May 15, 2014

AP Blames ‘(Good) Weather’ For April Decline in Industrial Production

It looks like the “weather” excuse the press went to repeatedly to explain weak economic results in December, and January, and February, and March still has life in April. But this time, warm weather (which most of us would find “good,” at least in April) is to blame. An early afternoon report (relevant portion saved here in graphic form) on the Dow’s 200-point mid-day dip by the Associated Press’s Ken Sweet claims that April’s reported decline in industrial production was “possibly due to more bad weather” (while this post was prepared, the AP issued a 2:17 p.m. update which still had the “bad weather” excuse.)

That “bad weather” line is odd, because an earlier AP dispatch by Paul Wiseman exclusively about today’s production release from the Federal Reserve didn’t mention or allude to the weather at all. After the jump, I’ll walk readers through Sweet’s possible “warm weather was really bad weather (for the economy)” logic and critique Wiseman’s longer coverage.

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Initial Unemployment Claims (051514): 297K SA; Raw Claims 16% Below Same Week Last Year

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 7:11 am

Now that first quarter looks almost certain to go into contraction, the importance of salvaging a decent second quarter becomes more paramount. Trends in initial unemployment claims won’t necessarily point to a big pickup, but deterioration may point towards continued malaise (or conceivably worse).

Predictions:

Seasonal adjustment factors:

  • Week ended May 10, 2014 — 90.9
  • Week ended May 11, 2013 — 90.1

Raw claims:

  • Week ended May 3, 2014 — 286,916 (before likely revision)
  • Week ended May 11, 2013 — 320,253

For the seasonally adjusted figure to come in as good as or better than predictions, raw claims will need to be 291,000 or lower (291K times .909 is 320K, rounded), or barely above last week’s raw claims before adjustment. That seems doable. Any rise in raw claims above 300K or so might be cause for raised eyebrows, but not concern. The concern threshold is probably 320K in raw claims.

We’ll get the news here (PDF) at 8:30.

HERE IT IS:

SEASONALLY ADJUSTED DATA

In the week ending May 10, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 297,000, a decrease of 24,000 from the previous week’s revised level. This is the lowest level for initial claims since May 12, 2007 when they were 297,000. The previous week’s level was revised up by 2,000 from 319,000 to 321,000. The 4-week moving average was 323,250, a decrease of 2,000 from the previous week’s revised average. The previous week’s average was revised up by 500 from 324,750 to 325,250.

… UNADJUSTED DATA

The advance number of actual initial claims under state programs, unadjusted, totaled 269,689 in the week ending May 10, a decrease of 19,059 (or -6.6 percent) from the previous week. The seasonal factors had expected an increase of 2,887 (or 1.0 percent) from the previous week. There were 320,253 initial claims in the comparable week in 2013.

That’s a pretty strong result, especially in the raw claims department. The cynical possibility is that employers are generally satisfied with the workers they have, are working them hard, and aren’t letting people go. The more likely possibility is that the employment situation at many companies is stabilizing or improving, and that they are hiring and not in a position to have to let people go.

We’ll see if this holds in subsequent weeks.

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UPDATE: On the less than cheerful side, BLS reported today that Real Hourly Earnings declined by 0.3% in April. Additionally, earlier this month BLS said that 1st quarter 2014 productivity fell by an annualized 1.7%.

It’s too early to definitively state this, but it’s starting to look like it’s taking more workers to produce the same amount of output (given flat GDP), and that there’s no money for pay increases. (I’m personally aware of quite a few people suffering pay decreases.)

UPDATE 2: The Eurozone grew by just 0.2% (an annualized 0.8%, to make it comparable to how the U.S. does things) in the first quarter — and from what I can tell, they’re not blaming it on the weather. Everyone but Germany was flat or worse.

Common Core: 2014′s Bipartisan Wedge Issue

Tuesday’s primaries unmasked intense opposition.

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

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Establishment Republicans and their pals in the press – at least until the general election campaigns begin (RINOs never learn) — are celebrating their defeats of tea party-sympathetic challengers in last Tuesday’s Indiana, North Carolina, and Ohio primaries.

