Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Slipping Mask

Paul Mirengoff, one of the three bloggers at Power Line, posts an interesting piece of analysis about the impact of the race issue in this presidential contest. He invokes the work of Shelby Steele who has written well-regarded books about race relations in the U.S. He says:
It seems clear, therefore, that the race card has become a permanent part of Obama's hand, a wild card to be played whenever the spirit, or the circumstances, so moves him.

The reasoning is too involved to summarize tidily here; you need to check out the posting.

Gallup: Obama, McCain Tied

Today's Gallup tracking poll shows Obama with 45%, McCain with 44%. This is within the margin of error and essentially a tie. Go look at the trend lines over the last four days. Obama cannot be pleased with their direction. Gallup concludes:
The story of the election through the summer months has been a close race that simply does not seem to want to change.

To be sure of winning, Obama has to be about 10% above McCain, because of the Bradley Effect. He hasn't been able to pull above 50% at any point recently, perhaps not ever.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Quote of the Day

Arthur C. Brooks, writing in The Wall Street Journal,
If you're not grateful to live in America, you're not paying attention.

Now there is a bumper sticker I could happily display.

Fewer Illegals

This New York Times article reports the findings of a study by the Center for Immigration Studies. The Center believes that the number of illegal immigrants in the U.S. has dropped by about 1.3 million or roughly 11% in the last year.

The Center attributes the decline to increased enforcement by immigration authorities. Enforcement actions by state and local governments probably have helped too.

Other experts attribute most of the decline to the economic downturn, particularly in the housing industry which employed many illegals as construction laborers. A similar downturn in the travel industry has reduced employment for hotel maids, busboys, and the like.

It is logical to expect the combination of fewer job opportunities and more ICE raids to have a negative effect on illegal immigration. The exact magnitude of the decline is less clear, and I expect their numbers are estimates.

Way to Go, CA

California experienced a relatively strong earthquake yesterday with the epicenter in a populated area. Apparently there were no serious injuries and no serious property damage. Bravo, CA.

When you read about the terrible outcomes earthquakes cause in China or Turkey, you have to wonder why these countries, which know they are earthquake-prone, don't have better building codes? Maybe the Turks are willing to place their fate in Allah's hands, but giving him a little help isn't being disrespectful, rather it is using the smarts he gave you. The Chinese, as official atheists, don't even have this excuse.

Iranian Rock, Israeli Hard Place Nearing

This article from ABC News has Barack Obama saying that, if sanctions don't work, he believes Israel is going to strike Iran. The way he phrased this, it sounds like it was told to him "on background" by Israeli officials.

This article from Reuters has an Israeli Cabinet Minister saying the sanctions against Iran are failing to stop nuclear weapon development, making an Israeli attack "unavoidable."

Two things are going on here: first, Israel is trying to jawbone or bluff Iran into accepting the European "deal" to accepts the carrots of aid and avoid the sticks of sanctions without having to attack. Second, if the jawboning doesn't work, Israel is getting the world ready for the attack that is to come.

Of course Iran knows part one, and doesn't want to give in. What is unclear is whether Iran believes part two as they should. Israel has a real track record of destroying nuclear facilities in their neighborhood.

Do you remember the doomsday device mentioned at the end of the film Dr. Strangelove? What if Iran has a nuke set to go off if the Israelis attack? Would the world believe it was Iranian or believe the Israelis used one or more of their nukes on Iran? If the latter, would the world eradicate Israel?

Perhaps what would actually happen is less critical than what the Iranian leadership, always more emotional than logical, believes would happen. We live in interesting times....

...This Lousy T-Shirt

You can almost hear the voters saying "Obama went to Afghanistan, Iraq, and Europe and all I got was this lousy T-shirt." Check out this Rasmussen Report, the title of which says it all:
Obama trip: No Gain for the Democrat, No Pain for McCain.

Rasmussen finds that essentially equal numbers of voters see the trip as a negative (23%) or as a positive (24%). Over half (52%) think it meant nothing.

With the entire mainstream media, including all three network anchors, following Obama like adoring disciples and reporting his every step, this has to be a tremendous let-down for him. Imagine going half way around the world, meeting all sorts of leaders, and three-quarters of the voters see it as either irrelevant or negative.

That's ugly...that's the 2008 election cycle in microcosm...everybody gets humbled.

Monday, July 28, 2008

A Really Inconvenient Truth

Check out this article which reports substantially more ice north of the Svalbard archipelago than is typical at this time of year - the Arctic summer. This unusual condition is reported by the Norwegian Meteorological Institute. They report ships getting stuck in the unexpected ice.

It is hard to understand how this squares with global warming, maybe with global cooling?

100 Days and Counting....

One hundred days before the November election and the polls could not be less clear. We have results that go in either direction; in these circumstances you pick the results you like and believe those. Or, as carnival barkers once said, "You pays your money and takes your choice."

Here is a sampling for your perusal. This poll says McCain is ahead among "likely voters" by 4%. This one says Obama is ahead among "registered voters" by 9%. And Rasmussen says Obama leads McCain by 3% among "likely voters."

Robert Novak, the black-suit-wearing "Prince of Darkness," says in The Washington Post that Obama should be much farther ahead of McCain than he is. Novak reports:
These numbers have prompted speculation among Republican political practitioners that McCain can back into the presidency, just as he backed into his party's nomination.

What is the politics aficionado to make of this? Possibly that the Bradley Effect, sometimes also known as the Wilder Effect, is in play. Polls may be less reliable during this political season because Obama is, literally, African-American.

My hunch is that only Clinton's supporters have changed their minds about who they will vote for in the last 60 days. How many of those will switch parties is a real question. Have a few "undecideds" made up their minds? Possibly.

We live in interesting times....

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Mamma Mia, the Movie

The other DrC and I saw the film Mamma Mia this afternoon. Several years ago we saw the stage version in Las Vegas. Both were entirely worth watching, although quite different experiences.

The stage version uses a quite limited set and props, requiring imagination on the part of the audience. We found this requirement not to be a detriment, but an advantage. The artificiality of the musical theater experience is less confrontational in a live theater setting. Folks in costume down on the stage bursting into song seem less "wrong" than when that same action happens on screen.

