Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Morris: The Senate Is In Play

Pretty much everybody concedes that the GOP will probably take control of the House of Representatives in the fall elections. Dick Morris and Eileen McGann have an article in Townhall in which they demonstrates that the Republicans have a definite shot at taking control of the Senate.

Morris and McGann go state by state through the 8 likely states, and make good arguments for another 3. Only 10 are needed. If 2010 is indeed a "wave" election, as many have predicted it will be, GOP Senate control is far from impossible.

Speaking of which, Lisa Murkowski has conceded defeat in the Republican Senate primary in Alaska. She is only the latest of several incumbents who have been taken out by their own party, often with the aid of the tea party activists.

Quote of the Day

Camille Paglia, writing for the Chronicle Review and reprinted in The Wall Street Journal's Notable & Quotable op-ed section. Her topic is the need for change in higher education.
The humanities have been gutted by four decades of pretentious postmodernist theory and insular identity politics. . . .
No kidding.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Gallup: GOP Leads Generic, Enthusiasm

Gallup polling organization has new data that shows the GOP ahead of the Dems by 10 percentage points on the generic ballot. That's the question of "do you plan to vote for an R or a D for Congress this fall?"

The same poll shows the GOP ahead of the Dems by 25 points on the enthusiasm measure. If President Obama has accomplished nothing else in 20 months, he has certainly fired up Republican voters.

I understand why Republicans are excited to vote against what the Dems have been doing. I don't understand why Dems are not excited to vote in support of their elected representatives.

WY, MS Most Conservative States

This Gallup poll ranks the states by the number of respondents who self-identify as either "conservative" or "liberal." My home state of Wyoming is tied for most conservative state in the nation, some 53% of us say we're conservative. It is one of the reasons I like the place.

In addition to Wyoming, the other top 10 conservative states include, in descending order of conservatism: Mississippi, Utah, South Dakota, Alabama, North Dakota, Idaho, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Nebraska, and Louisiana. Gallup adds:
In general, Americans are much more likely to identify politically as conservative than as liberal, and this has been the case for many years.
The most liberal 10 states begin with the District of Columbia, followed by Rhode Island, Connecticut, Vermont, Massachusetts, Colorado, New York, Oregon, Washington, and New Jersey. (It is unclear why the District was included. It is not a state; the politics of its voters are largely irrelevant.)

See Gallup's map. It is only in the west that liberal and conservative states are neighbors, I wonder why? Hat tip to Cheri Lee for sharing this poll with us.

E.U. Losing Steam

Charles Kupchan has written a very interesting article for the Washington Post about the European Union losing momentum. His sense is that younger Europeans, who don't remember World War II and its aftermath, are very little committed to the unification of Europe. Meanwhile the forces of nationalism are beginning to resurface.

Kupchan expects the process of de-unification to be very slow, so that we will one day look at Europe and see that only an empty shell of the E.U. still exists. I wonder if it won't be more of a stagnation-in-place than complete atrophy. I suspect the customs union is popular as is traveling about Europe without going through customs or producing one's "papers."

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Quote of the Day

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, speaking on ABC News' This Week program about preparing kids for higher education:
As a country, we've dummied down standards. We've reduced them due to political pressure, and we've actually been lying to children and parents, telling them they're ready when they're not.
Are you really authorized to say things like that, Mr. Secretary?
My source for this quote is the program transcript, which you can read in its entirety here.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Of Primary Importance

The express purpose of primary elections is to select party candidates for general elections. Voter turnout in primaries tends to be light.

Conventional political wisdom holds that those who vote in primary elections are those who care most about their parties and about the issues. They tend to be the more ideologically committed voters. Translation: more extreme left or right.

Gerald Seib's writes the Capital Journal column for The Wall Street Journal. In his latest column, he does a very nice job of laying out the unintended consequences of the primary election system.

If you are frustrated with Washington's inability to compromise to get things done, Seib says the primary system and gerrymandered House districts are the culprits. Then he shows why this is so and gives recent examples. If politics interest you, his article is worth your time.

Noonan on Obama

A good friend from grad school completed his doctorate and went straight into industry. He spent maybe 20 years there and then, between jobs during an economic lull, he interviewed for an academic position.

Following the interview he called me and asked "How do you put up with such oddballs as colleagues? We don't have these weirdos in industry." I replied, "Strange coworkers are the biggest drawback to an academic career."

