Free Markets, Free People


Observations: The QandO Podcast for 17 Mar 13

This week, Bruce, Michael and Dale discuss the moral case for capitalism and CPAC & the future of conservatism.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.


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.

European Parliament member Daniel Hannan talks about the importance of America

I got to meet Daniel Hannan at CPAC.  I have seen him speak on a number of occasions before and have always been impressed by his love of liberty.  His speech at CPAC is a “must listen”.  He knows of what he speaks about. 

Interestingly I talked with a person attending CPAC who was originally from Slovakia and said he got off the plane 16 years ago with only a suitcase, and is now an employer.  He says America is the land of opportunity, for now.  But, he said, when he’s asked if America has changed in those 16 years he tells them “yes” and not in a good way.  “I lived in a place like where it is headed,” he said, “and that’s not good”.




So, if you have a few moments listen to Mr. Hannan again talk about this country as a Brit sees it (don’t ever call him a European) and why it is so important to the world as well as why we need to stop the direction in which it is heading and reorient it in the direction that made it great:




Twitter: @McQandO

Talking with conservative bloggers at CPAC

What an interesting day at the CPAC bloggers lounge.  Why?  Well, WiFi sucked (again), so it wasn’t that.  And I heard a variety of speeches which kept me interested for about 5 minutes before I wanted to do something else (with one notable exception).  No offense to the speakers or the speeches, but I’ve pretty much heard variations on most of the themes any number of times.  I’m an old guy, remember?

Nope, the reason it was interesting was the opportunity I had to talk with a number of engaged and interested conservative bloggers and to get their opinions on certain questions I have.  I decided I could listen to the speeches anytime, they’re even archived on line, but the opportunity to talk with this collection of distinguished bloggers doesn’t happen often.

I felt the place to find CPAC gold was (and is) in the blogger’s lounge.

I got around to 10 bloggers today and ask a series of questions based on my earlier post about the enthusiasm gap.  Citing the PPP poll I essentially asked each if they thought it was real or just perceived.

Most thought that there was definitely an enthusiasm gap, but many of them attributed it to different things.   Duane Lester wondered if perhaps “uninspired” would be a better descriptor than “unenthusiastic”.  “Can you think of a single one [of the present candidates] that could pump up a Tea Party rally”, he asked?  He felt that most voters were just not inspired by the field. 

Brian Garst agreed that there was little enthusiasm for the field.  Jeff Dunetz feels it’s a function of voters not yet knowing who they want.  And Ed Morrissey agreed there was a lack of enthusiasm but felt it was pretty normal for a primary season.

Regardless of the reason, though, all agreed that enthusiasm, at least for now, is down among the GOP.  Of course, party primaries are tricky beasts.  There are also legions of voters who aren’t even engaged at this point and won’t be until late next year.  And there are also a good percentage who are fine with letting others who do choose to vote in the primary pick their candidate.  

More interesting to me though was the concern some of them voiced about the field.  Again, remember, for the most part I’m talking with conservative activists who are political junkies.  So they are definitely plugged in.  And many of them aren’t pleased with the choices they’re being given.  That best explains the enthusiasm gap to me. 

I then asked if any of them had decided on or endorsed any of the current candidates?  Surprisingly, of the 9 I talked to 4 1/2 had decided on Santorum.  I’ll get to the half in a minute.  The rest had not yet made a pick.

The one I’m characterizing as a half is Warner Todd Houston who hasn’t yet officially endorsed but is within a gnat’s eyelash of doing so, and his pick is Santorum.

So why Santorum?  Jeff Dunetz posted his endorsement earlier today.  He feels Santorum is the only candidate, of the three, who can articulate the Conservative vision.  Ed Morrissey has also endorsed Santorum for a variety of reasons to include integrity, presents a clear contrast to Obama, is the most consistent Conservative and has run the most honorable campaign.  I asked about the charges of Santorum being a “Big Government Conservative” and got mixed reactions to that with some acknowledging the charge and others not feeling that was really significant.

