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Daily Archives: May 30, 2012


Economic Statistics for 30 May 12

The following statistics were released today on the state of the US economy:

The Pending Home Sales Index fell 5.5% to 95.5. Unexpectedly, of course. This indicates coming weakness in May and June home sales.

Despite low rates, mortgage applications fell -1.3%, with purchase applications down -0.6%, and refinance applications down -1.5%.

In retail sales, Redbook’s year-over-year same store sales increase of 3.2% still leaves May sales down -0.9% from April. ICSC-Goldman reports store sales fell -0.5% for the week, with year-over-year store sales up 2.9%. This is better than Redbook, but still not good.

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Dale Franks
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A government of bullies? NC man questioned by armed EPA agents after sending email to EPA

You want a chilling effect?  You want to see overt government intimidation?  Check this out:

An Asheville businessman is left with more questions than answers after a May 2 visit to his home by two armed special agents from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, accompanied by an Asheville police officer, apparently to question him about what the EPA interpreted as a “cryptic and concerning” email.

The incident is under investigation by the office of Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C.

Larry Keller, who runs a computer consulting business from his Asheville home, sent an email April 27 to the EPA in an attempt to reach Al Armendariz, EPA regional administrator for Region 6. Two days earlier, a video from 2010 was posted on YouTube in which Armendariz said his enforcement philosophy was to “crucify” officials from big oil and gas companies.

The video became a sensation on blogs and on Twitter, and on many conservative news websites. After seeing it, Keller told Carolina Journal, he was troubled by the comments and just wanted to express his concerns to Armendariz, a public official whose salary is paid by taxpayers. “I wanted to know why someone in his position would say what he did. I wanted to question his reasoning and principles. It’s all about freedom of speech,” Keller said.

An Internet search for Armendariz’s contact information directed him to email David Gray, director of external affairs for EPA Region 6. Keller sent the following email: “Hello Mr. Gray-Do you have Mr. Armendariz’s contact information so we can say hello? -Regards-Larry Keller.”

Armendariz resigned April 30, after the ensuing national uproar over his comments. The EPA agents arrived at Keller’s home May 2.

Keller told CJ that Special Agent Michael Woods asked if he had sent an email to an EPA employee. At first, Keller said no, but then remembered the email to Gray. At that point, Woods produced a copy of the email and asked if it was the email he sent.

The second agent said Keller’s choice of words could be interpreted in many different ways and asked if Keller thought the content was suspicious in any way. Keller said he didn’t have anything to hide and the email postscript had his company logo and website address.

It “could be interpreted in many different ways”?  Really?  Read his email again – “Hello Mr. Gray-Do you have Mr. Armendariz’s contact information so we can say hello? -Regards-Larry Keller.”  That email is why these two thugs, and I have no reservation calling them that, showed up.  They were there to intimidate.  If you don’t believe that, read this:

The discourse quickly became adversarial, Keller said. When Keller asked for a copy of the email, Woods said it was impossible because the investigation was not yet concluded.

At that point, Keller heard his wife arriving home and asked the agents to stay so his wife could meet them and “see what all the fuss was about.” Woods said they had to get going and the trio started toward the back staircase, Keller said.

Keller had asked for the agents’ business cards, but after initially saying they had them, they later told Keller they were “out of cards.” He insisted they give him the name of their supervisor, and Woods wrote the name and number on a piece of paper, Keller said.

Keller said he followed them outside and noticed a police cruiser parked in the neighbor’s driveway. The agents left without acknowledging his wife, Keller said. He also learned after contacting the Asheville Police Department that another officer had remained in the cruiser throughout the interview.

This is what government has come too?  First, why are “EPA agents” armed?  Want someone armed and think the situation warrants that?  Take a local police officer with you. 

Note that they refused to leave evidence of their visit by giving Keller the business cards he requested. 

Finally, when Keller said he wanted them to stay so his wife could hear what they were saying, they quickly retreated and left.

Keller is justifiably angry and trying to get answers. 

He’s asking for a thorough review of EPA protocol and has emailed EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson almost daily since the incident, but has yet to receive a response from her.

It appears that Keller’s emails to Jackson and to Michael Daggett, the assistant deputy inspector general for the EPA, were forwarded to Patrick Sullivan, assistant inspector general, office of investigations organization.

In his emailed response, Sullivan defended the EPA’s actions, saying a thorough review of the facts failed to find “any unprofessional behavior by EPA OIG personnel” and that the agents had acted in accordance with “established Federal law enforcement policies and procedures.”

Or “situation normal, we were well within our rights to roust you, attempt to intimidate you and question your intent.”

This should unsettle even the most complacent among us.  And it deserves to be elevated to a national level.

This sort of behavior by government is … unacceptable!

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


How would you rate the Obama recovery?

Investors Business Daily saves you the trouble.  Of the past 10 recoveries since WWII, this recovery rates dead last.

For instance:

Employment: By this point, the average job growth in the past 10 recoveries was 6.9%. Under Obama, jobs have grown by just 1.9%, according to data from the Minneapolis Federal Reserve.

Had the current recovery kept pace with just the average recovery over the past 60 years, there would be 6.5 million more people with jobs today, and the unemployment rate would be below 7%, instead of above 8%. That assumes several million more Americans would have joined the workforce. If the current anemic labor force were unchanged, those 6.5 million jobs would drive unemployment to 4%.

