Sunday, February 18, 2018

The Nanny State

I took this photo on California Highway 154 near the summit of San Marcos Pass north of Santa Barbara. It is a for-real CalTrans sign. You have to wonder what “genius” thought this was an important (but little-known) piece of information drivers should be given to stay safe.

Anyone who doesn’t understand this basic fact shouldn’t be allowed at the controls of a motor vehicle. Take it as another milepost on California’s decent into madness, and a minor one at that.

The Golden State is magically transmuting into Fool’s Gold before our eyes. In the words of a sitting President, it is “sad.”

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Reading the Mueller Tea Leaves

We’re starting to see what I’d describe as “second order” analyses of the Mueller indictments. I particularly like this effort at by attorney John Hinderaker at Power Line which “unpacks” the Mueller decision not to charge the Russians with interference in our election, itself a federal crime. The highlights:
Actually, Mueller indicted the Russians only for violating 18 U.S.C. §371 (conspiracy to defraud the United States), §§ 1343 and 1344 (wire fraud and bank fraud), and §1082(A) (identity theft). He did not indict them for violating 52 U.S.C. §30121 (contributions and donations by foreign nationals). The question is, why not?

So why weren’t they charged with the most pertinent crime they committed? Because Christopher Steele arguably violated the same law. He is a foreign national, and he contributed a “thing of value” to the Hillary Clinton campaign, namely the fake dossier.

Note, too, Section (2): it is a crime to “solicit, accept, or receive” such a contribution from a foreign national. Isn’t that what the Perkins, Coie law firm, the Clinton campaign, the DNC, and probably Hillary herself, did?

Too many people know the facts behind the Steele dossier, and if he had charged the Russians with meddling in the presidential election under §30121, he soon would have faced questions about why he didn’t indict Steele–and Glenn Simpson, Perkins, Coie, Clinton campaign officials, and perhaps Clinton–for the same offense.
As blogger-pundits routinely write, you really should read Hinderaker’s whole column.

A Saturday Snicker

Steven Hayward has his weekly collection of cartoons, captioned photos, and general snark posted at Power Line. Not that they’re inferior this week, but I have time only to describe my very favorite:

We see a Forest Service-type poster with Smokey Bear in ranger hat and blue jeans, holding a shovel down in the lower left corner. Behind him is a Dutch old master painting of a monk sitting in a big chair beside a table with a bunch of flowers on it. The caption is, IMHO, a priceless play on words.
Never buy flowers from a monk.
Only YOU can prevent florist friars.
If you don’t love that poster you just don’t appreciate wordplay.

Friday, February 16, 2018

War Via Sleight of Hand

Regarding the Mueller indictments of Russians, here is a Politico article that actually covers the story somewhat fairly, with less-than-usual bias. I was particularly struck by the last section which is headed “Internet agency behind interference campaign carried upwards of 80 staffers.”

What we see here is a part of Putin’s particular insight into modern conflict between nations. It is his “contribution,” if we can call it that, to the art of war. He is a practitioner of “hybrid warfare,” a doctrine that Wikipedia defines as:
Hybrid warfare is a mix (of) military strategy and political warfare that blends conventional warfare, irregular warfare and cyberwarfare with other influencing methods, such as fake news, diplomacy and foreign electoral intervention. By combining kinetic operations with subversive efforts, the aggressor intends to avoid attribution or retribution. (Emphasis added) 
To this point, Putin appears to have successfully avoided retribution, if not attribution. Whether further anti-Russian sanctions will be put in place is unknown but distinctly possible. Such behavior needs to be experienced by its initiator as having negative consequences.

Perhaps we need to develop a similar capability for use against states whose interests are inimical to our own.

A Dilemma links to a Daily Caller article which argues that the FBI keeps missing shooter warnings, true in several recent cases. The article’s author either misunderstands the FBI mission or chooses to ignore it.