They would be well advised to hold the champagne. At least a half-dozen victorious candidates in GOP state legislative contests in those three states, including several who defeated party-supported incumbents, discovered that the key to motivating voters on their behalf was expressing genuine and vocal opposition to the federal government’s stealth imposition of the Common Core standards and testing regime in their schools.

Their success has national implications. You can rest assured that party leaders who have been doing all they can to hide from the issue, as well as all-in “Fed ed” proponent and current Republican establishment fave Jeb Bush, have noticed.

Nowhere was the anti-Common Core momentum more clear than in the Buckeye State. The entity I have dubbed ORPINO (the Ohio Republican Party In Name Only) and its legislative leaders are visibly shaken.

Although the state’s press will only acknowledge Common Core’s relevance in one of Tuesday’s state rep race results, a reliable longtime activist told me on Thursday that candidates’ opposition to Common Core tipped the balance in their favor in four instances. My review of Stop Common Core Ohio’s endorsements against actual election results confirms that contention.

The result that’s impossible to ignore is Tom Brinkman’s triumph over incumbent Peter Stautberg in Southwestern Ohio.

ORPINO thought they had ended “Tax Killer Tom’s” political career two years ago when he lost in a comeback attempt after being term-limited from the legislature four years earlier. Heavily aided by ORPINO, two-term incumbent Stautberg dished out a 22-point drubbing.

This time around, it was different, principally because Brinkman sincerely and strongly aligned himself with anti-Common Core activists. ORPINO doubled down on its smear campaign, spending huge sums on a radio blitz and baldly false campaign literature which, among other things, hysterically implied that the supposedly “radical” Brinkman sided with Democrats on critical matters. ORPINO also claimed that he opposed a 2005 “tax cut” that was really an initially revenue-neutral restructuring which gave birth to an ugly new gross receipts tax.

Brinkman’s trump card over the wishy-washy incumbent was his vocal opposition to Common Core. Stautberg claims to have not taken a position. My source calls BS on that; but in any event, convenient neutrality doesn’t cut it. It instead allows force-fed “Fed ed” to become a permanent fixture of the educational landscape.

In winning by seven points on Tuesday, Brinkman engineered a 29-point turnaround from 2012, inducing palpable fear and loathing at ORPINO and among GOP legislative leaders.

Suddenly, the same people who have spent well over a year blowing off, marginalizing, and in some cases insulting concerned parents and teachers feel that they must commission a poll to see if the rest of the state is as opposed to Common Core as voters in Southwestern Ohio.

I can save them the trouble. A late-April University of Connecticut poll showed that thanks to its undemocratic imposition, only 39 percent of Americans have heard of Common Core. But of those who have, only 38 percent across all ideologies support it, while 44 percent oppose. A scant 24 percent of conservatives favor it. In the Buckeye State, Common Core polled as the number one issue of concern in the GOP primaries, even ahead of Governor John Kasich’s authoritarian expansion of Medicaid.

Why oppose Common Core? Five videos posted at my home blog in March of 2013 take only 33 minutes to fully explain why. Here’s a quick boil-down:

  • These are standards which have been furtively pushed onto the states — i.e., not developed by the states, as proponents claim — through de facto federal government bribes contained in the 2009 stimulus bill and through the conditional granting of No Child Left Behind waivers. State legislatures had virtually no input into Common Core’s initial adoption.
  • Costly and rigid standardized national tests will force reluctant private schools, charter schools, and homeschooling parents to conform their curricula to Common Core to ensure that their students perform well on them.
  • One “feature” of Common Core is a national student data tracking system involving a reported 400-plus “data points” from pre-school through the workforce which will strip away students’ and families’ personal privacy. Personally identifiable and sensitive student and family data can and will be shared among government and private entities.
  • The bottom line is that Common Core strips the states of their constitutional authority over education, will end parents’ ability to influence what their children are taught, and will ultimately and illegally accomplish the far left’s long-time dream of giving the federal government full control over the nation’s school curricula.

In the intervening year, it has become dreadfully obvious that Common Core’s “standards” are a watered-down muddle of incoherence backing a curriculum which is frustrating the nation’s children, infuriating their parents, and driving down test scores.

As would be expected of a “progressive” contraption conceived in back rooms, it virtually “eliminate(s) American children’s core knowledge base in English, language arts and history.”

