Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Style Evolves

So, since we’re making changes, I thought I’d start with the blog theme. This new theme uses flat design, which all the kids are raving about now. It also implements responsive design, so, if you’re on a mobile device, you’ll no longer see the Apple Touch mobile theme. Now you’ll see the current blog template, which will happily reformat itself for your phone or tablet viewport.

You’re welcome.


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Economic Statistics for 12 Aug 14

The NFIB small business optimism index rose 0.7 points in July to 95.7.

The government’s budget deficit, as of the end of July, is running 24% below last year, at $460.5 billion vs. $607.4 billion.

ICSC-Goldman reports weekly retail sales down -1.4%, and were up only 3.2% on a year-over-year basis. Conversely, Redbook reports a strong 4.8% increase in retail sales over last year.


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As David Bowie would say, “Ch-ch-ch-changes”

After a conference call this evening, we have decided to move QandO to a new Cloud Hosting plan.  This will remove the bandwidth restrictions we’ve been struggling with for the past month. It will also remove all of the legacy QandO content from 2004-2009. I have a an Excel file with all that old content, but I’m not sure what happens with it at this point. It might end up as one huge 12mb web page. I dunno. We’ll deal with that later. At any rate, I will restore all of the old podcasts, as well, since we’ll have substantially less restriction on storage space, and none at all on bandwidth. These changes will all be taking place over the next few days.

You, as a user, will see little change, except that the site should load substantially more quickly in the new environment.


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Why aren’t tampons free?

Seriously, that’s the question some whackadoo feminist columnist in the UK is asking (it makes you wonder if the paper that published it is a serious news source).

Her “reasoning?”

But this is less an issue of costliness than it is of principle: menstrual care is health care, and should be treated as such.

She wouldn’t know true principle if it throat punched her. However, what is clear is when you allow yahoos to redefine “health care” and get government to take control of it, well then everything should be ‘free’.
Her authority?  Not to worry, feminists have declared a few things to be “true”, and that make this a no-argument, slam-dunk:

Sanitary products are vital for the health, well-being and full participation of women and girls across the globe. The United Nations and Human Rights Watch, for example, have both linked menstrual hygiene to human rights.

Well there you go. I’m not sure where the human right not to be coerced by government into subsidizing another’s wants went, but apparently that’s a real right that is to be forever ignored.

If it is “health care” then it is a “right”.  And if it is a “right” then it should be “free”.  And if it is “free”, someone else should pay for it  – or so the “reasoning” goes. /sarc

Of course the fact that any such product has to be produced at a cost, transported at a cost and distributed at a cost that someone has to pay is just lost on these sorts of folks.  It doesn’t register.

As far as they’re concerned tampons come from magic tampon trees and when they need them, well, they’re just there.  And because they’re just there, they should be free!  Don’t you get that, you neanderthal?

Frankly I like this answer from a commenter to the article

Why aren’t tampons free?

Why isn’t soap free or wet wipes or shampoo?

If your argument is that sanitation should be provided for all cheaply then fine [Ed. sorry, but it already is].

But it isn’t. Your argument is that its all a plot to make women pay for stuff they need. At the end of the day its not free because in the real world you have to pay for stuff. Your right to a hygienic lady area is no more compelling than mine to a clean backside or clean hands. You are once more guilty of making women victim’s of their vaginas.

The commenter is right – the unspoken part of this attempt to fleece others is supposed victimhood. Read the article – it reeks with it.

In reality this is just the inevitable  extension of the Sandra Fluke argument that all women are entitled to free contraception because it is a “right” or something.

Where I come from “rights” aren’t something others pay for with either time, labor, material or money.

But hey, if you can redefine “health care” you can certainly redefine “rights”, no?

~McQ

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QandO at the Crossroads

We’ve been having a big problem at QandO.  The podcast, apparently, has gotten popular.  Under our old hosting plan, we had 400GB of bandwidth.  Last month, our bandwidth began to skyrocket, almost entirely due to podcast downloads.  That has continued this month, too. The excess bandwidth charges for exceeding the monthly bandwidth allowance are $4 per GB.

bandwidth

Essentially, we’ve gone from an average of about 8GB in bandwidth per day to 50GB per day.

This is complicated by the fact that the old version of QandO was created way back in 2004 using ASP.NET 1.1. It works great. Sadly, it’s no longer supported by Microsoft. Last month, when it became clear we were going to blow through our bandwidth allowance, I did two things:

First, I removed the Stitcher podcast player from all the Podcasting posts, to avoid drive-by downloads from the post page. Second, I worked with the web host and was able to upgrade to the last existing ASP.Net 1.1 Premier plan, with a 600GB bandwidth limit, to avoid the bandwidth charges. That costs me $37/mo. As it turned out, bandwidth for the last week of July fell back to normal, so we only went through 415GB, which would’ve been a $60 excess bandwidth charge for the month.

