Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Woodward: Presidential Madness

Associate editor of the The Washington Post Bob Woodward, co-author of the Watergate expose' that brought down President Richard Nixon, has described the Obama administration's actions with respect to sequestration as "a kind of madness." Woodward also said Obama was wrong to blame  sequestration on the Republicans. Reuters quotes Woodward as follows:
So we now have the president going out (saying) 'Because of this piece of paper and this agreement, I can't do what I need to do to protect the country.' That's a kind of madness that I haven't seen in a long time.
On the CNN Wolf Blitzer program Woodward stated that a "very senior" administration official told him that he would be sorry for what he's said. This according to RealClearPolitics Video.

"Be sorry" can be interpreted in two ways, of course. It can mean we believe you will come to see the factual error in your opinion piece, or it can mean we will ensure you come to regret crossing us when you no longer have journalistic access to members of the administration.

Politico's Mike Allen and Jim Vandehei report:
Woodward — first in “The Price of Politics,” his bestseller on the failed quest for a grand budget bargain, and later with his opinion piece in The Post — makes plain that sequestration was an idea crafted by the White House. Obama personally approved the plan and later signed it into law. Woodward was right, several congressional officials involved in the talks told us.
Woodward is perhaps the best-known, most respected reporter in the nation. He is definitely a stalwart of the MSM. I treasure moments like these when the MSM trips over the Obama administration's clay feet.

Demography Redux

COTTonLINE's favorite demographer, Joel Kotkin, writes for The Wall Street Journal that the U.S. has four "red state growth corridors." These four corridors are the Intermountain West, the Third (Gulf) Coast, the Great Plains, and the Southeastern industrial belt. This WSJ article is available to non-subscribers.

The four corridors are strings of rapidly growing low tax, right-to-work red states. It's no surprise that states with low taxes and right-to-work laws attract firms which hire workers who add to the population there. Many of these states are also beneficiaries of the new energy activities - fracking and the like.

On the other hand, states not included in these four corridors, particularly the West Coast, the Northeast, and the Upper Midwest have high taxes, tough unions, and lots of regulations resulting in higher unemployment rates, slower growth rates and outmigration.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Walmart Indicator Down

Walmart alone accounts for 2.3 percent of the U.S. GDP - try to wrap your mind around that staggering statistic. Roughly 1 dollar in 40 of the entire U.S. economy passes through the registers at Walmart. See Brad Plumer of The Washington Post for more.

Everybody else - from the corner convenience store to Costco, from your auto dealer to Boeing - splits the other 39 dollars. In other words, what's happening at Walmart is the most important single indicator of the health of the U.S. economy.

In the first part of February, Walmart's sales were down sharply. Some analysts are attributing this decline to the increase in the January 1 increase in the payroll tax. George Packer in The New Yorker writes:
It’s amazing how little attention the payroll-tax increase got at the time—maybe because so few of the players and observers involved could imagine how much difference fifteen dollars out of the weekly paycheck of someone earning forty thousand dollars a year could make.
Don't be surprised if our economy isn't doing very well this year.

Friedman on Egypt

The New York Times' Tom Friedman writes about many things, some well, some poorly. On domestic politics he is laughably liberal and hence unreliable. On issues dealing with the Middle East he is often on target.

Here he writes about the Muslim Brotherhood's government in Egypt. They are squandering the good will developed while getting rid of former President Mubarak.

Egypt is the most populous Arab country and yet lacks the oil riches other nations have. What they do have is a marvelous set of ruins to show tourists - really spectacular. In order to get affluent tourists to come from all over the world, Egypt needs to be at least as welcoming to tourists as it was under Mubarak.

Immigration Amnesty Not Popular

Reuters did a poll recently and discovered that allowing illegal immigrants to stay in the U.S. is unpopular with a majority of Americans. Yahoo News has the article which summarizes the findings:
Thirty percent of those polled think that most illegal immigrants, with some exceptions, should be deported, while 23 percent believe all illegal immigrants should be deported.

Only 5 percent believe all illegal immigrants should be allowed to stay in the United States legally, and 31 percent want most illegal immigrants to stay. 
 Those are some tough numbers for politicians to chew on, as they try to write legislation to "solve" the problem.

Whose Ox Is Gored

A couple of weeks ago COTTonLINE wrote that the sequester would mostly injure government workers, who typically vote Democratic. This being the case, it was to the Republicans advantage to allow it to take place.

