Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Economic Statistics for 28 Oct 14

ICSC-Goldman reports weekly retail sales rose 0.3%, and rose 2.8% on a year-over-year basis. Redbook reports retail sales rose 4.4% on a year-ago basis.

September durable goods orders fell for the second straight month, down -1.3% overall, and -0.2% ex-transportation. On a year-over-year basis, orders are up 3.3% and orders excluding transportation are up 7.3%.

The S&P/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index for August fell -0.1%, contracting for the fourth straight month. On a year-over-year basis, the index is up 5.6%.

The Conference Board’s consumer confidence index for October rose to 94.5, the highest since October 2007.

The Richmond Fed manufacturing index rose 6 points to 20 in October.

The State Street Investor Confidence Index came in at 115.1, compared to September’s especially strong reading of 123.9.


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Calling all Grand Dragons …

Say what you will of Bill Maher (I’m not a fan), his statement about Muslims seems to have some legs:

“In his comments on his HBO show, Maher noted that too many Muslims reject the very notion of free thought and free speech, that the problem is not just ‘a few bad apples.’”

See Europe after the Mohommed cartoons and just about anywhere else concerning a little known video that Muslims found to be sacrilegious (and the US government blamed for the deaths in Benghazi).  Or any of a thousand examples.

It is also something many of us believe about the left, for the most part.  And good old UC Berkley has decided to prove the point.  And Bill Maher is the “problem”:

In response to an announcement last week that comedian Bill Maher would speak at UC Berkeley’s fall commencement, an online petition started circulating Thursday that demanded that the campus rescind its invitation.

The Change.org petition was authored by ASUC Senator Marium Navid, who is backed by the Middle Eastern, Muslim and South Asian Coalition, or MEMSA, and Khwaja Ahmed, an active MEMSA member. The petition, which urges students to boycott the decision and asks the campus to stop him from speaking, has already gathered more than 1,400 signatures as of Sunday.

Maher, a stand-up comedian and host of HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher, is best known for his often-polarizing political commentary. Recently, Maher faced some backlash after controversial remarks regarding Islam during a segment on his Oct. 6 show.

Navid claims this isn’t about free speech, it’s a matter of “campus climate”:

“The First Amendment gives him the right to speak his mind, but it doesn’t give him the right to speak at such an elevated platform as the commencement. That’s a privilege his racist and bigoted remarks don’t give him.”

For the most part, I agree that freedom of speech doesn’t give one the “right” to speak anywhere – that, in fact, this is an invitation to speak at a “commencement”, and that’s a privilege the university extends.  Okay, got it.

But that’s not what this is about … it’s about shutting Bill Maher and those like him up.  It’s about letting a certain group outside the administration of the university decide who will be awarded the privilege to speak and who won’t.  And in that case, it becomes a matter of free speech, doesn’t it?

Perhaps the most ironic development, though, was on MSNBC (of all places) when an advocate for free speech on campus crossed swords with a spokesman for CAIR:

In a heated debate on MSNBC with free speech advocate Greg Lukianoff, CAIR’s Ibrahim Hooper defended UC Berkeley students’ efforts to uninvite comedian Bill Maher for his comments on Islam, comparing him to the Grand Dragon of the KKK.

[…]

LUKIANOFF: The fact that people so vehemently disagree with him is the more reason to hear him out. It’s an art that I feel is actually being lost on the campuses, where we should be teaching people is to at least hear people out before you to get them kicked off campus.

HOOPER: So if they invited the Grand Dragon of the KKK…

 

CAIR, of all organizations, comparing any other organization to the KKK … well, let’s leave it at “ironic” shall we?

The left’s the “useful idiot” in the attempt of organizations like CAIR to stifle any debate or criticism of Islam.  And, Maher is the Grand Dragon?

~McQ

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Absurdity upon absurdity

The more I watch our current government work these days the more absurd its works become.

Here’s the story.  Governors Cumo (NY) and Christie (NJ) imposed 21 day quarantines on health care workers returning from countries with ebola epidemics.  That’s right, these poor souls have to spend three weeks being monitored in an area isolated from the general public so if they’re possibly infected they won’t have an opportunity to spread the infection – you know, like the doctor who passed “enhanced screening” at JFK did last week.

Now the first thing I expect to hear is, “whoa, wait – you’re a libertarian and you’re agreeing that the government should have the authority to hold someone against their will?”  What I’m agreeing with is a medical protocol that has stemmed epidemics for hundreds of years – at least since we’ve discovered it was germs and viruses, not “ill humors” that brought various plagues.

And, its not like we’re talking “imprisoning” them or this taking years or even months.  3 freaking weeks.  3 weeks in some sort of center where they can be medically monitored to ensure they aren’t infectious before they’re given the okay to again join the general population.

Instead we get two reactions.  One from a “health care worker”:

Hickox, the first nurse forcibly quarantined in New Jersey under the state’s new policy, said her isolation at a hospital was ‘inhumane,’ adding: ‘We have to be very careful about letting politicians make health decisions.’

Hickox is now suing and has now hired Norman Siegel, a high profile civil rights attorney, to challenge the order.

