Friday, May 30, 2014

Weird Metabolic Science

The New York Times reports findings from a study published in PLOS Biology journal. Hat tip to Instapundit for the link. Here is what caught my eye:
Compared with other animals, we humans have ravenous brains. Twenty percent of the calories we take in each day are consumed by our neurons as they send signals to one another.
Science explains why I think better when well fed.

Not True Believers

Writing in Ricochet, editor Jon Gabriel argues that liberals are being disingenuous about climate change:
The Left doesn’t really believe in climate change. Their true religion is raising taxes, increasing government, impeding capitalism and reducing national sovereignty. Climate change is just a temporary excuse to achieve those ends.
I'm not sure I agree, but the examples Gabriel gives ring true.

The New White

Blogger Eugene Volokh makes the claim that the meanings of "white" and "minority" have changed. See his column in The Washington Post. As Volokh notes, In many quarters, Asians are now "white."
“White” has stopped meaning Caucasian, imprecise as this term has always been, and has started to mean “those racial groups that have made it.” “Minority” has started to mean “those racial groups that have not yet made it.”
It's not Politically Correct to observe that Asians' achievement-oriented culture has enabled most to succeed in our supposedly "racist" society. Accurate? Yes. PC? No.

Good News

Mediaite reports President Obama said the following in a television interview with Kelly Ripa of the syndicated Live with Kelly and Michael:
One thing I can promise you is Michelle will not run for office.
View video of the interview at the above website.

We've had 3 pieces of good news today: the resignations of ineffective VA Secretary Shinseki and lying Press Secretary Carney, and this promise of no Michelle O. candidacy.

Voting With One's Feet

The Independent Journal Review has an article with an interesting graphic. A map of the U.S. shows 9 states in red that have the highest state income tax rates and the 9 states that have no state income tax. Using IRS data, finds the following results for the last 15 years:
The states with the highest income taxes have had a net loss in taxpayer AGI of $107 billion, and the the states with no income tax have had a net gain of $146 billion. In other words, there’s been an exodus from high tax states to those with no taxes. 
AGI is adjusted gross income. This data confirms what we already knew intuitively: people are motivated to achieve legal tax avoidance. Hat tip to for the link.

Quote of the Day

The late William F. Buckley Jr., as quoted by Jay Nordlinger in his National Review Impromptus column:
Anyone who lies about Gore Vidal is doing him a favor.
A prime example of serious snark.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Weird Antarctic Ice Science

Science 2.0 reports new research published in Nature has shown that the Antarctic ice sheet is highly variable and has been so for at least 20,000 years. The following comment is attributed to Michael Weber of the University of Cologne:
One of the iceberg events in our data that is of particular interest took place 14,600 years ago and coincided with a huge ice-sheet melt, the famous Meltwater Pulse 1A, which according to previous studies led to a global sea level rise of about 4 meters within 100 years.
No one believes that neolithic humans had much to do with that event. Climate varies, has done so forever, and will continue to do so without our help.

A sea level rise of over 13 feet in 100 years is a big deal, about 1.5 inches per year. It would, for example, put much of Bangladesh underwater. Mankind ought to plan now how we'll react to such a rise when (not if) it happens again.

IBD: Obama Running for UN Secretary General

In an editorialInvestor's Business Daily argues that the President's West Point foreign policy speech was the opening salvo in his campaign for Secretary General of the United Nations. It certainly can be viewed in that light, striking all the right multinational notes.

Millennials Tired of Race Topic

Writing for the New York Post, Naomi Schaefer Riley believes we need to talk less, not more about race. She reports:
A recent MTV survey found that 73 percent of millennials “believe never considering race would improve society” and “68 percent believe focusing on race prevents society from becoming colorblind.”

And the vast majority (84 percent) of these young people say their families taught them that people should be treated the same regardless of race. Yet only 37 percent say they were brought up in families that talked about race.
We need to listen to the young, particularly when they see clearly as here.

Contempt, Humiliation, and Aggression

Writing for RealClearPolitics, Colin Dueck contrasts President Obama's West Point foreign policy speech with his actual performance in foreign affairs. See what he concludes:
If you hadn't been paying close attention to the actual consequences and implementation of Obama's foreign policy and defense decisions over the past five years, you might think the speech sounded pretty good. A realistic, balanced, and prudent American internationalism - what's not to like?

The trouble is, Obama has implemented no such policy.

In one case after another internationally, President Obama has issued verbal declarations or rhetorical statements and then simply refused to back them up in a serious way. The pattern has become so striking as to draw widespread notice internationally.
Dueck identifies the results of Obama foreign affairs:
When there is little connection between words and actions, or commitments and capabilities, that is neither moderate nor prudent. It's not a balanced reconciliation of opposing extremes. It's just a mess, and one that really does invite international contempt, humiliation and aggression.
Finally, he indicates what he believes a president should do:
A better and more genuinely prudent alternative (snip) would be a U.S. President who either backs up their words along with American commitments in a meaningful fashion, or makes no ill-considered declarations they do not intend to keep.
As we wrote yesterday, the speech enunciated a reasonable policy. However, the execution of that policy is as flawed as the rest of the Obama oeuvre.

A Further Review: The World Wars

A couple of days ago I mentioned the DrsC were watching a History Channel miniseries called The World Wars, and indicated I liked the first episode. Since then I've watched the other two episodes and have revised my opinion, to something much more negative.

I'll freely admit I'm no expert on World War I, aka "the Great War." That war formed the substance of episode one. In episodes two and three we got the between-the-wars period and World War II. As an amateur World War II military historian, this is a period with which I am much more familiar.

My ignorance enabled me to enjoy episode one. If key things were omitted or glossed over, I did not recognize the faults. However, as we got into the period with which I've a particular interest, the series fell apart.

Imagine a discussion of World War II that entirely omits the war in North Africa! No Rommel, no Montgomery, no El Alamein, no Tobruk. Watching The World Wars you'd have thought the first time U.S. ground forces took offensive (as opposed to defensive) action was in Sicily. Utter rot.

Some of the errors of fact were visual. A glaring error was footage of a wing with engine nacelle and spinning propeller supposedly representing the Japanese launching the attack on Pearl Harbor. The wing was one side of a multi-engine aircraft as no fuselage was in evidence. The problem: no multi-engine Japanese aircraft participated in the attack on Pearl Harbor. Nippon operated no multi-engine aircraft from carriers in World War II.

Another visual error was the opening footage of infantry warfare supposedly representing the Battle of the Bulge in Europe, there was no snow on the ground. Subsequent footage showed a snowy battlefield. This battle began in mid-December and lasted until late January in northern Europe, there was snow on the ground the whole time.

