Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Childrens Crusade

You will note I've not written about the flood of underage Hispanic illegal aliens pouring across our southern border. I haven't written because I have no idea what a country like ours can do about this problem. Humanitarian concerns preclude any effective governmental response to stem the tide. 

The other DrC asks a good question: how can their parents let this happen? Are the parents monsters? Have they so many children they can spare several? 

The results of the 21st century children's crusade will be as unfortunate as the original. I predict most of these children will end up in prison or dead, not now but eventually, some few years hence. Very sad.

Juncker Named President of European Commission

The Telegraph (U.K.) reports Jean-Claude Juncker has been named President of the European Commission, over the objections of the British. Juncker is a champion of a "United States of Europe" type of integration among the 28 member nations, something Brits don't much favor

This change in EU leadership greatly increases the likelihood that the U.K. (or whatever we call what is left after Scotland leaves the U.K.) will leave the EU. That raises an interesting question: will newly independent Scotland wish to submerge its identity in the EU?

We live in interesting times.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Weird Philanthropic Science

People who feel ugly are almost twice as likely to be willing to donate to a social inequality movement like Occupy. Those are the findings of research done at Stanford and reported on the Campus Reform website. Hat tip to Instapundit for the link.

It turns out how attractive one feels is related to one's self-perception of social status. More attractiveness equals higher status equals less need to level the playing field, at least among college sophomores.

Weird Personality Science

PLOS One reports large sample multivariate research looking at personality differences between men and women, a topic about which it is politically incorrect to comment. Substantial differences are found.
In univariate terms, the largest differences between the sexes were found in Sensitivity, Warmth, and Apprehension (higher in females), and Emotional stability, Dominance, Rule-consciousness, and Vigilance (higher in males). These effects subsume the classic sex differences in instrumentality/expressiveness or dominance/nurturance.

The results were striking: the effect size for global sex differences in personality was D = 2.71, an extremely large effect by any psychological standard, corresponding to a 10% overlap between the male and female distributions (assuming normality). Even removing the variable with the largest univariate effect size (Sensitivity), the multivariate effect was D = 1.71 (24% overlap assuming normality). These effect sizes firmly place personality in the same category of other psychological constructs showing large, robust sex differences, such as aggression and vocational interests.
Nothing here anyone should be surprised by, except perhaps the willingness of 3 researchers to subject themselves to feminist abuse. Hat tip to Instapundit for the link.

Promoting Losers

In the mid-1970s I spent two years on loan from my university working for the Federal Government in the greater Washington, DC, area. My job: to help a major USDA agency mount an executive development program. This we did.

While there I took the opportunity to question my nominal supervisor, the head of the branch to which I was attached. I asked him why the fellow I shared an office with hadn't been fired, since he spent most of his workday on the phone conducting parish business for the small church for which he was pastor, supposedly during nights and weekends.

John, the supervisor, replied that he'd already fired his one employee and found the process so punishing he would never attempt to fire another. As you might imagine I wanted to know more about this experience.

He replied the process took three years during which the unwanted employee sat at his desk doing nothing useful and much that was harmful. During that same three years John said the firing process took up much of his own time, resulting in lowered performance for his group which was effectively operating one and a half employees short of full complement.

As a result, John's own evaluations suffered and he was given no compensating credit for dumping a loser. John's boss wondered why he was so ill-advised as to try to fire a non-performing employee. "I won't make that mistake a second time."was John's takeaway from the experience. He added that he's heard similar stories from many federal supervisors.

Given a poor performer or a disruptive employee, the temptation is to give the person a glowing reference in hopes of outplacing him or her. What it's called today I don't know, then it was "turkey outplacement."

Interestingly, my own agency was victimized by this process when they hired a director of public information from a smaller USDA agency. They learned later that agency had wanted him gone and gilded the lily of his recommendations. So he was promoted for being a loser ... really ugly stuff.

If I'm less-than-thrilled about having government take on additional responsibilities, the foregoing explains why.

Economy Not Cooperating With Dems

Megan McArdle writes for Bloomberg View about how the current economic numbers look bad for Democrats:
The last estimate had GDP shrinking slightly from the prior quarter. The current estimate has it shrinking a lot: 2.9 percent on an annualized basis. If this keeps up for another quarter, the economy will officially be in recession.

Recessions are bad for incumbents and, one imagines, particularly bad for the party that claimed the other guys had driven the economy into the ditch and that they were just the folks to drive it out. If the economy heads back into a recession this year, things start looking pretty grim for the Democrats -- not just for this year, but for 2016.

Not News

Aaron Blake blogs for the Washington Post that if you are proud to be an American, you probably aren't a liberal. That is the entirely unsurprising finding of a Pew Research Center poll.
The finding is contained in Pew's new "Political Typology" report, which breaks Americans down into seven different categories -- rather than the usual three. Among the seven categories, "solid liberals" are the only group in which a majority say they aren't regularly proud to be Americans.
There is a certain symmetry in this finding; most "solid liberals" aren't proud to be Americans and the rest of us aren't proud of them for feeling disloyal.

Political Humor Alert

Reliable investigative sources in California say that radical Muslims are to go on a rampage in the city of Los Angeles, killing anyone who is a U.S. citizen. Police fear the death toll could be as high as 9.

