Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Insufficiently Servile

I got a taste of what modern policing has become today—which is to say, an absolute unwillingness to allow anything but complete, unquestioning obedience. Officer Friendly has long since retired, apparently.

For the past fifteen years, I have worked every day on the same very small military installation as a contractor. This morning, as I was approaching the main gate, when I started off after the stoplight, I didn’t shift upshift. So, the Goat was just wailing that sweet V8 growl as I approached the gate. About fifty yards from the gate, I slowed down, rolled down my window, and had my ID outside the car as I approached. Usually, there are civilian DoD police at the gate, but this morning, it was manned by a reservist, a 2nd Class Master at Arms—the Navy’s equivalent to Military Police. We had a brief conversation that went, as nearly as I can remember it like this:

PO2: (Snippy) Are you running late this morning?

Me: No.

(At this point, I could instantly see that my answer displeased him.)

PO2: (Scowling) You need to keep your speed down.

Me: I always observe the speed limits when I’m on the installation.

PO2: (Waving me through) You need to keep your speed down off-base, too.

Me: (Starting to drive away) What happens off-base isn’t your jurisdiction.

I got to my office, turned on my computer, and went into the break area to warm up a couple of delicious whole-wheat Eggos. While I was standing in the kitchen, a uniformed DoD police officer walked in and asked me if I owned the Red GTO. When I said I did, he then asked for my driver’s license. I asked, since I wasn’t operating a motor vehicle, if I was required to show it to him. (In CA, you are not required to do so when not operating a vehicle, nor are you required to show an ID otherwise. It’s different on military bases, of course, in that you are required to show an ID).

When I gave it to him, he then began to tell me how bad my attitude was, and how I should be more respectful of the police, what with them having such a hard job and all. I said that, when it came to respect, maybe the gate guard should’ve been a little less snippy. He said they didn’t need me making smart remarks about their jurisdiction, because they have a close relationship with civilian law enforcement, and he himself, had worked for Atlanta PD for fifteen years. I denied driving at an excessive speed when I approached the gate, said that my comment about jurisdiction was completely valid and that did not have the authority to issue traffic citations off-base, and that if they felt they needed to call CHP to give me a citation, they should do so. Otherwise, he should present me with a citation or arrest me for a military-related offense. Failing that, I was uninterested in further conversation. He seemed a bit upset when he left.

About twenty minutes later, two more DoD policemen came into my office. One of them was the major who serves as the installation’s police chief. They asked to talk to me outside. I told them that, since it appeared that I was the target of some sort of investigation I would refuse to answer any questions without consulting legal council. They asked me to step outside the building and I complied. The major then asked me where I was getting my legal knowledge from, and I replied that I had been an active-duty military policeman for 10 years. They asked for my license, registration and insurance card, and workcenter supervisors. While one officer began to write down my information, the major then told me that as a military policeman I should have a better attitude and be more cooperative. He  then presented a  hypothetical situation about approaching the gate at a high rate of speed. I said, "Hypothetically, I would categorically deny any such allegations". He began to ask me more questions, and I stopped him, saying:

Me: Don’t I have the right to remain silent?

Major: Well, if you are a former MP you should know that Miranda only applies to custodial interviews, not voluntary ones."

Me: So, is this a voluntary interview?

Major: Yes.

Me: So, I’m free to go?

(The major hesitated at this point, probably because both he and I knew what the only correct answer was.)

Major: Yes, you’re free to go.

Me: Then, I think we’re done here.

I retrieved my documentation from the other officer, put it my car, and walked back into the building.

Another twenty minutes passed when two different officers showed up at my office and asked me to come outside. When I did, they presented me with a base traffic ticket for not having my car registered on base. Quite honestly, I didn’t know I was required to, since the Navy no longer issues vehicle decals. We were told that registration was no longer necessary, but apparently the registration regulation is still on the books. The ticket had already been written before the officers approached me. One of them—the officer who had been sent over to speak with me the first time—said, "By direction of the base police chief, I am issuing you a citation for failure to register your vehicle within ten days. You can call the base traffic office if you have any questions." I said, "Wait a second, I haven’t even had my plates for ten days. I just bought the car." He said, "Your registration is dated more than 10 days ago. That’s the date we go by." Then they left.

