The only fat guy in North Korea wants to blow up another hole in the ground Hooray for Kim Jung-un!

From Reuters:

North Korean leader says will soon test nuclear warhead

By Jack Kim and James Pearson | March 15, 2016

SEOUL: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said his country would soon test a nuclear warhead and ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads, North Korea’s KCNA news agency reported on Tuesday, in what would be a direct violation of U.N. resolutions that have the backing of Pyongyang’s chief ally, China.

Kim made the comments as he supervised what KCNA said was a successful simulated test of atmospheric re-entry of a ballistic missile that measured the “thermodynamic structural stability of newly developed heat-resisting materials”.

“Declaring that a nuclear warhead explosion test and a test-fire of several kinds of ballistic rockets able to carry nuclear warheads will be conducted in a short time to further enhance the reliance of nuclear attack capability, he (Kim) instructed the relevant section to make prearrangement for them to the last detail,” the agency said.

There’s more at the original.

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is a dirt-poor nation, yet one which keeps squandering scarce resources on a huge military. Well, if the DPRK decides to conduct yet another nuclear test shot, it will be wasting its scarce weapons-grade fissile material by blowing up yet another hole in the ground; if the only fat guy in North Korea orders a missile test, that’ll be one less missile in his arsenal if the Korean War ever resumes. That can only be a good thing! Instead of giving this attention whore what he wants, we ought to just ignore him, and let him waste time and money and resources.

So, President Kim, fire away!

God Bless Fracking!

I noted last fall how oil prices had come down, thanks to fracking, and that we had installed a new wood stove to supplement our heating oil fired steam boiler for the radiators at our house. I noted then that it cost us $3,068.26 during the winter of 2013-2014 to heat our home, and, with the price of heating oil down a dollar a gallon, $2,248.03 in 2014-2015.

Our brand new wood stove

The wood stove

Well, spring hasn’t quite sprung yet, but the vernal equinox is less than a week away. I looked at my oil tank gauge, and I still have a third of a tank, and I still have some — not much — firewood at home; I have enough fuel on hand to finish the heating season. If I include the purchase price of the wood stove, we spent $1,468.22 on heating our home this winter; not including the price of the stove, something which will carry over to future winters, we spent only $770.36 on heating oil and firewood for this winter season.

Part of our savings are due to a mild winter in the northeast; we had nothing like the brutal temperatures of last February, and had only one significant snowfall in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania. But another part is due to that wonderful development, hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking. Due to fracking, oil supplies soared, and oil prices dropped, rather dramatically. During the winter of 2013-14, heating oil averaged $3.550 per gallon for me, while they were down to $2.515 per gallon on 2014-15. This winter I had only two deliveries of heating oil, and the average cost was down to $1.590 per gallon.

Fracking and the development of oil from shale have actually subsided a bit, as foreign producers, determined not to let their market shares diminish, declined to reduce production enough to prop up oil prices. The result was that energy costs declined, not just for my family, but for almost all Americans; that left more money in our wallets for other goods, or to save.

If the left get their way, energy costs will be pushed up again, artificially this time, through increased government regulation and taxation. This is why we must not allow the Democrats to win the elections: given their way, they would deliberately make all Americans poorer!

It’s just so terrible that American consumers don’t behave the way that the Fed believes they should

We recently noted that the Federal Reserve and the government cannot control the economy. The Fed has an inflation target of 2% per year, but it isn’t happening. From The Wall Street Journal:

U.S. Producer Prices Fell 0.2% in February

Underlying figures hint at firming inflation

By Eric Morath | Updated March 15, 2016 9:44 a.m. ET

WASHINGTON—A gauge of business prices fell in February, a sign inflation pressures remain modest.

The producer-price index for final demand, which measures the prices companies receive for goods and services, decreased 0.2% in February from the prior month, the Labor Department said Tuesday. But underlying figures hint at firming inflation.

Excluding volatile food and energy categories, so-called core prices were flat. Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had expected overall prices to fall 0.2% and core prices to rise 0.1%.

“This data displays no domestic inflation pressure down the chain of production,” said Mizuho Bank economist Steven Ricchiuto. The inflation reading coupled with a separate report showing retail spending slowed to start the year suggests the economy remains stuck in a slow-growth mode, he said.

Still, some underlying figures hint at firming inflation.

From a year earlier, overall producer prices were flat last month. That is the firmest annual reading since January 2015, when the gauge was also flat.

