Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Let’s just keep calm!

John Kerry, alleged Secretary of State for the United States, wants everyone to stay calm as the day approaches for Bibi Netanyahu  to speak before the co-equal branch of government, the US Congress.

He doesn’t want the political football turned into a political football.

He believes that the fine record of the administration’s diplomacy with Iran warrants us giving the administration the benefit of the doubt as the clowns, sorry, negotiators work towards a long term nuclear deal, (say these words a few times and count to, say, a thousand, it will help you stay calm – long term, nuclear, Iran….).

Our good friends, Russia, and China, are going to help with this, and it will all be fine.

Stay calm gang.

I mean, don’t let anything give you a jaded point of view on the probability of goodness coming out of these Iranian nuclear negotiations.

Don’t let your faith in the Iranian desire for peace be confused by their recent video demonstration of an attack on a mock up US carrier last week.

Don’t go getting all excited that a senior Iranian cleric wanted to help the negotiations by telling us the Islamic flag would fly over the White House a couple days ago.

The Iranians are doing everything they can to demonstrate their absolute friendship with the US.   Sorta Pyongyang style, you know, give us what we want or we’ll blow something up.

By the way, check out the US media coverage of either of those two events.   My being an anglophile isn’t the reason I used links to the Daily Mail in the UK.  Maybe our media thought the flag thing was old news, I mean, they only threaten to fly the Islamic flag over the White House every couple of years anyway.  Maybe John Stewart didn’t have time to cover it, maybe Brian Williams was busy taking out Iraqi jets with an MPAD and couldn’t get a story filed.   Maybe worrying about what Scott Walker believes about what Rudy Giuliani believes about what Barack Obama believes kept them all too occupied to report on it.

And definitely don’t let the latest story that’s circulating in Israel, that our President might have threatened to shoot down our alleged allies jets…. make you think that diplomacy is just not going to work and that we’re taking the Israeli fear of a nuclear weapon armed Iran seriously.

 

Keep calm, the circus will continue!

“We are going to test whether or not diplomacy can prevent this weapon from being created, so you don’t have to turn to additional measures including the possibility of a military confrontation,” Kerry told ABC’s “This Week.”

Our hope is that diplomacy can work. And I believe, given our success of the interim agreement, we deserve the benefit of the doubt to find out whether or not we can get a similarly good agreement with respect to the future.”

Hope, test.

Testing testing, 1, 2, 3, testing, testing.

With nuclear capacity.  We’re going to test whether or not diplomacy can prevent this.

If we’re wrong and part of Haifa goes up in a nuclear cloud, well, I guess Old Christmas in Cambodia Lurch will be sorry.

and we’ll draft a firm, possibly angry even, letter to Iran and ask them if they can account for the nukes they weren’t supposed to have, and they’ll smile and threaten to fly the flag of Islam over the White House.

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We’re supposed to believe.

I’m happy that the Treasury IG discovered the missing backup IRS backup tapes.

I’m happy that we can pretend for a while there’s incriminating evidence on them that will finally allow for a prosecution of Lois Lerner and anyone else involved in using the IRS for thuggery.

Now we can put this to bed, right?

 

But I don’t believe a word of it.

Anyone else in IT can feel free chime in and disagree if they want.

The idea that the guys directly in charge of these suddenly found backups elected to say nothing to anyone, and waited for someone to come ask for them, like Cinderella waiting for prince Charming to show up and put the glass slipper on,  is bunk.      The only way that could have happened is if the IT people in at least one group have gotten up every morning for at least a year, showered, shaved, dressed, and showed up at work where they stuck their heads in buckets of mud for the entire day.  It only could happen if they live in Plato’s cave when they go home at night.

It must be sweet in that department that didn’t start going over what they had for backups from day 1 when it was revealed that the IRS lost the backups.  It must be awesome to work for a boss who didn’t come down and say, “so,  what’s up with these backups!  Because we’re being made to look pretty damned foolish!   Do we have that stuff or not!  I want to know ASAP because I expect to be on a bridge call by 12:00 where everyone, the Pope included, is going to be asking that question.”

But the call never came?    So they just went back to their daily business?    With all the news going on about missing backups?  They didn’t know who to tell maybe?   So they just told no one?

Anyone with half a brain, who’s had half an ounce of responsibility knows that somewhere someone was going to answer for those missing backups.  And it behooves the guys who are supposed to have them, to be able to answer that they in fact do have them, if all it takes is for them to go look.

