Tuesday, June 30, 2009

More Blooms on Display

The other DrC has some outstanding wildflower pix for your enjoyment:
Give your eyes a treat, with no risk of an allergy attack.

Honduran Hocus Pocus

Our President has condemned what happened in Honduras, the exile by the military of their elected President and his replacement with the head of the legislature. Many world leaders have taken the same stand. People like Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez, and Danny Ortega have agreed.

On the other hand, The Wall Street Journal and the New York Post have both written approvingly of this action (see here and here), calling it a defense of the Honduran constitution backed by their Supreme Court and Congress.

Who would you believe? I vote for the Journal and the Post.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Supremes Rule Against Sotomayor

See this Associated Press article about the Supreme Court ruling in favor of white firefighters in New Haven, Connecticut. More importantly, they overturned a ruling by Appeals Court judge and Supreme Court appointee Sonia Sotomayor.

This will give Republican Senators additional ammunition to use in harassing her prior to her confirmation. Since she will replace Justice Souter, who also voted against the majority, her confirmation will change nothing on the court.

Argentina Gets Good (?) News

Cristina Fernandez Kirchner, autocratic Peronist President of Argentina, suffered a substantial setback in congressional elections held over the weekend. Her party lost control of both houses of the legislature. This can be good news for Argentina, a country which needs good news. Go here to see the Associated Press story.

As we've noted here before, Argentina is a country with all the natural advantages a country could ask for. Given that, you'd expect it to be a country doing very well. Your expectations would be wrong. However, a country whose national dish is grilled beefsteak and french fries cannot be all bad.

The problem is politics, the nation is caught in a negative political do-loop. This could be a step in the right direction, or it may not be. Sadly, given Argentina's politics, if you were a betting person you'd bet against progress.

This is another Latin American country to watch.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Quote of the Day

Scott Johnson, one of the three fellows who writes the Power Line blog, speaking of President Obama's characterization of the cap-and-trade carbon control bill that passed the House as a "jobs bill:"
Make no mistake: He thinks you're stupid.

Actually, collectively we've proved we're stupid. How? We elected him by a modest majority.

Trouble in Honduras

The military has today overthrown the elected President of Honduras. Go here for Reuters' report of the story. To read their version of what happened, you'd think "oh, those ugly, anti-democratic soldiers."

If you read to the end of the story you begin to see hints of why this coup happened. President Zelaya wasn't happy with the Honduran constitution, which only permits a President one four year term. He had scheduled a poll to see whether the people backed his intent to change the constitution to enable him to run for additional terms, as Fidel Castro did in Cuba for several decades.

The Honduran military, worried about the reemergence of strongman rule in this former banana republic, wouldn't facilitate his constitution-change efforts. Eventually they concluded Zelaya had to go. The Wall Street Journal's Mary Anastasia O'Grady, whose beat is Latin America, has a view of the situation that roughly parallels mine.

The real test will be whether the military in Honduras goes ahead with the scheduled presidential election to elect a new civilian president to replace Zelaya. If they do, then their claim of defense of the constitution will be justified. If they don't, then Zelaya's condemnation of them as throw-backs to the caudillo era in Latin American politics will seem proven.

Let's watch to see what happens.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

A Bouquet for You

Friends, remembering to stop and smell the flowers will help us get through the next 3.6 years. Go to http://cruztalking.blogspot.com/ to see some nice close-up pix of wild and not-so-wild flowers, taken and posted by the other DrC.

No controversy, no angst, no conflict, just pretty flowers growing in our forest meadow. I am reminded of wise words which Google tells me come from Matthew VII, 28-29:
Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
Was Solomon a sharp dresser? I suppose he was. It's funny how little details like that get lost in three thousand years. Solomon's wisdom is remembered more than his wardrobe. Being known for your wisdom is a nice way to be remembered.

CA Misinformation

The press is carrying misinformation about the budgetary problems in California (here is an example). They blame much of the problem on Proposition 13, which they would have you believe has permanently held down property tax revenues.

Proposition 13 only holds down property taxes so long as the property is owned continuously by the same owner. Once the property is sold to a new owner who is not a direct relative (i.e., parent, child), the taxes are reassessed upward to reflect the new sales price.

