Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

This and that

Apparently the Orange County school district (Florida/Orlando) has plans to  monitor students’ social media messages in an effort to curb cyberbullying, crime on campus and suicide.  Because, you know, that’s what they’re there for:

Orange County Public Schools announced Thursday that it has acquired software to monitor social media “to proactively prevent, intervene and (watch) situations that may impact students and staff.”  The district has obtained an annual license with SnapTrends, software that monitors Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram.

The district said it plans to use the software to conduct routine monitoring for the purposes of prevention or early intervention of potential issues in which students or staff could be at risk to themselves or to others.

OCPS said the company will assist district law enforcement and security personnel in monitoring publicly available social media communications that are relevant to school operations and personnel.

“This is a tool that gives the district intelligence into a situation that could possibly prevent something more serious from happening,” Orange County Public Schools Senior Director of Safety and Security Doug Tripp said.

“Safety in and around school campuses is the top priority for Orange County school leaders,” OCPS said in a news release.  “Recognizing social media is a major communication system, the district has acquired social media monitoring software.”

School officials acknowledge the online snooping might raise privacy questions. But board member Linda Kobert said the district is taking advantage of “new tools to protect our children.”

Might raise some privacy questions?  Well, social media are indeed made up of public postings.  But let me ask you a more important question?  Is this a role for a school district?  Or is this another example of a creeping bureaucratic mission?  And what will the school district do with any information it gleans from its “monitoring?”

Note again, that we have a public official putting “safety” over supposed privacy concerns.  Oh, and btw, do you suppose that potential or real cyber-bullies don’t know how to set up fake accounts?  And is this a good use of school funds with the literacy problems most public school districts face?  The questions are endless.

Some people feel they have to take everything to an extreme.  Why, I’m not sure.  And I’m also pretty sure I think this particular extreme is both unnecessary and provocative.  If there’s trouble, will it rise to the level of “incitement”?

Jon Ritzheimer is a former Marine, and he has no middle ground when it comes to Islam.

A T-shirt he wears pretty much says it all: “F— Islam.”

Ritzheimer is the organizer of Friday’s “Freedom of Speech Rally” outside the Islamic Community Center in Phoenix.

It’s the mosque that Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofiattended for a time. They’re the men who drove from Arizona to a Dallas suburb to shoot up a Prophet Mohammed cartoon contest there. Both were killed by police early this month.

Many Muslims consider any depiction of Mohammed to be blasphemous and banned by the Islamic holy book, the Quran.

“This is in response to the recent attack in Texas where 2 armed terrorist(s), with ties to ISIS, attempted Jihad,” the event’s Facebook page said.

Some 600 people say they’re attending.

It is one thing to hold an event in another part of the state and end up being attacked by people/terrorists who chose to travel there and do so.  It is another thing to go to a group’s home and intentionally antagonize and invite an attack by showing up uninvited and attempting to provoke a response.

Other reports have said the group will be heavily armed, quoting Ritzheimer as saying they are going to exercise their First Amendment rights and back them with their Second Amendment rights.

I support both rights, but I think this is foolish, stupid and deliberately antagonistic as well as being unnecessary.  The point has been made.  It will continue to be made.  But this is not the right way to make it again.

Nice economic growth we had in the first quarter, no?  Apparently adjustments have seen the reported GDP numbers fall from 0.2 growth to a 0.7 contraction.  Economists want to argue that its just the way the government computes this stuff:

Economists, however, caution against reading too much into the slump in output. They argue the GDP figure for the first quarter was held down by a confluence of temporary factors, including a problem with the model the government uses to smooth the data for seasonal fluctuations.

Economists, including those at the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank, have cast doubts on the accuracy of GDP estimates for the first quarter, which have tended to show weakness over the last several years.

They argued the so-called seasonal adjustment is not fully stripping out seasonal patterns, leaving “residual” seasonality. The government said last week it was aware of the potential problem and was working to minimize it.

I’m sorry, boys and girls, since when is 0.2 growth in any quarter “good news”.  Its sort of like the unemployment figures.  Mostly fudged.  And apparently that’s precisely what the government will now attempt to do to show better numbers.  These bad numbers just don’t help the government tell you how well it’s doing, do they?  What’s this, our 6th or 7th “summer of recovery?”

