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Tuesday, September 02, 2014

David Harsanyi has a very good question that should be posed to every Democrat who has turned a blind eye to everything that Obama has done to extend the power of the executive at the expense of Congress.
Enforce laws at your political leisure. Name recess appointments when there’s no recess. Legislate through regulation. Rewrite environmental laws. Rewrite immigration policy. Rewrite tax legislation. Bomb Libya. Bomb Syria. All by fiat. All good. The only question now is: what can’t Barack Obama do without Congress?
Every day seems to bring forth another story about what Obmaa has done or intends to do to ignore the constitutional limitations on the power of the president. A constitution, by the way, that Barack Obama swore to preserve, protect, and defend. The most recent was the news that he wants to forge a sweeping multi-national agreement on climate change without submitting it to the Senate. And the only excuse given is that the issue is so important and the Senate won't act. As if no president has ever faced a recalcitrant Congress.
“The biggest problems that we’re facing right now have to do with George Bush trying to bring more and more power into the executive branch and not go through Congress at all, and that’s what I intend to reverse when I’m President of the United States of America,” then-candidate Obama declared years ago. You can imagine what might have transpired if George Bush had argued that a lack of seriousness regarding a “broken” Social Security program – and the obstruction of his reform efforts – meant that Democrats had ceded the political field on the issue and should be sidestepped. It might not have gone over that well. Then again, liberal pundits seem to be under the impression that the issues we face today are the most significant in the history of mankind. Every liberal hobbyhorse becomes a moral imperative. And as frustration mounts, the abuses grow and the excuses get uglier.
But, apparently, there is some invisible clause, as Charles C.W. Cooke writes, in the Constitution that allows Democrats to ignore the limitations it puts on the presidency - the "We Can't Wait" clause.
Justifying his infringements, the president typically submits that Congress has in some way abandoned its role, and that he is obliged by expedience to step in. This asseveration rests unsteadily upon the false presumption that Congress’s role is to agree with the executive branch, rather than to make law. It is not. Even if we were to agree wholeheartedly with Barack Obama that Congress’s judgment is poor, it would remain the case that there is no provision in the Constitution that makes the legislature’s absolute role conditional upon its good sense. On the contrary: If the president can’t get Congress to agree to what he legally needs them to agree to, he doesn’t get to do what he wants to do. This is so whether Congress is packed with angels or with clowns. It is so whether Congress adores the president or loathes him, whether it is active and engaged, and whether it is idle and lackadaisical. And — crucially — it is so whether Congress is popular or it is unpopular. Public opinion matters in the American system come election time, mass plebiscites serving as the basis by which our representatives are chosen and our sentiments established into law. But it has no bearing on the day-to-day legal operation of the government, nor upon the integrity of the rules that govern that operation. If one of the elected branches proves recalcitrant, steadfastly ignoring what the voters want, the remedy is electoral, not legal. The integrity of the constitutional order, suffice it to say, is not contingent upon the transient public mood. That way lies chaos.

Knowing that appeals to raw power are jarring to the average ear, those who have taken to defending the president’s imperialism tend instead to sell their wares by introducing complexity where it does not belong. It is the case that some parts of our Constitution are vague and open to interpretation. But not all. Alas, over the last six years, we have been told that there is considerable nuance even in those portions that have been taken for more than two centuries to be utterly straightforward. Does the president have to faithfully execute the laws as they are written? That, apparently, is complicated. Does the ratification of treaties really work in the manner that the Constitution prescribes? Ooh, a tricky one! What about Article I, which makes it clear that all legislative powers belong to the legislature? Sure, but only if Congress behaves itself. Must the executive branch adhere to the established budget and borrowing process, or can it mint trillion-dollar platinum coins if Congress won’t acquiesce with its demands? This too, it seems, is unclear. Can the president deem the Senate to be in recess and make appointments without them? Why not, man? So deeply has this rot set in — and so ready have political opportunists proved themselves to abdicate their responsibilities in favor of political victory — that we have been treated to the sight of a three-term senator and majority whip claiming with a straight face that the president can merely “borrow” congressional power if it is not forthcoming.

He must do no such thing, for an assault on any part of our settlement is an assault on the whole. To the extent that Obama has been accorded political power, he may use it, and use it to the fullest. Beyond that, he is tightly and rightly circumscribed in his authority. As a matter of both propriety and legal rectitude, there can be no place within the American constitutional order for a president to menace Congress with threats. Not now, not tomorrow, not ever. Like Sir Thomas More in A Man for All Seasons, Barack Obama would profit from the recognition that it is for his own good that he is expected to give the Devil the benefit of the law. By demonizing one’s opponents and making legal excuses in result, it is easy to make the men in the cheap seats applaud and holler. But before long, somebody else will be taking the oath, and wondering, as he promise the best of his ability, just what he might put over on the rest.
Seth Lipsky explains why the procedures set up in the Constitution for approving treaties makes so much sense.
In recent years it has grown apparent that our country is in what I like to call a “constitutional moment,” and this example is a humdinger. Presidents are perfectly entitled to sign treaties that haven’t been approved by the Senate. That’s part of the process. They ink all sorts of sketchy stuff, but it can’t become binding as supreme law of the land until it gets through the Senate.

