Saturday, July 31, 2010
Friday, July 30, 2010
Thursday, July 29, 2010
Unless policymakers restrain the growth of spending, increase revenues significantly as a share of GDP, or adopt some combination of those two approaches, growing budget deficits will cause debt to rise to unsupportable levels.In the not-too-distant future our situation could be worse than that of Greece. We've been living beyond our means and are hitting our credit limit. COTTonLINE advocates the CBO's choice A, restraining the growth of spending. We guess you do too.
Most are conducting polls; many have reason to release favorable results if they're available. This looks like a case where the absence of evidence is evidence of absence.
We are sort of a mongrel people.
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Friday, July 23, 2010
Monet had developed two quite elaborate gardens, one a water garden with lotus and somewhat in an Asian style, the other in very rectangular European layout. Both had lots of flowers and other attractive plants. The other DrC took many, many photos of these blooms, at least some of which will soon appear on her blog at http://cruztalking.blogspot.com.
The Monet home is adjacent and available to tour. This home is preutilities, and has a magnificent wood stove in the kitchen. The kitchen sink has a drain but probably drains into the garden. On the other hand, it does have radiators, probably installed later to keep it warm for tourists. I suppose they used chamber pots and emptied them into the garden as fertilizer.
As I walked into
Life here is a very different business than the life I live in WY and CA where my two homes are 10 and 23 years old respectively, and I had both of them built to my designs. Someday someone else will live in those homes and wonder about me, whereas I am the first occupant of both.
I feel fortunate to have lived, with the other DrC, in five new homes, only two of which we now own. It is odd to drive by homes we once owned and see how they have changed, how they no longer look as they did when we lived there.
Thursday, July 22, 2010
More thoughts about Joan of Arc. She saved France from the English, so the French, logically. tried and executed her for heresy. Then, when it was too late, they decided she was a saint instead of a heretic. Is there something wrong with this narrative? I think so, but then I´m not French. It turns out the problem was politics, not religion, but of course she was hassled for being a woman who dressed as a man.
The Seine River is considerably smaller than the Rhine River, and there is substantially less barge traffic on it as well. Virtually all of the officers on these river ships are the children of barge-owning families. In other words, it is a family business passed down from father to son and daughter. You grow up on the rivers and you become a river captain. I doubt if we have anything like it in the States.
In the next very few days we will see the palace at Versailles and the Louvre, as well as a quick overview of Paris. That works for me, I´m not fond of big cities and Paris is big. I know some of our fellow-travelers will feel shorted on the Paris experience, perhaps including the other DrC. Maybe next time, eh?
Rouen is the largest city in Normandy. Without the efforts of St Joan, this region perhaps would have remained British. Frankly, it might have been better off. France does a nice job of maintaining its infrastructure – good highways, bridges, ports, etc. On the other hand, those good highways and bridges are mostly tollways.
It is humorous to see the ways in which the French go out of their way to tell Americans how their culture differs from ours and, by inference, that of the Brits. They are proud of being rebellious and being on strike much of the time. Proud of their 35 hour week and 45 week work year, too. It is sort of like being proud of having acne and being unemployed.
Our guide talked about the youth rioting about unemployment without mentioning that those “youth” are largely Muslim immigrant kids from North and Central Africa. They do love to burn cars, probably because they have little or no chance of acquiring one legally. France is doing a particularly poor job of acculturating its colonial immigrants, of getting them to “feel and act French.”
In the afternoon we took a “shore excursion” to see the little resort town of Etretat. As nephew Steve said, it was interesting because it is a tourist town appealing to the French who come there for the scenery and the beach. An analog in the States would be Santa Cruz on the CA coast maybe 50 miles south of SF. It doesn’t much draw foreign tourists but people from northern CA go there to “do the beach.” There are amazing cliffs with arches at either end of Etretat’s pebble beach.
Later in the afternoon we visited the place where Benedictine liqueur is made. The guy who resurrected the recipe from old manuscripts built the most amazing fantasia to house his distillery. It is a combination of gothic and renaissance and maybe some rococo architecture you’ve ever seen. Inside he’s collected ivory carvings, locks and treasure chests from the 18th century, statuary, all kinds of stuff.
