Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Travel Blogging VII

Docked in Noumea, New Caledonia: I am certain I never expected to be here. It turns out it is an interestingly complex place.

The neo-colonial Japanese Co-Prosperity Sphere didn't quite spread this far. On the other hand, we were told they had to bring Charles de Gaulle out to get the local French on-board with the Free French and the Allies; apparently some Vichy elements were active here.

A French colony, New Caledonia was a major U.S. military base in World War II and many Anzac (Australian and New Zealand) troops passed through as well.

A thing that really puzzled me before I went ashore was the dry barren-looking hills surrounding Noumea. Yesterday's New Caledonia island - Mare - was total green jungle anywhere people hadln't bulldozed it.

The hills hereabouts look like those in Southern California - dry brush and grass. I asked how this was possible in the tropics and was told New Caledonia has many microclimates.

Likely it's no accident the capital is in a dry zone. In days when Europeans sickened and died in the tropics from malaria, dengue, and yellow fever - a dry region would be healthier, having fewer mosquitoes.

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We had a weird experience here, we took a ship excursion to see a WW II museum and the tour group went back to the ship leaving the two of us at the museum. This was a major tour guide screw-up, they normally count people every time they load a bus to be sure they have all their customers aboard.

It could have been a terrible experience but the museum docents called the tour operator who sent a big bus back just to bring the two of us to the ship. To keep us from complaining they said we would get our tour fee refunded and the ship confirms it.

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Later ... As soon as the ship left the islands of New Caledonia behind the Coral Sea became rough, likely the result of relatively strong winds. The seas east of Oz have a reputation of being rough, especially the passage between EnZed and Oz. We are north of that region however, roughly east of Brisbane.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Austria Turns Right

In an election on Sunday, Austrian voters turned to the right. The New York Times reports the incumbent Socialists came in third.
Nearly 58 percent of Austrians who voted cast ballots for center-right or far-right parties, with the far-right Freedom Party running neck-and-neck for second place with the establishment center-left. But the theme of the election was identity — anti-immigration and anti-Islamization — with the charismatic winner, Sebastian Kurz, just 31, tellingly absorbing much of the far-right’s agenda to transform his once-mainstream conservative People’s Party.
After the far-right AfD party made the biggest gains in recent German elections, the Austrian result suggests the German-speaking world is moving rightward, along with the neighboring Hungarians and Poles. Very clearly opposition to mass immigration is the key issue driving the rightward movement.

Travel Blogging VI

Port Vila, Vanuatu: We got a new country today - Vanuatu! It is a pretty set of 83 islands with some protected interisland waterways that probably qualify as "the lagoon."

Vanuatu got independence from joint French-British colonial rule in 1980 and today seems to rely heavily on France and Australia, with China coming on strong in 3rd place. Definitely part of Melanesia, the people are a very dark brown and most closely resemble Australian Aborigines.

We took a lagoon tour today on a powered barge with a nice roof for shade and comfy chairs. It was both comfortable and interesting. The trades were blowing and the weather couldn't have been better.

It turns out many wealthy folk have vacay homes here, some in the half million dollar range. That much should get a waterfront lot and a sturdy home with a view.

We hear the unemployment rate is nearly 50% and a couple of years ago a cyclone (aka hurricane) tore this island up a lot. Two years later there are still people living in tents and shacks made of corrugated steel and plastic tarps - no power or running water, surrounded by mounds of trash.

Tomorrow we are in port in New Caledonia, I'm not certain we're going ashore. The following day we're in Noumea and we have an excursion there, something related to World War II in this region.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Playing Checkers or Chess?

The New York Times' Thomas B. Edsall is as reliably on the left as the rest of their opinion-writing "Democrats with bylines." That said, he nevertheless manages to come up with something smart on occasion.

In his current column, Edsall deals with Democrats' difficulties in getting the votes of blue-collar whites, pulling together the views of a variety of pollsters and academics on this subject. Choice examples include:
When Trump stands up in front of his audience at rallies during the campaign and tells them he’s going to give them their country back, Trump is having a conversation about race. Our response is that we are going to raise the minimum wage — we are having a conversation about economics. We are playing checkers while Trump is playing chess. And he continues to do so as he focuses on things like Black N.F.L. players taking a knee.

Heightened tribal polarization is the primary hurdle to Democrats’ ability to better compete and win white non-college voters. Avoiding that conversation isn’t going to work.

The left’s lack of awareness of the excesses of their own evolving dogma makes it increasingly easy for Breitbart, Fox News, and similar-minded others to portray liberals as hypocritical and out of touch with the day-to-day lives of many Americans.

The cultural problem is Democrats looking down their noses at blue collar work and flyover country. (snip) Let’s get back to celebrating the work of those who fix pipes, install wind farms, etc. Many of us in Democrat bubble lands are just too full of ourselves.
Actually, Republican readers will find Edsall's whole column refreshing and upbeat. N.B., The first time COTTonLINE wrote of tribal politics in the U.S. was 3.5 years ago.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Travel Blogging V

At sea, en route to Fiji: We crossed the international date line last night so the date on this post is wrong, it isn't Wednesday, the 11th; it's Thursday, the 12th here. I have trouble wrapping my head around losing a day (Wednesday) going west and regaining it going east.

We get cable news on our shipboard cabin TV, choice of Fox or MSNBC, depending I suppose on one's politics. American pax are mostly Fox, mostly conservative I would guess. BBC is also available for those with a high tolerance for soccer and cricket scores. Plus we have gratis access to the online NYTimes.

We've been following the wildfires in NorCal, one of which is somewhat near our vacation home there. Niece Karen reports areas around Napa are a mess; her place is probably not threatened but she has airborne ash falling in her backyard pool.

Reading email bulletins from our former employer Chico State, it appears air quality on campus is poor. Staying indoors as much as possible is recommended.

Wildfires are an every-Autumn event in CA, caused by the savannah climate which delivers no rain during summer and early fall. By October everything is extremely dry and flammable. We have no realistic expectation of significant rain before late November, and we may not get any then.

I spent my growing-up years watching the brushfires burn across the Coast Range mountains of the Los Padres National Forest. Meanwhile my parents kept busy reassuring relatives that no, our house had not burned down. Pro tip: the media always overstates the damage.

Late summer and fall fires are a routine part of life in CA, as are earthquakes. On the other hand, we get no hurricanes, very few tornadoes, and little hail. Water shortages are semi-common but humidity is rare.

Life, as someone wisely noted, is a series of trade-offs.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Travel Blogging IV

Pago-Pago, American Samoa: This is our second (and last) stop in Polynesia, from now on we'll be stopping in Melanesia until we reach Australia. Time for a quick geography lesson.

Islands in the Northern Pacific - places like the Marshall Is., the Marianas Is., Palau - are deemed Micronesia. "Micro" meaning "small" and "nesia" standing for "islands," together they mean "small islands."

In the South Pacific we find two sets of island groups. Polynesia, which means "many islands." And Melanesia, which means "islands of dark skinned people." Generally, Polynesia is east of Melanesia, although it isn't a hard and fast rule.

Today we took a tour of the Pago Pago area of Tutuila, an island in the group known as American Samoa. Not that you can tell from the spelling but it's pronounced "pango-pango."

The first thing that struck me about this place is what a marvelous sheltered port it is. In addition to our medium sized cruise ship, there are a couple of other ocean-worthy ships in port - a tanker and a Chinese container ship. This port is probably almost as sheltered as San Francisco Bay.

Obesity is the norm in Samoa, slender people are the decided exception. We drove by a funeral parlor and the other DrC saw a double-sized casket, she said it was huge which I totally believe.

It is common to bury the dead at home, on the family plot, and often pour a concrete slab over the tomb, protection agains the elements I suppose. Others, possibly more wealthy or more traditional, build a low step pyramid (maybe 4-5 ft. high) over their graves.

Tutuila looks like most inhabited tropical islands. All plant life thrives as if it wer on steroids, everything created by humans deteriorates at an accelerated pace.

The reason for both is the warmth and humidity which, as anyone who has visited a greenhouse knows, makes plants happy. The humidity and salt air causes human-made stuff to rust, corrode, rot, and mold.

Today I saw an example of something common on Guam in the 1980s but now rare there - what we expats called a "Guam planter box." This is an abandoned vehicle minus its hood, or with hood open, where a palm or other tree has grown up through the engine compartment alongside the motor. Sounds like it would take a decade but in the tropics, where everything grows fast, perhaps 2-3 years.

We are here in the dry season so the humidity is only 80% or so, in the rainy season it will push 100%. We have a nice trade wind blowing and, in the shade it is almost comfortable, in the sun the breeze doesn't help much.

Our next port is in Fiji, which is Melanesia. More when we get there.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Mean Megyn Mourned

In The New York Times, Batya Ungar-Sargon writes of missing the Fox News Megyn Kelly. That Megyn didn't worry about being liked and was tough on interviewees.

Her NBC morning show is all about "like me" soft topics. The author finds the new Megyn insipid, or worse.
You can catch Megyn Kelly on her new NBC program, “Megyn Kelly Today,” where she performs each morning as some horrific bizarro version of her former self.

