Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Observations: The QandO Podcast for 23 Feb 14

This week, Michael, and Dale talk about the Ukraine, Free Speech, and guns.

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.

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Krauthammer takes the hammer to the myth of “settled science”

In a great column by Charles Krauthammer, he those who spout the “settled science” mantra their just due:

“The debate is settled,” asserted propagandist in chief Barack Obama in his latest State of the Union address. “Climate change is a fact.” Really? There is nothing more anti-scientific than the very idea that science is settled, static, impervious to challenge. Take a non-climate example. It was long assumed that mammograms help reduce breast cancer deaths. This fact was so settled that Obamacare requires every insurance plan to offer mammograms (for free, no less) or be subject to termination.

Now we learn from a massive randomized study — 90,000 women followed for 25 years — that mammograms may have no effect on breast cancer deaths. Indeed, one out of five of those diagnosed by mammogram receives unnecessary radiation, chemo or surgery.

So much for settledness. And climate is less well understood than breast cancer. If climate science is settled, why do its predictions keep changing? And how is it that the great physicist Freeman Dyson, who did some climate research in the late 1970s, thinks today’s climate-change Cassandras are hopelessly mistaken?

A fair and unanswered question to this point.  Instead alarmists offer excuses or twist science in such a way it is unrecognizable in order to justify their claims.  Krauthammer continues:

They deal with the fluid dynamics of the atmosphere and oceans, argues Dyson, ignoring the effect of biology, i.e., vegetation and topsoil. Further, their predictions rest on models they fall in love with: “You sit in front of a computer screen for 10 years and you start to think of your model as being real.” Not surprisingly, these models have been “consistently and spectacularly wrong” in their predictions, write atmospheric scientists Richard McNider and John Christy — and always, amazingly, in the same direction.

Settled? Even Britain’s national weather service concedes there’s been no change — delicately called a “pause” — in global temperature in 15 years. If even the raw data is recalcitrant, let alone the assumptions and underlying models, how settled is the science?

Precisely.  Climate change is happening because climate change always happens.  Climate isn’t a static thing.  But suddenly, using these wildly innaccurate and downright wrong models, “scientists” are trying to lay off the responsibility for that change on man.  Nothing new there.  The extreme left of environmentalism sees man as an intruder to be gotten rid of rather than a natural part of the world.  And they, for one, see this as an opportunity to work toward that goal.  The politicians, of course, see revenue.  It is a dangerous combination.

Krauthammer then covers the alarmists attempts to use weather events as harbingers of climate change.  But just like the temperatures these past 15 years, the data just doesn’t support their claims:

But even worse than the pretense of settledness is the cynical attribution of any politically convenient natural disaster to climate change, a clever term that allows you to attribute anything — warming and cooling, drought and flood — to man’s sinful carbon burning.

Accordingly, Obama ostentatiously visited drought-stricken California last Friday. Surprise! He blamed climate change. Here even the New York Times gagged, pointing out that far from being supported by the evidence, “the most recent computer projections suggest that as the world warms, California should get wetter, not drier, in the winter.”

How inconvenient. But we’ve been here before. Hurricane Sandy was made the poster child for the alleged increased frequency and strength of “extreme weather events” like hurricanes.

Nonsense. Sandy wasn’t even a hurricanewhen it hit the United States. Indeed, in all of 2012, only a single hurricane made U.S. landfall . And 2013 saw the fewest Atlantic hurricanes in 30 years. In fact, in the last half-century, one-third fewer major hurricanes have hit the United States than in the previous half-century.

Similarly tornadoes. Every time one hits, the climate-change commentary begins. Yet last year saw the fewest in a quarter-century. And the last 30 years — of presumed global warming — has seen a 30 percent decrease in extreme tornado activity (F3 and above) versus the previous 30 years.

Facts.  My goodness how to explain pure and simple facts that contradict the “settled science.” They can’t.

He concludes beautifully with a stake through the heart of “settled science” myth and calls it what it really is – whoring.  Science whoring and political whoring:

None of this is dispositive. It doesn’t settle the issue. But that’s the point. It mocks the very notion of settled science, which is nothing but a crude attempt to silence critics and delegitimize debate. As does the term “denier” — an echo of Holocaust denial, contemptibly suggesting the malevolent rejection of an established historical truth.

Climate-change proponents have made their cause a matter of fealty and faith. For folks who pretend to be brave carriers of the scientific ethic, there’s more than a tinge of religion in their jeremiads. If you whore after other gods, the Bible tells us, “the Lord’s wrath be kindled against you, and he shut up the heaven, that there be no rain, and that the land yield not her fruit” (Deuteronomy 11).

