Thursday, January 31, 2013

Friendly Arithmetic

Take a look at some numbers that favor the GOP taking control of the U.S. Senate in 2014:
In 2014, seven Democratic senators are up for re-election in states won by Romney, while only one Republican senator is up for re-election in a state won by Obama. And since off-year elections usually see a fall-off in minority and young voters, Democrats will be hard-pressed to repeat last year’s Senate victories.
This quote from a Paul Starr article in The American Prospect.

Hanson: CA at Twilight

Victor Davis Hanson splits his time between his home near Fresno and the Stanford campus in Palo Alto, both in California. He has written for PJ Media a long, sometimes wandering peroration on the current state of California.

It isn't a eulogy for California isn't dead, but it is certainly a discussion-at-length of California's peculiar state of decline. He talks about the coastal culture of childless homes, secular mores, and the green fixation. And he contrasts it with the interior agricultural area in decline.

Hanson makes several good points, among them these:
Why doesn’t everyone leave? The answer is simple: for the coastal overdogs there is nowhere else where the money is as good and the weather and scenery are as enjoyable. How much would you pay to walk in cut-offs in February and not in three jackets in Montana? And for the interior underclass, California’s entitlements and poor-paying service jobs are paradise compared to Honduras, Jalisco, or Southeast Asia.

Quote of the Day

CNBC's Rick Santelli, believed to be godfather to the Tea Party, commenting on the report that the U.S. economy actually shrunk in the final quarter of 2012:
When you act like Europe, you get growth rates like Europe.
We are now Europe. 
I do hope Santelli is wrong. Quote sourced from Noel Sheppard's NewsBusters. Hat tip to for the link.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Another View

There is much evidence the GOP is caving on immigration reform, and will shortly sign off on a largely Dem bill in order to placate Hispanic voters. Before they do, they should consider some of the information in this article from The Guardian (U.K.).

The most persuasive thing the article says is its last point: "Most Latino voters don't live in swing states." The two biggest Latino states are CA and TX, CA is unlikely to swing to the GOP and TX is already there.

Placing the Blame

People keep writing about the failure of our schools. This Town Hall article is an example. Arguments are over more money or less, testing or creative teaching, higher standards or not, parent choice of charter or public schools.

All of these miss the point. Our schools do poorly because of the students they must teach. If you imagine a school as a factory, turning out products (graduates), a key ingredient is the quality of the raw material with which it must work - the students.

As the proportion of children from one parent homes goes up to 80% and more in some neighborhoods - the proportion with no fathers or temporary "fathers" or " uncles" - the quality of school output (graduates) goes down not just a little but dramatically. Asking the schools to make "silk purses" out of these "sows' ears" is unrealistic - it doesn't happen. In all likelihood it can't happen.

Children are being raised by grandparents or even great-grandparents, being raised by foster homes, by crack whore mothers, by abusive alcoholic fathers. They live in families where no two children have the same father and none has lived with a father, it's a mess.

Society assumes that if a child is fed semi-regularly (often at school), wears clothes, and isn't too sick or dirty, the child will learn - nonsense. Such children have enough to survive, but not enough to thrive, and they don't thrive, don't succeed.

We blame the schools. We should blame the society.

Weird Predator Science

BBC News Science and Environment happily reports that cats are perhaps the greatest danger to birds and mammals. Who would have thought that our little "tiger," pretty puss is a ferocious killer? No kidding?

Well, duh. That's what makes cats so pretty - they are petite panthers, jaguars in miniature, cute little cougars, tiny tigers. In short, stone-cold killers of little things.

Mostly they don't kill because we keep them fed and they're lazy. But the instinct is certainly there and if they are outdoor cats, what we in ranch country call "barn cats," killing is more than theory to them, it is their main activity.

Notice that if cats are killing rats, mice, gophers, moles and voles - in short, vermin, we don't mind much. Nobody complains. It's the killing of pretty song birds that raises ire.

During the so-called Middle Ages the Black Death or Bubonic Plague (Yersinia Pestis) killed millions in Europe. People caught it after being bitten by fleas from infected rodents. Rodents were common because cats were not common, cats being associated in people's minds with witchcraft.

BTW, yersinia pestis is still found among rodents in the Western U.S. and rarely passes to a human. It's a lucky sufferer who encounters a doctor who can diagnose it because it is so seldom seen in humans. Plague is rare because we live with cats, little killers of rodents. Weird science indeed ....

