Sunday, October 31, 2010

WaPo: Chris Christie a Winner

Governor of New Jersey Chris Christie gets a substantially positive writeup in The Washington Post. He isn't popular with government employees, which I suspect he would view as a sign he's doing his job.

He has been willing to take on teachers unions and do the hard things to cut state spending. He could conceivably be a GOP presidential candidate in 2012.

Movie Review: Rambo IV

I saw the 2008 Rambo film on Friday, courtesy of my brother-in-law. He got it from Netflix. Rambo IV is a decent action film: lots of great special effects, gore, explosions, lots of weaponry fired, lots of ordinance expended. Not much acting, but that's to be expected.

Stallone portrays a seriously burned-out Vietnam vet who long ago went native. He runs an African Queen-style boat on a river in northern Thailand, a river that flows from Burma. Rambo gets hired, against his better judgment, to take a group of medical missionaries into eastern Burma. Then he gets hired to take a group of mercs to the same spot to attempt a rescue. Finally Rambo gets to rescue everybody who's still alive, many are not.

One thing I like about the film is that it is set in an area - Burma or Myanmar - where the government suppression of minority tribes portrayed in the film actually happens. I prefer films that are somewhat realistic, geopolitically.

Of course, the film shows this conflict entirely from the viewpoint of the tribes, the politically correct view. The Burmese believe they are dealing with secessionist rebels and the the anti-government tribes which support them.

Who's right? The tribes are the underdog, but the territory they occupy is legitimately part of Burma. You decide.

Divisive President

Democrats have to find someone to blame for Tuesday's debacle. President Obama will be their target-in-chief. The blame-shifting has already begun.

Patrick H. Caddell and Douglas E. Shoen are two well-known pollsters who describe themselves as "traditional liberal Democrats who believe in inclusion." They have an
article in The Washington Post that may be even more critical of Obama than the Dowd column cited below. They accuse him of behaving in an unpresidential manner, and of further dividing the country. These are probably fair criticisms.

Mo Dowd: The One Sucks

Maureen Dowd is the Ann Coulter of the left. In her New York Times column Dowd writes in a snarky way what hip people on the left are saying and thinking.

Normally, I'd be as likely to give you a link to one of her columns as I would to offer you a link to Das Kapital. Today isn't normal, dude, far from it.

In this column Mo Dowd dumps on Barack Obama about as bad as I've ever heard a Democrat do. Let me give you a couple of samples:
With his coalition and governing majority shattering around him, President Obama will have to summon political skills — starting Wednesday — that he has not yet shown he has.
As the president tries to ride the Tea Party tiger, let’s hope for this change: that he puts some audacity in his audacity.
If the lefty New York Times is publishing slams like this, from an icon of the left like Mo Dowd, Barack Obama is in real trouble. He could face a primary challenge in 2012.

What It All Means

If everything goes as expected on Tuesday the GOP will have a very good night, and the Democrats will not. And yet, the same polls that say folks will vote Republican say that voters don't like the Republicans much (if any) better than they like the Democrats.

Before we conservatives get carried away celebrating our big win, we need to remind ourselves what the win means. If the voters don't like us, and our policies, much better than they like them, and their policies, why did they vote for us? Answer: they did not vote for us; they voted against them. The big vote is not necessarily an endorsement of our values.

In a two-party system, the only effective way to punish one party is to vote for the other party. Our good fortune is a result of voters being really mad at the Democrats. So we may win a lot of House seats, several Senate seats, and quite a few down ballot seats because angry voters want to take them away from Democrats.

That means there is nothing keeping the electorate in 2012 from pivoting and voting just as strongly for the Democrats. If two years from now they are as disgusted with us as they now are with them, they will vote against us.

Two years ago pundits were writing that the GOP was dead, now we're doing great. Two years from now we could be dead again. As President Obama is discovering, winning a lot of votes doesn't equal a mandate for ones program. It turns out his program isn't popular.

Obama was the beneficiary of a lot of votes against President Bush. We may now be beneficiaries of a lot of votes against President Obama. Between now and 2012 we'd better figure out what the electorate wants done and be seen to be working hard toward those goals.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Quote of the Day

Political pundit Charlie Cook, writing for National Journal about patterns in the last few elections, including the one happening next week:
On Tuesday, for the third consecutive election cycle, voters will behave violently, venting their wrath on Democrats just as they punished Republicans not so long ago. There’s no reason to think that this violent conduct is behind us.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

VDH: Political Correctness on Steroids

Historian Victor Davis Hanson who writes for the National Review Online, has a very good piece about all the stuff we've taught ourselves not to say in public, although we know it to be true. It's sad we cannot talk about issues facing the society.

His list is longer than you might think. It includes: race, Islam, illegal immigration, entitlements, the deficit, global warming, gender orientation, and out-of-control universities. Mull it over and by this time tomorrow I suspect you could add another half dozen items to the list.

Broder Is Not Amused

The Washington Post's David Broder, writing for RealClearPolitics, says our current Congress, and the one about to be elected, are groups of intellectual midgets. Broder concludes:
What is true of the economic debate is equally the case when it comes to other issues. Neither party regularly presents compelling spokesmen making articulate arguments.
Broder might be right, he has studied politics for decades. His column is worth reading. Could this be the time a third party might succeed?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Cheerleader Gene

Maybe the poor, sad SOBs can't help being liberal. It's genetic. Scientists at Harvard University and the University of California, San Diego, have determined that having a particular dopamine receptor gene called DRD4 is associated with being politically liberal, if you had a lot of friends as an adolescent.

