Thursday, September 30, 2010

Ecuador Equivocates

Ecuador's President Rafael Correa has managed to get crosswise with elements of his police and military, who are protesting limits on pay and benefits. This sounds like the unrest in parts of the European Union where civil servants are behaving in very uncivil ways.

Correa has taken Ecuador down the income redistribution path pioneered in this hemisphere by Castro and Chavez, albeit not yet so far as they. No surprise, his economy isn't doing well. Correa needs to limit government spending but upsetting the folks with most of the weaponry and training in how to use it (i.e., the military and police) isn't always a great idea.

Go here to see a New York Times article about Correa's problems in Ecuador. This Associated Press article also looks at the troubles there.

Broder: the Middle Swings Right

David Broder, dean of Washington political reporters/pundits, writes for the Washington Post. His column, reprinted in RealClearPolitics, argues that Gallup polling numbers show more people self-identify as conservatives, fewer as liberals. He says:
If Gallup is right, and I believe its methodology is solid, there simply are fewer liberal votes to be won this time.
Broder is no conservative, although he tries to write without overt bias and often succeeds. If he sees the wave moving right, when you can be sure he'd rather it did not, then it is probably doing what he concludes.

A New World Organizing Principle

Demographer Joel Kotkin has an intriguing article in New Geography entitled "The New World Order." His basic thesis is that the world is sorting itself out into ethnic/religious groupings that make nation states less important. He says:
Across the world a resurgence of tribal ties is creating more complex global alliances. Where once diplomacy defined borders, now history, race, ethnicity, religion, and culture are dividing humanity into dynamic new groupings.
I believe Kotkin leaves out some interesting tribal groupings like the Kurds who live across three nations. I would have added Switzerland to his New Hansa grouping, but an argument can be made for it being the Stand-Alone he calls it.

Kotkin's tour d'horizon is certainly worth reading, and I suspect he has a lot of it correct. See what you think.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Quote of the Day

Michael Barone, writing for the Washington Examiner, about political predictions:
Extrapolating from the 2008 election results, some Democrats foresaw a 40-year period of Democratic dominance. It turned out to last about 40 weeks.
In other words, the prediction was good for 1/52 of the time period foreseen.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Gridlock in Europe

Two of the central nations in the European Union - Belgium and the Netherlands - are suffering political gastritis. The two language groups in Belgium are like a couple who want to get a divorce, to become two nations instead of one, but cannot decide who gets custody of the capital, Brussels.

The Netherlands has a major party with Islamophobia as a party plank. The other major parties can't form a coalition government without including it. Inclusion will cause major diplomatic disruptions with Islamic countries. My source article is this one by Paul Ames from RealClearWorld.

Meanwhile, Germany continues to experience indigestion as they try to assimilate their East German relatives. This Globe and Mail article says Poland is actually doing better than East Germany in spite of (or more likely because of) experiencing much less outside subsidy. Putting people on subsidies simply destroys them, destroys their will to work.

And you thought we had problems in the U.S.?

The Anglosphere

Read an interesting article in The Telegraph, a Brit paper's website, about the Anglosphere, the collection of English-speaking nations. The author includes the U.K., Ireland, Canada, the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, and India, plus smaller nations like Malta, Singapore, and some Caribbean nations. He sees this collection of nations as a substantial force for good on the planet

The author includes the United States, although how much longer that will be possible is anybody's guess, amigo. We don't seem to be doing a very good job of getting our enormous and rapidly growing Hispanic immigrant population to become Anglophone.

I like the idea of Anglosphere-oriented diplomacy and foreign policy, but as the author notes, current U.S. leadership doesn't seem so inclined.

Quote of the Day

The always quotable Mark Steyn, writing for his blog SteynOnline about the President's continual giving-in to Muslims:
Given his highly selective enthusiasms, you can hardly blame a third of Americans for figuring their president must be Muslim. In a way, that's the least pathetic explanation: The alternative is that he's just a craven squish.
You have to be a craven squish to lead a true European-style nation. Maggie Thatcher didn't fit in but Barack Obama is certainly trying.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Quote of the Day

John Hinderaker, writing in the blog Powerline, about the anti-war movement:
During the Vietnam era, the "antiwar" movement was misnamed. Its leaders, for the most part, were not against war at all; they were just on the other side.
Hanoi Jane Fonda, for example. Hinderaker believes the same is true of today's anti-war activists.

Very Interesting Political Maps

USA Today has a site with three very interesting maps showing how they are predicting the NOvember elections will go. I suspect you will think they are being a bit too easy on the Democrats, I do.

The mapping and technology is fun, go take a look. Hat tip to the other DrC for the link.

This Is Ugly

I've avoided this story for months, thinking perhaps it was overblown. Now it is hard to ignore. The event was members of the "New Black Panthers" intimidating voters outside a voting location in Philadelphia in 2008. About the event there isn't much question.

The real issue has been the apparent failure of the Department of Justice to prosecute this issue because the victims were white and the perps were black. Perhaps the accusations were correct after all.

See this article from Fox News concerning recent testimony to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. Current and former DOJ officials say the Department is systematically avoiding race-neutral application of the Voting Rights Act.

It appears the still-employed official has been treated as a whistleblower and shunted to a regional office, away from Washington. This story has become hard to ignore, and ugly.

