Thursday, April 30, 2015

History Has No Right Side

Heather Wilhelm writes for RealClearPolitics, today about the idea of being "on the right side of history."
Much has been said about the absurdity of stating that a person or idea is “on the right side of history”—a belief that history is a linear, upward trajectory to an ever-improving society, punctured by occasional purifying conflicts. Looking back at the actual past, alas, tells a different story: History, if anything, seems cyclical, and it is alternately weird, crazy, confusing, and cruel. Villains sometimes win. Dictators rise. People enslave other people. Wars erupt. There may be good and evil, and there may be ultimate cosmic justice at the hands of God, but human history has no “right” side for one reason: Bad things will inevitably happen again.
In the minds of most folks, "the right side of history" is my side. Our opponents (whatever they believe) are on "the wrong side." End of story.

Equating Rioting with Protest

Cathy Young, writing for RealClearPolitics, about the political parties' reactions to street violence like that in Ferguson and Baltimore.
If the right has sometimes equated protest with rioting, the left offers some egregious examples of equating rioting with protest.
I know of no instances of peaceful protest being labeled as rioting. If folks want to walk, hold signs, and perhaps chant a bit, without tearing up the neighborhood, throwing rocks and setting cars afire, it is their right.

We've seen entirely too many public figures characterizing violence and destruction as legitimate protest. That is inexcusable malfeasance.

No Coincidence

Robert W. Merry writes in The National Interest there have been eight periods of U.S. street violence of the sort we're seeing this year in Ferguson and Baltimore which were followed by presidential elections.
The elections in which social unrest played a significant part were: 1888, 1892, 1896, 1920, 1932, 1968, 1972 and 1992.
Merry summarizes the public unrest preceding each of the eight elections. In seven of the eight the political party of the sitting president lost the White House in the subsequent election, the exception being the Nixon reelection of 1972.

It is unlikely this finding is a coincidence. Merry concludes,
This history suggests it is foolhardy for any president or presidential candidate to underestimate the negative political impact of major civic street violence. The American people don’t like it, and they tend to assign responsibility to the incumbent president or party.

If this disruption doesn’t constitute a net negative for next year’s Democratic presidential candidate, it wouldn’t take much more to get there.
Hat tip to RealClearPolitics for the link.

A Misleading Story

Fox News reports that, as a result of Iran detaining a Maersk-owned ship registered in the Marshall Islands, the U.S. Navy will begin "accompanying" all U.S. flagged ships through the Straits of Hormuz. The article is careful to explain "accompanying" is different from "escorting."

Unfortunately, the story is somewhat dishonest. Fox should have told you there are almost no U.S. flagged ships, either cargo or passenger, operating on international routes. Most U.S. owned ships are registered in the Bahamas, Panama, Liberia, Malta or Bermuda because it is much cheaper to do so.

The practice of "flag of convenience" is quite old, Wikipedia says it began in the 1920s when U.S. regulations and unions became cumbersome for shipowners who began registering their ships in Panama. That sounds about right.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Trust Issues

Matt Drudge's Drudge Report links to a Washington Examiner article reporting a Harvard study of attitudes of millennials toward various societal institutions. The young don't have a lot of trust.

They were asked "How often do you trust each of them to do the right thing?" Respondents were given four choices: Always, Most of the time, Sometimes, or Never. Those replying Sometimes or Never are listed below for each institution.
Scientists                                44%
The United States military      46%
Your local police department  50%
Supreme Court                       58%
United Nations                        62%
President Obama                    63%
Your local government            67%
Your state government            69%
Federal government                74%
Congress                                 82%
Wall Street                               86%
The media                                88%

In the school's Institute of Politics poll of over 3,000 18-29-year-olds, a tiny 12 percent said they believe the media do the right thing. A whopping 88 percent said "sometimes" or "never." Just 2 percent said they trusted the media to do the right thing "all of the time," and 39 percent said "never."
Perhaps we don't respect the views of millennials as much as we should? If I were a millennial I'd look at those numbers and conclude I shouldn't risk a career in journalism.

Understandable Confusion

The guys at Power Line provide a link to a Tablet article entitled "Hogan's Heroes Lied," by Hillel Kuttler. It starts out with a cranky old World War II vet yelling at the TV,
This is not the way it was. I can’t believe they’re making a comedy about concentration camps.
Of course he was correct, concentration camps didn't look anything like Stalag Luft 13. That is largely because it was not a concentration camp but rather a prisoner of war camp for shot-down aircrew, run by the Luftwaffe.

POW camps were no picnic but they were not the concentration (death) camps to which the Third Reich shipped Jews, Gypsies, Communists, and others the regime wished to separate from society. These unfortunates they either murdered immediately or worked to death while starving. That was typically not the fate of captured Allied troops.

Anybody who thought Hogan's Heroes was history, or pretended to be, was clearly deluded. It was obviously comedy, and as such fun.

No Honor Among Revolutionaries

The Latin American Herald Tribune reports Fidel Castro basically sent Che Guevara to his death in Bolivia because Che had become an irritant. The article doesn't say so, but I suspect Fidel was jealous of Che's charisma.

It's Che's picture on the t-shirts, not Fidel's; Che was the rock star. Ironically, all Fidel accomplished was martyrdom for Che, his legend lives on, unsullied by the inconvenient details of his brutality.

Where the Racists Are

With Connie Francis' iconic Where the Boys Are running through my head, I write to share a clever piece of high tech social science research, reported by the Wonkblog at The Washington Post. It involves using Google searches to determine where the most racist people live.

The methodology is simplicity itself, checking number of searches for topics including the infamous "n-word," a corruption of the word "negro." Only those in which the word ends in "er" are utilized. Those in which the word ends in "a" are found not to be per se evidence of racism, as they probably come from rap lyrics.
The most concentrated cluster of racist searches happened not in the South, but rather along the spine of the Appalachians running from Georgia all the way up to New York and southern Vermont.

Other hotbeds of racist searches appear in areas of the Gulf Coast, Michigan's Upper Peninsula, and a large portion of Ohio. But the searches get rarer the further West you go. West of Texas, no region falls into the "much more than average" category.
As a Westerner, I'm pleased to see our necks aren't terribly red.

Frozen Conflict Postscript

Thinking over what we wrote about frozen conflict, it occurs to me that France has been a long-time practitioner of the dismal art in its former colonies in Africa. When things get so ugly even the French can't stomach them, Paris sends in the Foreign Legion to bash the locals and tamp down the worst excesses.

La Legion Etrangere c’est le gendarme de l’Afrique.

I See Problems

Breitbart California reports there is talk of automatically registering every driver licensed in the state to vote. Apparently CA's northern neighbor Oregon has just done this. I see two problems.

First, you can drive at 16 in CA, but are not legal to vote until 18, I believe. A drivers license does carry one's birthday so perhaps the automatic program can put underage drivers into a holding pool until they turn 18 before registering them.

The second problem is more serious. CA issues drivers licenses to people who are not U.S. citizens, including illegal immigrants, legal immigrants, and green card holders. My guess is that the DMV does not ask people's citizenship status, or in any way require proof thereof.

Once registered, non-citizens would have the logical notion that they could vote, something clearly prohibited by the Constitution. I want to hear how the legislature plans to circumvent this issue. Hat tip to Lucianne.com for the link.

Review: Bosch

The DrsC have been watching a TV miniseries called Bosch, about an LAPD homicide detective by that name. He works out of precinct in the Hollywood/Beverly Hills area.

I don't believe it was ever broadcast, we're seeing it on Amazon Fire Stick via streaming video. A check of Wikipedia suggests Amazon had the series made for its streaming service.

Bosch is a series of one hour episodes which are effectively chapters in a novel. You really do need to see them in order and without missing any, unlike the typical cop show where each episode is free-standing, from crime to solution in an hour.

Bosch is noir, gritty, and rife with city-level politics. It's very embedded in the Hollywood region of LA with place names, iconic architecture, and atmospherics that create echoes in the skull for a native Angeleno. I spent my earliest years living five blocks from Hollywood and Vine.

The first season deals with a serial killer, and we've finished most of it. So far, it's quite good. A second season is not yet available for binge watchers, although an Internet search suggests it has been, or is being, made.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

What Explains Baltimore?

