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THE TANGLED WEB WE WEAVE…
2016/09/29 - One of the worst things about Big Government is the tangled web it weaves, in which just about everything gets ensnared and entangled, including, ultimately, itself.
A couple of dozen years ago some sovereign European nations got together to create a European super-state, the European Union (EU), or perhaps the European Monstrosity (EM), depending on how you see things. Now for those of who thought Europe had already been over-governed, this seemed like the spread of the disease, rather than the application of a cure.
We would have argued, for example, that splitting Belgium in two and ceding the southern half to France, and the northern half, along with Luxembourg, to the Netherlands, would have streamlined that part of Europe making it more simple, efficient and effective. But they chose Statism, which is never a good choice. They are of course free to choose, even to choose poorly, which indeed they did, but that’s their business.
So then there’s Ireland, which also chose, freely and poorly, to join the European Monstrosity. Ireland has actually done quite well in the European Monstrosity, leveraging its pro-business culture to attract investment and build probably the most dynamic free-market economy in Europe, allowing it to make major gains and close the gap on its EM siblings.
But the European Monstrosity will have no such thing. A dynamic, business-friendly, free-market economy? How dare they!! The damn Irish! Unacceptable. So last month, on August 30th, the EM decreed to the allegedly sovereign state of Ireland that they were undercharging for taxes, and ordered the Irish to collect $14.5 billion from Apple.
Welcome to the European Monstrosity. Message to Ireland: make your fiscal policies conform to our constricting, asphyxiating regime. Irexit, anyone?
Naturally the implications are far-reaching. Now every government in Europe, and every company operating in Europe, has to wonder where they stand on taxes, if the EM can retroactively and unilaterally over-rule sovereign tax law. Businesses hate uncertainty, and autocratic government create uncertainly. So business investment become even more sluggish and the economy will flounder even more. Job creation will stagnate. And social unrest will grow and spread. The opposite of Ireland’s economic model.
But back to Apple. Naturally, the Silicon Valley tech giants who rule the Obama Administration were not going to take this lying down. So, a couple of weeks later, a couple of weeks ago, on September 16, the United States Department of Justice announced a fine against Deutsche Bank for its involvement in the mortgage meltdown, a fine of - congratulations, you guessed it! - $14 billion.
That’s a problem, because Deutsche Bank does not have anywhere close to $14 billion kicking around, so a fine of that magnitude could put them on a path to bankruptcy. Now, if you begin to doubt the solvency of your bank, you race to the ATM to pull your money before anyone else does - it’s what you do. You don’t want to end up like the Hedge Funds that were left holding the bad because they were to slow to pull their money from Lehman before it went down. Today rumors began to surface that some Hedge Funds had begun pulling money from Deutsche. DB stock tumbled 7% on the rumors, and fears of systemic risk to the financial system took the Dow Jones down over 200 points.
In order to avoid a Lehmanesque déjà vu all-over-again global financial meltdown the German government will probably end up bailing out DB to the tune of - yup - $14 billion.
Follow the money: EM steals $14B from AAPL, uses the money to bail out DB, which in turn uses the money to pay a fine to the US. So in effect Apple pays the fine for Deutsche’s mortgage malfeasance.
Apple for heaven’s sake! Does that make any sense at all? Well that’s Big Government for you. Rewards and incentives, and fines and penalties, become distorted. And with perverted outcomes come decisions and actions that are no longer economically optimal. The economy suffers, and the people suffer.
My guess is that the Germans saw the DB fine coming, and being better at execution than the Obama Clown Club, pulled the trigger on Apple first in order to make the US look like we were retaliating against the EU, rather than the EU retaliating against the US.
We could leave it at that, but won’t. This kerfuffle should serve as a lesson regarding trade wars. Trade wars can get very ugly, and do a lot of collateral damage to people who have nothing to do with the dispute. AAPL barely existed at the time DB was screwing up mortgages, never mind have anything to do with it. How did they end up paying DB’s fine? Well, that’s exactly what happens in a trade war – if we take action, our target’s citizens will force there politicians to retaliate and to do so disproportionately and indiscriminately.
Donald Trump is right when he says we must negotiate better trade deals. The ego of a globalist like Obama loves the limelight that comes with announcing major international treaties and agreements. Announcing a deal, the Obama name in the headlines, the Obama signing ceremony, accolades from other globalists like Kerry and Soros and Zandi, and best of all, having the agreement named after you - the Obama Pacific Partnership - this is what an elitist/globalist lives for. The substance and outcomes of the deal are irrelevant, only the creation of the deal matters. You join the pantheon of history’s great global statesman.
Yes, Trump is right, we need to negotiate better deals, deals that substantially serve America’s interests, not just the egos of elitist/globalists. But everyone loses in a trade war. Yes, you could define “winning” as losing less worse than the other guy, but I won’t. “You should see the other guy” doesn’t cut it here.
REVIEW OF THE TRUMP ECONOMIC PLAN
2016/08/25 - There are really smart people around - not necessarily wise, but certainly smart - who make mention of relentlessly seeking a unified principle of everything. However, their pursuit is in vain because there already is a unified principle of everything.
Between the U.S. Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, The Wealth of Nations, and of course the Bible, you have a unified principle of everything. The foundation of religion, economics, politics and government - basic human society - firmly laid out.
Policymakers must heed these documents, or ignore them to the peril of their communities. Too often, however they do not. Sometimes out of malice, sometimes out of ignorance, most often here in America because well-intended emotional impulses get the better of them. Because they decision-making is ruled by their feelings and not their brains. Not very wise, and probably not very smart, either.
Although the writers of these documents were less technologically advanced than we are today, that does not mean they did not possess more wisdom. Today it is easy for us to confuse knowledge with wisdom, or intelligence with wisdom. We are certainly more knowledgeable than those who have gone before; whether we are more intelligent is debatable; but we do not seem to be wiser.