An Idea

I've been wondering whether any of the nearly 500 Republicans running for national office have been gutsy enough to run a campaign ad like this.

A shot of the candidate's head, looking straight at the camera as s/he says the following:

As I travel the district/state talking to voters you've been telling me how much you are disappointed with President Obama, how you wish he were on the ballot so you could vote against him. And of course he is not on the ballot, his term runs for another two years.

But you do have an opportunity to vote against President Obama's program by voting for me. I oppose virtually everything President Obama has done or tried to do, or is likely to do in the future.

Let's be serious. We are unlikely to elect enough Republicans to override a presidential veto. So for me to stand here and tell you all the wonderful things we will do is silly. We can perhaps pass bills, but the president will likely veto them.

What we will be able to do is refuse to provide funds for the president's agenda, to starve it. To frustrate his big government policies. And that, I promise you I will try my best to accomplish.

If you like what the Congressional Democrats and the President have done the last two years, vote for my opponent. If you don't like their big spending actions, the way to vote "NO" on their agenda is to vote for me.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Quote of the Day II

Joshua Green, writing for the Boston Globe, talking about why the Dems are having problems connecting with voters:
When middle-class Americans heard Democrats describe their problems, it did not resonate because they were actually the problems of the working poor.

Gallup: Public with GOP

Pundits argue one way, or the other; their expressed views largely representing their underlying values. If you want to know what is going on in voters' minds, ask the pollsters. More specifically, ask the good pollsters like Gallup or Rasmussen.

The Gallup poll reflected here is a stunner. They've been asking two questions for the last 16 years, so the data goes back to 1994 (a GOP wave year). First, "How well does each party represent your attitude about the role of government?" Second, "How well does each party represent your values?"

The polling responses for both questions looks just like it did in 1994. The Republicans lead the Democrats by 7-8 percentage points on both questions. In 1994 the GOP basically overran the Dems. Gallup is hinting strongly that is where we are headed in 2010.

West Coast: Cool Summer Over

Yes, we heard all about record high temperatures in the east and southeast this summer. Did they hear about our record low summer temperatures in the northwest and on the west coast? Here the Los Angeles Times describes their local "coldest summer in decades."

Before you let someone tell you the southeast's hot summer is evidence of global warming, remind them of the west's cold summer. Ask them if that cold is evidence of global cooling.

Face it, climate changes happen naturally. They have done so for millennia. As I've told consulting clients who were whining about their difficulties, "Cope, dammit."

Quote of the Day I

In her column for Human Events, Ann Coulter takes on the media critics of Delaware GOP Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell:
They say O'Donnell has a problem because she's never held a job in the private sector (like our president), didn't pay her taxes (like our treasury secretary), and had her house foreclosed on (like half of the electorate). They also accuse her of saying crazy things -- but she's running for Joe Biden's old seat, so this may be an advantage.

Welcome to Autumn

Sometime yesterday or today summer ended and autumn began, we passed the autumnal equinox. Summer has been fading away for several weeks. We have a very short growing season at this altitude.

Here in the high country the deciduous leaves have turned yellow and are drifting to ground, it happens more-or-less suddenly. Aspens put considerable energy into creating and dispersing seeds, but in fact largely reproduce by sending up shoots from their wide-spreading roots. An entire aspen forest turns yellow at the same time, mostly because all of what look like independent "trees" are in fact parts of one giant organism. Another aspen forest down the road a mile or so may turn yellow a week earlier or later, it is a separate organism.

The summer people are packing up and leaving for AZ, TX, FL or CA - in other words, someplace warm. Meanwhile, the hunters are beginning to arrive, those lucky enough to get tags. This part of the world is busy three seasons out of four: summer camping and touring, autumn hunting, and winter skiing and snowmobiling.

Spring is our down season, not much happens during spring. The year-round residents say winter here is okay but lasts too long, much longer than the three months between winter solstice and vernal equinox that is technically "winter." At a guess I'd say it starts a month early and ends a month late, making it five months long. We're a thousand feet higher than Denver, so long winters are logical, if wearying.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Turkey Drifts Away

See the poll results, in an article on the German Marshall Fund blog. It reports that the public opinion trend lines in our former ally Turkey show continued drift toward the Islamic nations and away from Europe and the United States. This is no surprise, but unpleasant nonetheless.

Some examples from the poll. On the question of the similarity of Turkish values to those of the West, 48% say not similar, 30% say similar. Over the past six years, from 2004 to the present, the percentage of Turks who favor joining the EU has dropped from 73% to 38%. And Turks are much less concerned than Americans or Europeans about Iran becoming a nuclear power.

A cynic would say that in the mid-twentieth century Turkey needed NATO to protect them from their then-powerful neighbor, the Soviet Union. Once the Soviet menace collapsed, they no longer need NATO. A realist would say Turks could no longer sustain the ideological conflict between political Islam and the secular state created by Ataturk. COTTonLINE says it is darned sad to lose an ally, but the ally is, for all practical purposes, lost.

Echos from a Townhall

On Monday business cable network CNBC organized a town hall meeting. President Obama was the guest of honor, correspondent John Harwood was the moderator. As an interested spectator of that town hall, Washington Post political analyst Dan Balz has written a summary of what took place, complete with quotes of the more interesting questions.

