Monday, February 29, 2016

Taiwan and Japan

The National Interest carries an article about strengthening ties between Taiwan and Japan. If the subject interests you, take a look.

Our purpose here is to add something to what the article ably documents, growing ties between the islanders and Japan. As the DrsC have traveled about Asia, visiting more than 10 countries, I've made a point of inquiring about local attitudes toward Japan.

Much of Asia was conquered by Japan in the run-up to World War II. In nearly all of those countries, the experience left a bad taste in people's mouths - Japan and the Japanese aren't especially popular. The one partial exception to that generality has always been Taiwan.

It is our hypothesis that the Japanese were at least somewhat popular on Taiwan because they accepted, or perhaps even fostered, the belief that the Taiwanese were not Chinese. Holding them to be other-than-Chinese was useful for Japan but played into notions of Taiwanese uniqueness and independence, notions still alive on the island.

A Trump Foreign Policy Imagined

Ben Judah imagines for The Independent (U.K.) what a Trump foreign policy would look like, based on what The Donald has said on the campaign. Given Trump's proclivity for doing unscripted stream-of-consciousness rants about whatever, this could be problematic but fun, interesting.

I don't see much in Trump's imagined foreign policy about which to be anxious. See Judah's summary:
What is Trump’s view of the world? One that rips up the Republican rulebook. The Donald is Putin-friendly, ambiguous on Israel, a trade protectionist, furious at America’s freeloading allies, seethingly anti-Chinese, and above all anti-Mexican. Not to mention of course that this is a man who cares little about democracy promotion or human rights, and would play at war as roughly as Russia – rather than with the usual United Nations rules of engagement in mind.
Most economists believe protectionism stunts global economic development but they've been wrong before. American voters may be tired of subsidizing development in the third world by giving them our manufacturing jobs.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Piper Paid, Tune Called

Mickey Kaus tweets the following, as quoted by Instapundit Glenn Reynolds:
Simplified Theory - All GOP elite needed was candidate who credibly pushed immig control. One thing they wldn't allow.
To which Reynolds adds:
The GOP establishment has an almost-religious attachment to open immigration. It appears to be their only firm principle. It’s what led to Trump’s rise.
Open immigration is what keeps the donations flowing from fat cat donors who love the resultant cheap labor and weak unions. To understand otherwise inexplicable phenomena, follow the money (a memorable phrase from All the President's Men).

Date of the Brexit Vote

Now we know the date for Britain's referendum on leaving the European Union, it is June 23. See a RealClearWorld story about the vote. This vote may be the most consequential event Europe experiences this decade.

If Britain votes to leave the EU, certainly other nations will take a long second look at their membership. At least some of those will exit too.

Those nations choosing to remain may eventually achieve political integration, overcoming great obstacles. Given Europe's history, forming a continent-wide "United States of Europe" was probably always a forlorn hope doomed to failure.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Clinton Wins SC

The South Carolina Democratic primary was today, a week after the GOP one. Sen. Clinton won big with the largely black Democrat electorate, besting Sanders almost 3 to 1. This outcome was mostly expected.

It is passing strange that the Democrats - who have a stranglehold on black votes and are popular with Hispanics and the young - have two old white folks vying for the nomination. Meanwhile, the Republicans, stigmatized as being a older white people's party, have still in the running two youngish Hispanics, one black, and two whites. There is something wrong with this picture.

It's possible a non-trivial number of Sanders' young (mostly white) supporters will end up voting for Trump after Clinton gets the nomination. This assumes she will not have been indicted before the convention.

The Protected

Instapundit Glenn Reynolds quotes at length from a Peggy Noonan WSJ column that is behind the paywall. I also quote at length because you can't access the original without a WSJ subscription.
There are the protected and the unprotected. The protected make public policy. The unprotected live in it. The unprotected are starting to push back, powerfully.

The protected are the accomplished, the secure, the successful—those who have power or access to it. They are protected from much of the roughness of the world. More to the point, they are protected from the world they have created. Again, they make public policy and have for some time.

They are figures in government, politics and media. They live in nice neighborhoods, safe ones. Their families function, their kids go to good schools, they’ve got some money. All of these things tend to isolate them, or provide buffers. Some of them—in Washington it is important officials in the executive branch or on the Hill; in Brussels, significant figures in the European Union—literally have their own security details.

Because they are protected they feel they can do pretty much anything, impose any reality. They’re insulated from many of the effects of their own decisions.

One issue obviously roiling the U.S. and Western Europe is immigration. It is the issue of the moment, a real and concrete one but also a symbolic one: It stands for all the distance between governments and their citizens.

Many Americans suffered from illegal immigration—its impact on labor markets, financial costs, crime, the sense that the rule of law was collapsing. But the protected did fine—more workers at lower wages. No effect of illegal immigration was likely to hurt them personally.

Mr. Trump came from that.

Ms. Noonan has once again nailed it.

More Endorsements

The Republican establishment monolith is beginning to show cracks. Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey endorsed Trump on Friday.

In the following 24 hours two more dominoes have fallen. First, Gov. Paul LePage of Maine announced his enthusiastic support, then former Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer came out in support of Trump.

Nothing succeeds like success. Perhaps Glenn Reynolds' preference cascade is about to become reality. If Trump is elected, will the National Review go the way of the once-popular Literary Digest?

Low-Balling Unemployment

The number-crunching site FiveThirtyEight argues that while the real unemployment rate is higher than the government's official rate of  4.9 percent, it isn't all that much higher (5.8%). Author Ben Casselman argues the number of "discouraged workers" - those neither working nor looking for work but wishing to work - has declined dramatically over the past few quarters. We disagree.

Going to work is a habit, one that distressing numbers find easy to break, and others have never acquired. The Great Recession forced millions to go beyond unemployment insurance, which they exhausted, to find the wherewithal of life.

Author Casselman overlooks a major factor - all the millions who have managed to get themselves declared "disabled" or have otherwise found ways to survive economically without working. Many such individuals will never work again, having found a path to survival involving some combination of government and private or parental assistance.

How many allegedly "retired" workers in their late 50s and early 60s can find non-gig employment in a job market where there is no shortage of younger people to hire? In spite of anti-discrimination laws, the answer is darned few. Plus the evidence shows that those who succeed in being declared "disabled" rarely return to the workforce, although their support level is far from lavish.

COTTonLINE agrees half of those permanently out of the workforce are retiring baby boomers for whom retirement is age-appropriate, even if they'd like to keep working. Perhaps another quarter are truly disabled. That still leaves a quarter who should be included in the "true" unemployment rate, a number larger than what Casselman allows.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Former Party Leader for Brexit

Newsweek reports Michael Howard, former head of the Conservative (Tory) Party, has come out in favor of Britain leaving the EU. Current Tory leader, David Cameron, cannot be overly happy at Howard's decision.

Polling has shown, I believe, that a majority of Tories favor Brexit. It explains why Boris Johnson and other Conservatives have come out as EU opponents. Between now and late June when the vote is held, expect a lot of vigorous debate on the issue

Christie Endorses Trump

Several sources, including Drudge Report, RealClearPolitics and, report NJ Governor Chris Christie has endorsed Donald Trump's bid for the GOP nomination. He also took some passing shots at Marco Rubio's chances.

This is an interesting development, not entirely expected. Christie's own try for the nomination failed to gain traction, after a successful run as chair of the Republican Governors' Association.

Christie is likely tired of governing NJ. I don't see Veep in the cards for him, no geographical diversity. Do you suppose his endorsement will buy Christie a cabinet position in a Trump administration?

Career Advice Snark

A Christina H. Sommers tweet, posted on the Instapundit website:
Want to close the wage gap? Step one: Change your major from feminist dance therapy to electrical engineering.
Or, perhaps accounting or programming or nursing. Bottom line: pick a major whose graduates get jobs that pay a living wage.


If you know college students, advise them to ask the placement unit what majors are actively recruited and what those jobs pay. Then select one with doable requirements.

If the only majors they can complete are the impractical equivalents of  "underwater basket-weaving," they should drop out without running up additional debt. A college graduate working alongside high school grads is sad, especially when burdened with student debt which typically cannot be shed via bankruptcy.

A Simplistic Prediction

Writing opinion for The National, an English-language outlet based in the UAE, Alan Philips tackles the prediction of what a Trump foreign policy would look like. While I make no argument for Philips' ability to guess the future, there is a certain coherence to his projection.
His seemingly empty slogan, “Make America great again”, embodies the sense that the globalised world is a Darwinian place of all against all. The system of alliances that the US leads is, in his view, a costly Cold War leftover.

