Free Markets, Free People

Dale Franks

Dale Franks’ QandO posts

Economic Statistics for 18 Sep 14

Housing starts for August fell a disappointing 14.4% to an annualized 0.956 million units, but this comes off a very strong July reading.

Initial weekly jobless claims fell 36,000 to 280,000. The 4-week average fell 4,750 to 299,500. Continuing claims fell 63,000 to 2.429 million.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index rose 0.7 points to 37.2 in the latest week.

The general business conditions index of the Philadelphia Fed’s Business Outlook Survey fell -5.5 points to 22.5 in September.

The Fed’s balance sheet rose $28.2 billion last week, with total assets of 4.408 trillion. Reserve bank credit rose $29.9 billion.

The Fed reports that M2 money supply rose by $25.1 billion in the latest week.


Dale’s social media profiles:
Twitter | Facebook | Google+

Economic Statistics for 17 Sep 14

The MBA reports that mortgage applications rose 7.9% last week, with purchases up 5.0% and refis up 10.0%.

Consumer prices fell -0.2% at the overall rate in August, while the core CPI, which excludes food and energy, was unchanged. On a year-over-year basis, both the headline and core CPI are up 1.7%.

The nation’s current account deficit narrowed to $-98.5 billion in the 2nd Quarter, down from the 1st Quarter’s revised $-102.1 billion.

The NAHB housing market index for August rose 4 points to 59 in September.

The Fed’s newest forecast for GDP growth:2014: 2.0 to 2.2 %; 2015: 2.6 to 3.0 %; 2016: 2.6 to 2.9 %; 2017: 2.3 to 2.5 %; longer run: 2.0 to 2.2 %. In other words, sub-par economic growth for as long as they can foresee. As a reminder, the trend rate of growth for mature economies should be in the 3.0-3.5% range.

The Federal Open Markets Committee announced that interest rates will remain unchanged, with a Fed Funds Rate target of 0-0.5%.


Dale’s social media profiles:
Twitter | Facebook | Google+

Economic Statistics for 16 Sep 14

ICSC-Goldman reports weekly retail sales fell -2.6%, and rose 3.0% on a year-over-year basis. Redbook reports retail sales rose 3.6% on a year-ago basis.

Producer Prices for Final Demand were unchanged in August, and were up 0.1% less food and energy. On a year-over-year basis the PPI-FD is up 1.8% overall, and up 1.6% less food and energy. Other relevant numbers from this release:

PPI-FD less food, energy & trade services – M/M change: 0.2%
PPI-FD Goods – M/M change: -0.3%
PPI-FD Goods – Y/Y change:  1.7%
PPI-FD Services – M/M change: 0.3%
PPI-FD Services – Y/Y change: 1.9%

Foreign demand for long-term US securities fell $-18.6 billion in July.


Dale’s social media profiles:
Twitter | Facebook | Google+

Economic Statistics for 10-11 Sep 14

Sorry about missing the econ stats yesterday. I’ll make it up today. What happened yesterday was that one of my laptops went TU, so I had to go to the store and replace it. In doing so, I switched from Win8 to a new Macbook Air 11”. So, for the first time in 15 years, I’m doing stuff on a Mac. Including this, my very first blog post from a Mac, ever. I’m also planning on getting an iPhone 6 and a jaunty beret.

Ha! Just kidding. I already have a couple of berets. Anyway, Economic statistics:

Weekly jobless claims rose 11,000 to 315,000. The 4-week average rose 1,250 to 304,000. Continuing claims rose 9,000 to 2.487 million.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index fell -1.2 points to 36.5, a five-week low.

Information technology revenue rose 0.8% in the 2nd Quarter of 2014, and is up 5.7% on a year-over-year basis.

The MBA reports that mortgage applications fell -7.2% last week, with purchases down 3.0% and refis down -11.0%.

Wholesale inventories rose 0.1% in July, but a 0.7% increase in sales dropped the stock-to-sales ratio to 1.16.

The Fed’s balance sheet rose $5.8 billion, with total assets of 4.421 trillion. Reserve bank credit rose $4.2 billion.

The Fed reports that M2 money supply rose by $10.3 billion in the latest week.


Dale’s social media profiles:
Twitter | Facebook | Google+

What, if anything, do we do about ISIS/ISIL?

In 1917, the United States found a casus belli to enter World War I in the Zimmerman Telegram. Prior to this, President Wilson ran for re-election in 1916 on the slogan “He kept us out of the war.”. A year later we were belligerent in that war.

