Monday, March 31, 2014

No Jackalope?

RealClearScience has a series of pix entitled "These Animals Are Fake, We Wish They Weren't." I'm disappointed they totally omitted Wyoming's jackalope, a jack rabbit sprouting antelope (pronghorn) horns.

A jackalope is the supposed result of an amorous buck jack rabbit taking a fling at an antelope doe.  Taxidermy examples of jackalope decorate many Wyoming bars and guest lodges. It's a poor jack rabbit's best shot at any sort of immortality.

As opposed to the mythic jackalope, Wyoming's antelopes, technically "pronghorns," are very real, beautiful animals and the fastest land creatures in North America. Scientific name Antilocapra americana, pronghorns are hunted and the flesh is edible, but not as tasty as elk.

Wyoming hunters call them "goats" because a dressed out pronghorn carcass looks like a dressed out goat carcass. A mounted male pronghorn head makes an attractive addition to a hunter's "head wall."

Postscript: Oops, if you click on the link labeled "For even more, go to the Museum of Hoaxes' Tall Tale Creature archive." and scroll down you'll find the jackalope. I am relieved. Hat tip to the other DrC for spotting the buried link.

An 80% Chance

The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza blogs in The Fix, that John Sides calculates the GOP may have an 80% chance of taking control of the U.S. Senate in November's election. Cillizza is no conservative, citing the finding by Sides at The Monkey Cage blog must give him heartburn.

Writing today, Sides explains his conclusion:
Better candidates emerge when conditions in the country favor their party. (snip) And in 2014 — as in most midterm election years - the playing field is tilted away from the president’s party. So we should see good Republican candidates emerging.

The upshot is very good news for Republicans: As of today, this model suggests that they have more than an 80 percent chance of winning control of the Senate.
Who says Mondays can't bring good news?

More on House of Cards

I enjoyed the first season of Netflix' House of Cards miniseries. The second season ... not so much, and I've wondered why. I believe this American Thinker article by Jack Cashill may have the answer.

Cashill draws a parallel that I'm ashamed to say I'd missed until now. He suggests the Francis Underwood lead character and wife Claire are loosely based on Bill and Hillary Clinton - another charming Southern Democrat with a scheming, cold-fish wife.

Cashill's column wanders off into a clever conspiracy demi-theory concerning the altogether-too-convenient death of then-Commerce Secretary Ron Brown. Brown was found dead in an unexplained Croatian plane crash, his body appeared to have a bullet hole in the head. Shades of Vince Foster, another Clinton retainer violent death.

Whatever ... take his musings with a grain of salt, or forget them entirely. As for season two of House of Cards, perhaps what I've been reacting negatively to is the Clintonian echoes it evokes.

Some Like It Warm

The entirely predictable New York Times has an article chiding the Canadian government for its support of oil production from the Alberta oil sands. Such production could exacerbate global warming ... horrors.

Am I the only person who thinks a bit of warming might be welcome in much of beautiful-but-chilly Canada? A few degrees warmer could make habitable large swathes of that great empty land. Opening the northwest passage to regular summertime shipping is a Canadian opportunity, not a curse.

Quotes of the Day

Michael Goodwin writes for the New York Post. His current column concerns the overall lousy job our President has done for 6 years. Hat tip to Power Line blog for the link.

See Goodwin's snark regarding the Obama foreign policy:
Obama’s foreign-policy record is unblemished by success.
I also enjoyed this summary evaluation of Obama's impact:
It is impossible for a US president to be irrelevant, but Obama is testing the proposition.

Saturday, March 29, 2014


The '80s Law of Karma said essentially "what goes around comes around." Now the Obama administration is considering giving shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles to the rebels in Syria ... a really bad idea. See this Los Angeles Times article for details.

To be sure the rebels need an anti-aircraft capability to fend off Assad's choppers and planes. On the other hand, how long would it take for a few of those missiles to be smuggled into an area near an airport to shoot down civilian airliners with you or me aboard? Answer: weeks or months.

Do you doubt that al Qaeda would love to do that?  I don't.

Learn a Word: Revanchism

A word you will be hearing and reading in coming years is "revanchism." Go see how Wikipedia defines it.

I've read articles that accuse Russia, China, and al Qaeda of this motive. A good case can be made for each.

Russia = Enemy

Writing for National Review, Andrew C . McCarthy takes a dim, but realistic, view of recent Russian actions.
Today’s Russia is no Soviet Union, at least not yet. But it will grow stronger, and its behavior more provocative, until we devise economic, diplomatic, and defense policy on the assumption that it is an enemy. The longer we wait to “reset” in accordance with reality, the more painful the reckoning will be.
I don't believe Barack Obama capable of this assumption.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Taking On a Tough Subject

Chip Johnson writes a column for the San Francisco Chronicle on the subject of crime in the cross-Bay city of Oakland. The touchy issue is that a high proportion of those arrested in Oakland are black, although the city's population is only 28% black.

The brave thing Johnson does is document who is doing the crime, he reports the perps are mostly black. This causes police to pay more attention to black citizens going about their lawful pursuits. That attention causes resentment.

It's a long time ago but I remember police paying attention to me as a teenager. Mostly I was behaving myself but they knew that male teens were more likely to break laws so they watched, and I felt persecuted. Then I aged a few years, married and became essentially invisible to the police.

When you are a member of a group that does a lot of bad stuff, police are going to be suspicious even if you are as pure as the driven snow. And you'll resent it. They are behaving logically, and so are you. It is just one of those things, a sore spot in the human condition.

Dems in Doo-Doo

Howie Carr writes for the Boston Herald, here he cracks wise about the Democrats' current troubles with the law. First is his summary statement:
Right now, a crime wave is sweeping the nation, and everyone in this out-of-control mob has a D after their names, even if most of the media are loath to report it. 
Then Carr gives us details:
Last Friday, it was the speaker of the Rhode Island House of Representatives, Gordon Fox. The FBI raided his offices and home on Friday, he resigned on Saturday.
Next, the mayor of Charlotte, Patrick Cannon, another Democrat. He allegedly accepted $48,000 in bribes.
State Sen. Leland Yee of San Francisco (snip) was arrested on Wednesday, for allegedly arranging deals to procure M16s and rocket launchers to be smuggled into California.
Two-gun Yee is the third Democrat state senator to be arrested in California this week. Earlier it was state Sen. Rod Wright (perjury) and then Ron Calderon (bribery).
Carr doesn't even mention San Diego's first Democrat mayor in 20 years, Bob Filner, who pled guilty last October to felony false imprisonment and two counts of misdemeanor battery, all 3 against women.

Or Illinois state Senator Keith Farnham resigned, charged with child pornography. Or Pennsylvania state Senator LeAnna Washington charged with using government employees and equipment to do fund-raising. Or former Arkansas Treasurer Martha Shoffner convicted of federal bribery and extortion. There's more but the above suffice to establish a pattern of behavior.

I am reminded of what Michael Walsh wrote, in the person of his liberal alter ego David Kahane, Democrats "are a criminal organization masquerading as a political party." Hat tip to Ed Driscoll at PJ Media for a summary.

Asperger's Poster Boy

CBS TV carries The Big Bang Theory, one of the country's favorite TV shows both in prime time and syndication. Its Dr. Sheldon Cooper is, without question, this generation's poster boy for Asperger Syndrome. See the Wikipedia summary of Asperger symptoms:
It is characterized by qualitative impairment in social interaction, by stereotyped and restricted patterns of behavior, activities and interests, and by no clinically significant delay in cognitive development or general delay in language. Intense preoccupation with a narrow subject, one-sided verbosity, restricted prosody, and physical clumsiness are typical of the condition, but are not required for diagnosis.
That describes Sheldon, to about three decimal places. He also exhibits obsessive compulsive personality disorder or OCPD.

A Good Result

I spent my career at California State University, Chico, a public comprehensive university in northern CA, teaching business management. An outfit called has analyzed Return On Investment (ROI) for various college degrees at various schools.

Using their website, I calculated how a business grad from Chico State, would fare, compared to the 31 other public universities in CA. CSUChico ranked 7th overall and 2nd among the 23 campuses in the CSU system.

Our graduates average a 20 year net ROI of just over a half million dollars; this is an excellent outcome. I had a subjective sense we were adding value, here is evidence I was right.

Vlad the Terrible

Want to see a really downbeat assessment of Putin and his Russia? The Los Angeles Times has a column by Russian expert Leon Aron that isn't at all optimistic.

