Sunday, May 29, 2011

Shribman: GOP Current Status

David Shribman, who here writes politics for Yahoo News, sums up the work ahead of the Republican Party in selecting a presidential candidate for 2012. Are they serious or do they secretly believe that Obama has a lock on it? Good question. Unfortunately the current candidates resemble a parade of charisma-challenged midgets.

Travel Blogging V

Korcula, Croatia – The spelling of the town isn’t entirely correct. I cannot find the symbol I need which is a small v over the c in Korcula, making it sound like Korchula. As we once said, whatever….

Korcula is like Dubrovnik in miniature, or as the locals here say, Dubrovnik is like an oversized Korcula. The main difference is it isn’t crowded here. The streets are narrow, often with steps, everything is built of limestone from the same quarry so it all has much the same color, a sort of warm gray or grayish tan. No need to make bricks when limestone is everywhere. The other DrC says these places look like Diagon Alley from the Harry Potter books, I agree.

Apparently limestone is soft and easy to work as they’ve done some fantastic carving from it: statues and beautiful building trim – door and window surrounds, gargoyles for the churches. The building and paving blocks they cut from limestone are quite rough, on purpose. However, limestone can be polished to look like marble – smooth and buttery.

The streets in Dubrovnik have been walked on so much that they look and feel like marble. Yet over next to the buildings you see they started life rough and were polished smooth by hundreds of thousands of shoes. We’ve not heard that air pollution is damaging the limestone; perhaps the sea breeze in these shoreside cities keeps the air clean.

It is interesting that in the two Croatian cities we’ve visited we’ve seen no civil war memorials commemorating war heroes and the honored dead. Such memorials certainly exist in the U.S. which had its own traumatic civil war. Perhaps we’ve been steered away

Travel Blogging IV

Dubrovnik, Croatia - They say civil wars are the bloodiest wars, for sure they do the most damage. None of this “honorable opponents” stuff in the Balkans. In the civil war hereabouts each side treated the other side as vermin, something to be exterminated. Probably there were few prisoners taken. Hence charges of genocide in the World Court in the Hague.

On Saturday evening we visited a Croat village near the Bosnian border. It was occupied by the Serbs during the civil war; they destroyed all buildings for which they had no immediate use. I’m not picking on Serbs, I expect Croats did the same when the tables were turned.

Serbs inadvertently did our villagers a favor. When the refugees returned they rebuilt the village and now have relatively new homes instead of the ancient hovels they once occupied. The charm of antiquity is mostly gone but antiquity is nicer to look at than to live in.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Travel Blogging III

Dubrovnik, Croatia - I write this sitting in an internet cafe in the city of Gruz, port of Dubrovnik. Dubrovnik is one of the most amazing walled cities in the world. The walls were never really tested in battle, except recently in the civil war in which the Croats fought the Serbs to a standstill. The walled old city was shelled and bombed, doing considerable damage (almost all of which has been repaired).

The problems continue in neighboring Bosnia, see this Associated Press/Yahoo News article. Can you say "genocide?" What an interesting place the Balkan Peninsula is.

In quick summary, the Balkans "enjoy" three religions, two alphabets, and a long, bloody history of bushwhacking each other. One other thing to know about the region, nobody ever forgets a wrong done to them or their ancestors. People still cite, as reasons for violence, things done in the 1500s. It is worth mentioning that Slovenia and Croatia are partial to the Germans and Austrians while the Serbs and Macedonians favor the Russians.

Talk about a tourist magnet, Dubrovnik often attracts five cruise ships at a time, today it only has four. Each brings in 2-3000 passengers, all of whom get bussed to the Pane gate to old town and are thereafter on foot. Talk about a crowd, Dubrovnik has it. In May it was almost as bad as the Louvre or Versailles in July. Our guides knew a trick and we saw the town at night when most cruise passengers are back aboard their floating hotels - much better.