The tour guide wasn’t much but the building and its contents were very much indeed. Then we saw some stuff that once produced Benedictine, and B and B. I’d had B and B and didn’t like it, so I tried Benedictine and liked it fine, though not so much as Amaretto.
In the late afternoon and early evening we cruised up the Seine to Rouen. River cruising in Europe is great. Unlike ocean cruising, with river cruising there is always something to see on the bank or in the channel. The river traffic is fun to watch, sea-going ships go as far up-river as Rouen. In that sense, this part of the Seine is like the lower Sacramento or upper San Joaquin rivers where sea-going ships go as far inland as Stockton or Sacramento. Because a river is relatively narrow, whatever traffic exists is close at hand and easy to see.
Today we took a walking tour of Honfleur, a small fishing town across the estuary from Le Havre. Le Havre is of course one of France’s two main ports, the other being Marseilles. Honfleur is nothing much, which protected it from destruction in World War II.
Honfleur has the whole nine yards for a European town: narrow twisting cobblestone streets, slate roofs, half-timber buildings. Presuming you couldn’t read the signs, there’d be no telling it from a German river town, or one in Austria, or Belgium. To an American eye they all look pretty much the same as the same social forces and technologies shaped them.
In the afternoon we took a longish bus ride to Bayeux to see the “tapestry.” The quotes mean it really isn’t a tapestry. It is a strip of embroidery perhaps two feet wide by 210 feet long. Think of it as a storyboard layout of the key scenes in the process by which an English king tried to select his successor as King of England, failed, and then ultimately succeeded.
The Norman Conquest of 1066 a.d. represented his chosen successor, Richard, who rounded up an army and ships to move them, brought them from Normandy to England, defeated the usurper and took the throne of his childless uncle. This whole story is represented in 58 numbered panels of varying length, and represents what Hollywood would call the set of storyboards for a movie.
It is difficult to imagine how this strip of linen with woolen embroidery could endure for slightly over 1000 years. Nevertheless it has done so. I’d think the moths would have long since gotten to the wool thread. Nope.
At various times its been in the hands of Nazis, Napoleon, and who knows who else. The “tapestry” is one of those art works/documents that are renown throughout the ages. I had heard about it as an undergraduate and now I’ve actually seen it. Marvelous.
We also saw the artificial harbor that was created out of gigantic concrete boxes called “mulberries” which were created in England, towed across the channel by tugs, and sunk in a perimeter to create a harbor at Arromanches, aka Gold Beach. Some old ships were mixed in with the concrete boxes to form the breakwater and they’ve rusted out to the point where they are no longer visible. The so-called mulberry boxes are still very much there and they form a sort of watery Stonehenge. Some of the pontoons used to make the jetties and floating docks are still in evidence on the beach. All of the anti-landing craft pyramids are gone.
We saw some German pillboxes and artillery emplacements built by the Organisation Todt. Many are still in good shape 65 years later. The huge craters surrounding them caused by bombs and naval shells suggest they needed to be as strong as they are. Our guide suggested that round craters are caused by bombs and oval or oblong craters are caused by shells – makes sense.
We also saw the U.S. cemetery on the bluff above Omaha Beach. I suppose there were 10 thousand graves there, extraordinarily sad but very well tended and beautiful. We heard a small ceremony consisting of the national anthem, followed by taps. Then we each took a rose and decorated a grave with it. People picked someone from their state, or whatever. I picked a lad from Ohio whose first name was “Chester.” A number of graves were marked “Here lies a soldier known only to God” as I guess corpses get separated from their dog tags.
It was a long day, we finished up atop the cliffs of Point du Hoc, between Omaha and Utah Beaches. To this day it appears to have been a daunting climb for the Rangers. Any number of entrepreneurs have founded “museums” for profit along this coast. I suppose the hardware isn’t difficult to collect, some of the softer stuff like uniforms might have deteriorated beyond use. The hardware doesn’t need to have been used on this beach, merely be of the same type. Whatever works….
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
When a president runs around the country saying things that two-thirds of America does not believe, it is time to counterattack vigorously and show how out of touch he really is.