Jason Riley writes for The Wall Street Journal and is black, we've cited his work before. Today he writes about the troubles in Baltimore, thankfully not behind the paywall. Riley begins with a question:
If the Ferguson protesters were responding to a majority-black town being oppressively run by a white minority—which is the implicit argument of the Justice Department and the explicit argument of the liberal commentariat—what explains Baltimore?

Might the bigger problem be racial disparities in antisocial behavior, not the composition of law-enforcement agencies?

The violent-crime rate in Baltimore is more than triple the national average, and the murder rate is more than six times higher. As of April, city murders are 20% ahead of the number killed through the first three months of last year. But neither Mayor Rawlings-Blake nor (City Council President) Mr. Young needs any lectures from the media on Baltimore crime. The mayor lost a 20-year-old cousin to gun violence two years ago. And earlier this month Mr. Young’s 37-year-old nephew died from a gunshot wound to his head. Even the families of black elites in a city run by black elites can’t escape this pathology.
A hundred and fifty years ago gun violence was the hallmark of the Wild West - the American frontier. Today it is the hallmark of our inner cities, Chicago being a particularly egregious example.

Who Is To Blame

John Nolte, writing at Breitbart Big Government about the troubles in Baltimore, makes an interesting point about who is to blame:
Baltimore is not America’s problem or shame. That failed city is solely and completely a Democrat problem. (snip) Democrats and their union pals have had carte blanche to inflict their ideas and policies on Baltimore since 1967, the last time there was a Republican Mayor.

In 2012, after four years of his own failed policies, President Obama won a whopping 87.4% of the Baltimore City vote. Democrats run the city of Baltimore, the unions, the schools, and, yes, the police force.

Every single member of the Baltimore city council is a Democrat.

After Democrat policies result in despair and anarchy, Democrats always demand more of the same, only bigger.

And the media goes right along.

And things only get worse.
You can't say fairer than that, Democrats. It all happened on your watch. Hat tip to Lucianne.com for the link.

Meanwhile, writing at City Journal, Matthew Hennessey suggests a solution:
In so much as anyone in Baltimore is angry at the “system,” they should direct their rage where it belongs—an unbroken, five-decade string of one-party rule in the city and a national War on Poverty that has systematically dismantled the black family. 
That will never happen, it's too sensible.

Sensible Immigration Policy

The prolific Victor Davis Hanson writes in National Review Online about illegal immigration and what should be done about it.
Immigration to the West will remain a moral and intellectual embarrassment until Westerners insist that newcomers arrive in numbers that can be assimilated, that they meet meritocratic criteria that are ethnically blind, and that they come legally and on the terms adjudicated by the host.

Europeans and Americans need not be chauvinistic, but they do need to be candid about why people leave one country for another. From such knowledge comes realization that the best way to stop mass, illegal immigration is for other societies to emulate Western paradigms so that there is no need to emigrate —  after all, Japanese and Singaporeans do not hide in cargo boats to reach California. But to do all that, Westerners need first to understand their own culture and then to defend it.

Clinton Sleaze - Do the Math

The Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation is much in the news lately, having allegedly taken money from foreign donors who wished to influence decisions made by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Ms. Clinton has claimed their foundation has done much good with the money.

The Federalist reports the Clinton Foundation has a wretched record of charitable grants, spending most of its money on expenses. Furthermore, they provide a link to the foundation's actual filing for 2013, go here to see the actual IRS 990 Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax form the Clinton Foundation filed. 

The Form 990 shows that in 2013, the Clinton Foundation spent $84 million of which less than $9 million went to charitable grants. Salaries, compensation, and employee benefits absorbed roughly $30 million, another almost $46 million went to "other expenses." And the form shows the foundation took in $64 million more than they spent.

It is hard to interpret the Clinton Foundation as anything more than a sinecure for their loyal retainers and a slush fund from which to pay family expenses, disguised as "foundation expenses." All of this paid for by rent-seeking others and by tax-free income earned by Bill whose gigantic speaking fees go to the Foundation.

Question: Under what circumstances would you donate to a charity which promises to spend only 10-11¢ of each dollar on good works?
Answer: If you hoped to influence the persons who direct the charity to make charity-unrelated but important-to-you decisions in your favor. 

Monday, April 27, 2015

Snark Attack

Reacting to a Robert Wargas post at the PJ Media Tatler site which asks:
Every week this country is consumed in a new distended orgy of polarized, mutual hatred, set against the backdrop of outrage mobs, race riots, shuttered businesses, scandals, Twitter-induced career ruination, gleeful smear parties, and partisan hackery.

Admit it: You’ve asked yourself where America is going, and how long it can survive the trip. Admit it.
Instapundit Glenn Reynolds replies:
It’s a Republic. If we can keep it. Keeping it requires effort. It may even require sacrifice of some sort.
Reading this my immediate snarky question was, "Whom did you plan to sacrifice?" Sorry, I couldn't resist.

About "Frozen Conflict"

The New York Times' Ross Douthat writes about our de facto international policy which involves us in several "frozen conflicts" around the globe. A frozen conflict, he writes, is "a war is pursued without any vision of an endgame, and that’s actually the point."

Douthat sees Russia maintaining frozen conflicts in Ukraine, Moldova, and the Caucasus. The U.S. does frozen conflict too:
That’s true of the AfPak wars; it’s true for now of our interventions against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria; it’s true of smaller antiterrorism forays the world over. It’s even true of our quasi-conflict with Putin himself: He wants to divide and destabilize Ukraine without actually conquering it, we want to limit his gains without provoking escalation, and the result is grinding violence without much chance of resolution.
Frozen conflict is an interesting concept. You don't try to take and hold territory, but merely mess with the opponent, hitting him where he's weak and making him look impotent. If both sides practice it, you end up with a Somalia where nobody holds more territory than the land on which they currently stand.

Of course, frozen conflict makes the lives of the people in the war zone a kind of unending hell. It requires a willingness to cause that pain.

Later ... it occurs to me there are at least two variants of frozen conflict - high tech and low tech. Low tech frozen conflict is what an insurgency typically wages, say the Viet Cong against the government of South Vietnam or FARC against the Colombian government. The U.S. most often does high tech frozen conflict with drone strikes, bombing campaigns, and special forces raids. The use of proxy forces tends to be more low tech.

Quote of the Day

Erick Erickson, writing at Red State, about our "beloved" President:
If only President Obama weren’t black, maybe he would realize that people don’t dislike him because he is black, they dislike him because he is a self-absorbed ass.
Sorry, Erick, the truth doesn't fit into Obama's version of reality.

Clinton Sleaze

National Journal's Ron Fournier dumps on Hillary Clinton in no uncertain terms, check it out:
Hillary Clinton seized all emails pertaining to her job as Secretary of State and deleted an unknown number of messages from her private server. Her family charity accepted foreign and corporate donations from people doing business with the State Department—people who hoped to curry favor.

She violated government rules designed to protect against corruption and perceptions of corruption that erode the public's trust in government. She has not apologized. She has not made amends: She withholds the email server and continues to accept foreign donations.

Like so many past scandals, these twin issues show the Clintons to be entitled, ethically challenged rule-breakers who believe the ends justify the means.
Given the above, Fournier summarizes what it all means.
You don't have to be a conspiracy theorist to know that foreign companies and countries expected something in return for donating to the Clinton foundation rather than the countless other charities not connected to the U.S. presidency.

You don't have to be a lawyer to know the Clintons violated ethics rules.

You don't have to be a historian to know their ethical blind spot has decades-old roots.

You don't have to be a political scientist to know this behavior contributes to the public's declining trust in its leaders.

But to believe this is just about the actions of a book author, the mainstream media, and the Republicans, it helps to be a Clinton.
That's over and above failing to act to protect the U.S. ambassador in Libya, murdered by jihadis after his pleas for protection were ignored.

"Bolivarian" Socialism a Failure

The PanAmPost is a good source for news about our neighbors in Latin America. Today it carries a report of the annual ranking of 193 countries' institutional quality, issued by Argentina's Freedom and Progress Foundation. 