What we know now is that the European nations had bled each other white since August, 1914. There were already discussions in all the belligerent capitals about a negotiated end to the war that would have ended the war with the status quo ante intact.. America’s entry changed all that, and eventually forced the surrender of Germany. That victory led directly to an unwisely humiliating peace imposed on Germany, which caused the resentments that led directly to the rise of nationalist radicalism. Which nationalism led, in turn, to the Nazis gaining control of the country. Nazi government in Germany led directly to WWII, a war the Nazis planned beginning in 1933. Whatever suffering WWI caused, WWII was substantially worse. An argument can be made that American intervention is the ultimate cause of WWII in Europe.

Similarly, in 1991, America led a coalition to intervene in Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. Since then, American forces have been a more or less constant presence in the region of Iraq and Saudi Arabia.  By Osama bin Laden’s account, the presence of infidel Christians in Muslim lands was the reason for his dispute with Saudi Arabia and the United States, and the genesis of his animus against the United States. That animus led to 9/11, from which followed the last 13 years of…unpleasantness. One could, if one wished, make a parallel between American intervention in WWI and in the Gulf War.

Intervention has ripples, like pebbles tossed into a still pond, that reverberate long after the event. It can be argued that ISIS/ISIL is the latest ripple in the US’ Gulf War intervention.

So, nasty video images aside, what is it about ISIS that requires a US intervention in the Mideast again? Saddam Hussein ran a particularly nasty terror state, with rape rooms where suspect’s wives and daughters were brutally gang-raped in front of them as they were forced to watch. Dissidents were routinely dissolved alive in acid. Mothers were forced to watch as their children were shot, and their infants had their heads dashed against cement walls. Uday Hussein famously fed people who displeased him feet first into wood chippers. There is no way in which Saddam Hussein’s government was, in any way, objectively more humane or less brutal than ISIS.

ISIS seems to actively want a US intervention in the region, based on their publicly released media and statements. If they desire this, why should we be so keen to do what they wish, without at least seriously examining why they wish us to do it? In fact, I have several questions about a possible intervention against ISIS.

1. In what way is ISIS a greater threat, or indeed as much of a threat, as Saddam Hussein was from 1991 to 2003?

2. Why are both Republicans and Democrats willing to cede the President the authority to intervene in the Mideast again, without explicit Congressional approval?

3. What do we accomplish by intervening in Iraq, and not in Saudi Arabia, from whence ISIS receives funding? Indeed, what do we accomplish at all without cutting of Saudi money to fundamentalists? How do we cut that money off?

4. How likely is it that intervention against ISIS in Iraq will require intervention in Syria to defeat ISIS?

5. How likely is it to defeat ISIS without a substantial ground presence of American combat troops?

6. If ISIS is such a threat, why isn’t Israel doing anything about them?

7. How much of ISIS’ existence is part of a proxy war between Sunni states against Iran, especially as the end result of US intervention was increased Iranian influence in largely Shi’a Iraq?

8. What is the desired end state of US intervention against ISIS? Mustn’t it not simply be ISIS’ defeat, but also foreclose the rise of future ISI-like groups, lest we gain nothing but a little time?

9. Does “fighting them over there” actually make us safer from ISIS over here, or does it simply exacerbate Arab resentment, increasing the chance of terror attacks against the US?

10. How much blood and treasure are we willing to spend, and for what length of time, are we willing to commit to this intervention?

11. Would spending that blood and treasure in increasing border and port security have a greater effect on ensuring our security than military intervention?

12. Has the region become more or less stable since America began intervening in the Mideast in 1991?

13. Has the threat from the region increased or decreased since 1991?

14. Is the current situation the result of the current president’s inaction, or rather, the result of entirely too much action over the past few decades?

Frankly, the result of American intervention in the Mideast seems to have accomplished little. Yes, Kuwait was liberated, and Saddam Hussein hung but at what cost? So far, it’s been 23 years of more or less constant presence in the Mideast, during which the region has become less stable, not more. It seems that the answer to dealing with the results of our intervention in the Mideast has become more intervention.

It’s all beginning to remind me of the War on Drugs. “If only we increase prison sentences, we’ll reduce drug use.” “If only we seize assets, we’ll cripple the drug lords.” “If only we make it hard to deposit more than $10,000 in cash, we’ll shut down money laundering.” Meanwhile, we’re going through more cocaine than Hunter Thompson in Vegas, cops are using SWAT teams to serve no-knock warrants, and people’s legal cash is being seized.

Sure, I’d love to stomp ISIS flat, with a big ol’ American boot on their neck, as they gasp their last breath, while watching us kill their pet goat. I’m not really sure that’s the best answer, anymore, though.


