Wednesday, August 16, 2017

"Lost Decades" Ahead for China?

The Daily Mail (U.K.) writes about the threat to the Chinese economy, comparing it to that of Japan.
Sizzling property prices, a groaning debt load, wealthy tourists and tycoons willing to slap down eye-popping sums for art: China is starting to look like Japan before its economic bubble burst in the early 90s.

"What's scary is that people in China are thinking, 'China is special, so we are OK.' That's exactly how people felt in Japan during the bubble era," said Kokichiro Mio, senior economist at NLI Research Institute.
Regular COTTonLINE readers know we've been making this comparison for at least a couple of years. We've speculated it is what happens when you adopt some of the outward forms of capitalism without the underlying cultural factors which support and maintain it. Both countries veered into crony capitalism which, as a kind of neo-mercantilism, is unsustainable.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Pirates of the Indian Ocean

People who write columns (including me) are always looking for a hook upon which to hang a column. It's fun when one uses an experience they've had that I've also had, and I realize they are "milking" their experience perhaps more than is warranted.

For example, this PJ Media column by Tom Knighton about a long cruise Carolyne Jasinski took on the Sea Princess, with particular emphasis on the portion across the south end of the Arabian peninsula sailing "the Indian Ocean, the Arabian Sea, the Gulf of Aden and the Suez Canal." Hat tip to Stephen Green at Instapundit for the original link. She writes there was concern about pirates and measures taken to avoid them.

Back in 2013 the other DrC and I took an equivalent cruise through these waters on the Legend of the Seas during a period when the concern was equally high. Yes, we were blacked out at night, yes we steamed at speed, and yes, there was a small group of extremely fit young men jogging and doing one-armed pushups onboard from Mumbai to Alexandria, likely ex-Israeli paras or Blackwater mercs.

I was certain at the time these men had arms, though I saw none. Any such probably came aboard labeled "machine parts" and went ashore labeled something equally innocuous.

The most interesting thing we experienced was one day off the coast of either Oman or Yemen we were buzzed at near supersonic speed by a jet fighter flying within 100 ft. of the water - very likely a hot-dogging Maverick-wannabe F-18 off a U.S. carrier in the Persian Gulf. I wrote about it at the time, a brief, noisy thrill in an otherwise peaceful trip.

Learned Nothing, Forgotten Nothing

Historian Victor Davis Hanson, writing at the American Greatness website, surveys the Democrats' chances in 2020 and concludes:
The Democratic Party has learned nothing and forgotten nothing. It is doubling down on exactly what lost it the Blue Wall.
Namely, it has forgotten that class based solidarity is a better choice for attaining an electoral majority than is identity group-based solidarity. Let's hope they continue to pursue losing strategies, eh?
The argument that Trump, the man, is so beyond moral redemption that Trump’s agenda is irrelevant will not fly with those who feel that they are already better off than in 2016.
And who feels that? Most of us who are here legally. Why? The economy reacts positively to a President who isn't suspicious of, or opposed to, wealth creation. And Trump's raft of conservative federal judges will be a long-lasting brake on the cultural revolution.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Wisdom

A columnist at PJ Media, Charlie Martin writes something that (a) should be obvious to all, but (b) apparently is not obvious to some.
Donald J Trump is president. Really. He won it fair and square, he was inaugurated seven -- almost eight -- months ago, and he very probably is going to be president for another three and a half years.

Minimum.

So, now, children, let's calm down. All of you people over there saying Trump is unqualified and should be removed? Give it up. He's qualified by the only qualification that matters: he is over 35, he is a native U.S. citizen, and he won the damned election.

The Constitution doesn't have a clause in it for removal by vote of the media, or because his political opponents don't like him. The only reason he can be removed constitutionally is if someone finds high crimes and misdemeanors.
Absent a Democrat supermajority in both houses of Congress - a thing less likely than August snow in the Mojave - impeachment's not happening. Get over it.

