Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Economic Statistics for 29 Apr 15

The initial GDP estimate for the 1st Quarter of 2015 was for 0.2% annualized growth, down from an unrevised 2.2% in the 4th Quarter of 2014. The GDP Price index fell -0.1% for the quarter. Exports were a drag on GDP as a strong dollar is inhibiting foreign demand. Business spending (nonresidential fixed investment) contracted in the quarter, while personal spending (personal consumption expenditures) slowed abruptly. Lower demand also caused an unwanted upswing in inventories.

The National Association of Realtors’ Pending Home Sales Index rose 1.1% in March to 108.6.

The MBA reports that mortgage applications fell -2.3% last week, with purchases unchanged, but refis down -4.0%.

The Federal Open Markets Committee left interest rates unchanged today, with a Fed Funds target rate of 0%-0.25%. The FOMC’s statement says growth has “slowed” since the committee last met in March, but view the slowing as temporary, saying that economic activity will expand at a “moderate” pace.


Dale’s social media profiles:
Twitter | Facebook | Google+

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

Why Baltimore?

See Detroit:

Detroit is what Democrats do. The last Republican elected mayor of Detroit took office during the Eisenhower administration. The decay of Detroit is not the inevitable outcome of the decline of the automotive industry: The automotive industry is thriving in the United States — but not in Detroit. It isn’t white flight: The black middle class has left Detroit as fast as it can. The model of Detroit politics is startlingly familiar in its fundamentals, distinguished only by its degree of advancement: Advance the interests of public-sector unions and politically connected business cronies, expand the relative size of the public sector remorselessly — and when opposed, cry “Racism!” When people vote with their feet, cry “Racism!” When the budget just won’t balance, cry “Racism!” Never mind that the current mayor of Detroit is the first non–African American to hold that job since the 1970s, or that, as one Detroit News columnist put it, “black nationalism . . . is now the dominant ideology of the [city] council” — somewhere, there must be a somebody else to blame, preferably: aged, portly, white, male, and Republican. No less a fool than Ed Schultz blamed the straits of this exemplar of Democratic single-party rule on “a lot of Republican policies.” Melissa Harris-Perry, “America’s leading public intellectual,” blames Detroit’s problems on its conservatism and small government, oblivious to the fact that Detroit maintains twice as many city employees per resident as do larger cities such as Fort Worth and Indianapolis, and three times as many as liberal San Jose.

Then, just look at the blue model elsewhere and its track record:

St. Louis has not had a Republican mayor since the 1940s, and in its most recent elections for the board of aldermen there was no Republican in the majority of the contests; the city is overwhelmingly Democratic, effectively a single-party political monopoly from its schools to its police department. Baltimore has seen two Republicans sit in the mayor’s office since the 1920s — and none since the 1960s. Like St. Louis, it is effectively a single-party political monopoly from its schools to its police department. Philadelphia has not elected a Republican mayor since 1948. The last Republican to be elected mayor of Detroit was congratulated on his victory by President Eisenhower. Atlanta, a city so corrupt that its public schools are organized as a criminal conspiracy against its children, last had a Republican mayor in the 19th century. Its municipal elections are officially nonpartisan, but the last Republican to run in Atlanta’s 13th congressional district did not manage to secure even 30 percent of the vote; Atlanta is effectively a single-party political monopoly from its schools to its police department.

But our blamer-in-chief and responsibility dodger par excellence prefers to have you believe that the problem is this particular Congress which happens to be Republican.

Of course, obviously the problems in Baltimore aren’t a recent event, as something that has developed within the last 2 years:

This did not come out of nowhere. While the progressives have been running the show in Baltimore, police commissioner Ed Norris was sent to prison on corruption charges (2004), two detectives were sentenced to 454 years in prison for dealing drugs (2005), an officer was dismissed after being videotaped verbally abusing a 14-year-old and then failing to file a report on his use of force against the same teenager (2011), an officer was been fired for sexually abusing a minor (2014), and the city paid a quarter-million-dollar settlement to a man police illegally arrested for the non-crime of recording them at work with his mobile phone. There’s a good deal more. Does that sound like a disciplined police organization to you?

Then there’s this from a reporter who has lived in Baltimore for 30 years:

Baltimore is not Ferguson and its primary problems are not racial. The mayor, city council president, police chief, top prosecutor, and many other city leaders are black, as is half of Baltimore’s 3,000-person police force. The city has many prominent black churches and a line of black civic leadership extending back to Frederick Douglass.