Excellent Kevin D. Williamson article about the old and discredited ideas of Bernie Sanders, which he ends with a caution that we should all understand by now:

Senator Sanders may insist on living in the dark ages, and his view is not without its partisans. But those views are crude, they are backward, and they are, objectively speaking, incorrect about the way the economic world works. They are barely a step above superstition, and they merit consideration for only one reason: “Voters — all they gotta be is eighteen.”

And if they’re illegal, the Democrats say, “meh”.

Meanwhile in liberal bastions, things are just going swimmingly.  Detroit:

No getting around it: Filling up your gas tank at certain stations in Detroit can be hazardous to your health.

Police Chief James Craig said at a Tuesday media conference that he’d avoid getting gas late at night in the city unless he had to, and he urged residents to be careful at the pump, according to Tom Greenwood of The Detroit News.

“I wouldn’t, but if I had to, I would,” Craig said. “But I’d probably be very aware of my surroundings.”

Craig’s commented after a driver was killed early Monday evening while trying to flee a carjacking attempt at an east-side gas station.

A wasteland run by Democrats for decades.

Baltimore:

Baltimore was seeing a slight rise in homicides this year even before Gray’s death April 19. But the 38 homicides so far in May is a major spike, after 22 in April, 15 in March, 13 in February and 23 in January.

With one weekend still to go, May 2015 is already the deadliest month in 15 years, surpassing the November 1999 total of 36.

Ten of May’s homicides happened in the Western District, which has had as many homicides in the first five months of this year as it did all of last year.

Non-fatal shootings are spiking as well – 91 so far in May, 58 of them in the Western District.

The mayor said her office is “examining” the relationship between the homicide spike and the dwindling arrest rate.

I’m sure they are “examining” it – and they’ll likely conclude its a matter of racism at some level.  While she is “examining” the relationship, she should ponder the statistic that says child victims of shootings are up 500% this year.  Well done!

NYC:

While overall crime is down almost seven percent, shootings are up 7.1 percent so far this year. Murders are up 15.3 percent. Even with the increase, it’s a much lower number than the 1980s and 1990s.

The mayor blames it on gangs.  Why have gangs again become a problem?

Of course each of these cities can look to the midwest and say, “hey, at least we’re not Chicago.”

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 28 May 15

The MBA reports that mortgage applications fell -1.6% last week, with purchases up 1.0% and refis down -4.0%.

Redbook reports that last week’s retail sales growth continued to fall, down  to 1.6% on a year-ago basis, from the previous week’s 1.8%.

Initial weekly jobless claims rose 7,000 to 282,000. The 4-week average rose 5,000 to 271,500. Continuing claims rose 11,000 to 2.222 million.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index continues to fall, down -1.5 points to 40.9 in the latest week.

The Pending Home Sales Index jumped an unexpectedly large 3.4% to 112.4. The index is up 14.0% on a year-over-year basis.

The Fed’s balance sheet fell $-16.4 billion last week, with total assets of $4.464 trillion. Reserve bank credit fell $-5.0 billion.

The Fed reports that M2 money supply rose by $27.0 billion in the latest week.


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L.A. Unions: “It’s good for thee, but not me”

You can’t make this stuff up.  It is a story that the Onion should be writing, but instead, we see it in the LA Times.  You’ve read about the new $15 minimum wage the city is imposing on employers?  And  you’ve also likely heard that unions were big backers of its imposition.

Well, now that the new minimum wage has passed, guess who wants an exemption?

Labor leaders, who were among the strongest supporters of the citywide minimum wage increase approved last week by the Los Angeles City Council, are advocating last-minute changes to the law that could create an exemption for companies with unionized workforces.

The push to include an exception to the mandated wage increase for companies that let their employees collectively bargain was the latest unexpected detour as the city nears approval of its landmark legislation to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2020.

For much of the past eight months, labor activists have argued against special considerations for business owners, such as restaurateurs, who said they would have trouble complying with the mandated pay increase.

But Rusty Hicks, who heads the county Federation of Labor and helps lead the Raise the Wage coalition, said Tuesday night that companies with workers represented by unions should have leeway to negotiate a wage below that mandated by the law.

