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Economic Statistics for 1 Oct 15

 September motor vehicle sales surged 2.3% to a far better than expected 18.2 million annual rate. 

Challenger reports that announced layoffs reached 58,887 in September, and the YTD number of 493,431 is now higher than all of last year.

The PMI manufacturing index was 53.1 in September, little changed from August.

The ISM Manufacturing index dropped -0.9 points to a barely positive 50.2, the lowest reading since May, 2013.

Construction spending rose 0.7% in August, and is up 13.7% on a year-over-year basis. 

Gallup’s US Payroll to Population rate was unchanged in September at 45.3%.

Initial weekly jobless claims rose 10,000 to 277,000. The 4-week average fell 1,000 to 270,750. Continuing claims fell 23,000 to 2.219 million.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index rose 1.1 points to 43.0 in the latest week.

The Fed’s balance sheet fell $-13.4 billion last week, with total assets of $4.484 trillion. Reserve bank credit fell $-8.5 billion.

The Fed reports that M2 money supply rose by $34.0 billion in the latest week.

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Economic Statistics for 30 Sep 15

The MBA reports that mortgage applications fell -6.7% last week, with purchases down -6.0% and refis down -8.0%.

ADP reports an estimate of 200,000 net new private-sector jobs for September.

The Chicago PMI dropped -5.7 points to 48.7. A reading below 50 indicates a contraction. This is a volatile indicator, however, it is often seen as a predictor of the national PMI, which is due out tomorrow.

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Why the US has lost its presence in the Middle East

As if it wasn’t obvious, Gary Kasparov summarizes it very well in today’s WSJ:

Mr. Obama has already decided to continue his policy of disengagement from the Middle East, and his platitudes about cooperation and the rule of law rang hollow in the U.N.’s General Assembly hall. Of the conflict in Syria, he said, “we must recognize that there cannot be, after so much bloodshed, so much carnage, a return to the prewar status quo.” But every listener was aware that Mr. Obama had no intention of backing his words with action.

Mr. Putin, speaking about an hour later in the same room, included his usual NATO-bashing and obvious lies. “We think it is an enormous mistake,” Mr. Putin said, “to refuse to cooperate with the Syrian government and its armed forces, who are valiantly fighting terrorism face to face.” He spoke of national sovereignty—which is very important to Mr. Putin, unless it’s the sovereignty of Georgia, Ukraine or another place where he wishes to meddle.

In other words, Mr. Obama’s speech was routine because he knows he will not act. Mr. Putin’s speech was routine because he knows he will act anyway.

And that final sentence is the best capsule of the two opposing foreign policies you’re likely to see.  Mr. Obama has always been long on words – that is “talking the talk”.  But he’s almost never bothered to “walk the walk”.  In international politics that’s interpreted as a huge weakness.  Consequently, his lack of action (i.e. backing up his words) has been constantly tested for reaction.  And the reaction has always been … more words (or more “red lines”).

One of the major reasons for the rise of ISIS is the poorly thought out American withdrawal from Iraq after the Obama administration took over.  With the withdrawal came the abandonment of the Sunni minority there that had been key to the Anbar Awakening that had helped make the surge a success and stabilize Iraq.  ISIS was a direct result of that abandonment.  One of the key questions asked by Sunni leaders to American commanders before they committed to the Awakening was, “are you going to stay”.  Obama’s policy put “lie” to their promises.  Now, after failing to act when ISIS first rose and trying to blame others for the rise, the administration wants a part in the defeat of ISIS (which, by the way, will have to be much more of an effort that an occasional air strike, if it is to succeed).

But there’s this “words over action” problem that Obama suffers from that certainly erodes any confidence in the viability of any US involvement.  In international politics, action speaks louder than words and Mr. Putin is and has taken action.  Whether or not you agree with his action or want to see Russia involved in the Middle East isn’t the point.  The point we should all understand is the weak and indecisive Middle Eastern policy that this administration has pursued has handed over it’s predominant role in the region with barely a whimper.  Putin hasn’t forced his way through the door there.  The US has willingly opened it and all but welcomed him in.

Kasparov has a brutal conclusion which I find hard to fault:

Mr. Putin didn’t say anything new at the U.N., because he didn’t need to. He knows that he has concrete assets that are more effective than mere words. He has tanks in Ukraine, jet fighters in Syria, and Barack Obama in the White House.



