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Economic Statistics for 14 May 14

The MBA reports that mortgage applications rose 3.6% last week. Purchases were down -1.0% but re-fis rose 7.0%.

Producer prices rose 0.6% overall in April, with both goods and services prices up 0.6%. Ex-food and -energy, prices rose 0.5%. Less food, energy, and trade services, prices rose 0.3% On a year-over-year basis, the overall PPI is up 2.1%, with goods prices up 2.5% and services prices up 2.0%.

The Atlanta Fed’s Business Inflation Expectations survey shows inflation expectations in May are unchanged at 1.9%.


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Antarctic ice shelf “collapse” may have an effect on sea levels … in a 1,000 years

The cult of global warming, aka “alarmists”, have found a new drum on which to bang.  Scientists recently announced that the western ice shelf in Antarctica is “collapsing”.  Immediately the “Chicken Little” pronouncements of imminent doom were sounded by the usual suspects all implicitly tied to AGW.  The UK’s Guardian sounded the alarm in various headlines which read:

“Two separate studies confirm loss of ice sheet is inevitable, and will cause up to 4m of additional sea-level rise

‘Collapse will change the coastline of the whole world’

Reading on into the actual findings of the studies, however, one finds that the drama that is implicit in these headlines could have been tempered a bit with a very slight modification:

But the researchers said that even though such a rise could not be stopped, it is still several centuries off, and potentially up to 1,000 years away.

Oh.  So it isn’t a crisis that will impact the world today or anytime in the near future, correct?

This is not new stuff either. This story has been popping up since 2008. I wrote about it here and here. As noted in 2008, a fairly simple discovery, not mentioned in any of these articles, proffered an explanation of why the ocean water was warming and the ice shelf was melting.

“Scientists have just now discovered an active volcano under the Antarctic ice that “creates melt-water that lubricates the base of the ice sheet and increases the flow towards the sea”. That could include the Wilkins Ice Sheet as well (the article cited talks about the Larson A and B sheets.

But, say the alarmists, we’re not talking about Wilkins or the Larson sheets. We’re talking about the Thwaites glacier.

The study honed in on the Thwaites glacier – a broad glacier that is part of the Amundsen Sea. Scientists have known for years that the Thwaites glacier is the soft underbelly of the Antarctic ice sheet, and first found that it was unstable decades ago.

The University of Washington researchers said that the fast-moving Thwaites glacier could be lost in a matter of centuries. The loss of that glacier alone would raise global sea level by nearly 2ft.

Thwaites also acts as a dam that holds back the rest of the ice sheet. Once Thwaites goes, researchers said, the remaining ice in the sheet could cause another 10 to 13ft (3-4m) of global sea-level rise.

Ok. Well, let’s look at a couple of pictures then. The first is from the 2008 post I did on the volcano:

volcano

The second picture, from the Guardian article, shows the area of the study.  The red dot is the glacier in question:

glacier

Does anyone notice anything interesting?  Yes, that’s right, the glacier in question is in the vicinity of the volcano in question.  And I don’t think anyone would argue that a undersea volcano can’t heat up the sea in the vicinity to a little higher temperature than it would be normally (it was certainly successful with Wilkins).  Has it had an effect?  Who knows … it doesn’t seem to have been mentioned at all in the study.  But, if you go to the Guardian article you’ll see an embedded 17 second video that attempts to explain the effect of the warmer water on the glacier.  It shows less dense (and therefore lighter) warm water somehow flowing under much denser and therefore heavier cold water to destabilize the glacier.  The only reasonable explanation for such a flow would be if the heat source were somewhere near the bottom of the ocean, no?  Otherwise its hard to explain how that warm water got below the cold water and stayed there.

But if you question things like this, you’re an ignorant nincompoop.  A “denier”, which, by the way is akin to being a member of the KKK and a Holocaust denier all in one.  However, I’m certainly not denying that something is happening in Antarctica.  I am questioning the purported cause though.  It isn’t at all unimaginable that the side of Antarctica most exposed to warmer South Pacific sea currents and experiencing volcanic activity might see some melting due to causes unrelated to CO2 put in the atmosphere by man.

