Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Will justice actually be served?

Anthony DeChristopher over at The Hill thinks the latest finds on Hillary’s email server are a “game changer”.  And he makes a good point … it’s a game changer for someone:

Special Access Programs (SAP) is a game changer.  It is now undeniably clear that the results of the FBI investigation will be the end of one of two things:  Hillary’s bid for the White House or the legitimacy of the FBI—at least when it comes to prosecuting cases on the mishandling of classified material.

The FBI’s reputation has been tarnished in the last decade or so.  No longer is it thought of quite in the same way it once was.  A series of missteps, scandals and problems have lowered the once sterling reputation of the law enforcement agency.

On the other hand is a powerful political figure that’s in the running for President of the United States and just happens to be of the same party and the presently serving President of the United States.  To make it clear, the FBI works for the executive department under the Department of Justice.  And, of course, the DoJ is headed by an Obama appointee.  Oh, and remember, the Dems want to hold on to the White House.

Hillary Clinton is a “win at any price” person.  She badly wants to be the first female President of the United States.  Badly.  Very, very badly.

The FBI wants to polish up its reputation as the incorrigible and incorruptible law enforcement agency that isn’t swayed or impacted by politics, but simply enforces the law.

Something has got to give.

DeChristopher is apparently a former Special Forces soldier who gives you a brief run down of the gravity of the Clinton offense.

First, when imagery that is classified SECRET//NOFORN (no foreign national) is viewed, regardless of the absence of classification markings, it is distinctly evident. Second, any documents that contain or reference HUMINT is always classified SECRET, and if specific names of sources or handlers are mentioned, they are at a minimum SECRET//NOFORN.  Third, SIGINT is always classified at the TS level.  It’s not uncommon for some SI to be downgraded and shared over SECRET mediums, however, it is highly unlikely that a Secretary of State would receive downgraded intelligence.  Finally, SAP intelligence has been discovered on Clinton’s private server, and many are now calling this the smoking gun.  SAP is a specialized management system of additional security controls designed to protect SAR or Special Access Required.  SAR has to do with extremely perishable operational methods and capabilities, and only selected individuals who are “read on” or “indoctrinated” are permitted access to these programs.  The mishandling of SAP can cause catastrophic damage to current collection methods, techniques and personnel.

Got it? This isn’t something that is hard to figure out, and anyone who has worked at high levels of government for years already knows all this.  Now comes the chaser:

In other words, if you have worked with classified material for more than a day, it seems highly implausible that someone could receive any of the aforementioned over an un-secure medium without alarm bells sounding.  However, reading about a Special Access Program on an unclassified device would make anyone even remotely familiar with intelligence mess their pantsuit.

You can tell it has put her highness off her stride, but she’s resurrecting the VRWC to cover that.

However this is going to be interesting to watch.  There is a large amount of evidence that points to her being directly responsible for a horrific, nay, epic security breach at the highest level.

Will the FBI do it’s job?  Or is this, like so many Clinton scandals, going to end up with no action being taken when you can be sure if it was you or I, we’d be frog-marched so fast to the local hoosegow that it would make our heads swim.

But we’re the little people, aren’t we?

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 21 Jan 16

The Philadelphia Fed Survey gained back some of it’s negative ground in January, rising from -5.9 to -3.5.

Initial weekly jobless claims rose 10,000 to 293,000. The 4-week average rose 14,250 to 285,000. Continuing claims fell 56,000 to 2.228 million.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index fell -0.4 points to 44.0 in the latest week.

The Fed’s balance sheet fell $-12.9 billion last week, with total assets of $4.489 trillion. Reserve bank credit rose $5.3 billion.

The Fed reports that M2 money supply rose surprisingly sharply, up $173.3 billion in the latest week.


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Economic Statistics for 20 Jan 16

Consumer prices fell -0.1% overall in December, while the core CPI, which excludes food and energy, rose 0.1%. On a year-over-year basis, The CPI is up 0.7% overall, and 2.1% at the core.

Housing starts fell -2.5% in December to a 1.149 million annual rate, while building permits fell -3.9% to a 1.232 million rate.

The MBA reports that mortgage applications rose 9.0% last week, with purchases down -2.0% but refis up 19.0%.

