March 27, 2015

4Q15 GDP, Third Release (032715)

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 7:35 am

The original reading releasted in late January showed annualized growth of 2.6 percent.

That was revised down — but not by as much as many expected — to 2.2 percent in late February.

The expectations for today, according to Yahoo’s Business Calendar, are for an upward revision to 2.4 percent from analysts in general and at Briefing.com. Bloomberg is among those carrying a 2.4 percent prediction.

I didn’t think last month’s revised figure overstated the underlying reality, and I believe there have been some downward revisions to December which were figured into February’s estimate. Then again, I don’t think the economy grew by as much reported in the second or third quarter either — at least not in terms of reflecting genuine standard of living improvements.

The report will be here at 8:30:

HERE IT IS (full release text version): No change —

Real gross domestic product — the value of the production of goods and services in the United States, adjusted for price changes — increased at an annual rate of 2.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2014, according to the “third” estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the third quarter, real GDP increased 5.0 percent.

The GDP estimate released today is based on more complete source data than were available for the “second” estimate issued last month. In the second estimate, the increase in real GDP was also 2.2 percent. While increases in exports and in personal consumption expenditures (PCE) were larger than previously estimated and the change in private inventories was smaller, GDP growth is unrevised, and the general picture of the economy for the fourth quarter remains the same.

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

The deceleration in real GDP growth in the fourth quarter primarily reflected an upturn in imports, a downturn in federal government spending, a deceleration in nonresidential fixed investment, and a larger decrease in private inventory investment that were partly offset by accelerations in PCE and in state and local government spending.

Here is the updated breakdown:

4Q14GDPcomponents032715

Biggest change: Health care spending, which accounts for 40 percent of the quarter’s growth, and arguably has nothing to do with improved standards of living. The 0.88 points added is the largest quarterly figure presented in the report, which goes back to Q1 of 2011.

Zero Hedge (speeling error corrected): “In short: a number which confirms the US economy is once again slowing down, and will hit the brakes when in one month the BEA reports that Q1 GDP was at or below 1.0%, with snow in the winter getting the bulk of the ridiculous blame once again.”

March 26, 2015

Earnest on MSNBC: ‘Success Or Stability Of The Yemeni Government’ Not a Measure of Success of U.S. Policy

Employing a variant of the old surgeon’s joke — “The operation was a success, but the patient died” — White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, on friendly ground on MSNBC this morning, essentially told viewers that the administration still considers Yemen a success, even as its government is on the fast track to being forced into indefinite exile.

Earnest told the “Morning Joe” show’s Mika Brzezinski and the assembled panel that “U.S. policy should not be graded against the success or the stability of the Yemeni government” — although, just for starters, Yemen’s President has fled, while the Los Angeles Times is reporting that, because of the Yemeni government’s instability, Iran has obtained a treasure trove of U.S. intelligence. Video and a transcript follow the jump (HT Real Clear Politics):

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Initial Unemployment Claims (032615): 282K SA, Raw Claims 10 Percent Below Same Week Last Year

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:42 am

From the Department of Labor:

SEASONALLY ADJUSTED DATA

In the week ending March 21, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 282,000, a decrease of 9,000 from the previous week’s unrevised level of 291,000. The 4-week moving average was 297,000, a decrease of 7,750 from the previous week’s unrevised average of 304,750.

UNADJUSTED DATA

The advance number of actual initial claims under state programs, unadjusted, totaled 247,256 in the week ending March 21, a decrease of 12,986 (or -5.0 percent) from the previous week. The seasonal factors had expected a decrease of 4,371 (or -1.7 percent) from the previous week. There were 274,072 initial claims in the comparable week in 2014.

According to Yahoo Business’s Economic Calendar, the result beat expectations of 290,000, while Briefing.com predicted 300,000.

There was no meaningful difference in the seasonal adjustment factors (88.5 during same week last year, 87.8 for the current week).

The raw claims number is enouraging.

Although I do need to remind readers every once in a while that “covered employment” — the number of people eliigible for unemployment benefits if they are laid off or let go without cause (133.40 million) — is still lower than it was at its peak six years ago (133.90 million), today’s result is very good.

‘Watters’ World’ Finds Several People Ignorant of and Hostile Towards America

Filed under: Taxes & Government — Tom @ 1:09 am

Earlier this week, Meredith Shiner at Yahoo News, a political reporter with roughly six years of experience and a jourmalism degree from Duke, demonstrated breathtaking ignorance about Ted Cruz’s reference to God-given rights. She tweeted the following in reaction: “Bizarre to talk about how rights are God-made and not man-made in your speech announcing a POTUS bid? When Constitution was man-made?”

