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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Budget Myths

It's not the big news of the day, but the Trump administration released the President's budget for 2018 yesterday.  Every spring, there is an event when the White House releases its budget.  That is usually followed by Congress rejecting that budget.  One year, president Obama's budget was put up for vote in Congress and got zero support.  That's not an overstatement; not a single Democrat or Republican voted in favor of the Obama budget.  So it's safe to assume that Trump's budget will also be dead on arrival.

Why then is it worth discussing this budget?  That's because the budget as a whole won't pass, but the priorities and proposals in the Trump budget will affect the final product.  The media has decided that the big story from the budget is that President Trump wants to cut food stamps and some other welfare programs.  On article I saw denounced Trump for wanting to impose a work requirement on those receiving food stamps.  Oh, the horror!  It's amazing how reporters from the mainstream media seem to know nothing of history.  The food stamp program was passed decades ago.  It contained a provision that required able-bodied people who sought food stamps to work if possible.  The idea of the program was to help those who needed help but also to get these people back on their own feet if possible.  Obviously, children and the elderly weren't required to work.  Those with injuries or illnesses weren't required to work.  Those who could not find a job weren't required to work.  This last group, however, was required to take work if it could be found or lose their benefits.  Americans don't mind helping those in need; we want to do it.  The majority of people, however, do not want to be forced to support those who are too lazy to work if able to support themselves.  This was from the start part of the food stamp program.

Eight years ago, president Obama decided that he would waive the work requirement.  We were in the midst of a major recession and Obama didn't want any limit on food stamps.  Instead, he did all he could to promote the program and doubled those receiving food stamp assistance.  Unemployment was around 10% and millions more dropped out of the labor force.  That's not where we are anymore, however.  President Trump just wants to put back into the food stamp program the requirement that those who are able to support themselves must make an effort to do so.  Remember, going to work doesn't necessarily deprive someone of food stamps.  In other words, taking a low paying job if that is all that is available still allows a person to get food stamps.  The days of those who do nothing but still get food stamps should end quickly.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Nail Bombs And A Concert

The attack in Manchester, England that hit a crowd leaving a concert by Ariana Grande is really a new low by the terrorists.  The normal demographic at one of these concerts is comprised of teenaged girls.  This is the latest target for the terrorist cowards who claim to be doing God's work.

OK.  I know that I'm calling it a terrorist attack without five police commissions, two government ministers and seven religious leaders who get together to officially proclaim the attack to be a terror attack, so maybe I'm jumping to conclusions.  No, I'm not. This was an attack by low-life cowardly scum who seek only to kill young women who they don't even know.

I'm tired of this stuff.  I'm tired that we see more and more places subjected to this craziness.  I'm sickened by the idea that we still have people in this country who think that keeping potential terrorists out of the country is a bad thing because it is being proposed by the President who they hate.  I'm angry that the focus of our politics and media is investigating a non-existent Russian connection even though there's no evidence that any such thing exists after a full year of investigation.  We need to be focused on reality, a reality in which we face a very real threat.   I'm angry at the fools who criticize President Trump for calling the terrorists "evil" and then claim Trump's lack of sophistication will undermine the fight against terrorism.  Excuse me, they won't even say "terrorism", it's the fight against violent extremism.  Just two days ago, we saw the President tell the Islamic world that it has to clean up its own mess.  It has to tear the evil terrorists out completely and destroy them and their evil ideology of death.

Sorry to seem so wound up, but it's not every evening that one gets to hear about 20 or so people slaughtered at a concert by these monsters. 

The Inmates Are Trying Again To Take Over The Asylum

There's a rather hysterical article about the stock market sitting on the Yahoo Finance site as I write this.  It is written by a reporter who cannot understand why the stock market hasn't tanked given all the supposed bad news and controversy surrounding President Trump.  You can hear the disappointment in the reporters prose as she laments the failure of the stock market to collapse in panic.

Let's stop there for a moment.  Does it really make sense that a supposed financial reporter is rooting for a market collapse?  What kind of a moron is that?

