WH apologizes for their “oversight” on Congressional oversight re: prisoner swap

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King Obama

Image via Salon.com

Wow:

The White House has apologized to Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) for failing to alert her in advance of a decision to release Taliban commanders from Guantanamo Bay.

Feinstein told reporters that she received a call from Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken on Monday evening apologizing for what the administration is calling an “oversight.”

“I had a call from the White House last night, from Tony Blinken, apologizing for it,” she said.

 “He apologized and said it was an oversight,” she added.

Feinstein also said leaders of the House and Senate Intelligence panels were almost unanimously against a prisoner trade when it came up in 2011.

She said the chairmen and ranking Republicans of the “connected committees” spent a lot of time in 2011 reviewing the possibility of a prisoner swap and came out firmly opposed to releasing senior militants from the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay.

“There were very strong views and they were virtually unanimous against the trade,” she said.

“I certainly want to know more about whether this man was a deserter,” she said of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was released to American special forces in return for the freedom of five senior Taliban commanders.

Administration officials have said in public that they did not have time to inform Congress of the prisoner swap because Bergdahl’s life was in danger and they did not know how long the Taliban would be willing to wait to finalize the deal.

But Senator Harry Reid got a notification – not 30 days in advance, but he still got one:

At least one member of the Senate did have advance notice. “We were notified of the plan to secure Sergeant Bergdahl’s release on Friday,” said Adam Jentleson, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. A spokesman for Republican House Speaker John Boehner, however, told TIME that there was no advance notice given to the leader of the House. Senate Intelligence Chair Dianne Feinstein was not informed in advance, either, and on Tuesday Deputy National Security Advisor Tony Blinken called her to apologize for the oversight, she told reporters.

Move along here. Nothing to see…

(Hat tip: Memeorandum)

Seattle approves $15 minimum wage, higher unemployment

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**Posted by Phineas

Obama loan officer at work

Seattle minimum wage proponent

I wrote about this last week, when it was still just a proposal, noting how some businesses were already slowing hiring and moving out of the city, and how even progressives were coming to have second thoughts.

Well, they did it:

Seattle’s city council on Monday unanimously approved an increase in the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour, making it the nation’s highest by far.

The increase was formally proposed by Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, and his spokesman said he intends to sign the ordinance on Tuesday.

Washington already has the nation’s highest state-level minimum wage, at $9.32. That rate also applies to the city.

The current federal minimum wage is $7.25, and Democrats in Congress have been pushing for a gradual increase to $10.10, but so far to little effect.

The increase to $15 in Seattle will take place over several years based on a scale that considers the size of and benefits offered by an employer. It will apply first to many large businesses in 2017 and then to all businesses by 2021.

The first increase, on April 1, 2015, brings the minimum wage to $10 for some businesses and $11 for others.

While the law phases in increases starting only with “large businesses,” that designation includes franchises. In other words, if you’re a franchisee with only a couple of Taco Bells, you’re still considered a large employer because you’re part of a large chain; even though your revenue only comes from two locations, you’re still on the hook for $15 per hour starting in 2017. You’re welcome.

This is going to be a good experiment (and, dare I say it? A “teachable moment?”) for several reasons. Advocates of raising the wage say it’s only fair, that minimum wage earners aren’t paid enough to live on, and that the costs to society will be minimal as businesses adjust. And there is some little evidence for the latter, as we have indeed learned to live with the costs previous minimum wage increases. (Whether those wage increases have been worth the costs, however, is another argument for another time.) Advocates in Seattle argue that raising the wage will help around 100,000 people.

Critics, on the other hand (and including your humble correspondent), argue that the laws of economics cannot be repealed by legislative fiat: raise the cost of labor, and businesses will be faced with a choice from among four options — pass the costs on to the consumer; reduce labor costs by cutting hours or whole jobs; eat the costs and accept lower profits; or cease doing business in that jurisdiction, either by moving or closing shop. We’ve already seen in the Seattle case that some businesses are moving to nearby towns that have not raised their wage. And, here in California, where the wage was recently raised to $9 per our and there is a proposal to raise it statewide to $13, some businesses are closing, choosing to put their capital to work where they can get a better return on investment. In each case, these are jobs lost.

Critics also maintain that raising the cost of labor gradually prices out the unskilled, such as teens looking for their first jobs, where they can acquire valuable skills and habits for later, better-paying work. A very interesting piece at AEI (h/t Andrew Garland in the Sister Toldjah comments section) argues for this very point by examining the effects on teen hiring as the minimum wage rose 41% between 2007 and 2009:

And that’s exactly what happened when the minimum wage rose by 41% between 2007 and 2009 – it had a disastrous effect on teenagers. The jobless rate for 16-19 year olds increased by ten percentage points, from about 16% in 2007 to more than 26% in 2009.  Of course, the overall US jobless rate was increasing at the same time, from about 5% to 10%. Therefore, the graph attempts to better isolate the effects of the minimum wage increases between 2007 and 2009 on teenagers by plotting the difference between the teenage jobless rate and the overall jobless rate, i.e. “excess teen unemployment,” and the minimum wage.