The Senate gives it a chance to simmer. Hearings are held. People with interests get to testify. The Senate is where the states, key parties in the American contract, get their say. Sometimes, treaties don’t get ratified and are laid aside. This happened to the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty known as SALT II. President Carter signed it, but the Senate didn’t trust the Soviet boss at the time, Leonid Brezhnev, nor anyone else in the Kremlin camarilla. So it refused to ratify the treaty. No one was the worse for wear.

America worked for years on the Law of the Sea Treaty, a vast giveaway of oceanic wealth that we had the best technology to exploit, but the measure didn’t get to first base in the Senate, either. There are still politicians and diplomats and lawyers out there hoping to persuade the Senate to act. Fair enough. I wouldn’t ratify the Law of the Sea Treaty for all the sardines in the ocean. But trying to convince the Senate is fair enough. If it’s one thing to try to persuade the Senate, it’s another thing to take a treaty that the Senate is so clearly unwilling to ratify, as with global warming, and enter into a conspiracy to dodge the Senate and evade the Constitution — a document that every public official in our country is sworn to support.
This is basic Civics 101. My 10th grade students all understand this. You would think that someone who prides himself on having been a professor of Constitutional Law would understand this. And, of course, he does understand it. But he has just decided that if he wants to do something and he can't get the Senate for a treaty or the whole of Congress for a law to go along, then dang it he'll just have to do it himself and blame the Republicans for his being forced to ignore the Constitution. And just how does this differ from the sort of tyranny that the Constitutional checks and balances were designed to protect against?

James Taranto links to this essay by Israeli journalist Matti Friedman about how the media cover Israel. Friedman points out that the media cover Israel and the Palestinians as if it's the most important story on earth with move coverage than any other conflict on earth.
Staffing is the best measure of the importance of a story to a particular news organization. When I was a correspondent at the AP, the agency had more than 40 staffers covering Israel and the Palestinian territories. That was significantly more news staff than the AP had in China, Russia, or India, or in all of the 50 countries of sub-Saharan Africa combined. It was higher than the total number of news-gathering employees in all the countries where the uprisings of the “Arab Spring” eventually erupted.

To offer a sense of scale: Before the outbreak of the civil war in Syria, the permanent AP presence in that country consisted of a single regime-approved stringer. The AP’s editors believed, that is, that Syria’s importance was less than one-40th that of Israel....

The volume of press coverage that results, even when little is going on, gives this conflict a prominence compared to which its actual human toll is absurdly small. In all of 2013, for example, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict claimed 42 lives—that is, roughly the monthly homicide rate in the city of Chicago. Jerusalem, internationally renowned as a city of conflict, had slightly fewer violent deaths per capita last year than Portland, Ore., one of America’s safer cities. In contrast, in three years the Syrian conflict has claimed an estimated 190,000 lives, or about 70,000 more than the number of people who have ever died in the Arab-Israeli conflict since it began a century ago.

News organizations have nonetheless decided that this conflict is more important than, for example, the more than 1,600 women murdered in Pakistan last year (271 after being raped and 193 of them burned alive), the ongoing erasure of Tibet by the Chinese Communist Party, the carnage in Congo (more than 5 million dead as of 2012) or the Central African Republic, and the drug wars in Mexico (death toll between 2006 and 2012: 60,000), let alone conflicts no one has ever heard of in obscure corners of India or Thailand. They believe Israel to be the most important story on earth, or very close.
I suspect that part of this discrepancy is that it is much easier and pleasanter to be a reporter in Israel than one in Syria or Pakistan or Tibet or Congo. He goes on to point to how the media frame the story by totally ignoring the Palestinians as having any responsibility for their situation. They ignore the corruption in the Palestinian Authority yet drill down on the slightest negative story about Israeli society. The media ignore or downplay the fact that Hamas censors and intimidates them in their coverage of conflict in Gaza. It is like after the fall of Saddam Hussein, CNN's Eason Jordan told the world of how CNN had kept certain stories to themselves because of their fear of what Saddam would do to Iraqis who had worked with CNN if they had made stories of atrocities committed by Saddam and his sons. Yet reporters in Gaza don't seem to care about presenting a true picture of life in Gaza because they're too focused on blaming everything on Israel. Friedman goes on to say many perceptive things about how the media and their western audiences see conflict between Israel and the Palestinians and fail to see those tensions as part of of conflicts throughout the Middle East. And, by portraying the conflict as simply one between Israel and Palestinians they get to portray Israel as the stronger entity instead of framing the conflict as one between Israel and Arabs or between Israelis and Muslims if one were to include the hostile countries of Turkey and Iran. Such a framing would make Israel be a tiny country of 6 million facing 300 million Arabs in surrounding countries.