Hat tip to long-time friend Earl for this wry chuckle.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Polish Realpolitic

While we were traveling at sea the Polish Foreign Minister Sikorski has been recorded saying:
That U.S.-Polish relations are “worth nothing,” characterizing them as "bullshit.” They only lead to frictions with the Germans and the French, he declared, and called Poles “suckers, complete suckers” because of their eagerness to please the Americans.
See a Daily Beast article for details. Ask Ukraine or Georgia how pointless relations with the U.S. have turned out to be; how little help they've received from the U.S. in dealing with Russian aggression.

Quote of the Day

Clive Crook writing for the Bloomberg Review, about Britain's problems with the incoming head of the EU:
The British, it seems fair to say, will never feel comfortable in the Europe envisaged by Juncker and his backers. And the kind of Europe in which they would feel at home is not what other governments appear to want, regardless of what their voters might prefer. Perhaps this should have been clear long ago; at any rate, it gets clearer all the time.
COTTonLINE concurs.


At sea, southbound off the Mindocino coast:  If you had asked me a month ago if ships still sound their horns when steaming in fog, I'd have answered "no." I would have reasoned that radar makes fog horns obsolete.

Incidentally, I'd have been wrong. We have sailed through considerable dense fog off the Oregon and California coasts and have sounded the horn whenever visibility was especially bad. I suppose it is done to warn small vessels that carry no radar. Or maybe it is just tradition?

The cruise ends later this morning, we are scheduled to disembark at 10 a.m. I hope that process goes smoothly as it often, but not always, does. Today will be a long, tiring day.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Travel Blogging III

At Sea, southbound off Washington State: Yesterday we got a real treat, Victoria, BC, delivered a warm, sunny day. Such are not common along this coast.

We went ashore and toured a "castle" which overlooks Victoria. In truth it is more of a Victorian manor house, built by the city's richest man, a Mr. Dunsmuir. Sad story, he died before the house was completed and never lived in it. 

Dunsmuir's riches essentially destroyed his children, not an uncommon occurance unfortunately. That's an advantage "old money" has over "new money," they know better how to control excess.

I am reminded once again that the inland passage up the British Columbia and panhandle Alaskan coasts is some of this planet's most beautiful cruising scenery. The evening sail away from Skagway down the so-called Lyman Canal (it is a natural feature, glacier-cut) was spectacular and Glacier Bay was amazing as always. The misty weather we had at Glacier Bay added to the ambience, it felt like you imagine the Ice Age did.

Today is the first of two "sea days" that conclude the cruise; it ends Wednesday morning. Evidence suggests all members of our party of six have enjoyed themselves. It's unfortunate the others who had planned to join us, for various reasons were unable to do so. They missed out on a good adventure.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Put a Fork in Him

The Obama presidency is essentially over, done, finished. When I think about it (I try not to) my mental image is of an outclassed team so far behind on points they have no possible way to win, dully soldiering on waiting for the clock to run out, for the misery to be over.

A coach might see it as a time to play those bench-warmers who never get into the game, since it can't hurt at this juncture. The punditry have already moved on to speculations about 2016. I'd guess many of us politics-watchers are there too. 

With regard to 2016, the conventional wisdom is that Republicans can no longer win presidential elections ... the CW is often wrong. For a two-term president to be succeeded by a candidate from his own party is uncommon, although possible. More typically in two terms a president demonstrates to the voters that a change is needed and they deliver one by electing the other party's guy. Shifting control is a part of the magic that is our political system.

Now it remains for the GOP to nominate someone whom the voters can imagine as President, not always the easiest task. Romney would have been a good president, I believe, but voters weren't sure about the Mormon thing. I see problems with Cruz, Rubio, Christie, Jeb, Perry, Huckabee, and Paul. Their problems are less severe than those of Clinton, but real nonetheless.

Gray Skies

Skagway, Alaska:  In the last three days we've visited Ketchikan, Juneau, and Skagway. That is a decent sampling of "panhandle" Alaska.

This region has more in common with Seattle than it does with the rest of Alaska. Like the Olympic peninsula, it is a temperate rain forest. Winters aren't super cold, but it rains a lot and gets a modest amount of snow. 

Locals tend to live in the knee-high rubber boots the Brits call "Wellies." You'd rarely be outside in short sleeves or without some sort of jacket or sweater. Temperatures rarely exceed 60 F or fall below 20 F. Sunshine is rare enough to be memorable, skin cancer is uncommon. 

In Ketchikan they claim it fails to rain some forty days a year. Translation: it rains 325 days a year, on average. A mountain on the adjacent island is called "the barometer," if you can see the summit it's going to rain, if you cannot see the summit, it's raining.

I know this climate, having lived in Eugene, Oregon, for three years. It was relatively common to go two weeks without seeing the sun or blue sky. It's no place for someone who has SAD, 'cause that is what you end up - sad. 

In Eugene in those days the conventional wisdom was most fatal car accidents were one-car suicides. Our acting university president drove his VW head on into a loaded logging truck, with fatal results of course. I wasn't tempted to suicide but I certainly considered getting out of Dodge, at the expense of my doctorate process. I'm a SoCal native who doesn't like dreary gray skies.

Tomorrow we sail Glacier Bay, for me the high point of the cruise. The DrsC have done it before and enjoyed it a lot - really spectacular scenery.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Sailing, Sailing O'er the Bounding Main

The DrsC are once again at sea, headed "north to Alaska" on the Star Princess, out of San Francisco. We didn't get away quite as expected. After sailing through the Golden Gate and on beyond 2-3 miles, the Captain announced we were turning around and going back into the Bay to put ashore someone with a medical emergency.

I guess we were lucky we weren't 100 miles up the coast. Who knows what would have happend to the sad, sick person if we were that far from a port? Now we've disembarked the sick person and we're back on the bounding main, headed for Alaska a couple of days steaming north of here.

