Friday, April 30, 2010

Here We Go

Twelve days ago, on April 18, I wrote a posting wondering about Obama's missing girlfriends. At the time I noted that if nobody else would print the stories, the National Enquirer would do so.

I guess I'm not surprised to see in Drudge tonight that the National Enquirer has indeed found such a story, linking our young President to an even younger Ms. Vera Baker, who has been spending some recent time in Martinique. It is speculated she is there to stay "out of the way."

Is it true, who knows?

Greece Over-leveraged

Do the high interest rates on Greek bonds look attractive? Go read this brief analysis by Victor Davis Hanson from National Review Online before putting your money at risk.

I suspect his assessment of the situation is correct. I've also been wondering how Greeks can believe rioting and strikes are a solution to their national financial dilemma. It doesn't look like a fix to me.

Quote of the Day

Peggy Noonan, writing for The Wall Street Journal, about the Arizona immigration control law. She notes that it was passed because the government in Washington won't control the borders. Then she says:
Why does the federal government do this? Because so many within it are stupid and unimaginative and don't trust the American people. Which of course the American people have noticed.
I don't always agree with Ms. Noonan, but she does have a way with words.

Gallup: Most Americans Are With AZ

Go see the results of the latest Gallup poll which asked about attitudes toward the new illegal immigration law in Arizona. Gallup finds:
More than three-quarters of Americans have heard about the state of Arizona's new immigration law, and of these, 51% say they favor it and 39% oppose it.
Once again the mainstream media are out of step with the public. No wonder most of the MSM are like the dinosaurs, plodding toward extinction without a clue as to their lack of viability.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

PIGS Problems

Among the nations using the Euro as their currency, four or five have been identified as financially problematic: Portugal, Italy, Greece, Spain, and sometimes Ireland. Some obviously English-speaking wag decided the group could be identified by their first initials, turned these into an acronym and it comes out either "PIGS" or PIIGS." Most often they are known as the PIGS; obviously not a flattering label.

Of the group, Greece has been the poster child for budgetary shortfall this spring. However within the past week the bonds of both Portugal and Spain were also downgraded to a lower rating by Standard & Poors. Whether Italy will follow suit isn't known.

All of this is raising questions of whether the monetary union should ever have included less developed nations like the PIGS. Being in the Euro zone means these nations don't have available the mechanism normally used by countries in the fix in which they now find themselves, namely currency devaluation.

Rather the Euro zone is now in the same situation that Italy has experienced internally for decades. Northern Italy is developed and prosperous whereas southern Italy is neither. In order to hold Italy together, northern Italy subsidizes southern Italy year after year. This siphoning of tax revenues southward isn't popular in northern Italy whereas southern Italy doesn't seem particularly grateful, either.

Now we see this same scenario playing out on the larger stage of the European Union. The Germans are playing the role of the northern Italians and the PIGS, starting with the Greeks are playing the role of the southern Italians. The rioters in the Greek streets seem to be saying with their posters "We have a right to be profligate Greeks, and you thrifty Germans have a duty to subsidize us." Can you imagine the Spanish, Portuguese, and Italians will be any more reasonable? Can you imagine the thrifty Germans being willing to support them for very long?

Gallup: Married = Republican, etc.

Go see some fun polling data from Gallup, the findings indicate that
  • Married people are more likely to be Republicans while unmarried people are more likely to be Democrats
  • Men are more likely to be Republicans while women are more likely to be Democrats
  • Unmarried women are the only group where over 50% say they are Democrats
  • Republicans are more excited about voting in November than are Democrats. There is a 20 percentage point difference: 57% vs. 37%
  • Of all age groups, only Millennials (18-29) favor the Democrats
Apparently, life isn't working out very well for unmarried women, making them a victim group twice over. The Democratic Party is largely made up of victim groups.

Although it is a long time until November, the "excitement" issue is probably the most important, for as the article says:
Those who are enthusiastic about voting would be more likely to turn out to vote than those who are not enthusiastic.

