaining his policy toward the Islamic State: “Keep in mind that this is something that we know how to do.” Very badly. It’s time he and others in Washington learned from past mistakes, which are almost too many to be numbered. The first may be the most serious: the belief that the U.S. can transcend religion, history, ethnicity, tradition, politics, and geography and “fix” the Middle East. America can’t. It’s time to give up trying to do so.

Glenn Greenwald on America's Next President: Hillary Clinton

Quite a read indeed: Cynics, Step Aside: There is Genuine Excitement Over a Hillary Clinton Candidacy.  Here's the opening paragraph:
It’s easy to strike a pose of cynicism when contemplating Hillary Clinton’s inevitable (and terribly imminent) presidential campaign. As a drearily soulless, principle-free, power-hungry veteran of DC’s game of thrones, she’s about as banal of an American politician as it gets. One of the few unique aspects to her, perhaps the only one, is how the genuinely inspiring gender milestone of her election will (following the Obama model) be exploited to obscure her primary role as guardian of the status quo.
 ... and that's only a warm-up!

Japanese Economy - Abenomics

Latest Updates Below, in RED:

Recall how Japanese recycled Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has printed stimulated the Japanese economy to the tune of $116B, all with the goal of course of ending Japan's journey through the economic doldrums (recession), which has been underway now for at least 30 years.  Of course, Abe said that "this time it would be different" as the stimulus would be "targeted" not on infrastructure, but on innovation and technology.  Well, all is not well and this time will be no different (well, at least if you're not counting being worse than before as 'different') than from the other failures in the past: Keynesianism does not work and you cannot borrow or print your way out-of-debt. 

So Abe-san, how's that stimulus working out for 'ya?

Why "This Time Won't Be Different" For Japan In Two Charts by Tyler Durden  [especially interesting is the impact of Japan's decision to shutdown all but one of its nuclear power plants after the tsunami]

Abe Says Fears Of Hyperinflation Are "Mostly" Unfounded As He Urges Companies To Hike Wages by Tyler Durden [last few sentences are all that need to be said]


Japan Food Prices Set To Soar As Government Hikes Wholesale Wheat Prices By 10% by Tyler Durden:
If the past three months have been any indication of what Japan has to look forward to from Abenomics, we have a feeling his tenure will be as short, if not shorter, than all of his recent (and numerous, among which he, himself) predecessors. Because while the stock market may have risen in lock step with the plunge in the Yen, what has also soared are costs. And while a very select few benefit from the transitory surge in the Nikkei, the rising costs, i.e., inflation, hit everyone equally.
But while the "no free lunch" reality has until now mostly been felt by those who need energy, as shown in "You Wanted Inflation, You Got It: Japanese Gasoline Price Rises To Eight Month High" the inflationary impact on Chinese imports is about to hit everyone like a sledgehammer right where it hurts the most: in the stomach, as the inevitable has finally happened, and the agriculture ministry announced that wholesale wheat prices are set to rise by a near-record 9.7% in April, which will shortly thereafter send regular food prices soaring.
And just like that Japan is about to learn that soaring stock prices always have a trade off, a lesson which even GETCO's S&P ramping algos will not be exempt from when the latest bout of soaring food inflation results in central banks scrambling to withdraw liquidity, just as they did in early 2011. The results will naturally be the same.

As for how long Abe's government will remain in power after energy and food inflation sweep through the net importing nation, that is anyone's guess.

Japan: Front-Runner Of Outright Monetization by Ryutaro Kono of BNP Paribas

Japanese Welfare Recipients Hit All-Time High by Tyler Durden

The Abenomics Farce Continues by Tyler Durden

Abenomics Tries To Make Sure Japan Is Going Down Swinging by Wolf Richter

Abenomics Utter Fail: Japan’s Crazy Exploding Trade Deficit  by Wolf Richter

Abenomics Wins: Budget And Inflation Both Jump (Over The Cliff) by Wolf Richter

“We Don’t Feel Any Impact Of Abenomics Here”  by Wolf Richter

Japan’s Frantic Redo Of An Artificial Boom Followed By A Bust  by Wolf Richter

BNP Warns Only 10% Chance That Abenomics "Ends Well" by Tyler Durden

Japanese Consumers, Hammered By Abenomics, Get Gloomier   by Wolf Richter

Cheered on by the OECD, Japan Announces Higher VAT Rate to Enable Bigger Government by Dan Mitchell

What Will It Take To Blow Up The Entire Japanese Banking System? (Not Much, According To The Bank of Japan)  by Wolf Richter

Chart Of The Day: "Japan Has No Alternative But To Print And Print And Print" by Tyler Durden

Abenomics One Year Later by Tyler Durden

Dismal Abenomics Leads To 16th Consecutive Decline In Japanese Wages by Tyler Durden

The Japanese Feel The Heat From The Big Lie Of Abenomics by Wolf Richter  [last for 2013]

