Wednesday, November 30, 2011

It's Obvious....

A 20 page memo from naval intelligence to President Roosevelt, dated three days before the Dec. 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor attack, warns of Japanese intentions:
In anticipation of open conflict with this country, Japan is vigorously utilizing every available agency to secure military, naval and commercial information, paying particular attention to the West Coast, the Panama Canal and the Territory of Hawaii.
Paul Bedard of U.S. News & World Report attempts to make much of this "warning." If I were FDR, my reaction to that, on Dec. 4, would have be "No kidding? To what other places would you expect Japan to pay attention?"

Those are the major areas of U.S. Pacific exposure. I wouldn't even have wondered why Alaska was left out, since in 1941 there was no overland transportation route between the lower 48 states and Alaska.

The U.S. understood that relations with Japan were very tense and might end up in warfare. It was merely the surprise attack without formal declaration of war that was considered especially evil, like someone hitting you when you back is turned.

Demographics and 2012

Sean Trende is Senior Elections Analyst for RealClearPolitics. He has written a closely reasoned article debunking the "demographics favor Democrats in 2012" argument.

Trende makes three points: minority populations won't grow much between 2008 and 2012, Obama will have a tough time winning white voters, and winning either white or minority voters is largely a zero-sum game. He concludes:
Barring a gift from the Republicans in the form of their nominee -- and this is something we absolutely should not rule out -- the president will likely have a very difficult time holding it together.

Attention CIA

A retired military analyst and his students at Georgetown University, using ingenuity, the internet, public documents, TV docudramas, and almost no money, have put together an understanding of China's buried nuke and missile facilities (aka "underground Great Wall") that very likely exceeds that of either the Pentagon or the genteel folks at Langley. This Washington Post article will leave you shaking your head in admiration.

Some instrumentality of the U.S. government should hire the entire group to work for us. Under a DARPA mandate would be good; they accomplished what they did by not being bureaucratic. Their work style reminds me of "Kelly" Johnson's legendary Skunk Works operation at Lockheed.

It's Happening

COTTonLINE wrote yesterday that "It would be justice if civilized nations refused to have embassies in Iran, and obviously refused to have Iranian embassies in their capitals."

Today Matt Drudge links to reports that at least two such nations - France and Norway - are making moves in that direction. You can find the articles here and here.

Let's hope for more. As long as Iran chooses to operate as a criminal conspiracy, they should be treated as such.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Market Forces Needed

The DrsC both taught in parts of the university - business and education - where our students generally got jobs. Often our two areas, plus engineering and computer science, were the only four majors for which recruiters showed up at the university looking for new hires.

Nevertheless students kept coming to campus to major in fields in which there was little or no hiring, because those fields reflected their interests. Here is an article, from RealClearMarkets, which suggests doing something about this disjuncture.

The suggestion is to provide subsidized student loans only in fields in which it is likely students will be able to find employment and repay the loans. Students who wish to major in other fields would need to fund their own studies via parental support, scholarships and/or part-time work.

One supposes this would result in fewer philosophy majors, archeology majors, art and music majors, sociology majors, and that favorite of college athletes - communication majors. And, ceteris paribus, fewer university graduates.

Universities, controlled to some degree by their faculties, might attempt to engage in cost shifting of the sort hospitals have done. It could take the form of charging much higher tuition and fees to students in the programs for which subsidized loans are available. Some intervention to prevent this would be required.

Community colleges, which focus on preparation for many occupational fields, might find more student loan funds available to their students.

Rove: Bye, Bye Barney

Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA), former Chairman and current ranking minority member of the House Financial Services Committee, has announced he will not run for reelection in 2012. Karl Rove of Fox News has written a sendoff for Frank of the "we'll be far better off without him" sort.

Rove lists a number of Frank's unfortunate behaviors vis-a-vis the nation's banking system, but omits perhaps his worst fault. Omits it because it was one the Bush administration shared.

Frank was a leading advocate of making mortgage loans to people who could not afford to repay them. As such, he bears much of the guilt for the housing collapse which is at the heart of the current deep recession. Far from feeling guilt, I daresay Frank is proud of his advocacy.

Political Demographics

James Taranto, who writes The Wall Street Journal's Best of the Web Today column, has an excellent summary of the various arguments concerning demographics and the upcoming election. It turns out to be one of those deals you can argue in any direction you choose, depending on your political bias.

It is fascinating that the Democratic Party, which historically represented the working class, has largely given up representing them. It has replaced them with the huge numbers of non-military governmental employees (local, state, federal), who understand by whom their bread is buttered.

Quote of the Day

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, quoted in The Hill, about President Obama's deliberate noninvolvement with the supercommittee's efforts to reduce the deficit:
Well, then what the hell are we paying you for?
"What the hell are we paying you for?" The Gov sounds like Harry Truman or Richard Daley.

Lower Than Jimmy Carter

Paul Bedard of U.S. News & World Report has sad news for Team Obama:
President Obama's slow ride down Gallup's daily presidential job approval index has finally passed below Jimmy Carter, earning Obama the worst job approval rating of any president at this stage of his term in modern political history.
Limbo dancers in the Caribbean ask: "How low can you go, mon?"

Voter Intensity

The Wall Street Journal's Gerald F. Seib has a column today about voter intensity, how strongly members of the two parties feel about the 2012 election. Seib describes the importance of intensity as follows:
It's a rough, but important, measure of how likely a voter is to actually show up on Election Day to cast a ballot.
In 2008 the Democrats had more intensity, now the Republicans do. The party that does not hold the presidency often will have more intensity. It is difficult for an incumbent to meet his supporters' expectations, but easy for him to enrage his opponents.

If you are rooting for the GOP to win, you'll enjoy this column.


