Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Cruz Nails It

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) says some important things in a Senate floor speech, as reported by Breitbart.
When you sit down and talk with a New York billionaire Republican donor — and I have talked with quite a few New York billionaire Republican donors, California Republican donors, their questions start out as follows… First of all, you’ve got to come out for gay marriage, you need to be pro-choice [on abortion], and you need to support amnesty [for migrants]. That’s where the Republican donors are. You wonder why Republicans won’t fight on any of these issues? Because the people writing the checks agree with the Democrats. 
That's basically what we've been writing here for some months. It is why only Trump, who can do without donor money, has been talking about illegal immigration. The Washington Post also has commentary on this speech.

The only reason these donors fund Republicans is their need to "own" enough of Congress to keep their tax breaks in place. They are economic conservatives who are not social conservatives, many embarrassed to be associated with and dependent on the GOP base. The editorial page of The Wall Street Journal speaks for this group.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Party of Nonvoters

Robert Reich is an old lefty, formerly Bill Clinton's Secretary of Labor, and on the UC Berkeley faculty. In spite of which, writing in The Boston Globe he has the quote of the day:
The largest political party in America is neither the Republican party nor the Democratic party; it’s the party of nonvoters. Only 58.2 percent of eligible voters cast their ballots in the 2012 presidential election.
He thinks that's a problem, I see it as an opportunity. Every person who doesn't vote has, effectively, given me their proxy. I am happy to vote on their behalf. Thank you, nonvoters.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Poor Planning

Joel Kotkin writes for New Geography about the massive disconnect between urban planners and the housing desires of middle class Americans. He begins with the same disconnect happening in China, overbuilding of expensive, high-density housing that isn't what Chinese people want or can afford. Meanwhile in the U.S.:
Particularly during the Obama years, state planning agencies, notably in California, and the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) have embraced a largely anti-suburban, pro-density agenda. In 2010, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, pointing to foreclosures in suburban Phoenix, claimed that the die was already cast: "we’ve reached the limits of suburban development."

Yet roughly 80 percent of Americans prefer the sort of single family housing found primarily in suburbia, according to a 2011 study conducted by the National Association of Realtors and Smart Growth America. Among home-owning households, apartment style dwellings (multi-family, including high rise condominiums) are the fourth most popular type of housing (5.3 percent), following detached (82 percent), mobile homes (6.4 percent), and attached or townhomes (5.7 percent).
Auto-loving Americans don't want to become European-style urbanites, which really frosts mass transit-loving planners.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

A Majority for Catalan Independence

The Associated Press reports candidates favorable to independence have won a 72 seat majority in the regional parliament. The voting happened earlier today in the northeast region of Spain.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's ruling Popular Party government says it will use all legal means to prevent Catalonia from breaking away, an exit European leaders have warned would include ejection from the European Union despite claims by secession supporters that a way may be found for an independent Catalonia to stay.
What fun. Now to learn how contagious the independence "bug" really is. Will the Scots give it another try? Maybe the Flemish? The Tuscans?

Covert Policy

Walter Russell Mead writes in The American Interest about the Obama administration's unenunciated policy in the Middle East.
An attempt to keep the U.S. out no matter what happens—while making it look as if we care. What that strategy boils down to is letting Iran and Russia do pretty much what they want in the Middle East in the belief that the fight is too dirty for the U.S. to gain anything by participating in it.

Because this strategy telegraphs weakness globally and threatens to destabilize the Middle East even more than we’ve already seen, it would go over very poorly in the U.S. if it dared to speak its own name.
You'd think Mr. Obama would be more exercised about an entity - the Islamic State - that has slavery as a formal part of its standard operating procedures. I assume a person of African heritage in America is hyper-sensitive to any hint of slavery, apparently not.

All Eyes on Barcelona

Today the Catalans go to the polls to elect a regional parliament. Several parties favoring independence from Spain are offering a joint list of candidates, turning the regional election into a referendum on Catalan independence.

Should they win today, they plan to start a process aimed at declaring Catalonian independence some 18 months from now. Whether Spain is willing to take up arms to defend its territorial integrity is unclear.

Basque separatism from Spain has certainly provoked a muscular response in the past, not so much military as law enforcement-oriented. Will Spain arrest those Catalans taking active steps toward separation? At this point the Spanish response is unknown, perhaps unknowable.

Also unknown is whether Catalans will take up arms in the event Spain stonewalls their independence movement. I predict some will turn to violence, as in Northern Ireland.

President Obama on Islam

Speaking at the U.N. General Assembly, in a video posted at RealClearPolitics on Sept. 25, 2012:
The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.
Being interviewed by Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times,
Mr. Obama described the call to prayer as “one of the prettiest sounds on Earth at sunset.”
Speaking to the Muslim world in Cairo on June 4, 2009, as reported by Time,
I consider it part of my responsibility as President of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear.
Hat tip to Day By Day for the info. Most recently the invite to the White House for the Muslim kid who took apart an electric clock, repackaged the pieces in another container, and managed to spook his teachers with the result of him being briefly detained. No similar invite for the non-Muslim kid who customized a Pop Tart into the profile of a handgun and used it to pretend "shoot" at a classmate, whereupon he was suspended from school under a "zero tolerance" policy.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Poor Kids Drop Out More

RealClearPolicy reprints a ProPublica article reporting that poor students are less likely to graduate from college/university than students from more affluent backgrounds.  The marker they used for poverty was receipt of a Pell Grant, which they define thus:
The Pell Grant program is the nation's largest need-based student grant program, giving out billions of dollars annually.
ProPublica wants to blame the universities for not graduating all of their Pell grantees. This is patently unfair, other factors are at work.

I spent my first two years of full-time university teaching in the early 1970s at an urban state campus where students came from the full range of backgrounds - from affluent to barely making it - and most were commuters, that is, not campus residents. It was true then, and apparently today as well, that poor kids faced many challenges on their way to a college degree.

Poor preparation by their tough neighborhood schools, autos that broke down with some frequency, parents/siblings/spouses who got sick or got arrested or lost jobs or cheated or got divorced or stoned or pregnant or ... name your favorite social pathology.

I had students drop out of school to work and support what was left of their family. I had students who couldn't afford a new transmission, and dropped out because they were commuting 80 miles a day by very used auto. Others violated parole and went back to jail. Yet others were so stressed by the circumstances of their chaotic lives they couldn't concentrate on study and simply failed exams.

Most of this craziness the campus can do little about, it is the backdrop against which their lives play out. If fewer make it, I for one am certainly not surprised. Those who do make it are both lucky and focused, characteristics more affluent students need to a lesser degree or not at all.

The VW Scandal and Its Solution

Time has an article claiming the Volkswagen pollution faux-control scandal will seriously damage the sale of diesel vehicles, particularly "light" ones, probably meaning autos. Pause a moment before you run off screaming "the sky is falling" as the "experts" they consulted seem to.

The technology to cope with nitrous oxide production in diesels already exists, it is called "diesel exhaust fluid" and is basically distilled water and urea. Sprayed into the exhaust stream the urea breaks down into ammonia and carbon dioxide.

Selective catalytic reduction is used to convert that ammonia plus the unwanted nitrous oxides to water vapor and nitrogen. Both are harmless and non-polluting.

I own a 2015 Ford F350 pickup truck that uses this system and find it entirely unexceptionable. Every several thousand miles I will need to add a couple of gallons of BlueDEF.

My teamster nephew says how often I add DEF will depend on the amount of towing I do; that is, how hard the engine is working. Towing = working harder = using more DEF per mile.

If VW, and other makers of diesel cars will add a DEF system, I see no reason they cannot legitimately pass emission tests. DEF makes operating a diesel vehicle slightly more hassle than formerly, it shouldn't be a deal-breaker. Hat tip to RealClearPolicy for the link.

Separatism Sunday

The Economist (U.K.) reports on the burgeoning independence movement in Catalonia, centered on Barcelona. Many in the wealthy region want independence from Spain. Many yes, but maybe not quite a majority.

A good indication of the movement's strength will come in the elections to be held on Sunday, September 27, the day after tomorrow. A group of pro-independence parties have offered a joint slate of candidates for the regional parliament. If they win a majority, they promise to declare independence in spring, 2017.

If they are successful, expect the Scots nationalists to take another shot at independence, maybe Belgium's Flemish will have a go, too. The EU remains clueless in the face of this chip-on-the-shoulder regionalism.

Darwin Stalks the Jihadis

Michael J. Totten writes for a site called World Affairs Journal, and often has useful things to say about the MENA countries. He notes something we wrote some weeks ago - letting jihadis go to Syria is a win-win proposition, so long as they are not permitted to return alive. He writes:
There’s an upside to the exodus, I suppose. Britain and the United States are better off without these people. If they didn’t run off to Syria, they’d be living down the street.

