Free Markets, Free People

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Economic Statistics for 11 Jun 15

Retail Sales for May rose 1.2% overall, 1.0% less autos, and 0.7% less autos and gas. This looks like a rebound from the soft 1st Quarter.

Export prices rose 0.6% in May, while import prices rose 1.3%, after a year of declines. On a year-over-year basis, export prices are down -5.9% and import prices are down -9.6%.

Business inventories rose 0.4% in April, while a strong 0.6% increase in business sales left the stock-to-sales ratio unchanged at 1.36.

Initial weekly jobless claims rose 3,000 to 279,000. The 4-week average rose 3,750 to 278,750. Continuing claims rose 61,000 to 2.265 million.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index fell -0.4 points to 40.1 in the latest week.

The Fed’s balance sheet rose $2.7 billion last week, with total assets of $4.468 trillion. Reserve bank credit rose $7.1 billion.

The Fed reports that M2 money supply fell by $-15.0 billion in the latest week.


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You have a right to discriminate

Here’s what the Social Justice Warriors don’t understand.  Discrimination is a part of individual freedom.  And with that freedom to discriminate come consequences.  It is like the right to free speech – you get to say what you want (other than incitement) and you get to pay the social and cultural consequences for doing so.  What others don’t get to do, however, is force you to adopt their values and therefore coerce you to conform.  That’s totalitarianism, not freedom.

John Stossel explains:

Why force someone who disapproves of your actions to bake you a cake? Lots of other bakers would love the business. This debate has moved from inclusion to demanding that everyone adopt your values.

In a free country, bigots should have the right to be bigots. Americans should also have freedom of association.

American lawyers talk about special protection for religious freedom, and in the Hobby Lobby case the Supreme Court said you could escape onerous parts of Obamacare by paying lawyers a fortune and convincing judges that you are a closely-held corporation with religious objections. But why must you be religious to practice what you believe? This should be about  individual freedom.

Of course, government must not discriminate. The worst of American racism and homophobia—slavery, segregation enforced by Jim Crow laws, bans on interracial marriage, anti-sodomy laws, etc.—was government-enforced discrimination. That was wrong, and it was right for the federal government to intervene.

But private actions are different. If I start a business with my own money, I ought to be allowed to serve only libertarians, people who wear blue shirts, whatever. It’s my business!

My customers have choices. If I am racist or anti-gay, the free market will punish me. Enough people would boycott my business that I would probably lose money quickly.

Many important points.

“In a free country, bigots have the right to be bigots.” And they’ll pay the consequences of being bigots.  How?  See Stossel’s last paragraph.  If an owner of a business is stupid enough to exclude a portion of his customer base out of plain bigotry (“no Irish allowed”) there are likely going to be enough of his “acceptable” customers offended by him that they’ll take their business elsewhere.  The consequences of his bigotry will be a loss of business, loss of profit and likely a loss of social prestige.  That’s how it works in a free country.

Also in a free country, what everyone should demand is “government must not discriminate …“.  The onus of non-discrimination shouldn’t be on the individual forced by government, but on government as forced by the citizens of the land.

How these got flipped is a testament to the perseverance of those who would control your life (under the false guise of freedom) and the neglect of those who thought individual freedom would last forever.  Just as free speech can sometimes be ugly, so can discrimination.  Social and cultural change usually take care of those who are “ugly” by making them suffer the consequences of their ugliness.  We’ve seen that proven any number of times.

What we’re now seeing is a back lash against the SJWs who would use the force of government to make the unwilling comply with their values.

We simply don’t need that if we’re willing to be patient:

Even in the difficult days of Reconstruction, after the Civil War, business began to bring together whites and blacks who might not always have liked each other but who wanted the best deals. It took several years for racists to get Jim Crow passed so they could put a stop to that erosion of the old racist ways. Government helped keep racism going for several more decades.

That last sentence is the key.  Jim Crow laws were a product of government!  What the civil rights laws did was essentially repeal government mandated discrimination.  What we don’t need is a new series of laws that mandate behavior as they did then, even if the new laws are formed with teh best of intentions, they still require the force of government to enforce.  And they’ll not be enforced fairly and, as they usually do, will be used to to absurd things to people.

