Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Economic Statistics for 3 Feb 14

Motor vehicle sales fell 3.1% overall in January, with just over a million vehicles sold, and only Chrysler and Nissan showing gains. GM: -12%, Ford -7%, Toyota: -7.2%, VW: -19%, Honda: -2.1% Fiat Chrysler: 8%, Nissan: 11.8%.

The Gallup US Consumer Spending Measure fell to $78 of daily spending in January, versus $96 in December.

Markit’s PMI Manufacturing Index fell -1.3 points to 53.7 in January.

The ISM manufacturing composite index is down sharply, by -5.7 points to 51.3 in January.

December Construction Spending rose a slight 0.1% in December, a 5.3% gain from the previous year.

Today’s downbeat economic numbers were no help to US stock markets, already under pressure from overnight slumps in world markets. The Dow Industrials ended the day  down -326.05 to 15,372.80.


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Well here’s a surprise – Obama’s Syria policy is failing

Yes, I called it a surprise facetiously.  Does Obama do anything that doesn’t fail (other than campaign)?

Meanwhile, two-faced government continues because, well you know, telling the real truth outloud just isn’t politically smart – especially with this administration’s record:

Two prominent Republican senators say that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told them — along with 13 other members of a bipartisan congressional delegation — that President Barack Obama’s administration is in need of a new, more assertive, Syria policy; that al-Qaeda-affiliated groups in Syria pose a direct terrorist threat to the U.S. homeland; that Russia is arming the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and is generally subverting chances for a peaceful settlement; that Assad is violating his promise to expeditiously part with his massive stores of chemical weapons; and that, in Kerry’s view, it may be time to consider more dramatic arming of moderate Syrian rebel factions.

Kerry is said to have made these blunt assertions Sunday morning behind the closed doors of a cramped meeting room in the Bayerischer Hof hotel in Munich, as the 50th annual Munich Security Conference was coming to a close in a ballroom two floors below. A day earlier, Kerry, in a joint appearance with U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on the ballroom stage, gave an uncompromising defense of the Obama administration’s level of foreign engagement: saying that,“I can’t think of a place in the world where we’re retreating.”

Really, Mr. Kerry?

Obama/Kerry’s Iran, Egypt, Afghanistan, Syria and Russian policies have been failures.  Israel has taken to actually ridiculing US efforts.  Saudi Arabia is said to be looking for a new patron in the Middle East.

And yet, given all of that, Kerry is still the loyal waterboy making false claims when anyone with an IQ higher than warm spit can see that during the Obama administration we’ve done nothing but retreat.

Being charitable, maybe Kerry meant we’re no longer retreating because, well, we’ve retreated about as far as is possible to retreat.

Oh, and yes, I saw the Obama/O’Reilly interview.  It had the same gripping suspense and entertainment content as the Superbowl.  In the case of Denver it was safety, interception, fumble, collapse. Obama was deny, deny, deny, blame, deny reality some more and then cast even more blame.

Pitiful.

~McQ

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Rev. Raymond Lloyd Franks Jr., 1940-2014

UncleRay2Today, we celebrated the life of my uncle, Rev. Raymond L. Franks Jr. There are few truly good men in this world–I certainly can’t claim to be one–but Uncle Ray was one of them. He was unfailingly loving, compassionate, and kind. In the 35 years he spent in the ministry in Albuquerque, NM, he touched and bettered an uncounted number of lives. The hundreds of people who came to pay their respects today are the merest tithe of the lives he touched.

Just being near him made you want to be a better person, to be able to live by the standards that he demonstrated in his own life every day. One of the great regrets of my life is that I was unable to be the person he thought I could be. Not once did he ever display anything but love and kindness to me, and occasionally regret that I was unable to spend more time with him in recent years. Now, he is gone, I can never spend time with him again.

Though he left an incredibly rich and lasting legacy, the remainder of my life will be a bit darker and bit more empty. Time, they say, heals all wounds, but for this one, sadly, I fear the healing will never truly be complete.

The world is a measurably poorer place for his passing.


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Land of the free?

Peggy Noonan pretty much hits a home run today (well, it being Super Bowl weekend, maybe a touchdown analogy would be better).  Here’s how she begins:

The State of the Union was a spectacle of delusion and self-congratulation in which a Congress nobody likes rose to cheer a president nobody really likes. It marked the continued degeneration of a great and useful tradition. Viewership was down, to the lowest level since 2000. This year’s innovation was the Parade of Hacks. It used to be the networks only showed the president walking down the aisle after his presence was dramatically announced. Now every cabinet-level officeholder marches in, shaking hands and high-fiving with breathless congressmen. And why not? No matter how bland and banal they may look, they do have the power to destroy your life—to declare the house you just built as in violation of EPA wetland regulations, to pull your kid’s school placement, to define your medical coverage out of existence. So by all means attention must be paid and faces seen.

Dead on. SOTU has become kind of like entertainment industry awards shows I guess … something else I never watch.  What government can do to your freedom?  Very real.

But she’s right, more and more Washington DC has become Oz.  More and more it becomes delusional, more insular and more isolated from the real America.  And that’s where Noonan goes – she does a riff on real America – i.e. “reality” – a state of being that progressive try to avoid at all costs:

Meanwhile, back in America, the Little Sisters of the Poor were preparing their legal briefs. The Roman Catholic order of nuns first came to America in 1868 and were welcomed in every city they entered. They now run about 30 homes for the needy across the country. They have, quite cruelly, been told they must comply with the ObamaCare mandate that all insurance coverage include contraceptives, sterilization procedures, morning-after pills. If they don’t—and of course they can’t, being Catholic, and nuns—they will face ruinous fines. The Supreme Court kindly granted them a temporary stay, but their case soon goes to court. The Justice Department brief, which reads like it was written by someone who just saw “Philomena,” suggests the nuns are being ignorant and balky, all they have to do is sign a little, meaningless form and the problem will go away. The sisters don’t see the form as meaningless; they know it’s not. And so they fight, in a suit along with almost 500 Catholic nonprofit groups.

