Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Whither the Philippines

Writing for Bloomberg View, William Pesek talks about the current state of play in the Philippines, as Benigno Aquino's presidential term winds down. Pesek is impressed with the accomplishments of Aquino but pessimistic about his possible replacements, most of whom have been involved in corruption of various sorts.

My experience with a culture very like that of the Philippines, on the island of Guam, suggests pessimism is warranted. What Westerners call "graft, nepotism and corruption" are the warp and weft of these cultures, essentially their organizing principles. Very difficult to counteract.

Today's Vietnam

Michael J. Totten pens some of the best atmospheric travel writing I know. Here, writing for World Affairs, he describes a sojourn in Vietnam, specifically in the greater Hanoi region. It is a long article, but very pleasant.

The DrsC haven't been that far north in Vietnam but everything Totten writes about the north applies in spades to the parts we've visited, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Da Nang and the old imperial capital Hue. We encountered zero anti-American feeling the several days we were there.

Vietnam is very probably the most capitalist-acting supposedly Communist country in the world. Every new home is built with a shop on the ground floor so the occupants can run a store, or rent it to someone who wishes to do so.

His description of the homes as narrow and tall, very often three stories or even four, is right on the money. Motorbikes, light motorcycles really, are everywhere, often carrying multiple passengers. Totten's read on the climate is spot on too, the heat/humidity combination is brutal.

One of the most impressive buildings I've ever visited is the presidential palace in Ho Chi Minh City, the former home/office of the rulers of South Vietnam. It is so cleverly designed that, without air conditioning, it remains cool and comfortable.

There's The Rub

Writing in the Washington Examiner, Philip Klein argues that the GOP needs an outreach to unmarried people, especially unmarried women. He entirely omits what "outreach" might consist of. In the words of Shakespeare, "Ay, there's the rub."

Of course we'd like the votes of the unmarried, especially women. The question remains, what do they want from government and how are those demands compatible with GOP values?

Many have argued that single women, particularly single moms, want the government to be a stand-in "husband" - a provider and helpmate. To do that government has to grow, give more handouts, not what GOP voters seek.

Then too, a substantial number of singles are not heterosexual. Their demands of government-enforced equality and legitimacy run head on into the conflicting demands of a substantial GOP block of voters: social conservatives, who find the gay lifestyle anathema.

In sum, we'd love the votes of the unmarried but don't want to provide what they seek from government. Squaring that circle won't happen anytime soon.

Seppuku

John Fund, national political correspondent for National Review Online, speaking to Breitbart News Executive Chairman Stephen K. Bannon, as reported on Breitbart's website:
If President Obama attempts via executive order to grant amnesty to eight million illegal aliens “it would be the equivalent of ritual political suicide and most political parties don’t do that.”
Parties don't, but this President might because it is all about him, not the party. Hat tip to Lucianne.com for the link.

Flipping Not Imminent

RealClearPolitics electoral analyst Sean Trende takes a long look at the prediction that Georgia, Texas and Arizona are about to flip and become blue Democrat states. His conclusion in brief: don't hold your breath.

I particularly like his time series analysis which estimates the various demographic flows and trends in the states in question. Trende writes:
Let’s use one of my favorite tools: Nate Silver’ demographic calculator from 2013. Silver’s algorithm freezes the vote shares of demographic groups at 2012 levels (though you can alter them), then makes projections in states based upon current projections of population growth (which you can also alter).

So I took Silver’s projection, assumed nothing changed electorally, and also assumed that immigration reform with a path to citizenship did not pass.  Then I simply marched through the years, waiting for Georgia, Texas or Arizona to flip.

I waited a long time. Arizona finally flips in 2036, and Georgia flips in 2048.  Texas never does.

Cartoon Link

A. F. Branco draws political cartoons with a conservative bite, I particularly like this one. Perhaps you'll enjoy it too. Hat tip to Lucianne.com for the link.

