Saturday, October 31, 2015

The EU in Difficulty

Politico Europe cites apocalyptic commentary on the state of the European Union. Those expressing dire sentiments are no short hitters: we have the presidents of the European Council and European Commission, Chancellor Angela Merkel, the elected leaders of Austria, France, Slovenia, and the Netherlands, and the president of the European Parliament, among others. The refugee crisis is what triggers this doom and gloom, of course.

Will the EU manage to stumble through this crisis and hold together? Probably, but it may be wounded beyond repair in the process. Admitting hundreds of thousands of unassimilable third world people is stupid, Europe should turn them back at the border.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Enough Dynasticism

Jonah Goldberg turns a deft phrase for National Review concerning whether the GOP should nominate Jeb Bush:
In a change election, when the other side has an old and tired brand, the last thing in the world you should do is respond with an older and even more tired brand.
Which is a complicated way of answering NO. Hat tip to Instapundit for the link.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Weird Bariatric Science

A team at Harvard reviewed more than 50 studies and determined advising dieters to avoid one or another type of food was nonsense, according to the currently much-maligned CNBC. The study's authors wrote:
Health and nutrition guidelines should cease recommending low-fat diets for weight loss in view of the clear absence of long-term efficacy when compared with other, similar intensity dietary interventions.
Sadly, I'll bet it all boils down to total caloric intake. Whether people's intake is more or less than what they utilize to stay warm and keep moving.

We in the developed world have bodies that evolved to help us work hard and survive almost yearly famines while withstanding cold winters. We now live in an era of inexpensive food superabundance, and we have warm buildings, cars, and clothes.

Our shared genetic legacy turns out to be wrong for current conditions. Be patient, conditions will change.


Variety reports CNBC had its largest audience ever for the GOP debate last night. In other words, many people who seldom or never watch the cable network were tuned in.

Is it not massively ironic that when CNBC had an opportunity to make a good first impression, they made instead a terrible one? In the vernacular, this is called "shooting yourself in the foot."

Sadly, no branch of the Comcast NBCUniversal empire appears free from left-leaning bias. The GOP apparently thought a "business channel" would lean right. However, as someone wisecracked recently, business channels have become mouthpieces for crony capitalism, and pro-amnesty like the WSJ.

Cruz Tears CNBC a New One

RealClearPolitics quotes Ted Cruz teeing off on the moderators on the CNBC-run 3rd GOP debate earlier this evening:
The questions asked in this debate illustrate why the American people don't trust the media. This is not a cage match. And you look at the questions -- Donald Trump, are you a comic book villain? Ben Carson, can you do math? John Kasich, will you insult two people over here? Marco Rubio, why don't you resign? Jeb Bush, why have your numbers fallen? How about talking about the substantive issues.

Let me be clear, the men and women on this stage have more ideas, more experience, more common sense, than every participant in the Democratic debate. That debate reflected a debate between the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks.

Nobody believes that the moderators have any intention of voting in a Republican primary.

The questions being asked shouldn't be trying to get people to tear into each other, it should be what are your substantive solutions to people at home.
The above comments by Ted Cruz triggered the evening's biggest applause.

GOP Debate #3

National Review's Jonathan V. Last writes that tonight's badly moderated GOP debate on CNBC showed that the field is narrowing. He opines:
So there’s your final six: Trump, Carson, Rubio, Cruz, and maybe—just maybe—Fiorina and Christie.
For a variety of reasons Last dismisses Mike Huckabee, John Katich, Rand Paul and the entire undercard as no longer in contention. And he adds:
And as for Bush? Jeb’s dead, baby. Jeb’s dead.
What people will remember about tonight's debate is that every pundit with an opinion and a place to post it believes cable network CNBC did a miserable job of staging and moderating the debate. The candidates complained on-air, simply refusing to "play nice" in the face of a whole series of gotcha questions from the moderators.

Mollie Hemingway documented at The Federalist, two days before it happened, that John Harwood was a totally biased liberal inappropriate to moderate a GOP debate. She is entitled to say "I told you so" to RNC head Reince Priebus, although her column appeared too late for him to demand a personnel change.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

An Inadvertent Endorsement

Albert R. Hunt writes about the importance to each party of winning the 2016 presidential election. His article appears at Bloomberg View.

Hunt suggests a loss for either party would be a more-than-average setback. Whimsically, he concludes as follows:
In the unlikely event Trump were to win? Republicans and Democrats both might have nervous breakdowns.
Hunt gives us a reason to back Trump - to confound the truly unattractive establishments of both parties. Reid, McConnell, Pelosi, Boehner, and their various hangers-on - a crew of grotesques well worth confounding.

The Enemy's Enemy

Four days ago we wrote that Ted Cruz was saying the right things to warm a conservative's heart. Today The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza judges that Sen. Cruz is running the most letter-perfect campaign of the entire GOP field, bar none.

Cruz stays on message, doesn't get in fights with front-runners (Trump), and raises money faster than he spends it. One other key Cruz characteristic, he is roundly hated by everyone in Washington the GOP base hates.

That makes Ted the enemy of their enemy ... in other words, their friend. The GOP base would rather have its representatives in Washington shut down the government than have them go along with the (mostly Democratic) status quo. Ted Cruz tries to act on this preference, hence the loathing he attracts.

Carson a Seventh-Day Adventist

I haven't developed strong feelings about Dr. Ben Carson as presidential candidate one way or the other. That he is soft-spoken is nice, clearly no bomb-thrower. I'm not certain I "get" his appeal to Iowa's evangelical voters.

Yes, he is religious, in fact a Seventh-Day Adventist according to a Financial Times article. The group is not normally clustered with evangelical Christians, although they are certainly serious about their faith.

A major tenet of SDA faith is that the end of the world is near. I wonder how that would impact Carson's foreign policy decisions, his interpretation of the motives and actions of foreign leaders?

It isn't widely known the SDA church advocates, but does not require, vegetarianism and requires following the kosher or halal diet, which is to say avoiding pork, shellfish, etc. I imagine that could puzzle the White House chef and make banquet planning complicated.

"Pro-Crime" Not a Proud Label

Writing for The Washington Post, Ed Rogers observes FBI Director James Comey has gone off-message. Comey observed that police are intimidated by the Black Lives Matter movement, and thus are ignoring criminal behavior they should stop. Rogers writes:
If the Democrats had their way, there would be less police activity, fewer criminals in prison, more criminals on the street and fewer law-abiding Americans with guns. It’s hard to argue anything else.

The politics of this issue are not fully formed, but if the Democrats don’t watch it, they run the risk of being the “pro-crime” party in the United States.

Catching Up

Writing in The Washington Examiner, Patrick Bedard quotes Obama pollster Cornell Belcher on the unfortunate extent to which U.S. politics has become "tribal." It is good to see the polling community catching up with a phenomenon we've been writing about at COTTonLINE since March of last year, some nineteen months ago.

The Riddle Solved

Writing in his The Fix column for The Washington Post, Chris Cillizza says some trenchant things about today's GOP:
The dirty little secret in Republican politics these days is that the longtime pillars of the party — politicians and ex-politicians, major donors and the consultant class — are further removed from the views of the GOP base than at any time in modern memory. They simply do not understand what the heck is happening within and to their party.
COTTonLINE reveals the answer. Major interests of the party establishment and the base haven't merely diverged, they are now in direct conflict. We're talking zero sum game, if one wins, the other loses.

Describing the difficulty is easy enough, suggesting a solution is much, much harder. I freely admit not having one.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

David Brooks, Adios

As regular readers know, I have long listed The New York Times' David Brooks in my Favorite Links column. Honestly, I should have deleted Brooks some time ago but, being lazy, didn't get around to doing so. It is now done.

A long Columbia Journalism Review article by Danny Funt looks at a major shift in career emphasis David has made, while continuing to write for the Times. What Brooks was good at is what I no longer see in his work, explaining current events using neurobiology, sociology, and social psychology. Hat tip to Power Line for the link.

As Funt reports, Brooks has grown disappointed with the explanatory power of these fields. He has moved into what could be described as "moral philosophy" and his musings in this arena I frankly find preachy, boring and irrelevant to my interests.

His political analysis, once insightful, has become perfunctory and he no longer really holds up his end in the weekly joust with Mark Shields on the PBS News Hour. According to Funt, Brooks no longer finds politics fascinating and perforce I no longer find Brooks interesting.

Guatemala Elects an Outsider

The voters of Guatemala are so bummed with the corruption of their government that on Sunday they elected as president a TV comedian - Jimmy Morales - who has never held political office. See an Associated Press story for details.

Nobody has much notion what plans Morales has for the country. His whimsical campaign pledge:
For 20 years I have made you laugh, I promise that as president I won't make you cry.
Most incumbent politicians in Guatemala are under investigation or indictment for taking bribes and growing wealthy off their political careers. Which may explain the choice of a complete outsider.

