Free Markets, Free People

Monthly Archives: October 2012


Why I don’t believe the polls

It’s rather simple really. And the Washington Post provides the answer today:

In the last three releases of the tracking poll conducted by The Washington Post and ABC News, Obama has trailed former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney among independent voters by between 16 and 20 percentage points.

That’s a striking reversal from 2008, when Obama won independent voters, who made up 29 percent of the electorate, by eight points over Sen. John McCain of Arizona.

And if Romney’s large margin among independents holds, it will be a break not just from 2008 but also from 2000 and 2004. In 2000, Texas Gov. George W. Bush won independents by 47 percent to 45 percent over Vice President Al Gore. Four years later, Bush and Sen. John F. Kerry of Massachusetts essentially split unaffiliated voters, according to exit polls — 48 percent for Bush to 49 percent for Kerry. (Independents made up 27 percent of the vote in 2000 and 26 percent in 2004.)

It is more than a “striking reversal”, it is an indicator of what other major demographics are demonstrating as well. A big shift away from Obama. So one of two things has to be true – the polls showing these big demographic shifts away from Obama are wrong, or the polls showing this to be a tight race with Obama slightly ahead or behind have to be wrong. They can’t both be right.

When you add in the “atmospherics”, it is hard to believe this is a tight race. The enthusiasm for Obama isn’t there (and certainly not at all like it was in 2008), apparently the major demographics aren’t there and finally, even in the polls that do show a close race, the trend continues to be up for Romney.

It still isn’t clear what demographic model the polls are using, but as I said in the podcast last night, if it is skewed with D+ anything, it is likely wrong.  If I had to guess I’d say a poll that isn’t skewing at least R+1 isn’t even in the same galaxy as this election.  The atmospherics, demographics and momentum, whether the left or MSM wants to admit it or not, are on the side of the GOP.  My guess is this doesn’t end up being a close election and that Democrats are not going to be happy with the outcome.

~McQ


Observations: The QandO Podcast for 28 Oct 12

This week, Bruce, Michael, and Dale talk about the upcoming election, Hurricane Sandy’s possible effect and the debacle in Benghazi.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

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Benghazi – OK, this is serious and it’s bad

Leon Panetta wants to dismiss all of this as “Monday morning quarterbacking”. I beg to differ.

Fox News has learned from sources who were on the ground in Benghazi that an urgent request from the CIA annex for military back-up during the attack on the U.S. consulate and subsequent attack several hours later was denied by U.S. officials — who also told the CIA operators twice to “stand down” rather than help the ambassador’s team when shots were heard at approximately 9:40 p.m. in Benghazi on Sept. 11.

If true, and there is a shred of evidence to support this, this is malfeasance of the worst type. You have an ambassador in danger in an unsecured location that is basically indefensible and is calling for help and those who could help are told to “stand down?”

Seriously?

Of course two of the former SEALs disregarded that order and went.

But according to Fox it wasn’t just the CIA Annex that was told to “stand down”. The CIA Annex then came under attack:

At that point, they called again for military support and help because they were taking fire at the CIA safe house, or annex. The request was denied. There were no communications problems at the annex, according those present at the compound. The team was in constant radio contact with their headquarters. In fact, at least one member of the team was on the roof of the annex manning a heavy machine gun when mortars were fired at the CIA compound.

The security officer had a laser on the target that was firing and repeatedly requested back-up support from a Spectre gunship, which is commonly used by U.S. Special Operations forces to provide support to Special Operations teams on the ground involved in intense firefights. The fighting at the CIA annex went on for more than four hours — enough time for any planes based in Sigonella Air base, just 480 miles away, to arrive. Fox News has also learned that two separate Tier One Special operations forces were told to wait, among them Delta Force operators.

So we have a 4 hour gun battle going on at an obviously sensitive installation, we have drones on site, F/A 18s an hour away, a C-130 Spectre gun ship about an hour and a half away and they’re denied support?

Yup:

A Special Operations team, or CIF which stands for Commanders in Extremis Force, operating in Central Europe had been moved to Sigonella, Italy, but they never told to deploy. In fact, a Pentagon official says there were never any requests to deploy assets from outside the country. A second force that specializes in counterterrorism rescues was on hand at Sigonella, according to senior military and intelligence sources. According to those sources, they could have flown to Benghazi in less than two hours. They were the same distance to Benghazi as those that were sent from Tripoli. Spectre gunships are commonly used by the Special Operations community to provide close air support.

