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Economic Statistics for 26 Mar 15

The Markit PMI services index flash for March rose 1.8 points to 58.6.

The Kansas City Fed Manufacturing Index fell -5 points to -4 in March.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index rose 1.3 points to 45.5 in the latest week, the highest level since July, 2007.

Initial weekly jobless claims  fell 9,000 to 282,000. The 4-week average fell 7,750 to 297,000. Continuing claims fell 6,000 to 2.416 million.

The Fed’s balance sheet fell $-15.3 billion last week, with total assets of $4.481 trillion. Reserve bank credit fell $-7.9 billion.

The Fed reports that M2 money supply rose by $9.3 billion in the latest week.


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Meanwhile in Yemen

We see the end-state of what this administration deems a “success”:

Secret files held by Yemeni security forces that contain details of American intelligence operations in the country have been looted by Iran-backed militia leaders, exposing names of confidential informants and plans for U.S.-backed counter-terrorism strikes, U.S. officials say.

U.S. intelligence officials believe additional files were handed directly to Iranian advisors by Yemeni officials who have sided with the Houthi militias that seized control of Sana, the capital, in September, which led the U.S.-backed president to flee to Aden.

For American intelligence networks in Yemen, the damage has been severe. Until recently, U.S. forces deployed in Yemen had worked closely with President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi’s government to track and kill Al Qaeda operatives, and President Obama had hailed Yemen last fall as a model for counter-terrorism operations elsewhere.

Let’s see … SOF forced out of the country, President of Yemen on the run and both sides (Houti and AQ) romping all over the place.  Oh, and the security breech which is likely to cost a lot of lives.

But the identities of local agents were considered compromised after Houthi leaders in Sana took over the offices of Yemen’s National Security Bureau, which had worked closely with the CIA and other intelligence agencies, according to two U.S. officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive operations.

Yemeni intelligence officers still loyal to Hadi’s besieged government burned some secret files, one official said. But they couldn’t destroy all of them before the Houthi fighters, whose leaders have received some weapons and training from Iran, moved in.

The loss of the intelligence networks, in addition to the escalating conflict, contributed to the Obama administration’s decision to halt drone strikes in Yemen for two months, to vacate the U.S. Embassy in Sana last month and to evacuate U.S. special operations and intelligence teams from a Yemeni air base over the weekend.

“Success”.  Just breath it in.

Reminds you of the “success” in Libya, doesn’t it?

~McQ

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A simple question

Dr. Thomas Sowell says in reality it is a very simple question and it is questions like this one that completely undo Hillary Clinton supporters.

Question: What has Ms. Clinton ever accomplished?

<crickets> <subject change>

It is indeed a simple question.  And the answer:

For someone who has spent her entire adult life in politics, including being a Senator and then a Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton has nothing to show for all those years — no significant legislation of hers that she got passed in the Senate, and only an unbroken series of international setbacks for the United States during her time as Secretary of State.

Or said another way, nothing.  Nothing of note, nothing of substance.  The fact that she’s been in the public eye longer than Barack Obama doesn’t change the fact that she’s essentially the female version of him.

Remember too:

Before Barack Obama entered the White House and appointed Mrs. Clinton Secretary of State, Al Qaeda operatives in Iraq had notified their higher ups, stationed in Pakistan, that their cause was lost in Iraq and that there was no point sending more men there.

Hosni Mubarak was in charge in Egypt. He posed no threat to American or Western interests in the Middle East or to Christians within Egypt or to Israel. But the Obama administration threw its weight behind the Muslim Brotherhood, which took over and began terrorizing Christians in Egypt and promoting hostility to Israel.

In Libya next door, the Qaddafi regime had already given up its weapons of mass destruction, after they saw what happened to Saddam Hussein in Iraq. But President Obama’s foreign policy, carried out by Secretary of State Clinton, got Qaddafi removed, after which Libya became a terrorist haven where an American ambassador was killed, for the first time in decades.

The rationale for getting rid of Middle East leaders who posed no threat to American interests was that they were undemocratic and their people were restless. But there are no democracies in the Middle East, except for Israel. Moreover, the people were restless in Iran and Syria, and the Obama-Clinton foreign policy did nothing to support those who were trying to overthrow these regimes.