I tell you this story as a lead-in to a piece by The Wall Street Journal's Peggy Noonan. She has a nice column on how President Obama is a person the American public just doesn't "get." In other words, they cannot figure him out. She says people think he is:
Sleek, cerebral, detached, an academic from Chicago by way of Hawaii and Indonesia. "You know what? I don't know that guy!"
Obama spent several years as a part-time law school lecturer, but people including Noonan identify him as "an academic." I suspect what they really mean is that he is odd, as many of my fellow academics were/are odd folk. BTW, lecturer is not a synonym for professor.

Quote of the Day

Comic David Letterman, commenting in his CBS Late Show monologue on the President's many vacations:
He’ll have plenty of time for vacations when his one term is up. Plenty of time.
One robin does not make a spring, and one anti-Obama joke doesn't make Letterman palatable to conservatives. Still, as Lao Tzu said, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Letterman has taken a step.

My source for the Letterman quote is The Wall Street Journal; if you go here you can also view the video.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Cuba Catches On Slowly

How long has it been since the Communist governments of China and Vietnam figured out a largely free market produces more wealth for more people than a command economy? At least 20 years, maybe closer to 25.

And the former Communist governments of the Warsaw Bloc, including the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, dropped command economies at about the same time, 1990-91. Unlike China and Vietnam, these European countries mostly stopped calling themselves "Communist" too.

Therefore, it has taken that much longer - another 20 years - for the Castro brothers in Cuba to figure out that they should join the parade. See this Associated Press article in Yahoo News which indicates Cuba may have finally caught on...sort of, a little bit.

Do you suppose they will share these belated insights with their buddies in Latin America: Hugo Chavez, Danny Ortega, Evo Morales, and Rafael Correa? I doubt it.


Countries that free their markets but try to hold onto the "Communist" label face an awkward dilemma. They say to their people that a free market for goods and services is positive, but a free market for political ideas is not. That is a hard sell.

The Long War Revisited

See this commentary by a war correspondent, written for Politics Daily, on the topic of "the Long War." David Wood speaks of his five visits to Afghanistan, since 2002. He reports the military today is frantically building very permanent bases there, in spite of all the talk about withdrawals happening by mid-2011. He says:
In Washington, the operative presidential declaration is that in July 2011 the troop withdrawal will commence because they will be increasingly unnecessary in the war. In Kandahar, meanwhile, so much construction is underway that KAF (Kandahar Air Field) has its own cement factory that churns out concrete 24/7.
In other words, if you thought we would be leaving Afghanistan anytime soon, be disabused of that idea. We are likely to have troops there for the next decade or more. The President will have to come up with a fig leaf to cover the gap between his promises and reality.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

J Schools Dying?

As newspapers around the country have closed their doors, or laid off large numbers of staff, I've wondered when universities would start shuttering their journalism schools. It would appear those closures have begun.

See this ABC News story about a reevaluation of the J school at the University of Colorado, at Boulder. Pretty clearly CU is considering shutting down their J school and folding what remains into a more generic, less craft-oriented program.

The article also mentions program redesigns at Berkeley and Arizona State. Farewell to the "ink-stained wretches" of yore. Is there such a thing as an electron-stained wretch?

A Glimpse of the Future

USA Today has an article reporting the demographic composition of this fall's kindergarten class. These are interesting numbers:
  • 53% White
  • 25% Hispanic
  • 13% Black
  • 5% Asian
  • 3% Multiracial
  • 1% American Indian/Native Hawaiian
In the last nine years the percentages of Whites and Blacks have dropped while the percentages of Hispanics, Asians, and Multiracials have increased. Some subset of these youngsters will graduate from high school in the year 2024.

Annus Horribilis

Rasmussen Reports has new polling data which finds that likely voters trust the GOP more than the Dems on all ten parameters upon which Rasmussen routinely polls. The ten issues Rasmussen surveys include: the economy, government ethics and corruption, taxes, national security, the war in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan, immigration, health care, education, and Social Security.

In politics we watch the trend line; which party does the trend line favor. All year the trend has moved downward for the Democrats. This has been true for the President and for the Democrats in Congress.

These results cannot be good news for Pelosi, Reid, and Obama. They are likewise bad news for a whole flock of Dems who, in 2006 and 2008, were elected in districts that normally vote for the GOP.

Realistic Democrats are beginning to admit to themselves, if not to the press, that 2010 will be for them what Queen Elizabeth II called an "annus horribilis," a horrible year.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Problematic Pakistan

Pakistan today is a mess: floods, ethnic conflicts, tribal areas, political conflicts, corruption, and always the fear of giant neighbor India, from which they broke away. It isn't clear that any real policy consensus exists in the country. Pakistan may be nearly ungovernable via freely elected governments.

The military has ruled Pakistan off and on since its birth following the British abdication in 1947, actually more "on" than "off." The army is probably the most honored institution in the country. We shouldn't be surprised that it takes over when things turn really ugly, as they often do.

