Thursday, December 26, 2013

Boxing Day

COTTonLINE hopes Boxing Day was good to you. If the term is new to you, it refers to the day after Christmas.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Wonderful Christmas Music

Last night the other DrC and I watched the PBS Christmas in Norway with the St. Olaf Choir singing at the Nidaros Cathedral with it's Jentekor or girl's choir. These were some gorgeous sounds.

Next up on our PBS station was the 2013 Christmas with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir with tenor Alfie Boe and Tom Brokaw. Another winning performance.

I hope you had an opportunity to see them both. If you didn't, it isn't too late to stream them off the Internet.

Muslim Bros Called Terrorists

The Egyptian government has labeled the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization. Readers will remember deposed President Morsi was a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. See a Reuters article at Yahoo News for details.

At one point the Brotherhood claimed a membership of 1 million Egyptians, an huge group to blacklist. Depending on your degree of pessimism, this terrorist label could be either a step toward insurgency or a countermeasure in an active insurgency.

Merry Christmas

COTTonLINE wishes our readers the merriest of Christmases, whether your celebration be faithful or secular, low-key or a huge bash. This happiest holiday may be under siege, but the battle is by no means lost. Keep smiling, your friends will love it and it infuriates your enemies.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Death Spiral Continues provides a link to a story about the falling popularity of Obamacare. See what the CNN/ORC International survey released Monday reports:
Most Americans predict that the Affordable Care Act will actually result in higher prices for their own medical care. Only 35% of those questioned in the poll say they support the health care law, a 5-point drop in less than a month. Sixty-two percent say they oppose the law, up four points from November. Nearly all of the newfound opposition is coming from women.
Obamacare is circling the drain ... going, going ... almost gone. Too bad we cannot say the same for 44's second term.

Quote of the Day

Carlos Alberto Montaner, writing for RealClearWorld about wide-spread rejection of market forces by populist Latin Americans. He obviously doesn't agree:
Egalitarianism is a perverse mirage that leads to collective misery. If you don't think so, ask the Chinese who lived through the terrible Maoist era. Or the Cubans.
Good words, although I prefer the formulation "Socialism is not a way to share the wealth, it is a way to share the poverty."

Those required by government to "share" their excess earnings simply stop producing excess earnings. The result is no wealth to share and less total economic activity, a steep price to pay for reduced income disparity.

Merry Christmas Eve

COTTonLINE wishes each of our readers a wonderful Christmas Eve, whatever your family's traditions for this day may be. If you must be on the highways, drive safely (and soberly) and watch out for other drivers who are not as careful or sober as you.

If Christmas isn't always a lot of fun, set your expectations low. But allow yourself to be pleasantly surprised if it turns out better than you feared.

Weaponry in Unusual Settings

The CBS Local News Baltimore website has a story about guys robbing a UPS truck and driver. This took me back to musing I did during the Vietnam conflict.

It went like this. UPS vans drive around with their doors open, so did the iconic Huey helicopters of the Vietnam conflict.

My whimsical thought: in our big cities' roughest neighborhoods UPS vans need door gunners, like Vietnam Hueys. Imagine a UPS van with a pintle-mounted air cooled light machine gun plus gunner wearing a safety harness standing in the passenger side door. It is a great image, real Mad Max stuff.

Seeing serious weaponry in places you don't expect it has an impact. I remember the first time I saw airport security Gurkhas carrying submachine guns, or shotgun-toting civilian guards outside jewelry stores, both in 1985 Hong Kong. Even stranger were the security police in armored ninja suits at Tokyo's Narita International - very exotic.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Key Words

Wordsmith Peggy Noonan, of the Wall Street Journal commentariat, picks words, phrases, etc. that she believes characterize 2013. Her word of the year is "botched" as a descriptor of the Obamacare rollout.

You've already guessed Noonan's sentence of the year: "If you like your health care plan, you can keep it." As a lie, it defines the Obama presidency, the same way "Read my lips, no new taxes." defines the Bush 41 presidency.

Words she finds missing from the health care debate: medicine, research and cure. Some of her favorite words came from Delta Airlines which announced it will not permit the use of cell phones aboard its flights, regardless of whether the Feds say it's okay.

Noonan's most riveting sentence of the year, spoken by a billionaire Wall Street investor: "I hate it when the market goes up. Every time I hear the stock market went up I know the guillotines are coming closer." A knowledge of the French Revolution isn't conducive to peace of mind among the privileged, maybe he shouldn't dwell on A Tale of Two Cities or spent much time with Les Miserables.

On the other hand, maybe the unnamed billionaire holds large short positions in the market. That's reason enough not to want to see the market rise.

Obamacare Premise Faulty

Harvard Business School hires top people, one of whom is Bill George, former CEO of Medtronic. He has written something sensible for Huffington Post, an otherwise suspect source to which COTTonLINE seldom links.

George's topic is the poorly designed and feebly implemented Obamacare. After summarizing the many post-debut changes and "fixes" the White House has announced, he concludes:
All these changes are exposing the flawed premise on which Obamacare is based: that the healthy young are willing to pay much more for insurance in order to support the unhealthy elderly. This policy marks the first time in U.S. history that we are asking the young to pay for the old; historically, it has always been the other way around.

All this comes at a time when youth unemployment is still in double digits and many more young people are stuck in low-paying jobs that barely enable them to make ends meet.

Don't Just Do Something, Stand There

Investor's Business Daily gives an off-beat appraisal of our "do-nothing Congress."  IBD believes that, whenever Congress does "something," it usually makes our situation worse.

The editorial concludes this Congress has done us a favor by doing very little. It is a viewpoint worth consideration; an argument for a continuation of the divided government we now have.

Political Humor Alert

Scott Johnson, writing for, describes 2013 as President Obama's "Year of Lying Dangerously." He uses the title in connection with plugging a Neil Cavuto year-end summary program for Fox Business Channel.

Obama's "Average" 2013

Instapundit Glenn Harlan Reynolds writes a column for USA Today. Today he describes his evaluation of President Obama's 2013 as "average." Then he tells a Soviet-era joke to explain what "average" means in this context:
Ivan: So how was your day?
Boris: Average.
Ivan: What do you mean, average?
Boris: Worse than yesterday, better than tomorrow. So, average.

Unless something turns around, Obama's 2013 is likely to be similarly "average": Worse than 2012, but better than 2014.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

No Way in H***

Is President Obama actually willing to bomb Iran in the event that no treaty limiting their nuclear development can be negotiated? He has repeatedly said all options (including military) are on the table.

RealClearWorld asked seven international experts who were nearly unanimous in believing the chances were somewhere between extremely unlikely and zero, zero being the implicit modal choice.

Unfortunately Iran understands Obama's unwillingness, which makes his saber-rattling an empty threat. "Empty" is exactly what a nation does not want its threat to appear, when engaged in high-stakes adversarial negotiations.

Ducking the Issue

Not all of the good columnists write for big papers or well-known websites. A case in point, Frank Miele writes for the Daily Inter-Lake of Kalispell, MT. Links to his columns often appear at, including the one referenced below.

Yesterday Miele wrote about the meaning of the Phil Robertson/Duck Dynasty/A&E controversy, concluding it is a flareup of our society's conflict between secular humanism and traditional values. I like what Miele said about the Robertson/A&E relationship:
In my opinion, it is obvious that Phil Robertson can say anything he wants, but it is also obvious that A&E has a right to tell him to take a hike. Most liberals don’t agree with the first premise, and most conservatives don’t agree with the second premise, but hopefully there are some libertarians out there who will agree with both.
Does that make me a "libertarian?" Not entirely, just a life-long Management professor supporting management's right to run its business and stand or fall on the success or failure thereof. See what I wrote for COTTonLINE two days ago:
Robertson has a right to his opinions. A&E has a right to decide those opinions are toxic and not permitted on their platform. 
It feels like I'm in good company here, with Miele. Check out the rest of his column.

