Thursday, May 31, 2012

Sectarian Civil War

Yesterday we wrote a long post about the situation in Syria. Today we see a Reuters story saying the situation was threatening to degenerate into sectarian civil war - essentially Alawites versus Sunnis.

Reuters suggests the Shia Iranians would back the Assad/Alawite government while the Sunni powers in the region would back the mostly Sunni rebels. Eventually this could evolve into a religious war in the region - Shia vs. Sunni.

Why the U.S. should do anything to interfere with this outcome isn't clear. When various groups of your enemy (in The Long War) decide to battle each other to the death, interfering seems the height of folly.

Perhaps a wiser, albeit Machiavellian, course would be the clandestine supply of untraceable (e.g., ex-Soviet) weapons to both sides via third parties like Bosnia or Ethiopia.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Weird Poll Report

If you want to read a really strange set of political polling data, go see this report of ABC News/Washington Post poll as reported on the ABC News website. It is truly difficult to suss out the findings. Romney did better among women, but still not as well as Obama, etc. - it is strange reporting.

The main finding was that Romney was on the upswing, while Obama was on a downward path, but they did their best to hide these findings. ABC News confused the opinions of "all adults" and "registered voters" on purpose because they didn't like the opinions of "registered voters," which is the only important number.

See the way they buried Romney's improved numbers among unmarried women, a really big finding because he had problems with this group earlier in the spring.

Romney Secures Nomination With TX Win

Mitt Romney has won the Republican nomination for the presidential candidacy, with his win in Texas. He now has a majority of the delegates.

The win comes as no surprise, he has been the de facto nominee for a month or more. See this Wall Street Journal article for details.

Quotes of the Day

Edward Morrissey, writing for The Week and carried on Yahoo News, about the 2012 election; this is the most succinct view of the 2012 election I've seen:
In 2008, Barack Obama ran against the hated establishment. In 2012 he is the hated establishment.
And about the Obama campaign, Morrissey says:
Unless they can come up with a better argument for four more years, the American electorate will choose Hope and Change again and give this establishment the boot.

Understanding Syria

American involvement in Iraq has created wide awareness of the situation of Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi people. Saddam Hussein was a member of a Sunni Muslim minority whereas most Iraqis were Shia Muslims. Saddam's Sunni minority dominated Iraq via secret police and terror squads, with the tacit support of Sunni-majority nations like Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan.

The situation in Syria is in some ways a mirror image of that in Iraq.  An Alawite minority dominates a majority of Sunnis, using the same police-state techniques used in Iraq. President Assad (an Alawite) brutally suppresses his predominantly Sunni people. Assad has been supported by Shia-majority Iran which is in cold war type conflict with Sunni-majority nations like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the Gulf emirates.

In both Iraq and Syria we see a strong-man leader trying to protect his minority sect/tribe/people from the predations of a majority that historically won't treat them well if in control. It is easy for us to say the majority should rule, but in this region religious or cultural minorities get rough treatment.

Examples? The Shia minority in Saudi Arabia is notoriously unhappy, as are the Shia in Bahrain. How do you suppose the Bahai and Sunnis feel in an Iran run by Shia ayatollahs, or the Arabs in Israel? Or the Coptic Christians in Egypt? Even the Christian minority in Syria. All feel mistreated by the local majority, whatever it may be.

You've gotta love the Middle East....

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Poll: Best U.S. General

This Memorial Day weekend the National Review Online is running a reader poll of who is the best U.S. general, the list going back to Washington and including Scott, Lee, Grant, Pershing, Eisenhower, Patton, MacArthur, Ridgway, and Schwartzkopf. Washington is winning, but perhaps more interesting is who is second as his "father of the nation" status makes ol' George an obvious choice.

Leading for second with conservative National Review readers is another George, Patton this time. Third is Robert E. Lee, fourth is Dwight Eisenhower, and fifth is U.S. Grant. Douglas MacArthur only comes in sixth, and he was my first choice, after Washington, of course.

Many denigrate MacArthur for being fired by President Truman, and for not being captured with his troops in the Philippines; I don't. I believe the evidence shows MacArthur won more battles while losing fewer soldiers, killed and wounded, than any general in our history. Using those criteria, Patton probably comes in second although Patton also may have been insane.

Quotes of the Day

Breitbart's Big Government unit opines the following concerning the 2012 election:
The challenge for Obama is that he is no longer the challenger with a simplistic message of "change", but rather an incumbent saddled with a weak economy and unpopular policies.

Romney's advantage is that he doesn't have to win difficult states like Michigan, Pennsylvania or, even Wisconsin. He just has to win traditional GOP states. I know where I'd put my money. 
I couldn't have said it better myself.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Here's An Upper

Need a shot of optimism? Want to feel better about the 2012 election cycle? Go read this The Week article from Yahoo News, entitled "Five reasons the GOP thinks Romney can win." You won't love reason number five, but the other four make considerable sense.

Again, Poor Mexico

A Reuters article summarizes the anger Mexicans are feeling at their government's inability to do anything about the drug war and its enormous wave of murders.

No surprise Mexicans are angry. The problem for the government of Mexico is figuring out how to stop the cartel murders and drug activity. They face numerous obstacles.

Begin with a national culture that is forgiving of bribery and glamorizes narcotraficantes. Add that working (or covering up) for a drug cartel is the most lucrative employment available to most Mexicans.

Don't overlook the insatiable U.S. demand for illegal drugs which funnels untold millions into a semi-poor country. Not to mention the free availability of lethal weaponry in the adjacent U.S. The obstacles to control are many.

No wonder candidates for the Mexican presidency have put forward no good ideas for stopping their drug wars and tamping down corruption. If hired as a consultant, I'd have no idea where to begin.

The Wrong Question

The Daily Mail of the U.K. reports that GCSE students with an interest area in religious studies were asked to respond to the following essay question:
Why some people are prejudiced against Jews?
As the article reports, there was an uproar about asking the question. However, after so many centuries of brutal anti-Semitism, isn't this a question which should be asked? The uproar consisted of people who saw the question in some way justifying anti-Semitism.

