Free Markets, Free People

Monthly Archives: June 2013


Observations: The QandO Podcast for 16 Jun 13

This week, Bruce, Michael, and Dale discuss Scandalpalooza and Syria.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

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Economic Statistics for 14 Jun 13

Here are today’s statistics on the state of the economy:

Producer prices jumped 0.5% in May, while the core rate, ex-food and -energy, rose 0.1%. On an annual basis, prices rose 1.8% overall, and 1.6% at the core.

The nation’s current account deficit for the 1st Qtr came in at a smaller-than-expected $106.1 billion.

Foreign demand for long-term US securities rose to $-37.3 billion in April, the third consecutive monthly outflow of capital.

Industrial production was unchanged in May, while capacity utilization in the nation’s factories fell 0.2% to 77.6%.

The Reuter’s/University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment index fell 2.2 points to 82.7.

~
Dale Franks
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We can’t have ObamaCare effect these folks – they’re “federal employees” for heaven sake!

When I read articles like this they infuriate me.

Dozens of lawmakers and aides are so afraid that their health insurance premiums will skyrocket next year thanks to Obamacare that they are thinking about retiring early or just quitting.

The fear: Government-subsidized premiums will disappear at the end of the year under a provision in the health care law that nudges aides and lawmakers onto the government health care exchanges, which could make their benefits exorbitantly expensive.

Why?  Because there doesn’t seem to be any ability to relate their problem with the problems they’ve imposed on business through their ramming through this horrific legislation we call “ObamaCare”.  Even with the effects beginning to be understood, like that above, they don’t get it:

Rep. John Larson, a Connecticut Democrat in leadership when the law passed, said he thinks the problem will be resolved.

“If not, I think we should begin an immediate amicus brief to say, ‘Listen this is simply not fair to these employees,’” Larson told POLITICO. “They are federal employees.”

But apparently it is “fair” to the employees of business who, in some cases, will see 100% plus increases in their premiums.  It only becomes a problem when it effects who?  Why, ‘federal employees’, of course.  You know, our so-called “public servants”.  And then, apparently, only that subset of federal employees that work for Congress.  They seem oblivious to the fact that the same thing is happening in thousands of places and effecting multi-thousands of businesses.  Freakin’ clueless.

Even as mad as this made me, I got a chuckle out of this:

If the issue isn’t resolved, and massive numbers of lawmakers and aides bolt, many on Capitol Hill fear it could lead to a brain drain just as Congress tackles a slew of weighty issues — like fights over the Tax Code and immigration reform.

Talk about silver linings to storm clouds.

~McQ


Economic Statistics for 13 Jan 13

Here are today’s statistics on the state of the economy:

Initial jobless claims fell 12,000 last week to 334,000. The 4-week average fell  7,250 to 345,250. Continuing claims rose 2,000 to 2.978 million.

May export prices fell -0.5% while import prices fell -0.6%. On a year-over-year basis, export prices fell -0.9% while import prices fell -1.9%.

May retail sales rose 0.6%, while sales ex-autos and ex-autos and -gas both rose 0.3%.

April business inventories rose 0.3%, while wholesale sales fell -0.1%.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index fell more than 2 points to -31.3.

~
Dale Franks
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Don’t drink “the employment picture is much better” Kool-aid

Why?  Because it isn’t really better.  Oh, it may be marginally better than it was a year ago but that’s not saying much at all.  In terms of real progress?  Yeah, not so much.  The National Journal says:

The U.S. jobs picture is bleaker than the most recent jobs reports may make you think. The economy added 175,000 jobs last month, but at the rate things are going, it would take almost a decade to get back to prerecession employment levels. A Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey report released Tuesday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics digs in on the bad news: The number of job openings in the U.S. actually fell by 118,000 in April to 3.8 million.

How bad can 3.8 million job openings be? The Economic Policy Institute looks at the number and sees that “the main problem in the labor market is a broad-based lack of demand for workers—and not, as is often claimed, available workers lacking the skills needed for the sectors with job openings.”

Here’s a chart they put together to visually make the point:

An economy on the mend is generating jobs at such a pace that it is competing for workers.  As is obvious, that’s not the case in this economy, nor has it been the case for quite some time.

In a word, the employment picture sucks.  Anyone pretending otherwise is doing exactly that – pretending.  And they can toss around all the numbers they like, the bar charts above tell the real picture – business is not hiring and the reasons are multiple, most having to do with government intrusion (see ObamaCare for one example).

~McQ


And the beat goes on …

And on and on and on:

“We now have an elephant in the room, and its name is peak oil.” –Kjell Aleklett, Professor in Global Energy Systems

Lord I wish I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard that in the last 30 years. And always in the face of something like this:

Nearly a third of the world’s technically recoverable natural gas and 10 percent of its oil can be found in shale formations, according to anew report by the Energy Information Administration.  Thanks to fracking and horizontal drilling, there’s a bounty of oil and gas available to countries around the world .