Immigration Policy ≠ Bigotry

Go see this Associated Press article at Yahoo News wherein poor UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown called a constituent a "bigot" for asking about immigration, and then caught himself and had to apologize. This is a classic campaign gaffe.

Having observed his gaffe, let's talk about the bigger issue. Are nations entitled to control immigration, control who gets to join their citizenry? Some hold the view that any control of immigration is racism or bigotry. I disagree. I am of the opinion that controlling immigration is an inherent right of nations and has been so for centuries.

I believe it makes sense to favor the immigration of individuals who bring money, scarce skills or both. It likewise makes sense to favor the immigration of those whose native culture will be a good fit with the dominant culture of your nation. In short, favor the immigration of individuals who will be assets, not liabilities.

Allowing the immigration of poor, unskilled individuals just because they would be better off economically living in your nation than wherever they come from is irrationally self-destructive, particularly if their cultural values are antithetical to yours. It is smarter (and cheaper) to help them where they live than to bring them here and burden the social services and criminal justice systems with them.

Immigrant populations which routinely engage in honor killings, polygamy, female mutilation, theft or child molestation as aspects of their cultures, or reject education, are simply not good fits with developed nations. Excluding them as immigrants is logical. Admitting them as residents and subsequently using the criminal justice system to modify intolerable aspects of their behavior is not sensible.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Will: AZ Law Reasonable

George Will has written a quiet and even-tempered column for RealClearPolitics about the recently passed law in Arizona which makes being in AZ while not legally in the U.S. a state crime. I have seen many intemperate articles concerning this law, on both sides: for and against. George Will takes a sensible stand. My favorite line is this:
America is the only developed nation that has a 2,000-mile border with a developing nation, and the government's refusal to control that border is why there are an estimated 460,000 illegal immigrants in Arizona.
If the United States federal government would enforce its own laws against being in the country illegally, then Arizona wouldn't have bothered to pass this controversial law. If you would look for someone to blame for the AZ law, look in Washington. BTW, the above quote suggests that Russia is not a developed nation, a fair evaluation of Russian Siberia where the border with China is located.

Political Humor Alert

Have some fun, go see this video on Fox News which derides the climate alarmists. There are some frustrated movie makers out there, this one has some satirical talent.

Forests Returning

This article in USA Today claims that the U.S. is losing forests, faster than other heavily forested nations. I suspect the truth is far less dramatic.

Most of the tree loss that occurred in North America happened nearly two hundred years ago, when settlers were cutting down the vast deciduous forests east of the Mississippi River. It turned out much of this land wasn't great for farming and has been allowed to return to forest.

East of the Mississippi River, any land which isn't plowed regularly or paved over will return to forest all by itself. You can see this happening in fallow fields where volunteer saplings have grown up. Left alone, pastures will become forests once more and many of them have done exactly this.

In the study that the article cites, the U.S. is compared with Canada, Russia, China, Brazil, Indonesia, and the (sic) Democratic Republic of the Congo. This comparison makes little sense as the last three are home to vast tropical rain forests and the first two are home to enormous boreal forests. The U.S. has little of either, outside of Alaska, and never did.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Most Papers Down, WSJ Up

Check out this Associated Press article on the Breitbart website which reports declining circulation figures for just about all major newspapers except The Wall Street Journal:
The Journal once again posted the only gain in circulation among the top 25 newspapers that had comparable figures from a year ago.
Can it be a coincidence that the WSJ has a conservative editorial page while most of the others do not? I think not.

In fact the WSJ experience parallels that of conservative Fox News. Both are owned by Rupert Murdoch, who seems to be much smarter than the average bear.

Siam Sinking Slowly

Here is an interesting summary of the violent unrest currently roiling Thailand, the Land of Smiles. Written for RealClearWorld by Todd Crowell who worked there as a journalist for several recent years, it explains the conflict between the "red shirts" and the "yellow shirts" and draws some parallels between today's Thailand and the Spain of 1936 when the Spanish Civil War was just getting underway.

