Free Markets, Free People

Monthly Archives: July 2010


DNCC still whistling past the graveyard of Nov. election

The DNCC has issued a "what, me worry?" memo saying that it is just impossible for the GOP to take the House in November. Per the DNCC, it won’t happen. And here’s why:

Republicans will need to win 39 seats to take back the House. Democrats will win at least four Republican seats (the best opportunities include: LA-02, HI-01, IL-10, DE-AL, FL-25). As a result, the real number of seats Republicans will have to pick up to win a majority is at least 43. To win 43 seats, the NRCC would need to put 70 to 80 seats in play. The NRCC have simply not put that many Republicans seats in play and do not have the resources or caliber of candidates to do so.

As Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight asks, so if they put 69 (or 68 or 65?) seats in play, no chance of winning?

It’s nonsense on a stick, but regardless of how false their reasoning is, it’s a memo meant to bolster the moral of the troops facing a wicked election season in November. This is what many would call "whistling past the graveyard".

Point two in this ghastly bit of political miscalculation:

This cycle, there are only 20 Democratic open seats, including several that are in safe districts. If Republicans have a great election night, they would still only win 50 percent of the Democratic open seats. Conservatively, Republicans would then need to beat 35 Democratic incumbents to win the House – which is simply not possible given the Republicans resources deficit.

Did you notice the unfounded assumption? The GOP, even if everything goes perfectly for them, will only win "50 percent of the Democratic open seats". Of course that’s not at all clear at this point, but again, the specious reasoning in the memo isn’t meant to be correct, necessarily, as much as it is meant to calm fears.

And the DNC has decided that the Tea Party is the wild card on the GOP side and that actually works for them:

The Tea Party has presented three problems for Republicans. The most glaring problem is where the Tea Party candidate has defeated the moderate (and more electable) Republican candidate. Second, Republican candidates are being forced to take unpopular extreme positions to satisfy the ideological base to avoid defeat in their primaries. Third, we are seeing numerous Tea Party candidates run as third party candidates which is splitting the Republican vote…

Of those three points, only the last is valid.  And in the races where that occurs it may indeed have an effect.  As for the rest , moderate may not be the winning pick as the pendulum swings back the other way, and the positions the candidates are “forced” to take may only be seen as “extreme” and “unpopular” by Democrats, who aren’t going to vote for GOP candidates anyway.

This memo has Nancy Pelosi – who we all know is a math whiz – written all over it.  She took great exception to Robert Gibbs saying a week or so ago it was possible that the Democrats may lose the House in November.  This is her wacky reasoning to a tee.   As Nate Silver says, the memo is full of “arbitrary math”.  I’d add it is also full of false premises and conclusions.

But hey, if it calms the fears of the Democratic House members in jeopardy, I guess Pelosi, et. al. will be satisfied until Wednesday morning after the first Tuesday in November, that they’ve successfully slayed that dragon.

~McQ

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AZ immigration law – "preserving the status quo…"

A very interesting sentence in the judge’s injunction against the Arizona immigration law caught my eye yesterday. In her ruling, which voided much of the law, Judge Susan Bolton said:

“Preserving the status quo through a preliminary injunction is less harmful than allowing state laws that are likely pre-empted by federal law to be enforced,” she said.

Of course the real status quo is federal non-enforcement of immigration laws – thereby driving the state of Arizona and other states to take matters into their own hands.

That’s not the status quo Judge Bolton is talking about, but it is the reality of immigration enforcement in this country.

This obviously isn’t the end of the road for the law, but I’d guess it’s on life support as the appeals process goes forward. Bolton’s ruling is likely to reflect how the other levels of the federal judiciary will rule on the law.

I have to admit to being a bit surprised that she ruled against law enforcement checking immigration status while processing someone for a different reason and left intact the portion of the law making it a crime to stop a vehicle in traffic or block traffic to hire someone off the street. However she did block a provision that barred illegal immigrants from soliciting work in public places.

