Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Observations: The QandO Podcast for 10 Jun 16

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The two things Trump got right put him over the top. Also, we’re heading straight for 60s-style social unrest, and Chloe Grace Moretz displays her delicious donut.

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

And the donut we’re referring to is this one:

Donuts

Please do not attempt to write a caption for this picture, or to make any references to any possible symbolism that the donuts may invoke. Just don’t do it.

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Economic Statistics for 10 Jun 16

The US Budget deficit for may was $52.5 billion. The fiscal year to date deficit, at $407.1 billion is 11.0% higher than last year. May’s deficit is actually understated, as calendar issues pushed about $30 billion of payments into June.

The University of Michigan’s Consumer Sentiment Index fell -0.4 points in June to 94.3 for the preliminary estimate.


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Stray Voltage

With this latest SJW/liberal push, you have to wonder about the future of Title IX, don’t you?

Human bodies are either male or female, that is the only way they come. Males are physically different than females. Hormones and body modification cannot change that.

That’s a scientific fact, but liberals refuse to acknowledge this basic truth.

The Obama Administration’s directive requiring schools to allow transgender students use the bathroom of their choice has opened the gender dysmorphia floodgates.

For the first time in Alaskan history, a male athlete recently competed in the girls’ track and field state championships. The mother of one of the girls who lost to the transgender runner is crying foul after he took home all-state honors.

Well, well.  No need for female athletes – I mean those born that way – at all, is there?  The floodgates are open.

Bodies with the X/Y chromosome setup develop quite differently than the female body … as the article says that’s a “scientific fact” that has essentially gone undisputed in the history of mankind. Now, apparently. it’s all a “matter of the mind”.  You know, ‘if you think, you are’.  Never mind the wedding tackle, hormones and muscle mass (not to mention agility and strength).  If you say you’re a woman, it is everyone else job to kowtow to the absurd.

The results are, as usual, perfectly predictable.  But I am interested to see, now that they’ve essentially wrecked Title IX, how the liberal elite are going to justify it.

Speaking of the absurdity of all of this, how about when women begin to be hurt?

Critics are scrutinizing mixed martial arts (MMA) competitor Fallon Fox, after the transgender fighter gave her opponent a concussion and broke her eye socket.

Fox defeated her opponent, Tamikka Brents, by TKO at 2:17 of the first round of their match. Brent’s eye injury resulted in a damaged orbital bone that required seven staples.

In a post-fight interview this week, Brents told Whoa TV, “I’ve never felt so overpowered ever in my life.”

“I’ve fought a lot of women and have never felt the strength that I felt in a fight as I did that night. I can’t answer whether it’s because she was born a man or not, because I’m not a doctor,” she stated. “I can only say, I’ve never felt so overpowered ever in my life, and I am an abnormally strong female in my own right. ”

Fox’s “grip was different,” Brents added. “I could usually move around in the clinch against…females but couldn’t move at all in Fox’s clinch.”

Sorry Brents, but it was that “scientific fact” from above being used with a vengeance on you.  Because, well, you know, “social justice!”

“Inclusive” as well as “equality” are being redefined by the SJWs:

News that a university lecturers’ union has banned straight, white men from attending their equality conferences in a bid to create “safe spaces” is deeply depressing.

University and College Union equality conferences are held exclusively for women, LGBT, ethnic minorities or disabled people, and members must declare their “protected characteristic” when applying to attend.

Surely UCU can see the irony of hosting an equality conference where – as George Orwell wrote – some are more equal than others?
Apparently UCU is irony impaired.  But then, we’ve seen that to be the case with most of the Special Snowflake causes we’ve been watching.  So much for “equality” and “inclusiveness”.  However, no one should be surprised if these participants wouldn’t lecture you to death about both if you suggested leaving one of their favored self-identified “victims” out of the conference.

The bureaucracy has decided you’re just too dumb to handle “payday” loans, so they’re getting ready to try to shut the industry down.

