Thursday, February 28, 2019

US Economy Grew The Most Since 2005 After Unexpectedly Strong Q4 GDP

Following a one month delay due to the government shutdown in January, moments ago the BEA reported GDP for the fourth quarter combining both its first and second estimates, and while consensus was expecting a sharp slowdown in the last quarter of the year, from 3.4% in Q3 to 2.2%, the US economy surprised to the upside in Q4, when it grew a stronger than expected 2.6%. As the BEA explained, "This initial report for the fourth quarter and annual GDP for 2018 replaces the release of the 'advance' estimate originally scheduled for January 30th and the 'second' estimate originally scheduled for February 28th.".

On a year over year basis, 2018 GDP rose 3.1%, the highest print since 2005, and another chance for Trump to claim an economic win, although as Joseph Lavorgna notes, "At present, we're still looking for sub-2% growth in the current quarter" and adds that these data also have no bearing on #Fed policy which is comfortably on perma-hold.

Despite the headline beat, personal consumption disappointed, and after rising at a 3.5% rate in Q3, in Q4 it rose just 2.8%, missing expectations of 3.0%. Elsewhere, nonresidential fixed investment, or spending on equipment, structures and intellectual property jumped 6.2% in 4Q after rising 2.5% prior quarter.

Personal consumption contributed 1.92% to the bottom line 2.59% number, down from 2.37% in Q3. Fixed Investment rebounded from Q3's 0.21% to 0.69% in Q4. Growth in private inventories, which drove much of the Q3 GDP jump, hit a pothole, rising just 0.13% in Q4 after the prior quarter's 2.33% jump.

The personal saving rate - personal saving as a percentage of disposable personal income - was 6.7 percent in the fourth quarter, compared with 6.4 percent in the third quarter.

Other details from today's GDP report showed that the Fed's "Pause" may have been a tad premature, with core PCE rising 1.7% in Q4 after rising 1.6% prior quarter, and slightly beating expectations of a 1.6% print.

The GDP price index also beat expectations, printing at 1.8% in Q4, above the 1.7% expected, and in line with last quarter.

Pelosi and Cuomo Sign Gun Confiscation Bill into New York State Law

Democrats Nancy Pelosi and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the "Red Flag Bill" into state law this week, allowing authorities to confiscate guns from citizens.

NY Gov. Cuomo was joined by Democratic House Speaker Pelosi for the signing ceremony at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Midtown Manhatten, NYC. Pelosi praised Cuomo and the New York State Legislature for "Leading the way by passing the Red Flag Bill & providing an example of the commonsense solutions."

Aside from law enforcement, the bill also allows school teachers and family members to request a person's guns are confiscated by the authorities.

According to Buffalo News, Cuomo and Pelosi were joined by various gun control advocates, including Linda Beigel Schulman, a Long Island woman whose son, slain schoolteacher Scott Beigel, was killed last year at Florida's Parkland school mass shooting.

Tom King, executive director of the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association and a board member of the National Rifle Association, last month called the gun control package approved by the Legislature "a massive assault" on Second Amendment rights.

The law allows that "Family members, school administrators, and law enforcement officials can seek to get guns confiscated from people deemed by courts to be an 'extreme risk' to themselves or others."

According to Breitbart, Cuomo said on Monday that the confiscation law "Will save lives and doesn't infringe on anyone's rights."

Dems wrestle over how to vote on 'Green New Deal'

Senate Democratic leaders are grappling over how to vote on a controversial climate change proposal that is being championed by progressives and mocked by conservatives.

Senate Majority Leader on Wednesday panned the Green New Deal as "The far-left's Santa Claus wish list dressed up to look like serious policy."

McConnell says the Senate will vote on the Green New Deal before the August congressional recess.

Sen., the Senate co-sponsor of Ocasio-Cortez's Green New Deal resolution, said he's working with Schumer and declined to say whether he would vote present instead of "Yes" on his own proposal.

"There's some difference of opinion about whether it goes far enough or too far, whether it was rolled out in the best way," Senate Minority Whip said of the Green New Deal.

Beyond the Green New Deal, Democrats are undecided about whether they should put together a package of proposals to address climate change - as they did for infrastructure issues in the 115th Congress with their "Blueprint to Rebuild America's Infrastructure."

He called McConnell's plan to force a vote on the Green New Deal "a diversion" and "a sham."

