March 24, 2017

The Economy: Is the ‘Hard Data’ Getting Better?

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 9:56 am

Business optimism and consumer confidence have been riding high.

That’s nice, but at some point the economy needs to see tangible, hard-data improvement — and, other than in the jobs data for the first two months of this year (a big deal, but not by itself decisive), we haven’t seen much of that.

That may — emphasis may — be changing.

Examples, pro and con:

  • Industrial production was flat in February. But January was revised from -0.3 percent to -0.1 percent. Overall, that’s not impressive, but two of three individual components are. With a relatively mild winter, utilities production is unsurprisingly down (by almost 6 percent in each of this year’s first two months). But manufacturing advanced by 0.5 percent in both January (revised up from +0.2 percent) and February (strongest two-month run since early 2014), and mining, which includes oil & gas, increased by over 2 percent each month.
  • Seasonally adjusted durable goods orders and shipments increased by a Jan.-Feb. combined 4.0 percent and 0.2 percent, respectively. As with industrial production, January’s orders were revised up to 2.3 percent from 1.8 percent. The raw orders data is even stronger. January’s raw number is the second-best January on record; February’s raw figure is the best since 2013. Zero Hedge is less impressed, but didn’t focus on the raw data.
  • January and February new home sales were strong, with February’s annual rate of 592,000 beating expectations by about 5 percent. The combined Jan.-Feb. actual sales of 90,000 is the best performance since 2008.
  • On the downside, seasonally adjusted existing home sales in February fell, and raw February sales were barely higher than a February 2016.
  • Home construction data (permits and starts) has been improving. Both key metrics are at their highest levels sine 2007. But the raw data in February was weaker than the seasonally adjusted results would lead one to believe, and I don’t think the fact that February 2016 had an extra business day sufficiently explains that.
  • Retail sales in February increased by only 0.1 percent. But again, in what may be a harbinger of a Trump-era trend consistent with previously Republican and conservative administrations, prior data was revised up. In this case, January’s originally reported 0.4 percent increase in retail sales was revised up to 0.6 percent. Ex-auto sales went from 0.8 percent to 1.2 percent. Combined Jan.-Feb. sales are 3.7 percent ahead of the first two months of last year, which is a far healthier increase than we’ve generally seen during the past few years.
  • Again on the downside, initial unemployment claims are on the rise, but not to anything resembling a danger level. The most recent weekly figure is 261,000 seasonally adjusted claims, up from the 230s a few weeks ago. There’s usually not any reason to be concerned until the weekly figure starts consistently topping 300K.

For the first time in a while, there are more pros than cons in the above list, but it’s way too early to declare a positive trend, especially given current first quarter GDP estimates of an annualized 0.9 percent at the Atlanta Fed and 1.2 at Moody’s.

But the retail sales figures, job growth results, and the trend towards upward revisions of previously reported data during the first two months would seem to indicate that this GDP will come in higher than those two estimates — perhaps not when initially reported in late April, but by the time the second and third estimates come out in May and June.

Still, if it isn’t 3 percent or more, it shouldn’t be considered impressive, even after considering the first quarter’s supposed (and I believe bogus) “residual seasonality” problem.


Friday Off-Topic (Moderated) Open Thread (032417)

Filed under: Lucid Links — Tom @ 6:00 am

This open thread is meant for commenters to post on items either briefly noted below (if any) or otherwise not covered at this blog. Rules are here.


Positivity: Judge Gorsuch nomination backed by dozens of pro-life groups

Filed under: Life-Based News,Positivity,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 5:55 am

From Washington:

Mar 22, 2017 / 12:16 am

Judge Neil Gorsuch deserves “swift confirmation” to the U.S. Supreme Court, leaders of pro-life and pro-family groups have said.

“Neil Gorsuch has proven himself to be a defender of the most basic human rights,” said the March 20 letter, organized by the Susan B. Anthony List and addressed to U.S. Senators.

The letter cited Gorsuch’s book, “The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia,” in which he said “human life is fundamentally and inherently valuable and the intentional taking of human life by private persons is always wrong.”

March 23, 2017

What WashPost’s Farhi Sees As Conservative News ‘Dysfunction’ Is Really Accountability

In a Thursday afternoon entry at the Washington Post’s “Style” blog, Paul Farhi identified four recent examples of conservative news “dysfunction” which most people would see as legitimate attempts to set the record straight and/or impose accountability, something one rarely sees at left-leaning establishment press outlets which have far more serious problems. In the process, Farhi also demonstrated a stunning ignorance of conservative news history.