Dale’s social media profiles:
Twitter | Facebook | Google+

Hash Tag Game

Tonight there was a hashtag game on Twitter called “Explain a Film Plot Badly”. I thought I would play the game for a while, but I think I got a bit carried away. Here are my entries to the game. How many of these movies do you recognize?

Hollywood SignAn ex-Marine officer returns home and takes over the family business started by his Italian immigrant father.

A private eye is confused by an attractive woman and her sister/daughter.

A young farm boy learns about religion, kisses his sister, joins an insurgent group, and blows up a military base.

A bar owner in Morocco befriends a local policeman.

A Kansas firm girl dreams about a magical land after being injured in inclement weather.

A rich media mogul remembers his favorite sled.

A stranded alien becomes addicted to candy.

A prize fighter suspects his brother may have slept with his wife.

A British and Turkish officer have a brief sexual encounter in WWI.

An inmate has fun causing hijinks at an asylum.

A former Nazi scientist figures out a plan to legalize polygamy.

Astronauts find a black box left by aliens long ago. Hilarity ensues.

An ex-nun sings about everything.

Military doctors drink and perform surgery in tents.

A big fish ruins everyone’s summer.

A UCLA archaeologist ignores international treaties about antiquities.

A murderous lunatic enjoys cannibalism and legumes.

A black Philadelphia police detective solves crime and racism in Mississippi.

Wyatt and Billy sell cocaine, ride motorcycles, and irritate rednecks.

A poor Irishman meets a nice girl, but dies in a boating accident.

Bruce Willis dies, then counsels a troubled youth.

An NYPD detective learns that Frenchmen have the best smack.

A bible-quoting gangster retrieves an important briefcase, then interrupts a robbery in a diner.

A concentration camp prisoner discovers which child she loves the best.

A Jewish chariot racer takes baths with hunky Roman men.

Private Ryan is sent home after a family tragedy.

A murderer practices accountancy in prison.

A rich vigilante dresses up like an animal and drives a cool car.

Twelve disgruntled jurors talk things out.

A man and his imaginary friend form a club they never talk about.

Little people travel with a piece of jewelry, have adventures.

A man goes into people’s dreams and learns stuff, and thinks about his hot ex-wife. Or maybe it’s just a dream.

A half-Irish, half-Italian man becomes involved with organized crime, then tells cops how fun it was.

A police detective looks into a box and makes an unfortunate find.

A man wishes he had never been born. His wish is granted, and his little town becomes way more fun.

Lunatic hotelier has unhealthily fond memories of his mother.

A federal agent investigates a baseball-loving bootlegger.

A magical black man heals a wounded rodent, but is electrocuted.

A starship crew encounters an alien who kills all the unattractive crew members.

A milk-loving British thug receives therapy.

The English make a Scottish rebel pay for his violent hijinks.

A mentally disabled man befriends the daughter of an idealistic, widowed, southern lawyer.

Con men rob a gangster and then get shot. But not really.

A Cuban immigrant snorts cocaine then introduces rivals to his small acquaintance.

Adolf Hitler yells and dies in German.

A British officer is held prisoner by the Japanese, and builds the best bridge ever.

A LA policeman kills robots, then has sex with one.

A hippie bowler has sex with a rich woman, meets a pornographer, and has his carpet soiled by nihilists.

Ratty-looking Formula 1 driver has a bad crash, but races again.

An African hotelier in Kigali, Rwanda, is disturbed by local events.

A math professor becomes paranoid, but gains an imaginary friend.

Antarctic researchers find an alien with a talent for mimicry.

Unattractive Persians kill hunky Spartans in a disturbingly homoerotic war.

A man is reacquainted with his childhood sweetheart, while his Hispanic friend investigates his father’s murder.

Unscrupulous petroleum magnate drinks other people’s milkshakes.

An Irish hit man travels to Belgium, is unimpressed by Bruges.

Jason Bourne loses his memory, then falls for a quirky German girl.

A girl learns how to box, then dies.

An Indian leader preaches pacifism, but, ironically, is shot.

A young man volunteers to serve in Vietnam, which is more unpleasant than he expected.

A hotel caretaker spends the winter writing an extremely repetitious book, and using cutlery.

Undercover cop gets shot while participating in a robbery. He’s told he’s “gonna be okay” but isn’t.

A mob-connected gambler runs a casino in Vegas, while hosting a bad TV show, then has serious car trouble.


Dale’s social media profiles:
Twitter | Facebook | Google+

Image Credit: The Hollywood sign image was originally posted to Flickr by Sörn at http://flickr.com/photos/34065722@N00/1151601662, licensed under the terms of the cc-by-sa-2.0. Post originally posted at DaleFranks.Com.