Friday, August 1, 2014
Former Border Patrol Deputy Chief: 'All of the Good That Was Done after 9/11 Up to Now Has Been Reversed Singlehandedly'
Former Border Patrol Deputy Chief: 'All of the Good That Was Done after 9/11 Up to Now Has Been Reversed Singlehandedly'http://www.nationalreview.com/node/382911/print
By Ryan Lovelace
Former national deputy chief of the U.S. Border Patrol Ronald Colburn tells National Review Online that the Obama administration has undone all of the progress made at America’s southern border since 9/11.
“We’re back to a pre-9/11 situation basically, and this administration did that in the past five years,” he says. “All of the good that was done after 9/11 up to now has been reversed singlehandedly.”
Colburn, who spent more than 30 years working for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, says the resulting national-security risk has to do with the “clutter” of people at the border. He says all of the gains made since 9/11 came as a result of reducing the number of people crossing the border. The Border Patrol’s task is to sort through the haystack of people as they come across, he says. “What this situation on the border is doing is growing the haystack, is adding clutter, so that those dangerous needles get through because we’re tied up capturing, instead, juvenile children from Guatemala and El Salvador,” he says. “When you see the cartels — the Zetas and MS-13 and the Gulf Cartel — laughing about this on the Internet, you know what’s behind it.”
Colburn says the “gangsters down south” enjoy social media, taking selfies, and talking about one another online. Border Patrol officials monitor the cartels’ online communications along with officials from the Department of Defense and intelligence community, he says.
Thursday, July 31, 2014
Things are more expensive than government statistics say they should be.
Things are more expensive than government statistics say they should be.
By Amity Shlaes
A lot of people who watched Rick Santelli blow upon CNBC the other day thought the same thing: “That guy needs a vacation — and so do I. The world just doesn’t make sense to him, or maybe me, either.” So you head up to the cabin. Maybe it’s the same cabin you rented back in 2000, before your kids. You just want a quiet reality check, a chance to think it all through. You swear you’ll turn off your phone. You and your family need time to remind yourselves how good you have it.
But there’s one nuisance that can interrupt your seven-day idyll just as surely as a blackfly or a mosquito. That nuisance is the price zap.
The first zap comes even before you get in the car. Your daughter wants a haircut so she can feel the sun on her neck. Great. But then she reports she needs $45 for the cut. What? A haircut used to be $20. You fork out, hiding your irritation. You expected haircuts to be high, but not this high.
The next zap comes on the road. A gallon of gas is $4.00, when it was $1.30 back in 2000. You expected gas to be high. But not this high.
The cottage you rented is nice, but the rent is more than you expected. It’s hot in the cabin, and your other daughter wants to see The Fault in Our Stars one more time. So you head over to the theater. The ticket is $10.00, not $5.00, like it was when you went to see Gladiator back in 2000. Your spouse asks you to pick up some coffee. A pound is $5.20, not $3.40, like back in the old days. You expected movies and coffee to be high, but not this high.
Maybe you have a child in camp. They still write real postal letters, so you stop at the post office to send her some stamps. Stamps are 49 cents each, rather than 33 cents, as in the old days. You hope that your daughter can save her stamps and use them next year. You tell the lady you’ll take the “Forevers.”
The lake is blue. You go for a swim with a buddy. You two went to the same state school. You believe in public education, and are wondering if your kids will also go to State. His son is starting as a freshman in your old dorm in just four weeks. Celebrate! But then he lets you know that the cost all in is going to be $38,000 and change. Back in 2000, it was $18,400. And when you went, in 1995, tuition and board were only $16,000. And that’s a state school. You knew the price would be high. But not this high. Private school for your kids? Time to forget about it.
About three days in, you do just what you wanted not to. You snap at your daughter. You take a call from a client. Suddenly those little mosquito bites have you itching all over. You feel like maybe you have to get back to the city.
In other words, you’re beginning to realize that maybe you don’t have it so good. Your pay isn’t high enough to let you ignore these prices. Wage growth overall is slower than it should be; your pay certainly hasn’t doubled since 2000, like the price of the movie ticket.
Have you lost out entirely? Not really. The realtors name a price for your house that’s more than you expected. Too bad you can’t sell right now. Your pension is up, but you have a squishy feeling that money won’t be able to keep up with these prices. The money you have in the Roth IRA is adding up, but it’s clear politicians may zap your stash later by turning the Roth into a taxable vehicle. They’ll probably do that right around when you retire.
