July 20, 2018

Blumer’s Bandwidth Burn (072018)

Filed under: Lucid Links — Tom @ 12:47 pm

Econoclast Tidbits

As of early Friday morning, several GDP forecasters were predicting annualized second-quarter GDP growth over 4 percent, including the Atlanta Federal Reserve (4.5 percent), Moody’s (4.0 percent), and Macro Advisers (5.3 percent). Moody’s is also showing a CNBC forecasters’ consensus of 4.1 percent.

California slumping? If the economy doesn’t achieve the Trump administration’s stated goals, California is on track to deserve a large share of the blame. The state, which added an average of 164,000 seasonally adjusted jobs between February and June in the six previous years, has added only 40,000 jobs in the past five months, including just 800 in June (with a loss of 2,700 jobs in the private sector).


Media Bias-Ignorance Brief

The satirists at The Onion appear to have gotten over their 2016 Republican violence fetish, and to have returned to equal opportunity skewering.

Thursday’s target (HT Twitchy) could have been more appropriate: “CNN Anchors Speechless After Guest Goes On Long, Coherent Thought.”



Fact-check Folly

Snopes.com has evaluated the completely factual claim that San Francisco is allowing non-citizens, including illegal immigrants, to register to vote, as a “mixture” of truth and falsehood:

WHAT’S TRUE — Some non-citizen San Francisco residents can register to vote in local school board elections.

WHAT’S FALSE — San Francisco is not allowing the non-citizen population at large to register to vote in all elections.

These news headlines reveal that the press has largely gotten this one right:

Fox News“Non-citizens, illegal immigrants now may register to vote in San Francisco school board elections” 

Sacramento Bee“Non-citizens legally register to vote in San Francisco school elections”

San Francisco Chronicle“Non-citizens can now vote in San Francisco school board elections”

CNN.com“Noncitizens in San Francisco can register to vote, but only for school board elections”

New York Post“San Francisco allows non-citizens to vote in school elections”

Illegal immigrants are obviously not citizens. They can register to vote in San Francisco. The fact that they can’t vote in every election doesn’t change the fact that they’re being allowed to register. As has so often been the case with “fact checkers,” Snopes wasted its time on an utterly true statement.

Snopes disingenuously based its “mixture” evaluation on a straw-man statement virtually no one is making. Their “evidence” consists of one person’s Facebook entry and a Daily Wire post headlined “San Francisco Begins Registering Illegal Aliens To Vote” which tells readers that registration only enables school board voting in its very first sentence.


Social Media Suppression Watch

The Gateway Pundit has released a study showing that major conservative sites have suffered 90-plus percent reductions in their Facebook referral traffic:

A Gateway Pundit June study of top conservative news outlets found that Facebook has eliminated 93% of traffic to top conservative websites.

That can’t possibly be accidental.


Friday Off-Topic (Moderated) Open Thread (072018)

Filed under: Lucid Links — Tom @ 8:00 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: U.S. Saves Baby Oliver After U.K. Doctors Said His Heart Couldn’t Be Fixed

Filed under: Health Care,Positivity,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 5:55 am

From England and Boston, Massachusetts (video at link):

July 18, 2018

After baby Oliver Cameron was denied necessary medical treatment and funding by the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS), doctors in the United States were able to save his life.

Baby Oliver was born with a rare heart condition known as cardiac fibroma. The socialized healthcare system in the U.K. was not equipped to perform the necessary surgery to remove the non-cancerous tumor in his heart. Oliver would have to be put on a list to receive a heart transplant, and even then, he would only be expected to live to the age of 15, at the longest.

But due to the innovation and ingenuity of the United States, the necessary surgery was not only available, but had a 100% success rate at the Boston Children’s Hospital.

The NHS, however, initially refused to pay for the roughly $260,000 parents Lydia and Tim Cameron needed to fund the trip and procedure required to save their baby.

“No parent should have to bury their child,” Lydia said at the time, according to The Mirror. “For the NHS to say, ‘we’re sorry, we can’t help.’ is devastating.”

“We asked if the NHS could fly the surgeon over here, but he’s not licensed to operate in the UK,” she explained. “We asked if an English surgeon could learn the procedure, but they said no. So we must raise the money ourselves.”

“Our NHS consultant has said if Boston agreed to treat Oliver then we had to get him there.”

The couple did not have the funds to save Oliver, so they resorted to crowdfunding, opening a GoFundMe page and asking the public to donate.

After funding nearly $170,000 on their own and garnering international attention, the NHS’s hand was forced. The government finally announced that they would allow and fund the necessary surgery at Boston Children’s Hospital.