This report, which has a much larger scope than previous reports, bumped up the estimated global amount of technically recoverable shale gas by 9.3 percent. In its regional breakdown North America looks like a big winner. Of the 41 countries surveyed, Mexico had the seventh and Canada the ninth largest reserves of shale oil, while the US was second only to Russia. Meanwhile, the US, Canada, and Mexico were in fourth, fifth and sixth place, respectively in the EIA’s ranking of the largest technically recoverable shale gas reserves.

Of course part of the reason the peak oil crowd continues to issue it’s predictions is it seems tied into, well, another bit of a scam:

Are you optimistic about the future? Do you think that politicians will, at some point, address the problem of peak oil?

I’ve been working in this field for many years now, and it’s sad to see how little has been done. The measures that have been taken have been implemented largely because of climate change. Energy challenges such as peak oil are closely linked with climate-related issues, so victories within the field of climate change tend to be victories for peak oil as well. The good news is that we have started to tread the right path. Ultimately, we have to act. Whichever way you look at it, we won’t be able to use as much energy in the future as we do today.

I’m sorry, but that’s just nonsense.  A) there’s no reason, at least at this point, that we can’t use as much energy in the future as we do today, and B) perhaps that energy will come from a different source but not necessarily.  Unless, of course, these sorts of people have their way. More importantly though, politicians need to be kept strictly out of this business.

As we note often, this isn’t about energy or climate-related issues – it’s about control.

Make the warnings scary and dire enough and we’ll pitch control over to them.  See “war on terrorism” as a case study.

Meanwhile, in the back forty, a certain cow is still mooing the same old song:

Former Vice President Al Gore lamented today that scientists “will not let us link record-breaking” tornadoes in Oklahoma and elsewhere to climate change because of inadequate record keeping on the twisters.

“But when you put more energy into a system, it gets more energetic,” Gore said at an environmental event in Washington hosted by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse.

Yeah, darn those scientists anyway. Oh, wait, I thought all his stuff was from scientists.  No?

As to that familiar tune?

“It is well-past time that we put a price on carbon and not just accept the price that it extracts from us,” he said.

He noted that some officials won’t pay for tornado shelters in public schools. But “if we’re having arguments about how to pay to recover” from storms, he said, that’s one more reason to fix the climate change that is leading to stronger storms.

Even if the “price” can’t be supported by science.

Got it.

~McQ


Economic Statistics for 11 Jun 13

Here are today’s statistics on the state of the economy:

ISCS-Goldman reports last week’s retail sales fell by -2.7% due to bad weather, while the year-on-year rate declined to 2.2%. Redbook, however, is reporting a 2.8% year-on-year same store sales increase, with no significant weather effects.

The NFIB Small Business Optimism Index rose 2.3 points to 94.4 in May.

The Labor Department’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey reports there were 3.757 million job openings on the last day of April, little changed from March.

Wholesale inventories rose 0.2% in April, against a o.5% rise in sales, resulting in a leaner 1.21 stock to sales ratio.

~
Dale Franks
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Common thread in all of these scandals? Abuse of power

That’s the conclusion Insty comes too in his USA Today column:

The NSA spying scandal goes deep, and the Obama administration’s only upside is that the furor over its poking into Americans’ private business on a wholesale basis will distract people from the furor over the use of the IRS and other federal agencies to target political enemies — and even donors to Republican causes — and the furor over the Benghazi screwup and subsequent lies (scapegoated filmmaker Nakoula is still in jail), the furor over the “Fast And Furious” gunrunning scandal that left literally scores of Mexicans dead, the scandal over the DOJ’s poking into phone records of journalists (and their parents), HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’ shakedown of companies she regulates for “donations” to pay for ObamaCare implementation that Congress has refused to fund, the Pigford scandal where the Treasury Department’s “Judgment Fund” appears to have been raided for political purposes — well, it’s getting to where you need a scorecard to keep up.

But, in fact, there’s a common theme in all of these scandals: Abuse of power. And, what’s more, that abuse-of-power theme is what makes the NSA snooping story bigger than it otherwise would be. It all comes down to trust.

Anyone who, in fact, trusts government these days is simply not paying attention or is a part of it.  As Reynolds outlines above, each and every one of the scandals mentioned do, in some degree or another, involve an abuse of power.  And an abuse of power is always an abuse of trust.  This administration has been just about as abusive of both power and trust as any in our history.

What should bother you is they don’t seem to care.   To me that points to a culture that has come to accept the fact – at least in their world – that government is all powerful and can do no real wrong.  It’s “for the people”, after all, that they commit these abuses.  It is also in the name of “security” – that all-purpose reason to grind away at the freedoms we enjoy and put us under more and more government control.

One of those old dead white men who helped found this country saw the possibility of the latter long ago.  In fact, he’d seen it in his lifetime and had done all in his power to escape it and to build a system that wouldn’t tolerate the types of abuses of power we do today:

“The means of defense against foreign danger historically have become the instruments of tyranny at home.” – James Madison

Bottom line, we’re saddled with an arrogant and abusive, totally out of control goverment that badly needs reigning in.  The problem – we need statesmen who can do that.  And we all know where we are in that particular case. Without, that’s where. We’re stuck with self-serving politicians.