A scorpion met a frog on a bank of the Suez Canal and asked "May I ride to the other side on your back?"
The frog replied, "Of course not. If I agreed you would sting me and I'd drown."
The scorpion argued, "We'd both drown, so of course I won't sting you."
The frog finally agreed and, in the middle of the canal, was stung by the scorpion.
As they both sank below the water the frog asked, "Why did you kill both of us?
Shrugging, the scorpion replied, "It's the Middle East."

Labor unions behave in ways that cause their industries to fail. During times of little or no competition, unions develop a mindset that says we get to demand what we want and they will give it to us.

When competition arrives, the unions will not (perhaps cannot) permit the "legacy" firms to become competitive in wages, hours, and working conditions. As a result, the firms typically go through bankruptcy, perhaps even out of business.

Examples of this phenomenon include two of the "big three" U.S. auto makers and the U.S. legacy airlines, another one of which (American Airlines) today announced Ch. 11 bankruptcy.

Labor relations scholars might wish to research what it is about this situation that leads unions members to behave in ways that are destructive to the very firms that employ them. Perhaps, like the scorpion, they enjoy killing their firm so much they are willing to have their jobs die as a consequence.

Iran Outrage

Iranian "students," apparently with governmental approval, broke into the British embassy and trashed it. See the Associated Press story atYahoo News.

This is reminiscent of what happened to the U.S. embassy in Iran during the Carter administration. It would be justice if civilized nations refused to have embassies in Iran, and obviously refused to have Iranian embassies in their capitals.

Monday, November 28, 2011


Max Boot has written for Commentary a very negative, but accurate, view of the dysfunctional U.S./Pakistan relationship. Unfortunately, you could read his entire article and fail to be reminded that the Islamic nation of Pakistan has nuclear weapons.

As Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann accurately pointed out to Governor Perry in a recent GOP presidential candidate debate, ignoring the nuclear arsenal of Pakistan is "naive." Naivety is something Max Boot is rarely guilty of.

One could easily imagine a really angry Pakistan allowing the "theft" of a couple of nukes by al Qaeda, with disastrous results. Suppose al Qaeda melts down a big part of Los Angeles, how do we respond? Do we nuke Karachi? More to the point, do the Pakistanis believe we would do that? Do you believe it? I don't.

The Anglosphere

A break-up of the eurozone and possibly the EU (see below) as well might create a new opportunity to establish a treaty grouping called the Anglosphere, which would include the U.K,, the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and possibly Ireland, if they were interested. I imagine it as a free-trade zone initially, and possibly more integration later.

All of these nations share a legal system basis (I think), a language, and significant cultural heritage. I can see substantial advantages to this treaty group.

Note: "Anglosphere" is not a term of my creation. A Google search comes up with "about 315,000" hits for Anglosphere.

Euro at Risk

This article in The Telegraph (U.K.) indicates that the strongest nation in the euro zone - Germany - went to market to sell bonds (i.e., borrow money) and found 30% of their ten-year bonds were not purchased.

The article takes a dim view of Europe's future:
Until recently, the idea that the eurozone could break into pieces seemed outlandish. But increasingly, it appears to be the most likely outcome.
And yet in the recent GOP candidates' debate on foreign affairs, Europe's problems were hardly mentioned.

Friedman: Beware Syria

The New York Times' Tom Friedman is worth reading when he writes about the Middle East, as he does here. He takes a sweeping look at the unrest in the region, characterizes most of it as young people wanting out from under old regimes, and hopes for its success without too much violence.

Friedman sees the unrest in Syria as unlike that of other countries of the region; that is, more dangerous:
Syria is the keystone of the Levant. It borders and balances a variety of states, sects and ethnic groups. If civil war erupts there, every one of Syria’s neighbors will cultivate, and be cultivated by, different Syrian factions — Sunnis, Alawites, Kurds, Druse, Christians, pro-Iranians, pro-Hezbollahites, pro-Palestinians, pro-Saudis — in order to try to tilt Syria in their direction. Turkey, Lebanon, Hezbollah, Iraq, Iran, Hamas, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Israel all have vital interests in who rules in Damascus.

Barone: On Income Inequality

Michael Barone, writing for RealClearPolitics, shares some findings by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan:
Social Security and Medicare have been transferring money from low-earning young people (who don't pay income [tax] but are hit by the payroll tax) to increasingly affluent old people.

The Democrats, perhaps following the polls and focus groups, have been protecting these entitlement programs that have done more to increase income inequality than the Reagan and Bush tax cuts put together.

If this is true, as I expect it is, then the politically untouchable entitlement system is forcing the working poor to subsidize the middle and upper middle classes.

Next Barone make a point with which I suspect most of us would agree:
Much of the increased inequality comes from the huge increases for those in the top 1 percent of earners. But we wouldn't be better off if Steve Jobs had never existed.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Shlaes: Newt A Sexy Geek

Amity Shlaes writes for Bloomberg that Newt Gingrich is a geek - a knowledgeable insider - and people are liking him for that very reason. She makes a good argument, give it a look.

Steyn: More Doom, More Gloom

Mark Steyn loves to flirt with disaster, with how bad everything is, and face it, he is very good at what he does. I love his line that says:
The government of the United States currently spends $188 million it doesn't have every hour of every day.
Now that is a level of disaster I can get my arms around, how about you? Check out his latest column from The Orange County Register.

Newt Like Winnie?

Here on The Daily Caller is another article making the Gingrich/Churchill comparison, and doing it well. If Gingrich should be selected and then elected, others will draw this Churchill parallel as we did here at COTTonLINE on November 13, 2011.

No More Leg Chill

MSNBC talking head Chris Matthews was famous, four years ago, for saying that listening to Barack Obama gave him a chill up his leg. That chill is gone.

