Thursday, April 30, 2009

Morales' Good Suggestion

Evo Morales, president of Bolivia, commenting on the exclusion of Cuba from the Organization of American States:
It can’t be understood why for ideological motives someone is kicked out of OAS. I’m also Marxist-Leninist, so what are they going to kick me out also?”
Evo, old buddy, you've got a pretty darn good idea there, one that should be seriously considered.

The quote is from MercoPress which cites as their source an Argentine paper Clarin.

Global Warming Strikes Again

The Australian reports an article from the Melbourne Herald Sun which begins with the following line:
Melbourne has shivered through its coldest April morning in over 50 years, with temperatures dropping below freezing in some suburbs.
That darned global warming continues to be a threat, worldwide. Or is it global cooling?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Ugly Behavior

This article in The New York Times describes a new low in human behavior:
A female suicide bomber in Baghdad, Iraqi officials said, held a young child’s hand as she set off her explosives among a group of women and children receiving emergency food aid.
It is hard to imagine that woman and I are members of the same species. Pretty clearly her culture and mine share few values. When a bunch of college kids form an organization to argue for "western values," this sort of news item enables me to see their viewpoint.

Bye, Bye RINO

Senator Arlen Specter changes parties from Republican to Democrat. Ho-hum. So a guy who votes with the Dems most of the time changes party affiliation, so what? It isn't as though Specter changed the majority from one party to the other, that happened in 2007, following the election of 2006. All he may have accomplished is give the Dems a veto-proof majority of 60 on some issues, issues on which he probably would have voted with them anyway.

It has been clear for some years that Specter was a Republican In Name Only, a RINO. Now his party affiliation aligns with his voting record. That is no big deal for the Republicans except that it is sort of kicking them when they are already down, psychologically.

It turns out that Specter started life as a Democrat anyway, but changed parties to run for District Attorney. I think the only party he really belongs to is Friends of Specter, anything else is just opportunistic window-dressing.

For another view, see the entry above about the future of the Republican Party.

Is Multiculturalism Possible?

Swimming is automatic for fish, comes naturally to dogs, ducks and polar bears, can be learned by humans, and is impossible for pigeons. It is clear that multiculturalism doesn't come naturally to humans, as swimming does to dogs and ducks. The real question is whether we can learn it, as we do swimming, or is it impossible for most of us.

I happen to be thinking about whether multiculturalism is possible for most humans because of this article in Macleans, Canada's news magazine. If any country has prided itself on multiculturalism, that country is Canada. It turns out, however, that Canada isn't doing very well at multiculturalism:
Across Canada, 72 per cent said they have a “generally favourable opinion” of Christianity. At the other end of the spectrum, Islam scored the lowest favourability rating, just 28 per cent. Sikhism didn’t fare much better at 30 per cent, and Hinduism was rated favourably by 41 per cent. Both Buddhism, at 57 per cent, and Judaism, 53 per cent, were rated favourably by more than half the population.
If Canada can't do better than that, multiculturalism may be an impossibility for most people. Note: Canadian anti-Sikh bias comes from the 1985 bombing of an Air India plane full of Canadians by Sikh nationalists.

Buyers' Remorse?

"Buyers' remorse" is defined as buying something and, later deciding you should not have bought it. We normally use the term in the study of marketing, but today we are applying it to politics.

Scott Rasmussen, a pollster whose Rasmussen Report we often cite on COTTonLINE, has for the last five years been doing a generic Congressional poll. The generic poll asks whether you would vote for your district's Democrat or Republican candidate, and is called "generic" because it doesn't mention candidate names. Democrats have led Republicans for years, but now:
For just the second time in more than five years of daily or weekly tracking, Republicans now lead Democrats in the latest edition of the Generic Congressional Ballot.
Rasmussen finds the reason for this change:
The GOP’s improved position comes primarily from falling Democratic support. Democrats are currently at their lowest level of support in the past year while Republicans are at the high water mark.
As an old Business School prof, I call that buyers' remorse. Voters who voted Democrat are regretting their vote. It will be a long four years.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Political Humor Alert

My long-time friend Earl sends the following from South Dakota:
Men, if you think you have problems, just remember...
Somewhere in the world there is a Mr. Pelosi.