So, I went to Pass & ID register my car—as well as my motorcycle, which has never been registered either—and they tore up my ticket. Then when I got back to my office, I called to the regional headquarters, and spoke directly with the GS-15 who runs all the local Navy police operations. I explained that I had a brief, snippy conversation with the gate guard, and since then, had been pulled out of my workcenter three separate times by five DoD police officers, and that I felt it was a little excessive, especially considering the chief of police himself had been one of the officers. He said he would take care of it, which, I hope, means he will tell the local police to turn it down from 11.

So, that was my contact with the DoD police today. At every confrontation, they clearly expected me to respond with the appropriate degree of subservience, and were baffled and angered that I refused to do so. So, they couldn’t let it go. They just kept coming back to my office, as if repeated confrontations would make me more, rather than less, servile. And all this for something that wasn’t any sort of criminal offense.

It says a lot—none of it good—that the police seem to have the expectation of unquestioning obedience. It also says a lot that they seem used to getting it, which is our fault, not theirs.


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Economic Statistics for 24 Dec 13

The Richmond Fed Manufacturing Index remained unchanged at 13 for December.

The MBA reports that mortgage applications fell -6.3% last week, with purchases down -4.0% and re-fis down -8.0%.

In weekly retail sales, ICSC Goldman reports a 1.4% weekly sales increase, and a 2.7% year-on-year increase. Meanwhile, Redbook says sales rose 3.9% on a year-ago basis. These are the strongest sales results of the holidays.

Durable goods orders rose a sharp 3.5% in November, with orders ex-transportation orders up 1.9%. On a year-over-year basis, orders are up 10.9% and ex-transportation orders are up 6.1%.

The FHFA House Price Index rose 0.5% in October, a year-over-year increase of 8.2%.

New Home Sales fell -2.1% in November, to a 464,000 annual rate. This exceeded expectations, but looks soft against a sharply upward revised October annualized rate of 474,000.


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What good is a union if it can’t deliver the goods?

That’s kind of the $64,000 dollar question (yes, I’m showing my age … bite me) isn’t it?

You’ve seen the news about the fast food walkouts and claims that food service people should be paid $15 an hour?  That what the United Food and Commercial Workers union claims workers in that industry should have.  But what do workers they actually represent in that industry actually get?  Not much over minimum wage and union dues to pay out of that:

An examination of UFCW contracts shows that even senior union members are not receiving the wages that ROC and Jobs for Justice demand.

Consider a department manager at Kroger’s union shop in Michigan. She earns a maximum rate of $13.80, even after over half a decade on the job. If this is the highest wage the UFCW can negotiate for skilled, experienced workers, how can the union provide entry-level, low-skilled workers with $15 an hour?

It is not possible for them to accomplish this. Yet, receiving media coverage for the protests they sponsor is an effective way to increase membership and dues collections. The wage they demand is more than twice what similarly skilled union members are paid, namely $7.40 an hour for an entry-level cashier.

Courtesy clerks are paid a starting rate of $7.40 an hour and can work their way to up a wage ceiling of $7.45, after 12 months on the job. Fuel clerks do not fare much better; they start at the same $7.40 and can earn $7.80 an hour after three years of experience, barely over half of the $15 an hour wage worker centers supported by the UFCW demand. Specialty clerks also start at $7.40 an hour, but can earn up to $9.35 after six years. This amount is still 25 percent below the $12.50 an hour “living wage” Jobs for Justice claims all entry level workers should be paid. Read the full union contract between Kroger and the UFCW here.

The take-home pay is even lower once dues—and federal and state taxes—are removed. Dues are mandatory and usually take between $19 and $60 a month from members’ paychecks.

A non-union member could negotiate that without even trying hard.  So, what good is the union really done for those those it represents?  Other than pay it’s union staff very well?

It is expensive to run a union. The average total compensation for those employed by the UFCW—rather than represented by the UFCW—is $88,224 a year. This income is almost six times what the union negotiated for cashiers at Kroger’s. Joseph Hansen, the International President of UFCW, earns in excess of $350,000 a year—over twenty times the earnings of many of the workers he represents. The Executive Vice President and National President both earn over $300,000. Are entry-level union workers receiving benefits from paying dues out of their $7.40 an hour paychecks to fund these salaries?

