Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Economic Statistics for 26 Apr 16

Durable goods orders rose 0.8% in March, though orders are still down -2.5% on a year-over-year basis. Also, ex-transporation orders fell -0.2%, while capital goods orders were unchanged.

Case-Shiller’s home price index rose 0.7% in February, and is up 5.4% on a year-over-year basis.

The PMI Services Flash for April rose 1.1 points to 52.1.

The University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment index fell -2.0 points to 96.2 in April.

The Richmond Fed Manufacturing Index fell -8 points to 14 in April.

Redbook reports that last week’s retail sales growth rose slightly to 0.8% on a year-ago basis, from the previous week’s 0.5%.


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Two real world examples of socialism and big government that leftist voters ignore

It isn’t like you have to go back ages in history to see governing models that don’t work.  The recent end of the Cold War provided perfect examples.  But they collapsed in the ’80s and our younger generation has no memory of the hardships the people of those countries suffered under socialist totalitarian rule.  They also give indications that they think government is the solution for all our problems instead of understanding that for the most part government is responsible for many of our problems.  It seems they think that if we just had big government, everything would be lovely.

The “Feel the Bern” crowd are enamored with “social democracy”.  They like to point to Europe and pretend that the system is a desirable one.  But instead of pointing to Europe, perhaps they should cast their eyes to the south – to Venezuela.  They might find it, oh, I don’t know, enlightening:

In 1999, Venezuela was taken over by Socialist who promised that he would punish big corporations and redistribute wealth to “the people” to provide health care, education, infrastructure, and even out income inequality. (Sound familiar?) The American Left cheered. Celebrities like Sean Penn and Danny Glover praised his Democratic Socialist economic measures. Chavez systematically nationalized the oil, banking, agricultural, food distribution, telecommunications, and power industries in Venezuela; because running them as social democratic communes would eliminate “greed” and give the people lower cost goods and services. The American Left praised him for “democratizing” the Venezuelan economy. When Chavez shut down opposition TV, radio, and newspapers the American Left defended it as necessary to protect the Revolution.

The American Left likes to pretend now that Venezuela isn’t a real example of Social Democracy; but up until the economy collapsed (as every sensible person knew it would) they were Chavez’s biggest cheerleaders, as the links above (or any Google search) shows.

It is, of course, a horrific example of a socialist takeover, but a typical one.  A once well-off country with the most proven oil reserves in the world reduced to literal poverty.  Food shortages, other commodity shortages, you name it, you can’t get it there.  Oh, and about those oil reserves?  Well it seems that Venezuela has an energy crisis.  And the government’s solution?  Well it said everyone should take Fridays off (yeah, screw productivity – that’s a capitalist construct) and this bit of brilliance:

Last week, his government said it was shifting its time zone forward by 30 minutes to save power by adding half an hour of daylight.

Socialism … in Venezuela’s case they’re actually feeling the burn.

Then there is Brazil.  Brazil is the lover of “big governments” wet dream.  Or as it has now become, a nightmare.  Brazil is a failing state and the primary reason that it is failing is because of the premise under which it has operated for decades.  Big government paternalism:

For all its modernist appeal, it was one more expression of the country’s long and troubled attachment to the concept of a giant paternalistic state, responsible for managing the affairs of the entire society, from its biggest companies to its poorest citizens.

[…]

“The problem is, from time immemorial, Brazil’s political leaders only see one way forward, the growth of the state,” said Fernando Henrique Cardoso, a former leftist intellectual who sought to reduce the size of Brazil’s government while president from 1995 to 2002. “But you need another springboard for progress, that doesn’t exclude the state but that accepts markets. This just doesn’t sink in in Brazil.”

Many wan’t to blame Brazil’s problems on corruption like the corruption scandal now rocking the nation.  But the corruption arises from the base problem … big, unanswerable government:

While many observers of Brazil’s predicament have focused on the country’s corruption, that may miss the point. Brazil’s deeper problem lies in the failures of its Leviathan state, which has perennially reached for the utopian visions embodied in Brasília but instead has produced recurring cycles of boom and dramatic bust.

Of course there a huge lessons to be learned from these two countries that apply to this country and the current political arguments now being made.  All, to some degree or another (with Socialist Sanders being the extreme) argue for both social democracy and bigger government.  We apparently don’t learn from other countries but insist on learning the hard way, by repeating what has already failed any number of times.

