Thursday, July 24, 2014

Policy 101

Instapundit Glenn Harlan Reynolds' prescription for the eradication of anti-Semitism, although I think it is a tonic that's good for whatever ails society:
Identify the barbarians. Crush the barbarians. Repeat as needed.
And BTW, there are always more barbarians popping up like toadstools after a rain. As we wrote yesterday, Si vis pacem, para bellum.

Political Humor Alert

The always fun-to-read Mark Steyn, writing in Steyn Online about SecState John Kerry's unwelcome efforts in the Middle East:
Kerry, as Obama's plenipotentiary, is a paradox - the physical presence of a geopolitical absence:
Yesterday, upon the stair,
I met a man who wasn't there.
He wasn't there again today,
I wish, I wish he'd go away...
Mark should give a hat tip to poet Hughes Mearns for his poem Antigonish.

Tinfoil Hats in Moscow

Mark Adomanis writes for The Washington Post about the strange beliefs held by many Russians:
Russian society exists in an alternate universe. Even well-educated, sophisticated people who have traveled widely in Europe and North America will frequently voice opinions that, in an American context, would place them alongside people wearing tinfoil hats. Russia is not living in the reality-based community.

Like many Americans, I used to think that these differences would recede with time, and that, as they traveled the world, got jobs, and got rich, Russians would eventually start to think more and more like us. After Ukraine and the Malaysia Airlines crash, I’m a lot less optimistic.
Russians revel in the fever swamps.

A Pessimistic View

Economist Peter Morici writes for RealClearWorld about the unwillingness of the voters of Europe and the U.S. to pay sufficient taxes to both support their welfare regimes and build up their defenses to deter Russian and Chinese adventurism. He is very pessimistic about our futures, as a result.
Putin knows if he unwinds his plans slowly and feigns cooperation he can dupe Obama and Germany's Angela Merkel and co-opt their political constituencies. The latter have already rationalized Russia's annexation of Crimea and will do the same if he slices off more of Ukraine.

Ordinary Europeans and Americans must be willing to pay higher taxes or accept fewer social benefits to secure Europe from Russian aggression. That's the rub. Voters in Western nations simply won't accept that they cannot have effective foreign policies and be secure without strong, growing economies to pay for militaries to deter aggression and to persuade the developing world to their democratic way of thinking.

What they are unwilling to recognize is that their welfare states and consequent slow growth will ultimately undermine their security and survival.
Si vis pacem, para bellum. Let him who desires peace prepare for war - Roman writer Vegetius.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Costa Concordia Takes Final Voyage

We last wrote about the fate of the wrecked cruise ship Costa Concordia on July 12, some eleven days ago. Today the refloatation process is complete and the ship has been found minimally seaworthy.

The painfully slow process of towing her to Genoa began this morning, according to CNN News. Once there she will be scrapped, a process the article estimates will take about two years.

It is a sad fate for a proud ship victimized by poor seamanship and worse judgment.

Unhappy NYC

NBC New York reports research findings that will make its viewers even crankier.
New York City was ranked the least happy city in America when adjusted for income, according to a working study, titled “Unhappy Cities,” released by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Jersey City was also one of the 10 least happy cities, according to a full data set obtained by Market Watch.
FYI, Jersey City is a mile across the Hudson River from Lower Manhattan, via the Holland Tunnel. This "least happy city" ranking is unsurprising to me. I've known exactly one New York City native whose company I enjoyed, and more than a few I avoided whenever possible.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Kerry, Come Home

Richard Fernandez, writes the Belmont Club column for PJ Media. He makes an interesting observation about the troubles in Gaza.
Alas for diplomacy the only thing the Palestinians can actually do is fight. The only thing the West demands of them is to stop doing the only thing they can do.

The best alternative to a negotiated settlement for both Israel and Palestine may now be to fight to the finish, because each is surprised to find they have no alternative. 
This is essentially what we wrote yesterday. Hat tip to Lucianne.com for the link.