I guess, in a way, these are “accomplishments”, but certainly not the type any presidential candidate would want to highlight.  Between she and that bumbling fool in the White House, they’ve managed to wipe out anything that remotely resembled stability in the region.  Each and every time the dynamic duo made the wrong call.  Every. Single. Time.

It would be only fair to balance this picture with foreign policy triumphs of the Obama-Clinton team. But there are none. Not in the Middle East, not in Europe, where the Russians have invaded the Crimea, and not in Asia, where both China and North Korea are building up threatening military forces, while the Obama administration has been cutting back on American military forces.

And then there is Iran … and Israel.  Yemen, the crown-jewel of validation for our “counter-terrorism” plan has imploded.  And the last great hope in the region for any progress rests with … France?

This is what Ms. Clinton, et. al. have left the American people.  And sane and reasoning people know that.

However it isn’t inclusive of all of who will be picking President 45, is it?

Hillary Clinton became an iconic figure by feeding the media and the left the kind of rhetoric they love. Barack Obama did the same and became president. Neither had any concrete accomplishments besides rhetoric beforehand, and both have had the opposite of accomplishments after taking office.

They have something else in common. They attract the votes of those people who vote for demographic symbolism — “the first black president” to be followed by “the first woman president” — and neither to be criticized, lest you be denounced for racism or sexism.

It is staggering that there are sane adults who can vote for someone to be President of the United States as if they are in school, just voting for “most popular boy” or “most popular girl” — or, worse yet, voting for someone who will give them free stuff.

Suck it up you racist and sexist neanderthals.  It is no longer about competence and accomplishment.  It is about gender, race and free stuff.  Your “free” stuff.

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 25 Mar 15

The MBA reports that mortgage applications rose 9.5% last week, with purchases up 5.0% and refis up 12.0%, on lower interest rates.

Durable goods orders fell -1.4% in February, while orders less transportation fell -0.4%. On a year-over-year basis, orders are up only 0.6%, while ex-transportation orders are up just 2.3%.


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What are we enabling in our colleges? Part II

This is actually quite amusing to me because it is the left getting caught up in a trap of their own making.  Via Powerline we learn of Laura Kipnes, a Northwestern University feminist film professor (no, really, that’s what she is) who penned a piece entitled “Sexual Paranoia Strikes Academe” for the Chronical of Higher Education in which she had the temerity to say:

If this is feminism, it’s feminism hijacked by melodrama . . .

But what do we expect will become of students, successfully cocooned from uncomfortable feelings, once they leave the sanctuary of academe for the boorish badlands of real life? What becomes of students so committed to their own vulnerability, conditioned to imagine they have no agency, and protected from unequal power arrangements in romantic life? I can’t help asking, because there’s a distressing little fact about the discomfort of vulnerability, which is that it’s pretty much a daily experience in the world, and every sentient being has to learn how to somehow negotiate the consequences and fallout, or go through life flummoxed at every turn. . .

The question, then, is what kind of education prepares people to deal with the inevitably messy gray areas of life? Personally I’d start by promoting a less vulnerable sense of self than the one our new campus codes are peddling. Maybe I see it this way because I wasn’t educated to think that holders of institutional power were quite so fearsome, nor did the institutions themselves seem so mighty. Of course, they didn’t aspire to reach quite as deeply into our lives back then. What no one’s much saying about the efflorescence of these new policies is the degree to which they expand the power of the institutions themselves. . .

The feminism I identified with as a student stressed independence and resilience. In the intervening years, the climate of sanctimony about student vulnerability has grown too thick to penetrate; no one dares question it lest you’re labeled antifeminist. . . The new codes sweeping American campuses aren’t just a striking abridgment of everyone’s freedom, they’re also intellectually embarrassing. Sexual paranoia reigns; students are trauma cases waiting to happen. If you wanted to produce a pacified, cowering citizenry, this would be the method. And in that sense, we’re all the victims.

Seems pretty tame to me, even though it also seems a pretty accurate description of the problem that now exists on any number of college and university campuses.

As you might imagine, to the feminist left at the college, that’s heresy.  And, as if she were an Islamic apostate, she was immediately attacked. Protests erupted on the Northwestern campus, “complete with feminists aping the mattress-carrying stunt of Emma Sulkowicz at Columbia University.” How dare she say what she said?!