We are here in late May and it is sweaty hot, I cannot imagine what it will be like in July or August. Most of the tourists are speaking other-than-English, a sound which grates on the English speaking ear. Many may be relatively local, from Slovenia or Montenegro, or even Serbia. Italy is close too, across the relatively narrow Adriatic Sea. We thought we would beat the heat and crowds by getting here in May, we were wrong.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

O'Grady: Peru Goes to the Polls

Mary Anastasia O'Grady who writes about the Americas for The Wall Street Journal, has a last minute look at the election in Peru. Important things will be decided there. Peru has been an economic success story, one of the two finalists threatens to turn Peru away from economic success.

Travel Blogging II

Kotor, Montenegro - There hasn't been a lot of internet available so far on this trip. Athens was good, the hotel was on a street so small that if you didn't know it exists and know where it is, you'd never find it. It was just fine as hotels go, even the elevators weren't tiny as so many European hotel elevators are.

We are sailing on a very small passenger ship, the MV Athena which is owned by the firm with which we are traveling. We have perhaps 48 passengers total, a small enough number to actually become acquainted with some of them. Our first stop was at the place where the oracle of Delphi operated for several hundred years. It turns out many temples, treasuries, theaters, etc. were built there during that period.

Our second stop was at Corfu, for my money the most beautiful of the Greek islands, and coincidentally the northernmost. We did an island tour and remarked how this time it reminds us so much of Madeira, a Portuguese island of the northwest coast of Africa. We didn't get that impression on our first visit. Corfu's waterfront park, called the Esplanade, is very large and pleasant.

Yesterday we were in Albania - a strange place. I won't trouble you with the political history of Albania, suffice it to say that it is both European and Islamic, and brews both beer and brandy. The oddest thing is that the country is covered with partially built buildings that in many cases have been knocked down on purpose. The builders are considered by the government as squatters although they have title to the land that goes back before the Communist period. Talk about a messed up place. About all that is left of Enver Hoxha, the supposedly Communist dictator whose ministrations they "enjoyed" for 40 years, is a series of concrete pillboxes and bunkers dotting the landscape.

Today we are in Montenegro, formerly a part of Serbia and before that a part of Tito's Yugoslavia. We are in Kotor, an ancient town at the head of what you or I would call a fjord but they call a bay. The cruise back in here is beautiful, probably 20 miles inland from the Adriatic Sea. The walls of the canyon are steep and here and there along the coast there is a small village - highly picturesque. If Americans know anything of Montenegro, it is probably that it is the birthplace of the fictional detective Nero Wolfe.

Tomorrow, who knows? I think more Montenegro.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Travel Blogging I

The DrsC are on the road again, writing metaphorically. Only the first and last 200 miles will be truly a "road trip." The next four legs will be air, followed by a cruise by small ship up the Adriatic coast visiting Greece, Albania, Montenegro, Croatia, and Slovenia. With any luck it should be beautiful in late spring.

I write this at SFO and believe it or not San Francisco has lovely weather today, sunshine and blue skies - this is ever so rare at this time of year, only common in autumn. Our original flight was cancelled but we are rebooked on a flight an hour later in better seats - not a bad outcome.

I have no idea how often Internet will be available during this trip, probably not often. Most of the countries of the former Yugoslavia are among the poorest in Europe.

Albania and nearby Bosnia are home to the only significant group of European Muslims. Their existence there is an artifact of the occupation of the region by the Ottoman Turks for several hundred years. I hope they don't decide a small ship full of affluent aged Americans looks like a soft target, which of course it truly is.

Good News

Let's stop and enjoy some good news, for a change. The Washington Post reports that marriages are lasting longer than before.

Read more deeply into the article and discover that one reason for this happy outcome is that many who would divorce aren't marrying before breaking up. People are waiting until somewhat later in life to marry.

Demographics also influence marital outcomes. The article quotes W. Bradford Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia as saying:
Marriage has become a much more selective institution in today’s society. People who are college-educated, more affluent or more religious are more likely to get married and stay married. People who are not are less likely to get married in the first place, and if they do marry, they’re more likely to divorce.
Different ethnic groups also have different experiences with marriage, for some of the above reasons and perhaps cultural reasons as well.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Can You Say "Visegrad?"

Visegrad is the name of a castle in Hungary; four nations in Central Europe have selected that name for their alliance, the Visegrad Group or V4. The four nations are Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Hungary.

