Saturday, July 31, 2010

Guess What?

There has been enormous turmoil about the law recently passed by Arizona which tells police to check immigration status of people they contact in their normal duties. The AZ law has triggered no end of riots, protests, and the like.

It turns out that 14 years ago the U.S. Congress passed a law which enables state and local "LEOs" (law enforcement officers) to do exactly that. The only difference is that the federal law says they may and the AZ law says they must.

According to this U.S. News & World Report article, some jurisdictions in the following states already utilize the provisions of this law, known cryptically as "287g," to look for immigration scofflaws: "Florida, Virginia, Oklahoma, Ohio, New Hampshire, California, and even Massachusetts."

So why aren't all our police doing what the federal law says they're entitled to do? A number of police organizations don't want to have anything to do with immigration as they believe, probably correctly, that to do so would make their relations with the Hispanic community very difficult.

You might want to ask your city, county or state to take advantage of federal law 287g when they encounter individuals whose immigration status is doubtful. Hat tip to for the link to this USN&WR article.

A Security Problem

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is considering sponsoring legislation which would change the current practice of giving automatic U.S. citizenship to anyone born on U.S. soil, including the children of illegal immigrants. You can find his comments in this Politico article.

In another article, which I cannot track down, the point was made that there are literally thousands of young people in foreign countries who have spent almost no time in the U.S. except the time it took to be born. All of these are entitled to a U.S. passport.

Imagine the national security issues involved in some of these individuals becoming terrorists who have an absolute right to enter the U.S. legally and stay as long as they choose. You could think of them as "reverse sleeper agents." This situation is a security nightmare.

Urban Planning

There is much discussion of whether or not to permit the building of a mosque near the site of 9/11. For what it's worth, COTTonLINE believes the answer must be "no."

I understand the arguments of those who support building the mosque. They say that most Muslims are not at war with the West in general and the U.S. in particular. I will grant that the current behavior of most Muslims supports this view. I am much less certain about where their sympathies lie.

On the other hand, there is no doubt that the atrocities of 9/11 were committed in the name of Islam. The terrorists were Saudis and others who believed they were dying for Islam.

Is there any doubt that al Qaeda would view the building of a mosque in this location as a victory? That the suicide terrorists responsible for 9/11 would view it as a victory? Of course not.

This is a large country, there are many places where a mosque can be built. Building one at the site of a murderous terrorist act committed in the name of Islam is abhorrent. It says to our declared enemy, "I am weak, I can be defeated."

Friday, July 30, 2010

Happy States

Are some states happier places to live? Clearly they are. Here a Live Science article reports Gallup polling data listing the 50 states from most to least happy.

Five of the twelve happiest states are in the Mountain West: Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, Idaho, and Montana. My home state of Wyoming comes in at number three, right after Utah and Hawaii. Colorado is fourth, Idaho and Montana come in at eleventh and twelfth.

West coast states do well too. Washington ranks number seven, California ranks number nine. Even Oregon comes in at number eighteen.

States of the Southwest are more scattered: Arizona ranks tenth, New Mexico ranks 17th, and Nevada comes in at 38th. Whether you choose to add Texas to the southwest group is optional, it ranks 21st.

So, which states are less happy? Among the bottom quarter of the states, you see a cluster of "bible belt" states including Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, and West Virginia. Another cluster are "rust belt" states: Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, and Missouri. And finally two deep south states: Louisiana and Mississippi.

A final caveat: there isn't a great deal of practical difference between the states at the top and those at the bottom. Number one - Utah - has a score of 69.2 out of 100 whereas number 50 - West Virginia - scores 61.2 out of 100. If you like rounding off numbers, Utah got 7 out of 10 whereas West Virginia got 6 out of 10.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Gallup: Obama Base Weakens

The most recent Gallup poll, for the period July 19-25, 2010, shows (scroll down) the President's approval rating among Blacks and Hispanics is down. Obama's approval rating among African-Americans dropped to a still high 85% from the 90+% ratings he had earlier. His ratings among Hispanics also declined to 55% from earlier ratings over 60%.

While not dramatic changes, weakening approval among those the President has to consider his base must be worrying for the White House. The softer numbers must be read as disappointment with President Obama.

A 2012 Democratic challenge against the President increasingly looks possible.

Thinking About Afghanistan

The Wall Street Journal has an interesting article about U.S. policy vis-a-vis Afghanistan. The article was written by Jack Devine, former CIA deputy director of operations and chief of the CIA Afghan Task Force. His underlying premise, we have failed to learn from Afghan history.

Mr. Devine advocates a "covert ops, work with the tribes" kind of approach in lieu of our current large military presence attempting nation-building. His analogy is that we beat the Soviets when they were using the strategy we are now using. He believes a return to our former strategy would be more successful.

I have no idea if Devine is right. Afghanistan is not Iraq and nation-building seems not to be working.

Debt Unsupportable

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office reaches a frightening conclusion about our current government debt situation:
Unless policymakers restrain the growth of spending, increase revenues significantly as a share of GDP, or adopt some combination of those two approaches, growing budget deficits will cause debt to rise to unsupportable levels.
In the not-too-distant future our situation could be worse than that of Greece. We've been living beyond our means and are hitting our credit limit. COTTonLINE advocates the CBO's choice A, restraining the growth of spending. We guess you do too.

There is a national election in roughly three months. We plan to vote for people who will restrain the growth of spending. We ask you to seriously consider doing likewise.

