Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Tales from the Nanny State

The first comes from our “hoist on their own petard” department:

A study from three sociologists based out of North Carolina State University charges that First Lady Michelle Obama’s campaign topromote healthy eating and decrease childhood obesity rates is classist and sexist in its implementation. This is because the model Obama advocates tends to put the onus of preparing healthy meals specifically on women, and also expects a level of disposable income, transportation options, and free time, which low-income families may lack.

The researchers interviewed 150 mothers and spent 250 hours observing 12 working-class and poor families as they shopped for food, cooked, and ate. They note:

In the fight to combat rising obesity rates, modern-day food gurus advocate a return to the kitchen. [...] First lady Michelle Obama has also been influential in popularizing public health messages that emphasize the role that mothers play when it comes to helping children make healthy choices. The message that good parents — and in particular, good mothers — cook for their families dovetails with increasingly intensive and unrealistic standards of “good” mothering. [Sage Journals]

The study concludes that, “this emerging standard is a tasty illusion, one that is moralistic, and rather elitist, instead of a realistic vision of cooking today.”

Yes that’s right, the Interferer in Chief’s campaign has been declared classist and sexist.  Of course if this were a right winger we were talking about all the lefty blogs would be blaring this in the headlines with a healthy dose of “I told you so” and “they just can’t seem to help it, can they” thrown in.

Irony.  You have to love it.  Its things like this that make my day go somewhat easier.

The second comes to us from Seattle, WA and is an example of what happens when people lose control of their government and that government decides to micro-manage every aspect of their lives with the intent of making sure they live it the way their betters decide they should live it:

The City of Seattle just passed a new trash ordinance that would fine residents and businesses for throwing away too much food.

The new rules would allow garbage collectors to inspect trash cans and ticket offending parties if food and compostable material makes up 10 percent or more of the trash.

The fines will begin at $1 for residents and $50 for businesses and apartment buildings, according to the Seattle Times.

So who will be the biggest offenders?  Well, most likely schools which use the Michelle Obama program – okay, I had to tie them together somehow.  No word, however, on how restaurants will fare under the law.

But think of it in a larger sense.  You buy the food.  It’s yours, your property.  You can prepare it however you like (within reason) and eat it if you care too or  … not.  What you throw away or decide not to keep is entirely up to you  — it’s YOUR property. It is none of anyone’s business.

On the other hand, you pay a fee or taxes to have your trash hauled away.  That’s their job.  Nothing more.  Haul your trash away. In steps government and arbitrarily decides that you’re throwing too much food away (goodness knows where that perception comes from) and the “there ought to be a law” folks step up.  They give those who pick up your trash the power to ticket you if they find you’ve thrown away too much food. Yeah, that’s right – the garbage police!

Most of the time these yahoos can’t even pick up the trash on time, and, of course they’re all math majors, so figuring out what percentage of your weekly trash pick up is over 10% should be a snap.  They have plenty of time, right?  I mean, good lord.

And if, in fact, people take this seriously, what do you suppose might happen? They’ll dump elsewhere.  If they’re smart they’ll find dumpsters outside the Seattle city hall and dump their food excess there.  Then the city can fine itself.

But it is another example of an unworkable law which will be arbitrarily imposed (if at all) and will see people attempting to circumvent it by means that I would guess will be less than sanitary and good for the city’s overall health.

Nannys.

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 25 Sep 14

Durable goods orders fell a sharp -18.2% in August, but ex-transportation orders rose a healthy 0.7%. On a year-over-year basis, new orders rose 8.9% overall, while ex-transportation orders rose 7.3%.

The Kansas City Fed Manufacturing Index rose 3 points to 6 in September.

The PMI Services Flash for September was unchanged at 58.5.

Initial weekly jobless claims rose 12,000 to 293,000. The 4-week average fell 1,000 to 298,500. Continuing claims rose 7,000 to 2.439 million.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index fell -1.8 points to 35.5 in the latest week, which is a 4-month low.

The Fed’s balance sheet rose $9.5 billion last week, with total assets of $4.459 trillion. Reserve bank credit rose $10.1 billion.

The Fed reports that M2 money supply rose by $7.4 billion in the latest week.


