July 31, 2016

Flip-Flop: Hillary Tells Chris Wallace She Doesn’t Want Supreme Court’s Heller Ruling Overturned

On Fox News Sunday this morning, Democratic Party presidential nominee Hillary Clinton told Chris Wallace that she doesn’t want the Supreme Court’s 2008 Heller decision overturned.

Clinton said this after Wallace introduced the topic by referring to a statement Mrs. Clinton made at a fundraiser last year that “The Supreme Court is wrong on the Second Amendment.” If we had a responsible establishment press, Mrs. Clinton’s inconsistency on such a major presidential campaign issue would be major news by now.


Sunday Off-Topic (Moderated) Open Thread (073116)

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: Cardinal Dziwisz talks Krakow, Saint John Paul II

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:55 am

From Krakow, Poland:

Jul 26, 2016 / 06:01 am (CNA/EWTN News)

As World Youth Day approaches, the Archbishop of Krakow recently spoke with EWTN Deutschland about the “city of saints” hosting the gathering, and about its most famous son – St. John Paul II.

“You ask me where I have seen [John Paul II's] holiness. Well, we know that he was a very talented man – a writer, a poet, a speaker, an actor; but most of all, a great pray-er,” Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz told EWTN’s Robert Rauhut.

Cardinal Dziwisz was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Krakow in 1963 by St. John Paul II, who was then an auxiliary bishop of the city. Wojtyla was appointed archbishop the following year, and then-Fr. Dziwisz became his secretary soon thereafter – a role in which he served until the Pope’s death in 2005.

He said St. John Paul II “had already discovered the importance of prayer as a boy back in Wadowice. He organized his whole life in a way such that it had a great reference to God; such that his life became a prayer to the Lord himself … He did not split his time between work, sports, and prayer … Everything he did served the Lord’s will, in some way.”

“He granted audiences, he held different meetings, but the people who were close to him knew he was praying even then.”

The cardinal reflected that when one of the Pope’s staff would tell him of a difficult situation to which they couldn’t find a solution, St. John Paul II would reply, “I do not see one either, because we have not yet prayed enough … Let us introduce this matter to the Lord: a solution will then arise in some way; the issue will solve itself, always through prayer.”

St. John Paul II’s prayerfulness was “with him from the time he was a child,” Cardinal Dziwisz reflected. “His father played a great role for that matter. He taught him the prayer to the Holy Spirit, which accompanied him his whole life. Even on his last Saturday, on the day he died, he recited this prayer to the Holy Spirit.”

He added that St. John Paul II was also very devoted to the Virgin Mary and the rosary: “for him that was always a Christological prayer: contemplation of the work of redemption with the Mother of God.”

The late Pope spent time in Eucharistic adoration daily, and made a Holy Hour every Thursday. Cardinal Dziwisz said St. John Paul II “encouraged us to compensate the time that the Apostles overslept” during Christ’s agony in the garden.

St. John Paul II “saw the positive in everyone,” which Cardinal Dziwisz attributed to “his theology – the picture of God in men, this appreciation towards everyone.”

The saint’s legacy is kept alive particularly through his magisterium, the cardinal said, calling it “a point of reference in many areas,” especially the family: “He has left us a great doctrine in that field.” As an exemplar he mentioned Familiaris consortio, St. John Paul II’s 1981 apostolic exhortation on the role of the Christian family in the modern world, noting that Pope Francis’ own recent exhortation on the family “quotes John Paul II many times.”

Cardinal Dziwisz also reflected on the central role that the Church played in the development of Poland as a nation – the country is celebrating the 1050th anniversary of its conversion this year. “Without a doubt, the Church played an important role in the first days of the Polish state and it still is significant for our people today,” he said.

Krakow became the Polish capital in 1038, and was then also deemed the “center of culture, Christianity and religiosity in Poland.” One of its early bishops, St. Stanislaus of Szczepanów, can be called the “conscience of the nation,” Cardinal Dziwisz said, noting that he was martyred “defending human rights and defending the freedom of conscience.”

St. Stanislaus “was the first to show that the Church is to serve the people and that it should do so in an autonomous way, not serving on behalf of the state, but with it … he demonstrated the sovereignty of Church authority from the state authority. That is how the church in Poland was upheld back then and is maintained today. Of course, both institutions cooperate for the common good, but in general, we deal with two independent orders.”

