Saturday, December 31, 2011

Rove: 2012 Political Predictions

Karl Rove, whose reputation as a political prognosticator is well-established, has issued his predictions in The Wall Street Journal for the 2012 election. Mostly, they are mainstream and I agree with them.

One prediction with which I take issue is Rove's belief that the turnout for the 2012 election will be greater than that in 2008. I expect the turnout to be lower than 2008 as disspirited Democrats and independents stay home and Republicans turn out in moderate numbers given their lukewarm response to the field of GOP presidential candidates. Population growth over the four years will not be sufficient to make up the difference.

Ignatius: 2011's Screwed Up Leaders

The Washington Post's David Ignatius writes for RealClearPolitics about widespread leadership failures in the year 2011. As he runs down the list of failed leaders, including our president, he almost succeeds in convincing the reader that Obama failed less than most.

I suppose, compared to leaders who were killed, died, were driven out of office, or faced massive popular uprisings, Obama's failures pale somewhat. On the other hand, I (and perhaps you) care less about the failures of leaders of other nations than the failures of our leader.

Ignatius' article is worth your time as a catalog of the annus horribilis just ended.

A Matter of Proportion

The entire number of foreign troops killed in action in Afghanistan in 2011 was 565, of which 417 were from the U.S., all of those volunteers. That number - 417 - is about what we kill on the U.S. highways during a holiday weekend.

No wonder there isn't overwhelming popular pressure to "bring the troops home." Afghanistan is a low intensity war, which doesn't make the loss of those 417 any less painful to their families. The source of the casualty number is this article in news.com.

How Romney Gets Paul Votes

The Wall Street Journal's Daniel Henninger writes of the Ron Paul candidacy attracting the angry, the "anti-" voters on the right. Henninger makes the point that if Mitt Romney doesn't do something to draw in these disaffected people, he is in danger of being torpedoed by a third party candidacy.

Henninger has identified a real threat. I expect the new Paul adherents are really upset about the current state and direction of U.S. affairs.

They want to vote for someone who speaks to the intensity of their concerns. To date Romney has not shown them he shares their fear for the country's future. His task is to get them to believe in him without alienating independent voters.

Noonan: Dems Don't Love BHO

The Wall Street Journal's Peggy Noonan often turns a mellifluous phrase concerning the nation's politics, and she has some acute insights as well. For instance concerning President Obama she says:
Democrats don't like him, as they didn't Jimmy Carter. This continues as one of the most amazing and underappreciated facts of 2012—the sitting president's own party doesn't like him. The party's constituent pieces will stick with him, having no choice, but with a feeling of dissatisfaction.
This, of course, explains the lack of commitment or enthusiasm or intensity on the part of Democratic voters.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Quote of the Day

Jay Cost, who writes politics for The Weekly Standard, about President Obama's future:
You don’t run a huge deficit, produce nothing for it, and get to keep your job.

VDH: Old Europe Again

The Sage of the San Joaquin, Victor Davis Hanson, writes for National Review that what's currently happening in Europe is nothing new, but rather something quite old and sad. He equates what the EU today attempts with the Congress of Vienna, and in another way with the conquests of both Napoleon and Hitler. See his conclusion:
For all the promises of European-born fascism, communism and socialism, the result is always the same: disunion, acrimony and infighting. That schizophrenia is what we should expect from dozens of cultures and histories squeezed into too small a continent full of lots of bright -- and quite proud -- people. Every new Europe always ends up as old Europe.
By our heritage we are linked to Europe like two prisoners handcuffed together; their problems inevitably become ours.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Steps Toward War

I am struck this morning by two news items on Yahoo News: this one and this one. The first from the Associated Press is Iran's navy saying they can close the straits of Hormuz at will. The second from Reuters is the U.S. fifth fleet saying it will not allow that closure.

Does this exchange remind you of a couple of playground toughs engaging in the angry banter that leads up to a fistfight? It should.

Do you suppose the conflict will be timed to make the President look strong near the election? It could happen.

A New Empire?

On Monday we wrote about Turkey's nervousness vis-a-vis Kurdish moves toward independence. That is certainly the historic - but apparently not the only - view.

Here is an article from Today's Zaman that takes a different perspective. It sees Turkey absorbing the Kurdish areas of Syria and Iraq into a federation of Turks and Kurds. I sense a wish to reassemble the Ottoman Empire.

Primary Prediction

If you were a betting person (I'm not) and required to predict the outcome of the GOP nomination process at this point before the formal choosing begins, you'd have to say it will be Romney. If his running a near-flawless albeit boring campaign is an indication of his ability to be president, he has certainly done that.

Maybe it would be okay to have a competent but boring president. It would be a change after having an incompetent but boring president for four years.

Balz & Gardner: Iowa Update

Dan Balz and Amy Gardner of The Washington Post do a very decent update of the status of the various campaigns in the Iowa GOP primary caucuses. For obvious reasons they pay less attention to the campaigns of Perry, Santorum, and Bachmann.

Paul gets attention because he is so weird. The situation in Iowa remains fluid. We could get a surprise next Tuesday evening.

Wrong Supporters

Ruy Teixeira, a demographer who leans left, has identified President Obama's strongest supporting age group and those least likely to support him. See what he says, in his article for The New Republic:
President Obama has astoundingly consistent support from Americans less than 30 years old, the so-called Millennial generation.
The generation least likely to support Obama, on the other hand, is the "Silent generation"—the generational group slighter older than Baby Boomers, and the group now dominant among the ranks of seniors.
As anybody who follows politics knows, seniors are those individuals most likely to vote, whereas the young are those least likely to vote. Sorry, Team Obama.

Hoffa Story

We have a new rumor about the burial place of former Teamster President Jimmy Hoffa. His driver Marvin Elkind says Detroit mob boss Anthony Giacalone, aka Tony Jack, claimed Hoffa was buried under the foundations of the Renaissance Center in downtown Detroit.

Elkind also claims Giacalone provided the triggerman for the hit. The evidence is thin, one shady character taking the word of another shady character who may have been bragging about something he didn't do. Find the article which reports the claims here.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Overlooking the Obvious

Charles Lane writes an editorial in The Washington Post asking the question of why our U.S. crime rate is dropping? Somehow he cannot bring himself to mention one of the two most obvious causes.