My guess is that most CA properties have been sold at least once in the last 10 years, meaning that their property taxes are based on relatively high values. So, when people tell you Proposition 13 is at fault, dare them to prove it.

CA has budget problems because they spend too much. When times are good, and tax revenues are high, the CA legislature finds new ways to spend the money to buy votes, or they cut taxes. Then when times are bad, as they are now, they can't find the money to keep providing the goodies to which voters have quickly become accustomed.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Theocracy's Problem

The troubles in Iran got me thinking about the difficulties inherent in having theocracy as a nation's governmental form. The most obvious difficulty is in allowing religious plurality.

Beyond protecting the rights of those not affiliated with the governing religion, theocracy has another major difficulty. People often criticize their government. However, when you criticize a religious government you appear to criticize God, or his/her designated representatives. Faiths get very touchy about allowing criticism of their leaders.

Iran will have to suffer seeming apostasy to get from where they are now to become a state in which religion and government operate separately.

Quote of the Day II

W. E. B. Griffin, in the novel Black Ops (2008, p.252), giving his considered opinion of the Central Intelligence Agency, out of the mouth of his central character, Lt. Col. Charley Castillo. He says the CIA consists of:
Some really wonderful people struggling to stay afloat in a sea of politically correct left-wing bureaucrats.
Well said. No wonder the CIA does a poor job of providing intelligence analysis to our decision makers.

Quote of the Day I

Ann Coulter, writing for U express, on Obama's slow and weak response to the huge demonstrations in Tehran, with a hat tip to the "you might be a redneck" comedy of Jeff Foxworthy:
You might be a scaredy-cat if ... the president of France is talking tougher than you are.
Which of course, is exactly what Sarkozy has been doing. Way to go, President Scaredy-cat.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Political Sex Scandals

Without trying very hard I think of Governor Sanford, Governor Spitzer, Senator Ensign, Mayor Villaraigosa, Speaker Gingrich, President Clinton, Mayor Giuliani, Senator Edwards. Go here for a more complete list of political sex scandals; the list contains roughly equal numbers of Democrats (n=27) and Republicans (n=26). Only one of these sexually scandalous politicians is a woman.

Men in positions of power, regardless of their marital status, attract sexual partners without particularly trying. A valence for men in power seems to be hardwired into many members of our species. And men tend to look positively on the offered sexual favors, a similarly hardwired response.

A lot of Democrat voters understand and accept these realities. Republican voters understand the realities but expect their elected officials to behave in spite of them. They are often disappointed. This ends up being a disadvantage for the GOP; one for which I don't see an easy work-around.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

What Do I Think?

In his news conference yesterday President Obama finally took a strong stand against the Iran regime's brutality. He was asked whether his stronger language concerning the anti-demonstrator brutality in Iran was in response to criticisms by Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC). Their statements had been that Obama's earlier comments had been equivocal and insufficiently condemnatory. His sarcastic response: "What do you think?" was followed by knowing chuckles from the tame White House press corps, go here for coverage.

I choose to take his facetious question seriously, and answer it. I think he was forced by Republican criticism, as well as strong statements by foreign leaders and the brutal unfolding of events. Forced to utter statements stronger than he would have otherwise, stronger than he wanted to utter.

Since you asked, Mr. President, that is what I think.

Developmental hint for presidents with training wheels: don't ask questions if you are pretty sure you won't like the answers.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Basic Economics Still Valid

I just got the following email news flash from The Wall Street Journal, they link it to a story here.:
Existing-home sales rose a second month in a row during May, but prices again fell sharply. Home resales increased by 2.4% to a 4.77 million annual rate from 4.66 million in April, the National Association of Realtors said. Distressed property sales have pushed prices lower, year over year. The median price for an existing home last month was $173,000, down 16.8% from $207,900 in May 2008.
The economic law of supply and demand says when prices fall because supply has increased, demand will rise. That is exactly what they report has happened. Isn't it nice to know what we learned in Econ 100 is still true?