That’s because of arrogance and the belief that the only reason any of this hasn’t worked in the past is the right people weren’t in charge.

With the class of politicians we have running today, Hugo Chavez would be a better choice to run their ideas.

And we all know how well he did.

~McQ

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Stray Voltage

Is it Friday already?  A tip of the hat to Ott Scerb – nice to see him back in action.

So, a CEO has written a little guide for the special snowflakes that inhabit many of our colleges and universities.  He gives them 5 points they need to learn before they leave their “safe spaces”.  Below is number 1:

To all those of you looking for your “safe place,” I have to wonder: How the hell do you walk out of your dorm (or your parents’ basement) without getting hit by a bus every day?

So on behalf of CEO’s across the country, I’d like to share with you a few lessons that you might want to learn before graduation.

1. The Business World Doesn’t Give A Damn About You

No, really – it’s true. You saw something on the internet that you found offensive? You’ve got the sniffles? Your boyfriend broke up with you? Well, that sucks. Deal with it. I expect you to get your work done on time. Hit traffic that made you late for the fourth time this week? You should have learned after the first time that you needed to leave your house early.

Listen, even the best bosses have their breaking points. Excuses might fly in college, but they’re NOT going to fly when we’re paying you to actually get things done.

I liked this one because it says what they don’t seem to realize yet.  In the big, wide world, they’re essentially unimportant.  And only good work can make them important to any company.  Start the crap they’ve started at school and they can find themselves in the unemployment line very quickly.  Read the rest here. [link fixed]

Speaking of the Special Snowflakes, aka The New Red Guard, here they are trying to get something for nothing again claiming racism and bias at Harvard Law School:

“A group of Harvard Law School activists are demanding the graduate school do away with tuition fees, which they argue are “racially biased.”

Members of the group Reclaim Harvard Law School published an open letter Sunday addressed to Law School Dean Martha L. Minow and members of the Harvard Corporation — the University’s highest governing body — demanding an end to tuition costs that they argue impose an unfair financial burden on students of color, The Harvard Crimson reported.

Tuition at the law school will rise to $59,550 for the 2016-2017 academic year, and students are graduating with an average of $149,754 in debt, according to the law school’s website. Reclaim Harvard Law called the trend “outrageous” and asserted, “as a matter of justice, education should be free.”

“The effects of HLS’ astronomical tuition fees are racially biased,” the group wrote in their letter. “Due to the legacy of centuries of white supremacy and plunder, people of color are less likely to have amassed wealth in the United States. Therefore, these fees disproportionately burden students of color, not only by creating a barrier to attending HLS, but also by constraining the career choices of those who do attend by saddling them with hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. How can Harvard Law graduates be expected to advance justice or the well-being of society when they are forced to make career decisions based on paying off this burdensome debt?”

The group did not provide any proposals on how Harvard Law School could feasibly do away with tuition, saying, “answering this is the very job we are paying extraordinary amounts of money for them to do.”

I suppose it never occurs to them that they are among the elite who have been chosen to be members of a particular Harvard Law class and that this seems to most to be exactly what it appears – a horribly obvious attempt to use emotion as an argument to get others to pay for your education.  Makes you wonder how good they’ll ever be as lawyers.

One of the things climate alarmists seem to be spectacularly unaware of is how spectacularly poor their “scientific” track record is.  For instance:

Kenneth Watt warned about a pending Ice Age in a speech. “The world has been chilling sharply for about twenty years,” he declared. “If present trends continue, the world will be about four degrees colder for the global mean temperature in 1990, but eleven degrees colder in the year 2000. This is about twice what it would take to put us into an ice age.”

And:

Ecologist Kenneth Watt told Time that, “At the present rate of nitrogen buildup, it’s only a matter of time before light will be filtered out of the atmosphere and none of our land will be usable.”

Of course, now it’s warming and carbon dioxide.  In both cases, not only is the science far from settled, it seems to be spectacularly wrong again.  At least when Watt talked about a new Ice Age it had actually been getting cooler for 20 years.  That was enough for them then.  But the fact that it hasn’t warmed at all in 20 years?  Yeah, not significant.  Funny stuff.  Expensive if they get their way, but then as mad as the world has become and with the pending signing of the Paris accords, the excuse to get into your wallet is there, science or no science.

Alarmism is a cottage industry and now that the politicians are involved, it is a cottage industry to pays well.

