Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Lesser Foreign Footprint

Fouad Ajami writes on foreign affairs for The Wall Street Journal. Here he takes a long view of the Obama approach to world affairs and concludes it constitutes a new isolationism. Interestingly, a weaker U.S. is popular with the weak Europeans as it doesn't remind them of their weakness.

The Lesser Evil

Sometimes we have to settle for the lesser of two evils. In the case of airline security, profiling is nasty because it stigmatizes all members of certain groups for the misbehavior of a small minority of those groups. So be it. Folks blowing up airliners is worse.

Hassling 80 year old white-haired grandmothers in the name of treating everyone equally is not sensible, and not a good use of our limited resources. See this article from Commentary in which Michael Totten makes this point very well. Having TSA personnel pay more attention to young men and women of groups likely to be Islamic, even though most such have no violent intent, makes sense.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Travel Blogging Alert

COTTonLINE will be on TDY for the next month or so. Postings will be sporadic, depending on Internet availability. We will be wandering about the Orient, our first visit for 20 years. It should be very interesting.

I wish you a Happy New Year. As you make your resolutions for 2010, resolve to do your part to bring about a change in the composition and leadership of the Congress in November.

I'll admit the Republicans did a lousy job the last time they had control, if you'll admit the Democrats have done a lousy job this time. We need to keep punishing those in charge until they start doing a good job. "Good job" being defined as not spending so much of our money.


It turns out individuals we've held at Guantanamo and released are causing trouble for us after being released. See this Washington Post article. Recidivism? Yes, it says we were holding the right guys after all.

The major question is why they were released. I cannot fathom why we don't call them prisoners of The Long War who will be released when the war is over, if it ever is. If we planned to keep them until hostilities are over, probably most would die of old age before hostilities cease. We know turning them loose doesn't work, so keeping Guantanamo open and them in custody makes sense.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Awful Aughts

I'm running across a label for the years 2000-2009 that I like: the Awful Aughts. A decade that begins with 9/11 and ends with recession and the government screwing up health care can fairly be called "awful."

A Google search reveals the earliest usage is this April, 2003, article by Paul R. La Monica on It says:
The stock [Netflix] has been a rarity of the financial markets so far during these awful Aughts, a successful Internet IPO.
Barring discovery of an earlier source, I will give credit for the phrase to La Monica.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

Gentle readers, I wish you all a very merry Christmas and, as I may not get the chance to blog a week from today, a happy New Year.

As you make your New Year's resolutions, remember to resolve to do your part to bring about a change in the composition and leadership of the Congress in November.

Thoughts on War

British Captain John Tonkin, quoted in a World War II memoir by Paul Fussell called The Boys' Crusade:
I have always felt that the Geneva Convention is a dangerous piece of stupidity, because it leads people to believe that war can be civilized. It can't.
My source for this quotation is an article by Warren Kozak in The Wall Street Journal entitled "The Real Rules of War." This article isn't uplifting but it is very much worth your time.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

World Economy Underwater

My favorite military commentator, Ralph Peters of the New York Post, takes a look at the global economy in the year ahead and reaches dreary conclusions. I'm not sure he is as sound in economics as he is in strategy and tactics, but he is always worth reading.

I suspect Peters' evaluation of the Chinese economy as hollow, as a Ponzi scheme, is more accurate than the evaluations of those who expect China to take over the world. We believed Japan Inc. would take over the world and instead it imploded. Don't be surprised if China does the same. China doesn't have the institutional robustness to manage their way out of the bubble they are in.

The Nelson Effect

Senators will pass Obamacare later today, and grab the next plane home. They aren't due back in Washington for three weeks. In addition to spending the holidays with their families, I expect them to spend time visiting with their constituents.

While they are at home they will be asked "How come Ben Nelson got that sweet deal for his state and you didn't get it for us?" By holding out Nelson got us to pick up increased Medicare costs for his Nebraska voters.

I fully expect the other 98 senators to come back to Washington telling Harry Reid that their voters insist they must have the Nelson subsidy for their state too. Of course, when everybody has a subsidy, nobody has a subsidy.

Couldn't Nelson see this coming? All a general Medicare subsidy will do is further rupture the federal budget, and make Obamacare even more expensive than it already is.

I keep hoping our U.S. ship of state has enough inertia to keep moving in spite of the losers at the helm. I wish all COTTonLINE readers a Merry Christmas and a New Year with a happy ending in early November.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

New Low in Approval Index

Today we have that new low in the Presidential Approval Index rating, it is down to -21. The details: Strongly Approve (25%) and Strongly Disapprove (46%). As the Rasmussen Report says today:
That’s the lowest Approval Index rating yet recorded for this President.
Perhaps even more interesting is this fact: more respondents Strongly Disapprove (46%) than Approve plus Strongly Approve (19% + 25% = 44%).

Fighter pilots call the sort of crash the President is doing "auguring in." In other words, trying to bore a hole in the ground with the nose of your plane. Someone needs to tell POTUS that the plane suffers more than the ground.

WH Attitude Signal

Pushing Obamacare when most voters don't want it reflects what attitude, Mr. President?

Hat tip to for the picture.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Strong Disapproval Up

Today's Rasmussen Report Presidential Approval Index is at -17, not a record low for this President. However, Obama continues to irritate folks:
Today’s update show the highest level of Strong Disapproval yet recorded for this President.
To what does Rasmussen attribute this increase in vehement disapproval?
The Senate is preparing to pass health care reform legislation initiated by the President and opposed by most voters. That latest Rasmussen Reports tracking, released earlier today, shows that 41% support the health care legislation and 55% are opposed.

Bad Dog!

Both the French and Brits love their dogs. Go see this Agence France-Presse article which maintains that a pet dog has twice the carbon footprint of a 4x4 SUV. The original research comes from New Zealand, and was replicated in Britain.

Try comparing the utility of a dog and an SUV, apples and oranges. Dogs provide company to lonely people, SUVs provide safe transportation. Both are important, but in completely different ways and perhaps to different groups of people. I love it!

Ben Nelson For Sale

You know the old joke about the fellow who asks a female acquaintance if she'll have sex with him for a million dollars. She replies "Yes." Then he asks how about for a quarter? To which she replies in shock "What do you think I am? His answer is "We've already established you're a whore, we're just negotiating over price."

Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) just showed us he was for sale, and Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) met his price. Turns out Nelson's pious concern about abortion was just a bargaining ploy. This Associated Press story reflects some of the fallout.

As a result of Nelson selling himself, taxpayers in Nebraska will get a break that other states' taxpayers won't. No wonder Americans don't trust Congress.

Solstice Greetings

Today is the Winter Solstice, the day when the nights quit getting longer and begin getting shorter. It is also, of course, the first day of winter.

I have to wonder why it took the calendar so long to catch up with the weather. Our nation's capital is snowed in along with most of the Midwest and East. It must be that darned global warming at work.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Silver Lining

Megan McArdle, who blogs for The Atlantic, has an interesting take on the impending passage of the health care bill, which she admits will probably work out well for her and her family:
Democrats are on a political suicide mission; I'm not a particularly accurate prognosticator, but I think this makes it very likely that in 2010 they will lost several seats in the Senate--enough to make it damn hard to pass any more of their signature legislation--and will lose the house outright.
If she is right, this is the silver lining of the dark cloud.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Neologism Alert

James Delingpole, writing in the U.K.'s about the recent climate fiasco in Copenhagen, making particular reference to all the neocoms cheering Hugo Chavez:
Copenhagen was worth it, after all – if only for the sphincter-bursting rage its supposed failure has caused among our libtard watermelon chums. (That’s watermelon, as in: green on the outside, red on the inside).
I particularly like that imagery: green on the outside, red on the inside. Give Delingpole credit for this definition of "watermelon."

Communism died in fact, if not in name, in most of the places formally committed to it: China, Vietnam, Laos, Russia, Eastern Europe, etc. Everywhere except North Korea and Cuba has largely given up on the socialism part of Communism.

Communism in fact, if not in name, is springing up again, this time in Latin America. That makes its exponents - Hugo Chavez, Danny Ortega, Evo Morales, and Raphael Correa - "neocoms."

A Google search doesn't show anybody using the term so I provisionally claim authorship of the neologism "neocom."

