Free Markets, Free People

Monthly Archives: November 2011


Public opposes further defense cuts which may jeopardize national security

As the Supercommittee’s deadline quickly approaches and their ability to reach an agreement diminishes, a new Battleground poll reveals the public’s strong opposition to more defense cuts.  Already under the gun to make $450 billion in cuts, the failure of the Supercommittee to reach agreement would mean additional across the board cuts in all areas of the Department of Defense.

When asked for their opinion about further cuts, 82% were strongly or somewhat opposed to those cuts (59% strongly opposed).

There is, it appears, a dawning realization that we as a country are again about to put ourselves in serious trouble if we don’t maintain our military edge that has served us so well since WWII.

Recently, in a reply to an inquiry into the effects of the across the board cuts that will be mandated by a Supercommittee failure, Senators McCain and Graham asked Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta to detail them.   In his reply he noted some very disturbing results of further cuts.  The mandated cuts would amount to about an additional 20%.  According to Secretary Panetta, that sort of reduction would mean major weapons systems, designed to ensure our national security for decades to come, would have to be cut:

•         Reductions at this level would lead to:

          o         The smallest ground force since 1940.

          o         A fleet of fewer than 230 ships, the smallest level since 1915.

          o         The smallest tactical fighter force in the history of the Air Force.

All exceedingly dangerous developments.  All developments which would limit our ability to respond to a national security crisis and certainly effect our ability to deal with more than one.  Reducing our levels to those cited by Panetta would be extraordinarily short-sighted.

For instance, reducing our tactical Air Force to record levels puts one of our major force projection (along with the Navy) means in a position of not being able to fulfill that role.   Today the tactical airframes our pilots fly are decades old and worn out.   They’ve reached the end of their service life.  It is critical that the next generation of fighters continue to be developed and fielded.  In a letter to Rep. Randy Forbes, 7 retired Air Force generals of the Air Force Association outline the risk:

The Air Force now finds itself in a situation where another acquisition deferment will lead to the eventual cessation of key missions. Accordingly, while the recapitalization list is generally considered in terms of systems, it really comes down to a question of what capabilities the nation wants to preserve. Does the United States want to retain the capacity to engage in missions like stemming nuclear proliferation, managing the rise of near-peer competitors, and defending the homeland?

Leaders need to fully consider the ramifications of the decisions they make today as they seek to guide our nation through this difficult period. Just as our legacy fleet has enabled national policy objectives over the past several decades, our future investments will govern the options available to leaders into the 2030s and 2040s. Investing in capable systems will make the difference between success and failure in future wars and between life and death for those who answer the call to serve our nation. When viewed in those terms, failing to adequately invest in the Air Force would be the decision that proves "too expensive" for our nation.

Those two paragraphs outline the criticality of the need for continuing to fund the weapons systems of the future.   We may be able to get away with not doing so right now, but we guarantee that our options will be severely limited and our national security capabilities degraded significantly 20 to 30 years down the road if we do so today.

And there’s another reason to resist the temptation to make further cuts at DoD that is particularly significant at this time.  Professor Stephan Fuller of George Mason University testified before the House Armed Services Committee that the cancellation of weapons systems would have a profound negative effect on both the economy and unemployment such as:

– A loss of 1,006,315 jobs (124,428 direct, 881,887 indirect)

– Raise the unemployment rate by .6% (9% to 9.6%)

– Drop GDP growth by $86.46 billion (25% of the projected growth in 2013)

No one is arguing that DoD is or should be a jobs program.  But it is obvious the impact would be severe not only among DoD prime contractors but even more so downstream.  Ironically, one of the reasons our politicians justified their bailout of the auto industry was downstream job losses in a time of economic turmoil.  That turmoil still exists today.

If the cited poll is any indicator, the public has come to realize the dangerous waters we’re navigating with these possible cuts.   They’re realizing that what guarantees our peace is our strength and our strength is maintained by keeping the technological edge over potential enemies and developing weapons systems to deploy that technology.  Without that ability to guarantee our national security, all the other things we treasure are jeopardized.  Additionally, our military demise will only encourage the bad actors in the world to increase activities which are detrimental to both peace and our national security.