Partisan Differences on Issues

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs commissioned a nation-wide survey of attitudes toward a variety of issues, including U.S. involvement abroad, immigration, climate issues, and the management of international relations. Hat tip to RealClearWorld for the link.

The results are unsurprisingly partisan in nature. Democrats favor amnesty for illegal immigrants, while Republicans favor their deportation. Republicans are climate change skeptics while Democrats are believers.

Democrats are much less supportive of Israel than Republicans. Democrats like the U.N. and free trade more than Republicans do.

This last finding is surprising, I expect Republicans to favor free trade more. Apparently Trump understands the Republican mind better than I do.

Weird Educational Science

Ezra Klein writes in Vox that pre-K preschool has been shown not to help children but in fact to hinder their future chances. This echoes findings from Quebec which found essentially the same. Perhaps there is such a thing as going to school too soon? Who knew?

Weird Neurological Science

Spanish researchers have found evidence that brains of those with Alzheimer's contain fungi whereas those not so afflicted do not. RealClearScience posts a summary of the findings along with some questions that must be answered before we decide we're certain we've found a cause.

The usual cautions/caveats apply with regard to correlational findings. For example, it may be that having Alzheimer's makes one susceptible to fungal infection of the brain. Rather than fungus being a cause it may be an consequence of the disease.

These findings are extremely tentative, but clearly suggestive, and should be followed up. For those who like reading the original science, the source is listed as:
Diana Pisa, Ruth Alonso, Alberto Rábano, Izaskun Rodal & Luis Carrasco. "Different Brain Regions are Infected with Fungi in Alzheimer's Disease." Scientific Reports 5, Article number: 15015. Published online: 15-October-2015. doi:10.1038/srep15015
As Instapundit Glenn Reynolds is fond of saying in such matters, "Faster, please."

Monday, October 26, 2015

The Selling of Trump

In The Washington Post, Marc Thiessen writes political opinion. From his latest on the results of a new Post/ABC News poll:
Right now Republican voters believe that Trump is (a) the most likely to shake up our nation’s capital and (b) has the best shot of winning in November.
Some 43% of Republicans believe Trump is the most electable of their candidates for nomination. This is particularly striking when you understand that the same poll found only 32% actually prefer him. Thus, roughly one Republican in ten thinks Trump is more electable than the candidate they personally prefer.

A political campaign is truly a marketing campaign, where the candidate is the "product" being promoted. Trump's marketing savvy is known to be formidable; obviously voters don't underestimate the potency of his sales skills, as many pundits have.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Argentina Votes

Argentina voted today to elect a new president, a successor to Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner who is term-limited out of office this December. Pre-election polling suggested the candidate of her party, Daniel Scioli, governor of Buenos Aires province, would decisively beat the two other major party candidates.

As Reuters reports via CNBC, the polling was wrong. The mayor of Buenos Aires City, Mauricio Macri, is effectively tied with Scioli at 35+% each, a third candidate - Sergio Massa - got roughly 20% which suggests a very divided electorate.

Fernandez isn't as popular as the pundits have claimed. Very clearly her ability to influence the voting for her successor is substantially less than anticipated.

Argentine election law calls for a run-off between Scioli and Macri, the two leaders. The article doesn't predict how Massa's voters will choose between the final two. I predict Macri will get more of them than Scioli, as they were anti-Fernandez votes.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Divide

Paul Mirengoff blogs at Power Line. His topic today, the divide that separates Republicans into two camps.
Some conservatives perceive that the left is bent on radically transforming American values, institutions, and ways of living, and will use almost any tactic, regardless of its legality, to accomplish the transformation. Others perceive the current moment as a normal clash of opposing parties and opinions — serious, but not exceptional.
He notes that the next Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, is one of the latter and thus inclined to cut deals with Democrats to "get something done." Mirengoff contends if you believe the former to be true, as he does, compromise and deal-making are the problem, not the solution.

COTTonLINE is inclined to agree the times are not normal. Paraphrasing the late Bill Buckley, what Republicans in Congress need to do is "stand athwart history yelling 'Stop.'"

Weaponized Condoms

Popular Science reports rebels in Syria are turning condoms into balloons to lift small explosive charges into the air. It's an apparent effort to keep low-flying aircraft from strafing and bombing their positions.

Lest you think this urban legend, they have photos purporting to show the condom bombs lifting off. Of course in this era of Photoshop, a photo may or may not have a meaningful relationship to reality.
Hat tip to RealClearDefense for the link.

Cruz Looking Good

Attorney David Begley has been blogging for Power Line on the appearances of various candidates in Iowa. Here he reports on seeing Sen. Ted Cruz speak in Council Bluffs. I like what Begley reports Cruz stands for, and I like that Cruz is bright-as-hell.

Cruz doesn't get along with the Boehners and McConnells of the GOP leadership in Congress, a plus in my book. His description of his first day in office is a knockout, go read it.

An Unhealthy Prognosis

Economist Yanis Varoufakis, a former Greek finance minister, describes for Project Syndicate the dilemma facing the European Union and, more particularly, the euro zone. He concludes:
Nothing short of macroeconomically significant institutional reforms will stabilize Europe. And only a pan-European democratic alliance of citizens can generate the groundswell needed for such reforms to take root.
Varoufakis fails to add that no such alliance is anywhere on the horizon, quite the opposite seems apparent. Boisterous nationalism is on an upward trajectory.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Racial Differences in Offending

Heather Mac Donald often writes for City Journal; this column is her opening statement in testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee a few days ago:
For decades, criminologists have tried to find evidence proving that the overrepresentation of blacks in prison is due to systemic racial inequity. That effort has always come up short. In fact, racial differences in offending account for the disproportionate representation of blacks in prison.

A 1994 Justice Department survey of felony cases from the country’s 75 largest urban areas found that blacks actually had a lower chance of prosecution following a felony than whites. Following conviction, blacks were more likely to be sentenced to prison, however, due to their more extensive criminal histories and the gravity of their current offense.

Intact Families Do Matter

Those who fear the return of discrimination against divorced and unmarried parents have long argued that there is nothing inherently damaging about growing up in a one-parent home. As a National Review article documents, research is proving them wrong.
Since the 1970s, a range of scholars, journalists, and pundits have sought to minimize the emotional, social, and economic fallout of the nation’s retreat from marriage, a retreat that has hit poor and working-class families and children especially hard.

States with higher levels of married parenthood enjoy higher levels of growth, economic mobility for children growing up poor, and median family income, along with markedly lower levels of child poverty.

For three of our four outcomes, as the Washington Post noted, “the share of parents who are married in a state is a better predictor of that state’s economic health than the racial composition and educational attainment of the state’s residents.”

Bye-ku for Chafee

With a hat tip to James Taranto of The Wall Street Journal, popularizer of the form, I compose a bye-ku for Gov. Lincoln Chafee, who today dropped out of the Democratic race for president.

Poor Lincoln Chafee,
An anti-war Democrat
Could get no traction.

A couple of decades into The Long War no anti-war candidate - neither Chafee nor Paul - finds many supporters. Perhaps voters are more realistic than we sometimes fear.

M & A in Menswear

The Washington Post reports Mens Warehouse has purchased the Jos. A. Bank menswear retailer. Apparently the Bank "buy one, get 2-3 free" promotions will end.

Hillary Lied, 4 People Died

The Wall Street Journal's Kimberley A. Strassel summarizes the findings of the House committee investigating Benghazi, before which committee Hillary Clinton spent yesterday testifying.
Thanks to Hillary Clinton’s Benghazi testimony on Thursday, we now understand why the former secretary of state never wanted anyone to see her emails and why the State Department sat on documents. Turns out those emails and papers show that the Obama administration deliberately misled the nation about the deadly events in Libya on Sept. 11, 2012.
Indeed, Hillary lied about the four who died, but her boss got reelected less than 2 months later, which made it all worthwhile in their warped world view.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Peronism Explained

We have written repeatedly about the Argentine political sickness that is Peronism. The Economist goes beyond bashing Peronism, and actually begins to explain it to us outsiders.
Peronism is a brand rather than a party. Its official vehicle is called the Justicialist Party (PJ). To the extent that it has an ideology it is a vague blend of nationalism and labourism, expressed in the PJ’s founding “three banners” of political sovereignty, economic independence and social justice. This has not prevented Peronist presidents swerving between radically opposed policies.

Rather than ideas, Peronism embodies a consistent set of political emotions and practices. Perón declared in 1951: “The masses don’t think, the masses feel and they have more or less intuitive and organised reactions. Who produces those reactions? Their leader.” His second wife, Eva Duarte, touched the hearts of the masses.

Ms Fernández (President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner) has proved to be an accomplished disciple: she has ruthlessly pursued popularity by postponing inevitable economic belt-tightening, by exploiting her widowhood and by associating herself with Pope Francis, an Argentine who has Peronist roots.