If you could not bring yourself to watch this hour, Balz' overview and evaluation are worthwhile. A number of questioners unloaded on the president, and Balz seems to think Obama was particularly ineffective in his responses. Balz characterizes the town hall:
The questions illuminated the deep dissatisfaction the president's allies and opponents feel about his performance. The president's answers raised anew the issue of how effectively he communicates on the economy.
For example, Balz quotes the president as saying:
The rhetoric and the politicizing of so many decisions that are out there has to be toned down. We've got to get back to working together.
Balz finds this disingenuous since:
The president has been on the campaign trail offering sharply partisan rhetoric and even attacking individual Republican candidates running for office this fall.
I think it fair to say that Balz finds Obama disappointing and ineffective.

A Tale of Two Recessions

I just read an interesting article written by John Merline, Opinion Editor of AOL News, comparing the recession which technically ended in 2009 and one during the Reagan administration. They lasted about the same amount of time, 16 months vs. 18 months.

Recovery from the two recessions has been very different. After the Reagan recession the bounce-back was rapid and dramatic. After the Obama recession, it has been anything but rapid and dramatic. In fact there has been some recovery, but as Merline says:
This time around, unemployment is stuck at 9.6 percent, consumer confidence is at a depressing 53.5, and economic growth since the recession ended has averaged a comparatively paltry 3 percent.
The fact that President Ronald Reagan pursued a very different policy course -- one focused on across-the-board tax cuts, spending restraint and deregulation -- will only fuel questions about whether Obama's economic policies are helping or hurting this recovery.
I don't have questions about which policy was better. Merline's article is worth your time.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Powell Unsure About Afghanistan

The Associated Press reports that Colin Powell, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and former Secretary of State, isn't sure if our side is winning in Afghanistan - no kidding. The British couldn't subdue Afghanistan, the Russians couldn't do it either, now we think we can accomplish what they could not. Good luck.

Imagine a place where different parts of the country are controlled by tribes speaking different languages, tribes which obviously don't like and trust each other. Now imagine that virtually the only money-making crop in this place is the opium poppy. Add in a religion that is often violent and almost always intolerant of others.

Give the country porous borders with adjacent nations so trouble-makers can float back and forth. Finally give the country a neighbor whose intelligence service has a history of funding and supporting its violent religious radicals as a way of reducing the influence of another neighbor, India. Throw in corruption and brutality as cultural mainstays, and you have Afghanistan.

Iraq is almost a piece of cake, in comparison. Powell is unsure of victory? I would hope he is.

Travel Blogging

We just got home from three nights RV camping in the Tetons, at Colter Bay. We had wonderful Indian summer weather, warm days, cool nights, no rain, perfect in fact. I wouldn't be surprised if pix from this experience show up at, the other DrC's blog - she's our skilled photographer.

The leaves of the deciduous trees and shrubs are turning gold, some so bright you'd swear they have an internal light source. Jackson Lake is down a few feet, but not so much as to make the three marinas unworkable. We took several nice walks, including one we like very much to the point that encloses Colter Bay. The views from there across the lake toward Mount Moran are amazing.

We arrived on Thursday afternoon and the RV park was full, luckily we had reservations. When we left today the park was still full. We suppose the retired set go traveling after Labor Day when the folks with children have gone home. Also, the price drops after Labor Day which is another encouragement.

The economy is in the pits and yet the RV park is full of relatively expensive units that get poor mileage, most of which are hundreds of miles from home. One thing about being retired, unemployment isn't a threat to us, we're already there and loving it.

As I walked over to put our trash in the bear-proof dumpster this morning, I was within 20 feet of three deer. Yesterday afternoon driving to Jackson for one more famous Billy burger, we saw a herd of maybe 50 pronghorn, also known as antelope, and known by the Wyoming folks who hunt them as "goats."

Why "goats?" The best we can figure it's because killed and skinned out, pronghorn and goats look about the same. The animals certainly don't behave the same or look the same with their skins on, and I doubt that they taste the same.

We were camped in the trees so had no TV reception. Anticipating this, we'd brought along DVDs of movies we've enjoyed. Friday night we rewatched the first two movies in The Librarian series, a couple of action/comedy films. Saturday night we rewatched the two Men in Black films, which are also a mix of comedy and action. Another thing we sometimes watch in the RV is episodes of the TV space western Firefly, or the film Serenity which features the same characters.

We 'discovered' a semi-hidden facility maintained jointly by the University of Wyoming and the National Park Service. It's down a one-lane road to the north of Leek's Marina. Talk about a gorgeous setting, and very out-of-the-way, too. It reminds me of the Caribou facility that Pacific Gas & Electric maintains up a canyon north of the Feather River Highway, CA 70. What a great place to hold a retreat.

Missing the Point Twice

Here is an article in The Daily Beast which dumps on House Republican deputy leader Eric Cantor, saying all he is good with is money. That is like dumping on a surgeon by saying all he is good with is that his patients get well, that he lacks bed-side manner.

Politics is about two things: charisma and money. To win big you need both. If Cantor is a reliable supplier of money, then people he helps only need charisma. If you don't think that makes him extraordinarily important, you really haven't a clue about politics.

If he lacks bed-side manner (charisma), he probably won't be president. So be it. On the other hand, he could certainly become Speaker of the House when John Boehner moves on. Speaker is no small job, as people like Tip O'Neill and Sam Rayburn have demonstrated.