While it is certainly a time to look for all legitimate means and methods to cut government spending, sequestration as demanded by the Supercommittee’s failure to reach agreement isn’t one of them.  Mindless cuts into that which guarantees our safety today and in the future will come back to haunt us if we allow them.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Economic Statistics for 15 Nov 11

Today’s economic statistical releases:

A decline in energy prices resulted in a -0.3% drop in producer prices, with the core rate, which excludes food and energy, remaining unchanged last month. On a year-over-year basis, producer prices have risen 6.1%, with the core rate rising 2.8%.

Retail sales activity continued to increase in October, rising 0.5% overall, and 0.3% excluding auto sales.

The Empire State Manufacturing Survey edged back into positive territory for the first time since May, rising from -8.48 to 0.61. The six-month outlook is strengthening, with predictions of growth in new orders, which should, if it materializes, result in increased hiring as well.

Finally, in the two weekly retail sales reports, Redbook reports pre-Thanksgiving promotions helped boost store sales by 3.3%. ICSC-Goldman says sales rose 0.3% last week, up 3.21% from the year before.

~
Dale Franks
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SCOTUS takes on ObamaCare–Bigger than Roe v Wade?

ObamaCare, as mentioned in a previous post, gets its Constitutional review by the Supreme Court today.  CATO’s Ilya Shapiro lays out the agenda:

This morning, as expected, the Supreme Court agreed to take up Obamacare.  What was unexpected — and unprecedented in modern times — is that it set aside five-and-a-half hours for the argument.  Here are the issues the Court will decide:

  1. Whether Congress has the power to enact the individual mandate. – 2 hours
  2. Whether the challenge to the individual mandate is barred by the Anti-Injunction Act. – 1 hour
  3. Whether and to what extent the individual mandate, if unconstitutional, is severable from the rest of the Act. – 90 minutes
  4. Whether the new conditions on all federal Medicaid funding (expanding eligibility, greater coverage, etc.) constitute an unconstitutional coercion of the states. – 1 hour

Those are critical questions.  They tend to define in four points, how threatened our rights are by this awful legislation.  Forget what it is about, consider to what level it intrudes and what, if found Constitutional, it portends.

If found Constitutional, you can take the actual Constitution, the one that no fair reading gives an inkling of support to such nonsense as ObamaCare, and cut it up for toilet paper.  It will be, officially, dead.

A decision that supports those 4 points (or even some of them) means the end of federalism and the final establishment of an all powerful national government which can (and will) run your life just about any way it wishes.   If it has the power to enact a mandate such as that called for in ObamaCare, it can mandate just about anything it wishes.  And, if the new conditions on all federal Medicaid funding stand, the states have no grounds to resist or refuse other federal intrusion.

In any event, the Supreme Court has now set the stage for the most significant case since Roe v. Wade.  Indeed, this litigation implicates the future of the Republic as Roe never did.  On both the individual-mandate and Medicaid-coercion issues, the Court will decide whether the Constitution’s structure — federalism and enumeration of powers — is judicially enforceable or whether Congress is the sole judge of its own authority.  In other words, do we have a government of laws or men?

If you’re devoted to freedom and liberty and opposed to intrusive and coercive government, you know how you want this to come out.

And it isn’t to the advantage of ObamaCare.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Zuccotti Park cleared–enforcement of property rights? Or just the result of political pressure?

Mayor Michael Bloomberg finally made the decision to evict the OWS protesters from Zuccotti Park last night.  His decision, he claims, had to do with public health and safety.

Some time after 6 a.m., New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a written statement that while he supports the First Amendment rights of the protesters, his greater priority is protecting the public’s health and safety, and he took full responsibility for the “final decision to act.”

“Unfortunately, the park was becoming a place where people came not to protest but, rather, to break laws, and in some cases, to harm others,” Bloomberg said, noting that for some residents of the area, noise and unsanitary conditions of the Occupy camp had created “an intolerable situation.”

He added: “The First Amendment gives every New Yorker the right to speak out — but it does not give anyone the right to sleep in a park or otherwise take it over to the exclusion of others — nor does it permit anyone in our society to live outside the law. There is no ambiguity in the law here — the First Amendment protects speech — it does not protect the use of tents and sleeping bags to take over a public space.”