Interestingly enough, the publication which came to Kipnes defense was none other than the bedrock of the far left – “The Nation”.  It too seems to realize that enough is enough when it comes to stifling free thought:

As the protesters wrote on a Facebook page for their event, they wanted the administration to do something about “the violence expressed by Kipnis’ message.” Their petition called for “swift, official condemnation of the sentiments expressed by Professor Kipnis in her inflammatory article,” and demanded “that in the future, this sort of response comes automatically.” (University President Morton Schapiro told The Daily Northwestern, a student newspaper, that he would consider it, and the students will soon be meeting with the school’s Vice President for Student Affairs to further press their case.) Jazz Stephens, one of the march’s organizers, described Kipnis’s ideas as “terrifying.” Another student told The Daily Northwestern that she was considering bringing a formal complaint because she believes that Kipnis was mocking her concerns about being triggered in a film class, concerns she’d confided privately. “I would like to see some sort of repercussions just so she understands the effect something like this has on her students and her class,” said the student, who Kipnis hadn’t named.

Kipnis could hardly have invented a response that so neatly proved her argument. . .

This atmosphere is intellectually stifling. “Every professor’s affected by the current climate, unless they’re oblivious,” Kipnis told me via e-mail. “I got many dozens of emails from professors (and administrators and deans and one ex college president) describing how fearful they are of speaking honestly or dissenting on any of these issues. Someone on my campus—tenured—wrote me about literally lying awake at night worrying about causing trauma to a student, becoming a national story, losing her job, and not being able to support her kid. It seemed completely probable to her that a triggered student could take down a tenured professor with a snowball of social media.” . . .

“It’s the infantilization of women fused with identity politics, so that being vulnerable, a potential victim—or survivor, in the new parlance—becomes a form of identity,” Kipnis told me. “I wrote a chapter on the politics of vulnerability in The Female Thing from 2006, and since then it strikes me that vulnerability has an ever more aggressive edge to it, which is part of what makes the sexual culture of the moment so incoherent.”

As a quick aside, this statement had me laughing out loud – “Every professor’s affected by the current climate, unless they’re oblivious.” Yes, Ms. Kipnis, we agree – we dealt with Professor Oblivious yesterday.

Moving on though, it appears that the left is eating its own.  The Nation realizes that what has happened has become “intellectually stifling”.  It was a natural end state to the creeping oppression of speech codes, the “right” not to be offended and the idea that colleges should be “safe spaces” removed from the reality of the world where nasty things (and ideas apparently) can hurt you.  If you don’t agree or if you wander outside the bright lines of approved speech and thought, they think nothing of subjecting the violator to everything they’re trying to avoid. Heresy is, after all, a serious matter when speaking of “religion”, and that certainly is how the devotees treat their ideology.

Steve Hayward wonders that if these attacks will actually cause the administrators at Northwestern to grow a spine and “tell the mob to sod off”.  My guess?  No, not yet.  Don’t forget it was these university administrations that put this structure in place as well as aiding and abetting its growth.  They’re hardly about to now say they were wrong to let this intellectual fascism bloom.

Another interesting perspective was found on Tumblr by Hayward.  Another professor confessing his or her fears:

Personally, liberal students scare the sh*t out of me. I know how to get conservative students to question their beliefs and confront awful truths, and I know that, should one of these conservative students make a facebook page calling me a communist or else seek to formally protest my liberal lies, the university would have my back. I would not get fired for pissing off a Republican, so long as I did so respectfully, and so long as it happened in the course of legitimate classroom instruction.

The same cannot be said of liberal students. All it takes is one slip—not even an outright challenging of their beliefs, but even momentarily exposing them to any uncomfortable thought or imagery—and that’s it, your classroom is triggering, you are insensitive, kids are bringing mattresses to your office hours and there’s a twitter petition out demanding you chop off your hand in repentance.

Paranoid? Yes, of course. But paranoia isn’t uncalled for within the current academic job climate. Jobs are really, really, really, really hard to get. And since no reasonable person wants to put their livelihood in danger, we reasonably do not take any risks vis-a-vis momentarily upsetting liberal students. And so we leave upsetting truths unspoken, uncomfortable texts unread.