According to sources on the ground during the attack, the special operator on the roof of the CIA annex had visual contact and a laser pointing at the Libyan mortar team that was targeting the CIA annex. The operators were calling in coordinates of where the Libyan forces were firing from.

Why?

Secretary Leon Panetta told reporters at the Pentagon on Thursday that there was not a clear enough picture of what was occurring on the ground in Benghazi to send help.

“There’s a lot of Monday morning quarterbacking going on here,” Panetta said Thursday. “But the basic principle here … is that you don’t deploy forces into harm’s way without knowing what’s going on.”

Let’s try this again … you had your people under attack, you had drones on site, you had a spec ops guy on the roof lasing the mortar team and Panetta claims they “didn’t know what was going on?”

That says a hell of a lot more about Panetta and Obama than anyone else.  Anyone worth their salt goes for over kill, not “wait and see” in a situation like that. Situations like this are why you have contingency plans and units designated as Quick Reaction Forces (QRF).  You can always recall your forces.  And, if you give even a stinking whit about force protection you go in and secure the area and personnel who were under attack anyway.

That should be SOP and, as you can tell, they had the forces available to do that.   Panetta is full of exactly what Obama accused Romney of.

This is a farce.  A deadly farce that was mishandled from the get go.

U.S. officials argue that there was a period of several hours when the fighting stopped before the mortars were fired at the annex, leading officials to believe the attack was over.

Anyone know what this is considered in the military?  A groundless assumption.  We don’t operate off groundless assumptions.  We react and do what is necessary based on reality and in order to secure our personnel and facilities.  And, what “U.S. officials” are arguing is a steaming pile of BS and anyone with an ounce of sense knows that.

And what did their utter and incomprehensible incompetence cause?  Death.  Death to OUR people, that’s what:

Tyrone Woods was later joined at the scene by fellow former Navy SEAL Glen Doherty, who was sent in from Tripoli as part of a Global Response Staff or GRS that provides security to CIA case officers and provides countersurveillance and surveillance protection. They were killed by a mortar shell at 4 a.m. Libyan time, nearly seven hours after the attack on the consulate began — a window that represented more than enough time for the U.S. military to send back-up from nearby bases in Europe, according to sources familiar with Special Operations. Four mortars were fired at the annex. The first one struck outside the annex. Three more hit the annex.

But you know, the Prez was late for a date in Las Vegas, so … no time for that sort of nonsense.

~McQ


Economic Statistics for 26 Oct 12

The following US economic statistics were announced today:

The Commerce Department reports that the initial estimate for 3rd quarter GDP was that the economy grew at a  lackluster 2.0% annualized pace. The GDP price index rose more than expected, to 2.8%. Government spending was surprisingly positive for the report, as were personal consumption expenditures, led by durable goods. Still, growth is below normal, so the outlook for employment growth is not good.

The Reuter’s/University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment index posted an October reading of 82.6.

~
Dale Franks
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Economic Statistics for 25 Oct 12

The following US economic statistics were announced today:

Last month’s huge 13.1% drop in durable goods orders rebounded with a 9.9% increase for September, and a 2.0% rise ex-transportation. On a year-over-year basis, orders are up 2.5%, but ex-transportation orders are down –1.6%.

Initial jobless claims for last week were down a sharp 23,000 to 369,000, while the 4-week average rose slightly to 368,000. Continuing claims  fell 2,000 to 3.254 million. Obviously, the weekly claims have been very volatile, and the seasonal adjustment factors haven’t been smoothing that out very well.

The Chicago Fed National Activity Index rose to 0 from –0.87 last month, indicating an economy that is neither expanding nor contracting, but balanced in a perfect equilibrium. Which is, of course, a practical impossibility.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index rose to -34.6 from -34.8 the prior week.

The pending home sales index rose a minimal 0.3% in September, following last month’s big –2.6% drop.

~
Dale Franks
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Michael Barone: Slow-motion 1980?

Michael Barone is one of the few poll watchers I respect. I’ve watched him in any number of elections and he’s objectively called it the way he saw it, usually spot on, for whomever the facts indicated was in the lead. No spin, just good analysis.

Well, in this season of polling chaos, Barone is out with his look at some of the key indicators that help him analyze election trends and he seems to think we are seeing a preference cascade begin ala 1980 … just slower:

My other alternative scenario was based on the 1980 election, when vast numbers of voters switched from Jimmy Carter to Ronald Reagan after their single debate one week before the election. In that debate, the challenger showed he had presidential stature and the incumbent president seemed petulant and small-minded.