Monday, January 28, 2013

Wisdom from Barone

Michael Barone is one of our top political analysts. Writing for RealClearPolitics, he deflates the idea that President Obama can obliterate the Republican Party.

Barone makes many valid points, perhaps most persuasive is that Obama only carried 26 states in 2012. I also like his conclusion:
George W. Bush's 51 percent re-election, with 11.5 million more votes than four years before, got his strategist Karl Rove musing about a permanent Republican majority. That didn't happen.

Now Obama's 51 percent re-election, with 3.6 million fewer votes than four years before, has Democrats talking about annihilating the Republican Party. That's not likely to happen, either.


Robert Samuelson (no relation to Paul) writes political economics for The Washington Post. In a recent article on whether the U.S. is "in decline" he cites a number of indicators identified by Goldman Sachs which suggest we are not in decline, particularly as compared with other developed nations.

On the other hand, compared to where we were two or three decades ago, the U.S. is more flabby than formerly. Samuelson looks at the challenges facing all developed nations and his first issue is this:
Their welfare states are overwhelmed. Aging societies face a collision between promised benefits and acceptable taxes. Either the first must be cut or the second must be raised. The politics are poisonous. As the Goldman report notes, how the United States handles its debt creates enormous uncertainty. The same is true elsewhere.
"Poisonous" is a fair description of politics in today's U.S. or the E.U.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Disability Fund Issues

Yesterday, in a post entitled We Are Takers, I noted The Wall Street Journal observed that the Social Security disability trust fund may run dry before Obama leaves office. Here is a Fox News article reporting the same grim facts, in more detail.

Let's be clear, it is the disability trust fund we're talking about here, not the fund from which Social Security (retirement) checks are paid. What is about to go belly up is the fund to support people who cannot work because they're disabled in some non-trivial way.

The number of such individuals has skyrocketed in the past four years. This leads to a suspicion that many are merely unemployed persons faking disability after unemployment eligibility runs out.

White Flight ... Again

An article in the Daily Mail (U.K.) reports city-dwelling white Brits are moving to the countryside and outer suburbs. Unbelievably, it reports:
This has caught many by surprise... Analysts implied that London would not become "majority minority" in most of our lifetimes, but the latest census figures suggest otherwise.
We've experienced "white flight" in the U.S. for the past 50 years or more. The trend is old news here and Brits do get U.S. news. Apparently Brits thought London was immune from this trend, which was naive.

Birds of a feather flocking together once again.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

WSJ: We Are Takers

Nicholas Eberstadt of the American Enterprise Institute has written a Wall Street Journal article about how many of us have our hand out for a government dole. Some of his statistics are staggering. For example:
The country has seen a long-term expansion in public reliance on "means-tested" programs—that is, benefits intended for the poor, such as Medicaid and food stamps. At this writing, about 35% of Americans (well over 100 million people) are accepting money, goods or services from "means-tested" government programs. This percentage is twice as high as in the early 1980s.
Today, the overwhelming majority of Americans on entitlement programs are taking "means-tested" benefits. Only a third of all Americans receiving government entitlement transfers are seniors on Social Security and Medicare.
Coming up soon:
On the current trajectory, the Social Security disability fund is projected to run out of money during Mr. Obama's second term.
The rest of the article is good, too.

A Clash of Civilizations

Middle East scholar Bernard Lewis, from his article "The Roots of Muslim Rage" in The Atlantic  (September, 1990):
It should by now be clear that we are facing a mood and a movement far transcending the level of issues and policies and the governments that pursue them. This is no less than a clash of civilizations—the perhaps irrational but surely historic reaction of an ancient rival against our Judeo-Christian heritage, our secular present, and the worldwide expansion of both.

Mead: The Blue Future

Historian Walter Russell Mead blogs about sweeping topics for The American Interest. Here he writes about how liberals, called by Mead "Blues," see the future developing. See his summary:
Gentry liberals today see something different. (snip) As they contemplate what post industrial society will look like, they are filled with pity for the incompetent losers, the untalented, those who will only be able to get jobs as pool boys and cocktail waitresses in the post-manufacturing world.(snip) Post-industrial liberals seem to see the common folk as a collection of sad and weak losers whom the strong must protect.
Very clearly Mead hears this in the President's recent re-inaugural address. Either you've got what it takes or you spend your life as a service worker, a description of the end-state meritocracy. Our post-industrial society may well evolve in this direction.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Mali Update

A Brit correspondent for The Telegraph writes an update on conditions in Mali, how the war is going, etc. If you're trying to keep up with developments there, you could do worse than reading this article.

