Several regional manufacturing surveys missed expectations, some by a large margin, over the last two weeks, from Bloomberg:

  • Feb. 17: Empire State Manufacturing Survey: 7.78, down from 9.95 previously. Slight miss on expectations of 8.0.

  • Feb. 19: Philadelphia Fed Business Outlook: 5.2, down from previous 6.3. Far below expectations of 9.0.

  • Feb. 23: Dallas Fed Manufacturing Activity: -11.2, down from previous -4.4. Far below expectations of -4.0.

  • Feb. 24: Richmond Fed Manufacturing Index: 0.0, down from previous 6.0. Far below expectations of 6.0.

  • Feb. 26: Kansas City Fed Manufacturing Activity: 1, down from previous 3. Below expectations of 3.

  • Feb. 27: Institute for Supply Management–Milwaukee: 50.32, down from previous 51.60. Below expectations of 54.0.

  • Feb. 27: Chicago Purchasing Managers: 45.8, down from previous 59.4. Far below expectations of 58.0.

But at least the War on Terror is showing signs of growth:

‘Jihadi John’, the star of ISIS’s execution videos, is revealed to be a British citizen

Mohammed Emwazi, nicknamed ‘Jihadi John’ by captives who were soon to lose their heads, was born in Kuwait (I knew Kuwait was never worth saving way back then). His parents emigrated to London when he was six.  He was a more or less regular kid, graduating from the University of Westminster in 2009. Now he’s an internet video sensation, lecturing the West on its evils in his prim and proper British accent, before lopping off the head of another of its unfortunate souls.

The renowned British Intelligence Service, MI-5, which is different from MI-6 in some way that I don’t care to figure out, did not untangle the enigma of Mr. Emwazi in time to prevent his radicalization.  They did detain him a couple of times as he was maybe trying to join the jihad, but ultimately, that just radicalized him more, or so said CAGE, a British outfit opposed to the War on Terror.

It’s not clear whether Mr. Emwazi will be able to convert his new found fame to wealth.  It’s hard to make a living off of videos distributed for free, as Google’s YouTube is finding out.

YouTube is losing money even though it has over a billion annual users Google bought YouTube for $1.7 billion in 2007. Even with over a billion annual users, it has yet to add anything to Google’s bottom line.  The video-sharing site brings in about $3.8 billion per year, but costs more than that to operate.  Its unique monthly visits of about 150 million views is double Facebook’s.  But Facebook sort of makes money.  Sometimes.  But  Google could have invested their $1.7 billion in Apple back in 2007 and made oodles of dough, enough to juice the following numbers even more.

Ultra luxury automobile sales have done just fine since the Great Recession, thank-you very much:

In case you were wondering how the rich fared in the wake of the financial crisis, the following chart from Bloomberg provides a poignant snapshot: There’s you some inequality.  What’s surprising is how low sales dipped during the crisis.  Did the super-rich  lose confidence in their ability to manipulate government and society to their advantage during that time?  Poor little rich people.

Jobless claims jump by most since December, 2013

First-time claims for unemployment benefits were up by 31,000 in the week ended February 21st over the previous week.  What does it mean?  Practically nothing, and not because, as commentators have variously offered, ‘there was a floating holiday that fell in the week’, or ‘this reflects single-company issues’ or ‘it was really cold in Boston’.  Okay, I made that last one up.  But the reason this doesn’t matter is because it is just one data point.  It does go along with a trend of declining job gains over the last three months, from a peak in November of 423,000 jobs added to only 257,000 added in January, a decline in job growth of 40% in just three months.  But one data point does not a trend make, not even when it is correlated to data points measuring similar economic phenomenon.

There is little doubt in my mind that the US economy is slowing its expansion a bit, perhaps even contracting a trifle even as I write.  The 2.2% growth rate for the fourth quarter, 2014  announced this week by the Commerce Dept., down from the third quarter’s 5%, bears that out.  But there is nothing to suggest the bottom is about to fall out.  Contrary to stock prognosticators, growth that isn’t the product of human speculation (such as obtains with stock prices, meaning the growth is often only illusory) does not go up in a straight line.  There is a ‘natural’ growth rate in any living organism of about e, or 2.718, a magical number.  And that’s about the medium-term average that a mature living organism known as an economic system is capable of.  Sort of like an adult crocodile.  In the long term, growth rates must always be zero (a mathematical certainty), and in the short term they can fluctuate wildly.  For the medium term in which a human life is lived, about 3% is a fair estimate of what to expect.