More than 50 million Americans each year seek access to short-term, small dollar credit.  Generally speaking, these are loans with a maturity measured in weeks or months, for amounts less than $5,000.  This borrowing is used to fund just about everything that other borrowing funds, though on a smaller scale, and more immediately.

These are also loans you can’t get from a bank or other lending institution because they won’t write one for “weeks”.  As for the interest charged, here’s a interesting comparison:

Borrowing money is like renting money. You get to use it two weeks and then you pay it back. You could rent a car for two weeks, right? You get to use that car. Well, if you calculate the annual percentage rate on that car rental — meaning that if you divide the amount you pay on that car by the value of that automobile — you get similarly high rates. So this isn’t about interest. This is about short-term use of a product that’s been lent to you. This is just arithmetic.

Indeed, it is.  And, there are a majority of people who use this product who both benefit and are able to pay it back based on the terms under which they borrow it.

But that’s not good enough for the crowd who thinks they need to tell you how you should live (and would never need such a product, so have no idea whether or not you really do need it).

Read both articles.  The Freakenomics article is pretty well done, while quite long.  But in the end, you’ll probably be like me – none of the government’s business except in the case of force or fraud.  Of course driving this product underground and into the hands of the criminals guarantees both force and fraud, because obviously, the product is a viable one and people need it.  Like most of these attempts by government to rescue you from yourself, this will backfire in a big way.  Entirely predictable, as usual.

Is the grifter close to an actual indictment?  Well, if you listened to Josh Earnest this week (and why would you?), he may have tipped off something he didn’t plan on doing:

Perhaps it was an unguarded moment, but the White House has seemingly confirmed that the Justice Department is conducting a “criminal investigation” regarding Hillary Clinton’s personal email use – despite persistent claims from the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee that investigators are pursuing a mere “security inquiry.”

Press Secretary Josh Earnest used the term at Thursday’s briefing, after being asked by Fox News about whether President Obama’s newly unveiled endorsement of Clinton might apply pressure to investigators assigned to the Clinton case.

Earnest rejected the premise, saying the job of career prosecutors is to follow the evidence to its logical conclusion.

“That’s why the president, when discussing this issue in each stage, has reiterated his commitment to this principle that any criminal investigation should be conducted independent of any sort of political interference,” Earnest said.

Of course there’s no reason for him to talk about “criminal investigations” unless there’s a “criminal investigation” being conducted is there.  Instead, you just blow it all off.  Maybe this is why Bernie is sticking around.

And, finally, from the usual media realm of the “unexplained” and “unexpected”, another perfectly predictable and explainable event has apparently “surprised” them:

Violent crimes – from homicides and rapes to robberies – have been on the rise in many major U.S. cities, yet experts can’t point to a single reason why and the jump isn’t enough to suggest there’s a trend.

Still, it is stumping law enforcement officials, who are seeking a way to combat the problem.

“It’s being reported on at local levels, but in my view, it’s not getting the attention at the national level it deserves,” FBI Director James Comey said recently. “I don’t know what the answer is, but holy cow, do we have a problem.”

Holy cow, Mr. Comey, check out the “Ferguson effect”.  See if maybe that might have some bearing on explaining this mess.  Maybe, when you have government all but sanctioning violence against cops, the cops decide not to work quite as hard or risk themselves as much as they usually do.  When it is “damned if you do”, most won’t.

Again, the total unawareness of human nature seems to stump a certain segment of leadership who cannot, for the life of them, see how their programs and their actions can have such a negative effect.  And their lapdogs in the media are equally at a loss.

Meh – screw em.

Have a great weekend!

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 09 Jun 16

Wholesale inventories rose a sharp 0.6% in April, but a 1.0% rise in wholesale sales reduced the stock-to-sales ratio to 1.35.

Initial weekly jobless claims fell 4,000 to 264,000. The 4-week average fell 7,500 to 269,500. Continuing claims fell 77,000 to 2.095 million.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index was unchanged at 43.2 in the latest week.

The Fed’s balance sheet rose $2.2 billion last week, with total assets of $4.464 trillion. Reserve bank credit rose $1.1 billion.