According to this logic, foreign policy would be all about the art of the deal. President Trump could make his peace with Russian president Vladimir Putin, whom he admires as a strong leader pursing his own interests. The US and Russia would fight ISIL together. Japan would have to pay for protection against a resurgent China, or go it alone. The Europeans would have to pay for US military support against Russia, either in cash or trade concessions. The Mexicans would have to pay for the construction of a great wall across the border, while millions of undocumented immigrants would be forced back south.
It seems too obvious, doesn't it? Too linear. What Philips has written might well be Trump's instincts vis-a-vis foreign policy. I believe he gives too little credence to the ability of events to constrain and frustrate presidential instinct. It has taken Obama 7+ years to propose a way to close the Guantanamo prison, something he promised he'd do in 2009.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Blue State Cost of Living Blues

Hoover Institution research fellow Carson Bruno follows trends in California, mostly unfortunate ones in recent years. See what he wrote a couple of weeks ago for RealClearMarkets about living costs there.
California is an extraordinarily high cost-of-living state. Whether it is the state's housing affordability crisis - California's median home value per square foot is, on average, 2.1 times higher than Arizona, Texas, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington's - California's very expensive energy costs - the state's residential electric price is about 1.5 times higher than the competing states - or the Golden State's oppressive tax burden - California ranks 6th, nationally, in state-local tax burdens - those living in California are hit with a variety of higher bills, which cuts into their bottom line.
One could wish it wasn't the nicest place to live year-round in the continental U.S., cost of living aside.

The Party's Over

Ezra Klein, writing at Vox, says trenchant things about the Republican Party being, in his words, "broken."
The Republican Party has, for whatever reason, lost its ability to influence its voters. Donald Trump is winning this thing, and so far, Ted Cruz, the only guy elite Republicans hate more than Trump, is vying for second place. 
Hat tip to RealClearPolitics for the link.

Whither Hispanic Voters

It has been argued that Trump is anathema to Hispanics, because of his desire to shut off illegal immigration and expel illegal immigrants. On the other hand, he apparently won most of the Hispanics voting in the Nevada GOP caucuses. Here are links to two arguments that go in opposite directions.

First, the conventional wisdom about Hispanic voters is written by The Washington Post's Dan Balz and Scott Clement. They point out survey findings that most Hispanics prefer Democrats, and trust the Democrats on most issues. They conclude most will end up voting for the Democrat nominee, and I have no reason to doubt they are correct.

Contrarily, Ruben Navarrette, Jr. writes for The Daily Beast that Hispanics are more like prior Catholic immigrant groups (Italians, Irish) than they are like African-Americans. He argues that they are aspirational, seek to get ahead and work hard to do so. Chances are, he correctly describes the 20% or so who vote Republican. This 20% is probably more likely to vote than the others.

It Could Get Yuuuge

Writing for USA Today, Glenn Reynolds shares the ideas of economist Timur Kuran who writes about "preference falsification" and "preference cascades" in his book Private Truths, Public Lies: The Social Consequences of Preference Falsification.
People tend to hide unpopular views to avoid ostracism or punishment; they stop hiding them when they feel safe. This can produce rapid change: In totalitarian societies like the old Soviet Union the police and propaganda organizations do their best to enforce preference falsification.

This works until something breaks the spell and the discontented realize that their feelings are widely shared, at which point the collapse of the regime may seem very sudden to outside observers — or even to the citizens themselves. Kuran calls this sudden change a “preference cascade,” and I wonder if that’s not what’s happening here.
Reynolds uses preference cascade to explain why we finally begin to see lots of educated people admit they back Trump. The less academically blessed were quicker to board the Trump bandwagon because nobody coerced their conformity to the establishment's anti-Trump orthodoxy.

Belated Justice

Thirteen months ago Buenos Aires prosecutor Alberto Nisman was found shot one day before he was scheduled to testify before the Argentine legislature. He was scheduled to testify then-President Cristina Fernandez was guilty of covering up Iranian involvement in the bombing of a Jewish cultural center in BA. His death was ruled a suicide by the Fernandez government, a ruling few others believed.

Reuters reports via Yahoo News the government of newly elected President Mauricio Macri is reopening the case. A prosecutor now believes what most surmised was true when it happened - Nisman was murdered to prevent his testimony, by someone who feared the truth coming out.

Nisman's assassin may have worked for the Fernandez government or for her political party, or been a rabid supporter from one of the militant unions who backed her. He might even be a member of the Iranian secret service. Of course, Nisman also could have been shot by a jealous husband or someone he had prosecuted - a person with no political motive, the timing a coincidence.

Within the next couple of years, Fernandez could find herself under indictment for involvement in either the bombing, the cover-up murder, or both. She may want to cash out her ill-gotten gains and disappear before that can happen.

Czech Out Time?

Recently we noted that public opinion in the Netherlands now favors a vote on leaving the European Union. It didn't take long for the next domino to appear and begin to wobble, hinting at a fall. The Telegraph (U.K.) reports the Czech Republic could be next in line.
The Czech Republic may choose to follow Britain out of the European Union, the country’s prime minister said, amid growing fears in Brussels of a “contagion”.

Bohuslav Sobotka said that a “Czexit” may take place. The Czech Republic only joined the EU in 2004 and has been the beneficiary of billions in development funds, but has some of the most hostile public opinion.

A Brussels decision to force the country to take in a quota of migrants caused fury. Three-fifths of Czechs said they were unhappy with EU membership and 62 percent said they would vote against it in a referendum, according to an October 2015 poll by the STEM agency.
We should add "Czexit" isn't something PM Sobotka favors. He fears it would leave the Czechs under Russian dominance.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Makers vs. Takers

The New York Post reports 45% of Americans pay no federal income tax.
Roughly half pay no federal income tax because they have no taxable income, and the other roughly half get enough tax breaks to erase their tax liability, explains Roberton Williams, a senior fellow at the Tax Policy Center.
Thus, the rest of us - some 55% - pay plenty so the 45% don't have to pay. I can't get too mad at those with no taxable income, but the others are getting a free ride because of tax breaks.

What worries me is the 45% who pay no income tax have every incentive to support greater federal spending - to vote for those who promise it - since it costs them nothing. My mental image is of their hand in my pocket, stealing my earnings with the government as their criminal accomplice.

These were the people Mitt Romney famously said he'd never get to vote for him. It was a prescient comment, but one I'm certain he regrets making.

The Anti-Obama

Instapundit Glenn Reynolds, blogging about the rise of Trump. He calls The Donald:
A natural response to a ruling class that doesn’t much care for the country it rules, and that has gotten uninterested in hiding the fact.
For example, here is Obama's 2008 description of the country he then campaigned to lead, according to BrainyQuote.
They get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.
Obama clearly "doesn't much care for the country" and its people. Read it again, Obama's description exactly mirrors Trump's platform: guns, religion, anti-immigrant, and anti-trade.

I'll say it again: Trump is the anti-Obama. What Obama denigrates, Trump promotes.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

NV Hearts Trump

At this hour on the West Coast live coverage of the Nevada GOP caucuses reports maybe 12% of the vote counted. On that basis both Fox News and CNN have called the race for Trump, who is registering perhaps 44% of the votes tabulated so far.

At this point Rubio is slightly ahead of Cruz but Fox says it's too soon to call second place. Both are in the low 20s percentagewise. Carson and Kasich are mired in single digits.

The Republican establishment needs to pull up its socks, suck in its collective gut, and get comfortable with the idea of Trump as the GOP nominee. His oft-cited "ceiling" just got 10% higher than anybody believed possible. Arguing it is going to drop back is a sucker bet I wouldn't take.

A week from tonight is the (sports metaphor warning) "SEC" primary featuring mostly southern states. By this time next week we should have a very good idea of the eventual nominee, if not the eventual president.

Later ... 12:45 a.m. ... With over 2/3 of the votes counted, Trump is at 45%, Rubio and Cruz are in the 22-23% range, while Carson and Kasich total less than 10% between them.

Campus Neo-Segregation

Students on college campuses are agitating for spaces dedicated to a particular racial or ethnic group in which members of that group can "feel safe," whatever that means. I take it as meaning not having to put up with the likes of me, a fair-skinned person with European ancestors many generations ago, aka a white.

People are treating this as something new, a return to segregation. Actually, on campuses where I worked for 40 years segregation never went away, although classes and dorms were integrated.

However outside class, the students self-segregated into ethno/racially homogeneous groups. I'd walk into the student union and see a table of black students, another of Asians, a third of Hispanics, as well as several tables of whites. The students did this all on their own, nobody required or suggested it. Birds of a feather just keep flocking together.

Reynolds' Law

The following has been dubbed Reynolds' Law, and is written by Glenn Harlan Reynolds, aka Instapundit.
The government decides to try to increase the middle class by subsidizing things that middle class people have: If middle-class people go to college and own homes, then surely if more people go to college and own homes, we’ll have more middle-class people. But homeownership and college aren’t causes of middle-class status, they’re markers for possessing the kinds of traits — self-discipline, the ability to defer gratification, etc. — that let you enter, and stay, in the middle class. Subsidizing the markers doesn’t produce the traits; if anything, it undermines them. 
Reynolds is so insightful you can almost forgive his being an attorney.


