Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Merge Canada and U.S.?

John Ellis, writing in Business Insider, starts out musing about what economic solution President Obama could possibly propose that would meet the "go big or go home" test. All the usual suspects are denigrated as "small ball."

This leads Ellis to suggest the president propose the idea of a merger between the U.S. and Canada. No question about it, that is not small ball.

If we merged would the result be good? Probably. Is it possible? Very unlikely. Unfortunately, the only place in Canada where the idea would find much positive reception is Alberta, a place sometimes called "Texas North."

My sense is that most Canadians like the U.S. but don't want to be part of it. They view it the way Californians view snow: as fun to visit but not a place to live.

Whether or not merger happened, if Obama did propose a merger, it would certainly be a bombshell. He would get this country's attention in a way he hasn't been able to do since the Gulf oil spill.

Rogers: Class Warfare Wrong

Class warfare is an unfortunate feature of modern politics. It is mostly practiced by one of the two major parties, the Democrats.

Rev. Adrian Pierce Rogers (1931-2005), three term president of the Southern Baptist Convention, may be the originator of the following widely cited quote about the futility of class warfare:
  • You cannot legislate the poor into freedom by legislating the industrious out of it.
  • You don't multiply wealth by dividing it.
  • Government cannot give anything to anybody that it doesn't first take from somebody else.
  • Whenever somebody receives something without working for it, somebody else has to work for it without receiving.
  • The worst thing that can happen to a nation is for half of the people to get the idea they don't have to work because somebody else will work for them, and the other half to get the idea that it does no good to work because they don't get to enjoy the fruits of their labor.
What makes the quote more pertinent is that there are many far-from-affluent Southern Baptists.

A Google search finds some version of this in 30,000+ places on the web. My source for this supposedly original version is the Rogers bio on Wikipedia.

Russia Fears China

Maps are wonderful things, geography is so often destiny. Russia is a huge country, the world's largest in size.

Spend some time looking at a map of Russia, and where it is located with respect to China. Now understand something the map doesn't show: most Russians live west of the Urals, in or near Europe.

Eastern Russia - Siberia - is a vast, forested land with mineral riches but few people. South of Siberia are two largely unpopulated nations - Mongolia and Kazakhstan, plus heavily populated China.

Tsarist Russian, followed by Soviet and now post-Soviet Russian generals have all worried about the world's most populous nation - China - coveting the huge unpopulated, resource-rich area to their north in Siberia.

See this article from The Moscow Times which explains those fears. Russia believes that their nukes keep China from annexing Siberia; they may be right.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Paulist Phenomenon

The Daily Beast's Michael Tomasky isn't indifferent to the Ron Paul presidential candidacy, not by a long shot. Tomasky's opinion of Paul:
He is an unserious, extremist crank whose appeal among those who ought to know better is one of the bleakest facts of our bleak political life.
Why is a small fraction of the electorate so committed to Ron Paul? Tomasky has an answer:
Some people take great comfort in backing candidates they know will never win—they prefer, on some deep level, to fall short and be angry about it. It encases their loserdom in a carapace of purity and righteousness.
Loserdom encased in a carapace of purity and righteousness, that's nice imagery. It applies equally to the Lyndon LaRouche movement of some years back - an outsider who became a spokesman for other outsiders.

South Africa Deteriorates

Because of Nelson Mandela, South Africa didn't follow the sad path of Zimbabwe and other African nations. His idea was to keep white settlers in South Africa and grow the prosperity of the nation using their capital and skills.

Since Mandela retired, the political movement he founded, the African National Congress (ANC), has ever so slowly been moving away from his model. Now we see a popular ANC youth leader, Julius Malema, trying to take the nation farther in the direction of throwing out the whites.

It is bad news for the last semi-developed nation on the continent, but may be inevitable. This BBC News article is about developments there.

Apple - Jobs = ?

Many have written about the future of Apple without Steve Jobs at the helm. At least some of them will end up being right, if only by accident.

I remember what happened to Apple the last time Jobs left to do other things. What other things? Pixar, which succeeded, and NeXT computers which mostly didn't.

Anyway, in the absence of Steve Jobs, Apple didn't do much. It began to really take off when he returned.

Ask yourself what you believe would have happened to Apple if Jobs had not returned? Now ask yourself if this time around he has built into Apple a mechanism to replace his unique input? I'm inclined to doubt it; I hope I'm wrong.

Forbes: Obama a Failure

John Mariotti, writing for Forbes, makes a dire economic prediction in the opening two sentences of his column. In the rest of the column he marshals the facts which demonstrate this conclusion is correct. Here is what he writes:
There will be no significant recovery in the United States of America while Barack Obama is President. The evidence is overwhelming: everything Obama has tried to fuel a recovery (with his Democratic allies in Congress) has failed.
Waiting until January, 2013, to begin to see improvement will be painful. We have no guarantee it will happen then.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

We're Voting With Our Feet

Writing in The Daily Beast, Michael Medved has put together a Census data-based discussion of how Americans are moving from Blue states to Red states. His findings won't surprise regular COTTonLINE readers.

In the last year, the five states which lost the most population due to internal migration are New York, California, Illinois, Michigan, and New Jersey. All of these are Blue states.

The five states which gained the most population due to internal migration are Florida, Texas, North Carolina, Arizona, and Georgia. All of these are Red states.

As promised, no surprises. These two sentences succinctly summarize Medved's argument:
If liberal approaches work so well, why are so many people choosing to pack their bags and desert some of the most progressive, pro-labor, big-government states in the union?
And if uncompromising conservatism is a cruel, fraudulent disaster, why do small-government, pro-business, low-tax, gun-toting, and churchgoing states draw such a disproportionate number of America’s internal immigrants?

