Sunday, May 31, 2015

No More "Indispensable"

The Telegraph (U.K.) interviews American author and foreign policy guru Ian Bremmer about the state of the world. The focus is on what role the U.S. and Britain should each take in it.

The interviewer summarizes Bremmer's book:
In ‘Superpower’ you outline three possible courses for American foreign policy: 1) keeping faith with the old “Indispensable” America that underwrites global stability 2) adopting a “moneyball” approach where the US pursues its narrow economic and security interests, or 3) an “Independent” America where the US gives up trying to solve the world’s problems, but seeks instead to lead by example by investing in America’s security and prosperity at home.
Bremmer doesn't believe American voters support "indispensable" any longer, probably because we haven't been successful at it in the last quarter century.
‘Indispensable’ America is now an increasingly extreme sell, domestically, for any American president. Americans have gotten disillusioned with the inauthenticity of their own leaders, and the politics and politicians in Washington.
Fearing the U.S. will continue to muddle along with no discernible strategy, Bremmer concludes the interview thus:
The September 11 attacks came when US was at the peak of its international power. So even if the United States massively screwed things up it still had all sorts of ability to align the rest of the world behind it. But if you have that kind of reaction in five or ten years when China is the world's biggest economy, that could be a hit that America doesn't come back from. That could really change the world order in a dangerous way. I don't think anyone is thinking about that - and that worries me.
It should worry everyone who expects to live another 10 years. Hat tip to Drudge Report for the link.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Weird Psychological Science

The National Center for Health Statistics, an arm of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, issued an interesting report earlier this month. Entitled "Serious Psychological Distress Among Adults: United States, 2009-2013," the report draws some intriguing conclusions.
In every age group, women were more likely to have serious psychological distress than men.

Among all adults, as income increased, the percentage with serious psychological distress decreased.

Adults with serious psychological distress were more likely to have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart disease, and diabetes than adults without serious psychological distress.
Perhaps, in our culture, women are more willing to admit serious psychological distress. They may not actually have more of it.

COTTonLINE cautions against inferring causation from the above, or from the data presented in the report. For example, while it is easy to posit that having more money reduces worry, it is as likely that having serious psychological distress interferes with earning money. Hat tip to Instapundit for the link.

More Snark

Matt Vespa, writing for the Hot Air blog, about flawed presidential candidates:
When I compare what made Romney a flawed candidate to Hillary, there simply is no comparison. She has to be the gold standard for flawed candidacies.
As we said in my former life, a textbook case - perfectly illustrating the concept. Hat tip to Lucianne.com for the link.

Political Humor Alert

Maureen Dowd writes political snark for The New York Times. Today she riffs on Hollywood's lukewarm feelings for Hillary. Hat tip to Drudge Report for the link.
The joke circulates in Hollywood that Hillary is like Coca-Cola’s Dasani water: She’s got a great distribution system, but nobody likes the taste.

The prevailing mood in this faltering Dream Factory is cynical. Some worry about the drip-drip of revelations about the Clintons. “It’s like that Dorothy Parker line, ‘What fresh hell is this?’ ” said one top Hollywood Democrat.

More Unintended Consequences

After dropping for a decade or more, the nation's violent crime rate is headed back up, as reported by Heather Mac Donald for The Wall Street Journal (not behind a paywall). Police feel under siege by the Obama administration's Department of Justice, and often by their local city governments. Some key thoughts:
This incessant drumbeat against the police has resulted in what St. Louis police chief Sam Dotson last November called the “Ferguson effect.” Cops are disengaging from discretionary enforcement activity and the “criminal element is feeling empowered,” Mr. Dotson reported.

Arrests in St. Louis city and county by that point had dropped a third since the shooting of Michael Brown in August. Not surprisingly, homicides in the city surged 47% by early November and robberies in the county were up 82%.

“There are no real consequences for committing property crimes anymore,” Los Angeles Police Lt. Armando Munoz told Downtown News earlier this month, “and the criminals know this.” The Milwaukee district attorney, John Chisholm, is diverting many property and drug criminals to rehabilitation programs to reduce the number of blacks in Wisconsin prisons; critics see the rise in Milwaukee crime as one result.

If these decriminalization and deincarceration policies backfire, the people most harmed will be their supposed beneficiaries: blacks, since they are disproportionately victimized by crime. The black death-by-homicide rate is six times higher than that of whites and Hispanics combined. The killers of those black homicide victims are overwhelmingly other black civilians, not the police.

The police could end all use of lethal force tomorrow and it would have at most a negligible impact on the black death rate. In any case, the strongest predictor of whether a police officer uses force is whether a suspect resists arrest, not the suspect’s race.
What do you suppose police do when angry at their mistreatment? They ignore suspicious behavior, effectively letting crime happen. Who suffers? We do.

Accusations of racism, complaints about disparate impact and over-incarceration, and resistance to "broken window" policing can destroy all the gains which made our society safer. November, 2016, can't get here soon enough.

Professional Vacationer and Food Scold

Ammo Grrrll is the nom de plume of a whimsical columnist for Power Line. In this week's offering, she takes on the more far-out feminists, with whom she apparently feels little kinship.
Those who profit from their professional victim status cling to it like a Titanic survivor to a piece of driftwood. Michelle Obama springs to mind: an obscenely-rich professional vacationer and Food Scold who claims to be dissed at Target and unwelcome at museums in the racist country that elected her unqualified, incompetent husband. Twice.
Ammo Grrrll crafts a recognizable word portrait of FLOTUS.

Recession a Risk

Power Line's John Hinderaker cites recent Commerce Department figures which show the U.S. economy contracted 0.7% in the first quarter of 2015. Are you aware that if our economy should contract again in the second quarter, April - June, we would officially be in another recession? We'll know in early July.

It's true. The official definition of "recession" is two consecutive quarters of falling real gross national product. While it probably won't happen, the mere possibility is chilling enough and a sure sign we are not in any kind of boom.

Life Choices Matter

Writing for Power Line, Paul Mirengoff begins with a Michael Gerson Washington Post column about economic mobility and this quote from Gerson:
The parties have backed into America’s most urgent domestic priority: resisting the development of a class-based society in which birth equals destiny. This division runs like an ugly, concrete wall across the American ideal.

On one side are the wealthy and educated, living in communities characterized by greater family stability, economic opportunity and neighborhood cohesion. On the other side is the working class, living in communities featuring economic stagnation, family instability and neighborhood breakdown.

The best advice for success? Be born on the right side of the wall. That is not a very American-sounding answer.
Put that way, of course Gerson is correct. Being "born on the right side of the wall" says individual talent and hard work mean little. Responding to Gerson, Mirengoff writes:
Why isn’t the best advice for success to behave the way those on the right side of the wall tend to? In other words, take education seriously; don’t have children when you are still a child; don’t commit crimes; don’t abuse hard drugs; get married before having children; and once married, try hard to stay married.

What is the evidence that those on born on the wrong side of the wall but follow this advice are unlikely to succeed? What is the evidence that those born on the right side of the wall but ignore the advice are likely to?
As conservatives, we must agree with Mirengoff. We believe individuals are responsible for their own outcomes, not the pawns of vast, impersonal societal forces as liberals claim.

There is plenty of evidence that many Asian migrants to the U.S. do what Mirengoff advocates, even when mired in poverty and culture shock. And it works for them too; they don't stay poor or spend half their lives in prison.