Quote of the Day

Nat Hentoff, being interviewed by John W. Whitehead, for an online journal called oldSpeak:
I try to avoid hyperbole, but I think Obama is possibly the most dangerous and destructive president we have ever had.
That Hentoff fella doesn't pull his punches, although he appears to have committed hyperbole. So far I see Obama as another Jimmy Carter; one with a better tailor, trainer, and accent but the same tin ear.

California = Argentina

William Voegeli, being quoted in Power Line, about the sad thing that California has become:
Rome wasn't sacked in a day, and California didn't become Argentina overnight. Its acquired incapacity to manage its own affairs has been a long, complicated story, with many contributing factors rather than a single villain or tragic flaw.
Just about every resident bears some of the blame.

Most Voters Dislike Health Care Bill

Our favorite pollster, Scott Rasmussen of Rasmussen Reports, has been asking voters about their views of the health care reform bill pending in the U.S. Senate. In poll data reported December 18 he finds:
Fifty-seven percent (57%) of voters nationwide say that it would be better to pass no health care reform bill this year instead of passing the plan currently being considered by Congress. (snip) Just 34% think that passing that bill would be better.
This finding isn't too surprising; folks are relatively happy with their health insurance from work and, even in this recession, most folks are working. Rasmussen finds:
Most Americans now believe they will be worse off if reform passes. Fifty-four percent (54%) hold that view while just 25% believe they would be better off.
His conclusion about this Congressional bill:

Most voters believe passage will increase the cost of health care and decrease the quality.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Good News

The battle against cancer just passed an important milestone, see this article from Agence France-Presse. It reports the genetic mapping of two common forms of cancer: lung and skin.

This breakthrough is expected to have important implications for diagnosis and treatment of these cancers. I suspect it also means we are not so terribly far from mapping the genetic makeup of other killer cancers.

Some day we will look back on the use of chemotherapy and be horrified that we poisoned people in the hope of killing their cancers before we killed the patients. Ditto with radiation.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Barone Sees a Trend

Top Washington political prognosticator Michael Barone, writing for the Washington Examiner, sees four normally re-electable Democrat Congressmen retiring and suspects a trend. Too much a gentleman to call it "rats leaving a sinking ship," Barone characterizes it instead as smart political operators seeing 2010 as a tough year for Democrats and deciding to take their careers elsewhere.

The entire article is worthwhile, here is the red meat section:
When Massachusetts Democrat Michael Capuano, fresh from a second-place finish in the primary for Edward Kennedy's Senate seat, was asked to tell the Democratic caucus what he had learned on the campaign trail, he replied in two words: "You're screwed."

Small Cars a Hard Sell

George Peterson, president of consulting firm AutoPacific, based in Los Angeles, talking about trying to sell small cars to Americans on
Our research shows that, despite what the U.S. government is telling us, few Americans want to downsize to smaller cars.
His research makes sense to me. How about finding ways to let my full-size pick up truck get better mileage? Now that is a program I can support.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Rasmussen: Health Care Reform Unpopular

Rasmussen Reports finds the health care reform efforts being pursued in Congress are unpopular with voters:
Fifty-six percent (56%) of U.S. voters now oppose the health care plan proposed by President Obama and congressional Democrats. (snip) Just 40% of voters favor the health care plan.
When voter intensity is polled, the results are striking:
Perhaps more significantly, 46% now Strongly Oppose the plan, compared to 19% who Strongly Favor it.
And yet Congressional Democrats push ahead with this unpopular bill, do they have an electoral death wish?

Quote of the Day

California political maven Dan Walters, writing in The Sacramento Bee about a stratified California:
California, with about 12 percent of the nation's population, has a third of its welfare recipients.
I have no reason to believe Dan has his facts wrong. CA has one eighth of the U.S. population and one third of its people on welfare.

Do you think this imbalance has occurred by chance? I don't. I conclude it reflects ongoing CA state and local governmental policies.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

New Low in Approval Index

We thought yesterday's -16 was interesting and new. Today we have a Rasmussen Presidential Approval Index of -19. Go here to see the take on this development the guys at Power Line have. They print out Rasmussen's graph of the two lines for Strongly Approve and Strongly Disapprove and it is a stunner.

If you can imagine it, only 41% of Democrats strongly approve of their President. Among independents, only 21% strongly approve. It looks like Obama has alienated much of his base, as well as most of the rest of us.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Whither Belgium

Belgium is a country not unlike the former Czechoslovakia, made up of two quite different cultures. See this article in the Weekly Standard concerning the issues there and the future of Flemish/Walloon Belgium.

The future of Belgium gives us some indication of what to expect from other multicultural nations like Canada, and perhaps someday the United States. Meanwhile, Andhra Pradesh, an Indian state, will soon be splitting in two as a result of this same kind of cultural tension.

Quote of the Day II

Paul Rahe holds an endowed chair at Hillsdale College. Here Rahe is quoted by Scott Johnson of Power Line with regard to President Obama:
The America that he inherited and its traditional allies he hates. When the country turns on him as it is doing step by step, and he recognizes that his fellow citizens are intent on reversing what he has done, he may openly turn on us. We are, I suspect, in for quite a ride.
"Hates" may be a little strong.

Obama Poll Hits New Low

Rasmussen Reports' Daily Presidential Tracking Poll calculates a Presidential Approval Index. For President Obama this index has hit a new low of -16. The index is calculated by subtracting the percentage of likely voters who Strongly Disapprove of the President (41%) from the percentage who Strongly Approve (25%). As Scott Rasmussen notes:
That's the lowest Approval Index rating yet recorded for this President.
It is the Strongly Approves who are dropping, only 43% of Democrats hold that view. Obama's strong defense of the "just war" and his 30,000 soldier surge cannot be popular with the pacifist wing of his party.

Quote of the Day I

Jean-Francois Revel, quoted in a book review in The Wall Street Journal. He is speaking of the shortcomings of Communism:
Utopia is not under the slightest obligation to produce results; its sole function is to allow its devotees to condemn what exists in the name of what does not.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Imagine This

Public Policy Polling reports that Obama is very little more popular than the widely disliked George W. Bush, see what they say:
Perhaps the greatest measure of Obama's declining support is that just 50% of voters now say they prefer having him as president to George W. Bush, with 44% saying they'd rather have his predecessor.
In spite of the Nobel Peace Prize? In eleven months Obama has thrown away an amazing amount of public good will.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Pearl Harbor Day

Today we take a moment from our busy schedules and remember the brave men and women in Hawaii who were murdered by the Japanese on this date in 1941. While we're at it, let's also remember the thousands more who died in the Bataan Death March and elsewhere throughout the Pacific, courtesy of the Empire of Japan.

If you've traveled and lived in the Pacific as we have, you know the Japanese did not make many friends in the places they conquered. Brutality has that effect....

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Why Recoveries are "Jobless"

You will see references like this one to our economy making a "jobless recovery." If you've wondered why this is so, or if it is unusual, let me explain what is going on.

Non-salary expenses make up a large percentage of each full-time worker's employment cost. These include, but are not limited to, health care expenses, retirement contributions, vacation and sick leave. Some estimates suggest these expenses are as large as 40-50% of salary cost, or a third of the total cost of employing a full-time employee.

When a firm first starts to experience a need for additional employee hours worked, normally as a result of increased orders when a recovery happens, it is cheaper to put existing workers on overtime than to hire additional workers. While overtime normally means paying out 150% of hourly wage, it typically does not carry with it additional benefit costs. And, existing workers already know how to do the job, and incur no costs for recruitment, selection, and training. Another route taken by such firms is to hire temporary or part-time workers.

Therefore, firms keep piling on overtime until their full-time workers begin to rebel in one way or another. This rebellion may consist of declining morale and productivity, increased sick leave, or increased turnover. Eventually, firms experiencing increased orders will have to hire new full-time workers, but it is typically a last resort.

If you've wondered why the talking heads tend to favor infrastructure and construction projects as job creators, it is because these are industries where many workers are hired on an "as needed" basis and laid off between projects. Beginning new projects takes workers off the unemployment rolls quickly. As such it rapidly improves the unemployment statistics reported in the media and this helps the politicians. Such projects aren't very helpful to individuals whose job skills are not in the construction trades. a "jobless recovery" normal? Absolutely. Employment is a lagging indicator of the economic cycle. If anything other than a jobless recovery should happen, be surprised.