Obama Popularity a Hoax

It turns out Barack Obama is more unpopular than all but one president (Clinton) in the last 40 years, measured at the end of their first 100 days. The Washington Times reports:
At the 100-day mark of his presidency, Mr. Obama is the second-least-popular president in 40 years.
Five presidents rated higher than Mr. Obama after 100 days in office: Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, George W. Bush, Richard Nixon, and George H.W. Bush, in declining order of popularity. Obama had better hope his subsequent popularity resembles that of Reagan, rather than that of Carter, Nixon or W.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Murdoch Is the Winner

Reuters reports that the Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC) shows the mainstream media is hurting. That is, all of them except The Wall Street Journal. Here is the nut graph:
Among the top 25 U.S. newspapers, only News Corp's The Wall Street Journal scored a rise in total paid circulation, of 0.6 percent to 2.08 million.
Of the major papers with a truly national reach, the WSJ is the only one with a more-or-less conservative editorial policy. Similarly, the mostly conservative Fox News Network, also owned by Murdoch's News Corp., keeps beating liberal MSNBC and CNN in the ratings.

Politically the country is very nearly divided in half. By owning the only media outlets in both print and cable news that are somewhat conservative, Murdoch is a near monopoly news provider for U.S. conservatives. Meanwhile, the networks, PBS, NPR, and most of the big newspapers split the liberal half.

From a business perspective, who is dumb and who is smart?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

HP5 Plot Glitch

The other DrC and I are listening to Jim Dale's excellent CD of the fifth Harry Potter novel: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. It's probably the 6th or 7th time we've heard it. In particular, we were listening to the situation during their 5th year OWLs (Ordinary Wizarding Levels) exams, late in the year.

You will recollect that the three friends are taking their Astronomy practical exam late at night atop Hogwarts' tallest tower. At this point Headmistress Umbridge with several aurors leaves the castle and crosses the grounds to Hagrid's cabin. There is a fight and Umbridge's posse is defeated by Hagrid, although they stun his dog Fang. Hagrid runs off, with Fang over his shoulder. Professor McGonagall attempts to intervene and is hit by four simultaneous stunning spells, which puts her in St. Mungo's Hospital.

What confuses me is why all this happens. I understand Umbridge taking guards with her since Hagrid is huge, part-human and therefore to her, scary. Earlier in the same book Hagrid has told Harry and Hermione that he will probably be sacked. Since he is resigned to it happening, why did a fight break out? Presumably, if told he is fired he will shrug and start packing.

Was it somehow necessary to arrest Hagrid? The Ministry wants to take Dumbledore into custody, have they generalized the warrant to include Hagrid? If so, on what grounds and why doesn't it include McGonagall too? I don't believe the books ever explain why the Battle of Hagrid's Cabin happens. If you know differently, I'd appreciate you letting me know.


If each new administration in Washington takes it upon themselves to investigate, prosecute and incarcerate members of the prior administration, we are headed down the road to dictatorship. It won't be long before an administration chooses not to permit elections lest their successors imprison them.

As a nation, we don't want to descend to the level where each administration stashes stolen fortunes in Switzerland and flees to Brazil upon leaving office. That is the sort of thing Latin America is trying desperately, and with some success, to rise above.

We have snickered about this third world proclivity for decades. How embarrassing if we end up there ourselves.

GOP Hearts and Minds

The guys at Politico write an interesting article about the way some leaders of the GOP are being pulled toward the middle, while the Republican base continues to lean to the right. You can understand the pressures on leaders to move left; press reactions and inside-the-Beltway views pull them in that direction.

If the leadership gets pulled to the left, the base does not. Opposition to same-sex marriage and amnesty for illegal immigrants continues to be strong. Ditto "tea party" opposition to higher government spending, taxes and debt

The article doesn't mention it but the GOP base isn't just against things. They favor a stronger military and a more confrontational foreign policy than does the Obama administration. They supported continued operation of the prison at Guantanamo and continued incarceration of the enemy combatants held there.

They also favor giving a cold shoulder to thuggish leaders of non-democratic states: the Castros, Chavez, Morales, and the like. They favor continued support of Colombia and Israel, and continued recognition of the "special relationship" with Britain.

Candidates are selected in primaries and caucuses, where the motivated and extreme voters of both parties are more likely to vote. Then nominees have to move to the center to pick up the independent, centrist voters who tend not to vote in primaries. It is an interesting dilemma, one that John McCain did not negotiate adroitly.

Quotes of the Day

Porter Goss, Chair of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence from 1997 to 2004, says in the Washington Post of the CIA briefings he shared with current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi:
It must be hard for most Americans of common sense to imagine how a member of Congress can forget being told about the interrogations of Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed. In that case, though, perhaps it is not amnesia but political expedience.
Speaker Pelosi is nothing if not expedient. Of the result of the details of interrogation being made public, Goss says:
The suggestion that we are safer now because information about interrogation techniques is in the public domain conjures up images of unicorns and fairy dust.
No doubt.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

India - Pakistan Conflict Possible

On the 22nd I wrote in COTTonLINE that the only nation which might have the backbone, and motivation, to tackle the mess in Pakistan was India. Frankly, when I wrote that I believed it to be unlikely.