Quote of the Day

Michael Barone, writing for RealClearPolitics, about what the polls (or their absence) mean. He cites Jim Geraghty of National Review Online as saying Democrats on Republican target lists haven't released poll results. Barone interprets this failure-to-release:
Most are conducting polls; many have reason to release favorable results if they're available. This looks like a case where the absence of evidence is evidence of absence.
I like that turn of phrase: "the absence of evidence is evidence of absence."

Politically Incorrect Quote of the Day

President Barack Hussein Obama, speaking on ABC's The View television program, about African-Americans:
We are sort of a mongrel people.
This comment falls into the category of statements that, even if possibly true, serve no purpose and should not be said. The source of the quote is The Hill.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Travel Blogging VII

Dateline: Western Wyoming, USA. We are home, the quick trip to France for a river cruise on the Seine is done. In this post we share some thoughts about Paris and look back on the entire trip.

I don't know about Paris being "the city of light." It was largely overcast while we were there. What strikes me about Paris generally is the conscious attempt, largely successful, to create grandeur. Paris has several major tree-lined boulevards that are reminiscent of The Mall in Washington, D.C. There are many grand buildings and monuments too.

We went to the top of the Eiffel Tower late in the evening, and the view is remarkable. I don't know exactly what I expected from the Eiffel Tower but the reality was different from the expectations: better, I think. If you go there, have "in advance" time-certain tickets to save much standing in line on the ground. Such tickets do not prevent line-standing once you're up on the tower. It was crowded.

The tower's grounds are overrun by third-world peddlers hawking souvenirs and toys. I was reminded of similar vendors in Mexico, Egypt and Asia; finding them in France did not make them more charming.

We made the obligatory visits to Versailles and the Louvre. Both buildings were very crowded, nearly to the point of ruining the experience. On the other hand, the gardens at Versailles were not especially crowded. It would have been nice to have more time in both sites. In both locations the services of a good guide were very helpful in understanding what we were seeing.

When we were in St. Petersburg a year or two ago we were told the Tsar had the city built to resemble Paris. Not having seen Paris the comment didn't "click" with us. Now that we've seen Paris the comment makes much sense. Like St. Petersburg, Paris has mile after mile of buildings that are maybe 4-6 stories high. It is not a particularly vertical city, on the other hand New York and Hong Kong definitely are vertical.

Built along the Seine, Paris is a city of bridges. We cruised the Paris portion of the Seine the night before we left for home. It would seem some effort went into having no two Seine bridges be identical, the variety is amazing.

There are lots of houseboats tied up alongside the banks, mostly converted barges. You expect these in Amsterdam but Paris has its share, too. We heard the houseboats are hooked up to city power and water, but not to the Parisian sewer system, so presumably they dump their waste water in the river. We heard the same thing in Amsterdam, how very unhygienic.

As a country, France "works." For the record, we encountered absolutely none of the fabled French rudeness. It is likely that our tour company - Grand Circle Travel - put together the trip to avoid our encountering rudeness, and they succeeded. The ship's crew went out of their way to be nice, helpful, and happy. We ate most meals on shipboard and they were excellent.

So we are home. For the next several months COTTonLINE returns to our usual content stream consisting of international affairs, domestic politics, scientific curiosities, and the odd entertainment review. The three months leading up to the November midterm elections should provide lots of domestic political action.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Travel Blogging VI

Dateline: Vernon, France. We are getting nearer Paris; I’m told people live here and commute daily to jobs in Paris by train. Our river ship is tied up in Vernon, which is very near Giverny, home of famous impressionist painter Monet. We got on a bus and hardly had time to get settled in before we pulled into the parking lot for Giverny.

Monet had developed two quite elaborate gardens, one a water garden with lotus and somewhat in an Asian style, the other in very rectangular European layout. Both had lots of flowers and other attractive plants. The other DrC took many, many photos of these blooms, at least some of which will soon appear on her blog at

The Monet home is adjacent and available to tour. This home is preutilities, and has a magnificent wood stove in the kitchen. The kitchen sink has a drain but probably drains into the garden. On the other hand, it does have radiators, probably installed later to keep it warm for tourists. I suppose they used chamber pots and emptied them into the garden as fertilizer.

As I walked into Vernon to find a wi-fi spot by the city hall, known locally as the “hotel de ville,” I thought about the experience of living in a museum: a town of ancient homes. What must it feel like to live in quarters that have been serially inhabited for centuries by strangers or by your relatives going back many generations?

Life here is a very different business than the life I live in WY and CA where my two homes are 10 and 23 years old respectively, and I had both of them built to my designs. Someday someone else will live in those homes and wonder about me, whereas I am the first occupant of both.

I feel fortunate to have lived, with the other DrC, in five new homes, only two of which we now own. It is odd to drive by homes we once owned and see how they have changed, how they no longer look as they did when we lived there.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Travel Blogging V

Dateline: Les Andelys, France. We spent all morning cruising upstream on the Seine, passing through one lock. The countryside is beautiful, one can see the landscapes the impressionists painted at every turn. The homes with flower-filled window boxes are particularly striking.

More thoughts about Joan of Arc. She saved France from the English, so the French, logically. tried and executed her for heresy. Then, when it was too late, they decided she was a saint instead of a heretic. Is there something wrong with this narrative? I think so, but then I´m not French. It turns out the problem was politics, not religion, but of course she was hassled for being a woman who dressed as a man.

The Seine River is considerably smaller than the Rhine River, and there is substantially less barge traffic on it as well. Virtually all of the officers on these river ships are the children of barge-owning families. In other words, it is a family business passed down from father to son and daughter. You grow up on the rivers and you become a river captain. I doubt if we have anything like it in the States.