Cardinal Dziwisz affirmed that Krakow “is indeed a ‘city of saints’. No further place –except for Rome – has as many saints as Krakow. Here, we have many churches, and the quantity of churches is an expression of how religious the city is. Almost every church contains a grave of a saint. It has been like that all the time and we have numerous contemporary saints.”

He noted St. Albert Chmielowski, who founded religious congregations and died in 1916, and who “was a role model for John Paul II.”

St. John Paul II’s pride in his native Poland showed a healthy and postive patriotism, Cardinal Dziwisz reflected. “He very strongly underlined the difference between ‘nationalism’ and ‘patriotism’”, he explained. …

Go here for the rest of the story.

July 30, 2016

Moody’s Max Hillary Contributor Mark Zandi: Economy ‘Resilient,’ Job Market ‘Incredible’

Yesterday’s news about the economy was the latest in a 7-1/2 year series of mostly regular disappointments. The government reported that nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew at an annual rate of just 1.2 percent in the second quarter, half or less of what most alleged “experts” expected. Additionally, the first’s quarter’s originally reported 1.1 percent growth was revised down to 0.8 percent.

The economy has grown barely 1.2 percent during the past four quarters. So even before yesterday’s news, reasons to be impressed with the economy were hard to find. That didn’t stop Mark Zandi, who “just so happens” to have contributed the maximum allowable individual amount to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2015, from going way over the top with praise. As reported by the Associated Press’s Martin Crutsinger shortly before the GDP report’s release, Zandi proclaimed that “It is amazing how resilient the U.S. economy has been,” and the “The job market is just incredible.”


Over a Week Later, Forced Labor Decree in Venezuela Is Still Not News at AP, NY Times

Now we know why Nicolas Maduro, Venezuela’s de facto dictator, recently handed over responsibility for food production to the military: He’s going to need soldiers on farms and elsewhere in the food distribution chain to keep conscripted workers in line.

That’s because on July 22, now over a week ago, Maduro’s government decreed “… that any employee in Venezuela can be effectively made to work in the country’s fields as a way to fight the current food crisis.” Those words are from a July 28 Amnesty International press release. Amnesty correctly contends that the move “is unlawful and effectively amounts to forced labour.” Amnesty appears to have taken six days to respond because the first reports from the world’s press did not appear until Thursday. As of shortly after 9 a.m. Eastern Time Saturday morning, the Associated Press, despite having at least four reporters in Venezuela, still hasn’t covered Maduro’s order. Neither has the New York Times.


Saturday Off-Topic (Moderated) Open Thread (073016)

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 story of Poland’s majestic ‘underground salt cathedral’

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:55 am

From Krakow, Poland:

Jul 27, 2016 / 03:49 am

Located just southeast of Krakow, the Wieliczka salt mine is famous for many things – most notably its underground chapels, made entirely out of rock salt.

In fact, the chapels are so stunning that they have earned the mine a nickname: the ‘underground salt cathedral.’

Officially opened in the 13th century, the mine is one of the oldest salt mines still in operation and is composed of numerous chambers chiseled out of rock salt, saline lakes, statues and chapels sculpted in salt.

Until now, the main visitor’s route through the mine, called the “Tourist Route,” has been walked by roughly 40 million tourists from around the world, according to the mine’s official website.

In a show of just how deeply the faith is rooted in the Polish people, the mine is also filled with several chapels carved completely out of rock salt, in order to provide miners with a way to practice their faith while underground.

Since miners typically worked under dangerous circumstances in the dark, away from their families, they created the chapels as places where they could pray and celebrate Mass before facing the challenges of the job.

The shrines were chiseled near the miners’ workplaces and at the major and minor shafts where tragic accidents had occurred.

While it isn’t possible to determine exactly how many chapels and shrines once existed in the Wieliczka mine, the most important are shown on the “Pilgrims’ Route,” which, unlike the regular tourist route, allows groups accompanied by a priest to register and celebrate Mass inside one of the chapels.

The most important chapel, which is the largest and contains the most statutes and carvings, is the St. Kinga Chapel, which is located about 330 feet underground.