Well, of course she has.  Because one of the things we see more and more of is “we have rights!” but it is rarely followed by “and we have responsibilities that go with those rights”.  You know, like taking the precautions necessary to ensure you don’t infect others.  By the way, she’s complaining that she tested negative for ebola.  I’d remind her, so did the doctor who is now down with ebola in NYC.  Nope, this is all about “her rights” – screw yours.

Now contrast that with this bit of word salad from the NIH:

‘The best way to protect us is to stop the epidemic in Africa, and we need those health care workers, so we do not want to put them in a position where it makes it very, very uncomfortable for them to even volunteer to go,’ said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Fauci made the rounds on five major Sunday morning talk shows to argue that policy should be driven by science — and that science says people with the virus are not contagious until symptoms appear. And even then, infection requires direct contact with bodily fluids.

He said that close monitoring of medical workers for symptoms is sufficient, and warned that forcibly separating them from others, or quarantining them, for three weeks could cripple the fight against the outbreak in West Africa — an argument that humanitarian medical organizations have also made.

‘If we don’t have our people volunteering to go over there, then you’re going to have other countries that are not going to do it and then the epidemic will continue to roar,’ Fauci said.

A) It doesn’t have to be “very, very uncomfortable”.  They’re health care professionals.  It’s kinda like a deep sea diver saying he’s not going to spend the decompression time necessary to avoid the bends because it’s “uncomfortable”.  Of course he is, because that is part of the freakin job!   Anyone remember this: “first do no harm”.  Until you are sure you are ebola free – that’s after 21 days – then you can’t be sure you’re fulfilling that part of your pledge to those you serve, can you?

B) While the best way is obviously to stop ebola in Africa, it certainly does no good to let infected members to return and reintegrate with a population that isn’t infected.  That’s how freakin’ epidemics start!  So certainly stop it in Africa.  But also take the common sense precautions necessary to stop it before it gets here.  Is that too much to ask of a “health care professional” and an agency charged with protecting us from health care threats such as ebola?

C) Because the people “volunteering” are indeed “health care professionals” they should understand the need for quarantine upon returning.  It should be a part of the entire process.  I simply don’t understand the resistance.  I have to wonder if they keep suspected ebola patients in the same wards with regular patients.  Well, no, of course not.  They quarantine them, even if the chance of them infecting others is very small.  Why, oh why, is it too much to ask those who’ve been exposed to the virus and may be infected (but asymptomatic) to have a little regard for others and understand the need for separation for a period of time? Oh, and by the way, if the virus mutates (and health care officials say it might, given the amount of infection seen in Africa) then what?  Suddenly it’s a whole new kettle of fish, isn’t it?  And what they’re asking us to let them do is close the barn door after the ebola cow has left.  Stupid.

So what does the leadership in DC do?  Well it talks the governors out of doing what is common sense and relying on the “wisdom” of a system that promised ebola would never reach the US.

Absurd.  Stupid.  Unthinking.  Dumb.

Don’t know how to say it any other way.

UPDATE: in light of a statement today by dopy Donny Deutsch saying “we’re a nation of cowards” because … well because he believes there’s hysteria in the air … I want to make it clear what I say isn’t said out of “fear”.  It’s said in frustration.  Frustration about applied stupidity.  It’s as though all the common sense precautions we’ve taken in the past are “dated”.  Now we just wing it and make pronouncements about how it just can’t happen here, even though it has happened here.  Talk about arrogance.  And stupidity.

~McQ

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Billy’s predictions for the mid-term election and its aftermath

When it comes to the mid-terms, I’m about in the same place psychologically as McQ. But we might as well have some fun with this election. So I sat down and thought about what I expected from it, and came up with the following list:

  1. The Republicans will do well. They will likely retake the Senate and add at least a dozen seats to their House majority.

  2. Lots fewer people will care about that outcome than in previous cycles such as 1994 and 2010. More people are now cynical that the GOP doesn’t really intend to do anything of consequence.

    The default strategy of the establishment GOP right now seems to be to give the Democrats a turn, knowing they’ll screw things up even worse. Then the voters will give the establishment GOP another chance, because they screw things up more slowly. Thus, the establishment GOP believes they are assured of another round of favoring their particular crony capitalists rather then the crony capitalists favored by the Democrats. Plus, they get the nice corner offices for a while. 

