Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Time to punch back?

In some places they riot in the street when corruption at the highest levels is uncovered (I’m thinking Brazil at the moment, and then there’s Venezuela). They protest government tyranny (Turkey). We just seem to sit placidly and watch the world go by as it is uncovered here.  Not only that, millions are planning on or have already voted for the corruption to be elevated to the White House where a “for sale” sign can then be firmly planted in the front yard. I mean, what will stop them?

Victor Davis Hanson characterizes the Clinton Mob very well, I think:

For the Clintons, power is the narcotic of being sought out, of being surrounded by retainers, of bringing enemies to heel and enticing sycophants with benefits. Liberalism and progressivism are mere social and cultural furniture, the “correct” politics of their background that one mouths and exploits to obtain and maintain political clout — and to get really, really rich without guilt or apology.

If she manages to slip all of these crimes she’s involved in and somehow snags the presidency, we will have officially arrived … at Banana Republic status.

I was stopped at a stoplight today and saw a guy behind me just singing away with a song.  He looked older than me.  I immediately thought of my dad singing to a 40’s or ’50’s classic.  Then I realized he could just as easily, in this day and time, have been singing along to “Stairway to Heaven”.  Argh.

Good!  It’s about time this sort of “journalism” paid a price!

A federal court jury decided Friday that a Rolling Stone journalist defamed a former University of Virginia associate dean in a 2014 magazine article about sexual assault on campus that included a debunked account of a fraternity gang rape.

The 10 member jury concluded that the Rolling Stone reporter, Sabrina Rubin Erdely, was responsible for defamation, with actual malice, in the case brought by Nicole Eramo, a U-Va. administrator who oversaw sexual violence cases at the time of the article’s publication. The jury also found the magazine and its parent company, Wenner Media, responsible for defaming Eramo, who has said her life’s work helping sexual assault victims was devastated as a result of Rolling Stone’s article and its aftermath.

We covered this a bit when the article first came out and the story began to collapse.  This is what should happen when “agenda journalism” defames people and lies about events to make an agenda point. Agenda journalism is characterized by shoddy work since inconvenient facts are simply ignored in favor of the approved narrative.

We all understand and agree that “rape is bad” and must not be tolerated.  However, it doesn’t have to be lied about and sensationalised to make that point.  “Rolling Stone” already had a reputation for shoddy agenda journalism that had landed it in hot water before.  Whatever was left of any integrity and reputation they had was left shredded on that federal courtroom floor.

One of the things severely lacking in our political process is accountability.  About all we ever hear is an “oops” and “sorry about that”.  A perfect example?  Obamacare:

Michelle Harris, a 61-year-old retired waitress in northwest Montana, has arthritis in both shoulders. She gets a tax subsidy to help buy coverage under Obamacare, though she still pays $338 a month for the BlueCross BlueShield plan. Yet with its $4,500 deductible, she says she’s doing everything she can to avoid seeing a doctor. Instead, she uses ibuprofen and cold-packs.

“It hurts, but we don’t have that kind of money,” Harris said in an interview. “So I deal with it.”

Harris is one of many people with Obamacare plans that feature high out-of-pocket costs that can put health services out of reach. That’s because the insurance coverage Harris and others like her have purchased is designed not to kick in until patients have spent thousands of dollars.

Welcome to the new world where “you can keep your insurance and you can keep your doctor. Period”, don’t mean what you think it means. And accountability for screwing up a system that was working? “Oops, sorry about that.”  What’s even worse is those that screwed it up are now telling us they’re going to “fix it”.

Okay, I’ll eat my words … there is some accountability.  But unfortunately it’s rare. Remember Chris Chrisitie’s “Bridgegate”?

Two former officials linked to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s office were found guilty on all charges Friday in connection with the closure of lanes in 2013 on the George Washington Bridge in an apparent act of political retribution, the fallout for which has come to be known as Bridgegate.

Again, good!  More please!  Lots more.

And finally in the “world gone mad” department, we have this:

Millions of Spanish children have been called out on strike this weekend, with families and teachers asked by a national parents’ association to say no to homework.

Because Spain is so, uh, competitive in the world today.  Uh huh, yeah, this’ll fix that. For good.

~McQ

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*tap* *tap* “Is this thing on?”

So I’m back from a long needed … break.  No really … needed.

That and being thoroughly swamped with work and depressed about the politics we suffer today.

Screw it … I’ll just do random commentary then.

I found this to be absolutely hilarious and something I’ve suspected for years.  To the “publish or die” folks in academia it seems like publishing is the same thing as dying:

Professors usually spend about 3-6 months (sometimes longer) researching and writing a 25-page article to submit an article to an academic journal. And most experience a twinge of excitement when, months later, they open a letter informing them that their article has been accepted for publication, and will therefore be read by … an average of ten people. Yes, you read that correctly. The numbers reported by recent studies are pretty bleak: – 82 percent of articles published in the humanities are not even cited once.  Of those articles that are cited, only 20 percent have actually been read. Half of academic papers are never read by anyone other than their authors, peer reviewers, and journal editors. All of this is very unfortunate. Ideally, the great academic minds of a society should be put to work for the sake of building up that society and addressing its problems. Instead, most Western academics today are using their intellectual capital to answer questions that nobody’s asking on pages that nobody’s reading. What a waste.

