August 28, 2016

What Really Drove Target’s Single-Stall Bathroom Move: Falling Store Traffic

When Target Stores reported results for its second-quarter, which ended on July 31, on August 17, the Associated Press’s Anne D’Innocenzio told readers that “Sales at stores open at least a year fell 1.1 percent, reversing seven straight quarters of gains,” and that “Customer traffic fell for the first time in a year and a half.”

What could have caused such a stark reversal, especially in light of the fact that the next day, larger arch rival Wal-Mart reported, as seen in the Wall Street Journal, that “sales at established stores up for the eighth consecutive quarter and more shoppers visiting for the seventh period (i.e., quarter) in a row”? The AP’s D’Innocenzio dutifully relayed a statement from Target’s chief financial officer in Paragraph 17 of her 19-paragraph report that “the impact of the bathroom issue has ‘really not been material.’” Balderdash.



Sunday Off-Topic (Moderated) Open Thread (082816)

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: ‘Hello. My name is Mother Teresa. I just wanted to give you my card.’

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:55 am

From Denver:

Aug 25, 2016 / 03:54 am

It happened on the most ordinary day, in the most ordinary of places.

A woman stood by herself in the back of an airport lounge, flipping distractedly through a magazine while she waited for her flight. Suddenly, she was approached by a 5’0” woman in a blue and white sari.

“Hello. My name is Mother Teresa. I just wanted to give you my card.”

The religious sister passed her a business card and gave her hand a gentle squeeze before turning and boarding a flight. The woman stared at the card. And then, a smile.

This is one of hundreds of testimonies about the life and holiness of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta included in the new book “A Call to Mercy” (Image, 2016). The 384-page book published just weeks ahead of the Calcutta sister’s Sept. 4 canonization.

The book gives an exclusive peek into the first and secondhand oral and written testimonies that built Mother Teresa’s cause for sainthood. In total, the sainthood cause for the Missionary of Charity foundress included 17 volumes – or nearly 7,000 pages – of testimonies.

Father Brian Kolodiejchuk, postulator of Mother Teresa’s cause and editor of “A Call to Mercy,” told CNA that such testimonies are typically unavailable to the public for decades following a canonization.

“This is the first time we’re using testimonies like that in such an organized manner and such a large number,” said Fr. Kolodiejchuk. “All that material will be available maybe in another 50 years. But in the meantime, if you read the examples you’ll see just what Mother did.”

“Some of them are extraordinary, but for the most part Mother is doing ordinary things. Like she herself used to emphasize; Ordinary things with extraordinary love.” …

Go here for the rest of the story.

August 27, 2016

Saturday Off-Topic (Moderated) Open Thread (082716)

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: The powerful story of a nun who survived Italy’s earthquake

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:55 am

From Rome:

Aug 26, 2016 / 04:40 pm

Sister Marjana Lleshi awoke in the early house of Wednesday morning to the violent shaking of the 6.2 magnitude earthquake that killed 250 people, devastating several towns in central Italy.

Wounded and trapped under her bed as her convent in Amatrice crumbled to the ground around her, Sr. Lleshi thought for sure that death was imminent, and began sending messages to loved ones telling them goodbye.

However, just when her hope had run out and she was ready to let go, she heard the voice of Louis, a young Columbian caregiver assisting at their home for the elderly, calling out for anyone who might still be alive – a voice she refers to as her “angel” from God.

“I looked around and saw everything was crumbling,” Sr. Lleshi said in an Aug. 25 interview with SIR, the official news agency of the Italian bishops.

She said she had woken up about 30 minutes after the initial shock from the earthquake around 3:30 a.m., and saw rubble falling around her as she came to her senses.

“I had a cut on my head and I asked for help. I looked toward the street, where people were lost and confused,” she said, but “no one responded to me.”

As the building continued to crumble, Sr. Lleshi said she had just enough time to grab a sweater and her veil before taking refuge under her bed, where she decided to stay until help arrived.

“It was at that point that I resigned myself,” she said. “I asked for help in vain. So I began to send messages to loved ones warning that there was an earthquake, that there was no longer hope, that I would die and that it was farewell.”

Though she tried to hold on to her will to live, the nun said she lost hope when no one came, and began to think about those dear to her and the choices she had made in life.

“I retraced my life and saw that the choice to offer it for others was the only one I wanted to make,” she said, noting that “it was precisely in that moment that I heard the voice of the young man calling me, and in that voice I heard the voice of God, who was calling me to life.”