Core prices were up 1.2% from a year earlier.

There’s more at the original, but did you catch the subtitle: underlying figures hint at firming inflation? Well, here’s another article, also from the Journal:

U.S. Retail Sales Fell 0.1% in February

Retail sales are a key barometer for overall consumer spending

By Jeffrey Sparshott and Eric Morath | March 15, 2016 8:34 a.m. ET

WASHINGTON—U.S. retail sales fell in February as Americans pulled back on auto purchases and gasoline prices fell, suggesting a degree of consumer caution amid volatility in financial markets.

Sales at retail stores and restaurants slid 0.1% from the prior month to a seasonally adjusted $447.31 billion in February, the Commerce Department said Tuesday. Compared with a year earlier, sales grew 3.1%.

Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had expected sales to fall 0.1% from the prior month.

Retail sales for January were revised to a 0.4% decrease, compared with the initially reported 0.2% increase. The downward revision stemmed largely from new estimates on auto sales, and recasts what had seemed a more upbeat start to 2016. January’s drop was the steepest in a year.

There’s more at the link, but remember: this February had one extra day, and the weather was better nationwide, with fewer consumer trapped inside snowed-in homes and towns. Fuel prices were significantly lower, leaving consumers with more money available for other purchases.

But other measures of the economy have been mixed. And while sales figures can be choppy from month to month, the overall trend has reflected varying economic crosscurrents and some financial market jitters. Americans have been spending selectively in recent months, while also saving at a higher rate than before the recession.

Translation: American consumers are showing more caution than they did before the recession, a trend which shows wisdom and lessons learned the hard way. Americans are doing the right thing, but it isn’t the right thing as far as Janet Yellen and the Fed are concerned. Once again, their efforts and ability to control the economy simply aren’t working. Personally, I never believed that they could.

Rule 5 Blogging: Italians!

It’s the weekend and time, once again, for THE FIRST STREET JOURNAL’S version of Rule 5 Blogging. Robert Stacey Stacy McCain described Rule 5 as posting photos of pretty women somewhat déshabillé, but, on this site, our Rule 5 Blogging doesn’t put up pictures of Megan Fox in her summer clothes, but women, in full military gear, serving their countries in the armed forces. The terribly sexist authors on this site celebrate strong women, women who can take care of themselves and take care of others, women who have been willing to put their lives on the line in some not-so-friendly places, women who truly do have the “We can do it!” attitude.

This week, in anticipation of our two-week vacation in Italy this coming June, we present Italian soldiers!

Armed and ready

Armed and ready

Continue reading ‘Rule 5 Blogging: Italians!’ »

From Around the Blogroll

From The Wall Street Journal:

Kasich, Rubio Waver on Backing Trump as Nominee

GOP candidates react after cancellation of Trump rally in Chicago; Secret Service surrounds Trump at Ohio event

By Reid J. Epstein in Sharonville, Ohio, Patrick O’Connor in Largo, Fla. and Colleen McCain Nelson in St. Louis | Updated March 12, 2016 5:28 p.m. ET

Ohio Gov. John Kasich blamed Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump for creating a “toxic” environment and suggested he may not be able to back him if he is the party’s nominee. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio also expressed doubts about whether he stands by his pledge to support the eventual GOP choice.

The candidates’ remarks Saturday came the morning after fights broke out at a Chicago arena where Mr. Trump planned and then canceled a Friday-night rally.

Mr. Trump said Saturday that a “planned attack” by protesters, some of whom he said were supporters of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, necessitated the cancellation of the Chicago event.

On Saturday, Mr. Trump was briefly surrounded by Secret Service agents at an airport rally near Dayton, Ohio, as he was delivering a campaign speech. Authorities said Thomas Dimassimo of Fairborn, Ohio, leapt over a barricade and charged toward the celebrity businessman, the Associated Press reported. Mr. Dimassimo was later charged with disorderly conduct and inducing panic, the AP said.

At a later event in Cleveland, Mr. Trump attacked Mr. Kasich for supporting free-trade policies that the New York businessman said have hurt the job market and economy in Ohio, and accused the governor of abandoning his state while running for president.

Mr. Kasich took on Mr. Trump at a brief news conference in Sharonville, Ohio. “Donald Trump has created a toxic environment, a toxic environment that has allowed his supporters and those who sometimes seek confrontation to come together in violence,” he said. “There is no place for this. There is no place for a national leader to prey on the fears of people who live in our great country.”

