February 13, 2014

Liberal Media Schizophrenic Over Wendy Davis’s Virtual Flip-Flop on Abortion

The latest evidence that Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis can’t stay true to her convictions or doesn’t have any (take your pick) is her position modification on abortion. Steve Ertelt at Life News relays an underlying Dallas News item, telling his readers that “Davis said she would back a 20-week abortion ban as long as it had two exceptions, to kill disabled babies and a health exception rendering any ban meaningless.” Point taken, Steven but the idea that Davis would support anything described as a 20-week ban is a significant change from the position which supposedly drove her to filibuster a Texas law last year containing the ban.

Reaction from the establishment press can fairly be described as schizophrenic (“characterized by a breakdown in thinking and poor emotional responses”), and ranges from crickets to cries of “betrayal” to amazing exercises in excuse-making.

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As Retail Sales Figures Get Revised Down, AP Continues to Promote Myth That Economy Was ‘Strong’ at End of 2013

It isn’t at all difficult to spot the absurdity in Josh Boak’s 9:45 a.m. Associated Press report today on retail sales, which declined 0.4 percent from December on a seasonally adjusted basis.

His first paragraph claims that “consumer spending at the end of 2013″ had “momentum,” while his second shows that the there was none (bolds are mine):

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Weather, or Not? Retail Sales Fall (Update: Seasonal Adjustments Masking Degree of Weakness?)

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 9:53 am

AP’s immediate reax: “US retail sales fell 0.4 percent in January; cold weather slowed shopping and auto buying.”

The Census Bureau’s statement:

The U.S. Census Bureau announced today that advance estimates of U.S. retail and food services sales for January, adjusted for seasonal variation and holiday and trading-day differences, but not for price changes, were $427.8 billion, a decrease of 0.4 percent (±0.5%) from the previous month, but 2.6 percent (±0.9%) above January 2013. Total sales for the November 2013 through January 2014 period were up 3.4 percent (±0.5%) from the same period a year ago. The November to December 2013 percent change was revised from +0.2 percent (±0.5%) to -0.1 percent (±0.3%).

Retail trade sales were down 0.4 percent (±0.5%) from December 2013, but 2.6 percent (± 1.1%) above last year. Nonstore retailers were up 6.5 percent (±2.3%) from January 2013 and auto and other motor vehicle dealers were up 4.1 percent (±3.2%) from last year.

So (seasonally adjusted), November is now +0.2%, December is -0.1%, and January is -0.4%.

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UPDATE: Here’s a look at that pesky raw data —

The Dec. 2012 to Jan. 2013 decline was $87.640 billion.

The Dec. 2013 to Jan. 2014 decline (pending revisions, which if anything are going to be downward) was $93.553 billion, or almost $6 billion greater  (6.7%) decline than the raw decline from a year earlier.

Rephrased from a total perspective: The Dec. 2012 – Jan. 2013 decline was 18.7%. The decline from an already unimpressive Dec. 2013 – Jan. 2014 decline was 19.3%, and I believe will get larger.

The “weather” argument will get worn out of this continues into February and especially March.

Initial Unemployment Claims (021314): 339K SA; NSA Claims Only 1% Below Same Week Last Year

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 6:57 am

Prediction:

Bloomberg predicts 330,000 seasonally adjusted claims

Seasonal adjustment factors:

  • Week ended Feb. 8, 2014 — 105.8
  • Week ended Feb. 9, 2013 — 104.0

Raw claims:

  • Week ended Feb. 1, 2014 — 355,224 (revised to 355,187, according to DOL’s history table)
  • Week ended Feb. 9, 2013 — 361,417

For Bloomberg’s prediction to hold, raw claims will need to be at or below 349,000 (349K divided by 1.058 is 330K, rounded).

That should be eminently doable.

Seasonally adjusted claims really need to come in under 320K in the circumstances (that means raw claims would be about 6% or so lower than the same week last year).

The report will be here at 8:30.

