Monday, February 03, 2014

Cruising the Web

Robert Samuelson tears into the myths abounding about economic inequality.
For starters, the poor are not poor because the rich are rich. The two conditions are generally unrelated. Mostly, the rich got rich by running profitable small businesses (car dealerships, builders), creating big enterprises (Google, Microsoft), being at the top of lucrative occupations (bankers, lawyers, doctors, actors, athletes), managing major companies or inheriting fortunes. By contrast, the very poor often face circumstances that make their lives desperate....

Solutions elude us. Though some low-income workers would benefit from a higher minimum wage, most of the very poor would not. They’re not in the labor force; they either can’t work — too young, old, disabled or unskilled — or won’t. Of the 46 million people below the government’s poverty line in 2012, only 6 percent had year-round full-time jobs. Among men 25 to 55 with a high school diploma or less, the share with jobs fell from more than 90 percent in 1970 to less than 75 percent in 2010, reports Ron Haskins of the Brookings Institution . For African American men ages 20 to 24, less than half were working.

It’s also not true that, as widely asserted, the wealthiest Americans (the notorious top 1 percent) have captured all the gains in productivity and living standards of recent decades. The Congressional Budget Office examined income trends for the past three decades. It found sizable gains for all income groups.

President Obama's unilateral approach to enforcing and interpreting laws may well prevent Republicans from signing on to any major reform of immigration laws. They just don't trust him to enforce any law he doesn't like. The WSJ, which supports immigration reform, writes,
But Mr. Ryan explained that the main obstacle to a bipartisan reform is that too many Republicans believe Mr. Obama will simply ignore laws he doesn't like—even one the President signs. "We have an increasingly lawless presidency where he is actually doing the job of Congress, writing new policies and new laws without going through Congress. Presidents don't write laws, Congress does. And when he does things like he did in health care, delaying mandates that the law said was supposed to occur when they were supposed to occur, that's not his job," Mr. Ryan said. "Here's the issue that all Republicans agree on: We don't trust the President to enforce the law."

Regarding immigration, the problem is that even some supporters of reform don't think Mr. Obama will implement border-security measures if Congress passes them as part of a compromise. We think the GOP puts too much focus on border enforcement rather than market mechanisms to stop illegal migration. But if reform fails this year, the fault will lie as much with Mr. Obama's disdain for the law as it will GOP opposition.

Michael Barone reminds us of three fundamental assumptions behind Obamacare that have already been disproved.

Meet the Jewish black Marine running for Jim Moran's seat. Unfortunately, he probably doesn't have a chance. He's also a Republican.

How Israel is going to become the leading nation on cybersecurity innovations.

Who really cares about Palestinians?
If you want to understand the difference between people who are actually pro-Palestinian and those who routinely but falsely claim that label, it’s worth reading the Forward’s interview with SodaStream CEO Daniel Birnbaum. The headline, of course, was Birnbaum’s admission that having a plant in a West Bank settlement is “a pain in the ass,” and he would “never” locate there today. But the most striking comment was his answer to the question of why, in that case, he doesn’t shut the West Bank plant and transfer its operations to SodaStream’s new facility in the Negev, which has ample capacity:
The reason for staying is loyalty to approximately 500 Palestinians who are among the plant’s 1,300 employees, Birnbaum claimed. While other employees could relocate on the other side of the Green Line if the plant moved, the West Bank Palestinian workers could not, and would suffer financially, he argued.

“We will not throw our employees under the bus to promote anyone’s political agenda,” he said, adding that he “just can’t see how it would help the cause of the Palestinians if we fired them.”
In other words, Birnbaum is concerned about real live Palestinians whose families need to eat. That’s a concern noticeably absent among the usual “pro-Palestinian” types, who couldn’t care less about ordinary Palestinians’ welfare unless it happens to serve their primary goal of attacking Israel: See, for instance, the shocking indifference by “pro-Palestinian” groups to the literal starvation of Palestinians in Syria (since Israel can’t be blamed for it), or the Dutch and German governments’ efforts to halt sewage treatment and landfill projects that would primarily benefit Palestinians because Jewish settlers would also benefit.
Cheers to Scarlett Johansson for resisting the tendentious complaints from liberal intellectuals at Oxfam by continuing to represent SodaStream and pointing out that they employ 500 West Bank Palestinians with wages that are higher than they could get from other employers instead of just giving in to such bigoted complaints. Perhaps the publicity given to this episode might lead people to realizing that having Palestinians work alongside Israeli Jews might actually be a good thing.

So what has Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction wrought?

Writing in the Washington Post, Katherine Zimmerman writes that the administration's insistence that al-Qaeda was not involved in the attack on Benghazi is crippling American military's ability to come up with strategic planning.
Here’s the problem: According to recently declassified testimony of Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, before the House Armed Services Committee in October, the U.S. military regards itself as legally barred from going after the perpetrators of the Benghazi attacks (and, presumably, others who attack Americans) unless they are affiliated with al-Qaeda. The Obama administration’s parsing of words to deny al-Qaeda’s direct involvement effectively precludes a military response in these situations.

But the United States can neither disrupt nor defend itself from an enemy it cannot define. Nor are we safer because of arbitrary definitions. The question demands an answer: What is al-Qaeda?

In light of the kerfuffle over MSNBC and its employees' assumption that Republicans don't like mixed-race families, Jim Lindgren takes a look at the statistics on mixed-race families and political ideology. The results are not quite what some MSNBC staff might expect.

Ah, BBC provides the most entertaining subtitle blunder of the year and we're only one month in.

Here is a fun look at how the map of the US would look like if the population of states were matched to their geographical size. I like the idea of California now being where Alaska is.

While we're looking at fun maps, here is one looking at how much snow it typically takes to cancel school in the US.