Monday, May 25, 2015

Trouble in Paradise

Beautiful Puerto Rico is hurting - high unemployment, towering government debt, impending default on government securities, and inability to file bankruptcy are all real issues. As The Independent (U.K.) reports,
Some 144,000 Puerto Ricans decamped for the US last year and a higher number may depart in 2015. A White House official privately described it as the biggest population displacement ever seen outside of a war.
Echoing Seattle during a Boeing layoff, someone should put up a billboard in San Juan showing a light switch and the tag line: "Would the last person leaving Puerto Rico please turn out the lights?" The sentiment should be rendered in Spanish.

Remember Their Sacrifice

Memorial Day reminds me Thomas Jefferson famously wrote
The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.
Jefferson's basic message: Freedom isn't free. If you'd rather be a U.S. citizen than a citizen of some other place, thank a veteran. If you love our culture and are glad we aren't trying to adapt to an alien culture, thank a veteran. If you value your independence, thank a veteran.

Bush Mistaken, Obama Derelict

On FOX News Sunday with Chris Wallace, long-time investigative reporter Bob Woodward is a panelist. In that capacity, The Gateway Pundit reports he exonerated President Bush of lying about WMD in Iraq, they have video if you'd like to see Woodward say it.
There is a kind of line going on that Bush and the other people lied about this. I spent 18 months looking at how Bush decided to invade Iraq. Lots of mistakes, but it was Bush telling George Tenet the CIA director, don’t let anyone stretch the case on WMD. He was the one who was skeptical. (snip) A mistake certainly can be argued, and there is an abundance of evidence. But there was no lie in this that I could find…
If I tell you something I believe to be true, which we subsequently learn was false when I said it, I did not lie to you. I was mistaken, but my intent was not to deceive you. About President Obama, Woodward continued :
The argument from military was keep ten-fifteen thousand troops there as an insurance policy. And we all know insurance policies make sense. We have thirty thousand troops or more in South Korea sixty-five years after the war. When you’re a super power you have to buy these insurance policies and he didn’t in this case. I don’t think you can say everything is because of that decision but (it was) clearly a factor.
Obama learned from his sin of omission, he is keeping a modest "insurance" force in Afghanistan. Hat tip to Instapundit for the link.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

U.S. Foreign Policy Errors

We think of demographer Joel Kotkin bringing us insights from population trends, something he does well, and often. Writing for The Orange County Register, today Kotkin tackles U.S. foreign policy problems and does a credible job. Some key insights:
At great human and financial expense, we turned a country (Iraq) run by a weakened, slightly buggy dictator into a nest of jihadi fanatics fighting Iran’s allies for control of the country.
Of President Obama, Kotkin writes:
His inability to work a treaty with the Iraqi government left it vulnerable for the emergence of ISIS. Refusing to stand up to Syria’s Assad regime, once the “red line” tied to chemical weapons use was crossed, suggested to anyone in the region that the Americans can now be rolled with impunity. To this, you can add an Iran treaty that seems to grease the skids for Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

The biggest challenge to America will not come from the Middle East, but the Eurasian land mass, where China and its new attack dog, Russia, are merrily constructing a new hegemony.

The sense that the U.S. is in retreat, and led by a particularly feckless elite, is widespread throughout Asia. High level officials in places like Singapore have expressed deep-seated fear that none of China’s future aggressive moves – possibly including an open seizure of Taiwan – would be resisted by the United States.
On the plus side, in addition to our new-found energy self-sufficiency, Kotkin identifies our demographic advantage:
The U.S. continues to enjoy among the highest birthrates among high income countries. Europe (including Russia), China and especially Japan all face far more serious demographic decline. 

Could the Islamic State Persist?

Ross Douthat writes an opinion column for The New York Times. Today he questions those who say the Islamic State cannot survive.

Douthat draws interesting parallels between today's Islamic State jihadi terrorists and the Bolshevik terrorists of the early Soviet Union. Neither was expected to be able to survive, given their wanton brutality.