Echoes of Weimar

At the end of World War I, the Kaiser abdicated and loser Germany became a republic, known as the "Weimar Republic." Infamously, it morphed into Hitler's Germany through a series of steps which are well-documented and widely studied.

One of the major steps in Weimar's disintegration was the formation of violent street gangs on the right and left, Adolf Hitler's Nazi brown shirts vs. "Red" Rosa Luxemburg's Communist bully boys. These fought pitched battles in the streets.

We now see armed, angry street-fighting groups emerging on left and right in the U.S. It is time for all sane people to worry that, failing to remember history, we are doomed to repeat it. We really don't want to go down that road.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Summoning the Demons

Writing at The American Conservative, Rod Dreher takes as his topic "The Curse of Identity Politics." He does a good job with it too.
You cannot have an identity politics of the Left without calling up the same thing on the Right. Left-liberals who want conservatives to stigmatize and denounce white nationalism, but conservatives who do so will be sneered at by white nationalists as dupes and fools who advocate disarmament in the face of racist, sexist forces of the Left.
He follows this by listing eight separate things the Left does or condones that, in his words, "summon the demons of white nationalism." I didn't see much with which to disagree, perhaps you won't either.

Both Sides Now

For some months we've been seeing and hearing Black Lives Matter and Antifa misbehave, now in Charlotte we have seen the equivalent with "white nationalists" on the right. Both sides are ugly, both are violent, both are rightly condemned as extremist nuts. And BTW, Barry Goldwater was wrong when he famously said:
I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!
We can well do without extremism and violence from both sides in these fraught times. A degree of moderation is wholy appropriate today. Hat tip to Joni Mitchell for the loan of her song title.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

The Lilla Manifesto

The Wall Street Journal has an article by Columbia University humanities professor Mark Lilla in which he describes what he believes has gone wrong with liberal politics. He argues against identity/victim group politics which has typified the Democrats in recent decades.
The politics of identity has done nothing but strengthen the grip of the American right on our institutions. It is the gift that keeps on taking. Now is the time for liberals to do an immediate about-face and return to articulating their core principles of solidarity and equal protection for all.
The article is an overview of his forthcoming book The Once and Future Liberal: After Identity Politics and he writes as a concerned liberal of the old-school FDR variety. As you will see many references to the Lilla article in political opinion columns, you owe it to yourself to read it.

Most conservatives will immediately see the truth of his argument, which automatically makes it highly suspect on the left. As we wrote recently, it is nearly impossible for Democrats to back away from the la Raza and Black Lives Matter activists, the LGBTQ single issue radicals, the men-hating feminists that have become their core constituency.

Saturday Snickers

Steven Hayward's weekly compilation of cartoons, captioned photos, and generalized snark for Power Line is out. Many focus on Google firing the author of a memo questioning received wisdom on diversity at the firm. Several favorites described:

Two compare Apple and Google. Both are photos of bus stop bench backs. The first is headed "Think Different." It shows the rainbow apple logo labeled "get hired" and a rainbow G for Google labeled "get fired."
The second portrays Apple founder Steve Jobs labeled "Think different" and Google CEO Sundar Pichai labeled "Not So much."

Two more show the Google name in rainbow letters. The first is subtitled "Celebrate Homogeneity." The second is subtitled, in homage to Orwell's 1984, "War is peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength."

A faux graph with a line that peaks at 19, and drops precipitately thereafter, captioned:
Statistics show teen pregnancies drop drastically after age 20.
Photo of a scowling Kim Jong Un, captioned:
Want To Get Rid of Kim?
Start a Rumor That He Has Dirt on Hillary.... 
A pie chart headed "Where Liberals Think Electricity Comes From" with sections sized and labeled 45% "wind, solar, hydro," 25% "unicorn farts," 20% "giant hampsters (sic) on wheels," and 10% "Electric Fairy." (N.B., spelling is a lost art)

Photo of an angry feminist shouting, captioned:
Judging people by their race and sex is wrong.
I wish you privileged white men would get that.
Photo of a tiger happily playing in the water, captioned:
Goes on a vegan diet.
Eats three vegans a day - feels fabulous!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Sex Differences in Cognitive Abilities