On the political side of things, AZ’s Democratic Attorney General, a possible candidate for governor, thinks he has a winner:

Terry Goddard, the Arizona attorney general who opposed the law and is a possible Democratic opponent to Ms. Brewer, was quick to condemn her for signing it. “Jan Brewer played politics with immigration, and she lost,” he said in a statement.

Brewer can only hope he keeps saying that until the election, because I’d guess – as much of a hot button as this is in AZ and because of the overwhelming support of the AZ voters – it’s really a loser for Goddard and the Democrats.

Even John McCain and Jon Kyle weighed in on the ruling:

“Instead of wasting taxpayer resources filing a lawsuit against Arizona and complaining that the law would be burdensome,” Mr. McCain said in a joint statement with Senator Jon Kyl, Republican of Arizona, “the Obama administration should have focused its efforts on working with Congress to provide the necessary resources to support the state in its efforts to act where the federal government has failed to take responsibility.”

But of course, the failure of the administration to take responsibility is the ‘status quo’, and it appears, unfortunately, that it will be “preserved”.

~McQ

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Dale’s Observations For 2010-07-28

The Fed's Beige Book report on economic activity disappoints investors, economists. http://bit.ly/a3he8L #RecoverySummer #

And yes, I said VAT. A national sales tax like the Fair Tax is a non-starter. No high rate sales tax has ever worked, anywhere in the world. #

The Chicago boys and Bruce Bartlett-finally!-have accepted my long-held position of scrapping the income tax for a VAT. http://bit.ly/bcFfIx #

Panasonic Launching 'World's First' Consumer 3D Camcorder, which can shoot in 3D or HD. http://bit.ly/be08Gu #

Durable-goods orders fell by 1.0% in June to a seasonally adjusted $190.5 billion. http://bit.ly/cHAZ8h #RecoverySummer #

What Would Happen if the Bush Tax Cuts Expire? http://bit.ly/bxe76e #

U.S. cities and counties will have to cut hundreds of thousands of jobs. http://bit.ly/9jU2ZE | They say that like its a bad thing. #

Once again, Massachusetts does its bit to ignore the bits of the Constitution liberals don't like. http://bit.ly/bwRN3a #


Why "science" has a problem

It’s a fairly obvious reason that Kenneth P. Green and Hiwa Alaghebandian, writing in the Journal of the American Enterprise Institute, point to as the problem – in some areas, science and scientists have gone from being neutral observers of facts and purveyors of information developed through the scientific method to attempting to assume an authoritarian and activist role in our lives. Not all of science, obviously, but certainly a visible and loud minority. And that causes problems for all of science:

In the past, scientists were generally neutral on questions of what to do. Instead, they just told people what they found, such as “we have discovered that smoking vastly increases your risk of lung cancer” or “we have discovered that some people will have adverse health effects from consuming high levels of salt.” Or “we have found that obesity increases your risk of coronary heart disease.” Those were simply neutral observations that people could find empowering, useful, interesting, etc., but did not place demands on them. In fact, this kind of objectivity was the entire basis for trusting scientific claims.

But along the way, an assortment of publicity-seeking, and often socially activist, scientists stopped saying, “Here are our findings. Read it and believe.” Instead, activist scientists such as NASA’s James Hansen, heads of quasi-scientific governmental organizations such as the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, editors of major scientific journals, and heads of the various national scientific academies are more inclined to say, “Here are our findings, and those findings say that you must change your life in this way, that way, or the other way.”

The two authors took a look at phrases scientists have been quoted as using over the years in statements they’ve released or how the media has interpreted them.  And make no mistake – in many cases the media aided and abetted these activist scientists.

So here’s what they found:

[A]round the end of the 1980s, science (at least science reporting) took on a distinctly authoritarian tone. Whether because of funding availability or a desire by some senior academics for greater relevance, or just the spread of activism through the university, scientists stopped speaking objectively and started telling people what to do. And people don’t take well to that, particularly when they’re unable to evaluate the information that supposedly requires them to give up their SUV, their celebratory cigar, or their chicken nuggets.