Well there is ambiguity (there’s also a right to peaceful assembly although it is arguable the assembly has been peaceful), but note the thing he doesn’t site – property rights.  Or at least not directly.  He sorta, kinda alludes to it when he talks about the “exclusion of others”.  That’s a privately owned park which has been literally taken over by the OWS group and its owners have been denied the ability to make decisions about its use.  Why not just say the occupiers (because that’s what they call themselves – perhaps squatters is a better description) have been declared trespassers and removed?  To easy?

One of the pernicious problems I see all the time when it comes to government officials is their selective enforcement of property rights.   It seems to me that once the exclusionary tactics were applied where those who owned the park were excluded from using it as they wish, they had every right in the world to demand the eviction of the protesters. 

I obviously don’t know what the company that holds those rights had to say because it seems they weren’t really even given a voice in that sort of decision.  On the other hand, had they decided that it was good use of their property and gone along with the OWS protesters, shouldn’t their decision about their property had some weight?

I guess what I’m getting at is that other than a mention here and there, no one knows much about the owners or their druthers.

I’m actually sympathetic with the city’s reasons for clearing the park.  I think Bloomberg is exactly right.  But my larger point is where are the property owners in all of this.  Why aren’t they an integral part of this process? 

Property rights have been under assault in this country for some time.   The abominable Kelo decision was the cherry on top of the sundae that has all but destroyed those rights.   More and more I see government deciding how private property will be used and only enforcing laws on trespassing and the like when it serves their purpose (in this case I imagine that the pressure from those who lived nearby finally got to the point that Bloomberg was forced to act).

The right to private property (and its exclusive use) is a foundational right from which many other rights spring.  Like so much in this country, government has moved in on that right and while giving it lip service has intruded to such an extent in its execution that it is arguable if the right can be exercised properly anymore.  When that right is subsumed, all of our rights are in jeopardy.

We’ll see how much they’re in jeopardy with the upcoming ObamaCare decision.  It will either give us a new lease on our rights or, it may end up being the final nail in their coffin.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Occupy Seattle: A funny thing happened on the way to the forum

Or how not to make friends and influence followers.  

In a textbook example of messing in their own nest, members of Occupy Seattle managed to alienate most of those who turned out to support them at a recent forum.  The story is written up in SLOG which is obviously supportive of the Occupy movement.  But what Dominic Holden describes is a combination of a childish tantrum and totalitarian tendencies by a group so clueless they can’t get out of their own way and so ignorant that they don’t understand what they purportedly support.

The forum:

Organized by Town Hall (and co-sponsored by The Stranger), the forum was intended to discuss the Occupy Wall Street movement, featuring three activists from Occupy Seattle and luminaries from labor, economics, and politics: Washington State Labor Council secretary-treasurer Lynne Dodson; Second Avenue Partners and progressive taxation activist Nick Hanauer; and GMMB political strategist Frank Greer. During opening remarks, JM Wong from Occupy Seattle declared that she wanted “no leadership from the Democratic Party or union bureaucrats. Nonprofits are trying to co-opt us."

Dodson, however, politely explained that labor unions are part and parcel with the Occupy movement’s push for economic reform. "I like to consider myself a union activist, not a union bureaucrat," she said. "This is labor’s fight, this is our fight."

Great … the Occupy movement on steroids.  6 folks there to discuss what’s going on with the movement to a pro-movement crowd, many of them there to find out more about it.  So what happened?

Whatever further insight the speakers planned for the 90-minute event was then cut short when the woman ran on stage. Activists had planned to interrupt the panel because, some said, they opposed the power dynamic created by speakers on stage talking into microphones. Although Occupy Wall Street uses the belabored people’s mic—which involves one person speaking and the crowd repeating everything—to amplify the soft spoken and encourage free speech, last night it was used to silence the panel. The call and-response created an echoing cacophony. Despite pleas from several older audience members who couldn’t hear well to let the panelists proceed, the Occupy activists demanded a vote to overtake the forum.