It’s one of the bitterest ironies in television that it was at Fox News, network of blond bombshells and chronic sexual harassment, that Ms. Kelly was given the breathing room to become that most unusual of unicorns: an unlikable woman on television.
Maybe Roger Ailes had redeeming qualities after all? Ungar-Sargon concludes:
Whatever the reason, however, her descent into banal harmlessness operates as a cautionary tale to all women: You will have to be likable if you want to go mainstream.
"Likable" is a trait that's not easy to fake, even for someone as bright as Megyn. If it was, most bright people would be likable - obviously, not the case.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Travel Blogging III

Miscellaneous Musings ... We had a local Hawaiian group onboard entertaining the pax last night ("pax" is insider slang for "passengers"). Honestly, they weren't very good.

To my ear most Hawaiian music sounds like it was written by the same 3 composers; after a couple of songs it all sounds alike. We actually got up and left during the performance, something we almost never do.

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We came aboard a week ago today so we're 1 week into a cruise that will last almost 8 weeks. So far I've read 2 books and will start a 3rd today, a Clive Cussler novel.

While cruising is the primary time I read novels these days, it's something I enjoy doing. Ashore I spend more time scanning for things about which to blog or dealing with the minutia of daily life.

It's time to browse for more reading fodder. The Maasdam actually has quite a sizable library, as large as those on the small former Renaissance Line ships now sold to Princess and others.

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Perhaps you've noticed I'm linking to more NYTimes articles than is customary. It's because access to the online Times is free, it doesn't "burn" costly minutes of paid WiFi like browsing other sources does.

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Our cell phones are Verizon and don't work in Europe. They do work in Hawaii and the other DrC is on the phone with relatives in CA. We're wondering if they'll work in American Samoa, there's no guarantee that Verizon has bothered with the small Samoan market.

I just reread "small Samoan" and chuckled, because individual Samoans are anything but small. If you've seen the two large lads in supporting roles on the Hawaii 50 TV show, you know what I mean. They're huge.

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Later ... we've left Honolulu and are sailing the second of two long reaches of this trip, some 2000 miles to American Samoa. In some ways this is an odd itinerary, with two longish stretched of so-called "sea days" when we're not in port. Mostly an itinerary will have only one such.

We had calm water between San Diego and Hawaii but now we are experiencing some significant open ocean swells on the first day of this leg. We're rolling enough to make some pax uncomfortable.

The other DrC saw a couple of schools of flying fish one day out of Hawaii, as well as a manta ray perhaps 3' across. Fish are unusual sightings. We do sometimes see porpoises which seem to like playing alongside ships.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Mass Murder Musings

Out here in mid-Pacific, I've been reading about the shooter in Las Vegas. What he did is clear, why he did it is not.

Apparently the man had no very well known hobby-horses, no axes to grind. He was a gambler, had made quite a lot of money in his life, and was no ideologue, as far as any acquaintances or neighbors were aware.

No Facebook rants or Youtube videos have turned up so far. If he had literature tying him to an angry movement we've not learned of it. And it's almost certain he knew none of those killed or injured.

The shooter was a planner; this was no spur of the moment 'lark.' He knew of the concert, selected a room with a view thereof, gradually ferried a number of weapons, tripods and much ammunition to that room, and was tapped into a video camera array giving him advanced notice of the arrival of police.

I'm going to guess at a motive, and let's be clear, it's one of those "what's left when you've discarded all the alternatives" guesses. Call it the 'Guiness Guess.'

I speculate he saw his one chance at enduring fame (or infamy, if you prefer) and took it. He will likely hold, for a long time, the record for "most shot by a person acting alone in a single place and time."

I would never claim to understand why holding that record would appeal to anyone, but I sense that it might, to a few.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Gerrymandering, a Primer

The New York Times has a good article about gerrymandering and efforts to rein it in. It focuses on something called the "efficiency standard" as a measure of whether too much bias has been used in districting.

As the article notes, the geographical distribution of adherents of both parties confounds some efforts at fair districting. People will choose (or be forced) to live near others with similar views.

To the extent that districts are at all compact, this ideological sorting process causes them to lean heavily one way or the other. It turns out that complicates efforts to legislate, or judicially rule against districting bias.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Singapore's Health Care Model

Today's New York Times has an article about the good outcomes of the health care system in Singapore, where lifespans are 2-3 years longer than in Britain or the U.S.
There are private and public hospitals, as well as a number of tiers of care. There are five classes: A, B1, B2+, B2 and C. “A” gets you a private room, your own bathroom, air-conditioning and your choice of doctor. “C” gets you an open ward with seven or eight other patients, a shared bathroom and whatever doctor is assigned to you.

But choosing “A” means you pay for it all. Choosing “C” means the government pays up to 80 percent of the costs.

The most frustrating part about Singapore is that, as an example, it’s easily misused by those who want to see their own health care systems change. Conservatives will point to the Medisave accounts and the emphasis on individual contributions, but ignore the heavy government involvement and regulation. Liberals will point to the public’s ability to hold down costs and achieve quality, but ignore the class system or the system’s reliance on individual decision-making.
Like many things in Singapore governance, it reflects the ruthless application of intellect to daily life. Singapore is a de facto one party state notorious for its lack of a soft heart, it rewards winners and penalizes losers. Unsurprisingly, this unambiguous reward structure produces in Singapore more winners and fewer losers.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Adios, Doofus John

Various sources, one cited by Drudge Report, are reporting Ohio governor John Kasich has suggested he may have to leave the Republican Party. To hear him tell it, the Party just isn't him anymore.

For the first time in quite a while, Kasich is correct about something. He should definitely exit as he sure as blazes isn't a modern Republican.

Kasich tries to be the sort of Rockefeller Republican that exists only in memories, and those from the 1960s. He'd be more comfortable as a blue dog Democrat, and they're an endangered species.

I give him props for recognizing that he leads a parade with no followers in today's GOP.

Travel Blogging II

Shipboard life ... On some cruises team trivia, which the other DrC plays, is a blood sport. She has literally been headhunted by groups seeking to win. On this cruise, she reports people are having fun and not taking it too seriously. I joined her for 60s/70s music trivia last night and was surprised both by how many old songs I could remember the title of, and of how few I knew the singer or group performing.

A couple of months ago the other DrC fell while hiking in Canada. She crushed the bony end of the humerus and put a hole in one of the 4 rotator cuff tendons. She has spent much of the time since wearing a sling to support the arm while the bone heals and, it is hoped, the tendon does too. You can see her x-rays on her blog at cruztalkingtwo.blogspot.com.

I mention this because onboard literally dozens of people have looked at the sling and said "Hurt your rotator cuff, eh?" We conclude rotator cuff injuries must be nearly as common as the flu, every third passenger seemingly has a cuff story to tell. I have my own, damage done maybe sixty years ago and never repaired, merely lived (or coped) with.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Review: Churchill

These days Brits are into biographies which focus on former heroes' feet of clay. The first which caught my attention was the biopic of Thatcher which focused on Maggie as an elderly sufferer from early stage dementia.

This afternoon the ship screened Churchill which focuses on Winston Churchill's role in the run-up to the D-Day landings at Normandy. The film would have you believe Churchill tried to kill D-Day. Supposedly it reminded him of an earlier (World War I) landing - Gallipoli - an actual disaster for Commonwealth troops for which he was blamed.

I can't speak to the film's historical accuracy, but it is very well made and moving. I went in thinking I'd probably fall asleep in the dark theater ... it did not happen.

I was glad the theater didn't have "smell-O-vision." The actor playing Winston smoked fat cigars constantly and I hate their smell.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Review: Dangerous Minds

Over the last couple of days I read Dangerous Minds, a 2017 book by Janet Evanovich, checked out from the ship's library. Herewith a review.

I don't know about you, I read Evanovich for the humor she brings to the Stephanie Plum novels. These now total some 27 volumes. I've read these, many of them more than once, and chuckled throughout.

So I picked up this, the second book (so it says) in her Knight and Moon series. Let's say I was disappointed.

Sure, it featured her quirky characters and breezy, off-the-wall plotting, but the belly laughs were missing. And she can't blame a co-author as none was listed.

You could call the book science fiction, or techno thriller, or even how to marry a millionaire and be sorta correct. It has elements of all three and more.

With another author's name on it, you might give the book a "pass" and say it was mildly diverting. With the Evanovich name on it, you expect funny dialog but don't get much of it in this book.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

A Bias Primer

As noted the other day, Holland America provides online access to The New York Times. Today their lead articles (2) concern the President's plan to revise the income tax system. The first is almost all straight reportage, as it should be.

The second, labeled "News Analysis" begins to demonstrate how to spin a story. The "Analysis" mentions all of the lacunae in the White House announcement. These are the not-filled-in details and the imponderables (characterized as "problems") those gaps might create.

You have to read to the final 2 paragraphs to learn economists think Trump's new plan would definitely be stimulative, a boost to the economy. Witness the classic misdirection ... author Binyamin Appelbaum puts the good news at the end. That's where many will never read it because the story - as written - becomes repetitively negative three paragraphs back.