The immediate goal is to form a "battle group" which is independent of NATO and whose goal is to provide for the defense of the four. Concerns about a resurgent Russia, a wimping-out United States, and a Germany unhappy with its European Union partners seem to be the motivating forces behind their remilitarization.

Europe is a place where world wars are incubated; perhaps we are seeing the embryonic beginnings of yet another. You'll find the source article at RealClearWorld.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Real and Imagined Problems

This Los Angeles Times article starts out with a knock on Deutche Bank that is defensible, and ends with indefensibly whining about the non-union south gathering up all the new jobs. To be sure the owner of properties is responsible for them. If the loan servicer isn't doing its job, the owner should make it happen, or get a new servicer.

On the other hand, the southern U.S. has a long history of being anti-union and is, as a result, a job magnet. A job magnet not just for foreign firms but for U.S. firms as well.

Here is a thought experiment: could a northern state in economic distress, perhaps Michigan or Ohio, pass a right to work law and in other ways make itself attractive to employers? Might they begin to pull back some of the lost jobs? Put to work some of the empty factories? Just sayin....

Goldberg: Who's In, Who Has a Chance

Jonah Goldberg, son of the legendary founder of, writes for the Los Angeles Times about the state of play in the run-up to the GOP nomination. He sees the field shaking down to manageable numbers, without predicting who will capture the prize.

If the answer to the question "Who will represent the GOP?" is of interest to you, his article is worth your time. I agree with his conclusion:
Already, the conversation on the right is moving toward the all-important question of "electability" — i.e., which candidate can peel off the handful of moderates and independents needed to win in an election that will be a referendum on Obama and his record.

Negative Stimulus

President Obama has been proud of his economic stimulus plan. I daresay the intent of his plan was to increase jobs. It appears he should have waited for the real numbers to come out before bragging.

Two economists have run the numbers and, guess what? The Obama "stimulus" actually cost a lot of jobs; here is the money quote:
Economists Timothy Conley, University of Western Ontario, and Bill Dupor of Ohio State University found that the stimulus resulted in a net loss of 595,000 jobs from April 2009 to September 2010.
It turns out the Obama "stimulus" is definitely something about which not to brag. Well over half a million former employees got burned by it. The source for the quote is the Investors Business Daily. Hat tip to for the link.

Quote of the Day

Jay Nordlinger, who writes for National Review Online, reporting the words of Jianli Yang, dissident Chinese scholar, poet, and advocate of democracy, on the state of human rights in the People's Republic of China:
In their six decades of dictatorship, the Chinese Communists have killed more people than Hitler and Stalin combined.
You can argue that setting this record was easy in the world's most populous nation, but it is still an ugly "accomplishment," one not to be envied.

Monday, May 16, 2011

A Very Short Bump

You'd expect the President got a poll numbers bump up as a result of the bin Laden killing, and you'd be right. However, it didn't last long, it is already gone.

This article in National Journal examines Obama's Gallup polling numbers which went up and back down in record time. They report:
Obama's bounce is smaller in magnitude and shorter in duration than the bumps enjoyed by other presidents over the past 70 years.
To what do they attribute the shortness of the bump? Concern with economic matters appears to be what is on voters' minds.

Quote of the Day

Brit Hume, senior political commentator on Fox News, analyzing the President's chances of being reelected with nothing done about the deficit:
He’s in real trouble. Everyone is saying, "Well, look at the Republican field." I think this will be a referendum election and not so much a choice election. And if it is and conditions like this persist – he’s toast.
A second term election is always a referendum on the incumbent, as long as the opponent isn't an outlier, a weirdo. The article source is The Daily Caller.

CA White Flight

California has been what is called "majority-minority" for several years. Now the Sacramento Bee reports that Census Bureau data shows it isn't just percentages we're talking about.

There are actually fewer non-Hispanic whites in California than there were a decade ago, 850,000 fewer. The graphic associated with this article suggests the decline of non-Hispanic whites over the past two decades is roughly two million.

Meanwhile the numbers of Hispanics and Asians continue to rise and the number of African-Americans has held constant. The article predicts California will become Latino majority in 2025.

One No Trump

The Donald has announced that he will not be a candidate for the Republican nomination for president. You can find the statement here on the BBC News website. I don't think too many people are surprised inasmuch as running would have crimped his style, financially and otherwise.