Elizabeth Taylor married nine times. Had she married again, should the EEOC have ordered her to marry someone from an ethnic minority?

A homophobic baker shouldn’t stop a same-sex couple from getting married. Likewise, a gay couple shouldn’t force a baker to make them a wedding cake. No one should ever force anyone to bake them a cake.

Exactly. Here’s the bottom line:

Individuals should be allowed to discriminate. I discriminate all the time. I favor people over others when I choose my friends, jobs, hobbies, clubs, religion, etc. So do you.

Correct. And in a free country that is your inherent right, consequences included.

~McQ

Narrative Journalism, ideology and serving the “greater good”

I don’t know about you but I’ve been fascinated by the UVA/Rolling Stone “rape” debacle.  And while it is clear that Rolling Stone, in general, and the author of the RS article, Sabrina Rubin Erdely specifically, broke every journalistic rule out there, there’s a deeper story here (I’ll get to RS and Erdely later).

It’s about why the story even had a chance of being published.  It’s about the combination of “narrative journalism” and an ideological agenda.  It was about one supporting the other without any real evidence that what had been claimed (a gang rape by fraternity members) was true or had even happened.

The story was out there before Erdely had ever inquired about it.  And you have to understand that that story had largely been accepted as “the truth” by people who wanted to believe it to be so.  These weren’t just students and a couple of teachers, by the way.  These were very well connected people who knew exactly where to go to push their agenda.  Here’s that backstory:

As the Rolling Stone article fell apart, Catherine Lhamon’s involvement has gone virtually unmentioned. But a deeper look reveals her ties to Emily Renda, a University of Virginia employee and activist who put Erdely in touch with Jackie, the student whose claim that she was brutally gang-raped by seven members of a fraternity on Sept. 28, 2012, served as the linchpin for the 9,000-word Rolling Stone article.

President Obama nominated Lhamon to become the Education Department’s Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights in July 2013. The Senate approved her unanimously the following month.

She has served as the Education Department’s designee to the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault which Obama created on Jan. 22, 2014. Renda served on the same task force.

Besides that link, both spoke at a February 2014 University of Virginia event entitled “Sexual Misconduct Among College Students.”

Lhamon has been invited to the White House nearly 60 times, according to visitor’s logs. Renda has been invited six times. Both were invited to the same White House meeting on three occasions. One, held on Feb. 21, 2014, was conducted by Lynn Rosenthal, then the White House Advisor on Violence Against Women. Twenty-one people, mostly activists, were invited to that meeting. Lhamon and Renda were invited to two other larger gatherings — one on April 29 and the other on Sept. 19.

It is unclear if both attended the three meetings. Renda did not respond to an emailed request for comment.

Renda and Lhamon also testified at a June 26, 2014, Senate hearing on campus sexual assault. It was at that hearing that Renda cited Jackie’s story that she was brutally gang-raped by five fraternity members — a statement that was inconsistent with Jackie’s claim to Erdely that she was raped by seven men. According to the Columbia report, Renda first told Erdely about Jackie’s allegation on July 8, nearly two weeks after her Senate testimony.

During her testimony, Lhamon claimed that “The best available research suggests that 20% of college women, and roughly 6% of college men, are victims of attempted or completed sexual assault.” That “one-in-five” claim about the prevalence of sexual assault on campus has been heavily disputed.

So when Erdely showed up wanting to do the rape story, she had Renda to encourage her to do this one, because both had the same agenda:

The reporter used Jackie’s story about a gang-rape to introduce readers to what she asserted was a systemic failure on the part of universities, police, and society to prevent and investigate sexual assault.

Rape culture.  Rape crisis.  How else does one advance such a story except finding the perfect “rape” to feature all of those things?  Bingo.  The prefect story. And who was more than willing to offer it?  Renda.