Unfortunately today we have many smart people - the intelligentsia - who reject these documents, for to ratify them would be to discredit their own raison d'être. Being smart, they come up with new ideas. But who needs smart people with new ideas, when the old ideas were good, right and true? But these smart people must come up with new ideas, so they come up with bad ones, because most of the good ideas have already been taken. In the process, professing themselves also to be wise, they become fools.
But the intelligentsia, hawking these new ideas don’t know they are fools, and ignorant and emotional leftist policymakers need them to justify their nonsense policy proposals. So we have a progressivist class of foolish liberal academics and ignorant Democrat politicians pushing detrimental policy proposals at us.
On August 9 Donald Trump unveiled his economic plan in a speech in Detroit. While we might disagree on a few basic points as well quibble over details, the plan was generally true to basic principles of free markets, the price mechanism, economic incentive, and freedom to succeed and to fail. And needless to say, very smart (but quite foolish) people such as Mark Zandi as well as the Clinton goons were soon on the attack.
But let’s consider some of the ideas in Trump's plan:
Nevertheless, the rally-smart-but-not-so-wise class - you know, the guys who gave us the last housing crisis - are back and on the attack…
OUR SEMI-ANNUAL UPDATE
2016/07/28 - We herewith present to you our semi-annual update on global economic prospects. In a nutshell, the overwhelming likelihood is for more of the same of what we have experienced for the past seven years: tepid, sluggish growth, low inflation and interest rates, and an expanding government sector.
The expanding government sector represents a major structural concern for the intermediate to longer term, but not the immediate present, so we will first consider the situation as it is. We don't expect a United States recession in the next six months, just slow growth. A catalyst for an economic pullback has not yet appeared on the horizon, though many issues lurk just beyond.
Surging oil prices have triggered almost every recession in the past fifty years. Even the 2008 recession, commonly blamed on housing, was preceded and ignited by $140/barrel oil. It takes little imagination to understand how what was called "the greatest wealth transfer in human history" - that is, from the West to OPEC - could trigger a recession in the "from" countries.
Fortunately, technological advances in the petroleum extraction industry over the past fifteen years enable domestic producers to provide global markets with what is for all intents and purposes an infinite supply of oil if prices ever again approach $60/barrel. Our supply-and-demand based free enterprise system, along with "fracking", as the technology is colloquially referred to, mean the end of oil price recessions for the next twenty to fifty years, perhaps forever.
After oil prices cratered back in the winter - and indeed overshot to the downside - they recovered to top the $50 mark last month, only to fall back to the $40 mark recently. Copper has had a move upward to $2.20/lb, reflecting, again, a steady but slow-mo economy. Baltic Dry shipping has also recovered somewhat, reflecting both a pullback of supply and diminished fears of a China collapse.
China has been a major economic force for decades, but that dominance is receding. The absolute population has peaked and the existing population is aging. Growth is slowing from eye-popping rates to mid-single digits and will continue to slow to levels expected of mature, developed economies. China will no longer be a major force in global economic expansion, or commodity price bubbles. That story is over. The bigger story now is China's debt overhang...
After a boom and bust cycle over the past year, the Shanghai Composite seems to have settled into a comfort zone around 3,000. China continues to slowly, almost imperceptibly, devalue the Yuan with exchange rates drifting from the mid- to upper-6 range - don't be surprised if it hits 7 by year end. Clearly the Chicomms are trying to sustain their decelerating export-based economy, while their Chairmen deny any such thing.
The dollar continues to hold steady against the Euro in the $1.10 range. The Pound took a leg down to the $1.30 mark after the June 23 Brexit vote, but has held steady of late. We do not believe that Brexit is a major game changer, and if anything, contrary to the opinion of the elites, we believe it represents a net loss to the EU of one of its strongest members, and a gain to the British as they shed themselves of a layer of excess government, and free themselves to follow their instincts which are more oriented to free enterprise and individual rights than the continentals.
We believe that US equity markets are fully and fairly valued and should drift slowly higher as the economy continues to limp along. Any pullbacks, such as the knee-jerk plunge that accompanied the Brexit vote, should be viewed as buy opportunities; and any sudden surges should be seen as selling opportunities.
So where are the risks? What are the threats that may be lurking just over the horizon?
Geopolitical risk is always a black swan. An excessive provocation by North Korea could plunge southeast Asia into warfare with severe negative implications; whereas a take-down of the Kim regime by a faction supporting reunification could be a strong catalyst for market gains in the short term and longer term global economic growth. But known risks are everywhere - Russia, China, the Mideast, India-Pakistan - and of course there are the unknown unknowns .
We believe that the greatest predictable risk is the cost of the already-massive scale, and seemingly unstoppabe growth, of Big Government worldwide. Big Government could fuel the next global economic upheaval. In spite of massive monetary and fiscal stimulus, global economic growth is hampered by taxes, handouts, and regulation.
Increasing existing taxes and imposing new taxes sucks the nutrition and energy out of the productive economy. From whence then does the incentive to invest come from? And where from comes the capital for business reinvestment and job creation, if that capital is expropriated in the form of higher taxes?
Handouts in the form of various programs such as welfare, unemployment insurance and so forth, however well-intended they may be, are counterproductive. The prosperity of any community is measured in terms of the value of its output, and when people are not working, that community will suffer diminished prosperity. When government programs create a survivable lifestyle of poverty then the work ethic of the community is extinguished and replaced with an entitlement mentality.
Excessive regulation harms the economy. Ever more rigid employment regulation disincentivizes hiring - creating both the "income effect" of diminished economic growth, and a "substitution effect" of replacing labor with automation.
Big Government is not sustainable most obviously because the cost of it continues to grow like a cancer, but just as importantly, because it suffocates the economic growth that generates the tax revenue it needs to survive. The more Big Government grows, the more it spends, the more tax revenue it needs, and the less revenue the economy is capable of generating. The only option is to borrow and increase the debt.
