Free Markets, Free People

Daily Archives: June 13, 2012

Economic Statistics for 13 Jun 12

Here are today’s statistics on the state of the economy:

Lower crude oil prices led the producer price index down -1.0% last month. The core PPI rose 0.2%. On a year-over-year basis, the PPI rose 0.2% at the headline level, and up 2.8% at the core level.

May retail sales fell -0.2%, following a -0.2% decline in April. Ex-autos, retail sales declined -0.4%, and less autos and gas were down -0.1%.

Business inventories rose 0.4%, higher than the 0.2% rise in sales but the stock-to-sales ratio remains a healthy 1.26.

The MBA reports Purchase Applications jumped 18.0% last week, with purchase applications up 13.0%, and re-fis up 19.0%.

~
Dale Franks
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Howard Dean: The crazy uncle in the attic

I say that in the title fully understanding that in reality Howard Dean reflects how some (many?) on the liberal side of the house actually feel, or perhaps a better way of saying that is how they delude themselves into feeling.  Take this for instance … Howard Dean on the Wisconsin recall election:

DEAN: First of all, we look at Wisconsin as a win. We, which is not reported in the mainstream media, we picked up a senate seat, which denies Scott Walker a majority in the senate. So we put the breaks on him at least until the next election season. Secondly, you know, I always thought the base would come around because, as they like to say in Obama-land, we’re not running against the Almighty, we’re running against the alternative. Mitt Romney is well-known among the American people, let alone progressives, as someone who mostly caters to very wealthy Americans, and doesn’t have a lot of understanding or sympathy for those who aren’t. I’m pretty sure we’re in good shape and I’m pretty sure there’s going to be a big progressive turnout.

Wow.  First, the Senate win was an empty win.  The legislature is not in session and with redistricting (which was done by the Republican legislature), the “new” Senator will have to again run for the seat before the legislature again meets.  Forecasts say the Republicans will pick up at least one more seat at that time.  So the win is a win in name only.  It means nothing whatsoever until the next election.

Second … does anyone, given the turn out in Wisconsin, believe that line of crap about “progressive turnout”?  And even if progressives do turn out, they’re what, 25% of the electorate tops?  It isn’t the progressives who are going to re-elect Barack Obama.  It is the big middle who is deserting him right now.

But, that said, I just don’t see a big progressive turnout in the cards either.

Dean, however, is going to stay on message no matter how ridiculous it sounds:

REPORTER: Are you seeing a difference in the mood here compared to previous years? Last year, there were some combative moments and this time around it seems, so far anyway—

DEAN: Again, it’s the fourth quarter. I’ve had my differences with the administration, particularly over health-care policy, but this is the fourth quarter. I always used to say when I was DNC chair we’re going to elect a Democratic president and hold their feet to the fire to make sure they behave like Democrats. In the fourth quarter, everybody’s on the same team again—we’ve got to win this game. I hesitate to think of what’s going to happen to the budget deficit, because of course the Republicans are the biggest creators of budget deficits, should Mitt Romney win and have a Republican House and a Republican Senate. We’ll get a big turnout.

Yup, that’s sort of the same message about teams that you hear on the GOP side. Everyone get onboard.

However, in the real world, it seems that the team forming on the right is much more enthusiastic (at least at this point) than the one on the left, and on the right they don’t even have an official nominee yet.

As for the budget nonsense – boilerplate crap that adheres to the discredited spin that Obama has spent less than any president in 60 years.  Only progressives believe that, apparently.

REPORTER: Do you think there’s a change in the relationship between the Democratic base and labor in particular? I’ve talked to a couple activists here who say they’re a little dispirited, that they don’t know whether engaging in electoral politics is the best role for labor unions after Wisconsin.

DEAN: Well, I think the parameters have changed dramatically. The old politics is not going to work anymore. We’re not going to be able to outspend the Republicans under the circumstances of Citizens United, so I think we’re going to have to look for a different kind of politics. I think that the campaign, actually, in Wisconsin—the principal problem there was not being outspent; the principal problem there was people were tired of elections. Had they waited another three months, they might have gotten an indictment in the administration, and that would have been significant grounds to throw out a sitting governor—and I think a lot of people would think so. The most interesting thing about the Wisconsin race was that about 10 percent of the electorate that voted to keep Walker, also said they would vote for Obama in the fall, which gave Obama the state. We’ll see. I’m not one of those who thought last week was a bad week for the Democrats. I actually thought last week was a good week for Democrats.

Tired of elections?  That’s why record numbers turned out and resoundingly thumped the recall effort?  We’ve already seen the “outspent” nonsense debunked.   If your fall back to an electoral debacle is “people are tired of elections” given the turnout and result, you’re out of credible ideas and just pumping out hot air. 

Dean, along with perhaps Debbie Wasserman-Shultz and David Axlerod are about the only people in America that thought last week was a “good week for Democrats”.   That said, I wish them many more like it.

