Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Quote of the Day II

Not all pithy sayings come from the major media. Every now and then a good one shows up in a small local paper. Here we have some words to live by from the Catoosa County (GA) News, written by Jeff O'Bryant:
The job of president of the United States isn’t a position one grows into. You’re either ready for the top spot or you’re not.
On the other hand, O'Bryant says "immolate" when he means "imitate." That's not a mistake you'd likely find in the major media. Hat tip to Lucianne.com for the link to the O'Bryant column.

Ugly vs. Adult

Michael Gerson has written a good article about the level of hate speech in modern political commentary, particularly online. Gerson's article is from The Washington Post.

Here at COTTonLINE, we try to keep the level of discourse civil, while being clearly partisan. I hope we live up to Gerson's model of "Grown-Up" speech, at least most of the time.

A Question

I know someone who was unemployed and didn't bother looking for work until his unemployment benefits ran out. He viewed this as a way to take a sort of sabbatical, a paid break from work, since his profession did not offer sabbaticals.

I expect using unemployment insurance as a paid "sabbatical" isn't all that uncommon. Do you know any individuals who have done this?

To the extent that this happens, it adds to the unemployment problem our nation is suffering. For Congress to keep extending unemployment benefits indefinitely to protect the long-term unemployed may only encourage the very problem they hope to offset - long-term unemployment.

Quote of the Day I

Vice President Joe Biden, in a fund-raising letter to Democrats, as quoted by The Hill:
As things heat up, you can expect House Democrats will be hit with a GOP blitzkrieg of vicious Swift-Boat-style attack ads, Karl Rove-inspired knockout tactics, thinly veiled attempts at character assassination and tea party disruptions.
This isn't a bad battle plan.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

COIN: Another View

Michael Cohen has written a long, thorough article discussing what has worked and not worked in counterintelligence (COIN). It appears here on the World Policy Institute website.

In many ways the article is a critique of the current U.S. military's counterintelligence doctrine. My favorite line from the article is two thousand years old, a quote from Tacitus describing the Roman approach to COIN:
They make a wasteland and call it peace.
Briefly, the Roman approach is this: destroy the enemy's cities and enslave what remains of their populace. The approach is not exactly politically correct by today's standards.

Kissinger: Afghanistan a Long Struggle

This Financial Times article reports the views of Henry Kissinger concerning what will and won't work in Afghanistan. Kissinger's key statement is this:
The basic premise that you can work towards a national government that can replace the American security effort in a deadline of 12 months provides a mechanism for failure. On the other hand, if we are willing to pursue the stated [war] objective the public must be prepared for a long struggle. This is a choice that needs to be made explicitly.
COTTonLINE views Dr. Kissinger as one of the best foreign policy minds of the last century.

Two Chinas

See this Washington Post article about the signing of a trade treaty between China and Taiwan. As the article notes:
U.S. officials have said they view the deal as a sign of improving relations between Beijing and Taipei, and another sign that China appears less likely to use force in an attempt to unite with the island.
And therefore less likely to drag the U.S. into war defending Taiwan's independence. The treaty is also important because:
The mainland has already signed similar free trade agreements with the 10 member-nations of ASEAN, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, and Beijing is in talks for similar deals with South Korea and Japan. None of those countries would negotiate similar arrangements with Taiwan -- which is diplomatically isolated in the region -- unless it had first reached its own deal with China.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Hitchens: Small Differences

Christopher Hitchens, writing for Slate, talks about the "narcissism of the small difference" as Sigmund Freud called it. Hitchens then goes around the world finding groups hostile to each other who are in fact in most ways quite similar.

Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland, Uzbeks and Kyrgyz in Kyrgyzstan, Serbs and Croats and Bosnians in the Balkans, Pakistanis and Indians on the subcontinent are all examples he parses. It is an interesting article and worth your time.

Spengler: No Turkish Delight

David Goldman, who writes for the Asia Times under the nom de plume "Spengler," takes a dim view of political developments in Turkey. If you have the patience to deal with one of his typically long, serious articles, go here to read the whole interesting thing. If not, here are his conclusions:
Erdogan's political Islam failed to stabilize Turkey. It will contribute to instability in the region to an extent that is difficult to foresee. Iran now has the more reason to assert its influence in Iraq, perhaps by encouraging the breakup of the country and the emergence of a Kurdish state that might threaten Turkey.