Crowell does a good job of indicating the widespread popularity of the King. He doesn't explain very well that although Thailand (formerly Siam) is called a constitutional monarchy, elderly King Bhumibol has much more political clout than do the constitutional monarchs of Europe.

The "red shirts" are largely from the rural poor and the army's enlisted troops are their sons. The "yellow shirts" are from the urban upwardly mobile and the army's officers are their sons. As Crowell says:
Many conscripts hail from the same rural classes that dominate the red shirt movement, and it is clear that their officers are uncertain they would obey any future commands to suppress the movement.
When enlisted troops refuse to use their loaded weapons against insurgents who may well be their kin, they will likely turn those weapons upon their officers before changing sides. Class conflict within the ranks makes for very nervous officers when the enemy is domestic and the turmoil is armed class conflict.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Glaciers Still Melting

In this article, from the Daily Inter Lake website, Keith Fellbaum reports that the Park Service knew the glaciers were melting over 40 years ago, when he first went to work there at the beginning of a PS career now ended in retirement. At that time the Park Service viewed these glaciers as left-overs from the last Ice Age which would eventually disappear.

Now there are claims that the cause of the Glacier glaciers' shrinkage is AGW, anthropogenic (man-caused) global warming. What changed is the conventional wisdom. Go see what he has to say about then and now.

Political Humor Alert

P. J. O'Rourke, writing for The Weekly Standard, and commenting on Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi:
Everyone with an ugly divorce has had a Nancy. She’s vexatious and expensive to get rid of, but it’s not like we give a damn about her.
I recommend the rest of the column to you as well, even though I was often one of the A students he effectively (and accurately) satirizes.

Look Attractive

This article in The Scotsman reports the findings of a behavioral study that shows some jurors decide guilt on the basis of appearance. Specifically, unattractive defendants were found guilty more often than attractive ones.

This is reason enough to try to look nice, as those same people are making emotional decisions about whom to hire, with whom to contract, etc. Most of us are aware of this at some level.

I remember my mother chose for whom to vote based in substantial part on whether candidates looked like good persons. Furthermore, she believed doing so made perfect sense. When I was young this irritated me no end; now I am less sure.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Korea Watch, Continued

Last Wednesday we reported that the word on the street in South Korea was that invasion by the North was imminent. This article in The Christian Science Monitor takes the story another step farther, reporting that North Korea has seized five hotels located within North Korea but owned by South Koreans.

This article in The Australian suggests the two countries which share the Korean peninsula are moving closer to war. I suggest our friends who are interested in Korea, and in that region of Asia, pay close attention to developments there.

That Reminds Me

This article from the U.K. Daily Mail's website reminds me of an impression I had when flying through the Bangkok airport under admittedly much less crowded and stressful conditions. It is a beautiful terminal. The only picture in the article in which a little of this beauty can be seen is the first picture.

Let me be clear, Bangkok has perhaps the most beautiful airport terminal building I have ever seen anywhere. We arrived there at perhaps 5 a.m. when it was dark, uncrowded, and lit up. My impression was that this building was so modern and sleek looking you could use it "as is" for the set of a serious science fiction movie about a non-apocalyptic future.

As you can see, all that modernity doesn't make the airport a wonderful place to spend days waiting for a plane to take you away from a semi-civil war. A nice room at an airport hotel would make that wait bearable, but I'll wager these were quickly sold out at high prices.

The unfortunate people in the article are caught between the Icelandic volcano ash cloud which is making flying into Europe difficult and the "red shirt" rebellion in Thailand which makes flying out of the country highly desirable. Add to those difficulties the fact that many of these tourists are traveling on a tight budget and their dilemma becomes dire.

