Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Economic Statistics for 28 Jul 15

The S&P Case-Shiller  Home Price Index fell -0.2% in May, catching analysts by surprise. The Index is up 4.9% on a year-ago basis.

July’s PMI Services Flash reading is up 0.4 points from the June final, coming in at 55.2.

The Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index fell sharply lower in July, falling to 90.9 from 101.4 in June.

The Richmond Fed Manufacturing Index for July came in above analysts’ expectations, rising 7 points to a reading of 13.

The State Street Investor Confidence Index for July fell sharply to 114.6 from June’s unusually high reading of 127.0.

Redbook reports that last week’s retail sales continued to fall, down to 1.0% on a year-ago basis, from the previous week’s 1.2%.


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Hillary’s renewable energy plan

As you’ll see it’s as unachievable and utopian as all the other “clean energy” plans we’ve heard.  In fact, IBD calls it a “farce”.  And rightfully so.

Why?  Well here are the basics:

Clinton says she has two big goals that she’ll start working on “day one” to combat climate change. First is to expand solar energy supplies by 700% by installing half a billion solar panels by 2020. Second is to power “every home in America” with renewable energy by 2027.

She describes these as “bold national goals.” The more appropriate label is “expensive pipe dream.”

Again, the latter description is more apt.  Consider the goal of half a billion solar panels by 2020.  That’s 5 years from now, folks.  We all know that solar panels are a) expensive and b) don’t live up to their billing as to making us energy independent (well unless we are willing to carpet every sun touched surface on our house and property with them).  So how will she accomplish this goal?  Well, with your tax dollars (or borrowing) of course.  Subsides, tax credits, outright grants, subsides to solar panel manufacturing and big government projects that install millions of panels in desert areas (Environmental impact? Only pipelines have that.).

My goodness, haven’t we done this before?  And what’s that popular definition of “insanity”?

Also consider that perhaps the cleanest renewable energy, one that has contributed most to the use of renewable energy, is hydroelectric energy (46%).  That source has been in decline due to pressure from environmental groups.  We have less hydroelectric power now than we did in 2000.  And that trend is likely to continue.

Biomass comes in second (9%) and is also in disfavor with environmental groups (greenhouse gasses).

That leaves three “renewable” sources – geothermal, solar and wind.  Between the three, they currently contribute just “6.7% of the nation’s electricity capacity, according to the Energy Department.”  In total, we have about 15% of our energy from all renewable sources.  So you get an idea of how small the contribution of these three really are.

While Clinton didn’t say much about the other two, wind is a favorite of the renewable energy crowd.  The problem with both wind and solar is the usual – powerful environmental groups oppose both.  Especially groups concerned with the negative impact on wildlife they’ve demonstrated.  It is no secret that both wind installations and large solar instillations are abattoirs for wildlife, especially birds.

So how likely is a President Clinton to see this bit of campaign positioning come to fruition?  Well thankfully not very. It’s a slapdash bit of campaign nonsense. It is pure pandering with no hope of realization.  It is the usual political campaign “policy” making that is all talk with no walk.  It has no possibility of being realized and is just thrown out there to feed the base and keep them happy.  It is the underpants gnomes in action.

It doesn’t even stand up to casual scrutiny.  But don’t worry, her base has no reason for even casual scrutiny.  If she said it, they believe it and that ends it.

Meanwhile, upon finishing her delivery of this devilish clever energy plan, she boarded her private jet and smoked off to her next destination.

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 23 Jul 15

The Kansas City Fed Manufacturing Index continues to show deep contraction, though it rose to -7 from -9 in July.

The Conference Board’s Index of Leading Indictors rose 0.6% in June, pushed higher by a surge in Housing Permits.

The Chicago Fed National Activity Index moved back into positive territory in June, rising from -0.17 to 0.8.

Initial weekly jobless claims fell a startling 26,000 to 255,000, a 42-year low. The 4-week average fell 4,000 to 278,500. Continuing claims 9,000 to 2.207 million. Auto retooling, and temporary layoffs, always make jobless claims a very tricky number in July. 