The dining room stuffed us with prime rib and all the trimmings, plus appetizers and desert, a not auspicious beginning to an eleven-day pig-out. Sadly, eating too well several times a day is one of the main passtimes aboard the modern cruise ship.

Post Script:  It turns out the person we put ashore wasn't exactly sick. Instead they'd fallen and broken a bone, an arm I believe.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Balance of Power

"Balance of power" diplomacy was first formalized in 17th century Europe. The basic notion is to throw one's support to the weaker side to keep a single actor from dominating the arena.

The key future U.S. Middle East policy is to maintain a balance between warring Sunni and Shia forces there. Continued warfare between the two main branches of Islam is in the geopolitical interests of the U.S.

Our role should be to root for the underdog, whichever side is weaker gets our tacit support.

Fair Winds and Following Seas

Tomorrow the DrsC go cruising again, as passengers this time, from SF up the west coast to panhandle Alaska, Victoria, BC and back to SF on the Star Princess. It's a brief "vacation" from our Wyoming summer stay.

Blog posts will, of necessity, be fewer in number and of a different character for the 11 day duration of the cruise. Some travel blogging is almost a certainty.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Power Line Reacts to Iraq Mess

John Hinderaker of Power Line blog created this graphic of our President's misstatement. It is used with his published permission.

Iraq A Wreck

It appears Iraq is disintegrating: the Kurds are holding, the Shia government is feckless, and the Sunni rebels of ISIS are on a roll in Mosul and elsewhere. See a Washington Post story for a sense of what Mosul feels like post-takeover.

What comes next is anybody's guess. Most likely, the final repudiation of the "Bush doctrine" of trying to foster democracy in the Middle East.

The region is home to several toxic cultures which the world, and their own members, would be better off without. Conservatives take note, you will seldom go wrong by assuming people will do their worst. W. thought otherwise, he was wrong.

In Ch. XVII of The Prince, Nicolo Machiavelli wrote:
A question arises: whether it be better to be loved than feared or feared than loved? It may be answered that one should wish to be both, but, because it is difficult to unite them in one person, is much safer to be feared than loved, when, of the two, either must be dispensed with.
My takeaway: nation building is nonsense, nothing the military should waste time on. If malefactors need punishing, do it with a heavy hand and leave with the promise that, if we have to return, the second visit will be much deadlier.


The respected Pew Research Center has done a large sample poll of political attitudes which found that Americans are more politically polarized than at any time in their recent history. More members of each party say they dislike the other party and would be "unhappy" if a member of their immediate family married a person of the other party.

See a Politico article summarizing the findings, which also contains a link to the original poll.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

What's Going On

Sean Trende analyzes elections for RealClearPolitics. Here he looks at the Cantor and Graham reelection campaigns - one successful, one not - and tries to suss out what worked and what did not. Unsurprisingly, he finds that the key variable is whether or not the politician in question kept firmly in mind as his first goal getting reelected - keeping the folks at home happy. Graham did, Cantor did not.

Can it be this simple, or is there truly some underlying theme at work here? There is no agreement on the answer to that question. I expect COTTonLINE will revisit the issue more than once between now and early November.

Out of the Woodwork

It took less than 24 hours for several major papers to go on record as seeing exciting possibilities in the California schools court decision against teachers unions. Clearly, people have long understood the NEA and AFT were the problem but believed them so politically entrenched as to be untouchable.

With the anti-tenure decision in CA, the dam has broken. Here comes the flood of "oh, boy, imagine the possibilities for educational reform" stories from the Los Angeles Times, the New York Post, and the New York Daily News. 

I have to ask: where were these omniscient voices yesterday? Yesterday they knew the system was broken but believed no political solution possible. Aren't we fortunate the people who supported the case didn't feel equally helpless?

Part of the genius of the political system bequeathed us by our founders is that the courts are sometimes able to move us beyond gridlock when politics has us stymied, when the political momentum to make needed changes doesn't exist. Brown v. Board of Education is a prime example; perhaps this CA case will be another such cultural landmark.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Cantor Countered

Chris Cillizza writes politics for The Washington Post, here he reports/analyzes Eric Cantor's primary defeat in Virginia. Cantor was beaten by a Tea Party candidate who nailed him for being soft on amnesty for illegal aliens.

Eric Cantor is the second ranking Republican in the House, Boehner's heir apparent. Beginning in January, he's a private citizen. How the mighty have fallen.

One thing is certain, only a House Republican with a death wish is going anywhere near immigration reform prior to the election. Ditto GOP senators, I imagine. The flood of illegal kids across our southern border isn't popular with the GOP base.

Judge: Teacher Tenure Laws Unconstitutional

Politico reports a judge in California has found unconstitutional the five state laws protecting teachers' job rights/tenure. Assuming the ruling survives appeal, this is HUGE. It could rescue the public schools from the "slough of despond" they currently inhabit.

The forces pushing this issue promise to take it to other states. With this ruling the camel's nose is well and truly under the tent. We have a chance to break the stranglehold teachers unions now have on state (and to some extent national) politics. As they say at Rolex, it's about time.

Tenure itself isn't horrid, but "earning" it after sixteen months teaching elementary school is ridiculous. Universities grant it after 5-7 years of service, a much more reasonable performance sample. 

An issue that may arise is whether making teaching a less attractive occupational choice will make it impossible to staff schools in depressed areas. What to do if nobody is willing to risk life and limb in ghetto schools? Close them down and send the kids home? Or raise salaries to a level high enough to attract people who'll take "hazardous duty pay" jobs: the ice road truckers of the teaching profession?