In the next very few days we will see the palace at Versailles and the Louvre, as well as a quick overview of Paris. That works for me, I´m not fond of big cities and Paris is big. I know some of our fellow-travelers will feel shorted on the Paris experience, perhaps including the other DrC. Maybe next time, eh?

Travel Blogging IV

Dateline: Rouen, France. We are docked near the cathedral in Rouen, and it is amazing. The tower is an iron basketwork and supposedly the tallest cathedral tower in France. This city is all about St. Joan of Arc, probably because this is where she was burned at the stake. They have Rue St. Joan, St. Joan church, St. Joan prison, you get the idea. Her story is sort of pathetic and very political, I’ll not repeat it here.

Rouen is the largest city in Normandy. Without the efforts of St Joan, this region perhaps would have remained British. Frankly, it might have been better off. France does a nice job of maintaining its infrastructure – good highways, bridges, ports, etc. On the other hand, those good highways and bridges are mostly tollways.

It is humorous to see the ways in which the French go out of their way to tell Americans how their culture differs from ours and, by inference, that of the Brits. They are proud of being rebellious and being on strike much of the time. Proud of their 35 hour week and 45 week work year, too. It is sort of like being proud of having acne and being unemployed.

Our guide talked about the youth rioting about unemployment without mentioning that those “youth” are largely Muslim immigrant kids from North and Central Africa. They do love to burn cars, probably because they have little or no chance of acquiring one legally. France is doing a particularly poor job of acculturating its colonial immigrants, of getting them to “feel and act French.”

Travel Blogging III

Dateline: Caudebec, France. Not an important Norman town, just a little river town that impresses with its lack of pretense. We walked around it and liked what we saw. The weather continues very nice, and according to our guides, very unusual for this region.

In the afternoon we took a “shore excursion” to see the little resort town of Etretat. As nephew Steve said, it was interesting because it is a tourist town appealing to the French who come there for the scenery and the beach. An analog in the States would be Santa Cruz on the CA coast maybe 50 miles south of SF. It doesn’t much draw foreign tourists but people from northern CA go there to “do the beach.” There are amazing cliffs with arches at either end of Etretat’s pebble beach.

Later in the afternoon we visited the place where Benedictine liqueur is made. The guy who resurrected the recipe from old manuscripts built the most amazing fantasia to house his distillery. It is a combination of gothic and renaissance and maybe some rococo architecture you’ve ever seen. Inside he’s collected ivory carvings, locks and treasure chests from the 18th century, statuary, all kinds of stuff.

The tour guide wasn’t much but the building and its contents were very much indeed. Then we saw some stuff that once produced Benedictine, and B and B. I’d had B and B and didn’t like it, so I tried Benedictine and liked it fine, though not so much as Amaretto.

In the late afternoon and early evening we cruised up the Seine to Rouen. River cruising in Europe is great. Unlike ocean cruising, with river cruising there is always something to see on the bank or in the channel. The river traffic is fun to watch, sea-going ships go as far up-river as Rouen. In that sense, this part of the Seine is like the lower Sacramento or upper San Joaquin rivers where sea-going ships go as far inland as Stockton or Sacramento. Because a river is relatively narrow, whatever traffic exists is close at hand and easy to see.

Travel Blogging II

Dateline: Honfleur, France. Another beautiful day in Normandy, days which our guide, Lionel, assures us are rare. He says normally the weather is very changeable; having four different weather types in one day being more the norm than the exception. Anyway, it was almost hot today and there was no rain in sight. Nobody is complaining.

Today we took a walking tour of Honfleur, a small fishing town across the estuary from Le Havre. Le Havre is of course one of France’s two main ports, the other being Marseilles. Honfleur is nothing much, which protected it from destruction in World War II.

Honfleur has the whole nine yards for a European town: narrow twisting cobblestone streets, slate roofs, half-timber buildings. Presuming you couldn’t read the signs, there’d be no telling it from a German river town, or one in Austria, or Belgium. To an American eye they all look pretty much the same as the same social forces and technologies shaped them.

In the afternoon we took a longish bus ride to Bayeux to see the “tapestry.” The quotes mean it really isn’t a tapestry. It is a strip of embroidery perhaps two feet wide by 210 feet long. Think of it as a storyboard layout of the key scenes in the process by which an English king tried to select his successor as King of England, failed, and then ultimately succeeded.

The Norman Conquest of 1066 a.d. represented his chosen successor, Richard, who rounded up an army and ships to move them, brought them from Normandy to England, defeated the usurper and took the throne of his childless uncle. This whole story is represented in 58 numbered panels of varying length, and represents what Hollywood would call the set of storyboards for a movie.

It is difficult to imagine how this strip of linen with woolen embroidery could endure for slightly over 1000 years. Nevertheless it has done so. I’d think the moths would have long since gotten to the wool thread. Nope.

At various times its been in the hands of Nazis, Napoleon, and who knows who else. The “tapestry” is one of those art works/documents that are renown throughout the ages. I had heard about it as an undergraduate and now I’ve actually seen it. Marvelous.

Travel Blog I

Dateline: Honfleur, France. After reading about the D-Day landings on June 6, 1944, for most of my life, and seeing several films about these events(Longest Day, Private Ryan) as well, today I finally saw the place where it all took place. It takes no military genius to figure out why Omaha Beach was chosen, there’s a nice route off the beach at Omaha that is not at all typical of this coastline, most of which is a series of cliffs.