Aron sees Putin becoming another Stalin, this time with modern nuclear weapons on updated ICBMs. It is a prediction of Cold War 2.0, an outcome for which Putin appears nostalgic.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Meaning of "The"

Remember then-President Bill Clinton saying something depended on the meaning of "is?" The issue in this column for The Washington Post's The Fix is whether the preferred usage is Ukraine or the Ukraine?

Answer: best current practice is Ukraine with no "the" as a lead-in. We will try to comply, but have thought of it as "the Ukraine" seemingly forever.

Simpson Quotes

Former Wyoming Republican Senator Alan Simpson is known for folksy and colorful sayings. The Washington Post's The Fix political blog has a column of several choice ones.

In addition to those, here is my personal favorite. CBS News' Bob Schieffer asked Simpson about gun control, he replied:
How steady you hold your rifle, that's gun control in Wyoming. 
Simpson knew his constituents, control is what we do with our guns.

Weird Brain Science

A new small study published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine finds abnormalities in the brain structure of autistic children. The structures in question develop during the second or third trimesters of pregnancy. My source is an Associated Press article from Fox News.

The finding is important because the damage has occurred before the infant has been given any vaccines. I wonder what mothers breathe, eat, drink, or wear that's causing the fetal abnormality? Or is it a genetic flaw?

Weird Pool Science

Researchers have found that peeing in a swimming pool has deleterious effects and the practice should stop. See a Science Daily article for details. Hat tip to for the link.

Apparently the combination of pool chlorine and uric acid from urine combine to form, among other compounds, trichloramine (NCl 3) and cyanogen chloride (CNCl). Both are bad for human lungs and perhaps the heart and circulatory system too.

I am reminded of a cute sign I saw over a toilet in a cabana which gently chided "You wouldn't swim in our toilet, please don't pee in our pool."

Poll: Obama More Unpopular

The Washington Post reports the results of the most recent AP-GfK poll which finds President Obama's negatives at an all-time high of 59% - the percent of respondents who disapprove of Obama. Effectively, 6 of every 10 people don't approve of him, while the other 4 do think he's good.

Those numbers make running as a Democrat in November something one would rather not be required to do. WaPo adds:
Part of Obama's problems appear to be related to foreign policy: The poll shows Americans disapprove of his handling of the situation in Ukraine 57-40 and disapprove of how he handles relationships with other countries 58-40.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014


Einstein said insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. What mysterious hocus-pocus makes U.S. presidents believe they can settle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

President after president sends his secretary of state to the region to get talks started, John Kerry is only the most recent of many. We have never had much success, and won't this time.

See an article from der Spiegel about Israel's Economics Minister Naftali Bennett, a businessman-turned-politician who heads the Jewish Home party and who opposes any agreement with the Palestinians.

Bennett is firmly convinced of what Hezbollah wants: "They all still have a single goal in mind -- to kills us." Rather than acquiesce to an agreement, Bennett says he will pull his party out of Netanyahu's parliamentary coalition, causing it to lose its majority.

Quote of the Day

David Ignatius of The Washington Post, writing for RealClearPolitics about the home truth of which Russia's annexation of Crimea reminds us:
The battle for democracy is fought anew each time, and nowhere is it preordained that the good guys will win.
Amen to that.

The Dark Side Goes Hi Tech

The brave new world just got a little grimmer, not that it needed to do so or that we're happy about it. See a Popular Science article about the sophisticated radio-based communications network set up in Mexico by the Gulf cartel and the Zetas drug enforcers organization. Hat tip to RealClearWorld for the link.

The article compares the result to an effective military-style "command and control" network. It also suggests we can, in future, expect this type of system from criminal organizations that can afford it. Law enforcement must develop technology at least as good to nullify the criminal advantage so gained.

Further on Tribal Politics

The Gallup polling organization reports that seniors, those over 65, have become much more Republican than formerly. They also report that race is becoming a key factor in political orientation:
U.S. party preferences are strongly polarized along racial lines. (snip) Whites 18 to 29 are slightly Democratic, but whites in all older age groups lean Republican by 10- to 13-point margins. At the same time, nonwhites in all age groups are overwhelmingly Democratic.
Gallup concludes this trend may be evaluated 4-5 years from now:
Once Obama leaves office, his influence on party preferences among racial and age groups may become clearer, if he is succeeded by a white president from either party. Should the current trends in party preference by age persist, it suggests a political realignment among seniors has taken place. If the current trends by age shift in the other direction, it suggests the shift was temporary, likely tied to the Obama era.
Two things are going on here: seniors are becoming more Republican, and whites are becoming more Republican. The confounding factor is that 85% of seniors are white.

More on Overpayment

Last Friday I wrote about the high cost of infrastructure improvements being largely the fault of laws that require workers on federally funded projects being paid much more than other such workers in the same communities. Today comes an article in the Washington Examiner which documents the increased costs about which I wrote.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

MH370 Postscript

The new conventional wisdom is that Malaysian Airlines MH370 cruised south-southwest until it ran out of fuel hundreds of miles southwest of Perth, Australia. Whereupon it ditched in the lonely south Indian Ocean, broke up, and much of it sank.

What is unclear now, and may never be known, is why. This seems an unlikely way to commit suicide. I'd suppose a suicide would want to get it finished, not fly on for hours beyond the point of no return.

Perhaps everybody aboard was already unconscious or dead and the plane simply continued on autopilot until out of fuel. If so, by whom did the transponder get turned off?

You have to wonder will we ever know what happened? Much depends on whether the cockpit recorders, aka the black boxes, are ever recovered.

The Look of Edge of Tomorrow

I've seen the trailer for Edge of Tomorrow starring Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt. The film doesn't debut until June 6 so none of us have seen much more than that.

What strikes me is that the battle hardware the Cruise character wears looks exactly like the Mobile Infantry gear in Robert Heinlein's book Starship Trooper, complete with Y-shaped launching rack on the back.

In fact I believed it was a more-faithful remake of the Starship Trooper film until the trailer's end when they ran the title: Edge of Tomorrow. I wonder if others made this association?

Weird Ornithological Science

A Global Post article says a superabundance of lemmings last summer means more snowy owls this past winter. They've been seen much farther south than usual. In addition to population pressures, another reason the snowy owls came south might be the extreme cold of the past winter, eh?

Monday, March 24, 2014

Geopolitical Wisdom

Robert Samuelson, writing for RealClearWorld, about what we've been taught by Russia's annexation of the Crimea:
We're relearning an old lesson: History, culture, geography, religion and pride often trump economics. The nation-state remains.
That's what is wrong with economic "sanctions" used as a diplomatic lever, they often are not effective in changing behavior.

Anschluss 2.0

Neocon military historian Max Boot writes for Commentary Magazine about the danger Putin's Russia poses to the Baltic republics of Latvia and Estonia. Both have sizable ethnic Russian minorities which could provide the same rationale Putin used in Crimea, namely, the protection of Russians wherever they live.

A Russian move against either Baltic republic would directly confront NATO in ways for which it is not prepared. Paraphrasing Mr. Rogers, "Can you say anschluss?"

Quote of the Day II

Professor Fred Siegel, from his book The Revolt Against the Masses: How Liberalism Has Undermined the Middle Class, as quoted in an article in The Daily Beast:
Today’s liberal gentry see the untamed middle classes as the true enemy.
The bourgeoisie is viewed with fear and loathing in the faculty dining room.

Quote of the Day I

Marc A. Thiessen of The Washington Post comments on the Democratic attacks on Congressman Ryan for supposed "racist" ideas about poverty:
Wouldn’t it be better if there were two parties competing to find the best ways to alleviate poverty? Clearly it would be better for the poor. But it would not be better for the Democratic Party.
No kidding ... let's be clear about whose agenda is being worked here.

The Conventional Wisdom

The Mediaite site reports the following:
Nate Silver, the former New York Times statistician wunderkind who successfully predicted every state in the 2012 election and became something of an anti-anxiety pill for worried Democrats, now predicts that the GOP has a roughly 60% (chance) of retaking the Senate in the 2014 midterms.

He said his best prediction saw the GOP taking six seats, the exact number they’d need to have a one-vote majority.
The comment came in an interview on ABC News' This Week show yesterday.

Tribal Politics

The past 20 years have seen the ideological purification of both political parties. Liberal Republicans and conservative Democrats are largely history.