In essence we had the confluence of “save the world” journalism meeting activist “save the world” scientists and the result was more agenda driven partisanship (and partnership) than objectivity.  Some scientists felt compelled to save us from ourselves and many journalists shared that desire.  The most obvious result of that has been the sham science of “global warming”.

The authors conclude by pointing out how science has, in some cases, become the “regulatory state’s” lap dog and what it has to do to redeem itself:

If science wants to redeem itself and regain its place with the public’s affection, scientists need to come out every time some politician says, “The science says we must…” and reply, “Science only tells us what is. It does not, and can never tell us what we should or must do.” If they say that often enough, and loudly enough, they might be able to reclaim the mantle of objectivity that they’ve given up over the last 40 years by letting themselves become the regulatory state’s ultimate appeal to authority.

They’re absolutely right – and, every time we see an activist scientist getting into the “what we must or should do” nonsense, we need to call him or her on it.  And we need to continue to be highly skeptical of the state’s appeal to science as the final authority when doing so is decidedly in the state’s favor.

~McQ

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Promises, promises, promises …

Randall Hoven, over at American Thinker, provides us with one of the most succinct and powerful posts I’ve seen is quite a while.

Remember this quote?

“If we do nothing to slow these skyrocketing costs, we will eventually be spending more on Medicare and Medicaid than every other government program combined.  Put simply, our health care problem is our deficit problem.President Obama, September 2009.

That was the “promise” that Obama made – pass health care reform and pass deficit reduction.  Except, as usual with this man, it appears the opposite is actually true.  And that is to be found in a CBO graph.

So the projection shown in the graph is that if we were to spend on those programs at the March 2010 baseline (as the law reads now) from now till 2020 we’d spend about 400 billion, but with the new and improved ObamaCare, that goes to over 600 billion?  Yup, real “deficit reduction” in that package, huh?

We’re also seeing the stirrings of a move from the left to dramatically and drastically cut military spending.  Already the war in Afghanistan has gone from the “good and necessary war” per Democrats to one they don’t want to fund anymore.  Apparently the military is the area of choice within which the Democrats want to “cut spending”.    Again, Hoven, looking at CBO numbers, provides some context to the debate:

Hoven’s Index for July 26, 2010

Medicare and Medicaid spending as percent of GDP:

1970:  0.7%

2007:  4.0%

2020:  5.9%

Defense spending as percent of GDP:

1970:  8.1%

2007:  3.9%

2020:  3.6%

Source:  CBO.

The bottom line is, of course, that ObamaCare is the biggest “deficit reduction” hoax foisted upon the citzenry of the US since the debate about income tax which claimed it would never rise above 2%. And, in fact, it is the rise of entitlement spending – not military spending – where our problem lies.

And for those of you who bought into the monstrosity of ObamaCare under the “deficit reduction” premise – shame on you. Why is it you demonstrate common sense when email scammers from Nigeria try to get your bank account number, but you fall right into the largest legislative scam in recent history based on vague and nonsensical promises that most 5th graders could see through?

Of course you’re most likely among the same people who bought into the hype surrounding this empty suit we now have as a president, so I shouldn’t be that suprised I suppose.

~McQ

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DISCLOSE act defeated … for now

But Chuck Schumer is promising a “flurry of votes” on the bill until it finally passes.  Republicans held solid on this attempt to get around the Supreme Court ruling that found the former campaign finance bill unconstitutional on 1st Amendment grounds.

Senate Democrats were only able to muster their 59 votes, which, of course has Ezra Klein and others calling for an end to the 60 vote Senate rule for cloture.

I say the act is defeated for now for a reason.  And that reason, as usual, is Olympia Snow (R-ME):

Olympia Snowe (Maine), whose vote was closely watched on the issue, said the bill wasn’t in a position yet where she could support it.