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Quote of the Day

TaxProf Blog quotes a Wall Street Journal op-ed by Stephen Moore and Richard Vetter as follows:
The conclusion is nearly inescapable that liberal policy prescriptions—especially high income-tax rates and the lack of a right-to-work law—make states less prosperous because they chase away workers, businesses and capital.

When politicians get fixated on closing income gaps rather than creating an overall climate conducive to prosperity, middle- and lower-income groups suffer most and income inequality rises.
How absolutely ironic. As we have written on various occasions, socialism is not a way to share the wealth, it is a way to share the poverty. N.B., only those who've taken holy orders wish to share poverty.

Fun Video

RealClearScience has a website from the BBC showing two young cheetahs chasing a soccer ball - nothing profound, just fun.

Weird Robotic Science

Aeon Magazine has a longish article about sexbots, robots designed for sex with humans. This article deals with relatively weird stuff, which it treats seriously, even clinically. Hat tip to RealClearScience for the link.

Apparently a sexbot exists now ... who knew? ... brand named Roxxxy. Roxxxy can assume various "personalities" depending on the customer's choice. The nerds on Big Bang Theory need one of these.

Barrel Bombs

Lara Jakes writes for RealClearDefense that so-called "barrel bombs" are becoming a weapon of choice for third world governments facing insurgencies. First seen in Syria, they have been used in Iraq, Sudan and perhaps elsewhere.

The article does much hand-wringing and askance-looking at these devices, in my opinion too much so. The use of barrel bombs against rebel-held neighborhoods is no different morally than what RAF Lancasters visited on German cities or U.S. B-29s did to Tokyo.

Widespread use of low-tech "flying IEDs" will tend to dissuade rebel groups from trying to take and hold territory, forcing them back into use of the strike-and-melt-away tactics made popular by the Viet Cong. It is unclear whether mandating this change in tactics constitutes a plus for embattled governments doing the bombing.

Silver: GOP Still Favored to Take Senate

Hey, there, political mavens, I have a site you'll like. Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight takes a new look at the 2014 U.S. Senate races; he goes state-by-state looking at who's up and down. Silver's bottom line: The GOP is still favored to take control of the Senate.

Film Review: Edge of Tomorrow

This afternoon the DrsC and family friend Ed saw the Tom Cruise film Edge of Tomorrow. My review begins with the three of us agreeing it was an "entertaining" film. As Ed said, "It kept my attention."

Imagine a cross between the films Starship Troopers and Groundhog Day. That gives you a reasonable handle on the plot of Edge of Tomorrow.

Cruise is no longer the post-adolescent he played in Top Gun. He can't hide that he's an adult. Female lead Emily Blunt believably plays a tough trooper they call "the Angel of Verdun." Brendan Gleeson plays a general, you saw him as Mad Eye Moody in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

The powered battle armor worn by the troopers truly does resemble what Heinlein described in Starship Troopers, the novel, although it's more advanced technologically. The film's pace is frenetic, the CG is good, and the future tech is at least superficially believable. E of T is not a great film, but it is a good film, a pleasant way to spend an afternoon or evening.

Bucolic Humor

Humorist P.J. O'Rourke has a truly chicken-shit column for The Daily Beast, celebrating the joys - real and imagined - of his rural New Hampshire life. He questions the meaning of Jefferson's "the pursuit of happiness" and along the way inadvertently discloses some serious scholarship and a Sally Hemings fixation. It's fun.

Prisoners of the Wrong War

This National Review article contains a false assumption. In it CNN's Candy Crowley asks Sen. John McCain if the Gitmo prisoners weren't going to be released anyway at the end of our Afghanistan involvement? McCain's response is correct but his rationale is weak, here's what he should have replied.

The Gitmo detainees aren't prisoners of the Afghan war, they are prisoners of the Long War against Islamic terrorism. As such, they can be held until the Long War ends, if it ever does.

Breath-holding is not recommended.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Higher Ed Administrative Hypertrophy

An editorial in the Chicago Tribune, talks about how to improve U.S. higher education. Hat tip to Instapundit for the link.
Scratch a whining provost and you find an executive in one of America's most secure, sclerotic and administratively top-heavy industries.
So true. The CA public university from which I retired has experienced administrative metastasis. The following list comes from its current online catalog.

Reporting to the Provost are 5 vice provosts, 10 deans, 12 directors, a librarian, and a registrar. Under the Vice President for Business and Finance are an associate v.p., an assistant v.p., 7 directors, 2 managers, and a police chief.

The Vice President for Student Affairs has as subordinates an associate v.p. and 9 directors. To the Vice President for University Advancement report an associate v.p. and 3 directors.

Leaving out lower level part-time administrators like associate or assistant deans and department chairs, I count 60 administrators for a university with current enrollment of roughly 17,000 FTES.

Since I retired enrollments have gone up less than 3000 and the number of administrators has at least doubled. It is the very definition of "sclerotic and administratively top-heavy."

Navies Compared

Kyle Mizokami has written for The National Interest a comparison of the world's five strongest navies. Those would be the navies of the U.S., China, Russia, the U.K., and Japan.

If you cut your eyeteeth on Douglas Reeman's novels, have read all 15 volumes of Samuel Eliot Morison's History of United States Naval Operations in World War II, and can quote from memory passages of the Hornblower, Bolitho, and Jack Aubrey books, you love naval lore. Mizokami's article is for you.