As regular readers will remember, COTTonLINE takes a dim view of the so-called Bolivarian socialism popular among several nations in the hemisphere. These are the nations whose institutions were judged to be most deficient, and deteriorating further.
The report, authored by academic Martín Krause, takes an average of eight indicators used by recognized international organizations. Among them are the Index of Economic Freedom (Compiled by the Fraser Institute and the Heritage Foundation), Doing Business, the Rule of Law (the World Bank), and Corruption Perceptions (Transparency International).

In Latin America, Peru has risen by 20 places in the index since 1996, and Colombia by 15. Brazil has also climbed five spots, despite the corruption scandal involving state oil firm Petrobras which has broken out within the last year.

Taking the same long-term view, the index shows how other regional countries have slid dramatically in the quality of their public institutions. Bolivia is down 99 places, Argentina by 33, Ecuador by 81, Venezuela by 75, and Paraguay fell by 61 positions, all since 1996.

The study also shows that things have gotten dramatically worse for many countries since 2006, with Argentina, Bolivia, Belize, Suriname, Venezuela, Ecuador, and El Salvador registering significant falls from that point onwards.
As we believe at COTTonLINE, experience demonstrates socialism does not involve sharing the wealth, it results in sharing the poverty. Note this ranking is compiled by an academic from Argentina, not a disdainful gringo.

Insight from the Left

Thomas B. Edsall writes liberal opinion for The New York Times. Here he looks at the changing demographics of supporters for governmental programs.
The changing character of political liberalism is yet another factor that helps explain the shift away from support for redistribution. From the late 1960s onward, the Democratic left has moved its emphasis away from an encompassing class-based agenda rooted in the New Deal coalition to a relative focus on a so-called identity group agenda, attacking discrimination against women, African-Americans, Hispanics, gays and other once-marginalized constituencies.
These are what COTTonLINE calls "victim groups." They harbor grievances against the society at large and practice the politics of resentment.

How can Democrats wonder why they no longer have the support of white non-college males? These men are the "identity group" whose interests are normally harmed when the so-called "protected classes" are helped by asymmetric government policy. We wrote about this issue some weeks ago.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Unharried Reid

We reported that John Hinderaker of Power Line had interviewed a caller who claimed to know former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had been injured in a fight with his drunk brother. Now Hinderaker reports the caller has recanted, alleging a hoax.

Apparently, whatever happened to Reid wasn't losing a fight to his brother, or if it was Hinderaker's caller didn't see evidence thereof. Or the caller has been intimidated into retracting. It still appears that Reid has obfuscated the true cause of his injuries, how or for what reason is unknown.

Why Jihad?

Yesterday we wrote of British jihadis - the whys and wherefores thereof. Today Global Post has an article in which authors Timothy Phillips and Nir Eisikovits wrestle with the same question: why?
IS is attractive to young European Muslims not so much because it helps them forget about their poverty, but because it gives them an exciting, meaningful alternative to a life in pursuit of material comfort and economic security.

Young people often long for glorious, violent, absolutist causes to sweep them off their feet and rescue them from what they see as the petty, worthless striving of their parents and those around them. That longing is not limited to young radicalized Muslims. It is a common human impulse we see time and again. IS is not the first movement to tap into the impulse to both feel and be part of something bigger than oneself, which is not always about something positive.
They are latter-day Muslim Crusaders, fighting to reclaim some of the same blood-soaked, barren land their earlier, Christian avatars fought over. And for similar reasons.

Ancient Symbol, Modern Taint

National Review's Kevin D. Williamson writes about swastikas at George Washington University ... actually, the Hindu variety. Williamson also notes the symbol being used by Buddhists, Jains, and Zoroastrians.

Truly the swastika is both ancient and multicultural; I have a Navaho rug with the symbol woven into it. In their language, we were told, the symbol is called "the whirling log." The rug was collected by my uncle who, fresh out of West Point, did pre-statehood garrison duty in the Arizona territory long before Nazism was conceived.

A Ray of Sunshine, or Maybe Realism

When good news, however attenuated, arrives from the Middle East, it is worth celebrating. Commentary Magazine reports the results of an ASDA'A Burson-Marsteller (Public Relations Agency) Arab Youth Survey, conducted in each of the past seven years, surveyed 3500 young Arabs in face-to-face interviews held in 16 Arab countries.
This year, defying a long tradition of blaming all the Arab world’s problems on Israel, only 23 percent of respondents cited the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as the region’s main obstacle. In fact, the conflict came in fourth, trailing ISIS (37 percent), terrorism (32 percent) and unemployment (29 percent). Given that respondents were evidently allowed to choose more than one of the 15 options (the total adds up to 235 percent rather than 100), it’s even more noteworthy that only 23 percent thought the conflict worth mentioning.

What the poll shows, in a nutshell, is that young Arabs have reached the same conclusion Arab leaders made glaringly evident at the last year’s inaugural session of the Abu Dhabi Strategic Debate: Israel simply isn’t one of the Arab world’s major problems anymore, if it ever was.
Israel needs this good news since all they've heard from the President and his minions has been bad news.

A Superabundance of Idiots

Instapundit Glenn Reynolds, quoting author John Ringo from the latter's Facebook page:
Idiots abound to such an extent one has to pick and choose which ones to care about and which to ignore.
The idiotic superabundance Ringo deplores is one with which we grapple daily in selecting the content of COTTonLINE.

Free Sticker



Maybe where the sun doesn't shine?
Or the back wall of a urinal?

Hat tip to National Review Online's The Corner for the image.

A Graham Candidacy?

George Will, arguably dean of conservative columnists, writes for National Review about a possible presidential campaign by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). Like the other present and potential contenders, I see Graham as a mixed bag.

His view of foreign policy is closer to mine than those of several possible candidates. I disagree with him when he alleges that Arabs would like "the American values set." I'm not convinced our values are compatible with their culture. On the other hand, his notion of putting radical Islam in a box and burying it six feet down works for me.

I am not comfortable with Graham's views on immigration, as reported by Will. Yes, we need people since we aren't reproducing our numbers. On the other hand, I prefer the Australian model which seeks high value immigrants who have English, and bring wealth, skills and education.

I will grant one of Will's assertions: Graham is fun to watch. Since we often watch our President, having one who is entertaining would be nice. Still, if that were our criterion, Newt Gingrich would have been elected four years ago.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

British Jihadis

The New York Times Magazine has an article about middle class Brit Muslims who have gone to Syria to join the ISIS jihad. It expresses some puzzlement over their motivation.

My guess it is the same motivation that took young Christian crusaders to the region 800 to 1000 years ago, an escape from humdrum boring lives and a chance for adventure and maybe riches as well as the approval of one's god. As Scandinavians would once say, they went a-viking, that is, raiding, adventuring.

COTTonLINE has a motto that is relevant to such individuals:
If someone seeks martyrdom, be helpful and facilitate his or her death.

Climate Data Anomalies

The Telegraph (U.K.) reports suspicions that climate data may have been "fiddled" or adjusted in systematic ways to demonstrate global warming not otherwise observable by alternate methods. Concern is strong enough that a panel of scientists has been established to investigate the issue.
The Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) has enlisted an international team of five distinguished scientists to carry out a full inquiry into just how far these manipulations of the data may have distorted our picture of what is really happening to global temperatures.
When commitment to a particular scientific theory or position becomes a secular religion, as AGW has become for some, its true believers bend reality to fit the model. Hat tip to Lucianne.com for the link.

About Language

"Which people speak what languages where" constitutes an interesting group of questions, if you find humankind fascinating as we do. See an intriguing series of maps published by The Washington Post which go a long way to providing answers.

It turns out most of the world's people speak one of just 12 languages, with Chinese having the most speakers. On the other hand, English is spoken in the most countries (n=101) as a heritage of the global British Empire we wrote of last week. Being born a native English speaker has been a blessing.
Whereas English lags behind in the number of native speakers, it is by far the world's most commonly studied language. Overall, more people learn English than French, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, German and Chinese combined.
English has 1.5 billion learners. As we travel the world, the DrsC privately joke to one another that soon the whole world will communicate, albeit awkwardly, in heavily accented English. And that may turn out to be no bad thing, overcoming the apocryphal curse of the Tower of Babel.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Muslims Oppose American Sniper, Really?