It is the combination of this gene and the teen age social behavior that together tend to be predictive of a liberal political orientation. Go here to see an article reporting the findings on the website of NBC San Diego.

It is elsewhere widely observed that many individuals become more conservative as they age, yet we can be sure that this gene doesn't change. Is this gene a marker of lifelong liberals or of youthful liberals who turn neo-con? The article doesn't say.

Kirchner Dies, Markets Rise

Former Argentine President Nestor Kirchner has died at age 60, of a heart attack. Bloomberg reports:
Argentina stocks rose the most in two years in New York trading as some investors speculated the death of former President Nestor Kirchner will lead to a more-stable economy and reduced government spending.
His wife Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner continues as President, with his same policies, making the markets' moves somewhat puzzling. Perhaps the theory is that, until his death, she was simply his puppet and now has no puppet-master to pull her strings. Time will tell.

Texas vs. California, Part 2

Here is a link to an editorial in The Wall Street Journal that looks at the Texas versus California comparisons from the Journal's conservative perspective. Any way you slice it, if you were looking to site a factory you'd probably put it in Texas or a state with a Texas-like business climate.

Texas home prices are quite low by national standards. A month ago a friend of the other DrC bought a nice, little 3 bedroom, 2 bath home with a large backyard in a decent neighborhood of a small Texas city for less than $70,000.

Add to low home prices the absence of state income taxes. Put these two together and a firm can pay its Texas workers substantially less gross salary than would be required to sustain the same standard of living in California, New York, or Massachusetts.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Harris: Worst Poll Results

Another pollster is heard from and the results are worse for Democrats. A Harris Interactive poll, done quite recently, finds some amazing numbers when asking what kind of job President Obama is doing:
It's perhaps not surprising that nine in ten Republicans (90%) and Conservatives (89%) give the job the president is doing negative ratings. What may be surprising is that one-third of Democrats (34%) and Liberals (33%) also give him negative ratings, as do seven in ten Independents (70%) and six in ten Moderates (60%).
When one third of your own people think you have screwed up, you're in a heap of hurt. But the much more significant figure is that most of the Independents and Moderates think you've blown it. They are the ones who are willing to vote for Republican members of Congress, governors, state legislators, etc.

Another Harris finding that makes my head spin is that four-fifths of Democrats disapprove of the job being done by the Democrat-controlled Congress. If this was Japan, Nancy and Harry would be expected to fall on their swords.

A Caveat

If the Republicans don't do very well in the House races, as predicted below by Charlie Cook and by pollsters and pundits of every stripe, this election will go down in history as the election where the predictors really blew it big time. Everybody is forecasting a GOP "wave" pretty much overwhelming the Dems wherever possible. If it doesn't turn out that way our polling/predicting mechanisms will need a thorough overhaul.

Even if the predicted wave does roll ashore, I think telephone pollsters need to start calling cell phone users if they want to claim to have a look at the entire population. Many young people have no land line phone now and maybe never will. As they age they will become likely voters and need to be included in the population surveyed.

I'd like to see an article explaining why pollsters don't call cell phone users. I suspect it has something to do with not being able to pin down where the owners live and thereby make an educated guess at race and socio-economic status - factors upon which pollsters like to stratify their samples.

Cook's Look

Take a look at Charlie Cook's most recent analysis of the political horse race, as published in the National Journal. He believes the GOP really kicks butt in the House races, but figures they come up just short in the Senate.

If you are a betting person, you can do worse than bet the Charlie Cook line. I think his "whys" concerning the Senate race outcomes make considerable sense.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Texas vs. California

Texas is gaining jobs, California is losing jobs. The issue is business climate, Texas has a good business climate, California's business climate stinks. Texas wants jobs, and makes an effort to get them. California acts like employers are the enemy, and employers don't love that.

I've lived in both states. In many ways, California has more to offer: better scenery, better climate, more variety, more recreational possibilities. Texas has more room, nicer people, and fewer earthquakes. Both were briefly independent nations, Texas treasures this memory more than California does.

Texas has no state income tax and licensing vehicles is much cheaper there. Every girl wants to be a cheerleader and high school football is almost a Texas religion. Generalities like this about California are much harder to come by. Both states have vast, complicated systems of public higher education. I've worked in both.

Because of jobs, Texas is rapidly gaining population. California is losing people slowly and would be losing rapidly if it weren't for the inflows of immigrants from other countries. Government seems to work in Texas, seems not to work well in California. Go here to see a New York Times article about these issues, as viewed from the left.

They Call It "Inside Baseball"

When politics wonks get technical, they call what they're doing "inside baseball." By this they mean details the importance of which are not apparent to the casual observer.

What follows is for would-be politics wonks. The importance of a big GOP win on November 2 goes beyond simply getting control of the House of Representatives and quite a few state houses. Because this midterm election coincides with a Census year, there will be redistricting in a number of states, reflecting population shifts within the nation during the last decade.

We speak, of course, of gerrymandering. Political parties that control states where congressional seats are lost or added have undue influence on how new districts are drawn. They can craft electoral districts which will influence legislative political outcomes in their favor for the next decade. Here is an Associated Press article from Yahoo News that considers these issues.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Barone on Juan W.