The FBI measures success by the number of convictions they achieve; they are a law enforcement agency and have defined their job as catching, convicting, and imprisoning criminals. If they can’t amass the evidence necessary to prove in court a defendent is a criminal, they can’t act. 

Be clear, if the FBI tries to “prevent crime” that hasn’t yet happened, they will be sued for violation of civil rights. This is particularly true in the case of “known wolf” shooters and bombers. 

Such individuals do not collude with others, plotting their misdeeds alone, and sometimes brag they will do so online, in social media. I suspect there are thousands who make such claims for each one who carries them out. Should we warehouse them all? Under what law?

This is a difficult issue for the Bureau, and for law enforcement in general. People can legally say virtually anything other than “FIRE” in a crowded theater, without fearing arrest - First Amendment rights. So people say they will do something horrible, and a few of them actually do what they said. 

How do we deal with this? I’m fresh out of ideas, we can’t very well lock up all who make the claims or our prison budget would quadruple. Bring back mental hospitals? Monitor social media sites so people can’t post outrageous things? 

The Russians Already Came ...

CNBC is reporting that the Mueller group has indicted 13 Russian individuals and three organizations on charges of interfering in our elections.
A federal grand jury has indicted 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities for alleged interference in the 2016 presidential elections, during which they boosted the candidacy of Donald Trump, special counsel Robert Mueller's office said Friday.

While that effort was launched in 2014, by early to mid-2016 the defendants were "supporting the presidential campaign of then-candidate Donald J. Trump ... and disparaging Hillary Clinton," the indictment charges.

On one day, Nov. 12, 2016, the defendants organized a rally in New York to "show your support for President-elect Donald Trump" while at the same time organizing a "Trump is NOT my president rally" that also was held in New York.
Let’s analyze the above. The effort started in 2014 when Trump was not yet a candidate. When Trump won the nomination, virtually 100% of American pundits gave him no chance of winning. So the Russians backed him. After Trump (improbably) won, the Russians organized rallies both to support and to oppose him.

What should we conclude? That Russians have a goal to mess up American society. That’s not exactly news, is it? We’ve been enemies since at least 1945.

The Russians backed the (supposedly) losing candidate to sow discord, to screw us up, to create more internal chaos. Perhaps by their lights they have succeeded, the so-called Democrat “resistance” is evidence.

The Democrats have been scrupulously following the Russian playbook and hating on our elected President. You have to read far down in the story to see this:
Rosenstein said there is no allegation in the indictment that any American was a knowing participant in the scheme, nor is there any allegation that the scheme affected the outcome of the election.
I ask you to consider CNBC’s factually true but intentionally misleading headline for the linked article:
Special counsel Mueller: Russians conducted ‘information warfare’ against U.S. during election to help Donald Trump win
It is equally true that if Clinton had been widely predicted to lose the Russians would have helped her. The goal was societal disruption, not a Trump victory.

Somehow the CNBC headline writer doesn’t manage to convey that message. Democrats keep trying to excuse the Clinton loss.

Faith Demographics

At COTTonLINE we’re fascinated by demographics, as regular readers know well. Here comes a new batch dealing with religion, from The article summarizes key findings from various recent Gallup and Pew Research Center surveys:
“About half of Americans (48 percent) identify as Protestants or other Christians who are not Catholic or Mormon,” said Gallup in its analysis of its polling.

From 2007 to 2014, Protestants had dropped from 51.3 percent of the population to 46.5 percent. At the same time, according to that Pew survey, Catholics dropped from 23.9 percent of the population to 20.8 percent.

In Alabama, according to the newly released Gallup data for 2017, 77 percent said they were Protestant, making Alabama the most Protestant state in the country.

In Rhode Island, 44 percent said they are Catholic, making Rhode Island the most Catholic state in the country.

In Hawaii and Alaska, 33 percent said they had no religion, making them the most non-religious states.

In New York, 8 percent said they were Jewish, making New York the most Jewish state.

