Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Economic Statistics for 5 Feb 16

The Labor Department reports a lackluster 151,000 net new jobs were created in January, but the unemployment rate fell to 4.9%. 502,000 people entered the labor force, bringing the labor force participation rate up a tick to 62.7%. Average hourly earnings increased by 0.5%, while the average workweek also increased 0.1 hours to 34.6 hours.

The nation’s trade deficit widened in December to $-43.4 billion, as exports continued to weaken by -0.3% while imports increased 0.3%. 

Consumer credit rose a much stronger than expected $21.3 billion in December.


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Stray Voltage

Socialist Venezuela is dying:

The year 2015 was an annus horribilis in Venezuela with a 10 per cent decline in gross domestic product, following a 4 per cent fall in 2014. Inflation reached over 200 per cent. The fiscal deficit ballooned to 20 per cent of GDP, funded mainly by the printing press.

In the free market, the bolivar has lost 92 per cent of its value in the past 24 months, with the dollar costing 150 times the official rate: the largest exchange rate differential ever registered. Shortages and long queues in the shops have made daily life very difficult.

[…]

As bad as these numbers are, 2016 looks dramatically worse. Imports, which had already been compressed by 20 per cent in 2015 to $37bn, would have to fall by over 40 per cent, even if the country stopped servicing its debt.

Add to that the murder rate in Venezuela being the highest in the world (even with strict gun control) and you have a real “worker’s paradise” don’t you? I wonder if the Bernie bots are capable of learning anything from this? Yeah, no chance.

Speaking of Bernie and socialism, how about that red hot debate last night?  Laughed my keister off with this Hillary quote:

Hillary Clinton compensated for her complete lack of likability by falling back on playing the victim. She accused Bernie Sanders of ignoring feminism, black people and gay rights. She sputtered that, “Senator Sanders is the only one who would describe me, a woman running to be president, as exemplifying the establishment.” Somehow a fabulously wealthy woman who is backed by the entire Democratic political establishment isn’t the “establishment” because of her gender.

She had a tough time explaining her ties to Wall Street too, which I found hilarious.  If ever anyone defined “establishment” it would be Clinton.  And the irony of this supposedly “tough woman” playing the victim card shouldn’t be lost on anyone either.

Loved David Corn’s tweet.  He said his 14 year old daughter was watching the Democratic debate and remarked “it’s like watching my grandparents fight”.

Interesting:

Gallup’s analysis of political party affiliation at the state level in 2015 finds that 20 states are solidly Republican or leaning Republican, compared with 14 solidly Democratic or leaning Democratic states. The remaining 16 are competitive. This is the first time in Gallup’s eight years of tracking partisanship by state that there have been more Republican than Democratic states. It also marks a dramatic shift from 2008, when Democratic strength nationally was its greatest in recent decades.

It’s interesting because  I think it identifies a trend and a level of dissatisfaction with the current occupant of the White House.  And if true, I think it spells big trouble for the Democrats in a presidential election year.  And if the unlikable Hillary Clinton gets the nod for the Dems (a woman who has never polled over 45%), unless Trump GOP pick, the GOP wins.  If it ends up being Trump, then the GOP will again snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Speaking of polls, is this indicative of reality or an outlier?

The Democratic race has dramatically tightened, according to a new Quinnipiac University national poll out Friday that shows Hillary Clinton with a razor-thin lead over Bernie Sanders.

Clinton leads Sanders 44 percent to 42 percent, well within the margin of error of the poll, which was conducted after the Iowa caucuses.

[…]

The picture of a neck-and-neck race is a huge change from Quinnipiac’s last national poll conducted Dec. 16-20 that showed Clinton with a massive lead over Sanders, 61 percent to 30 percent. It’s not clear yet whether other post-Iowa polls will also show Sanders surging ahead and catching up to Clinton.

Couple this with the fact that Bernie raised more campaign dough than Clinton in January and it should be setting off alarm bells in Clinton campaign headquarters.  And, in fact, it may explain a more combative Clinton last night.

On the special snowflake/SJW front, you know, those who unilaterally believe they get to decide what is or isn’t okay in today’s culture, it is now racist to wear a toe ring or bangle bracelet:

According to a piece in the totally logical social-justice blog “Everyday Feminism”, it is racist and offensive to wear toe rings or bangle bracelets in almost any situation.

Yep. According to the article’s author, Aarti Olivia, wearing these kinds of jewelry amounts to an appropriation of South Asian culture.  Olivia explains that in her culture, “it has been traditionally expected that married women wear bangles,” and that although that tradition is no longer “imposed upon women,” they do “wear them for religious or festive occasions.”

