Monday, December 31, 2012

Upward Mobility

Nick Gillespie has written an article on income inequality and upward mobility, originally for Reuters and here appearing in He argues that while income inequality is large, much of it may be caused by payroll taxes.

Payroll taxes disproportionally hit young workers to transfer income to old retirees who are, on average, many times more affluent. I believe Gillespie makes a thinly disguised argument in favor of means testing Social Security and Medicare, not necessarily a bad way to salvage these endangered programs for the aged poor.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

What Mandate?

Election number cruncher nonpareil Charlie Cook lists 25 fun facts about the 2012 election in The Cook Political Report. The fact I find most fascinating is this one:
Without huge margins from minority and young voters in just three counties – Broward County, FL; Cuyahoga County, OH; and Philadelphia County, PA – President Obama would have lost each of those three states and with them, the Electoral College.
Winning just three counties constitutes a mandate to govern? A win, yes. A mandate, no. Cook's whole list is interesting if you love politics. Hat tip to Power Line for the link.

2013 Threat Matrix

The Council on Foreign Relations has published the Center for Preventive Action's Preventive Priorities Survey for 2013. It represents a survey of "experts in the field" and does a generally decent job. There are several omissions to which I call your attention.

First. China is cited  as being at risk for a Sino-Japanese conflict over the Senkaku Islands. You'll note that Japan is not similarly identified as "at risk." One side cannot be at risk without the other.

Second, Israel is not listed as "at risk" from Iran (or its proxies: Hamas, Hezbollah) whereas Iran is noted to be at risk from Israel. Again, no reciprocity. It is extremely unlikely that Israel would come under attack without the U.S. being involved in some way.

A third omission is the drug violence in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. Drug violence in Mexico is listed, making the omission of the rest of Central America more obvious.

A fourth omission is the possibility of a flare-up of India's long-running Naxalite rebellion.

Bad Business in Bolivia

The San Francisco Chronicle carries an Associated Press report that the Evo Morales government of Bolivia has expropriated several Spanish-owned firms concerned with the distribution and sale of electricity in that nation.

This is a sad but not unexpected turn of events in Bolivia. Since taking office in 2006, Morales has been an ally of Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro, and an opponent of United States interests, including the eradication of the coca plant from which cocaine is derived.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Hoagland: the Time Is Now

Jim Hoagland of The Washington Post, along with Tom Friedman of the New York Times, is one of our two most thoughtful writers on the Middle East. In this column, Hoagland says we've gotten to the decision point with respect to Iran.

If you're following U.S. policy on Iran, you'll want to read his column. Hoagland says we will likely see some action vis-a-vis Iran in 2013.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Fighting Poverty With Jobs

Go see a City Journal article which argues that giving poor people money keeps them in poverty, while giving them jobs helps them get out of poverty. The author started out as one of Lyndon Johnson's poverty warriors, and learned the hard way.

Silver Explains It

The New York Times' political number cruncher, Nate Silver, has a very good column on why the political landscape looks the way it does. His explanation of why we now have more "safe" congressional districts than we once did seems very solid.

I find intriguing his analysis of why the GOP has an edge in the House whereas the Dems have one in the Senate. He predicts that the current split is likely to continue for several electoral cycles.

Silver doesn't emphasize enough the concern congressmen (and women) in safe districts feel about primary challenges by more extreme candidates of their own party. Sen. Dick Lugar (R-IN) is an example of a long-serving senator who was defeated in the Indiana GOP primary.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Quote of the Day

Demographer Joel Kotkin, writing for Forbes about the future of the progressive and conservative movements in the U.S.:
If the main focus of progressives was to promote upward mobility, they would deserve their predicted political hegemony. But current day leftism is more about style, culture and green consciousness than jobs and opportunity. It’s more Vogue’s Anne Wintour than Harry Truman. Often times the gentry agenda — for example favoring higher housing and energy prices — directly conflicts with the interests of middle and working class families.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

20th Century Public Schools

Glenn Harlan Reynolds, of Instapundit fame, writes for the New York Post about 21st century changes in the schooling of our children:
Parents are pulling their kids out of many large urban districts in favor of private, on-line and charter schools. This is causing financial problems as the lower enrollments lead to teacher layoffs and general shrinkage.

Why are the parents pulling their kids? Because they think the public schools aren’t as good as the alternatives.
Reynolds also explains how "teenagers" came to exist, an artifact of the lockstep public schools system. In public schools age-grouped young people learned from each other instead of from the adults alongside whom they once had worked.

Ocean Rise Overestimated

Professor Larry Bell (U. of Houston) writes for Forbes that previous estimates of rapid sea level rise have been greatly exaggerated. The waters aren't rising as fast as we once thought.

The most telling lines in Bell's article are the following:
It’s a tricky question whether or not the overall accelerated melting of polar ice sheets can be linked to man-made climate change influences. (snip) Polar ice sheet melting has been massively overestimated.
Bell bases much of his article on papers in two respected, refereed journals: Science and Nature. "Refereed" means each published paper is approved by a panel of relevant academic scientists who don't know the identity of the author(s) of the paper.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Fascinating Factoids

Do you think the U.S. has a lot of murders? Actually, we don't. Latin America is the place with the most murders, see this quote from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace:
Some 42 percent of the murders in the world happen in Latin America, though only eight percent of humanity lives there. The homicide rate in the US is five times lower than Latin America’s average.
The article makes some intriguing comparisons between places we believe to be very dangerous and places in Latin America:
The war in Afghanistan has claimed a total 3,238 allied lives. This is about the number of murders in Brazil every month. Last month’s conflict between Palestinians and Israelis produced approximately the same number of fatalities as a “hot” weekend in Caracas. The probability of being shot dead as you walk on any street in Baghdad is lower than that of dying on any street in Guatemala.
Wow! Remind me not to go for a stroll in Central or South America.

More on Kerry

Ten days ago COTTonLINE gave you a link to a Jay Nordlinger National Review article describing John Kerry's unfortunate foreign policy predilections in Latin America. Now there is more.

Mary Anastasia O'Grady writes a weekly column on the Americas for The Wall Street Journal. Here she covers much of the same Kerry territory, perhaps some of it in more detail.

O'Grady's view of Kerry's record in Latin America is just as negative as Nordlinger's. She concludes:
There's a pattern here and it features Mr. Kerry continually on the wrong side of history. Asking Americans to believe that he will be any different as secretary of state is asking them to suspend disbelief.
If Kerry backs the wrong people in Latin America, why should we expect him to back the right people anywhere else?

Season's Greetings

COTTonLINE wishes our readers Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah, Salubrious Solstice, and, collectively, Happy New Year. Whatever you celebrate, have a good one!

An Unhappy Insight

Thinking about the WaPo/ABC polling numbers in the blog post below, I had a sad insight. Suppose the Republican mindset has evolved in the following way.

In 2006, we weren't entirely happy with Bush but could shrug it off. On balance he was ok if not great.

In 2008, we weren't happy with the Obama win but could understand how the electorate might want to give a person of color a chance. We hoped he'd do well.

However, in 2012, it has been clear that President Obama has done a poor job for four years, pursued unpopular policies. Yet the electorate still reelects him; this is an entirely different situation.

I believe many Republicans fear the U.S. has become a place whose values they no longer share. We worry that, while we were busy having a good time, the U.S. has become Europe 2.0.

It seems we've become a social welfare state with huge debts and much of the population on some kind of government payment, either paycheck or dole. The "takers" have us outnumbered. It's sad if this perception is accurate.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid

That tongue-in-cheek tag phrase describes the actual attitudes of most Republicans as we enter 2013. Ken Walsh of U.S.News & World Report writes the following:
Seventy-two percent of Republicans are fearful about their future in 2013, and 79 percent fear for the world, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. This is a substantial increase in GOP gloom since 2006, when only 20 percent said they were fearful about their personal future during the Republican presidency of George W. Bush. Fifty-four percent of Republicans were fearful about their personal prospects after Democrat Barack Obama won the presidency in 2008.
What are the reasons for this increase in gloom? Walsh suggests the following:
Among the reasons cited by the pollsters for the relatively unsettled mood are perceptions of a lingering recession and a weak economic recovery, and fears of the economic (sic) sinking into trouble if Washington leaders fail to reach an agreement on the budget.
As most COTTonLINE readers are Republicans, the above isn't particularly news to you. On the other hand, misery does love company.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Race, Gender, or Both

James Kurth writes for the Foreign Policy Research Institute about the evolution of conservatism over the past 80-90 years. He examines that evolution within the Republican Party.