Syria sure as hell isn’t better off with these people as “immigrants,” but they’ll eventually die there when the Islamic State, like every other monstrous utopian entity, either destroys itself from within or is destroyed from without by fed-up outsiders.

When it finally happens, whether it’s next year or two decades from now, the British and American Muslim communities will be, on average, a little more politically moderate and sane than they are now.
Totten's is the most overt application of Darwinian natural selection to geopolitics I've seen, and I like it. The same could have been written about Western leftists who went off to Spain to fight (and lose) against Franco, in the late 1930s. Or about the European Crusaders who bled and died in the Holy Land centuries earlier.

Fascinating ....

The Associated Press and other outlets are reporting House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) will step down on October 30. Boehner made the following statement, according to the AP:
The first job of any speaker is to protect this institution that we all love. It is my view, however, that prolonged leadership turmoil would do irreparable damage to the institution. To that end, I will resign the speakership and my seat in Congress on Oct. 30.

Over the last five years, our majority has advanced conservative reforms that will help our children and their children. I am proud of what we have accomplished.
There was an excellent chance Boehner might lose the speakership as hard-line conservatives saw him as unwilling to confront the Administration. Like Lyndon Johnson deciding not to run again, I would guess Boehner saw trouble ahead and decided to quit before his caucus could fire him.

He, and Majority Leader McConnell, learned a lesson when they temporarily refused to fund government (inaccurately called a "shut down") over Obamacare. The GOP was blamed by the media and supposedly punished by the voters for so doing.

History will decide whether the pair learned the right, or wrong, lesson therefrom. Certainly conservative voters are angry at their unwillingness to fight for their beliefs. That anger fuels the good poll numbers of outsider candidates - Trump, Fiorina, and Carson - for the 2016 GOP nomination.

WGBH to Buy Global Post

Online international news site Global Post announces it is being acquired by WGBH, the Boston public broadcast station. It will be folded into their Public Radio International unit. WGBH is a major content provider for PBS and NPR stations nationwide.

Ideologically, this M&A makes sense; both organizations are over-the-moon liberal. In spite of which bias, every now and then Global Post does something useful.

Our German Heritage

The New York Times weighs in with a story about the vanishing German American culture. It reminds us that the U.S. has more people with German ancestry than any other single nationality. Their culture was largely suppressed during two World Wars when Germany was an enemy.

I grew up knowing about this ethnic cleansing as I lived in a place with one name, where the high school had another German name. The SoCal town had begun with the German name Nordhoff, which was changed during the Great War to Ojai, a Spanish spelling of the Indian name for the same locale.

Oddly, the name of the high school was never changed. That long ago school board must have had real backbone to resist the pressure for political correctness.

Rock, Meet Hard Place

The Wall Street Journal's Peggy Noonan is irredeemably Roman Catholic. This is not often a problem even when on occasion it makes her columns of interest only to co-religionists.

Pope Francis' emphasis on redistributionist liberation theology-based nostrums brings her Catholic side into conflict with her conservative political side. If you're interested in how Noonan deals with the conflict, this column provides an answer.

She does a lot of "on the one hand ... on the other hand" kind of looking for a pony in the manure pile. Frankly, it isn't pretty despite her best efforts.

Three Catholic Supremes Duck Pope

Yahoo News reports three conservative Catholic Supreme Court justices failed to take advantage of their reserved seats to hear the Pope speak to Congress. I believe you can generalize from this boycott the reactions of conservative Catholics to the liberal message Francis has delivered.

The three - Scalia, Alito, and Thomas - aren't buying the message, or the man. Expect many conservative Roman Catholics to follow suit. Peronist liberation theology is anathema to conservatives.

It appears Rome has elected its own Barack Obama. A bureaucracy that has persisted 2000 years probably has sufficient inertia to survive the challenge Francis poses.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Quinnipiac: Hillary, Trump Almost Unelectable

John Hinderaker of Power Line blog reports the findings of a Quinnipiac poll which don't look good for Hillary Clinton. The folks at Q asked, for each presidential aspirant, whether people felt positive or negative about them, or didn't know enough to answer. They also asked about trustworthiness.
The candidate who, based on these numbers, simply doesn’t have a path to the presidency is Hillary Clinton. On favorability, she comes in at 41/55/2. That last number is the key: 98% of respondents have their minds made up.

This grim result is amplified by the poll’s findings on trustworthiness. Asked, would you say that Hillary Clinton is honest and trustworthy, or not? 32% say yes, while an extraordinary 63% say no. Only 5% are undecided. The other candidates of both parties are generally judged honest and trustworthy.

The other candidate who stands out as an anomaly is Donald Trump. His net favorability score is even worse than Hillary’s at 36/57/5. And, like Mrs. Clinton, Trump is a figure about whom just about everyone has formed an opinion. On honesty and trustworthiness, too, Trump is an outlier. 35% consider him honest and trustworthy, while 57% say he is not, and 8% have no opinion.

Based on this Quinnipiac data, it appears that the candidates with the worst chances of winning the presidential race are Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
Unless both get their party's nomination; in which case one of the two will win in spite of the crappy numbers.

The Pop Pope

Yes, Pope Francis is a rock star, a true celebrity, and will draw huge crowds. Political parties will emphasize the aspects of his message that resonate with their biases. I expect their infatuation to be brief, unreciprocated and ineffective.

Similarly, the relevance to daily lives of the Church he leads is definitely on the decline. National Review reports church attendance at mass is down dramatically. Churches are being shuttered as low-attendance parishes are consolidated.

This is what earlier happened in Europe, where most churches though still functioning at a low level are more museums of faith and art than temples of worship. Western Europe is widely reported to be post-Christian, essentially secular except among recent Muslim immigrants.

Unsettled Science

Mike Jonas writes at Watts Up With That about climate models; how much is known (some), how much is unknown or uncertain (a lot), and therefore why climate models do a crappy job of prediction. His presentation is detailed. 

The method to date: tweak the estimates of the impacts of unknowns in the model until it "predicts" what happened in the past, then project into the future. The results to date: overestimation of future warming.

Obvious conclusion: we don't know enough to predict future climate, not even close. That makes current "predictions" more religion than science: statements about their promulgators' beliefs, not about their knowledge.

Policy Choices

National Journal's Ron Brownstein often has good political insights. His current column takes a measured view of the second GOP debate, finds the party not in agreement about its policy emphases, and concludes that is a problem. I disagree it's a problem.

Rather, I find that disagreement an advantage. We present a range of policy options to our primary voters and let them tell us which they prefer. The aspirants gaining the most votes espouse the most popular policies, or close enough.

There are reasons to favor each of the policies advocated, even those which conflict directly. The primary process will let the electorate tell us which should become planks in the 2016 platform.

I expect, for example, Paul's isolationism to garner few votes. Ditto the amnesty-loving crowd. Caveat: I've been wrong before, likely will be again.

We will start to get answers in perhaps 4-5 months. I await those with interest.

Hello, Autumn

Welcome to formal, official autumn. For some reason a lot of good songs have been written about this sweetly sad season: Autumn Leaves, October Country, Autumn in New York, etc.

Now we snowbirds have to gather our belongings and get ready to "fly," to migrate to a better climate. It is something the DrsC do four times a year: now, in January, again in March, and again in May. It's a lot of work but a lot of fun, too. We always have something to which to look forward, to anticipate.

We've done about half the work, quite a bit has to be done on the final day here, unfortunately. The RV makes it easier as we can shut down the house, and spend our last night here in the RV, before heading out. Particularly on the trips to and from WY the RV doubles as a "moving van" of sorts.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Bad Research

The Washington Post runs an article with a map purporting to show the world's most and least racially tolerant countries. The least tolerant nations are shown to be India and Jordan, with Saudi Arabia, Iran, Indonesia and Egypt not far behind.

The most tolerant, if the article is to be believed, are the nations of the Anglosphere, Scandinavia, and three of the largest countries of Latin America. I'm not certain I believe the data.

For example, Japan notoriously discriminates against non-Japanese. Yet the map shows it to have modest amounts of racial bias. Not believable.

Behaviorally, most Americans choose to live in neighborhoods where their neighbors are overwhelmingly of the same race. Ask them about it and most will say of a multi-racial neighborhood, "No problem."

In other words, we Americans have learned not to tell the truth about our preferences. I expect that is true throughout the Anglosphere; I am less clear about other supposedly unprejudiced nations.

A study of this sort probably measures the degree to which people of a country buy into, or have been coerced into expressing, political correct views. Getting a handle on actual racial bias is difficult, but a measure of the percentage of people who live in truly multi-racial neighborhoods would be a better measure.