The difference is culture, an unattractive truth. Some cultures demonstrably produce better life outcomes than others.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Iraq Can't Be Repaired

Loren Thompson writes for Forbes about why Iraq, like Humpty Dumpty, can't be put back together again. He briefly explains each of five reasons which I've listed below to give you the flavor of his article.
Nonsensical Borders
No National Identity
Autocratic Tradition
Systematic Brutality
Pervasive Corruption
All of that is also clearly true of Syria. I'll wager you could truthfully write the same thing about at least half the countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

Greek Banks Hit

Bloomberg Business reports Greeks are taking money out of their bank accounts. Dang, I hope they are smart enough to do that.

Let's say you live in Greece and have euros in the neighborhood bank. You worry that your government will eventually drop (or be forced) out of the euro zone and preemptively convert your bank deposits to drachmas.

Logically, you go to a more stable country like Belgium or the Netherlands, open a bank account, and move your euros there. Net impact on Greek banks - lost deposits. If enough of this happens, the result is a run on the bank and bank failure. Also some euros will go under the mattress or into a home safe.

This is one of those situations where what is good for you as an individual or a family is bad for your country and vice versa. If you leave your savings in the local bank you support Greece but risk losing much of your savings.

WY Gets Rain CA Needs

We've been in WY a week today. For the entire time the weather here has done its level best to mimic that of Seattle - cool, overcast, and rainy. It has either been raining, just finished raining, or is about to begin raining.

Perpetually gray skies make getting out of bed difficult. Imagine how hard that made doing doctoral work in Eugene, OR. It's lucky I finished.

The other DrC says I've shown decided reluctance to return to OR on vacations. She's probably correct in that view.

Oddly, the dreary weather miraculously vanishes during the summer, when folks from CA tend to drive north on vacation. I wonder how many have moved north from CA because it is "beautiful," only to find the beauty reliably lasts only 4 months a year.

Ugly northwest winters are no new thing. The Lewis and Clark expedition wintered over on the Oregon coast two centuries ago and complained bitterly in their diaries about the area's constant rain and overcast.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Bloody Baltimore

CBS Baltimore carries an Associated Press story on the greatly increased violence and fear in that city.
A 31-year-old woman and a young boy were shot in the head Thursday, becoming Baltimore’s 37th and 38th homicide victims so far this month, the city’s deadliest in 15 years.

Meanwhile, arrests have plunged: Police are booking fewer than half the number of people they pulled off the streets last year.
Is there any possible way you can see the things described in these two consecutive paragraphs as unrelated? Nor can I. Police Commissioner Anthony Batts said:
Our officers tell me that when officers pull up, they have 30 to 50 people surrounding them at any time.
The article continues:
Baltimore was seeing a slight rise in homicides this year even before Gray’s death April 19. But the 38 homicides so far in May is a major spike, after 22 in April, 15 in March, 13 in February and 23 in January.

With one weekend still to go, May 2015 is already the deadliest month in 15 years, surpassing the November 1999 total of 36.
The thin blue line that stands between us and anarchy deserves our support. Without it, life begins to become Hobbesian, which is to say a war of everyone against everyone.

Quote of the Day

Ben Shapiro, writing for Breitbart Big Government, about the too-wide diversity of opinion represented by GOP presidential contenders.
The Republican Party has become to political positions what COEXIST bumper stickers are to religion.
Implying, of course, that all represented views are equally valid and laudable, therefore essentially irrelevant. However, the primary process will reveal GOP voters' values.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Christianity Almost a Splinter Group

You read that Europe is post-Christian, we've so described Europe on COTTonLINE several times. A quote like this one from Politico really brings that truth home:
Protestant ritual has evaporated in everyday Britain. In 1900, over 70 percent believed Jesus Christ was the Son of God and 90 percent of babies were baptized — whereas in 2011 only 30 percent believed in the divinity of Jesus and barely 10 percent of newborns were baptized.
Those are dramatic reductions in belief and practice.

A Birdseye View of Europe

Exactly one week ago we wrote about an excellent tour d'horizon of the world by George Friedman for RealClearWorld. In it he focused on the destabilization of the Eurasian landmass.

Today we give you Friedman's second article in the RealClearWorld series, a focus on the situation in what he calls "peninsular Europe," This he defines as everything between Russia and the Atlantic, north of the Mediterranean Sea.

For the European peninsula, Friedman describes two crises: instability within the EU, and conflict with Russia. He sees Europe fragmenting into four parts: Germanic Europe, Mediterranean Europe, the eastern frontier of the EU, and the rest of northern Europe. Particularly the first three of these have diverging interests, pitting them against each other.

As Friedman notes, Europe has tried to pull together via the EU, and largely failed. During the same period Russia has gotten past its malaise of the 1990s and has become more united (but substantially poorer) than peninsular Europe.

Weird Planetary Science

Popular Science has a nice article on the challenges faced by astronauts who make it to Mars. It turns out the technology to cope with the harsh environment, and the difficulty of resupply, doesn't yet exist. To make the point about the challenges of survival there, the article is entitled:
How You'll Die on Mars
That gets my attention, for sure. It's a long trip to make just to die once there.

Astonishment and Contempt

Writing for National Review Online, Conrad Black summarizes U.S. foreign policy since Reagan, with particular emphasis on the last four presidential terms, and finds it disastrous.
As President Obama and his entourage and imperishable following persevere in their conviction that this president’s benign championship of non-intervention, arms control, and giving rogue states the benefit of the doubt is winning hearts and minds to a new conception of a kindly, detached America, it is clearer every week that this administration’s foreign policy is contemplated with astonishment and contempt by practically everyone else.

After four terms of almost unrelieved bipartisan official incompetence, America has dug itself into a deep hole, a process in which both the Bushes and the Clintons have done their part.
Umm ... yeah, that's a fair assessment.

Unintended Consequences

The New York Times reports on the unintended (and unwanted) consequences of family-friendly policies. The basic story is in the first three paragraphs:
In Chile, a law requires employers to provide working mothers with child care. One result? Women are paid less.

In Spain, a policy to give parents of young children the right to work part-time has led to a decline in full-time, stable jobs available to all women — even those who are not mothers.

Elsewhere in Europe, generous maternity leaves have meant that women are much less likely than men to become managers or achieve other high-powered positions at work.
So much for overseas, what about in the U.S.?
Unlike many countries, the United States has few federal policies for working parents. One is the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, which provides workers at companies of a certain size with 12 weeks of unpaid leave.

Women are 5 percent more likely to remain employed but 8 percent less likely to get promotions than they were before it became law.
----------o--0--o----------

There is a lesson here for those agitating for a higher minimum wage or family leave. Fewer individuals will have jobs when the cost of employment is raised.

Employers neither are, nor should they be, social justice warriors. Employers are economic entities; this I assert as a lifelong Management professor.

A firm's decision to hire a non-family member is the result of a cost-benefit analysis which found the output of the person hired would add more to the firm's bottom line than he or she would cost in wages, benefits, and taxes. When employment costs rise, the decision will more often be negative, a decision not to hire.

If firms anticipate higher employment costs and more scheduling inconvenience associated with hiring women, they will be likely to hire fewer women, assuming equal productivity.  Women more often become executives in the U.S. because we have fewer laws requiring their special treatment, another unintended consequence.

30 Million Illegal Aliens

Breitbart Big Government has the transcript of Jorge Ramos interviewing author Ann Coulter on her new book Adios America. Ramos hosts on the Fusion cable channel, which features English language programming for Hispanics. Turning the tables, Coulter asked Ramos:
"We have taken in one quarter of the entire Mexican population. At what point will we have taken in enough, in your view?"