In answer to the absurd bathroom controversy that seems to be brewing up everywhere, the retail giant Target put out this press release:

We believe that everyone—every team member, every guest, and every community—deserves to be protected from discrimination, and treated equally. Consistent with this belief, Target supports the federal Equality Act, which provides protections to LGBT individuals, and opposes action that enables discrimination.

In our stores, we demonstrate our commitment to an inclusive experience in many ways. Most relevant for the conversations currently underway, we welcome transgender team members and guests to use the restroom or fitting room facility that corresponds with their gender identity.

We regularly assess issues and consider many factors such as impact to our business, guests and team members. Given the specific questions these legislative proposals raised about how we manage our fitting rooms and restrooms, we felt it was important to state our position.

Everyone deserves to feel like they belong. And you’ll always be accepted, respected and welcomed at Target.

I guess you can find idiots in every walk of life, even among those who run retail giants.  Tell me, Target, if, in the name of inclusion you end up excluding the desires of the majority of your customer base, how much good will do you think your stance on this sort of nonsense inclusion will buy you.

Considering that, I just became a ex-customer of Target. That sort of absurd nonsense does not make me feel “accepted”, certainly not “respected” and  anything but “welcomed”.  My “feelings” obviously mean nothing to you. Target, you are pandering, and you’re ignoring your customer base. Social engineering isn’t a retail responsibility.  Giving your customers what they want is.

Maybe they’ll figure it out.  And maybe they’ll figure out that if you wish to accommodate a minority that “feels” a certain way about themselves, perhaps a single restroom that is “gender neutral” is the answer, and not having them force themselves into dressing areas and restrooms where their natural equipment says they shouldn’t be.  This isn’t rocket science, but it appears to be for the ignoramuses at Target.

ESPN has also earned my boycott:

Curt Schilling was fired by ESPN on Wednesday, for expressing an opinion online earlier in the week which just happens to be the view held by the vast majority of the American people. Earlier this week, Schilling posted a picture of a transgender person, and made a comment regarding the effort to let transgender men use women’s restrooms.

The comment read:

“A man is a man no matter what they call themselves. I don’t care what they are, who they sleep with, men’s room was designed for the penis, women’s not so much. Now you need laws telling us differently? Pathetic.”

He’s absolutely right … it is pathetic.

What’s even more pathetic is that Schilling has to hold a certain point of view, apparently, to continue to hold his job. Well, that’s “inclusive” isn’t it? Bye bye ESPN. I thought you were a “sports network”. Apparently you’re an politically correct social engineering network and something I just don’t need in my life.

Finally a bit of good news.  Last week I reported that Florida had essentially done away with civil forfeiture and I gave them kudos for dumping that unconstitutional form of stealing by police (illegal search and seizure).  Well, Nebraska earns those kudos this week:

The newly signed law provides sweeping reforms. First and foremost, Nebraska now requires a criminal conviction to forfeit property. The accused must be convicted of an offense involving illegal drugs, child pornography or illegal gambling to lose their cash, vehicles, firearms or real estate. Nebraska joins just nine other states that require a criminal conviction as a prerequisite for most or all forfeiture cases.

Way to go, NE.

Hope you all have a happy and safe weekend!

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 21 Apr 16

The Philadelphia Fed survey plunged from 12.4 to -1.6 in April, returning to it’s long run of negative readings.

The Chicago Fed’s National Activity Index worsened to -0.44 from -0.29. The 3-month average fell from -0.07 to -0.18.

The Conference Board’s index of Leading Indicators rose 0.1% to 0.2% in March.

The FHFA house price index rose 0.4% in February, while the year-on-year rate fell sharply to 5.6% from 6.0%.

Initial weekly jobless claims fell 6,000 to 247,000. The 4-week average fell 4,500 to 260,500. Continuing claims fell 39,000 to 2.127 million.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index fell -0.7 points to 42.9 in the latest week.

The Fed’s balance sheet fell $-9.6 billion last week, with total assets of $4.490 trillion. Reserve bank credit rose $3.7 billion.

The Fed reports that M2 money supply rose by $0.5 billion in the latest week.