Increased incarceration of criminals is undoubtedly a major factor, as Lane notes. However most crimes, especially violent crimes, are committed by the young.

We are an aging society with fewer young people. Ipso facto, the crime rate will decline. This isn't rocket science, it's demography.

Paul Lacks GOP Support

Columnist Byron York writing in The Washington Examiner examines from whence Ron Paul's support derives. It turns out the people who say they plan to vote for Paul are largely independents or Democrats, not Republicans. It figures....

Monday, December 26, 2011

Blitzer: Iraq Could Disintegrate

History is replete with examples of nations assembled of quite disparate parts, held together by a totalitarian leader and secret police that tolerated no sectarian friction. Examples would include the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, China, and, according to CNN's Wolf Blitzer, Iraq.

History also suggests that when the dictator goes away, when the KGB or equivalent are no more, the "nation" falls apart. That has certainly been the experience of the USSR and Yugoslavia.

It may also be what is in store for Iraq, an assemblage of three quite different parts: Kurds, plus Sunni and Shiite Arabs. At the end of World War One, Iraq was "assembled" out of pieces of the Ottoman Empire and called the British Mandate of Mesopotamia.

Like so many colonial units, Iraq's borders had little to do with the facts on the ground and everything to do with the convenience of the colonial powers drawing them. In the absence of Saddam's tough secret police and at last under the control of the Iraqis, the country could fall to pieces.

Turkey might be willing to let this happen if Iraq splits in two, probably not if it splits in three. A combined Sunni Arab and Kurdish state might be tolerable. An independent Kurdistan would be an incitement to Kurdish separatists in southern and eastern Turkey, an incitement which Turkey is likely unwilling to tolerate.

Samuelson: Our Dilemma

Robert Samuelson (not related to Nobel Laureate Paul Samuelson) writes that our politics need to shift from "give away" to "take away." They need to shift, but show no signs of doing so.

His article for RealClearPolitics sums up the economic dilemma of our time: too many citizens taking too much money from an underfunded, but bloated, government to which no one wishes to pay more taxes. And nobody wants a cut in their government subsidies, either.
Any resolution of the budget impasse must repudiate, at least partially, the past half-century's politics. Conservatives look at the required tax increases and say: "no way." Liberals look at the required benefit cuts and say: "no way."
Samuelson concludes:
The political system is failing. It's stuck in the past. It can't make desirable choices about the future. It can't resolve deep conflicts.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Wyoming Status


It doesn't look very warm and cozy in the Rockies this afternoon, the current temperature is -2 F. Still, they're having a white Christmas.

Interesting Coincidence

On Christmas Sunday early afternoon I came across an article which has more punch because of the day upon which it appears. The USA Today article focuses on the declining influence of religion in Americans' lives.

This is an phenomenon which has been evident in Europe for some years, perhaps decades. More recently it is showing up in the U.S.

I expect a careful survey of this issue, done across the U.S., would find regional differences. Based on my experiences teaching, working and living in a variety of U.S. locations, I would guess people in the southeast would report organized religion being more important in their lives.

In the southeast, it isn't clear whether the increased importance of organized religion reflects true spirituality or the fact that in the southeast most friendship networks (and thus social life) are based around church. I expect the honest answer would be "some mixture of the two."

Felicitations

We no longer wish "Happy Holidays" here at COTTonLINE. We wish a Merry Christmas to one and all.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Flare Up

Every now and then the Long War flares up into actual warfare. Examples of this include Lebanon a few years ago, Bosnia, then Chechnya, and Sudan much more recently. Now it's Nigeria, see this article in BBC News Africa for details.

Egypt may well be next, where almost 10% of the population is Christian in an otherwise Islamic country. Islamic parties are winning the recent Egyptian elections in a country that has had secular governments for more than a century.

Amazing Arctic Sights

An article in The Independent (U.K.) reports some twin engine passenger jets will be cleared to fly over the north pole. These are routes which they've hitherto not been permitted to fly for safety reasons.

At the end of the article (scroll down) is the real payoff for me - wonderful sightseeing. I've flown across Greenland in daylight perhaps three times on four engine 747s. Let me tell you about it.

Greenland is huge; at jet speeds (ca. 550 mph) it takes an hour to cross east to west. For an hour you fly above an enormous ice sheet with rugged mountains poking up through it.

If you have a sunny day, the ice is blazing white and the mountains are a dark blue-gray. It is stunning. If the new rules mean more people will get to see these arctic sights, it is a real plus.

Chinese Real Estate Bubble Pops

People have been talking about the real estate bubble in China for several years, its prices high and speculation rife. What goes up will eventually come down. An article in Foreign Affairs by Patrick Chovanec declares there is evidence the real estate bubble of China has burst.

When the real estate bubble in the U.S. burst, ugly things happened to its established economy. If the same ugly things happen to the developing economy of China, the negative effects are likely to be worse. The situation in China bears watching.

Friday, December 23, 2011

What Is It?

Does anybody recognize this rather obscure looking ball? It fell from the sky in Namibia. According to AFP and Yahoo, it is about 14 inches in diameter. The ball is empty or hollow. AFP reports:
Several such balls have dropped in southern Africa, Australia and Latin America in the past twenty years, authorities found in an Internet search.
I note all of these locations are in the Earth's southern hemisphere. That cannot be an accident. Imagine how many more have fallen unnoticed in the southern hemisphere's three vast oceans. Thanks to Drudge for the link.

Are they maybe landing craft for tiny aliens?

Drip, Drip, Drip, Part II

Responding to the French, the Turks have accused France of genocide in Algeria during its war for independence from France 1954-1962. See the BBC News Europe article for details.

French accuse Turks of genocide, Turks accuse French of genocide, chances are both are somewhat accurate. On the other hand, I doubt the Turk's claim the French burned Algerian Arabs "in ovens" when bulldozer-dug mass graves are easier and cheaper.

Scientific Good News x 4

A thing that occurs every year at about this time is a sort of journalistic taking stock. It's a listing of the good, bad, and ugly that happened during the year just ending.

The Week has identified four scientific breakthroughs that happened in 2011 in this article on the Yahoo News website. I'd only heard of two of them, and I try to pay attention. This article is worth your time.

The four discoveries include neutrinos going faster than the speed of light, and finding planets orbiting stars like our sun that are the right size and distance from their stars to support life. These two I was aware of and find interesting.

Then there are the two I'd not seen. First, there being three "enterotypes" or groupings of bacteria living in the human gut, so that foods or medicines react differently according to which type you have. Second, a finding about aging involving senescent cells and a way to get rid of them, perhaps a first step on anti-aging drugs.

All four of these could be real bombshells.

Quote of the Day

G. K. Chesterton, British poet, from a poem called The World State:
Oh, how I love Humanity,
With love so pure and pringlish,
And how I hate the horrid French.
Who never will be English!
My source is The American Chesterton Society website.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Drip, Drip, Drip....

Mental image of a slow-motion avalanche...oh, so gradually the various pieces fall into place. The "long war of civilizations" underway between the West and Islam happens bit by bit.

Most recently the French National Assembly passed a bill criminalizing the denial of (Christian) Armenian genocide done by (Islamic) Ottoman Turks during 1915-1916. Turkey is very angry about this move.

See the BBC News Europe story which quotes Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan as saying:
This is politics based on racism, discrimination and xenophobia. This is using Turkophobia and Islamophobia to gain votes, and it raises concerns regarding these issues not only in France but all Europe.
Now Turkey has taken measures against France.

Middle East War Clouds

Things are looking less and less peaceful in the Middle East. Syria is a major source of unrest, with Iran, Turkey, and other players expressing interest in what happens there.

Of course we cannot forget that Iraq may fall apart once more now that they are free to do so. See a Canadian analysis of the situation in the National Post.

Iraq, a Retrospective

Martin Peretz, who writes for The New Republic, takes a look back over our eight year involvement with Iraq just ended and our ten year military expedition in Afghanistan which is winding down, with side comments about the troubles in Syria and in Egypt. It is very worth reading.

It is a part of the world where things seem to go from bad to worse. His evaluation of events in the region is more-or-less uniformly gloomy. Making unhappy predictions about its future seems the only sensible thing to do.

Anniversary V

Today COTTonLINE celebrates its fifth anniversary. Our first post was five years ago today. During those five years we've posted nearly 3100 entries.

We've watched the 2008 presidential election together, sadly. We've watched the 2010 Congressional election with considerably more satisfaction. Now together we observe the run-up to the 2012 presidential election; this time it is we who have hope for change.

Internationally, we've watched the deterioration of the eurozone. We've seen the official end of the Iraq war, while the war in Afghanistan is now said to be the longest which the U.S. ever waged. History is likely to treat both of these unkindly.

Through it all, we've done what we must, and lived with the consequences of our actions. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Gridlock in India

In the U.S. we whine about our political gridlock, which does exist but could be much worse. Gridlock in India is an example of "much worse" politics, see this CNN World article by Fareed Zakaria.

The article talks about India's inability to open its markets to large-scale international retailers like Walmart and Carrefour. Political gridlock also hinders India's ability to confront its Naxalite (home-grown Maoist) rebels.

There are times when the messiness of representative government seems to compare unfavorably with more dictatorial regimes. Only "seems," as it is likely the government of India has done what its people, however wrong-headedly, want done.

Before we observe India with superior distain, let's remember we sometimes do stupid things here. For example, things like withholding government support from teaching evolution or not allowing public institutions to celebrate Christmas. And various jurisdictions in the U.S. have kept out Walmart, too.

Saturnalia and Solstice

Have you noticed how early it is getting dark? How late dawn is? Tomorrow we observe the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year.

Starting on Friday, the days begin getting longer, a process that will continue until June 20 when we will celebrate the Summer Solstice. I love the long twilight evenings of summer.

Friday is also the day when the planet begins giving a helping hand to all who suffer seasonal affective disorder (S.A.D.). SAD is depression associated with lack of sunshine.

In the late 1980s I remember spending the evening of June 21 in Fairbanks, Alaska. On a whim I went outside at 1 a.m. with a newspaper, and could read it without artificial light. Of course I had younger eyes then.

More recently I've been as far north as Jasper, Alberta, Canada, in July and seen the twilight that goes on until near midnight. And I've seen the "white nights" in St. Petersburg, Russia, with people strolling the less-than-dark sidewalks after 11 p.m.

There is a real tendency for those who live where winter nights are long to stay up and keep going when summer nights are short. It makes sense.

The farther north (or south) of the equator you live the more you notice this swing of the seasons. The year we spent on Guam we hardly felt it at all.

More Thatcherisms

Baroness Margaret Thatcher, on the topics of Europe and the European Union:
During my lifetime most of the problems the world has faced have come, in one fashion or other, from mainland Europe, and the solutions from outside it.
It (the EU) is, in fact, a classic utopian project, a monument to the vanity of intellectuals, a program whose inevitable destiny is failure: only the scale of the final damage done is in doubt.
My source for these quotes is a Steven Hayward article in RealClearMarkets

Quote of the Day II

Climate analyst Roger Pielke Jr., quoted in a RealClearMarkets article by Steven Hayward, on what Pielke calls "the iron law of climate policy:"
When the trade-off is emissions reductions versus economic growth, the economy wins every time.
Only a small minority of extreme tree-huggers will voluntarily be poor in order to protect the planet.

Quote of the Day I

Joel Kotkin and colleagues, writing in the Legatum Institute publication The New World Order:
Like the Roman Empire which survived for hundreds of years after the Augustan golden age, the Anglosphere is not close to its demise. After all, if Rome could come back from Caligula and Nero, the Anglosphere should be able to persist after George Bush and Barack Obama.
Equating Bush and Obama with Caligula and Nero is harsh, but it makes Kotkin's point.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

WSJ: Boomers Broke

Yesterday's Wall Street Journal has a front-page article entitled "Oldest Baby Boomers Face Jobs Bust." The link here is only to a preview, perhaps it all will be available online later.

The essence of the article is that baby boomers saved little, spent virtually all of what they earned, ran up large debts, and generally acted like the grasshopper in the story of the grasshopper and the ant. The article asks us to feel sorry for them, which makes me guess it was written by a boomer.

Now those who still have work whine that they won't be able to afford to retire, maybe ever. The ones who've been laid off are finding new jobs very difficult to get, especially at anything like their previous salary. I don't find any of this surprising.

Another Quote of the Day

Baroness Margaret Thatcher, written ten years ago in her book Statecraft: Strategies for a Changing World, and cited in a recent Wall Street Journal article:
The European single currency is bound to fail, economically, politically and indeed socially, though the timing, occasion and full consequences are all necessarily still unclear.

Alma Mater

Alma mater translates from the Latin as "dear mother." We use it in modern American English meaning a university where we got a degree.

A story I just read reported research finding men's grades dropping when their school's football team has a winning season. The research was done at my doctoral dear mother - the University of Oregon. See the story here on the USA Today website.

I spent three very rainy years in Eugene, Oregon, working on my Ph.D., as well as attending home football games and post-game parties. I guess I was fortunate the football team lost a lot of games those three years as my grades weren't bad.

Have Some Fun

Most of what we do here at COTTonLINE is, sadly, very serious. We wrestle with geopolitics, domestic politics, unfortunate social trends, and economics. Would you like something lighter?

Boris Johnson is mayor of London, a Conservative politician who can write a funny column. Here in The Telegraph he comments on the love-hate relationship between the Brits and the Frogs. Having some fun at the expense of the French, he says:
Our continental cousins are a bunch of garlic-breathing Strauss-Kahns with a deeply suspect interest in structuralism and gloomy films. In this stereotypical world, their women fail to shave their armpits, they have a weird obsession with suppositories and a fanatical lust to eat our children’s ponies.
Then he imagines the French critique of the Brits:
We have terrible food, that we prefer hot water bottles to sexual intercourse and that most of the men in our ruling class (this was a tart observation by former prime minister Edith Cresson) were not the marrying kind.

Quote of the Day

Thomas Sowell, writing for RealClearPolitics, about the Republican primary season now underway, and speaking in favor of Newt:
Do we wish we had another Ronald Reagan? We could certainly use one. But we have to play the hand we were dealt. And the Reagan card is not in the deck.

The Wrong Emphasis

A recent Gallup poll asked respondents to rate the importance of alternative federal policies, as reported in The Washington Post.
The public saw both economic growth and redistribution as worthy objectives — but put the former well ahead of the latter. Some 82 percent said growth was either “extremely” or “very” important; only 46 percent said “reduc[ing] the income and wealth gap between rich and poor” was “extremely” or “very” important.
It appears that once again President Obama has misread the public mood, as he did with Obamacare. He's now out there selling a product - income redistribution - for which we are not customers.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Steyn Disses Newt

Mark Steyn, who is often cited in these pages, doesn't much like Newt Gingrich. You can find his opinion here in National Review. Steyn is typically funny and even if you like Newt you'll find things to snicker about here.

Poll: Gloomy Outlook

Here are some new presidential performance poll results from The Hill. I see an interesting pattern in them, do you?
51 percent of polled voters said Obama was either a failure (37 percent) or not very successful (14 percent), while 48 percent said he was either very successful (16 percent) or somewhat successful (32 percent).
What I see is that most of those who are negative vote for "failure," while most of those who are positive vote for "somewhat successful." In other words, the positives are weakly positive while the negatives are strongly negative. Team Obama cannot like that pattern.

Two Leaders Dead

Within the last couple of days we've learned of the death of two national leaders - Vaclav Havel of the Czech Republic and Kim Jong-il of North Korea. COTTonLINE wishes no one ill.

However from the point of view of the United States, Havel was a hero who will be missed. Havel was a playwright and leader of the Velvet Revolution that took Czechoslovakia out of the Communist orbit with essentially no bloodshed.

Kim was the bizarre, nepotistic dictator of a failed state. As bad as he's been, his son and assumed successor Kim Jong-un may yet prove to be worse, or could conceivably be an improvement.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Anybody But Obama

David Paul Kuhn writes for RealClearPolitics and, in this article, he makes the point that the people supporting the various Republicans trying to become the nominee will coalesce around whoever the party nominates. Mostly, I agree with him.

"Mostly" because I can imagine some Ron Paul supporters staying home or voting Libertarian during the election in November. Isolationists supporting Paul will find the interventionist foreign policies of either Obama or the eventual non-Paul nominee unpalatable.

Ten POTUS Mistakes

Most of the good columnists write for the New York Times, the Washington Post, or the Wall Street Journal, most but not all. Don Surber writes for the Daily Mail of Charleston, West Virginia and he often is as good as the best. I learn of his columns courtesy of Lucianne.com.

Recently in the spirit of Dave Letterman, Surber lists ten things President Obama has gotten wrong in his almost 3 years in office. Examples: the stimulus, Obamacare, the Tea Party, the economy, and Simpson-Bowles. Surber's explanation of why each of the ten was a goof is particularly fine.

His conclusion vis-a-vis Obama is on the money:
His one big advantage in 2012 is that the election is a referendum on him. Of course, that is also his one big disadvantage, isn’t it?

Marcus: Marriage = Success

Ruth Marcus, who writes for The Washington Post, has a good article on the interplay between education levels, social class, incomes, and who marries who. She says:
The steadily dropping marriage rate both contributes to income inequality and further entrenches it.
The well-off marry the well-off, form what she calls "collaboratives," earn lots of money and, having few children, "make out like bandits."

Those with less education make less money and are more likely to cohabit instead of marrying. They have more children, make less money, and their children don't do well either.

I suspect Marcus has identified a major cause of the hollowing-out of the middle class. This is a useful article.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

McCarthy: National Review Goofed

As conservatives who follow politics know, the editors of National Review have declared Newt Gingrich unelectable, and added Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann to their list of losers. On the other hand it suggested Jon Huntsman for a second look. Strange....

Andrew McCarthy has written an excellent essay in the magazine taking them to task for going beyond pointing out the candidates' pluses and minuses so the readers can make their own judgments. I find his arguments persuasive, I stand with McCarthy on this issue.

Perry may not be a barn-burning debater but it is difficult to deny the great accomplishments of Texas during his governorship. Bachmann may exaggerate once in awhile but has a clear, conservative record of legislative advocacy. And an honest statement of Newt's accomplishments in the House go a long way toward offsetting his "baggage."

More Information

On Thursday, we reported that a British paper, the Express, said Hungary and the Czech Republic would not join the treaties recently agreed to in an attempt to solve the euro crisis. Apparently that information was partial.

Here The Wall Street Journal Europe reports that what the two countries said was they needed more information about the details before making a decision and that they would have to put up for parliamentary approval any treaty which involved a limitation of sovereignty. I interpret this language as suggesting the government is less-than-enthused about the proposed treaty.

Hungary and the Czech Republic are half of the Visegrad group, the other two members being Poland and Slovakia. It is possible that the four members will attempt to coordinate their response to the treaty.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Hart on Presidential Politics

Remember former Senator Gary Hart (D-CO)? Hart was a big deal in 1988; he nearly won the Democratic nomination for president that year, until his extramarital affair was revealed.

In the intervening years Hart has morphed from a practitioner to a student of politics. See his New York Times article about the coalitions that comprise both of our major political parties. It is reasonably balanced and useful.

Bad News Across the Board

Ron Brownstein writes politics for National Journal and in this column he reports on the results of the Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor poll. The president's standing is worse with almost every demographic group.

Brownstein says Obama has particularly lost ground with groups that strongly supported him in 2008. I especially recommend to your attention the table in the article which shows graphically how much the President's standing has fallen. See for yourself.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Tick, Tick....

It appears that Hungary and the Czech Republic have joined the United Kingdom in turning down the euro treaty. Oddly, this hasn't been widely reported, but here it is described in the Express (U.K.). Neither is a member of the eurozone, so their refusal isn't an immediate threat to the treaty.

Millennials Predict Obama Loss

The Institute of Politics at Harvard University released polling data for Millennials - people aged 18-29 - which shows that more predict President Obama will fail to be reelected (36%) than believe he will be reelected (30%). Some 32% are unsure.

Team Obama cannot find the results reassuring. Find the article which reports these findings at U.S.News & World Report.

More on Europe

Here is an insight about the current state of the European Union and the associated eruozone, from John Quiggin, writing in The National Interest:
In important respects, the EU now looks like the United States under the Articles of Confederation. There is an obvious need for united action but no sanction in the current constitutional structure.
It takes a historian to make that somewhat obscure comparison.

Quote of the Day

Robert Samuelson, writing for Newsweek and reprinted in RealClearPolitics, on Europe's continuing euro troubles:
Europe is trapped in purgatory. What's economically sensible is politically treacherous, and what's politically sensible is economically treacherous.
The political will to do what is unpleasantly necessary simply does not exist. People won't take their medicine.

Sad Reality

All politicians disappoint their supporters. It is a relentless truth in D.C. They make pledges they can't keep, say things they don't mean, and encounter stiff headwinds in office that were just distant breezes on the campaign trail. The bigger their failed promises, the bigger the disappointment.
And yet most incumbents are reelected...go figure. The source for the quote is a Tom Foreman article in CNN Politics.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Wrong Medicine

From time to time some jurisdiction comes up with the idea of jailing parents whose children are serial truants, who repeatedly miss school. It superficially sounds like a good idea, but probably is not. Here is the Yahoo News article which triggers these thoughts.

Suppose a working parent or parents have a child who is frequently truant. Working parents cannot control kids while at work. Now suppose they learn they risk jail if the kid continues to skip going to school.

I can imagine some such parents turning the kid over to the county as an incorrigible in order to avoid suffering criminal penalties themselves. Now the county has another rebellious foster kid to place, when they have trouble placing the ones they have now.

The situation is not improved.

Jenkins: In Favor of Mitt

The Wall Street Journal's Holman Jenkins takes on the task of making an argument in favor of Mitt Romney, and he does a decent job. As a conservative primary voter you owe it to yourself to see this side of the issue. Jenkins' conclusion:
The consensus for painful reform comes when the status quo hits the wall. It's a myth that we don't know what our choices are. That's the Romney moment. His strong suit has always been to do what everyone else has put off.

Win - Win

The Wall Street Journal reports the birthrate in Mexico has dropped dramatically. This is a clear sign of development in Mexico - a win for them - and the source of reduced illegal immigration pressures in the U.S. - a win for us. The WSJ says:
In Mexico, families have shrunk, providing less incentive for young people to leave. In 1970, each Mexican woman bore an average of 6.8 children. By 1990, that number was 3.4. Today, the birthrate is at replacement level, about 2.1.*
Now...if we can encourage assimilation on the part of those who have moved here more or less permanently....

*CIA estimate for 2011 is 2.29; that's reasonably close to the WSJ's 2.1.

Poor Hungary

We think we have troubles. Sometimes it is good to see how much craziness other places are experiencing, it puts our situation into perspective.

The nice people of Hungary are living through some political insanity that makes our situation look absolutely ideal by comparison. This article by Charles Gati in The American Interest suggests Hungary is in the same sort of political and economic dilemma that Greece faces.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Blankley: Newt Is A Leader

Most conservative Washington columnists have been beating up on Speaker Gingrich, writing about his ego and his tendency to say extreme things. Here is a column by a pundit who worked for Newt back in the day and who remembers him as a heck of a success.

Tony Blankley writes for the Washington Times, is a talking head on radio and TV programs, and was Speaker Gingrich's press secretary for seven years. If you'd like to see a positive rendering of the Gingrich career in Congress, Blankley is your man.

Maybe the Cuban Solution, Maybe Not

An article in The American Spectator predicts that, based on CAFE laws put in place by the Obama administration, new pickup trucks will soon be a thing of the past. Requiring a Corporate Average Fuel Economy of 35.5 mpg will make trucks impractical.

Perhaps, but as the other DrC says, "pickup trucks never die." So, if the government makes it impractical to sell new trucks, a substantial industry will develop in rebuilding older trucks to keep them on the road more-or-less forever - the Cuban solution. I would happily rebuild my diesel F350 when the time comes.

However, as The Wall Street Journal reported a couple of weeks ago, Americans prefer trucks and SUVs. And, politicians like to give the people what they want.

Under an administration less committed to social engineering than the Obama administration, I can easily imagine the CAFE standards being revised to once again exclude pickup trucks and SUVs because voters want that to happen.

BBC/PBS Fake

Sir David Attenborough and his production company faked shots on his so-called 'documentary' Frozen Planet, without telling the audience. A polar bear den sequence was shot in a Dutch zoo.

His response: "We were making a movie." See the article at the Mirror (U.K.). website.

Tolerance Not Our Thing

A fascinating quote from the deputy director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, one Kevin Bearquiver, a Native American:
The tribe has historically had the ability to remove people. Tolerance is a European thing brought to the country. We never tolerated things. We turned our back on people.
Source is a New York Times article by James Dao.

Happy Quotes

In a Jonathan Easley article based on a USA Today-Gallup Poll released today, The Hill says things guaranteed to warm the cockles of a Republican's heart:
The poll indicates that voter sentiment among Republicans is rising in the battleground states, while Democrats in those states are increasingly discouraged and detached.
About relative numbers of Democrats and Republicans, the poll finds:
A growing Republican base in contrast to a shrinking number of Democrats. Those who identify as Democrats in the swing states fell by 4 points since 2008, compared to a 5 point increase in voters who say they lean Republican.
Finally, the poll finds quite a gap between parties in voter enthusiasm:
Here too the Republicans hold a double-digit lead, with 61 percent saying they are extremely or very enthusiastic about voting for president compared to only 47 percent of Democrats.

The Mittster vs. Newtzilla

Jonah Goldberg writes conservative politics for the Los Angeles Times. Here he has a spritely but insightful look at the "stop Gingrich" movement among the conservative establishment.

The entire article is good, but you will particularly like Goldberg's conclusion:
Mitt Romney is still the sensible choice if you believe these are rough, but generally sensible, times. If, however, you think these are crazy and extraordinary times, then perhaps they call for a crazy, extraordinary — very high-risk, very high-reward — figure like Gingrich.
This helps explain why Newtzilla is so formidable. In order to stop him, you need to explain to very anxious GOP voters that the times don't require him.
Mitt has a shot at making that point. If only Mitt didn't remind us of poor, sincere Bob Dole.

Bolton at State?

Newt Gingrich has indicated that, if elected president, he will appoint hawkish conservative John Bolton as Secretary of State. See an article from The Nation, recycled in Yahoo News, that looks upon this promise with the extreme distaste of an Obama supporter.

Gingrich understands the culture at State to be more than a little anti-American. He believes members of our diplomatic corps absorb their world views from the diplomats of other nations who would rather the U.S. did not act like what it is - the world's only superpower.

A New Diaspora?

Roughly 10% of Egypt's 82 million people are Christians, mostly Copts. Given the resurgence of Islamist political parties in the recent elections, this minority is feeling distinctly nervous. See this Los Angeles Times article for more.

Unhappy conditions like these tend to cause minorities to emigrate, if they can. Europe might prefer Egyptian Christians to the Muslim immigrants they have now. How about a swap?

CSM: 3 Doomsday Scenarios

Want to have ugly dreams? The Christian Science Monitor has identified three "doomsday scenarios" that could happen in the not-too-distant future. They are the meltdown of nuclear Pakistan, naval conflict with China over Taiwan, and the collapse of nuclear North Korea.

In this article, CSM plays out what each scenario might entail. Each of the three is nastily believable.

All three are taken from a book by Andrew Krepinevich entitled 7 Deadly Scenarios: A Military Futurist Explores War in the 21st Century. Enjoy....

Monday, December 12, 2011

Income Inequality Irrelevant

Ramesh Ponnuru, writing for Bloomberg, says voters don't share Obama's fixation on income inequality, and provides proof:
When the National Opinion Research Center asked people whether they believed the government has a responsibility “to reduce the differences in income between people with high incomes and those with low incomes,” in 2008, only 37 percent agreed. Forty-three percent disagreed, and 20 percent had no opinion.
When pollsters ask people to name the top issue facing the country, almost nobody volunteers inequality, notes Karlyn Bowman, an opinion-research analyst at the American Enterprise Institute. “I’ve literally never seen it cross the 1 percent threshold,” she says.
In other words, it's no big deal.

Preadults

Philip Brand's article entitled "Women on Top, Men on the Bottom" is sort of a book review, sort of an autobiographical "I'd Come of Age If I Could Figure Out How or Why" essay for RealClearBooks. It examines the difficulty young men are having in finding their place in American society and isn't a bad read.

Canada Dumps Kyoto

The Canadian government has formally withdrawn from the Kyoto Climate Protocols, according to a USA Today article. Environment minister Peter Kent made the following statement:
To meet the targets under Kyoto for 2012 would be the equivalent of either removing every car, truck, ATV, tractor, ambulance, police car and vehicle of every kind from Canadian roads or closing down the entire farming and agriculture sector and cutting heat to every home, office, hospital, factory and building in Canada.
Do you suppose all of that is true? Canadians aren't particularly known for hyperbole but heating has to be a big deal in cold Canada.

Germany vs. Britain

Take a look at some quotes of German Eurocrats vis-a-vis the U.K.'s decision not to join the EU fiscal treaty:
German Euro MP Martin Schulz who is due to become President of the European Parliament next year, said: “I doubt in the long term whether Britain will stay in the EU."

Elmar Brok, a senior German Christian Democrat Euro MP, said the EU “must now marginalise Britain, so that the country comes to feel its loss of influence.”

Daniel Cohn-Bendit, leader of the Green Euro MPs in the European Parliament, said: “Now we must put pressure on the British and force them, by implementing tough regulations on financial markets, to decide if they want out of the EU or stay inside.”
Do we see here the grievances from which will spring World War III? Source for these quotes is the Express (U.K.).

Quote of the Day

Jed Babbin in the American Spectator, discussing the Newt vs. Mitt race:
Let's face it: Mitt Romney is the Republican version of Al Gore. Even people who are predisposed to liking him can't seem to get there.
Mitt has the charisma deficit problem.

Gone to Texas

In its Business section, The Sacramento Bee reports on Waste Connections, which is
the largest publicly-held company based in the Sacramento area, as measured by its $3.6 billion market capitalization.
The firm is moving its corporate headquarters from Sacramento to The Woodlands, Texas. Regular COTTonLINE readers will have anticipated the reason for the move:
The company, one of the fastest-growing public companies in the Sacramento area, has been threatening for months to move, saying it was unhappy with the business climate in California.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Cultural Barriers

Sylvia Ann Hewlett writes for Time that educated women are underutilized in Japan. They are less likely to be working and more likely to leave the workforce voluntarily.

This in a country with a rapidly aging population and tough barriers against the immigration of replacement workers. In other words, Japan needs women's workforce participation.

Hewlett doesn't much emphasize the cultural barriers forcing Japanese men and women into very separate roles, particularly at work. Changing a culture is no easy task.

Climate "Science" Questioned

Writing in the Toronto Sun, John Robson makes the point that we simply don't know what causes climate variation. Historian Robson chronicles some of those early climate changes.

Climate varied dramatically, long before humans had the ability to do anything to affect it. We don't know what caused those variations, we know is wasn't us.

Since we don't know what caused climatic variation in the past, we are unlikely to know what will cause it today. That includes whether or not human activities will influence it. To call climate speculations "climate science" is serious exaggeration.

Downer Forecast

Peter Orszag, President Obama's former budget director, now vice-chairman of Citibank, speaking of U.S. economic problems:
The truth is that we don’t know how to fix the US labour market – we are in uncharted territory. It would help to spend more on retraining and on infrastructure and to have a more rational immigration system. But these wouldn’t fundamentally transform the situation for the middle class ... It is not yet clear what, if anything, could.
"Uncharted territory" is a scary place to be. The Orszag quote comes from a Financial Times article by Edward Luce; the article is worth your time.

Friedman Misses the Point

The New York Times' Tom Friedman is often very good writing about foreign affairs, particularly the Middle East where he worked for several years. He isn't good writing about domestic politics and economics - too lefty and interventionist.

Here he talks about how, to get reelected, President Obama needs to propose big things to be done for jobs in his second term. Friedman is disappointed that it appears Obama will not do that.

Friedman doesn't get it that such sweeping proposals might have worked four years ago, but cannot work in a re-election campaign. If Obama proposes big things now, he exposes himself to charges of "you've needed to do this for the last four years, why should we believe you will do it in the next four?"

Another Debate

There was a GOP debate last night in Des Moines, Iowa, and Gingrich is widely thought to have come through it in good shape. That is the consensus of a Politico article and another by RealClearPolitics.

Romney didn't have a particularly good night. He harassed Newt about being a "career politician" to which Newt replied to Mitt:
The only reason you didn't become a career politician is you lost to Teddy Kennedy in 1994,
Ouch! That was the same year Newt's Contract with America swept more than 50 new Republicans into the House of Representatives.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Newt: Live Through It

Newt Gingrich, being interviewed by Newsweek, about the experience of running for president:
If you get to this point, and you’re now arguably the frontrunner, you’ve gotta expect that everybody and his brother’s gonna come at you from a hundred different angles. And the question is, when they get done, are you still standing? So you relax, and you live through it.
This rings very true to those of us who've been listening to Gingrich for 20 years. It's an interesting interview.

The last line is what I'd say on my way to a root canal.

Quote of the Day

Brian Calle, writing in the Orange County Register (CA) about the Golden State's continuing budgetary problems:
California does not have a revenue problem, it has a spending problem.
The quote is perfect; however the entire article is worthwhile for those who follow and/or care about California and its future.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Cause and Effect

On the PBS News Hour tonight there was a Paul Solman piece on the research that shows conservatives are somewhat happier than liberals. The question raised was "what is there about conservatism that makes people happier?"

This research has been correlational which means that happiness and conservatism covary, when one increases, the other increases. Correlational studies do not demonstrate causality. If A is related to B, if they are correlated, then A might cause B, or B might cause A, or some unknown factor X might cause them both.

The program took the view that being conservative made one happier, while being liberal made one less happy. What if the reverse were true? What if being happy made one more conservative and being unhappy made one progressive or interested in change.

I think this latter notion is much more reasonable. Happy people see change as a threat to their happy status quo, and become conservative - anti-change. Unhappy people see change as an opportunity to become happier and blame the unhappy status quo for their gloom.

Polar Bear Attack

I don't know the source of these photos, perhaps Ron & Virginia Monroe whose names were on the copy I got. A long-time friend sent it as one of the zillion email things people share.

It is entirely too charming and really fits with the Christmas season. Is it Knut?

Improving Education

Roland Fryer, winner of a MacArthur "genius grant," has published findings to which school boards across the country should pay attention. You can find the working paper here on the National Bureau of Economic Research website, and a more descriptive article in The Atlantic by Jordan Weissmann.

First, what did not correlate with improved test scores: per-pupil expenditures, class size, teacher certification, and teacher advanced degrees. In summary, the school's resources.

Instead, what did correlate with improved test scores: teacher feedback, data-driven instruction, tutoring, instructional time, and high expectations. In summary, the school's culture.

After recognizing that correlation does not prove causation, Weissmann's conclusion is balanced:
It's easier for schools to offer intensive tutoring, extra classroom time, and teacher coaching when there's enough money to go around. (snip) But Fryer's findings show that money alone isn't enough. Neither are sterling teaching credentials. It's what you do with them that makes a difference for students.

Barone: TR He's Not

Michael Barone, here writing for The Washington Examiner, examines the President's speech in Osawatomie, Kansas, and finds it embarrassingly wanting. Instead of echoes of Teddy Roosevelt's speech in that location, Barone finds factual errors, warmed-over policy ploys, and more tiresome, counterproductive class warfare. His conclusion stings:
Those who pride themselves on belonging to the party of smart people should be embarrassed.

Quote of the Day

Christian Whiton, writing for Fox News on the topic of why the New York/Washington Republican establishment is opposed to Speaker Gingrich:
He is not proposing to replace the Democratic piano player at the brothel that is Washington with a slightly sterner-sounding Republican. Instead, he claims he will close the brothel.
And the establishment of his own party just knows that can’t happen. In their lives, it never has. And (if it does happen) where are they then to go?
They would have jobs in a Romney administration; perhaps not in a Gingrich administration?

Pundits Distrust Newt

The conservative punditry is virtually unanimous in distancing itself from the candidacy of Newt Gingrich. This Politico article summarized their thinking, and it is surely most of the top columnists on the right. You should read what they've been saying, it isn't pretty.

Euro Update

BBC News reports updated status on the so-called "EU fiscal treaty." Overnight, three of the four holdouts - Sweden, Hungary, and the Czech Republic - have decided to ask their parliaments whether to join.

EU treaties must have the unanimous consent of all 27 members. Because the U.K. will not join, the fiscal treaty will in fact be a treaty between governments which 'coincidentally' are EU members.

One wonders if this is the first step in the U.K. withdrawing from the EU? The U.K.'s ideal position would be within the customs union but outside the rest of the Brussels-based folderol.

It isn't clear if the EU will live with "cafeteria-style" membership for the U.K. It sets an uncomfortable precedent.

Noonan: Gingrich Own Worst Enemy

The Wall Street Journal's Peggy Noonan takes a Washington insider's look at former Speaker Newt Gingrich and finds his nature too volatile for her tastes. She sees, and cops to his strengths, but makes the point that those who actually know him aren't for him.

I wonder if what is going on is that Newt is difficult to work with, perhaps very difficult. The "insiders" know they're the ones who will end up having to work with a new Republican president; you and I won't be on the White House frequent visitors list.

I certainly agree with Noonan that Gingrich is a risky bet. I wish she'd agree with me that Romney is a boring bet. And I don't see Plan C on the horizon.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Euro Agonies...Continued

Seventeen nations which use the euro currency, and six more which may eventually hope to do so, have tentatively agreed on the outline of a budgetary treaty. The proposed treaty would cause the signatory nations to give up significant fiscal sovereignty, with the aim of enabling the euro to continue to exist.

The nations not agreeing to go along include the United Kingdom, Sweden, Hungary, and Czech Republic. Both Sweden and the U.K. have chosen not to adopt the euro.

Details of the treaty are still to be refined, and some approval process will be required in the various member nations. Such approval is by no means guaranteed; there is some history of EU treaties being turned down. See the Associated Press article at Yahoo News.

Asia Watch

A post on the blog of Small Wars Journal raises an interesting possibility: relatively soon some sort of abrupt change in China. The post admits most planners are not worried yet.

This is a heads-up for our readers who are China watchers and investors. BTW, if the change was violent, and affected 1/5 of the world's populace, it could hardly be called a "small war," could it?

Misaligned

In National Journal, Major Garrett has insights about ways he believes Romney is "misaligned" with the GOP, ideas that you may find useful:
Romney is Northeastern, ideologically flexible, linked to and familiar with Wall Street ways, supported by party establishmentarians, and has never had anything but a glancing relationship with the grass roots (tea party or otherwise) of his party.
Whereas Garrett describes the current GOP as:
A party that’s never been more Southern and Western, ideologically conservative, and viscerally hostile to Beltway or Wall Street know-it-alls.
Garrett leaves out one important component of "Western" which is the concentration of Mormons in the Mountain West. They are likely to vote for Romney over Gingrich.

Also, who better portrays a Beltway know-it-all than Newt? Just saying....

Twisting the Knife

I have just read the best analysis of the current Republican presidential nomination race I've seen so far this year, and I've read more than a few. Written by Sean Trende of RealClearPolitics, it explains the "anybody but Romney" phenomenon in a way that really works for me, you should read it for yourself. First he says:
I think Romney’s problem isn’t that Republicans dislike him. It’s that no one loves him.
That certainly explains my feelings. If Mitt is nominated I'll vote for him, but without much enthusiasm. So what do Republican voters want? Trende says:
Republicans don’t look back at 1980 and 1984 fondly just because Reagan won. They do so because he crushed a president they had come to loathe.(snip) With Obama, there is a similar, if not deeper loathing, a sense that he is a charlatan whom the media has been covering for consistently over the past five years.
About the Gingrich interest, Trende concludes Republican voters want a fighter:
Many Republicans sense that Gingrich wouldn’t just play it safe. (snip) They see a candidate who would bludgeon Obama in debates, humiliate him in the campaign, and then spend four years twisting the knife into the liberal intelligentsia. (snip) In other words, they see something to love.

Quote of the Day

Peter Wehner, writing in Commentary, about the issues of our day:
The great divide between conservatives and liberals today is over equality of opportunity versus equality of outcome.
Fairly stated. Our belief: When you give people things they have not earned, it ruins them.

More Parallels

He may, of course, be the man of drive and energy the country believes him to be and he may be able to speed up our creaking military and industrial machinery; but it is a terrible risk, it involves the danger of rash and spectacular exploits, and I cannot help fearing that this country may be maneuvered into the most dangerous position it has ever been in.
Doesn't that resemble what a lot of good people are saying about Newt Gingrich? I think so, as does Steven Hayward who writes for National Review.

It was written about Churchill in 1940. Hayward cites the diary of John Colville, a Churchill contemporary.

Hayward is making the point that the widely held view of Churchill, when he first became prime minister, is very like what is now being said about Gingrich, and with equal justice.

COTTonLINE has noted Gingrich-Churchill parallels on November 13 and 27, 2011, and again last Saturday. Had Churchill died in 1937, his biographer would have concluded that on balance, his career ended in failure after early promise.

The Hayward article also includes a wonderful Oval Office Reagan quote:
Newt - there are some things you all are going to have to do after I'm gone.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Truly Odd Science

Some see a spaceship orbiting Mercury, others think it is Mercury itself. Apparently something makes the sun's "coronal mass ejection" act oddly in that vicinity and those who want to, see a spaceship.

Parenthetic thought: don't we all "want to?" I guess not, they could be bad guys. See the article at Yahoo News.

Quite Good News

In National Journal I just read the following headline: "Battleground-State Voters Leaving the Democratic Party." That was the title of a column by Josh Kraushaar, a column of essentially unalloyed good news.

That people are leaving the Democrat party at this time shouldn't be surprising. In 2008 lots of people registered Democrat in order to participate in the historic election of the first black president. His reelection is much more ho-hum, not particularly historic.

In 2008 it was "hope and change," in 2012 it is "how has he done?" Sadly for our country, the answer is "not so good."

Most of those leaving the Dems are not registering GOP but either registering Ind or not registering. From a GOP point of view, either works. In 2012 we could have another 2010 "wave;" it wouldn't hurt our feelings.