The "Analysis" is an example of finely crafted subtle evil. The evil is easy to deny and hard to prove absent the Times' overt editorial bias.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Travel Blogging I

San Diego harbor: Holland America's Maasdam is not a new ship, but she's newly refurbished and entirely functional. Our flight was uneventful and Southwest's ground personnel in San Diego very helpful, those in Sacramento less so.

We are comfortably aboard, our cabin is fine, the location low and midships is good, and we've survived the lifeboat drill, always a bore on HAL. However it happens only once per cruise.

Other lines do lifeboat drill better, provide more info with less tedious standing. I remember one we did on Royal Caribbean sitting comfortably in a night club setting, without free drinks unfortunately.

We are loading up on fresh produce as there are a bunch of long hauls between here and Sydney, SD to Honolulu is 5 days, Honolulu to American Samoa is another 5, I think. It appears we may sail somewhat later than originally planned - no biggie in the greater scheme of things. The captain will pile on 2 extra knots and we'll arrive in Honolulu as scheduled.

San Diego is having a spectacular, warm, blue-skied Chamber of Commerce-type day. Basically no wind and beautiful shirt-sleeve weather. It normally isn't this warm along the CA coast, inland a few miles is a different story, often even hot.

Review: Young Sheldon

The program, a Big Bang Theory spinoff, looks at Sheldon Cooper's life as a child prodigy growing up in the TX household of a high school coach and his stay-at-home religious wife plus an older brother and a twin sister, none of whom show signs of brilliance and who find Sheldon a bore, a cross to bear, or both.

They love him but aren't sure they like him, it's hard to know what he feels. As BBT viewers of the adult Sheldon know, he is nearly always hard to be around.

The program begins as a 9 year old Sheldon embarks on his first day of public high school, the same school his brother attends and that employs his father. You just know he will create chaos.

I'd guess we'll get tired of the pint-sized Newton spouting off wisdom and misunderstanding everyday life, but then I got tired of the adult Sheldon and quit watching BBT. The ratings suggest others did not. I may not be the best judge of this program, as some elements in young Sheldon's life are not entirely unlike my own youth.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Sailing, Sailing, Over the Bounding Main

Tomorrow the DrsC head out on another of their globe-spanning trips, this one a cruise from San Diego to Sydney, and then around Australia, ending up back in Sydney from whence we will fly home. We'll be gone about 57 days, start to finish, and sailing from autumn here into spring down under.

Expect Travel Blogging posts along the way. You can see trip photos at cruztalkingtwo.blogspot.com, it's the other DrC's blog. We will try for some level of current events postings although we don't have unlimited WiFi browsing.

One 'resource' normally available on Holland America ships is unlimited access to the New York Times online edition. As a first cousin to Pravda, NYT is not a COTTonLINE favorite but it is somewhat better than nothing.

Brutal

David P. Goldman, who blogs as Spengler at PJ Media, shares his view of the American foreign policy establishment.
Our foreign policy elite is a pack of hypocritical, yellow-bellied, two-faced, fork-tongued, lying polecats who wouldn't acknowledge the truth if it were tattooed on their ophidian foreheads.
What triggers his outburst is U.S. opposition to the Iraqi Kurd independence vote. COTTonLINE is inclined to agree with Kurdish nationhood aspirations. The Kurds may be the only "moderate" Muslims in the region.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Another Reason Clinton Lost

Philip Bump crunches numbers and writes politics for The Washington Post. In today's column, he looks at the drop in the black vote between 2012 and 2016. It was other than trivial.
The most heavily white neighborhoods voted much more heavily Republican in 2016 than in 2012. Second, the most heavily black neighborhoods voted less heavily Democratic last year than four years ago. Third, Hispanic neighborhoods voted for Republicans less than in 2012.
I've omitted parenthetic comments from the above quote as they refer to charts I've not reproduced here. Actually, nothing in the above paragraph is counterintuitive, it's about what we'd expect.
Trump earned less support from black Americans than any Republican in 40 years, except those who ran against Obama. But a small uptick in support for Trump vs. Romney combined with less support for Clinton means that Obama’s 87-point margin became an 80-point margin for Clinton. That mattered.

In 2016, the turnout rate for black Americans dropped about 8 points, McDonald estimates — meaning that 8 percent fewer black Americans who were registered to vote came out to cast a ballot. That’s a lower rate than in 2004. The percentage of white voters turning out increased slightly.
I see nothing here to question my prediction that Democrats will, in 2020, nominate for president a person of color. Bump may underestimate the extent to which African-Americans actually voted for Trump, rather than failing to vote.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Germany Votes

Germany held a national election earlier today, results now in. Angela Merkel's party won a third of the votes, and got the largest single bloc, meaning she'll continue as chancellor.

However, her CDU/CSU party lost some 8 percentage points, roughly the same as what the anti-immigrant AfD party gained to become the third largest party in the Bundestag. The second-largest Socialists lost 5 points, while the fourth-largest Free Democrats gained almost 6 points. Greens, the Left, and others gained or lost a half point or less.

The Chancellor has to assemble a majority coalition if, as in this case, her party doesn't win an absolute majority of the seats in the Bundestag. One supposes she will be shopping for that coalition which demands the least compromise in return for inclusion in the government and cabinet positions.

You can read the vote increases for AFD and FDP as protest votes against Merkel's policy of taking in a million or more Muslims, mostly young men. One German voter in five who voted for Merkel last time voted for someone else this time. In a 6 or 7 party race, that's huge.

Bottom line: German voters largely validated President Trump's negative evaluation of Merkel's refugee policy. Mutti Merkel is weakened by this vote.

Catholic Scholars Rebuke Pope

A continuing feature of COTTonLINE has been our outsider's disillusion with the leftism of Pope Francis. A search of our archive detects 20 different times we've referenced him directly or in passing, mostly in disparaging terms.

You can imagine, then, our fascination with a group of Catholic theologians issuing the sort of rebuke to a pope that hasn't happened in nearly seven centuries. The National Catholic Register has the story, hat tip to Instapundit for the link.
A group of clergy and lay scholars from around the world have taken the very rare step of presenting Pope Francis with a formal filial correction, accusing him of propagating heresies concerning marriage, the moral life, and reception of the sacraments.

Entitled Correctio filialis de haeresibus propagatis, meaning ‘A Filial Correction Concerning the Propagation of Heresies,’ the 25 page letter was delivered to the Holy Father at his Santa Marta residence on Aug. 11.

The Pope has so far not responded to the initiative, whose 62 signatories include the German intellectual Martin Mosebach, former president of the Vatican Bank, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, and the superior general of the Society of St. Pius X, Bishop Bernard Fellay (he learned of the document only after it had been delivered to the Pope and signed it on behalf of the Society).

The filial correction (is) the first to be made of a reigning Pontiff since Pope John XXII was admonished in 1333.
If papal doctrinal pronouncements are supposedly "infallible," the Francis papacy proves the process by which popes are chosen is as fallible as most human endeavors.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Why Not Paul, Collins, or Murkowski?

After writing that McCain is RINO-in-Chief, it occurred to me I should answer the question "Why doesn't Rand Paul (R-KY) deserve the title even more?" You could fairly make that argument, here's my reasoning.

McCain claims to be a real Republican, but rarely acts like one. Rand Paul, like his dad Ron Paul, is in fact a Libertarian who, like Socialist Bernie Sanders across the aisle, lines up with one of the two major parties out of convenience.

Paul doesn't claim to be a 'real' Republican, but is rather an individual who wishes all Republicans would become Libertarians (while knowing they won't). Sanders, on the other hand, appears to be getting his wish that many Democrats move to the left and embrace socialism.

And, yes, I excuse the squishiness of Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) as part of the difficulty women have with the Republican Party's bedrock policy of "tough love." We've written before about Rs being the "daddy" party and Ds being the "mommy" party.

As this society raises people, tough love comes easier to guys than to gals, easier to daddies than to mommies. Personally, I'm okay with that division of labor, I fully understand if you find it distasteful.

Later ... On the other hand, I will support (editorially) realistic primary challenges to any or all of these four defectors by men or women who embrace the Party's "tough love" policy and support its POTUS.

Noonan Rates the UN Speech

The Wall Street Journal's Peggy Noonan was, in an earlier life, a presidential speech writer for Ronald Reagan. She is a connoisseur of presidential speeches and thus her reaction to President Trump's UN speech is of interest.

So, did Noonan like it? She liked his UN speech a lot, while careful to hedge her bets as to its impact.
It was a strong speech—clear, emphatic, remarkably blunt. The great question is whether the bluntness will tend at this point in history to make things better or worse. We’ll find out soon enough.

This is the opposite of democracy promotion and nation building and dreams of eradicating evil.

A great line—because it spoke a great truth—was this: “The problem in Venezuela is not that socialism has been poorly implemented, but that socialism has been faithfully implemented.” Mr. Trump then paused and looked at the audience. It struck some as a “please clap” moment. It struck me as a stare-down: I’m saying something a lot of you need to hear. You’re not going to like it, and I’m going to watch you not like it.
Politicians like to believe they can command their economy. In fact the economy will not obey, a truth of which Venezuela provides only the most recent hard-to-watch, harder-to-live-through demonstration.