Power Line links to an article in Stanford Medicine. It quotes Diane Halperin, past President of the American Psychological Association from the preface of the first edition of her text Sex Differences in Cognitive Abilities:
At the time, it seemed clear to me that any between-sex differences in thinking abilities were due to socialization practices, artifacts and mistakes in the research, and bias and prejudice. ... After reviewing a pile of journal articles that stood several feet high and numerous books and book chapters that dwarfed the stack of journal articles … I changed my mind.
Give us a rimshot, Mr. Drummer-man. Stanford Medical School is a reputable scientific outfit, as is the APA. They don't make wild claims.

Will science deniers now put their fingers in their ears and hum loudly? Don't bet against it.

Rattling the Saber

I don't know whether a shooting war with North Korea is in the cards, it certainly isn't inconceivable. Col. Ralph Peters (USA, Ret.) writes about military matters for the New York Post. Today his topic is how a first strike on NK should go down. The whole thing is worth your time, note this comment.
The first step should begin immediately, well in advance and without firing a shot. All military family members, all Department of Defense civilian employees and all nonessential contractors should be evacuated from South Korea. Want to get North Korea’s attention? That single act would serve as a graver warning of our readiness than any amount of sanctions or saber-rattling.

For all of our spectacular technologies, I’m not convinced our leaders, civilian or military, are psychologically or morally prepared for a real war. We have taught our troops to break things, but to go to absurd lengths to spare all lives. Yet in warfare there’s no substitute for killing your enemy and all those who support him. And you keep on killing until the enemy quits unconditionally or lies there dead and rotting.

if North Korea’s nuclear program has tunneled so far underground that conventional weapons can’t destroy the infrastructure, use nukes. It may be time to remind the world just how terrible such weapons can be.

Iran would get the message.
Peters is a realist, about an ugly business. David P. Goldman, aka Spengler, has written much the same advice.

A Self-Created Handicap

Writing at The American Interest, Jason Willick riffs on the David Wasserman article we cited two days ago. He observes:
By doubling down on an agenda that plays well in metropolitan centers but flounders in key states and districts, the Democrats have in a sense ceased to operate as “an organized attempt to gain control of the government,” acting instead as a vehicle for certain ideals—and in so doing, created their own handicap. There is nothing stopping the party from adopting a more Bill Clinton-esque cultural stance that could win more seats in the Midwest.

Yes, the Congressional map is biased against the Democratic Party as it is currently constituted—but that bias is a choice. If the Democrats constructed a different coalition, the effect of the bias would be significantly attenuated or disappear.
Okay, but would the "different coalition" still be Democrats? The Dems have 'painted' themselves into a victim-group corner and don't see a way out.

The never-Trumpers in the GOP made a similar choice for ideological purity. Trump won in spite of them. It left them unrepresented by a political party, as irrelevant as libertarians.

It is the genius of our American political system that successful political parties appeal to a broad spectrum of Americans. Today's state and federal electoral evidence suggests the GOP is that broadly appealing party. Trump is its popularly elected leader.

Weird Dietary Science

The Daily Mail (U.K.) reports research done at the University of Bristol which looked at 10,000 men in Southern England. It found a positive relationship between eating meat and mental health.
A study by Bristol University of almost 10,000 men in the south west of England found that those who gave up meat were almost twice as likely to suffer depression as those on a conventional balanced diet.

The paper, in the Journal of Affective Disorders, said a veggie diet led to lower intake of vitamin B12 and greater consumption of nuts rich in omega-6 fatty acids, which may be linked with greater risk of mental health problems.

The authors discovered just over half of vegans and 7 per cent of vegetarians were deficient in vitamin B12 – which is found in red meat and plays an important role in producing brain chemicals that influence mood.

However the authors did not rule out that the decision to adopt a vegetarian diet may be a symptom of depression.
I suspect eliminating meat or all animal products from the diet is a naturopathic attempt to self-treat depression. People I've known who tried it were already neurotic and grasping at straws. As the study shows, it doesn't help much but may generate some placebo effect.