The film, on the other hand, was set on something that sure looked like a Greek island - very craggy and beautiful. The inn the mother runs is the real, dilapidated article, not just a piece of modern sculpture you are asked to imagine is an inn. The film's cast is larger than the stage version, with many picturesque locals adding verisimilitude.

Oddly, the realism of the film is pretty but it makes the "bursting into song in inappropriate settings" which typifies the musical genre more difficult to wrap your mind around. I wonder if this isn't what killed the movie musical, while its stage relative survives?

Saturday, July 26, 2008

No Bounce

Barack Obama went to Iraq, Afghanistan, and made three stops in Europe. He was apparently wildly popular in Europe, if not in the war zones. Nevertheless, tracking polls here in the U.S. seem to show that he got little or no boost from this trip. Perhaps he has found, among the Europeans, his natural constituency. It is too bad they can't vote for him.

This sort of odd mismatch happens with some frequency. Anwar Sadat was more popular in the U.S. than in Egypt. Gorbachev was more popular in the West than in Russia. Tony Blair was better liked in the U.S. than at home in the U.K. Most Americans would gladly give the rest of the world custody of Jimmy Carter. Europeans could never understand why Bill Clinton lost Americans' respect. And poor George W. Bush is better loved in Africa than in the U.S.

Anyone for "No prophet is accepted in his own country?" Go figure....

Missing the Point

Here is an article in American Thinker, a media outlet sympathetic to Rush Limbaugh, that tries to explain his success. Much of what the article says is true, for example Rush is a heck of an entertainer and he is knowledgeable about his main subject: domestic politics. What the article says is true but it misses the main point.

The main reason Rush (and Sean Hannity, Michael Savage, Laura Ingraham, etc.) are successful on talk radio is that they provide something not generally available in the mainstream media - conservative thought and advocacy. Its very lack of availability in the MSM creates a market for their wares.

Attempts to produce liberal talk radio have failed dismally (c.f., Air America). Liberal talk radio fulfills no need since the MSM, plus PBS and NPR, have the lefthand part of the political spectrum covered already, leaving no demand for additional product in most markets.

If there were such demand, radio would be delivering that left-leaning product and reaping the advertising dollars that follow listeners. In fact, liberal talk radio does exist in a few limited markets like San Francisco and some ethnic stations.

Twisting the Tiger's Tail

This article from the London Times Online reports an internal Islamic militant group has declared jihad against China and the Summer Olympics. This could prove to be an unwise move on their part.

Unlike the U.S., China isn't particularly constrained by civilized norms of treating your enemies nicely. An unelected government, China might respond by making Islam illegal for all citizens of China and imposing the death penalty for violators.

I don't think anybody knows for sure how many inconvenient folks Chairman Mao had killed in the process of perfecting his "peoples' paradise" - that number is surely in the hundreds of thousands at a minimum. Based on their careful study of China's long history, internal unrest is the one thing the Chinese leadership fears, and won't tolerate. Don't be surprised if China declares, or practices without declaring, the functional equivalent of jihad against Islam.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Quote of the Day

The Washington Post reports the last words of Christopher S. Emmett, convicted murderer, on the way to a lethal injection:
Y'all hurry this along; I'm dying to get out of here.

Global Cooling, Revisited

This article from the Anchorage Daily News tells us that Anchorage is "on pace" to have the coldest summer on record. They consider any day that goes above 65 degrees as "warm." So far they've had the fewest of these ever. The article goes on to report:
In terms of "coldest summer ever," however, a better measure might be the number of days Anchorage fails to even reach 60. There too, 2008 is a contender, having so far notched only 35 such days -- far below the summer-long average of 88. Unless we get 10 more days of 60-degree or warmer temperatures, we're going to break the dismal 1971 record of only 46 such days, a possibility too awful to contemplate.

All of this must be caused by runaway greenhouse gases and global warming, don't you agree?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Political Humor Alert

Electile Dysfunction: the inability to become aroused over any of the choices for President put forth by either party in the 2008 election year.

Hat tip to old friend Earl C. for sending this along. I hope no one in Florida is offended.

Robin Williams' Peace Plan

The following is attributed to Robin Williams, and it does sound like him. I got it in an email from my old buddy Earl C.
I guess Robin hasn't heard we no longer have troops in the Philippines.

The Plan

I see a lot of people yelling for peace but I have not heard of a plan for peace. So, here's one plan.

1) The US will apologize to the world for our 'interference' in their affairs, past & present. You know, Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Tojo, Noriega, Milosevic, Hussein, and the rest of those 'good 'ole' boys', we will never 'interfere' again.

2) We will withdraw our troops from all over the world, starting with Germany , South Korea , the Middle East , and the Philippines . They don't want us there. We would station troops at our borders. No one allowed sneaking through holes in the fence.

3) All illegal aliens have 90 days to get their affairs together and leave We'll give them a free trip home. After 90 days the remainder will be gathered up and deported immediately, regardless of whom or where they are. They're illegal!!! France will welcome them.

4) All future visitors will be thoroughly checked and limited to 90 days unless given a special permit!!!! No one from a terrorist nation will be allowed in. If you don't like it there, change it yourself and don't hide here. Asylum would never be available to anyone. We don't need any more cab drivers or 7-11 cashiers.

5) No foreign 'students' over age 21. The older ones are the bombers. If they don't attend classes, they get a 'D' and it's back home baby.

6) The US will make a strong effort to become self-sufficient energy wise. This will include developing nonpolluting sources of energy but will require a temporary drilling of oil in the Alaskan wilderness. The caribou will have to cope for a while.

7) Offer Saudi Arabia and other oil producing countries $10 a barrel for their oil. If they don't like it, we go someplace else. They can go somewhere else to sell their production. (About a week of the wells filling up the storage sites would be enough.)

8) If there is a famine or other natural catastrophe in the world, we will not 'interfere.' They can pray to Allah or whomever, for seeds, rain, cement or whatever they need. Besides most of what we give them is stolen or given to the army. The people who need it most get very little, if anything.

9) Ship the UN Headquarters to an isolated island someplace. We don't need the spies and fair weather friends here. Besides, the building would make a good homeless shelter or lockup for illegal aliens.

10) All Americans must go to charm and beauty school. That way, no one can call us 'Ugly Americans' any longer.