Its exercise of power is characterised by the strong leader and by control of the Argentine street. Almost all Peronist presidents have concentrated power in their own hands, brooking no internal rivals.
Do you suppose the Evita for whom Argentina is asked not to cry - Eva Duarte - had Eleanor Roosevelt as an inspiration, perhaps a role model? The timing works out right.

World famous Franklin Roosevelt died in 1945, wife Eleanor's active role was well-known and widely reported. Juan Peron was elected Argentine President in 1946.

California's Plantation Economy

Victor Davis Hanson writes for National Review. Think of today's column as another 'stanza' in his continuing elegy for California in decline. Like me, he grew up loving the state and is saddened beyond measure at what it has become.
Crime is back up in California. Los Angeles reported a 20.6 percent increase in violent crimes over the first half of 2015 and nearly an 11 percent increase in property crimes.

Last year, cash-strapped California taxpayers voted for Proposition 47, which so far has let thousands of convicted criminals go free from prison and back onto the streets. Now the state may have to relearn what lawbreakers often do when let out of jail early.

Traffic accidents in California increased by 13 percent over a three-year period — the result of terrible roads and worse drivers. Almost half of all accidents in Los Angeles are hit-and-runs where the drivers leave the scene.

The state devolved into a pyramid of the coastal wealthy and interior poor — the dual constituencies of the new progressive movement. A third of America’s welfare recipients reside in California. Nearly a quarter of Californians live below the poverty line.
I'm surprised Hanson doesn't identify CA as having a Latin America-like "plantation economy" with the few wealthy keeping their distance from a sea of poor peasants. It's an exaggeration to be sure, but not a huge one.

Fine British Snark

The Daily Beast writes some happy snark about the new communication director appointed by Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the U.K. Labour Party.
Wherever there’s an aggrieved terrorist or an undemocratic regime engaged in an existential struggle with the West, you can rely on Seumas Milne, Oxford-educated warrior for the Third World and former comment editor of The Guardian, to offer a full-throated, if slightly incoherent, defense. If your country’s constitution mandates the burning down of orphanages and the conscription of 6-year-olds in to the army, Milne will likely have your back, provided you also express a deep loathing for the United States and capitalism. So yesterday, in a signal to party moderates that he intends to burn Labour to the ground, Jeremy Corbyn appointed Milne his head of communications.
With Scotland gone Scots Nationalist, Labour has no chance to win a national election. So they've let the radicals run the party. Why not? It feels good and they've nothing to lose.

Those About Whom No One Cares

Shia Altman blogs in The Times of Israel an article with this provocative title:
World to Jews: We Don't Care About You
This title, self-evidently true on its face, got me thinking about other groups which could make a valid similar claim. It turns out there are lots of groups in difficulty about whom nobody seems to give a damn.

In no time I came up with the Kurds, the Armenians and the Romany or Gypsies. You could add the Straits Chinese to this list, and the Yazidis. How about the Middle East's Christians and those Muslim refugees from Myanmar?

There are lots of "inconvenient" groups around the globe. They are often migrants, sometimes autochthonous peoples. What they have in common is no serious sponsorship by a significant faction of the world community.

Israel once had a sponsor - the U.S. - but has none at the moment. It's a "moment" that lasts until at least January, 2017.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Turks Fear Kurds More than ISIS

Michael J. Totten is often the source of wise words about MENA, the Middle East and North Africa. Writing for World Affairs Journal, he hits the bullseye again:
Everyone already knows we’re backing the Kurds against ISIS, and everyone already knows the Turks would rather see an ISIS victory than a Kurdish victory. None of this is even remotely a secret. It’s all right out in the open. Official denials aren’t fooling anybody.

Besides, pretending we’re not doing what we clearly are doing just makes it look like the Turkish government’s complaint is legitimate. It’s not.

Turkey says arming Syrian Kurds is unacceptable. Well. You know what’s unacceptable from everyone else’s point of view? Telling the rest of the world that we all have to suffer the plague of ISIS because an independent Syrian Kurdistan is inconvenient to Turkey.

Weird Bariatric Science reports scientists have found people who eat late into the night may be having more trouble keeping excess weight off. The researchers argue humans didn't evolve to be eating long after dark, but that electricity made it feasible to stay up all hours and we keep snacking into the wee hours.
Scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies analyzed the daily food and beverage habits of 150 participants over a three-week period. They found that the majority of those people spread out their eating across 15 hours or longer each day, consuming less than 25 percent of their calories before noon and more than 33 percent of them after 6:00 p.m.

Gill and Panda asked a smaller group of eight overweight people from their initial study to adopt restricted eating hours. “We told them to pick their own 8 to 11 hours, but to be consistent every day for 16 weeks,” Gill says. “That includes weekends, when our larger study had showed that many people woke up later and thus ate later as well.”

The small group lost an average of 8 pounds in the 16 weeks, and they kept it off. “These people were extremely happy to do this longer on their own,” Gill says. “After a year, the group returned and their weight loss, on average, remained about the same.”

It's not clear exactly how the group lost weight. They weren't asked to change the types or amounts of foods they ate, but they may have consumed fewer calories simply by eating during a shorter time frame. The group also reported improved sleep, which could have been a factor.
I am tempted to give this a try, it sounds less painful than some weight-loss strategies.

A Fun Political Ad

Don't think of it as an endorsement, but Marco Rubio has one heck of a clever TV commercial mocking Hillary and Joe Biden as "blasts from the past" in a spoof of the Back to the Future movies. Go here to see it on Yahoo News.

Poll: No Compromise

A new Associated Press-GfK poll reported by the AP via Yahoo News finds Republicans would prefer their leaders in Congress stick to conservative principles, even if that leads to government shut-down. Those firebrands in the Freedom Caucus understand their electorate better than the GOP establishment does, eh?
Among Republicans in the poll, 62 percent say they would prefer a new speaker who will stick with conservative principles even if doing so leads to a government shutdown. Just 37 percent prefer someone who will compromise with President Barack Obama and Democrats to pass a budget.
Basically, GOP House members who are willing to compromise to pass legislation should (and do) worry they will face a primary challenge from the right.

Biden Bye-ku

With a hat tip to James Taranto of The Wall Street Journal who popularized the form, I write a bye-ku for Vice President Biden who today announced he will not seek the presidency in 2016.

Adieu, Joe Biden.
So long in indecision 
You seem'd like Hamlet.

Yesterday we misdescribed his activity as "not the behavior of a lame-duck VP heading quietly into retirement." Analyst Sean Trende, whose work we cited with approval, also has some word-swallowing to do.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Odds Favor a Republican President

Blogging for Reuters, Cliff Young and Julia Clark demonstrate that given current trends and history, the likelihood of a Republican being elected president in 2016 is on the order of 85%. This means there's a 15% chance of a Democrat winning.

Young and Clark offer two reasons:
First, a Republican will win because voters typically shy away from the party currently in power when an incumbent isn’t running. In fact, a successor candidate is three times less likely to win. Second, President Barack Obama’s approval ratings are too low to suggest a successor candidate will take the White House.
There is reasoning behind each of these assertions, and they lay that out in some detail. They are by no means the first to posit this relationship, others have noticed that a non-incumbent member of the president's party is unlikely to be elected president.

This is particularly true when the president's approval ratings are below 55%. Barack Obama's approval has languished below 50% for most of his presidency, and is today about 45%.

Almost 2 Parties Under GOP's Big Tent

National Journal's Ronald Brownstein explains Donald Trump's lead in the GOP presidential primary race in two sentences. Hat tip to Instapundit Glenn Reynolds for the link.
The blue-col­lar wing of the Re­pub­lic­an primary elect­or­ate has con­sol­id­ated around one can­did­ate. The party’s white-col­lar wing re­mains frag­men­ted.
It resembles Fox News leading all others in the ratings. Fox has a monopoly on the conservative half of the electorate, all other outlets split the liberal half. You don't have to guess who always wins the rating battle, Fox does.

If Brownstein is correct, Trump has a monopoly on the blue collar half of GOP voters, all of the other candidates split the white collar half. Trump leads, of course. A reasonable conclusion is that as others fall by the wayside, their supporters will coalesce around someone other than Trump.

In 2012 Romney appealed to the white collar wing of the GOP, many of the blue collar wing didn't vote for either candidate, stayed home. In 2016 we could see a situation in which substantial numbers of white collar Republicans abstain from voting, unable to stomach either major party nominee.

If the party cannot find candidates who appeal to both sides of our electorate, we may spend a long time in opposition, grumbling about gridlock. Perhaps Trump, an intuitive marketer, can figure out how to also appeal to the party's more educated half.

Trende Senses a Trend

Political analyst Sean Trende writes for RealClearPolitics; here he estimates what Vice President Joe Biden is up to. His view - Biden has been doing everything an announced candidate would do, but doing it behind the scenes instead of out in the public eye.

Meanwhile, sympathizing with him over the recent death of his son, the media has refrained from piling on with their normal line of "gaffe-prone Joe" stories. All the attention has been on Hillary's poor campaign skills, email troubles, and Benghazi culpability, and as we know her poll numbers have been sagging.