I understand their view but still believe the question must be asked if we are to understand what about human beings motivates this "fear of other." Perhaps deeming high school graduates as the wrong group to ask can be defended.

Panetta Adds to Bluff

Leon Panetta, being interviewed by ABC News' Jake Tapper, made clear the Pentagon has plans to bomb the blazes out of Iran should diplomacy fail to solve their nuclear weapon development blitz. The bluff goes on.

Both the U.S. and Israel have been threatening Iran with bombing should they not agree to stop the bomb development. So far the bluff hasn't succeeded. Iran agreed to talks but continues the weapon development.

Methinks Iran is the better poker player; they believe the other side (U.S., Israel) don't want to bomb. I think they're right. The Iranians keep stringing the game out, buying time.

One day soon they'll test a nuke somewhere in their copious deserts and the game will be over. They'll have their nuke and the whole power game in the Middle East will change dramatically ... in their favor.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Barack an Underdog

Willie Brown is a California Democratic phenomenon - long-time Speaker of the State Assembly, mayor of San Fran and essentially "Mr. Democrat." He now does a column for the San Francisco Chronicle and he's written some interesting stuff about Obama:
The president's trip to the Bay Area last week made it painfully clear that the Barack Obama re-election campaign has lost its mojo.
There was no life, no personality, no memorable line or moment and no real enthusiasm in the entire fundraising foray. In short, there was no buzz.
It was like a summer rerun of a show that wasn't very interesting to begin with.
Worse yet, Obama sounded like he was playing catch-up to Mitt Romney. I can't think of anything that should have him in that role, but he's acting like the underdog.
Obama was more than a candidate last time out. He was a popular and cultural phenomenon. A rock star. But the trouble with rock stars is that they drop like a rock once fans conclude they are "over."
Unless I'm much mistaken, California's senior Democrat thinks BHO is a loser in 2012. Hat tip to for the link.

Rumble in Rome

If the Roman Catholic Church hasn't had enough grief recently - priests molesting children and problems with the Church's bank - now they've got more trouble in Rome. See the Reuters article about the arrest of the Pope's butler and the removal of the president of the Vatican's bank, more formally known as the Institute for Works of Religion.

As a student of bureaucratic organizations, I admire the Church's ability to flourish for over two millennia. I wonder what (if anything) Peggy Noonan of The Wall Street Journal, a frequent commenter on the condition of the Church, will have to say about this new nastiness?

Weird Health Science

Here is an USA Today article reporting a study finding the following about long commutes:
"People who commute long distances to work were less fit, weighed more, were less physically active and had higher blood pressure," said Christine M. Hoehner, a public health professor at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and the study's lead author. "All those are strong predictors of heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers."
What the study clearly doesn't report is that longer commutes are associated with lower wages and lower socio-economic status. It is cheaper to live farther out.

We know that all those negative health syndromes are associated with being poorer and of a lower class. What the study finds is what we already knew: folks of lower class, lower income are less healthy ... sad but true and more to the point, not news, scientific or otherwise.

In other words, if you're less affluent, you commute farther in order to afford decent housing. It is certainly  true in CA, probably in many other states too.

Inflection Point

On May 8 COTTonLINE blogged about "inflection points" in the context of of demographics. Now, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal's Peggy Noonan, Mitt Romney uses the term in the context of national policy.

One reason I like Romney is that we speak the same language. It isn't surprising since I spent the last 30 years teaching management and he spent the last 20 years practicing management. We've lived in different parts of the same occupational milieu. Here is what Mitt said about our current national inflection point:
There have been inflection points (emphasis added) in American history where the course of the nation has changed, where culture, industry, even military strategy have changed.
I think America is going to decide whether we will put ourself on a path toward Europe—whether we will become another nation dominated by government, where citizens are dependent on government for the things they want in life, where opportunity is sacrificed, where military strength is depleted to pay for government promises, where unemployment is chronically high and wage growth chronically low. That, in my view, is the course the president has put us upon."
If Barack Obama is re-elected, "it will be very difficult to get off that path. If I'm elected, I will usher in a period of economic vitality" that will leave the world "surprised.
That is thoughtful, I agree with Romney. If Obama is reelected the U.S. will still be a great place to call home, perhaps for a couple of decades. However, it will be on Europe's irreversible, self-indulgent path to long-term decline.

After two continent-wide terrible wars within 30 years, Europe's present sad path is understandable. It seems to them the only way to stop killing each other. We have no similar recent history in the U.S. and shouldn't adopt those policies.

Whether or not Romney can lead the U.S. in a different direction is less clear. At least electing Romney gives us a chance to try that different direction, a chance Obama doesn't even want to offer.

Saturday, May 26, 2012


You may have noticed there have been no posts on this blog for nearly a week. My apologies, there have been things going on.

The main one is our annual spring migration to our primary home in western Wyoming. The Wyoming Rockies are as beautiful as ever.

I could have gotten online and posted. However, in an RV it would have been a hassle ... so I didn't.

Anyway, we're back "in the saddle" and blog posts will continue for the next couple of weeks. Then we should be in travel mode for a couple of weeks. I hope to do some travel blogs from eastern Germany, cruising on the Elbe River.

FLOTUS Expecting?

Various sources are reporting that President Obama has twice in recent days made reference to "his sons." Articles making this report have referred to it as "mistakenly" but it might be something else. What if first lady Michelle Obama is expecting a son? Not impossible at age 48, but somewhat unlikely.

On the other hand, as academics like to say, he may already have sons. These would have other mothers, and would be unacknowledged, at least in public. More for the conspiracy fans to enthuse about, right?