Today I read a Mark Steyn column in National Review in which he takes the likelihood of Indian action more seriously. Steyn says:
If you’re...India, following Obama’s apology tour even as you watch the Taliban advancing on those Pakistani nukes, would you want to bet the future on American resolve?
Maybe an Indian invasion of Pakistan is not so unlikely. If it happens, millions will die. Those two countries don't like each other, not even a little.

NYT: A Balanced View of Cheney

The New York Times has been notorious for its leftward bias during the election campaign of 2008. Now it publishes a relatively balanced article about the role and current activities of former Vice President Dick Cheney.

Author John Harwood neither defends nor attacks Cheney; it appears to be a largely straight forward job of reporting. Here is my favorite Harwood quote:
Dick Cheney became a one-of-a-kind vice president for two reasons: he cared deeply about governance, and not a bit about his future political standing.
Harwood also repeats one of my favorite Cheney quotes, which echos these beliefs:
Reminded last year in a television interview that most Americans considered the Iraq war not worth fighting, Mr. Cheney responded, “So?”
That's my neighbor Dick Cheney, still true to Wyoming after all those years in Washington.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Movie Review

The other DrC and I saw the animated Monsters vs. Aliens last night in 3-D. We were celebrating her birthday. It is a fun movie. Not a great movie, but definitely fun.

It did the usual PC Hollywood thing: empowerment of women and demonstrating that being different is no barrier to being a "good guy." This was done in a fun way so that it didn't become tiresome, as it so often does. They even let the military character become a more-or-less good guy too, darned generous for Hollywood.

One interesting oddity I noticed. The M vs. A alien villain strongly resembled the villain chef in the animated film Ratatouille. I wonder if there are only a limited number of configurations for villains or if the same guy drew them?


My view is that the Justice attorneys whose opinions supported "enhanced" interrogation and the interrogators who performed it should be left alone. They did what they did in the emotionally charged days following 9/11 when it truly felt like the nation might be struck anywhere at any time. If the current administration doesn't find such information gathering activities acceptable, it shouldn't do them.

On the other hand, I'm tempted to support legal prosecution of everybody who knew about waterboarding and did nothing to stop it, just to send Nancy Pelosi to Federal prison. If you don't know to what I refer, see yesterday's blog post "Nancy Knew in 2002."

Imagining Nancy doing the "perp walk" wearing steel bracelets makes me enthuse like Argus Filch imagining whipping Hogwarts students in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.


My poor old birth state - California - is a mess, and this Associated Press article on describes some of the things being considered to fix the mess. A constitutional convention is proposed to fix problems in the state constitution.

The big issue is that a current constitutional provision requiring 2/3 majority to pass tax increases plus the famous Prop. 13, taken together, have made it impossible to raise taxes much at either the state or local levels. The result is a populous state with big problems, and constrained state and county budgets.

Continuous Democratic majorities in both houses of the state legislature have been unable, for ideological reasons, to cut state spending to the level of state income. They have engaged in cost-shedding by moving certain responsibilities to the county level, without providing supporting revenue.

Believe it or not, I think the solution is constitutional change enabling higher taxes! I believe California is overpopulated; one eighth of U.S. population lives there. Higher taxes will drive jobs, and therefore working-age people and their children, out of California. Fewer people will lower the cost of operating the state and its counties.

Equilibrium will be reached at some point of smaller population and lower total costs. If CA became largely a residence for retirees and the people who support their needs, its operating costs would be much lower.

The Sand States

"The Sand States" is what Michael Barone, writing for the Washington Examiner, calls California, Arizona, Nevada, and Florida. They have much more severe problems with foreclosures than the other 46 states. Go see if your state is in the top ten list of foreclosures per state. Barone finds the difference between the four Sand States and the rest of the nation is astounding:
Together they contain 21% of the nation’s population but had 55% of the foreclosures.
In other words, purchasers in the Sand States were more than twice as likely to end up losing their homes to foreclosure. This was, as Barone notes, mostly because the housing bubble was much more exaggerated in those four states.

Barone makes an interesting argument for grading mortgage-backed securities on the basis of the percentage of Sand State mortgages they contain. Dare we conclude that the home financing crisis is not national but merely a local one in CA, AZ, NV, and FL?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

AP Cooking the Books

There are lots of interesting ways to make statistics come out the way you wish, just ask an old social scientist like me. This American Thinker article reports on how the Associated Press has biased the numbers to make President Obama look good at the end of his first 100 days. The article links you to AP articles which claim that 48% of Americans think the country is on the right track.