This article in the Telegraph (UK) argues that the Pakistani army is not showing interest in once again taking responsibility for the government. I think that could change fairly rapidly.

A long article in National Interest lays out the entirely dysfunctional nature of Pakistan. Read this if you have some time and really want to get down into the details of the Pakistani dilemma.

Quote of the Day

John Stossel, writing for RealClearPolitics, about why businesses won't hire additional workers as the economy technically recovers from a recession:
Nothing more effectively freezes business in place than what economist and historian Robert Higgs calls "regime uncertainty."
I like that phrase, "regime uncertainty." In other words, all the uncertainty surrounding taxes, health care regulations, and financial regulations - every one of them government-driven and every one of them still up in the air.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

An Ill Wind

Bad news for wind generated power, at least as a green alternative. This Wall Street Journal article says such power makes us feel good but isn't much of a move in the green direction. Go see if you agree with the author's reasoning.

Empty Peace Talks

Do yourself a favor, read the most deeply cynical analysis of the Middle East Peace Process you are likely to find anywhere. The RealClearWorld article is long, detailed, and semi-amazing. The basic argument is that neither the Palestinians nor the Israelis want the talks, they only exist because holding talks helps the U.S. accomplish its goals in the region. Here is the most choice part:
The United States wants a peace process, preferably a long one designed to put off the day when it fails. This will allow the United States to appear to be deeply committed to peace and to publicly pressure the Israelis, which will be of some minor use in U.S. efforts to manipulate the rest of the region. But it will not solve anything. Nor is it intended to.
"Nor is it intended to." In other words, none of the three parties want the talks to accomplish their stated goals. This is interesting, deep stuff, not for the dilettante.

U.S. Gov Out of Step with Us

Rasmussen Reports polling organization has a page which summarizes just how out of step with American voters the federal government is currently. You owe it to yourself to go there and see all the parameters on which the people go one way and "your" government goes the other. Here are a few examples:
  • An overwhelming majority of Likely Voters in the United States think all voters in the country should be required to present photo identification in order to vote in U.S. elections.
  • Fifty six percent (56%), in fact, believe the policies of the federal government encourage people to enter the United States illegally.
  • Most Americans still oppose granting U.S. citizenship automatically to children born in America to illegal immigrants.
  • With midterm elections less than three months away, nearly two-out-of-three voters (65%) remain at least somewhat angry at the current policies of the federal government in all areas, including 40% who are Very Angry.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Obama's Faith Vacuum

There have been polls recently which reflect that about a quarter of Americans think President Obama is a Muslim, and roughly another quarter aren't sure what his faith is. If this question interests you (there is no particular reason why it should), go read this USA Today article by Paul Kengor, a political science professor who has written several books about presidential faith.

Kengor concludes that Obama, raised by apostates and atheists, probably has little faith. On the basis of very modest evidence, I am inclined to agree.

I imagine people suspect Obama is a Muslim because he is more accepting of Muslim people and Muslim culture than are most Americans, having lived with them as a youngster named Barry Soetoro.

What of his attendance at the church of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright as an adult? Raised in Indonesia and Hawaii, by whites and Asians, I suspect Obama attended Rev. Wright's church mostly to learn how to successfully imitate an African-American. Of this I have no proof, but it seems logical.

Fortune's New Normals

Fortune magazine has come up with some "new normals," that is, financial things with which we may need to get used to living. About these Fortune says:
It's not easy to change Americans' financial habits permanently, and 'new normals' don't always last. Fortune found five that just might stick, at least for a while.
Fortune's five financial things include:
  • long-term unemployment,
  • renting instead of owning,
  • saving instead of spending,
  • 'staycations' instead of vacations,
  • higher taxes for the upper income brackets.
Here is a link to the online article, which you may find useful.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Dirty Power for Electric Cars

The Washington Post reports that roughly 30 coal-fired electric generation plants have been started or finished since 2008. Talk about dumping a lot of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, these are the traditional "dirty" coal plants. According to the Post:
Building a coal-fired power plant today is betting that we are not going to put a serious financial cost on emitting carbon dioxide.
Why not other power sources?
Utilities say they are clinging to coal because its abundance makes it cheaper than natural gas or nuclear power and more reliable than intermittent power sources such as wind and solar.
When you plug in your Chevy Volt, you probably will be using electricity generated at a dirty coal-fired plant. I hope you will feel all green and virtuous.

Good News, Fellow Vege Haters

The U.K. Daily Mail has an article about potential improvements to the potato. Zapping with electricity or zinging with ultrasound will apparently make potatoes into health food - I love it. Now if they can only find a similar improvement to the bacon-cheeseburger, I'm a healthy guy.