But let's continue because the report gets worse.  After the lamentations about non-collapse, the reporter identifies the culprit that is holding up the market:  stellar earnings growth.  In other words, the public companies listed on the exchanges are making more money now than they did last year when Obama was in office.  This outcome (which the reporter must view as some sort of weird coincidence) is screwing up the market collapse that the reporter so clearly wants.

That's enough of the drivel from the reporter.  She has made very clear that she doesn't have a clue how markets work.  There is only one thing that drives the stock market: the desire to make money.  A wonderful company that does all sorts of good deeds will see its stock collapse if it proves unable to make a profit.  Even companies whose stock prices soar before they make much money do so because investors are betting that the company will shortly start cranking out cash.  Political turmoil doesn't drive the market.  Sometimes political turmoil raises the possibility that disruption will lower future earnings, and that can cause a down trend.

Looking Back and Looking Ahead About OIl

With President Trump just leaving Saudi Arabia, it's worth taking a moment to look at the status of the world's oil markets and supplies.  Ever since the Arab oil embargo of 1973, there has been a persistent goal state for the USA of "energy independence".  America had to get to the point where it could not be held hostage by OPEC deciding to cut off production or sales.  Different approaches were tried.  We made our vehicles more efficient and cut oil needs, but the number of cars on the road went up so there wasn't much impact.  We moved our home heating systems away from oil heat where possible.  We transitioned away from generating any electrical power from oil (it's now much less than 1% of the total).  These changes, while helpful, were still small compared to the overall usage. 

The next idea was "renewable" energy.  America would be powered by solar and wind power.  This was rolled together with the claim of global warming and adopted as a main tenet of the left.  They believe that fossil fuel is bad and renewable energy is good.  The problem with renewable energy is two-fold.  First, it cannot produce enough reliable energy to make much of a difference.  Wind farms may be sprouting around the country, but almost a meaningless percentage of our power needs are met by these windmills.  Solar energy is faring better, but it too just doesn't provide enough energy at the moment to let it compete with fossil fuels.  Second, of course, is the problem that neither wind nor solar can power cars or other vehicles.  Maybe someday far in the future there will be technology that will let this happen, but for now, it's just a pipe dream.

President Obama pushed very hard for renewable energy despite all the drawbacks.  He even adopted some rather convenient lies to help in his push for the renewable energy.  Just about five years ago he told us the following about drilling for oil in a speech to the nation:

But we can’t just drill our way out of this problem. While we consume 20 percent of the world’s oil, we only have 2 percent of the world’s oil reserves. We’ve got to develop new technology that will help us use new forms of energy. That’s been a priority of mine as President. And because of the investments we’ve made, our use of clean, renewable energy has nearly doubled — and thousands of Americans have jobs because of it.

That was a lie when Obama said it.  Today, however, we can now understand just how big a lie.  America's oil producers are growing domestic oil production at a rapid pace.  The current estimates are that by the end of 2018 over ten percent more of our domestic oil needs will by satisfied by American oil than today.  That's amazing since American oil production has already risen by over 30% in the last four years.  Obama said we couldn't drill our way out of the problem and in the space of seven years, our domestic production will be doubled. 

This is almost completely due to fracking.  As you know if you follow any of the environmental news, fracking is enough to cause the heads of the enviro-crazies to explode.  Some states, like New York, have banned fracking and the wealth that comes with it for land owners and workers.  Other states, however, have welcomed fracking.  Pennsylvania, for example, has become the nation's second largest producer of natural gas and gained tens of billions of dollars in wealth and hundreds of thousands of good paying jobs as a result.  (Consider that the although they share a long border, NY has a very high state income tax while PA has a very low one.  Is that the result of fracking?)

Right now, American oil production is booming.  We no longer have an opponent of oil in the White House, so many of the idiotic anti-energy regulations of the Obama era are disappearing.  Further, oil producers have become so efficient in drilling wells using fracking that the oil from the resulting wells is now able to be sold profitably on world markets even at prices of $30 per barrel.  And the efficiencies are getting better!