Turkey, in turn, has all the more reason to agitate among the Turkish-speaking, or Azeri, quarter of Iran's population. Iran will use its influence among Turkish Alevis to challenge the Turkish Sunni establishment; Iran will encourage Turkish separatism. Meanwhile Erdogan's alliance of opportunity with Hamas undercuts the American-allied Sunni Arab states, Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, not to mention Mahmoud Abbas' Palestine Authority.

With the United States in full strategic withdrawal, a Thirty Years War in western and central Asia seems all the more likely.

One Quarter are Birthers

This article in The Hill quotes a survey that shows 13% believe Obama was born outside the U.S. and another 11% aren't sure where he was born. Add them together and you've got roughly a quarter of the population who aren't convinced Obama meets the Constitutional requirement of eligibility for the presidency.

Count me as part of that 11%, his parentage and rearing are sufficiently confused to make the issue in doubt.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Changing Standards

A half-century ago I grew up in a two bedroom, one bath house that my parents built new. It was one of the nicest homes in our semi-rural neighborhood in southern California. At the time virtually everyone except the wealthy lived in homes with one bath and considered it normal.

Our home had a single black-and-white TV which got a whole three channels from an antenna. Again, that was what everybody had. We had a portable typewriter, many homes did not. Our telephone was a party line until I was in high school, standard for our pleasant neighborhood.

Many of the women in our neighborhood did home canning, my mother included. Eating evening meals at restaurants wasn't common. Gas stations were called "service stations" and actually did minor repairs. A vacation was mostly a camping trip or a visit to relatives.

The idea that normal people might have wireless (cell) phones, or computers in their homes, or color TVs was pretty much science fiction. Ditto the Internet, cheap long-distance calls, or real people taking passenger flights or cruises - all fantasy. Many intact two adult households got by with one earner.

That was then. Today even the poor have color TV and cell phones. Nobody builds two bedroom, one bath houses; McMansions are common. Computers are so commonplace that your new car probably has at least two and so cheap that less than two weeks of work at the federal minimum wage will buy you one.

Many new households don't even bother with landline telephones but nearly everybody gets Internet and either cable or satellite TV with many channels. Any household in which a non-elderly adult doesn't work is considered odd, potentially a problem.

My point: our standards of what constitutes a good middle-class life have changed dramatically. We want (and expect) a lot more out of life than our parents did. This article by Jonah Goldberg, writing for RealClearPolitics, makes some of the same points.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Cowboys in Uniform

I've been thinking about the mentality of the McChrystal headquarters staff that would cause them to bad mouth their civilian bosses. Several columnists have likened them to a bunch of fraternity boys. Initially, that formulation made sense to me.

Then upon further reflection I had another insight. I suspect that the non-PC behavior came from the Special Forces backgrounds of many of his officers. As an outsider looking in, it seems to me that the mentality of special forces troops is much less rule-driven, less by-the-book than would be true for most branches of the service.

Someone wisecracked that McChrystal and his merry band literally knew where the bodies were buried as they'd done the burying, after first cutting the throats. Successfully operating in the dark, behind enemy lines, with little or no backup requires great initiative, independence, and ruthlessness.

I'm reminded of Wyoming ranchers' attitude toward the stock-eating wolves the Park Service has reintroduced as a protected species. The ranchers' bumper sticker says "Wolves - Shoot, Shovel, and Shut Up." I'm guessing special forces fosters that same amoral attitude.

Oh, Really?

This article in the Asia Times talks about the recent development of a "gun culture" in China. It also speaks of strict gun control laws and says:
China has imposed a blanket ban on gun ownership, including replicas. Since 1966, the government has prohibited the private manufacture, sale, transport, possession and import or export of bullets and guns.
I have to admit I am confused. Traveling in China in 1986, near Guilin I saw a civilian casually walking along a rice paddy dike openly carrying a long gun, a rifle or shotgun. I found this sighting interesting but did not ask our government guide about it.

Why didn't I ask? Living in Asia that year we learned that uncomfortable questions normally elicited responses simulating a sudden lack of English comprehension. The other DrC and I privately referred to this as "the Asian shuffle."

