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Free Markets, Free People

What I learned reading this morning’s USA Today

I don’t read newspapers much, and of course, I’m not the only one. But I’m travelling today, with most of my work for the week behind me. So I browsed through a USA Today while having breakfast in my hotel.

Here’s what I learned from it.

I learned that the driver of the crashed train in Philadelphia was going over a hundred miles an hour. I also learned that the way to respond to a government employee going double the speed limit around a curve on a government-run train is to raise taxes and spend more on infrastructure

I learned that Jeb Bush is raising scads of money. I learned that he knows exactly how to game the system of complex campaign finance regulations to raise the most money. I learned that one such technique is to delay a formal announcement. So he can talk incessantly about what he will do as president, but he is wise to delay the day he actually says (or tweets) “I’m running for president.”

I didn’t learn anything of consequence about what Jeb would do if he were elected president. The reporter seemed completely uninterested in that, possibly because said reporter is about as likely to vote for Jeb Bush or any other Republican for president as she is to vote for SpongeBob Squarepants.

I did learn from this reporter that GOP insider named Fergus Cullen said “Somebody like Jeb Bush doesn’t need to be worried that his poll numbers are mediocre right now.” Just as Mitt Romney, John McCain, and Bob Dole didn’t have to worry about their vote totals being mediocre on election day, I suppose.

I learned that there is a breakthrough in medical research between the US and Cuba. That’s because an early trial found that Cuban doctors have this incredible vaccine that, on a modest sample, let lung cancer victims live two to four months longer. Having watched my dad die of lung cancer, I didn’t exactly see this as something to get joyous about – extending the pain and suffering of cancer for a few months doesn’t strike me as a huge breakthrough. But the reporters sure seemed excited about it. They talked about a “quantum leap” of breakthroughs. I have the feeling that if it had been, say, New Zealand instead of Cuba, their enthusiasm would have been a bit more muted.

They didn’t seem interested in the possibility that this modest trial in a Communist country might have some fudged data either. Because, as we know from the client science debate, leftists just don’t do that. So Castroite communists certainly would not.

I learned that the Senate really, really wants to give Obama more power, specifically to fix up a trade deal with Asia, but he doesn’t want it because there’s one minor thing in the bill he doesn’t like. Something about currency manipulation by China. The bill has large bipartisan support, according to the article, which I interpret to mean that both Democrats and establishment Republicans are for it. But that famous compromiser Obama somehow just can’t give in a bit to get a whole bunch of other stuff he wants. Odd, that.

I learned that Rubio has a doctrine of defense. I learned that if it’s a Republican, the headline needs to put “doctrine” in scare quotes. (The web article moves the scare quotes from the headline to the article. Nice try, USA Today. But I’ve got a photo of the print copy.)

On the casual side, I learned that Saturday Night Live’s newest, hottest cast member is breaking new ground with fart jokes. (Web article again sanitizes things. Print copy’s subhead is “With farts, weed, and sex his forte (for jokes, that is) the new kid slays”.)

I learned that the average CEO makes 373 times more than the average worker. That doesn’t mesh with the CEOsc of mid-size companies that I happen to know, but the data is from an AFL-CIO database, and, given how close American labor leaders are to Castroite communists, you can be sure it’s reliable. (This article was apparently too hot for the web. I can’t even find it on their site.)

I learned that economic growth is sputtering. Nothing in that article about how much more politicians make than unemployed people, but I guess they can’t cover everything.

I learned that USA Today has a reporter named Gregg Zoroya who “covers the impact of war on troops and their families for USA Today”. I didn’t notice that they had any reporter who “covers the impact of government policies on workers and their families”, but perhaps I just missed it.

Remember, now, these people are not biased. Just ask them, they’ll tell you.

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Economic Statistics for 13 May 15

The MBA reports that mortgage applications fell -3.5% last week, with purchases down -0.2% and refis down -6.0%.

Retail sales were unchanged in April, while sales less autos rose 0.1% and sales less auto and gas were up 0.2%. All of these numbers were, obviously, below expectations.