The truth is that America really is at a point where we are becoming energy independent.  Indeed, we are the world's biggest producer of natural gas (again thanks to fracking).  We will soon be the world's biggest oil producer as well (if we haven't already claimed that crown.)  As exports of natural gas grow, we may quickly get to the point at which net energy trades (imports less exports) approach zero.  The most amazing thing about this is that is was done over the strong efforts of president Obama to prevent it.  Fortunately for all of us, he was as bad at accomplishing that objective as he was with all of his other objectives.

Leave It To The Media -- More Nonsense About Trump

Newsweek has a major story about the extraordinary security and high cost of President Trump's trip to Jerusalem.  The focus is on the King David Hotel, which is where Trump will be staying while in Jerusalem.  The reporters announce that the USA took over the entire hotel for four days (since entry into the hotel has to be restricted for security purposes.)  According to the report, some Israelis estimate the cost at 100 million dollars.  The report goes on to talk of supposedly botched plans and problems with the visit.  There is a problem with the story, however.  For the most part, it's total BS.

Let's start with the cost.  There are 400 rooms in the hotel.  If the USA paid $1000 per night for each room (and the average cost is nowhere near that high), it would cost 400,000 dollars per night.  Let's assume, however, that the cost is one million dollars per night.  Over four days that would reach four million dollars if you assume that the night after Trump leaves the hotel cannot get back to normal.  That's a far cry from one hundred million dollars about which Newsweek reports.  What's the rest of the cost?  Are the secret service agents really hitting the mini-bar?  Are there really high fees for parking the presidential limo in the garage?  Of course not, but that doesn't stop Newsweek from reporting the fake number.

But it gets worse.  If you read the Newsweek report, you would think that Trump is just traveling in a lavish style that is totally over the top.  Of course, if you read to the fifteenth paragraph of the article, you will find buried in a sentence at the end of that long paragraph that the security/travel arrangements for President Trump are essentially the same as the ones in place when George W. Bush and later Barack Obama visited Jerusalem during their days as president.  It's an amazing admission.  The entire article is a phony.  Trump is not spending to live in lavish style; nope, the White House security team is simply following the established protocols in place since 9-11.

And while we're discussing Newsweek's article, we ought to mention what the magazine says was a botched plan for the visit.  President Trump canceled his trip to see Masada, a historical site next to the Dead Sea.  Masada was one of the last fortresses to hold out in the fight of the Jews against the Romans 2000 years ago.  It is an archeological site of major importance and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.  Trump was going to come to see it while in Israel, but that had to be changed when those in charge of maintaining the site said that they could not allow the President's helicopter to land there.  The fortress is on top of a small mountain in the middle of the desert.  The wind from the helicopter's blades would cause a major dust storm at the site and might damage some of the ruins left there.  There is a cable car which can be used to access the site from the valley below, but for security reasons, Trump cannot come that way.  The White House substituted a trip to the Israel Museum to see the Dead Sea Scrolls instead of the trip to Masada.  So consider the facts.  Does that sound like botched plans to you?  The President's plans were changed; that's for sure, but was this some international incident the way Newsweek portrays it?  Of course not.

Newsweek calls itself a journal of "liberal opinion".  It may be liberal and it is certainly filled with opinions.  The main name has to change.  How about FakeNewsweek (a journal of liberal phony stories).

Sunday, May 21, 2017

the AP Is Back At It -- Today It's Notre Dame

The AP has a big report out in the last hour about the protests at Notre Dame's commencement against Vice President Mike Pence.  The key to the article, though, is that nowhere does the AP make the point that the protest was a complete failure.

The article starts by telling the reader that "dozens" of students and parents walked out when Pence began to speak.  Let's unpack that statement.  We can't know for certain, but "dozens" most likely means around 50.  It can't be over 100 or the article would have said "about a hundred" or pushed it with "hundreds".  The article doesn't bother to say how many people attended the commencement.  That would have given the game away.  Just among undergraduates, there were 2500 graduates.  If you consider that on average an undergraduate brings at least his or her parents and perhaps grandparents, siblings and friends, it seems safe to estimate the number present at 10,000 or more.  And then you have the graduate students who were getting degrees.  How many more thousands should be added to the 10,000? 

