Saturday, January 24, 2015

An Early Look

It is very early days in the race for the GOP presidential nomination, but at this point I believe my favorite is Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin. His accomplishment in pulling the fangs of the WI public employee unions is simply huge.

As a lifelong government employee I worked at various time for a county, three states (CA, OR, TX), a territory (Guam), the federal government, and a community college district. I believed then, as I do now, that civil servants should not be allowed to unionize.

When the university faculty of which I was a long-time member unionized, I refused to join and paid the mandated-by-law "in lieu" fees instead. Political contributions of public employee unions effectively "purchase" the allegiance of the legislature which then raises their pay and benefits.

This behavior is a massive conflict of interest that should be banned, a view with which Gov. Walker agrees. Curbing the power of public employee unions may not be the sexiest issue facing a new president but it is certainly one of the most important for the future of our nation.

See what Byron York writes about Gov. Walker for the Washington Examiner. Scroll down to No. 6 for that comment. Hat tip to RealClearPolitics for the link.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Quote of the Day

Senator Robert Menendez (D-FL), ranking minority member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as quoted by Power Line:
I have to be honest with you, the more I hear from the administration and it's quotes, the more it sounds like talking points that come straight out of Tehran.
That's picking the group of crazies who have a large country already because they are marginally less threatening than the other group of crazies who are assembling a country out of parts of Syria and Iraq. That they happen to be enemies of each other is wonderful, that the administration believes it should side with one is nearly as crazy as they both are.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Pussyfooting

The New York Times' Tom Friedman is nobody's idea of a conservative. Yet here he is endorsing the following quote by very conservative Rich Lowry from a Politico article:
The administration has lapsed into unselfconscious ridiculousness. Asked why the administration won’t say [after the Paris attacks] we are at war with radical Islam, Earnest on Tuesday explained the administration’s first concern ‘is accuracy. We want to describe exactly what happened. These are individuals who carried out an act of terrorism, and they later tried to justify that act of terrorism by invoking the religion of Islam and their own deviant view of it.’

This makes it sound as if the Charlie Hebdo terrorists set out to commit a random act of violent extremism and only subsequently, when they realized that they needed some justification, did they reach for Islam.

The day before, Earnest had conceded that there are lists of recent ‘examples of individuals who have cited Islam as they’ve carried out acts of violence.’ Cited Islam? According to the Earnest theory ... purposeless violent extremists rummage through the scriptures of great faiths, looking for some verses to cite to support their mayhem and often happen to settle on the holy texts of Islam.
Friedman concludes by criticizing President Obama for being unwilling to call militant Islam by that name. So Obama knows (or knew) Muslims who were nice people. So what, so do I. It butters no parsnips. Ugly things are being done in their names and they aren't protesting enough.

Review: Inferno

The most recent novel of Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown is Inferno, prominently featuring Dante's poem of that same name. I just finished reading it, courtesy of the Solvang Branch of the Santa Barbara County Library.

Is it a good read? Certainly. Is it at the level of Da Vinci Code? Almost certainly not. As something of a world traveler, I figured out the probable location of the villain's "infernal device" long before protagonist Robert Langdon does. Stop reading here if you wish to avoid spoilers.

My primary concern is with the premise which obsesses the villain - Malthusian overpopulation. This is futurism which has been overtaken by reality unlike that foreseen by the author.

As you know if you've been paying attention, population growth in all developed countries today probably averages zero. Rates in a number of places including Western Europe, Japan and Russia are clearly negative, their populations are shrinking. 

Even in underdeveloped countries birth rates are falling. A more realistic piece of futurism would deal with our species' desperate attempts to convince people to have children. Maybe if we all became Mormons...?