WashPost Lets Claim That Israelis Kill ‘Hundreds’ of Palestinians Per Month Go Unchallenged

In their March 12 coverage of the release from prison of a Jordanian man who killed seven Israeli schoolgirls 20 years ago, Washington Post reporters Ruth Eglash and Taylor Luck quoted one of the many Jordanians who consider the man a hero claiming that “Israelis kill Palestinians by the hundreds every month, and no one is brought to justice.” The pair allowed that claim to go unchallenged, leaving one to wonder where this “great journalism” the paper promotes in its subscription solicitations is hiding.



Trump Vindicated? On Substance, Yep; ‘Yep,’ Period (see Updates); BOMBSHELL: ‘Potential Smoking Gun’ Implicating Obama Admin (and Perhaps Obama Himself?)

George Neumayr at American Spectator:


And this:

Comey’s mere confirmation of an investigation vindicates the thrust of Trump’s tweets.No matter how the Dems and the media spin it, no matter how many semantic games they play, Obama authorized a multi-agency investigation into a political opponent, which necessarily involved violations of that opponent’s privacy.

Read the whole thing.


UPDATE, 10:50 a.m.: John Nolte at the Daily Wire

FACT: According to numerous media reports, the Obama administration spied on Team Trump.

FACT: According to President Trump himself, the Obama administration spied on Team Trump.

And yet, today’s Media Narrative is that Trump lied about the Obama Administration spying on his team.

If the media wants Trump to retract this claim … shouldn’t the media go first?

UPDATE 2, 10:55 a.m.: And this tweet from Nolte, whose Twitter feed is on fire with truthiness today —


UPDATE 3, 2:10 P.M.: John Nolte at The Daily Wire“Trump Is 100% Vindicated On Wiretapping, and 7 Other Things You Should Know.”

A critical element of Nolte’s game-ending presentation is the modern definition of “wiretapping” (also recall that Trump claimed that he had his “wires tapped,” so there’s no doubt that he was employing the modern definition of the term as Nolte quoted from a 2010 book, while the press is stuck in a definition that is at least seven years outdated):

Wiretapping is the traditional term for interception of telephone conversations. This should not be taken too literally. The word is no longer restricted to communications traveling by wire, and contemporary wiretaps are more commonly placed on radio links [ed. cell phones] or inside telephone offices. The meaning has also broadened in that the thing being tapped need no longer be a telephone call in the classic sense; it may be some other form of electronic communication, such as a fax or data.

Compared with the more precise but more general phrase “communications interception,” the word “wiretapping” has two connotations. Much the strong of these is that a wiretap is aimed at a particular target, in sharp contrast to the “vacuum cleaner” interception widely practiced by national intelligence agencies. The weaker connotation is that it is being done by the police.

Nolte then asserts that “… unless you want to argue with MIT or become so painfully literal we all have to talk like a Vulcan, Trump was 100% correct about Obama ‘tapping his wires.’”

Game. Set. Match.

Watch the press squeal like stuffed pigs for days.

UPDATE 4: Et tu, Bob?

The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward warned on Wednesday that there are people from the Obama administration who could be facing criminal charges for unmasking the names of Trump transition team members from surveillance of foreign officials.

UPDATE 5, 8:20 P.M.: Holy moly —

Potential ‘smoking gun’ showing Obama administration spied on Trump team, source says

Republican congressional investigators expect a potential “smoking gun” establishing that the Obama administration spied on the Trump transition team, and possibly the president-elect himself, will be produced to the House Intelligence Committee this week, a source told Fox News.

Classified intelligence showing incidental collection of Trump team communications, purportedly seen by committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., and described by him in vague terms at a bombshell Wednesday afternoon news conference, came from multiple sources, Capitol Hill sources told Fox News. The intelligence corroborated information about surveillance of the Trump team that was known to Nunes, sources said, even before President Trump accused his predecessor of having wiretappedhim in a series of now-infamous tweets posted on March 4.

The intelligence is said to leave no doubt the Obama administration, in its closing days, was using the cover of legitimate surveillance on foreign targets to spy on President-elect Trump, according to sources.

The key to that conclusion is the unmasking of selected U.S. persons whose names appeared in the intelligence, the sources said, adding that the paper trail leaves no other plausible purpose for the unmasking other than to damage the incoming Trump administration.