Coulter got Ramos to admit he doesn’t believe there should be a limit to how many Mexicans the United States will allow into this country—either legally or illegally.
Later in the interview Coulter and Ramos argued over how many illegals are in the U.S. Here is their dialog:
Ramos: “You are saying on page—right here, on page 72—that the real number of undocumented immigrants is 30 million.
Coulter: "Yes."
Ramos: "It isn't."
Coulter: I think you’re wrong, as I describe. The number we keep hearing is 11 million, 11 million, 11 million, 11 million—that’s so weird. It’s been 11 million for a decade.

They’re all using the Census. (snip) Which relies on people who have broken the law to be here telling the truth in government surveys.

“Back in 2006, they said it was 20 million—two Pulitzer Prize winning investigative journalists who spent a year investigating for Time Magazine. (snip) In 2006, they said there have been another 3 million a year. That adds up to a minimum of 30 million.”
Nearly 10% of our current estimated population here illegally ... the mind boggles.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Administrative Hypertrophy

Glenn Harlan Reynolds writes a column for USA Today, in addition to being a law professor who blogs as Instapundit. Today's USAT column is about the obscene growth in university administrative positions. This growth is very real, I've seen it on campuses with which I was affiliated, prior to retirement.

The question nobody seems to ask: why an explosive growth in administrators is occurring? I'm certain there are many reasons, a major one is the changing composition of the student stream.

The days when university students overwhelmingly were bright, well-prepared, motivated mainstream-culture youngsters of uncomplicated gender identification are long gone. The numbers of such students will continue to decline into the foreseeable future, something administrators know too well since the students of the next 18 years have already been born, their demographics are known.

Add to the mix the federal and state pressures to serve a diverse student body reflective of the larger population. Nobody will admit quotas exist, but of course they do in practice if not in theory, and everybody acts accordingly.

Recruiting black and Hispanic university students is difficult, finding sufficient numbers whose secondary education has prepared them for college is effectively impossible. Yet at public universities, failure to fill the seats with students equals budget cuts, layoffs, unemployment, and closed campuses.

A common pattern over the last couple of decades: at the beginning of each fall term there are plenty of minority students on campus, by Thanksgiving many are gone, by Easter most of the rest have departed. Mere recruitment isn't enough.

A fair number of new administrators are involved with things like "retention" which translates as an attempt to answer the question: How can we keep the minority kids we recruit from dropping out, help them pass courses, and eventually graduate them? Other administrators may be involved in programs designed to upgrade new students' skills so they can do university-level work.

Still others are involved in matching up students with various sources of funding, whether merit or need based, as well as loans. Or running employee assistance programs to help faculty and staff with addiction issues and other troubles.

Reynolds is correct, our universities do have too many administrators. Unfortunately, the problems which drive the process are only getting worse. Those problems are twofold: changing demographics and a worsening regulatory environment.

Prager: Liberal vs. Conservative Beliefs

Syndicated radio host and columnist Dennis Prager begins a series for RealClearPolitics looking at the conflicting beliefs of liberals and conservatives. His first column looks at the two sides' answers to the question "Is Man Basically Good?"

Liberals answer "yes." From that flows their explanation for bad behavior which must have external causes: poverty, abuse, hopelessness, discrimination, and the like.
Since people are basically good, their acts of evil must be explained by factors beyond their control. Their behavior is not really their fault; and when conservatives blame blacks for rioting and other criminal behavior, liberals accuse them of "blaming the victim."
Conservatives answer "man is fully capable of both good and evil." From that flows their willingness to blame bad behavior on bad choices made by the malefactor.
In the conservative view, people who do evil are to be blamed because they made bad choices -- and they did so because they either have little self-control or a dysfunctional conscience. In either case, they are to blame. That's why the vast majority of equally poor people -- black or white -- do not riot or commit violent crimes.
I look forward to Prager's next column in this series.

Pussyfooting

The New York Times reports U.S. warplanes in the Syria/Iraq theater of operations are being prevented from bombing ISIS targets because of a fear of killing civilians (who like as not support ISIS). Quite often ISIS columns proceed down the road with impunity.

This is ridiculous. I've seen the destroyed Serbian military headquarters in downtown Belgrade. The U.S. bombed it while leaving surrounding buildings intact. We have the technology but lack the will.

See the quoted recent email comments of an A-10 pilot, anonymous to avoid punishment from his superiors:
We have not taken the fight to these guys. We haven’t targeted their centers of gravity in Raqqa. All the roads between Syria and Iraq are still intact with trucks flowing freely.

In most cases, unless a general officer can look at a video picture from a U.A.V., (drone) over a satellite link, I cannot get authority to engage. It’s not uncommon to wait several hours overhead a suspected target for someone to make a decision to engage or not.
This is no way to fight a war.

Rubin: Walker, Rubio Looking Good

Jennifer Rubin blogs semi-conservative opinion for The Washington Post. In today's column she takes a look at the two front-runners opposing Jeb Bush for the GOP nomination: Marco Rubio and Scott Walker. 

Rubin finds much to admire in both. Each has real accomplishments to point to with pride. Neither is tarred with much scandal. She hints at a ticket with both on it, but I can't imagine either wants to be VP to a youngish president. 

My guess: Walker gets the nod, he more closely resembles the modal Republican base voter than Rubio. Walker's main problem, Democrats would rather run against him than Rubio, who might cost them a significant share of the Hispanic vote.

The Continuing Muddle

Mohamed A. El-Erian writes for Bloomberg View about a half decade of Band-Aid-style short-term fixes to the near-catatonic Greek economy. He seconds the opinion of International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde who says quick fixes are no longer what's needed.

The Greeks need to do the national equivalent of bankruptcy and wander off into genteel poverty outside the euro zone, perhaps outside the EU. The national political will to undertake thoroughly unpleasant corrective measures does not appear to be present in Greece, no surprise. Greece only managed to qualify for EU membership by means of dubious accounting sleight-of-hand.

The Volatile Balkans

The Economist reports on continuing ethnic tensions in the southern Balkans - specifically in Macedonia, Kosovo, and Albania. The issue is ethnic Albanians - who are a left-behind Muslim remnant of Ottoman Turk occupation of the entire region until a century ago.

Albanians have spread across the southern Balkans where The Economist's map shows them also dominating Kosovo and parts of Macedonia. Higher birth rates among the region's Muslim population may be a key factor in this spread, whereas birth rates among the non-Muslim residents are dropping as is typical among Europeans generally. Of course the Muslim Albanians don't get along with their Christian neighbors.

Don't expect an outbreak of peace in this feisty region anytime soon. The Balkans are a Europe/Asia frontier area, where two incompatible civilizations rub against each other.

More Wishful Thinking

I can't promise how long the juxtaposition will persist, but as I write this two successive stories on Politico are the following:
A Landslide for Gay Marriage in Ireland
Pope's Pronouncement Making Trouble for GOP Catholics
Am I the only one who sees the first story making the second one moot? If the Church can't get a majority for its view of marriage in the world's most Catholic country - Ireland - who imagines this pope's liberation theology-tinged populist pronouncements will in any way discommode Republican Catholics in the U.S.?

American Catholics are well-practiced in selective obedience, their birth rate is essentially identical to that of non-Catholics and quite a lot are both divorced and remarried. The second article is but another example of a liberal's wishful thinking, in print.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Woody's Depression

The Daily Mail (U.K.) quotes Director Woody Allen at the Cannes Film Festival, introducing his latest film Irrational Man.
No matter how much the philosophers talk to you or the priests or the psychiatrists, the bottom line ... is life has its own agenda and it runs right over you while you’re prattling. We’re all going to wind up in a very bad position some day. The same position, but a bad one.

