Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Giving Thanks

I was musing about what I am thankful for on this, the day before Thanksgiving. I'll list them in the order in which they happened to me.

First and foremost, I'm so thankful for being born in the United States. After visiting more than 100 countries, there is still no place I'd rather call home. Second, for growing up in California when it was still the land of sunshine, opportunity and cheap college degrees.

Third, I'm thankful I was good at school, early in an era which has rewarded credentials almost beyond everything else. Higher education and graduate degrees were very good to both me and the other DrC.

Fourth, I'm thankful for my dear wife of 43+ years. She is even more of a marvel than I believed possible. She's my best friend and we have a ball together.

Fifth, I'm thankful I had parents who lived to be old and didn't spend years as invalids. The quacks tell me that's the best recipe for a long, healthy life.

I'm sure there is more, but that's enough to be going on with.

Does the Courage Exist in Congress?

Reuters reports the non-partisan Congressional Research Service has authored a memo saying Congress can cut off the funding the President needs to issue green cards to illegal immigrants.
The Congressional Research Service said lawmakers could halt operations of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency by including language explicitly prohibiting the use of funds by a specific agency for a specific purpose.

"If a statute were enacted which prohibited appropriated funds from being used for some specified purposes, then the relevant funds would be unavailable to be obligated or expended for those purposes," the research service said in the memo.

It went on to say that such legislative language would also apply to funds collected through fees but noted that courts could have different interpretations.
A question the article doesn't answer is would such a statute require the President's signature? He won't sign it, and sufficient votes to override a veto do not exist in the new Senate.

Gallup: New Lows for Obama

The Gallup polling organization has new numbers reflecting President Obama's lack of popularity among various subgroups of whites. Hat tip to Lucianne.com for the link.
Obama's approval among white non-college grads is 27%.
White college grads (41%) are 14 percentage points higher.
Obama's approval among whites has dropped throughout term.
Obama's approval rating ranges from a high of 45% among white female college graduates to a low of 25% among white male non-college graduates.
Three-quarters of the November, 2014, electorate was white.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Grand Jury as Fig Leaf

Yahoo News writes that it is extremely rare for grand juries not to hand down an indictment.
In the more than 162,500 cases prosecuted by U.S. attorneys from 2009 to 2010, grand juries voted not to return an indictment in only 11, according to data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics — equivalent to one in 14,759 cases, or 0.0068 percent.

But grand juries do not often indict police officers, at least at the state level.

Part of the reason is that police officers are empowered to use force when they reasonably fear imminent physical harm.
My hunch is the prosecutor in Ferguson knew the evidence didn't support charging Officer Wilson. He also knew this outcome would be vastly unsatisfying to the region's black citizens.

I speculate he decided to protect himself by having another entity make the determination and take the heat. In less emotionally charged cases, prosecutors only take cases to grand juries when they expect to get indictments.

A Thought Experiment

Rep. Marcia Fudge, (D-OH) is chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. Politico quotes her reaction to the grand jury finding in Ferguson, MO.
This decision seems to underscore an unwritten rule that Black lives hold no value; that you may kill Black men in this country without consequences or repercussions.
I don't, for even a minute, agree with that assertion. If it was ever true, it hasn't been true for several decades.

Do you suppose African-Americans believe that to be true? The evidence suggests most do not.

What would you do if you believed it were true of your ethnicity or race? If you believed your menfolk could be killed "without consequences or repercussions." Many members of your group would seek to move elsewhere to a place of safety. Maybe Europe, maybe Canada, or ???

We see next-to-no evidence of black Americans seeking to emigrate. Which suggests Rep. Fudge's assertion is not widely believed.

Race, Crime, and Policing

Bob McManus writes for the New York Post about recent comments on policing by President Obama and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani. Rudy isn't terribly diplomatic, but he is correct: aggressive policing does save black lives. Rudy proved that in NYC. As McManus notes,
The most recent FBI numbers cover 2011, when 91 percent of black murder victims nationally were killed by other African-Americans — with fewer than 7 percent falling victim to whites.

Though blacks are 13 percent of the nation’s population, they account for more than 50 percent of homicide victims. Nationally, blacks are murdered at a rate six times that of whites; in some cities, it’s 22 times the white rate.
Whatever police can do to reduce the overall number of murders in a city disproportionally helps that city's black citizens. If reducing murders is a major goal of policing, expect police to spend more time in black neighborhoods than white ones. Unfortunately, this can be experienced as harassment, even while it saves lives - an ironic dilemma.