Redbook reports that last week’s retail sales growth fell to 1.4% on a year-ago basis, from the previous week’s already-soft 1.7%.


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And the Oscar goes too …

Another day, another citadel of lefties under attack by … other lefties.   In this case it is the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and their “all white” Oscar nominations for this year.

And so, in true Kanye West we-deserve-stuff-cuz-we’re-black style the charge racism is being leveled at the Academy because, well, there are no blacks who have been nominated this year, just like last year.  Yes, they even have a hashtag for it: #OscarsSoWhite.

But, surprise of surprises, members of the academy are “offended” by such accusations:

Penelope Ann Miller, best known for Carlito’s Way and The Artist, is a member of the actors branch that could have nominated Creed‘s Michael B. JordanConcussion‘s Will SmithThe Hateful Eight‘s Samuel L. Jackson or Beasts of No Nation‘s Idris Elba. “I voted for a number of black performers, and I was sorry they weren’t nominated,” she tells THR. “But to imply that this is because all of us are racists is extremely offensive. I don’t want to be lumped into a category of being a racist because I’m certainly not and because I support and benefit from the talent of black people in this business. It was just an incredibly competitive year.”

And:

Jeremy Larner, a member of the writers branch — which did nominate Compton‘s (white) writers for best original screenplay — was a civil rights activist in the 1960s and won an Oscar for 1972’s The Candidate. “I cannot prove the Academy or anyone else is not racist,” he grants. But, he says in his own defense, “I have voted for many people of color for awards.”

Wait, aren’t those sort of excuses like saying, in this context, “and I have many black friends”?  I thought so.

Of note, however, is the fact that this is the second year in a row that no blacks have been nominated.   That, however, in and of itself, doesn’t mean the Academy is racist, except to those who choose to believe it.  Why?  Perhaps because the movies featuring black actors didn’t quite measure up?  Again, Jeremy Larner:

 “I happen to think Straight Outta Compton is not a great film for reasons of structure and substance. I can imagine it is a powerful affirmation for those who share the assumptions of its music and see it as fans. But to me, a good film has to show a lot more than this one does.”

Translation: as a film … meh.

Miller is a bit incensed that the Academy is the target:

“There were an incredible number of films in 2015 that were primarily about white people. Talk to the studios about changing that, not the Academy. There’s only so much we can do.” She adds, “I think when you make race the issue, it can divide people even further, and that’s what I worry about.”

Ya think!  But then, that’s been the identity politics the left has engaged in for decades.  When you let the PC out of Pandora’s box, and give it credence when used against your ideological enemies, don’t act surprised when it comes around to bite you on your Academy, or campus , or …

~McQ

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The death knell of establishment politics?

As much as the media would like to cast what’s going on during the GOP presidential nomination process as a “crisis for the GOP”, the Dems have their own establishment crisis problem.  And it is getting very little media coverage.  But Kim Strassel talks about it today in her WSJ piece.  As much as the Democrats (and media) would like voters to believe the right is melting down and heading toward Tea Party land, it seems clear the left is getting ready to “Move On.”

On both sides, frustration with the establishment is the most evident feature:

Some of Mrs. Clinton’s struggles are self-imposed. She’s a real-world, political version of Pig-Pen, trailing along her own cloud of scandal dust. Even Democrats who like her don’t trust her. And a lot of voters are weary or unimpressed by the Clinton name. For all the Democratic establishment’s attempts to anoint Mrs. Clinton—to shield her from debates and ignore her liabilities—the rank and file aren’t content to have their nominee dictated.

Especially because many of those rank and file belong to a rising progressive movement that has no time or interest in the old Clinton mold. Barack Obama’s biggest legacy may prove his dismantling of the Democratic center. He ran as a uniter, but he governed as a divisive ideologue and as a liberal, feeding new fervor in the progressive wing.

These progressives proved more eager than even the Republicans to steadily pick off Democratic moderates—and helped the GOP to decimate their ranks. The Democratic congressional contingent is now at its smallest size since before FDR. But boy is it pure, and it retains an unwavering belief that its path to re-election is to double down on the Obama agenda.

