Thursday, July 31, 2014

Mulling Millennials

Writing for City Journal, Matthew Hennessey puzzles over the conundrum that is the Millennial cohort. Mostly he does "on the one hand" but then "on the other hand" type wandering through the Pew polling results. The one truly useful thing he reports is the following:
There may be more than one Millennial generation: an older cohort that came of age during the George W. Bush years and identifies strongly with Obama’s progressive agenda, and a more skeptical younger cohort, whose political awareness has been shaped by Obama’s first term.

Younger Millennials went heavily for Mitt Romney in the 2012 election. The GOP nominee won 59 percent of 19-year-olds and 54 percent of 20-year-olds.
However Obama won 75% of the votes of 21 year olds. These are kids old enough to remember the euphoria of Obama's 2008 campaign.

By 2016, four more one-year cohorts will have entered the electorate since 2012. Given the economically depressed world they've experienced, I'd guess many of these will vote GOP if they can hitch a ride with their parents to the polls.

A False Choice

Ron Brownstein columns are often thoughtful, his latest for National Journal unfortunately tilts at a straw man. He contrasts the Obama "velvet glove" and the Bush "iron fist" as though those were the two extremes of an entirely linear, bipolar range of policies.

Brownstein finds both to be failures, and with that COTTonLINE agrees. The bone I have to pick with him concerns his assumption that the way Bush utilized force is the only muscular foreign policy.

Born-again Bush wanted to "save the world," to turn everyplace into a god-fearing, market-oriented democracy. His use of force was incidental to that end. Bush's nation-building was a failure everywhere it was tried, but we spent many borrowed billions in those fiascos.

Another way to use force is to punish malefactors, raining death and destruction. Putting their lives back together should be the malefactors' problem, not ours. Perhaps the effort to survive will keep them too busy to bother us for some years to come.

Foreign intervention is much cheaper when you omit the nation-building. And it has greater deterrent value as well, meaning it will be needed less often.

Unquenchable Ignorance

The Daily Mail (U.K.) reports a language teacher in Provo, Utah, was fired for discussing homophones on his blog. As COTTonLINE readers know, homophones are words which sound alike but have different meanings, examples: to, too, and two; sea and see.

His boss, whose ignorance should keep him miles away from any school, thought the teacher was promoting a gay agenda. He may have been, for all we know, but "homophone" does not exemplify that agenda. Instead, it illustrates a reason English is difficult to learn.

Tough New Immigration Poll Data

A just released Associated Press-GfK poll concerning American attitudes toward illegal immigration shows attitudes toward immigration are hardening. Some of its findings:
  • Sixty-eight percent disapprove of Obama's handling of immigration.
  • Republicans do a better job of handling immigration than Democrats but nearly thirty percent trust neither party on the issue.
  • A majority (53%) believe the U.S. has no moral obligation to offer asylum to those fleeing from persecution.
  • More Americans oppose than favor the current law regarding Central American immigrants.
  • A majority believe all children should be treated like Mexican and Canadian children. That is, sent home without a deportation hearing.
If you see an allegation Americans favor letting the kids stay, remember what they told the AP's pollsters. The wording of the poll's actual questions shows GfK bent over backwards to evoke warm hearted responses. They failed, utterly.

Bad News for the EU

National Front leader Marine Le Pen has taken the lead in a poll of first round presidential voting intentions in France. Her lead is only 25% to 24% for Nicolas Sarkozy. The incumbent, Francois Hollande, came in a poor third. So reports the Financial Times. 

France almost always holds two rounds of presidential voting as there are normally more than two serious candidates. In the second round, the two strongest vote getters square off and those who voted for someone else in round one either pick one of the two finalists, or stay home.

Le Pen and her FN do not favor France ceding sovereignty to the EU. As our headline notes, should she be elected president it would be bad news for the EU.

It is argued that voters for either of the two centrist parties, headed by Hollande and Sarko, would be reluctant to vote for Le Pen. French presidential elections will be held in the late spring of 2017, much can change in the interim.

Argentine Debt Debacle

Headlines about the Argentine debt default are somewhat misleading. If you read the entire Bloomberg article, you'll see that Argentina is able and willing to pay its other bondholders, and has deposited sufficient funds to do so with a trustee bank.

A U.S judge has blocked Argentina doing so unless they first pay off the holdout owners of bonds in default. If they do so, they'd have to go back and pay the other 90+% of defaulted bondholders the full amount as well.

The 90+% took a haircut, they settled for something less than 100% of what they were owed. The 90+% would have to receive the full amount originally owed if any holdouts receive the full amount. Argentina is either unwilling or unable to pay all holders 100% of what they were owed.

This mess could have been avoided by paying their bond debts in full when they came due. In the interim, Argentina will have difficulty borrowing at rates they're willing to pay.

NY Fed to Puerto Rico: Shape Up

The New York regional Federal Reserve Bank, whose purview includes Puerto Rico, has issued a cautionary report described by the Associated Press in an article for Yahoo News. The message:
The island appears to face two alternatives: either manage its own economic adjustment and put the Commonwealth on a secure fiscal basis, or wait for outmigration and the discipline of the market to force an even more painful adjustment, particularly for those unable or unwilling to leave the island.
COTTonLINE has written about Puerto Rico's troubles three times this year: here, here, and here. Sadly, this beautiful island is on track to become a third world mess. The political will to solve its problems appears not to exist.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

WSJ: Pro-Lawsuit Arguments

Are you interested in the lawsuit Speaker Boehner is filing against President Obama? That's the suit charging Obama with failing to faithfully carry out the laws Congress has passed.

If you'd like to read the arguments in favor thereof, this Wall Street Journal article is for you. It cites case law and points to examples where the Supreme Court has found that laws cannot be changed by administrative fiat.

John Wayne Remembered

Are you a John Wayne fan? Listen up, Pilgrim, you'd better git your mind right. Have some fun and read a review of a new Wayne biography written by his former driver for The Spectator (U.K.). It includes some choice Wayne vignettes.

The View from Israel

Caroline Glick apparently has very good sources inside the Israeli cabinet. An editor of The Jerusalem Post, she reports the content of a call President Obama made to Prime Minister Netanyahu on Sunday night.
Obama told Netanyahu that Israel must lose. He wants an unconditional “humanitarian” cease-fire that will lead to a permanent one. And he wants it now.

And by the way, the eventual terms of that cease-fire must include opening Hamas-controlled Gaza’s borders with Egypt and Israel and ending Israel’s maritime blockade of the Gaza coast.

Rather than backtrack, and try to save the Israeli Left, the administration doubled down on Monday, releasing a series of statements condemning the Israeli media’s condemnations of Kerry’s pro-Hamas position.

By Monday afternoon, the administration went so far as to say that by criticizing Kerry, Israel’s media were endangering their country’s alliance with the US.

For the past five years, Americans from all quarters have concluded that the manifold failures of Obama’s Middle East policies – from Iraq to Iran, Libya, Afghanistan, Egypt, Syria, Israel, the Palestinian Authority and beyond – owe to a combination of Obama’s personal disinterest in foreign affairs and his presumed preference for withdrawal and isolationism over engagement.

Obama’s open, public engagement in Hamas’s war against Israel shows that the popular assessment is wrong. In every war, in every conflict and in every contest of wills that has occurred in the Middle East since Obama took office, he has sided with Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood, against America’s allies.
Israeli Glick seems darn sure of her assessment. Strangely, many U.S. Jews agree with Obama.

Dem Senators Warn Obama

Politico weighs in on an interesting loss of support for the President among Senate Democrats.
The Senate’s most vulnerable Democratic incumbents, caught in the crosscurrents of immigration reform, are urging President Barack Obama to show restraint in using his executive powers to slow deportations.

Two of the top Republican targets, Sens. Kay Hagan of North Carolina and Mark Pryor of Arkansas, have gone further than any of their Democratic colleagues in warning that Obama shouldn’t take any steps without the approval of Congress.

“I’m not for government by executive order,” Pryor said in an interview. “He needs to have statutory authority before he acts.”

Hagan said through a spokeswoman that “this is a problem that needs to be solved legislatively and not through executive action.”

Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Mark Begich (D-Alaska) also said there are limits to what the president can — and should — do.

“We want him to be careful not to go too far,” Begich said.
These are all potential losers in November; the pandering statements show they read the polls.

