Saturday, January 31, 2015

Kevin Drum admits ObamaCare is a cost to the middle class, not a benefit

Here in Mother Jones last November:

[N]early all [ObamaCare's] benefits flow to the poor. ... winners are those with household incomes below $25,000 or so, and losers are those with incomes above $25,000. ... If you think of Obamacare as something that benefits the working and middle classes, you're probably wrong. It may benefit a few of them, but overall it's a cost to them ... the bottom line is simple: like most of the social welfare programs championed by Democrats, Obamacare is primarily aimed at the poor. Once again, the working and middle classes are left on the outside looking in.







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First Obama did nothing about housing, the sine qua non of the middle class: Over five million completed foreclosures eliminated millions from the middle class without firing a shot.

Then he did nothing about jobs, without which no one buys a house: 18 million have been added to the potential workforce but haven't actually joined it.

Then he rammed through healthcare reform, which was designed to raise costs on the middle class.

And people wonder how Obama could even think of taxing their 529 plans?

The middle class is the enemy of the revolution, the object of the transformation, the source for the redistribution.

Friday, January 30, 2015

So, Libya was really Hillary's war, and more broadly the women's war, not Obama's

From the first part of an investigative report, here, which details that there were secret recordings between Gaddafi's son and none other than Rep. Dennis Kucinich, now out of office:

Mr. Kucinich, who challenged Mrs. Clinton and Barack Obama for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, acknowledged that he undertook his own conversations with the Gadhafi regime. He said he feared Mrs. Clinton was using emotion to sell a war against Libya that wasn’t warranted, and he wanted to get all the information he could to share with his congressional colleagues. ...

Numerous U.S. officials interviewed by The Times confirmed that Mrs. Clinton, and not Mr. Obama, led the charge to use NATO military force to unseat Gadhafi as Libya’s leader and that she repeatedly dismissed the warnings offered by career military and intelligence officials. 

In the recovered recordings, a U.S. intelligence liaison working for the Pentagon told a Gadhafi aide that Mr. Obama privately informed members of Congress that Libya “is all Secretary Clinton’s matter” and that the nation’s highest-ranking generals were concerned that the president was being misinformed. ...

Instead of relying on the Defense Department or the intelligence community for analysis, officials told The Times, the White House trusted Mrs. Clinton’s charge, which was then supported by Ambassador to the United Nations Susan E. Rice and National Security Council member Samantha Power, as reason enough for war.

Dang, Romney says he won't run

Now who will stop Jeb?

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Secretary of State John Kerry who served in Vietnam fined $50 for not shoveling snow at his Boston residence

Story here:

Boston city officials issued a ticket to Kerry’s home for neglecting to shovel his sidewalk on Thursday, according to Citizens Connect, a website run by the city of Boston where residents can upload complaints.

John Kerry, who served in Vietnam, has also been rumored in the past to avoid stopping at four way stop signs in his Jeep, and to avoid paying taxes on his yacht domicile.

One law for me, another for thee. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Hm: Obama makes it to Arabia within 4 days of the king's death, but couldn't pull off DC to Paris for Charlie Hebdo

King Abdullah died on the 23rd, on which he was immediately buried, and Obama scurried from India to Saudi Arabia by yesterday, the 27th, to pay his respects.

The Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris was on a Wednesday, the 7th, and the infamous parade of idiots which Obama did not attend and to which he did not send a representative occurred on Sunday the 11th.

The flight time for the former is less than 5 hours, and for the latter about 7.5 hours.

Funny how security can be so hastily arranged, from so far away, when the trip really matters.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Obama is still a rookie after 6 years in office: drops proposed tax on 529 plans after massive blowback

CNBC reported the story here.

Evidently the White House realized the idea was a non-starter when someone explained that the 529 plans would stop being funded, meaning there would be insufficient revenue to fund alternatives, as reported here:

'On "Power Lunch," [Joe] Hurley [of savingforcollege.com] said this tax will deter people from using 529 plans. "Taxing 529 plans won't pay for any other initiative because people will no longer be using 529 plans," he said. "You can't raise revenue when you don't have any contributions going into these plans."'

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Well DUH!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Analyst says oil price plummet primarily driven by OPEC abandoning swing producer role

Dirk Leach, who also credits the rising dollar but not to the extent others have, here:

"Now that OPEC has abdicated their role as swing producer, the only mechanism to stabilize oil prices is the market itself based on supply and demand. As we are now seeing, the supply side of that balance has a lot of inertia. Despite some analysts' view that shale production can be turned on and off rather quickly, the time it takes to decrease production is measured in months or quarters while the crude oil price response is essentially immediate. Going forward, we appear to have a crude oil market pricing system with a very fast response time and a very slow feedback mechanism (supply adjustments). Generally, this type of system is not very stable and results in frequent large swings in market pricing. Going forward, it might be a more bumpy oil market than we have been used to."

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Obama wants to tax 529 plans, 53% of which are owned by those making less than $100k

So reports The Wall Street Journal here about Obama's latest attack on the middle class:

"The average account balance [of 529 plans this June] was $20,671. ... The Investment Company Institute, trade group for the mutual-fund industry, says that in 2013 households saving for college through 529 plans, Coverdell ESAs, or mutual funds held outside these accounts tended to be headed by people younger than 45. And 49% of these heads of household had fewer than four years of college. A majority of these households, 53%, earned less than $100,000."

American road miles traveled soars to 3 trillion on average in November, the first time since 2007

The 12mo. moving average in 11/14 is still 1.1% below peak
Americans haven't averaged 3 trillion road miles since 2007

The dollar has surged 2.26% since Wednesday to trade at 95 this morning

The dollar hasn't traded at 95 since late 2003.

Much more of this dollar strength is due to the continued improving fiscal condition of the United States since 2012 than people realize. 