Weird Bariatric Science

The Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reports scientists know losing weight and keeping it off is possible for only a very few individuals, true outliers. Most who've lost substantial weight eventually gain it all back, often with "interest."

Over millennia, evolution designed our bodies to survive scarcity, to get through the lean times by packing on extra pounds as "insurance" against famine. Like the camel's hump storing water in the desert, our bellies and "love handles" store calories to keep us going till the next harvest.

Many of us now face the opposite challenge, trying to survive prolonged abundance. This is a new condition for our species, one for which our evolutionary past does not equip us. Instead our instinctual reaction to plentiful food is to pig out, overeat, store it the only way early man was able - as body fat.

Long Waits

Everybody is exercised about long wait times at VA facilities. I'm not sure why you would expect anything else. See a City Journal article on the topic.

Rationing care by making people wait is a classical system response to people's overuse of what is, from their perspective, a "free good." That is, something which is prepaid at a flat rate. Ask any economist.

I first encountered this phenomenon as a student patient at two different university health services in the 1960s. I met it again at Kaiser clinics in 1970s Northern California.

Clinic phones were so overloaded I'd sometimes wait most of an hour just to get to talk to an appointment clerk. Hours-long stays in the appropriately named doctor's "waiting room" were common too.

The reasons I waited so long to see a doctor are exactly the same reasons Soviet citizens spent half their lives waiting in long lines to buy bread or meat or ... whatever. Overuse of resources priced below a market clearing price.

Basic microeconomics tells us goods are scarce. They can be rationed by price or by long waits or even by formal systems of rationing as the US experienced in wartime.

The VA is forced to "ration" by wait times as its clients are deemed to have earned "free" care by military service. VA care isn't free, of course, it is paid for with our taxes.

Like the UK's National Health Service, waiting is how we disincentivize VA system overuse. Veterans want more health care than we're willing to pay for in taxes.

Simple "cueing" is a crude system that fails to do the effective triage which would identify those in need of urgent attention. Properly done, triage gets heart, stroke, and cancer sufferers seen soonest, while making people wait months or years for a new knee or hip - conditions that are painful but non-life-threatening in the short run.

Mental problems are more difficult to triage. Will a depressed or PTSD patient suicide? Most won't, a few will. What is an acceptable triage error rate? If you are the patient's spouse or parent the answer is zero, an error rate taxpayers are unwilling to fund.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Shades of Heinlein

I'm not the only one who sees the exoskeletal battle suits in the new film Edge of Tomorrow looking very like the ones Robert Heinlein described in his iconic novel Starship Troopers. See a National Review slideshow page which makes the same comparison.

As an aside, the gear Mobile Infantry wore in the 1997 film made from his novel did a poor job of reproducing Heinlein's vision. I've not yet seen E of T so I'll wait to comment on the film's quality.

Frenchman Asks Brits to Go

Frenchman Michel Rocard, writes for The Guardian an op-ed piece arguing that the U.K. should exit the European Union. Very likely he is correct, even if the Obama administration wants the EU kept intact.

Leaving the EU and thereby regaining control of borders and immigration appear to be in the U.K.'s interests. The downside: leaving puts U.K. firms outside the customs union.

The Right to Holiday

Pallavi Aiyar, writing for RealClearWorld, on the topic of European work habits:
There remains deep-seated anger in Europe at the idea of allowing in economic migrants who might work harder and longer than the local population has itself become willing to do.

I couldn't help but conclude that in countries like India and China what most people want is the right to work whereas throughout much of Europe the right to holiday may be the main goal.

Megacities or Global Cities?

Writing in New Geography Aaron M. Renn examines a list of the world's 29 megacities (> 10 million souls) ranging from Tokyo-Yokohama at 37,500,000 inhabitants down to London with 10,100,000. He asks the question: Will they be able to turn the corner and become global cities? For most Renn's answer is "no." He concludes:
The general rule seems to be that a megacity can only escape pervasive dysfunction if they are a major city in a country that is the world’s current rising economic (or historically imperial) power.
Places like London, Paris, New York City, Tokyo-Yokohama, Seoul-Inchon, Moscow, and Los Angeles have already made it, Beijing and Shanghai are getting there, for a total of 9. The remaining 20 are in worse shape:
There’s no clear path to prosperous maturity for these megacities.  They are so huge, and their problems so immense that they are difficult to even conceptualize, much less do something about.  The amount of needed infrastructure provision alone – water, sanitation, drainage, transport, telecom, electricity, parks, schools, etc. – is staggering. And that doesn’t even touch arguably more difficult problems like corruption and good governance.

Typical Guam

The Washington Post reports via its Federal Eye blog about Assistant Secretary for Interior's Office of Insular Affairs, Anthony Babauta who resigned in January.
President Obama’s only Cabinet-level official from the U. S. territory of Guam steered federal contracts to friends, engaged in discrimination and sexual harassment, requested and received personal favors from subordinates and benefitted personally from taxpayer-funded trips, according to a watchdog report.
North American notions of right and wrong differ from those of Guam, which is more Asian than not. Several elected officials of the Territorial Government of Guam have been convicted of violations of the Federal Hobbs Act (taking bribes) and other felonies.

Expats joked being posted to Guam was a "rest cure" for burned out FBI agents. It was easy to build a case of official wrongdoing. Don't misunderstand, I liked Guam very much 30 years ago and still do, having visited a couple of months ago.

Remembering D Day

Seventy years ago today, June 6, 1944, thousands of American, British and Canadian troops stormed ashore on the beaches of Normandy. Today we remember their bravery, courage, and sacrifice.