Have you got that last part?  Unions should have the leeway to negotiate a wage below the mandated minimum wage.

Why?

“With a collective bargaining agreement, a business owner and the employees negotiate an agreement that works for them both. The agreement allows each party to prioritize what is important to them,” Hicks said in a statement. “This provision gives the parties the option, the freedom, to negotiate that agreement. And that is a good thing.”

Apparently only unions can do that sort of negotiation.  The other dumb proles out there in fast food land, for instance, need the benevolent hand of government to mandate them out of a job.

The irony of that union boob’s statement is classic.  Other than the minimum wage law, what would stand in the way of any business and any employee from doing that routinely on their own? Oh, yeah, nothing … well, except that absurd law, now.

But you have to hand it too the unions for having the absolute big brass ones to put this out there.  They recognize the win-win nature of those sorts of negotiations – negotiations that in a free country would be unhampered by government interference.  But they want to limit them … to themselves.

They also want a little political payback and a decided advantage when competing against non-unionized companies who might bid on jobs they want.

Cronyism?

Big. Brassy. Bold.

And they don’t even try to hide it anymore.

~McQ

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Someone, anyone, give Bernie Sanders an economics book

I’ve been reading about Socialist Senator Bernie Sanders announcing for the presidency.  In reality all he’s likely to do is make Hillary seem “moderate” in comparison.

I guess what I don’t understand is why someone like Sanders is even taken seriously.  Read Ed Driscoll at Washington Monthly’s “Political Animal“:

And despite Clinton’s great strength, [Sanders is] also perhaps the most credible seriously lefty candidate in living memory. He’s no Dennis Kucinich, doomed to become a figure of fun.

Really?  When have any “lefty candidates” of his pedigree been “credible”?  Socialism?  It’s now credible?  Where?

Venezuela’s bolivar is collapsing. And as night follows day, Venezuela’s annual implied inflation rate is soaring. Last week, the annual inflation rate broke through the 500% level. It now stands at 510%.

That’s just the latest example.  And that’s just the tip of the iceberg there.  The Bolivar is now more valuable as toilet paper (something that is impossible to get in the Socialist paradise of Venezuela) than money.

And now this “credible” socialist wants to take us down the very same path:

In his campaign “launch” yesterday, Sen. Bernie Sanders presented one of the most succinct, easy-to-summarize policy agendas we’ve seen from a presidential candidate in a long time. More progressive taxes. Breaking up the big banks. A constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. A carbon tax. A single-payer health care system. Expanding Social Security. Universal pre-k. Free college tuition. A trillion-dollar infrastructure program. A $15 an hour minimum wage. And a reversal of international economic policies that promote/allow job exports.

“Free” health care, “free” tuition, “free” pre-k, $15 minimum wage, more taxes to include a carbon tax, anti-capitalist laws to cripple the producers and spending of a trillion dollars on “infrastructure” (didn’t we just do that a few years ago?).  This is “credible?”  He is “credible?”  In what universe?

Would someone please, please send Sen. Sanders a freaking book on economics?

Oh, and Ed Driscoll too.

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 26 May 15

Declining aircraft sales pushed April durable goods orders down -0.5%, but ex-transportation orders rose 0.5%.

The FHFA house price index rose a lower-than-expected 0.3% in March. The index is up 5.2% on a year-over-year basis.

In contrast to FHFA, the S&P Case-Shiller Home Price index rose 1.0% in March, but is still at a similar 5.0% year-on-year gain. 

The May PMI Services Index flash from Markit fell -1.4 points from April’s final, coming in at 56.4.

New home sales bounced back strongly in April, with a 6.8% increase to a 517,000 annual rate.

The Conference Board’s consumer confidence index rose 0.2 points to 95.4 in May.

The Richmond Fed Manufacturing Index is still soft, but rose into positive territory in May, rising from -3 to 1.

The State Street Investor Confidence Index rose 6. points in May, to 120.8.

The Dallas Fed Manufacturing Survey continued to decline in May, falling -6.8 points to -20.8, while the production index fell from -4.7 to -13.5.


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Amnesty injunction upheld

A win for the rule of law:

A federal appeals court upheld an injunction against President Obama’s new deportation in a ruling Tuesday that marks the second major legal setback for an administration that had insisted its actions were legal.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled in favor of Texas, which had sued to stop the amnesty, on all key points, finding that Mr. Obama’s amnesty likely broke the law governing how big policies are to be written.