During the same period there has also been geographic alignment. Republicans have moved to red states and Democrats have moved to blue. Now we see a sorting by ethnicity/race, which can be thought of as the rise of tribal politics in the U.S.

The Gallup polling organization reports non-Hispanic whites have become more Republican during the Obama years. I expect this trend to intensify as a result of the 2014 election. Hat tip to the Drudge Report for the link.

There has been no corresponding political realignment among non-whites. Most already identify as Democrats, just under 70%. Slightly more than 20% of non-whites identify with the GOP, also a stable number.

The so-called party "tents" keep getting smaller, the occupants more homogeneous and more physically separated from each other. If anything, this makes intra-party fights over policy nastier and collaboration between parties tantamount to treason.

The ultimate expression of this "us vs. them" human tendency is civil war. We've already been there ... done that ... got the bloody shirt.

A Defense of Empire

Writing for The Atlantic, Stratfor's Robert D. Kaplan speaks up for the idea of imperialism. I've been wondering when someone would take the non-PC side of the argument.

It is hard to argue that the lives of most people in Africa are better off than they were when nearly the entire place was an annex of Europe. The same could be said for the former colonies in Asia.

If colonial people were not self-governing then, most of their descendants are not self-governing today. They have, however, exchanged foreign overlords for home-grown overlords who are typically, if not always, more corrupt and brutal and less competent than the Europeans they replaced.

Latin America is perhaps one region where one could argue colonialism was worse than what followed. Spaniards were looters on a grand scale and practitioners of cultural genocide.

An objective observer would have to conclude that conditions in most former colonies are no better, and often worse, than they were under imperialism.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

A Non-PC View of Social Mobility

Bloomberg's Clive Crook has written a review of economist Gregory Clark's book The Son Also Rises. This is an explosive book; Clark finds that there isn't much social mobility today, and never has been. Nor is there much in places we believe it is common, like Sweden.

Clark studies rare surnames across the centuries, small families with distinctive names, and finds their social status is remarkably stable from generation to generation, indeed century to century. Crook writes of Clark's findings:
The surname evidence asks us to believe that cultural and environmental differences don't much matter, that the advent of universal education and the modern welfare state, political upheavals, revolutions and world wars, made little difference. Through it all, social status was inherited as strongly as though it were a biological trait, like height. The surname data don't prove that genetic transmission is the main driver, but it's hard to see what else could be.

Socioeconomic status is a bundle of characteristics: income, wealth, education, profession, type of residence and so on. These individual measures are noisy. (snip) Underlying social status, the whole bundle, is much less variable, and that's what gets passed along to the next generation. So the individual measures that formed the consensus have systematically understated the real persistence of social status.
Crook concludes by expressing feelings not unlike my own:
Impressed as I am by this fascinating book, I'd love Clark to be proved wrong. And he must be wrong, mustn't he? Mobility in modern welfare-state societies is no higher than in pre-modern times? Please. Yet that's what his data -- ingeniously gathered and carefully analyzed -- seem to show. Don't tell me he's a closet racist to say these things. Tell me where his analysis went wrong.
I predict Clark's book will attract as much hate, vituperation and denunciation as Charles Murray and Richard J. Herrnstein's The Bell Curve, and for similar reasons. Because it alleges as true things we wish were not true, we are inclined to blame the messenger.

The other DrC points out to me that Clark's hypothesis may be more valid for males than for females, who have mostly tended to assume the social status of their husbands. Perhaps that is why Clark referred to "son" in his title, Crook doesn't mention gender in his review.

Where Is Inequality Worst?

COTTonLINE's favorite demographer, Joel Kotkin writes in Forbes that income inequality is greatest in large urban centers like Manhattan (NY, not KS). It is also bad in places like Appalachia, the Rio Grande valley and the southwest border region.

It turns out that suburbs - although despised by urban planners - are places with relatively little income inequality. Plus cities of modest size are often places of considerable upward mobility.

Kotkin also links to a Bloomberg review of a book which summarizes economist Gregory Clark's research into the limits on social/economic mobility. See above for my post summarizing that review.

Quote of the Day III

Victor Davis Hanson writes for PJ Media where he manages to summarize the current international situation in one sentence:
While Putin was making a premodern fool out of himself, blustering and bullying, and lying on the global stage, Barack Obama confirmed most of the Russian stereotypes that he was a postmodern metrosexual.
 Does "a postmodern metrosexual" equal an elegant wuss?

Film Review: Divergent

The other DrC and I viewed new release Divergent this afternoon. We had listened to the book on CD, last year while driving. The film is extraordinarily faithful to the book, more the exception than the rule in our experience.

Without littering the review with spoilers, let me say that the future Chicago in which the film is set is definitely dystopian. This isn't a film to see if you need uplift, sunshine, flowers, and happiness.

With that caveat, it is nevertheless enjoyable to watch. If Divergent succeeds at the box office, as it should, presumably films will be made of books II and III in author Veronica Roth's trilogy, books entitled Insurgent and Allegiant.

Quote of the Day II

Edward Luce, writing for the Financial Times about the GOP's future:
Of America’s ethnic groups, only black and Jewish voters are unshakeably Democratic.
Hispanics and particularly Asians are definitely possible future Republicans. The GOP mostly represents achievers and winners, while the Dems mostly represent non-winners and those who don't try.

Quote of the Day I

Representative Mike Rogers, speaking on NBC's Meet the Press as quoted in a New York Times article on the topic of understanding the motives of Russia's Vladimir Putin:
He goes to bed at night thinking of Peter the Great and he wakes up thinking of Stalin.
Putin mourns the lost Soviet empire and is doing what he can to reconstitute it.

Poor, Sad Jimmy

Generally, COTTonLINE is opposed to government monitoring people's phone calls, emails, texts, etc. unless a judge has ruled there is probable cause for the surveillance on criminal grounds. Then we see an article like this one at Yahoo News reporting former President Jimmy Carter believes the government is surveilling him.

Carter has cozied up to many questionable people around the country and around the world. A judge might well find probable cause to keep a weather eye on him.

Given that, Carter is probably wise to self-censor what he makes available for examination. I'm not sure why he believes his snail mail is safe from prying eyes.

Actually, all of us should assume nothing we share with another person is safe from surveillance. Be safe, friends, edit before sending.

Here's the Data

COTTonLINE has occasionally written about the serious consequences of college major choice. We've done this out of a lifetime of personal experience, less empirical than anecdotal.

To see empirical data on this issue made visual, go to this U.S. Census site: It shows clearly that some college majors accrue more than twice as much as others in lifetime earnings. Hat tip to the other DrC for the link.

As you might expect, the so-called STEM majors - science, technology, engineering, and mathematics - do very well. Business also is above-average. Liberal arts, English, psychology, communications, education, and arts are all choices leading to below-average lifetime earnings.

There is nothing wrong with choosing a major which, on average, earns less, as long as this is done knowing the likely outcome. On the other hand, later-in-life grumpiness at the resultant meager financial situation merits a Darwin Award for foot-shooting marksmanship.

Youth Emigration

Daniel Tkatch writes for The European that the continent's educated young are seriously unemployed, at rates exceeding 50% in several countries. The examples he gives include Spain, Greece, and Croatia.

Tkatch reports their response is increasingly to emigrate outside the European Union, often to Latin America in the case of Spaniards. Others migrate internally to economically successful countries: Germany, Netherlands, perhaps the United Kingdom.

Europe's loss is a gain for wherever they alight, including the U.S.

Bulgarian Troubles

Shannon Gormley writes for the Ottawa Citizen that things are not peaceful in Bulgaria. With troubles in neighboring Greece, Turkey, and nearby Ukraine roiling the region, I suppose we shouldn't be surprised that the Bulgars are rioting as well. She reports the protests have gone on for the past year.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Will: Ryan Is Correct

Reacting to the criticism that followed Rep. Paul Ryan's statement that a broken culture was at the root of inner city chaos and disfunction, Washington Post columnist George Will writes to defend Ryan and lambaste his critics.
Nicholas Eberstadt, an economist and demographer, notes that “labor force participation ratios for men in the prime of life are demonstrably lower in America than in Europe” and “a large part of the jobs problem for American men today is that of not wanting one.” Surely the fact that means-tested entitlement dependency has been destigmatized has something to do with what Eberstadt terms the “unprecedented exit from gainful work by adult men.”
"Something to do...?" More like everything to do with that exit.