See what Michael Barone finds to be the underlying reason for the firing of Juan Williams by NPR. Barone's article appears in The Washington Examiner:
Many NPR listeners apparently could not stomach that Williams also appeared on Fox News. But it doesn’t seem that any perceptible number of Fox News viewers had any complaints that Williams also worked for NPR. The Fox audience seems to be more tolerant of diversity than the NPR audience.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

CA Should Vote Blue

As regular readers know, I'm a native of California who now calls Wyoming home. Nevertheless, I maintain an interest in CA, including in its politics. As a conservative, I should be rooting for eBay CEO Meg Whitman to win the governorship. That's where my heart is, but my head says CA should vote for that old fool Moonbeam Brown.

As Desi would say to Lucy, "you got some 'splainin' to do." I agree, here goes. The districting structure of CA is so gerrymandered that it is extremely unlikely to elect a Republican majority at any time in the foreseeable future. Whoever is governor will work with a Democratic majority.

A Dem majority will be inclined to "blow off" a GOP governor, less likely to do so for one of their own party. Like it or not, a Dem governor will have a better chance of working out a solution to California's structural problems than one from the GOP. CA needs a solution, as what they've got now doesn't work.

BTW, the above reasoning does not apply to who CA elects for senator. I hope they go for Fiorina.

Quote of the Day

David Paul Kuhn, writing for USA Today, about the phenomenon that is Delaware senate candidate Christine O'Donnell:
In fact, she was never competitive. She's a sideshow. Brain candy, like gossip magazines. Let's just not call her news.
O'Donnell seems to be making a career out of being famous, like a Paris Hilton on the right.

Political Humor Alert

Humorist P. J. O'Rourke, writing for The Weekly Standard, about the upcoming election:
This is not an election on November 2. This is a restraining order. Power has been trapped, abused and exploited by Democrats. Go to the ballot box and put an end to this abusive relationship. And let’s not hear any nonsense about letting the Democrats off if they promise to get counseling.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Now They Work for Us

Go see a political ad that has as much impact as the Apple 1984 ad. You can play it here on a website of the New York magazine. In fact it has very much the same feeling as that historic Apple ad.

The ad's content: A Chinese professor in the year 2030 telling his students, in Mandarin, why the great American empire fell, for the same reasons the Roman, British, etc. empires did. The real hook is when he says "now they work for us" and his students all laugh.

The ad features subtitles in English; interesting that laughter requires no translation, isn't it?

Breitbart (hearts) WaPo

Andrew Breitbart, virtual emperor of alternate media, writes an article for his Big Government website saying very nice things about the Washington Post's reporting on the New Black Panthers story. Admitting that it took them months to finally get around to printing it, he gives them credit for digging out sources within the Department of Justice that nobody else could get.

WaPo reports that the DOJ is only interested in voting rights cases when the perps are white and the victims are not. A white victim of a non-white perp had better forget about equal treatment under the law; with Obama-appointed Attorney General, Eric H. Holder, Jr., it ain't gonna happen.

Can you say "reverse Jim Crow?"

Quote of the Day

The Wall Street Journal's Peggy Noonan wraps up what the election eleven days from now is all about:
This election is about one man, Barack Obama, who fairly or not represents the following: the status quo, Washington, leftism, Nancy Pelosi, Fannie and Freddie, and deficits in trillions, not billions. Everyone who votes is going to be pretty much voting yay or nay on all of that.
Much of this column is a defense of the Tea Party activists and their positive influence on the GOP.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Whose Fault Is It?

RealClearPolitics' David Paul Kuhn has written a must read about the Democrats blaming us voters for turning our collective backs on them. Somebody loan the Democrats a mirror so they can see the problem looking back at them.

Politicians presume we accept their priorities when they earn our votes. Maybe not. Often, our votes for politicians reflect (a) our dissatisfaction with their predecessor's ability/willingness to follow our agenda or (b) our sense that, on election day, their campaign slogans are closer to our agenda of the moment than their opponents' campaign slogans.

The inconvenient thing about representative government is that the elected are expected to actually represent the voters. The "represent" requirement is uncomfortable for ideologues of whatever stripe. Their ideology tells them what they should be doing and the voters often have another, perhaps shifting set of priorities.

Over the last two years the Democrats' sin was hubris, arrogance. Democrats believed they knew what was good for us instead of presuming we voters knew what was good for us. Unfortunately for them, we were paying attention to what they were doing, supposedly on our behalf. And we didn't like it. This election will reflect that dislike.

Here at COTTonLINE we have written on several occasions that successful governing in a republic isn't difficult. It consists of determining, using polling, what the public wants and getting it done. To be successful politicians, those who govern need to be seen to have accomplished the public's goals. If they manage to accomplish some of their own goals along the way without irritating the public, fine.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Morris: The New Right

Writing for RealClearPolitics, political pundit Dick Morris reminds us of something we should already know - conservatism in the year 2010 is mostly fiscal conservatism. He says social issues and defense issues are still out there, but the real muscle on the right is among people who believe the government is overtaxing, overborrowing, overpromising and overspending. In other words, much too big and trying hard to get bigger.

