Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Apparently we do negotiate with terrorists

I know Americans are torn by the Bergdahl story.  Face it, given how poorly things are going, they desperately want a “feel good” story.  The Bergdahl repatriation is one where you want to celebrate it, but as the facts come out, you can’t find it in yourself to do so.  The guy wasn’t a POW, he deserted and sought out the enemy with the apparent desire to join them.

The administration just as desperately wanted a distraction from all it’s ongoing failures and scandals.  But this story and its ending are anything but that.  In fact, it stinks to high heaven.

First there’s the way it was done by the administration, which strongly supports the hypothesis that this was done in haste to change the subject and redirect the focus of the news cycle.  The subject they were trying to change was their abject failure with the VA.  How better to distract from that than repatriating an American soldier and rescuing him from the clutches of the Taliban?  Paint him as a hero and take a bow.  Let a sympathetic media take it from there.

Except this guy isn’t a hero.  He wasn’t “captured”, he deliberately set out to find those who eventually grabbed him and kept him.  Since 2010 the Army has determined that this guy deserted his post in time of war.  But of course that didn’t stop the Baghdad Bob of this administration, Susan Rice, from heading out to the talk shows soon after the deal was made, and telling us how this deserter had served with “honor and distinction”.

What the administration hadn’t counted on was former soldiers from his unit coming forward and telling the real story. They apparently didn’t know about the 6 soldiers killed in attempts to find and rescue him.  The backlash from their attempt to whitewash who this guy was has been overwhelming. And, as usual, points to a clueless administration again bungling it’s attempt at distraction.

But that’s only one part of the story.  How about the trade itself?  What did it accomplish?

Well for the US, another in a long line of stupid failures.  Why “stupid”. Because, as usual, it was ill-conceived plan and a self-inflicted wound.  We got back a PFC that deserted (yeah, I know he was promoted while in captivity, but in reality he’s a PFC) and they got this:

  • A senior Taliban military commander
  • Their deputy minister of intelligence
  • Their army chief of staff
  • Their governor of the Herat province and former interior minister
  • and a senior Taliban figure and security official.

Not only that, the Taliban (aka “the enemy”) got a propaganda coup of unrivaled proportion as “NightWatch” lays it out for us:

The mainstream media have covered the increased risk of hostage-taking as the direct and foreseeable result of the hostage exchange. This was not a prisoner of war exchange.

Two points not mentioned in most mainstream commentary are noteworthy. This exchange invests Omar and his Islamic Emirate with stature that neither had when the Taliban ruled in Afghanistan. It negotiated as an equal with the US and got the better deal. That sets a precedent for potential deals with other NATO members. It is a powerful disincentive for Pakistan to rein in Omar and his cohorts.

The second point is the release of the five Taliban leaders will boost Taliban morale; help improve their organizational and fighting skills and enhance their operations. It might have a ripple effect on the now divided Pakistani Taliban.

The timing could hardly be worse for Allied forces. As NATO draws down its forces, the Taliban get an influx of experienced leaders, undermining years of effort to degrade the leadership. These were men Mullah Omar trusted in the early days of Taliban rule. He now has a seasoned core around which to build a reinvigorated administration and movement.

We, as a nation, have constantly stressed the Taliban is a terror organization.  Both Democrats and Republicans. And we’ve also made it a firm rule that we don’t negotiate with them because it does exactly what NightWatch notes this has done.  If the Taliban want to empty Guantanamo, they now know how to do it – capture American soldiers. The price and precedent have been set.  One can imagine all sorts of scenarios where enterprising Afghans will try to kidnap American soldiers for money from the Taliban. And the Taliban will then expect to trade them for more terrorists.  5 for 1 seems to be the going rate.  But with this crew, they’re likely to be able to get an even better deal.

Yes, Afghanistan, which is a deeply hostile place to our soldiers now, just got more dangerous for them.  Meanwhile, troop levels will be drawn down to all time lows.  Yup, nothing could go wrong with that.  Thanks Mr. “Commander-in-Chief”.

I’d like to say the American people are terribly ill served by this abomination of an administration, but that’s just not the case.  The majority of them have elected this boob twice.  What you see is what you get.  You wanted it, you got it – how do you like what you elected?

For the adults in the room who saw through this empty suit and the propaganda machine behind him from the beginning, you will also recognize the terrible damage this man and his administration have done to our national security and foreign relations.  It will take decades to recover from this debacle of a White House.

And then there’s the economy, and VA, and Benghazi, and the IRS scandal and the NSA, Fast and Furious, executive orders, EPA …

~McQ

Trying desperately to make sense of the Bergdahl mess

When something happens in the public sphere, we never know all the details. But usually we know enough to build a plausible mental model for how it all went down. Based on the actors’ previous actions, the context, and what we know about the ideological battles at any time, we think and hope we have some level of understanding.