The series gives credit for taking Italy to Patton, quite simply he didn't. The battle for Italy was at Churchill's insistence, and it proved very difficult mountainous terrain to assault, very easy for Germany to defend. Churchill's misjudgment leading to this tough slog is never mentioned.

To be fair, the series was right more often than it was wrong. For something purporting to be history, that is entirely too low a standard.

Coincidentally, when episode three finished the VCR switched to the local PBS feed which was doing a Nova program on technological innovations used in conjunction with D Day - the Mulberry harbors, the "funny" tanks with various attachments, the floating dock, etc. The contrast couldn't have been more stark: Nova nailed it, The World Wars was impressionistic and sloppy.

Will: Millennials Are Hurting

The Washington Post's George F. Will writes a column about how dismally the economy is treating so-called "millennials." His conclusion is almost cynical:
The Pew Research Center reports that Americans age 25 to 32 — “millennials” — constitute the first age cohort since World War II with higher unemployment or a greater portion living in poverty than their parents at this age. But today’s millennials have the consolation of having the president they wanted.
Millennials don't enjoy being poster children for "Be careful what you wish for."

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Graduation Riot

See a You Tube cell phone video of a brawl involving both students and parents at a high school graduation in Towson, Maryland. The story is on the CBS Baltimore website. I don't remember anything like this happening at any of the many graduations I've attended.

Weird Cognitive Science

Canada's National Post reports the results of a study in Finland which found that cynics are three times more likely to develop dementia in later life. It is probable that the beginning stages of dementia cause the cynicism, instead of the other way around. Or, cynicism may be their reaction to our patronizing treatment of people who are no longer completely with-it.

An Evaluation

How reliable are the figures quoted both by the President and Secretary Kerry to the effect that 97% of scientists agree that global warming is man-caused and dangerous? Answer: not very.

Writing in The Wall Street Journal, Joseph Bast and Roy Spencer look at the various attempts to discern a scientific consensus and conclude as follows:
There is no basis for the claim that 97% of scientists believe that man-made climate change is a dangerous problem.
In fact, they cite evidence that many scientists disagree with the claim.

Quote of the Day

Instapundit Glenn Harlan Reynolds reacting to Victor Davis Hanson's long takedown of the Obama presidency for PJMedia.
Too many people don’t want to admit that the first black President is a failure. But, you know, he pretty much is.
The failure has nothing to do with his race, everything to do with his lack of managerial skills.

The West Point Commencement Speech

Pundits on left and right have rained on the President's West Point foreign policy speech. We note WaPo's reaction in our post below. Our friends at Power Line have also weighed in with a negative response.

I decided to read the speech for myself, here at the White House website. My reaction - it isn't as bad as it has been painted. Of course, I spared myself the aggravation of listening to Barry deliver it; it was probably uglier when listened to.

I'll grant it was too long, too wordy, and too self-congratulatory. However, I didn't find myself disagreeing with much of the policy content. Draw your own conclusions.

WaPo Not Amused

In an editorial, The Washington Post takes a mostly negative view of the President's foreign policy speech at West Point, an unusual step for this liberal paper. See what they wrote:
President Obama has retrenched U.S. global engagement in a way that has shaken the confidence of many U.S. allies and encouraged some adversaries. That conclusion can be heard not just from Republican hawks but also from senior officials from Singapore to France and, more quietly, from some leading congressional Democrats.
In other words, everybody except his amen corner.

The Power of Choice

Hogwarts Headmaster Albus Dumbledore memorably said in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets:
It is our choices...that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.
Dumbledore could have been characterizing the economic policies of the major Latin American countries. Bloomberg reports the "Pacific" countries - Mexico, Colombia, Peru, and Chile - are growing much faster than the "Atlantic" countries - Venezuela, Brazil, and Argentina. The reason: differing economic choices.
The countries faring better have opened their economies, adopted market-friendly policies and generate more productivity and investment prospects.

Atlantic countries spent more, including on subsidies and social welfare, while saving and investing less.
Like the man says, "It is our choices...."

Belgium Votes

The first time COTTonLINE mentioned the regional split in Belgium - Flemish vs. Walloons - was in 2008, and we've mentioned it several times since. Flemish separatism hasn't gone away, see the Reuters article on the CNBC website.

Reuters reports Flemish separatists won big in their northern region and will be asked to try to form a governing coalition in parliament. The last time coalition-formation talks happened, it took 18 months to form a government. The process this time may be equally laborious.

Weird Driving Science

A video from RealClearScience makes the point that faster speed limits may actually be safer. This is so because there is less variation in vehicle speeds when limits are higher.

If variation in vehicular speed is a culprit, then California's basic speed law - which limits large trucks and any trailer to 55 mph while allowing autos and buses to go 65 mph - is unsafe. Someone should tell the CA legislature that most states have identical speed limits for all vehicles.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Weird Genetic Science

RealClearScience reports the results of a study first published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS). The study found that:
Spouses shared more genetic similarities than random pairs from the same population, a phenomenon called genetic assortative mating (GAM). In fact, an increase in genetic similarity of one standard deviation was linked to a 15% increase in the probability of marriage.
Answering the question "why do we find this similarity?" the article continues:
It is well-known that people with similar educational backgrounds tend to marry each other, a phenomenon known as educational assortative mating (EAM). It is also known that educational achievement is partially linked to genetics. Indeed, the authors found that the effect from genetic assortative mating (GAM) explained up to 10% of the effect from EAM, but the direction of causation is unclear.
"Assortative mating" strikes again. N.B. Direction of causation is always a problem for correlational studies like this one.

What's In A Name?

The Economist has an article about the name change from Peking to Beijing. The other DrC and I had an interesting experience in that city with the confusion about its name.

The year was 1986 and the name "Beijing" was already in use. Our local guide was a young man whose name translated as "Stones."

A couple of university professors are accustomed to dealing with undergraduates, which he was. The other DrC asked him if he had a girlfriend - typically an issue for college age men. He replied that he did.

Already aware Stones was from upcountry, we asked if his lady was from the same northern province? "No," he replied. "She is Pekingese." In other words, a native of the capital.

I am proud to report we both kept straight faces, an almost superhuman task. Later in the hotel room we broke out laughing at the mental image of his girlfriend as a small, short-nosed long-haired hyperactive dog.

Clearly his English teachers hadn't communicated that, at least to Americans, Pekingese means "little lion dog" much more than it means native to Peking/Beijing. We did not enlighten him, fearing hurt feelings.

The Isla Vista Murders: A Note

The CA murders, by a 22 year old man who had struck out with women, have renewed the calls for gun control. Before you buy into that argument, remember three of the seven people Elliot Roger killed he stabbed with a knife. Are you prepared to ban butcher, steak and paring knives? Require a license for knife ownership?

How about his BMW? A car is a quite satisfactory fatal weapon if driven into a crowd of people at some speed. The U.K. has strict handgun control, most murders there are done with a knife or bludgeon. Want to ban baseball or cricket bats?