Our national debt is nearing twenty trillion dollars ($20,000,000,000,000!) while our economy is only expected to be $18.4 Trillion this year - a dangerously high debt/income ratio greater than 1, of 109%. When President Obama took office in 2008 the ratio was only 72.1% ($10.6T/$14.7T). Under Obama, the economy has grown by only $3.7 Trillion while the debt has grown by $9.4 Trillion.
Right now the federal government can survive its high debt because interest rates are low. Long term US bonds are presently yielding about 2-1/4%. That's an extremely low rate indicative of strong creditworthiness; whereas the federal government's 109% Debt/GDP ratio is indicative of a chaotic fiscal situation on the brink of spiraling out of control. Yet yields continue to fall, while our indebtedness continues to increase. Yields and debt should move in the same direction. It defies economic common sense that the debt levels and interest rate levels are continuing to move in opposite directions.
The two rates of 2-1/4% and 109% can't live together forever - something has to give. It can only end with a reset of US government finances, currency and debt. And the longer it takes the worse the day of reckoning will be. The time to start - to start - owning gold is probably now. This is not a "party" you want to show up late for. The Death Star is not yet within sight, but we suspect it lurks not far beyond the horizon either.
We would be shocked if the Yellin Fed were to raise interest rates prior to the election. That means a slow "melt-up" in stock prices through the year-end "Santa Claus rally". By January a whole new slew of risk factors - including an increase in interest rates - could be on the horizon. So for the short term US Equities continue to look good, but consider potentially lightening up on stocks and buying gold between Christmas and New Year's.
WHAT SHOULD TED DO?
2016/06/23 - The 2016 Republican Presidential primary was fought hard, which is good, but at times it went too far, it got very nasty and personal. Donald probably deserves an outsized share of the blame for the negative tone. There's a reason candidates usually don't adopt a scorched-earth policy - you have to live off the land after the battle, which is not a pleasant place to be in right after you've nuked it.
So that's where Trump finds himself - trying to go back and cross burned bridges, seeking support amongst the vanquished, amongst the defeated and demoralized, the irredeemable, the irrecoverable.
One of the bridges Trump burned was the one leading to Ted Cruz and his supporters. There is plenty for a prototypical Cruz supporter to not like about Donald Trump, whether it's the man, his policies, or his tactics. But Cruz also bears the seething fury of a man whose wife and children were attacked by Trump, the modern equivalent of raped, looted, pillaged and your castle burned down.
So how does Trump go back?
But this is about Cruz - what should Ted do? There can't be any doubt that his ambitions are nowhere near exhausted, perhaps even now burning with a hotter passion as he seeks revenge. But how does he exact that revenge?
They say revenge is like white wine, it's always best served cold. There are blunt brutal ways to get revenge in a rage of passion, essentially reacting to the promptings of the adversary. Effectively being played, leading to lose-lose outcomes at best. And then there are clever, more subtle forms of revenge. Not taking the bait and taking oneself down in the process. Patience. Better strategies that result in decisive win-lose outcomes, leading to the conquest of the adversary.
What should Ted do? Here's our advice to Ted:
First, recognize that this is Donald's hour. For better or worse, love it or hate it. Save the vindictiveness for another day, a better occasion. Fight off the urge for vengeance.
Next, stay true to principles. Exercise patience, but still follow your long-term aspirations. Keep your eyes on the prize. The short route to the White House is no longer open, but do not get distracted by what at times can be the side show known as Donald Trump. It took Reagan a couple of tries to win the nomination.
Third, be a team player. Trump made the mistake of making too many enemies, including you. Why can't you see that you have been no different, making too many enemies? You need to do a better job of threading the needle, recognizing that you are on the Republicans team. You may not like your teammates but you still have to work with them in order to win. And winning is important!
Stay in the race, stay relevant, come out in strong support of Trump's campaign. The campaign, not the man. Separate the man from the campaign. Hate Trump the man if you must, but support the Republican campaign. Think in terms of campaigns, personalizing it is a sellout to the conservative movement.
In your speech at the convention discuss the quaint naïveté of the Socialist Sanders campaign, and the smarm of the Corrupt Clinton campaign; contrast those with the proven All-American values of the Cruz campaign, and how those values are being embodied and integrated in the Trump campaign. Beseech your supporters to work hard to get Trump elected. Say at least one genuinely nice thing about Trump. Just try.
Campaign for victory. Go to swing states, play peacemaker, rally the vote, get conservatives out to vote, get the country club out to vote. Show you can be the bridge-builder that Reagan was and Trump isn't. Campaign so hard for a Republican presidential victory that it almost vaguely seems like you're the candidate. But don't make it about yourself. Ever. Do not make it look like you are actually usurping the role. Not close, not even once.
Stay in the Senate. Don't join the cabinet. Don't go to the Supreme Court. We need you in the Senate. Be a leader in the fight for conservative principles. Fight Majority Leader McConnell, fight President Trump. Call out cronyism, expansion of government, violations of the Constitution. Be an advocate for free market economics. Don't pick useless fights; instead, make a few friends, gain a few allies - that would be a Reagan thing to do.
Keep asking yourself whether this is about Ted Cruz, or the conservative movement. A personal Ted Cruz vendetta against Donald Trump, no matter how warranted, impedes the conservative movement. Don't take us down. Maybe somewhere down the road you'll get your chance, without the collateral judgement. Not here, not now.
Finally, sorry about the insults to you wife and kids, but that's not unique and unprecedented in politics. Nobody cares if your itty-bitty feelings were hurt, any more than you care about ours. They're just battlefield casualties in the war of ideas.
A Trump Administration will be far less worse for America than a Clinton Administration would be. Show us that the Cruz campaign is not about Ted Cruz, but rather, it was, is, and will continue to be about America-first conservative principles.
THE CHALPREM 2016 COMMENCEMENT ADDRESS
2016/05/26 - With the Graduation Season upon us, there is no lack of speechmaking. So many offering feel good messages of nonsense that won't tally in the real world almost all the graduates will face. I certainly don't remember a single word spoken at any of my graduation ceremonies. In fact, most college graduates are already, by definition, on the path to success, so most of the speeches they will hear are essentially useless. So we offer these suggestions for success in life:
None of this is particularly difficult to understand or difficult to accomplish. It's just common sense. These are the building blocks of success and happiness, irrespective of how you choose to define success or happiness. But your life is the sum of your choices both good and bad; and the strength of America is the sum of all of our choices; both good and bad.