The Language we speak is ENGLISH..learn it...or LEAVE... Now, isn't that a winner of a plan?
The Statue of Liberty is no longer saying 'Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses.' She's got a baseball bat and she's yelling, 'you want a piece of me?'

Robin has the U.S. acting just like Switzerland. Isolationism does have its charms, even if impractical for an economy as big as ours.

Conspiracy, Conspiracy

There is a lot of talk in the blogosphere and in a few media outlets about former presidential candidate and vice presidential nominee John Edwards being caught in a Beverly Hills hotel visiting a mistress who had his child. His denials have been half-hearted at best.

Okay, conspiracy theorists, what if this is Edwards' way of establishing his masculinity? While his presidential primary campaign was active, many blogs called him "silky pony" and other slurs inferring his androgyny or homosexuality. Allegations of a mistress and illegitimate child will tend to have the effect of spiking those rumors.

One of Edwards' married campaign workers has admitted fathering the child. Perhaps that worker is telling the truth but it serves Edwards' interests to be thought the father.

Matryoshka dolls, wheels within wheels, nothing is precisely what it seems, let's all sink gratefully into paranoia....

The Surge Failed, Let's Do It Again

Barack Obama refuses to admit that the surge in Iraq worked. However, what he proposes for Afghanistan is, quite simply, a surge. That is, he proposes to send more troops there. If in one insurgency "more troops" cannot be said to have worked, why would Obama propose the same medicine for another insurgency? Obvious answer: because he knows it worked but is afraid to admit being wrong.

Suppose you went to the doctor for a sore throat and told him that the last time you'd had a sore throat you'd been given penicillin which you believe worked. To which he replies, "I don't give it much credit for you getting well." Now suppose that in the next breath he prescribed penicillin for your current sore throat, saying "That will fix you up." You would go shopping for a new doctor, thinking the old one is an idiot.

You could be excused for thinking Obama is idiot, although he is not. He knows the surge worked, but is afraid to admit it for fear of looking foolish.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

PUMA: Grumpy Democrats

Have you heard about the PUMA movement among disgruntled Clinton supporters? PUMA is an acronym for "Party unity? My A--." I'm not sure how big the movement is but a Google search for "PUMA politics" turned up over 2 million hits. Here is an introduction to this movement by Mark Preston of CNN Politics...enjoy.

Quote of the Day

ABC News' Jake Tapper reports:
Let me be absolutely clear," Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, said today at a press conference in Amman, Jordan. "Israel is a strong friend of Israel's.

That is absolutely clear, but singularly unhelpful. He did say, but did not mean, that Israel is its own friend.

Morris: Not Romney

The always interesting, often insightful Dick Morris writes in Real Clear Politics that McCain should definitely NOT select Mitt Romney as his vice president nominee. The reasons Morris gives are somewhat persuasive.

Then he makes some suggestions of his own that I think are likewise interesting, but less insightful. He suggests McCain needs to do something major to redefine himself (very possibly true) and to do that suggests Condi Rice, Colin Powell, Joe Lieberman, or Mike Huckabee.

I can see arguments in favor, and against, all four of these. While any except Huckabee would stir up controversy and attention, each has the potential to make the McCain candidacy less attractive to substantial blocs of voters. Perhaps his strategy in selecting a veep should be guided by that old Latin aphorism from medical education: Primum non nocere, that is, First, do no harm.

Political Humor Alert

Dean Barnett, who blogs at The Weekly Standard, cracks wise:
Barack Obama is still trotting across the globe, sinking three pointers, ignoring military counsel and healing the occasional leper.

Obamessiah, anyone?

WaPo Shows Class

You might think Obama got the Iraqis to agree with his withdrawal timetable? Not true. See this Washington Post editorial which lays out the actual situation in no uncertain terms.
(I)t seems worthwhile to point out that, by Mr. Obama's own account, neither U.S. commanders nor Iraq's principal political leaders actually support his strategy.

We know Gen. Petraeus believes the withdrawal, when it happens, should be guided by events on the ground in Iraq. The editorial points out that Prime Minister Maliki essentially agrees with the general:
Mr. Maliki's timetable would extend at least seven months beyond Mr. Obama's. More significant, it would be "a timetable which Iraqis set" -- not the Washington-imposed schedule that Mr. Obama has in mind. It would also be conditioned on the readiness of Iraqi forces, the same linkage that Gen. Petraeus seeks.

In other words, Obama does not have their support for an unconditional withdrawal in 16 months, although he would like you to think he does. Way to go, WaPo.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Inside Politics Alert

The always insightful Michael Barone, of U.S. News & World Report, has a couple of interesting entries in his blog, here and here. Warning, these are only recommended for total political junkies who love state-by-state analyses of electoral college votes available, and of the youth and seniors votes.

Barone's bottom line...he sees some factors at least mildly favorable to McCain and mildly unfavorable to Obama. One of these is the study I referenced below in my Millennials Losing Motivation post.

GM, Ford in Deep Doodoo

Bloomberg reports that New York University professor Edward Altman believes General Motors and Ford have a 46% chance of going bankrupt in the next five years. Altman is the creator of the Z score mathematical formula, which measures bankruptcy risk.

Altman bases his assessment on the danger that both firms may face difficulties in refinancing short-term liabilities, given the current state of the credit market. The article is worth reading if you follow the auto industry and/or are concerned about U.S. manufacturing.

Monday, July 21, 2008

A Pattern Emerges

For most people, political memories are short. Do you remember 5 years ago when Howard Dean was for several months the heartthrob of the Democratic Party? How he represented the anti-war "new politics" and wasn't beholden to the old establishment?

The Obama phenomenon is very similar in tone and aspiration. The difference this time around is that, unlike Dean, Obama didn't engage in a "scream." Instead, Obama kept his cool and won the nomination process.

While it has definitely taken longer this season, it appears that the Democratic electorate is losing its enchantment just as it did four years ago. Dean couldn't keep the magic going long enough to win the nomination. Similarly, Obama may not be able to keep the 'romance' going long enough to win in November.

As we noted two days ago in our post "Millennials Losing Motivation," voting enthusiasm among those under age 30 has dropped dramatically since March. It is hard for this group to stay enthused about anything for very long, their attention spans are notoriously short.