Ferguson

Last night Americans learned again a lesson of which they should have long since been cognizant. Large, threatening individuals who attack armed police officers are quite likely to be shot, even killed, with no recourse in law. Get over it.

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Short-to-Medium Run Impact

The New York Times has an article by Zoltan Hajnal which argues something about which I have wondered. He believes Obama's actions on illegal immigration will have the effect of pushing white voters away from the Democrats and into the arms of the Republicans.
Immigration is an important issue for most Latinos and Asian-Americans. (snip) But Latinos and Asian-Americans made up only 11 percent of the electorate.

Whites, meanwhile, accounted for 75 percent of the electorate. Far more than any other group, whites will decide the fate of the parties in the years to come. Unfortunately for the Democratic Party, the data suggest that immigration very much matters for whites.

An overwhelming majority of white Americans view illegal immigration as a serious problem.

As long as whites represent a vast majority of voters and as long as most remain skeptical of immigrants, supporting immigrants’ rights will be likely to hurt the Democrats.
It could be worth your time to read the entire article.

Earliest Great Lake Ice in 40 Years

Ice is beginning to form on the Great Lakes, almost a month before it becomes officially winter on Dec. 21. Michigan Live reports as follows:
Decent early season ice coverage records date back to 1973. Last Friday was the earliest date that all three Great Lakes already had ice since the better reporting of early season ice began.

Lake Superior actually had ice forming on November 15th of this year. That is the earliest ice on Lake Superior in the good data set.
Imagine the convoluted logic it will require to attribute this chilly outcome to global warming. Hat tip to Drudge Report for the link.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Speculative Futurism

Politico has a short story, clearly labeled as fiction, entitled "How The Middle East's First Nuclear War Started." Written to cause us to think about possibilities in the region, it isn't a bad read.

Fiction isn't a usual thing for Politico, which tends to focus exclusively on politics and politics-related fact and opinion. This is a piece of speculative futurism, by Mathew Burrows, a former colleague of Richard Holbrooke and current director of the Atlantic Council's Strategic Foresight Initiative.

A Problem Its Own Solution?

Last Wednesday COTTonLINE wrote about a NASA animated map that shows CO2 production over the period of a year. Notable was the much greater volume of winter-time production, probably associated with fires to keep warm.

This suggests global warming could be somewhat self-limiting. That is, as the northern hemisphere becomes warmer in winter, people will burn less fuel staying warm and production of CO2 will decline.

Perhaps Gaia will outsmart us once again.

Quote of the Day

Mouna Jeballi, a Tunisian voter quoted in a Global Post article, on the subject of their recent presidential election.
We are the only country in the Arab world who does not know who their president will be until after the vote is finished.
Talk about a sad commentary on the region, that is it.

Review: Hunger Games Mockingjay, Pt. 1

The DrsC watched Hunger Games Mockingjay, Part One, this afternoon. We enjoyed it, you likely will too if you are familiar with the book trilogy and/or the two prior films.

If we have a criticism of this film it is that, if you are new to the series, you are likely to be at a loss much of the time. It is a long film and very little time and energy is devoted to bringing the first-time viewer "up to speed."

The DrsC are au courant with the basic plot line, having listened to all three books as recordings and having seen the first two films. We had no problem knowing who the players are and where they fit in the narrative line.

Jennifer Lawrence does a fine job and it is her movie. Everyone else is a supporting player, some more central than others. The late Philip Seymour Hoffman does a spot-on media consultant, and I liked Natalie Dormer as the director Cressida. Woody Harrelson's Haymitch character begins to redeem himself in this film. Donald Sutherland's President Snow is absolutely pitiless under his "public relations" exterior.

I especially like the design of the hoverplane the District 13 rebels fly. It's a darn shame it isn't real. Imagine a cross between a C-130 and an F-16 with Harrier-like hover capability - a high speed airborne armored personnel carrier.

A Cheney for Liberalism

Ross Douthot writing in The New York Times about President Obama's unilateral decision to stop deporting many illegal immigrants.
He has chosen to betray himself in a different way, by becoming the very thing that he once campaigned against: an elected Caesar, a Cheney for liberalism, a president unbound.
I'll bet the Cheney comparison gives Obama a headache.