Joseph Curl reports in The Washington Times that Matthews has said the following:
Once having won the office, he seemed to think that that was the end of it in terms of his connection to the American people. … I think everybody feels an absence of communication from the time he’s been elected. And it’s not about not being left-wing enough or too left. That’s not his problem. It’s connection. And Mrs. Obama, she’s an amazing asset. And what has she done? Obesity? How about connecting with the American people about being Americans? I don’t think she’s happy. I don’t think they like being in the White House. The American people can tell that. They don’t seem thrilled at the fact the American people have selected them as our first family. I don’t sense the gratitude, the happiness level, the thrill of being president.
I found a source for this quote here on NewsBusters. It is transcript of an interview with host Alex Witt from the MSNBC program Weekends with Alex Witt.

Matthews has wondered about the racism of whites criticizing Obama. Has Matthews' racism surfaced?

Quote of the Day

Frank Bruni, who writes for The New York Times, discussing modern U.S. politics:
Politicians, stuck in a sclerotic system that renders real accomplishment difficult, lavish more energy on words than on elusive deeds.
Bruni calls ours "a sclerotic system." I haven't heard a better description of Washingtonian malfunction recently.

NH Paper Endorses Newt

The leading paper in New Hampshire is the Union Leader which, contrary to its name, it isn't liberal. It has endorsed Newt Gingrich for the Republican nomination for president.

The paper made their endorsement although Mitt Romney is leading in the NH polls. It may be worth your time to see what the editors say.

Lonely Japan

Very large numbers of young Japanese have no lover; 61% of men have no girlfriend and half of women have no boyfriend. However when asked most hope to eventually be married.

See the article from The Mainichi Daily News. Something about Japanese society isn't working properly. It could be related to their continuing economic malaise.

Top Ten Euro Problems

Go see this concise article about the Euro's problems, appearing in Worldcrunch/Die Welt. Author Olaf Gersemann makes some very basic points. He notes that there is little to bring Europeans together, and much to push them apart.
Europe wouldn’t necessarily need many shared values to function as a free trade zone. But as a currency union, survival depends on shared economic and political values.
Northern Europe and Southern Europe do not share economic and political values, or a language.

Take a look at this quote from a similar article in Foreign Policy:
A currency union of 17 nations, each with their own tax rates and public sector employment rates and labor market rules -- and above all, their own wildly varying rates of productivity -- cannot last. Either a mechanism has to be found to make them behave more like one another, or the 20-year-old experiment that is the euro, and perhaps even the half-century-old experiment that is the EU, will come to an end.

Shaky Analysis

You will see articles, like this one in The New York Times, that allege the suburbs are in permanent decline. Don't rush to accept the judgment.

It may be an accurate prediction, or it may not. COTTonLINE suspects "not." In any event, wait until the economy returns to prosperity, which may take several years.

Announcing a new housing pattern in the throes of the worst economic downturn we've experienced since the 1930s, is like announcing someone is in poor health because they have the flu. It mistakes the temporary for the permanent.

If we return to several years of prosperity and yet people still avoid the suburbs and exurbs, then it will be time to announce the arrival of a new, more urban housing trend. Not now.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Avoiding Burglary

This article in the Daily Mail online, a British paper, gives a list of things a burglar says he would avoid. I believe him.

Your town or city contains a gazillion houses so burglars play the odds and avoid those with things that make them problematic. Add one or two of these and reduce your odds of being burgled. Hat tip to for the link.

Segregation Not Unique

Many believed segregation was a uniquely U.S. problem. Not so. Here is an example from Norway, reported in the Sydney Morning Herald of Australia.

It happens because cultures don't get along with each other very well. Why can't we accept this as a fact of life? Hat tip to for the link.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Unhappy Quote of the Day

CNBC summarizes the week's stock trading:
The Dow and S&P posted their worst Thanksgiving week since the Great Depression on a percentage basis.
The equities market anticipates where the economy is headed six months from now. This is not good news.

About Italy

Writing for The Wall Street Journal, Raymond Zhong reports an interview he has done with historian David Gilmour concerning Gilmour's most recent book "The Pursuit of Italy."

The essential issue they wrestle with is how Italy manages to stay united, given its internal divisions. Gilmour believes Italians feel like Neapolitans or Tuscans and Europeans but not necessarily much like Italians.

WSJ asks whether Italy is governable, an interesting question given its recent history.

BBC Catches Up

Two weeks ago (on Nov. 15) COTTonLINE wrote that Greeks would be taking their money out of banks ahead of any devaluation or switch back from the euro to the drachma. The BBC has finally caught up with those thoughts; see this article about fear of bank runs.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Barone: A New Game?

Michael Barone is one of the most savvy political analysts working today Here he writes for RealClearPolitics that there is a good chance the GOP ground rules for getting nominated and elected may have changed.

Barone attributes the change to the rise of new media and the corresponding decline in importance of broadcast TV and newspapers. He may well be correct.

Wouldn't it be great if a consequence was candidates putting far fewer ads on broadcast TV in the weeks leading up to an election? The pre-election ads blizzard has become truly hateful and, I dare to think, counterproductive as well. We can hope.

Romney Reluctance

The prolific sage of the San Joaquin, Victor Davis Hanson, has written a charming and largely accurate assessment of the GOP's reluctance to nominate Mitt Romney. The article appears in National Review Online and is entirely worth your time. I wish I could write as well as VDH does.

Hanson concludes we are reluctant to nominate Romney because we worry that:
A moderate President Romney would prove a reach-out centrist — spending borrowed money like George W. Bush did on No Child Left Behind or the Medicare drug benefit, thereby ruining for good the now-suspect Republican brand of fiscal sobriety.
Living for the past decade or more in a largely LDS community has shown me Mormons do believe in pitching in to aid the less fortunate. So the concern seems realistic.

At this point it isn't clear that we have an electable alternative to Mitt.

The Expat Experience

Americans think about being expats, living abroad, but other folks do this as well. I just read a BBC News article about the expat experiences Brits have in Oz, and Aussies have in the U.K. For an Anglophile like yours truly, it was an interesting read.