And you can bet your sweet bippy they went and looked.   And they pro-actively told someone above them.

Yet we’re supposed to believe they said nothing.

To anyone.

For over a year.

Right.

No way.

The manager who was going to take the fire directly, checked with his people on day 1, found they had the backups by about day 5, sent an email to his boss to say that he’d looked into the matter and found they do indeed have the files in question.      Because he didn’t want to be the 1st guy stuck on the trident as it came down from on high, hurled with all the anger the guy above, who wanted to make sure he wasn’t going to be the 1st guy sacrificed, could hurl it.

No, you’re supposed to believe they sat out there in the wilderness and waited, prayed for their moment, when someone would come and ask them if they had the backups so they could reveal them like the exciting twist in a movie.

I see.

Yo!  Congress!  Want to investigate some more guilty people?  Find out who was told shortly after it was said there were no backups that there were backupsAsk the guys who had responsibility who they notified when the news went public a year ago.   Someone knew, someone told someone else, and somewhere that news stopped moving up the chain.   Find where it stopped and find out why.

A year is easily long enough for a small controllable group to get the backups, sanitize the emails as necessary, and overcome whatever technical challenges you need to overcome to put them back and make them appear as if they have never been touched.  And if you think they’re worried about the law at this point, you’ve been sticking your head in that bucket of mud, and going home at night to Plato’s cave.

I won’t be a bit surprised if they review those emails, and find nothing very incriminating.   Brilliant bit of demoralization to build up your enemies hopes, and then crush them using the very weapons they planned to use to destroy you.

 

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Economic Statistics for 27 Feb 15

The first revision to 4Q 2015 GDP was dropped to a 2.2% annualized rate, from the originally reported 2.6%. On the plus side, though, much of the decrease was in inventory investment revisions, while the final sales of domestic product component was revised up to 3.2% from 2.8%.

The Chicago PMI pounded into below-50 negative territory in February, falling from 59.4 to 45.8. Monday, we’ll see if the Chicago PMI presages a national decline in the PMI.

The University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment index rose 1.8 points in February, to 95.4.

The National Association of Realtors’ pending home sales index rose 1.7% in January to a moderately strong 104.2.


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If you haven’t figured it out yet, it is all about power and control – over you and your life

This is Hillary Clinton, who would love to be your next president, talking about the power grab over the internet by the FCC and Obama administration. She’s fine with it:

“For the FCC to do what they want to do, to try to create net neutrality as the norm, they have to have a hook to hang it on,” Clinton said. She said it’s the only hook the FCC’s got. But that she’d vote for regulating the Internet.

And despite her husband’s administration not taking such action, Clinton suggested the Internet had developed in such a way that something needed to be changed.

“I would vote for net neutrality, because as I understand it, it’s Title II with a lot of changes within it, in order to avoid the worst of the utility regulation,” Hillary Clinton said.

She said President Obama was “right” on the issue.

“It’s a foot in the door, it’s a value statement, I think the president is right to be upfront and out front on that.”

“It’s a foot in the door …”.

To understand her and the left’s mindset, that’s really all of the quote you need to read and understand.  The exponential expansion of government power with her and her ilk at the helm.

A pretend problem (that no one was complaining about) and the usual solution (of which 61% disapprove according to the most recent poll I’ve seen).  I.e. more government, more rules, more power and more powerbrokering.  It’s another beachhead on the sands of freedom.  An unelected commission just took over one of the largest and most innovative entrepreneurial engines we’ve ever seen and has decided to impose 20th century utility regulations on it by fiat.

And the gutless GOP Congress?  Well, just like immigration, DHS, and ObamaCare … they’ll talk about it, stick their fingers in the air, monitor a hostile press and in the end … well, look where we are and figure it out for yourself.

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 26 Feb 15

Falling energy prices sent the Consumer Price index down -0.7% in January, while prices less food and energy fell -0.2%. On a year-over-year basis, the CPI rose 0.2% overall, while the core rate rose 1.6%.

Durable goods orders rose 2.8% in January, mainly on civilian aircraft orders, as orders less transportation rose 0.3%. On a year-over-year basis, orders are up 5.4% overall, while non-transportation orders are up 4.5%.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) House Price Index rose 0.8% in December, which is 5.4% higher on a year-over-year basis.