Administration Contempt for Us, the Truth

The Baltimore Sun writes about the dominance of Fox News on election night earlier in the month. You will remember Fox kicked the backside of every other outlet (i.e., ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, MSNBC), not once but repeatedly and with vigor. A possible cause they describe:
Fox was a far better watchdog on the Obama White House than any other TV news organization. It took the heat and the blowback from an administration that showed an enmity for the press not seen on Pennsylvania Avenue since the dark days of Richard Nixon, but it stayed the course. And now with viewers seeing the contempt this administration had for them and the truth, they respect what Fox did the last six years.
Or maybe the liberals who normally watch the other outlets knew their side was going to lose and didn't choose to watch the unfolding debacle.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Dangerous Places

Have you ever wondered where in the world, other than an active battlefield, you are at greatest danger of being murdered? See this Global Post article which begins with the recent murder of Miss Honduras, a Miss World contestant, and her sister.

The article continues with a discussion of the world's danger spots. Ten of the world's twelve most-dangerous-to-life countries are in the Caribbean/Latin America region.

In descending order of intentional homicides per 100,000 people these are Honduras, Venezuela, Belize, El Salvador, Guatemala, Jamaica, Saint Kitts & Nevis, Colombia, The Bahamas, and Trinidad & Tobago. Good places to avoid.

World regions vary widely in intentional homicide risk. Among those shown, Latin America & the Caribbean is worst, followed by Sub-Saharan Africa. Differences among Europe and Central Asia, South Asia, and North America aren't large. The lowest risk of intentional homicide is in East Asia & the Pacific. Numbers were not available for North Africa & the Middle East.

The article finishes with this quote:
For those in the United States, it might also be worth asking why America has the highest murder rate of any industrialized Western nation.
Perhaps because we have many violence-prone immigrants from Latin America, the Caribbean, and Sub-Saharan Africa? These are places where murder as a problem-solving approach is relatively common.

A New Leader for Romania

The Romanians elected a new president last week, Klaus Iohannis. See what the Global Post writes about him:
The center-right National Liberal Party's candidate overcame a ten-point deficit in the first round vote to come away with a ten-point margin of victory in the runoff last weekend, defeating sitting Prime Minister Victor Ponta with a 54 percent majority.

The vote for Iohannis was a clear affirmation of Romania's pro-Western stance amid worries that the region is drifting toward Russia.
Now if he can get a handle on Romania's endemic corruption....

Friday, November 21, 2014

Negative Economic Indicators

Instapundit Glenn Reynolds quotes The Wall Street Journal on how American workers are faring in the Obama Administration. Unfortunately the article is behind the WSJ paywall and, as such, requires a subscription to access.
The official U.S. unemployment rate has indeed fallen steadily during the past few years, but the economic recovery has created the fewest jobs relative to the previous employment peak of any prior recovery. The labor-force participation rate recently touched a 36-year low of 62.7%. The number of Americans not in the labor force set a record high of 92.6 million in September. Part-time work and long-term unemployment are still well above levels from before the financial crisis.

Worse, middle-class incomes continue to fall during the recovery, losing even more ground than during the December 2007 to June 2009 recession. The number in poverty has also continued to soar, to about 50 million Americans. That is the highest level in the more than 50 years that the U.S. Census has been tracking poverty. Income inequality has risen more in the past few years than at any recent time.
Higher poverty and income inequality rates, lower labor-force participation. The middle class in trouble, too. A gloomy outlook for our society's health is fully justified by such numbers. No wonder the election results were so tough for the President's party.

Awakening May Not Reawaken

David Ignatius writes about foreign affairs for The Washington Post. Today his topic is the difficulty the U.S. will have in reanimating the tribal Sunni Awakening which was used during the surge in Iraq to defeat al Qaeda.

It turns out the Islamic State has assassinated most of the tribal leaders who participates therein. Particularly irritating is IS has attacked Iraqi prisons and released hundreds of their people who were imprisoned.

Ignatius concludes the intended U.S. strategy will be a very hard slog indeed. Which makes Tom Friedman's Wednesday comments even more pertinent.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Friedman: A Middle East Policy Outline

Every now and then The New York Times' Tom Friedman writes some very good sense about the Middle East. Today's column is one of those instances. After summarizing U.S. failures in the region, Friedman's basic argument is captured in these quotes:
Where there is disorder — Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya — collaborate with regional forces to contain it. (snip) Where there is imposed order — Egypt, Algeria — work quietly with the government to try to make that order more decent, just, inclusive and legitimate.

Where there is already order and decency — Morocco, Jordan, Lebanon, Kurdistan and the United Arab Emirates — do everything to amplify it, so it becomes more consensual and sustainable. And where there is order, decency and democracy — Tunisia — give it as much money as they ask for, (which we haven’t done).

But never forget: We can only amplify what they do. When change starts or depends on our staying power, it is not self-sustaining — the most important value in international relations. When it starts with them, it can be self-sustaining.