If the Democratic Party wants to start winning presidential elections, they need to develop a new selection paradigm that produces candidates appealing to a broad spectrum of the American electorate, not merely those looking for the emotional and political equivalent of a summer romance.

ANWR: Voters Say "Drill"

See this McClatchy story on public attitudes toward drilling for oil in ANWR, the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge. McClatchy reports a survey by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press which shows that 50% of respondents favor drilling in ANWR. Since there are always some "don't know" responses, that means more folks favor it than oppose it.

The article goes on to indicate that the political leadership of Congress (all Democratic) oppose drilling in ANWR. In addition, if you can believe it, both presidential candidates also oppose drilling in ANWR.

As is too often the case, our political "leadership" doesn't get it. Not only are they not leading, they aren't even following very closely.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Democracy in Argentina

Mary Anastasia O'Grady writes in The Wall Street Journal that the defeat of an export tax proposal put forward by President Christina Kirchner is good news for democracy in Argentina. Kirchner tried to impose an export tax on soy beans by presidential decree, then when that failed, she tried unsuccessfully to get the legislature to pass it.

The Kirchners, husband and wife, have been the last two presidents of Argentina. Based on its natural endowments, Argentina should be the richest, most successful country in Latin America. It isn't. The reason for the shortfall is the Peronist policies of the Kirchners and their predecessors. Runaway government spending is a hallmark of their party. Runaway inflation normally accompanies such spending. Let us hope we are seeing an outbreak of economic common sense in the Argentine.

Saturday, July 19, 2008


The protean Charles Krauthammer writes in Real Clear Politics and the National Review (appears here) about a presidential candidate:
There's nothing new about narcissism in politics. Every senator looks in the mirror and sees a president. Nonetheless, has there ever been a presidential nominee with a wider gap between his estimation of himself and the sum total of his lifetime achievements?

So...what are those achievements?
Obama is a three-year senator without a single important legislative achievement to his name, a former Illinois state senator who voted "present" nearly 130 times. As president of the Harvard Law Review, as law professor and as legislator, has he ever produced a single notable piece of scholarship? Written a single memorable article? His most memorable work is a biography of his favorite subject: himself.

Krauthammer's coup de grace:
As he said on victory night, his rise marks the moment when "our planet began to heal." As I recall -- I'm no expert on this -- Jesus practiced his healing just on the sick. Obama operates on a larger canvas.

The title of this post is borrowed from a Jonah Goldberg piece in the New York Post.

Millennials Losing Motivation

John Fund of The Wall Street Journal reports here that the political youth movement is losing steam:
The ABC poll found that in March, 66% of voters under the age of 30 said they would vote in November no matter what. Today, that number is down to 46% -- a far more typical measurement of the engagement of young people in politics.

This is bad news for Democrats.

Clueless in California

On Wednesday, July 9, 2008, this blog linked to a Sacramento Bee article about proposed tax increases in CA. You will remember we called it "foot-shooting time" as we thought that was exactly the wrong medicine for the ailing CA economy.

Now here is John Fund in The Wall Street Journal reporting on one more major CA employer, the iconic California State Auto Association, moving nearly 1000 call-center jobs out of state because, Fund quotes their spokeswoman, "It costs more to do business in California than other states." The jobs are moving to lower-cost Arizona and Oklahoma, not to India.

Denial isn't just a river in Egypt. The CA legislature needs to accept as facts the basics of economics.

Quote of the Day

Bruce Walker, writing in the Canada Free Press:
No serious person can dream of a good Obama presidency. Already he has proven as cynical as Clinton, as naïve as Carter, and as surreal as Gore.

That is a substantially bizarre combination; you'd think he didn't like Obama.

Interesting Times in Ecuador

This Washington Post article reports from Ecuador a government take-over of a number of businesses, including television stations and newspapers. The government of Ecuador's President Rafael Correa leans left and aligns itself with Venezuela's Chavez, Nicaragua's Ortega and Bolivia's Morales. All are anti-U.S. and anti-capitalist, to varying degrees.

Control of most resources by a few oligarchs has historically characterized Latin America, making populist resentment understandable. On the other hand, Latin American governments have compiled a dismal record of failed attempts to run economic enterprises. The countries which are experiencing economic growth have a capitalist, free trade orientation: Chile, Peru, and Brazil.

Latin America is not the first to confront this age-old dilemma. What feels fair doesn't work and what works doesn't feel fair. As mystery author Trevanian once had a character say, "Socialism is not a way to share the wealth; it is a way to share the poverty."

Good luck, Ecuador.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Fun to Read

I've been reading the Janet Evanovich mysteries, some on shipboard, some on land. These books featuring the picaresque adventures of bounty hunter Stephanie Plum are technically mysteries, but they are mostly evocations of life in Trenton, NJ, among working class and lower middle class ethnics.

If that sounds depressing, it isn't. Quite the contrary, these books might more properly be classed as humor...I often find myself laughing while reading them. Evanovich may be this generation's Mark Twain.

These books are vastly popular, one is on The Wall Street Journal best seller list right now. If you could use some good laughs, pick up one of the Stephanie Plum mysteries. A nice thing about this series is that there are more than 14 of them, so if you enjoy your first one there are plenty more where that came from.

Quote of the Day

John Hinderaker, of Power Line blog, describing Barack Obama's political persona:
Barack Obama is a politician who doesn't seem to care much about any of the issues. He is a pure political machine, devoted to fundraising, the media spotlight, and personal ambition. Like Bill Clinton, as someone said, without the girlfriends. Only more cold-blooded.

Let's remember that, in the day, Bill Clinton was formidable politician, widely viewed as hyper-skilled. More recently he seems to have lost that magic touch.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Quote of the Day

The late Groucho Marx on politics:
Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.

Nat Nails It

I rarely find myself in agreement with Nat Hentoff, but rarely isn't the same as never. Check out his take on Obama in The Billings Gazette:
During my more than 60 years of covering national politics, I have never seen a candidate's principles and character so effectively tarnished - after so extraordinarily inspiring a start - as Barack Obama's.

And who is responsible for this precipitous decline?
Obama's deflation has not been due to ruthless opposition research by John McCain's team but by the "change" candidate himself.