Initial weekly jobless claims rose 31,000 to a 313,000. The 4-week average rose 11,500 to 294,500. Continuing claims fell 21,000 to 2.401 million.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index fell -1.9 points to 42.7 in the latest week.

The Fed’s balance sheet fell $-10.1 billion last week, with total assets of $4.487 trillion. Reserve bank credit fell $-14.5 billion.

The Fed reports that M2 money supply rose by $29.0 billion in the latest week.


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fell 21,000 to 2.401

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If you can’t ban the gun, ban the ammo

That’s the apparent intent of a BATFE proposal as it applies to 5.56 ammunition.  The left, for years, has been trying to ban “assault weapons”, which are, essentially dressed up semi-automatic rifles.  Assault weapons, as you might imagine are capable of fully automatic fire.  Such weapons are already illegal without a very difficult to get permit.

Nevertheless, it is a long cherished dream of the left to implement gun control, because, well the key word is the second one – control.

So, having been absolutely and totally rejected when they tried to impose such laws, they’re decided to take what Marie Harf would surely characterize as “a more nuanced approach“.

As promised, President Obama is using executive actions to impose gun control on the nation, targeting the top-selling rifle in the country, the AR-15 style semi-automatic, with a ban on one of the most-used AR bullets by sportsmen and target shooters.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives this month revealed that it is proposing to put the ban on 5.56 mm ammo on a fast track, immediately driving up the price of the bullets and prompting retailers, including the huge outdoors company Cabela’s, to urge sportsmen to urge Congress to stop the president.

The pitch:

At issue is so-called “armor-piercing” ammunition, an exemption for those bullets mostly used for sport by AR-15 owners, and the recent popularity of pistol-style ARs that use the ammo.

The inexpensive 5.56 M885 ammo, commonly called green tips, have been exempt for years, as have higher-caliber ammunition that also easily pierces the type of soft armor worn by police, because it’s mostly used by target shooters, not criminals. The agency proposes to reclassify it as armor-piercing and not exempt.

But now BATFE says that since the bullets can be used in semi-automatic handguns they pose a threat to police and must be banned from production, sale and use. But, as Goodlatte noted, the agency offered no proof. Federal agencies will still be allowed to buy the ammo.

And, according the the article, there is no proof to provide.  None exists.

Of course, the AR15 is one of America’s most popular weapons and hundreds of thousands of them, if not millions are in the hands of Americans.  Certainly not a hard weapon for a criminal to get and use on police. However, they rarely do.  They tend to eschew small caliber arms for those which have a bigger punch in a handgun.

So, logically, that makes little if any sense.  As for the armor piercing capability, while I’m sympathetic to the point, a little proof of it being a problem would be helpful.  To this point, everything I’ve read says it hasn’t been a problem to this point.

“This round is amongst the most commonly used in the most popular rifle design in America, the AR-15. Millions upon millions of M855 rounds have been sold and used in the U.S., yet ATF has not even alleged — much less offered evidence — that even one such round has ever been fired from a handgun at a police officer,” said Goodlatte’s letter.

Even some police don’t buy the administration’s claim. “Criminals aren’t going to go out and buy a $1,000 AR pistol,” Brent Ball, owner of 417 Guns in Springfield, Mo., and a 17-year veteran police officer told the Springfield News-Leader. “As a police officer I’m not worried about AR pistols because you can see them. It’s the small gun in a guy’s hand you can’t see that kills you.”

Another manufactured “crisis” and another “solution” which involves government using its coerscive power to ban something that a particular political ideology finds odious – beside you being free, that is.  And, of course, it opens the door to more invented problems solved by more bans.

This is called “democracy”.  One side gets enough votes to seize power and then they force their ideology on you – if not by legislative means, then by executive action.  The document that is supposed to protect your freedom from government has been declared null and void.  Your freedoms?  Well, let’s just say that they’re up for interpretation depending on which faction is in power.   But what is for sure is they’re eroded and will continue to erode under this system of politics.  Government gets larger and more intrusive and as it does, it squeezes out your freedoms in the name of the “greater good”, or “for the good of police” or “the children” or whatever bit of gimcrackery they can use to attract enough votes.

Your freedom suffers the consequences.

~McQ

 

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Economic Statistics for 25 Feb 15

The MBA reports that mortgage applications fell -3.5% last week, with purchases up 5.0%, but refis down -8.0%.

