September 6, 2015

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The Wall Street Journal’s Weekend Interview is with Thomas Sowell.

Thomas Sowell turned 85 years old this summer, which means he has been teaching economics to Americans through his books and articles for some four decades. So it seems like a natural question: Have we learned anything? Has the level of economic thinking in political debate gone up at all?

“No—in fact, I’m tempted to think it’s gone down,” Mr. Sowell says, without much hesitation. “At one time you had a lot of people who hadn’t had any economics saying foolish things. Now you have well-known economists saying foolish things.” …

… Why do we never seem to learn these economic lessons? “I think there’s a market for foolish things,” Mr. Sowell says—and vested interests, too. Once an organization such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is created to find discrimination, no one should be startled when it finds discrimination. “There’s never going to be a time when the EEOC will file a report saying, ‘All right folks, there’s really not enough discrimination around to be spending all this money,’ ” he says. “You’re going to have ever-more-elaborate definitions of discrimination. So now, if you don’t want to hire an ax murderer who has somehow gotten paroled, then that’s discrimination.” …




While our economy has a vacation from common sense, President Dilettante leads us in a vacation from history; all to the cheers of the Washington media claque.


We have some photographs, the juxtaposition of which illustrates the disconnect. Last week the president was on Alaska’s Arctic shore enjoying a photo-op while a world away the body of a small boy washes up on Turkey’s shore.


The event in Turkey comes about because our president has no courage, and stands for nothing save spending and borrowing our way to oblivion.


Noah Rothman posts on the boy.

His was one of twelve bodies collected on a Turkish beach on Wednesday. It has become a tragically common site to see the corpses of refugees fleeing the proliferating conflicts in the Middle East wash up on Mediterranean shores. This latest was perhaps the most heartbreaking. A Syrian boy, maybe two or three-years-old lay motionless in the surf. He had only ever known war; a horrible war characterized by intense violence, the use of chemical weapons, the Islamic State and al-Nusra, Bashar al-Assad’s thugs, and the various international actors who give these barbarians succor. He was, perhaps for the first time in his short and cruel life, at peace. Of all the appalling images to emerge from the Syrian conflict, this might have been the most soul crushing. … 

… It was President Barack Obama who declared the use of chemical weapons on civilians in Syria a “red line” for action, and it was President Barack Obama who flinched when it became clear that the regime in Damascus had ignored him. Soon, images began to filter into the Western press revealing the horrors wrought by these WMDs. Rooms full of bodies; people seizing, foaming at the mouth; children contorted and writhing as they met their horrible, terrifying end. The West had to act, but it did not. … 

… In the years that followed Obama’s shortsighted decision to abandon Syria (and the entire region, it would turn out) to violence, Europe would find itself in the midst of a refugee crisis. A great human tide has descended upon the continent as teeming masses of Middle Easterners and North Africans displaced by warfare take flight into Europe. … 

… Our Syrian boy was among those refugees who desperately sought to flee the horrors that prevailed at home. He was among the thousands who never made it to European shores. But the pressures that compelled his family to take to a violent sea will not abate. As a result of more Western cowardice, those pressures will likely intensify. …



Michael Gerson in the Washington Post has more.

One little boy in a red T-shirt, lying face down, drowned, on a Turkish beach, is a tragedy. More than 200,000 dead in Syria, 4 million fleeing refugees and 7.6 million displaced from their homes are statistics. But they represent a collective failure of massive proportions.

For four years, the Obama administration has engaged in what Frederic Hof, former special adviser for transition in Syria, calls a “pantomime of outrage.” Four years of strongly worded protests, and urgent meetings and calls for negotiation — the whole drama a sickening substitute for useful action. People talking and talking to drown out the voice of their own conscience. And blaming. In 2013, President Obama lectured the U.N. Security Council for having “demonstrated no inclination to act at all.” Psychological projection on a global stage.

Always there is Obama’s weary realism. “It’s not the job of the president of the United States to solve every problem in the Middle East.” We must be “modest in our belief that we can remedy every evil.”

But we are not dealing here with every problem or every evil; rather a discrete and unique set of circumstances: The largest humanitarian failure of the Obama era is also its largest strategic failure. …




As does Terry Glavin in Canada’s National Post

“The worst part of it is the feeling that we don’t have any allies,” Montreal’s Faisal Alazem, the tireless 32-year-old campaigner for the Syrian-Canadian Council, told me the other day. “That is what people in the Syrian community are feeling.”

There are feelings of deep gratitude for having been welcomed into Canada, Alazem said. But with their homeland being reduced to an apocalyptic nightmare — the barrel-bombing of Aleppo and Homs, the beheadings of university professors, the demolition of Palmyra’s ancient temples — among Syrian-Canadians, there is also an unquenchable sorrow.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s genocidal regime clings to power in Damascus and the jihadist psychopaths of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) are ascendant almost everywhere else. The one thing the democratic opposition wanted from the world was a no-fly zone and air-patrolled humanitarian corridors. Even that was too much to ask. There is no going home now.

But among Syrian-Canadians, the worst thing of all, Alazem said, is a suffocating feeling of solitude and betrayal. “In the Western countries, the civil society groups — it’s not just their inaction, they fight you as well,” he said. “They are crying crocodile tears about refugees now, but they have played the biggest role in throwing lifelines to the regime. And so I have to say to them, this is the reality, this is the result of all your anti-war activism, and now the people are drowning in the sea.” …

… But what we are all doing — Conservatives, Liberals and New Democrats, Americans, Canadians, and all the dominant elites of the United Nations and the NATO countries that cleave to that sophisticated indifference known in polite company as anti-interventionism — is a very straightforward thing. We are watching Syria die. We are allowing it to happen. …




Andrew Malcolm notes the discouraging misplaced priorities.

Striving to maintain some political relevance as the nation’s focus shifts to choosing his successor, Barack Obama is using a brief visit to Alaska to portray America — indeed, the entire planet — in imminent, disastrous danger from global warming.

The Democrat has long touted global warming as a serious threat. In May, he told military academy graduates that climate change is the greatest threat to U.S. national security. The president’s analysis differs drastically from military leaders, who list Russia, North Korea, China and ISIS as the worst security threats facing the U.S. as Obama draws down its military forces.

Even as Russia annexes Crimea, foments rebellion in Ukraine, sells arms to Iran and aggressively develops Arctic commerce and energy, Obama sees no developing confrontation. Obama did note in Alaska that Russia in recent years has built a fleet of 40 heavy icebreakers. The United States has one in service. Obama suggests building another.

The president said addressing climate change is urgent and dismissed fears that more environmental controls and regulations would hurt the stumbling economy and jobs.

The pattern of talking up a crisis as a means to control the nation’s political agenda and provide a distraction from other news has been very familiar during these interminable 2,416 days of Obama’s White House occupancy. Even if, in the end, little useful action ever ensues on such issues. …



Pickerhead will have a vacation too. Next post will be in a few days.