Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

The SCOTUS circus

Of course, everyone with the IQ of an onion knows it’s coming.  Harry Reid and Barack Obama, who last filibustered a SCOTUS nominee, insist that the GOP forget all of that and dance to their tune – i.e. do it and do it now.

But, as Charles Lipson points out, even onion heads know that the following is reality:

No. 1: No nominee for the high court can get through the Senate before the election. No one.

No. 2: President Obama and the Democratic candidates for president know that. So do Republicans. All God’s children know it.

No. 3: Since the nominee will not be approved, Obama will use the opportunity to advance other goals. He will propose someone who burnishes his own progressive credentials and shows why control of the court depends on the November election. Putting Senate Republicans in an awkward position would be a nice bonus. But the target is November.

Exactly.  It is all about political theater now and that is going to be what we are going see from now until November.  Lipson has a couple of other points, but it is point 7 that sums it up:

No. 7: All the rest is political theater, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

This is now all about political gain in November and Bollywood will have nothing on the actors in this little play when it is finally time to cast those votes.

I should put a caveat when speaking of people with the IQ of an onion understanding all of this.  That doesn’t apply to the GOP Senate which is already fraying at the edges.  Apparently such a lofty IQ is not a prerequisite of duty as a Republican in the Senate and because of that, it wouldn’t at all surprise me if they don’t cave and play the Democrat’s game.

Because, you know, if they do this time, maybe the media will like them.

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 17 Feb 16

January housing starts fell -3.8% to a 1.099 million annual rate. Building permits fell -0.2% to a 1.202 million annual rate.

Producer prices rose 0.1% in January, and were up 0.4% less food and energy, and 0.2% less food, energy, and trade services. On a year-over-year basis, PPI-FD is down -0.2% overall, but up 0.6% less food and energy, and 0.8% less food, energy, and trade services.

With increased auto production, industrial production jumped 0.9% in January, while capacity utilization in the nation’s factories rose 0.6% to 77.1%. Manufacturing rose 0.5%, as well.

The Atlanta Fed Business Inflation Expectations Survey was unchanged in January, at an annual 1.8%. 

E-commerce retail sales rose only 2.1% in the 4th Quarter of 2015, compared to the 3rd Quarter’s 4.2% rise.

Redbook reports that last week’s retail sales little changed at a weak 0.7% on a year-ago basis, from the previous week’s 0.6%.

The MBA reports that mortgage applications rose 8.2% last week, with purchases down -4.0% but refis up 16.0%.


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Dangerous ground or much ado about nothing?

The FBI, in the wake of the San Bernardino terrorist attack, has gone to court and gotten a judge to order Apple to write software to decrypt the iPhones the two terrorists used.  The FBI has been unable to decrypt them on their own.

Apple has refused to comply.

After reading much of the back and forth between government and Apple, I’m with Apple.  As the Electronic Freedom Frontier said:

The government is asking Apple to create a master key so that it can open a single phone,” it said Tuesday evening. “And once that master key is created, we’re certain that our government will ask for it again and again, for other phones, and turn this power against any software or device that has the audacity to offer strong security.”

It’s about violating your privacy by being ordered to hand the government the key with implied permission to use it. Think Pandora’s Box.  Forget security, you may as well not encrypt a phone if a master key is available out there.  We’d love to believe the government when it says it will only use that software once, but anyone with a modicum of intelligence (and experience with governments) knows how likely that is.  And, well, we also know how well our government does cyber security, don’t we Ms. Clinton?

Er, anyway – the government is using a 18th century law, the All Writs Act, to claim that it can demand such software from Apple.

The law lets judges “issue all writs necessary or appropriate in aid of their respective jurisdictions and agreeable to the usages and principles of law.”

A little word salad that has the government claiming it has every right to make this demand do just about anything it chooses (if it can get a judge to say so).

Marc J. Zwillinger, a lawyer for Apple, wrote in a letter for a related case in October that the All Writs Act could not be interpreted to “force a company to take possession of a device outside of its possession or control and perform services on that device, particularly where the company does not perform such services as part of its business and there may be alternative means of obtaining the requested information available to the government.”

The government says it does not have those alternative means.

Mr. Cook’s statement called the government’s demands “chilling.”

“If the government can use the All Writs Act to make it easier to unlock your iPhone, it would have the power to reach into anyone’s device to capture their data. The government could extend this breach of privacy and demand that Apple build surveillance software to intercept your messages, access your health records or financial data, track your location, or even access your phone’s microphone or camera without your knowledge.”

This is another indicator of how corrosive the “War on Terror” has been to our liberties.  It’s like slow drip acid, with every drop another assault on what we once took for granted as protections against an invasive government.  And our government has been more and more invasive as concerns our privacy since this “war” began.