MSNBC Hurting

Breitbart Big Journalism reports MSNBC ratings have cratered. The news network is known as a cheerleader for an unpopular president, one who remains popular primarily with people who rarely watch news.

I hope you are not surprised. MSNBC shares with broadcast networks the audience for liberal news, Fox News has no competitors. In the words of Mr. Spock, "It is logical."

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Fast and Furious Baghdad

See a Global Post photo story about kids doing automotive stunts in Baghdad, in an organized fashion. Like figure skating, the "drifting" is judged for style and winners announced. It looks like fun.

Weird Gender Science

The Economist reports two researchers in Israel sent out 2500 resumes with and without pictures to see if being good-looking would give someone an edge in getting an interview. The answer: yes if the applicant was a man, no if the applicant was a woman. Why these findings?
Human resources departments tend to be staffed mostly by women. Indeed, in the Israeli study, 93% of those tasked with selecting whom to invite for an interview were female. The researchers' unavoidable—and unpalatable—conclusion is that old-fashioned jealousy led the women to discriminate against pretty candidates.

Whither the Philippines

Writing for Bloomberg View, William Pesek talks about the current state of play in the Philippines, as Benigno Aquino's presidential term winds down. Pesek is impressed with the accomplishments of Aquino but pessimistic about his possible replacements, most of whom have been accused of corruption of various sorts.

My experience with a culture very like that of the Philippines, on the island of Guam, suggests pessimism is warranted. What Westerners call "graft, nepotism and corruption" are the warp and weft of these cultures, essentially their organizing principles. Very difficult to counteract.

Today's Vietnam

Michael J. Totten pens some of the best atmospheric travel writing I know. Here, writing for World Affairs, he describes a sojourn in Vietnam, specifically in the greater Hanoi region. It is a long article, but very pleasant.

The DrsC haven't been that far north in Vietnam but everything Totten writes about the north applies in spades to the parts we've visited, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Da Nang and the old imperial capital Hue. We encountered zero anti-American feeling the several days we were there.

Vietnam is very probably the most capitalist-acting supposedly Communist country in the world. Every new home is built with a shop on the ground floor so the occupants can run a store, or rent it to someone who wishes to do so.

His description of the homes as narrow and tall, very often three stories or even four, is right on the money. Motorbikes, light motorcycles really, are everywhere, often carrying multiple passengers. Totten's read on the climate is spot on too, the heat/humidity combination is brutal.

One of the most impressive buildings I've ever visited is the presidential palace in Ho Chi Minh City, the former home/office of the rulers of South Vietnam. It is so cleverly designed that, without air conditioning, it remains cool and comfortable.

There's The Rub

Writing in the Washington Examiner, Philip Klein argues that the GOP needs an outreach to unmarried people, especially unmarried women. He entirely omits what "outreach" might consist of. In the words of Shakespeare, "Ay, there's the rub."

Of course we'd like the votes of the unmarried, especially women. The question remains, what do they want from government and how are those demands compatible with GOP values?

Many have argued that single women, particularly single moms, want the government to be a stand-in "husband" - a provider and helpmate. To do that government has to grow, give more handouts, not what GOP voters seek.

Then too, a substantial number of singles are not heterosexual. Their demands of government-enforced equality and legitimacy run head on into the conflicting demands of a substantial GOP block of voters: social conservatives, who find the gay lifestyle anathema.

In sum, we'd love the votes of the unmarried but don't want to provide what they seek from government. Squaring that circle won't happen anytime soon.


John Fund, national political correspondent for National Review Online, speaking to Breitbart News Executive Chairman Stephen K. Bannon, as reported on Breitbart's website:
If President Obama attempts via executive order to grant amnesty to eight million illegal aliens “it would be the equivalent of ritual political suicide and most political parties don’t do that.”
Parties don't, but this President might because it is all about him, not the party. Hat tip to for the link.

Flipping Not Imminent

RealClearPolitics electoral analyst Sean Trende takes a long look at the prediction that Georgia, Texas and Arizona are about to flip and become blue Democrat states. His conclusion in brief: don't hold your breath.

I particularly like his time series analysis which estimates the various demographic flows and trends in the states in question. Trende writes:
Let’s use one of my favorite tools: Nate Silver’ demographic calculator from 2013. Silver’s algorithm freezes the vote shares of demographic groups at 2012 levels (though you can alter them), then makes projections in states based upon current projections of population growth (which you can also alter).

So I took Silver’s projection, assumed nothing changed electorally, and also assumed that immigration reform with a path to citizenship did not pass.  Then I simply marched through the years, waiting for Georgia, Texas or Arizona to flip.

I waited a long time. Arizona finally flips in 2036, and Georgia flips in 2048.  Texas never does.

Cartoon Link

A. F. Branco draws political cartoons with a conservative bite, I particularly like this one. Perhaps you'll enjoy it too. Hat tip to for the link.

Cillizza: Obama a Poor Manager

The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza is relatively liberal. Yet he headlines this edition of his politics blog The Fix, "President Obama's competence problem is worse than it looks." I had to read further to see how Cillizza believed this possible:
Obama is faltering badly on the competence question and, in so doing, badly imperiling not only his ability to enact any sort of second term agenda but also Democrats' chances this fall. A series of events -- from the VA scandal to the ongoing border crisis to the situation in Ukraine to the NSA spying program -- have badly undermined the idea that Obama can effectively manage the government.
Cillizza summarizes the polling data which chronicles Obama's fall:
Back in December 2009, more than three quarters of respondents in a CNN/ORC poll said that Obama was an effective manager of the government. By early November 2009 that number had dropped to 58 percent. It dipped below 50 percent for the first time in June 2010 and in the three polls in which CNN has asked the question since mid-November 2013, 40 percent, 43 percent and now 42 percent, respectively, have said that he is a good manager.
Partisanship is alive and well in the polling data, but the opinions of independents tip the balance:
Eighty nine percent of Republicans say Obama isn't a competent manager while 76 percent of Democrats say he is.  Two thirds of independents say that Obama ins't (sic) an effective manager of the government.
When you lose a quarter of your own partisans, you're in trouble. The career Management professor who writes COTTonLINE concurs with the judgment of Obama's inability to manage.

Monday, July 28, 2014

No Mention of Unclean Dogs

The Global Post and The Washington Post both have articles reporting on the places where people have more cats than dogs, and vice versa. I find amazing that in neither article does the paper report that Islam views dogs as ritually unclean. 

Few Muslims are likely to own indoor dogs, as the WaPo maps show. Islamic scholars say owning dogs for hunting or guarding is okay, but they are unlikely to be kept as pets.

The Feel of War in Ukraine

Anna Nemtsova writes for Newsweek and its online avatar The Daily Beast. Here she reports from Eastern Ukraine where she's been covering the war from the rebel side, dodging bullets and bombs, talking her way through checkpoints.

Nemtsova provides no great geopolitical insights but a lot of telling detail about the ugliness that is civil war.  Pretty clearly the brains come from Moscow and the rebel blood spilled is mostly Russian-speaking Ukrainians.

The people in Eastern Ukraine view Kiev (Kyiv) as run by fascists. What they mean by "fascist" is people who identify more with German-speaking Europe than with Mother Russia.

Nemtsova doesn't say so but the wounds of what the Soviet Union called The Great Patriotic War (World War II) run deep, and haven't healed. War in the Donbass region is the cold war turned hot, and it will spread.

Quote of the Day

Fred Hyatt, writing on foreign affairs for The Washington Post, reaches dismal conclusions about the Obama foreign policy.
Obama thought he could engineer a cautious, modulated retreat from U.S. leadership. What we have gotten is a far more dangerous world.
That's a fair assessment.

Marriage Mostly for the Educated

Sociologist Stephanie Coontz writes for The New York Times about the growing disparity in marriage stability between the educated and those with less than a college degree. It isn't exactly news, we've commented on it before.

Like the good liberal she undoubtedly is, she attributes the instability among the lower orders to declining career opportunities and declining wages. If you read carefully what she's written, you'll discover that erasing the income differences between men and women has also been a factor in high divorce rates, although she hopes you will discount its importance.

This is a carefully crafted exercise in political correctness, by a faculty member at one of the most liberal public campuses on the West Coast. Evergreen State College is a small non-traditional liberal arts campus in Olympia, WA, trying to be another U.C., Santa Cruz, somewhere to the left of Chairman Mao.