By the way, are we really any safer since the draconian security measures have been implemented?

Anonymous government sources quoted in news reports say yes, but we know that all that snooping didn’t catch the Tsarnaev brothers before they bombed the Boston Marathon — even though they made extensive use of email and the Internet, and even though Russian security officials had warned us that they were a threat. The snooping didn’t catch Major Nidal Hasan before he perpetrated the Fort Hood Massacre, though he should have been spotted easily enough. It didn’t, apparently, warn us of the Benghazi attacks — though perhaps it explains how administration flacks were able to find and scapegoat a YouTube filmmaker so quickly . But in terms of keeping us safe, the snooping doesn’t look so great.

And it remains “snooping” regardless whether it great or not.

Is this the the type of country in which we really want to live?  Where we’re afraid of our own shadow and our government to boot?

~McQ


Today’s attempted narrative on the IRS scandal: A Republican in the IRS says “Nothing to see here”

Since the Clinton era, we’ve seen the left retreat from reality into a dependence on post-modern narrative. They don’t even bother to hide it; they talk about narrative all the time, and they’ve reached the point where “the fact is” has become a public speaking tic for Democrats that really means “what I prefer you to believe is” or “the accepted leftist narrative is”.*

Narrative isn’t about reality; the post-modern leftists don’t even think there is such a thing as objective reality. Narrative is about what you can get people to believe.

When the left is really having trouble finding a narrative that will stick, they like to use misdirection. For example, they will pull out a single aspect of an issue, even if the aspect was made up or planted just for the purpose, and try to push the meme that “because of this one thing, the rest doesn’t matter”.

We saw the attempt with Benghazi, and the supposedly “doctored” emails. One of our own leftist commenters pushed and pushed on the idea that, because the Republicans doctored emails, the whole Benghazi controversy was obviously ginned up by the Republicans to embarrass Obama, and therefore wasn’t a “real scandal”.

Again, reality doesn’t matter. The Republicans didn’t even get those emails. They got summaries. The summaries came from ABC News, and the Republicans presented what they received. But to a committed leftist and Obama apologist, so what? They’re Republicans! Stop paying attention to stuff like dead ambassadors, bad decisions, and the earlier, failed misdirection about the video. Just dismiss the whole thing because (I claim) Republicans doctored emails.**

The latest attempt of that type in the IRS scandal is to put forth some schmoe in the Cincinnati office who says there’s no evidence Obama is involved, and is (gasp!) a conservative Republican.

This is simple misdirection. First, the guy just describes himself as a conservative Republican. Doesn’t mean he really is. We’ve seen plenty of cases in the past where these supposedly conservative or independent people involved in a situation turned out to be anything but.

Second, the person who put this out, the consistently idiotic Congressman Elijah Cummings, refused to release the full transcript. He released the parts that created the impression he wanted.

So there’s plenty of full story still to come out. That, of course, didn’t stop Joan Walsh at Salon from crowing “Elijah Cummings outplays Darrell Issa”, as if this were some kind of tennis match instead of a deadly serious problem that threatens the very legitimacy of the federal government.

Even if he turns out to have voted straight ticket Republican back to the beginning of time, it doesn’t change some of the basic facts:

- Groups were targeted because of political ideology

- People in Washington signed the letters demanding that were part of the targeting effort

- No one anywhere along the line, no matter what the philosophy, raised a flag about the targeting

This bespeaks a partisan, authoritarian culture in the IRS as an institution. As Dale is fond of pointing out, it’s hard to see how that can possibly be fixed without changing the tax system in such a way that we eliminate the IRS.

That will not stop desperate Obama apologists from seizing on this narrative the way a starving coyote seizes a squirrel. They will state the “established fact” that a conservative Republican says Obama wasn’t involved, and use that as an excuse to hand wave away everything else that anyone says about the IRS scandal. Here is Cummings himself:

“Based upon everything I’ve seen, the case is solved,” he said. “If it were me, I would wrap this case up and move on.”

This is ridiculous. The IRS scandal is bigger than Watergate, bigger than Benghazi, bigger than Fast and Furious, bigger than Iran-Contra, bigger than Monicagate – bigger than any other scandal for the federal government in my lifetime. Teapot Dome isn’t close to this. Even if Obama isn’t directly involved (and he would have to be sand-poundingly stupid to have issued actual directives that resulted in this) his rhetoric towards these groups was a contributing factor, so he bears some responsibility.

None of that is going to change because the leftists have found a new piece of misdirection. Which won’t stop them from bleating about it for while to avoid any real argument, of course.   

 

* Even some Republicans have picked up this tic. Just goes to show that if you lie down with Demos, you get up with tics….

** Have you noticed that the doctored email narrative excuse is mostly gone now? It didn’t stick as a narrative, because it was obviously false-to-fact from the outset. That didn’t stop leftists from pushing it as a narrative, of course, because they don’t have a connection with reality. They just realized it didn’t work after a while, and moved on to something else. I will be shocked the first time one of them says “Yeah, that was wrong. The Republicans didn’t really doctor emails.” The narrative may be out of the limelight, but the leftists still believe it because it feels so good to believe it.