Monday, June 09, 2014

Cruising the Web

Byron York wonders what will happen the next time President Obama decides to release prisoners from Gitmo without giving Congress a 30 days notice.
Having relied on the U.S. obligation to take care of its troops as an explanation for the Bergdahl case, Democrats might have a difficult time falling in line the next time if there's no American to be saved.

Back in December 2013, when Obama signed the Defense Authorization Act into law, he issued a now-famous signing statement in which he argued the notification clause "would violate constitutional separation of powers principles.

"The executive branch must have the flexibility, among other things, to act swiftly in conducting negotiations with foreign countries regarding the circumstances of detainee transfers," Obama wrote.

The message was clear: The president will act as he chooses, no matter what Congress wants. The next Guantanamo release could make the Bergdahl battle seem tame.

Mollie Hemingway presents "the 8 stupidest arguments being made about Obama's Bergdahl swap" from both the Democrats and Republicans.

Senator Feinstein is not having any of the administration's excuse-making on the Bergdahl swap.

Jonah Goldberg destroys the straw men-arguments that Obama is, of course, resorting to now that he's facing criticism on trading five Taliban senior leaders for Sgt. Bergdahl. Slicing through straw men seems to be Obama's go-to defense whenever he's challenged.
His response was vintage Obama: “I’m never surprised by controversies that are whipped up in Washington.”

Thus establishing from the start that he considers the controversy to be a kind of partisan farce, he proceeded to rebut criticisms virtually no one has made. This is Obama’s favorite rhetorical trick; he builds and then tears apart a straw man while insisting that the American people are on his side.
“I make absolutely no apologies for making sure that we get back a young man to his parents and that the American people understand that this is somebody’s child and that we don’t condition whether or not we make the effort to try to get them back,” he said. “This is not a political football.”

Scour the Internet until your fingers bleed, and you won’t find a single person who has denied that Bowe Bergdahl is someone’s child.

Search through the statements of Obama’s critics — Republicans and Democrats — and you’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone who disagrees that the U.S. should do what it can to retrieve its POWs. No one has ever said the U.S. shouldn’t try.

But, obviously, we must put conditions on the effort. That Bergdahl was held captive for half a decade is proof of that.

The Obama administration had been negotiating for years for Bergdahl’s release. Why negotiate at all if we don’t have conditions? Without conditions, the Taliban could ask for anything — all of the prisoners in Gitmo, a billion dollars, the L.A. Clippers — and our hands would be tied.

Of course, the real intent behind Obama’s spin is to take the focus off credible allegations that Bergdahl was a deserter sympathetic to America’s enemies and put it on the more sympathetic parents who just wanted their child back.

But the insinuation that only his critics are guilty of politicizing this foreign-policy decision is reprehensible and ridiculous. A 2012 Rolling Stone story on Bergdahl included a quote from a “senior administration official familiar with the negotiations” who said that “it could be a huge win if Obama could bring him home.” The official added, “Especially in an election year, if it’s handled properly.” Recall that this same administration has defended itself on the Benghazi scandal by insisting that it never let election-year politics influence its foreign policy.

Obama has a standard strategy for fighting off any controversy. He'll create a straw man argument and then congratulate himself for smiting down the pretend arguments he's created himself. Thus, all criticism of him or his administration comes from purely partisan motives because he doesn't allow the possibility that people could oppose his policies for any reason other than partisanship. That is why the Washington Examiner could find that he uses the phrase "political football" whenever a scandal arises.

John Hood describes how liberals ignore social science results.
When liberals claim that taxes don’t affect job creation or economic growth, they are ignoring the results of hundreds of academic studies published since 1990 that reveal negative relationships between state economic performance and overall tax burdens (in 63 percent of the relevant studies), property taxes (61 percent), sales taxes (65 percent), business taxes (67 percent), and marginal income tax rates (70 percent).

When liberals claim that higher state spending on public assistance programs boosts the economy — by increasing the purchasing power of recipients for example — they are ignoring the results of 62 academic studies published on the issue since 1990. In two- thirds of them, higher state spending on public assistance was associated with less economic growth, not more.

When liberals complain that Republican proposals to transfer tax dollars from funding teacher assistants to raising teacher pay will do more harm than good, they are ignoring the fact that 69 percent of studies on the subject found the presence of teacher assistants has no measurable effect on student learning, while the vast majority of empirical research finds the quality of classroom teachers to be a key factor.

And when liberals complain that ending bonuses for graduate degrees will harm teacher quality, they are ignoring a veritable mountain of evidence — 81 percent of the 114 studies published since 1990 — that teachers with graduate degrees are no more effective than teachers without them. It turns out that teacher quality is best evaluated directly on the basis of principal evaluations, value-added test scores, or both, not indirectly on the basis of credentials or years of experience.