Tax revenues are way up under the made-permanent Bush tax cuts and the made-permanent Alternative Minimum Tax fix, both of which heralded in 2013. Federal receipts are up a whopping combined 36% in 2013 and 2014 over 2012.

And continued Republican control of the purse in Congress has meant almost zero expansion of federal spending. Federal outlays are up a paltry combined less than 1% in 2013 and 2014 over 2012.

The federal government is up a net $845.5 billion in the last two years. That's huge.

The dollar is not simply a fiction which competes with other fictions in the global marketplace, but a symbol of the determination of the American people to play by the rules and pay their bills. It is not a coincidence that this determination lately expressed politically paved the way for falling commodity prices generally, and oil in particular. It is uncertainty which breeds fear-trades.

Speaker John Boehner doesn't get the credit he deserves for achieving under the Democrat President Barack Obama what Republicans before him could only dream about.

And if you want to know what's wrong with Republicans, that's it.

Strange fact of the day: Both General Lee and MLK Jr. were born in January

Born January 19th
Born January 15th

Friday, January 23, 2015

Likely primary voters prefer Mitt Romney to Rubio and Bush in latest Zogby poll


Bank Failure Friday: The Second of 2015

Highland Community Bank, Chicago, Illinois, failed tonight, costing the FDIC $5.8 million.

This is bank failure number two in 2015.

S&P 500 market capitalization/GDP ratios the years before plus-20% crashes

http://www.advisorperspectives.com/dshort/commentaries/CAPE-at-Market-Peaks.php
1955: 104*
1956: 101
1957:   84

1960: 107
1961: 123
1962: 103

1965: 120
1966:   96

1967: 109
1968: 107
1969:   88
1970:   84

1972:   89
1973:   66
1974:   43

1979:   40
1980:   45
1981:   37
1982:   41


1986:   52
1987:   49

1999: 148
2000: 126
2001: 107
2002:   79

2006: 101
2007: 100
2008:   62
2009:   77

*The ratio is the S&P 500 level at the end of the calendar year divided by 4Q final GDP in trillions of dollars. The average peak ratio in the series is 99. The average trough ratio is 71. The average spread between peak and trough ratios in the series is 27%. The ratio through 3Q2014 is 112, 13% above the average peak in the series.

The chart from Doug Short gives the Shiller p/e ratios on the record dates. The average peak of these is 22.6, the average trough is 14.2, and the average spread between them in the series is 35%. The Shiller p/e ratio at the end of 3Q2014 was 25.16, 11% above the average peak in the series. 


Oh the horror: Did you know the personal savings rate INCLUDES IRA and 401(k) contributions?

The annual average of the rate is shown.
Then how come the personal saving rate has been in steady decline since 1974 when IRAs were first passed into law? And how come saving didn't improve after 1978 when 401(k) plans were first created? Or after 1997 when Roth IRAs were legislated? The current monthly reading of personal saving is a measly 4.4%.

A rich country saves, a poor one spends.

"Notice that NIPA’s [National Income and Product Accounts] treatment of IRAs and 401(k) plan contributions, for example, is perfectly consistent: Because these defined contributions are not part of personal outlays (and, therefore, must be included in the difference between personal income and personal outlays), they are correctly included in national saving computations."

-- Massimo Guidolin and Elizabeth A. La Jeunesse, "The Decline in the U.S. Personal Saving Rate: Is It Real and Is It a Puzzle?" in Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis REVIEW, November/December 2007, p. 499, footnote 13 (here)

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Hey Obama! Tell me how we get to yes . . .

. . . for life!

Jobless claims so far in 2015 are running 6.25% below the same period in 2014

First time claims for unemployment have averaged 450,000 per week in the first three weeks of January 2015 compared to 480,000 per week in the first three weeks of 2014, not seasonally adjusted.

The claims spike last week was equalized by a spike to the downside this week.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Expect the opposite: Obama says "The shadow of crisis has passed"

If you like your insurance you can keep your insurance.

Iraq is secure.

If you like your doctor you can keep your doctor.

Al-Qaeda is on the run.

Everyone will save $2500 under my health reform plan.

I'm as angry as you are about the IRS scandal.

We've fixed healthcare.gov.

Looming global financial catastrophe: Anglo-Saxon pioneers of QE have yet to pay its price

William White, former chief economist to the Bank for International Settlements, quoted here:

Those who argue that the US and the UK are growing faster than Europe because they carried out QE early are confusing "correlation with causality". The Anglo-Saxon pioneers have yet to pay the price. "It ain't over until the fat lady sings. There are serious side-effects building up and we don't know what will happen when they try to reverse what they have done."

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Obama's $500 tax relief is so George W. Bush 2.0

Obama is to announce tonight not even inflation-adjusted George W. Bush-type tax relief to middle class families, as reported here, but just another gimmick:

"Among the highlights of President Obama’s State of the Union address plans to pull the American family out of economic plight is a $500 tax credit for two-earner families."

George W. Bush bookended his administration with similar gimmicks.

OK, the first one wasn't exactly a gimmick. The first was part of the then-temporary tax reduction passed by the Congress. You know the one. The check in the mail was a result of the implementation of the tax rate schedule which existed for the rest of Bush's presidency but was set to expire by the time of Obama. Obama finally agreed to make that schedule permanent, something George W. Bush wasn't able to make happen but Speaker John Boehner was. (Why is that? And how come no one except maybe two people on the planet recognize and applaud that? I am one of them. A Forbes columnist, Ralph Benko, is the other. But I digress.)

Flashback to the San Francisco Chronicle in June 2001, here, just six months after Bush assumed office after the narrowest presidential election victory in living memory:

Bush signed the $1.35 trillion tax cut -- which includes soon-to-be-mailed rebate checks of up to $600 -- amid the kind of presidential pomp he usually disdains: a formal ceremony in the East Room, with a Marine band playing "Hail to the Chief." ... In Congress yesterday, a few Republicans talked about making the current bill permanent. One of its odd features is that it expires on Dec. 31, 2010, a sunset provision put in because of congressional rules governing spending more than a decade into the future.