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More Mizzou: Racial fear and loathing on campus

Yes, I’m fascinated by this incident primarily because of the outcome or consequences.  As more and more information comes out about the background, the more one sees that it wasn’t the administration (although it had a big role in the failure there) or whites who were the problem there (and yes, I’m sure that makes me a “racist” to the SJWs).  It was the activists.  There was a culture of fear all right, but it wasn’t white students who were responsible.  You can sum up the problem with this Tweet:

Mizzou tweet

Now whether or not this person was a Mizzou student or not, the fact that the tweet got 16 retweets and 3 likes speaks volumes.  It is an attitude and how that attitude is represented on campus.  For instance, a white student wrote to the Chancellor that he attempted to engage in a dialogue with some of his peers who apparently were black.  The result?

I tried to foster peaceful, civilized discussion with a few peers. What I received was a combination of personal and racial attacks, with direct quotes such as “You can’t have an opinion on this because you are white,” “You have no right to speak,” and “Get the f*** out of the lounge.” I will not fill out a bias report on this because it has been made perfectly clear to me by both faculty and students that my skin color apparently gives me immunity from racial harassment, and I can only be treated as the aggressor in these situations.”

Note where he points out that his belief about his inability to get redress via a “bias report” has been fostered not only by students, but by a faculty which apparently has wholly bought into the myth that only whites can exhibit bias.

That sort of non-support translated into other problems. Increasing problems.  Can anyone guess what they were?  Here’s what a mother wrote to the administration out of concern for her daughter’s safety.

My white female student is being mobbed on her way to class and shouted at while being pushed claiming she’s a racist solely because of the color of her skin. . . . In the last 2 days she’s had 3 cancelled classes so her teachers could participate in this nonsense. So we’re paying for our child’s teachers to protest instead of educate?

Instead of standing up to what they supposedly hate and won’t tolerate – namely pure old racism – they ignored it and allowed it to continue because, apparently, they’re more afraid of a word than doing their jobs.  As a result, their mission – education – suffered at the hands of out-of-control racist students.  And yes, I’m more than happy to call them precisely what they are.

Additionally, their not addressing the intolerance of the activists only encouraged more of it.

So there is one reason students decided not to attend the University of Missouri this fall.  There are many more.  For instance:

On November 9, the vice president for human resources, Betsy Rodriguez, wrote to Missouri’s president, Tim Wolfe, saying that she thought he needed to see some videos being circulated on Twitter under the hashtag #ConcernedStudent1950. One video posted under that hashtag portrays a protester singling out people on campus, shouting, “If you’re uncomfortable, I did my job.” In the background, other protestors shout “power,” raising their fists.

“There are at least 2 [such Twitter videos] from Griffiths society today, and 2 from the dining halls (one of those — Plaza 900) included visiting high school students,” Rodriguez wrote. “The protestors are increasing in aggression and disruption. These are pretty scarey [sic].”

That’s right … visiting high school seniors were treated to the spectacle as well and made to feel unwelcome, especially if they were white.  You can see the videos at the above link.  Instead of being “oppressed” and “silenced”, it appears the protesters pretty much had the run of the place.

But had the administration grown a pair and stepped in to stop the nonsense, they might of avoided what happened in the near term and what has now happened as a consequence.  But they didn’t.  A day after the videos above surfaced, this discussion took place between two high ranking members of the administration:

A conversation later that day between Rodriguez and Michael Kateman, the university’s director of internal communications, raised other “collective thoughts” on the protesters’ behavior. “Even students not involved in the protests are getting agitated, fearful, and concerned,” their notes said, pointing out an incident where outsiders drove two hours to join the protests on the University of Missouri’s campus. “The protestors are willing to interrupt non-related events to protest. . . . Our concern is that the longer we wait to have mtg [to address the situation], the more we risk violence. The longer we wait, the greater the risk of violence.”

As you’re most likely aware, they waited too long.  They let outside agitators establish themselves, and they had sympathetic faculty who made it worse while making fools of themselves.  And the leadership?  Absent.

It’s not like they couldn’t see this coming.  Well before the events which caused all the consequences, they were made aware of the problem.  A student wrote the former chancellor describing an encounter with this movement:

“Everyone has freedom of speech and expression,” she wrote. “But this was a large group of people. I know I’m not alone in saying that I felt very unsafe and targeted when I encountered them. . . . people screaming at me from the sidewalk.” She wrote that “all lives matter and discrimination should be fought against,” but she feared “that group brought more division, hostility, and discrimination than that one man [yelling racial slurs] could have.

