Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

17 trillion in debt and no relief in sight

As the world collapses around us, our borders are overrun, our leaders dither and procrastinate and the world in general thumbs their collective noses at “American power”, this sort of stuff could get lost in the shuffle:

When President Obama took office on Jan. 20, 2009, the total federal debt was $10,626,877,048,913.08. As of the close of business on July 30, 2014, it had risen to $17,618,599,653,160.19–up $6,991,722,604,247.11 from Obama’s first inauguration day.

By the close of business on July 31, 2014, it had risen to $17,687,136,723,410.59—up $7,060,259,674,497.51 since Obama first inauguration day.

Now the easy thing to do would be to go on a “it’s Obama’s fault” tirade, but that would only be partially true.  He certainly holds some responsibility for doing nothing to stem the red ink, and, in most cases, actually encouraging it.  He’s certainly exerted no leadership in trying to get the two parties together on a budget either.

But it is Congress that appropriates and spends.  Not the executive branch, now matter how bad it is.  For the first two years of Obama’s first term, it was all Democrats all the time.  And they set in motion horrendous spending programs like ObamaCare.  And there were a number more.

The fact of the matter is Congress also holds major share of the blame for this – no budget has been passed by the Senate during Obama’s entire tenure – and again, the majority of the Senate has been Democrat for these 6 years.

So what had been a horrific 10 plus trillion debt that was piled up over 40 years, became an even more horrific 17 trillion dollar debt in 6 short years – with no end in sight.

Yet most of the idiots who’ve put us in this fiscal hole will be running for re-election in the midterms and most of them will be re-elected.

Once more, the definition of insanity seems to loom large, doesn’t it?

~McQ

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

Economic Statistics for 1 Aug 14

In July, 209,000 net new jobs were created as the unemployment rate rose 0.1% to 6.2%.  Weekly earnings were unchanged, as were weekly hours at 34.5. The labor force participation rate increased 0.1% to 62.9%. The real rate of unemployment, assuming a historical average labor force participation rate of 66.2%, is 10.86%, down more than -2% since the 12.03% rate of October 2013.

Both personal income and spending rose 0.4% in June, while the PCE price index rose 0.2%. The core PCE price index rose 0.1%. On a year-over-year basis, the PCE price index is up 1.6% at the headline level and 1.5% at the core.

The Markit PMI manufacturing flash index for July slowed by -1.5 points to 55.8.

The July global manufacturing PMI edged down to a reading of 52.5 from the revised June reading of 52.6.

The July ISM Manufacturing Index rose 1.8 points to 57.1.

The Reuter’s/University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment index for July rose 0.5 points to 81.8.

Construction spending unexpectedly fell  -1.8% in June. On a year-over-year basis, spending is up 5.5%.


Dale’s social media profiles:
Twitter | Facebook | Google+

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

Observations: The QandO Podcast for 01 Aug 14

This week, Michael, and Dale talk about all kinds of stuff.

The podcast can be found on Stitcher here. Please remember the feed may take a couple of hours to update after this is first posted.

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Stitcher. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here.

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

Why is the West so afraid of Islam?

That’s the title of an article written by Michael Brendan Dougherty in The Week.

But Ernesto Galli della Loggia, the lead editorial writer for Corriere Della Sera, offered one provocative suggestion for Europe’s unwillingness to get involved: fear of Islam. In an editorial titled “The Indifference That Kills,” he writes (translated here) that Europe fears what he calls “Arab Islam” and its ability to commit economic blackmail. He writes:

“At the same time, and above all, it fears the ruthless terrorism, the many guerrillas that claim to be inspired by Islam, their cruel barbarity, as well as the movements of revolt that periodically deeply stir the masses of that world, always permeated by a sensibility that is extremely easy to light up and to break loose in violent xenophobia.” [Corriere Della Sera]

There is something to this. Consider: When Pope Benedict XVI, in an academic setting, merely quoted a medieval critique of Islam, the result was riots across the Islamic world, including the murder of Christian nuns. There was similar rioting and threats over satirical cartoons in a Danish newspaper that if made about Christianity would elicit almost no reaction beyond a letter or a few digital comments.