My second problem with the article is that it begins with this snarky, and possibly anti-Semitic, comment:
What do you need to know about the man who would be King Lite besides the brandished fact that he is the only Jewish Republican in the solar system?
That comment is just plain silly. Roughly half of the well-known neo-con Republicans are Jewish; people like David Brooks and William Kristol, to name only two of many very public figures.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Mao History's Greatest Killer

It has long been suspected that China's Mao Zedong, aka Chairman Mao, was the greatest mass murderer in modern history. The mechanisms he used were the Great Leap Forward and Red Guard movements. Now it would appear that proof has been assembled.

Frank Dikotter, a historian who teaches at the University of Hong Kong has studied the period and reached these conclusions. The work appears in his new book entitled:
Mao's Great Famine; The Story of China's Most Devastating Catastrophe.

My source is this
article in The Independent, a U.K. newspaper. Speaking of the period from 1958 to 1962, the article summarizes Dikotter's findings:
At least 45 million people were worked, starved or beaten to death in China over these four years.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Brooks: Tea Party No Problem

Liberal pundits in the MSM are an anvil chorus singing in unison that the Tea Party will be the death of the GOP. Quasi-conservative pundit David Brooks, writing for The New York Times, says that is nonsense.

Brooks says there may be long-term damage, but right now, for the NOvember election, the experts he's contacted see no evidence at all of the Tea Party dragging the Republicans down.

I think the evidence is clear that the general election coming up in less than 2 months is a referendum on the Democrats, who for the last two years have controlled both houses of Congress and the Presidency. Voters who like what Democrats have been doing will vote for them and the rest will vote for Republicans.

With the economy in the toilet, and the government seemingly helpless to do anything about it, a lot of people will vote Republican. If in January both houses of Congress switch to Republican majorities and 2 years from now the economy still sucks, expect people to vote for Democrats.

As James Carville was famous for saying, "It's the economy, stupid." This isn't rocket science.

Memo to Mortgage Lenders

The Pew Research Center has polling data which shows that Democrats are nearly twice as likely as Republicans to think walking away from a mortgage is okay. Specifically, 11% of Republicans and 23% of Democrats think this practice of not paying a voluntarily contracted financial obligation is acceptable.

Most other factors Pew checked didn't show much difference between groups. Party registration is publicly available information, not a secret. If I were making mortgage loans, I'd check party registration as one of the factors I'd consider in deciding to make a loan.

Political Humor Alert

Mitt Romney, entirely out of character, in a speech reported by Mark Ambinder in The Atlantic:
Welcome to the Nancy Pelosi-Harry Reid-President Obama farewell party. This has been a pretty tough year for those three--their numbers have gone down the chute faster than a Jet Blue flight attendant.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Noonan Attends a Tea Party

The Wall Street Journal's Peggy Noonan, a former presidential speech-writer and more or less conservative pundit, does some serious thinking about the Tea Party movement. I enjoyed the column, without agreeing with it 100%. Here is my favorite line:
So far, the Tea Party is not a wing of the GOP but a critique of it.
Ms. Noonan sees the Tea Party as an attack by conservatives on the RINOs who have constituted much of the Republican establishment. That much I agree with. See what you think.

What Else Would You Expect?

Pope Benedict XVI visits Britain and apologizes for sexual abuse of children by priests, story here in The Washington Post. People are shocked, shocked that this abuse happens.

What else would you expect? Set up a selection criteria for priests that says you will not marry. Further, arrange society so priests cannot have mistresses as many once did. In other words, eliminate from selection most heterosexual men.

Now, who will be attracted to the priesthood, who remains? Men who do not desire to marry or have sex with adult women generally. This includes homosexuals, auto-erotics, pedophiles, and some few for whom sex isn't important.

I once worked with two former priests who had believed they were in that last category, but discovered they were not. One married a nun and the other married a United Airlines stewardess.

No harm done, I guess, except the Church invested large sums in training them to be priests only to have them leave. Is this an argument for the Church changing it rule about priestly celibacy? I suppose it is a very practical argument, one not grounded in dogma. The heterosexuals leave and it is obvious what remains.

One in Seven in Poverty

One person in seven is in poverty and yet the Democrats spent last year messing about with health care reform. My source for the statistic is this Associated Press story from Yahoo News, citing Census Bureau figures.

How tone-deaf can people be? Democrats don't deserve to run things for the next two years. We know what needs to be done in NOvember, don't we?

Asking the Right Question

The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press does polling, and they've asked an interesting question: "Do you enjoy keeping up with the news?" Then they've looked at the answers over time and by political affiliation. Find their research report here (scroll down); Pew summarizes the findings as follows:
Today, conservative Republicans enjoy keeping up with the news more than any other ideological and partisan group; just two years ago it was the liberal Democrats who held that distinction.
I'm not the only one who thinks this finding can be a significant predictor of the outcome in NOvember. A hat tip goes to Michael Barone of RealClearPolitics for describing the poll.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Truth Not Always Wise

Cardinal Walter Kasper, a key aide to Pope Benedict, has gotten in trouble for undiplomatically telling the truth. According to this Daily Mail article, Kasper told a German magazine:
When you land at Heathrow you think at times you have landed in a Third World country.
Um, yes, Heathrow actually does look that way, mostly because people from all over the world come to London. Dulles and Frankfurt look much the same. Apparently this is one of those things you can see but must not speak about.