The point here is that something like 50 people out of 15,000 got up when Pence started to speak and the AP treats it like something major happened.  It's a total joke and just more FAKE NEWS from the AP. 

I have to add one last thing:  the AP says that Pence did not acknowledge the walk out by these students and their parents.  Really?  More likely, Pence didn't even notice that they were leaving. 

Back on The Correct Side

During the Obama years, the USA switched sides in the ongoing battles in the Middle East.  For the fifty years prior to Obama entering the White House (and before), America had friends in that region who were moderates like Jordan, democracies like Israel or reasonable oil states like Kuwait.  We opposed the crazies like Saddam Hussein's Iraq, the religious terrorists like Hamas or the Moslem Brotherhood and the states seeking hegemony based upon religious intolerance like the Islamic Republic of Iran.  American policy was not always successful, nor was it always fully rational (in my view).  Sometimes we were torn between differing groups of allies.  Our allies, however, knew that they had our support and friendship.  George Bush changed that policy somewhat by encouraging democratization in the region in the hope that democracy would lead to regional peace.  Then came president Obama who flipped the whole policy on its head.  Obama abandoned old friends who had supported US policy aims in the region for decades.  Obama decided that America would be "open" to embrace regimes based upon religious intolerance even if they supported terrorism.  Those moves were repeated again and again in hopes that we could find friendship with Iran and the ayatollahs.  The Obama moves also saw the USA cheer as the Moslem Brotherhood (the MOSLEM BROTHERHOOD!!!) took control of the region's most populous country, Egypt.  Even when the Egyptians rose up and three out the Moslem Brotherhood, Obama had the USA oppose that move.

So what did it get us?  The Obamacrats will tell us quickly that we would not have had the nuclear agreement with Iran absent the change in policy.  For some reason, they think that is a good thing.  Iran went from a heavily sanctioned country on the verge of bankruptcy to one with plenty of cash and facing few sanctions.  Iran's nuclear program went from one that moved ahead towards a nuclear weapon to one that still moves ahead towards a nuclear weapon, just a bit more slowly.  Egypt turned away from the USA.  Russian troops were reintroduced into the region for the first time since the 1970s.  Our friends in Israel launched efforts to find friendships with Russia and China and India in the face of open hostility from Washington.  The Saudis and the other Sunni oil states grew wary of Washington and felt abandoned in their struggle against Iranian efforts to subvert them.  The Obama policy can only be described with one word:  FAILURE.

Since January, President Trump has been moving us back towards the traditional stance of the USA towards the region with his own gloss on the subject.  He outlined his view today in Riyadh.  He made clear that Iran is no longer to be treated by the USA as a "friend" since they have never been our friends.  He made clear that America does not wish to tell the region how to live, govern itself, or worship (no more Bush push towards democracy).  Trump did offer, however, a partnership for defeating Islamic terrorism.  The doctrine is indeed "partnership".  America won't do any of this alone.  We want and expect full cooperation and participation by all of the region's countries.

Some of the media pundits will tell us that this is just a rehash of things said by past presidents.  They're wrong.  What happened today, in its simplest form, is that President Trump told those heads of state assembled in Riyadh, "the USA is back on your side.  We are no longer wavering between you and the Iranians.  We expect your help, though."

That message is extremely important.  Think how a small nation like Kuwait felt knowing that it was just a few miles from Iran, Iran's huge and battle-tested army, and its soon-to-be access to nuclear warheads.  The Sunni Arabs know now that they have an ally so that they need not kowtow to Iran.  Hopefully, that alliance will mean enough to these nations so that they will crack down on the terrorists.  Only time will tell, but we do know at least one thing.  We are back on the correct side.  The days of appeasing Iranian moves are over.