Several years ago the other DrC and I visited Normandy and stood looking at Omaha Beach. We saw a low spot in the seaside cliffs made a natural route inland, and of course the Germans saw this too and had fortified it heavily with bunkers, cannon, and pill boxes.

The so-called "mulberry harbors" the Allies built are still in evidence, as well as enormous bomb craters. An amphibious landing was a daunting thing. Visiting Normandy will repay your time and effort to get there.

While in the neighborhood, see the famous Bayeux tapestry at the town of that name. "Tapestry" is a misnomer, it is actually an embroidered cloth 70 yards long in the form of a story board showing the sequence of events which led to the Norman conquest of England in 1066 c.e.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Another Motive?

The City of Seattle has raised its minimum wage to $15 per hour. Many are wondering at the impact of this choice, see for example a Wall Street Journal article.

I wonder if it isn't a sneaky way to make war on the poor. Driving employers of low wage employees out of Seattle, causing their employees to follow them into the low-wage suburbs.


Instapundit Glenn Harlan Reynolds quotes H. L. Mencken defining a misogynist as:
A man who hates women as much as women hate one another.
I doubt this is still true as it may have been in 1949 when A Mencken Chrestomathy was published.

A Velcro President

John Feehery posts a column on the Washington Wire blog of The Wall Street Journal. Some of his choicer comments follow:
They said that Ronald Reagan was the Teflon President. Nothing, not even Iran-Contra, could stick to him. Barack Obama is the Velcro President. Everything is sticking to him.

For Mr. Obama, the trouble started when it became clear that “if you like your health-care plan, you can keep it” wasn’t true. When you lose credibility, everything sticks to you.

From Benghazi to Bergdahl, from Syria to Ukraine, from the faltering economy to the bungled Obamacare rollout, nothing is going president’s way. Don’t expect the election to.

Poll: Bush Administration More Competent

The Week reports on a Fox News poll with interesting results:
Americans generally think George W. Bush ran a more "competent" administration. In the survey, a 48 percent plurality said Bush's White House was more competent, while 42 percent picked Obama's.
The poll also shows 40% of respondents approve of BHO's performance in office while 54% disapprove. It found that on three issues - the economy, health care, and foreign policy - his "disapprove" percentages range from 56-58%.

Some might be inclined to discount the numbers as coming from Fox News. They should know that the actual poll was done by two polling firms, one Democratic and one Republican, working together.

Thirty-nine percent of respondents rate Obama's leadership skills as Good or Excellent, 61% rate them Only Fair or Poor. The largest of the four response choices was Poor with 35%.

Asked "Do you think the Obama administration has made America stronger or made America weaker?" thirty-five percent chose "Stronger" and 55 percent responded "Weaker." The balance weren't sure or had no opinion.

Perhaps the most damning finding was that 50% of respondents believe the prisoners in Guantanamo are getting better medical care than U.S. veterans. Only 31% thought the veterans got better care.

Something's Shaking

The Casper Star Tribune reports northwestern Yellowstone National Park has been experiencing "swarms" of modest earthquakes in recent days. The University of Utah Seismograph Station has detected 20-30 quakes per day in the 2.7-3.4 magnitude range.

Nobody hereabouts thinks it means much. After all, Yellowstone has dozens of geysers and mud pots because it sits on the ruins of a former super volcano. Lake Yellowstone is a flooded caldera.

Could it erupt again? I suppose it could, but we who live in the area aren't holding our collective breath.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Poll: Disapproval of the President

A new Washington Post/ABC News poll finds nearly 80% of voters hold President Obama at least somewhat personally responsible for the troubles at Veterans Affairs hospitals and clinics. WaPo details the President's difficulties:
On a series of specific issues, Obama’s approval ratings are a net negative. Just 38 percent of Americans approve of his handling of immigration reform, 39 percent approve of how he has handled the implementation of the new health-care law, 41 percent approve of his overall handling of international issues and 43 percent approve of his handling of the economy. At least 50 percent disapprove of his handling of those four areas.

Ice In June on Lake Superior

The ice on Lake Superior hasn't melted and is expected to last until July. See the USA Today story with recent photos. That darned global warming just won't give us a break, will it?

Serious About Syria

Syrian President Bashar Assad recently called a contested election and was reelected overwhelmingly, see the Associated Press story at Yahoo News. Another AP story has Secretary of State Kerry calling the vote "meaningless." Few in the U. S. are willing to admit liking Assad.

I won't defend the honesty of a vote in a country at war with itself, but I think Kerry is wrong, too. Given how well the Assad government has fared in the civil war, it is clear that many Syrians do support him. If not the 88+% by which he supposedly won, clearly a large number back the government against the rebels.

According to the CIA World Factbook, Syria is, by religion, 74% Sunni and 26% other (Shia, Alawi, Ismaili, Christian, and Druse). By ethnicity, Syria is 90% Arab, 10% Kurd and Armenian. Clearly all of the "other" faiths and the non-Arabs back the government and Assad.

The rebels are a Sunni Arab movement. If the rebels win, all who are not Sunni Arabs expect an apartheid state with themselves as second-class citizens. So they back Assad, even if they don't love him.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The Prisoner Swap

Swapping five senior terrorist jihadis for one anti-American GI POW may prove to be okay if it turns out a court martial finds him guilty of dissertion and imprisons him for life. Otherwise, it was a turkey of a deal.

It's relatively certain that Bergdahl's squad mates think he went over to the enemy. It is being reported a 2010 Army investigation concluded he did so. Nobody gets to pick their parents, but it appears his father is a nut case and perhaps he inherited it.