Steve McCann, who wrote the Thinker article, determined that the poll surveyed almost twice as many Democrats as Republicans. Actually, Obama won 53% of the popular vote while McCain won 47%. can the AP justify polling nearly twice as many Democrats as Republicans? Do they think lots of Democrats voted for McCain? It appears AP believes all 18% of those who claimed no party identification were voters too embarrassed to admit they were Republicans.

Just suppose they'd surveyed almost twice as many Republicans as Democrats. What would the "right track" percentage be? You'd guess it would be much lower, and you'd be right.

The right way to do this poll is to select for your sample percentages of Republicans and Democrats on a rough parity with how many voted each way in the most recent election. Another defensible way is to make your respondent percentages equal each party's registrations. Very clearly, AP did neither, probably because they didn't like the results.

Nancy Knew in 2002

In any Washington scandal the issue is "What did she know and when did she know it?" It turns out Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) knew all about waterboarding and other "enhanced" interrogation techniques in use by the CIA as a result of a secret briefing in 2002.

This briefing was reported by the Washington Post in December of 2007. For her now to badmouth the people at Justice and the CIA accused of waterboarding's approval and use is extreme hypocrisy.

I like the way this title rhymes. Hat tip to Politico for the reminder of the 2007 WaPo article.

Turkey, Armenia Talking

See the attached Washington Post article. If the agreement it reports leads to normalization of relations between Turkey and Armenia, two long-time enemies, this is an important milestone. It suggests that the Armenians are willing, in modern parlance, to "get over it" and move on. Getting over it is, to say the least, unusual in the region.

The Middle East has been a place where grudges are held for centuries. Arabs still obsess about "crusaders" when they defeated the last crusade seven hundred years ago. After the Ottoman Empire's decline in the early 1800s, there was again European colonial activity in the region until the end of World War II, but that ended at least fifty years ago.

If the Armenians can forgive the Turks for mass deaths which occurred a hundred years ago, maybe some other hard feelings in the region can be settled. If you are a betting person you'd bet against it happening; but if you are an optimistic person it could give you hope.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

India's Internal Unrest

Read this article from the BBC about a group of Maoist rebels who grabbed a passenger train in eastern India and are holding 500 passengers hostage. This isn't the first time a train has been taken. The rebels operate in several provinces of central and eastern India.

The article fails to mention that the Maoist rebels are called Naxalites, named for the village of Naxalbari where the movement more or less started. You might guess the rebels are supported by China, but there seems to be little evidence of outside support.

It isn't clear is why India doesn't commit major troops and energy into the suppression of these rebels. It is possible the rebels have enough local support that government suppression would turn into an asymmetric civil war, which India's leaders would rather avoid. Or, such action might be perceived as "making war on the rural poor," which could be political suicide in a largely rural and poor nation.

Current slang for this putting-it-off behavior is "kicking the can down the road."

Pakistan Eroding

See this CNN article which reports the Taliban is increasing its hold on Pakistan, and getting nearer the capital, Islamabad. It feels like they will gradually take over the country, or at least the northern and Afghani border sections.

The Taliban are ethnically different from the inhabitants of the south and may not make inroads there, it depends on whether language/ethnicity is a stronger bond than religious similarity. Pakistani politics are essentially tribal, there is no national identity or consensus except dislike for India and, to a lesser extent, the West.

This situation is very bad news for the developed world: the Taliban are disciplined feudalistic fanatics with a good chance of obtaining nuclear weapons. The toughest part is that nobody knows what to do about it. At one point in world history the problem would have been solved with a military invasion and occupation. I cannot see any modern nation developing the will to accomplish this today unless, perhaps, India...?

Quote of the Day

Jay Ambrose, writing in the Washington Examiner, and attributing the underlying thought to CIA Director Michael Hayden:
CIA agents once played rough with possibly 30 terrorists, and maybe they shouldn't have, but they saved American lives that way. And if you say no, no, a thousand times no to playing rough in the future, you may be saying yes to thousands of deaths.
The quote states the dilemma as clearly as possible: the dilemma is real, the "thousands of deaths" are dead Americans.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Steyn on Demography

Mark Steyn writes a very scary column on the impact of the demographic implosion in the developed world: Europe, Japan, North America, etc. As he notes, we incur all this government debt but have fewer and fewer children to pay for it. What happens when we cannot refinance our debt?

You need to go read this column. It could change your mind about immigration. Hat tip to for the link to Mark's column.