In Utah, 55 percent said they were Mormons, making Utah the most Mormon state.
My state of Wyoming ties for number 3 (with Nevada) for “most Mormons,” after Utah and Idaho. Particularly in western Wyoming where I live, a near-majority of the year-round residents are Mormon and they’re great neighbors.

California has an interesting distinction, appearing on the following lists:
Ten Most Catholic States
Nine States With Highest Percentage Claiming “No Religion”
Eight Most Jewish States
CA doesn’t make the lists for Most Protestants and Most Mormons.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Wind Sown, Whirlwind Reaped

The press is full of reports about a mass shooting at a Florida school. Another “known wolf” - embittered and feeling he has nothing left to lose - kills 17. As usual, the legacy media strikes up the gun control refrain. America doesn’t have a gun control problem, it has a failure to incarcerate the insane problem.

Ugly as mass shootings undoubtedly are, imagine how many of the mental walking wounded aren’t quite ready or organized enough yet to make it happen, but want to or fantasize about it. That’s really frightening. We see them around us nearly daily, talking to themselves, moving semi-aimlessly, engaging in so-called “self-stims,” acting inappropriately, self-destructively.

COTTonLINE has written of this problem before. Liberals want people free to be “different” and “different” people to be free. Conservatives don’t want to spend billions on mental hospitals. Colluding together, they effectively decided to let people with broken minds go their own ways until they hurt someone, at which point they may get locked up in a jail or prison.

Most of the time this “works” if you don’t count the misery of desperate foggy minds living rough under bridges and in cardboard boxes, self-medicating with cheap wine and street drugs, perhaps freezing to death. Sometimes it doesn’t work, and bystanders get hurt or dead. When the number of collateral victims is large, we see it in the national news. When there are just 2-3 victims it only makes the local news.

Society made this choice when we shut down the mental hospitals, decades ago. Whether or not we understood at the time all the ramifications of what we were agreeing to is a different question.

Deinstitutionalization is a drug to which our society is addicted. It is hard to imagine us going back, getting clean, taking the people with mental problems off the streets and into protective custody.

The issue might be guns ... but only if you take as given that people have the right to be nuttier than squirrel poo and yet remain at liberty. COTTonLINE doesn’t accept this as a “right.”

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

South Africa’s Prez Quits

South African President Jacob Zuma has resigned, as reported by the Axios website, scroll down. He did so ahead of a no-confidence vote he would surely have lost.

The issue was corruption, as it often is in Third World countries. Zuma was no proper successor to Nelson Mandela.

Poor, sad South Africa has largely squandered its apartheid-era patrimony; replacinging an unrepresentative government that worked with a representative government that doesn’t.

South Korea‘s Penis Park

In South Korea, overlooking the port city of Sinnam, there is Haeshindang Park, known to Westerners as “Penis Park.” Hat tip to Instapundit Glenn Reynolds for a link to the Metro (U.K.) website which has several photos of the giant phalli there on display.

My favorite quote from the article:
Seeing a golden luge might be impressive, but it is obviously not as impressive as seeing a fifty foot long golden schlong.
What is okay/not okay for public display in different cultures is fun to see.

News of NATO

United Press International reports a speech given by the Secretary General of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg. Hat tip to Instapundit for the link.
More than half of NATO members will reach a goal of spending 2 percent of gross domestic product on defense by 2025, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Tuesday in Brussels.

Stoltenberg said 15 of the 29 NATO allies are projected to pay their goal as determined at NATO's 2014 summit in Wales and urged last year by President Donald Trump.

In 2014, the United States, Greece and Britain were the only three allies spending 2 percent or more on defense.

"This year, we expect eight allies to meet the target," Stoltenberg said. "And by 2024, we expect at least 15 allies will spend 2 percent of GDP or more on defense.”

The additional countries since 2014 are Poland, Latvia, Estonia, Romania and Lithuania.
Is anyone surprised the 5 nations listed as having met the 2% goal since 2014 all were part of either the USSR or the Warsaw Pact? They understand too well the Russian bear, having experienced his unfriendly attentions in the not-distant past.