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Questionable Shooting in Argentina

An Argentine prosecutor planned to charge President Cristina Fernandez with shielding Iranian suspects in the bombing of a Jewish cultural center. He was found shot in an apparent staged "suicide"

Par for the course in a country with banana republic politics. See Tom Joscelyn's Weelky Standard article and an Associated Press article for more.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Disillusionment

The Boston Globe isn't anybody's idea of a conservative paper, it's owned by The New York Times. That makes the following quote from an opinion piece in the Globe particularly interesting:
Six years on, in many important ways, Barack Obama has become a figure of American disappointment with last week’s inexplicable failure to properly honor the trauma of France only a latest instance of mystifying solecism.

By now even many of his once-passionate admirers admit to a profound disenchantment.
When your friends turn on you, you're toast.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Review: Padington

The DrsC saw the kids' film Padington yesterday. It is an entirely charming way to spend an afternoon. I'm curious how they have the little bear talking and acting like a hyperactive but cute little boy. The method used doesn't look at all like animation, the humans are all live as are the sets. The bear looks real too, but cannot be, obviously.

There are two "name" actors, most notably the evil villain played by Nicole Kidman, looking very fetching and more than a little kinky. The father of the family that takes in Padington is played by the same British actor - Hugh Bonneville - who plays the Earl on Downton Abby

The bear steals the show. You discover you can stretch your imagination to cover a native of "darkest Peru" being at heart the quintesential Brit: polite, mannerly, soft-spoken, and addicted to orange marmalade. And entirely without a Spanish or Quechuan accent. 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Does Islam Have a Future?

Rachel Lu writes for The Federalist about the dilemma confronting Islam. She says many deeply sensible things about its conflict with modernism. A couple of favorites follow:
We can't hide from the genuine possibility that authentic Islamic adaptation to the modern world may not be an achievable goal.

If Muslims wish to salvage something of their civilization, they need to convince their adherents that there is a way forward for them that does not involve a choice between mass murder and capitulation to the assumptions of the secular world.
Spengler argues we now witness the death throes of the Muslim world, he revels in apocalyptic pronouncements.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Dry Land Diary

Northern California has gotten some decent rain this winter, SoCal not so much. We've been in SoCal for more than two weeks and have seen exactly one rainy day. This, in the season when if rain is going to fall at all, it must happen now.

The reservoir by which our RV park is located is so depleted that acres of lake bottom we've never seen before are bone-dry and growing weeds. We've been coming here for over a decade, and there have been other dry spells but this is the worst we've seen. There is still a lake but it is much diminished.

As CA natives we're accustomed to drought.. The warm, dry winters are a significant part of the state's charm. It's the season when the golden hillsides turn green, the evergreen oaks' leaves are rehydrated, wildflowers bloom, and for a few weeks the ravines become small creeks. 

By late spring the grass is once again golden, riverbeds are dry, and the rain is gone until it returns (some years) in late fall. Other years it shows up only briefly in mid-winter, and another drought is declared. 

The only way CA has managed to thrive in an arid climate is to trap snowmelt from the Sierras for use by city dwellers and agriculture, via reservoirs and aqueducts. In good years there is enough for all, in dry years agriculture gets hurt because cities are where the voters are.

Quote of the Day

George Friedman, of Stratfor writing for RealClearPolitics about the dilemma Muslims pose to secular Europe.
If no one but the gunmen and their immediate supporters are responsible for the action, and all others who share their faith are guiltless, you have made a defensible moral judgment. But as a practical matter, you have paralyzed your ability to defend yourselves. It is impossible to defend against random violence and impermissible to impose collective responsibility.

Not all Muslims - not even most Muslims - are responsible for this. But all who committed these acts were Muslims claiming to speak for Muslims. One might say this is a Muslim problem and then hold the Muslims responsible for solving it. But what happens if they don't?

White Flight

Ron Brownstein writes for National Journal about the major source of GOP gains in Congress.
A majority of the GOP gains since then have come from the Democrats' near-total collapse in one set of districts: the largely blue-collar places in which the white share of the population exceeds the national average.