Bush's second and real gimmick came at the end of his presidency in 2008, just before all hell broke loose in the economy with massive bank failures, massive bankruptcies, massive foreclosures, massive job losses, and massive stock market declines. It was a minor echo of Herbert Hoover trying to stop the Great Depression, double, triple, and quadruple-downed on by his successor FDR but to no avail.

Market Watch had the story here in February 2008, detailing the very liberal character of the Republican stimulus plan, which at the time met with no criticism from candidate Obama (why? because it was Obama's brand of liberalism also):

President Bush signed a $168 billion economic stimulus package on Wednesday that will extend rebates to U.S. taxpayers, give tax breaks to businesses and make more-expensive mortgages available through the government and government-sponsored mortgage-finance companies. ... Bush said the U.S. economy has clearly slowed but that the package is "a booster shot for our economy." Approved by lawmakers last week, the package provides a tax rebate of up to $1,200 per working couple, plus $300 per child. ... Taxpayers will not have to apply for the rebate; it would come automatically based on their 2007 tax return. ... Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama wove the stimulus package into a speech in Janesville, Wisc., on Wednesday, touting a plan he offered a few weeks ago. He proposed sending each working family a $500 tax cut and each senior a $250 supplement to their Social Security check. "Neither George Bush nor Hillary Clinton had that kind of immediate, broad-based relief in their original stimulus proposals, but I'm glad that the stimulus package that was recently passed by Congress does," Obama said.

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These crumbs from the Master's table aren't going to help Americans do anything except survive as dependents, maybe for a week. What Americans need is jobs, decent jobs, and the decent wages which go with them, and liberals know nothing about how to provide them with those.

Paris to sue Fox News for insults: "Free speech for me but not for thee"

Charlie Hebdo gets to insult every religion and every follower of same, but don't you dare insult Paris!

Story here.

The lagging indicator MACD told you to sell the S&P 500 in January 2008, and buy it in August 2009

Three months after the 2007 top, and five months after the 2009 bottom. That's how lagging indicators work: better on the front end and poorer on the back end.

But hey! Close counts in grenades and horseshoes.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Germany repatriated 120 metric tons of gold to the Fatherland in 2014

From the story here:

"The Bundesbank successfully continued and further stepped up its transfers of gold," the central bank said in a statement. "In 2014, 120 tonnes of gold were transferred to Frankfurt from storage locations abroad: 35 tonnes from Paris and 85 tonnes from New York. Germany's gold reserves are the second-biggest in the world after those of the United States and totalled 3,384.2 tonnes this month, according to the latest data compiled by the World Gold Council. ... Under the Bundesbank's new gold storage plan in 2013, it decided to bring back 674 tonnes from abroad by 2020 and store half of its gold in its own vaults. ... Since the transfers began in 2013, the Bundesbank said it has relocated a total of 157 tonnes of gold to Frankfurt -- 67 tonnes from Paris and 90 tonnes from New York.

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If I'm doing the math right, that means that in 2013 New York coughed up just 5 metric tons of Germany's gold to Germany, and Paris 32 metric tons.

If the plan is to repatriate 674 metric tons by 2020, the 157 repatriated so far means there are just 517 to go, or about 86.1 metric tons per year through 2020, to put half of Germany's gold back in Germany.

The story line not included above includes the narrative that it was unsafe to let Germany store its own gold in its homeland during the Cold War. But there were already 1,018.1 metric tons stored in Germany all those years, not quite a third of its holdings. Seems like a pretty big target to me.

An interesting assessment of the risks, wouldn't you say? Or was something else at work here? Versailles, and all that.

Bob Brinker's advice to stay fully invested in stocks in 2008 beats Jim Cramer's to sell

Bob Brinker famously said on his radio show Moneytalk during the 2008-2009 market meltdown that "no one could have predicted this".

As a market timer, he's taken a lot of heat for this statement, including from me, but it is time to reassess his 2003 call to return to a fully-invested position in the stock market and to stick to it in 2008 despite the meltdown.

How has that worked out? 

"Fully invested" means different things to different people. This is because it is a question of asset allocation. Asset allocation strategies are by definition highly individualized to meet objectives while minimizing risk, and they depend on many factors including income and age, which change over time and thus necessitate adjustments to the strategy periodically. So to be clear, a person who allocates 50% of all resources to stocks at any given time is fully invested when that is so. But that means that a person who has much more tolerance for risk and normally invests 90% of all resources in stocks by definition has a greater percentage of all his resources in stocks, yet both individuals are "fully invested".

OK, so let's take the hypothetical person born in 1949 who just retired at the age of 65 in November 2014. That person has had theoretically 43 years of continuous investing life, let's say beginning from November 1971 after landing that first job out of college in the spring of that year.

Now whatever this person had allocated to stocks over the course of those 43 years, using the S&P 500 as a proxy for the part allocated to stocks, he or she has averaged a nominal return of 10.68% annually with dividends fully reinvested through November 2014, including the crash periods of 2000 and 2008.

But back in March 2003 this person was turning 54 years old and was worried about the future after the stock market crash he had just experienced. And let's say he had ridden his investments all the way down in that crash by being fully invested through the 2000 debacle. From 1971 to that point in 2003 his average annual performance had been 10.94%.

Had he heard Bob Brinker's advice to be fully invested going forward and stayed the course he had been on, how did remaining in the market as before repay him as part of the overall average performance of 10.68% which he ended up achieving annually on average through November 2014?

The answer might surprise you: The average annual performance of the S&P 500 from March 2003 through November 2014 has been 10.01%. The market crash of 2008-2009 might certainly have unnerved this investor, who was then turning 60, to the point of utter capitulation, for it reduced his performance from 1971 through March 2009 to 9.11% per year on average.