Key word is “yet”.  The promise in that word is Democrats can do something that will put her in a position to support it.

But back to Schumer.   He, of course, claims the “health” of our democracy rests on its passage.  Actually the health of our democracy rests on removing Senators like him from office, but here’s his statement:

"It’s the amount of money, not who you are, that is affected. And so we’ve seen a campaign of desperation, of full muscle, to try to do everything they can to stop this bill because they realize, as already in some campaigns we have seen, how this will fundamentally change the balance of American politics," he said. "It will make the average citizen feel more and more remote from his or her government. It will hurt the fabric of our democracy."

I would posit that the average citizen couldn’t feel more remote from the government than they do now, and this bill’s passage or non-passage has absolutely zero to do with that. 

In fact, the average citizen finds the more and more it hears from Senators like Chuck Schumer and sees them in action, the more that citizen realizes that they have little use for the Constitution – except to wrap themselves in it when it is politically expedient to do so – and will take every opportunity to attempt to insert government control where that document promised government wouldn’t be allowed.

It isn’t refusing to limit the 1st Amendment that’s damaging to the “fabric of our democracy”, it’s Senators and other lawmakers who attempt to do it that are the threat.

~McQ

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Dale’s Observations For 2010-07-27

Raising taxes in the middle of a recession is stupid. Both Hoover and FDR did it, with disastrous results. Cut spending, don't raise taxes. #

RT @MelissaTweets @ScottBrownMA: The blatantly partisan 'Disclosure' Bill was defeated. | Woot! #

RT @dmataconis @DavidCornDC @NewtGingrich: Odds of a Newt 2012 bid at 97%. | Odds of a Newt 2012 win at 0%. #

Heh. The new Harley-Davidson Street Glide will have an integrated stereo w/ 8gb iPod nano. Nothing says "outlaw biker" like an iPod nano. #

Victory announced their 2011 motorcycles. All of them will sport the big 106ci, 92+HP, V-Twin, and a newly designed 6-speed transmission. #

Harley-Davidson says it has 32 models of motorcycle this year. But it's really 4 models of motorcycle with 32 trim packages. #

Harley-Davidson introduces its 2011 models. http://is.gd/dMQc6 #

Obama: Reducing influence over elections should be non-partisan. Dems made it partisan by exempting unions. http://bit.ly/9feNSR #

Quarterly economic forecast takes a turn for the worse http://usat.me?39422252 #RecoverySummer #

Consumer confidence drops for second straight month, according to the Conference Board. http://usat.me?39442884 #RecoverySummer #

Victory's 2011 motorcycles will all have the 106ci Big Twin. 97HP and 116 ft-lbs or torque. Not bad at all for V-Twin cruiser. #


Why "me first" in the market is different from "me first" in entitlements

If you’re interested in reading one of the most mixed up pleas to get entitlement spending under control, I invite you to read Neel Kashkari’s (I love the last name though)op/ed in the Washington post.

His premise is that entitlements are breaking us.

Sold.

His assumptions, however, are all over the place and misrepresent the real problem.

He claims that it is a ubiquitous "me first" mentality that both drives the market and also drives entitlement. That self-interest drives the boat.

Yes, self-interest is always a motivator. But when it comes to the market and entitlements, "me first" mean entirely different things. In the market, "me first" means seeing what you want, earning what is necessary to get it and then obtaining it. Pricing and demand come from that – and jobs, expansion, etc. The point is, in the sense of the market it’s "me first because I’ve earned what is necessary to purchase it".

Not so when it comes to entitlements. In that case, "me first" means, "I want what someone else has earned because I (excuse goes here) and therefore I’m owed this".

That’s an entirely different concept of the market "me first". In the latter, money is taken from the earner (thereby limiting his ability to act on his "me first" priorities), the market is denied whatever percentage as it is taken by government, wends its costly way through the system, and ends up in the pocket of someone who has determined that the benefit of earning the equivalent through work is just not worth it.