But the immediate problem was ignored and allowed to grow.  And instead of taking charge of the campus and it’s environment, the administration allowed it to become a place which people feared others simply because of the color of their skin.  Here an employee of the University writes the former Chancellor:

My fear is that things are going to get out of hand and something very bad is going to happen,” she wrote. “My husband is a Sgt. for the University Police and he is having to be in the middle of this mess and having someone like Melissa Click do everything in her power to incite a riot will make things go from bad to worse. I normally take walks around the campus a couple of times a day but currently am afraid to do so because I am white. My daughter goes to school at Mizzou, has some night classes, and she is now afraid to walk around campus and go to class because she is white.

Racism … pure and simple.  The protesters and activists were what they denounced.  And they had created a climate of oppression and fear.

They must have been very proud of themselves.

The good news is the institution that ignored it and allowed it to happen is suffering the consequences of its inaction (or in many cases, its enabling).  It is well deserved.  And, hopefully, other academic institutions will learn from the experience, heed any warning signs and take appropriate action.  The fact that a relatively small population of students and activists were able to make this sort of impact on a major university because they weren’t confronted immediately certainly should teach a lesson.

But then it seems in this age and time, lessons aren’t heeded and history repeats.  I fully expect to see this happen again at least once, if not numerous times, in the not too distant future.

~McQ

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The new fascism

Consider yourself a climate skeptic?  Well that’s dangerous ground if the new fascists have their way.  And who are these fascists?  Why a group of 20 Attorney Generals from blue states.  The Federalist Society has the goods:

The twenty Democratic AGs’ (“Green 20”) concerted investigation against ExxonMobil (Exxon) and organizations deemed “climate change deniers” represents a threat to core constitutional commands of free speech, limited and constitutional government and the rule of law. This latest incarnation of regulation by litigation which seeks to punish climate change wrongthink has crossed a line that lies at the core of the First Amendment—a government imposing its orthodoxy upon its citizens. Declaring the need for “transformational” action on climate change as a settled question, Virgin Islands’ AG, Claude Earl Walker, announced, “We cannot continue to rely on fossil fuel. Vice President Gore has made that clear.” (Glad that’s all settled!)

As the United States Supreme court has noted: “If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion.” Further, punishing Exxon for its own research that expresses concern about climate change disincentivizes research and development and criminalizes the expressions of doubts, theories and concerns that are essential to the scientific method.

So, as others try to paint them as the “Green 20”, I’ll call them what they are – the Fascist 20.  They are the very definition of fascists, or at least this part of the definition – “forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism, regimenting all industry, commerce, etc.”  

You may roll your eyes at the latter part but isn’t their goal precisely that, i.e. deciding what industries is acceptable and which aren’t?  And attacking those which “aren’t”.  First it was the tobacco industry.  That worked.  So now, using the same sort of tactics and laws, they’re going after the fossil fuel industry, climate skeptics and anyone else they rope into this gaggle they want to eliminate.

This can also be likened to the Inquisition since it is clear, to many, that the “science” of climate alarmism has now become a religion, and it is time, since they can’t prove their point scientifically, to go after the heretics who are badly damaging their scam/religion.

If you don’t think that’s the case, consider this:

The tone taken by these attorneys general at their March 29th press conference with Al Gore reveals all. The calculated hysteria whipped up by Gore’s linkage of natural disasters and the spread of the Zika virus to climate change, was followed by the state AGs startling descriptors of their quarry—“morally vacant forces,” destroyers of this earth, planet destroyers, existential threats, deceivers! Walker announced his offices launch of “an investigation into a company that we believe must provide us with information about what they knew about climate change, and when they knew it,” a catchy formulation that was a verbatim echo of NY AG Schneiderman’s tone of climate McCarthyism.

This vituperative language calls into question these regulators impartiality and professional ethics and rises to abuse of the powers of the office of attorney general. Gore thrummed a bass-line of “fraud” and sensationalized recent weather news as “a nature hike through the Book of Revelation.” Somehow the rise of new diseases that Gore never heard of when he was growing up can be attributed to fossil fuel use (junk science, anyone?). NY AG Schneiderman closed the news conference with a litany of billions and billions of dollars of damage.

This is indeed, junk science and an attempt to use the authority of the law to both intimidate and silence those who find both the science and the arguments of the climate hysterics to be badly wanting.

This is a big “no-go” in terms of how this country is supposed to work.  But we now have government agents as, basically, hit men, out to ensure the bosses agenda gets followed.  And, obviously, they’ll stoop to any level, to include fascism, to get that job done.

Land of the free …?

Yeah, feast your eyes.

~McQ

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