It's clear, however, that cutting and running after the fact in 2008-2009 was not the answer. That was Jim Cramer's answer in October 2008, on morning television no less, but it wasn't Bob Brinker's.

Simply staying the course was like putting back on a point and a half for every year of the 43 year investing life of our hypothetical investor in a matter of just five years.

Kudos to Bob Brinker. Raspberries to Cramer.

Editor of Charlie Hebdo, Gerard Biard, attacks the pope for his "provocateur" comment

Here, after stating that "religion has no place in the political arena":

GERARD BIARD: We do not kill anyone. We should stop conflating the murderers and the victims. We must stop declaring that those who write and draw are “provocateurs,” that they are throwing gas on the fire. We must not place thinkers and artists in the same category as murderers. We are not warriors. We only defend one thing: Freedom, our freedom, secularism, freedom of conscience and democracy.






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Charlie Hebdo isn't just against Islam, it's against anyone with faith. It excludes everyone with faith from the political process. The only equality secularism recognizes is the equality of secularists. People of faith are second class citizens, or worse, totalitarian monsters, never mind that the worst totalitarian monsters were all extreme secularists. The crimes against humanity committed by religious fanaticism pale in comparison to the crimes of the Stalins, Hitlers and Maos of the world.

The main reason we are still in a secular bear market

Ed Easterling, Crestmont Holdings LLC, quoted here:

"P/E has not declined to levels that are required to drive a secular bull market.”

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Other forces have been hard at work manipulating prices, inhibiting discovery of actual value.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

The wisdom of Mingdong Wu: How to raise interest rates without raising them

The Fed owns in excess of $2.4 trillion in Treasury securities.
Mingdong Wu is a very smart guy, knowing that Treasury securities are in short supply because government spending has been flat to negative since 2009. That makes the price of existing securities go up. This means interest rates are low, because those move inversely to price. To make interest rates go up, increase the supply, as he tells us here:

"The Fed should gradually sell its Treasury holdings to rebalance supply and demand."

Simply brilliant. Of the $2.4+ trillion held by the Fed, $1.1 trillion are 1 to 5-year instruments.

Voila!

Reuters agrees: the middle class is worse off now than when Obama took office


Federal Reserve survey data show families in the middle fifth of the income scale now earn less and their net worth is lower than when Obama took office. ...

In the middle, the economy has shed positions - whether in traditional trades like machining or electrical work, white-collar jobs in human resources, or technical ones like computer operators. ... 

Between 2010 and 2013, as recovery took hold and stock markets soared, the average net worth of families in the top 40 percent of income earners grew. For all others average net worth shrank, declining 19 percent for the middle fifth. Similarly, the average earnings for families in the top 10 percent grew more than 9 percent from 2010 through 2013, while those at other levels stagnated or shrank. For the middle fifth, average earnings fell 4.6 percent. Over the six years through 2013, the middle fifth's average annual family earnings fell to $47,243 from $53,008 while their average net worth dropped to $170,066 from $236,525.

Hillary Clinton doesn't have a Charlie Hebdo problem: The Neoconservatives have a pope problem

The Weekly Standard thinks Hillary Clinton has a Charlie Hebdo problem, here:

Clinton blamed an "awful internet video that we had nothing to do with" for the "rage and violence directed at American embassies." Clinton did not, in the course of her speech, defend the right to free speech. ... [D]oes Clinton see any difference between the blasphemous Charlie Hebdo cartoons and the blasphemous anti-Islam YouTube video?

All Hillary has to do is quote the pope:

"One cannot provoke, one cannot insult other people's faith, one cannot make fun of faith. There are so many people who speak badly about religions, who make fun of them ... they are provocateurs. And what happens to them is what would happen to [my dear friend] if he says a word against my mother."

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Bank failure number one of 2015 is in Crestview, Florida

First National Bank of Crestview, Crestview, Florida, failed last night, costing the FDIC $4.4 million.

6,589 institutions remained insured under the FDIC through 9/30/14.

18 banks failed in 2014, 24 in 2013, 51 in 2012, 92 in 2011, 157 in 2010, 140 in 2009, and 25 in 2008 when there were still 8,384 banks and savings and loans in the FDIC system.

The shrinkage of membership in the system by about 1,800 over this period includes the 508 failures since 2007 and about 1,287 sales, mergers and consolidations.

Costs to the FDIC system for failures since the beginning of 2007 to date are close to $90 billion.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Liberty! Fraternity! Israel!


Ann Sterzinger on sex-obsessed Islam


"[A]mong religions in modern vogue, none is more explosively kinky than Islam."

It's true, Islam is sex-obsessed:

"[T]he world’s top porn consumers come out of the Middle East. According to data released by Google, six of the top eight porn-searching countries are Muslim states. Pakistan tops the list at number one, followed by Egypt at number two. Iran, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and Turkey come in at numbers four, five, seven and eight, respectively. Pakistan leads the way in porn searches for animals like pigs, donkeys, dogs, cats and snakes."


Victor Davis Hanson's loyalty is to a part of antiquity about free speech admired by the Enlightenment, not to all of it

Here, idealizing the record of the ancient world on freedom of speech, which is much more complicated than he lets on:

Western civilization’s creed is free thought and expression, the lubricant of everything from democracy to human rights. Even a simpleton in the West accepts that protecting free expression is not the easy task of ensuring the right to read Homer’s Iliad or do the New York Times crossword puzzle. It entails instead the unpleasant duty of allowing offensive expression. ...


Westerners cannot return to the Middle Ages to murder those whose ideas they don’t like. “Parody” and “satire” are, respectively, Greek and Latin words. In antiquity the non-Western tradition simply did not produce authors quite like the vicious Aristophanes, Petronius, and Juvenal, who unapologetically trashed the society around them. If the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo loses the millennia-old right to ridicule Islam from within a democracy, then there is no longer a West, at least as we know it.