And what explains this invidious depiction of Israel? Westerners can project onto Israel everything they despise about their own nation's histories.
When the people responsible for explaining the world to the world, journalists, cover the Jews’ war as more worthy of attention than any other, when they portray the Jews of Israel as the party obviously in the wrong, when they omit all possible justifications for the Jews’ actions and obscure the true face of their enemies, what they are saying to their readers—whether they intend to or not—is that Jews are the worst people on earth. The Jews are a symbol of the evils that civilized people are taught from an early age to abhor. International press coverage has become a morality play starring a familiar villain....

White people in London and Paris whose parents not long ago had themselves fanned by dark people in the sitting rooms of Rangoon or Algiers condemn Jewish “colonialism.” Americans who live in places called “Manhattan” or “Seattle” condemn Jews for displacing the native people of Palestine. Russian reporters condemn Israel’s brutal military tactics. Belgian reporters condemn Israel’s treatment of Africans. When Israel opened a transportation service for Palestinian workers in the occupied West Bank a few years ago, American news consumers could read about Israel “segregating buses.” And there are a lot of people in Europe, and not just in Germany, who enjoy hearing the Jews accused of genocide.

You don’t need to be a history professor, or a psychiatrist, to understand what’s going on. Having rehabilitated themselves against considerable odds in a minute corner of the earth, the descendants of powerless people who were pushed out of Europe and the Islamic Middle East have become what their grandparents were—the pool into which the world spits. The Jews of Israel are the screen onto which it has become socially acceptable to project the things you hate about yourself and your own country. The tool through which this psychological projection is executed is the international press.

Bret Stephens ponders the intriguing way that Obama's aides describe his personal reactions to various conflicts around the world.
Barack Obama "has become 'enraged' at the Israeli government, both for its actions and for its treatment of his chief diplomat, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. " So reports the Jerusalem Post, based on the testimony of Martin Indyk, until recently a special Middle East envoy for the president. The war in Gaza, Mr. Indyk adds, has had "a very negative impact" on Jerusalem's relations with Washington.

Think about this. Enraged. Not "alarmed" or "concerned" or "irritated" or even "angered." Anger is a feeling. Rage is a frenzy. Anger passes. Rage feeds on itself. Anger is specific. Rage is obsessional, neurotic.

And Mr. Obama—No Drama Obama, the president who prides himself on his cool, a man whose emotional detachment is said to explain his intellectual strength—is enraged. With Israel. Which has just been hit by several thousand unguided rockets and 30-odd terror tunnels, a 50-day war, the forced closure of its one major airport, accusations of "genocide" by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, anti-Semitic protests throughout Europe, general condemnation across the world. This is the country that is the object of the president's rage.

Think about this some more. In the summer in which Mr. Obama became "enraged" with Israel, Islamic State terrorists seized Mosul and massacred Shiite soldiers in open pits, Russian separatists shot down a civilian jetliner, Hamas executed 18 "collaborators" in broad daylight, Bashar Assad's forces in Syria came close to encircling Aleppo with the aim of starving the city into submission, a brave American journalist had his throat slit on YouTube by a British jihadist, Russian troops openly invaded Ukraine, and Chinese jets harassed U.S. surveillance planes over international waters.

Mr. Obama or his administration responded to these events with varying degrees of concern, censure and indignation. But rage?
Nope. Not so much. He saves that for the Israelis.

Charles C. W. Cooke explains why, despite the best efforts of the media and leftists, the Ferguson story has fizzled.

Mike Gonzalez writes about the origin of the term Latino to replace Hispanic. I hadn't known the origins of the term, but this exposes how ridiculous it is to think that it is supposedly more PC than Hispanic.
It was even sillier, then, that West Coast academics suddenly opined that “Hispanics” was a “colonial” term because it harked back to Spain’s colonization of Latin America, and we as a nation needed a new one. What this made clear once again is that to claim sensitivity to other cultures does not necessarily mean to know anything about them. Of all the terms that can be used, “Latinos” might be the silliest.

The Spanish-language term Latino America, from which Latino derives, was in fact created by the French, and what’s more, in one of Europe’s most blatant colonial misadventures in the Western Hemisphere: France’s attempt to forge an empire in Mexico, which it invaded in the 1860s while the United States was busy fighting the Civil War.

By popularizing a new phrase, the French were aiming to deemphasize the region’s ties to Spain and Portugal and create a larger connection to the Latin peoples of Europe—not just the Spanish and the Portuguese but also the French themselves. Up to that point, “Latin” had referred exclusively to the peoples of southern Europe who were conquered by the Roman Empire and adopted a version of their language—which was, to wit, Latin.
I always wondered how the term Latino could be more anti-colonial than Hispanic. Now I know. It isn't.