The only time this mechanism doesn't work is when we experience deflation, when falling prices cause people to hold off purchases in the expectation of even further decreases. Deflation is no joke; it can cause the economic equivalent of a death spiral, a race to the bottom. It appears deflation is not happening.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Movie Review: Up

The other DrC and I saw the animated movie "Up" this evening. It is made by Disney/Pixar and has their trademarked excellent animation. The characters are attractive and appealing, and the story line is as sensible as most animated films. The action is fun and for young people it might be an okay choice. However the trailers do not tell you what the film is truly about.

If you've lived happily with another person for nearly 40 years, as we have, this movie is a serious downer. Here's why: very quickly at the beginning of the film you get taken through the lives of two people (Carl and Ellie) who meet, marry, live a life together, and then Ellie dies, leaving Carl a grumpy old widower haunting the home they built together.

Much of the rest of the film keeps rubbing your nose in the fact that one of you will outlive the other and that it will be a very sad business for the survivor. We know this intellectually, but don't need to experience it prematurely. We agree that, had we known the true subject matter, we would not have gone. The film left us just too sad. We were looking for a light-hearted, fun movie and for us this film was anything but.

Rasmussen: Obama Polls Negative

Rasmussen Reports runs a daily Presidential Tracking Poll which looks at the percentage of voters who Strongly Approve of the president's performance minus the percentage who Strongly Disapprove. Today, for the first time, this Presidential Approval Index has gone negative: 32% strongly approve and 34% strongly disapprove, leaving the Index at a -2. Go here to look at the graph of the trend lines.

The daily fluctuations are less critical than the directionality of the the two lines. Clearly the White House has to be concerned about both the drop in popularity and the increase in strong unpopularity. If they can't turn the trends around, it will be hard for this personally popular president to get his ideas translated into policy action.

Conservatives could be happy about this turn of events. Happy, except that it leaves the levers of policy in the hands of those sad losers: Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi. Ergo, not so happy.

Quote of the Day

John Hinderaker, one of the three guys who write the Power Line blog, waxes philosophical about the role of government:

Does anyone actually believe that when the government gets away from its core competencies--national defense, law enforcement, highway construction--it spends our money more wisely than we would have?

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Quote of the Day

Jack Kelly, who writes a column for the Toledo Blade, on Obama and Iran:
When it comes to foreign policy, President Obama is a one-trick pony, and the trick isn't working.
Four years of this will take patience to wait out.

Friday, June 19, 2009

No McGovern

On Tuesday, June 16, I wrote of the Iranian protesters:
I've been wondering all along if the professionals and students who support his opponent Mousavi aren't like the American kids who supported George McGovern and Eugene McCarthy "back in the day." That is, noisy and visible but very far from a majority.
The numbers of protesters on view in the streets of Tehran cause me to have second thoughts about that comment. McGovern never turned out numbers like those. I don't know about "a majority" but clearly there are many Iranians who oppose the incumbent.

Krauthammer Kicks Butt

Charles Krauthammer, who writes a column for The Washington Post, takes on the situation in Iran and our government's reaction thereto. There is no question where he stands on the issue.
All hangs in the balance. The Khamenei regime is deciding whether to do a Tiananmen. And what side is the Obama administration taking? None.
It is a good column. Krauthammer argues we have nothing to lose in backing the protesters. I'm not certain he's correct.

If we back the rebellion with talk, but not with actions, we might end up with an outcome like the Prague Spring of 1968. That is, a result where thousands are killed, the bad guys are left in charge, and we end up looking weak.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Steyn on Europe

Mark Steyn writes here for Macleans about the state of European politics. This one isn't for those merely casually interested in the politics of "Yurp." It presupposes a relatively serious interest in the politics of the U.K. and the Continent.

Still, Steyn is making a good point about declaring various issues "off the table" or racist. The article is not his usual light-hearted romp through the sillier aspects of politics.

Very Strange....

Very strange indeed, CBS News reprinting an article from The Weekly Standard, a conservative source. The article is quite critical of President Obama's reaction to the troubles in Iran:
The tragedy of this moment is that a generation of Iranian reformers is being brushed aside by the leader of the free world.
The strange part of this is that CBS News is very much a part of the MSM, the mainstream media, which has been totally in Obama's pocket. By selecting this article for reprint, they implicitly endorse these views. Do we see evidence of an epiphany here?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Iranian Reality Check

George Friedman writes an interesting analysis of the Iran situation for RealClearWorld.com. His view of Iran and its internal politics is downbeat, grim and, one suspects, right on.