We saw an even more vivid contrast between challenger and incumbent in the Oct. 3 debate. In the next two debates, Obama was definitely more focused and aggressive. But Romney held his own, and post-Oct. 16 polling showed him improving his standing even though many debate watchers thought Obama won on points.

What we may be seeing, as we drink from the firehose of multiple poll results pouring in, is a slow-motion 1980.

That reinforces my point about the first debate and something we’ve been saying since Oct. 3. That is the debate that mattered. And note also that in debates 2 and 3, Obama pulled a Carter. His stature was diminished by his actions. He, as Barone and many others have observed, came across as “petulant and small-minded”. Add arrogant and condescending, and you’ve captured it.  Oh, and by the way, his record, like Carter’s, is dismal.

Romney, on the other hand, came across exactly as he had to come across – competent, presidential, confident and, believe it or not, likable. He did what Ronald Reagan did – unfiltered by the media, he was able to convince Americans who tuned in that he was Presidential material. That he was a more than acceptable alternative to Obama.

All of that said, Barone isn’t claiming that this is a done deal by any stretch (“don’t get cocky kid”):

The usual caveats are in order. Exogenous events could affect opinion (Libya seems to have hurt Obama). The Obama ground game is formidable. Voters who switched to Romney could switch back again.

And if there is a larger reservoir of potentially changeable voters than in 2004, there was an even larger reservoir back in 1980, when Carter attracted white Southerners who now are firmly in Romney’s column.

Mechanical analogies can be misleading. Just because Romney has gained ground since Oct. 3 does not guarantee that he will gain more.

But also keep in mind that Romney gained not just from style but from fundamentals. Most voters dislike Obama’s domestic policies and are dissatisfied with the sluggish economy. And now they seem to believe have an alternative with presidential stature.

So, while we apparently have a preference cascade beginning, is it enough?  And will it peak at the right time.  Will it be a slow steady climb to election day?  Will it plateau?  Will it stop short of the majority Romney needs?  Obviously we won’t know that until election night (or, perhaps, the next day).  But suffice it to say, the upward trend is obvious.

How it will play out, however, remains to be seen.

~McQ


Ukraine and the Upcoming Elections

As we quickly approach our own election here in the US, a first of sorts will occur this weekend in Ukraine.  Shaking off the soviet chains has proved difficult, but through fits and starts a truly representative democracy is developing in Eurasia.  The next big step will be the parliamentary elections (to the Verkhovna Rada) held this weekend.  Ukraine has held free elections before, but this time they will occur under the watch of thousands of international and domestic election observers:

On October 22nd the Central Election Committee of Ukraine registered the final batch of 666 international observers for the parliamentary elections in Ukraine, which will take place on October 28th. The total number of foreign monitors reached 3,797 persons – they represent 28 countries and 35 international non-governmental organizations. Moreover, more than 130,000 domestic observers will also work at the elections.

A major impetus for the observers being present is that Ukraine is seeking to possibly join the European Union, a prerequisite for which is to improve the election process.

… the current government has expressed great interest in being integrated into the European Union, going so far as to ink an Association Agreement in March:

The Association Agreement creates a framework for cooperation and stipulates establishing closer economic, cultural, and social ties between the signees. Moreover, Brussels officials expect the document to promote the rule of law, democracy, and human rights in Ukraine.

This first step to entering the EU (which still needs to be ratified) requires a concrete demonstration from Ukraine that it is moving towards “an independent judicial system, free and fair elections and constitutional reform.”

The other potential option is for Ukraine to strengthen its traditional alliance with Moscow by entering Russia’s Customs Union:

… for the past several years, both the EU and Russia have courted Ukraine to form long-lasting trade partnerships. The EU wants to include Ukraine in its Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA) while Russia is pushing to join its Customs Union. Because of the way these agreements are set up, Ukraine has to choose one or the other, placing the country in a pitched economic battle between East and West.

Ukrainians are apparently quite ambivalent about which partnership to join, although the current leadership and most major parties have expressed greater interest in aligning with Europe:

The Party of Regions, which is the current party in power, is led by President Viktor Yanukovych and Prime Minister Mykola Azarov.  Originally, the party was supported Russian President Vladimir Putin but, to his disappointment, the Party of Regions has turned out to be more pro-Ukraine than pro-Russia.  As previously noted, Yanukovych and Azarov have been working hard to achieve energy independence that is more beneficial to the people of Ukraine.

[…]

The United Opposition party is led by former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko (who is currently in jail for the gas deal she brokered with Russia) and Arseniy Yatsenyuk from the Front for Change party.  Despite the fact that the party can be seen as being largely pro-Russian, they recently joined forces with the more pro-Western Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform (UDAR) in the hopes of increasing their chances of winning against the popular Party of Regions.  UDAR is the newest political party in Ukraine and is led by heavyweight boxing champion Vitaly Klitschko.