Silicon Valley Paradox

Victor Davis Hanson, writing for National Review about the irony of Silicon Valley's cutthroat capitalists merrily off-shoring production and profits while professing left-wing politics.
Does Silicon Valley also practice de facto apartheid? You might think just that if you counted up the burgeoning prep schools in the valley, charging $30,000 and more per student. The subtext message is that the kids of rich techies should not be slowed down on their own trajectory to influence and riches by the recent immigrants in their midst. Teachers’ unions, multicultural curricula in the schools, bilingualism, and a diverse student body are wonderful — as long as their own kids are somewhere else.

Silicon Valley is turning a once racially diverse San Francisco into a mostly upscale white and Asian enclave faster than any pre–Civil Rights southern town council could have done.

The point of reviewing these hypocrisies is not to suggest that the rich profit-makers of Silicon Valley are any greedier or more cutthroat than the speculators of Wall Street or the frackers of Texas, but merely that they are judged by quite different standards. (snip) One can live life as selfishly as he pleases in the concrete by sounding as communitarian as he can in the abstract.

Practicing cutthroat capitalism while professing cool communitarianism should be a paradox. But in Silicon Valley it is simply smart business.
Something every Hollywood mogul knows intuitively.

Nordlinger on D'Souza

In the process of talking with and about Dinesh D'Souza and his new film, America, Imagine the World without Her, National Review columnist Jay Nordlinger generates some prose you should see. For example:
He (D'Souza) portrays Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton as Alinskyites, i.e., followers of Saul Alinsky, the author of Rules for Radicals, and the original community organizer.

Consider this article from the Washington Post. It was published in March 2007, when Obama and Hillary were squaring off for the Democratic nomination. It was headed “For Clinton and Obama, a Common Ideological Touchstone.” And that touchstone was Alinsky.

Hillary Clinton — Hillary Rodham — worked for a frankly Red law firm, Bob Truehaft’s in Oakland. They were Communists (and when I say “they,” I mean he and his wife, Jessica Mitford).

I ask Dinesh, “Do you think that Obama and Hillary are carrying out some Alinskyite plan, hatched long ago?” He says no, but they are pursuing a common goal. “Is that goal socialism?” I ask. No, says Dinesh. Classically, socialism means that the “people” own the “means of production,” and everyone gets the same.

“Their goal,” says Dinesh, “is to shift the fulcrum of power in our society away from the entrepreneur and toward a new group, which is an alliance of the political class, the intellectual class, and the media. Those are three camps that feel the same way, have the same skills, and so on. They also have equal resentment against entrepreneurs.”

D’Souza had come [to Dartmouth College] from Bombay, where he was born and raised. Ignorant, hippie-dippie students were fascinated by his name, his homeland, his otherness. “Oh, dude, I love India!” they would say. “Ever been there?” D’Souza would ask. “No,” they would say. “What do you think you love about it?” he would continue. “The dowry? Arranged marriage? The caste system? Poverty? Hopelessness?”

Ledeen Is Right

Writing for PJ Media, Michael Ledeen lays down some harsh truths we Americans need to force ourselves to remember, always. Three examples:
Of all the popular myths about “how the world works,” the most dangerous to us at this moment is the one that goes “peace is normal, war is an aberration.”  Truth is, war is normal and peace very unusual.

There’s a good reason for that old Roman wisdom “if you want peace, prepare for war.” It’s because “peace” most always happens when somebody wins a war, and then imposes conditions on the losers.

War, and the runup to more war, is the order of the day, as it has been for most of human history. Our real options are the same as they have always been: win or lose. Both lead to “peace,” but the one is a happy peace while the other is an extended humiliation.
Or extinction. Let's man the battlements.

Cillizza Is Wrong

Chris Cillizza writes The Fix political column for The Washington Post. In a recent column he writes it is well-nigh impossible today to be a popular and successful president. He list some valid reasons why the presidency is a tough job.