Tribalism in South Sudan

The Dinka and Nuer tribes, major forces in the new nation of South Sudan, are at each other's throats ... again. See the Reuters article on the Yahoo News site for details.

Tribalism is a major threat to nationhood, particularly in Africa. It is also a problem in China, India, and Andean Latin America.

U.S. Counterinsurgency Aid in Colombia

Smart bombs, with GPS guidance, and signals intercept decoding have been important ways in which the U.S. helped Colombia substantially suppress the activities of its terrorist rebels in the FARC and ELN. See a substantial Washington Post article for details and a timeline.

Welcome Aboard

Tuesday I complained about The Washington Post calling people who opposed recent activities in Washington "haters." I'm happy to see that the good folk at Breitbart Big Journalism also find it offensive.

So does Scott Rasmussen; writing for the Rasmussen Media Group website, he opines:
What troubles me more than the performance of Congress, though, is how the Washington Post came up with the designation of Haters. Was it an unconscious mistake or a deliberate attempt to stigmatize those who don't share the political class worldview?
WaPo appears to be deliberately pandering to the local audience of politicians, public employees and associated hangers-on, to whom the "hater" designation would be pitch perfect.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Welcome Winter

Winter officially arrived this morning at 0911 PST. Beginning tomorrow the days start to get longer, the nights shorter. It's an arc that takes roughly 182.5 days to complete, ending with the onset of summer.

Here's a lovely thought ... there is nothing Washington can possibly do to screw it up. Whatever we do or don't do, summer will arrive on June 21 regardless. Can you sense our insignificance in the face of such inexorability?

Friday, December 20, 2013


The most optimistic thing I've read recently is from an article in The Current about trepanning (i.e., cutting holes in skulls) done by pre-Columbian healers in Andean South America. Danielle Kurin, UCSB bioarcheologist, tells an interviewer:
We shouldn’t look at a state of collapse as the beginning of a ‘dark age,’ but rather view it as an era that breeds resilience and foments stunning innovation within the population.
The collapse Kurin refers to is the fall of the Wari empire in what today is Peru. Hat tip to RealClearScience for the link to The Current, a publication of the University of California at Santa Barbara.

Men Oppose Obama

Kevin D. Williamson writes for National Review; unsurprisingly he doesn't think much of President Obama. His topic today is the President's poor showing with men, see what he writes:
President Barack Obama has never been a man’s man, or, more precisely, a men’s man. In 2008 he failed to win a majority of men’s votes, and in 2012 he lost men decisively. (snip) In the most recent Quinnipiac poll, men report disapproval of the president by a more than 2-to-1 margin.
Williamson asks why this disparity and suggests an answer:
President Obama lost white men without college degrees by 31 points last time around. It may be the case that men see Barack Obama as a kind of romantic competitor — not the man himself, but the vision of government he stands for. The more the state steps into the role of provider, the less men have to offer in that capacity. This is especially true of men with modest earnings potential.
Meanwhile marriage continues to decline among those without baccalaureate degrees.

Review: Celtic Women Christmas Special on PBS

During a recent pledge week our PBS station ran a Celtic Women Christmas Special. I hope you got a chance to see it. I've watched it twice ... it was that good.

Some Celtic music can be repetitive, this is not. Here the women sing mostly the Christmas carols we all love and do it beautifully. A Celtic flavor is definitely present, but understated. See the program if you can.

About the Duck Dynasty Suspension

If you haven't been following the uproar over comments made by A&E's Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson to an interviewer from GQ Magazine, I've found an article which summarizes what happened, what he said, who has weighed in on the issues raised, etc. See this Washington Post blog for the lowdown.

I only learned one new thing from the blog post: Phil was a college starting quarterback and teammate of Terry Bradshaw at Louisiana Tech. That must be why several of Phil's comments sound like they were written by Dan Jenkins for characters in his Semi-Tough: A Novel.

Robertson has a right to his opinions. A&E has a right to decide those opinions are toxic and not permitted on their platform. This highlights a problem with so-called reality shows, many real people don't hold politically correct opinions.

Self-censorship - understanding which opinions can be safely shared and which must remain private - requires considerable self-awareness as well as awareness of what is (or is not) PC. Finally, it requires one to prioritize appearing PC over telling the truth as one understands it.

As a conservative professor at a liberal university, I got lots of practice at self-censorship.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

U.K. to Vote on Leaving E.U.

If you've been following the simmering question in the U.K. of whether it should remain within the European Union, it appears the answer will be delivered by a direct plebiscite. See a column in The Telegraph by Daniel Hannan for details.

The downside of the approach planned is that whatever is decided won't come to pass before 2017 at the earliest. That is a long time to wait, but perhaps momentous things shouldn't be rushed.

Huckabee in 2016?

Former governor Mike Huckabee is considering a run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016. According to an article in The National Interest, he leads better known possibles in the early caucus state of Iowa.

I have no idea whether he (a) will run or (b) could win if he did run. What I know is that I watched him run in 2008 and thought, "this man is the best natural campaigner in the GOP."

Huck comes across as the opposite of a stuffed shirt, the opposite of an empty suit; in a word he is "real." Some of these platform skills may come from his background as an ordained Southern Baptist minister.

Unlike '08, Huckabee now has name and face recognition via his TV hosting work for Fox News and his radio talk show. He is popular with the social conservative, evangelical wing of the GOP, not so much with the party's libertarians and fiscal conservatives.

Coulter Nails It, Again

When Ann Coulter is on her game, few can top her. In this column for she cleanly skewers Democrats for being unwilling to see mental illness as the common denominator in all mass shootings. See what Ann writes:
Liberals are so determined not to stigmatize anybody that their solution is always to make all of society suffer instead:
  • To avoid hurting Muslims' feelings, everyone has to strip to his underwear at the airport.
  • So no one feels excluded, we're not allowed to say "Merry Christmas!"
  • To avoid singling out gays, the government and media lied to Americans for a decade about the coming explosion of heterosexual AIDS. (We're still waiting.)
  • To stop people from noticing patterns, the media bend over backward to avoid telling us the race of dangerous criminals on the loose.
  • To prevent hurt feelings, everybody gets an "A."
  • And to avoid "stigmatizing" the mentally ill, society has to live with the occasional mass murder.
Imagine if the Humane Society insisted that rabid dogs have a perfect right to run free, even if the occasional human gets bitten. The violent mentally ill are the human equivalent of rabid dogs, albeit more dangerous. Coulter's entire column is very worth reading.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The A-10 Warthog's Ancestors

Ironically named War Is Boring carries an article about the two World War II ground attack aircraft that inspired the design of the A-10. They were the German Stuka and the Soviet Sturmovik.

The Luftwaffe's Junkers 87 Stuka with its dive siren and fixed landing gear is unquestionably the more well-known of the pair. Likely the more important of the two was the Ilyushin 2 Sturmovik, the most prolific warplane ever with 36,000 built. Both were fearsome tank busters and tough, flexible, rugged aircraft that operated from dirt fields near the front lines.

Political Correctness vs. Honest Science

An article about science results that run afoul of the diktats of political correctness appears in The American, a publication of the American Enterprise Institute. It reminds me of a story told in confidence by a college friend.

Bill did a Ph.D. in psychology at the University of California. As a grad student at Berkeley he worked on a study of IQ in young children.

It was a cleverly designed study using non-verbal measures closely correlated with IQ to control for socioeconomic and cultural biasing effects. The research team wanted to show that group differences in IQ are an artifact of culturally biased written IQ tests, that by using non-verbal measures group differences disappear.

The study collected whole file cabinets of data over several years which, when analyzed, produced the "wrong" (i.e., politically incorrect) results. The Asian kids had the highest average IQs, followed by the white kids, followed by the Hispanic kids, with black kids having the lowest average. And they found this using non-verbal, culturally neutral measures and data collectors representing all four groups.