Deemphasizing social issues makes conservatism more palatable to women, libertarians and folks who aren't seriously religious. It enables conservatism to spread beyond the South, something that I expect we are going to see a lot of in just thirteen days.

Quote of the Day

Steve Lombardo, writing for The Daily Caller, about the Obama administration's claim that their bad polls are a failure to market effectively:
Just about every underperforming administration — and this includes Republican administrations — blames voter disapproval on an inability to “sell” its agenda. They’re wrong almost every time.

Canada Getting It

On Sunday, October 17, we wrote about Angela Merkel's epiphany concerning multiculturalism. In that post we also wondered when Canada would catch on about the failure of their national experiment in multiculturalism.

In an article in The Globe and Mail, Canada's national newspaper, columnist Margaret Wente reflects on Chancellor Merkel saying what everybody in Germany already knows, that multiculturalism isn't working in Germany. Then Wente talks about Canada:
The history and composition of immigration in Canada are sharply different from the situation Germany. But our tipping point is arriving too. And once it does, there’s no turning back.
The same issues are beginning to emerge in the United States, with regard to our immigrant population.

A Plea for Voter Sanity

Albert Einstein, generally thought to be a bright guy, defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Put that together with results of a recent Gallup poll which finds only 21% of those polled were satisfied with the way things are going in the U.S. today. Most of the remaining 79% were dissatisfied, nearly four out of five.

Democrats control the Presidency, Senate and House of Representatives because they were elected. Four out of five voters are now dissatisfied with the way things are going. How many of the 79% do you suppose will vote Democratic on November 2?

Another way of phrasing that question is, how many of the 79% are insane? To have voted Democrats into office, to now be dissatisfied with the way things are going, and to reelect Democrats is what Einstein called insane behavior. It is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Unfair Play in Central America

The Washington Post, to its everlasting credit, has weighed in with an editorial condemning the unequal treatment governmental problems in Honduras and Nicaragua have received from other Latin American countries. Problems caused by leftists get ignored while problems caused by rightists bring down the collective wrath of Latin America.

The editorial does a nice job of laying out succinctly what has gone wrong in both countries, and how the other Latin countries responded to each. Very clearly Honduras, which has a strong but generally law-abiding rightist movement, is being treated as a pariah while the over-the-top misdeeds in Nicaragua, which has a leftist government, are being condemned by no one except the U.S.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Will North Korea Fall?

Foreign policy columnist Fareed Zakaria, writing for The Washington Post, asks us to contemplate the problematic sequelae from a collapse of the North Korean regime. Everybody who has looked at the possibility believes it will be much more traumatic than the merger of the two Germanys.

A major player in all this is China, which is clearly concerned about a flood of Korean refugees pouring across the northern border into China. China may also be concerned about the North's nukes in the hands of a unified Korea, sharing a border.

Palestinians Oppose Peace

Imagine you could survey many, many Arabic websites, chats, tweets, and the like concerning Palestinian attitudes toward the conflict with Israel and its perceived protector, the United States. You could determine the extent to which peace talks with Israel were or were not popular with the Palestinian people.

This article in The National Interest reports an effort to do exactly that. Six months ago the Foundation for Defense of Democracies engaged ConStrat to survey thousands of Arabic language posts in all manner of search engines, social media, YouTube, Twitter, social networks like Facebook, and RSS feeds. They did this for two months and here is what they found:
Our data showed that a majority of Palestinians do not support regional peace efforts. Palestinian internet users often derided diplomatic initiatives; discussion of peace talks was overwhelmingly negative.
I wouldn't be surprised if a majority of Israelis feel the same way. As we wrote a few weeks ago, the only reason peace talks are happening is because the U.S. wants them to happen.

Even the U.S. doesn't particularly want them to succeed, only to occur. I love the cynicism of engaging in a process one hopes will fail.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Movie Review: RED

The other DrC and I took in a film yesterday afternoon, a film that in an odd sort of way resembles the Men in Black films and in another way resembles a film called Sea Wolves. The film is RED, an acronym for Retired, Extremely Dangerous, and is based on a Marvel comic.

Okay, how does it resemble Men in Black? Like the MIB films, RED is both an action film and a comedy - call it a funny action film, or a violent comedy. Except there are no obvious aliens in RED.

How does it resemble Sea Wolves? Like that film, it is a vehicle created to give a group of older actors a chance to do something dashing and fun. Sea Wolves had David Niven, Roger Moore, Gregory Peck, Trevor Howard, and Patrick Macnee doing World War II stuff.

RED has Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Ernest Borgnine, and Richard Dreyfuss, plus a couple of talented younger people: Karl Urban and Mary-Louise Parker, doing modern black ops.

So, is it a great movie? No. Is it fun? Definitely. The old guys get to crack wise, play with some cool weapons, fire off a lot of ordinance and blow up some stuff too. Imagine Helen Mirren firing a Ma Deuce - that's some serious firepower. She does it and almost looks like she's having fun.

Are there holes in the plot? It is no tighter than an early years NCIS plot, which is to say, far from linear. However, it moves so fast you probably won't be offended by the holes. RED likely won't work for teens, but my readers aren't teens. If you liked MIB you'll like RED.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Declining Russian Life Expectancy

Life expectancy in Russia is moving downward, and has been doing so for some years now. Other developed countries have life expectancies that are rising. Here is an article from the American Enterprise Institute that takes a very serious look at this phenomenon, parses it in several different ways, and frankly doesn't come to any very satisfying conclusions.