CONTEMPLATING THE ADMINISTRATION OF PRESIDENT ANTHONY FREMONT
2016/04/26 - What do you see when Donald Trump and his people take the stage on Primary Night? Do you not see Democrats? Registered Democrats, Democrat voters, Democrat donors, Democrat workers?
When Team Donald takes the stage we do not see people who have worked their tails off for Republican candidates or conservative ideas. Not people like so many of us who have fought in the trenches, who have sacrificed time, money, blood, sweat and tears resisting the progressive tide that has been slowly creeping, oozing, infecting across America for the past hundred years.
In the battle of "The Left" vs "The Right", Trump has been at best missing in action in the fight for right-of-center causes. He has been a true "outsider", if not actually aiding and abetting our opponents. The term "outsider", as personified by Trump, should be thought of as a pejorative. He is an outsider to "The Right" like most any other Democrats. He has opposed us as a collaborator, a willing co-conspirator; he is an invasive species, an interloper, a virus.
It's humorous to hear Trump whining about the Republican and Democrat nomination systems, about how unfair they are. Of course they are. Every organization takes pains to erect barriers to prevent it from being overrun by intruders. The Chinese built a wall, corporations have internet firewalls, and of course there's "The Wall" Trump promises to build. The idea is to keep outsiders where they belong - "out".
The whining is childish. He seems lacking in emotional intelligence. Big Tough Donald Trump, had his iddy-biddy feelings hurt by Ted Cruz. Trump reminds of the character Frank in the old E-Trade commercial. Like Frank, Donald is a Shankopotamus who needs his lack of political skills to be subsidized because he didn't read the rules and figure out how delegates are secured.
Cruz is to Trump what "La Resistance" is to "Vichy". To differentiate Trump from Cruz, use the term "insurgent" to describe Cruz. He is a part of the "The Right" but fighting the wallflower Establishment. A man shunned by his own party, Cruz is a lifelong Republican, consistently advances conventional conservative views, and is scorned by the Establishment because he seeks to hold them accountable to our values.
If you are a conservative Republican you should be unhappy about a gang of late-to-the-party Democrats taking over your party. So late to the party, in fact, that they couldn't change their affiliation on time to vote for their dad. And we should be unhappy that our leader RNC Chair Reince Priebus doesn't just flat out tell Trump it's not supposed to be fair. The system is designed to keep outsiders, invasive species like Trump, out.
What do you see on stage on Primary Night? There on stage you see an entrepreneur. A businessman with the right sales pitch firing a bull-eye at his target market. He may in fact close the deal this November. Then what?
Does Donald Trump even have a product? He has a good sales pitch, but, what if he wins that contract he's bidding on? Like the proverbial dog who actually catches the car... now what? What about deliverables? Is he actually going to produce what he promised his customers?
For example, is he actually going to build a wall? And this isn't a rhetorical question - a wall is probably excellent policy, but will he actually execute? How does he plan to get it through Congress? Or is he planning a reviled executive action in the tradition of our current Executive? Does Trump even want to build a wall? What are we going to get with Trump? Like Nancy Pelosi said, we have to elect him so we can find out what's inside...
One thing about Trump to his great credit is he has changed the conversation on topics that were in great need of change. For instance, immigration. What part of "illegal" don't illegal-immigration advocates not get? Bank robbery doesn't become okay by changing the description to "undocumented withdrawal". Illegal means illegal, and Trump has done wonders to bring together so many isolated individuals, each of whom was wondering whether they were the last person on earth with common sense.
I don't like Trump but when I see nasty violent protesters hating on him, his events, and the attendees - while decrying "Hate" - it make me want to vote for Trump.
I live on the Upper East Side of Manhattan part of the time, and part of the time in upstate New York. When I'm in Manhattan, I don't get Trump; but when I'm upstate, riding my bike amidst the obvious decline and decay, well, it makes me want to vote for Trump. It's painfully obvious why a message like "Make America Great Again" would resonate.
I recently attended an environmental conservation seminar in my little upstate town conducted by the state's DEP and attended by the local granola crowd. Given the extreme-left agenda I was fortunate my wife suggested we drive my stealth Subaru (WRX) to the event. The speaker encouraged the attendees to force their towns to adopt hyper-restrictive regulation in order to prevent, for all intents and purposes, economic activity. And job creation. And prosperity. I left the two-hour event in near shock at their unbalanced, despotic zealotry, wanting so badly to vote for Donald Trump. And kill every bog turtle.
And that's the problem for Cruz - somewhere in his intellectual constructs he loses the edge, the connection to the palpable anger that what we pass on to our children will be less than what we received from our parents. The problem with Trump is that he captures the mood, and speaks to the problems, but does not offer a cohesive, comprehensive framework of compatible solutions. And Trump's problems-people are beating Cruz' solutions-people.
Get beyond Trump's demagoguery, slogans, and illegal immigration stance, and it's hard to find much substance. Sure, better trade pacts are "better" - by definition - but what would he change, and in what deal? It is unclear that his mercantilist ideology can work. Rivals can retaliate against us, unless we use military force to open markets, like Commodore Perry did to Japan. That seemed to work great until the Japanese got us back at Pearl Harbor. But Trump is anti-war, a position which can't coexist with mercantilism. The trade war that preceded World War II was a lose/lose proposition in so many ways.
What if Donald Trump is actually just a hoax? What if he really didn't plan to be President? What if there really isn't any policy depth to him at all? What if, like Obama, there is nothing beyond the great speeches? (One thing Cruz and Clinton have in common, no one will vote for them because their speeches are so great.) Yet at this point it seems highly unlikely that Trump can be prevented from winning the GOP nomination, so we might as well get used to it. And with the GOP nomination probably comes the White House, the new Mayor of Peaksville, OH.