George Will Jumps the Shark

Long-time conservative columnist and TV commentator George Will is reported to have said, on the Fox News Sunday program, that the U.S. should not send home Central American children coming here illegally. My source is an article in The Daily Caller.

It's time Will stopped claiming to be a spokesperson for red-state American values. Conservatives in particular, and Americans generally, oppose allowing those children and adults to remain here. I'd guess we will not link to many future Will columns.

An Essay Question

Professor Cotton poses an essay question:

Suppose a Republican president with a Republican Senate majority facing a Democrat majority House decides to stop issuing food stamps, without changing the law. Suppose further that the Republican Senate agrees this is fine with them, as few collecting food stamps vote Republican.

Should the Democrats in the House be able to sue the president for disobedience to the law which authorizes food stamps for the poor? The House could impeach him, but the Senate would not convict. Does this change your answer about whether Speaker Boehner can sue President Obama? Why or why not?


A Machiavellian View

With regard to the previous post, you can take the Machiavellian view that Boehner knows the Court will find he doesn't have standing because of the impeachment option. That the Court will say effectively "If you have a problem with presidential unlawfulness, impeach."

Then, Boehner can proceed with impeachment claiming "The Supreme Court told us to impeach Obama." That would certainly strengthen his argument for impeachment. However, I still don't see 2/3 of the Senate voting to convict.

Heritage: Obama Suit Not Allowed in Law?

An article from The Fiscal Times, appearing on Yahoo News, reports two Heritage Foundation legal fellows believe House Speaker Boehner's lawsuit against President Obama will fail over the legal issue of "standing." Having standing means being able to demonstrate the party filing suit was damaged by the (in)action of the party being sued. They write:
The House will have to demonstrate to a court’s satisfaction that as an institution, it has been personally harmed by President Obama’s actions, which have effectively nullified the votes of its members, leaving it little recourse to rectify this injustice without court intervention.
I expect the government will argue the constitutional recourse of Congress is impeachment by the House and conviction by the Senate.

Boehner's law team will argue if the only recourse available to Congress is impeachment, in the relatively common (and currently pertaining) situation of divided government, a president whose party controls one body of Congress may be able to violate the law with impunity, assuming his own party likes the unlawful things he does. That is, a president can safely ignore laws passed under previous Congresses with opposition majorities, laws he cannot change because the opposition controls one body of the current Congress.

The dilemma facing the Supreme Court is either to decide that, oops, the framers of the constitution failed to consider the current circumstances and the document is moot with regard to it, or to decide that an answer to the question is inferred somewhere in the document, namely that a lawsuit may go forward as Congress has been harmed by the presidential nullification of their laws in circumstances where impeachment and conviction of a scofflaw president is not possible politically.

This is weighty stuff. Look at the length of the two prior paragraphs!

Whatever We Do Is Wrong

Victor Davis Hanson, blogging for PJMedia about Europe's attitude toward the U.S.:
It trashed the interventionism of George W. Bush and now laments the isolationism of Barack Obama — the only constant being whatever America does, it objects to it. What then does Europe want from the U.S.? Apparently a huge American military subject to the dictates of European “soft power.”

Sunday, July 27, 2014

A Cool Summer

The website Real Science reports that this has been the coolest summer (so far) on record. Hat tip to Drudge Report for the link.
The frequency of 90 degree days in the US has been plummeting for 80 years, and 2014 has had the lowest frequency of 90 degree days through July 23 on record. The only other year which came close was 1992, and that was due to dust in the atmosphere from Mt Pinatubo.
The chart that accompanies the article is informative, the trend line for percentage of 90 degree days has a decidedly negative slope.

Coal Trains in the Night

The Associated Press reports via Yahoo News that coal once burned in carbon dioxide generating U.S. power plants is being shipped overseas from Newport, VA.
Coal from Appalachia rumbles into this port city, 150 railroad cars at a time, bound for the belly of the massive cargo ship Prime Lily. The ship soon sets sail for South America, its 80,000 tons of coal destined for power plants and factories, an export of American energy — and pollution.
That image of a unit coal train brought back memories. Years ago when the other DrC and I wandered North America in a series of RVs, we would stop at Anvil Campground near Williamsburg, VA, located immediately adjacent to the rail line referred to above.

When coal trains rumbled past in the night the ground shook so it felt like the train was about to hit the RV. In the daytime, you could watch the rails bounce up and down as the trucks (i.e., sets of train wheels) rolled over them - the sight didn't inspire confidence in rail safety.

A Non-Problem

Question: when is a problem not a problem? Answer: when the concern is low turnout in elections. The Washington Post's Dan Balz, who is often on-target, wanders down this cul-de-sac and ends up reaching the expected no conclusions.

Honestly, I love it when turnout is low. The fewer people who bother to vote, the more my vote is worth. In the best of all worlds, I'd be the only voter and my choices would all be elected to office.

Get-out-the-vote operatives for campaigns are paid to care about turning out people who will vote for their candidate. But chivvying individuals who are indifferent about outcomes into marking a ballot simply creates electoral "noise."

Voting is a privilege, and those whose choice is not to partake thereof should have their choice respected.

The Eye in the Sky

The Associated Press reports via Yahoo News that rockets and perhaps artillery have been fired into Ukraine from across the border in Russia. The article is accompanied by satellite photos which purport to show evidence of these launches.

It is an interesting commentary on today's world; one can run and duck but cannot hide from the eye in the sky. Apparently it gave away no secrets to show that we can monitor ground activity from space, or maybe they were "blackbird" photos? Or, the Russians will claim, Photoshopped fakes.

Yellen: Inflation Not Now a Risk

In an online article, CNBC's Alex Rosenberg argues that the Fed will do nothing of note when the Open Market Committee meets later in the week. He adds:
Yellen has long held that even as the unemployment rate falls, "slack" in the labor market remains. This is significant, because it means that gains in employment will not necessarily lead to higher wages and thus increasing inflation.
Labor market participation is at its lowest ebb since the late 1970s,  a period when women's participation in the labor force was increasing. To see the BLS statistics, go here and set the parameters for 1978 to 2014. People not currently in the labor force constitute "slack."

Once people qualify for Social Security disability payments, as nearly 9 million have, the likelihood of most ever going back to work full-time is relatively small. On the other hand, their income from SS will never support a lavish lifestyle so their spending won't be much help toward an economic recovery.

Life's Not Fair

If you're interested, the Boston Herald has an opinion article complaining, sort of, about news, weather, and sports reporting women being attractive, as well as talented. The descriptive word author Margery Eagan uses is "knockout."

I'm certain focus groups have found people of both genders prefer looking at attractive women. That such women have an edge in getting and holding viewers' attention. No kidding - they still have to do the job well, and most do.

True enough, and men who look like George Clooney or Matt Damon have a better chance at becoming actors, yes? So ... we'd rather look at pretty people, which isn't fair because most of us aren't ... aren't pretty, that is.

Heck, most of us are neither tall enough or talented enough to play in the NBA, so what? Life isn't fair, and anybody who doesn't know that hasn't been paying attention.

As a professor, I was paid to be smart and good with words, which I delivered. We each try to figure out what we're good at and how to make a living doing it.

Right to Work in Michigan? Believe It

Michigan Capitol Confidential, the news service of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy reports on the impact of Michigan becoming a right to work state.
When Michigan passed right-to-work in December of 2012, critics were quick to predict that workers’ compensation would plummet. But the early returns show that hasn’t happened.

Michigan’s per-capita personal income increased from $38,291 in 2012 (before right-to-work became law) to $39,215 in 2013, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis. That increase was the ninth highest in the country.
This effect might disappear if all states became RTW states. RTW's twofold advantage is it gives a state an edge in recruiting plants and jobs, and it reduces the incentive for its employers to move elsewhere.

Romney Wins a Mulligan

A CNN/ORC poll taken roughly a week ago asked the following questions:
36. Suppose that for some reason a presidential election were being held today and you had to choose between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. Who would you be more likely to vote for?
37. (IF UNSURE) As of today, do you lean more toward...?
Combining the results for 36 and 37, the results were not happy for POTUS:
July 18-20, 2014

Obama 44%
Romney 53%
Other (vol.) *
Neither (vol.) 3%
On the other hand, Mitt Romney paired with Hillary Clinton loses by about the same margin. Hat tip to The Week for the link.