That’s right – they weren’t doing it the way that particular faction of the Occupy Seattle movement felt it should be done, so it was tantrum time.  The fact that this childish tantrum drove off pro-Occupy supporters?  Meh.  It’s all about the process man:

Assembly time is precious," the man yelled without a hint of irony. "Assembly time is precious!" we all yelled back, wasting precious time.

Then they insisted that everyone discuss the issue among their neighbors. If people opposed, they were drowned out by the people’s mic. So we talked about their proposal. One activist slept on the floor in front of the stage, spread eagle. The place reeked of BO. A man next to me worked through half a tin of chew. Eventually, we took another vote and activists demanded a count by hand.

It was 8:30 p.m. at this point, one hour after the event began, and we’d only heard opening statements. The forum was supposed to conclude by 9:00 p.m. "We have only a half hour left," Licata announced. "This is very interesting."

As the clock counted down, it was apparent that Occupy Seattle had repressed whatever thoughtful ideas the panelists brought to the stage and were willing to fill the time with chatter about unenlightening process. They wanted more power; they wanted to speak. They were also being rank hypocrites. Here is a group purporting to give people a voice and cut through the bureaucratic layers of government and capitalism. Instead, they silenced speech, quashed ideas, and replaced it with their own bureaucratic process reserved for a minority that wanted power. One gray-haired woman who was walking out put it like this: "It was very divisive. Now they are a little group, like the 1 Percent."

The activists lost the second vote, too. So the forum sort of proceeded, but now with occupiers booing speakers on stage when they disagreed and giving them the wrap-it-up hand gesture. For instance, Greer noted, "We learned in the civil rights movement and the anti-war movement, you can attract support or turn of support, and basically fail, and I don’t want you to fail." Despite his support, many activists booed and gestured that he stop talking.

Apparently some of them shouted out, “this is what democracy looks like”.

Really?  Shouting down those who oppose your point of view, drowning out people who tried to talk or respond?   That’s “democracy”?

That’s those totalitarian “we’ll do it my way or we won’t do it at all” tendencies coming to the surface.

Result?

Lots of people were leaving, angry—it was a stark contrast with stellar activism the week before.

Wong justified the interruption, saying, "We need to respect the movement that uses this process. I stick to it because it is a democratic process."

[…]

But the Occupy activists came off as disrespectful, hostile, and woefully misguided about what democracy looked like. The activists added zero new content, but in the process, prevented the speakers from sharing their knowledge (that’s some democracy). Let’s think if the tables were turned: These activists would be outraged if Town Hall set up a stack of speakers at the General Assembly and blasted them with an amplified panel discussion. It was equally selfish to destroy the panel with their People’s Mic.

On his way out the door, Brian King added, "They think it is more important to purify themselves rather than connect with people who are not like themselves. They probably can’t get much further than they are right now."

Process took precedence over respectful interaction and the cultivation of support.  Anarchy took precedence over deliberation and debate.

It reminded me of the insistence on process in totalitarian countries where they justify all manner of vile action based on “process”.   There was no democracy at work at this meeting, it was a minority attempting to use its own process as an excuse to take over the gathering.  And, of course, what they did was badly damage their potential support base:

"I walked in supportive and left unsupportive," said 69-year-old Mary Ann, who declined to provide her last name. "I’m turned off by the negative shouts, repetition, and all I can think about is a cult. And I believe in every one of their damn principles."

Paula and Brian King also headed for the door early. "It was frustrating to listen to people shouting and interrupting," lamented Paula. Brian added, "We are leaving because they are looking inward at themselves and their eccentric process rather than reaching out to people."

I’ve seen all this before, from the radical 60s, the commune movement, etc. This is nothing new.  It is the same old tired stuff in a new century and all it promises is an imposition of a failed ideology masked in words and phrases like “democracy” and “the will of the people”.  They are now defined – by them – as the “general assembly’s procedures” and “the 99%”.  Same crap, different buzz words, different century and a promise of the same outcome as with all the other times it has been imposed through out history.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Obama: Lazy America

Where has this man been?  Or perhaps the most salient question is what planet has he been hiding on?  This is what he said in Hawaii to a gathering of CEOs at APEC about why we’re apparently in the mess we’re in:

“We’ve been a little bit lazy over the last couple of decades. We’ve kind of taken for granted — ‘Well, people would want to come here’ — and we aren’t out there hungry, selling America and trying to attract new businesses into America.”