As it turns out, these three parties (Party of Regions, United Opposition and the UDAR) are leading in the polls (which haven’t changed dramatically over the past month) as we head into this weekend’s vote:

The latest opinion polls now show Yanukovych’s Regions Party finishing first with between 23% and 33% of the ballot, which would require the formation of a new coalition to lead parliament.  That could make a kingmaker out of Udar (Punch), a brand-new party started by political novice and heavyweight boxing superstar Vitali Klitschko as an agent for change that has no obvious links to past incidents of corruption.  Udar appears to have caught on with the more opposition-minded voters and has edged ahead of Tymoshenko’s block in some polls with 16%-17% of the vote.  “My methods in politics are the same as in sport: teamwork and confidence in yourself. And they work,” the 41-year-old Klitschko told AFP in an interview.  The election rating for Tymoshenko’s coalition varies from 15% up to 24% — still ahead of the fourth-placed Communist Party (9% to 13%) and the nationalist Svoboda (Freedom) group (3% to 6%).

Although we don’t really know what the resulting administration will look like, or what concessions will have to be made in order to form a governing coalition, it at least appears that, whatever the result, a more pro-EU Ukraine will emerge.  And that would be a very good thing:

So why care about the Ukraine?

The simple answer is because Ukrainians have had a taste of freedom, and liked it, and we should encourage that journey towards liberalization to continue. We have an interest in such development – via free and fair elections, open markets and greater legal protections in its reformed court system – because this is how individuals become personally invested in the growth of the nation, and thus how liberty spreads. As President Reagan emphasized in 1981, “only when individuals are given a personal stake in deciding economic policies and benefiting from their success — only then can societies remain economically alive, dynamic, progressive, and free.” The more societies like that in the world, and especially in the Eurasian region, the better. And this is exactly where Ukraine is poised to go.

Hopefully, that journey will continue this Sunday.


State cronyism takes a hit in Louisiana

At least temporarily.  You may remember when we pointed our the story of the monks in Louisiana who were making coffins and the state was moving to stop them.  Under Louisiana law, a place must be a “licensed funeral establishment” in which only “licensed funeral directors” may sell “funeral merchandise”.

Now everyone knows that around here we equate choice with freedom.  And, what the state of Louisiana had done, at the behest of the The Louisiana State Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors is place a restriction that set the bar to entry into the “funeral merchandise” business at a place where it essentially barred entry to anyone who wasn’t a licensed member of that guild.  And, of course, the The Louisiana State Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors controlled who did or didn’t get licensed.

So when the good brothers at St. Joseph Abbey began making hand crafted wooden coffins and selling them, they were in direct violation of the law the board had helped craft.  More importantly, they were in competition with the carefully crafted state granted monopoly these people enjoyed.

They were told that the only choice they had was to do the following if they wanted to sell their caskets:

[They] must either give up the casket-selling business or become a licensed funeral establishment, which would require a layout parlor for 30 people, a display area for the coffins, the employment of a licensed funeral director and an embalming room.

That’s even though they only desired to make coffins.

When they refused, the board threatened.

[T]he Louisiana Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors sent the monks a cease-and-desist letter, threatening thousands of dollars in fines and up to 180 days in prison based on a law prohibiting the sale of coffins without a funeral director’s license.

And then sued.

In July of last year, a Federal judge ruled in the Abbey’s favor, as we reported.

The monks won round one in July, when U.S. District Judge Stanwood R. Duval Jr. ruled Louisiana’s restrictions unconstitutional, saying “the sole reason for these laws is the economic protection of the funeral industry.”

So now the 5th Circuit has ruled and guess what?  The monks have won again.  And the 5th was not at all kind to the State Board or the state of Louisiana in its ruling:

In a sometimes harshly worded ruling, a panel of federal appellate judges Tuesday evening smacked down the Louisiana funeral board’s continued attempts to prevent the St. Joseph Abbey monks from selling their hand-crafted caskets. “The great deference due state economic regulation (does not require) courts to accept nonsensical explanations for naked transfers of wealth,” wrote Judges Patrick Higginbotham, Catharina Haynes and Stephen A. Higginson of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. “We insist that Louisiana’s rules not be irrational.”

The appellate judges sent the case to the Louisiana Supreme Court, refusing to consider the funeral board’s appeal of a previous court’s ruling that found it unconstitutional for the state to give funeral directors exclusive rights to sell caskets.