Tracking Poll Down to +2

Rasmussen Reports does a daily tracking poll on presidential popularity. His Presidential Approval Index is the number who Strongly Approve (34%) minus the number who Strongly Disapprove (32%) or a less-than-stellar +2. In addition, Rasmussen finds:
Overall, 54% of voters say they at least somewhat approve of the President's performance so far. That’s his lowest total approval rating to date. (emphasis added)
Shaking hands with dictators and left-wing caudillos doesn't help a president's image here at home. Neither does apologizing in Europe for America's behavior.

Have I said "it's going to be a long four years" so far this week?

Monday, April 20, 2009

No Turkey for the EU: Bad News and Good News

See this article from Slate which reports the French are opposed to Turkey joining the European Union. For those of you whose geography is a little shaky, Turkey is partially a southern European nation, although mostly an Middle Eastern nation. Politically, Turkey used to be a secular nation whose citizens were mostly Islamic; today Turkey is becoming an Islamic state. It is Turkey's Islamization that is causing the French to say "no."

Turkey becoming more Islamist is bad news for everybody. It is bad news for Turkey as Islamic states almost always are retrograde. It is bad news for Europe which thereby loses influence in the Islamic world. It is bad news for NATO of which Turkey is a member, but may not be a member much longer. It is bad news for all non-Islamic nations whose ships wish to sail the Black Sea, as Turkey controls both sides of the narrow waterway giving access thereto.

On the other hand, France showing some backbone with respect to resisting the creeping Islamization of Europe is good news. We can hope to see more of the same.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Canadian Wisecrack

The Ottawa Sun, reaches an opinion about our new President:
The Obama presidency is becoming a reverse fairy tale: The prince is turning into a frog.
Ribbett! Ribbett!

Quote of the Day

Mark Steyn, writing in the Orange County Register, about the modern tea party movement:
Like the original tea party, it is, in the end, about freedom. Live Tea or die!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Climate Change Revisited

Instead of "global warming," perhaps we should be talking about "climate change" which does seem to be happening. I have links to two Australian articles (here and here) which say the Antarctic ice is growing and another from NASA which says the Arctic ice is shrinking. Since most of the world's fresh water is tied up in ice at the south polar region, the growth of Antarctic ice is important. Meanwhile, this USA Today article says 2009 so far is the eighth warmest year on record. As I write this, Denver and Cheyenne are experiencing a lot of unusually late snow.

No doubt about it, the climate is changing. It has changed before and will change again. We'd better figure out how to live with the changes, for we cannot stop them. They are a fact of life on planet Earth.

Are we contributing to the changes? Nobody knows. What is absolutely certain is that such changes have happened in the past with no human intervention. The AGW (anthropogenic global warming) folks exhibit considerable hubris to think humans are now in charge of the world's climate.

Odd Goings-On

Recently there have been people raising topics I thought were put to rest in 1865, namely, states' rights and secession. A column in the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports the Georgia Senate passed a declaration of states' rights almost unanimously. We have also heard that Texas Governor Rick Perry indicated a belief that Texas has the right to leave the Union. And there are reported to be small secessionist movements in both Hawaii and Alaska.

To date, nobody is taking these irritable grumblings very seriously. I remain convinced that hanging together beats hanging separately. Still, these are odd omens; perhaps they explain why the Department of Homeland Security issued a sweeping warning about right wing extremists. Do you think DHS sees the anti-tax "tea parties" as Beijing saw the "goddess of freedom and democracy statue" student protest in Tienanmen Square?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

MSM Misbehaves (Again)

See this article from Fox News on the variety of off-color humor engaged in by the mainstream media in describing yesterday's anti-tax "tea parties." The 'humor' was directed at a segment of non-mainstream listeners who, being familiar with the practices referenced, would "get it."

The mainstream media is today doddering toward extinction. The Coroner's verdict will be suicide. When we hold the funeral for the MSM, one of the things mentioned in their eulogy will be a counterproductive tendency to abuse their readers and viewers. Another eulogy topic will be their disbelief when we didn't thank them for the abuse.

It's okay, MSM, just keep digging that hole deeper.

Quote of the Day

Mary Anastasia O'Grady, writing for The Wall Street Journal, concerning aid to Latin America:
This is a good time to repeat what is already manifest: Latin America remains poor and backward not despite multilateral "assistance" but, in a large part, because of it.
The DrsC saw this on Guam, where a century of hand-outs from the U.S. Navy took a fine, self-sufficient group of people, the Chamorros, and made welfare drones of most of them.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Quote of the Day

Ann Coulter, in her latest column, cracking wise about two painful situations:
California was, in fact, a laboratory of Democratic policies. The rabbit died, so now Obama is trying it on a national level. That's what the tea parties are about.
My poor natal state is a mess, and our nation is headed down the same sad path. Ann's column, however, is a hoot so give it a look.