WaPo Prints Propaganda

John Hinderaker of the well-respected Power Line blog caught the Washington Post printing less-than-accurate accusations against the Koch brothers, famous donors to conservative causes. Here he explores the bias demonstrated by the authors of WaPo's misleading article on the Keystone Pipeline.

To be sure, WaPo leans left but normally they are more careful of the facts than they were in this instance. The Post comes out of this dustup looking tacky.

First Amendment Good News

Townhall columnist and academic Mike Adams and I disagree as often as we agree. Nevertheless, the fact that a jury has found in his favor regarding his right to speak and write opinions that liberal colleagues on the University of North Carolina-Wilmington faculty find offensive is good news indeed.

Writing in National Review, lead attorney David French says Adams was singled out by the university's administration for "punishment" which took the form of a refusal to promote him to full professor.

On most campuses, being a conservative professor is difficult at best, and nearly impossible if one is outspoken. Preferring a quiet life, I kept my conservative views largely private. I am not proud to have done so.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Poor Detroit

A newspaperman who loves his city, Stephen Henderson writes a column for the Detroit Free-Press about just how disastrous conditions there have become. He believes Detroit has to create conditions under which middle class folks who have choices will want to live in the city.

It is a sad situation Henderson describes, perhaps hopeless. Hat tip to RealClearPolitics for the link.

Rural vs. Urban

The Wall Street Journal has a story the thrust of which is that liberal vs. conservative, Blue vs. Red areas are often urban vs. rural areas as well. The authors make the argument that rural vs. urban is perhaps the best indicator of people's political orientation.

This makes intuitive sense to me. Part of what is going on here is conservative people moving to rural areas to avoid urban pollution, traffic, crime, and taxes.

Interestingly, the authors only mention this self-sorting behavior with respect to rural young people moving to the city. They don't seem to notice older city folk moving to the country. That suggests they identify with the former, as would many journalists who as a group are almost compulsively progressive/blue/urban.

The First Step

For centuries following the fall of the Roman Empire, what we now call "Italy" was in fact a collection of city-states. Perhaps it is headed back in that direction.

Independence activists in Veneto, the Italian region where Venice is located, last week held an online poll gauging public support for a referendum on separation from Italy. Agence France-Presse reports for Yahoo News that 89% voted "yes."

The next step will be a formal referendum limited to registered voters. Italy's national government is normally so fractured it is difficult to predict how it will react.

It is also likely that these poll results will embolden the Northern League to step up separatist activities in Florence, Milan, Genoa, Bologna, Modena and Turin. Northern Italy is truly tired of "carrying" the perpetually poor region south of Naples via income transfers.

The Real Problem

Infrastructure in the U.S. - roads, bridges, dams, water and sewer systems - needs repair, replacement, and augmentation. As a CNBC article notes, few disagree with this view. What holds us back is paying for the work.

CNBC has come up with a clever-seeming approach that works for a home improvement show but won't work for infrastructure. Product placement only happens when firms need to create public awareness of their product or service.

Individuals purchase no roads, bridges, or dams; firms which build these are disinterested in free general advertising. They need to reach a very specific audience: civil engineers.

The real problem is something else entirely. Any project with federal monies involved requires all contractors and subcontractors to pay union wages. These are typically much higher than other projects pay. In many regions union wages are paid only on projects involving government money.

We could afford to fix our infrastructure cheaper and quicker if we were willing to pay market wages, whatever those are in the region. There is no particular reason most road builders should command above-market wages to lean on shovels.

Thais Divided

Global Post reports the unrest in Thailand contains the seeds of a possible civil war between the haves and the have-nots. The two groups are called the yellow shirts and the red shirts, respectively.

The current prime minister was elected by, and represents, the red shirts who are largely poor, whether rural or urban. The yellow shirts are trying to regain control of the country, they tend to be the more affluent, the royalists, and the urban elites.

Making the situation more explosive, the police side with the red shirts and the army sides with the yellow shirts. There is sub rosa talk of dividing the country like the two Koreas. The red shirt capital would be Chiang Mai, a hill station in the northern mountains. The yellow shirt capital would be Bangkok, the present capital.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Quote of the Day

The always readable, often funny Ann Coulter, writing for, about the existence of youthful libertarians in the GOP's big tent. Coulter writes why we shouldn't pay attention to them:
Being in college is like living in Disneyland.
In college you get more freedom, sex and booze than at Disneyland; the "rides" aren't as good but the lines are shorter. No wonder we loved it, in my case enough to stick around for the next 40 years.

2016 Gloom

Democrat strategist Doug Sosnik has written a long, detailed analysis of the GOP's problems vis-a-vis the 2016 presidential election for Politico Magazine. To be sure, he is looking for problems, not for opportunities, but he finds plenty of problems to talk about.

In particular Sosnik believes what the GOP does to win seats in the 2014 midterm election will further alienate voters who only turn out in presidential elections. He takes as given that the GOP has permanently lost the votes of women, youth, and minorities.

Sosnik does not consider that the Dems could lose much of the white vote that they've gotten in the past, when the party's platform is increasingly captured by minority interests and agendas. That capture is likely.

Reading this article isn't fun, but he raises issues that need to be considered.

Grim Numbers

The Associated Press reports the results of a study by three Princeton University economists who examined the outcome of long-term unemployment. Here is the key finding:
A new study documents the bleak plight of Americans who have been unemployed for more than six months: Just 11 percent of them, on average, will ever regain steady full-time work.
Because of Obamacare, there is less full-time work to be had. Entirely too many sad souls end up on disability - the new dole.

Spring Is Here, Hooray!

Spring officially arrives today. It's the vernal equinox, the day when day and night are each 12 hours. We are halfway between the beginning of winter and the beginning of summer.

Spring is an optimistic time, a time for beginnings, a time for babies of all species, a time for flowers and spring breezes and kite flying. Of course it is also a time for allergies - sneezing and runny noses.

Whatever ... let's enjoy it.

Excellent News

CBS News Money Watch reports the results of a study of which states have high taxes and which have low taxes. Hat tip to for the link. I like the study's results very much.

The five highest total tax burden states are New York, California, Nebraska, Connecticut, and Illinois. Those all are logical except NE, why are its taxes so high?

The five lowest total tax burden states are Wyoming, Alaska, Nevada, Florida, and South Dakota. The inexplicable state in that grouping is Florida, how do they get by with low taxes? I presume they're darn stingy with welfare.

I note with regret that my birth state of CA is second highest. My home state of WY has the lowest tax burden in the nation, and I love it. It's secret is low population density, few people with lots of space between them.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Sleeping with the Fishes

John Hinderaker at Power Line blog posts a Michael Ramirez political cartoon which treats Obamacare as a set of Mafia-style cement overshoes pulling a Democrat to the bottom of the sea.

Ramirez makes an iconic prediction of the results of the November election. Have a look and a snicker.

Political Humor Alert

Paul Mirengoff of Power Line blog likens a number of current politicians to people you knew in college. If you enjoyed the first batch, you can see more here. How about a couple of samples to whet your appetite?
John Kerry is the guy three years your senior to whom you looked up when you arrived at college, but within a few months realized was a windbag. Mitt Romney is the guy three years your senior whom you dismissed as a “straight-arrow” when you arrived and came to respect only after he had graduated.

Hillary Clinton is the student who crashed your circle on the heels of her popular boyfriend. She resented the circle because she thought its reluctance to admit was due her gender and/or her brains. In reality, it was due to her obnoxiousness.

Weird Characterological Science

The far-from-conservative Brookings Institution has a research report concerning a character trait positively associated with both achievement in later life and with social class for males. The trait is "An inclination to try hard, despite no obvious extrinsic motivation." In other words, the trait is intrinsic motivation.

Males from affluent homes have more of it than others. The table captioned Family Income Quintile in Adolescence shows the extent to which people from each of the income quintiles exhibit this trait. It is a "staircase" with values of 22%, 33%, 41%, 46%, and 55% for the five income quintiles, ranging from low income household to high income. No statistical test is necessary to see a strong positive correlation.

Author Richard V. Reeves shows he understands the inability of correlational studies to demonstrate causality. He indicates one or both of the following may be true: Affluence creates motivation; or motivation creates affluence.

The Real Enemy

Carlotta Gall covered Pakistan for The New York Times for 12 years. She states unequivocally that the Pakistani military's Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, the ISI, is a major supporter of the Taliban and the Haqqani Network - terrorist enemies of the U.S. in Afghanistan.