President Trump can take credit for chivvying NATO members into meeting their treaty obligations, something President Obama never imagined doing.

Silly Target

Hat tip to John Hinderaker of Power Line (and to Mrs. H) for the photo. As he notes, this is the worst kind of virtue signaling. Target should be ashamed.

Since we’re being hyper-inclusive, who says our affection object must be human? Any number of people’s favorite other is a cat or dog or horse. Or, in Japan, a sex toy.

Afterthought: For serious narcissists like Barack Obama, the offensive word is “you.” He is his own affection object.

A Valentine for the GOP

Today comes an article I’m certain Politico didn’t want to write, had heartburn while writing, and is busily gulping antacid to get over. It reports the results of a Politico/Morning Consult poll.
Republicans have erased the Democratic advantage on the generic congressional ballot in a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll that, for the first time since April, also shows President Donald Trump’s approval rating equaling the percentage of voters who disapprove of his job performance.

Fully 39 percent of registered voters say they would support the GOP candidate for Congress in their district, while 38 percent would back the Democratic candidate.

The new year has also produced a Trump polling bump. In the new poll, 47 percent of voters approve of the job Trump is doing as president, while the same percentage disapprove.
The new figures represent an improvement in GOP approval and a diminution of Dem approval. Trend lines have been edging upward for some weeks, in a variety of polls.

From the viewpoint of COTTonLINE regulars, this is good news. February’s paychecks with reduced tax withholding seem to have made an impression. I also credit the President’s strong SOTU performance and the Democrat attendees’ sour display. Even the Olympics plays a role, giving all Americans a chance to cheer together for Team USA.

❤Happy Valentine’s Day❤

COTTonLINE wishes our readers a happy St. Valentine’s Day. It is our hope you don’t lack for romance in your life. Give that special person an extra hug today, in addition to whatever you’ve planned.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

France at War, in Mali

Just because we haven’t written anything about it recently, doesn’t mean the French have stopped their efforts to suppress jihadist groups in central Africa. See a Worldcrunch article on French efforts in Mali against the salafist rebels.

The efforts there utilize quite high tech means as well as boots on the ground, and their emphasis is on identifying, finding and killing rebels. It’s a latter-day version of La Legion Etrangere c'est le gendarme de l'Afrique, as we’ve noted before.

Surprising how often today’s miltary is involved in what amounts to “pest control,” finding and exterminating violently anti-social elements. Whether it it Russian troops in Chechnia, French troops in Mali, Philippine troops in Mindanao or American troops in Afghanistan and Syria, it is the same painful, unglamorous business of “dangerous pest” abatement. In our hemisphere the Peruvian, Mexican and Colombian militaries have confronted similar “challenges.”

An Old Idea Made New

Someone in Trump’s Dept. of Agriculture has suggested issuing food boxes to SNAP (food stamp) recipients, while seriously reducing the amount issued which can be spent at local grocers. If the goal is to make being on food stamps less attractive and perhaps reduce the number drawing them, this should do it.

A surprising number of people have no idea how to cook a meal. Standing in the market checkout line I see them buy frozen, pre-processed food they can nuke in the microwave and eat out of the package it arrives in. It wouldn’t surprise me if some use plastic utensils and throw them out instead of washing dishes. Trump’s food box plan would seriously interfere with the zap-it lifestyle, no bad thing to do.

The calculation is that much money can be saved by issuing shelf-stable staples - rice, pasta, canned goods, cooking oil, dried beans, etc. Much of the savings would come from people not bothering to pick up the boxes, as they have no idea how to use the items therein. See a Politico article about the proposal.

