Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Economic Statistics for 13 Feb 15

January export prices fell -2.0%, while import prices fell -2.8%, fueled mainly be falling oil prices, and stoking deflation fears. On a year-over-year basis, export prices are down -5.4% while import prices have declined -8.0%.

The University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment index fell -4.5 points to 93.6 in February.


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Lord save us … from ourselves

The world today sometimes amazes even me.  Politics today, however, doesn’t at all.  Pretty much everything that happens is a variation on a theme – and that theme is we’re served by the worst political class in our history (I’m talking generationally here, not just the last election).  And there seems to be no relief in sight.  We have a scam-artist in the White House now who has, in reality, never done anything of significance in his life up till now.  And now he’s significantly ruining this country.

And in the wings?  Hillary Clinton?  Good lord.  Or Jeb Bush?  Lord save me.  Or this – the darling of the Left, Elizabeth Warren:

Then there is the scandal-in-waiting concerning her sleazy scholarship while a law professor. She co-authored a highly-publicized study in 2005 that claimed that 54.5 percent of all bankruptcies have “a medical cause” and that 46.2 percent have a “major medical cause,” telling interviewers that those findings demonstrated the need for national health care. In fact, the proportion of bankruptcies caused by catastrophic medical losses is more like 2 percent. Her numbers were inflated by including “uncontrolled gambling,” “alcohol or drug addiction,” “death in family,” and “birth/addition of new family member” as “a medical cause.” In addition, spending as little as $1,000 in unreimbursed medical expenses over the course of two years — hardly unusual for a family — was enough to get a bankruptcy classified as “a major medical cause” even when the debtor himself or herself did not list illness or injury as a cause of the bankruptcy. A number of scholars have criticized the study as intentionally misleading.

Just what we need … another politician who uses corrupt studies to bolster her agenda driven objective.  They don’t call her Fauxahauntus only because she faked indian heritage to snag a gig at Harvard.  Another “professor”/Senator  who has never done anything or run anything being seriously touted for the top job?  [Is any journalist out there looking deeply into this?  No.  Oh, sorry, they’re all worried about Scott Walker not having a degree.]

Conclusion – it’s the electorate that needs a serious overhaul.  Same song, different verse – you’d think the last 6 years would have cured anyone from looking at a no-name junior senator who has never done anything of significance in her life, but not the Left.  Or the yellow dogs or the low information, government dependent voters that actually think government services are “free” and it’s the “greedy rich” who are the problem.

We’ve got a mess, the tipping point seems to have been reached and the only thing that might save us is if a statesmen or woman with leadership credentials steps forward.

Meh – we’re screwed.

~McQ

 

 

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Economic Statistics for 12 Feb 15

Initial weekly jobless claims rose 25,000 to 304,000. The 4-week average fell 3,000 to 289,750. Continuing claims fell 51,000 to 2.354 million.

Retail sales fell -0.8% overall in January, while sales less autos fell -0.8%, and sales less autos and gas rose 0.2%.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index fell -1.2 points to 44.3 in the latest week.

Business inventories rose only 0.1% in December, but business sales fell a very sharp -0.9%. The stock-to-sales ratio jumped to a troubling 1.33, the highest since July 2009.

The Fed’s balance sheet rose $1.4 billion last week, with total assets of $4.502 trillion. Reserve bank credit rose $0.9 billion.

The Fed reports that M2 money supply jumped by $71.6 billion in the latest week.


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Stuff and whatnot

The idiocy continues on all sorts of fronts.  A few things that caught my eye.  David Axlerod’s autobiography and his expectations:

“More than anything, this is what’s terrible about modern media and how these books roll out,” Axelrod says. “I was determined to write a book that wasn’t going to be characterized by some titillating nugget that had about a three-day half-life, but rather an entire story of my life and the conclusions that life has led me to. I wanted to write a book that people might want to read years from now and not just today’s publication because they wanted to find out who had been knifing who.”

A lovely sentiment. But Axelrod, who likes to think of himself as a real-world idealist, surely knew not to get his hopes up.