On the other hand, I've lived long enough to remember when people said this exact same thing about the presidency following the Nixon-Ford-Carter debacle. It was received wisdom. Then came Reagan who made it look, if not easy, at least achievable.

Our problem with the presidency is not the job, it is the flawed characters we've elected over the last several cycles. The grueling marathon that running for president has become seems to dissuade the competent and the sane, leaving us with supreme egotists whose every pronouncement begins with the word "I."

Anti-Semitic Violence in Europe

You've seen stories about anti-Israel and anti-Jew demonstrations and violence in France, the U.K. and elsewhere in Europe. All have scrupulously avoided characterizing the rioters as other than pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel, in much the same way that U.S. media rarely characterize inner city perpetrators as black or Hispanic.

COTTonLINE has wondered whether European demonstrators were in fact Europeans or Muslim immigrant transplants. That is, Muslims who now live in the Paris suburbs, London or Berlin after moving there from the Islamic region.

An article in The Daily Mail (U.K.) answers the question, in the affirmative, without saying a word. See the accompanying pictures, the demonstrators all appear to be Middle Easterners. I appreciate The Mail's subtlety.

Europe nourishes a viper in its bosom. The day will soon come, if it isn't here now, when Europe will rue the wave of Muslim immigration it has accepted.

Puerto Rico Sued

Just over a week ago COTTonLINE wrote of a change in Puerto Rico law whereby local jurisdictions that have issued municipal bonds can unilaterally change the terms of repayment - delay or stretch out terms. Our comment then was PR was becoming another Argentina - a financially irresponsible banana republic.

We were therefore entirely unsurprised that a hedge fund holding PR munis is suing the island government over this change, claiming it is unconstitutional. See the CNBC story for details.

In case it isn't clear, COTTonLINE takes the side of the bondholders. People, or governments, should not undertake debts they cannot repay.

Another Thirty Years' War

Richard N. Haass writes for Project Syndicate that events in the Middle East resemble the opening stages of the Thirty Years' War.
There are obvious differences between the events of 1618-1648 in Europe and those of 2011-2014 in the Middle East. But the similarities are many – and sobering. Three and a half years after the dawn of the “Arab Spring,” there is a real possibility that we are witnessing the early phase of a prolonged, costly, and deadly struggle; as bad as things are, they could well become worse.
Spengler drew similar parallels with the 30 Years' War.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Political Humor Alert

Ed Rogers, cracking wise for The Washington Post about the Democrats' problems in November:
It is a bad sign when your political defense can be summed up with the phrase “things could be worse.” It is a very bad sign when that weak excuse applies to not only an incumbent president’s economic policy but also to his foreign policy.
I clearly remember Candidate Obama promising things would get better on his watch. Instead they are worse.

A Silly Headline

The Washington Post reports the Palestinians and the Israelis are both unwilling to compromise for peace, or even a cease-fire. Talk about a non-story, did anyone paying attention not know this already?

To date neither side has taken enough punishment to want to quit. The Palestinians think they're winning in the court of world opinion, and they may be correct.

The Israelis know there are still Hamas weapons, tunnels, and infrastructure they haven't destroyed. They see no reason to stop until they achieve their goal of disruption and chaos.

The Palestinians asked for this war, and we need to let them enjoy it. The Israelis used Hamas rockets as adequate provocation to invade Gaza to take care of business, and we need to let them get on with it.

Fighting in the Holy Land will stop when the two parties are ready for that to happen. Or, until one side manages to exterminate the other - not a likely outcome. The U.S. has no meaningful role there.

Somebody Is Wrong

National Journal's Ron Brownstein writes that Obama is going to allow to remain in the U.S. as many of the recent flood of juveniles and women "seeking asylum" as he is able. Brownstein adds:
After the Senate passed bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform that included a pathway to citizenship in 2013, House Republicans shelved it—just as they did a similar bipartisan bill Bush helped shoulder through the Senate in 2006.