New Jersey Copies the U.K.

See this Associated Press article which reports that New Jersey will require beginning drivers to display a decal identifying them as such. The United Kingdom has, for decades, required beginners to display a plate with the capital letter L for learner. Who knows, maybe the idea will catch on?

Have a Cuppa

COTTonLINE takes this opportunity, on income tax deadline day, to salute the tax protesters who turned out for the various protest "tea parties" around the nation. We live in a rural area where it isn't practical to attend but we are with you in spirit.

Our federal government spends too much, taxes too much, borrows too much, and tries to do too much. Half the cabinet departments probably shouldn't exist at all.

Somewhere the ghost of Howard Jarvis, father of California's famous anti-tax Proposition 13, is giving high fives and explosively saying "yes."

Monday, April 13, 2009

Where Credit Is Due

This site is often critical of the President. However, when he does something of which we approve, we should recognize that, too. It is clear that President Obama authorized the use of deadly force in the resolution of the Somali "pirates" kidnapping case. Well done, Mr. President.

Meanwhile, one suspects this forthright action is giving his anti-military, peace-at-any-price moonbat constituency at Daily Kos and Huffington Post more than a little heartburn. As I imagine their chagrin, the best description of my inner state would be schadenfreude, that is, delight at another's misfortune.

Fuss in Fiji

There are odd things going on in Fiji, and have been for some years. The underlying issue is conflict between the Melanesian native Fijian people and the population of East Indians brought in many years ago by the British to work the plantations. The Indians slightly outnumber the Fijians and in a one-man, one-vote election elect Indians to the government. The Fijians take the view that Fiji is their home island and they will, by God, rule it regardless of who is in the majority.

This article by the New Zealand Press Association reports on the latest steps in the conflict. When the DrsC were in Fiji a couple of years ago we discovered that the Indians, being more entrepreneurial, have control of most of the wealth producing activities on the islands. The Fijians, on the other hand, have control of the army and police.

The simmering conflict on Fiji is one to keep an eye on. Much of Melanesia has had problems with governmental instability.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Quote of the Day

Andrew C. McCarthy, writing in the National Review Online about modern piracy:
Civilization is not an evolution of mankind but the imposition of human good on human evil. It is not a historical inevitability. It is a battle that has to be fought every day, because evil doesn’t recede willingly.
Every generation has to be civilized anew; it is the work of parents, teachers, churches and the police. Hat tip to Mark Steyn for citing the quote.

A Souring of European Relations

Read this column by Janet Daley in the London Telegraph. She argues that the election of Obama will make U.S. relations with Europe even worse than they were under Bush. Here is the nut graph:
What Mr Obama has succeeded in demonstrating to his own nation is that no amount of charm and flattery, no degree of self-abasement and apology for American "arrogance" is going to get any meaningful reciprocity from the Old Europeans (which is to say France and Germany, and the EU which they dominate) who could give lessons in sublime, transcendental arrogance to any American president however urbane and nuanced his message might be.
Who knows if she is right, but it is an interestingly argued column well worth your time to read.

That's More Like It

This Associated Press article and this Washington Post article report that the pirate-captured U.S. ship captain hostage has been rescued, apparently by the U.S. Navy Seals. Way to go, guys (and gals). Even better news, it is reported that three of the four Somalis holding him were shot and killed while the captain is alive and more or less well. A dead pirate doesn't need convicting in a criminal court, where he would become a hero to the world's moonbats.

Yesterday's posting entitled "Wusses in the 21st Century" complained about the lack of action against these "pirates." You could argue that today's news makes that posting premature, but the larger issue remains.

The developed world, which owns the cargo ships, still has no strategy to deal with a ragtag bunch of sea-going kidnappers-for-ransom. Reacting to individual instances of banditry is useful but is like treating people after they get sick rather than trying to prevent disease. I repeat, that is pathetic.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Wusses in the 21st Century

What kind of world allows its "scruples" to bind its hands so that a bunch of illiterate fishermen with assault rifles can extort millions of dollars from shipping companies while the world's governments stand helpless? Do you find something pathetic about pirates operating, apparently with impunity, off the eastern coast of Africa? Am I the only one who thinks there is something wrong with this picture?

This whole thing is pathetic, and it reveals that the system that permits it is pathetic too. We have a military that squashed flat Saddam Hussein and his entire army in three weeks. Our navy is second to none. But our leadership so lacks courage and focus that we sit helpless in the face of "piracy" that is almost laughable in its lack of armament or technology.