Understanding how much hate and grief the findings would bring down if published, the U.C. professor(s) running the study destroyed the data and tried to forget the years of wasted effort. Score: political correctness 1, science 0.

Bill died young over ten years ago, a cancer victim. It feels okay sharing his experience, after keeping it quiet for 30+ years.

The Winds of Change

Yesterday we wrote about religion on a decline in the U.S. based on Harris poll findings. Today there are Pew Research poll findings that support this view, as reported in the Washington Times:
Nine out of 10 Americans do Christmas and three-quarters believe in the biblical account of Jesus'  birth — but only a little more than half actually regard the holiday primarily as a religious celebration. More than one-third say it’s more a cultural holiday. 
Regardless of one's faith or lack thereof, Christmas is a fun holiday with great decorations, beautiful music, presents, parties, smiling friends and family ... what's not to like?

Playing Hardball

National Review's John Fund posts a vivid description of a TV attack ad seeking to unseat Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH):
The ad begins with footage of Shaheen on the Senate floor echoing President Obama by saying, “if you like your insurance you can keep it.” An overlay graphic points out that Obama was given the “Lie of the Year” award from a fact-checking group for that whopper.

The ad then shifts to a local focus: It notes 20,000 people in New Hampshire have lost their insurance to date and that Obamacare exchanges offer only a single provider on the state’s individual market.

The ad ends with a zinger sign-off: “Next November, if you like your senator, you can keep her. If not, you know what to do.
Fund then quotes the Washington Post's political blogger Chris Cillizza:
You have a very scary situation for Shaheen — and any other Democrat, which is almost all of them, on the record supporting the ACA. Get used to this ad. You are going to see it thousands of times — in various forms — before 2014 is over.
Golly, I hope Cillizza is correct. The dopes who advocated and voted for that wildly unpopular turkey need to be turned out of office.

Guam Not Ready

Breaking Defense writes an article entitled "Guam Not Ready for 5,000 More Marines: GAO." COTTonLINE's response: no kidding.

I've got two problems with the article, the first is that its author's grasp of geography is lacking. Freedburg writes: "Guam is America’s unsinkable aircraft carrier in the South Pacific." Nonsense, the South Pacific is south of the Equator, Guam is north of the Equator, which is to say in the southern reaches of the North Pacific. Don't take my word, check Google Maps.

Secondly, Guam on its own is never ready for anything except a party or fiesta. The civilian government of Guam is very nearly helpless, stumbling from crisis to crisis. Guamanians, aka Chamorros, are warm, wonderful, hospitable people with almost no talent whatsoever for bureaucracy. Guam is the only place I have ever lived where school bus driver was a career position, a political patronage position.

If Guam is to be ready to handle the Marines and their dependents, it is up to the U.S. Navy to be certain the needed preparations have been made. Anyone who's lived there will tell you relying on GovGuam is a non-starter.

Noonan on Obama's 2013

Peggy Noonan's Wall Street Journal blog summarizes President Obama's 2013 with a one word title: "Incompetence." I agree.

She lays out the specifics and makes an insightful diagosis: the Obama White House mistakes communicating for doing, mistakes how things look for how they are. A little of this goes a long way.

Good News, Good Journalism

Reacting to the same Washington Post/ABC News poll mentioned earlier this evening, Dan Balz and Scott Clement write:
In general the findings reinforce the perceptions of a president in trouble. On several key measures, Obama has lost significant ground to his Republican opponents in Congress.

On the question of who is seen as better able to handle the country’s main problems, Obama and Republicans are tied at 41 percent. A year ago, the president’s advantage was 15 points and at this stage in 2010 it was still five points.

Obama also has lost the lead he enjoyed on who could better deal with the economy. Today Republicans are at 45 percent to Obama’s 41 percent. Last year at this time, it was Obama at 54 percent and congressional Republicans at 36 percent.
Demonstrating, I suppose, that it is nearly impossible to fool most of the people most of the time.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Essential Health Care Article

Writing for Fox News, Michael S. Bernstam of the Hoover Institution lays out exactly why Obamacare cannot function as designed:
There is one thing that a health care system cannot be. It cannot be everything for everyone. It cannot simultaneously be 1) universal, 2) comprehensive, and 3) affordable.This is the impossible trinity of objectives.
Bernstam looks at governmental attempts to provide universal health care throughout the developed world, he finds none of them accomplish more than two of the objectives.

A system may be universal and affordable, but then will ration care - not be comprehensive. Or it may be comprehensive and affordable but not universal - only available to those who can afford it. Attempts to be both universal and comprehensive, to offer everything to everybody, are never affordable and basically don't happen.

If you only read one policy article about health care funding, this should be it.

Good News, Bad Journalism

The news is good. A Washington Post/ABC News poll finds those who dislike all of official Washington - people whom the authors of the blog post call "haters" - will tend to vote GOP in the 2014 House elections.

Labeling sensible people who disapprove of their dysfunctional government as "haters" shows the authors themselves to be haters of anyone likely to vote GOP.  A less value-laden term like "the disaffected" would have been better journalism and would have protected Chris Cillizza's reputation, since it is his blog that hosts the "hateful" post.

Allow an Ally to Save Face

Police arrested an Indian consular official and treated her as a common criminal, which arguably she may be. Perhaps they were legally within their rights, but was it smart to embarrass India? I think not.

I would have declared her persona non grata and quietly sent her home, while making it perfectly, albeit privately, clear to India's Foreign Office why the action was taken and how any future offenders would also be ejected. See this Slate article for details of the case.

Cloture Achieved

On Saturday we noted the next step in approving the Ryan-Murray budget compromise was the Senate finding 60 votes to cut off debate. Sixty-seven voted for cloture so the bill will pass when it comes to an up-down vote, probably tomorrow. See an article for RealClearPolitics with details and back story.

The Tea Party declared the Ryan-Murray bill to be anathema and will try to defeat supporters thereof. Later this year we will learn whether the bill was a major factor in successful primary challenges of legislators who voted for it.

Religion Wanes in Developed Countries

Religious belief in the U.S. has declined, according to a Harris Poll reported on by Compared with a similar poll taken in 2005, belief in God declined from 82 percent to 74 percent. Over the same period, belief in Darwin's theory of evolution rose from 42 percent to 47 percent.

The U.S. seems to be traveling down the same path taken by Europe, although a much greater percentage of Europeans are among the no longer religious. Large churches in Europe have become de facto museums - essentially tourist attractions - even if services are still held for a few parishioners.

VP as Masher

Go here to see photos of Vice President Joe Biden groping the tummy of a woman reporter while they pose for photographs; The Daily Caller has the pix.

Drinking at holiday parties tends to bring out the worst in some folks. Perhaps Biden is one of them.

Chile Not Immune

With eyes wide open, and many not bothering to vote, Chileans have taken a clear step backward from the Pinochet-inspired arrangements which allowed Chile to become the:
Country that has the highest per capita income of any Latin American country.
Nations take this sort of retrograde step with some regularity, see for example the election (and reelection) of Obama in the U.S. An Agence France-Presse article at the Global Post website has the Chilean election results.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Hail to the Chief

The Washington Post's Glenn Kessler has come out with his annual Fact Checker summary: "The Biggest Pinocchios of 2013." Unsurprisingly,
President Obama ended up with three of the most misleading claims of the year. 
What were these whoppers?
1. If you like your health care plan, you can keep it.
2. Capitol Hill janitors just got a pay cut.
3. The day after Benghazi happened, I acknowledged that this was an act of terrorism.
I understood the job title to be "Commander in Chief." Obama acts as though it is "Prevaricator in Chief."

A Must Read

It isn't everyday we make reference to the work of Camille Paglia, the last time she appeared in COTTonLINE was in 2010. Today we draw your attention to her excellent recent column for Time Magazine.