There's no good way to spin the Democrats' vote. So many in the MSM simply ignored it.

  1. How about ABC News? Nothing on “Born-Alive Abortion Survivors.” I did find a single buried wire story incorrectly headlined: “The Latest: Democrats block Senate GOP anti-abortion effort.” The Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Act, a bill name that so many journalists assiduously avoid, would not stop a single abortion.
  2. There was nothing to contrast because, as far as I can tell, CNN doesn’t feature a single story on their website regarding the Democratic Party blocking of Sasse’s Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, which would have saved newborn babies who survive abortion attempts from negligent homicide.

How Government Researchers Hijack Science for Political Purposes

He outlined the science misconduct directed by the EPA and its agency allies, supported by fanatic environmentalists inside and outside the government.

In an important new essay, a very expansive and informative document, Dr. Schnell explains the way junk scientists working for a government agency agenda can make anything a toxin or a carcinogen.

"In the last 15 years, EPA has invented three bogus human carcinogens, all for political reasons or with a political not a scientific basis. The Carcinogens invented were, dioxin, because of the anti-Vietnam War crusade, formaldehyde because of the hysterical reaction to the 'toxic' trailer homes for the refugees of Katrina, and the last one, trichloroethylene, because of the noise about the contamination of water at Camp Lejeune."

Dr. Schnell explains in this new and very expanded essay/monograph how federal agencies highjack science for political purposes.

Please read the insightful and eloquent explanations of Dr. Schnell that deal with not only the scandals mentioned above, but how EPA research in epidemiology and toxicology is poisoned by politics.

I would surely enjoy an opportunity to see Dr. Schnell expose these miscreant government crackpot scientists and their fanatic supporters, but I will happily trade that opportunity for a serious effort by others to make Dr. Schnell's observations and assertions force some serious efforts to demand reliable science in the interests of public policy making.

Dr. Schnell in his paper shows how the public was fooled into believing that the incidence of drinking water-related cases of lead poisoning reached crisis proportions at Flint, Michigan after a 2014 switch to a new water source.

California State Budget Relies on Taxing Richest One Percent

California's 40 million residents depend on less than 1 percent of the state's taxpayers to pay nearly half of the state income tax, which for California's highest tier of earners tops out at the nation's highest rate of 13.3 percent.

If even a few thousand of the state's 1 percent flee to nearby no-tax states such as Nevada or Texas, California could face a devastating shortfall in annual income.

During the 2011-16 California drought, politicians and experts claimed that global warming had permanently altered the climate, and that snow and rain would become increasingly rare in California.

For years, high-speed rail has drained the state budget of transportation funds that might have easily updated nightmarish stretches of the Central Valley's Highway 99, or ensured that the nearby ossified Amtrak line became a modern two-track line.

California politicians vie with each other to prove their open-borders bona fides in an effort to appeal to the estimated 27 percent of Californians who were not born in the United States.

About a third of the California budget goes to the state's Medicare program, Medi-Cal.

Spiraling entitlements, unwieldy pension costs, money wasted on high-speed rail, inadequate water storage and delivery, and lax immigration policies were formerly tolerable only because about 150,000 Californians paid huge but federally deductible state income taxes.

The Army's Official Iraq War History: Truth-Telling or Mythmaking?

Never mind: "The War of the Rebellion: a Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies" was completed in 1881, all 128 volumes of it.

Of course, "It's difficult to write a history when everyone is still alive," as retired Army Colonel David Johnson, a principal researcher at the Rand Corporation, rightly notes.

Which makes the Army War College's publication of the Army's two-volume assessment of Operation Iraqi Freedom all the more surprising.

That's good news, though it's mitigated by the fact that, while the Army has always given primacy to its post-war reports by assigning them to the U.S. Army Center of Military History, which reports to the civilian Secretary of the Army, current plans call for the CMH to be folded into the Army's Training and Doctrine Command, where its historians will be answerable to a four star officer.

"Putting the CMH under TRADOC will kill the army history program."

The release of The U.S. Army in the Iraq War was accompanied by rumblings that, in highlighting civilian incompetence, the review had provided an escape hatch for senior military leaders.

"These guys are repeating the same mistakes on Iran that they say we made on Iraq. They're parroting the ignorance they decry," a senior Army officer who served in a senior command position in Iraq says.

The Media Will Re-Elect Trump

Not expecting to win, Mr. Trump allowed his organization's desultory pursuit of a Trump tower in Moscow to continue during the 2016 campaign.