Obama's Foreign Relations Unpopular at Home

The Washington Post reports the results of the latest WaPo/ABC News poll. It found:
President Obama's approval rating on international affairs has fallen to 41 percent, five points below his overall job rating and down six points since September to the lowest point in his administration.
Surprise, surprise, people have paid attention to the headlines from overseas: Benghazi, Crimea, Korea, Somalia, Nigeria, and Kerry's failure to get the Israelis and Palestinians to settle.

A Hollow Army

Writing for Politico Magazine, Army Col. Douglas Macgregor (Ret.) argues for a leaner, meaner Army with less overhead, more teeth and less tail. He is plugging a proposal he's made before in two books cited in the article; I find his ideas interesting.

Macgregor's description of the inability of today's Army to respond to the threat in Ukraine is pathetic:
How could an Army of 550,000 with 32,000 troops in Afghanistan’s forward operating bases fail to provide more than two combat-ready brigades, roughly 8,000 men under arms, to deploy and fight?
He likens our present situation to that at the beginning of the Korean War.

Georgia On My Mind

The ironically named website War Is Boring reports efforts being made by the former Soviet republic of Georgia to enhance its military capabilities. They've done something smart, sending troops to Afghanistan to become battle-hardened.

Russia controls some 20% of Georgian territory in the breakaway provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Georgia's obvious goal: to keep Putin's Russia from stealing more of their country. The article states:
Today, Georgia boasts some 10,000 troops whom it claims are trained to the highest NATO standards. This is reportedly a bigger trained force than even many current NATO states can field.
That's great for Georgia, but it's a darned sad commentary on NATO.

Willful Ignorance

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. - George Santayana.
Jeffrey Herf, writing in The American Interest, notes that the U.S. government refuses to take Iran's anti-Semitism seriously. Even if its leaders' public statements do not reflect popular opinion, the public does not make Iran's decisions, the Ayatollahs do.
The irrationality of Iran’s government has received scant attention in the United States government, which seems unable to believe that people could put their faith in a post-apocalyptic messiah. That is both a failure of imagination and a failure of policy.
It wouldn't be the first time such beliefs led to vast tragedy, within the last century.

Quote of the Day

Newly successful Front National politician Marine Le Pen of France, being interviewed by Spiegel Online about her opposition to the EU:
Whenever I hear people utter anti-German sentiments, I say: You can't blame Germany for defending its own interests. I can't blame Ms. Merkel for saying she wants a strong euro. I place the blame with our own leaders who are not defending our interests. A strong euro is ruining our economy.

Whither Middle Class Jobs?

Pundits whine about the decline of the middle class in the U.S. The President makes reducing income disparity a major goal. We need to ask, why is the middle class faring poorly?

Anton Cheremukhin, senior research economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, has answers to this pressing question. Hat tip to RealClearMarkets for the link. Cheremukhin writes:
The distribution of jobs by skill level has shifted dramatically since 1980. The number of jobs requiring medium levels of skill has shrunk, while the number at both ends of the distribution—those requiring high and low skill levels—has expanded.

This declining prominence of middle-skill jobs is not driven by changes in labor market institutions, such as declining unionization. Rather, an increase in automation of routine tasks, a relative scarcity of skilled workers and to a lesser extent, relocation of jobs outside the country (are responsible).
Jobs are classified as cognitive or manual, and also as routine or non routine.
Routine jobs have declined from 58 percent of employment in 1981 to 44 percent in 2011, while both types of non-routine jobs have expanded. The biggest declines in cognitive routine jobs were concentrated in such occupations as administrative support and sales. Examples of rapidly declining jobs are brokers, clerks, tellers, cashiers, telemarketers, title examiners, bookkeepers, insurance underwriters, travel agents and technicians. Among the manual routine jobs on the decline are mail carriers, drivers, cooks and engravers.

Patterns of polarization similar to those in the U.S. have been found in 16 developed European countries whose labor market institutions markedly differ. Thus, changes in labor market institutions are unlikely to play a big role in polarization’s growth.
Ergo, the changes in employment are largely technology-driven. Cheremukhin's entire article is worth reading, the tables are particularly revealing.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Insanity, Not Misogyny

Heather MacDonald writes for National Review about the UCSB killings. She derides the emphasis on anti-feminist violence, inasmuch as four of the six persons Elliot Roger killed were male. MacDonald makes some interesting points, including the following four:
There is no pattern of gender-based rampages in this country; there is an emerging pattern of rampages by the untreated mentally ill.
Rap music is the one cultural locus that may legitimately be described as misogynist, but of course, the academy and its orbiting feminists are assiduously silent about rap’s portrayal of “ho’s” and “bitches.”
Rodger’s pathetically grandiose final video bespeaks an entitlement mentality, more than a misogynist one. He believes himself entitled to whatever he wishes for — in this case, college sex — and licensed to kill because he hasn’t gotten what he wants.
By all means, let us try to “end violence against women,” as the feminists say. (snip) We should also be trying to end violence against men. And when it comes to mass slaughter, the best hope for doing both is by treating mental illness, not by railing against the imaginary patriarchy.
Maybe "treating" but more likely warehousing the mentally ill.

1/3 Live With Parents

Writing in Business Insider, Sam Ro cites the latest monthly chart book of Deutsche Bank's Torsten Slok. Slok has a chart showing the numbers of 18-34 year olds now living with their parents. Today it is 32%.

