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Democrats: Still Seeking the Bottom of the Low Road

Fred Barnes notes in The Weekly Standard that “Democrats Take the Low Road” in their desperation to keep their Senate majority. Ratifying that judgment is the New York Times, which includes a story today entitled “At Risk in Senate, Democrats Seek to Rally Blacks.” The subhed is even more revealing: “Move to Channel Anger.” (Note: this subhed doesn’t appear on the online version of the story; it’s just in the print edition, which I receive to boost the pulp and paper industry.)

This “news” story has virtually no real facts that count as news or fresh information; it is one of those stories that makes the obvious seem profound to Times readers simply by appearing in the Times. Gee—parties try to turn out constituency groups that lean their way. Stop the presses: dog bites a mail carrier!

But ponder that subhed “Move to Channel Anger” a bit further: It reveals that the Democratic Party’s interest is for blacks to stay angry. Which means it is in the self-interest of the Democratic Party to make sure racial discord is a permanent condition. (This also explains the political calculations about Obama’s proposed move to grant amnesty to illegal immigrants.) Still think Democrats seek solutions to poverty and urban decay? Maybe there’s a reason inequality and urban decay are worst where Democrats have been in charge the longest (Detroit).

Or try this headline as a thought experiment: “At Risk in House, Republicans Seek to Rally Whites.” If Republicans said openly their strategy was to mobilize white voters the Times would never stop screaming that Republicans are racist. Oh wait—that is what they say anyway. So why don’t they say the same thing about Democrats when they make direct racial appeals instead of an appeal to the public good? Hmm, maybe that tired charge about Republicans is a case of projection.

In any case, Fred Barnes better be ready with a follow up piece, because that low road hasn’t reached the bottom of the abyss yet.

Obama invokes success of Bush-Cheney security policy as grounds for his complacency

As we have often observed, and did so again in the post just below this one, Team Obama specializes in excuses for inaction and complacency in the face of the threat posed by ISIS and other Islamic terrorists. But I never thought that, among its excuses, would be praise for the policies of President Bush and Vice President Cheney.

Yet, as Daniel Halper reports, President Obama used just that excuse at a fundraiser in Rhode Island last night. Obama told Democrat fat cats that despite what “seems like. . .just wave after wave of upheaval, most of it surrounding the Middle East,” presently there is little reason for alarm:

The good news is that we actually have a[n] unprecedented military capacity, and since 9/11 have built up a security apparatus that makes us in the here and now pretty safe. We have to be vigilant, but this doesn’t immediately threaten the homeland. What it does do, though, is it gives a sense, once again, for future generations, is the world going to be upended in ways that affect our kids and our grandkids.

Naturally, Obama didn’t identify the leaders who, after 9/11, built the security apparatus that “makes us in the here and now pretty safe.” Clearly though, as Halper says, the architects were “President George W. Bush, with the assistance of his faithful vice president, Dick Cheney,” sometimes over the objections of Barack Obama and many of his fellow liberal Democrats.

Putting aside Obama’s praise for the policies of Bush and Cheney, his statement in Rhode Island manifests a shocking degree of complacency. Is it really “good news” that we are “pretty safe”? Is “pretty safe” the standard that Obama is willing to settle for?

And is the upheaval in the Middle East a matter of concern only for “our kids and our grandkids”? ISIS is well on its way to establishing a state roughly the size of New England. Iran is well on its way to developing nuclear weapons.

The dangers to our homeland posed by these developments cannot be characterized as something that will affect only our kids and grandkids. 9/11 teaches us that much.

Obama has consistently and vastly underestimated the threat posed by ISIS, a group he dismissed last winter as “the jayvee.” It seems that even now, Obama has not learned this lesson.

John Kerry revives the “global test” to justify not taking strong action against ISIS

John Kerry takes to the pages of the New York Times to advance the nonsensical proposition that “the threat of ISIS demands a global coalition.” In reality, the threat of ISIS demands strong military action by the U.S. Without such action, a “global coalition” will accomplish nothing. With such action, that coalition is unnecessary.

For Kerry, as for most leftists, the word “global” is magic. (Recall the “global test” for U.S. conduct that he invoked during the 2004 election campaign). But magic words don’t constitute arguments.