Today Yahoo News has a piece from The Week that makes the same point. It says:
The sequester does not directly hit GOP constituencies at first. It hits government workers, primarily, in terms of lay-offs and furloughs. Actual pain will first be felt by people who rely on government services that aren't entitlements.
The article also says:
Spending has to be cut. The sequester does it summarily, but it does indeed accomplish a core goal of the revanchist wing of the GOP.
BTW, "Revanchist" is defined as seeking the restoration of a former condition.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Hanson: Trending Bad

Victor Davis Hanson, the sage of the San Joaquin, takes a look at all that has changed in the last 10 or so years and finds that we've not been paying attention as it happened. Writing for PJ Media, he comes up with a relatively comprehensive list of ways things have changed - some ugly and some, from my perspective, benign. Take a look.

Rothenberg on GOP Problems

Stuart Rothenberg writes for Rollcall and has many years in the political game. Here he looks at the internal battles now underway within the Republican Party. Some of what he says makes great sense:
The Republican Party’s problems go back to its base voters, who participate in primaries and nominating conventions. Many of them are so blinded by their anger toward President Barack Obama, the national news media and their own party leaders that they are willing to nominate the most conservative candidate in a primary, no matter how limited his or her appeal in a general election.
Another thing to remember, "limited appeal" is difficult for party activists to judge. If you particularly like a candidate, you are apt to overestimate that candidate's attractiveness to others. Hat tip to for the link.

No Kidding....

Writing in The Hill, Cheri Jacobus opines that the "press cares more about Tiger than Benghazi." Is she serious?

Why would anybody think anything else? The press cares more about Tiger than Benghazi because the American people are more interested in serial adulterer Tiger Woods than in the Islamist murders of our diplomats in Benghazi.

Americans don't want to think that our newly reelected President allowed an ambassador and his aides to be killed by terrorists. Where is the fun in that?

Quote of the Day

John Hinderaker, writing in the blog Power Line, on the topic of media bias:
The liberal media manifest their bias not primarily by writing things that aren’t true–although that sometimes happens–but rather, by selecting what they do and do not report as news.
I find this to be particularly true of the PBS News Hour and to a lesser extent of their Washington Week.

Samuelson on the Economy

Robert Samuelson writes on economics and politics for the Washington Post. He has a good article in RealClearPolitics on why the U.S. economy is struggling. I particularly like this quote:
Pessimism produces a sluggish economy; a sluggish economy produces pessimism. That's the main explanation of poor job creation.
We need to find a way to return to optimism.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Drudge on CNN

Politico reports Matt Drudge has declared CNN under the new leadership of Jeff Zucker has "gone tabloid," doing "pop" journalism. I have had this feeling for some time.

A fan of Erin Burnett since her days at CNBC, I've tuned into her show on CNN several times. The content is so shallow, so People Magazine-like that I've turned it off. Sadly, I think Matt Drudge is absolutely right in calling recent CNN content tabloid or pop journalism.

Brownstein on SOTU

Ron Brownstein writes politics for National Journal. Here he analyzes the recent State of the Union speech, given by President Obama. I like this line:
The most striking aspect of Obama’s remarks was how unreservedly he articulated the views of the coalition that reelected him, and how little need he felt to qualify those views for fear of alienating voters beyond it.
Another indication of the nation's serious political polarization.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Quote of the Day

Eric Trager, writing for The Atlantic about the aims of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt:
Washington should note that the Brotherhood essentially views Egypt's revolution as part of an ongoing struggle against western influence and values. One of the Brotherhood's own spokesmen, after all, said as much in Washington.

Gerrymandering Is Not At Fault

Nate Cohn writes for The New Republic about the question of whether gerrymandering is responsible for President Obama's inability to get his program enacted. In short, Cohn finds the answer is "no."

Cohn says we Americans have separated ourselves geographically by political preferences so that to get "fair" districts would in fact require radical gerrymandering. He concludes:
Could fairer districts moderate Republicans? Perhaps. (snip) But this isn't the rationale advanced by Obama, or others who blame the Hill's polarization on safe, gerrymandered districts, rather than fingering the real (and simpler) culprit: the wide ideological divide between conservatives and liberals.