But surprisingly, at least to me, Santorum was the pick of those who had made one.  Not a single person went with Gingrich, Paul or Romney.  As Ed said, “Romney doesn’t speak ‘conservative’ very well.”  And, well, Newt is Newt.

That brought me to my next question – “So, regardless of who wins the nomination, do you think the GOP faithful will coalesce behind them?”  To a person they said yes (with the caveat that “yes” didn’t apply to Ron Paul) however there were some interesting “buts”.

For instance, Warner Todd Houston thought that if the nominee was Romney, the voters would turn out and do their duty but the possibility exists that the activists, such as bloggers, wouldn’t work very hard toward his election.  That would mean far fewer posts than had their candidate gotten the nominee and probably less in defense of Romney in push back. In other words they wouldn’t engage at the level they might with a more conservative candidate.   And of course that lack of support could hurt in a GOTV effort where the electorate doesn’t see the level of enthusiasm necessary to convince them of the necessity to vote.

Juliette Ochieng also believed that Republican voters would turn out but not enthusiastically, as did Brian Garst.   Nice Deb was of the opinion that if Romney was the candidate, the possibility existed that some Conservative voters wouldn’t support him. 

Doug Mataconis (the only libertarian in the group of bloggers interviewed – he and I essentially represent the libertarian contingent here) made an important point that I think should be remembered in all this talk about enthusiasm or lack thereof.  As much as Republican voters may dislike this or that Republican primary candidate, they dislike Barack Obama even more.   And one has to wonder, once the focus is turned on Obama and his record, if that will provide all the incentive necessary to make Republican voters enthusiastic enough for their candidate to win.

Duane Lester thinks it will.  He feels that most people are broadly motivated to either seek pleasure or avoid pain.  And when November comes around, they’re going to reason that they can avoid the most pain by voting against Barack Obama.   It may not be the perfect election for the Republican candidate, and Republican voters would again find themselves voting as much against one candidate as for theirs.  But, as mentioned, in this election, that may be motivation enough to carry the day.

I ask each of them to put on the forecasting hats on and tell me whether they think the economy will improve enough to help Obama’s re-election chances.

Most didn’t think it would, although Jeff Dunetz said he hoped the economy would improve, not for Obama’s sake, but for the rest of the country’s sake.  The bloggers felt that while there may be some improvement, it probably wouldn’t be enough to give him a boost.  However, many of them felt that the media would aid and abet the perception of improvement to a much higher degree than was real.  Warner Todd Houston pointed out the recent unemployment numbers as an example, where the media hyped the percentage and the drop in the unemployment number but ignored the number of people who had dropped out of the labor force (1.2 million) which, of course, makes the unemployment percentage suspect. 

Peter Ingemi quipped that while there may be some improvement, Obama “can’t repeal the business cycle” no matter how badly he’d like too.  And there are other things upcoming that could effect the economy negatively.  Taxes, new regulations, increasing gas prices and the sequestration cuts (which I will discuss at length in another post based on the discussion of sequestration as it applies to defense with Rep. McKeon).

All of those could slow down the economy just as it is starting to pick up a little speed.  Then there are some possible external events which may have an impact.  The unrest in the Middle East, Iran, and the possible collapse in Europe, although Ed Morrissey thinks that a European collapse would actually benefit Obama because he’d have something to blame the economic problems on.  Given the propensity of this president to attempt to blame shift, I can’t disagree.

As with any session like this we wandered off in other areas briefly.  Probably one of the most interesting remarks came from Juliette Ochieng concerning how we ever elected a president like Barack Obama -  “we’ve been culturally ‘softened up’ to support an Obama.”

That struck me as the most succinct description of how this all happened over many years that I’ve heard.  We’ve discussed many times how the left redefines words and concepts and stands them on their heads.  How academia and government are filled with leftists.  How the conversation has shifted from self-reliance and being proud about it to dependence and not being ashamed of it.