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Quote of the Day

The Daily Caller's Mickey Kaus, quoting a reader using the pseudonym Pollster Y:
In the long run, which Democratic Party is more likely to hold the loyalties of blacks and Hispanics for another generation—a working class Democratic Party, or a knowledge-worker Democratic Party?
Your answer depends on your stereotypes of blacks and Hispanics.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Review of a Review

Charles Murray is the most interesting and provocative of our political demographer-sociologists (a mouthful, isn't it?). I've read several reviews of Murray's new book Coming Apart but the Jonathan Rauch review in is by far the best. I recommend it to you.

I believe Rauch identifies an important shortcoming of Murray's work in the review's final couple of paragraphs. Murray doesn't talk about the middle 50% of the population, and that's where much U.S. social mobility occurs.

Many people reading this blog are examples of mobility from the lower middle class to the middle and upper middle classes. As we know, that achievement is far from trivial. We're not Masters of the Universe, we still shop at WalMart, but we travel overseas and earn graduate degrees, too.

Ten Reasons

In an evenly divided country political outcomes are difficult to predict with accuracy. That said, people keep trying to divine the future.

For example, Human Events lists ten reasons Barack Obama won't be reelected. I don't know about the "won't" part of that statement, but I'd sure go with "shouldn't" as a substitute.

I read their list of ten problems with the Obama administration and the only quibble I had with any of the ten was that a couple are aspects of the poor economy.

This administration has so often known what the public mood is on an issue and done exactly what is unpopular. That is true on health care, immigration, energy, and foreign policy. That alone should be reason enough for a new president.

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Dog Didn't Bark

In Silver Blaze, Arthur Conan Doyle's detective Sherlock Holmes is famous for the following observation:
Inspector Gregory: "Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?"
Holmes: "To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time."
Gregory: "The dog did nothing in the night-time."
Holmes: "That was the curious incident."

When something expected does not occur, the failure can be very important. Today's Facebook IPO was perhaps the most anticipated event in the last financial year. As this Associated Press story from Yahoo News shows, the event was a huge letdown.

COTTonLINE is not a financial blog, it isn't our expertise. That said, something big that was supposed to happen ... didn't happen. A "dog" that was supposed to bark its head off, failed to make much noise.

Perhaps the expected excitement will surface Monday or Tuesday. If it does not, then this event should be treated as an omen. An omen of just what, I'm not sure. Something bad, I expect.

Quote of the Day

Clive Crook, writing a political column for The Atlantic, wherein he predicts Obama's defeat:
Obama's big problem, I think, is that he is no longer the president he said he would be. Above all, he's stopped trying to be that president. 
And that's in a liberal magazine....


I wonder if perhaps "where" Barack Obama was born isn't the issue. Perhaps he was born in Hawaii but claimed to be foreign-born in order to gain financial aid for his extensive post-secondary education.

A kid from Hawaii is one thing, a kid from Kenya who grew up in Indonesia is quite another - that's someone a college or university would see as a valuable addition to their cultural diversity. Such valuable addition students often get special financial aid and admissions preference, a bias his academically trained mother would have fully understood.

That would mean the awkward thing at this point in his life is covering up his earlier dishonesty. Something we learned from Watergate, the coverup is almost always worse than the original misstep. Here is a PJ Media column by Roger L. Simon who reaches essentially the same conclusion.

See the Bias

MSM bias is fully on display in this Walter Shapiro column for Yahoo News. He writes about how being the losing vice presidential candidate can torpedo your political career. Shapiro provides a reasonably fair summary of the post-candidacy careers of the last 8 losing veep candidates.

Shapiro unsubtly insinuates that Romney will lose. He implies that all prominent Republicans who might be considered for the honor have also concluded Mitt's a loser. I seriously doubt that is the case.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

More Evidence

Yahoo News reports a new Gallup poll reveals that Mitt Romney's approval ratings are up 11%, to a total of 50% of respondents. Additional interesting information from the poll: Romney's unfavorable rating is 41%, Obama's favorable is 52% and his unfavorable is 46%.

Depending on your party affiliation, you can read these numbers in favor of either candidate. Obama has higher favorables, but higher unfavorables. Romney has nearly as high favorables, and substantially lower unfavorables. Pick the numbers that make you happy.

It is logical that 98% of respondents would have an opinion one way or the other about an incumbent president. Romney is less well known to the electorate, so only 91% have formed an opinion of him. A positive jump of 11% is nearly unheard of. 

Questions, Questions

A booklet has surfaced, published in 1991 by Acton & Dystel which was at the time Barack Obama's literary agent. The booklet contains the following text:
Barack Obama, the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review, was born in Kenya and raised in Indonesia and Hawaii. The son of an American anthropologist and a Kenyan finance minister, he attended Columbia University and worked as a financial journalist and editor for Business International Corporation. 
One of two things appears to be true: either our President was not born in Hawaii as he has claimed, or he has allowed false statements to be made on his behalf. Neither is attractive. The source for the above quote is Breitbart's Big Government. Hat tip to Matt Drudge for the link.

Which Is It?

Israel is either about to attack Iran or it is running the biggest and most obvious bluff in the history of geopolitics. The question is which?

Or is it what poker-playing friends of mine would call "a double-reverse psych-out?" That is, make the war talk so obvious that Iran concludes it's a bluff and is thus caught napping when the planned attack occurs.

Perhaps it is just supposed to look like a double-reverse. As this Reuters article on Yahoo News suggests, merely a way of getting the West to lean harder on Iran in order to prevent Israel from starting a war it has no intention of starting.

Churchill said during the Soviet era, "Russia is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma." That's the posture Israel is trying with some success to emulate.

One thing is certain: if Israel attacks, nobody can claim it was a Pearl Harbor-like surprise. They've been making belligerent noises vis-a-vis Iran's nuclear program for a couple of years.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Greeks Run

The bank run is on. It has taken until the current political craziness for most Greeks to decide to take their money out of local banks. That is weird. If I were a resident of Greece I would have long since put my euros elsewhere. See the story on MSNBC.