In a post on Shiner’s tweet on Monday, I wondered how widespread such breathtaking ignorance might be. In his Fox News “Watters’ World” segment on Bill O’Reilly’s show on Tuesday, Jesse Watters found some individual answers, many of them far from encouraging:

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March 25, 2015

AP: ‘Not So Clear’ That Israel Is Democratic

The pundit class in the U.S. and much of the rest of the world is still seething over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s electoral triumph last week.

On Monday, Dan Perry at the Associated Press took that hysteria to a new level, in effect attempting to discredit Bibi’s win by writing that, after all, it may not really be correct to call Israel a democracy. That’s because “Palestinians” who are in the occupied territories — whose leaders, and more than likely a majority of its residents would vote to expel all Jews from Israel in a heartbeat if they could — can’t vote (bolds are mine):

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As Durable Goods Deterioration Continues, AP Hides the Decline

The Census Burau’s February Durable Goods report, released at 8:30 a.m. today, “unexpectedly” (Bloomberg did the U-word honors) came in with a seasonally adjusted 1.4 percent decline compared to the 0.2 increase analysts expected. Additionally, January’s increase was revised down to 2.0 percent from 2.8 percent. Not adjusting for inflation, unadjusted (i.e., actual) February orders came in 2.3 percent below February 2014. Pending adjustments to February’s figures, seasonally adjusted durable goods orders have declined by 5.3 percent in the past four months.

Despite all of this, the Associated Press’s primary story on durable goods by Martin Crutsinger was gone from its Top Business Stories page by 2 p.m.

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March 24, 2015

CNN Panelist: Suggestion That ‘Jackie’ Made Up UVa. Rape Story ‘Flies in the Face of Statistics’

On CNN yesterday, after the network cut away from the press conference where Charlottesville, Virginia Police Department announced that it “found no evidence to support claims in a Rolling Stone article that a University of Virginia student was gang raped at a campus fraternity in September 2012,” network panelist and CNN legal analyst Sunny Hostin bizarrely resorted to “statistics” to defend “Jackie,” the student-fabulist involved.

The panel discussion which followed the press conference seemed to be all about telling viewers that “Despite what everyone says, it’s really not over.” Hostin’s major contribution to that meme was to essentially contend that because “only about 2 percent of rapes that are reported are false,” any allegation that “Jackie” was making things up is unfair and likely incorrect because it “flies in the face of statistics” — even though, in a new development, we learned that “Jackie” claimed that she was the victim of a second gang-rape incident in April 2014. Police also could find no evidence supporting that incident’s occurrence. Video and a transcript follow the jump:

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March 23, 2015

White House: Iran ‘Death To America’ Comments Only Meant For ‘Domestic Audience’

CNN is reporting tonight that the White House considers the “Of course, death to America” comments made by Iran’s Supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, as merely a statement “intended for a domestic political audience.”

That clueless take would be headline news everywhere right now if this were a Republican or conservative administration. The National Journal’s John Kraushaar’s tweet reporting that statement, and one reaction to it, follow the jump:

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USAT Reaction to Discredited Rolling Stone Rape Story: ‘Didn’t Quite Hold Up’

The press’s reluctance to let go of a popular but debunked meme — in this case, the nonexistent “epidemic” of college campus sexual assaults — is sometimes inadvertently humorous, though still intensely annoying.

Take how John Bacon and Marisol Bello at USA Today characterized the news that “Police in Charlottesville were unable to verify that an alleged sexual assault detailed in a controversial Rolling Stone magazine article ever took place at the University of Virginia”:

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Yahoo Political Reporter: Cruz Talking About God-Given Rights Is ‘Bizarre’

Meredith Shiner is currently a Yahoo News political reporter. Before spending three years at Roll Call, where she was considered “a leader in the newsroom,” she toiled at the Politico for two years. Shiner is a graduate of Duke University, and “grew up in the northern suburbs of Chicago.”

I have provided these resume-level details to emphasize how utterly incomprehensible it is, as well as downright scary, that a woman with this kind of background and experience could have published, reacting to Ted Cruz’s speech announcing his presidential candidacy, the following tweet (HT Instapundit):

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USAT Report on Supremes Not Hearing Wis. Voter ID Case Relays Worry That ‘Hundreds of Thousands’ Could Be Disenfranchised

Today the U.S. Supreme Court, as the Associated Press’s Scott Bauer reported, “turned away a challenge to Wisconsin’s voter identification law,” meaning that “the state is free to impose the voter ID requirement in future elections.” Bauer then focused on the impact of the state’s off-year primary elections on April 7.