Trende's bottom line:
Joe Biden has, in fact, been running for president for a couple months. But rather than distract from Hillary Clinton’s troubles, and to avoid being the flawed, late entrant, he has been doing his work behind the scenes. If this is right and Biden declares, he’ll have a well-oiled machine ready to hit the ground running.
As Trende notes, Biden has been much in the public eye recently, as well as on late nite TV. It's not the behavior of a lame-duck VP heading quietly into retirement.

A Bye-ku for Jim Webb

With a hat tip to James Taranto of The Wall Street Journal who popularized the form, herewith a bye-ku for former Sen. Jim Webb, who today dropped out of contention for the 2016 Democratic nomination for president.
Farewell, devil dog.
Your machismo rang no bells
Among the lefties.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Quote of the Day

Instapundit Glenn Reynolds, writing about the contrasting goals of Putin and Obama vis-a-vis Syria:
If, as many suspect, Obama is perfectly happy to see America and Europe weakened on the global scale, then he’s not incompetent at all.
This truth we have noted on several occasions.

Daily Snark

Matt Yglesias writes for Vox about the Dem's problems, and wisecracks:
No US state is so left-wing as to have created an environment in which business interests are economically or politically irrelevant. Vermont is not North Korea, in other words.
Really? You could have fooled me.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Modern Russia

Writing in The Atlantic, Brian Whitmore contrasts today's Russia with the former Soviet Union.
Unlike the Soviet Union, today’s Russia isn’t an ideological power seeking global hegemony through military expansion. It is essentially a crime syndicate masquerading as a state. Putin and the made men who make up his inner circle deploy corruption as a tool of statecraft in order to perpetuate their rule, expand their reach, and enrich themselves.
Thus, they seek not ideological converts but co-conspirators or accomplices, easy enough to find in the widely corrupt third world.

China Follows Japan into the Swamp

Writing for Project Syndicate, Jeffrey D. Sachs argues China is in danger of heading into the same slough of despond the Japanese economy has inhabited for the past couple of decades. More interesting is that Sachs blames U.S. pressure for both the Japanese dilemma and the current downward direction of China.

Sachs is of the opinion U.S. threats to limit imports from Japan caused their problems, not a burst real estate bubble and a population who won't have children. He believes we are hassling the Chinese with the same threat, causing them to overvalue their currency and thus hurt their economy.

Odd he doesn't mention the bursting Chinese real estate bubble and the lingering effects of the one child policy. I believe Sachs seriously overrates the willingness and/or ability of the U.S. to carry out such threats, if they are even being made. Does anyone in the outside world take Obama at his word in such matters? If so, why?

Regular COTTonLINE readers will remember we wrote some months ago about China following Japan down the crony capitalism path to perdition. Hat tip to RealClearWorld for the link.

Death by Video Game

I just read a different sort of article about an Air Force woman who "flies" as part of a drone team that shoots up hostiles in Afghanistan, almost 8000 miles away from her Las Vegas base. It is a fascinating glimpse of an alternate reality, at The Daily Beast website.

They stand guard while we sleep. A COTTonLINE salute to call sign Sparkle and her teammates.

Quote of the Day

Michael Goodwin, writing in the New York Post about a new book by conservative author James Piereson entitled Shattered Consensus.
Alienation arising from the sense that something important in American life is ending, but that nothing better has emerged to replace it. 
Something much worse emerges, something we definitely cannot stomach.

An Essay

The following circulates via email incorrectly attributed to coach Lou Holtz. Snopes finds it correctly attributed to essayist Bob Lonsberry.

Less charismatic when not from a famous coach and motivational speaker, it is still a worthwhile statement of a conservative's understanding of human nature and liberalism's perversion thereof. Hat tip to long-time friend Earl for forwarding it.

The Democrats are right, there are two Americas. The America that works and the America that doesn’t. The America that contributes and the America that doesn’t. It’s not the haves and the have nots, it’s the dos and the don’ts. Some people do their duty as Americans, obey the law, support themselves, contribute to society and others don’t. That’s the divide in America .

It’s not about income inequality, it’s about civic irresponsibility. It’s about a political party that preaches hatred, greed and victimization in order to win elective office. It’s about a political party that loves power more than it loves its country. That’s not invective, that’s truth, and it’s about time someone said it.

The politics of envy was on proud display a couple weeks ago when President Obama pledged the rest of his term to fighting “income inequality.” He noted that some people make more than other people, that some people have higher incomes than others, and he says that’s not just. That is the rationale of thievery. The other guy has it, you want it, Obama will take it for you. Vote Democrat. That is the philosophy that produced Detroit. It is the electoral philosophy that is destroying America. It conceals a fundamental deviation from American values and common sense because it ends up not benefiting the people who support it, but a betrayal.

The Democrats have not empowered their followers, they have enslaved them in a culture of dependence and entitlement, of victim-hood and anger instead of ability and hope. The president’s premise – that you reduce income inequality by debasing the successful–seeks to deny the successful the consequences of their choices and spare the unsuccessful the consequences of their choices. Because, by and large, income variations in society are a result of different choices leading to different consequences. Those who choose wisely and responsibly have a far greater likelihood of success, while those who choose foolishly and irresponsibly have a far greater likelihood of failure. Success and failure usually manifest themselves in personal and family income. You choose to drop out of high school or to skip college – and you are apt to have a different outcome than someone who gets a diploma and pushes on with purposeful education. You have your children out of wedlock and life is apt to take one course; you have them within a marriage and life is apt to take another course. Most often in life our destination is determined by the course we take.

My doctor, for example, makes far more than I do. There is significant income inequality between us. Our lives have had an inequality of outcome, but, our lives also have had an in equality of effort. While my doctor went to college and then devoted his young adulthood to medical school and residency, I got a job in a restaurant. He made a choice, I made a choice, and our choices led us to different outcomes. His outcome pays a lot better than mine. Does that mean he cheated and Barack Obama needs to take away his wealth? No, it means we are both free men in a free society where free choices lead to different outcomes.

It is not inequality Barack Obama intends to take away, it is freedom. The freedom to succeed, and the freedom to fail. There is no true option for success if there is no true option for failure. The pursuit of happiness means a whole lot less when you face the punitive hand of government if your pursuit brings you more happiness than the other guy. Even if the other guy sat on his arse and did nothing. Even if the other guy made a lifetime’s worth of asinine and short sighted decisions.

Barack Obama and the Democrats preach equality of outcome as a right, while completely ignoring inequality of effort. The simple Law of the Harvest – as ye sow, so shall ye reap – is sometimes applied as, “The harder you work, the more you get.” Obama would turn that upside down. Those who achieve are to be punished as enemies of society and those who fail are to be rewarded as wards of society. Entitlement will replace effort as the key to upward mobility in American society if Barack Obama gets his way. He seeks a lowest common denominator society in which the government besieges the successful and productive to foster equality through mediocrity. He and his party speak of two Americas, and their grip on power is based on using the votes of one to sap the productivity of the other. America is not divided by the differences in our outcomes, it is divided by the differences in our efforts.

It is a false philosophy to say one man’s success comes about unavoidably as the result of another man’s victimization. What Obama offered was not a solution, but a separatism. He fomented division and strife, pitted one set of Americans against another for his own political benefit. That’s what socialists offer. Marxist class warfare wrapped up with a bow. Two Americas, coming closer each day to proving the truth to Lincoln’s maxim that a house divided against itself cannot stand.

“Life is ten percent what happens to you and ninety percent how you respond to it.”

Saturday, October 17, 2015

They're Both Correct

Yahoo Politics reports Donald Trump and Jeb Bush have each called the other "pathetic." Talk about classic sandbagging, it turns out each is correct in his assertion about the other. Both are pathetic, although in substantially different ways.

Second Amendment Defense

Hat tip to Steven Hayward of Power Line Blog,
see a bunch more good 'uns there.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Don't Know Much About History

The Sam Cooke lyric captures our president's ignorance as described in The Wall Street Journal's less-than-complimentary-to-Obama analysis of current Russian policy vis-a-vis the Middle East.
Ever since Russia launched a military campaign in Syria, the White House has offered the usual mixture of appeasement and lecturing. (snip) This is what happens when a U.S. president, who imagines history began sometime around 2004, confronts a power with a longer historical horizon.

For the Kremlin, the goal is clear: to position Moscow as a dominant actor in Middle East affairs, bolstering friends and punishing enemies. Far from running contrary to Moscow’s best interests, as Mr. Obama argues, Russian Middle East policy follows a clear vision and strategic patterns that in some cases date back to the czarist era.
Ummm, right ... a return-to-roots sort of action.