I have to admit loving the characterization of Hillary as “Pig Pen”.  That notwithstanding, you’d think Hillary, who has prepared for this since Bill first stepped into the White House, would be a natural choice of the left.  But then how does one explain the rise of someone who uses the term “socialist” to describe himself because communist would likely be a bridge too far?  It’s because the left and right have drifted further apart over the years and the “establishment” of both parties has been set adrift.  It’s because to more and more Americans (who didn’t live during the Cold War and didn’t see the wreck the Soviet Union was when it imploded) are enamored with the idea of “equality” as the left now describes it.  Equal income, high minimum wage, free this and free that.  When you’re an economic illiterate, those things are appealing.  And when you further believe the government is the instrument of all things good, well, you’re on the road to serfdom.

Just as Donald Trump is busy calling out the GOP pretenders to the throne, the lefty heroes are undermining the chances of the anointed one:

The president insists that financial institutions were entirely to blame for the 2008 crisis, and that government’s role is to transfer more from those greedy capitalist owners to poor Americans. Out of this class warfare came the likes of Occupy Wall Street, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and today a Sanders campaign that describes “wealth and income equality” as the great “moral issue” of our time.

Mrs. Warren, a progressive hero, went out of her way last week to praise the Sanders Wall Street “reform” plan. Even Joe Biden wanted in on the action, lauding Mr. Sanders and suggesting that Mrs. Clinton was still “relatively new” to the income-inequality debate. Hillary is stuck trying to explain why her campaign donations from bankers aren’t a disqualifier.

The usual subjects have also rallied around the Clinton opposition:

These movements and activists (who also embrace the gun debate, and the women’s-rights debate, and socialized health-care debate) are now the beating heart of the Democratic Party. And they are rallying around Mr. Sanders. MoveOn.org has endorsed Bernie. The liberal Nation magazine has endorsed him. Bill McKibben, the head of 350.org, has endorsed him. Jodie Evans, the co-founder of the antiwar group Codepink has endorsed him. Celebrity activists like Susan Sarandon and Mark Ruffalo are feeling the Bern.

Now no one is saying that all that is enough.  But for both parties, if ever they figured out they had missed their wake up call, this is the season that drills that home.  For too long, both establishment parties have taken their voters for granted, essentially merged into a tax and spend entity that no one is satisfied with, and have missed the proverbial boat for government reform.  Of course, reform is defined differently by the right and left, but you get my point.

The party that is in trouble this year isn’t the GOP or the Democrats, per se.  It is the party of establishment politicians who’ve ignored the restless and frustrated voters one election too many.  People are tired of the Obamafication of politics – talk, talk, talk and then do what the hell you want to do.

We’ll see how it all turns out, but it is one of the more interesting political periods of my lifetime – and I’ve been around since Truman.

~McQ

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Who changed the deal?

That’s the question here.  Which entity decided, arbitrarily, to change the conditions of the agreement?

DC officials are furious as Walmart has reneged on a promise to build stores in lower-income areas of the city. Walmart announced last week that they will be shuttering 269 stores throughout the country. (The already-existing three DC stores will remain open.) The company cited the unexpectedly high building and labor costs as to why they would not move forward with the additional locations, but was more open in a meeting as to how DC’s labor laws, including its higher minimum wage, are making it harder to operate a business.

Let’s see.  Was raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour within the District a part of the deal?  Do you think Walmart would have agreed to build had it known that such a raise in labor costs was in the offing?  My guess is “no”.  Thus the citing of “unexpectedly” high … labor costs.   And obviously, it also costs more, then, to build the store in a union town, because when the lowest paid worker gets a raise such as this, guess what happens to the pay of the higher paid workers?  That’s why unions back the minimum wage.

The WaPo sheds some more light on the subject:

Evans said that, behind closed doors, Walmart officials were more frank about the reasons the company was downsizing. He said the company cited the District’s rising minimum wage, now at $11.50 an hour and possibly going to $15 an hour if a proposed ballot measure is successful in November. He also said a proposal for legislation requiring D.C. employers to pay into a fund for family and medical leave for employees, and another effort to require a minimum amount of hours for hourly workers were compounding costs and concerns for the retailer.

“They were saying, ‘How are we going to run the three stores we have, let alone build two more?’ ” Evans said.