Friday, September 22, 2017

RINO-in-Chief

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has announced that he will not vote for the Graham-Cassidy bill to repeal and replace Obamacare. He's likely killed it. Due to arcane peculiarities in Senate rules, this was the last opportunity to dump Obamacare without being stopped by a filibuster, until perhaps January of 2019.

Every Republican (including McCain) swore to vote to replace Obamacare. McCain is letting his pique with Trump get out of hand. If this flip-flop doesn't make McCain the RINO-in-Chief, I don't know what it would take.

Good people of Arizona, you really need to replace ol' John with someone who will actually act and vote like a Republican. He has become an embarrassment to you and to the party.

Goodbye to Summer

Here on the left coast, the autumnal equinox occurs today at roughly 1 p.m. At that time the sun will shine directly down upon the equator and the daily length of sunlight and dark will be as close to equal as they ever get.

Today also marks the "official" end of Summer and beginning of Autumn, a season which will end on the 21st of December. I put official in quotes inasmuch as we've already had snowfall at home in the Wyoming Rockies.

For awhile it snows at night and melts during the day, then it gets colder and snow begins to accumulate. This, of course, is why we arrange to be elsewhere during the Rockies' long annual cold spell. We have the CA native's view of snow, it's fun to visit but you don't want to live there.

Upon retirement, the DrsC decided to spend as much of the year as possible in conditions of late Springtime - the "Goldilocks" season of not too hot, not too cold. It's a lot of work but worth it. We have successfully done this for the past 13 years, and hope to continue for many more.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Bream Joins the Fox Varsity

An update from Fox News about their fall lineup. Supreme Court watcher Shannon Bream will host her own hour long show weeknights at 11 p.m. EST, beginning October 30. Here on the left coast, she will air at 8 p.m.

The net describes her show - Fox News @ Night - as "hard news and analysis" which is roughly what Bret Baier does earlier at dinnertime. For all who tire of the MSM's late nite talk propagandists, this will be a decent alternative.

I've been wondering when Shannon would get her own show. After subbing for Bret and others off and on for a couple of years she joins the varsity squad.

Review: the Ken Burns Vietnam Series

The DrsC tried an episode of Ken Burns' Vietnam miniseries last night. We didn't even finish the one episode, having both concluded we had (a) lived through the Vietnam experience and (b) had no desire to relive it at Burns' usual snail pace.

So, we cancelled the recording and deleted it from our DVR "record to watch" list. Consider this a review of Burns' Vietnam show, and let's be clear, it is a pan.

Burns manages to make war boring, with lots of people speaking Vietnamese, plus most of the footage in dreary black and white. As over-educated people, the DrsC are supposed to love Burns' work; but neither of us does. He bores us silly.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Going Off the Wagon

A survey found that 37% of British vegetarians eat meat when out drinking booze. And as all regular watchers of BBC drama on PBS know, the Brits do love a drink.

Their top five choices when falling off the wagon are kebabs, beef burgers, bacon, fried chicken, and pork sausages. It's amazing how often the veggies' moral superiority pose falls by the wayside, eh? Hat tip to Instapundit for the link.

Destroying Themselves

Lead blogger at Ace of Spades HQ, the pseudonymous Ace, writes about the MSM's current self-destructive behavior. Hat tip to Instapundit for the link.
They're destroying themselves, and sabotaging their own propaganda operations, because they're just too crazy to think or care about such things any longer.

And I gotta tell you: I love it.

Destroying the media is a thing to be dearly wished for -- but watching them destroy themselves is tons better.

They're now Othering themselves, and I think that's just fine.

People don't want to associate with weirdoes -- and now that they've decided to fly their freak flags proudly and put their Full Metal Weird on display for the world, I can only sit back and cheer.
Indeed.

When Family Income Matters

The Brookings has a statistical chart which shows in graphic form the impact of family income on children's performance in college. It turns out to be not so important for those with sub-3.0 high school GPAs or above 3.5 GPAs. Few in the former group and most in the latter win baccalaureate degrees, regardless of family income.

Family income seems to matter most for students with high school GPAs in the 3.0-3.5 range. Those from more affluent families do much better than those from poorer families.

These are kids who can go either way, depending on their degree of emotional and financial support. Coaching by parents who understand the higher education process doesn't hurt, either. Hat tip to RealClearPolicy for the link.

Tribalism, the Default Human Experience

Alexander Sullivan writes a long article about our latter-day tribal politics for New York magazine. It's decent and worth reading, if you have the time. A couple of choice quotes:
Tribalism, it’s always worth remembering, is not one aspect of human experience. It’s the default human experience. It comes more naturally to us than any other way of life. For the overwhelming majority of our time on this planet, the tribe was the only form of human society.

The tribes that best survived (and thereby transmitted their genes to us) were, moreover, those most acutely aware of outsiders and potential foes. A failure to notice incoming strangers could end your life in an instant, and an indifference to the appearances of other human beings could mean defeat at the hands of rivals or the collapse of a tribe altogether. And so we became a deeply cooperative species — but primarily with our own kind. The notion of living alongside people who do not look like us and treating them as our fellows was meaningless for most of human history.
And he quotes Townhall.com blogger Kurt Schlichter, an out-in-the-open example of tribal politics, who writes:
They hate you. Leftists don’t merely disagree with you. They don’t merely feel you are misguided. They don’t think you are merely wrong. They hate you. They want you enslaved and obedient, if not dead. Once you get that, everything that is happening now will make sense. 
The only reasonable response to such hatred is reciprocity. Hat tip to RealClearPolitics for the link.

Demographics and Health

United Press International runs a story about research which looks at health in seniors and finds, unsurprisingly, that wealthy, highly educated white seniors have much better health than the less well off and non-white. Hat tip to Power Line for the link.
Researchers reviewed federal government data on more than 55,000 older adults. They found that between 2000 and 2014, there was a 14 percent increase in the rate of those who reported good health.

Overall, 52 percent of older adults with good health had high incomes. Just 31 percent of those with poor health had high incomes.

Whites were more likely than blacks or Hispanics to have good health. The rate of good health among whites rose from 442 per 1,000 to 533 per 1,000 during the study. The rate of good health among blacks and Hispanics remained flat, but the rate did increase among other racial/ethnic groups.

Those with graduate degrees had the most improvement -- 56 more healthy people per thousand -- while the rate remained flat among those with only a high school diploma.
Since Medicare provides universal health care to everyone over age 65, it isn't entirely clear why income makes such a difference in health. Presumably different social classes have different life styles resulting in differing health sequelae.

One thing I know from reading faculty obituaries at the university from which I retired is that profs tend to die at advanced ages. They have graduate degrees, of course, plus reasonable incomes and most were white.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Setting the Bar Low

John Hinderaker, senior blogger at Power Line, meditates on the outcome of the 2016 presidetial election. His conclusion will, I believe, interest you:
So Trump is our president and he should exercise his powers vigorously. But Republicans also should understand that their victory owed at least as much to their opponent’s weakness as to their champion’s appeal.

The good news is that the Democrats don’t obviously have anyone much better than Hillary on the horizon for 2020.
I stand by my prediction that, give Hillary's loss, the Democrats will nominate a person of color as their 2020 presidential candidate. Whether that idividual can reanimate the Obama coalition is far from certain, but perhaps it is the Dems only chance for a win.

Upper Middle Class a Big Winner

Robert Samuelson writes about economics and demographics for The Washington Post and for RealClearPolitics. Today's article chronicles the return of prosperity to the American middle class, and it appears at RCP. All income figures in constant, inflation-adjusted dollars.
The income of the median household (the one exactly in the middle) rose to a record $59,039; the two-year increase was a strong 8.5 percent. Meanwhile, 2.5 million fewer Americans were living beneath the government's poverty line ($24,563 for a family of four). The poverty rate fell from 13.5 percent of the population in 2015 to 12.7 percent in 2016.

If you take $100,000 as a crude threshold of being upper middle class, then the share of households above the threshold was about a quarter (27.7 percent to be exact) in 2016, up from about a fifth (19.4 percent) in 1990.

By contrast, upward movement at other income levels was slight. Take the new record median household income of $59,038 as an example of what's happening in the middle of the income distribution. If incomes were rising rapidly, there would be a large gap between today's incomes and those of the late 1990s. There isn't. Today's income is less than 1 percent higher than the previous record of $58,665 achieved in 1999.
The real story of the last couple of decades is the growth of the upper middle class, which has been thriving. Farther down the ladder, things haven't been nearly as good.

The Korean Dilemma

George Friedman writes about foreign affairs at a website called GeoPoliticalFutures. His topic today is the tensions on the Korean peninsula. His conclusion is bracing:
A very coldblooded analysis places the destruction of North Korea’s nuclear capability as the logical choice strategically for the U.S. The case can be made that protecting the U.S. from nuclear attack must take precedence for an American president over the fate of Seoul. It’s all logical and coldblooded, but among the more unsavory choices I have seen.
As Friedman points out, we might well end up with the totality of Korea - North and South - hating us.

Trump at the United Nations

President Trump spoke to the General Assembly of the United Nations today, Politico has the complete text of his prepared remarks.