Changing Alliances

Very interesting things are happening in the Middle East. Erdogan's Turkey is becoming more Islamist, letting go of its relationship with Israel.

Israel has concluded that if it can't be friends with the Turks, then the Turks' long-time enemies the Greeks and their allies on Cyprus are an acceptable alternative. This also has energy-drilling implications for both.

Another way Israelis can make trouble for the newly-unfriendly Turks is to provide technical assistance for the Kurds, another historic enemy of the Turks. Turks are now bombing Kurds in northern Iraq. There is talk about the Arab spring morphing into a Kurdish summer, with Israeli help.

Israeli foreign policy echos the words of Lord Palmerston, from, citing Hansard's Parliamentary Debates (3rd series, vol. 97, col. 122), for March 1, 1848:
We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow.

Political Humor Alert

Yoshi Tsurumi, in The Japan Times, describes President Obama's leadership style in acronymic fashion as a:
"NATO governing style" - no action, talk only.
If only it were true.

Fantasies in Quebec

Is there something about French culture that detaches it from reality? The continuing separatist activities in Quebec tend to lend support to that harsh allegation.

If you want to wade into the fever swamps of imagination, read this article about the current machinations of various Quebec separatist groups on the website of The Globe and Mail. A movement this divided will never accomplish anything.

You have to wonder if that isn't the point of these frenetic activities - the accomplishment of exactly nothing. An alternate explanation is that, having lost repeatedly, they've turned into a circular firing squad trying to end the political careers of those who failed in the past.

Friedman: Simultaneous Issues

The New York Times' Tom Friedman is sound on foreign affairs, considerably less so on domestic matters. Here he does a tour of the world's horizon and finds four major issues happening at the same time.

His four issues are the euro mess, China's bubble looking shaky, the pan-Arab political convulsion, and our U.S. jobless recession "recovery." His analysis of the first three is reasonable; his view of the fourth may be accurate, of that I'm much less sure.

Friedman's concern is that a highly interconnected world may not be able to withstand working through all four at the same time. He doesn't say what happens if the world system cannot cope with this much change.

Worst case scenario: the outcome could be chaos, a new Dark or Middle Ages. If so, Australia and New Zealand might be the new equivalent of the "eastern Roman Empire," the place where development and culture persist.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

AP-GfK Poll: Obama Hurting

An Associated Press-GfK poll conducted about a week ago shows our president continuing his slow, downward spiral. The poll finds him doing less well among whites, women, youth, independents, and even liberals.

Presidential reelection is a performance appraisal. The question for reelection is this: has the president done a good job? If the answer is yes, he is reelected. If the answer is no, he isn't.

Having been in office for over 2.5 years, it is difficult for Barack Obama to sell hope and change. Voters know how he performs as president.

Living Together

Rich Lowry who appears in National Review Online has an excellent column on cohabitation. How common has it become? Lowry writes:
The great divorce revolution of the 1960s and 1970s has faded. The great cohabitation revolution has begun. The divorce rate for married couples with children is almost back to the levels of the 1960s. (snip) It only means that marriage is unraveling in a different way. (snip) Cohabitation has increased 14-fold since 1970.
Lowry documents the social pathologies associated with cohabitation: delinquency, drug and child abuse, early sex activity, school failure, and teenage pregnancy. He paints an unattractive picture.

Cohabitation is more common among the lower social classes, as are the pathologies listed. To what degree class vs. cohabitation are causative, individually or in combination, is unclear.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Why Libya?

I was watching Washington Week and the Shields and Brooks panel segment of News Hour this evening on PBS. The question of whether President Obama will get credit for assisting in the overthrow of Col. Gaddafi in Libya was much discussed.

What was not discussed was whether it was any of our business who governs Libya. Perhaps it was not. It was clearly the business of the Libyan people who have mostly been involved in Gaddafi's overthrow.

Egypt and Tunisia didn't require this kind of help. If the Brits, French, and Italians wanted to assist the Libyan people, fine. Why us? Just for the sake of NATO solidarity? The Germans didn't pitch in.

Lingua Franca? Nope

This article in New Geography summarizes what has been obvious for the last 20-30 years - French is dying as an international language. English is becoming the language the world deals in, trades in, and communicates across boundaries in.

Most of the world's scientific journals are written in English, which is also the language of international aviation and international business. Many former colonies have retained English as the only language widely spoken across many tribes or peoples.

English has a simple structure but a huge vocabulary. The other DrC and I joke that in a generation or two the whole world will speak broken, heavily accented English, perhaps in addition to a birth language.

Rate Your Congresspeople

Go to this site by Heritage Action for America where they rate your Representative and Senators on the basis of whether they vote for, or against, freedom, opportunity, prosperity, and civil society.

The higher the score the more conservative your elected officials are. Generally any score above 80% says you've got good folks in Washington. Hat tip to for the link.

Quote of the Day

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, speaking on the Laura Ingraham radio program, and cited in this Mediaite article:
I dislike Washington; I think it's a seedy place.
Put that together with his pledge to make Washington inconsequential in our lives and you might conclude he's running on a platform to drain the swamp.

Entitlement Reform

John Hinderaker of the Power Line blog has written a thoughtful discussion of Social Security, what he calls the crown jewel of the entitlement structure. The main point he makes is that it is essentially a Ponzi scheme - workers' current contributions go to pay retirees' current pensions.

Raising the age at which benefits can be drawn will happen, if not now, soon. Given that people are staying healthy longer and able to work longer, doing this is reasonable.

On the other hand, means-testing the payouts turns Social Security into a welfare program, directed at helping the aged poor. Once this happens, public support for Social Security will plummet like a stone. Even though many will be poor when old, what young person anticipates this eventuality?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

El Nino Causes Unrest

Here at COTTonLINE we enjoy weird science; that is, odd findings that nevertheless seem to be valid. How about the climatic phenomenon El Nino causing political unrest in tropical regions?

Yep, it appears that to a minor extent, this is true. See an article in The Daily Caller which summarizes the research.

I guess we shouldn't be surprised. Police have known for a long time that hot, humid weather can raise the likelihood of crowd violence. This seems to be that same wisdom on a broader stage.

Quote of the Day

Nick Schulz, writing in National Review Online, about the legacy of Apple's Steve Jobs:
Lots of ninnies can give customers products they want. Jobs gave people products they didn’t know they wanted, and then made those products indispensable to their lives.

NYPD Spies

New York City is the biggest city of the world's only superpower. That fact makes it a primary target, as 9-11 showed. Keeping order there is a monumental task.

Given that, why would anybody be "astounded" about the NYPD spying on potential trouble-makers? I'd be angry if they weren't spying. See The Week article on Yahoo News about this.

Large city police department intelligence units have kept an eye on malcontent groups for at least 80 years. I'm sure the practice is older than that, going back to when anarchist, abolitionist, prohibition and IWW groups were violent threats.

Getting technical assistance and training in tradecraft from the CIA makes perfect sense. Who knows more about these things than they do?

Eastern Earthquake

Virginia has a modest earthquake - 5.9 on the Richter scale - and everybody east of the Mississippi goes nuts. To native Californians like the other DrC and me, this seemed faintly ridiculous at first blush.

Then we remember that there are many brick and stone buildings in the east; these don't tolerate earthquakes well at all. We build expecting earthquakes in the west, including here in Wyoming. It makes a difference.

Gallup: Perry into Lead

The Gallup polling organization finds that in August Texas Governor Rick Perry has vaulted into the lead in the race for the GOP presidential nomination. He is the pick of 29% of those polled.

Expected to take strength mostly from Michele Bachmann, he seems instead to have taken most strength from Mitt Romney. Perry is eleven percentage points ahead of where he was in July, whereas Romney lost 6 points, Bachmann lost 3 points, Gingrich lost 2 points and Huntsman lost 1.

It begins to feel like the Republican field of candidates is sorting itself out. See the table on Gallup's webpage.

There is still talk of Pataki and Palin entering the race. My guess is that Perry's surge of strength will influence them to remain on the sidelines.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

More Bad News

As though a hurricane, plus an earthquake, plus all the economic woes aren't sufficient, now the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects unemployment will stay above 8% until sometime in 2014. The last time the national unemployment rate was below 8 percent was the month President Obama was inaugurated.

Running for reelection into that sort of headwind is no picnic. The article from which these stats were taken is here.

Quote of the Day

Charles Hurt, writing in the Washington Times, about the President's changing campaign strategy:
Like a dictator currying favor by releasing political prisoners just before an “election,” Mr. Obama decided to reject the repeatedly expressed wishes of Congress and halt deportations of illegal immigrants.
The parallel is reasonably exact.

Are You Informed?

The Pew Research Center has generated an interactive quiz to test how informed you are about the news. Go there and learn how up-to-speed you are on the day's events. If it makes you feel better, I missed one of the eleven questions.

Rasmussen: Obama Ever Lower

Rasmussen Reports polling organization does a daily Presidential Approval Index. To compute this, they subtract the number of likely voters strongly disapproving the president's performance from the number strongly approving his performance.

For August 23, 2011, the results are as follows: strongly approve 19% minus strongly disapprove 45% equals a Presidential Approval Index of -26. Rasmussen says:
This is the lowest Approval Index rating yet measured for President Obama. The previous low was -24 reached yesterday and also in September 2010. Additionally, the level of Strong Approval matches the lowest yet recorded.
Gallup and Rasmussen are showing the same negative trend lines, scroll down for Rasmussen's graph.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Stuff Frosh Take for Granted

Beloit College every year does a list of things that this year's crop of freshmen and women have grown up with their whole lives. To see the current list, go here and enjoy. Mostly what the list does is remind you how old you've become, compared to these shiny new pennies.

Gallup: Obama at Another New Low

The Gallup polling organization does a three day rolling average of the public's approval of the president. This posting shows the president's approval level having fallen to 38% and his disapproval having risen to 54%.

More important is the trend line for the last two months, see Gallup's graph. Obama has lost about 6% a month for two months and at this rate of decline would only take another six months to reach zero.

Obviously he won't reach zero; every president has a core constituency who stay with him to the end. Still, Team Obama must find the decline dispiriting.

Quote of the Day

Ralph R. Reiland, writing for the Pittsburgh Tribune, on the topic of what's needed from the President to get out of the no-jobs recession:
The task of coming up with a jobs plan that works shouldn't be all that terribly difficult. All Mr. Obama has to do is reverse what he's done and change what he thinks.
What's required from Obama is a complete about-face, the shelving of his flawed economic philosophy and a reversal of his counterproductive policy prescriptions.
In other words, it will happen when pigs fly, or when we have a new President.

Trial Lawyers Hate Perry

In Texas they have had tort reform, making it substantially harder to successfully sue someone. Trial lawyers hate this so they oppose Perry. See this Politico article for details.

There are a number of reasons to view a Perry candidacy with skepticism, but this is not one of them. Pretty much anything a trial lawyer dislikes can't be all bad, and could be darn good.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Move Your Firm to Texas

Ana Campoy, writing for The Wall Street Journal, has an article in today's journal entitled "For Companies, Texas' Benefits Are Many." Unfortunately, it is not available online to non-subscribers as yet, perhaps in a couple of days. Basically, what she does is document a variety of firms that have moved to Texas and why they did it.

One thing making Texas attractive, that nobody seems to mention, is that dirt is cheap in the Lone Star State. "Dirt" in this context means land or acreage. Why is it cheap? Because Texas has so much of it, most of which is flat and developable.

Inexpensive land means inexpensive plant sites and homes. Inexpensive homes plus no state income tax means you can pay workers much less without degrading their lifestyles. Lower wages are consequential for most firms.

Campoy lists other reasons which are also valid: right-to-work, tort reform, bilingual work force, etc.

Assortative Mating 2.0 and Beyond

Riffing on the story below, suppose the opposite occurs. Suppose there are places where people with very good skills at empathy and relating to others meet and mate.

Would their children deviate from the norm in the other direction? What would we call this deviation? What characteristics would these children have? Would they be super-manipulators of others; or merely very charming?

Many other intensified characteristics might emerge out of assortative mating. How about very combative kids from parents who meet at the local dojo? Very bookish kids from parents who meet in graduate school? Very overweight children from parents who meet at Weight Watchers?

Practically every human trait can become a source of "birds of that particular feather flocking together." The possibilities are nearly endless. Think of your own examples.

Assortative Mating 1.0

If two people with poor social skills mate, will their children be more likely to have autism or Aspberger's syndrome? Might this explain the increase in autism in recent years? This is the premise of a theory called "assortative mating."

The Week reports the director of the Cambridge University Autism Research Center, Simon Baron-Cohen (cousin of actor Sasha Baron-Cohen) is a leader in this field.
Baron-Cohen has expanded upon that theory to posit entire communities of people with some tendency toward autism or Asperger’s syndrome, a related disorder.
Take Silicon Valley, for instance. It's populated with lots of men — and an increasing number of women — who are drawn to science and technology, but are deficient in areas like empathy and relating to others.
When these people start raising families, Baron-Cohen argues, it's more likely that their kids will develop the same tendencies to even more pronounced degrees.
Beyond anecdotal evidence, what hard evidence do we have in support of this theory? Not a lot, except:
One study that found kids living in Eindhoven — the Dutch Silicon Valley — were two to four times more likely to be diagnosed with autism than kids in similar but less tech-centric areas.
Time also has covered this story.

Reality Bites

The New York Times leans hard left. That makes it extra-fascinating when one of their reporters, Jeff Zeleny, speaking on ABC's This Week, and found in Jim Geraghty's column in National Review Online, says the following about the challenges facing President Obama in 2012:
For all the powers of the incumbency, for all the advantages he had as he was rolling through Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois, one thing that hung over him is REALITY (emphasis in original). That’s one thing that he didn’t have to deal with in 2007 or 2008. He could say all these things, make all these promises, which he did.
REALITY bites, doesn't it, Mr. President?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Attack on the Middle Class

Fred Siegel has written about bad things happening to the American middle class. His column appears in The Wall Street Journal, courtesy of City Journal where it originally appeared. He says:
The Tea Party is the national voice of the private-sector middle class—despite the demonizations heaped upon it by public-policy elites whose own judgment and competence leave much to be desired.
Siegel argues that the Democrats are a top-bottom coalition in opposition to the middle class, which is now represented by the Republicans. He predicts:
Middle-class decline should be front and center in 2012, which is shaping up as a firestorm of an election. It's likely to be a bitter contest, in which the polarized class interests of those who identify with the growth of government and those who are being undermined by its expansion face off without the buffer of mutual goodwill.
For decades the middle class had a good thing going in this country. Siegel writes about what is trying to destroy that "good thing" nationally as it has already done in New York.

BTW, the distinction of "private-sector middle class" above is an important one, don't ignore it. A lot of the remaining middle class today works for various levels of government. It is to their economic advantage to vote Democrat.

What Perry Believes

Y'all wouldn't expect an even-handed treatment of Gov. Rick Perry in The Weekly Standard, but darn it, they come pretty dog-gone close. Andrew Ferguson covers the good, the bad, and even a little of the ugly.

What I find very interesting is Perry's notion of decentralization, which he calls "federalism." Perry sees different states having quite different laws about, for example, gay marriage, torts, carrying guns, health care, unions, environment protection, taxes, perhaps even recreational drugs. His idea is that people will move to states where the laws are congenial with their own beliefs.

In Perry's model, if the laws you like drive away employers, then you can choose to live there anyway but may not have a job you like, or any job. I ask this question: won't many people follow the jobs regardless, and then vote to change that state's laws to fit their desires? Maybe that outcome is okay in Perry's world?

Much of this sorting out is now happening, as blue states get bluer and red states get redder. And as Ferguson says, sometimes you move to a state because many of its policies suit you and find other of its policies grate on your nerves. A few years back I had that exact experience, in Perry's Texas of all places.

History Repeats

In today's hard times unemployed people decide they have disabilities for which they should get government help. In many cases these are "disabilities" they didn't claim in better times when they had jobs. See the Associated Press article in Yahoo News.

Think this is new? It isn't. During the 1930s Depression, hordes of unemployed veterans of World War I discovered they had military-connected disabilities and applied to the Veterans Administration for pensions. These were "disabilities" they had ignored during the 1920s boom times.

History repeats....

Former Soviet Union: Status Report

The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, aka Soviet Union, disintegrated twenty years ago. See this Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty article for a good overview of the region's status after two decades.

The 15 independent countries which resulted have a variety of governmental forms, ranging from democracies to semi-democracies to autocracies. Much depends on their history.

Algeria May Be Next

The "Arab spring" continues to roil the lands of the Prophet, although actual spring is long gone and we're nearing autumn. Fighting is widespread in Syria, Libya and Gaza, simmering elsewhere.