*******************   2014 *******************************

Crazy Abenomics Orgy In Japan Is Ending Already – Pounding Hangover Next by Wolf Richter

The Madness Of Abenomics In One (Crazy) Chart by Wolf Richter

Total Abenomics Fail Slams Japan Where It Hurts Most by Wolf Richter

Double Data Whammy For Japan As PMI Tumbles & Industrial Production Misses By Most Since Abenomics by Tyler Durden

The Economic Catastrophe That Is Abenomics Sends Japanese Gas Prices To Five Year Highs by Tyler Durden

Abenomics At Work: Largest Ever Trade Deficit Slams Domestic Wages, Gooses Overseas Corporate Profits by Mike Mish Shedlock

Abenomics At Work: Japanese Consumer Confidence Plummets Due To Rising Prices, Stagnant Wages by Pater Tenebrarum

Abenomics Down The Memory Hole: Maniac Money Printing Has Not Stopped Japan’s Falling Wages by Jeffrey P. Snider

Abenomics At Work: Japan’s April Output And Orders Fall Sharply by Mike Mish Shedlock

Japan’s 10th Round Of QE: Still A Flat-Out Failure by Jeffrey P. Snider

Abenomics: Japan’s Live Fire Test Of Keynesian Central Banking Is A Growing Disaster by David Stockman

Abenomics' Legacy: Japan's Greatest "Misery" In 33 Years by Tyler Durden

Abenomics Nails Japan’s Workers: April Real Wages Down 3% Y/Y by Jeffrey P. Snider

Japan’s Great Keynesian Rebuke: Abenomics Has Wiped Out ItsTrade Accounts—-Exactly Opposite The Theory by Jeffrey P. Snider

The Essence Of Abenomics: Swapping Japan’s Historical Trade Mercantilism For Keynesian Financialization by Jeffrey P. Snider

The Wrath of Abenomics: Sales Collapse, Inflation Soars by Wolf Richter

Abe's Worst Nightmare: Household Spending Collapses As Inflation Spikes by Tyler Durden

Printing Press “Prosperity”: The Complete And Utter Failure Of Abenomics by Andy Sirkis

Japan’s ‘Surge’ Undone: The Abenomics Rebuke To Keynesian Money Printers by Jeffrey P. Snider

The Flame-Out Of Abenomics, in One Crucial Chart by Wolf Richter

 Pity The Japanese: They’ve Been Turned Into Keynesian Lab Rats  by Jeffrey P. Snider

 What Japan’s June Trade Disaster Really Means: Abenomics Is Flaming-Out by Wolf Richter

Abenomics Is Working: Japanese Households On Welfare Rise To Record by Tyler Durden 

The Raging “Success” of Abenomics in one Crucial Chart  by Wolf Richter

Japan’s Keynesian Money Printing Experiment Continues To Fail: Jobs, Real Incomes And Spending Plunge Again from ZeroHedge

Keynesian Central Banking Is An Economic Scourge: More Evidence From Japan from Jeffrey P. Snider

The Wrath of Abenomics Crushes Japanese Consumers, Eviscerates Economy by Wolf Richter:
So the hapless Japanese consumers are in the nightmarish situation of having to watch how the government that they themselves elected into power is executing its plan that had been part of its election platform. That plan is now destroying their earnings power and their life savings at a rate that middle-aged Japanese have only read about in history books.

Abenomics Crushes Sony: Electronics Giant Forced To Cancel Dividend For First Time Ever by Tyler Durden

Miraculous Impact of Abenomics on Trade, in One Chart by Wolf Richter

Prime Minister Abe’s Keynesian Delusions  by Jeffrey P. Snider

Japanese Stocks Tumble After BoJ Bond-Buying Operation Fails For First Time Since Abenomics from ZeroHedge

In Memoriam: Abenomics from ZeroHedge

Keynesian Yen Trashers At Work: Abenomics Triggers Soaring Bankruptcies In Japan from ZeroHedge 

QE Is Clearly Destroying Japan, So BoJ Panics Into More by Jeffrey P. Snider

The BOJ Jumps The Monetary Shark—–Now The Machines, Madmen And Morons Are Raging by David Stockman 

Kuroda’s Madness Intensifies: New Yen Flood Was Designed To Counter Slumping Oil Prices! by Raúl Ilargi Meijer 

Abe Approval Tumbles As Majority Say Japan's "Banzainomics" QE Will Have Negative Effects from ZeroHedge

Abenomics Creates "Potential For Economic Collapse Triggered By Bond Market Crash", Warns Richard Koo from ZeroHedge 

"Godfather" Of Abenomics Admits Japanese Policy "Is A Ponzi Game... Taxpayers May Revolt" from ZeroHedge 

Japan’s Last Stand - Portent Of Keynesian Collapse from ZeroHedge

The Inevitable End—–Statist Economics Are Destroying Japan  by Jeffrey P. Snider 

New: The Abenomics Death Spiral  by Peter Schiff