HERE IT IS (permanent link) Don’t buy the spin, this is very weak in the circumstances —

SEASONALLY ADJUSTED DATA

In the week ending February 8, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 339,000, an increase of 8,000 from the previous week’s unrevised figure of 331,000. The 4-week moving average was 336,750, an increase of 3,500 from the previous week’s revised average of 333,250.
… UNADJUSTED DATA

The advance number of actual initial claims under state programs, unadjusted, totaled 358,914 in the week ending February 8, an increase of 3,727 from the previous week. There were 361,417 initial claims in the comparable week in 2013.

So raw claims only came down by about 1 percent from the same week last year. Does anyone remember last year being great? Didn’t think so.

Although last week wasn’t revised, that’s a rarity, happening at most about 5% of the time. If this week gets revised by only 3,503 claims, which is reasonably likely based on history, it will have been as bad as next year.

I should add that if last year’s seasonal adjustment factor had been used on this year’s raw claims, the seasonally adjusted result would have been 345,000), (358,914 divided by 1.040, rounded), or 6K higher than today’s official result.

Is It Over, and We Just Don’t Know It?

Have we lost our Founders’ government?

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This column went up at PJ Media on Monday evening and was teased here at BizzyBlog on Tuesday.

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Historians have a tough time agreeing on many of the turning points in ancient history.

One of them, in light of events during the past several years and the tone of President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address a week ago, seems particularly relevant. That’s the question of precisely when one could say that the Roman Republic ended:

… (The republic) began with the overthrow of the Roman monarchy, c. 509 BC, and lasted over 450 years.

Towards the end of the period a selection of Roman leaders came to so dominate the political arena that they exceeded the limitations of the Republic as a matter of course. Historians have variously proposed the appointment of Julius Caesar as perpetual dictator in 44 BC, the defeat of Mark Antony at the Battle of Actium in 31 BC, and the Roman Senate’s grant of extraordinary powers to Octavian (Augustus) under the first settlement in 27 BC, as candidates for the defining pivotal event ending the Republic.

There’s little doubt that the United States of America has reached a point where, relatively unhampered by legislative or judicial barriers, its President and his bureaucracy exceed the limits of the nation’s Constitution “as a matter of course.” They in turn are quietly but effectively under the control of our “independent” central bank.

Decades from now, it’s possible that historians will look back and conclude that the American experiment, which began with its declaration of independence from and defeat of Great Britain, ended sometime between 1999 and 2014. As with Rome, the pivotal event isn’t obvious, and the list which follows isn’t all-inclusive.

The failure by the U.S. Senate to convict Bill Clinton after his impeachment by the House was the first signal that the rule of law might not matter any more. These days, the law seems to be whatever Barack Obama and Eric Holder want it to be.

President George W. Bush’s formation of the mammoth Homeland Security Department and mission creep at the National Security Agency after the 9/11 terrorist attacks consolidated awesome and disturbing powers in very few hands. Now both outfits are out-of-control monsters.

The 2007-2008 crackup in housing and mortgage lending would be a leading candidate for the pivotal moment prize if one believes that it was the result of decades of conscious effort. Evidence that it was, including the Community Reinvestment Act and HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo’s 1990s housing discrimination directives, both of which forced banks to make loans to vast numbers of borrowers who couldn’t repay, is compelling. Compounding the problem, government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac “routinely misrepresented” the quality of both the mortgages they packaged for the securities markets and those they kept on their own books for 15 years. The amounts involved were in the trillions of dollars.

It would have been painful in the short-term, but the nation’s economy would likely have recovered, as it always previously had, from that Cloward Piven-like attempt to collapse the system if a frightened George W. Bush administration, opportunistic Congress, and conflicted Federal Reserve hadn’t intervened in the fall of 2008. But they did, and heavy-handedly. Congress passed TARP, despite citizens’ overwhelming opposition. Bush’s Treasury Department then used it to “put a gun to the head” of big-bank CEOs, forcing them to accept government “investment” and de facto control, which the Dodd-Frank legislation solidified two years later.

All the while, the Fed engaged in a massive, undisclosed bailout of domestic and even foreign banks, followed by what became known as “quantitative easing.” $4.1 trillion later, our central bank’s tiny cadre of suits and skirts now has the ability to almost instantly send the economy into a tailspin any time they see federal government policies or actions they don’t like. Don’t think for a minute that the three branches which nominally run our government don’t know this.