N.B., I wasn't certain whether to title this post "Weird Dietary Science" or "Weird Mood Disorder Science;" it partakes of both disciplines.

Apartheid Neighborhoods and CA Roulette

Power Line links to a Victor Davis Hanson article at RealClearPolitics. Historian Hanson continues to chronicle the ditzy decline of California, our latter-day Paradise Lost.
About one-third of the nation's welfare recipients reside in California. Approximately one-fifth of the state lives below the poverty line. More than a quarter of Californians were not born in the United States.

Many of the state's wealthiest residents support high taxes, no-growth green policies and subsidies for the poor. They do so because they reside in apartheid neighborhoods and have the material and political wherewithal to become exempt from the consequences of their own utopian bromides.

A few things keep California going. Its natural bounty, beauty and weather draw in people eager to play California roulette. The state is naturally rich in minerals, oil and natural gas, timber and farmland. The world pays dearly for whatever techies based in California's universities can dream up.

Less than 40 percent of California residents identify themselves as conservative. But red-county California represents some 75 percent of California's geographical area. It's as if large, rural Mississippi and tiny urban Massachusetts were one combined state -- all ruled by liberal Boston.
I spent most of my working life in "red-county California" and was actually represented by Republican Congressmen during most of that time. It wasn't quite Mississippi, but it was a very rural place where cotton and rice were local crops, along with the more famous fruits and nuts.

The Trump Insight

Writing in The Wall Street Journal, F. H. Buckley reports the results of surveying 2016 voters about their economic and social views, and for which major party candidate they voted. An organization called the Voter Study Group did the survey.

Most Clinton voters were liberal on both economic and social dimensions, no surprise. However Trump voters, while conservative on social issues, represented the whole range of economic views.
The crucial differences between the two parties came down to social concerns, including pride in America, immigration, and especially moral issues such as abortion and gay marriage. The social-conservative awakening that helped elect Mr. Trump came when voters recognized that the liberal agenda amounted to something more than a shield to protect sexual minorities. It was also a sword to be used against social conservatives.

The Trump voters might have grumbled about the Supreme Court’s 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges decision, but same-sex marriage didn’t pick anyone’s pockets and no great political protest followed. That changed, however, when homosexual activists employed their newly won rights to start putting religious believers out of business.

The sweet spot in American politics is thus the upper-left quadrant of the double majority: economic liberals and social conservatives. It’s the place where presidential elections are won, and the winner is usually going to be the candidate who’s won’t touch Social Security and who promises to nominate judges in the mold of Antonin Scalia. In other words—Donald Trump.
Hassling the Little Sisters of the Poor demonstrated to blue-collar Catholics that Democrats were not their allies.

Travel Blogging XIV

Western Wyoming: We're home from Canada, and reflecting on several pieces of interesting trivia that we noted while there.

Item: At a market deli counter in Canada I ordered Pepper Jack cheese and got Jack cheese with cracked peppercorns in it. In the States Pepper Jack cheese contains jalapeño pepper pieces, in Canada this is called Jalapeño Jack.

Item: Canadians no longer use the one cent coin or penny, prices are rounded up or down to the nearest five cent multiple. They no longer have one and two dollar bills, but use coins called the "loonie" and "toonie" respectively. These last longer, save them money, work in coin operated machines, and nobody gripes. Their smallest denomination bill is the five dollar.

Item: In the U.S. diesel pumps at service stations are designated with green nozzles, green signs, etc. In Canada the diesel pumps are designated with yellow instead of green.

Item: When we started driving in Canada 40+ years ago major highways were two lanes with wide paved shoulders. Slow traffic would often drive on the shoulders to allow faster cars to pass. This has disappeared, I cannot pinpoint the year.

Item: Americans in Canada formerly saw vehicles there not imported to the States, and what we thought of as "American cars" with different names and slightly different trim details. Both are long gone.