No less an American icon than President Thomas Jefferson went to war against the pirates of Tripoli, and won. We hear the echos of his attacks in the Marine Hymn, "...the shores of Tripoli." At the very least we should sink and destroy every craft larger than a kayak along the Somali coast. We could make it very dangerous to be a coastal Somali, but we probably won't.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Who Pays Income Taxes

This Washington Post editorial quotes some very interesting numbers from the Congressional Budget Office concerning how much of the federal government's total tax "take" comes from various income levels.

Let me share with you some of their selected facts. For example, do you think the rich don't pay taxes?

In 2006, the top 20 percent of earners paid 70 percent of all federal taxes. On average, they paid 26 percent of their income to the government. The very richest -- the top 1 percent of taxpayers, with household incomes of over $332,000 -- paid 28 percent of all taxes, with an effective tax rate of 31 percent.
I find those numbers stunning. Over a quarter of all federal income taxes are paid by just 1% of earners. To be sure, they can afford it. Over 70% are paid by the top 20% of earners, meaning the bottom four fifths (80%) of the population pays less than 30% of the total taxes. Wow! Tell me we don't have a progressive tax code.

Our new President says he will only raise taxes on people earning over $250,000 a year. It won't work, as the Post points out. First of all, these individuals are paying most of the federal income taxes already. Second, they didn't get affluent by being stupid; raise the rates and they'll figure out ways not to pay taxes. They'll send their money overseas, or invest in tax shelters or decide to earn less and enjoy more leisure time - the choice of the highly taxed European upper classes.

Combining data from two places in this editorial, you easily determine that the top one percent of earners earn 19% of all income and, as noted above, pay 28% of all taxes. We have to be approaching that point in the Laffer Curve where the wealthy decide to earn less in order to pay less.

I wonder if anybody in the Obama administration has ever heard of Arthur Laffer and his famous insight, first drawn on the back of a cocktail napkin? Counterintuitively, you get more tax revenues by cutting tax rates, not by raising them.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Misleading Headline

The scare headline says "Just 53% Say Capitalism Better Than Socialism" leading you to believe that 47% think socialism is better. If you bother to read the results of a telephone poll by Rasmussen Reports, you learn that only 20% prefer socialism, the other 27% don't have an opinion or don't know.

A headline that said "Only One in Five Prefers Socialism" wouldn't have been nearly so sensational, would it? Or how about "Number Preferring Capitalism 2.5 Times Greater than Number Preferring Socialism?"

I guess my favorite headline out of this survey would have been "More than One in Four Americans Clueless about Economic Systems." Actually, that last headline understates the degree of economic ignorance in our population.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Arrogance Justified?

This Rasmussen Reports article shows that relatively large numbers of Americans believe the U.S. has been arrogant towards Europe, as in fact the President admitted on his recent trip to the region. I believe this is debatable but for sake of discussion, let's assume it is true.

The more relevant issue is whether the attitudes and general wimpiness of Europe have justified arrogance on the part of the U.S. toward Europe. They have kindly allowed the U.S. to pay for most of their defense since the end of WW II. While we spent billions on the military, they spent their tax dollars on various socialist programs which they suggest to us we should emulate. As if....

Charles de Gaulle's famous quote about France applies to Europe generally, "How can you govern a country with two hundred and forty-six varieties of cheese?" Europe is fun to visit, a sort of adult Disneyland, but it isn't always easy to take Europe seriously. If there has been arrogance, perhaps it has been justified.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

A Modest Proposal

Mort Kondrake, Executive Editor of Roll Call and one of the Fox News Beltway Boys, writes an interesting column (reprinted by about health care. I would sooner see health care left alone, but it appears that is not an option Obama will consider. If The One is going to federalize health care in the U.S., and it sounds like he intends to do so, the proposal in this article sounds like a possible way to go about it.

I find particularly interesting the emphasis on rationing of care and hospice care for the dying. It is certainly true that we spend a large proportion of the total health care money spent in a person's entire life in the last 2-3 months of their life. Perhaps we could save much of this. To make this work, a special sort of triage doctor would have to look you (and your relatives) in the eye and say "for the following reasons we believe it is time for you to die and so you have been relegated to hospice care."

How would you like to be one of those doctors? How could we protect them from angry relatives? We face a brave new world full of dilemmas. is a link to an article outlining one of those dilemmas concerning cancer care in the U.K.

A Polarizing Pol

The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press is a polling organization with, if anything, a leftward bias. Their work is frequently reported on PBS's News Hour. In data reported out on April 2, Pew finds:
Barack Obama has the most polarized early job approval ratings of any president in the past four decades (emphasis added). The 61-point partisan gap in opinions about Obama's job performance is the result of a combination of high Democratic ratings for the president -- 88% job approval among Democrats -- and relatively low approval ratings among Republicans (27%).
And Pew concludes:
The growing partisan divide in presidential approval ratings is part of a long-term trend.
Since it is "part of a long-term trend," it cannot realistically be ascribed to racism.