Sounds like California. Except that today there’s a new god, the Earth Mother. And a new set of sins — burning coal and driving a fully equipped F-150.

But whoring is whoring, and the gods must be appeased. So if California burns, you send your high priest (in carbon -belching Air Force One, but never mind) to the bone-dry land to offer up, on behalf of the repentant congregation, a $1 billion burnt offering called a “climate resilience fund.”

Ah, settled science in action.

Indeed.

UPDATE: Speaking of “settled science”, one of the biggest proponents of that mantra can’t even get short range forecasts right:

The Met Office’s ‘pitiful’ forecasts were under fire last night after it was revealed it told councils in November to expect ‘drier than usual’ conditions this winter. In the worst weather prediction since Michael Fish reassured the nation in October 1987 that there was no hurricane on the way, forecasters said the Somerset Levels – still under water after more than two months of flooding – and the rest of the West Country would be especially dry. Last night, it was confirmed the UK had instead suffered the wettest winter since records began.

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 20 Feb 14

The Consumer Price Index rose 0.1% in January. The "core" CPI, which excludes food and energy, also rose 0.1%. On a year-over-year basis, both the headline and core CPI rose 1.6%.

Initial jobless claims fell 3,000 to 336,000. The 4-week average rose 1,750 to 338,500, while continuing claims rose 37,000 to 2.981 million.

Markit Economics’ PMI Manufacturing Index Flash for February rose 3 points to 56.7.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index rose 0.1 points to -30.6 in the latest week.

The Philadelphia Fed Survey’s general conditions index was very negative, dropping to -6.3 in February from January’s 9.4.

The Conference Board’s index of leading indicators rose 0.3% in January.

The Fed’s balance sheet rose $29.8 billion last week, with total assets of $4.149 trillion. Reserve Bank credit increased $35.5 billion.

The Fed reports that M2 money supply rose by $41.3 billion in the latest week.


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Why the UAW lost in Chattanooga

Robert Samuelson offers his analysis:

On paper, unions can deliver three things: higher wages and fringe benefits; greater job security; and better working conditions, including protection against arbitrary or unlawful management practices. In the 1950s and ’60s, unions could win these gains. Now, greater competition has eroded their leverage. Workers weighing the reduced advantages of being unionized must also consider the possibility that high-priced, rigid union labor might one day cost them their jobs. In Chattanooga, this calculus went against the UAW.

And:

Private-sector unions lost their power to protect jobs and raise incomes. Unions were caught in a vise. If they pressed for higher wages and fringe benefits, they risked destroying jobs. Companies might lose sales to lower-cost rivals; or they might move to anti-union states or low-wage countries. Even protecting existing compensation levels became hard because — in extremis — companies might fail. On the other hand, if unions abandoned traditional bargaining goals, they might infuriate rank-and-file members and be accused of “selling out.”

I think, on those two points, he’s right.  But there’s a third point he doesn’t mention that I think is just as important.  VW chose Chattanooga when it had plenty of opportunities in union states to set up its plant.  When it chose Chattanooga, it chose an area whose citizens lived in a state that believed in a “right to work” without interference from unions.  It put its plant in an area with that sort of a culture, a culture that is essentially anti-union and without the pervasive union culture you find in union states.

Additionally, as Samuelson points out, companies over the years have learned what sort of practices they must use to keep unions out, especially in the South.  Consequently those sorts of business practices have gradually made unions much less necessary and has therefore badly eroded the leverage of unions.  Take that eroded leverage to a “right to work” state and the results are likely not something a union would like, as the UAW discovered. When workers do a cost/benefit analysis, unions mostly come out on the negative side of things.  And then, of course, there’s Detroit today:

A works council may be worth trying, but whatever its virtues, they were overshadowed by the UAW’s past. Hardly anyone doubts that high labor costs and obsolete work rules contributed mightily to the crackup of the Big Three. VW’s workers recoiled; they kept the status quo. For the UAW, success in one era sowed failure in the next.

Workers saw no advantage to an association with the UAW.  It was a smart move on their part, even as they worked for a decidedly union-friendly employer.

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Economic Statistics for 19 Feb 14

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.


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Unemployment the people’s main priority? So let’s hike the minimum wage …

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.

Wonderful.

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.

~McQ

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There is every reason to be skeptical of the science of “climate change” alarmists

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 ice?

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.

~McQ

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