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What happens when you let in the barbarians

The whole society felt that it was open-minded and objective. The mantra was “Diversity is good!”, and so they were diverse. They were tolerant. They were open-minded, even to concepts and philosophies that they felt were self-evidently false and dangerous. Marketplace of ideas, and all that.

So they accepted that the society had to admit barbarians – those whose ideas were contrary to the founding principles set down for the running of the society.

But then they encountered a problem. The barbarians agitated for more barbarians in the society. They pointed to how many barbarians there were in other parts of the world, and demanded more voice for barbarians.

No matter how many barbarians were let in, and no matter what accommodation was made for them, the barbarians always wanted more.

Eventually, inevitably, some parts of the society were controlled by barbarians. And, wherever that happened, the only new people admitted to that part of the society – were more barbarians. They excluded the original members. They didn’t care about tolerance or open-mindedness. All that mattered to them was promotion of their philosophy, their influence, their control.

The barbarians thought they were upstanding moral people, doing the right thing. It was obvious to them that their worldview was *right*, and those fuddy-duddies they replaced were wrong. So they had no doubts about their mission.

At times, they pretended to respect the older ways. They still didn’t control everything, and they didn’t want to arouse sufficient animosity to threaten their control. So they lied about their motives and their own tolerance. They carried out symbolic actions to reassure the gullible that they were just part of the vigorous back and forth of a free society.

But, whenever they had enough control, or whenever the stakes were high enough, they viciously enforced promotion of their own agenda. Accusations of partisanship, unfairness, or rule-breaking were brushed off, laughed off, or, if necessary, viciously counter-attacked to send a message to those who would threaten their dominance over the society.

Eventually, they wormed their way into the most important institutions of the society. Parts of it that had been founded on tolerance and openness were taken over, and transformed into citadels of rigid dogmatism. No one was admitted to thoses institutions unless they swore fealty to the fundamental rightness of the barbarians’ creed.

To ensure this end, one of the first parts of society taken over by the barbarians was the educational institutions that trained young people in becoming part of the society. They indoctrinated them all into accepting the tenets of barbarian thought with unquestioning faith.

It took a century, but at the end, only a few redoubts of the old open, tolerant society remained. The society was run by barbarians, for the promotion and benefit of barbarians in and outside the society. Anyone who didn’t accept the barbarian faith was ruthlessly attacked.

And that’s my recounting of how the society we call “the press” was taken over by the barbarian left.*

(*) This rambling was prompted by an article on the Wall Street Journal’s editoral page this morning. A barbarian, partisan leftist named William A. Galston blithely asserted that limited government types in the GOP “…want to get their own way without yielding an inch…”. This is a bald-faced lie. His entire column is a typical attempt to sound reasonable and moderate to gullible people while spewing unadulterated propaganda for the left. He is using the same techniques discussed in my post on “compromise” from a few years ago, so there’s no need for me to recount the details. He’s nothing more than a barbarian leftist pretending to be a tolerant, objective guy, carefully avoiding letting the readers know that he worked for Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and Walter Mondale, that he is a member of the academic left teaching “public policy” and is associated with the left-leaning Brookings Institute. He’s a dishonest shill, and it says a lot about the Journal that they even gave him a platform.

I’ve watched one media entity after another sucked into the barbaric left – US News and World Report, the Economist, and the WSJ have all moved left over the years I’ve been reading them. The only silver lining is that, when the barbarians take over, eventually the society is destroyed, and the legacy media is well into self-immolation.

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Economic Statistics for 29 Sep 15

Redbook reports that last week’s retail sales were unchanged from the previous week at a poor 0.9% on a year-ago basis.

The S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Index fell -0.2% in July, but is still up 5.0% on a year-over-year basis.

The Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence index for September rose 1.5 points to 103.0.

The State Street Investor Confidence Index rose 7.9 points in September, to a strong 116.6.

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Biden – the best hope for Democrats?

According to TIME, he is indeed!

If Vice President Joe Biden does decide to make a run for the presidency in 2016 he’ll start off the race as the most popular candidate in either party, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll out Tuesday

In the poll 40 percent of Americans say they have a positive impression of the Vice President and former Senator from Delaware, while just 28 percent have a negative impression—an enviable differential of +12 points. That outperforms Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders (+10) and Sec. of State Hillary Clinton (-8), as well as leading GOP candidates Ben Carson (+8), Carly Florin (+7) and Donald Trump (-33). 