Don't think for a moment that Trump can't beat Clinton. Hillary Clinton is a horrible candidate, a fact that establishment Democrats refuse to countenance. Conservatives are under no delusions about Trump's risks and weaknesses, and that is itself a great strength. Never go into battle - sports, business, war, politics, or any other competition - without a clear understanding of your own vulnerabilities. On this dimension Democrats are in grave peril. They don't know that they don't know.
President Trump. If America was a toy it would be funny to elect Trump and see what happens next. It will be horrible if Crooked Hillary were elected President, which is way worse than the hilarity which may ensue if Trump is elected. Funny, that is, if you're on his side; mean, if you're not. Lincoln's words "charity to all, malice to none" don't apply to Trump.
Nor do Lincoln's words apply to President Obama who has displayed no aversion to Stalinist tactics of weaponizing government agencies. Like using the IRS to persecute political opponents. Will this latter-day Anthony Fremont follow in the footsteps of Stalin, Nixon and Obama, and use government agencies to take out his petty vindictiveness on political opponents?
What will a Trump Administration look like? Who will he populate the executive branch with? Will he leave Team Obama mostly in place, or replace them with his sycophants and cronies? Or, will he fill the ranks with consistent constitutional conservatives? Or mostly more-of-the-same-Ford-Bush-Dole-McCain establishment Republicans? Populists? Libertarians? Or will it just be random personalities drawn from the unemployment boilerplate?
Who knows? Just lie low, and if he notices you, tell him it's all good. Welcome to the Administration of President Anthony Fremont.
"PRESIDENT TRUMP" - GET USED TO IT
2016/03/24 - The window for a non-Trump Republican nominee is fast closing. For those who have for years looked forward to a showdown between a fighting conservative Republican and that long-expected Democrat nominee, it does not appear that we will get our wish, at least not any time soon.
Of the original seventeen major candidates, Rand Paul was for the most part the lone Libertarian, but his soft-on-crime / soft-on-terror perspective that echoed the President did not capture the spirit of the times. Circumstances such as the Ferguson MO riots inspired by race-card malfeasance, the rise of the "JV squad" ISIS, and President Obama's serial foreign policy failures, seemed to invalidate much of the policy space where Paul had hoped to differentiate himself. Paul seemed so 2007, a time and place no one wanted to go back to.
Fifteen other candidates were either real legitimate conservatives, such as Scott Walker, Rick Perry or Ted Cruz; or fraudulent pretenders such as George Bush, John Kasich, George Pataki and so forth, with their many and varied apostasies. With a trade so crowded, it was difficult for many voters to sort the fake from the real. And worse, there are always plenty of pro-establishment voters who prefer the imposters anyway. And so that section of the pie got sliced fifteen different ways.
And then there was Trump, who had and has the populist space to himself. When you have a substantial business empire, but no interest in perpetual campaigning, you can throw off-beat policy ideas against the wall and see what sticks. When they do, great; and when they don't, then fine, back to business. In Trump's case, he did, and they did. His shtick captured the zeitgeist.
As for Ted Cruz, his message is timeless, but not necessarily timely. His appeal is to the intellectual, not the physical or emotional. You might agree with the importance of the Cruz message, but it's not particularly thrilling. And the very real connection of small government to job creation is not sufficiently direct or obvious to excite people. Trump's message sells easier. It just does. The Cruz message is timeless and important; the Trump message is timely and urgent. Trump wins.
Speaking of timely, those who oppose a Trump nomination have continuously waited too long to face reality, have not made the timely decision to drop out, even when the only choice has been staring them in the face. And beating them over the head. Would you like some Advil, Kasich?
Some candidates should never have entered the fray in the first place, and just added to the cacophony - Chris Christie, Jim Gilmore and George Pataki, to name a few.
Some good candidates, in command of good judgement, realized they had no chance, and did not let ego get in the way of the correct decision to drop out early - Bobby Jindal, Scott Walker and Rick Perry.
And Jeb Bush should have seen it too. By the autumn he should have realized he was thoroughly and irredeemably ill-positioned for this election cycle, and he was just wasting time and money trying to take down another candidate who was only slightly less-worse ill-positioned that he, in other words, Marco Rubio.
It would be a shame if the political career of Marco Rubio were to end here, there is so much that could still lay before him. But he should have seen that his "Gang of 8" flirtation, even at the time, was poison; and Trump's rise should have made clear the poison was fatal to any hope he had in 2016. He misread the public's mood, then refused to believe the obvious. He must find redemption before he can run again.
If Marco Rubio seemed to be fighting the 2012 election, Rand Paul seemed to be fighting the 2008 election. Good guy, no chance. But if you believe privacy rights are an important matter, Paul represents an intriguing choice as head of Homeland Security.
Ben Carson hung around too long, unless his objective was to protect Trump from Cruz. Carson won nothing, but his petty whining about Cruz siphoned off enough votes to take Arkansas from Cruz and hand it to Trump.
It has been obvious for months that the only way to stop Trump was for the opposition to unite. And it has been equally obvious that the non-Trump was Ted Cruz. But the opposition has been slow to accept. If Carson's tardy departure took Arkansas from Cruz and give it to Trump, then Rubio's obstinacy did the same with Missouri and possibly North Carolina.
And then there is John Kasich. His candidacy has never made any sense, and at this point represents nothing but a stalking horse for Donald Trump. A vote not for Ted Cruz, is a vote for Donald Trump. Why does Kasich stay in the race and continue to make an ass of himself?
On Tuesday Cruz swept Utah and picked up 40 delegates; but Trump swept Arizona and picked up 58, thus slightly widening his lead over Cruz. Due to early voting Rubio managed to pick up 14% of the vote in Arizona because of / in spite of his (belated) exit. Kasich? He picked up no delegates, nothing. Again. He was even bested by the drop-out Rubio! Not that Kasich and Rubio were the difference in Arizona, but together they absolutely blocked Cruz in North Carolina, and possibly Illinois.
