Wednesday, October 31, 2012

al Qaeda Whac-A-Mole

The way we chase al Qaeda around the world reminds me of Whac-A-Mole, the famous carnival game where you use a mallet to hammer mechanical "moles" which pop up out of holes in a board.  al Qaeda behaves like those moles, we nail them in one location and they pop up in another.

That is what we'd expect Islamists to do, isn't it? Nailing them in one location doesn't eradicate all who hold those views, or change the conditions which lead people to find Islamist views attractive. See this Investor's Business Daily article for an example.

So long as (a) Islam tells its adherents that their beliefs make them the natural leaders of the world, whereas (b) some of those same beliefs keep their nations from becoming world leaders, and (c) it is obvious to everyone that they are not, in fact, the leaders of the world, then (d) festering resentment will continue. 

Hence, the long war. We deal with it, Russia deals with it, China deals with it, India deals with it, as well as many smaller nations (e.g., Thailand, the Philippines, Mali, Kenya, Myanmar). About the only inhabited continent where Islamism isn't a problem (yet) is Latin America.

Like rust on a steel ship at sea, it is a problem that won't go away and must be continuously counteracted.

Jay Leno on Obama

NBC's Jay Leno, cracking wise in his 10.30.12 monologue about President Obama:
Well, ‘Don't Ask, Don't Tell’ is back - not for gays in the military. It's President Obama's new policy for questions about Libya. Don't ask, don't tell.
Then Jay comments on the Obama TV ad, done by Lena Dunham:
Have you seen that new Obama campaign ad that equates voting with sex? It’s kind of clever. It uses innuendo to try and woo young female voters.

Like one line says, "Your first time shouldn't be with just anybody. It should be with a great guy who really understands women."

But, on the other hand, if it is your first time, you might want to do it with someone who doesn't need eight years to get the job done. That's all I'm saying. 
My source for these quotes is Breitbart's Big Hollywood. Hat tip to for the link.

Morris: Maybe a GOP Landslide

Former Clinton guru Dick Morris is always interesting, sometimes even right. He writes for The Hill that the 2012 election is moving in the direction of a Republican landslide.

Okay, I'll freely admit that Morris is a boisterous optimist, which makes him fun to read. Even so, his reasoning isn't bad - take a look and see what you think.

Morris sees a Romney/Ryan victory, and a Republican takeover of the Senate. He doesn't bother to discuss the House, everybody says that will stay Republican.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Homie Dis

Barack Obama comes to national politics from the City of Chicago and the Illinois legislature. Here is Steve Huntley in his home-town paper, the Chicago Sun-Times, alleging that Obama can be trusted to do the wrong thing:
The record shows Obama can be trusted to deliver more of the same ideological agenda that has kept too many people out of work and eroded the American dream. 
That's not what you want to hear from a homie.

An Undertow Election?

Ben Domenech thinks 2012 could be an "undertow" election. Not an election where a wave of enthusiasm carries one candidate to victory, but instead when a lack of enthusiasm drops the bottom out from under one candidate.

In an undertow, potential voters still like a candidate when asked by pollsters, but not enough to make the effort to vote for him. Polls don't always reflect this demotivation. See the RealClearPolitics article for an explanation.


You know the superstition about predicting something you want to have happen, that predicting it will make it not happen? I confess to suffering a bit of that superstition, particularly with respect to politics.

Nevertheless ... at COTTonLINE we read a lot of different sources, and abstracts from even more sources. There is no question that, one week before the election, a preponderance of evidence and opinion is moving in Romney's direction.

Barring odd circumstances, one week from tomorrow we will know the results of the quadrennial election. Win or lose, we will then begin to digest the meaning of whatever outcome is before us.

The exit polls will have told us whether or not the gender gap persists, to what extent Hispanics voted, and for what parties, how Ohio actually voted and whether it was pivotal as predicted, and the impact of the late October surprise that was Superstorm Sandy.

The Gender Gap Revisited

Writing for The Daily Beast/Newsweek, Linda Hirshman says the relevant gender gap is Democrats inability to attract the votes of white men. She makes an interesting point about women's vote for Democrats:
A big part of the reason why the gender gap looks so much more promising for the Dems than it turns out to be is that 2 or more points of that advantage are actually attributable to race. African-American women vote in larger numbers than African-American men do; the women’s vote is simply blacker than the men’s.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Middle Class Welfare

David Armor and Sonja Sousa, two professors at George Mason University, have amassed some fascinating and frightening data, which they've reported in the journal National Affairs.  Here is their finding, in their words:
In three years, from 2008 through 2010, total annual spending on welfare programs (in 2010 dollars) increased from $475 billion to $666 billion — a 40% increase after accounting for inflation. (snip) Some of these spending increases were justified by the deep recession that began in December 2007. (Snip) The poverty rate climbed during the 2008 recession — to 15% from an average of about 12.5% during the mid-2000s. But this rise in poverty does not explain most of the recent increases in spending on anti-poverty programs.

Rather, it is the dramatic expansion of eligibility for these programs — spreading their benefits well into the middle class — that has driven the explosion of spending. Today, more than half of the benefits allocated through programs we think of as "anti-poverty" efforts actually go to people above the poverty line as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau. As a result, our poverty programs — once justified and defended as a safety net for Americans truly in need — exist, increasingly, to make life more comfortable for the middle class. 
"Our poverty programs ... exist, increasingly, to make life more comfortable for the middle class." Why the heck is this happening? Do you want to pay for this? Maybe Romney wasn't so far off when he said 47% of the people are on the dole, one way or another.

The Spellchecker Gremlin

The old spellchecker gremlin is alive and well, getting student writers into trouble. I saw plenty of this as a professor, the student writes "there" when they mean "their" and the checker doesn't catch it because both are valid words.

Here is an article about this issue from The Telegraph. I'd see to, too, and two mixed up, and there are others. Since I taught Management, one of my favorites was when my students wrote "manger" when they meant "manager."

Both manger and manager are, of course, valid words meaning quite different things. I can't tell you how often I wrote "manger =/= manager" on a student paper.

(N.B.: =/= is as close as I can come here to writing the math symbol of an equal sign with a slash drawn through it, meaning "does not equal.")

Sunday, October 28, 2012

War in the Shadows

David Ignatius of The Washington Post and RealClearPolitics wants us to think the U.S. can decide we are no longer in "the long war." Really? What alternate reality is he operating in?

He hears Obama and Romney say peaceful things in the foreign policy debate. They want to be elected and believe peaceful things will help with the women's vote.

What if our enemies think they are still fighting the long war? Islamists' objection to the U.S. is the pervasive "corrupting" influence of our culture which is spread around the world, and our support of Israel.

How does our deciding we aren't in the long war cause Islamists to become okay with that "corrupting" influence? With our support of Israel?