John Kerry calls ISIS "a cancer" that needs to be confronted. Doesn't that imply that we should be doing everything possible to stop them? It doesn't mean that we have to go it alone and I agree that this is an opportunity for the US to form a coalition such as we haven't seen since the one the George H.W. Bush gathered to push Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait. but it doesn't mean that we should dilly dally while trying to come up with a strategy or limit our efforts to thwarting ISIS in Iraq.

Monday, September 01, 2014

Cruising the Web

Victor Davis Hanson details Obama's weak knowledge of history. He just doesn't seem to know very much and keeps getting details wrong. But that doesn't matter to him since he has a progressive view of historic forces leading inexorably towards better, more civilized times. That's why he keeps saying that those he disapproves of are "on the wrong side of history," or that Putin or ISIS are not behaving as one should in the 21st century and that is why they are doomed to failure.
A Pollyannaish belief in historical predetermination seems to substitute for action. If Obama believes that evil should be absent in the 21st century, or that the arc of the moral universe must always bend toward justice, or that being on the wrong side of history has consequences, then he may think inanimate forces can take care of things as we need merely watch.

In truth, history is messier. Unfortunately, only force will stop seventh-century monsters like the Islamic State from killing thousands more innocents. Obama may think that reminding Putin that he is now in the 21st century will so embarrass the dictator that he will back off from Ukraine. But the brutish Putin may think that not being labeled a 21st-century civilized sophisticate is a compliment.

In 1935, French foreign minister Pierre Laval warned Joseph Stalin that the Pope would admonish him to go easy on Catholics — as if such moral lectures worked in the supposedly civilized 20th century. Stalin quickly disabused Laval of that naiveté. “The Pope?” Stalin asked, “How many divisions has he got?”

There is little evidence that human nature has changed over the centuries, despite massive government efforts to make us think and act nicer. What drives Putin, Boko Haram, or ISIS are the same age-old passions, fears, and sense of honor that over the centuries also moved Genghis Khan, the Sudanese Mahdists, and the Barbary pirates.

Obama’s naive belief in predetermined history — especially when his facts are often wrong — is a poor substitute for concrete moral action.
But, in Obama's view, history must be leaning in the right way. After all, he got elected didn't he?

Meanwhile, Jay Cost argues that Obama doesn't really have a vision. Or at least, the only vision he's had was getting elected. After that, he's basically had a bunch of contradictory positions or totally abdicated his responsibility to lead and left it all up to others.
n the sixth year of his presidency, it is clear that Obama does not have much of a vision at all. Sure, he is a man of the left and possesses a commitment to its goals; he thinks government should grow larger and taxes should increase. Beyond that, he does not seem to have a firm sense of the reforms he should implement, how to implement them, how he fits into the constitutional schema, what a sensible U.S. foreign policy should be or how to execute it.

This is not to say that the White House does not offer positions on the issues. We are inundated with Obama positions. We are also treated periodically to longer “think pieces” from sycophantic authors granted extraordinary access to reinforce the point that this is a president deeply engaged in the issues of the day, struggling to bring order from chaos.

Yet the constant positioning and propagandizing belie deep-rooted ambiguities in this administration, which​—​it must be noted​—​has taken flak from left and right for years. Radical academic Cornel West recently suggested that Obama is a corporatist stooge, while Rand Paul fretted about the “socialist nightmare” the president is creating. Some might think these critiques accidentally demonstrate that the president is down-the-center. More likely they point to the absence of “the vision thing.” Sometimes he’s a corporate crony, sometimes a socialist; it all depends on what side of the bed he wakes up on.

Consider health care. If any issue might suggest an Obama vision, this would be it. But what, really, is Obamacare? It is quite unlike Medicare or Social Security. Both programs​—​despite their shortcomings​—​are conscientious mixes of policy ideals and political realities, crafted by men with clear visions. Look carefully at both programs, and you can see that vision, not only of what the proper policy is, but how to get it through Congress and build public support.

