The MBA reports that mortgage applications fell -4.1% last week, with purchases down -6.0% and re-fis -3.0%.
In weekly retail sales, ICSC Goldman reports a 2.5% weekly sales increase, and a 2.1% year-on-year increase. Meanwhile, Redbook says sales rose 3.2% on a year-ago basis.
Thanks to the extreme cold, housing starts plunged -16% in January to a 0.88 million annual rate.
A completely revised method of reporting Producer prices was released today. The overall PPI for January rose 0.2%, which was 1.2% on a year-over-year basis. The core PPI, less food, energy & trade services, rose 0.1% for the month. There is no annual comparison for the latter method of calculating the core PPI rate. The PPI for goods rose 0.4% for the month, and 0.9% for the year. The PPI for trade services rose 0.1% for the month, and 1.3% for the year.
A poll came out the other day saying that the majority of American’s first priority is unemployment. And it should be given the incredible low we’re now suffering in labor force participation.
So what bright idea are Democrats pushing in spite of that? Hey, let’s raise the minimum wage?
Result? Well, even the CBO, the Dems favorite “go to” agency to support their ideas (when it actually agrees, of course), doesn’t see this as a particularly bright idea if they’re concerned about the people’s priority:
Once fully implemented in the second half of 2016, the $10.10 option would reduce total employment by about 500,000 workers, or 0.3 percent, CBO projects.
Notice it says reduce “total employment” by 500,000. It also says it is only a projection and that it could actually be higher than that.
But, but … it will help the poor!
The increased earnings for low-wage workers resulting from the higher minimum wage would total $31 billion, by CBO’s estimate. However, those earnings would not go only to low-income families, because many low-wage workers are not members of low-income families. Just 19 percent of the $31 billion would accrue to families with earnings below the poverty threshold, whereas 29 percent would accrue to families earning more than three times the poverty threshold, CBO estimates.
Or said another way, Democrats are willing to see a half million plus lose their jobs to serve 19% (and that assumes that all of the 19% keep their jobs).
But, but … it will give the poor more to spend!
Moreover, the increased earnings for some workers would be accompanied by reductions in real (inflation-adjusted) income for the people who became jobless because of the minimum-wage increase, for business owners, and for consumers facing higher prices.
Those are facts, folks. Democrats don’t deal in facts, they deal in emotions … and if they can pass a minimum wage bill, they’ll feel wonderful about themselves. And if they can’t, they’ll blame it all on the mean old Repubicans who want you to be able to keep your job or something radical like that.
Let’s make something clear here before we start. The argument in science, about climate change, isn’t whether or not man is contributing to climate change – it’s whether what man is contributing makes a big difference in the climate (and should therefore be addressed) or an insignificant contribution to climate change (and therefore “remedies” which are likely economy wreckers should be foregone). The former is the “alamrist” side. The latter is the skeptical side.
The science of the situation, i.e. the data, seems to support the skeptical side. So what you don’t want to fall into is the trap of agreeing that man is contributing nothing. Just by living we contribute to the mix. What skeptics are arguming is the contribution of man, in reality, is insignificant and doesn’t warrant huge costly taxes, significant change or monsterous government programs. Skeptics offer that the atmosphere doesn’t react signficiantly to rising CO2 produced by man (and that seems to be the case).
Therefore when you hear all this nonsense about skeptics denying man’s contribution to climate change, it is just that – nonsense. Every living creature contributes to the gasses which make up the atmosphere of our planet and some of those gasses do indeed have a role in climate. To deny that is silly. What we skeptics are saying is those contributions simply aren’t significant because their effect on climate is minimal and certainly nowhere near on par with natural events. When the alarmist thow out numbers like “97% of scientistst agree man is contributing to climate change” it is a partial truth. However, there’s a huge split among scientists as to how significant man’s contribution is to any climate change. But alarmists never go there.
In fact, we’re just in the middle of the latest round of “catastrophe hype” that the media has been complicit in for years. Whatever it takes to sell papers. Remember:
“U.S. Scientist Sees New Ice Age Coming,” said a Washington Post headline in 1971. “The world could be as little as 50 or 60 years away from a disastrous new ice age, a leading atmospheric scientist predicts.” The New York Times went one further, saying: “Climate Changes Called Ominous.” But it wasn’t just theory. “There is a finite probability that a serious worldwide cooling could befall the Earth within the next hundred years.”