War-weariness means fighting the long war by other means - drones and hit squads, and the occasional bombing attack. War in the shadows. Neither Obama nor Romney raised the issue of the drone war.

For a much more realistic view of the issue, see this Wall Street Journal article by Michael J. Totten. His conclusion: the Islamic world will hate the U.S. whatever we do.

Hating feels so good. Plus blaming the U.S. is easier than blaming themselves for their lack of progress.

Ohio Politics: A Primer

You've heard that this presidential race has boiled down to Ohio, and perhaps a few other states. So ... if you are a true politics enthusiast, you need to become expert on Ohio politics and what constitutes a "ground game."

That said, I've found for you a primer on Ohio presidential politics written by Dan Balz and Felicia Somnez of The Washington Post. Balz is about as good a political writer as we have today, trying hard to be this generation's replacement for David Broder. He still leans left, but less than many others.

Unless you're a politics maven, this long article will tell you more than you want to know about Ohio micro-politics. Hat tip to RealClearPolitics for the link.

Barone: Race Less an Issue

COTTonLINE wrote about race and politics as recently as last Thursday. Now see what political number cruncher Michael Barone writes for the Washington Examiner. Here he looks at the issues of race in politics and finds them less threatening for Republicans than many pundits have claimed.

Barone sees black Americans as a declining percentage of our population, although there is no reason to believe they'll be anything but Democrats. Hispanics are not a unified bloc, a non-trivial percentage vote Republican, and they no longer threaten to become the majority of our populace.

Finally, in the last few years Asians are the most rapidly growing minority and are quite diverse in point of origin. They are also the least monolithically Democratic group of the three. You'll like his conclusion:
Romney can win even if 80 percent of nonwhites vote again for Obama. And rising percentages of nonwhites in future electorates will pose challenges, but not threaten doom, for the Republican Party.

Cost: Independents Crucial

The Weekly Standard's Jay Cost writes canny political analysis. Here he looks at relevant numbers for independents:
The most recent Rasmussen Reports poll shows Romney besting Obama by 13 points, 52 percent to 39 percent, among unaffiliated voters. Since 1972, the first year of exit polling, no candidate for president has won election while losing independents by such a wide margin.
See the rest of the article for other interesting tidbits.

Weird Seismic Science

This blog entry could be entitled "The Ring of Fire Strikes Again." A relatively severe (7.7 magnitude) earthquake hit the coastal waters south-west of Prince Rupert, British Columbia. 

The quake occurred late Saturday, the area in question is lightly populated. A minor tsunami was associated with the quake. See a Reuters article at Yahoo News for details.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Gallup Bombshell

Yesterday the Gallup polling organization came out with numbers which show that, unlike 2008, this year there are more Republicans than Democrats. See their website for details.

To be more specific, Gallup says this year 36% of likely voters self-identify as Republicans, while 35% identify as Democrats. When independents were asked toward which party they "leaned," and these were added to the numbers who chose a party, Republicans had 49% and Democrats had 46%.

By comparison, in 2008 Democrats had 39% and Republicans had 29%, add in the leaners and it was Democrats 54% and Republicans 42%. If Gallup is accurate, 2012 is a much more Republican year.

This news can't be bad for our side, up and down the ticket.

More on Benghazi

Yesterday I noted that the CIA said of the Benghazi assault:
No one at any level in the CIA told anybody not to help those in need; claims to the contrary are simply inaccurate. 
It turns out I completely missed something in my reading of this statement, see this analysis from Power Line:
Interesting choice of words, “nobody told anybody NOT to help.” That is a little different from saying they did tell somebody to help. If an order is NOT given to help, you did not tell somebody not to help, you just ignored their plea. 
Pretty darn clearly the CIA may have decided to ignore a request for airborne assistance from drones or Spectre gunships in the region, or an intervention by military special warfare forces. Their statement doesn't cover ignoring a request. It doesn't say they did ignore it either, only that we don't know from what they said.

I'm guessing the CIA assets on the ground in Libya were sent to help, but air assets and special warfare military were withheld in the hope of not escalating the conflict. It can be argued that by not shooting up the neighborhoods where the violence was happening, the "not escalating" goal was achieved. Libyans ended up acting against the people suspected of doing the original harm.

Political Humor Alert

NBC comic Jay Leno, describing an inexpensive Halloween costume:
Wear a re-elect Obama button and go out as a journalist.
Go here on Newsbusters to see Leno delivering this line as part of his monologue.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Tapper: CIA Denies Blame

Jake Tapper of ABC News reports the CIA issued the following exact quote concerning the Benghazi disaster:
No one at any level in the CIA told anybody not to help those in need; claims to the contrary are simply inaccurate. 
In other words, the decision not to assist came from either State, Defense, or the White House. Panetta at Defense has waffled, said intel was insufficient to act, so has Clinton at State.

True, intel was insufficient to know who was causing the trouble. However, intel that there was trouble and our people were in danger was clear and unambiguous.

What remains to be determined is who decided to do nothing and let those four people be murdered. Clinton has taken responsibility, sort of.

If it's her responsibility she should, at minimum, resign now, perhaps be tried. She has announced she will step down in January, regardless of who is elected president.

Boehner Steps Up

Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner has written a letter to President Obama about the Benghazi situation: what he knew and when he knew it. Concerned that the letter would otherwise receive no response, Boehner released the letter to the press. Here are portions of that letter reported by Fox News' Catherine Herridge:
The American public is increasingly reading information contradicting early accounts by your administration of the causes of the events of the day. In the absence of your direct engagement to clarify these concerns, the public's frustration and confusion is likely to discredit efforts to achieve our shared goals of justice and accountability for the direct assault on American interests and the deaths of four public servants.

It is clear that information now in the public domain contradicts how you and senior administration officials consistently described the cause and nature of the terrorist attack in the days and weeks immediately following.  Why did the administration fail to account for facts that were known at the time?
The whole article is worth your time, and contains much more detail.

Noonan: The Real Obama

The Wall Street Journal's Peggy Noonan writes about the flaccid Obama seen in the first debate, folding in some of Bob Woodward's thoughts from his latest book, The Price of Politics. She concludes:
People saw for the first time an Obama they may have heard about on radio or in a newspaper but had never seen.

They didn't see some odd version of the president. They saw the president.

And they didn't like what they saw, and that would linger.
This is Noonan on her game, the whole column is worth your time.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Defeatism at NYT

The New York Times' Ross Douthat blogs what we've been saying here at COTTonLINE. Namely, that the Obama campaign is acting like it believes it is losing.

Douthat says the MSM is picking up on that vibe. He isn't the only one who has done so, either.

Racial Parties

CNN writes about the racial divide between the nation's two major political parties. As you know, Democrats have difficulty attracting white voters, Republicans have difficulty attracting black and Latino voters. This is a disturbing trend.