Very clearly, it is not a speech President Obama would have given. Trump did not apologize for our country even once.

The speech is too long, but not especially hectoring, and he dumps on North Korea, Iran, and Venezuela with force and accuracy. I have some problems with its internal consistency, see what you think.

Trump Right, Again

It has been revealed in a variety of outlets that one-time Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort was wiretapped before and after the election. Trump famously claimed that his campaign was wiretapped and was widely poo-poohed for making that assertion. It turns out he was right, while the MSM was wrong.

Thinking back we see a pattern emerging of Trump assertions being proved right, long after the MSM has gotten much mileage out of denying them. Notice he never gets an apology for being proved right after much slander has happened.

Understand most MSM reporters and commentators to be Democrat operatives with by-lines and it becomes clear what's happening. The MSM is, among other things, the Propaganda Ministry of the progressive movement.

New Problem, Old Solution

Bloomberg reports Finland has a baby problem. While it is supposed to be the one place in the world which is most child-supportive, the birth rate has fallen far below the 2 per woman level needed for replacement. Supposedly nobody knows what to do about it.

I have an already tested idea. Why not make motherhood a decent career, a reasonable occupational choice? Pay mothers a per-child salary such that by raising, say, three or four children a woman could live independently and comfortably. It worked too well with welfare mothers in the U.S., might it not work in Finland?

In other words, if men don't want to marry and earn enough to support a stay-home wife and mother, they can support her through their taxes and accomplish the same thing. What it requires is for the society to decide it is truly serious about the problem, which I don't believe they yet are.

Why not? Low birth rate is a problem which is "out there" while taxes are a "now" issue.

CA Exodus Continues

The Sacramento Bee, the de facto house organ of state government in one-party, bright blue California, reports concerns over sky-high housing costs are prompting people to think of moving out of state.
More than half of California voters say the state’s housing affordability crisis is so bad that they’ve considered moving, and 60 percent of the electorate supports rent control, according to a new statewide poll.

Amid an unprecedented housing shortage, rents have skyrocketed and tenants have faced mass evictions, especially in desirable areas.

Of the 56 percent of voters who said they’ve considered moving, 1 in 4 said they’d relocate out of state if they did.
It's another installment in COTTonLINE's continuing series on the melt-down of a once-Golden State. It obviously saddens the DrsC, both CA natives. If rent control is imposed, the normal result is owners spend less on maintenance, furthering deterioration.

If the current trajectory continues unabated, the state will end up resembling the Matt Damon film Elysium. It pictures a future L.A. mostly looking like an unpaved squatter barrio in Ensenada or Tijuana.

Gated enclaves of the wealthy fenced off from vast slums of the poor. Eventually, the government employees who constitute the "overseer" class in this plantation economy, will perforce occupy lesser gated enclaves, the only dim reminders of a former widely-shared middle class lifestyle.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Laura Joins the First String

We mentioned the possibility a couple of days ago. Now the Associated Press says it is official: Laura Ingraham will join Fox News to host a nightly 10 p.m. show.

It is the time slot now occupied by Sean Hannity. He moves back to 9 p.m., the slot he held down for years.

The Five returns to 5 p.m. where it started, COTTonLINE wishes Laura good luck.

Emmy Emesis

Drudge Report and others are saying the Emmy btoadcast was Trump-bashing from start to finish. Meanwhile, Hollywood Reporter shares the ratings data for this latest awards show.
The Emmys are becoming a tougher sell for viewers. For another year, initial ratings for the TV awards are down — this time slipping to an all-time low.

The 8.2 overnight rating among metered market households is down another 2 percent from the previous year. That means that the final tally for the 2017 Emmys, hosted by Stephen Colbert on CBS, is on track to slip below the 11.3 million viewers (and a mere 2.8 rating among adults 18-49) that tuned in during 2016.
Cause and effect? Hollywood Reporter doesn't think so, as the ratings were also down the two previous years when Trump wasn't president. COTTonLINE is inclined to disagree with HR.

What is certainly true is that the overt leftwing politization of entertainment, and particularly of commentary by entertainers, has been going on for several years. Does anybody seriously think us "deplorables" don't resent like heck being told our beliefs are garbage or worse?

Hollywood is doing its level best to drive off half of the domestic audience, how is this smart business? I am reminded of an old proverb: when your enemy is preparing to shoot himself in the foot, don't interfere with his aim, rather offer to hold his coat.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Flight of the Snow Birds

The DrsC have migrated back to CA from WY. We made the trip actually a bit early as we have to get ready to board a nearly 2 month cruise in just over a week, leaving from San Diego. By the time we get back from the cruise, the WY Rockies will likely be too snowy to tow our RV west, so we had to come now.

We shall cruise to Australia, and then circumnavigate that island nation, before flying home on Thanksgiving Day. We'll stop at a variety of South Seas islands enroute, and I'll be Travel Blogging our trip, stay tuned.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Saturday Snickers

Steven Hayward collects cartoons, captioned photos, and other mostly political snark for a weekly column at Power Line he calls The Week in Pictures. Herewith my favorites from this week's collection.

A classic photo of George C. Scott portraying General Patton, captioned:
Mocking Hillary
I love it, 
Got help me, I do love it so.
Photo of a Barnes & Noble bookstore, Hillary's new book featured on a display table, upon which the sign says:
New This Week in
FICTION
30%
Off
List Price
Cartoon of Hillary signing copies of her new book What Happened, while the customer for whom she is signing asks:
At this point,
what difference does it make?
Photo of Bernie Sanders introducing his new socialist health plan, at a podium labeled:
Mediocre 
For ALL
Health care is a right.

Unintended Consequences

The Atlantic has an article about the low birthrate in Japan, and points to a cause that may also be very widespread throughout the developed world. Namely the decline in career-type jobs for men. Some key quotes:
In a country where men are still widely expected to be breadwinners and support families, a lack of good jobs may be creating a class of men who don’t marry and have children because they—and their potential partners—know they can’t afford to.

This may seem surprising in Japan, a country where the economy is currently humming along, and the unemployment rate is below 3 percent. But the shrinking economic opportunities stem from a larger trend that is global in nature: the rise of unsteady employment.

In a culture that places such an emphasis on men being breadwinners, this has serious implications for marriage and childbearing. Men who don’t have regular jobs are not considered desirable marriage partners.

About 30 percent of irregular workers in their early 30s are married, compared to 56 percent of full-time corporate employees.
Japanese women haven't gotten into the "having babies while single" thing we've seen in this country. Perhaps they would if their government subsidized it as ours has.

Running businesses almost entirely with temporary and part-time workers started with fast food in this country and spread to retail, food service more generally, and many other kinds of employment.

The "gig economy" takes casual employment a step farther. Meanwhile birthrates drop in developed countries, perhaps we see cause and (an unintended) effect?

Weird Bariatric Science

CTV carries an Agence France Presse story about research into using a skin patch for weight loss. The research was reported originally in a publication of the American Chemical Society. Hat tip to Lucianne.com for the link.

The researchers have a patch that causes weight loss in mice, but not one for people yet. Their approach sounds very good, as it works by turning white fat into brown fat. Brown fat burns calories instead of storing them.

Faster please ....

Friday, September 15, 2017

WaPo: Democrats Now Socialists

Political analyst Dana Milbank of The Washington Post, itself a progressive paper, lays out the current Democrat party line. He writes:
When Bernie Sanders launched his bid for the Democratic nomination, he was often asked whether he, a democratic socialist, would actually become a Democrat. Now, more than a year after he ignited a movement with his unsuccessful bid, that question is moot. The Democrats have become socialists.

This became official, more or less, Wednesday afternoon, when Sanders rolled out his socialized health-care plan, Medicare for All, and he was supported by 16 of his Senate Democratic colleagues who signed on as co-sponsors, including the party’s rising stars and potential presidential candidates in 2020: Elizabeth Warren. Cory Booker. Kamala Harris. Kirsten Gillibrand.
I hope this will prove to have been a collective suicide pact endorsed by the above 'worthies.' Single payer for everyone, if not rationed by undersupply resulting in agonizingly long wait times for appointments, would likely cost our entire Gross Domestic Product, leaving zilch for defense, social security, and public safety.

So to hold down costs you make all health care providers government employees, and end up with VA-style wretched 'care' nobody likes. Mediocrities then become doctors because the work is unpleasant and doesn't pay well. The Sovietization of U.S. medicine? Please ... not in my lifetime.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Judis Recants

We don't often cite stories appearing the The New Republic, as it leans left worse than the campanile in Pisa. Today comes an exception.

John Judis, coauthor with Ruy Teixeira of the best-selling The Emerging Democratic Majority, has recanted. Growing numbers of non-white Americans don't, he now believes, guarantee a Democratic majority after all. See his reasoning:
The U.S. census makes a critical assumption that undermines its predictions of a majority-nonwhite country. It projects that the same percentage of people who currently identify themselves as “Latino” or “Asian” will continue to claim those identities in future generations. In reality, that’s highly unlikely. History shows that as ethnic groups assimilate into American culture, they increasingly identify themselves as “white.”