The nice thing about Roger having a gun is that he took his own life, saving us the banality of his trial and the expense of boarding him for the rest of his miserable life.

Honor Killing in Pakistan

See a Reuters story on Yahoo News about a Pakistani family who stoned their daughter to death on the steps of Lahore's High Court. Called an "honor killing," apparently such behavior is common in Pakistan, and widely condoned.

Her offense: she married someone of her choice, instead of her cousin as the family wished. She was at the court to testify on behalf of her husband who had been charged by the family with kidnapping.

Recently a visiting friend argued to me that all cultures are equally valid. I don't buy it. Some cultures are just ugly inhumane messes, including the one above.

A Rare Kudo

Today I viewed live on CNBC the President's speech about winding down U.S. involvement in Afghanistan. His comments were measured, sensible, comprehensive and optimistic.

One can hope that things turn out as well as he predicts. He was careful to warn not everything in Afghanistan will be to our liking.

I don't often praise President Obama on COTTonLINE. However, when he does something good I try to blog about it.

CAIR Unmasked

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) claims to speak for Americans of the Muslim faith. Recent online activities by its officials appear to be those of an enemy fifth column rather than the moderate civil rights organization that is alleged.

The Gateway Pundit website quotes tweets by the CAIR Bay Area executive director, a Zahra Billoo, and a Michigan CAIR official Dawud Walid which are less-than-patriotic, at best. Billoo also retweeted anti-American stuff from Remi Kenazi.

Billoo might be more comfortable living in another country, for example Pakistan. Hat tip to for the link.

Review: The World Wars

The History Channel is running a three night miniseries entitled The World Wars. The other DrC and I watched the first episode tonight. In spite of an overdose of ads, the first episode was excellent.

The scholars behind this series take the view that the thirty years between 1914 and 1945 constitute a single, interrupted conflict. Others believe one cannot sneer at the 20 years of more-or-less peace that existed between the wars.

Instead of using old newsreel footage, they've restaged various historical events using actors portraying Churchill, Roosevelt, Hitler, Mussolini, Patton, MacArthur, Lenin, and Stalin at various stages in their lives. In episode 1 you see the young Hitler as a corporal in World War I, as well as the young Churchill screwing up Gallipoli as an Admiralty lord, resigning and retooling as an infantry officer in the trenches of France.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Rethinking Gen. MacArthur

Mark Perry has written a longish column for Politico Magazine arguing for a reappraisal of General Douglas MacArthur. As Perry notes, many hold an undeserved low opinion of this larger-than-life military leader.

COTTonLINE is of the opinion that MacArthur is underrated, that he achieved much during World War II with relatively little support from Washington. MacArthur's Pacific victories were achieved with fewer-than-normal American casualties, being both tactically and strategically brilliant.

His activities as the American satrap in post-war Japan laid the groundwork for the success that Japan subsequently experienced. If his actions as commander in the Korean War were equivocal, that may have been because it was the first war the U.S. did not try to win, preferring to fight to a draw.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Remember Memorial Day

We're grateful to our military veterans every day. Tomorrow is the day when we particularly honor those who died in the military service of our nation. Our freedom today is the result of their sacrifices.

Wouldn't this be a great time to bring up on charges VA executives who've been fudging the wait-time numbers to make themselves look better? Firing is too good for these worms.

Gridlock Likely Outcome

The Washington Post's Dan Balz is this generation's David Broder, a full-time, heads-up political reporter and analyst. In his most recent column he makes the following observations.
Obama no doubt thinks that the only way to make the last years of his presidency productive is to hold the Senate against the odds and, through the shock value of that outcome, force a change of behavior among the Republicans.

Republicans no doubt believe that if they take back the Senate and thus control both chambers of Congress next year, the president will have no choice but to begin to deal with them differently.
Does either of those two predictions seem probable? The first looks extremely unlikely, I don't see House Republicans being able to go along with the President and Harry Reid, even if somehow they wanted to.

In the second scenario, I expect the President to veto everything passed by a GOP Congress and spend his time on foreign affairs and fund-raising. Prognosis: two more years of gridlock, whatever happens in November.

McManus: Obama's a Lousy Manager

The Los Angeles Times' Doyle McManus, a frequent panelist on the PBS News Washington Week program, has stepped outside the liberal cocoon long enough to write some home truths about President Obama. He begins with the Veterans' Affairs scandal:
It's an especially dangerous scandal for President Obama because it fits into an established narrative about his presidency: that he's a skilled politician and speechmaker but a lousy manager.

The president's conservative critics have accused him, often wildly, of every sin they can think of, from diabolical conspiracy (in the case of the IRS) to dereliction of duty (Benghazi). But the charge that's likely to stick is one that connects all those unrelated events to an underlying truth: Obama has never paid as much attention to the nitty-gritty of management as he has to making policy and campaigning for votes.
McManus describes a shortfall with which even sensible Democrats should agree. I buy most of what he says except the "skilled speechmaker" meme; without a teleprompter and script Obama is a disaster.

Quote of the Day

John Wayne, quoted from a Readers Digest interview in a retrospective on his career in The Dallas News:
They tell me everything isn’t black and white. Well I say, why the hell not?
The Duke, bigger than life, as always. Hat tip to for the link.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Quote of the Day

Instapundit Glenn Harlan Reynolds' May 24th, 1:30 p.m. comment on the tablet vs. laptop conflict:
My own take is that tablets are media-consumption devices, but laptops are media-creation devices.
I couldn't agree more; those are my preferences. In fact I prefer to create media on a desktop unit with mouse, full-size keyboard and large screen.

Political Humor Alert

Jay Leno, speaking in Jerusalem at a ceremony where Prime Minister Netanyahu gave the Genesis Prize to former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, as reported by Politico.
Obama has declared the month of May Jewish American Heritage Month. He is calling it an opportunity to renew our "unbreakable bond with the nation of Israel." And he knows it’s unbreakable because he’s been trying to break it for the last five years.
An example of why Leno trumps Letterman.

Obama A Wilsonian Failure

Noemie Emery writes for The Weekly Standard about the failures of the self-identified intellectual elite responsible for the rise of Obama and the passage (and subsequent failure) of the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. It is a comprehensively long article but one worth your time.