Kashkari then tries the “fairness” argument:

Cutting entitlement spending requires us to think beyond what is in our own immediate self-interest. But it also runs against our sense of fairness: We have, after all, paid for entitlements for earlier generations. Is it now fair to cut my benefits? No, it isn’t. But if we don’t focus on our collective good, all of us will suffer.

Fairness has nothing to do with this. Is it fair when you take money from one person to give to another for whatever arbitrary reason? Of course not. So if we want to play the fairness game, the first stake holder on the "not fair" side of the game is the taxpayer who has his earning taken to subsidize someone’s entitlement benefit.

And, honestly, our "collective good" would be better served by getting government to hell out of the entitlement business (and there by reducing its size and the size of the chunk it takes out of our wallets) and getting back to what has made America both great and, despite Obama’s claims, exceptional.

… [B]ailing out the financial system went directly against our shared beliefs in free markets and fair play. While the vast majority of Americans did not cause the financial crisis, we all had to sacrifice to stop it. Such a cultural violation has angered people nationwide, which makes cutting entitlements more difficult because it will again betray our sense of fairness.

Here’s where he almost gets a clue, except he attributes it to “fairness” again.  Instead it was a revolt of the taxpayers, already enraged about the cost of government and the impact it had on their own choices, saw government suddenly expand that cost exponentially, head into areas it had never been before and indenture their grandchildren and great grandchildren to a tune of multi-thousands of dollars each.  It wasn’t about “fairness” it was about “get the hell out of my life and wallet”.  The Tea Party movement wasn’t formed because anyone was concerned with “fairness” – it was formed to cut taxes, reduce the size of government and demand government spend less.  And yes, if that means cutting entitlements, then by all means, do so.

Kashkari’s concludes with 3 steps to cut entitlements:

– Our economy needs to experience sustained growth, creating good jobs, so Americans feel economically secure. It is hard for anyone to think about long-term sacrifice when they are worried about how to pay their bills today.

– The emotional bruising inflicted by the financial crisis needs to heal. Along with the passage of time we need a renewed sense that people are succeeding and failing on their own merits.

– Our leaders need to make the case for cutting entitlement spending by tapping into our shared beliefs of sacrifice and self-reliance. They must be willing to risk their own political fortunes for the sake of our country.

Or to paraphrase myself from above, we need to get government back to basics and Americans back to a culture that made this nation great, rich and exceptional.  And that includes self-reliance, sacrifice and earning our own way in life.  It is the latter part of the equation that will solve the entitlement problem and something Kashkari doesn’t include.

~McQ

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Another Obama supporter finds “disappointment”

I think we could probably make this a regular feature on Q&O – this week’s Obama supporter who finds that he who was wrapped in all the hype of the presidential campaign was mostly an empty suit.

This week it is the editorial board of the Denver Post – who admits to endorsing Mr. Obama in 2008 because they thought his ideas for recovery from the financial crisis were better than McCain’s. 

But we also hoped he would restore the nation’s reputation with the rest of the world. But instead of being vilified, as we were under Bush, the United States is now suddenly bordering on being irrelevant.

So glad you noticed – a man with no executive experience and no foreign policy experience was somehow going to be an instant foreign policy success?  Those that supported Obama had to fool themselves into believing none of that was important.

They’re also discovering, in the world of foreign policy, that it is much better to be respected and feared than liked and irrelevant.   And, as the Post notes, we’re on the latter side of the equation with “liked” being a relative term.

Look, foreign policy and diplomacy takes place in a world of relative anarchy.  Big dog politics if you will.  If you’re the alpha male, other countries defer to your judgment, strategies and ideas.  If you refuse the role, someone will attempt to take it.  It isn’t a matter of our “decline” that’s caused this, but Obama’s refusal to lead.  The Denver Post is honest enough – now – to note that.

