Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

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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Economic Statistics for 18 Sep 14

Housing starts for August fell a disappointing 14.4% to an annualized 0.956 million units, but this comes off a very strong July reading.

Initial weekly jobless claims fell 36,000 to 280,000. The 4-week average fell 4,750 to 299,500. Continuing claims fell 63,000 to 2.429 million.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index rose 0.7 points to 37.2 in the latest week.

The general business conditions index of the Philadelphia Fed’s Business Outlook Survey fell -5.5 points to 22.5 in September.

The Fed’s balance sheet rose $28.2 billion last week, with total assets of 4.408 trillion. Reserve bank credit rose $29.9 billion.

The Fed reports that M2 money supply rose by $25.1 billion in the latest week.


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Islam and the West: The problem in a nutshell

An interesting article I think you’ll want to read.  At least I found it interesting.  It discusses the foundations of Islam and why, essentially, it is really not a “religion of peace”.  In fact, as the author argues, as much as the West would like the name of the religion, Islam, to mean “peace”, in fact it means “submit”.  We’ve talked here before about the need of a reformation in Islam to reorient it away from violent jihad and to a religion that actually preaches and practices “peace”.  The outlook isn’t very promising.  Here’s one reason:

The Qur’an contains many peaceful and tolerant verses, and these could well be used to create a genuine reformation — something several genuine reformers have tried to do. But there is a catch. All these moderate verses were written in the early phase of Muhammad’s career, when he lived in Mecca and had apparently decided to allure people. When he moved to Medina in 622, everything changed. He was soon a religious, political and military leader. During the next ten years, as his religious overtures were sometimes not welcomed, the peaceful verses gave way to the jihad verses and the intolerant diatribes against Jews, Christians and pagans. Almost all books of tafsir take for granted that the later verses abrogate the early ones. This means that the verses preaching love for all are no longer applicable, except with regard to one’s fellow Muslims. The verses that teach jihad, submission and related doctrines still form the basis for the approach of many Muslims to non-believers.

One problem is that no one can change the Qur’an in any way. If the book contains the direct word of God, then the removal of even a tiny diacritical mark or a dot above or beneath a letter would be blasphemy of the most extreme kind.[2] Any change would suggest that the text on earth did not match the tablet in heaven — the “Mother of the Book,” much as Mary is the Mother of Christ — that is the eternal original of the Qur’an. If one dot could be moved, perhaps others could be moved, and before long words could be substituted for other words. The Qur’an itself condemns Jews and Christians for having tampered with their own holy books, so that neither the Torah nor the Gospels may be regarded as the word of God. The Qur’an traps us by its sheer unchangeability.

And, as he points out, the most “modern” interpretation does anything but put Islam in a “moderate” context:

Regrettably it is impossible to re-interpret the Qur’an in a “moderate” manner. The most famous modern tafsir, or interpretation, of the holy book is a multi-volume work entitled, In the Shade of the Qur’an. It was written by Sayyid Qutb (d. 1966), the Muslim Brotherhood ideologue often regarded as the father of modern radicalism. His interpretation leads the reader again and again into political territory, where jihad is at the root of action.

So that seems to be where we stand.  Here, however, is the problem that confronts the West:

The besetting sin of modern Western politicians, church leaders, and multiculturalists is their ready acceptance of ignorance and their promotion of their own ignorance to the rank of expertise. Islam is one of the most important topics in human history, but how many schoolchildren are given details such as the ones mentioned above in their history classes? How many textbooks paint an honest picture of how Islam began and how it continued as a background to how it continues today?

Furthermore, how many real experts are denied contact with government and politicians so that lies are not made the basis for governmental decisions in the West? How many times will truth be sacrificed to fable while Muslim extremists bomb and shoot and behead their way to power?

These facts do not come from modern Western accounts; they are there in the founding texts of Islam, in the histories of al-Waqidi and al-Tabari. No-one is making any of this up. Muslims who avoid their own history should be brought face to face with it in all future discussions.

But, of course, that isn’t what is happening is it?  We’re told over and over again that Islam is a religion of “peace” by those in the West who would rather believe that than confront the awful fact that its own founding documents portray anything but a peaceful religion — not to mention its history.  For instance, were you aware that it is estimated that “between sixty and eighty million Hindus may have been put to death during the centuries of invasions by Muslim armies from 1000 to 1525.”  That’s Stalin and Mao territory.

If you can’t or won’t deal truthfully with the problem, how can you ever expect to confront it successfully?  When you remain in denial and you let the practitioners of the religion also deny the truth, how does one “reform” anything? And what does the continuous denial portend for the West in the not to distant future?

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 17 Sep 14

The MBA reports that mortgage applications rose 7.9% last week, with purchases up 5.0% and refis up 10.0%.

Consumer prices fell -0.2% at the overall rate in August, while the core CPI, which excludes food and energy, was unchanged. On a year-over-year basis, both the headline and core CPI are up 1.7%.

The nation’s current account deficit narrowed to $-98.5 billion in the 2nd Quarter, down from the 1st Quarter’s revised $-102.1 billion.

The NAHB housing market index for August rose 4 points to 59 in September.

The Fed’s newest forecast for GDP growth:2014: 2.0 to 2.2 %; 2015: 2.6 to 3.0 %; 2016: 2.6 to 2.9 %; 2017: 2.3 to 2.5 %; longer run: 2.0 to 2.2 %. In other words, sub-par economic growth for as long as they can foresee. As a reminder, the trend rate of growth for mature economies should be in the 3.0-3.5% range.

The Federal Open Markets Committee announced that interest rates will remain unchanged, with a Fed Funds Rate target of 0-0.5%.


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