During the 2002-2007 period when the minimum wage was $5.15 per hour, teenage unemployment exceeded the national jobless rate by about 11% on average. Each of the three minimum wage increases was accompanied by a 2 percentage point increase in the amount that the teenage jobless rate exceeded the overall rate, from 11 to 13% after the 2007 increase from $5.15 to $5.85 per hour, from 13% to 15% following the second hike to $6.55 per hour, and from 15% to 17% following the last increase to $7.25. The 17.5% “excess teen unemployment” in October 2009 was the highest on record, going back to at least 1972, and was almost 5 percent higher than the peak teen jobless rate gap following the last recession (12.7% in June 2003).

Bottom Line: Artificially raising wages for unskilled workers reduces the demand for those workers at the same time that it increases the number of unskilled workers looking for work, which results in an excess supply of unskilled workers. Period. And another term for an “excess supply of unskilled workers” is an “increase in the teenage jobless rate.”

It will be interesting and edifying how Seattle’s experiment in progressive labor law plays out. I suspect it won’t have nearly the benefit that advocates like Seattle Mayor Murray or California State Senator Leno predict.

And it’s a shame others have to suffer for their hubris.

RELATED: This Center for Freedom and Prosperity video provides a good overview of why minimum wage laws are job killers.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

Hillary: I won’t second guess Obama’s decision to free 5 Taliban terrorists

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Hillary Clinton testifies on Benghazi

HIllary Clinton testifies on Benghazi. – January 2013

Via The Hill:

Hillary Clinton on Monday defended President Obama’s decision to swap five Guantanamo Bay prisoners for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl over the weekend.

“This young man, whatever the circumstances, was an American citizen — is an American citizen — was serving in our military,” Clinton said at an event she headlined in a Denver suburb, according to the Associated Press. “The idea that you really care for your own citizens and particularly those in uniform, I think is a very noble one.”

 Clinton didn’t explicitly say she would have pursued the same exchange, but said she doesn’t believe in “second guessing” people who have to make difficult decisions.

The former secretary of State said she understood the debate over whether it was smart to release top Taliban prisoners in exchange for Bergdahl, but noted that his life was in danger.

“You don’t want to see these five prisoners go back to combat. There’s a lot that you don’t want to have happen. On the other hand you also don’t want an American citizen, if you can avoid it, especially a solider, to die in captivity,” Clinton said. “I think we have a long way to go before we really know how this is going to play out.”

After all, what difference does it make that these five high-level Taliban terrorists will likely get right back to the brutal acts of violence and terror they were engaged in prior to their capture?  What difference does it make that numerous American soldiers lost their lives searching for a deserter and possible terrorist sympathizer  who is now free because we exchanged five Talibanis for his release?  What difference does it make that the deserter’s dad is now lobbying for the release of MORE Gitmo terrorists? What difference does it make that this “prisoner exchange” will be used as a rallying cry and recruiting tool all across the radical Islamic caves of Afghanistan and beyond?

Remind me never to vote for this woman for Commander in Chief. Oh wait, you won’t have to do that at all.

Read much more on the Bergdahl controversy here.

#Bergdahl aftermath: A chilling look at what happens when we release terrorists

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Bowe Bergdahl

US Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.

Former President George W. Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen pens a must-read in the Washington Post in response to the “prisoner exchange” of five high-level Taliban terrorists in Gitmo for US Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, suspected of being a deserter sympathetic to the enemy (hat tip):

If anyone doubts that the five senior Taliban leaders President Obama released this weekend will return to the fight and kill more Americans, they need only look at what happened when the George W. Bush administration released a Taliban leader named Mullah Abdul Qayyum Zakir (a.k.a. Abdullah Ghulam Rasoul) in 2007.

Unlike the terrorists Obama just set free, Zakir was assessed by our military as only “medium risk” of returning to the fight. At Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Zakir pretended to be a low-ranking conscript and told officials he simply wanted to “go back home and join my family” and promised “I [have] never been America’s enemy and I never intend to be.”

But when he returned to Afghanistan, he quickly became one of America’s fiercest enemies, directly responsible for the deaths of U.S., coalition and Afghan forces. In 2009, Zakir was appointed as the Taliban’s “surge commander” in charge of countering Obama’s new strategy to deny the Taliban safe haven in southern Afghanistan. According to the Times of London, Zakir instituted a campaign of “increasingly sophisticated [roadside] explosives attacks” that killed British and U.S. forces as well as many Afghan civilians. He waged relentless war on the United States and presided over unspeakable atrocities before stepping down from military command in April. To this day, he remains a top member of the Taliban leadership council.

The five Taliban leaders Obama released will now take up where Zakir left off. According to our own military, they are all “high risk” to return to the fight. How dangerous are these men? Here is what the U.S. military says about them, according to their leaked assessments from Guantanamo Bay.

Mullah Norullah Noori is “one of the most significant former Taliban officials detained at JTF-GTMO.” He “led troops against US and Coalition forces” and “was directly subordinate to Taliban Supreme Leader Mullah Omar,” is “associated with members of al-Qaida” and is “wanted by the UN for possible war crimes.” Noori’s “brother is currently a Taliban commander conducting operations against US and Coalition forces,” and Noori “would likely join his brother if released.”

There’s a reason we don’t negotiate with terrorists in hostage/POW situations, and Thiessen does a thorough job of explaining exactly why. Make sure to read the whole thing.