What is true of Mr. Trump is also true of James Comey.

The FBI's own highly questionable actions during the campaign, which inadvertently helped elect Mr. Trump, he and his Obama colleagues also expected to go unexamined.

Read any liberal pundit: Collusion now means if Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin both wanted Mr. Trump to be president, Mr. Trump is guilty.

The answer, of course, is pundit vanity: Mr. Trump is a threat to democracy because writers opposing him then are very important people.

Our wonderful English language gives us a perfectly good word for major media interpretations of the Trump phenomenon.

In the meantime, imagine you're one of the millions who thinks four years of the Trump show is probably enough.

Kamala Harris Misrepresents Her Previous Support for Reporting Undocumented Minors to ICE

Presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris yet again misrepresented her record as a prosecutor in response to questions about her tenure as a district attorney, CNN reports.

In Iowa on Sunday on the Political Party Live podcast, Harris was asked by host Misty Rebik about her previous support for a San Francisco citywide policy to report undocumented juvenile immigrants who were arrested to Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials.

There was an active push by the city's Board of Supervisors when Harris and Newsom were in city office to change the policy to prohibit reporting juvenile undocumented immigrants to ICE unless they had been convicted of a felony.

Those efforts were opposed by Harris and Newsom, with Harris saying in one speech she said the Board of Supervisors bill violated federal immigration law.

Harris supported FOSTA and targeted Backpage, twice, but was stopped by a judge both times.

In the process, she supported actions that disproportionately punish the vast majority of users who fall into the "Consenting adult" category Harris claims she doesn't want to target.

Harris is now a strong, vocal supporter of many criminal justice reforms, but she has also strenuously avoided taking responsibility for her previous stances.

Contrary to media hype, tech firms and millennials not flocking to "superstar" cities

As a new Brookings study shows, millennials are not moving en masse to metros with dense big cities, but away from them.

The Bayou City gained nearly 15,000 millennials net last year, while other big gainers included Dallas-Fort Worth and Austin, which gained 12,700 and 9,000, respectively.

Dense, high-priced cities attract young people straight from college, but they have trouble keeping them there.

Urbanists' faith in the inevitable appeal of major cities to high-end businesses, notably in tech, may be questionable.

Core cities like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and San Francisco may be exciting for recent college graduates or tourists, but they still need affordable standards of living and strong economic and educational environments to attract and retain the young families critical to their long-term growth.

Politically, a city with a shrinking middle class, as we see in many superstar cities, will exhibit ever-more radical politics as the young single population and poor dominate the electorate.

Even in world-class tech center Seattle, a city council-imposed homeless tax on large corporations had to be repealed when Amazon responded by stopping construction on a downtown office tower.

FEC Complaint Filed Against Ocasio-Cortez For Illegal Payments To Boyfriend

New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is in some hot water now over payments to her boyfriend.

Then it was discovered that her boyfriend was paid handsomely for some cushy job with one of her main campaign supporter PACS. And now a Republican group has filed a complaint arguing that she violated campaign finance laws to pay her boyfriend, Fox News reported.

A Republican group filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission on Wednesday alleging that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's campaign may have illegally funneled thousands of dollars through an allied PAC to boyfriend Riley Roberts.

Members of the Washington, D.C.-based Coolidge Reagan Foundation allege in their complaint that when the Brand New Congress PAC - a political arm of Brand New Congress LLC, a company that was hired by Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., to run and support her campaign - paid Roberts for marketing services, it potentially ran afoul of campaign finance law.

"It's not illegal for to pay her boyfriend, but it appears that they created some sort of scheme to avoid claiming the money ," Dan Backer, a D.C.-based attorney who filed the complaint on behalf of the foundation, told Fox News.

The FEC complaint specifically cites the use of "Intermediaries" to make the payments, "The vague and amorphous nature of the services Riley ostensibly provided," the relatively small amount of money raised by the campaign at that stage and "The romantic relationship between Ocasio-Cortez and Riley" in asserting the transactions might violate campaign finance law.

The Coolidge Reagan Foundation - a 501(c)(3) - is requesting that the FEC look into the payments for potential violations on relevant campaign finance laws that state that campaign contributions "Shall not be converted by any person to personal use" and that "An authorized committee must report the name and address of each person who has received any disbursement not disclosed."