Travel Blogging

Dateline: Palm Desert, CA. This place - the greater Palm Springs area - probably has some of the best winter weather in the world: warm, dry, and unrelentingly sunny. No wonder it draws snowbirds from all over North America. Walking around a couple of large parking lots and looking at the license plates, we saw vehicles from MO, AK, OR, WY, ID, NC, BC, and Alberta. All that in maybe 15 minutes.

The snowbirds will be 'flying' away north in the next month. You really don't want to spend summer here, temperatures over 110 degrees F are common and the nights don't cool down much.

One of the things you see a lot of here is old gals trying their darnedest to look like young women. Spa time, gym time, salon time, and probably plastic surgery all seem to be lavishly applied. On the other hand, the desert sun is tough on skin; when they talk about "tanning" leather they could as well be talking about damage to the human epidermis.

We saw a classic case that the other DrC described as "well past her sell-by date" yet dressed like a 25 year old. That is very Palm Springs. You'd think that as much as they're spending on themselves, they'd be happy. You'd be wrong. These high maintenance older gals almost without exception have an angry, bitter facial expression, probably because the illusion they're trying to maintain doesn't really work and they know it. Chances are many of them find their life space threatened by younger trophy wives. Collectively they constitute the "Palm Springs Harpies," one of the less attractive aspects of the valley.

This whole region - Palm Springs, Palm Desert, Indian Wells, La Quinta, Cathedral Springs, etc. - is laid out in a very unique manner. There is a main street roughly every mile, in a semi-grid and these have widely-ignored 45 mph speed limits although there are stop lights every mile. Traffic races around on these main "grid" streets.

In between there are some other streets but a lot of the land is tied up in truly huge gated communities, most of which include an 18 hole golf course, clubhouse, country club amenities, etc. In between are many strip malls anchored by a supermarket or a big box store, that part is typical CA. Stringing the whole area together is state highway 111, the old "main drag" before Interstate 10 was built.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Two Empty Suits

So...the Obamas went to Europe, charmed everybody, and accomplished nothing concrete. As the London Times reports:
Barack Obama made an impassioned plea to America’s allies to send more troops to Afghanistan, warning that failure to do so would leave Europe vulnerable to more terrorist atrocities. But though he continued to dazzle Europeans on his debut international tour, the Continent’s leaders turned their backs on the US President...The presidential charm offensive failed to move fellow Nato countries.
Telling Europe's leaders they've been right and we've been wrong charms them, no kidding. Charm isn't enough from a First Couple, we need results too.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Dealing with Terrorists

Ralph Peters, who writes about matters military for the New York Post, about the dangers of trying to cut deals with religious extremists:
Fired by visions of serving an angry god, the terrorists are sure that they're bound to win, that all those of weaker belief will fall before them. Nothing short of death will make them quit.
Death is a relatively straightforward prescription for dealing with terrorists. Do modern governments have the will to carry it out? The article is worth your time.

Quote of the Day

Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer, writing for, on Obama's "real agenda:"
If Obama has his way, the change that is coming is a new America: "fair," leveled and social democratic. Obama didn't get elected to warranty your muffler. He's here to warranty your life.
The entire article is worth your time.

Presidential Popularity at New Low

Scott Rasmussen of Rasmussen Reports calculates a Presidential Approval Index (Strongly Approve minus Strongly Disapprove) based on his daily Presidential Tracking Poll. You'll be interested in the latest findings:
Thirty-five percent (35%) of the nation's voters now Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Thirty-two percent (32%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of +3, his lowest rating to date.
Hunker down; it is going to be a long four years, friends.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Clinton, Feinstein Screw Up

Secretary Clinton and Senator Feinstein have been quoted as saying that 90 percent of the illegal firearms used in crimes in Mexico come from the U.S. Check out this Fox News article which debunks this oft-quoted "statistic." It turns out the true statistic is more like 17 percent. Here is the explanation:

What's true is that over 90 percent of the traced (emphasis added) firearms originate from the U.S. But a large percentage of the guns recovered in Mexico do not get sent back to the U.S. for tracing, because it is obvious from their markings that they do not come from the U.S.

For example, many of the arms captured in Mexico are automatic weapons, in other words, some variety of machine gun. Such weapons are not for sale in U.S. gun shops. Other weapons confiscated are grenades or rockets, none of which are sold to civilians here. Go see the article for a complete explanation.