New home sales were little changed in January, at a better-than-expected 481,000 annual rate, nearly unchanged from December’s big jump of 8.1% to 482,000. Price concessions may have helped sales, as the median sales price fell 2.6% to $294,000. 


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The bad, the worse and the ugly

A couple of economic notes and an environmental question.

On the econ side, unemployment.  The Mercatus Center explains our current unemployment situation and why the “official number” is a feel-good fantasy:

Alt-unempl-resize-websiteIn case you missed it, the real unemployment rate is in the 11% range.  Also note that before the recession, we were at around 9%.  We’re certainly doing better but why they continue to publish misleading numbers on the unemployment front is a mystery … oh, politics.  Never mind.

It’s better to be lied to and feel good about it than to know the truth.

Also, as a followup, the $15 minimum wage in SF and Seattle continues to take victims.  While neither has fully implemented the wage at present, its enough to push business owners into making decisions which are unlikely the intended consequence of the wage raise. We told you about Borderland Books in SF.   Here’s an example from Seattle:

Cascade Designs, an outdoor recreational gear manufacturing company based in Seattle, announced it is moving 100 jobs (20% of the workforce) later this year to a new plant it is leasing near Reno, Nevada. The company has offered some employees positions in Reno, but others must reapply.

Founder John Burroughs and Vice Chair David Burroughs blamed Seattle’s new $15 minimum wage, indicating it “nudged them into action.” According to the owners, Seattle’s new minimum wage would “eventually add up to a few million dollars a year.”

Once established in Reno, you may see further moves.  And:

The San Francisco Eater, a local publication following the city’s restaurant scene, predicts that the impact of the $15 minimum will likely lead many restaurants to close their doors this year. Abbot’s Cellar and Luna Park, popular locally owned restaurants, already made the decision to shut down. The owners both blamed the $15 minimum wage.

What’s $15 times zero?

Finally on the enviro front, where’s the outrage?  From CATO:

Nicaragua’s plan to build an Interoceanic Canal that would rival the Panama Canal could be a major environmental disaster if it goes forward. That’s the assessment of Axel Meyer and Jorge Huete-Pérez, two scientists familiar with the project, in a recent article in Nature. Disturbingly, the authors point out,

“No economic or environmental feasibility studies have yet been revealed to the public. Nicaragua has not solicited its own environmental impact assessment and will rely instead on a study commissioned by the HKND [The Hong Kong-based company that has the concession to build the canal]. The company has no obligation to reveal the results to the Nicaraguan public.”

In recent weeks we have seen similar opinions aired in the Washington Post, Wired, The Economist, and other media. In their article, Meyer and Huete-Pérez explain how the $50-billion project (more than four times Nicaragua’s GDP), would require “The excavation of hundreds of kilometres from coast to coast, traversing Lake Nicaragua, the largest drinking-water reservoir in the region, [and] will destroy around 400,000 hectares of rainforests and wetlands.” So far, the Nicaraguan government has remained mum about the environmental impact of the project. Daniel Ortega, the country’s president, only said last year that “some trees have to be removed.”

Some trees?!  Where are the enviros whackos on this?

Crickets:

Interestingly, despite this potential massive threat to one of the most pristine environmental reservoirs in the Americas, none of the leading international environmental organizations, such as Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth or the Sierra Club, has issued a single statement about the Nicaragua Canal.

We know for a fact that this is not out of lack of interest in Central America. After all, some of these organizations were pretty vocal in their opposition to CAFTA. Why isn’t the Nicaragua Canal proposal commanding the attention of these international environmental groups?

Why?  Because as Insty points out, “commies get a pass” on this sort of thing.

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 24 Feb 15

Redbook reports that last week’s retail sales slowed to 2.8% on a year-ago basis, from the previous week’s 3.2%.

The S&P/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index rose 0.9% in December, with prices up 4.5%, year-over-year.

A strong rebound in new work helped boost to Markit’s PMI Services Flash for February 3 points to a 4-month high of 57.0. 

The Conference Board’s consumer confidence index fell -7.4 points to 96.4 in February.

The Richmond Fed Manufacturing Index shows no change in manufacturing activity in the Mid-Atlantic District, with the index at 0 for February.

The State Street Investor Confidence Index fell -1.5 points in January to 105.2, with weakness centered in Europe as uncertainty about Greece continues.


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