Here’s some poetic justice. The Fox News reporter is James Rosen. Yeah, that James Rosen.

Share Facilitates Donna Brazile’s Unapologetic ‘Regret’

What do you do if you wish to help someone who wants to pretend they’ve apologized but who also wishes to perpetuate her lies about what she did? Well, if the person involved is a longtime Democratic Party operative like Donna Brazile and you’re running, you let her bury her “regret” without a genuine apology deep inside a column conveniently released on a Friday afternoon in the middle of March Madness and the St. Patrick’s Day weekend, and then let her go on her merry way insisting that she didn’t do what she supposedly regretted doing.



Thursday Off-Topic (Moderated) Open Thread (032317)

Filed under: Lucid Links — Tom @ 6:00 am

This open thread is meant for commenters to post on items either briefly noted below (if any) or otherwise not covered at this blog. Rules are here.


Positivity: Gorsuch made an important distinction when asked about assisted suicide

Filed under: Life-Based News,Positivity,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 5:55 am

From Washington:

Mar 22, 2017 / 04:11 pm

Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch made a crucial ethical distinction in his response to questions about doctor-prescribed suicide during his confirmation hearing on Wednesday, said one ethicist.

When asked what his views were on end-of-life care in the case of a terminal patient enduring unbearable pain, Gorsuch replied that “anything necessary to alleviate pain would be appropriate and acceptable, even if it caused death. Not intentionally, but knowingly. I drew the line between intent and knowingly.”

This is an important distinction, said Edward Furton Ph.D., director of publications and an ethicist at the National Catholic Bioethics Center. He told CNA that the situation presents the case of “double-effect,” where proper steps taken to alleviate a patient’s pain may have the side effect of causing their death, but are permissible when certain conditions are met.

“You’ve got a good intention, the action you’re doing is good – in this case, it’s alleviating the pain with appropriate amounts of medication,” he explained, emphasizing that the dosage of pain medication may never be lethal and should not render the patient unconscious except when “absolutely necessary.”

“You’ve got a side effect, which is not intended, but is foreseen. It is going to happen, but you don’t want it to happen, you’re doing your action for another reason. And there is really no other route to alleviate the pain. So this is perfectly appropriate, it makes good sense,” Furton said.

Gorsuch, a judge on the Tenth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, faced his third day of questioning before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday as he is considered for confirmation to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court.

He wrote a book in 2006 on “The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia.” Gorsuch explored various arguments made in favor of doctor-prescribed suicide and euthanasia before offering his own observations and opinions.

The book “was my doctoral dissertation, essentially,” he told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. It was written “in my capacity as a commentator” and not as a judge, he clarified. The book was published the same year he was nominated and confirmed to the Tenth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

He argued in the book that “human life is fundamentally and inherently valuable, and that the intentional taking of human life by private persons is always wrong.” Regarding doctor-prescribed suicide, he upheld laws prohibiting it, basing his argument upon “secular moral theory.” …

Go here for the rest of the story.

March 22, 2017

WashPost’s Poster Child For Criticizing Trump White House: Susan Rice

One would hope that the Washington Post, where the news masthead is “Democracy Dies in Darkness,” and whose emails soliciting subscriptions tell recipients that “Democracy needs great journalism,” searched far and wide for the most credible person they could possibly find to criticize the foreign-policy impact of how the Trump administration “twists the truth.” Apparently, the best person they could find for the job was … Susan Rice?



Wednesday Off-Topic (Moderated) Open Thread (032217)

Filed under: Lucid Links — Tom @ 6:00 am

This open thread is meant for commenters to post on items either briefly noted below (if any) or otherwise not covered at this blog. Rules are here.


Positivity: ‘It’s a miracle’ — Woman survives devastating mudslide in Peru

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:55 am

From Lima, Peru:

Mar 20, 2017 / 03:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Evangelina Chamorro was swept away for over a third of a mile by an avalanche of mud on the coast south of Lima. But she survived and said that thinking about “God and her daughters” gave her the strength.

In recent weeks, heavy rains have caused avalanches and floods in various parts of the country. Official reports note 70 dead and 70,000 victims throughout the country.

Evangelina, 32, was swept away from the Peruvian forest by a mudslide that reached the Punta Hermosa resort area about 25 miles south of the Peruvian capital.

She lived with her husband and daughters in a small house in a forested area near the resort. Evangelina and her husband were swept away by the mudslide when they both left their house to feed their animals in their nearby corral.