Yet the Soviet Union's Reds managed to hold on for 70+ years, murdering literally millions in the process. May not the black-robed crusaders of the Islamic State accomplish the same feat?

Given the absence of a concerted effort by the civilized world to exterminate them, they just might do it. Such a concerted effort is nowhere on the horizon.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Weird Evolutionary Science

Geneticists are reaching tentative conclusions concerning the origins of Alzheimer's disease, according to Nature. They suspect the same mutations that enabled modern humans to evolve from hominids by becoming markedly smarter. A key clue:
Humans are the only species known to develop Alzheimer's; the disease is absent even in closely related primate species such as chimpanzees.
I didn't know we were its only sufferers, a fact that is highly suggestive. Hat tip to RealClearScience for the link.

Strategy Not Working

Doyle McManus writes politics for the Los Angeles Times, which paper hasn't been conservative in his lifetime. In today's column, McManus examines the President's strategy vis-a-vis ISIS.
Obama does have a strategy — but for the most part it hasn't worked.
McManus echoes an Obama quote reported by interviewer Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic magazine:
If the Iraqis themselves are not willing or capable to arrive at the political accommodations necessary to govern, if they are not willing to fight for the security of their country, we cannot do that for them.
Let's assume, for purposes of discussion, that the President is correct - that we cannot do for the Iraqis what they will not do for themselves. Let us further assume that the Shia Iraqis are in fact not willing or able to make the political changes needed to earn the support of a divided nation.

Do we just let ISIS out-atrocity the Third Reich, out-murder the Khmer Rouge, molest and enslave the women of the region? Along the way watch them gobble up most Sunni-dominated areas of the Middle East?

Or do we aid the Shia Iranians and their Hezbollah allies to fight the Sunnis in a gladiatorial cage match until one side annihilates the other? Basically, reigniting the Iraq-Iran war after a 27 year ceasefire.

The President's underlying strategy seems to vacillate between withdrawal from the region and support of the Shia. Like the Soviets in World War II, the Shia hate us but need our help.

Great Houses

Jonah Goldberg's weekly newsletter, the G-file, appears in National Review. This week it is entitled
The Rise of House Clinton
I'm not particularly interested in the column's content which deals with the Clinton's sociopathic lying and spinning, all true enough but definitely old news.

What I like is the title itself which echoes the usage in Frank Herbert's drug-saturated SciFi epic Dune. Goldberg probably gets the usage from Game of Thrones, but I prefer the earlier source.

In Dune, the various great houses were known by names like "House Atreides" or "House Harkonnen." These were essentially hereditary ducal planetary fiefs which owed feudal allegiance to the Padishah Emperor on Calidan but competed brutally with each other and with other power centers: various guilds, corporations and quasi-religious orders.

Goldberg's usage brings to mind the clash today between House Clinton and House Bush. House Kennedy is, for the present, in a rebuilding phase and not in contention.

Minor houses like the Cuomos, the Romneys, the Pauls and the Browns look for opportunities around the fringes of the conflict. Houses Adams and Roosevelt, once powers, are today no more than historical footnotes. 

Dynastic politics of this sort is somewhat degenerate, a sign of ill-health in our political life. The body politic, in better times, thrives on meritocracy and new blood.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Noonan: the Snowflake Generation

The Wall Street Journal's Peggy Noonan writes today about microaggressions and triggers, ideas and comments that cause others to feel "unsafe," whatever unsafe means in the context of a college lecture or seminar. Happily, today's column is not behind the WSJ firewall.

Noonan isn't impressed with the so-called "snowflake" generation that whines about such "gruesome" experiences. Delicate egos will be bruised, life is like that.

Can any COTTonLINE readers honestly say no one has ever said anything hurtful to them, intentionally or otherwise? Unlikely, unless one is entirely oblivious to surroundings.