Quote of the Day

Marcus Tullius Cicero, writing in 55 BC (which of course wasn't known as that then):
The arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, and assistance to foreign hands should be curtailed, lest Rome fall.
Rendering the translation as "foreign lands" instead of "foreign hands" makes more sense in today's world and preserves, I believe, Cicero's meaning. Substitute "the United States" for "Rome" and he has great wisdom for today, almost 2100 years later.

My source is Brainy Quote. Hat tip to the other DrC for the citation.

Humor Post

Question: If big-chested women work at Hooters, where do one-legged women work?
Answer: At IHOP.

Thanks to my friend Earl C. for this one.

Not Just the Economy

Jay Cost writes the HorseRace blog on politics for RealClearPolitics. He has some sensible things to say about the President's falling poll numbers and the emphasis on the economy.
Does the economy matter? Yes, of course. But does political management and facility matter, too? Yes, of course. Unfortunately, it is hard to capture "facility" quantitatively.
If you want to graph the President's job approval against GDP or unemployment, that's easy to do. But what about graphing it against competence or ambition or boldness? That's not as easy, which means that quantitative analysis is usually going to de-emphasize these features, not because they are unimportant but because they can't be measured very well.
So, it isn't just "the economy, stupid." It is "the economy and how well you're perceived to be doing the job, stupid."

Echoing Cosby

Bob Herbert is an African-American who writes a column for The New York Times. As he's a liberal, I rarely find one of his works to cite. He has recently written a column about the sad condition of African-American men and boys. Echoing similar comments by Bill Cosby, he says:
The aspect of this crisis that is probably the most important and simultaneously the most difficult to recognize is that the heroic efforts needed to alleviate it will not come from the government or the wider American society. This is a job that will require a campaign on the scale of the civil rights movement, and it will have to be initiated by the black community.
His proposed solutions are statist; that's what I expect from a liberal. But his diagnosis of the problem seems reasonable. You might find his column interesting.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Old Dog, New Tricks

Larry Kudlow, economist and host of CNBC's Kudlow Report, interviewed Representative Barney Frank, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee on his program. Kudlow has written up that interview for The Daily Caller.

Kudlow reports Barney Frank has changed his mind about the two government funded housing agencies, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. From being a supporter, Frank has switched to being an opponent who says:
I hope by next year we’ll have abolished Fannie and Freddie. It was a great mistake to push lower-income people into housing they couldn’t afford and couldn’t really handle once they had it. I had been too sanguine about Fannie and Freddie.
It is rare to see a politician do a 180 degree reversal to oppose a policy of which he was a great public supporter. I am impressed, Chairman Frank. You've shown some class.

Quote of the Day

Toby Harnden, writing in the Telegraph (U.K.), about President Obama's odd policy choices:
Almost everything Obama does these days suggests that he doesn't care much about being re-elected.
That gives us no leverage over him, bummer.

Scott Rasmussen Interview

Regular readers will know Scott Rasmussen's Rasmussen Report is COTTonLINE's favorite, though hardly exclusive, pollster. Go here to read an interview of Scott by The Wall Street Journal's John Fund. It contains things we knew about him and his work, and things we didn't know.

Among the things we knew were his focus on polling likely voters, as opposed to registered voters or all adults. He argues that only those likely to vote will influence the outcomes of elections, a viewpoint of immense common sense.

We also knew of his division of the electorate into the "mainstream public" and the "political class." Read the interview to see how he determines an individual's membership in one or the other group. He finds membership in either group very predictive of the individual's attitudes on key policy issues.

Among the things we didn't know, but should have suspected about Scott Rasmussen was his history of entrepreneurship. The interview says of Scott and his sports broadcaster father:
Using $9,000 charged to a credit card, they created the Entertainment Sports Programming Network, or ESPN. They soon scored a major investor in Getty Oil and launched in 1979. Within a few years, they had millions of viewers.
The Rasmussens sold their ESPN interest in 1984 when Scott was 22. Another thing I didn't know was his belief that understanding the tea party movement is very important. He says:
This will be the third straight election in which people vote against the party in power. The GOP will benefit from that this year, but 75% of Republicans say their representatives in Congress are out of touch with the party base. Should they win big this November, they will have to move quickly to prove they've learned lessons from the Bush years.
COTTonLINE concurs.


COTTonLINE references many Wall Street Journal articles. You might think we concur with everything published there whereas we try to be selective. Here is an example of an article with which we do not agree.

