Free Markets, Free People

Monthly Archives: October 2010

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Observations: The Qando Podcast for 31 Oct 10

In this podcast, Bruce, Michael, and Dale discuss Tuesday’s midterm elections.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

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“In a wave election, … you feel powerless. Everything I feel I know how to do, that I’m trained to do, I can’t do.”

The title comes from a quote by a pollster for the Democrats in this article. Most of the article is about the resignation that the GOP will take the House, with some Democratic strategists predicting as many as 70 Republican pickups.

I highlighted that quote because I think it indicates what is different about this election and what is wrong with most elections.

Democratic consultants, pollsters, and strategists have a tried-and-true playbook. It includes some of the following:

  • Raise a whole lot of money from people who have a vested interest in more government, and promise them to exert the power of government on their behalf.
  • Don’t make concrete promises on the campaign trail. Talk about generic “hope” and “change” and similar ideas, so that you can carry out your special interest policies in office without anyone overtly accusing you of lying.
  • Rely on various groups to get out the vote from reliably Democratic special interests. Depend on those proxies to push the rules to the edge, and maybe break them, but expect that any fallout will take place after the election and so far ahead of the next election that it will have faded from the news.
  • Demonize the GOP opposition. If they utter a single word about cutting government spending, accuse them of wanting old people to eat cat food, or whatever. Talk in a generic sense about how you are in favor of responsible government and you want to cut “fat” and “waste”. This reassures clueless moderates, and your leftist base has long since grown to understand that these are code words for cutting stuff leftists don’t like, such as the military, or doing nothing at all.
  • Depend on most of the media to help you demonize the opposition, carry water for your campaign, and studiously ignore anything that makes you look bad.
  • Have your special interest groups, especially unions, round up a bunch of relatively uninterested people to come to your rallies, frame them as making it look like you’re enormously popular, and depend on the media to use that to make you look so popular that you can’t be beaten.
  • This anonymous Democratic pollster is right. None of that is working. Thank goodness, because it’s time and past time for such tactics to fail.

    To be sure, Republicans sometimes dabble in the same tactics. They can’t depend on the media to carry water unless they are pretty lickspittle to the press and talk trash about other Republicans, but some of them do that. And generic promises and backroom special interest deals are a staple among professional politicians of all stripes. The interesting thing about this election to me is that some of those Republicans faced the same difficulties as the Democrats (an “adverse political climate“) and some are already gone from the field.

    This election is different because there is a contingent of voters that simply does not give the benefit of the doubt to either professional politicians or the media any longer. In fact, it’s worse than that. They assume what they’re hearing from those entities is distorted or dishonest. They assume the media has chosen sides. They assume that the professional politician cares more about his power and perqs than about governing responsibly.

    They have every reason to assume all of this, because it’s all true.

    I see two things that have made the difference this time around. First, the media trashed any remaining credibility they had in relentlessly pimping for Obama. They covered up every potentially damaging fact that came up about him, never challenged him on specific policies, and basically acted as though they would be happy to bear his child (even the men) if that could be made to happen. This level of obsequiousness was detectable even in people who don’t pay much attention to politics.

    Second, the failure of leftism, and the arrogance of leftism even in the face of its own failure, is more obvious than ever. Obama and his cronies have made no attempt to hide their contempt for the foundational principles of the country. They believe they know better than the common citizens what is best for the common citizens.

    That arrogance has been around for a while. There are Democrats who have been trying to nationalize healthcare since Medicare passed in the sixties.

    The difference is that now it’s on open display. Barney Frank can now be caught saying outright that he wants single payer, but it can’t pass right now, so Obamacare is the best progress they can make this time around. Multiply this by thousands as the words Democrats are used to telling the faithful (and expecting to be hidden from wider view by a complicit media) now get played on YouTube to millions of pi$$ed off voters.

    We have a generation of political consultants and strategists who have basically looked at voters as a large group of marks and suckers. With good reason, since tactics based on that attitude have worked to put odious, nasty leftists like Frank, Henry Waxman, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Pat Leahy, and many others in office for decades.

    My biggest hope based on this election is that our incompetent and corrupt ruling class has at last awoken a critical mass of voters who refuse to be marks and suckers. Who work relentlessly to expose the true arrogance and ineptitude of pro politicians, and the feckless bias of the media.

    We’ll have to wait until 2012 to see if that’s the case. But then, I’ve waited all my life to see that critical mass awaken, and I’d almost given up even trying to talk to people about the dangers we face from unbridled government. I can wait a while longer to see if I’ll be disappointed again.