Kraushaar: Democrats Lack Talent

Writing for National Journal, Josh Kraushaar discovers the Democrats have an almost empty bench, to use baseball parlance. In essence, he is fleshing out the Trende and Byler analytic insight we reported on Tuesday. Some key Kraushaar thoughts:
Democrats are in their worst position since 1928. That dynamic has manifested itself in the Democratic presidential contest, where the bench is so barren that a flawed Hillary Clinton is barreling to an uncontested nomination.

It's awfully unusual to see how dependent Democrats are in relying on former losing candidates as their standard-bearers in 2016. (snip) All told, more than half of the Democrats' Senate challengers in 2016 are comeback candidates.

On one hand, most of these candidates are the best choices Democrats have. (snip) But look more closely, and the reliance on former failures is a direct result of the party having no one else to turn to.

If Clinton can't extend the Democrats' presidential winning streak—a fundamental challenge, regardless of the political environment—the party's barren bench will cause even more alarm for the next presidential campaign. And if the Democrats' core constituencies don't show up for midterm elections—an outlook that's rapidly becoming conventional wisdom—Democrats have serious challenges in 2018 as well.
It's almost enough to make a conservative happy, at least temporarily.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Travel Blogging Concludes

Western Wyoming: Our semi-annual migration to the high country is complete. Tomorrow we get our home into operating order, after it being shut down for several months - no small task.

Many things to start up, porch furniture to deploy, and we have to find out what to do about the dead deer we found in the back yard. Predators have been at it so it's not pretty. 

Other than that, our place made it through the winter okay. It was a mild winter, by Rocky Mountain standards, the snow has been gone for a month. 

Local reservoirs are full, unlike those in CA. The South Fork of the Snake River is running strong, the countryside is green and gorgeous. We are happy to be home.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The State of the World

George Friedman of Stratfor writes for RealClearWorld about the state of the world today. More particularly, how and why things have developed since the Cold War ended.

Truly the article could have been written by Henry Kissinger in his prime, high praise indeed. Friedman's viewpoint is Olympian, very broad brush. Enjoy.

More Travel Blogging

Jackpot, Nevada: This tiny burg is maybe 40 miles south of Twin Falls, Idaho. Jackpot is where the potato farmers come to gamble, a tiny bit of NV that is in the Mountain Time zone, because that's where their customers live.

Unlike Wells, some 66 miles south of here on I-80, there are no publicly identified brothels in Jackpot. Most towns along 80 have one or more commercial sex establishments, it is a fine, old Nevada tradition. One suspects they cater to the long haul truckers, as well as the local miners and cowhands.

Normally this region is arid enough to qualify as high desert, no cactus but lots of sage and rock. This trip it is clouded over and raining off and on. We stepped across quite large puddles coming back to the RV from supper in the casino coffee shop.

I'm wondering if this is some of the same storm system that is soaking TX?  Too bad it won't cross the Sierras and wet down CA. 

Iraq Ungovernable

At COTTonLINE we aren't big fans of Fox News' Bill O'Reilly, finding him often an oversimplifying blowhard. Still, when he has truth we're willing to feature it - here he writes for RealClearPolitics about the quagmire that Iraq turned out to be.
History will judge that both Presidents Obama and Bush made serious mistakes in Iraq.
And O'Reilly adds:
Nation building is no longer a viable strategy in the Muslim world.
COTTonLINE has a minor quibble: explain "no longer," when was it ever viable? Maybe Jordan?

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Travel Blogging

Winnemucca, Nevada: California is in a drought, meanwhile arid Nevada and the Rockies are experiencing ... wait for it ... rain. Actual airborne water falling in small gentle drops, what the Navajo call "female rain."

Temperature outside the RV is maybe in the mid-50s at 4 pm. The DrsC are migrating to WY for the late spring, summer, and early autumn. Given the brevity of high country summers, all of that will happen in just over four months. It is too short, but very sweet.