This is not the beginning of the end, but it may be in Churchill's words, near the end of the beginning, the beginning of the process of finding a nominee. Winston could certainly use our language well.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Will Says Field Limited

Washington pundit George Will, serving as he has for decades as a talking head on the ABC News Sunday show, made an interesting prediction. He said:
I think we know with reasonable certainty that standing up there on the West front of the Capitol on Jan. 20, 2013 will be one of three people. Obama, Pawlenty and Daniels. I think that’s it.
Will is not saying that the Republicans will necessarily nominate Pawlenty or Daniels. He is saying they are the only two potential Republican nominees who could defeat Obama. It will be interesting to see if his prediction is accurate.

More Weird Science

TMI is an acronym for "too much information" and that characterizes the genetic test described in this article in The Independent (U.K.). Looking at things called "telomeres" which are said to be on the tips of one's chromosomes, it can supposedly tell you whether you are likely to live longer than normal for someone your age, or less long.

The longer your telomeres, the longer you'll live. Supposedly it is related to the rate at which you body deteriorates, somewhat independent of actual age.

What the article doesn't tell us is whether this vital length is influenced by your lifestyle, or inherited. The inference is that it is inherited, which is sensible. We know that, ceteris paribus, parents' lifespans are reasonable predictors of children's longevities.

Foreign Legion 2.0

Erik Prince, former SEAL and founder of Blackwater, has reemerged in Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates. He is there assembling a mercenary group, Reflex Responses, of 600 or more foreign soldiers to serve the interests of the UAE government.

If it works, Prince hopes to use it as the nucleus for a much larger force available to do what foreign legions have always done: deal violently with problems in the third world. Reflex Responses is already finding dealing with le cafard an issue.

This New York Times article is long and quite detailed. Reading it, you get the feeling the reporters don't approve of Prince's activities.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Huck Says "No"

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, one of the best natural campaigners I've seen, has decided not to enter the race for Republican nomination for president in 2012. Did introspection reveal a lack of fire in the Huckabee belly or did he conclude Obama was a lock for reelection?

We may find out the answer eventually, but I'd guess not any time before the election. For now he says he's having too much fun doing what he does now, and making a ton of money as well. I've seen worse reasons. Here is a link to a Fox News article about the announcement made on his Fox TV show.

Inflation Hits Bikini Waxing

It doesn't look like a run-of-the-mill COTTonLINE headline, does it? This Bloomberg article makes the point that the depilatory process is important in Brazil. The article quotes an industry spokesperson:
We have one of the highest demands for waxing in the world because of our climate. We have summer all year, we’re always wearing bikinis and miniskirts.

The article caught my eye because of memories of Rio. It's is a city of eye-candy. I have never seen so many young women in bikinis in my life, anywhere. When they leave the beach they pull on tight jeans or a little skirt over the bikini bottoms and kick into stiletto heels - that and the bikini top constitutes street wear.

The other DrC and I visited Rio de Janeiro just as Carnival (aka Mardi Gras) was winding down. We saw the finalist samba "schools" parade, or as much of it as we had energy for since it began about 9 p.m. and ran to almost dawn. What a party! Hat tip to for the link.

Irony Alert

Yahoo News reports the following, with numbers drawn from a Labor Department report:
If the election of America's first African-American president was expected to give blacks an economic boost, it hasn't emerged yet. Indeed, the percentage of African-American men with a job has dropped to its lowest level since records began in 1972.

Friday, May 13, 2011

New Poll Numbers

Political poll enthusiasts, I've got a fine new poll for you. See this article from Investors Business Daily about their IBD/TIPP poll findings. More later on the specific content.

Later. The so-called "gender gap" in the political attitudes of men and women has reappeared. The article cited above contains a very strange line, here it is:
Men are one of the few demographic groups whose opinion of President Obama is lower today than a month ago, before the Navy SEALs' successful raid on Osama bin Laden's Pakistan compound May 2.
Technically, the line is correct inasmuch as they sliced the data several ways and found most of their slices were either more positive or neutral. What makes the line feel odd is that men are essentially half of the population.