The point he makes is that Ahmadinejad represents the non-English speaking Iranian majority, many of them living outside Tehran. The reasons he gives for this representation make sense to an outsider.

I've been wondering all along if the professionals and students who support his opponent Mousavi aren't like the American kids who supported George McGovern and Eugene McCarthy "back in the day." That is, noisy and visible but very far from a majority.

Poor Taste

Apparently both Dave Letterman and Leon Panetta have apologized, Letterman to Sarah Palin and her 14 year old daughter, and Panetta to Dick Cheney. John Hinderaker at PowerLineBlog.com has the story. I believe his take on why these two doofuses said these stupid things, for which they had to publicly eat crow, is about right. He concludes:
There is virtually nothing that can be said about Republicans, in their world, that will raise a question or objection. (snip) Hence the gaffes that occur when liberals say publicly the sorts of things they are accustomed to saying among friends.
Nicely said. His point: today's liberals tell other liberals the sort of ugly jokes about Republicans that our grandparents used to tell each other about the Polish or the Italians or African Americans or, if Canadian, the Newfies. A sad business.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Obama's Dilemma

As a number of commentators have noted, President Obama faces an interesting dilemma regarding the disputed election results in Iran. On the one hand he wants to be able to negotiate with the Iranian regime, something he said during his campaign he would do without preconditions. On the other hand, the "election" which recently took place there doesn't look much like an honest, fair election.

It is likely that Ahmadinejad will be Iran's president coming out of the conflict, and therefore if Obama wants to be able to talk to him Obama needs to accept the results of his "election." On the other hand, if Obama wants to be seen in "the Muslim world" as an advocate of democracy, he cannot give his support to the beneficiary of such an apparently flawed electoral process.

Trying to split the difference, as Obama seems to be doing, will only alienate both sides. Facing no such dilemma, COTTonLINE supports the courageous young people in the streets of Tehran.

World Is Cooling

Check out this nice summary article in the London Telegraph which brings together many different examples of the world in fact cooling. And yes, it does connect this with the lack of sunspots which is going on now. Snow in Saudi Arabia, and reduced crops around much of the globe too. My guess is that there is a way to make some money investing in grain futures.

Gallup: Conservatives Lead

The mainstream media tell you the Republican Party is moribund. Let's look at the real data. The Gallup polling organization reports recent polling results which show quite positive results for conservatives. They summarize:
Thus far in 2009, 40% of Americans interviewed in national Gallup Poll surveys describe their political views as conservative, 35% as moderate, and 21% as liberal. This represents a slight increase for conservatism in the U.S. since 2008, returning it to a level last seen in 2004.
Remember who won the presidency in 2004? A much-hated Republican named George W. Bush won in 2004; won with a bigger margin than he had in 2000.

With 40% reporting conservative, the GOP only has to get 28% of moderates to vote Republican and you've got a GOP president. That doesn't sound so difficult, you can give up 70% of the moderates and still elect a president. That is definitely doable.

The only thing we have to fear is that "liberal" has become such an ugly label that many Democrats call themselves "moderates." That is a distinct possibility. Still, we keep hearing that the number of independents is growing and they are likely to be found in that moderate group.

The demographic crunchers are writing articles currently warning Republicans that they are in trouble, I believe Gallup's numbers say something quite different. Take heart.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Steyn on Government Health Care

Mark Steyn, writing for the National Review Online, talks about how government health care plans are so complicated that nobody understands them. I suspect he is right.

His point about how the only way government holds down health care costs is by providing less of it (i.e., rationing) is correct. Stories of Canadians crossing the border to get a hip replaced in something like real time instead of waiting 2-3 years are common.

You know the trope "good enough for government work?" U.K. doctors, who work for the National Health Service, treat their work like civil servants everywhere, with nonchalance. U.S. doctors do not.