The Fed reports that M2 money supply fell by $-11.0 billion in the latest week.


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Economic Statistics for 8 Jun 16

The Labor Department’s JOLTS report says that April job openings rose to 5.788 million from a downward revised 5.670 million in March.

The Census Bureau reports that Information Revenue rose 1.3% in the 1st Quarter, and is up 5.7% on a year-over-year basis.

The MBA reports that mortgage applications rose 9.3% last week, with purchases up 12.0% and refis up 7.0%.


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Bern with Bernie?

Will Bernie become a write-in candidate?  Well, his supporters let it be known that they won’t vote for Hillary and many of them were thinking “write-in”:

Many took a different approach, saying they would not vote for Clinton, but would vote for Sanders as a write-in candidate.

That would split the left’s vote fairly significantly if they actually did that.  But, in reality, it is likely anger talking right now and many of them will fall in line and vote for the Hildebeest. But I would absolutely love to see this take off.

Others, though, are so mad they’re claiming they’d rather vote for Donald Trump than give Hillary the satisfaction of winning the White House.  Check out this reasoning:

A member of the group said: “I will vote for Trump as a f*** you to the stupid people that voted Hillary in. We are more likely to have a revolution with Trump in office and less likely to have a foreign war”

They have a point.  Well, at least about the “revolution” and their rather violent proclivities (see Trump rallies to find Bernie’s troops).

As for the “let it burn” crowd, they’re very well represented among the Bernie supporters:

Some said they would rather let the country ‘burn’ with Trump than let Clinton into the White House, with one person writing: “I’d rather Trump than Clinton. I won’t vote for him, but I’d be happy to see this country burn.”

If they weren’t such little fascists, I would be more sympathetic.  If they weren’t of the socialist mind-set, I could likely find more common ground with the sentiment.

But as it is, I hope they do what they say they’re going to do.  Neither of the candidates is worth warm spit and the more voters split away, the better this might all become.  No one gets a majority of either the popular vote or the electoral college?  Wouldn’t that be simply wonderful.

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 7 Jun 16

Non-farm productivity fell at an annualized rate of -0.6% while unit labor costs rose 4.5%. This is a key weakness in the economy. It looks better on a year-over-year basis, but not much, with productivity up 0.7% and unit labor costs up 3.0%.

The Fed’s Labor Market Conditions index fell from -0.9 in April to -4.8 in May, the 5th straight negative, and the lowest since 2009.

Gallup’s US Spending Measure indicates that Americans’ self-reported daily spending fell from $95 to $93.

The Gallup Economic Confidence Index was unchanged at -14 in May.

Redbook reports that last week’s retail sales growth fell to 0.6% on a year-ago basis, from the previous week’s 0.9%.


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Punching back

Resolute is a forest products company.  It is one of the largest manufacturers of newsprint in the world.  It has also been the target of a lengthy campaign by Environmental Non Government Organizations (ENGO), like Greenpeace.  At first, when approached by the ENGOs, Resolute cooperated and thought it was part of a cooperative effort.  But, like all good shakedown artists, the ENGOs continued to defame Resolute while insisting on more and more draconian measures be met by the company as new provisos in their “agreement”.

Resolute finally had enough:

On May 31, Resolute took a page from the ENGO’s playbook and, in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Georgia, filed a civil RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) suit against Greenpeace and a number of its associates who, though they claim to be independent, act cooperatively. The RICO Act intended to deal with the mob as a loose organization, or “enterprise,” with a pattern of activity and common nefarious purposes, such as extortion. (Greenpeace has asked the Justice Department to use the RICO Act to investigate oil companies and organizations that sow doubts about the risks of climate change.)

The 100-page complaint alleges that Greenpeace and its affiliates are a RICO “enterprise.” According to the Resolute news release, it describes the deliberate falsity of the malicious and defamatory accusations the enterprise has made and details how, to support its false accusations, “Greenpeace has fabricated evidence and events, including, for example, staged photos falsely purporting to show Resolute logging in prohibited areas.” The suit also calls Greenpeace a “global fraud” out to line its pockets with money from donors and says that “maximizing donations, not saving the environment, is Greenpeace’s true objective.” Additionally, it cites admissions by Greenpeace’s leadership that it “emotionalizes” issues to manipulate audiences.