And how has he accomplished this self-immolation? By taking money from fat cats and changing his stands on issues important to his supporters. Golly, who knew? Obama is just another pol, and a relatively inexperienced one at that.

Good News from Nicaragua

This Reuters article reports that Danny Ortega has irritated a significant portion of the Nicaraguan populace. Here is the key data:

Thousands of protesters dressed in white marched in Nicaragua on Wednesday against leftist President Daniel Ortega, decrying price increases and calling him a dictator for banning two opposition parties.

The protesters were a mix of conservatives and center-leftists disillusioned with Ortega's leadership since the Cold War foe of the United States was brought back to power in a 2006 election.

The article explains the reasons for the protests against Ortega:
He has angered opponents by banning two small opposition parties...from participating in upcoming local elections. Ortega said recently he would not let political adversaries depose him and threatened to use "the steel of war" against anyone who tried to bring him down.

And why is this good news for the U.S.?
Ortega, an ally of Venezuela's self-styled socialist leader Hugo Chavez, has said in the past that opposition groups are financed by the United States in an effort to topple him.

We are supposed to believe those thousands of white-clad protesters were in the pay of the U.S.? It would be easier to believe in global warming or the tooth fairy.

Every failed leader in Latin America blames problems on the U.S. Wouldn't it make a refreshing change if someone actually took responsibility for his (or her) own actions or inaction?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Political Humor Alert

From National Review's Media Blog:
Q. What do Obama and Osama have in common?
A. They both have friends who bombed the Pentagon.

Q. Why will Jane Fonda vote for Barack Obama?
A. Because Ho Chi Minh is dead.

Russian Evolution

See this article in London's The Times which says Stalin is neck and neck with Tsar Nicholas II as the most popular historical leader of Russia. The article observes:
He sent millions to their deaths in the gulag, but that has not deterred Russians from voting en masse for Josef Stalin as the face of their nation.

I think the article misses the point. Stalin tried to send everybody who didn't like him much to their deaths in the gulag. Many of Russia's current residents are the children and grandchildren of the folks who liked him a lot. You might say Stalin accelerated evolution within the U.S.S.R.; during his life liking him was a survival trait. Darwin lives....

Brit Hume to Retire

Here is a link to a Washington Post story about an event I wish wasn't happening. Brit Hume, clearly the adult supervision at Fox News, is retiring from full-time employment. We will continue to see him as a senior statesman on the network. He will be missed.

Hume's Special Report is the only news show on Fox which I semi-regularly watch. Shep Smith does "news lite," Greta does not-interesting crime, Colmes of Hannity and Colmes is a smirking jerk, and O'Reilly is self-absorbed to the point of narcissism. And no, I don't think Chris Wallace can fill Brit's shoes. Hume is the real deal, most of the rest are not.

The McCains Lampooned

Okay, sports fans, I think this faux cover is funny, too. We need to retain the ability to laugh at ourselves, as well as others. This cartoon is from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Hat tip to James Taranto of The Wall Street Journal for providing the link.

An Interesting Coincidence

Answering the email of a former colleague and poker-playing buddy - Earl C. - I had an insight I thought I'd also share with the blog audience. We commented here several days ago that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D, NV) and Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi (D, San Francisco) are a couple of losers. That, of course, is no insight but a commonplace.

The insight is that both represent places that are historically, or have become, deviants from the national culture. Nevada, which Reid represents, has historically been an outlier: think casino gambling, Mafia, legal prostitution, quick divorces, bars open 24/7, and Area 51. San Francisco had a gamy reputation in the Barbary Coast days, but particularly in the last 40 years has been a magnet for folks who don't fit in, one way or another.

Is it a coincidence that the two leading officials of the Democratic Party represent places of extreme cultural non-conformity? I think not. On the contrary, it appears that the Democratic Party has become exactly that: the refuge of those who don't fit in somehow, those who can't or won't make a comfortable life in this culture. If we view what Democrats do in this light, I believe we better understand their angst.

Of course the entire culture has become more like Nevada and San Francisco as a result of the actions of Democrats. Aren't you pleased? Don't you think it is an improvement?

Monday, July 14, 2008

Sister Souljah 2.0

This Associated Press article says Barack Obama told the NAACP convention that blacks need to take more responsibility for their own actions. This is the same sort of message that irritated civil rights careerist Rev. Jesse Jackson, causing him to fantasize off-camera but on-microphone about castrating Brother Obama.

It occurs to me that this message is Obama's version of a Sister Souljah moment, done in slow motion over time in a series of venues. Wikipedia says such acts of repudiation are:
designed to signal to centrist voters that the politician is not beholden to traditional, and sometimes unpopular, interest groups associated with the party, although such a repudiation runs the risk of alienating some of the politician's allies and the party's base voters.
The term originated in the 1992 presidential campaign of Bill Clinton. It refers to Clinton's repudiation of hateful, racist anti-white material performed by African-American hip-hop entertainer Sister Souljah.

The Obama Waffle

This clever manipulation of the Obama "presidential" seal comes from It speaks volumes about his position changes since becoming the nominee.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Questions for Obama

George Will, writing in Newsweek, has several questions for Senator Obama concerning his statements and positions on issues. These constitute a must read. Here is a sample:
Have you explained to young couples straining to buy their first house that declining prices are a misfortune?

The rest of the article is excellent. A hat tip to Earl C. for bringing this to my attention.

The New Yorker Cover

Jonathan Martin's blog on carries a reproduction of this cover of the latest issue of The New Yorker that comes out this week. It is here because you MUST see this cartoon of Mr. and Mrs. Obama in the Oval Office. Notice the American flag burning in the fireplace and the picture of Osama ben Laden over the mantle.

Like Martin says, "Ya can't make it up." I may have to go buy one on the newsstand; it is that priceless.

Impact of Political Blogs

Here is a Los Angeles Times article by two political scientists about the impact of political blogs, like this one. They talk about who reads political blogs, whether they change any minds (they don't), their role in surfacing issues that the MSM eventually takes up (substantial), and the importance of the political blog readership in the political process (growing).

One thing the authors don't mention is that many political bloggers (including this one) have interests beyond politics about which they blog with some frequency. This non-political content possibly influences readership.