In addition, ISI was coordinating activities with al Qaeda's Osama bin Laden, prior to his death at the hands of U.S.Navy Seals. According to Ms. Gall, ISI's goal is Pakistani domination of Afghanistan following the exit of coalition forces, led by the U.S. See her conclusion:
After 13 years, more than a trillion dollars spent, 120,000 foreign troops deployed at the height of the war and tens of thousands of lives lost, Afghanistan’s predicament has not changed: It remains a weak state, prey to the ambitions of its neighbors and extremist Islamists. This is perhaps an unpopular opinion, but to pull out now is, undeniably, to leave with the job only half-done. Meanwhile, the real enemy remains at large.
Gall is very clear that our real enemy is Pakistan, which the U.S. uneasily calls an "ally."

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Bitter Humor

PJ Media's Tattler reports newly elected prime minister of Crimea Sergey Aksyonov, an ethnic Russian, Tweeted a picture of President Obama photoshopped in to the uniform of a Lt. Colonel in the FSB (successor to the KGB) with the ironic jest “I wonder, after the successful campaign of handing over the Crimea, will Barack be promoted to a colonel?

The article's author, Oleg Atbashian, explains that this is but another in a series of Russian jokes at Obama's expense, including a fake dossier page showing him as a KGB lieutenant named Boris Huseinovich Obamov, a native of Uzbekistan, working undercover as president in the United States, with the code name The White One.

Don't you wish we could joke that Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin is a CIA plant? Unfortunately, it's not believable enough to be funny.

Misleading Headline on Immigration Reform

Breitbart Big Government is today guilty of an apparently intentional misleading headline. They lead off with "Reince Priebus Claims 'Consensus' Within GOP For 'Serious Immigration Reform'" knowing full-well most of their readers do not favor amnesty and will pounce on the article as wrong-headed.

It is only when you read into the article that you find Priebus isn't in favor of amnesty. See what he is quoted as believing the Republican consensus favors:
It means border security, it means enforcement, it means legal immigration, it means E-Verify, it means a lot of things. It means guest worker programs on the border. These are all things that are accepted within the platform of the Republican party.

I can tell you what it means for me is no amnesty whatsoever. And I've never been in favor of programs that are akin to amnesty. I think sanctuary cities should be cut off from federal funding, I think we ought to secure our border. I think Congress ought to follow through on its promise in 2006 on building the border fence.
Let's suppose Republicans have majorities in both House and Senate after November, and pass something akin to the above. I'm doubtful the President will sign it.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Happy, Happy

Happy St. Patrick's Day, do try to remain sober. Avoid green beer.

We're a residential campus, not primarily a commuter school. Our university administration got tired of students drinking themselves insensate and trashing the town on St. Paddy's Day.

Wisely, they permanently moved spring break to the week that includes 17 March. Now when the students get drunk they do it at home or at some resort, not on campus. In other words, their St. Patrick's Day behavior is no longer the university's problem.

Go If You Must

I've been wondering when I would see an article from Canada saying, in effect, "you can leave if you choose, Quebec, we're tired of your whining." Here it is from the National Post.

"The rest of Canada" has bent over backwards to appease Quebec. As Neville Chamberlain learned, appeasement never works, it only whets their appetite. Now it appears many Brits have that same attitude toward the Scots.

We live in interesting times.

Ultimate Cruising

It was bound to happen, there is now a cruise ship which contains 106 apartments, 19 studio apartments, and 40 studios. It is owned by it's passengers and sails the world. And that is its name, The World.

Their website is here and a story about the ship and its passengers is here. Hat tip to Instapundit for the link. We've done a boatload of cruising (pun intended) and aren't sure we'd want to make our full-time home at sea.

It strikes me there are hidden glitches in a life with no permanent residence. How would you see a medical (or dental) specialist if you need one? What would one's U.S. tax status be? How does one get mail? Is the Internet as unsatisfactory as it typically is on regular cruise ships?

The passenger group is relatively small (estimate: 300), what if one found no congenial fellow passengers or many uncongenial ones? Since the passengers own the ship, presumably they collectively decide on its policies, etc. What sort of ugly politics does this engender, like those of a condo, coop or country club?

I think I'd rather rent space from Princess or Royal Caribbean.

Countdown to Spring

Three days and counting, spring officially arrives on March 20 this year. At that point we'll be half way between the year's shortest day, and its longest.

Further About MH370

Charlie Martin writing for PJ Media Tattler muses about the MH3370 disappearance and comes up with a scenario I hadn't seen. His idea, the plane was hijacked by Muslim Uyghurs who were headed home to China with the transponder turned off.

Suppose the Chinese spotted MH370 on primary radar, sent up fighters, and when it wouldn't communicate with them, shot it down. Then they decided shooting down a plane full of civilians, including a number of Chinese, would look ugly.

So they cleaned up the debris field and then isolated the troops who did the dirty work, after issuing a later-admitted-to-be-false claim of debris in the Gulf of Thailand to cause searchers to look in the wrong location. Martin says it sounds like the plot of a decent B movie, I don't disagree.

MH370's pilot was a fervent backer of popular Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim who earlier in the day was sentenced to prison for homosexuality, a crime in Muslim Malaysia. It is widely believed his conviction was motivated by politics.

Perhaps the pilot was concerned that as a known supporter of Ibrahim he was also at risk and decided to disappear. If he planned to land the plane safely and conceal it, this would require substantial pre-planning and coordination, of which there is no evidence as yet.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Jobs Numbers Gloomy

Edward P. Lazear, a former chair of the president's Council of Economic Advisors, writes in The Wall Street Journal that current unemployment numbers understate the real problems in employment. He focuses on the fact that the average number of hours in a work week has declined since September, such that the lost time equals the hours put in by 100,000 jobs. This is wonky stuff, not for the casual reader.

Quote of the Day

Former U.N. ambassador John Bolton, speaking on Fox News about the wisdom of sending Secretary of State John Kerry to negotiate with the Russians about Crimea:
We sent Secretary of State John Kerry to London to negotiate with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, that’s like sending a cupcake to negotiate with a steak knife.
Great imagery, my source for the quote is the Independent Journal Review.

Separatism Is On The March

Coincidentally, or otherwise, the Drudge Report tonight offers links to four different separatist movements active today at various levels. The first is an AFP story for Yahoo News on the current situation in breakaway Crimea.

The second is from Canada's National Post and concerns a referendum this weekend in Venice and the surrounding Veneto region gauging interest in a move to become independent of Italy. This one is news to me. As the story reminds us, city-state Venice was independent for centuries.

The third, from Canada's Business News Network, concerns renewed interest in independence in Quebec, after the province's Parti Quebecois Premier called a snap election for April 7. If the PQ wins a majority in the province's parliament, the so-called National Assembly, it is likely they will work toward another referendum on separation. This would be the third such, as we noted on March 14.

Drudge's fourth link is to a story in the U.K.'s The Telegraph. It examines the ramifications of a separation vote in Scotland scheduled for September, this year.

If I were given to making sweeping predictions, I'd say that the concept of national integrity was in trouble, that we are experiencing an outbreak of tribalism in otherwise developed countries. I won't go that far; I do think there is contagion where success in one region will encourage like-minded people in other regions.

I wonder if Vladimir Putin has assessed the risk he takes by heeding a change-of-sovereignty referendum in Crimea? What if the Chechens hold a referendum and want to leave Russia? Maybe the Cossacks also would like to exit?

Asians Against Affirmative Action

Four days ago COTTonLINE wrote about Asian parents opposing a constitutional amendment being pushed by Democrats to overturn Prop. 209's ban on race-based admissions at state universities. Today The Daily Caller wonders if this may not pose an opportunity for Republicans to split off Asians from the Obama coalition of self-identified victims.

While both Asians and Hispanics favor immigration liberalization, they fundamentally disagree on the need for affirmative action quotas in higher education. Meanwhile, another group in Obama's coalition - blacks - oppose immigration but favor affirmative action.

Affirmative action quotas will result in many fewer Asian youngsters being admitted to California's state universities than are currently enrolled, whereas the number of Hispanics and blacks might double or triple. Democrats in California are learning what happens to a party whose tent becomes too big ... internal dissent, factions in conflict.

Crimea's Unpleasant Reality

Not that I'm in favor of Russia grabbing Crimea, but facts are facts. Three facts are not much in dispute. Fact one: Joseph Stalin ethnically cleansed Crimea in 1944, internally exiling all non-Russians to Central Asia.