Weird Interplanetary Science

Nine years ago the Mars rover Opportunity landed on the red planet, and began to rove. NASA hoped it would last a couple of years ... it is still going nine years and 22+ miles later.

See the ABC News article for additional details. No surprise, it compares the Opportunity rover to the Energizer bunny, an apt analogy.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Weird Science: Rituals

We humans engage in ritualistic behaviors, in small groups and large, for many purposes. Anthropologists are beginning to study the prevalence and intensity of rituals around the globe: see this long article in Nature.

As a young faculty member I advised a professional fraternity that engaged in initiation rituals. I saw then the power of ritual in building group cohesion. We had no injuries resulting. Sadly, not all fraternities are so careful.

Multi-Party Democracy

Sometimes we agonize over the limitations of the de facto two party system we have in the U.S. Get a notion of what's involved in a truly multi-party system by reading a Times of Israel description of the political landscape in Israel.

This quote sums up the Israeli problem:
Ours (snip) is an unwieldy, sectoral public, with its mix of Jews, Arabs, radical righties, radical lefties, the ultra-Orthodox, the fiercely secular and all manner of folk in between and far beyond.
And we think we have a divided electorate in the U.S.

Etzioni on Egypt

Sociologist Amitai Etzioni was a leading organizational theorist when I was a doctoral student. At age 83 he is still writing things worth reading, including this article about Egypt in The National Interest.

Etzioni makes the argument that the Western press is ignoring Egypt's primary problem, which is economic. This echoes what Daniel P. Goldman (aka Spengler) has written about Egypt's troubles.

Egypt has many people, little oil, and needs to make a living off tourism which it cannot do when the country suffers from unrest and a government whose beliefs drive away affluent Western tourists. Read what Etzioni writes about Egypt's problems.

Quote of the Day

Ann Coulter, writing for Town Hall, on the topic of gun regulation vs. the incarceration of the insane, says the following:
If soccer moms want to worry about something, they should worry more about schizophrenics than guns..
Indeed ... most mass murder is committed by the insane or jihadis.

We Live Better Than Formerly

Liberals keep telling us the middle class is living less well than formerly. Nonsense. By most standards we are living better.

They quote statistics that show wages have not risen, when corrected for inflation. Probably true, but not important. The middle class family in 1960 lived in a two bedroom, one bath home with a single garage, today it lives in a four bedroom, two and half bath home with a two car garage.

We live longer than we did, all of us, black and white live longer. Not just a little bit either, but several years longer. We drive cars that have features we'd have seen as science fiction fifty years ago.

Kids from average families have iPhones and iPads and other high tech stuff and mostly their stuff is as good as that the elite have. See this Wall Street Journal article for more.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Peters: The Afghan Screw-Up

Ralph Peters writes about military matters for the New York Post. After four years of the Obama administration, Peters takes a look at America's record in Afghanistan, and finds it wanting.

Peters' article is loaded with pithy nuggets of wisdom, for example this:
We invaded to smash al Qaeda and punish the Taliban for hosting them. Mission accomplished. Within six months. The correct military action would have been to remove our conventional-force presence while the jihadi bodies were still warm.
And this:
While we tied our forces down to worthless Afghan real estate, al Qaeda just went elsewhere. (Rule No. 1: When fighting a mobile enemy, stay mobile.)
And this:
Killing terrorists works, while trying to buy the love of their fan base doesn’t.
And this:
Local morale, not American money, is going to decide this conflict. People get the government they’ll fight for.
The Afghans on our side don't seem to be doing much fighting, other than shooting our troops (their coaches). You owe it to yourself to read Peters' scathing appraisal of our misadventures in Afghanistan.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Two Views

See a Washington Post article about two people working side by side in the same factory holding diametrically opposing views about U.S. politics. The article's author, Eli Saslow, does a reasonably balanced job of describing our political separation, except he does say that things are definitely getting better in their Ohio town. So, my judgment: mostly balanced, not completely.

Saslow's description of the way the Arm & Hammer employees have decided not to talk politics in order to maintain civility at work reminds me of the way we behave at big family gatherings. We simply cannot talk politics without hating each other, and almost everybody "gets it."

