Friday, September 13, 2013

Cruising the Web

Byron York explains why President Obama's mini-campaign to change public opinion on Syria will fail.

As Charles Krauthammer writes, we have witnessed "epic incompetence" in Obama's actions concerning Syria.
That “strike Syria, maybe” speech begins with a heart-rending account of children consigned to a terrible death by a monster dropping poison gas. It proceeds to explain why such behavior must be punished. It culminates with the argument that the proper response — the most effective way to uphold fundamental norms, indeed human decency — is a flea bite: something “limited,” “targeted” or, as so memorably described by Secretary of State John Kerry, “unbelievably small.”

The mind reels, but there’s more. We must respond — but not yet. This “Munich moment” (Kerry again) demands first a pause to find accommodation with that very same toxin-wielding monster, by way of negotiations with his equally cynical, often shirtless, Kremlin patron bearing promises.

The promise is to rid Syria of its chemical weapons. The negotiations are open-ended. Not a word from President Obama about any deadline or ultimatum. And utter passivity: Kerry said hours earlier that he awaited the Russian proposal.

Why? The administration claims (preposterously, but no matter) that Obama has been working on this idea with Putin at previous meetings. Moreover, the idea was first publicly enunciated by Kerry, even though his own State Department immediately walked it back as a slip of the tongue.

Take at face value Obama’s claim of authorship. Then why isn’t he taking ownership? Why isn’t he calling it the “U.S. proposal” and defining it? Why not issue a U.S. plan containing the precise demands, detailed timeline and threat of action should these conditions fail to be met?
Conor Friedersdorf marvels at Obama's pretended passivity in the growth of executive power as if he had nothing to do with it. In his speech on Tuesday he spoke of "a decade that put more and more war-making power in the hands of the president, and more and more burdens on the shoulders of our troops, while sidelining the people’s representatives from the critical decisions about when we use force." Note the passive verb. As Friedersdorf writes,
The grammar is priceless. Who "put more and more war-making power in the hands of the president"? In Obama's telling, "a decade" put the executive power there.

The absence of a human subject in the sentence isn't hard to figure out. For all President George W. Bush's faults, he sought and received majority support for the Patriot Act, the September 2001 AUMF, the War in Afghanistan, and the War in Iraq. Obama's expansion of the drone war and his illegal war-making in Libya didn't turn out as bad as Iraq, so it's hard to see him as a worse president, but Obama has done more than Bush to expand the war-making power of the White House. As for "sidelining the people’s representatives from the critical decisions about when we use force," it's Obama who went into Libya despite the fact that a House vote to approve U.S. involvement was brought to the floor and voted down.

Yet Obama complains about these trends as if someone other than Obama is responsible for them, and as if he has been and remains powerless to do more to reverse them. When Obama asked Congress to vote in Syria, no one forced him to insist that he had the power to intervene militarily even if a legislative vote declared otherwise. No one forced him to defend the extreme position that the presidential war power is so sweeping that it includes waging wars of choice rejected by Congress that don't involve any direct or imminent threat to the United States.

He went out of his way to defend that maximal precedent, even as gave us the impression that he was trying to rein in executive power that he claims to find regrettable and worrisome. It's all consistent with Obama's favorite rhetorical tactic: granting the validity of an objection in his rhetoric, then totally ignoring the objection in his actions. In so doing, he confuses public discourse and subverts debate.
Hey, but at least he gets to pretend that he opposes such overreach in executive power. And the pretense is all that matters.

Victor Davis Hanson has a very depressing description of what is happening in California and what the likely future is.
What, then, is the state's strategy for recovery? More taxes, regulations and government.

Apparently, officials in Sacramento assume that the state's rich inheritance, coastal culture, and natural beauty and climate will ensure that most Californians stay put, keep innovating, and pony up far more in sales, income and gas taxes.

The exorbitant cost of living will simply be the shakedown price of being a resident of hip Newport Beach or Palo Alto -- places believed to be safe, if not immune, from the turmoil growing elsewhere in the state.

So will California recover its past glory -- or go the way of Detroit?

It may do both.

Coastal greens, progressive Bay Area gays, liberal urban elites and hip dot-com workers will probably not soon flee the temperate, scenic corridor from Berkeley to San Diego. For at least a while longer, they will be wealthy and confident enough to afford the living costs that high taxes and myriads of regulations ensure.

Yet for the strapped middle classes in the interior of the Los Angeles basin and the Central Valley, there is a perfect storm raging. They can ill afford the soaring taxes, high unemployment, costly illegal immigration, escalating crime rates, substandard roads, record power and gas prices, underwater home values and dismal schools.

In short, the California coastal corridor still resembles Germany, while much of the interior is becoming Greece.
Kudos to Mayor Gray of Washington, D.C. who vetoed the pernicious "living wage" bill that would have basically forced Walmart to pay its workers more than other similar businesses. Walmart has said they would abandon plans to expand in the District if the bill became law. Thus, the citizens of Washington would have lost those job opportunities as well as the ability to buy cheaper products. It was a lose-lose proposition that only a liberal ignorant of economics would have supported. Robert Samuelson explains why a higher minimum wage is not "a shortcut to social justice."
But large, abrupt increases in the minimum would almost certainly kill lots of jobs. That’s the danger of “living wage” proposals, which often involve steep increases. Striking fast-food workers want $15 an hour. In Washington, the D.C. Council has passed legislation (the mayor must still approve or veto it) that would require Wal-Mart to pay $12.50 an hour, roughly 50 percent higher than the city’s existing minimum, $8.25. Wal-Mart has plans for five stores in the city, with three under construction. If the law takes effect, the company says it will cancel the others.

Here’s the larger issue.

In the short run, even sizable increases in mandated wages may have moderate effects on employment, because businesses won’t abandon their investments in existing operations. But companies that think themselves condemned to losses or meager profits won’t expand. Not surprisingly, a study by two economists at Texas A&M finds that the minimum wage’s biggest adverse effects are on future job growth, not current employment. To this defect must be added another: An excessively high minimum will attract more skilled workers, denying the less skilled an entry point to work and on-the-job training.
Is that really the goal of proponents of such bills - to harm economic growth so much that unskilled workers won't be able to find jobs?

Well, here is no surprise. When teachers aren't forced to join a union, they decide they don't want the union. The teachers in Wisconsin's third-largest school district just voted two-to-one to decertify their union.

Charles Lane presents some hard truths about Cuba. Did you know that cholera has returned to the island which supposedly has the most wonderful health care?