If you read the article carefully, what you discover is that the President's numbers among men dropped less than they went up among women, which nets out as a modest plus. Another interesting factoid: his numbers among independents dropped slightly, regardless of gender.

The article speculates about the gender differences in political attitudes; one explanation they don't offer is that more women than men find the President attractive.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

More on the Apocalypse

Claims the world is going to end are easy to mock as there have been so many of them, all wrong so far. We noted the May 21, 2011 Rapture Date billboards in a blog post last Friday, May 6.

Now here is a Yahoo News article about the phenomenon, with some history of prior claims thrown in for good measure. It doesn't take such claims seriously either. Of course, all end-of-world claims will be wrong except the final claim.

Nobody predicts what actually might happen: the end of human existence. Gaia is likely to continue, but might resemble Mars - as far as we know uninhabitable.

Maybe this is what the warmers claim will happen. I think they're wrong, too.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Ties to Terrorists

The Associated Press reports a disquieting connection between Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa and the FARC or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, a terrorist organization with ties to drug cartels. Here is the AP lede:
Campaign officials for Ecuador's then-presidential candidate Rafael Correa sought financial backing from Latin America's last remaining leftist rebel army in 2006, and there is evidence Correa was aware of such solicitations.
The report upon which these allegations are based comes from the International Institute for Strategic Studies, in London, and is based on documents and interviews with former FARC members. No surprise, Correa denies any connection with FARC.

Greece in Peril

Things are not good in Greece. For a decade or more, people in a basically poor country got used to living like other Europeans, living a middle class lifestyle. How could they do this? On credit, of course. Their government borrowed money.

Now the credit is cut off, and Greek people are asking "What happened?" See this article by Hara Kouki in The Guardian (U.K.) for a sense of their helplessness and frustration.

Greeks are told it is their fault, which is more-or-less true, and they refuse to believe it. All they did was live like the Germans or French live, in a country which is more corrupt and generates substantially less wealth than do Germany or France.

I wonder if we are headed for a similar experience in the U.S.? Our country generates a lot of wealth, and we are not vastly corrupt. On the other hand, we've wanted substantially more government services than we are willing to pay for with our taxes. Like Greece, we've lived on credit, aka the deficit.

Tour of the Horizon

When diplomats do a overview of what is happening in the world, they call it a "tour d'horizon" which is French for general survey or, more literally, a tour of the horizon. Victor Davis Hanson, the sage of Fresno, has done one such for the National Review Online, wrapped around the title "The World Turned Upside Down - Again."

Hanson sees the possibility that the Greek financial meltdown will cause a resurgence of German nationalism; which he argues the EU was established to forestall. He compares today's China to the Japanese Empire of the 1920s, with the chance that it too will begin to expand into adjacent territories.

Hanson fears that the Arab Spring will not lead to an understanding that the region's wretchedness is caused by its own cultural shortcomings. He finishes his "tour" with what is happening here at home, concerned that our government totally misreads our situation and place in the world.

I've merely outlined his discussion, very briefly; I recommend the article to you in its entirety.

Balz on Gingrich

Everybody has a view of Newt Gingrich, perhaps even multiple views. The Washington Post's Dan Balz, a potential successor to the late David Broder as dean of our political reporters, here writes about Newt Gingrich - his strengths and weaknesses as a presidential candidate.

Balz has the same doubts about Newt everyone else has, and recognizes the same undeniable set of strengths. For a decent, relatively balanced assessment of Newt's possibilities in the presidential sweepstakes, you could do much worse than reading Balz's analysis.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Two Bad Bargains

The New York Times' foreign affairs columnist Tom Friedman weighs in with a look at the bad bargain in Saudi Arabia and another in Pakistan. He is stretching a little to call what happens in Pakistan a bargain.

The Pakistanis worry about defending against India, which has zero interest in invading Pakistan. Pakistan, on the other hand, would seriously love to invade and liberate Kashmir, currently part of India.

Inasmuch as India has nearly six times Pakistan's population and much more and richer land, Pakistan's wish to defeat India in battle is no more than a dream. Chasing that dream, the Pakistani army makes common cause with violent radical groups in Kashmir and Afghanistan.