Obamacare exhibits none of these qualities. It is a bizarre Rube Goldberg contraption with no clear idea at its core. The exchanges are intended to promote competition while the Medicaid expansion doubles down on single payer. It reins in the insurance companies while the risk corridor program shovels billions to them in bailout cash. It expands coverage for prescription drugs for seniors while simultaneously granting drug companies some exceedingly generous rents.

t is almost as if it were written with no White House input except, “Get me a bill to sign!” The historical record suggests that was more or less the case; apart from tasking his aides to run interference with industry insiders, the president was notably aloof from the proceedings on Capitol Hill. For instance, in a summer 2009 conference call with left-wing bloggers, the president was asked if people would be able to keep their existing insurance. His answer: “You know, I have to say that I am not familiar with the provision you are talking about.” Exactly.
Cost goes on to detail issue after issue where Obama has been on both sides and ends up advocating something that he used to criticize. And then he explains how much of the lack of achievements in Washington are due, not to Republican intransigence, but to Obama's insouciance. Or perhaps his reluctance to work together with those he despises. He may be willing to negotiate with Iran, but not House Republicans.
The current thinking is that common ground has given way to the vile partisanship of House Republicans, but this view withers under scrutiny. Both sides agree on the need for tax reform, and are not that far apart on a framework. Virtually no disinterested observer likes the vast array of farm subsidies; these could be reformed, as they were in 1996 under divided government. Conservative Republicans have recently turned their attention to corporate welfare, which has long been a bane of the left. Further, members of Congress are always bashful about their ties to special interests; a little presidential pressure on this front might yield some long-overdue reforms of the legislative process.

Why couldn’t Obama take the lead on any of these issues? If the country is stalemated on whether the government should grow or shrink, there is still an opportunity to build coalitions on reforming it. This would be good for the liberal project that Obama generally supports. One reason people do not want larger government is that they believe it does a bad job with its current assignments. If Obama spearheaded a campaign to improve various functions of government, people might become amenable to a larger federal presence. Why not go for it?

The answer is “the vision thing.” It includes a mix of traits that Obama does not seem to possess: taking ownership of a public problem, holding fast to core principles, guiding experts toward a solution, making the most of one’s legitimate role in the constitutional system, and building a legislative coalition to transform rhetoric into law. In six years as president, has Obama ever once done that, start to finish?

In the final analysis, Obama’s vision seems to have been for Barack Obama to be in the White House, which he accomplished more than five years ago. No wonder he has so much time to go golfing these days.

Obama felt so strongly about immigration reform that he and the Democrats did nothing about it when they controlled Congress in the first two years of his presidency. Now he keeps making noises about how he's going to take executive action because Congress has not put together a bill. But now the trial balloon is for him to postpone action until after the election so he doesn't hurt red-state Democrats.

So Obama has figured out the world. He explained to his fund-raiser audinence that "the world has always been messy." Not a news flash. But he's sossed out why things seem bad now. It's all the fault of social media. Gosh, just imagine how bad things would have seemed if we'd had Facebook and Twitter during the Civil War. Then things might have seemed truly messy. Ugh. What a patronizing comment from the President. I guess that's why he can seem so disengaged to all the foreign policies setbacks during his presidency. He just figures that it's only social media that is making them seem bad. After all, he is some sort of expert given how his presidential campaign took such advantage of social media. Maybe it's convinced him that, since the excitement ginned up by such media about his candidacy was not based on reality that any excitement over ISIS or Ukraine or Syria or Libya is also not based on reality.

One Canadian writes that we're seeing a modern version of "It's a Wonderful Life," except it's what the world would be like without the United States.

Yup, there are a lot of college professors who are fans of Hamas. I wonder if the parents of students at these universities are aware that they're paying for their kids to hear anti-Israeli rhetoric and praise for Hamas.

It must really anger all those who hate Israel to read a story like this about how Israel's economy has been booming despite the terrorism and war that they constantly face. It's nice that all those sanctimonious boycott Israel movements haven't dented its economy.

A fresh setback for labor on the eve of Labor Day as California farmers decided that they don't want to be represented by the United Farm Workers. So, of course, the California government is doing its best to help the union out by refusing to count the vote and trying to force a UFW contract down their throats.

The Energy Department is getting ready to issue new efficiency standards for household appliances. Of course, these new standards are going to drive the prices of appliances up and low-income consumers will be the ones most severely hurt despite the department's claim that people will save money over the long run from the energy savings.
Miller suggests that both sides could be right. She said the new efficiency standards will save wealthy consumers money in the long run, because they can afford to pay the higher costs for new household appliances.

Lower-income consumers, however, will be at a disadvantage, she said. They will have a tough time paying for the more expensive appliances, and are likely to keep using older ones.

She also said that could defeat the environmental reasons for pushing the new rules.

“If you can’t afford a dishwasher, you’re stuck washing your dishes by hand,” Miller said, “which actually uses more water.”
In a post entitled "Having solved all other problems, Obama to fix your dishwasher," jazz Shaw comments,
For some reason which I can’t quite put my finger on, this sounds awfully familiar. Changing regulations for everyone’s benefit without taking into account the real world fallout and secondary costs which would inevitably be passed on to the consumer? Give me a minute. I’m sure it will come to me.

And what a coincidence that the Obama administration's edicts on appliances parallel similar EU regulations.
Bosses in Brussels have made a provisional list of 30 household appliances which could be restricted next year.