What a waste?  What a laugh! The problem, however, is those who end up being published also end up believing their research and theory, etc. has been validated.  And that sense of validation leads them to push their pet theory even further and to introduce it, at least on a limited basis (like their humanities department) to receptive ears – after all, it’s been peer reviewed (given the lack of intellectual diversity among “peers” in academia, you can imagine the bias involved).  In the humanities we’ve seen the result in some of the looniest ideas concerning gender and sex and race bobbing to the surface in universities and influencing/encouraging SJWs to adopt and act on them.  Thus the circus we now observe within the universities in this country.

I’m certainly not attempting to blame all of that on the fact that no one but “peers” read these articles, but it certainly has to have had some influence.   When you’re pitching to an echo chamber, you hear what you hope to hear and are encouraged to put it action somewhere (like, uh, academia).

I heard that Steven DenBeste passed away recently.  If you’re not familiar with the name, Steven was one of the original (if not “the” original) bloggers with his blog the USS Clueless.  And he helped influence and launch a thousand other blogs and establish the form as something to be taken seriously.  If you’ve never heard of him or read him, do yourself a favor and google his blog and enjoy.  He passed on way to early and will be missed by all of us old time bloggers and blog readers.

I think it is clear to everyone who can candidly assess Obama’s foreign policy that it is a huge (and dangerous) failure. Take the “Pacific Pivot” as an example.  The latest defection?  Malaysia, who just gave China an order for patrol boats.

Najib’s overture to China is spurred in part by anger over U.S. Department of Justice investigations into the country’s scandalous sovereign wealth fund, 1MDB. That controversy has damaged Najib’s international reputation and sent him straight into Beijing’s arms, as China has helpfully agreed to buy the fund’s power assets. Now, that gesture is starting to pay off. China and Malaysia started joint military exercises last year, and reports suggest that Najib will sign agreements on high-speed rail and port projects during his trip to Beijing.

The Malaysian pivot to China is especially embarrassing given President Obama’s clear efforts to court Najib. In 2014, Obama became the first sitting U.S. president to visit Malaysia in nearly 50 years; later that year, Najib was the president’s golf buddy during his vacation in Hawaii. Yet that personal outreach cannot disguise the fact that the promises of the Obama administration’s pivot, particularly the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), have failed to come through. Like Duterte, Najib has apparently made the calculation that Beijing has more to offer than Washington—and unlike Duterte, this decision cannot be dismissed as the impulses of an anti-American demagogue.

DOJ will go hammer and tongs after a foreign entity but when confronted with a highly placed politician who has (per the FBI) clearly broken the law?  Yeah, not so much.

That said, the Pacific looks more dangerous than ever since Obama took office.  And Europe.  And the Middle-east.  And …

Really?

Earlier today, the D.C. City Council voted to allow physician-assisted suicide. But the debate isn’t over. The Washington Post reports that “the council must still hold a final vote on the bill, possibly as early as Nov. 15,” and that the mayor, Muriel Bowser, must decide if she’ll sign or veto the bill.

I get that people want to end their lives because of pain, etc.  But physicians?  Whatever happened to “first, do no harm?”  Make it legal if you must, not that anyone bent on suicide cares much for laws, but why involve physicians?

In case you missed it, that big yellow thing that hangs in the sky everyday is at it again.  Check out this news:

The sun has been completely spotless on 21 days in 2016 and it is currently featuring just one lonely sunspot region.  In fact, on June 4th of this year, the sun went completely spotless for the first time since 2011 and that quiet spell lasted for about four days.  Sunspot regions then reappeared for the next few weeks on a sporadic basis, but that was followed by several more completely spotless days on the surface of the sun.  The increasingly frequent blank sun is a sign that the next solar minimum is approaching and there will be an even greater number of spotless days over the next few years.  At first, the blankness will stretch for just a few days at a time, then it’ll continue for weeks at a time, and finally it should last for months at a time when the sunspot cycle reaches its nadir.  The next solar minimum phase is expected to take place around 2019 or 2020. The current solar cycle is the 24th since 1755 when extensive recording of solar sunspot activity began and is the weakest in more than a century with the fewest sunspots since cycle 14 peaked in February 1906.  One other note, the weak solar cycle and the expectation for continued low solar activity this upcoming winter is an important factor in this year’s colder-than-normal Winter Outlook for the Mid-Atlantic region.

The weakest cycle in a century promising a “colder-than-normal” winter for the world (China’s forecasting the same). Science. However, you can bet that somehow this unseasonably cold winter will be charged off to the ravages of man-made “climate change”, unless it is a warm winter which, of course, will be charged off to man-made “climate change” as well.  Ideological religion.