Saturday, January 19, 2013

2012 Post-Mortem

Laura Hollis is a columnist for Town Hall, and a professor of law and entrepreneurship. She has written a post-mortem reaction to the 2012 election that has attracted a lot of attention - positive and negative - depending on one's political orientation.

My pal Earl C. sent it to me and I believe you'll find it interesting.

Friday, January 18, 2013

A Natural Tendency

The Wall Street Journal's Peggy Noonan writes that a reelected Barack Obama is overplaying his hand, which I interpret as acting like he has a mandate. She says this as though it is unusual.

I believe nearly all reelected Presidents act this way. They interpret being reelected as having gotten a glowing performance appraisal. The alternative interpretation is that the public decided they were better than what the other party had to offer.

In 2012 Team Obama spent little time talking about how great a job he had done in term one. They did their level best to convince us that Mitt Romney was an out-of-touch plutocrat with no interest in or understanding of Mr. and Ms. Average American. It appears they succeeded.

Having not run on his record, but on the other guy's failings, President Obama has no glowing performance appraisal. All he's got is the public's judgment that he is better than Mitt, a guy his people said was no good at all.

Almost anything he does will be seen as overplaying his hand, because much of the public sees him holding a pair of fours which beat Mitt's busted flush.

FDR on Welfare

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, father of the New Deal, nevertheless took a dim view of welfare payments to people. Here are his words from his annual message to Congress, dated January 4, 1935:
The lessons of history, confirmed by the evidence immediately before me, show conclusively that continued dependence upon relief induces a spiritual and moral disintegration fundamentally destructive to the national fibre. To dole out relief in this way is to administer a narcotic, a subtle destroyer of the human spirit.
His alternative was to find people real jobs, easier said than done. My source is from Jay Nordlinger's column in National Review, scroll down.


Here at COTTonLINE we've written from time to time about separatist movements in Europe and elsewhere. The National Interest has an article with a really comprehensive list of separatist movements in Europe and it does a fair job with other regions. I find this quote particularly striking:
Globally, the numbers tell the story very well: in 1914, on the eve of World War I, there were 59 independent countries in the world. By 1950, there were 89. By 1995, there were 192.
Separatism is a force that obviously has been gathering strength globally. Hat tip to RealClearWorld for the link.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Why Work?

The following are from an article in The Wall Street Journal:
Compare 2010 with October 2012, the last month for which food-stamp data have been reported. The unemployment rate fell to 7.8% from 9.6%, and real GDP was rising steadily if not vigorously. Food-stamp usage should have peaked and probably even begun to decline. Yet the number of recipients rose by 7,223,000. In a period of falling unemployment and rising output, the number of food-stamp recipients grew nearly 10,000 a day. Congress should find out why 
Then there are Social Security Disability payments:
Barely three million Americans received work-related disability checks from Social Security in 1990, a number that had changed only modestly in the preceding decade or two. Since then, the number of people drawing disability checks has soared, passing five million by 2000, 6.5 million by 2005, and rising to nearly 8.6 million today. In a series of papers, David Autor of MIT has shown that the disability program is ineffective, inefficient, and growing at an unsustainable rate. And news media have reported cases of rampant fraud.

Quote II of the Day

Maureen Dowd, resident harpy of The New York Times, certainly doesn't like Republicans but finds things not to like about Democrats either, including President Obama:
Obama underwhelmed on traits everyone thought he’d excel at: negotiating, selling, charming, scaring, bully-pulpiting, mobilizing, dealing with Capitol Hill and, especially, communicating.
Maureen, we've shared your "underwhelmedness."

Quote I of the Day

Ann Coulter, writing for Town Hall, about the subject of insane people committing mass murder:
Such people have to be separated from civil society, for the public's sake as well as their own. But this is nearly impossible because the ACLU has decided that being psychotic is a civil right.
Regular COTTonLINE readers will remember that we've written about this problem.


Suppose Mark Steyn is correct, suppose conservatives are an actual minority and headed in the direction of being more so. Perhaps Mitt Romney was being "conservative" when he estimated that 47% of the populace sought handouts. What do we do then?

Do we migrate to states where we can be a majority, and try there to govern ourselves appropriately while fending off an interventionist federal government? Perhaps.

Eventually our federal government will, as Margaret Thatcher said of socialist states, run out of other people's money. Then we will be yet another Greece or Argentina, stuck in a redistributionist trap from which there seems to be no peaceful way out

I am certainly in a gloomy frame of mind tonight. Let us be glad we were born early enough to avoid living through most of the hopeless mess ahead.