Revolutionary Shock at Sea

My favorite columnist on defense, Ralph Peters of the New York Post, examines the impact of the coming sequestration, and concludes he's for it. I'm not certain I agree with everything he says. However, much of it rings true, for example:
Our Navy is too small. Want a bigger one? Buy cheaper, smaller, faster ships. The next revolutionary shock in naval warfare is going to come when a second-rate power, such as Iran or North Korea, sinks one of our supercarriers.
You know that shock will happen, too. The question is when.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Best Wishes

I send Valentine's Day greetings to all COTTonLINE readers.

Political Humor Alert

The Washington Post's Dana Milbank, commenting on the State of the Union address:
There is something entirely appropriate about holding the State of the Union address on the same day as Mardi Gras.

One is a display of wretched excess, when giddy and rowdy participants give in to reckless and irresponsible behavior.

The other is a street festival in New Orleans.
That sounds like my reason for not watching it.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Who Is A "Doctor?"

Jonah Goldberg weighs in on National Review about whether or not to call Mrs. Biden "Dr. Biden." His comment is relatively brief and I invite you to read it. What follows it my take on the subject.

First, back in the day it was common to call Henry Kissinger "Dr. Kissinger" or "Dr. K." As I know from my days in Washington, Ph.D.s are quite common and often called Dr. This or Dr. That.

My federal agency made a point of referring to me as "Dr. Cotton" in formal settings or when introducing me. So, for my money it's Dr. Biden, although I don't agree with her husband's politics.

All of that said, there is a right and a wrong way to use the term "doctor." Used before a name "Doctor" is a title, indicating the person has earned some form of doctorate: MD, PhD, EdD, etc.

When applied to non-physicians it is correctly used as a replacement for Mr. or Ms. as in "Dr. Jones" replacing ""Ms. Jones." Used without a name it is only a synonym for physician, any other use is incorrect. This was a distinction my students found difficult to grasp.

Economic Truth

See this insight from an article in National Review concerning what it takes for a U.S. company to be willing to spend $$ to hire someone:
Corporations are sitting on roughly $1.7 trillion in cash right now. It’s not that they don’t have the money to hire people. They just don’t think that hiring people would generate more money than having it just sit there in their accounts, which is a phenomenally depressing conclusion.
Particularly since current interest rates are near zero, and the inflation rate is greater than the interest rate. The rest of the article is worthwhile, too.

Spengler Weighs In

David P. Goldman, whose nom de plume is Spengler, writes for PJ Media on the topic of crashing birth rates in Muslim nations:
Muslim civilization is in catastrophic decline. It is passing from infancy to senescence without ever reaching maturity.
We wrote about these issues just two days ago. As Spengler wisely reminds us, Ignatius is not the first to note Islam's declining birth rates. About the causes, Spengler notes:
The variable that best predicts fertility across all Muslim countries is education: as soon as women become literate, they stop having children. 
Many Muslim men resist the education of women; that could be the reason why.

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Future of Employment

Today's job market isn't like your father's, by a long shot. Go see this Financial Times Magazine article about the nature of 21st century employment. To be sure, it is set in Britain and deals with unemployed coal miners, but the principles are the same.

Modern employers are looking to staff as many jobs as possible with Type A personality, hard-driving workers. For us Type B folks it's just "too damn bad, laddie, you're back on the dole." This is probably what makes outfits like Amazon and FedEx possible.

Quote of the Day

Carrie Lukas, writing for USA Today, about the relationship between women and government:
For women in particular, who too often have bought into the Washington myth of "more is always better," it's time to recognize we're in a relationship with Uncle Sam that just isn't working out.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Weird Species Science

If what is reported in this WaPo article is accurate, if fertility rates are really dropping in Muslim lands as they have elsewhere, something is going on with the human race - potentially something very scary. See this RealClearPolitics article by David Ignatius of The Washington Post.

For a decade or so we thought population declines were only happening in developed countries. Most Muslim countries aren't developed. Nevertheless their population rates are falling and so are their marriage rates. So far every region except sub-Saharan Africa has been heard from.

Dem Constituents Isolated from the Economy

Jay Cost, writing for The Weekly Standard, on the topic of whether political parties develop long-lasting majorities:
If the Democratic party cannot bring about improvement in the economic numbers, it will not retain control of political power. It is as simple as that. No enduring majority coalition has been able to hang on to power for very long amid such widespread disappointment over the economy. And the warning signs are already there for the Democrats, if they care to look: The historically small numbers of Democrats in the House of Representatives, governorships, and state legislatures, plus the fact President Obama won fewer votes in 2012 than he did in 2008, are all signals that public patience with the party has its limits.