The CA Budget Mess Revisited

Several years ago I told a young employee of Parks Canada that California has about the same population as Canada. I'm not sure she believed me. Roughly 1/8th of the U.S. population has a CA home address.

Wherever in the U.S. you live, what happens to California is important. This Bloomberg article brings us up to date on the current status of the CA state budgetary crisis. I like the article's conclusion:
California isn’t Greece. It’s home to Silicon Valley, Hollywood and a $27 billion agriculture industry. “It’s unbelievable,” says Bob Nichols, CEO of Windward Capital Management Co. in Los Angeles. “How do you screw up a place with the growth capability of California? It’s so dysfunctional.”
CA is dysfunctional indeed. Most of the blame accrues to the initiative/referendum process and the public employees' unions.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Quote of the Day

A. B. Stoddard, writing for The Hill of which he is Associate Editor, about our President:
Obama is so politically toxic in battlegrounds he can’t campaign for most Democratic candidates and his relationships with Democrats outside his intimate circle of mostly Chicagoan advisers fall somewhere between faint and frosty.
Does any reasonable observer find this surprising?

Misleading Numbers

Top political analyst Michael Barone, writing for The Washington Examiner, does some relatively simple math and discovers that the popularity numbers normally given in the press for President Obama are accurate, but misleading. The press normally reports the President's popularity as being around 45%.

These numbers are misleading because the President's popularity among African-Americans is on the order of 91%. Barone calculates that his popularity among the remaining 88% of the electorate who aren't African-American is more like 39% positive.

He points out that in most states or districts in which there is a likelihood of a party change in the fall election, relatively few of the voters are African-American (Arkansas, Florida, and Illinois are exceptions). Barone concludes:
The state of opinion in the real political battlegrounds of 2010 is considerably more negative toward Barack Obama than top-line poll numbers suggest.
How does the concept of "negative coattails" sound?

Gallup: More Conservatives

This link to a Gallup website will show you the latest results of their polling. Gallup finds:
The highest annual percentage identifying as conservative in Gallup's history of measuring ideology with this wording, dating to 1992.
Believe it or not, some 23% of Democrats call themselves "conservative" whereas only 3% of Republicans call themselves "liberal." The rest of the findings are interesting too, particularly the shift toward "conservative" among Independents.

Embarrassing

Wouldn't you think The Washington Post could find one conservative journalist/blogger to cover the conservative side of politics? Apparently they don't know a single such person. Or, what is more likely, they didn't want the conservative media covered sympathetically.

See this article in Politico which covers the story of the firing of the lad the WaPo had chosen, David Weigel. Weigel was outed as a flaming liberal by various websites, based on emails he had written.

Presumably Weigel needed work and, like Gen. McChrystal, didn't know when to keep his mouth shut. The real blame accrues to the decision-makers at the Post, who are revealed as disinterested in fair reportage. Sad, that was once a great newspaper.

Political Humor Alert

Mark Steyn, writing for the Orange County Register, does a funny-but-sad column about the extent of President Obama's disengagement. My favorite lines are in Steyn's description of the President's attitude toward the problems facing the country:
He doesn't seem to know, and he doesn't seem to care that he doesn't know, and he doesn't seem to care that he doesn't care.
No wonder Obama appears cool and laid back.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

A Possible Explanation

George Will isn't convinced that our strategy in Afghanistan makes sense. Go here to see his article in the Boston Herald. Will says:
The American undertaking in Afghanistan is a fool’s errand.
This view leads Will to the following analysis of the McChrystal/Afghanistan situation:
McChrystal’s disrespectful flippancies, and the chorus of equally disdainful comments from the unpleasant subordinates he has chosen to have around him, emanate from the toxic conditions that result when the military’s can-do culture collides with a cannot-be-done assignment.