Increasing Income Inequality - Why?

Last Friday I wrote about a series of articles by Timothy Noah in Slate on the topic of increasing income inequality. He has continued the series and here is a link to the next-to-last article, in which Noah tells us what he's learned and to what causes he attributes the increasing inequality.

For those of you too lazy to read his ten eminently readable articles, I will summarize Noah's findings. He believes 30 percent of the cause can be attributed to failures in our education system and another 30 percent to overpaying CEOs and investment stars. The decline of unions contributes 20 percent, and outsourcing another 10 percent. Tax policy contributes 5 percent and immigration the final 5 percent. If you've been keeping track, that totals 100%. These are estimates, you understand, not precise measurements.

Now that we know, or think we know, what has caused income inequality to increase, the question becomes what, if anything, should we do about it? I recommend the entire series of articles to you, with the caveat that they will take some considerable time to read.

A Nation on the Dole

The Wall Street Journal has a front page article that is truly depressing if you care about our American nation. Author Sara Murray reports some ugly statistics. Here are two:
  • Nearly half of all Americans live in a household in which someone receives government benefits, more than at any time in history.
  • The fraction of American households not paying federal income taxes has also grown—to an estimated 45% in 2010.
According to Murray, this is not a new phenomenon:
The trend toward more Americans receiving government benefits of one sort or another has continued for more than 70 years—and shows no sign of abating.
In other words, it dates back to the days of FDR - no surprise.

Quote of the Day

Sharron Angle speaking of her opponent, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, in a campaign ad reported by CBS News:
He is the best friend an illegal alien ever had.
Perhaps a slight exaggeration, but Reid is right up there on the BFF list with George W. Bush, Barack Obama and John McCain.

Fenty Out, Rhee Available

Yesterday, Washington, D.C. mayor Adrian Fenty lost his bid for renomination, in spite of getting good things done for the District. The consensus of the pundit class is that he lost because people didn't like his personality; his opponent was seen as a nicer person.

Michelle Rhee, Fenty's supercharged Superintendent of Schools, may not have a job under the new administration, and may not want to stay if asked to do so. The new guy, Vincent Gray, has spoken at length in opposition to her tough school reforms, reforms which were a centerpiece of the Fenty program.

If I were a mayor of a big city with failing inner city schools, I'd sure be giving her a call. Hiring Michelle Rhee to superintend your city's schools is a guaranteed way for a mayor to become a national figure, the media love her.

On the other hand, wherever she goes she will both terrify and energize the teachers' union. A mayor who hired her would need to be sufficiently secure in his/her job to handle their frenzied opposition.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Earth Is Indifferent

George Will has read an essay in The American Scholar quarterly by Robert B. Laughlin, a Nobel Prize winning physicist, and has written a fine column for Newsweek summarizing Laughlin's conclusions. The cover of that issue of American Scholar carries this snide lead: "The Earth Doesn't Care If You Drive a Hybrid."

The entire column is definitely worth reading. Here is Will echoing Laughlin's conclusion, a conclusion which we at COTTonLINE also endorse:
Climate change over geologic time is, Laughlin says, something the earth has done “on its own without asking anyone’s permission or explaining itself.” (snip) Six million years ago the Mediterranean dried up. Ninety million years ago there were alligators in the Arctic. Three hundred million years ago Northern Europe was a desert and coal formed in Antarctica. “One thing we know for sure,” Laughlin says about these convulsions, “is that people weren’t involved.”
It is extreme hubris to believe we hold the fate of the planet in our hands. Humans have less influence on Gaia than a flea has on an elephant.

Monday, September 13, 2010

California Needs Cuba's Answer

Raul Castro's Cuba has announced the layoff of half a million government workers, as reported in this Wall Street Journal article. WSJ quotes the Cuban Workers Federation as saying: "Our state can't keep maintaining...bloated payrolls," The Journal adds: "More than 85% of Cuba's 5.5 million workers are employed by the state."

It is clear that the Cuban government wants substantially more Cubans to work in the private sector. Now if California could only figure out it needs a dose of the same "medicine." Reducing CA state employment by 10% would go a long ways toward balancing the state budget.

Spengler: Asymmetrical Warfare

David P. Goldman, who writes as Spengler for the Asia Times, has a fascinating take on the Koran-burning threat that just happened; he calls it asymmetrical warfare. He says:
L'Affaire Jones demonstrated that a madman carrying a match and a copy of the Koran can do more damage to the Muslim world than a busload of suicide bombers. (snip) Instead of trying to stabilize the Islamic world, suppose - just for the sake of argument - that one or two world powers set out to throw it into chaos. (snip) Weapons are there to be used, and theological weapons may turn out to be some of the nastiest means of war-fighting at hand.
Spengler is one of the most Machiavellian commentators on today's scene. Hat tip to for the link to Spengler.

Pakistan in Peril

An article in Hong Kong's Asia Times brings together a number of recent instances in which Pakistan would appear to be very badly governed. These could be easy to shrug off as typical of third world countries, except...if Pakistan fails or falls into civil war, our effort in Afghanistan clearly becomes pointless, if it isn't already.