I don't claim to be an epidemiological expert, but one possible cause the author doesn't really grapple with is the serious decline in "fatherland prestige," for lack of a better term, that occurred when the Soviet Union imploded. Russians went from being citizens of one of the world's two superpowers to being citizens of a much diminished state.

The remnant Russia had shed many of its SSR components (e.g., Latvia, Moldova, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Belarus, etc.). It also lost its role as leader of both the Warsaw Pact and of a worldwide Communist movement. That is a lot of prestige to forfeit at one time. It could cause widespread depression.

I wonder if something like this didn't happen to France when Napoleon was defeated, to Germany when Hitler was defeated, to the U.K. when they gave away the empire? Perhaps the data weren't collected at the time to enable us to answer those questions.

Ignoring Reality in Lebanon

Here is a sad article in Slate about the current state of affairs in Lebanon. The author believes the situation is not good. I won't try to summarize the article, except to suggest that Lebanon is like a bomb with a short fuse moving through an arena of lit matches, any one of which could set it off.

Whatever we hear about Lebanon seems to be from the perspective of this writer. I wonder how Lebanon looks to the Shiite members of Hezbollah? Possibly the view is relatively positive.

I wonder if the Hezbollah have figured out that if they twist the IDF's tail again the results are likely to be martyrdom for thousands? Who knows, maybe they're okay with that.

The Bloodlands

Timothy Snyder has written a book about the mass murder that happened in Eastern Europe before and during World War II, it is entitled "Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin." You can read a review of it by Matthew Kaminski that appeared in The Wall Street Journal.

In the West we hear a lot about the Holocaust and it is prominently featured here, as well as Stalin's purposeful starvation of millions of Ukrainians, his own kulaks, and the active murder of hundreds of thousands of Poles who lived in the Soviet Union. Then there was his murder of the entire officer corps of the Polish military, at Katyn.

Hitler and Stalin were ruthless autocrats whose response to the concept of "inconvenient people" was genocide. Pol Pot and Mao Zedong also grasped this awful idea. More recently the idea has resurfaced in Rwanda and the Sudan. It seems to be an idea that won't go away.

Income Inequality Revisited

The New York Times has an article reporting research on unhappy correlates of increasing income inequality. The three correlates mentioned in the article are increasing divorce rates, commute times, and bankruptcy filings, all of which were greater in counties with greater income inequality.

Let's suppose the research is well done and the findings are accurate, all of which may not be true. I suspect that the researchers went looking for social pathologies that correlated with income inequality, and if they found more than three they didn't list them here.

Let us imagine some other social pathologies for which they (apparently) found no positive correlation: crime rates, suicide rates, delinquency rates, school dropouts, house fires, injury accidents, termite infestations, outbreaks of head lice, etc.

Now let's ask the question, did they go looking for any correlations with social non-pathologies, with good outcomes? Or did they find that these same counties with greater income inequalities had negative correlations with any social pathologies, negative correlations they didn't report because they didn't support the model?

I suspect they had a model in mind, namely "income inequality => social pathology" and went looking for relationships that supported that model. That is what social scientists do, as I well know, having spent 30 years doing it myself.

Suppose you asked the reverse question - income inequality => desirable outcomes - could you find at least as many correlates there? For example, it is possible that unemployment rates are lower in such counties, lifespans are longer, home ownership is more widespread, etc.

Another question the article doesn't answer is whether the findings are correlational or done in such a way as to demonstrate causality. For example, does rising income inequality cause rising divorce rate or does rising divorce rate cause rising income inequality, or does some third, unknown factor cause both?

I think a reasonable argument can be made for rising divorce rates causing rising income inequality, rising bankruptcy rates, and rising commute times. Two people divorce, causing financial turmoil, often leading to greater income disparities, the formation of two households where one existed before, and increased commute times as both households are poorer and must live where housing is cheaper - farther from downtown.

The bottom line: read social research cautiously, particularly if the findings support your biases.

Quote of the Day

Democratic pollster Mark Mellman, quoted by Doyle McManus in the Los Angeles Times, on the topic of Obama's problems with getting his message out:
When you try to convince people that the economy is better than they think, their reaction is not to reevaluate the economy; it's to reevaluate you. It suggests that you're out of touch.
The "you" in that bit of wisdom is, of course, President Obama. Mellman is being kind to a fellow Democrat; the incongruous behavior he speaks of does more than "suggest." I believe the correct phrase is "demonstrates without question."

Quebec Separatism Not Dead

Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe had some interesting things to say to the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C. His main message was that the ethnic French majority in Quebec have not given up taking their province out of Canada and making it an independent, French-speaking nation.

For those of you who follow the happenings of our large, lightly populated neighbor to the north, this article in The Star is an interesting reminder that we cannot take Canada for granted. As we noted in the previous posting, multiculturalism hasn't worked in Canada either.

Multiculturalism Is a Failure

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has declared multiculturalism a failure in Germany. She has reemphasized the importance of immigrants learning German. There is also, in her speech, a sense that Germany should seek immigrants who bring special skills to Germany.