Today's Journal carries a column in which Roger Meiners, an economist, disparages an installation of solar panels at a federal fish hatchery near Bozeman, Montana. He runs a standard economic analysis and finds that the panels cannot last long enough to pay for themselves at current energy prices.

I don't argue with what he includes in his analysis, but with what he omits. He does not include in his analysis the national security value to the United States of reducing reliance on foreign oil and of reducing the transfer of wealth to hostile nations. He also omits the value to the world of producing power that does not dump unneeded carbon into the atmosphere.

I cannot calculate these three latter values, but I know they exist. His column doesn't recognize their existence.

Real-Estate Bubble in China

The Wall Street Journal carries an opinion piece describing a real-estate bubble in China. Written by economists of the Reason Foundation, it argues:
Beijing is in a dilemma. It can cut spending and rein in its monetary expansion, releasing over time capital for more productive endeavors (especially if it opens up hitherto closed investment options) and putting the economy on a healthier footing. However, that would mean slower growth, lower home values, rising unemployment and potential political unrest. Alternatively, it can buy a few more years of faux-growth and stability by propping up the real-estate market—and risk making the day of reckoning far worse when it arrives.
An interesting dilemma for the world's second-largest economy; particularly since it to some degree remains a command economy.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Charlie Cook on November

Gerald Seib writes the Capital Journal column for The Wall Street Journal. He has interviewed Charlie Cook who is thought by many to be the best political prognosticator in Washington. In this column, Seib says Cook predicts the GOP will take the House of Representatives in November. See the column for Cook's reasoning.

Cook doesn't believe the Republicans can take the Senate. To do so would require the GOP to take 16 of the 18 competitive seats up for election. GOP control of the House while the Dems control the Senate will guarantee gridlock for the next two years. Many outcomes could be worse.

Cook says midterm elections come in two types, the Tip O'Neill "all-politics-is-local" type or the wave election type. Wave elections are national, driven by national issues. Seib reports that Cook says:
We're seeing just every sign in the world that this is going to be a wave, and a pretty good-sized wave.
Why does Cook think this is the case? Seib paraphrases Cook's thinking:
Democrats are selling a controversial agenda in lousy economic times. It appeared briefly in the spring that the economic trend lines might be starting to point upward. It doesn't feel that way now.

Recovery Summer

The Obama White House had the misfortune to label this summer season now winding down toward Labor Day as "Recovery Summer." However unemployment keeps increasing, the economic measure voters pay most attention to because it is the one that bites them hardest.

I'll bet the White House wishes they had chosen their words more carefully. "Recovery summer" sounds dumber than "mission accomplished" did.

English Rules

An old joke asks that if we call someone who can speak two languages "bilingual," what do we call someone who can speak only one language? Answer: "American."

Americans are known for monolingualism, their feeling English alone will do the job. Yet, perhaps they are correct. Evan R. Goldstein has written an article for The Wall Street Journal which suggests, ever so tentatively, that most of us will never need other languages. He quotes the president of the Paris Institute of Political Studies as saying:
We have to stop saying that English is one of the languages. It is the language of international exchange: commercial, military, and also intellectual and scientific. . . . It is no longer an object of debate.
Imagine hearing that from a Frenchman. He hints at the truth, that in many fields of study, all scientific journals are published in English regardless of where they are based. But he doesn't mention that English is also the universal language of international air traffic.

Based on some travel the other DrC and I have done this year, I am tempted to risk a prediction. I'm guessing that 50 years from now most of the developed world will communicate in more-or-less accented English.


Here is a another thought about going to prestige colleges that I had today; it is related to the posting I did Wednesday. A motivation for parents spending the extra money to sent their children to prestigious colleges is the "making friends of/finding a marriage partner of higher social class" issue.

At one time many young people found marriage partners in college. Those who went to more prestigious colleges, colleges which cost more to attend, tended to marry into families of higher social class.

This is less true today as many wait until in their 30s to marry, a fact of which parents are not completely aware. It is still true that many students make lifelong friends in college, particularly if they join a fraternity or sorority.

Social class is, of course, one of those elephant in the room issues in America. Most people recognize its existence but talking about it isn't polite. Here at COTTonLINE we talk about social class.

Rasmussen: Record Generic Ballot Gap

Scott Rasmussen of Rasmussen Reports polling organization has new data on the famous "generic ballot" question, namely "will you vote for your district's Democratic or Republican congressional candidate?" Democrats won't like the results. Rasmussen says:
Republican candidates have jumped out to a record-setting 12-point lead over Democrats on the Generic Congressional Ballot for the week ending Sunday, August 15, 2010. This is the biggest lead the GOP has held in over a decade of Rasmussen Reports surveying.
The biggest lead in over a decade. Some 48% said they'll vote for the Republican while 36% said they'll vote for the Democrat. Do you suppose President Obama will blame that on President Bush? Somehow I doubt it.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

High Schools Fail

We've improved student performance in our public elementary schools, and our colleges and universities are in many ways the envy of the world. Then there are our secondary schools.