It reminded me of my own thoughts about an American's experience living in either New Zealand or Australia. Having visited both more than once, and more than briefly, my sense was that an American would experience less culture shock in Australia than in EnZed, but would find New Zealand a more beautiful place by far.

Let me share my mental cultural model. Imagine a continuum from Britain to the U.S. I view New Zealand as being closer to the British end and Australia closer to the U.S. end.

If the four countries were beads on a wire, we'd find Britain on one end, then about 1/3 of the way along but closer to Britain we'd find EnZed, and 2/3 of the way along we'd find Oz, closer to the U.S. than to the U.K., and finally at the far end we'd find the U.S.

Let's say you wanted to place Canada on that same continuum of English-speaking countries, where would it fit? I'd place it perhaps half way between Australia and the U.S., quite close to the U.S.

Most places in the world anglophone Canadians would be mistaken for Americans unless they have maple leaf flag badges sewn on their jackets or backpacks, or show their passports.

I wonder how many CIA operatives masquerade as Canucks? Plenty, I bet. Get a subscription to Macleans, teach yourself some hockey lore, learn to say "eh?" and "aboot," to spell "labor" as "labour" and convert to metric and you should be able to pass.

Turkey Day Thoughts

Today people give thanks; turkeys have much more skin in the game, literally. Is this a "feel sorry for the poor bird" blog entry? Not even close; I am an unabashed omnivore.

In case I haven't mentioned it, I was born in Hollywood and grew up in a Southern California orange orchard. That sounds glamorous, but it wasn't.

I grew up next door to my uncle's turkey farm. Wild turkeys are said to be smart; turkeys raised for market are some of the dumbest creatures on the planet. And they smell bad.

Farming is dangerous and dirty. I was run into by a tractor driven by my uncle. And working in the grove I suffered the injury that kept me out of the service.

My uncle needed to dispose of tons of turkey manure without hauling it long distances. We needed to enrich the soil of our orange orchard. It was a win-win solution. Our trees produced more and bigger fruit than our neighbors' trees as a result.

Gophers kill orange trees by chewing on the bark. I made the money to buy my first car running a trap line to kill gophers in our orchard.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Let The Voters Decide

The Editors of The Wall Street Journal, Paul Gigot and his colleagues, have pronounced their evaluation of the super committee's failure, and it is a good one:
The real reason for the super committee's failure: the two parties disagree profoundly on a vision of government.
The editorial points out correctly that the failure of the super committee was caused by the president's insistence on a large tax increase. I also like their conclusion:
Democrats are confident they can blame Republicans for the failure and ride their president's class war campaign to victory. Republicans have to counter with a message of economic growth and sensible reforms of our government institutions so the U.S. doesn't end up like Europe.
This is for voters to decide. Let's have it out.

AP Wrong, Caribou Safe

Two years ago the Associated Press reported via USA Today that an enormous herd of caribou had gone missing and attributed the loss to global warming and a failure of the caribou to adapt. The AP goofed.

The caribou have been found, safe and sound, farther north near Queen Maud Gulf in Nunavut. One more time, climate alarmists have been shown to be overexcited and under-informed. A hat tip to Don Surber for the links, and to for the link to Don.

More on the Obama Base

Two additional thoughts about the Obama base follow. According to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, some 10% of Americans have no religious faith. According to the Gallup polling organization, two thirds of the non-religious are either Democrats or independents, only a third are Republicans. So, another roughly 5-6% of Americans with no religion will vote Democrat.

A caveat is noted: a linear adding up of the electorate percentages represented by various groups as indicated in the previous blog entry is misleading. The groups can and do overlap to some degree. Examples: Some LGBT people are also government employees. Some women for whom abortion rights are a main election criterion are also Jewish. It is conceivable that one individual might belong to several of these groups.

Other groups hardly overlap at all. Committed unionists from the private sector cannot be government employees. Almost no Hispanics are also Jewish.

Bottom line, roughly 40% of Americans support the president in poll after poll. Given Obama's weak performance, their support is less approval for him than fear of the GOP, its adherents and their values. To some degree those fears are rational.

The Obama Base

People are writing about Barack Obama's rock-solid base of 40+ percent, and trying to figure out how that can be true. I think I have some notions of the components of that base.

First, African-Americans who make up roughly 13% of the U.S. population; I expect Obama to get nearly all of those votes. Hispanics make up about 15% of the population, and Obama will get two-thirds of those votes, that takes us up to about 23% of the U.S. voting public.

Add to that the approximately 4% who are LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender), now we're at 27%. Another 5-6% are government employees, nearly all of whom vote Democrat. Our new total is about 33%.

Nearly 2% of the electorate is Jewish, a group which mostly votes with Democrats. Two other groups which will add to the Obama base are women for whom abortion rights are of overriding importance, and committed unionists from the private sector.

I'd say we've identified all of the 40+% of the electorate upon which Barry O. can count. The groups identified above are, for a variety of reasons, very reliable Democrat voters.

Quote of the Day

Richard Cohen, who writes for The Washington Post and is found here at RealClearPolitics, musing about the disproportionate political power of Iowa caucus attendees:
If you want to join the true American elite, move to Iowa and register to vote. This is something the Occupy Wall Street crowd does not understand. If they want real influence, they should Occupy Iowa.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Supercommittee a Failure

The co-chairs of the debt reduction supercommittee have announced that it has failed to achieve agreement on $1.2 trillion budget cuts. See this Politico article for details and their statements.

No one is surprised by this outcome, least of all COTTonLINE. The two parties have very different ideas about what the federal government should accomplish and how big it should be.

The first, and perhaps only, law of politics is to be reelected. Each party's representatives on the committee could see that caving in to the other side would be career suicide, so they did not cave. Any other behavior would have been quite strange.