Oh, yeah. I forgot about that. Not to mention forgetting about how we’d all be starved to death by now because the population wasn’t sustainable and … well, you know them all.
Which brings us to the latest attempt by the alarmists to redefine both the “problem” and the skeptics. Our buddy John Kerry in Indonesia over the weekend had this to say:
Kerry, who delivered the speech on Sunday in the capital, Jakarta, spoke critically about climate change sceptics adding that everyone and every country must take responsibility and act immediately.
“We simply don’t have time to let a few loud interest groups hijack the climate conversation,” he said, referring to what he called “big companies” that “don’t want to change and spend a lot of money” to act to reduce the risks.
He later singled out big oil and coal concerns as the primary offenders.
“The science is unequivocal, and those who refuse to believe it are simply burying their heads in the sand,” Kerry said.
Right. Interestingly, Indonesia is huge coal producer. Our boy Kerry knows how to pick ‘em.
Of course the science isn’t “unequivocal” where it counts. I.e. what is driving climate change (you know, beside the big yellow thing that appears in the sky each day like magic but is, for the most part, roundly ignored by alarmists – no pun intended) is, well, many natural forces. Our Earth has seen climate change for its entire existence. We have two warm periods in our past which were warmer that the warmest period of modern history. And we’re not warming now, despite increased CO2. So, if one wants to really do science, i.e. demand “unequivocal” proof, one has every right to be skeptical of the current science being pushed by the alarmists. Skepticism is the root of science.
And, of course, Kerry had to over dramatize the supposed problem in order to alarm the gullible even more:
John Kerry, the US Secretary of State, has stressed the importance of tackling climate change in a speech in Indonesia, saying that it may be the world’s “most fearsome” weapon of mass destruction.
Wow. That’s just a …. silly comparison.
But alarmists seem to pay no attention to reality as they push their mantra. For instance, Al Gore, Alarmist-in-Chief had this to say just a few days ago:
Earth’s ice-covered regions are melting. The vanishing of the Arctic ice cap is changing the heat absorption at the top of the world, and may be affecting the location of the Northern Hemisphere jet stream and storm tracks and slowing down the movement of storm systems. Meanwhile, the growing loss of ice in Antarctica and Greenland is accelerating sea level rise and threatening low-lying coastal cities and regions.
Not a word of that is true. None. The jet stream’s move south?
One of the Met Office’s most senior experts yesterday made a dramatic intervention in the climate change debate by insisting there is no link between the storms that have battered Britain and global warming. Mat Collins, a Professor in climate systems at Exeter University, said the storms have been driven by the jet stream – the high-speed current of air that girdles the globe – which has been ‘stuck’ further south than usual. Professor Collins told The Mail on Sunday: ‘There is no evidence that global warming can cause the jet stream to get stuck in the way it has this winter. If this is due to climate change, it is outside our knowledge.’
Who are you going to believe? Al Gore or Professor Collins? Who has the real chops. And note to that the Professor makes it clear that we don’t have the knowledge to make such a claim anyway. Not that such an impediment of factual knowledge ever stopped Al Gore.
Antarctic sea ice has grown to a record large extent for a second straight year, baffling scientists seeking to understand why this ice is expanding rather than shrinking in a warming world.
On Saturday, the ice extent reached 19.51 million square kilometers, according to data posted on the National Snow and Ice Data Center Web site. That number bested record high levels set earlier this month and in 2012 (of 19.48 million square kilometers). Records date back to October 1978.
So what do real scientists note?
“This modeled Antarctic sea ice decrease in the last three decades is at odds with observations, which show a small yet statistically significant increase in sea ice extent,” says the study, led by Colorado State University atmospheric scientist Elizabeth Barnes.
You might also remember that 2013 was the year the sophisticated models the alarmists base their claims upon said that the Arctic would be ice free. The gullible and true believers ate it up, and some even acted upon it.
Only six years ago, the BBC reported that the Arctic would be ice-free in summer by 2013, citing a scientist in the US who claimed this was a ‘conservative’ forecast. Perhaps it was their confidence that led more than 20 yachts to try to sail the Northwest Passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific this summer. As of last week, all these vessels were stuck in the ice, some at the eastern end of the passage in Prince Regent Inlet, others further west at Cape Bathurst.