And this is what it has brought us:

The Heritage Foundation’s 2012 Index of Dependence on Government shows an alarming trend under the Obama Administration of a level of dependence on our government that has never been seen before. Today, a full 70 percent of the federal government’s budget goes to pay for housing, food, income, student aid, or other assistance, with recipients ranging from college students to retirees to welfare beneficiaries.

Another future post to discuss the Heritage Foundation’s findings in conjunction with Juliette’s premise is in the offing.

But back to the bloggers – finally I asked them who they saw in the future that might be, for lack of a better description, the 21st Century Ronald Reagan.  To a person, they all mentioned Marco Rubio, the Senator from Florida.  Others were mentioned as well, but Rubio was a consensus pick and usually the first name mentioned.   Val Prieto of the great Cuban-American blog “Babalu” said he wanted to see Rubio get a little more seasoning (like being a governor? Please) but that Rubio was someone who could make Conservatives happy.  Brian Garst said that Rubio is able to articulate the Conservative vision without all the fiery rhetoric.  He makes it positive, non-threatening and desirable.   And he did all three during his speech to CPAC today.  He also held a session with CPAC bloggers today which you may want to check out.

Anyway, a very enlightening and enjoyable day at CPAC.  More of the same tomorrow as I continue to check the temperature of the Conservative world.


Twitter: @McQandO

Travel day–in DC for CPAC

Sorry about the lack of posting, but have been on the road since 5am.  Got into DC about 2pm and that gave me just enough time to change clothes, grab the Metro and make it over to the Rayburn building to spend about 30 minutes with House Armed Services Committee chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon.  Very interesting discussion which I’ll be writing up soon.  Ed Morrissey from Hot Air was there as well.

I’m interested in the temperature of Conservatives this year so I’m probably going to be doing more talking/interviewing of bloggers than listening to variations on the candidate’s stump speeches.

I think there’ll be more insight and gold in the interviews with Conservative activists than politicians.

Oh, and apparently Occupy is going to pay CPAC a visit on Friday and Saturday so that ought to be fun.

I’m tired.  So, until tomorrow.


Twitter: @McQandO

Observations: The QandO Podcast for 13 Feb 11

In this podcast, Bruce, Michael, and Dale discuss the situation in Egypt, and CPAC.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.


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.


CPAC–Days 3 and 4

Well today’s a travel day and so I thought I’d jot down a few thoughts about the last two days before I hit the road.

A) I enjoyed it.   Quite lively and quite a different experience.  Apparently this was their largest attendance ever.  Got to speak to  a lot of people about a lot of subjects near and dear to my heart. 

B) Great networking – met a great number of bloggers who I’ve read and admired over the years.  Also met a number of media types which was cool as well. 

C) The two people who literally packed the huge ballroom with thousands were Ron Paul, which came as no surprise, and Ann Coulter.   Coulter was sharp and funny.  She was asked afterwards during the Q&A who she favored in the 2012 race and she blurted out that the GOP needed to nominate Chris Christie or Romney would win it and the Republicans would lose.  Frankly, that’s the scenario I see developing (Romney gets the nomination), but whether the GOP loses probably depends more on the economy’s state than whether it is Romney or not.    Ron Paul won the straw poll which is essentially a throw-out and it’s the second place guy you look at.  Romney took that with 23% and then it drops to about 6% apiece for all the other candidates (to include Newt Gingrich).

D) GOProud sort of crapped in their mess kit by doing a little name calling during the event.  They killed a lot of good will they had earned up to that point.  OTOH, those that boycotted were obviously not missed (see record attendance).  Both GOProud and the boycotters need to grow up.

E)  I wanted to say a public thank you to Tabitha Hale and Freedom Works for the outstanding job they did putting blogger’s row together.  Probably about 50 or so bloggers there.  Good libertarian contingent including Doug Mataconis from OTB who I finally got to meet.  Anyway, taking care of bloggers is akin to herding cats but Tabitha was up to the job and things went very well there.  It was a choice location with tables and power in a large room and a balcony a few steps away which overlooked the main floor of CPAC where bloggers could go out and listen to the speeches.