If, in January 2013, we have Republican control of both houses of Congress and the presidency, then it will be possible to act to reduce governmental size. I say "possible," but when those conditions pertained in the Bush administration it did not happen.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

OOcupy Whatever

Generally the Occupy Wall Street movement has been a complete waste. Go here on Powerline to see a couple of young women who have used OWS as an excuse to take off their shirts to celebrate the 99% notion (scroll down). It's a clever way to attract attention.

Political Science 101

David Shribman, who writes for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, has done a very nice retrospective on the evolution of the U.S. two party system. It is an evolution from two rather amorphous parties to two very ideologically pure parties.

Shribman blames FDR for trying, but admits that FDR failed in an attempt to create ideologically aligned parties. Today, we have a very nearly purely conservative Republican party, and a similar purely liberal Democrat party.

Shribman is entirely convinced that ideologically aligned parties don't work; I am less certain. What is certain is that members of one party are unlikely to become friends with representatives of the other party, as used to happen.

All it would take for the current alignment to work is a clear majority for one of the parties in both houses of Congress and the Presidency. With a clear majority a party should be able to govern. The growing group of independents are sufficiently large to give one party that majority.

Values Conflict

In the Tom Friedman article referenced in the previous blog entry, Tom emphasizes the importance of good parents in children's achievement. Yet, in recent years we've emphasized the need for better teachers.

We gave up on excellence in parenting because there aren't enough hours in the day for careers and self-actualization and excellent parenting. Instead we push the responsibility over onto teachers, who sit there looking at a group of 20-30 kids needing adult attention, wondering how to replace the parenting that is not happening at home. It is no surprise that darn few succeed.

We have given up on having better parents because pushing for better parenting creates conflicting values. In order to have better parents we need more two-parent homes, with a stay-at-home parent to read with the children.

That conflicts with our desire to support the self-actualization of women: career growth and work that is intellectually stimulating. The need for two-parent homes conflicts with our commitment to marriages that are emotionally fulfilling. Meanwhile single-parent homes face work-parenting conflicts, with little time left for the parent to "have a life" and be a good parent.

In most developed, industrialized countries birth rates have dropped to below replacement levels. Many citizens understand they cannot do a decent job of parenting and "have a life" so they skip the parenting and have the life. Ultimately, this is self-destructive for a society.

Read to Your Children

The New York Times' Tom Friedman is solid about foreign affairs and useless about domestic politics. Here he writes about what leads to children's intellectual achievement. In this article, I agree with nearly every syllable he writes.

Friedman is reporting the results of a study done by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, or O.E.C.D. Every three years they survey 15 year olds in industrialized nations to determine their:
Reading comprehension and ability to use what they’ve learned in math and science to solve real problems — the most important skills for succeeding in college and life.
This testing program is called the P.I.S.A. or Program for International Student Assessment. To understand why some students do well and others poorly, the organization interviewed the parents of 5000 students in 18 industrialized countries. Here are the study's three main findings:
  • Fifteen-year-old students whose parents often read books with them during their first year of primary school show markedly higher scores in PISA 2009 than students whose parents read with them infrequently or not at all.
  • The performance advantage among students whose parents read to them in their early school years is evident regardless of the family’s socio-economic background.
  • Parents’ engagement with their 15-year-olds is strongly associated with better performance in PISA.
I remember my parents reading to and with me and emphasizing the importance of college throughout my adolescence, and before. I'm sure Friedman has these memories too. It matters.

Barnes: Newt Could Win

Fred Barnes, executive editor of The Weekly Standard, looks at the Gingrich candidacy and concludes Republicans just might be willing to overlook Newt's peccadilloes and elect him president. Barnes shows how Reagan, Clinton, and Schwarzenegger all overcame similar iffy reputations and were elected.

Barnes believes what Republicans aren't liking about Romney is that he is mild-mannered:
In their hearts, Republicans have always wanted a candidate who is bold and tough, and Gingrich is. They’re not sure about Mitt Romney, who is cautious, conventional, and sounds more conciliatory than Gingrich.
Not to mention Romneycare, which clearly was a blueprint for Obamacare.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Cook: GOP to Romp in 2012

Well-known vote-counter Charlie Cook predicts a clean sweep by Republicans in 2012. See the article at U.S. News & World Report.

Interestingly, Cook figures a few seats lost in the House, but not enough to threaten the Republican majority. He sees a slim GOP majority in the Senate; and he thinks Romney will be nominated and elected.

If the election turns out as Cook predicts, the Republicans need an agenda for governing. With control of all three bases of Washington power, there is no excuse for doing nothing. Simply being against the Barack Obama/Harry Reid agenda won't be enough.

Cut $9 Trillion Plus

If you want to see what a real "cut the deficit" plan looks like, go see this U.S. News & World Report story on a proposal by the Tea Party. They propose eliminating four cabinet departments: Commerce, Education, Energy, and Housing and Urban Development. Way to go, guys.

They also propose eliminating farm subsidies, much foreign aid, student loans, and privatizing or reducing TSA, EPA, plus Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Oh, and they want to cut federal pay by 10% too. This plan would reduce federal spending by almost $10 trillion over ten years. I like it.

CA Malaise: A Summary

Want to know what is wrong with the economics of the Golden State? An article in City Journal by demographer Wendell Cox lays it out for you in gruesome detail. Comparing the period 1992 - 2000 with the period 2000 - 2008, he finds large differences, all moving in the wrong direction.

There are fewer jobs, poorer jobs, weaker companies, etc. Notice Cox has picked two comparison periods before the onset of the Great Recession. His point is to show that California was on the wrong track before the recession began, a set of bad trends only accelerated by the recession.

Making reference to Steven Malanga's Cali to Business: Get Out, Cox summarizes California's economic problems as the following:
Suffocating regulations, inflated business taxes and fees, a lawsuit-friendly legal environment, and a political class uninterested in business concerns, if not downright hostile to them.
He adds to that an extraordinarily high cost of living, with housing prices having skyrocketed in the major metropolitan areas thanks to runaway land-use regulation.