Bauer’s relatively tolerable (for him) report tagged the law as “a political flashpoint since Republican legislators passed it in 2011 and Gov. Scott Walker signed it into law.” Meanwhile, demonstrating that he will accept leftists’ claims at face value even when they can’t possibly make any sense, Richard Wolf at USA Today relayed a ridiculous claim made by the law’s opponents (bolds are mine):

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March 22, 2015

MSNBC to Starbucks Baristas: Write That America Has Always Been Based on ‘White Supremacy’ on Coffee Cups

Paging Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz. Your “conversation about race” idea has hit a bit of a brick wall among those you seem to believe are on your side — unless your idea of a “conversation” is talking down to anyone who doesn’t buy into the idea that “diversity” should trump merit, or that this country’s founding and history have been predominantly noble.

On Melissa Harris-Perry’s show this weekend, the host resoundingly approved when a guy who said that his mission in life is to “get white people to talk about whiteness” suggested that baristas at Starbucks should write “White supremacy has been the organizing principle of America since it was founded” on customers’ coffee cups.

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Obama Forced Bibi to the Right — And Lost Big

Netanyahu did what was right — and was rewarded.

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This column went at PJ Media and wwas teased here at BizzyBlog on Friday.

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The conventional wisdom in U.S. presidential campaigns is that candidates win by moving to the center in a contest’s final weeks to capture undecided “moderate” voters turned off by supposedly “extreme” sentiments.

That bromide has always been questionable. It naively and condescendingly assumes that passionate partisans will automatically show up and vote for a squish simply because he or she claims to be on their side. We’ve all heard it: “Where else are they going to go?” Ask Mitt Romney how that worked out two years ago.

Stuck in that mindset, President Barack Obama’s taxpayer-funded election fixers in Israel must have been absolutely thrilled when, just before Tuesday’s elections there, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that he no longer supports Palestinian statehood, and that he would support the building of “thousands of settler homes in Arab east Jerusalem to prevent future concessions to the Palestinians.”

Surely the man Team Obama hates — that is the right word, as “a former senior Obama administration official” told Politico that “They hate him, they should, and they’re praying that he is out of power” — had committed an act of desperation which would seal his political doom.

Here’s what they don’t understand about Bibi, and apparently never will: He loves Israel and its people. His mission in life is to do what he believes will guarantee its survival and prosperity. Like any politician, he deeply wants his positions to be popular. But he won’t abandon his principles to be accepted — or elected.

In that context, Benjamin Netanyahu had no choice but to reverse his long-held position on Palestinian statehood and to advocate settlement expansion when he did, even though it was Election Eve. Here’s why.

Early on Monday, the Times of Israel reported that almost three weeks earlier, in a stunning change of course, the U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence had “removed Iran and Hezbollah from its list of terrorism threats, after years in which they featured in similar reports.”

Evidence of that delisting is apparently contained in the classified version of the annual report DNI submitted to the Senate Armed Services Committee. The public version has no specific terrorism threat list.

The public version of the previous year’s report, submitted on January 29, 2014, had the following things to say about Iran and Hizballah (DNI’s spelling) under the “Terrorist Activities Overseas” topic in its Page 4 “TERRORISM” section:

Iran and Hizballah are committed to defending the Asad regime (in Syria — Ed.) and have provided support toward this end, including sending billions of dollars in military and economic aid, training pro-regime and Iraqi Shia militants, and deploying their own personnel into the country. Iran and Hizballah view the Asad regime as a key partner in the “axis of resistance” against Israel and are prepared to take major risks to preserve the regime as well as their critical transshipment routes.

Iran and Hizballah

Outside of the Syrian theater, Iran and Lebanese Hizballah continue to directly threaten the interests of US allies. Hizballah has increased its global terrorist activity in recent years to a level that we have not seen since the 1990s.

None of these fundamental facts changed during the following 13 months, but the public version of the 2015 report only mentions Hizballah once — and as a target, i.e., the victim, of attacks by “Sunni extremists” in Lebanon. The Times of Israel story, apparently paraphrasing the classified version of the DNI report, gives it credit for, in its words, “fighting the Islamic State, independently of the American-led campaign, both in Syria and Iraq.”