He goes on excruciatingly offering reasons that may have some validity but really don’t hit on the real reason.

The West fears Islam (that’s radical Islam) because it hasn’t the intestinal fortitude to do what is necessary to combat it.  If  you’ve been watching in horror what ISIS has been doing as it moves through Iraq, or Hamas in Gaza, you understand that with radical Islam, there are not boundaries of decency or humanity that constrain them. They will do whatever it takes to win the day, no matter how many lives it costs on both sides. There is no such thing as an atrocity except the existence of infidels.

The West fears Islam because to do what is necessary to combat and defeat it, the West would have to throw over decades of liberal hogwash about the equality of cultures and how we must respect them. Its a bit like claiming you have to respect and endure a rabid skunk because it is a living being and thus our equal.

Instead of admitting that radical Islam is a rabid skunk that needs to be exterminated, we continue to see the liberal game being played as is. And the results are predictable. Knowing that there’s really no downside to their actions (in their terms not ours – martyrdom is martyrdom regardless of how it is achieved) they continue to push the envelope and receive the equivalent of “red lines” that are never enforced in answer.

The West has become a collective of cowards who will be taken piecemeal by this pernicious and unrelenting force who is focused on conquest by any means necessary. As it single-mindedly pursues that goal, the West dithers, argues, laments, has meetings and generally believes that at some point it will be able to reason with a movement which is as savage as any pack of beasts. It won’t meet that savagery with equal savagery – something necessary to get the attention of this malevolent movement.

Instead the West will continue to insist on “rules” in a game with no rules, morality from a group who has demonstrated none and eventually capitulate when all of this becomes clear too late to survive the stupidity. The West is either going to have to wake up and act in a manner that will ensure its survival or prepare to be overwhelmed and become a part of the Caliphate. And, as ISIS and others have more than amply demonstrated, the takeover will be horrific.

The West has a real reason to fear radical Islam. Most of it has to do with its own spinelessness.  I mean, consider this – me saying what I’ve said would be condemned by most of the liberal West in no uncertain terms.  Yet it is precisely what needs to be done to excise this threat from the face of the earth and ensure the survival of the very people that would condemn my words.

~McQ

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

Economic Statistics for 31 Jul 14

The employment cost index rose 0.7% in the 2nd Quarter of 2014, versus a record low 0.3% rise in Q1.

Challenger reports that the 18,000 layoff announcement from Microsoft inflated the July layoff count to 46,887 vs. 31,434 in June.

The Chicago Purchasing Managers Index plunged 10.0 points to 52.6 in July. This is a volatile index, however.

Gallup’s July Payroll to Population employment rate was stable at 45.1%, rising just 0.1% for the month.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index fell -1.3 points to 36.3 in the latest week, the lowest level in two months.

Weekly initial jobless claims rose 23,000 to 302,000. The 4-week average fell 2,750 to 297,250. Continuing claims rose 31,000 to 2.539 million.

The Fed’s balance sheet fell $-4.1 billion last week, with total assets of $4.407 trillion. Total reserve bank credit rose by $-0.2 billion.

The Fed reports that M2 money supply rose $23.5 billion in the latest week.


Dale’s social media profiles:
Twitter | Facebook | Google+

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

Wondering why there are few women in tech? Here’s the perspective of someone in tech.

Via Instapundit and Bill Quick, I’ve noticed discussion about this Forbes article on why females are under-represented in technology companies.

As someone who has spent an adult lifetime in the tech industry, let me suggest an angle that I didn’t see in this article, and which I have not seen in other similar articles.