Looking forward, Kurth sees the GOP forced to become a party representing the interests of whites, but failing in recent years to attract the votes of single white women. He concludes:
Neither traditional conservatism or reinvented conservatism ever had much to appeal to women, if they saw their principal identity to be as women (emphasis added). The same is true of the weakened movement that now passes for American conservatism and of the Republican Party that is its institutional expression. It will only be if the conservatives and the Republicans can convince large numbers of American women that their principal concern must be about conserving something important to them that American conservatism will have a future. 
There is plenty written between those lines. What do you make of his implicit conclusion?

If you've got an hour, read all of Kurth's long column. Hat tip to Peggy Noonan for the link.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Winter Solstice

Today is the Winter Solstice, the day autumn ends and it is officially winter. Beginning today, days start getting longer, a process that continues until June 21.

Join me in celebrating the Winter Solstice, a milestone humans have honored for millennia.

World Still Here

It is December 21 and once again, the world didn't end. I'm certain there are people who are disappointed.

For humanity, at least, the world won't end in a cataclysm but in a whimper as it did for the dinosaurs. We'll leave some spectacular archeological remains.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Demographic Peril

There is much talk today about the "fiscal cliff" over which we may be about to tumble. Jonathan V. Last writes in the Weekly Standard about what he calls "the demographic cliff," by which he means the less-than-replacement birthrates of essentially all developed countries.

Let's try saying what nobody is willing to say: that emancipated women - women free to make their own choices about how many children they'll have - don't have children at a replacement rate. The only countries in which birthrates are at or above replacement are those in which women have few or no rights.

This poses an interesting dilemma. Individual rights (for women) and the rights of our species to survive and thrive are in conflict. And ... almost no one is talking about this particular elephant in the room.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Entitlements Revisited

Do you want to know what smart people on the left are saying about entitlement financing difficulties? See this article in The New Yorker for a persuasive treatment of the topic.

The author's basic point is that we can bail entitlement programs out with general tax revenues. However, to do so gives them the appearance of welfare programs, meaning fewer people will be supportive of them.

Fascinating Factoid

From a City Journal article about Tunisia, and its capital Tunis:
Palermo, Sicily’s largest city, is closer to Tunis than it is to Rome.
Tunis, capital of Tunisia, is on the coast of North Africa.

Chaos in the Congo

It is easy to bloviate about the troubles we face in the developed world. To gain some perspective about how minor are our problems, read this New York Times article entitled The World's Worst War.

What's described in the so-called Democratic Republic of the Congo isn't even truly a war, strictly speaking, but a Hobbesian state of nature in which every man battles against every other, rape is the normal state of relations between men and women, and hunger, disease and ignorance stalk the land. It's a scary, murderous mess.

It does give one an appreciation for the vital role of government in maintaining order. One could speculate that a bad government is better than no government presence.

Election Results in S. Korea

Park Geun-hye, daughter of former military strongman South  Korean leader Park Chung-hee, has been elected the first female president of South Korea. She represents their conservative party. See the Reuters article on Yahoo News.

Her win is a free-election ratification of her father's autocratic 18-year rule. The people of South Korea appear to have decided that, on balance, he was good for the country.

Now both North and South Korea have leaders who are the offspring of former leaders. A curious coincidence; or is it a cultural thing to be led by dynasties?

Crystal Skulls

And you thought the crystal skulls in the fourth Indiana Jones flick were a figment of the set decorator's imagination? Not so fast, they were modeled on skulls in the region that actually exist.

See an article in the Daily Mail (U.K.) for details. Hat tip to for the link.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Ukip, a New Flavor

Writing for The Telegraph, Thomas Pascoe makes the point that the United Kingdom Independence Party, or Ukip, are the true successors of Margaret Thatcher, instead of Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative Party.

If you follow British politics, this article is for you. You may not agree with Pascoe, but you need to read it. Hat tip to for the link.

Our Missing Mental Hospitals

As we wrote yesterday, a major cause of mass killings is mental illness. Now, conservative pundit Mona Charen writes wisdom regarding this for the National Review:
At least half of the shooters in the rampage killings that are ripping our hearts out are young men with serious mental illnesses, and our system has neither the legal nor the financial resources to get them the treatment and restraint that they, and we, desperately need.
We have no money, and very little courage, when it come to the "restraint" of which she writes. Read more about this issue from David Kopel in The Wall Street Journal.

New Obesity Research

Researchers in China have identified what they believe is a gut bacterium which causes obesity. Financial Times reports that they decided to treat the condition with "whole grains, traditional Chinese medicines and non-digestible carbohydrates" and caused an obese patient to lose 23 percent of his body weight.

I'm unclear why some or all antibiotics wouldn't cause weight loss if the cause of weight gain is a gut bacterium. I believe this research needs more investigation, unfortunately.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Expanding the Tent

Betsy Woodruff writes an article for National Review, concerning how the GOP could make room in its "big tent" for non-believers without losing the religious right. It is an intriguing idea.

I find interesting her quote from David Azerrad of the Heritage Foundation’s B. Kenneth Simon Center for Principles and Politics:
I think there is room on the right for everyone who has a sober view of human nature, (snip) I think there’s room for you on the right, with or without God.
Do you suppose Azerrad is correct? Certainly the "none" group is a growing one.

India/China Border Difficulties

The Japan Times reports continuing lack of progress in talks aimed at settling conflicting understandings concerning the border between northern India and northwestern China. It should be remembered that the two nations fought a brief war along this border in 1962.

Talks concerning border issues have gone on between the two nations since 2005. The seven years of elapsed time suggests at least one party has no interest in a solution.

U.S./S.Korea Relations Cooling?

Joel Brinkley reports for World Affairs that young people in South Korea take a dim view of the continued U.S. military presence on their border with North Korea. No country loves having troops of another nation garrisoned on their territory, unless the alternative is widely understood to be worse.

That understanding is failing among young South Koreans, creating a temptation among Americans to go home and leave them to their miserable fate.

Reap the Whirlwind

The sad events in Connecticut cause us to remember an even sadder collusion between the civil rights left and the tight-fisted right that occurred many years ago. It resulted in the disappearance of most mental hospitals.

On the left, the ACLU and its fellow-travelers decided that people had every right to be insane if they chose. They believed that such individuals need not, and indeed should not be incarcerated for the protection of society and themselves.

On the right, fiscal conservatives saw the enormous cost of warehousing the mentally ill and chose not to spend those funds. In a truly evil (and very unusual) collaboration between the two, they closed down the mental hospitals and left the mentally ill to wander our streets and live under our bridges and on our park benches.

Now and then, one of these confused individuals decides to work out his (or rarely her) rage on society with mass murder. Then we are shocked, shocked.

We shouldn't be shocked; we are at fault. As a society we've sown the wind and we reap the whirlwind.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Complex Issues

Can we keep firearms out of the hands of the non-criminal mentally ill? Away from those who  are being treated but have not, as yet, done anything for which they can be arrested? In many cases, a sociopathic young man's first criminal act is something horrid, something that should be prevented.

We don't let epileptics drive cars, even though they are have not had an accident. We require physicians to, essentially, rat them out. Why should the mentally ill have rights that the physically ill do not?

The issues are complex - privacy, doctor-patient confidentiality, the historic American right of non-criminals to keep and bear arms. On the other hand, society has rights too - these are difficult issues to parse out. See this article in PJ Media for more. Hat tip to for the link.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Kerry on the Left

Rumor has it President Obama will appoint Massachusetts Senator John Kerry as the next Secretary of State. For an analysis of Kerry's very leftist positions taken on past foreign policy issues, see this National Review article by Jay Nordlinger.

Single Women and the GOP

The Republican Party has difficulty winning the votes of single women, a growing demographic bloc. Recent GOP candidates have said single women are as concerned about economic issues as everyone else. It appears they were wrong.

In recent elections, the Republican Party has gotten large majorities of the votes of white voters and of married voters. Unfortunately for the GOP, both groups are declining in size.

The Democrats have gotten large majorities of nonwhite voters and of singles. Both of these groups are growing in size.

In politics, demographics is destiny. To continue to be viable, Republicans need to find ways to become relevant to groups which are growing.