Any "right now" airline seat vacancies are going to people who take aside Thai Air officials and make them a present of a couple hundred Euros, or more. Of course, people with money could take the train to Kuala Lumpur or Singapore and either fly out of there or stay there until airports in Europe open up. Traveling on a shoestring budget is only romantic when you look back upon it twenty years later.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Causes of the Great Recession

You owe it to yourself to read this article in which The Wall Street Journal's David Wessel reports the results of a lengthy interview with Dr. Raghuram Rajan of the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business. Rajan has a really comprehensive view of the causes of the largish recession out of which we are still struggling. Rather than blame one player, he sees multiple villains:
When easy money pushed by a deep pocketed government comes into contact with the profit motive of a sophisticated, amoral financial sector, a deep fault line develops.
By "deep fault line" Rajan means a place where prosperity is likely to break. In a sense he argues everybody is to blame. Wessel's article contains much more for your consideration .

I think Rajan's argument understates the responsibility of our government which pressed mortgage lenders to lend to a diverse body of home buyers. In order to do so, lenders ended up making loans to many persons who were not credit worthy.

Belgium Bedeviled

One of the many conflicts around the world we follow here at COTTonLINE is the conflict between Flemish and Wallonian Belgians. This article in RealClearWorld brings you up to date on the latest episode in the conflict.

The coalition government has, once again, fallen apart over the language issue. No particular resolution is in sight. What else is new?

Obama Losing Jews?

American Jews are historically among the most reliable supporters of the Democratic Party. On the other hand, a number of well-respected Jewish columnists have written less-than-flattering articles about the Obama policy with respect to Israel.

I've been wondering when this disapproval would show up in opinion polling; now it has. In this Quinnipiac Poll, the following question was posed (scroll down):
Do you approve or disapprove of the way Barack Obama is handling the situation between Israel and the Palestinians?
Jews responded 28% Approve and 67% Disapprove. On the other hand, 55% of these same respondents said they approved of the way Obama was handling foreign policy. Go figure.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Billy Clyde Redux

You almost never see a sports posting on COTTonLINE, here is a semi-exception. My eye caught this comment on Drudge: "One team I interviewed with asked me about being a white running back.” So I went here and found the article on Yahoo Sports.

This put me in mind of a novel called Semi-Tough by sportswriter Dan Jenkins (available here on Amazon). It concerns the picaresque adventures of Texan Billy Clyde Puckett, the self-described "only white running back in the NFL."

For some of us, at a certain point in our lives, this was the funniest book we'd ever read. I hope Toby Gerhart, the subject of the article, has as much fun and as much success as ol' Billy Clyde.

The book Semi-Tough isn't polite or decent, but if you can handle raunchy humor, and haven't read it, you might give it a try. Jenkins wrote other novels and, in my opinion, none are nearly as enjoyable.

I guess this really isn't a sports posting, but a book review of sorts. So be it.

Watch Korea

I hear rumors from South Korea that the word on the street is an invasion by the DPRK (aka North Korea) is imminent. On the other hand, a search of the English-language websites devoted to happenings in Korea do not reflect such fears. I wonder which is correct?

We're all aware of the violent sinking of a small South Korean warship near the disputed watery border with North Korea. I read one article which makes a very interesting point, namely that South Korea cannot afford to conclude that North Korea was responsible.

If the North was responsible for the sinking, the South would have to retaliate or look weak. In fact, they probably already look weak just for waffling about the possible causes. To go back to war over the sinking of the Cheonan and death of 46 of its sailors would carry a price the South is unwilling to pay, hence the need to find another 'cause' for its sinking.

For those of you whose geographic knowledge is shaky, let me remind you of the tactical situation in Korea. Roughly half of the South Korean population lives in Greater Seoul, within artillery range of North Korea. North Korea has stationed large numbers of artillery tubes in hardened sites just across the border aimed at the South's capital and half its people, making them hostages of a sort.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Quote of the Day

Senator John McCain, speaking about foreign policy while running for president:
The only thing worse than bombing Iran is Iran with the bomb.
The source of the quote is this article in Time.