The article shows that Pakistan has no national cohesion; it is rather a collection of tribes whose only unifying principles are Islam and fear of India.

Gallup: Public Hates What Congress Did

A new Gallup poll shows that, of the major "accomplishments" of Congress in the last two years, only one gains majority support: financial reform. All of the others draw majority disapproval.

Talk about "tugging on Superman's cape and spitting into the wind," Congress has sure done it. The only reason financial reform gained the support of 61% of those polled is because a significant number of Republicans and Independents approved of it.

What were the big bills that drew majority disapproval? They were the following: economic stimulus, aid to GM and Chrysler, health care reform, and bank bailouts.

A Long Slog

Folks are calling this the Great Recession, perhaps they're right. Gjerstad and Smith have a short article for The Wall Street Journal that makes an interesting point about our current downturn.

Looking at all recessions since World War II, their research shows that the economy doesn't recover until the housing market recovers. Unfortunately, they see no signs of this happening soon. Speaking of the current situation, they conclude:
This is the slowest rebound in residential construction in any sustained recovery from a postwar recession. No currently debated policy will likely change this situation, as the market is saturated with foreclosed houses and homeowners suffer from $771 billion in negative equity. This fact needs to be confronted: We are almost surely in for a long slog.
On the other hand, it has to be a great time to buy a house.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Catnip for Elephants

For my readers who are Republicans, I have a link to an article that says NOvember will be a slam dunk for the GOP. Dick Morris, writing for RealClearPolitics, says the Republicans will sweep the board, kick serious butt, and pretty nearly win everything in sight. Morris says:
In state after state, the races that were once marginal are now solidly Republican, those that were possible takeaways are now likely GOP wins and the impossible seats are now fully in play.
Morris isn't known for being circumspect, for being cautious. Rather he leads with his chin and, sometimes, misses badly. On the other hand, he does know politics and has a long history in the business.

I don't know if Morris has it right, but as a Republican, you'll certainly enjoy this column.

Quote of the Day

Jay Nordlinger makes a snarky comment in National Review Online about BBC Director General Mark Thompson's admission that 30 years ago the Beeb was left-wing:
Now, if Thompson could get the BBC’s Middle East coverage to be as fair as, say, al-Jazeera’s, that would be icing on the cake.
Nordlinger cites an expert of his acquaintance to the effect that al Jazeera actually is more fair than the BBC. That is either funny or damned sad, take your pick.

Gerson Demythologizes

Michael Gerson, columnist for The Washington Post, takes a sobering look at President Obama:
Obama's initiatives (snip) are not only unpopular; they have made it impossible for him to maintain the pretense of being a unifying, healing, once-in-a-generation leader. It is the agenda that undermined the idiom. With that image stripped away, Americans found Obama to be a somber, thoughtful, touchy, professorial, conventionally liberal political figure.
That "somber, thoughtful, touchy, professorial, conventionally liberal" thing didn't work for President Woodrow Wilson, either.

Good Luck Soaking the Rich

As the title of this post suggests, I am very dubious about the success of government attempts to raise the tax rates on the rich. Let me quickly add that I am not rich.

To be sure the government can raise the tax rate on the rich. The real question is whether the government will collect more money from the rich by doing so. I believe our prior experience with such rates shows we will collect little more.

The rich will do all sorts of things to keep from giving money to the government. They can afford the best tax experts and advisors, are in a position to receive income via capital gains instead of salary, can move resources overseas, take advantage of tax shelters - you get the idea.

Furthermore, the President and his minions know all of this. Keeping the higher tax rate on "the rich" is theater, is playing to the class war audience.

Paradoxically, often times more revenue will be collected by lowering tax rates as lower rates encourage the receipt of income as fully taxable salary and encourage entrepreneurial activity.

China in the Crosshairs

Gordon Chang writes a weekly column for Forbes, his current column is entitled "China Hits a Great Wall." Does that sound like he takes a dim view of China's future? He does, very dim.

Chang says that Japan will overtake China, regain its position as the world's second largest economy, and will do it in the next few years. I understand he feels China will stumble, but I think his view of Japan is too rosy.

He also expects China to experience a series of large scale environmental disasters - floods, droughts, earthquakes - causing mass internal population movements. Finally, he expects the results of the one child policy to catch up with China at the same time that urban Chinese women have many fewer children.

Chang expects to see all of this within the next ten years. We won't have to wait long to learn if he's correct. I think one of the most interesting bits of news out of China recently has been outbreaks of labor trouble at manufacturing facilities, an issue he doesn't even mention.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Quote of the Day

Bernie Quigley, writing in The Hill Pundit Blog about the President and the 9/11 anniversary:
President Obama (snip) will not remember 9/11 well this weekend, and it will mar his presidency. He will be at the wrong place at the wrong time. He will make it feel that in some insidious way it was somehow our fault, as so much seems to be our fault now.
Probably because, in the mind of this President, Americans are thought of as "they," not "we."

Remember the Fallen

Today is the ninth anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the Flight 93 aborted attack on the White House, a plane which brave passengers caused to crash in Pennsylvania. Let's take a moment to remember the fallen, to remember who is the enemy.