The fact that this problem is now a monster that devours its own is probably considered an “unintended consequence”.  The fact that they didn’t take into consideration that limiting speech they found “unacceptable” would come back to bite them seems to be a result of some very sloppy thinking, doesn’t it?  Or was there any real thinking going on at all when they began to impose their will?  And then, of course, there’s the problem of the inmates essentially running the asylum.  Hayward’s hope that a spine will somehow grow among the administrators of that school is a fairly farfetched hope.  There is no prior history of that so why would we expect this instance to be any different?  Until the administration does act in such a manner that tells the students to “sod off”, we shouldn’t expect it at all.

In the meantime, pop some popcorn, pull up a chair and enjoy the show.

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 24 Mar 15

Consumer prices rose 0.2% in February at both the headline and core levels, as energy prices made a bit of a comeback. On a year-over-year basis, the CPI is still down -0.1% overall, but is up 1.7% less food and energy.

Redbook reports that last week’s retail sales rose to a moderate 2.8% on a year-ago basis, from the previous week’s 2.7%.

The FHFA House Price Index rose a lower-than-expected 0.3% in January. On a year-over-year basis, the index is up 5.1%.

The Markit PMI manufacturing index flash for March rose 0.9 points from the February final to 55.3.

New home sales picked up sharply in February to a 539,000 annual rate from January’s 481,000. The median price still fell a sharp 4.8% to $275,500, despite a tightening of supply from 5.1 months to 4.7 months.

The Richmond Fed Manufacturing Index fell sharply from 0 to -8 in March, as both new orders and backlogs declined.


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Economic Statistics for 23 Mar 15

The Atlanta Fed reports that the year-ahead inflation expectations of businesses were 1.7% in March.

Existing home sales rose 1.2% in February to a still-lackluster 4.88 million annual pace, though the year-on-year rise of 4.7% shows some strength.

The Chicago Fed National Activity index was -0.11 in February, while the January reading has been revised down to -0.10 from 0.13. The 3-month average is now negative, at -0.08.


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What are we enabling in our colleges?

Jonathan Adler points to a NY Times piece by Judith Shulevitz about the “infantilizing” of college students, enabled, of course, by the administrations of various colleges and universities.  Shulevitz:

Safe spaces are an expression of the conviction, increasingly prevalent among college students, that their schools should keep them from being “bombarded” by discomfiting or distressing viewpoints. Think of the safe space as the live-action version of the better-known trigger warning, a notice put on top of a syllabus or an assigned reading to alert students to the presence of potentially disturbing material. . . . the notion that ticklish conversations must be scrubbed clean of controversy has a way of leaking out and spreading. Once you designate some spaces as safe, you imply that the rest are unsafe. It follows that they should be made safer. . . . while keeping college-level discussions “safe” may feel good to the hypersensitive, it’s bad for them and for everyone else. People ought to go to college to sharpen their wits and broaden their field of vision. Shield them from unfamiliar ideas, and they’ll never learn the discipline of seeing the world as other people see it. They’ll be unprepared for the social and intellectual headwinds that will hit them as soon as they step off the campuses whose climates they have so carefully controlled. What will they do when they hear opinions they’ve learned to shrink from? If they want to change the world, how will they learn to persuade people to join them?

We’ve talked about this in the past – this escape from reality which, in many cases, is simply an extension of many students life to that point. That has been enabled most times by parents who see their role as protectors rather than teachers. And they hand that responsibility off to college administrations who seem eager to continue the escape from reality.

What that has begotten is, ironically, a huge dollop of intolerance. These children don’t feels safe unless everyone “conforms” to a comfortable set of norms and beliefs. Those norms and beliefs are never to be challenged or argued because somewhere along the line they were graced with a pseudo right to never be offended or “uncomfortable” about anything.

Wow … a completely different world than I grew up in.

Addler adds these comments that I think are both appropriate and pertinant:

Three comments:

1) It’s not entirely clear how prevalent this phenomenon is. The demand for insulating students from potentially upsetting ideas does, for the moment, appears to come from a vocal minority and does not appear to have widespread support. Yet isn’t that always how these sorts of things start? And isn’t it well established that a vocal and highly motivated minority interest group can have an outsized influence on institutional policies?

2) Efforts to insulate students from challenging and even potentially offensive ideas cuts them off from the world and compromises much of the value of a traditional “liberal” education. It’s like some want to turn universities into the secular equivalents of Ave Maria Town.