Our secondary schools are a swamp. High school students aren't challenged, don't want to learn, behave badly, and in a misguided attempt to reduce dropouts, the classes have been dumbed down so more students can "pass." In so many ways our high schools are simply holding pens; not terribly effective daycare for moody and rebellious teens.

This Wall Street Journal article describes the behavior problems in our secondary schools, and how little is learned there. Few high school grads can pass the ACT exam with scores sufficient to do college-level work.


As a college freshman working with a counselor to find a career path, I took tests which said I should be a teacher or business person. Those tests weren't bad; I spent 30+ years teaching business subjects.

So the career counselor suggested high school teaching. Having just graduated from a rural high school, I immediately rejected that choice. The notion of teaching in high school was entirely repellent to me as I had no interest being a sort of cop - in maintaining order - and that was all those years ago. Imagine how bad it is today in urban schools.


Speaking of which, I propose three separate high school systems: one for students who will work and intend to go to college, a second for motivated apprentices, and the third a sort of commuter reform school for everybody else. You'd have teachers in the first and second, but most behavior problem kids would go directly to school three where you'd have wardens and correctional personnel.

Only systems one and two would issue diplomas. The trick would be to make system three unpleasant enough that students would be motivated to behave and study to stay out of it. I know I'm dreaming, my proposal isn't politically correct.


"Transitivity" means something like if A = B, then B = A, if I remember my statistics courses with any accuracy. A more commonplace way of stating this idea is "what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander." Or as we said with a whine when we were little and these conditions did not prevail, "that's not fair."

Here we have a Time magazine piece reappearing as a Yahoo News article asking, in the title, "Mosque Controversy: Does America Have a Muslim Problem?" The question seems to be this: are we okay with having mosques in the U.S.?

I have to ask, is Islam okay with having Christian churches in, let's say, Mecca or anywhere in Saudi Arabia? My understanding is that the answer is "No."

My guess is that same unwillingness exists in most Muslim countries. Do their magazines ask "Do we have a Christian problem?" without meaning what we mean when we ask "Do we have a bedbug problem?"

Why should we cut them slack of the sort they won't cut us? And their answer is something like, "Your rules say we can be there whereas our rules say you cannot be here. Each of us should play by our own rules."

I don't think so; one set of rules for all. I am unwilling to extend to folks rights they won't extend to me. I think that's not fair. How about you?

Wanna Buy a Duck?

There is an old bit of wisdom which goes something like "if it waddles like a duck and quacks, it is probably a duck." An Associated Press article on Yahoo News leads with the following line:
Americans increasingly are convinced — incorrectly — that President Barack Obama is a Muslim, and a growing number are thoroughly confused about his religion.
Perhaps President Obama is not be a Muslim but he certainly acts more positively toward Islam than do most Americans. That, combined with his childhood exposure to Islam, appears to many people to be evidence that his claims of being a Christian are either suspect, or false. And the President keeps digging this hole deeper.
In a separate poll by Time magazine/ABT SRBI conducted Monday and Tuesday — after Obama's comments about the mosque 24 percent said they think he is Muslim, 47 percent said they think he is Christian and 24 percent didn't know or didn't respond.
In other words, a larger group (48%) is doubtful about his claims to be Christian, than the percentage who believe those claims (47%). Fascinating.

Imagine, if we are in fact engaged in Huntington's "clash of civilizations" that we posted about yesterday. How strange it is that the world's only superpower has a leader whose allegiance to Western civilization is, at best, ambivalent.

Our President needs to do less "waddling" and "quacking."

Another Unhappy Milestone

The Associated Press reports on Yahoo News that unemployment is going UP again - bummer. See what they say:
The number of people applying for unemployment reached the half-million mark last week for the first time since November. It was the third straight week that first-time jobless claims rose.
I wonder how the President will blame this double dip on his predecessor, for you can be certain he will do exactly that.

An Unhappy Milestone

The London Daily Mail reports that, as of now, the same number of Americans have died in Afghanistan during Obama's 20 months in office - 575 - as during the entire period of the Bush administration. As the Mail notes:
Mr Obama is no longer able to blame his country’s travails on the previous administration.
That won't keep him from trying. When something is the only arrow in your quiver, that is what you shoot.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Quote of the Day II

Alan Krueger, a Princeton economist, drawing conclusions after studying the importance of attending a prestige university, versus a less selective campus:
That you go to college is more important than where you go.
I've always suspected that to be true. My source is this Brookings document.

