Free Speech May Cause ‘Unjustified Suspicion’ of Politicians. So What?

This month marks the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s
decision in New York
Times v. Sullivan
, a landmark First Amendment ruling in
favor of “the principle that debate on public issues should be
uninhibited, robust, and wide-open.” Indeed, the Court argued, to
take free speech seriously means to accept that free speech will
not always be polite. “Vehement, caustic, and sometimes
unpleasantly sharp attacks on government and public officials,” the
Court said, are an indispensable part of the deal.

At Bloomberg View, Harvard law professor and former
Obama administration official Cass Sunstein says the Court
basically got it right
. But he still wishes more people would
“pay close attention to the dark side of New York Times v.
Sullivan
.” Here’s his description of that dark side:

When it comes to public figures, all sorts of false allegations
are permissible, whether they involve birth certificates, drug
abuse, sexual misconduct or income tax fraud. One result is that
those who seek public office put their reputation at immediate
risk.

One of the goals of the court’s ruling was to protect
self-government, but the effects on self-government are not all
good. Talk show hosts, bloggers and users of social media can
spread ugly falsehoods in an instant—exposing citizens to lies that
may well cause them to look on their leaders with unjustified
suspicion.

False accusations are hardly new. But New York Times v.
Sullivan
can claim at least some responsibility for adding to
a climate of distrust and political polarization in the U.S.

It’s true, ugly talk about politics is certainly nothing new.
But is it getting worse, as Sunstein seems to think? Are we living
in a hellish new “climate of distrust and political polarization?”
To help you ponder that question, I leave you with Reason TV’s
hilarious “Attack Ads, Circa 1800,” which harkens back to the good
old days before “talk show hosts, bloggers and users of social
media” arrived on the scene.

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Home Sales Plunge Most In 3 Years, Drop 8th Months In A Row

Must be the weather… (though if you want to believe that, do not look at the regional breakdowns)… Pending home sales fell 10.2% YoY – the worst in 3 years (notably worse than the 9% drop expected by the meteorologists in the economics departments of the big banks). This is the 8th month in a row of home sales drops (pre-weather).

 

 

 

Don;t worry though – a glimpse at the charts shows things are stabilizing as NAR’s Larry Yun suggests..

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said the recent slowdown in home sales may be behind us, while home prices continue to rise. “Contract signings for the past three months have been little changed, implying the market appears to be stabilizing,” he said. “Moreover, buyer traffic information from our monthly Realtor® survey shows a modest turnaround, and some weather delayed transactions should close in the spring.”

Umm, no.


    



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Stocks Tumble To Red For 2014, Biotech Hammering Continues

For the first time in over 6 weeks, all major US equity indices are in the red for 2014. Early-year leaders Nasdaq and Russell are being crushed by the battering of Biotechs and monkey-hammering of Momo names. Since FOMC, Momos are down 14% and Biotech down 12%. The high-growth hope is fading and nowhere is that more evident than the tumble in 30Y yields – now at 10-month lows. The hopes that financials would lead have nw left as they are also in the red post-FOMC (post-CCAR hope).

 

USDJPY in charge…

 

Stocks all red YTD…

 

Momos…

 

Biotechs…

 

As the 30Y hits 10-month low yields…

 

Charts: Bloomberg


    



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Half Of Uninsured Say They Plan To Remain Uninsured

With the hours counting down to the latest deadline for open enrollment for Obamacare coverage, it appears the administration needs more keg-standing bro's, easy women, and twerking Richard Simmons to get the message out. A new survey by Kaiser finds 6 out of 10 unaware of the deadline. When reminded of the mandate and the deadline, half of those without coverage as of mid-March say they think they will remain uninsured.

 

 

Some other key findings from the report include:

  • A stunning 67% of those uninsured between the ages of 18 and 64 say they have not tried to obtain healthcare insurance in the last six months
  • Unfavorable views of the law continue to outpace favorable ones, the gap between negative and positive views now stands at eight percentage points
  • A third of those who lack coverage as of mid-March are unaware that the law requires nearly all Americans to have health insurance or pay a fine

Perhaps this sums it up best…


    



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Rand Paul is Politically “Divergent” – and So Must be Stopped!

It turns out that Divergent isn’t just the
top movie in America. It’s also playing out in the run-up to the
2016 presidential race, with Sen. Rand Paul, the Kentucky
Republican, in the starring role.

Based on the first volume of a wildly popular young-adult
trilogy, Divergent is set in America of the
near-future, when all people are irrevocably slotted into one of
five “factions” based on temperament and personality type. Those
who refuse to go along with the program are marked
as divergentand marked for death! “What
Makes You Different, Makes You Dangerous,”reads one of the
story’s taglines.