Steyn: The Future of Conservatism

Mark Steyn writes for Comentary about the future of conservatism. He calls Mitt Romney a "squish" and concludes with this thought:
Please don’t waste another four years obsessing over whether Barack Obama is a secret Muslim Kenyan Commie or whatever. He may be all those things, but the lesson of November 6 is that a majority of the American people agree with him. He’s not the exotic other, he’s all too typical. That’s the problem.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Much More on Mali

I just finished reading a detailed article on a website called Africa Is A Country about the situation in Mali. There are multiple players, both within and without the country, and the article lays them out.

Al Qaeda pops up again, apparently things are too hot for them now in Afghanistan or Yemen. I have the mental image of Whack-A-Mole; we whack 'em in one country and they pop up in another.

BTW, notice the serious Marine-style haircuts on those French troopers in the photo. I can't read their unit patches to see if they're Legion. They don't seem to be wearing para jump boots.

Legion Etrangere to Mali

When I read that France was sending troops to fight in former colony Mali, I wondered if they'd send the Foreign Legion. The answer is yes, see this Wall Street Journal article for more.

France has been policing their colonies and former colonies with the Legion for 180+ years. It is smart politics for two reasons. If the bodies of dead legionnaires are sent home, most don't come to France. Plus the Legion has a reputation for brutality, earned or otherwise, that causes opponents to avoid battle with them.

History Teaching Biased

Peter Berkowitz of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, writing for RealClearPolitics, reports findings that the U.S. history being taught U.S. undergraduates is heavily flavored with issues of race, class, and gender.

Furthermore, research interests of  faculty teaching introductory history courses are largely in issues of race, class, and gender. These issues are not unimportant, but they certainly do not constitute all that is important about U.S. history.

To be sure, most of the nation's early history was created by now-dead white men - so what? These  patricians - Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Hamilton, Madison, Franklin - actually did a good job; a job of which all of us can be proud if only we are taught about their accomplishments.

USPS Hurting

An article in The Guardian says that David Williams, inspector general of the U.S. Postal Service, believes the USPS will either need a congressional bailout or go under this year. That is radical.

In spite of all its creaky, old-fashioned ways the USPS is still something I (and many others) would miss if it were gone. In its absence, people without computer skills or online access would be "off the grid," unreachable.

USPS needs the equivalent of a bankruptcy so it can dump its union contracts. In doing so they could end defined benefit employee retirement plans and replace them with defined contribution plans at considerably less cost.

Hat tip to and Breitbart's Big Government for the link.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Noonan: Be Cheerful

The Wall Street Journal's Peggy Noonan, writing about the gloom surrounding the Republican Party and its adherents:
Republicans in DC are feeling bleak.  Should they?  Nah.  Demographic and culture changes lean against them but despair is for sissies, and in any case the pendulum swings, even if its arc is sometimes wider or higher than expected.  What’s going on in the states, with the economic rise of the Reds, and the relative sinking of the Blues, is instructive, and Americans will take note.  Long term pessimists should maintain a daily optimism, a happiness and vigor in the day to day.  This is a time for creativity and guts.  Which means: it’s an exciting time to be alive. 
 Noonan is correct. Only two years ago we were celebrating a real win, in the 2010 midterm election.

Not Just Fiction

Remember the fourth Indiana Jones film, where a struggle for water was the villain's evil plot? And you thought it was just fantasy? It wasn't.

See this article from Transhumanity which lays out nine different world regions where nations may realistically come to blows over water. There are examples in southeast Asia, Central Asia, the Indian subcontinent, Africa, and the Middle East.

It's a good thing northern and southern California don't have their own armies, as a battle over the north's water could certainly ensue. Hat tip to RealClearWorld for the link.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Head Start Doesn't Work

The Health and Human Services Department of the federal government has studied the Head Start program, upon which some $180 billion has been spent. According to a HotAir article by Mary Katherine Ham, Head Start was found by HHS not to be effective. Head Start kids, compared to non-Head Start kids from similar backgrounds, showed no improvement.

