Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Economic Statistics for 6 Aug 15

Chain stores reporting sales today say that July was a weak month, with lower rates of year-on-year sales growth compared to June.

A major Army troop cut made for an outsized 105,696 layoff count in July, according to Challenger.

Gallup’s US Payroll to Population Employment Rate was unchanged at 45.5% in July.

Initial weekly jobless claims rose 3,000 to 270,00. The 4-week average fell 6,50 to 268,250. Continuing claims fell 14,000 to 2.255 million.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index fell -0.2 points to 40.3 in the latest week.

The Fed’s balance sheet rose $0.9 billion last week, with total assets of $4.486 trillion. Reserve bank credit fell $-9.0 billion.

The Fed reports that M2 money supply grew by $12.1 billion in the latest week.


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Stray Voltage

Glenn Thrush thinks Donald Trump symbolizes the “crisis for control of the GOP“.  Frankly, I think Trump symbolizes the complete disenchantment the right holds for the establishment GOP.

I’ll believe it when I see it:

The FBI investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s unsecured email account is not just a fact-finding venture — it’s a criminal probe, sources told The Post on Wednesday.

The feds are investigating to what extent Clinton relied on her home server and other private devices to send and store classified documents, according to a federal source with knowledge of the inquiry.

“It’s definitely a criminal probe,” said the source. “I’m not sure why they’re not calling it a criminal probe.

“The DOJ [Department of Justice] and FBI can conduct civil investigations in very limited circumstances,” but that’s not what this is, the source stressed. “In this case, a security violation would lead to criminal charges. Maybe DOJ is trying to protect her campaign.”

Whitewash or actual probe?  Seeing as how Democrats want to continue to hold the White House (despite hard feelings between Clintons and Obama) and DOJ has simply become a political tool in the last 6 years, I have no confidence that it will, in fact, be an actual probe.  Look for a whitewash report at a critical point in the campaign.  We know how it should go.  I sincerely doubt that it will actually go that way.

No I won’t be watching the GOP “debate”.  I have no interest in the race at this point, especially with 17 candidates, most of whom are clowns and all of whom will be trying to shoot themselves or the other guy in the foot.  And I’d be careful to committing to a drinking game this time around.  You may end up not waking up for 3 days.

Perception is reality for many, and in the case of the Planned Parenthood vids, the Democrats are on the ugly side of perception with their continued support of the organization.

Democrats like to talk about the importance of being on the “right side of history.” This phrase was invoked frequently during the same-sex marriage debate. Yet when faced with a series of videos detailing grotesque human rights abuses against unborn children by Planned Parenthood Federation of America doctors, Democratic Party forces have eschewed all concern for historical or moral rightness.

Pope Francis has correctly described the unborn as “the most defenseless and innocent among us.” But in the sordid tale of strategic crushing of the unborn to better harvest their hearts, lungs and livers, many Democrats have incredibly cast an organization with a roughly $1.3 billion annual budget in the role of the innocent and defenseless. Hillary Clinton emerged as Planned Parenthood’s highest profile protector Monday, decrying the “assault” against her allegedly helpless campaign donors.

This goes way beyond the “right to choose”.  And, until Democrats realize that and dump their support and defense of Planned Parenthood, they will remain on the ugly side of this situation.  Here’s hoping they remain as tone deaf as they’ve been so far.

Secret language we’re supposedly not “allowed” to see,  $150 billion going to Iran which both acknowledge “could” be used to fund terrorism and now this:

American intelligence has detected Iran attempting to sanitize Parchin, the military site where the Islamic Republic is suspected of carrying out tests on detonators that could be used to trigger nuclear explosions, Josh Rogin and Eli Lake of Bloomberg View reported on Wednesday.

Meanwhile the supposed Secretary of State of the United States whines about trust and who will be to blame if the vote goes against the deal:

“The ayatollah constantly believed that we are untrustworthy, that you can’t negotiate with us, that we will screw them,” Kerry said. “This”—a congressional rejection—”will be the ultimate screwing.” He went on to argue that “the United States Congress will prove the ayatollah’s suspicion, and there’s no way he’s ever coming back. He will not come back to negotiate. Out of dignity, out of a suspicion that you can’t trust America. America is not going to negotiate in good faith. It didn’t negotiate in good faith now, would be his point.”

Because, you know, the Iranians can always be trusted to uphold their end of the bargain.

Aw, what the hell, give him a Nobel Peace prize.  After Obama’s it and $1 will likely buy you a cup of coffee in most places – except Starbucks.

We see any number of Social Justice Warriors who try to redefine words to fit their agenda.  As we’ve pointed out repeatedly, words mean things, specific things.  This article about, of all things, pizza, helps to handily illustrate the point:

Because last week I made the mistake of asking her for a marinara – which is a simple tomato and garlic pizza – with the addition of mozzarella.

