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Free Markets, Free People

Economic Statistics for 23 Sep 14

ICSC-Goldman reports weekly retail sales rose 0.1%, and rose 4.1% on a year-over-year basis. Redbook reports retail sales rose 3.7% on a year-ago basis.

The FHFA House Price Index rose a slight 0.1% in July. On a year-over-year basis, the index is up 4.4%.

The Markit PMI manufacturing index flash for September is unchanged from the August final reading of 57.9.

The Richmond Fed Manufacturing Index rose 2 point to 14 in September.


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Meanwhile in Africa

Ebola continues to ravage the western part of the continent:

Yet another set of ominous projections about the Ebola epidemic in West Africa was released Tuesday, in a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that gave worst- and best-case estimates for Liberia and Sierra Leone based on computer modeling.

In the worst-case scenario, Liberia and Sierra Leone could have 21,000 cases of Ebola by Sept. 30 and 1.4 million cases by Jan. 20 if the disease keeps spreading without effective methods to contain it. These figures take into account the fact that many cases go undetected, and estimate that there are actually 2.5 times as many as reported.

If that’s the case, then containment would seem all but impossible.

However, if it is able to be contained and everything goes to plan, there is a “best case” scenario:

In the best-case model — which assumes that the dead are buried safely and that 70 percent of patients are treated in settings that reduce the risk of transmission — the epidemic in both countries would be “almost ended” by Jan. 20, the report said. It showed the proportion of patients now in such settings as about 18 percent in Liberia and 40 percent in Sierra Leone.

Unfortunately, best case scenarios rarely if ever come to pass.  They assume too much goes well with “the plan”, communication, cooperation, behavior and many other human activities, and rule out people acting on misinformation and self-interest contrary to the “best case” scenario’s plan.  That’s not to say epidemic can’t eventually be contained … or burn itself out.  It’s to say betting on the “best case” scenario puts you at odds with human nature.

There’s another reason not to expect the “best case” scenario.  The agencies who are spouting all the stats really don’t know the actual extent of the outbreak:

The World Health Organization acknowledged weeks ago that despite its efforts to tally the thousands of cases in the region, the official statistics probably “vastly underestimate the magnitude of the outbreak.”

And:

The report does not include figures for Guinea because case counts there have gone up and down in ways that cannot be reliably modeled.

The point?  We’re going to hear a lot of happy talk about how the world’s effort is going to contain this outbreak and, at least for a while, they’re going to point toward the best case scenario as their goal.  And it is a worthy goal.  But you have to remember that as with many government or quasi-government bureaucracies, their worth is measured in how successful they are – or report they are.  It’s how they receive funds.  So the propensity is to “happy talk” and favorable stats.  And, as we’ve all learned with “climate change”, models can be monkeyed with.

As an example of why the best case scenario is unlikely, the plan for containment relies on “effective methods” to contain it – such as treatment centers  where patients go and allow the problem to be isolated.  But in reality, there aren’t enough beds to do that:

At least one aid group working in Liberia is already shifting its focus to teaching people about home care and providing materials to help. Ken Isaacs, a vice president of the aid group Samaritan’s Purse, said, “I believe inevitably this is going to move into people’s houses, and the notion of home-based care has to play a more prominent role.” He said there could be 100,000 or more cases by the end of 2014.

“Where are they going to go?” Mr. Isaacs asked. “It’s too late. Nobody’s going to build 100,000 beds.”

He’s right. And so isolation, a key portion of “the plan”, is put in severe jeopardy.

Key take away?  Beware of all the happy talk.  This isn’t a time for propaganda and misleading stats.  But we are dealing with bureaucracies, spokespersons and the like.  This is a time for honest, above-board information so the public can stay informed about something that could threaten their lives.

Let’s see what we actually get.

~McQ

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Political Correctness and the “War on Women”: NHL Edition

If you know anything about hockey, you’re aware that for the spectators it’s a testosterone filled affair that satisfies our base urges for battle. Much like football. What better to accompany a manly-men game than pretty girls in skimpy outfits? So, sometime in the early 2000’s, NHL teams starting employing Ice Girls to skate around the rink during TV timeouts, etc, in order to clear the playing surface of built up snow. Predictably, it was a big hit. At least, until Mother Jones decided to stick its buzz-killing nose into things: “The Freezing, Hungry Lives of NHL “Ice Girls“:

I co-wrote an article last month about the working conditions of NFL cheerleaders: Five cheer squads had recently sued their football teams alleging sub-minimum-wage pay and mandatory “jiggle tests,” among other indignities. Not long after the story ran, I received an email from a woman who had worked as one of the Philadelphia Flyers’ “ice girls.” “Speaking from personal experience,” she wrote, “ice girls are treated very similarly.”