We also saw the artificial harbor that was created out of gigantic concrete boxes called “mulberries” which were created in England, towed across the channel by tugs, and sunk in a perimeter to create a harbor at Arromanches, aka Gold Beach. Some old ships were mixed in with the concrete boxes to form the breakwater and they’ve rusted out to the point where they are no longer visible. The so-called mulberry boxes are still very much there and they form a sort of watery Stonehenge. Some of the pontoons used to make the jetties and floating docks are still in evidence on the beach. All of the anti-landing craft pyramids are gone.

We saw some German pillboxes and artillery emplacements built by the Organisation Todt. Many are still in good shape 65 years later. The huge craters surrounding them caused by bombs and naval shells suggest they needed to be as strong as they are. Our guide suggested that round craters are caused by bombs and oval or oblong craters are caused by shells – makes sense.

We also saw the U.S. cemetery on the bluff above Omaha Beach. I suppose there were 10 thousand graves there, extraordinarily sad but very well tended and beautiful. We heard a small ceremony consisting of the national anthem, followed by taps. Then we each took a rose and decorated a grave with it. People picked someone from their state, or whatever. I picked a lad from Ohio whose first name was “Chester.” A number of graves were marked “Here lies a soldier known only to God” as I guess corpses get separated from their dog tags.

It was a long day, we finished up atop the cliffs of Point du Hoc, between Omaha and Utah Beaches. To this day it appears to have been a daunting climb for the Rangers. Any number of entrepreneurs have founded “museums” for profit along this coast. I suppose the hardware isn’t difficult to collect, some of the softer stuff like uniforms might have deteriorated beyond use. The hardware doesn’t need to have been used on this beach, merely be of the same type. Whatever works….

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Senate In Play

Everybody who predicts election outcomes says the House of Representatives is likely to have a Republican majority after the election in November. Hardly anybody has predicted a Republican takeover of the Senate majority, until now.

This article by William Galston in The New Republic has assembled the most recent polling data. Viola, he shows that the Senate is in play.

If you bet favorites to win, you'd still bet on the Dems having a slight majority when the new Senate begins in January of 2011. But as these polling numbers show, the outcome is likely to be very close and the GOP might possibly achieve a narrow majority.

A key issue that Galston doesn't mention is the intensity variable. This year Republicans are excited about voting and Democrats are not. In non-presidential elections like this one voter turnout is crucial, and is much influenced by intensity, the desire to vote.

I am reminded of a pet peeve of my late father, a lifelong southern Democrat. He believed Republicans typically turn out to vote in larger numbers than do Democrats. I suspect he was right.

Why Not Hydroelectric Power?

Everything you read about "green" power deals with wind and solar, and some few deal with renewable fuels like alcohol and biomass. Nowadays nobody talks about hydroelectric power, the original green power source.

Come what may, rain and snow will fall in the mountains. Given the natural proclivities of water responding to gravity, the runoff will flow downhill to the sea.

If we dam the canyons we can generate power with the falling water. These lakes are also useful for recreation, flood control, and irrigation.

The region I live in in WY gets most of its electric power from the Bonneville Power Administration. Our power is cheap, plentiful, and creates zero carbon pollution.

Unlike wind and solar, hydroelectric power is available 24-7. Unlike solar fields and wind turbine fields which are often eyesores, hydroelectric lakes are picturesque.

Somebody who isn't a tree-hugger tell me why we aren't planning to build lots more hydro projects.

Quote of the Day

Writing for The Hill, political consultant Dick Morris gives a current policy prescription for the GOP:
When a president runs around the country saying things that two-thirds of America does not believe, it is time to counterattack vigorously and show how out of touch he really is.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Obama Augers In

Pilots refer to the experience of spinning a plane into the ground as "augering in." The plane digs a big hole and is spinning when it hits, hence the similarity to an auger. Nobody aboard such a plane survives.

I suspect the President is doing something like augering in, the way his ratings keep falling. Go see this CBS News poll which shows his approval on the economy is down to 40%, while 54% disapprove of his handling of this issue. They summarize:
In general, Americans see Mr. Obama as spending too little time on the economy and the oil spill in the Gulf, and too much time on health care.
These poll results are wide-ranging, negative, and interesting to read.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Quote of the Day

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, reflecting on his earlier comment that Democrats might lose control of the House of Representatives in November:
I think I did what is maybe uncommon in this town, I opened my mouth and stated the obvious.
If Gibbs keeps talking like that, I could overcome my dislike of him. It sounds like something the late Tony Snow would have said. The quote is taken from an article in The Washington Examiner.

Unemployment Issues

Economists argue about the extent to which the unemployed turn down job offers or fail to seek work until their benefits run out. Here is a Wall Street Journal article which presents both sides of this argument.

People who've had good jobs paying good money don't want to take less-good jobs paying less money. You can see their viewpoint. Why take one or more steps backward on the career ladder? On the other hand, that is what society wants them to do, it is called "labor mobility."

As long as there are benefit checks coming in every week, there may be no need to consider jobs below one's "pay grade." When the benefits run out, the need presents itself, particularly if the unemployed person doesn't have an employed significant other or sympathetic parent.

Gallup: Unsure About "Progressive"

Recently many liberals and leftists have been calling themselves progressive, including Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan who said "My political views are generally progressive." This Gallup poll shows that most people don't know what "progressive" means.

Progressive is a synonym for liberal, for socialist, for leftist. What it is not is conservative or middle of the road.

There, I'm glad we've cleared up the confusion. Hat tip to for the link.

A Call to Arms

Go see this Associated Press article concerning a presentation made to the National Governors Association conference by Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, co-chairs of the President's national debt commission. It is interesting but a definite downer. They say we're in a heap of hurt, debt-wise.