April export prices fell -0.6%, while import prices fell -0.3%. On a year-over-year basis, prices are down -6.3% for exports, and -10.7% for imports.

The Atlanta Fed’s Business Inflation Expectations survey shows yearly inflation expected at 1.9% in May, up from 1.7% in April.

Business Inventories rose 0.1% in March, while a 0.4% increase in sales lowered the stock-to-sales ratio a tick to 1.37.


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Economic Statistics for 12 May 15

The Fed’s Labor Market Conditions Index fell from -0.3 to -1.9 in April, remaining in negative territory for two consecutive months.

Redbook reports that last week’s retail sales rose to a better, but still-soft 2.1% on a year-ago basis, from the previous week’s 1.6%.

The NFIB Small Business Optimism Index rose solidly in April, up 1.7 points to a higher-than-expected 96.9.

The Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) softened unexpectedly to 4.994 million in March from 5.133 million in February.

The Treasury’s budget for April showed a higher-than-expected surplus of $156.7 billion. Individual income taxes are up a year-on-year 12.9%. Corporate taxes, which make up only 9.3% of receipts, are up 11.8%. Total receipts are up 8.9%. Spending, meanwhile, increased 6.4%, led by an 8.2% increase in Medicare. Defense spending is down 3.0% from last year.


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In case it was ever in question …

Something we’ve discussed for quite some time has been validated.  It, of course, concerns the climate alarmist zealots.  We’ve pointed out, along with many of you, that climate alarmism isn’t so much about science as it is about power.  It also seems to be a secular religion. And it’s a religion that rejects all that we’ve seen make us a prosperous and relatively free people.

Or, said another way, the commie true believers are back and they have leadership positions.  For instance, Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the U.N.’s Framework Convention on Climate Change.

She’s quite clear about her feelings concerning her mission:

“This is the first time” in history, she said earlier this year, that there’s a chance “to change the economic development model that has been reigning for at least 150 years, since the Industrial Revolution.”

[…]

He also notes that Figueres “is on record saying democracy is a poor political system for fighting global warming. Communist China, she says, is the best model.”

[…]

Newman could have mentioned, as well, that while many who are aligned with Figueres are motivated, as she is, by a raging desire to quash capitalism, the fight against man-made global warming and climate change has become a religious crusade for more than a few.

So, let’s recap:

She doesn’t like democracy because democracy doesn’t give the “elite” the power they need to force the benighted of the world to their agenda.  Much prefers the Communist China model. She’s ready to throw over capitalism (or the semblance we have in this world) to an obviously authoritarian model of a state or world government driven command economy.  Because, you know, that’s worked so well in the past.

Bottom line: she apparently pines for the good old days of the gulag when recalcitrant deniers could have been banished to labor camps forthwith to do penitent work healing Gaia.  And if the masses starve under collectivization and incompetence, just as long as Gaia thrives, it’s all good.  Turn the clock back a century and we’re there.

It never changes does it?  The only answer most of those who consider themselves “elites” -such as this woman – is total control.

Because, you know, if they gave you a tax refund you might not spend it right.  And yeah, the wife of the guy who said that is running for president and is no less a control freak than this woman.  She’s just smart enough to know that we’re not as stupid as some of these people think we are … but trust me, if she could throw over “democracy” and have herself crowned queen, she’d do it in an NY minute.  Instead, she’s committed to the incremental diminution of our rights and the incremental increase in the power of the state.

~McQ

 

 

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Equality: the wrong perspective

I’m always intrigued when I find this sort of nonsense about “equality” being trotted out as anything but stupidity on a stick.  But here we go:

‘I got interested in this question because I was interested in equality of opportunity,’ he says.

‘I had done some work on social mobility and the evidence is overwhelmingly that the reason why children born to different families have very different chances in life is because of what happens in those families.’

Once he got thinking, Swift could see that the issue stretches well beyond the fact that some families can afford private schooling, nannies, tutors, and houses in good suburbs. Functional family interactions—from going to the cricket to reading bedtime stories—form a largely unseen but palpable fault line between families. The consequence is a gap in social mobility and equality that can last for generations.

