Saturday, December 30, 2006

Demographic Insights

Michael Barone is one of the best students of the political process in the United States. He writes in a recent post about current demographic shifts in the U.S. In summary, the South and West are gaining at the expense of the East and Mid-West. He concludes that this internal migration will benefit Republicans, to some degree.

However, the largest amount of out migration experienced by any state is in California. California loses about a quarter of a million people per year as people move to other states with lower tax rates and better job opportunities. This was particularly interesting to me as the other DrC and I are examples of that out migration, having left California for Wyoming several years ago. Moving from the nation's most populous state to its least populous state was quite a change.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Peggy Noonan on Gerald Ford

Former presidential speechwriter Peggy Noonan does a weekly column for the Wall Street Journal online Opinion Journal. She writes about politics, about current events, and sometimes about the Roman Catholic Church. Some of her columns are merely okay, but when she is on her game, she is one of the best in Washington. Her column today about late President Gerald R. Ford is one of the good ones, give it a look.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

An Interesting Proposal for Iraq

Former New York mayor Ed Koch has written a very interesting column about the situation in Iraq and what the U.S. should do about it. Go take a look....

The Passing of a President

It is reported that our former President Gerald Ford has died in his Rancho Mirage home at the age of 93, after a long illness. Unique as the only unelected U.S.President, Vice President Ford was sworn in when President Richard Nixon resigned early in his second term. Nixon had appointed Ford when the elected Vice President, Spiro Agnew, resigned in disgrace. Ford served out the balance of Nixon's term and ran, unsuccessfully, for a full term, losing narrowly to Jimmy Carter.

So much for the dry facts. Gerald Ford was, by all accounts, a thoroughly decent man, or as decent as a politician can be while getting reelected repeatedly. I remember him as a President who used the veto freely. His greatest accomplishment was to begin to bring respect back to the office of President. This process languished under President Carter and was completed under President Ronald Reagan.

His most famous act was pardoning former President Nixon for any wrongful acts arising out of the Watergate scandal. I remember being very disappointed that Nixon didn't have to stand trial; a feeling like having tickets to a concert which is cancelled. A Nixon trial would have been a grand spectacle, very entertaining. Hindsight suggests that Ford did the right thing, although it was unpopular at the time.

Rest in peace, Gerald R. Ford, 38th President of the United States of America.

Monday, December 25, 2006

A Counterintuitive Finding

I love it when social science comes up with findings that are not what you expect. In my field, Management, probably the best example is that happier workers are not automatically more productive workers. Seriously.

Here is another fine example of counterintuitive findings. Arthur C. Brooks has written a new book entitled Who Really Cares (Basic, 250 pages, $26). A good review of the book by Wilfred M. McClay appears in the Wall Street Journal of December 22, 2006, on page W6.

The essence of the research reported in the book is that liberals give less to charity than do conservatives, blue states give less than red states, and the unchurched give less than regular church goers. These are clearly not the outcomes that author Brooks expected, nor what the conventional wisdom would predict.

Merry Christmas to one and all....

Favorite Links

I have just posted some favorite links for your perusal. Most of my links concern domestic politics, with a conservative slant. There are others which reflect my interest in geopolitics.

If you haven't visited the CIA Fact Book, check out their information for a couple of countries that interest you. My sense is that most of their information is accurate, if not terribly secret.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Political Musings

I have been musing about the shortcomings of the two party political system in the U.S. I believe I am sometimes as irritated by my own Republican Party as I am by the other, Democrat Party. I do get tired of voting for the lesser of two evils.

Our two party system gives me three choices I don’t like: throw away my vote on a hopeless third party, stay home, or share a party with people whose values I don’t much like or support. In order to rope in enough people to win elections, our two major parties bridge many major internal contradictions.

I am a Republican because I believe the most important things the federal government does are defend our nation and culture from internal and external enemies, stay off our backs, and referee our market economy. These GOP planks and others in favor of lower taxes and smaller government work for me. For these reasons I vote Republican most of the time.

My party, however takes other positions I don’t like. Unlike my President, I support abortion on demand, stem cell research, sex ed that starts with contraception, and a serious defense of our borders against illegal immigration. And I favor a strict separation of church and state. So I vote Republican in spite of my views on these issues, which are more in line with the Democrat platform.

My party is hostage to the socially conservative Christians on the one hand and to business interests which crave cheap illegal immigrant labor on the other hand. The other party is “owned” by a variety of groups which view themselves as victims entitled to handouts. The Dems are also beholden to the teacher and public employee unions. All of this pandering is tiresome. Maybe it pushes people to become no-party Independents or non-voters?

I wish there was a party that believed in strong defense, was tough on crime including illegal immigration and white collar crime, was stingy with my tax money, had active space and research programs, left abortion decisions to women, and defended the separation of church and state. It should oppose the existence of public employee unions and should understand that giving people who are able to work things (money, jobs, college admissions) which they have not earned will destroy them.

And yes, I do understand that a multiparty system like those in Italy or Israel makes the same compromises. You are, however, more likely to be able to find a party whose beliefs agree with your own while tolerating more governmental instability as a cost.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Political Humor, Right Wing Variety

I don't know the original source of this story, I got it as an email attachment. A Google search shows it has appeared in many places on the web. I include it here for your enjoyment.

Subject: Democrats & Republicans

A young woman was about to finish her first year of college. Like so many others her age, she considered herself to be a very liberal Democrat, and was very much in favor of the redistribution of wealth. She was deeply ashamed that her father was a rather staunch Republican, a feeling she openly expressed.