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Do we really need to remind a classicist that Socrates was put to death for expressing ideas the Athenians didn't like, long before "the West" even got going?

Or that Solon's reforms of the Draconian laws were approved of in the time of Plutarch precisely for the way they restricted impious and intemperate speech?

"Praise is given also to that law of Solon which forbids speaking ill of the dead. For it is piety to regard the deceased as sacred, justice to spare the absent, and good policy to rob hatred of its perpetuity. He also forbade speaking ill of the living in temples, court-of‑law, public offices, and at festivals; the transgressor must pay three drachmas to the person injured, and two more into the public treasury. For never to master one's anger is a mark of intemperance and lack of training; but always to do so is difficult, and for some, impossible." -- Life of Solon 21.1

Or that the Bible has a venerable tradition advocating self-censorship, arguably with a greater claim to forming the basis of Western experience among more people than Petronius or Juvenal could ever make?

"A fool uttereth all his mind: but a wise man keepeth it in till afterwards." -- Proverbs 29:11

"I will guard my ways, Lest I sin with my tongue; I will restrain my mouth with a muzzle, While the wicked are before me." -- Psalm 39:1

"If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain." -- James 1:26

"And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell." -- James 3:6

Or that certain forms of self-censorship could get a person killed under the Romans?

'And the Irenarch Herod, accompanied by his father Nicetes (both riding in a chariot), met him, and taking him up into the chariot, they seated themselves beside him, and endeavoured to persuade him, saying, "What harm is there in saying, Lord Cæsar, and in sacrificing, with the other ceremonies observed on such occasions, and so make sure of safety?" But he at first gave them no answer; and when they continued to urge him, he said, "I shall not do as you advise me." So they, having no hope of persuading him, began to speak bitter words unto him, and cast him with violence out of the chariot, insomuch that, in getting down from the carriage, he dislocated his leg [by the fall]. But without being disturbed, and as if suffering nothing, he went eagerly forward with all haste, and was conducted to the stadium, where the tumult was so great, that there was no possibility of being heard.' -- Martyrdom of Polycarp 8

All of these "speech codes" and more existed in the West long before the West became the West, right alongside the traditions challenging them which Hanson mentions. And speech codes also still exist in our own time, as the anti-Semitic laws of France and a few other countries demonstrate.

Arguably there should be more such laws punishing defamation of more religions if we are going to permit laws benefiting one religion in this respect, if, that is, we are going to continue to emphasize the Western principle of equality before the law. Otherwise the "duty of allowing offensive expression" must also apply to all, including Jews.



Bloomberg's Al Hunt hurls the loaded term "denier" at Republicans

Here's Al Hunt, insinuating that the doubters of climate change are in the same class as Holocaust deniers:

"Still, Francis's message is unsettling to more than a few conservatives, particularly his focus on climate change and his initiatives to influence the United Nations' conference in Paris this year. Some prominent Republicans, such as Senate Environment Committee Chairman James Inhofe, are climate-change deniers."

Bill Donohue to Hugh Hewitt: a single bishop has been found to agree with me, namely the Bishop of Rome

Bill Donohue of the Catholic League, here, happy that the pope agrees that there are limits to freedom of speech, limits we impose on ourselves:

"I am obviously delighted that the pope has taken the same position I have on this issue. Radio chatterbox Hugh Hewitt doubted last week whether a single bishop would side with me. What does he have to say now?"

Michael Savage attacks the pope for saying limits exist to free speech, ends up saying the same thing

Michael Alan Weiner
Michael Savage attacked the pope yesterday for two things: for stating that there are limits to freedom of speech, and for opining that human beings bear some responsibility for global warming.

Savage found the first idea an affront to the First Amendment of the US Bill of Rights ("Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press"), wondering how the pope never heard of it.

The pope in his capacity as the vicar of Christ on earth, however, wasn't telling Congress to abridge the freedom of speech of anyone. He was simply reminding Christians everywhere (and chiding the secularists of France and the United States especially--hello Hugh Hewitt) to restrain their own speech as a matter of spiritual principle, in obedience to the teaching of Jesus:

"Hear and understand: not what goes into the mouth defiles a man, but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man. ... [W]hat comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man."

-- Matthew 15:10f, 18ff.

The pope was reminding the world that there is a higher law than the laws of France or the laws of the United States when it comes to what we say. Every Jew should be able instantly to recognize this idea, since practicing Jews frequently restrain their own speech as a matter of principle. They will often write "G-d" instead of "God" for fear of taking God's name in vain as the commandment in the decalogue warns. More to the point, every Jew should already grasp the Jewish basis for the Christian idea of self-restrained speaking because it comes from the prophet Jeremiah who said that "the heart is evil above all things". And neither do Jews have any excuse to be surprised by the doctrine since it is well worked out by the rabbis in the doctrine of "the evil inclination" which must always be guarded against.

Michael Savage, however, is lately more interested in removing the guards, indeed in "unprotected talk", rather than in the circumspect speech implied by his well-known motto of borders, language, culture. Freedom of speech as understood absolutely by civil libertarians is at war with that, because it leads to open borders, many languages and multiculturalism. Savage should understand by now that such libertarianism is incompatible with conservatism, and that when it comes to mental disorders, liberalism does not have a corner on the market.

The coup de grace came yesterday when Savage turned to the global warming statement made by the pope. Savage said he objected to the pope addressing a matter that had nothing to do with religion because it was outside the pope's area of expertise, outside his scope, as Savage put it, which it certainly is.

But isn't that nice. The pope exercises his freedom of speech on a matter not expressly religious and Savage all of a sudden wants to limit it, obviously because he disagrees with it but also because the pope is not an expert. But the pope has every right to speak his nonsense in the United States, whether religious or otherwise. The point of criticism on this matter should be on the substance of what the pope says, not on his role as pope supposedly "pontificating" about it.