So, what to do?

According to Swift, from a purely instrumental position the answer is straightforward.

‘One way philosophers might think about solving the social justice problem would be by simply abolishing the family. If the family is this source of unfairness in society then it looks plausible to think that if we abolished the family there would be a more level playing field.’

Instrumental position?  I’m not sure what that means, but in the larger sense, it certainly wouldn’t be the first time a philosopher got it wrong because everything was based on a false premise.  That somehow the “family” is at the root of inequality of opportunity. In reality, as you’ll see, he’s not at all interested in equality of opportunity.  He’s more interested in equality of outcome.  To make that happen, you have to control the variables.

But there’s more to this examination by philosophers Adam Swift and Harry Brighouse.  The premise is nonsense as history has proven.  To their credit, Swift and Brighouse sort of get it, but they have a goal in mind, so they really don’t.  They just hide the goal in a bunch of blathering about families and “equality” and attempt to convince you they’re pushing “equality of opportunity”.

‘Nearly everyone who has thought about this would conclude that it is a really bad idea to be raised by state institutions, unless something has gone wrong,’ he says.

Intuitively it doesn’t feel right, but for a philosopher, solutions require more than an initial reaction. So Swift and his college Brighouse set to work on a respectable analytical defence of the family, asking themselves the deceptively simple question: ‘Why are families a good thing exactly?’

Not surprisingly, it begins with kids and ends with parents.

‘It’s the children’s interest in family life that is the most important,’ says Swift. ‘From all we now know, it is in the child’s interest to be parented, and to be parented well. Meanwhile, from the adult point of view it looks as if there is something very valuable in being a parent.’

He concedes parenting might not be for everyone and for some it can go badly wrong, but in general it is an irreplaceable relationship.

‘Parenting a child makes for what we call a distinctive and special contribution to the flourishing and wellbeing of adults.’

It seems that from both the child’s and adult’s point of view there is something to be said about living in a family way. This doesn’t exactly parry the criticism that families exacerbate social inequality.

Here comes the “but” however.  And it leads to the very same place it always does:

Swift and Brighouse needed to sort out those activities that contribute to unnecessary inequality from those that don’t.

‘What we realised we needed was a way of thinking about what it was we wanted to allow parents to do for their children, and what it was that we didn’t need to allow parents to do for their children, if allowing those activities would create unfairnesses for other people’s children’.

The test they devised was based on what they term ‘familial relationship goods’; those unique and identifiable things that arise within the family unit and contribute to the flourishing of family members.

Got that?  In case you missed it they said “what it was we wanted to allow parents to do for their children, and what it was that we didn’t need to allow parents to do for their children.”  Control in the name of “equality” as defined by … who?

My next question was “who is ‘we'” and by what right do ‘we’ pretend to have the power to allow or disallow activities that parents determine might help their children and are within their power to give them?  Certainly not me?  You?  Who?

I think we all know.

Now we arrive at “equality” crap.  Equality has somehow become the standard by which you must live your life.  In the US, equality has always meant equality of opportunity, equality before the law, etc.  The leftist view has always been “equality of outcome” and has spawned such monstrosities as socialism and communism in its name.  Where these two are headed is toward the latter.  And how do that do that? By the fact that they’re interested in restricting parents in what they can do for their children so the outcome is more likely to be “equal”.

For Swift, there’s one particular choice that fails the test.

‘Private schooling cannot be justified by appeal to these familial relationship goods,’ he says. ‘It’s just not the case that in order for a family to realise these intimate, loving, authoritative, affectionate, love-based relationships you need to be able to send your child to an elite private school.’

We’ve now pretty arbitrarily defined “familial relationship good” and we’ve decided that certain things don’t really contribute that to which we’ve now restricted parents – producing familial relationship goods.  And while research points to bedtime stories as being much more of an advantage to those who get them than private schooling, the intimacy of such a “product” and the trouble enforcing their ban (and its unpopularity) see them wave it off … for now.