No radical-driven “reform” would be complete without heavy doses of deconstructive indoctrination. Examples of horrid items which have surfaced include Holocaust denial, portrayals of Barack Obama’s opponents as racistspresumptive submission to the state, and the “clear” human-caused “impacts” of “climate change,” now known as “climate disruption,” which yours truly prefers to call “globaloney.”

Several Common Core-approved texts subject high school students to pornographic passages which are so graphic and offensive that government officials have prevented outraged parents from reciting them aloud at public meetings, and newspapers have refused to publish them. But they’re okay for 14 and 15 year olds to read and discuss?

Common Core supporters who thought they had their fixed game in the bag but now find themselves losing are responding as arrogant people who have run out of arguments invariably do — with demonization and brute force.

Those like Education Secretary Arne Duncan who believe that the opposition is just a bunch of “white suburban moms” who are upset that “their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were” can’t explain why Huntsville, Alabama, which has the highest concentration of degreed engineers in the country, is a hotbed of anti-Common Core activism.

Fever-swamp leftists who characterize Common Core’s center-right opposition as a “wingnut … plot to destroy public schools” have failed to reconcile that assertion with the fact that “wingnuts” like the Chicago Teachers Union and two-thirds of Parent Teacher Association survey respondents in New York oppose it, largely because of the same federal intrusions to which the liberty movement objects.

Over their parent’s objections, school officials are routinely forcing kids to take standardized tests which are supposed to be optional. Teachers who refuse to sign agreements not to share test contents with parents, i.e., their customers, are being suspended or fired. Officials are treating parents who dare to speak out at public meetings like common criminals.

This garbage has got to go. The default assumption has to be that anyone who still supports Common Core is uninformed, bought and sold, or an unapologetic statist. The road to improved school standards is through decentralizing education so that parents and localities once again have control over what and how their children are taught. That worked quite well 50 years ago, when the average high school graduate was measurably more knowledgeable than today’s grads, three-quarters of whom are not ready for college.

In Ohio, that will mean a sea change in the go-along, Kasich-subservient legislature, which appears at long last to be heading in that direction. Kasich is a friend of Jeb Bush who nominally supports Common Core, but he also has 2016 presidential aspirations. Lawmakers need to pass repeal and force Kasich to unequivocally commit.

Mr. “Stand for Something,” who has surely noted that Common Core has become 2014′s bipartisan wedge issue, just might be cynical enough to do a 180. If so, we’ll take it.

Thursday Off-Topic (Moderated) Open Thread (051514)

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: Pope urges UN leadership to resist ‘culture of death’

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:01 am

From Vatican City:

May 9, 2014 / 11:02 am

Pope Francis met with the secretary general and other leaders of the United Nations today, urging them to challenge both a “culture of death” and the “economy of exclusion.”

In a meeting on May 9 with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and other executives at the U.N., Pope Francis said that the institution should work towards goals which include providing “appropriate protection for the family, which is an essential element in sustainable human and social development.”

“Specifically, this involves challenging all forms of injustice and resisting the ‘economy of exclusion,’ the ‘throw-away culture’ and the ‘culture of death’ which nowadays sadly risk becoming passively accepted,” he continued.

Ban Ki-Moon is in Rome for a yearly meeting of all the heads of the U.N. agencies. Although the Secretary General met the pontiff last year, today’s meeting was unique in its inclusion of about 50 senior UN officials.

Pope Francis took the opportunity to speak regarding the Future Sustainable Development Goals at the world organization, noting that they must be “formulated and carried out with generosity and courage, so that they can have a real impact on the structural causes of of poverty and hunger.”

He urged the U.N. leadership to refuse “to be satisfied by current results,” keeping in mind that “the world’s peoples deserve and expect even greater results.”

It is from an “awareness of the dignity of each of our brothers and sisters whose life is sacred and inviolable from conception to natural death” that development and progress can aid peoples throughout the world.

Such an awareness “must lead us to share with complete freedom the goods which God’s providence has placed in our hands, material goods but also intellectual and spiritual ones,” urged the Pope.

He then considered the gospel story of Jesus’ encounter with the tax collector Zacchaeus. When Christ looks at the man who was living a life of greed, Zaccheus’ conscience is “awakened.” …

Go here for the rest of the story.