Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Economic Statistics for 14-15 Aug 13

I missed yesterday’s stats, since I was building the new site. So, let’s catch up.

The MBA reports that mortgage applications fell -2.7% last week. Purchases were down -1.0% and re-fis fell -4.0%.

July retail sales were unchanged in July. retail sales less autos, and retail sales less autos and gas both rose 0.1%.

The Atlanta Fed’s Business Inflation Expectations survey for July reports businesses expect unit costs to rise 2.0% in the next 12 months.

June business inventories rose 0.4%, but a weaker 0.3% sales increase left the stock-to-sales ratio unchanged at 1.29.

Weekly initial jobless claims rose 21,000 to 311,000. The 4-week average rose 2,250 to 295,750. Continuing claims rose 25,000 to 2.544 million.

Import prices fell -0.2% in July, while export prices were unchanged. On a year-over-year basis, import prices rose 1.0% while export prices rose 0.4%.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index rose for the first time in three weeks, up 0.6 points to 36.8 in the latest week.

The Fed’s balance sheet rose $21.8 billion last week, with total assets of $4.432 trillion. Total reserve bank credit rose by $11.5 billion.

The Fed reports that M2 money supply shrank by $-34.4 billion in the latest week.


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Dither and delay, while ISIS grows stronger and becomes a larger threat

You know you’ve lost respect in the world when the French Foreign Minister calls you out and tells you to do your job:

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has a message about Iraq for Barack Obama: Get back to the White House and do something.

‘I know it is the holiday period in our Western countries,’ Fabius told a radio interviewer Tuesday in France,’ but when people are dying, you must come back from vacation.’

This is just another in a series of disrespectful utterings from foreign leaders about our current resident of the White House.  And yes, it’s about leadership, something our current president does his best to avoid.

Meanwhile, in Iraq:

Senior U.S. officials describe the threat posed by the Islamic State in chilling terms, but they have mounted a decidedly modest military campaign to check its advance through northern Iraq.

The radical Islamist organization has attracted more fighterscontrols more territory and has access to a larger stream of money than al-Qaeda did before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, according to U.S. officials and terrorism experts. Its refusal to rein in its brand of rampant violence accounts in part for its break from the better-known terrorist group.

“This is serious business,” Secretary of State John F. Kerry told reporters earlier this week. “I think the world is beginning to come to grips with the degree to which this is unacceptable.”

I think much of the world came to grips with it on 9/11.  It is primarily our current leadership that has yet to come to grips with it, attempting to play down the seriousness of the situation by characterizing ISIS as the “jay vee” squad of terrorists.  Of course, that’s just ignorant rubbish.

So far, though, the Obama administration’s response to the group’s blitzkrieg through northern Iraq has been defined primarily by the limits it has placed on the U.S. military’s intervention.

The disconnect between the unnerving assessments of the Islamic State and the apparent lack of urgency in confronting it reflects a mix of political and military constraints. Among them are no clear military strategy for reversing the group’s recent territorial gains, a war-weariness that pervades the Obama administration and the country, and significant uncertainty about the extent to which the Islamic State is prepared to morph from a regional force into a transnational terrorist threat that could target Europe and the United States.

This goes back to my previous post about the West’s unwillingness (and certainly this administration is clearly unwilling) to do what is necessary to confront and defeat radical Islam.  In the case of a growing and violent ISIS, this is the time and place you do that.  It is a “nip it in the bud” moment.

Instead we have President Dither talking about what he won’t do.  And what he has done, a couple of airstrikes, is about as impressive and daunting to ISIS as taking a BB gun to a charging grizzly.

But the ongoing U.S. airstrikes are equally notable for what they have not tried to do. U.S. military officials have emphasized that the strikes are not designed to reverse the gains Sunni extremist fighters have made.

“We’ve had a very temporary effect,” Lt. Gen. William Mayville, a senior Army officer on the Joint Staff, told reporters this week.

It’s called “weakness”, boys and girls.  And in the anarchy of the international arena that sort of weakness creates opportunities for other power brokers.  In this case, ISIS continues to thumb its nose at all, brutally butcher all those who it finds that live outsides its narrow, radical creed and cares not a whit what the West thinks, since it is pretty darn sure it won’t do anything about it.