Fighting Our Own Wars

Andrew J. Bacevich writes tough truths for RealClearWorld. His basic point: the U.S. isn't good at creating foreign armies that will stand fast against determined opposition.
What are the policy implications of giving up the illusion that the Pentagon knows how to build foreign armies? The largest is this: subletting war no longer figures as a plausible alternative to waging it directly. So where U.S. interests require that fighting be done, like it or not, we're going to have to do that fighting ourselves.

In circumstances where U.S. forces are demonstrably incapable of winning or where Americans balk at any further expenditure of American blood -- today in the Greater Middle East both of these conditions apply -- then perhaps we shouldn't be there.

To pretend otherwise is to throw good money after bad or, as a famous American general once put it, to wage (even if indirectly) "the wrong war, at the wrong place, at the wrong time, and with the wrong enemy." This we have been doing now for several decades across much of the Islamic world.
Actually, Bacevich overlooks a major exception in the mujaheeden of Afghanistan who, with our aid, threw out the Soviets. The difference? Like the Kurds they were already fighting and merely needed our help. The Russians may have managed this in Syria with Assad's Alawites.

Perhaps a foreign legion is a feasible intermediate step between "doing the fighting ourself" and "bugging out?" Worth a try.

A Woman Unlikely in 2017.

Liz Mair writes for The Daily Beast, today she meditates upon the meaning of the Democratic debate, the 2016 presidential race, and the role of women in U.S. politics.
No matter how strong Hillary Clinton’s performance was Tuesday night, more and more people are acknowledging that 2017 is unlikely to be the year America’s first female president is inaugurated.

Perhaps we should instead be celebrating American women (mostly) having the good sense to avoid getting overly wrapped up in American politics or our government, such as it is.

Sure, sexism exists in politics, and contrary to what we’re often told, it does so on both sides of the aisle. (snip) More common, however, seems to be women self-segregating ourselves out of politics, or self-segregating into the less taxing roles of voter, volunteer, or mostly passive supporter.
Mair has a refreshing attitude. Hat tip to RealClearPolitics for the link.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Worth a Thousand Words

This evocative image is courtesy of 
Steven Hayward at Power Line blog.

Liking Webb

Writing for the New York Sun, Seth Lipsky tells of watching the Democrats' debate and being impressed by Jim Webb, former Senator from VA.
We wouldn’t want to let the moment pass without tipping our hat to the jarhead from Virginia, Senator James Webb. By our lights, the Marine officer (there is no such thing as a former Marine) won this debate on substance.

How sad it is for the Democratic Party that Mr. Webb is the only one left with any glint of what used to be the winning formula for the party of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, and even William Clinton.

Watching Mr. Webb, now, alas, gone from the Senate, we couldn’t help but wonder whether it’s time for him to do what Reagan did, which is throw in with the GOP and announce that it wasn’t he who left the Democrats but the Democrats who left him.
I remember when many Democrats (including my father) believed in the necessity of military force, as the leverage behind diplomacy. All gone today, like tears in rain.

Losing the Kids

The Washington Examiner's Byron York reports on a Debate Watching party organized by the College Democrats at the University of Maryland, in College Park, near the District of Columbia. Some 300 were in attendance at a largish lecture hall. The kids didn't much love Hillary.
Before the debate, as students came in, the organizers gave each a clear plastic bead. The idea was that after the debate, there would be a jar for each candidate, and people would put their beads in the jar of the candidate they thought won the debate. Not everybody voted, but when it was all over, Bernie was the big winner, with 139 votes. O'Malley came in second with 67 votes. And Hillary? Just 17 votes. Out of a total of 233 cast, Clinton won just 17 votes. (Webb and Lincoln Chafee got five apiece.)
The MSM declared Clinton "winner" of the debate. Obviously, these young voters didn't get the memo.

Hillary's losing women, losing blue collar whites, losing the young. Who's left? Identity group voters - minorities, gays, and greens - between them these have too few votes to carry a candidacy in the absence of the others.

An Impressive, Dishonest Performance

National Journal's Ron Fournier, no enemy of Hillary C., characterizes her performance in the first debate:
There are many people, in­clud­ing me, who know a side of Clin­ton that is strong and com­pel­ling, which makes her ac­tions this year shame­fully in­ept.

It worked Tues­day night. She won. She sur­vived and won with a per­form­ance that was as dis­hon­est as it was im­press­ive, that be­nefited from a friendly crowd and weak field.
'Nuff said.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Poll: Clinton Loses to Most GOP Hopefuls

Fox News national poll results are the best news we've seen in some time. Hat tip to Drudge Report for the link.
In hypothetical 2016 matchups with top-tier Republicans, Clinton trails all the Republicans tested. She trails Ben Carson by 11 points and Donald Trump by 5 points. Jeb Bush has a 4-point edge over Clinton, while Carly Fiorina is up by 3 points.
Bloody wonderful. Now we need to see if other polls find similar results.

California Sunsets

Wyoming has many fine qualities and we love it. On the other hand, for spectacular sunsets you cannot beat our place in California.

Many evenings our western sky is simply ablaze with purples, oranges, and reds - huge sky-filling panoramas lasting only a few minutes as we prepare supper. The other DrC has photos at her CruzTalkingTwo blog.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Hail, Christopher Columbus

We don't want to allow Columbus Day to go by unremarked. COTTonLINE tips its hat to the intrepid explorer and navigator Samuel Eliot Morison memorialized in Admiral of the Ocean Sea: A Life of Christopher Columbus.

I, for one, am damned glad old Chris made the crossing. I've visited Europe repeatedly and, while it's pleasant enough to visit, I wouldn't want to call it home.

The niceness of the U.S. is a thought I revisit every time I return after an extended visit abroad -  twice this very summer. The other DrC says much the same.

Quote of the Day

Victor Davis Hanson, writing in his Works and Days blog at PJ Media, on the subject of sanctuary cities and how the concept might be applied by conservatives.
When a cattleman shoots a wolf, and a county sheriff guffaws and claims “that’s a federal problem, not mine,” then we will have come full circle to the sort of disasters that occur in San Francisco.
A bumper sticker in Wyoming advises ranchers worried about wolves, Shoot, Shovel, and Shut Up. Meanwhile, a sour wisecrack in our region near two national parks, "It's tourist season, what's the bag limit?"

The Chechnya Model

Writing for The Washington Post, of which he is deputy editorial page editor, Jackson Diehl describes the model Putin used to pacify Chechnya. Diehl argues Putin follows the same model in Syria on behalf of the Assad government.
The first stages of the Russian military campaign in northern Syria have followed a familiar pattern. Heavy bombing and shelling of civilian areas preceded scorched-earth sweeps, just as in Chechnya.

According to a report on Chechnya by the International Crisis Group, “war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by [Russian] troops” included “indiscriminate shelling and bombing, secret prisons, enforced disappearances, mass graves and death squads.” One common tactic, the report said, was “taking insurgents’ relatives as hostages, subjecting them to torture or summary execution and burning their homes.”
Not unlike the Roman Empire's model of pacifying hostile tribes.

Oregon Legalizes Pot ... Ho, hum

USA Today carries a story about the legalization of recreational marijuana in Oregon, with this headline:
Voices: Ore. legalizes pot, and nobody cares
Nobody cares because much of Oregon has been in a drug-induced stupor for the past half century. I moved there from CA in 1967 and it was true even then.

Only the lack of ambition which characterizes heavy marijuana use kept OR from being the first or second state to legalize pot. Those "honors" going to Colorado and Washington, respectively.

OR west of the Cascades is a depressed person's idea of hell. It has gloomy, rainy skies for nearly 8 months a year - think Twin Peaks in the mist. The 60% of the state east of Bend is nearly unpopulated - uninteresting, undeveloped and empty. It's an odd state.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Gun Control Cannot Work in Today's U.S.

Robert N. Driscoll, a native of the Boston area, currently practices law in Washington, D.C. He writes a column for the NewBostonPost about the realistic chances of gun control, as advocated by our President and others of similar kidney. Of his views, he writes:
The views expressed in this column are his own and not those of his firm. Nor are they the views of his wife, daughters, or greyhounds.
Right away you gotta like this dude's snarky attitude. On the subject of gun control, however, he is deadly serious in describing why it is vanishingly unlikely in our nation.

His is the best thoughtful look at gun access I have seen. Driscoll considers all mentioned options and finds each wanting in crippling ways. He is particularly convincing about why we cannot keep guns out of the hands of those with mental illnesses, a solution I have suggested but now consider suspect.

Quote of the Day

The New York Times' Ross Douthat, on why Paul Ryan should not be Speaker:
He's a dove on immigration, the issue where the party’s base always expects — with good reason! — their leadership is poised to sell them out.
Emphatically the case, the big donors demand it.