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Eric Holder was to “justice” what Barack Obama is to “leader” (update)

Good riddance to the worst Attorney General in living history.  In fact, I came to consider his department the “Department of Just Us” in which “justice” was a political tool to be wielded selectively and only when it helped those constituencies that comprised the “us”.  And, of course, that included selective enforcement of the laws.   Or said another way “rule of man” vs. “rule of law”.

The scandals such as Fast and Furious, were simply something to be expected from such a department.  How could it be otherwise?  They weren’t of the law, they considered themselves above the law.   I have nothing nice to say about Eric Holder except I’m glad this day has finally come.

The Justice Department has been horribly harmed by that man’s tenure at the helm.  Like America’s reputation in the world under Barack Obama, DOJ has a long climb back to respectability.

UPDATE:

Meanwhile the “us” faction has immediately gone into action:

The Rev. Al Sharpton said his civil rights organization, the National Action Network, is “engaged in immediate conversations” with the White House as they work to name a successor to Attorney General Eric Holder, who is set to announce his resignation Thursday afternoon.

“We are engaged in immediate conversations with the White House on deliberations over a successor whom we hope will continue in the general direction of Attorney General Holder,” Sharpton said in a statement.

~McQ

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Ideological redefinitions by the left

All my life, racism has been defined as you see it below.  It is a “belief” that your race is superior to other races based on nothing other than racial characteristics, such as skin color.

racism [ ˈrāˌsizəm ]

1. the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.

2. prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior.

Racism, then is displaying the “prejudice, discrimination or antagonism” to others of different races based on that “belief”.  Makes sense.  Simple. Direct to the point.  Racists think they’re superior to other races because of the color of their skin.

However, as such, the definition is unacceptable to the left.  For the left it fails in two particular areas.  It means that, based on this definition, anyone can be a racist which means, then,  it doesn’t allow them to identify and cultivate a victim class (or in this case, race) while excusing what they perceive as an oppressive race.   Useless.  The solution?  Move the goal posts.  Redefine the word so it has a more culturally useful meaning for the left.  Too many people were pointing out that the definition was something that correctly identified all races as susceptible to racism.  No good.

Enter academia.  What better place to make this happen than by pitching an ideologically biased new definition to those impressionable students who walked their hallowed halls?  Here, for instance, is how the University of Delaware defines racism:

A racist is one who is both privileged and socialized on the basis of race by a white supremacist (racist) system. The term applies to all white people (i.e., people of European descent) living in the United States, regardless of class, gender, religion, culture or sexuality.

Now the left has a useful definition. Now the oppressors are clearly identified as is the victim class.  This allows them to “capture” the victim classes into their entitlement schemes.  And, of course, when you load in the race baiters such as Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, a virtual cottage industry is created in which the discontent this sort of nonsense inspires is kept hot and fresh.  With this definition, all whites are racists, have been forever and will be forever if the left has anything to do with it.  This definition conveniently removes the expiration date from the definition and gives it a forever fresh date.  With the first definition, it is obvious that it depended on a “belief” – a belief which could be changed.  However with the second definition, that belief is relegated to irrelevancy and now, per the left,  racism is only based on the color of one’s skin.

Ironic, isn’t it?

~McQ

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The science is not settled

Dr. Steven Koonin is the director of the Center for Urban Science and Progress at New York University. Formerly, he was undersecretary for science in the Energy Department during President Barack Obama’s first term. So, not a guy you’d think would be a Koch-funded climate denier. Yet, he writes in the Wall Street Journal that the current state of climate science is not settled, despite what others may say.

After spending several paragraphs highlighting both our lack of scientific understanding of basic climate processes, and the unreliability of the different computer models and their predictions, he concludes:

These and many other open questions are in fact described in the IPCC research reports, although a detailed and knowledgeable reading is sometimes required to discern them. They are not “minor” issues to be “cleaned up” by further research. Rather, they are deficiencies that erode confidence in the computer projections. Work to resolve these shortcomings in climate models should be among the top priorities for climate research.

Yet a public official reading only the IPCC’s “Summary for Policy Makers” would gain little sense of the extent or implications of these deficiencies. These are fundamental challenges to our understanding of human impacts on the climate, and they should not be dismissed with the mantra that “climate science is settled.”

While the past two decades have seen progress in climate science, the field is not yet mature enough to usefully answer the difficult and important questions being asked of it. This decidedly unsettled state highlights what should be obvious: Understanding climate, at the level of detail relevant to human influences, is a very, very difficult problem.