REPORTER: How about in the fall? Do you think that when it comes to Obama communicating with the base and doing things that will energize the base, is there anything that you’d like to see him do between now and then?

DEAN: I’d like to see him keep hammering away at Romney’s—the one thing, you’ve got to hammer at people’s beliefs. You can’t sort of convince people that, for example as the Republicans have been trying to do, that the problem with the president is that he was born in Kenya—that’s just not going to work. You don’t have to convince people that Romney only cares about rich people, because that’s what they believe already. So you just have to keep hammering that message home, that this is not a guy who understands you. And I think we’re going to win.

And I can only hope Obama takes Dean’s advice, because it will guarantee a one term presidency if he does.

I put all this up because whether Democrats like it or not, this is one of the faces of the Democratic party.  And if you think he’s out to lunch, tune in to Debbie Wasserman-Shultz for a while.  She makes Dean seem sane.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

Oxygen isotope ratio cycles support skeptical climate change view

Anthony Watts publishes the following chart over at Watts Up With That:

O18

It has nothing at all to do with CO2 but instead with Oxygen isotopes (O18).  Why is that significant in the climate debate?

Oxygen isotope ratio cycles are cyclical variations in the ratio of the abundance of oxygen with an atomic mass of 18 to the abundance of oxygen with an atomic mass of 16 present in some substances, such as polar ice or calcite in ocean core samples. The ratio is linked to water temperature of ancient oceans, which in turn reflects ancient climates. Cycles in the ratio mirror climate changes in geologic history.

Connection between temperature and climate

The 18O/16O ratio provides a record of ancient water temperature. Water 10 to 15 °C (18 to 27 °F) cooler than present represents glaciation. As colder temperatures spread toward the equator, water vapor rich in 18O preferentially rains out at lower latitudes. The remaining water vapor that condenses over higher latitudes is subsequently rich in 16O.[2]Precipitation and therefore glacial ice contain water with a low 18O content. Since large amounts of 16O water are being stored as glacial ice, the 18O content of oceanic water is high. Water up to 5 °C (9 °F) warmer than today represents an interglacial, when the 18O content of oceanic water is lower. A plot of ancient water temperature over time indicates that climate has varied cyclically, with large cycles and harmonics, or smaller cycles, superimposed on the large ones. This technique has been especially valuable for identifying glacial maxima and minima in the Pleistocene.

Steve McIntyre notes:

Oxygen isotope series are the backbone of deep-time paleoclimate. The canonical 800,000 year comparison of CO2 and temperature uses O18 values from Vostok, Antarctica to estimate temperature. In deep time, O18 values are a real success story: they clearly show changes from the LGM to the Holocene that cohere with glacial moraines.

[…]

Given the high reliance on O18 series in deep time, one would think that paleoclimatologists would be extremely interested in a publication of the Law Dome O18 data and be pressuring Tas van Ommen on this point.

[…]

But despite the apparent opportunity offered by Law Dome, there has been virtually no technical publication of a high-resolution O18 or delD isotope series.

That’s not to say, however, it wasn’t offered:

On its face, Law Dome, which was screened out by Gergis and Karoly, is an extraordinarily important Holocene site as it is, to my knowledge, the highest-accumulation Holocene site yet known, with accumulation almost 10 times greater than the canonical Vostok site. (Accumulation is directly related to resolution: high accumulation enables high resolution.) The graphic below compares glacier thickness for some prominent sites for three periods: 1500-2000, 1000-1500 and 0-1000. its resolution in the past two millennia is nearly double the resolution of the Greenland GRIP and NGRIP sites that have been the topic of intensive study and publication.

[…]

A Climategate email shows that Phil Jones asked about the omission of the Law Dome series from the IPCC illustration in the AR4 First Draft. I asked the same question about the AR4 Second Draft. They realized that the Law Dome graphic had an elevated medieval period and thus, including it in the graphic would – to borrow a phrase from the preparation of AR3 – would “dilute the message” and perhaps provide “fodder to skeptics”.

Why would it “dilute the message” and provide “fodder to skeptics”?  Well look at the chart.  A clearly defined Medieval Warm Period and no hockey stick.

Speaking of “inconvenient truths”.

Much more on the subject here.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

Obama’s bumpy week may turn into a bumpy campaign

I remember years ago, when the telecom industry imploded, stock prices plummeted and companies went under, telling my wife, who worked in the industry, “these guys (management) have no idea what to do.  They managed the rise of the company fairly well, but are totally unprepared for the decline of the industry.  It’s like they don’t believe it is happening and refuse to deal with the reality.”

That’s not uncommon in many areas of life.  Easy going when everything is headed up, but seemingly clueless when faced with adversity.   Politics is no different.

Is it time for Democrats to panic?

That’s what a growing number of party loyalists are wondering, amid a rough couple of weeks in which President Obama and his political operation have been buffeted by bad economic news, their own gaffes and signs that the presumed Republican nominee is gaining strength.

Obama’s team insists that it is unfazed by the recent bumps in the political road.