It isn't just the Brits who may want out of the European Union. The Daily Express (U.K.) reports a survey of voters in the Netherlands has found the following:
In a new opinion poll in the Netherlands, a majority of voters said they backed the country having its own in/out referendum on EU membership similar to the UK’s.

More than half (53 per cent) supported an in/out vote with 44 per cent opposed and four per cent unsure.
If the Brits vote for Brexit, can Nexit be far behind? The refugee mess is bringing to a head the discontent many Europeans feel with the EU.

What Trump Ceiling?

There has been much talk about Trump having a ceiling, because his negatives are high. The Conservative Treehouse website reports the findings of a study done among North Carolina voters by the polling shop at Elon University.

They asked supporters of Carson, Cruz, Rubio, Bush, and Kasich who would be their second choice if their first choice dropped out. Unsurprisingly, Trump is the second choice of a lot of those supporters. He gets at least 29% of the supporters of each, and more in three cases.

This destroys the "Trump ceiling" narrative, doesn't it? It was always largely the product of wishful thinking. It appears he may be overcoming those high negatives.

Research shows that, at least in NC, The Donald would be the second choice of many of those for whom he is not a first choice. Go see the numbers for yourself.

Trump as Pit Bull

Ben Domenech writes at The Daily Beast about how Donald Trump - clearly not a kindred spirit - is winning perhaps a third of evangelical votes. His answer: they want revenge on an establishment that has handed them gay marriage, abortion, the dissolution of the family, and hard-edged secularism. And handed their jobs over to foreigners who work for less.

According to Domenech, resentment of the culture wars - which they feel they've lost - motivates many evangelicals. Trump is a warrior against the establishment's smug political correctness, evangelicals like his destructiveness.

Voting for Trump is a way of showing your middle finger to those who have let you down repeatedly. My analogy: You don't care if your pit bull isn't a cuddly pet, what you want is an attack dog.

The Pink Tide Ebbs

The reliably left-wing Global Post reports something that must give its editors heartburn. Namely, the following:
Evo Morales’ bid to be president of Bolivia for nearly 20 uninterrupted years looks set to fail. With 72 percent of the votes counted from Sunday’s referendum on allowing presidents to be reelected twice consecutively, the “No” campaign had garnered 55 percent.

If that result is confirmed by the final tally, as most experts expect, it will mark the first time the self-described socialist has lost at the ballot box since assuming power in January 2006.
They conclude:
Some are viewing Morales’ likely defeat as part of a regional trend sweeping back the “pink tide.” A center-right government just took power from the left in Argentina, while Venezuela, once the poster child for Latin American socialism, has run into an economic crisis so deep that it is on the verge of becoming a failed state.
Global Post is nearly always "pretty in pink." See also the Miami Herald's more in--depth reportage on this story.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Massive Political Incorrectness

Margaret Wente writes a column for Canada's leading paper, The Globe and Mail. Hat tip to Instapundit Glenn Reynolds for the link. Today Wente's topic is new research findings from the U.K. showing primarily the following:
The most significant predictor of how kids will do in school is how their parents did in school. Nothing the education system has tried so far has changed that.
She then explains why, in some detail, based on a study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology latest issue, go here to read the abstract.
Their conclusion is both good news and bad news for those who think intelligence is highly overrated. They found that educational achievement does indeed depend on far more traits than just IQ. The bad news: Those traits are highly heritable, too.

It is not polite to say that people differ in their innate abilities, and that there's not a whole lot we can do about it.
And her conclusion:
The trouble with reality is that it tends to be politically incorrect.
More is genetically determined at conception than is later influenced by environment. This makes assortative mating problematic - genetically successful people marry similarly endowed people, and what's worse, genetically unsuccessful people likewise breed with others of limited endowment. We could end up with hereditary classes of very different abilities. Aldous Huxley described this outcome in Brave New World.

Quote of the Day

Winston Churchill was the Twentieth Century's most inspiring leader. His view of socialism, as reported by BrainyQuote:
Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.
Share that thought with the next brain-dead Sanders acolyte you encounter. If in doubt, see recent stories on Venezuela, the most recent victim of this pernicious "ism."

Weird Sociological Science

Much has been made in recent months over findings that life expectancy is actually declining for blue-collar whites, while not declining for blue-collar blacks and Hispanics. Most of the premature deaths are attributable to substance abuse and suicide.

Sociologist Andrew J. Cherlin has written, for The New York Times, a quite interesting explanation of why this may be happening. In social science terms, he is defending a hypothesized relationship between behavior and reference groups.
To comprehend how people think and behave, it’s important to understand the standards to which they compare themselves. How is your life going? For most of us, the answer to that question means comparing our lives to the lives our parents were able to lead. As children and adolescents, we closely observed our parents. They were our first reference group.

Reference group theory explains why people who have more may feel that they have less. What matters is to whom you are comparing yourself. It’s not that white workers are doing worse than African-Americans or Hispanics.

It’s likely that many non-college-educated whites are comparing themselves to a generation that had more opportunities than they have, whereas many blacks and Hispanics are comparing themselves to a generation that had fewer opportunities.

For some whites — perhaps the ones who account for the increasing death rate — (snip) their main reference group is their parents’ generation, and by that standard they have little to look forward to and a lot to lament.
This explanation has what, as social science grad students, we once called "face validity" by which we meant "it looks right, but hasn't been proven.'

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Campaign Snark

Count on Mark Steyn for "outa da ballpark" campaign snark, see the following comparing outsider candidates Trump and Sanders.
The difference between Trump's hijacking of the GOP primary and Sanders' attempt to do likewise to the Democrats is the difference between a fellow who means it and a guy who lacks the killer instinct.
Funny stuff, but in truth it's hard to know if Trump "means it" given his past participation in pro-wrestling psychodrama. Insincerity, after all, is the essence of successful bargaining. His shtick may just be a "bargaining position" taken to tip the deal in his direction, one he's willing to trade off for something he really wants.

Boris Loves Brexit

Britain's pending decision to remain within or exit the European Union is one the Anglophiles at COTTonLINE are following closely. Yesterday we noted interested readers should pay special attention to the decision of London Mayor Boris Johnson, the most charismatic and vivid leading Tory.

Today BBC News reports Boris Johnson will cast his lot with Britain leaving the EU. His decision to opt for British independence is potentially huge, perhaps enough to tip the balance in favor of Brexit. When his statement becomes public, it will be worth reading.

Later ... It appears at least five members of David Cameron's Cabinet - Tories all - will support the U.K. leaving the EU. Cameron is furious.

Obviously True

USA Today summarizes the GOP nomination race following South Carolina.
Initially dismissed by the political pros, Trump has proved to have shrewd political instincts and a message that perfectly fits the anger of many voters.
USAT echoes our comment of last Thursday, we wrote Trump has "done a superior job of grasping today's American zeitgeist." As they say in Nevada where the race goes next, he could "run the table" from here, or perhaps more accurately, "run out" as he didn't win Iowa.

Speculation: Presuming Clinton wins the Democrat nomination, might some Sanders enthusiasts switch to Trump, another outsider? Both Sanders and Trump believe free trade hurts average folks. Just asking....

It's clear Trump has a greater likelihood than Rubio or Cruz of winning over white and black Democrats, although they might have an edge with Hispanics.

Turkey in the Straw

For better or worse, Turkey is a consequential country, one whose ups and downs COTTonLINE has followed. Now The Washington Post carries a story by Liz Sly, the Beirut bureau chief, which takes a dim view of Turkey's options going forward.

President Erdogan has not managed their situation adroitly to this point. Turkey is beset by Kurds within and without, and overrun by Syrian refugees while hostile Russia has military assets on three sides of Turkey. Shooting down a Russian plane over Syria wasn't smart and Turkish demands for U.S. backing have largely fallen on deaf ears. Sly finishes by quoting a professor of international relations in Ankara:
This is a country that has often had problems in the past, but the scale of what is happening now is beyond Turkey’s capacity for digestion.

What’s happening in Syria is a question of survival for Erdogan, so it is not possible to rule anything out. For Turkey, there is no good scenario from now on.
Some have argued that World War III could break out when NATO goes to Turkey's aid in the event they are clumsy enough to get into a shooting war with Russia. This eventuality is unlikely, inasmuch as NATO is currently in no mood to bail out the Turks.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Adios, Jeb!

In light of a lame fourth place finish in the South Carolina Republican primary today, Jeb Bush is suspending (i.e., quitting) his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. Once again we leap into the breach with a bye-ku, a haiku of farewell, with hat tip to James Taranto, it's popularizer.

Adios, Jeb Bush.
Donald Trump ate your lunch, and
The dynasty died.

Reich "Endorses" Cruz

The guys at Power Line provide a link to a two-minute YouTube speech by Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich, now a prof at Berkeley. Reich argues why, from a lifelong Democrat's perspective, you should not vote for Ted Cruz; why Cruz is "worse" than Trump.