Which pretty much sums up Rand Paul, whose libertarian-leaning
politics are gaining adherents among the plurality of Americans fed
up with bible-thumping, war-happy, budget-busting Republicans and
promise-breaking, drone-dispatching, budget-busting Democrats.
Professional cheerleaders for Team Red and Team Blue—also known
as journalistsaren’t calling for Paul’s
literal dispatching, but they are rushing to explain exactly why
the opthalmologist has no future in politics.

That’s from my latest
Daily Beast column
, which explores why everyone—from
liberals at New York to conservatives at National
Review—
are rushing to explain why the rising junior senator
from Kentucky and his brand of libertarian-leaning ideas can’t
possibly be as popular as they are.

Whether or not [Paul] actually wins the Republican nomination,
much less the White House[in 2016], is besides the point. The
question is whether the politics of the future will be the same as
the politics of the present.


Read the whole thing
.

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Chris Kjorness on the Battle of New Orleans

During the last few years, this
socially laissez-faire music capital of New Orleans has started
trying to bring order to the endless party by stepping up licensing
and zoning enforcement and passing laws designed to improve the
“quality of life.” Chris Kjorness warns that by attempting to
fine-tune the city’s cultural economy, authorities are jeopardizing
the very institutions that have made New Orleans such a vibrant and
valuable part of American culture.

View this article.

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Stocks Fade Early Pump As Good News Is Bad News

For the 5th day in a row, US equities have levitated in the pre-open and faded away quickly soon after. Today is different though in 2 ways: the pump was de minimus and the dump is early. It seems the initial claims good news is indeed bad news for stock investors. Treasuries continue to bear flatten once again as 30Y is rallying and 5Y selling off further; gold is steady at around $1300 and the USD is rallying modestly. Copper and oil prices are rising. European stocks are also faltering with DAX giving up all its early gains.

The S&P is experiencing deja deja deja deja deja vu…

 

And European stocks are fading fast on the better than expected claims data in the US…

 

Commodities are rising in the last hour with copper and oil having had the best morning so far…

 

Charts: Bloomberg


    



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A.M. Links: Obama Meets With Pope, Senate Democrats Want to Introduce Obamacare Fixes Ahead of Election, Dwarf Planet Detected

  • maybe they'll call it pluto??President Obama visited Pope Francis at the

    Vatican
    . He said the pope’s message challenged him and others
    on economic and social issues, but focused his remarks largely on
    the former, where the two have more in common.
  • Senate Democrats worried
    about their party’s prospects in the November midterms are planning
    on introducing “principles” and legislation to fix Obamacare.
  • Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.) says the
    George Washington Bridge
    scandal he’s been embroiled in since
    the beginning of the year isn’t changing his thinking on running
    for president, but that he doesn’t want to make a decision until
    the last possible moment.
  • The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has signed a peace
    deal with the government of the
    Philippines
    . MILF is the largest Muslim rebel group in the
    country.
  • The Wu Tang Clan plans to press just one copy of its “secret
    album” Once Upon a Time in
    Shaolin
    , take it on tour, and then try to sell it for
    seven figures.
  • A new dwarf planet discovered in the
    inner Oort Cloud
    is renewing speculation about a giant Planet X
    beyond the orbit of Pluto. 

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Final Q4 2013 GDP Misses Expectations, Rises 2.6% Annualized – Full Breakdown

And so the various estimates of Q4 GDP have made an almost full circle: starting at 3.22% in the first forecast, plunging to 2.38% in the second, and finally settling at 2.63%, a miss from the expected 2.7%. This is down from 4.1% recorded in Q3 which however as everyone knows by now was purely due to a unprecedented, record inventory build up.

In terms of components, Personal Consumption was the silver lining in this latest economic miss, rising at a 3.3% pace higher than the expected 2.7%. This was driven by greater than expected spending on health and financial services. Yes – higher health insUrance costs are somehow a boost to GDP. How this offsets spending on other end goods and services with a finite and declining disposable income stream remains to be seen.

In terms of the actual contribution, Personal Consumption was 2.22%, above 1.73% in the prior revision, offsetting yet another decline in the contribution from Capex, i.e. Fixed Investment, which dropped from +0.58% to +0.43%. By now, however, even Larry Fink has figured out that as long as the Fed is around, there can be no true CapEx growth. Which means it is all about boosting Personal Consumption through the “Russell 200,000” wealth effect channel.

The full breakdown of quarterly GDP is shown below.

 

But don’t worry: those hoping Q1 will be better, don’t hold your breath. This is what’s coming. You know – “snow in the winter” and all that.


    



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Initial Jobless Claims Drop To 4-Month Lows

Initial jobless claims dropped 10k this week to 311k – the lowest in 4 months – offering little bad-news-is-good-news hope for renewed un-tapering to pump stocks back up. Illinois, New York, and Pennsylvania (all weather-related) saw the biggest drops in claims in the prior week. Continuing claims also fell 53k to 2.82 million, its lowest in 3 months.

 

 

Charts: Bloomberg


    



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