Internet Not Guilty

David Brooks, a quasi-conservative writer for The New York Times, loves the findings of social science and what they tell us about our polity. Here he shares some research findings that appear to show that the Internet is not guilty of making us more polarized. While I'm not entirely convinced, the article is nevertheless interesting and thought-provoking.

The researchers Brooks cites find that we actually encounter viewpoints we don't share on the web. An example that occurs to me is on the conservative site it is not uncommon to find someone posting link to a Frank Rich, Joe Klein or Maureen Dowd column.

Similarly, we sometimes find links to work by MSM liberals on RealClearPolitics. COTTonLINE rarely links to explicitly liberal material but often links to scientific or international material with no political tilt whatsoever.

Brooks' conclusion: we are getting more polarized but the Internet is not, as often claimed, at fault. He doesn't answer the next question: what is at fault?

Monday, April 19, 2010

We Nailed It

On the 12th of April, in a post titled "Repeating History," we began our column in COTTonLINE with this thought:
Starting in January, 2009, the Democrats had a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, a clear majority in the House, and a newly elected Dem President. It was a perfect time to deliver things that a clear majority of Americans wanted, and thereby cement their hold on power. Did they do this? No.
Today the same thought is developed, at somewhat more length, in this RealClearPolitics column by David Paul Kuhn. As he points out, health care reform was "the wrong war" when the public wanted Obama to focus on the sagging economy.

I suppose the Obamacrats wanted to get health care done while they still had a "veto-proof" majority in the Senate. But then Kennedy died, Brown got elected, and their world began to fall apart.

In hindsight, how much wiser to have focused on what their pollsters told them the public wanted. It is always easier to sail with the wind at your back, rather than fighting into a headwind.

Culture of (In)Dependence

Michael Barone writes a very insightful column about the culture of dependence and those who cater to it. Appearing in RealClearPolitics, he explains why the Democrats got strong support from those making less than $50,000 and more than $200,000, but much less support from those in between.

Barone's point: below 50K you are dependent on government handouts and above 200K you see yourself as a member of that mandarin class who should run society because you, and those like you, know best. He notes:
The in-between people on the income and education ladders, it turns out, are a constituency for the culture of independence.
We see part of this play out in our home state of Wyoming. Jackson has become a resort like Aspen or Vail in Colorado. The billionaires are buying out the millionaires; Jackson airport looks like a sales lot for corporate jets.

Jackson is county seat of the only county in Wyoming that reliably votes Democratic in presidential elections: Teton County. It is hands down the richest county in the state. Its residents include many high-level decision-makers.

Nota bene: the other DrC and I don't live in Teton County.

Getting It

Liz Sidoti has written many left-leaning pieces for the Associated Press, pieces that appeared in the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, etc. So you can imagine I was surprised to see this Liz Sidoti piece in the conservative Washington Examiner, an article that pretty much shoots straight down the middle or even leans slightly to the right.

She is reporting the results of a poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, a poll which finds only 22% of respondents feel they can trust the federal government always or most of the time. In other words, close to 80% of us don't trust the federal government.

Then it appears she went to a Tea Party rally, interviewed some attendees and discovered that a substantial minority are not Republicans. Guess what? There are fiscally conservative Democrats and Independents, too. Interestingly, she did not identify the rally as a Tea Party rally, I wonder what that is about?

Sidoti takes the view that this much distrust of government is not good for the country and you may be surprised to find I agree. She and I might disagree about the source of the distrust, the cause if you will. She finishes with a quote from a pol whose view is that both parties are at fault, a view with which I find little fault.

Has she had an epiphany, a sudden insight that our President does not represent the second coming? Or is it more likely that she "gets" the futility of writing politics only for the 22% who agree with her? We don't know, but I'd bet on the latter.

Corruption in Greece

Go see this excellent Wall Street Journal article detailing the impact of corruption and bribery on the financial meltdown in Greece. If the author has it right, bribes and expensive political favors are the norm rather than the exception in Greece.