Yet, the gaping disparities separating the haves and the have nots in Baltimore are as large as they are anywhere. And, as the boys on the street will tell you, black cops can be hell on them, too.

Well, then … if it isn’t “racism” (Al Sharpton, you can stay home) and it isn’t the GOP, what could it possibly be?

Let’s try a little deductive reasoning. What’s left?

~McQ

 

 

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

Economic Statistics for 28 Apr 15

Redbook reports that last week’s retail sales rose to a still-soft 1.4% on a year-ago basis, from the previous week’s 0.8%.

The S&P/Case-Shiller home price index rose 0.9% in February, and is up 5.0% from a year ago.

The Conference Board’s consumer confidence index fell from 101.3 to a much lower than expected 95.2 in April.

The Richmond Fed manufacturing index rose 5 points to a still-negative -3 in April.

The State Street Investor Confidence Index fell -5.2 points in April, but remains strong at 114.3.


Dale’s social media profiles:
Twitter | Facebook | Google+

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

Approaching the cliff or already over it?

Reading over at PJ Media I ran across this by Robert Wargas:

As Baltimore burned, the rest of us tweeted.

The riots followed a weekend in which GoFundMe shut down a fundraising page for a Christian-owned bakery that was hit with a huge fine for refusing to serve a gay wedding. GoFundMe has said its policy precludes raising money “in defense of formal charges of heinous crimes, including violent, hateful, or sexual acts.” The key word here is “hateful”: if you can expand or contract that word at will—which many people in this country can and do—you can accomplish anything.

Every week this country is consumed in a new distended orgy of polarized, mutual hatred, set against the backdrop of outrage mobs, race riots, shuttered businesses, scandals, Twitter-induced career ruination, gleeful smear parties, and partisan hackery.

Admit it: You’ve asked yourself where America is going, and how long it can survive the trip. Admit it.

I admit it.  In fact, we’ve been talking about it for years here.  The fact that it is accelerating comes as no real surprise here.  Nor does it come as a surprise that we have the “leadership”, or lack thereof, in Washington DC from which we currently suffer.

In fact, Wargas points out something that Ace at Ace of Spades was wondering the other day:

[T]he New Normal has prompted Ace of Spades to ask: “Is it time to formally separate America into two or more sovereign nations?”

“No one actually seems happy in this national marriage,” writes Ace. That is sadly true.

Indeed it is.  And it seems, at least to the side that loves liberty, that the anti-liberty faction in winning.

Of course, our own Dale Franks has been suggesting this may happen for years.  It sort of puts you in the same shoes as generations of Christians who’ve looked at what was happening all around them and asked “are we in the “end times” as foretold in the Bible?”

Are we at the edge of seeing this 200 plus year experiment go careening off a cliff?

Who knows?  In my experience, something like this has to get a lot worse than it is for that to happen.  And we have to remember that we’re bombarded daily with, well, what bleeds leads.

Certainly though, bombardment or not, it is clear that we’re not “doing better” as a country in just about any category you can point too.

The question is, as in our last civil war, are there irreconcilable differences?  There certainly were then and it appears there are now.  How does one paper over such differences when neither side seems willing to give?

I’m not so sure “getting better” is possible anymore, or at least not possible before some major rupture once again makes it possible. I hope I’m wrong. I hope I look back at this post in 2020 and laugh at myself. But who honestly thinks they’ll be laughing in 2020?

I’m not so sure either.  However, here’s a little bit of a test to see if there’s even a chance.  From Elizabeth Price Foley over at Insty’s:

LORETTA LYNCH’S FIRST TEST:   She’s sending two DOJ officials to Baltimore to meet with community leaders.  That’s good.  But the real question is:  What will they do and say, once they arrive?  Will they mimic Erick Holder’s DOJ, and prioritize lectures about white privilege and racism?  Or will they provide a voice of calm and reason, and unequivocally condemn the random violence?

Lynch has a chance to break with the embarrassingly biased Holder past and start rebuilding trust in DOJ as a department interested in actual justice (for all).  Will she take it?

Bets anyone?

~McQ

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

Can Hillary weather this latest scandal?