You can see a Reuters article reporting her comments here. It is refreshing when national leaders tell the truth about sensitive issues like this. I wonder when the Canadians will figure out that multiculturalism doesn't work; they've been so proud of it in Canada.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Palin in the WaPo

Imagine a pro-Palin column in The Washington Post - nah, no way, you'd say. Oh, yeah, way. The Post has a column by Matthew Continetti which very much sounds like a defense of this much-maligned woman.

Continetti lists five 'fables' about Palin and does a decent job of debunking four of them. The four he nails include Palin costing McCain the 2008 election, her resignation as Alaskan governor being a wrong move, Palin and the tea party being a bad thing for the GOP, and her views being extreme.

I'm not sure Continetti does a good job of debunking 'fable five,' her being unelectable at the presidential level. I agree she can get Republicans and Independents to take another look at her. I don't sense she has the discipline to put in the hard work to get from where she is now - a media celebrity - to where she needs to be to have gravitas, to appear presidential.

About electability, Continetti makes an interesting point when he says the following:
A presidential contest is a choice. The public might not love Palin. But by 2012, Americans might absolutely despise Obama. Two more years of a bad economy and an unpopular Afghan war, and anything is possible. Yes, there's a ceiling to Palin's support. But in 2012, there also will be a ceiling to Obama's. Whose will be higher?
This wisdom comes from the old story about two guys being chased by a hungry bear. To survive you don't have to be able to outrun the bear, only to outrun the other guy.

My reaction: Please, please, not a sixth consecutive lesser-of-two-evils presidential ballot. How much failed leadership can our sturdy old ship of state withstand?

Lenders Share Blame

Here is an article in Fortune which tries to place all the blame for buying homes they couldn't afford on buyers, saying it wasn't the lenders fault. I think that argument is too strong.

The typical home buyer doesn't know much about finance, mortgages, this whole complicated real estate business. I suspect this is especially true of those who ended up with high-risk mortgages. Such individuals rely on others for advice, often given by people who stand to benefit from writing a mortgage.

I expect most advice-seekers were advised that home prices had been steadily rising - this was true. That if this price rise continued, as it had for years, they'd be able to refinance easily within 2-3 years - again this was true. That there were tax advantages to a home mortgage - again true. That price rises after one buys a home create effortless equity, often very rapidly - once again true.

Do we know how many mortgage-seekers were warned that property prices might be a bubble that could burst? Most people working in the industry had probably never seen a bursting real estate price bubble. It is hard to take seriously something you've never experienced. If you don't take it seriously, it is hard to warn others about it.

I'm sure some mortgage seekers were lied to, misled intentionally. I suspect many more were advised to "go for it" because the folks advising them, on whose advice they relied, sincerely believed they were telling the truth. The advice was still bad, but the intent was mostly honest.

War Off Voters' Radar

The New York Times is amazed, yes amazed, that hardly anyone says the war in Afghanistan is an important issue for this election. Other issues are at the top of people's lists.

The economy is bad and most people say that is their issue. Also wars fought by volunteers don't raise nearly the ire that wars fought by draftees do. However I suspect the main issue here something else entirely.

In 2008 the anti-war crowd elected their choice of president, a peace-loving fellow named Obama. And then, guess what? Anti-war Obama fought the war just exactly like his predecessor, Bloodthirsty Bush did, including a new troop surge. So where the heck do anti-war folks have to go in this election?

I had an experience like this in 1964. I was draft age and candidate Goldwater sounded very belligerent while Johnson sounded much more peaceable. I not only voted for Johnson, I urged others to do likewise. Johnson crushed Goldwater, then he escalated the war in Vietnam.

I was bummed. Once I learned that who was president made little difference in the war policy of the U.S., that issue was no longer important to me in elections. Don't you suppose many people with "Visualize World Peace" bumper stickers feel this way now?

Friday, October 15, 2010

Texas Kicks Butt

Rich Lowry, writing in National Review Online about what little economic growth is happening:
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 214,000 net new jobs were created in the United States from August 2009 to August 2010. Texas created 119,000 jobs during the same period.
By my calculations, during the past year the single state of Texas generated over half of the new jobs in the entire United States, actually just under 56%. Texas has low housing costs, plentiful land, weather you can tolerate, and pro-business state policies. Much of Texas is the opposite of scenic.

Do you remember we used to study Japanese Management because they were doing so well? That proved to be a waste of our time. Now I think we ought to be studying Texas government to see how they are attracting all those jobs. This would not, I think, be a waste of time.

Angle vs. Reid Debate

I've been reading reviews of the Sharron Angle vs. Harry Reid senate debate in Nevada, a debate which I did not view. The consensus: Angle won by not losing, Reid lost by not winning.

The conclusion I reluctantly reach is that the nation would be best served if both lost the election. This outcome, however, is essentially impossible.

I'll settle for an Angle win as the lesser evil. As a junior senator, she won't be able to cause much trouble.

Kudos and Raspberries

To the Chilean miners, welcome back, guys. To their rescuers, well done. To the Chilean government, you showed some class.

To the press, as usual you behaved like asses. To the mine owners, let's try not to have this opportunity again anytime soon.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

All Our Fault

Here is an interesting science story, a tentative finding that most cancers are man-made. See this story in the U.K.'s Daily Mail online, for more details.

It turns out Egyptian mummies have next-to-no tumors and early man had very few too. The researchers believe the rise in cancer coincides with the start of the Industrial Revolution.