This is not coming from some right-wing whack job. It is the sober assessment of the science from a former Obama Administration official. Claims that the “science is settled” are just that: claims. They are claims made to further a specific political agenda, not a realistic summation of what we actually know.

Yet we are told that massive government action is required—usually leavened with a generous dollop of socialism—to prevent disaster. A disaster, by the way, than cannot be confidently predicted. If that is so, the predictions of success for ameliorative actions cannot be confidently predicted either. Indeed, we cannot truly say that massive ameliorative actions are even needed.

“The science is settled,” therefore, is not a factual, scientific statement. It is a political one. It deserves no more respect than any other political assertion.


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Economic Statistics for 23 Sep 14

ICSC-Goldman reports weekly retail sales rose 0.1%, and rose 4.1% on a year-over-year basis. Redbook reports retail sales rose 3.7% on a year-ago basis.

The FHFA House Price Index rose a slight 0.1% in July. On a year-over-year basis, the index is up 4.4%.

The Markit PMI manufacturing index flash for September is unchanged from the August final reading of 57.9.

The Richmond Fed Manufacturing Index rose 2 point to 14 in September.


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Meanwhile in Africa

Ebola continues to ravage the western part of the continent:

Yet another set of ominous projections about the Ebola epidemic in West Africa was released Tuesday, in a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that gave worst- and best-case estimates for Liberia and Sierra Leone based on computer modeling.

In the worst-case scenario, Liberia and Sierra Leone could have 21,000 cases of Ebola by Sept. 30 and 1.4 million cases by Jan. 20 if the disease keeps spreading without effective methods to contain it. These figures take into account the fact that many cases go undetected, and estimate that there are actually 2.5 times as many as reported.

If that’s the case, then containment would seem all but impossible.

However, if it is able to be contained and everything goes to plan, there is a “best case” scenario:

In the best-case model — which assumes that the dead are buried safely and that 70 percent of patients are treated in settings that reduce the risk of transmission — the epidemic in both countries would be “almost ended” by Jan. 20, the report said. It showed the proportion of patients now in such settings as about 18 percent in Liberia and 40 percent in Sierra Leone.

Unfortunately, best case scenarios rarely if ever come to pass.  They assume too much goes well with “the plan”, communication, cooperation, behavior and many other human activities, and rule out people acting on misinformation and self-interest contrary to the “best case” scenario’s plan.  That’s not to say epidemic can’t eventually be contained … or burn itself out.  It’s to say betting on the “best case” scenario puts you at odds with human nature.

There’s another reason not to expect the “best case” scenario.  The agencies who are spouting all the stats really don’t know the actual extent of the outbreak:

The World Health Organization acknowledged weeks ago that despite its efforts to tally the thousands of cases in the region, the official statistics probably “vastly underestimate the magnitude of the outbreak.”

And:

The report does not include figures for Guinea because case counts there have gone up and down in ways that cannot be reliably modeled.

The point?  We’re going to hear a lot of happy talk about how the world’s effort is going to contain this outbreak and, at least for a while, they’re going to point toward the best case scenario as their goal.  And it is a worthy goal.  But you have to remember that as with many government or quasi-government bureaucracies, their worth is measured in how successful they are – or report they are.  It’s how they receive funds.  So the propensity is to “happy talk” and favorable stats.  And, as we’ve all learned with “climate change”, models can be monkeyed with.

As an example of why the best case scenario is unlikely, the plan for containment relies on “effective methods” to contain it – such as treatment centers  where patients go and allow the problem to be isolated.  But in reality, there aren’t enough beds to do that:

At least one aid group working in Liberia is already shifting its focus to teaching people about home care and providing materials to help. Ken Isaacs, a vice president of the aid group Samaritan’s Purse, said, “I believe inevitably this is going to move into people’s houses, and the notion of home-based care has to play a more prominent role.” He said there could be 100,000 or more cases by the end of 2014.

“Where are they going to go?” Mr. Isaacs asked. “It’s too late. Nobody’s going to build 100,000 beds.”

He’s right. And so isolation, a key portion of “the plan”, is put in severe jeopardy.

Key take away?  Beware of all the happy talk.  This isn’t a time for propaganda and misleading stats.  But we are dealing with bureaucracies, spokespersons and the like.  This is a time for honest, above-board information so the public can stay informed about something that could threaten their lives.

Let’s see what we actually get.

~McQ

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