When a Bubble Isn't a Bubble

The Motley Fool writes in USA Today that the Fed pushing up stock prices is not a bubble because the price rise is a rational response to a lack of good investment alternatives. Bubbles, Maxfield writes, only exist when the rise is irrational, not based on good data.

Maybe so, but what happens to stock prices when the Fed eventually has to raise interest rates dramatically to fend off inflation? Answer: they go down as people who prefer certainty of income move money from equities to bonds. Maxfield admits prices will go down, but says that a correction isn't a bubble bursting.

Whatever ... it seems like a distinction without a difference to me, but I freely admit I'm no expert.

Another Gaza Flotilla

The Jerusalem Post reports the outfit in Turkey - the IHH - which sent a previous aid ship to Gaza, plans to send an additional "flotilla" with Turkish Navy protection. Israeli commandos boarded the original ship and, in a firefight with attackers, killed 9.

At this point we only have IHH's word for the naval escort. If confirmed by the Turkish government, the question arises: "Is Turkey prepared to go to war with Israel over blockade of aid to Gaza?"

History suggests the answer is "no." However, in the run up to August elections, Prime Minister Erdogan may wish to polish his Islamic bonafides, energizing his base. The election complicates his decision.

Russians Lead Ukraine Rebellion

Reuters reports (via Yahoo News) Russian nationals have taken over the top spots in the eastern Ukraine separatist movement, pushing aside locals. This certainly undermines Russian President Putin's claim that the fight for a separate state is the spontaneous creation of Russian-speaking Ukrainians.

Conversely, it validates the claim made by Kiev that the uprising is part of a Russian plot to repossess the former SSRs, to reassemble what was lost in 1991 when the Soviet Union collapsed. Putin famously said, in an April 25, 2005, address to the Russian Federal Assembly:
Above all, we should acknowledge that the collapse of the Soviet Union was a major geopolitical disaster of the century. As for the Russian nation, it became a genuine drama. Tens of millions of our co-citizens and compatriots found themselves outside Russian territory.
Meanwhile The Washington Post quotes Putin as saying:
Whoever does not miss the Soviet Union has no heart. Whoever wants it back has no brain.
Taking those two quotes together, Putin's intent seems reasonably clear. He seeks to rebuild the former Russian empire, without its collectivist trappings or atheism.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Does Obama Seek Impeachment?

Breitbart Big Government reports Rep. Steve King (R-IA) believes the House will immediately begin impeachment activities against President Obama if he tries to give legal status to millions of illegal aliens. Meanwhile, the Prez appears to think maybe being impeached by the House would be a good thing, since there's no way he'd lose a trial in the Senate.

Things could get very weird in the next couple or three months. Obama might try to push Republicans "over the edge" to impeachment prior to the November election, as a way to motivate "his" voters to come out for an otherwise boring-to-them midterm election.

We really have no good model of how to bring to heel a U.S. President who is a scofflaw, all the usual enforcers work for him. I can imagine the Supremes finding he has acted in violation of the law, but I have no idea who'd carry out their decision - for sure Atty. Gen. Holder won't. Harry Reid's Senate Democrats won't.

The closest analog to what might happen here was the situation some years back in Honduras where elected President Manuel Zelaya started doing unlawful things to run for another term when that option was blocked by Honduran constitutional term limits. After their Supreme Court ruled him out of order, their legislative body had him arrested and sent packing into exile. He has since returned to Honduras, not as President.

Flying Safe from SAMs

Popular Mechanics has a short article listing the good and bad news about surface to air missiles (SAMs). The type that shot down MH17 flying at 30,000 ft. over Ukraine requires trained operators and a logistics tail. Basically only governments have these, which suggests Russian troops operated the weapon in Ukraine. That's the good news, believe it or not.

The bad news is MANPADS - Man Portable Air Defense Systems. These shoulder-fired rockets have become widely available in the meltdown of post-Gaddafi Libya.

MANPADS don't require high specialization and expertise to operate, terrorists can learn enough to use these. Afghani mujahideen shot down more than a few Soviet helos with this weapon.

Incapable of hitting an airliner at cruising altitude (30,000 feet), MANPADS are deadly to low-flying planes - a category that includes the beginning and end of all flights. They are also dangerous to aircraft and helicopters flying ground support missions against hostile troops, or flying low to avoid radar. Extreme range for MANPADS is 17,000 to 23,000 feet; names you might see include Stinger, Redeye, Strela, Grail, and Grouse.

Pro-IDF Selfies Posted

See a Facebook page where many women have posted selfies showing pro-IDF messages written on their otherwise unclothed bodies. Think soft-core porn with a pro-Israel message.

The site is Standing With IDF, the link is shared as a public service. I call it a great morale-booster for the troops. Hat tips to Instapundit and The Daily Beast for the link.

Later ... Facebook has taken the above site down, the link no longer works. Hat tip to Instapundit for reporting the link dead. I guess we know Zuckerberg's politics, right?


As a public service I provide, entirely without commentary, a link to a site titled "Islamic Toilet Etiquette." My source for this link is Power Line.

He's Nostalgic

Poor Norm Ornstein, he writes in National Journal that the inmates have taken over the GOP asylum. It would appear that he is another Arlen Specter, a man whose party evolved away from him. Ornstein is nostalgic for the days of Rockefeller Republicans, and GOP governors like Earl Warren.

Heck, I'm nostalgic for the days when there were pro-defense Democrats like Scoop Jackson and Sam Nunn. Gutsy guys like Harry Truman, who dropped the A-Bomb, led the Berlin airlift, and went to war in Korea. They don't exist today either.

For better or worse, we now have two relatively pure ideological parties: Democrat (left) and Republican (right). Live with it.

Today conflict in the GOP is between the hawkish neocon right, the isolationist libertarian right, and the religious social conservative right. It's between I-love-cheap-immigrant-labor fat cats and defend-the-culture tea partiers. The proverbial tent is still big, it just doesn't cover many squishes.

Selective Invitations

Are you at all selective about whom you invite into your home? Most of us are. We invite those we believe will be good company and will behave themselves.

The United States is our home. Should we not be selective in whom we invite to share it with us? I believe we should, and have every right to do so.

People urge asylum be given kids from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala because at home they are at risk from gangs. Is their risk any greater than that of children living in gang-ridden, violent Chicago or Baltimore or East L.A. or Oakland?

The probable answer is "not much." Places where large numbers of poor people live are normally dangerous, the risk comes from hoodlum neighbors.

The solution to the unlawful Central American migration is mass deportation. Congress needs to get busy facilitating this process.

Decade-long Downward Trend

The New York Times reports the typical American household is worth one third less today than it was worth ten years ago.
The inflation-adjusted net worth for the typical household was $87,992 in 2003. Ten years later, it was only $56,335, or a 36 percent decline, according to a study financed by the Russell Sage Foundation. Those are the figures for a household at the median point in the wealth distribution — the level at which there are an equal number of households whose worth is higher and lower.

Much of the damage has occurred since the start of the last recession in 2007. Until then, net worth had been rising for the typical household. (snip) But much of the gain for many typical households came from the rising value of their homes. Exclude that housing wealth and the picture is worse: Median net worth began to decline even earlier.

The housing bubble basically hid a trend of declining financial wealth at the median that began in 2001,” said Fabian T. Pfeffer, the University of Michigan professor who is lead author of the Russell Sage Foundation study.
Economically, the center (median) is not holding. I am reminded of William Butler Yeats' The Second Coming:
Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.
My source for the Yeats quote is

Argentina, Redux

Reuters reports, via Yahoo News, Argentina is likely to be in default on its so-called "sovereign debt" effective July 31. Trust improvident Argentina to come up with a new way to default.
Unlike Argentina's 2001-2 debt crisis when it was broke and could not pay its civil servants, this time around the country is solvent but prevented by (U.S. District Judge Thomas) Griesa from servicing its bonds until the battle with the holdouts is resolved.
Golly, the mean old judge wants them to pay what they owe ... imagine that. As noted before, Argentina is a rich country impoverished by corrupt, populist Peronist politicians and a greedy citizenry accustomed to handouts.

The U.S. risks become another Argentina. We have taken serious missteps in that direction during the last five plus years: our debt has soared and the numbers on SNAP and disability have exploded.

Inaction Explained

Dr. Krauthammer shows off his erudition in this column for National Review. He has developed a hunch about why President Obama does nothing about the various places in turmoil: Ukraine, Iraq, Syria, Palestine, Afghanistan, Libya, not to mention Venezuela.