Shipping experts said the only way these vessels were likely to be freed was by the icebreakers of the Canadian coastguard. According to the official Canadian government website, the Northwest Passage has remained ice-bound and impassable all summer.
D’oh! I think they ought to bill the forecasters for the cost of rescuing the yachts, don’t you?
So, I don’t know, given all of that, maybe we ought to be skeptical of the fidelity of the models and the science? You think?
I certainly do.
And Billy Nye? You’re an engineer and an actor – not a climate scientist. If you want to be among the alarmists, then be one. But do us all a favor and do it quietly.
In the post below, Billy Hollis complained that he’s never really done well shooting in black and white. Of course, I haven’t either, mainly because I don’t shoot in black and white. Instead I shoot in raw, and depend on post-processing to make things look the way I want them to look. For instance, here is a plain old photograph, exported to JPG as shot.
It’s a pretty meh picture. The colors are bland, and frankly, it’s over-exposed by about 1/3 stop. Here is where using a camera that shoots in RAW becomes important. In my case, I’m shooting with a Panasonic Lumix FZ-200 superzoom. Not a pro-grade DSLR, just a regular consumer superzoom with a tiny 1/2.3" sensor (about 6mm x 8mm in size). That’s pretty close to a cell phone camera sensor. But, because it shoots in RAW, I can fiddle with stuff. RAW is a non-compressed photo format that allows you to do non-destructive editing, which means if you fiddle with something and it goes totally wrong, you can always go back to the original shot and try again. You get really fine control over just about everything you can imagine, without affecting the digital negative. In my case, I do the image processing in Adobe Lightroom. You can’t do that sort of image processing when you shoot straight to JPG. Shooting is RAW, therefore, is massively useful, and allows you to do stuff like this to make the colors pop more:
Of course, that means that you get the full range of black and white darkroom options as well. In the picture below, I’ve popped the contrast and clarity, to try and capture the look of 1950s black and white film.
Here, I’ve kept the high contrast, and added graininess, as well as vignetting the edges. 1930′s and 1940′s black and white.
Now, I’ve reversed the contrast to reduce it a lot, removed the grain, and softened the clarity all the way down. This gives it a flat texture and a soft dreamy feel, eliminating fine details.
So, the key takeaway is that pretty lousy shots can be massively improved simply by shooting in RAW format, and spending a little time in post-processing in Lightroom to get the effect you want. Of course, you can take that a bit too far…
There is, after all, such a thing as too much processing.
This week, Bruce, Michael, and Dale discuss Venezuela and the Mark Steyn libel case.
The podcast can be found on Stitcher here.
As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Stitcher. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here.
Export prices rose 0.2% in January, while import prices rose 0.1%. On a year-over-basis, export prices are down -1.2% and import prices down -1.5%.
The Fed reports that industrial production fell -0.3% in January, while capacity utilization in the nation’s factories declined -07% to 78.5%.
The University of Michigan’s Consumer Sentiment Index remained steady at 81.2 in February.
Initial jobless claims rose 8,000 to 339,000. The 4-week average rose 2,750 to 336,750, while continuing claims fell 18,000 to 2.953 million.
Retail sales in January fell a worse than expected -0.4%, following December’s -0.1% drop.
The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index rose 1.4 points to -30.7 in the latest week.
Business Inventories rose a troubling 0.5% in December, while a meager 0.1% sales increase raised the stock-to-sales ratio to 1.30.
The Fed’s balance sheet rose $10.2 billion last week, with total assets of $4.119 trillion. Reserve Bank credit increased $10.5 billion.
The Fed reports that M2 money supply rose by $14.9 billion in the latest week.
Like they’re doing in New York City:
At her January inauguration, New York city council speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito told her colleagues, “Now is the time to embrace our progressive moment and put our values into action.”
Whoo hoo … right? Yeah, not so much. What that means is your business is their business and privacy is a vestage of simpler, more conservative times (you know, like the time in which the Constitution of the United States was written). In the brave new world of progressive values, that old bit of parchment is passe.