I listened to it, tiny Robert (< 5 ft.) is a good speaker and a fair cartoonist - it's entertaining. Reich convinced me if I had the opportunity to vote for Cruz, I certainly would do so.

Everything about Cruz that Reich detests, I like a lot. In fact, Cruz could use Reich's 2 minute lecture as a TV commercial, the Cruz website should link to it.

A Voice for Brexit

Editor William Kristol posts at The Weekly Standard the text of a statement by Michael Gove, Minister of State for Justice in the cabinet of British PM David Cameron. In it Gove declares he favors Brexit - the United Kingdom leaving the European Union. A key section:
Our membership of the European Union prevents us being able to change huge swathes of law and stops us being able to choose who makes critical decisions which affect all our lives. Laws which govern citizens in this country are decided by politicians from other nations who we never elected and can't throw out....
Gove is a major defection from the pro-EU monolith Cameron hoped to maintain. Perhaps there are more to follow. Pay particular attention to Boris Johnson, Mayor of London. The Brits might actually decide independence suits them.

Morning in Argentina

A Washington Post editor interviewed new Argentine President Mauricio Macri in Buenos Aires, about where the nation stands now and his plans for the future. He certainly gave the right answers.

All politicians are adept at saying what their audiences want to hear. Nevertheless, Macri appears to be on track to do good things. He could justify cautious optimism for Argentina's future.


One goal Macri enunciated which I can predict with confidence he will not achieve is "zero poverty." No country, to my knowledge, has ever achieved that and none is likely to do so.

All societies contain individuals unable (or unwilling) to function in a work environment. This includes those whose proclivities are self-defeating - examples of which include violence, substance abuse, compulsive gambling, and near-terminal sloth.

Unfortunately, efforts to support individuals with these issues encourages others to emulate them and discourages those still working. Smart societies are careful to avoid reinforcing unhelpful proclivities.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Making the Problem Solve Itself

Conservative Treehouse has a description of how Trump could make Mexico pay for his wall. The short answer, a 4% tax on wire transfers of money from workers in the U.S. sending remittances home to Mexico.

Over 10 years this tax would net roughly 10 billion dollars, which the article claims is the projected cost of the wall. Actually, this approach is making illegal immigrants pay for the wall, which seems only fair since they are the reason we need to build it.

Is Our Nation's "House" Sick?

ABC News political analyst Matt Dowd has written a thoughtful disquisition on modern American politics. He argues that the system is so broken that it takes good, sincere people who win office and turns them into do-nothing timeservers.

Dowd uses the analogy of a "sick building," full of mold, asbestos and lead pipes, which sickens otherwise healthy people who inhabit it. An amazing quote concerning Clinton and Trump:
As of today, the two leading candidates for their parties' nominations are simultaneously unelectable on their own. This is an awful choice about to be presented to the U.S. public this November.
As a long-time student of domestic politics, I remember people saying the U.S. presidency was broken following Nixon, Ford, and Carter. They made complaints not unlike Dowd's.

Then Reagan came along and suddenly the presidency wasn't broken after all; it only needed the right person to occupy it. Perhaps this November, we can elect a "right person." Let's try hard, shall we?

Terrible or Nice?

Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders' elder brother, speaking to The Daily Beast about Bill Clinton.
People don’t realize what an awful president Bill was. For the most part, Larry Sanders says, that’s because people are too busy debating “Is Bill really such a terrible rapist—or is he a nice rapist?”
Sure, Ol' Bill screwed a few. Socialist Bernie would screw everybody who isn't poor - that's tens of millions of us.

A Quantum of Snark

A puckish lady writes a weekly column at Power Line under the nom de plume Ammo Grrrl, appearing on Fridays. Today she has two morsels I'd share with you, the first deals with the Clinton candidacy.
We hear a lot about RINOs. Bill is trying desperately to become First HINO – Husband In Name Only.
There have been several First WINOs - First Wives In Name Only - most recently Hillary and earlier Jackie, Mamie and Eleanor. Ammo Grrrl's second morsel deconstructs Madeleine Albright's "special place in Hell" comment.
About the urgent need for women to “help” women, just because they are women: give it a rest, Madeleine. You were confirmed 99-0 by the heavily-male Senate nearly 20 years ago. Since then, there has been a Black woman Secretary of State, and then Hillary. No wonder you feel the need to lecture young women. Someone who is, say, 35 or younger, has never known a time when women couldn’t be anything they put their minds to – doctor, lawyer, astronaut, general, business executive, news anchor. It’s over. We won. And winners shouldn’t whine.
I don't hear men whining about the fact that, on average, we live several fewer years than do women - it's blatantly unfair.

Foolish Francis

You can take the Pope out of Argentina, but apparently you can't take Argentina out of the Pope. Francis has once again demonstrated his commitment to "liberation theology" which can be defined as Latin anti-Yankee bias applied to religion.

Most recently he injected himself into the presidential race in the U.S., arguing we have no right to control immigration into our country. This is hypocritical of him since immigration into his walled city-state - the Vatican - is very tightly controlled.

Pope Francis also took some cheap shots at capitalism, letting his inner Peronist show. It would be classier - more Papal - if he made a good faith effort to transcend his "little pastor to the poor" roots in an Argentine barrio.

Sadly, Pope Francis no more represents all Roman Catholics than President Obama represents all Americans - neither understands his role. Having both made their dislike of the U.S. very clear, they shouldn't be too surprised to find the feeling reciprocated.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Bolivian Corruption

Both The New York Times and Miami Herald have stories on the revelation that Bolivian President Evo Morales has had a love child with the Bolivian executive of a Chinese company. That company has won vast government contracts to build infrastructure. Graft is alleged.

Morales blames the U.S. for the embarrassing information getting out, as is common among Latin caudillos who love to demonize Americans. The timing of the story is propitious as Morales is trying to get the constitution changed so he can run again.

It's a usual move in would-be autocrats, one we've seen repeatedly throughout the region. It's likely the allegations of graft will cost him votes in the constitutional referendum this weekend. As is often the case, Miami Herald's Andres Oppenheimer has the definitive comment:
The Zapata case, like other Morales government corruption cases before, proves that there’s no such thing as a benevolent autocrat.

Countries without strong systems of checks and balances sooner or later result in massive corruption and mismanagement. Morales’ authoritarian rule — which he now wants to extend for another term that could allow him to stay in power until 2025 — is breeding massive corruption, and a foreign debt with China that will haunt Bolivians for generations. 
True, but Morales had a heck of a good time in office. Bolivians should be happy for him, no? Hat tip to RealClearWorld for the links.

Cillizza: Trump Clear Favorite

The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza writes that, by any reasonable standard, Trump is a near-prohibitive favorite for the GOP presidential nomination. I'm inclined to agree, while adding the caveat that we are still in early days.

Cillizza argues that given all Trump's apparent gaffes - which have cost him zip - it is hard to imagine what Trump might do at this point to screw up his lead. He's simply done a superior job of grasping today's American zeitgeist.

Cook Is Wrong

The shooters in the San Bernardino terror attacks used an encrypted iPhone from Apple. The FBI has been unable to decrypt it to learn with whom they were conspiring.

The FBI has asked Apple to write a workaround to enable decryption. Apple CEO Tim Cook has unwisely refused, claiming it would endanger customer privacy. Notice he did not claim it wasn't possible, only that it was, in his opinion, unwise.

It is high time a Federal judge ordered Apple to comply. Since Apple refuses, the judge should jail Cook for contempt of court until Apple delivers the goods. Editorially, Bloomberg View agrees Apple should cooperate.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Weird Climatological Science

At COTTonLINE we relish the discovery of unintended consequences, like increased CO2 causing increased plant growth in dry areas. Earth scientists Lixin Wang and Xuefei Lu at Indiana University report intriguing meta-analytic findings concerning atmospheric CO2. See their research summary at Science Daily. Here is the abstract:
Enhanced levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide are a likely key driver of global dryland greening, according to a new paper. After analyzing 45 studies from eight countries, researchers concluded the greening likely stems from the impact of rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide on plant water savings and consequent increases in available soil water.
Plants "eat" CO2 like candy and thrive in a greenhouse, apparently including one created by CO2. Perhaps the teeth-gnashing and doom-saying about CO2 has been overdone? Gaia has tricks up her sleeve we haven't yet dreamed of.

See the complete findings at Scientific Reports 2016; 6: 20716 DOI: 10.1038/srep 20716. Hat tips to and  WattsUpWithThat for the link.

Spengler on Syria

David P. Goldman, long a columnist for Asia Times and a blogger at PJ Media who channels Spengler, writes about what is not going to happen in Syria.
Neither Turkey nor Saudi Arabia will send ground troops into northern Syria and fight US-backed Kurdish militia.