Good News for GOP

See this article in the Las Vegas Review Journal, reporting Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's (D-NV) dim chances of reelection next year. Reid, of course, got the Democratic leadership job when their prior senate leader, Tom Daschle (D-SD), failed to be reelected in 2004.

Much, of course, could happen to change the outcome between now and November, 2010. On the other hand, if it turns out that Reid is not reelected, much will be made of the Democrats' inability to get their senate leadership reelected.

Sadly, there seems to be little chance of the same electoral outcome for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-SC). However, I'll happily settle for half a loaf.

Bad News for Bolivia

See this Reuters article concerning the election happening in Bolivia. It appears that President Evo Morales, an ally of Hugo Chavez, will win reelection and continue his policy of the nationalization of various industries. This is not good news for Bolivia, for the balance of Latin America, or for the U.S.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Cheers for Chile

COTTonLINE keeps an eye on happenings in Central and South America, which regions share the hemisphere with us Norte Americanos. Here is a brief story in Investor's Business Daily posting some very good news for Chile. The opening paragraph sums up that good news:
Chile will join the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development later this month, the rich-nation club's president said Wednesday. It is one hell of a proud moment for Chile.
The Chileans are serious free-traders and capitalists, and their government spending is under control as well. Credit for initiating these policies in the 1970s and 1980s goes to a group of young Chilean economists trained under Milton Friedman at the University of Chicago.

Good News and Bad News

The President has given his general in Afghanistan the troops asked for. That much is good news. Now we will see if the general can deliver.

The bad news is that the President has also announced a timetable for departure. If you were a Taliban chieftan, what would you do? You would announce to all and sundry that after that deadline "we Taliban will still be here and those Americans won't be, their cowardly President says so."

Now suppose you are an Afghani trying to figure out with whom to ally, who would you choose? If you have any sense you'll lie low until the Americans leave while assuring the Taliban of your support.

The President had to straddle two very different viewpoints in his speech, and the result was as awkward as straddles normally are. I fear those extra troops are being sent in harm's way to no good purpose, their mission compromised by the timetable for departure.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Blankley's Blues

Tony Blankley does some good opinion pieces and this one for Rasmussen Reports is particularly thoughtful, based in history, and not very optimistic. Musing about the American public's willingness to make the needed tough fiscal choices, he says:
Are we Americans still brave enough to remain free? My guess is that neither the two major political parties nor the majority of the public loves America enough to campaign and vote on the hard, bitter truth about our condition.
The article is worth your time, but not cheerful.

Understanding Rasmussen

Regular readers of COTTonLINE know that we follow the polling work of Scott Rasmussen as reflected in the Rasmussen Report. You may also have noticed that the Rasmussen numbers tend to be somewhat less positive for the President than some other polls.

This article in The Atlantic explains why Rasmussen's poll results may be so, and does so without either supporting or criticizing them. The factors are: automated polling, giving respondents four choices rather than two, and selecting individuals to be polled based on likely voting.

Automated polling may provide a way around the "Bradley effect," a reluctance or fear some white voters have to admit to an interviewer that they do not plan to vote for a black candidate.

I'm not sure what gives with four choices. Clearly, depending on how Rasmussen selects his likely voters, he might tend to underpoll likely Obama voters. I guess the question is this: how did his numbers predict the 2008 election?

Peters: Obama "Just Plain Nuts"

President Obama has announced his strategy for Afghanistan, in a speech to the cadet corps at West Point. My first thought was to see what Ralph Peters, who writes about military matters for the New York Post, has to say about it. He is seriously not amused:
Just plain nuts: That's the only possible characterization for last night's presidential declaration of surrender in advance of a renewed campaign in Afghanistan.
Of Obama's strategy with respect to Afghanistan, Peters says:
This isn't just stupid: It's immoral. No American president has ever espoused such a worthless, self-absorbed non-strategy for his own political gratification.
And with regard to Pakistan, Obama said "We are committed to a partnership with Pakistan that is built on a foundation of mutual interests, mutual respect and mutual trust." Whereas Peters believes our attitudes toward Pakistan are that:
Our interests diverge, we don't respect each other and we certainly don't trust each other.
Go read the entire article, Peters should be your go-to guy for military commentary.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Immigration and the GOP

It would appear that there is a significant disjuncture between GOP politicians and GOP voters. See an interesting analysis in the National Review based on Washington Post polling data published here.

The polling data says Republican voters believe the party is putting too little emphasis on illegal immigration, on Federal spending, and on the economy and jobs. Like the analyst for NR, I infer a connection in voters' minds between jobs and illegal immigration.

If Republican politicians cannot bring themselves to deal with these issues, interesting opportunities are created for independent candidates who are willing to do so.

Chavez Parodies Self

Recently, Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez has praised such classically bad actors as Carlos the Jackal, Robert Mugabe and Idi Amin. You can see the story here in Foreign Policy.

We really have to wonder if there is any horrific autocrat in whom Chavez would not see redeeming qualities? How about Pol Pot, author of the killing fields, or Joseph Stalin of the gulag? How about Adolf Hitler of the holocaust?

Those who pose as Chavez's friends, do they subscribe to these views as well? Do Danny Ortega, Rafael Correa and Evo Morales agree that cannibal Idi Amin is admirable, that terrorist Carlos the Jackal was a hero?

There has to be a point at which Chavez' ranting causes him to be viewed as a man in need of psychiatric treatment, as a madman.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Three Interesting Data Points

Three things have taken place in the last week which Americans who pay attention to overseas happenings should note. Here they are for your enjoyment.

The first is the presidential election in Honduras, which may well put to rest the upset concerning the ouster of President Zelaya. It would appear that the conservative candidate, Porfirio Lobo, will win. Go here for a New York Times story. Meanwhile former President Zelaya will be tried for violating the Honduran constitution.

The second story is the election as President of Uruguay of a former member of the Marxist Tupamaros guerilla movement named Jose Mujica. Go here to see the Reuters story. Oddly, Senor Mujica promises to continue the moderate policies of the current Uruguayan government.

The third story is the passage in Switzerland of a referendum banning the further construction of minarets on Islamic mosques in the country. Go here for the BBC story about this. This may be the first step in Europe deciding to defend its culture.

I find world affairs endlessly fascinating.

Cheney in 2012?

Jon Meacham, the editor of Newsweek, writes an interesting article suggesting that the GOP should nominate former Vice President Dick Cheney in 2012. Since Newsweek has been quite liberal, I started to read the article thinking this was a put-down.

I'm still not certain it isn't an attempt to talk the GOP into putting up what Meacham views as a weak candidate against Barack Obama's run for reelection. See what you think.

As for me, I think WY neighbor Dick Cheney is one of the grown-up voices in American foreign policy. He believes there really are serious enemies of the United States lurking out there, a view I share.

He understands the importance of being nice to our friends and not nice to the rest. And I am reasonably certain he wouldn't try to overhaul our entire health care system in order to provide coverage to the roughly 5% who are uncovered.

From an electoral point of view, Dick's main problem is a charisma deficit. He is quiet and serious; soaring rhetoric is not his forte. I think he'd be a good president; I'm not sure he'd be a successful candidate.

Saturday, November 28, 2009


Just a quick word to welcome as new readers of COTTonLINE some fine folks who were in my audiences on RCI's Navigator of the Seas. We had a nice cruise across the Atlantic and now that we're home, we can focus on what is going on in the world.

California, Revisited

Read a reasonable and balanced analysis of the budgetary mess in California, written by Richard Reeves for Universal Press Syndicate and RealClearPolitics. I endorse all but the last two sentences and I take those to be throw away lines. The most unusual thought Reeves shares with us is the following:
The most devastating battle on California's political landscape has been old vs. young. And the old are winning big time.
It is a different take on the impact of the famous Proposition 13 which limits property taxes. Its main benefit goes to long-time owner-occupants of a home, almost always the old.

Recession Victimizes Men

See this Wall Street Journal article which lays out the serious differences in male and female unemployment, during the ongoing recession. The impact on men has been dramatic:
As of the end of October, the U.S. had lost 7.3 million jobs in this Great Recession. Men account for 5.3 million of that loss. The shift is so dramatic that women now constitute 49.9% of the work force and will soon outnumber men.
To what does the Journal attribute this disparity?
About half of all job losses have been in manufacturing and construction, overwhelmingly male sectors.
Democrats, who currently control the levers of government, attract the votes of more women. Republicans attract the votes of more men. Bailout money has gone to places that hire women: education and health care. Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Miles' Law Still Valid

The Internet is alive with stories of the hacked emails showing that climate "scientists" have acted, and urged others to act, to suppress certain information. Information, that is, casting doubt on AGW, anthropogenic global warming, aka global warming caused by human activity.