Because in the end it has no meaning. We live in a random universe and you’re living a meaningless life and everything you create in your life or do is going to vanish and the earth will vanish and the universe will be gone.
Well ... yeah, but so what? Either we discover the will to become a star-faring species to colonize the galaxy, or we deserve to disappear and it's no great loss. Meanwhile, enjoy today and keep some powder dry for tomorrow in case it arrives.

Trouble in Paradise

Beautiful Puerto Rico is hurting - high unemployment, towering government debt, impending default on government securities, and inability to file bankruptcy are all real issues. As The Independent (U.K.) reports,
Some 144,000 Puerto Ricans decamped for the US last year and a higher number may depart in 2015. A White House official privately described it as the biggest population displacement ever seen outside of a war.
Echoing Seattle during a Boeing layoff, someone should put up a billboard in San Juan showing a light switch and the tag line: "Would the last person leaving Puerto Rico please turn out the lights?" The sentiment should be rendered in Spanish.

Remember Their Sacrifice

Memorial Day reminds me Thomas Jefferson famously wrote
The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.
Jefferson's basic message: Freedom isn't free. If you'd rather be a U.S. citizen than a citizen of some other place, thank a veteran. If you love our culture and are glad we aren't trying to adapt to an alien culture, thank a veteran. If you value your independence, thank a veteran.

Bush Mistaken, Obama Derelict

On FOX News Sunday with Chris Wallace, long-time investigative reporter Bob Woodward is a panelist. In that capacity, The Gateway Pundit reports he exonerated President Bush of lying about WMD in Iraq, they have video if you'd like to see Woodward say it.
There is a kind of line going on that Bush and the other people lied about this. I spent 18 months looking at how Bush decided to invade Iraq. Lots of mistakes, but it was Bush telling George Tenet the CIA director, don’t let anyone stretch the case on WMD. He was the one who was skeptical. (snip) A mistake certainly can be argued, and there is an abundance of evidence. But there was no lie in this that I could find…
If I tell you something I believe to be true, which we subsequently learn was false when I said it, I did not lie to you. I was mistaken, but my intent was not to deceive you. About President Obama, Woodward continued :
The argument from military was keep ten-fifteen thousand troops there as an insurance policy. And we all know insurance policies make sense. We have thirty thousand troops or more in South Korea sixty-five years after the war. When you’re a super power you have to buy these insurance policies and he didn’t in this case. I don’t think you can say everything is because of that decision but (it was) clearly a factor.
Obama learned from his sin of omission, he is keeping a modest "insurance" force in Afghanistan. Hat tip to Instapundit for the link.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

U.S. Foreign Policy Errors

We think of demographer Joel Kotkin bringing us insights from population trends, something he does well, and often. Writing for The Orange County Register, today Kotkin tackles U.S. foreign policy problems and does a credible job. Some key insights:
At great human and financial expense, we turned a country (Iraq) run by a weakened, slightly buggy dictator into a nest of jihadi fanatics fighting Iran’s allies for control of the country.
Of President Obama, Kotkin writes:
His inability to work a treaty with the Iraqi government left it vulnerable for the emergence of ISIS. Refusing to stand up to Syria’s Assad regime, once the “red line” tied to chemical weapons use was crossed, suggested to anyone in the region that the Americans can now be rolled with impunity. To this, you can add an Iran treaty that seems to grease the skids for Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

The biggest challenge to America will not come from the Middle East, but the Eurasian land mass, where China and its new attack dog, Russia, are merrily constructing a new hegemony.

The sense that the U.S. is in retreat, and led by a particularly feckless elite, is widespread throughout Asia. High level officials in places like Singapore have expressed deep-seated fear that none of China’s future aggressive moves – possibly including an open seizure of Taiwan – would be resisted by the United States.
On the plus side, in addition to our new-found energy self-sufficiency, Kotkin identifies our demographic advantage:
The U.S. continues to enjoy among the highest birthrates among high income countries. Europe (including Russia), China and especially Japan all face far more serious demographic decline. 

Could the Islamic State Persist?

Ross Douthat writes an opinion column for The New York Times. Today he questions those who say the Islamic State cannot survive.

Douthat draws interesting parallels between today's Islamic State jihadi terrorists and the Bolshevik terrorists of the early Soviet Union. Neither was expected to be able to survive, given their wanton brutality.

Yet the Soviet Union's Reds managed to hold on for 70+ years, murdering literally millions in the process. May not the black-robed crusaders of the Islamic State accomplish the same feat?

Given the absence of a concerted effort by the civilized world to exterminate them, they just might do it. Such a concerted effort is nowhere on the horizon.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Weird Evolutionary Science

Geneticists are reaching tentative conclusions concerning the origins of Alzheimer's disease, according to Nature. They suspect the same mutations that enabled modern humans to evolve from hominids by becoming markedly smarter. A key clue:
Humans are the only species known to develop Alzheimer's; the disease is absent even in closely related primate species such as chimpanzees.
I didn't know we were its only sufferers, a fact that is highly suggestive. Hat tip to RealClearScience for the link.

Strategy Not Working

Doyle McManus writes opinion for the Los Angeles Times, which paper hasn't been conservative in his lifetime. In today's column, McManus examines the President's strategy vis-a-vis ISIS.
Obama does have a strategy — but for the most part it hasn't worked.
McManus echoes an Obama quote reported by interviewer Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic magazine:
If the Iraqis themselves are not willing or capable to arrive at the political accommodations necessary to govern, if they are not willing to fight for the security of their country, we cannot do that for them.
Let's assume, for purposes of discussion, that the President is correct - that we cannot do for the Iraqis what they will not do for themselves. Let us further assume that the Shia Iraqis are in fact not willing or able to make the political changes needed to earn the support of a divided nation.

Do we just let ISIS out-atrocity the Third Reich, out-murder the Khmer Rouge, molest and enslave the women of the region? Along the way watch them gobble up most Sunni-dominated areas of the Middle East?

Or do we aid the Shia Iranians and their Hezbollah allies to fight the Sunnis in a gladiatorial cage match until one side annihilates the other? Basically, reigniting the Iraq-Iran war after a 27 year ceasefire.

The President's underlying strategy seems to vacillate between withdrawal from the region and support of the Shia. Like the Soviets in World War II, the Shia hate us but need our help.

Great Houses

Jonah Goldberg's weekly newsletter, the G-file, appears in National Review. This week it is entitled
The Rise of House Clinton
I'm not particularly interested in the column's content which deals with the Clinton's sociopathic lying and spinning, all true enough but definitely old news.

What I like is the title itself which echoes the usage in Frank Herbert's drug-saturated SciFi epic Dune. Goldberg probably gets the usage from Game of Thrones, but I prefer the earlier source.

In Dune, the various great houses were known by names like "House Atreides" or "House Harkonnen." These were essentially hereditary ducal planetary fiefs which owed feudal allegiance to the Padishah Emperor on Calidan but competed brutally with each other and with other power centers: various guilds, corporations and quasi-religious orders.

Goldberg's usage brings to mind the clash today between House Clinton and House Bush. House Kennedy is, for the present, in a rebuilding phase and not in contention.

Minor houses like the Cuomos, the Romneys, the Pauls and the Browns look for opportunities around the fringes of the conflict. Houses Adams and Roosevelt, once powers, are today no more than historical footnotes. 