Celebrate the Equinox

The autumnal equinox happens hereabouts in roughly three hours, at about 2 a.m. local time. When I awake tomorrow it will officially be the first day of autumn. As noted before, it has looked like autumn locally for at least two weeks.

The mountain maples on the hillsides, which were at first scarlet, are now a sort of rusty red. Many of the black cottonwoods along the creeks have gone quite bare, others still have some yellow leaves.

Our acre of aspen forest, which gives us perfect privacy all summer long, is starting to be a bit see-through as the leaves fall. It is time for us migratory snowbirds to fly, we'll be gone in less than a week. I hope the fine weather holds that long.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Whence Populism

Instapundit Glenn Reynolds blogs on the topic of populism and its causes.
Most people prefer not to think about politics, and to let things be run by reasonably competent people who are reasonably motivated by the public good. Populism arises when that’s not the case. Like heavy turnout at a condo association meeting, it’s a sign of trouble at the top.
Both major parties are experiencing populism - a reflection of trouble at the top - "the top" here is the White House and perhaps the leadership of both House and Senate.

A Muslim in the White House?

Retired neurosurgeon and GOP presidential aspirant Ben Carson has famously said, to an interviewer, he "would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation." Power Line's Steven Hayward wisely comments:
Any faith that does not recognize the principle of the separation of church and state (rightly understood) is not compatible with liberal democracy and constitutional government. This is also true of some remaining Christian sects.

Just about every Islamic constitution you can look up specifies not only a religious test for public office, but that Sharia codes shall be the basis for the positive law of the regime.
In other words, Carson has good reason to be chary of an openly Muslim president; our current Muslim sympathizer is trouble enough. While the Long War alternately rages and smolders, openly declared by a substantial fraction of the ummah, Carson's advice is sensible.

My analogy: electing a Muslim president now would be like electing a Communist president during the Cold War, equally nonsensical.

AEI Gives Irving Kristol Award to Bibi

Scott Johnson of Power Line writes that the American Enterprise Institute will this year give its Irving Kristol Award to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He explains:
The annual award, AEI’s highest honor, is given to individuals who have made exceptional practical and intellectual contributions to improve government policy, social welfare, or political understanding.
Essays by Irving Kristol, appearing The Wall Street Journal in the early 1970s, were largely responsible for a young assistant professor of management becoming a political conservative. This in spite of the fact that my low income, lack of tenure, and position near the bottom of the academic totem pole made leftist politics in my self-interest. Kristol's essays were that powerful.

Since our President doesn't like Netanyahu, giving Bibi their top award is a great way for AEI to symbolically flip off Obama. Way to go, guys.

The European Disease

The New York Times reports an amazing statistic about American Catholicism:
If ex-Catholics formed a church of their own, it would be the nation’s second largest, outranked by only the Catholic Church itself.
This happened first in Europe, now here.

Social Sciences, Humanities Threatened in Japan

Times Higher Education reports the government of Japan has sent a directive to its universities.
Many social sciences and humanities faculties in Japan are to close after universities were ordered to “serve areas that better meet society’s needs”, it has been reported.

Of the 60 national universities that offer courses in these disciplines, 26 have confirmed that they will either close or scale back their relevant faculties at the behest of Japan’s government, according to a survey of university presidents by the Yomiuri Shimbun.
From whence comes this pressure to close "softer" departments?
The call to close the liberal arts and social science faculties are believed to be part of wider efforts by prime minister Shinzo Abe to promote what he has called “more practical vocational education that better anticipates the needs of society”.

However, it is likely to be connected with ongoing financial pressures on Japanese universities, linked to a low birth rate and falling numbers of students, which have led to many institutions running at less than 50 per cent of capacity.
We have solid evidence American students who major in these fields tend to earn lower salaries after graduation. The same is likely true in Japan.

We Live Well

Blogging at Power Line, John Hinderaker posts a chart comparing the incomes of Americans of all income levels to those of Russia, Brazil, China, and India. He quotes the source of the chart as follows:
Any American household with income at about $125,000 is at around the 88th percentile in the U.S. — and in the 99th percentile, the 1%, globally. Essentially NO American household has income below the global 55th percentile and virtually NO household in India has income above about the 10th percentile of U.S. income. And we’re not even looking at places like Bangladesh or almost anywhere in sub-Saharan Africa, truly desperate places.
The discussion arises because Pope Francis has championed redistribution, giving money to the poor. Hinderaker concludes:
Unless you are rich, enthusiasm for redistribution will almost certainly dissipate when it turns out that it is your money that is to be redistributed.
I haven't heard the fabulously wealthy Roman Catholic Church is redistributing its wealth, melting down its solid gold trinkets to fund soup kitchens. If Francis wants us to share, he should model the behavior for us on a grand and spectacular scale.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Walker Bowing Out

The New York Times reports Gov. Scott Walker is planning to pull out of the GOP race for the presidential nomination. In the wake of two entirely uninspiring debate performances, he is said to have found fund-raising well nigh impossible.

As a non-wealthy and relatively low-charisma guy, he needed the money and it wasn't available. His news conference is scheduled for 6 p.m. EDT.

Walker's exit is sad because the U.S. truly needs his message of
No Public Employee Unions
I fear his disappointing experience will convince the remaining aspirants of the campaign irrelevance of that message.

Not His Expertise

The Washington Examiner headlines a story
Obama looks to use pope as leverage in climate fight.
I particularly like Instapundit Glenn Reynolds' rejoinder.
I don’t feel that the Pope has any particular authority on this issue. And neither does Obama, he just hopes the rubes don’t know any better.
So does the Pope.

Quote of the Day

Jonah Goldberg, writing for National Review, about politics and motives.
If Hillary Clinton doesn’t win the presidency, she can’t file a lawsuit under Title IX.
Voters have license to discriminate.

Reducing Poverty

Robert L. Woodson, Sr. writes at The Daily Signal about four discrete types or causes of poverty and proposes a way to meaningfully help one of them, those in poverty "because of the choices they make, the chances they take." I'm willing to grant his approach has merit for that category.

You'd think he views the other three types as essentially insoluble, requiring our simply living with them. I grant that temporary poverty caused by "unexpected setbacks" is worth extending help to, and the truly disabled we have to help.

There is, however, a third category he identifies, toward the reduction of which we can definitely take action.
Those who have remained dependent on the system because the disincentives to marry and work embedded in its regulations make it a rational choice to avoid those stepping stones to self-sufficiency. They have “done the math” and calculated that it is not worth the loss of benefits to take the first steps toward upward mobility.
About this group something can certainly be done. We can change the incentives structure so their choice to stay on benefits indefinitely no longer remains "rational" or possible.

Centrist Democrat Bill Clinton took a major step in this direction by signing welfare reform. In the intervening decades there has been considerable retrograde slippage, slippage a conservative Congress and president could eradicate. Welfare, in all forms, should be temporary for everyone save those permantly and severely disabled.

Narrowing the Field

Writing at The Federalist, Robert Tracinski argues that, coming out of thr second debate, the GOP race begins to look like Rubio vs. Fiorina. He quotes what each said about the Russian move into Syria, and contrasts the substance and seriousness of their responses with the content-free bluster of Trump on the same subject.

It is still a long way to the primary season, but perhaps we just saw who are the real adults in a crowded field of 16 egoist/egotists.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Voight-Kampff Reference

I'm scanning the entries on Instapundit when my eye falls on a reference to the Voight-Kampff machine, in a post by guest blogger Ed Driscoll. Blade Runner fans will remember the Voight-Kampff was the lie-detector-like means by which the police of that future era could distinguish a Tyrell Corp. replicant (naturalistic droid) from an actual human.

You see it in operation twice in the film, first when a Tyrell examiner tests a job applicant - Leon - who is, in fact, a runaway replicant. The second time, it is Rick Deckard, played by Harrison Ford who tests Rachel, an advanced replicant Tyrell thinks may pass the test. She nearly does.

Interestingly, Driscoll says nothing about the film Blade Runner in his blog post. That makes the reference the very essence of inside baseball.

His inference is that Hillary Clinton seems a replicant, a semi-natural droid. Not bad spotting, actually. Between this from Driscoll and Reynolds' frequent mentions of Robert Heinlein, I get the feeling the Instapundit gang are SF aficionados. I've been one since my teens.

Obama: My Muslim Faith

Go see a YouTube video of our President, being interviewed on ABC News. He says "...my Muslim faith..." and then correcting himself and saying "...my Christian faith..." Hat tip to Drudge Report for the link.

