Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Economic Statistics for 19 Dec 12

The following US economic statistics were announced today:

November housing starts came in at a slightly les than expected 0.861 million pace, but building permits rose 3.6 percent to an annual pace of 0.899 million.

The MBA reports that higher interest rates made mortgage applications plunge -12.3% last week, with purchases down -5.0% and refinancings down -14.0%. An increase in mortgage rates caused the drop in activity.

~
Dale Franks
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An armed society is the best protection against evil people

What was the time necessary for “first responders” to arrive at the Newtown CT school?  20 minutes?

Unacceptable if, as many want you to believe, you should leave your defense in the hands of others.

Sorry, I simply refuse to be a victim.

What happens when armed people going about their everyday lives are confronted by evil?

Well, things like this:

With one shot, an off-duty sheriff’s deputy took down a gunman who attempted to opened fire at a crowded movie theater lobby during a late night showing of “The Hobbit” in San Antonio, WOAI reports.

Police say a gunman, identified as Jesus Manuel Garcia, chased patrons from the nearby China Garden Restaurant into the lobby of the Santikos Mayan 14 movie theater at around 9 p.m. on Sunday. Garcia, an employee of the restaurant, reportedly walked in the establishment looking for a woman.

Or this:

A gunman retreated from a Casper nail salon last week after realizing one of its customers was packing heat.

Police say about 5:30 p.m. on Dec. 3, a man walked into Modern Nails at 2645 E. Second St. and asked a female employee if she wanted to buy some diamonds. The man walked toward the front desk area and the woman replied that she had no money to buy diamonds.

A witness said the man then reached into his coat pocket and began to take out a silver-colored pistol.

At that moment, a woman who was getting her nails donereached into her purse and got her own firearm. Police say the man never fully raised the gun and left the building after seeing the customer had her weapon out.

And yes, you might get hurt if you confront someone who is armed.  As a matter of fact, you might get killed.  Kind of goes with the territory.  But what you won’t be is an unarmed victim begging for his life.

I’m sorry, I’m not in the mood to argue about surrendering my right to self-defense by firearm to anyone.  It’s not about “hunting”.  It’s not about “assault rifles”.  It is about an inalienable right to defend myself from predators and, though no one seems to want to mention this any more, my government.  That’s right.  That’s one of the fundamental reasons for the 2nd Amendment.  Like it or not, a group of men we call our Founders knew first hand that sometimes tyrants have to be overthrown and they too felt it was their fundamental right to own the means to both protect themselves and do what might be necessary to win or keep their freedom.

I frankly don’t care one way or the other if you like guns or want guns around you.  You get to live with the consequences of your choice. That’s your right.

I own guns and I’m not giving them up for anyone. That’s my right.  If it takes law enforcement 20 minutes to get to you, that’s on you.   Me?  I’m not waiting.  Yes, they may carry me out in a body bag, but that’s my choice, isn’t it?  I fully and happily accept that risk.  I’d rather go out fighting than wait to be executed.

And, of course, since the left continues to tell us they’re all for choice, this should be a no-brainer, right?

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 18 Dec 12

The following US economic statistics were announced today:

In weekly retail sales, Redbook reports a 2.4% increase from the previous year. ICSC-Goldman reports a strong weekly sales increase of 4.3%, and a 3.5% increase on a year-over-year basis.

The Housing Market Index tose to 47, as homebuilders report the best conditions in more than five years.

The US current account deficit fell by $11 billion in the 3rd quarter, to -$107.5 billion. 

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Dale Franks
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If you’re not upset by Newtown …

Well, I’d just have to wonder about your humanity.  Tragedies like Newtown are gut wrenching, horrifying, just about any emotional descriptor to signal dispair you can imagine.  It’s simply horrible to see murders on that scale, but it is even more horrible when those murders are of children.

As adults we all live with the understanding that there is such a thing as “evil” and we, as a whole, we know we have to deal with that.  We understand both the concept and the risk.  What we saw on 9/11 was a manifestation of evil. Timothy McVeigh’s attack on the Federal building in Oklahoma City was also such a manifestation.

In both cases, none of the perpetrators in either mass killing used a gun.

The point, of course, is the instrument of the killing isn’t the problem, it’s just the instrument. Evil is the problem.

And no matter how many laws we pass or bans we put in place, evil will find a way to do it’s dirty murderous work. As we mentioned last night on the podcast, the number one murder weapon in the US is a baseball bat.