Paglia's topic is the essential, but often denigrated, role of men in today's society. She writes:
Men are absolutely indispensable right now, invisible as it is to most feminists, who seem blind to the infrastructure that makes their own work lives possible. It is overwhelmingly men who do the dirty, dangerous work of building roads, pouring concrete, laying bricks, tarring roofs, hanging electric wires, excavating natural gas and sewage lines, cutting and clearing trees, and bulldozing the landscape for housing developments.

The modern economy, with its vast production and distribution network, is a male epic, in which women have found a productive role—but women were not its author.
It makes a nice change for men to be appreciated in the media.

The March of the Seasons

Six days from now, on December 21, at 9:11 a.m. the Pacific time zone will experience the Winter Solstice, the official end of autumn. This information is courtesy of the website.

The winter solstice is the longest night and shortest day of the year, the day when the sun's daily maximum elevation in the sky is lowest. In the northern hemisphere, winter technically begins on this day, and lasts until the vernal equinox on March 20.

Early peoples celebrated the sun's seeming "decision" to stop retreating and to advance once more into the sky. COTTonLINE invites you to join us in welcoming the beginning of Sol's northward journey, which terminates on June 21 with the onset of summer.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Your Dream, My Hell

James Forsyth writes for The Spectator about two "insurgent parties" stirring the pot in the United Kingdom: the Scottish National Party and the United Kingdom Independence Party. Both are separatist.

The SNP wants to separate Scotland from the rest of the U.K. while the UKIP wants the UK to leave the European Union. Forsyth writes:
Both of these parties are nationalist — but at opposite ends of the political spectrum. The SNP is essentially a party of the left, part of its argument for independence is that a sovereign Scotland would be a more socially democratic country.

Ukip, by contrast, is of the right. Its soul is stirred by the prospect of flat taxes, a strong national defence and a tough immigration policy. The SNP’s dream of an independent Scotland with free childcare, no nuclear submarines and increased immigration is Ukip’s idea of hell.

The CA Worm Turns, Slightly

Compulsively blue California just produced poll findings that must surprise anyone who has been paying attention. Yahoo News carries an Associated Press story about a Field Poll on how Californians experience the pluses and minuses of labor unions.

The Field organization found counterintuitive results: a plurality of Californians (45%) believe unions do more harm than good, fewer (40%) believe unions do more good than harm.

One swallow does not make a spring, and one eyes-open poll report does not mean Californians are coming to their senses yet, if ever. However, COTTonLINE prefers this finding to the one taken two years ago where the numbers were reversed.

Saudi Officials' Alleged Aid in 9/11 Attack

Paul Sperry writes for the New York Post about alleged involvement of Saudi officials in support of the 9/11 World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks. Not just wealthy Saudi extremists, Sperry says consular and embassy officials served as travel agents and enablers for the al Qaeda suicide squad.

He also strongly suggests that the U.S. government, including President Bush, assisted in covering up the official Saudi role in the attack. That cover up, in the form of an unreleased, secret section of the 9/11 report, continues to date.

Let's be clear about what Sperry does and does not allege. He states as fact that consular and embassy employees and associates helped the attackers.

Sperry does not say it was the official policy of the Saudi government to support an attack in the U.S. Perhaps these individuals were "rogue" and provided the support because they supported the attacker's cause, or were bribed or blackmailed into supporting it. Hat tip to for the link.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Higher Cost Higher Ed

Thomas K. Lindsay, Director of the Center for Higher Education at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, writing for RealClearPolicy about myth and reality in higher education. First the myth:
Administrative costs have remained steady, and have not contributed to skyrocketing tuitions and student debt.
Then the reality:
Administrative expenses have exploded. Forty years ago, U.S. colleges employed more faculty than administrators. But today, teachers make up fewer than half of college employees.
I haven't made a study of the phenomenon, but I know it is definitely true at the state university where I spent most of my professorial career. In the last ten years it has added two additional Vice Presidents and many directors and coordinators of this and that.

Budget Passes House, Senate Is Next

Concerning the Ryan-Murray budget compromise, the next milestone is a cloture vote currently scheduled for Tuesday. Senate Democrats have 55 votes. They need 60 votes for cloture to cut off debate, meaning they'll need at least 5 GOP Senators to vote with them to stop the filibuster.

If Democrats can get 60 votes for cloture, debate ends and the Ryan-Murray budget passes on a simple majority vote, likely with very few GOP Senators voting for it. If not, the status quo is maintained and additional sequester cuts take effect in January.

Several GOP Senators face primary challenges by Tea Party-backed candidates who allege the incumbents are insufficiently opposed to big government spending and deficits. Senators with primary challengers are hesitant to support the budget deal. Ironically, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is one of these.

A Weak Solar Max

Which do you think has a greater impact on weather conditions on the surface of our planet: mankind or the sun? I choose the sun, which is variable in ways both predictable and otherwise. carries a story by Mike Wall reporting from the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union. Wall cites Stanford University's Leif Svalgaard on the currrent solar state-of-play:
Our star is now at "solar maximum," the peak phase of its 11-year activity cycle. But this solar max is weak, and the overall current cycle, known as Solar Cycle 24, conjures up comparisons to the famously feeble Solar Cycle 14 in the early 1900s.

The strength or weakness of a solar cycle appears to be driven by the intensity of the sun's polar magnetic field during the previous cycle.

The polar field was weak during Solar Cycle 23, so researchers suspected that Solar Cycle 24 would be underwhelming. Predictions about Solar Cycle 25 should start coming in two or three years, when the polar field reappears, Svalgaard said.
Wall has considerably more detail, adding up to factors which can have major impact on global weather conditions.

We could as easily be looking at another ice age as at global warming, who knows? Maybe all the greenhouse gases we're unquestionably putting into the skies are holding back ice.


Speaking of frozen water, it snowed in both Jerusalem and Cairo yesterday. Time Magazine reports it has been at least 100 years since snow was last seen in Cairo. According to The Washington Post, Jerusalem has the most December snow it has seen in 50 years. Global cooling, anyone?

Gallup: Immigration Not Important

Last week's Gallup poll finds 3% of respondents believe immigration is "the most important problem facing this country today." The top five responses were dissatisfaction with government, the economy in general, healthcare, unemployment, and the Federal budget deficit.

President Obama's recently identified priority for the balance of his term - the gap between rich and poor - was most important to only 2% of respondents. Assuming (a) Gallup got good data and (b) public attitudes don't change dramatically, the GOP can afford to ignore immigration reform almost indefinitely.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Why Kill His Uncle?

Were you puzzled by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un executing his uncle and mentor Jang Song Thaek? Writing for The Daily Beast, Gordon G. Chang lays out some possible reasons for the execution. For example:
Jang introduced Kim to his eventual wife, Ri Sol Ju. According to a growing number of accounts, Jang also had an affair with her.

Furthermore, there are reports that Jang and Ri were somehow involved in a sex tape. In any event, she has not been seen in public since October. Kim Kyong Hui, Kim’s aunt, supposedly approved the execution of her husband. 
This sounds like a summary of the year-long plot of a TV soap opera, or the script for a North Korean version of 24.

Media Matters Spins Own Surrender

During the Vietnam War those opposed to U.S. involvement advocated "declaring victory and going home." That was putting a positive spin on surrender.

Fast forward nearly 40 years to the present. Media Matters, a left-wing media oversight group funded by uber-troll zillionaire George Soros, has just declared victory over Fox News. It now plans to switch its attention elsewhere, to less formidable targets.

Breitbart Big Journalism reports the story, observing that Fox News continues to dominate cable news in spite of Media Matters' best efforts to dethrone it.

Twelve Intriguing Geostrategic Gestures

It is traditional at year's end to evaluate the past twelve months and declaim upon what, if anything, the year's events portend. Jon Lee Anderson has performed this service for The New Yorker, listing his 12 "most intriguing geostrategic gestures of 2013" and saying why each is important.