Another View of McChrystal

Andy McCarthy has a quite different view of the recently-fired General McChrystal. Go here to see it in the website of National Review Online. McCarthy quotes Marc Ambinder in The Atlantic who says of McChrystal:
The story about him voting for Obama is not contrived. He is a political liberal. He is a social liberal. He banned Fox News from the television sets in his headquarters.
This leads McCarthy to conclude:
Gen. McChrystal, for all his undeniable valor, is a progressive big-thinker who has been conducting a sociology experiment in Islamic nation-building. It's a flawed experiment that assumes Afghan Muslims will side with us — i.e., the Westerners their clerical authorities tell them are infidel invaders and occupiers — against their fellow Afghan Muslims.
That does sound pretty daft, doesn't it? Maybe comparing McChrystal to Patton wasn't a good match. I can't see George P. doing nation-building.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Coincidence

Two related things happened on Monday that make the Administration's "What war? What terrorism?" stance look foolish. First, the Pakistani-American who tried to blow up Times Square in New York plead guilty to terrorism and said:
I consider myself a Muslim soldier. It’s a war.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court found that the U.S. government has a right to ban contributions to some 45 groups that support terrorism. Go see this opinion piece by Judith Miller on the Fox News site for details.

Walmart Moms Go GOP

A political polling of Walmart moms shows they are likely to vote for Republican candidates in the fall. "Walmart moms" are women with children under 18 who have made at least one purchase at Walmart in the last month. Walmart moms are a group that normally votes Democratic.

Today the key issues influencing this demographic group are the poor economy and the unpopular health care reform bill. You can find the Public Opinion Strategies survey results here and an analysis of the findings here on The Weekly Standard webpage.

I wonder why Walmart does political surveys of their customers? Sure, the results are interesting but of what use are they to the company? How do they justify to their stockholders the expenditure of company funds to hire the polling done? I guess it is to provide interesting copy for their Community Action Network newsletter.

McChrystal Out, Petraeus In

Overnight President Obama decided to accept the tendered resignation of General Stanley McChrystal as head of military operation in Afghanistan. At the same time he announced his replacement: General David Petraeus.

It was Gen. Petraeus who brought the war in Iraq to a more-or-less successful conclusion. Go here to see an Associated Press article on the Yahoo News website about the replacement.

McChrystal, the son of a general, is reputed to have been a spirited trouble-maker ever since his undergraduate days at West Point. Most of the time he has managed to squirm out of the trouble into which he's gotten, not this time.

It will be interesting to see what his next career move will be. I'd suggest forming a consulting firm offering COIN (counterintelligence) expertise to third-world nations with troublesome insurgencies.

Two Views: McChrystal Has to Go

Eliot Cohen, writing here for The Wall Street Journal, takes the view that President Obama should accept the resignation of General Stanley McChrystal. Cohen's basic reason is that the U.S. military must, by law, remain subservient to the civilian government. It is an interesting and well-reasoned article.

I get the sense that Gen. McChrystal is not unlike Gen. George Patton, of World War II fame. Patton was a public relations disaster but a hell of a battlefield soldier. McChrystal seems to be the same.

Leaders like Patton and McChrystal need to function at the tactical level while not being given access to the strategic level. That is, they need to work for generals who have, and are willing to use, political skills much as Patton worked for Eisenhower.

Meanwhile, this article by The Washington Post's Dana Milbank arrives at the same conclusion via a slightly different route. Milbank is more interested in politics and less interested in history than Cohen.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Get The Facts

You have undoubtedly heard about the deep doodoo that General Stanley McChrystal, military commander in Afghanistan, has gotten into by giving a series of interviews to a reporter from Rolling Stone. What you should do is read the actual article which has caused all the uproar. You can find it here.

I find the sad thing is that McChrystal has apologized for his salty comments, and those of his staff. How much more appealing if he had said to the President "I told the truth as I see it. Fire me if you need to."

Quote of the Day II

David Brooks, writing for The New York Times, about the pitfalls of politics as have recently happened to the Democrats:
If your policies undermine personal responsibility by separating the link between effort and reward, voters will punish you for it.
His column, based on the Dr. Faustus story, is fun to read.

Quote of the Day I

Richard Cohen, a columnist for The Washington Post, writing about President Obama's seeming indifference to human rights abuses in China, Russia, and the Middle East:
The president seems to stand foursquare for nothing much.
Ouch, that smarts. Cohen's explanation for why this indifference may exist is interesting, too.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Solstice, Father's Day

This year the summer solstice and father's day both fall on June 20. COTTonLINE wishes you all the best on the longest day of the year and the day we honor fathers.