I got a bit of a kick out of a John Fund article that asserted that Hillary’s Democratic backers were getting panicky about Hillary Clinton’s chances amid the current scandals.

Here’s where I got a bit of a laugh:

Democrats privately believe that the Clintons can recover from the e-mail and foundation scandals because it’s unlikely reporters will ever find a “smoking gun” that explicitly links foreign donations with public actions. But Democrats also know that other scandals may soon be unearthed. And if they do, not only will Hillary Clinton prove unable to establish herself as an “authentic” candidate, she also will establish herself as a pro at conducting an “authentic” cover-up.

Seriously?  One more scandal?  A few more scandals?

What IS the magic number?  Please tell us.

Bill Clinton’s speaking fees go up and his speeches just happen to be in countries where the Secretary of State – that’d be Hillary Clinton – can help them get what they want.  The foundation they both are a part of spends 10 to 15% of 500 million dollars on the charities it supposedly is fundraising for.  The woman’s emails when she was Secretary of State are gone – well, except those she chose to have us see.  And her emails about the foundation?

Private and on the same server that she willfully set up in contravention of a well known rule that required her to do her official business on her official email address.

But, you know, there’s no “smoking gun”.

Yeah, if you’re a crack addict with the IQ of a turnip.

These are the Clinton’s though, and there seems to be no end to the number of times this criminal gang is let off the hook.  Laws, you see, are for the little people.

~McQ

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

More stray voltage

Has anyone been following this “raisin taking” case before SCOTUS? It has to do with the government literally taking a portion of a producers crop because they want to keep prices artificially high:

The forced transfer is part of a 1937 program that requires farmers to turn over a large portion of their raisin crop to the government so as to artificially reduce the amount of raisins on the market, and thereby increase the price. Essentially, the scheme is a government-enforced cartel under which producers restrict production so as to inflate prices.

And, of course, you know who loses – consumers. And producers. But note the program’s birthdate – yup, a New Deal bit of nonsense that should have long been trashed. Given how the oral arguments went yesterday before the SCOTUS, it may soon see the dumpster. The government first tried to argue that it really wasn’t a “taking”. That didn’t go well. So:

[Deputy Solicitor General Edwin] Kneedler put most of his emphasis on the argument that there is no taking because the Hornes and other raisin farmers actually benefit from the program that confiscates their raisins. In the words of Justice Antonin Scalia, the government’s argument here is that the Hornes are actually “ingrates” who should be grateful for the government’s largesse. As several justices emphasized, even if the Hornes really do benefit from the confiscation of their property, that does not change the reality that a taking has occurred. The fact that property owners benefit in some way from the taking of their property may affect the level of compensation they are owed. But it does not change the reality that a taking has occurred in the first place. Justice Samuel Alito noted that the government’s logic leads to the conclusion that there is no taking in any situation where the government seizes personal property for purposes that might potentially benefit the owners in some way.

The most important argument, and the one usually overlooked or ignored, is as follows:

If private firms tried to establish a similar program on their own, the government would bust them for a blatant violation of antitrust law.

So why is our government doing it?

The Advice Goddess (Amy Alkon) takes on “trigger warnings” and does a very credible job explaining why they and those who would impose them should be ignored:

I’ve thought this for a while. They are yet another way for people who have done nothing noteworthy to get attention and have unearned power over others.

In fact, she entitles her piece “Trigger Warnings: A Form of Covert Narcissism.”  She also quotes a Kent State professor who “gets it”:

Kent University’s professor of sociology Frank Furedi claims that calls for trigger warnings are a form of “narcissism,” with a student’s desire to assert their own importance acting as more of a factor than the content they are exposed to.

In other words, it’s a form of avoidance they can lay on the person who “triggers” them.

This brings me to my favorite line in the Alkon trigger warning piece:

And as I’ve noted before: If you are so emotionally traumatized by the normal college curriculum, you do belong in an institution, but not one of “higher learning.”

Indeed.

The Climate Change Nazis are just not happy with “liberal democracy” because, you know, it depends on the will of the people instead of the will of the all knowing elite. Some selected passages from a piece by  Mark Triffitt (Lecturer, Public Policy at University of Melbourne), and Travers McLeod, Honorary Fellow in the School of Social and Political Sciences at University of Melbourne:

… Specifically, the failure to tackle climate change speaks to an overall failure of our liberal democratic system…

… Successfully tackling climate change and other big policy challenges depends on making tangible the intangible crisis of liberal democracy.