Asked if he could still back Mr. Trump should he win the GOP nomination, Mr. Kasich said: “It makes it extremely difficult.”

Mr. Rubio, trailing in a state he needs to win to stay in the presidential race, said “I don’t know” when asked in Florida if he would back whoever is picked as the GOP nominee. “It’s getting harder every day,” he said.

Moments later, Mr. Rubio challenged a crowd of a few hundred supporters to “examine the discourse in our own party,” arguing that Mr. Trump has fostered a negative tone in his campaign that spawned the kind of chaotic protest seen Friday.

There’s more at the original.

There’s so much noise out there that it’s getting difficult to separate fact from fiction, but one thing is clear: some of Donald Trump’s rallies have become violent. Mr Trump blames it all on outside agitators, and it is possible that that is partially true. But when Mr Trump’s campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, physically assaults a female reporter, not all of the violence is coming from outside agitators.

Let that sink in a bit: we aren’t talking about some part-time security guard or some over-zealous Trumpinista, but the (supposedly) professional campaign manager of the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination. And while Mr Lewandowski isn’t a particularly big man,1 real men don’t hit women, don’t wrestle women, don’t try to throw women to the ground. Had this been the campaign manager for any of the other Republican candidates, he’d have been a former campaign manager the very next day.

And now, on to the blogroll!

________________________________

  1. I was unable to find Mr Lewandowski’s height and weight on a Google search, but he is visibly smaller than the candidate, who stands 6’2″ tall. I was unable to find height or weight on Michelle Fields, either, but from her pictures, she is a slightly-built young woman.

How many times have we said that the government cannot control the economy? Perhaps they shouldn't really try

From The Wall Street Journal:

ECB Faces Difficult Balancing Act to Revive Eurozone Inflation

Central bank risks destabilizing banks if it pushes interest rates further below zero

By Tom Fairless | March 8, 2016 3:27 p.m. ET

FRANKFURT—The European Central Bank faces a tough challenge at its policy meeting this week: how to combat persistently low inflation without undermining the region’s fragile banks.

A year after the bank launched a €1.5 trillion ($1.65 trillion) stimulus program, the euro area has slid back into deflation amid a sharp drop in oil prices, and its sluggish economic recovery appears to be stalling. The ECB has missed its inflation target near 2% for three straight years, leading some investors to question the power of its policies.

Complicating the situation is recent turmoil in banking stocks, which could be exacerbated if the ECB cuts interest rates much further below zero. Subzero rates act as a tax on banks because they can’t easily pass on the costs to customers.

ECB President Mario Draghi has pledged not to “give in” on inflation and says he is ready to boost the bank’s stimulus on Thursday if new data show it is needed. The bank’s latest quarterly economic forecasts on Thursday are expected to show inflation falling far below target this year and next.

“The ECB is caught between a rock and a hard place because they have used a lot of stimulus already,” said Martin Lueck, chief German investment strategist at BlackRock, Inc., which manages assets worth $4.5 trillion. “At the same time, nobody could have expected commodity prices to fall so much.”

Many economists expect the ECB to cut its deposit rate—the interest charged to banks to store funds with the central bank—by at least 0.1 percentage point, to minus 0.4%. They also expect an increase in its bond-purchase program of at least €10 billion a month, to €70 billion.

There’s more at the original.

I was looking for an image of President Ford’s “Whip Inflation Now” buttons, but when I found this, I figured that it looked better than any old button!

I remember President Ford and his “Whip Inflation Now” program, and just how absolutely wonderfully it worked, which is to say: not at all. When inflation was too high, the government couldn’t control it: President Ford lost to Jimmy Carter in 1976, and then things got even worse, and President Carter lost to Ronald Reagan in 1980. Eventually inflation did come down, but part of the price of that was a deep recession during President Reagan’s first two years in office.

Now, inflation in developed countries has been persistently low, for several years, despite the efforts of central banks and governments to push it up to around the 2% mark.

Perhaps, just perhaps, we might consider the apparently strange idea that governments cannot really control the economy; I wonder if anybody has ever said that before?

When The First Street Journal tells you something about economics, you should listen, because we have a record of being right.

Cruz/Fiorina 2016? I'd prefer to see her in an executive position where she could actually get things done

From RedState:

Carly Fiorina Endorses Ted Cruz

By: streiff (Diary) | March 9th, 2016 at 10:45 AM

Carly Fiorina endorses Ted Cruz for president.