“The public interest favors maintenance of the injunction,” the judges wrote in the majority opinion.

So, uh, “no” to rule by executive order seem pretty apparent.  Also, the court noted those who opposed, or at least the one dissenting judge did:

“The political nature of this dispute is clear from the names on the briefs: hundreds of mayors, police chiefs, sheriffs, attorneys general, governors, and state legislators—not to mention 185 members of Congress, 15 states and the District of Columbia on the one hand, and 113 members of Congress and 26 states on the other,” he wrote.

Or, just about everyone else in America.

The dissenting justice felt it should be left between the President and Congress.

Well, now it is.

Before it was decree by executive order. So, in essence, the dissenting justice got what he wanted, even though he apparently doesn’t realize it.

~McQ

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Boston U, Grundy hire update

What a debacle the hire of Saida Grundy has been for Boston U.  8 years ago, Ms. Grundy apparently plead down two felony accounts for a misdemeanor in an act of irrational jealousy in which she tried to hurt, bully and harass someone she’d never met:

Grundy used the identity of a Virginia woman in a jealous fit over a man in late 2007 to create online accounts in the woman’s name, including one on an adult website for people looking for trysts, according to a police report obtained by the Herald under a Freedom of Information Act request.

Grundy got one year of probation after pleading guilty to malicious use of telecommunication services, a misdemeanor, according to online court records and Dan Dwyer, the court administrator at Washtenaw County Trial Court in Michigan. Two felony charges, identity theft and using a computer to commit a crime, were dismissed.

The cyber harassment took place in December 2007 when Grundy was at the University of Michigan, where she earned a master’s degree in sociology and a doctorate of philosophy in sociology and women’s studies in 2014.

The victim told police in Charlottesville, Va., that someone was creating accounts in her name and posting her personal information online, according to the police report.

A detective traced the suspect, identified as Grundy, to Ann Arbor and reached out to police there.

During an interview with detectives at her home in May 2008, Grundy said she had never met the victim but “this was a jealous thing regarding another man,” according to the police report.

She claims it was a bad decision by a 24 year old.  Yet we saw last week that she’s either not learned a thing or is still prone to bad decisions.  This was highlighted with her bullying a white rape victim on line.

Boston U’s reaction?  “Meh”:

In a statement Wednesday night, Boston University said: “A number of years ago, when she was a student at the University of Michigan, Dr. Grundy made a mistake. She admitted the mistake, accepted the consequences, and brought closure to that case. Eight years later, we do not see any reason to reopen it.”

In other words, character doesn’t matter when it comes to “diversity”.  Diversity always wins out.  Boston U would rather inflict a racist bully on it’s student population than admit it’s made a wrong decision in hiring her.

Oh, and the department she will teach in?

On Monday, BU’s African American Studies faculty posted an online message welcoming Grundy, saying she had been hired after a nationwide search and chosen from over 100 applicants. The post mentioned Grundy’s tweets and said they’ve been “shocked by the number of voicemails left and the hostile emails sent to our office and our individual accounts. … However, most troubling was that among the numerous that were serious expressions of dismay were many vile messages, explicitly racist and obscene, that consider cyber-bullying a substitute for frank discussion and freedom of speech.”

“Physician, heal thyself.”  You’re welcoming a cyber-bully into your bosom, for heaven sake.  You ought to be ashamed.

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 21 May 15

Existing home sales fell -3.3 % in April to a worse-than-expected 5.04 million annual rate, as weakness continues in the housing sector.

The Philadelphia Fed Business Outlook Survey fell -0.8 points in May to 6.7.

The Conference Board’s index of leading economic indicators jumped 0.7% in April, mainly on increases in building permits. Oddly, the jump in permits hasn’t yet shown up as strength in the constructions sector.

The Kansas City Fed Manufacturing Index fell -8 points in May to a deeply negative -13.

The Chicago Fed National Activity Index improved from -0.42 in March to a still-negative -0.15 in April.

May’s flash reading for the PMI manufacturing index fell -0.4 points to a 16-month low of 53.8.