Without a teleprompter Obama does stream of consciousness. Out pops the unfiltered stuff, from his childhood.

Unpopular Down South

Andres Oppenheimer writes with wisdom about Latin America for the Miami Herald. Here his topic is region-wide failure of economic growth and consequent unhappiness with political leaders.
Not surprisingly, several of the region’s presidents’ popularity rates have sunk to all-time lows. The popularity of Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff has fallen to 8 percent, and the approval rate of Peru’s Ollanta Humala is about 17 percent, Chile’s Michelle Bachelet, 23 percent; and Venezuela’s Nicol├ís Maduro, 24 percent.
In Peru and Chile, the elected leaders took the countries away from the free market model that had made them successful, seduced by the siren song of populist redistribution. Maduro went in the same direction, continuing the Chavizmo of his predecessor. They all have earned the opprobrium they now experience.

An Unanswered Question

Writing for The Weekly Standard, Jay Cost identifies a problem both parties have with their presidential nominating processes. The current process is ill-designed to produce "fusion" or compromise candidates broadly acceptable to all factions within the party.

Instead, it tends to select an individual well-beloved by one faction and possibly barely tolerable to another. As Cost points out, this makes post-election governing much more difficult.

Cost does a good job of pointing to a problem and establishing its relevance. He totally drops the ball when it comes to proposing solutions. Perhaps he can think of none. I know I can't, off-hand.

Nobody, I hope, suggests a return to the days of smoke-filled rooms of party professionals horse trading to identify a candidate. It was no better, and sometimes worse.

Marking the Seasons

I thought tomorrow was the first day of official fall. However, a quick web search turned up the information that the autumn equinox happens in the first couple of hours of Sept. 23. Thereafter, nights will be longer than days until some three weeks into March.

Translation: it happens on the 23rd at 8:20 UTC (Zulu time to the military). UTC runs 6 hours later than here in Mountain Daylight Time. Their 8:20 is our 2:20 a.m.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

A Happy Sad Story

The Wall Street Journal doesn't often carry an article that will choke you up, put a tear in your eyes. I just finished reading one such. Entitled "The Walker and the Saint," it is a meditation on the travails of a cancer semi-survivor whose response has been to walk Father Junipero Serra's mission trail from San Diego to San Francisco.

She has walked the entire length, some 800 miles. Now with cancer returned for a third or fourth (?) time, she has started walking it again, this time the 48 mile segment between Mission Santa Barbara, the "Queen of the Missions," and Mission Santa Ines, located in Solvang in the Santa Ynez Valley.

I've not walked this, I don't share her ecstatic response to the plodding miles. But I love this part of the CA coast, and have spent perhaps 30 months in the region over the last two decades. Her description of San Marcos Pass, CA154, as frightening is accurate ... for a pedestrian ... no problemo for an alert driver.

Ironically, stratospheric housing costs force non-wealthy people with jobs in Santa Barbara to live in the Lompoc-Santa Maria area and drive CA154 daily, contributing to the traffic which frightened her when she walked it.

It is gorgeous country, you immediately know why Ronald Reagan, with money to burn, bought himself a ranch high in those mountains. I would too if I could afford it, and had the Secret Service to guard it.

Problem Identified, Solutions Deficient

Charles Murray is always interesting, often profound. Here writing for The Federalist, he uses a book review to start a riff on what is really causing the widening split between the haves and have nots in our society.

Murray concludes the book, Robert Putnam's Our Kids: the American Dream in Crisis, does a good job of describing the messiness of lower class lives in today's America.
We hear the voices not just of the unemployed whose well-paying manufacturing jobs were exported abroad, but also of people who quit jobs because they didn’t feel like working or who can’t hold jobs because they make lousy employees.

Some low-income parents in the accounts are fiercely devoted to their kids; others created children casually and walked away from them casually. There’s rampant incompetence visible in the new lower class—incompetence on the job, as parents, in interpersonal relationships. There’s rampant irrationality and unrealistic expectations, with many respondents oblivious about the steps required to get from point A to point D in life.
On the other hand, Murray evaluates Putnam's solutions for those problems as the old liberal answers of "throw more public money" at the shared aspects of their lives: school, health care, housing.
The roster of standard interventions to reduce the opportunity gap is almost entirely focused on factors that have modest causal roles.
As Murray shows, the Left's "solutions" don't have much impact, not nearly enough to close the gap. The problem isn't lack of money, increasingly it is genetic, the result of assortative mating. That is, smart people having smart children and not-smart people having not-smart children.
In the 1979 cohort of the National Longitudinal Study of Youth (NLSY), replicating Putnam’s assignment rules, the mean IQ of the college group was 23 points higher than that of the high school group.

In case you’re wondering, that’s not a function of race. Among non-Latino whites, the difference was 22 points. In statistical terms, those are differences of about 1.5 standard deviations. For the population as a whole, the average person in the high-school group was at the twenty-ninth IQ percentile while the average person in the college group was at the eighty-fourth percentile.

Since children’s IQ is correlated with parental IQ, it is not surprising to learn that the means of the children of the high school and college groups are also separated—by about 19 points in the same NLSY cohort.

IQ has a substantial direct correlation with measures of success in life, and it is also correlated with a variety of other characteristics that promote success—perseverance, deferred gratification, good parenting, and the aspects of personality that are variously called “emotional intelligence” or “grit.”
The poor are isolated because of what Robert Reich called "the secession of the successful," meaning those with ability moved to different neighborhoods, joined different employers, and no longer live among life's losers. Murray has little faith in society's ability to reverse this trend.

The Peronist Pope

Regular readers know what a dim view COTTonLINE takes of Peronism, the political/economic "system" that has ruined the potentially prosperous country of Argentina. We've written of it often.

Instapundit Glenn Reynolds writes of Pope Francis:
The Pope’s economic views are informed by Peronism.
Pope Francis grew up and lived most of his life immersed in Argentina, home of Peronism. It has given him the sort of warped view of politics and economics one would expect. Now he will bring that curdled view to the U.S. and ask us to share it ... sorry, no sale.

Capitalism has created more wealth and opportunity for more people than all other economic systems combined. Failure to understand this undermines the Pope's claim to infallibility.

Writing in The Washington Post, George Will makes it explicit:
Francis grew up around the rancid political culture of Peronist populism, the sterile redistributionism that has reduced his Argentina from the world’s 14th highest per-capita gross domestic product in 1900 to 63rd today. Francis’s agenda for the planet — “global regulatory norms” — would globalize Argentina’s downward mobility.

Your Weekend Kipling

Check out the last two stanzas of Rudyard Kipling's "The Gods of The Copybook Headings," courtesy of Wikipedia.
As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began.
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool's bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;

And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!
If you're not sure what a Copybook Heading might be, see the Wikipedia entry.  If you conclude Kipling thought social progress was illusory, you won't get an argument from me.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Earn More, Live Longer

Writing for Bloomberg View, Orszag and Lee find that people who make more money live longer. I'm not sure why anyone should be surprised by the fact of this finding, its magnitude is perhaps more than one might guess.
Among men born in 1930 who survived to age 50, those in the highest of five earnings categories could expect to live five years longer than those in the lowest category, our analysis found. For men born in 1960 who survived to age 50, the lifespan differential will ultimately amount to almost 13 years. And the picture for women is similar.

More specifically, the lowest earners in both generations had roughly a one-in-four chance of surviving to age 85. Among the higher earners, however, the share of those reaching 85 is rising from less than half in the older generation to two-thirds in the younger one.
The authors express concern about a result which is that higher earners end up getting, in retirement, more government benefits (Social Security, Medicare, etc.) than the shorter-lived, lower income cohort.

They find this worrisome, I don't. In each case the benefits last the person's whole life, and if they live less long, they need the benefits for fewer years. What Orszag and Lee report are averages, clearly some poor people live to be quite old and collect much government money, just as some wealthy individuals die young and get little.

If poor people, on average, make lifestyle choices which result in them living fewer years, the key thing is that the benefits last as long as they live, they cannot outlive them. If affluent people, on average, make wise lifestyle choices and live longer, again the key thing is that they cannot outlive their benefits.

The affluent may get more total dollars in benefits, but that is primarily the result of many of them stretching their lives out to more years of benefit eligibility. The option of not smoking, not drinking overmuch, not using street drugs, not drunk-driving a car into a power pole, that option is as available to the less affluent as it is to the more affluent.

As we reported just over a month ago, smarter people live longer. It is likely that, on average, they make more money as well. And they make better lifestyle choices. This isn't strange or peculiar, it is exactly what one would expect.

People are not created equal; we believe they should receive equal treatment by the government. It isn't logical to expect equal outcomes, it is enough to try to create equal opportunities.