It terms of an argument, the best Kerry can do is invoke the first Gulf War (which he opposed):

When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990, the first President George Bush and Secretary of State James A. Baker III did not act alone or in haste. They methodically assembled a coalition of countries whose concerted action brought a quick victory.

But Kerry doesn’t claim, much less demonstrate, that the quick victory in 1991 was due to the creation of a coalition. Nor would such a claim be tenable. It was the U.S. military that rolled over Saddam’s army. The coalition may have made our victory more palatable to some, but it was not necessary to achieve the victory.

Turning to the present, Kerry fails to explain why combatting ISIS requires a global response. ISIS is a terrorist organization that has expanded into an army and hopes to become a state. It takes an army to defeat an army, and it matters not how many or how few countries participate in the army that takes on ISIS.

Right now, ISIS is centered in Iraq and Syria. Ideally, therefore, a U.S. military response would work in tandem with Iraqi and Syrian forces. And it would be great if, say, Jordan contributed forces and the Saudis contributed money.

Thus, it makes sense to talk of a regional coalition. (Such talk from Kerry smacks of hypocrisy, though, inasmuch as the administration has for years rejected pleas for meaningful assistance by non-jihadist rebels in Syria and rejected pleas from Kurds in Iraq until quite recently). But to talk of a global coalition is globaloney.

We can defeat ISIS without help from the likes of Uruguay, Portugal, Zambia, and Thailand. What we need is the will, not the globe.

Why, then, is Kerry insisting on the need for a global coalition? For two reasons. First, as noted above, he can’t help himself. He’s addicted to globaloney.

Second, it provides an excuse for inaction. When pressed for a strong response to ISIS, or at least for a strategy — as both Republicans and some Democrats are now pressing — the administration can say it is trying to put together a “global coalition.”

But if ISIS represents a threat to the U.S. — and the administration, including Kerry, now concedes that it does — the Obama administration jeopardizes our national security by delaying a strong response in the name of organizing a “global coalition.” The “globe” will not condemn Obama for striking hard at the barbarians who make up ISIS. And even if it did, such condemnation would not trump the need to protect ourselves from the barbarians.

One More Reason the Administration May Want to Have a Strategy

These days, all eyes are on ISIS. But they are far from the only Muslim terrorist group about which we should be concerned. Remember Boko Haram? They led the news cycle back in April–which seems like a long time ago, given the disasters that have occurred since then–when they kidnapped and enslaved 270 girls, most of them Christians. Which reminds me: is #BringBackOurGirls still trending? Now, that was a strategy!

Boko Haram hasn’t gone away, of course. Christian Today updates us on some of the group’s recent predations, including the beheading of a six-year-old Christian boy:

It was revealed this week that Nigerian terrorist group Boko Haram beheaded a six-year-old boy on June 1 because he was a Christian.

The attack occurred in Attagara, Gwoza district, Borno State – a predominately Christian community, according to Voice of the Martyrs. Over 100 militants descended upon the village, slaughtering men, women, and children. …

One villager, Sawaltha Wandala, was arriving at church for the second service when he saw children being massacred. One six-year-old boy had been slashed and thrown into a ditch, but he was alive. Wandala picked him up and was carrying him to a hospital in Cameroon, when he was stopped by five of the militants.

The men reportedly took the child from Wandala’s arms and beheaded him, then began beating the 55-year-old with tree branches. After striking him in the head with a rock, they left him for dead. …

Two days later the militants returned, attacking Attagara and other villages in Gwoza. VOM reported that approximately 200 people were killed in the two-day assaults.

John Yakuba and his family survived the Attagara attacks and fled to Cameroon, but Yakuba returned to their home to retrieve their animals and some of their belongings. The family faced starvation at a refugee camp, and Yakuba hoped to sell the animals to support them.

Boko Haram members saw Yakuba entering his home, however, and captured him.

“We know you’re John,” they said to him, according to VOM. “You must convert to Islam or else you will die a painful death.”

When Yakuba refused to denounce Christ, they tied his arms and legs to a tree, and hacked his hands with a knife.

“Can you become a Muslim now?” the militants asked.