Bill's Bimbos Are Back

Thinking back to the Bill Clinton presidency, remember a White House staffer named Vince Foster who supposedly shot himself? See what blogger Lucianne Goldberg tells radio personality Aaron Klein about Linda Tripp, confidante of Monica Lewinsky, Bill's most famous affair.
Linda Trip was working in the White House, and she was actually, a lot of people don’t know this, the last person to see Vince Foster alive. And she was working as his assistant in the East Wing. He went out to lunch and said, ‘I’ll be back in a half an hour,’ and she never saw him again.
Does "I’ll be back in a half an hour" sound like someone suicidal to you? Not to me. His death still looks suspicious all these years later. WND is the source for this item.

Brit Snark

Tag line on a piece of political humor from Europe, likely the U.K. Over a photo of a laughing Barack Obama you see these words:
As I plunge the world into WWIII, please remember: It's George Bush's fault and you're still a racist.
That should be the epitaph of Barack Hussein Obama, failed affirmative action president. Hat tip to long-time friend Earl for sending it.

El Nino Promised

The Los Angeles Times reports a super-sized El Nino is building in the Southern Pacific Ocean, which promises a bunch of rain this winter.
Southern California and the rest of the southern U.S., all the way to Florida, can expect a very wet winter, while it should be relatively mild in the upper part of the United States, including New England.
If the rains come as forecast, we are cautioned not to conclude the drought is over. Drought is the default (i.e., normal) condition of California, wet years are the exception.

As Erick Erickson writes at his Red State blog, if CA's government was smart they'd build new reservoirs to catch all the extra rain when an El Nino comes along. Side benefit - nice new lakes for recreation and fishing.

Of course they're not smart. The Sierra Club doesn't like reservoirs so reservoirs won't be built. We'll all be taking boat showers and driving dirty cars instead.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Historical Sociology, Canadian-style

Do you believe economists can "commit" sociology? I wasn't sure I believed it but I just read an example thereof from The New York Times. Economist Pascual Restrepo gets a hunch about violence in the U.S. and Canada, involving the role of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police or Mounties in making the Canadian frontier a less violent, more orderly place than its U.S. equivalent.

What is fun is that he finds an intriguing way to test that hypothesis using the distribution of RCMP "forts" across the Canadian west, and comparing modern day hockey players who come from towns near those posts and regions far removed therefrom.

Hockey, as even non-fans know, is a violent sport. It is a rare hockey player who retires with all of his teeth in place. However, violence is penalized with minutes in the penalty box, and statistics about such minutes per year for pro players are available.

Restrepo determined players from regions far afield from the nearest frontier-days Mountie post rack up an additional 0.4 minutes of penalty time per game, or 100 more minutes per career, as compared with players from locales near a Mountie post. This is true today one hundred years later although the Mounties have long since expanded their reach to all parts of the Canadian hinterland.

Restrepo argues regions of the Canadian west with no Mountie presence developed the same honor-based code of behavior involving violent defense of one's rights that prevailed in much of the American West. And, he suggests, once developed such codes persist over time, become an enduring part of the local culture.

My observation: in places like Wyoming it is a safe bet whoever you are talking to is armed, if not on his person, certainly in his car or home. Hence there is a tendency to be polite as being New York-style rude could get you gut-shot. Statistically, we have very little homicide and most of that "little" is directed at ex-wives.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Opposing Ryan as Speaker

Power Line's Paul Mirengoff blogs about the movement to draft Paul Ryan as Speaker. Bottom line: Paul M. is opposed to Paul R. as the next Speaker.

Why, you might reasonably ask.
It’s sometimes difficult to distinguish Ryan from a bleeding-heart liberal. Immigration is an excellent example.

Ryan is also a proponent of the kind of sentencing reform now being pressed in both the House and Senate.

To the extent that House conservatives remain committed to fighting against amnesty and to sustaining the sentencing rules that helped produce a 50 percent reduction in the national rate of serious crime in the past two decades, they should be more opposed to Ryan than they are to the current leaders.
Everybody admits Ryan is a budgetary whiz; however his conservatism is too "compassionate," no longer "flavor of the month," if indeed it ever was.

Black Swans and Pink Flamingos

Daniel Goure' writes for RealClearDefense about two concepts much bruited about in geopolitics: black swans and pink flamingos. First, definitions for each, a black swan event:
• It is a surprise to governments, experts and outside observers.
• The event has a major impact.
• After the first instance of the event, it is rationalized by hindsight (which also is why a Black Swan event never happens the same way twice).
Then Goure' quotes Frank Hoffman who defines a pink flamingo as “a predictable event that is ignored due to cognitive biases of a senior leader or a group of leaders trapped by powerful institutional forces.” Our President, and his advisors, display such cognitive biases.

Goure' lists ten Russian military provocations which have happened recently, and adds:
Not one of these events was anticipated by defense or intelligence agencies. Classic Black Swans. Except, when you line up all these Black Swans they turn into a Pink Flamingo.

The events listed above point to a single conclusion, a reality that our senior leaders wish mightily to ignore. This conclusion is that Vladimir Putin is out to directly challenge the power and unity of the Western Alliance, generally, and the United States specifically. Moreover he is willing to use military force and defy the West to counter his actions.
Famously no fan of Churchill, Obama seemingly has picked the anti-Churchill - Neville Chamberlain - as his role model. His choice emboldens Putin much as Chamberlain emboldened Hitler.

The Ryan Boomlet

Reuters reports via Yahoo News that Republicans in the House of Representatives are focusing on former vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan as a desired replacement for resigned Speaker John Boehner. Ryan has expressed extreme reluctance to accept the post.

Them wanting him more than he wants the job gives him bargaining power, which he should use to assure cooperation of a majority of the House. If Ryan is as smart as he is widely believed to be, he will only allow them to elect him Speaker after he extracts pledges of cooperation from a large enough majority of his party's members to pass legislation with no Democratic cooperation.

Failing that, Ryan should decline and let some other poor sap take the job.

The real issue is that the GOP Freedom Caucus, a very conservative group of some 40 Reps., come from districts where shutting down the government to frustrate Obama is good politics, just what a majority of their constituents crave. Boehner, and likely McCarthy, believe doing so is political "poison" resulting in a perception that Republicans can't govern.

Clearly, McCarthy believed he couldn't get the cooperation necessary to govern, where "govern" means passing legislation Obama will sign. Likely he was correct. Does Ryan have enough leverage to get such cooperation? Doubtful, but possible.

Tax-Avoidance Migrants

We have written before about the phenomenon of tax payers migrating to low-tax states. Now Instapundit Glenn Reynolds writes about this migration in his USA Today column.
IRS data show that taxpayers are migrating from high-tax states like New York, Illinois, and California to low-tax states like Texas and Florida. And it’s not just sports stars or star scientists, doing that, but fairly ordinary people — though, of course, people who earn enough money to pay taxes. If you’re living on welfare benefits and don't plan to change that, you won’t move to a low-tax state to escape taxes; if you move anywhere, it’ll probably be to a state that offers better benefits than the one you live in now.

High-tax, high-benefit states will eventually go bankrupt because they won’t retain enough taxpayers to support their welfare spending. And, in fact, that’s the direction that California, New York, and especially Illinois seem to be heading, even as places like Texas and Florida flourish.
Reynolds worries that blue-state taxpayers who move to red states will take their voting proclivities with them, thereby polluting the politics of the red states. I, however, believe it has already been shown that most migrants adopt the zeitgeist of their new state. Migrants to the Sun Belt vote more conservatively than they did before the move.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

You Can't Tax the Rich

Concerning the post immediately below, and Williamson's allegation that the wealthy don't so much pay taxes as extract them from those with less leverage. I am reminded of stuff that went on before the Reagan tax cuts, ancient history for some of our younger readers.

In those days it was common to see a really glossy farming operation, or orchard, and be told "It is some doctor's tax shelter." That was shorthand for "he runs it at a loss, to counteract his earnings as a surgeon."

In the process of running a farm or orchard at a loss, he did maintenance that could have been deferred, kept everything painted, repaired, and shiny, and used too much fertilizer and boutique seeds or livestock. His desire to make no profit, while increasing the value of his investment, made him murderous competition for those individuals trying to make a living from their farms.

One of the best tax dodges was planting an orchard, which generates nothing but expenses for several years until the trees begin to produce. However, the whole while you are pruning, watering, spraying, and cultivating as the trees grow, the value of the property is increasing.

You build equity while experiencing several years of negative income. When the trees are ready to produce you sell the orchard to a farmer who wants to actually produce and sell crops, buy another piece of undeveloped land with part of the proceeds, and start another orchard. On the difference in land prices, presumably a profit, you pay only long term capital gains taxes, at half or less the rate for actual earned income.

So you made a profit as a doctor, a loss as a farmer, and paid taxes on the net, which was perhaps a middle class salary. You were, however, accumulating a valuable asset that, when sold, produced long term capital gains. This could be, and was, done repeatedly.