I looked outside at 10 p.m. and the sky was still somewhat light, call it "twilight." Starting tomorrow the days begin getting shorter, a process that will continue until just before Christmas.

Technically, summer begins tomorrow throughout the northern hemisphere. Summer won't hurt our feelings, we haven't had much warm weather this spring. Nobody hereabouts is particularly surprised; real summer comes late and ends early 1.2 miles above sea level.

Sad News

Here is some sad news for those who always thought they'd take an overnight cruise on the Mississippi River. According to this story in The Times-Picayune of New Orleans:
The overnight riverboat trip is no more.
My guess is that this only applies to the Mississippi River and its tributaries. I believe there may still be overnight cruises on the Columbia River in the West, and perhaps on the St. Lawrence River in the East.

Travel Pix

Click on Cruztalking to see some nice photos from our recent tour of the Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. We were serving as tour guides for friends from TN who had not seen the parks before.

As the other DrC says there, the parks are picturesque in early June as there is still snow on the mountains. It was chilly, but not frigid - certainly not short-sleeve weather. We did however see some folks in shorts.

They reminded me of Phil, with whom another guy and I shared a house while in grad school in Eugene, OR. He was from Minnesota by way of Montana whereas I was from CA. He thought Eugene winters were warm because it rarely snowed. I thought they were cold because the sun rarely shone. Quite different perceptions of exactly the same weather.

Political Humor Alert

Dan Gainor, writing for Fox News, cracking wise about the President:
It took Barack Obama less time to become Jimmy Carter than it took Carter.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Tea Party Dissected

Matthew Continetti, who writes for The Weekly Standard, has done a very interesting analysis of the Tea Party movement and two of its leaders: Rick Santelli and Glenn Beck. He views Santelli as a mainstream business-oriented conservative and Beck as a kooky conspiracy theorist. See what you think.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Peters: Black Ops Rule

COTTonLINE's favorite military analyst, Ralph Peters, writes for The New York Post. In this column, he takes a very jaundiced view of the war in Afghanistan, and of that country's president, Hamid Karzai.

Peters says only our special operations force missions have been doing any good against the Taliban, and Karzai wants them halted. The following paragraph summarizes Peters' glum appraisal:
Only our special operators are still in the fight. The rest of our forces have been reduced to serving as pop-up targets. Billions in aid have been squandered. Drug lords rule. Our local "allies" rip us off at every turn. And the man we backed as the "George Washington of Afghanistan" is siding with the enemy. If we cave in to Karzai and rein in our special operators, it's game over.
On the other hand, Karzai knows we'll be gone in a few months or years, and both he and the Taliban will still be there. If the Taliban fear the SOF guys, it's no wonder Karzai wants them reined in. It appears he is trying to cut a deal to stay in power after we're gone.

Karzai would be smarter to leave with the U.S. troops when they go; exile is preferable to execution. The Taliban just hanged a 7 year old boy for collaboration, what would they do to Karzai?

Quote of the Day

Peggy Noonan, writing for The Wall Street Journal, about the President's failed Oval Office speech:
Nielsen reported that 32 million people watched the speech, as compared to 48 million viewers that watched the State of the Union. Ronald Reagan once said you should never confuse the reviews with the box office. This was the box office voting with its clickers.
In other words, most people are not interested in what Barack Hussein Obama has to say. If these Nielsen figures are accurate, only about 10% of Americans bothered to tune in.

A third of those politics junkies who found Obama interesting in January no longer find him interesting. He might want to look for a law school deanship, opening in 2012.

Popularity Drop Continues

On Wednesday we cited the Rasmussen Reports findings that Obama's popularity were falling. Scott Rasmussen's latest poll finds the President's popularity has continued to fall, in the face of his poorly received Oval Office speech.

The latest figures, those for June 18, 2010, show the Presidential Popularity Index has dropped to -21 and the overall approval has fallen to 41%. Scott says 58% of voters now disapprove.

One goal of the Oval Office speech on energy and the oil spill was to enhance the public perception of the President. Clearly, it did not accomplish this goal. Pundits on both sides of the aisle have panned the speech as being self-serving and off-the-mark.