Simpson is a good guy, a former Wyoming senator who famously said "Where I come from, 'gun control' means pointing your gun steadily at the thing you intend to shoot." Bowles has a good reputation too.

I wonder if anybody in their commission has the guts to say that the federal government is involved in entirely too many things that are (a) expensive, and (b) none of their business.

If there was no federal Department of Education, does anybody realistically think school districts would stop educating kids? Nonsense.

If there was no federal Department of Agriculture, would farmers stop planting? Of course not. If there was no Department of Housing and Urban Development, would our people start living in tents? I sure wouldn't, how about you? You get the idea.

Very clearly the federal government needs to do the Department of the Treasury, the Fed, the State Department, Defense, and Justice. Beyond that, I believe many regulatory functions are legitimate: food and drug, airlines, EPA, etc. We do need the government to be the "referee," calling "fouls" and keeping the game fair.

What I've suggested is probably not feasible politically. All the "functions" I've listed have giant constituencies who would howl like wolves if 'their' departments were threatened.

The survival of the nation may not be feasible either. How does that grab you? I hate it a lot. It is time to seriously consider downsizing the federal government, privatizing or delegating to the states and localities many functions now done at the federal level.

The advantage of doing this is that sub-federal jurisdictions must balance their budgets year-by-year. They have to pay for what they spend. So they will either tax and spend or tax less and spend less.

People will vote with their feet and move to the jurisdictions where the governmental model suits their tastes. Evidence suggests they will move to the low tax, small government places. At least that is what they have been doing in the last decade or two.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Governors Tell D.C. To Shape Up

The National Governors Association has been meeting in Washington. As would be expected, caucuses of governors of each party have been meeting with their party leaders at the federal level.

The Democratic governors are worried about how the party will fare in the November elections. The Washington Post has a gloomy interview with Governor Bredesen, D-TN. Many pundits are predicting large Democratic losses in the fall.

Democrat governors appear to be more closely linked to the public mood on illegal immigration. They see the national Dem leaders in Congress and the White House falling on their own swords over this issue, and taking the party down too. See this New York Times article for details. This Politico article has more.

It is smart politics to blame Washington before Washington blames you. However, in this case the blame appears to be well-placed.

Noonan: Over His Head

Peggy Noonan sometimes writes with a lot of feeling, sometimes with cold-eyed analysis. This Wall Street Journal article is one of the latter. In it she chronicles the precipitous decline of the fortunes of the Democratic Party in the 18 months since Obama took office. She says of Obama's dealings with Congress:
Mr. Obama won on more than health care; he won on the stimulus package and the Detroit bailout. And yet his poll numbers continue to float downward. He is not more loved with victory. (snip) The biggest single phrase you hear about him now, and it isn't coming from pundits and being repeated, it is bubbling up from normal people and being seized by pundits, is the idea that he is in over his head, and out of his depth.
If you think about how little experience Obama had before taking office, it isn't surprising. Noonan reflects what I wrote yesterday. The Obama Administration has gone off on tangents of its own choosing, instead of doing what their bosses - the electorate - sent them to Washington to do. Predictably that approach hasn't been popular with said bosses.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Governing Is Not That Hard

The Obama Administration isn't very popular, but it could be. It seems like the soul of good sense to find out what the public wants done and do it, or at least be seen to be working hard on it.

Deciding that you know better than the public does what you should do for them is extreme arrogance. And it is a direct route to unpopularity.

Why do presidential administrations get caught up in this trap? I have no idea. Modern polling makes learning the public's wishes as easy as falling off a log. It isn't all that expensive either.

Nobody wants to spend all their time working on oil spills, nor are such catastrophes particularly predictable. There is, however, nothing keeping the White House from learning the public's non-disaster wishes and then focusing upon them.

This isn't rocket science, friends along the Potomac. Let's get with the program.

Boomers Swing to Right

The Los Angeles Times' Doyle McManus has an interesting column about a change in the voting patterns of the 50-65 age group: they are swinging to the GOP. His article appears in the Dallas News. McManus is a frequent guest on the PBS show Washington Week. See what he says about this trend:
A Pew Research poll released this month found that most voters over 50 say they favor the Republicans in November's congressional election. Voters in their 30s and 40s were evenly split; voters younger than 30 favored the Democrats. That's a big problem for Democrats, in two ways.
First, older voters are a bloc the party doesn't want to lose. (snip) About two-thirds of November's voters will be 50 or older.
Second, the defections may reflect a deeper, longer-term trend: The baby boom generation appears to be growing more conservative as it ages. (snip) "There's evidence that those two generations, the early boomers and the seniors, may be converging," said Andrew Kohut, Pew's director. "If it holds up – and we'll see in November – that could be a significant change."
There is an old saying we've quoted on COTTonLINE several times, I think it applies again here:
If you're under 30 and aren't liberal you have no heart. If you're over 30 and not conservative you have no brain.
Our readers are mostly over 30.

A Trial Balloon

Michael Barone, who writes for The Washington Examiner, has an interesting bit of political gossip. He notes that Jeb Bush's first cousin, John Ellis, on his blog Ellisblog, is running up the flagpole the idea of a Jeb Bush presidential run in 2012.

Ellis treats it as a sort of afterthought as he dismisses the Romney candidacy and puffs up the Palin chances. Is it likely Ellis is doing this without Jeb's okay?

My real question is whether anybody will salute the "Jeb in 2012" flag. It may well be that the Bush brand has been too badly damaged by Jeb's father and brother.

An Epitaph

Frank Ross, writing for Andrew Breitbart's Big Journalism:
As the networks die, taking their news divisions along with them....
That is one of the most elegiac lines I've heard in a lifetime as a news junkie. What an epitaph for the likes of Murrow, Cronkite, Brinkley, Jennings, and Russert.