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
In general, Americans see Mr. Obama as spending too little time on the economy and the oil spill in the Gulf, and too much time on health care.These poll results are wide-ranging, negative, and interesting to read.
I think I did what is maybe uncommon in this town, I opened my mouth and stated the obvious.If Gibbs keeps talking like that, I could overcome my dislike of him. It sounds like something the late Tony Snow would have said. The quote is taken from an article in The Washington Examiner.
Monday, July 12, 2010
Sunday, July 11, 2010
Mr. Obama won on more than health care; he won on the stimulus package and the Detroit bailout. And yet his poll numbers continue to float downward. He is not more loved with victory. (snip) The biggest single phrase you hear about him now, and it isn't coming from pundits and being repeated, it is bubbling up from normal people and being seized by pundits, is the idea that he is in over his head, and out of his depth.If you think about how little experience Obama had before taking office, it isn't surprising. Noonan reflects what I wrote yesterday. The Obama Administration has gone off on tangents of its own choosing, instead of doing what their bosses - the electorate - sent them to Washington to do. Predictably that approach hasn't been popular with said bosses.
Saturday, July 10, 2010
A Pew Research poll released this month found that most voters over 50 say they favor the Republicans in November's congressional election. Voters in their 30s and 40s were evenly split; voters younger than 30 favored the Democrats. That's a big problem for Democrats, in two ways.There is an old saying we've quoted on COTTonLINE several times, I think it applies again here:
First, older voters are a bloc the party doesn't want to lose. (snip) About two-thirds of November's voters will be 50 or older.
Second, the defections may reflect a deeper, longer-term trend: The baby boom generation appears to be growing more conservative as it ages. (snip) "There's evidence that those two generations, the early boomers and the seniors, may be converging," said Andrew Kohut, Pew's director. "If it holds up – and we'll see in November – that could be a significant change."
If you're under 30 and aren't liberal you have no heart. If you're over 30 and not conservative you have no brain.
As the networks die, taking their news divisions along with them....That is one of the most elegiac lines I've heard in a lifetime as a news junkie. What an epitaph for the likes of Murrow, Cronkite, Brinkley, Jennings, and Russert.
Friday, July 9, 2010
The story starts half a century ago, when California public workers won bargaining rights and quickly learned how to elect their own bosses—that is, sympathetic politicians who would grant them outsize pay and benefits in exchange for their support.How well has this paid off for the public employees?
The state’s public school teachers are the highest-paid in the nation. Its prison guards can easily earn six-figure salaries. State workers routinely retire at 55 with pensions higher than their base pay for most of their working life.What is the result for the state economy?
What was once the most prosperous state now suffers from an unemployment rate far steeper than the nation’s and a flood of firms and jobs escaping high taxes and stifling regulations.Companies and jobs escape to low cost states, taking their contributions to the tax base with them. It's a long, detailed article but a good one. Hat tip to Mark Tapscott at the Washington Examiner for the link.
On "too liberal,” 35 percent of likely voters say it describes Obama “very well,” 21 percent say “well,” 21 percent say “not too well,” and 17 percent say “not well at all.” In other words, 56 percent of likely voters consider Obama too liberal.
When asked about “a socialist,” 33 percent of likely voters say it describes Obama “very well,” 22 percent say “well,” 15 percent say “not too well,” and 25 percent say “not well at all.” In other words, 55 percent of likely voters think “socialist” is a reasonably accurate way of describing Obama.
No question they're right about "too liberal." I suspect Obama actually isn't a real "socialist" but he wants more government control than most of us do. This isn't good news for our friends across the aisle. Here is a link to the original survey.
Thursday, July 8, 2010
It's looking more and more clear that there's just about nowhere Democratic candidates would benefit from having the President come to campaign with them. (snip) What about Bill Clinton? Clinton is not quite as toxic as the sitting President but his support isn't going to be real helpful with an off year general electorate either.So they conclude:
If Democrats want to avoid nationalizing this year's election - which is probably prudent - they're better off if both Obama and Clinton stay off the campaign trail.