In the U.S. lawsuit, Resolute is seeking compensatory damages in an amount to be proven at trial, as well as treble and punitive damages.

I’ve got to say I’m really glad to see this.  This ENGO scam has gone on far too long and in many cases has had the tacit backing of the government, or elements of the government.  As the article notes, the discovery portion of this suit will be interesting since it will likely uncover many things the ENGOs would prefer stayed unknown to the general and easily duped public – well, at least the part of the public they’re able to dupe into contributing to their “cause”.  Their “cause”, it seems, has become shaking down companies. Even one of the original founders of Greenpeace acknowledges what they’ve become and he minces no words doing so:

Patrick Moore, one of the original founders of Greenpeace, is disappointed that the group that originally wanted to help, is now an extortion racket. He told me: “I am very proud to have played a small role in helping Resolute deal with these lying blackmailers and extortionists.”

We’ll follow and report.  Hopefully this is the beginning of a large and needed pushback.

~McQ

 

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Stray Voltage

Is the panic and uproar concerning the “college rape crisis” similar to the McMartin preschool travesty?   Christina Hoff Sommers sees some similarities.

It appears that we are in the throes of one of those panics where paranoia, censorship, and false accusations flourish—and otherwise sensible people abandon their critical facilities. We are not facing anything as extreme as the Salem Witch Trials or the McCarthy inquisitions. But today’s rape culture movement bears some striking similarities to a panic that gripped daycare centers in the 1980s.

[…]

Today’s college rape panic is an eerie recapitulation of the daycare abuse panic. Just as the mythical “50,000 abducted children” fueled paranoia about child safety in the 1980s, so today’s hysteria is incited by the constantly repeated, equally fictitious “one-in-five women on campus is a victim of rape”—which even President Obama has embraced.

The one-in-five number is derived from surveys where biased samples of respondents are asked an artful combination of straightforward and leading questions, reminiscent of the conclusory interviews behind the daycare agitation. A much-cited CDC study, for example, first tells respondents: “Please remember that even if someone uses alcohol or drugs, what happens to them is not their fault.” Then it asks: “When you were drunk, high, drugged, or passed out and unable to consent, how many people ever had vaginal sex with you.” (Emphasis mine.) The CDC counted all such sexual encounters as rapes.

Reputable studies suggest that approximately one-in-forty college women are victims of rape or sexual assault (assault includes verbal threats as well as unwanted sexual grabbing and fondling). One-in-forty is still too many women. But it hardly constitutes a “rape culture” requiring White House intervention.

She makes it clear that any sort of sexual abuse should be taken seriously and pursued legally.  However, she cautions that allowing a panic to take hold simply isn’t in the best interest of anyone.  My question remains, why are colleges left to investigate and sort this out anyway?  Considering that rape is a major violent crime, seems to me law enforcement should be involved immediately.  My guess is that doing so will cut down on both false reports and the crime itself.  But hey, what do I know.

Well here’s a milestone that one could go without seeing:

In 2014, for the first time in more than 130 years, adults ages 18 to 34 were slightly more likely to be living in their parents’ home than they were to be living with a spouse or partner in their own household.

Obviously part of the problem has to do with the dismal economy.  But there’s also something to be said about an education system that doesn’t prepare kids for the real world, participation trophies and helicopter parents.  There’s a popular meme that shows the 19 year olds of D-Day storming the beaches of Normandy set off against the special snowflakes at just about any university you can name, huddled up in their “safe spaces” and sharing whatever they’ve identified as their “pain” (you know, like chalk political slogans on the university sidewalk) with counselors.  There’s a good reason why there are more adults of 18-34 years of age living in Mom’s basement.