    Defense: cut cost, not capability

    One of the eternal claims of the left is that there is much that can be cut from the defense budget. Shockingly they’re right. At least in a meta-sense. There isn’t a government bureaucracy anywhere in government that can’t comfortably be cut, despite claims to the contrary. Defense is no exception. Secretary Gates plan to cut 100 billion from the Defense budget is both necessary and laudable.

    But here’s the catch. Those cuts must address fat, not muscle. They must cut costs, not capability. We must address any cuts made carefully and in a way we ensure our future viability in a very dangerous world.

    We also need to understand that whether we like it or not, we have the dominant leadership role in the free world. Abdication of that role could have catastrophic results for our nation and our allies and, in fact, for freedom around the globe.

    Those are the facts.  And we need to understand that when the defense budget is addressed, a scalpel instead of a meat axe should be used. While it will be tempting to cut expensive programs as a means of achieving short term spending goals, their absence could, at some point in the future, lead to our defeat.

    Take the F35 program for an example. The F35, known as the Joint Strike Fighter, is a 5th generation fighter that will replace many of our present day 4th generation fighters, such as the F16, F15 Strike Eagle and A10 (all designed in the ‘60s and ‘70s).  It is an expensive airplane. But there are reasons why it is expensive and those reasons are sometimes hard to explain to those only focused on the bottom line. But the fact that our potential enemies, Russia and China, are busily developing versions of their own 5th gen fighters should tell us about what sort of priority a program like that should have. Scrap heap isn’t one of them.

    A fifth generation fighter is quite an upgrade from the 4th gen fighters we now have in that they include advanced stealth, exceptional agility and maneuverability, sensor/ information fusion, network-enabled operations and advanced sustainment.  And these result in far greater survivability, situational awareness, and effectiveness for war fighters, as well as improved readiness and lower support costs.

    The cost of the F35 appears higher than 4th gen fighters because the F35 comes as a package with all its mission equipment included on board – an important point that is rarely seen in discussions of cost. This puts the cost in line with current 4th Generation aircraft which do not carry their mission equipment in their price  (Targeting Pods, Jammer, EW System, Fuel Tanks, Infrared Search and Track and other systems). Currently that price is about $60 million a copy in 2010 dollars. And Lockheed Martin, the supplier, has transitioned to that fixed cost per copy 2 years early.

    Many would like to argue that austerity precludes paying for such programs. They claim we can do this on the cheap by modifying 4th gen fighters and extend their life.  But consider this –in combat configuration, the F-35 outperforms all advanced fourth-generation aircraft in top end speed, loiter, subsonic acceleration and radius. Additionally, it is comparable or better than the best fourth generation fighters in aerodynamic performance in all within-visual-range categories and the F-35 outperforms all fourth-generation aircraft in both the “Within Visual Range” and “Beyond Visual Range” air-to-air combat arenas.

    The  5th gen fighters of Russia and China will also out- perform today’s fighters. The question you have to ask is would you want your son or daughter in the cockpit of an upgraded 4th generation fighter facing that sort of threat? The obvious answer is no.

    Defense cuts must be made. That’s the reality of this era of austerity. But it doesn’t have to be a conflicting priority to fielding the best for our future national defense and security obligations. Intelligence and the future needs of the nation must be factored in to the cuts anticipated in the defense budget or we could put our military and our nation at a terrible disadvantage in coming years.

    ~McQ


    House seats still moving toward GOP

    Yesterday as I made my predictions, RealClear Politics was showing 123 safe Democrat seats and 163 safe Republican seats.

    Today, while checking, RCP had changed those numbers to 121/163.  That means 2 seats for the Dems have moved out of “safe” and into “likely”.

    Additionally 3 have moved from “likely” to “leans” Dem and 6 have moved from “leans” Dem to toss up (34 toss ups yesterday, 40 today).

    Not a good trend if you’re  a Democrat hoping for a miracle.

    RCP now has it +65 for the GOP.  I’ll stick with my +61.

    ~McQ


    AGW skeptics the moral equivalent of slavery defenders

    Mark Hemingway at the Washington Examiner brings this little goodie to our attention:

    The American public is still mired in doubt about the science and the economics of climate change, he said, but is ready for the kind of social shift that eventually brought success to the abolition movement of the 18th and 19th centuries.

    “Just as few people saw a moral problem with slavery in the 18th century, few people in the 21st century see a moral problem with the burning of fossil fuels,” Professor [Andrew] Hoffman [of the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business and School of Natural Resources] said. “Will people in 100 years look at us with the same incomprehension we feel toward 18th-century defenders of slavery?”