That, of course, won’t stop the cultist from declaring themselves to be the ones with science on their side and deniers to be the fact-challenged among us.  Here’s a perfect example from today’s NYT:

But the unfortunate fact about uncertainty is that the error bars always go in both directions. While it is possible that the problem could turn out to be less serious than the consensus forecast, it is equally likely to turn out to be more serious. In fact, it increasingly appears that, if there is any systemic bias in the climate models, it’s that they understate the gravity of the situation. In an interesting paper that appeared in the journal Global Environmental Change, a group of scholars, including Naomi Oreskes, a historian of science at Harvard, and Michael Oppenheimer, a geoscientist at Princeton, note that so-called climate skeptics frequently accuse climate scientists of “alarmism” and “overreacting to evidence of human impacts on the climate system.” But, when you actually measure the predictions that climate scientists have made against observations of how the climate has already changed, you find the exact opposite: a pattern “of under- rather than over-prediction” emerges.

Really?  If that’s the case, that should be pretty easy to demonstrate, shouldn’t it? Since pictures are worth 1,000 words, here’s a little picture I picked up over at The Federalist that does exactly that – it demonstrates that the pattern of the climate models is exactly as the “deniers” have claimed they are:

Climate-Model-Comparison-1024x921

Somehow, the claimant from the NYT couldn’t be bothered to actually fact check.  Instead she swallowed whole the alarmist line and regurgitated it with the usual ignorant literary smirk found in most of their fact free writing.  Sean Davis sums up the argument for most “deniers” very well:

I have a simple rule when it comes to people who want me to invest obscene sums of money in their forecasts of discrete future events: just be accurate. If you come to me and tell me you can predict future stock market performance based on these five factors, then you had better predict future stock market performance based on those five factors. All you have to do is be correct, over and over again. But if your predictive model is wrong, I’m not going to give you any money, and I’m certainly not going to pretend that what you just did is science. Any idiot can make incorrect guesses about the future.

Science, properly practiced, is the search for truth. Science, properly practiced, rejects forecasting models that consistently produce inaccurate forecasts. There’s nothing scientific about shouting down anyone who has the audacity to point out that the only thing your model can accurately predict is what the temperature won’t be.

Indeed.

~McQ

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Hot gay sex

Michael Sam is a college football player. He’s was a good player in college. Good enough, in any event, to barely make it into the NFL draft at number 249 of 256. Which means he probably isn’t a great player, and probably won’t make it in the NFL. After he finished his college football career at Mizzou, he announced he was openly gay.

So, when he was waiting to hear whether or not he’d be drafted, with his boyfriend at his side, TV cameras were there to broadcast live on ESPN, when he heard he’d squeeked into the NFL and exchanged several kisses with his boyfriend.

Now, TV cameras don’t usually show up to see the reaction of guys who get picked #249, mainly because no one usually gives a crap that they got picked. But Michael Sam is different. They decided they were going to cover him, well before the day of coverage.

“We are very aware that in those last two rounds potentially — maybe even before that — Michael will get drafted and we will definitely spend time on that draft pick,’’ said Eric Weinberger, who is running NFL Network’s draft coverage. “We will spend as much time as we think we have to.”

They were there solely because he is openly gay, hoping to get something good out of it. What they got was several good closeups of gay man-kissing. I’m sure they were very happy with that.

Others were less so. The Dolphins’ Defensive Back Don Jones tweeted his displeasure at the scene, which was broadcast live on ESPN. This got him fined and suspended. Apparently, we are no longer allowed to express our opinions in polite society any more, unless that opinion is anything other than fully politically correct. Personally, I feel pretty much the way Bill Burr does in this comedy bit. I don’t have a problem with gays doing whatever they do. Just don’t care. Looking to get upset at whatever gay people are up to doesn’t interest me.

But, I also don’t want to see gay guys kissing or having sex, because I think sex with guys is icky. That’s not something you’re supposed to express publicly. I’m not sure why, but it’s now hateful to state that you might be a little uncomfortable with gay things. I think heterosexual sex that includes golden showers is icky, too. Not being German, I don’t wanna watch that, either. Nobody will yammer for me to lose my job if say say something negative about golden showers, but saying something less that fully accepting about homosexuality can get you a quick trip to “sensitivity training”, or even the unemployment line. Our limits of acceptable opinion are being circumscribed by political correctness. The government doesn’t have to attack free speech. Our culture is doing that job just fine.