In this still Protestant country, the pope is viewed as nothing more than a man who is no different from us, whether he speaks about the teaching of Jesus or anything else. We can say that the pope is right about the limits to freedom of speech as he stated them, and that he is probably quite mistaken about the human role in global warming, because on both counts we can look into the matter and decide for ourselves from the evidence.

We read, mark, learn and inwardly digest, but unless we do, we risk appearing Christians or Jews or Americans in name only.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Gold and the dollar remain uncorrelated: Gold is not money and continues to rise with the dollar

.DXY is trading at about 92.50 today with gold at about 1235 yesterday, surging to 1262 at this hour.

On 1 November 2005 .DXY was 91.57 with gold at 460.

Pope Francis reminds everyone that freedom of speech is not absolute

Quoted here:

"If my good friend Dr. Gasparri says a curse word against my mother, he can expect a punch," Francis said, throwing a pretend punch his way. "It's normal. You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others."

"There are so many people who speak badly about religions or other religions, who make fun of them, who make a game out of the religions of others," he said. "They are provocateurs. And what happens to them is what would happen to Dr. Gasparri if he says a curse word against my mother. There is a limit."

Uh oh: Today's jobless claims soar well above 500k to within 1.2% of last year's level at this time


Best reason yet to vote for Romney in 2016: The enemy of my enemy is my friend


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

"Retail and Food Services Sales" falls 0.94% in December, which is cautionary for GDP

The drop is not that odd for a December.

In December 2007 we had a drop of 0.6%, in December 2008 a drop of 2.5% (part of the big whopper decline of 12.25% between summer 2008 and March 2009), and in December of 2011 a drop of 0.3%.

The drop in January 2014 when GDP went severely negative was 1.26%, so the 0.94% magnitude this time does not augur well for 4Q2014 GDP.

Glenn Greenwald eviscerates the Solidarity with Charlie Hebdo hypocrisy of the left and right

Excerpts from his excellent analysis, here:

[T]his week’s defense of free speech rights was so spirited that it gave rise to a brand new principle: to defend free speech, one not only defends the right to disseminate the speech, but embraces the content of the speech itself. Numerous writers thus demanded: to show “solidarity” with the murdered cartoonists, one should not merely condemn the attacks and defend the right of the cartoonists to publish, but should publish and even celebrate those cartoons. “The best response to Charlie Hebdo attack,” announced Slate’s editor Jacob Weisberg, “is to escalate blasphemous satire.”

...

Anti-Islam and anti-Muslim commentary (and cartoons) are a dime a dozen in western media outlets; the taboo that is at least as strong, if not more so, are anti-Jewish images and words. Why aren’t Douthat, Chait, Yglesias and their like-minded free speech crusaders calling for publication of anti-Semitic material in solidarity, or as a means of standing up to this repression? Yes, it’s true that outlets like The New York Times will in rare instances publish such depictions, but only to document hateful bigotry and condemn it – not to publish it in “solidarity” or because it deserves a serious and respectful airing.

...

[T]he journalist Chris Hedges was just disinvited to speak at the University of Pennsylvania for the Thought Crime of drawing similarities between Israel and ISIS.

That is a real taboo – a repressed idea – as powerful and absolute as any in the United States, so much so that Brooks won’t even acknowledge its existence. It’s certainly more of a taboo in the U.S. than criticizing Muslims and Islam, criticism which is so frequently heard in mainstream circles – including the U.S. Congress – that one barely notices it any more. ...  When those demanding publication of these anti-Islam cartoons start demanding the affirmative publication of those ideas as well, I’ll believe the sincerity of their very selective application of free speech principles. One can defend free speech without having to publish, let alone embrace, the offensive ideas being targeted. But if that’s not the case, let’s have equal application of this new principle.



Communist journalist with Sine Hebdo explains Charlie Hebdo's work protecting Israel under Philippe Val

From the story by Michel Warschawski here:

Nevertheless, broadly speaking, Charlie was part of my political environment. That is, until Philippe Val, the chief editor, expelled one of the founders of the weekly and it's most popular caricaturist, Bob Sine, falsely accused of being an anti-Semite. The expulsion of Sine was clearly a signal of kneeling to the dominant ideology that was using "anti-Semitism" in order to shut the mouth of journalists critical to Israel. A couple of years later, Philippe Val was appointed by Nicolas Sarkozy [sic] as general director of one of the national radio channels. No comment…

As an act of solidarity with Sine, I joined the editorial staff of "Sine Hebdo", a new satirical weekly he opened together with other former journalists of Charlie Hebdo who left, as a protest of Val's decision.

"I learned a thing or two from ol' Charlie don'tcha know . . .

. . . you better stay away from Copperhead Road."

Freedom of speech in France: Comic says he's Charlie Coulibaly, gets investigated by police

"I am Charlie Coulibaly"
Reported here in WaPo:

'Almost 4 million people across France turned out Sunday in support of free speech. Yet, on Monday, for instance, a 31-year-old Tunisian-born man was sentenced to 10 months in jail after verbally threatening police and saying an officer shot in last week’s attack “deserved it.” Also on Monday, a Paris prosecutor opened an investigation against an anti-Semitic French comedian, Dieudonné M’bala M’bala, for a post on his Facebook page calling himself “Charlie Coulibaly” — a reference to Amedy Coulibaly, the gunmen who killed four people Friday inside a Paris kosher market. The comedian — whose comedy show, which featured an explicit skit mocking the Holocaust, was banned last year for inciting hate — suggested that he was a victim of a double standard.