Whenever Greece bails out of the eurozone, whatever moneys are in the country will probably be converted to "new drachmas" on a one to one basis. Bank accounts, bonds, stocks, insurance policies, salaries, pensions, you name it, will be redenominated in the "new drachma."

Across the border, the new drachma will be worth considerably less than a euro. Maybe half a euro or less. So before the change happens, grab your euros and hold onto them. People dependent on wages, pensions, bond coupons, dividends, annuity payments, whatever cannot be withdrawn in advance get hurt, maybe a lot.

What comes next? Inflation as the Greek government "prints money" to pay off its debts and to pay its multitude of employees.

Quote of the Day

A self-confessed liberal reporter meets Gov. Sarah Palin at a conference, sees her again at the airport, likes her, and says something very interesting, and maybe very true:
While I do not agree with her positions, it is pretty clear that she has been unfairly maligned by the press. I have to wonder if some of the reaction is because she is a pretty woman. 
The source article is in Business Insider and a hat tip to for the link. Why do people think pretty women can't be smart and serious? Many are both.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

TSA Blues

Almost everybody trashes the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) about the stuff they put us through at airports. I'd like us to give 'em a break, okay? See what Jay Nordlinger, my favorite National Review columnist says on the subject:
We didn’t wish this system upon us, or upon others. We don’t choose to take our shoes off, in order to fly. We’d like to waltz out and waltz back in. And we’d like others to waltz in and waltz out.

But some very nasty people have done some very nasty things to us — and are seeking, night and day, to do more. So, here we are. If the world has complaints — and the world does — the world should direct those complaints to the many enablers of terror.

We didn’t start this.

New Polling Data

Remember that recent talk about "the GOP war on women?" How Obama would beat Romney among women voters? Lately ... it's not so prevalent.

CNN reports the latest CBS News/New York Times poll finds Romney is actually a couple of points ahead of Obama among women. It's the result of a slight improvement in Romney's numbers and a substantial drop in Obama's standing.

It is too early to get hopeful, but wouldn't a GOP landslide be fun?

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Alternate Scenarios

Michael Barone, writing for RealClearPolitics, looks at some alternate ways the next 5+ months may play out in the presidential race. He bases them on previous races that were not linear. Barone goes back as far as Goldwater vs. Johnson to find possible comparisons.

I won't try to summarize all of these earlier races for you. At the end of the day, Barone concludes this race looks like a straight-ahead slog between two dogged competitors but that other outcomes are certainly possible, if not especially likely.

Unintended Consequences

There's something I've been meaning to write about. I think women's liberation is mostly wonderful. My wife of 41 years - the other DrC - is a Ph.D., a career gal who earned the same amount I did, lectured all over the country, we share household chores, etc., etc.

So ... mostly wonderful, but like all things, not an unalloyed blessing. Time was when smart women could become nurses, teachers, secretaries, nuns or rarely, managers in retailing. There were no other serious career options open.

The result: there were many damned bright teachers, nurses, secretaries, etc. Today, fewer of those very bright women go into nursing and teaching. No big deal you say? That depends on how important you believe teaching your children is, how important having smart women watching your health in hospital.

I'd argue both of those things were, and are, important. So ... much has been gained but something has been lost, too. BTW, it is my understanding the other DrC agrees with these thoughts.

What reminded me to write this was a good New York Times article about Sister Dolores Crepeau, principal of a girls' high school in Brooklyn. You'd really like for this nun to run your daughters' high school. Hat tip to for the link.

When I was a kid most people believed women weren't able to run important organizations. At the same time, nuns were college presidents and managers of large, important hospitals. They managed huge budgets, large staffs, hired and fired, and did it very well.

How did we not notice what we knew about nuns totally conflicted with our attitudes toward women? Why did we think wearing medieval habits made women into men?

Thoughts ...

Barack Obama is known for three things in his presidency: the bailout, Obamacare, and killing Osama bin Laden. The public doesn't like the first two, according to many different polls, and mostly thinks the third is something any recent president would have ordered.

So ... what does Obama have to run on? Not much. That leaves running against Romney. It's the old "I may be bad but he's worse" approach.

Power Line on Rasmussen

John Hinderaker, perhaps the main contributor to the Power Line blog, has an insightful analysis of the Rasmussen Report polling data looking at the Obama/Romney horse race. As of now, Romney is ahead by more than the margin of error.

Hinderaker reproduces the Rasmussen charts and talks about the extent to which Obama's gay marriage approval statement has influenced the data. One thing to remember about Rasmussen's numbers, they tend to be somewhat more conservative than some other pollsters' numbers.

The reason for this "bias" is that Rasmussen polls what he believes are likely voters, whereas other polling organizations poll registered voters. Historically, registered Republicans are more likely to vote than registered Democrats. Therefore more of them are included in the group Rasmussen polls.

Dem Pollster Pessimistic

Peter D. Hart, well-known Democratic pollster, has issued his preview of the 2012 election. A Los Angeles Times article summarizes Hart's preview and quotes him as saying:
This election is no better than a 50-50 proposition for the president.
Among factors Hart cites as being negative for the president are voter enthusiasm (stronger among Republicans), low consumer confidence, how people feel about the direction of the country (unhappy), and who they believe has a better handle on the economy (Romney).

As a Democrat Hart looks for some silver linings in the data and, no surprise, finds some. The linings seem weak to me, but there are many weeks between now and early November, much can change.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Californians Leaving

Since the mid-eighteen hundreds California has been a magnet for internal migration, the destination of many following the advice of Horace Greeley to "go west, young man." No longer, as Wendell Cox looks at CA's population shifts for New Geography.

Of all the Americans who moved from any state to another during the last decade (n = 6.3 million) roughly a quarter left California to live somewhere else. Another quarter left New York. The other 48 states accounted for the balance of migrators.

CA still had 10% growth during that decade. The outmigrants were replaced by international immigrants, while births minus deaths accounted for the gains.

Essentially, CA lost 1.5 million residents, replaced them with (mostly) illegal immigrants from Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America, and grew by roughly 3.3 million births, many of those born to illegal immigrant parents. Those constitute dramatic population shifts.

