Sorry, McKinley: Obama orders name change of highest continental peak to “Denali”

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BY ED MORRISSEY

For 98 years, the highest mountain in North America officially carried the name of William McKinley, the third US president to have been assassinated in office. First federally recognized in 1917, the name for the Alaskan peak went back in popular usage another 20 years prior to that. Yesterday, in advance of a trip to Alaska, Barack Obama officially renamed it Mount Denali, a demand that had come from the indigenous Athabascan people, with a concurrence from the National Parks Service:

For more than a century, the tallest mountain on the continent was named after the 25th U.S. president, William McKinley.

Now, in honor of Alaska’s indigenous Athabascan people, who had always called it “Denali,” President Barack Obama is changing it back, the White House said in a release Sunday.

“This designation recognizes the sacred status of Denali to generations of Alaska Natives,” the release said.

Actually, the National Parks Service told the US Senate recently that they didn’t object to a bill in Congress to change the name. Sen. Lisa Murkowsko (R-AK) had pushed the bill on behalf of her constituents:

Why not let Murkowski do this through legislation, rather than executive order? Senate Bill 319 was introduced in late January, but it has not yet been reported from the Energy and Natural Resources Committee for a vote in the full Senate. The hearing from which this clip was taken took place in June, but Congress has been kept busy since then on other matters. This isn’t exactly the most pressing of issues in Washington or Alaska, for that matter.

Obama apparently wanted a cheap win before heading out to Alaska. It’s a curious political choice to pander to Alaskans while irritating voters in Ohio, though, where William McKinley’s political career started. John Boehner, the nation’s highest-ranking Ohioan these days, ripped Obama for the executive action, as did Senator Rob Portman:

“There is a reason President McKinley’s name has served atop the highest peak in North America for more than 100 years, and that is because it is a testament to his great legacy,” Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said in a statement issued Sunday night.

“I’m deeply disappointed in this decision,” Boehner said after noting that McKinley served in the Army during the Civil War before representing Ohio in Congress and as governor.

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) said in a statement posted to social media that he was similarly “disappointed” in the decision to rename the mountain long named after “a proud Ohioan.”

“The naming of the mountain has been a topic of discussion in Congress for many years. This decision by the Administration is yet another example of the President going around Congress,” Portman said.

It’s doubtful that this will create enough anger in Ohio on its own to swing an election, but this comes in context over a long-lasting controversy over Obama’s executive actions. With the arrogance and capriciousness of Hillary Clinton becoming a central issue in her campaign — the secret e-mail server, and the nexus of corruption around the Clinton Foundation — this might stick to the consciousness of Ohio voters as a real-world example of its dangers. It certainly won’t help Hillary Clinton in Ohio or in Alaska, though.

There are two valid objections to this act. First, it’s an arbitrary and capricious use of executive power in pursuit of a petty end. The federal government controls vast swaths of Alaska land, and Congress should exercise joint authority over it with the executive branch. We seem to be getting farther and farther from that concept. This may be a comparatively minor and frivolous example of that problem, but in one way that makes this even worse. One might understand an executive overstep in an emergency or to secure the nation, but …. renaming a mountain?

Second, it’s somewhat objectionable for its dismissal of a martyred President. McKinley was in his second term when he was assassinated in 1901, after having led the nation to victory in the Spanish-American War. He had served the Union Army honorably during almost the entirety of the Civil War, from July 1861 to Appomattox. He enlisted as a private, and got a commission from Ohio Governor David Tod, and retired as a brevet major shortly after the end of the war. McKinley and James Garfield get overlooked in the company of Abraham Lincoln and John Kennedy among the ranks of presidents who gave their lives in office for their nation, but McKinley was nearly as accomplished as Lincoln, and arguably more accomplished as President than either Garfield (who only served five months before his death) or Kennedy.

One has to wonder: when will we start stripping Kennedy’s name off of federally assigned locations? In 2061, perhaps?

Obama to Appear on NBC Survival Show with Bear Grylls

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Obama will meet with the host in Alaska to observe the effects of “global warming”

by Allie Malloy

(CNN)While on his three-day trip to Alaska — aimed at promoting climate change action — President Barack Obama will tape an episode of “Running Wild with Bear Grylls,” NBC and the White House announced Monday.

The President will “trek through the wilderness” with survival expert Grylls, in the special edition of the show, set to air later this year according to a press release.

Obama will meet with the host in Alaska to observe the effects of climate change on the state and will also explore the Alaskan wilderness while testing his survival skills.

Celebrities including Kate Winslet, Channing Tatum and Drew Brees have participated in the show featuring one-on-one adventures.

Obama begins his Alaska trip Monday where he will try to call attention to Alaska as a kind of climate change ground zero, including a hike on a melting glacier near the town of Seward and his visit with a fisherman in the remote coastal village of Dillingham.

To maximize the impact of the historic trip, which will make Obama the first sitting U.S. President to visit the arctic, the White House has said it plans to devote all of the resources of its potent social media operation.

NATO Begins Naval Drills Near Russia

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One of largest war games since the Cold War

Ukraine is hosting naval military exercise in the Black Sea with NATO forces, involving 2,500 troops and some 150 military vehicles, from warships and helicopters to armored cars.

The host nation of Sea Breeze 2015 has deployed 1,000 troops, nine warships and eight aircraft for the drill. The US has sent 1,000 troops as well as five warships, two submarines and six aircraft.