Now some may ask, “why do you contend that advancing such a narrative was Erdely’s motive?”  For one thing, she’d done it before on another “rape” story – this one in the military (another institution that is “misogynist”).  And it followed a very similar pattern.  The case involved a female Navy Petty Officer who claimed to have been sexually assaulted.  Leon Wolf, doing some great research, finds that Erdley did for that case exactly what she did for the UVA case – and so did the Rolling Stone editors:

The point of this story is this: the evidence is clear all over the face of this story that Erdely – as enabled by her editors at Rolling Stone – has a serial habit of reporting rapes without conducting any more fact checking than she did of the UVA story. It is facially obvious that she did not talk to the accused rapist because there wasn’t one. There is no evidence that she talked with anyone who was present at any of the bars where Ms. Blumer drank on the night before her DUI to attempt to verify even her story about meeting the three guys. And, again: the sources who spoke to RedState were clear that Ms. Erdely made no effort to contact any member of the Naval command who was involved with the investigation to get their side of the story with respect to what manner of investigation was conducted into Ms. Blumer’s allegations or what that investigation revealed.

After an exhaustive investigation that spanned a year and a half (which Erdely and Rolling Stone ignored and/or did no research into whatsoever), no one was able to produce any evidence that a sexual assault had occurred, physical or otherwise. The alleged victim herself had no recollection of it happening, did not report it to the police who arrested her, and had a ready motive for latching on to the narrative, which is that it would have stopped or possibly prevented punishment at the hands of her military superiors and possibly prevented her from permanently losing the top secret clearance necessary to keep her job.

Sound familiar?

This was an important story for the “rape culture” agenda.  It was to be the cherry on the top of the narrative that says, “college men are misogynists and serial abusers who need to be punished for their actions”.   That’s why the fictitious “20%” number was invented.  That’s why the DoE’s civil rights division is involved.  As noted, this story shows the connection all the way to the top and the narrative that was being pushed.  Erdley and Rolling Stone were heaven sent to these people and they used her just as she used them.  The result was shoddy journalism of the worst stripe that apparently is standard operating procedure for Rolling Stone (I have another example of precisely the same problem with another author that I highlighted February of 2011.)

Of course, as we’ve seen, the narrative, as presented by Erdley, failed spectacularly.  It not only couldn’t withstand even the slightest scrutiny, it had holes in it wide enough to drive a tank through.  Yet, that was precisely the narrative that had survived up until that time.  Why hadn’t the school investigated it more thoroughly before accepting the story?

Well, here’s why:

In December, as Erdely’s article began to collapse, Julia Horowitz, a student journalist at UVA, tried to explain why the campus newspaper had been caught flat-footed by the falsity of Jackie’s tale. She conceded that “factual inconsistencies” and “discrepancies” might exist in Erdely’s tale, but, she cautioned, “To let fact checking define the narrative would be a huge mistake.” Horowitz, exponent of this horrifying view of journalism, went on to become editor-in-chief of UVA’s student newspaper. Much of the media has been quick to pillory Rolling Stone, but Horowitz’s fear of allowing facts to overwhelm the narrative would be at home in vast swaths of our media — and government and higher education, too.

Facts shouldn’t define the narrative – got that? Now you understand why an administration, a magazine reporter and editors and a student “journalist” would let a tale like the UVA rape story exist and flourish – it fit the narrative like a glove if you didn’t look to closely.  And no one did – including Rolling Stone.

As to the reputations ruined and lives tarnished by all of this?  Well, that’s just collateral damage in a world where the narrative is much more important that the individual.  It serves the “greater good”, you see.

~McQ

 

Economic Statistics for 10 Mar 15

Redbook reports that last week’s retail sales dipped to 2.6% on a year-ago basis, from the previous week’s 2.7%, as weaker sales continued.

The NFIB Small Business Optimism Index edged 1 tenth higher to 98.0 in February.

Wholesale inventories rose 0.3% in January, while a -3.1% plunge in sales drove the stock-to-sales ratio up to 1.27, the worst since July, 2009.


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Tales of the Nanny State

Stories like this absolutely inflame me.