9-11 was not the beginning of the Long War, but it was the point at which most Americans realized we were in that war. Have we reached what Churchill called "the end of the beginning?" I cannot say, perhaps we have. All I can say for sure is that we still have a long way to go before it ends, in victory I hope.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Increasing Income Inequality

Timothy Noah is writing an interesting series of articles for online magazine Slate. His topic is the increasing income inequality in the United States.

As of this writing, Noah has posted five long columns on the topic, with more to come. You can find the first column here, links to subsequent columns appear on the first column. Be sure to check out his slide show of data tables with explanations, they are good.

As you might suspect, party politics are one of the explanatory variables considered. Inequality has increased more under Republican presidents than under Democrat presidents. I suspect Republicans, whether affluent or not, are substantially more comfortable with income inequality.

Tax Cheats

A large number of federal employees owe money to the Internal Revenue Service, one estimate places the amount owed at $1 billion. And 41 White House employees owe the IRS some $831,000. It should be noted that this amount isn't very different from the last year of the Bush administration, although obviously the people are largely different.

The IRS is a part of the Department of Treasury, in which department 1204 individuals owe the government $7,670,814. The list goes on and on. The original article is from The Washington Post and is by T. W. Farnam. A follow-on article in the Los Angeles Times by Andrew Malcolm is also good.

Quote of the Day

Brandon Greife, writing for The Daily Caller:
Albert Einstein once said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” By that definition, President Obama has gone insane.

Anti-colonial and Expatriate Values

Many have puzzled over where Barack Obama got his values and why he is difficult to understand. Peggy Noonan wrote an interesting Wall Street Journal column we cited on August 28, saying Americans just don't "get" the President.

Now two writers of note have tackled this question. Dinesh D'Souza has written an excellent article for Forbes in which he demonstrates how the future president spent his youth in places where anti-colonialism was the prevailing ethos. He says of Obama:
Here is a man who spent his formative years--the first 17 years of his life--off the American mainland, in Hawaii, Indonesia and Pakistan, with multiple subsequent journeys to Africa.
D'Souza spent his own youth in Mumbai (aka Bombay) and knows whereof he speaks. He also makes much of the fact that one of BHO's autobiographical books is entitled Dreams from My Father, instead of Dreams of My Father. This strongly suggests that his Muslim African father was a source of his inspiration and values.

The other article, which makes favorable reference to the D'Souza piece, is by Thomas Lifson, editor of American Thinker. Lifson writes of the Indonesian expatriate experience of Obama (then Barry Soetoro) whose family were treated as inferiors by the highly subsidized (white) expatriate Mobil Oil executive families, the firm for which his stepfather worked as a low-paid local.

Lifson had a related experience in post-war Japan and shares with us what that may have felt like to young Barack. Lifson entitles his article "The Grudge," which give you an idea of how it felt to him. We know Obama left Indonesia and went to live with his grandparents.

In Noonan's parlance, we may not "get" Obama because our formative years were very different than his. As we try to get a handle on what is a Barack Obama, people who have had expatriate or cross-cultural experiences may turn out to have more empathy with, and be better able to explain, our President.

No Kidding

Do you remember being told the health care reform legislation would lower health care costs? Do you remember being skeptical about those claims? Of course you do.

Now here is the evidence that the bill will raise, not lower costs. We aren't surprised, but we are further irritated at being lied to again. You can see The Atlantic Wire article reprinted here on Yahoo News.

How to Think About Polls

Yahoo News has an article from The Week that purports to tell you all you need to know about understanding polls. While a bit oversold, it does give good information. One bit of wisdom the article imparts that I'll share with you:
Elections aren't between parties; they're between candidates.
In other words, be careful with so-called "generic ballot" polls. In most elections incumbents win. Let's look at why.

If you ask people about the public schools, they'll tell you they are awful. Whereas, if you ask them about their own public school, they'll say it is great.

A generic political poll can be like that. This year you might have people telling pollsters that nationally the Democrats are awful, but thinking the one who represents my district is okay.

The real question is will this be like "most elections" or will it be a wave? In a wave, incumbents often lose. NOvember begins to look like a wave.


This article has the normal MSM bias, for example when it says:
Real-life Republicans are less appealing that [sic] "generic" ones.
Question: why wouldn't this be as true of Democrats as it is of Republicans? Because the biased anonymous author finds Democrats live up to their "generic" billing?
Answer: real-life anythings are less appealing than "generic" ones.
One reason: most politicians are attorneys.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Cruises Not All Sunshine

This article from Sky News Online reminds me of colorful experiences the other DrC and I have had when cruising the seas. Most of the time cruising is like being in a nice hotel that miraculously moves you from port to port. Most of the time. Then there are the other times.

Once we were bound for the western Caribbean out of Baltimore on the Grandeur of the Seas. When we turned south around Cape Hatteras we ran into 30 ft. waves that gave us an experience not unlike what the P&O ship in the article had off New Zealand. Close to a hundred bottles of liquor fell on the floor and broke, furniture slid and tumbled, and the buffet was closed as they couldn't keep food in the steam trays. Literally thousands of dishes broke.

The other DrC and I were some of the few passengers who weren't seasick, and we didn't do much eating. The Captain slowed down to maybe half normal speed, and we ran so late we had to blow off a port call in Miami. Twenty-four hours later you'd have never known it happened and the rest of the cruise was fine.