Professor Dominic Wilkinson at the Oxford Centre for Neuroethics said that the pressure was on the NHS to comply due to the recent case of U.K.-based baby Charlie Guard, who was denied medical treatment by the NHS despite other nations offering treatment. “I think the intense attention from the Charlie Gard case is likely to make those decision makers more conscious that they are under greater scrutiny and therefore that they have to be particularly careful in making a fair decision,” he told The Telegraph.

Thankfully, Boston Children’s Hospital was able to perform a successful surgery on 10-month-old baby Oliver in November of 2017. “When they told us Dr. del Nido had removed all of it, we were so happy we just burst into tears,” said mother Lydia, according to the hospital’s site. …

Go here for the rest of the story.

July 19, 2018

Thursday Off-Topic (Moderated) Open Thread (071918)

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: Hero NFL player rips car door off hinges to rescue man inside after accident — ‘I prayed with him’

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:55 am

From New Orleans (HT Weasel Zippers):

Jul 17, 2018 5:50 pm

Mitchell Loewen, a 25-year-old New Orleans Saints football player, literally ripped a car door off its hinges in order to help rescue a man who’d fallen victim to a terrifying vehicle accident.

What are the details?

It all went down on Sunday when a car carrying a man purported to be in his mid-20s accidentally drove off an upper level of a parking garage in New Orleans’ Central Business District.

The car landed on its roof in the middle of a busy street, and the unidentified man was trapped in the vehicle. The man was pinned inside.

Loewen, who was having lunch in a restaurant near the accident, and other bystanders were able to flip the vehicle right side up after he saw that the man’s legs were pinned down and he was slumped over the backseat of the vehicle.

“People were screaming, it sounded like a bomb or an earthquake or something,” Loewen said according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

He added, “There were a bunch of people standing around, but not approaching the car and I was like ‘What’s up, let’s help this guy.’ I mean, obviously there was someone in there, I wasn’t going to just stand by and watch. It was a life or death situation.”

“I got really worried,” Loewen said. “We couldn’t see into the car very well, but the doors were so crushed we couldn’t open them.”

Loewen added that another bystander was able to crawl into the car to confirm that the victim was still conscious.

According to the Times-Picayune, Loewen then “wrenched open the door from the outside, ripping it off its hinges, and leaned into the car to speak with the man.”

“He didn’t say much, he was just thanking us all,” Loewen recalled. “I hugged him and told him he was going to be OK, and then I prayed with him. I couldn’t tell how bad his injuries were, but there was a lot of blood and broken glass.”

Loewen and other bystanders remained with the man until emergency services responded and were able to extract the man from the mangled vehicle.

No details were yet available at the time of this writing as to how — or why — the unidentified man’s car fell off the parking structure. The accident remains under investigation.

NOPD spokesman Aaron Looney told the outlet that the man is expected to survive his injuries. …

Go here for the rest of the story.

July 18, 2018

June 2018 Residential Construction: Weak News, With a Possibly Positive Explanation

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 11:38 am

From the Census Bureau (eventual permanent link) — It’s only one month, but it’s a real clunker:

Privately-owned housing units authorized by building permits in June were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,273,000. This is 2.2 percent (±1.2 percent) below the revised May rate of 1,301,000 and is 3.0 percent (±1.1 percent) below the June 2017 rate of 1,312,000. Single-family authorizations in June were at a rate of 850,000; this is 0.8 percent (±1.5 percent)* above the revised May figure of 843,000. Authorizations of units in buildings with five units or more were at a rate of 387,000 in June.

Privately-owned housing starts in June were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,173,000. This is 12.3 percent (±8.3 percent) below the revised May estimate of 1,337,000 and is 4.2 percent (±10.2 percent)* below the June 2017 rate of 1,225,000. Single-family housing starts in June were at a rate of 858,000; this is 9.1 percent (±8.8 percent) below the revised May figure of 944,000. The June rate for units in buildings with five units or more was 304,000.

The silver lining is that permits for single-family units held their own. Single-family starts did not. (The seasonally adjusted results are consisted with the underlying raw numbers.)

Sticking with seasonally adjusted single-family results, the home-construction metrics for the five months of this year were pretty strong. If there’s a quirk in June’s comedown, it may be that builders may have been in an unusual rush to complete already-started units in time for the summer selling season and weren’t that inclined to start new ones.

But why would this year be any different than previous years in that regard?

If there’s a scenario where the selling-season rush theory makes sense, it would be that this year’s improving economy, the prospect of higher interest rates, and perhaps the tax cuts combined to cause a boomlet in single-family construction starts in this year’s earlier months (up 9 percent over the first five months of 2017, and 17 percent greater than the first five months of 2016).