  3. At least one Senate race will be close, and will go into protracted recounts. The Democrats will eventually win that race with questionable votes. (Bonus points on entertainment value if it’s Al Franken again.)
  4. The media will not report the questionable votes and tactics used to secure the Democratic victory in #3.
  5. The media will be surprised at the depth of loathing for Obama shown by the election. After all, everyone *they* know likes him.
  6. The media will only show a flicker of that surprise before they get back to covering for and pimping for Obama.
  7. At least one major media figure will use the phrase “temper tantrum” or a close synonym to describe what the voters did to cause the GOP gains.
  8. At least one incident at a polling place will involve blacks supposedly being denied the right to vote because of new voter ID laws. The media might have to manufacture, or at least exaggerate, that incident, but they’ll find one no matter how hard they have to search.
  9. There will be incidents of the opposite kind, like this one in 2008. Those will not be reported by the media, no matter how many there are or how egregious the violation of laws happens to be.
  10. November and December will see dozens of media stories on how the “ground game” failed for the Democrats. Some of those stories will infer that the Democrats’ ground game was sabotaged. There will be no stories in major media of how the Democrats and their ground game failed because Obama has become a laughing-stock.
  11. Opinion columnists in the major media will begin to excuse Obama’s almost total disengagement by blaming it on the new GOP dual majority in Congress. They’ll say things such as “Why should he even try, when they won’t cooperate with him?” (i.e. “bend over and do what he wants”) Some will push for Obama to use even more executive power to bypass the democratically elected majorities in Congress. Some of those will be the same ones who screamed about Bush’s “illegal war”, even though he sought and received authorization from Congress.
  12. Someone will attempt to spread rumors about an Ebola outbreak in key places to depress voter turnout by making people unwilling to go out in public. Either side is capable of this – both sides might do it.
  13. Ted Cruz will give a rousing speech shortly after the election on what the Republicans should do. It will be ignored by the major media, though they might run an out-of-context soundbite of it to try and make him look bad.
  14. Very stupid social science academics will shake their heads and wonder how the voters could dislike Obama since he’s such a great president. Then they’ll talk about how things go “back and forth” or “move in cycles” or some such meaningless blather, as if the GOP victories simply resulted from an inevitable force of nature and have nothing to do with Obama’s screwups.
  15. Allies of the establishment GOP, such as the bloggers at Hot Air, will immediately begin justifying why the new majorities can’t possibly do anything of consequence. I’m guessing their catchphrase will become “Don’t expect too much.”
  16. Allies of the establishment GOP will claim that the election results show definitively that the GOP needs to nominate a moderate for president in 2016. I can’t predict what tortured logic they will use for that conclusion.

OK, that’s enough for me. How about our astute and intelligent commenters add their own?

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Here comes reality to slap some faces

Funny how reality always wins:

Black voters’ disappointment with President Barack Obama, who they so eagerly embraced for so many years, could be costly on Election Day to Democrats, who badly need a big African-American turnout to win Senate and gubernatorial races in key states.

Instead, many African-Americans see an unemployment rate well above the national average, continuing problems with crime in many neighborhoods, and a president more interested in trying to help other voting blocs that didn’t give him such unwavering support.

He talks about same-sex marriage in a nod to the gay and lesbian community. He discusses immigration and its benefits, an issue particularly important to the Latino community. He fights for equal pay, a vital issue to the women Democrats so avidly court.

The black community, which gave Obama support like no other group, too often doesn’t see the investment paying off.

“People in this community just don’t think anything is going to change,” said Akua Scott, a Miami-based labor organizer.

Well you can see why they’re disappointed.  Those that rely on politicians to make things “change” are always going to be disappointed.  And Barack Obama is and always has been a self-promoting politician.  The only thing I’ve seen the man show any sort of loyalty toward is his ideology.  But constituent groups – we’ll he’ll talk a good game but if you really expect action, you’re mostly screwed.
It has apparently taken blacks 6 years to figure this out.  Some of his supporters still haven’t figured it out.
However, the point of all of this is that this sort of problem is one that bodes ill for Democrats during the mid-terms.  Because, as noted, for 6 years an overwhelming majority of blacks have loyally supported the Democrats and almost religiously turned out for them on election day.  But if they’ve mostly given up on Obama, that certainly has to be seen as a real negative for the left’s midterm hopes.  Add to that the declining female vote and the news that women don’t feel safe with Obama in office and Dems have a real dilemma.  Oh, and then Obama’s tone deaf “hurt little boy” remark about Democrats avoiding him, even though they’ve been supporting his agenda the whole time he’s been in office.
Reality … she’s one spiteful “B”, isn’t she?  Let’s see how GOTV goes this Nov. 4th for the Dems.
~McQ
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Economic Statistics for 23 Oct 14

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index rose 1.5 points to 37.7 in the latest week.

Initial weekly jobless claims rose 17,000 to 283,000. The 4-week average fell 3,000 to 281,000, a 14-year low. Continuing claims  fell 38,000 to 2.351 million.

The Chicago Fed National Activity Index rose strongly from -0.21 to 0.47 in September.

The FHFA purchase only house price index rose 0.5% in August.

The Markit PMI manufacturing index flash for October fell -1.7 points from the final September reading to 56.2.

The Kansas City Fed manufacturing index fell -2 points to 4 in October.

The Fed’s balance sheet rose $7.3 billion last week, with total assets of 4.482 trillion. Reserve bank credit rose $15.2 billion.

The Fed reports that M2 money supply fell by $-39.3 billion in the latest week.


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Economic Statistics for 22 Oct 14

Consumer prices rose 0.1% in September at both the headline and core rates of the CPI. On a year-over-year basis, the CPI is up 1.7%, again at both the core and headline levels.

The MBA reports that, thanks to falling lending rates, mortgage applications rose a sharp 11.6% last week, with purchases down -5.0% but refis up 23.0%.


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