It also irks me how the media handles this. They go out of their way to highlight things that stir up controversy, then gleefully report on the controversy they intentionally ginned up, being sure to point out people who say the “wrong” things about it. Those people then have to make elaborate public apologies for saying something politically incorrect. Then they get suspended or fired. It’s getting pretty constant now. The Opie and Anthony radio show are doing a bit where they are trying to go ten days without one of these cycles of apology. So far, they haven’t made it for three days without resetting the clock.

The Framers of the Constitution were terrified the government would stifle free speech. Turns out, they should’ve been worried about the rest of us. Apparently, it’s not something we really want.


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Economic Statistics for 13 May 14

The NFIB small business optimism index rose a sharp 1.8 points to 95.2 in April. It’s the highest reading since since 2007.

ICSC-Goldman’s read on retail sales shows a weak -0.1 sales drop from last week, but a strong year-over-year 3.9% increase. Redbook’s weekly retail sales figure shows year-on-year strength, with a 4.2% sales increase.

The Census Bureau’s April retail sales report shows a soft 0.1% increase. Sales ex-autos were unchanged. sales ex-autos and -gas fell -0.1%.

April export prices fell -0.1%, and import prices fell -0.4%. On a year-over-year basis, export prices rose 0.1%, while import prices fell -0.3%.

Business inventories rose 0.4% in March, while a 1.0% rise in sales kept the inventory-to-sales ratio unchanged at 1.30.


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The “teenage” administration

When Barack Obama was running for the presidency, there were a number of people who warned he wasn’t ready for prime time – that he’d never really “done anything or run anything”.  That he had never demonstrated any penchant for leadership at any time in his life, nor had he ever had any executive experience.  That most of his adult life had been political campaigns for the next highest office – moving directly from one to the next with few if any accomplishments in-between.

Those people were shouted down by their “betters” claiming Mr. Obama was hip, wicked smart, charming, “with it”, confident and a master of social media.  He would change the dynamic in Washington, charm the world into doing his bidding and calm the rising seas etc., etc., etc.

Eliot Cohen, in a Wall Street Journal op/ed, says instead, we’ve got a bunch of people in the administration that basically and unsurprisingly act like teenagers:

Often, members of the Obama administration speak and, worse, think and act, like a bunch of teenagers. When officials roll their eyes at Vladimir Putin‘s seizure of Crimea with the line that this is “19th-century behavior,” the tone is not that different from a disdainful remark about a hairstyle being “so 1980s.” When administration members find themselves judged not on utopian aspirations or the purity of their motives—from offering “hope and change” to stopping global warming—but on their actual accomplishments, they turn sulky. As teenagers will, they throw a few taunts (the president last month said the GOP was offering economic policies that amount to a “stinkburger” or a “meanwich”) and stomp off, refusing to exchange a civil word with those of opposing views.

In a searing memoir published in January, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates describes with disdain the trash talk about the Bush administration that characterized meetings in the Obama White House. Like self-obsessed teenagers, the staffers and their superiors seemed to forget that there were other people in the room who might take offense, or merely see the world differently. Teenagers expect to be judged by intentions and promise instead of by accomplishment, and their style can be encouraged by irresponsible adults (see: the Nobel Prize committee) who give awards for perkiness and promise rather than achievement.

If the United States today looks weak, hesitant and in retreat, it is in part because its leaders and their staff do not carry themselves like adults. They may be charming, bright and attractive; they may have the best of intentions; but they do not look serious. They act as though Twitter and clenched teeth or a pout could stop invasions or rescue kidnapped children in Nigeria. They do not sound as if, when saying that some outrage is “unacceptable” or that a dictator “must go,” that they represent a government capable of doing something substantial—and, if necessary, violent—if its expectations are not met. And when reality, as it so often does, gets in the way—when, for example, the Syrian regime begins dousing its opponents with chlorine gas, as it has in recent weeks, despite solemn deals and red lines—the administration ignores it, hoping, as teenagers often do, that if they do not acknowledge a screw-up no one else will notice.

It is a pretty fair and devastating summary of an immature, selfie-taking, hashtag loving administration.  Intentions speak louder than action in their world.  They don’t take criticism well.  And they are about as petty as it comes when talking about their opposition. They demand respect for the man in office, but the man in office shows no respect to those whose views differ from him.