Most are obvious, like the opening in the relationship between the U.S. and Iran, China's declaration of a maritime air defense zone which we and our allies quickly flouted, Snowden's leaks, or Obama's decision not to become involved in Syria.

Only one of the twelve didn't make headlines in the U.S.:
6. Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega’s granting of a concession, in June, to a Chinese businessman to build a trans-Nicaraguan canal to rival Panama’s ninety-nine-year-old, American-built canal.
Another Chinese firm has already invested billions to widen the competing Panama Canal. Chinese are generously investing money earned from us throughout the Third World.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

About the Ryan-Murray Budget

What to think about the Ryan-Murray budget deal? Nobody much loves it, nobody gets most of what they want. Everybody thinks of it as "small ball."

See what Jonah Goldberg writes for National Review Online. I think his point is excellent: the Prez is in trouble with Obamacare; Congress shouldn't change the subject by arguing budget minutia.

What Is Wrong with "Prison?"

A favorite columnist, Jay Nordlinger of National Review Online, pays attention to our shared language - English. Writing about a visit to a prison, he comments:
People have come up with various euphemisms for prisons. We call them rehabilitation centers, but no one is ever rehabilitated. We call them correctional facilities, but no one is ever corrected. We call them penitentiaries, but no one is ever penitent.
We need a name that describes what prisons actually do for us: separate bad people from nice people and create an unpleasant experience for the imprisoned. If we must have a euphemism, we might call them "incarceration centers or isolation facilities."

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Erdogan's Turkey

If you have the time and interest, see a long article about the impact of the Erdogan government in Turkey for The New York Review of Books. It's the story of a government which, in the opinion of author Christopher de Bellaigue, started out positive and slowly evolved into the negative force it is today.

The article's lead sentence is prophetic:
Now, more than ever, it is harder to argue for the compatibility of political Islam and democracy.
Taken together with de Bellaigue's conclusion below, the article suggests troubles ahead for Turkey:
By picking fights with those who disagree with him and encouraging sectarianism, he (Erdogan) is condemning his country to a period of turbulence, while undermining his own reputation as a path-finding democrat in the Muslim world.
Erdogan appears to be a narcissistic politician who began to believe his own government's propaganda, resulting in delusions of grandeur and irreplaceability.

Sad Days in Mandelaville

Writing for the London Evening Standard, R. W. Johnson surveys the state of play in South Africa. He finds the legacy of Mandela's beloved African National Congress badly deteriorated; tribalism, debt, and corruption characterize today's South Africa.

South Africa is becoming more like other sub-Saharan African countries, less like an outpost of European civilization. Statisticians call this phenomenon a "reversion to the mean."

Johnson sees South Africa's government debt rating headed for junk status. Expect to see a further exodus of South African whites as the death spiral accelerates.

The View from Oz

Current tensions between China and Japan over ownership of the Senkaku Islands threaten outbreak of war. Much closer to Japan and China than to either Europe or North America, Australia's Peter Hartcher writes about the maritime confrontation for The Sydney Morning Herald.

The U.S. is bound by treaty to help Japan defend the Senkakus, something that Hartcher carefully mentions. I'm uncertain why anyone thinks our President would do more than urge restraint in the face of a kinetic Chinese threat. And, I'm certain the Chinese believe he would fold under pressure.

Viva, Zorro!

Ted Galen Carpenter writes for The National Interest about the rise of vigilante groups in Mexico. Along with the Mexican government, Carpenter takes a dim view of anti-cartel vigilantes. He brings up the "right-wing death squads" in Colombia as an example of what can go wrong.

Yet, as Carpenter points out, the cartel's vast riches enable them to continue to corrupt (or failing that, kill) government officials and police. This power makes it next to impossible for official Mexico to defeat the cartels.

The difficulty in corrupting a vigilante group is its anonymity, in not knowing who to bribe or threaten. That was always vigilante Zorro's edge, his mask. And who is to say those death squads in Colombia didn't contribute materially to the eventual pacification of the country? I'd guess they did.

More on Gerrymandering

Yesterday we wrote about the structural reasons why Congress is unlikely to take up and pass a "comprehensive" immigration bill. That is, a law which includes amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants.

By happy coincidence, today a New York Times column by John Harwood documents the very gerrymandering trend we discussed. Citing political scientist Gary Jacobson as his source, Harwood writes:
In 1986, 45 percent of all House seats were held by members whose districts had voted for the other party in the previous presidential election. That proportion fell to 26 percent by 1998 and 14 percent by 2006. Today it stands at 6 percent, or just 26 seats.
Somewhat safe seats = 94%. That is a huge decline in the degree to which House members have to worry about a successful challenge by the other party.

Today a House incumbent mostly worries about a challenge from within his/her own party. Then, every few years, the worry is about redistricting.


Fairness demands that you know Jacobson's numbers somewhat overstate the shift from competitive to safe seats. The start date (1986) he selects falls during the period when the states of the former Confederacy were shifting from solidly Democrat to solidly Republican. See what Wikipedia says about this shift:
Although Republicans won most presidential elections in Southern states starting in 1964, (snip) Democrats still had much control over Southern politics. It wasn't until the 1990s that Democratic control began to implode, starting with the elections of 1994, in which Republicans gained control of both houses of Congress.
So, southerners voted for Republican presidential candidates before they supported Republicans for seats in Congress. The seats in question were nevertheless safe, even though for several biennial cycles they voted GOP for President and Dem. for House.


Progressives and liberals allege laws requiring a government-issued picture ID to vote are racist. They call such laws an effort by conservatives to keep people of color from voting.

Apparently Nelson Mandela - noted person of color - didn't agree. See his photo at the Independent Journalism Review website, hat tip to for the link.

Mandela models a get-out-the-vote T-shirt imprinted with the African National Congress logo and the words: "Get an ID. Register. Vote."

Textbook Example of RINO

Ever since Colin Powell endorsed Barack Obama for President in both 2008 and 2012, it has been clear that his claims to be a Republican were nonsense. Now he is on record endorsing single-payer health care for the U.S., see a U.S. News & World Report article for details.

Powell endorses Democrats, speaks out in favor of socialized health care, and claims to be a Republican. Powell fails the "duck" test: if a creature waddles, swims and quacks, it's a duck; regardless of what it may claim.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Ratings Continue to Drop

President Obama's approval ratings continue to fall. Time Magazine reports the findings of a Quinnipiac University poll: the president's approval rating is 38% and his disapproval rating is 58%.

This month's approval rating is one percent lower than last month's 39%. If Barry O. isn't careful, he'll end up as unpopular as his widely disliked predecessor - George W. Bush.

Disinterest in Amnesty

Dana Milbank writes politics for The Washington Post, here he focuses on the GOP's unwillingness to tackle "comprehensive" immigration reform, aka amnesty for illegal immigrants. He only alludes in passing to why they are unwilling, so let's make it explicit.

Most House members represent so-called "safe districts," districts in which one party is almost guaranteed to win. Therefore, most House members are only concerned about primary challenges by other members of their own party.

Who votes in primary elections? Typically the most motivated (i.e., extreme) members of each party vote in primary elections. These are exactly the voters who are willing to punish incumbents for across-the-aisle collaboration or ideological impurity.

GOP House members know their mostly white constituents disapprove of "comprehensive" immigration reform, or amnesty. Self-preservation suggests GOP members have nothing to do with amnesty, lest they face a primary challenge by someone who will hold their pro-amnesty vote against them.

Political gurus like Milbank argue the GOP must find a way to "make peace" with Hispanics in order to win presidential elections. Gerrymandered "safe" House districts make this outcome extraordinarily difficult, and unlikely.