The old management prof sez: I believe we now see why it is rare for senators to be elected president. People who have actually been the leader of an organization - in the civil government, military, or private sector - have a better sense of organizational mission. That is, a sense of what needs to get done and how to make it happen.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Barone: GOP Ahead in Big States

Political analyst Michael Barone, writing for The Washington Examiner and RealClearPolitics, does the math and finds Republicans ahead in many large states where Democrats normally win. This might be the year we cut the legs out from under public employee unions.

For example he says it looks like a Republican could win in high-unemployment Michigan:
That's pretty good proof that in times of economic distress voters don't want to keep feeding the government beast, but believe it needs to cinch the belt a little tighter, as most Americans have been doing.
Meanwhile he observes the same trend overseas:
Parties of the left have been getting shellacked all over Europe, most recently in Britain.

Quote of the Day

Washington sage David Broder, writing for The Washington Post and RealClearPolitics, about the President's recent Oval Office speech:
If there is any value in President Obama's knocking himself out to dramatize on prime-time television his impotence in the face of the Gulf of Mexico oil leak calamity, I wish someone would explain it.
Did you notice that Obama mostly tried to change the subject? Presidential "impotence" is not a winner.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Troubles with Turkey

Tom Friedman, who writes foreign affairs for The New York Times, is a liberal and can be a pain in the butt. However he is also quite knowledgeable about the Middle East.

Here he writes about the deteriorating situation in Turkey. My sense is that he is, ever so gently, trying to nudge the Turks back onto a moderate path.

Based on a recent visit, it's a path I believe Turkey has already left. I am sure Friedman hopes it is not too late, as do I. His column is worth reading.

For a Turkish appraisal of the situation, this article in Today's Zaman takes a very different view.

Here is a differently nuanced look in at the same issues from the German publication Spiegel.

A hat tip to RealClearWorld for the leads to these articles.

Quote of the Day

Columnist Tony Blankley, writing for RealClearPolitics, about the situation in Afghanistan:
President Obama has publicly doubted whether Afghan President Hamid Karzai's corruption and incompetence make him a fit partner for our policy goals in Afghanistan.
Now, according to Saturday's New York Times: Mr. Karzai (has) lost faith in the Americans and NATO to prevail in Afghanistan.
Regretfully, both presidents are correct.

Obama Approval Keeps Dropping

Rasmussen Reports's Presidential Approval Index has sunk to -20 and Obama's overall approval is even worse. Rasmussen says:
Overall, 42% of voters say they at least somewhat approve of the president's performance. (snip) Fifty-seven percent (57%) now disapprove. Those are the lowest ratings yet recorded for this president.
This citation is from the Rasmussen Report dated June 16, 2010. If these numbers don't improve dramatically we're looking at a one-term president like that infamous peanut farmer and Sunday school teacher Jimmy Carter.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Snow in S. Africa

Places in South Africa have experienced their first snow fall in 20 years. The source is here, a website for a S. African TV station.

It must be more of that global warming we've been hearing so much about, eh?

Bush Better Than Obama

See this Public Policy Polling poll of voters in Louisiana a majority of whom believe that George W. Bush did better with Katrina than Obama has done with the oil spill. Specifically, they found:
50% of voters in the state, even including 31% of Democrats, give Bush higher marks on that question compared to 35% who pick Obama. Overall only 32% of Louisianans approve of how Obama has handled the spill (compared) to 62% who disapprove.
So, does anyone look good in the oil spill situation? Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal does.
63% of voters approve of the job he's doing, the best PPP has found for any Senator or Governor so far in 2010. There's an even higher level of support, at 65%, for how he's handled the aftermath of the spill.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Jus Sanguinis Yes

See this article from Christian Science Monitor on the ABC News website which reports an interesting development. Congressmen are working on a bill that would move the U.S. away from giving citizenship to anyone born here and toward giving citizenship only to those born here whose parents were here lawfully.