Oh balderdash.  Axelrod is about as calculating a political hack as one can find.  To assume he was so naive or stupid to believe his book would be treated any other way is irony on steroids.  The only thing interesting about the man at all are the political secrets he may reveal.  I got a good laugh out of his disappointment.

Under the sarcastic title of “wow, I’d have never guessed this … ” we find:

A shadowy Bermudan company that has funneled tens of millions of dollars to anti-fracking environmentalist groups in the United States is run by executives with deep ties to Russian oil interests and offshore money laundering schemes involving members of President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle.

Look, those guys learned how to successfully co-opt liberal left anti-war groups ages ago.  This is just the updated effort.  Why this would surprise anyone is a mystery to me.  And, of course, it’s the big names of the movement – Sierra Club, the Natural Resource Defense Council, Food and Water Watch, the League of Conservation Voters, and the Center for American Progress.  Bought and paid for … by evil oil.

Irony … it’s just lost on the left.

Under the title of “when bureaucrats get huffy”, things got a little testy in a Congressional hearing yesterday with the newest VA Secretary.  Apparently he’s not used to having his competence questioned:

The fracas started when Coffman criticized the VA for citing its effort to defend cost and time overruns at a Denver hospital projects as a major accomplishment.

“How is that a success?”

[Rep. Mike] Coffman [(R-Colo.)] asked. “You lost that case on every single point for the hospital in my district that is hundreds of millions of dollars over budget and years behind schedule.”

“I think that that’s just characteristic of your glossing over the extraordinary problems confronted by your department,” Coffman added. “This is a department mired in bureaucratic incompetence and corruption. And I gotta tell you, I think the public relations is great today, but there’s no substance.”

McDonald said he was offended by those remarks, and then dodged the question and tried to shift the blame to Coffman and others in Congress.

“Actually, I’ve been here six months,” McDonald said to Coffman. “You’ve been here longer than I have. If there’s a problem in Denver, I think you own it more than I do.”

Really … because Coffman has what to do with running the VA project in question?  After all the failure of the past 6 years, that’s just what you need, an egoistic, thin-skinned nincompoop at the head of the VA.  McDonald followed that little jewel up by showing he knew nothing about the person he was insulting:

… McDonald ended by barking at Coffman, “I’ve run a large company, sir. What have you done?”

Well, as it happens, Mike Coffman is a combat veteran who started his own company, and is the only member of Congress to have served in both Iraq wars.  And as it happens, Secretary McDonald is an ass, just like the head of the IRS, just like our Attorney General, just like … yes, it’s the culture and climate that has evolved within this administration and it all goes directly to the head of it all … our snarky, sarcastic and disrespectful president.

Btw, in my estimation, McDonald ended up looking like a fool, something he richly deserved.

Instead of hurling insults, McDonald should be interested in actually doing something useful.  Like his job:

The Department of Veterans Affairs’ vast health network — beset by a scandal last year over delayed care — has been listed as a high-risk federal program by congressional auditors for the first time.

The report by the watchdog Government Accountability Office, which is issued every two years, includes a broad indictment of the $55.5 billion VA program, one of the nation’s largest health care systems. USA TODAY obtained the VA section of the report, scheduled for release Wednesday.

And this goob, like most of the administration, is trying to lay off any blame.  It’s a perfect example of an ossified bureaucracy that is more than incompetent, it’s lethal.

Finally, for those of you who like strolling down the memory lane of climate alarmist predictions, there’s a website up dedicated to reminding us again how wrong they’ve all been:

A senior environmental official at the United Nations, Noel Brown, says entire nations could be wiped off the face of the earth by rising sea levels if global warming is not reversed by the year 2000.

San Jose Mercury News 30 Jun 1989

Ah, yes, the good old days.

~McQ

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Welcome to the club, Ace

Over at Ace of Spaces, Ace writes:

I have long argued against a third-party split and the Nightmare Option of simply conceding the country to the liberals for 20 disastrous years.

I am no longer confident in such arguments.

Lots of us passed that point years or even decades ago. We’ve been called all sorts of names. We’re told we’re immature and unreasonable because we don’t support people who are much closer allies to their Democratic colleagues than they will ever be to those of us who believe in limited government.