They want to cut the power of hairdryers by nearly a third in a bid to be a greener Europe, with other every day household items facing the cull including kettles, toasters and lawnmowers.

The move has sparked outrage among the UK with Ukip saying the decision by "nannying Eurocrats" was another reason to leave Europe.

From Monday some of the country's best vacuum cleaners will be among those to be banned because they have motors above the new EU limit of 1,600 watts.
This has led to a rush by people to buy up the older stock so that they won't be stuck with the new appliances that won't work as well.

Jeffrey H. Joseph, a professor at GWU's School of Business details how Eric Holder's Justice Department is trying, without any due proces, to force manufacturers of goods that they don't approve of out of busines in what they call "Operation Choke Point."

The non-response rate problem that is plaguing modern pollsters is also affecting unemployment statistics which are based on surveying people.
A new academic paper suggests that the unemployment rate appears to have become less accurate over the last two decades, in part because of this rise in nonresponse. In particular, there seems to have been an increase in the number of people who once would have qualified as officially unemployed and today are considered out of the labor force, neither working nor looking for work.

The trend obviously matters for its own sake: It suggests that the official unemployment rate – 6.2 percent in July – understates the extent of economic pain in the country today. That makes intuitive sense. Wage growth is weak, and Americans are pretty dissatisfied with the economy, according to other surveys. The new paper is a reminder that the unemployment rate deserves less attention than it often receives.

Yet the research also relates to a larger phenomenon. The declining response rate to surveys of almost all kinds is among the biggest problems in the social sciences. It’s complicating our ability to understand how people live and what they believe. “It’s a huge issue,” says Alan Krueger, a Princeton economist and one of the new paper’s three authors.
And since the people aren't responding, we don't know who they are and what they would say. This problem has been developing for quite a while and it makes all sorts of government statistics as well as polling data quite suspect.

If you have your hopes set on renewable energy, you might want to rethink that bit of idealism.

For some reason the NYT didn't want its readers to see a picture of an ISIS executioner holding a knife while preparing to execute James Foley.

And, contrary to the doomsday warnings from Al Gore and John Kerry, the Arctic ice cap has expanded for the second year in a row. So now the alarmists are just moving their predictions for when the polar ice cap will disappear to next year.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Cruising the Web

Gosh, Obama sure makes it look like amateur hour, doesn't he? All those aides who had to scramble to try to say that Obama really does have a strategy for going after ISIS and didn't mean to say what he actually said must be wondering why they let him go out there without a teleprompter. So he finally decided to be the most transparent president ever and tell everyone in the world that, despite all that ISIS has been doing all summer, he doesn't have a strategy yet. But maybe he'll get one soon right after the fundraisers that he has for this weekend. Who would expect him to have made sure his security advisers kept working on it even while he was on vacation for a few weeks.

I mean it's not as if the White House wasn't warned about the growing threat that ISIS represented for four years even while the President was describing them as the JV team of terrorism just a few months ago. Oh, wait.

And then he threw Ukraine under the bus all the while saying that Putin was weaker now because of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Huh? Has Obama missed out on what is happening right now in Ukraine? Charles Krauthammer expresses some well-earned derision towards that fatuity.
But even worse than the president’s statement that he had no strategy to defeat the Islamic State, Krauthammer said, was his comment about Ukraine. Krauthammer summarized Obama’s comment on his strategy in Ukraine by saying Obama acknowledged that he had a strategy in Ukraine, which was “to do absolutely nothing.”

“He basically said, “We’re going to do nothing. I’ll wait until I chat with the allies next week.” I thought he had a phone,” Krauthammer said. “How about picking up the phone and talking with the allies? You know the phone is a way to communicate rather rapidly.”
Mollie Hemingway points out that the really significant statement coming from Obama was that it wasn't our policy to defeat ISIS, but just to reverse their gains in Iraq.

But apparently, all that people cared about from his press conference was that he was wearing a dang ugly suit. Hey, the world is falling apart so it's obviously time to discuss the President's suit.

We're now learning terrible stories about mass rapes of children in Rotherham in England. The stories are absolutely horrifying.
It is hard to describe the appalling nature of the abuse that child victims suffered. They were raped by multiple perpetrators, trafficked to other towns and cities in the north of England, abducted, beaten, and intimidated. There were examples of children who had been doused in petrol and threatened with being set alight, threatened with guns, made to witness brutally violent rapes and threatened they would be next if they told anyone. Girls as young as 11 were raped by large numbers of male perpetrators.
As Ian Tuttle summarizes the story, the numbers over the past decade and a half of children being sexually exploited are astounding. And the authorities did nothing about it because the men were Pakistani.
An estimated 1,400 children were victims of child sexual exploitation between 1997 and 2013, according to an independent inquiry commissioned last fall by Rotherham’s Metropolitan Borough Council. But because the perpetrators were overwhelmingly “Asian” — for the most part, Muslim men from Pakistan — local authorities, from social-services managers to law enforcement, regularly neglected reports of rape, assault, and sex trafficking for fear of being deemed racist.