In addition to politics, Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit also blogs on music and photography. The guys at Powerline also blog about British soccer and local Minnesota issues. The folks who select articles for run obituaries of semi-prominent Brits. James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal's Opinion Journal enjoys headlines which can be read to mean something else, and makes fun of writers who use metaphors. Matt Drudge includes movie and TV commentary in his news roundup, like a latter day Walter Winchell.

COTTonLINE wanders off domestic politics into climate change issues, and also often comments on the internal affairs of foreign nations, most recently Belgium, Bolivia, and Turkey. Plus we do travel blogging when overseas. And it is not unknown for us to blog on Harry Potter. I suspect how you react to the non-political content of a blog is a non-trivial factor in whether you read that blog.

Conflict Among Dem. Interest Groups

See this Wall Street Journal editorial which reports the National Education Association lining up on one side of the No Child Left Behind program of school accountability and several black and Chicano groups lining up on the other. More specifically, the civil rights organizations favor school accountability and, not surprisingly, the teachers' union opposes it.

Teachers and minorities constitute two of the four major categories of support for Democrats, labor and trial lawyers being the other two. This issue has to make Democratic legislators nervous, with whom do you side? Whatever you choose irritates a major group of supporters.

Metaphors featuring rocks and nearby hard places come to mind.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Language Woes in Belgium

Check out this Associated Press article on about the conflict between the Dutch-speaking Flemish and the French-speaking Walloons of Belgium. They are experiencing the same bilingual problems that Canada has had.

These are examples of exactly why we need to have English as the official language of the entire United States, at the federal and state levels. Bilingualism simply is a recipe for conflict, a recipe which we must avoid. Printing ballots in multiple languages and public school teaching in multiple languages are things we do now that we should stop.

Swamp Dwellers

Recent Rasmussen poll data shows only 9% of Americans think Congress is doing a good or excellent job. You can find the original article here. In other words, the public thinks the current Congress is a swamp (and I agree).

Notice that both of the major party presidential candidates are denizens of that swamp. They are part of the problem, and obviously therefore not part of the solution. And the minor party candidates are, individually and collectively, a joke. I am reminded of the famous cartoon swamp dweller, Pogo Possum, who presciently said "We have met the enemy and he is us."

Electing governors as president isn't much better, if the two most recent presidents are any indication. It is unreasonable to expect the public's opinion of government to improve over the next 4 years, whoever is eventually elected. What a cheerful prospect....

Tony Snow

Tony Snow, former White House press secretary and Fox News anchor, dead at age 53.

A happy warrior, he was one of the best of us.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Iraq War Winding Down

ABC News reporter Martha Raddatz has made 17 reporting trips to Iraq. Just home from her most recent trip, and appearing tonight as she often does on PBS's Washington Week, she said that today for the first time the Iraq war feels like it is mostly over, definitely winding down.

Raddatz has had plenty negative to say about the Iraq endeavor, and probably most of it was justified. Now she says it feels like the bad guys are going to lose, not just someday but relatively soon. For everybody who likes to see the U.S. win when it sends troops into the field (including most readers of this blog), this is good news from a relatively unimpeachable source.

Inevitably this is also good news for the McCain campaign. John McCain has been wrong about many things, but Iraq hasn't been one of them. He was for the surge before almost anybody else, showing outstanding "commander in chief" qualifications.

Raddatz also reports that commanders on the ground in Iraq say the kind of withdrawal timetable proposed by Senator Obama isn't logistically possible. That won't be a problem. As the candidate of change he is willing to change whatever is inconvenient, including first and foremost his former stands on issues.

The Race Issue

John H. Bunzel is a Democrat, a former member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, and a former president of San Jose State University. He is today a political scientist affiliated with Stanford University's Hoover Institution.

Bunzel writes in The Sacramento Bee about his concerns with respect to the impact the race issue will have in the fall's presidential election. Here is the heart of his concern:

An American National Election Study conducted in l988, l992 and 2000 found that racial animosity was highest among males rather than females, those without a college degree, those who worked in blue-collar jobs or as laborers, and residents of small towns in the Midwest and the South.

These findings, as New Republic senior editor John B. Judis has noted, "more or less correspond with the profile of white voters who spurned Obama in the primaries."

The data from the national election study showed that Latinos were nearly as prejudiced against blacks as whites, and that a group labeled "other," which included Asian Americans, was even more prejudiced against blacks.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Health Equivalency

One seldom sees anything useful in the San Francisco Chronicle, but seldom doesn't mean never. Here is an insight in an otherwise ho-hum article by Debra Saunders about the economy that I think is worth your time:

A Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll conducted last month found that 78 percent of Americans think that the country is heading in the wrong direction.

Of course, almost 4 in 5 Americans think the country is heading to heck in a handbasket. The news media are stuck in one gear when it comes to reporting economic news - Armageddon.

But it's more than liberal bias. Journalists are convinced that the American economy is collapsing and going down the tube, because our industry is collapsing and going down the tube.

Saunders has a very good insight. Newspapers everywhere are laying off reporters, cutting pages, and suffering from shrinking ad revenues. Reporters (even TV reporters) identify with the newspaper business, so when their industry is hurting, the country must be hurting. Journalists need to notice that the ill health of the media does not mean the rest of the economy is deathly sick; it is still growing, albeit more slowly than we'd like.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Rasmussen: Obama's View Unpopular

The Rasmussen polling organization reports that presidential candidate Obama is seriously out of step with the American people:
Barack Obama said yesterday that “instead of worrying about whether immigrants can learn English,” Americans “need to make sure your child can speak Spanish.”

Rasmussen reports the results of their poll which shows that 83% of those polled disagree with Senator Obama and believe it is critical for immigrants to learn English. Only 13% agreed with the view espoused by the Democratic candidate.

Videotape of Hussein saying "make sure your child can speak Spanish" will show up in anti-Obama commercials between now and November. How many of these naive gaffes can he amass before his candidacy implodes?

Foot Shooting Time in CA

The Sacramento Bee reports that CA Democrats, who dominate both houses of the legislature, are proposing to raise taxes dramatically to cover a budget shortfall. Here is the article lede:
Democrats on Tuesday proposed billions in tax increases on businesses and high earners to help bridge California's budget shortfall.

