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Free Markets, Free People

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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Economic Statistics for 6 Feb 15

The Labor Department reports that 257,000 net new jobs were created in January, while the unemployment rate rose 0.1% to 5.7%. In addition, December’s jobs gain was revised sharply upwards from 252,000 to 329,000. The labor force participation rate rose 0.2% to 62.9% as 1,051,000 workers returned to the labor force, which accounts also for the increase in the unemployment rate. Average hourly earnings rose 0.5%, while average weekly hours remained unchanged at 34.6 hours. The real rate of unemployment, based on the historical labor force participation rate of 66.2%, fell slightly to 10.35% from 10.56% in December.

Consumer credit rose $14.8 billion in December, helped by a big $5.8 billion jump in revolving credit.


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Don’t Fire Brian Williams!

I’ll assume that, if you made it to this website, you are at least somewhat familiar with the Brian Williams (growing?) fiasco, so I’m not going to provide a link. It’s all over the internet. Use your Google-fu. You have the power.

As this story continues to metastasize, more and more people will call for Williams’ head. Reportedly, Tom Brokaw is even doing so. But I say, let him stay.

Why? Well, it’s basically the same reasoning as the Basterds:

Lt. Aldo Raine: [to Wicki] Ask him what he is gonna do with his uniform when he gets home.
Pvt. Butz: [through an interperter] Not only do I intend to take off my uniform, I intend to burn it.
Lt. Aldo Raine: Nah, see, we don’t like that. We like our Nazis in uniform. That way we can spot ‘em just like that. We’re gonna give you a little something you cant take off.

Right now, Williams is tarred with the truth. That is, he’s a lying fabulist who represents legacy media and, apparently felt not a twinge of guilt about telling his tale for twelve years. Judging by his actions, Williams believed that his media buddies would back him up, even though at least some in his own organization had to know he was completely full of horse puckey. He wasn’t the only one on that helicopter after all. His crew that day new damned well they didn’t take any fire. And the NBC upper brass had to know it too. They’re all in this together.

So, I say, let him stay. Let him sit there in that chair, night after night, pretending to be the very embodiment of sober truth and empirical justice. Everyone knows who he really is. He can’t scrub that off now. After a dozen years of not just telling the same lie, but embellishing it further, the stain of that prevarication is indelible. Let him wear it, and be a true representative of the legacy media. I can’t think of a better or more apt standard bearer.

~MichaelW
Twitter: @mjwadeesq

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Economic Statistics for 5 Feb 15

Chain stores today are reporting mostly stronger rates of year-on-year sales growth in January vs December.

Challenger’s layoff count for January jumped to 53,041 from 32,640 in December. Troublingly, 40% of layoffs are in the energy sector.

Gallup’s US Payroll to Population rate fell -0.2% to 44.1%. Gallup estimates unemployment at 7.1%, and underemployment at 15.8%.

The U.S. trade deficit unexpectedly widened in December, from $-39.0 billion to $-46.6 billion as exports fell -1.1% and imports rose 2.2%.

Initial weekly jobless claims rose 11,000 to 278,000. The 4-week average fell 6,500 to 292,750. Continuing claims rose 6,000 to 2.400 million.

The initial estimate of non-farm productivity for the 4th Quarter of 2014 is for a decline of -1.8%, while unit labor costs increased 2.7%.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index fell -1.8 points to a still healthy 45.5 in the latest week.

The Fed’s balance sheet rose $0.3 billion last week, with total assets of $4.500 trillion. Reserve bank credit fell $-7.3 billion.

The Fed reports that M2 money supply rose by $67.5 billion in the latest week.


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6,500 in the week to 292,750

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Economic Statistics for 4 Feb 15

The MBA reports that mortgage applications rose 1.3% last week, with purchases down -2.0%, but refis up 3.0%.

ADP sees slowing job growth with a lower-than-expected 213,000 private payroll jobs added in January.

Gallup’s U.S. Job Creation Index rose 1 point to 28 for January. 

The Markit PMI services index for January rose 0.9 points to 54.2.

The ISM non-manufacturing index rose 0.5 points to 56.7 in January.

J.P. Morgan’s Global Composite PMI rose 0.5 points to 52.8, while the Global Services PMI rose 0.6 points to 52.9 in January.


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Media Manufacturing Controversy … Again

What else is new, right? In the last presidential election, it was the “War on Women”, with George Snuffleupagus firing the first volley with an oddball question about contraception. This time around, it’s a report from Chis Christie’s tour of the UK:

As he toured the United Kingdom on Monday, Chris Christie seemed to leave his tough guy persona back in the United States. The potential Republican 2016 presidential contender punted on questions about whether Americans should vaccinate their kids amid a 14-state outbreak of a disease which is staging a comeback after being largely eradicated by science.

“All I can say is we vaccinated ours,” Christie said, while touring a biomedical research facility in Cambridge, England, which makes vaccines.

The New Jersey governor added that “parents need to have some measure of choice in things as well, so that’s the balance that the government has to decide.”

Not exactly controversial unless you spin it the right way (which CNN does in the above article by accusing the New Jersey Governor of being uncharacteristically mealy-mouthed). And it would really help if you could get another potential candidate on the record saying something similar. Enter Rand Paul:

In a contentious interview today, Sen. Rand Paul said he’s heard of cases where vaccines lead to “mental disorders” and argued that parents should be the ones to choose whether they vaccinate their children, not the government. Paul is a former ophthalmologist.