In fact, Obama’s “plan” is a lot like his plan for the SOFA agreement that failed.  Offer help only if certain political conditions are met that are, frankly, not going to happen – at least not in the near future (the CIA says it would take “years”):

President Obama, who campaigned on ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, has repeatedly said that a U.S. presence of that size in Iraq isn’t under consideration. “American combat troops will not be returning to fight in Iraq, because there’s no American military solution to the larger crisis in Iraq,” he said.

With that in mind, the Obama administration has held off on more aggressive intervention plans, pledging in recent days to expand U.S. military involvement if the Baghdad government can show progress on including Sunnis and Kurds.

So he’s effectively put himself in a position to blame his inaction on the Iraqis, just as he did with the SOFA agreement.

Meanwhile the sycophants here claim that Obama is acting with restraint and wisely.  In fact, he’s in his usual mode of indecision and dithering.  He stands around with his thumb up his posterior while his buffoon of a Secretary of State states the obvious – this is “unacceptable”.  But apparently not unacceptable enough to actually do something about it.

But, as we’ve all learned, in Obama’s world, words equal action, so calling it “unacceptable” is about as good as it gets.

“Time is of the essence,” said Adm. James Stavridis, a former supreme allied commander of NATO and now dean of the Fletcher School at Tufts University. The longer the airstrikes drag on, the more time Islamic State fighters will have to learn how to survive them. “Without a fast and serious response, including Special Operations forces on the ground, the chances of reversing IS gains or even breaking their evident momentum is very low,” he said.

And if we don’t do it now, we’ll have to do it later – guaranteed.  Of course that will be when they’re stronger, better armed, control more territory and have even more revenue and fighters than they do now.

Sometimes you’re stuck doing things you really don’t want to do but know innately that if you don’t act, that which you don’t address will only get far worse.   This is one of those situations.

We should act – decisively – but we won’t.  And the problem will only get worse.

I guess the next president can take solace in the fact that when faced with an even larger threat from ISIS, he can blame Obama.

~McQ

 

QandO is Alive

Welcome to the new QandO. The old site has passed away, and , with it, many maintenance headaches. For you, the user, the site should operate much faster, thanks to being transferred to a modern server, using modern technology.

Enjoy.

Also…first post!

Delusional

How else to describe this president when he makes remarks like this:

President Barack Obama claimed Monday night during a Democratic Party fundraising dinner that the United States is ‘stronger’ than it was when he assumed office in January 2009.

His statement, though, appears to be at odds with key economic indicators, America’s sliding reputation abroad, and the American public’s estimation of the direction the country has taken under the Obama administration.

‘In all sorts of ways,’ Obama told Democratic partisans who paid between $15,000 to $32,400 to hear him speak, ‘we are not just stronger than when we – where we were when I first came into office.’

‘It’s fair to say that America has the best cards when you look at other countries around the world.  There’s no other country you’d rather be than the United States.’

‘Nobody can compete with us when we’re making the right decisions,’ he said.

The unspoken implication here is since we’re “stronger”, he’s made all the “right decisions”.  Of  course that absurd implication can be confronted factually at all sorts of levels.

Take the economy:

Grove City College economics professor Tracy Miller wrote Monday in an op-ed for The Daily Caller that ‘[o]ver the first five years of Obama’s presidency, the U.S. economy grew more slowly than during any five-year period since just after the end of World War II, averaging less than 1.3 percent per year.’

Unemployment:

The percentage of working-age Americans who are part of the U.S. workforce has reached the lowest level since 1978, with one out of every three staying on the sidelines and not working.

Debt:

And the federal government’s debts have ballooned by $7 trillion since Obama took office, a sum larger than the accumulated U.S. debts between 1776 and the end of the Clinton administration.

Consumer confidence is at -17.  That’s right, minus seventeen according to Gallup’s recent Economic Confidence Index.

Great success.

You don’t even have to cite the debacle his lack of foreign policy has wrought (or his lack of leadership on the illegal immigration flood) to make the point that he’s either lying through his teeth or he’s delusional.  He seems be reading a script from spin doctors and seems to be nothing but a propaganda mouthpiece now. An empty suit.  The “face.”  He doesn’t seem to even care.  Most of the recent optics (vacation after vacation while the world is in crisis) are simply not what anyone who cared would do if in a leadership position.   But he seems to think he’s entitled and we peasants should just suck it up and cope.  “Imperial presidency” doesn’t even begin to describe this crew.