Later ... this plan could give do-gooders a new “good” to “do” - teaching basic cooking skills, like how to cook dried beans into something edible.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Review: Kipling’s Kim

I just finished rereading for the nth time the novel Kim (1900) by Rudyard Kipling. I first read it as a pre-teen and enjoyed it then, I’ve reread it since, some years ago. It is in the public domain and is available online for free.

People criticize Kipling because he was an unabashed colonialist, as indeed most Brits were at the time. I read it the last few days with this in mind and have to say I believe Kipling was very fond of India and the Indian people, while regarding neither them nor their Brit colonial masters as saints.

Briefly, it is the story of a pre-teen Irish/English orphan boy growing up on the streets of Bombay (Mumbai) while living with a older Hindu woman who raised him. His widowed father, an enlisted soldier in a British regiment at the time of Kim’s birth, basically drank himself to death after his wife died giving birth to Kim.

Kim joins a Tibetan lama on pilgrimage as his chela and the two have a variety of  adventures traveling up and down India. Kim evenually links up with his dad’s old regiment and they send him to sahib school where he learns to be a Brit. Then he is recruited to be a spy for the Brits, and shows some talent at it as he routinely passes as an Indian, with the aid of skin dye.

Is it realistic? Probably not. Is it a fun read? Definitely, and this time I didn’t skip over the descriptive passages as I had as a youngster. There is a world of ethnography hiding in these pages. I believe I’ll try to find a DVD of the film version to see again.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

In Favor of Free Speech

The nation of Poland has recently passed laws defining as criminal statements that there was Polish complicity in the genocide perpetrated by the Nazis. Much controversy has ensued.

As is typical in such cases, there is justice on both sides of this issue. On the one hand, death camps and wholesale infringement of civil rights were not characteristic of free Poland prior to its invasion by the Germans (and Soviets). Poland had, for example, a large and thriving Jewish community.

On the other hand, it is also true that there were more than a few Poles who worked or collaborated with the Nazis. Poles who helped to round up and imprison Polish Jews and other “undesirables.”

Clearly there were Poles who shared the Nazi unwillingness to coexist with Jews, gypsies, Communists and those of non-binary sexuality. Rejection of the “other” isn’t uniquely German, it exists everywhere, among all peoples, including Poles.

Poland is correct that, as a free and autonomous nation it did not commit atrocities nor excuse those of its citizens who misbehaved toward others. That is not the same as saying no Poles shared Nazi ideals and helped them do evil things. On balance, I would judge these Polish anti-defamation laws to be understandable in intent, but unwise in practice.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Public Blames Obama

Investor’s Business Daily had polling firm TIPP ask Americans about the FISA-gate scandal much in the news. See the results:
We asked respondents "How closely are you following news stories about the role played by the FBI and the Department of Justice during the 2016 presidential election?" Of those who responded, 72% said they were following the story either "very closely" (39%) or "somewhat closely" (33%). Our responses were taken only from those who were following the story closely.

Some 55% of those said it was "likely" that the Obama administration "improperly surveilled the Trump campaign during the 2016 election."

On the question of whether a special counsel was needed to "investigate whether the FBI and the Department of Justice improperly surveilled the Trump campaign during the 2016 presidential election," 54% responded "yes," and 44% "no." 
As expected, Democrats were somewhat less likely than Republicans and Independents to hold negative opinions of the reported DOJ and FBI actions. The Congressional GOP has the “wind” of public opinion at their back, they (and Sessions) had better follow through.

Trump Right ... Again

Did you ever notice when you criticize something people actually did wrong, they hate it more than when you just take a cheap shot? President Trump tweeted something uncomplimentary about Britain’s money-pit National Health Service.

The Brits went nuts, of course. They love their NHS, though it is unclear why. It turns out Trump was right as this article in the Daily Mail (U.K.) points out in some detail. Hat tip to for the link.

Descriptions I’ve read of NHS “care” resemble stories of the abuses in our Veterans Administration hospitals during the Obama administration. Imagine routinely waiting 4 hours in the ER, it’s like the DMV providing your health care ... take a number and wait hours.