But you know, it’s “management” that’s the problem, right?  I mean how could a cashier negotiate a $7.40 an hour paycheck without the union – and then give the union its “dues” out of that same paycheck?  Hey, the president of the union has to have his perks, right?

I know, I know, don’t look at the paycheck, look at the other benefits … like a pension, right?

The UFCW has one of the worst records for funding of union pension plans. The Labor Department has informed the UFCW that nine of its pension plans have reached “critical status,” meaning they are less than 65 percent funded. Many of these funds have been underfunded for six years. They have low chances of regaining sustainable financing unless they can convince more new members to join and pay dues without receiving similar benefits.

Sigh.

And, of course, there’s the political side of things … it is important to help fund the union’s political activities, no?

Some portion of dues goes towards political contributions. The UFCW contributed $11.6 million during the 2012 election cycle, of which nearly 100 percent went to Democrats.

Well of course it went to Democrats.  Democrats have been in the union’s pocket (and vice versa) since time began, apparently.  Put $11.6 in the pension fund?  What are you, a Republican?

Yes, it’s a crying shame people aren’t represented by this union … said no libertarian, ever.

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 23 Dec 13

Personal income rose 0.2% in November while personal spending increased 0.5%. The PCE price index was unchanged overall, and up 0.1% at the core. On a year-over-year basis, income rose 2.3% while spending rose 3.5%. The PCE price index rose 0.9% at the headline level, and up 1.1% ex-food and energy.

The Reuter’s/University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment index was unchanged at 82.5 for November.

The Chicago Fed National Activity Index rose from -0.18 to 0.60 in November.


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Economic Statistics for 19-20 Dec

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index moved into the minus 20s for the first time in 10 weeks, at -29.4.

Initial jobless claims rose 11,000 last week, to 379,000. The 4-week moving average rose 14,750 to 343,500. Continuing claims rose 94,000 to 2.884 million. These are all holiday numbers, though, so the week-to-week number is pretty volatile.

The Philadelphia Fed Survey’s General Business Conditions Index rose 0.5 points to 7.0 in December.

Existing home sales fell a sharp -4.3% in November, to a 4.9 million annual rate.

The Conference Board’s index of leading indicators rose 0.8% in November.

The Commerce Department’s final GDP revision for the 3rd Quarter was revised sharply upwards to a 4.1% annual rate. The GDP Price Index remained unrevised at 2.0%. Much of the revision came from increases in personal consumption expenditures, higher exports, and lower imports.

3rd Quarter corporate profits were revised upwards to $1.869 trillion vice the initial estimate of $1.872 trillion.

The Atlanta Fed Business Inflation Expectations Survey was unchanged at 1.9% in December.

The Kansas City Fed Manufacturing Index fell sharply in December to -3 from last month’s 7.

The Fed’s balance sheet rose $14.1 billion last week, with total assets of $$4.008 trillion. Reserve Bank credit increased $53.0 billion.

The Fed reports that M2 Money Supply increased by $17.5 billion last week.


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We share the same climate as … the Romans?

What climate alarmists will swear to is a) today’s climate is unprecedented in human history and b) is a result of human action (specifically, industrialization).

But what if these conditions have existed prior to now during another era?  Wouldn’t that put the end to both “a” and “b”?  Well you’d think the Medieval Warm Period would have done that, but alarmists have all but handwaved that away as an “anomaly” if they admit it existed at all.

However, a study has found another era that seems to have shared our climate:

A Swedish study found that the planet was warmer in ancient Roman times and the Middle Ages than today, challenging the mainstream idea that man-made greenhouse gas emissions are the main drivers of global warming.

The study, by scientist Leif Kullman, analyzed 455 “radiocarbon-dated mega-fossils” in the Scandes mountains and found that tree lines for different species of trees were higher during the Roman and Medieval times than they are today. Not only that, but the temperatures were higher as well.