As The Washington Times reports, Muslim students on several campuses have protested the showing on-campus of the film American Sniper. Golly, do you suppose they oppose seeing a GI wasting one Arab after another, as dispassionately as swatting flies?

The popularity of American Sniper stems from the same roots as the popularity among Brits of the 1964 film Zulu, in which a small group of Redcoats do volley rifle fire and massacre several hundred brave charging Zulus. Eastwood's Dirty Harry Callahan wasting scumbag lowlife criminals with an oversized magnum revolver was popular too. The pleasure is atavistic, maybe not for the tender sensibilities of university folk.

Clinton Bashing

Part of the fun of politics is watching someone with talent brutally slander the opposition. Scott Johnson, who blogs at Power Line, shows up today with some fine down-home Clinton bashing - yes, both of them. You might conclude he doesn't love them much.
Essence of Clinton gives us first and foremost the voracious and insatiable appetites of William Jefferson Clinton. Neither taste nor shame can limit them.

Madam Hillary serves as his co-dependent enabler. It is not a pretty sight.

They give us naked prevarication as they they follow their old scandal playbook and test new frontiers in scandal management.

They give us massive corruption under cover of philanthropy.

They give us politics as a criminal enterprise.

They show us the power of sociopathology in democratic politics. How empowering to operate freely without a conscience.
Johnson finishes by quoting Jonah Goldberg, "The Clintons are like the Tudors of the Ozarks." At this point Johnson adds:
Combined with Huckleberry Finn’s friends the duke and the dauphin.
I'll take his word on the Tudors, but Huck's two implausible con artists I know well.

Economics 101

Basic micro-economics tells you that if demand remains essentially stable and supply increases, prices drop. Applied to labor, price = wages. A flood of 32 million illegal immigrants has oversupplied the market with labor, holding wages down for American workers. Liberals have denied immigrant wage-suppression.

Now The Washington Examiner reports the wage-suppression effects of immigration appear real.
The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service report studied immigration and middle class income from 1945-2013 and found that as immigration slowed between 1945 and 1970, American incomes increased.

But when immigration expanded, the incomes of the bottom 90 percent of Americans went flat and then dropped beginning in 2000.

In the report to the Senate Judiciary Committee, the CRS reported that the foreign-born population of the United States surged 324.5 percent, from 9,740,000 to 41,348,066, from 1970 to 2013.
COTTonLINE understands other factors have also influenced wage levels, including the offshoring of manufacturing and technical jobs.

Wrong Name

Matt Drudge links to a My Way story about a swingers sex club in Nashville which seeks a permit by claiming to be a church. My sometimes runaway imagination has it called the Basilica of the Sublime Orgasm.

They unimaginatively choose to call it the United Fellowship Center. How boring is that?

Fraternity Members Harass Wounded Vets

For six years Panama City Beach, FL, has hosted the Warrior Beach Retreat for wounded veterans and their families. This year attendees were harassed by Zeta Beta Tau fraternity members from University of Florida who were attending a spring prom at the resort. See an Associated Press story on the ABC News site.

Various reports say the frat brothers spat on the vets, stole their flags, and urinated on those American flags. The UofF chapter was already on probation for hazing offenses and will likely be banned from campus.

Needless to say, the national fraternity has indicated extreme displeasure with the alleged behavior. Their website states the organization was:
Founded in 1898 as the world's first Jewish Fraternity.
Groups of drunken young men are capable of almost anything gross and revolting.

Bad Policy

Reuters reports via Yahoo News the CIA will conduct investigations into several drone strikes that killed hostages held where the strike occurred. Suppose President Wuss announces that we will only conduct drone strikes where we are certain there are no hostages.

If you and I will be aware of that policy, so will the ISIS and al Qaeda leaders. Were I one of them I would grab a couple of U.S. citizens and keep them tethered at my headquarters, making sure they got outside for some "fresh air" everyday. It's a perfect anti-drone system.

Which is exactly why such a policy is nonsense. As Ralph Peters notes below, collateral damage in war is SOP, sad but unavoidable. It should never keep us from attacking enemy command and control personnel.

Janes' on Russian Armor

The Janes organization chronicles armaments world-wide. Here they have a series of good photos and text of the new generation of Russian tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, self-propelled artillery, armored personnel carriers, and the like.

Some are partially covered with tarps but the running gear is on display. Most are track-layers but at least a couple are all-wheel-driven.

From a Russian Ministry of Defense photo, this is the new Armata heavy tank.

A Rare Thing

Middle Eastern correspondent Michael Totten writes for World Affairs Journal with something very rare: good news from this bad-news region. He writes of Kurdistan, and specifically of the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, Erbil.

The Kurds are fighting ISIS and face literal genocide if they lose. The front is just 30 miles away, and yet ...
The Kurds are no more enamored of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's legion of genocidaires than Americans are, and they're currently fighting much harder. Their intelligence networks are state of the art, and anyone who doesn't speak locally accented Hawleri Kurdish stands out at once.

The world's nastiest army is banging on the door, but these people are doing such a good job keeping the wolf away that the place is booming despite it all. Middle class and elite housing is going up everywhere, most famously in the area known as Dream City which includes a replica of the White House.

KFC is in Kurdistan now. So is TGI Fridays. Pizza Hut has been there for a while. Starbucks might even open a store in one of the brand-new malls.

Their autonomous region is alas still part of Iraq, but it's also part of the world. I wouldn't call it the Dubai of Iraq just yet, but every day it looks and feels more like Jordan and less like the howling wilderness of poisoned mass graves that it used to be.

One of these days, the Kurds will enjoy independence and join not only the rest of the world but also the United Nations as a member state and the roster of robust American allies.
Not under this President, they won't. He disdains allies and loves enemies like Iran and Turkey.

BTW, Totten's comparison of Kurdistan with Jordan is a real compliment. Jordan is quite nice for an Arab country. Kings Hussein and Abdullah have done a good job.

General Thoughts on POTUS Candidates

The Republicans have several first term senators running for President this cycle. Cruz, Rubio, and Paul are all interesting, articulate, and engaging fellows.

Unfortunately, they remind us of another youngish, interesting, articulate, and engaging fellow who ran and won the presidency seven years ago. He was a Democrat named Barack Hussein Obama.

How has that turned out? Not so well, you say? I agree. What should that quite immediate object lesson suggest to us? That all three of the above GOP worthies need more seasoning.

Sure, I may end up supporting one of them, if nominated, as being better than Ms. Hillary. However, I'd like to see our next president have some executive experience, say as a governor.

Four GOP governors are running or considering a run: Walker, Bush, Kasich, and Christie. Of those, my preference is for Walker or maybe Kasich. I don't like Bush on immigration and Common Core and I'd quickly tire of Christie's Jersey bluster. Kasich is a bit nerdy, but maybe okay in spite of it. Walker seems okay, but I want to see more.

People Change Ecosystems

Reliably green and liberal, The New Republic alleges conservatives blame the CA drought on failure to use available water for human uses, ignoring the lack of rainfall. The claim is specious.

All sensible conservative voices, discussing CA water problems, begin with the fact that we live in an arid region. That is one reason CA is so comfortable, because there is no sticky humidity. The air is dry because the countryside is dry.

Where we differ with greens is in our willingness to recognize that humans inevitably impact the environment. CA's great Central Valley once flooded miles wide every spring. It no longer does because of flood control ... oh, the dreaded ecosystem change, very harmful to cattails, reeds, and mosquitos too. Actually, nobody complains.

Yes, we do advocate catching, storing, and using more of the available rain and snowfall. Thus we would allow much less to run off into the Pacific Ocean which, when viewed recently, remains full. True, certain fish species would suffer ... so? They are not important food stocks.

Misleading Statistics

For RealClearMarkets, Carson Bruno reexamines the unemployment data for California and finds the situation bleaker than reported. It turns out things have turned up only in the greater Bay Area - the 6 counties of Marin, San Francisco, Contra Costa, Alameda, San Mateo, and Santa Clara.