Just 28% of voters agree that the Justice Department should challenge the state law. Fifty-six percent (56%) disagree and another 16% are not sure. (snip) Seventy-two percent (72%) of those who rate the immigration issue Very Important to their vote disagree with the Justice Department challenge.
71% of Mainstream voters favor passage of an Arizona-like immigration law in their home state.
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
In the Middle East, power is a zero-sum game, domination by a benevolent hegemon creates order, and the regional balance of power is the foundation of peace. It’s the pax Americana, and while it may be stressful to uphold it, the alternative is more stressful still. And as the impression of American power wanes, we are getting a foretaste of “post-American” disorder. A struggle has begun among the middle powers—Iran, Turkey, and Israel—to fill the vacuum. Iran floods Lebanon with rockets, Turkey sends a flotilla to Gaza, Israel sends an assassination squad to Dubai—these are all the signs of an accelerating regional cold war. Each middle power seeks to demonstrate its reach, around, above, and behind the fading superpower.I don't view "rockets" and "assassination squads" as particularly "cold," although given the violent history of the Middle East, perhaps they aren't "hot." The rest of his comments about this powder-keg region are on-target.
The question no longer is whether the EU can match the United States, but whether it can survive.It probably survives, at some reduced level of functioning.
Monday, July 5, 2010
Double-digit unemployment has plagued black men, construction workers, teenagers and those without high school diplomas more than other groups.No surprises there. As a retired professor, I find this statistic comforting:
Those with bachelor's degrees have not seen unemployment rates higher than 5 percent since the recession began.Evidence that I didn't waste those 30+ years in the university classroom is welcome. The article has lots more interesting data for your reading pleasure.
The Obama administration will be defined by three disasters. The first, the economic meltdown, it inherited. The second, the BP oil spill, it did nothing to avert. The third, the failed war in Afghanistan, it made worse.The article is a downer, and it arises in a political ideology with which I disagree, but it makes some good points about the overwhelming difficulty of COIN.
Sunday, July 4, 2010
Saturday, July 3, 2010
Afghanistan was everything Iraq wasn’t: UN-approved, NATO-backed, EU-compliant. It’d be tough for even the easiest nickel ’n’ dime military incursion to survive that big an overdose of multilateral hogwash, and the Afghan campaign didn’t.
While the unemployment rate did drop, to 9.5%, an 11-month low from 9.7%, it dropped for the wrong reason: a lot of people stopped looking for work. This might be because a Senate impasse led to the expiration of extended unemployment insurance benefits early in June. The number of recipients has been falling by about 200,000 per week since. Some of these people may have stopped looking for work (a requirement to qualify for benefits), and thus are no longer counted as unemployed.Fascinating...people "looking for work" merely in order to qualify for benefits. The clear implication is that some proportion of the unemployed aren't very interested in looking for real work, but will go through the motions to get paid. No wonder the Senate wasn't excited about extending the benefits to the long-term unemployed.
Friday, July 2, 2010
Indeed, Islamist fundamentalism is not only a risk factor. It is the risk factor, the common denominator linking all the great terror attacks of this century — from 9/11 to Mumbai, from Fort Hood to Times Square, from London to Madrid to Bali. The attackers were of various national origin, occupation, age, social class, native tongue, and race. The one thing that united them was the jihadist vision in whose name they acted.He overstates slightly. Timothy McVeigh wasn't Islamist nor was the IRA so perhaps Krauthammer should have said "almost all" instead of "all.
The America-haters at Salon have taken great offense at Krauthammer's thesis; their critique of his argument is here. Note that they believe the U.S. is responsible for all Islamic violence. I suggest you look at both articles and make up your own mind.
The body politic is not panicking, even though the news is dire -- because it knows, somehow, that this too shall pass. America has faced worse times and weathered them. Even within our memory, it has had other leaders who also misunderstood their mandates and offered solutions to the nation's problems that only exacerbated them. (snip) Nothing is irreversible.
Discouraged workers are a subset of persons marginally attached to the labor force. The marginally attached are those persons not in the labor force who want and are available for work, and who have looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months, but were not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey. Among the marginally attached, discouraged workers were not currently looking for work specifically because they believed no jobs were available for them or there were none for which they would qualify.