Perhaps we should encourage our various representatives to support this action. "Anchor babies" are a concept we'd be better off without.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Quote of the Day

Philippe Nemo, writing for City Journal:
The idea of “multiculturalism” is inherently absurd.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Quote of the Day

The pseudonymous Robin of Berkeley, a psychologist by trade, writing in American Thinker about the possible causes of Barack Obama's inability to function normally:
My gut tells me that Obama was seriously traumatized in childhood. His mother disregarded his basic needs, dragged him all over the place, and ultimately abandoned him.
In other words, the poor guy has suffered an extreme case of "scholar's child" syndrome.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Pinochet Not PC

See this brief article in MercoPress which reports the resignation of the Chilean ambassador to Argentina. He was ill-advised enough to publicly say uncritical things about the former Pinochet regime in Chile.

What Ambassador Otero said was likely true, but it is a truth that cannot be said on the record by public figures in Latin America. The United States isn't the only place experiencing political correctness.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Obama an Alien

Dorothy Rabinowitz, who writes for The Wall Street Journal, has posted a very interesting column saying Obama is a kind of alien. Then she assures us she isn't a "birther," one of those who is concerned about where he was born.

Her point is that, in his belief structure, Obama essentially is not an American. She believes he views himself instead as a globalist, an internationalist. She says:
He is hard put to sound convincingly like the leader of the nation, because he is, at heart and by instinct, the voice mainly of his ideological class.
How does that "ideological class" view the United States?
It is held as revealed truth that the United States is now, and has been throughout its history, the chief engine of injustice and oppression in the world.
That explains Obama's compulsion to go around the globe apologizing for our nation's behavior at home and abroad.

WSJ: Gloom on All Fronts

Monday's Wall Street Journal carried two articles on the Opinion page that were real downers.

The first deals with our current foreign policy. Eliot A. Cohen, a State Department advisor to Condoleezza Rice, finds our foreign policy dismal, he says:
The Obama administration has managed to convince most countries around the world that we are worth little as friends and even less as enemies.
The balance of the Cohen article supports that view with depressing details from the last 18 months.

The second article, by economist Arthur Laffer, predicts another economic crash in 2011. The result will be a hard double dip recession. Why does he see this outcome?

Laffer demonstrates that people strive to avoid taxes and reminds us that the Bush tax cuts will disappear on January 1, 2011. A whole range of taxes will increase, from personal income taxes to estate taxes. Therefore, there will be a mini-surge in 2010 as people pull taxable income forward to avoid the higher taxes of 2011.
The result will be a crash in tax receipts once the surge is past. If you thought deficits and unemployment have been bad lately, you ain't seen nothing yet.

Monday, June 7, 2010

China Not Unique

This New York Times article reports that wages are rising in China and that as a result prices will rise around the world. That would be true if China were irreplaceable, it is not.

Think back to when just about everything was Made in Japan, now it is all Made in China. If it isn't China, it will be somewhere else. Who is to say the next big thing won't be Made in Bangladesh or Made in Myanmar? Perhaps Made in Togo or Made in Ghana?

People with factories to build will search the world for places with very low costs of living where they can pay workers $125 a month, or less. In the foreseeable future, such places will continue to exist. Furthermore, the workers there will benefit from reliable, albeit small, paychecks and the developed world will benefit from inexpensive manufactured goods.

AP: Faith Lost

The normally left-leaning Associated Press has an amazing quote suggesting that they are, at long last, picking up the mood of the country. This was written by Ron Fournier, Washington bureau chief for The Associated Press:
Nobody led. Not the president of the United States. Not the chief executive of BP. Not Congress, federal agencies or local elected officials. From its fiery beginning, the Gulf oil spill has stood as a concentrated reminder of why, over four decades, Americans have lost faith in nearly every national institution.
"Americans have lost faith in nearly every national institution" is as clear a statement of the Tea Party philosophy as I've heard, and from the AP too. The Tea Party (or something like it) is what happens when people have no faith in existing institutions. They are driven to get off their backsides to create a new one.

New Ideas in Foreign Policy

This article by Walter Russell Mead in The American Interest lays out some very interesting ideas in foreign policy. His immediate thesis is an examination of why both Turkey and Brazil have recently been taking anti-U.S. stands after decades of being reliable U.S. allies.

His more interesting meta-idea has to do with the destruction of major foreign policy thrusts of the last three American administrations. Maybe the most fascinating idea is how increasing democracy in another country doesn't always lead them to be our friend.