Most jobs of any consequence in tech companies require people to successfully write code at some point in their careers. Writing code is a very unusual human activity. In addition to logic skills and some other cognitive capabilities that the articles usually do touch on, there is one aspect of it most people outside the industry have never thought about: you must be comfortable being wrong and prepared to constantly acknowledge and fix your own mistakes.  

You are wrong a few dozen times a day. The computer tells you (via a compiler error or problem in the running program) that you are unambiguously wrong, and you *must* figure out how to fix the mistake before you proceed. The mistake can’t be overlooked or ignored. It must be fixed, and to the exacting standards of a machine with no emotions.

And here’s where I think the problem results in disparate impact between males and females: the computer is invulnerable to pleading, sweet-talking, eye blinking, hair tossing, lip licking, or any of the other things a substantial fraction of young women have learned to use to get their way in the world, via persuading a male to take care of it or overlook it.

Think, for example, about all those famous stratagems for getting out of traffic tickets, and the jokes about wanting to use one and finding out the cop is female. Whether feminists like it or not, that behavior is common among young women, and it’s common because it works in many social situations.

Whether you think it’s cultural or genetic, woman are less comfortable in the harsh reality, hard edged world of writing code. I think it’s at least partially because it goes against how they have learned to deal with the world around them. Because the computer isn’t a person, and certainly not a male, their best social skills avail them nothing. Plus, they have to be completely comfortable being told flat out “you are wrong about this – deal with it” many times a day, every day.

This is hard. No one likes being told that they are wrong. I know plenty of men who can’t deal with it either. But I think women, on average, have less experience with it than men.

There is evidence to back that up. For example, there is research confirming that teachers pamper girls in school. So, from a young age, and given our current educational system, I think a male is less likely to have someone overlook their mistakes.

There are certainly amazing and talented women developers. I know some and I’ve hired some. In fact, I’ve hired a larger percentage of the women candidates who interviewed with me than men. I just don’t see that many of them.

I strongly challenge the idea that the disparate numbers are due to sexism at the level of the technology companies. In the ruthlessly competitive world of tech, we’ll take talent where we find it. I don’t care about a candidate’s gender, race, religion, sexual preference, or anything else irrelevant to the prime consideration: can they effectively write software? 

In fact, given the current lop-sided proportion of men in the industry, in many cases a qualified woman actually has an advantage! Men are hardwired by eons of evolution to prefer to look at a woman across a conference table than another scruffy, bearded, overweight male nerd. Male decision makers, in my experience, simply never turn down a qualified woman due to sexism. (I supposed there are Neanderthal male decision makers out there who do, but in a long tech career, I’ve never met one.)

So, to the extent that gender matters at all, women typically have the better of it. But decision makers can’t afford to let that factor override the need to perform. Anyone running a software development team knows the dangers of having someone who can’t deal with the harsh realities of being told they are wrong and figuring out how to fix it many times a day. One of the prime characteristics I look for in interviews is defensiveness, which usually indicates an inability to deal with being wrong a lot. Such a person (male or female) not only fails to contribute much, they degrade the overall ability of the team to get things done.

I don’t know how to fix this comparative lack of women in the industry, and I would certainly like to see it fixed. But expecting university computer science departments or tech companies to do it is silly. Any solution is going to have to go a lot further back in a female’s life than young adulthood, and involve a much bigger effort than just encouraging more girls to enter science fairs.

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

Assuming rights that no one has

That’s precisely what this pediatrician is claiming when he talks about what he has a right to do as it pertains to his patients and guns in the house:

As a pediatrician, I have one, straightforward professional obligation: to safeguard and support the health and wellbeing of my patients. In my case, those patients are children, but you could change the age range of the people coming into the office and apply that statement to any medical provider.

Every question I ask and every part of the physical examination, no matter how uncomfortable or invasive they might sometimes seem, is directed toward that one goal. I don’t ask about my patients’ sexual habits for the sake of prurience, for example, but rather to assess their risk for problems like sexually transmitted infections or unintended pregnancy.