Today, a U.K. newspaper illustrates in ghastly detail what young girls in Rotherham have faced for nearly two decades. The Mirror reports that a Rotherham teenager, “Emma,” was raped daily for two years and subjected to a mock execution. When she went to the police with the names of 250 of her attackers, law enforcement did nothing.
I guess that is the sort of war on women that feminists don't care so much about since it can't be blamed on Republicans. And then there is the whole problem of not wanting to single out a single ethnic group and sound politically incorrect. As Andrew McCarthy writes, this is the type of flabby cowardice that allows such horrific behavior to continue. And the use of rape as a tool of jihadist terror is growing more common. They're told by their leaders that the women deserve it because they're not wearing the proper headdresses and clothes, but that doesn't matter since they're raping young girls in their own communities. And European governments seem helpless before it.

And then there is this story of Muslim men breaking into a convent in Bangladesh to attack and rape the nuns there
who had devoted their lives to helping poor Muslims in that country.

Behavior such as we've seen with ISIS, Russian invading Ukraine, or these stories about rapes in Rotherham tell us that evil truly does exist in this world. And, as Noemie Emery writes, we are seeing a real world refutation of Obama's vision of a world when all he had to do was reach out to our nation's enemies and be the unBush and all would be well.
We don’t have Middle East chaos despite the fact that "restraint" is his policy. We have it as the result. The more Obama retreats from forcible measures, the more force pursues him. The harder he tries to avoid the suggestion of violence, the more people horribly die.

Six years after Obama's historic transformation of just about everything, he has proven his antagonists right in their major assumptions: Evil exists, not in a relative manner, and cannot be reasoned with.
And don't assume that we're safe here in the United States. We already have had murderous jihadist terrorism on our soil since 9/11 even though the Obama administration classified it as workplace violence. Remember the Fort Hood shooter, Nidal Hasan, who killed 13 people and injured more than 30 while shouting "Allahu Akbar"? Well, it seems that he sees something he likes in ISIS and has requested that he be allowed to "be made a citizen of the Islamic State." But that was just simple "Workplace violence." Nothing to see there, move along.

But of course. Eric Holder's Justice department negotiated a $17 billion settlement with Bank of America and a part of the deal was to create a slush form for Democratic activist groups. IBD writes,
All told, Holder has shaken down the nation's largest banks for a whopping $128 billion, more than a 10th of a trillion dollars, and counting. Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo are reportedly in talks with Justice to settle additional mortgage cases.
In effect, lenders are bankrolling the same parasites that bled them for the risky loans that caused the mortgage crisis. With new cash, they can ramp back up their shakedown campaign, repeating the cycle of dangerous political lending that wrecked the economy.

These settlements have little, if anything, to do with "justice" or restitution for innocent victims. In its 30-page "statement of facts," Justice couldn't provide a single shred of evidence of fraud against BofA. Nor could it ID a single "victim" by name.

The attorney general is actually perverting justice by extorting billions of dollars from the largest banks in the country and giving it away to the president's political friends and favorite political causes.
Just part of the corruption that Eric Holder has brought to the Justice Department as detailed by John Fund and Hans von Spakovsky in their comprehensive book, Obama's Enforcer: Eric Holder's Justice Department. They paint a dismaying picture of how Holder has not only corrupted the department but installed people of his ilk in career positions so they'll be there perverting justice long after Eric Holder and Barack Obama are no longer in power.

Oh, how quaint. It seems that Senator Mary Landrieu doesn't actually live in Louisiana. She claims to live in her parents' home but the neighbors have never seen her there. Mary Katharine Ham does find one benefit of this arrangement for Landrieu.
On the upside, Landrieu could certainly argue she better understands the hardships of the Obama economy because she’s living in her parents’ basement.

The Republicans are now claiming that they finally, really, actually do have a state-of-the-art get-out-the-vote program that will rival the Democratic one that killed GOP efforts in the past two presidential elections. The proof will be in the electoral pudding, but I'll hold off on congratulations until we see how it operates in 2016.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Cruising the Web

Congratulations to the school where I teach which was ranked 15th in the South and 20th nationally by the Daily Beast based on data from the Department of Education. I have felt very lucky to teach at a school with such a thoughtful and caring administration and faculty. And the students are just lovely. I still look forward to every day at work even though it's exhausting.

And this is no surprise: "Charter schools spend less than public schools, but achieve better results." I can certainly testify that this is true of my school:
Why are charters so cost-effective and productive? “It appears to be likely that much of the basis for the higher productivity of public charter schools rests on the fact that they receive less funding and therefore are highly disciplined in their use of those education dollars,” the authors surmise.