“I’ve heard of many tragic cases of walking, talking normal children who wound up with profound mental disorders after vaccines,” Paul, R-Ky., said in an interview with CNBC anchor Kelly Evans.

“I’m not arguing vaccines are a bad idea. I think they’re a good thing, but I think the parents should have some input,” he added. “The state doesn’t own your children. Parents own the children and it is an issue of freedom.”

Again, not terribly controversial except for the “mental disorders” part. Which is what the media are now running with to paint all conservatives as “anti-vaxxers”:

NBC News – “Rand Paul: Vaccines Can Lead to ‘Mental Disorders'”
CNN – “Paul: Vaccines can cause ‘profound mental disorders'”
ABC News – “Rand Paul Says Vaccines Can Lead to ‘Mental Disorders'”
HuffPo – “Rand Paul: Children Got ‘Profound Mental Disorders’ After Receiving Vaccines”
Vox – “Rand Paul says he’s heard of vaccines leading to ‘profound mental disorders’ in children”
FactCheck.org – “Paul Repeats Baseless Vaccine Claims”

So on, and so on. The New York Times tackles it this way:

The politics of medicine, morality and free will have collided in an emotional debate over vaccines and the government’s place in requiring them, posing a challenge for Republicans who find themselves in the familiar but uncomfortable position of reconciling modern science with the skepticism of their core conservative voters.

[…]

The vaccination controversy is a twist on an old problem for the Republican Party: how to approach matters that have largely been settled among scientists but are not widely accepted by conservatives.

Suddenly, we’re all talking about vaccines and how those nasty, anti-science Republican weirdos are dangerous to society. Funny how that works. And of course, never let facts get in the way, such as Paul being correct about the mental disorders thing. Here’s his statement again:

I have heard of many tragic cases of walking, talking, normal children who wound up with profound mental disorders after vaccines.

Guess what? The CDC agrees with him (my emphasis):

MMR vaccine side-effects
(Measles, Mumps, and Rubella)
What are the risks from MMR vaccine?
A vaccine, like any medicine, is capable of causing serious problems, such as severe allergic reactions.
The risk of MMR vaccine causing serious harm, or death, is extremely small.
Getting MMR vaccine is much safer than getting measles, mumps or rubella.
Most people who get MMR vaccine do not have any serious problems with it.
Mild Problems
Fever (up to 1 person out of 6)
Mild rash (about 1 person out of 20)
Swelling of glands in the cheeks or neck (about 1 person out of 75)
If these problems occur, it is usually within 7-12 days after the shot. They occur less often after the second dose.
Moderate Problems
Seizure (jerking or staring) caused by fever (about 1 out of 3,000 doses)
Temporary pain and stiffness in the joints, mostly in teenage or adult women (up to 1 out of 4)
Temporary low platelet count, which can cause a bleeding disorder (about 1 out of 30,000 doses)
Severe Problems (Very Rare)
Serious allergic reaction (less than 1 out of a million doses)
Several other severe problems have been reported after a child gets MMR vaccine, including:
Deafness
Long-term seizures, coma, or lowered consciousness
Permanent brain damage

These are so rare that it is hard to tell whether they are caused by the vaccine.

While extremely rare, do long-term seizures, coma, lowered consciousness, or permanent brain damage count as “profound mental disorders”? I guess you make an argument that not all such cases do, but I would think permanent brain damage fits the bill.

Ironically enough, the FactCheck.org article actually highlights that Paul and the CDC are on the same page:

There have been some reports of “lowered consciousness” or permanent brain damage after a vaccine is given for diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (whooping cough) or measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR), but the CDC says that these are so rare that a cause-and-effect relationship cannot be determined.

Note that the CDC does not posit a causal connection, but then again neither does Paul. Indeed, he further clarified:

“I did not say vaccines caused disorders, just that they were temporally related — I did not allege causation. I support vaccines, I receive them myself and I had all of my children vaccinated,” Paul said in a statement. “In fact today, I received the booster shot for the vaccines I got when I went to Guatemala last year.”

Too late, since the media has its juicy soundbites already.

None of this is to say that GOP politicians don’t do this to themselves. Paul certainly didn’t have to even raise the specter of a potential causal link between vaccines and mental disorders. He should have known that, regardless of what the CDC and science says, most everyone was going to associate his comments with the debunked autism link. Even if there was a proven causal link, it’s so incredibly rare as to not be deserving of a mention. I get his thinking from a liberty perspective, but message delivery is vital and Paul failed at that.

The Chris Christie statements, on the other hand, don’t strike me as even slightly off, but clearly there was a theme building here amongst the media hivemind. The idea that the guy who insisted on quarantining the Ebola nurse is super interested in liberty does sound a sour note, and Christie probably should have led with the idea that routine vaccinations are safe and effective which is why everyone should get them. Seems like a rookie mistake for someone who’s been in the limelight for quite some time.

Not that it matters. The theme has been set, and the narrative will now run its course. Inconvenient facts such as who the anti-vaxxers really are, or what Democrats have had to say on the issue, will be glossed over or simply dismissed. And all vaccines will be treated the same so that if a GOP candidate balks at mandating, say, a flu vaccine, he or she will then be tarred as an anti-science, ant-vaxxer. Democrats and the Left will be fine with this since they have zero problems with government mandates. And thus the media has neatly cleaved the country it two wholly separate and unequal parts in order to drive the political wedge deeper.

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