Economics 101

National Review's Kevin D. Williamson, quoting Nobel Prize winning economist Milton Friedman, who said of trying to collect taxes from corporations:
Corporations aren’t taxpayers; corporations are tax-collectors.
Meaning, of course, they don't pay taxes out of profits, they treat them as operating costs to extract from others who have less market power - employees, suppliers, landlords, customers. Williamson notes the irony:
You know who doesn’t have a lot of market power? Poor people. People who make the minimum wage. Small businesses. Which is to say, all the people politicians always say they’re trying to help with regulations or a higher minimum wage or taxes on rich bastards and corporations — who don’t pay ’em.

Poor people bear these costs in obvious ways, such as higher prices or lower wages, but also in non-obvious ways, such as improvements in their standard of living that would have happened under different conditions but just never materialize. Low-income people have low incomes because people don’t value their labor very much and so aren’t willing to pay very much for it.
Williamson's conclusion is, let's say, pungent:
Who pays for all of that? Everybody. It’s a kind of inverted Marxism. It isn’t “From each according to his means,” it’s “From each according to how little power he has to pass the cost on to some other poor bastard.” There’s no such thing as “raising taxes, but only on the rich” or “passing regulations that only cost Big Business.” Everybody is always and forever on the same hook.
Those of us fortunate or talented or determined enough to have market power slough off our share onto the poor SOBs who have little or none. It was ever thus.

Gun Laws and Homicide Rates Unrelated

Eugene Volokh writes the Volokh Conspiracy column for The Washington Post. Today he looks at the relationship, if any, between state gun laws and murders plus gun accidental deaths.

Volokh finds none. There are states with tough gun laws and low murders plus GADs and states with weak-as-water gun laws which also have low murders plus GADs, including my home state of Wyoming.

Wyoming, by the way, has some of the highest gun ownership on the planet. Many adult males own several guns and not a few women do too. Young people become gun owners and hunters in their teens. The standard greeting during autumn, asked of men and many women, "Got your elk yet?"

Likewise, Volokh finds states with both weak and tough gun laws with high murder plus GAD rates. As he notes,
The correlation between the homicide rate and Brady score in all 51 jurisdictions is +.032 (on a scale of -1 to +1), which means that states with more gun restrictions on average have very slightly higher homicide rates, though the tendency is so small as to be essentially zero.

The Godmother

Writing at The Daily Beast, Ben Domenech notes Hillary Clinton's current rejection of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal which she worked hard to negotiate and claimed as a signature accomplishment of her tenure as SecState. His view, Clinton's flip-flop matters not one whit.
Do Republican operatives think it is news to the American people after the decades of knowledge we have about Clinton that she is shifty? No one cares. That she will obfuscate to the point of congressional inquiry? No one is surprised. That she will flip-flop according to poll numbers? No one thinks otherwise! What matters is whether people think she’ll fight for them, and in this economically backward way, that’s what she’s promising.
Domenech predicts that, should she be elected, she will feel totally free to change her mind again on this and other issues. It is all campaign bafflegab.

The bottom line: many who support her understand her to be untrustworthy and don't care. They prefer a crook who is on their side to anyone on the opposite side. Perhaps they are right to do so.

A Rabid Goat Rodeo

Heather Wilhelm writes a column for RealClearPolitics and her topic today is whether having a woman president is important. Spoiler: She thinks it's no biggie, either way. I much enjoy her over-the-top comment:
Here we are in 2015, with the world increasingly resembling a rabid goat rodeo hosted over a flaming pit of spikes and giant rattlesnakes, and yet, amazingly, the gender police soldier on.
Carefully polishing brass on the sinking Titanic comes to mind, too.

McCarthy Out of Speaker Race

CNBC reports House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has dropped out of the race for House Speaker. He was thought to be the front-runner for the post, although questions had arisen in recent days about whether he could get a majority on the first ballot.

McCarthy, though solidly conservative, is seen as too willing to compromise by some of the more hard-line members of his caucus, a couple of whom had indicated they planned to run against him.

McCarthy didn't help his cause by inferring a political motive to the committee investigating the role of Secretary Clinton in murders by Islamic radicals of a U.S. ambassador and three aides in Benghazi, Libya. Democrats have used his misstatement to discredit the committee's important work.

American Inaction

Writing in The Wall Street Journal, Michael Auslin takes the Obama administration to task for not responding forcefully to Russian provocations in Syria and Chinese adventurism in the international waters off China..
Aggressive opportunists scent weakness, and they understand that when there is no price to be paid for their provocations, they can move to bigger and riskier actions. The Obama administration would undoubtedly argue that its sanctions against Russia and its rebalance to the Asia-Pacific are hampering Messrs. Xi and Putin. The evidence argues otherwise, and the trend is moving clearly away from cooperation and the resolution of problems.

In 1939, on the eve of World War II, the British historian Arnold Toynbee lamented that for years the Western powers had “held, between them, the destinies of the world in suspense.” Their inaction and miscalculations destroyed faith in the global order from which they benefited so much and correspondingly emboldened their enemies. America’s adversaries are counting on similar hesitation and indecision, and they show through their actions that they won’t stop until persuaded that the United States will rise to their challenge.
It is certain the U.S. will do nothing before early 2017, when a new president will be inaugurated. Moscow and Beijing understand this 15 month window of opportunity.

The First Wife Syndrome

National Journal's Josh Kraushaar writes that Hillary Clinton is viewed positively by only 27% of men. He speculates at length about why.

Surprisingly, Kraushaar fails to stumble across the answer. Hillary reminds men of their first wife, a lying know-it-all shrew who never shut up and was never, according to her, wrong about anything.

Many women get the same hit from her, she reminds them of their husband's first wife. Not good imagery.

Gallup Takes a Pass

Politico reports the Gallup polling organization has decided to not conduct so-called "horserace" style polling in the primary season leading up to the 2016 general election. They may not, in fact, even do so for the election itself, after the two major parties have officailly annointed their nominees at the summer conventions.

This reflects a concern by serious polling operations that there is something fundamentally wrong with the conventional wisdom of polling. As the article notes, we are now in an era
When fewer people are reachable or willing to talk to pollsters.
Polling has been decreasingly accurate in recent elections. The extent to which this inacccuracy reflects "tribal" voting - surges of non-whites showing up to vote for a non-white presidential candidate - is also unclear. Perhaps the 2016 voting cycle will be more predictable; apparently Gallup wasn't sufficiently convinced to proceed.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The Putin Doctrine

Professor Angelo M. Codevilla is a mensch, to borrow a term from the Yiddish. Here he writes for The Federalist admiringly about Russian military doctrine in the Middle East.
Putin knows that force discredits itself if it is not used decisively. Like Napoleon, he knows you can do anything with bayonets except sit on them. Russia’s expeditionary force in the Middle East, unlike America’s, is not there to drive around replenished minefields, getting legs blown off by IEDs. Their artillery will devastate ISIS’ strongholds as it did Chechnya. Their tank and plane combination will open the way for murderous militias.

Russia’s military orthodoxy is the decisive difference between its expedition in former Syria and Iraq and America’s recent ventures. Russian forces seem to be prioritizing objectives, weakening the rear with strategic air strikes, then moving the front forward with coordinated combined arms and little if any concern for collateral damage. Historically, this sort of behavior tends to engender respect rather than additional enmity.
Putin seeks only his own ends in the region, Codevilla believes. He has no lasting commitment to other actors, including those factions with which he may temporarily cooperate.


For Commentary, Noah Rothman writes that Hillary Clinton has gone from spokesperson for white Democrats in 2008 to viewing them with distain in 2016. Decreasing numbers of whites are voting Democratic, and many of those who remain - leftist ideologues to a person - are supporting Sanders.

U.S. political parties are becoming increasingly "tribal" or racial in nature, not a new trend but one that continues to grow. Had Obama governed inclusively, he might have reversed the trend. He did not, and has not.

A Bad Omen?

The Wall Street Journal reports China (and several other central banks) are selling U.S. Treasury bonds, after long being major buyers thereof. WSJ attributes this behavior to economic factors, and of course they may be correct.

Another possible interpretation of this behavior is an anticipation of military confrontations in the South and East China Seas. Should the U.S. and China get eyeball-to-eyeball over the Spratleys or Senkakus, or wherever, the U.S. could repudiate those portions of its debt held by China, stop making payments on or redeeming them.

Suppose China sees military confrontation as a realistic possibility. They could lose a substantial fraction of the wealth they have acquired as the world's premier manufacturing nation, wealth they have "parked" in U.S. Treasuries.

Under those circumstances China might well attempt to hold less U.S. debt. They would thereby lessen their risk and our economic leverage upon them.

Michelle's Disincentive

The Associated Press reports via Yahoo News the Obama administration is urging schools to do things to counteract chronic pupil absenteeism. Oh, the irony of it all.

Most chronic truants are kids who qualify for free lunch. A fascinating study would be the extent to which these kids skip school because they no longer find the free lunch something they enjoy and look forward to.

The kids loved the pizza, hot dogs, tacos, burgers, and other good-tasting stuff they once got, and it was free. Now they get free brussels sprouts, cauliflower and eggplant - ugh. When they bother to come to school much of this food is being left on the plate and ends up in the garbage.