Emery ridicules the failures of "the academic-artistic-and-punditry industrial complex" in the following conclusions:
One is that they were perhaps not as good as they thought they were, and perhaps deserved to be not that much listened to. Another is that the people who shine in the faculty lounge ought to stay in it, that novelists have not been good judges of political horseflesh, and that if you really believe you belong to an aristocracy of the intellect, you most likely do not.
Finally she writes their epitaph:
They wanted their chance, and they got it. They had it. They blew it. They’re done.
Absolutely serious, Emery leaves out "put a fork in them" before declaring them "done." With luck we will wait another 88 years before dealing with the next ineffectual Woodrow Wilson clone.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Travel Blogging Yellowstone

With our houseguest Cary, the other DrC and I spent the last two days doing a whirlwind tour of Yellowstone National Park. As the Memorial Day weekend was beginning, a number of facilities had yet to open, including the store at Tower Falls, the deli at Canyon, and the Canyon campground.

New employee orientation was underway so these facilities will probably open in a day or two. Watching a pair of retired ladies try to figure out the register at the Fishing Bridge store spoke volumes about how recently they'd reported for summer season work.

Dunraven Pass alongside Mt. Washburn just opened today, and the road to the summit of Mt. Washburn remains closed. Several places in the park still have relatively deep snow along the roads, up to 4', while the roads themselves are clear and dry.

Animal watching was outstanding, there are literally thousands of bison in herds all over the park, plus lots of bison calves. Bison walked on the road alongside our pickup, close enough to reach out and touch had we wished to do so.

We saw several elk, including a calf so newborn it was still wobbly on its long legs. We saw several pronghorn, also known as antelopes. We saw no moose or wolves, both are notably elusive. The Canada geese and white pelicans are already in residence, and we saw two bald eagles.

Best of all, because it isn't common, we saw four bears: three grizzlies and a black bear in four separate sightings. Four bear sightings in one day is a lifetime best for me.

Old Faithful geyser continues to live up to its name. It erupted within a couple of minutes of the estimated time. Old Faithful Lodge continues to fascinate with its four story balconied atrium made entirely of logs and fieldstone.

Yellowstone's thermal features smoke and steam, mud pots gurgle and smell of sulfur, and the rivers are full and muddy with spring runoff. Truly fascinating, huge Yellowstone Lake was frozen over as was Lewis Lake.

Rest assured, the world's first national park is open for business, looking good but heavily patronized for so early in the season. Yesterday's Japanese tourists have been replaced by the Chinese, who are very much in evidence.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Presidential Pique

Kevin D. Williamson writes in National Review Online that the President's reaction to the VA mess is classic Obama.
In his speech on the VA, the president said that he would not stand for things that he clearly and undeniably has stood for some years now, and swore that he would not tolerate that which he has been tolerating since 2009.

Barack Obama has sworn that he will not tolerate the incompetence of the Obama administration. I’d like to think that that means he is going to resign, but I don’t think that’s what he meant.
Can you say "clueless?"

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Mexico's President

The Los Angeles Times pays relatively close attention to Mexico. Here they publish an opinion piece by a leading Mexican law professor John Ackerman who is entirely unimpressed with current President Enrique Peña Nieto and his administration.
Peña Nieto has followed the classic strategy typical of old-guard Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) governments and contemporary organized crime syndicates.
Ackerman concludes:
It would be a mistake for the U.S. to trust a man whose only interest appears to be his personal wealth and power.
It was unrealistic to expect the old PRI to change M.O. after a couple of terms out of office.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Lying to Us

National Journal's Ron Fournier takes a tough shot at the Obama administration's truthfulness, particularly with reference to the current controversy over Veterans Administration shortcomings. See what he writes:
Before the Internet gave voters instantaneous access to information, including every public utterance of the president and his team, White House strategists could hope to wear out the truth: If you said a lie enough, people might believe it.

It's harder to BS the public these days. White House press secretary Jay Carney still tries.
About the VA itself, Fournier concludes:
He (Obama) pledged to reform the VA after blasting the Bush administration in 2007. Instead of getting better, the health care bureaucracy has worsened and become corrupted. Long delays are covered up and veterans are dying while awaiting care.

Learn the Lesson

We're seeing many reports about how terrible the Veterans Administration health care is, stories like this Fox News article and this one at U.S. News & World Report. It isn't an area of my expertise and I'll settle for saying our veterans deserve better.

What is crucial for Americans to understand as a result of these stories are the problems absolutely inherent in government health care. Stories like these are totally common in the U.K. where griping about the governmental NHS is widespread and horror stories abound.

Imagine getting your health care from the U.S. Post Office, the Department of Motor Vehicles, or the Transportation Safety Administration. Just thinking about it could make you sick, it's the stuff of nightmares.

When someone tries to convince you we need single payer (government) health care, suggest they get their ills doctored at the hapless VA.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Seaborne Trash Exaggerated

The other DrC and I sailed across the Pacific Ocean last month, from Los Angeles to Hawaii, Guam, Okinawa, Taipei, Shanghai, Kagoshima and Osaka. Having seen multiple stories like this one from Deep Sea News concerning the floating debris supposedly littering the ocean surface, I kept a weather eye on the ocean looking for floating trash.

Our cruise lasted 25 days and in that time, across the whole of the Pacific, I saw exactly one piece of floating garbage.  It looked like a plastic bag you'd use to bring home groceries. Hour after hour, mile after mile, I saw clean, blue sea with white foam - sometimes calm, sometimes not. 

I know stuff washes up on beaches, it always has done. That's why there are beachcombers. Is there more now? Probably. Is the Pacific a gigantic floating garbage dump? Not even close, per my recent transit at a relatively leisurely 18 knots. At least not in the lattitudes we traversed.

Stinking Failure

The New York Times' Ross Douthat surveys the Obama foreign policy and finds it disappointing. Three key Douthat observations:
His foreign policy looked modestly successful when he was running for reelection. Now it stinks of failure.

Obama is responsible for the initiatives he's pursued, the strategies he's blessed, and the priorities he's set. And almost nothing on that list is working out.

Yet except for the killing of Osama bin Laden - an "except" that has to be qualified by Islamist terrorism's resurgence - if Obama's presidency ended today I have no idea what major foreign policy achievements his defenders could reasonably cite.
I guess Obama can claim he avoided sending large numbers of troops to global hotspots. However, in an uncertain world such avoidance isn't always a superpower's best option.

Assortative Mating

Doyle McManus of the Los Angeles Times writes that an "opportunity gap" exists between the children of the affluent and everyone else's kids. His solution is universal preschool, an attempt to level the playing field. His rationale is that affluent parents spend more money and time on their offspring.

What McManus overlooks is the rise of assortative mating. Unlike past patterns, today's bright, educated achievers tend to marry, have children with other bright, educated achievers. The evolutionary implications are clear - their children inherit genes predisposing them to succeed.

Similarly, non-random mating often deals a losing hand to the children of society's also rans, it's non-achievers. McManus observes that the children of the affluent are already ahead of the game when they enter kindergarten. I'll bet these kids are already ahead of the game at birth, at conception even, although I know no way to demonstrate that "edge" so early.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Tick, Tick, Tick....

The Fresno Bee reports Pratt & Whitney is closing its defense plant in San Diego, CA. The work is moving to plants in TX, FL, and GA. Job loss = 530. Sadly, this isn't unusual.

The green gentry celebrates the exodus of ugly manufacturing jobs. One day soon all that remains in CA will be vacation and retirement homes of the affluent, and the poor communities where those who provide them services dwell: gardeners, pool boys, beauticians, food services folks, medical helpers, etc.

The remnant CA middle class will consist almost entirely of government employees: public safety, prison guards, teachers, and bureaucrats. Plus a relative handful of highly paid service providers: physicians, architects, attorneys, etc.

Unexplained is the fate of those inland portions of the state which are insufficiently scenic or climatically too extreme to be nice retirement communities. In particular, CA's great central valleys which are world-class farmland IF enough water remains after the coastal elite have watered their lawns and filled their pools.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Tech on Display

A Los Angeles Times article reports a series of amazing inventions by teenagers on display at a science and engineering competition in SoCal. Be prepared to be impressed. The U.S. has a good chance to keep its tech leadership with these kids' help.


Dear readers, COTTonLINE will be in migration mode over the weekend. The DrsC are headed to the high country for the summer, singing "git along little dogies, for you know Wyoming will be your new home."
Like a cattle drive's chuck wagon, we can't move and be productive at the same time. A couple of Travel Blog entries are possible enroute. We should be back "up to speed" by Tues. or Weds., of next week.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Pax Americana

Stratfor's Robert Kaplan has an excellent article for RealClearWorld on the extent to which world peace is an artifact of U.S. military oversight. See his conclusion:
Great powers are rarely appreciated in their own time, for the benevolent order they spread goes unacknowledged by those who benefit most from what they provide. Global civilization -- and the system of legal norms that arises from it -- survives to a significant extent because the American military remains robust and widely deployed. And that, in turn, is not a situation that is necessarily permanent, or one that can ever be taken for granted.
Particularly since isolationism is the flavor of the week in the U.S.


Albert Einstein famously defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. By this definition, the Obama Administration is demonstrably insane.

James Pethokoukis writes for the American Enterprise Institute's publication AEIdeas. He reports the Obama Administration is pushing lenders to relax mortgage credit standards. Their goal is to increase home ownership, particularly among the disadvantaged.

Luring economically marginal individuals into home ownership is much of what caused the 2008 Great Recession. Now they plan to repeat that mistake, if Pethokoukis is correct.
It will put into motion policies which will fuel another housing boom—in the effort to put families with limited resources and poor credit histories into highly leveraged loans. This policy has been a failure since it began around 1960. It places low income borrowers with a high degree of income volatility into loans with the greatest amount and varieties of leverage so as to enable them to buy homes in neighborhoods with the highest levels of house price volatility.
It is a recipe for disaster.

Moonbeam Misspeaks

California Governor Jerry Brown announced recently that a 4 foot rise in sea levels would necessitate the relocation of Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). He's had to walk that prediction back; it turns out the average elevation of LAX is 120 feet above sea level. See a Los Angeles Times article for more.

Those worried about climate change continually do things which undercut their own credibility. This egregious example is unique only in that its author was forced to disown it.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Weird Personality Science

Millennials are often described as narcissists, although the Washington Post reports that may not be true. Learn whether or not you are a narcissist, take a short, self-scoring quiz at Psych Central. Hat tip to for the link.

The quiz consists of a series of 40 paired statements. You are required in each pair to select the one that more closely describes you.

Some pairs are obvious opposites and I found those relatively easy to navigate. Other pairs seem not to be opposites and I found that in some cases I didn't think either alternative described me. In those cases I chose the "least wrong" statement.


Weird Oncological Science

Use a massive dose of measles vaccine to wipe out blood cancer? Seriously, it has worked at least once in a trial at the Mayo Clinic. See the article in the Minneapolis StarTribune for details.

The first trial was tiny - just two subjects - and had a 50% success rate. Obviously, a larger trial is planned quite soon. BTW, Mayo isn't the only center trying a viral attack on cancer, as the article notes (scroll down).

Trends Changing Your World

Feeling too cheerful? Carried away by high spirits? Downright ebullient? I have just the antidote you need, a listicle (neologism: an article in the form of a list) in Global Post listing eleven current trends that should bring you down to earth.

Here they are, explained briefly where cryptic:
  1. Economic inequality
  2. Gray is the new black - an aging society
  3. A million little pieces - separatist movements
  4. The privatization of space
  5. Horrific weapons under development
  6. The rise of the robots
  7. The end of the BRICS 
  8. The god of violent things - religious violence
  9. Our broken politics
  10. Competition for scarce resources
  11. Climate change
Sheldon Harnick wrote lyrics observing "the whole world is festering with unhappy souls" and now you're one of them, no longer irrationally happy.

Who Decides

Richard C. Clarke has written a book entitled Sting of the Drone, which is excerpted by the RealClearDefense website. RCD shares a multi-page passage which describes in detail a meeting chaired by the President's National Security Advisor in which second level functionaries from the departments of State, Defense, Justice and Homeland Security plus intelligence types make decisions about which terrorists to kill via drone strikes.

This is real fly-on-the-wall stuff. We knew these decisions happened, now we know by whom, how, and what criteria are considered. President Obama is quoted as giving National Security Advisor Winston Burrell the following charge:
I don’t want to micromanage this stuff. Just make sure we do not get attacked again. Do what you have to do. Minimize the negative press, no torture, and hold down the collateral damage to an acceptable level, but err on the side of killing the bad guys. If we fuck up trying to kill bad guys, I will be fine. If we fuck up because we didn’t kill the right bad guy and he then kills a bunch of Americans, particularly in the homeland, then I get in trouble. Understood?
The clear inference: when in doubt, kill the sucker and a few of his radical pals. Few Americans object.

Income Inequality a Loser

Bloomberg's Michael C. Bender reports the income inequality issue upon which President Obama and other Dems have been harping isn't winning them seats in Congress. I think we already knew that.

What Bender learns, via some quite simple research, is the reason why this is true:
The districts where Democrats have the best shot to win Republican-held seats show some of the smallest gaps between rich and poor in the U.S., an indication of just how hard it will be for their message to take hold with voters.

Of the 100 congressional districts ranked as having the greatest gap between rich and poor, not one is held by a Republican whose seat is considered up for grabs this November.
Dems already represent most districts which experience vast income inequality. Thus they are "preaching to the choir," rousing the base. That's only useful IF it results in increased Dem turnout in statewide U.S. Senate races, not a probable outcome.

You might also enjoy Megan McArdle's take on Bender's findings, also from Bloomberg.

Quote of the Day

Thucydides, from the Melian dialog, as quoted in The National Interest:
The strong do what they can, and the weak suffer what they must.
Putin's words to live by?

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Political Humor Alert

CBS Houston reports a sign in a local gun store window:
I like my guns like Obama likes his voters: Undocumented.
'Nuff said. Hat tip to Drudge Report for the link.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Most Glaciers Not Shrinking

Contrary to alarmist opinion, and a jeremiad by the World Wildlife Foundation, eleven Indian scientists report via Current Science that of the 2018 Himalayan glaciers surveyed, 87.7% were stable or growing. Only 12.3% were in retreat.

It seems the end of the world doesn't impend quite as soon as hapless Al Gore would like us to believe. Hat tip to and Breitbart London for the links.

Democrat Coalition Difficulties

Joel Kotkin (below) is not alone in noticing fracture lines in the Democratic Party's coalition. Michael Barone, an astute analyst of electoral politics, writes in the Washington Examiner that the party's hold on Millennials and minorities is not what pundits projected after the 2008 election. He cites the following statistics from Gallup polling:
Obama's job approval among Hispanics declined from 75 percent in 2012 to 52 in 2013 and among Millennials from 61 percent in 2012 to 46 percent in 2013.
Barone also observes that private sector union members are exhibiting disaffection with a Democratic Party that today is controlled by anti-growth greens. He draws our attention to two new constituencies which may vote GOP: 9 million concealed carry permit holders, and the parents of 3 million charter school or homeschool children.

Three Kinds of Democrats

Joel Kotkin writes in the Orange County Register that Republicans aren't the only party with internal divisions. Democrats, he notes, wrestle with three constituencies whose interests can experience real conflict: the gentry liberals, the populist progressives, and the old social democrats.

The Obama administration has favored the gentry liberals of Hollywood, Silicon Valley, and Boston - green dudes with money and glamour. In particular, the old social democrats in the labor movement have not been influential recently and populist redistributionism has mostly involved putting millions of people on the dole in various destructive ways.

Friedman: They Want Our Help

The New York Times' Tom Friedman draws interesting parallels between Ukraine's problems with Russia and Vietnam's difficulties with China. Seen from his perspective both are similar situations, smaller countries being bullied by large neighbors.

Both would like U.S. help. Neither is likely to get much more than lip service from an America that is tired of foreign entanglements.

No Deal

Aaron David Miller has written for the Los Angeles Times an impressive critique of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Here is his core conclusion:
The maximum that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is prepared to give on the core issues that drive the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can't be aligned, let alone reconciled, with the minimum that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is prepared to accept.

Let's at least be honest about why we can't achieve it. Neither Israel nor the Palestinians — nor Obama — is willing or able to pay the price of what it would cost.
Each side prefers the status quo to the best deal the other side is willing to let them have. It is high time the U.S. recognized reality in the region, they don't need our help to continue "as is."

Sunday, May 11, 2014

FX's The Americans

See a Global Post article on the FX cable drama The Americans, which concerns the lives of a pair of Soviet era moles living and spying in the U.S. The show is described relatively accurately, the Russians get most of the sex, have the good lines, and (presumably) end up losing.

No question it is an interesting concept - not entirely far-fetched as we learned in 2010 with the arrest of Anna Chapman and nine other Russian moles in the U.S. The article gives you a pretty fair notion of whether the program might be for you.

The story is mostly told from the moles' point of view. It is sorta fun to watch our consumer society seduce committed ideologues. The spy craft on both sides feels like the real stuff.

Some months back the DrsC watched a couple of episodes. I decided the moles were being portrayed too sympathetically for my cold war era biases, and quit.

Happy Mother's Day

Moms are special every day but today makes it "official." Fun fact: this year is the 100th anniversary of President Woodrow Wilson's signing of a proclamation designating the second Sunday in May as Mother's Day.

COTTonLINE hopes you hear from all of your children and grandchildren today.

Weird Evolutionary Science

Nicholas Wade, a long time science editor and writer for The New York Times has written a career-ending book entitled A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race, and Human History. An article in The Daily Caller quotes from the book his argument:
Human evolution has been recent, copious and regional. Though there is still a large random element, the broad general theme of human history is that each race has developed the institutions appropriate to secure survival in its particular environment.
The article summarizes the thrust of Wade's conclusions:
He depicts blacks with roots in sub-Saharan Africa as genetically less adapted to modern life than whites and Asians.
Wade suggests what has been true for Darwin's finches is also true for humans living in different environments, evolution marches on and the fittest survive to reproduce.

Wade's thesis is certainly politically incorrect. Accuracy aside, one can reasonably ask if publishing these ideas is like shouting "FIRE" in a crowded theater.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Laffer on CA's Malaise

Economist Arthur Laffer created the famous Laffer curve which shows higher tax rates result in lower tax revenues. He writes for Investors Business Daily about the history of taxation in CA and its reciprocal relationship with population flows.

When CA's taxes were relatively low, people moved TO the state, Since taxes have been high, people move FROM California to other states, often TX or FL both of which impose no state income taxes. Furthermore, Laffer demonstrates that people moving from CA have higher incomes than people moving to CA, also true for NY and IL.

Apparently, economic rationality overpowers quality of life. CA has the best quality-of-life in the nation, some of the best in the world. Where else can you find warm weather, low humidity, mountains, beaches, world-class skiing, multiple national parks, cool rain forests, the tallest mountain in the contiguous 48 states (Mt. Whitney) and the lowest spot in the nation - Death Valley. And it has some of the nation's most productive agriculture.

As Laffer points out, politics in the state is held in a financing stranglehold by public employee unions which have arranged for CA public employees to be highly paid. As a consequence, the state has fewer of them per 100,000 population than most states, because they cost too much. Fewer highly paid public employees per capita equals poorer public services, the worst of both worlds.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Quote of the Day

Mark Steyn, from his SteynOnline website, speaking of the failure to send military aid to the beleaguered consular outpost in Benghazi, quoting from his dialog on the Hugh Hewitt radio show:
In those first few moments, when the President is informed what's going on, does somebody, does somebody take the decision that because this whole thing is unhelpful to their view of the world, they are not going to send force? Because that, to me, does render whoever made that decision ...unfit for office.
COTTonLINE concurs. The decision was purely political.

Wheat vs. Rice

Researchers find that Chinese from rice growing southern regions are more "holistic and interdependent." Those from wheat growing northern regions are more "analytic and individualistic." See the story in Science. Something the story doesn't mention is that northern Chinese tend to be taller, also related to diet one supposes.

Of course, people from different regions of the U.S. have different attitudes as well. No question that people in the Southeast are more actively religious than average. Does anybody want to blame hot weather? How about the eating of grits or black-eyed peas?

