Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

A trot around the intertubes

There’s a lot going on but not much that needs a long and laborious explanation or rant.

The Clinton Foundation and our former Secretary of State are really starting to stink it up.  And my guess is there’s a lot more to come.  Years ago Terry Goodkind wrote a book called “Wizard’s first rule”.  The Clinton’s operate by that rule.  The rule?  “People are stupid”.  And there’s a Clinton corollary – “so is the media”.  They’ve operated off of that rule and corollary for decades.  They don’t see any reason to stop now.

The administration is claiming it has killed 10,000 ISIS members since it began its campaign of airstrikes.  Most people in the know doubt that number is anywhere near the truth and that, in fact, it’s much, much lower.   Here’s why:

Three out of every four times that Obama dispatches American warplanes over Iraq, they return to base without dropping any bombs or firing any missiles.

“Seventy-five percent of the sorties that we’re currently running with our attack aircraft come back without dropping bombs, mostly because they cannot acquire the target or properly identify the target,” said U.S. Army General (ret) Jack Keane in testimony before the U.S. Senate last week.

That’s why White House and Pentagon briefers usually talk about the number of sorties, not the number of air strikes. The number of missions flown is four times larger than the number of bombing runs.

There’s a simple fix, but it is politically unpalatable to the “lead from behind” crowd:

Gen. Keane offered a straightforward solution. “Forward air controllers fix that problem,” he said.

You know, “boots on the ground?”  Doing what they’re doing is sort of like firing artillery without forward observers.  Yeah, you’re likely to hit something every now and then, but is it really effective?  Uh, no.

Apparently ISIS acted as our own forward air controllers:

“Defense Tech reports that at a Air Force Association breakfast meeting in Washington DC on Monday, General Hawk Carlisle, the head of Air Combat Command, shared a story of how a careless social media post directly led to an airstrike against ISIS.”

While that is all well and good and wonderful, my question is why we have a General out there sharing this intel?

“The guys that were working down out of Hurlburt, they’re combing through social media and they see some moron standing at this command. And in some social media, open forum, bragging about the command and control capabilities for Daesh, ISIL,” Carlisle said.

“And these guys go: ‘We got an in.’ So they do some work, long story short, about 22 hours later through that very building, three [Joint Direct Attack Munitions] take that entire building out.”

He was careful not to share sensitive details about the location of the building and airstrike, but he noted how ISIS’ enthusiasm of social media was turned against them in this case.

“It was a post on social media to bombs on target in less than 24 hours,” he said. “Incredible work when you think about [it].”

He shared a timeframe for a mission to be put together and why they were successful.  Who is the real “moron” here?  Before ISIS may have been guessing why they were hit.  Now they know.

This is going to disappoint the enviro-whacko crowd:

A decade into an energy boom led by hydraulic fracturing, the Environmental Protection Agency has concluded there is no evidence the practice has had a “widespread, systemic impact on drinking water.”

The report is the federal government’s most comprehensive examination of the issue of fracking and drinking water, and it bolsters the position staked out by the energy industry.

Yeah, fracking has only been around 66 years and been used on a million wells.  One might think that if there were a drinking water problem it would have been discovered before now.

That won’t stop the narrative however.  “Science” is only useful when it backs that narrative.  When it doesn’t, it’s just to be ignored.  See “climate change”.

 

Another liberal professor speaks out about the SJW “crisis” on campus:

The current student-teacher dynamic has been shaped by a large confluence of factors, and perhaps the most important of these is the manner in which cultural studies and social justice writers have comported themselves in popular media. I have a great deal of respect for both of these fields, but their manifestations online, their desire to democratize complex fields of study by making them as digestible as a TGIF sitcom, has led to adoption of a totalizing, simplistic, unworkable, and ultimately stifling conception of social justice. The simplicity and absolutism of this conception has combined with the precarity of academic jobs to create higher ed’s current climate of fear, a heavily policed discourse of semantic sensitivity in which safety and comfort have become the ends and the means of the college experience.

Hey, you created it.  You get to live with it.  Either that or you grow a pair and take academia back.

Finally, in the “out of control government” category, we have this little jewel:

IRS lawyers have ruled that once illegal immigrants get numbers, they can go back and re-file for up to three previous years’ taxes and claim refunds even for time they were working illegally.