‘The evidence shows that the difference between those who get bedtime stories and those who don’t—the difference in their life chances—is bigger than the difference between those who get elite private schooling and those that don’t,’ he says.

This devilish twist of evidence surely leads to a further conclusion—that perhaps in the interests of levelling the playing field, bedtime stories should also be restricted. In Swift’s mind this is where the evaluation of familial relationship goods goes up a notch.

‘You have to allow parents to engage in bedtime stories activities, in fact we encourage them because those are the kinds of interactions between parents and children that do indeed foster and produce these [desired] familial relationship goods.’

But, as they finally admit,  it isn’t really just about fostering and producing familial relationship goods so much as “leveling the playing field”.  So out of necessity, the family goods list must be short and universal, or they’re a “no-go”. They just can’t seem to find a way to make the family unit regressive enough to go after it, so they’re reduced to going after things that may provide an advantage to some children over others – like private schools.

Now these two have taken a ration of grief based on click bait headlines which have claimed they’re for the abolition of the family.  Well, they’re not, really.  But they are for “leveling the playing field” – i.e. that is the goal of this exercise.  So they’re not at all above finding ways to restrict families who might be able to provide activities and events that they feel (see the arbitrariness creeping in) provide advantages to their children that others don’t enjoy.

It’s certainly not a stretch to believe they’d be fine with doing away with family vacations – after all, not all children can afford to go on vacations and the advantages they would provide to those who can would lead to “inequality”.  And besides, they’re not necessary to produce “these desired familial relationship goods”, are they?  Special summer camps?  Yeah, no, sorry.  A voice coach?  Really? You have to ask?

You get the point.  Everyone hates the word “elite” so load your discussion with those type trigger words.  Imply that you don’t want to hurt the family, but you do want the “children” to have equal opportunity.  And ease them into these restrictions you propose with one that is viscerally easy for the vast majority who don’t have children who attend “elite” private schools.  A little class warfare always helps.

Folks, this isn’t “philosophy”, this is socialist snake oil in a new package.  Once you’ve seen it, you never forget what it is regardless of how they dress it up or pitch it.

~McQ

 

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Economic Statistics for 8 May 15

Wholesale inventories rose 0.1%, but a -0.2% drop is sales leaves the stock-to-sales ratio at a chubby 1.30.

The March Employment Situation shows 223,000 net new jobs created, with the unemployment rate dropping -0.1% to 5.4%. Labor force participation rose a tick to 62.8%, which is still at 1978 levels. Average hourly earnings rose just 0.1%, while the average workweek is unchanged at 34.5 hours. The already weak February report was revised sharply downwards to 85,000 net new jobs from the already weak initial report of 126,000.


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News bites

Our bias media is amazing at times.  AP in reference to the Garland event:

Pamela Geller at AP headquarters, where she said she had no regrets over TX cartoon contest that left 2 dead.

Why should she?  It is the actions of the two dead that led to their deaths.  Why would Geller regret doing what she did because two terrorists decided to attack it?  Seems like blaming the victim to me.

Here’s the dirty little secret about “why” we see such a push-back/defense of the terrorists from the left:

Unable or unwilling to formulate a strategy to comprehensively defeat jihad or even to adequately defend our nation, our elites adopt a strategy of cultural appeasement that only strengthens our enemy. Millions in the Muslim world are drawn to the “strong horse” (to use Osama bin Laden’s phrase), and when jihadists intimidate the West into silence and conformity, the jihadists show themselves strong.

And that’s why they are having little problem recruiting more jihadists.  The ill informed zealots actually think they are winning or can win.  Because the West as it now appears, is spineless.  So people like Geller are to be condemned and vilified.  Appeasement.

Meanwhile, in Idaho, a little book banning:

The Great Depression is part of our nation’s history. So why would an Idaho committee seek to ban one of the greatest books written about that time period?

John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men” is under fire from a Coeur d’Alene committee which says the book is too dark and depressing for teens to read.

They’re also complaining about the book’s inappropriate language.