“In pop culture, you have probably seen the likes of Iggy Azalea and Selena Gomez wear them for music videos and performances,” Olivia writes. And that, she continues, is not okay.

I wonder if she knows that today’s music is mostly played on instruments invented by dead white guys from Western Europe.  So, using her logic, if she plays an instrument (violin, guitar, clarinet, saxophone, piano, etc.) is it “cultural appropriation”?  And if so, shouldn’t she stop right now and apologize?

Or does this nonsense only cut one way?

QOTD:

“If NASCAR embraced electric cars it could change the world…We could convert all of our racecars to electricity — right now — and show the public exactly what electrons can do,”

Yup, and the NASCAR track would be … a strangely quiet place during a race.  Kind of like Bill Nye’s brain.

Have a great weekend.

~McQ

 

 

 

 

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Economic Statistics for 4 Feb 16

Chain stores that are reporting sales results today say January was a weak month, and some are issuing cuts in quarterly forecasts.

Non-farm Productivity sank to an annualized -3.0% decline in the 4th Quarter of 2015, as unit labor costs rose 4.5%.

Factory orders sank a very sharp 2.9% in December following November’s downwardly revised 0.7%. Core capital goods orders fell -4.3%.

The Challenger Job-Cut Report’s layoff count jumped to 75,114 in January, mainly due to Wal-Mart’s announcement of 154 store closures.

The Gallup Good Jobs rate slipped from 45.3% to 44.7% in January.

Initial weekly jobless claims rose 8,000 to 285,000 The 4-week average rose 2,000 to 284,750. Continuing claims fell 18,000 to 2.255 million.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index fell -0.4 points to 44.2 in the latest week.

The Fed’s balance sheet rose $1.2 billion last week, with total assets of $4.484 trillion. Reserve bank credit fell $-6.4 billion.

The Fed reports that M2 money supply rose by $57.9 billion in the latest week.


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You can’t make this stuff up

Guess who said this?

At the end of a get out the vote campaign event in New Hampshire on Wednesday, […] was asked about […] plans for protecting cyber security.

“It is one of the most important challenges the next president is going to face,” […] said.

[…] said that the technology offenses conducted by hostile states have become more advanced. […] named Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea as countries that are just going to accelerate their attacks on the cyber infrastructure of the United States.

“We first have to figure how to create what would be an understanding with these nations that we will not tolerate their cyber theft and their cyber evasiveness, and we certainly would never ever sit still for a cyber attack,” […] said.

No.  Instead we’ll  just put secret material on a private server located in a bathroom somewhere and you can just help yourself.

And yes, it was Hillary Clinton, the irony impaired candidate.

The AP reported that during Clinton’s time at the State Department that it was one of the worst agencies in the federal government at protecting its computer networks. The deteriorating situation continued well into when John Kerry took over.

Incredible.

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 3 Feb 16

The ISM Manufacturing Index slipped by -1.8 points in January to 53.5. The PMI Services Index also slowed, down -1.1 points to 53.2.

The MBA reports that mortgage applications fell -2.6% last week, with purchases down -7.0% and refis up 0.3%.

The ADP Employment Report estimates that 205,000 private sector jobs were created in January.

The Gallup U.S. Job Creation Index fell -1 point to 29 in January.


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Quotes of the day – Climate Change and Science

Actually, we have a few QOTD and most come from Dr. John Cristy who recently gave testimony in a Congressional hearing to detail why satellite-derived temperatures are much more reliable indicators of warming than surface thermometers.  You can read his full testimony here.

The quote I’m referring too, however, goes to the heart of this matter like no other. It gets to the reason so many who are skeptical continue to doubt the validity of  the alarmist’s theory.

“It is a bold strategy in my view to actively promote the output of theoretical climate models while attacking the multiple lines of evidence from observations,” Christy wrote. “Note that none of the observational datasets are perfect and continued scrutiny is healthy, but when multiple, independent groups generate the datasets and then when the results for two completely independent systems (balloons and satellites) agree closely with each other and disagree with the model output, one is left scratching one’s head at the decision to launch an offensive against the data.”

Even more to the point was this:

“Following the scientific method of testing claims against data, we would conclude that the models do not accurately represent at least some of the important processes that impact the climate because they were unable to “predict” what has already occurred. In other words, these models failed at the simple test of telling us “what” has already happened, and thus would not be in a position to give us a confident answer to “what” may happen in the future and “why.” As such, they would be of highly questionable value in determining policy that should depend on a very confident understanding of how the climate system works.”

“Highly questionable value” is an understatement.

