Friday, November 27, 2015
I think Thanksgiving is becoming an occasion mainly for conservatives. Being grateful for our blessings is normal for conservatives (See here and here and here and here) whereas Leftists focus on problems. And extreme Leftists of course say that the occasion celebrates a takeover of the territory of others by invaders and is therefore nothing to be celebrated.
Nonetheless, a lot of liberals do sit down with others to share a Thanksgiving meal. And where the gathering is politically mixed there can be tensions. The Boston Globe, writing from the heartland of self-righteousness, however, has a new twist on such dinner tensions. They say:
"For years, the major Thanksgiving stressors have been set: politics and religion. But as a growing number of Americans go vegan, vegetarian, organic, local, grass-fed, free-range, wheat-free, or Paleo, a third flash point has been added — the divide between those who favor comfortable Thanksgiving fare and, well, food snobs."
And they go on to give examples of the real tensions that can cause. So once again conservatives are blessed. They may often have their own food beliefs but their appreciation of tradition would usually come to the fore -- so they would be very unlikely to make an issue of food disciplines on such a happy day.
Sorry, Bernie Sanders, FDR's New Deal Actually Prolonged the Great Depression
We are indoctrinated to believe that Roosevelt's New Deal saved the United States from the throes of the Great Depression. But, in 2004, two UCLA economists, Harold Cole and Lee Ohanian, destroyed that narrative. Cole and Ohanian explained that Roosevelt extreme intervention in the economy actually prolonged the depression by seven years.
"Why the Great Depression lasted so long has always been a great mystery, and because we never really knew the reason, we have always worried whether we would have another 10- to 15-year economic slump," Ohanian said in a 2004 release. "We found that a relapse isn't likely unless lawmakers gum up a recovery with ill-conceived stimulus policies."
"[Roosevelt] came up with a recovery package that would be unimaginable today, allowing businesses in every industry to collude without the threat of antitrust prosecution and workers to demand salaries about 25 percent above where they ought to have been, given market forces," Cole added. "The economy was poised for a beautiful recovery, but that recovery was stalled by these misguided policies."
Thomas Sowell has explained that the economy was on the path to recovery after the stock market crash of 1929. "[The unemployment rate] hit 9 percent in December — but then began a generally downward trend, subsiding to 6.3 percent in June 1930. Economic intervention by the Hoover administration interrupted the recovery and led to a deepening of the depression. Sowell views the protectionist Smoot-Hawley tariff, which was signed into law by President Herbert Hoover in 1930 against the advice of hundreds of economists, as the beginning of the worst of the downturn, though not the cause, and, similar to Cole and Ohanian, blames the extreme intervention of the Roosevelt administration for its severity.
The recovery from the Great Depression was tepid, to say the least. Unemployment jumped from 3.2 percent in 1929, the year the downturn began, to 24.9 percent in 1933, when it officially ended. There was a short period of robust economic growth from 1934 to 1936, but it did not last. The economy experienced another downturn in 1937, though not as severe as the Great Depression. Nevertheless, unemployment began rising once again, from 14.3 percent in 1937 to 19 percent the following year.
The Roosevelt administration, through the New Deal, effectively cartelized parts of the economy. "Just a few decades previously the federal government had passed anti-monopoly 'trust busting' laws like the Sherman Anti-Trust Act in order to combat anti-competitive collusion," writes Trevor Burrus. "During the New Deal, however, the government entirely changed course. What was once an unmitigated evil was seen as a necessary step on the road to recovery."
Ohanian cites the National Industrial Recovery Act and the National Labor Relations Act as a couple notable interventions in the economy that were hurdles to a quick recovery. "NIRA covered over 500 industries, ranging from autos and steel, to ladies hosiery and poultry production. Each industry created a code of “fair competition,” which spelled out what producers could and could not do, and which were designed to eliminate 'excessive competition' that FDR believed to be the source of the Depression," Ohanian explains. "These codes distorted the economy by artificially raising wages and prices, restricting output, and reducing productive capacity by placing quotas on industry investment in new plants and equipment." He notes that the policies at the heart of the NIRA continued even after the Supreme Court, in Schechter Poultry Corp. v. United States (1935), struck it down.
