Memorial Day Weekend

Well, we’ve made it to the traditional start of an American summer, Memorial Day. We’ll be talking about various aspects of that throughout the weekend. But for today, let’s just relax.

If I were asked to provide a synonym for America it would be movement. We’re a restless, impatient people with itchy feet. That’s why our ancestors became Americans, why the initials GTT were once famous in Tennessee, why we went westering until the Pacific got in the way. And still today, a wise man said, “To the British 200 miles is a long distance where to the American 200 years is a long time”. If we have a motto other the E Pluribus Unum, it has to be “real quick”. de Tocqueville noted it in us all those years ago, and it’s still a major part of us.

A lot of that depends on cheap energy, back in the day, we walked from St Joe to Oregon and California. Our Clipper ships were amongst the finest (and fastest) in the world. And gave the world such songs of loneliness as Shenandoah.

But that movement had a price, and you can hear it in that song. Those folks westering, and the ones they left behind, knew that if they were lucky, they would receive a few letters from their friends and family in the rest of their life. And thus the American quest for faster movement, and freedom of movement.

First, the steam train, with its promise of going almost anywhere, and it’s successor the airplane. But the real mark of America is the privately owned motorcar, epitomizing two important strains in our wanderlust. The ability to go where we want, when we want.

And faster, always faster. That’s why the Greatest Spectacle in Sports is American and will be this weekend, in Indianapolis, as always. By the way, did you know that the first winner, Ray Harroun, invented the rear view mirror? Like old Satchel Paige said, “Don’t look over your shoulder, someone might be gaining on you!” Like all of us expatriate Hoosiers, you can sing along with Jim Nabors and the Purdue All-American Marching Band.

And don’t forget to culturally appropriate a few bratwursts and beers, either! 🙂

What’s that got to do with a proper view of Memorial Day? As far back as the Civil War itself, foreign observers were marveling at the speed and fluidity of American Armies, they still do, especially combined with the awesome firepower we have always sought.

But a lot of it has to do with cheap (or affordable) energy, Our malaise in large part dates to that day back in 1973 that  OPEC shut off the oil spigot. We’ve never been quite ourselves since. Well, that malaise seems to be in remission.

Get happy. Summer beckons. Not only bike and hike but also drive, bus, train, and fly to a better environment–your self-selected environment.

The automobile is environmentalism-on-wheels. The open road is freedom to escape the concrete for the great beyond. Mountains, rivers, hills, forests, even beautiful green golf courses–it is all a drive away. (And if it makes you happy CAP, those ‘huge profits’ of “Big Oil’ are a few years absent.)

Everyone else: forget the spin and go for a spin!

Each year, MasterResource celebrates the beginning of the peak-driving season knowing that our free-market philosophy is about energy abundance and affordability and reliability. And there is little to apologize for. When is the last time you got a bad tank of gasoline, anyway?

Oil, gas, and coal have been and continue to be technologically transformed into super-clean energy resources. Carbon-based energies are growing more abundant, not less. And energy/climate alarmism is losing steam on all fronts (except the shouting).

The real energy sustainability problem is statism, not free consumer choice. As Matt Ridley concluded: “There is little doubt that the damage being done by climate-change policies currently exceeds the damage being done by climate change.” As Alex Epstein is telling each one of us to tell our neighbors: I Love Fossil Fuels.

From: Celebrate the Open Road

But, for now:

Go on, get out there, our soldiers didn’t risk and sometimes lose their lives in all those wars so you could sit around and mope about all that’s wrong with the world. Go, and have fun, the world’s problems will still be here for you, and you’ll be better for it.

Workin’ in the Mill

Apparently, Craig Bouchard has decided to build a new aluminum mill – in Ashland Kentucky. That’s something that ‘t doesn’t happen very often. In America, at least. Allysia Finley, over at The First Street Journal took a look at it following a story in the Wall Street Journal.

In April the CEO of Braidy Industries, Craig Bouchard, announced his company would build a $1.3 billion aluminum mill in Ashland, Ky., creating 550 jobs. Within the past few weeks, he has received 2,600 applications—many with heart-wrenching personal anecdotes.

Ashland, a small Appalachian town on the Ohio River, was once an industrial powerhouse. Fifty years ago, nearby coal mines churned out cheap energy and raw materials for steel production. But in recent decades the region has suffered a series of blows. In 1998 Ashland Oil relocated to the Cincinnati suburbs. Two years ago, AK Steellaid off 600 workers. Last year CSX Railroad cut 100 jobs due to reduced traffic from the coal mines. Unemployment in Greenup County stands at 8.9%.