Another time, around Cape Horn on the Norwegian Crown, the seas were so rough they had to tie closed the doors to the promenade deck. And on a crossing of the Drake Passage to Antarctica in the MS Andrea I looked out our cabin's porthole and saw not foam, but green water - either the waves were that high or we'd rolled over that far, I was never sure. The Drake Passage isn't for sissies.

You might think the Mediterranean, being enclosed, would be smooth sailing. Most of the time you'd be right. However they get so-called "rogue waves" off the eastern coast of Spain and off the western coast of Italy. Some of these are dangerous. We boarded the Grand Princess in Civitavecchia and the night before she'd run into a couple of "rogue" waves that had, among other things, broken windows 7-8 stories above the waterline. She'd also lost power and sat dead in the water for a half hour before getting underway.

Here's a little known cruising fact. The first day out of San Pedro, the port of Los Angeles, the water is usually rough, whether you're cruising south to the Mexican Riviera or west to Hawaii.

Cruising is wonderful, most of the time. Every now and then it gets more exciting than you'd like.

A Loose Cannon

Go see what a high level Chinese 'diplomat' had to say with a few too many drinks in him. The article is from the U.K. Daily Telegraph.

U.N. Undersecretary General for Economic and Social Affairs Sha Zukang isn't very diplomatic, either about his boss or about Americans. Probably both keep telling him what China should do, when he thinks China's got it right and should be telling us what to do.

Perhaps the Middle Kingdom can, among its 20% of the world's population, find someone better able to stifle his or her dislikes in social situations?

Not From Where I Sit

Forever ago, in a Brookings Institution government seminar I learned the following cynical adage: "where you stand depends on where you sit." Translation: "where you sit" means where you work or live and "where you stand" means where you stand on issues. Further translation: your stand on issues is likely to be shaped by what is good for you. People rarely hold beliefs in conflict to their own interests.

It turns out this is true of weather as well. I read a USA Today headline which said "This summer really was hotter than others." My reaction was "Nonsense." So I called up the article and saw it was only hotter in part of the country, not my part.

In fact, an examination of the article's excellent map shows that my northwestern part of the country was, as I thought, cooler than normal. Truly, the map shows that the only part of the country where you'd call the heat abnormal is east of the Mississippi River.

I recollect that Southern California had some record low daytime temperatures this summer, though the map doesn't reflect that. It looks like that headline writer lives in the southeast, doesn't it?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

North/South Instead of East/West

Columnist Anne Applebaum writes an interesting piece for Slate about the new Europe, where she finds the fiscally prudent North stands apart from the corrupt, spendthrift South. There are some holes in her analysis but it is an interesting thesis nevertheless.

I find it strange that she manages not to include Switzerland, Austria, the Netherlands and Belgium in her discussion. They are geographically North but Belgium, at least, is behaviorally ambiguous. It must be the French influence of Belgium's Walloon minority.

No Going Back

Democrats are trying to sell the idea that electing Republicans will take us back to the Bush years. It won't happen, Republicans aren't going back.

A whole lot of Republicans didn't much like Bush's so-called "compassionate" version of conservatism. Bush was into spending money on social programs and starting wars.

Listen to the Tea Party platform, it is fiscal conservatism: tax less, spend less, smaller government, period, full stop. Bush II was an aberration; I hear no GOP candidates defending him.

Climate Corrections

An article in The Register reports climate research by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and others. They have the following interesting findings:
The corrections for deformations of the Earth’s crust have a considerable effect on the amount of ice that is estimated to be melting each year. We have concluded that the Greenland and West Antarctica ice caps are melting at approximately half the speed originally predicted. (snip) The rest of Antarctica doesn't seem to be melting at all - indeed Antarctica as a whole is actually gaining ice area rather than losing it.
"Half the speed originally predicted." Maybe the sky isn't falling after all, Chicken Little.

Big Bird Surfeit

USA Today reports that the population of some "big birds" is getting out of hand. The species mentioned include the Canada goose, the black vulture, and the cormorant. There may be others.

Something I remember from my youth might be a solution. People were paid a small bounty for killing certain species; just about enough money to pay for their ammunition. The species I remember my cousins hunting for bounty was the magpie, which at the time Colorado found objectionable.

Geese, of course, are edible, even prized food in some cultures. Trap or shoot the geese and give the meat to homeless shelters, jails and prisons, and the like. Vultures and cormorants are likely to be inedible by humans, but might be usable in pet or stock food.

Today I see many more red tailed and other hawks than I did some decades ago. They don't seem to be a problem so far, mostly they keep down the rodent population. I wonder why there are more large birds now than formerly? The "Silent Spring" DDT theory has been debunked. The American Council on Science and Health reports:
A 1978 National Cancer Institute report concluded—after two years of testing on several different strains of cancer-prone mice and rats—that DDT was not carcinogenic. As for the DDT-caused eggshell thinning, it is unclear whether it did, in fact, occur and, if it did, whether the thinning was caused by DDT, by mercury, by PCBs, or by the effects of human encroachment. And as recently as 1998 researchers reported that thrush eggshells in Great Britain had been thinning at a steady rate 47 years before DDT hit the market; the researchers placed the blame on the early consequences of industrialization.
Maybe big birds are getting used to having us around, adapting to human-influenced environments? Stranger things have happened.