Republicans now hold an astounding 135-seat advantage (199-64) and fully 76 percent of the House seats in which whites exceed their share of the national population. In 2009, when Democrats last controlled the House majority, the two parties split such seats almost exactly in half, with Republicans holding 132 and Democrats 131.
The process by which the parties continue to move in the direction of becoming "tribal" parties, with the GOP representing whites and perhaps Asians while the Dems represent those nonwhites and whites who believe themselves to be victims, proceeds apace.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Having the Right Data

John Hawkins writes a column at Townhall, here he presents 15 statistics which, he rightly claims, "destroy liberal narratives." I share three favorites below to whet your appetite.
Less than 1 percent of college students are the victim of a sexual assault -- 0.6 percent to be exact -- not to be confused with the 20 percent, or "one in five," claimed by feminists and President Obama.

Gallup found that support for President Obama’s amnesty order was primarily among the foreign born population — whether Latino or not.

Claims that the (wicked, wicked) “1 percent” saw their incomes go up by such and such an amount over the past decade or two ignore the fact that different people compose the 1 percent every year, and that 75 percent of the super-rich households in 1995 were in a lower income group by 2005.

Pew: Majority of U.S. Kids in Broken Homes

The Pew Research Center reports for the first time a majority of American children do not live in what we think of as the traditional home.
Less than half (46%) of U.S. kids younger than 18 years of age are living in a home with two married heterosexual parents in their first marriage. This is a marked change from 1960, when 73% of children fit this description, and 1980, when 61% did, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of recently-released American Community Survey (ACS) and Decennial Census data. 
It is no wonder our society is deteriorating - the wrong people are having most of the children. As a result the U.S. middle class is disappearing. Dysfunctional people have dysfunctional children, soon to be a majority in this forlorn land.

See what Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) says about the importance of the family, as quoted in The Washington Times.
The family is the first and most important institution of our society and it also serves as the foundation of American exceptionalism.
Deterioration of the family is a major reason why our great land is in trouble.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Spengler: The Balance of Fear

David P. Goldman, who channels Spengler, writes for Asia Times about the problem France has with Muslim extremism. His Rx is draconian but makes sense - it remains to be seen if France has courage enough to take the bitter "medicine."
The means by which France, or any other nation, could defeat the terrorists are obvious: to compel the majority of French Muslims to turn against the terrorists, the French authorities would have to make them fear the French state more than they fear the terrorists.

That is a nasty business involving large numbers of deportations, revocation of French citizenship, and other threats that inevitably would affect many individuals with no direct connection to terrorism. In the short term it would lead to more radicalization. The whole project of integration as an antidote to radicalism would go down the drain. The effort would be costly, but ultimately it would succeed: most French Muslims simply want to stay in France and earn a living.
I'm certain civil libertarians believe Spengler's cure is worse than the disease. And they may be correct.

The dilemma is that Muslims are estimated to be 10% of the French population. As a start, the French need to reassert governmental authority in the "no-go" areas where most Muslims reside, in itself a major undertaking.

France also needs to remember the basic rule that applies when discovering one has dug oneself into a hole: stop digging. France needs to turn off the immigration tap, and stop importing trouble. Other nations, including the U.S., should do the same.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

What's Needed

Breitbart London reports the words of the Cameron government's Culture Minister Sajid Javid, a U.K.-born Muslim, concerning terror and Islam.
There is no getting away from the fact that the people carrying out these acts – what we have seen just horrifically this week in Paris, what has happened in London and Madrid – these people call themselves Muslims.

The lazy answer would be to say that this has got nothing whatsoever to do with Islam or Muslims and that should be the end of that. That would be lazy and wrong. You can’t get away from the fact that these people are using Islam, taking a peaceful religion and using it as a tool to carry out their activities.

I think it is absolutely fair to say that there is a special burden on Muslim communities, because whether we like it or not, these terrorists call themselves Muslims. It is no good for people to say they are not Muslims, that is what they call themselves.
We need more of this and less pusillanimity on the part of our elected officials.