Whiteness is not a genetic category, after all; it’s a social and political construct that relies on perception and prejudice. A century ago, Irish, Italians, and Jews were not seen as whites. (snip) But by the time Truman became president, all those immigrant groups were considered “white.” There’s no reason to imagine that Latinos and Asians won’t follow much the same pattern.

In fact, it’s already happening. In the 2010 Census, 53 percent of Latinos identified as “white,” as did more than half of Asian Americans of mixed parentage. In future generations, those percentages are almost certain to grow. According to a recent Pew study, more than one-quarter of Latinos and Asians marry non-Latinos and non-Asians, and that number will surely continue to climb over the generations.
Large numbers of both voted for one Donald J. Trump ... go figure.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The Red Pill

Lucianne.com links to a Fox News story about former liberals having an epiphany to become something else, perhaps a libertarian or even a conservative. Back in the day this was called "being mugged by reality" and those who experienced it were "neo-cons."

This is a new generation and perforce things need new names and titles, the current name for this phenomenon is "taking the red pill," which the article explains is a line from The Matrix films that suggests it opens one's eyes to a quite different reality. I suppose you could consider it the opposite of "woke" politically although the terms mean exactly the same thing - an ideological transformation.

Fox claims there is a whole community of 'red pill takers' online. Hey, dudes, welcome to thinking for yourself, it's habit-forming ... in a good way.

Preaching to the Choir

Don Surber is known for speaking (and writing) his mind. Here he blogs on the subject of the MSM. Hat tip to Lucianne.com for the link.
This summer, 91% of the news stories on ABC, CBS and NBC about President Trump were negative, according to a study by the Media Research Council.

His job approval went from 44% on Memorial Day to 44% on Independence Day to 43% on Labor Day, as measured by Rasmussen.

Now if I were an advertiser and saw this, I would question why I am buying ads from these Bozos.

They huffed and puffed and could not blow the man down.

ABC, CBS, and NBC are so weak that combined they could not blow a candle out.
As Surber could have written, but doesn't, the three 'legacy' networks preach to the choir. Who watches their news shows, and PBS? People who like a left-wing slant to their news.

Who doesn't watch the 'legacy' nets? Trump voters don't; they are over at Fox News catching Hannity or Baier or, it's rumored, Laura Ingraham soon.

The old big three plus one aren't going to change many minds. What they do is segment the 'progressive' viewership.

Ironically, that makes reaching 'progressive' viewers expensive while reaching the conservative/populist viewship is a bargain as it's all concentrated in one place! Rupert Murdoch is a canny dude.

Quote of the Day

Instapundit Glenn Reynolds, taking comfort where he can find it in domestic politics.
Every day Trump goes on not being President Hillary, and every day that makes me happy.
Reynolds pretty well sums up the current state of play in a handful of words, doesn't he? Note to President Trump: I'm not tired of winning yet, keep on raising hell.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Not Likable Enough

During the 2008 election, Barack Obama characterized his primary opponent - Hillary Clinton - as "likable enough." He was being insincerely polite.

Ed Driscoll guest blogs at Instapundit and quotes Australian Tim Blair who reprints a quote from Hillary Clinton's new book What Happened. She writes:
I have come to terms with the fact that a lot of people — millions and millions of people — decided they just didn’t like me. What makes me such a lightning rod for fury? I’m really asking … I’m at a loss.
Well, Hillary, for starters, you remind millions of American men of their know-it-all exwife, and millions of second wives of their husband's shrill first wife. Neither image is a winner.

Hardline Is Winner

Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight site writes that attitudes toward illegal immigration are complicated. However, they make one very clear statement:
Even though DACA is popular, Republicans would be unlikely to face a backlash among their voters — even their more centrist ones — should they refuse to pass a replacement.
Indeed, Republican members of Congress could face a backlash if they pass one — in the form of primary challenges.

In recent elections, a hardline stance on immigration has proved to be a winner in Republican primaries. It has been highly correlated with how well GOP senators have done against primary challenges — senators with more hardline positions have done better against primary challengers; those with more moderate views have done worse.
Inasmuch as winning reelection is the prime directive of politics, a hardline stance on immigration is the obvious choice.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Making Your Own Luck

I just had a snarky thought, which I had to share with you. Texas and Florida are lucky they both voted for the winner in 2016. Trump owes them and is, by all accounts, doing a good job of taking care of them in their times of need.

Suppose the disaster was a humongous earthquake in overwhelmingly Democrat California. Would CA get the same johnny-on-the-spot, what-can-we-do-to-help treatment? Possibly; but maybe he'd be paying more attention to North Korea and less to shaken, not stirred CA.

I'm just sayin'... it helps to be on the big guy's side when trouble comes down.

Asleep at the Wheel

A retired Navy captain interviewed about the recent destroyer collisions by the In Military website. His insights are worth your time. Hat tip to Instapundit for the link.
I am willing to bet that those ships involved in incidents with merchants had all their sexual orientation, transgender training, and environmental training all completed at the expense of the safety and operational training. If you put the emphasis on social issues, you get a social force. If you put it on operational issues, you get an operational force.

It has been obvious to me that SECNAV Mabus was able to transform naval leadership in a way to conform to his world view; [that he] fired or relieved those who did not conform to his views and promoted those that did. I think the top leadership is pretty rotten, although I am sure there is “good wood” in there somewhere.

The ship climate and command structures were obviously out of whack. COs don’t get to sleep in in heavy shipping waters, [that’s] just a fact.

While it might be convenient or popular to string some kind of conspiracy theory, the mistakes made were all simple things: basic ship handling, navigation and seamanship stuff. Destroyers do not get run down by merchants; they are faster and much more maneuverable. No, they were not hacked; they were not run down on purpose. They just were asleep at the wheel.
The captain wonders why people in charge haven't been courtmartialed for manslaughter, since off-watch sailors died in their bunks belowdecks.

Old Car Pix

Do you like pictures of shiny old cars, cars from your youth or before? A few days ago we attended a local car show and took some photos.

The other DrC has several posted at her Cruztalking Two website. Here's a link to them. Enjoy.

Remembering Guam

From time to time we write something about the island of Guam here at COTTonLINE. This happens as the DrsC spent a year there in the mid-80s, visited three years ago, and still have friends, fond memories, and a favorite restaurant there. The Spam fried rice at Shirley's is outstanding.

If you'd like a look at the local terrain, see a photo taken at Guam's Andersen AFB of a Bone taxiing for takeoff. The B-1B bomber is called a "bone," for reasons I hope are obvious.

The natural growth on the island, what you'd call "jungle," is called by locals "boonies." It consists of a mixture of tangan-tangan (the castor bean plant) and coconut palms. Tiny red peppers also grow wild; harvested by locals and used in finadene sauce, they're called "boonie peppers."

Back in the '80s, people would abandon a broken car with the hood up and next thing you knew a palm tree was growing up alongside the motor through the car. We called 'em "Guam planter boxes." These seem to be mostly gone now, Guam is much more upscale today.

Hat tip to Austin Bay, guest blogging at Instapundit, for the link.

Indifferent to DACA

Instapundit links to a story at The College Fix which reports on a pro-DACA rally held at San Diego State University. SDSU has a total enrollment of 34,000.
A pro-DACA protest at San Diego State University on Thursday drew roughly 35 demonstrators on a campus of some 25,000 undergrads that’s located just miles from the U.S-Mexico border.

The large campus is located 25 miles from Tijuana and the U.S.-Mexico border.
According to this website, the student body at SDSU is 31% Hispanic/Latino. That would amount to nearly 8000 Hispanic undergrads.

Does a minuscule turnout of 35 individuals, including faculty, suggest Hispanic students at SDSU do not care much about DACA?
Short answer: yes.

What's Shaking ...

Here in western Wyoming we've been experiencing a series of modest earthquakes recently. I felt one this morning at roughly 7:27 a.m. local time. They've been centered east of Soda Springs, Idaho, which is perhaps an hour's drive by road and rather less than that as the crow flies.

I suppose this could be evidence of renewed volcanism in eastern Idaho, a region known for it in times past, we'll see what happens. Drudge Report has been flagging stories about swarms of modest quakes north of here in the greater Yellowstone basin this summer.

So far no quakes have been more than a modest shaking and just a bit of noise in two cases. Nothing for people like the DrsC, who grew up in shaky California, to worry about.

A vivid memory of my adolescence was waking up to my bed pitching like a small boat in a choppy sea - slippage on the San Andreas fault if I remember correctly. We took a quick look at the house - minimal damage - and went back to sleep.

For an earthquake to get a Californian worried it needs to create real damage or hurt someone. Both have been known to happen in CA, albeit not to either of us (knock wood).

See an article about the quake swarm in Pocatello's Idaho State Journal.

Remembering 9/11

Today marks the 16th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, and the attempted attack on (we believe) the White House or Capitol foiled by brave passengers on Flight 93. We owe it to ourselves and those who died that day to neither forget nor forgive.

For most Americans 9/11 was political Islam's 'official' declaration of war against the U.S. although in truth it was nothing of the sort. 9/11 was preceded by a failed attack on the WTC, and successful strikes on the USS Cole, the Khobar Towers, and the marine barracks in Beiruit.