Meanwhile in the Socialist paradise of Venezuela, government has a solution to the food shortage.  Urban farming!  No, really.  And you know it’s going to work because they’ve even established a ministry to ensure it does.  No fooling – the Ministry of Urban Agriculture.  And the ministry has announced that there’s plenty of land for all city dwellers:

When the project was presented in February, the newly created Ministry of Urban Agriculture announced that 12,000 square kilometers — about 4,600 square miles — would be planted in the first 100 days. The government promised to invest $300,000 in seeds, equipment and educational projects, and to help with logistics.

Eight months later?

Eight months into the project, only 21 square kilometers (about 8 square miles) of land have been cultivated, according to the ministry.

On target with the Great Stumble Backwards!  Seems the Socialist big government blue model has to be reestablished every generation or so to prove it isn’t the people in charge that are the problem (although they are a problem) but the flawed model that defies human nature instead.  Bernie doesn’t approve this message.

And some things never change.

~McQ

 

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Observations: The QandO Podcast for 28 Oct 16

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There’s a chicken-duck-woman thing waiting for us. The FBI seems to have reopened the email investigation on Hillary Clinton, because Anthony Wiener is the gift that keeps on giving. I thought we had already established that she was above the law, so there’s no need to address this moving forward. Vladimir Putin is a scary guy. The Chinese are somewhat less so. Apple’s new Macbooks have no touchscreen and a shitty keyboard. On the other hand, they’re 30% more expensive, so theres that. Obamacare is crashing, so expect to have single-payer health care in the next four years.

This week’s podcast is up on the Podcast page.

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Economic Statistics for 27 Oct 16

September durable goods orders slipped -0.1%. Ex-transportation orders were up 0.2%, but core capital goods orders fell -1.2%.

The Pending Home Sales Index rose 1.5% to 110.0 in September.

The Kansas City Fed Manufacturing Index was unchanged at 6 in October.

Initial weekly jobless claims fell 3,000 to 258,000. The 4-week average rose 1,250 to 253,000. Continuing claims fell 15,000 to 2.039 million.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index 1.6 points to 43.9 in the latest week.

The Fed’s balance sheet fell $-13.1 billion last week, with total assets of $4.454 trillion. Reserve bank credit fell $-4.6 billion.

The Fed reports that M2 money supply fell by $-9.3 billion in the latest week.


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Economic Statistics for 26 Oct 16

New home sales rose 3.1% in September, to a solid 593,000 annual pace. Year-on-year, new home sales are up 30%.

The nation’s trade gap in goods narrowed sharply in September, to $-56.1 billion vs a revised $-59.2 billion in August.

Markit’s PMI Services Flash for October rose sharply, up 2.9 points to 54.8.

The MBA reports that mortgage applications fell -4.1% last week, with purchases down -7.0% and refis down -2.0%.


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Economic Statistics for 25 Oct 16

The FHFA House Price Index rose 0.7% in August, following July’s strong 0.5%.

More subdued is the S&P Corelogic Case-Shiller HPI, which, unlike the FHFA data, shows only a 0.2% increase for August. On a year-over-year basis, Case-Shiller is up 5.1%.

The Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index fell from 104.1 to a weaker-than-expected 98.6 in October.

The State Street Investor Confidence Index rose 3.6 points in October to 99.1 from September’s revised 95.5. 

The Richmond Fed Manufacturing Index rose to -4 in October from -8 in September.

Redbook reports that last week’s retail sales growth fell back to 0.3% on a year-ago basis, from the previous week’s 1.0%.


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Observations: The QandO Podcast 21 Oct 16

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The last debate is over…FINALLY! We now cruise towards an election with Trump losing badly in traditional polls, but ahead in the tracking polls. Is there a hidden silent majority for Trump? We’re not betting on it. Dale is reading a lot about Rome, and makes a lot of tendentious parallels between Ancient Rome and modern America. The Cubs may do something no Living American has ever seen. Football will disappear within 20 years. Michael talks about golf, and Dale’s attempt to have fun with that goes terribly wrong, making the last five minutes of the podcast unlistenable.

This week’s podcast is up on the Podcast page.

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Economic Statistics for 19 Oct 16

Atlanta Fed’s Business Inflation Expectations Survey show businesses expect 1.7% inflation over the next 12 months.

Housing starts fell a sharp -9.0% in September, but it was all concentrated in multi-family units. Single family units rose a strong 8.1%. the overall total rate was an annualized 1.047 million. Building permits rose 6.3% to a 1.225 million annual rate.

The MBA reports that mortgage applications rose 0.6% last week, with purchases up 3.0% and refis down -1.0%.


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Economic Statistics for 18 Oct 16

Consumer prices rose 0.3% in September, though prices less food and energy rose only 0.1%. On a year-over-year basis, the CPI is up 1.5% overall and 2.2% at the core.

Net foreign demand for long-term US securities rose $48.3 billion in August, mainly on $30.4B in foreign buying.

The housing market index fell -2 points to 63 in October, keeping most of September’s 6-point gain.

Redbook reports that last week’s retail sales growth rose to 1.0% on a year-ago basis, from the previous week’s 0.5%.


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