“You can kill my body, but not my soul,” Yakubu cried out.

You probably don’t want to read the rest.

Why is ISIS a bigger threat than Boko Haram? In large part because it has stolen enormous amounts of money, more than any terrorist group has ever controlled. But Nigeria is one of the world’s principal oil-producing countries; currently, its production is constrained mostly by violence precipitated by Boko Haram. What if that group should gain control over all or a substantial part of Nigeria’s oil resources? Is there any reason to think it would be less a threat than ISIS? Its depravity is certainly no less.

At the moment, terrorist organizations like ISIS and Boko Haram are great at slaughtering villagers, beheading Christians, enslaving women and intimidating ill-trained and unmotivated government forces. They are no match for a real military force of the sort that we and a handful of other countries can mount. But that condition is not necessarily permanent. As they acquire more territory, power and wealth, and gain access to weapons of mass destruction, it may not be easy, or even possible, to defeat them before they do incalculable damage to the civilized world.

Which is another way of saying that it is time for a strategy, not to accommodate or contain militant Islam, but to defeat it and extirpate it from the Earth. Somehow, though, I don’t think that is the sort of strategy that Barack Obama, Valerie Jarrett and John Kerry are working on.

Which States Are the Richest? The Answer May Surprise You

It has long been obvious that it takes a lot of money to live in New York or San Francisco, while you can get along on much less in, say, Nebraska. But only in April of this year did the Bureau of Economic Analysis systematically compute real per capita income for each of the 50 states, plus the District of Columbia. You can see the results for 2012, the only year published to date, here. For your convenience, I have uploaded the table. Here it is:

Real Per Capita Income by State 2012

Not surprisingly, the most prosperous place in the U.S. is the District of Columbia, with a per capita real income (chained 2008 dollars) of $59,759. In the Age of Obama, lobbyists reign supreme. But what state ranks number one? North Dakota, with a real per capita income of $57,367. Sure, you say, it’s all that fracking. Yes, but look who is number five: oil-free South Dakota, at $48,626. Both of the Dakotas, on a real per capita basis, are higher-income than New York ($43,603), California (a dismal $38,888), Pennsylvania ($43,173), Illinois ($43,063), Maryland ($45,702), Virginia ($44,313), Washington ($42,164) and just about every other state.

A few blue states are prosperous: Connecticut is number two and Massachusetts is number four, edging out South Dakota but far behind North Dakota. But most of the country’s wealthiest states are red or purple: in addition to the Dakotas, Wyoming (#3), Nebraska (#6), Iowa (#7) and Kansas (#11). (Maybe Kansas isn’t so dumb after all.)

BEA also calculated how much each state gained in real per capita income between 2008 and 2012. You can make of this what you will, but the top ten, in order, were North Dakota (with a whopping 23% increase), West Virginia, Mississippi, Ohio, Rhode Island, Montana, Arkansas, South Dakota, Tennessee and New Hampshire.

It is noteworthy, too, that states like New York, California and Illinois have much more income inequality than states like the Dakotas. If we saw the same data using medians instead of averages, the Dakotas, Wyoming, Nebraska, etc. would look even better. The average person is remarkably better off in those states.

While one should rarely draw sweeping conclusions from a single data set, these numbers do cause one to wonder: the blue model has plainly failed at the state level, so why would anyone want to implement it at the federal level?

Uber Meets Liberalism Uber Alles

There are days when I wonder whether Salon is for real, or whether it’s an elaborate gag, similar to the theory that all of Paul Krugman’s and Tom Friedman’s columns are actually written by a bunch of madcap interns at the Heritage Foundation wondering how long it will take New York Times readers to figure out.

(Click to embiggen)

(Click to embiggen)

We’ve commented here before about how Uber, the app-based car service, is catching on and roiling the comfortable taxi cartels in city after city. A few taxi operators have actually been cleaning up their cars, and giving extra training to their drivers to be more polite and customer friendly. Funny how competition does that sometimes. Of course, Uber is not the only app-based car service start up; Uber is now facing stiff competition from Lyft.