“Our analysis indicates that charter schools are consistently more productive than traditional public schools across both cost effectiveness and return on investment calculations for all the states in the study,” Wolf and his coauthors conclude.
For example, several years ago, we decided to buy a building instead of renting our location. North Carolina doesn't give us money for our infrastructure so we have to pay for our building out of our per student allotment. We finally found an ideal location but it needed to be rebuilt from the studs up to be changed from an office building into a school. In order to save money, we depended on parent, student, and faculty volunteers to paint the new building and move us from our old building. Over a couple of days with dozens of volunteers, we moved all the furniture and boxes from the old to the new building. All our furniture is either donated or bought used. And we do just fine. My students don't suffer from using tables and chairs that came from a regular public high school library that was remodeling. We don't need spiffy furniture or professional painters and movers when we have good sweat equity from our own students and families. And everyone felt they had a much deeper stake in our school because they had been involved in bringing it to life. How many regular public schools can say that?

Liz Sheld points to this disturbing result from Pew Research when respondents were asked about libertarians: When asked "Which of these terms best describes someone whose political views emphasize individual freedom by limiting the role of government?" 57% knew the answer was Libertarian, but 6% thought it was Authoritarian and 20% thought it meant Progressive. It demonstrates that a significant portion of the American populace doesn't know much about politics. Candidates need to campaign on what they believe and stay away from labels since so many people don't understand what the labels mean.

Jeffrey Goldberg writes about the disturbing increases in anti-Semitism in Europe. He talks about a local grocery store that was targeted by protesters calling for a boycott of Israeli-made goods. So the manager emptied out the kosher food section. As Goldberg writes, this indicates that anti-Israeli feeling is conflated with anti-Jewish sentiments.
And yet, the Sainsbury’s incident is disturbing not so much for what it says about the nature of European anti-Israelism, but for what it says about the broader response within Europe to forces of intolerance and hatred. Employees of the Sainsbury’s branch in central London seemed to have understood, based on an accurate reading of recent events, that anti-Israel activists posed a threat to their store, and perhaps to their own physical well-being. And so the manager made a decision to surrender to the mob and engage in what could only be called an act of self-preservational, but objectively anti-Semitic, preemption.

Cowering of this sort is a sign that a country is losing the ability to stand for the values it professes to maintain. In the U.K., it is also a sign that a society hasn’t fully grappled with the radical intolerance exhibited by some of its citizens.

The Sainsbury's incident happened in the same city in which recruiters for Islamic State, the too-radical-for-al-Qaeda group that executed American photojournalist James Foley, have been seen openly passing out propaganda. It happened in the same place where what appeared to be a jihadist flag flew outside a housing estate. As many as 1,500 Britons are apparently fighting for Islamic State's cause. There are said to be more British Muslims fighting on behalf of Islamic State than for the U.K.'s military. Foley’s executioner, currently the world’s most infamous terrorist, is widely believed to be a British subject.
It's these casual surrenders to anti-Semitic intimidation that have brought Europe to the frightening position it is now as we can see from the blog "The New Antisemite" which seeks to cover "Jew hatred in Europe, one isolated incident at a time." Seeing incident after incident around all of Europe is so very discouraging.

David Harsanyi ridicules how liberals were freaking out at the thought that Burger King might merge with a Canadian company and base its HQ there in order to gain the benefit of Canada's lower corporate tax rates. First of all, Burger King is owned by a Brazilian company. So why haven't people freaked out about that? And people shop for quality and price, not on the basis of where the company HQ is located.
It’s doubtful there will be much of a real backlash despite much wishful thinking. Most obviously, the majority of fast food customers are probably less inclined than the editors of the New Republic or the petitioners of to mistake high tax rates with patriotism. This kind of distorted understanding of national loyalty may work in populist politics, but not so much in markets. Few reasonable humans will meditate on Burger King’s corporate tax “inversion” or its fiduciary duty to stockholders – or even its Brazilian owners – as they wait for the frozen French Fries to be dropped into the deep fryer.

Nor should they. The four best selling cars in America so far in 2014 are the Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima, Honda Accord and Toyota Corolla. One of the best-selling cell phones brands is South Korean. And so on. Does a Whopper taste like a Whopper? That’s all that matters. And it’s all that should. Nothing really changes for the consumer.

Josh Kraushaar travels to Minnesota to try to ask Al Franken questions as Franken runs for reelection. It's not easy.

Obamacare - death by a thousand rate hikes.

So will Obama sacrifice red-state Democrats in order to appease those in his parties demanding he take executive action on immigration? But at least he's given those Democrats running for reelection an opportunity to separate themselves from his policies. Or maybe the hope is that the GOP will shoot themselves in their collective feet by their reaction to whatever the President decides to do.

The federal government is trying to convince us that it really isn't all that unreasonably expensive to try to live in San Francisco or New York City.