Credibility?  Not much:

By a 20-point margin, they believe the nation is weaker under Obama’s leadership, according to a Fox News poll released in June. Just 35 per cent told pollsters they agreed with what Obama said Monday night.

The “Monday night” refers to the bucket of slop above that he served up to those true believers paying 32K for dinner.

And that has led to this from a CNN poll:

The poll also indicates that the public’s trust in government is at an all-time low.

Frankly, you won’t find me lamenting this particularly, but it is an illustration as to how poorly this administration had done its job (Remember, one of Obama’s stated goals was to increase trust in government).  Gallup piles on with this:

Many more Americans now mention a non-economic issue — such as dissatisfaction with government, immigration, or ethical and moral decline — than an economic one as the top problem.

This presidency has been a disaster.  And it continues, without seeming end, to make all the wrong decisions almost without exception.  The fact that the public seems to finally be waking up to it tells me a lot about how this presidency and administration have benefitted from a press reluctant to lay it all out as it happened.  The problem the press faces now is it has become so bad that their credibility (such that it is) is at risk if they continue to ignore and/or attempt to explain away what has become obvious to almost everyone.  That and the “Bush is to blame” blanket excuse has expired for all but the sycophants (although Obama again tried to deploy it this week when denying responsibility for the problems in Iraq).

This has been an awful era for this country.  Almost everything this president promised has been found to be either nonsense, demonstrably false or a lie.  Instead of the “most transparent” administration in history, it has become the most opaque.  We see indications of criminal conduct by apparatchiks every day (really, 20 people under suspicion all had their emails destroyed?  Really?).  We see a “Justice” department that ignores the law and/or selectively enforces it depending on whether the group in question is a favored one or not (New Black Panthers and video of voter intimidation?  Nah.  Vote ID laws?  You bet.). We see executive department bureaucrats assuming powers and making rules that are beyond their scope (just about everything the EPA has done).  And, in fact, we see an administration that has mostly ignored the Constitution and the limits on power it imposes on the executive.

Now we’re engaged in redefining what “stronger” means.  Apparently, in Obama Newspeak, stronger is really “weaker and poorer”.  If that’s what he was striving to accomplish, then he can claim to have been remarkably successful in making us “stronger”.

~McQ

Style Evolves

So, since we’re making changes, I thought I’d start with the blog theme. This new theme uses flat design, which all the kids are raving about now. It also implements responsive design, so, if you’re on a mobile device, you’ll no longer see the Apple Touch mobile theme. Now you’ll see the current blog template, which will happily reformat itself for your phone or tablet viewport.

You’re welcome.


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Economic Statistics for 12 Aug 14

The NFIB small business optimism index rose 0.7 points in July to 95.7.

The government’s budget deficit, as of the end of July, is running 24% below last year, at $460.5 billion vs. $607.4 billion.

ICSC-Goldman reports weekly retail sales down -1.4%, and were up only 3.2% on a year-over-year basis. Conversely, Redbook reports a strong 4.8% increase in retail sales over last year.


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As David Bowie would say, “Ch-ch-ch-changes”

After a conference call this evening, we have decided to move QandO to a new Cloud Hosting plan.  This will remove the bandwidth restrictions we’ve been struggling with for the past month. It will also remove all of the legacy QandO content from 2004-2009. I have a an Excel file with all that old content, but I’m not sure what happens with it at this point. It might end up as one huge 12mb web page. I dunno. We’ll deal with that later. At any rate, I will restore all of the old podcasts, as well, since we’ll have substantially less restriction on storage space, and none at all on bandwidth. These changes will all be taking place over the next few days.

You, as a user, will see little change, except that the site should load substantially more quickly in the new environment.


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Why aren’t tampons free?

Seriously, that’s the question some whackadoo feminist columnist in the UK is asking (it makes you wonder if the paper that published it is a serious news source).

Her “reasoning?”

But this is less an issue of costliness than it is of principle: menstrual care is health care, and should be treated as such.