Not Bad Odds

The Associated Press reports the results of a survey of affluence in America:
Fully 20 percent of U.S. adults become rich for parts of their lives, wielding extensive influence over America's economy and politics, according to new survey data. These "new rich," made up largely of older professionals, working married couples and more educated singles, are becoming politically influential, and economists say their capacity to spend is key to the U.S. economic recovery.
The political implications of this statistic are immense. It negates the notion, beloved on the left, that upward mobility is no longer possible for Americans.

Upward mobility is difficult-to-impossible for high school dropouts, convicted felons and other screw-ups; and it's likely to stay that way. People with a degree in a feasible career field - business, engineering, teaching, computers, medicine - have a much better than 1 in 5 chance of earning a comfortable living and being upwardly mobile.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Seasonal Pix

The other DrC has some very nice seasonal photos on her blog, see them at

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Vladimir Is Falling Down, Falling Down, Falling Down ....

Global Post reports anti-government, anti-Russia protestors in Ukraine have toppled a statue of Vladimir Lenin that stood in a central square in the capital, Kiev. The last time we saw this sort of thing it was when Communism fell in Eastern Europe.

It was good news then, it is good news now. Let's hope it doesn't lead to a Russian invasion of Ukraine, which somewhat similar acts caused in the former soviet "republic" of Georgia (now an independent nation).

Weird Social Science Humor

According to the Goodstuffs Cyber World blog, the appropriate metric for level of narcissism is the number of selfies taken per hour:
N = S/h. 
Hat tip to Instapundit for the link.

Weird Allergy Science

Good news, hay fever sufferers, the Food and Drug Administration appears to be ready to approve two allergy treatments that don't involve injections. The New York Times reports the new drugs are given sublingually, administered under the tongue in order to be absorbed through the mucosa directly into the bloodstream.

The first two drugs treat only grass allergies, however it appears other drugs to deal with ragweed and animal dander may be in the pipeline. Allergy doctors' elaborate desensitization shot clinics are potential casualties.

Grade Inflation at Harvard

Student grades at supposedly "elite" Harvard are a joke! It is being reported that the most common or modal grade is the A and the median grade is A-. Talk about grade inflation, this is ridiculous. See the story at Breitbart Big Government.

In thirty years in the business, I was never that lenient in graduate seminars, much less with undergraduates. Where is the discrimination? How is there a distinction made between merely good work, and outstanding work? There are always students who don't do the work, or do it poorly.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Pregnancy Rate Drops

CBS News reports the pregnancy rate for American women was at a 12 year low in 2009. Apparently no more recent data is available. Teen pregnancy is down, too.

Pregnancy rates only increased for women over age 30, the so-called "ticking biological clock" group. It looks like the "birth dearth" from Europe and Japan has arrived in the States.

Send the Legion

Freddy Gray writes for The Spectator (U.K.) that France has become the new go-to nation for sending peace-keepers to world trouble spots, a real favorite with neocons who once called the French "cheese-eating surrender monkeys." That was then, now is another story entirely.

Nowhere in his long peroration does Gray mention the advantage France has in its eight regiments of la legion etrangere francaise, the French Foreign Legion. However much Gray may wish to ignore it, the Legion has long been France's "gendarme d’Afrique," ideal for keeping former colonies in line.

Mandela No Saint

We honor Nelson Mandela for what he did and, more importantly, what he did not do in South Africa. He managed the transition from white minority rule to black majority rule without excessive bloodshed and rancor - a huge achievement.

On the other hand, eulogies of Mandela make him out to be very nearly a saint ... which he was not. He rarely met a Communist with whom he didn't feel an instinctive bond of comradeship and solidarity.

Andrew Kacyznski has assembled for BuzzFeed seven Mandela quotes that show him to be a not-friend of the United States. Here are four egregious examples:
If there is a country that has committed unspeakable atrocities in the world, it is the United States of America. They don’t care for human beings. (

All that (Mr. Bush) wants is Iraqi oil. (

We admire the sacrifices of the Cuban people in maintaining their independence and sovereignty in the face of the vicious imperialist-orquestrated (sic) campaign to destroy the impressive gain made in the Cuban Revolution. … Long live the Cuban Revolution. Long live comrade Fidel Castro. (

The attitude of the United States of America is a threat to world peace. (

Remember Pearl Harbor

In 1941, early on Sunday morning, December 7, the aircraft of the Empire of Japan bombed Hickam Field, the naval base at Pearl Harbor, and those elements of the Pacific Fleet which were in harbor. Today we remember what Roosevelt called this "date which will live in infamy."

Attacking with no declaration of war, the Japanese sunk many large ships, destroyed planes of the Army Air Corps mostly on the ground, and killed and wounded thousands of men. A cowardly attack - the equivalent of a sucker punch - it was a tactical success but an enormous strategic blunder.

During the war that followed the Japanese went out of their way to be brutal when it served no military purpose, examples include the Bataan death march, enslaved "comfort women" and the Nanjing massacre.

After being lauded as "Japan, Inc." in the 1980s, Japan slipped into economic doldrums from which it seemingly cannot extricate itself. Its population experiences negative growth and its young people avoid interpersonal sexual relations - very bizarre stuff.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Dems Risk Losing White Women

Kaiser Family Foundation polling, reported in National Journal, finds women are becoming very angry about Obamacare. This is particularly true for blue-collar women, so-called "waitress moms."

As Democrats rely heavily on women's votes, this anger is a problem for them and an opportunity for Republicans. Two key points from the article:
According to Kaiser, 40 percent of college-educated white women hold a “very unfavorable” view of the law—10 points higher than a month ago.

Democrats should be far more worried about white women who do not have a higher education. (snip) In the latest Kaiser poll, 50 percent have a “very unfavorable” view of the law—9 points higher than in October.

Quote of the Day

Kevin D. Williamson, about the difference between liberals and conservatives, taken from his new book The End Is Near and It's Going to Be Awesome: How Going Broke Will Leave America Richer, Happier, and More Secure, as quoted by Jay Nordlinger in Part II of his National Review Online review.
A wise man once remarked that the difference between liberals and conservatives is their reaction to the word "public" — when liberals hear the word public they think "public television," and when conservatives hear the word public, they think "public toilet."

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Nelson Mandela

CNN reports former South African President Nelson Mandela has died, at age 95. After spending 27 years in prison as an agitator for black rule, Mandela became the first post-apartheid president of the Union of South Africa (the other USA).

He is renowned for taking a conciliatory stance toward his nation's white minority, putting the good of the nation ahead of any need for retribution. A century from now it is likely Mandela's stature will equal or surpass that of India's Mohandas Gandhi.

A Political Subtext of the Hunger Games?

The Washington Times reports a left-wing youth organization is trying to make of the Hunger Games trilogy a jeremiad on income inequality. To be sure, the Hunger Games' dystopian nation Panem has vast income inequality.

Panem also has a totalitarian government, which the films remind us is "the real enemy." An American can see the books as a sort of parable based on how the Reconstruction Era in our former Confederate States might look if it happened in the 2060s instead of the 1860s.

A European might see another parallel - the way the victors dealt with loser Germany following World War I. The Treaty of Versailles handled Germany the way Panem's capital treats the 12 rebellious districts, minus the levy of young gladiators. Many blame Versailles for enabling Hitler and triggering World War II, just as Panem's treatment of the districts eventually triggers a second rebellion.

What the Hunger Games books and films really are is good entertainment. Trying to make them vehicles for political and economic messages is the equivalent of looking at Rorschach ink blots and seeing there what you wish to see.

Coulter: Knockout Game Excuses

See what Townhall's Ann Coulter writes about the black-on-white knockout game and the MSM's truly awful way of excusing it. Then she talks real causes and, in my opinion, nails at least part of it.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Weird Epidemiological Science

Researchers studied the health records of 45,000 Danish women. They learned women infected with the parasite toxoplasma gondii, normally carried by and caught from pet cats, were 50% more likely to commit suicide, often by violent means. Causality is implied but not proven.