Were the election held today, Biden would outperform both leading Democrats in head to head matches with leading Republicans. The Vice President loses, however, in hypothetical matches with both leading Democrats, winning 17 percent to Sanders’ 35 percent and Clinton’s 42 percent.

TIME goes on to say Biden’s popularity can probably be attributed to the fact he hasn’t announced and hasn’t been subject to the serious scrutiny that candidates receive.

You think?!

But it is telling that someone who isn’t in the running (but has broadly hinted at doing so), and has a reputation of a gaff-o-matic (as well as being a bit of a intellectual lightweight) could command the numbers he does now, given the “inevitable” one’s presence in the race (of course, much the same can be said about Trump).

As we all can imagine, Biden’s “honeymoon” would end soon upon his announcement as a candidate.  He provides a “target rich” opportunity for opponents and detractors alike.  And in an election cycle in which the voters are clearly expressing their dislike of establishment candidates, Biden is the ultimate insider.

But it would make the Democratic side of the election much more interesting if he was to announce.  And certainly, much more entertaining!


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Economic Statistics for 28 Sep 15

Personal income rose 0.3% in August, while spending rose 0.4%. The PCE Price index was unchanged overall, but up 0.1% at the core.

The Pending Home Sales Index fell a disappointing -1.4% in August, to 109.4.

The Dallas Fed Manufacturing survey rose 6.3 points, but remains deeply negative,  along with all the other Fed indicators, at -9.5.

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Pact with Iraq, Syria, Russia and Iran announced prior to UN talks with Putin

If ever there was proof of Russia’s intentions in the Middle East, it can be seen in a just announced 4 nation pact there:

Iraq joined Russia, Iran and Syria in a new agreement to strengthen cooperation against extremist group Islamic State, extending the Kremlin’s reach in the Middle East as it rivals Washington for influence.


Iraq’s Defense Ministry said Sunday that the country had signed an intelligence and security cooperation pact with Russia, Iran and Syria, pledging to cooperate in collecting information about Islamic State. The deal effectively formalizes years of military collaboration among the four nations, which have intermittently been allies since the 1980s.

Wonderful.  And who, pray, is on the outside looking in and surprised by the pact?

U.S. officials appeared to be taken by surprise by the announcement of the four-nation security pact and said they were still struggling to understand Mr. Putin’s long-term strategy for the region. Mr. Kerry, they said, kept open the possibility that the White House and Kremlin could coordinate, if not cooperate, in fighting Islamic State.

“We’re just at the beginning of trying to understand what the Russians’ intentions are in Syria, in Iraq, and to try to see if there are mutually beneficial ways forward here,” said a senior U.S. official who attended the Kerry-Lavrov meeting. “We’ve got a long way to go in that conversation.”

“Just in the beginning of trying to understand”?  Translation: “we’ve been caught flat-footed and hadn’t a clue that high-level talks between Russia and Iraq were happening”.  While Kerry may feel they have a “long way to go in that conversation,” Russia has obviously moved beyond the talking stage and is in the “taking action” stage.  The intent seems to be obvious to everyone but our State Department.

ISIS is the catalyst, or at least the excuse, for this alliance.  And most experts agree ISIS is mostly a result of the poor Iraq policy followed by the US after the Obama administration took over.  What Iraq is signaling here is no confidence in the US and with the pact, seems satisfied to let the US remain outside, looking in.  Why?  Well, take for example the fact that Russia sold fighter aircraft to Iraq last year to boost its ability to fight ISIS.  Where was the US?  It had delayed a promised shipment over political considerations.  Iraq is now negotiating with Moscow to buy more advanced weaponry.

Additionally, the Obama administration and the Russians and Iranians are at cross-purposes when it comes to Syria.  Both Russia and Iran have been very clear they support the Assad regime and hope to strengthen it.  The Obama administration has repeatedly said that Assad has to go.

What basis there are for talks between Russia and the US (at the UN this week) remain a mystery.  But what is very clear with the announcement of this pact just prior to those talks is the US enters them with an incredibly weak hand.  It has very little to use for leverage to get its way.  But one thing that can be determined for sure –  this administration’s past actions, or lack thereof, have put the US in this weak and unenviable diplomatic position.

Outfoxed again.  How “surprising”.


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