All along the way Kasich does nothing but block Cruz. Next up is Wisconsin on April 5. Of the 42 delegates at stake, 18 are allocated to the statewide winner while the remaining 24 are allocated to the winners of each of the eight Congressional Districts. A new Emerson poll has Cruz up by 1 over Trump 36-35, with Kasich at 19. Again, Kasich has no chance, but there he is again dividing the non-Trump vote.
The last good chance to stop Trump was for the pretenders to drop out before March 1. The only other decent chance was to drop out before March 15. At this point there is little chance that Trump will fail to obtain a plurality of the delegates. And unless Kasich drops out before Wisconsin, forget about a Trump plurality, it will probably be a Trump majority and unambiguous first ballot victory.
None of which is to say that Trump will fail as the candidate. In fact you should not be surprised if he eviscerates those tired, weary Clintons. Or that he won't be a great President. We may in fact get a lot of good things from a Trump Administration - but probably not the good things we were hoping for from a Walker Administration or a Cruz Administration. Good things, but different good things. We need to have our eyes open to the good that a Trump Administration could bring. And to get them we will be fighting different battles, on different ground, against different adversaries. The time has come to start preparing for it, strategically, tactically, logistically, intellectually, emotionally.
May we live in interesting times!
THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN CARSON - "C'mon, Man!"
2016/02/05 - Suppose you were running for President - where would you spend the night of the Iowa caucuses? The answer is pretty simple: either you have already given up on Iowa and you're in New Hampshire preparing for the following morning's pancake breakfast in Conway; or you'll be flying the red eye from your "victory party" to get to New Hampshire in time for tomorrow morning's pancake breakfast in Dublin.
And then there's Ben Carson. He announced that he was going to Florida, he was packing his bags.
And that set off a chain reaction. CNN put out the story, and the Cruz campaign dutifully did what they're supposed to do when your closest competitor announces they're closing shop: you go after their customers - hard.
Except it turns out Carson wasn't actually quitting - he was literally going to Florida, to literally repack his literal suitcase. Literally.
This begs a lot of questions about the Carson campaign. If you want to skip #2 New Hampshire, shouldn't your next stop be #3 South Carolina? Where's the sense of urgency? Why Florida? Are you even serious? Florida?
And to pack a suitcase? Would that be the best use of your time? One would have thought a uniquely skilled neurosurgeon would have a better sense of time management - doesn't he have staff / a spouse / adult children who can do that for him? Anyone can pack a suitcase; only Ben Carson is Ben Carson. And for that matter, is Florida the best place to scoop provisions for surviving a New Hampshire February?
Naturally Carson's incomprehensible decisions and perplexing messaging led to confusion, that the Carson campaign was winding down. So, to get himself off the hook, he is blaming George W. Bush. Well, actually, no, he is blaming Ted Cruz. Yes, seriously, according to Carson, this imagined victimhood of his is all Ted Cruz' fault.
Carson has subsequently attacked Cruz, accusing him of dirty tricks, rather than taking personal responsibility for creating a muddled mess in the first place. Obviously the Buck doesn't stop with Ben.
Carson demanded an apology from Cruz, who graciously obliged when none was due, but the supposedly Christian Carson has shown no inclination to forgive. Instead Carson has continued defaming Cruz. Bad on Ben.
In reality, it is Carson who owes an apology, quite a few in fact...
First, Carson owes multiple apologies to his supporters for running a lousy campaign; for failing to display skills necessary to be President; for a foolish decision to go to Florida; for poor time management by failing to delegate packing a suitcase; and confusing messaging about plans and strategies.
Second, Carson owes an apology to Cruz for continuing his personal and mean-spirited attacks even after receiving a public (and unnecessary) apology from Cruz.
Third, Carson owes an apology to his supporters for implying they are so gullible.
Think of it in terms of a multiple choice: Suppose you are a supporter of "X" and an operative of "Y" tells you that X has dropped out because of some scandal. Your reaction is...
Even worse, in the end Carson out-performed his polling so it is not clear that the confusion Carson caused ultimately had any impact at all. So what is he even complaining about? Is he even the slightest bit ready for what the Democrats are waiting to unload on him?
We had at times been intrigued by Carson's candidacy. But this episode calls into question his basic political intincts, and his ability to withstand adversity in a non-clinical environment without getting flustered. Also, it casts him as self-absorbed, petty and petulent. And worst of all, we observe the emergence of that divisive destructive victimhood mentality.
And then there's the manipulative Donald Trump. Trump has taken the opportunity to launch unfounded hostile attacks (of course) on his closest rival Cruz, and pick sides with poor Carson, who apparently can't fight his own battles, in order to mop up what's left of Carson's dwindling support.
Meanwhile the seemingly unserious Carson putters about in Florida packing suitcases...
THE WORLD ACCORDING TO CHALPREM
2016/01/11 - Happy New Year. Maybe. There are many things in life that bring joy - faith, family, friends, football, Jose Bautista, to name but a few. But as for matters that occupy our humble website - politics, geopolitics, and public policy - 2016 promises to extend the joylessness of 2015 as the Obama Administration grinds our beloved country into the ground with scorched earth policies right up to the bitter end of its term. So on that happy note we present to you our semi-annual state of affairs.
Inflation and Interest Rates: Let's get the arcane out of the way first, since it lays the foundation for what follows. Of course we refer to the St. Louis Fed M2 Velocity graph. Velocity of money is a determining factor of money supply and thus inflation, and until the M2V trend begins an extended upward trajectory, we can expect an environment of relatively subdued inflation and interest rates, a currency stability that tends toward strength, and low commodity prices.