The large space inside the chapel measures roughly 5,000 square feet of floor space. It is 36 feet tall, and is decorated with bas-relief carvings in rock salt depicting important scenes in Jesus’ life, such as the Nativity, the Last Supper and the Crucifixion.

It also contains carvings of important biblical events like the Slaughter of the Holy Innocents, and of saints. Two giant chandeliers made completely out of salt crystals hang from the ceiling, while an image of St. Kinga, also made entirely of salt crystals, sits behind the main altar.

The sculptures inside the chapel were carved over the course of 70 years, in large part thanks to a man named Erazma Baracza, an art lover and director of the mine.

Inside the main altar are two relics: one of St. Kinga, and one of St. John Paul II, who visited the mine three times during his life. Though he never went as Pope, the young Karol Wojtyla traveled to Wieliczka twice as a teen, and once as a cardinal.

Mass is still celebrated in the chapel every Sunday, as well as on special feast days or holidays. It is also used for special events such as weddings and sacred music concerts, seating about 400 people.

St. Kinga, the chapel’s namesake, lived during the 13th century and was the daughter of Hungarian King Bela IV. …

Go here for the rest of the story.

July 29, 2016

2Q16 GDP and Comprehensive 2013-2016 Revision: 2Q16 Is Only an Annual 1.2 Pct.; 1Q16 Now Only 0.8 Pct.; 2013 & 2015 Annual Growth Revised Up by 0.2 Pct. Each; Growth in Past 4 Quarters Only 1.2 Pct.; Mark Zandi Praises ‘Resilient’ Economy and ‘Incredible’ Job Market!

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:20 am

This post originally appeared at 1:41 a.m. Updated and carried to the top.


Bottom Line: The economy has slowed considerably in the past year. Additionally, thanks to so much of what little reported growth there has been residing in health care spending, it feels even worse to the average person than the numbers indicate.

If the Obama administration considers this economy acceptable, it’s in a very small minority. Hillary Clinton’s presidential effort will not benefit if she claims that her presidency will “build on” the pathetic economic performance of the Obama administration.



The key forecasters have pulled in their horns. After forecasting second-quarter annualized gross domestic product growth at well above 2 percent for weeks, the Atlanta Fed has reduced its estimate to 1.8 percent, and Moody’s to 2.1 percent.

Moody’s change didn’t go live until fairly late on Thursday, likely in the interest of keeping bearish news quiet while attention was focused on Hillary Clinton, 2015 recipient of the maximum allowable campaign contribution from Moody’s bigwig Mark Zandi, and the final evening of the 2016 Democratic National Convention:


Late Thursday morning, Bloomberg reported that “The consensus estimate among economists surveyed by Bloomberg is for annualized quarter-over-quarter growth of 2.6 percent.”

Yahoo’s Economic Calendar is carrying predictions of 2.4 percent to 2.6 percent.

Last-minute update: AP, in a story which will get revised away shortly but yours truly has saved in case it’s relevant, is predicting 2.6 percent, based on a FactSet consensus which likely also ignores the last couple of days of data.

Comprehensive revision to back to 2013:

The government’s Bureau of Economic Analysis is revising previously released data back to the first quarter of 2013 — despite the fact that it has the data available at the state level to go back to 2008 if it so wishes.

Ironman at Political Calculations thinks the BEA’s move is odd, especially because there is strong reason to believe that 2008 to 2012 would be revised downward.

I think the move is more than odd. Though I obviously can’t prove it, I believe it’s a political decision by the Obama administration to soften the size of the downward revision. Based on his comparison of state data to previously published national data, PoliCalc’s latest estimate is that GDP as of 1Q16 will be 1.1 percent lower than reported a month ago, or about $170 billion expressed in 2009 dollars ($226 billion for the full period minus $55 billion from 2008-2012 which will not be included).

Zero Hedge reported a reason why that downward revision may be even greater back in May, noting that the “the Department of Commerce decided to quietly revise all the core (manufacturing orders and shipments) data going back all the way back to 2014. In doing so it stripped away about 4% from the nominal dollar amount in Durable Goods ex-transports …” The impact is over $100 billion, or about 0.7 percent of GDP.