The "bargain" he describes in Saudi Arabia between the al Saud tribe and the Wahhabi ultra-jihadist branch of Sunni Islam seems to more accurately fit that description. Each enables the other, oil money supports both of them, and together they are a problem for the West.

Geyer on Dealing with Problem People

Georgie Anne Geyer has been traveling the world and writing about it for as long as I have been paying attention, which is longer than either of us would like to admit. Sometimes I agree with her, sometimes I don't - the latter usually about domestic politics where she leans left while I lean right.

Here she writes about international affairs and the wisdom of targeted attacks like the bin Laden killing versus wholesale invasions like Iraq or Afghanistan. She talks about Hasan Sabah, the originator of the assassins as an earlier troubled fanatic from the region, notes these men will continue to arise, and says we need good ways to deal with them. See her Uexpress article on Yahoo News.

I'm not sure Geyer realizes she is endorsing the Hasan Sabah approach to deal with problem individuals - send in the murder squad. Mossad has been doing this for 60+ years. In the past we have resisted this approach, even having presidential orders banning the targeting killings of problem individuals. The bin Laden hit suggests a change of policy.

Newt Is In

Newt Gingrich has announced he is running for the Republican nomination for president in 2012. Now the questions are, can he win the nomination, and should he win the nomination? Rephrased, that second question becomes: can he win the presidency, and if he wins, will he be a good president?

History professor Gingrich is probably the smartest person running for the 2012 Republican nomination, and undoubtedly the most fun to listen to. Unfortunately, law professor Barack Obama was the smartest person running for the Democratic nomination in 2008 and the most fun to listen to. He hasn't turned out so well as president.

Professor Woodrow Wilson also didn't turn out particularly well as president. People said Reagan wasn't really bright and he was a good president.

I spent my career being paid to be smart. It troubles me to say intellect may not be a major qualification for president.

I'm concluding Newt shouldn't get the nomination. I believe we need a successful governor as our president: Daniels, Pawlenty or Christie. On the other hand, if had to pick an after-dinner speaker I'd pick Newt, hands down.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Nontraditional Schools provides a link to an article in Stars and Stripes, the newspaper for people in the military. It concerns a government policy to mostly take into the military students who went to real bricks-and-mortar high schools, as opposed to those who got their diplomas online.

The military responds that it does so because graduates from regular high schools are more likely to stay for their entire three year enlistment. The article quotes a Pentagon spokeswoman as saying:
Data collected since 1988 shows only 28 percent of graduates with traditional diplomas leave military service before their first three years in uniform, while those with non-traditional backgrounds have a 39 percent attrition rate. (snip) It comes down to money because its costs $45,000 to replace someone who hasn't met their full term.
Clearly, some portion of kids who go to "alternative" high schools have difficulty "fitting in" to the regimentation of regular high schools. "Regiment" is the root word of "regimentation."

Having difficulty doing what you're told doesn't work in the service. Hence the 11 percent greater drop out rate for non-traditional high schoolers.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Moonbeam Revisited

In his eighth decade, California Governor Jerry Brown grapples with some of the most intractable budgetary problems extant in this Republic. Adam Nagourney of The New York Times writes a sympathetic, essentially positive portrait of the man who has been both California's youngest and oldest governor.

He is still the quirky, personally frugal man who years ago, in his first term in Sacramento, earned the moniker "Governor Moonbeam." He faces very difficult problems and I wish him well.

The long article concludes with a hint that Brown may end up coming forward with a true austerity budget. I'll make two suggestions for ways to cut state spending.

Release on parole all state prisoners with no history of conviction for violent crimes. As a result of the reduction in prisoners, close extra prisons and layoff unneeded guards.

Move all state employees who are less than 40 years old over to a defined contribution retirement plan. Most of that contribution should come from the employees.

Mothers' Day

Here at COTTonLINE we exponents of "the daddy party" nevertheless appreciate mothers. Please remember to think kind thoughts in the direction of mom today.

Tomorrow we will be back to bashing "the mommy party" again, while always careful to make clear the distinction between "the mommy party" and the dear lady herself.

Mothering should be left to mothers, not to governments.