As soon as I say the words, Emanuela looks at me with disbelief and, in retrospect I realise, disgust.

“You can’t have a marinara with mozzarella,” she says. “It doesn’t exist.”

“What do you mean, it doesn’t exist?” I reply, oblivious to her hostility, since she’s quite aggressive at the best of times. “I’d just like a marinara but with some mozzarella on top.” Unwittingly I make matters worse by miming her mozzarella-sprinkling action.

“La marinara is a pizza rossa,” she states frostily. “A pizza rossa is made with tomato and without mozzarella. So you can’t have a marinara with mozzarella because there’s no such thing.”

If one is allowed to redefine the meaning of things, words or whatever as it suits them, real communication is impossible. And that’s precisely what SWJs want. The ability to redefine words to mean what they want them to mean and to shut you up. It’d be nice if we would all tell them that the definitions of the words they try to use “don’t exist”.

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 5 Aug 15

The MBA reports that mortgage applications rose 4.7% last week, with purchases up 3.0% and refis up 6.0%.

ADP estimates that only 185,000 net new private sector jobs were created in July.

Rising imports in June led the US trade deficit to rise to a higher-than-expected $-43.8 billion for the month.

Gallup’s US Job Creation Index remained unchanged at 32 in July.

The ISM Non-Manufacturing Index surged 4.3 points to a surprising 60.3 in July.

The PMI Services Index rose 0.9 points in July to 55.7.


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So, how IS the economy doing?

Dale keeps you abreast of the daily numbers and if you even glance at them semi-regularly, you know they’re not particularly good.

So how have we been doing lately economically?  Well, a little historical context might help:

In the 138 years from 1870 to 2008, the US economy expanded by about an average of 3% a year. After the revisions to GDP data from 2012-2014, we see that the U.S. economy since the financial crisis has been growing an average of 2.0% a year versus the earlier 2.3%. The difference between 3% and 2% may not sound like much, but think of it this way:

At a 3% growth rate the economy doubles in about 24 years.
At a 2% growth rate the economy doubles in about 36 years – 50% MORE time!

And don’t forget, while the government tries to sell you on 2% being the new norm (and you should like it), much of the recent GDP results have involved huge government spending.  So it is actually worse than the 2%.

Here’s a fairly interesting bottom line:

Today there are 136 people receiving some sort of government benefit for every 100 people employed in the private sector.

That can’t go on indefinitely.  Greece and Puerto Rico have already demonstrated that.  And, although it isn’t the only factor leading to this economic demise, it certainly is one of them.

You see, math and reality don’t bow to ideology and fantasy.

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 3 Aug 15

July motor vehicle sales came in at a stronger than expected 3.2% increase to a 17.6 million annual rate. Sales of North American-made vehicles rose 5.2% to a 14.2 million annual rate.

Personal income rose 0.4% in June, while consumer spending rose 0.2%. The PCE Price Index, an inflation measure, rose 0.2% overall, and 0.1% less food and energy. On a year-over-year basis, personal income rose 4.1%, consumer spending rose 3.4%, and the price index rose 0.3% overall, and 1.3% at the core.

Gallup’s US Consumer Spending Measure shows that Americans report spending an average of $91 per day in July, little changed from June’s $90.

The ISM Manufacturing Index slipped -0.8 points in July to a lower-than-expected 52.7. In contrast, the PMI Manufacturing index rose 0.2 points to 53.8.

Construction spending inched only 0.1% higher in June, mainly due to a -1.3% drop in non-residential private construction. On a year-over-year basis, Construction spending is up by 12.0%.


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Hiroshima

In a few days the usual “outrage” for the “war crime” of dropping the atomic bomb on Hiroshima will begin to wend its way around the world.

That narrative grows stronger each year – mostly because of the death of the generation that fought the war in the Pacific and because the narrative continues to be fueled by a need for moral preening and fact free opinion that doesn’t ever seem to die out.

My father was one of those who fought through the Pacific war.  His bonafides were Saipan, Leyte and Okinawa.  He was a recon guy.  And following Okinawa, his next job was going to be the recon of the landing sites on Kyushu, the big southernmost island on what was considered the Japanese “mainland”.  Operation Downfall.  To be opposed by the Japanese “Ketsu Go” in defense of the Japanese home.

My dad never talked much about the war, but I remember the first time I brought up Hiroshima and the bomb and how many people it killed.  He didn’t waste much time on niceties, but turned his hard eyes on me and said, to both me and my two brothers, “if we hadn’t dropped that bomb, you and your bothers wouldn’t be here.  And a lot of your friends wouldn’t be here.  Because I wouldn’t have come back from the war and neither would have their dads.”