Quote of the day

Michael Needham, writing for RealClearPolitics about oft-repeated charges Washington doesn't work.
Washington isn’t broken. It is a well-oiled machine that works for the well-connected and responds to the well-heeled. This corrupt nexus of favoritism and cronyism tends to leave hardworking Americans behind.
Damned straight. Most days it feels like we have the best government money can buy, for sale to the highest bidder. Often as not, that bidder is a public employees union seeking eternal security, high pay and fat benefits for little work

Weird Communications Science

The Telegraph (U.K.) reports a study done on the Twitter feeds of Democrats and Republicans looking at frequency of word usage. The headline: "Left-wingers swear more." Are you surprised? I wasn't.
Both "f***" and "s***" appeared in left-wingers' 20 most common differentiating words. Conservatives, who "are more likely to emphasise group identity and consensus" according to the researchers, tended to use group terms like "we" and "our", while terms like "I" and "me" were used by liberals more often.

Fool Me Once ....

Breitbart reports on a forthcoming book by an official of the Nobel Peace Prize committee who says, in effect, giving the prize to Barack Obama was a mistake. Geir Lundestad writes,
Even many of Obama’s supporters believed that the prize was a mistake. In that sense the committee didn’t achieve what it had hoped for.
What the committee achieved was to seriously diminish its own stature and credibility. They were, however, less stupid than a majority of American voters who elected the America-hating Muslim sympathizer a second time. Here is Reuters take on the same story, if Breitbart is too biased for your taste.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Are We Blue? You'd Be Too.

Neil Irwin writes in The New York Times section called The Upshot, about why we all think the U.S. economy bites.
The median American household in 2014 had a lower income, in inflation-adjusted terms, than it did in 2013. The $53,657 the household in the middle of the income distribution earned last year was down 1.5 percent from the year before.

The 2014 real median income number is 6.5 percent below its 2007, pre-crisis level. It is 7.2 percent below the number in 1999.

A middle-income American family, in other words, makes substantially less money in inflation-adjusted terms than it did 15 years ago. And there is no evidence that is reversing. Those families lost ground in 2014.

Stagnant incomes were a problem in 2013. They remained so in 2014. The evidence we have so far suggests nothing about that is changing in 2015. That is the reality shaping the backdrop to the 2016 presidential campaign, the Federal Reserve’s interest rate debates and the dinnertime table conversations about the state of the economies in families across the United States.
Stat 101: the median is that salary above and below which lie 50% of earners. In a ranked population of 100 salaries, it would be that value above which 50 people earned, while the other 50 earned less than that amount. A median is different from a mean; means are influenced by a few extreme values, medians are not.

COTTonLINE wonders how much of this decline is the result of millions of illegal immigrants, almost all of whom are low-skilled people seeking low-paying off-the-books jobs?

Clinton Supports Open Borders, Amnesty

Hillary Clinton writes a Fusion OpEd with the title "Hillary Clinton To Latinos: I stand with you." Imagine the Statue of Liberty wearing a pants suit and holding up a Green Card.

To me that says Clinton has written off the white vote, and part of the black vote too. Floods of poor immigrants aren't helpful to black interests.

Is this a desperation move? Historically most Latinos don't vote. Perhaps she thinks that will change?

Both would-be presidents with Latino names are in the GOP and a third GOPer has a Mexican wife. What does that say to Hispanics?

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Walking, Talking Space Heaters

The Newton Blog at RealClearScience weighs in with a discussion of why women frequently complain of being, or feeling, cold. It turns out there are physiological reasons for this, it isn't just women being sensitive "princesses."
For starters, women's bodies produce less heat than men's. Men generally expend more calories than women, about 23 percent more in fact. Spent calories are essentially burnt fuel.

The body is a furnace, and a male body runs far hotter. Most of this variance is explained by the fact that men contain much more heat-generating muscle, but even if body composition and activity are accounted for, women's bodies still run 3 to 10 percent cooler.

A good chunk of the energy we expend gets dissipated as heat, and this heat warms our skin, clothes, and immediate surroundings. As walking, talking space heaters, men are much more powerful.
As a small boy, my father told me women are nice but their thermostats don't work well.

The Worm Turns

Philip Bump, writing at The Fix, The Washington Post's politics blog, observes that the Democrats are splitting along racial lines, at least in the primary season. Non-whites continue to strongly back Clinton, whites are moving to Sanders and Biden.

To be a white Democrat in this era, it helps to be ideologically left. That's where Sanders lives, he speaks to white Democrats. Most whites in this era are Republicans, or perhaps independents.

Minority voters are Democrats more because it is the party that caters to them, and less because they are crypto-socialists who find capitalism distasteful. Clinton feels comfortable to these voters.

It is massively ironic that a party that has emphasized racial segmentation via interest group politics, having sown the wind, is reaping the whirlwind. We wish them the "joy" of it.

Rather Revisionism

The Hollywood Reporter gossips that Les Moonves and the CBS staff were overheard "dismissing Robert Redford's Dan Rather movie Truth as 'half truth.'" Really? Sounds like snark to me.

If it wasn't sarcasm, they were being very generous. It's likely the film is a whitewash of the journalistic malfeasance perpetrated by Rather and 60 Minutes producer Mary Mapes, with the assistance of a supporting cast.

Rather got what he deserved, much like Brian Williams did. Why does pontificating every night lead anchors into the murky waters of half (or less) truths and exaggerations?

Autumn Comes Early in the Rockies

In places where seasons are circumscribed by the solstices and the equinoxes, summer doesn't end until September 21. At higher elevations like ours, de facto autumn arrives weeks before de jure autumn.

Here in the Rockies, we've been in autumn for over a week and last night we got our first snowfall on the surrounding peaks. None down here in the valley so far, no telling how long it'll hold off.

We took a drive up the canyon of the Snake to Jackson yesterday. We've both been jonesing for a Billy burger at The Lift restaurant, near Snow King, and were not disappointed.

If you get to Jackson, turn right at Jackson's main intersection - Broadway and Cache - at the Southwest corner of the town square, to The Lift at 645 S. Cache St. Order a Billy burger the way you like it, including somewhat rare if you like them the way we do. Adult beverages are available, enjoy.

The mountain maples have turned scarlet and the aspens are trending to that pure, soft gold that can be so spectacular. Wispy clouds hang in the canyons and the soft hues of a watercolor light the hillsides.

We're reluctant snowbirds, so we'll be gone soon ... normally after the first snowfall on the valley floor.

Too Much Star Trek

If you want to read a moral survey of the entire Star Trek oeuvre, focusing on its decline from the supposedly JFK-like heights of its beginnings to the most recent nihilistic filmic episodes, The Federalist has an article for you.
Perversity is the natural consequence of the breakdown in the liberal principles that once guided the series. “Star Trek’s” romance with relativism gradually blotted them out until the franchise came to prize feeling over thought, image over substance, and immediate gratification over moral and political responsibility. What was once an expression of the Enlightenment faded “into darkness.”
Author Timothy Sandefur is much too immersed in the show's various incarnations and permutations. Misquoting Aberforth Dumbledore, Sandefur must think the sun shines out of Gene Roddenberry’s every orifice.

The other DrC says the article sounds stupid. I add, entertainment tends to reflect the values of its era.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

For Russia, Not Winning in Ukraine=Losing

Writing for RealClearWorld, Ulrich Speck argues that Putin and Russia are losing in Ukraine, that the Kiev government is becoming stronger and aligning with the West.
Instead of becoming a tool to control Ukraine, the Donbas region is becoming another "frozen conflict," a Russian-controlled enclave, similar to Transnistria. Under economic stress because of the fall of oil prices and Western sanctions, and without substantial support from other important players (such as China), the Kremlin seems to be ready to give up on the goal of reintegrating Ukraine, at least for the moment.
The longer the Kiev government can string out the "frozen" aspect of the conflict, the more time they buy to root out corruption and integrate volunteer units into the regular army. They also need time to build ties with Europe and with a post-Obama U.S., which is likely to be less diffident.

Speck believes Putin has moved into Syria because he wasn't having much luck in Ukraine. The muscularity of the Russian commitment to Assad makes the U.S. intervention there look weak, probably its intent.

Corbyn Is Mental*

You've read the new British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn is a radical, see a BBC article which details 24 things he is on record as believing. As we wrote several days ago, his belief structure is ideal for the leader of a protest group, and totally unrealistic for the leader of a party with any hope of actually forming a British government.

Alex Berezow meanwhile writes at The National Interest that Britain has become, at least for now, a one party state. That party being Cameron's Conservatives. Tiime will tell....
*Brit slang for deranged.