I'm having a hard time getting excited about this further evidence of disappointing human nature. We noted in Sunday's blog entry a marvelous quote from Upton Sinclair, "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it."

Sinclair has been dead for 41 years, so this insight isn't exactly new. Pretty clearly current or future research grants of those "scientists" depend upon AGW being real, thus they are willing to cook the books to make it look real. Sad, but not surprising.

It reminds me of Miles' Law:
Where you stand depends on where you sit.
That is, you are likely to hold views that are compatible with your self-interest. See the citation here, from a 1978 Public Administration Review article.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Greetings

COTTonLINE wishes all of our readers a very happy Thanksgiving Day, a lucrative Black Friday shopping spree, and then a nice weekend eating the leftover turkey. We wish for you a four day respite from work, and a job to return to on Monday. We hope the relatives with whom you dine show more common sense and get along with each other better than those idiots in Washington.

This holiday is celebrated as "the most American holiday." It is, of course, nothing of the sort. People the world over celebrate autumn harvest festivals, and have done ever since humans stopped being hunter-gatherers and instead took up agriculture. Thanksgiving is just our name for this feast day, so named as we hope to be thankful for a bountiful harvest.

Nonetheless, a holiday devoted almost entirely to gluttony and the renewal of family ties is, by definition, a good thing. Drive safely and don't forget the Maalox....

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Rasmussen: Obama Unpopular

This blog follows the Rasmussen Report's daily look-in at how the President is doing in the eyes of the voters. In a word, President Obama is doing poorly.

The Presidential Approval Index is calculated by subtracting the percentage who strongly disapprove from the percentage who strongly approve. The President's rating continues to fall. Today's Index is computed from 26% strongly approving and 41% strongly disapproving, giving the President an index of -15. Rasmussen notes that this is the lowest rating yet recorded for President Obama.

On the same page, Rasmussen also reports that Republicans have a seven point lead over Democrats on the Generic Congressional Ballot. This is a question that asks likely voters whether they will be inclined to vote for a Democrat or a Republican in the next Congressional election in 2010.

These findings, and others like them from Gallup, etc., cannot be conducive to sweet dreams at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Quote of the Day

Upton Sinclair, writing in American Outpost: A Book of Reminiscences (1932).
It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!
I find his comment very relevant to today's advocates for Anthropogenic (man-caused) Climate Change. It also describes the plight of the typical White House Press Secretary.

Hat tip to for posting the quote.

Travel Blogging

Sorry I couldn't post any entries during the trip just concluded. It was a bitter-sweet trip, containing both good and bad. First the good: my lectures were well-received and the Atlantic Ocean was calm considering it was November. The RCI Navigator of the Seas is the most attractive ship upon which we have cruised and that is saying something as we've been on 12-15 cruise ships, all of them nice.

The bad happened before we boarded. We had a piece of luggage stolen outside our hotel in Malaga, Spain. It contained camera and computer equipment as well as other things of value. As a result, we spent the two days before embarkation scrambling to file a police report, cancel compromised credit cards, change passwords, etc.

This experience certainly made us believers in travel insurance. We traveled home on the cash money they wired us as our plastic was kaput. On shipboard we discovered that several other passengers were robbed in various ways, including one elderly couple who were mugged and injured in the process.

What we learned from the experience: Spain is a pretty place, very well supplied with highly professional ladrones (thieves). I daresay we will be less enthused about returning there, an experience like this tends to sour one on the place it happens. Now we're back to our usual line of blogging for the next month, and then we're off on another adventure.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Travel Blogging Alert

I will be traveling for the next 2+ weeks, Internet connections will be less-than-reliable. Right now I am sitting in United's Red Carpet Lounge at SFO. Unlike the lounge in Denver, this one is clean and well-maintained.

Autumn weather is finally rolling in, it begins to look like rain outside. Unlike the cold weather back home in Wyoming, it has been pleasant here in northern CA. Normally this area starts to get cold weather right around Halloween, it has been a few days late this year.

Quote of the Day

The best comment by a Democrat on Tuesday's off-cycle elections:
Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) told POLITICO, “We got walloped.”
The whole article is worth your time.

Love My Truck

Check out this article in The Seattle Times about the "cash for clunkers" program just ended. The bottom line is that lots of people swapped their old pickup trucks for new trucks, which get very little better mileage. I understand what motivated people to do this, pickup trucks are great.

I've driven a series of five diesel "pick-em-ups" for the last 26 years. Diesel pickups are noisy, smell bad, and are very "guy" vehicles. You sit up high where you can really see everything, the seats are at chair-height instead of low down, and you feel like there is enough metal around you to protect you in a crash (due diligence: probably only in front and back crashes, much less so in side crashes or roll-overs).

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Broder Sees Trouble Ahead

David Broder, dean of Washington political columnists who writes for the Washington Post, has wise words about the off-year election just finished:
Last week, I heard the lead economist for a major New York bank predict that unemployment next November will still linger at 9.5 percent or more. If that is the case, this week's Democratic losses could seem minor by comparison.
One hates to wish for continued high unemployment. Furthermore, I'm not sure the GOP has been out of power long enough to learn the lesson that the last two elections taught - namely, not to spend like Dems when in power.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Idiot Twins: Bush and Obama

David Goldman writes for the Asia Times of Hong Kong under the nom de plume of Spengler. He writes long, thoughtful, hard-edged articles about foreign policy. This one is entitled "The Idiot Twins of American Idealism" and his twins are George W. Bush and Barack H. Obama. Here he explains his title:
It was mad to believe that America could remake the world in its own image. (snip) It is even madder to turn foreign policy into an affirmative action program for disadvantaged cultures. But those are the idiot twins of American idealism: either one size fits all, or size doesn't matter.
His analysis of American foreign policy is amazing:
In the parlance of American foreign policy, "realism" means accepting a howling lie if it is accepted by a large enough number of people.
Check out his view of U.S. policy vis-a-vis Saudi Arabia:
The Saudis will sell us the oil; we do not need to wash their feet in return.
Spengler sees China and India as potential allies, Russia as an opponent, and of Iran he says:
Preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons (snip) probably is the one instance in the world where American interest requires the use of force.
Believe it or not, I've only given you highlights of this article. You owe it to yourself to read the whole thing.


Do you remember that on Thursday of last week I wrote that polarization of journalism was nothing new? Here is John Harwood, of The New York Times, saying the same thing:
The evolution of political news on television, in print and on the Internet has a certain back-to-the-future feel. As the American Revolution approached in the 18th century, wrote William David Sloan and Julie Hedgepeth Williams in the book “The Early American Press, 1690-1783,” journalists “were expected to be partisan — intensely partisan."
Here we go again.

Poor California

John Hinderaker at Power Line has a really good piece comparing California and Texas; California being a high-tax state and Texas being a low-tax state. One of the key points is internal migration, CA is losing people while TX is gaining them. He quotes William Voegeli in the Los Angeles Times:
Between April 1, 2000, and June 30, 2007, an average of 3,247 more people moved out of California than into it every week, according to the Census Bureau. Over the same period, Texas had a net weekly population increase of 1,544 as a result of people moving in from other states. During these years, more generally, 16 of the 17 states with the lowest tax levels had positive "net internal migration," in the Census Bureau's language, while 14 of the 17 states with the highest taxes had negative net internal migration.
And so Hinderaker concludes the following:
Texas, increasingly, is the economic and intellectual leader of the U.S. During the last 18 months before the current recession took hold, while the country as a whole was still creating jobs, more than half of those jobs were created in a single state: Texas. Texas has usurped the leadership position that, decades ago, belonged to California. Today California is in decline, likely irreversibly so.
Projecting current trends into the indefinite future is a sucker bet, but that is the way things look today.

Quote of the Day

A Toronto Sun article notes the median age of the Afghan population is 17.6 whereas the median age of the U.S. population is 36.7. The article quotes Michael Yon, noted battlefield reporter and blogger, on the nature of Afghanistan:
It's crucial to hold in constant memory that Afghanistan is the societal equivalent of an illiterate teenager. The child-nation will fail unless we are willing to adopt the people.
To that description I'd add the "teenager" is the product of a culture whose idea of the perfect state is a caliphate, a kind of theocratic autocracy.