See an Associated Press article from the Tampa Tribune which wrestles with this issue. What nobody is saying is that our society teaches women to be more concerned with social issues than are men. 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

A Win for New Media

U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice has announced that she will not be a candidate for Secretary of State in the second Obama administration. It is likely she wrote the letter taking her name out of contention at the direction of the White House.

The immediate credit for pushing her out of contention goes to a group of Republican Senators. Those Senators' opposition can be credited to the new media which has taken a extraordinarily dim view of Rice's testimony concerning the debacle at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

In that testimony Rice repeated the White House talking points concerning the causes of that attack when she either knew, or should have known, that the talking points were counterfactual, that is to say, untrue.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Fiscal Cliff, and More

The opening two sentences of this article in Yahoo's The Week pretty much sum up my view of the trouble the U.S. is in with regard to financing government:
Voters overwhelmingly want Washington to solve the country's budget problems. But they reject nearly every meaningful proposition to do so.
We can solve our government financing problems by taxing more or spending less, neither of which is palatable to the American electorate.

We borrow nearly half of every dollar the government spends on us. How long do you suppose that can continue? As we wrote on Saturday, Americans want more government than they are willing to pay for.

Quote of the Day

Bill Frezza, writing for RealClearMarkets about the long-term effects of the population bust, does a lovely paraphrase of the classic criticism of socialism:
The problem with entitlement democracy is that you eventually run out of other people's babies.
Entitled Will Aging Childless Voters Enslave My Future Grandchildren?, this article is worth your time.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Suppose Britain Left the EU

The Economist takes a look at the growing sentiment in the U.K. for bailing out of the EU. Their analysis is that the outcomes would be largely negative.

However, they believe if there were a referendum on the question today Britain would leave. One major question would be the status of guest workers from the EU working in the U.K., and vice versa. That question sounds familiar, as we grapple here with the question of the forward status of illegal aliens in the U.S.

Is It Humor?

Gene Weingarten writes in the Washington Post of a dialog with feminist Gina Barreca about why Mitt Romney lost big among single women. It is hard to determine whether his main drive here is to be funny, or to be serious.

I suppose my favorite line from the article is this one attributed to Ms. Barreca:
The real big issue is that Mitt Romney is a terrible, terrible date, and single women, who are forced into the perpetual ghastly state of potential date appraisal, sensed that immediately.
Asked to elaborate, Gina replies:
All you had to do was watch Romney discussing “binders full of women,” and you understood, intuitively, where women stood with him: We’re a category of thing to be held in containers and accessed when needed, roughly the same as pistachio nuts or lock washers.
I think political humor is the intent, or is it maybe serious commentary disguised as wit?

Travel Blogging VIII

Hey, Harry Potter fans, if you want to see photos of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, go to the other DrC's website: She has posted some good 'uns.

After getting way too tired yesterday, today I hired an electric chair and drove around both parks. It made a world of difference; instead of stopping every hundred yards to rest I was good to go all day. The other DrC goes walking most days so she can handle the extreme walking a theme park demands.

Fear of Religion

Check out this Breitbart News article which reports that the irreligious voted overwhelmingly for Obama. Unchurched voters were more common than formerly thought; this group is growing.

Although the article doesn't say so, the GOP's obvious association with the religious right - the evangelicals - makes them anathema to the irreligious. I fear there isn't much can be done about this reaction, the GOP needs the votes of the social right.

Here is National Public Radio's take on the same story. Conservative leaders need to think about what this means, and how to deal with the changes in the demographic profile of the electorate.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Travel Blogging VII

Orlando, Florida: The DrsC are checking out the Universal Studios Orlando theme park, particularly the Harry Potter section there. In two words it is Nicely Done. And breakfast at The Three Broomsticks was also good.

As big Harry Potter fans, the DrsC might have been expected to have visited The Wizarding World of Harry Potter before now. We've held off because the lines have been too long, the crowds too intense.

In this period between Thanksgiving and Christmas Universal expected a lull and I think we've gotten one. The park has custom to be sure, but not the mobs we wanted to avoid.

We have spent one full day here and have two more before we head back west. What I'd forgotten is just how tired the feet get walking all over a theme park, and not just the feet. I find myself sitting down to rest with some frequency, fortunately there are places to do this. A water taxi takes us back and forth from our hotel.

There is a food and entertainment area called City Walk as a sort of entryway to the two separate theme parks that make up the Universal operation here. This afternoon we ate coconut shrimp at Bubba Gump's - I recommend it.

We also saw the new James Bond film, Skyfall, at the IMAX theater in City Walk. It is non-stop action, as we expect Bond films to be. Daniel Craig portrayed an aging Bond, and SPOILER ALERT a major continuing character (other than Bond) dies.

Singles Si, Hispanics Not So Much

Jonathan V. Last writes about demographics for The Weekly Standard. Here he focuses on two trends active in the last election: the increase in Hispanics, and the increase in singles.

Last makes the point that the increase in Hispanics is real but its long-term importance has probably been overrated. See his analysis for why this is so. On the other hand, he views the dramatic increase in singles as being of particular importance.

As we know, Democrats' programs appeal to singles more than they do to married people. What if anything the GOP might do to counter this trend becomes an issue for discussion. Last suggests that Republicans try to get more people to marry, rather than to offer goodies to singles.

The intersection of reliable birth control with the declining importance of religion has 'legitimized' cohabitation, or at least reduced its illegitimacy. Speaking of newlyweds, "How long did they live together?" is the new equivalent of "How long were they engaged?"

Gridlock Explained

Jay Cost, who writes analysis for RealClearPolitics, has a nice piece looking at why gridlock continues in Washington, particularly with respect to the so-called "fiscal cliff." His conclusion, it will continue.

My conclusion: the American people want more government than they are willing to pay for. They want somebody else to pay for their government services. Naturally, "somebody else" doesn't want to pay up either. See this Washington Times article for more.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Travel Blogging VI

Princess Cay, Eleuthera, The Bahamas: It seems every major cruise line has a "private" cay or key to which they bring pax. Princess has the rights to a piece of Eleuthera, a hundred mile long island in the Bahamas. This group of islands sits just east of Florida but is independent,

The DrsC have not gone ashore here this time, we visited it on some earlier cruise. The private cays are hot stuff for beach people, not much for non-beach people. We're in the second category. Beaches are picturesque, but put off-limits for fair-skinned people by their dermatologists.

Travel Blogging V

Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, Virgin Islands: Today there were six (6) cruise ships in this port. These ranged in size from the huge Oasis of the Seas to the relatively small Maasdam, our Emerald Princess being in the middle.

I have no idea what the population of this island is normally. If each of these ships brought, on average, 3000 pax to this sunny isle, we cruisers briefly added 18,000 souls to the total.

The hope is that each of these 18,000 spends loads of money here. I believe this is a hope that is not fulfilled.

For reasons unknown to me, the marketing of jewelry is a big deal anywhere cruise ships land. Perhaps cruise pax are concentrations of people who’ve demonstrated having spare thousands of dollars to spend on themselves.

Jewelry marketing is particularly big in the Caribbean and along the Alaskan coast. There are jewelry firms which have summer-only outlets in Alaska cruise ports in addition to outlets down here in the islands and they move personnel back and forth.

Don’t believe cruise ship TV ads, the view around the ship’s pool is not pretty. Cruise pax are not slender or trim; overweight or obese describes most of us. Recreational eating is the major entertainment offered aboard.

We pax aren’t young, either. The question around the dinner table isn’t “What do you do?” Instead it is “What did you do?” The presumption is that one is retired, although a few are still working. Heck, most of us are spending our kids’ inheritance, if we even had kids.

Something I notice about islands where the British colonial heritage persists. It is nice to be able to read the signage. It is surprising how much friendlier that makes a place feel.

Of course when you try to converse with locals, you discover that their version of English is heavily accented. They understand you from watching thousands of hours of American and Brit TV shows, you may not understand their island patois.

During supper our ship captain made a tannoy announcement about our course and speed over the next 24 hours. His native tongue is Italian and we could understand roughly one word in three of his heavily accented English.

All official announcements on this ship line are made in English, often heavily accented. I wonder how well crew members understand each other?