The lawyers said since the EITC is a refundable credit, that’s allowed even when the illegal immigrants worked off-the-books and never paid taxes in the first place.

Now, these are “laws” the Obama administration is more than happy to follow.  Pay up, sucker.

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 3 Jun 15

The MBA reports that mortgage applications fell -7.6% last week, with purchases down -3.0% and refis down -12%.

ADP estimates that private payrolls rose a moderate 201,000 in May. We’ll see how true that is in Friday’s Employment Situation.

Rising imports lowered the April trade deficit to $-40.9 billion from $-51.4 billion in March.

Gallup’s U.S. Job Creation Index reached a new high of 32 in May, up from 31 in April.

Markit’s PMI Services Index fell from 57.4 in April to 56.2 in May.

The ISM non-manufacturing index for May, at 55.7, came in at the low end of Econoday expectations, falling -2.1 points.

The Fed’s Beige Book downgrades the strength of the economy today, with four of the Fed’s twelve districts reporting slowing growth.


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Economic Statistics for 2 Jun 15

Motor vehicle sales made a big 7.9% jump in May, to an annual sales rate of 17.8 million. North American-made vehicles also jumped 7.6% to a 14.2 million rate.

Gallup’s Economic Confidence Index dropped -4 points in May to -7.

Redbook reports that last week’s retail sales growth remained weak, rising to just 1.7% on a year-ago basis, from the previous week’s 1.6%.

Factory orders fell -0.4% in April for the 8th decline in 9 months. Ex-transportation, factory orders were unchanged.


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Feminism being redefined on the college campus

It seems everyone is weighing in on the oppressive nature of today’s college campus where “rape culture” is a given (even if it isn’t true) and “triggers” and perceived “aggressions” are treated as unforgivable sins to be punished by the “student collective” in the name of feminism.  I remember when feminism used to mean strong, empowered women. Now, apparently, it means women who are victims of hurtful words and are afraid to come out of their “safe spaces” lest they hear some.

David Brooks actually does a fair job of describing the problem.

The problem is that the campus activists have moral fervor, but don’t always have settled philosophies to restrain the fervor of their emotions. Settled philosophies are meant to (but obviously don’t always) instill a limiting sense of humility, a deference to the complexity and multifaceted nature of reality. But many of today’s activists are forced to rely on a relatively simple social theory.

According to this theory, the dividing lines between good and evil are starkly clear. The essential conflict is between the traumatized purity of the victim and the verbal violence of the oppressor.

According to this theory, the ultimate source of authority is not some hard-to-understand truth. It is everybody’s personal feelings. A crime occurs when someone feels a hurt triggered, or when someone feels disagreed with or “unsafe.” In the Shulevitz piece, a Brown student retreats from a campus debate to a safe room because she “was feeling bombarded by a lot of viewpoints that really go against” her dearly and closely held beliefs.

Today’s campus activists are not only going after actual acts of discrimination — which is admirable. They are also going after incorrect thought — impiety and blasphemy. They are going after people for simply failing to show sufficient deference to and respect for the etiquette they hold dear. They sometimes conflate ideas with actions and regard controversial ideas as forms of violence.

Essentially the special snowflakes, who can only exist in a closed system like a college campus, have created an oppressive atmosphere in a place that should be open and free because … feelings.  And college administrators have allowed this nonsense to go on because of two reasons – students are paying the freight and Title IX.  But Brooks is right … the end state of this nonsense is the creation of thought police.  And the SJW’s on campus use their leverage (paying customer) and a wildly misinterpreted law (Title IX) to carry out their vendettas.  And for years, college administrations have been complicit in advancing this nonsense to the the point, now, of absurdity.

However, it has begun to bite back, as it had to, within the college collective.  Megan McArdle brings you up to date on the latest:

In February, Laura Kipnis, a professor at Northwestern, wrote an article for the Chronicle of Higher Education in which she decried the creeping bureaucratization and fear that surrounds sexual activity on campus. Last week, she revealed that as a consequence of that article, she had been investigated for violating Title IX of the Civil Rights Act.