Apple Computer coyly announces a coming out party for its new watch

The invitations say ‘Spring Forward’. The ‘Special Event’ is the day after the country goes on daylight savings time, springing its clocks forward.  Get it?  Apple doesn’t actually mention the watch in the invitation to their announcement, but then, do they have to?  You’re smart and hip and all over Apple anything.  You get it.

The event is to announce their new watch.

Incidentally, they’re also counting on you not remembering that they announced the new watch when they announced the new iPhone 6.  But then they know they can count on you, gullible American public. Isn’t Apple just the coolest company in the world!  I don’t know how I could tolerate my miserable life if they didn’t provide me with a new toy on a regular basis.  Okay, maybe I could survive so long as I still had the Kardashians, which thankfully, I will.

NBC Universal announces a new three-year contract for “Keeping up with the Kardashians”

But not for the $100 million dollars it was rumored to be, and that NBC Universal vociferously denied.  And soon my world will be complete.  I will have my new Apple Watch buzzing to remind me when it’s time to tune in, and I’ll have Kris, Kim, Kourtney, Khloe, Kendall and Kylie and all the rest (except gender-confused Bruce and the perfect asshole, Kanye) to fill the existential void that arises from having so much time and so little to do. But if the Kardashians fail me, there’s always Taylor.

Taylor Swift intentionally releases photos revealing her bellybutton

Anything that a woman refuses to reveal–her bellybutton, her hands, her eyes, her ankles, her shoulders, her neck–anything, instantly becomes the most erotic, desirable part of her body.  Judging by the fashions worn by today’s women, not many understand this.  But Taylor Swift does.  Until her recent Hawaii vacation she had refused to reveal her bellybutton.  Then some paparazzi threatened to do it for her, catching her sunbathing in a bikini.  So she took some photos and posted them on Instagram before they had the chance. And it set the world a twitter.  And me.  I just love T Swizzle. And she’s just got the cutest little bellybutton.  Man, does it get any better than this?

Why the dress is black and blue for some, but is gold and white for others

Which do you see?  A black and blue dress or a white and gold one?  The explanation is not as exotic as you might imagine.  According to Wired, the brain’s automatic calibration for color according to light has nothing to do with it.  It is, instead the differences in the brightness on the screens on which it is being viewed.  Or, maybe not.  My daughter saw a black and blue dress and I saw a white and gold one when we saw it on the same television last night. Instead, it may be that the dress illumination sits right along the tipping point where our brains begin calibrating for lower light, such as we do when looking at the Rubric’s cube in shadow, below.

Both the top middle square and the side square are brown.  But we see orange/yellow in the side square because of the perceived shadow. Though the example is frivolous, the point is profound.  Our brains concoct reality for us.  Acknowledging as much does not mean accepting the claims of some philosophers that reality is strictly a figment of the imagination.  No, there are objects that absorb and reflect light of differing waves lengths that throw light on the back of the retina, which the brain then calculates and calibrates into a useful image; the key word being ‘useful’.  The brain is the body’s handmaiden, doing what the body needs in order for it to survive, because the body is the vessel for the DNA.  That’s the profundity buried in all that frivolity.

Kevin Garnett returns to the Minnesota Timberwolves to end his career where it began

KG has been either loved or loathed by fans.  The fans of the teams he plays on have loved him; the fans of teams playing against him have loathed him.  That’s about the best coda to an athletic career anyone could hope for.  Minnesota, where KG started in the NBA as a skinny eighteen-year-old kid, loves him still.  He came home this week, traded in the flurry of All-Star Week, to heart-felt adulation.  Welcome home KG. As for me, I root for the teams he’s on, just because he’s on them. He always shows up to play.

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