Based on the lectures that she had participated in, and the occasional chat with a professor, she felt that her father had for years harbored an evil, selfish desire to keep what he thought should be his. One day she was challenging her father on his opposition to higher taxes on the rich and the addition of more government welfare programs.

The self-professed objectivity proclaimed by her professors had to be the truth and she indicated so to her father. He responded by asking how she was doing in school. Taken aback, she answered rather haughtily that she had a 4.0 GPA, and let him know that it was tough to maintain, insisting that she was taking a very difficult course load and was constantly studying, which left her no time to go out and party like other people she knew. She didn't even have time for a boyfriend, and didn't really have many college friends because she spent all her time studying.

Her father listened and then asked, "How is your friend Audrey doing?" She replied, "Audrey is barely getting by. All she takes are easy classes, she never studies, and she barely has a 2.0 GPA. She is so popular on campus, college for her is a blast. She's always invited to all the parties, and lots of times she doesn't even show up for classes because she's too hung over."

Her wise father asked his daughter, "Why don't you go to the Dean's office and ask him to deduct a 1.0 off your GPA and give it to your friend who only has a 2.0. That way you will both have a 3.0 GPA and certainly that would be a fair and equal distribution of GPA."

The daughter, visibly shocked by her father's suggestion, angrily fired back, "That wouldn't be fair! I have worked really hard for my grades! I've invested a lot of time, and a lot of hard work! Audrey has done next to nothing toward her degree. She played while I worked my tail off!"

The father slowly smiled, winked and said gently, "Welcome to the Republican Party."

An Insightful Article

I just read an insightful article on the increasing polarization in U.S. politics. It is written by Matthew Continetti in The Weekly Standard, available online, and entitled "The Peace Party vs. the Power Party."

Profiling is Practical

Profiling has become a dirty word in law enforcement. I believe this is another example of political correctness run amok.

When I was a teenager, I feared the police, the highway patrol, deputy sheriffs, etc. Why? Because it was obvious they were paying extra close attention to people like me. Why did they do this to me, a nerdy white kid? Because law enforcement folks knew that a disproportionate amount of law breaking is done by teenagers. They knew youngsters like me often caused problems. In a word, the police were profiling.

Being practical folks, the police pay more attention to members of groups whose members are more likely to commit crimes. This is entirely logical behavior. Let me demonstrate.

If you see a hornet, wasp or bumble bee buzzing around you, you are likely to become worried. On the other hand, a butterfly would not arouse the same reaction. Why? You are profiling, of course. In general, the former are dangerous and the latter is not.

When I see the Transportation Safety Administration folks at an airport giving the third degree to some little white-haired grandmother, I think “how silly have we become?” Almost all of the terrorist acts committed in recent years have been the work of young, Islamic men. Is it unreasonable to pay additional attention to such individuals who wish to fly? I think not.

Welcome Aboard

A View of Iraq

There is a phenomenon that has been repeated several times in recent world history: countries that were assembled by force and made up of regions with populations that differ in religion, ethnicity, language group, race, etc. The former Soviet Union was one such, Yugoslavia was yet another. These nations were held together by quite ruthless leaders who tolerated no sectarian violence, no fighting between ethnic groups. Their efficient secret police would arrest or kill those who caused trouble. Iraq under Saddam was such a country.

When these nations lost their autocratic systems, long-suppressed ethnic tensions broke out quickly. The inertia of decades of nationhood was insufficient to hold together their quarreling parts. The Soviet Union simply fell apart, as did Yugoslavia. We see Iraq doing the same today.

Saddam’s secret police and military would tolerate no private militias or fighting between groups. Their attacks on the Kurds in the north and the Shia in the south were enough to maintain the Baathist Sunni dominance. They killed tens of thousands of their own citizens in pursuit of this end. They did, however, maintain civil peace.

Now the United States and Britain, with some help from allies, are trying to recreate the conditions for civil peace in Iraq. They are unlikely to succeed because they are unwilling to terrorize the various populations into submission, as Saddam did.

Iraq presents conditions almost ideally suited for our failure. It is argued, by Joe Biden and others, that since Iraq apparently cannot function as a nation, it should be divided into three parts. There are, however, two major reasons why this cannot work. First, virtually all of the oil is produced in the non-Sunni parts of the country. If Iraq split up, the Sunnis would be without income. Second, the Turks reject an independent Kurdish entity on their border.

The Kurds of northern Iraq are Sunnis but not Arabs. They constitute a part of the Kurdish region that overlaps eastern Turkey, northern Iraq, and northern Iran. They would like to form Kurdistan, a nation of Kurds. This is something that Turkey cannot tolerate. An independent Kurdish state on Turkey’s border would provide support and arms to Kurdish separatists in Turkey. Iran would not be pleased with Kurdish unrest in their northern regions either.

The Sunnis of central Iraq, Bagdad and Anbar Province, are the former rulers of Iraq and do not relish minority status. Across most of the Arab world, Sunnis apparently view the Shia the way U.S. Episcopalians view snake-handling fundamentalist Christians. That is, as sort of primitive, half-crazy low-lifes whose existence can be tolerated in menial positions but whose dominance in public life would be unthinkable.

Needless to say, the Shia majority in Iraq doesn’t share this view of their station in life. Encouraged by Iran next door, the Iraqi Shia want to run Iraq. If one-man-one-vote means anything, they probably will do so eventually.

Under these conditions, it isn’t clear that a democratic Iraq can function successfully. A betting person would bet against that outcome.

Friday, December 22, 2006


Watch this space....CottONline is coming