Large Poverty Pocket in the West

The Wonk Blog at The Washington Post has a study by the Pew Research Center looking at where poverty levels have risen and declined since 1960. They are interested to see that poverty has declined in the southeast and increased in our cities, something anybody who pays attention already knew.

I find more interesting that the largest contiguous geographical region with increasing poverty rates is in far northern CA, central and southern OR, northeastern NV, and western ID. The region's largest cities are Reno and Boise, neither is especially large (ca. 250,000), distinctive or depressed.

I know this region, why should it have increasing poverty? Is it a place to which bitter-enders have retreated to live out their days in single-wide mobile homes on cinder blocks deep in the woods, cooking meth? Or has the lumber industry fallen on hard times with the decline in building? Probably mostly the latter.

Statistical Evidence for a Ferguson Effect

Robert VerBruggen, who edits RealClearPolicy, looks for a "Ferguson Effect" in the recent homicide data for 59 of the sixty largest U.S. cities, data we linked to three days ago.
Advocates of a "Ferguson Effect" say that intense criticism of police over the past year has emboldened criminals and cowed officers.

The protests are heavily focused on race, so if there's a Ferguson Effect, cities with high black populations should have bigger increases in homicide — the protests presumably embolden white criminals less, and intimidate officers less when they're dealing with white suspects.

It's striking that, with one exception (Memphis), every single city where homicide declined had a black population under 31 percent. (Jacksonville had a tiny decrease and is 30.7 percent black.) Inversely, every single city except Memphis with a black population above that mark saw homicide increase.

Details: p=.035, R-squared .075.
When I was a number cruncher, my rule of thumb was R-squared equalled the effect size as a percentage. Horseback analysis: post-Ferguson has seen a 7.5% average increase in homicides for cities with large black populations. Not huge, but significant because black lives matter. The Pearson r = 0.27 where a perfect lockstep correlation = 1.00.

Quote of the Day

Salena Zito, writing for RealClearPolitics, about populist voters:
More than 3 million people didn't show up to vote in 2012, according to David Leip's “Atlas of U.S. Elections.” That number was not a show of apathy, but the beginning force of populism that sent a message to the establishment of both parties that neither recognized.
Those 3 million saw no reason to vote for either Obama or Romney. Now we see real enthusiasm for outsiders - Sanders and Trump - and "the establishment of both parties" are clueless, stunned, even aghast.

Diverging Paths

I have some further thoughts about the GOP elites being out of touch with GOP voters. See what you think.

It appears the people whose money supports GOP candidates and the people whose votes those candidates need to get elected have more-than-slightly different value sets, different interests.

Most of the campaign money comes from wealthy individuals. Most conservative votes come from not-wealthy individuals.

The former like open borders and lots of immigrants, legal and otherwise, the latter do not. The former are social liberals, but economic conservatives; the latter tend to be conservative both socially and economically.

Conservative voters have been happy to let the wealthy fill the GOP coffers, as long as their interests and ours coincided. The level of agreement appears to be fading.

After a free ride for decades, are we ready to pony up our hard-earned cash to support candidates who agree with us? Probably not, hence Trump who needs our votes but doesn't need our money, or their money and therefore has the freedom to say he agrees with us. It remains to be seen if he truly agrees.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Snark Alert

Instapundit Glenn Reynolds gives his snide reaction to the headline announcing that Hillary is losing the support of women voters.
She reminds them of their husband's ex-wife?
Probably....

GOP Elites Out of Touch with Base

Writing for RealClearPolitics, Scott Rasmussen adds his voice to those who are saying the GOP establishment is out of sync with its voters.
The key to understanding the 2016 Republican presidential primary process is recognizing how completely the GOP establishment has lost touch with reality.

The official Republican autopsy of the 2012 election ignored the real divide in the party and understated the party’s strength. In retrospect, it appears more aimed at fighting Republican voters than Democratic candidates. Or, perhaps, it was an effort to pre-sell the nomination of another establishment candidate like Jeb Bush.

The story so far of the 2016 presidential election is the furious rejection of that plan by Republican voters. What remains to be seen is how the establishment Republicans deal with that rejection. Will they split the party, or will they finally accept reality by working with a candidate more acceptable to Republican voters?
We're tired of voting for "lesser of two evils" candidates, or saying "a pox on both houses" and staying home.

Inspired by Loathing

Columnist Ron Fournier, writing in National Journal about our near-universal distain for politicians:
Most Amer­ic­ans don’t par­ti­cip­ate in polit­ics or gov­ern­ment, and most of those who do hate the sys­tem. Even people who reg­u­larly vote for can­did­ates of a par­tic­u­lar stripe are in­spired by their loath­ing of the “oth­er party” rather than re­spect for their own.
Truer words have seldom been written.

Leadership Change in Oz

Reuters reports via Yahoo News the ruling Liberal Party in Australia has fired its leader, Prime Minister Tony Abbott. They elected his rival Malcolm Turnbull to replace him as PM.

The "Liberal Party" in Oz is in fact a conservative party, their equivalent of Republican. The opposition Labour Party is their version of our Democrats.

This makes Turnbull the fifth PM in eight years. Perhaps only postwar Italy has exceeded this turnover rate.

Academic Politics Are Brutal

An instructor at Delta State University, Cleveland, Mississippi, appears to have shot and killed the woman with whom he spent the summer in Gautier, MS, on the gulf. He then shot and killed a fellow faculty member at Delta State in northern MS.

Perhaps he figured the penalty for two murders is no worse than one, so he might as well conclude some unfinished business at school. See a Reuters story at Yahoo News and a more detailed story in the Biloxi/Gulfport paper, the SunHerald.

I've always said academic politics are brutal, but this is over the top. So is the story of the Business School Dean at Stanford University who is resigning after firing the faculty member husband of the faculty woman with whom he was having an affair. That is some kind of slimy. See the story at Poets and Quants.

Update: A more recent story in the SunHerald says suspect Shannon Lamb earned his doctorate recently at Delta State, where he remained to teach. I wonder if the murdered professor was a member of Lamb's dissertation committee?

Forty years ago I had a pain-in-the-butt dissertation committee member I wouldn't have missed had he stepped in front of a bus. He cost me a year of make-work drudgery, which I slogged through. Some wouldn't be as forgiving as I was.

Further Update: Refusing to be taken alive, suspect Lamb shot himself fatally as police chased him. Ofttimes a self-administered death penalty is best for all concerned.

Police in Retreat, Unfortunately

Heather Mac Donald writes at The Wall Street Journal about how the Black Lives Matter movement and anti-police attitudes at the Obama DOJ have (1) given police realistic fear of random violence directed at them, (2) made police reluctant to enforce laws, and (2) consequently led to a sharp upturn in criminality. The police feel nobody in authority has their back, and that is uncomfortably close to the truth.

We know how this trend ends, with law-abiding Americans buying guns and defending themselves. That outcome isn't optimal. We need to move back to a "broken windows" policing model where the police believe, accurately, that they are the instrument of a society which has their back, which wants the laws enforced fully, carefully and without bias.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Walker: End Federal Employee Unions

GOP presidential aspirant Gov. Scott Walker is proposing doing away with unions for federal workers, and making unionization for workers at other levels of government more difficult. And he proposes a national right-to-work law for all states which do not subsequently vote to permit union shops, plus scrapping the NLRB. See the Associated Press story at Yahoo News.

That platform should get people talking about Walker, perhaps in the same breath as Trump. COTTonLINE supports Walker's intent to get unions out of governmental workplaces, where they never should have been permitted. If workers in private enterprise want to organize, I'm okay with that. Government workers are so protected by civil service regulations they have no need for unions.

CA More Urban

We wrote about homicide rates in the 60 largest U.S. cities yesterday. Which made us think about how many CA cities are in the list of 60 largest U.S. cities. The actual count is 12 or one-fifth of the total. The remaining 48 cities are scattered unevenly among the 49 other states, TX has 8.

Classically, we say CA has 1/8 of the U.S. population, it's not exact but close. However, the state has 1/5 of the largest cities. That suggests its population is substantially more urban than the country as a whole.

Sad. Rural CA doesn't feel represented by the elected idiots in Sacramento. They mostly come from urban districts.

Why Only Trump Argues for Curtailed Immigration

The Weekly Standard's Jay Cost often has keen insight on matters political. Here he says something wise about the Trump phenomenon.
A Trump victory is not what should worry the GOP. Rather, the party should worry that, with the field of candidates full of professional politicians, only Donald Trump—the real-estate tycoon from Manhattan who gave money to Hillary Clinton—actually understands the mood of Republican voters in middle America.
It is likely the professionals "understand the mood of Republican voters in middle America" but cannot champion it without losing the support of wealthy donors (and their lickspittle house organ, The Wall Street Journal), who don't like crackdowns on illegal immigrants.