I particularly like this quote from a report by The Heritage Foundation:
Access to Head Start for each group had no statistically measurable effects on all measures of cognitive ability, including numerous measures of reading, language, and math ability.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Quote of the Day

Howard Dean, former Democrat governor of New Hampshire and presidential candidate, speaking today on CNBC's Closing Bell show, about why we have deficits::
Republicans want to cut taxes but are unwilling to cut spending.
Democrats want to raise spending but are unwilling to raise taxes.
I rarely find myself in agreement with Howard Dean, but he's correct. I did the quote from memory. I have the sense of what he said, if not his exact words. In other words, it is either a quote or a paraphrase.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Under or Over Population

There are on the order of 7 trillion human beings - overpopulation? Probably. On the other hand, population growth rates are declining and we may be headed for relatively serious population shrinkage. See this Slate article which explores the issues associated with population growth and decline.

An Insight

Georgie Anne Geyer writes about foreign affairs for Yahoo News, here she has an insight about the Vietnam war that can be generalized to other wars of the same sort:
The Vietcong's intention was infinite -- our intention was finite. They would fight forever because it was their country and their children; we had to get home for Christmas. 
If we aren't willing to do what the Romans did - eradicate whole peoples who are inconvenient - and I believe we are not, then we shouldn't occupy their countries.

Decapitating an antagonistic leadership without occupation - essentially what the Mossad would do - is another matter.


I understand Colorado and Washington State have killed the laws against recreational marijuana. This raises an interesting question: will these two states release from jail the people who are there for using recreational weed?

How about expunging the records of those whose only crime was possession for use? The legal history of how we treated violators of prohibition when it was dropped might be a guide.

Releasing people from jail/prison could be a major cost savings for those two states, and an incentive for other states to follow suit.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Totten: Nationalism Still Powerful

Michael Totten writes about the tendency of educated Westerners to encounter educated members of other countries and make the mistake of thinking everybody in those countries holds beliefs like their own ... that would cause us to overlook the power of nationalism.

This mistake would be particularly dangerous in third world countries where the educated constitute what he calls a "bubble" or separate elite group, distinct from and quite unlike the bulk of the populace. Totten's World Affairs Journal article is worth your time.

Not All News Is Bad News

Paul Brandus, writing for The Week, finds five things to be happy about going forward. I think the five he's identified are real, important things to smile about. I won't try to summarize his reasoning, but here are the five:
We're winning the war on heart disease and cancer.
Energy independence is actually possible (for the U.S.).
We're enjoying a manufacturing renaissance.
We're safer (less violent crime).
We're climbing out of (household) debt.
These five could lead to a better life, at least until other things go wrong.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Mead: CA a Turquoise Economy

Walter Russell Mead, who writes the Via Meadia column for The American Interest, concludes the Golden State is combining the Blue of liberal politics with the Green of environmentalism to produce a "turquoise" way of governing. He writes:
Call it a turquoise governing philosophy: the mix of green and blue that wants to carry forward 20th century policies like a large civil service and a mass welfare state even as it manages the shift to a post-industrial, low carbon economy. 
To what combination of interest groups does Mead attribute this mixture of goals?
This strategic vision blends the priorities of three constituencies that are essential for the contemporary Democratic Party in California: rich greens (strong in Hollywood and Silicon Valley), public sector unions (vital statewide political organizations that Democratic candidates can’t win without), and low income Californians (a growing number) who depend on public services.
Mead buys into the notion that California is a leading indicator for the rest of the country. He concludes:
California is a few years ahead of America as a whole; those who think it is on the wrong road need to think very hard about what is happening and why, because unless something changes, this is where we could all be headed in the not so distant future.
Mead approves of being green, just not the way it's being done in California.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Politico Bios Kristol

Three plus decades ago, reading the columns of Irving Kristol in The Wall Street Journal was what convinced me that I was no longer a liberal. You see his son, Bill Kristol, on Fox News, and read Bill's stuff in The Weekly Standard.

Politico's Kenneth P. Vogel has done a professional biography of the adult Bill Kristol, what he's done, with whom he's worked, and who and what he's supported. It makes interesting reading, he's been involved with the entire conservative movement in recent years.

NYT: Social Security Predictions Off

There's good news and bad news, first the bad news. The New York Times has an article about the way Social Security calculates when it will run out of money - an ugly thing to contemplate.

The authors conclude the government's predictions are unduly optimistic. Funds run out sooner (bad news) because we are living longer (good news).

Why Keep Ag Subsidies?

Robert Samuelson, who writes political economics for the Washington Post, takes on the need to stop farm subsidies. His analysis is reasonable, and he's correct that meats, fruits and vegetables aren't subsidized. I remember growing up in an orange orchard and wondering why we didn't get federal aid, since grain producers did.