Turkey won’t send combat aircraft into Syria to be shot down by Russian air defenses.

The Russian-Iranian reduction of Aleppo will add little to the flood of Syrian refugees.

Russia and the United States will not stumble into a strategic confrontation over a long-since-unsalvageable patch of Levantine desert.
That is his view of Syria, a mess but not one likely to spread. For the regional powers, he doesn't see much future.
Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia will not survive in their present form for another generation. Iran and Turkey face a demographic train wreck that will hit with full force in about twenty years. Depending on the oil price, Iran will run out of money, young people or water first—but it will run out of all three in the foreseeable future. Turkey’s Kurdish minority has twice as many children as ethnic Turks, so that it will become a majority of military-age Turks within a generation. Saudi Arabia will run out of money in five years at the present oil price, and its tumescent welfare state (as I have argued previously) will collapse.
 Finally, his Rx for Syria:
The least bad course of action for Syria is to partition the country into ethnic enclaves where civilians will be comparatively safe.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Free Trade Questioned

Writing for The New Yorker, James Surowiecki notes both Sanders and Trump make much of the damage free trade has done to American manufacturing employment. He concludes:
American workers used to believe that a rising tide lifted all boats. But in the past thirty years it has sunk a whole lot of them.
A couple of decades ago, I predicted in my classes that automation and off-shoring would destroy relatively routine jobs. The jobs would go but we would still have among us the "relatively routine" Americans who did them, people unable to move into the information economy. It turns out I was correct.

Now those "average Joes and Jills" are cheering when Trump and Sanders speak of the damage free trade has done to America's blue-collar workers. The China-made stuff at WalMart is super-inexpensive, but that doesn't compensate for having no salary to spend, no paycheck to bring home.

Nominating a Scalia Replacememt, Explained

RealClearPolitics has a nice, short article explaining the Obama criteria in selecting a person to nominate to replace Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court. The bottom line, Obama's nominee won't be approved by the Senate. His selection criteria will be entirely political, intended to motivate voting by one or more of the "victim" groups forming the Democrat base.

Monday, February 15, 2016

A Natural Experiment

During the candidate debate in South Carolina, Donald Trump said some ugly things about the most recent GOP president, George W. Bush. They were the sort of things you'd expect from a Democrat, allegations that W lied about WMD and failed to prevent 9/11.

It will be interesting to see how those comments play in the SC primary, it's a state that likes W. If Trump wins SC - not just narrowly but decisively - we will have learned something interesting about the Republican base.

It would show they have accepted the MSM's verdict on the Bush II presidency, that it was a failure. We will have learned there is no political mileage in defending W's record, perhaps even a cost.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Antonin Scalia, R.I.P.

The Washington Post reports Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, 79, was found dead on a ranch in Texas, the cause of death as yet unknown. A clear and vigorous voice for conservatism, he will be missed.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Weird Longevity Science

MSN reports average lifespans of the more and less affluent are becoming more divergent.
Looking at the extreme ends of the income spectrum, economists at the Brookings Institution found that for men born in 1920, there was a six-year difference in life expectancy between the top 10 percent of earners and the bottom 10 percent. For men born in 1950, that difference had more than doubled, to 14 years.
While the article tries to obscure causation, a careful reading shows that most of the differences stem from unhealthy lifestyle choices made by the less affluent. Unhealthy choices tend not to stem from an inability to afford better alternatives, examples include but are not limited to tobacco use, opioid abuse, suicide and drunk driving.

In a meritocratic society like ours, society implicitly assumes the poor lack merit and the poor may themselves accept this negative evaluation. Lack of self-worth has sometimes been associated with unhealthy life choices.

Gone Gilmore

Former VA Governor Jim Gilmore has suspended his campaign for the GOP presidential nomination. See The Washington Free Beacon for the story. In his honor we offer a bye-ku, one of many we've been privileged to write recently. Hat tip to James Taranto, the form's popularizer.
So long, Jim Gilmore.
Your message never got out.
Bet you're frustrated.

Cruz Outpolls Trump Against Clinton

RealClearPolitics is well-known for their averages of top polls. Go here to see how Trump and Cruz fare versus Clinton in their "poll of polls." Today the site reports Cruz comes out slightly ahead of Clinton, Trump does about 5% worse, losing to Clinton.

Bottom line, today Cruz is the more electable candidate according to the averages of four polls. Much can happen to change these numbers between now and November, or even between now and the convention this summer.

I prefer the cool intellect of Cruz over the bravado and bluster of Trump. I understand my bias in this regard is not widely shared; mass popularity is needed to win the White House. I wouldn't be surprised, for example, if Trump proves more able than Cruz to win over blue-collar white Democrats, much as Reagan did, and for some of the same reasons. Either man is infinitely preferable to Clinton.

Five Paths

Jonathan Bernstein writes for Bloomberg View about the five remaining serious GOP candidates for nomination - Trump, Cruz, Rubio, Bush, and Kasich. He describes a possible path to the nomination for each, and concludes that, at this point, Rubio has the best chance of success.

Check out Bernstein's reasoning - sound but in some instances low probability. Bush and Kasich are long shots, I am inclined to write off both.


"Democrat operatives with bylines," is what Glenn Reynolds calls many members of the press, in felicitous Instapundit hyperbole. Seldom do you see it as clearly as in this Breitbart Big Government story about PBS debate moderator Judy Woodruff as a donor to the Clinton Foundation.

Breitbart reports the moderators of the Democrat debate, hosted by PBS, failed to ask any questions about the Clinton Foundation. This, in spite of a recent State Dept. subpoena for foundation documents focused on whether it received funds from donors who sought favors from the Dept. during Clinton's tenure as Secretary of State.


The liberal bias at PBS is largely out of the closet, even more so than at most of the MSM. It is seen in their choice of stories to cover, in their choice of interviewees, and here in their choice of questions not to ask.

Full disclosure: the DrsC watch the PBS News Hour in spite of the bias. Its hour length and freedom from ads makes tolerating or ridiculing their spin worth the irritation. Our "mute" button takes care of the worst excesses.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Polar Opposites

Doyle McManus of the Los Angeles Times writes that Jeb Bush has found his message, he's the anti-Trump. Sorry, Doyle, that role - the polar opposite of boisterous, crude Donald  - is already occupied by the too-cool-for-school Obama.

Being unlike Obama in every possible way is Trump's road to success, at this point a better path than those traveled by other GOP candidates. This makes attacking Trump look like a defense of Obama-style politics, now thoroughly discredited. In 2016 the one thing no Republican trying to survive the primaries dare do is be associated in the minds of voters with Barack Obama.

CA Follow-up

As regular COTTonLINE readers know, one of the story lines we follow is the slow, seemingly inexorable decline of our native state - California. RealClearMarkets runs a piece on out-migration from California, people voting with their feet - voting "No."

Author Carson Bruno notes that if you segment Californians by income level into five quintiles, there is out-migration in four of the five. Only among the upper-middle or fourth quintile is there net in-migration.

Housing, taxes, and energy costs are extremely high throughout CA, whereas only the Silicon Valley is truly booming. As the article notes, the Information Age's "company town" is a slender reed upon which to build a whole state's economy.

Ironically, ask the average Californian stuck in a freeway traffic jam about out-migration and s/he probably thinks it isn't happening fast enough.

Alternate Christie Bye-ku

After posting my first bye-ku for possible distant cousin Chris Christie, I hit upon another I think I prefer. See what you think.

Alas, Chris Christie,
Hugging Barack Obama
Cannot be undone.

Modeling Trump

The Washington Post compares Trump to Andy Griffith's character Larry "Lonesome" Rhodes in the film A Face in the Crowd. American Thinker says he more resembles the title character in Citizen Kane. Hat tip to for the links.

I persist in thinking Trump most closely resembles the nonfictional (but larger-than-life) Teddy Roosevelt. A consequential president whose policies didn't neatly fit into one party's platform, TR ended up one of the 4 faces on Mt. Rushmore.

Like TR, Trump is a son of wealth and privilege who began with advantages but willfully lived large and shaped his own destiny. Does this mean COTTonLINE is endorsing Trump? No. Is it a criticism of him? Likewise, no.

I believe a Trump presidency would be consequential. Whether the consequences would be good or bad is unknown, and probably a priori unknowable. I feel safe in predicting it would not be dull.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

"Her Damn Closet"

'Co-assassin' of the Nixon presidency Carl Bernstein, interviewed on CNN as reported by The Daily Caller, commenting about Hillary Clinton and her email.
I think she has to acknowledge she’s made some terrible misjudgments and errors, particularly on the server. The vast right-wing conspiracy didn’t put the server in her damn closet.
Bernstein like his colleague Bob Woodward - protégées of Ben Bradlee at WaPo - aren't exactly rock-ribbed conservatives. Hat tip to Instapundit for the link.