F) A good number of speakers and others came through blogger’s row and bloggers had an opportunity to interview and meet them.  Yesterday former LTC and now Congressman Allen West came though and spent about 10 minutes with bloggers before he gave the keynote speech of CPAC.  I like the guy (no Army prejudice or anything, heh).   Here’s a link to the entire 10 minute interview if you’re interested (video).

Back to our regularly scheduled programming tomorrow.



CPAC day 2

The first day was spent sort of getting the lay of the land, meeting and greeting (new acquaintances and old friends), the Rumsfeld lunch and a few speeches.

Listened to Donald Trump talk – entertaining anyway – and heard him tell the Ron Paul crowd “your guy doesn’t have a chance”.  The way he did it was a true laugh-out-loud moment.  He’s right, but speaking of not having a chance, well I don’t think “the Donald” has much of one at all.  But it was entertaining to see him stir up the Paul crowd.

Speaking of Paul’s, I listened to Rand Paul’s speech and was pretty pleased with what he had to say.  He says the cuts the GOP is putting forward are insignificant and unacceptable.  He mentioned that the amount is what government spends in 5 days.  He also pointed out that both parties have budget projections that add more than three trillion to the debt.   He said that must be cut and cut drastically.  100 billion of it, he claimed, could come from shutting down the Dept. of Education and returning schooling to where it belongs – with the states and local school boards.

That’s been a dream of the right for decades, in fact since the inception of the DoE.  I have no idea if there’s the will or the stomach within Congress to address that, but Paul is right – cuts must be much more significant than those proposed.   But given that after promising 100 billion they came up with 32 billion in cuts, I’m not that hopeful.

He also said, in so many words, that the GOP and Democrats are going to have to grow a pair and address entitlements, to include increasing the   retirement age for both SS and Medicare.  He was mostly greeted with enthusiastic applause from the crowd.  How enthusiastic they’ll be when it comes time to cut spending and move the retirement age remains to be seen (in theory it’s all important and the “right thing to do”, but in reality, people have a tendency to back off – especially if it effects them).

Another bit of entertainment occurred during the award ceremony for former SecDef Rumsfeld.   One of the surprise presenters was Dick Cheney who received a standing O from the audience as he came on the stage (and after a while finally took the mic and said “thank you, thank you, now sit down and shut up” – brought the house down).   As things quieted down someone  – exercising his right to free speech – shouted out, “you’re a war criminal”.  The crowd then exercised its’ right to free speech and, chanting “USA, USA” essentially drown the fellow out as he was escorted from the floor.  Cheney’ reaction was something along the lines of “I’m glad to see we’re still having spirited debate”.  Some have claimed the shouter was a Ron Paul supporter – I have no idea who he was.

Last night I attended a Freedom Works function where The Atlas Society introduced the independent film production of “Atlas Shrugged”.   We were privy to the first public viewing of scenes from the movie.  I thought, “ok, indie film, mega challenging book, this might not end well”.

I was very impressed with the production values I saw in the clips we viewed.  The acting was well done and while not name actors, are all people you’ve seen before in various supporting roles in movies and TV.  And frankly, the word that kept coming to mind was “lush” as in a lush production – very pleasing to the eye and in the clips we saw, faithful to Rand’s book.  Got to speak to both the executive director of the Atlas Society, David Kelly and Harmon Kaslow, the producer of the film.  They were obviously interested in our reaction.  You can find info about the movie here.   It is actually a 2 part movie and this is part 1.  It looks like an excellent attempt to bring Rand’s most famous book to life on the screen and will, I think, give a new generation – a video generation – a chance to experience the lessons taught by Rand in “Atlas”.  And none too soon.