Unfortunately for CA, this means many taxpayers left the state and were replaced with "tax eaters," people who consume more in government services than they pay in taxes. Clearly, this population transformation is a major cause of CA's financial problems.

Poor California.

Bailing Out

We've seen recent references to capital being mobile and wealthy people being willing to move elsewhere to save on taxes. We've even read about people giving up U.S. citizenship to save on income taxes.

Co-founder of Facebook, Eduardo Saverin, is an example; see this Bloomberg article for details. Brazilian-born Saverin has given up U.S. citizenship and will reside in Singapore.

See what a strategy of "let's tax the rich" gets you? Our loss is Singapore's gain.

Thursday, May 10, 2012


Francis Fukuyama is almost always interesting, if not always correct. Here he writes for The American Interest about "the two Europes." What distinguishes the north from the south is, he believes, the prevalence in the latter of clientelism.

Fukuyama defines "clientelism" as follows:
Clientelism occurs when political parties use public resources, and particularly government offices, as a means of rewarding political supporters. Politicians provide not programmatic public policies, but individual benefits like a job in the post office, an intervention on behalf of a relative in trouble with the government, or sometimes an outright payment of money or goods.
Fukuyama then makes a distinction:
Clientelism should be distinguished from corruption proper because of the relationship of reciprocity that exists between politicians and voters. There is a real degree of accountability in a clientelistic system: the politician has to give something back to supporters if he or she is to stay in power, even if that is a purely private benefit.
Whether your ancestors came from northern or southern Europe, or elsewhere, this is an interesting analysis. Upon reflection, I suspect my late father was a beneficiary of clientelism in California in the 1930s.

The other DrC and I observed clientelism very much alive and well on the U.S. dependency of Guam in the mid-1980s. Speaking immediately after his election and making reference to campaign workers, the Governor of Guam was supposed to have said, "Where will I find jobs for all these people?" One result: GovGuam turned school bus driver into a full-time career government job.

Underemployed PhDs

Writing for ABC News, Susanna Kim reports that the number of Ph.D.s on public assistance has tripled. Before getting that M.A. or Ph.D. in History, Sociology, Russian Literature or Anthropology, perhaps arguably intelligent people should check to see if there are academic jobs in their field before charging ahead with graduate studies. Is that asking too much?

Can He Say That?

Paul Mirengoff, writing for the blog Power Line, about apparent funny business in the black studies department at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.
Why would an administrator risk the ire of campus minorities, not to mention accusations of racism, in the name of ensuring rigor (or at least some degree of seriousness) in a department that he or she may well consider something of a joke to begin with?
Talk about not politically correct, can he say that? Apparently he just did.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Obama an Underdog?

Josh Kraushaar who writes for National Journal argues that President Obama should be considered an underdog for reelection. The points he makes aren't bad, may even be accurate. Give yourself a treat and read his column.

Just Saying....

The Chronicle of Higher Education is the trade paper for colleges and universities. It recently fired a columnist/blogger who questioned the value of black studies. Various conservative commentators are looking askance thereupon. I want to tackle a broader canvas.

The typical campus has dozens of undergraduate majors, most of which lead to nearly zero careers. A discouraging number of majors are essentially useless unless the student goes on for a doctorate and then teaches the subject at another campus. At the less-than-doctoral level many majors are only useful as preparation for teaching the subject at the high school level.

We encourage youngsters to follow their hearts, study what they love. Does anybody tell them in no uncertain terms that the world takes little interest in most subjects? I think not.

I spent over thirty years on the campuses of several comprehensive universities, that is, universities which do not have research as a primary mission and do not offer the doctorate in most subjects. During most of that time, the only majors for whose baccalaureate graduates there was recruiting on campus were education, business, nursing, engineering, and computer science.

Tens of thousands of kids graduate with majors in Sociology, Psychology, Anthropology, Communications (whatever that is), History, French, Art, Drama, Biology, Child Development, Women's Studies, etc., etc. I hope they had enough fun to justify all the money spent because they haven't done much to further their career goals.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Venezuelan Issues

"Venezuela teeters, Cuba gives a shove" could be the headline of this piece. Roger F. Noriega, former ambassador to the OAS and assistant secretary of state, has an interesting column for the Miami Herald.

Noriega writes that many officials in the Chavez government and military have ties to drug cartels and may be indicted soon by our Department of Justice. A former supreme court justice has come to the U.S. and is cooperating in the investigation. I think this is giving the Holder DOJ too much credit but...we'll see.

The godfather of Latin American socialism, Fidel Castro, is concerned enough to pen a letter on the subject. If Chavizmo, Castro and the Venezuelan mess are of interest, you might want to give the column some time.

Brownstein Hedges His Bet

Earlier Ron Brownstein of National Journal had seen Obama as a clear leader in the presidential sweepstakes. That was then, now ... not so much.

His current reading of the poll tea leaves (pun not intended) suggests Obama and Romney are essentially in a dead heat, too close to call. Brownstein particularly calls attention to Obama's weakening popularity among non-college white males.

If you keep reading beyond that rather standard observation, he eventually ends up saying Obama is weaker among all groups of whites including women with a college degree. Team Obama cannot be loving these numbers.

Lugar Loses

Six term Senator Dick Lugar (R-IN) has been defeated in the Republican primary by State Treasurer Richard Mourdock, if reports at RealClearPolitics are correct. Who says the Tea Party is defunct?

Mourdock was backed by the Tea Party which viewed Lugar as being too willing to compromise with Democrats. In November Mourdock will run against Democrat Joe Donnelly who has three terms in the House of Representatives. Mourdock is expected to win.

The process of hollowing out the political middle in Congress continues.

Quote of the Day

Richard W. Rahn writing on the Cato Institute website about how no one seems to remember socialism doesn't work:
Europe is in recession, and the odds are that by January the United States will be back in recession. The central banks will inflate the currency to deal with the government debt problems, the people will be poorer, and the rich will have left. It is all so unnecessary.