Dynastic politics of this sort is somewhat degenerate, a sign of ill-health in our political life. It is reminiscent of the Medicis and Borgias. Our body politic, in better times, thrives on meritocracy and new blood lines.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Noonan: the Snowflake Generation

The Wall Street Journal's Peggy Noonan writes today about microaggressions and triggers, ideas and comments that cause others to feel "unsafe," whatever unsafe means in the context of a college lecture or seminar. Happily, today's column is not behind the WSJ firewall.

Noonan isn't impressed with the so-called "snowflake" generation that whines about such "gruesome" experiences. Delicate egos will be bruised, life is like that.

Can any COTTonLINE readers honestly say no one has ever said anything hurtful to them, intentionally or otherwise? Unlikely, unless one is entirely oblivious to surroundings. Yet you survived, even thrived.

Kraushaar: Democrats Lack Talent

Writing for National Journal, Josh Kraushaar discovers the Democrats have an almost empty bench, to use baseball parlance. In essence, he is fleshing out the Trende and Byler analytic insight we reported on Tuesday. Some key Kraushaar thoughts:
Democrats are in their worst position since 1928. That dynamic has manifested itself in the Democratic presidential contest, where the bench is so barren that a flawed Hillary Clinton is barreling to an uncontested nomination.

It's awfully unusual to see how dependent Democrats are in relying on former losing candidates as their standard-bearers in 2016. (snip) All told, more than half of the Democrats' Senate challengers in 2016 are comeback candidates.

On one hand, most of these candidates are the best choices Democrats have. (snip) But look more closely, and the reliance on former failures is a direct result of the party having no one else to turn to.

If Clinton can't extend the Democrats' presidential winning streak—a fundamental challenge, regardless of the political environment—the party's barren bench will cause even more alarm for the next presidential campaign. And if the Democrats' core constituencies don't show up for midterm elections—an outlook that's rapidly becoming conventional wisdom—Democrats have serious challenges in 2018 as well.
It's almost enough to make a conservative happy, at least temporarily.

Travel Blogging Concludes

Western Wyoming: Our semi-annual migration to the high country is complete. Tomorrow we get our home into operating order, after it being shut down for several months - no small task.

Many things to start up, porch furniture to deploy, and we have to find out what to do about the dead deer we found in the back yard. Predators have been at it so it's not pretty. 

Other than that, our place made it through the winter okay. It was a mild winter, by Rocky Mountain standards, the snow has been gone for a month. 

Local reservoirs are full, unlike those in CA. The South Fork of the Snake River is running strong, the countryside is green and gorgeous. We are happy to be home.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The State of the World

George Friedman of Stratfor writes for RealClearWorld about the state of the world today. More particularly, how and why things have developed since the Cold War ended.

Truly the article could have been written by Henry Kissinger in his prime, high praise indeed. Friedman's viewpoint is Olympian, very broad brush. Enjoy.

More Travel Blogging

Jackpot, Nevada: This tiny burg is maybe 40 miles south of Twin Falls, Idaho. Jackpot is where the potato farmers come to gamble, a tiny bit of NV that is in the Mountain Time zone, because that's where their customers live.

Unlike Wells, some 66 miles south of here on I-80, there are no publicly identified brothels in Jackpot. Most towns along 80 have one or more commercial sex establishments, it is a fine, old Nevada tradition. One suspects they cater to the long haul truckers, as well as the local miners and cowhands.

Normally this region is arid enough to qualify as high desert, no cactus but lots of sage and rock. This trip it is clouded over and raining off and on. We stepped across quite large puddles coming back to the RV from supper in the casino coffee shop.

I'm wondering if this is some of the same storm system that is soaking TX?  Too bad it won't cross the Sierras and wet down CA. 

Iraq Ungovernable

At COTTonLINE we aren't big fans of Fox News' Bill O'Reilly, finding him often an oversimplifying blowhard. Still, when he has truth we're willing to feature it - here he writes for RealClearPolitics about the quagmire that Iraq turned out to be.
History will judge that both Presidents Obama and Bush made serious mistakes in Iraq.
And O'Reilly adds:
Nation building is no longer a viable strategy in the Muslim world.
COTTonLINE has a minor quibble: explain "no longer," when was it ever viable? Maybe Jordan?

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Travel Blogging

Winnemucca, Nevada: California is in a drought, meanwhile arid Nevada and the Rockies are experiencing ... wait for it ... rain. Actual airborne water falling in small gentle drops, what the Navajo call "female rain."

Temperature outside the RV is maybe in the mid-50s at 4 pm. The DrsC are migrating to WY for the late spring, summer, and early autumn. Given the brevity of high country summers, all of that will happen in just over four months. It is too short, but very sweet.

GOP Powerful

Writing for RealClearPolitics, Sean Trende and David Byler do an analysis of political power across our nation looking at the national and state levels combined. The GOP dominates most statehouses and both houses of Congress, only the presidency and a distinct minority of states are controlled by Democrats. They conclude:
The Republican Party is stronger than it has been in most of our readers' lifetimes. This is important, and more analysis should take account of this fact.
Most of the article is an explication (and defense) of their methodology. If that interests you - it did me - the article is for you. Meanwhile perhaps we should stop bemoaning the demographic tsunami that Dems claim will overwhelm conservatives almost immediately, the evidence suggests something quite different is happening.

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Lure of Nationalism

Writing for Politico, Stan Greenberg draws a parallel between the unexpected-by-pollsters conservative wins in Israel and Britain. In both instances, he believes, appeals to nationalism carried the day. His greater point, this appeal won't work in the U.S.
America is a country of growing racial diversity, immigration, and multiculturalism. America is a genuinely exceptional nation that embraces its multiculturalism and aspires to achieve unity out of diversity. Playing the nationalist card here in the U.S. will not work electorally--or, more importantly, for the nation--in 2016 and beyond.
Greenberg is yet another liberal confusing what he wants to be true with what is, in fact, actually the case. I believe appeals to nationalism are powerful in the U.S., particularly among the GOP base.

Multiculturalism is thoroughly discredited liberal dogma. It has been a failure wherever tried, including in both Britain and Israel.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Stephanopoulos

ABC News hired a Democratic Party functionary and thought he would become a journalist. He didn't ... leopards rarely change their spots.

George Stephanopoulos is merely a connected Democrat on the ABC News payroll. I bet he thought his bosses at ABC understood this, and were okay with it.

It seems ABC brass were okay with it until he got caught funneling a healthy chunk of his earnings to the Clinton Foundation. It is hard for them to argue giving is something George does evenhandedly.

Had George given a like amount to the Heritage Foundation or the Reagan Library it would have provided cover. But he would have hated doing it, so it didn't happen. Now he's tainted goods.

The Dismal Science

Economics, dealing with scarce resources and hard choices, has been called "the dismal science." To counteract this dreary reputation some economists look for signs of hope where none is justified. A New York Times article by George Mason University economist Tyler Cowen is an example of this.

Cowen writes that the economy may not recover to its prior yeastiness, but may drag along at the much reduced rate at which it now operates. That implies he thinks it could snap back to our former "normal." Of course it isn't impossible, merely improbable as blazes.

The changes are fundamental, as he hints they might be. The McDonaldization (my term) of the economy proceeds apace.  The replacement of permanent with temporary workers, of full-time with part-time employees, of skilled people with unskilled people plus skilled systems, of people with machines - robots - marches on. Plus globalization hollows out industry in places with living wage structures, shipping jobs to places with low wages, no safety nets, and hungry workers.