No, I’m not eliding some intermediate step, where she used printed copies of the article as a cudgel to attack her female students. The article itself was the suspect act. According to Kipnis, it was seen as retaliation against students who had filed complaints against a professor, and would have a “chilling effect” and create a “hostile environment” for women in the Northwestern community. Northwestern put Kipnis through a lengthy process in which she wasn’t allowed to know the nature of the complaint until she talked to investigators, nor could she have representation.

You need to read that article to understand what kangaroo courts the “system” within colleges have set up to appease their Title IX requirements as directed by the Obama Administration.  They are incredible and a far cry from anything anyone in the country would call “fair”.  But then fairness isn’t the goal … silence is.  They want to silence all “uncomfortable” ideas that may “trigger” their angst.  And, as you’ll note, the inmates are running the asylum.  Title IX is out of control as Naomi Schaefer Riley points out:

Yes, that’s right, legislation that was originally supposed to combat sexual discrimination in public education and athletics is now being used to silence professors who write essays that contradict progressive wisdom.

Because, you know, they were offended.  They thought they were “safe”.  And since they weren’t or at least didn’t consider themselves to be, they had to act by attacking the source of their angst.  Anonymously, of course.  With no burden of proof.  Just an accusation is all that is necessary, because in SJW-land, feelings rule, no matter how arbitrary and capricious they may be.

Is this the new face of feminism?

~McQ

 

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Economic Statistics for 1 Jun 15

Personal income rose 0.4% in April, while personal spending—and the PCE Price Index—was unchanged. The core price index, which excludes food and energy prices, rose 0.1%. On a year-over-year basis, prices are up 0.1% overall, while the core price index is up 1.2%.

 The PMI Manufacturing Index fell -0.1 points in May to 54.0.

The ISM Manufacturing index, in contrast to the PMI, rose 1.3 points to 52.8 in May.

Construction spending rose a much better-than-expected 2.2% in April, compared to March’s -0.6% decline. On a year-over-year basis, construction spending rose 4.8%.

Gallup’s self-reported Consumer Spending measure was unchanged at $91 per day in May.


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Global cooling? But the “science” is settled!

Not according to a new British study:

new study out of the United Kingdom predicts the Earth is about to go through a major climatic shift that could mean decades of cooler temperatures and fewer hurricanes hitting the United States.

Scientists at the University of Southampton predict that a cooling of the Atlantic Ocean could cool global temperatures a half a degree Celsius and may offer a “brief respite from the persistent rise of global temperatures,” according to their study.

This cooling phase in the Atlantic will influence “temperature, rainfall, drought and even the frequency of hurricanes in many regions of the world,” says Dr. Gerard McCarthy. The study’s authors based their results on ocean sensor arrays and 100 years of sea-level data.

Got to love the attempt of these people to try to conform their findings to the current “conventional wisdom” of the alarmist crowd, i.e. we’re heating up – despite the fact there has been no increase in global temperatures for 15 plus years.  They claim this will give us a “brief respite” from something that hasn’t been happening.

“Sea-surface temperatures in the Atlantic vary between warm and cold over time-scales of many decades,” said McCarthy, the study’s lead author. “This decadal variability, called the Atlantic Multi-decadal Oscillation (AMO), is a notable feature of the Atlantic Ocean and the climate of the regions it influences.”

“The observations of [AMO] from [sensor arrays], over the past ten years, show that it is declining,” Dr. David Smeed, a co-author, said in a statement. “As a result, we expect the AMO is moving to a negative phase, which will result in cooler surface waters. This is consistent with observations of temperature in the North Atlantic.”

Researchers argue that a negative AMO will bring “drier summers in Britain and Ireland, accelerated sea-level rise along the northeast coast of the United States, and drought in the developing countries of the Sahel region,” according to the study’s press release. Interestingly enough, the study also predicts fewer hurricanes hitting the U.S.– a result of a cooler Atlantic.

Oh, you mean natural forces at work?  Well maybe the environment isn’t as sensitive to a trace “greenhouse” gas as some would like us to believe.

And this:

For years, scientists have been debating why satellite temperature data shows there have been about 18 years with no warming trend. Surface temperature data shows a similar pause in warming for the last 10 to 15 years.

So far, the dominant explanation seems to be that oceans have absorbed a lot of the heat that would have otherwise gone into the atmosphere. And most scientists argue the world will continue warming because of increasing greenhouse gas emissions.