9/11 has been followed by attacks on an Orlando nightclub, a Christmas party in San Bernardino, a bombing at the Boston Marathon, and other violence here in the States and various shootings, knifings, and vehicle rammings in Europe as well as untold beheadings and barbarities in Syria, Yemen, Libya, and beyond.

While no declaration of war, 9/11 was a major event in the Long War, a generational slow, grinding conflict between, as Samuel Huntington observed, "civilizations." Frankly, Huntington was being pedantic for politiical Islam is the antithesis of "civilized," and richly deserves extermination.

Instapundit Glenn Reynolds writes of 9/11:
One thing I guess I didn’t believe 16 years ago is that America would elect such a feckless President in 2008, and stand idly by while he flushed our global position, and security, down a left-wing toilet. But we did, and we’ll be paying the price for a long time. God bless America. We need it.
Amen, brother.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Saturday Snickers, a Day Late

Yesterday was busy, so the Saturday Snickers are being posted today. Steven Hayward collects (and lightly curates) cartoons, captioned photos, and generalized snark for a weekly posting at Power Line. My favorites described:

Photo of a great white shark, captioned:
In an effort not to offend
The great white shark will be
officially renamed the
"average caucasian shark"
Cartoon of the Devil looking in his closet, sees two outfits hanging there - one a KKK hood and sheet, the other an antifa black hoodie and mask. The thought balloon has him thinking:
Hmm ... What to wear today?
Cartoon of an adult marking a child's vertical measurement on the door jamb, in this case the adult is Uncle Sam, the child is former President Obama and the marks labeled "Barry's Legacy Chart" are getting closer and closer to the floor. Meanwhile Uncle Sam muses:
Pretty soon it will be as if
... you never existed.
Photo of the dust jacket of Hillary Clinton's new book, entitled "What Happened" and author is "Hillary Rodham Clinton." The photo is captioned:
The first book to have
both the question and
the answer on the
cover.
One of my favorite parables is of a scorpion stinging a frog which is ferrying it across a body of water. In this cartoon version the scorpion is labeled "Trump" and the frog is labeled "Republicans/conservatives."

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Jerry Pournelle, R.I.P.

Science fiction author Jerry Pournelle died yesterday, at age 84. Jerry wrote and anthologized military-themed science fiction. His most well-known collaboration was with Larry Niven.

Over the years I read a bunch of Jerry's work, and enjoyed it. His politics were somewhat like my own. He will be missed. Hat tip to Instapundit for reposting Jerry's last blog.

Later ... Sci fi author Sarah Hoyt, who interacted with Pournelle over a period of years, has written a longer, more nuanced fond remembrance you might enjoy.

Later still ... Instapundit Glenn Reynolds weighs in with a solid obit placing Pournelle in a historical context, for USA Today.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Flood Insurance Blues

USA Today editorializes that federal flood insurance should reflect the actual risks implicit in a particular property and its location. It now does not and they are of course correct -- it should.

The flood insurance program presently sets rates too low to cover payouts, and yet most people in flood-prone areas don't buy the insurance when it is a bargain! I'd like to see a requirement for homes in flood-prone regions to carry flood insurance, although I know it'd be unpopular and would likely impact the poor disproportionally.

It is possible to build in flood-prone areas and be safe. I know of examples in the delta area of central California, between Stockton and Sacramento. Some are built on mounds created for that purpose, putting the house perhaps 10-12 feet above the surrounding terrain.

Other delta homes are built at ground level but the ground floor is an all-concrete garage, atop which the house itself sits. I've seen this design along the gulf coast in Mississippi, too. And one can build on pilings with the area underneath a carport.

Yes, this makes building more expensive, perhaps pricing homes out of reach of regular Joes and Jills. We do need to discourage building in flood plains and where storm surges will destroy homes.

Do we have the political will to make people who buy or build in flood-prone areas sign a statement that they understand the risks, accept them, and will not demand government aid beyond a flood insurance payout if flooded? Probably not, worse luck. And there is the "grandfathered" problem of all those hundreds of thousands already so located before whatever action is taken.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Weird Photometric Science

The Guardian (U.K.) reports research done at Stanford and published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. It found that an artificial intelligence program could identify individuals' sexual orientation - gay or straight - from a photograph.
A computer algorithm could correctly distinguish between gay and straight men 81% of the time, and 74% for women – has raised questions about the biological origins of sexual orientation, the ethics of facial-detection technology and the potential for this kind of software to violate people’s privacy or be abused for anti-LGBT purposes.

Human judges performed much worse than the algorithm, accurately identifying orientation only 61% of the time for men and 54% for women. When the software reviewed five images per person, it was even more successful – 91% of the time with men and 83% with women.
The researchers studied 35,000 images posted on a U.S. dating site, certainly a decent sized sample. Hat tip to Drudge Report for the link.

Musing About Self-Driving Autos

There is a lot of talk about self-driving cars, under development at various firms. As a sort of thought experiment, let's consider some ramifications of self-driving cars.

I can imagine self-driving cars damaging the airline and rental car businesses. Instead of flying to another city and renting a car, the busy executive might just program in his destination on the other end, crawl in the back and pop off to sleep, or get out the laptop and get some work done. On the other end his or her car is there to use without the hassle of renting.

Adding to the attraction of this scenario is the dramatic increase in people licensed to concealed carry a firearm. They could take their trusty 9 mm along in the car but not on a plane.

Self-driving cars should, I believe, also be drivable by a human driver. There are times when driving is downright therapeutic, when we seek to explore and don't have an a priori destination in mind.

If people sleep in their self-driving cars, anti-hacking security will be a serious issue. I can imagine someone seeing a car with no one awake therein and somehow hacking the destination to send it to a place the car can be chopped and the driver held for ransom.

Self-driving cars will be a boon to elderly individuals who maintain separate residences but no longer drive. They can make the run to the grocery or the doctors office, or across town to see the kids and grandkids. Such cars will need a roster of "frequently visited locations" similar to the "favorites" section on your smart phone, as well as a way to key in an unfamiliar destination.

I'm imagining executives who work in city centers having their self-driving car take them to work and return home empty. Then, at a phone signal, returning to pickup the exec for the ride home. Two round trips per day could be cheaper than paying for city center parking.

We wisecrack that the typical vehicle has only a driver, in the future many may contain no one at all. Perhaps people will send their car to pickup takeout food, or drop off the cleaning, without going themselves, like sending the dog to fetch the newspaper.

If a self-driving car runs into someone and injures them, who or what is responsible? Is the company which created the self-driving feature responsible? Is the owner, who has no idea how to fix or maintain that feature responsible because he owns the vehicle? Do they share responsibility? The liability issues will be thorny ones.

Rome vs. the Democrats

It begins to seem that the Democrats have written off the Roman Catholic vote. Blogging at Power Line, Scott Johnson reports on the Senate confirmation hearings for Trump judicial appointee to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Article VI of the Constitution prohibits a religious test for public office. So what was Senator Dick Durbin doing asking Notre Dame Law Professor Amy Coney Barrett — one of President Trump’s nominees to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals — “Do you consider yourself an orthodox Catholic?” How is it that Senator Dianne Feinstein thought it could be proper to observe of Professor Barrett: “When you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you, and that’s of concern.”
You know the issue, of course ... abortion. The Church considers it murder, all Democrats are required to support it.

The senators are concerned Barrett may not follow the Roe v. Wade precedent whole-heartedly. I hope Democrats keep beating up on Catholics, making defeating Trump in 2020 even harder.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Pulling Own Teeth in U.K.

From the BBC comes a report of the deplorable state of dentistry in the United Kingdom. Dentistry is supposedly covered by the National Health Service or NHS. More and more dentists in the U.K. are opting out, taking cash patients only; Power Line covers the story.

For those who can't afford it, the result is rotten teeth. Before you let someone tell you our government should provide all health care and dentistry, remember what a sterling job the Veterans Administration has done. It's been a pathetic shame but all too typical of government medicine.

Team-Building by Twitter

Writing for Politico, Abramowitz and Webster note the increasing bitterness of the political divide in the U.S. We increasingly hate the opposition much more than we love our own party. They observe of Trump, with tongue only partially in cheek:
What looks like an unhealthy Twitter obsession over “Crooked Hillary” and her emails is more likely a team-building exercise—a shrewd effort to keep his party focused on their shared enemy: Democrats. And so far, it’s working for him.
His beating up on Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell is also team-building, both are nearly as unpopular among Republicans as Hillary Clinton. Both represent what Trump voters voted against in the primaries.

Buoyant Republicans

The Wall Street Journal reports the results of a poll looking at political polarization. As you might guess, it is more extreme than previously, but is far from recent. It dates back to Bill Clinton. My favorite quote from the piece:
Mr. Trump’s election has brought a sharp mood swing among Republicans. In August 2014, 88% of Republicans said they weren’t confident that life for their children’s generation would be better than their own, a gloomy view of a central element of the American dream. Eight months into the Trump presidency, just 46% of Republicans say they lack confidence in their children’s future—a 42-point swing that is more dramatic than improvements in the economy would seem to justify.
No kidding. Making America Great Again was always about more than improving the economy. It was about ending our Europe-lite policy thrust, a refusal to settle for mediocre half-measures, the dewussification of our foreign and domestic policy.