Cox doesn't even mention the state's sky high personal income and sales taxes. Or the domination of state politics by public employee unions.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Al Jazeera Stirs Balkan Pot

In 1888 Otto von Bismarck predicted:
One day the great European War will come out of some damned foolish thing in the Balkans.
Twenty six years later, long after his death in 1898 Bismarck was proven correct. The trigger event for World War I was the assassination in Sarajevo of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife, on 28 June 1914.

This region, with its three or more religions, two alphabets, and at least three languages, continues to be a tinderbox where violence is never far away. Now Al Jazeera, the Qatari news service, has decided to offer news in the region in the most common local language, Bosnian-Serbo-Croatian.

Al Jazeera's news service is likely to cause trouble in this volatile region, as an article in The Weekly Standard notes. The biggest group of Islamic people in the region speak Albanian and therefore will not be listeners.

It's 33%, Not 99%

Public Policy Polling, a Democrat polling outfit, sadly reports that only 33% approve of the Occupy Wall Street movement. So the slogan that OWS represents 99% of us is exaggerated by a factor of three. It just isn't so.

PPP is relatively honest; they report that the Tea Party movement is now more popular than OWS, a reversal of last month's numbers. As hard as they try to spin these findings to favor Democrats, their spin just doesn't work.

Some Boomers can't forget their glory days in the 1960s anti-war movement. However, crowds of dirty people loudly doing nasty things in public parks is unpopular with most of us today, and was then, too.

Quote of the Day

Thomas L. Friedman, writing in The New York Times about the much-less-than-adequate governmental situation around the world:
Today, across the globe and across all political systems, leaders are in dangerously short supply.
We certainly don't have one in the U.S.

Cotton's Corollary

Finally I've got an explanation of why red-breasted robins in Wyoming are larger than the same birds in California. The explanation from Inside Science:
A theory known to biologists as Bergmann's Rule, which generally holds that animals get bigger the farther north they are found. (snip) The reason, the theory holds, is that larger animals can retain heat better and are therefore better able to survive at higher latitudes.
Wyoming isn't a lot north of my part of northern California, but it is at a substantially higher altitude, which makes it much colder - creating a similar advantage for larger members of a species.

I propose we call this addendum to Bergmann's Rule - concerning larger body sizes at higher elevations - Cotton's Corollary.

Israel-Iran War?

Benny Morris writes in The National Interest that Israel is getting quite close to making an attack on Iran, perhaps as soon as the end of 2011. He sees the IAEA's recent pronouncements on Iranian nuclear weapon-making as the deciding factor.

Noting that Israel will probably not warn the U.S. in advance of an attack, Morris nevertheless believes the U.S. will aid Israel after the fact and gives several reasons why he believes this is so.

Morris omits the most determinative reason: because the Iranians will consider an Israeli attack as a joint attack by the U.S. and Israel and will retaliate accordingly. U.S. assets in the region will be attacked by Iran and its proxies in Hezbollah and Hamas. The U.S. will not have the option of remaining out of the fighting.

Political Humor Alert

Talking about Margaret Thatcher reminds me of one of my favorite political jokes, which concerns Lady Thatcher. As PM she was having a late staff meeting and the group decided to break for supper at a nearby restaurant.

The waiter asked her what she would have from the menu, she said "I'll have the roast beef."
The waiter replied "Very good, ma'am. And the vegetables?"
Her dry response, "They'll have the roast beef too."

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Year-End Euro Exit?

Michael Pettis, writing for the Business Spectator, predicts that the Greek government will freeze bank deposits and pull out of the Euro sometime in the Christmas-New Years period. He bases this on the fact that Mexico in 1994 and Argentina in 2001 did the deed at year's end.

Inasmuch as the yearend period is only five or six weeks away, we won't have to wait long to see if his prediction is correct. I'll bet Greeks are already pulling hard money (i.e., euros) out of their banks, I know I would. As Pettis points out, rational behavior on the part of individuals is exactly what is irrational for the society as a whole.

Spy vs. Spy

Do you remember the long-ago Mad magazine cartoons of Spy vs. Spy? One guy in white was always stalking another guy in black, or vice versa. There was no dialog. I was reminded of this item from my far past by a Time article about the covert moves Iran and Israel are (maybe) making on each other.

Israel may be doing violent covert things to Iran to try to get Iran to retaliate overtly in order to justify an overt Israeli strike on Iranian nuclear facilities. In spite of a series of provocations, some relatively major, Iran is not retaliating and one theory is that they aren't retaliating in order not to give Israel that provocation. It is all very Spy vs. Spy.

Then again, much of what appears to be Israeli covert action may be Iranian ineptitude. That is, a third world nation trying to accomplish first world technology with inadequate resources and corrupt people.

Poor Bolivia

Jaime Darenblum checks in with an update on the mess in Bolivia. Apparently President Evo Morales, who led street protests against former governments, is experiencing street protests against his own government.

How joyful when the worm turns. I believe the sensation is technically called schadenfreude, or enjoyment obtained from the troubles of others.

Bolivia continues to be a mess. See Darenblum's article in The Weekly Standard.

Rabinowitz on Gingrich

Dorothy Rabinowitz writes for The Wall Street Journal. As a journalist she gets paid to follow the endless GOP debates. It seems Newt Gingrich has made a convert of her.

She sees Professor G capturing audiences with his fact-loaded speeches. Learn what she sees in him here.

Etzioni Lives

When I was a doctoral student in the 1970s we studied the writings of Amitai Etzioni who seemed then to be one of the grand old men of organizational sociology and theory. Thirty five years later he is still writing and teaching, and by now must be significantly (p<.05) older than dirt.

Anyway, if you want to see evidence of apparent perpetual motion, I give you a link to a current article by this publishing phenomenon in The National Interest. His current interests include foreign affairs, as do mine; here he writes about China's belligerent moves in the South China Sea.

P.S. Wikipedia says he was born in 1929.