The data from the greater Bay Area masks really disappointing figures for the other 52 counties in this quite large state. Here is the nub of the story:
Prior to the Great Recession, the Bay Area/Silicon Valley region accounted for 17% of the state's labor force and employment and about 14% of the state's unemployment. As of March 2015, the region now accounts for 18% of the labor force, almost 19% of California's total employment, while only 12% of the state's unemployed.

The dynamics behind California's job market are not healthy. It is stacking the unemployed elsewhere, while shoving the jobs into one region. For instance, Los Angeles went from representing 28% of California's employment to 26%, and 25% of the state's unemployed to almost 30%. Los Angeles now underperforms (relative to its share of the population) on both jobs and unemployment, while the Bay Area/Silicon Valley region is greatly over-performing.
When ten percent of counties host almost twenty percent of total jobs, you know there is a lot of hurt happening elsewhere. Bruno's argument is that aggregate CA data conceals the problems that beset most of the state.

There’s Only a Military Solution

The New York Post hosts the column of military strategist Ralph Peters, who often cuts through the fog and says what we're thinking. Today he writes about the feigned sorrow over two Western hostages, held by radicals, killed in a drone strike in Pakistan.
Sorry, folks. That’s war. And warfare will never be dainty or fully precise. (snip) We may regret the loss of an American and an Italian aid worker, but they’d voluntarily placed themselves in danger. And actions have consequences.

We cannot cripple our counter-terror campaign on the bare chance that a hostage might be co-located with a master terrorist. The war fanatics have forced upon us a zero-sum game: We kill them, or they kill us. And delay is defeat.

We are besieged by human beasts who believe their god wants us to suffer, then die horribly. They’re not interested in debating fine points of theology or discussing development programs. They want to kill us.

Contrary to the blather from the left that “there’s no military solution” to global jihad, the cold fact is that there’s only a military solution — and it will take a great deal of time and bloodshed.

Two millennia of apocalyptic and messianic insurgencies around the world demonstrate — without exception — that killing faith-addled fanatics is the only approach that works.
Peters echoes Spengler on this subject, COTTonLINE concurs.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Weird Combustion Science

Popular Mechanics, a source we seldom cite, reports on a rotary engine, a little like the Wankel but better, which has won a DARPA contract. Check out the comparison:
A typical 3kW gasoline-powered generator—the type used at construction sites and as a stop-gap during power outages—weighs about 140 pounds and measures about 3 feet long, 2 feet high, and 2 feet wide. The military uses such generators in remote areas, but they are ungainly beasts. Shkolnik says LiquidPiston's equally powerful generator using JP-8 would weigh about 30 pounds (the motor itself would weigh just 8 pounds) and fit in a backpack.
It is a sort of diesel, firing on compression and requiring no spark. They also believe, at least in smaller sizes, it won't require a cooling jacket and radiator. One of these could turn a bicycle into a motorcycle easily, or power a chainsaw or lawnmower.

Interrupting the Flow

The EU has an illegal immigrant problem with ships bringing people across the Mediterranean Sea from North Africa, many drowning in transit. Those ships are the pipeline.

The Europeans seem to be at a loss as to what to do about this. I have a solution I predict would work but will be found unpalatable, for whatever reason.

Naval patrols in the area should stop ships and any found carrying illegal immigrants should be escorted back to port of origin where the passengers would be disembarked, forcibly if necessary. Thereafter these ships should be towed out into deep water and sunk.

Few scuttlings would be needed to get a message to ship owners "going coyote" posed a great risk of losing one's vessel. That should effectively dry up the supply of vessels, except for ships so valueless that a final trip was all they were good for.

Buying up and destroying junk vessels would further limit the problem. It might be cheaper than continuous patrolling.

Measuring National Happiness

The U.N.'s Sustainable Development Solutions Network has released its World Happiness Report, and Time shares its findings. The top five happiest nations are Switzerland, Iceland, Denmark, Norway, and Canada. Apparently being cold helps, these are all snowy places.

Less flippantly, they are all places with few-to-no international obligations, doing their own thing in blissful isolation, largely enjoying protection by the U.S. The study covered 158 nations; the U.S. ranked 15th, barely included in the top 10%.

Time says Mexico ranked 14th, one above the U.S. This seems unlikely in view of the endemic poverty, corruption, drug wars and cartel killings there.

Will people will start emigrating illegally to Mexico, instead of from Mexico? Nope, I don't think so, do you?

Cillizza Dumps on Hillary's "Baggage"

The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza is no conservative, which makes his Hillary blog post so much more damning. Referring to a Quinnipiac University national poll about her, he writes:
More than six in ten (62 percent) of voters said Clinton has "strong leadership qualities." In that same sample, however, less than four in ten (38 percent) said that Clinton was honest and trustworthy. A majority (54 percent) said she's not honest and trustworthy, including 61 percent of independents.

That's a remarkable set of findings -- and speaks to the divided mind the public has about the Clintons broadly and Hillary Clinton specifically.  There's a widespread belief in her capability to do the job she is running for. There's also widespread distrust in her personally.  People admire her but don't know if she's honest.

And that is the central problem for Clinton with this series of stories today. It affirms for people that there is always some piece -- or pieces -- of baggage that come with electing the Clintons to anything.  It's part of the deal. You don't get one without the other.
Cillizza tries to soften the blow with his "don't know if she's honest" line. Face it, the 54% who said she was not honest and trustworthy included 61% of independents. Lack of certainty didn't enter the equation.

Ugly Electoral Reality

In National Review last November, GOP political activist Myra Adams did some back-of-the-envelope analysis and found that in the six presidential elections since 1992, the Democrats have won outright in 19 states with a total of 242 electoral votes. Required to win: 270 votes, or 28 more. Florida's 29 votes fill that requirement.

Writing today in American Thinker, Gene Schwimmer shows how to use Adams' numbers to predict who will be elected in 2016, his analysis is similarly intriguing. You won't like his conclusion:
If I were a GOP strategist, I would be sweating about now – and in 2020, 2024, and in every presidential election going forward, for as long as the states listed above continue to vote as they have – namely, for every Democratic presidential candidate, regardless, apparently, of that candidate’s experience, honesty, or indeed any other personal characteristic.
On the other hand, American voters rarely give a party a third bite at the apple, after it has held the presidency for two terms. We live in hope....

Obama and the Jews

Pundits have puzzled about Jews' fierce allegiance to the Democratic Party over the last several election cycles, particularly since the Party has shown less practical support for Israel. Now Gallup documents declining support for Democrats among this demographic group.

Jews' approval of President Obama has declined, from 77% when he took office to 54% today. The gap in Obama approval between Jews and all Americans has also declined, from 14% then to 8% today. Further segmenting the sample, Gallup finds:
Jews are the least religious of any major U.S. religious group. The 16% of Jews who report weekly religious service attendance is half the national average of 33% for the same period. The small segment of Jews who attend services weekly are distinctly less positive about Obama than the others, giving Obama a 34% approval rating.
Although Gallup doesn't flag the finding, their data shows Jewish men are evenly split between 48% who approve and 48% who disapprove of Obama.

Will lack of enthusiasm for Obama translate into increased voting for the Republican nominee in 2016? The poll provides no information about this, I think it unlikely. It might result in a lower level of Jewish voter turnout or voting for minor party candidates as a form of protest.

Taiwan Update

Gordon G. Chang writes in World Affairs Journal about the current state of cross-strait relations between Taiwan and China. If you haven't been following current events there, his is a great primer on recent events. His conclusion is haunting:
After the November election, Bruce Jacobs of Monash University in Australia Told Reuters that the KMT are "yesterday's people." Now, in the eyes of the Taiwanese, the Chinese are too.
Apparently a feeling of being Taiwanese instead of Chinese is the new majority view on the island. Meanwhile Chinese leader Xi seems to want to have "unification" happen on his watch, which ends in 2022.

If Xi has a sense of U.S. politics - he may well not - he will move on Taiwan before dithering President Obama leaves office 21 months from now. We live in interesting times, unfortunately.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Bureaucratic "Reality"

Fox News reports the Internal Revenue Service has deliberately targeted customer services for budget cuts. Their story begins as follows:
While facing budget cuts, the IRS nevertheless prioritized worker bonuses, union activity and the implementation of President Obama’s health care law over assisting taxpayers during tax season, according to a new report released Wednesday by the House Ways and Means Committee.
There is nothing in this story that should surprise the experienced observer of bureaucratic behavior. We'd like the agency to keep what we value and cut what they enjoy. Of course they do exactly the opposite.