The other DrC and I joke that someday soon the whole world will communicate (badly) in broken English. I suppose the Roman empire had the same problem – thick regional accents messing with the Rome version of Latin.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Travel Blogging IV

Roseau, Dominica: This is a beautiful island, with terrain like that of Oahu or Maui. It even has volcanic features, we are told of a boiling lake and geysers. These make sense as the island is clearly of volcanic origin.

The island has had both French and British colonial pasts, and the names reflect both. The main cruise port is virtually at the foot of downtown Roseau, you walk off the ship and you’re on the “main drag.” This isn’t true at most ports.

I say “main cruise port” because after the Emerald Princess tied up at the foot of downtown, a Holland America ship arrived and had to tie up a mile up the coast at a less convenient location. I’m guessing their pax (cruise biz slang for “passengers”) had to take shuttles to town, not terrible but less convenient.

Some thoughts about Grenada, yesterday’s port. First, it is properly pronounced “gre-NAY-da” instead of the Spanish “gre-NAH-da” as our ship’s captain mispronounced it. Second, it is a hilly rascal. The roads are about a lane and a half wide, have no center line, and often head up or down hill at an alarming slant. Creating parking for hillside homes is a real issue, and expensive.

Grenada has lots of very up-scale homes but very few obvious ways to earn a living, raising the question of from whence its residents’ incomes arise. I’m certain that like most islands, people try their darnedest to get good government jobs.

Island governments see job creation as their main function. This was true on Guam, why not on Grenada? Ex-colonies try to milk the former colonial power for every dime they can get, but it cannot ever be enough.

Grenada has a university – more jobs - and thus tuition money incoming. And they earn tourism money – our ship was an example.

I’m guessing some of those upscale houses are vacation homes occupied but a few weeks a year –guarded the rest of the year – again more jobs. A friend has a place like this in Costa Rica which she occupies six months of the year and has guarded 12 months of the year. In CR the issue is “ladrones” which is Spanish for thieves, in other words, burglars.

Whale watching off Dominica is not a sure-fire thing, we went today and saw zip, nothing but sea birds. It was a nice cruise on calm water off a picturesque island but no whales or dolphins. Minus the sea critters, it was too long and many got sleepy, including yours truly.

For actually seeing whales, I recommend Lahaina Roads, off Maui. As to why it’s called “Roads” I’m not entirely certain. The usage dates back to sailing ship days, and is I believe, an abbreviation for “roadstead” meaning shallow place where many ships drop anchor.

Travel Blogging III

At Sea, between Bonaire and Grenada: Some thoughts about Bonaire, after today’s visit. First thought: I like it. Bonaire is uncrowded, devoted to The Netherlands, and less “Caribbean” than A and C – all good things.

Bonaire has only three exports: salt, suntans, and memories. There are extensive salt pans at the south end of the island, and piles of harvested salt ready for export. Everything else the island imports, at some cost, although local fishermen provide a reasonable share of the diet. People come here for the diving, said to be very fine.

It has become a “winter mooring” spot for a good number of live-aboard yachts home ported in the States. They pay, we’re told, $10/day for mooring privileges - no boat or ship “anchors” in Bonaire as hooks damage the coral.

I wonder where the yacht’s sewage and garbage are taken? Boats that size don’t have treatment facilities aboard. Perhaps ten bucks buys a weekly “pump out” of their black water tank and access to a dumpster? It would be to the advantage of Bonaire to provide such facilities, to keep their legendary water clear.

We were shown two resorts virtually side by side, one charging $100/night and busy, the other charging $800/night and deserted. What I saw was the market in action, reasonable prices = customers, unreasonable prices = no custom.

The expensive, unoccupied resort was described as a money-laundering scheme of a Venezuelan oil baron. That may have been rumor.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Travel Blogging II

Kralendijk, Bonaire: This cruise we visit only A an B of the ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao). Yesterday was Aruba, today Bonaire. They were a former Dutch colony that still maintains close ties with the Netherlands, Bonaire more so than Aruba.

Tomorrow we are on to Grenada, site of a minor U.S. invasion some decades ago. Today Grenada is mostly known for hosting a medical school for would-be doctors who can’t get into the extremely selective med schools in the States. Hitting the books when hitting the beaches is nearby has to be hard.

We flew south from Pittsburgh to Ft. Lauderdale a few days ago, and have been cruising the Caribbean Sea since. The contrast between late autumn Pennsylvania and the same period in the Caribbean is dramatic.

That contrast is much greater than we’d experience going from northern CA to HI at the same time, nearly as much as the contrast at this time between WY and HI. Understanding the area’s draw on chilled northeasterners is a no-brainer – it's thawing out.

Having seen Aruba not long ago, we stayed aboard the ship when most folks went ashore. It is like having this large ship to ourselves, our own giant “yacht.” Actually, I like the “sea days” better than the “port days.”

We were on this ship two months ago for a Baltic Sea cruise plus trans-Atlantic crossing and in that two months the “feel” of the ship has changed substantially, for the worse. Same ship, different “feel” – go figure. Many of the personnel have turned over, gone home on leave or gone to other ships in the fleet. Of course it’s a different passenger “consist” too.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Travel Blogging I

It has been snowing lightly in Pittsburgh the last couple of days. Tomorrow we'll leave the cold and snow and fly to Fort Lauderdale where the weather will be warm and moist. I can hardly wait.

A fascinating thing about the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, it still runs the Mary Worth and Rex Morgan, M.D. soap opera comic strips. I would have guessed they no longer existed. I'd have been wrong - they do.

Makes me wonder if Terry and the Pirates or Smoky Stover still persist somewhere? How about Major Hoople?

The Great Fly-Over has a different culture than the coasts, friendlier and less distant. I begin to see why some people have moved here, in spite of the weather.

Gender Gap Revisited

Connie Cass, writing for Associated Press and sourced from the San Francisco Chronicle, talks about men being the swing voters, and swinging away from the Democrats. What I find fascinating about her column is that the gender gap between parties persists not just among whites, but also among blacks and Hispanics. In other words, it is a true gender gap irrespective of ethnicity.

Remember the campaign ad Team Obama ran called The Life of Julia, wherein the government helped a woman throughout her life? Perhaps the gender gap is women wanting government to provide what men once provided, and men not wanting to be supplanted by government programs.

It makes a sort of sense.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Terror in Poland

Not all terrorists are jihadists, some are just very angry members of the society they target. Think Timothy McVeigh in Oklahoma City, or Anders Behring Breivik in Norway.

Now it is Poland's turn to catch an angry Pole who was ready to try to destroy the Polish government with explosives. See the article in The National Interest, hat tip to RealClearWorld for the link.

With the U.S. population over 300 million evenly split politically, and some very angry partisans on both sides, it's a wonder we haven't had more domestic terrorists here.

Spain's Turn

The zeitgeist is one of countries breaking apart, ethnic groups wanting to go their own ways. Think Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, and the Soviet Union for examples. Belgium and Canada are 'pending.'

Now it is the turn of Spain, where the Catalans and Basques are very near creating space between themselves and the Spanish body politic. See the article in The Independent (U.K.).

Makes one wonder who or what split is next.

Missing GOP Voters

Scott Johnson and John Hinderaker of the well-known Power Line blog write about  missing GOP voters\. That is, people who were expected to turn out and vote for Romney but didn't.

Their view is that the culture has turned these people against capitalism, the underlying economic philosophy of Republicans. If true, that is a very difficult barrier to leap over.

Unlike these authors, I wonder if Romney's association with Bain - a private equity firm - wasn't too exotic for these missing voters to understand. In other words, perhaps the role of private equity in cleaning up the "garbage" of free enterprise is too distasteful. See what you think.

Friday, November 23, 2012

A Cathedral of Learning

I've spent a lifetime in academia, and pretty much thought I knew a lot about it. However, on the campus of the University of Pittsburgh there is a building with a 40 story tower that looks like a Gothic cathedral, but isn't. I'd never heard of it.

The building is the Cathedral of Learning - Gothic architecture applied to a university building. It's the only Gothic building I've ever been in that was warm - the heater was running. The C of L contains classrooms, offices, and study areas on stone floors in vast, soaring spaces.

The Cathedral looks and feels like Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, from the Harry Potter series of books and films. I kept expecting to see a poster recruiting members for the Gobstones Club or the Quiddich team, or alternatively a monk in robe and sandals.

Go to the other DrC's blog ( to see photos of this amazing place. The bishop's chairs are elegant, I must have spent at least a half hour sitting in one, wishing I wore my academic robes. I have no priestly ambitions but I can imagine the dons of Oxford or Cambridge using these grand seats.