Given all this, becoming the "foster parent" of Afghanistan is not a promising prospect. The basic question becomes: Is the alternative even worse?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Glacier Scientist Has Doubts

Dan Fagre, a U.S. Geological Survey research ecologist at the Northern Rocky Mountain science center in West Glacier, Mont., quoted in an article in Miller-McCune webpage:
The Little Ice Age ended about 1850. We had 150 glaciers here in 1900. We only have 25 left now.
So, does Fagre attribute this change to human activity? Here's what the article says:
Fagre's own research doesn't distinguish between whether the warming is natural or manmade, although he personally believes that humans are causing at least some of it.
But he "gets nervous" when people try to attribute the root of all global warming to burning fossil fuels or land-use change. That's because, as he points out, there's just so much natural variability in the climate system that still is not completely understood.
Fagre sees "much natural variability in the climate system that still is not completely understood." That is the view we take here at COTTonLINE, too.

Hattip to for the link to the article.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

It Isn't New

Folks are treating the obvious bias on Fox News and MSNBC as something new, something to get worried about. I don't know about worried, but it for sure isn't new. It is old, although the medium - cable news - is relatively new.

My father was a lifelong conservative Democrat. As a kid growing up in Southern California, I remember that he avoided reading The Los Angeles Times published by the Chandlers because it was then a Republican paper. It is that no longer; it would now be characterized as a Democratic paper from the bias of its OpEd pages. Instead, our family subscribed to the Democratic Los Angeles Daily News published by Manchester Boddy, a paper which went out of business in 1954 and is not related to the current paper which bears that name.

During my father's lifetime - 1887 to 1971 - there actually were conservative Democrats. For the younger of our readers, those would be vaguely like the Blue Dog Democrats of today.

Campbell Brown Nails It

The White House has directed a hissy fit at Fox News. CNN's Campbell Brown has the following wise words to say about this teapot tempest:
White House officials should elevate the conversation, and talk about bias on the right and on the left. Because when you just target one side, you reveal your own bias. That you are only critical of those who are critical of you.
On the other hand, Brown tries to position CNN as a network without opinion shows like those that appear on Fox and MSNBC. Like CNN's Lou Dobbs or Anderson Cooper don't have relatively obvious points of view? Come on, Campbell, give us a break here.

The quote comes from an article in The Los Angeles Times, flagged in

Quote of the Day

Daniel Henninger, who writes a column for The Wall Street Journal, talking about the problems the Congressional Democrats are having with health care:
It's starting to look like Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi are leading the Donner Party, the snowbound emigrants who bogged down in the Sierra Nevada winter in the 1840s and resorted to cannibalism to survive.
The imagery of desperate Democrats eating each other is apt. Their ideological tent may be too big to handle the health care issue.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Opting In or Out

There is much talk about allowing individual states to "opt out" of the public option in health care. What I don't hear is how those state get to opt out of paying for the federally run public option.

It wouldn't surprise me if, when the details are known, it turns out that a state can opt out of eligibility but not out of paying its share of the costs. Doing so would be an act of moral purity but economic foolishness. It would be insane to opt out of your share of the benefits while paying your share of the costs.

On the other hand, if a state can opt out of both the benefits and the costs, perhaps only the bluest of states will opt in. Maybe even no states at all. Oh man, the moonbats will be ticked off if that happens. Let us listen for someone to give us more detail about how "opt out" affects the "paying for" part of the program.

Gallup: Trend Right

The Gallup polling organization reports finding that conservatives are the largest single group in the American electorate:
Forty percent of Americans describe their political views as conservative, 36% as moderate, and 20% as liberal. This marks a shift from 2005 through 2008, when moderates were tied with conservatives as the most prevalent group.
Conservatives would have to convince nearly a third of those moderates to vote with them to win convincingly. Recently they have been unable to do so. On the other hand, 2010 looks promising.

Gallup finds public views on seven different issues have become more conservative in the last year, and another four have remained the same. Here comes the money quote:
There are no major examples of U.S. public opinion becoming more liberal in the past year.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Chicago-Style Politics

Michael Barone, writing for, makes a trenchant comment on Obama's response to criticism:
Maybe Obama thought everyone in Washington would be his great friend. Having encountered un-Chicago-like dissent and disagreement, he has responded with classic Chicago brass knuckles. We'll see how far this kind of thuggery gets him.

Stop Whining

President Obama keeps complaining about the nasty situation left to him by the Bush administration. The Wall Street Journal's Peggy Noonan documents several examples:
The president said last week, at a San Francisco fund-raiser, that he's busy with a "mop," "cleaning up somebody else's mess." (snip) Later, in New Orleans, he groused that reporters are always asking "Why haven't you solved world hunger yet?" His surrogates and aides, in appearances and talk shows, have taken to remembering, sometimes at great length, the dire straits we were in when the presidency began.
Stop complaining, Mr. President, you volunteered for this job. You told us during your campaign just how bad everything was. You knew in advance it wasn't pretty and you told us ad nauseam that you wanted the job, that you could do the job, and that you had plans to solve the problems.

A majority of us believed you. Were your voters wrong? It is time to stop whining about the bad situation you inherited. If voters hadn't agreed it was bad they would have voted for the other guy, who represented continuation rather than change.

Stop whining and get busy fixing the problems, Mr. President. And maybe you should be hearing, in the cold dark hours before dawn, the rude voice of James Carville in your shell-like ear saying "it's the economy, stupid."

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Gallup: Record Approval Drop

The Gallup polling organization reports on presidential approval:
In Gallup Daily tracking that spans Barack Obama's third quarter in office (July 20 through Oct. 19), the president averaged a 53% job approval rating. That is down sharply from his prior quarterly averages, which were both above 60%. Gallup's analysis, how does this compare with other recent presidents?
The 9-point drop in the most recent quarter is the largest Gallup has ever measured for an elected president between the second and third quarters of his term, dating back to 1953.
How does Gallup evaluate this decline?
Obama's 9-point slide between quarters ranks as one of the steepest for a president at any point in his first year in office. (snip) The largest for an elected president in his first year is Bill Clinton's 11-point slide between his first and second quarters.
Gallup attributes Obama's drop in popularity to his failure to pass health care legislation and the rising unemployment rate. I accept rising unemployment as a cause, but suspect it was his advocacy of health care legislation rather than failing to pass health care that was the other cause. That turkey isn't popular with the vast majority of us who are happy with our current health insurance.

Gallup's chart shows that during this same period in the first year of his presidency, George W. Bush's approval went up by 16 percentage points. Bush had the greatest third quarter rise of any president in the last 50 years, caused by the public rallying around him after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Hat tips to and the Washington Examiner for links to this polling data.

Housing Bubble Cause

Scott Johnson of Power Line blog has posted a summary, by Hoover Institution research fellow Peter Schweizer, of the causes of the housing bubble whose rupture led to our current recession. Showing that most of the mortgage defaults are in minority neighborhoods, Schweizer concludes:
The real culprits here are the social activists and their allies in Washington who pushed an activist agenda. They helped to propel us into the mortgage crisis we face today.
Reluctant bankers were coerced into making risky loans in order to meet quotas of loans to various "underrepresented groups." As you would expect, these loans were the first to go delinquent when the economy went south.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Lying with Statistics

The Wall Street Journal has a series of articles, written by Carl Bialik, whose column is called "The Numbers Guy." He has taken on debunking widely-cited "statistics" that are actually bogus. I recommend these columns to you.

His most recent article looks at the oft quoted "finding" that the U.S. ranks 37th in the world in health care. His evaluation:
This ranking stands out as particularly misleading. It is based on a report released nearly a decade ago by the World Health Organization and relies on statistics that are even older and incomplete.
To understand why the statistic is problematic, check this out:
The U.S. actually ranked a lot higher. Specifically, it placed 15th overall, based on its performance in the five criteria. (snip) The WHO took the additional step of adjusting for national health expenditures per capita, to calculate each country's health-care bang for its bucks. Because the U.S. ranked first in spending, that adjustment pushed its ranking down to 37th.
Bialik concludes:
High spending rates pushed the ranking down but didn't degrade the quality of care.
In other words, we spend a lot on health care but get darn good care. Add in the fact that we are a nation with something like 12 million illegal aliens trying not to be noticed and thus not getting treatment until very sick. We also coexist with who knows how many hundreds of thousands of individuals who refuse medical treatment for religious reasons. Both of these groups make our health outcome statistics worse.