Commodities - Copper: The price of anything is determined by the immutable law of supply and demand, along with the relative value of the asset being exchanged (which itself is determined by supply and demand). Thus a stronger dollar means you don't have to give up as many dollars to get a barrel of oil, or a pound of copper. Copper prices have declined to recession-level lows of $2/lb due in part to dollar strength, but even more so due to declining global demand. Producers have been cutting production in response to the softness. The market for Hg is sometimes referred to as "Dr. Copper" because it diagnoses the strength of the global economy. The copper market currently indicates hypothermia, a temperature well below 98.6°. But it's not just copper, the entire metals complex is under stress, and both specialist and diversified miners of various metals such as Rio Tinto, Vale, Glencore and Freeport, to name but a few, are feeling it.
Commodities - Oil: If the copper market is hurting, it's worse in oil - the dollar price of oil is collapsing due to a trifecta of a strong dollar, tepid demand, and increasing production. Copper producers are cutting back supply, while oil producers are increasing supply in an all-out price war. The glut is so severe the world may run out of places to store oil. Prices are now at 15-year lows. Back in July we said "don't look for oil above $65 for a long time", but that was timid, prices closed below $33/bbl on Friday. And this is with Iran and Saudi Arabia burning each other's embassies and fighting a proxy war on the Arabian Peninsula, with Libya in disarray, and with portions of Iraqi and Syrian oil production in the hands of terrorists. This geopolitical inferno ought to be a doomsday scenario for $200/bbl oil, but the various combatants seem intent on capturing rather than destroying their enemy's productive capacity. We don't see the bottom for oil quite yet, but it might not be that far beyond the horizon. We may be declaring a bottom in our July update.
Shipping: If oil and copper aren't sufficient as indicators of global economic weakness, then check the Baltic Dry Index, an indicator of the price for maritime shipping of raw materials. The Baltic Dry hit a new all-time low of 490 on Friday. Again, it's the same problem as with the commodities: projects of all kinds - oil fields, mines, ships, ports - that were initiated early in the decade to take advantage of anticipated growing Chinese demand, are now coming on-line just as Chinese demand is faltering, leading to global over-capacity, over-supply and a glut of just about everything. It is an ingredient of the recession recipe. A "recession" is the painful process where excessive capacity and supply are cleared from the market.
The Shanghai Composite: If you thought the controls that the Chicomms put in place last summer to arrest the precipitous decline at the Shanghai Stock Exchange had worked, you were wrong. The price of anything is always a function of supply and demand, not communist dictates. The controls were merely a hastily constructed dam holding back too much water. The pressure grew, and this week saw gut-wrenching declines as various rules were changed, added, eliminated, reinstated, amended, discarded and so forth. And if you try to sell some shares you could end up in jail. This policy "errortica" motivates capital to flee the country. The People's Bank of China burned through tremendous amounts of foreign reserves attempting to support the currency, then threw in the towel. The Renminbi has dropped 6% against the dollar in the past four months. The Chinese were quick to lay the blame on Evil America for its currency strength. You see? It's all about M2V, the velocity of money.
China: Is the Chinese economy in even worse shape than we think? China is a black box. Data collection is difficult anytime, anywhere. Even US data, like Friday's jobs report, is rife with contradictions below the headline number; but when understated folks like Citibank wonder aloud whether China is flat-out lying about their numbers, how is it possible to make sense of what anyone tells us? There are so many conflicting reports of China's dismal/flat/rosy future it is difficult to make sense of it all. But demographics, debt, the Shanghai Composite, and Dr. Copper, indicate a darkening sky.
Grexit: Six months ago we were lamenting the hype about Greece, and advised readers to ignore it and focus on China. Anybody talking about Greece these days?
Jobs Report: The labor market, like an Obama speech, sounds good but it doesn't feel good. Take Friday's jobs report. Five percent unemployment sounds good, but CNBC also reported that absent the decline in work force participation since Obama took power, the unemployment rate would be 7.6%. If the labor market is so strong, why are people giving up looking for work? Because the jobs being created are part time and low paying. Real wages have declined since Obama took power. How do the statisticians tabulate a person taking three part time jobs to cobble together an existence? That gets counted as a full-time worker, and, three jobs created! People are suffering, and they are embittered by the cynical happy talk from the Administration's back slapping victory lappers like Press Josh Ernest and Labor Secretary Thomas Perez. Considering that BS, there's no need to be confused about Donald Trump's staying power.
US Economy: In July we said we did not think the US Economy was heading toward recession. We were correct. But we believe the probability of recession is increasing. We would still bet against a recession within the next six months but we wouldn't bet very much. Buying a ticket for the $1.5 Billion Powerball could be safer than betting against a recession. Economic numbers are tepid at best. ISM, PMI, Factory Orders, regional Fed surveys (Philly -5.9, Empire -4.59, Dallas -20.1, KC -8)... nothing to put a smile on your face. Even PMI Services declined from 56.1 to 54.3. And our stock market is taking on water as well. Pretty well every major statistical data point is either declining, or has already turned negative.
US Equities: Back in July when the S&P was trading around 2100 we predicted only marginal increases, expecting that 2200 was attainable but 2300 was not. We were partially right, as the S&P failed to hit 2300, but also failed to get anywhere past 2100. But, we also said that if China continues to soften, all bets are off. Regarding 2016, our optimism is shrinking. Election year uncertainty only exacerbates the uncertainty surrounding global economic conditions. From the current level of 1922, we will probably break 1800, and possibly 1700, even without a recession.
Geopolitics: North Korea claims to have detonated a thermonuclear device. We've given Iran the sun, the moon, and the stars - oh, and a path to nuclear weapons - for free. We didn't even get our hostages back. How bad is Obama? We have given up on Crimea, shoved the Budapest Memorandum into a drawer, and thrown Ukraine under the bus. We have shown Ukraine, Iran, North Korea, and indeed the entire planet, what happens to countries that don't have, or voluntarily give up, nuclear weapons.
Iran: The pusillanimous Obama has emboldened the Iranians to pick fights with Saudi Arabia - toppling the Sunni government in neighboring Yemen, and burning down the Saudi embassy in Tehran. Déjà vu? No, we distinctly remember that this actually did happen before, it's the same old Iran, up to their same old tricks. Except this time we have a President even worse than Carter.