GOP Powerful

Writing for RealClearPolitics, Sean Trende and David Byler do an analysis of political power across our nation looking at the national and state levels combined. The GOP dominates most statehouses and both houses of Congress, only the presidency and a distinct minority of states are controlled by Democrats. They conclude:
The Republican Party is stronger than it has been in most of our readers' lifetimes. This is important, and more analysis should take account of this fact.
Most of the article is an explication (and defense) of their methodology. If that interests you - it did me - the article is for you. Meanwhile perhaps we should stop bemoaning the demographic tsunami that Dems claim will overwhelm conservatives almost immediately, the evidence suggests something quite different is happening.

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Lure of Nationalism

Writing for Politico, Stan Greenberg draws a parallel between the unexpected-by-pollsters conservative wins in Israel and Britain. In both instances, he believes, appeals to nationalism carried the day. His greater point, this appeal won't work in the U.S.
America is a country of growing racial diversity, immigration, and multiculturalism. America is a genuinely exceptional nation that embraces its multiculturalism and aspires to achieve unity out of diversity. Playing the nationalist card here in the U.S. will not work electorally--or, more importantly, for the nation--in 2016 and beyond.
Greenberg is yet another liberal confusing what he wants to be true with what is, in fact, actually the case. I believe appeals to nationalism are powerful in the U.S., particularly among the GOP base.

Multiculturalism is thoroughly discredited liberal dogma. It has been a failure wherever tried, including in both Britain and Israel.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Stephanopoulos

ABC News hired a Democratic Party functionary and thought he would become a journalist. He didn't ... leopards rarely change their spots.

George Stephanopoulos is merely a connected Democrat on the ABC News payroll. I bet he thought his bosses at ABC understood this, and were okay with it.

It seems ABC brass were okay with it until he got caught funneling a healthy chunk of his earnings to the Clinton Foundation. It is hard for them to argue giving is something George does evenhandedly.

Had George given a like amount to the Heritage Foundation or the Reagan Library it would have provided cover. But he would have hated doing it, so it didn't happen. Now he's tainted goods.

The Dismal Science

Economics, dealing with scarce resources and hard choices, has been called "the dismal science." To counteract this dreary reputation some economists look for signs of hope where none is justified. A New York Times article by George Mason University economist Tyler Cowen is an example of this.

Cowen writes that the economy may not recover to its prior yeastiness, but may drag along at the much reduced rate at which it now operates. That implies he thinks it could snap back to our former "normal." Of course it isn't impossible, merely improbable as blazes.

The changes are fundamental, as he hints they might be. The McDonaldization (my term) of the economy proceeds apace.  The replacement of permanent with temporary workers, of full-time with part-time employees, of skilled people with unskilled people plus skilled systems, of people with machines - robots - marches on. Plus globalization hollows out industry in places with living wage structures, shipping jobs to places with low wages, no safety nets, and hungry workers.

Our economy has become sclerotic, our political process near-hopeless. We are well and truly screwed, as the Fed. signals by continuing to hold interest rates near zero year after year. Falling birth rates reflect this pessimism, as does the falling labor force participation rate.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Income Inequality: Problem or Pretext?

Writing at a blog with the unlikely name Library of Economics and Liberty, Scott Sumner poses an interesting question. Hat tip to RealClearPolicy for the link.
Let's consider two hypotheses. One theory is that the recent interest in inequality reflects a sincere desire to help the sort of people who spend lots of money on cigarettes and lottery tickets. The other hypothesis is that it's just a smokescreen, and the real agenda is to enact higher tax rates, with the money going to increased spending on high speed rail, fixing JFK airport, and "education." (I use scare quotes because the evidence suggests that, at the margin, increased spending helps teachers unions more than students.) How could we tell which hypothesis is true?
Sumner observes we tax goods the poor purchase much more heavily than luxuries purchased by the wealthy. Ergo, we aren't really interested in improving the lot of the poor, our interest is raising revenue government can spend on liberals' pet projects. I expect he is mostly correct.