The Post lists the results of the Carteresque foreign policy of the last 18 months and, as you might expect, it’s not pretty.   And even while claiming that at least on the domestic front he’s “accomplished” something, they’re not particularly impressed with that either:

His health care plan, approved only after the type of backroom, sleazy deal-making he crusaded against during his campaign, does little to bring down exorbitant costs and could bankrupt states once higher Medicaid costs are passed down.

The $1 trillion stimulus provided only a blip of a recovery, while saddling the nation with an unsustainable debt load. And the federal government’s reach into business and the financial world, for better or worse, is now deeper than ever.

Welcome to finally beginning to figure out who this guy is and what he’s about.  Too bad it’s about 20 months to late.  You get what you vote for (or endorse) which is why it is so important to do a thorough job of vetting a candidate, something the media, to include the Denver Post, didn’t do.  And now we have an unqualified person in the Oval Office doing the only thing he knows to do – pushing an ideological agenda.  But, as is becoming apparent now, he’s not a leader.  That takes us back to another leaderless era in America that this presidency is coming very near to replicating:

There’s also been an intangible, yet inescapable, sense of unease in the country, reminiscent of our late- 1970s malaise. Faith in Obama’s "Yes we can" slogan has faded faster than the Obama-Biden stickers still clinging to bumpers.

Indeed.  The Post then wonders:

One media outlet asked last week: Can Obama get his groove back?

Someone tell me – other than campaigning, has he ever actually had a “groove” since he’s been in office?

The answer is an obvious “no”.  And it’s thanks to “media outlets” like the Denver Post that we’re in the middle of the presidency of an unqualified man who is doing possibly irreparable harm to this country.  They didn’t do the due diligence expected of the media but instead became cheerleaders.  Now suddenly, they’re concerned.  Excuse me if I answer that with a giant “I told you so” and dismiss their sudden angst as too little and, unfortunately, too freakin’ late.

~McQ

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Oliver Stone’s Take on History

Oliver Stone has long been known to have an…unorthodox view of history.  But in an Interview for the Times of London, he may have gone a bit too far.  Sadly, the original link is behind the Times’ firewall, but Stone, who’s working on a 10-part historical documentary for Showtime called “Secret History of America”, was a gold mine of quotes. It seems his documentary has a…refreshingly different interpretation of history.

For instance, why do Americans think about the Holocaust so much?

The Jewish domination of the media. There’s a major lobby in the United States. They are hard workers. They stay on top of every comment, the most powerful lobby in Washington. Israel has fucked up United States foreign policy for years.

Hmm.  Well, what about Herr Hitler, modern history’s bad guy?

“Hitler is an easy scapegoat throughout history and it’s been used cheaply.”
“We can’t judge people as only ‘bad’ or ‘good.’ ”
“[Hitler] is the product of a series of actions. It’s cause and effect. People in America don’t know the connection between WWI and WWII.”
“Hitler was a Frankenstein, (but) there was also a Dr Frankenstein.”
“German industrialists, the Americans and the British. He had a lot of support.”
“He’s the product of a series of actions. It’s cause and effect … People in America don’t know the connection between World War I and World War II.”
“We’re going to educate our minds and liberalize them and broaden them. We want to move beyond opinions … Go into the funding of the Nazi party. How many American corporations were involved, from GM through IBM. Hitler is just a man who could have easily been assassinated.”
“Hitler did far more damage to the Russians than the Jewish people, 25 or 30 [million killed].”

And, of course, we can’t leave out the Big Mustache, the Man of Steel himself, Josef Stalin:

Stalin has a complete other story. Not to paint him as a hero, but to tell a more factual representation. He fought the German war machine more than any person.

I think the best comment about this comes not from a political pundit, but from Tyler Durden:

It would be like if someone made a documentary about pandas, and it claimed that pandas invented movable type, were immortal, and could shoot fireballs from their paws. It’s that level of wrong.