Sr. Lleshi, 35 and originally from Albania, is a religious sister of the Handmaids of the Lord. She had been living in the community’s house in Amatrice, one of the towns hardest hit by the 6.2-magnitude earthquake that tore through central Italy early Wednesday morning, killing 250 people. …

Go here for the rest of the story.

August 26, 2016

PBS NewsHour Cuts Anti-Hillary Portions of Judy Woodruff’s Jill Stein Interview

On Tuesday, PBS’s Judy Woodruff did a live interview with Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein which was carried on Facebook. The entire interview, plus questions asked by viewers, is present at the network’s Facebook page.

That interview without the Facebook questions was also broadcast on PBS’s NewsHour — but not quite all of it. For some reason, key portions of Stein’s answer to Woodruff’s final question about whether “literally that Hillary Clinton is every bit as bad for the country as Donald Trump” are not present. Based on what was edited out, it would appear that the cutouts, at least one of which appears to have been done in mid-sentence, were carried out to protect Democratic Party nominee Hillary Clinton’s left flank.



Durable Goods Orders: Worst July Since 2013, Lowest Non-January Raw Number in 36 Months

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 10:03 am

Unlike 2013, when a big dive in actual orders led to a nearly 10 percent seasonally adjusted decline, this year’s dive converted to a 4.4 percent June-to-July increase:


Uh huh.

Big picture, for the “Well, July’s a quirky month, and the table is the sum of a bunch of line item-specific seasonal adjustments” crows: Through July, year-to-day actual new orders and shipments are both down about 1 percent.

Yet the economy is growing.

Uh huh.


Greater Cincinnati’s Heroin Disaster Deepens

Filed under: General — Tom @ 9:25 am

Accelerating casualties in Greater Cincinnati’s drug addiction epidemic:

Heroin overdoses climb over 80, three fatalities in Cincinnati and Hamilton County

This is occurring because there’s more deadly stuff than usual out on the streets — but by now, everyone should know that the potential for that is always there.

If this doesn’t convince current non-users to “just say no” — now and forever — what will?


2Q16 GDP, 2nd Estimate (082616): An Annualized 1.1 Percent, Down from Original Estimate of 1.2 Pct.

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:30 am

PredictionsYahoo Economic Calendar: 1.1 percent, down from last month’s 1.2 percent. Other predictions are hard to find.

The report will be here at 8:30.

HERE IT IS (full report permanent link):

Real gross domestic product increased at an annual rate of 1.1 percent in the second quarter of 2016, according to the “second” estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the first quarter, real GDP increased 0.8 percent.

The GDP estimate released today is based on more complete source data than were available for the “advance” estimate issued last month. In the advance estimate, the increase in real GDP was 1.2 percent. With this second estimate for the second quarter, the general picture of economic growth remains the same; revisions to the components of GDP are small.

… The increase in real GDP in the second quarter primarily reflected positive contributions from personal consumption expenditures (PCE) and exports that were partly offset by negative contributions from private inventory investment, residential fixed investment, state and local government spending and nonresidential fixed investment. Imports, which are a subtraction in the calculation of GDP, increased.

The acceleration in real GDP in the second quarter primarily reflected an acceleration in PCE, a smaller decrease in nonresidential fixed investment, an upturn in exports, and a smaller decrease in federal government spending. These were partly offset by a larger decrease in private inventory investment and downturns in state and local government spending, in residential fixed investment, and in imports.

I’ll have the detailed table up shortly.

UPDATE: Here it is —


Not a lot of changes here. Consumption and fixed investment improvements totaling about 0.2 points were more than offset by bigger reductions for inventory change, government purchases and net exports totaling about 0.3 points.

Nothing has changed in the sense that the result is dismal. Given the declines in reported wages seen between the first and second releases, one has to wonder how the consumption increase can possibly be sustained without heavy consumer borrowing.


Friday Off-Topic (Moderated) Open Thread (082616)

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: The happiest day of Mother Teresa’s life

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:55 am

From Vatican City:

Aug 26, 2016 / 06:08 am

It’s been said that saints often come in pairs.

Sts. Peter and Paul, Mary and Joseph, Francis and Clare, and Louis and Zelie Martin are just a handful of such saints, coupled together through marriage or friendship.