But it’s not just “recent bumps” to those who’ve been paying attention.  It is just the latest series of bumps, and like heading into bad weather while flying, it’s only going to get bumpier.  And trust me this president is heading into bad weather.

Fact: the president has a lousy record and there are millions of Americans hurting that hold him responsible (right or not, that’s how the political game works).

This sort of problem is not one the president’s campaign suffered in 2008.  It was all unicorns, Greek columns and feel good vagary.    In reality it was a much easier campaign in comparison to what he faces now.  Jim Geraghty recently likened it to a “perfect storm” that hit at precisely the right time for Obama politically:

In 2008, Obama had a series of big gusts at his back. Yes, glowing media coverage was one, but he probably wouldn’t have done as well if he had brought the same resume and style to the 2004 political environment or the 2000 one. His ascension to the White House required eight years of the opposition party’s rule, an unpopular war, a series of scandals involving the opposition, and finally the Lehman collapse and the resulting economic meltdown. Almost a perfect storm.

Now he’s on the other side of that sort of a storm.  But, as with the telecom managers who watched their companies decline and go under, he and his team seem to think they can continue to do what they’ve always done and really don’t need to listen to anyone else:

But some Democratic veterans are wondering whether the reelection campaign, run by the same tight-knit group that led it four years ago, is equipped for what lies ahead.

“The bad thing is, there is no new thinking in that circle,” said one longtime operative in Democratic presidential campaigns who spoke on the condition of anonymity to be candid.

Eight other prominent Democratic strategists interviewed shared that view, describing Obama’s team as resistant to advice and assistance from those who are not part of its core. All of them spoke on the condition of anonymity as well.

Reading that, one is led to believe that the managers of the campaign pretty much believe that all they have to do is gin up a repeat of the 2008 campaign and they’ll sail into victory port with a few tattered sails but essentially intact.

If that’s truly what they believe, it is a very bad miscalculation.  

One, he’s the one with the record this time – and it isn’t a good one.  That’s reality.  It is his opponent who will have the luxury of pointing to it and talking about what he will “inherit”, not Obama.  And what he will inherit is going to be spun as worse than what Obama inherited.  I’d be surprised if the old “ask yourself, are you better off now than you were 4 years ago?” question doesn’t make a comeback.

Two, it is obvious Obama’s support is eroding among all groupsStory after story are appearing showing even his base is at risk (not necessarily that they’ll vote for Romney, but instead may simply stay home).  We’re hearing the term “Reagan Democrats” again for the first time in years.   And, of course, as Peggy Noonan recently demonstrated via her column, even the RINOs for Obama are deserting him.   There’s also dissention in the ranks as more and more Democrats go “off message” or criticize him or his policies.

So now is not a time for arrogance or resistance to advice or assistance from others.  But that seems to be what is happening.  And this sort of “close the gates and man the walls” siege mentality isn’t unusual in high politics (given the egos involved).  But that it leads to is stuff like this, another version of the same tired blame game they’ve been pushing for 4 years:

"I love it when these guys talk about debt and deficits," Obama told supporters in Baltimore. "I inherited a trillion dollar deficit."

"We signed two trillion dollars in spending cuts into law," Obama said. "Spending under my administration has grown more slowly than under any president in 60 years."

Obama said that the country’s budget deficits and big debt were the result of the George W. Bush’s two tax cuts, as well as the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

"They baked all this stuff into the cake with those tax cuts… and the war," Obama said.

"It’s like somebody goes to a restaurant, orders a big steak dinner, a martini and all that stuff, then just as you’re sitting down they leave and accuse you of running up the tab," Obama said.

Even with the mixed metaphors it’s clearly the same old stuff.  The other guy did it.  It’s the other guy’s fault.   Somehow they’ve not yet figured out that excuse making isn’t a very powerful campaign message and does not resonate with the electorate.  It was tolerated for about a year after he took office.  But his campaign doesn’t seem to understand that what he’s claiming now is old news now.  America doesn’t hire a president to blame the other guy for 4 years as things go from bad to worse.

And note too that he’s again trying to push the totally discredited notion that he has spent less than any other president in 60 years.  How far does he think running that BS line is going to get him?

So … did Obama have a bumpy week?  You bet.  But given his campaign thus far, he’s in for a lot more bumps.  Here’s what he doesn’t want to have to do but must if he’s to have any chance at all.  He doesn’t want to do it primarily because it is an almost impossible job:

However difficult the task, the president may have little choice but to try to make voters feel better about the economy. Successful presidents have run for reelection on the strength of their records, as well as on the hope they offered for the future.

And that, in a nutshell, is Obama’s problem – he has no “strength of record” to carry him.  All he can do is appeal for more time and to do that, and as Karen Tumulty points out, he has to “make voters feel better about the economy”.

Good luck with that.  Given forecasts, it appears the economy is not going to cooperate.  And while American’s are basically an optimistic people, his attempting to make them feel better about the economy with U6 unemployment over 14% and labor force participation at a 30 year low may end up being a bridge too far for his campaign.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO