Friday, March 30, 2012

Middle Class Blues

Geoff Colvin writes for Fortune about the economic problems of the middle class in the U.S. It is his contention that the difficulty is a failure of the middle class to keep up with the educational and technological requirements of the workplace.

The article is based on a book by two Harvard economists, Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz, entitled The Race Between Education and Technology. Their thesis is the following:
The economy continually demands higher-level skills from workers, they argue, and for most of the 20th century the U.S. workforce kept up. (snip) Then, in the 1970s, America's level of education stopped rising. The high school graduation rate peaked at 77% in 1969 and has since dropped to about 69%; college rates, too, stopped rising. The economy kept demanding more workers with advanced skills, but we stopped producing more. (snip) Result: The minority of workers with advancing skills became more valuable, while the broad middle got flat or even falling pay.
Education stopped keeping up with workplace requirements during the Vietnam protest era. Public high schools in the U.S. stopped insisting that students learn or leave. Educators lost their sense of moral authority, their willingness to demand student performance. Since that time our high schools have been a sad travesty of what they once were.

Youth Not Motivated

Imagine that your uncle, a person you've known all your life, suddenly decides he is the messiah. Would you have trouble believing him?

That's the kind of sales job Obama will have to do with young voters, who've known him as president for the last four years. Maybe they'll decide he's better than the other guy might be, but the enthusiasm and excitement, the sense of endless possibility won't be there.

says their polling data shows young people, on college campuses and elsewhere, are much less motivated by the 2012 election. This does not bode well for Team Obama, which relied on motivated young voters in 2008.

I wouldn't predict young voters will vote for the GOP nominee. However they very well might stay home in large numbers, as they so often have done in the past.

It is one thing to believe a new man may make everything better, and quite another to believe that four additional years of the same guy is likely to be much better than his first four years. That requires a considerable leap of faith.

Quote of the Day

Molly Bell, writing in The Atlantic about Obamacare's troubles in the Supreme Court:
If part or all of the health care reform law is thrown out, a central goal of the progressive project will have been dealt a possibly fatal setback. (snip) For liberals and their allies, it will be a crushing blow from which there is no easily foreseeable recovery.
I sincerely hope she's right, for a change.

Azeri Bases

Israel has made friends with Azerbaijan and may have access to old Soviet air bases there for use in air attacks on Iran. Needless to say the Azeris have denied this and the Israelis have no comment.

Such bases increase the likelihood of an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear plants. See the article in Foreign Policy.

Kotkin: The Tigers Have Few Cubs

COTTonLINE's favorite demographer, Joel Kotkin, has written an appreciation of the situation in Asia's Tigers: Japan, China, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. What situation? The too-low birth rate situation.

I notice he leaves out India, which hasn't yet experienced a declining birthrate. Low birthrates are a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't proposition for developing nations. Find the article at Forbes.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Noonan on Obama: Update

The Wall Street Journal's Peggy Noonan writes a column about how President Obama has lost the personal good will he had among those who opposed his policies. Perhaps you'll enjoy the way she ends this column about Obama:
Really, he cannot win the coming election. But the Republicans, still, can lose it. At this point in the column we usually sigh.
Peggy has written from the heart, as she often does.

Politico Calls It

If in June the Supremes kill the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, it will be a disaster for Obama. So sayeth the analysts at Politico in this article:
Tally it among the greatest losses -- in terms of opportunity cost -- since LBJ bled his presidency in Southeast Asia. Moreover, whatever tactical advantage a SCOTUS loss would confer on Obama and the Democrats would be more than offset by the jolt of enthusiasm it gives to the Republican base. It’s empowering. A win is a win. It makes Republicans feel better about themselves.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

PRI Rebound

The PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party) candidate has a lead in the polls ahead of Mexico's presidential election in July. The PRI ran Mexico for 70 years until the PAN (National Action Party) took over about 12 years ago. See the Reuters article at Yahoo News.

We shall see whether Mexico has evolved politically to the point where leadership of the country can peacefully pass from one party to another, back and forth, as it does in the U.S. I'd like to believe they have reached that point, but it's too early to be certain. The transition from PRI to PAN was peaceful.

One interesting feature of the 2012 presidential race is that the PAN has nominated a woman, Josefina Vazquez Mota. That is an interesting tactic in a country noted for machismo.

Talkin' About the Weather

California had spring-like weather for most of the winter just ended, now is having what passes for winter weather in these parts so far in the spring. Guess what? Climate is variable, get over it.

There are wet years and dry, warm years and cold, windy years and calm, and that's just within a lifetime. Take a longer view and you find ice ages and warm spells. Go to any national park in the Rockies and listen to their geologists point out the U shaped glacier-carved valleys, so different in appearance from the V shaped river cut valleys.

Earth has had ice ages before and, unless you know something I don't, will likely have them in our future. Earth has had warm eras, much warmer than today, and that too is documented. Best of all, Earth experienced all of this variability without significant human intervention.

Can we humans influence global weather? Maybe, there is no way to be sure. Assuming we are responsible for "global whatever" (warming, change, or cooling) strikes me as hubris.

It's the sort of assumption made by people who spend their lives in large cities. Who therefore have no real sense of how thinly we humans are spread across the face of this globe.

I've cruised across the Atlantic and Pacific oceans going for several days without seeing another ship, not one. Or driven for hours across the middle of the U.S. without seeing more than the occasional farm. Most of this planet is being left alone to do whatever it naturally does, without our help or hindrance.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Even More Good News

A McClatchy-Marist poll finds that after all the GOP primary cut and thrust, all the attack ads, all the misstatements and gaffes, they can still report the following:
Republican presidential front-runner Mitt Romney is still neck and neck with President Barack Obama in a hypothetical general election matchup.
This tells us that in November Santorum and Gingrich primary voters will vote for nominee Romney. As long as the GOP doesn't nominate a nutcase - which Romney demonstrably is not - the overwhelming, unifying motive is to retire Obama.

Cheney Has Heart

The press is reporting that Dick Cheney has received a heart transplant at age 71 after 20 months on the waiting list. That was a long wait for a national figure who has experienced four decades of heart trouble.

Early reports are that Cheney's doing well in recovery. At COTTonLINE we wish him a speedy return to health and activity. It is our opinion that Cheney has been a great influence for our national good.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Steyn: The Deficit Sucks

Mark Steyn, writing for National Review Online, says Paul Ryan's tough budget plan is really nothing of the sort. He crunches numbers and concludes it is not tough enough. That in fact our economy is headed for the toilet, in a hurry.

We all know how Steyn likes doom and gloom. This an example of vintage Steyn, at his gloomiest and most doomful. Is he right? Are we on the precipice? Probably. Worse luck, he normally is right.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Fun With Numbers

The New York Times reports the Associated Press numbers for delegates earned by each of the four candidates for the GOP presidential nomination. Romney has 568, Santorum has 273, Gingrich has 135, and Paul has 50. A minimum of 1144 are needed for nomination.

Romney has more than twice as many delegates as Santorum, who has more than twice as many as Gingrich, who has more than twice as many as Paul. Romney is just 8 delegates shy of halfway to an 1144 majority. He has more delegates than the other three guys combined, 568 vs. 458.

On the other hand, when you look at how many votes each has received, the spread is tighter. RealClearPolitics reports the following numbers: Romney 4,127,915; Santorum 2,850,541; Gingrich 2,212,001; and Paul 1,079,751.

Romney has 55% of the delegates, but has only gotten roughly 40% of the votes cast. It's the 60% voting "other-than-Romney" that encourages Rick and Newt and keeps them in the race. Ron Paul as a spokesperson of the libertarian cause seems not to care a lot about winning.

Louisiana Results

Santorum's win in Louisiana yesterday was as clear-cut and decisive as Romney's in Illinois, perhaps a touch moreso. See the Associated Press results from Google below:
  • 49.0% Santorum
  • 26.7% Romney
  • 15.9% Gingrich
  • 06.1% Paul
  • 02.3% Other
Those pundits who say that as a nation we are becoming more and more polarized geographically and by social class certainly seem to have a point. Oddly, it is the same division the Democrats had in 2008 when Obama appealed to the uppers and Clinton to the lowers.

Meanwhile, Gingrich has failed to win three consecutive Southern states: Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. Nor has he shown strength in non-Southern states.

An educated man, Newt must understand that he now embodies the concept "quixotic." It is time to bow out, and it's frankly too late for him to do it gracefully.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

We Differ

Leon Hadar has written an intriguing article for Singapore Business Times here republished by RealClearWorld. His thesis is that American values and beliefs are not automatically attractive to the rest of the world. I believe he's right.

As an example, he points out is that Afghanis were much more incensed by Koran burning than by the murder of 16 Afghan civilians by, apparently, a U.S. soldier gone berserk. Their reactions made perfect sense to them, no sense to us. We'd have reacted exactly oppositely.

On the other hand, Afghanis routinely sexually molest male children and murder women to protect family honor. They think these behaviors normal; we are appalled.

Hadar's conclusion is that the U.S. should not try to "sell" our values into other nations. Our best sales pitch, he believes, is to do a really good job of running our own country so that others will decide they should try what is so obviously working for us, that is, for the U.S.

Do you hear in this argument echos of Ron Paul's foreign policy? I believe I do.

I will admit I am finished with nation building - enough already. If we need to punish foreign trouble-makers for causing us grief, do it kinetically and leave a smoking abattoir behind as an object lesson. They can build their nation without our help.

Film Review

This evening the DrsC viewed the 2011 Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy with Gary Oldman. I say "we" but in truth it was mostly "I." The other DrC slept through at least half of it.

The problem with the film is that it is excessively true to the John le Carre' book, which was a slow read back in the day. I believe the hyper-fidelity was because le Carre' was involved in the filming.

Oldman as George Smiley spends most of the movie owlishly staring at people and things through his glasses, saying little and emoting even less. If you haven't read the book you'll think he does a terrible job, except that is how le Carre' wrote the Smiley character.

The film has little action, many flashbacks, an overall gloomy, smokey, depressive feel. The characters all smoke too much and lie to each other. If I didn't know different I'd think it was a Swedish film.

We purchased the DVD so I will watch it again a couple of times to sort out all the murky craziness. I like spy films but Tinker, Tailor isn't going to be one of my favorite films.

Friday, March 23, 2012


Charles Murray, writing in The Wall Street Journal about the solution to our cultural degradation:
Reasonably healthy working-age males who aren't working or even looking for work, who live off their girlfriends, families or the state, must once again be openly regarded by their fellow citizens as lazy, irresponsible and unmanly. Whatever their social class, they are, for want of a better word, bums.
Our problem, according to Murray, is our "nonjudgmentalism." It needs to stop being okay to live on unemployment when jobs are out there. This whole article is excellent.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Can This Be True?

Medco Health Solutions is a large by-mail prescription drug vendor. Their market is supplying Rx drugs in 90 day batches to people who take those drugs to control an on-going condition like high blood pressure, not to cure an episodic illness like strep throat.

Medco has done a massive study which finds 25% of U.S. women take one or more prescription drugs for mental health issues. On the other hand, the number of men taking such drugs is a still-high 15%.

Imagine it, one woman in four has mental health issues requiring medication. Can it be that difficult to be a woman in this country?

Frankly, even 15% sounds like over-prescribing by American doctors. You can find articles about this study here in Yahoo News or here in The Wall Street Journal (subscription required).

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Scary Business

As a professor, I always knew it was possible to have a student who was actually, clinically insane. It didn't happen often but as hundreds of students passed through my classrooms, it did happen.

Mostly such sad individuals just dropped out; here is the story of one who didn't. Fortunately she was not my student. It happened at Florida Atlantic University, see the article in the University Press. Hat tip to for the link.

In my experience disturbed students mostly showed up at urban commuter schools. Happily, I spent most of my career at a residential campus in a semi-rural setting so I rarely met them.

A Potter Problem

I was listening to Jim Dale read Harry Potter 3, aka Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban in the car a couple of days ago and ran into one of those "clangers" that happen when the continuity editor drops the ball. Here is the set-up from roughly page 347,

The three kids - Harry, Ron, and Hermione - are in the Shrieking Shack with Sirius Black when Professor Lupin appears, saying he spotted Peter Pettigrew (aka Wormtail or Scabbers) on the Marauder's Map which was left in his custody. Lupin says he saw Pettigrew with Ron, being dragged under the Whomping Willow by Sirius, on their way to the Shrieking Shack.

Peter, an animagus who transforms into a rat, has in that guise spent the last 13 years as a Weasley family pet and the last three of those years riding around in Ron's pocket. The wizarding world meanwhile has believed Pettigrew dead, seemingly murdered by Sirius Black 13 years earlier.

If Lupin can see Pettigrew on the Marauder's Map why hasn't Harry seen him as Harry has had the map since page 192, in other words for several months? It is impossible to imagine that Harry never looked to see where Ron is on the map. He would have seen Peter/Wormtail there beside Ron or in the dorm room Ron and Harry share with Neville and two other boys.

Lupin is one of the map's four cartographers. We are never told that he can see things on the map which other users cannot see, an easy enough fix for the problem. Oh, well...keeping all the details straight can't be easy.

A Dim View of Human Nature

David Brooks, writing for The New York Times, quotes David Buss of the University of Texas who takes a less-than-benign view of human nature:
We are descended from creatures who killed to thrive and survive. We’re natural-born killers and the real question is not what makes people kill but what prevents them from doing so.

Lionizing Aggrieved Groups

David Brooks, writing for The Weekly Standard about problems with modern museums:
Even in a publicly funded showcase institution like the Smithsonian Museum of American History, the displays are concerned less with illuminating historical events or history-making individuals than with lionizing aggrieved groups.
Heaven forbid groups should have hurt feelings or imagine themselves to be anything less than superior.

Immelt Not Feeling the Love

Remember the dismay when the CEO of General Electric, Jeffrey Immelt, decided to become an economic advisor to the Obama administration? He apparently has had second thoughts and is rumored to be supporting Mitt Romney in 2012.

Immelt and Obama always seemed an odd couple. See Charles Gasparino's article in the New York Post for details.

Quote of the Day

Ron Brownstein, writing for National Journal, about the continuing split in the Republican electorate:
For all the focus on Romney’s very real difficulty in capturing the most ardent conservatives, Santorum’s inability to reach beyond them looks like an even greater problem after his resounding defeat in another Midwestern battleground.
Cannot "ardent conservatives" be counted on to vote in November against Obama, whoever the GOP nominee may be? I believe so.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Romney Wins in Illinois

With 99% of the precincts reporting, these are the results for Illinios:
  • 46.7% Romney
  • 35.0% Santorum
  • 09.3% Paul
  • 08.0% Gingrich
  • 01.0% Other
Perhaps some of the predicted coalescing around a frontrunner is happening among Republican primary voters. Google is the source for these results, citing the Associated Press.

Obama Debt Doubles Bush Debt

CBS News reports disquieting Treasury Department data about the national debt:
The National Debt has now increased more during President Obama's three years and two months in office than it did during 8 years of the George W. Bush presidency.
For the mainstream media, which normally favors President Obama, that is a heck of a first sentence. Bush was a big-spending Republican and Obama is more than twice as bad - ouch.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Why Nations Fail

Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson have written an interesting article for The Montreal Review (believe it or not in English) about why nations succeed or fail. It appears to be an extract from their 2012 book also entitled Why Nations Fail.

They've found some very intriguing comparisons across borders, where the cultures are similar or identical but outcomes are very different. For example they compare North and South Korea, which had identical outcomes until the end of World War II.

They also compare Nogales north and south of the Mexican border, their blithe assumption of cultural similarity there is perhaps exaggerated as that border has existed for ca. 160 years, since the Gadsden Treaty. It is probably well that they concentrate on the North/South Korea comparison where the line dividing them is less than half that old.

In any event, they pin the blame for the development (or lack thereof) in nations upon the institutions those nations adopt. Their model is inclusive vs. extractive institutions and their argument is very pro-capitalism and pro-rule of law, these being characteristics of inclusive institutions.
----- 0 -----
I believe another cross-border comparison Acemoglu and Robinson might have made is between Chile and Argentina; countries of similar culture with different institutions and as a result substantially different outcomes. Their institutional divergence dates back to 1973 when Gen. Pinochet put Chile on a market-based economy thanks to some young economists who trained with Milton Friedman at U. of Chicago.

Of course it is seriously incorrect politically to approve of anything done by Gen. Pinochet. Oddly, we don't take quite the same view of the less-than-democratic Syngman Rhee and Park Chung-hee who seem to have done the same economic favors for South Korea that Pinochet did for Chile. Why do you suppose that is the case?

"Core" Is Overrated

Carl M. Cannon is the Washington editor for RealClearPolitics. If you have time for a semi-long article, Cannon has written an analysis of the degree to which many major politicians have flip-flopped on issues large and small. He starts out with Romney but ends up finding examples for Santorum, Gingrich, Bush, Clinton, and Obama too.

My favorite part of the article (scroll down) is Cannon's description of Romney temporarily shutting down his firm - Bain - so everybody could go to New York and successfully search for a partner's missing 14 year old daughter. If it doesn't choke you up, like the tin man you've got no heart.
“Our children is what life is all about,” Romney explained when asked why he simply closed the doors of a $1 billion company. “Everything else takes a back seat.”
Don't assume Mitt is extraordinary. I live in a part of Wyoming where most year-round residents are Mormons, although I'm not. In my experience what Mitt said is Mormon belief and practice.

Representative Government

I've been musing about how Mitt Romney can best deal with the Romneycare vs. Obamacare issue in the November election. Given their supposed similarity I believe his response should be based on "give the people what they want." Mitt might say something like the following:
The people of liberal Massachusetts wanted (and still want) what the press has chosen to call "Romneycare" so I helped them get it. For that I make no apology.
On the other hand, it is clear that the people of the U.S. do not want Obamacare and I will help you get rid of it, or at least those aspects of it you don't like. I believe my job as President is not to force you to put up with what I want, but to help you get what you want - that's why it's called "representative" government. You don't work for me, I work for you.

Numbers You'll Enjoy

The Hill has polling data which supports an opening paragraph you will enjoy:
Half of likely voters expect the Supreme Court to strike down President Obama’s signature healthcare law, and strong majorities see other major policies coming from the White House making life more difficult for themselves and the country, according to this week’s The Hill Poll.
Although the author does her best to find a bright side for Obama, the article cannot overcome the poll's negative numbers.

What If....

What if a move to more representative, even democratic, government in Muslim countries leads to more radical anti-Western policies? What if the men on the Arab street are more radical than their former autocratic rulers?

What if Middle Eastern countries were more likely to gradually move toward liberalization and human rights if the government did not reflect the wishes of the people? What if women's and minority rights deteriorate when the people choose the decision makers?

What if it turns out that American Secretaries of State and Presidents were right to deal with autocrats and kings, and even help them stay in power? What if we have wished for popularly elected governments for the region, are getting our wishes, and they turn out to be worse, more anti-American?

It certainly appears now that some of these "what ifs" will turn out to be true.

Obama Backed Down

On Friday, March 9, ten days ago, we wrote that Speaker Boehner told The Wall Street Journal's Peggy Noonan that the President backed out on a debt and tax reform deal. Boehner could be expected to tell his side of the story.

Now Politico's Jake Sherman describes the investigative reporting of The Washington Post showing Boehner was essentially telling the truth. Obama got cold feet and backed out of the deal. The Post story runs in yesterday's paper, authored by Peter Wallsten. We will hear more about this story.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Real Question

Ron Brownstein writes for National Journal that the GOP primary season will grind on since Romney can't reach the blue collar GOP populists and Santorum can't reach the up-scale GOP adherents. He's probably right.

Let's carry the analysis one further step. Suppose Romney gets the nomination, as virtually everyone predicts he will. Let's also accept Brownstein's analysis of to whom Romney and Santorum appeal. Now let's look at the November election: Obama will face Romney.

Romney and Obama will compete for the educated voter, each will get a share. Neither truly appeals to the blue-collar Santorum voter. The question now becomes, will the Santorum voter vote for Obama, vote for Romney, or stay home?

I believe Santorum primary voters want to oust Obama strongly enough to vote for Romney in November, perhaps with a "lesser of two evils" mindset. We will know the answer in eight months.

Time was that Democrats attracted large numbers of blue-collar union voters to whom Santorum might appeal. Most of those are gone. Today's union members are largely white collar government employees who will not vote for the GOP.

California's Blues

Historian Victor Davis Hanson spent many years teaching for public higher education in California, and is a knowledgable commentator on the state and its finances. Here he writes for National Review from the point of view of California college students complaining about their tuition increases and asks why the problem cannot be solved.

His basic conclusion, Californians got what they asked for forty years ago and it doesn't work. The students favor more government services and higher taxes on the "rich." However the number of rich in California has dropped dramatically, so higher taxes on them doesn't pay the bills.

In passing, Hanson makes one observation that is correct in my experience: the drastic (and unwarranted) increase in the number of administrators at the state's universities and colleges. My college at the university at which I taught for 30 years has escalated from one dean and three department chairs to one dean and three department chairs plus two associate deans, two assistant deans, and an advancement associate, whatever that is. Perhaps he or she is the partridge in the pear tree.

According to the university website, the number of people in my college's administration has more than doubled and yet its enrollment is not significantly larger. How can this be justified?

Quote of the Day

Brit Hume, senior Fox News analyst, describing the shortcomings of the Obama presidency:
Winners take responsibility. Losers blame others.
If we had good parents, this is something we've known since we were ten. Obama didn't have good parents, and it shows.

WSJ: In-Justice

Right-wing publications have alleged wrong-doing at the Department of Justice for some months. COTTonLINE has refrained from commenting on these as we view the sources as more opinion than news.

On the other hand, we view The Wall Street Journal as a straight-ahead news source. See what they say about it:
Something is very rotten at the U.S. Department of Justice. No other reasonable conclusion can be drawn from an independent report on the 2008 prosecution of then-Senator Ted Stevens.
Notice the date, they're criticizing the Bush administration's Department of Justice. Obama didn't take office until January, 2009.

This report raises the likelihood that the Justice Department under Obama appointee Holder has continued to be less-than-just, as a number of bloggers and conservative sources have alleged.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Primary Insight

Folk wisdom says we should be careful of what we wish for, lest we get our wish fulfilled and not like the outcome. Rick Santorum has urged Newt Gingrich to get out of the GOP primary, under the theory that Newt's supporters would switch to Santorum.

National Journal reports a Gallup poll which finds Gingrich voters would split evenly between Romney and Santorum, if Newt pulled out of the race. Perhaps Rick should be more circumspect in his wishes.

The poll result makes abundant sense to me. I was an early Gingrich supporter who switched to Romney.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Positioning Chess Pieces

Someone notices the USN is deploying four more minesweepers to the Persian Gulf and concludes we're getting serious about war with Iran. The author goes by the single name Galrahn.

Go here to see the Information Dissemination blogblurb, then check out the attached RFP. It looks somewhat persuasive, eh? Hat tip to RealClearWorld for the link.

The Actual Data

Last Tuesday I wrote that Rick Santorum is a social conservative but not a fiscal conservative, based on his senatorial voting record. I was lazy and didn't look up the actual data for you.

You're in luck; John Hinderaker of Powerline did the work, looked up Santorum's rating by the American Conservative Union and found that Santorum ranked just about in the middle of the 2006 Senate, the last year he served. See what Hinderaker writes:
Santorum was not one of the most conservative senators. On the contrary: while 20 Republicans had voting records that the ACU rated as more liberal than Santorum’s, 26 had voting records that were more conservative. (snip) While Santorum was a reliably conservative senator on social issues, he was not very conservative, for a Republican, on economic and fiscal issues.

Working Harder, Raising Less

Karl Rove writes a column for The Wall Street Journal on domestic politics, a subject with which he has demonstrated expertise. This week he describes Team Obama's difficulties in trying to raise the 1 billion dollars they've set as their 2012 goal, and the lack of enthusiasm those difficulties reflect. His conclusion is particularly pointed:
That virtually all Republicans and many independents consider Mr. Obama a failure is obvious. But many Democrats are disappointed with him, too. The president's difficulty in raising campaign cash is evidence of this. He is working a lot harder than he thought he would to raise a lot less than he had hoped.

Pew: Santorum Aversion

Via Yahoo News, The Week reports a Pew Research Center poll that finds as many as 1 in 5 Romney supporters would vote for Obama if Santorum was the nominee. To COTTonLINE that finding is not entirely a surprise.

How many more would boycott the election if the choices were Santorum vs. Obama? The boycotting group might well include at least one member of my household.

The Italian Disease

Italy is notorious for adult children continuing to live with their parents, sometimes for decades. Now this concept is spreading to the U.S., see the Christian Science Monitor article.

One thing this living arrangement does is further suppress the birth rate; a rate now at 2.05 births per woman in the U.S. as compared with 1.38 in Italy. Low birth rates create situations in which the taxes of few adult workers support many retirees, the situation now in Japan and most of Europe.

It could certainly be argued that a low birth rate is an unintended consequence of national development. Evidence points in that direction; see this Wikipedia website listing "sovereign states and dependent territories by fertility rate."

The U.S. birth rate remains relatively large for a developed nation because of our high level of (mostly illegal) immigration from undeveloped, high fertility nations.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

CA vs. TX

COTTonLINE has a continuing interest in the fate of California, which as we noted the other day, is still the nicest place in the U.S. to live if you must live in one location all year. We say that having lived in several other desirable U.S. locations.

National Review Online has an excellent article by Chuck DeVore, a former California state legislator and aerospace executive who now lives in Texas. He compares the governments and outcomes of California and Texas and shows how Texas has engineered much better governmental outcomes with relatively similar natural resource inputs and lower taxes.

Politics matter...less is more.

HI Results Final, Romney Wins

Mitt Romney won the caucuses in Hawaii, and not by the narrow margins seen in Alabama and Mississippi. See the results from CBS News:
  • 45% Romney
  • 25% Santorum
  • 18% Paul
  • 11% Gingrich
Of course, Hawaii normally votes Democratic whereas Alabama and Mississippi normally vote Republican.

More Primary Results

The week's key primaries were yesterday in Alabama and Mississippi. You are going to hear that Santorum won both contests, which appears to be technically true.

However, in Mississippi the differences among Gingrich, Santorum and Romney are quite small:
  • 32.9% Santorum
  • 31.3% Gingrich
  • 30.3% Romney
  • 04.4% Paul
The differences in Alabama are more somewhat more significant:
  • 34.5% Santorum
  • 29.3% Gingrich
  • 29.0% Romney
  • 05.0% Paul
I believe anyone not out to play gotcha would say that the top three candidates ran very close to even in both states. There was no clear favorite as each of the top three won roughly 3 in 10 of the primary votes. Source for the Associated Press data is Google.

Preliminary results from the caucuses in Hawaii show Ron Paul doing better, perhaps coming in third. With 36% of precincts reporting Mitt Romney is leading. Again this is Associated Press data on Google.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Quote of the Day

Heather MacDonald writing in The New York Times about disproportionate incarceration rates for African-Americans:
Black boys in particular bring enormous anger to school with them and disproportionately act out against authority. Higher discipline rates for black students reflect this reality.
An unusual theme to see in the liberal Times.

About Time....

Somebody finally said what I've been thinking...that Rick Santorum is not a fiscal conservative. That it was Mitt Romney saying it could make the statement suspect, but should not. See the article at RealClearPolitics.

Santorum is a no-joke social conservative, no argument there. What he's not is a fiscal conservative. You can't trust him to be careful with your money. His record in the Senate makes that clear. Just sayin'....

Polls: Obama Popularity Down

Two recent polls report that President Obama's popularity has dropped. The Washington Post/ABC News poll reports as follows:
The poll found that 46 percent of respondents said they either strongly or somewhat approve of the president's job performance, while 50 percent say they strongly or somewhat disapprove. That's a reversal from last month when 50 percent approved and 46 percent didn't.
Illustrating those findings were not a fluke, The New York Times/CBS News poll reports even worse numbers:
Mr. Obama’s approval rating dropped substantially in recent weeks, the poll found, with 41 percent of respondents expressing approval of the job he is doing and 47 percent saying they disapprove — a dangerous position for any incumbent seeking re-election.
CBS News adds this historical note:
President Obama's approval rating has hit the lowest level ever in CBS News polling.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Delegate Counting

Maggie Haberman of Politico looks at the GOP delegate accumulation process and then poses the key question:
Whether Mitt Romney’s clear delegate lead can be overcome by the two rivals vying to be the conservative alternative, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum.
Her answer is terse and to the point:
The reality of the situation? Probably not.
The rest of the article is a useful explanation of how she reaches that conclusion.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

AL, MS Up Next

Alabama and Mississippi are next in the GOP primary schedule. Rasmussen Reports poll finds what amounts to a three-way tie in Alabama whereas Romney is ahead by 8 percentage points in Mississippi. I wonder if the difference is the result of former Mississippi governor Haley Barbour being a Romney supporter?

Santorum Wins KS Apathy Caucus

The state of Kansas has a population of roughly 2,870,000. Of these nearly three million people, 745,000 are registered Republicans, 460,000 are Democrats, and 490,000 are independents.

Of these 745,000 Republicans, an amazingly small 30,000 bothered to attend the Republican caucuses today. That is 4%. Four out of every 100 Kansas Republicans thought influencing the identity of the party's eventual nominee for president worth their time and effort on a March Saturday morning with the 60 degree weather feeling like spring.

Of those 30,000 Republicans Santorum won the support of half, a respectable showing. See a Yahoo News article for details.

I conclude that primaries and caucuses measure different things. Primary elections measure willingness to vote for a particular candidate. Caucuses measure willingness to work for a candidate.

These are quite different things. Caucuses are much more a modern version of the old smoked filled room; letting the party activists choose the candidate. Primary elections amount to letting the voters choose the candidate.

Decent arguments can be made in favor of each method. I personally prefer primaries.

Governments in Peril

CNN World has a "massively multi-player online consultancy" they call Wikistrat. They posed the following question to that online community:
Is the Arab Spring over? Or are there other countries that might rise up in the year ahead?
The collective wisdom of that consultancy came up with four possible places of instability, they are: Algeria, Bahrain, Greater Kurdistan, and Saudi Arabia. For a wild card, they would add either North Sudan or Ethiopia.

COTTonLINE agrees that in the coming year Algeria and Bahrain look possible, believes Saudi Arabia and Greater Kurdistan are less so, and our wild cards would include Nigeria, and Yemen. Turkey would be a real long shot, depending on PM Erdogan's health.

Happy Poll Results

Scott Rasmussen's Rasmussen Reports for today, Saturday, March 10, has some excellent findings in the hypothetical horse race presidential polling:
48% Romney
43% Obama
And if that wasn't enough fun, Rasmussen also reports finding:
46% Santorum
45% Obama
No, I don't know why both sets of percentages total to 101%, Rasmussen doesn't say. Rounding to the nearest whole number, I suppose.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Noonan and Boehner

Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan interviews Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner. Be prepared for a number of long sighs on his part.

Surprisingly, he reports more problems with senior members than he has with Tea Party freshman members. And he clearly suggests the President backed down on a "go big" tax and debt reform negotiation.

If you follow the ins and outs of Washington lawmaking, you'll enjoy this look "under the hood."

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Argentine Economics Report

Argentina is that country in Latin America which should be most prosperous, but is not. Read an overview of the Argentine economy's current problems, in PJ Media.

When we were last there our guide said he insisted on keeping his savings in U.S. dollars or euros, and not in Argentine banks, either. Pretty clearly savvy locals understand the dangers of hyperinflation and government currency manipulation.

Quote of the Day

Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer, quoting a White House official about the administration's policy towards Israel and Iran:
We’re trying to make the decision to attack as hard as possible for Israel.
Clearly the future of Israel is not of paramount importance to administration policy makers. Israel can be pardoned for having somewhat different priorities.

A Missing Factor

Mary Anastasia O'Grady writes a column on Latin America for The Wall Street Journal. Most recently she writes (subscription required for access) about the growing middle class in Mexico, summarizing the viewpoints of two Mexican co-authors Luis de la Calle and Luis Rubio who see Mexico as:
A nation where many politicians still think of the electorate as rural and poor but where consumption patterns reveal a trend toward urbanization and upward mobility. Judging by family incomes but also by things like housing rental and ownership, appliance purchases, Internet access and trips to the cinema they argue that today "the middle-class population is the majority in Mexico."

This has occurred "by combining the income of various family members [including remittances from abroad] rather than through the increased income of an individual or couple." In other words, Mexico has not achieved the wage gains generally associated with a rising middle class.
If the middle-class population is now the majority in Mexico it is true in substantial part because Mexico has exported millions of its poor to the United States. This factor O'Grady doesn't mention.

What Did It All Mean?

I've spent considerable time this afternoon reading various opinion piece responses to the Super Tuesday results. Some say Romney did well and should be considered the presumptive nominee. Others note that Romney's opponents got, collectively, a lot of votes although overall less than half.

What should we conclude? Namely, that all of the candidates on both parties are flawed individuals. Can you imagine that President Obama failed to win the Democrat primary in 15 Oklahoma counties? It's true, see the Yahoo News story from the Associated Press.

I believe Romney will be the eventual nominee but will be somewhat battered by the other three until he reaches the prize. What this means about his electability in November is anybody's guess.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Raison d'Etre

Friday's Wall Street Journal, honoring the late conservative blogger and new media whiz Andrew Breitbart, reprinted (link requires subscription) the following quote from his recent book Righteous Indignation: Excuse Me While I Save the World:
If the political left weren't so joyless, humorless, intrusive, taxing, overtaxing, anarchistic, controlling, rudderless, chaos-prone, pedantic, unrealistic, hypocritical, clueless, politically correct, angry, cruel, sanctimonious, retributive, redistributive, intolerant - and if the political left weren't hell-bent on expansion of said unpleasantness into all aspects of my family's life - the truth is, I would not be in your life.

If the Democratic Party were run by Joe Lieberman and Evan Bayh, if it had the slightest vestige of JFK and Henry "Scoop" Jackson, I wouldn't be on the political map.

If the American media were run by biased but not evil Tim Russerts and David Brinkleys, I wouldn't have joined the fight....

If America's pop-cultural ambassadors like Alec Baldwin and Janeane Garofalo didn't come back from their foreign trips to tell us how much they hate us, if my pay cable didn't highlight a comedy show every week that called me a racist for embracing constitutional principles and limited government, I wouldn't be at Tea Parties screaming my love for this great, charitable, and benevolent country.

I am a reluctant cultural warrior.
Andrew Breitbart speaks for a lot of us.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Super Tuesday Results

As this is written we know the results for all Super Tuesday states. Without belaboring the details, Romney won Vermont, Massachusetts, Virginia, Idaho, Alaska and (narrowly but importantly) Ohio.

Santorum won Oklahoma, North Dakota, and Tennessee. Gingrich won his home state of Georgia, and, once again, Paul won nothing. All of the above from various sites on Google which reference the Associated Press.

According to the RealClearPolitics chart Romney has 354 delegates, Santorum has 147, Gingrich has 87, and Paul has 54. To win the nomination requires 1144 delegates. In other words, Romney has substantially more delegates than the other three candidates combined.

Super Tuesday Is Here

The long-awaited Super Tuesday - when ten states select their delegates - is upon us. Some seventeen hours from now we should start getting results from the eastern states. By this time tomorrow we will know more about who will represent the GOP in November.

If this were a normal election year we'd expect some of the "final four" to drop out after tomorrow's contests. As anybody who's been following the process knows, 2012 is not a normal election year.

Romney, with the most delegates, cannot be expected to drop out. Paul's goal seems to be to give voice to the views of the libertarian subset of the GOP and he is certainly accomplishing that. Paul doesn't seem to care much about winning states, or even the nomination, so he won't drop out.

That leaves Gingrich and Santorum, struggling to become the one true voice of very conservative voters. It is clearly in Romney's interest for both of them to continue in the race, dividing the anti-Romney vote between them.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Ohio Likes Romney

After being behind, new polls show Romney catching up or ahead in Ohio. A The Week article at Yahoo News gives four reasons why. All are plausible, none is my first choice.

For my money, what's working for Romney is George H. W. Bush's old favorite, "the big mo" aka momentum. Romney won Arizona and Michigan, and then Washington.

These states have had more impact than the three previous that Santorum won. Perhaps it is because Santorum has alienated modern women. The other DrC said she couldn't vote for him - not a good sign.

This GOP primary season has certainly demonstrated unpredictability. That said, anything other than an eventual Romney nomination will be a surprise to me.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Weird Science 3.0

Cure schizophrenia with an antibiotic as though it was an infection? How weird is that? There is some evidence it might work, too.

A British paper, The Independent, has a story about just that, a test using an antibiotic on schizophrenia being sponsored by their National Institute of Health Research. Really, you couldn't make this story up.

More About James Q. Wilson

The New York Times' Ross Douthat quotes Daniel Patrick Moynihan as telling President Richard Nixon:
Mr. President, James Q. Wilson is the smartest man in the United States.
Who knows? That may have been true at the time. Moynihan might have been a close runner-up.

Having It Both Ways

A Frenchman is suing Google for posting online a picture of him peeing in his yard. It is part of Google's Street View section. See the Reuters article.

What I don't understand is how a Frenchman can be embarrassed about being photographed urinating. In the years we drove back and forth along I-95 on the East Coast, we learned that whenever we saw a car stopped along the highway the car had Quebec plates and one of the male passengers was standing alongside having a pee.

We concluded public urination by males was part of the French culture, or lack thereof. Does the French fellow on Google get to have it both ways? Does he get to pee in his yard but sue anyone who takes his picture from the public street?

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Low Voltage

Last Sunday we wrote about the White House's inability to make policy choices people like. Their emphasis on various failing "green" industries is emblematic of this disjuncture.

A recent New York Post editorial about Government Motors shutting down the Chevy Volt assembly line for five weeks underscores how out of step with America this administration continues to be. The marketplace - you and me as consumers - shows little interest in purchasing the poorly performing but high priced "green" goods beloved by POTUS.

Romney Wins Washington State

Mitt Romney has handily won in Washington state. The results with 95% of the caucuses reporting are as follows, according to Google which sources Associated Press:
37.6% Romney
24.6% Paul
23.9% Santorum
10.4% Gingrich
Apparently 3.5% of caucus attendees spoke up for other candidates. Google also has an Associated Press map of Washington showing which counties favored which candidate.

This win gives Romney a nice boost going into Super Tuesday three days hence. He now has won roughly 16% of the 1144 delegates necessary to have a majority, according to The New York Times. Santorum, the second highest, has won exactly half as many.

Breitbart Autopsy Continues

Thursday we wrote that Andrew Breitbart should be autopsied as his unexpected death at 43 was obviously suspicious. A Reuters article says the physical autopsy has been done; very thorough toxicology and microscopic tissue studies are underway and will take 4-6 weeks.

The article's strong implication is that the physical autopsy found nothing obvious like trauma, a ruptured aneurism, massive heart attack, or stroke. I believe any such would have been announced as presumptive cause of death. The mystery deepens.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Quote of the Day

Joseph Stalin, sharing his deadly problem-solving motto:
Death solves all problems. No man, no problem.
What a sweetheart Uncle Joe was, he may have killed more people than Hitler. His mantra comes from a lamentation upon the coarse standard of public discourse by Carl M. Cannon, found in RealClearPolitics.

Cillizza: How to Read Super Tuesday

Super Tuesday, when ten states hold primaries or caucuses, is less than a week away. The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza has done a decent analysis of the importance of the various states to the various candidates, who needs to do what where.

Ohio is the place where everybody who matters (e.g., everybody but Paul) needs to do well. Gingrich needs to do well in Georgia, Santorum needs to do well in North Dakota and Oklahoma. If Romney doesn't do well in the Northeast he will look weak. See the article.

Loss of a Giant

Political scientist James Q. Wilson died this morning at age 80, see the Boston Globe obituary. For the past couple of decades he has been that political scientist who has had the most impact on public policy.

We quoted him most recently on January 30 of this year. Wilson wrote things that made practical sense, his policy prescriptions were based on a realistic grasp of human nature. He will be missed.

See The Wall Street Journal's obituary for this wise man, as well as their collection of his quotes.

The Cloud's Silver Lining

There are still good reasons to believe Obama may be a one term president, and this article by The Week's editorial staff on Yahoo News lists six of them. Two of these strike me as particularly meaningful:
  • The economy is even worse for Obama's base.
  • Another Mideast war could doom Obama.
The Great Recession has been particularly tough on young people and African-Americans. The unemployment rates of both groups have been especially high.

An Israeli attack on Iran forces the President to choose between another two key Obama constituencies: pro-Israel American Jews and peaceniks. Whatever he decides to do alienates one of these groups.

In neither of these situations are angered Democrats likely to vote Republican, but they may very well decide no one running in either party represents them and stay home.

The other four reasons Obama could lose aren't bad either.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Liberal Hate

Conservative web entrepreneur Andrew Breitbart died this morning, of alleged "natural causes." I hope an autopsy is done as lefty haters may have been responsible.

See this article in The Washington Examiner for revolting examples of the glee his death has evoked. It is ugly stuff.