My guess: we do very well in comparison with other nations. Next time you hear politicians quote that "ranks 37th" statistic, you'll know they are lying and not just because their lips are moving.

PAI Drops Again

Yesterday we shared that Rasmussen's Presidential Approval Index was at -12, today it is at -13. The percentage of Strongly Approves dropped another point to 27%. The Rasmussen Report characterizes the latest rating as follows:
That’s just a point above the lowest level ever recorded for this President. It’s also the sixth straight day in negative double digits, matching the longest such streak.
Combining the Strongly Approve with Somewhat Approve, and the Strongly Disapprove with the Somewhat Disapprove, Rasmussen finds:
Overall, 47% of voters say they at least somewhat approve of the President's performance. Fifty-three percent (53%) disapprove.
These numbers cannot make President Obama's remaining supporters happy.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Presidential Approval Index at -12

Regular readers of COTTonLINE know that we follow Scott Rasmussen's Presidential Approval Index. It is calculated by subtracting the percentage of likely voters who Strongly Disapprove of the President from the percentage who Strongly Approve. Today the index stands at -12, because 40% strongly disapprove and only 28% strongly approve. Rasmussen summarizes:
The Approval Index rating has been lower only on two days since the current President took office.
Go here to find the full Rasmussen Report with this and other interesting data.

Quote of the Day

Chairman Mao was the greatest mass murderer of modern times, outclassing such horrors as Hitler, Pol Pot and Stalin. Nevertheless White House Communications Director Anita Dunn told a group of high school students her two favorite political philosophers were Mao Tse Tung and Mother Teresa.

For those of you who wish to watch her delivering this talk, the video is available here, courtesy of the fellows at Power Line and Fox News. As John Hinderaker, one of the three authors of that blog said yesterday:
She is simply a fool and, if she had any sense of dignity, would resign.
Our young President has surrounded himself with entirely too many foolish people.

Analysis of GOP Choices

Matt Lewis writes for Politics Daily. See his article about the way the GOP chooses presidential candidates. I suspect his head vs. heart analysis would apply to the Dems, too.

I've watched politics for roughly half a century. I believe Lewis has it about right, see what you think.

ABC Goes To Bat For Fox

You wouldn't imagine Richard Nixon would be a role model for Barack Obama. Nevertheless the Obama White House says Fox News is not a news organization. This sounds a lot like Tricky Dick's famous "enemies list."

ABC News' Jake Tapper had a very interesting interchange with White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs. Read it here. The sum and substance is that Tapper put Gibbs on the spot. Here is the bottom line:

Tapper: I’m not talking about their opinion programming or issues you have with certain reports. I’m talking about saying thousands of individuals who work for a media organization, do not work for a “news organization” -- why is that appropriate for the White House to say?

Gibbs: That’s our opinion.

My next question would have been: MSNBC and CNN both have liberal opinion shows. I presume you believe it would have been equally appropriate for President Bush to declare they are not news organizations?

Whatever happened to that old adage about not getting into battles with folks who buy ink by the barrel or videotape by the mile?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Quote of the Day

Dr. Charles Krauthammer, being interviewed by Jay Nordlinger for National Review, about the White House vs. Fox News controversy:
Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes are geniuses: They found a niche market — half of America.
Is that sarcasm or irony? It is a viewpoint we expressed here in COTTonLINE some months ago. When most of the MSM veers left, while half or more of the populace veers right, smart media follow the populace. This isn't rocket science.

Note: Murdoch's News Corporation owns Fox News, as well as The Wall Street Journal. The Wall Street Journal is "the top-selling newspaper in the United States" according to this Associated Press story. Fox News is the number one cable news channel per this TV Week article.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Balz: Democrats on Defensive

Dan Balz may well be this generation's David Broder. Which is to say, as much as is possible in the MSM he tries to be even-handed. Here in The Washington Post he discusses the problems facing Democrats as they head into the 2010 mid-term elections. His lede sums it up:
Three forces threaten Democrats in the 2010 elections: populist anger on the right, disaffection in the middle and potential disillusionment on the left.
Friends, that can give us hope. Go read the whole article.

Quote of the Day

Michael Barone, writing for the Washington Examiner, analyzing voter attitudes toward Obama's policies:
Until November 2008 Americans did not have any reason to contemplate what a more European approach would mean in real-life terms. Now, with Obama in the White House and a heavily Democratic Congress, they do. And they mostly don't like it.

The Downward Spiral

Go here to see results of a Harris Poll concerning approval of President Obama:
In September, U.S. adults were split almost evenly on the job the President has been doing - 49% gave him positive ratings and 51% gave him negative ratings. This month, the number giving him positive ratings drops to 45% while over half of Americans (55%) give him negative ratings.
It is almost time for COTTonLINE to say "I told you so." Almost but not quite. I think we'll give him a year in office before hauling out that old chestnut.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

India-China Conflict Possible

See this Wall Street Journal article about the real possibility of warfare on the India-China border, in the vicinity of the Indian province of Arunachal Pradesh. These are the two most populous nations in the world, and both have nuclear weapons. A war between them could be a bloodbath, and the fallout could leave all of us glowing in the dark.
Oh yes, the Dalai Lama is involved too, somehow.

Quotes of the Day

Michael Barone, one of the best political analysts in the U.S., writing for RealClearPolitics about what we've learned as a result of the health care debate in Congress:
We know now that it costs a lot of money to pay for insurance policies with expanded coverage for an expanded number of people. And we know that no one wants to pay the price.

Then Barone quotes a telling line from another analyst:

As Michael Cannon of the Cato Institute points out, "Universal coverage is so expensive that Congress can't get there without taxing Democrats."

One major reason: in places like Canada and the U.K. that have "free" health care, people use more of it. They go to the doctor for every hangnail and cold.

I believe we have known these things all along. What Barone is saying is that Congress has demonstrated once again there is no way to evade these enduring truths.

Record Cold in MN

The guys who write Power Line blog consider Minneapolis-St. Paul home. They have had a really cold fall there, after a cold summer. John Hinderaker reports the following:
On Friday, the National Weather Service confirmed that there has never been a colder first two weeks of the month ever. ...
Typically the average high temperature for the Twin Cities from Oct. 1-14 is 63 degrees but this year the average high temperature was only 47 degrees, or 16 degrees below average. That breaks the old mark of 52 degrees set back in 1875.
The coldest first two weeks of October ever, as far back as people have been keeping records in Minnesota, over 150 years. John's conclusion is this:
It is quite remarkable that liberals continue to sell their global warming/government takeover program, when any damn fool can see that the globe isn't warming.
In fact, we my be headed into another Little Ice Age. The last one stretched from the 1300s to the mid 1800s.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Quote of the Day

The late Irving Kristol, godfather of the neoconservative movement, speaking of the futility of Middle East diplomacy:
Whom the gods would destroy, they first tempt to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Yet president after president grasps this seemingly obvious nettle, and is wounded thereby. Go figure.
Source of the quote, this Boston Globe article by Jeff Jacoby.

Political Humor Alert

Sen. Olympia Snowe's (R, ME) explained her vote in committee for the Baucus health care bill by saying "When history calls, history calls." John Hinderaker, one of the three authors of the Power Line blog, responded:
I think history got a wrong number.
Way to go, John.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Krauthammer Sums Up

When you have time to read a long, thoughtful article about the apparent foreign policy aims of the Obama administration, go read this Krauthammer piece in The Weekly Standard. The good doctor really nails it, COTTonLINE believes he has it right.

Warning: there is nothing upbeat about the article. Don't read it while you are depressed.

Ken Burns Blows It

The other DrC and I love the National Parks of the U.S. We have visited at least 36 of them over the years. When we heard Ken Burns was doing a program about them, calling them America's best idea, we thought "wow." It turns out we got it two-thirds right, we should have thought "ow."

Burns managed to take something intrinsically interesting and make it boring. We weren't the only ones who felt this way, see this article in Politics Daily which takes the same view. Burns has chronicled the politics of the parks, the battles between local ranchers and the environmentalists, in other words, "ho hum." This was stuff I already knew.