What’s more, the Democratic coalition is bound to have trouble doing what is necessary to grow the economy. The party of the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s was a party of farmers and industrial laborers who depended on private-sector economic growth, so the Democrats of that era focused their efforts accordingly. But today’s Democratic party has many powerful constituents within it who are isolated from the ebbs and flows of the private economy. Upscale social liberals in the Northeast and Pacific Coast are so well off that they are basically recession-proof. And, what’s more, the position of the farmer-industrial working class has been usurped by unionized government workers and far-left gray-collar labor unions like the SEIU, which are more interested in expanding government than the economy.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Krauthammer: Sequester

Dr. Charles Krauthammer, writing for The Washington Post about the impending sequestration and the President's plea to avoid these cuts that President Obama himself proposed back in July, 2011. Dr. K says the GOP should let them happen:
This is the one time Republicans can get cuts under an administration that has no intent of cutting anything. Get them while you can.
I'm inclined to believe Krauthammer is correct. As we wrote yesterday, most of those hurt vote Democrat anyway.

Weird Science - Species Extermination

When is species extermination a good thing? When the species is a deadly disease, say polio or smallpox. Getting rid of ebola or hantavirus would work, too.

In other words, when a species does its level best to exterminate humans, then it's okay for us to exterminate it. We've supposedly accomplished this with smallpox and are working on it with guinea worm.

We would do it with polio if al Qaeda crazies didn't get in the way. The polio deal is complicated by the fact that the CIA used faux polio vaccine teams to find Osama bin Laden. Good end, lousy means.

The Wall Street Journal has a Feb. 8, 2013 article about this topic, I provide no link as a subscription is required to see it.

Review - Total Recall

The DrsC just watched the recent version of Total Recall. Actually it is more accurate to say I saw it, the other DrC slept through it. I guess that tells you her opinion of the film, doesn't it?

The film is non-stop action, in a set that owes much to the classic Blade Runner. Imagine Blade Runner updated to the current day, and a plot that shares only a little with the original Total Recall film. The set also shows some influence from The Fifth Element.

Kate Beckinsale is a good looking villain, she has the Sharon Stone part. Colin Farrell has the Arnold S. part. Get beyond those two and the story takes you in different directions.

Examples: TR1 is set on Mars, TR2 moves back and forth between a post-apocalyptic Europe (possibly Britain) and somewhere called The Colony, by way of a tube through the earth's core powered by gravity.

TR2 does a good job of keeping the viewer guessing to the very end whether what you've seen is real (or artificial memory). I won't spoil it for you. Total Recall is nice to look at, set-wise, but the story or plot is mostly run-and-shoot with a hero who can't remember who he really is and no shortage of good-looking ladies to cuddle.

This TR was more fun to look at but the original was probably a better film.

Friday, February 8, 2013

A Fascinating Statistic

A Tom Edsall opinion column in The New York Times cites an interesting statistic:
In the 16 presidential elections between 1952 and 2012, only one Democratic candidate, Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964, won a majority of the white vote.
If that doesn't tell the Republican Party who their voters are, nothing will. Talk about a truth nobody official can safely mention, this is it.

Sequester a Problem for Democrats

One thing we know about government employees is that they overwhelmingly vote Democratic. They do this for reasons of enlightened self-interest; Democrats spend more on government than do Republicans.

Democrats spend more in raises for government workers, increases in government worker retirement payments, and new or enlarged government programs which create employment and/or promotion opportunities for government workers. Republicans don't.

What is the sequester? A cut in government spending. Who is directly hurt by the sequester? Government employees, which is to say mostly Democrats. Is this a reason for Republicans to allow the sequester to take place? It could be.

Is it a reason for Democrat legislators to cave in and give Republicans what they want in return for legislation to forestall the sequester? It certainly could be just that. See this RealClearPolitics article for details.

A Very Cold Winter

Earlier we wrote about the heavy winter Moscow (Russia, not Idaho) has been having. Now the U.S. northeast is getting a monster winter storm. See the Reuters article on Yahoo News.

Can this super storm be further evidence of global warming? You can bet the warmists will claim it is. It's sad that warmism has become a religion, when it needs to be a scientific assertion backed by evidence and subject to rational argument.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Quote of the Day

Isabel Sawhill, writing in The Washington Monthly, about the disintegrating American family:
For younger women without a college degree, unwed childbearing is the new normal.