    So now skeptics of AGW are the moral equivalent of slavery defenders because they don’t agree that the science is there which supports the warmists view that man’s CO2 emissions are the driver of global climate change?   Really?

    If people might do anything during a 100 year retrospective it will be to look askance at the rhetoric this particular issue generated from one particular side.  My guess is they’ll look at Hoffman’s analogy and shake their head in wonder at the absurdity of his claim.

    I’m not sure what offends me more – Hoffman’s attempt to equate scientific skepticism with an immoral institution like slavery or his obvious ignorance of the fact that science is skepticism.

    Hoffman needs to also get out more – there is little if any “social shift” in the making concerning this nonsense.  The science is not settled (in fact it is badly discredited), there is no consensus and until there is much more solid evidence from the scientific community – not some divinity school drop out and failed presidential candidate – the public isn’t going to willingly sacrifice its economic well being on some incredibly expensive scheme concocted by warmists that most likely will have no effect whatsoever on the alleged problem.

    But, then, what do we slavers know.

    ~McQ


    House Math

    House math is decidedly more complex than Senate math if for no other reason than the number of House races.  All the seats are up for grabs every two years.

    At present, the mix is 255/178 Dems (with two vacant I believe).  However, when you look at the races, and consider “safe seats”, the mix goes to 123/163 GOP.  That’s right, the GOP holds a 40 seat advantage in the “safe seat” category.

    If we add “likely” for each of the parties, the mix becomes  148/176 GOP.  218 is the number needed for a majority.

    That brings us to the “leans” either Dem or GOP category.  Assuming all those in the “likely” category  go to the designated party, “leans” is the first category where things could go either way.  While it is likely that it will go to the party in which the polls “lean”, it isn’t certain.

    As it breaks down, there are 29 likely to go Dem and 48 likely to go GOP.  The difference is that of the 29 likely to go Dem, only 2 are seats presently held by Republicans.   However, on the other side, of the 48 seats leaning toward the GOP, 42 are seats presently held by Democrats – most of them Blue Dogs.

    Here’s where you have to decide how many on each side will actually go to the party to which the district now leans.  In my case it comes down to a SWAG (Scientific Wild Assed Guess).  I’m saying 70% on each side.  That’s pretty conservative given the way I see this election shaping up.  However that brings our mix to 179/222 GOP (and a majority in the House for the Republicans).

    That’s not even counting the 34 “toss up races”.  Of those 34 races, 32 involve incumbent Democrats while only 2 involve Republicans.   Again, going conservative, let’s say they split 50-50.   17 to each side.

    The final mix?

    196/239 GOP – a solid majority.  Not quite as robust as the existing Democratic majority now, but a huge swing.  And again, note that Republicans can win the majority in the House by winning 70% of the “lean GOP” races and without winning a single “toss up”.

    So – my prediction? 

    GOP picks up 61 seats.  That’s actually 6 more seats than I was figuring last week.

    ~McQ


    German austerity v. US profligacy – guess which one is working out best?

    While the US remains mired in recession (despite the claim its over) and the usual suspects are claiming we need to spend even more money we don’t have, Germany has managed a minor miracle. Eschewing a large stimulus package and instead opting for austerity and pro-business legislation, it has seen almost the opposite of US results:

    "Although October’s decline in unemployment turned out weaker than expected, the underlying trend in the German labor market clearly remains one of rapid improvement on the back of strong economic growth," said Aline Schuiling from ABN Amro.

    Data on Europe’s biggest economy over the past week has been bullish, signaling its unexpectedly strong recovery could hold up in the face of signs of fragility in the global economy.

    Consumer morale remains at its highest level since May 2008 going into November on expectations for a further rebound, a survey by GfK market research group showed on Tuesday.

    Business sentiment hit its highest level in 3-1/2 years in October and firms’ expectations also improved, a survey showed last week, and the corporate outlook continued to improve on Thursday.

    As I’ve pointed out in many other posts, this isn’t rocket science. People respond to incentives. People respond positively to positive incentives. That’s what is happening in Germany which has economically battled back first from the absorption of East Germany and now a deep recession to a position of prosperity and growing economic stability.

    Meanwhile here we’re about to go into QE2 all while popinjays like Paul Krugman encourage us to go more deeply in debt as a country because everyone knows that government spends money much more wisely and well than do individuals.

    ~McQ

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