Cillizza: Obama a Poor Manager

The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza is relatively liberal. Yet he headlines this edition of his politics blog The Fix, "President Obama's competence problem is worse than it looks." I had to read further to see how Cillizza believed this possible:
Obama is faltering badly on the competence question and, in so doing, badly imperiling not only his ability to enact any sort of second term agenda but also Democrats' chances this fall. A series of events -- from the VA scandal to the ongoing border crisis to the situation in Ukraine to the NSA spying program -- have badly undermined the idea that Obama can effectively manage the government.
Cillizza summarizes the polling data which chronicles Obama's fall:
Back in December 2009, more than three quarters of respondents in a CNN/ORC poll said that Obama was an effective manager of the government. By early November 2009 that number had dropped to 58 percent. It dipped below 50 percent for the first time in June 2010 and in the three polls in which CNN has asked the question since mid-November 2013, 40 percent, 43 percent and now 42 percent, respectively, have said that he is a good manager.
Partisanship is alive and well in the polling data, but the opinions of independents tip the balance:
Eighty nine percent of Republicans say Obama isn't a competent manager while 76 percent of Democrats say he is.  Two thirds of independents say that Obama ins't (sic) an effective manager of the government.
When you lose a quarter of your own partisans, you're in trouble. The career Management professor who writes COTTonLINE concurs with the judgment of Obama's inability to manage.

Monday, July 28, 2014

No Mention of Unclean Dogs

The Global Post and The Washington Post both have articles reporting on the places where people have more cats than dogs, and vice versa. I find amazing that in neither article does the paper report that Islam views dogs as ritually unclean. 

Few Muslims are likely to own indoor dogs, as the WaPo maps show. Islamic scholars say owning dogs for hunting or guarding is okay, but they are unlikely to be kept as pets.

The Feel of War in Ukraine

Anna Nemtsova writes for Newsweek and its online avatar The Daily Beast. Here she reports from Eastern Ukraine where she's been covering the war from the rebel side, dodging bullets and bombs, talking her way through checkpoints.

Nemtsova provides no great geopolitical insights but a lot of telling detail about the ugliness that is civil war.  Pretty clearly the brains come from Moscow and the rebel blood spilled is mostly Russian-speaking Ukrainians.

The people in Eastern Ukraine view Kiev (Kyiv) as run by fascists. What they mean by "fascist" is people who identify more with German-speaking Europe than with Mother Russia.

Nemtsova doesn't say so but the wounds of what the Soviet Union called The Great Patriotic War (World War II) run deep, and haven't healed. War in the Donbass region is the cold war turned hot, and it will spread.

Quote of the Day

Fred Hyatt, writing on foreign affairs for The Washington Post, reaches dismal conclusions about the Obama foreign policy.
Obama thought he could engineer a cautious, modulated retreat from U.S. leadership. What we have gotten is a far more dangerous world.
That's a fair assessment.

Marriage Mostly for the Educated

Sociologist Stephanie Coontz writes for The New York Times about the growing disparity in marriage stability between the educated and those with less than a college degree. It isn't exactly news, we've commented on it before.

Like the good liberal she undoubtedly is, she attributes the instability among the lower orders to declining career opportunities and declining wages. If you read carefully what she's written, you'll discover that erasing the income differences between men and women has also been a factor in high divorce rates, although she hopes you will discount its importance.

This is a carefully crafted exercise in political correctness, by a faculty member at one of the most liberal public campuses on the West Coast. Evergreen State College is a small non-traditional liberal arts campus in Olympia, WA, trying to be another U.C., Santa Cruz, somewhere to the left of Chairman Mao.

George Will Jumps the Shark

Long-time conservative columnist and TV commentator George Will is reported to have said, on the Fox News Sunday program, that the U.S. should not send home Central American children coming here illegally. My source is an article in The Daily Caller.

It's time Will stopped claiming to be a spokesperson for red-state American values. Conservatives in particular, and Americans generally, oppose allowing those children and adults to remain here. I'd guess we will not link to many future Will columns.

An Essay Question

Professor Cotton poses an essay question:

Suppose a Republican president with a Republican Senate majority facing a Democrat majority House decides to stop issuing food stamps, without changing the law. Suppose further that the Republican Senate agrees this is fine with them, as few collecting food stamps vote Republican.

Should the Democrats in the House be able to sue the president for disobedience to the law which authorizes food stamps for the poor? The House could impeach him, but the Senate would not convict. Does this change your answer about whether Speaker Boehner can sue President Obama? Why or why not?

Discuss.

A Machiavellian View

With regard to the previous post, you can take the Machiavellian view that Boehner knows the Court will find he doesn't have standing because of the impeachment option. That the Court will say effectively "If you have a problem with presidential unlawfulness, impeach."

Then, Boehner can proceed with impeachment claiming "The Supreme Court told us to impeach Obama." That would certainly strengthen his argument for impeachment. However, I still don't see 2/3 of the Senate voting to convict.