The image raised at COTTonLINE is this: under Obama the U.S. was like Gulliver, a giant tied down by Lilliputian threads. Under Trump, the giant is breaking free of those restraints. The Lilliputian Democrats are aghast while Republicans, who root for the giant, are elated and buoyant.

Go for it, giant! Grow America! Be great again!

An Epic Techno-Failure

The other DrC and I, accompanied by friend Ed, had a weird and fascinating experience yesterday with the navigation feature of an iPhone and Siri. We were in Idaho Falls and needed to get directions to the relatively new Camping World which we knew was generally in the west end of town, as were we.

The other DrC looked it up on, I believe Yelp and got a street address, she then sought directions. Siri blithely directed us to take this turn and that ending up on what amounted to an access road just east of I-15, where 'she' instructed us to park and walk from there.

Looking across I-15 we could plainly see Camping World on the west side of I-15, and there was no overpass so walking, while theoretically possible, was in fact insanely unsafe and would have required climbing fences and j-walking both sides of a divided Interstate.

We hooted, giggled, turned off the navigation feature, made a u-turn, and drove on till we found an overpass which we crossed and got to the store west of the freeway. And Camping World had the particular RV product we sought, as expected.

That's the second time we've had a navigation feature lead us badly astray. Another time one directed us, towing the RV, up a rural road which became a gravel road which turned into two ruts in the grass. Luckily we found a place we could negotiate a 3-point turn, backing into a ranch driveway, and got back out of there. Again, we turned off the nav. feature, got out the AAA maps, and navigated ourselves northward from West Yellowstone toward Helena.

Most of the time navigation features are a great thing, but it is possible to have bizarre experiences with them. We had one yesterday.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

A Fascinating Factoid

Writing at City Journal, Rafael Mangual cites the following crime statistic:
Downplaying the recent uptick in the homicide rate distracts from the fact that there is more than one America when it comes to violent crime: indeed, 51 percent of all U.S. murders are committed in just 2 percent of the nation’s counties, according to the Crime Prevention Research Center.
Mangual's point is that cities aren't uniformly homicidal across their entire territories, the murder is concentrated in poor, mostly minority neighborhoods. What strikes me is that this is nothing new.

Before he married, my father was among other things an investigator for the Los Angeles city prosecutor. Decades later he told me something I found hard to believe as a youngster, and completely understand as a too-senior adult.

He said in the poor sections of LA there was approximately a murder a day, and most of these never made the pages of the major LA papers, at that point the Times and the Examiner. Since we had until quite recently lived in a middle class LA neighborhood and saw no violence, I found it hard to credit at the time.

Now I know he was correct; he was describing what happened in the 1920s and 30s. Can you imagine those poor neighborhoods are less lethal today? In fact they're much worse, notably in Chicago.

Monday, September 4, 2017

The 21st Century Labor Movement

Labor Day is a good time to reflect on the state of unions in the United States. Relatively few workers in private industry and commerce are today unionized. The main locus of American unionized workers is among public employees, including K-12 teachers.

Public employees have found unions to be particularly useful in generating leverage for richer salaries and pensions, and more protected working conditions. And public jobs, unlike private ones, generally cannot be moved to jurisdictions where conditions are less favorable to unions. The latter are typically right-to-work states.

Public workers are one of two major sources of financial support for Democrats running for office. The other source being those wealthy who feel their wealth was unearned or who rely on illegal immigrants for labor.

Public workers have the often-excessive protections that civil service regulations provide, as well as a major political party in their debt. In high tax states like California and New York, where the public unions' Democrat allies dominate state and local governments, public jobs are the best lower and mid-level jobs around. In low tax red states like Texas, not so much.

Whether or not unions are relevant to your life, have a great Labor Day.

A Sign of the Times

BBC News reports on the state of organized religion in the United Kingdom. Hat tip to Drudge Report for the link.
Last year 53% of people described themselves as having "no religion", in a survey of 2,942 adults by the National Centre for Social Research.

Among those aged between 18 and 25, the proportion was higher at 71%.

The most dramatic reduction has been amongst those who identify as Anglican. Some 15% of people in Britain considered themselves Anglican in 2016, half the proportion who said this in 2000, according to the survey.

Those identifying as Catholic has remained stable - at around one in 10 - over the past 30 years, while one in 20 people identify with non-Christian religions.
Given the Church of England (aka "Anglican") is the state religion of the U.K., it isn't exactly an overwhelming favourite (British spelling intentional).

Developed countries all over the world are moving away from organized religion. It is happening here in the U.S. too, albeit more slowly.

Antifa = Domestic Terror

Well, imagine that. Politico reports the Department of Homeland Security has formally designated the left-wing violent group "antifa" as "domestic terrorists."

It appears President Trump was absolutely correct in labeling their activities in Charlottesville the equivalent of what the weirdos on the right were doing. Of course, antifa has also been active in Berkeley, Portland, and Boston.

Somewhere the ghosts of Chairman Mao and "Red" Rosa Luxemburg have enjoyed the antifa direct action. Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn undoubtedly recognize antifa as a worthy successor to their Weather Underground.

It is to be hoped the somewhat discredited FBI is infiltrating antifa, marking its leaders for prosecution.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

No New Thing

The American Greatness website has a column which documents Donald J.Trump was thinking about running for president some 30 years ago! He then ran ads in NYT and WaPo complaining about other nations free-riding on our defense budget and their unfair trade practices. He also visited New Hampshire to make an arguably political speech.

It's odd, but perhaps understandable that nobody at these papers remembered and wrote the story themselves. What strikes me is the consistency of his positions, he's still riding the same hobby horses 30 years later.

Bully for him, as TR would say. Those "ponies" need riding. Hat tip to Lucianne.com for the link.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Saturday Snickers

Again, Steven Hayward has posted the week's gleanings of political cartoons, captioned photos, posters, and general snark. Power Line is where they appear. Herewith my favorites described:

Cartoon of flooded home in Houston, family perched on roof ridge in rain. Approached by small boat with rescuers labeled "MSM News." Rescuer says:
Quick! Grab onto this poll of how you think the hurricane will hurt Trump's re-election chances!
Poster showing Sheriff Joe Arpaio and below it the five mug shots of bearded terrorists once held in Guantanamo prison. The caption:
Trump was called a
traitor this weekend
for a pardon of
Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
You'd think he had
released the top five
Taliban commanders
or something.
Photo of Rachel Madow smiling at the camera with voice balloon in which she says:
And remember, folks.
It doesn't matter what
Trump actually said.
All that matters is what
we tell you he meant.
Photo of white man carrying a black woman through knee-high flood water, captioned:
MSM Reports:
"White Supremicists"
are stealing black people.
Photoshopped© poster for the film Rogue One, a Star Wars Story. Photos of stars replaced with photos of Trump, Hannity, Ann Coulter, Julian Assange, Steve Bannon, Milo Yiannopolis, etc. The new title:
Rogue Won, a Culture Wars Story
Photo of a guy wearing a ghost costume sheet with guitar hanging across front. He holds a glass of whiskey in one hand and a laurel wreath in the other. Captioned by a conservative Catholiic:
This year's most terrifying Halloween costume:
The Spirit of Vatican II. 
Photo of Al Sharpton in a drugstore aisle holding up a bottle of aspirin. He speaks:
There's cotton in my aspirin.
This is racist.
Photo of a presenter at an academic meeting with Power Point© onscreeen which says:
The amount of energy needed to refute bullshit
is an order of magnitude greater than that
required to produce it.  

Why Kids Are Snowflakes

Power Line links to an interview of social psychologist Jonathan Haidt done for the Spiked website. Haidt's topic is the fragility of today's college students, or at least a highly visible subset thereof. Bottom line: it worries him.
I’m very concerned about a phenomenon called “concept creep” – which has been happening to a lot of psychological terms since the 1990s. When a word like “violence” is allowed to creep so that it includes a lot of things that are not violence, then this causes a cascade of bad effects.

It’s bad for the students themselves because they now perceive an idea that they dislike, or a speaker that they dislike, as having committed a much graver offence against themselves – which means that they will perceive more victimisation of themselves.

It’s also really bad for society because, as we are seeing in a spectacular way in the United States this year, when each side can point to rampant occurrences of what they see as violence by the other side, this then justifies acts of actual physical violence on their side.

The political problems are mostly confined to elite schools where people live together for four years. (snip) So the problems are localized, especially in intense communities that co-create a particular moral order.
As to why this is happening, Haidt believes:
Kids need conflict, insult, exclusion – they need to experience these things thousands of times when they’re young in order to develop into psychologically mature adults. Every adult has to learn to handle these things and not get upset, especially by minor instances.

In the name of protecting our children we have deprived them of the unsupervised time they need to learn how to navigate conflict among themselves. That is one of the main reasons why kids and even college students today find words, ideas and social situations more intolerable than those same words, ideas and situations would have been for previous generations of students.
Is Haidt correct? I am uncertain, however I come from one of the "free-range" generations who spent much of our childhood out from under adult supervision. Sometimes it was brutal but we survived it and were toughened thereby.