Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Cruising the Web

Powerline links to a fascinating account from a Palestinian writer who reports on what the citizens of Gaza really thought about Hamas during the recent war with Israel.

Veronique de Rugy describes how millennials have been especially hurt by the recession. Obama's economic policies have just created a sluggish economy and young people are facing a particularly dismal employment picture.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), some 1.2 million unemployed millennials with little or no job experience are trying to find jobs for the first time right now. Their unemployment rate is 12.2 percent, more than twice the rate for 25- to 54-year-olds. And if those first-time job seekers don't find employment soon, some of them may actually never work. "It is even more depressing," says my Mercatus Center colleague Keith Hall, a former BLS commissioner, "when you know that some 400,000 young long-term unemployed have never worked before." That's much higher than anything we have seen in the last 45 years.

It gets worse. In June testimony before the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs' subcommittee on economic policy, Hall explained that "job prospects have been so bad that many have withdrawn from the labor force and do not even show up in the official unemployment rate statistics." According to his calculations, some 2 million young workers are simply missing from the labor force, and "if not left uncounted in the official unemployment rate, these 2 million would raise the youth unemployment rate from its current 10.9 percent rate to 15.4 percent-well above their highest rate in over 65 years." Only 63.4 percent of youth aged 18 to 29 are employed today, a pathetic and alarming figure.
The news keeps getting worse for them and their generation will be suffering from the effects of this economy for decades. I talk with seniors planning their futures as they apply to colleges and think about what path they want to follow. They're so hopeful and full of great plans. And, as I listen, part of me is feeling so sad for them as I wonder if they really do have the opportunities in their future that they're depending on.

Ed Morrissey catches this hilarious correction from the NYT that took two weeks to correct an article that said “Unlike Mr. Bush in the Iraq war, Mr. Obama has sought to surround the United States with partners.” As Morrissey points out, all the NYT would have had to do was look through their own archives to find out how very wrong they were.

Peter Berkowitz looks at three speeches in which President Obama has talked about Islam to try to figure out why Obama insists that ISIL is not Islamic.

Kimberley Strassel in an article, “Leapfrogging the Democrats’ tech advantage, ”looks at the efforts that the RNC has been going through to catch up to the Democrats' tech advantage that far outclassed what Romney had in 2012. Interestingly, the chief data guy is an immigrant from Ethiopia. I remember reading about how up-to-date the Romney campaign was in microtargeting and then the whole thing was a big bust for the election. In fact, my students are reading about microtargeting for their homework tonight as we're going to discuss get-out-the-vote operations tomorrow. John Hinderaker is also skeptical. He links to an article by J. Christian Adams about how liberal groups are coordinating with Democrats to pour data into their computer GOTV program, Catalist to further refine the sort of information they have to target voters.
Similarly, the data feeding the central Catalist database are coming from a wide swath of sources. Public records, pollsters, campaigns, non-profits, activist groups, unions, parties, commercial data — scores and scores of sources are feeding the central database data.

For example, when an environmental group does neighborhood door knocking for cash, the results of those contacts are fed into Catalist.

You have your own individual voter file in Catalist. Everyone does. Under that file might be a massive amount of information about you — more than probably exists in any other database in the world. Whom you work for, what car you might drive, donations you have made, assumptions based on your neighborhood, anything in a public government database about you, consumer preferences, partisan preferences, what licenses you have, what you might have said to pollsters on the phone, memberships, how you treated the young left-wing activist knocking on your door a few years ago, and on and on and on.

Each group working with Catalist feeds the central database. Different groups have different types of data about you. Some data relate to economics. Other data relate to politics. Either way, the Borg all work in unison to fill the database with a massive amount of information about every American — and all of it is perfectly legal.
With this data, the Obama campaign was able to work on getting out his base and could ignore the center.
Catalist allows customers to identify potential voters on the far ideological fringe, but who are usually unmotivated to vote. Catalist allows the left to then identify issues, concerns, or other lifestyle facts which would permit a customer to motivate the usually unmotivated on that fringe to vote.

Obama won reelection because he drove deeper into his ideological base than any Democrat ever had. His campaign largely ignored the middle and instead used Catalist data to wring out nearly every possible far-left vote they could....

Catalist is also devastating to Republicans because it sends them on an expensive goose chase to spend gobs of money to target moderates and independents while Democrats turn out their base cheaper, and with more certainty. A “moderate” voter costs more to persuade than a far fringe ideological leftist. Even a usually politically unmotivated welfare recipient is cheaper to get to the polls than a “moderate” and “thoughtful” undecided moderate who speaks in terms of “voting for the candidate on issues and not the party.”
Bush did something similar in 2004, but the Democrats have really perfected the capabilities they have to narrowly identify their possible supporters. I just doubt that the Republicans have, as Strassel writes, leapfrogged from their position far back in the GOTV race to being equal or even really close to where the Democrats are.

It figures that a president who joked about setting the IRS on people who crossed him would make a joke about how NYC traffic is no problem for him.
President Barack Obama joked today during a New York speech that he doesn't seem to have the traffic problems the city's residents are always complaining about.
'It's actually pretty smooth for me during the week,' Obama said, after playfully arguing that everyone in New York 'hypes' the traffic.
'I don't know what the problem is,' he told attendees of the Clinton Global Initiative's annual meeting. 'I haven't noticed.'

