Free Markets, Free People

Monthly Archives: March 2012


Economic Statistics for 20 Mar 12

The following statistics were released today on the state of the US economy:

In retail sales, Redbook reports a strong 3.6% year-on-year same store sales increase for the latest week. ICSC-Goldman Store Sales show a strong 0.9% weekly sales increase, with the year-on-year rate rising to 3.3%.

Housing starts were weaker than expected in February, coming in at a 698,000 annual rate. Permits were higher than expected at 717,000 annualized.

~
Dale Franks
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Poll: Voters not particularly high on Obama’s performance in 3 key areas

As I’ve noted any number of times, there are polls which mean nothing (such as polls this far out comparing an incumbent president and GOP nominees) and there are those what present indicators or trends that give one insight into the prevailing mood of voters or the like.

The Hill produced one of the latter this past week.  Obviously a snapshot of the prevailing mood right now, it is not a poll with which the Obama campaign should be happy.

On Obamacare:

The poll indicated that 49 percent of likely voters said they expect a court ruling that is unfavorable to the Affordable Care Act, while just 29 percent think it will be upheld and 22 percent aren’t sure.

Economy:

On economic issues, 62 percent of voters say Obama’s policies will increase the debt, while 25 percent think they will cut it, and by a 48-percent-to-38-percent margin, voters believe those policies will increase joblessness rather than put people back to work.

Energy:

On energy, 58 percent say Obama’s policies will result in gasoline prices increasing, while just 20 percent expect them to cut prices — and by a 46-percent-to-36-percent margin, voters believe they will cause the United States to become even more dependent on foreign oil.

Now as far as I’m concerned, those are the three issues that are likely to (or should) dominate the election once a GOP nominee is decided on.  If they’re not, and the GOP allows the Democrats to frame the campaign on issues other than those, they stand a good chance of losing. 

Regardless of the outcome in the Supreme Court, ObamaCare remains very unpopular with a majority of the population.  The economy is one of those issues that is personal.  Despite media hype, voters judge the state of the economy on a personal level.  The “official unemployment number” can be made to look rosy, but in fact real people who are still unemployed or underemployed know who they are.  They are the real number and they’re not going to be happy with the state of the economy.

Finally, the energy tap-dance that the administration is doing is obviously failing.   Obama is failing miserably passing off the blame about gas prices if 58% are saying his “policies” are the problem.  True or not, perception is the rule.  Oh, and, frankly, it’s true.  See for yourself.

When you have consistent polls that say a vast majority of voters are unhappy with a president’s signature piece of legislation, that’s a place you focus your campaign.  When you have two important issues – the economy and energy – where significant majorities are down on the incumbent for his policies, you hammer that unmercifully.

This poll is an indicator of the issues the GOP should build its campaign around.  These points should be pushed relentlessly. 

Porn, contraception and other wedge issues should be avoided.   Sorry, but they’re net losers and true distractions.  They let the left frame the discussion and trust me, that’s where they’re going to take it every time.

Oh, as an aside, if you’re interested in what a useless poll looks like, check this one out.  Justices appointed to lifetime positions are hardly worried about “popularity”.  In fact, that’s the primary reason for such appointments.   While the poll may indicate public dissatisfaction with some rulings, it may also simply indicate a partisan divide.  But for the most part, it is irrelevant.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Biden–Osama Bin Laden raid the “most audacious plan” in 500 years

From the Vice President at a fundraiser in New Jersey, these quotes have come out of pool reports:

You can go back 500 years. You cannot find a more audacious plan. Never knowing for certain. We never had more than a 48 percent probability that he was there.

With all due respect to our SEAL brethren, I only had to go back a few decades to the Son Tay raid.  So I’ll write the VP’s remark off as the typical hubris and hyperbole of politics and the usual historic ignorance (see Rutherford B. Hayes) this crew displays fairly routinely(“D-day? No biggie”).  No real surprise there.

But, then this – and by the way, this is what all the hubris and hyperbole were leading up too:

Do any one of you have a doubt that if that raid failed that this guy would be a one-term president?

That’s right … politics.  This is an attempt to equate saying “yes” to the raid while sitting in a room in DC to the courage necessary to execute the raid.  That supposedly risking your political future is akin to actually risking your life in the raid.  This is an attempt to frame a decision that really wasn’t very tough at all into an agonizing, courageous and risky choice.

No-go.

Moving on:

This guy is willing to do the right thing and risk losing.

Two points.  “This guy” didn’t risk anything.  My guess is had the raid failed, we’d never have heard about it in terms of an attempt to get ‘bin Laden’.  In fact, we’d likely have only heard of it as an attempt to get a “high level” al Qaeda operative, if that.  And, there was no real decision to be made and most Americans know it.  The only bad choice he could have made was to not go after him, learn later he was there and have that information go public.