But it’s not, is it?  Maybe, as we’ve been saying for years, it’s that big, hot yellow thing that hangs in the sky everyday and alarmists continue to ignore as a major factor in climate change:

Some scientists, however, have been arguing the world is indeed headed for a cooling phase based on solar cycles. Scientists from Germany to India have argued that weakening solar activity could bring about another “Little Ice Age.”

“The stagnation of temperature since 1998 was caused by decreasing solar activity since 1998,” wrote Jürgen Lange Heine, a physicist with the German-based European Institute for Climate and Energy (EIKE).

And:

“From 1900 to 1998, solar radiation increased by 1.3 W / m², but since 1998 it has diminished, and could reach values ​​similar to those of the early 20th century. A drop in global temperature over the next few years is predicted,” Heine wrote.

Imagine that.

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 29 May 15

The final revision of 1st Quarter 2015 GDP came in at -0.7%, while the GDP Price Index fell -0.1%.

Corporate profits in the 1st Quarter of 2015 came in at $1.894 trillion, up 2.7% from the prior quarter.

The Chicago Purchasing Manager’s Index fell sharply to 46.2 in May from 52.3.

The University of Michigan’s Consumer Sentiment Index rose from 88.6 to 90.7 in May.


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This and that

Apparently the Orange County school district (Florida/Orlando) has plans to  monitor students’ social media messages in an effort to curb cyberbullying, crime on campus and suicide.  Because, you know, that’s what they’re there for:

Orange County Public Schools announced Thursday that it has acquired software to monitor social media “to proactively prevent, intervene and (watch) situations that may impact students and staff.”  The district has obtained an annual license with SnapTrends, software that monitors Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram.

The district said it plans to use the software to conduct routine monitoring for the purposes of prevention or early intervention of potential issues in which students or staff could be at risk to themselves or to others.

OCPS said the company will assist district law enforcement and security personnel in monitoring publicly available social media communications that are relevant to school operations and personnel.

“This is a tool that gives the district intelligence into a situation that could possibly prevent something more serious from happening,” Orange County Public Schools Senior Director of Safety and Security Doug Tripp said.

“Safety in and around school campuses is the top priority for Orange County school leaders,” OCPS said in a news release.  “Recognizing social media is a major communication system, the district has acquired social media monitoring software.”

School officials acknowledge the online snooping might raise privacy questions. But board member Linda Kobert said the district is taking advantage of “new tools to protect our children.”

Might raise some privacy questions?  Well, social media are indeed made up of public postings.  But let me ask you a more important question?  Is this a role for a school district?  Or is this another example of a creeping bureaucratic mission?  And what will the school district do with any information it gleans from its “monitoring?”

Note again, that we have a public official putting “safety” over supposed privacy concerns.  Oh, and btw, do you suppose that potential or real cyber-bullies don’t know how to set up fake accounts?  And is this a good use of school funds with the literacy problems most public school districts face?  The questions are endless.

Some people feel they have to take everything to an extreme.  Why, I’m not sure.  And I’m also pretty sure I think this particular extreme is both unnecessary and provocative.  If there’s trouble, will it rise to the level of “incitement”?

Jon Ritzheimer is a former Marine, and he has no middle ground when it comes to Islam.

A T-shirt he wears pretty much says it all: “F— Islam.”

Ritzheimer is the organizer of Friday’s “Freedom of Speech Rally” outside the Islamic Community Center in Phoenix.

It’s the mosque that Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofiattended for a time. They’re the men who drove from Arizona to a Dallas suburb to shoot up a Prophet Mohammed cartoon contest there. Both were killed by police early this month.

Many Muslims consider any depiction of Mohammed to be blasphemous and banned by the Islamic holy book, the Quran.

“This is in response to the recent attack in Texas where 2 armed terrorist(s), with ties to ISIS, attempted Jihad,” the event’s Facebook page said.

Some 600 people say they’re attending.

It is one thing to hold an event in another part of the state and end up being attacked by people/terrorists who chose to travel there and do so.  It is another thing to go to a group’s home and intentionally antagonize and invite an attack by showing up uninvited and attempting to provoke a response.

Other reports have said the group will be heavily armed, quoting Ritzheimer as saying they are going to exercise their First Amendment rights and back them with their Second Amendment rights.