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France has anti-Semitism laws on its books, but many of its Muslims wonder why there aren't any laws protecting Muslims from anti-Islamic speech, such as Charlie Hebdo routinely practices against the prophet Muhammad.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The UK's Jeremy Warner joins the cognoscenti: high asset prices are going bye-bye


"It is as if all the inflation that used to go into consumer prices has been diverted into financial assets and real estate instead. ... Static or falling prices, on the other hand, are always extremely bad for corporate profits in the long term. ... In a deflationary environment, equities and property will inevitably perform badly: only fixed-interest sovereign bonds, the least risky form of investment, do well."

Charlie Hebdo's editor Charb was raised by communists

CNN reports here:

[Daniel] Leconte gave The New York Times some insight into Charbonnier's upbringing. He was raised by communists, the filmmaker said, and grew up to be a left-wing activist. "He has this education, and this culture, which was one part of his personality," Leconte told the newspaper, "but at the same time he was totally radical."

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And conservatives in America, like Roger Kimball and Ralph Peters, want to be in solidarity with a communist.

Update: By the way, Ralph Peters is all for the murder of American citizens when necessary, just in case you were wondering (here).

Why New York City is a sitting duck for the next terrorist attack

Because the communist mayor of New York, de Blasio, yanked all the undercover cops from the mosques, that's why.

Story here.

Say what you want about Rudy Giuliani. He put 'em there in the first place and kept us safe, and Bloomberg then ramped up the spies. But under de Blasio . . . it's all over.

"Piss Christ" still prominent on CNN, but Muhammad cartoons won't be

Brian Stelter states the CNN policy here about displaying images of the Muslim prophet:

"Many major news organizations, including CNN, generally refrain from showing images that purport to show the prophet. In recent days, executives at CNN have cited concerns about the safety of staff members and sensitivity towards Muslim audiences, but they have also indicated that the network's decision is subject to change."

"Piss Christ" is shown here at CNN as one of 10 controversial works of art, along with an obscene "The Holy Virgin Mary".

Sensitivity towards Christian audiences obviously counts for little at CNN.

Commentary's Jonathan Tobin must be kidding about "the rising tide of hate"

Here is Tobin:

"By choosing to stay away from the march, the United States expressed not only its public disdain for the effort to respond to the rising tide of hate, but the president also demonstrated that he doesn’t understand that being the leader of the free world occasionally requires him to show up even when he’d rather stay home."

Rising tide of hate?

Charlie Hebdo has had the hate turned up to full-throttle for most of its reincarnated existence, deliberately trying to incite the followers of Moses, Jesus and Muhammad in every Wednesday's 60,000 print run since 1992 when its pro-Israel owner Philippe Val resurrected it from the dustbin of history.

The only hatred rising today, in fact, is at Charlie Hebdo, with Muhammad again on the cover, but on a print run of 3 million, not 60,000.

Tobin is only angry that President Obama didn't join in the chorus attacking faith in Paris on Sunday. We all know that New York intellectuals have a vested interest, just as Charlie Hebdo does, in keeping the flames of enmity burning between the Jews and the Muslims. The calling card of victimhood in Washington insures that the cash and military assistance to Tel Aviv never stops.

We also know why Obama didn't go to Paris. It surely wasn't out of principle . . . he's just too damn lazy. But in this case the sin of omission landed Obama on the correct side of the issue, just as Corinne "Coco" Rey made the fateful conservative choice to save the life of her toddler and let the terrorists into the building to kill her colleagues.

When people make the right choice for the wrong reasons we can still say so in this country, at least until the likes of Commentary decide it's time to circulate a petition to have us outlawed. President Obama may be many things, but the most important of those now is that he's lame.

The surest way to make France safer for everyone, including Jews, would be for the self-appointed elites of liberalism to restrain themselves and stop goading the masses which they claim the right to govern. That they can't bring themselves to do this is the best proof that they are not superior to the rest of us, and that there is nothing to their faith but loathing, for God and for themselves.

Monday, January 12, 2015

American manufacturing still in depression

Reported here:

"American manufacturing has still not recovered to 2007 output or employment levels," the study [by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation] says. ... The foundation ... says the recent job gains barely make a dent in what it calls the "unprecedented" decline in U.S. manufacturing since 2000. The result is a sector still hobbled by high effective corporate tax rates and limited public investment in research, development and job training. Even with the recent improvement, the study says the U.S. has lost roughly 1 million manufacturing jobs and 15,000 manufacturing establishments since 2000. Trouble in the sector goes even deeper than that, the study says. ... Without computer production, durable goods manufacturing actually declined by nearly 10 percent between 2000 and 2009, according to the foundation. Even non-long-term goods, which include most of the manufacturing related to the nation's energy boom, have underperformed overall economic growth, the study says.

Charlie Hebdo to exploit mockery of Muhammad in an attempt to escape bankruptcy

Yahoo News reports here:

This week's three million copies of Charlie Hebdo, the first post-attack issue of the French satirical weekly, will defiantly feature caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed, its lawyer said Monday. ... The paper's distributors, MLP, had initially planned to print one million copies of the issue currently being put together by survivors of the shooting. But MLP said demand from France and abroad has been huge and that three million copies would now be released. The original paper printed at 60,000 copies a week, selling 30,000. ... Charlie Hebdo had been sliding towards bankruptcy before the attack against it. ... Wednesday's edition aims to raise fresh cash to ensure the survival of the weekly, with all revenue from the sales, at three euros ($3.5) a copy, going to Charlie Hebdo once the cost of the paper has been deducted.

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Israeli-American Rahm Emanuel once said "never let a good crisis go to waste".

I predict they'll fail.

Average hourly earnings went up almost 29% under Bush, almost 12% under Obama to date

Up $4.12/hour under Bush after 8 years
Up $2.18/hour under Obama after almost 6 years

Bill Donohue of the Catholic League is right: Charlie Hebdo went way over the top of acceptable

Here in "Muslims are right to be angry":

[W]hat happened in Paris cannot be tolerated. But neither should we tolerate the kind of intolerance that provoked this violent reaction. Those who work at [Charlie Hebdo] have a long and disgusting record of going way beyond the mere lampooning of public figures, and this is especially true of their depictions of religious figures. ... In 2012, when asked why he insults Muslims, [Charb] said, “Muhammad isn’t sacred to me.” Had he not been so narcissistic, he may still be alive. Muhammad isn’t sacred to me, either, but it would never occur to me to deliberately insult Muslims by trashing him.