This article by Bruce Riedel in The National Interest looks at Algeria's current status and future prospects. While its people are still traumatized by the troubles of the 1990s, Algeria could be next.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Looking South

What does the 2012 U.S. presidential race look like, as seen from Canada? This opinion piece from The Globe and Mail provides interesting insight.

Columnist Margaret Wente figures Perry gets nominated and beats Obama. Check out her reasoning.

Thinking Big Not Allowed

In the more-or-less developed world, a combination of the environmental movement and the entitlement drag on government spending have forestalled most large civil engineering projects in recent years. The Chinese Three Gorges Dam and their widening of the Panama Canal are exceptions of a sort only possible to a command economy.

Now someone in Russia has managed to revive a big dream, a railroad tunnel across the Bering Strait. If completed, this would enable rail freight to pass from New York City to London "feet dry." See this MSNBC News article for details.

The Russians might as well forget this big dream, for it requires a partner on our side of the Strait. There is no railroad from Canada to the U.S. side of the Bering Strait. Unfortunately, the green movement would make the building of this rail link impossible in the current political climate.

Problem Areas in Asia

What kind of problems might arise for U.S. policy in Asia during the next year? Greg Sheridan, writing for The Australian, does a good survey of our challenges in his region.

Sheridan sees potential issues with China, North Korea, Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan. He does a nice tour of the Asian horizon.

Sowell: Culture Matters

Economist and columnist Thomas Sowell, writing for RealClearPolitics, says something that we aren't supposed to say but he, as an African-American, can get away with saying. What Sowell says is that culture matters, that not all cultures are created equal, that some cultures guide their members toward more success than others.

Sowell documents this with examples from around the world. What he doesn't quite get around to saying is that a people are in charge of their own culture and can, if they are unhappy with their outcomes, change their culture. What he does say is that rioting and violence are not ways to solve the problem.

Worst Case = Baseline

James Pethokoukis, who writes Money & Politics for Reuters, has a very gloomy take on Obama's prospects for reelection:
The White House’s worst-case scenario for the economy on Election Day next year has become Wall Street’s baseline scenario.
He explains what this means in no uncertain terms:
If a) the economic forecasts of Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs are accurate, and b) voters behave as they usually do during bad economic times, then c) Barack Obama will be a one-term president.
See the rest of his good article.

More on Intensity

Okay, politics junkies, remember yesterday I said Charlie Cook was not looking at "voter intensity?" This morning I see a link in Lucianne that takes me via Don Surber of the Daily Mail to Tom Jensen who blogs for the Democratic polling firm Public Policy Polling.

Jensen says PPP has found that intensity gap I predicted has resurfaced. Here are the numbers: 48% of Democrats are "very excited" about voting whereas 54% of Republicans really want to vote. Jensen observes:
It had seemed earlier in the year like Democrats had overcome the 'enthusiasm gap' that caused so much of their trouble in last year's elections.
It's a long way until November 2012 and Obama certainly has time to redeem himself but for the first time in his Presidency I really do think he has an issue with the Democratic base.
On another topic, Jensen's polling data says majorities of Democrats and independents think higher taxes are needed to control the debt crisis. No kidding. Since half of the populace doesn't pay any federal income tax, higher tax rates don't bother them.

How about a proposal to require everybody who earns income to pay federal income taxes? I wonder how popular that would be? In the current idiom, not so much.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Presidential Reality Show

I was reading this post by John Hinderaker, one of the guys at Power Line, when I got a crazy notion. What if Barack Obama decided, when elected president, to have the best time he could for four years at the taxpayers' expense?

He would take great vacations, play lots of golf, live in a mansion with a staff, say whatever he chooses on national TV anytime he wants, shoot a few hoops with NBA stars, wear great threads, invite show biz stars over for dinner anytime it strikes him, push through whatever legislation he wants regardless of its popularity, etc.

Then, to top it all off, run for reelection and see if the American people are dumb enough to elect him again in spite of the four-year party. What a hoot.

If my crazy notion were true would his behavior have been much different than what we've seen? It feels like we are experiencing the presidency as a reality TV show.

Cook: A Prognostication

Charlie Cook is one of the two best number crunchers in American politics, the other being Michael Barone. Writing for National Journal, Cook argues that while Obama is a very weak candidate, the Republicans are likely to nominate an equally weak candidate.

Cook's point is that most Democrats will vote for Obama, most Republicans will vote for the GOP candidate whoever s/he is, and the election will be decided by independents who actually look at both candidates and decide between them. Superficially, that sounds right.

I say "superficially" because Cook leaves out the voter intensity issue. Will Republicans and Democrats be equally motivated to vote? I think not. In 2008 anti-Bush Democrats were more motivated, in 2012 anti-Obama Republicans will have the intensity to be sure to vote.

Cook's argument is that Republicans will nominate an extreme candidate, unattractive to independent voters. He suggests Bachmann or Perry as extreme candidates. The result, an election between a poor performer (Obama) and an extreme GOP candidate.

I wouldn't be surprised if Cook is correct, about independents. Result: low voter intensity, among independents. Then the issue becomes voter intensity among party members.

Republicans are really bummed about Obama, to a lesser extent so are many Democrats. Thus Republicans will win in 2012, as they did in 2010, based on voter intensity.

Not News

I've just seen an article in Andrew Breitbart's Big Peace which makes much of the finding that there are more practicing Muslims than Catholics in France, and more mosques than churches being built. Since we all think of France as a Roman Catholic country, this appears to be a big deal. It isn't.

Visit a Catholic church in France and realize it exists mostly as a museum, catering to a few elderly widows in black. Churches are maintained, like castles and palaces, as relics of a glorious past.

Being Catholic in France is like being a European, something you take for granted without putting much energy into it. The church is where you are married and buried and, if you're really faithful, where you go on Christmas and Easter. It's more a part of your ethnicity than a faith. This is largely true across Europe.

Mosques are built because there aren't so many. Churches aren't built because there are a surplus; some are being closed or sold off to become mosques.

The point of the article is that your preconceived notions about religion in France are wrong, which could be true if you've not visited there or read about it.

The Dilemma

Patrick Buchanan has written some weird, even ugly stuff in a long career. Here he writes a well-reasoned column for WorldNetDaily about the dilemmas facing the Obama administration.

Obama's base is black America which is economically reliant on the federal government, a reliance which Buchanan documents. It is also a government which must cut spending, a fact of which we are all too aware.

Buchanan observes that it will be difficult for Obama to go along with cutting federal spending while continuing to support his base. This difficulty will keep him from doing a Clinton-like pivot away from big government spending.

The Super Committee

Part of the deal to raise the debt ceiling was the formation of a twelve member super committee composed of six members from the House and six from the Senate. The members are evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans. That much all of us who follow politics know.

Are you interested in knowing more about its functioning? This Los Angeles Times article lays out the rules under which the committee must function, including its deadlines and drop-dead date.

One charming feature of the enabling legislation is that, in the event the super committee fails to agree on a set of recommendations, a set of draconian reductions neither side likes would take effect.

The idea, of course, was to provide an incentive for the panel to create recommendations that can win at least seven votes out of the twelve possible - the minimum required to move those recommendations to a vote by the Congress.

Congress may not pass the recommended cuts proposed by the super committee. I foresee the House and Senate failing to agree, as they do now.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Good News

It appears that another film in the Blade Runner oeuvre is projected and, best news of all, Ridley Scott will again direct it. As Reuters reports, it is at this time unclear whether the new film will be a prequel or a sequel. It is unlikely any of the original cast will be involved as the original film was released thirty years ago.

The best part of the original 1982 Blade Runner was the dystopia Scott envisioned for the Los Angeles of 2019. We are now less than 8 years from that date; his dystopia has only partially come to pass.

Space travel is still far in the future, LA has its pollution under partial control, robots are not yet mistaken for humans, and instead of an Asian invasion, the city is largely Hispanic. I wonder how Scott will finesse these issues?

He has three obvious choices for the new film: use the present LA as a backdrop and do it as a prequel, treat the "world of Blade Runner" as an alternate universe so he can recreate the grim LA of the original, or move it farther into the future and make the new film a sequel.

O'Grady: Why Latin America Fails

Mary Anastasia O'Grady writes a column on the Americas for The Wall Street Journal. Here she is reviewing a book for the Journal - Redeemers: Ideas and Power in Latin America by Enrique Krauze, published by Harper.

In the process of writing this review O'Grady lays out her understanding of why Latin America, given its riches and talented people, has done so poorly. If you follow Latin America, this article is for you.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Perry in Early Lead

Scott Rasmussen of Rasmussen Reports finds, in a poll of likely Republican primary voters, that Texas Governor Rick Perry is in the lead with 29%, followed by Mitt Romney with 18% and Michele Bachmann with 13%. All other candidates are in single digits.

That is an impressive start for Perry. Essentially no effort on his part has resulted in a double digit lead over Romney, who by all accounts was the front-runner until Perry entered the race.

It will be interesting to see if Perry's lead holds up. I expect to see several of the also-rans drop out of the competition over the next several months. As that happens, their supporters will decide which of the leaders to support.

Review: K-19, The Widowmaker

The other DrC and I watched an older film this evening, Harrison Ford's K-19, the Widowmaker. If asked to imagine Ford and Liam Neeson playing a couple of Soviet submarine officers convincingly, I might have laughed. They actually pull it off.

If you haven't seen the film, Showtime is playing it and it is worth an evening. Talk about your "guy flix," there are zero women listed in the cast crawl.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Kuhn: 39% Is Meaningful

David Paul Kuhn writes politics for RealClearPolitics and he's done a very good column on the serious implications of Obama's bad week and cratering approval percentage. One fun fact he includes is that Carter was the first Democrat defeated for reelection since 1888. Enjoy.

Good Health News

Obese people who are otherwise healthy live as long as people of "normal" weight. This according to a Canadian study published in Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism; you can find the journal's webpage here.

You can also find an article popularizing the study here on a webpage for the Fox Station of Boston. I hope to learn more about this finding.


You will hear the probably accurate claim that Rick Perry got mediocre grades at Texas A&M while getting an animal husbandry degree. He's not the only undergraduate who got ho-hum grades, I'm guilty of some of that too.

After graduation Perry was commissioned in the Air Force and became a pilot. This article by James Corum in The Telegraph (U.K.) makes the point that stupid people don't get through pilot training. Corum says:
You can’t have a low IQ and fly airplanes successfully. Winning USAF pilot wings and learning to fly a C-130 transport requires months of serious study. After Perry received his wings he had to prove his competence on a daily basis in a difficult and dangerous environment.
I have independent confirmation of this truth. A colleague, co-author and friend retired from academia about the same time I did. He then undertook training to get a private pilot's license with an instrument rating.

My friend says pilot training was very hard, more difficult than getting his Ph.D. on a University of California campus. I have no reason to doubt him.

Review: Cowboys and Aliens

The other DrC and I saw Cowboys and Aliens on Saturday. The film is treated seriously, not as a joke. The special effects are good, the casting is good, and the plot holds together as long as it isn't examined too closely.

"Too closely" means as long as you don't figure out that the cowboys have 21st century mindsets in a 19th century setting. Confronted by aliens, they very quickly accept them as such and get down to the business of fighting back - very much what modern people would do.

Nineteenth century people would have seen aliens as devils or supernatural beings, maybe even as the result of witchcraft. Instead of rounding up criminals and Apaches to help them fight, I wonder if real 19th century people might not have held prayer meetings, hung some poor demented woman, or fled.

In spite of this quibble, C&A is a pleasant afternoon's entertainment. It is fun to see Hollywood turn out a well-crafted Western. The Western film is a true American art form and not at all common in recent years.

If you enjoy this mix of the Western and science fiction genres, see the TV series Firefly and the spin-off film Serenity. Both are available on DVD.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Gallup: Obama at New Low

Gallup's three-day rolling average job approval for Obama has hit a new low of 39% whereas his disapproval rating at 54% is the highest of his presidency. The Los Angeles Times has an interpretive article on the same topic.

Meanwhile, Scott Rasmussen's Presidential Approval Index for Sunday, August 14, stands at -22, go here for the Rasmussen Report.

Perry Hit Piece

Want to see what will be said against Rick Perry, now that he's in the race? See this Paul Begala hit piece in The Daily Beast for a prime example.

Perry is a successful politician and everybody says he's tough. He'll need to be tough, the left equates him with the anti-Christ.

One Out, One In

Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty has dropped out of the race for the Republican presidential nomination. See this Associated Press article on Yahoo News for details.

Whether TPaw is the first to drop out depends on whether you believe Donald Trump and Mitch Daniels were ever in the race. I tend to think not.

Pawlenty was a successful governor and is, on paper, a viable candidate. What he lacks is charisma, that larger-than-life quality that we seek in our presidential candidates.

So, the GOP field is smaller by one, Pawlenty, and larger by one, Rick Perry. Bachmann is encouraged by her straw poll win in Iowa and will soldier on, as will Paul because he truly represents about 5% of the electorate.

Perry and Romney will tussle with Bachmann for the lead. If you believe Republicans will behave in their traditional fashion, they'll nominate Romney, the next in line.

Romney, at least, has the advantage of not seeming weird to independents. On the other hand, evangelicals can't stomach his Mormon faith.

Perry has ways to appeal to all branches of the party, including those who like a president with military (Air Force) experience. He has to overcome the "not another Texas governor" barrier erected by Bush. We'll discover how that turns out and try to get a sense of how independents will view him.

Political Humor Alert

Reed Galen, writing for RealClearPolitics, about the need for Generation X to be self-starters:
It’s bootstrap time. To the extent each of us have the ability to solve our problems, now is the time to get after it. One thing is clear: the cavalry isn’t coming; they sold the horses and sent the rifles to Mexico.

Quote of the Day

Tim Stanley, writing in The Telegraph (U.K.), about the recent riots in Britain:
The events of the last week have reminded us that, actually, man is innately evil. It wasn’t consumerism, alienation or bad parenting that caused the riots: it was opportunity.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Quote of the Day II

Mark Steyn, from his new book After America as quoted in his Orange County Register column, with reference to the riots in Britain:
For Americans, the quickest way to understand modern Britain is to look at what LBJ's Great Society did to the black family and imagine it applied to the general population.

Riot Rorschach

A Financial Times opinion piece really nails how the British riots will be dealt with by politicians:
The only certainty was that politicians would credit the perpetrators with whatever agenda most conveniently suited their own ideological programmes – from the left’s concerns about an economic underclass, to the right’s focus on plain and simple criminality.
This has already happened, in exactly the way FT states.

Quote of the Day I

Karl Rove, the "architect" of W's reelection, writing for The Wall Street Journal about the president having a very bad week:
These are difficult days for our president. Buffeted by events, he looks weak, dazed and over his head. And in 15 months, unless he finds some way to turn things around, he will be voted out of office.
"Weak, dazed, and over his head" sounds like a boxer who has taken one too many on the jaw. A referee, if we had one, would declare a TKO.

Will: NHS a Huge Employer

Columnist George Will is visisting Britain and writing about its current ups and (mostly) downs for The Washington Post. He quotes a fascinating statistic about their National Health Service, the socialized medicine operation:
It is sometimes adequate regarding medicine but is a sensational jobs program: It is the world’s sixth-largest employer (behind the Chinese army, Wal-Mart, China National Petroleum, China State Grid Corp. and Indian Railways).
Three of those are in China, the world's most populous nation with over a billion citizens. A fourth is in India, another billion citizen nation, and the fifth, Wal-Mart, is nearly worldwide. Now compare those with the NHS which is within a small nation of only 63 million people, roughly a fifth the size of the U.S.

The United Kingdom contains within its borders the world's sixth largest employer! Think how much of the national budget it consumes. Think of how many of the U.K.'s voters work for the NHS and vote their pocketbooks. Not a good situation.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Chait: Conservatives More Sophisticated

We don't often cite comments by Jonathan Chait of The New Republic, he leans fairly far to the left. On the other hand, even a liberal can be correct occasionally, and not always by accident either. Chait writes:
Conservative journalism is actually far more sophisticated than mainstream news journalism. Conservative pundits, while usually slanting their account in highly partisan and often misleading terms, do a fairly good job of grasping and explaining the fact that the two parties fundamentally disagree on the causes of and solutions to the economic crisis and the long-term deficit.
He contrasts our work on the right with what he calls "magical thinking" on the left. Not a bad insight.