The article goes on to say that the proposal won't pass, because tax increases in CA require a 2/3 supermajority, by constitutional mandate. The Democrats know in advance that the Republican minority won't vote for the increase. This sort of craziness goes on all the time in my former home state.

That the proposal won't pass is beside the point. Suppose the Republicans got weird and voted for it; the results would be disastrous. If you want to destroy the economy in a state, increase the taxes "on businesses and high earners."

There is no requirement for businesses to be headquartered in CA. There is no need for many high earners to live in CA. If the legislature makes living there punitive enough they will leave. Jackson Hole is full of wealthy folks who make it their home because WY has no state income tax.

Some months ago this blog provided a link to a study which showed that the states with the lowest tax rates were growing fastest, had lowest unemployment rates, etc. Conversely, the states with the highest tax rates were losing residents, losing jobs, losing investment, and gaining deficits.

This is not rocket science. Folks like to keep most of what they earn and will go to where that is possible. Taxing the rich sounds good to the not-rich but doesn't work in practice. The rich mostly didn't get rich by being stupid about money.

If legislators in CA really wanted to do something about the economy they would lower taxes on businesses and the rich, attracting them to CA. States need to understand that they operate in a marketplace where they compete with other states for investment and jobs. CA can only sell sunshine when other factors (i.e., taxes, regulations) are essentially equal, which they currently are not.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Voters Agree Congress Sucks

A Rasmussen Reports poll finds that only 9% of respondents give Congress a good or excellent rating. Ratings this low have never happened before. Why am I not surprised?

Gentle readers, remember which party has a majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate: the Democrats. Remember who leads these far-from-august bodies: Harry Reid of Nevada leads the Senate, Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco leads the House. Talk about a pair of losers; they are real embarrassments for our nation.

It would truly serve the incumbents right if we threw out every one who is up for reelection. If you think Congress is doing a poor job, but your rep is doing a good job, you are typical. Collectively, all of our "good job doing" reps are doing a terrible job. Isn't there something wrong with this picture?

Monday, July 7, 2008

Whether Turkey?

If you've an interest in the future of Turkey, this article from The Wall Street Journal Europe is for you. It focuses on the on-going struggles between Islamic and secular forces in Turkey, with the Islamic currently ascendant. It concludes:
If the AKP wins, Turkey will not become a Shariah state; fundamentalist Islam is alien to the Turkish soul. However, it will become a country in which dissent is difficult, and a society suffused with a new, intimate version of a religion-state relationship. In other words, it will be less like secular, liberal-democratic Italy and more like authoritarian, semi secular Jordan.

Cheney Is In Town

Vice President Dick Cheney makes his home in Wilson, Wyoming, which is a tinier suburb of the tiny town of Jackson in the valley called Jackson Hole. When he is "in residence" his plane, which we call "Air Force Two," is parked on the tarmac at Jackson Airport. It was here this past weekend, so we surmise Dick was in town for the Fourth of July weekend.

We sometimes run into Cheney's Secret Service detail, eating burgers at Billy's on the square in Jackson - great burgers, by the way. The detail normally gets to spend August here, which has to be some of the best duty in the Federal service. It sure beats spending August in Crawford, Texas.

Cheney has become viewed as the Cardinal Richelieu of the Bush administration, the dark eminence. It is a strange characterization for a man who made an entire public career out of being a very talented second banana. I suppose it arises out of a public perception that Bush doesn't have the fire in the belly to take tough stands, so it must be Cheney's fault. My guess is that we've read that one wrong; George of the goofy grin is probably a whole lot meaner than people think.

A piece of local political trivia: Wyoming is reliably Republican in presidential elections. In 2004, Bush/Cheney carried every county in Wyoming except Teton County, the county where Dick lives. That loss doesn't stem from Dick's personal unpopularity with his neighbors, most of whom have never met him. Like Vail and Aspen, Teton County is home to lots of wealthy liberals who have formed a mainstay of Obama supporters.

Local real estate lore says that in Teton County the billionaires are buying out the millionaires. People holding regular jobs can't afford to own there unless they bought their homes 30 years ago or inherited them. Some do rent, most commute from Idaho or where we live in Lincoln County to the south. It is unclear how commuting will work with the higher gas prices but it has certainly stimulated much development in Alpine, the northernmost town in Lincoln County.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Iraq Had A Nuclear Program

Remember all the "Bush lied about Iraq's WMD" nonsense we've heard from Democrats and their fellow-travelers? Now we see an Associated Press story, published in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer online, which says a Canadian firm has purchased 550 metric tons (1,212,530 pounds) of so-called "yellowcake" uranium from the Iraqi government. The article describes the material as being important for enriching uranium to weapon-grade levels.

Pretty clearly mass murderer Saddam Hussein had a program underway to develop nuclear weapons. This also lends credibility to the story, repeated by the President, that Iraq was trying to purchase more yellowcake from the African nation of Niger. Perhaps Bush and Colin Powell weren't so far wrong when they alleged that Iraq sought WMD and would, if successful, be willing to use them.

BTW, where have I seen the name "Hussein" recently? Could it have been a presidential candidate? Nah...nobody (but a Democrat) would be that stupid.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy Birthday, America

The DrsC take this opportunity on July 4th to wish the United States of America "Happy Birthday." We wish the nation many, many happy returns of the day.

We love to travel, as frequent readers know. As we travel abroad, we ask ourselves "Is this a place we could comfortably live? How would it compare to living in the U.S.?" We've seen several places we could comfortably live, but none we would choose over the U.S.

The other DrC and I have repeatedly observed that the best thing that ever happened to either of us was to be born here in the U.S. This is a great place to live and to come home to.

Freedom isn't free; ours has been purchased with the lives of our young people in uniform. As we celebrate independence, let us remember their sacrifice.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Chris Wallace on Media Bias

Fox News' Chris Wallace runs the Sunday morning politics show for Fox. Go read the interview with him in The Martha's Vineyard Times. Here are two key grafs from the interview:
"You know, it is interesting," said Mr. Wallace, "because when I was in the mainstream media, when I was working at NBC and ABC - those were my big jobs for about 25 years - I thought we were fair and balanced. But since coming to Fox four and a half years ago, I have come to see things a little differently. And I, in fact, do believe there is a bias in the mainstream media and that is something I was only able to understand when I was outside of it."