Yes friends, the blame-shifter-in-chief says it is we lazy Americans who’ve taken everything for granted these last few decades that are responsible for the economic downturn we are experiencing now.

Never mind the fact that this administration has openly warred on business.  Never mind we have the highest corporate taxes in the world.  Never mind that government intrusion and regulation have only gotten worse.   Never mind that government has actively sought to block businesses which could make a world of difference in both jobs and competitiveness.  For instance:

– blocking oil and gas exploration in the Gulf even after safety and spill prevention procedures were upgraded

– trying to keep one of our major manufacturers, Boeing, from opening a new plant (jobs) in one of our few major industries (aerospace) by attempting to block non-union labor from working in a right-to-work state.

– delaying the Keystone XL pipe line (again, thousands of high paying jobs) for political reasons (delayed until after the election).

Etc.   Not to mention the government policy and enforcement of that policy (Community Reinvestment Act) that led to the housing bubble and financial melt down.

It isn’t about a lazy America.  It’s about an over-reaching, intrusive government whose level of intrusion and market distortion have only gotten worse “over the last couple of decades”. 

And here’s a clue Mr. Obama – we lazy Americans didn’t run up a $14 trillion dollar debt.  You pandering politicians did.  And that debt load is also killing our competitiveness and has led to a downgrade of the country’s credit rating — on your watch.

Yeah, blame it on others, Mr. Obama  — but thinking Americans,  Americans who’ve actually run something and done something, know the score.  Hopefully they’ll put you in a new position in November of 2012, where your primary responsibility will be getting with your wife and picking out wallpaper for your presidential library.

Lazy. 

Where on earth has he been?

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Observations: The QandO Podcast for 13 Oct 11

In this podcast, Bruce Michael, and Dale discuss Obama’s “Americans are lazy” comment, the failing EU. and the presidential race.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2010, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.


Support our wounded warriors–support Cooking with the Troops

A bleg if you will.  Dale’s hit the program, but I wanted to make a real appeal to support a charity (a registered 501 (c) (3) charity) that is blog-grown.  It came out of the effort of two guys associated with Blackfive, Blake Power (who writes there as Laughing Wolf) and Bob Miller.  

Both wanted to do something for the wounded.  Bob used to go to on weekends and host cookouts for the wounded at Walter Reed.   Just something to lift their spirits and give them a little taste of home.  A chance to show them that we all care about them. 

Blake held an event at Landstuhl hospital in Germany on his way back from an embed in Iraq.  Again the same intention … to give our wounded a lift in spirit as well as mind.  To help them recover and to say, in a very small way, “thank you for your sacrifice”.

They found out each was doing this in different places and decided to join the effort.  From that grew Cooking with the Troops.

I’ve been to one of their events.  In fact the video you’ll see was mostly shot by me – and unfortunately you can tell (by the way, the young man in the serving line with the lime green t-shirt is my grandson Rhane).   The event was held a Brooke Army Medical Center’s Wounded Warrior Support Center.   We roasted 4 whole pigs and served over 300.  It was fabulous and awe inspiring to say the least.

I talked with one of the directors there who was so thankful for the event provided by CwtT.  As he and I were standing there surveying the crowd of wounded enjoying the meal, he said “you know, not one of these young people ever thought that at this point in their life they’d already be trying to develop Plan B”.

It struck me like a ton of bricks.  He’s right.  Their sacrifice meant that previous hopes and dreams were now either not attainable or put on hold indefinitely.  As you might imagine some adjust, adapt and overcome.  Others need more time to cope.  Breaks like what CwtT provides helps that process.

So if you can, please give.  The vid explains it about as well as it can be explained.  If you have a couple of bucks please hit the donate button on the left there.  Trust me – its for a very worthy cause.   If you’re a little short, hey been there done that.   When you have it drop a couple of bucks on them.  We’re running this online fundraiser through Thanksgiving.

And for those of you that do donate – thank you.  It’s a great way to celebrate Veteran’s day.