Everyone but wealthy Trump is constrained by big donors' universal desire for unlimited immigration. Open borders let in low wage workers and lots of consumers, both of which they love.

As noted here earlier, the fat cats who pay the piper call the tune (i.e., shape the candidates' messages). And as Peggy Noonan wrote last Friday, plutocrats don't mingle with the immigrant tide.

Politico: ISIS Winning

Politico Europe reports ISIS is winning, the story by Bruce Hoffman isn't pretty:
ISIL’s appeal will not diminish nor its allure end until this movement is militarily defeated and pushed out of Iraq. The Iraqi Security Forces are patently incapable of this task. And, our de facto alliance with Iran and domestic Shi’a militias has heightened rather than assuaged Sunni fears of encirclement and furnished ISIL’s propagandists with a powerful narrative that more tightly binds the fate of indigenous populations to the protection the Islamic State provides.

We have to accept that Iraq has ceased to exist as a viable federal union and has now permanently splintered into Sunni, Shi’a and Kurdish enclaves. In these circumstances, our best option is to back the only reliable and militarily capable partners we have there—the Kurds. To date, both the Kurdish Peshmerga and YPG or People’s Protection Unit, its Syrian counterparts, are the only local forces who have demonstrated any effective ability to counter ISIL. Yet, American support of both is hamstrung by a misplaced deference to Turkey’s priorities—a NATO ally who has often proven as unhelpful in the war on terrorism in the Levant as Pakistan has been in South Asia.
I'd rather we backed the Kurds than Erdogan's Turks, and yet we still officially consider the Kurdish freedom fighters as "terrorists."

Giveaways Are Destructive

Wisdom from a Kurdish-Swedish economist who studies immigration issues, as reported in Canada's The Globe and Mail.
It’s really very simple, Mr. Sanandaji explained. You can’t combine open borders with a welfare state. “If you’re offering generous welfare benefits to every citizen, and anyone can come and use these benefits, then a very large number of people will try to do that. And it’s just mathematically impossible for a small country like Sweden to fund those benefits.”
What Sanandaji says about Sweden is true of all countries: offer a free lunch and be inundated with takers. Frankly, it is wrong for both the country doing the offering and the people taking the offer, it bankrupts the offering country and destroys the initiative of the takers.

----------o--0--o----------

The DrsC saw what such a policy did to the formerly self-sufficient Chamorro natives of Guam. Following the island's capture by the U.S. Navy in the 1898 Spanish-American war, the Navy basically issued food to the islanders to keep them happy, something the prior Spanish overlords never did.

It worked ... much too well. Guam's natives are proud U.S. citizens who have some of the highest food stamp usage anywhere under the U.S. flag. Also some of the highest unemployment.

Giving people things they formerly had to earn by the sweat of their brows destroys their initiative, makes them lazy, dependent, and improvident. And the blame lies with the donor, moreso than with the taker.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Russian, Western Cultures Dissimilar

L. Todd Wood has written for RealClearWorld an assessment of the ways in which Russian culture is unlike that of "the West." If you only read one column this year about Russia, this should be it. Some samples:
Russian culture suffers to this day from the effects of centuries of rule by the Golden Barbarian Hordes of Middle Asia. (snip) A governmental system of strongmen was set up to whom you had to pay homage and tribute. This system still exists in Russia today.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper was right when he said Russia doesn't share Western values. That is no secret, but the greater point is, they don't want to share Western values!

Western governments should realize they are not dealing with the same type of person when sitting across the negotiating table. Russians play to win. If they need to act nice, they will. If they need to kill you to get what they want, they will. I don't think U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry or President Barack Obama frankly comprehend that reality.

Russians don't like Western culture. They see it as morally bankrupt and corrupt.
Wood doesn't "think" U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry or President Barack Obama comprehend the Russian reality? No kidding; such comprehension would be both inconvenient and uncomfortable, forcing a wrenching reassessment of their shared Pollyanna-like world view.

Murder Worse in 2/3 of Our Largest Cities

Nate Silver's statistical website FiveThirtyEight has an article looking at the homicide rate in the nation's 60 largest cities. First the bad news:
The results confirm that there has been an increase in homicides this year in big U.S. cities of about 16 percent.
They accumulated (with difficulty) data on homicides for 59 of the 60 largest cities, data for Anaheim were not available. In 25 of the 59 cities for which data were available:
Homicides were up by 20 percent or more from a year ago.
Homicides rose by less than 20% in 14 additional cities, and were down in the remaining 20 cities. Concluding on a positive note, they observe:
While a 16 percent increase in U.S. major-city homicides is statistically significant, it comes after decades of declines — the murder rate fell by more than half nationally from its peak in 1980 to 2012.
Honestly, much of the article is a long whine about how good, real-time homicide data isn't easily available. Unless statistical shtick is your thing, skip the last half of the article.

Unfortunately, 2015 bids fair to be an inflection point on the homicide trend line. That is, the point at which the trend line shifts to head off in a new, more deadly direction. This distinct possibility is not any part of 538's preferred story line.

Analysis: Do Police Shoot More Blacks?

Are you interested in the issue of whether police are more likely to shoot black suspects than whites? RealClearPolicy provides links to two discussions of the issue by people with differing views. See a skeptical argument by Robert VerBruggen who edits the website, and an accusatory argument by Connor Friedersdorf.

Little Support for Income Redistribution

The Atlantic carries a report on a new study by the National Bureau for Economic Research which finds:
America’s desire to see wealth spread around more evenly hasn’t really increased that much at all in the past 30 years. And in fact members of some of the most vulnerable economic groups are actually less supportive of efforts that would boost the economic standing of the less well-off than they once were.

Blacks view the economic system as becoming increasingly fair and are decreasingly supportive of government targeted aid based on race.
My guess: they understand the government will tax their incomes in order to give it to illegal immigrants who are poorer. Maybe they've also realized the bureaucrats doing the redistribution siphon off much of the appropriated money in salaries and perks.

Cook: Sanders a Loser

National Journal's Charlie Cook takes a shot at Democrat presidential aspirant Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).
Has any mem­ber of Con­gress dur­ing the past 23 years been less con­sequen­tial, less ef­fect­ive, and taken less ser­i­ously than Sanders? Is there any Demo­crat­ic sen­at­or less able to win a na­tion­wide gen­er­al elec­tion?
And yet Democrats in New Hampshire like him better than Hillary, and he isn't far behind in Iowa. Is he another Jeremy Corbyn? Are Democrats about to become as inconsequential as Britain's Labor Party? Be still, my heart.

Quote of the Day

Stephen Castle, writing about Britain's Labor Party electing Jeremy Corbyn as party leader, in The New York Times.
Mr. Corbyn’s critics fear he will turn the Labour Party into a protest movement, rather than a realistic alternative to the Conservative government of Prime Minister David Cameron.
It is as we predicted; with Scotland gone nationalist, the Labor Party has no realistic chance of getting a majority and has become, in fact, "a protest movement" like the Greens or UKIP.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Catalans Rally in Barcelona

The Financial Times carries a story about a huge rally in Barcelona in support of Catalan independence. The president of Catalonia, similar to the governor of a U.S. state, favors independence for the wealthy region which is a net tax donor to the rest of Spain.

Spain, of course, opposes independence for Catalonia. Spain also says this is not a decision to be made by Catalans alone, but must be agreed to by Spain. Good luck with that!

A Perry Bye-ku

With a hat tip to The Wall Street Journal's James Taranto, who popularized the farewell haiku, or bye-ku, my salute to Gov. Rick Perry who has suspended his campaign:
Sadly, Rick Perry
A Texas pedigree is
Redolent of Bush

Remember 9/11

Today is the fourteenth anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center towers, the Pentagon, and  the aborted-by-passengers attack on the White House. It behooves us to remember who did it, on whose behalf, and for what reasons.

A moment of silence to remember the 3000+ dead is appropriate. Take a second moment to remember they need further vengeance.

Act of God Reported in Mecca

See a Reuters story via Yahoo News concerning a fierce storm with lightening causing the collapse of a construction crane at the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. At least 107 were killed, over 230 injured.

A believer would say it's a sign Allah is angry with his people. Might it be for committing atrocities in his name across the globe? I'd like to think so.

A conspiracy theorist would blame Shia sabotage, planned in and directed from Tehran.

Why Government Is Unresponsive

The Wall Street Journal's Peggy Noonan, writing about the refugee crisis and how our decision-makers are detached from our everyday reality.
Rules on immigration and refugees are made by safe people. These are the people who help run countries, who have nice homes in nice neighborhoods and are protected by their status.