Asking about guns in the house is no exception. When I ask parents if there are firearms in the home, and if so how they are secured, it is for the sole purpose of keeping their children safe. Given that access to guns in the home has been shown to increase the risk of death from suicide or homicide, to say nothing of the risk of accidental death, these questions are important. I ask because the answer matters.

He won’t ask you if you have a pool.  Or a car.  Or knives.  Just a gun.

He assumes a right to ask based on the false notion that it is his job to “keep children safe”.  Well, it’s not.

So when asked by anyone about guns in my house, I will invoke my real right – that of privacy – and look an intrusive bastard like this right in the face and say, “that’s none of your ‘effing business.”

Question asked and answered.

~McQ

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

Economic Statistics for 30 Jul 14

The Commerce Department’s initial GDP estimate for 2Q 2014 came in at a 4.0% annualized rate of growth. The GDP price index rose at an annualized 2.0%. The Commerce Department says the high growth in the quarter is a rebound from the weather-related GDP declines in 1Q.

The Federal Open Markets Committee met today, and left interest rates unchanged, with a Fed Funds target rate of 0.0%-0.25%.

ADP’s estimate for private payroll growth in July is 218,000 jobs. Econoday’s analyst consensus is a bit higher at 235,000.

The MBA reports that mortgage applications fell -2.2% last week. Purchases rose 0.2% but re-fis fell -4.0%.


Dale’s social media profiles:
Twitter | Facebook | Google+

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

Economic Statistics for 29 Jul 14

ICSC-Goldman reports weekly retail sales up 0.2%, and were up 4.6% on a year-over-year basis. Redbook reports a 3.0% rise in retail sales over last year.

The S&P/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index continued to fall in May, down -0.3% for the month. On a year-over-year basis, the index is up 9.3%, however.

The Conference Board’s consumer confidence index is moving steadily to new recovery highs, to 90.9 in July.

The State Street Investor Confidence Index fell to 114.7 in July from a revised 119.3 in June.


Dale’s social media profiles:
Twitter | Facebook | Google+

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

When bureaucracies run health care

When they do we see scandals like the VA.  What the left will tell you is that’s an exception.  That the government can run health care vastly better than the private sector because it knows how to control costs.

For example:

NHS doctors are prematurely ending the lives of thousands of elderly hospital patients because they are difficult to manage or to free up beds, a senior consultant claimed yesterday.

Professor Patrick Pullicino said doctors had turned the use of a controversial ‘death pathway’ into the equivalent of euthanasia of the elderly.

He claimed there was often a lack of clear evidence for initiating the Liverpool Care Pathway, a method of looking after terminally ill patients that is used in hospitals across the country.

It is designed to come into force when doctors believe it is impossible for a patient to recover and death is imminent.

There are around 450,000 deaths in Britain each year of people who are in hospital or under NHS care. Around 29 per cent – 130,000 – are of patients who were on the LCP.

Need beds?  LCP an oldie.  Problem solved.  Because with the bureaucracy, you’re not an individual or a patient, you are literally a number to be managed in a way that best benefits the bureaucracy.

Professor Pullicino claimed that far too often elderly patients who could live longer are placed on the LCP and it had now become an ‘assisted death pathway rather than a care pathway’.

He cited ‘pressure on beds and difficulty with nursing confused or difficult-to-manage elderly patients’ as factors.

Now it’s not like we don’t have examples that confirm this – this is one, the other is in our own backyard.

Death panels?  Don’t need ‘em.  Doctors – you know, the guys who swear to the Hippocratic oath – are empowered by the bureaucracy to arbitrarily assign you to the death pathway. Or, in the case of the VA, simply ignore you by leaving you on a wait list until you die.  Either way, a smart person would quickly see where the movement here in this country is going.  A bigger version of the NHS.

Just watch.

~McQ

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

Buy Dale’s Book!