Christy

The predictions, as they’ve proven themselves, are useless for determining policy.  They. Are. Wrong! Christy has a number of other charts available at the “full testimony” link, which point out how wildly wrong the climate models are.  They’re not even close.  Meanwhile, the scientists who have based their science in data vs. obviously incorrect models are the one’s that are the one’s under fire, with alarmists going so far as to call for their jailing for disagreeing with them.

Bottom line, it all comes down to the Richard P. Feynman quote that’s been flying around the net lately – “It doesn’t matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn’t matter how smart you are. If it doesn’t agree with experiment, it’s wrong.”  And, as we’ve pointed out, the observable data simply doesn’t support the theory.

Not that it will stop particular ideologically driven politicians from doing what they want to do in this regard:

A few weeks ago, a group of 13 prominent environmental law professors and attorneys released a 91-page report outlining this new approach, which would allow EPA to use existing laws to quickly and efficiently regulate all pollution sources, in all states — not just power plants and cars. The experts concluded, “It could provide one of the most effective and efficient means to address climate change pollution in the United States.”

Or, put another way, one of the largest power grabs in US history and certainly nothing beyond the man in the White House.

But, you know, damn the facts, full ideological speed ahead for him.  It’s never been about science with him, it’s always been about ideology and power.

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 02 Feb 16

Motor vehicle sales moved higher in January, to a 17.6 million annual rate. Domestic sales rose to 14.2 million.

Gallup’s U.S. Economic Confidence Index was unchanged at -11 in January.

Redbook reports that last week’s retail sales growth continued to weaken to 0.8% on a year-ago basis, from the previous week’s 1.0%.


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Iowa

Some impressions.

While Hillary declared herself the winner in Iowa, her “victory” came down to winning 6 out of 6 coin tosses (@WikiLeaks Hillary Wins ‪#‎Iowa‬ over Sanders by ‘winning’ six coin tosses in a row. Odds this can happen randomly is 1 in 64.)  And even doing that, her “win” was a statistical tie (49.8%, Mr. Sanders’s at 49.6%). Or said another way, had Sanders won a couple of the coin flips, he’d be the “winner”.  And don’t forget, Hillary enjoyed a 50 point lead in June.

Hillary’s campaign staff apparently did what they were supposed to do with their ground game.  So why the almost “miss” in Iowa?  Maybe it’s Hillary.

On the GOP side, what can you say?  Pandemonium and hilarity.  Polls out to lunch and missed the final finish by miles.  I loved John Bambeck’s dig: “So all @realDonaldTrump does is win, but runs for President of the US and loses first caucus to a Canadian. ‪#‎SeemsLegit‬

Heh.  But in reality, Iowa essentially sets up a 3 person GOP race – Cruz, Trump and Rubio.  If anything it was a test of candidate viability.  And the down ticket for the GOP has been shown to be about as viable as  … Martin O’Malley.

Trump’s second place finish (barely) leaves a lot of questions to be answered.  Why were the polls so wrong?  Was it smart for him to skip the last debate or did it end up hurting him?  And what about Sarah Palin?

First Sarah Palin endorsed Donald Trump at a time she had negative 11% favorables with the GOP. Then she missed the first event of the day following her endorsement. Then she blamed her son being involved in a domestic incident on Barack Obama’s treatment of veterans, turning off a lot of veterans in the process by suggesting those who came back from overseas were no longer able to control themselves and were not culpable for their actions.

Hmmm.  If Trump thought getting her endorsement was a coup, what does that tell you about his political acumen?

As for Cruz and Rubio, Cruz won with a record turnout.  That was supposed to be a Trump trump.  So now the chattering class is wondering, “is Trump over”?  Well, we’ll see, but my guess is not and I’d also guess we’ll see a Trump that is toned down a bit and a little more careful about what he does or says during the campaign season.  Not that it really matters.  He is what he is and he’ll likely revert to that at some point

As for Cruz, obviously it surprised the establishment GOP.  If Donald Trump weren’t the bête noire of the establishment GOP, Ted Cruz would be.  And Cruz set much lower expectations for himself (as did Marco Rubio) in Iowa.  For Cruz to win it again sends a loud and clear signal to the establishment GOP.  But it must be like a dog whistle to humans, because they never seem to hear it.

Oh, and Jeb Bush?  Pack it in buddy.  You’re done.  And yes, you too are a part of that loud and clear signal.