Michelle Rhee for Vouchers

Michelle Rhee was a really innovative superintendent for the Washington, D.C. public schools for three years. She writes that, after much agonizing, she has come out in favor of school vouchers enabling parents to send their children to private schools. See her article in The Daily Beast for much more on her views, which are child-centered.

"The Last Stop Before Revolution"

Glenn Harlan Reynolds is a law professor and one of the first well-known bloggers as Instapundit. Here he writes for USA Today on the topic of confidence in government and the likelihood of a constitutional convention. Reynolds opines:
In the American system, a Constitutional Convention -- which has never been held since the Constitution was adopted -- is the last stop before revolution. It was intended as a way for the people to end-run the political establishment; if enough states request a convention, Congress has no choice but to call it, and the resulting proposals go straight to the states for ratification, bypassing Congress. It's a way to make drastic changes when the political class has blocked smaller ones.

Are we there yet? I don't think so. But we're getting closer all the time. Political class, take note.

More Unintended Consequences of Green

Unintended consequences are interesting phenomena. They are the unplanned bad things that happen when you try to do something good.

It appears that banning one-use plastic grocery bags, and thereby encouraging the use of cloth reusable bags, brings about increased salmonella and norovirus infections. See this Bloomberg article for details.

These infections are logical outcomes of using dirty bags. Plus the ban forces people to buy plastic bags to use as garbage bags when they formerly reused old grocery bags for this purpose. Net environmental outcome ... essentially zero. Health outcome ... negative.

More Global Warming ... Not

The Russian capital of Moscow has this winter experienced the most snow it has seen in 100 years, according to the deputy mayor. See an article in The Moscow Times for details, hat tip to the Drudge Report for the link.

Happenings like this make it difficult to have faith in global warming. Climate changes without our help? For that there's lots of historical evidence. Our activities may be helping it change, although in what direction is unknown.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Travel Blogging

This past weekend we did a road trip to the Napa wine country to share a Super Bowl/birthday party with family and friends. In other words, we drove from SoCal to Northern California and back along the historic El Camino Real - US 101. I post to share several insights therefrom.

First, the obvious: a diesel pickup is much more responsive when driven without a small one bedroom apartment with en suite bath attached to the hitch. Our one ton F-350 tows the trailer without difficulty, to be sure, but is no hot rod with all that living area in tow. With no trailer the truck keeps up with the traffic and accelerates as rapidly as a car.

Second, a Western truism of which I was once again reminded. Namely, that this is dry land country - not desert but not lush and green either. Driving north we noticed the hillsides looked somewhat less green than expected (note to non-Californians: CA is green in winter, not in summer, just backwards from most of the country. Winter is when CA gets rain, almost never in summer.).

Three days later - driving south - everything was once again magically green. This is a phenomenon seen all over the West. The north sides of hills and mountains are green and even forested; the south sides of those same hills and mountains are perhaps grassy - much more bare than the north. Driving south you see green north slopes, driving north you see the barren south slopes.

Third, we watched the game in the company of a bunch of ultimately disappointed 49ers fans. I had no interest in which team won, only in a close game. I was not disappointed, the winner was in doubt until the last minute.

I have no allegiance to either SF or Baltimore, I don't like either city. Actually, there are very few large cities I like, offhand I can't think of one. My permanent address is seven miles outside a town of 250 people in the state with the second lowest population density, I guess you'd conclude I'm not a city person.

More on Mental Illness

COTTonLINE has written repeatedly about the scandal that is the de-institutionalization of the mentally ill. Here is a Wall Street Journal article that lays out the history of this failed policy, beginning with an address to Congress by President John F. Kennedy exactly fifty years ago this week.

If we would begin to get control over mass murder and other social pathologies that flow from mental illness, we need to reinstitutionalize the mentally ill. Yes, it will be expensive, and yes, it will be at risk for abuse, and no, those aren't reasons not to do it.

People whose CPUs aren't working properly need to be segregated from society, to protect them and us. Hat tip to RealClearPolitics for the link.

Friday, February 1, 2013

A Demographic Milestone

As of the 2010 census, New Mexico was the only U.S. state with an Hispanic plurality, which is to say Hispanics were the largest group in the state although not a majority. Later in 2013 California will join this elite club; Hispanics will become the largest single demographic group in California.

California's non-Hispanic whites are an aging group whereas many Hispanics are of child-bearing age. Plus CA continues to attract Asians. has provided links to a Los Angeles Times article, and to an Associated Press article via Politico, both elaborating on this story.