Item: In both Montana and Alberta you see the name "Whoop-Up" given to various things or places. A Wikipedia search suggests this was a slang name for the region in the 1800s.

Item: Canadians prize their 'uniqueness' meaning ways in which they are not Americans. This is sort of like someone with a Chevy pickup prizing its differences from a GMC pickup made on the same assembly line out of almost all the same parts. Alberta probably has as much in common with Texas as it does with the Maritime Provinces. Canadians will not thank you for reminding them of their similarities to Americans.

Item: In Alberta a major highway normally has a name like "Crowchild Trail" or "Yellowhead Highway" in addition to a national or provincial number.

Item: We once really liked Caliebaut chocolates, until Papa was forced out of the company. Now their candy is merely good, but still priced as though it was world-class, which it no longer is. Papa now creates at Master Chocolat, which is worth a try if you are in Calgary.

Item: In honor of their 150th anniversary as a country, Canada's National Parks are giving away passes to the parks for free this year. It is a wonderful gift and we thank our northern 'cousins' for their generosity. Canada is a fine place to travel and the people are nice, we'll be back.

There will be no more Travel Blogging until late September when we embark on a long cruise. More about that later.

Friedman: Trump Not Always Wrong

As Steven Hayward of Power Line wise cracks, like a stopped clock, the New York Times' Tom Friedman is accurate occasionally, if only inadvertently. In Wednesday's column, Friedman notes four issues on which ... wait for it ... Trump is at least sorta correct!
• We can’t take in every immigrant who wants to come here; we need, metaphorically speaking, a high wall that assures Americans we can control our border with a big gate that lets as many people in legally as we can effectively absorb as citizens.

• The Muslim world does have a problem with pluralism — gender pluralism, religious pluralism and intellectual pluralism — and suggesting that terrorism has nothing to do with that fact is naïve; countering violent extremism means constructively engaging with Muslim leaders on this issue.

• Americans want a president focused on growing the economic pie, not just redistributing it. We do have a trade problem with China, which has reformed and closed instead of reformed and opened. We have an even bigger problem with automation wiping out middle-skilled work and we need to generate more blue-collar jobs to anchor communities.

• Political correctness on college campuses has run ridiculously riot. Americans want leaders to be comfortable expressing patriotism and love of country when globalization is erasing national identities. America is not perfect, but it is, more often than not, a force for good in the world.

Did Friedman actually write "America is not perfect, but it is, more often than not, a force for good in the world?" Progressives will throw him out of the club for such awful, unmitigated nationalism.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

A Good Question

Instapundit Glenn Reynolds links to a John Fund article at Fox News which includes the following quote by Gail Heriot. A law professor at the University of San Diego and a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, she is disappointed in Google’s action.
It's particularly troubling to see this coming from the company that we rely on to bring us information. Can a company this intolerant of differing opinions be trusted to do that job? 
It's a thought that resonates with me as well.

Human Sacrifice

Debra Soh, Ph.D., writes science for The Globe and Mail (Canada). She shows the allegations made by James Damore in the now-infamous Google manifesto arguing that gender influences occupational choice are backed by much research, some of which she cites. In general, men and women make different life choices, although not every individual in each group will conform to group norms, nor need they.

Damore was fired, not for lying about the human condition, but for telling the truth when that truth is inconvenient, unpopular with societal opinion leaders. His true allegations were not politically correct, and Google leadership felt they couldn't afford to tolerate their promulgation.

Whistleblowers seldom thrive in situ. Damore was sacrificed on the altar of expediency. One has to believe he knew, or should have known, it would happen. Hat tip to RealClearScience for the link.

A Game Changer?

Looks like Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) will get a primary challenge by a man who says we need to support the agenda of President Trump. The "game changer" is the name recognition factor of the challenger, Danny Tarkanian. U.S. News reports:
Danny Tarkanian, the son of beloved former UNLV basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian, has announced a primary challenge to Republican Sen. Dean Heller in Nevada.
Since the most recent Senator elected by NV was a Democrat, the Republican nomination may be a mixed blessing for whoever gets it.