Exactly!  When the government that made the deal then changes the conditions, it isn’t the company which is the problem.  It is the government assuming the power to set the labor cost for the company (plus this new fund that’s likely to pass into law) which is at fault.  If anyone should be “furious” it is the company and the citizens now denied the low cost of goods Walmart would have brought to those neighborhoods.  A perfect example of the government engaging in “bait and switch”.

So who, exactly, is it that gets hurt?

Why the very people they were purported to want to help.

The poor.

What a surprise.

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 15 Jan 16

Producer prices fell -0.2% in December, but prices less food and energy rose 0.1%, and prices less food, energy, and trade services rose 0.2%. On a year-over-year basis, the PPI is down -1.0% overall, but up 0.3% in both core categories.

December retail sales fell a disappointing -0.1% overall, -0.1% less autos, and were unchanged less autos and gas. 2015 was a lackluster year.

The Empire State Manufacturing Survey plunged from -4.59 to -19.37 in December, the lowest reading since 2009.

Industrial production declined -0.4% in December, while capacity utilization in the nation’s factories fell 0.5% to 76.5%.

Business inventories fell -0.2% in November, but a -0.2% drop in sales left the stock-to-sales ratio at 1.38.

The University of Michigan’s Consumer Sentiment index rose 0.7 points to 93.3.

Now that we’ve gotten a look at December sales and industrial production, GDP growth for the 4th quarter isn’t looking great.


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Stray Voltage

So yesterday was one of those days with a million things to do and not enough time to do them … such as blogging.  Anyway, today, we see a college pushing back against the tyranny of the ignorant:

Oxford University installed its first female vice-chancellor this week, Louise Richardson, who boldly stressed the importance of free speech and critical thinking at university amid roiling student protests.

Addressing students for the first time in her new role, Richardson urged them to be open-minded and tolerant; and to engage in debate rather than censorship, alluding to countless calls from students at Oxford and other universities across the U.K. to ban potentially offensive speakers and rename or remove historical monuments.

“How do we ensure that we educate our students both to embrace complexity and retain conviction?” she asked. “How do we ensure that they appreciate the value of engaging with ideas they find objectionable, trying through reason to change another’s mind, while always being open to changing their own? How do we ensure that our students understand the true nature of freedom of inquiry and expression?”

Richardson’s installment comes as students at Oxford’s Oriel College campaign to dismantle a statue of Cecil Rhodes, the British colonialist who endowed the Rhodes Scholarship.

They claim the monument glorifies a man who was “the Hitler of South Africa” and speaks to “the size and strength of Britain’s imperial blind spot.”

Uh, that’s history, and that’s precisely the message that was conveyed by Ms Richardson to those who would take down Rhode’s statue:

Richardson stood by the university’s chancellor, Lord Patten of Barnes, as he referenced the statue debate, reminding students that history cannot be rewritten “according to our contemporary views and prejudices.” He, too, was forthright in his criticism of speech codes and calls for “no-platforming” controversial speakers.

The point Richardson makes seems to be a difficult one for the SJWs to grasp.  Obviously none of them are Rhodes Scholars.  Good for Louise Richardson.

The “melting pot” makes a comeback:

A generation ago the Europeans, who had bled themselves white in war after war, usually in the service of chauvinistic nationalism, decided they could save the day with a new concept called multiculturalism. The concept was vague but expansive, which celebrated ethnic and other cultural differences and sprinkling them with holy water. “Multi-culti” became fashionable.

Soon Europe’s native minorities were joined by vast new numbers of arrivals from places far from Europe, many from former colonial appendages. By cultivating their differences, rather inviting them to join a melting pot that had worked so well for so long in North America, tolerance and “cultural enrichment” became the norm.

But there’s a growing realization that maybe “multi-culti” hasn’t worked so well, after all. Prominent Europeans are turning their backs on the idea. Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany have called the scheme, however well meant, into serious question.

Segregating by culture, claiming all cultures are as viable as the next and “tolerating” what is intolerable in the native culture do not lead to a harmonious or united nation.  You’d think smart people could have figured that out before going all in on this sort of experiment that had “bad idea” written all over it when it began.  And that’s been proven now, with the wrecked lives of a number of British girls (Rotherham):

The British Home Secretary, Theresa May, told Parliament that “institutionalized political correctness” was responsible for the lack of attention given to the mass rape.