Finally, what does Iowa mean for the GOP in terms of any significance?  Well, other than narrowing the field to three, not much.  A reminder:

1976- Gerald Ford (lost election)
1980- Bush (lost nomination)
1984- Reagan (unopossed)
1988- Dole (lost nomination)
1992- Bush (unopossed)
1996- Dole (lost election)
2000- Bush
2004- Bush (unopossed)
2008- Huckabee (lost nomination)
2012- Santorum (lost nomination)

So the circus moves on to New Hampshire, where it is likely that Bernie Sanders will bury Hillary Clinton.  To bad it won’t be for good.  And, we’ll see if the GOP has the same outcome as in Iowa.  If so then you can really begin to question Trump’s viability and how deep his appeal reaches.

~McQ

 

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Economic Statistics for 1 Feb 16

Personal income rose 0.3% in December, while consumer spending was unchanged. The PCE Price index fell -0.1%, but was unchanged at the core. On a year-over-year basis, prices rose 0.6% overall, while the core rate was 1.4%.

The PMI Manufacturing index rose 1.2 points in January, to 52.4.

The ISM Manufacturing Index was unchanged in January, at a contractionary 48.2.

Construction spending rose 0.1% in December, held down by weakness in non-residential construction.

The Gallup US Consumer Spending Measure indicates that Americans’ self-reported daily spending fell from $99 to $81 in January.


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That ever changing Clinton email defense may be running out of excuses

Anyone who has ever worked in or around classified material understands how draconian the rules concerning their use are.  If revealed to unfriendly eyes, it could mean lives.  Namely the lives of sources or their handlers.  And, not only that, it would likely give those who oppose us a look at the means and methods by which we gather intelligence.

Hillary Clinton threw that all out the window when she made a decision, at the beginning of her term as Secretary of State, to use a private server located in a bathroom somewhere outside the government’s secure nets.  There was no gradual migration to that server for “convenience” (something she first tried to claim), but instead a very deliberate act and decision to circumvent the restrictions she’d face within such a government net.  Oh, and to be able to dodge accountability.

So then she dropped back to another excuse.  No classified material was ever sent to that server.  When that one blew up, the next excuse was that no material “marked” classified was ever sent.

Here’s the thing, however.  Unless you’re a complete idiot, you know what does or doesn’t fall within the realm of classified … especially if you’re the Secretary of State.  And its not like this was all new to her.  She’d served as a US Senator and been privy to classified material before and was certainly briefed on how to handle it.  One can’t imagine, given the stringent rules surrounding the handling of classified material, that she didn’t receive additional briefings when she took State.

She chose to ignore them all.

And her latest excuse?  Well, Chris Cillizza pretty much declares it dead:

That defense hit a major snag on Friday when the State Department announced that it, too, had found “top secret” information on Clinton’s server — 22 emails across seven separate emails chains. The information, the State Department said, was so secret that those emails would never be released to the public.

The Clintonian response?  Well, it’s classic, you have to say that:

The Clinton team quickly pivoted. “After a process that has been dominated by bureaucratic infighting that has too often played out in public view, the loudest and leakiest participants in this interagency dispute have now prevailed in blocking any release of these emails,” said campaign spokesman Brian Fallon.

Calling for the release of the allegedly top secret emails is a smart gambit by the Clinton folks since it makes them look as if they have nothing to hide while being protected by the near-certainty that the State Department won’t simply change its mind on the release because the Clinton team asked them to.

That’s right, ask for the emails to be released and when they’re not, for obvious reasons, claim someone (VRWC) is trying to smear you.

But what were in those emails? John Schindler says it’s pretty volatile stuff … something anyone would know, markings or not, was very highly classified:

Discussions with Intelligence Community officials have revealed that Ms. Clinton’s “unclassified” emails included Holy Grail items of American espionage such as the true names of Central Intelligence Agency intelligence officers serving overseas under cover. Worse, some of those exposed are serving under non-official cover. NOCs (see this for an explanation of their important role in espionage) are the pointy end of the CIA spear and they are always at risk of exposure – which is what Ms. Clinton’s emails have done.

Not only have these spies had their lives put in serious risk by this, it’s a clear violation of Federal law. The Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982, enacted due to the murder of the CIA’s station chief in Athens after his cover was blown by the left-wing media, makes it a Federal crime to divulge the true identity of any covert operative serving U.S. intelligence if that person has not previous been publicly acknowledged to be working for our spy agencies.

You probably recall  Valerie Plame was a NOC and the stink her supposed exposure brought.   The media was all over that … but this?  Yeah, they’ve mostly been forced to report on it, but not very enthusiastically.

If this is the case, Ms. Clinton has committed a very serious breach of security that is and should be punishable by conviction and jail time.

The problem, as has been stated recently, is she’s a powerful politician … not one of the little people.  And we’re becoming more and more acquainted with how the “law” works now for the powerful among us, aren’t we?

Interesting times.

~McQ

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