Every election cycle we get inundated with all the tactical reasons that we simply have to support whatever stuffed-shirt, big-government-friendly, Democrat-lite candidate who made it through a nomination process mostly controlled by moneyed corporate interests, using their campaign contributions and media influence.

The battle cry of the GOP loyalists is “But the Democrats are Worse (TM)”. I’ve been through this before, so no need to rehash why I think that battle cry is worse than useless.

The main thing I would ask the GOP loyalists at this point is this: exactly what would cause you to give up on the GOP?

Suppose the GOP does win the White House and keeps Congress in 2016. What do you expect from them? Write it down. Decide on the minimum you’re willing to accept to continue supporting this party that has screwed you nine ways from Sunday for two decades at least.

Ace has reached his breaking point. He’s tired of the “Small government on the campaign trail, big government as soon as they get off the plane in DC” shell game.

For those GOP loyalists still left: If you have not reached that breaking point yet, what will cause you to? And could you at least admit that those of us who gave up on the GOP have a point?

Billy
@thisispointless

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Economic Statistics for 11 Feb 15

The MBA reports that mortgage applications fell -9.0% last week, with purchases down -7.0% and refis down 10.0%.

The US Treasury reports that the January budget deficit was $-17.5 billion, which is 6.2% higher than a year ago. In January, receipts rose 8.7%, while spending rose 8.3%. For the US Government’s fiscal year so far, the total deficit now stands at $-194.2 billion vs. $-182.8 billion a year ago.


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Economic Statistics for 10 Feb 15

Redbook reports retail sales slowed substantially last week, to  2.1% on a year-ago basis, from last week’s 3.8%.

The NFIB Small Business Optimism Index fell from December’s very strong 100.4 to a respectable 97.9 in January.

Wholesale inventories rose 0.1% in December, while a -0.4% drop in sales pushed the stock-to-sales ratio up to 1.22, the highest since 2009.


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Vox: Pander-boys for Obama

Well, at least no green lipstick was involved this time but the Juicebox Mafia interview with Barack Obama amounted to the same quality of “journalism”.

Nick Gillespie has it:

Back in the days before the site launched, Vox’s founder Ezra Klein promised his site would let all of us plebeians “understand the news” in a better, richer way.

If Vox’s recent interview—er, “conversation”—with President Barack Obama by Klein and Matthew Yglesias is any indication, the tutorial being offered isn’t about explicating difficult or arcance topics so that even dummies (read: you and me, dear readers) can fake our way through a dinner party.

No, what Vox teaches is how to sit on the knee of power and divine what our rulers really mean to say and why it’s such a goddanged good and smart and sharp idea.

Good grief that was an awful interview by just about anyone’s standard.  Usually when you’re in the tank for someone and you’re conducting an interview, you at least try to hide it a bit.

Gillespie shares another take from Jack Shafer at POLITICO (and if that organization is smacking down Vox for the interview, you know it had to be so disgustingly obvious that even they had to comment):

See for yourself how little meat the hungry press corps was able to scrape from the bones of the Vox interview. CNN: “Obama ‘hopeful’ about partisanship, race relations”; Bloomberg: “Obama Says Wealth Accumulation Speaks to Need for Tax Shift”; National Journal: “In Vox Interview, Obama Sets Limits on What a President Can Accomplish”; Politico: “Barack Obama: Get rid of ‘routine use’ of legislative filibuster.”…

In the example of Klein and Yglesias, they’re less interested in interviewing Obama than they are in explaining his policies. Again and again, they serve him softball—no, make that Nerf ball—questions and then insert infographics and footnotes that help advance White House positions. Vox has lavished such spectacular production values on the video version of the Obama interview—swirling graphics and illustrations, background music (background music!?), aggressive editing, multiple camera angles—that the clips end up looking and sounding like extended commercials for the Obama-in-2016 campaign. I’ve seen subtler Scientology recruitment films.

The last line is classic – Scientology – more subtle than Vox (and more believable).