As to Iran, the 2015 report blames that country’s operatives for December’s “computer operations targeting US military, transportation, public utility, and other critical infrastructure networks.” It notes that its “intelligence and security services continue to view the United States as a primary threat.” Additionally, it “does not (italics mine) face any insurmountable technical barriers to producing a nuclear weapon,” while its “progress on space launch vehicles” has given it “the means and motivation to develop longer-range missiles, including intercontinental ballistic missiles.”

Despite all of this, Iran has apparently improved its standing with the U.S. government by helping to prevent the Islamic State “from gaining large swaths of additional territory” in Iraq and for its “intentions to dampen sectarianism, build responsive partners, and deescalate tensions with Saudi Arabia,” even though such intentions have “negative secondary consequences for regional stability.” None of this even remotely justifies delisting the world’s leading terror-sponsoring nation as a terror threat.

So why did it happen? Let’s break it down.

U.S. troops, with Iraqi help, won the Iraq War after the successful “surge” of 2008.

Contrary to what Obama laughably claims, the rise of the Islamic State was not caused by the 2003 U.S. invasion and its accompanying elimination of Saddam Hussein. Instead, the Islamic State has filled the power vacuum created by the premature withdrawal of U.S forces Obama ordered at the end of 2011.

If it weren’t for Hizballah’s and Iran’s efforts against the Islamic State, Iraq would likely fall without a return of substantial U.S. combat forces — something Obama has continually ruled out. So both entities, seeing their newly acquired leverage, demanded delisting as a condition for continuing to fight in Iraq, at least for another two years. Otherwise, Iraq would probably fall on Obama’s watch, humiliating him for eternity.

Delisting Hizballah as a terrorist entity means that it can’t be denied a potential role in any potential Palestinian state. Its friends at the United Nations would likely bless its involvement. Delisting Iran opens up the likelihood of lifted sanctions, a more stable Iranian economy, and a populace less likely to revolt against that regime’s fundamentalist tyranny for the foreseeable future.

Bibi Netanyahu doesn’t care about the games the Obama administration is playing to save face as its foreign policy implodes. He cares about preserving Israel, and he knows that Hizballah, as a terrorist group bent on Israel’s destruction, cannot be allowed to become a part of any next-door government. That is why he rejected Palestinian statehood within hours of that Times of Israel story’s appearance.

Additionally, since it has become painfully obvious that the U.S. has a vested interest in appeasing Iran and Hizballah, Netanyahu knows that he has for all practical purposes lost what used to be his best and most reliable ally until at least January 2017, and perhaps indefinitely. Because of that painful reality, he is pursuing aggressive settlement building in areas the Palestinians wish to annex to make it far more difficult for a future squish-dominated Israeli administration to cede that territory to a neighboring terrorist state.

It cannot be emphasized enough that Netanyahu took these actions with no idea as to how they would play out electorally. But he knew that they were right, and to him that’s all that mattered. He got a resounding win. For once, virtue has been rewarded.

The intensely hateful editorial and official reactions to Bibi’s victory in the U.S. and other parts of the world among those who will never understand the idea of virtue, let alone appreciate it, only confirm just how important that victory is.

Not News: Obama Admin’s ‘Lying Weasels’ Delisted Iran and Hezbollah As Terror Threats

From all appearances, only Fox News, CNS News, and few Israel-based outlets and U.S.-based center-right blogs care about the fact, acknowledged by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, that Iran and Hezbollah, in the words of Fox’s Greta Van Susteren, “are suddenly MIA from the U.S. terror threat list.”

DNI apparently has no plans to change its report, having told CNS News that “This year’s Worldwide Threat Assessment of the U.S. intelligence community report was simply a format change,” while contending that “There is no ‘softening’ of our position.” DNI’s excuse-making tacitly acknowledges the absence of Iran and Hezbollah from this year’s terror threat list.

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March 21, 2015

Starbucks and USA Today Claim Their ‘Race Together’ Intentions ‘Are Pure,’ But Results Aren’t

The Associated Press’s most recent story on the controversial Starbucks USA Today “Race Together” campaign came out Wednesday evening.

In that story, AP Food Industry Writer Candice Choi quoted Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz at his company’s annual shareholders’ meeting predicting that “Some in the media will criticize Starbucks for having a political agenda,” but that “Our intentions are pure.” Perhaps they are, but I suspect that certain materials company and USA Today have produced in connection with the campaign won’t pass any readers’ “pure intentions” test. Take USA Today’s “How Much of What You Know About Race Is True?” test. Full contents follow the jump.

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