Our economy has become sclerotic, our political process near-hopeless. We are well and truly screwed, as the Fed. signals by continuing to hold interest rates near zero year after year. Falling birth rates reflect this pessimism, as does the falling labor force participation rate.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Income Inequality: Problem or Pretext?

Writing at a blog with the unlikely name Library of Economics and Liberty, Scott Sumner poses an interesting question. Hat tip to RealClearPolicy for the link.
Let's consider two hypotheses. One theory is that the recent interest in inequality reflects a sincere desire to help the sort of people who spend lots of money on cigarettes and lottery tickets. The other hypothesis is that it's just a smokescreen, and the real agenda is to enact higher tax rates, with the money going to increased spending on high speed rail, fixing JFK airport, and "education." (I use scare quotes because the evidence suggests that, at the margin, increased spending helps teachers unions more than students.) How could we tell which hypothesis is true?
Sumner observes we tax goods the poor purchase much more heavily than luxuries purchased by the wealthy. Ergo, we aren't really interested in improving the lot of the poor, our interest is raising revenue government can spend on liberals' pet projects. I expect he is mostly correct.

Motherhood Has Objective Reality

Humanity's willingness to believe what they wish were true, regardless of how much it conflicts with what they know to be fact, never ceases to amaze me. Case in point: a Boston Globe column by Kathleen McCartney, president of Smith College. See what she alleges:
Motherhood is a cultural invention. It reflects a belief adopted by society that is passed down from one generation to the next.
Really? We just imagine motherhood? It has nothing to do with our observation of the animal kingdom, of which we humans are merely the most cerebral branch? What utter nonsense!

If you'd like to see an elaborate refutation of McCartney's idiocy, see the John Podhoretz column in the New York Post. Personally, I don't think her argument is serious enough to warrant the effort.

It is another laughable example of a liberal willfully believing what she wants to be true, blithely ignoring demonstrable reality. As we noted on Tuesday, unrealistic thinking characterizes idealists who cannot make the world conform to their ideals.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Bear with Flag

Our northern neighbors, the Canadians, take a much more relaxed view of life with bears than we do, probably because they have more experience therewith. The other DrC sends along a link to a video of a baby black bear playing with the pin flag on a golf green in British Columbia.

The little scamp looks like a little boy in a fur suit and mask, but truly is a playful little bear. You can see his momma and a sibling around the edge of the green. The video takes a few seconds to load, but is worth the wait. Enjoy.

Spengler Snark

David P. Goldman, who channels Spengler, writes about the sad state of Christians in the Middle East and the predictable complicity of Pope Francis therein. Spengler snarks:
Francis is a pope for people who want the warm feeling of Catholicism without its obligations, and that is what makes him so popular.
Francis is especially popular among those to whom the Church of Rome has been neither holy nor relevant ... a strange constituency for a pope to pursue.

Turkey Watch

Bloomberg Business reports as mayor of Istanbul in the 1990s, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, famously described democracy as
A train that takes you to your destination, and then you get off.
The Daily Beast reports Turkish President Erdogan appears to believe he has reached his destination and it's time to disembark from the democracy train. He is campaigning hard for a parliamentary majority large enough to institute constitutional changes that will give him unspecified but clearly increased presidential powers.

Having moved into a palace with 1100 rooms, Erdogan is accused of having sultanic delusions, only marginally better than satanic ones. Polls suggest the electorate will not give the President what he seeks, we'll know in early June as elections happen then.

As the Twig Is Bent ....

Writing for Family Studies, W. Bradford Wilcox reports the negative trends for marriage have leveled off, undoubted good news. He makes much of the finding that two parent families are more important for the raising of boys than of girls. It is good to know the data support this view but I don't find it at all unusual.

After all, most one-parent households are headed by a woman. Girls growing up in that environment have a role model, an adult woman taking responsibility for the well-being of others. Boys in that environment learn men are expected to be irresponsible, inconstant, intermittent visitors ... ships passing (DNA) in the night, as it were. No surprise boys grow up to replicate the behavior.

Culture Is Key

Writing for Brookings, Richard V. Reeves asks:
Question: Is poverty an economic or cultural problem?
Answer: Yes.
It is easy to say, as Reeves does, the answer is both. Changing the culture so economic assistance becomes more a hand up than a hand out is nearly impossible while maintaining the individual rights of the poor. Poor young people are more influenced by the peer group than by their often absent elders.

Bad attitudes are at the core of the problem. Attitudes which say, explicitly or otherwise, whatever you want me to do is exactly what I won't do. You are the enemy, defeating you is my goal, collaborating is anathema.

In one sense the inner city youth who fill our courts and prisons resemble suicide bombers. They destroy themselves to keep from pleasing a society they hate and envy.

Normally, such behavior makes the actor far more miserable than the intended audience. The result of their sacrifice - Pyrrhic victory, minus the 72 virgins.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Why the Cold War Is Back

The Moscow Times reports polling that shows 59% of Russians fear the U.S. and 31% think we might invade them ... no, seriously. Can you imagine anything with a lower probability? Neither can I.

Do we oppose some of their bullyboy tactics toward their neighbors? Certainly. Are we against the reassembly of the empire that was the Soviet Union? Yes.

Are we at all likely to attack Russia? Almost certainly not, at least intentionally. Could it happen accidentally as a result of Cold War-style games of "chicken" in the air or at sea gone wrong? If it ever happens that is probably how it will begin.

Is it likely the U.S. will try to frustrate expansionist Russian ambitions? Guilty as charged, but invasion? That's laughable, look what happened to Napoleon and Hitler ... invading Russia is a chump's game.

If Russia invades a NATO member, the situation could become kinetic very quickly. Even under that scenario, a U.S. ground invasion of Russia is extremely unlikely.

We might, however, bomb the blazes out of Russia if they attack Estonia or Latvia, or shoot up whatever Russian forces were in a NATO country or nearby.

Mercenaries in Nigeria

In March and April we wrote about the efficacy of mercenary forces in certain conflict situations. The Council on Foreign Relations' Africa in Transition blog has an article describing how a merc outfit from South Africa has provided backbone for the Nigerian Army in its fight against Boko Haram rebels.

This is a very old story in Africa, one repeated many times. Even some of the same personalities are back for another round of derring-do. No Mad Mike Hoare this time, just Eeben Barlow of Executive Outcomes fame.

For a tongue-in-cheek discussion of mercenaries, see How to Take Over a Small Country in 10 Easy Steps at the War on the Rocks website. The scenario spun there could actually work, given a bit of luck.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

On the Wrong Track

Normally The New York Times' Frank Bruni is too partisan a lefty to be mentioned in this admittedly righty blog. In today' column he forgoes the partisanship and writes of the eleven years the pollster's favorite right track/wrong track question has come up in negative territory. 

Bruni alludes obliquely to Obama's limp foreign policy as a contributing factor. Clearly what is needed is a Reaganesque candidate who can convince us we can reclaim our "city on a hill" status, our "indispensable nation" role in a troubled world.

What's wrong? One thing is sure, microaggressions and trigger words aren't cutting it as public policy. People will hear things they'd rather not hear ... get over it.

"Leading from behind" seems to most of the world as an abdication of responsibility. Multiculturalism is a mistake, assimilation should be our goal for immigrants.

Longer term, we must find employment for our average-and-below citizens who will never star in Silicon Valley or become rocket scientists or neurosurgeons. Understanding it had to support them anyway, the Soviets bought war widows a broom and a dustpan and paid them to keep their block clean instead of buying $100K street-sweepers.