Heritage: Obama Suit Not Allowed in Law?

An article from The Fiscal Times, appearing on Yahoo News, reports two Heritage Foundation legal fellows believe House Speaker Boehner's lawsuit against President Obama will fail over the legal issue of "standing." Having standing means being able to demonstrate the party filing suit was damaged by the (in)action of the party being sued. They write:
The House will have to demonstrate to a court’s satisfaction that as an institution, it has been personally harmed by President Obama’s actions, which have effectively nullified the votes of its members, leaving it little recourse to rectify this injustice without court intervention.
I expect the government will argue the constitutional recourse of Congress is impeachment by the House and conviction by the Senate.

Boehner's law team will argue if the only recourse available to Congress is impeachment, in the relatively common (and currently pertaining) situation of divided government, a president whose party controls one body of Congress may be able to violate the law with impunity, assuming his own party likes the unlawful things he does. That is, a president can safely ignore laws passed under previous Congresses with opposition majorities, laws he cannot change because the opposition controls one body of the current Congress.

The dilemma facing the Supreme Court is either to decide that, oops, the framers of the constitution failed to consider the current circumstances and the document is moot with regard to it, or to decide that an answer to the question is inferred somewhere in the document, namely that a lawsuit may go forward as Congress has been harmed by the presidential nullification of their laws in circumstances where impeachment and conviction of a scofflaw president is not possible politically.

This is weighty stuff. Look at the length of the two prior paragraphs!

Whatever We Do Is Wrong

Victor Davis Hanson, blogging for PJMedia about Europe's attitude toward the U.S.:
It trashed the interventionism of George W. Bush and now laments the isolationism of Barack Obama — the only constant being whatever America does, it objects to it. What then does Europe want from the U.S.? Apparently a huge American military subject to the dictates of European “soft power.”

Sunday, July 27, 2014

A Cool Summer

The website Real Science reports that this has been the coolest summer (so far) on record. Hat tip to Drudge Report for the link.
The frequency of 90 degree days in the US has been plummeting for 80 years, and 2014 has had the lowest frequency of 90 degree days through July 23 on record. The only other year which came close was 1992, and that was due to dust in the atmosphere from Mt Pinatubo.
The chart that accompanies the article is informative, the trend line for percentage of 90 degree days has a decidedly negative slope.

Coal Trains in the Night

The Associated Press reports via Yahoo News that coal once burned in carbon dioxide generating U.S. power plants is being shipped overseas from Newport, VA.
Coal from Appalachia rumbles into this port city, 150 railroad cars at a time, bound for the belly of the massive cargo ship Prime Lily. The ship soon sets sail for South America, its 80,000 tons of coal destined for power plants and factories, an export of American energy — and pollution.
That image of a unit coal train brought back memories. Years ago when the other DrC and I wandered North America in a series of RVs, we would stop at Anvil Campground near Williamsburg, VA, located immediately adjacent to the rail line referred to above.

When coal trains rumbled past in the night the ground shook so it felt like the train was about to hit the RV. In the daytime, you could watch the rails bounce up and down as the trucks (i.e., sets of train wheels) rolled over them - the sight didn't inspire confidence in rail safety.

A Non-Problem

Question: when is a problem not a problem? Answer: when the concern is low turnout in elections. The Washington Post's Dan Balz, who is often on-target, wanders down this cul-de-sac and ends up reaching the expected no conclusions.

Honestly, I love it when turnout is low. The fewer people who bother to vote, the more my vote is worth. In the best of all worlds, I'd be the only voter and my choices would all be elected to office.

Get-out-the-vote operatives for campaigns are paid to care about turning out people who will vote for their candidate. But chivvying individuals who are indifferent about outcomes into marking a ballot simply creates electoral "noise."

Voting is a privilege, and those whose choice is not to partake thereof should have their choice respected.

The Eye in the Sky

The Associated Press reports via Yahoo News that rockets and perhaps artillery have been fired into Ukraine from across the border in Russia. The article is accompanied by satellite photos which purport to show evidence of these launches.

It is an interesting commentary on today's world; one can run and duck but cannot hide from the eye in the sky. Apparently it gave away no secrets to show that we can monitor ground activity from space, or maybe they were "blackbird" photos? Or, the Russians will claim, Photoshopped fakes.