Free Markets, Free People


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?



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.


Seriously Unserious

Reporting from the ‘hot zone’ here in Dallas it strikes me that our Federal government is seriously unserious about the many serious situations confronting the country today.   Maybe it’s selfish, but my main concern right now is the seriously unserious way that Ebola Patient Zero and his immediate “family” and contancts have been dealt with here since before it was confirmed he WAS Ebola Patient Zero.

Hey, the good news is now I’m not as seriously concerned about ISIS sneaking across the border and causing mayhem here in the homeland, but that’s not because the problem went away, it’s because I went from minor worrying maybe about Islamic ‘splodedopes to worrying about being hit by a for real here now biological WMD.

Let’s start with the after the fact assurances we get from the “gentleman” in the White House.  Last night we’re told we’re prepared to stop Ebola from gaining a foothold here in the US.   Weeeeeeeeellllll, I feel so much better now.   They’ll stop it from gaining a foothold.   That’s as opposed to stopping it from getting here, which they told us a couple weeks ago was almost a certainty.   Part of the plan to stop it involved the point of entry at Dulles – which is where Ebola Patient Zero deplanned from Liberia to get on his plane to Dallas 2 weeks ago.  Yep, we’ll stop em at Dulles.   Oh, wait.   Welcome to America, have a nice day sir.

I don’t blame the Federal government for the action of the local hospital sending the guy home after he told them he was from Liberia and had flu like symptoms.   Maybe I should.  I do blame the Feds for letting the guy GET to the local hospital so the second in a long series of screw ups could occur.  I understand medical pros in Dallas  might not make a connection between flu symptoms, and Liberia and Ebola – sadly a lot of Americans don’t know where Liberia is (that’s between France and Italy, right?)  and they are or were probably not tuned in to Ebola because they’re kinda worried about Kendra and Hank right now and there’s just no time for that Ebola stuff which is very unlikely to be a problem here in the US because, as we see now, hope.

I do blame the Federal government for the way those in contact with the guy have been handled – 4 people quarantined in the apartment where the sweaty sheets from Ebola Patient Zero were still on the bed or in plastic garbage bags until yesterday.   It’s like someone is trying to ensure the 4 people in that apartment are infected.  You know, the odds weren’t high enough from them interacting with him, let’s make sure they get it by leaving them in the apartment where his ‘bodily fluids’ are still available to them.   This is a virus.   You can catch the flu when someone sneezes, or wipes their nose, touches a counter, and you wander by an hour later, touch the same counter, and then rub your eyes.   The bodily fluids thing is a form of lie the government keep tossing out to imply that since we probably didn’t have sex with the guy, swap spit with him or shoot up some drugs on a shared needle, we’re pretty much all good, don’t worry.   Just don’t touch that grocery cart handle after he sneezed into his hand and then went to buy Tylenol Cold and Flu, okay?

Now,  the President, who thinks he personally can authorize the admission of several millions of illegal immigrants, tells us that he is NOT going to bar travel from the countries where Ebola is running loose.   That doesn’t seem like it would be that hard to do, or unreasonable. It doesn’t even seem like it would be considered “mean’ if we did so.  They’ve done it in the UK and they’re highly PC these days.  And TSA, the people who won’t let you bring a bottle of water on the airplane, are waving people possibly infected with a virus that has a better kill rate than smallpox off the planes and telling them to have a pleasant stay.

Yesterday, about 5 days after Ebola Zero is confirmed and isolated, they show up to the apartment he got sick in, in HAZMAT suits and seal the place off.   Oh, goody.   It only took 5 days.   Hurrah.   Government pretending they’re serious about the job they claim we need them for.  5 days of serious.

Based on the number of stories, story versions, stonewalling and outright lies that this administration has told us, and I won’t recount them here, again – are YOU feeling real good about the Federal government stopping this?   At this point they have me wondering if someone thinks we don’t have enough patients diagnosed with Ebola, that there aren’t enough situations yet and we need more.   Maybe they think this will sell ObamaCare, maybe they want a crisis they can save us from.

I don’t know, but I do know if I ever trusted them I don’t any more.   I know if I was in a position to hand out bonuses right now we can bet I’d also be in a position to fire people.  Guess which of the two I’d be contemplating.    Most of us who work for a living are expected to be at least marginally good at what we’re paid for.   This isn’t supposed to be rocket science where they have to think on their feet, there are ALREADY supposed to be procedures in place for this.      5 days to HAZMAT the place, 5 days to take the possible vectors to some kind of secure medical facility where I think it’s pretty certain they’re going to come down with Ebola, given their level of contact with Ebola Patient Zero.

Last year in January the DFW area was in the grip of the common flu – over half the area hospitals that were checked by a station doing a news report were claiming they were at capacity for the number of flu patients they could handle.   There had been about 40 deaths at that point.   Now remember flu usually only manages to kill the very young, the old or the immune system challenged.   But it was reported as a crisis, that so many of the hospitals were at capacity dealing with flu patients.

Flu…  Think about that and consider a virus that has a kill rate of somewhere between 40 and 90 percent depending on where you’re being treated and, largely, what facilities and personnel are available to treat you.   Then consider they have 100 people under observation in the Dallas Metroplex with their finger crossed hoping they aren’t already infected with the virus.

Consider one of the 4 quarantined victims went to school last Wednesday after she’d been quarantined.   Consider they were just recently (yesterday) taken from the apartment and placed in a ‘secure’ and ‘secret’ location and the apartment was cleaned and sealed.  Consider President PGA has no intention of halting flights from the Ebola infected countries.

Consider the previous promises that it was unlikely to ever get here, and consider the new promises that they’ll prevent it from spreading.

Seriously, why should we believe them?

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.

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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%.

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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.

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