He is also given very little if any respect in the world because he’s really done nothing to earn it (and quite a bit to unearn any he had when he took office).  Hostile nations, knowing how thin skinned this administration is, openly taunt the President and his policies. They fear no reprisal from the US.  Iran recently declared victory over the US in Syria.  Russia – well Russia has simply decided the US isn’t a real threat as it plays out its expansionist intentions.   Even our allies have openly criticized the administration for their inept handling of foreign policy.

We live in a very dangerous world, one in which the predators are always looking for an opening (usually in the form of a power vacuum) of which they can take advantage.  This administration has provided no leadership whatsoever during its tenure and that power vacuum has developed during our unilateral withdrawal from our previously prominent position in the world.  And just like a bunch of teenagers, this administration is sure that it is the fault of everyone but themselves.

After all, their intentions were pure … or something.

~McQ

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So how are those sanctions against Russia going?

Ask France:

France will press ahead with a 1.2 billion-euro ($1.66 billion) contract to sell helicopter carriers to Russia because cancelling the deal would do more damage to Paris than to Moscow, French diplomatic sources said on Monday.

France has come under pressure from Washington and some European partners to reconsider its supply of high-tech military hardware to Moscow. It had said it would review the deal in October – but not before.

However, French diplomatic sources said on Monday the 2011 contract with Russia for two Mistral helicopter carriers, with an option for two more, would not be part of a third round of sanctions against Moscow.

“The Mistrals are not part of the third level of sanctions. They will be delivered. The contract has been paid and there would be financial penalties for not delivering it.

“It would be France that is penalized. It’s too easy to say France has to give up on the sale of the ships. We have done our part.”

And, we can’t have the sanctions hurt France, can we?

One of the attack helicopter carriers will be deployed in the Black Sea, where all the trouble began:

The first carrier, the Vladivostok, is due to be delivered by the last quarter of 2014. The second, named Sebastopol after the Crimean seaport, is supposed to be delivered by 2016.

How does France justify its intention to provide the ships?

“We are not delivering armed warships, but only the frame of the ship,” the source said.

That, of course, misses the entire point of sanctions. It is a punishment for wrong behavior. It is supposed to be a way one side teaches the other not to do what it has done. And the Western powers agreed that “strong sanctions” be imposed because of Russia’s unacceptable behavior. Now we see the exceptions being made – exceptions that Russia will, rightfully, view as weakness.

Additionally, that “frame” the French are dismissing as inconsequential will give Russia access to advanced technology. And these “frames” have quite a potent capability. The Mistral can carry up to 16 attack helicopters, such as Russia’s Kamov Ka-50/52; more than 40 tanks or 70 motor vehicles; and up to 700 soldiers.

As for leadership from the US insisting that the French not provide the Russians with advanced weaponry?

A French government source said at no point had the U.S. officially expressed any concern over the sale …

Another example of why “strong sanctions” is, in reality, an oxymoron, especially when the Western powers are concerned.

~McQ

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3/4 of ObamaCare enrollees? Previously insured …

Or so says a new McKinsey survey of the numbers:

One of the principal flaws in the coverage of Obamacare’s exchange enrollment numbers to date has been that the press has not made distinctions between those who have “signed up” for Obamacare-based plans, and those who have actually paid for those plans and thereby achieved enrollment in health insurance. A new survey from McKinsey indicates that a large majority of people signing up are now paying for their coverage. This is progress for the health law. But the survey still indicates that three-fourths of enrollees were previously insured.

Of course we’ve seen the propaganda push from the White House that has claimed the numbers (8 million enrolled) mean that the law is working.  As usual, the devil is in the details.  If the law was designed to provide coverage to those who were uninsured, 25% of the total enrolled fitting that description is hardly indicative of that claim’s efficacy.  And when you break down that 25% number, it’s even less indicative:

At most around 930,000 people have gained coverage from Obamacare’s under-26 “slacker mandate” (not 3 million, as is commonly suggested); another 3 million or so have gained coverage from the law’s expansion of Medicaid. Approximately 2.6 million previously uninsured individuals have obtained coverage through the ACA exchanges and the related off-exchange individual markets; however, the off-exchange purchases are mostly unsubsidized, and therefore can’t necessarily be credited to Obamacare.