So, increasing the bandwidth limit to 600GB should be a fix, right? Well, this month, we have already burned through 275.15GB in 10 days. At this rate, we will blow through the monthly bandwidth limit around Aug 22.

So, if you are looking for a podcast that’s more than a week old, you won’t find it. I’ve deleted all the older ones. Obviously, that isn’t an optimal solution.

The real solution is to move QandO over to a modern Cloud Hosting environment, which has unlimited bandwidth, 10GB of file storage, and only costs $18 per month. But, the newer hosting plans do not support ASP.NET 1.1. Essentially, that means that everything we’ve written prior to 2009 would, for a while, at least, disappear.  I have the old legacy content in a big, honkin’ file, but it would take some time to restore the old content to a static HTML page. Ultimately, transferring that would be a lot of work.

In any event, while I’m happy the podcast is becoming more popular, it’s causing some problems with trying to reconcile a large chunk of legacy content with modern hosting solutions.

This is complicated by the fact that Jon Henke still owns the domain, so any changes to the server would require him to make the change at GoDaddy. Depending on how long that would take, moving to a new host could mean that QandO will go down for some period of time.

So,all of this is information for you to understand why the Podcast has no archives, and warning that QandO may have to go dark for a day or so if we change to a new hosting plan.


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Observations: The QandO Podcast for 08 Aug 14

This week, Michael performs psychoanalysis, and Dale quotes his grandmother.

The podcast can be found on Stitcher here. Please remember the feed may take a couple of hours to update after this is first posted.

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.

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What ever happened to critical thinking

Dr. Thomas Sowell thinks he knows:

In an age when scientists are creating artificial intelligence, too many of our educational institutions seem to be creating artificial stupidity.

Critical thinking seems, in many cases, to be a thing of the past.  Ideology seems to be replacing it.

For instance:

Many people in Europe and the Western Hemisphere are staging angry protests against Israel’s military action in Gaza. One of the talking points against Israel is that far more Palestinian civilians have been killed by Israeli military attacks than the number of Israeli civilians killed by the Hamas rocket attacks on Israel that started this latest military conflict.

Are these protesters aware that vastly more German civilians were killed by American bombers attacking Nazi Germany during World War II than American civilians killed in the United States by Hitler’s forces?

Not only that, are they aware that the intent of the Hamas terrorists is to kill as many Israeli civilians as they can?  They’re just not very good at it.  And, Israel has taken steps to safeguard its civilians while Hamas repeatedly and purposely puts their civilians at risk by launching rockets from populated areas near schools etc.

This isn’t something that’s hard to figure out … unless you’ve turned thinking off and ideology (which only allows one to accept “facts” that fit the narrative”) on.

Another example involving Jerry Rivers:

Geraldo Rivera has denounced the Drudge Report for carrying news stories that show some of the negative consequences and dangers from allowing vast numbers of youngsters to enter the country illegally and be spread across the country by the Obama administration.

Some of these youngsters are already known to be carrying lice and suffering from disease. Since there have been no thorough medical examinations of most of them, we have no way of knowing whether they, or how many, are carrying deadly diseases that will spread to American children when these unexamined young immigrants enter schools across the country.

The attack against Matt Drudge has been in the classic tradition of demagogues. It turns questions of fact into questions of motive. Geraldo accuses Drudge of trying to start a “civil war.”

However, history reminds us:

Back when masses of immigrants from Europe were entering this country, those with dangerous diseases were turned back from Ellis Island. Nobody thought they had a legal or a moral “right” to be in America or that it was mean or racist not to want our children to catch their diseases.

Perfectly acceptable precautions.  Perfectly sound reasoning.  Something we understood well even back then.  But that doesn’t fit the ideological narrative today. The fact that the illegals are “children”  is what the ideologues want to emphasize in order to shut others up and have them enter freely and be placed within our system.  They appeal to emotion, not reason.  Reason tells you that you take prudent precautions instead of openly exposing your children to the communicable diseases, etc. that are being brought in by illegals, children or not.  Who do we have a greater responsibility toward and why should we risk their lives and health in order to satisfy an ideology?  A thinking person would conclude we have a greater responsibility to our own children.

Finally:

Although liberals are usually gung ho for increasing the minimum wage, there was a sympathetic front-page story in the July 29 San Francisco Chronicle about the plight of a local non-profit organization that will not be able to serve as many low-income minority youths if it has to pay a higher minimum wage. They are seeking some kind of exemption.