There is a lovely bit in the early pages of Tom Clancy's novel Red Rabbit that lays out the difference between the work habits of U.S. and U.K. doctors. I know it is a novel, but I believe Clancy has the tone just about right.

If we need to find a way to get health coverage for everybody, let's find a way that doesn't end up with our doctors and other health professionals working for the government.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Brooks on Economics

The New York Times' David Brooks writes about what he calls The Great Unwinding. By that he means getting the U.S. back out of a leveraged, debt-financed consumption economy and into an investment-driven, savings-generating economy.

His column does a nice job of laying out how we've gotten into the problem and what we need to do to get out of it. Only in the last couple of paragraphs does he admit that it is unlikely that we have the political will to do what is needed. He concludes:
Congressional leaders have been fixated on short-term conventional priorities throughout this entire episode. There is no evidence that the power brokers understand the fundamental transition ahead. They are practicing the same self-indulgence that got us into this mess.
We elect Representatives for two year terms and then expect them to take the long view? I don't think so. Getting change to happen will take real leadership, something I don't see on the horizon.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Ebert on Wayne

Go here to read a Roger Ebert retrospective on John Wayne, written for the Chicago Sun Times. If you've watched the Duke, as I have for the last 60+ years, you'll enjoy it a lot. He was one of a kind.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Letterman a Loser

Dave Letterman, CBS late night talk show host, demonstrated a new low in tastelessness when he wisecracked that Sarah Palin's 14 year old daughter got knocked up at a baseball game by one of the players. Then he tried to back out of it by claiming he meant her 18 year old daughter, who did not attend the game. Many comments about this unforgivable comment are on the web, all negative.

If you agree that this was way below the belt, the best way to send a message is to boycott the program. Low ratings are the recipe for an unemployed Dave.

Unions to Blame in CA

See this meaty article in National Review Online concerning the real causes of California's budgetary meltdown. In it Chris Reed, an editorial writer for the San Diego Union Tribune, demolishes the arguments about CA not being able to tax enough. He shows that in fact CA already has some of the highest taxes in the nation. He says of the public employee unions:
Once merely a powerful special interest, these public-sector unions now have a chokehold on the state.
I find it curious that at a time in our history when private sector unions are weak, public sector unions have never been stronger. The incestuous relationship between government employee unions and Democratic politicians is not in the public interest.

Net Worth Nonsense

This Associated Press article describes how:
American households lost $1.33 trillion of their wealth in the first three months of the year as the recession took a bite out of stock portfolios and dragged down home prices.
As noted in my title for this entry, this is nonsense. Yes, it feels like we lost $1.33 trillion but much of that was bubble-inflated, unreal "value."

When our stocks and our homes go up in price, it is psychologically easy to believe that we have earned those increases. "Earned," when in fact we have done no such thing. Those inflated prices simply reflect the fact that temporarily the market values those shares or that property at a higher price. Then the bubble bursts and the market values the same shares or property at a lower price.

How is it that we "earn" the increase in price but "lose" the decrease in price? It is one of the persistent irrationalities of the human species. You earn what you work for: your salary or perhaps the rent you receive on property or money you let others use temporarily. Increases in property or stock value are just winning bets you made on the directionality of the markets. Losses are losing bets.

Betting on stock or property values more closely resembles betting on horse races than casino gambling - that is, knowing something about the way horses have run in the past is helpful. "Helpful" but you can still lose betting on the favorite, the horse that should win.

Similarly, knowing something about the management of firms whose stock you buy, or about the demand for their products, is useful. Knowing something about the evolution of a neighborhood and about population migrations is helpful in buying property. And in both cases you can have the knowledge and still lose.

It is also true that when the entire economy hits a soft spot, most stock prices and most property prices go down in the short to medium run. When the entire economy is booming, most stock and property prices rise, also in the short to medium run.