We need that sort of out-of-the-box thinking. The genetic lottery will keep tossing up subnormals until we take charge via dreaded eugenics and end the practice.

Ugly as it sounds, we should reinstitute mental hospitals to warehouse persons with scrambled "operating systems." Having them live on the streets isn't satisfactory.

Have we the courage to do what is difficult because it is right? I am pessimistic.

Noonan on Walker, Huckabee

The Wall Street Journal's Peggy Noonan has kind words for both Scott Walker and Mike Huckabee. She has chatted up both and, I think it is fair to say, liked them enough to consider voting for either of them. That is excellent news. This column is a good one - pleasant and smart - give it a look.

A Bad Idea

Interviewed for an article at CNSNews, Robert Woodson who heads the Center for Neighborhood Enterprise asks what would happen in our poor inner city areas if all white people moved away, went to Canada? He asks it rhetorically, to make the point that who can improve those benighted areas are their residents.

Actually, we know the answer to his question. Woodson's hypothetical scenario is essentially what has happened in South Africa. Whites who were running the country have either left - many are expats - or have been pushed aside. The results are not pretty. Once the most developed country in sub-Saharan Africa, it is rapidly regressing toward the entirely depressing mean for the region.

Nearer home, Detroit or Baltimore might come to mind as dreary examples of this same scenario playing out. The whites have gone elsewhere, it hasn't made conditions better. If anything, their circumstances are worse. Hat tip to Lucianne.com for the link.

Would You Like Ice With That?

Dr. S. Fred Singer is an atmospheric physicist who studies climatology, he has an extensive biography and many honors. In American Thinker he writes about global cooling - major and minor ice ages - and what if anything can be done about them. Hat tip to Lucianne.com for the link.

Nobody seems to think we're ready for a major ice age which would cover Canada, the northern U.S. and northern Europe and Asia with mile-thick ice sheets. On the other hand, a minor ice age seems a real possibility in the not-distant future.

Singer believes there may be ways to counteract a minor ice age, or soften the impact somewhat. I'm not certain who to believe but Singer makes an unemotional case for cooling.

Meanwhile, AFP reports via Yahoo News the sea ice around Antartica is increasing at a rate nations maintaining bases there find inconvenient and logistically awkward.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

A Clear Warning

Two retired generals, one a former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency and the other a winner of the Medal of Honor, plus a counterterrorism expert write an article for CNN which takes an extremely dim view of the President's foreign policy. Hat tip to Lucianne.com for the link. My favorite line is this:
The president and his national security advisers have too often proven naïve, with a dangerous habit of viewing the world not as it is, but as they hope it could be.
Precisely so. As a result of this myopia, we face the following:
Be afraid -- be very afraid. This is the warning the world deserves to hear. Because the leader of the free world refuses to look with clear eyes at the chief security challenges of the 21st century: the fruits of radical Islam.
Their solution, some variant of "bomb them back to the stone age." Satisfying to contemplate but difficult to achieve in practice without being accused of genocide.

Friendly Fire

How lame a duck is Obama? When Senators from his own party block his program, the answer is virtually crippled. Enjoy this headline from an Associated Press article carried by Yahoo News.
Senate Democrats block action on Obama's trade agenda
That has got to hurt, a lot.

Pew: We Are Less Religious

The Associated Press reports via Yahoo News the number of Americans reporting a religious affiliation has dropped. AP summarizes the findings of a survey of religious affiliation done by the Pew Research Center.
Between 2007 and 2014, when Pew conducted two major surveys of U.S. religious life, Americans who described themselves as atheist, agnostic or of no particular faith grew from 16 percent to nearly 23 percent. At the same time, Christians dropped from about 78 percent to just under 71 percent of the population. Protestants now comprise 46.5 percent of what was once a predominantly Protestant country.

Pew researchers said Christian losses were driven by decreases among mainline, or liberal, Protestants and Roman Catholics.

Muslims and Hindus each comprise less than 1 percent of the U.S. population. The number of Jews rose slightly over the period, from 1.7 percent to 1.9 percent of Americans.
Europe has been post-Christian for some years, it would seem the United States is moving in the same direction, albeit more slowly.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Fiorina Describes CA Today

Instapundit Glenn Reynolds quotes Carly Fiorina from her every-politician-writes-one book entitled Rising to the Challenge. She is saying the right things.
California is now the home of 111 billionaires, with assets greater than the entire gross domestic product of all but 24 countries in the world. It’s also home to the highest poverty rate in the country. In between, the middle-class that survives is largely composed of government employees–the very bureaucrats who have milked the middle class of the private economy into virtual extinction.
I'm sure the numbers bear her out. The DrsC were two of those CA government employees, as professors. We lived well and have retired well ... many in the private sector did not, do not and cannot.

Actually, Fiorina echoes an underlying theme of Joel Kotkin's recent book The New Class Conflict, although he defines the group we occupied - what he calls the clerisy - somewhat more broadly to also include media and think tanks.

A Stunning Photo

CBS News has a photo taken by NASA's Curiosity rover on Mars, of the Martian sunset. It isn't the way this space enthusiast thought it would look, it's less red, more blue.

The tragedy is that, decades after we put men on the Moon, humans have gone no farther into space. It is as though Columbus returned to Spain, told Ferdinand and Isabella what he found, after which they got busy with other things and left the western hemisphere to its own devices. Shameful.

It appears manned space exploration will be left to billionaire dilettantes like Musk and Branson. Teddy Roosevelt would be outraged at the thought, as would Thomas Jefferson. They were giants, today we're led by small-ball apparatchiks.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Happy Mothers' Day


The things we learn from our Moms. This Mothers' Day charmer is courtesy of Steven Hayward at Power Line.

Snark Alert

Power Line's Steven Hayward, cracking wise about liberals in general, and the Clintons in particular:
If liberals didn’t have double standards they wouldn’t have any standards at all.
Basically, their sins should be forgiven because their intentions are supposedly pure. Joking aside, is anything about the Clintons pure?

A Nearly Impossible Burden

The Washington Post has a column by black author Colbert I. King who opines Washington, D.C. has the same problems as Baltimore. He is, of course, correct.

Power Line's Paul Mirengoff reacts to the King column, musing about the underlying dynamic of the troubles in places like Baltimore. Mirengoff concludes police relations will inevitably be tense:
After all, the police force bears the nearly impossible burden of maintaining some semblance of order in neighborhoods plagued by social pathology, family destruction and generations of dependency.
Well said.

Why the Tories Won Outright

Janet Daley writes politics from a Conservative viewpoint for the British paper The Telegraph. Here she suggests how the British polls could have been so terribly wrong about the election. Hat tip to Power Line for the link.

Daley's thesis: voters held Conservative views which they were made to feel uncomfortable about expressing. Uncomfortable because British media have established "you wouldn't want to be known as someone who held those unfashionable views." The BBC is certainly guilty as charged.

She hypothesizes people lied about their intentions when contacted by pollsters. According to Daley, some 40% consistently said they were "undecided" right up to election day. She doesn't believe most of those were honest.

COTTonLINE believes polls here in the states have suffered from a similar, though less dramatic, bias against the GOP. As in Britain, our MSM determinedly lean left without admitting it is so.

A Dubious Policy

Pundits have been calling "brilliant politics" Hillary Clinton's recent pledge to, as President, establish "a path to citizenship" for the millions of illegal immigrants now in the country. No question this amnesty promise is popular with Hispanics, and will net her additional votes among members of this demographic.

What is less clear is the degree to which her policy is unpopular with non-Hispanics, and will cost her votes among the larger, non-Hispanic demographic. Polls show the public has little stomach for "amnesty," which is what Clinton is offering. 