“Simply put, there is nothing in the licensing procedures that bestows any benefit to the public in the context of the retail sale of caskets,” U.S. District Court Judge Stanwood R. Duval Jr. ruled in July 2011. “The license has no bearing on the manufacturing and sale of coffins. It appears that the sole reason for these laws is the economic protection of the funeral industry,” which he wrote is not “a valid government interest.”

Of course, there’s no telling what the LA Supreme Court will do.  However until then, the monks are free to sell their significantly less costly caskets in Louisiana without having to clear the high bar of entry set by the crony state.

Oh, and here’s the irony and another reason the court found for the monks:

“To be sure, Louisiana does not regulate the use of a casket, container, or other enclosure for the burial remains; has no requirements for the construction or design of caskets; and does not require that caskets be sealed,” according to the court. “Individuals may construct their own caskets for funerals in Louisiana or purchase caskets from out-of-state suppliers via the internet. Indeed, no Louisiana law even requires a person to be buried in a casket.”

As plain and transparent state enforced cronyism as one can find. There are certainly more, as we all know, and they’re practiced by all levels of government. But all of them, each and every one of them, should be identified, challenged and dismantled – root and branch.  Government has no business using its force and power to protect businesses from competition because doing so limits choice and thereby limits its citizen’s freedom.

Cronyism has no place in a free society.

~McQ


Obama’s Navy: Ignorance or intent?

A little more on the abject ignorance Obama displayed concerning the Navy.  Or was it, instead, the usual attempt to have it both ways?  You know, talk about how everything is under control while in reality it is spinning out of control?  Or, as we’ve warned many times, don’t believe a thing the man says, look at what he does.

In this case:

The Obama administration’s neglect of the Navy can be typified by the early retirement of the USS Enterprise (CVN 65) and its plans to decommission other naval assets. In August of this year, I outlined on NRO why the Enterprise should remain in service, but the Big E is only the most prominent asset slated for premature retirement. The administration also plans to decommission and scrap six Ticonderoga-class cruisers, although the vessels have as many as 15 years of service life left (even without further overhauls). Maintaining freedom of the seas requires hulls in the water — and the Navy hasn’t even started building the replacements for these cruisers. At present, all we have is a design study called CGX, which may or may not enter production.

Got that?  6 Ticonderoga-class cruisers being decommissioned, all with at least 15 years service life left.  These are the cruisers, as mentioned yesterday, which protect those things we have called aircraft carriers.

Here’s another report that makes it clear that the administration’s plan is, in fact, leaving the carrier strike groups even more vulnerable than they are now:

As noted at the Navy-oriented Information Dissemination blog, when the proposed cuts were first outlined in late 2011, the decommissioning plan will take out of service cruisers that can be upgraded with the ballistic missile defense (BMD) package – now a core capability for the Navy – while keeping five cruisers that cannot receive the BMD upgrade.

Emphasis mine. That borders on criminal.  After bloviating about technology and capability, his plan is to reduce both.

Meanwhile, here’s the stark reality of the situation the Obama administration has created:

His administration, in an effort to cut costs, proposed the retirement of the USS Enterprise (which his allies in Congress passed in 2009) and the six cruisers. Numerous crises are heating up around the world, as recent events show, but there is no indication that Obama has reconsidered these retirement plans. Certainly, it would not be hard to halt the retirements, and extenuating circumstances clearly warrant a supplemental appropriations bill. None of our carriers or submarines — no matter how high-tech they are — are capable of covering the Persian Gulf and South China Sea at the same time, or the Mediterranean Sea and the Korean Peninsula simultaneously.

Or, said a much simpler way, and despite Obama’s ignorant claims, we don’t have enough ships to cover all the contingencies that his failed foreign policy has helped foment.  Technology still can’t have you in two places at once.

Instead, we have a Commander-in-Chief who apparently thinks those things we call aircraft carriers are like magic unicorns.  You kind of wave one toward a crisis and everything works out.  He has no concept of force protection.  He has no idea how a carrier strike group operates.  He just knows we have these things called aircraft carriers and they’re apparently magic because, you know, we have this “technology” and we’re much more “capable” than when it was all about horses and bayonets.  Or something.

Reality?

Yet in 2010, the Navy could only fulfill 53% of the requirements for presence and missions levied by the combatant commanders (e.g., CENTCOM, PACOM).  Cutting this Navy will reduce further its ability to fill warfighter requirements.

This guy is dangerous, folks.  His ignorance is both appalling and frightening.

He needs to go.

~McQ