Sanders a Slacker

Investor's Business Daily has the Sanders backstory. Reading it, we learn why Bernie Sanders is a hit with millennials. As a young man, he was the same un(der)employed loser many of them are today. Here's a sample:
Sanders failed to earn a living, even as an adult. It took him 40 years to collect his first steady paycheck — and it was a government check.

“I never had any money my entire life,” Sanders told Vermont public TV in 1985, after settling into his first real job as mayor of Burlington.
No wonder Bernie Sanders is into redistribution, he never figured out how to get the system to payoff for him. Apparently, he didn't want to do actual work, but loves telling us how to live our lives. This we don't need. Hat tip to long-time friend Earl for the heads up.

Christie Bails

RealClearPolitics reports NJ Governor Chris Christie will suspend his presidential campaign this afternoon. In his honor we offer the now-traditional COTTonLINE bye-ku - a haiku of goodbye - with a hat tip to James Taranto.
Sadly, Chris Christie,
Twenty-sixteen's not your year,
You blew twenty-twelve.

Ciao, Carly

Former HP CEO and presidential aspirant Carly Fiorina has announced she is suspending her campaign, "suspending" being 2016-speak for dropping out. In her honor COTTonLINE offers a bye-ku - a haiku of farewell. The bye-ku was popularized by James Taranto of The Wall Street Journal.
Carly, we will miss
Your critiques of Hillary,
Immune from sexism.

Friedman Surveys the Middle East

The New York Times' Tom Friedman aspires to be a renaissance man, willing to opine on anything. At this he is a failure. On the other hand, he actually does know the Middle East.

In today's column Friedman does what diplomats call a tour d'horizon of the Middle East, with particular emphasis on the current reality in Israel. Calling his view "profound pessimism" is not too strong; the column is worth your time and attention.

Friedman's view: the long-advocated two-state solution for Israel and Palestine is dead, it won't happen. Furthermore, U.S. unhappiness about this "death" does not much influence Israel. Friedman blames both Israelis and Palestinians for the outcome.

Few Vulnerabilities

Ramesh Ponnuru, writing at Bloomberg View, about the message from New Hampshire voters.
New Hampshire is just one state, but the exit poll numbers coming out of it do not lend themselves to an obvious anti-Trump strategy.
Ponnuru means Trump won virtually every demographic group imaginable, and not in most cases by a small margin. He even won the college graduate demographic, as we suggested he might.

The establishments of both parties are in turmoil, a political realignment is signaled. If Trump is nominated and elected, I fantasize the gang at National Review trooping over to Central Park to commit ritual seppuku using letter-openers.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Rules of Engagement

Another thing I saw tonight watching election-eve coverage was Trump's brief NH victory speech. He said something that resonated, under a President Trump we would "knock the crap out of ISIS."

Maybe I'm hearing what I want to hear, but that says to me we will stop being hyper-concerned about civilian casualties in bombing the Islamic State. We need robust rules of engagement like those of the Russians who are clearly making a difference with their bombing on behalf of Assad.

Farewell, New Hampshire

Every four years, New Hampshire emerges from the shadows and, like Brigadoon, has a brief spell in the sunlight. Then it falls off the national radar until presidential primary season rolls around again in four years.

The cycle is complete, the voters of frigid New Hampshire have spoken, and the winners are, as expected  ... Sanders and Trump. Both won decisively, both channeled voter anger at party establishments.

Kasich came in second, but his strong showing will probably lead nowhere as he has no money and next-to-no organization. I see Kasich voters as RINOs who, if they like his "compassionate conservative" platform, should vote for Hillary as she actually has some chance of winning.

Without doing, or spending, much Ted Cruz came in third in this state with few evangelicals. He thereby exceeded expectations and, combined with his Iowa win, goes on to evangelical-rich South Carolina with momentum.

Being fair, you could toss a blanket over the third, fourth, and fifth finishers - Cruz, Bush, and Rubio. Christie, Fiorina, and Carson were in single digits and will likely leave the race soon.

I was impressed with Rubio's mea culpa speech to his followers. He took total responsibility for his weaker-than-expected showing in NH, promising his volunteers and supporters he will never flub a debate again. Very classy, albeit unusual; somehow you want to like Rubio, to see him do well.

Brooks Jumps the Shark

The New York Times' David Brooks - supposedly the house "conservative" - has been mostly liberal for some years. Today he finally jumps the shark, heads out into such deep doo-doo that he basically can't come back. He actually writes the following:
As this primary season has gone along, a strange sensation has come over me: I miss Barack Obama.

Many of the traits of character and leadership that Obama possesses, and that maybe we have taken too much for granted, have suddenly gone missing or are in short supply.

The first and most important of these is basic integrity. The Obama administration has been remarkably scandal-free.
I believe we know what has Brooks been smoking.  Obama has refused to enforce immigration laws on the books, allowed the IRS to engage in blatantly political behavior, and consistently given aid and comfort to our enemies, foreign and domestic. See Glenn Reynolds' USA Today column about the IRS corruption.

If Obama exemplifies integrity to Brooks, it must be the "New York values" version thereof, It isn't integrity as you or I understand the term.

In fact, the Supreme Court is being asked to judge whether or not President Obama has failed to fulfill his sworn duties under Article Two, Section 3 of the Constitution. I am of the opinion his failure is self-evident, he stands convicted by the public record.

Food Stamp Fraud

The Daily Signal reports the governor of Maine tried an experiment requiring able bodied adults without dependents (ABAWD) getting food stamps to work, get training, or provide community service. See what happened:
When ABAWD recipients refused to participate, their food stamp benefits ceased. In the first three months after Maine’s work policy went into effect, its caseload of able-bodied adults without dependents plummeted by 80 percent, falling from 13,332 recipients in Dec. 2014 to 2,678 in March 2015.

A work requirement substantially reduces welfare fraud because insisting a recipient be in the welfare office periodically interferes with holding a hidden job. Recipients cannot be in two places at once. Faced with a work requirement, many recipients with hidden jobs simply leave the rolls. No doubt, a significant part of the rapid caseload decline in Maine involves flushing fraudulent double-dippers out of the welfare system.
The Federal Government provides most of the funding for food stamps, aka SNAP. It should make this requirement mandatory for all programs as a condition of continued funding. Hat tip to for the link.

The Damage Is Intentional

John Hinderaker is the senior blogger at Power Line. He takes a dim view of Obama's goals for the U.S., those goals growing from Obama's view of our country as an exploitative neocolonial power.
Barack Obama isn’t weakening America by accident. Bringing America down is the whole point of his “fundamental transformation.” He thinks the United States is a fatally flawed country whose influence on the world is malign, and therefore, our weakness is a good thing. As President, he has been uniquely positioned to bring about weakness, retreat and humiliation. He has done an excellent job of executing his strategy and advancing his far-left agenda.
It is really sick that a majority of voters invited him to do it and gave him the weapons to use against us. You could argue the body politic was effectively suicidal ... especially in 2012 when his malevolence was obvious to anyone paying attention.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Political Humor Alert

Wisecrack by a panelist on Anderson Cooper's CNN show, explaining why Clinton doesn't enthuse young voters:
Hillary Clinton's campaign message could be paraphrased as
"I have half a dream."

The "Wrong" Kind of Diversity

The Unz Review takes a look at hiring in Silicon Valley, more particularly at allegations that the workforce is excessively white.
There is no way that one can characterize Silicon Valley as overwhelmingly white with a straight face. Silicon Valley is quite diverse. The diversity just happens to represent the half of the human race with origins in the swath of territory between India and then east and north up to Korea.

The diversity problem isn’t about lack of diversity. It is about the right kind of diversity for a particular socio-political narrative. (snip) People of Asian origin are 5% of the American work force, but north of 30% in much of the Valley. If you want more underrepresented minorities hiring fewer of these people would certainly help.
Except, one supposes these firms hire those most qualified to do the jobs, many of whom happen to be Asian. Contrary to PC dogma, the relevant skills and abilities are not equally prevalent in all groups. Hat tip to RealClearPolicy for the link.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

The Siren Song of Socialism

The very prolific Joel Kotkin writes a column for The Orange County Register examining reasons why Bernie Sanders' socialist ideas are resonating with millennials. As he accurately notes, the economic model is thoroughly discredited, now failing most spectacularly in oil-rich Venezuela.

The bottom line for Kotkin is that the U.S. economy isn't doing well for younger people. Too many of the young are un- or underemployed, burdened with college debt, and living with their parents.

Consequently, they are looking at "redistribution" - sticking their collective hand in my pocket - to solve their problems. Being almost entirely ignorant of history, they have no idea socialism has demonstrated conclusively it is not a way to share wealth, but only a way to share poverty, to stifle economic growth.


Socialism's Achilles heel is its basis in a mistaken understanding of human nature. It cannot work because it willfully misunderstands human motivation, which in truth is largely selfish.

Idealists don't want to believe most of us, most of the time, want to know "What's the payoff for my family?" If the answer is "Not much, the government will take most of what you earn," expect people to prefer leisure to hard work.