The National Labor Relations Act was a boon to labor unions to the detriment of the broader economy. "The downturn of 1937-38 was preceded by large wage hikes that pushed wages well above their NIRA levels, following the Supreme Court’s 1937 decision that upheld the constitutionality of the National Labor Relations Act. These wage hikes led to further job loss, particularly in manufacturing," Ohanian notes. "The 'recession in a depression' thus was not the result of a reversal of New Deal policies, as argued by some, but rather a deepening of New Deal polices that raised wages even further above their competitive levels, and which further prevented the normal forces of supply and demand from restoring full employment."
Roosevelt's approach to agriculture was also particularly mindboggling. Through the Agriculture Adjustment Act, passed in 1933, the federal government paid farmers not to produce to raise crop prices. Still reeling from the effects of the depression, people could not afford food, and the federal government was paying farmers not to work, as well as destroying crops and slaughtering cattle and pigs to boost the price of meat. "While millions of Americans were going hungry, the government plowed under 10 million acres of crops, slaughtered 6 million pigs, and left fruit to rot. Production of milk, fruits, and other products was cartelized to boost prices under 'marketing orders' begun in 1937," Chris Edwards explained in a 2005 analysis of the depression. "These policies reduced employment and burdened families with higher prices."
According to the Congressional Research Service, between 1930 and 1940, there was a net increase of 382,000 workers and employment as a percentage of the population actually declined from 50.5 percent to 44.8 percent. The unemployment rate did not drop to pre-depression levels until after the United States entered World War II. Of course, the number of enlisted men, the vast majority of whom were conscripts, grew substantiallly, from 458,365 in 1940 to 12.2 million in 1945. This was a sizable chunk of the available labor force of the time, so the natural result was a drop in unemployment.
How the Left Thinks about the War on Terror
Here are some bad ideas implicit in most leftwing commentary on this topic.
1. If there are no boots on the ground, you’re not really at war.
Barack Obama said it over and over again – to our troops, to the American people, to the news media, to the world: “There will be no boots on the ground.” That was before he ordered boots on the ground in Iraq.
But why is that distinction so important? The implicit idea is that when we are dropping bombs, our planes are so high up the enemy can’t shoot them down. So no American ever gets shot or captured. We can kill them, but they can’t kill us. Voila. We can actually fight the bad guys without anyone on our side getting hurt.
Earth to Obama: When you are dropping bombs on people, you are at war. And the enemy will find ways to fight back. Look at what just happened in Paris.
2. If you don’t say what you are fighting against, you’re not really at war.
In the Democratic presidential debate last Saturday, Hillary Clinton was given ample opportunity to say we are fighting “radical Islam.” She demurred. President Obama never uses those words either.
But if we are not fighting “radical Islam,” what are we fighting? If you can’t identify what you are against, how do our soldiers know who to shoot at? How do we know whether we are winning or losing?
3. Killing is better than torture.
Think about the terrible ordeal Sen. John McCain went through as a prisoner of war. Ditto for Rep. Sam Johnson and other Americans who were tortured by their Vietnamese captors. Awful as all that was, does anyone think the world would be better off if McCain, Johnson and the others were killed rather than tortured?
Well, that is how Barack Obama thinks. He criticized George Bush for allowing three captives to be water boarded. He called it “torture” and apologized to the world. But Obama has no problem at all with killing people. As I previously reported, that is what our drones are doing day in and day out and the number of drone kills has spiked radically during the Obama years. In the president’s first five years in office, the C.I.A. made 330 drone strikes in Pakistan alone (a country we are not even at war with!), compared with 51 total drone strikes in four years of George W. Bush’s presidency.
Remember: Our drones are killing people who are not wearing uniforms. They are not shooting back at us. They are not in any traditional sense “combatants.” I’m sure that a lot of the people the Obama administration has killed deserved to die. But we don’t always know who we are killing. And we admit that bystanders, including children, are victims as well.
Is that really more humane than water boarding?
4. Killing is better than capture.
Have you noticed that we are not capturing any bad guys these days? One reason why the population at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba keeps shrinking is that we don’t have any new captives to put there. The reason: the Obama administration doesn’t want prisoners.