Various classrooms have been decorated to reflect the ethnic roots of American immigrants from various places in Europe and elsewhere. I particularly liked the ceilings in several of the rooms, like the German and Swedish classrooms - beautiful stuff. Of course, when what you're decorating is a working class or seminar room, the ceiling is the one thing you can be relatively certain the students can't deface so that may be where you put your effort and resources.

We toured the ground floor. Oddly, the rooms included two countries which no longer exist: Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia. If you get to Pittsburgh, the University of Pittsburgh's Cathedral of Learning is worth a visit.

Too Broad a Brush

Senator Marco Rubio, speaking of the Obama worldview at the Republican convention, as quoted by Jay Nordlinger in National Review Online (scroll down):
These are tired and old big-government ideas that have failed every time and everywhere they have been tried. These are ideas that people come to America to get away from.
Cubans, si. Other Latin Americans, not so much.

Quote of the Day

Peggy Noonan, writing for The Wall Street Journal, about giving thanks:
Happy Thanksgiving to America—the great and fabled nation that is still this night the hope of the world.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Crying for Argentina

For those of you who follow the sad downward spiral of Argentina, Jaime Daremblum has a good article in The Weekly Standard. As regular COTTonLINE readers know, we're observers of the self-destructive politics of that otherwise beautiful land.

President Kirchner's Peronism is a blend of socialism and fascism. Daremblum summarizes the anti-democratic behaviors of the Cristina Kirchner government, and the popular protests against them.

One is compelled to wonder if Argentina is headed for the same sort of middle-class revolution that overthrew leftest Chilean President Salvador Allende. A few years ago when the other DrC and I traveled in Argentina, I remember our decidedly middle-class guide saying he was paid in U.S. dollars, most of which he kept outside the country for safety.

What If China Fails?

Much foreign policy debate focuses on the future role of China as our next opponent in world geopolitics. Instead, try imagining that China could implode much as the Soviet Union did.

This article from The Diplomat, written by an Australian, wonders if China is equal to the challenges it faces in the coming decades. Implicitly, Michael Auslin doesn't think China has demonstrated the ability to adjust to its internal threats. The title is more exciting than the article, but the author raises some good questions about China's ability to cope with the issues it faces.

Coulter Defends Romney

Many in the GOP have been picking on Mitt Romney, saying he was a weak candidate. Not Ann Coulter. She normally does snark on people, but has written a good Townhall column in his defense.

I think most of what she writes in this column is fair and factual. Mitt gave it a heck of a try - deposing incumbent presidents is difficult and rarely successful, a point others have made.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Giving Thanks

Yesterday I sat through one of those friendly interrogations that precedes a major medical procedure, aimed at learning my relevant (and irrelevant) medical history. I presume they got what they needed to hear as the procedure went forward, we hope successfully.

What I got out of that interrogative experience was a realization of all the ills to which flesh falls heir; all the "uglies" I've managed to elude in a relatively long life. I've got a lot for which to be thankful - basically for good health, and for having parents who, in the words of Star Trek's Spock, "lived long and prospered."

Heredity is more important than commonly believed in health and longevity. So ... Thanks for long-lived parents and thanks for relatively healthy habits and a healthy occupation - professors tend to be both long-winded and long-lived. And thanks for a life spent mostly in rural CA, the best of both worlds - CA weather and scenery without the congestion, traffic and pollution.

Most important, thanks for the other DrC, my dear wife of 41+ years. She can do everything I can do except open stuck jar tops and back up a trailer, and she can do many things I cannot, all of them important.

Also thanks to the nice staff at UPMC-Presby (University of Pittsburgh - Presbyterian Hospital). Everyone there was super nice. They even have valet parking - love it.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

I'm Baaaaack

As you can see on the other DrC's blog (, I've been doing things medical in Pittsburgh of all places. It turns out the University of Pittsburgh Medical School/Presbyterian Hospital complex rambles over several blocks and is indeed a big deal.

We were referred here from the west coast as this is the "place to go" for trigeminal neuralgia.  And yes, that is more or less what I look like, when slightly drugged - not my usual condition.

My posts may be somewhat sparse until the anesthesia wears off. Other than groggy, I feel the same as before, which outcome I've been told to expect as my treatment takes weeks-to-months to take full effect. It's a crap-shoot, but one with good odds in my favor. Wish me well (pun intended).

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Kotkin Feeling Down

Demographer Joel Kotkin writes a gloomy column for New Geography wherein he predicts that California today models what Obama's nation will look like in relatively few years. Perhaps Joel forgot to take his Prozac or Paxil before sitting down to write.

I agree with him that President Obama would surely like to follow the California model. However, I think Kotkin overlooks forces in the opposite direction in places like Texas.

It is easy to get down about the results of the 2012 election. We need to remember that just two years ago we were celebrating the results of the 2010 election, which we won.

Perhaps Woody Allen was thinking about modern California when he said:
We stand today at a crossroads:
One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness.
The other leads to total extinction.
Let us hope we have the wisdom to make the right choice.

Gender Gap Deemphasized

Demographer Kay Hymowitz pokes around in the various groups that recently voted red or blue and asks some interesting questions. One of my favorites is this:
Whether younger voters are only temporary Democrats. If long-term trends continue, the large majority of Millennials will marry eventually. At that point, they may change their political habits and vote the way previous cohorts of married men and married women have. Or they may remain Democrats, representing a permanent generational shift. It’s an open question.
She speculates that gender is less important than other factors like ethnicity, marriage and age. Like many City Journal articles, this one is worth your time.

Hostess R.I.P.

Hostess, maker of Twinkies, Ho Hos, Ding Dongs, and other exemplars of tasty empty calories, is going to be liquidated out of bankruptcy as a result of failed labor relations. See the Associated Press story for more details.

It is probable that some existing firm will buy the right to manufacture and market the firm's signature products. "Probable" yes, but not for sure.

A new owner is likely to resume manufacturing without acquiring the firm's aging bakeries or hiring their laid-off workers, all 18,000 of them. Also affected will be some or all of the firm's retirees, number undisclosed.

That a majority of the members of one of Hostess' unions would vote to destroy the firm and their own jobs during a recession is not unique. It reminds me of the story of a frog and a scorpion who meet on the bank of the Suez Canal.

The scorpion cannot swim and begs a ride to the other side, the frog agrees and in midstream the scorpion stings him. As they both sink, the frog asks "Why did you sting me? Now we'll both die." To which the scorpion replies, "It's who I am."

For a look at the way the union and its workers view this issue, see an article in the Bangor Daily News. Wanna bet they wouldn't have voted to strike without 90 weeks of unemployment insurance waiting once the firm shuts down?

Friday, November 16, 2012

To Cheer You Up

Sean Trende of RealClearPolitics analyzes where the GOP stands today, looking at the House, the Senate, state governorships, and state legislatures. The Republicans control more than half the state governorships, more than half of the state legislatures, and more than half of the U.S. House of Representatives.

To be sure, they do not control the U.S. Senate or the presidency. Still, given all they do control, the present wailing and teeth-gnashing seems excessive, seems premature.

It is entirely too soon to begin writing the obituary of the Grand Old Party, although the MSM would like to do so. This article is worth your time.


This Slate article about herbivores eating meat, on occasion, caused me to reevaluate an experience I'd had as a much younger person. The author describes offering a bite of grilled steak to a white tail deer at a campground, which offer was accepted with gusto.

My experience was quite different, let me explain. Years ago, when nearly everybody still smoked cigarettes, the DrsC were RVing with friends at Lassen Volcanic National Park in northern CA. 

A mooching deer was hanging around our campsite and one of our companions offered the doe an unlit cigarette. This she ate with gusto and came back for more. Eventually the doe ate up all the cigs we could spare. 

Out of cigs I offered the doe a slice of dry salami. Not only did she turn it down, she fled from our campsite at speed and did not return.

I always assumed she rejected eating meat. Having read the Slate article, I now believe she was driven away by the black pepper and other spices in the salami, not the meat. 

Who knew?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Hispanic Voting Myths

Steven Malanga is a senior editor of City Journal. He writes here on common misunderstandings about Hispanic voting.