The remaining 500 troops, six warships, three submarines and six aircraft were provided by Bulgaria, Germany, Greece, Italy, Romania, Turkey, the UK and the non-NATO nations Moldova and Sweden.

“The exercise is meant to boost trust and security in the region, [and to increase] the compatibility between the Ukrainian Navy and the navies of NATO members and partner countries,” the Ukrainian Defense Ministry said in a statement.

Sea Breeze is held in Ukraine’s Odessa and Nikolaevsk region not far from Russia’s Crimea, which Kiev and its foreign sponsors consider to be Ukrainian. It will last till mid-September. Ukraine will participating in a total of 11 NATO drills in 2015.

NATO is also currently conducting another war game, called Swift Response, in Germany, Italy, Bulgaria and Romania. It is one of the largest such events since the Cold War and is planned to last until September 13. A separate exercise, called Simple Strike, is under way in the Baltic.

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Russia, which calls NATO exercises in Europe provocative, has just completed a joint naval drill with China, called Naval Cooperation. It was held in the Far East and has been described as unprecedented in scale.

Economics 102: WalMart Cuts Worker Hours After Hiking Minimum Wages

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Retailer cuts workers’ hours in a desperate attempt to offset wage hikes

by Zero Hedge | August 31, 2015

This year, some American executives who heeded loud calls for across-the-board wage hikes for America’s lowest-paid workers received a complimentary refresher course in undergad economics courtesy of the free market.

Take Dan Price for instance, the 31-year old CEO of Seattle-based Gravity Payments Systems who found out the hard way that setting the pay floor at $70K comes with all manner of unintended consequences.

And then there’s Wal-Mart.

Earlier this year, the retail behemoth became one of several corporate heavyweights to raise wages for its meagerly compensated workers, around 500,000 of which are now set to receive at least $9/hour and $10/hour by Q1 2016. The move will cost somewhere around $1 billion this year.

Now one thing that should have been abundantly clear from the start is that if ever there were an employer that could ill-afford a $1 billion across-the-board pay raise without immediately making up the difference by either firing some employees, cutting hours, or squeezing the supply chain it’s Wal-Mart. After all, they’re the “low price leader”, and you don’t hold on to that title by passing labor costs on to customers.

Predictably, the company moved to extract more “value” from its suppliers and when that didn’t prove sufficient, the folks in Bentonville brought in the “plumbers.”

But the story didn’t stop there. Late last month we highlighted an internal memo circulated at Arkansas recruiting firm Cameron Smith & Associates which looked to be an attempt to prepare the firm’s employees for layoffs at Wal-Mart’s home office. Then, not a week later, Bloomberg ran a story detailing the grievances of some senior Wal-Mart employees who suddenly realized that although they may still be making more than their subordinates, the wage hierarchy had been distorted and that distortion had nothing to do with merit. As we put it, “higher paid employees don’t understand why everyone under them in the corporate structure suddenly makes more money and if people who are higher up on the corporate ladder don’t receive raises that keep the hierarchy proportional they may simply quit which means that, for Wal-Mart, raising the minimum for the lowest paid workers to just $9/hour will end up costing the company around $1.5 billion if you include the additional raises the company will have to give to higher paid employees in order to retain their ‘talents’and avoid a mid-level management mutiny.”

Well, don’t look now, but undergrad economics is rearing its ugly again at Wal-Mart as the retailer cuts workers’ hours in a desperate attempt to offset wage hikes. Here’s Bloomberg with more:

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., in the midst of spending $1 billion to raise employees’ wages and give them extra training, has been cutting the number of hours some of them work in a bid to keep costs in check.

Regional executives told store managers at the retailer’s annual holiday planning meeting this month to rein in expenses by cutting worker hours they’ve added beyond those allocated to them based on sales projections.

The request has resulted in some stores trimming hours from their schedules, asking employees to leave shifts early or telling them to take longer lunches, according to more than three dozen employees from around the U.S. The reductions started in the past several weeks, even as many stores enter the busy back-to-school shopping period.

A Wal-Mart employee at a location near Houston, who asked not to be identified because she didn’t have permission to talk to the media, said her store had to cut more than 200 hours a week. To make the adjustment, the employee’s store manager started asking people to go home early two weeks ago, she said. On Aug. 19, at least eight people had been sent home by late afternoon, including sales-floor associates and department managers.

The employee said she’s covering an area once staffed by multiple people at one of the busiest times of the year — the back-to-school season. On a recent weekday, she had a customer who had to wait 30 minutes for an employee to unlock a product the shopper wanted to purchase, she said.

The staff at a location in Fort Worth, Texas, were told that the store needed to cut 1,500 hours, according to a worker who asked not to be named for fear of being reprimanded.

So there you have it. Further proof that across-the-board wage hikes – like socialized medicine and free college – is a concept that sounds good when considered in a vacuum, but when implemented is subject to economic realities that conspire to make the end result look far less desirable than proponents might have imagined.

And therein lies the problem. Projecting how these “experiments” might turn out isn’t difficult, which makes one wonder how policymakers and corporate management teams seem to get them wrong on a fairly consistent basis. Then again, when you live in a world governed by the principle that the cure for debt is still more debt, it’s easy to see why some still believe, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that you can have your cake and eat it too.