Dr. K has deduced that Obama believes nothing need be done, because the slow-acting forces of history are on the side of good. Tell that to the tens of millions murdered on the orders of Stalin, Hitler, Tojo, Mao, Pol Pot, and their ilk. History wasn't nearly quick enough to save their lives.

Our gentle readers know COTTonLINE's theory of Obama inaction. As an affirmative action President, what Obama does is far less important than who Obama is. And he understands this.

Other than occupy 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, give speeches and fund-raise, doing things isn't important for Obama, whereas taking action means taking a risk for no very good reason. So he doesn't.

A substantial proportion of those who voted for him are happy just to have someone other than a white male holding the job. As low information voters, his foreign affairs inaction is unknown to most of them, and largely irrelevant to the rest.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Policy 101

Instapundit Glenn Harlan Reynolds' prescription for the eradication of anti-Semitism, although I think it is a tonic that's good for whatever ails society:
Identify the barbarians. Crush the barbarians. Repeat as needed.
And BTW, there are always more barbarians popping up like toadstools after a rain. As we wrote yesterday, Si vis pacem, para bellum.

Political Humor Alert

The always fun-to-read Mark Steyn, writing in Steyn Online about SecState John Kerry's unwelcome efforts in the Middle East:
Kerry, as Obama's plenipotentiary, is a paradox - the physical presence of a geopolitical absence:
Yesterday, upon the stair,
I met a man who wasn't there.
He wasn't there again today,
I wish, I wish he'd go away...
Mark should give a hat tip to poet Hughes Mearns for his poem Antigonish.

Tinfoil Hats in Moscow

Mark Adomanis writes for The Washington Post about the strange beliefs held by many Russians:
Russian society exists in an alternate universe. Even well-educated, sophisticated people who have traveled widely in Europe and North America will frequently voice opinions that, in an American context, would place them alongside people wearing tinfoil hats. Russia is not living in the reality-based community.

Like many Americans, I used to think that these differences would recede with time, and that, as they traveled the world, got jobs, and got rich, Russians would eventually start to think more and more like us. After Ukraine and the Malaysia Airlines crash, I’m a lot less optimistic.
Russians, like Arabs, revel in the fever swamps.

A Pessimistic View

Economist Peter Morici writes for RealClearWorld about the unwillingness of the voters of Europe and the U.S. to pay sufficient taxes to both support their welfare regimes and build up their defenses to deter Russian and Chinese adventurism. He is very pessimistic about our futures, as a result.
Putin knows if he unwinds his plans slowly and feigns cooperation he can dupe Obama and Germany's Angela Merkel and co-opt their political constituencies. The latter have already rationalized Russia's annexation of Crimea and will do the same if he slices off more of Ukraine.

Ordinary Europeans and Americans must be willing to pay higher taxes or accept fewer social benefits to secure Europe from Russian aggression. That's the rub. Voters in Western nations simply won't accept that they cannot have effective foreign policies and be secure without strong, growing economies to pay for militaries to deter aggression and to persuade the developing world to their democratic way of thinking.

What they are unwilling to recognize is that their welfare states and consequent slow growth will ultimately undermine their security and survival.
Si vis pacem, para bellum. Let him who desires peace prepare for war - Roman writer Vegetius.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Costa Concordia Takes Final Voyage

We last wrote about the fate of the wrecked cruise ship Costa Concordia on July 12, some eleven days ago. Today the refloatation process is complete and the ship has been found minimally seaworthy.

The painfully slow process of towing her to Genoa began this morning, according to CNN News. Once there she will be scrapped, a process the article estimates will take about two years.

It is a sad fate for a proud ship victimized by poor seamanship and worse judgment.

Unhappy NYC

NBC New York reports research findings that will make its viewers even crankier.
New York City was ranked the least happy city in America when adjusted for income, according to a working study, titled “Unhappy Cities,” released by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Jersey City was also one of the 10 least happy cities, according to a full data set obtained by Market Watch.
FYI, Jersey City is a mile across the Hudson River from Lower Manhattan, via the Holland Tunnel. This "least happy city" ranking is unsurprising to me. I've known exactly one New York City native whose company I enjoyed, and more than a few I avoided whenever possible.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Kerry, Come Home

Richard Fernandez, writes the Belmont Club column for PJ Media. He makes an interesting observation about the troubles in Gaza.
Alas for diplomacy the only thing the Palestinians can actually do is fight. The only thing the West demands of them is to stop doing the only thing they can do.

The best alternative to a negotiated settlement for both Israel and Palestine may now be to fight to the finish, because each is surprised to find they have no alternative. 
This is essentially what we wrote yesterday. Hat tip to for the link.

Silicon Valley Paradox

Victor Davis Hanson, writing for National Review about the irony of Silicon Valley's cutthroat capitalists merrily off-shoring production and profits while professing left-wing politics.
Does Silicon Valley also practice de facto apartheid? You might think just that if you counted up the burgeoning prep schools in the valley, charging $30,000 and more per student. The subtext message is that the kids of rich techies should not be slowed down on their own trajectory to influence and riches by the recent immigrants in their midst. Teachers’ unions, multicultural curricula in the schools, bilingualism, and a diverse student body are wonderful — as long as their own kids are somewhere else.

Silicon Valley is turning a once racially diverse San Francisco into a mostly upscale white and Asian enclave faster than any pre–Civil Rights southern town council could have done.

The point of reviewing these hypocrisies is not to suggest that the rich profit-makers of Silicon Valley are any greedier or more cutthroat than the speculators of Wall Street or the frackers of Texas, but merely that they are judged by quite different standards. (snip) One can live life as selfishly as he pleases in the concrete by sounding as communitarian as he can in the abstract.

Practicing cutthroat capitalism while professing cool communitarianism should be a paradox. But in Silicon Valley it is simply smart business.
Something every Hollywood mogul knows intuitively.

Nordlinger on D'Souza

In the process of talking with and about Dinesh D'Souza and his new film, America, Imagine the World without Her, National Review columnist Jay Nordlinger generates some prose you should see. For example:
He (D'Souza) portrays Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton as Alinskyites, i.e., followers of Saul Alinsky, the author of Rules for Radicals, and the original community organizer.

Consider this article from the Washington Post. It was published in March 2007, when Obama and Hillary were squaring off for the Democratic nomination. It was headed “For Clinton and Obama, a Common Ideological Touchstone.” And that touchstone was Alinsky.

Hillary Clinton — Hillary Rodham — worked for a frankly Red law firm, Bob Truehaft’s in Oakland. They were Communists (and when I say “they,” I mean he and his wife, Jessica Mitford).

I ask Dinesh, “Do you think that Obama and Hillary are carrying out some Alinskyite plan, hatched long ago?” He says no, but they are pursuing a common goal. “Is that goal socialism?” I ask. No, says Dinesh. Classically, socialism means that the “people” own the “means of production,” and everyone gets the same.

“Their goal,” says Dinesh, “is to shift the fulcrum of power in our society away from the entrepreneur and toward a new group, which is an alliance of the political class, the intellectual class, and the media. Those are three camps that feel the same way, have the same skills, and so on. They also have equal resentment against entrepreneurs.”

D’Souza had come [to Dartmouth College] from Bombay, where he was born and raised. Ignorant, hippie-dippie students were fascinated by his name, his homeland, his otherness. “Oh, dude, I love India!” they would say. “Ever been there?” D’Souza would ask. “No,” they would say. “What do you think you love about it?” he would continue. “The dowry? Arranged marriage? The caste system? Poverty? Hopelessness?”
India has all of those ills, and more. How about the rape epidemic?

Ledeen Is Right

Writing for PJ Media, Michael Ledeen lays down some harsh truths we Americans need to force ourselves to remember, always. Three examples:
Of all the popular myths about “how the world works,” the most dangerous to us at this moment is the one that goes “peace is normal, war is an aberration.”  Truth is, war is normal and peace very unusual.

There’s a good reason for that old Roman wisdom “if you want peace, prepare for war.” It’s because “peace” most always happens when somebody wins a war, and then imposes conditions on the losers.

War, and the runup to more war, is the order of the day, as it has been for most of human history. Our real options are the same as they have always been: win or lose. Both lead to “peace,” but the one is a happy peace while the other is an extended humiliation.
Or extinction. Let's man the battlements.