Ups and downs are in the nature of capitalism. Get over it.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Rove Doesn't Get It

Karl Rove knows politics, but he doesn't know publishing and he demonstrated that lack of knowledge recently. Politico writes of his put-downs of Maureen Dowd, it has Karl saying:
Dowd was a "nasty, snarky person" with a "twisted, bitter little heart."
Karl, come on, get real, "snarky" is what MoDo gets paid the big bucks to do. She fills exactly the same niche on the left side of the aisle that Ann Coulter fills on the right side. True, Coulter usually manages to include some solid fact in her character assassinations but the role is the same: be snarky about the other guys.

We on the right enjoy Ann and the folks on the left enjoy MoDo, maybe we shouldn't but we do. If there is a character flaw here, it is in the audience: us.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Quote of the Day

Phil Bronstein, writing for the San Francisco Chronicle, about the love affair the press has with our new President:

This guy is good. Really good. And, frankly, so far, we're not.

You can't blame powerful people for wanting to play the press to peddle self-perpetuating mythology. But you can blame the press, already suffocating under a massive pile of blame, guilt, heavy debt and sinking fortunes, for being played.

Somebody in the press who sees, and is willing to report, how silly the press has been acting- a rarity.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Quote of the Day

Your quote of the day comes from a CNNMoney.com article:
When you add up U-3 and all the underutilized workers the official U-6 rate for May 2009 is 16.4%. That’s an official BLS-generated stat that no one really wants to talk about: One out of every six members of the civilian labor force is either out of work or not fully employed.
Note: The BLS is the government's Bureau of Labor Statistics, compiler of the official unemployment figures. "Not fully employed" means those who are working part-time but wish they were full-time.

One out of six unemployed or underemployed - those are some ugly numbers. It won't be long before people start blaming President Obama for their plight.

A "Year Without a Summer"

An AccuWeather.com weather report includes this prediction:
According to Long Range Expert Joe Bastardi, areas from the northern Plains into the Northeast will have a "year without a summer."
Brrrr, those darn sunspots must still be conspicuous by their absence.

Record Cold in Green Bay

The high temperature at Green Bay, Wisconsin hit a record low for June 6, at 52 degrees. That broke the previous low of 53 set in 1943. This all reported by the Green Bay Press Gazette.

Darn, isn't that global warming is just burning us up? Come to think of it, it isn't all that hot here in Wyoming. Our high today is supposed to be 53, with thunderstorms.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Bad News from Latin America

See this article by Mary Anastasia O'Grady for The Wall Street Journal about political happenings in Latin America. The news is bad. The forces opposing democracy are gaining strength. As usual, anti-Americanism is the driving force while continued peonage is the outcome. Sad, sad....

Good News from Europe

In recent elections for the European Parliament, the Socialists did poorly in spite of the weak economic conditions. Sarkozy of France and Merkel of Germany are being given credit by some for leading the successful campaigning on the right. See this article from the Financial Times which provides details of the voting outcomes.

Good News from Lebanon

Preliminary results, reported here by The Washington Post, indicate that the pro-Western alliance of Sunni Muslims and Christians that has ruled Lebanon in the past has won a renewed majority. There was fear that a coalition dominated by Hezbollah and strongly influenced by Iran would win. Keeping Hezbollah out of the ruling coalition is good news for Lebanon and for the West, bad news for Iran.

Progress Is Good

Todd G. Buchholz writes an interesting piece for The Wall Street Journal. His basic thesis is that progress is good, and those who argue against it are simply wrong. He says:
Small is not necessarily better, and there is a difference between a simpler life and the life of a simpleton.
It is a point I've made in lectures to students for the last 30+ years. Buchholz makes the point more eloquently than I do.

My favorite family example: the other DrC's great-grandmother buried five of her children in one week; they died from diphtheria. Grammy couldn't go all dysfunctional because she had another seven children to care for. Progress means nobody fears diphtheria much now, if they are smart enough to be vaccinated, and hardly anybody has twelve children.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Wyoming Pix

The other DrC has some Wyoming photos on her blog, and they are worth your time.
The address is http://cruztalking.blogspot.com/.

I particularly like the Wyoming slogan:
The Way America Used to Be.
That is truer than you know.

Religion and Politics

Mother told you two topics never to discuss in polite society were religion and politics, that was in addition to sex which was an obvious no-no. Let's beg Mom's forgiveness and speak of both religion and politics in one place.