Sometimes, looking at what the government attempts to do in the name of security, you’d think the terrorists had won, wouldn’t you?

~McQ

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Scalia’s death and the state of politics in this country

It would have been nice if the Democrats could have at least let the body get cool before making political demands and unleashing the usual hate, but then that is the state of politics in this country.

Frankly, I mourn Antonin Scalia as one of the few important bastions against the “living Constitution”, defined constantly on the fly as whatever the left wants it to be.  Lately it’s been all about granting liberties willy nilly (which, the smart person would realize, would mean they can “ungrant” them as well as those that you thought were inalienable, such as your 2nd Amendment right).  That was one of Scalia’s greatest fears and why he stood athwart the path that led to that.

And, of course the hate – the woman who tweeted that she hoped, as he’s always want to do, that Clarence Thomas followed Scalia’s example this time.

And the politics – the conveniently amnesiac Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer demanding that the GOP accept and approve the Obama nominee immediately – whoever that might be.  And don’t pay any attention to what they’ve said or done in the past, it is the duty of the GOP to play their game.

Of course, if the GOP has any desire to remain a mainstream party, they better grow a brain, spine and develop some guts and follow Nancy Regan’s advice – “just say no”.  Obama’s had 8 years to work his tragic magic on this country, we don’t need to be giving him a lifetime appointment to continue the work.

Enough.

Finally, the possible silver lining – do Trump supporters really want him naming a SCOTUS justice?  Or Hillary, if Trump in the GOP nominee?

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 12 Feb 16

January retail sales rose 0.2%, with sales less autos up 0.1%, and sales less autos and gas up 0.4%.

Import prices fell -1.1% in January, while export prices fell -0.8%. On a year-over-year basis, prices are down -6.2% for imports and -5.7% for exports.

December business inventories rose 0.1%, but a -0.6% plunge in sales drove the stock-to-sales ratio up to 1.39.

The University of Michigan’s Consumer Sentiment Index fell -1.3 points to 90.7.


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Stray Voltage

Heather Mac Donald explodes the “Black Lives Matter” myth – the myth the Democratic presidential candidates have decided to embrace:

For starters, fatal police shootings make up a much larger proportion of white and Hispanic homicide deaths than black homicide deaths. According to the Post database, in 2015 officers killed 662 whites and Hispanics, and 258 blacks. (The overwhelming majority of all those police-shooting victims were attacking the officer, often with a gun.) Using the 2014 homicide numbers as an approximation of 2015’s, those 662 white and Hispanic victims of police shootings would make up 12% of all white and Hispanic homicide deaths. That is three times the proportion of black deaths that result from police shootings.

The lower proportion of black deaths due to police shootings can be attributed to the lamentable black-on-black homicide rate. There were 6,095 black homicide deaths in 2014—the most recent year for which such data are available—compared with 5,397 homicide deaths for whites and Hispanics combined. Almost all of those black homicide victims had black killers.

Police officers—of all races—are also disproportionately endangered by black assailants. Over the past decade, according to FBI data, 40% of cop killers have been black. Officers are killed by blacks at a rate 2.5 times higher than the rate at which blacks are killed by police.

Read the whole thing.  Again, as with global warming, the facts don’t fit the theory.  And, as usual, the facts don’t matter when they bump up against election year rhetoric, ideology and the need to pander for votes.

The Washington Post’s Catherine Rampell has apparently noticed what’s going on at colleges and universities these days and has noticed a number of surveys which conclude:

Today’s students are indeed both more left wing and more openly hostile to free speech than earlier generations of collegians.

She notes that the surveys are mostly taken among incoming freshman and makes and interesting observation:

One parting observation: Remember that these survey questions were asked of newly matriculated college freshmen. That is, students are setting foot on campus already more liberal, more protest-happy and more amenable to speech restrictions than their predecessors.

Which suggests that colleges themselves are not wholly responsible for rising liberal and illiberal tendencies on campus — even if they do sometimes aid and abet both trends.

 Interesting point.

As for sources of indoctrination, how about this:

From the University of California, Irvine, “Teaching Climate and Sustainability: A Faculty Skills-Sharing Workshop”:

This workshop aims to engage, inspire, and support faculty members from across disciplines who are interested in voluntarily infusing relevant climate change and/or sustainability concepts into their courses. The overall goal of this curriculum program is to boost climate change/sustainability education at UCI, especially targeting those students for whom climate and sustainability may not be a focus.

Any guess as to what “theory” they’re pushing in terms of “climate change?”

Oh, and an incentive to indoctrinate.  You bet:

Incentive: Participating faculty members receive $1000 for completing the workshop and subsequent course revision. Faculty will also receive an additional $200 for attending a follow up Faculty Networking Event on Friday, November 4, 2016 to showcase their revised course material (note: revised courses do not need to be taught by November 4, 2016, however, course materials will need to be updated to include sustainability by this time).