You’re on vacation. Other people are water skiing, so you have a few hours to think about this. When you wake up from your sofa snooze, you see there is another way to look at the discomfort you’re experiencing: The price zap is an inflation zap. The reason you thought you could afford this vacation in the first place was that you know a little about money. All the official numbers, especially the Consumer Price Index, say that inflation is reasonable. Economists you respect tell you the wages are low because of “misallocation of resources.” Janet Yellen, the new Fed chairman, says she’s not worried. Maybe she will have a good vacation.
But other numbers suggest that inflation is higher than what the official data suggest. One set, from which some of the price bites above were taken, is here. For a more thorough review of why official numbers err, have a look at the work of John Williams, a consultant who has tracked data over the years.
Boiled down, Williams’s contention is that several alterations in the way we measure inflation have caused distortion. The Consumer Price Index used to be simple: The government measured the same basket of goods every year. If the price went up, the index captured that. Decades ago, authorities pointed out that people substitute a cheaper item when what they originally bought was too expensive. They altered the index to capture substitution. If steak is expensive, you buy chicken. The result of their fiddle is that inflation looks lower than it would otherwise. That’s disappointing. No vacation is a true vacation without a really good tenderloin.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics or the Fed also argued that the quality of some items (camera, movie) had improved over the years. The technology it took to make X-Men: Days of Future Past is leagues ahead of the technology used for Gladiator. The movie theater itself has better seats. Therefore, the ticket price should be higher. The economists at the BLS say they discount for that: “The hedonic quality adjustment method removes any price differential attributed to change in quality,” they write. But perhaps they use such indexes to hide true price increases.
In any case, you are not feeling especially hedonic. And that takes you back to the reason you needed this vacation in the first place: The rate of change. Some change is good — that’s what modernity is about. But what monetary authorities don’t recognize is that too much change in money’s value, up or down, can be enervating to the average person. An old money that keeps its old value sustains a mood of trust in society. This summer Jerry Jordan, the former president of the Cleveland Fed, penned a blistering notice of the change in central-banking culture on his website, Sound Money Project: “Clearly I was wrong a few years ago when I asserted ‘there were no central bankers or ministers of finance who would publicly argue that the prevailing inflation rate was too low.’ It now seems they all do.”
Go back farther, and you find central bankers who pointedly tolerated no inflation. President Calvin Coolidge put it simply: “Inflation is repudiation.” Today, because of our national “repudiation” — or plain denial — of inflation, we tend to find that kind of trust only among good friends or family — and there only if you all can avoid talking about prices. People begin to doubt themselves when personal inflation experience does not align with official inflation data. Writers trying to describe the German hyperinflation of the 1920s often wrote of the “blow” of seeing currency go to nothing. Such blows were their own dramatic version of those little zaps.
Which takes us back to Rick Santelli. What Santelli is really talking about is getting the Fed back to a point where it cares about inflation. If you study the last part of the video, where the CNBC host gets bullied into silence by Steve Liesman, you’ll see the problem. The price today for talking about inflation is itself too high.
Santelli doesn’t really need a vacation, but he sure deserves one. Then he and maybe some others can return to argue again. It’s time for a real debate on inflation to commence. And knowing that such a debate was out there sure would make it easier to come back to work.
— Amity Shlaes is the author of three national bestsellers, Coolidge, The Forgotten Man, and The Greedy Hand.http://www.nationalreview.com/article/382859/inflation-vacation-amity-shlaes
How Stupid Happens
No, PolitiFact did not show that half of Fox News statements are false.
No, PolitiFact did not show that half of Fox News statements are false.
The headlines were inevitable: “Fact-Checking Site Finds Fox News Only Tells the Truth 18 Percent of the Time,” “Analysis: Over Half of ALL Statements Made On Fox News Are False,” “Fox News wins battle for most-false cable network.” One particularly dim-witted account, written by Jameson Parker, reads: “A new analysis by PunditFact found that of every statement made by a Fox News host or guest, over half of them were flat-out false. What’s more, only a measly 8 percent could be considered completely ‘true.’ In other words, a fancy review of hundreds of hours of video confirmed what many who watch Fox News with any regularity already know: Fox News lies. A lot. Like all the time.”
The “study” from PunditFact (a subdivision of PolitiFact), which is not really a study, says no such thing. You do not have to rely on my word for that: PunditFact itself warns against using its figures “to draw broad conclusions,” e.g. that Fox News lies “like all the time.” (Like, is this like a 1980s Valley-girl movie, or are you just, like, functionally illiterate?) That is because the study is an exercise in drawing nonsensical conclusions from arbitrary data.