Ozone Hole Shrinks

This year the ozone hole over Antarctica is the second smallest in twenty years. Do you hear any environmentalists celebrating? Any warmists partying? I don't either.

What the green group definitely doesn't want to hear is good news. Good news is a reason for the rest of us, generally viewed as the enemy, to continue to do nothing.

Actually, we did do something; we stopped using CFCs in spray cans. Source for this Agence France-Presse report is the France 24 website. Hat tip to for the link.

Odd Stirrings in Hungary

There is a nationalist political movement in Hungary called Jobbik, see the Reuters article on Yahoo News. It is anti-Roma (gypsy), and perhaps a bit anti-Semitic too. Still a minority party, it is nevertheless growing in strength and being compared, by those who don't approve of it, to fascists or Nazis.

What I find interesting about the article (scroll down) is Jobbik's accurate claim that the Hungarian people are Turkic in origin. At least their language - Magyar - was Turkic in the dim past. Magyar is one of the few languages in Europe that is not Indo-European in origin.

Jobbik suggests that Hungary should not join the EU and instead seek alliances and support in Central Asia and the Middle East. That would be a very unusual strategy for a European nation to follow.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Political Humor Alert

Ann Coulter, doing what she normally does, being funny telling the ugly truth about liberals:
Why don't white liberals ever vote for black representatives in their own congressional districts? Black Democrats apparently can get elected to Congress only from majority black districts, whereas black Republicans are always elected from majority white districts: Gary Franks, J.C. Watts, Tim Scott, Allen West and (we hope!) Mia Love. 
My source for this quote is Coulter's column for Yahoo News.

Quote of the Day

Mitt Romney, speaking in Reno of the debate performance of his opponent Barack Obama, as reported on Yahoo News:
You can boil down what he's saying to four simple words: "more of the same."

Horseback Meta Analysis

At The Hill Christian Henize writes a blog called GOP 12 and he comes up with very convincing data that the race is in a different place in October than it was in September. We knew this intuitively but he supports our intuition with facts.

Heinze aggregates polls to show that Romney leads in many more polls in October than he did in September in three key battleground states: Ohio, Virginia, and Florida. His data is from the RCP chart of polls, a reliable source. Check it out.

Reuters: White House Lied on Libya

Reuters reports the White House knew the Sept. 11 consulate attack in Benghazi was a terrorist act within two hours of its occurrence. In spite of which:
Administration spokesmen, including White House spokesman Jay Carney, citing an unclassified assessment prepared by the CIA, maintained for days that the attacks likely were a spontaneous protest against an anti-Muslim film. 
The Obama administration was lying about this quadruple murder which took place on the anniversary of the 9-11 attack. Once again, the White House was trying to make violence against the U.S. appear to be our fault instead of placing the blame where it belongs, on Islamist terrorists.

Sounds Like 2008

Remember in 2008 when one candidate attracted rockstar-like crowds? Political aficionados do, it was Barack Obama. 

Flash forward four years. Another candidate is doing so - it's his opponent Mitt Romney. See the article at Yahoo News.

What a difference four years makes. It's exactly the difference between hope and experience.

Now the hope is focused on Mitt Romney, who rescued the 2002 Winter Olympics from disaster.


Remember, you saw it here. Reelection is a performance evaluation. Presidents do not have tenure.

If you believe Barack Obama has been the president you wanted him to be, vote to reelect him. If not, and if you believe Mitt Romney has a reasonable chance of doing better, vote for him.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Backside Covering

When Jeff Zeleny at The New York Times says in print that Mitt Romney has a shot at winning the presidential race, you know things have changed for the better. He does so in this article.

Crudely speaking, this is a pundit covering his butt. Zeleny has spent the last six months or more saying Obama has it locked up because that's the outcome he and his pals at NYT seriously wanted and hoped to be true.

Now Zeleny experiences a conflict. He still wants Obama to win, but he also wants to keep his pundit chops in order. He wants to be able to say "I told you so, I predicted the outcome."

If he says, as he does here, that Romney has the momentum, that Obama is playing catch-up, you know he thinks it likely Romney will win. Zeleny hopes he's wrong, but for the sake of his career, needs to go on record saying Romney is sort-of, kind-of, maybe a little ahead.

Presuming Romney actually does win, Zeleny and others like him will trot out columns like these to prove their prescience. Trot them out without emphasizing how late in the campaign they were written.

Obama bin Laden

CBS News' Bob Schieffer, moderator of the third debate, posing a question and making an epic slip of the tongue:
We know that Pakistan has arrested the doctor who helped us catch Obama-uh-bin Laden.

Scot Independence = Tory Majority in England?

This article in Foreign Policy asks the question "Will David Cameron be the British Prime Minister who lost Scotland?" It contains a long discussion of the Scottish independence movement.

It got me thinking about Singaporean independence. About how losing all those Chinese residents of Singapore made Malays a majority in Malaysia.

The Scots are largely leftist, preferring the Labor Party if they don't vote SNP. What if Cameron has concluded that losing Scotland makes England relatively safely Tory, by getting rid of all those Scot Labor supporters? It could be happening.

Round Three

Romney played it safe in the third, foreign policy debate. This tells you his team believes he is ahead.

Obama acted like a challenger, like a guy who is behind. Which is probably what his team believes, though they won't say so. Romney won by not losing, Obama lost by not winning.

Many conservatives wish Romney had landed some serious blows concerning Benghazi and bowing and other things. This wasn't the time or place to do that. Neither side talked about drones which both plan to continue to use.

Romney correctly kept his eye on the prize, on what he needed to do to get elected. In other words, not worry the voters about foreign military adventurism.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Weird Relationship Science

It turns out the kids who are popular in high school, on average, make more money when they're adults, about 10% more. Read the article in The Wall Street Journal.

Come to think of it, this "science" isn't so weird after all. Those who know how to get along with others are more likely to get ahead. Remember, however, that these are averages and don't predict low earnings of every high school nerd.

Weird Zero G Science

It turns out astronauts pass colds and other diseases around the capsule with great abandon. Read all about it in this Time article.

I've always wondered what happened if an astronaut got appendicitis or has a gall bladder attack - things that happen to otherwise healthy people. I expect there is no way to do open-gut surgery in a spacecraft. Perhaps they take out appendices and check for gall and kidney stones before sending astronauts aloft?

Whither Marriage

Reihan Salam writes for Reuters about the challenges facing people who aspire to be married. I find these two quotes particularly meaningful:
The challenges facing single mothers, many of whom aspire to marry yet find that the supply of reliable men capable of finding remunerative work is severely limited.
The United States outsourced most of the low-skilled, routine jobs because they could be done more cheaply overseas. We did this without asking ourselves how we would now employ our citizens who once did those jobs. As a result, we find:
The challenges facing the less educated and even moderately educated men who have seen their economic prospects deteriorate and who have thus become less marriageable than they might have been a generation ago.