Cillizza Is Wrong

Chris Cillizza writes The Fix political column for The Washington Post. In a recent column he writes it is well-nigh impossible today to be a popular and successful president. He list some valid reasons why the presidency is a tough job.

On the other hand, I've lived long enough to remember when people said this exact same thing about the presidency following the Nixon-Ford-Carter debacle. It was received wisdom. Then came Reagan who made it look, if not easy, at least achievable.

Our problem with the presidency is not the job, it is the flawed characters we've elected over the last several cycles. The grueling marathon that running for president has become seems to dissuade the competent and the sane, leaving us with supreme egotists whose every pronouncement begins with the word "I."

Anti-Semitic Violence in Europe

You've seen stories about anti-Israel and anti-Jew demonstrations and violence in France, the U.K. and elsewhere in Europe. All have scrupulously avoided characterizing the rioters as other than pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel, in much the same way that U.S. media rarely characterize inner city perpetrators as black or Hispanic.

COTTonLINE has wondered whether European demonstrators were in fact Europeans or Muslim immigrant transplants. That is, Muslims who now live in the Paris suburbs, London or Berlin after moving there from the Islamic region.

An article in The Daily Mail (U.K.) answers the question, in the affirmative, without saying a word. See the accompanying pictures, the demonstrators all appear to be Middle Easterners. I appreciate The Mail's subtlety.

Europe nourishes a viper in its bosom. The day will soon come, if it isn't here now, when Europe will rue the wave of Muslim immigration it has accepted.

Puerto Rico Sued

Just over a week ago COTTonLINE wrote of a change in Puerto Rico law whereby local jurisdictions that have issued municipal bonds can unilaterally change the terms of repayment - delay or stretch out terms. Our comment then was PR was becoming another Argentina - a financially irresponsible banana republic.

We were therefore entirely unsurprised that a hedge fund holding PR munis is suing the island government over this change, claiming it is unconstitutional. See the CNBC story for details.

In case it isn't clear, COTTonLINE takes the side of the bondholders. People, or governments, should not undertake debts they cannot repay.

Another Thirty Years' War

Richard N. Haass writes for Project Syndicate that events in the Middle East resemble the opening stages of the Thirty Years' War.
There are obvious differences between the events of 1618-1648 in Europe and those of 2011-2014 in the Middle East. But the similarities are many – and sobering. Three and a half years after the dawn of the “Arab Spring,” there is a real possibility that we are witnessing the early phase of a prolonged, costly, and deadly struggle; as bad as things are, they could well become worse.
Spengler drew similar parallels with the 30 Years' War.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Political Humor Alert

Ed Rogers, cracking wise for The Washington Post about the Democrats' problems in November:
It is a bad sign when your political defense can be summed up with the phrase “things could be worse.” It is a very bad sign when that weak excuse applies to not only an incumbent president’s economic policy but also to his foreign policy.
I clearly remember Candidate Obama promising things would get better on his watch. Instead they are worse.

A Silly Headline

The Washington Post reports the Palestinians and the Israelis are both unwilling to compromise for peace, or even a cease-fire. Talk about a non-story, did anyone paying attention not know this already?

To date neither side has taken enough punishment to want to quit. The Palestinians think they're winning in the court of world opinion, and they may be correct.

The Israelis know there are still Hamas weapons, tunnels, and infrastructure they haven't destroyed. They see no reason to stop until they achieve their goal of disruption and chaos.

The Palestinians asked for this war, and we need to let them enjoy it. The Israelis used Hamas rockets as adequate provocation to invade Gaza to take care of business, and we need to let them get on with it.

Fighting in the Holy Land will stop when the two parties are ready for that to happen. Or, until one side manages to exterminate the other - not a likely outcome. The U.S. has no meaningful role there.

Somebody Is Wrong

National Journal's Ron Brownstein writes that Obama is going to allow to remain in the U.S. as many of the recent flood of juveniles and women "seeking asylum" as he is able. Brownstein adds:
After the Senate passed bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform that included a pathway to citizenship in 2013, House Republicans shelved it—just as they did a similar bipartisan bill Bush helped shoulder through the Senate in 2006.

Polls consistently find broad support for such a package: In a Pew Research Center survey this week, 63 percent of whites, 71 percent of African-Americans, and 85 percent of Hispanics said those here illegally should be granted legal status after meeting certain requirements.
Meanwhile, John Hinderaker of Power Line quotes Rasmussen Reports as follows:
The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 59% of Likely U.S. Voters believe the primary focus of any new immigration legislation passed by Congress should be to send the young illegal immigrants back home as quickly as possible. Just 27% say it should focus instead on making it easier for these illegal immigrants to remain in the United States. Fourteen percent (14%) are undecided.
One of these polls is dead wrong, my gut says Pew is wrong and Rasmussen is right. I suspect Pew of wording the question in a way to elicit the answer boss Andy Kohut wanted, he's a liberal squish and a favorite of the PBS News Hour.

A Threat to the EU

The United Kingdom's new Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, has warned that Britons will vote in 2017 to leave the EU unless, in the interim, the EU is willing to make substantial concessions to Britain. See an article in The Daily Mail (U.K.) for more.

Today, I don't believe the other EU member states are willing to "improve" the U.K.'s deal with the EU. Circumstances in the next couple of years can change that willingness: for example, demands for national autonomy, like those made by Marine Le Pen in France or Geert Wilders in the Netherlands. If their parties succeed in national elections, the U.K. may not be the only nation wanting looser ties with the EU.

Before the 2017 EU vote arrives, comes September 18, 2014, when Scotland votes on whether to leave the U.K. I haven't seen any analyses of how that earlier vote's outcome will influence how the U.K. (or what's left of it) votes in 2017. I've argued Scotland is more pro-Europe than England, and Scots voting to remain in the U.K. will reduce the likelihood of the U.K. leaving the EU.

Review: Rush

A couple of nights ago the DrsC watched the pilot of  Rush, a new TV series on the USA cable network. The character Rush is a physician, a concierge doctor to society's sleazy rich.

The series breaks unsavory new ground for a non-movie channel series. A recurring character is his drug dealer. Rush treats low-life patients, collaborates with a street gang, hears and makes explicit sexual references, uses weed and coke on-camera, does meatball surgery at gunpoint, and more.

Rush is a walk on the big-money wild side, Los Angeles style. The women are pretty, the men are ugly, and the pace is frenetic. Rush is to Royal Pains, what NCIS Los Angeles is to NCIS, a West Coast spin-off with a SoCal clientele.

The other DrC thinks it plows the same ground as Breaking Bad - it's compelling and ugly too. My reaction - Rush has the same horrid fascination as a serious injury car accident; it may develop an audience. That audience may include the DrsC.

The Duck Test

There's an old saying: If it waddles like a duck, and quacks, it is probably a duck. The underlying wisdom is that things are often what they seem to be.

Now Rasmussen has polling data looking at American's belief in various conspiracy theories. Of most interest to COTTonLINE is that twenty-three percent of respondents
Say the theory that Obama is not an American citizen is true, with another 17% who aren't sure. Sixty percent (60%) reject that theory as false.
Adding 23% and 17% tells you 40% of Americans aren't convinced President Obama is an American citizen. Even more fascinating is the following:
Forty-one percent (41%) of Republicans believe Obama is not an American citizen, compared to 21% of unaffiliateds and 11% of Democrats. Just over 20% of Republicans and unaffiliated adults also are not sure, but only seven percent (7%) of those in the president's party share that doubt.
It's amazing 18% of Democrats - roughly 7.5 million - aren't certain of the president's citizenship. People, including members of his own party, are unsure of Obama's bonafides because behaviorally he doesn't act like an American. He doesn't pass the "duck test."

COTTonLINE notes the relatively few objective facts of his early life which are known are sufficient to suggest a view of "unsure." Foreign father and stepfather, expat mother, overseas residence and schooling, use of multiple names, alleged foreign student status in college, questionable associates, plus what appear to be deliberate attempts to obscure details of that life are all red flags. Hat tip to Drudge Report for the link.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Chicago Update

For all practical purposes the weekend is over. Chicago's carnage report is filed by Reuters for Yahoo News. In an update to yesterday's initial post on the subject, see what they write:
At least 40 people were shot, and four killed, in weekend violence in the third-largest U.S. city, the NBC affiliate in Chicago reported.
You might be safer in Kabul or Bagdad.