First he notes that the large numbers of Hispanic residents do not translate into large numbers of votes:
One-third of adult Hispanics are not U.S. citizens and consequently can’t vote. Even Latinos who are citizens don’t vote as reliably as whites or blacks do, and as a result, their population growth rate doesn’t translate into commensurate voting power. According to U.S. Census data (snip) nearly half of the country’s adult whites participated in the 2010 elections; only 20 percent of adult Latinos did.
I particularly like Malanga's conclusion:
In most cases, income is a far better determinant of voting patterns than race is (blacks are an exception, for historical reasons). The voting of ethnic groups evolves significantly as their incomes change. The ancestors of millions of today’s ethnic voters came to America in the great immigration wave of the early twentieth century and voted reliably Democratic for generations. Over the last 30 years or so, their descendants’ voting allegiances shifted significantly. 
Jews are the other exception to Malanga's "income is a far better determinant of voting patterns" rule.

Perhaps Malanga's ancestors were among the early 1900s immigrants he describes. I recommend his article to you.

Quote of the Day

Bret Stephens, who writes for The Wall Street Journal, musing about the recent, regrettable election results and calling for an IQ test and a test of basic knowledge for GOP candidates:
There were at least five Senate seats in this election cycle that might have been occupied by a Republican come January had not the invincible stupidity of the candidate stood in the way.
We know who he means, too. I really like his phrase "invincible stupidity."

Spengler: Tour d'Horizon

David P. Goldman, aka Spengler, writes on world political and economic affairs for the Asia Times Online. The column I just read does a tour d'horizon and finds the U.S. becoming disengaged, moving in the direction of isolationism.

'Spengler' writes of Petraeus and his supposed successes, by which the author is not impressed. He describes Petraeus as a sort of illusionist who created the impression that good things were happening, when they in fact were not. Others have made this point as well.

Goldman makes several predictions of things lesser nations will do in the absence of U.S. influence. These are often things not in the best interests of the U.S.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Who Is Sleeping With Whom

Have some fun ... take a look at Andrew Malcolm's column for Investor's Business Daily in which he lays out (pun intended) who is sleeping with whom, who is sending "inappropriate" emails (whatever that means) to whom, who may have known what about Benghazi-gate, etc.

It's so wonderful it came out after the election, when the tackiness can't influence who leads the world's only superpower.

When "Commission" Refers To a Crime

If you think General Petraeus' admitted marital infidelity is very strange, take a look at this article in The Atlantic which summarizes literally dozens of cases of misbehavior among the officer class.

It doesn't include a new case that emerged today in conjunction with le affaire Petraeus, this dealing with the C.O. in Afghanistan. The article concludes:
A growing roster of military leaders are gambling with our nation's trust in them. 
For an unflattering view of Gen. Petraeus' massaging of the press, see this Buzzfeed article by Michael Hastings.

Conspiracy Theories

Back in the day, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover was believed to keep extensive files on the peccadilloes of various senators and other government officials, including presidents. It is alleged these files were used by Hoover to influence official decisions.

One wonders if early FBI knowledge of the Petraeus affair was being used in the same way, as this Investors' Business Daily article hints. Questions about the CIA's role in the Benghazi consulate attack still pend.

Petraeus may have gone public about the affair and resigned in order to eliminate leverage against him prior to testifying to Congress. Or to make his testimony not useful.

Perhaps it was a bureaucrat's version of "falling on a grenade" - taking one for his Agency. For another view, see this political/analytical article from The New Yorker.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Samuelson: The Welfare State

Take a look at this RealClearPolitics article by the Washington Post's Robert Samuelson. He's very good on topics where economics and politics intersect - in this case entitlements, aka "the welfare state."

Samuelson says entitlements have gotten out of hand, and need to be reeled in. He makes the point that a number of people who don't need Social Security and Medicare are getting them; he's probably right. On the other hand, if the comfortable-to-affluent get nothing back, they'll cease supporting the program as it becomes unadulterated welfare.

My understanding is that now most of us get back from Social Security considerably more than we paid in, plus interest. Perhaps the poor should get that much, many who are far from poor need not.

My proposal: what if people whose income was above some comfort level merely received back from Social Security what they'd paid in plus a decent interest return on their money, actuarially paid out over the expected lifespan of the individual like an annuity.

Unintended Consequences

Most people who work prefer full-time jobs to part-time jobs. This is particularly true since full-time jobs normally come with benefits that part-time jobs lack.

Obamacare requires all employers of 50 or more employees to provide health care to those working 30 or more hours a week. See this Chicago Sun-Times article for more. Hat tip to for the link.

Talk about a disincentive to large-scale, full-time employment. Many smallish companies which would otherwise have 55 or 65 employees, will instead have 49 or fewer. Such firms will also assign to outside contractors work which might otherwise be done by their own employees.

ACA also creates a serious incentive for firms to use wholesale volumes of part-time employees as the retail and fast food industries now do. Imagine a future in which many people hold down 2-4 part time jobs in order to create enough income to live while having few or no benefits from any of them. In which the only full-time employees are managers.

Tax the Rich

Bill Kristol has suggested that it won't hurt to let Obama and the Dems raise taxes on the wealthy; I agree. Too many of them vote Dem anyway.

For example, the wealthiest county in Wyoming is Teton County. During the boom years, Teton County realtors joked that billionaires were buying out the millionaires.

Teton County is the only county in the state Obama carried. Romney carried every other county in Wyoming, all 22 of them.

During the Bush years Vice President Cheney claimed Wyoming as his home. His residence was (and still is) in Teton County. Cheney carried his home state for Bush, but not his home county - too many wealthy residents.

The Red and the Blue

The results of the 2012 election didn't much please me (or, I'd guess, most of you). On the Wednesday after that election, I wrote a COTTonLINE column entitled "Reactions to the 2012 Election" in which I mused about the red and blue states going their separate ways.

Unsurprisingly, it appears I wasn't the only one with that notion. This Yahoo News article reports that thousands of people have signed petitions asking for their states to be allowed to peacefully separate from the Union.

I don't see separation happening, but if enough people feel that way, it could lead to states being given more autonomy. More state autonomy (and fewer federal diktats) would be a plus.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Political Humor Alert

General David Petraeus apparently met the woman with whom he had an extramarital affair in Afghanistan. Paula Broadwell was an embedded journalist.

His biographer as well as his mistress, Broadwell gives an entirely new meaning to the term "embedded." Will any future war correspondent be able to use that term with a straight face?

The Hawthorne Effect in Voting

In 2012, heavy electioneering only occurred in the 12-15 battleground or swing states. In the other 35+ states we hardly saw a billboard, TV ad, or even bumper sticker concerning the presidential race.

To be sure, the local races put up billboards, yard signs, and ran a few TV ads. Still, unless you're a friend of one of the local candidates, these probably do not move you.

I live in Wyoming - heavily Republican - and California - heavily Democratic. Neither was a swing or battleground state in 2012. Therefore we saw no presidential candidate visits, none of their attack ads, got none of the mailers, weren't contacted by their "ground games," yada, yada, yada.

In many ways it was pleasant not being bombarded with all the campaign lies but nobody much cared whether or not we voted or for whom. If we were people who took little interest in politics, it would have been much too easy to blow off voting.

I'd like to see studies of whether or not much higher proportions of eligible voters in swing states got registered and voted. My hypothesis would be that the difference between voting levels in swing and non-swing states would be significant and enough to affect the total popular vote outcomes in meaningful ways.

I base this hypothesis on the 1930s Hawthorne studies which showed that workers produce more when someone pays attention to them and their efforts. It logically follows that potential voters are more likely to vote when someone is pestering them to do so, paying attention to their voting behavior.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Missing Voters

Mitt Romney attracted fewer voters than did John McCain in 2008, or W. in 2004. Similarly, Barack Obama attracted fewer voters than he did in 2008. In other words, many potential voters stayed home.

It was a negative campaign. Team Obama said Romney was a wealthy corporate raider who didn't want to bail out GM and Chrysler and opposed abortion. Their negative ads were mostly correct.

Team Romney said Obama was a failure as a president, did essentially nothing to reverse unemployment, and, with the exception of killing Osama ben Laden, most of his 'accomplishments' were disliked by the public. Team Romney's criticisms were mostly correct.

You have to wonder how many potential voters found the negative ads of both campaigns convincing and were not motivated to vote for either? Apparently the numbers were quite large.