Just as importantly:

GDP growth: The Obama recovery has also performed far worse than average when it comes to GDP growth. After 11 quarters, the economy is still only 6.8% bigger than it was when the recession ended. In contrast, GDP was 16% bigger, on average, by this point in the previous 10 recoveries, the Minneapolis Fed data show.

The current recovery is so slow, in fact, that it just barely beats GDP growth 11 quarters after the 1980 recession ended — even though there was the intervening long and painful 1981-82 recession. And unless GDP shoots up in Q2, the current recovery will soon be the absolute worst since the Great Depression.

Had the Obama recovery tracked the average GDP growth in the 10 previous recoveries, the economy would be almost $1.2 trillion bigger today.

Remember, we’re just talking average here.  If this recovery were a average recovery, we’d see the numbers IBD is talking about.  Instead, this recovery is well below average.  In fact, it defines the bottom.

Incomes: By the third year of the past five recoveries, real median household incomes climbed an average 2.8%, according to the Census Bureau, which only has household income data back to 1967.

But in the current recovery, real household incomes dropped 5.4% during the recovery, according to Sentier Research, which compiles a monthly household income index using Census data.

"Unlike previous recoveries, we actually saw household incomes drop faster during the recovery than they did during the recession itself," said Gordon Green, who co-founded Sentier.

Again, extraordinarily poor performance. 

And, to the claim that Obama has spent less than any other recent president (a laugher if ever there was one and factually wrong), lets examine the actual record on deficits and national debt:

Deficits: The current recovery also doesn’t stack up well when it comes to annual federal deficits. By this point in previous recoveries, deficits were running an average 2.2% of GDP. This year, they’re expected to be 7.6%, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Here’s another way to look at it: If the deficit-to-GDP ratio matched the average of the previous recoveries, it would be around $341 billion, instead of $1.2 trillion.

National debt: Although Obama claims that he’s cleaning up after the "wild debts" Republicans ran up, the national debt has climbed much faster during Obama’s economic recovery than the typical recovery in the past.

On average, federal debt climbed 9.5% in the first three years of those recoveries, after adjusting for inflation. Under Obama, debt has climbed $4 trillion since the recovery started, a 28% increase in real terms.

Which brings us to the Obama excuses for this poor performance:

Obama routinely blames the deep recession. The problem is that, historically, the deeper the recession, the stronger the recovery has been.

Others have argued that recoveries from financial crises produce sluggish recoveries. However, a paper published by the Atlanta Fed concluded that U.S. history provides "no support" for linking the current mediocre recovery "with the financial crisis of 2007—2008."

And there are those who argue that the stimulus was insufficient. But that’s hard to believe, too, since spending has averaged more than 24% of GDP over the past three years, and deficits averaged 9.3% — higher levels than at any time since World War II.

Obama most recently has argued that Republicans are thwarting the recovery.

"We’ve got too many of my dear Republican friends in Congress that have been standing in the way of some steps that we could take that would make a difference at the moment," Obama said last week.

But Obama got everything he wanted in terms of economic policy his first two years in office, when he had solid Democratic majorities in the House and Senate, including a massive stimulus, Cash for Clunkers, mortgage aid, Wall Street reform, ObamaCare and so on.

The arguments simply have no factual support.  They’re political excuses; the usual attempt at blame shifting  for which this president is so famous.

In fact, his record in this recovery is abysmal.  Yet he’s asking for another 4 years, one assumes, to try to fix what he’s royally screwed up. 

These should be the facts and figures the Romney campaign uses constantly.  And with that, they should also point out the mess a President Romney will “inherit” from the current occupant of the White House.

Forward!

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Climate change skeptics have “the highest degrees of science literacy and technical reasoning capacity”

Shocking I know.  In fact the findings are exactly the opposite of what those doing the study expected to find (via Nature.com):

As respondents’ science-literacy scores increased, concern with climate change decreased (r=−0.05, P=0.05). There was also a negative correlation between numeracy and climate change risk (r=−0.09, P<0.01). The differences were small, but nevertheless inconsistent with SCT, which predicts effects with the opposite signs.

[…]

Contrary to SCT predictions, higher degrees of science literacy and numeracy are associated with a small decrease in the perceived seriousness of climate change risks.

Or to simplify, the difference between the believing herd and thinking individualists. 

Speaking of the herd vs individualists, that takes us to the second claim:

If cultural cognition is merely a heuristic substitute for scientific knowledge and system 2 reasoning, reliance on it should be lowest among those individuals whose scientific knowledge and system 2 reasoning capacity are highest. SCT thus implies that as science literacy and numeracy increase, the scepticism over climate change associated with a hierarchical individualistic world-view should lessen and the gap between people with hierarchical individualistic world-views and those with egalitarian communitarian ones should diminish.

Not valid:

Among egalitarian communitarians, science literacy and numeracy (as reflected in the composite scale Science literacy/numeracy) showed a small positive correlation with concern about climate change risks (r=0.08, P=0.03). In contrast, among hierarchical individualists, Science literacy/numeracy is negatively correlated with concern (r=−0.12, P=0.03). Hence, polarization actually becomes larger, not smaller, as science literacy and numeracy increase.

Contrary to SCT’s predictions, highly science-literate and numerate hierarchical individualists are more sceptical, not less, of climate change risks.

These results won’t slow down the alarmists or stop them from calling skeptics scientifically illiterate.  But it will allow skeptics to laugh in their face when they do.

Another in a long line of alarmist myths about AGW put to death by …. science.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

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