Romney Was Right, Obama Was Wrong

Instapundit Glenn Harlan Reynolds quotes the title of a David Frum article in The Atlantic, and comments on it.
THE KEY WORD IS “ILLUSION:" Russia Has Become Dangerous Again: The illusion of a stable Europe died yesterday with the murdered passengers of MH17. Mitt Romney was mocked for pointing this out in 2012. Now it has become so obvious that David Frum is saying it.
Even stranger, The Atlantic is publishing it.

Not Washing Jeans

The president and CEO of Levi Strauss, one Chip Bergh, says don't wash your jeans all the time. Wait until they get dirty, is his advice. See a Popular Mechanics article for details.

Puts me in mind of what we did in high school too many decades ago. My cohort liked our jeans dark blue; fading was uncool, so were cuffs. We'd wear our new blue jeans until they almost developed a greasy shine atop the thighs.

As an adult I wear an L.L.Bean heavy flannel shirt tail-out as a light jacket over polo shirts. When it gets dirty, I have it dry cleaned. The flannel nap never mats down and the shirt looks nice for a long time. It's a similar idea.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Weird Genomic Science

New research published by the Institute for Labor Research (IZA) in Bonn, Germany, finds that there is a large genetic component to the happiness reported by Danes. Enough so that the extent to which a nation's genetic profile resembles that of Denmark is predictive of overall happiness in that country. A very odd finding, this.

Quote of the Day II

Matther Continetti, cracking wise in National Review about President Obama referring to himself as "the bear."
Obama is not the bear. He is the cub: aimless, naïve, self-interested, self-indulgent, irresponsible, irresolute. The bear is in Moscow.
Too true.

A Step Farther

Kyle Smith writes an opinion column for the New York Post worth your time. He ties into some of the same Pew Research poll findings we posted here at COTTonLINE three days ago.

Smith takes it a step farther and predicts the young are showing signs of becoming conservatives. His conclusion has some snap:
Libertarians (snip) are forever claiming that their moment is about to arrive. They’ve never been right before, but their case is starting to look more compelling.

The gay-marriage debate is winding down and may be over by 2016. Some Republicans are outflanking the Hobby Lobby decision, and making a huge step in a libertarian direction, by calling for over-the-counter birth control. What if the Republican party starts to promote candidates who simply can’t be painted as sexually repressive, oil-crazed religious freaks?
Is he hinting at Rand Paul? Sounds like it.

It's Too Quiet

A favorite line from B movies of yore was a character in a jungle movie observing ominously, "I don't like it. It's too quiet." This chestnut was spoken moments before all hell broke loose - the headhunters, lions or Japanese attacked, the marabunta swarmed, the volcano erupted, or the dam broke.

It could easily be the headline of a Los Angeles Times Science Now section reporting an almost total lack of sunspot activity. See what they write:
A few weeks ago it was teeming with sunspots, as you would expect since we are supposed to be in the middle of solar maximum -- the time in the sun's 11-year cycle when it is the most active. But now, there is hardly a sunspot in sight.

This is the weakest solar maximum to have been observed in the space age, and it is shaking out to be the weakest one in the past 100 years.
Don't give away your long underwear. A lack of sunspots is associated, historically, with global cooling. Another Little Ice Age is looking slightly more possible than formerly. Hat tip to Drudge Report for the link.

More Chicago Bloodshed

Eleven days ago COTTonLINE noted that President Obama's hometown, Chicago, had become a war zone. See today's headline from the Chicago Tribune:
22 shot in Chicago over 12 hours, including girl, 11, killed at sleepover
The article actually lists the circumstances of all 22 shootings. Luckily, most shooters in Chicago are inept. The death toll could be much higher.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Review: Planes 2 - Fire & Rescue

The DrsC saw the film Planes 2 - Fire & Rescue Friday afternoon. High quality Disney animation, a great cast of actors doing the voices, and a decent story line combine to make for a pleasant hour and a half.

Kids will love it, and there is much for adults to enjoy too. Nary a single human ever appears, all of the characters are planes, cars, trucks, tractors, or trains. If you liked Cars 1 & 2, and Planes 1, you will like Planes 2 as well or better.

Quote of the Day I

Glenn Harlan Reynolds, who blogs as Instapundit, writing about Hillary Clinton:
Hillary's problem is that she's politically cunning, but she's not actually especially bright.
COTTonLINE is unconvinced of the acuity of her political instincts or the breadth of her appeal.

Coulter on Immigration Mess

In a Townhall column, Ann Coulter entirely demolishes the liberal argument that the reason we have an illegal immigration crisis is that we didn't pass immigration reform, aka "amnesty." As she notes, the reason we have Central Americans swarming here is that Reagan gave their predecessors amnesty back in 1986.

As usual, Coulter destroys liberals with wit, style, and more than a little snark. Enjoy.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Temp Rise Missing in Action

Climate Depot reports the following:
Solar cycle 24 began after an unusually deep solar minimum that lasted from 2007 to 2009. In fact, in 2008 and 2009, there were almost no sunspots, a very unusual situation during a solar minimum phase that had not happened for almost a century.

If history is a guide, it is safe to say that weak solar activity for a prolonged period of time can have a negative impact on global temperatures in the troposphere which is the bottom-most layer of Earth’s atmosphere – and where we all live.

There have been two notable historical periods with decades-long episodes of low solar activity. The first period is known as the “Maunder Minimum”, (snip) and it lasted from around 1645 to 1715. The second one is referred to as the “Dalton Minimum”, (snip) and it lasted from about 1790 to 1830. Both of these historical periods coincided with below-normal global temperatures in an era now referred to by many as the “Little Ice Age”.
Meanwhile the same site reports on the pause in warming:
There has been no global warming – none at all – for 17 years 10 months. This is the longest continuous period without any warming in the global instrumental temperature record since the satellites first watched in 1979.
COTTonLINE suspects these two things are related, and explain why a rise in CO2 hasn't caused the predicted rise in global temperatures. In fact, increased CO2 may be all that is holding off another Little Ice Age. Gaia has tricks up her sleeve.

Women Are Unhappy

In Psychology Today Sherrie Bourg Carter reports on the topic of "the least happy people in America." She writes the following:
In The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness, published by the American Economic Journal, researchers Betsy Stevenson and Justin Wolfers found that although women's life circumstances have improved greatly over the past few decades by most objective measures, their happiness has declined—both in absolute terms and relative to men's.
Glenn Harlan Reynolds, a law professor who blogs as Instapundit and provided the link to PT, has an interesting response to those research findings:
Weirdly, those were the very decades in which feminism exploded onto the scene.
A coincidence, or causation? And if the latter, which caused the other? FYI, Reynolds' spouse, aka the Instawife, is an author and career woman.

Weird Metabolic Science

Professor John S. Yudkin, of University College London, about use of the diagnosis "pre-diabetic."
Pre-diabetes is an artificial category with virtually zero clinical relevance. There is no proven benefit of giving diabetes treatment drugs to people in this category before they develop diabetes, particularly since many of them would not go on to develop diabetes anyway.
No comment needed.

Neighborly Distain

Christopher Dickey writes for The Daily Beast on the topic of U.S. policy toward Iraq and ISIS/ISIL, aka "the Caliphate." First, he quotes a Bush confidante, speaking off the record at Davos:
If you really want to f**k Iran, let ’em have Iraq.
Then Dickey describes the Iranian view of Arabs:
Neighboring nations often hold each other in contempt, but the Persian view of Arabs— “lizard eaters,” as the saying goes—is beyond the Aryan Iranian pale.
Whether or not you agree with Dickey, you'll snicker at his conclusion:
This is, precisely, the moment to step back, cross our arms, and let somebody else do the crippling work trying to impose order in the lands of the Apocalypse.

So, yeah, when it comes to Iraq, go for it, Iran. You deserve it.
But Iraqi Kurds don't deserve an Iranian police state, the likely result.

Send the Legion

RealClearWorld carries an Associated Press story about the redeployment and formalization of the French military mission in Saharan Africa and beyond. Their role is essentially anti-jihadist, and they work in concert with local troops.

It appears a majority of the troops involved are not Foreign Legionnaires, for a change. Perhaps the French military rotates various units through the African deployment to blood the troops, give them valuable live-fire combat experience.