Samuelson chooses not to mention that many farm states have little population but two senators apiece, senators who are committed to keeping federal subsidy dollars coming their way. Grain-farming acreage is over-represented in the U.S. Senate, no doubt about it and no way to change it.

As many as 20-25% of senators come from major farm subsidy beneficiary states. They trade votes with senators from urbanized states who need HUD and other subsidies - I'll vote for your pork if you'll vote for mine. Don't hold your breath waiting for any of this pork to end.

Media Bias

Our press is willing to report bias in the press in countries like Venezuela, where the Chavez government largely monopolizes press coverage. There is little interest in reporting that the Democratic Party largely monopolizes press coverage in the U.S.

U.S. bias is no less real though not controlled by a government agency. Power Line's John Hinderaker has a good article demonstrating U.S. press bias.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Obama Once Understood Debt

Then-Senator Barack Hussein Obama, speaking on 16 March 2006 regarding the raising of the debt limit. What follows are the opening and closing paragraphs of his Senate floor speech:
The fact that we are here today to debate raising America's debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the US Government cannot pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government's reckless fiscal policies.

Increasing America's debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that, "the buck stops here.' Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better.
Apparently, what is terrible if done by President Bush, becomes statesmanship when done by President Obama. He later recanted this position, explaining the world looks different from the Oval Office. The problem is that he was correct the first time. See Snopes for details including his entire Senate speech and his later recantation. Hat tip to friend Earl C. for the link.

Boom Years Ahead?

Then CIA deputy director Herbert Meyer predicted the end of the Cold War, in a well-known memo entitled "Why Is the World So Dangerous?" He's made another prediction that is out of the norm, entitled "The Next Big Thing from the Official Who Predicted Communism's Demise." See what he says:
The world is emerging from poverty fast. This is the biggest under-reported news story in the world. (snip) If we can continue this trend within our lifetimes, and certainly within our children’s lifetimes, the overwhelming majority of human beings will no longer be poor.  This is the biggest thing that’s happened in the entire world. (snip) Their demand for our goods and services will set off an economic boom.
My source for this quote is a Power Line article by Steven Hayward. The original source is an interview in Forbes. One reason poverty is declining is that population growth has leveled off in all developed countries, and some not-so-developed ones, too.

Not Guilty

A statistical study published in the journal Earth System Dynamics, authored by M. Beenstock, Y. Reingewertz, and N. Paldor, finds that humans are not responsible for global warming, if warming is in fact happening at all. They conclude:
We have shown that anthropogenic forcings do not polynomially cointegrate with global temperature and solar irradiance. Therefore, data for 1880–2007 do not support the anthropogenic interpretation of global warming during this period.
My source for this quote is a Power Line article by John Hinderaker. Their statistics is out beyond what I studied as a doctoral student, but the journal is refereed so the stat is probably sound.

Friday, January 4, 2013

War With Iran Likely in 2013

An opinion writer for Reuters concludes war with Iran, involving the U.S. actively, is likely in 2013. See what he says:
The door is clearly open to the Iranians, if they want to come in from the cold of sanctions and isolation. If they fail to do so, and continue to buck the international community, war in 2013 is likely. Not because it is a good solution, but because President Obama might regard it as the only solution, albeit a temporary and highly uncertain one.
Do you have any doubt that the Iranians will "continue to buck the international community?" I don't. They believe God tells them to do so; God is hard to argue with.

Travel Blogging

Southern California:  Yesterday was the second day of our annual migration to the sun. Our part of northern CA has beautiful spring and fall, but gray, rainy, dreary winters so we migrate south.

Taking our RV to the sunshine, we yesterday drove down US 101 from Paso Robles to just north of Santa Barbara. At this time of year it is a beautiful drive, the rolling hillsides of the Coast Range are green and the cattle and sheep are busily grazing.

An easy drive, so I was musing about the central role this highway has had in my life. I was being carried back and forth on it in a laundry basket when I was tiny, grew up watching my dad drive a '41 Chevy, followed by a '50 Dodge on the stretches from Ventura north to Santa Barbara and south to LA.

This highway is older than our nation, and began with the name El Camino Real, the King's Highway when this land was owned by Spain. After Spain, it was part of Mexico, then briefly an autonomous California - the so-called Bear Flag Republic - and since 1848 part of the U.S.