This is an article for the real foreign policy wonk. Mead puts forward some interesting and provocative ideas.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Higher Ed Bubble?

Glenn Harlan Reynolds, who blogs as Instapundit, has written an interesting column for the The Washington Examiner about the similarities between the recently exploded housing bubble and what has been going on in higher education over the last decades. The parallels are both real and disquieting. However, I'm not sure they apply to all of higher education.

I spent my career in the business schools of state universities of no particular distinction. Mostly these were AACSB accredited business schools, but that only by the skin of their teeth. They were not big-name schools with highly-competitive admissions policies and/or well-known football teams.

Did our graduates learn about what any B-school grads learn? Yes. Did they get decent jobs? Yes. Did they party a lot on the way to their degrees? Yes.

Did they end up on Wall Street playing Masters of the Universe? No. Did they end up making megabucks as high-rolling consultants? No. Did they form a network of friends whose parents have a condo in Vail or a summer place on the Cape or in the Hamptons? No.

Did they end up with student loans equaling the price of a new home? No. Do I think they got their money's worth? Yes.

Quote of the Day

Mark Steyn, imagining the world view of Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdo─čan:
He looks at the American hyperpower and sees, to all intents, a late Ottoman sultan — pampered, decadent, lounging on its cushions puffing a hookah but unable to rouse itself to impose its will in the world. In that sense, Turkey’s contempt for Israel is also an expression of near total contempt for Washington.
Steyn has a way with words. The source for his quote is National Review Online.

Euro's Demise Predicted

The Sunday Telegraph of the U.K. has published the results of a survey of London economists and the most interesting finding is this:
Of the 25 leading City economists who took part in the Telegraph survey, 12 predicted that the euro would not survive in its current form this Parliamentary term, compared with eight who suspected it would. Five declared themselves undecided.
Of course, it may be that Brits are trying to justify the U.K. choosing to stay out of the Euro zone.

Friday, June 4, 2010

AP: Hiring Is Weak, Hungary Is Hungry

The Associated Press reports via Yahoo News that the newest jobs report for the U.S. is weak. It turns out that almost all of the hiring that took place was temporary federal government hiring for the census. Stock markets have not responded well to this news.

In an unrelated but likewise disappointing item, the story also relates that Hungary says the condition of its economy is "grave." One advantage Hungary has that Greece has not: Hungary has its own currency, the forint. In other words, they are outside the euro zone and can devalue their currency if needed. Greece does not have access to this tool of economic management.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

VDH on Europe

Victor Davis Hanson, writing for National Review Online, about the extent to which U.S. military protection has subsidized European welfare states:
Europeans forgot that, just because they are not looking for war, it doesn’t mean that war might not look for them.
One solution to the "European problem" might be for the U.S. to announce a timetable to withdraw its protection of Europe. That would certainly make being a European more "interesting."

Steyn on Europe

Mark Steyn, writing for Macleans, has the following incisive insight about today's Europe:
What is life for? What gives it meaning? Post-Christian, post-national, post-modern Europe has no answer to that question, and so it has 30-year-old students and 50-year-old retirees, and wonders why the small band of workers in between them can’t make the math add up.
Then check out his conclusion:
When Barack Obama started redistributing American wealth, a lot of readers dusted off Mrs. Thatcher’s bon mot: “The trouble with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money.” But European social democracy has taken it to the next level: they’ve run out of other people, period.
For those of us who can find it in ourselves to care about the Europe whose people became our ancestors, Steyn has written a useful but sad article.

U.S. Debt Rockets Upward

The Washington Times reports that federal debt under President Obama has grown by literally billions per day, here is the quote:
At $13 trillion, that figure has risen by $2.4 trillion in about 500 days since President Obama took office, or an average of $4.9 billion a day. That's almost three times the daily average of $1.7 billion under the previous administration.
That means debt is growing at a rate of over $16 per day per person - man, woman, and child. Think $6000 per person per year. Do you suppose the average family's personal debt is growing that fast?

The Greeks aren't the only ones living beyond their mean;.so is the U.S. The $1.7 billion per day under Bush was excessive, too. Forget "compassionate conservatives," let's elect a fiscal conservative next time.