Fake Minorities

There is a current furor over Elizabeth Warren, Democratic Senate candidate in Massachusetts. On the faculty of Harvard Law School she claimed to be a Native American and apparently a careful read of her genealogy suggests she truly is 1/32 Indian.

She neither looks nor acts Native American, but a distant ancestor, a great, great, great grandmother was Cherokee. See an article about this in The New Republic or another in National Review Online.

This kind of hire is so common. Pressured to meet affirmative action goals (aka quotas), and not particularly wanting someone who actually is a full-fledged cranky minority, schools and firms hire the Elizabeth Warrens of this world. That is, people who can claim to be minorities but actually are no such thing.

At my university, another department had a woman hired to meet the Hispanic quota. She was literally Hispanic, that is, her parents were immigrants from Spain. Born and raised in the U.S., she was as much of European stock as any other "white" person on the faculty. A perfect affirmative action hire, she had no interest in La Raza and the like.

Weird Demographic Science

Eric Kaufmann, writing in The American, journal of the American Enterprise Institute, makes some interesting points about secularism, religion, and population sizes. His point: the religious have bigger families than the non-religious and so, over time, begin to outnumber them.

Maybe so, maybe not; this looks like someone making linear projections of existing trends without remembering that the important thing in forecasting is locating the inflection points. I think Kaufmann overlooks the trend of people to become more secular as they become more "first world and developed."

I expect the same forces that have already turned religious Europeans into secular Europeans and are turning religious Americans into secular Americans will likewise turn religious third world individuals secular as they become more developed. To anticipate otherwise is to believe something has changed.

For Politics Wonks

RealClearPolitics' Sean Trende does an interesting analysis which rebuts the "Romney has a narrow path to electoral college majority" trope. This article is only for the politics mavens among you. Nothing superficial here, relatively dense stuff.

Knesset Watching

The number of political parties in Israel is almost greater than the number of citizens, I observe sarcastically. The last time one party had an absolute majority was in 1969. For major blocs in the Knesset to agree to work together isn't common.

However, Haaretz reports Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and opposition chairman MK Shaul Mofaz have decided to form a government of national unity, and cancel plans for a September election.

The Haaretz article does not speculate on whether this alliance has any relationship to a possible Israeli attack in Iranian nuclear sites. To me it suggests a political "clearing the decks" in preparation for warfare. However, a Reuters article does make the point that this move strengthens the government's hand vis-a-vis Iran. Time will tell....

Weird Dino Science

The latest theory from the global warmists is that dinosaurs, specifically the huge herbivores, caused their own extinction by farting so much methane gas that it caused bigtime greenhouse effect, overheated the planet, and killed them off. Somebody obviously has extrapolated from the known large methane contribution of domestic cattle.

I don't know whether to giggle or groan. Heck, it could even be true, who knows? See The Week article on Yahoo News for details.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

More on Labor Force Decline

As you know, we've been following the labor force decline story here at COTTonLINE. Here is another useful article about the topic from a source we trust, The Wall Street Journal.

It identifies several causes for the reduction in labor force participation, some I've seen and some new ones. One of the issues is that the older unemployed are having a tough time getting new jobs; they are seriously overrepresented among the long-term unemployed.

Big Brother Wants Your Vote

Ross Douthat writes for The New York Times, and has a wry, thoughtful column on the opening moves of the Obama campaign. For example, he writes:
“Forward,” the Obama campaign will be declaiming to Americans, which feels like a none-too-subtle admission that a look backward at the Obama economic record might be bad news for the president’s re-election prospects.
Douthat describes Team Obama's "Life of Julia" slideshow thusly:
It offers a more sweeping vision of government’s place in society, in which the individual depends on the state at every stage of life, and no decision — personal, educational, entrepreneurial, sexual — can be contemplated without the promise that it will be somehow subsidized by Washington.
Douthat finally wonders if in today's society that view of government may not be attractive to many voters. Of the Julia trope, he concludes:
Her story is the clearest statement we’re likely to get of what Obama-era liberalism would take us “forward” toward.

CA Brain Drain

An article in The Sacramento Bee is about college-bound Californians choosing out-of-state colleges and universities. The article mentions the real danger implicit in this trend:
Large numbers of students leaving the state represent a threat, albeit fledgling, to California's future, particularly if many don't return. (snip) The worst-case scenario for California is that a large number of students who leave the state for college don't return, leading to "brain drain."
Going away from home to attend college and staying in the general area where you do your baccalaureate degree is quite common. Most of my friends did it, as did I.

California is so big we did it within California, moved from SoCal to Northern California. CA didn't lose us. What The Bee is describing is another matter entirely.

The article mentions interviewing a couple of soon-to-be freshmen at New York University. I couldn't help thinking how grubby and tired the urban east coast will look to a couple of kids who grew up in suburban CA.

In the mid-1970s the other DrC and I moved from CA to a MD suburb of DC and spent two years there. We never became accustomed to how nasty everything looked. Long-haul truckers once called the east and west coasts the dirty side and the shaky side, "shaky" referring to earthquakes. I wonder if they still do?

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Republicans Have Greater Wellbeing

The differences are not large but, given the enormous sample size (n = 400,000+), significant; which is to say highly unlikely to occur by chance alone. Republicans experience greater wellbeing than do Democrats or Independents.

As measured by the Healthways Well-being Index, wellbeing is a composite of six subscales: life evaluation, emotional health, physical health, healthy behaviors, work environment, and basic access. The survey was done by the Gallup organization.

We don't experience these findings as unusual or unexpected. Those whose life is working out better would be less inclined to seek change, that is to say "conservative." In fact, it would not be too far off the mark to identify most Republicans as those for whom life is good, and most Democrats as those for whom life isn't meeting their expectations.

No, we didn't say "winners" and "losers." You could say that but we wouldn't; it's too extreme for the tone we try to achieve here at COTTonLINE.