If nearly everyone prefers leisure to hard work, the result is economic stagnation. The economic "pie" to redistribute grows smaller and smaller, instead of larger and larger. As Margaret Thatcher famously said of socialism's core problem, "You run out of other people's money to spend."

A Milbank Misfire

Writing for The Washington Post, Dana Milbank accuses Ted Cruz of meaning "Jewish" when he says "New York values." This is the second time I've seen this allegation, the first time I shrugged it off. Let me tell you why.

As a junior faculty member I spent two years on loan to the Federal Government as what was then called a Federal Faculty Fellow. While in Washington I was teamed with an able New York native who embodied those infamous New York values. An Irish former Roman Catholic priest married to a former nun, he was certainly no Jew.

It's a set of aggressive, chip-on-shoulder, loud, semi-belligerent behaviors which are common in individuals from the region covering southwestern CT, downstate NY, and northern NJ.  My "partner" had it in spades, Donald Trump is a poster boy for it.

I suspect the behavior is ascribed by non-New Yorkers to Jews because many great Jewish comedians have joked about it. That, and the tendency of people to search for examples of "anti-Semitism."

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Understanding War

The Daily Beast's Nancy Youssef, writing about the relative success Russia is having in Syria, reports the following:
The frustration of watching Russia’s brazen, indiscriminate strikes in Syria’s commercial hub—which could potentially turn the war to Assad’s favor—was palpable in the halls of the Pentagon on Friday. Some were frustrated that Russia could have such an impact because it does not consider—or does not care about—the effect of its bombs on civilians. Still others call the potential fall of Aleppo a result of a failed U.S. approach.

“Russians understand war. Americans understand managing conflicts to get unsatisfactory results,” one official familiar with the U.S. military campaign told The Daily Beast. The approach of both nations “tells the region who the players are. America is feckless and Russia and Iran are reliable allies.”
Apparently, nobody in our decision-making apparat understands the rule "go big or go home." Hat tip to Power Line for the link.

Political Humor Alert

Friend Priscilla sends the following funny;

Bad News About Grandpa

An elderly man had a massive stroke and the family drove him to the emergency room.

After a while the ER Doctor appeared wearing a long face.

"I'm afraid Grandpa is brain-dead, but his heart is still beating."

"Oh, Dear God," cried his wife. "We've never had a liberal in the family before."

Good Candidate, Wrong Party

Journalist Michael Kinsley famously wrote, "A gaffe is when a politician tells the truth - some obvious truth he isn't supposed to say." Gaffe-prone Ohio Governor John Kasich, running for the GOP nomination and speaking to a fan in NH, is reported by CBS News to have uttered the following:
I ought to be running in a Democrat primary, I got more Democrats for me.
Ronald Reagan memorably said of his former politics, "I didn't leave the Democratic Party, it left me." Kasich refuses to understand the Republican Party has left him, he is an out-of-the-closet RINO.

Stray Thought

Ten percent of 2016 is already history. It will officially be spring in another 6 weeks.  Time flies when you're having fun, eh?

The Ferguson Effect Lives

Researchgate carries the abstract of research appearing in the Journal of Criminal Justice. Researchers, from the fields of sociology and criminal justice, looked at whether there is truly a "Ferguson Effect." As might be expected, they conclude:
Overall, any Ferguson Effect is constrained largely to cities with historically high levels of violence, a large composition of black residents, and socioeconomic disadvantages.
Translation: Yes, there has been a Ferguson Effect, most strongly where it would logically occur, in "cities with historically high levels of violence, a large composition of black residents, and socioeconomic disadvantages."

The authors fail to remind us that "high levels of violence, a large composition of black residents, and socioeconomic disadvantages" tend to occur together. It is rare for one (or two) of the three to occur without the others. Hat tip to RealClearPolicy for the link.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Birds of a Feather....

Writing in The Atlantic, Adia Harvey Wingfield makes an economic argument for the persistence of residential segregation. Basically, it is that whites are more likely to be able to provide intergenerational wealth transfers that enable their children to purchase homes in upscale neighborhoods. That, and their ability to network young whites into jobs are what she offers.

On the other hand, neither of those possibly quite real "white privilege" factors explains the patterns of residential segregation shown in the graphic with which The Atlantic illustrates the article (see caption for key). The graphic shows non-white Asians, Hispanics, and blacks are also segregated into ethnically homogeneous enclaves or neighborhoods. 

Economics doesn't explain why three supposedly discriminated-against groups don't mingle in terms of where they reside. Clearly they choose to live with their own kind. 

It's birds of a feather choosing to flock together, except the "birds" are human. Think "safe spaces" and comfort zones, things people naturally seek. In the absence of government assignment of residential spaces, expect residential segregation to persist, if not forever, at least for several decades.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Rice Bowl vs. Hammer

David P. Goldman, channeling Spengler, writes in the Asia Times about the meaning he draws from the Iowa caucuses. Goldman conceptualizes Ted Cruz as a post-Cold War conservative, in contrast to the neocons whom he identifies with their "godfather" - Irving Kristol.

Kristol is the father of today's William Kristol and, more importantly, of the National Review/Americn Enterprise Institute conservative establishment. This establishment doesn't like Cruz, and the feeling is mutual. About their relationship, Goldman snarks:
Cruz knows that the Establishment is naked, and is willing to say so. That’s why they don’t like him. They aren’t supposed to. They look at him the way a rice bowl looks at a hammer.
Kristol's columns in The Wall Street Journal were my introduction to conservatism, a bright light in the gloom of the bipolar Cold War world. It is hard to think badly of him, but it is possible the movement he helped found lost its way as the Cold War died and was replaced by the Long War.

I feel ready for an overt pursuit of our national interest, narrowly defined, and I'd like to think that's the approach favored by Cruz and Trump. And no, I don't believe all cultures are equally valid so I don't hold with multiculturalism. We'll see what happens.


Writing for RealClearPolicy, Preston Cooper shares the findings of a study he did for the Manhatten Institute. His key point, 2/3 of college students fail. His data:
Only 59 percent of four-year college students graduate within six years. Those who graduate face an additional hurdle — only 56 percent of recent college graduates work in a job that requires a college degree (though the figure for all college graduates is 67 percent, suggesting some underemployed graduates move up later in their careers).

Multiplied together, these numbers suggest that only 33 percent of students who enter college emerge with both a degree within six years and a relevant job soon after graduation.
Cooper treats the low graduation rate as a problem. Heretically, let me suggest that you view it instead as a feature.

A degree demonstrates to a potential employer the degree holder successfully completed a long and difficult task. Demonstrating that quality is no small accomplishment, it screens out the 41 percent who do not graduate.

Some 44 percent of college graduates work in jobs not requiring a degree. As Cooper notes it is often a result of poor choice of major. Students who make a self-indulgent choice, who major in underwater basket weaving, philosophy, psychology/sociology/anthropology, communications or women's/black/Asian/gay/Hispanic studies find their degrees singularly unhelpful in finding meaningful employment.

Again, this is a feature of the current arrangement, not a problem. Choice of major is a clear way to demonstrate practicality and a bottom-line orientation.

Most often employers seek employees who are task-oriented, not self-indulgent or impractical. The current arrangement pre-screens job applicants for industry and government.

Quote of the Day

Joshua Green, writing at Bloomberg Politics, about the Iowa caucus results.
Add Cruz’s 28 percent to Trump’s 24 percent, and more than half of caucusgoers supported an outsider openly despised by the GOP establishment.
Take that, GOP establishment. The base loves you not.

Obama, Bush "Legacies" Similar

Gallup reports a relatively dramatic shift in party affiliation during the 7+ years of the Obama administration. Hat tips to and Hot Air for the link.
Gallup's analysis of political party affiliation at the state level in 2015 finds that 20 states are solidly Republican or leaning Republican, compared with 14 solidly Democratic or leaning Democratic states. The remaining 16 are competitive. This is the first time in Gallup's eight years of tracking partisanship by state that there have been more Republican than Democratic states. It also marks a dramatic shift from 2008, when Democratic strength nationally was its greatest in recent decades.
Can you say "Pyrrhic victory?" On the other hand, the following are also true:
The 20 states that Gallup classifies as solidly Republican or leaning Republican account for 152 electoral votes, less than the 187 accounted for by the 14 solidly or leaning Democratic states plus the heavily Democratic District of Columbia.

Turnout is another key factor in determining the outcome, and it will especially be key in the 16 competitive states, which together account for 199 electoral votes. Republicans typically have an advantage in voter turnout in elections.
Each of  the last two presidents has damaged his own party brand. Bush was responsible for "2008, when Democratic strength nationally was its greatest in recent decades." Now we see that Obama has accomplished the same debacle, driving people in the Republican direction.