One of the Democrat-dominated council’s first acts was to override former mayor Michael Bloomberg’s vetoes of bills from previous sessions. Then the 51-member legislative body got down to business: regulating the minutiae of New Yorkers’ lives, empowering city agencies to enter private property at will, and setting up task forces to study leisure activities.
At its semi-weekly “stated” meeting—where members pass bills and introduce new legislation—the council directed the Department of Health to develop a registry of convicted animal abusers, along the lines of the sex-offender registries that all states maintain. The registry would ensure that animal abusers cannot own animals for at least five years following their conviction or incarceration. Abusers will have to submit to annual reviews of their living situations, and pet stores and animal shelters will need to check the registry before selling an animal. Preventing animal abuse is a laudable goal, but the new law suffers from several deficiencies. For one thing, the Department of Health opposed its passage. The DOH has no enforcement capability or experience in monitoring criminals.
So where will the possible abuse probably occur? Yup … DOH.
But that’s nothing compared to this next beauty:
Meanwhile, Upper Manhattan councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez proposed a bill that would expand city workers’ authority to demand entry into many buildings. The bill, Intro 18, covers all buildings that receive tax benefits under Section 421-a of the tax code, which covers affordable housing. Councilmember Rodriguez’s bill would allow representatives of “any city agency” to access any such building for any reason—and “such request for access need not be made in writing.”
Intro 18 doesn’t specify which areas of a building must be made accessible to city employees, nor does it specifically limit the scope of the investigations. The bill comes with no memo explaining its intent, as is typically included when a bill makes its way through committee hearings. But one could reasonably imagine a scenario where an inspector wanted to check, say, if the affordable units in a rental building or co-op were outfitted with the same appliances and fixtures as market-rate units. According to the bill’s language, it appears the tenants or unit owners could be forced to open their doors to inspectors at any time. The potential for abuse is clear. Picture a series of minor administrative factotums waiting to have their palms greased to stave off endless inspections. Rodriguez’s bill suggests a city where private property is a privilege that can be taken away by a bureaucrat’s will.
And, of course, they’ll be “shocked, shocked I tell you” when, in 6 months, they uncover their first corruption scandal involving city employees or discover the bill is being abused by bureaucrats. Note that the bill is “proposed” for the time being. But it certainly reflects these progressive’s values, doesn’t it?
Another proposed bill reflecting those progressive values?
Another proposed law, Intro 8, addresses the grave problem of businesses claiming to be “environmentally friendly.” New Yorkers, a naïve and trusting group of rubes, apparently are getting snookered by greener-than-thou businesses. So much so that Brooklyn councilmember Vincent Gentile wants the city to establish an official “environmentally friendly” designation for which businesses can apply. The bill’s text calls for the Commissioner of Small Business Services to “coordinate with the Department of Environmental Protection, the Department of Consumer Affairs, the Mayor’s Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability and any other city agency or agencies that regulate businesses,” to devise categories of environmentally friendly businesses and non-environmentally friendly businesses. Should this it really be a top priority for the city council?
Should it? No. But will that stop them? No.
Perhaps topping them all, councilmember Ruben Wills of southeast Queens has submitted Intro 44, “in relation to the creation of a task force on the sport of cricket.” The bill’s multiple sub-sections and sub-sub sections describe the constitution of the task force and detail the making of appointments, filling of vacancies, and so on. After a year, the envisioned task force will deliver a report that “shall include specific recommendations on the following topics: i. funding sources for team equipment, uniforms, and umpires; ii. promoting cricket in New York City; iii. potential economic development initiatives.”
Cricket’s popularity in Pakistan, India, and Trinidad stems in part from the ease with which it can be played, pickup-style, with limited equipment: a ball, a bat, and some sticks for the wicket. Visit any playing field in central Brooklyn or eastern Queens and you’ll see plenty of people enthusiastically playing. It’s not clear why the city needs a task force to brainstorm “funding sources” for an already popular pastime.
Critical fraking stuff, no? Very important that Cricket be regulated in some form or fashion to the benefit of … NYC of course. Er, I mean NYC’s citizens.
If these are examples of progressive values, I’ll live in my backwater and more conservative/libertarian area where citizens, for the most part, continue to tell local pols to mind their own business not theirs and to ensure they pick up the trash on time and keep the roads clear.