Gary Andres, writing for The Weekly Standard, has an interesting take on the ties between religious preferences (if any) and political orientations in the American electorate. He summarizes several studies of religious orientation as follows:
It turns out the least pious among us are the fastest growing group in the country.
For example, the American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) found:
The "Nones" (no stated religious preference, or atheist or agnostic) nearly doubled--from 8.2% in 1990 to 15.0% in 2008--a trend consistent with other major studies conducted over the past two decades.
Andres points out that the Republican Party's close association with evangelical Christians in recent decades has tended to push the rapidly growing group of "seculars" away from the GOP. And he notes that many of these "seculars" are concentrated in the blue states: New England and the West Coast. He doesn't mention that this trend is consistent with what has happened in Europe, which is being described as post-Christian.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Quote of the Day

Mark Steyn, writing for the Orange County Register, on the right way to look at the recent "speech in Cairo."
A wealthy nation living on the accumulated cultural capital of a glorious past can dodge its rendezvous with fate, but only for a while. That sound you heard in Cairo is the tingy ping of a hollow superpower.
Ouch! He watched the last days of the British Empire's decline and thinks he sees us taking the same path.

The Warrior Gene

Science geeks, go see this LiveScience.com article about the "warrior gene." The article reports the results of studies which find a genetic basis for aggression and violence. The lead study finds boys with the gene are more likely to join gangs and to be violent members of those gangs.

A wise society provides socially acceptable outlets for the drives of most of its citizens. It takes advantage of the natural skills its gene pool produces. A student of human behavior understands that we are a violent species of primate. Our history is, among other things, a series of wars.

We now route smart kids into GATE (Gifted And Talented Education) programs, and musically talented children into youth symphony. We need to find these violent lads young and route them into combative athletics or military academies and later into programs like Rangers, Marine Recon and SEALs.

E-Verify Immigration Screen

John Kass writes a column for the Chicago Tribune. Here he describes E-Verify, a existing system by which employers could easily determine whether applicants for jobs are or are not eligible to work in this country. So...we have a system and it works but the government is too cowardly to require it. What does that tell you?

Both parties are too fascinated with the future potential of the Hispanic vote to enforce the immigration laws of the land. This, in spite of the fact that something like 80% of today's lawful voters want the immigration laws enforced.

Obama Approval Goes South

Scott Rasmussen, whose Rasmussen Reports poll we favor at COTTonLINE, does a daily Presidential Tracking Poll which consists of subtracting the percentage of respondents who strongly disapprove of the President from the number of respondents who strongly approve. Today, Friday, June 5, 2009, this number has fallen to zero for the first time in the Obama administration (34 - 34 = 0). Rasmussen says of today's findings:
That’s the highest level of strong disapproval and the lowest overall rating yet recorded.
To be fair to Obama, this number fluctuates and there have been higher ratings within the last few days. Go here to see the historical data.

My guess: Obama making nice with the Arabs isn't popular with most Americans. The public seems to have the more realistic view of "the long war."

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Quote of the Day

Osama ben Laden, speaking on tape and being quoted by Reuters:
We either live under the light of Islam or we die with dignity.

We need to be certain he and his followers experience choice b, sooner rather than later.

Obama in Egypt

The war between Islam and the West has been going on, sometimes fitfully, sometimes full-throttle, for nearly a thousand years. And you can make an argument that the West started it with the Crusades, beginning in 1096.

Imagine the hubris, the arrogance of Obama believing he could stop a thousand-year war with a speech he delivered. I am reminded of Neville Chamberlain talking to Adolf Hitler, then coming home to Britain and announcing "peace in our time."

Rarely is sucking up to one's enemies an appropriate thing to do. When did it ever help?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Brooks: GM Bailout Misguided

David Brooks, who writes for The New York Times, is sometimes on target. Here he writes about the government bailout of General Motors and he is not optimistic. This is a taste of what he sees:
The Obama plan dilutes the company’s focus. Instead of thinking obsessively about profitability and quality, G.M. will also have to meet the administration’s environmental goals. There is no evidence G.M. is good at building the sort of small cars the administration demands. There is no evidence that there is a large American market for these cars. But G.M. now has to serve two masters, the market and the administration’s policy goals.
Serving two masters is a notorious recipe for failure. How long before we are federally subsidized to buy one of Government Motor's little eggshell enviro-cars? The 18-wheelers won't get any smaller, just the passenger cars; imagine the results. The domestic highway carnage will dwarf what the left whined about in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Environmentalists will drive tiny cars and die in substantial numbers while those who avoid small cars survive in greater numbers. Over time something like the Roe Effect may occur, I find it positively Darwinian.