It means understanding that liberal democracy’s governance machinery – and the static, siloed policy responses generated by such democracies – is no longer fit for purpose.

So, solution? (I bet you can guess):

[D]emocratic powers should be transferred to unelected bureaucrats, who would still somehow be “accountable” to parliament, despite having “staying power” beyond individual political cycles.

Or in their own words:

Granting more decision-making power to institutions independent of the government of the day, but still accountable to parliaments (such as the Parliamentary Budget Office or Infrastructure Australia). This would increase the capacity of policy planning and decision processes to have staying power beyond individual political cycles.

Yes, because when the party in power is the same party that wants whatever the bureaucracy wants, oversight is so exceptional and wonderful and our freedoms are protected to the nth degree – not!   There are closet despots everywhere, and especially among the climate alarmist crowd.

And finally there is the Hill/Billy update, this one concerning a uranium deal with the Russians:

The latest installment in the ongoing saga of shady Clinton Foundation finances is a story involving a deal in which Russians took take greater control of a major U.S. uranium company, Uranium One.

The details are somewhat involved, but the gist is that because the takeover deal involved uranium, a strategic asset, it required approval from then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Around the same time the deal was going through, the Clinton Foundation took millions of dollars in donations from a foundation run by the founder of Uranium One and did not disclose the transaction, in defiance of an arrangement made with the Obama administration to identify Clinton Foundation donors. In addition, Bill Clinton was paid $500,000 by a Russian financial firm linked to the Kremlin for a speech in Moscow as the deal was happening. The New York Times has an extensive report, building on work from Peter Schweizer’s book about the Clinton Foundation’s foreign funding, Clinton Cashhere.

The questions raised by the story are obvious: Did the millions in donations to the Clinton Foundation, and the hundreds of thousands of dollars paid to Bill Clinton for his speech, have any influence on Clinton’s decision as Secretary of State to approve the project?

Seriously?  You have to ask that question?

The reaction to the story from team Clinton, meanwhile, does not exactly inspire confidence that the Clintons have been entirely transparent about what transpired.

For example, Fox News reporters, also drawing from Schweizer’s book, dug into various aspects of the story, and found evidence that officials from Kazakhstan’s state-owned energy company Kazatomprom visited with Bill Clinton at his home in New York to inquire about a possible deal with Westinghouse, which is also involved in the nuclear energy business. When contacted about the meeting by Fox News, a Clinton Foundation spokesperson denied that the meeting had ever happened. But when Fox News produced photos of the meeting, the Clinton spokesperson changed the story and said that it had happened.

In short, Clinton’s spokesperson flatly lied about a meeting Bill Clinton had with foreign officials, and admitted the truth only when presented with evidence to the contrary.

“Flatly lied”.  Or as most would put it, “business as usual”.

~McQ

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

Economic Statistics for 23 Apr 15

Coming after yesterday’s strong existing home sales, new home sales for March were very disappointing, falling sharply by -11.4% to a 481,000 annual rate.

The Markit PMI manufacturing index flash for April fell -1.1 points to 54.2.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index fell -1.2 points to 45.4 in the latest week.

Initial weekly jobless claims rose 1,000 to 295,000. The 4-week average rose 1,750 to 284,500. Continuing claims rose 50,000 to 2.325 million.

The Fed’s balance sheet rose $4.3 billion last week, with total assets of $4.490 trillion. Reserve bank credit fell $-1.4 billion.

The Fed reports that M2 money supply fell by $-40.6 billion in the latest week.


Dale’s social media profiles:
Twitter | Facebook | Google+

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

Stray voltage

So many things, so little time.

-You have to laugh at this one, I don’t care who your are.

In late February, the City University of New York announced that it had tapped Princeton economist and New York Times blogger Paul Krugman for a distinguished professorship at CUNY’s Luxembourg Income Study Center, a research arm devoted to studying income patterns and their effect on inequality.

About that. According to a formal offer letter obtained under New York’s Freedom of Information Law, CUNY intends to pay Krugman $225,000, or $25,000 per month (over two semesters), to “play a modest role in our public events” and “contribute to the build-up” of a new “inequality initiative.” It is not clear, and neither CUNY nor Krugman were able to explain, what “contribute to the build-up” entails.