Standard bureaucratic practice is to cut those things voters will miss most when an agency experiences a budget cut. Why should they suffer when they can push the misery off onto us? Often what they perceive as a "cut" is nothing more than a refusal to allow their budget to rise by the standard growth percentage.

If a business unit tried this ploy the CEO would fire its head and bring in a mean new boss to kick tail and take names. In government this rarely happens, worse luck.

We Don't Much Trust FedGov

The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza reports relatively grim statistics from a "massive Pew study." Cillizza writes:
Just 23 percent trust the federal government to do the right thing "at least most of the time."

Twice as many Democrats as Republicans say they trust the government to do the right thing most of the time.

Young people (age 18 to 29 for these purposes) are nine points more likely to trust the federal government to do the right thing than those over 65. Whites (19 percent) are the least likely race/ethnicity to trust the government; Hispanics (33 percent) are the most likely. People who live in urban areas (28 percent) are more likely to trust the federal government than those who live in rural areas (22 percent).
Cillizza attributes Democrats trusting government more to the fact of a Democrat president, saying the finding would probably be reversed if there was a Republican in the White House. I beg to differ.

Republicans are inclined to agree with Ronald Reagan that government is more often the problem than the solution. Cynicism comes with age, whites see the Obama administration as representing primarily people of color, and high density city living requires more government to keep people under control.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Time For Your Nap

Former mayor of San Francisco and former Speaker of the state Assembly - Willie Brown, Jr. - has recommended that CA Governor Jerry Brown (no relation) become Hillary Clinton's vice presidential running-mate. Talk about your geriatric tickets, she is 68 and he is 77. Millennials will love that pairing, AARP all the way.

See a Breitbart California story for more. My guess: Willie - hard up for a column idea - grinned when this idea popped into his head. He brings a wicked sense of humor to politics. I imagine Willie chuckling about a Clinton White House with a scheduled nap time every day after lunch.

A Sad State

David P. Goldman, aka Spengler, blogs at PJ Media. A couple of weeks ago he cited some depressing statistics concerning African-Americans.
Six years after America inaugurated its first African-American president, the social condition of black Americans remains dismal and appears to be deteriorating. 49% of black males have been arrested by the age of 23; a third of black males will probably spend time behind bars. 54% of black men graduate from high school vs. more than 75% of whites. Only 14% of black eighth graders score at or above the threshold of proficiency. And nearly three-quarters of black births are to unmarried mothers.
Later in the same article Spengler writes:
Civilizations die out for the most part because they want to.
Black America appears to be edging in that direction, something approaching collective suicide.

Leadership Popularity: A Poll

Gallup has surveyed the world's nations examining attitudes toward the leadership exhibited by four major nations (the U.S., Russia, China, , and Germany) and one supranational groups (the European Union).

Once again the leadership of the U.S. comes out on top, as it has since the election of Barack Hussein Obama as President. Our President is substantially more popular overseas than at home.

No surprise inasmuch as he has consistently favored their interests over our own. One could be pardoned for believing Obama is jonesing after the next U.N. Secretary General vacancy.

Russia came out on the bottom, China didn't do much better, as both historically have done. The leaders of Russia and China consistently pursue their own nations' interests, with little concern for the regard of others.

Wisdom from the Great Communicator

In The Washington Times, columnist Cal Thomas quotes President Ronald Reagan on the subject of freedom.
Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.
The CliffsNotes™ version of this home truth is "Freedom isn't free." Hat tip to Lucianne.com for the link.

Stop Muslim Immigration to U.S.

The first law of holes is that, if you find yourself in a hole, stop digging. Rev. Franklin Graham, son of Billy, understands this, President Obama refuses. Graham writes on Facebook:
Can it be that the world is no longer as shocked by Christians having their heads cut off and then ISIS proudly promoting this on video? We should continue to be horrified and nauseated.

Our government needs to: (1) Immediately look at immigration reform to halt all immigration of Muslims from countries that have active terrorist cells—the threat this poses to our nation is huge and could end up costing thousands of lives in the future if we don’t act now. And (2) Take immediate military action to defeat ISIS.
Hat tips to Lucianne.com and PJ Media/tattler for the links. 

Monday, April 20, 2015

Wise Words

David P. Goldman, who blogs as Spengler, writes about this great nation we call home. Along the way he compares President Obama to the Wizard of Oz, and cites some dreary statistics concerning dysfunction in the African-American community. My favorite part is his characterization of our nation.
America is a winner’s game. America succeeds because it breeds success and ruthlessly crushes failure. A main purpose of American politics, in turn, is to make losers feel better, without, of course, preventing them from losing.
One seldom sees this level of Social Darwinism out of the closet. When our public schools forgot this truth, they lost sight of what we need them to accomplish - produce winners. Everything else is babysitting.

A Recommendation for Venezuela

If you haven't been there, and don't have a craving for economic trivia, you probably don't know that the South American nation of Ecuador uses the U.S. dollar as its official monetary unit. It has done so for the past 15 years.

Those concerned with worsening economic conditions in Venezuela are recommending Ecuador-style "dollarization" for that troubled nation. See an article in Pan Am Post for details, hat tip to Lucianne.com for the link.

Ecuador adopting the U.S. dollar didn't mean they were particularly pro-U.S. As a matter of fact, Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa feels much warmer toward Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, and Nicaragua than toward the U.S.

Dollarization is viewed as a way of preventing runaway inflation, which occurs when local governments print money. Nations that don't much care for the U.S. understand that our Federal Reserve Bank closely controls inflation of the dollar.

Giving up the national currency and adopting the dollar instead is the equivalent of a compulsive shopper giving the family's credit cards to their spouse. It is an "I need protection from my self-destructive impulses" action, not one taken in pride.

How About Huckabee?

At COTTonLINE we've noted before Mike Huckabee's talents as a campaigner. The former Baptist minister does authenticity very well; whether or not you agree with him you feel he believes what he is saying. Today Nate Cohn of The New York Times writes an appreciation of his strengths and weaknesses as a candidate.

As Cohn observes, Huck's strongest appeal is to evangelicals, voters for whom an activist, old-style Protestantism is central. Having had a show on Fox News for several years has built his name recognition and conservative bona fides. Cohn concludes:
Mr. Huckabee is a classic factional candidate: someone whom the rest of the party would almost certainly rally to defeat if he seemed within striking distance of the nomination, but whose strength among a large faction of the party allows him to play a crucial, even possibly decisive, role in the race.
If he is wins a substantial number of delegates, it could cause the frontrunners to shape their messages to co-opt some of his issue positions. It might even land him a vice presidential bid.

Weird Agricultural Science

A columnist for The Seattle Times reports the modest increase in temperatures has had an impact on agriculture, particularly in northern regions. Hat tip to Instapundit for the link.
Rising temperatures are breathing new life into northern agriculture. Farm economists say that the net result will be a vast expansion in America’s food-growing capability.

A century ago, corn was not a viable crop above North Dakota’s southern third. But an average temperature rise of 2.7 degrees over that period has let North Dakota farmers grow feed corn up to the Canadian border. The growing season there is three weeks longer. In farming, that’s huge.
A growing season is the elapsed interval between the last killing frost in the spring and the first killing frost in the fall. The alleged three week extension thereof may be an exaggeration. Still, it has to be good news for Canada, eh?

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Justified Cynicism Award

New Statesman (U.K.) columnist Laurie Penny takes an extremely dim view of the upcoming British parliamentary election.
The question on the table isn’t whether we’ll ever get the government we deserve. The question is whether we want the next five years to be disastrous or merely depressing. The choice is between different shades of disillusion.

Right now, there may not be much to vote for but there’s plenty to vote against. Go out and vote, if you can stand it, and I hope you can. Vote in disgust. Vote in despair.
I could have written those very words in 2000, 2004, and 2008. I hope I won't feel that way again in 2016.