I'm going to keep driving a full-size pickup truck.

Light at the End of the Tunnel

An associate professor of physics at the University of Rochester may have developed a way to make incandescent bulbs competitive, energywise, with the new fluorescent bulbs that we are being urged to use. Daily Tech reports that Chunlei Guo, working on a U.S. Air Force contract, has made old-fashioned 60 watt bulbs produce the amount of light normally produced by 100 watt bulbs. He does this by zapping the tungsten filament briefly with a laser.

This is good news because the supposedly "green" fluorescent bulbs contain mercury and therefore can only be safely disposed of in very special HAZMAT (hazardous material) facilities. Unfortunately, many end up in the normal landfills and are therefore an environmental hazard. Guo's zapped tungsten filament bulbs would apparently be non-toxic and safely disposable in the places we use for most of our trash. The other plus is that they produce the more pleasant incandescent light.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Peters is Pissed

Ralph Peters, who writes about military and foreign affairs for The New York Post, is really upset with President Obama. Here is a sample:
While everything else is falling down around our president, the Obama Doctrine stands: Every enemy is a friend, or can be made into one. Let's talk about it.
I mostly think Peters has it right, so you may want to take a look at his latest list of horrors. It is not pretty.

Another View of the CA Mess

Richard Reeves writes a syndicated column which appears on Yahoo News. He gives a liberal's view of what is wrong with California, and he makes a good argument. I don't agree with his conclusions but he accurately lays out the various elements of the issue.

Reeves believes that California is developing what I call the "Argentinian problem": taxpayers who demand more government services than they are willing to pay taxes to support. In Argentina the result has been vast inflation as the hapless government prints money to meet voter demands. California doesn't have this option; states in the U.S. cannot operate on unending deficits nor create money as the federal government can.

I think California taxpayers need to learn how much government their current tax burden will purchase, and then decide whether they are happy with that level of services. It may turn out that they are okay with less government-provided services. Or, they may decide to raise taxes to pay for more government.

In the longer term, states need to find revenue sources which are less tied to the economic barometer than are state income taxes. Alternatively, they need to save money in good times to carry them through bad times - a thing that is difficult politically.

Movie Review: Angels and Demons

The other DrC and I saw Ron Howard's Angels and Demons on Saturday afternoon. We saw it in a heavily Mormon town in eastern Idaho, which may explain why the theater wasn't especially full.

The other DrC reports that her evangelical Christian girlfriend said something like "I'm not Catholic so why would I be interested in this film?" I didn't find being a non-Catholic was a problem in understanding the film.

We had been in Rome for a few days last fall and the film gives you a nice view of this amazing city, albeit much of it at high speed since the main characters are trying to identify four locations with Bernini statuary that are also significant to the Illuminati, an anti-church group of angry scientists. They only have four hours to do this which means there is much high-speed maneuvering through legendary Roman traffic aided by flashing lights and sirens. However, the film gives you a better view of the Sistine Chapel than you'll ever get as a tourist.

Rome has been the "headquarters" of the Catholic Church for most of the last two thousand years. As such it is very much a company town; there are churches everywhere and many priests, brothers, nuns and lay employees can be seen on its streets.

Does the film hang together plotwise? Only if you don't ask too many questions of it. There are many fortuitous coincidences some of which aid the bad guys and others which aid the good guys. The suspension of disbelief required by the film is considerable.

Elaborate things happen such that it is hard to see how the bad guys could have organized them in the available time. This particularly bothered the other DrC. There is a very nice plot twist right at the end of the film, which I will not reveal. Angels and Demons is a pleasant film but will not, I think, end up on your all-time favorite list.