Initial weekly jobless claims rose 10,000 to 274,000. The 4-week average fell 5,500 to 266,250. Continuing claims fell 12,000 to 2.211 million.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index slipped -1.1 points in the May 17 week to 42.4.

The Fed’s balance sheet fell $-20.8 billion last week, with total assets of $4.480 trillion. Reserve bank credit rose $4.0 billion.

The Fed reports that M2 money supply rose by $22.8 billion in the latest week.


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Delusional and desperate

I’m speaking of our POTUS. Yesterday at a commencement ceremony at the Coast Guard Academy, he declared that climate change was the biggest threat to our national security out there.

No. Really.

Even the ever malleable Jeb Bush couldn’t take that:

U.S. Republican Jeb Bush said on Wednesday that the Earth’s climate is changing but that scientific research does not clearly show how much of the change is due to humans and how much is from natural causes. While President Barack Obama and many scientists believe humans are largely to blame for climate change, Bush said the degree of human responsibility is uncertain. The former Florida governor challenged Obama’s determination earlier in the day that climate change is now a threat to U.S. national security.

It’s not just the degree of of change caused by humans in question but the effect of CO2.  But we “deniers” know that.  That and the fact that without a doubt the “evidence” which the alarmist have used has been fudged make any reasoning person “skeptical” of the declared “science”.   Add in the abysmally wrong models as well as the temperatures from the last 17 years and anyone who isn’t a skeptic has blinders on and isn’t interested in science.

But, with Iraq collapsing, Saudi Arabia buying nukes while Iran develops them, Lybia in chaos and a haven for ISIS, Syria imploding, Yemen falling to extremists, Egypt cozying up to Russia who is taking the Ukraine bit by bit and China is challenging us in the South China Sea, global warming climate change isn’t even on the radar screen as far as national security problems go.

No, the cult of climate change is precisely what Bush said it is:

The problem is climate change has been co-opted by the hard-core left and if you don’t march to their beat perfectly then you’re a denier.

And we all know what they want to do with “deniers”, don’t we?

So why are we hearing all this nonsense in the midst of all this chaos in the world?

In his frantic search for something positive for us to remember him by, President Obama has lately turned to “climate change,” casting it in recent weeks as a matter of health, of environmental protection, of international obligation, even as a matter of his daughter’s health. She suffered an asthma attack as a child, and he thinks the changing weather had something to do with it. Nothing has worked so far to persuade the public that everyone is doomed unless the government steps in to change the weather. President Obama is likely to find that manufactured climate hysteria won’t work.

Legacy.  He’s screwed absolutely everything else up during his tenure as president.  This might be his last shot at what he thinks will be a positive legacy.  If implemented, it would likely be just like the other monstrosities he’s now trying to run from.  But he’s going to try.

And reason 2?

With six months to go until the next global climate treaty talks in Paris, environmentalist and former US vice president Al Gore has declared that ‘the future of the world depends’ on their outcome. Lord Nigel Lawson, former energy secretary in Margaret Thatcher’s government, delivers his assessment of the prospects of the world reaching a new climate deal.

Everyone with consciousness knows nothing is going to change when they meet.

Spiegel journalist Axel Bojanowski calls it the “big climate show”. Although big declarations are being made, behind the scenes “creative steps” and “tricks” are the real order of the day. One example of trickery comes from Russia, Bojanowski writes: Although Russia has announced it wants to reduce emissions 25% by 2030 compared to 1990 – this is in fact trickery. Because of the collapse of its industry during the 1990s, the country is emitting only half as much CO2 as it did in 1990. That means with respect to climate targets, Russia intends to emit more CO2 in the future.” And not less! In Paris do expect the signing of a “binding international treaty”, but one that will be chock-full of non-binding requirements. The circus (which no one takes seriously anymore) thus will continue.

But … he can then claim, legacy.  Because it’s not something actually having an effect, it’s the intent that’s important in the post-modern world.  So, as we’ve seen in the past, he’ll talk the talk and consider that to be “action taken”.

Somehow, however, money will migrate from your wallet to the government’s in all this while whatever it is the alarmists want done won’t get one iota closer to happening than before.

It’s all about income redistribution and that’s precisely what will be the outcome to this “national security problem”, just hide and watch.

~McQ

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