Former Republican presidential hopeful Carly Fiorina endorsed Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) at a Wednesday campaign event in Miami.

“I checked the box for Ted Cruz, and I’m here to tell you why,” Fiorina said of her vote in Virginia’s primary.

This is a great endorsement for Ted Cruz. It will attract some moderate, change-the-system voters who might be put off by the unabashed conservatism of Cruz. And it shows #NeverTrump is beginning to coalesce around Cruz as it becomes obvious that he has the will and the ability to beat Trump and to take the campaign to Hillary in the autumn.

There’s more at the link. This endorsement makes me no more (or less) likely to vote for Senator Cruz in November, if he is our nominee; that was always a 100% guarantee! My guess is that Mrs Fiorina will be at least considered as Senator Cruz’s running mate, if he wins the nomination, and she’d be a good choice. I’d prefer to see her in a real executive position, in which she could get things done, but as Vice President, she might be a very significant help to a President Cruz, who doesn’t have much executive experience himself.

#CarlyFiorina: still the class of the GOP

Her campaign wasn’t good enough, but Carly Fiorina continues to prove why she’d have made the best President!

Carly Fiorina: Bashes Establishment for Expressing ‘Horror over the Choices of Millions of Voters’

By Alex Swoyer | March 5, 2016

2016 GOP presidential candidate and former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina bashed the establishment from both political parties during her keynote address at the Ronald Reagan dinner Friday night.

At the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) near Washington D.C. hosted by the American Conservative Union, Fiorina lit into the establishment for expressing “horror” at the choice of the voters.

“The Democrat establishment, aided and abetted by the media establishment, decided that it is now Hillary’s turn,” Fiorina said of the Democrats. “At last year’s CPAC, many in the media called me “mean” because I said, ‘Flying is an activity, not an accomplishment. Mrs. Clinton, please name an accomplishment.’”

She then turned to her own party.

Thef debates. In fact, let’s condense the whole primary calendar so our presumptive nominee can roll up delegates faster. Let’s make sure that the primary voters know who the establishment thinks should be the nominee. Let’s have all the pundits and the money make the case right from the start about who’s up at bat next.

Republican voters said: no, we need to secure the border. No, citizenship in this country must mean something. No, our religious liberty is at stake. No, we don’t want who you want, we want to choose for ourselves and the more choices we have, the better we like it. Many pundits and not a few current and former politicians, now decry the wisdom of these same voters. They don’t like how they happen to be voting right now. But, these voters look at what the Republican Party has produced and think they can do better deciding for themselves.

Fiorina said as the establishment is expressing “horror” over the choice of the voters, “these same voters are asking, ‘What have you done for me?’”

Do not misunderstand me. I am no Donald Trump fan. I did not vote for him in the Virginia primary. Nevertheless, I understand and respect the people who did vote for him. I know many of them. They are not racists, or crazies, or stupid. While many people call the Donald a fraud, a con-man, there are a lot of voters out there who think they have been conned election after election. They know what it is to be promised something and delivered nothing.

There’s more at the link. International Business Times had the same story:

Carly Fiorina CPAC Keynote Speech Hits Republican Establishment’s Trump Attacks, Hillary Clinton

By Tim Marcin | @TimMarcin | On 03/04/16 AT 10:39 PM

Former Republican U.S. presidential candidate Carly Fiorina railed against Democratic White House hopeful Hillary Clinton and the GOP establishment in a keynote speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) Friday. And while she is no fan of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, Fiorina said, the GOP’s efforts to slow its leading candidate have left voters feeling “betrayed.”

“Over half of the Republican electorate feel ‘betrayed’ by their party. That is a big number and a strong word,” Fiorina said in her speech at the Ronald Reagan dinner at CPAC in Maryland.

Fiorina made sure to point out that she was not a supporter of Trump and did not vote for him in the primary in her home state of Virginia, which the billionaire New York businessman won. But the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard critiqued the GOP establishment for leading efforts to stop Trump.

“If we want to defeat Donald Trump, we cannot turn to the establishment once again and ask them to guide the citizenry to the right answer,” Fiorina said. “If we want defeat Donald Trump, we must defeat him at the ballot box, by offering citizens conservative solutions to the problems in their lives.”