THEN he’d have been a one-term president.  THEN he would have actually risked something.

Oh and finally:

“Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive,” he said, according to the pool report. “Think about it.”

I have.  Trust me.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


The will to power, exemplified

Stanley Fish, writing in the New York Times today, offers a refreshingly honest view of "slutgate", moral equivalency, and double standards. It is, in fact, a bold statement of what we’ve always imagined the Progressive view is, though they have, in the past, been ever so careful not to admit it. It is, frankly, nice to see such honesty. As Mr. Fish explains:

Schultz and Maher are the good guys; they are on the side of truth and justice. Limbaugh is the bad guy; he is on the side of every nefarious force that threatens our democracy. Why should he get an even break?

There is no answer to that question once you step outside of the liberal calculus in which all persons, no matter what their moral status as you see it, are weighed in an equal balance. Rather than relaxing or soft-pedaling your convictions about what is right and wrong, stay with them, and treat people you see as morally different differently. Condemn Limbaugh and say that Schultz and Maher may have gone a bit too far but that they’re basically O.K. If you do that you will not be displaying a double standard; you will be affirming a single standard, and moreover it will be a moral one because you will be going with what you think is good rather than what you think is fair. “Fair” is a weak virtue; it is not even a virtue at all because it insists on a withdrawal from moral judgment.

I know the objections to what I have said here. It amounts to an apology for identity politics. It elevates tribal obligations over the universal obligations we owe to each other as citizens. It licenses differential and discriminatory treatment on the basis of contested points of view. It substitutes for the rule “don’t do it to them if you don’t want it done to you” the rule “be sure to do it to them first and more effectively.” It implies finally that might makes right. I can live with that.

There you have it. Conservatives are evil, progressives are good. It follows, therefore, that because progressives are good, then what they do in  combating conservatives is right.  Conservatives, being evil, deserve no respect and no attempts at courteous disagreement. They deserve nothing more than to be driven from the public sphere by any necessary means. Progressives are good, and if they commit what would otherwise be questionable acts, it is only the depravity of their political opponents that drives them to it.

Make no mistake: If the Stanley Fishes of this country could imprison you for holding contrary political beliefs, they’d do it in a second.  After all, you are "on the side of every nefarious force that threatens our democracy". This is, of course, justification for a tyranny of the very worst sort. As C.S. Lewis pointed out:

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.

Progressivism, for all its puffing about equality and justice, is nothing more than totalitarianism cloaked in modern, politically-correct pieties.

It’s nice to see a progressive honestly admit it.

The thing is, it is not possible to have a sustainable, self-governing polity when a substantial portion of the electorate denies the fundamental morality or legitimacy of their opponents. The ultimate outcome of such a belief in a society has historically been an inevitable slide to civil unrest, resulting in either totalitarian repression, civil war, or dissolution into competing states.

I am increasingly beginning to wonder which of those three outcomes is most likely in our case.

~
Dale Franks
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Quote of the day: Income inequality narrative killer edition

Mickey Kaus finds this from Tim Noah at The New Republic:

If you omit government redistribution from the calculations in the previous paragraph then four countries that previously were more equal in incomes than the U.S.—Portugal, Italy, Israel, and Germany—become less equal than the U.S.

Oh my.  And Kaus reacts with the qotd:

Wait. You mean that social-democratic, union-heavy, solidaristic Germany has worse income inequality, before taxes and transfers, than the cowboy capitalistic U.S., with its large underclass and out-of-control Wall Street greedheads? Don’t tell the narrative. …

Say it ain’t so!

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Economic Statistics for 19 Mar 12

The housing market index is the only statistic for the day. While the headline index is unchanged from last month’s 28, But the 6-month component is up to 36, more than double the reading of 17 back in September. On the other hand, any reading below 50 indicates recessionary conditions for the housing sector.  The trend is positive though, so there’s that.

~
Dale Franks
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The problem with “Progressivism”

Stanley Fish lays it out pretty well:

If we think about the Rush Limbaugh dust-up from the non-liberal — that is, non-formal — perspective, the similarity between what he did and what [Ed] Schultz and [Bill] Maher did disappears. Schultz and Maher are the good guys; they are on the side of truth and justice. Limbaugh is the bad guy; he is on the side of every nefarious force that threatens our democracy. Why should he get an even break?

There is no answer to that question once you step outside of the liberal calculus in which all persons, no matter what their moral status as you see it, are weighed in an equal balance. Rather than relaxing or soft-pedaling your convictions about what is right and wrong, stay with them, and treat people you see as morally different differently. Condemn Limbaugh and say that Schultz and Maher may have gone a bit too far but that they’re basically O.K. If you do that you will not be displaying a double standard; you will be affirming a single standard, and moreover it will be a moral one because you will be going with what you think is good rather than what you think is fair. “Fair” is a weak virtue; it is not even a virtue at all because it insists on a withdrawal from moral judgment.