Today Salon outdoes itself with “Why Uber Must Be Stopped.” Be sure to take in the artwork nearby of how they understand the story pictured nearby, but also savor the indignation that Uber and Lyft might stoop to unscrupulous practices to gain a competitive edge over each other:

What is Uber? A paragon of free market efficiency and technological innovation serving the greater convenience and comfort of the general public? Or living proof for why capitalist societies require regulation?

You won’t really have much trouble guessing where Salon comes out on this last question will you? Anyway. . .

. . . if you are inclined to see Uber as the acme of ruthless and amoral profit-seeking, then the latest news on Uber’s “deceptive tactics” is just one more confirmation of how the company will do anything to win. . . There’s little doubt that Uber is the closest thing we’ve got today to the living, breathing essence of unrestrained capitalism. This is like watching Andrew Carnegie or John D. Rockefeller in action. This is how robber barons play. From top to bottom, the company flaunts a street-fighter ethos.

Liberals have always been able to go from zero-to-Robber Baron faster than a Porsche can do zero-to-60. And it always ends the same way: Monopoly! We must regulate!

So here’s what’s going to happen. Society is going to realize that power as great as Uber’s needs to be checked. Uber, by virtue of its own success, will demonstrate where the lines need to be drawn for the general good. When Uber is the only game in town, the necessity for comprehensive requirements for commercial insurance and background checks will be obvious. When Uber starts using its logistics clout and unlimited investment capital to go after UPS and Hertz and FedEx, regulators will start wondering about antitrust issues.

Liberalism uber alles! Or at least over Uber!

One weakness of Uber’s business model is that it is easy to replicate, but so are cheap hamburgers, which is why we have lots of fast-food burger chains and we don’t need a Big Mac regulator, and why Uber is unlikely to achieve any kind of durable monopoly position. One way they actually might, however, is if app-based car services become subject to government regulation, in which case the industry will become cartelized for the benefit of incumbent firms. The scholarship on this point, and the empirical evidence behind it, is overwhelming—so overwhelming that you’d think even Salon might get it.

Then, too, we must make the obligatory reference to Schumpeter on how creative destruction is the heart of a dynamic market economy:

But in capitalist reality as distinguished from its textbook picture, it is not that kind of [price] competition which counts but the competition from the new commodity, the new technology, the new source of supply, the new type of organization (the largest-scale unit of control for instance)–competition which commands a decisive cost or quality advantage and which strikes not at the margins of the profits and the outputs of the existing firms but at their foundations and their very lives.

In thinking about the hardball Uber is playing against Lyft, you’d think there’s never been a case of, for example, a Procter and Gamble salesperson browbeating a supermarket chain into filling its shelves exclusively with P&G products, or a movie studio demanding preferred placement in a theater chain, etc.

Or perhaps we might wonder how Salon might have covered other instances of new business models upending the competition. Wonder no more. Here’s how Salon would read if it had been around for the last 100 years:

Why Airplanes Must Be Stopped

These greedy Wright brothers are threatening to upend city-to-city rail service with their dangerous flying contraptions . . . Wait, what? You mean the railroads were the original Robber Barons? Oh, never mind. . .


Why Southwest Airlines Must Be Stopped

We can’t allow this Greyhound bus with wings to offer $19 fares from Dallas to San Antonio: what will happen to TWA and Pan Am if this business model catches on?


Why Trucks Must Be Stopped

As if airplanes weren’t enough of a threat to railroads, now we have all these truckers hauling cargo all over the place. What’s that? Jimmy Hoffa you say? He says what?—The drivers can be unionized? Oh, never thought of that. . .


Why FedEx Must Be Stopped

We can’t allow overnight package delivery by airplane! It will undermine package delivery by truck and the speedy and polite parcel delivery service of the Post Office. . .


Why FAX Machines Must Be Stopped

We can’t let people have FAX machines. It will undermine the Post Office’s first class mail delivery.

[The Post Office actually did want to prohibit privately-owned and operated FAX machines.]


Why Email Must Be Stopped

We can’t allow email! It will make FAX machines obsolete! And undermine the Post Office’s first class mail.


Why Amazon Must Be Stopped

We can’t allow Amazon: it will kill off independent bookstores.


Why Salon.com Must Be Stopped

It is lowering the IQ of liberals everywhere. Oh, wait—never mind. Carry on in fact.