By no means do I mean to suggest that every important question about state fiscal and education policy has been answered. Social scientists and policy analysts will have plenty to research, study, and argue about for decades to come.

But some propositions about public policy have now been established beyond a reasonable doubt. For liberals to insist that North Carolina’s recent decisions to reduce and reform taxes, limit entitlement spending, and redirect education dollars to performance-based teacher compensation are “mean-spirited,” “extreme,” “ideologically motivated,” or “immoral” is to establish only that they are ignorant of or indifferent to the findings of modern social science.

One employment stat has declined for every year of Obama's presidency - the labor force participation rate.
What does this mean? It means that as the unemployment rate has steadily dwindled to the still historically high 6.3%, none of that has to do with more people as a percentage of the population finding employment.
Why does this threaten America? As more people retire and the national debt continues to approach $20 trillion, then both the demand for more social services increases and the burden on those still willing to work goes up.
On everything from subsidies for Obamacare to food stamps to Medicare and Medicaid all the way down the line, the bill keeps getting bigger, and the percentage of Americans willing and able to pay it keeps getting smaller.

Who was a worse Secretary of State - Hillary Clinton or John Kerry. It's a tough choice.

The federal government's hypocrisy on the Endangered Species Act is dizzying. They'll throw the full power of the government against any individual who may have done anything that disturbs the habitat or even touched an animal on the list.
[M]arine biologist Black wasn't so lucky. The U.S. Attorney's Office, on behalf of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, gave Black three years probation and fined her $12,000 for feeding a whale in Monterey Bay.
But when it comes to the wind industry, the administration doesn't give a hoot about the Endangered Species Act.
Under a new Obama administration policy, wind farm operators are getting 30-year permits to kill protected species.

The new renewable energy policy gives wind farm operators 30-year permits - up from the current 5 years - to kill a specific number of protected species without threat of prosecution.

"What they are doing is ignoring the law," said Bob Johns of the American Bird Conservancy. "The oil and gas industry for example, they have to abide by these laws. They're not killing bald and golden eagles. And if they are, they're going to be prosecuted for it."

The wind industry’s lethal impact on birds and bats is well documented. An estimated 1.4 million are killed each year by wind farms.

Why? One reason is that their blades move deceptively fast, up to 180 miles an hour. Second, raptors especially like to follow the currents in windy areas looking for field mice and rabbits below. Wind farms typically locate in the same areas and while many operators say they are doing their best to minimize bird fatalities, critics say the administration is practicing a double standard - prosecuting small cases while giving green energy a free pass.

"Now they've got the 30-year eagle permit get-out-of-jail-free card," said Johns. "Nobody else is getting that. Nobody else is allowed to go out and kill eagles like this and get away with it. In California alone, wind farms out there are estimated to have killed over 3,000 golden eagles. And there hasn’t been a single prosecution out there for that.''
So when one part of the environmental movement comes in conflict with another, the endangered species protections are going to the birds. If you want to seen an environmentalist's eyes cross, ask them about that 30-year exemption for wind farms.

The ACLU doesn't want part of the Democrats' efforts to amend the Constitution to give Congress the power to regulate political contributions by outside groups.

George Will describes how colleges and universities are finding that progressivism is coming back to bite them.
Colleges and universities are being educated by Washington and are finding the experience excruciating. They are learning that when they say campus victimizations are ubiquitous (“micro-aggressions,” often not discernible to the untutored eye, are everywhere), and that when they make victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges, victims proliferate. And academia’s progressivism has rendered it intellectually defenseless now that progressivism’s achievement, the regulatory state, has decided it is academia’s turn to be broken to government’s saddle.
Will goes on to describe the ludicrous levels that universities are seeking to in order to protect against a supposed "rape culture" when what used to be normal transactions between the sexes has now been defined as sexual assault. And now the Education Department is poising to rate colleges on their educational outputs and professors are being forced to give trigger warnings for the material they teach. And professors are suddenly finding out that government intrusion is not so welcome. Too late for that.
It is salutary that academia, with its adversarial stance toward limited government and cultural common sense, is making itself ludicrous. Academia is learning that its attempts to create victim-free campuses — by making everyone hypersensitive, even delusional, about victimizations — brings increasing supervision by the regulatory state that progressivism celebrates.

What government is inflicting on colleges and universities, and what they are inflicting on themselves, diminishes their autonomy, resources, prestige and comity. Which serves them right. They have asked for this by asking for progressivism.