As the article says, he spends too much time focused on talking heads spouting environmentalist piety and new age gush. When he could have shown beautiful scenery, and had naturalists talk about the geology and animal and plant life, he didn't.

Perhaps he knows his PBS audience better than we do. Time will tell.

Indian Women Want Toilets

No, this isn't bathroom humor. Go see a really interesting article about the drive to get home toilets in rural India. Women are demanding potential husbands install toilets before agreeing to marry them.

Courtesy of The Washington Post, the article shows the influence of supply and demand on the marriage mate "market" in India. Decades of aborting female fetuses in favor of male fetuses has created a shortage of marriageable young women.

As classical economics would suggest, a shortage creates the ability to demand more in return. A similar situation is likely to occur in China, not necessarily with respect to toilets but with the demand for wives outstripping the supply of young women.

Cold in the Mountain West

According to a story on Montana's News, a joint production of the state's CBS stations, record cold temperatures have occurred in Montana:
Temperatures in parts of western Montana were near zero overnight and record lows were set in Missoula, Kalispell and Butte on Sunday.
Meanwhile, the Missoulian website reports an Associated Press story:
Temperatures on Saturday evening dipped to 17 degrees; the last time it was this cold, this early, in southwestern Idaho was more than two decades ago, in 1985.
I guess we'll have to wait a few years for global warming to kick in.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Armenia-Turkey Pact

This Washington Post article chronicles the last-minute talks that led to a very tentative agreement between Armenia and Turkey to open diplomatic relations, as well as their mutual border. It is easy for this story to get lost in all of the larger issues currently under discussion.

Christian Armenia alleges that Muslim Turkey killed hundreds of thousands of Armenians almost a hundred years ago. Chances are the Armenians have this correct. On the other hand, essentially no Turk involved in that killing is still alive.

It is a region where there is entirely too much holding of grudges for hundreds of years. The Armenian president showed much courage in deciding to move beyond it. It will be interesting to see how this relationship works out.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Political Humor Alert

My candidate for best Obama/Nobel joke, from George Stephanopoulous' ABC website, and attributed to Erick Erickson, managing editor of
Obama is becoming Jimmy Carter faster than Jimmy Carter became Jimmy Carter.
I suppose it is easier this time since Carter has showed us how it is done.

Quote of the Day II

Andrea Tantaros, writing for Fox News:
When she became Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi assured Americans she would “drain the swamp” and clean up ethics violations. (snip) Sadly, the swamp is winning.
Was this outcome ever in doubt?

BBC: Climate Science Confusing

This article on the BBC News website presents science pros and cons about global warming. The author is Paul Hudson, BBC Climate Correspondent. His informed conclusion:
One thing is for sure. It seems the debate about what is causing global warming is far from over.
And Hudson doesn't even mention that we've recently been in a period of few-to-no sunspots. Such periods tend to be cooler.

BTW, it snowed in Minneapolis last night and is expected to snow in Denver today. The Phillies-Rockies playoff game in Denver was postponed for a day.

Quote of the Day I

Daniel Greenfield, writing in the Canada Free Press:
Part of the fun of living under the Obama Administration is having your news headlines keep turning into April Fool’s Day.
Perhaps it is fun if you are in Canada. Here, not so much.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Quote of the Day

Weston Kosova, writing here in The Gaggle at the Newsweek website, concerning President Obama winning the Nobel Peace Prize.
No matter what you think of Obama, the man has done nothing, at all, to deserve it.
There isn't much wiggle room in that statement.

"The gaggle" is what the White House press corps calls the daily briefing at which no videography is permitted. Newsweek magazine is published by the same folks who publish The Washington Post - not exactly a conservative newspaper.

Phony Prize

President Barack Hussein Obama has exactly one accomplishment in foreign policy. This one accomplishment has been sufficient to earn him the Nobel Peace Prize. Seen from the icy shores of Norway, it is an amazing accomplishment.

The President's only foreign policy accomplishment: he is not George W. Bush. His foreign policy, unlike that of Bush, is not muscular.

As we noted a few days ago, the world prefers that an American president be a wuss. To date, our new President has completely fulfilled the world's wishes in this regard.

Here is more evidence that the Obama administration will be a replay of the Carter administration. The last American President to win this dubious "honor" was Jimmy Carter.

Carter is still honored by the international community, whereas at home he is widely viewed as the worst president of the last 70 years. Carter was even worse than Nixon, who at least had some accomplishments to balance against his demonstrated shortcomings.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Thoughts on Afghanistan

Much to read and ponder about our long involvement in Afghanistan. I'm not sure any foreign power has successfully pacified Afghanistan; neither the Brits nor the Soviets managed it in the last 200 years.

One thing we must not do is be half-hearted about our involvement; that was the pre-surge Bush mistake in Iraq. As General Colin Powell was heard to observe, you either go in with overwhelming force and win, or don't go in at all. I cannot imagine our current President making that kind of major commitment. Anything in between wastes money and lives in a meat grinder stalemate.

As long as the Taliban and al Qaeda have a safe haven in the tribal areas of Pakistan, there is no way to defeat them. If by some chance Pakistan gets control of those areas, expect the bad guys to move somewhere else, maybe Iran or Somalia or Tajikistan or even Venezuela.

I can imagine the US chasing these trouble-makers all over the globe, more-or-less indefinitely. This is not a pleasant thought.

Quote of the Day

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, quoted in The Wall Street Journal, commenting on the high quality of counsel presenting cases before the court:

Lawyers, after all, don’t produce anything. They enable other people to produce and to go on with their lives efficiently and in an atmosphere of freedom. That’s important, but it doesn’t put food on the table and there have to be other people who are doing that. And I worry that we are devoting too many of our very best minds to this enterprise.
Justice Scalia, I believe you are correct.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Barone: Bush Helps Obama

Political guru Michael Barone, writing for the Washington Examiner, has a very interesting take on the current political dynamic. His basic point is that voters aren't so much enthused about Obama's program as they were turned off by Bush's failures. It is an interesting argument, he summarizes the failure of what he calls Narrative A, a supposed enthusiasm for big government solutions:
The unions' anti-secret-ballot bill is going nowhere, and neither, it seems, is carbon emissions legislation. The stimulus package is widely regarded as a failure and the Democrats' various health care bills are not winning majorities in polls. If anything, Americans are more leery of big government than they were a few years ago.
So, how did Obama get to where he is today, elected but with little public support? Barone calls this Narrative B:
In this narrative, Democrats' big congressional majorities owe more to perceived Republican incompetence and to the $400 million that labor unions poured into Democratic campaigns than to any change in fundamental attitudes toward the balance between markets and government.
IMHO the former Republican Congress was incompetent; it spent money like a teenager with a new credit card. I am less willing to view Bush's slow response to Hurricane Katrina as a failure. If a city sits below sea level near the ocean, I believe it is that city's responsibility to protect its people and property against flooding. For it to rely on the Federal government as "first responder" is the equivalent of a healthy adult living on welfare instead of working.

The entire article is worth your time.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Verrrrry Interestinggg, But Not Funny

That's what Laugh-In's Arte Johnson would say, in a mock German accent and uniform, when faced with some odd occurrence. I have that same reaction to the appearance in The New York Times and The Washington Post of opinion columns critical of the President. provides the links to a Bob Herbert column in the Times and a Richard Cohen column in the Post, both of which ask in various ways the question "Is the President up to the job?" Neither seems very sure the answer is "yes."

We needed the MSM to figure this out a year ago, when there was still a chance to influence the election. I was not confident McCain would do a good job as president; I was confident Obama would do a mediocre one.

If a semi-retired Management professor living in rural America can figure this out by reading the candidates' vitae, our nation's premier talking heads should have been able to figure it out with their access to the actual people.

I begin to suspect our opinion leaders did figure it out, but hoped they were wrong. Once again, the MainStream Media dropped the ball.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Domestication, Anyone?

Interested in how species become domesticated? How the wolf became the dog, the bison became the cow? See this article in New Scientist, about experimental attempts at accelerated domestication, mostly done in what is now Russia. The article reports rapid domestication of silver foxes, wild rats, and mink, among others. Fascinating stuff.

Ireland Says "Yes"

In case you haven't been paying attention, Ireland has voted again on the draft treaty that will give the European Union central government more power. As this Wall Street Journal article reports, this time Ireland voted "yes."