Bloodshed in Central America

Jaime Daremblum writes an interesting piece on Central America for The Weekly Standard.  He makes the point that Mexico is a very important U.S. trading partner.

While Mexico is beginning to get the drug violence under control, the cartels are moving their operations into the adjacent three countries: Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. Central governments in those nations are less firmly established than in Mexico, thus corruption is easier to achieve.

Daremblum reports something I didn't know - we have several small special forces bases on the ground in Honduras and Guatemala. Their mission is to train local forces in counterinsurgency.

Libya - a Time Line

Four people died at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. Here is a short article from National Review that provides much more detail about how that took place. It lays out just how lame the Obama administration's response to the terror actually was.

Such installations are, by diplomatic convention, our sovereign territory and as such can be defended. Our administration is too cowardly to immediately respond with military force to an attack on one of our installations overseas.

Mommy vs. Daddy

Nate Silver crunches numbers for The New York Times. Here he looks at the famous gender gap, the differences between men and women in voting. Although he never mentions the trope, it is the Mommy Party vs. the Daddy Party revisited - women are more likely to vote Democrat, men are more likely to vote Republican.

Silver doesn't deal with the "why" issue, except to raise and then discredit the economic differences between the genders. Many have focused on the so-called "women's issues" of abortion and contraception, I suspect the issues are more varied.

Weird Geoengineering Science

A rogue scientist dumps 100 tons of iron dust into the north Pacific off the coast of British Columbia at the behest of an Indian tribe. His/their two-fold purpose: increase the salmon run and produce salable carbon offsets. See the New York Times article for details.

He even duped NOAA into helping him by loaning some data-collection buoys. The conventional science community is displeased, to say the least.

Obamacare Downside

Robert Samuelson who writes a column for the Washington Post has done a very interesting look at Obamacare for RealClearPolitics. He finds it will encourage employers to hire people for 30 or fewer hours per week, as employers are not required to provide health coverage for part time employees.

It is not in the society's best interests to have large swathes of its workers in part time jobs, an outcome this law will foster. We already have most of the workers in the hospitality industries working part time, as well as most of those in retailing.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Gallup: R 52%, O 45%

We've had plenty of time since last Tuesday's townhall debate. Let's take a quick look at Gallup's seven day rolling average of responses among likely voters: Romney has 52%, Obama has 45%.

Gallup is not known for being biased, and is one of the oldest polling organizations in the world. Hat tip to Matt Drudge for the link.

No Ill Wind

Climate warming is generally viewed with extreme alarm. Generally yes, but not universally.

In Canada's far north, warming looks like an opportunity instead of a problem. I'll bet the same is true for the far north of Russia and Norway.

See an article in the Winnipeg Free Press for details. Hat tip to RealClearWorld for the link.

Everyone Spinning

I swear, this election - 2012 - everybody is spinning, I do mean everybody. I am hard-pressed to think of any analyst about whom I could say they were taking a balanced view. Perhaps the reason is that virtually nobody remains undecided.

Wouldn't you think somebody would try to do a dispassionate, no-dog-in-this-fight look at the presidential race? The closest I can think of might be some of the writers for RealClearPolitics, and they seem to lean right at least a little.

Obama Losing Ohio

Salena Zito writes editorial page opinion for the Pittsburgh Tribune - Review, here she is in RealClearPolitics about what is happening in Ohio:
Ohio and many of its lifelong Democrats have moved away in polls from Obama and toward Romney, who comes to the state and talks about “American exceptionalism” and energy jobs while the president jokes about binders full of women and Big Bird.

Political Humor Alert

Anti-Obama billboard slogan from the coal country of Abington, Virginia, as reported by the Global Post:
If you voted the last election to prove you weren’t racist, vote this election to prove you’re not an idiot.

Turkic Peoples in Russia

Turkey sees itself as the natural leader of the Islamic peoples the Russian security forces have been attacking, as described in this article in The Telegraph. No wonder Russia and Turkey are historic enemies.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

An Alternative Approach

As an academic I know of young minorities from comfortable or affluent backgrounds, kids with good-but-not-outstanding grades and academic skills, who nevertheless gained entrance to elite universities on the basis of race alone. Our president is probably one of these.

Affirmative action based on race may have created as almost as many inequalities as it's ameliorated, as Cynthia Tucker points out in her opinion piece for Yahoo News. As a conservative Supreme Court takes up the proposition of eliminating race as an entrance criterion, Tucker proposes using low family income in lieu of race as a color-blind criterion for preference.

Although generally opposed to preferences based on group membership, I for one would find Tucker's economic-circumstances-based preferences more palatable. Such criteria would fit in with our culture's value of meritocracy and upward mobility.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Patriotism or Jingoism?

Jonathan V. Last, blogging for The Weekly Standard, about the implications of childlessness in the United States (and elsewhere in the developed world):
The reason we care about fertility numbers and demographics is because this—our civilization—is exactly what’s at stake.
That comment presupposes that our civilization is worth saving, that it has intrinsic worth.

Second Debate Reconsidered

Jay Cost writes a column called "Morning Jay" that analyzes politics for The Weekly Standard. This week he has written what amounts to an editorial that looks at the second debate, the history of the Republican Party, and the importance of small businesses in this nation of ours.

I know that description sounds grandiose, and it is sweeping column, but it is also very worth your time. His argument that big business - as opposed to small business - is darned comfortable with either party in power is solid. Remember all the Fortune 500 CEOs who snuggled up to President Obama.

Educational Savings Accounts

Clint Bolick has an excellent article for Defining Ideas, a publication of the Hoover Institution, concerning the improvement of K-12 education. It concerns educational savings accounts for any child who agrees not to attend the public schools, funded by the roughly 90 percent of public school spending which doesn't come from local district taxes.
The savings account can be used for any approved education expense, from private school tuition to distance learning, curriculum, software, tutoring, community college tuition, contributions to a 529 college savings plan, or discrete services offered by public schools. Any money remaining after high school graduation can be used for college.

Income Inequality Is Irrelevant

Scott Winship, an economist at the liberal Brookings Institution, has a very interesting column for Reuters about income inequality. His conclusion: U.S. income inequality has not happened at the expense of our poor. My favorite quote:
Cross-national comparisons are tricky, but the evidence we have (from the Luxembourg Income Study) suggests that if you could line people up from richest to poorest in the United States, in Europe and in other English-speaking nations, Americans at every point in the richest 80 percent of households are better off than their counterparts occupying the same place in line in nearly every peer nation. Among the poorest fifth of households, this pattern breaks down, but it is hardly obvious that our inequality levels are to blame.
Most of our poor live better than the middle class of other countries. Why else would the poor of other nations want to emigrate here?