But June’s completions, while respectable, especially compared to starts, weren’t huge.

So it’s too early to tell if June was a one-off or the beginning of a troubling trend.

Also lurking in the background is the reality that many first-time homebuyers are burdened with extraordinary levels of student-loan debt and can’t qualify for mortgage financing.


Wednesday Off-Topic (Moderated) Open Thread (071818)

Filed under: Lucid Links — Tom @ 10:00 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: Kavanaugh’s friends describe man of humility, service, faith

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 9:55 am

From Washington:

Jul 17, 2018 / 03:04 pm

Long-time friends and associates of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh say he is a sincere Catholic, committed to living the tenets of his faith.

Last week, President Trump nominated Kavanaugh to serve as Associate United States Supreme Court. In a short speech following the announcement, Kavanaugh highlighted his commitment to his faith and his family.

“I’ve known Brett – Judge Kavanaugh – for 20 years,” Shannen Coffin, an attorney in Washington, D.C., told CNA. “He’s a very smart person, but he’s a regular guy, too. He’s a devoted father, and spouse.”

Judge Kavanaugh has spent the last 12 years on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals but despite that formidable judicial record, Coffin says that there are “no airs about” him and he has a “humility in his approach to judging.”

“He’s also the guy who after a day of long meetings with senators, you know, and without fanfare, was serving food to the homeless.”

Coffin said that Kavanaugh “views the role of a judge in the constitutional system not as a political job, but as a job of interpreting statutes and interpreting the Constitution.”

On the topic of religious liberty, Coffin was quick to dismiss anyone who had doubts that Kavanaugh would be a staunch protector of religious freedoms.

“I think they’re fools,” he said bluntly. “I don’t have any hesitations in thinking that this is a great appointment for those concerned about religious liberty.”

Kavanaugh is a “vigilant defender of religious liberty,” Coffin said, as evidenced by his line of questioning in the recent court case brought against the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, (WMATA) by the Archdiocese of Washington. While that case has yet to be decided, Kavanaugh’s questions and reasoning made it clear that he thought WMATA had acted illegally by prohibiting religious-themed advertisements.

“What really should impress Catholics is that this is a guy who is committed to the fundamental text of the Constitution and protecting those liberties preserved in the Constitution.” …

Go here for the rest of the story.

July 17, 2018

2Q18 GDP Estimates Update: Stronger Going into the Home Stretch

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 12:57 pm

Yesterday’s retail sales data and generally good news about Industrial Production pushed two of the key estimates above 4 percent:

  • Atlanta Federal Reserve — Now projecting an annualized 4.5 percent.
  • Moody’s — Now at 4.1 percent for Moody’s own estimate and the CNBC consensus.
  • The New York Fed is at 2.77 percent, but that’s as of Friday, before the Monday retail sales and industrial production releases.

Additionally, IHS Markit/Macro Advisers (downloadable Excel spreadsheet is at the page’s “Monthly GDP Index: Historical Data” link) is projecting 5.3 percent annualized second-quarter growth. They’ve already estimated that April’s and May’s raw monthly economic growth (but inflation-adjusted) was a combined 1.25 percent, and believe that June will come in at 0.1 percent. That seems to annualize to a bit more than 5.3 percent; I hope to get an answer about that shortly.

Additionally Macro Advisers’ estimate was as of June 27, and the second quarter-related economic news published since then points towards June being stronger than the firm believed three weeks ago.

The government’s first estimate for 2Q18 GDP, which will include comprehensive revisions to prior years and quarters, will be released on July 27.


Andrew McCarthy: ‘Mueller’s Politicized Indictment of Twelve Russian Intelligence Officers’

Filed under: National Security,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 11:43 am

Andrew McCarthy at National Review takes down the latest Mueller indictments (bolds are mine, italics are his):

Russia’s interference in the 2016 election was never something that the Justice Department was unable to investigate in the normal course. In fact, for months, the Trump Justice Department was investigating it in the normal course, just as the Obama Justice Department had done. Then, President Trump fired FBI director James Comey. It was this event that prompted Rosenstein to appoint Mueller. We got a special counsel not because of Russia’s espionage or any evidence indicating actual Trump-campaign complicity in it; we got a special counsel because Rosenstein was deeply involved in Comey’s ouster and wanted to fend off Democratic attacks on him over it.

The only point of the new indictment is to justify Rosenstein’s decision and Mueller’s existence. Proponents of the unnecessary special counsel want to say, “See, we really needed this investigation.” But that can be said with a straight face only if the goalposts are moved.