The most obvious problem — though certainly not the only problem, not even close — is selection bias: PolitiFact is a readership-driven online publication, and thus it exercises a great deal of discretion about which statements it chooses to evaluate and why. The most obvious factor is that it evaluates only statements that are disputed. Specifically, it evaluates only statements that are disputed and that its editors believe will be of some interest or benefit to its readers.
Fox News is a personalities-driven opinion network with occasional news reports; it is inevitable that its broadcast hours will be more rapidly punctuated by controversial statements than those of, for example, ABC. Unsurprisingly, the opinion-heavy Fox News and MSNBC both have relatively high falsehood scores on the PolitiFact report card, while CNN doesn’t. It’s not as though Michaela Pereira never says anything that might be disputed — she simply never says anything that is interesting, true or false, so nobody cares. Or, as PolitiFact puts it: “We use our news judgment to pick the facts we’re going to check, so we certainly don’t fact-check everything. And we don’t fact-check the five network groups evenly.”
No kidding. Say what you will about Bill O’Reilly, nobody ever made a living out of pretending to be Rachel Maddow. (No, Chris Hayes doesn’t count.)
PolitiFact’s kindergarten-level methodology here is to take the total number of statements it evaluates, tally up the “mostly false,” “false,” and “pants on fire” ratings, and then do a little division. Given the underlying selection issues, this amounts to nothing more than doing meaningless arithmetic on meaningless data. If PunditFact editor Aaron Sharockman spent more than 20 minutes on this so-called research, he should demand a refund from his university. (Given that he has a B.A. in journalism, he should demand a refund on general principles.)
By the same measure, approximately 100 percent of statements made by Paul Krugman evaluated in National Review are 1. mostly false; 2. false; 3. pants-on-fire; or, my own favorite designation, 4. wearing-full-Wayne-Newton-makeup-while-singing-“Danke Schoen”-at-4-a.m.-under-a-bridge-in-Cleveland crazy. But that does not mean that the sum of what comes out of Professor Krugman’s mouth is 99 and 44/100 percent pure B.S., like some Bizarro World version of Ivory Soap — it just means that we mostly tend to take notice of him when he’s wrong. If he says you should try the cheese plate at Il Bambino, give the claim due consideration.
The deeper problem with PunditFact is the bias in how it evaluates statements. Consider two structurally identical questions: In the first, it considered Chris Wallace’s claim that Hillary Clinton had “defended Syria’s President Assad as a possible reformer at the start of that country’s civil war.” That statement, the editors decided, was only half-true, because that was “not expressly her opinion.” Rather, she had said that members of Congress of both parties who had visited Syria had suggested that Assad was a possible reformer. (Never mind that Mrs. Clinton’s claim is itself untrue, a three-Pinocchio offender in the Washington Post’s judgment.)
In the second instance, PunditFact considered a claim from Bill O’Reilly, made during an interview with President Barack Obama, that he had not accused the administration of obscuring the motive behind the Benghazi attack for political reasons. O’Reilly had in fact interviewed people who said that, but he himself had not made that claim. PunditFact nonetheless rates it “mostly false,” because O’Reilly had, in its view, “nurtured suspicion.” Mr. O’Reilly and Mrs. Clinton were engaged in precisely the same rhetorical strategy: the time-honored Washington dodge of using others to suggest indirectly what you think or suspect yourself, e.g. “it’s a serious charge,” “some have said,” “it has been suggested that,” etc. In both cases, the statement was made on Fox News, but Mrs. Clinton gets a pass (“not expressly her opinion”) while Mr. O’Reilly gets labeled a liar — for precisely the same thing. This is what simple bias looks like.
It’s mostly a matter of sympathy — not with different news networks, but with different political figures. When it considered Eric Bolling’s claim that the great majority of new jobs created during the Obama administration have gone to men, PunditFact labeled that a half-truth, too, even though, in its own words, the “numbers are right.” Why? Because “as an attack on Obama, it rings hollow.” Not exactly Karl Popper’s intellectual standards at work.
But the fact is that unsupportable, boneheaded claims such as “over half of ALL” — thanks for that all-caps attack, Einstein von Brainstorm — “statements made on Fox News Are False” will live forever, because people are mostly interested in having their biases confirmed and their values affirmed rather than learning new things about the world and how it works. True, much as I like yelling at people on television, it is pretty hard to feel too bad for Fox News and MSNBC over an exercise in confirmation bias, but this sort of sloppy thinking and malicious manipulation does have the effect of leaving the polity a little dumber than it absolutely has to be. And that is an unforgivable sin.
— Kevin D. Williamson is roving correspondent for National Review.