Economy Unkind to Millennials

The Los Angeles Times business section reports many millennials are living with their parents or grandparents. Additionally, record numbers of Americans live in multi-generational homes, defined as two or more generations of adults living in one dwelling. They write:
A record 57 million Americans, or 18.1% of the population, lived in multigenerational arrangements in 2012, according to the Pew Research Center. That's more than double the 28 million people who lived in such households in 1980, the center said.

About 23.6% of people age 25 to 34 live with their parents, grandparents or both, according to Pew. That’s up from 18.7% in 2007, just prior to the global financial crisis, and from 11% in 1980.

For the first time, a larger share of young people live in multigenerational arrangements than of Americans 85 and older.
That last statistic tells you which generations have the money and which don't - the young are hurting.


Two days ago we wrote in COTTonLINE about the Fed-caused stock market bubble. Today we see a Bloomberg article making a similar point. Hat tip to Drudge Report for the link.
Stock and bond prices have been supported by Fed stimulus.
Too right, they have; and elsewhere Bloomberg reports Janet Yellen says the stimulus must continue.

Most Want Illegal Aliens Deported

Rasmussen Polling reports 59% of respondents want illegal immigrant children sent home immediately. Another 27% want to take care of them here, and 14% aren't sure what should be done.

Of every twenty respondents, roughly twelve say deport the aliens, fewer than six say keep them here, and nearly three don't know or have mixed feelings.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Pew's Young Liberals A Different Breed

Writing for The New York Times, columnist Thomas B. Edsall examines the April Pew Research poll focusing upon its findings about the opinions of young liberals. It turns out they hold socially liberal but economically conservative views, which makes them potentially reachable by the GOP, particularly as they grow older, marry and have children.

Roughly two-thirds of this young liberal group agreed with the following statements:
Blacks who can’t get ahead are mostly responsible for their own condition.
U.S. has made the changes needed to give blacks equal rights.
Competition is primarily good; it stimulates people to work hard and develop new ideas.
Profit is generally good because it encourages businesses to provide valued products to attract customers.
People should be allowed to keep what they produce, even if there are others with greater needs.
There is hope for these young "liberals." They don't sound like the old-time Berkeley left, leftovers of the 1960s.

Muddling Through

Paul Mirengoff, one of the partners at Power Line Blog, reports on a Mort Zuckerman article in The Wall Street Journal (only available to subscribers). Zuckerman writes on the soaring rate of part-time employment:
There is one clear political contribution to the dismal jobs trend. Many employers’ cut workers’ hours to avoid the Affordable Care Act’s mandate to provide health insurance to anyone working 30 hours a week or more.

The unintended consequence of President Obama’s “signature legislation?” Fewer full time workers. In many cases, two people are working the same number of hours that one had previously worked.
Zuckerman concludes:
We are not in the middle of a recovery; we are in the middle of a muddle-through.

Weird Geological Science

A woman hiking in Arches National Park near Moab, Utah, got stuck in quicksand and had to be rescued after standing there for 14 hours. See an Associated Press story on the MSN News website for more.

She didn't sink out of sight, just up to the knee. Lucky for her there was a hard bottom at that depth, it's not something one can count on.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Fed Bubble

The stock market keeps edging higher, as I write this the DJIA is over 17,000, a near-record high. Market rises are supposed to reflect underlying optimism about the economy, this one may not.

What I believe is happening is a Fed-driven market bubble. Bonds are paying less-than-inflation returns, and real estate has not rebounded in most markets. By holding interest rates down to near-zero levels, the Federal Reserve Bank forces people who have money to put to work to buy equities: stocks and stock-equivalents like ETFs.

Meanwhile, firms with excess cash on their balance sheets are not issuing new stock as they have more capital than they need. In fact not a few are buying up their own stock, further reducing supply while being "the only game in town" drives up demand for stocks. Ergo, the equities market experiences a Fed-driven bubble.

The only question is when the Fed will stop the various QEs, quantitative easings? So far it shows no particular appetite to do so. If it doesn't, can the bubble burst on its own? My guess: no, but I'm not betting the farm on that guess.

Income Inequality - Whose Fault?

James Pethokoukis, writing in AEI Ideas about the impact of income inequality on the 2014 midterm election. Hat tip to National Review for the link.
Even if the economy picks up steam and incomes rise, voters may not get much happier since they will think things would be even better if not for income inequality — a natural conclusion based on what the Obamacrats have been saying. They will think their relative position hasn’t improved much since they are not keeping up with the 1% Joneses. And are voters likely to blame Republicans for this state of affairs, given that this is Year Six of the Obama presidency and the GOP only holds the House?
We'll know in November.

Political Humor Alert

National Review columnist Jay Nordlinger reminds us of what Sonny Bono replied when asked, while running for office:
“Hey, Sonny, what’s your position on illegal immigration?” In his innocence, he replied, “Well, it’s illegal, isn’t it?”
Yup, it sure is.

I'll Hold Your Coat....

Heather Horn's Meanwhile in Syria blog for Global Post today defines the alternatives in Syria as follows:
The choice is between a mass-murdering dictator and mutilation-happy jihadists.
The correct U.S. policy vis-a-vis Syria is to quietly help whichever side appears to be weaker. Two enemies fighting each other is nearly ideal. The vigorous continuation of their civil war is in our national interest.

Spengler Waxes Pessimistic

In a Tablet article about the disintegrating Middle East, the always insightful David P. Goldman (aka Spengler), writes the following amazing paragraphs:
Perpetual war has turned into a snowball that accumulates people and resources as it rolls downhill and strips the ground bare of sustenance. Those who are left shiver in tents in refugee camps, and their young men go off to the war. There is nothing new about this way of waging war; it was invented in the West during the Thirty Years War by the imperial general Albrecht von Wallenstein, and it caused the death of nearly half the population of Central Europe between 1618 and 1648.

The expectation that the waves of sectarian and tribal violence that have caused national borders to crumble across the Middle East will die down in 30 years may be both incredibly grim and wildly optimistic.
Spengler sees regional slaughter, disease, and starvation as an apocalyptic combination.

Monday, July 14, 2014

A Loose Deck Gun

Jay Nordlinger reminds us, in a National Review column, that in 2010 Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid famously said:
“I don’t know how anyone of Hispanic heritage could be a Republican, okay?” That was just before a Hispanic Republican, Brian Sandoval, was elected governor of Reid’s state, Nevada. And the Democrat he beat — was Reid’s own son, Rory. 
I love the irony in this outcome. Getting rabid Reid off the national stage will be as satisfying as dumping the ever-odious Nancy Pelosi. Reid is so nutty he called Justice Clarence Thomas a "white man," in Reid's lexicon a synonym for "bad person."

Political Humor Alert

Syndicated columnist Mark Shields, speaking on the PBS News Hour, as quoted by Jay Nordlinger in National Review:
Two liberals are walking down the road, when they come upon a man in the ditch. He has been badly beaten, left for dead. He is moaning, groaning. One liberal turns to the other and says, “Quick, we have to find the people who did this. They need help.” 
That doesn't sound like liberal Mark, somehow.

Puerto Rico Becoming Argentina

Breitbart reports the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico has taken further steps in the direction of becoming a banana republic, the latest being a law giving local courts the power to order default on municipal bonds.

The unintended consequence of the law will be a total inability in future to borrow money at less than usurious rates. Earlier the island essentially gave up on English proficiency, a key factor in economic growth.

Cillizza Takes Stock

The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza finds us in the summer lull before the autumn political storm leading to the election and takes stock of where we are now politically. Here are his conclusions, see the article for an explanation of each.
1. Obama and Republicans in Congress are done dealing with each other.
2. Nothing is getting done in Congress.
3. Obama is likely to be a drag on his party this fall.
4. Republicans are favored to retake the Senate.
5. Hillary is running.
6. The Republican field is a jumble.
7. The GOP’s demographic problems are getting worse.
8. Being in party leadership ain’t what it used to be.
I agree with the first six. Number seven, an article of faith with Democrat Cillizza, may turn out to be wrong. Some preliminary evidence suggests blacks are ticked at Obama's "flood the U.S. with Hispanics" policy, a policy not in their interest. And I believe in number eight he underestimates Boehner's enjoyment in being "Mr. Speaker."

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Drive a Tank

Did you ever want to try driving a tank? See a Popular Mechanics story by a guy who was given the opportunity. It was an M-551 Sheridan "light" tank, only 15 tons with wussy aluminum armor, but still a handful.

Not a serious story, just a fun read. Hat tip to Instapundit for the link.