Mitt's Path Not So Narrow

Salon's Steve Kornacki writes that recent claims Obama has a lock on the November election are exaggerated. His reasoning works for me. Kornacki describes:
The political world’s very human tendency to treat the patterns that defined the most recent election as more fixed than they are. 
Obama won the 2008 election and it wasn't close. On the other hand, the GOP won the 2010 Congressional elections and that wasn't close. Which of these patterns is determinative? Most probably, neither.

Older = Longer Unemployed

Unsurprisingly, the older an unemployed worker is, the more likely he or she is to be unemployed for a long period. Employers want younger workers and are hiring them first, if they're hiring at all. See the Business Insider article (scroll down).

On the one hand, workers no longer spend decades with one employer so why should the employer care about their age? On the other hand, younger workers are more likely to be healthy, flexible and up-to-date technologically. It appears these latter arguments are persuasive.

More on Labor Force Decline

I just finished reading a quite good Washington Post article on all of the things influencing the declining labor force participation rate. The rate has been declining since 2000. It is tempting to blame decreased participation on the Obama administration, however they get to share the blame with other factors.

Early retirement of Baby Boomers is one factor, discouraged workers is another. Pushing labor force participation in the other direction is older workers feeling they need to continue working because their 401ks and homes have lost value. The article is balanced and thorough. If the subject interests you, give it a look.

Left Over Ladies

We all know that Chinese families produce more sons than daughters, something like 118 to 100. So you'd guess that scarcity makes all Chinese women good marriage prospects, yes? No, it turns out highly educated Chinese women are finding it difficult to land "qualified" husbands.

Carefully reading the Foreign Policy article which reports this trend, reading more or less between the lines, you figure out that many Chinese men are marrying women who have less education. In China almost all educated men marry but uneducated men often do not.

What is happening in China resembles the pattern we had here in the U.S. some years ago. Men normally married women who did not challenge them in terms of education and career achievement.

My sense is that this pattern of men "marrying down" is no longer as prevalent in the U.S. Today I believe male doctors marry doctors instead of marrying nurses, attorneys marry attorneys instead of legal secretaries, etc. It probably took a generation or two to mostly get past the "marry down" pattern.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Workforce Participation Declines

As U.S. industries become more efficient and productive, they accomplish their tasks with fewer workers. Many of the routine tasks get outsourced overseas which is wonderful for China, Mexico or Sri Lanka, not so good for us. We are told the future U.S. workforce will be highly skilled, highly educated, and very flexible. 

I keep thinking that many of the young people with whom I attended high school lacked the mental acuity to be employable in that future workforce. If my classmates lacked the smarts, it is an odds on bet their children and grandchildren aren't very smart either, since the best unbiased predictor of IQ is parents' IQ.

Which raises the question of what we will do with those mostly unemployable-in-high-tech Americans? Perhaps the answer is emerging.

I keep seeing articles which report that the number of people now on disability or SSDI continues to go up. It's no surprise, as we've noted here earlier. This was a trend during the Great Depression when many unemployed World War I vets earnestly claimed a military disability after happily working during the twenties. 

What our recent group of disabled amounts to is a permanent class of people on the dole that only grows larger. The "disabled" become accustomed to not working and figure out how to live on that disability check.  Once disabled, people are unlikely to go back to work. If you scan this Reuters article, you'll see that fewer than 45% of Americans are in the work force, and the number will likely continue to decline.

Review Preview

The first of the summer's big movies, Marvel Comics based The Avengers is out and I haven't seen it yet. Normally super hero films aren't my cup of tea.

I will make an exception for The Avengers because the writer/director is Joss Whedon. If the name isn't familiar to you, no surprise.

Whedon is known more for his TV and comics work than for his feature films. He wrote/directed Buffy, the Vampire Slayer.  He was also responsible for the Buffy spinoff Angel, whose lead character was played by David Boreanaz, now playing Booth on the series Bones.

My favorite Whedon opus is Firefly, a Fox TV sci.fic/western series. It starred Nathan Fillion, who now plays Castle in the ABC series of that name. Whedon also directed the feature length Firefly spin off entitled Serenity. Both are available on DVD.

I expect to post a review of The Avengers relatively soon.

Whither Egypt?

An article from The Week in Yahoo News does a good job of surveying the current confused political situation in Egypt. The article, however, doesn't deal with economics.

Historically, tourism has been the source of almost all of Egypt's foreign exchange earnings. In spite of his faults, former President Mubarak made Egypt a secular, tourist-friendly place. The result - the world's tourists came in the hundreds of thousands, bringing money and employing Egyptians in various hospitality-related occupations.

Perhaps Egypt's most pressing question is how an Islamist government can operate in a fashion that will be perceived as welcoming by the world's tourists? I've yet to see an answer to this question that makes sense. An Egypt with only Muslim tourists will be a very poor place, unable to maintain its many historical sites or feed its people.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

More on U.K. Regionalism

Last Saturday we wrote about the slow falling-apart of Britain. Ireland is long gone. The Scots seem headed for the door, I'm not sure how soon.

Now the Welch seem to be favoring the same idea. See this article in The Guardian for details. Its author seems to feel the English don't much care, as though they take a "don't let the door hit you in the bum on your way out" attitude.

My guess - the English are tired of the whining of the Scots and Welch about their supposed second-class status.

Coulter: Immigration Sense-Making

Conservative snark-mistress Ann Coulter does a column on immigration issues in the current election cycle. The whole thing is worth your time, maybe good for a sour laugh as well.

Here are a couple of choice bits from the column:
Democrats look at immigration as a way to increase their voter rolls, and Republicans look at immigration as a way to get cheap labor for big business. Any Americans who disagree with our all-Third World immigration flow are called "racists." 
Can't we all agree that the very first thing we have to do is seal the border? (snip) Can't we all agree not to give immigrants government handouts? Starting with those two policies is not only logical, but will force Democrats to admit they have no intention of ever blocking the border. Their dearest desire is for immigrants to arrive, become dependent on government and start voting Democratic.
It would also force The Wall Street Journal to admit their target readership can't get enough cheap labor.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Who's a Natural Born Citizen?