Occasionally I read a correlational study like this one and wonder if the things found to covary are in fact unrelated, mere coincidence? I cannot imagine that a fondness for black-eyed peas and corn bread makes one religious, or vice versa. Simple coincidence.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Maritime Mayhem

Reuters reports for Yahoo News that Chinese vessels have rammed, damaged Vietnamese vessels in the South China Sea. The incident took place in the vicinity of a large oil drilling rig moved by China to an area Vietnam claims as their coastal waters.

Tensions among China and its neighbors concerning the seas of the region and miscellaneous islands and shoals therein continue to escalate. The Asian littoral could be the tinderbox where a major war begins.

Sears Changes Focus

Sears has long had a policy of emphasizing clothing sales. You see this emphasis in the relatively large sales floor space devoted to it in full-service Sears stores, a standard retail indicator.

The judgment behind a clothing emphasis is puzzling, perhaps there is more markup in clothing. I have bought several items of clothing at Sears in a long life, but it has never been my primary or even secondary source for clothes.

Sears is known for good tools, major appliance sales and service, and auto service focusing on replacement of wear items: batteries and tires. One might also buy housewares at Sears - towels, sheets, etc.

Few identify Sears as their first choice for clothing. Therefore I was not surprised to read a CNBC article indicating Sears is reducing its emphasis on clothing sales. The decision seems long overdue.

Ivys Not Worth It

There is a new Gallup survey that asked college graduates of all ages about their later-in-life happiness and income. The intent was to understand whether attending a highly selective prestige university or college resulted in greater happiness, income. Result: It doesn't. National Public Radio (NPR) has a nice article explaining the findings. NPR writes:
This isn't the first time studies have documented no edge for highly selective schools. Previous studies have shown no link between expensive private colleges and later salary for graduates. Income is much more closely tied to a person's choice of a major, which is a finding the Gallup survey also supported.

High-end colleges often boast that their long-term results should be judged not by looking at paychecks, but at whether their graduates live lives of meaning and deep satisfaction. (snip) This survey asked about all that qualitative stuff — purpose, motivation to achieve goals, opportunity to learn and grow — and it didn't find any broad influence whatsoever, whether a person's diploma cost $25,000 or $250,000.
NPR quotes the Gallup survey leader's conclusion:
If you can go to Podunk U debt free vs. Harvard for $100,000, go to Podunk. And concentrate on what you do when you get there.
Long-time COTTonLINE readers remember our repeated insistence on the crucial choice of college major. Selecting a career path in which there are vacancies as well as decent pay and conditions seems pragmatic.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Call Center News

Overseas call centers are stereotypically located in India. Many Americans have been frustrated by the sing-song rhythms of Indian English, which often puts "the em-PHA-sis on the wrong syl-LA-ble."

Increasingly call centers are being relocated to the Philippines, according to this Global Post article. I believe Philippines call centers are logical. Lots of people in the Philippines speak passable American English, if with a slight accent.

I've interacted with scores of Filipino crew members on board the many ships on which I've cruised. The young Filipino men and women I've met have been friendly, hard-working people who are pleasant to be around. Cruise lines make an effort to hire affable people, I understand I've not met a random sample.

Some linguists say understanding its humor is the true test of whether you've mastered a language. It isn't uncommon to meet Filipino crew who have a sense of humor in English. A sense of humor should help them be good call center employees.

Be(ijing) Prepared

"Be Prepared" isn't just the Boy Scouts' motto, it is also what military general staffs try to accomplish the world around. Case in point, The Telegraph (U.K.) reports China's leaked plans for a possible collapse of the neighboring North Korean regime.

Apparently the leadership in Beijing feels North Korea is unstable and could rapidly descend into chaos. China definitely wants to avoid hundreds of thousands of hungry, desperate Koreans swarming across their border looking for food and shelter.

South Korea should have made similar plans; I fear it may not have done so. Political consensus in South Korea may be inadequate for cold-blooded contingency planning.

What's In A Name?

Articles about abducted Nigerian schoolgirls translate the name of the Islamic terrorist organization claiming credit - Boko Haram - as meaning "western education is forbidden." Or to paraphrase, perhaps "ignorance is bliss" or "ignorance is heavenly."

Boko Haram opposition to education for women resembles the pre-Civil War prohibitions of teaching slaves to read. The parallel is almost exact; women-as-slaves.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Will a Low Voltage Atheist

Conservative newspaper columnist and TV personality George Will tells an interviewer for The Daily Caller that he's an atheist. According to their story, this is what Will said:
I’m an amiable, low voltage atheist. I deeply respect religions and religious people. The great religions reflect something constant and noble in the human character, defensible and admirable yearnings. I am just not persuaded. That’s all.
Is the conservative tent big enough to accomodate admitted non-believers in spokesperson roles? Sadly, I expect several papers in the South will drop his syndicated Washington Post column.

Quote of the Day

Demographer Joel Kotkin, writing in the Orange County Register about the non-impact Toyota's leaving for Texas will have on California policy makers:
If having among the country’s highest unemployment rates, the worst poverty levels, based on living costs, and being home to one-third of all U.S. welfare recipients can’t persuade the gentry about California’s true condition, Toyota’s move certainly won’t.
Sadly, I concur. Hat tip to RealClearPolitics for the link.

Peters Posits Putin's Plan

Apologies for the alliterative title, I simply could not resist. It's difficult to say aloud quickly five times.

Col. Ralph Peters (USA, Ret.) writes on matters military for the New York Post. His topic today is an estimate of what territories Russia's President Putin plans to reconquer or otherwise annex to his nation.

All but one are the former SSRs that became independent when the Soviet Union broke up in 1991. The exception to this generality is Poland, which Peters seems reasonably certain Putin wants.

Putting Humpty Dumpty back together was too much for all the king's horses and all the king's men. It remains to be seen if Putin can put Greater Russia back together.

Peters seems to think Putin can do it because the West won't be willing to go to war to stop him. Given current public opinion, Peters is probably correct.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Architecturally Speaking

Pundit and Bush campaign architect Karl Rove does a column for The Wall Street Journal. His most recent effort takes a stroll through today's poll numbers and compares them with the numbers before the last midterm election (2010), which the GOP won handily.

COTTonLINE readers will not be surprised to learn that Rove discovers the auguries are favorable. That has been the conventional wisdom for a few months. However, the following Rove quote is telling:
The Washington Post/ABC News poll found in April that 53% of Americans believe it is more important to have Republicans in charge of Congress to check the president's policies, while only 39% believe it is more important to have Democrats in charge to help support Mr. Obama's policies. That 39% is the same low number seen before the 2010 midterm.
Translation: 53% of Americans believe the president's policies are wrong, 39% support them.

Politically Segregated

"Politically segregated" is a term I read for the first time in an article about geographic political concentrations in Milwaukee's Journal Sentinel. The concept is of course familiar, but the elegance of the phrasing is what caught my eye. Hat tip to RealClearPolitics for the link.