He cites a Brookings study which finds Greece the most corrupt nation in Europe, more corrupt than even Italy, Portugal or Spain, which is saying something. My favorite line in the article is a quote from Professor Stavros Katsios of Ionian University:
The core of the problem is that we don't have a culture of civic society. In Greece, complying with the rules is a matter of dishonor. They call you stupid if you follow the rules.
I also like this quote from Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, reflecting on the fact that one-quarter of all Greek taxes owed aren't paid:
If politicians are corrupt, if there is corruption, why should I pay my taxes? I don't know where my money is going.
Greece sounds like a third world country which should never have been admitted into the European Union.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Amateur Hour

In January Defense Secretary Robert Gates wrote a secret memo to the White House expressing his concern that the U.S. had no strategy with regard to the developing Iranian nuclear weapons capacity. The contents of this memo have been leaked to The New York Times by lower-level individuals operating anonymously, with or without Gates' consent. The resulting article is here.

I presume Secretary Gates is worried the U.S. has no military strategy in the event that non-military strategies fail. He is perhaps also hinting that the diplomatic steps we've been taking amount to "no strategy," although that is not his brief. The White House has, of course, denied having "no strategy."

COTTonLINE suspects the reason Gates has not been asked for military options is that this White House has no intent of employing military options, whatever Iran does. This is another example of amateurish behavior by the Obama White House.

Whatever their private intentions, the White House should have asked for military options in order to keep the pro-Israel people in the Pentagon quiet and increase the pressure on Iran. And you never know, they might need a military option after all.

Immigration - Conflicting Views

David Paul Kuhn, Chief Political Correspondent for RealClearPolitics, writes a very clear analysis of (1) the public's view of legal and illegal immigration, and (2) the view of immigration reported in the mainstream media. They are different, very nearly diametrically so.

No surprise, the public support legal immigration and oppose illegal immigration. Their views are not especially related to job competition. Public opposition to illegal immigrants is based on an accurate perception that such individuals absorb more than their share of social and criminal justice services.

O's Missing Girlfriends

I'm embarrassed for not having thought of it, until I read this article in American Thinker. Like him or not, our President is charismatic much as Tiger Woods is. Isn't it likely that at least a few publicity-seeking women would have come forward to tell the stories of their romantic encounters with Barack Obama or Barry Soetoro or whatever name he was then using?

Can he possibly have gone through several years of undergraduate college without making some special women friends? Unlikely. At the very least the National Inquirer would have found their stories worth space and ink as it did for the story of John Edwards' girlfriend Rielle Hunter.

I am reminded of Sherlock Holmes' observation that the important fact was that the dog didn't bark. In this case, the important detail may be that no one has come forward to claim to have been Obama's college lover, or summer fling, or whatever. I don't know what this datum means, but it likely means something important.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Lee on Rose Show

The Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Hsien Loong, son of Lee Kwan Yew, legendary designer and long time prime minister of the Singapore city-state, was interviewed on the Charlie Rose interview program on PBS a couple of days ago. It can be viewed here.

If you have an interest in what is going on in China, Hong Kong, or for that matter Singapore, watching this interview is worth your time. I believe you can find several nations in addition to China using Singapore as a model.

PM Lee was quite frank in admitting that China is copying various aspects of Singapore life. What is attractive about Singapore is that it is effectively a popular one-party state. China's Communists would like to figure out exactly how this is accomplished in Singapore. A hint: Singapore tolerates zero corruption.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Political Analysis

If you'd like a relatively fine-grained analysis of the 2010 election, seen from the perspective of six months before the event, you can find it in this article by David Paul Kuhn, Chief Political Correspondent for RealClearPolitics. This article is for the real politics junkie.