Polls consistently find broad support for such a package: In a Pew Research Center survey this week, 63 percent of whites, 71 percent of African-Americans, and 85 percent of Hispanics said those here illegally should be granted legal status after meeting certain requirements.
Meanwhile, John Hinderaker of Power Line quotes Rasmussen Reports as follows:
The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 59% of Likely U.S. Voters believe the primary focus of any new immigration legislation passed by Congress should be to send the young illegal immigrants back home as quickly as possible. Just 27% say it should focus instead on making it easier for these illegal immigrants to remain in the United States. Fourteen percent (14%) are undecided.
One of these polls is dead wrong, my gut says Pew is wrong and Rasmussen is right. I suspect Pew of wording the question in a way to elicit the answer boss Andy Kohut wanted, he's a liberal squish and a favorite of the PBS News Hour.

A Threat to the EU

The United Kingdom's new Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, has warned that Britons will vote in 2017 to leave the EU unless, in the interim, the EU is willing to make substantial concessions to Britain. See an article in The Daily Mail (U.K.) for more.

Today, I don't believe the other EU member states are willing to "improve" the U.K.'s deal with the EU. Circumstances in the next couple of years can change that willingness: for example, demands for national autonomy, like those made by Marine Le Pen in France or Geert Wilders in the Netherlands. If their parties succeed in national elections, the U.K. may not be the only nation wanting looser ties with the EU.

Before the 2017 EU vote arrives, comes September 18, 2014, when Scotland votes on whether to leave the U.K. I haven't seen any analyses of how that earlier vote's outcome will influence how the U.K. (or what's left of it) votes in 2017. I've argued Scotland is more pro-Europe than England, and Scots voting to remain in the U.K. will reduce the likelihood of the U.K. leaving the EU.

Review: Rush

A couple of nights ago the DrsC watched the pilot of  Rush, a new TV series on the USA cable network. The character Rush is a physician, a concierge doctor to society's sleazy rich.

The series breaks unsavory new ground for a non-movie channel series. A recurring character is his drug dealer. Rush treats low-life patients, collaborates with a street gang, hears and makes explicit sexual references, uses weed and coke on-camera, does meatball surgery at gunpoint, and more.

Rush is a walk on the big-money wild side, Los Angeles style. The women are pretty, the men are ugly, and the pace is frenetic. Rush is to Royal Pains, what NCIS Los Angeles is to NCIS, a West Coast spin-off with a SoCal clientele.

The other DrC thinks it plows the same ground as Breaking Bad - it's compelling and ugly too. My reaction - Rush has the same horrid fascination as a serious injury car accident; it may develop an audience. That audience may include the DrsC.

The Duck Test

There's an old saying: If it waddles like a duck, and quacks, it is probably a duck. The underlying wisdom is that things are often what they seem to be.

Now Rasmussen has polling data looking at American's belief in various conspiracy theories. Of most interest to COTTonLINE is that twenty-three percent of respondents
Say the theory that Obama is not an American citizen is true, with another 17% who aren't sure. Sixty percent (60%) reject that theory as false.
Adding 23% and 17% tells you 40% of Americans aren't convinced President Obama is an American citizen. Even more fascinating is the following:
Forty-one percent (41%) of Republicans believe Obama is not an American citizen, compared to 21% of unaffiliateds and 11% of Democrats. Just over 20% of Republicans and unaffiliated adults also are not sure, but only seven percent (7%) of those in the president's party share that doubt.
It's amazing 18% of Democrats - roughly 7.5 million - aren't certain of the president's citizenship. People, including members of his own party, are unsure of Obama's bonafides because behaviorally he doesn't act like an American. He doesn't pass the "duck test."

COTTonLINE notes the relatively few objective facts of his early life which are known are sufficient to suggest a view of "unsure." Foreign father and stepfather, expat mother, overseas residence and schooling, use of multiple names, alleged foreign student status in college, questionable associates, plus what appear to be deliberate attempts to obscure details of that life are all red flags. Hat tip to Drudge Report for the link.