The Global Post article doesn't say there is a treatment for toxoplasma gondii. Be careful cleaning kitty's litter box, rubber gloves are indicated. The parasite is said to cause changes in the human brain ... gross.

A Paean to Lima, Peru

Global Post loves Lima, Peru. Their Simeon Tegel has assembled a picture album  entitled "19 Reasons You Should Probably Up and Move to Lima, Peru." He shows a number of things I fondly remember from Lima; it's a darned impressive third world city. One thing he left out - the Pisco Sour - Peru's delicious national drink.

I particularly liked the Miraflores District where we stayed. My memories of Lima are pleasant, especially considering much of the time I was sick with dysentery caught in the Iquitos region on the Peruvian Amazon River. It took me 6-8 weeks back home to wear out that gut bug, drugs didn't help.

The CA county health department couldn't diagnose it. They laughed when I told them where I'd caught it, said it could be any one of hundreds of different pathogens for which they have no test.

Also in Peru, if you haven't seen Machu Picchu, and can get there on a pretty day, it is a stunner. A spectacular setting for an amazingly preserved Inca city. It is as close to Shangri La as you'll ever see in person, put it on your bucket list.

"Moderate" a Losing Strategy

Thomas B. Edsall reports for The New York Times on political science research findings which strongly suggest that earlier identification of a large group of "moderate" voters was greatly overstated. The reason: this group that was neither liberal nor conservative lumped together true moderates, populists, and libertarians.

The political group data look like this:
Liberals             19%
Populists           11%
Moderates         21%
Libertarians       22%
Conservatives   27%

Populists are conservative socially and liberal economically. Libertarians are just the reverse: conservative economically and liberal socially. True moderates take middle-of-the-road views about many issues.

Because of the conflicting values of populists and libertarians, luring both into a centerist party is a nonstarter. The values of each are anathema to the other.

A fruitful area of political science investigation would be to discover how libertarians and populists decide upon which aspect of their beliefs to vote, and under what conditions. For example, do they emphasize the economic when the economy is hurting or the social when their values are threatened?


Maybe there are more than five groups. Suppose there are at least two subgroups of libertarians: one being liberals who are stingy and another being conservatives who want the government to leave people alone? Or two subgroups of populists: one of conservatives who need a government handout and another of liberals who are also religious?

The possible slicing and dicing of the electorate is almost limitless. In places like Italy and Israel, a separate political party exists for every distinct constellation of beliefs; thus governments are awkward coalitions which are often unstable and short-lived.

Low-information Leaders

The Wall Street Journal's Peggy Noonan, blogging about the public's perception of President Obama in the wake of the Obamacare meltdown:
Commentators like to decry low-information voters—the stupid are picking our leaders. I think the real problem is low-information leaders. They have so little experience of life and have so much faith in magic—in media, in words—that they don’t understand people will get angry at you when you mislead them, and never see you the same way again.
An interesting admission from a crackerjack wordsmith and speech-writer.

More Friedman on the Middle East

The New York Times' Tom Friedman has some fun with the strained relations between Obama and Netanyahu. He writes how each is pushing the other to do things he'd rather not.

Friedman makes the valid point that Netanyahu, by being bellicose, helps the negotiations with Iran move forward. Friedman calls Bibi the "loaded pistol on the negotiating table."

Friedman also says Obama has pushed Netanyahu to the negotiating table with the Palestinians. This is a place Bibi would rather not be.

Perhaps this unfriendly pushing and shoving will result in two positive outcomes, Friedman tries to be hopeful about it. A lifetime of watching the Middle East suggests to me the odds there are never in your favor (paraphrasing a Hunger Games slogan).

I cannot see how a coalition Israeli government can meet the Palestinians' minimum demands. Israel's highly fragmented political parties give ultra-nationalists and religious extremists veto power over government actions to limit or roll back settlements in the West Bank.

The School as Factory

Think of a public school as a "factory" in which workers (teachers) turn "raw materials" (children) into a product (educated graduates) for which there is societal demand. Low test scores are a quality issue for our "factory."

When analyzing a quality issue, causes of product shortfall can be in worker motivation and ability, in quality of the raw materials, in the process design or some combination of these.

Question: Would paying K-12 teachers more raise student achievement test scores? Answer: Yes or No, it depends on who you ask. See this Yahoo News article for a discussion of the teacher pay issue. 

It is apparently true that nations with higher test scores pay their teachers more, relative to the nation's average wage. What isn't clear is the cause-and-effect relationship, if any.

Perhaps high-scoring nations are willing to pay more because their teachers accomplish more. Perhaps such nations attract more capable individuals into teaching because of higher pay. And just maybe there is no relationship whatsoever; coincidences do occur.
COTTonLINE would ask you to consider how much of the poor performance of public schools is a result of the raw materials, the students. Students from one parent homes, from non-English speaking homes, from homes where nobody cares what the child does in or out of school, make up a large proportion of the public school population.

Such students very often accomplish little in school, and pull down the school's test scores. Public schools serving this student population fill more of a warehousing function than an educational one. Can outstanding teachers create great learning outcomes in this setting? Rarely.

Increasingly parents who care about their children's schooling are finding the wherewithal to afford private schools or are home schooling. Private schools often get superior results while paying teachers less, on average, than public schools.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Isolationism at Record High

A new Pew Research Center poll conducted with the Council on Foreign Relations reports the American people are deeply disapproving of the Obama foreign policy. Two key Pew findings:
Currently, 52% say the United States “should mind its own business internationally and let other countries get along the best they can on their own.” Just 38% disagree with the statement. This is the most lopsided balance in favor of the U.S. “minding its own business” in the nearly 50-year history of the measure.

Barack Obama’s overall job approval rating has fallen over the past year, and he gets low ratings for his handling of number of foreign policy issues. His job rating is below 40% for nine of 10 foreign policy issues tested, including his overall handling of the nation’s foreign policy.
Both views have almost certainly been influenced by the COIN conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

From Miramar to the Pentagon

Hey, Top Gun fans, did you know the character Charlie played by Kelly McGillis was based on an actual woman scientist who worked at Miramar? The real deal, call sign "Legs," is Christine Fox who has just been appointed acting deputy defense secretary. See the Defense News story for details and a picture.

More on Modern Cuba

Just over a week ago I linked to an article by Michael Totten written from Cuba. Today we see another of Totten's World Affairs Journal reports from that benighted island.

His major topic today is just how impressive the architecture of Havana was once, before decades of failure-to-maintain allowed it to implode. Totten believes the grandeur that was Havana gave lie to Castro's story line of a nation of poor peasants overthrowing a small handful of oligarchs.

A city with such fine architecture would have had a substantial middle class - many people of means - before Castro drove them away or killed them. Now poverty is required by law, according to Totten. Salaries are capped and ration books are mandatory.

I'm reminded of what Soviets would say of life in the socialist paradise: "We pretend to work and they pretend to pay us."  No wonder collectivism is a guaranteed generator of poverty.

VDH: The U.S. in Retreat

Writing for National Review Online, Victor Davis Hanson takes a long, gloomy look at how the U.S. now refuses to maintain the Pax Americana that characterized international relations the post-World War Two era. I presume this makes VDH a classic neocon.
If the U.S. is either spiritually or fiscally incapable of exercising its old leadership, others will step into the vacuum. The result will not be an agreed-upon international order, but one of regional hegemons.

When the tired federal marshal is three days’ ride away, the owners of the local big spreads will decide what is and is not the law — and the vulnerable homesteaders will have to make the necessary adjustments. 
I particularly like this concluding old west metaphor. It sounds like the plot of Chisum, starring John Wayne and Forrest Tucker as the big spread owners.

Political Humor Alert

Roger L. Simon riffs for PJ Media about our current President, only partially tongue-in-cheek. His thesis: Obama is the first hippie president.
Barack Obama is not the first black president, or the first African-American president, if you prefer, but the first hippie president.