Quote of the Day I

Robert Kagan, writing in the Jewish Political Chronicle:
It is time to stop pretending that Europeans and Americans share a common view of the world, or even that they occupy the same world.
Indeed. This relates to the post on Monday, August 9, concerning my European-born house guests.

One in 12 U.S.Births to Illegal Parents

The Pew Hispanic Center has data which shows that 8% or roughly one out of twelve births in the United States is the child of illegal immigrants. This statistic is likely to further inflame the concern about so-called "anchor" babies and whether the Constitution's Fourteenth Amendment should be amended to withhold citizenship from the children of people not legally in the United States.

Understanding the Sudan

There has been fighting going on in the Sudan ever since it achieved independence from the British, whose colony it was until 1956. The country is one of those illogical colonial creations whose boundaries took no account of the ethnicity of the various peoples living there. Sadly, Africa is full of these.

The Wall Street Journal has a very informative review of a book called Sudan, by Richard Cockett, a journalist who served as Africa editor for The Economist. Unfortunately for Mr. Cockett, the review is so comprehensive you may not need to read the book.

If you want to understand what is going on in Darfur, and what led up to the ethnic cleansing happening there, take a look.

My Heart Is Down....

Long ago Harry Belafonte sang those words about a sailor's experience in Jamaica. You could sing them again today. See this very sad article in The Wall Street Journal about the extreme level of violence in Jamaica.

Apparently, much of the violence is directed at Jamaican natives who went abroad to work as expats and returned home to retire. The article says of returning retirees:
The country they left behind was poor, but relatively safe. It is still poor, but shockingly violent. This verdant island has one of the higher homicide rates in the world (emphasis added).
The result has been a dramatic drop off in retirees returning home, which is a serious setback for the island's economy. Violence can cause a similar decline in tourism as there are other lovely islands in the Caribbean.

Some of the criminals have turned out to be police or soldiers. Do you suppose Jamaica will corrode into the chaos that is Haiti? I hope not for their sake.

The Clash of Civilizations

Samuel Huntington's "clash of civilizations" model posits that the post-Cold War world will be dominated by several historical civilizations, the most important of which being the Western, the Muslim, and the Confucian. Understanding what is going on in the world in terms of this clash seems to be helpful.

See this Wall Street Journal article by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a former member of the Dutch parliament. Ms. Ali utilizes Huntington's model to understand a variety of international conflicts now underway. Here is my favorite passage from her article:
The greatest advantage of Huntington's civilizational model of international relations is that it reflects the world as it is—not as we wish it to be. It allows us to distinguish friends from enemies. And it helps us to identify the internal conflicts within civilizations, particularly the historic rivalries between Arabs, Turks and Persians for leadership of the Islamic world.
It is interesting that, in spite of her Asian name, Ms. Ali identifies herself with Western civilization in this clash. I wish I was sure President Obama makes the same identification.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Unions=Plant Closures

Do firms go to relatively extreme lengths to avoid having unionized plants? We have argued that they do. Here is real evidence in this Wall Street Journal article. It itemizes five different unionized plants being closed by three different major U.S. manufacturers with production being moved to the south or in one case to Mexico.

You'd think workers would learn how it works out and dump their unions. They don't. It isn't as though union members punish the company by hanging tough, it doesn't work that way. Apparently they'd rather be unemployed than take a lower wage or experience more flexible working arrangements. Companies respond "okay" and shutter their unionized plants while moving south.

Some psychologist needs to study why people respond this way.

Unaffordable Friends

Two years ago Russia supported two parts of the nation of Georgia in breaking away: South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Since that time Russia has spent much money supporting these two quasi-colonies. Russian troops continue to occupy and defend the "independence" of both.

Here is an article in The Wall Street Journal which argues, somewhat persuasively, that in the longer run Russia will not be able to hold onto the two breakaway regions. The author's point is twofold, first that Russia will find supporting them a serious financial drain, and second that their people will find being "Russians" less rewarding than being Georgians.

Is he right? I have no idea of the facts on the ground, as Mr. Kaylan claims to have. On the other hand, if the economic conditions and standard of living in neighboring Georgia grow at a much faster rate, it is reasonable to expect the residents of these two enclaves to regret being separated.

Fascinating Omission

The Wall Street Journal has an interesting article about the world's negative reaction to the military government in Fiji, its impact on Fiji's economy, and the political and economic implications for the region's island nations. The article is even more interesting because of what the author, Neil Sands, leaves out.