Historians may conclude that the presidential election of 2012 was the last chance to undo the authoritarian encroachment, Pervasive Obama administration harassment of political opponents by its Internal Revenue Service, serial lying about the September’s Benghazi terrorist attack, and the mother of all 21st century lies — “If you like your health care plan, doctor, medical provider, and drug regimen, you can keep them” — inarguably delegitimized its result.

Things have now gotten so out of hand that a president consumed with arrogance can go in front of his nation and tell it that he plans to exceed his constitutional authority — get a standing ovation from the same people who said they were scared to death of “the imperial presidency” a decade ago.

Obama acts as if he’s untouchable, and he probably is. Seemingly, there is no level of defiance or incompetence which will lead to serious calls for his removal.

Just days after his State of the Union address, we saw a cocky president comically declare that there’s “not a smidgen of corruption” at the IRS. He then stood by as the agency, in a clearly in-your-face move, handed out millions in bonuses to employees.

A short time later, we learned that the Health and Human Services Department allegedly allowed programmers from Belarus, a country which should be considered an enemy, to be involved in producing the objectively not-secure HealthCare.gov web site supporting Obama’s so-called “signature achievement,” the Affordable Care Act. The intelligence community believes that these programmers may have deliberately installed malware, which “could be used to covertly route data from the Obamacare website to foreign locations.” Since the Obamacare computers have access to a myriad other federal databases, our enemies may literally now have the keys to the kingdom. As of when this column was written, this shocking development had barely made a ripple.

I certainly hope I’m wrong, and I’m not suggesting that we hang our heads and give up. But it sure feels like we are already in the grip of post-constitutional despotism. The best counter-argument right now is that some in Congress have determined that passing laws or even discussing legislation while a lawless president is in office is a pointless exercise. Will enough of them figure that out in time to begin taking the country back? And even if they do, will it make a difference?

Thursday Off-Topic (Moderated) Open Thread (021314)

Filed under: Lucid Links — Tom @ 6:05 am

This open thread will stay at or near the top today. Rules are here. Possible comment fodder may follow. Other topics are also fair game.

Positivity: Put your faith first, Olympian encourages young Catholics

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:00 am

From Denver:

Feb 13, 2014 / 04:02 am

Olympic cross-country skier Rebecca Dussault recently spoke to a large crowd of young adults in Denver, exhorting them to put their Catholic faith above everything else in life.

“Be Catholic first and anything that flows from that is a rich bonus,” she said in Feb. 10 talk given at Katie Mullen’s Irish Pub in downtown Denver as part of the archdiocese’s Theology on Tap program.

Because there are over a billion Catholics in the world, Dussault added, if someone is a “successful Catholic” they will most likely also be a “significant Catholic” which is why it it so important for prominent people in the Church to be good examples.

“We’re going to be looking up to you,” she said.

The home-schooling mother of four spoke about her life and experience in the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy.

A Colorado native, Dussault grew up skiing in the Rocky Mountains, but felt ostracized by her peers because she was pursuing a physically and spiritually healthy life, shunning the party attitude. Fighting the secular culture, she found herself retiring from racing at the age of 19.

She married and had her first child when she found herself once again competing and winning, restarting her career and passion for competition. She called up her sponsors and they took her back, knowing that it wasn’t just her anymore, but her entire little “domestic church.”

Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassatti, a fellow skier and sports enthusiast who lived in the early 20th century, became her patron saint on the slopes. She even wrote his name on her skis during the Olympics in Turin, his home town.

The young Italian did not make it his full time job to shout his faith from the rooftops, Dussault said. Rather, he simply “lived in the now and he totally poured himself out” in the service of others.

Bl. Pier Giorgio died at the young age of 24 from polio – and the fact that his funeral procession had 10,000 followers is a testament to his “magnetic personality because he had God,” she told CNA.

His example has continued to serve as an inspiration for her work after the Olympics, especially as a mentor with her program, MassStart.org, which aims to helps Catholics lead spiritually and physically healthy lives.

Go here for the rest of the story.