It’s not about the weapon, it’s about the evil person. 3,000 people were killed on 9/11 – with airplanes. 168 were killed in OKC.

One of the things we have to keep in perspective is the nature of the problem. Feel good bans aren’t going to solve a thing. Those bent on murder are going to find a way to murder and contrary to reason, many seem to feel the way to stop that is to disarm. It makes no sense, logically, and, if you need examples, just look at Europe and other countries where firearms have been banned.

It’s not about guns – it’s about people and evil.  It is those seemingly obvious facts we appear to want to ignore when we talk about “banning guns”.   It’s the simple, feel good “solution” that the graphic above shows is worthless, and, in fact, gives people and evil a leg up.

We need to understand that one of the fundamental rights any human being has is the right to self defense.   And as much as we may hate the necessity, perhaps the way to limit the work of evil people is to not ban guns, but to arm ourselves instead.

~McQ

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Observations: The QandO Podcast for 16 Dec 12

This week, Bruce, Michael, and Dale discuss the Newtown shootings.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2010, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.

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What’s happening to us?

I‘m just sick about today. It’s really incomprehensible, isn’t it? Sure, it was the act of a lunatic, and lunatics are, almost by definition, incomprehensible. So, I can’t even begin to get my mind into the sort of space where you massacre children. It’s just been a day of grief and depression.

These kinds of shootings seem to be coming ever faster, and I honestly don’t know what we can do about them. I’m sure that we’ll be spending a lot of time talking about gun control for the foreseeable future, but…well…that’s not really going to solve anything. Quite apart from anything else, there’s 300 million guns floating around in the US. Good luck rounding them all up.

Besides, that’s not really the root of the problem.

I just can’t escape the sense that we are watching our society and culture slouching towards collapse, and that what happened today is a symptom of that. There’s a streak of mad decadence in American culture; a streak of anger, and a lack of civility, and a surfeit of selfishness that can’t sustain a functional civil society.

Our politics are so angry that otherwise sane men physically attack other men, and scream at them like angry children for holding a different political opinion. Our popular media is drenched in sex and violence. Our news media are little more than mouthpieces for socialist pieties. Traditional religion is belittled and reviled in popular entertainment as New Wave beliefs are treated with credulity. Individual responsibility is ignored, while victimization is fetishized.

The litany is depressing, and none of it indicates a confident, forward-looking culture. And it puts out a vibe of craziness and violence that even lunatics can pick up. Maybe they could always pick up on it, but, at least prior to the 1970s, we could lock lunatics up through involuntary commitment. Since then, of course, we’ve ensured that we can only lock up lunatics after they violently act out. So there are a lot of them lurking about, now, many of them homeless, walking the streets.

I honestly have no idea how to fix this. Clearly, government isn’t the answer. A government that can’t even do what is obviously necessary to balance—or even produce—a budget certainly isn’t going to effect any useful cultural change. Besides in a democratic system, the government reflects the culture, not the reverse. Our government is increasingly one that is characterized simultaneously by arrogance and incompetence. Those would be incompatible characteristics in a rational culture, but they accurately describe our culture, the government that reflects it.

We’ve had it so good in this country, for so long, that I’m afraid the culture has internalized the idea that it’ll always be that way. There’ll always be second chances if you screw up, and someone will always be there to keep the machinery running. What problems we do have are First World problems: the free in-flight wi-fi doesn’t work; Starbucks ran out of Pumpkin Spice. We go into debt getting our degrees in Gender Studies, and we expect a lucrative job as a reward. Our kids come in last place in their soccer league, but they’ll always get their trophy for participation.

We’re living off the financial, moral, and intellectual capital of people who opened a continent-wide frontier, defeated horrific foreign tyrannies, and then sent men to the moon. We, of course, will do none of those things.

Quite apart from anything else, we couldn’t afford to. We’ve spent the last thirty years going ever deeper into debt to defer ever making any hard choices. Instead, everybody got everything they wanted. I mean, we got our Great Society, and our Cold War military build-up; Medicare Part D, and No Child Left Behind; wars in the Mideast, and subsidized college loans. We’ve denied ourselves nothing that we wanted, and now that the bill is coming due, all we can figure out how to do is raise taxes, and have the Fed buy back some bonds so we can keep the party going on longer, and stretch out the time that we’re allowed to go ever deeper into debt.