How is that an incentive to come to school? Call it what it is - the Michelle Obama-inspired school attendance disincentive.

Loving Funemployment

I really enjoy word-play, neologisms, new made-up words. The Los Angeles Times has one you may like: funemployment. They report:
Here's Urban Dictionary's definition: "The condition of a person who takes advantage of being out of a job to have the time of their life. I spent all day Tuesday at the pool; funemployment rocks!"
An acquaintance of mine was laid off with a nice severance package and a big bonus for training the foreign programmer who would take over his job when it was moved to India. He took the resultant pot of money and treated himself to a several-months-long cross-country motorcycle trip.

When funds ran low, he came home, filed for unemployment, and eventually found work. He called it a "sabbatical." Perhaps "funemploymemt" is a better descriptor as he did not use the time off to improve work skills. In truth he took a prolonged vacation, what British colonial officials called "long service leave."

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Cancelling America Day

The New York Post runs a short article about Jackson Hole High School canceling the homecoming tradition of America Day. To their credit, the students celebrated it anyway.
School officials wouldn’t say so outright, but it’s obvious the kids they feared offending were from the district’s large Latino population.
Wyoming is perhaps the most Republican state in the nation; you probably wonder why this sort of PC nonsense would happen here. The explanation is that Teton County, of which Jackson is the county seat, is the only one of the state's 23 counties which routinely votes Democratic.

Jackson has a sizable Latino population working in support of the resort industry - various food service and hospitality jobs. The Kmart parking lot on a Sunday afternoon looks like Jalisco or Oaxaca.

Oddly, Kmart's checkers are mostly Eastern European kids from Romania or Moldova, on work-study visas. Jackson is a strange place - very un-Wyoming - having more in common with Sun Valley, Palm Springs or Vail. Our neighbors who don't work in Jackson rarely go there, preferring to shop in nearby Idaho.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Mass Incarceration Not "the New Jim Crow"

Kay Hymowitz writes in The Atlantic about the challenges facing the black family in the U.S. and the shortcomings of Ta-Nehisi Coates' book The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration.
Even in the unlikely event that Washington and state legislatures successfully adapt the nation’s crime policies to a safer, more racially sensitive era, the nation will still look around to find more black men in prison than it might expect or want. There’s a simple reason for that, one that Coates himself notes: Relative to other groups, blacks commit more crimes.

Coates is right that tough-on-crime laws will have a disproportionate effect on blacks since they are more likely to be offenders (and victims for that matter). Still, whites and Hispanics were hardly immune to their effects. Incarceration rates for white and Hispanic men almost tripled between 1960 and 2010. Today, 63 percent of inmates are white and Hispanic. If mass incarceration is the new Jim Crow, it somehow manages to get an awful lot—a strong majority, actually—of non-blacks into its clutches.

The U.S. Made Iraq, Libya Worse - Putin

The New Yorker quotes Russian President Putin, speaking recently at the U.N., as follows:
In the Middle East and North Africa, Putin continued—meaning Iraq and Libya—“aggressive foreign interference has resulted in a brazen destruction of national institutions,” along with “violence, poverty, and social disaster,” and a climate where “nobody cares a bit about human rights.” Instead of democracy, bloodshed and fanaticism had filled the vacuum, he said, and the greatest threat to world order today was ISIS, which was born of and flourished in the wreckage of states dismantled by unchecked American power.
I'm no Putin apologist, but I'm hard-pressed to find much to disagree with in his words, as reported. In fact, ISIS does flourish "in the wreckage of states dismantled by unchecked American power."

It is accurate to say of today's Iraq and Libya "aggressive foreign interference has resulted in a brazen destruction of national institutions,” along with “violence, poverty, and social disaster,” and a climate where “nobody cares a bit about human rights.” An honest observer might well conclude each is worse off than before the U.S. intervened.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Political Correctness Defined

The following is part of one of those things going around the Internet. It is supposed to be a cable from President Truman to General MacArthur and Admiral Nimitz.
Washington, D C
2120-September 1, 1945
To: D A MacArthur/C H Nimitz
From: H S Truman

Political Correctness is a doctrine, recently fostered by a delusional, illogical minority and promoted by a sick mainstream media, which holds forth the proposition that it is entirely possible to pick up a piece of shit by the clean end!

Sounds like the unbuttoned Truman. Give 'em Hell, Harry. The cable is attributed, fairly or otherwise, to the Truman Presidential Library. Hat tip to long-time friend Earl for the heads-up.

Local Forces No; Foreign Legion Yes

The Washington Post runs an article with the title "Why Foreign Troops Can't Fight Our Fights." As it notes, foreign troops are often proposed as a solution but seldom actually work well in practice.

As COTTonLINE has repeatedly written (search if interested), the U.S. is often involved in places where a foreign legion would be useful. With American officers, third world enlisteds and NCOs, it wouldn't be prone to weapon turnover and side-changing as local forces often are.

Like the French version, these would be U.S. troops, earning citizenship upon retirement if they chose it. The acculturation aspects of a U.S. foreign legion would be considerable.

It might also be wise to adopt certain aspects of the British experience with third world colonial troops. That is, recruit a regiment (or larger unit) from each region, where a unit's troopers would share language, ethnicity, perhaps religion, and food taboos. This worked for the Brits in Asia and Africa.

Obama's Claim "Mostly False"

Making a pitch for gun control, President Obama famously said of the church shooting in Charleston:
This type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries. It doesn’t happen in other places with this kind of frequency.
Politifact accepted the challenge of examining the extent to which this claim was true. Their finding: It isn't true. Hat tip to Instapundit for the link.
The data shows that it clearly happens in other countries, and in at least three of them, there’s evidence that the rate of killings in mass-shooting events occurred at a higher per-capita rate than in the United States between 2000 and 2014. The only partial support for Obama’s claim is that the per-capita gun-incident fatality rate in the United States does rank in the top one-third of the list of 11 countries studied. On balance, we rate the claim Mostly False.
The three countries with higher per-capita rate of mass shootings are Norway, Finland, and Switzerland, every one a very developed country the DrsC visited during the summer just ended. And the data excludes any attack deemed "terrorism" like the Charlie Hebdo shootings in France.

A Bonus for Ignoring Cancer

Yes, health insurance firms can be a pain. Have you been tempted to support single-payer health insurance, something like Britain's National Health Service?  Check out an article in the Daily Telegraph (U.K.) before you do. Hat tip to Instapundit for the link.

The NHS has been offering medical practices a cash bonus for referring fewer patients to hospital for cancer screenings. This in a nation with poor cancer survival rates.
The UK has the worst survival rates for cancers in Western Europe, largely due to late diagnosis.
The NHS, though popular with Brits, is chronically underfunded given the usage levels. Translation: too many people use it too much because it is "free," which is to say, prepaid. It is "the tragedy of the commons" in modern dress, and is also exactly what we'd see if we had government clinics open to all for any reason whatsoever.

Syrian Snark from Mark

Writing at his blog, SteynOnline, Mark S. quotes President Putin speaking of Syria:
Gentlemen, the people you are dealing with are cruel but they are not dumb. 
Then Steyn imagines what the Russians say to the mullahs about Obama and his minions:
The people you are dealing with in Washington are not cruel but they are dumb.
Dumb as a post, as a stereotypical bimbo, especially as a Democrat.

Fueling Outsiders

The Weekly Standard's Jay Cost shares some profound thoughts on what is fueling the infatuation with outsiders in both parties:
Our political-economic consensus is under sustained pressure from multiple angles for good reason: It is falling far short of just about everybody’s expectations. At its core, the postwar settlement has been premised on the ability of the government to grow the economy responsibly and fairly. That is not happening anymore. From 1948 through 2000, the average annual growth in real gross domestic product was a robust 3.6 percent. From 2001 through 2014, the growth rate in GDP has been more than halved, to 1.7 percent. This amounts to trillions of dollars in expected wealth that never materialized over the last decade and a half.

Moreover, the distribution of economic benefits has shifted in the last decade. Measured as shares of the national income, private sector wages and corporate profits were more or less stable until the recession of 2001. Since then, however, wages have decreased as a share of the national income, while corporate profits have risen. The shift is not enormous, but considering the size of the national income, it still amounts to hundreds of billions of dollars per year. And the trend shows no signs of reversing. The Census Bureau just reported that median incomes for female workers have been flat for 15 years and for male workers have been flat for an astonishing 40 years.

Is it any wonder, then, that we are seeing the rise of such sharp dissent? If the status quo is not working anymore, it is only sensible for voters to cast about for a change. Maybe Beltway types who are inclined to hold their noses as a Tea Partier walks past, or scoff at how out-of-touch Sanders seems, should recognize that the audiences for such contrarians were not so large a generation ago. They have grown only because people have lost faith in the established approach to politics and economics.
The Beltway insiders have over-promised or under-performed, possibly both.