The Maryland parents investigated for letting their young children walk home by themselves from a park were found responsible for “unsubstantiated” child neglect in a decision that has not fully resolved their clash with authorities over questions of parenting and children’s safety.

Danielle and Alexander Meitiv hoped the nationally debated case — which has lit up social media and brought a dozen television film crews to their Silver Spring home — would be dismissed after a two-month investigation by Montgomery County Child Protective Services.

But the finding of unsubstantiated child neglect means CPS will keep a file on the family for at least five years and leaves open the question of what would happen if the Meitiv children get reported again for walking without adult supervision.

First, what in the hell is “unsubstantiated child neglect?!”  How can it be anything if it is “unsubstantiated?”  Does the state of Maryland even know what that word means?

Secondly, who gets to determine whether or not children are responsible enough to do what they were allowed to do?  Good parents, that’s who, and that doesn’t include the state or some busybody.

What we get from the state, however, is a “one-size-fits-all” approach and a nonsensical charge of “unsubstantiated child neglect?”

We, as a culture, whine and complain that the young are irresponsible, and then when parents actually try to teach responsibility, we charge them with a doublespeak charge?

In reality, the charge is there to give “Child Protective Services” a legal reason to intervene in the future should they so decide.

But there’s no crime here.  Nor did CPS or the police prevent one.  This should be a non-issue.

However, it’s not, because the state has decided it knows best and has passed a law – with the best of intentions, of course:

CPS officials have said they are guided in part by a state law that says children younger than 8 must be left with a reliable person who is at least 13. The law addresses children locked or confined in a building, dwelling, motor vehicle or other enclosed space, but does not mention children outdoors on a walk.

And that law overrules any parent’s right to actually teach a child younger than 13 responsibility.  Because, you know, all children are the same.  That explains why when I was 10 I was allowed to walk anywhere I pretty well pleased as long as I was home by supper.  And you know what, I always was.  How in the world did I survive “unsupervised” activities like that?

~McQ

 

Let’s just keep calm!

John Kerry, alleged Secretary of State for the United States, wants everyone to stay calm as the day approaches for Bibi Netanyahu  to speak before the co-equal branch of government, the US Congress.

He doesn’t want the political football turned into a political football.

He believes that the fine record of the administration’s diplomacy with Iran warrants us giving the administration the benefit of the doubt as the clowns, sorry, negotiators work towards a long term nuclear deal, (say these words a few times and count to, say, a thousand, it will help you stay calm – long term, nuclear, Iran….).

Our good friends, Russia, and China, are going to help with this, and it will all be fine.

Stay calm gang.

I mean, don’t let anything give you a jaded point of view on the probability of goodness coming out of these Iranian nuclear negotiations.

Don’t let your faith in the Iranian desire for peace be confused by their recent video demonstration of an attack on a mock up US carrier last week.

Don’t go getting all excited that a senior Iranian cleric wanted to help the negotiations by telling us the Islamic flag would fly over the White House a couple days ago.

The Iranians are doing everything they can to demonstrate their absolute friendship with the US.   Sorta Pyongyang style, you know, give us what we want or we’ll blow something up.

By the way, check out the US media coverage of either of those two events.   My being an anglophile isn’t the reason I used links to the Daily Mail in the UK.  Maybe our media thought the flag thing was old news, I mean, they only threaten to fly the Islamic flag over the White House every couple of years anyway.  Maybe John Stewart didn’t have time to cover it, maybe Brian Williams was busy taking out Iraqi jets with an MPAD and couldn’t get a story filed.   Maybe worrying about what Scott Walker believes about what Rudy Giuliani believes about what Barack Obama believes kept them all too occupied to report on it.

And definitely don’t let the latest story that’s circulating in Israel, that our President might have threatened to shoot down our alleged allies jets…. make you think that diplomacy is just not going to work and that we’re taking the Israeli fear of a nuclear weapon armed Iran seriously.

 

Keep calm, the circus will continue!

“We are going to test whether or not diplomacy can prevent this weapon from being created, so you don’t have to turn to additional measures including the possibility of a military confrontation,” Kerry told ABC’s “This Week.”