3) One of the benefits of having been right-of-center in college was that my political and philosophical views were constantly challenged. There was no “safe space” — and I was better for it. I often felt that I received a better education than many of my peers precisely because I was not able to hold unchallenged assumptions or adopt unquestioned premises.

Point number one is important. We know it goes on, you just have to read Tanya Cohen’s piece to understand that was incubated somewhere and if you bother looking her up, she has connected with a good number of people who agree with her screed on “hate speech”. That sort of intolerance to other ideas came from somewhere. But as Addler points out, she’s hardly a majority, but certainly a part of a vocal minority. Here’s the difference though – while we may point and laugh at her premise, in the society we prefer, she has every right to express her absurd opinion. However, if she were in charge, we’d be in jail … or worse.

Point two is what it is all about. How does one become educated when any “offensive ideas” are excluded from the learning. How does one compare and contrast? How does one learn to reason? Well, “one” doesn’t. They learn only what they’re comfortable with and of course, that will be whatever plays well to their biases and preconceptions. Then they step out into the real world and reality flattens them like a freight train. Naturally they’re totally unprepared for the event.

Finally, point three makes the case for ignoring this “vocal minority” and welcoming dissenting and potentially offensive and upsetting ideas on campus.  It goes back to the two questions I asked in the paragraph above.  The marketplace of ideas is a powerful place and it winnows away ideas and premises that can’t stand the light of true scrutiny.  But if you’re never exposed to it, you have no way to test your premise or challenge your assumptions.  And if that is the case at a college or university, you’re not being educated, you’re being indoctrinated.

~McQ

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Authoritarian “science”

Yesterday, I pointed to an Orwellian piece that was simply a treatise on totalitarianism dressed up for the Freedom Ball.

Here’s another example in our world today as explained by an eminent scientist as he addresses the junk science that masquerades as “climate change”:

Dr. Christopher Essex, professor of Applied Mathematics at the University of Western Ontario, told Breitbart Executive Chairman, Stephen K. Bannon, that political activists, who undermine scientists for not embracing climate change theology, have crossed a line by making direct political attacks on regular scientists, like Willie Soon.

Appearing on Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM, Patriot radio, channel 125, Essex explained that on Sunday he and a group of scientists published a paper which methodically critiqued the Royal Society’s position on climate change, emphasizing areas that were “weak, limited, and flimsy.”

Essex said that there seems to be a cultural shift and that scientific arguments have deteriorated. Individuals in society have moved away from “civilized dialogues in which people have a collegial attitude and work together to try to find the truth.”  Essex characterized  the pro-climate change philosophy as a form of sophistry, catering to popular opinion rather than being concerned with the truth.

The climate change proponents, according to Dr. Essex, are using an old form of Eristic argument–Eris was ancient goddess of chaos. “They are using this very old, but high profile tactic, in the modern world, under the heading or rediscovered by Saul Alinsky’s work,” he contends.

What drew Essex to science was that “it is the ultimate expression of democracy. It gives you the freedom to think as an individual person,” he explained. The Royal Society “has now taken kind of an authoritarian approach, rather than a authoritative approach… and are now taking an official position on climate change,” the mathematician states. Essex doesn’t believe that  they are considering the science.

“In previous generations the scientific organizations knew that they should not do that. The rough and tumble of scientific debate and dialogue should not be suppressed or overcome by some official position on the part of these organizations,” he insisted.

“When they started to write letters from congress to employers telling them that they should expose the people that they don’ like, I think that they crossed a line. Now it’s necessary for us to respond in a way that we as scientists know how to respond, that is scientifically. And that is what we did,” Essex said.

Note his observation of what science used to be and what it is now.  And like the totalitarian/authoritarian left, it will brook no dissent.  Instead of welcoming dissent and different theories, it tries to shut down the other side, making personal attacks and calling for punitive action if their opinion or theory doesn’t conform to the approved “consensus”.

What that does of course, is strip any authority from science as it becomes obvious it is nothing but another political tool.  Science in the service of authoritarian ideology.

Orwell would be amazed today … or maybe not.  I love the line “Orwell wrote “1984” as a warning, not a guide book”.  All too much anymore, it seems more and more of a guide book for a certain segment of the political spectrum.

~McQ

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