As Arte Johnson used to say on Laugh-In, in the thick, fake German accent of his character Wolfgang: "Verrry in-tuh-res-ting." I always thought Wolfgang sounded a lot like management guru Peter Drucker, an Austrian.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Another View of Darth Vader

Matt Latimer was a speechwriter for President George W. Bush. For The Daily Beast he writes an appreciation of Vice President Dick Cheney, and his role in the Bush White House. It wouldn't surprise me if Latimer has gotten it about right, too.

Latimer describes Cheney as shy, reserved. I buy that. It's why he wasn't a good presidential candidate, for his candidacy trial balloon never got off the ground. If you find Dick Cheney an interesting figure, this article is worth your time.

Private Wojtek

Here is an amazing story of a bear named Private Wojtek that was the mascot of a Polish military unit during World War II. Go read it if you find bears fascinating, as we do here at COTTonLINE. The story is in the online version of the U.K.'s Telegraph.

This bear must have been a great pet, and he apparently understood some Polish. I'll bet that, like Yogi, he was smarter than the average bear. The other DrC tells me that a Google search about this remarkable bear turns up lots of interesting stuff - go for it.

Hispanics Live Longer

If I asked you to speculate about the average lifespan of U.S. blacks, whites, and Hispanics, you'd expect whites to live longer than either blacks or Hispanics. You'd reach this conclusion based on the average socio-economic status of the three groups.

Here are some counterintuitive findings, generated by the National Center for Health Statistics, reported in USA Today. It turns out Hispanics live longer than whites, who live longer than blacks. No data were reported for Asians.

The article speculates about reasons, including the "healthy emigrant" hypothesis, but no absolute cause for the differences is known. In the words of J.K. Rowling's wand-maker, Mr. Olivander, "curious indeed how these things happen."

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Public Employee Benefit Stranglehold

See what David Brooks has to say about the way we've ended up spending too much money on public employee benefits. Writing for The New York Times, he makes some very cogent points about the stranglehold public employee unions have on our political process.

My sense is that he is correct. Our country needs a Margaret Thatcher figure to get public employee unions off our collective backs.

Thinking About 2012

Two names I'm seeing mentioned with increasing frequency as possible (and desirable) GOP presidential nominees for 2012 are Rob Portman and Chris Christie. Portman is running for Senate in Ohio and looks likely to be elected, Christie is governor of New Jersey.

Here is Jay Nordlinger's Impromptus column for National Review Online wherein he finds both men worthy. Add their names to the list that already includes Mitch Daniels, John Thune and Mitt Romney.

I suspect Sarah Palin will turn out to be a sort of latter-day William Jennings Bryan figure. That is, one heck of a motivational speaker but possibly not of presidential timber. Another example of this is Newt Gingrich - a marvelous speaker, one of the smartest guys in the party, but he doesn't pass the character test.

Look on the bright side, unlike the Democrats we've got no shortage of solid, qualified people from among whom to select.

Holler Down My Rain Barrel

Everything old is new again. The City of San Diego has rediscovered rain barrels. Our ancestors knew all about these; many in Hawaii use them today to collect fresh water and have used them for decades.

Do you suppose what they believe is new is the idea that rainwater runoff is dirty and pollutes the bay? We knew that on Guam thirty years ago. We'd get a big rainstorm, which would flush boonie dog droppings and garbage into the lagoons. The public health guys would place the lagoons off limits until the e coli levels went down.

Aha, I've got it. The new idea is to use rain barrels to cut down on runoff. I'll give 'em that one, I suspect it is truly new. Imagine how many thousand barrels you'd need to make a dent in the runoff from a good rain. Go here to see the article from the web page of the San Diego Union-Tribune.

CA Losing Jobs

In an American Spectator article, author Stephen Moore quotes Joseph Vranich, a business relocation expert, as follows:
Thanks mostly to California's hostile regulatory climate, for every three new businesses that move into the state of California, about 100 move out.
My favorite example was when the Northern California Auto Club, our AAA affiliate, moved its backroom phone bank operations out of state. Doing so was entirely logical costwise, but embarrassing for an organization set up to service Californians and Nevadans.

Imagined Billboard: Will the last business to leave California please turn out the lights?

Quote of the Day

Bob Schieffer, speaking to Obama staffer David Axelrod, after viewing a Democrat attack ad on CBS News' Face the Nation:
Three weeks out of an election, is that the best you can do?
Politico's Stuart Gottlieb reports that Axelrod's response was to look like a deer caught in the headlights. Dems don't expect the MSM to turn on them.

Time: Obama a Loser

Time's Mark Halperin lays down the gospel about how people are viewing the Obama White House. He writes:
The White House is in over its head, isolated, insular, arrogant and clueless about how to get along with or persuade members of Congress, the media, the business community or working-class voters.
What 's more, Halperin says pretty much everybody left and right, in and out of Washington, thinks so. At COTTonLINE we've been saying this for the last two years. It is nice to finally have lots of folks decide we've been right all along.

Falklands Flap

Apparently an Argentine Navy vessel has harassed a Falklands fishing vessel in waters claimed by the Brits surrounding the islands. This sounds like an echo of a recent run-in a Chinese fishing vessel had with Japanese patrol boats. This article in MercoPress has the bare outlines.

I wouldn't be surprised if there are political problems afoot in Argentina. Poking the British lion is a great way to get chauvinistic Argentinians to forget about domestic issues. If the Brits react, as they have every right to do, it generates street cred for Argentina among the anti-colonialists in Central and South America.