If you check out the map you see that, to an amazing degree, Wisconsin's Republicans and Democrats live in different places. It is striking how much the two groups have chosen to live apart.

Clearly the Republicans control most of the real estate, acreage-wise. Value-wise, the split is probably more equal as urban land is more expensive than rural land.

COTTonLINE has written before of the very real possibility of the U.S. lapsing into "tribal" politics, with Democrats mostly non-white and Republicans mostly white. The article underscores this trend in Wisconsin.

Wisconsin Republicans are more likely to be married, to be older, to be white, to own their homes, and to live in places with lower density. They tend to characterize the split between the parties as one of "makers vs. takers" with them being the makers.

Wisconsin sounds like a near-perfect microcosm of our nation's politics. It is a good article, worth your time.

The Stuff of Nightmares

Want to see a photo of an excessively ugly fish? A shrimp fisherman off Florida caught an extremely rare goblin shark.

Talk about well-named, this is one unpleasant looking customer. See the photo and story in The Telegraph.

Chilly Calgary

Turns out anybody who went north two months early for the Calgary Stampede got snowed on. Yep, it is 60 days until the Stampede kicks off and Calgary has snow.

See a story with cute photo of a deer in a local paper, The Province. Hat tip to Drudge Report for the link. Remind me again, where is global warming when we need it in May?

Supply and Demand

People ask me why the stock market keeps going up, in an economy that is far from buoyant. Here is a CNBC article which poses the same question. In my view, today's rising stock prices do not reflect an anticipation of higher corporate earnings.

My response all along is that there is no mystery, the Fed is to blame. For some years the Federal Reserve Bank has artificially suppressed interest rates in order to stimulate the economy. Has it helped? We'll never be certain.

Adjusting returns for the low but constant rate of inflation, Treasury notes and bonds pay essentially zero. In other words they are a safe place to "park" money but are not a place where money can be earned. Ditto savings accounts and CDs, all three are hardly better than under the mattress.

Meanwhile, because employment has been very weak (see yesterday's post on jobs data) and wages have been flat, home sales have been anemic and thus in many markets real estate prices have not risen much.

Therefore, of the three major places where money can earn a return - lending, real estate, and equities - it turns out equities or stocks are the only one with earnings potential. Thus most of the money that would normally be spread across bonds, stocks, and real estate is being funneled into the stock market, increasing demand.

In today's economy corporations do not issue huge new amounts of stock because they don't have good places to invest the funds they already have on hand. This reluctance restricts supply of equities.

Rising stock prices are the result of more dollars chasing a given pool of stocks because of a perception that there's no other sensible place to invest. Increased demand for a restricted supply equals rising prices. This is not rocket science, it's the "dismal science" of economics.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Understanding April Jobs Data

The best explanation I've seen of the jobs data released yesterday by the U.S. government comes from the website of a British newspaper, The Telegraph. Author Ambrose Evans-Pritchard writes that, contrary to the rosy spin given the numbers by President Obama and his claque, the results are relatively dismal. His reading:
Non-Farm Payrolls data released on Friday shows that the workforce shed 806,000 jobs in April, a stunning drop that cannot plausibly be blamed on the weather. Wage growth and hours worked were both flat and the manufacturing hours per week fell.

This follows news earlier in the week that the economy (came) to a halt in the first quarter. Growth plummeted to 0.1pc and is now well below the Fed’s “stall speed” indicator.

The headline unemployment rate fell to 6.3pc but that was only because the labour “participation rate” plummeted back to a modern-era low of 62.8pc, last seen in 1978 when there were far fewer women in the workforce. The rate for males is the lowest ever recorded at 69.1pc.
The labor participation rate for males is at an all-time low? This can't be good news. Evidence suggests many who have been out of work for over 6 months will never again hold down regular, full-time employment. You and I will pay for their care and feeding, one way or another.

Weird Chemical Science

European chemists claim to have demonstrated the feasibility of generating jet fuel (kerosene) from concentrated sunlight, carbon dioxide, and water. See the article in Chemistry World for details.

So ... we take a greenhouse gas - CO2 - and water plus sunlight and viola, jet fuel/hydrocarbons. Is this a way to have unlimited supplies of something formerly available only from fossil sources? It sure sounds like it. The question, of course, is whether it can be done at a reasonable cost.

No Deal Possible

Emanuele Ottolenghi writes for Standpoint a wise analysis of the reasons why it is impossible for the two sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to make peace. He finds it is a zero-sum game, there is no way for both sides to simultaneously achieve their minimum acceptable outcome. Ottolenghi's conclusion:
The Arab-Israeli conflict defies solution. It has always done so. It will continue to do so in the near future. Trying once more what failed before is doomed to beget more failure. It is time the West recognized that the differences between the two sides are irreconcilable — and the sooner the better.
Hat tip to RealClearWorld for the link.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Unbundling California

From time to time someone comes up with a plan to subdivide California into an additional state or states. The latest, the brainchild of venture capitalist Tim Draper, seeks a spot on the ballot to ask CA voters to approve its split into six states.

Don't get your hopes up. As the City Journal article reporting this activity points out, the hurdles such a proposal would have to clear are well-nigh insurmountable. It is, however, interesting to explore the possible outcomes such a devolution would enable.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Travel Blogging Postscript

The other DrC and I have wandered this old globe for many a year; she says we've visited 110 countries. Many of those places are interesting, some also seem very nice. None of them are "home."

I am always struck by the sense of "rightness" we feel when we land back in the continental U.S. For all its faults, there is no place we would rather come home to. We agree the luckiest day of our lives was the day we were born citizens of this great land.

It's All Relative

Instapundit Glenn Reynolds cracks wise about the convoluted relationships involving White House staff and the press, posted today at 8:45 a.m.
Missing from much of the coverage of yesterday’s revelations that Senior White House adviser Ben Rhodes coordinated an effort to obfuscate the truth behind the Sept. 11, 2012, terror attacks in Benghazi was a key detail about the insidious relationship between politics and media in Washington.
The brother of Ben Rhodes is David Rhodes, president of CBS News. And the guy up at the podium lying about it yesterday was ABC reporter Claire Shipman’s husband, Jay Carney.
Carney is, of course, White House Press Secretary.

More On China's Military

Yesterday COTTonLINE linked to an appraisal of China's People's Liberation Army. Overnight I realized the article totally omitted a discussion of China's considerable chops in the realm of cyber warfare. It may be the one military arm in which the PLA is a world-class force.

Sad, Soulful Words

Jay Nordlinger who writes for National Review, quotes a Cuban-American woman of his acquaintance who lives in Miami and worries about the direction being taken by her adopted homeland.
I found a free country here in the United States. I don’t want to have to look elsewhere.
I know just how she feels, don't you?