I know the objections to what I have said here. It amounts to an apology for identity politics. It elevates tribal obligations over the universal obligations we owe to each other as citizens. It licenses differential and discriminatory treatment on the basis of contested points of view. It substitutes for the rule “don’t do it to them if you don’t want it done to you” the rule “be sure to do it to them first and more effectively.” It implies finally that might makes right. I can live with that.

Rand Simberg illustrates:

It should be shocking, by the conventional narrative, that the White House of a “liberal” president would be a hostile work environment for women, but it is not at all a surprise to anyone familiar with the history of the Democrats and the Left, going back at least to the 1960s, when a prominent Democrat politician got a pass from the media for abandoning a young woman (possibly pregnant by him) to drown in his car. The same man went on to later fame as the top slice of bread in a “waitress sandwich,” and yet was so lionized by the Left that not that long ago, at the time of his death, a woman(!) wrote that Mary Jo Kopechne might have been happy to undergo the terror as her lungs filled with the brackish water of Martha’s Vineyard had she only known what a great legislator he would turn out to be.

To see similar hypocritical Leftist misogyny, we need only go back to the last time a Democrat was in the White House. Whenever a woman came forward with allegations of inappropriate sexual conduct by Bill Clinton, the response of the Clinton defenders, both in and out of the media, was to attack her credibility, character, and virtue. Advisor James Carville famously said of Paula Jones (the young Arkansas state employee whom Clinton as governor had his state police guard procure to his hotel room for the purpose of orally pleasuring him), “Drag $100 bills through trailer parks, there’s no telling what you’ll find.” Evan Thomas of Newsweek dutifully complemented the slander by declaring her on national television “just some sleazy woman with big hair coming out of the trailer parks,” though he later was compelled to apologize in print. (One wonders how residents of trailer parks felt about that, but I guess empathy for them is for the little people.) When Kathleen Willey accused the president of groping her in the White House, and was physically threatened for her trouble, feminist icon and (former) scourge of sexual harassers Gloria Steinem said that it was no problem — he was entitled to a freebie, after which Cathy Young of Reason magazine reported on “the death of sexual harassment.”

It got worse.

And it has.  Just take a look at what Simberg said and then take a look at this so-called “war on women” the left has ginned up recently.

Jeff G. at Protein Wisdom explains:

Fish’s single standard, distilled and properly understood, is that liberals are (they’ll claim) morally superior by virtue of their very belief in their own political identities — which identity is tied to an ideology that, manifested politically, privileges governmental theft, sanctioned inequality as a function of tribal identity, and a giant foundational question beg: namely, that moral superiority comes from being on the left, so therefore being on the left means you can really do no fundamental moral wrong. Progressivism (that is, the leftist political home to philosophical anti-foundationalism), as Fish sees it, is the “non-formal” — that is, I suppose, situationally free-floating — antidote to restrictive “conservative” or classically liberal universalism*. That that restrictive conservative/classical liberal universalism is, as we know from the Declaration and Constitution, the foundation upon which this country was imagined and later framed, well, that’s irrelevant. Those documents are hoary totems, and their impulses Enlightenment fantasies. And we can “fundamentally transform” the country simply by denying it its institutionalized powers by force of will.

Or, progressivism (don’t let them continue to coopt the word “liberal”) leads to tyranny because it isn’t based in any moral principles but instead based in power.  Its goal isn’t a better or more moral world,  modern progressivism is based on doing whatever is necessary, by whatever means they can get away with,  to gather and wield power.  Progressivism uses the same tactics and means that every tyranny the world has ever seen used to gain control of the political system.

Victor David Hanson points out that the right has handcuffed itself (or allowed itself to be handcuffed) by the left:

Conservatives are put into awkward positions of critiquing liberal ideas on grounds that they are impractical, unworkable, or counterproductive. Yet rarely, at least outside the religious sphere, do they identify the progressive as often immoral. And the unfortunate result is that they have often ceded moral claims to supposedly dreamy, utopian, and well-meaning progressives, when in fact the latter increasingly have little moral ground to stand upon.

Morality isn’t just something based in religion.  Essentially “moral” means a concern with the principles of good and bad behavior as applied to everything.

What progressives have tried to do for decades is tie the word to religion even as they denigrated religion unmercifully (specifically Christianity). They’ve made “morality” a bad word, one that causes the public to shy away from those talking about it.   We’ve also been indoctrinated by them to believe that intolerance is one of the worst of secular sins (although they’d never use such language) and we have no right to be intolerant.  Well, unless we’re a progressive.

Add in moral equivalency (used whenever it is useful to the left) tied to their multicultural riff and their tendency to redefine key words to their own advantage, and the goals of progressivism start to become clear.