He leaves out why Fiji has a military government; why there is "racism" on the island. Brace yourself, here comes some condensed Fijian history from the CIA's World Fact Book:
Fiji became independent in 1970 after nearly a century as a British colony. Democratic rule was interrupted by two military coups in 1987 caused by concern over a government perceived as dominated by the Indian community (descendants of contract laborers brought to the islands by the British in the 19th century). The coups and a 1990 constitution that cemented native Melanesian control of Fiji led to heavy Indian emigration; the population loss resulted in economic difficulties, but ensured that Melanesians became the majority.
Inasmuch as the Indians were Fiji's entrepreneurial class, the resulting "economic difficulties" are understandable. Since 1997 there have been coups, elections, and more coups. Essentially what drives all of this unrest is the tension between the remaining Indians who have most of the money and the Fijians who control the military and government.

This tension in Fiji is not unlike those between the Chinese entrepreneurial class and the indigenous peoples in Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines, and elsewhere in Asia. These are things about which it is isn't polite to speak, but they are political realities nonetheless.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

A Positive Signal

The Yasukuni Shrine honors Japan's war dead, including a number of individuals identified as war criminals. For decades after World War II, Japan's Prime Ministers visited the shrine on the anniversary of the end of that war.

These visits were highly irritating to China and Japan's other neighbors in Asia; nations which suffered brutal Japanese invasions during that war. The widely shared perception of these annual visits was that Japan still honored those who labored to forcibly subjugate most of Asia.

It is therefore important that Japan's new Prime Minister, Naoto Kan, pointedly did not visit the Yasukuni Shrine on this anniversary, nor did any member of his cabinet. This omission may help bring about rapprochement between Japan and the other Asian nations. See this USA Today story for details.

The other DrC and I lived in Asia some years ago and have toured there recently. We've learned that Japan made enemies almost everywhere they occupied during the 1930s and 1940s, a partial exception being Taiwan.

Prime Minister Kan avoiding the Yasukuni Shrine may send a positive signal to China, the two Koreas, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia, Singapore, and Malaysia, as well as to many small island nations across the Pacific.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Thinking About 2012

How would various Republicans fair against President Obama if the 2012 election was held today? The Los Angeles Times has CNN/Opinion Research Poll data looking at that very question. The Times writes:
Disappointed, frustrated, angry registered voters told pollsters that at this point in time, less than halfway through the term of No. 44, they'd actually be good with anyone labeled Republican for No. 45 against anyone named Barack Obama -- 50% to 45%.
That calls for a rimshot for emphasis, Mr. Drummer.


Nobody can accuse President Obama of pandering to public opinion. If I weren't sure that nothing so organized could ever happen in this White House, I would suspect they take polls to determine precisely what the public wants so they can do exactly the opposite.

Our president strongly supports the building of a mosque near Ground Zero in New York, see this New York Times article. How could he do anything else? He knows the public opposes the mosque.

The classic terminology for such serious continuing screw-ups comes from our military: SNAFU or FUBAR or perhaps cluster f***. I ask your pardon for the crudity, we do not make a practice of it here at COTTonLINE.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Humor Alert

Joke from the theme sentence of a Yahoo Games crossword puzzle:
A professor is somebody that (sic) often talks in other people's sleep.
Not too often. I've found it helpful if those "other people" aka students don't snore. And it should be written "A professor is somebody who...."

Rocky Mountain High

Yesterday we drove to town, roughly 7 miles away, and the thermometer on the bank read 47 degrees. This on August 12, in mid afternoon. We were glad for our light jackets. Today, the same thermometer read 70 degrees. The difference was sunshine: today we have some, yesterday we did not. Tomorrow it may be 80 degrees, or whatever, who knows?

Weather in the mountains is highly variable. Locals claim snow is possible on any day of the year, which I think is a stretch. We've summered here for roughly 15 years and seen no snow in July or August - thundery hailstorms that leave ice piled about yes, snow no. June and September are another story; one light snowstorm in each that doesn't "stick" is fairly common.

Parent-Adult Child Relations Studied

Having an adult child with problems negatively influences parents' mental health, even if they also have a successful child. This is among the interesting findings from the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association, as reported in USA Today. The article also reports findings from other studies of parent-child relations.

I have to wonder if the researchers have the famous "causal arrow" pointing in the right direction. That is, what if having parents with negative mental health causes some children to have problems instead of vice versa?

Technical note: if it is a correlational study, as it appears to be, X can influence Y or Y can influence X when the two are found to be correlated. For completeness sake, I should add that some third force, Z, might influence both.