New Nobel literature laureate Mario Vargas Llosa of Peru alleges that the Kirchner government in Argentina is corrupt. In a second MercoPress article, Vargas Llosa observes:
It’s hard to understand how a country like Argentina, that we all know what it has meant culturally and scientifically at world level, has chosen a president of such intellectual and cultural poverty.

Monday, October 11, 2010

More on Altitude and Weight Loss

My cousin Bill called from Colorado, where he lives, and told me Colorado is one of the thinnest states. This caused me to run a web search and find this article on a site called CalorieLab. You'll note (scroll down) the site has a great map of where there are more, and fewer, obese people.

Many of the below average weight states are in the mountain west. Only two states west of the Rocky Mountains have above average weight: Washington and Alaska. That Colorado is the thinnest state and also the state with the highest mean elevation probably is not a coincidence.

Clearly other factors are at work, as another cluster of thin states are in the northeast, in an area that is not much above sea level. Nevertheless, altitude is likely to be a factor in staying trim.

Japan on the Rocks

There was a time when we thought, with good reason, that Japan, Inc. was going to buy the world. We studied Japanese management and wondered how we could emulate their success. About twenty years ago this all collapsed.

Nobody talks about Japan, Inc. anymore. The economy of Japan has been in the doldrums for the better part of twenty years. The population is shrinking and their politics seem self-destructive. This collection of symptoms has been called the "Japanese Disease."

Here is an article in The Japan Times that lays out the problems and is mildly optimistic about the outcome, if only the Japanese will hang tough. If you are interested in Japan and can ignore the mild optimism at the end, the article is worth your time.

Broder on Portman

The Washington Post's David Broder writes a very positive impression of Rob Portman, another likely GOP candidate for high office somewhere in the not-too-distant future. The article appears under the imprimatur of RealClearPolitics. Like Barone, Broder is very savvy about politics and politicians.

Barone on Daniels

Folks have been mentioning Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels as a possible GOP presidential nominee for 2012, and there is some evidence he is considering a run. Here is a Michael Barone column for RealClearPolitics evaluating Daniels, the good and the bad. If the identity and character of the GOP nominee is a question of interest to you, you might want to read what Barone has to say.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Obama Popular Abroad

Nile Gardiner, writing in the London Telegraph, nails the reason for President Obama's popularity in other countries:
Obama’s popularity at the UN boils down essentially to his willingness to downplay American global power. He is the first American president who has made an art form out of apologizing for the United States.
Gardiner concludes about the results of this approach:
This is a dangerous strategy of decline that will weaken US power and make her far more vulnerable to attack.


I just read a column by a retired Marine Colonel where he asks the question "why does anyone vote Democrat?" The answers he give totally miss the most important reason: victimization. The Democrat Party is a coalition of groups of victims.

I believe most Democrat voters do so because they have clasped to their bosom the status of victim. It is their preferred explanation for why they haven't achieved. "You see," they tell themselves, "I could have become someone wonderful if only they weren't picking on me, weren't holding me down, weren't shutting me out."

Being a victim is soooo much easier than putting in the hard work necessary to get from where you are to where you want to be. You tell yourself it isn't possible to achieve so I don't have to try. I'll vote Democrat and the government will just give it to me, as reparations, as transfer payments, as what I am due because they won't let me achieve.

People make life choices that keep them from achieving great things, but are unwilling to face up to the consequences of their choices. An old econ prof I had somewhere eons ago used to say, "life is a series of trade-offs." Was he ever right.

High Altitude Weight Loss

Overweight folks, your humble scribe included, are always interested in ways to lose weight, particularly if those ways are painless and effortless. I've just come back from 4+ months at altitudes of 5-7 thousand feet. Mirabile dictu, I found I had lost several pounds without dieting or unusual exercise. My dear wife of nearly 40 years had the same experience. BTW, neither of us experienced any altitude sickness.

I remember having this experience at the end of prior summers spent in the high country. So I did a web search and found a piece of relatively reputable research which says this loss indeed happens. You can find the article, from Wired Science, here. WebMD also has a piece on this phenomenon. An article in the Journal of Applied Physiology says this weight loss may only apply to Caucasians, or perhaps to people who customarily live at much lower altitudes.

A really fascinating way to check this out would be to see if the obesity epidemic which is sweeping the U.S. is as serious in the mountain west: CO, WY, ID, UT, NM, AZ , NV. Comparing weights in these states with states at sea level like FL, LA, CT, MD, AL would be instructive.

Business opportunity: locate a fat farm in West Yellowstone, MT where the elevation is approximately 6700 feet and the scenery is beautiful.

Arrivederci Roma

Sclerotic economics and politics are driving young college grads away from Italy, although the article in Time doesn't make the numbers entirely clear. Most of the other Italian problems described in the piece do seem accurate.

One positive thing about the European Union is how easy it makes moving to another E.U. country to work; it's much like moving to another state in the U.S. The examples Time gives, however, find young Italians moving to the Middle East, or the U.S.

When the young have to go abroad to find opportunity, a country has a problem. I found particularly troubling the following:
According to figures published in May by the National Institute of Statistics, 30% of Italians ages 30 to 34 still live with their parents, three times as many as in 1983.