Of course, other factors of which we are not aware may either minimize, offset, or more than offset the factors just noted — or they may make things even worse.

We’ll find out here at 8:30.

HERE IT IS (full text release): Wow, pending a look at the three-year revision, this is really, really weak —

Real gross domestic product increased at an annual rate of 1.2 percent in the second quarter of 2016 (table 1), according to the “advance” estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the first quarter, real GDP increased 0.8 percent (revised).

The Bureau emphasized that the second-quarter advance estimate released today is based on source data that are incomplete or subject to further revision by the source agency (see “Source Data for the Advance Estimate” on page 2). The “second” estimate for the second quarter, based on more complete data, will be released on August 26, 2016.

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

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

Current-dollar GDP increased 3.5 percent (table 1), or $155.9 billion, in the second quarter to a level of $18,437.6 billion (table 3A). In the first quarter, current dollar GDP increased 1.3 percent (revised), or $58.9 billion.

The price index for gross domestic purchases increased 2.0 percent in the second quarter, compared with an increase of 0.2 percent in the first (revised) (table 4). The PCE price index increased 1.9 percent, compared with an increase of 0.3 percent. Excluding food and energy prices, the PCE price index increased 1.7 percent, compared with an increase of 2.1 percent (Appendix table A).

The percent change in real GDP was revised up 0.2 percentage point for 2013, was the same as previously published for 2014, and was revised up 0.2 percentage point for 2015.

Even the upward revisions to previous years (which are hard to swallow, given issues raised, but pending further review) can’t remove the stain of the awful first two quarters of this year as they currently stand.

More later after the spreadsheet gets updated for the backward revisions.


UPDATE: Here’s the chart for the past 8 quarters —


The past four quarters, as seen above have been dismal. Quibblers will note that the growth during the past four quarters has actually been 1.23 percent (oh boy).

Additionally, it’s significant that “Health Care” has contributed half  (2.46 points of the reported total of 4.91 reported points) of all growth during the past four quarters. Much of this likely represents Obamacare-driven personal and household spending that was once absorbed in the “Other Services” category (or in a separate “Financial Services and Insurance” line item) and is, in my view, doing nothing to improve living standards.

UPDATE 2: Now let’s look at all quarter-by-quarter and annual changes —


So the revisions to the past three years added $52 billion to current GDP and $60 billion to inflation-adjusted GDP. Based on the aforementioned work at Political Calculations, there is probably a much larger amount of downward revision still present in 2008-2012 which was not reported, and will be saved for the next presidential administration (assuming there is a next presidential administration) to explain away.

UPDATE 3: Zero Hedge“With this latest shock, we can now calculate that the US has to growth at a rate of over 4% in the second half to match last year’s 2.6% GDP growth.” Good luck with that.

And, again at ZH: “The average annual growth rate during the current business cycle remains the weakest of any expansion since at least 1949.“ By miles.

UPDATE 4: As carried at CNBC — As a result of Friday’s news, Paul Ashworth, chief U.S. economist at Capital Economics, “sliced its full-year GDP expectation from 2 percent to 1.5 percent.”

UPDATE 5: Hillary cheerleader and max 2015 contributor Mark Zandi is unfazed:

“It is amazing how resilient the U.S. economy has been in the face of all these uncertainties and shocks,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics. “The job market is just incredible, and those gains will boost incomes and support stronger consumer spending in the second half of the year.”

Words fail.

Friday Off-Topic (Moderated) Open Thread (072916)

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: French pilgrims pedal their way to World Youth Day

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:55 am

From Krakow, Poland:

Jul 28, 2016 / 03:00 am

Pilgrims from across the globe travel to World Youth Day by plane, train and automobile. But not Victor Jacquemont, Antoine Lescuyer, and Humbert Canot.

The three young men, all in their early twenties, traveled from Paris to Krakow by biking 1,134 miles.

Their 18-day journey – starting on July 4 – took them across France, Germany, Czech Republic, and Prague.

The men told CNA they had a small tent in tow but also asked for “hospitality” from local churches and met many people along the way.

Originally from Cergy, a suburb of Paris, the men said the idea was to bike from their school’s chapel to the international youth gathering in Poland. The three attend ESSEC, an international business school in Europe.