She wouldn’t know true principle if it throat punched her. However, what is clear is when you allow yahoos to redefine “health care” and get government to take control of it, well then everything should be ‘free’.
Her authority?  Not to worry, feminists have declared a few things to be “true”, and that make this a no-argument, slam-dunk:

Sanitary products are vital for the health, well-being and full participation of women and girls across the globe. The United Nations and Human Rights Watch, for example, have both linked menstrual hygiene to human rights.

Well there you go. I’m not sure where the human right not to be coerced by government into subsidizing another’s wants went, but apparently that’s a real right that is to be forever ignored.

If it is “health care” then it is a “right”.  And if it is a “right” then it should be “free”.  And if it is “free”, someone else should pay for it  - or so the “reasoning” goes. /sarc

Of course the fact that any such product has to be produced at a cost, transported at a cost and distributed at a cost that someone has to pay is just lost on these sorts of folks.  It doesn’t register.

As far as they’re concerned tampons come from magic tampon trees and when they need them, well, they’re just there.  And because they’re just there, they should be free!  Don’t you get that, you neanderthal?

Frankly I like this answer from a commenter to the article

Why aren’t tampons free?

Why isn’t soap free or wet wipes or shampoo?

If your argument is that sanitation should be provided for all cheaply then fine [Ed. sorry, but it already is].

But it isn’t. Your argument is that its all a plot to make women pay for stuff they need. At the end of the day its not free because in the real world you have to pay for stuff. Your right to a hygienic lady area is no more compelling than mine to a clean backside or clean hands. You are once more guilty of making women victim’s of their vaginas.

The commenter is right – the unspoken part of this attempt to fleece others is supposed victimhood. Read the article – it reeks with it.

In reality this is just the inevitable  extension of the Sandra Fluke argument that all women are entitled to free contraception because it is a “right” or something.

Where I come from “rights” aren’t something others pay for with either time, labor, material or money.

But hey, if you can redefine “health care” you can certainly redefine “rights”, no?

~McQ

QandO at the Crossroads

We’ve been having a big problem at QandO.  The podcast, apparently, has gotten popular.  Under our old hosting plan, we had 400GB of bandwidth.  Last month, our bandwidth began to skyrocket, almost entirely due to podcast downloads.  That has continued this month, too. The excess bandwidth charges for exceeding the monthly bandwidth allowance are $4 per GB.

bandwidth

Essentially, we’ve gone from an average of about 8GB in bandwidth per day to 50GB per day.

This is complicated by the fact that the old version of QandO was created way back in 2004 using ASP.NET 1.1. It works great. Sadly, it’s no longer supported by Microsoft. Last month, when it became clear we were going to blow through our bandwidth allowance, I did two things:

First, I removed the Stitcher podcast player from all the Podcasting posts, to avoid drive-by downloads from the post page. Second, I worked with the web host and was able to upgrade to the last existing ASP.Net 1.1 Premier plan, with a 600GB bandwidth limit, to avoid the bandwidth charges. That costs me $37/mo. As it turned out, bandwidth for the last week of July fell back to normal, so we only went through 415GB, which would’ve been a $60 excess bandwidth charge for the month.

So, increasing the bandwidth limit to 600GB should be a fix, right? Well, this month, we have already burned through 275.15GB in 10 days. At this rate, we will blow through the monthly bandwidth limit around Aug 22.

So, if you are looking for a podcast that’s more than a week old, you won’t find it. I’ve deleted all the older ones. Obviously, that isn’t an optimal solution.

The real solution is to move QandO over to a modern Cloud Hosting environment, which has unlimited bandwidth, 10GB of file storage, and only costs $18 per month. But, the newer hosting plans do not support ASP.NET 1.1. Essentially, that means that everything we’ve written prior to 2009 would, for a while, at least, disappear.  I have the old legacy content in a big, honkin’ file, but it would take some time to restore the old content to a static HTML page. Ultimately, transferring that would be a lot of work.

In any event, while I’m happy the podcast is becoming more popular, it’s causing some problems with trying to reconcile a large chunk of legacy content with modern hosting solutions.

This is complicated by the fact that Jon Henke still owns the domain, so any changes to the server would require him to make the change at GoDaddy. Depending on how long that would take, moving to a new host could mean that QandO will go down for some period of time.

So,all of this is information for you to understand why the Podcast has no archives, and warning that QandO may have to go dark for a day or so if we change to a new hosting plan.


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