Last month President Trump —who won the county with 71% of the vote—ordered an investigation into whether aluminum imports were jeopardizing national security. It’s a step toward the tariffs that protectionists hope will revive America’s Rust Belt. But the best hope for towns like Ashland is innovation and investment by men like Mr. Bouchard.

He’s the kind of businessman who might appear on a union hit list. The CEO cut his chops in derivatives trading before buying the scraps of a bankrupt Chicago steel company in 2003 with his brother James. Within five years, the Bouchard brothers had built their company, Esmark, into the nation’s fourth-largest steel conglomerate.

They sold it for $1.2 billion to the Russian steelmaker Severstal in 2008, shortly before the stock market and steel industry crashed. Thousands of workers subsequently lost their jobs. Mr. Bouchard blames the United Steelworkers. He had first tried to sell a partnership stake in Esmark to the Indian company Essar Steel. But the United Steelworkers sought to force a sale to Severstal, which the union perceived as more labor-friendly. Had the Essar deal been consummated, Mr. Bouchard says, “every one of those people would have their jobs today” because all of the company’s debt would have been paid off.

The episode soured him on organized labor, and it’s one reason he was determined to build his new aluminum plant in a right-to-work state, where workers can’t be compelled to join a union. Before choosing Ashland, he drew up a list of 24 potential sites. The logistics favored Ashland, and Kentucky offered $10 million in tax incentives as well as low-cost electricity. But Mr. Bouchard says he was prepared to build elsewhere had Kentucky’s Republican governor, Matt Bevin, not signed right-to-work legislation in January.

Pay at the plant, which is expected to be up and running in 2020, will start at $50,000 a year and average $70,000—about twice the median household income in Ashland. Workers will also have access to health insurance, fitness facilities and a day-care center.

There’s more at the WSJ link, although it is subscriber only. But there is enough here to draw some conclusions.

First, Ashland is a superb location, especially for heavy industry, on the Ohio River, only a few miles from an Interstate Highway, lots of railroad infrastructure, and lots of unemployed people, both a legacy from coal mining. Nor does it hurt, that the Kentucky government offered $10 million in tax incentives and cheap electricity (aluminum production takes a lot of electricity, I seem to remember).

And finally, Kentucky is a right-to-work state, and Bouchard, like so many of us, has been turned anti-union, by the unions, themselves. Many of us watched as the were the main actors in destroying many of the industries that dominated my childhood, primary steel, the big 3 automakers, and many others. Apparently including Bouchard’s Esmark Steel. Nor does he appear to be exactly planning on exploiting his workers, starting them at $50K, and averaging $70K, that’s a pretty decent living, and working conditions are no longer really a contract condition, they’re a government regulation. Yes, often a silly group of them.

One of the things that the unions used to kill enterprises, and why it is a very silly move anymore to buy a legacy business, are the defined benefit pension plan, Allysia says this.

The pension decisions of decades in the past are still weighing down American manufacturers today. Those decisions cannot all be blamed on unions; management too frequently took decisions concerning pension plans and funding which worked fine for the individual managers in the fifties and sixties, but are unsustainable today. Defined benefit plans are being replaced by 401(k) plans, and the like, plans which do not depend upon the company’s future contributions to those plans. The defined benefit plan, if not properly funded as the company moves along, is, in effect, paying retired personnel a wage for no longer working.

That’s correct, and a good deal of that was taking the easy way out, rather than fighting the union. And by the way, it is not only business, it’s the basic problem (besides corruption, of course) with government, in Chicago, in Detroit, in Illinois, in California, and pretty much anywhere that government employees have unionized, because politicians, being the weak-willed creatures they are, have almost always not funded the retirement systems as required (often the unions haven’t, either).

And that’s why smart people go for a 401k these days, which was originally designed for the self-employed. If you fund it yourself, it tends to get funded, if you depend on other people’s money, well people are subject to the temptation of shinier objects than taking care of those who used to work with them.

Trump in Arabia

Remember this picture of the Swedish PM (and others) in the UAE?

Well, compare and contrast.

See a bit of difference in the attitude that Melania’s dress, and the whole scene portrays? Look, this isn’t earthshaking, there a lot of difference between Sweden and the US, as well as between the UAE and Saudi Arabia. But it does speak to attitude. The US is obviously being respectful, but so are the Saudi’s. The reception tells you, as it should, that the Saudi government has a good deal of respect for President Trump, and also that they want something. Which they do, but then again, Arabs and Americans, and especially this President are traders, and always have been, and signals are important.

It always signifies something, when the President’s daughter, Ivanka, an Orthodox Jew, looks quite comfortable in Riyadh, as here. But then again, what are the Saudi’s really going to say about it. But later today, for the first time (officially) AF 1 will be the first flight directly from Riyadh to Tel Aviv. That too is significant.

It speaks to the growing alignment of the Saudis and this Israelis against the Iranians, and it speaks of the gradual reform that is becoming evident in Saudi Arabia, not least because of America’s growing importance in the oil market, and thus still another way that the Arabs are losing their power.

And he gave a speech, worthy of an American President, here it is.

Now mind, words are not actions, but words often define actions we will take. It strikes me as a very good start.

Fracking OPEC

Well, we’ve mentioned that this would happen a few times, here and elsewhere. And it has. Jazz Shaw wrote back in December.

If you’ve been watching the oil market half as closely as Wall Street in general you’ve seen something rather remarkable happening this week. At the end of last month, OPEC finally decided that they were getting beaten badly enough with scandalously low oil prices and decided to jointly cut production. Since oil is always a significantly volatile global market, the system responded almost immediately, with oil climbing back up above the $50 per barrel mark for the first time in a couple of years. That helps out some of the member nations while not being high enough to significantly spike gas prices at the pump back in America.

So why not trim the flow back even further and bump those prices higher still? One OPEC spokesperson was extremely open about their strategy. The low prices have largely pushed U.S. shale oil production into low gear. It’s simply not profitable to produce when the price is down in the forties or even thirties. But if the price gets up to a few bucks above sixty dollars per barrel it will be rich times in the shale fields again and we’ll bust the market open, leading to another round of depressed prices. The Nigerian petroleum minister was quite clear about it in an interview this week. (Bloomberg)

Later on, he refers to it as not an evil conspiracy but just business, which is kind of true. It’s a would-be monopoly trying to set the price of a commodity, instead of letting the market do its thing. And you know something, it never works for long. Something always changes things. Here too.

Last Thursday, John Sexton wrote this.

OPEC, the oil cartel really cares about the world. That’s the message of a new monthly report issued Thursday. OPEC says what the world needs now is a bit less supply on the global oil market. In particular, they would really appreciate it if the United States would stop producing so much damn oil…for the good of the world of course. From CNN Money:

The report said that balancing the market would “require the collective efforts of all oil producers” and should be done “not only for the benefit of the individual countries, but also for the general prosperity of the world economy.”

OPEC said that one producer in particular is to blame: The U.S., where shale producers have continued to ramp up their drilling despite lower crude prices.

The increased production has undermined OPEC’s efforts to keep prices between $50 and $60 per barrel.

But the OPEC effort didn’t work for long. Prices are back below $50 a barrel now and thanks to increased efficiency, U.S. producers can still make money at those prices. Now OPEC has to decide whether to extend the production cuts into the latter half of the year or simply give up on the effort. Nitesh Shah, a commodity strategist at ETF Securities, says OPEC’s strategy has been a bust. He writes, “repeating the same strategy for another six months will do little to shore up oil prices.” “OPEC nations have given up market share and have barely reaped any price gains,” he adds.

OPEC could try even deeper production cuts but OPEC members won’t like that. So OPEC is left begging the U.S. to give them a break for the good of the world economy. We could do that, but here’s another thought: Let’s continue taking their market share and reducing their control over the world’s energy market.

Heh! Yep, we could do that, but why would we? Our people like to work and make money for their families, and they’re damned good at it, as well. Our country is designed for cheap energy, that’s why we have been a bit sluggish since the seventies. We are also free marketeers, buccaneers, really, who always find a way to make money while providing a better service, cheaper.

It’s our way in geopolitics as well, it’s how we destroyed the Soviet Union. And for anybody who still harbors the risible notion that Putin wanted Trump as President, well, this is certainly not in Russia’s interest either. Interesting, isn’t it, that American fracking that only last year needed oil prices of ~$60 per barrel to be profitable, is now profitable in the mid to high $30 dollar range.

The free market: What can’t it do?

Trump, the Media, the People, and the Party of McKinley

A horrible, terrible, doubleplusungood video taken apart by the good guys at Right Angle

Yep, I struggled through it too, so you don’t have to. It’s at least as bad as they said. But that’s not all that surprising.

HT: Ace. Yep, it’s true, too

Then there is this:

In the new poll, roughly half (51 percent) of Americans said the national political media “is out of touch with everyday Americans,” compared with 28 percent who said it “understand the issues everyday Americans are facing.”

President Donald Trump, a frequent public antagonist of the press and the first president in 36 years to skip the confab, is also slightly more trusted than the national political media. Thirty-seven percent of Americans said they trusted Trump’s White House to tell the truth, while 29 percent opted for the media.