I saw one analysis which put the number of potential Romney voters who stayed home at 10 million. If a third of these had voted we'd be talking about President-elect Romney.

The GOP needs to discover who stayed home, why, and what it can do differently to get these people to vote GOP.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Fool Me Twice

My brief reaction to the results of the 2012 presidential election:
Fool me once, shame on you, Barack Obama.
Fool me twice, shame on the American voters.
Of course the "me" in that couplet is the American voting public. They were fooled once, and went back for more. Shame on this year's voting public, or at least a narrow majority thereof.

Enlarging the Tent

When I wrote "Low Hanging Fruit" I had the right idea, but gave it the wrong name. I should have called it "Enlarging the Tent."

What makes a two party democracy work is the proverbial big tent system. Each party, if it is serious about winning elections, must make its "tent" big enough to include a majority of the voters, at least some of the time.

At least some of the time, a majority of the voters need to find its arguments more persuasive and its candidates more attractive than those of the other party.

During the second half of the twentieth century the Republican Party did this by cobbling together three or four major groups: foreign policy/defense hawks, small government/low taxes fiscal conservatives, evangelical Christians, and perhaps whites rooting for the home team, aka racists. No one wants to admit the inclusion of this fourth group.

During that same period, the Democratic Party filled their tent with unionists, racial and lifestyle minorities, foreign policy/defense anti-hawks, public employees including teachers, those who do not attend church, and ecological liberals.  Also included, those others who felt excluded, not accepted, or victimized in one way or another.

By the end of the century Republicans came to be the party of the married and the churched, Democrats the party of the unmarried and the unchurched.

Coalition theory suggests adding to your coalition the smallest possible additional unit which will make it a majority. The reasoning behind this strategy has to do with not diluting the strength of the large elements of the coalition any more than necessary.

Demographers have been warning that the size of the Republicans' coalition isn't keeping up with that of the Democrats. The outcome of the election of 2012 may be the result of reaching the demographic tipping point, I'm sure many will so argue. The numbers of so-called "minorities" and the unwed have increased dramatically, as have the unchurched.

Two Years Later

Two years ago Republicans were excited about the GOP wave that gave us a majority in the House of Representatives, and replaced the dreaded Nancy Pelosi with John Boehner as Speaker. Now, two years later, we're down because we've just had a bad election, at the Presidential and senatorial levels, if not at the House or Gubernatorial levels.

I don't believe the demographics of the electorate changed much in two years. The difference this time was an enormously expensive effort to identify and chivvy to the polls every last Dem voter. Probably anytime such efforts are made, Dems are likely to win because there are more of 'em.

What a difference two years can make.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Low-Hanging Fruit

Susan Page writes politics for USA Today and she's good. Read her analysis of the election just ended, it really covers the various issues and sub-groups.

After reading Page's reasonably even-handed summation, I come up with the following question which confronts the leaders of the Republican Party: Where is the low-hanging fruit? That is, which group that didn't much vote for us in 2012 can we reasonably talk into voting for us in 2014 and beyond?

It is an interesting dilemma. Should the GOP, which does a great job of getting white men to vote for it, likewise try to get non-white men to also vote Republican? In other words, should it try to become the Men's Party?

Alternatively, should a party which gets most of the votes of married white women try to get the votes of non-married women too? Or at least the votes of non-married white women? In other words, becoming the White People's Party. That gives off ugly vibes, but could work.

Depending on which of these was chosen, quite different policy prescriptions would follow. One thing working in the GOP's favor is that older voters tend to vote Republican, and the Baby Boomers population bulge is getting to the "older" phase of life.

Here's a thought experiment: how many GOP voters would be lost to the Dems. if the party no longer had planks in its platform opposing abortion and same-sex marriage? In other words, how many people would like to vote Dem but now vote GOP because it opposes these lifestyle issues? How many would switch simply out of pique?

Put another way, to what extent are evangelical Christians attracted to the GOP by its emphasis on smaller, less intrusive government, lower taxes, strong defense, support for Israel - other-than-lifestyle issues? There should be a way to measure this via social research.

While measuring, why not try to determine how many votes we lose by opposing same sex marriage and abortion? How many would vote GOP were it not for our opposition?
I'm just asking....

Problem Diagnosis

Tucker Carlson and Neil Patel have a very good column for The Daily Caller about why the GOP took such a drubbing in the election just completed. Their emphasis is twofold: the ideological flaccidity of the Republican establishment, and the political naiveté of the Tea Party activists.

The Republican establishment, in these authors' eyes, is largely RINO, Republican In Name Only. Their record is one of big spending, big borrowing, and failure to solve problems, so say Carlson and Patel.

On the other hand, the Tea Party activists are ideologically pure, but politically inept. They've a record of nominating candidates who are unable to run smooth, professional campaigns, causing the loss of senate seats which should otherwise have been won.

The authors' solution to the party's problems would be serious conservatives who also have political skills.

It's a start.

Reactions to the 2012 Election

I look at the electoral map of the U.S. and see two different "nations," red and blue. Demographers tell us it is becoming more so. Logically, each of these should be able to govern itself as it chooses. 

The West Coast and the Northeast should be able to become more like semi-socialized Europe, if that pleases them. The rest of us, here in the Great Flyover, should be able to evolve in the opposite direction, to have smaller government and more individuality, if that pleases us. 

The question is, how do we get to there from here? How does one relatively unified nation become two loosely connected "nations" without nastiness, bloodshed, and grief? A referendum? A constitutional convention? A "velvet revolution?" Perhaps the sort of devolution that made Czechoslovakia into the Czech Republic and Slovakia?

Might the U.S. become more like the E.U., with localized cultures and economies, and yet some overarching coordination? Washington as Brussels? Right now the E.U. doesn't look like much of a model.

Canada has regional political parties that do not compete at the national level. Like most Americans I've always considered this strange, until now.

The GOP represents the thinking of millions of Americans, but probably not a national majority. I'm beginning to wonder if the Republican Party, as we now know it, might become a regional party. As such, it would be elect Governors and state legislators but no longer compete at the national level. 

Do these ideas make any sense? Hey, I'm just spitballing here.

Hispanic Motivations

Heather Mac Donald writes for National Review that the major reason most Hispanics didn't vote for Republicans is that they (a) are poor, and (b) therefore want and expect a lot of government help.

Mac Donald debunks the concept of the "social values Hispanic voter," a mistaken notion popular among Republicans who seek their votes. It is certainly true that Hispanic culture is much less individualistic than U.S. culture. It will be tough for the GOP to land Hispanic votes.

Quote of the Day

Rush Limbaugh, on today's radio show about yesterday's election results, as quoted on Mediaite:
I went to bed last night thinking we’ve lost the country.
Perhaps overly apocalyptic, but Rush tends to dramatize, it is his style. My view: the election represents another risky step down a slippery slope, back up which it is ever harder to climb.

At some point, our slide down that slippery slope becomes irreversible. Did we reach the point of no return yesterday? Unfortunately, we won't know until it is too late.

When we look around and discover we've become another Argentina, we're screwed. Peronism, or its equivalent, appears to be a political condition from which there is no easy route back, perhaps no route back whatsoever.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election Results

Obama wins, Romney loses. It turns out my faith in Gallup's polling model was misplaced. Plus a poor choice of Senate candidates cost the GOP a chance to pick up some seats.

COTTonLINE gets to spend another four years in opposition. In some ways it's more fun.

As we noted the other day, John Boehner's GOP-dominated House of Representatives is unlikely to cooperate much with either the Senate or the President. Ergo, mostly gridlock.

I do expect to see the budget can kicked down the road, possibly postponing the fiscal cliff.

Quote of the Day

Sean Trende (what a great name for the business he's in) of RealClearPolitics writing about the "guts" of the polling business:
By the time all is said and done, a pollster’s assumptions can play as important a role in the result as the data.
The importance of the various pollsters' assumptions has been so clear this year.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Gallup Final: Romney 49, Obama 48

The Gallup polling organization has posted their final numbers, which you can view here. Here is their summary of the findings:
President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney are within one percentage point of each other in Gallup's final pre-election survey of likely voters, with Romney holding 49% of the vote, and Obama 48%. 
I've gotta call that reason for continued optimism. Gallup is the oldest, and arguably most respected polling organization in the United States. Hat tip to for the link.

Vote for Manager Mitt

In the previous entry I said I sometimes have to hold my nose to vote the way I do. Not this year, not with Romney - he's a manager.

I spent my whole career training people like Mitt Romney, although most weren't as good as I believe him to be. Managers are people who figure out what needs to be done and decide what people and resources are needed to make it happen.

Many couldn't understand what Republican Romney was doing putting in place something like Obamacare in Massachusetts. I think I know. 

Romney was a Republican but Massachusetts was Democratic and wanted socialized medicine. Instead of being an ideologue, Governor Romney said the people who elected me want socialized medicine, I will get it for them, and he did. That's what managers do, get the job that needs doing done.

I think there is a chance a President Romney can get the job done for the United States. We have four years of evidence that President Obama, for whatever reason, does not get our job done. 
Let's give Mitt a chance.

Uninteresteds Should Stay Home

Jeff Greenfield writes an excellent article for Yahoo News in which he urges the undecided not to vote. COTTonLINE agrees, with one proviso.

There are two kinds of undecideds: those who aren't interested and don't care versus those who are genuinely torn between the attractions of the two candidates. For the first group, the uninvolved, I believe Greenfield is correct - stay home.

For the second group, those who, for example, like Obama's view on abortion but prefer Romney's view on government size and spending, I want that group to make a decision. This second group are informed voters who just can't find a party that encompasses their views.

I empathize, I'm in that second group. I've voted for centrist Democrats - not many, but more than one. Mostly I vote Republican, as this blog reveals, but sometimes I have to hold my nose to do it.

Mostly I understand why the party has to encompass values to which I do not subscribe. It's in order to get enough voters inside its "big tent" to win elections. Both parties do it, it is the downside of a two party system.

Noonan Scores for Romney

Y'all know I like Peggy Noonan's Wall Street Journal columns, even though the quality is variable. Her weekly column normally comes out on Thursday or Friday and last week it was okay but not spectacular.

Today she writes one out-of-cycle in anticipation of tomorrow's election. Today's column is a honey, when I finished reading it I had tears in my eyes. Let me quote a couple of choice sections:
Nobody knows anything. Everyone’s guessing.

Is it possible this whole thing is playing out before our eyes and we’re not really noticing because we’re too busy looking at data on paper instead of what’s in front of us? Maybe that’s the real distortion of the polls this year: They left us discounting the world around us.

There is Obama, out there seeming tired and wan, showing up through sheer self discipline. (snip) He read the field perfectly in 2008. He would know if he’s losing now, and it would explain his joylessness on the stump. He is out there doing what he has to to fight the fight. But he’s still trying to fire up the base when he ought to be wooing the center.
I don't know if she's right, Noonan doesn't either and says as much up front. If you only read one column before this election, make it this one.

Time Change

If you haven't remembered to reset your clocks back to Standard Time, you'll be late for work or appointments later on today.

Tick ... Tick ... Tick ...

Forty-eight hours and counting - two days from now we should know the results of the 2012 elections. If you were a money bettor you'd put your money on Obama, I guess. I'm not and I won't. I want Romney to win.

Whoever is elected will face a tough bunch of challenges during the next four years. Particularly if the Congress continues to be divided as it now is. Harry Reid's Senate and John Boehner's House can hardly agree about what day it is. Gridlock seems guaranteed.

Furthermore, it's likely whoever is elected POTUS will get it by a slender margin - the exact opposite of a mandate. The nation is divided into tax payers and tax eaters, near enough 50-50.

Half of us contribute, half stand there with their hands out waiting for their redistributed share. Are we past the tipping point? I suspect we won't know until it's too late.


Ellen Jean Hirst of the Chicago Tribune writes an article for The Detroit News about increased employee burnout as the years of recession drag on. It focuses on psychological issues and stress as a result of fewer workers being tasked to do the work of former colleagues who were laid off.

I have no quibble with the factors mentioned. On the other hand, a factor left out is that when firms first start to experience larger orders and an increase in work levels, they don't hire more workers but rather put their existing workforce on overtime.

In the short-to-medium run, overtime is less expensive than rehiring laid off workers. Extensive overtime then directly contributes to workplace stress as workers get less rest and sleep.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Instapundit: Intensity is Key

Glenn Harlan Reynolds, is the Web's well-known Instapundit and a University of Tennessee law professor. Here he writes for The Washington Examiner about the importance of intensity in Tuesday's presidential election. Reynolds believes it is the pivotal issue, for both parties.

Saturday, November 3, 2012


Here at COTTonLINE I''ve given you links to the columns of several smart political analysts who all predict a Romney win. The list included Karl Rove, Michael Barone, Jay Cost, and others.

Last night I watched PBS's Washington Week with four smart analysts: John Harris of Politico, John Harwood of CNBC, formerly of The Wall Street Journal, Amy Walter of ABC News, and Jackie Calmes of The New York Times. Sure, they all lean left to varying degrees but I respect their political acumen too, and they predict an Obama win.

In other words, there are historical precedents, statistics, trends, subgroups, enthusiasm levels, etc., that can be interpreted to point to a win by either Romney or Obama. Whichever way the race goes, historical precedents will be overthrown, wise analysts will have been wrong, polling organizations will have weighted their samples incorrectly.

Some are saying it's too close to call, that's a cop out. Any political maven worth his or her salt has to make a prediction.

Last night I bet someone a whole 5 cents (her max bet) that Romney will win. That's my call. Her prediction: a close Obama victory. Mine: Either a close Romney win or just maybe a clear Romney win (much lower probability).

We'll know which prognosticators are right or wrong - three and half days from now. I can hardly wait.

Quote of the Day

A "former CIA officer and senior Clinton administration official" anonymously says the following, as quoted in a Michael Moran article for RealClearWorld:
War with Iran is not about "when," ... depending on your definition, it's ongoing.
Paraphrasing children's TV show host Mr. Rogers:
"Can you say 'plausible deniability?'"

Barone: Predicts Romney

Michael Barone, one of the nation's best political analysts, does a survey of each of the battleground states. His conclusion, Romney wins enough of them to prevail.

Barone may be right, may be wrong, but his analytics are clear enough and out there for all to see and critique. Check out his reasoning here at The Washington Examiner.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Cost: Predicts Romney Win

The Weekly Standard's premier political analyst Jay Cost takes a different approach to predicting the outcome of this presidential election, ignores most of the numbers, and bases his call on history.

What does Cost see? He sees Romney winning, because (a) Mitt is more trusted on the economy, and (b) the independents favor him. I don't think you should ignore (c) which is that Cost prefers a Romney win, always a biasing factor.


The Las Vegas Review-Journal writes a blistering editorial condemning the Obama administration and the President himself. I guess you could call it their endorsement of Mitt Romney, but it is much more than that; it's really an indictment of Obama.

I'd quote parts of the editorial except for the LVRJ's supposed history of threatening to sue people who quote their works. So no quotes here, please go there and read it at their website. Hat tip to PJ Media for the link.

Unemployment Up

The Labor Department reported unemployment figures for October today. The U.S. unemployment rate is up from 7.8% to 7.9%. See the Associated Press article on the CBS Cleveland website. My favorite quote from the article:
Obama will face voters with the highest unemployment rate of any incumbent since Franklin Roosevelt.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Designer Singapore

Peter Harcher writes in The Sydney Morning Herald of the possibility that incoming Chinese president Xi Jinping sees Singapore as a model that China might usefully imitate. I believe Mr. Harcher has come late to the party.

It has been clear to me for perhaps a decade that China is attempting to model its economy and government on those of Singapore. That said, one is forced to also observe that China isn't too far along that evolutionary path.

China has caught onto the "capitalism creates wealth" part of Singapore's model. They haven't mastered the "corruption isn't tolerated" part of Lee's design for Singapore.

Do you see the reference in Harcher's article to most Singaporeans owning flats in government-owned buildings? Most places in the world, government housing turns into slums. Singapore is probably the only place in the world where government-owned housing is clean, well-maintained, and up-scale - a place where people want to live.

How does this happen? Mr. Lee's government won't tolerate slummy behavior. If you don't maintain your government housing, don't obey the law, they toss you out. Result - government housing is nice, people want to live there.

Singapore is a designer city state, designed and built by Lee Quan Yew. Behavioral, political, oratorical and economic freedoms are limited. On the other hand, those who follow Lee's rules live better than most people in the surrounding countries. Most Singaporeans are happy with their lot. Those who don't like Lee's little paradise leave.