Free Markets, Free People

Dale Franks

Dale Franks’ QandO posts

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The science is not settled

Dr. Steven Koonin is the director of the Center for Urban Science and Progress at New York University. Formerly, he was undersecretary for science in the Energy Department during President Barack Obama’s first term. So, not a guy you’d think would be a Koch-funded climate denier. Yet, he writes in the Wall Street Journal that the current state of climate science is not settled, despite what others may say.

After spending several paragraphs highlighting both our lack of scientific understanding of basic climate processes, and the unreliability of the different computer models and their predictions, he concludes:

These and many other open questions are in fact described in the IPCC research reports, although a detailed and knowledgeable reading is sometimes required to discern them. They are not “minor” issues to be “cleaned up” by further research. Rather, they are deficiencies that erode confidence in the computer projections. Work to resolve these shortcomings in climate models should be among the top priorities for climate research.

Yet a public official reading only the IPCC’s “Summary for Policy Makers” would gain little sense of the extent or implications of these deficiencies. These are fundamental challenges to our understanding of human impacts on the climate, and they should not be dismissed with the mantra that “climate science is settled.”

While the past two decades have seen progress in climate science, the field is not yet mature enough to usefully answer the difficult and important questions being asked of it. This decidedly unsettled state highlights what should be obvious: Understanding climate, at the level of detail relevant to human influences, is a very, very difficult problem.

This is not coming from some right-wing whack job. It is the sober assessment of the science from a former Obama Administration official. Claims that the “science is settled” are just that: claims. They are claims made to further a specific political agenda, not a realistic summation of what we actually know.

Yet we are told that massive government action is required—usually leavened with a generous dollop of socialism—to prevent disaster. A disaster, by the way, than cannot be confidently predicted. If that is so, the predictions of success for ameliorative actions cannot be confidently predicted either. Indeed, we cannot truly say that massive ameliorative actions are even needed.

“The science is settled,” therefore, is not a factual, scientific statement. It is a political one. It deserves no more respect than any other political assertion.


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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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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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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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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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Economic Statistics for 16 Sep 14

ICSC-Goldman reports weekly retail sales fell -2.6%, and rose 3.0% on a year-over-year basis. Redbook reports retail sales rose 3.6% on a year-ago basis.

Producer Prices for Final Demand were unchanged in August, and were up 0.1% less food and energy. On a year-over-year basis the PPI-FD is up 1.8% overall, and up 1.6% less food and energy. Other relevant numbers from this release:

PPI-FD less food, energy & trade services – M/M change: 0.2%
PPI-FD Goods – M/M change: -0.3%
PPI-FD Goods – Y/Y change:  1.7%
PPI-FD Services – M/M change: 0.3%
PPI-FD Services – Y/Y change: 1.9%

Foreign demand for long-term US securities fell $-18.6 billion in July.


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