In a statement quoted in La Republica newspaper, Evangelina’s husband, Armando Rivera, said that “we went out to feed the animals when in the distance we heard a loud noise. I thought two trucks had crashed into each other on the highway.”

“We managed to grab onto the trunk of a eucalyptus tree, but the force of the avalanche made us lose our grip. I saw the mud carrying away my wife. I didn’t think I would find her alive. God is great, it’s a miracle she’s alive!” he said after being discharged from the hospital.

Evangelina is still hospitalized but making a remarkable recovery. Her body was struck by lumber, nails and other debris swept away by the mudslide.

She said that while she was swept away by the avalanche, “I thought of giving up, but the whole time I was asking God to give me the strength to keep on fighting.”

The Church in Peru is continuing to mobilize to help the thousands of people affected by the rains and floods which since January have been hitting different parts of the country especially the northern coast and part of the capital. …

Go here for the rest of the story.


A Reason to Definitely Oppose RyanCare in Its Current Form

Filed under: Activism,Economy,Health Care,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 1:41 am

The message which follows was forwarded by a longtime emailer Tuesday evening.

It appears that the attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare is on track to eliminate the competition known as “health share ministries.” Excuse the pun, but these have been a godsend to many people who need insurance but have faced Obamacare premiums which would bankrupt them in short order.

More info on healthshare ministries is here for those who wish to learn more. Also, for those who wish to look into this option to break away from government health care, here are the principal healthshare outlets:

Christian Healthcare Ministries,
Liberty HealthShare,
Samaritan Ministries,

Rest assured that if the arrangements go by the wayside or get seriously compromised by the control freaks in Washington, many good people will suffer.

The letter which follows is written from the perspective of a member, but I trust that readers here can revise the language to provide a non-member’s perspective on the importance of retaining this vital healthcare option (Education HT to longtime commenter dscott; bolds are mine):

This Thursday, the House of Representatives will vote on the American Health Care Act. We need your help. We are asking you to take a few minutes to call your Congressional Representative and urge him or her to advocate for language that supports healthcare sharing ministries in the bill.

You can find your Representative’s contact information by clicking the button below. When you call, please keep these things in mind:

Be polite.
Stick to the issue of the healthcare bill.
The person with whom you are speaking is simply taking down a message and cannot answer questions.
Ask to be included in the next tele-townhall event.


Here is a suggested “script” of what you can say to the staff member with whom you will speak.

“Hello. My name is __________________________. I am a member of _______ HealthShare, a healthcare sharing ministry. I have been informed that the healthcare reform bill circulating in the House of Representatives does not protect our healthcare sharing ministry.

As you work with your colleagues and President Trump on the current healthcare reform bill, I urge you to support amending the final bill to protect our healthcare options with the following provisions:

1. Allow members of healthcare sharing ministries to participate in Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). Several bills (H.R. 1175 and S.403) have such a provision, but the current reform bill does not. Please do what you can to ensure that the final House and Senate healthcare reform bill allow our members to use HSAs.

2. Please be sure the 30% continuous coverage penalty does not apply to members of healthcare sharing ministries. Members that move into or out of healthcare sharing would be hit by this penalty. Under the ACA, our members were exempt from penalties. Please see that an exemption is provided.

Simply, we are asking for the continued freedom to make healthcare decisions based on our needs and values. Please make sure _________ (Representative’s name) strongly urges the House Rules Committee to make these changes to include these two provisions.

Thank you for your assistance.


WashPost Coverage of High School Illegal Immigrant Rape Typifies Media Treatment

Early Tuesday evening, Curtis Houck at NewsBusters noted that the rape of a 14 year-old girl at a Maryland high school by two older teens (17 and 18) who recently arrived the U.S. was the subject of a question at Trump Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s press conference earlier that day. The Washington Post’s first story on the rape Friday illustrates Houck’s observation that the crime is “an inconvenient story for their liberal narrative” that one must downplay or simply not report negative news about the actions of illegal immigrants.


March 21, 2017

Chelsea Handler Upset That Trump Family’s ‘Jeans’ Will Be Inherited by Unborn Grandchild

Chelsea Handler’s tweet on Monday in reaction to the announcement by Lara and Eric Trump that they are expecting their first child shows that we have yet to reach bottom in anti-Trump meanness and incivility, and that the “leave the family alone” admonishment is so 2016. Serendipitously, given that the left routinely ridicules many of the center-right’s supporters and everyday Americans in general as ignoramuses, Handler’s tweet also reflects badly on her literacy.