Quote of the Day

President Obama, speaking on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart about the murder of the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans:
Here is what I will say, if four Americans get killed it is not optimal,  and we are going to fix it, all of it.
OMG, four dead Americans "not optimal?" Can you believe we elected this person president?

It's certainly "not optimal" for his reelection chances; how does he "fix" dead Americans? My source for this quote is CBS News.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Quote of the Day

The following is attributed to Paul Ashworth, chief North American economist for Capital Economics, from an article in CNN Money:
The employment-to-population ratio is the best measure of labor market conditions and it currently shows that there has been almost no improvement whatsoever over the past three years.

Where We're Better Off

I just finished reading a well-written article in The New Republic entitled "Blue States are from Scandinavia, Red States are from Guatemala." It discusses all the government-provided benefits in blue states and the lack of these in red states, all the ways blue states take care of the less fortunate, while the red states do not. The article admits taxes are higher in the blue states, the bluest of which is probably Massachusetts.

As I read this I kept wondering why author Jonathan Cohn forgot to mention that people were migrating from the blue states to the red states? Blue states are redistributive, they tax the earners (plus their employers) and spend those taxes on the non-earners.

Red states are less redistributive than blue states. The result is that employers (and their employees) are migrating to red states whereas non-earners are migrating to blue states.

For example, blue state California has roughly one eighth of the U.S. population but one third of U.S. welfare recipients, much more than its share. Needless to say, CA is broke.

The comfortably employed receive relatively little in the way of benefits from a blue state, but pay plenty in taxes. Such folk end up better off in a red state where they can keep more of their earnings.

I wonder if Scandinavians are migrating to Guatemala or maybe Costa Rica?

Garrett: Four Ls, Four States

Major Garrett, formerly of Fox News, now of National Journal, writes that the campaign has boiled down to four topics starting with L, and four states: Ohio, Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada. The four Ls are Libya, Ledbetter, Lying, and Lame.

Libya and Lame certainly play against Obama, Ledbetter probably plays against Romney, and they're both Lying, of course, they're politicians. Garrett tries to suss out who wins what among those four states, reaches no particular conclusions. It still seems too close to call.

Singles an Important Voting Bloc

Demographer Joel Kotkin writes of the Single Nation, by which he means that subset of Americans who are unmarried adults, many without children. He argues that this group is important to the Democrats this year and in the immediate future as a major component of their voting coalition.

See his article in The Daily Beast for more details. One cute factoid Kotkin gives us is that today more American households have dogs than have children!

Weird Infant Science

It turns out we are all hardwired to respond to the cries of an infant, research shows. Evolutionarily it makes sense, doesn't it? See this The Week article at Yahoo News for more.

The researchers hope this will give them a way to understand cases of "failed mothering." I know to be near a wailing infant on an airplane, ours or someone else's, is no fun.

Tories Souring on E.U.

The U.K.'s Conservative Party is moving gradually toward a decision to hold a referendum to take the U.K. out of the European Union. See this article in The Telegraph for details. It remains to be seen whether or not they're sincere. This is a major move.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Gallup: 51% R, 45% O

The Gallup polling organization has a graph showing their seven day rolling average for the voting intentions of likely voters. Since the beginning of October, the two lines for Romney and Obama have diverged substantially in Romney's favor.

Check it out. Hat tip to Matt Drudge for the link.

Do We Still Listen?

Power Line's Paul Mirengoff asks an interesting question. After four years, do people still listen to Barack Obama? Do they still find him interesting?

We see presidents so much it is probably a good question for any incumbent, let alone one whose speech is so often burdened with the tired cant of class warfare.

Further Evidence

This Reuters article at Yahoo News is further evidence of the possibility of a wider Middle East war between Sunni Muslims and Shia Muslims and their allies, in this case, the Alawites. The U.N.-Arab League mediator says as much.

Shia and Alawites are allies entirely of the "enemy of my enemy is my friend" variety, I'm certain the ayatollahs of Shia Iran consider Syria's Alawites as much heretics as they do the region's Sunnis, their major threat.

CU Predicts Mitt Wins Popular Vote

University of Colorado political science professor Dr. Michael Berry reports that the CU popular vote predictive model has a 100% accuracy rate for predicting the popular vote winner of every presidential election since 1980.

Berry says only four times in the nation's history has the winner of the popular vote not won the election, the most recent being in 2000. In other words, 2000 was the only one of the past eight elections where they did not also predict the winner of the presidency.

The CU model gives a 77% probability that Mitt Romney will win the popular vote in early November. See the Campus Reform article for details. BTW, we first wrote of this model and its prediction for Romney on August 23 of this year.

Round Number Two

Everybody agrees Romney won the first debate, and it wasn't even close. In order to get back to where he was with the voters before the first debate, President Obama needed a clear win on debate number two, needed to clearly defeat Romney - it didn't happen.

Did Obama do well enough to stop his continuing erosion in the polls? Maybe. But not well enough, I think, to gain back lost ground.

In boxing terms, Obama gave the first round away, tied the second round, and is unlikely to catch Romney napping in the third round - in other words, another near-enough tie. When the officials (i.e., voters) add up their scorecards for the match, no knockout but Romney wins on points.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A Good Line

Howie Carr writes for the Boston Herald and I really like his conclusion about debate number two:
Barack Obama was better than in Denver, but he’s still got this very big problem, namely, his record.
Exactly so, this election is Obama's performance evaluation, On the basis of his performance during the past 3+ years, he doesn't deserve to be rehired.


National Review has a nice article arguing that home schooling is the only "authentically radical social movement of any real significance in the United States." The points it makes are good but, in my view, incomplete.

I believe homeschooling works better than other schooling because the ratio of adults to children is greater. Ceteris paribus, the larger portion of an adult's undivided attention a child gets, the more they learn.

What evidence of this do we have? The studies that show the fewer children there are present in a household, the more the children there learn.

We humans spent a million years learning at our parent's knee, and the last three hundred learning at a schoolroom desk. To which of these two do you suppose we are better adapted?

Independents Preferred Ryan

The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press surveyed people who watched the vice presidential debate between Biden and Ryan. You'll remember that Vice President Biden was notably animated, perhaps excessively so.

Asked who won the debate, as you'd expect Republicans liked Ryan (88%), Democrats liked Biden (89%), and importantly, Pew reports:
Among independents, 50% say Ryan did better, 39% say Biden.

Texas Cuts Costs

Texas is the current pioneer in a movement that California originally led, and then gave up - the inexpensive baccalaureate degree. See the article here at RealClearPolicy.

The other DrC and I both got low cost bachelors' degrees in CA, back in the day. That  day is long gone. Now Governor Rick Perry claims Texas can deliver B.A.s and B.S.s for $10,000. Not every degree or at every campus, but at least some degrees at some state campuses and they're trying for more.