Those who live with the effects of immigration and asylum law are those who are less safe, who see a less beautiful face in it because they are daily confronted with a less beautiful reality—normal human roughness, human tensions.

Decision-makers fear things like harsh words from the writers of editorials; normal human beings fear things like street crime. Decision-makers have the luxury of seeing life in the abstract. Normal people feel the implications of their decisions in the particular.

The decision-makers feel disdain for the anxieties of normal people, and ascribe them to small-minded bigotries, often religious and racial, and ignorant antagonisms. But normal people prize order because they can’t buy their way out of disorder.

Gerson Out of Step

At RealClearPolitics Michael Gerson displays his inner squish, his conviction that Islam is a religion of peace and jihadis merely a perversion of same. He notes this is not the common view among Republican presidential candidates.

Gerson fails to mention that it is also an uncommon view among Republican voters. Al Qaeda and the Islamic State have convinced Americans to view Islam as often bloodthirsty and barbaric.

Odds Favor the GOP in 2016

For RealClearPolitics, Jeffrey H. Anderson looks at all examples since World War II of people trying to be elected president after a member of their own party has held the White House for eight years.

Anderson finds the best predictor of such candidate's success or failure is his predecessor's popularity in year six. Another decent predictor is to take the predecessor's reelection margin and deduct 9 percentage points.

By either measure, a Democrat is unlikely to be elected president in 2016. See the article for details. Normally Americans prefer to "throw the rascals out" every eight years (if not sooner) to give the other guys a chance.

Exceptions occur when the incumbent is very popular. Obama is not popular.

Rothenberg: Trump Is Serious

Stu Rothenberg writes in his RothenBlog that he's changed his mind about Trump. Trump's poll numbers just cannot be ignored and he is likely in the race to stay. The whole column is interesting but the following paragraphs really got my attention:
In May, a clear majority of likely Iowa Republican caucus-goers — 58 percent — said they could never support him (Trump). That number fell to 29 percent in the most recent Selzer poll.

Remarkably, more likely caucus attendees said they could never vote for Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul (43 percent), New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (48 percent), Ohio Gov. John R. Kasich (40 percent), former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (39 percent), former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (35 percent) and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum (35 percent) than said they could never support Trump for president.
As a list of folks I'd hope don't get the GOP nomination, it's not bad and I would add Jim Gilmore, Mike Huckabee, Lindsey Graham, Ben Carson, and George Pataki. Meanwhile, Rothenberg sees evidence Trump could get some modest percentage of Democrat crossover votes in the general election.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Obama's Awful Record

In his column for USA Today, Glenn Harlan Reynolds pronounces judgment on the Obama foreign policy.
In the Middle East, everything Obama has touched has failed disastrously — and he’s had help in this failure from Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden. With 2016 coming, will that provide an opening for Democratic candidates — like Webb, perhaps, or Bernie Sanders — who are untouched by these failures? Maybe so. But a bigger question is what burdens will America, and the world, have to bear because of this awful record. I fear that they will be very heavy indeed.

Obama's Disaster of Epochal Proportions

Writing about the Obama administration's failure to act in Syria, Washington Post editorial writer Fred Hiatt rips Barack a new one.
This may be the most surprising of President Obama’s foreign-policy legacies: not just that he presided over a humanitarian and cultural disaster of epochal proportions, but that he soothed the American people into feeling no responsibility for the tragedy.

On those rare occasions when political pressure or the horrors of Syrian suffering threatened to overwhelm any excuse for inaction, he promised action. (snip) Once public attention moved on, the plans were abandoned or scaled back to meaningless proportions.

The United States has to consider interests as well as values, must pace itself and can’t save everyone. But a values-free argument ought at least to be able to show that the ends have justified the means, whereas the strategic results of Obama’s disengagement have been nearly as disastrous as the human consequences.
Obama was probably correct that Americans didn't want to become involved militarily in Syria. However, what the public wants isn't always what we should do internationally.

A U.S. Military Coup?

See a short article from The Fiscal Times via Yahoo Finance that reports the results of a YouGov poll. The poll asked respondents whether or not they could imagine circumstances under which they would support our military taking over the U.S. government, ousting the politicians. Some 29% said "yes," while 41% said "no" and the rest responded "not sure."
Republicans (43 percent) were more likely to say they can envision a scenario in which they could support a military coup than Democrats (20 percent). Perhaps that difference is related to having a Democratic president who some critics on the right see as overstepping his power. 
"Perhaps?" You may be asking yourself why roughly 3 people in 10 can imagine supporting a military coup. Responses to another question suggest an answer.
According to the same YouGov survey, almost three-quarters (70 percent) of respondents believe that military officers want what is best for the country, while only 29 percent think the same of members of Congress.
The U.S. has never had a military coup. Countries which have tolerated coups, sometimes repeatedly, did so when public disgust with politicians reached a fever pitch. We may be less unique than is often claimed.

History suggests that most military officers do want what is best for their country. However, they tend to dislike running a government and aren't good at it because civilian employees don't thrive under military discipline.

Quote of the Day

The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza, about the manifold difficulties confronting the Clinton campaign:
Memo to Clinton-world: It might be time to start panicking.
Question: How many restarts has Clinton's feeble campaign had? Answer: It feels like more than a UPS truck.

Oregon's Anti-CA Bias Not New, Not News

Hot Air carries a short piece about Oregonians being upset at Californians moving there. The writer, Jazz Shaw, acts like this is something new.

Maybe putting "No Californian" stickers on real estate For Sale signs is new. Anti-Californian prejudice is certainly not.

As an out-of-state graduate student at University of Oregon, I spent three years living in Oregon. This was in the mid-1970s, nearly 40 years ago.

Believe me, anti-Californian bias among Oregonians was alive and well in those drug-saturated days of yore. The slogan was "Don't Californicate Oregon!"

More than once locals suggested maybe I'd be happier somewhere else, a suggestion with which I always readily agreed. Their relief, when I assured them I'd be gone as soon as I completed my degree, was amazing.

And I was as good as my word, I moved back to California before the degree was even finished.

I could hardly wait to leave OR; eight months of gray, overcast skies and rain each year was too depressing. I wrote my dissertation while teaching in CA.

As a native Californian I'm used to shirt-sleeves warmth, sunshine and blue skies most of the year. Now in retirement the DrsC experience optimal weather almost year-around, by living in three different places each year ... not quite "endless summer," more like endless late spring.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Middle East SOPs

Writing at The Washington Post, Ishaan Tharoor lists seven problems in the Middle East he believes are worse than Iran's nuclear program. They are
The Syria endgame
The spread of the Islamic State
The war in Yemen
Turkey's renewed civil war
Failing, corrupt governments
The zombie afterlife of the two-state solution
The Egyptian political tragedy
COTTonLINE takes a jaundiced view of Tharoor's reasoning. The only one we believe is more important than Iranian nukes is "The spread of the Islamic State." The balance are examples of business as usual in this benighted region; not good but not new.

MENA is so screwed up a believer could conclude God has cursed the entire region.

Fitted for an Orange Jumpsuit

Writing for RealClearPolitics, Charles Lipson points out factors missed, intentionally or otherwise, by the MSM in the Clinton email mess.
Hillary faces far more than political trouble. She’s being fitted for an orange jumpsuit.

The intelligence services remember how seriously the Department of Justice dealt with former CIA directors John Deutsch and David Petraeus, who mishandled documents. They will demand equal treatment here. They will keep the heat on by leaking to the press.

The stonewalling won’t help. The reluctant apologies won’t help. The FBI investigation will keep grinding on, and the intelligence agencies will keep passing out any nuggets they find. If Hillary’s political troubles keep piling up, she won’t make it to the general election. If her legal troubles keep piling up, she’s going to wish the next president was Gerald Ford.
Ford famously pardoned  former President Richard M. Nixon, "for the good of the country."

Upper Middle Class - Where the Action Is

Richard Reeves writes for Brookings about the extent to which the upper middle class is pulling away from the rest of society. He defines the upper middle class as being in the top quintile (fifth) based on income and tending to have a graduate degree as well.

While such status doesn't make one wealthy, this group's income has been rising while the other 80% have been flat or declining. And the group has political clout as they vote and lobby.

Reeves considers whether they constitute a problem for the rest of society. That is the Brookings' leftist bias showing.

The Value of a Common Language

See a good, brief article in The Fiscal Times concerning the failures of bilingual education, and the strengths of English immersion programs. Its title largely summarizes its message:
Bi-lingual Education Is Making Kids Functionally Illiterate.
We should make the same effort to teach English that Israel made to teach all its immigrants Hebrew.