Meanwhile, Obama continues the perpetual campaign while dodging any interviews of significance.

~McQ

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“Global Warming” – one of the biggest scientific scandals of our time? (update)

That’s what Christopher Booker contends:

Of much more serious significance, however, is the way this wholesale manipulation of the official temperature record – for reasons GHCN and Giss have never plausibly explained – has become the real elephant in the room of the greatest and most costly scare the world has known. This really does begin to look like one of the greatest scientific scandals of all time.

The manipulation of data (a nice way of saying changing the numbers to fit the premise) is the scandal.

Proof?

Two weeks ago, under the headline “How we are being tricked by flawed data on global warming”, I wrote about Paul Homewood, who, on his Notalotofpeopleknowthat blog, had checked the published temperature graphs for three weather stations in Paraguay against the temperatures that had originally been recorded. In each instance, the actual trend of 60 years of data had been dramatically reversed, so that a cooling trend was changed to one that showed a marked warming.

This was only the latest of many examples of a practice long recognised by expert observers around the world – one that raises an ever larger question mark over the entire official surface-temperature record.

Yeah, yeah, say the alarmists.  Three whole weather stations.  Get real!

Okay:

Following my last article, Homewood checked a swathe of other South American weather stations around the original three. In each case he found the same suspicious one-way “adjustments”. First these were made by the US government’s Global Historical Climate Network (GHCN). They were then amplified by two of the main official surface records, the Goddard Institute for Space Studies (Giss) and the National Climate Data Center (NCDC), which use the warming trends to estimate temperatures across the vast regions of the Earth where no measurements are taken. Yet these are the very records on which scientists and politicians rely for their belief in “global warming”.

Homewood has now turned his attention to the weather stations across much of the Arctic, between Canada (51 degrees W) and the heart of Siberia (87 degrees E). Again, in nearly every case, the same one-way adjustments have been made, to show warming up to 1 degree C or more higher than was indicated by the data that was actually recorded. This has surprised no one more than Traust Jonsson, who was long in charge of climate research for the Iceland met office (and with whom Homewood has been in touch). Jonsson was amazed to see how the new version completely “disappears” Iceland’s “sea ice years” around 1970, when a period of extreme cooling almost devastated his country’s economy.

And, of course, if one needs more proof, they need only look at the predictions gone horribly wrong on all the computer simulations which were based on these unscientific and fully fudged numbers.  But you have to admire the audacity of those who will fudge numbers to match a “theory” when reality (ie Iceland) wasn’t anything like they pretend.  Garbage in, garbage out.

This is something the scientific community needs to confront and confront now – if it hopes to retain a shred of credibility and integrity.  This sort of agenda driven political manipulation is both unacceptable and unscientific.

Here’s Dave Barton disputing someone who contends Booker is wrong.  He puts a number to the difference:

Christopher Booker thinks NOAA is distorting global land temperature data to inflate reported global warming, and fan the flames of climate alarmism.

Dr. Kevin Cowtan contends Booker is wrong. Dr. Cowtan trusts that NOAA’s adjustments are justified and correct, and he also says they are too minor to be questionable. “Why would they do that?” he asks at the end of his video, meaning why would anyone commit fraud for an inconsequential difference in the result?

I don’t know with certainty whether or not NOAA’s adjustments are all justified and correct, but I found Dr. Cowtan’s argument unpersuasive, for two reasons.

The first reason is that he’s assuming that fraudulent intent is the only possible explanation for biased results, but it isn’t. If the results are biased to exaggerate warming, it could also be due to confirmation bias or other error, by people with the best of intentions.

However, Dr. Cowtan’s argument also depends on the adjustments being inconsequential, and they are not. I digitized the endpoints of one of Dr. Cowtan’s graphs using WebPlotDigitizerand found that his own analysis proves NOAA’s adjustments are far from inconsequential. By comparing the adjusted and unadjusted versions of Dr. Cowtan’s graphs of globally averaged land surface temperatures, I found that NOAA’s adjustments increased the reported warming by 35%.

35% is not inconsequential.

No.  35% is not “inconsequential”.

 

~McQ

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