That gives the Treaty of Lisbon new hope of being approved by all EU members, and taking effect. The reason given for this change in attitude: Ireland is having a worse recession than most EU countries, and looks to the EU for help.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Broder: the Real Obama Will Stand Up

David Broder is the long-time dean of the Washington political commentariat. Today he weighs in on health care and the President's options. Writing for The Washington Post, Broder observes that the health care issue will require President Obama to finally go on record as to whether he is a moderate or a liberal. This is an issue which, according to Broder, Obama has been trying with some success to fudge.

Broder believes the Republicans' choice to oppose the reform forces Obama into the hands of the liberals in his party. Broder's views are always worth considering.

On the other hand, I think it possible some of the Senate's Blue Dog Democrats may not vote for it. They can and do read the opinion polls, which show that we Americans oppose the plan. And of course in this context we have to remember the salience of the First Law of Politics: Get Reelected.

California: A View from the UK

One of the continuing stories COTTonLINE is following is the political and economic debacle in California. Take a look at this long, thoughtful article about California's problems, written by Paul Harris for The Guardian of London.

It is short on answers, but then, aren't we all? It at least does a good job of painting a current picture of some of the worst problems there. It however touts the work of Van Jones, which is a real reason to doubt the judgment of the author.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Some Fun

The London Telegraph puts forward a fascinating piece of conspiracy theory. They print a photo of Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad holding up his identity papers which reflect, they claim, that his family was Iranian Jewish, named Sabourjian, but converted to Islam after his birth.

The article's authors argue that having Jewish ancestry could explain his vitriolic attacks on Israel,:
Experts last night suggested Mr Ahmadinejad's track record for hate-filled attacks on Jews could be an overcompensation to hide his past.
Ali Nourizadeh, of the Centre for Arab and Iranian Studies, said: "This aspect of Mr Ahmadinejad's background explains a lot about him. (snip) By making anti-Israeli statements he is trying to shed any suspicions about his Jewish connections. He feels vulnerable in a radical Shia society."
Having seen what Photoshop artists can do to change photos, I accept no photograph as proof of anything. It may be true, it may be nonsense, either way it is fun.

Hat tip to Scott Johnson of Power Line for the link.

Quote of the Day II

John R. Miller, writing opinion for The New York Times, about the world's view of the U.S.:
The world simply distrusts the big guy on the block, and the only way to address this is to stop behaving like a superpower. A much better option, of course, would be to pay less attention to foreign opinion surveys and more to our own ideals and interests.
Nicely said. The whole article is worth your time.

Dad Was Right

I spent my early childhood in Hollywood, CA, where my father had lived since the end of World War I. I had the usual kid's awe of movie stars but my father pooh-poohed such notions. "They are a bunch of degenerates" he would say, without ever being explicit.

I always figured the behavior of the movie colony offended his Midwest moral and political sensibilities and let it go at that. Later I learned some of the details of the Fatty Arbuckle scandal, the uses of the casting room couch, and the Red scare and was sure I was right. Dad was a prude and show folk were fast and loose, slept around, and some were Marxists too.

Recently I began to think dear old Dad was right, that I had been too forgiving. What has convinced me is Hollywood's reaction to the arrest in Switzerland of Director Roman Polanski to serve the sentence for a 30 year old conviction of molesting a 13 year old girl.

Eugene Robinson, writing for RealClearPolitics, documents the Hollywood luminaries who have risen to Polanski's defense. Polanski is an unrepentant child molester - what's to defend? It appears the only heinous sin in Hollywood's value system is naming the names of fellow Communists to a Congressional committee.

Quote of the Day I

An otherwise unidentified Georgian in a letter to Jay Nordlinger (scroll down) of National Review Online, with his answer to the question "what would Jesus drive?"
Like any carpenter, a full-sized American pickup truck, long bed, trailer hitch, locking toolbox (he hung out with thieves), crew cab, with the gunrack modified for fishing rods.
Don't forget the pile of receipts and permits on the truck's dashboard. He might have a snuff can in his hip pocket and wear a "gimme" cap too.

Friday, October 2, 2009

A Bad Bet

The world likes a weak American president, but treats him poorly. The International Olympics Committee just gave President Obama a rude slap. See this Associated Press article from Yahoo News, which lays out the grim news for Obama:

Chicago was knocked out in the first round, despite in-person lobbying by President Barack Obama — one of the most shocking defeats ever handed down by the International Olympic Committee.
They give the details of the voting rounds; the loss wasn't even close. BO would have been much smarter to have stayed home:

The final result was decisive: Rio beat Madrid by 66 votes to 32. Chicago got just 18 votes in the first round, with Tokyo squeezing into the second round with 22. Madrid was leading after the first round with 28 votes, while Rio had 26.

In the second round, Tokyo was eliminated with just 20 votes. Madrid got 29, qualifying it for the final round face-off with Rio, which by then already had a strong lead, with 46 votes.

Had Obama succeeded in getting the Olympics for Chicago it would have been a major victory. Losing decisively is a major loss for him, any way you look at it.

You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em,
Know when to walk away and know when to run.*
Obama is not a skilled gambler. The Gambler-in-Chief couldn't see this was one of those "fold 'em" hands.

*Lyrics of The Gambler written by Donald Alan Schlitz, Jr., made famous by Kenny Rogers.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Quote of the Day II

George Will, writing for RealClearPolitics, about climate change skepticism:
What makes skeptics skeptical is the accumulating evidence that theories predicting catastrophe from man-made climate change are impervious to evidence. The theories are unfalsifiable, at least in the "short run." And the "short run" is defined as however many decades must pass until the evidence begins to fit the hypotheses.
In other words, you cannot argue with a true believer. Will can really turn a phrase; I love "impervious to evidence" and "unfalsifiable."

Balz: Independents Lean Right

Dan Balz, who analyzes politics for The Washington Post, is probably this generation's David Broder - the guru of national politics. Go see his article which crunches the numbers of several polls and concludes that while Republicans haven't gained a lot of ground, and Democrats haven't lost a lot, what has happened is a shift in the attitudes of independents. Balz says:
In the first three months of this year, Gallup found that 17 percent of all adults were independents who leaned toward the Democrats, and 11 percent independents who leaned toward the Republicans. Gallup's third quarter data showed that 15 percent of adults were Republican-leaning independents, and 13 percent Democratic-leaning independents.
Balz concludes:
If Obama's policies are causing independents, who were critical to Democratic successes in 2006 and 2008, to look more favorably toward the Republican Party, that should be cause for concern at Democratic Party headquarters.
The entire article is worth your time.

Food for Thought

Here is an interesting article on the Miller-McCune website about the extent to which Americans are geographically segregating themselves by race, religion, political party, lifestyle, etc. It is mostly a review of two books concerning this trend: The Big Sort by journalist Bill Bishop and Whitopia: An Improbable Journey to the Heart of White America by Rich Benjamin.

Benjamin, an African-American, says of this racial sorting trend:
There are forces that push people out [of cities and inner suburbs], like diversity and crumbling infrastructure and high home prices. And there are pull factors, like more home for your dollar [in the whitopias], beautiful natural amenities and safety, and the perceived comfort that comes with homogeneity.
Bishop sees pluses and minuses:
The good part is you get this incredible variety from place to place; places zoom off into their own cultural trajectories. But what happens is people lose touch with those who disagree with them. What happens is a nation incapable of compromise; you have this kind of national stalemate.
A "national stalemate" is not a bad description of our current condition. Increasingly, congressional districts are "safe" for one party or the other, and therefore elect more extreme members of the "safe" party. Result: no legislative compromise, leading to a national stalemate as the "blue" states and the "red" states cannot agree. If Benjamin is right about geographic segregation, should we rename those the brown states and the white states?

Quote of the Day I

Ted Nugent, writing for Human Events:
Jimmy Carter is either a racist or an idiot or both. Probably both, tinged with a little senility.
Only a little senility? Carter's ascription of racism to others is probably a psychological projection of his own racist feelings.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Political Humor Alert

Chris Muir, a cartoonist whose Day by Day strip is wonderful, today has his lead character say:
Daily killings, vote fraud, crumbling infrastructure, corruption - yet Obama and family jet to Copenhagen.
To all of this her husband replies:
Are you talking about Afghanistan or Chicago?
The punchline is the wife answering:
Hon, obviously I'm talking about...about... (this followed by a puzzled look).
Current news out of Chicago suggests perhaps the two are not so dissimilar.