The original 'highway' - a dirt track fit for pack trains and pedestrians - linked a string of missions established by Spanish friars to Christianize the Indians who lived here. The missions were a day's walk apart. Today it's four lane divided highway from north of SF to the Mexican border.

One of the fun facts about US 101 is that there are "mission bells" hung on poles along the roadside every few miles. Imagine a greenish pole with a top like a question mark (?) and a brownish bell hanging from the tip of the hook. A few have a sign below the bell saying:
El Camino Real
People steal the bells but somehow they get replaced, probably by the Auto Club. I remember my parents pointing them out to me when I was small, longer ago than I like to admit. I'm happy to report they are still there as of yesterday, at least on the stretch we drove.

The stretch of 101 from Gaviota (seagull) Pass to Ventura is legendary among surfers, Their cars are often parked along the edges. My memory says 101 is mentioned in Beach Boys lyrics somewhere, but I'm too lazy to go looking for the citation.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

House Passes Senate Bill

The House of Representatives last night passed the Senate bill aimed as forestalling the fiscal cliff. The bill makes 'permanent' the Bush era tax cuts for households making less than $450k.

The Senate bill also forestalls sequestration - dramatic cuts in Federal spending - for two months. This gives the new Congress a chance to find less painful ways to cut government spending.

The bill also contains additional features important to various subgroups like physicians and the unemployed. See The Ticket article on Yahoo News for details.

The jury is still out on whether Congress will be able to agree upon ways to cut government spending, particularly the spending on entitlements. A betting person would bet against it.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Brooks: We're to Blame

David Brooks, who writes semi-conservative columns for The New York Times, has a different take on the current fiscal crisis. Unlike the editorial board of WaPo (see below), he says the Prez and Speaker Boehner know what should be done and would like to do it, but we won't let them.

Maybe he's right. It fits in with my notion that the American people want substantially more government than they are willing to pay taxes for.

WaPo Scores

COTTonLINE doesn't often find itself agreeing with the editorial position of The Washington Post. That said, on the first day of 2013 we are in agreement. See the first line of their editorial:
HAVE THE NATION’S LEADERS ever seemed smaller? It’s hard to remember when.

AP: Senate Passes Fiscal Cliff Bill

The Associated Press reports the U.S. Senate has passed the tax portion of fixing the fiscal cliff problem by a vote of 89 to 8. Now it will go to the House where Speaker Boehner makes no a priori predictions about its future.

Sequestration has been given a two month reprieve so Congress can try to work out better ways to cut government spending, including entitlement costs. That will put it in the hands of the next Congress.

2013 Predictions

As years begin, there's a tendency among the pundit class to make predictions for the coming year. At COTTonLINE I consider myself a very minor pundit, but anyway here goes.

Things in the Middle East will get more nasty and brutish, particularly in Syria and Iraq, perhaps also Jordan. Lebanon can get sucked into the Syrian mess.

Egypt has to figure out whether it will follow ideology or pragmatism. Since pragmatism is logical and necessary for survival, expect Egypt to opt for ideology.

This could be the year of the attack on Iran by Israel, but we'd have said that last year, too, and been wrong. Obama might surprise everybody and have the U.S. participate actively.

Al Qaeda has a new base in northern Mali. At some point the U.S. will attack it, probably covertly. Drone attacks will continue, mostly without public awareness.

This could very well be the year two icons of the left in Latin America - Chavez and Castro - pass into history. The immediate impact in Venezuela will be larger than in Cuba.

Poor Argentina will continue to be a mess. Brazil works to get ready for the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics, both held in their mid-winter, our mid-summer.

The drug cartel murder spree may calm down in Mexico as PRI reclaims the presidency. The PRI has a history of finding ways to coexist with rather than confront issues, perhaps including the cartels.

China may become less of an issue on our event horizon, unless their claims on islands in the East and South China Seas cause them to become belligerent with some combination of Japan, the Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam, and Malaysia. The first three of these five have the U.S. as a guarantor of their security. However, those three may discover that guarantee does not extend to uninhabited islands.

Meanwhile, the U.S. will continue to "enjoy" Congressional gridlock, a preferable alternative to unchecked progressivism. Modest moves toward gun control may happen, as well as a greater willingness to place the insane in protective custody. I expect the economy to improve ever so slowly, that is what the equity markets are predicting.


Happy New Year to all COTTonLINE readers. Let's hope our sometimes beleaguered nation also has a happy one.