Ecuador Votes

Reuters reports via Yahoo News that voters in Ecuador apparently have passed measures which would strengthen the hand of President Rafael Correa in dealing with the nation's judiciary. Early estimates suggest the measures passed with majorities in the 57-60% range, in other words, it wasn't close.

Correa is a populist and an ally of Venezuela's Hugo Chavez. Like Chavez he is anti-American. This anti-American stance is popular among Latinos who haven't the strength of character to admit their culture's sole responsibility for the poverty and corruption of the region.

Ecuador's press is under attack by Correa who wants to penalize the publication of views he feels misinform or lie. That sounds like the beginnings of censorship.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Lonely China

John Lee has written a very interesting analysis of China's self-perception, and sense of isolation in Asia and the world, for the journal Foreign Policy. Lee says China's major concern is that the United States, following the death of bin Laden, will pivot from a focus on terrorism to a focus on China as our primary adversary. It is a longish article, but a good one.

I'd guess Lee is correct in his analysis. If China has real concerns about the U.S. as an opponent, maybe they ought to send us fewer spies, be more subtle about their spying in the U.S., or both. See our post earlier today, entitled "China Spies on U.S." for details.

Empty Threat

His colleagues in al Qaeda have announced a threat to retaliate for the death of Osama bin Laden. I have to say I'm confused.

How does what they now threaten differ from what they already had planned for us? When a group has already announced they intend to bring about your death and dismemberment, what else can they threaten? Genocide? Hardly credible.

Quote of the Day

Columnist Mark Steyn, writing for the Orange County Register describing the White House release of information on the bin Laden slaying:
White House news management (is) so club-footed that one starts to wonder darkly whether its incompetence is somehow intentional.
I agree; it is hard to imagine ineptitude at this extreme level.

Woodward on the Raid

People will tell Watergate reporter Bob Woodward of The Washington Post, things they won't tell anybody else. He has written the best description yet of the step-by-step process of the Abbottabad raid on the bin Laden compound.

Do yourself a favor, read what he's written. My favorite quote from the article is this:
One senior official said the general philosophy of the SEALs is: “If you see it, shoot it. It is a house full of bad guys.”

China Spies on U.S.

Five different individuals were convicted of spying on the U.S. for China in an eleven day period earlier this year. Imagine how many more are out there who haven't been caught or are still under surveillance.

An Associated Press article on the Yahoo News website details a number of Chinese attempts to steal American defense secrets. Clearly, China has taken over from the former Soviet Union as the main instigator of espionage against the U.S.

Political Humor Alert

Go here to Jim Geraghty's National Review blog called The Campaign Spot, to see a poster of George W. Bush, looking particularly like the "Marlboro Man," with this tagline:
VINDICATION: When the Loudest Critic Of Your Policies Achieves His Greatest Success Because Of Them.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Quote of the Day

Sharon Owens, writing for the Belfast Telegraph (U.K.) about how bin Laden could imagine getting away with assaulting the U.S.:
I've no doubt whatsoever that, if Westerners thought there was even the remotest chance of a takeover by Islamic extremists, they wouldn't hesitate to dust off the old nukes once again.
That works for me.

May 21, 2011 Billboards

In my little town there are billboards which make the claim that the world ends on May 21, 2011. Maybe not "world ends" but more like judgment day or some such Chicken Little claim. Google it if you want details.

I look around at all the cars on the streets, bicycles too (it's a college town), and wonder how terribly futile the folks who put up the signs must feel. If any sizable number of us believed those signs, I suspect our behavior would have changed dramatically. It hasn't, not even a little.

If anything has affected our behavior it is higher gas prices, and that effect is minor. The spring term is ending, the weather is warm, and the crack of ball on bat is in the air.

It just doesn't feel like judgment day. We'll check it out on May 22.

U.K. R.I.P.?

If you can decipher this Telegraph article about U.K politics and Scotland's interest in independence, the bottom line is this. We may be able to stop calling our buddies over there "the United Kingdom" and resume calling them "England."

What I can't figure out is how the Scots think they can make a living while most of their populace is on welfare? I suppose they believe the proceeds of North Sea oil will do the job. They can't support the economy selling single malt whiskey.