What Mrs Fiorina said was simple: the only way to defeat Donald Trump in a manner which does not guarantee a victory by Hillary Clinton in November is to defeat him at the ballot box, in the remaining primaries. She made it clear that she doesn’t support Mr Trump’s candidacy — and I would hope that, if offered, she does not accept the nomination to run for Vice President under Mr Trump — but she did not say anything about not supporting the Republican Party’s nominee, even if Mr Trump is the nominee.

What she did note is that the Republican Party leadership has become divorced from the rank-and-file Republican voters. That is Donald Trump’s message as well; the ‘leadership’ might not like that message, but it’s certainly true.

From Around the Blogroll

At 2:18 AM CST, Eric wrote:

Trump will squash Hillary like a bug. That alone explains much of his appeal. In contrast, it’s unlikely either Cruz or Rubio could win because, quite simply, they aren’t tough enough. Trump is seen as a winner, and lots of people are getting sick and tired of the GOP giving us one loser after another.

That’s certainly the line given us by the supporters of Donald Trump, but the obvious question is: is it right? Absent the slight possibility that one candidate might simply drop dead, there are only four possible outcomes:

  1. Donald Trump continues to win primaries, and gains enough delegates for a first ballot victory, winning the Republican nomination;
  2. One of the remaining candidates puts on a surge, wins most of the remaining primaries, gains enough delegates for a first ballot victory, winning the Republican nomination;
  3. No one wins enough delegates for a first ballot victory, and Mr Trump wins the nomination in a brokered convention; or
  4. No one wins enough delegates for a first ballot victory, and the convention chooses someone other than Mr Trump as the Republican nominee.

Let me be clear about this: if the Republicans nominate anyone other than Donald Trump, a lot of Mr Trump’s supporters will simply stay home on November 8th, and Hillary Clinton will win the general election. If Mr Trump goes into the convention with a plurality of the delegates, but not a majority, and a brokered convention nominates someone else, Mr Trump might well run an independent candidacy — though it would be very difficult for him to get on the ballot in many states after that point — and, again, Hillary Clinton wins the general election.

Eric’s support of Mr Trump is based on one thing, really, the perception that Mr Trump is a fighter who will not take any [insert slang term for feces here] from anybody. Given the too-passive campaigns of the last two Republican presidential nominees, it’s a refreshing change. The problem for me is that, while Mr Trump really is a fighter, someone who doesn’t back down from anyone, he’s still the wrong man to be president, a man who supported an unlimited abortion license before he became a Republican candidate, a man who has abused the bankruptcy laws, a liar, a cheat and quite probably a thief. To say that he’d be better than Mrs Clinton is like saying that Benito Mussolini was better than Adolf Hitler.

And in my once and future home state:

Donald Trump wins close battle for Kentucky

Only two-thirds of the vote had been reported to the public more than 6 hours after polls closed

Trump defeated Ted Cruz by 4.35 percentage points

About 1.28 million Republicans in the state were eligible to vote

By Jack Brammer | jbrammer@herald-leader.com | March 5, 2016 10:50 PM

Donald Trump won a tight battle with U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz in Kentucky’s Republican presidential caucus late Saturday night.

With the state Republican Party reporting 100 percent of the vote at 11:45 p.m., Trump won by 4.35 percentage points over Cruz.

Trump, a New York businessman, brought his boisterous campaign to Louisville last Tuesday. Cruz, of Texas, did not campaign in Kentucky.

“Thank you, Kentucky!” Trump posted on Twitter at 10:48 p.m.

Kentucky’s 46 delegates to the Republican National Convention will be allocated proportionately by Saturday’s caucus vote. Each candidate who received at least 5 percent of the total votes cast at the caucus will be awarded a portion of the delegates.

About 1.28 million Republicans in the state were eligible to vote on a damp, cool Saturday in the Bluegrass State from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. local time. In Kentucky’s 2012 GOP presidential primary, about 15.7 percent of the party’s voters went to the polls.

The Republican Party of Kentucky issued a statement Saturday afternoon declaring the caucus a success, but only two-thirds of the vote had been reported to the public more than 6 hours after polls closed.

Trump and Cruz split the vote in the state’s most populous counties, with Trump claiming wins in Jefferson and Pulaski and Cruz taking Fayette, Kenton and Warren. In all, Trump won 78 of Kentucky’s 120 counties.

And now, on to the blogroll!

That’s it for this week!