We thought their kind would exist forever.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Public Unions Ruin CA

We have noted before that the public employee unions in California are a large part of the state's financial problem. As Steven Malanga has written in City Journal, three groups of unions very nearly control state government in CA: teachers, public safety workers, and the SEIU representing many other state workers.
The story starts half a century ago, when California public workers won bargaining rights and quickly learned how to elect their own bosses—that is, sympathetic politicians who would grant them outsize pay and benefits in exchange for their support.
How well has this paid off for the public employees?
The state’s public school teachers are the highest-paid in the nation. Its prison guards can easily earn six-figure salaries. State workers routinely retire at 55 with pensions higher than their base pay for most of their working life.
What is the result for the state economy?
What was once the most prosperous state now suffers from an unemployment rate far steeper than the nation’s and a flood of firms and jobs escaping high taxes and stifling regulations.
Companies and jobs escape to low cost states, taking their contributions to the tax base with them. It's a long, detailed article but a good one. Hat tip to Mark Tapscott at the Washington Examiner for the link.

Bad News for Dems

Remember James Carville, the rabid Louisiana Democrat with the bald head? He coined the famous Clinton-era statement "It's the economy, stupid."

His polling firm Democracy Corps has found some results Democrats won't much like, as reported in the National Review. They asked how certain phrases or words described President Obama, they found:
On "too liberal,” 35 percent of likely voters say it describes Obama “very well,” 21 percent say “well,” 21 percent say “not too well,” and 17 percent say “not well at all.” In other words, 56 percent of likely voters consider Obama too liberal.

When asked about “a socialist,” 33 percent of likely voters say it describes Obama “very well,” 22 percent say “well,” 15 percent say “not too well,” and 25 percent say “not well at all.” In other words, 55 percent of likely voters think “socialist” is a reasonably accurate way of describing Obama.

No question they're right about "too liberal." I suspect Obama actually isn't a real "socialist" but he wants more government control than most of us do. This isn't good news for our friends across the aisle. Here is a link to the original survey.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Next War in Middle East

This article in the World Politics Review lays out one analyst's view of the how and who, if not the when of the next war in the Middle East. She might be right, too. In the phrasing of the famous board game Clue, she says Israel and Hezbollah along the Lebanon border, with other players getting dragged in.

Poll: President Not Welcome

Public Policy Polling, a Democratic polling firm, reported the following findings a couple of days ago:
It's looking more and more clear that there's just about nowhere Democratic candidates would benefit from having the President come to campaign with them. (snip) What about Bill Clinton? Clinton is not quite as toxic as the sitting President but his support isn't going to be real helpful with an off year general electorate either.
So they conclude:
If Democrats want to avoid nationalizing this year's election - which is probably prudent - they're better off if both Obama and Clinton stay off the campaign trail.
Hat tip to and The Washington Examiner for the heads up.

Poll: Immigration Lawsuit Unpopular

The lawsuit being pursued by the Obama Justice Department against the State of Arizona's illegal immigration control law is unpopular. No kidding.

Rasmussen Reports has polling data which shows:
Just 28% of voters agree that the Justice Department should challenge the state law. Fifty-six percent (56%) disagree and another 16% are not sure. (snip) Seventy-two percent (72%) of those who rate the immigration issue Very Important to their vote disagree with the Justice Department challenge.
Arizona's idea seems to be catching on. Rasmussen also finds
71% of Mainstream voters favor passage of an Arizona-like immigration law in their home state.
It is reasonable to pursue policies that are popular with the public. Does the Obama Administration have a political death wish?

Apparently the Zogby polling organization finds essentially the same results, you can see a summary here provided by The Washington Examiner.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Israeli Politics

For a small country with a modest population, Israel has very complicated politics. The country has parties representing everything from the extreme left to the relatively extreme right, as we understand them in the U.S.

In addition, there are parties representing groups with varying degrees of religiosity, ranging from entirely secular to so-religious-as-to-be-interested-in-nothing-else. Then there is the Ashkenazi vs. Sephardic split, as well as parties catering to recent immigrants from Russia, etc. It's very complicated; I suppose the possible combinations might total in the hundreds. All governments are multi-party coalitions.

Go here for an insight into current Israeli politics at the International Relations and Security Network website. Hat tip to RealClearWorld for the link.

Power Is Zero Sum

Middle East historian Martin Kramer has taken issue with President Obama's notion that "Power is no longer a zero-sum game." Writing in the online magazine Tablet, he says:
In the Middle East, power is a zero-sum game, domination by a benevolent hegemon creates order, and the regional balance of power is the foundation of peace. It’s the pax Americana, and while it may be stressful to uphold it, the alternative is more stressful still. And as the impression of American power wanes, we are getting a foretaste of “post-American” disorder. A struggle has begun among the middle powers—Iran, Turkey, and Israel—to fill the vacuum. Iran floods Lebanon with rockets, Turkey sends a flotilla to Gaza, Israel sends an assassination squad to Dubai—these are all the signs of an accelerating regional cold war. Each middle power seeks to demonstrate its reach, around, above, and behind the fading superpower.
I don't view "rockets" and "assassination squads" as particularly "cold," although given the violent history of the Middle East, perhaps they aren't "hot." The rest of his comments about this powder-keg region are on-target.

Hat tip to The Wall Street Journal for the citation.