[...]

When a player walks in, it’s time to go: Both the Kings and the Flyers, like a number of other NHL teams, have adopted policies that strongly discourage relationships between ice girls and hockey players: There was to be no fraternization of any kind, the women told me. To prevent rumors from starting, the ice girls were instructed to make sure they weren’t in the same place as the players outside of work. But the burden of responsibility was placed on the women: If a Kings ice girl was at a restaurant or bar and a player walked in, she was expected to get up and leave, even in the middle of a meal.

[...]

Short shorts in frigid weather: Some teams, including the Flyers, have co-ed ice crews, but the men aren’t wearing booty-shorts and crop tops. And while most games are held indoors, teams and their cheer squads sometimes participate in outdoor games and events. In early 2012, the Flyers took part in a three-day outdoor festival and game called the Winter Classic. “It was 20 degrees and we were in shorts, with two pairs of stockings,” a former ice girl told me. Depending on the day, they spent six to nine hours outdoors: “It really felt like we were in some kind of torture camp.” Said another: “I’ve never been so cold in my life.”

Blah, blah, blah. There’s more, but you get the picture.

For the most part, political correctness nonsense results in silly annoyances. In this case, however, it cost a bunch of women their jobs. That’s right, in the aftermath of this article, the Flyers decided to get rid of the Ice Girls … and only the Ice Girls. If you know anything about Philly fans, you know that didn’t go over well:

Flyers fans booed the guys on the ice Monday night … because they weren’t women.

We’re not talking hockey. We’re talking the crew scraping the ice during breaks in the action.

[...]

Apparently, the team and other NHL clubs succumbed to complaints about sexism and working conditions, including duties like manning doors in frigid temperatures. A June article in Mother Jones article may have played a key role.

Actually, by Philly standards, the reaction was pretty positive.

But the really strange thing here is that, while some of these women had complaints (and, seriously, how unusual is that?), for the most part, they loved the job. But because of the disdain invited by the MJ article, they now have none. But the guys all kept theirs. It’s almost like another confirmed kill in the left’s War on Women (I say almost because, as far as I know, Ted Kennedy still has the only confirmed kill (h/t: Dave Burge)).

I suppose the Flyers organization could have just dressed the girls up in warmer, less skimpy clothing (that’s basically how they are in Carolina and DC, for example), but that wouldn’t address all of the complaints. The team would have to give the girls (but apparently not the guys) raises, and alter team rules re fraternization, among other things. But what would be the unintended consequences of that? I guess they just figured it wasn’t worth the hassle because, it probably isn’t.

It really is comical, though, how the left can so consistently promote policies and behaviors that hurt the very people they purport to protect. It’s as if they are completely incapable of learning from, well, anything. They simply try to wish a world into existence and then are completely flummoxed when things don’t turn out the way they planned.

Oh well, at least these poor girls won’t be so exploited anymore working in a position that they had to beat out 100’s of other girls just to get. Way to go, lefties!

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The march of the mimes

Walter Russell Meade does a great job of summing up the impact of yesterday’s “March of the Usual Lefty Organizations” in the name of taxing us into poverty with a carbon tax:

Street marches today are to real politics what street mime is to Shakespeare. This was an ersatz event: no laws will change, no political balance will tip, no UN delegate will have a change of heart. The world will roll on as if this march had never happened. And the marchers would have emitted less carbon and done more good for the world if they had all stayed home and studied books on economics, politics, science, religion and law. Marches like this create an illusion of politics and an illusion of meaningful activity to fill the void of postmodern life; the tribal ritual matters more than the political result.

And he’s precisely right.  Besides being the usual collection of leftist professional protesters sprinkled with clueless pols and celebrities, nothing of note is going to change at the UN Climate Summit.  Nothing.  The outcome of that is, as they say, “already written in the books”.

The world’s largest emitters are declining to show up, even for appearances. The Chinese economy has been the No. 1 global producer of carbon dioxide since 2008, but President Xi Jinping won’t be gracing the U.N. with his presence. India’s new Prime Minister Narendra Modi (No. 3) will be in New York but is skipping the climate parley. Russian President Vladimir Putin (No. 4) has other priorities, while Japan (No. 5) is uncooperative after the Fukushima disaster that has damaged support for nuclear power. Saudi Arabia is dispatching its petroleum minister.