You know, I read “Of Mice and Men” when I was about 15, along with “Cannery Row”, “Grapes of Wrath” and just about everything else Steinbeck wrote.  I was living in Monterey, CA at the time and he was a bit of a local legend.  I cannot for the life of me figure out why anyone would ban that book.  It is terrific.  But, well, we have helicopter parents now who are concerned with a few bad words in a book, but who are otherwise willing to turn their kids over to the tender mercies of public school administrations who teach 2nd graders about sex, etc.

I don’t understand it — never will.

By the way, that would be the same public schools busily engaged in teaching “white privilege” in our schools.  For example:

According to PEG, white culture is based on “white individualism” or “white traits” like “rugged individualism,” “adherence to rigid time schedules,” “plan(ning) for the future,” and the idea that “hard work is the key to success.”

Minority students shouldn’t be expected to subscribe to those values because they are foreign to their culture, according to PEG.

Juan Williams has written about it and strongly disagrees.

“The tradition of black Americans throughout history is one that values the opportunity for education,” Williams said. “That includes being on time and working hard in school. You won’t find a black mother or father who says that’s not our tradition.

“We’re all in the same American culture. In any job you have to be on time. That’s just the way the world works. These people are engaged in cultural and political arguments that are based on negative stereotypes of black capacity to achieve in any situation. They are not helping these kids.”

Ya think!?  But that’s what your tax dollars are going toward.

Have you ever wondered where “liberation theology” came from?  Would you believe the godless commies?

Ion Mihai Pacepa has been called “the Cold War’s most important defector,” and after his defection, the Romanian government under Nicolae Ceausescu placed two death sentences and a $2 million bounty on his head. During the more than ten years that Pacepa worked with the CIA, he made what the agency described as “an important and unique contribution to the United States.”

He is reported in fact to have given the CIA “the best intelligence ever obtained on communist intelligence networks and internal security services.”

“Liberation theology has been generally understood to be a marriage of Marxism and Christianity. What has not been understood is that it was not the product of Christians who pursued Communism, but of Communists who pursued Christians,” Pacepa said in a recent article. In his role as doctrinal watchdog, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger called liberation theology a “singular heresy” and a “fundamental threat” to the Church.

Pacepa says that he learned details of the KGB involvement with Liberation Theology from Soviet General Aleksandr Sakharovsky, Communist Romania’s chief foreign intelligence adviser, who later became head of the Soviet espionage service, the PGU.

In 1959, Sakharovsky went to Romania together with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, for what would become known as “Khrushchev’s six-day vacation.” According to Pacepa, Khrushchev “wanted to go down in history as the Soviet leader who had exported communism to Central and South America.” He chose Romania as his point of export, since it was the only Latin country in the Soviet bloc and provided a logical liaison to Latin America because of the similarity of language and culture.

Pacepa claims that the Theology of Liberation was not merely infiltrated by the KGB, it was actually the brainchild of Soviet intelligence services.

“The movement was born in the KGB, and it had a KGB-invented name: Liberation Theology,” Pacepa said.

We first learn this week that “hate-speech” limitations came from these guys and now “liberation theology”.  Next you’ll tell us they infiltrated anti-war groups during the VietNam war … oh, wait.

On the good news front, the FBI has finally purged the Southern Poverty Law Center from its list of sources:

Christian groups are celebrating with the news that the Federal Bureau of Investigation appears to have scrubbed the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) from its hate crimes webpage, where the controversial group was listed as a resource and referred to as a partner in public outreach.

A letter to the U.S. Department of Justice, drafted by Lieutenant General (Ret.) William G. Boykin, Executive Vice President of the Family Research Council (FRC), calls such an association “completely unacceptable.”

Cheers! Have a good weekend.
~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 7 May 15

Chain stores reported generally lower year-on-year rates of sales growth for April, mainly due to the early Easter this year.

Price weakness in the oil sector led the big jump in Challenger’s April layoffs report, which jumped to 61,582.  A third of those layoff came from the oil sector.Today’s number is a huge increase from March’s 36,594.

Gallup’s US Payroll to Population unemployment index fell from 44.1 to 43.9 in April.