Quote of the Day

Doug Bandow, writing in The American Spectator, about conditions in Europe in light of the financial crisis in Greece, and possible crises in Spain, Portugal, and Ireland:
The question no longer is whether the EU can match the United States, but whether it can survive.
It probably survives, at some reduced level of functioning.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Unemployment Uneven

An article in The Hill analyzes unemployment figures by age group, education level, race/ethnic group, gender, industry type, etc. It finds, for example:
Double-digit unemployment has plagued black men, construction workers, teenagers and those without high school diplomas more than other groups.
No surprises there. As a retired professor, I find this statistic comforting:
Those with bachelor's degrees have not seen unemployment rates higher than 5 percent since the recession began.
Evidence that I didn't waste those 30+ years in the university classroom is welcome. The article has lots more interesting data for your reading pleasure.

A Cure for Optimism

The sun is shining, summer lies before us, and things are good, yes? Well, if you are suffering from too much optimism and high spirits, I have a cure for you.

Go see this article in the Daily Telegraph (U.K.) by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard. He is International Business Editor for the Telegraph in London.

Evans-Pritchard thinks the world is essentially coming to an end, relatively soon. I believe Evans-Pritchard is predicting another 1930s style world-wide depression. He may even be anticipating deflation, every economist's nightmare.

So, if you are experiencing excessive happiness, give his article a read. He'll scare the stuffing out of you.

Here is another article that takes somewhat the same view, from CNBC. It cites a fellow with the unlikely name of Daryl Guppy.

Are these fellows correct? I wish I could tell you I'm sure they're wrong. Hat tip to Matt Drudge for the links.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

More on Counterinsurgency

Here's an interesting quote from an article by Hugh Gusterson on the probable failure of our counterinsurgency efforts in Afghanistan. The article appears in The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. He concludes:
The Obama administration will be defined by three disasters. The first, the economic meltdown, it inherited. The second, the BP oil spill, it did nothing to avert. The third, the failed war in Afghanistan, it made worse.
The article is a downer, and it arises in a political ideology with which I disagree, but it makes some good points about the overwhelming difficulty of COIN.

It IS Bush's Fault

We hear unending complaints from President Obama and his henchmen (and women) that whatever is going wrong is the fault of his predecessor, George W. Bush. In an odd way, this is true. Some of the electorate votes for (or against) the incumbents based on a judgment of how well they've performed.

The reason Barack Hussein Obama got elected is because of the shortcomings of George W. Bush. Had Bush been more charming and less awkward, more of a Ronald Reagan and less of a Richard Nixon, a nation that is majority conservative would have elected another Republican as his successor.

The reason we got Democratic majorities in Congress starting in 2006 and continuing in 2008 is because the GOP Congress was corrupt and spent money like Democrats. Had the Congress acted like Republicans are supposed to, the public might well have continued to elect Republican majorities in Congress.

So when the Obamacrats say that whatever is going wrong is the fault of their predecessors, they are right, albeit for the wrong reasons. Had the GOP done a better job, a conservative nation would not have elected to office Dems who have run up unbelievable deficits, crippled our foreign policy and destroyed our health care system.

I cannot blame Democrats for acting like Democrats, and I cannot blame the electorate for voting against incumbents who fail to perform. I must blame those less-than-successful incumbents: President Bush and the GOP majorities in Congress. So, yes, it is Bush's fault we have to contend with a President Obama.

July 4th Thoughts

There are only two real cities in the mountain West: Denver and Salt Lake City. Everything else are towns of varying sizes.

Idaho Falls, or "the Falls" as it is locally known, is a largish town by mountain West standards. It is where we go to do major shopping; it holds our nearest Home Depot, Winco and Walmarts, ditto Dillards and Macys, Penneys and Sears.

The best fireworks I will see this year happened last night, July 3, in Idaho Falls. It is put on by a firm called Melaleuca that does what they call "referral marketing" and you may know as pyramid marketing, the sort of thing Amway and Shaklee do.

The story I heard some years ago is that Melaleuca holds their annual sales meeting in IF in early July, culminating in the celebration of our nation's birth where they put on for the entertainment of their top salespeople "The Melaleuca Freedom Celebration Fireworks show" which they call "the largest west of the Mississippi River." I believe it.

I have seen a lot of fireworks shows, including those Disney puts on at Epcot. This tops them all. For a solid half hour the sky is full of amazing light and sound.

They normally fire at least three shells at a time and while those three are dazzling you, another 3 or more are headed skyward to take their place. I'd guess they fire somewhere between 2000 and 3000 rockets every 4th of July, and it may be more. People come from a four state area to see the fireworks, which Melaleuca pays for as a service to the community.

I wish our nation a happy birthday, and many more of them. You can see three photos of these fireworks on the other DrC's blog here.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Quote of the Day

Mark Steyn, writing for Maclean's of Canada, about the mess that is Afghaniistan:
Afghanistan was everything Iraq wasn’t: UN-approved, NATO-backed, EU-compliant. It’d be tough for even the easiest nickel ’n’ dime military incursion to survive that big an overdose of multilateral hogwash, and the Afghan campaign didn’t.

Unintended Effects

Last Wednesday I wrote about the possibility that unemployment insurance payments might cause unemployment. Today I encountered an article in The Economist which seems to support that view, perhaps without meaning to. It says:
While the unemployment rate did drop, to 9.5%, an 11-month low from 9.7%, it dropped for the wrong reason: a lot of people stopped looking for work. This might be because a Senate impasse led to the expiration of extended unemployment insurance benefits early in June. The number of recipients has been falling by about 200,000 per week since. Some of these people may have stopped looking for work (a requirement to qualify for benefits), and thus are no longer counted as unemployed.
Fascinating...people "looking for work" merely in order to qualify for benefits. The clear implication is that some proportion of the unemployed aren't very interested in looking for real work, but will go through the motions to get paid. No wonder the Senate wasn't excited about extending the benefits to the long-term unemployed.