Fact two: Crimea was a part of Russia from the late 1700s until 1954 when its administration was internally transferred to Ukraine by Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, himself a Ukrainian. Fact three: most current residents of Crimea think of themselves as Russians, not as Ukrainians.

Add to the above the long-time Soviet/Russian military and naval presence in Crimea. Crimea is home to the Russian navy's Black Sea fleet and its only warm water port.

Given these undisputed facts, it is difficult to argue that the people of Crimea cannot self-determine to reaffiliate with Russia.

Countdown, Continued

There are only four days of official winter left, although whether the weather pays any attention to the vernal or spring equinox varies from place to place and year to year. As we noted yesterday, spring is already open for business in northern California.

An early spring is normal here, the almond (locally pronounced "ä-mun") trees typically blossom in mid February. On the other hand, spring comes late in the high country of western Wyoming and fall there comes early, easily 6 weeks before it arrives in CA.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Review: House of Cards, Season Two

The other DrC and I have watched the first four episodes of the second season of Kevin Spacey's American version of House of Cards. It is as good as the first season, which was very good indeed.

Politicians playing "hardball" are fun to watch. You come away with the strong feeling that it's a league in which you'd rather not play. The drawback to this series is that you have to subscribe to Netflix to view it.

The series upside is that they released all this season's episodes at one time, facilitating "binge viewing." We've been rationing ourselves to two episodes per evening.

Political Humor Alert

Appearing on Fox News' O'Reilly Factor, comedian Dennis Miller ridiculed California Senator Barbara Boxer's participation in the Democrats' Senate Global Warming all-nighter - as reported by Breitbart TV:
She is an idiot. She is bat guano crazy. She sleeps upside-down. If she thinks there is global warming that is enough of a reason for me to not think there is global warming. (snip) We should be ashamed of ourselves for the leaders we pick in this world. 
I love it when funny is also accurate.

MoDo: Obama's Weak

The New York Times' snarkmistress Maureen Dowd writes that Democrats are fearful about 2014. She believes Obama is the problem:
Governing through executive order isn’t a sign of strength. It’s a sign of weakness. And it’s that weakness that has Democrats scared to death.
Let's hope she's correct for a change. 


Including today, there are only five days of winter left. The spring equinox arrives at 16:57 GMT on March 20 this year, and the three months of our northern hemisphere spring officially begins at that time.

BTW, it already feels like spring in Northern CA. Yesterday was beautiful, I was comfortable outdoors in short sleeves.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Lives On Hold

Washington Post opinion writer Dana Milbank has a column about how Obama has lost the support of millions of Millennials who voted for him once or twice. Milbank attributes this to short attention span, lack of institutional commitment, and failure of the Obama White House to keep working with young voters.

I think Milbank overlooks the most important reason: millions of Millennials are unemployed and many more are underemployed, working less than full-time or at a job for which they are overqualified, or both. As a result record numbers live with parent(s) because they cannot afford their own place.

It is no longer credible to blame ex-President Bush for their inability to get on with their lives. The most recent 5+ years have been on Obama's failed watch.

Frog Went A-Courtin'

Canada's version of Rupert Murdoch, media mogul Pierre Karl Peladeau has decided to run for office under the banner of the Parti Quebecois separatists. This raises the possibility of another referendum on Quebec independence.

Two such referenda occurred in 1980 and 1995 and both failed, in the latter case very narrowly. The entry of M. Peladeau into Quebec politics has caused a new round of speculation about a third referendum.

As a PQ pol once crowed to an opponent of independence, "You have to win every referendum, I only have to win once." Expect PQ to keep trying until they do.

About Malaysia

Occasionally, an article allows a glimpse of a nation's dirty secrets, as this Bloomberg View piece does about Malaysia. Malaysia's weakness is its overt pro-Malay governmental bias.

According to the CIA's World Factbook, the ethnic composition of Malaysia is 50.4% Malay, 23.7% Chinese, 11% indigenous, 7.1% Indian, 7.8% other. Because Malaysia allowed heavily Chinese Singapore to secede peacefully in 1965, ethnic Malays are a large enough group to control their nation's politics.

Although a bare majority, the government is of, by, and for Malays, with no apologies. Candor requires a judgment that they've not done a spectacular job of it; in the current missing plane contretemps Malaysian officials have appeared particularly inept.

A New Home for the A-10

There is talk that Canada should buy the U.S. Air Force A-10 Warthogs when we stop flying them in the next 2-3 years. As an article at the ironically named War Is Boring website says, the A-10 is probably not the right plane for Canada.

However, the A-10 might be an excellent fit for Mexico and/or Colombia. Armored, slow-flying but lethal ground attack aircraft are useful against drug labs and rebels on the ground.

One or more of the Central American nations might also have conditions for which they'd be appropriate. For that matter, so might the French engaged in anti-terrorist activities in Africa's Sahel. Any nation seriously engaged in anti-insurgency could learn to love the Warthog.

The Pentagon's choice to dump the A-10 signals more clearly than any words our military's fervent hope to never again engage insurgents. As though not having the tools would forestall the assignment ... pure madness, of course.

More on MH370

Whatever happened to Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 was not accidental. That begins to emerge as we learn that the plane's radios were shut down in flight. See an ABC News story with details.

It appears the pilots, or whoever was in charge, did not know that the engines were sending signals to a satellite overhead. These went on for several hours before finally ending.

Thinking also has the plane heading west, toward Sri Lanka and India instead of east over Vietnam toward China, the flight's intended destination. Knowing only what is in the news, I lean to the opinion that the plane was hijacked.

Whether it was then crashed into the ocean or landed at some clandestine strip isn't known at this point. For all of us who spend more time than we'd like as air passengers, the story holds deeply morbid interest.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Erdogan Doesn't Care

Writing for Al Monitor, Amberin Zaman observes that whereas she voted for Erdogan twice, she concludes he has become heartless and cruel. Zaman writes about several occurrences in Turkish public life which point to this conclusion.

It appears Turkey, once a hopeful place, continues to walk away from Ataturk's vision of a modern, pluralistic nation. Hat tip to RealClearWorld for the link.

Quote of the Day

Political analyst Charlie Cook writing in The Cook Political Report about the results of Florida 13 and the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll. He begins:
Democrats haven't had a week this bad since 2010 and it's only Wednesday.
Cook concludes:
This election is not about the myriad of problems facing the Republican Party (with minority, young, female and moderate voters) but instead is about President Obama and the Affordable Care Act, both deeply unpopular.

Geography A Starting Point

Stratfor's Robert Kaplan, writing for RealClearWorld, emphasizes the importance of understanding the influence of geography as we think about the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.
It isn't that geography and geopolitics supersede everything else. (snip) Rather, it is that geography in particular is the starting point for understanding everything else.
Kaplan believes geography has a central role in shaping Russia's undemocratic government:
Russia remains illiberal and autocratic because, unlike Britain and America, it is not an island nation, but a vast continent with few geographical features to protect it from invasion. Putin's aggression stems ultimately from this fundamental geographical insecurity.
With good reason, Russians obsess about the invasions of Napoleon and Hitler. Kaplan summarizes the unhappy reality:
Geographical facts are often simple, brutal, obvious -- not interesting or inspiring or intellectually engaging in any sense -- but they are no less true as a consequence.
We hardly teach geography anymore; otherwise bright students have no idea where places in the news are located, or why it might be important to know.

Play a thought experiment strategy game taking the role of the Russian General Staff. It is a real eye-opener. Get a large map of Russia, mentally place yourself in Moscow and look at the thousands of miles of border you have to defend. See the long border with China, the world's most populous militarily strong nation. Underpopulated but resource-rich Russian Siberia is next door to 1.2 billion industrious Chinese.

Russia's leaders are naturally paranoid control freaks ... it's the geography, stupid.

Cillizza's Three Numbers

Washington Post political maven Chris Cillizza identifies three numbers that particularly strike him from the new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll of voter attitudes. The first is 41%, the smallest number approving of President Obama's performance yet recorded by this pollster. Presidential approval is positively correlated with party performance in midterm elections.

The second is 44%, the percentage of respondents who said a congressperson's position on national issues would be more important than how well they take care of constituent issues for the district. Translation: being for Obamacare and Obama will be bad juju in November.