But, not only can we not afford to, we don’t want to embark on some great cultural mission whose rewards will be enjoyed by our children instead of ourselves. We just want to pull up some porn on our iPads, and watch Netflix after we finish.

The founders of the Republic understood that democratic self-governance is only suited to a moral, responsible people. A people who cannot strive to create a polity where ethics and responsibility are primary principles are a people who are not capable of governing themselves. And I no longer see us as a people who can create that kind of polity.

Some of my libertarian friends think that a financial or societal collapse will lead to a better understanding of the importance of freedom, and that a new flowering of liberty will bloom in the aftermath.

That’s a foolish and stupid idea.

What will actually happen is what happened when Rome fell: a period of barbarism and tyranny and darkness will sweep over us at worst, or at best, people will demand that a man on a white horse punish the appropriate scapegoats and make the trains run on time again. Sure, I hope I’m wrong, but history is on the side of pessimism. As nearly as I can tell, all we can do is hold on tight, because we’re getting ready to ride this puppy down in flames.

Still, Rome didn’t collapse in a day, and maybe we can manage to avoid a total collapse and ensuing Dark Age for another 30 years or so, until after I’m gone. Frankly, that’s about all the optimism I have left in me.

But, maybe, in 500 years or so, a confident, adventurous people will once again step onto the surface of the moon. No doubt they will be amazed to learn that the mythical figures of Buzz Aldrin, Alan Shepard, and their companions actually did exist, and set foot there once upon a time, and left behind six beautiful, red-striped banners, spangled with white stars on a field of blue.

~
Dale Franks
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Economic Statistics for 14 Dec 12

The following US economic statistics were announced today:

The Fed reports that industrial production rose a strong 1.1% in November, while capacity utilization in the nation’s factories rose to 78.4%.

The Consumer Price Index fell -0.3% in November, but the core rate rose 0.1%. On a year-over-year basis, the CPI rose 1.8%, and the core rate rose 1.9%

The PMI Manufacturing Index Flash rose almost 2 points to 54.2 for the first half of December.

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Dale Franks
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A little good news: US will not ratify latest UN attempt at grabbing power over the Internet

Thankfully, the US has taken the proper position on this one:

The United States said Thursday that it will not sign a United Nations telecommunications treaty that U.S. technology companies warn would disrupt governance of the Internet and open the door to online censorship.

The U.K. and Canada also said they would not ratify the treaty after negotiations ended at a conference hosted by the U.N. International Telecommunications Union (ITU) in Dubai.

Kramer, who led the U.S. delegation during the conference, told reporters on a conference call that the U.S. could not sign the treaty because there were “too many issues here that were problematic for us.”

The treaty is intended to govern how telephone calls and other communications traffic are exchanged internationally. While it is not a legally binding document, Kramer said the U.S. opposed extending the scope of the treaty to include Internet governance and online content matters.

“The U.S. will continue to uphold and advance the multi-stakeholder model of the Internet,” Kramer told reporters.

The U.S. believed the treaty should not apply to Internet providers or private and government networks. Instead, U.S. delegates argued that only traditional telecommunications operators, such as AT&T and Verizon, should be subject to the updated rules.

Another attempted power grab by the UN and more importantly, something to provide a thin veneer of legality to all the 3rd world dictators attempts to control the net.  Not that they won’t do that anyway, they just wanted it to be “legal”.  So they will ratify this treaty.

“What is clear from the ITU meeting in Dubai is that many governments want to increase regulation and censorship of the Internet,” a Google spokesman said in a statement. “We stand with the countries who refuse to sign this treaty and also with the millions of voices who have joined us to support a free and open Web.”

Good.

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 13 Dec 12

The following US economic statistics were announced today:

Initial jobless claims fell 29,000 last week, to 343,000. The 4-week moving average fell 27,000 to 381,500. Continuing claims fell 23,000 to 3.271 million.

The producer price index in November fell -0.8%. The core rate, which excludes both food and energy, rose 0.1%. On a year-over-year basis, the PPI is up 1.4%, while the core PPI is up 2.2%.

Retail sales rose 0.3% overall in November, while sales ex-autos were unchanged, and sales ex-autos and gas rose 0.7%.

Business Inventories rose 0.4% in October, but falling sales pushed the stock to sales ratio up to 1.29.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index fell another -0.7 points to -34.0.

~
Dale Franks
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