A story at Huffington Post reports Census Bureau CPS data for voting rates for whites, blacks, and Hispanics. 64-66% of non-Hispanic whites voted in 2008 and 2012, similar percentages of blacks voted in those two elections. On the other hand, only 47-49% of Asians and Hispanics voted in those years.

Inasmuch as voter participation among Hispanics is less robust, Clinton's position on this issue may be ill-advised. Would the smart candidate prefer to irritate a larger group two-thirds of whom vote or a smaller group where about half vote?

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Sabato on 2016

The University of Virginia's Larry Sabato has a good reputation as an analyst of presidential politics via the Electoral College. See an article in which he combs recent presidential elections to get a hint of what November, 2016, has in store.

Fully 80% of states have voted for the same party in each of the last four elections. In Sabato's mind their voting is a foregone conclusion and he gives them no further thought. He focuses on states which have shown themselves "persuadable."

His very bottom line boils down to this:
If a party wins both Colorado and Virginia, it will win the White House.
If you don't live in one of those two states, you may be able to dodge most of the tiresome political ads. Actually, there are more than than two toss-up states, but fewer than 11.

A Fact of WY Life

The Washington Post runs an article about a Wyoming woman who drove just over 400 miles to get an abortion in the university town of Missoula, Montana, and another 400 home. That is a long drive, no question.

On the other hand, those of us who live in the Big Empty are accustomed to long drives to do relatively routine things. Our nearest reasonable shopping - beyond groceries, fuel and minor hardware which are local - is nearly 100 miles away, and we drive it several times a summer.

It's not uncommon to drive over, catch a matinee, do some shopping, have dinner, and drive home - total miles near 200. On occasion we've driven four hours to catch a plane, though we normally fly from airports only an hour and a half to two hours away.

Our twice a year (sometimes more often) relocations between CA and WY run ca. 900 miles each way. Long drives are the downside of living in a place with low population density, the considerable upside is elbow room - clean air, no traffic and no close neighbors. Plus beautiful mountain scenery, and the naturally cool summers at our 6000 ft. elevation.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Final Results in U.K.

The BBC has a nice chart which summarizes Thursday's election results in the U.K. The Conservatives won 331 seats, out of a total of 650. This clear majority obviates the need for coalition partners; all ministerial posts will be filled with Tories.

The Labour Party won 232 seats, Scottish National Party 56, the Liberal Democrats won 8, as did the Democratic Union Party of Northern Ireland. Several other parties won 4 or fewer, for a total of 15 in a category best thought of as "other."

A peculiarity of the U.K.'s system is that the SNP which received 1.4 million votes won 56 seats while the UK Independence Party received 3.8 million votes and won 1 seat. The reason: SNP voters are geographically concentrated in Scotland, UKIP voters are scattered.

The Hillary Air Freshener


Candidate Clinton was in Hollywood recently schmoozing movie colony leftists for campaign funds. There are also creative people in L.A. who lean right; here is an example of their work. Hat tip to Power Line for the photo.

Bait

When you wish to trap a rat you bait your trap with cheese. I've also found raw bacon works well to lure in the rascally rodents.

It seems to me Pamela Geller is fulfilling a similar role ... voluntarily. She lures out jihadis who reveal weaponry and are then dispatched by her armed guards.  

No one is required to show up and be killed, all who do so are willing volunteers. As long as it works out neatly as it did in Garland, TX, what's not to like?

World War Z, Anyone?

Zombies, and the fighting thereof, has caught the attention of James R. Holmes, house writer on matters military for RealClearDefense. As he describes the special, atypical characteristics of fighting the "undead," I am reminded of GI reminisces of the Chinese involvement in the Korean War.

Our GIs in Korea had similar, albeit not identical, adjustments to make in military doctrine when confronting an enemy that relied heavily on throwing masses of poorly armed troops at Allied lines. Overheating machine gun barrels became an issue as Chinese dead and dying piled up in mounds over which scrambled following waves of semi-armed suicide troops, picking up weapons dropped by dead comrades and continuing to charge, waving swords and blowing bugles and whistles.

Not too different from zombie warfare, eh? The same issues of adjusting - to lower levels of sophistication - one's military doctrine, to something akin to Napoleonic War levels.

When your opponent's uniforms are quilted cotton and tennis shoes in the snow, and they don't have enough weapons for everyone, you're fighting near-zombies. As Holmes notes, they too were an enemy with whom we could not treat or bargain, at least in the short run the only two possible coping strategies were retreat or mass murder on an industrial scale. The U.N. forces in Korea did quite a lot of both.

Federalism on U.K. Horizon

View an electoral map of the for-now United Kingdom for yesterday's election. You are at once struck by Scotland overwhelmingly represented in parliament by members of a party with no clout, excluded from government.

The Scottish National Party represents 56 of 59 districts in Scotland, and no one anywhere else. SNP policies and prescriptions are almost exactly the opposite of those of the ruling Tories. This signals another independence referendum in the offing.

To forestall that renewed attempt at divorce, expect Cameron to propose federalism for the U.K. Scotland already has a parliament to which considerable authority has been devolved. Why shouldn't England have its own, and Wales if it so chooses, and Northern Ireland too?

Logically the resulting lash-up would look something like the U.S., with regional parliaments standing in for state legislatures. The U.K.'s national parliament would deal with nation-level issues: defense, foreign policy, immigration, perhaps the currency, and other nationwide concerns. Presumably the Queen and her heirs would continue to serve as monarch-of-the-whole.

Almost Final U.K. Results

As I write this about 1:20 a.m. BBC election results are in for 630 of the 650 seats in the House of Commons. Of these, the Conservatives have won exactly half, 315. If they win half of the remaining seats, they will end up with 325, and we are assured that 324 is all it takes to have a bare majority of those actually showing up to vote. It looks like they'll make it.

This election's big losers were the Liberal Democrats, and to a lesser extent Labour. The big winners were Scottish National Party and to a lesser extent, the Tories. The United Kingdom Independence Party had the third largest number of votes cast, but won exactly 1 seat as their members are scattered whereas SNP's fewer members dominate Scotland and are not found elsewhere, netting them 50 seats.

Meanwhile, the Canadian province of Alberta held an election and this most conservative of provinces - truly the Texas of Canada - elected a New Democratic Party government. NDP is the most leftist of the three national parties in Canada. This after a long period of relatively conservative rule.

Cameron Could Win Outright

Agence France-Presse reports via Yahoo News that some experts are projecting an absolute majority for Cameron's Conservative Party, aka the Tories.
John Curtice, professor of politics at Strathclyde University, predicts a small but clear majority for Cameron's Conservatives. He tells the BBC: "Certainly taking the results in so far, we've now got over 550 of them, our best guess is now that the Conservatives will get around 329 seats. It's been pretty clear for most of the night that David Cameron was certainly going to remain as prime minister but it now looks as though he won't even have to rely on the DUP."
"DUP" is the acronym for the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland, the larger of the two main unionist (Protestant) parties in Northern Ireland.

A Fun Fact

About the British election held today, I've written that 326 seats in Commons are required for an absolute majority. It turns out this isn't exactly true, as it happens. See what Reuters reports via Yahoo News.
In practice, controlling 323 seats in parliament is enough to command a majority as four lawmakers from Northern Ireland's Sinn Fein refuse to take their places.
That's because the four represent Catholic voters who believe Northern Ireland should be part of the Republic of Ireland, not part of the United Kingdom.