The third number is 33%, one voter in three said their vote in November would signal opposition to Obama, while only 24% said their vote would signal their approval. This suggests an enthusiasm gap between the two parties.

Per Cillizza, all three numbers suggest Dems will have tough sledding in the November midterm elections.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

A Viral Video from Egypt

An Egyptian woman does an on-camera rant at President Obama that is something to watch, see the viral video here on the MEMRI TV website. You might get the impression she isn't wild about ex-President Morsi or President Obama, that was my takeaway.

Another Claim of Victimhood

Women's groups are trying to make the word "bossy" into hate speech, if directed at women. See an article from USA Today on the topic. This is more pointless, over-the-top victimology.

Bossy people are a pain in the backside regardless of what gender they claim or how their personal plumbing is arranged. Men or women, it makes no difference.

Good leaders know how to get people to want to do what needs doing without bluster. With bluster or bossiness, effectiveness drops off, resistance arises.

More on Florida 13

When I wrote yesterday about Republican David Jolly winning Florida's House district 13, I didn't realize that President Obama won this same district in both 2008 and 2012. That is what Chris Stirewalt reports for Fox News.

Also worth noting is that the losing Democrat, Alex Sink, was formerly Florida's chief financial officer and a failed candidate for governor with state-wide name recognition far beyond that of her successful Republican rival.

Most of U.S. Has Cold Autumn, Winter

News flash from the Real Science website, hat tip to Drudge Report for the link:
US Having Its Coldest Six Month Period Since 1912
To date, October-March temperatures are the coldest since 1899 – but they will rise some before the end of the month – and may pass 1912. 77% of the US has been below normal temperature since October 1. 
Paradoxically, the site's national temperatures map shows that for the past six months both California and western Wyoming have been slightly warmer than normal.

We have finally gotten some rain in arid CA; as usual it's not enough but welcome nonetheless. The hillsides have greened up ... our prettiest time of year.

In most of the U.S. winter is brown and summer is green, in CA those are reversed. As a native I'm accustomed to the tan grasses of summer and fall but prefer the green of winter and spring.

Technically, CA has a Mediterranean (Cs) chaparral biome climate in the Köppen Climate Classification System. In the words of Casey Stengel, you could look it up.

A Dilemma

The Pasadena Star-News reports Asian parents in the cities east of Los Angeles are actively opposing a state Senate bill that would permit universities and colleges to use race as a selection criterion. You can't blame them, their hard-working children deserve to be, and are, over-represented in the state's higher education systems.

On the other hand, you can't blame state university administrators for doing whatever is necessary to get more Hispanics into their classrooms. In this case "whatever" is passing an exemption to Proposition 209 which banned race-based admissions.

Why? Because unless half their students are Hispanic, those same administrators will be unable to justify state funding to a legislature that will soon represent the state's Hispanic near-majority. And you'd better believe this quid pro quo relationship is crystal clear to California's university presidents, chancellors, and trustees.

You can imagine what Gresham's Law (applied to diminished student quality) suggests must happen to public undergraduate education in CA. It's not pretty.

Quote of the Day

The Pew Research Global Attitudes Project reports that only about three in ten Russians and Ukrainians prefers democracy to a strong leader. This causes David Harsanyi, writing for The Federalist, to conclude:
Over 60 percent of Ukrainians and Russians told researchers that they would rather have a strong leader than a democratic government.
Well, they have it now.
At least the Russians do in Putin, Ukraine not so much.

Baltic Worries

I've been wondering when I'd see the first story describing the heartburn the Russian grab of Crimea is causing in the Baltic Republics of Estonia, Latvia, and to a lesser extent Lithuania. Here is a link to that first story, concerning Estonia, which appeared in the British publication The Spectator.

Why do Ukraine's troubles resonate so strongly on the shores of the Baltic? Large numbers of Soviet military officers and their families retired to Estonia and Latvia prior to the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991. As the story reports, they're still there and still obstinately Russian, refusing to assimilate.

The governments of Estonia and Latvia have to be wondering when the Russian bear will turn his hungry eyes in their direction. After all, are not Russians living in their two countries to some degree "second-class citizens?" That they are able to assimilate and refuse to do so will likely count for little in Moscow.

FL House District 13 Special Election

RealClearPolitics analyst Sean Trende predicted a narrow win in Florida 13 by Democrat Alex Sink. The actual outcome, per the Associated Press, is that Republican David Jolly won 48.5% vs. 46.7% for Sink in a three cornered race where a third party Libertarian candidate won 4.8%.

In a two party race, most of those Libertarian votes would have gone to the Republican. That fact makes Jolly's win even more impressive.

One of the best political analysts predicts a Dem win and the GOP wins instead. It is hard not to see that outcome as an omen or leading indicator of the November mid-term results.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Scottish Independence Movement

Do you have both the patience and interest to read a long article about the various sides and players in the movement for Scottish independence, leading to the referendum in mid-September? I've found a good discussion of the issue from The New York Review of Books.

Author Jonathan Freedland blames Margaret Thatcher for the Scots separatist movement, and he may be right. I'd put it differently - Thatcher convinced the English to change directions but for some reason the Scots didn't get the memo.

Obama Is No Centrist

Josh Kraushaar writes for National Journal. In this column he observes that Pew Center survey data convinced its director Andy Kohut to write for The Washington Post the following description of Democrats:
They are much more socially liberal than they were even a decade ago, more supportive of an activist government, more in favor of increased regulation of business.
While agreeing that Democrats and Republicans are much purer parties of the left and right respectively than they once were, Kraushaar disagrees with Kohut's description of the Obama administration as "centrist." Instead, Kraushaar demonstrates that:
On all five major issues that divide the Democratic Party's liberals and moderates—the budget deficit, income inequality, the environment, social issues, and America's role in the world—Obama is on the leftward side.
The President's positions may be undermining Democrats seeking reelection in 2014:
Obama's 2014 campaign strategy to energize the base could help turn out African-American voters in a couple of Senate battlegrounds (North Carolina, Louisiana), but it's a sign he's already given up on persuading white moderates in Republican-friendly states.
Are we headed in the direction of "tribal" parties where the GOP is the party of whites, and the Dems are the party of everybody else? Such parties are highly disruptive in third world countries.

Fournier Blames White House

National Journal's Ron Fournier really has got his panties in a twist. Let me quote for you the opening and closing paragraphs of his latest column, the topic of which is government eavesdropping:
They spied on you. They lied to the Senate. They seized telephone records from the Associated Press and considered criminalizing investigative journalism at Fox News. What else can the U.S. intelligence community do to destroy its credibility, curb civil liberties, and ultimately undermine U.S. security? Spy on Congress.

They spied on you and lied about it. Now they may have spied on Congress. Wittingly or not, for legitimate reasons or not, the actions of the intelligence community and the White House (emphasis added) have compromised national security.

Press Ethics Different in U.K.

The British press has a well-deserved reputation of not letting the facts get in the way of a good story line. A case in point: this Daily Mail story on actor Robert Wagner arriving to plug his new book on Hollywood.

The story goes out of its way to say Wagner, 84, has been ducking publicity in recent years. Here is the lead sentence:
He has kept a low profile in the past few years, ever since the latest round of questioning and innuendo regarding the 1981 death of his then wife Natalie Wood kicked off in 2011.
The truth is something quite different. Wagner has made repeated appearances on the CBS TV police drama NCIS, playing Tony DiNozzo's father Anthony DiNozzo, Sr., in 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2014. Appearing five times on network television's most watched show isn't my idea of "keeping a low profile."

Atop Corcovado

The DrsC have visited the iconic Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer) statue on Corcovado ("hunchback") peak overlooking Rio de Janeiro. Whether or not one is religious, it is a spectacular sight atop an amazing peak overlooking a gorgeous city.

For example, did you know it was covered in soapstone tiles? Or that there is a trapdoor in Christ's shoulder so repair workers can access the top after climbing 12 stories of stairs inside? Or that it is frequently struck by lightening?

See a beautifully illustrated BBC News story about the statue's origins, construction and present status. Hat tip to for the link.


I want to welcome new readers of COTTonLINE who were fellow passengers on the recent Hawaii cruise of the Grand Princess, and who attended my world affairs lectures. In particular I'd like to thank all of you who stopped by to say how much you liked the talks. They are fun for me to do and I'm glad you enjoyed them too.

His Brothers Keeper?

The President has announced he wants to assist young minority men to get their feet on the rungs of a ladder of success, a worthy ambition. See a USA Today story for details.