Public vs. Private Sector Unions

Unions representing workers in private industry and commerce are fundamentally different from unions representing public employees, although this may not seem so on the surface. Both represent their workers and try to get them better pay, shorter hours, safer working conditions, better benefits, etc. The differences are in how they go about it: their sources of leverage.

The Manhattan Institute for Policy Research has issued a brief policy paper on this issue. It points out that in 1955 almost no government employees were represented by unions, and that Federal employees still may not bargain collectively over salary and benefits.

The key benefit of this paper is its thorough discussion of the differences between public and private sector unions. Here is an example of those differences from the AFSCME Newsletter of September, 2006:
We elect our bosses, so we’ve got to elect politicians who support us and then hold them accountable on our issues.

An Outrage

Imagine the uproar if a conservative film maker did an FDR biopic that emphasized his last partial term when, in failing health, he made unfortunate judgments with respect to the intentions of Joseph Stalin and resumed a long-dead relationship with mistress Lucy Page Mercer Rutherfurd. Although those failings happened, that is not the story of the accomplishments of FDR.

Matt Drudge has a link to a story in The Telegraph (London) about the new movie on the life of Margaret Thatcher, starring Meryl Streep. If the article is accurate, the film is on balance an outrage.

Lady Thatcher has had the misfortune to suffer the mental mistiness of old age, whose harsh name is senile dementia. You and I may well experience it too, if we live long enough. Doing so will detract not one whit from the accomplishments of our lives.

The story of the public Margaret Thatcher is the story of a grocer's daughter who became Britain's most outstanding prime minister since World War II. She turned around a country in socialist decline, making it one of the strongest in Europe, and defeated Argentinian aggression in the Falkland Islands. Anything else is a political hit piece.

Monday, November 14, 2011

WRM: An Elegy for the Boomers

Walter Russell Mead takes a look at his generation - the Baby Boomers - and concludes it has been a failure. Writing for The American Interest, Mead sees his fellow Boomers as narcissistic, selfish, and immature. Too much the grasshopper, too little the ant.

Mead contrasts Boomers with the generation of their parents, and today's America with the kind of America those parents passed on to their Boomer children. He sees much to admire in the parents' cohort, in the America the Boomers inherited.

If you have a few minutes to read this sad, introspective article, it is definitely worth your time.

Weird Science 5.0

Psychologists have determined that the less covered up people are, the less intelligent they are believed to be. In other words, show more skin and be seen as sensual rather than intelligent.

What is particularly interesting (and different) is that the finding covers both men and women. The study is reported in PsychCentral and originally appeared in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

The finding isn't particularly surprising. It however suggests that women's clothing styles, often more revealing than those worn by men, constitute a roadblock to women being taken seriously in career settings.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A Rosy Scenario

Tired of gloom and doom? Of predictions of disaster? I have a tonic for depressed Americans, one which suggests our U.S. forecast is brighter than that of Europe or China.

See this Wall Street Journal article by Ian Bremmer and Nouriel Roubini. They predict our turn around will begin in 2013 after the presidential election. Like you, I hope they are correct.

More about Europe

Doug Saunders, writing for The Globe and Mail of Canada, makes the following trenchant comment about what must happen in Greece, Spain, Italy, Portugal, and Ireland:
A number of EU members will have to become developing countries again – after having lived as first-world countries for more than a decade. They’ll have no choice. This is true even if they quit the euro and readopt the drachma or the lira. In fact, possibly even more so.
Even among rational people, expectations rise easily but go down with great difficulty. The riots we've seen in Greece are nothing to what will occur when people understand they must go back to being poor, to doing without government jobs and services, financed with borrowed money, to which they've become accustomed.

Ohio vs. Colorado

Ryan Lizza writes for The New Yorker that the key decision for Team Obama will be whether to do an Ohio strategy, or a Colorado strategy. The Ohio strategy is based around unions and white blue-collar workers; the Colorado strategy is focused on a coalition of minorities, the young, and what he calls "the highly educated."

This article is for politics wonks who count electoral college votes.

Balz on Gingrich, Again

Newt Gingrich surges in the polls and Dan Balz of The Washington Post again pays attention. The Balz analysis is a good one, let me share with you his conclusion:
Gingrich has various attributes, which have kept him as a prominent voice in the Republican Party for more than two decades in spite of setbacks and self-inflicted wounds. For reasons mostly beyond his doing, he may have been handed a new opportunity for redemption and leadership. Whether he can restrain the impulses that have brought him down in the past will now be his biggest challenge.
If Newt succeeds in becoming president, analysts will compare the dramatic ups and downs of his career to those of Winston Churchill. One similarity is already evident - writing many books. Amazon currently lists twelve books authored or co-authored by Gingrich.

Quote of the Day

Edward Carr, writing for The Economist, about the financial, political and monetary troubles in Europe:
An ageing Europe starts to look increasingly like the western peninsula of a resurgent Asia.
This is overstated, but don't you hear underlying truth?

If you wish to learn more about the economic troubles in Europe, read this overview also in The Economist.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Dilemma

Irwin Stelzer writes for The Weekly Standard, and is concerned with the extent to which troubles in Greece and Italy presage similar troubles here at home. In two sentences he sums up our economic dilemma:
So long as Democrats refuse meaningful cuts in entitlement programs, and Republicans hold out against increases in tax rates, Greece is what we are about to become. Unless, of course, we use our one advantage—the ability to print money to reduce the value of outstanding debts—in which case inflation is in our future.
If I were a betting man, I'd bet on the "printing money" option as it doesn't require much political compromise. Such compromise may be impossible in our deadlocked red vs. blue nation.

Political Charm

Karen Tumulty has written a short political piece about the Newtster for The Washington Post. And it is charming, something few political articles manage.