The question: how many loser "captains" can our ship of state survive? We won't know the answer until it's too late, until the ship founders.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Arrivaderci Santorum

Former Sen. Rick Santorum has suspended his presidential campaign, following a weak showing in the 2016 Iowa caucuses. To commemorate this milestone, I offer a bye-ku, a haiku of goodbye. The form has been popularized by The Wall Street Journal's James Taranto.

Santorum farewell.
Twenty-twelve was your moment,
Not twenty-sixteen.

Understanding Ted Cruz

Erica Grieder writes in Texas Monthly an appraisal of Ted Cruz they've entitled "The Field Guide to Ted Cruz." It's based on their reporting on him going back to the time before he entered the Senate. I particularly like what she writes about his intelligence.
I proceed on the assumption that Cruz is smarter than me—not that he’s a superior human who Americans should follow blindly, and not that he’s always right. Just that he’s smarter than me. In practice, that means when Cruz says or does something that doesn’t make sense to me, I ask myself what I’m missing. I take a step back and slowly puzzle through why a very smart person with certain well-documented strategic objectives would do that. Lord knows this is not my usual practice with politicians, but it has turned out to be a surprisingly effective technique for analyzing Cruz. I highly recommend it.
I like "smart."

Your Wednesday Snark

The always quotable Mark Steyn, from his SteynOnline blog, riffing on the Iowa caucus results.
It's not helpful to let five thousand hayseeds shuck Trump Tower like a corncob. Doing without consultants, doing without ads, doing without Fox News, doing without National Review, doing without debates ...great, great, love it. But doing without voters is a trickier proposition.

The Sanders surge is a strong sign that, while (Democrats are) relaxed about voting for an unprincipled arrogant phony marinated in ever more malodorous and toxic corruption, they draw the line at such a tedious and charisma-free specimen thereof.

At last night's rally, the only personable Clinton stood behind Hillary looking like an emaciated wraith of the Slick Willie of yore. Decades of interns appear to have literally sucked all the life out of him, leaving only (one presumes from friend Epstein's Lolita Express flight records) his distinguishing characteristics with any flicker of vitality. Judging from her brief but disastrous intervention in New Hampshire the other week, young Chelsea appears to have inherited her mother's warmth and personal touch.

Sanders needed to inflict actual defeat on Hillary. He needed headlines saying: "BERNIE WINS!" And he didn't get that. She certainly felt the Bern, but it wasn't a third-degree Bern.
Hat tip to for the link (and the laughs).

Sayonara Rand Paul

Politico reports Rand Paul is suspending his campaign for the GOP presidential nomination, following an embarrassing showing in Iowa. To memorialize this expected event we offer a bye-ku - haiku of goodbye. It's a form made popular by The Wall Street Journal's James Taranto.

Fare thee well, Rand Paul.
Libertarians seem so

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

GI Jill

When the Pentagon first began talking about women in combat roles in the armed services, I thought "This is the first step down a slippery slope that ends with your daughter or granddaughter being drafted into the infantry where she gets a leg blown off, wasted by PTSD or captured and raped to death by terrorists." Unhappy days!

At present, young men must register for the draft but no one is currently drafted into our all-volunteer military. That could change if recruiting efforts do not produce sufficient volunteers to meet expanded military commitments.

Today comes the next step down that proverbial slippery slope. A Reuters article from the Daily Mail (U.K.) reports the top U.S. Army and Marine generals also want young women required to register for the draft. If Congressional action is required, I don't see it happening.

Later ... I can imagine the courts ruling that requiring males, but not females, to register for the draft is disparate treatment not permitted by constitutional law which requires equal treatment.

Thoughts About Iowa

The Iowa caucuses are behind us, we go on to New Hampshire. Time to take a moment and summarize what we've learned.

First, Trump will not "run the table." There was talk he'd win IA and NH and then be unstoppable. It didn't happen. The race goes on.

Second, corn-raising Iowa was supposed to be wedded to ethanol and to the politicians who endorse it, pandering to them. Cruz opposed the ethanol requirement and won Iowa, it's another piece of conventional wisdom destroyed.

Third, "establishment" Republican voters are coalescing around Marco Rubio as predicted, albeit sooner than expected. This tends to cast a dark shadow on the hopes of Kasich and Christie for a strong second-place finish in NH.

Fourth, the Hillary "coronation" appears to be something less than a sure thing. She seems to have won a photo finish with Sanders, winning by 0.2% at last report. Sanders is projected to win NH, so that race continues.

Fifth, following NH most GOP aspirants should "suspend" their campaigns. Likely some will do so before NH.  After the so-called SEC primary on March 1 the fields should be down to an establishment candidate and an insurgent candidate in each party, the Dems are already there.

The Economic Equivalent of Perpetual Motion

A Ben Domenech tweet, as quoted by Steven Hayward at Power Line, on the subject of the Iowa caucus results.
The economic nationalist couldn’t get a quarter of the GOP vote. The economic socialist got half the Democratic vote. Who’s extreme again?
He's correct; Trump got 24% (less than a quarter) and Sanders got 49+% (effectively half).

Meanwhile, it's reported that most young Dems favored Bernie's socialism-lite. Every generation has to learn anew (usually through bitter experience) that socialism is the economic equivalent of perpetual motion. That is, the seductive promise of getting something without working for it.

"Something for nothing" doesn't work in physics or in economics. The things in life you get without working for them are the things you don't want to be: poor, stupid, old, sick, fat, bored, and dead.

Monday, February 1, 2016

A Trumpian Exodus?

COTTonLINE is careful not to endorse any candidate for nomination; any of the front-runners would be a quantum improvement over the incumbent or Hillary. That said, a publication called Government Executive has published a study which suggests an apparently powerful motive to elect Donald Trump.
One in four federal workers would consider leaving their jobs if Trump were elected president, according to a new survey conducted by the Government Business Council, Government Executive Media Group’s research arm. About 14 percent of respondents said they would definitely consider leaving federal service under President Trump, while an additional 11 percent said they might. The findings indicate those leaving government would come from agencies' top ranks, as a majority of respondents were in General Schedule positions GS-13 and higher.
Producing an exodus of this proportion - if it ever happened - might be reason enough to tolerate the less attractive aspects of a Trump presidency.  Sadly, it's just talk; they'll never leave but will do their level best to sabotage his initiatives.

O'Malley Bye-ku

Former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, never a major threat and crushingly unsuccessful in Iowa, has announced he is suspending (translation: giving up) his campaign for the Democratic nomination. In his honor we offer a bye-ku, a haiku of goodbye, as popularized by The Wall Street Journal's James Taranto.

Martin O'Malley,
Iowa never got you.
Unemploy'd again.

Huckabee Bye-ku

GOP presidential aspirant Mike Huckabee has announced he is suspending his campaign (translation: he quits). The voters of 2016 Iowa were not impressed with him as they had been eight years ago. In his honor I offer a bye-ku - a haiku of goodbye - as popularized by James Taranto of The Wall Street Journal.

Huckabee farewell,
Twenty-sixteen's not your year.
What is next for you?

Cruz Wins Iowa, Narrowly

Iowa has spoken: Cruz narrowly edged out Trump who narrowly edged out Rubio, their percentages 28%, 24% and 23% in round numbers. Honestly, they are close enough to toss a blanket over the three of them.

Between them they accounted for 75% of the caucus votes cast, and the caucus turnout was large, on the order of 180,000. While either Kasich or Christie might pull out a second place finish in Yankee New Hampshire, expect many pundits to declare the GOP now has a 3 candidate race. Also expect many candidate withdrawals - in current parlance "suspensions" - to follow.

Meanwhile, on the Democratic side Hillary is very narrowly ahead of Bernie at this writing, they are separated by perhaps 1 percentage point or less. At roughly 9 p.m. Pacific Time Fox News is calling their race "too close to call."

Look for Sanders to call this a "moral victory" even if it is a technical loss to Clinton. If he gets a draw in Iowa and, as expected, wins New Hampshire Clinton will no longer appear the inevitable nominee.


Some years ago the other DrC and I spent a year on Guam - a U.S. territory - as visiting faculty at the University of Guam. We were part of the relatively small civilian expat community. Expats were fond of observing that this or that local peculiarity was an "OOG," meaning something that happens Only On Guam.

USA Today reprints a story from Guam's Pacific Daily News, both are Gannett papers. The story reports the island's private hospital has a whole floor ready for occupancy which they cannot open because they have not purchased local art equal to 1% of their construction costs of $150 million. The story reports the island needs the hospital, needs the beds, and won't allow them to open ... definitely an OOG.

The requirement to purchase local art equal to 1% of construction costs is thinly disguised graft, an island specialty. You would think the Philippine hospital company would understand the necessity of graft, would you not? The cultures are similar, though not identical.

Expats once joked the FBI sent agents who had lost their self-confidence to Guam where they could get several easy convictions and regain their mojo. Several government officials, including a governor, were convicted while or shortly after we were briefly there.