Loose Ends (67)

So this is interesting news:

Snow falls in Hawaii a few times a year in winter on the state’s highest peak, Mauna Kea rising 13,803 elevation in feet, but the white stuff is rarely seen at elevations below 9,000 feet to 10,000 feet. On Sunday, Maui’s 10,ooo-foot Haleakala received a thick dusting and snow also accumulated at 6,200 feet in Polipoli State Recreation Area.

Officials at the Department of Land and Natural Resources say this could mark the lowest-elevation snowfall ever recorded in the state.

But remember, hottest years on record yadda, yadda, yadda.

Astronaut Mark Kelly, whose most recent political expression was his groveling for forgiveness for approving citing the racist oppressor Winston Churchill, has announced that he will challenge Martha McSally for the Arizona’s U.S. Senate seat up in the 2020 election. On paper he looks like a formidable candidate. I wonder if the Democratic Party left will think so (groveling about Churchill notwithstanding):

The party’s left wing is holding off on the celebrations for now. Public records show Kelly voted in the 2012 GOP primary while living in Texas, meaning he likely cast a ballot for either Mitt Romney or one of the host of conservatives running against President Barack Obama and either Ted Cruz or David Dewhurst for Senate. (A Kelly spokesperson said he voted for Obama in the general election.)

And progressives both in the state and nationally have long been preparing for Rep. Ruben Gallego, a Latino veteran of the war in Afghanistan and member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, to run for the seat. Gallego is still considering a bid, potentially creating an ideological clash with Kelly. It’s one of a host of potentially pugnacious primaries Democrats could face in 2020 as they seek to win back control of Congress’ upper chamber.

Stock up on popcorn.

This is interesting:

With the U.S. and China starting a fresh round of trade talks this week, a new survey showed more American executives see their businesses gaining from a potential increase in tariffs than being hurt by it.

About 59 percent of some 500 firms said they expected profits to benefit should tariffs on imports rise, more than double those who saw a negative impact, according to a UBS Group AG survey released this month. An increase in domestic investment was listed as one key area of advantage should the cost of doing businesses abroad grow.

Trump may well win his trade war with China, as we’ve speculated before.

What a surprise: Panera learns that socialism doesn’t work:

Panera has announced that it will close the last of its charitable stores, which allowed people to pay whatever they wished for a meal, because it was costing too much dough.

The Boston store will shut its doors permanently this Friday, February 15. “Panera Cares” were indistinguishable from other Panera eateries in their branding, menu, or furnishings, except they announced that no one would be turned away if they did not pay one cent of the “suggested prices.” Those who could not afford to pay full price could volunteer for an hour at the store in exchange for the food.

The first store debuted in 2010 and, soon, they served 4,000 people a week. At its height the unique model had four other locations in Portland, Oregon; Chicago, Illinois; Dearborn, Michigan; and the St. Louis suburb of Clayton, Missouri. . .

What happened next was predictable. Swarms of high school students helped themselves to lunch each Monday through Friday. The homeless dined there every meal, every day. . .

The charity experiment produced other negative externalities: The homeless began injecting intravenous drugs in the bathrooms, and neighbors said residential crime increased. One employee remembered, “We’d open the door and look, and there’s blood everywhere. So then we’d have to close that bathroom.” By the end, the Boston location changed the code for the women’s restroom several times a day to prevent drug abuse.

Finally, there is still some curious economic news. For the first time in a long time, there are now more job openings than there are officially unemployed people looking for work (see first chart below). Job openings are up in just about every category except manufacturing (see second chart).  That is not to say that higher labor force participation rate wouldn’t expand the labor pool (which would be a good thing), or that the ranks of the unemployed have the skills to match up with the openings (likely not), but it is surprising to see the surveys of small business showing such a sudden swoon in optimism. Maybe politics can explain some of this—a fear that the Democrats in Congress might actually succeed in hiking taxes or regulations, but it may be something else small business owners may be seeing on the ground. (Note that even with this sudden decline, small business optimism is still way higher that it ever was under Obama.)


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