It turns out Speaker Gingrich has been listening to his precocious grandchildren, and getting good advice. I won't spoil the fun by telling you what that good advice is.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Gingrich Up in Polls

Newt Gingrich has moved up in two polls, placing him second behind Romney. Go here to see a Wall Street Journal report of those polls.

Newt has a characteristic that would serve him well as president: his broad knowledge of United States history. Presidents need to know what has, and has not, worked in the past.

I don't know if Newt would be a good president, perhaps he would. What I am absolutely sure of is that Newt is the GOP figure whom I would most like to hear as an after-dinner speaker. He comes up with the most interesting ideas of any GOP candidate.

Whether that quality translates into positive presidential performance is a good question. Some of Newt's ideas are real stinkers, such as collaborating with Nancy Pelosi.

Our Veterans

Today is Veterans' Day, the anniversary of the armistice in World War I which occurred on this day, November 11. It is the day we honor our veterans from all our wars.

World War I featured the poorest generalship in recent memory. Both sides kept sending waves of young men into machine gunfire and held them in trenches that were pounded by artillery and fumigated with poison gas. It was brutal and pretty much pointless until one side wore out.

The failures of politicians and generals should not diminish our respect for our men and women in uniform. Honor our veterans.

Travel Blogging XIX

Knoxville, Tennessee: The DrsC have spent the last 3-4 days in eastern Tennessee. We were fortunate enough to arrive during the autumn leaves - this is seriously beautiful country, particularly at this time of year.

All the blue line highways here have as many curves as a snake with a belly ache. While here we stayed with friends, ate great food, saw great scenery, and chatted with very nice people.

Now we're headed home at last; not "home" home in WY, but our winter home in CA. We'll spend most of today on a pair of planes getting nearly there, and drive the last 200 miles tomorrow. Both of our homes are rural, not urban - no coincidence.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Another Look at Newt

Maybe Newt Gingrich has a shot at the GOP nomination after all? Go see this National Review write up about his performance at the most recent "debate," the author obviously liked Newt's responses.

Weird Science Update

MSNBC reports the results of a study which question the heart benefits of a low salt diet. According to their report, while lowering salt intake will lower blood pressure, it raises cholesterol, fat, and other bad stuff in the blood. The study however had limitations which are not trivial. Here is the money quote:
Overall, the good and bad consequences of a low-salt diet may cancel each other out, so the diet has relatively little effect on the development of disease, said study researcher Dr. Niels Graudal, of Copenhagen University Hospital in Denmark.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Travel Blogging XVIII

Valdosta, Georgia: As naval aviators report when they cross the beach and are over land, the DrsC are "feet dry." Our 30 day cruise ended today in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, the cruise was a wow. We did Venice, Pompeii, Lisbon, Corfu, Split, Pisa, Florence, Monaco, Barcelona, and much more.

Coming home across the Atlantic the seas were not calm, no surprise at this time of year. We did the smart thing which is to find a place to sit low and midships which minimizes the ship's movement. There we read or messed with our computers. We each had 1k of free minutes of internet which is a lot of surfing time.

Today we drove most of the length of Florida and were reminded again why we're glad we don't live here. Yes, the winter weather is warm and the vegetation is mostly green, but the state is so flat and the highways so lined with billboards...yuck. Did we mention that Florida is overrun by refugees from New Jersey and New York who sound awful and often behave worse?

Most of the week we'll spend visiting friends in Jefferson Bass country: eastern Tennessee near Knoxville. If you like mysteries, you might want to check out his forensic anthropology novels based around the famous "body farm."

The Wrong Question

In this article, Alexander Bolton writes for The Hill about a conflict between Republican lawmakers about whether to focus on cutting discretionary spending or to tackle entitlements. Bolton lays out the arguments and lists the people on each side.

Nobody seems to understand that these people are fighting over the wrong issue. The correct questions isn't "either/or" but is truly "both/and." They should actually cut (not merely reduce the rate of growth in) discretionary spending and at the same time tackle the entitlements that threaten to bankrupt our society.

Instead of cutting spending, Congress should cut whole departments that a cold-eyed appraisal would show are unneeded. We've made this argument here before.

In the absence of the Department of Education, would public schools no longer exist? Nonsense. In the absence of a Department of Housing and Urban Development, would people decide to live outdoors, or all go back to the farm? Of course not. Those are only two of many examples of governmental redundancy; doing again at the federal level what is already done by others in or outside of government, or doesn't need doing by anyone.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Balz: 2012 a Weird Year

Dan Balz writes politics for The Washington Post, and may be the closest we have to a replacement for David Broder. He has a column which concludes the 2012 GOP presidential nominating cycle is one of the strangest on record. Balz makes a good argument for that claim.

Among the points Balz has made are these: it started late, has had multiple front-runners, has had many party leaders decide not to run, and has raised little money. Oh yes, and it has focused less on the "early" states of Iowa and New Hampshire than is traditional. All this in spite of a weak Obama looking decidedly "beatable."

Go figure....

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Travel Blogging XVII

At Sea, mid-Atlantic Ocean: We’ve sailed across the Atlantic Ocean three times, always from east to west. We’ve sailed across the Pacific Ocean one and a half times; once from Seattle to Sydney, and again from Tahiti back to the States.

Crossing oceans makes crystal clear that most of the globe is covered with water, a fact that is easy for many people to overlook as their entire lives are spent ashore. This is a wet planet; we inhabit the dry remainder.

In contrast to the virtual congestion of marine traffic off the east coast of Spain, out here in mid-Atlantic you see almost no ships. Hour after hour this giant luxury hotel lumbers along at roughly 20 mph, covering nearly 500 miles a day, and we see no other ships.

This is about as lonely as it is possible for most people to be. We (and 5000 strangers who are temporary traveling companions) are as isolated as if we were in mid-Sahara, perhaps more so. If we need a cardio-vascular or thoracic surgeon to save our life here, we’re dead. Even so, the average age of the passengers is probably near 70. Cruising is a fascinating phenomenon.