If the Scots succeed in separating from the U.K., will the Welch be next? We could see a wave of these split-ups across Europe; the Catalonians and Basques leaving Spain, the Flemish and Walloons in Belgium, the northern Italians would like to separate from southern Italy, etc.

There is even talk the East Germans would like to become independent (and Communist) once more. Fascinating, Europe could become a whole flock of mini-states, think Luxembourg times forty.

W. Churchill on Islam

Mark Steyn cites the following passage from Winston Churchill's The River War (1899), a story of the Sudanese campaign:
How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. (snip) The influence of the religion paralyses the social development of those who follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists in the world.
Winnie wasn't favorably impressed.

Conspiracy, Anyone?

We have been told that Osama Bin Laden was buried off the carrier USS Carl Vinson into the North Arabian Sea. I'm reasonably sure something, or someone, was buried at sea with the video cameras running. I'm less sure it was bin Laden.

Maybe it was one of his couriers or hangers-on who was also shot at the Abbottabad compound. I can see lots of public relations reasons why it's useful to appear to bury bin Laden while actually keeping his body frozen for later forensic examination.

The great part of this conspiracy is there is no way to prove it false. Do you suppose official chain of custody (CoC) rules were applied to putting him in the water? Highly unlikely.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Noonan on Osama and Obama

Peggy Noonan, writing for The Wall Street Journal about the aftermath of the bin Laden killing, and our President's maladroit handling of that aftermath:
He has spent almost every moment since his Sunday night speech displaying both a tin ear and a chronic tendency to misunderstand his own country.
Ms. Peggy has sure got that right. This is one of her good columns.

Put Up or Shut Up

More than a few bin Laden partisans claim he isn't dead, that the U.S. didn't kill their guru. If this is true, it would be a massive embarrassment for President Obama.

A massive embarrassment for President Obama is something al Qaeda would dearly love to cause. So holy warriors, al Jazeera is waiting. Send them a video of Osama in which he makes fun of Obama's claim and demonstrates beyond doubt that he's still alive.

It is time to put up or shut up. Failure to do so indicates bin Laden is either (a) a coward who wants the world to believe he's dead, or (b) in fact, truly dead, as claimed.

Quote of the Day

David Paul Kuhn, who writes for RealClearPolitics, about the political impact of the bin Laden death on Obama's poll numbers:
The death of bin Laden increased independents' and Democrats' support for this president but Republican views remained unchanged.
The only way Obama might gain the approval of Republicans is to announce he will not run for a second term, an unlikely event.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Which Gang?

The Gang That Can Shoot Straight cannot talk straight? This White House, including the President and his staff, are seriously incompetent. Did the world need to know that bin Laden was unarmed when shot? Does that sound like brave warfare or shooting hogs at a slaughterhouse?

I have no problem with shooting the SOB and dumping his body at sea. I have lots of problem with announcing he was unarmed when shot. The SEALs weren't going to talk about that, why did the WH feel compelled to do so? Jeeze, I'm embarrassed.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Quote of the Day

Richard Reeves, writing for Yahoo News, talking about the rocky relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan:
At the end of the day, in a very bad marriage of shifting convenience, we don't trust them and they don't trust us -- and we're both right.

It's a Type

Am I the only person who sees an odd similarity between Osama bin Laden and Rasputin, both in appearance and behaviorally? Both creep me out.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Conservative Canada

Does "conservative Canada" seem an oxymoron? Tonight it is less so than has been the case for many years. In today's national election, Canada's Conservative Party won a clear majority of 166 parliamentary seats, where 155 seats would have been a bare majority.

For five years the Conservatives have led the Canadian government as senior partners in a coalition government. Now with a majority, the Conservatives can enact their program without consulting coalition partners on the left.

The win reflects a strengthening of what began as a western movement, now making serious eastward inroads in southern Manitoba, Ontario and New Brunswick. The greatly weakened Liberal party, which dominated Canadian politics for many years, is considering merging with the growing New Democratic Party, to its left.

Canada is experiencing the same hollowing out of the political middle we have experienced in the U.S., as our Democrats and Republicans became more distinct.

See Reuters' story at the Yahoo News site for analysis. The CBC News site has who won where; Canada's multicolor version of the Red state/Blue state maps we use to chart elections.