This is terrible policy. Captives can be questioned. They can give up valuable information. Dead men can tell us nothing.
So why are we killing instead of capturing? Because of the next bad idea.
5. Captives have civil rights; people we kill do not.
Take Osama bin Laden. From what I can tell, the movie Zero Dark Thirtygot the facts pretty much right. Seal Team Six had no intention of bringing him back alive. They brought a body bag with them and they intended to fill it.
Bin Laden was not armed when they found him. He was not asked to surrender. He was not read his Miranda rights. There was no attempt whatsoever to take him prisoner. Our guys just went in and shot him. And then, with his body prone upon the floor, they shot him a couple of more times just to make sure he was dead.
So what about Khalid Sheikh Mohammed? He probably has more American blood on his hands than bin Laden, considering that he was closer to the scene of the crimes. For more than a decade lawyers have been arguing over what rights he does or doesn’t have. But why bother? Why don’t we just send some special ops guys down to Guantanamo and shoot him?
There seems to be no real answer. And things don’t get any clearer if you read the editorials in The New York Times. In fact, the very same editorial that lauded the assassination of bin Laden and quoted President Obama as saying “justice has been done” went on to complain about the detention of prisoners at Guantánamo.
Got that? Assassination: good. Detention: bad. What is it you don’t understand?
6. The president has the right to order people killed.
The act of ordering someone killed from the White House – someone not wearing a uniform and not in formal combat -- has gone on for some time. But it has really escalated under Barack Obama.
Last month, The New York Times published a lengthy article describing all of the legal opinions the president got before he ordered the bin Laden kill. I read the article several times and nowhere in it could I find any lawyer explicitly saying the president has the right to kill people. But nor did the article overtly admit that this is what really happened.
I don’t doubt for one moment that bin Laden deserved to die. Nor do I doubt the patriotism of the Special Forces. They risk their lives for you and me. They serve their country admirably.
But shouldn’t we acknowledge who the Special Forces are and what their role is? They are licensed to kill. That’s what they do. When they shoot, they don’t shoot to wound. They rarely take prisoners. As a general rule, they don’t leave any witnesses.
7. Killing people with robots isn’t really killing.
After the CIA killed an American citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, in a 2011 drone strike in Yemen, a federal court ordered the Obama administration to release an internal memo justifying the act. As reported in The New York Times:
The main theory that the government says allows it to kill American citizens, if they pose a threat, is the “public authorities justification,” a legal concept that permits governments to take actions in emergency situations that would otherwise break the law. It’s why fire trucks can break the speed limit and police officers can fire at a threatening gunman.
Got that? If fire trucks can break the speed limit, why can’t the CIA kill a few Americans with drones? What’s more depressing than the memo is the Gray Lady’s tepid response to it:
Blithely accepting such assurances at face value is why these kinds of killings are so troubling, and why we have repeatedly urged that an outside party — such as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court — provide an independent review when a citizen is targeted…. This memo should never have taken so long to be released, and more documents must be made public. The public is still in the dark on too many vital questions.
Before the government can zap you with a drone, the Times wants a court review. You won’t be present at the hearing, however.
8. Prisoners of war are not really prisoners of war if we’re really not at war.
From the beginning of his presidency Barack Obama has promised civil libertarians on the left that he would close the Guantanamo prison. So far Congress has blocked him and in the struggle over what to do next the national news’s media has completely forgotten why Guantanamo was an issue in the first place.
The real issue is not where the prisoners are located. The issue is indefinite detention.
When German solders surrendered to the allies at the close of World War II or when they were captured on the battle field, no one thought they had any rights – other than the right not to be treated cruelly. And that has been true in every war. Combatants do not have the same rights ordinary criminals do. As for detention, victorious armies have always exercised the option to detain enemy soldiers as long as they are perceived as a threat.
Clearly the terrorists think they are in a war with us. They have said it over and over again. Yet the left in this country continues to insist that they be treated under the criminal law, with all the constitutional rights and privileges ordinary criminals enjoy.
The president of France says we are in a war. Why can’t the president of the United States acknowledge the same thing?
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Posted by JR at 1:41 AM