Initial weekly jobless claims rose 3,000 to 265,000. The 4-week average fell 4,250 to 279,500. Continuing claims fell 28,000 to 2.228 million. Jobless claims are currently at a 15-year low.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index fell -1 point to 43.7 in the latest week.

The Fed’s balance sheet rose $1.2 billion last week, with total assets of $4.473 trillion. Reserve bank credit fell $-11.3 billion.

The Fed reports that M2 money supply fell by $-27.4 billion in the latest week.

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How times have changed when it comes to free speech – just ask the NY Times

At the risk of beating a dead horse, I’m going to talk about how the left continues to attack free speech by trying to argue that somehow what they consider “hate speech” isn’t a part of it.  We watched CNN’s Chris Cuomo embarrass himself (well he probably wasn’t embarrassed, but he should have been) when he admonished the right to read the Constitution because it clearly didn’t support such speech.  And I pointed out yesterday the totalitarian origins of “hate-speech” exemptions from free speech rights.

That said, I’m fascinated by the attacks on this event in Texas and its sponsor, Pamela Geller.  Agree or disagree with her agenda, in terms of free speech she had every single right in the world to put that on and not expect to be attacked.   The presumption that she would be attacked is just that, a presumption.  It isn’t valid in any terms but apparently the left feels that their presumption that an attack would happen is all that is necessary to condemn Geller’s event as a hate-fest and hate-speech.  You have to wonder what they’d have said if no violence had erupted?

The usual suspects, however, attacked her.  In the particular case I’ll cite, it was the NY Times.  Watch how they set up their editorial “But!”:

There is no question that images ridiculing religion, however offensive they may be to believers, qualify as protected free speech in the United States and most Western democracies. There is also no question that however offensive the images, they do not justify murder, and that it is incumbent on leaders of all religious faiths to make this clear to their followers.

End of editorial.  That’s the crux of the free speech argument.  There are no “buts” after that.  However, there is for the NYT:

But it is equally clear that the Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest in Garland, Tex., was not really about free speech. It was an exercise in bigotry and hatred posing as a blow for freedom.

Pure editorial opinion masquerading as some sort of “fact”.  What is the NYT doing here?  Arbitrarily deciding what is or isn’t hate.  And how dangerous is that?  See the USSR and all previous and existing totalitarian regimes.  They do that every day.

Anyway, in 1999, the NYT wasn’t in such a rush to equate an extraordinarily similar event as “an exercise in bigotry and hatred”.  You may remember it:

The Times in 1999 endorsed the showing at a public museum in New York of a supposed art work consisting of a crucifix in a vial of urine, arguing, “A museum is obliged to challenge the public as well as to placate it, or else the museum becomes a chamber of attractive ghosts, an institution completely disconnected from art in our time.” 

And what happened at that time?

Well, apparently the “image ridiculing” this religion was tolerated to the point that no violence occurred, meaning one can assume that leaders of that religion must have made it clear that it didn’t “justify murder” and none occurred.  That’s as it should have been.

So why, then, if the Times believed in free speech in 1999 when an obviously a large segment of the population viewed the crucifix in urine as offensive, provocative and sacrilegious, does it not believe the same thing in 2015 when the same conditions exist?

Because of the “but”, of course.  A “but” that didn’t exist when it was a religion being ridiculed that was not in favor with the left.

Some of those who draw cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad may earnestly believe that they are striking a blow for freedom of expression, though it is hard to see how that goal is advanced by inflicting deliberate anguish on millions of devout Muslims who have nothing to do with terrorism. As for the Garland event, to pretend that it was motivated by anything other than hate is simply hogwash.

The Times has yet to answer how “inflicting anguish” on millions of Christians who have done nothing to the artist is somehow “striking a blow for freedom of expression” or how that display wasn’t motivated by “hate” (hint: because their definition of “hate” is arbitrary).  It sure had no problem putting it’s editorial heft in support of that “hate” then.  And there’s no argument by anyone who can reason –  it was as “hateful” as anything at the Garland event.  And pretending otherwise is, to borrow the NYT term, “hogwash”.

~McQ

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