Our hope is that diplomacy can work. And I believe, given our success of the interim agreement, we deserve the benefit of the doubt to find out whether or not we can get a similarly good agreement with respect to the future.”

Hope, test.

Testing testing, 1, 2, 3, testing, testing.

With nuclear capacity.  We’re going to test whether or not diplomacy can prevent this.

If we’re wrong and part of Haifa goes up in a nuclear cloud, well, I guess Old Christmas in Cambodia Lurch will be sorry.

and we’ll draft a firm, possibly angry even, letter to Iran and ask them if they can account for the nukes they weren’t supposed to have, and they’ll smile and threaten to fly the flag of Islam over the White House.

Economic Statistics for 26 Feb 15

Falling energy prices sent the Consumer Price index down -0.7% in January, while prices less food and energy fell -0.2%. On a year-over-year basis, the CPI rose 0.2% overall, while the core rate rose 1.6%.

Durable goods orders rose 2.8% in January, mainly on civilian aircraft orders, as orders less transportation rose 0.3%. On a year-over-year basis, orders are up 5.4% overall, while non-transportation orders are up 4.5%.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) House Price Index rose 0.8% in December, which is 5.4% higher on a year-over-year basis.

Initial weekly jobless claims rose 31,000 to a 313,000. The 4-week average rose 11,500 to 294,500. Continuing claims fell 21,000 to 2.401 million.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index fell -1.9 points to 42.7 in the latest week.

The Fed’s balance sheet fell $-10.1 billion last week, with total assets of $4.487 trillion. Reserve bank credit fell $-14.5 billion.

The Fed reports that M2 money supply rose by $29.0 billion in the latest week.


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fell 21,000 to 2.401

Military: Obama and political parties not very popular with soldiers

The Military Times has a long article out today in which come to the startling conclusion that a deeply conservative institution like the military may find a Commander-in-Chief like Obama to be very unpopular among most of its members.

That should really come as no surprise. And the reasons are pretty well known.

However, I found this to be more revealing than what I assumed was a given.

The loss of faith in lawmakers comes at a time when troops are less likely to identify with either major political party.

In the last nine years of the Military Times Poll, the percentage of respondents who consider themselves Republican has slowly dropped, from nearly half of those surveyed in the late 2000s to just 32 percent this year. Increasingly, readers are more likely to describe themselves as libertarian (9 percent) or independent (28 percent).

Likewise, readers who described themselves as “very conservative” have remained steady over the years, but “conservative” respondents have dwindled as well — down to 29 percent from a high of 41 percent in 2011.

Democrats and liberal readers make up about 8 percent of the poll respondents.

The fact is they’re less and less enthralled with the political class and political parties in general, not just the President (although I think a special sort of unpopularity that transcends party is his). And for the most part they reflect a growing trend in America. It’s ironic that one of Obama’s goals was to make government popular and cool again when he took office. Instead, what is happening in the military is a good snapshot of what is also going on within the country.  People have lost faith in government and see it as a problem for the most part, not a solution.

Obviously Democrats and liberals are underrepresented in the Military Times poll and that again is no surprise. It is, however, a good indicator of why the Democrats and liberals don’t “get” the military. They, for the most part, don’t serve or know many that do. It is one among many reasons why Obama suffers his unpopularity.

But the shift from “Republican” to libertarian or independent should have the GOP worried. This is mirrored among many on the right who call themselves conservative but are just as likely not to claim to be a Republican. While the GOP may not like that and are certainly resisting it, the “mushy middle” is losing out and the conservatives are demanding change if Republicans want their vote (they are just as likely, btw, not to want to see a Bush or Romney on the next ticket either).

Certainly the military is a special institution in and of itself. Much of the dissatisfaction with political leaders has to do with sequestration cuts, which apparently only the military had to suffer. That on top of the unilateral 10% cut imposed on the military by Obama while in the middle of two wars helps explain some of the President’s unpopularity. Social engineering of a force whose whole sole purpose is to fight wars and protect the country is another.

But there’s plenty to worry about for the political parties contained in that poll as well.

~McQ

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