Never mind that at a minimum, the AGW theory is controversial at best, here we have a ideological pressure group paying teachers to revise their courses and insert this controversial and obviously deeply flawed theory as “truth”.  It doesn’t get any more blatant than that.

In the “LOL, BS talks and money walks” department, the DNC comes through again … for Hillary.

The Democratic National Committee has rolled back restrictions introduced by presidential candidate Barack Obama in 2008 that banned donations from federal lobbyists and political action committees.

The decision, which may provide an advantage to Hillary Clinton’s candidacy, was viewed with disappointment Friday morning by good government activists who saw it as a step backward in the effort to limit special interest influence in Washington.

With that and the Super Delegate game, they can now pretty much rig the game anyway they want too, can’t they?

Meanwhile, the war against CO2 is going … badly:

A new report by the oil giant BP shows CO2 emissions significantly growing, despite huge gains in energy efficiency and countries forcing more green energy onto the grid. It looks like economic growth in developing countries, like China and India, will overshadow global warming regulations in rich countries. “Despite the slowdown in emissions growth, the level of carbon emissions continues to grow, increasing by 20% between 2014 and 2035,” BP reported in its latest energy outlook.

That’s one reason these drastic rules in the US against CO2 are a fool’s game (yes, the one’s the Supreme Court issued a stay on).  Developing countries aren’t playing, and with them not playing, the desired result – less CO2 – isn’t happening.  What will happen though is economy strangling regulation if we allow it.

Have a great weekend!

~McQ

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Economic Statistics

Initial weekly jobless claims fell 16,000 to 269,000. The 4-week average fell 3,500 to 281,250. Continuing claims fell 21,000 to 2.249 million.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index rose 0.3 points to 44.5 in the latest week.

The Fed’s balance sheet rose $2.8 billion last week, with total assets of $4.486 trillion. Reserve bank credit rose $1.6 billion.

The Fed reports that M2 money supply fell by $-0.6 billion in the latest week.


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A couple of things for you to read today

Headed out on the road today, so a short post with a couple of things for you to read.  First, Camille Puglia commenting on Clinton, Steinem and Albright’s attempt to shame women into voting for Clinton:

Despite emergency efforts by Gloria Steinem, the crafty dowager empress of feminism, to push a faltering Hillary over the finish line, Sanders overwhelmingly won women’s votes in every category except senior citizens. Last week, when she told TV host Bill Maher that young women supporting the Sanders campaign are just in it to meet boys, Steinem managed not only to insult the intelligence and idealism of the young but to vaporize every lesbian Sanders fan into a spectral non-person.

Steinem’s polished humanitarian mask had slipped, revealing the mummified fascist within. I’m sure that my delight was shared by other dissident feminists everywhere. Never before has the general public, here or abroad, more clearly seen the arrogance and amoral manipulativeness of the power elite who hijacked and stunted second-wave feminism.

The next day, Hillary was accompanied on the campaign trail by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright (a Bill Clinton appointee), who proclaimed, to Hillary’s laughter and applause, “There’s a special place in Hell for women who don’t help other women.” Waspishly policing the earth was evidently insufficient for the feminist politburo, who are now barging into the salvation and damnation game.

Never mind that the woman elevated to Christ Redeemer status by Steinem and Albright has a stained and tattered rap sheet five miles long. What genuine principles does Hillary have left, after a public career so light on concrete achievement and so heavy with lies and greed? Yes, she’s been handed job after job, but primarily due to her very unfeminist association with a man. As a senator, she initiated nothing of substance, and as Secretary of State, she stumbled into one disastrous fiasco after another, escalating the destabilization of North Africa and the Mideast.

Read the whole thing.  Interestingly, she’s a Bernie Sanders supporter, much to her disgrace.  But what she says about this trio is dead on.

Then a Kevin Williamson article about the knee-jerk reaction by some on the right to oppose whatever side the left lines up on in an issue.

Why conservatives and Republicans should be defensive about the fact that Baltimore, Los Angeles, Cleveland, and Honolulu are misgoverned to various degrees of criminality is a mystery. Conservatives with real political power in those cities are as scarce as hen’s teeth. Could it really be something so simple as the fact that we do not feel comfortable standing on the same side of a bright red line as the malefactors in Ferguson and such opportunists as DeRay Mckesson, now a Baltimore mayoral candidate, and Al Sharpton?

As he points out, sometimes, like a stopped clock, they’re right a couple of times a day.  And he also points out that where most of the problems with law enforcement are to be found are in cities and locations with deep Democratic roots and years of their governance.  Take them case by case. Support those who deserve it, condemn those who don’t,  but remember  – sometimes, a corrupt policeman is just a corrupt policeman.

~McQ

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