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index dropped -0.8 points lower to 42.4 in the latest week.

The Fed’s balance sheet rose $11.7 billion last week, with total assets of $4.544 trillion. Reserve bank credit rose $12.0 billion.

The Fed reports that M2 money supply rose by $5.9 billion in the latest week.


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Why did he do it!

We’re working really hard in the media to avoid discussing the elephant that Mohammad Abdulazeez rode going to his Chattanooga Islamic terrorist attack.   Official government sources are working nearly as hard.

“It” let’s talk like ‘it’ wasn’t killing 5 men while we’re worrying about whether or not he was ‘radicalized’ or depressed or a wannabe member of ISIS.

There’s no evidence he was inspired by ISIS you see.

I’d like to suggest there was no evidence that Major Nidal Hasan was inspired by ISIS either if that’s a helpful guidepost to those who are trying to figure out what we can do to prevent people from killing when they think they will gain entry to paradise for killing.

Just because young Mohammad didn’t write “Dear Diary, today, inspired by the glory of ISIS and all they do in the name of Allah, I’m going to go and kill some American servicemen” doesn’t mean the cause isn’t pretty obvious.

He was a lone gunman according to the President, who avoided the word ‘Terrorism’ like he avoids making useful decisions.

The kid did mention ‘becoming a martyr’ didn’t he?  And what exactly does that mean to some people who practice the religion of peace?

Short and sweet.

To the best of my knowledge there’s only one world-wide religion that rewards you for dying while killing others. Only one major religion where “becoming a martyr” is a matter of choice. Only one where you get rewards for killing unbelievers.

And based on the xplodidopes who blow themselves up in mosques, even killing ‘believers’ can get you a reward even if the only difference between you is believing the prophet rose at 6:00 AM every morning while they insist emphatically he didn’t rise until 6:10.

In Christianity, you kill yourself, and others,  and you are NOT going to get the first class treatment when you get to Heaven’s gates. You are most certainly not going to get it if you slaughter innocents first and manage to get yourself killed in the ensuing battle with the forces of goodness and niceness.

Only Islam rewards you with paradise for killing others before your number comes up in the fight, even if you’re the one who started it.

But we need to know young Mohammad was doing drugs and alcohol.  What we know is it makes him a lousy practitioner of Islam.  What we can guess is it could be a factor in why he needed the martyr bonus package to buy his way to paradise.

He was ‘in debt’ – sure, after you drop somewhere on the order of (easily) $3000+ to buy an AK74, an AR-15 and a Saiga 12 semi-auto assault shotgun, plus the ammo to feed them, and spend time, and money, at a range practicing with them, yeah, you’ve gone a lot deeper in debt then when you couldn’t make that $380 monthly car payment.    Now oddly enough, he didn’t have that additional debt, until after he’d returned from a trip to the Middle East. I’m sure there’s nothing unusual about that though.  I came back from Fredericksburg Texas a couple weeks ago, and when I got back to Dallas I went out and bought Heffeweizen and German sausages, so maybe it’s a coming back from the Middle East thing to go out and buy weapons and ammo.

Finally, the day Mohammad decided he was ready to ‘commit suicide’, he set out to shoot, and kill, not just any unbelievers, no, he went off to shoot and kill members of the armed forces of the United States of America. He seems to have had a particular bone to pick with the Marines but obviously he’d shoot American sailors too. I suspect Army, Air Force or Coast Guard personnel who crossed his path would have made their way onto his kill list.

Now let’s pack up all those bits of information as we ponder why he did ‘it’.-

A follower of Islam, looking to achieve martyrdom, takes a trip to the Middle East for several months, comes back and buys several semi-automatic weapons of man killing caliber, buys ammo for them, practices with them and then attacks the recruiting offices of the United States military. In the process he dies, thus achieving his goal of martyrdom. Before his ‘suicide’ is complete he kills 5 American military personnel,  largely unarmed (because he’s a brave warrior seeking paradise), until finally someone puts enough jacketed lead into his nasty little body to put him down like the diseased animal he was.