Bret Baier, anchor for Fox News' serious news hour, has a very nice short column on who is a natural born citizen. "Natural born citizen" is a status the Constitution says you must have to be elected president or vice president.

It turns out the Constitution's authors didn't clarify their intent, and so Federal law 8 U.S. Code Section 1401 is left to define who is/is not a natural born citizen. The answer isn't simple.

It appears that the Supreme Court could choose to weigh in on the subject and attempt to divine the intent of the drafters. Until that happens, the rather complex code indicated above is the rule. Baier says he is citing the research of columnist Byron York of the Washington Examiner.

As Baier explains it, that law makes clear that regardless of where he was born Barack Hussein Obama is a citizen because his mother was a citizen. That BHO doesn't act like a natural born citizen is a whole other issue, one I attribute to his unusual, multicultural and expatriate upbringing.

CEOs Rate CA Worst...Again

For eight years Chief Executive magazine has been conducting a survey of CEOs asking which are the best and worst states in which to do business. Again this year poor sad California ranked number 50.

Yep, that's right. In the opinion of the 650 business leaders who responded to the survey, all forty-nine of the other states are better places to do business. Texas again ranked number one and the other states in the top five include Florida, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Indiana.
It may be no accident that most of the states in the top 20 are also right-to-work states, as labor force flexibility is highly sought after when a business seeks a location. Several economists, most notably Ohio State’s Richard Vedder and Harvard’s Robert Barro, have found that the economies in R-to-W areas grow faster than other states, have higher employment and attract more inward migration.
One CEO remarked that if it weren't for the CA weather there'd be no reason to stay. Another suggested California should secede as doing business there is like working in a foreign country. The Los Angeles Times reported this story honestly, it must have given them heartburn to print it.

If you would understand the roots of California's problems, a good place to begin is these lines from the Chief Executive story:
Its unemployment rate, at 10.9 percent, is higher than every other state except Nevada and Rhode Island. With 12 percent of America’s population, California has one-third of the nation’s welfare recipients.
Question: why on earth would California support nearly three times its share of the nation's welfare population? Answer: too-generous benefits and if you're going to live on welfare, why not live where the weather is perfect?

Liars Figure

The Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics reports unemployment data every week. Then, as better numbers become available, they adjust the numbers originally reported to make them more accurate. Nothing new here, they've been doing it for years.

What is new is what is reported in this Fox News article.
For 59 out of the last 60 weeks, the weekly jobless numbers have been revised, after the fact, always in the same direction: higher. That's unheard of.
Those revisions higher make the present week’s unemployment number look better in comparison, more so since the markets often treat the prior week’s revision as an afterthought.
As an afterthought, exactly. What is reported is what is released, what is "new." In the media not much is made of the prior week's revisions.

If the adjustments truly reflected the arrival of "better numbers" they'd be somewhat random. Roughly as many corrections downward as upward would occur. There is nothing random about 59 out of 60 weeks "better numbers" always being higher. My mental image is of a butcher with his fat thumb on the scales, always charging you for more meat than you actually bought.

Unemployment data being too low 59 out of 60 weeks is the same; it's evidence of bureaucrats fiddling the data to make unemployment look lower (i.e., "better") than it really is, week after week. Then, to cover their backsides, they are adjusting the final numbers to be closer to reality before moving on.

If the numbers Fox is reporting are accurate - I've not checked them myself - Congress should definitely investigate what is almost certainly scandalous lying to the public. Fiddling the numbers goes beyond spin, it would be malfeasance.

Apple Is Right

There is a mini-kerfuffle currently about Apple Corporation doing a variety of things to avoid paying taxes. As far as anyone can tell, all of those things are entirely legal. See The Week article on Yahoo News.

COTTonLINE's position is that they'd be stupid to do anything less fiscally careful. Indeed, if the Apple CEO discovered the firm was paying taxes they could legally avoid, he should fire the CFO.

If voters are unhappy about Apple's tax avoidance, the logical thing is to demand their legislators close the legal loopholes Apple is using. It is likely, however, that such demands will receive polite attention but little more.

Legislators rely on companies and their executives for campaign donations, donations the man in the street is unwilling or unable to give. Therefore voters shouldn't be surprised if, most of the time, legislators let those paying the piper call the tune.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

More Kotkin on Sad California

California-based demographer Joel Kotkin often deals with the mess into which California has gotten itself. Writing here for City Journal he continues to pursue that theme.

His main point here is that what is occurring in CA is a sort of class warfare in which the wealthy are shutting down growth and development in order to keep things nicer for themselves. Kotkin being Kotkin, he has the data to prove it.

The CA wealthy are doing very well indeed; pretty much everybody else is worse off than the rest of the country. As you'd expect, it turns out this model doesn't work very well.

Don't Predict November

Jeff Greenfield has been reporting and analyzing politics for 40+ years. Here he writes for Yahoo News to say that, at this point, predicting the outcome of the November election is folly.

Greenfield's variables: the economy of course, foreign affairs, a career-sinking gaffe, emergence of a Willie Horton or Swift Boat ad buy, etc. He calls these "black swans," oddball things that happen, often outside the control of either campaign.

This year many speculate on the imponderable impact of an early autumn attack on Iran by Israel (or the U.S or both). Not knowing is what keeps the game interesting, right?

Not Getting It

Amy Walter writes for ABC News' The Note that WalMart moms aren't interested in the "who would kill bin Laden" issue. I believe she misses the point.

Now that Osama bin Laden is dead, nobody is interested in him. We wanted him killed, he's been killed, and the issue has become a non-issue. My guess: any president we've had recently, except wimpy Jimmy Carter, would have given the "go" signal.

As we try to struggle out of the biggest economic downturn since the Great Depression, fixing the economy has to be issue one for most people.