Oh, my.  Those industrialized Romans must have been the blame.  Right?  I mean if you choose to be consistent about your argument, wouldn’t you have to at least consider that as a claim to why the Roman era was even warmer than now (burning that fossil fuel, huh)?  I mean, if you’re sure it is human action leading to the rise in temperatures and, specifically, industrialization?

Yeah, that’d be the logical approach, wouldn’t it?  So this new data (among all the other “new” data that is so roundly ignored by so-called scientists who are pushing the alarmist line) is very inconvenient.  And, in reality, the study points out that 5,000 to 9,000 years ago, without any real human action or industrialization, the global temperature was even higher than it was during the Medieval Warm Period and the Roman era:

“Historical tree line positions are viewed in relation to early 21st century equivalents, and indicate that tree line elevations attained during the past century and in association with modern climate warming are highly unusual, but not unique, phenomena from the perspective of the past 4,800 years,” Kullman found. “Prior to that, the pine tree line (and summer temperatures) was consistently higher than present, as it was also during the Roman and Medieval periods.”

Kullman also wrote that “summer temperatures during the early Holocene thermal optimum may have been 2.3°C higher than present.” The “Holocene thermal optimum was a warm period that occurred between 9,000 and 5,000 years ago. This warm period was followed by a gradual cooling period.”

According to Kullman, the temperature spikes were during the Roman and Medieval warming periods “were succeeded by a distinct tree line/temperature dip, broadly corresponding to the Little Ice Age.”

So what’s a skeptic to do when he see’s this data which directly contradicts the alarmist claims?

That’s easy … remain very skeptical of the “science” underlying the alarmist nonsense and make sure that politicians don’t try to cash in on bad science by taxing you for something that just isn’t your problem.

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 18 Dec 13

The Federal Open Markets Committee ended their meeting today. They announced that they would start a modest tapering on Quantitative Easing III in January starting with a $10 billion cut. They left interest rates unchanged, with the Fed Funds rate at a targeted 0% to 0.25%. Their December projections for GDP remain in modest—which is to say, below-trend territory: 2013: 2.2 to 2.3%; 2014: 2.8 to 3.2%; 2015: 3.0 to 3.4%; 2016: 2.5 to 3.2%; longer run: 2.2 to 2.4%.

Housing starts in November jumped 22.7% to a 1.091 million annual rate.

The MBA reports that mortgage applications fell -5.5% last week, with purchases down 6.0% and refinancings down 5.0%.


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It took almost 6 years, but Peggy Noonan is finally waking up …

Seriously, if I were her, I’d be embarrassed to write this:

Everyone is doing thoughtful year-end pieces on President Obama. Writers and reporters agree he’s had his worst year ever. I infer from most of their essays an unstated but broadly held sense of foreboding: There’s no particular reason to believe next year will be better, and in fact signs and indications point to continued trouble.

I would add that in recent weeks I have begun to worry about the basic competency of the administration, its ability to perform the most fundamental duties of executive management. One reason I worry is that I frequently speak with people who interact with the White House, and when I say, “That place just doesn’t seem to work,” they don’t defend it, they offer off-the-record examples of how poorly the government is run.

“Have begun to worry?!”  Really?!  Just now?!

The guy has been clueless since the beginning and Peggy Noonan is just now beginning to worry.  My goodness where has she been?  We’ve watched a raft of failures in both domestic and foreign policy, an economy and job market that continue to suck, and an imperial presidency in which the incumbent prefers to rule by decree rather than as the Constitution outlines.  And then there’s his signature law – ObamaCare.

And Noonan is just now starting to worry.

Lord save us from the chattering class.  Blinders firmly in place, they’ve ignored this incompetence for all these years and now, when it is sort of safe to actually point it out, they’re “discovering” it.

They’re as clueless as this president.

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 17 Dec 13

In weekly retail sales, Redbook reports a weak 2.9% increase from the previous year. ICSC-Goldman reports a weekly sales increase of 4.8%, but a weak a 2.0% increase on a year-over-year basis.

Consumer prices were unchanged in November, with a core CPI increase of 0.2%. Annually, the CPI is up 1.2%, and up 1.7% less food and energy.

The Housing Market Index surged 4 points to 58 in December.

The nation’s current account deficit narrowed slightly in the 3rd Quarter, to $-94.8 billion.


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