They’ve never been properly prepared to leave the place.  Pew Research thinks it is mostly about the economy.  Yes, but it is also a lot about the failure of both parents and government (via schools) to prepare these young adults to assume their role in society.  Or, perhaps, it is where government is quite happy to see them … in a dependent and pliable status where it can better control them.  Who know?

So, per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the official unemployment rate dropped by 0.3% to bring it under 5% at 4.7%.  How, you might wonder, could the rate drop so drastically when only 38,000 jobs were added last month?  Easy.  500,000 Americans were dropped from the calculation, assumed to be no longer looking for work.

Other than that, the government and its apologists are trying to blame the weak numbers on the Verizon strike.  But, Reuters doesn’t seem to be buying the spin:

The U.S. economy created the fewest number of jobs in more than five years in May, hurt by a strike by Verizon workers and a fall in goods producing employment, pointing to labor market weakness that could make it difficult for the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates.

Nonfarm payrolls increased by only 38,000 jobs last month, the smallest gain since September 2010, the Labor Department said on Friday. Employers hired 59,000 fewer workers in March and April. The government said the month-long Verizon strike had depressed employment growth by 34,000 jobs. …

Even without the Verizon strike, payrolls would have increased by a mere 72,000.

The Verizon workers, who were considered unemployed because they did not receive a salary during the payrolls survey week, returned to their jobs on Wednesday. They are expected to boost June employment.

So with weak numbers both March and April, it’s … Verizon.  Right.  Another in a long line of disingenuous nonsense from your government to fool you in believing everything is on the upswing.  Welcome to Recovery Summer #7!

Gee, if only someone had warned them about this:

Wendy’s has placed an increasing emphasis on tech as wages have begun rising in regions across the country. Last year, the company opened a technology and innovation center called 90° Labs in Ohio, which it said would be used to “develop differentiating, interactive digital experiences for our customers, employees and franchise system.”

Other restaurants are making similar moves to combat rising wages. McDonald’s is testing self-serve kiosks in some of its stores, which CEO Steve Easterbrook called “progress” in the company’s most recent earnings call. Some have speculated that the greater use of tablets — and even robots — could also be on the horizon. Other restaurants, like Shake Shack, are choosing instead to offset higher-wages the old-fashioned way: by raising prices.

Any guesses how long the “Shake Shack” will be able to afford the loss in business to “offset” higher wages?

Meanwhile at the day care center:

Students at Yale University recently sent a petition asking the English department to drop two required classes covering “Major English Poets” because reading those poets “creates a culture that is especially hostile to students of color.”

You see, they want to “decolonize” the course.  Note the title – “Major ENGLISH poets”.  Included among these poets are Geoffrey Chaucer, Edmund Spenser, William Shakespeare, John Donne, John Milton, Alexander Pope, William Wordsworth, and T.S. Eliot.  Hmm … everyone of them an ENGLISH poet.  Question to the snowflakes – who would you replace them with and still be within the course title?  Back when these folks wrote ENGLISH poetry, there were few LGBTQ poets who identified as such.  In fact, there weren’t any that I’m aware of who self-identified and focused on that.  Same with poets of color. Or feminist poets (note I didn’t say female, but I do leave it to those more expert in this field to identify any major female poet of the time that should be included). All of that my not be particularly agreeable with the SJWs, but it is both reality and history.

“A year spent around a seminar table where the literary contributions of women, people of color, and queer folk are absent actively harms students, regardless of their identity.”

Well, here’s an idea, don’t take the course!  If it does such “active harm” to the students you identify (and who must have the lowest self-esteem on the planet), then find something else to study.  Because like it or not, when you attempt to take your place in society outside of your safe space, they’re not going to excuse the fact that you are ignorant of the major players in ENGLISH poetry.

Here are students who are the most privileged in not only America but likely the world, whining because the object of their study isn’t the right color or sex for them.  Apparently the utility of these dead white males is all wrapped up in their skin color and sex.  I can imagine what they’d call anyone else who based their approval on such trivialities, can’t you?

Have a good weekend!

~McQ

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