Cooking With the Troops

Cooking With the Troops is a 501(c)(3) charity that supports U.S. and Allied troops, their families, and caregivers worldwide. We’re helping them by taking part in their national sponsorship drive, which begins today. Among other things, I produced this video for them:

In brief, CWTT has four major programs to help our troops and their families.

Food Events provide a culinary change of pace — particularly for the wounded, injured, and ill — to help morale, and remind those taking part that their service and sacrifice is appreciated. Educational components are added where possible to add to the effectiveness of the events.

Culinary Career Transition helps those interested in culinary careers — particularly those that have to leave service because of their injuries — explore options and find the right career choice as well as the best investment of their educational benefits to reach that goal.

Homefront Support focuses on teaching how to do good food fast rather than fast food via fun events that cover food safety basics, cooking basics, nutrition, and more.

Frontline Support works to get the best possible culinary and nutritional care packages to the troops, and to make it possible for those at home to learn about life and nutrition at the front even as ways are found to do Food Events as close to the front as possible.

To do this, they need your help. Please click on the sponsorship banner on the sidebar to go to their donation page. Or simply click here.

~
Dale Franks
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It has come to this–China mocks West’s political system and economics

And, at the moment, rightfully so.  That’s not to say theirs is a superior system by any stretch.  Theirs just happens to be thriving at this moment in history.  But that doesn’t change the correctness of the basic kernel of their assessment:

In extensive talks with a series of Chinese leaders, an oft-cited point of criticism is the gridlock and “dysfunction” they see in Washington. They say fawning by U.S. political leaders seeking re-election has created an “entitlement culture” where the public has grown dependent on government largesse. Now, with the United States facing monumental economic and debt problems, the political system has been unable to curb generous entitlement programs or counter the economic downturn.

I really hate to say “I told you so”, because a) as Megan McArdle said yesterday it is “so … bleeding … obvious” and b) it really doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this was going to happen.  No, not China mocking us – they have their own economic problems ahead of them so I’m not particularly impressed with their mocking attitude.  The idea that running huge deficits, encouraging an entitlement culture, redistributing wealth and running up unpaid future welfare obligations was sustainable.

Heck, people like me and other authors on this blog have been saying that for years – decades even – that it was just a matter of time before it all collapsed like a wet paper box.  And we always get the hand wave from the so-called enlightened that we just don’t know what we’re talking about.

To them I say, “welcome to reality”.   Like gravity, the laws of economics will finally assert themselves.

And they have.

However, the performance of the Chinese economy in the global recession has had a beneficial effect for them among other nations.

China is now at a pinnacle of global leadership and influence as a result of its emergence as an economic superpower, even as the U.S. and other major industrial powers fell into disrepair as a result of the 2008 financial crisis, said Guo Zhenyuan, an analyst at the institute.

China gained the admiration of developing nations around the world with its ability to weather the crisis emanating from the U.S., even emerging from the downturn as the world’s main engine of growth, while its superior economic performance provoked jealousy in the U.S. and other developed nations, he said.

With that said, here’s what they’re now selling:

Mr. Chan said U.S. political leaders are so focused on short-term gains that they fail to make the painful long-term choices and changes in social programs needed to ensure the solvency of the government and vitality of the economy.

Chinese leaders, by contrast, lay out plans for the long term and systematically achieve them, producing unprecedented gains in living standards and a remarkable two decades of uninterrupted growth at nearly double-digit annual rates.

This proves that the Chinese system is better than the democratic system that the U.S. promotes around the world, Mr. Chan said.

And the dictators and totalitarians around the world take heart.  

Only because Western leaders, decades ago, perverted the true meaning of Western democracy and did exactly what the critique above says – began trading goodies for votes and created the social welfare state which was destined for failure.

Whether or not you agree that democracy is the problem is a rather moot point.  That’s what China is pitching and apparently there are eager listeners.  And we all know there are those out there who think they too can implement the Chinese model.    As Dr. Kissinger said they call it, “Socialism with Chinese characteristics”.   The rest of us call it totalitarianism, but like I said, in the face of the epic failure of Western Social Democracy and the rise of China, it’s a tough argument to fight at the moment.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO