Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Obama has nothing to offer anybody on immigration

He's just blowing smoke. I originally put this up on my IMMIGRATION WATCH blog but I think it needs to be as widely-circulated as possible. All GOPers should make the points in it to any Hispanics they talk to -- JR

"My presidency is not over. I've got another five years coming up. We're going to get this done."

When President Obama said this recently on the Spanish-language Univision channel, he wasn't just displaying confidence in his future. He was also offering an excuse for his inaction so far on immigration reform.

Before an audience of Hispanic voters, Obama was promising once again that he would be the president to pull this sword from the stone. Just give him another term -- really, he swears.

To believe Obama's promise, one would have to ignore both his tenure in office so far and his prospects in a second term. Obama did almost nothing on the issue of immigration when he could. And if re-elected, he will face a Congress that will let him do even less.

Yesterday, Obama put the blame on Republicans -- easy enough to do, given that most of them oppose reforms as "amnesty." "We're going to have to see how many Republican votes we need to get it done," Obama said. "Ultimately, I cannot vote [on behalf of] Republicans."

It's as if he's forgotten that until recently, he had a Congress that would have passed a serious immigration reform measure. In June 2010, when Hispanic political leaders noticed he wasn't moving on the issue, he brought them to the White House to convince them to shut up, wait, and instead help him use the issue to win the midterm elections.

As the Washington Post recounted, they were told "they had to stop their public complaining about how slowly he was moving and instead direct their fire at Republicans." That phrase encapsulates Obama's entire interest in the immigration issue. The election strategy failed -- Hispanic voters did not "punish their enemies" or "reward their friends" as he'd hoped.

And given how insurmountable the 2012 and 2014 Senate maps look for Democrats, that was probably the last dying gasp for immigration reform. Through most of 2009, Democrats controlled the House of Representatives and 60 Senate seats. At that time, Obama would not have needed support from a single Republican to pass immigration reform.

Even after the death of Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., and his replacement by a Republican in February 2010, there was still hope. We know because after the 2010 election, in the extreme circumstances of a lame-duck Congress, there was a vote on the Dream Act. That bill, which would have legalized some who immigrated illegally as children with their parents, was opposed by some pro-reform Republicans simply because it was viewed as a bad-faith political stunt by a Democratic Party just thrown out of power.

Yet it still received three Republican votes in the Senate, and fell short of 60 only because of Democratic crossovers. With that in mind, just imagine if the Obama White House had placed any weight behind a serious immigration proposal -- one that actually struck a balance between regularizing immigrants and increasing border security.

Had this occurred at any time in the preceding 24 months, Obama probably could have reformed the immigration system. Of course, we can never know for sure, because he never tried.

People also forget that the last time a serious attempt was made to reform immigration, under President George W. Bush, Obama was there in the U.S. Senate.

He voted for and proposed amendments that at the time were called "poison pills" and, as the AP put it, were "potentially fatal blows to the fragile coalition backing the bill."

Taken in their best light, these actions were attempts by Obama to get a better bill later. But when? To quote him from 2008, "by the end of my first term as president of the United States of America."

Obama had his chance on immigration reform, and he won't get another, whether he gets a second term or not. If it's an important issue to you, Obama is not a friend who deserves to be rewarded.



Oh Canada!

The law of unintended consequences states that actions, especially governmental ones, always have unintended and unpredictable effects. These unanticipated effects can be far more powerful than the planned ones. Thus, economists often use this law as a warning to politicians that policies commonly 'achieve' the opposite of their intentions. For example, raising the minimum wage to ease the burden on workers usually causes more unemployment, especially among marginal workers. For example, raising taxes often diminishes tax revenues.

But sometimes unintended consequences are nothing short of delightful. Consider the prospect of Iceland abandoning the krona and adopting the dollar as its currency. No, no, not the U.S. Greenback but the Canadian “loonie,” so named for the water fowl imprinted on the flipside of its one dollar coin.

Since the 2008 financial crisis in which its top three banks collapsed, Iceland has eyed other currencies with the goal of establishing both stability and liquidity even at the cost of losing control of its own monetary policies.

Why is the possibility of adopting the loonie “an unintended consequence”? Because up until now, the currency overwhelmingly favored for adoption was the Euro. Iceland applied to join the European Union in 2009 and formal negotiations began in 2011, with the issue of fisheries being particularly sensitive. Iceland has exclusive fishing rights to the 200 nautical miles surrounding its shores and fish constitute its largest export by far. There is understandable reluctance to entering an agreement that would open up Iceland's fishing zone to competitors.

Moreover, the recent rockiness of the Eurozone and the euro itself cannot be encouraging to Icelanders. Indeed, given that Iceland rebounded from its fiscal crisis by defaulting on debts and not bailing out banks, it is unlikely to sympathize with the hysteria surrounding a Greek default. A recent Capacent Gallup poll found that 60 percent of Icelanders now oppose union with the Eurozone. The Finance Minister seems to be among them. Who knew that strict fishing policies and the coddling of Greece would make the loonie glimmer in Icelandic eyes?

And, so, prominent Icelandic businessmen, opposition politicians and much of the public are favoring a move toward the loonie; the Canadian Ambassador Alan Bones had been scheduled to address the possibility of currency sharing at a political conference in Reykjavik in over the weekend. But the Canadian government apparently reconsidered the appropriateness of the venue for such a discussion; the conference had been sponsored by a specific political faction within Iceland. Instead, last Friday, the Canadian Ambassador announced on the Icelandic national broadcaster RUV that Ottawa was quite open to holding talks on the subject. The Icelandic Foreign Minister Ossur Skarphedinsson stated “I'm all in favor of discussing the alternatives we may have to the krona."

On the street level, the Canadian public seems tickled. Indeed, in a recent column entitled “Five reasons why Iceland should adopt the Canadian dollar,” Michael Babad offered as the concluding reason:

“5. Our glowing hearts. For Iceland, do not underestimate friendship in this post-crisis era of currency manipulation and mounting trade tensions. We’re a wonderful people, they’re a wonderful people. We’ve got a beautiful country, they’ve got a beautiful country. True, it gets cold in Canada in the winter, but remember we’re talking about Iceland. And surely we can forgive them for Björk.” [Björk Guðmundsdóttir is an Icelandic singer-songwriter.]

Icelanders seem receptive as well. According to the Globe and Mail, “In a recent Gallup poll, seven out of 10 Icelanders said they would happily dump their volatile and fragile krona for another currency. Their favoured alternative is the Canadian dollar, easily outscoring the U.S. dollar, the euro and the Norwegian krone.” There are no reports of the Icelandic government opening discussions, however.

There are several reasons for the Canadian dollar – usually viewed as the Greenback's poor cousin – to be preferred over the Euro. The loonie has a AAA sovereign debt rating and Canada has very little debt compared to every other Western nations. The Globe and Mail provides other reasons:

“It [the loonie] offers the tantalizing prospect of a stable, liquid currency that roughly tracks global commodity prices, nicely matching Iceland’s own economy, which is dependent on fish and aluminum exports, and in the future, energy.

There’s also a more sentimental reason. They’re both cold, Arctic countries. “The average person looks at it this way: Canada is a younger version of the U.S. Canada has more natural resources than the U.S., it’s less developed, has more land, lots of water,” explained Heidar Gudjonsson, an economist and chairman of the Research Centre for Social and Economic Studies, Iceland’s largest think tank. “And Canada thinks about the Arctic.”

Economic commentator ZeroHedge (Tyler Durden) ends his report on Iceland's longing look at the loonie with a warning, “So be careful Canada: with great power, comes great a desire to distribute wealth. And we have all seen what happens next.”



A scholar who saved many lives

Thomas Sowell

There are undoubtedly many people who are alive today because of James Q. Wilson, who died last week. He was not a doctor or medical scientist, nor was he a fireman or coast guardsman who rescued people from immediate dangers.

James Q. Wilson was a scholar who studied crime. He saved lives because his penetrating analyses of crime, and the effect of the criminal law, debunked the theories of other intellectuals, which had led judges and legislators to ease up on criminals – leading in turn to skyrocketing rates of crime, including murder.

Prior to 1960, murder rates in the United States had been going down for decades. Even the absolute number of murders declined, while the population grew by millions. Despite the addition of two new states – Hawaii and Alaska – in 1960, the number of murders in the 50 states was less than it had been in the 48 states 30 years earlier. The murder rate in 1960 was just under half of what it had been in 1934.

But that was not good enough for the intelligentsia, with their theories on how to "solve" our "problems." First of all, they claimed, we had to stop focusing on punishment and get at the "root causes" of crime. In other words, we had to solve the criminals' problems, in order to solve the problem of crime.

This approach was not new in the 1960s. In fact, it went back at least as far as the 18th century. But what was new in the 1960s was the widespread acceptance of such notions in the legal system, including the Supreme Court of the United States.

The crusade against punishment, and especially capital punishment, spread through all three branches of the federal government and into state governments as well. Even a murderer caught in the act had so many new "rights," created out of thin air by judges, that executing him could require a decade or more of additional litigation, even after he was found guilty.

The best-known product of this 1960s revolution in the criminal law was the famous Miranda warning, "You have the right to remain silent," etc. It is as if we are engaged in some kind of sporting contest with the criminal, and must give him a chance to beat the rap, even when he is guilty.

In the aftermath of this revolution in the criminal law, promoted by the intelligentsia in academia and in the media, the long downward trend in murder suddenly reversed. By 1974, the murder rate was more than twice what it had been in 1961. Between 1960 and 1976, a citizen's chances of becoming a victim of a major violent crime tripled. So did the murder of policemen.

People clever with words sought all sorts of ways of denying the obvious fact that the fancy new developments in the criminal law were catastrophically counterproductive. That was when James Q. Wilson's writings on crime burst upon the scene, cutting through all the fancy evasions with hard facts and hard logic.

The idea that crime results from poverty, or can be reduced by alleviating poverty, Professor Wilson shot down by pointing out that "crime rose the fastest in this country at a time when the number of persons living in poverty or squalor was declining." He said, "I have yet to see a 'root cause' or to encounter a government program that has successfully attacked it."

Nor did Wilson buy the argument that unemployment drove people to crime or welfare. He noted that "the work force was at an all-time high at the same time as were the welfare rolls." Nor were minorities frozen out of this economy. By 1969, "the nonwhite unemployment rate had fallen to 6.5 percent," he pointed out.

By systematically confronting the prevailing notions and rhetoric with undeniable facts to the contrary, James Q. Wilson began to wear away the prevailing social dogmas of intellectuals behind the counterproductive changes in law and society. It was much like water wearing away rock – slowly but continually.

The common sense that had once produced and sustained declining crime rates began to reappear, here and there, in the criminal justice system and sometimes prevailed. Murder rates began to decline again. James Q. Wilson was the leader in this fight. He said, "We have trifled with the wicked."

There is no way to know which ones of us are alive today because of his work. But we all owe him a debt of gratitude.



Bibi made a great speech at AIPAC

Just a few excerpts. Worth reading in full. In the second last paragraph below he makes a point that I have often made

Ladies and gentlemen, tonight I would like to talk to you about a subject that no one has been talking about recently. Yes, Iran. Every day I open the newspapers and I read about all these red lines and timelines. I read about what Israel has supposedly decided to do or what Israel might do. I want to explain why Iran must never be allowed to develop nuclear weapons.

President Obama has reiterated his commitment to prevent that from happening. He stated clearly that all options are on the table and that American policy is not containment. Well, Israel has exactly the same policy. We're determined -- we're determined to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. We leave all options on the table, and containment is definitely not an option.

The Jewish state will not allow those that seek our destruction to possess the means to achieve that goal. A nuclear armed Iran must be stopped!

From the beginning, the Ayatolah regime has broken every international rule, the norm and flouted every international rule. It seized embassies. It has targeted diplomats. It sends its own children through minefields. It hangs gays. It stones women. It supports Assad's brutal slaughter of the Syrian people.

Just a few months ago, it tried to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States. This is in a restaurant just a few blocks from here. The assassins didn't care that several senators and congressmen would have been murdered in the process.

Now, I say all that to make one point clear. This is how Iran behaves today without nuclear weapons. Think of how they will behave tomorrow with nuclear weapons. Iran will be even more reckless and a lot more dangerous.

And here's the worst nightmare of all. With nuclear weapons, Iran could threaten all of us with nuclear terrorism. It could put a nuclear device in a ship heading to any port or in a truck parked in any city anywhere in the world.

My friends, Israel has waited, patiently waited for the international community to resolve this issue. We've waited for diplomacy to work. We've waited for sanctions to work. None of us can afford to wait much longer! As prime minister of Israel, I will never let my people live in the shadow of annihilation!




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