Back to Protein Wisdom:

To the progressive, your social and political worth — in fact, your very claim to morality — comes from your various identity politics alliances. That is, your morality is a function not so much of what you do, but rather of where you claim to stand, and with whom.

Progressivism cares not about fairness or equality in the sense those words are used under a political paradigm that adheres to classical liberalism; instead, it seeks to redefine “fairness” and “equality” (and “tolerance”) as based on the outcomes it desires, a deconstructive procedure it then justifies by tying those outcomes to its own self-serving descriptions of what comes to count as moral. It is circular reasoning made perfect. Might makes right. The ends justify the means.

The progressive movement is a tyrannical movement aimed at completely remaking America and taking it away from its foundational philosophy of individualism, equal rights and freedom.  Principles that work and made this the most prosperous and free nation on earth.

What the right and libertarians identify as “hypocrisy” on the left is simply what you see described above at work – a principle free attempt to take power by any means necessary.  There are no foundational principles at work for them in reality … anything is “OK” as long as it advances the cause.  Although they’ll claim they are driven by principles (but their “hypocritical” actions in the wake of those declarations always show them to be false principles), they’re essentially malleable talking points used to take in and gain the support of the gullible.  However, as Saul Alinsky taught them, they will use the other side’s principles against them at every opportunity (see the Rush Limbaugh kerfuffle).

What we had, what our founders created, what it stands for, is rejected by this bunch:

“Hopefully, more and more people will begin to feel their story is somehow part of this larger story of how we’re going to reshape America in a way that is less mean-spirited and more generous,” Obama said.

This is the real problem we face in America.  Jeff G. calls it “un-American”.  In the strictest sense of the word and given the fact that it rejects everything our founders believed in – I agree.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Observations: The QandO Podcast for 18 Mar 12

This week, Michael, and Dale talk about the Dharun Ravi conviction and President Obama.

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.


Quote of the day: Rutherford B. Hayes edition

President Obama fumbled a historical anecdote about as completely as one can when he tried to tie our 19th president to backward thinking.

Mark Steyn, as is does so well, looks at the real backward thinking one of the two:

But obviously Rutherford B. Hayes isn’t as “forward-looking” as a 21st-century president who believes in Jimmy Carter malaise, 1970s Eurostatist industrial policy, 1940s British health-care reforms, 1930s New Deal–sized entitlements premised on mid-20th-century birth rates and life expectancy, and all paid for by a budget with more zeroes than anybody’s seen since the Weimar Republic. If that’s not a shoo-in for Mount Rushmore, I don’t know what is.

Sign him up.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


What reporters do … or at least continue to pretend to do

I was reading TIME’s “Battleland” blog about the Sergeant that allegedly killed 16 Afghan civilians, including women and children.

The reporter/blogger wrote this before the Sergeant had been identified to the press and the reporter produced a long list of extenuating and mitigating circumstances that might work in the favor of the then unnamed Sergeant.   All of them, says the reporter were from his defense attorney, or strong rumor or innuendo or, in some cases fact:

– He was suffering from marital strife.

– He was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder

– He was suffering from a traumatic brain injury he got in Iraq in 2010.

– The Army inadequately tested him and permitted his redeployment despite those conditions.

– He’d been promised he wouldn’t have to go back to war after his third tour in Iraq.

– He was ordered to Afghanistan overnight for his fourth tour in December.

– He saw a buddy’s leg blow off hours before the massacre.

– He got drunk before leaving his southern Afghanistan post at 3 a.m. to kill 16 men, women and children.

The reporter then says:

Army mental-health and legal officials aren’t surprised by the expanding roster. That’s what defense attorneys do. And – to avoid the death penalty, which Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has said is possible in this case – proving only one of these extenuating conditions may be sufficient to keep him alive at Fort Leavenworth, albeit for life.

I don’t disagree.   That’s what defense attorneys do. 

However, speaking of trying to introduce extenuating and mitigating circumstances, you have to understand that the reporter is trying to excuse the press for reporting rumors and innuendo.

To do that, the reporter breaks out the BS flag and waves it from the top of Mt. Hood:

It’s also what reporters do, especially when the press lacks a name so they are unable to dig into the suspect’s childhood to see what role his parents, siblings, elementary-school teachers and fellow Boy Scouts may have played.

No it’s not.  Proof? Two words: Barack Obama

Tell me about his Harvard days, Mr. Reporter.  Or heck, his Columbia days.  ACORN days?  Community organizer days (and not just quotes from his book, thank you very much)?  Tell me about his association with Derrick Bell, Bill Ayres and Jeremiah Write and what effect they had on his life.  You dug into all of that, right?  Tell me about others with whom he associated throughout his life and the role they played in his life.   Got a clue?

Yeah … I know … never mind.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

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