Mr. Wallace describes that bias as a shared conventional wisdom that manifests itself in the coverage of a variety of issues from gun control to the environment to gay unions and abortion, when in fact there is another side to the story that too often does not get told.

Chris is the son of legendary CBS newsman Mike Wallace. I wonder how Mike feels about these views, since he's been part of the problem for 40 years?

Royal Navy Resurgent

Here is some good news about Britain's storied Royal Navy. According to this article, released by Deutsche Presse-Agentur, the Royal Navy is going to build two new giant aircraft carriers: the HMS Queen Elizabeth and the HMS Prince of Wales. It is refreshing to see one component of the EU spending money on defense.

Redistribution Doesn't Work

This editorial in the Investors Business Daily reports the results of a study of Obama's proposals that finds they would redistribute $131 billion from the wealthiest 1% of Americans to the rest. The thing about such studies which the editorial doesn't report is that they always, explicitly or implicitly, say ceteris paribus, or its English equivalent: all other things being equal.

Aye, there's the rub as Shakespeare said...all other things are never equal. Raise taxes on the wealthy and they move their economic activities off-shore, engage in counter-productive tax sheltering, or simply bribe legislators to insert subtle loopholes through which they can pass income. They will arrange to make less money, or appear to do so, rather than give it to the tax man. Do you suppose it is a coincidence that millions of retired Americans have moved to states with no income tax?

Economist Arthur Laffer was right, of course. Governments take in more tax revenue when they lower tax rates because taxpayers feel less penalized for earning income and are willing to report earning more of it. Of course, the reverse is also true, governments take in less tax revenue when they raise tax rates.

Liberals feel better when tax rates on the wealthy are high, to them it feels more fair somehow. Unfortunately, it doesn't produce the revenue they need to fund those nanny state programs they crave. You have to love the irony of the liberals' situation, what feels right doesn't work, while what works doesn't feel fair.

One could almost feel sorry for them...almost, but not quite.

An Outbreak of Common Sense

This Associated Press article suggests that the Justice Department is considering letting the Federal Bureau of Investigation use profiling to select individuals for further study vis-a-vis terrorism activities. Profiling makes a heck of a lot of sense, and our unwillingness to use it only hands a weapon to our enemies.

Every time I see an elderly woman being harassed by the Transportation Security Administration people at an airport I think "how stupid is this?" Who wishes us ill at the moment? Mostly youngish men of Middle Eastern or Southeast Asian extraction, in other words, radical Islamists. How likely is that white haired grandmother to be a terrorist? Vanishingly unlikely. But our taxpayer-funded civil servants hassle her in the name of treating everybody equally - ridiculous.

Does that mean we should punish people for being ethnically one thing or another? Of course not. However, it is entirely reasonable to pay additional attention to the activities of those who resemble the terrorist profile. Expect the civil liberties obsessives to go crazy at the very thought of this sensible step.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Quote of the Day II

Danny Gillerman, Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, speaking at an Israel America Chamber of Commerce function, and cited in The Jerusalem Post:
You know you're in a crazy world when world's greatest rapper is white, the world's greatest golfer is black, the world's greatest soldiers are Jewish, Germany doesn't want to go to war, and the French accuse the Americans of being arrogant.

I wonder if Rodney Dangerfield writes his material?

Quote of the Day

Rush Limbaugh, speaking with a reporter from The New York Times Magazine about who he'd support in the 2008 presidential contest:
It’s like the Super Bowl, if your team isn’t in it, you root for the team you hate less. That’s McCain.

There you have a sports metaphor for our times. That could be the motto of this blog in this disappointing political year.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Obama is a Bush Clone

Paul Gigot, who heads the OpEd page for The Wall Street Journal, writes that Obama has adopted many of George W. Bush's programs as his own. Gigot writes that Obama is the real candidate running for W's third term.

The most recent example of this behavior is his embrace today of faith-based NGOs. This was not a good idea when W proposed it and is not a good idea today when Obambi likes it. Gigot concludes:
All of which prompts a couple of thoughts. The first is that Mr. Obama doesn't seem to think American political sentiment has moved as far left as most of the media claim. Another is that the next President, whether Democrat or Republican, is going to embrace much of Mr. Bush's foreign and antiterror policy whether he admits it or not.

In his rush to the middle, Obama may so irritate the netroots left that they'll vote for Nader - wouldn't that be rich?

Obama Flip-Flops Catalogued

Charles Krauthammer does an outstanding job of listing the many Obama flip-flops. Then he jumps on the MSM for treating all of this as SOP. His depiction of Obama's style is good:
Not a flinch. Not a flicker. Not a hint of shame. By the time he's finished, Obama will have made the Clintons look scrupulous.

As we all remember, that is no easy thing to do.

Obama Won't Win the South

See this New York Times article by Thomas F. Schaller, a political scientist who argues persuasively that it is highly unlikely that Obama or any other Democrat presidential candidate is going to win in most southern states. Schaller's grasp of the nittygritty of voter turnout in these states is impressive. The possible exceptions, he believes, are Virginia and Florida. He concludes:
In the rest of the South, Mr. Obama cannot overcome reality. Even if unprecedented numbers of black voters turn out to vote for him, the white vote will serve as a formidable counterbalance.

Quote of the Day

Ethel C. Fenig, writing in the American Thinker, dated today and making reference to an ABC News story concerning welfare policy:
Living down to his motto as the candidate of change, Senator Barack Hussein Obama (D-IL) has changed his mind again.

That is well said, Ethel.

Underwater Volcanoes Warm Arctic

National Geographic reports volcanic activity on the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean, under the icecap. Other sources have reported the melting of the Arctic icecap and even that the North Pole may be in open ocean this summer.

Do you suppose these two factors could be related? Volcanoes release lots of heat, over lots of time. Heat warms water, warm water melts ice.

On the other hand, the Antarctic icecap is growing, according to a NASA-funded study, getting thicker too. Whatever change is happening in the climate is clearly more complicated than the Al Gores of this world think. Humans don't cause volcanoes by driving their SUVs.