I support both rights, but I think this is foolish, stupid and deliberately antagonistic as well as being unnecessary.  The point has been made.  It will continue to be made.  But this is not the right way to make it again.

Nice economic growth we had in the first quarter, no?  Apparently adjustments have seen the reported GDP numbers fall from 0.2 growth to a 0.7 contraction.  Economists want to argue that its just the way the government computes this stuff:

Economists, however, caution against reading too much into the slump in output. They argue the GDP figure for the first quarter was held down by a confluence of temporary factors, including a problem with the model the government uses to smooth the data for seasonal fluctuations.

Economists, including those at the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank, have cast doubts on the accuracy of GDP estimates for the first quarter, which have tended to show weakness over the last several years.

They argued the so-called seasonal adjustment is not fully stripping out seasonal patterns, leaving “residual” seasonality. The government said last week it was aware of the potential problem and was working to minimize it.

I’m sorry, boys and girls, since when is 0.2 growth in any quarter “good news”.  Its sort of like the unemployment figures.  Mostly fudged.  And apparently that’s precisely what the government will now attempt to do to show better numbers.  These bad numbers just don’t help the government tell you how well it’s doing, do they?  What’s this, our 6th or 7th “summer of recovery?”

Excellent Kevin D. Williamson article about the old and discredited ideas of Bernie Sanders, which he ends with a caution that we should all understand by now:

Senator Sanders may insist on living in the dark ages, and his view is not without its partisans. But those views are crude, they are backward, and they are, objectively speaking, incorrect about the way the economic world works. They are barely a step above superstition, and they merit consideration for only one reason: “Voters — all they gotta be is eighteen.”

And if they’re illegal, the Democrats say, “meh”.

Meanwhile in liberal bastions, things are just going swimmingly.  Detroit:

No getting around it: Filling up your gas tank at certain stations in Detroit can be hazardous to your health.

Police Chief James Craig said at a Tuesday media conference that he’d avoid getting gas late at night in the city unless he had to, and he urged residents to be careful at the pump, according to Tom Greenwood of The Detroit News.

“I wouldn’t, but if I had to, I would,” Craig said. “But I’d probably be very aware of my surroundings.”

Craig’s commented after a driver was killed early Monday evening while trying to flee a carjacking attempt at an east-side gas station.

A wasteland run by Democrats for decades.

Baltimore:

Baltimore was seeing a slight rise in homicides this year even before Gray’s death April 19. But the 38 homicides so far in May is a major spike, after 22 in April, 15 in March, 13 in February and 23 in January.

With one weekend still to go, May 2015 is already the deadliest month in 15 years, surpassing the November 1999 total of 36.

Ten of May’s homicides happened in the Western District, which has had as many homicides in the first five months of this year as it did all of last year.

Non-fatal shootings are spiking as well – 91 so far in May, 58 of them in the Western District.

The mayor said her office is “examining” the relationship between the homicide spike and the dwindling arrest rate.

I’m sure they are “examining” it – and they’ll likely conclude its a matter of racism at some level.  While she is “examining” the relationship, she should ponder the statistic that says child victims of shootings are up 500% this year.  Well done!

NYC:

While overall crime is down almost seven percent, shootings are up 7.1 percent so far this year. Murders are up 15.3 percent. Even with the increase, it’s a much lower number than the 1980s and 1990s.

The mayor blames it on gangs.  Why have gangs again become a problem?

Of course each of these cities can look to the midwest and say, “hey, at least we’re not Chicago.”

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 28 May 15

The MBA reports that mortgage applications fell -1.6% last week, with purchases up 1.0% and refis down -4.0%.

Redbook reports that last week’s retail sales growth continued to fall, down  to 1.6% on a year-ago basis, from the previous week’s 1.8%.

Initial weekly jobless claims rose 7,000 to 282,000. The 4-week average rose 5,000 to 271,500. Continuing claims rose 11,000 to 2.222 million.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index continues to fall, down -1.5 points to 40.9 in the latest week.

The Pending Home Sales Index jumped an unexpectedly large 3.4% to 112.4. The index is up 14.0% on a year-over-year basis.

The Fed’s balance sheet fell $-16.4 billion last week, with total assets of $4.464 trillion. Reserve bank credit fell $-5.0 billion.

The Fed reports that M2 money supply rose by $27.0 billion in the latest week.


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