I'll bet whatever Obama attempts will avoid dealing with the real problem: the values of the subcultures from which these lads come. Believing achievement in school to be unmanly is a real drawback in the current economic arena.

In similar economic circumstances many Asian young men do very well indeed. Their culture, however, prizes education and honors teachers - a huge difference.


Nobody has a clue what happened to Malaysia Airlines flight MH370. The pilots did not radio about any problems, although they had multiple redundant radios at their command.

No wreckage has been found at sea, and if the plane had fallen on land a large, smoking crater and debris field would show up on satellite photos. Many parts of this plane are made of composites that would float, according to experts on last night's PBS News Hour.

So what could account for the total disappearance of an aircraft with many people aboard? How about alien abduction? The proverbial mother ship just beams it up whole, and the tractor beam fries the electronics making radio distress calls impossible. About now those pesky aliens are doing colonoscopies on the passengers.

Maybe the pilots, under threat or for profit, turned off the transponder and radios, and flew the plane at low altitude to a jungle strip where it is now parked under camouflage nets or trees. This leaves no debris or oil slicks, and the passengers could either be dead or held for ransom.

Would drug lords in the golden triangle love to have a 777 with which to deliver heroin? Maybe one of the triads wants to start an airline? Or possibly a jungle chop shop is parting out the plane and salvaging the passengers' passports, documents, and valuables.

Law enforcement should track passengers' debit and credit cards to ensure no post-disappearance activity occurs thereupon. Ditto cell phone use. Or just maybe the plane slipped into another dimension or parallel universe?

Mate in Ten Moves

A Putin advisor has written a scenario by which Russia turns the Crimea/Ukraine contretemps into a ten step plan for world domination. See a summary at the National Review Online website.

That's what you get from a nation of chess players. Russians keep scheming on a foreign policy "checkmate." Meanwhile, the rest of the world wants them to intentionally play to a draw. That is, leave their neighbors alone.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Attkisson Quits CBS

Award-winning CBS News investigative reporter Sheryl Attkisson has resigned. It is widely believed the major reason for her departure was the liberal bias at CBS News, making it difficult for her to get stories critical of the Obama White House on air.

Given the sad performance of the current administration, it is no doubt difficult to write in an truthful, upbeat fashion about their work. Maybe Murdoch will hire her at Fox. Dylan Byers at Politico reports of Attkisson:
She has won five Emmy awards for her reporting on Fast and Furious, the Red Cross, Republican fundraising, TARP and border patrol.
She has also pursued the Benghazi story.

Daylight Savings Time Arrives

I hope you all remembered to set your clocks forward an hour Saturday night before bed. If you forgot, and still haven't noticed, you will likely be embarrassingly late today when it counts. It is certainly nice to have twilight persist a bit longer in early evening.

The New Tactics

The Washington Post has an article which describes Putin's takeover of the Crimea as a redefined 21st century warfare. Particularly interesting is his use of uniformed troops without insignia or flags to provide deniable backbone for the Crimea's many Russian-speaking street demonstrators. Add to that cyberwar and economic muscle and the outlines of the new tactics begin to emerge.

Weird Neurological Science

Researchers at Georgetown University Medical Center have developed a blood test for 10 molecules which can predict with high accuracy who will develop Alzheimer's as much as three years before onset. This according to an Australian news site, reporting the results of a study published in Nature Medicine, linked here.

It is alleged that the test is 90% accurate. I wonder how many people want to know they will start losing their mind in the next three years, when no satisfactory treatment currently exists? In other words, is the test useful and if so, how?

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Other California

California is really two states. I was born, grew up, and got my first two degrees in Coastal California, and began my career there. Then I moved to CA's great Central Valley and called various parts of Interior California home for 33 of the next 39 years. Not a CA resident for over a decade, I still visit both Californias every winter. 

The Wall Street Journal has an article about the travails of Central California, the great agricultural valley between the Coast and Sierra Ranges that stretches 500 miles north from Bakersfield to Redding. Here the most productive agricultural land in the United States is under attack by so-called environmentalists, who the article accurately describes as "obstructionists." 

The issue, as you'd expect in the arid West, is water. My lifelong experience with California says the Tulare farmer being interviewed is right on target.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

About Party Schools

Forbes has an article about the prevalence of a party atmosphere at many campuses of higher education. Naturally it takes a dim view thereof.

Let's start with two facts I know from personal experience: there is nothing new about the party school trope, and being known as a party school doesn't necessarily hurt the ability of a campus to attract recruiters to hire their students.

My baccalaureate alma mater - San Jose State University - was a party school when I attended it in the early 1960s. Very likely it is that no longer.

While there my buddies and I witnessed street bonfires, mini-riots (noisy and mostly nonviolent), bed races, drunken bacchanals, joyriding on a D-8 bulldozer and generalized silliness. We survived mean hangovers, did some studying too, and wrote our own papers.

My major employer during a 35 year college faculty career - California State University, Chico - was declared the nation's number one party school in the January, 1987, issue of Playboy magazine (p. 173). In spite of which (or because of which) we drew a respectable cadre of recruiters to hire our graduates. Recruiters told us they appreciated our students' well-honed social skills.

Chico State isn't the party school it once was, the annual Pioneer Week spring festival/fertility rites are no more. Even so, every year a couple of Chico students manage to drink themselves to death.

Resisting riotous partying is a task college administrations need to view as a continuing responsibility, part of their job description. Students step on the gas, administrators apply the brakes, understanding their role is to calm down, but not stop, the party.

Quote of the Day

Senator Rand Paul, speaking at CPAC on the topic of privacy rights, as reported by the U.K.'s Daily Mail.
If you have a cell phone, you are under surveillance from the federal government. I believe what you do on your cell phone is none of their damned business!
In the absence of a warrant issued by a federal judge who has determined probable cause exists, I agree completely.

China vs. North Korea

Reuters reports that China has drawn a "red line" with respect to the Korean peninsula, saying they will not allow chaos or war to break out there, and demanding denuclearization. This comes from China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi. Hat tip to for the link.

Imagine how unhappy a demand for denuclearization will make North Korea's dictator Kim Jong Un. Yet China is the one neighbor North Korea absolutely cannot afford to alienate.

It is fun when two antagonists of the U.S. begin to fight with each other, as for example they've done in Syria. I hope we're subtly encouraging such behavior.

To Be Millennial

The Pew Research Center has released a new poll of Millennial attitudes and beliefs; Millennials are young Americans between the ages of 18 and 33.  Pew summarizes its findings thusly:
They are relatively unattached to organized politics and religion, linked by social media, burdened by debt, distrustful of people, in no rush to marry— and optimistic about the future.

They are also America’s most racially diverse generation. In all of these dimensions, they are different from today’s older generations. And in many, they are also different from older adults back when they were the age Millennials are now.
Reading beyond the executive summary you discover that a major reason for their differences is that only 57% of them are white. On a number of topics, Millennials' views more closely agree with older members of their racial or ethnic group than with others of their age cohort. Two key findings:
White Millennials’ views of Obama are not substantially different from those of older whites. Some 34% of white Millennials approve of the job Obama is doing as president. (snip) By contrast 67% of non-white Millennials give Obama high marks for the job he’s doing as president.

White Millennials say they would prefer a smaller government that provides fewer services (52%). (snip) Non-white Millennials lean heavily toward a bigger government.

Friday, March 7, 2014

GOP Hispanic Policy Choices

Paul Mirengoff, a principal at Power Line Blog, writes sensible things about GOP efforts to recruit Hispanic votes, and risible comments at CPAC that they can be this generation's Reagan Democrats. See what he writes:
Latinos overwhelmingly vote for liberals in spite of the efforts of conservative Latino organizers and consultants. There are three possible explanations: (1) Latino voters are inherently liberal, probably because of their economic status as a class, (2) Latino voters are not inherently liberal, but vote liberal because of the Republican position on immigration reform, and (3) the organizers and consultants are doing a poor job.
The party wants to believe the answer is (2). Mirengoff and COTTonLINE believe the answer is (1).

Undocumented migrants from Latin America are not the successful citizens of those countries. Rather they are individuals whose home country economic prospects are hopeless enough to justify the risk of heading north outside the law.

Ask yourself this question: How many American citizens from similar economic circumstances vote for GOP candidates? Answer: Next to none. Why should we expect Hispanics' voting to differ markedly?