Perhaps the best-known modern saintly pair of friends would be Mother Teresa and John Paul II, whose lives intersected many times during her time as Mother Superior of the Missionaries of Charity, and his pontificate.

When John Paul II came to visit Mother Teresa’s home in the heart of the slums in Kolkata in 1986, Mother Teresa called it “the happiest day of my life.”

When he arrived, Mother Teresa climbed up into the white popemobile and kissed the ring of the Bishop of Rome, who then kissed the top of Mother’s head, a greeting they would exchange almost every time they met.

After their warm hello, Mother took John Paul II to her Nirmal Hriday (Sacred Heart) home, a home for the sick and the dying she had founded in the 1950s.

Footage of the visit shows Mother Teresa leading John Paul II by the hand to various parts of the home, while he stops to embrace, bless, and greet the patients. He also blessed four corpses, including that of a child.

According to reports of the visit from the BBC, the Pope was “visibly moved” by what he saw during his visit, as he helped the nuns feed and care for the sick and the dying. At some points the Pope was so disturbed by what he saw that he found himself speechless in response to Mother Teresa.

Afterwards, the Pope gave a short address outside the home, calling Nirmal Hriday “a place that bears witness to the primacy of love.”

“When Jesus Christ was teaching his disciples how they could best show their love for him, he said: ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’ Through Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity, and through the many others who have served here, Jesus has been deeply loved in people whom society often considers ‘the least of our brethren,’” the Pope remarked. …

Go here for the rest of the story.

August 25, 2016

The Most Striking Thing About This Presidential Campaign …

Filed under: Taxes & Government — Tom @ 11:25 pm

… is how the alleged dominant frontrunner, behind the confident mask, is acting like she’s in mortal fear of the supposedly hopelessly behind challenger.

Though they always have it handy, Democrats don’t play the race card unless they feel they have to. Doing so over 70 days before Election Day is not a tactic employed by someone who is confortably and confidently ahead. (Nor is announcing that you’re not going to spend ad money in certain swing states; that’s phoney-baloney misdirection designed to feed the press’s desire to convince the public 70 days out that it’s over, which is nonsense.)

The fact that the Clinton campaign has just played the race card with a vengeance would seem to mean that they recognize that they’re in serious trouble, and that they have ugly internal polling which is reaching people the press’s pollsters aren’t reaching. Perhaps polling which is also showing that Donald Trump really is making genuine inroads with black voters is what has convinced the Clinton campaign to unleash the hounds of race war.


Press Followup on $1.3 Billion Cash-For-Hostages Transfer to Iran Has Been Weak

Reporters at the State Department’s daily briefings were very impatient with the bobbing and weaving of spokespersons Mark Toner on Tuesday and Elizabeth Trudeau on Wednesday when they were questioned about $1.31 billion in payments out of the U.S. Treasury’s Judgement Fund listed as having occurred on January 19, two days after several hostages were freed. It was also the first banking business day of that week.

If these journalists, who can’t be expected to know everything about banking system mechanics, had better help — or any help — back at their main DC offices, the world might know more about these transactions than the Obama administration has thus far been willing to admit. It’s reasonable to believe, based on information reported below which any financial journalist also should have been able to find, that Iran wanted the payments immediately, and wanted them structured to ensure that the funds involved could be readily converted to cash and/or sent to unidentified recipients.



Initial Unemployment Claims (082516): 261K Seasonally Adjusted; Raw Claims (217K) 4 Pct. Below Same Week Last Year

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:53 am

Here’s the Labor Department’s release. There’s nothing particulary disturbing or cheerful here that isn’t already known.


Remembering the Real Ted Kennedy, After His Death in 2009

This post is an annual BizzyBlog tradition.


Chappaquiddick_Kennedy_Car_25First, excerpts from Doug Patton’s barn-burner of a column in 2009, followed by a telling remembrance relayed by a close friend of Kennedy’s (the remembrance is that he liked to hear jokes about Chappaquiddick):

Let Us Not Confuse Longevity with Statesmanship
September 2, 2009

It was almost nauseating to watch the media fawning over Ted Kennedy’s corpse as though he were the last brother of King Arthur, and his passing was signaling the end of a real place called Camelot. In fact, there’s an argument to be made that Chris Matthews and company actually believe in that mythical kingdom.