Here’s a graphic that breaks the McKinsey survey’s results down into a more understandable form:

McK-enroll-Apr-2

In reality, what the law has essentially done rearranged the burden of payment among those enrolled while really not doing much at all in terms of reaching those for whom it was supposedly designed to help:

What the exchanges appear to be doing is mainly helping people who were previously insured. If you’re 62 years old, say, and your income is $30,000, and you were paying for your own coverage before, you’re now eligible for plans that are much cheaper for you, thanks to taxpayer-funded subsidies and higher premiums for young people.

Of course that means that other people are paying more. “My old plan was canceled under Obamacare,” an exasperated Californian told me last week. “The new Obamacare plan costs twice as much, and the deductibles are higher. And yet Obama is counting me as one of his 8 million people!” But hey—at least he has maternity coverage.

And I’m sure our Californian is eternally grateful for big brother deciding for him that maternity care was an absolute necessity for which he must pay.  But the point is the 8 million number remains very shaky (and that’s being kind) and it really doesn’t at all reflect what the White House would have you believe it reflects – that the law is working.

~McQ

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Health Insurance Tax – another governmental attack on small business

So a day or so ago, I talk about how regulation and government intrusion is helping to kill entrepreneurship and, as a result, small businesses. The same problem, as we all know, is also exacerbating the unemployment picture.  A prime example?  That odious law known as ObamaCare.

The US Chamber of Commerce blog has this chart for us to peruse. It is all about the recently implemented “Health Insurance Tax”, aka “HIT”: As this awful law continues to be implemented when it is politically convenient for the Democrats, we see even more disaster lurking for those who are employed and actually “like their insurance and like their doctor”.  But HIT is already taking a toll.

The National Federation of Independent Business’ Research Foundation estimates that the Health Insurance Tax (HIT) will result in a reduction in private sector employment of 152,000 to 286,000 jobs by 2023, with 57 percent of the job losses coming from small businesses. This will amount to a reduction of U.S. real output (sales) by between $20 billion to $33 billion during the same time frame.

Just what we need – another “hit” to employment and a “hit” to GDP. But it is clear the Democrats don’t really care about that.  As one of our low information commenters is want to say “a few eggs must be broken” to make an omelet … or something. Any inanity will do when it is clear that a law is a bust and a failure. As the Chamber of Commerce blog notes:

The HIT, which went into effect on January 1, 2014, levies a tax on health plans sold on the fully-insured market. Eighty-eight percent of it is made up of small businesses. Revenue from the tax will rise by 41% in 2015 and reach $14.3 billion in 2018.

“Small businesses are crucial to rebuilding an economy that allows all Americans to prosper,” Katie Mahoney, Executive Director of Health Policy at the U.S. Chamber said. “We need to work to find ways to ensure small businesses and their employees have the tools to build on their current success, not hinder future growth.”

You’d think what she says would be fairly common knowledge, but apparently the deluded administration that runs this country thinks we’re coming out of the economic malaise it has worked so hard to keep in place, and thus its time for another little shot to the head of small business.

With the HIT – mission accomplished.

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 8 May 14

Those chain stores that still report monthly sales showed exceptionally good April sales, helped by warmer weather and a late Easter.

Weekly initial jobless claims fell 26,000 to 319,000. The 4-week average rose 4,7540 to 324,750. Continuing claims fell 76,000 to 2.685 million.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index fell -0.8 points to 37.1 in the latest week.

The Fed’s balance sheet rose $7.1 billion last week, with total assets of $4.303 trillion. Total reserve bank credit rose by $5.6 billion.

The Fed reports that M2 money supply rose $51.2 billion in the latest week.


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Economic Statistics for 7 May 14

The MBA reports that mortgage applications rose 5.3% last week. Purchases rose 9.0% and re-fis 2.0%.

Gallup’s Job Creation Index rose 2 points to 25 in April.

Non-farm productivity fell a sharp -1.7% annualized in the 1st Quarter of 2014 while unit labor costs rose 4.2%. Weather distortions are being blamed. On a year-over-year basis, productivity is up 1.4%.

The JP Morgan Global Composite PMI fell -0.7 points to 52.8 in April. The Global Services PMI fell -0.8 points to 52.7.

Consumer credit expanded by a sharp $17.5 billion in March, but it’s mainly in non-revolving credit.


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