The left often times seems intent upon removing parody as a means of criticism by becoming parody proof.  And you wonder why tuition continues to spiral out of control?

-Special Snowflakes rule academia anymore, and they’re not fans of free speech. Collective tantrums apparently work. From the inaugural “Disinvitation dinner”, George Will:

“Free speech has never been, in the history of our republic, more comprehensively, aggressively, and dangerously threatened than it is now,” Will, who’s had his fair share of protests, panics, and bans, told the audience.  Today’s attack isn’t just about process, he noted: It’s “an attack on the theory of freedom of speech,” with a belief “that the First Amendment is a mistake.”

All you have to do is watch how speakers who rub the dominant feminist culture on any campus the wrong way are treated:

Witness Christina Hoff Sommers, a well-known author, former philosophy professor, and, most recently, a YouTube star. Sommers, who describes her approach as “equity feminism,” is a refreshing change from mainstream modern feminism, which long ago click-clacked aboard the crazy train, ripped up all return tickets, and then hit the bar in the club car hard — not in a fun way, alas, but rather to weep and mutter various bad words over low-grade apple martini knockoffs garnished with mascara smears. Partnering with the American Enterprise Institute, Sommers has made a splash with her “Factual Feminist” video series, in which she calmly challenges and debunks oft-accepted and frequently absurd feminist talking points.

Bad news for those in the cocoon.  So, instead of being intellectuals and curious, they retreat to their “safe spaces” or ensure that the speaker can’t be heard by themselves or others.

Sommers’ approach, in other words, is straightforward, fact-based, and lucid. But this, as the zealous, easily wounded students at Oberlin College and Georgetown University demonstrated over the past week, simply will not do. Faced with a speaker who thinks outside the box, campus groups lit up in protest. Students taped their mouths shut. Others heckled and jeered Sommers as a “rape apologist.” Still others advertised alternate “safe spaces” for students “traumatized” by a speech.

“The students were so carried away with the idea that I was a threat to their safety,” Sommers told the website Campus Reform, that Oberlin officials “arranged for security guards to escort me to and from the lecture to protect me from the safe spacers.” This sounds sane, if it’s Opposite Day.

What’s a good comparison of the state of places of higher eduction that have enabled such behavior?  Well this seem right to me:

If you’ve ever been to a junior high slumber party, you might recognize the following scenario: In the midst of high jinks and general good times, suddenly one girl will drift off to a corner. Her feelings, somehow, have been hurt. Slowly, a few sympathizers, clear suckers for drama, make their way into her corner. They rub her back, ask why she’s crying, and, even if the answer is absurd, spend the rest of the evening casting baleful looks at the rest of the girls, who are oblivious, living large, sucking down Mountain Dew, and gleefully watching movies their parents would never allow them to watch. (In my case, this was almost always “Dirty Dancing.”)

Cowardice might not be fun, but for some, self-pity — cowardice’s common companion — certainly is. This is especially true if someone else is egging you on. Sadly, huge swaths of today’s college campuses, supposedly pinnacles of higher learning, have morphed into a giant preteen slumber party with an alarming population of sulking corner girls.

Indeed.

-The circus is back in town and the Hill/Billy act is just as tired and old as it used to be.  There’s a new book out pointing to how corrupt these people are … as if you needed a reminder.  The “dead broke” Clintons are multi-millionaires who’ve raised government influence peddling to new and even more corrupt heights.  And then we’re treated to the spectacle of Hillary flying coach and railing against the 1% and CEOs when she makes more money than any of them and her only child is buying a 10 million dollar Manhattan apartment.  Forget about questioning lack of accomplishment as SecState – look at the money the Clinton Foundation raked in while she was in office.  Quite an accomplishment wouldn’t you say?

Oh, and this:

“For three years in a row beginning in 2010, the Clinton Foundation reported to the IRS that it received zero in funds from foreign and U.S. governments, a dramatic fall-off from the tens of millions of dollars in foreign government contributions reported in preceding years. Those entries were errors, according to the foundation: several foreign governments continued to give tens of millions of dollars.”

They just missed it … and, they’ll get away with it too, hide and watch.

-And while you weren’t watching, Erica Holder, er, Loretta Lynch was confirmed as AG by the Republican Senate.

~McQ

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

Buy Dale’s Books!