Everyone who says that would never have happened in the past is correct. It never, ever would have under normal American political leadership, Republican or Democratic. No one would’ve defied religious liberty like this.

The president has taken to saying he isn’t ideological but this mandate—his mandate—is purely ideological.

It also is a violation of traditional civic courtesy, sympathy and spaciousness. The state doesn’t tell serious religious groups to do it their way or they’ll be ruined. You don’t make the Little Sisters bow down to you.

This is the great political failure of progressivism: They always go too far. They always try to rub your face in it.

She has other examples, but the way she wrapped up this portion is a pretty good summary of the state of Oz.

And we’re all the poorer and less free because of it.

~McQ

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I wonder if the GOP will figure this out

I am talking about the establishment GOP – those that think compromise on principle is a good thing if it keeps it all collegial in Congress and the left doesn’t call them bad names.

As the deadline for 2014 enrollment nears, Obamacare is increasingly growing unpopular, especially among the uninsured. A new Kaiser Family Foundation survey finds that about twice as many uninsured people have an unfavorable view of the health-care law than have a favorable one.

Among the uninsured, 47 percent view Obamacare in a negative light versus the 24 percent who view it favorably. That’s a change from 43 percent who viewed it unfavorably last month, and 36 percent who viewed it favorably. Overall, half of Americans view Obamacare unfavorably, while just over one-third have a positive take on the law. ​

More of the uninsured also said Obamacare made them worse off (39 percent) than improved their situation (26 percent), according to the poll.

Got that?  The majority of people find ObamaCare to be a travesty and a plurality of those who are uninsured want nothing to do with it.

Looking for an issue GOP (clue: it’s not caving passing immigration “reform”)?

This mess the Democrats have made is the single issue on whichyou can win.  That’s right, single issue.  This is a subject very near, dear and important to every Americans.  And the Democrats have screwed it up royally. You have no need, in the interim, cave on anything.  There is nothing which requires you to pass legislation that will piss off your base.  None.

Think about it.

Please.

~McQ

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Thoughts on a snowy Wednesday

I sure am glad I’m not into drunk blogging, because given the Wizard of Oz show last night, aka SOTU, I’d still be plastered.

BTW, Cory Remsburg stole the show.

On the 2014 election front, the president may be facing some real problems in his “year of action” (which I’ve come to believe mostly refers to how often he’ll wield his pen signing executive orders – something he blasted as a Senator.  I’m sure it’s Bush’s fault):

[T]he 2014 Senate playing field is potentially brutal for Democrats. Democrats are defending seats in five states — Arkansas, Alaska, Montana, South Dakota, and West Virginia — where Obama’s approval rating was at or below 35 percent in 2013, according to Gallup. In four other states where Democrats hold a Senate seat that’s up in 2014, Obama’s approval rating was well below his national average of 46 percent: Louisiana (40 percent), Colorado and Iowa (42 percent), and North Carolina (43 percent). In Oregon, New Hampshire, and New Mexico the president had a 45 percent job-approval rating, just below his national average. That’s a whopping total of 11 Democratic seats that could potentially be in play this November.

Republicans also have seats they must defend, but far fewer of them. In Georgia, where the GOP must defend an open seat, Obama’s approval rating of 45 percent is below his national average. In Kentucky, where Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell is running for reelection, only 35 percent of voters have a favorable view of the president.

This is intersting on a couple of fronts.  One, if the GOP holds on to the House (and there’s no real reason to believe that won’t happen) and take the Senate, executive orders are about all this president is going to have at his command.  Second, since Harry Reid went nuke, it will be interesting to see how he enjoys being on the other side of it.  Oh rest assured he’ll be like a goose who wakes up in a new world everyday, because you can count on him to blast such an abuse of power and the traditions of the Senate.

I find some solace in all of that even though I’m not a fan of the establishment Republicans.  And I darn sure don’t think they’ll do what I think is necessary to dismantle this monstrosity called ObamaCare or, for that matter, solve any other problems by just getting out of the way.  They’re “lawmakers” and that is their product  – well that and taking your money for hare-brained scemes like jobs programs, etc.  Nope, I fully expect the GOP, should they control Congress to cave to the pressure of special interests – like Democrats and media calling them names and talking about how mean spirited they are – and basically pass a Democrat lite agenda.  Watch immigration for the cue.

Where I find the solace is in defanging Obama for the last few years of his presidency.  He’ll wield his executive order pen and thunder (or perhaps by then, squeak) about Republicans blocking his agenda (something they should gladly admit too, but they won’t – they’ll cower), and blah, blah, blah, etc., etc., ad infinitum.

Nope, the good news is if the GOP can take Congress, the Obama nightmare, er, presidency, will be effectively over.

That, I will drink too.

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 28 Jan 14

Durable goods orders plummeted by a worse than expected -4.3% in December, and, ex-transportation orders fell 1.6%.

The S&P/Case-Shiller home price index rose 0.9% in November. On a year-over-year basis, prices are up 13.7%.

The Conference Board’s Consumer confidence index rose 3.2 points to a higher-than-expected 80.7 in January.

The Richmond Fed Manufacturing Index lost only a single point, to hold steady at 12 in January.

The State Street Investor Confidence Index jumped sharply from 95.9 to 114.4 in January.

ICSC-Goldman reports weekly retail sales rose only 0.2% last week, and only 2.2% from the prior year. Redbook reports a 3.2% year-over-year increase.


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