Bully for the Lone Star State! I believe this is something other states should try to do. North Dakota could afford this, so could my home state of Wyoming.

I have some suggestions for states picking up the < $10,000 challenge. Encourage students to do transferable general education work at their local community colleges. Accept more transfer students and fewer freshmen.

Offer basic courses online, such do not require classrooms. Utilize more adjunct faculty with no research and committee requirements.

Hold more degrees to a strict 120-124 semester unit limit. Enable more students to finish in four years or less via tracking and counseling.

Offer fewer "boutique" programs requiring personal relationships between students and faculty. In short, cut the frills.

Weird Sex Science

Sexual arousal tends to damp down the gross-out response, allowing people to do things they otherwise wouldn't. I suspect we knew this intuitively, but now there's scientific evidence. See this report of research on the ABC News website.

The Romney Route

Have you been wondering how Mitt Romney can get to 270 votes in the electoral college? Mark Halperin lays it out for you in a Time article. The key seems to be Ohio, which is trending Romney.

Quote of the Day

Neera Tanden, former aide to Clinton and Obama, quoted in a New York Magazine article by John Heilemann:
Obama doesn’t call anyone, and he’s not close to almost anyone. It’s stunning that he’s in politics, because he really doesn’t like people.

Political Humor Alert

Victor Davis Hanson, cracking wise about the Obama presidency for National Review Online:
What, then, was Obama’s first term?

Jimmy Carter’s ends justifying Richard Nixon’s means.

A New Thirty Years' War?

Reuters reports, via Yahoo News, that Iraqi Shi'ite fighters are in Syria helping the Assad regime battle the Sunni rebels there. As the article notes:
Iraqi Shi'ite militia involvement in Syria's conflict exposes how rapidly the crisis has spiraled into a proxy war between Assad's main ally Shi'ite Iran and the Sunni Arab Gulf states supporting mostly Sunni rebels fighting the president. 
The key phrase "a proxy war between ... Shi'ite Iran and the Sunni Arab Gulf states" suggests the rebellion in Syria could degenerate into Islam's version of the Thirty Years' War.

N.B.,  the Thirty Years' War was a battle between Catholics and Protestants in early seventeenth century Europe.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Citation del Dia

Columnist Marco Sifuentes, cited in a Simeon Tegel article in Global Post, about the impact of the reelection of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela:
Latin America is not divided between rights and lefts, black and white, but in democratic shades and authoritarian shades. Between those who may not be perfect but guarantee a minimum of freedom to be able to decide where we are going, and those who believe they are perfect and have already decided that we are going with them.
Senor Chavez believes he is perfect; that as many Latinos as he can buy with oil will go with him.

Too Few Worker Bees

We've written a couple of times about people leaving the workforce. Here is a really startling graphic showing the relative numbers of people added to those not in the workforce (8 million) and people added to the workforce (800 thousand).

The graphic covers the period from January, 2009, to the present; the period of the Obama presidency. The ratio is ten to one; this hasn't been a period of growth.

We see the graphic courtesy of The Weekly Standard.  The Senate Budget Committee developed it from Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

Quote of the Day II

Liberal Frank Rich, writing for New York magazine, on the persistence of conservative politics in the U.S.:
If history has taught us anything over the past half-century, it’s that the American right’s death wish is a figment of the liberal imagination.
What else would one expect? This is a basically conservative nation.

Quote of the Day

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, quoted in Business Insider about why the Court's members consist of six Catholics and three Jews:
I would like to believe that it's because of more religious toleration, but I think it's actually because of indifference.
The evidence suggests he is correct.

Time to Grow Up

I think it's time for Big Bird and PBS generally to get off the government dole and earn a living. What do you think? The same for the Muppets?

Tick, Tick, Tick....

A minister close to Prime Minister David Cameron is hinting the United Kingdom could leave the European Union, see the Reuters article in Yahoo News. Leave, or further reduce its ties.

As the article notes, the relationship between the U.K. and the E.U. has always been somewhat tentative. The U.K. has remained outside the euro zone and still operates border controls.

COTTonLINE would like to see the U.K. leave the E.U. and join a new bloc called the Anglosphere, which could also include the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and possibly Ireland. BTW, it will never happen - too logical.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Scotland, Flanders Each One Step Closer

If you are following the evolution of the various independence movements in Europe (Scotland, Catalonia, Flanders, etc.), there is a Reuters article on Yahoo News you'll want to read. It concerns Scotland's efforts to separate from the United Kingdom.

The interesting issue is whether Scottish separatists can convince 50.1% of Scots to sign onto their cause. Britain becomes a much less united Kingdom without Scotland.

Go here to see a Financial Times story about Flanders independence advocates winning local elections in northern Belgium, and using their wins to argue for more independence.

No God But Allah

Al Arabiya, which has every reason to be pro-Obama, is reporting that Barack's wedding band carries the Islamic confession of faith: "There is no other god but Allah." Do you suppose it is true, or was true until this announcement? provided the link.

Oddly, the teapot tempest will move few voters. Dems basically don't care what his faith is, and those who do care were already sure to vote against him. Perhaps it will further energize the GOP base.

Racism in Florida

CBS News Tampa reports the Florida State Board of Education has passed a plan to set racially based goals for students in reading in math. The CBS Tampa website has the following, which they source (without a link) to the Palm Beach Post:
On Tuesday, the board passed a revised strategic plan that says that by 2018, it wants 90 percent of Asian students, 88 percent of white students, 81 percent of Hispanics and 74 percent of black students to be reading at or above grade level. For math, the goals are 92 percent of Asian kids to be proficient, whites at 86 percent, Hispanics at 80 percent and blacks at 74 percent. It also measures by other groupings, such as poverty and disabilities.
Commenting on this story for American Thinker, Thomas Lifson notes that it comes about in part as teachers complain about being held to the same standards for educating students from vastly different backgrounds. Hat tip to for the link.

I remember a line attributed to speechwriter Michael Gerson and delivered by President George W. Bush that describes this action:
The soft bigotry of low expectations.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Poor Kids on Rx Speed

Some physicians who want to help poor kids do well in school are prescribing the uppers (e.g., Adderall, Ritalin) normally given to kids diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). A doctor says:
We’ve decided as a society that it’s too expensive to modify the kid’s environment. So we have to modify the kid. 
Because of the great leeway physicians are given to prescribe a drug for conditions other than those for which it is approved, doctors can not only get away with the practice, they can brag about it and get it paid for by Medicaid. See this New York Times article for details.

Quote of the Day

Art Gary, an information technology specialist, cited in this Associated Press article  about black prejudice against whites:
There is racial bias amongst whites, and there is racial bias amongst blacks. But as far as the press is concerned, it only goes one way. 
Somebody needed to say this.