Hugh Hewitt here can't believe there's an important Catholic alive who shares Donohue's opinion.

I can't believe it either, but at least we've got Bill Donohue.

Philippe Val, pro-Israeli refounder of Charlie Hebdo, says slaughtered cartoonists "were not bad people"

Cabu's "Gay Lobby in Conclave" in ridicule of the Roman Catholic Church electing a new pope in early 2013.
Excuse me.

Traditional Catholics will agree that an image of a daisy chain of sodomizing/sodomized cardinals from the pen of Cabu is precisely the mark of a bad person, meant to provoke and not to unite.

Go ahead. Tell us this isn't the face of contemporary liberalism everywhere in the West, and that the Jewish left isn't behind this.

Philippe Val, quoted here in the UK Independent:

“I am practically alone, all my friends are gone,” he said in the statement broadcast by France Inter radio and transcribed by Libération. “They were not bad people, they just wanted to make us laugh. They just wanted humour to have a place in our lives, that's all." ...

He individually paid tribute to his murdered colleagues, including the “genius” cartoonist Cabu, full name Jean Cabut, who was murdered alongside the magazine’s editor Stéphane Charbonnier or “Charb” during their morning editorial meeting. ...

“Today is hard but it is the ultimate weapon,” Mr Val continued. “It is the weapon of solidarity. Let people laugh, let them ridicule the bastards…we cannot live in fear.”

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We know who the bastards are.

We are NOT Charlie


Sunday, January 11, 2015

Real Clear Markets tonight recycles John Tamny's nonsense about gold and the dollar being related

Hey, if it wasn't convincing six days ago at Forbes, give it another try at Real Clear Markets. That's the meaning of libertarian ideology, as with all ideologies: Repeat until it becomes the truth.

Occasionally gold and the dollar do seem to track each other. This has been so recently under elevated gold prices and repressed dollar prices. Perhaps that's what one should expect when conditions are being manipulated and price discovery is difficult because it is being deliberately obscured. But the so-called correlation between gold and the dollar doesn't hold up over the longer term.

For example, tonight the dollar is trading near its recent closing high, at 91.86. The last time the dollar was near this level was on 11 November 2005, closing at 91.98.

The gold price then in 2005 was not quite $467 an ounce, but tonight gold is nearly $1,218, over 2.5x higher even though the dollar price is nearly identical to what it was almost 10 years ago.

The dollar and gold are not correlated, sorry. 

Hey Rush you lazy, mouth-flapping idiot: the French Muslim bike cop was armed and fired at the terrorists before they offed him

So says the BBC here.

Rush Limbaugh used the incident to say all French cops are unarmed because France is a sadly misguided liberal country.

Dumb shit.

nous sommes des idiots!


Charlie Hebdo's Coco, who let the terrorists in, doesn't think too highly of the proponents of traditional morality

Here Coco imagines the anti-same sex marriage activist Frigide Barjot and the conservative Christian politician Christine Boutin in France with an unholy and dirty dilemma in June 2013 when French conservatives had just marched in Paris against the recent legalization of same sex marriage.

Conservatives in the United States who say "I am Charlie Hebdo" are ignoramuses.

Charlie Hebdo's Jewish connection: Is "Hebe Dough" behind the controversial Muslim-baiting cartoons?

Have the Jews brought the terror upon France as much as the leftists did who brought in all the Muslims in the first place?

The anti-Semitic terrorist incident at the Paris kosher shop by a member of the same terrorist cell which attacked satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo ("Charlie Weekly") should have been a clue.

The whole affair, including the attack on Charlie Hebdo, was primarily an anti-Semitic affair, but no ordinary anti-Semitic affair brought to you by a good ole' 'Murican bubba wearing a white sheet. No, it appears this was strictly an internecine battle between fellow Semites. 

In the comments section to a post at Takimag here one wag mocks Charlie Hebdo for its far-left pro-Israeli support backed by "Hebe Dough".

Does that stand up to scrutiny?

At least two of the victims at Charlie Hebdo were Jewish: Elsa Cayat, 54, and Georges Wolinski, 80. (The terrorists left all the women alive, except the Jewess).

Wolinski, who goes all the way back to the very beginning of the paper in 1960, had helped resurrect the defunct publication in its current form in 1992 with the help of a strongly pro-Israel figure named Philippe Val. It was Val who had authorized the republication of the controversial Danish Muhammad cartoons in 2005 and who also fired an allegedly anti-Semitic contributor in 2008, the noteworthy cartoonist Maurice Sinet. Val also had published controversial value judgments about the Palestinians. In addition, one of Wolinski's co-workers at Hara-Kiri, the predecessor to Charlie Hebdo, was the Polish-Jewish novelist Roland Topor.

Whatever else comes out about the decidedly pro-Jewish, anti-Palestinian, atheistic, anti-religious, morally offensive and far-leftist character of the newspaper Charlie Hebdo in the coming weeks and months, one thing is for sure: CHARLIE HEBDO COULDN'T CARE LESS ABOUT FREEDOM OF SPEECH, in France or anywhere else.

Conservatives in America should take note: Philippe Val and the late editor Charb had tried unsuccessfully in 1996 to get the political party of Marine LePen, Front National, outlawed, one of the only political parties in Europe with the guts to stand consistently against the invasion of Europe by Muslim populations.

So-called conservatives in the United States standing in solidarity today or anyday with this bunch of lunatics, perverts and malcontents are as crazy as Charlie Hebdo is.