We’re talking about all of it, the whole multi-culti-missing-white-mother-vanished-Kenyan-father-anti-imperialist-America-is-always-the-enemy-and-don’t-you-forget-it-nine-yards.
Like Mark Steyn or Ann Coulter, Simon makes jokes about harsh truths.

Mutual Asian Detestation

Michael Crowley writes for Time about the hostility felt by China towards Japan, a feeling reciprocated to a considerable extent. Japan occupied much of Eastern and Southeastern Asia before and during World War Two, including Korea and much of China.

As we've noted before in this space, Japan left behind few friends in the lands they occupied. The Chinese, the Koreans, the Filipinos, even the Chamorros on Guam harbor negative feelings about Japanese rule. The one exception may be Taiwan where, for reasons unclear to me, some pro-Japanese feeling remains.

Crowley wonders if the mutual dislike felt by Chinese and Japanese can lead to war in the region? For sure, it doesn't help defuse any situations that develop.

In spite of residual anti-Japanese feelings, I believe most regional nations (except North Korea) would reluctantly side with Japan in any conflict. This because in the last decades, only China has been acting like the playground bully. It's been almost 70 years since Japan acted badly toward its neighbors.

Weird Herpetology Science

Guam has a problem with snakes - brown tree snakes that eat baby birds and eggs. An accidental import to Guam, the snakes encountered no natural predators and went wild. 

There are now millions of snakes but virtually no native birds left on Guam. NBC News reports the latest attempt at snake abatement is to bait the snakes with mice laced with acetaminophen (aka Tylenol), a drug which poisons only the snakes.

The DrsC were visiting faculty at the University of Guam for a year in the mid-1980s, and noticed this lack of birds. We spent part of Christmas break that year touring New Zealand. 

One EnZed morning we marveled at the riotous sound of hundreds of birds greeting the dawn at the top of their tiny lungs. Sadly, it's a sound not heard on Guam for decades.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Weird Political Science

Two sociologists find that parents of daughters are more likely to be Republicans than Democrats. The original research, by Dalton Conley and Emily Rauscher, is published in Sociological Forum.

Rich Morin, writing for the Pew Research Center, summarizes their findings:
Having more daughters than sons and having a daughter first significantly reduces the likelihood of Democratic identification and significantly increases the strength of Republican Party identification.

Compared to those with no daughters, parents with all daughters are 14% less likely to identify as a Democrat….[and] 11% more likely to identify as a Republican than parents with no daughters.

The daughters effect is considerably stronger among better educated and wealthier parents. (snip) Farther down the socioeconomic ladder, it weakens to statistical insignificance.
We say where you sit determines where you stand. The sex of your children is no small part of where you sit, your life circumstances, the "hand" that fate has dealt you.

The Fight for Ukraine's Soul

An interesting tug-of-war is taking place in the Ukraine. Western-leaning folks look to Europe and the EU for allies while eastern-looking citizens are nostalgic for the former close ties with oversized neighbor Russia.

Until quite recently the pro-Russia people have been on the ascendant. When President Viktor Yanukovych turned down an EU treaty many said Putin had won.

This "turn-down" caused street demonstrations in Kiev and elsewhere so massive the President had to back down. He has now asked the EU to please restart negotiations toward a treaty. See an Associated Press article on a Yahoo News website for details.

Generally, Americans (myself included) are hoping Ukraine will link up with Europe. To get a sense of how this outcome looks to Russians, try a thought experiment. Imagine next door neighbor Canada decided to pull out of NATO and form a close alliance with China. How would we feel about it? Less than pleased, I'd guess.

Just sayin' ....

A Draft Constitution for Egypt

Via Yahoo News the Associated Press reports key provisions of a new draft Egyptian constitution which, the article says, will face a referendum within 30 days. On the surface, it looks like a substantial improvement over what the prior Muslim Brotherhood-based Morsi government hoped to implement.

In third world countries, the issue often isn't the provisions of the constitution but the way they are or are not followed in practice. If Egypt's government actually lives by the constitution provisions reported by the AP, the nation should become at least as good as it was under Mubarak, perhaps much better.

If the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafi extremists are unwilling to be law-abiding citizens, if they choose instead the path of jihad against their fellow Egyptians - the Copts, the secularists, and the military - Egypt may see vast troubles, including a civil war.

Quote of the Day

British Tory Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, speaking about various types of "equality." My source is the London Evening Standard, hat tip to the Drudge Report for the link.
I think there is actually increasingly common agreement across the political spectrum you can't achieve equality of outcome, but you should be able to achieve equality of opportunity.
If opportunity is roughly equal, the rest is up to the individual's drive to take advantage of it. Determination and grit are uncommon virtues.

Film Review: Hunger Games, Catching Fire

The other DrC and I saw the second Hunger Games film last night, subtitled Catching Fire. We've listened to the three Hunger Games books on CD, and enjoyed the first film so we saw the second film in a theater.

No question the film is a Jennifer Lawrence tour de force; critics have panned Josh Hutcherson for not making more of his Peeta character in this film - I think they are wrong. His part in this film simply isn't written as big as hers - the film is about Katniss after all - but Josh does Peeta very well.

The supporting actors have much of the fun in Catching Fire. Without engaging in spoilers, know that Stanley Tucci is even more smarmy in his reprise of the Caesar Flickerman role. Donald Sutherland invests the President Snow character with a world of quiet menace and malice. This time out Elizabeth Banks makes the Effie Trinket role more human, less brittle than in the first film - but every bit as gaudy.

There were at least two places in Catching Fire that gave me a chill. One was a dramatic piece of action, another was pure symbolism, and no, I won't describe them here.

If I have a criticism of Catching Fire, it is that the film suggests a budding romance between Katniss and Gale much more so than the books ever did. I guess that's just Hollywood.

The film shares with the Harry Potter films a feeling that, if you've not read the books before seeing the film, a number of subtle allusions made on-screen will pass by unremarked, unnoticed. Think of these, I suppose, as shorthand communications between the director and fan viewers.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Unspeakable Truths

A British columnist, Rod Liddle, writes for The Spectator about true things politicians cannot say. It is the usual litany of things minorities do in Britain that frankly they shouldn't do, and about which public figures and the media are not permitted to comment in a meaningful way. If it is any comfort, we have the exact same problem here, maybe even worse.

Right now our MSM is doing its best to ignore the spreading "knockout game" of unprovoked black on white violence. Imagine how they would howl if the roles were reversed, if it were whites beating up on blacks. See what Jay Nordlinger of National Review writes about these hate crimes.

Political correctness has run amok when we cannot respond to social problems for fear of offending members of pressure groups.

Venezuela Losing Clout

Miami has been described tongue-in-cheek as the "capital" of Latin America -  cultural center of the entire Central and South American region. Writing about the region for the Miami Herald is Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Andres Oppenheimer.

Most recently Oppenheimer has written of the sharp drop-off in the influence of Venezuela throughout the region. Venezuelan President Maduro is no Hugo Chavez, and a Venezuela without oil money to buy friends is turning out to be largely friendless.

When they love you for your wealth and the money runs out, who loves ya, baby? Answer: nobody.

Friedman: Social Change Happening

When The New York Times' Tom Friedman writes about domestic matters, he is a banal leftie easily ignored. When Friedman writes about the Middle East, about which he is knowledgable, pay attention.

In yesterday's column, Friedman talks about ferment among Arabs in Middle East countries that have not had an "Arab Spring" uprising. He finds the gentle winds of social change are blowing there too, particularly among the young. In non-democratic countries of the region Friedman sees various attempts to deliver "good government," responsive to customer satisfaction.

The model is like that of Singapore. There the dynastic People's Action Party, founded by Lee Kuan Yew, continues to be reelected to lead the city-state because people are satisfied with their government's role in their lives.