Americans* Avoid Density

Our favorite demographer Joel Kotkin checks in with an article for New Geography concerning suburbanization. In a word, he finds it is continuing.

Kotkin uses a more sophisticated methodology which looks at neighborhood density, and finds that Americans continue to move from more dense neighborhoods to less dense neighborhoods, regardless of whether or not they are located within the limits of the core city.

There is, however, growth within the most dense urban neighborhoods, reflecting some modest gentrification of the highest density urban settings. Kotkin's point, I believe, is that this "reurbanization" has been over-emphasized in the literature.

*The French do not, along with other Europeans.

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Wrong Recipient

As the European Union struggles to find ways to survive, the Nobel Peace Prize committee awards the European Union the prize. Reuters reports that the EU has won the prize for 2012. Amazing.

It is likely the EU will survive for a few more years, in one form or another. It may, like the UN, survive for many years without accomplishing its stated purpose - namely, in the case of the UN, preserving peace.

The EU shares the purpose of peace, and intends to merge into a pan-European nation as well. To date the EU appears to have succeeded in preserving peace in Europe but is having difficulties in becoming one nation, a goal it will likely not achieve.

I say "appears" because the actual reason peace has persevered in Europe since 1945 (if one overlooks the genocide in the Balkans which were not a part of the EU) is quite different. The real reason Europe has experienced peace for almost 70 years is that the United States has provided its military security for all that period, at enormous cost.

In the absence of the U.S.'s heavy footprint in NATO during that period, it is likely that Joe Stalin's Soviet Union would have swallowed Europe whole, without chewing. There are times - when Europe is particularly petulant and ungrateful - that I wish we'd let it happen.

So the Nobel Peace Prize committee awards the EU a prize the U.S. earned via Pax Americana - typical.

Noonan on the VP Debate

I've read several analyses of the vice presidential debate, including that of Dan Balz. To date the one I like best is that of Peggy Noonan, the former Reagan speechwriter and columnist for The Wall Street Journal.

Noonan lays out what each needed to do in the debate and then analyzes whether each accomplished those tasks. Her conclusion: Ryan largely succeeded, Biden largely failed.

You may say that's the outcome I wanted to read, and I admit that is true. Nevertheless, her analysis is good.

The Alternative Is Worse

Imagine, Vice President Joe Biden ... last night's Mr. Giggles and Smirks ... is one heartbeat away from the presidency. Our situation is worse than we thought.

Now we understand Senator Obama's reasoning in selecting Biden as vice president-elect. It's a life insurance policy. However lame the Obama presidency has turned out to be, the idea of a Biden presidency seems substantially less desirable.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Early Reaction To VP Debate

Courtesy of Matt Drudge's, we learn that a CNN poll finds 48% thought Ryan won, 44% believed Biden won. I suppose that means 8% called it a tie or had no opinion.

Fox News anchor Chris Wallace called Biden's behavior "disrespectful" and "contemptuous," as reported by Business Insider. CNN's Gloria Borger called Biden's behavior "condescending" and spoke of his excessive chuckling and eye-rolling, as reported on RealClearPolitics.

Fox News senior analyst Brit Hume characterized Biden's behavior in the following way, as reported by RealClearPolitics:
I thought it was rude and I have a feeling it will come across to a lot of people as rude. It looked like a cranky old man to some extent debating a polite young man.

Quote of the Day

Jay Cost, political analyst for The Weekly Standard, writing about political polling methodologies and our understanding thereof:
We absolutely, positively must remember polling in 2012 is politicized as never before, and it is incumbent upon the consumers of political polls not to accept the data na├»vely, but to perform due diligence to see what goes into the product.
Amen, brother.

A Question

The conventional wisdom is that the mainstream media (MSM) want Obama to win; I've no argument with that notion. On the other hand, they want the race to be seen as close so you will read what they write, listen to what they say. Here's why.

Let's suppose they were reporting that one candidate was far ahead of the other, what would people on both sides do? Those favoring that candidate would take the upcoming win for granted and not watch/read, while those favoring the other candidate would be turned off by the foredoomed process and neither watch nor read. The result: little interest in the MSM.

What generates viewers and readers is a close race, one where either candidate has some reasonable chance of winning. And that is exactly what is being predicted by most media, mainstream and otherwise.

My question is this: How much of the presidential race's closeness is real and how much is driven by the media's interest in stimulating readership/viewership? We'll know in early November.

Failure to Execute

Marc Thiessen, writing opinion for the Washington Post, condemns the Obama administration's lame response to the attack on our consulate in Benghazi and the murder there of our ambassador to Libya. The only thing he omits is that the president and his people have been too busy campaigning to attend to the duties of the office.

Thiessen's article is worth your time. Hat tip to for the link.

Turkey vs. Russia

Turkey shares a border with Russia. Many of the peoples of the former Soviet Union (aka the Empire of the Russ) were ethnic Turks, spoke a Turkic language, even if they lived in one of the Stans.

Turkey sees itself as the "home" of all the Turkic peoples in the same way Spain sees itself as the "home" of all Spanish-speaking peoples. Furthermore, Turkey. and its predecessor the Ottoman Empire, are historic enemies of Russia, going back centuries.

Know all of the foregoing as prologue to understanding a seemingly innocuous Reuters article which reports a Syrian plane forced to land in Turkey was carrying Russian arms destined for Syrian armed forces. Truly, nothing is "innocuous" in the relationship between Turkey and Russia, or Russia's ally, Syria.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Dog That Didn't Bark

On California streets you could almost forget there is a presidential election in less than a month. I saw a car window sticker for "MITT" today and was amazed. I see almost no Obama/Biden materials either. This in a liberal college town, of all places.

There are great advantages of not living in so-called "battleground states." The whole presidential level paraphernalia saying "vote for me" is missing, but not missed.

Everybody takes Wyoming for granted; it will vote Republican. Likewise everybody takes California for granted; it will vote Democratic.

Hence, the only yard signs and billboards are for local candidates: state legislature, city council, county supervisor, and maybe for sheriff. Such folk mostly can't afford TV ads, so we don't see many - how nice.

A Permanent Underclass?

On September 30 of this year I wrote of those not working and no longer seeking work, thus no longer officially considered "unemployed" by the government:
What if many of these people have found a way to survive without working and like not working? Maybe they aren't discouraged but are instead in one way or another "retired." Perhaps they now draw disability payments or early retirement benefits.
Today, The Weekly Standard documents people becoming wards of the government in really large numbers. Over the last four years the number of employed persons has declined modestly, while the number on disability enrollment has increased 17.6%, the number on Medicaid has increased 19.3%, and the number drawing Food Stamps is up 65.2%.