In other words, between protecting over a thousand girls from repeated gang rape and protecting Muslims from being identified as the rapists, British authorities chose to protect multiculturalism and “diversity.” In the competition between multiculturalism and one of the most elementary instincts and obligations of higher civilization — the protection of girls and women from sexual violence — higher civilization lost.

And look what their choice got them.  The authorities need to be in jail for their refusal to do what was right and, by the way, their job.  Oh, and feminists?  Where are you?

How bad a candidate is Hillary Clinton?  This is just an indicator:

Bernie Sanders has a 19-point lead over Hillary Clinton among Democratic and independent women ages 18 to 34, according to a USA Today/Rock the Vote poll.

The Vermont senator, who has been surging in the polls in the last two weeks, won 50 percent compared to Clinton’s 31 percent among millennial women.

However, I have to say, if your choice on that side of the political spectrum is narrowed down to these two, you’re stuck with two bad candidates anyway.

Yeow.  Really?

A poll out Thursday from the Pew Research Center shows more Americans distrust sharing their personal information with social media companies, smart cars and homes than office surveillance cameras, retail loyalty programs and health services websites.

According to the study, 54 percent of American adults polled found the prospect of security cameras in their workplace capable of tracking employee performance and attendance with facial recognition technology and stockpiled footage “acceptable,” compared to 51 percent who said it was “not acceptable” to give up personal information in exchange for free use of a social media platform, which would use the data to target users with ads.

“More acceptable”?  How about finding neither “acceptable.”

By the way, if you’re wondering why Clinton is losing millennial women to Sanders, this may be the cause:

As for Mrs. Clinton, she has clearly been rattled by Mr. Trump’s merciless resurrection of her alleged complicity in the sometimes brutal handling of women involved in her husband’s dramas. This reminds everyone of—and introduces young voters, who were children during the Gennifer Flowers through Monica Lewinsky stories to—the whole sordid underside of Clintonism. Mrs. Clinton clearly wasn’t expecting it, and she bobbled. She has never gone up against a competitor like Mr. Trump.

History is a bear, and this is a history that I would bet (especially in the light of the Cosby problem) that many of those women weren’t familiar.  It really puts “hollow” in the claim of feminism Clinton has been trying to sell them.  Instead, it shouts “enabler”.  Add in all the other negatives and the candidate looks even less attractive to them.  Most of us would consider it to be well earned shadenfruede.

Is the next recession already teed up?  And will it be worse than 2008?

A major contributor for this imminent recession is the fallout from a faltering Chinese economy. The megalomaniac communist government has increased debt 28 times since the year 2000. Taking that total north of 300 percent of GDP in a very short period of time for the primary purpose of building a massive unproductive fixed asset bubble that adds little to GDP.

Now that this debt bubble is unwinding, growth in China is going offline. The renminbi’s falling value, cascading Shanghai equity prices (down 40 percent since June 2014) and plummeting rail freight volumes (down 10.5 percent year over year), all clearly illustrate that China is not growing at the promulgated 7 percent, but rather isn’t growing at all. The problem is that China accounted for 34 percent of global growth, and the nation’s multiplier effect on emerging markets takes that number to over 50 percent.

China has been in trouble for a while.  In my best Rev. Wright voice, I wonder if the “chickens are coming home to roost?”  I also wonder if so, what that means in terms of stability for China’s ancient totalitarian ruling class.

And in the world of participation trophies and no consequences, this was inevitable:

With nothing but hope and her faulty judgement, Cinnamon Nicole allegedly spent her entire life savings buying up all the Powerball tickets she could afford. But the Cordova resident ended up a broke loser when none of her lucky numbers matched Wednesday’s $1.6 billion Powerball numbers.

So what’s a penniless woman to do when she’s still all filled with hope but not a hint of common sense? Create a GoFundMe page, get donations and “spend another fortune trying to hit it big again.” That’s what Nicole did before GoFundMe decided they weren’t going to stand idly by while she makes a mockery of the crowdfunding site and shut her Powerball Reimbursement page down.

And yes, before GoFundMe shut her down, she had actually raised $800.

*sigh*

Have a great weekend.

~McQ

 

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