Slok sees a bright side to these numbers: they represent pent-up home buying demand awaiting a better job market. When jobs finally arrive, lots of homes should sell.

Dare We Hope?

Facing the strong possibility of a GOP-controlled Senate in his last two years in office isn't something President Obama relishes. See what Politico writes about this:
Obama tells anxious Democrats that there is only so much he can do beyond fundraising and better implementing the health care law. But he also has told allies that losing the Senate to Republicans would make his last two years in office unbearable.
"Unbearable" means "intolerable." Dare we hope he might resign in January of 2015? Nah, too good to be true.

Weird Cognitive Science

An article in The Telegraph (U.K.) touts University of Edinburgh research findings that learning a second language can somehow slow brain aging and postpone dementia, even if the language is learned in adulthood. A natural experiment is suggested.

Most Americans are monolingual whereas many Europeans are multilingual. If the above is accurate, the prevalence of dementia at any given age should be lower in Europe than in the U.S. My question: Is it the case?

I suspect contaminating variables in the U.K. study. In the U.K. knowing a second language may be a proxy variable for social class, unless large numbers of immigrants were included in the sample. Children who attend private boarding schools are more likely to be taught a second or third language than youngsters who attend neighborhood schools run by the government. Plus their parents are more likely to vacation abroad in places where knowing French or Spanish is useful.

Another possible contaminant: suppose most of the multilingual subjects were immigrants who eat substantially different diets than ethnic Brits, Scots, and Welsh. Diet can certainly affect brain health.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Quote of the Day

Instapundit Glenn Harlan Reynolds, writing yesterday (12:47 p.m.) about the collapse of cable news ratings:
All this talk about “the demo” and over-55 viewers being less valuable seems out-of-date. In today’s economy, those are the people with money.
Seniors are just about the only passengers you see aboard cruise ships. Too many young people are underemployed or unemployed and broke.

Weird Arcological Science

Bloomberg reports an attempt to create floating city-states that effectively would be independent nations. The source for the story is Patri Friedman, grandson of Nobel winning economist Milton Friedman and chairman of The Seasteading Institute. Hat tip to Drudge Report for the link.

The idea is related to the concept of having one's permanent residence on a cruise ship, as COTTonLINE reported two and a half months ago. The difference being the floating city-state would be anchored in one location, presumably in sheltered littoral waters.

Achieving substantial sovereignty within another nation's territorial waters seem to be a key difficulty. It would be difficult to negotiate, even harder to defend.

Waterworld, anyone?

3,142 Days Since Last U.S. Major Hurricane Landfall

Drudge Report links to two related stories that form an odd juxtaposition. The first is from The Hill which reports:
President Obama warned Friday that storms like Hurricane Sandy will become more frequent as climate change intensifies.
Compare that with this story from The Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang blog:
The U.S. has been extraordinarily fortunate lately: we have not been witness to the fury of a major hurricane (category 3 or higher) landfall since October 2005 when Wilma hit southwest Florida as a Category 3 storm.

Since the hyper-active 2005 season, the U.S. has had just six Category 1 and 2 hurricane landfalls: Humberto (TX), Ike (TX), Gustav (LA), Dolly (TX), Irene (NC), and Isaac (LA). Sandy was not technically a hurricane at its NJ landfall, and if it were, it would have been a Category 1 storm.

Such a streak, or “drought”, is unprecendented going back to 1900. As of the start of this hurricane season, the span will be 3,142 days since the last U.S. major hurricane landfall.  The previous longest span is about 2½ years shorter!
President Obama has never let the facts get in the way of a good story. As an empiricist, I find the WaPo data speaks for itself.

The WaPo article is a treatise on hurricanes. As a Westerner, I found it contained more than I wanted to know. If you live on the Gulf or East Coast, it should be relevant information.

No Bright Spots

NewsBusters reports NBC News chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel was asked by the former CEO of Home Depot Ken Langone to name one country with which U.S. relations are better under President Obama than under his predecessor. Speaking on CNBC's Squawk Box, Engel replied:
I think you would be hard pressed to find that. You would naturally want to say Europe, but generally the relations with a lot of European countries have gotten worse.

Our allies have become confused. For eight years you had the Bush administration with a very interventionist policy, driving into world affairs, driving primarily into the Islamic world army first, or fist first. And that was very unpopular with many of our allies. But toward the end, after 8 years, people adjusted to it.

Now you have a presidency that for the last six years is pulling out very rapidly. And that is creating a kind of pump action, a vortex of instability that has left allies like Saudi Arabia, like Egypt, like even some European countries very confused. Are we going in? Are we pulling out? Are we leading? Are we trying to set the agenda? That has been a lot of frustration.

So in terms of the foreign policy objectives laid out in West Point, yes, he talked about ending these two unpopular wars. But I do sympathize with some of the things said in the Wall Street Journal. Right now we have a black hole in Syria. Iraq is in a state of collapse. Libya is about to go back into a civil war. And this was the one case where we intervened militarily. So I think there is a lot of problems on the horizon in the foreign policy world.

Emery: Times Bias

Noemie Emery, in a column for The Weekly Standard comparing Hillary Clinton and Jill Abramson, finds them much alike in age, temperament, and beliefs. In the process she describes Abramson's former employer - the New York Times - in unflattering terms.
While treating liberal blacks with kid gloves and much reverence, the Times would make a practice of profiling conservatives such as Clarence Thomas and quota foe Ward Connerly as disturbed personalities whose judgment was wanting.
NYT was once a great newspaper; on a good day it still is. Unfortunately, its "good days" have become scarce.