Routine Riots in China

A Reuters article on Yahoo News speaks of riots breaking out in China. The allegation is that such riots are commonplace. Here is the text:
China saw almost 90,000 such "mass incidents" of riots, protests, mass petitions and other acts of unrest in 2009, according to a 2011 study by two scholars from Nankai University in north China. Some estimates go even higher.
That is an increase from 2007, when China had over 80,000 mass incidents, up from over 60,000 in 2006, according to an earlier report from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
Over China's multi-millennial history, keeping the nation from falling apart has often proved impossible. Thus, internal unrest is a major concern of the self-perpetuating oligarchy that rules China.

As we quoted in a blog post four days ago, China is the only major country in the world whose police budget is greater than its military budget. Ipso facto, the greatest threat to the People's Republic of China comes from its own citizens.

WaPo: Reelect Odds Poor

Buried deep in the details of a Washington Post poll is the following question (scroll down):
As you may know, Obama has announced that he is running for re-election in 2012. Would you say you will definitely vote for him, you’ll consider voting for him, or you definitely will not vote for him?
The answers from the WaPo August 9 poll, for registered voters, are as follows: definitely will vote for Obama 21%, will consider voting for him 30%, definitely will not vote for Obama 46%. My crude arithmetic says only 1/6 of the "will consider" group has to decide their answer is "no" for Obama to lose.

Those are tough odds. He could convince 5 out of 6 members of the "will consider" group and still not win. I'm not surprised the WaPo didn't particularly draw attention to this finding.

Perry for POTUS Revisited

If he becomes the GOP nominee, Governor Rick Perry's roots are going to be interesting stuff. So a Brit goes to Paint Creek, TX, to discover those roots; see The Telegraph's excellent article.

One thing's for sure, Perry is not George Bush. Bush was a wealthy kid who taught himself to be a Texan, Perry is a real Texan. Bush's conservatism was "compassionate," Perry's is raw-boned and tough.

Political Humor Alert

Ann Coulter, writing in her column for Townhall about the riots in Britain:
If Britain of 1939 were composed of the current British population, the entirety of Europe would today be doing the "Heil Hitler" salute and singing the "Horst Wessel Song."
You have to wonder where this generation's Winston Churchill is hiding?

A Mubarak Retrospective

Georgie Anne Geyer isn't young; she first came to Cairo in 1969 over 40 years ago. Nevertheless, that much experience and memory of a place are a basis of perspective latecomers simply don't have.

See her not-all-negative remembrance of Hosni Mubarak for Yahoo News, as she's interviewed him as a foreign journalist. I particularly like his answer to her question about his happiest time:
Oh, it was when I was a pilot. I loved flying ... I just loved flying.
This referring to his early career in the Egyptian Air Force. On the other hand, after Mubarak became president upon the assassination of Anwar Sadat, he was in some ways a typical Middle East autocrat. Her final judgment is this:
History may show that the lack of family planning was Mubarak's greatest failure; it wrote his doom in those sheer, hopeless numbers who overran the city last February.
Is family planning halal or permitted in Islamic countries? Large families are typical there.

Another Liberal Turns on BHO

Matt Miller, a liberal so pure that he works for National Public Radio, weighs in with his own fed-up-with-Obama Washington Post screed:
Why am I so mad at Barack Obama? I know I’m not alone. In conversations with folks across the center-left in recent days, everyone’s basically had it with the president. (snip) Events keep screaming that the president is weak, weak, weak.
Don't hold back, Matt. Let us know how you really feel.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

AZ Law to Supremes

Ever since a federal district court judge put a hold on Arizona's famous illegal immigration enforcement law, I expect we all knew it would eventually end up in the lap of the Supreme Court. Now Arizona Governor Jan Brewer has filed a petition asking the Supremes to decide on its constitutionality.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which refused to reconsider the lower court's hold, deals with nine western states (map here). It has a reputation of being (a) very liberal and (b) very often overturned.

The Supreme Court typically takes its time, as it should. The issues they decide are very often of great weight. We won't have a decision for several months, perhaps as much as a year. See a Politico article about this case.

Unions Fail

Public employee unions lost an important battle in Wisconsin, see this Associated Press article on Yahoo News for details. Unions dumped millions into trying to reverse actions taken to rein in public employee bargaining rights, and failed. Republicans still control the state Senate.

Next week recall elections will be held for two more state senators, these Democrats. Republicans thus have a chance to enlarge their margin in the Senate. The results of this recall election are seen as further evidence of the Republican wave that was seen in the 2010 election.

Go here for another analysis of the Wisconsin recall elections at RealClearPolitics.

A Lefty's Lament

Back in the day Sam Youngman supported Obama. See what he is saying now in this column from The Hill. Here are some samples:
July and August are looking like a summer of quicksand for the president, and there's nobody left to throw him a rope. The more he kicks, the further he sinks.
The president is weak and seems to be getting weaker by the day.
Disdain for Obama from the right that thinks he's a socialist, and the left that thinks he's a wimp has made it clear that he owns Washington as much as he owns the anemic economy.
At this point it's hard to see Obama doing anything that halts his freefall.
Youngman says Obama could turn it around if he is able to become someone quite different than the person he has been for the past 30 months. That sounds like wishful thinking to me.

U.S. Demographics

As regular readers know, COTTonLINE loves demographics, the ebb and flow of human life. Out of the 2010 census, USA Today has a great article on how we have changed in the U.S. over the last twenty years. Hat tip to the other DrC for recommending it.

Here are some highlights. We are getting older, with men's health improving more than women's. We are more diverse, more Hispanics being the main factor. More people are multiracial or multiethnic.

There are more households with three or more generations under one roof. On the other hand, more of us live alone. Fewer marry, they marry later, and have fewer children therefore more children are born to unmarried mothers.

We've continued to move South and West, and to the suburbs. Women now earn more college degrees than men, including graduate degrees. We spend longer as less-than-adults but also retire later.