One of the reasons they chose to bike was because, “it’s not just a trip. It was kind of a pilgrimage,” Canot said.

He explained that they wanted to make some effort, “some physical effort,” and have time to think about their faith.

“The bike was kind of an ideal way of traveling for that.”

The men also mentioned that Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si had an impact on them.

Because it talked about “having an ecological way of living,” the men said, “we thought that traveling on bicycle would be a nice way to put that in practice.”

The pilgrims believe that the Virgin Mary protected them during the whole journey.

A woman who saw their journey on Facebook gave the men a small icon of Mary, just before their trip began. They said they “introduced it to (everyone) that we met on the way.”

The men also handed out small miraculous medals from the Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, where the devotion originated. …

Go here for the rest of the story.

July 28, 2016

FBN Coverage of Wednesday’s DNC Protests Make a Mockery of AP’s

Wednesday night’s coverage of protests outside the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia delivered by Fox Business Network and the Associated Press could hard have differed more.

FBN reported “thousands” of angry protesters oustide who were in no way mollified by Bernie Sanders’ endorsement of Hillary Clinton or calls for unity. Geoff Mulvhill and Megan Trimble at the AP only described “tension … that lingered in pockets of Philadelphia” during a “mostly quiet Day 3,” and claimed there were only “hundreds” outside.


Durable Goods Orders in May and June Nosedive Ahead of Friday’s 2Q16 GDP Report

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 11:01 am

“All is well” my a**:


Yesterday’s reported 4.0 percent June dive in seasonally adjusted new durable goods orders was miles below expectations of -1.5 percent, and came on top of a 2.8 percent decline in May (revised downward from -2.2 percent).

That’s a two-month, 6.7 percent drop, on top of flatness and declines in this area for at least the past 18 months.

This news does not bode well for tomorrow’s initial second-quarter GDP estimate, which the Atlanta Fed, likely leading the pack, knocked down to an annualized 1.8 percent. Moody’s estimate, headed by max 2015 Hillary Clinton contributor and Democratic Party adviser Mark Zandi, is still 2.6 percent.

The suspicion here is that subsequent months will reveal that the situation in the manufacturing sectos is even weaker than it now appears.

UPDATE: Tomorrow’s GDP report updates previous data from 2013 to the first quarter of 2016, so any predictions for the second quarter are subject to very high uncertainty based on how much previous figures are changed. The guess here is that GDP as of the end of the first quarter will be about 1 percent smaller than last reported, and that might serve to make the government’s first take on the second quarter (but perhaps not the subsequent estimates coming out in August and Septmber) a bit higher than 2.0 percent.

Initial Unemployment Claims (072816): 266K SA; Raw Claims (231K) Virtually Unchanged From Same Week Last Year

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 10:32 am

From the Department of Labor:


In the week ending July 23, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 266,000, an increase of 14,000 from the previous week’s revised level. The previous week’s level was revised down by 1,000 from 253,000 to 252,000. The 4-week moving average was 256,500, a decrease of 1,000 from the previous week’s revised average. The previous week’s average was revised down by 250 from 257,750 to 257,500.


The advance number of actual initial claims under state programs, unadjusted, totaled 231,325 in the week ending July 23, a decrease of 36,971 (or -13.8 percent) from the previous week. The seasonal factors had expected a decrease of 49,079 (or -18.3 percent) from the previous week. There were 230,314 initial claims in the comparable week in 2015.

There’s no bad news here. I would caution readers, however, especially given the work documented here, that the low layoff activity may likely be a reflection of economic sclerosis and a lack of mobility, and not really a reflection of a robust job market or economy.

Thursday Off-Topic (Moderated) Open Thread (072816)

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: Dog’s heroic action saves 79-year-old owner’s life

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:55 am

From Hazle Township, Pennsylvania:


A Pennsylvania dog proved his ultimate loyalty on Thursday after his owner was injured while hiking.

The four legged hero named “Guy” led rescuers to his 79-year-old owner who fell and hit his head while hiking in the woods.

The dog reportedly ran up the bank where the rescuers were, and would stop every 20-30 feet, barking until he led them to where the elder man was lying.

Rescuers say the man had been in the woods for more than 12 hours when they found him. …

Go here for the rest of the story.