....The president was seemingly unaware of how intensely New York drivers despise his visits and the traffic jams they cause around the city.
Every time the president travels to New York police have to close streets along his motorcade's route, sometimes for long stretches of time, turning the city's busiest roadways into parking lots.
What's next? Joking about how he doesn't know why all those people complaining about being unable to find a job since he has a cushy job and great retirement benefits?

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg responds to liberals who want her to retire so Obama can appoint her replacement. She is not impressed.
Ginsburg, at 81, is the oldest member of the Court. Some on the left have suggested that she might retire while Obama is in office, to guarantee that a Democratic president could appoint her successor.

Ginsburg has said before that she is "likely to remain for a while," but offered insight on her reasoning in an interview with Elle magazine.
"[A]nybody who thinks that if I step down, Obama could appoint someone like me, they’re misguided," Ginsburg said when asked if she would retire while Obama is in office. "As long as I can do the job full steam ... I think I’ll recognize when the time comes that I can’t any longer. But now I can."

Ginsburg cited the politics of the Senate, noting that Republicans could filibuster a Supreme Court nominee.

"Who do you think President Obama could appoint at this very day, given the boundaries that we have?" Ginsburg said.

"If I resign any time this year, he could not successfully appoint anyone I would like to see in the court," she added.
Of course, if the Democrats still controlled the Senate, Harry Reid could stuff through another rule change to bar filibusters of Supreme Court nominees. What would prevent him from doing so?

Alan Dershowitz explores the similarities between the attacks by the United States-Arab coalition yesterday in Syria to the Israeli attacks on Hamas. The motivation is the same. But those same Arab nations that participated yesterday were united in condemning Israel.
al Wesley Clark, the United States air attacks are designed to degrade and destroy the infrastructure of the terrorist groups, including the electric grid, the sources of their finance and other mixed military-civilian targets.

When Israel attacked Hamas military targets, including some that had mixed uses, it was condemned by the same Arab nations that participated in the joint United States-Arab attack in Syria. The difference of course is that the threat posed by ISIS is not nearly as imminent as the threats posed by Hamas. This is certainly true in relation to the United States and may also be true in relation to its Arab partners.

Among the most hypocritical nations participating in the US attack is, of course, Qatar, which not only condemned Israel for defending its civilians against Hamas rockets and tunnels, but actually funded the Hamas attacks and provided asylum for the Hamas terrorist leaders who ordered them. Hypocrisy is nothing new when it comes to the double standard applied by the international community against Israel. The United States and its Arab partners have the right to take preemptive action against terrorist groups without fear of UN condemnation, a Goldstone report, or threats to bring its leaders before the International Criminal Court. Yet everything Israel does, regardless of how careful it is to minimize civilian casualties, becomes the basis for international condemnation.

If the US attacks in Syria continue, there are likely to be civilian casualties, because ISIS will embed its fighters among civilians and the many hostages it has taken. When that happens, American and Arab rockets will kill some civilians. It will be interesting to compare the world’s reaction to those civilian deaths with its reaction to deaths caused by Israeli rockets hitting human shields deliberately employed by Hamas. If the past is any predictor of the future, the ratio of civilian to terrorist deaths may be considerably higher in the American lead air attacks than it was in the Israeli air attacks. In past wars, such as those in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and the former Yugoslavia, the ratio of civilian to combatant deaths was far higher than the ratio brought about by Israeli rockets firing into Gaza where human shields are Hamas’s tactic of choice.

Michael Tanner looks at zombie government programs that refuse to die.
So it is with government programs. No matter how outdated, useless, wasteful, or redundant programs may be, they come as close to immortality as possible.

Recall that Washington is a town where a tax on long-distance telephone calls was enacted in 1898 to help pay for the Spanish-American War. That tax wasn’t repealed for good until 2006. Or consider wool and mohair subsidies. Congress passed this giveaway to farmers in 1954, having designated wool as a “strategic material” since it was used to make military uniforms. (No one is quite sure how mohair, which is largely used to upholster furniture, became part of the program, but that’s Washington.) In 1993 Congress noticed that military uniforms were actually made from synthetic fibers and began phasing out the subsidies. But by 2002, military necessities aside, the subsidies were back, and this year’s farm bill extends them until at least 2018, at a cost to taxpayers of $5 million. Likewise, the Rural Electrification Administration was created in 1935 to bring electricity to farm country. There aren’t many farms without electricity anymore, but the REA, now called the Rural Utilities Service, is still with us, spending almost $800 million last year.
The list goes on and on.

White House reporters are getting a mite bit uneasy about how this administration is controlling their reporting. What took them so long?

Oh, come on! A Republican group, Americans for Shared Prosperity runs an ad featuring a woman talking about a guy she met in 2008 who seemed perfect, "smart, handsome, charming, articulate," but now the relationship has gone bad.
“He’s in my emails and text messages, spying on me but ignoring real threats,” the woman says. The ad goes on to critique Obamacare: “He thinks the only thing I care about is free birth control, but he won’t even let me keep my doctor.”
So some people are bashing the ad because they think it plays off of domestic violence and the NFL scandals. That's a bridge way too far.