Does it not occur to these people that the very same thing happens when a minimum-wage increase applies to profit-based employers? They, too, tend to hire fewer inexperienced young people when there is a minimum-wage law.

No it doesn’t “occur” to them because they don’t think it through.  They simply parrot the emotional buzz-words and phrases their ideology teaches them.  The consequences are far less important than getting their way and feeling good about it.  But critical thought never enters the picture.

If it did, we’d not be hearing the nonsense these examples present, would we?

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 7 Aug 14

Weekly initial jobless claims fell 14,000 to 289,000. The 4-week average fell 3,750 to 293,500. Continuing claims fell 24,000 to 2.518 million.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index fell -0.1 points to 36.2.

Consumer credit rose $17.3 billion in June mainly driven by the nonrevolving component, which rose $16.3 billion.

The Fed’s balance sheet rose  $3.5 billion with total assets of $4.410 trillion. Reserve Bank credit rose $1.9 billion.

The Fed reports that M2 Money supply rose $29.2 billion in the latest week.


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Climate Change: About that big yellow thing that hangs in the sky each day …

If the findings of a new study are correct, it appears the sun is indeed the primary reason for global temps being higher for a few years.  I know, you’re shocked aren’t you?  Who would have thought the big heater in the sky could have a role in temperature increases?  Well not the alarmists.

As illustrated in the figure below, the authors report there is “remarkable agreement” among the overlapping years of their reconstruction (solid black line) and the number of sunspots recorded from direct observations since 1610 (red line). Their reconstruction of solar activity also displays several “distinct features,” including several “well-defined Grand minima of solar activity, ca. 770 BC, 350 BC, 680 AD, 1050 AD, 1310 AD, 1470 AD, and 1680 AD,” as well as “the modern Grand maximum (which occurred during solar cycles 19-23, i.e., 1950-2009),” which they describe as “a rare or even unique event, in both magnitude and duration, in the past three millennia.”


Figure 1. Reconstructed decadal average of sunspot numbers for the period 1150 BC-1950 AD (black line). The 95% confidence interval is shown by the gray shading and directly measured sunspot numbers are shown in red. The horizontal dashed lines demark the bounds of the three suggested modes (Grand Minimum, Regular, and Grand Maximum) as defined by Usoskin et al.

A “rare or even unique event” which had zip to do with man or CO2, but certainly coincided with the panic about man-made global warming, huh?  And the alarmists gave what sort of influence to the sun in their models?

Usoskin et al. (2014) write their results “provide important constraints for both dynamo models of Sun-like stars and investigations of possible solar influence on Earth’s climate.” They also illustrate the importance of improving the quality of such reconstructions, in light of the fact that previous reconstructions of this nature “did not reveal any clear signature of distinct modes” in solar activity.

Unfortunately, it was beyond the scope of this paper to address the potential impact of solar activity on climate. Yet the reconstruction leaves a very big question unanswered — What effect did the Grand maximum of solar activity that occurred between 1950 and 2009 have on Earth’s climate? As a “unique” and “rare” event in terms of both magnitude and duration, one would think a lot more time and effort would be spent by the IPCC and others in answering that question. Instead, IPCC scientists have conducted relatively few studies of the Sun’s influence on modern warming, assuming that the temperature influence of this rare and unique Grand maximum of solar activity, which has occurred only once in the past 3,000 years, is far inferior to the radiative power provided by the rising CO2 concentration of the Earth’s atmosphere.

Not that any of these facts will at all derail the Alarmist’s rush to provide an expensive solution to a non-existent problem.  Doug Hoffman summarizes what we who are totally skeptical of the “science” of man-made global warming face:

One of the sad side effects of the global warming climate scam is the way otherwise fairly intelligent people have been snookered into believing the dumbest things. There is no shortage of “experts” who gleefully back up claims of climate induced catastrophe—some with scholarly gravitas, others with fanatical shrillness. And the list of false and debunked claims goes on and on. Part of the blame for all these faux catastrophes rests squarely on the news media. Operating under the old adage, “if it bleeds it leads,” the mindless vultures of the world’s news agencies flock to report any calamity, more than happy to attributed the event to climate change. Instead of registering guns, governments should register cameras and microphones—they are truly dangerous weapons in the hands of the breathtakingly ignorant members of the fourth estate.

Indeed.  One of the things we’ve discussed here before is how the rise of advocacy “journalism” harms us all.  This “scam”, as Hoffman characterizes it, points out in spades how poorly we’re served by our media today.

Don’t expect this study to get much attention.  It is counter to the conventional wisdom, counter to the desire to further empower government and certainly counter to the desire by those in power to cash in on this faux crisis.

~McQ

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