But then something happens that makes no sense at all. It could only happen with a level of incompetence or malice that we intuitively don’t believe is possible, even in those public figures we despise.

The Bergdahl situation fits that description for me. Here are the links directly from Drudge on the whole thing, in case you’re not up on the latest:

 

Reintegration: Military hides Bergdahl from public view...
FLASHBACK: 'Converted to Islam And Taught Captors Bomb Making Skills'...
NYTIMES: Left note explaining desertion before going AWOL...
Pentagon knew whereabouts but didn't risk rescue for 'deserter'...
Never Officially Listed as POW...
CHARGE: Soldiers died searching for him...
Former fed prosecutor: Release of Gitmo terrorists impeachable offense...
CHENEY: U.S. will 'pay a price'...
Freed Taliban leaders given hero's welcome...
Toobin: Obama 'Clearly Broke Law'...
Three years since consulting Congress...
FATHER: 'I am still working to free all Guantanamo prisoners'...
Anger explodes...
WAS HILLARY IN ON IT?

BOWE 'SHOULD FACE COURT-MARTIAL'

 

You can get the gist from the headlines. This guy has been gone five years – notice that I don’t say “missing” because the NYT says he left a note that he was deserting before he left, and apparently his location was known. He was exchanged for five Taliban leaders in Gitmo who were welcomed as heroes back home – and it looks like that was done in clear violation of the law concerning Congressional notice about such releases.

On top of all this, the Taliban said back in 2010 that Bergdahl apparently converted to Islam and collaborated with the very people his unit was fighting.

If that’s all true – and there’s no indication otherwise at this point – then the Obama administration gave five enemy leaders their freedom to retrieve a traitor who went over the enemy voluntarily and didn’t seem in any hurry to leave. There is no conceivable upside for the United States that I can see.

Now, maybe all kinds of things will come out to challenge this interpretation. We’ll wait and see.

I rather hope so. Because as it stands, this simply doesn’t make any sense.

I can think of several ways this could get through the White House, but note of them seem any more likely than any of the others. Here are the possibilities I can think of off the top of my head:

  • Nobody at White House knew the details on Bergdahl because they are all incompetent boobs who don’t know how to do due diligence on anything
  • Somebody at White House knew, but was afraid to say anything because Obama (or Jarrett) had declared that they wanted this to go forward
  • Somebody at White House knew, and put the information in a report, but Obama and Jarrett are both too lazy to read reports closely and realize what’s important
  • Everybody knew, including Obama, but he simply didn’t care because he thought it could be spun as a triumph
  • Everybody knew, including Obama, and he knew the real nature of Bergdahl would get out, but Obama simply didn’t care because it was an opportunity to poke congressional Republicans in the eye

 

All of these assume extreme incompetence or malice or both. But I can’t think of any way a competent White House that has the best interests of the country in mind and is operating in good faith takes a decision that gives these results. I’m leaning towards extreme incompetence; in fact, I’m waiting for today’s press conference where Obama tells us he found out all this stuff about Bergdahl the same time we did through press reports, since that shtick seems to work every time he tries it.

OK, sharp and excellent QandO commenters – what am I missing here?

Observations: The QandO Podcast for 01 Jun 14

This week, Bruce, Michael, and Dale talk about Ukraine, the Bundy case in Nevada, and the increasing arbitrariness of the Federal government.

The podcast can be found on Stitcher here. Please remember the feed may take a couple of hours to update after this is first posted.

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Stitcher. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here.

Economic Statistics for 29 May 14

The Commerce Department’s first revision of 1st Quarter GDP was revised down to a -1.0% annualized decline. The GDP price index was unchanged at a 1.3% annualized increase.

The pending home sales index rose 0.4% to 97.8 in April.

Weekly initial jobless claims fell 27,000 to 300,000. The 4-week average fell 11,250 to 311,500. Continuing claims fell 17,000 to 2.631 million.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index fell -0.8 points to 33.3 in the latest week, the lowest level since November 2013.

The Fed’s balance sheet fell $-4.9 billion last week, with total assets of $4.322 trillion. Total reserve bank credit rose by $7.7 billion.

The Fed reports that M2 money supply rose $5.0 billion in the latest week.


Dale’s social media profiles:
Twitter | Facebook | Google+

What is the worth of a job?

Well that’s determined by all sorts of variables – how much the person seeking the job is willing to take, how much the person wanting the job done is willing to pay, the scarcity or abundance of labor, etc..  And so in a free market, when a job is open it is up to the person seeking to have the work done and the person seeking a job to decide what it is worth to each of them.  If they can reach agreement, then the job is offered to the person seeking the job.  If agreement can’t be reached, then the job goes unfilled.

The bottom line is that no outside party can decide what that job is worth – in that mythical free market, that is.  However, we don’t have a free market and legislators, trying to buy the good will of voters with other people’s money, often decide they know what every job is worth at a minimum.  Thus the minimum wage.

Well this is anecdotal, I know, but it certainly seems to support every negative we here at QandO have been talking about for years.  In the long run raising the minimum wage only raises the cost of labor.  It does not change the worth of a job.  Ever.

SeaTac workers are learning that the hard way:

Last January, SeaTac implemented a $15 per hour minimum wage for hospitality and transportation workers. The consequences to the drastic hike in wages are just beginning to be realized—and it’s not pretty.

A writer for NW Asian Weekly recently blogged about her experience attending an event at a SeaTac hotel. She asked employees if they were “happy with the $15 wage.” The ensuing conversations,

“It sounds good, but it’s not good,” the woman said.

“Why?” I asked.

“I lost my 401k, health insurance, paid holiday, and vacation,” she responded. “No more free food,” she added.

“The hotel used to feed her. Now, she has to bring her own food. Also, no overtime, she said. She used to work extra hours and received overtime pay.

“What else? I asked.

“I have to pay for parking,” she said.

“I then asked the part-time waitress, who was part of the catering staff.

“Yes, I’ve got $15 an hour, but all my tips are now much less,” she said. Before the new wage law was implemented, her hourly wage was $7. But her tips added to more than $15 an hour. Yes, she used to receive free food and parking. Now, she has to bring her own food and pay for parking.”

SeaTac is a small city—10 square miles in area and a population of 26,909—with an economy almost exclusively defined by the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Five months into the implementation of a $15 minimum wage and it appears that a deep sense of regret has already flooded the city and workers who should have “benefited” from the terrible economic policy.

Meanwhile, as the largest city in the Pacific Northwest and one of the fastest growing major cities in America, Seattle is on the verge of following in SeaTac’s woefully unfit footsteps. Seattle Mayor Ed Murray’s $15 minimum wage plan includes a phase-in period of three to seven years and makes no exception for business type or size. Murray’s plan elicited back-lash from prominent Seattle businesses owners and economists alike.

Like we’ve said, increased costs associated with the job will likely be passed along to either the customer or the worker or both.  Here you have two perfect examples of how perks that helped workers and were of value to them (and for which they didn’t have to pay taxes) fell victim to some interfering government body unilaterally raising the cost of labor.  The worth of the job done didn’t increase at all.  Consequently, businesses looked at ways to compensate for the increase in labor cost.  As for the decrease in tips?  Well people tip well because they know most waiters and waitresses don’t make much for a wage.  However, when they’re making $15 an hour, suddenly there isn’t a great or compelling reason to “help them out”.  Tips decrease.  Why tip someone for doing their job when they’re making that kind of money hourly.  And, just as likely, prices have gone up to cover this expense.  Consequently, overtime is limited, etc.

Its not that this is something hard to figure out.  But the socialists among us never get past the feelgood part of it, because, well, because math is hard and economics is absurdly hard … or something..

~McQ

“Check your premise”

One of the first things you learn when you’re putting an argument forward is to check the premise of your argument to ensure it is valid.  Obviously if it isn’t, then you end up battling a straw man and looking like a bit of a fool.

We have a practical example of not checking your premise (that’s giving him the benefit of the doubt- in fact it may be a case of creating a false premise on purpose) in the New York Times today by a professor of classics and anthropology at George Washington University.  Professor Cline writes an op/ed there in which he attempts to prove that climate change doomed the ancients and that the history of that time replicates the danger we face at this time.

Uh, ok.  But, of course, that’s not the real purpose of his history lesson as soon becomes evident.  It is to take a political shot at “climate deniers” by using Senator James Inhofe  as a proxy for AGW skeptics – without ever naming them as such:

THIS month, a report issued by a prominent military advisory board concluded that climate change posed a serious threat to America’s national security.

The authors, 16 retired high-ranking officers, warned that droughts, rising seas and extreme weather events, among other environmental threats, were already causing global “instability and conflict.”

But Senator James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma, the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee and a stalwart believer that global warming is a “hoax,” dismissed the report as a publicity stunt.

Perhaps the senator needs a history lesson, because climate change has been leading to global conflict — and even the collapse of civilizations — for more than 3,000 years. Drought and famine led to internal rebellions in some societies and the sacking of others, as people fleeing hardship at home became conquerors abroad.

Note how he switches from “global warming” to “climate change” – a term he will use throughout the rest of his article.  He knows “global warming” has become a loaded term.  But it is clear, the premise he is putting forward is that Senator Inhofe is denying the climate is changing and calling it all a hoax.

But, in fact, Senator Inhofe has never denied “climate change”.  Who would?  Our climate changes – constantly.  Instead,  what he has denied is that man is causing it.  He’s been quite clear about that.

Inhofe, former chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, does not believe that human activities cause climate change.

[...]

“I have to admit—and, you know, confession is good for the soul… I, too, once thought that catastrophic global warming was caused by anthropogenic gases—because everyone said it was.” [emphasis mine]

That’s right – everyone said it was.  And some never bothered to investigate it themselves, but took it on faith that the nonsense being touted was factual and true.  But subsequent study of the actual science, not that which had been manipulated (and now discredited), as well as the history of temperature change in the last 17 years (it hasn’t changed) vs what the models said would happen, have led him and many others to believe the entire basis of AGW was flawed and a “hoax”.

Go figure.

By leaving out the fact that Inhofe thinks that ” man made” climate change is a “hoax”, Cline creates a false premise – that Inhofe doesn’t believe climate change is real.  And by addressing only “climate change”, he then can attempt to make Inhofe look like a science denier who isn’t acting in the best interest of our nation and our military.  By doing that he marginalizes Inhofe.

So why would Senator Inhofe call a report on the impact of climate change on our national security a hoax if we all know the climate always changes and, at some point in the future, could indeed impact our national security?  He probably wouldn’t.  He didn’t call it a hoax for that reason.  He called it a hoax because of a couple of paragraphs in the report’s executive summary that clearly, if not implicitly, put AGW to the fore as the reason for this climate change as well as calling for emissions to be limited:

“Scientists around the globe are increasing their confidence, narrowing their projections, and reaffirming the likely causes of climate change.  As described in Climate Change Impacts in the United States: The Third National Assessment: “Heat trapping gases already in the atmosphere have committed us to a hotter future with more climate related impacts over the next few decades.  The magnitude of climate change beyond the next few decades depends primarily on the amount of heat trapping gasses emitted globally, now and in the future.”

And:

Climate mitigation and adaptation efforts are emerging in various places around the world, but the extent of these efforts to mitigate and adapt to the projections are insufficient to avoid significant potential water, food and energy insecurity; political instability; extreme weather events; and other manifestations of climate change.  Coordinated, wide-scale and well-executed actions to limit heat-trapping gasses and increase resilience to help prevent and protect against the worst projected climate change impacts are required – now.

Obviously you can’t stop or limit the “amount of heat trapping gasses” emitted by nature, so what gasses are the authors talking about here? Why what else – those emitted by man.  IOW, they’ve carefully danced around not saying “man-made global warming” but it is precisely what they’re talking about.  And that, given the evidence now available in the present, is what Inhofe is calling a hoax.

Cline lays out his history lesson based on this false premise.  As far as the history goes, meh, it’s okay.  I’m not sure it proves much of anything concerning whether or not this was happening globally, but the regional change obviously had an effect.  A hint that it was a regional phenomenon is found in one of Cline’s paragraphs:

While sea levels may not have been rising then, as they are now, changes in the water temperature may have been to blame for making life virtually unlivable in parts of the region.

Guess the glaciers and such located around the globe must have been pretty stable, even while all this was going on in the area noted, huh?

Anyway, he concludes with this little gem:

We live in a world that has more similarities to that of the Late Bronze Age than one might suspect, including, as the British archaeologist Susan Sherratt has put it, an “increasingly homogeneous yet uncontrollable global economy and culture” in which “political uncertainties on one side of the world can drastically affect the economies of regions thousands of miles away.”

But there is one important difference. The Late Bronze Age civilizations collapsed at the hands of Mother Nature. It remains to be seen if we will cause the collapse of our own.

And there it is.  While refusing to call it “man-made global warming” through the entire piece,  his last few words give away the game [emphasis mine].  He’s just another pedantic alarmist using a false premise to try to attack someone who disagrees with the obviously flawed “consensus”.  Somehow he thinks relating a cyclical climate event from centuries ago where man obviously couldn’t have influenced it even if he tried to what is happening (or  not happening in reality) today somehow makes a compelling case.  You know, it couldn’t just be the same cause that precipitated the events back then coming to visit us again could it?  Nope, it has to be man.

This guy is teaching your children folks.  And this is the quality of his work.  The irony is he just prostituted his academic credibility to take a political shot at someone – and missed.

~McQ

Buy Dale’s Book!