Kuhn compares the 2010 election to those of 1994 and 1982. In 1994 the president's party was badly mauled and lost control of Congress. In 1982 the president's party lost seats but not control of the Congress. He finds arguments in support of each comparison. He concludes:
Republicans lost 54 House seats in the two previous elections. Most of those losses came in Republican leaning or swing districts. And if today's conditions persist, odds are Republicans victories will rival their recent losses.

Five Fine Adages

I cannot find the original source of these five adages, the web lists many. Nevertheless, I like them and perhaps you will too.
1. You cannot legislate the poor into prosperity by legislating the wealthy out of prosperity.

2. What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving.

3. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take (or borrow) from somebody else.

4. When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that is the beginning of the end of any nation.

5. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it.
I thank my friend Earl for forwarding these gems to me.

Political Humor Alert

Speaking to the Tax Day Tea Party rally in Washington, as reported by the Associated Press on Yahoo News, comedian Mark Klein defined the difference between Barack Obama and Osama bin Laden:
One is an anti-capitalist trying to destroy America. The other is hiding in Afghanistan.

Turkey: A Canadian View

See this thoughtful article about Turkey and its relationships with Israel, Europe, the U.S., and the Arab countries. It is found in, the website of the Canadian counterpart of Time magazine.

The article's conclusions are not entirely optimistic, but largely so. My sense is that their view is more positive than the evidence can support. It does, however, ask some of the right questions:
What sort of country will Turkey become? Will it hold on to its republican identity with a strict separation between mosque and state? Or will the influence of political Islam grow and ultimately change what until now has been Turkey’s political foundation?

The Thai Conflict

This Washington Post editorial does a nice job of laying out the issues of conflict in Thailand. In many ways it is a conflict between the countryside and the city. One of the most telling lines is this:
Neither side in Thailand's class-based political conflict is a paragon of democracy.
My guess is that Thailand's problems with democracy are based around protecting the rights of the losers. Electoral winners get to rule, but the losers don't feel their rights are protected, their views are respected.

If a nation cannot find a way to protect electoral losers, those losers are unlikely to acquiesce in the resultant government. Such a nation is unlikely to succeed at democracy.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Surprise, Surprise

I've seen George W. Bush described as "our worst president ever" or as "our worst post-war president." Imagine my surprise to read this in the website of Public Policy Polling. It says:
Americans are now pretty evenly divided about whether they would rather have Barack Obama or George W. Bush in the White House.
The article by the Democratic polling organization concludes:
These numbers suggest some peril for Democrats in making Bush a focus of their messaging this fall. A lot of folks who contributed to the former President's low level of popularity now like Obama even less. (emphasis added)
Imagine how polling dead even with "the worst president ever" must feel. I'll bet that hurts.

AP-GfK Poll: Obama, Dems Down

The Associated Press-GfK poll, reported here on Yahoo News, finds Obama's approval ratings continue to go down. They say:
President Barack Obama's national standing has slipped to a new low. (snip) Just 49 percent of people now approve of the job Obama's doing overall, and less than that — 44 percent — like the way he's handled health care and the economy.
The AP sees the impact of the data as follows:
With the electorate angry, Republicans enthusiastic and Democrats seemingly less so, Obama's party increasingly fears it could lose control of the House, if not the Senate, in his first midterms. The GOP, conversely, is emboldened as voters warm to its opposition to much of the president's agenda.
I cannot say I am either disappointed or surprised. We persist in electing presidents who need training wheels.

Poor, Sad Ecuador

See this article by Mary Anastasia O'Grady in The Wall Street Journal about the situation in Ecuador. She writes about the undemocratic behavior of President Rafael Correa, whom she describes as Ecuador's version of Hugo Chavez. She says:
Now that Mr. Correa has consolidated his power, he is employing state intimidation to destroy his opponents. The press is under constant threat, critics are being driven into exile, the economy is in shambles, and it has come out that Colombia's FARC rebels consider Mr. Correa's government an ally. Iran is a good friend.
Another autocrat in Latin America, the latest in a long, sad tradition. I suspect they are artifacts of the Spanish colonial culture.