That was it.  He had no sympathy for the apologists.  He felt they were making their case in a contextless and ignorant way.  They didn’t know the facts, they hadn’t fought the enemy all the way across the Pacific and they hadn’t the foggiest notion of the mind of the enemy he had fought.  So he dismissed their criticism out of hand.

Bill Whittle had a similar experience as you’ll see in this video.  What Whittle does, however, is muster facts to make the argument that backed what my Dad had said all those many years ago.  He points out why it was both necessary and prudent to do what was done and how, in the end, it probably saved literally millions of lives.

Watch it.  Understand why Jon Stewart, who is featured in the video, is essentially ignorant and, frankly, stupid when he calls Harry Truman a “war criminal”.  And when the anniversary of this comes around on August 6th, be armed with these facts and do the generation that is all but gone a favor – dispute those that are historically ignorant and feel the urge to do a little moral preening to the detriment of those that fought and won that war.

Don’t let them get away with their moral preening and don’t let them ignore the facts for the narrative.  The decision to drop these bombs was hard, but it was right.  And it is the sort of decision none of those who stroke their own vanity by claiming the moral superiority of the present have ever or will ever be called upon to make.

All I have to day is “thank you” to those who made this tough but just decision.

Thank you for my life.

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 31 Jul 15

The University of Michigan’s Consumer Sentiment Index for July unexpectedly softened to 93.1 from the mid-month flash of 93.3.

The 2nd Quarter Employment Cost Index plummeted to 0.2%, the lowest in 33 years. Year-on-year, the ECI fell -0.6% to 2.0%, a near-historical low.

The Chicago PMI jumped back into positive territory in July, rising from 49.4 to 54.7.


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Property and privacy rights? Or drone rights?

Interesting story:

A Kentucky man shot down an $1,800 drone hovering over his sunbathing daughter and was then arrested and charged with first degree criminal mischief and first-degree wanton endangerment.

“My daughter comes in and says, ‘Dad, there’s a drone out here flying,’ ” William H. Merideth, 47, told a local Fox News affiliate reported Tuesday. The Bullitt County father shot at the drone, which crashed in a field near his yard Sunday night.

The owner of the drone claims he was only trying to take pictures of a friend’s house, the station reported.

“I went and got my shotgun and I said, ‘I’m not going to do anything unless it’s directly over my property,’ ” Mr. Merideth said, noting that the drone briefly disappeared when his daughter waved it off. “Within a minute or so, here it came. It was hovering over top of my property, and I shot it out of the sky. I didn’t shoot across the road, I didn’t shoot across my neighbor’s fences, I shot directly into the air.”

Most people would say, “good for him”.  He felt his privacy and property rights were being violated by some possible peeping Tom and he took action to protect both.  As he says, he “didn’t shoot across the road, I didn’t shoot across my neighbor’s fences, I shot directly into the air.”

He had a good, sound reason to take action:

“He didn’t just fly over,” he said. “If he had been moving and just kept moving, that would have been one thing — but when he come directly over our heads, and just hovered there, I felt like I had the right.”

“You know, when you’re in your own property, within a six-foot privacy fence, you have the expectation of privacy,” he said. “We don’t know if he was looking at the girls. We don’t know if he was looking for something to steal. To me, it was the same as trespassing.”

Exactly.  The unknown, coupled with the concerns plus the fact that the drone was purposely and repeatedly being flown where it had no permission to fly, prompted Merideth to action.  And he removed the possible threat.

End of story?

Hardly.  The 4 people who were engaged in flying and hovering the drone over his property showed up to confront him.  Then the police showed up.  Who got arrested?  Well the property owner, of course.

As Scott Shackford of Hit & Run points out:

You’d think it would be obvious that it’s not a good idea to pilot an expensive piece of surveillance equipment just casually over other people’s properties, not just out of respect for other people’s privacy, but because you could lose the thing.

You’d think.  But instead it is the man who was guarding both is privacy and his property rights who ends up going to jail.  Apparently his expectation of privacy and his property rights concerning trespass weren’t enough to save him from catching a ride in the police van.

Tell me again about our “Constitutional rights” to both privacy and property?  Apparently drone’s trump them.

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 30 Jul 15

The nation’s long period of below-trend economic growth extends into its sixth year. 2Q GDP was only 2.3% annualized. The GDP Price Index is also restrained once again, at 2.0% annualized.

Initial weekly jobless claims rose 12,000 to 267,000. The 4-week average fell 3,750 to 274,750. Continuing claims fell 1,000 to 2.255 million.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index fell a steep -1.9 points lower to 40.5 in the latest week.

The Fed’s balance sheet fell $-15.0 billion last week, with total assets of $4.486 trillion. Reserve bank credit fell $-4.5 billion.

The Fed reports that M2 money supply rose by $18.3 billion in the latest week.


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