Jimmy Carter: Ah yes, Jimmy Carter. This is Carter's world. I went to see the Star Wars movie Friday, it was just like 1977, it was just like Carter's world: economic malaise, geopolitical inferno... and Star Wars.
Key Indicators: Keep an eye on these four measure to provide an indicator of where the global economy is heading. If they keep going down, it is not good news.
2016: The bad news is that this is Carter's World. The good news is that means Reagan's World is just around the corner. Vote Ted Cruz in your caucus/primary, vote Ted Cruz in November. Happy 2016!
HOW WRONG WAS GEORGE W. BUSH!
2015/12/04 - President George W. Bush (#43) led us into an ill-conceived war in Iraq on the twin-premise that Islam is a religion of peace, and that all people yearn to be free. But what if, just maybe, Bush 43 was wrong?
What if Islam is not a religion of peace, and Muslims do not seek our vision of freedom? What if the "peace" of Islam is achieved not through tolerance and coexistence, but through conquest and domination? What if our definition of "free" is informed by our western culture, and people from other cultures have a different idea of what "free" means?
In any type of competition - sports, business, war - in any kind quest, it is important to understand the perspectives and objectives of other players. You need to do this in order to identify both threats and opportunities. You cannot assume that other participants, neither potential allies nor potential adversaries, formulate their objectives from the same foundation of ideas that you do.
Christianity and Islam are fundamentally different in that Christianity never anticipates being a dominant religion. Jesus, Paul and the other teachers consistently instructed followers to submit to secular authorities - to render to Caesar that which is Caesar's, to live peaceably with all men. As such there is no embedded civil code in Christianity - no crimes elucidated, no punishments articulated, no rules on a how a broader society should govern itself. It is left up to the broader society to decide how to govern itself.
So it is straightforward to see how the United States Constitution would be drafted and enacted in this environment. The fledgling nation, whose citizenry sprung from a Christian tradition, would need to draft a civil code - one that would be informed by the Christian tradition of the nation's founders. We have no "Christian Law", instead we have a Constitution and legal framework implicitly guided by a Christian perspective of love and holiness, of mercy and justice.
Islam on the other hand contains an embedded civil code known as the Sharia Law. It lays out crimes and punishments. For examples, theft is punishable by cutting off the thief's right hand; and, a man can beat his wife for insubordination; and, a man can marry a young girl and consummate the marriage when she turns nine (yes, age 9). These three examples are in blatant opposition to any laws anywhere in the United States and completely abhorrent to our culture and values.
Since Christianity contains no civil code, it can blend in comfortably and unthreateningly in any society. It was never necessary for any of the Christian teachers to pursue or advocate violence to topple authority because Christianity never pretends to be a civil authority. On the other hand Islam requires a Muslim to follow Sharia law, so it is not hard to see how that would create conflict - either violate your religion and follow the local laws, or follow your religion and contravene local laws.
So how can a Muslim reconcile his religion to American values? The answer is he doesn't have to! Taqiyya is a doctrine in Islam that allows dishonesty and deceit for the furtherance of Islam and in support of it adherents. Taqiyya allows a Muslim to pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States without believing a word of it. Even if a Muslim believes Muslims are required to go to war to advance Islam, he is still allowed to claim that Islam is a religion of peace, if he believes that such a claim will further the cause.
Taqiyya represents a fundamental difference between Christianity and Islam. Consider the account of Peter's denial of Christ. The Bible portrays this as deeply dishonorable conduct by Peter, whereas in Islam it would be acceptable and indeed expected, since Peter was facing danger. If taqiyya was a Christian principle Peter most certainly would not have "gone out and wept bitterly".
Indeed, taqiyya was originated precisely for times and circumstances precisely like the here and now, times when Islam has increased its belligerence and been exposed to a corresponding backlash. The idea was to use subterfuge, camouflage if you will, to preserve the religion and save its adherents from a violent demise.
History shows that it took little time before Mohammed and his followers were clashing violently with their neighbors and the authorities. Some of these clashes turned deadly and Mohammed was compelled to introduce Taqiyya, allowing Muslims to deny their faith, to misrepresent its principles, anything to live to fight another day. General Patton may have been echoing Mohammed when he said, "don't die for your country, make the other poor dumb bastard die for his".
Taqiyya is an acceptable tool to advance the spread of Islam, to take advantage of gullible appeasers like today's liberals, progressives and Democrats. Progressives do not understand how devout religious people think, and will misjudge them every time - perceiving malice where none exists, and failing to recognize threats that stare them in the face.
To President Obama and his ilk, Fort Hood was workplace violence. San Bernardino? Workplace violence. The woman beheaded by a Muslim convert in Oklahoma? Workplace violence. To blind progressives like Obama, there are only two type of people: evil Republicans, and everyone else. Violent jihadists, and the philosophies from whence they came, must be good - because they are not Republicans. No honest inquiry from progressives here.
Unfortunately, in our mix of cultures, Taqiyya poisons the well - since it allows Muslims to deceive, how can we who come from a culture that values honesty and transparency ever know for sure if a Muslim is leveling with us? In our culture lying is shameful; with taqiyya lying is par for the course, np, nbd. But how can we know when we're getting a load of Taqiyya? How can we believe anything, for example, that a Muslim advocacy group like CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations) tells us?
It begs the question of whether the principles of Islam are compatible with American values. It seems like they cannot be reconciled. The United States Oath of Allegiance instructs us to support and defend the Constitution and our laws from all enemies, foreign and domestic. Yet no day goes by where we do not see Islamic countries, and Muslims, engaging in law, practice, culture, and custom that we deem repulsive.
The First Amendment reads in part "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech..." but how do we reconcile that with Islam? Islam demands to be established as the State Religion.
But we don't want to face reality, do we? Because the conclusions are unpleasant... that maybe, just maybe, Islam is...? But, what if? What if "Islam is a religion of peace" is just a load of taqiyya? What if Islam is actually... ?
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