… Even one of my formerly favorite columnists, Cal Thomas, had glowing, gooey things to say about his “old friend Ted Kennedy,” the most laughable of which was that Kennedy never personalized his politics. Tell that to Robert Bork. Remember Kennedy’s ridiculous speech on the floor of the United States Senate, wherein he hyperventilated that “Robert Bork’s America is one in which women will be forced into back-alley abortions and blacks will be sitting at segregated lunch counters”?

… what we have witnessed in his passing is the near-deification of a man merely because he came from a rich, powerful family, because he lived a long time and because he managed to bamboozle his gullible state into re-electing him simply because his name was Kennedy. What has been sorely missing in all this is a sense of perspective. This was more than just a flawed man. This was a man who cheated, lied and undermined his family, his friends, even his own country.

Perhaps Ted Kennedy’s most contemptible moment — many consider it treasonous — came in 1983. President Ronald Reagan was in the process of bringing the Soviet Union to its knees. In one of the hotter moments of the Cold War, Kennedy sent word to Soviet Premier Yuri Andropov through an old friend and former senator offering Kennedy’s help in undermining the Reagan administration in its dealings with its old arch enemy in exchange for Andropov’s help in defeating Reagan in the 1984 presidential election. Think of that. A United States Senator offers to help our sworn enemy in exchange for political propaganda to win an American election.

This country is not better off because Edward Moore Kennedy sat in the United States Senate for 46 years. He was unqualified when he was first elected. He disgraced himself, his family and our nation throughout his long, tedious career. But the event for which Ted Kennedy will be remembered by most Americans — and by historians, if they are honest — is Chappaquiddick. Forty years ago this summer, 28-year-old Mary Jo Kopechne died in the drunken senator’s Oldsmobile when he drove off a bridge and left her to drown.

You or I would have gone to prison for the negligence he displayed that night. Kennedy went on to become “the lion of the senate.” He lived a life of power and luxury, and was even arrogant enough in 1980 to think this country would elect him president.

Ted Kennedy served a very long time in the U.S. Senate, but let us not confuse longevity with statesmanship. He died a death none of us would wish on anyone — a brain tumor at age 77 — but I’m guessing Mary Jo Kopechne would have preferred to die at age 77 of almost anything.

Now to a 2009 remembrance of Ted Kennedy ‘s alleged sense of humor. I’ll never forget it, and I intend to make sure readers here don’t either.

It came in an interview between Katty Kay of NPR and former Newsweek editor Ed Klein shortly after Kennedy’s death:

Former Newsweek Foreign Editor: Chappaquiddick One of Ted’s ‘Favorite Topics of Humor’

… Klein: Well y’know, he, I don’t know if you know this or not but, one of his favorite topics of humor was indeed Chappaquiddick itself. And he would ask people, “have you heard any new jokes about Chappaquiddick?”

I mean, that is just the most amazing thing. It’s not that he didn’t feel remorse about the death of Mary Jo Kopechne (background music begins building), but that he still always saw, um, the other side of everything and the ridiculous side of things, too.

Kay: Ed Klein, former foreign editor of Newsweek, and author of a new book on Ted Kennedy.

Audio of the full interview is in the YouTube that follows (direct link):

What a guy.

Too bad Mary Jo Kopechne was never available to join in the laughter.

It is mildly comforting to know that what the Democrats called “Ted Kennedy’s seat” really wasn’t.


UPDATE, August 31, 2010: An example of the type of pathetic attempts at historical revisivionism we’ll probably be seeing for the next hundred years –

Rewriting History on Kennedy’s Chappaquiddick Accident

… Now, a year after Kennedy died, his lifelong biographer Burton Hersh, armed with fresh interviews with Kennedy’s mistress at the time, tells Whispers that the whole July 1969 episode should have been handled as a simple crash, leaving the senator’s legacy untainted. “It was a car accident,” he says. “Ted was a terrible driver. He never paid much attention to where he was going.”

“He took a tremendous blow on the head,” says Hersh. In interviews following the crash, Kennedy displayed confusion and amnesia, he says.

“If the thing had been handled properly, the first thing they would have done is put him in a hospital. Then they would have said he was a victim of an auto accident and didn’t know what he was doing and couldn’t be held responsible for anything that happened really after that, which would have been a fair explanation,” says author-journalist Hersh, who knew Kennedy since they were classmates at Harvard. “But instead, he felt terribly guilty about the whole thing … tried to take responsibility and … just confused the issue.”

Horse manure.