Most frightening of all is this line from the Senate report being quoted:
Overall, there are nearly 80 means-tested federal welfare programs and, according to the Census Bureau, nearly 110 million people in the United States receive benefits from at least one of them. (This figure includes exclusively means-tested welfare programs, not entitlements like Medicare Or Social Security). 
In other words, roughly one American in three gets a poverty-based government handout. It isn't 47% but it is nevertheless a lot. How many of the 110 million will voluntarily go back to work if the government benefits continue?

Separatism in Europe

The Flemish and Walloons in Belgium don't like each other, and the Catalans want out of Spain as do the Basques. Northern Italy is tired of "carrying" southern Italy and Sicily, and the Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland are at arms' length.

The Scots want out of the United Kingdom, can the Welch be far behind? The various ethnic groups within Estonia, Latvia, Moldova and the Ukraine don't love each other. And of course the Armenians and Azeris have issues.

In addition to all of the above, there are forces trying to pull apart the European Union. See this Der Spiegel article for details on several of these conflicts. Hat tip to RealClearWorld for the link.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

A Hopeful Sign

Breitbart's Big Government reports survey results from The American Community Survey showing that median family income is down in every battleground state except Iowa and Wisconsin. When family income is down, people feel it.

Quote of the Day

Dennis Byrne, writing in the Chicago Tribune about President Obama's poor debate performance:
Obama's fatal flaw is not just his policies (as bad as they are), but the fact that he isn't and never was cut out to be president. He's not up to it.
COTTonLINE has been saying this for four years.

Less Than a Month

It may turn out that Obama's October surprise was doing a particularly poor job on the first debate - surprising his own party as well as the Republicans.

Win, lose (or draw?) the presidential race will be over in less than a month. Over, that is, unless we have a "Florida hanging chad" experience again - unlikely.

We will have reconfigured the U.S. Senate too, for better or worse. The likelihood is that we''ll have a narrow GOP majority, nothing like enough to override the 60 vote/filibuster barrier. Seeing less of Harry Reid would be pleasant.

Numbers in the House of Representatives will change too, but no serious analyst suggests the Republican majority will go away. Nancy Pelosi is much more bearable as House Minority Leader, where "bearable" = "largely invisible."

The next great political milestone will be whether or not we fall off the fiscal cliff on January 1. Odds are against it, but gridlock is hard to break.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Romney's Muscular Foreign Policy

Mitt Romney gave a speech at Virginia Military Institute in which he laid out his foreign policy. It sounds very much like what Ronald Reagan would say.

Business Insider prints the entire text. My only criticism is that the speech is too long.

Good News for the Right

The Pew Research Center for People and the Press has released a post-debate poll which shows Romney ahead of Obama 49% to 45%. Pew has no history of leaning right, so these figures are particularly painful to the left.

The debate moved the opinion metrics. Since a month ago Romney's numbers are six percentage points better, Obama's six points worse.

Weird Stem Cell Science

Scientists from Britain and Japan have won a Nobel Prize for the discovery that adult cells can be transformed back into embryo-like stem cells. Such cells may provide the material to generate cures for nerve disorders, including Parkinson's. See this Reuters article on the Yahoo News site for details. 

Maybe we can grow George Weasley a new ear? Maybe we could grow younger versions of ourselves, sans brain, to have spare parts available throughout our lives? 

Wonderful, fanciful possibilities flow from this discovery. I imagine science fiction authors will find fodder for new stories in this development. 

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Bad News in Venezuela

Hugo Chavez has won reelection in Venezuela, according to this Reuters article. That is bad news for oil-rich Venezuela, for other nations in the region, and for the U.S.

Like Juan Peron in Argentina some decades ago, Chavez is very popular among his nation's poor. Even more than our President, Hugo Chavez believes in the redistribution of national wealth.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Despair of a Liberal Arts Major

Virginia Heffernan writes digital culture for Yahoo News. Here she complains about the declining value of her (or somebody's) college education. What she writes makes a certain sense, and yet.....

I've a nephew who did what she more-or-less recommends, dropped out of college to go work in computers. The DrsC tried hard to convince him to finish, all in vain. 

In vain, that is, until the economy crashed and he lost his high-paying job. Then he found that in a tough economy people with his skills and a degree were getting the IT interviews and jobs, he wasn't. Then he finished his degree.

It turns out that requiring particular colleges, degrees and majors is a quick-and-dirty way for HR units to winnow an overwhelming stack of applicants into a manageable number to screen for hiring. Count on them  to hire these supposedly "more qualified" applicants in less-than-boom times. Which is why your children should finish their degrees.

Travel Blogging

If you've noticed that the COTTonLINE blog has been unusually quiet during this politically active week, it is because the DrsC are engaged in their biannual migration. In autumn it's from Wyoming, which was beginning to get cold, to California, where until recently high temperatures have been in the 90s.

The other DrC says she notices traffic is lighter than most years, which she attributes to the higher fuel prices. As is often the case, she is probably correct. The long-haul truckers are still out there, but the passenger vehicles are somewhat less prevalent.

Interstate 80 is sort of the backbone of the continental U.S., running from San Francisco via Chicago to New York, truckers call it "the superslab." We've driven many hundreds of miles on it.

Driving west along I-80 in northern Nevada we saw a big steam locomotive (No. 844) pulling a Union Pacific passenger train, somewhere between Lovelock and Fernley. The Union Pacific is known to keep a couple of the last steamers at their yards in Cheyenne, engines that they use for promotional tours to keep the enthusiasts happy.

A web search reveals this trip was Sacramento to Cheyenne and onward to Kansas City and down to Texas. A railroad buff's dream, this trip.

Old 844 ain't purty but she's got presence. We stood alongside her when she had steam up, at a stop she made in Oroville a couple of years ago. The heat radiating off her, the smells of lube, oil and steam, the simple overwhelming size of the thing is almost frightening.

Job Creation Sluggish

Read a description of how the unemployment numbers and job creation numbers are created. Turns out the latter is the key number, and we're not creating jobs nearly fast enough to get out of the hole we're in. See the Market Watch article for details.

Greenfield on the Debate Debacle

Writing for Yahoo News, long-time political analyst Jeff Greenfield takes a look at the first presidential debate of 2012 and really unloads on Obama. Greenfield is, if anything, more on the left than the right so you can take his criticisms of The Won to the bank. Greenfield says:
If this debate—as one-sided as any I have ever seen—does not change the landscape, if Obama retains a small but measurable lead, it means that the election is more or less over.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Who Do You Trust?

Today's news brings two articles with different results. Gallup reports their polls show 47% approve of the job President Obama is doing, while 46% disapprove. Apparently 7% have no opinion. Presidents normally are not reelected with less than 50% approval.

On the other hand, Yahoo News has this article by a respected forecaster who predicts an clear Obama win, and tells you why he makes this prediction. Of course he is predicting votes in the electoral college whereas Gallup is measuring current public opinion. As we know, these two do not track perfectly.

Who is ahead? Nobody knows for sure.