To be clear, we did need an FBI counterintelligence investigation of Russia’s espionage operation against the 2016 election, and we already had a quite aggressive one before Mueller came on the scene. But we would have needed a special-counsel investigation only if there had been a concrete factual basis to believe the Trump campaign conspired in Russia’s espionage operation against the 2016 election.

There never was.


Tuesday Off-Topic (Moderated) Open Thread (071718)

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: Funeral Mass scheduled for Monterey bishop

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:55 am

From Monterey, California:

Jul 12, 2018 / 10:15 am

A funeral Mass will be celebrated July 19 for Bishop Richard John Garcia, the late Bishop of Monterey, California, who died July 11 from complications related to Alzheimer’s disease. Garcia was 71.

Garcia was ordained a priest in 1973 in the Archdiocese of San Francisco, was a seminary professor and directed Hispanic ministry, and, in 1998, became an auxiliary bishop in the Diocese of Sacramento. The bishop was appointed to lead the coastal California Diocese of Monterey in 2006.

He was a board member of Catholic Relief Services and the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, and involved in several committees of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in April.

His episcopal motto was “En El Vivimos”- “In Him We Live.”

In a 2017 pastoral letter, Garcia encouraged Eucharistic adoration in the parishes of his diocese, writing that “The Eucharist is a multifaceted, precious jewel in the Sacramental Life of our Church. We cherish and reverence this celebration of our salvation — a perpetual memorial of Christ’s Death and Resurrection.”

In 2007, he wrote “In my life…I have encountered God’s ‘grace upon grace’ even though I did not always fully comprehend or appreciate God’s never being far from me.” …

Go here for the rest of the story.

July 16, 2018

June 2018 Advance Retail Sales: +0.5 Percent, May Revised Up Sharply to +1.3 Pct. From 0.8 Pct.

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 10:54 am

From the Census Bureau (eventual but not currently available permanent link):

Advance estimates of U.S. retail and food services sales for June 2018, adjusted for seasonal variation and holiday and trading-day differences, but not for price changes, were $506.8 billion, an increase of 0.5 percent (±0.4 percent) from the previous month, and 6.6 percent (±0.5 percent) above June 2017. Total sales for the April 2018 through June 2018 period were up 5.9 percent (±0.5 percent) from the same period a year ago. The April 2018 to May 2018 percent change was revised from up 0.8 percent (±0.5 percent) to up 1.3 percent (±0.2 percent).

The strong retail results continue.

Let’s review 2018 so far:

  • January — originally -0.3 percent, currently -0.1 percent in the Census Time Series database.
  • February — originally -0.1, currently +0.1.
  • March — originally +0.6, currently +0.7.
  • April — originally +0.3, currently +0.3.
  • May — originally +0.8, currently +1.3.
  • June — currently +0.5.

That’s four out of the first five months of 2018 revised up by a total of 1.0 points.

That’s not exactly random.

Gas price increases aren’t irrelevant, but gas is only about 8 percent of all retail sales. April through June sales ex-gas are up 5.0 percent over the same period in 2017, compared to the over 5.9 percent increase cited above.

It seems likely that the tax cuts passed in December influenced the past four months’ positive results as well as the upward revisions seen during the past six months.


Monday Off-Topic (Moderated) Open Thread (071618)

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: Catholic Charities Hawai’i to build housing for low-income seniors

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:55 am

From Honolulu, Hawaii:

Jul 13, 2018 / 12:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Catholic Charities Housing Development Corporation (CCHDC) recently purchased several acres of land in Kahului on the island of Maui in order to build a rental housing complex for low-income senior citizens.

They closed the deal with Alexander and Baldwin, a Hawaiian real estate company, June 27. Catholic Charities Hawai’i received 3.86 acres, but no other terms were revealed.

“We are pleased to have played a role in helping Catholic Charities Hawaii to bring more affordable housing to Maui, in particular for Maui’s seniors, who are very important to A&B,” said A&B chief real estate officer Lance Parker, as quoted in a July 10 Maui News article. “We are confident that Catholic Charities understands the needs of this special group and will provide housing that they all can truly call home.”

Called the “Kahului Lani senior affordable rental project,” the complex will have over 160 units accompanied by 260 parking stalls. The first of two building phases, it will be funded by low- income housing state and federal tax credits and a multi-family bond.

The second phase includes an 83-unit, six story complex, along with a two-story multipurpose building for Catholic Charities management offices. Construction will begin at the end of this year, and it is projected to be completed in 2020. Costs will total nearly $48 million. …

Go here for the rest of the story.