Weird Molecular Science

Meghan Walsh writes for Ozy about a young prof who speculates about exactly how life begins from non-life. Think of him as something like Darwin 2.0. Jeremy England thinks it may be a normal process, perhaps not even particularly rare.
Under the right conditions, a random group of atoms will self-organize, unbidden, to more effectively use energy. Over time and with just the right amount of, say, sunlight, a cluster of atoms could come remarkably close to what we call life. In fact, here’s a thought: Some things we consider inanimate actually may already be “alive.” It all depends on how we define life.
Chew on that off-the-wall thought.

Paradise Lost

COTTonLINE's favorite demographer, Joel Kotkin, is a trenchant observer of his home (and my birth) state - California. Here he writes for The Daily Beast a celebration of what California once was, but is no more. Kotkin laments:
The generation that built the sinews of modern California—most notably the late Governor Pat Brown Sr., the current governor’s father—sprang from the old progressive spirit which saw in infrastructure development a chance not only to create new wealth, but also provide opportunity to working- and middle-class Californians.

In contrast, Jerry Brown has waged a kind of Oedipal struggle against his father’s legacy. Like many Californians, he recoiled against the sometimes haphazard and even ugly form of development that plowed through much of the state. Cutting off water is arguably the most effective way to stop all development, and promote Brown’s stated goal of eliminating suburban “sprawl.”

As recently as the 1970s and ’80s, the percentage of people living in poverty in California was below the national average; California today, based on cost of living, has the highest poverty rate in the country.

We are witnessing the breakdown of a once-expansive, open society into one dominated by a small group of plutocrats, largely in Silicon Valley, with an “amen” crew among the low-information donors of Hollywood, the public unions, the green lobby, and wealthy real estate developers favored by Brown’s pro-density policies. This coalition backs Brown and helps maintain the state’s essentially one-party system.

Misplaced Gripes

Every now and then some who write conservative opinion get on their high horse when remaining afoot would be more graceful. For example this rant in a Townhall column by Christine Rousselle about the trash left at the Earth Day concert on the Mall in Washington, DC.

So people brought their garbage to the trash cans and, when these were full, piled it around the base of the cans. In my view, their behavior is blameless. They did what I would have done in their shoes.

Had they merely dropped trash where they were viewing the concert, that would have been bad behavior. They didn't litter their trash, but tried to dispose of it properly.

The fault lies with park personnel who didn't provide adequate waste receptacles. As we say in Wyoming, this was "not their first rodeo." A pair of regular cans won't do for thousands of people, and the folks who care for the Mall know this - it was they who screwed up.

Only the Greatest Now

Blogging for The Weekly Standard, Stephen F. Hayes reports a glowing reaction to Governor Scott Walker's recent speech in New Hampshire. Walker apparently talked about
What makes us arguably the greatest nation in history.
Hayes has a quibble with Walker, over the word "arguably." He feels it was too tentative for a red meat conservative audience. Hayes reports nobody but himself seemed to notice the qualifier.

My quibble with Hayes is that the U.S. is not the greatest nation in history, merely the greatest nation of the past century. It is hard to argue with the British Empire being the world's greatest nation, when at its high point the sun literally never set upon its soil and every world map was covered with territory tinted pink.

Both the entire subcontinent (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal) and half of Africa were British colonies, as well as Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Malaya, much of the Caribbean, and modern day Ireland, Belize and Guyana. Never before or since has the world seen a nation like the British Empire.

Sixteen hundred years earlier, the Roman Empire was a very big deal, as well at that of the Spaniards in Central and South America plus the Philippines.

If Hayes wants to argue that the U.S. is the most moral or free or honorable nation ever, even those claims are dubious. We are certainly a good, free, successful nation, the most powerful of the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, and my favorite place to call home, with much of which to be proud. Beyond that lies hyperbole and jingoism.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Pluses and Minuses

Sean McFate writes about mercenary military forces for The New York Times. As he notes, mercs are cheaper.
Mercenaries are less expensive than standing armies, just like renting a car is cheaper than owning one. (snip) Blackwater cost 10 percent less than a comparable army unit in wartime Iraq, and a private force costs nothing in peacetime because its contract can be terminated. 
When not employed doing something good, unemployed professional soldiers sometime find work doing something not-so-good. They have been recruited to overthrow third world governments, or guard drug kingpins, for example.

A Forlorn Hope

Los Angeles Times' political reporter Doyle McManus writes about Democratic efforts to regain the lost votes of their former core constituency - non-college white males. It is unlikely the Democrats will succeed.

Non-college white males are exactly who Obama was talking about when he famously complained:
They get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.
I promise you the nation's non-college white males knew exactly who Obama meant, who his enemy was - them. Now Democrats want these fellows' votes? After forcing them to compete with millions of illegal immigrants? Good luck with that - I give it roughly the same chance as snowflakes in Hades.

Can Hillary Make History?

Larry J. Sabato and associates at the University of Virginia write some statistical wisdom for Politico.
No retiring president below 50 percent job approval nationally has passed the White House to his party’s nominee in the 75 years of the polling era. Obama’s approval rating, as of this writing, is around 45 percent (give or take), and his disapproval is about 50 percent.
A percentage player therefore would bet against the Democratic nominee. Admittedly, Sabato's sample size is small.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Barone: Need for Relevance

Michael Barone writes for RealClearPolitics about who wins presidential elections.
The lesson from history is that winning candidates and successful presidents show they are in step with the times. The rationale for their candidacies, while sometimes drawing on historical precedent, is rooted in what is contemporary. This is obviously a problem for Hillary Clinton.
Barone believes the rationale for Hillary's candidacy is rooted in Bill's presidency, which was in step with its times fifteen years ago. He concludes:
Hillary Clinton may still be elected president. But she seems out of sync with her party and out of sync with the times.
Yes, in addition to her other shortcomings.

The Art of (British) Politics

Jonathan Jones took an art appreciation course and, mirabile dictu, stayed awake. Now, desperate for a column topic, he tries to apply what he learned to the recent debate among candidates for the British Prime Ministerial job, for The Guardian, a Labour paper.

Jones' art metaphor doesn't work. His comment that new things are happening in U.K. politics is certainly true enough, if obvious and not newsworthy.

Weird Sociological Science

Does it help poor kids to live among and go to school with kids from middle class families? Social theory suggests it should. Actual results differ dramatically.

See a RealClearPolicy article which reports research finding that poor kids do less well when living among the more affluent. This was particularly true of poor boys.

I don't find these research outcomes particularly surprising or counterintuitive. Some of the least pleasant interactions of my adolescence were with boys from the two elite boarding schools in our small SoCal valley - they were some ugly dudes. It was middle class me interacting with upper class them, a similar issue.

Ignatius Echoes Spengler

David Ignatius does for The Washington Post what Tom Friedman does for The New York Times - writes about foreign affairs. His column today takes a pessimistic view of the Middle East, always the wise default position on this benighted region.

I am struck by the extent to which Ignatius' future prediction for the Middle East resembles that of David P. Goldman (aka Spengler). Spengler foresees a replay of the Thirty Years War in the region, see his work here, here, and here. Ignatius agrees with that overall assessment.

Climate Change: A Status Report

Regular COTTonLINE readers know we take the view that climates change without human intervention, have done so in the past and will do so in the future. That much truly is settled science. Writing at The Federalist, Robert Tracinski raises the following key question:
What It Would Take to Prove Global Warming
By which he means the issue that concerns climate alarmists, namely:
“Catastrophic anthropogenic global warming”: i.e., global temperatures are rising, it’s our fault, and we’re all gonna die.
Tracinski concludes proof would require three things:
  1. A clear understanding of the temperature record. 
  2. A full understanding of the underlying physical mechanisms. 
  3. The ability to make forecasting models with a track record of accurate predictions over the very long term.
None of those is completely available today. If you have questions about the magnitude and causes of climate change, this article provides a very unhysterical, cold-eyed look at what would constitute proof upon which all reasonable, intelligent persons could agree.

We cannot get good answers in the short run, as demanded by alarmists. If the research isn't underway now, it certainly should be.

Wisdom from Rasmussen

Scott Rasmussen weighs in at RealClearPolitics with "Five Keys to Understanding Election 2016." All 5 are interesting, here is my favorite:
In the wake of Clinton’s announcement, for example, many have noted that she might do better than President Obama among women. But, if that’s true, it doesn’t eliminate the possibility that she might do worse among men. Or that black turnout may be down or Latinos less hostile to the GOP.
Nonwhites won't feel the same excitement about Hillary that electing a non-white president provided. They may not vote GOP but they could sure stay home in large numbers.

One group Hillary might do well among is women independents. I question whether millennials will vote for a woman older than their grandmother to be president.

April Blizzard in WY

Living in Wyoming isn't all beer and skittles, see an NBC News article reporting April snowfall in eastern Wyoming sufficient to close I-80. The blizzard dropped nearly 10 inches of snow in southeastern Wyoming.

The article doesn't mention Sherman Summit, between Cheyenne and Laramie on I-80. It climbs to 8640 feet, the highest pass on the transcontinental highway.

Locals claim it can snow any month of the year, perhaps true at the highest elevations. In 20 years I've not seen any in July and August, however June and September are another story.

Wrong Metric

Charlie Cook writes for National Journal about a Pew Center survey which shows people's political party identifications. His claim: it shows bad news for Republicans. The raw numbers bear out his claim.

More Americans self-identify as Democrats than as Republicans. If party identification was all there is to winning elections, the GOP might as well stay home.

Yet Republicans just won the 2014 election ... convincingly. Cook doesn't explain this apparent contradiction. COTTonLINE will try to explain how a party with fewer self-identified adherents wins elections. There are two main reasons.

Voter turnout is a big part of the answer. Groups with heavy GOP identifications are also groups that vote in substantial numbers. Fewer members of groups with a heavy Dem. bias tend to vote.

This isn't a new phenomenon, it was true when I was a boy. I remember my Dad, a life-long populist Democrat, being bitter about it.

The other major factor, particularly in congressional races, is where Democrats and Republicans live. Democrat-leaning voters are highly concentrated in a few congressional districts and a few states. See National Journal's map showing where each party dominates.

As we know, each state gets two senators regardless of population. California's almost 39 million people send two Democrats to the U.S. Senate while Wyoming's roughly 600,000 people send two Republicans.

Democratic House districts tend to have supermajorities of Democrats. Republican House districts are less biased, while mostly still "safe." Thus, Republican voters are more efficiently distributed across districts. The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza reports as follows:
Of the 199 Democrats in the House at the start of the 113th Congress, a majority -- 51 percent(!) -- won their race with 67 percent of the vote or higher. Among the 234 Republicans elected in the last election, 67 -- or roughly 29 percent of the GOP conference -- won with 67 percent or higher.

In the 2012 election just 31 Republicans and 31 Democrats won their seats with 54 percent of the vote or less -- just 14 percent of the entire House.

Predicted Cover-up Happens

Congressman Duncan Hunter (R-CA) reported on Fox News that Islamic militants have been apprehended crossing our border with Mexico.
I know that at least 10 ISIS fighters have been caught coming across the Mexican border in Texas.
Meanwhile, the official government line contradicts his assertion.
The suggestion that individuals who have ties to ISIL have been apprehended at the Southwest border is categorically false, and not supported by any credible intelligence or the facts on the ground," a senior DHS spokesman said.
On October 8, Judicial Watch reported 4 Islamic terrorists had been arrested within the past 36 hours. Border Patrol is telling a different story to Hunter than Homeland Security wishes disseminated.

Yesterday, InfoWars carried a Judicial Watch report on a meeting the FBI held with Mexican officials the obvious purpose of which was stopping leaks. Both were trying to determine who was spreading rumors which contradict the shared official line that, reflecting credit on both governments, no ISIS or Islamic militants are in Mexico or crossing into the U.S.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Snark Alert

Paul Mirengoff, who blogs at Power Line, headlines a post about Hillary's campaign with lofty irony:
Hillary Clinton, an inauthenticity you just can't fake.
That is some fine snark.

Why China Hates Japan

On several occasions, COTTonLINE has reported the Japanese left behind few friends in the countries across Asia they occupied before and during World War II. See a Smithsonian account of Imperial Japanese atrocities committed in coastal China following the Doolittle B-25 raid on Tokyo.

These are of a piece with the Rape of Nanking, based on accounts by missionaries - torture, germ warfare, arson, mass rape, and wholesale killing. The evil inventiveness with which we humans abuse each other never fails to amaze and sicken.

Fiorina: CA Drought Man-Made

Fox News quotes former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina on the subject of California's water shortage.
Droughts are nothing new in California, but right now, 70 percent of California's rainfall washes out to sea because liberals have prevented the construction of a single new reservoir or a single new water conveyance system over decades, during a period in which California’s population has doubled. This is the classic case of liberals being willing to sacrifice other people's lives and livelihoods at the altar of their ideology.
Carly gets it, she is a presidential candidate I could consider voting for. What she says is entirely true, take it from a native Californian.

TWA 800, Revisited

Conspiracy fans, have I got a treat for you? A long-time airline pilot writes for the New York Daily News that TWA 800, which blew up in midair off the coast of Long Island and crashed into the sea, killing all aboard, was probably shot down by a missile.

Captain Andrew Danziger is certain the plane did not blow up because of a spark in the central fuel tank, as alleged by the government. Too many people saw contrails rising toward the plane, and said so at the time.

I have always suspected the TWA 800 shoot-down was an inadvertent missile launch by a U.S. Navy ship. It wouldn't surprise me that tracking and pretending to launch missiles at overflying planes is a standard training exercise.

Imagine a sailor was "practicing" with the tracking radar and air defense system when, for whatever reason, the practice launch became a real launch. Sad, tragic even, but understandable.

If a missile strike was the cause, it is amazing that the cover-up has held for 19 years. There had to be dozens of men on the ship aware of the missile launch and its tragic consequence.

The Daily Mail (U.K.) puts forward another theory, dealing with an al Qaeda plot, and they have documents purporting to support their view. I don't think TWA 800 was within MANPAD range, but it's possible. You pays your money and takes your choice, eh?
Hat tip to Lucianne.com for the links.

Exurbs Are Back

Writing for RealClearPolicy, Teresa Wiltz reports the exurbs are once again the hot destination for home buyers. This was true before the recession, not true during the recession, and true once again today.

The demographic moving there is older, more established. Once it was the young who couldn't afford nice homes closer to the city. Today it is successful midlife couples who want more space, more privacy, fewer neighbors, less traffic, and certain "country" amenities.

At COTTonLINE we resonate strongly with this story, having ourselves moved to "the country" nearly thirty years ago. Our nearest neighbor is a couple of hundred yards distant and two large adjacent properties are pastures. We happily give up the convenience of city living to gain serenity, privacy and space.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Remember Tax Day

Gentle readers, today is Tax Day. I hope you've filed either your Federal income taxes or an extension to get extra time to do so.

You have until midnight to post your return - 2 hours on the East Coast, 5 hours on the West Coast. Fortunately the forms are available online at www.irs.gov - print out what you need.

Sad Statistics

The Thomas B. Fordham Institute runs an article about congressional efforts to update the No Child Left Behind act. Its author argues for setting realistic goals for improvement, as opposed to aspirational or "moonshot" goals which are idealistic-as-anything but entirely unreachable, leading to discouragement.

As part of the justification for this viewpoint, the author reproduces a graph showing data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, also known as the "Nation's Report Card," entitled:
NAEP Grade Twelve:
Percentage at or above "College-Prepared in Reading"
by Major Racial Groups
The most recent NAEP data, from 2013, show that 48% of white high school seniors are good readers, while perhaps 23% of Hispanics and 17% of blacks meet that standard. Given those performance levels, setting a goal of getting all youngsters to meet the standard is extremely unrealistic and ultimately self-defeating.

Weird Psychological Science

Pacific Standard reports two massive studies from Britain show that individuals rated as exhibiting self-control as children spend less time unemployed in later life. See the Psychological Science journal website for details. Individuals with low self-control experience more than three months of unemployment for every two months experienced by those with high self-control.

Personality traits like self-control are more genetic than learned, unfortunately. My reaction to these findings is the opposite of surprise, rather they seem intuitive. Bottom line: personality matters, therefore genetics matter a lot.