Simply Untrue

The common knock on Republicans is that they represent the rich, the top 1%. It turns out it simply isn't true. See what Politico reports about which party the superrich support.
Democrats spent much of the 2014 campaign castigating Republican big money, but, it turns out, their side actually finished ahead among the biggest donors of 2014 – at least among those whose contributions were disclosed.
Truly, Republicans represent those Americans for whom the system works, not the rich but the successful at all levels of society. Conversely, Democrats represent two categories: those who see themselves as victims and the superrich, who feel, probably accurately, their wealth is mostly unearned. Short answer: the hard-working winners vs. the losers and the lucky few.

Quote of the Day

An editorial in the New York Post says it very well:
In the days since masked gunmen claiming they were avenging the Prophet Mohammad killed in cold blood workers at a French satirical magazine, it is astounding how many continue to deny any link between the attack and Islamist extremism.
At COTTonLINE we understand the concern of western political leaders not to force unpoliticized Muslims into the arms of the jihadists; not to make Muslims feel they must choose between their faith and their citizenship responsibilities. On the other hand, publicly ignoring the central involvement of a strain of "crusader" Islam makes these same western leaders look foolish, and much worse, weak.

We need to hear our leaders saying forthrightly that individuals who cannot live peaceably with their neighbors of other faiths are unwelcome in our societies. If such individuals act out their grievances they will be jailed, or deported, end of discussion.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Little Girl as Suicide Bomber

The New York Times reports the Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram has employed a 10 year old girl wearing a hijab as a suicide bomber. She was responsible for killing 20 people and wounding another 18 in a marketplace.

You can imagine Nigeria banning the wearing of the hijab and thereby effectively going to war against its Muslim minority. Boko Haram has already declared war on Nigeria, and historically civil wars are the ugliest and most brutal.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Rove Looks Ahead

Political operative Karl Rove, engineer of the two George W. Bush presidential victories, has written for The Wall Street Journal his predictions for 2015 and an evaluation of how his 2014 predictions turned out. Most of his 2014 projections turned out correct, which makes his 2015 list worth reading.

Three highlights from his 2015 list:
Hillary Clinton will run for the presidency; Sen. Elizabeth Warren, after flirting with the notion, will not. Neither will Vice President Joe Biden, but he will make more gaffes.

A surprising number of prospective Republican candidates will not run or get off the launchpad because of money-raising challenges. It will not take $88 million to win the nomination like it took Mitt Romney in 2012, but it will take close to that sum.

There will be a Supreme Court vacancy in 2015. The court will rule the Affordable Care Act does not allow premium subsidies in states without their own insurance exchanges. Appeals courts will hold the president lacked authority for his executive memos on immigration.
Predicting Joe Biden will continue making gaffes is sandbagging. Biden couldn't quit even if he tried, and he has no incentive to try.

Incompatibility

Anjem Choudary, a radical Muslim cleric in London and a lecturer in sharia, writes the following for USA Today.
Contrary to popular misconception, Islam does not mean peace but rather means submission to the commands of Allah alone. Therefore, Muslims do not believe in the concept of freedom of expression, as their speech and actions are determined by divine revelation and not based on people's desires.

Muslims consider the honor of the Prophet Muhammad to be dearer to them than that of their parents or even themselves. To defend it is considered to be an obligation upon them. The strict punishment if found guilty of this crime under sharia (Islamic law) is capital punishment implementable by an Islamic State. This is because the Messenger Muhammad said, "Whoever insults a Prophet kill him."

Why in this case did the French government allow the magazine Charlie Hebdo to continue to provoke Muslims, thereby placing the sanctity of its citizens at risk?
Presuming what Mr. Choudrey writes is accurate, it is unclear how Muslims and Westerners can live in peace in the same nations. They do not share our basic concept of freedom of expression as explicitly stated in the First Amendment to our Constitution. Hat tip to Drudge Report for the link.