Undoing the Damage

Lots of folks are talking about the fall elections and the GOP winning majorities in one or both houses of Congress. What few seem to remember is that this will not enable the GOP to undo the damage already done by the Dems, at least not in the short run.

If the GOP should win majorities in both houses this November, they are unlikely to have enough votes to override an Obama veto. So, the most a GOP majority will be able to accomplish between now and January, 2013, is to forestall further mischief.

The mischief already accomplished by the Dems will sit there festering in the body politic for a minimum of two years, and maybe longer. The public will have that long to get used to the health care "reform" bill and whatever other bad things the Dems manage to push through between now and January, 2011.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Know Thy Enemy

Charles Krauthammer has written an article for National Review that pretty well reflects our attitude toward the Obama administration's refusal to accept radical Islam as the source of most modern terrorism around the world. For example, he says:
Indeed, Islamist fundamentalism is not only a risk factor. It is the risk factor, the common denominator linking all the great terror attacks of this century — from 9/11 to Mumbai, from Fort Hood to Times Square, from London to Madrid to Bali. The attackers were of various national origin, occupation, age, social class, native tongue, and race. The one thing that united them was the jihadist vision in whose name they acted.
He overstates slightly. Timothy McVeigh wasn't Islamist nor was the IRA so perhaps Krauthammer should have said "almost all" instead of "all.

The America-haters at Salon have taken great offense at Krauthammer's thesis; their critique of his argument is here. Note that they believe the U.S. is responsible for all Islamic violence. I suggest you look at both articles and make up your own mind.

Getting Even

Who says little Britain has no way to fight back when the new U.S. President disinvests in the special relationship that has historically existed between the two nations? They just found a way.

One of Barack Hussein Obama's first actions as President was to send back to the U.K. a bust of Winston Churchill that had long graced the White House. There have been several subsequent snubs directed at the British by the Obama White House.

Now the U.K. has selected a former head of BP (British Petroleum) to lead their new government's efficiency drive. Lord Browne was the leader of BP who led the firm's push to seriously reduce costs, perhaps reducing safety at the same time.

In other words, you could infer that his cost-cutting at BP contributed to the Gulf oil spill now going on. In time for our national birthday, Browne has been given a position of importance by the new British coalition government. See this article in The Daily Beast.

Take that, America.

Podhoretz: This Too Shall Pass

Classic neo-con John Podhoretz, writing for The New York Post, has a philosophical look at the current condition and future prospects of the United States on the occasion of its birthday. He says, as we've said here at COTTonLINE, that the nation will survive the idiocy of its current political leadership:
The body politic is not panicking, even though the news is dire -- because it knows, somehow, that this too shall pass. America has faced worse times and weathered them. Even within our memory, it has had other leaders who also misunderstood their mandates and offered solutions to the nation's problems that only exacerbated them. (snip) Nothing is irreversible.
I expect he's right.


Last month more than 600,000 of the unemployed got discouraged and left the work force. This caused the unemployment rate to drop by 0.2%.

Wondering what constituted a "discouraged worker," I looked it up on a federal Bureau of Labor Statistics website. Here is what the BLS says:
Discouraged workers are a subset of persons marginally attached to the labor force. The marginally attached are those persons not in the labor force who want and are available for work, and who have looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months, but were not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey. Among the marginally attached, discouraged workers were not currently looking for work specifically because they believed no jobs were available for them or there were none for which they would qualify.
Political correctness strikes again. I'd call these people "discouraged former workers" or "discouraged would-be workers." Go here to see a Los Angeles Times article about current workforce statistics.

Thursday, July 1, 2010


Jonathan Last has written an interesting article about war games and the "grognards" who play them. It appears in the The Wall Street Journal. As he accurately notes, chess was among the earliest of war games.

In the early 1980s I had the opportunity of playing Diplomacy, another game he mentions. I was introduced to it by a colleague, Norm Pendegraft, a rare academic conservative. I chose to play as the then-extant Soviet Union.

This game was a very interesting experience; one which forever changed my understanding of the Russian mindset. My task was to imagine I was the Russian General Staff, sitting in Moscow looking at the nation's borders, wondering how to defend the Rodina or Motherland.

Russia is enormous, the world's largest country. It therefore has extremely long borders. It shares a lot of border with Turkey and other ethnically Turkish countries. In the days of a strong Ottoman Empire, Russia worried about defending against the Turks. More recently, the threat has twice come from Europe, first Napoleon and then Hitler.

Today, the Russian generals worry about defending against the People's Liberation Army of China. The PLA is the world's largest military with upwards of two million people on active duty, roughly twice that of Russia.

Neighbor China is the most populous nation on earth, with over one billion people. Most Russians live in the other end of Russia, near Europe. Immediately north of China is Russian Siberia, with very few people and a lot of natural resources.

If China ever decides to have 5-10% of their population march north with rifles and shovels on their shoulders, there isn't much doubt that Siberia becomes part of China. To prevent this happening, Russia would need to commit large scale genocide with nuclear weapons. I suspect the Russians' probable willingness to do this is the only thing that keeps the Chinese at home.

Did the Soviet Union, or today Russia, really worry about invasion by the U.S. and Europe? I don't think so, even though they talk about it. The Soviets did worry about successfully invading Europe in order to spread the gospels of Marx and Lenin, and about the U.S. ability to resist these missionary efforts.