Should we CARE what motivated him? Isn’t it all about the outcome for progressive America?

I don’t care if he was depressed, taking pills, in debt, confused or having a bad beard day.  He wasn’t a good boy, he killed other people for nothing more than being Americans, in uniform.

And he did it, specifically, because his religion taught him that dying while killing infidels would get him into heaven.

It’s NOT any more complicated than that.

Is it radicalized? is it terrorism? (yes, and yes).

Who cares, if it’s not, it’s still Islam.

Now go figure out how knowing it’s Islam will prevent the next follower of Mohammed who’s ‘depressed and in debt’ from attempting to do little shoe kissing pork eating Mohammad Abdulazeez one (or more) better.

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Is ISIS transforming into a “functioning state?”

According to some, that’s exactly what is happening:

While no one is predicting that the Islamic State will become the steward of an accountable, functioning state anytime soon, the group is putting in place the kinds of measures associated with governing: issuing identification cards for residents, promulgating fishing guidelines to preserve stocks, requiring that cars carry tool kits for emergencies. That transition may demand that the West rethink its military-first approach to combating the group.

“I think that there is no question that the way to look at it is as a revolutionary state-building organization,” said Stephen M. Walt, a professor of international affairs at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. He is one of a small but growing group of experts who are challenging the conventional wisdom about the Islamic State: that its evil ensures its eventual destruction.

Granted, the tools it uses to establish and maintain control are terror and violence, however that’s not much different than hundreds of totalitarian regimes throughout history. And, at this point, it is in its first generation of “rulers”, which means they’re likely to be the most true to their warped “principles”. So corruption, pre se, isn’t yet a problem (they’re too frightened of their own organization to accept bribes, for instance).

Remember history, say the experts:

Drawing on parallels from history, experts say, the group’s violence can be seen in a different light. Mr. Walt mentioned the guillotine of the French Revolution, and the atrocities of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia and the Communist one in China — imperfect analogies, to be sure, but ones that underscored the violence and oppression that can precede creation of a revolutionary state.

Then there’s Pol Pot’s Cambodia. It finally failed, but the same formula was applied there.

The problem, of course, is this isn’t the way it had to be. Certainly the left will say “if that evil Bush hadn’t invaded Iraq, it wouldn’t be that way”. Well with people often disappearing into wood chippers in Saddam’s day, Iraq was already that way.

The problem, as we face it now, really comes down to ideology and neglect – squarely placed in this administration’s lap. Gen. Ray Odeirno, outgoing Army Chief of Staff, said as much in an interview:

But Odierno had pointed words on the rise of ISIS in Iraq and Syria – suggesting it didn’t have to be this way.

“It’s frustrating to watch it,” Odierno said. “I go back to the work we did in 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010 and we got it to a place that was really good. Violence was low, the economy was growing, politics looked like it was heading in the right direction.”

Odierno said the fall of large parts of Iraq was not inevitable, reiterating concerns about the pace of the U.S. troop withdrawal there.

“If we had stayed a little more engaged, I think maybe it might have been prevented,” he said. “I’ve always believed the United States played the role of honest broker between all the groups and when we pulled ourselves out, we lost that role.”

But this administration wasn’t interested in staying longer regardless of the possible negative outcome of pulling troops from Iraq early. It had a campaign promise to fulfill, one of the few it ever has fulfilled. So it made routine SOFA negotiations impossible for Iraq to agree with, then blamed the lack of an agreement on Iraq and pulled our troops out before the job was done – giving ISIS the opportunity to rise.

Odierno made it clear that wasn’t the only problem we’ve let ‘rise':

“Two years ago, we didn’t think we had a problem in Europe. … [Now] Russia is reasserting themselves. We didn’t think we’d have a problem again in Iraq and ISIS has emerged.

“So, with Russia becoming more of a threat, with ISIS becoming more of a threat, in my mind, we are on a dangerous balancing act right now with capability.”

The answer to these problems?  Cut the end strength of the Army so we’re even less capable.

Can’t you just feel it?

We’re in good hands.

~McQ

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