More to come from today.  I’m staying in Arlington and commuting so I probably won’t show up there until around 10 but won’t miss much.  Dressing for comfort today – hell, no one recognized me yesterday in a coat and tie.  As Stephan Kruiser said last night, we’re not social people and usually we do what we do in the privacy of our basements in various stages of undress.


Well, I’m here – at CPAC

Huge convention. Thus far I’ve seen few familiar faces. I’m mostly trying to get the lay of the land.

For those who submitted questions for former SecDef Rumsfeld, thank you and I’ll try. Well thought out for the most part and appreciated.

So? So off to find out what else is going on. Hot as hell in the blogger’s lounge. Mostly hot air I think – and I’m not talking about the blog. Just kidding.



Light Blogging–send me you questions

Two points: Headed out on the road for DC, so light blogging today and possibly tomorrow.

Point two:  will be having a lunch meeting (along with other bloggers) with former SecDef Donald Rumsfeld who published his book yesterday (Known and Unknown).

Save the snark and sarcasm for another time – if there are any serious questions about his time as SecDef you’d like for me to ask, put them in the comment section.  Serious stuff only – like I said, limited time for me, so I’d prefer not to have to wade through other stuff.  But this is QandO, it is a libertarian site, and I do know the strong anti-authoritarian streak that most of us have, so I’m not entirely hopeful … heh.



Big tent, little tent, both parties contend with tough changes

I‘m headed to CPAC this week. Just thought it would be a good idea – there’s going to be quite a libertarian contingent there. Doug Mataconis from Outside the Beltway, Jason Pye from United Liberty (and an occasional contributor to QandO), as well as members of CATO.

There’s a reason I think it is important to go and that’s to see what is in store on the conservative side of things for the promise of smaller government and less spending. I’d like to join other libertarians in influencing that move toward both smaller (and less intrusive) government and much less spending.

But I’m certainly not going to line up very well with the social conservatives. Such is life – my bet is we can find common ground on the fiscal and governmental side of things. And, if you’re familiar with the neo-libertarian strategy, it is to try to work within the existing system to influence and change those things we can by pushing for change that enhances basic liberty. Call it a bit of putting my money where my mouth is.

That’s also what I characterize as "the pragmatic approach". The system we have is what we have – I can stand outside and throw rocks at it, or I can work inside and try to change it. And no, working inside certainly doesn’t mean I "accept" the system as the end product or am "validating" it by working within it. I’m simply pointing out that the most effective way, in my opinion, of changing things is to work with those of a like mind and create a synergy that finally makes that change. I see CPAC as a valuable forum for such action. Lots of those who are actually involved at a national level in doing such things will be there (Rep. Paul Ryan, for instance, and Sen. Rand Paul).

It’s also an opportunity to network with a lot of bloggers I’ve known peripherally- mostly through email – for years (and some I’ve met and know personally as well).

All that to say there’s a bit of a debate going on about CPAC and who should or shouldn’t be attending. I’ll let you fill yourself in here. And here.

All that said I don’t feel "unwelcome". This is a struggle that goes on in every party. Don’t believe me? Check out the Democrats – especially in the South. They’re going through some major problems as many Democrats at a state level are switching parties in the wake of the November drubbing. The complaint? The Democratic party (national) has become too liberal and doesn’t reflect the values of the more conservative among them. Zell Miller, who made it clear he felt that way, was apparently only in the vanguard of the movement away from liberal Democrats. And those Blue Dogs left in Congress, now that they’re not needed by the majority, have all but been cut off from the Congressional Democratic leadership. They’re simply too conservative for the Pelosi crowd.

Anyway, this week should be interesting. CPAC is undergoing a bit of a controversy concerning the group GOProud being allowed at the table (it’s a gay Conservative group – well according to fiscal cons, social cons don’t buy that because of GOProud’s stance on gay marriage) and a new controversy which claims that the board of ACU, which puts on CPAC, has been infiltrated by Muslims.

And then there are the usual controversies.


Like I say, should be interesting. As the old saying goes, may the dragon you find be well fed.