China, however, has found a wonderful new way to forever avoid any responsibility for reducing its output.  It has become the “champion” for the poor and underdeveloped countries of the world and is helping put forward their demands:

China led calls by emerging economies on Friday for the rich to raise financial aid to the poor as a precondition for a United Nations deal to combat global warming.  “When the financing is resolved, this will set a very good foundation to negotiate a good agreement,” China’s chief negotiator Xie Zhenhua told delegates from about 170 nations. Xie said developed nations, which have promised to raise aid to $100 billion a year by 2020, should have legally binding obligations to provide finance and technology to emerging economies, along with legally binding cuts in emissions.

Well of course the “rich nations” should … because that would have them pay China and India – two of the biggest carbon producers around.  So China has, in effect, made an offer they must refuse, because leaving out the two largest carbon producers is sort of self-defeating, isn’t it?  And anyway, we should pay for our “rich nation privilege”, shouldn’t we?

Meanwhile, Dr. Steven Koonin makes the point of saying what is clearly the truth in an op-ed in the WSJ – the science of climate change is not settled science.  In fact, it’s not even close.  Dr. Koonin, by the way, was the undersecretary for science in the Energy Department during Obama’s first term.  So this isn’t some right-wing ideologue spouting off, but a serious scientist.  Interestingly, he makes hash of the reliability of the climate models:

The models differ in their descriptions of the past century’s global average surface temperature by more than three times the entire warming recorded during that time. Such mismatches are also present in many other basic climate factors, including rainfall, which is fundamental to the atmosphere’s energy balance. As a result, the models give widely varying descriptions of the climate’s inner workings. Since they disagree so markedly, no more than one of them can be right.

And we’re still looking for that one model that is right … but remember, it is on the basis of those models that this entire “scare” or alarmism finds its roots. Make it a point to read the entire Koonin piece.

But never fear as our fearless leader will be in NY to address the UN summit (most likely a rushed speech between fund raisers and golf).  Not that it will have any effect or make any difference.  But in his mind, it will be “action”.  In reality, it’ll be another example of him again being outplayed on the world stage.

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 22 Sep 14

The Chicago Fed National Activity Index fell to -0.21 in August versus 0.39 in July.

Existing home sales fell a disappointing -1.8% in August to a lower-than-expected annual rate of 5.05 million. On a year-over-year basis, existing home sales are down -5.3%. Nearly all of the recent housing data has been negative, showing a lot of weakness in the housing sector.


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You can be a guinea pig!

So, I got this email from a researcher who’s looking for libertarians to respond to a study:

I am conducting research on ideology and public opinion.  Most studies on public opinion ask subjects whether they are liberals or conservatives. Options to identify as “libertarian” (or anything else) are almost always left out. To say that libertarians are underrepresented in academic research wouldn’t be enough; they aren’t even given a chance to identify themselves as such.  Therefore, I would like to include libertarians in one of my studies regarding opinions of candidates and their policies.  To do this, I need to seek them out through blogs and websites. I was wondering if you would be interested in posting a link to my online survey on your site or in an email distribution. 

Some important things to know about this survey:

-All responses are 100% anonymous. There is no way for me to link any identifying information to the survey responses.

-The survey has been cleared by an Institutional Review Board at Stony Brook University.  It satisfies all the requirements for a study that uses human subjects. 

-It takes approximately 15 minutes to complete

-It does not seek to promote any kind of ideological agenda

The survey can be found here: https://stonybrooksurveys.co1.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_87ChNJu5zdzMgDP

If it’s something you feel like you want to participate in, please feel free. I took it. Seems harmless.


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Another day in the life of a science denier

In reference to “climate change”, Paul Krugman leads with:

This just in: Saving the planet would be cheap; it might even be free. But will anyone believe the good news?

Two points – it is entirely debatable as to whether the planet needs saving.  Science and the data produced certainly doesn’t support the supposition.  I’m talking about real science.  Not the pseudo-science of the alarmist side – the science denier side.   Given that, why should anyone care about whatever “good news” Krugman is shilling today.

Second point – is government involved in the solution (he studiously tries to disguise that in his article)?  Of course it is. Then it will be neither cheap nor free.  And most likely it will be terrible to boot, hurt the economy, make government larger and more intrusive, etc., etc., etc.

So no, Mr. Krugman, anyone with two brain cells to rub together – and that likely excludes you – won’t believe much of anything that comes out of the pseudo-science, and now pseudo-economics of the left.

~McQ

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