I’d be inclined to say that an 8% advantage when the press has been bloviating (mostly falsely) about him, for a solid year is not really slight, but I suppose your mileage may vary.

Only 38 percent said they have “a lot” or “some” trust in the media covering Trump’s White House fairly, compared with about half (52 percent) who said they didn’t have much or none at all. Almost half (48 percent) also said they thought the media has been harder on Trump than other past presidential administrations. […]

But the media also scored low marks among independents, with more than half saying they didn’t trust national news outlets to cover the White House fairly and that they trusted Trump more. Roughly half (49 percent) also said the media was out of touch and 43 percent said outlets had been harder on Trump than other presidents.

Trump’s critiques of the media, which he commonly derides as “fake news” also seems to have struck a chord with Americans. A plurality (42 percent) said they see fake news in national newspapers or network news broadcasts more than once or about once a day. About 3 in 10 (31 percent) said they saw fake news from those sources once every few days, once a week or slightly less often than that.

Nothing new in any of that. Any of us that are old enough saw it all happen before during Reagan’s term. By the way, my British friends say the same thing with the added fillip that they are required to pay for the BBC if they watch anybody’s television. Ain’t that special? Yeah, essentially, “It’s a tax,” as our Supreme Court might say.

And that brings up something. I’m not really the type of guy that is likely to support Trump. I never cared for him in the private sector, nor in the primary. Did I vote for him? Yep, but that has more to do with Hillary Clinton than Donald Trump. But now, while I think he’s doing a pretty decent job, I’m finding myself defending him more than I normally would, because of all the unwarranted (and often personal) attacks. I doubt I’m the only one. So a lot of what the left is accomplishing is to make sure that Trump will have a second term. For that matter, if the Republicans in Congress don’t get a clue, they make be looking for some of those lovely, lovely lobbyist jobs, even before the 2020 elections.

And this too may be true, from Scott at PowerLine.

My friend Charles Kesler is a learned and a witty man. He is the Dengler-Dykema Distinguished Professor of Government at Claremont McKenna College and presides over the Claremont Review of Books as its editor. He puts his his historical knowledge to use in postulating a theory of Trump for readers of the New York Times in — hold on to your hat! — “Donald Trump is a real Republican, and that’s a good thing.” Wait, you can’t say that in the Times without preparing readers for some kind of shock, can you?

What the headline terms a “real Republican” is, on Professor Kesler’s theory, a throwback to “the pre-New Deal, pre-Cold War party of William McKinley and Coolidge, with its roots in the party of Abraham Lincoln.” Professor Kesler explains:

Mr. Trump’s policies suggest that what he calls his “common sense” conservatism harks back to the principles and agenda of the old Republican Party, which reached its peak before the New Deal.

In those days the party stood for protective tariffs, immigration tied to assimilation (or what Theodore Roosevelt called Americanization), judges prepared to strike down state and sometimes federal laws encroaching on constitutional limitations, tax cuts, internal improvements (infrastructure spending, in today’s parlance) and a firm but restrained foreign policy tailored to the defense of the national interest. Are these not the main elements of Trump administration policies?

It’s not that Mr. Trump set out consciously to return the Republican Party to its roots. By temperament and style he’s more attracted to President Andrew Jackson, whose portrait now hangs in the Oval Office. “I’m a fan,” he said after visiting Jackson’s home, the Hermitage, near Nashville, in March. It’s more likely that his own independent reading of our situation led him to similar conclusions and to similar ways of thinking.

That is not a bad theory based on what I have seen in the last few months, and if correct, well I think we can live through that quite handily. Nothing new under the sun, and it worked pretty well back then. After all, that’s how we got the Roaring 20s.

Video Thursday

How about some videos today?

Prime Minister May is coming over this week. What could be the best outcome for her, and for us? I think Dan Hannan has it right. Let’s do this, cousins.

 

This is how we all capitalize on Brexit, and the deal making Trump. A bit more, from BBC 4, of all places. Mind, like so many Americans, I grew up loving the BBC, but it has become nearly as bad as MSLSD the last few years.

And here’s the guy that made such a thing possible, Nigel Farage.

 

Here’s an interview the PM did earlier in the week. She makes sense, but my word the condescenion and bias that Andrew Marr shows is just incredible. And remember that the BBC is owned by the government, and tax supported.

 

And some British common sense from Piers Morgan. Yeah, me too, the world is changing

 

 

Let’s wrap up with a members only Right Angle from Bill Whittle

 

 

And that was the week that was. Wow!

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