Monday, September 29, 2014

Ancestors of the A-10

RealClearDefense has an article about the two World War II aircraft - one German, one Soviet - that inspired the designers of the A-10. The tank-buster variant of the German Stuka dive bomber, the Ju-87G, and the Soviet's Sturmovik Il-2 ground attack plane were legends on the WW II eastern front. Both embodied specialized characteristics that were copied and improved upon in the A-10.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Grown-Ups Wanted

Writing for his RedState blog, EricK Erickson senses a new mood in the country, a yearning for adults in government. He concludes:
The world has come undone. America needs grown-ups, not technocrats, to fix it.
As the name of his blog might suggest, Erickson believes this mood favors the GOP.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Some Gender Gaps Okay

An article in New Republic talks about certain gender gaps that don't need closing, including bike riding and pot smoking. What comes to my mind are the gender gaps in things like violent crime, and murder in particular.

Should we encourage young women to do their share of murders or bank robberies? To get busy dealing drugs?

Should we encourage more young men to sell sex, to close a reverse gap? Maybe we need to embrace realism concerning gender differences, which do exist even if some wish they did not.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Travel Blogging En Route

Jackpot, NV: We got this far west and were held up by a mechanical malfunction - one of the RV's popouts got stuck in the "out" position. We did "meatball surgery" on it, got it slid in, and are trying to get it repaired in Twin Falls, ID, before continuing west. Fortunately our schedule isn't ironclad. More later....

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Housekeeping Notice

COTTonLINE blog entries will be light over much of the next week. Like a circus, our household will be moving to winter quarters and taking our time in transit.

Political Humor Alert

Jennifer Rubin, who writes a column for The Washington Post, entitles her latest effort as follows:
Hillary Clinton, an empty (pant)suit?
The column quotes Ms. Clinton at length to demonstrate the vapidity of her commentary. It's boring because Hillary is boring; I really like the title best.

IS Beware: A-10s to the Middle East

Thirteen days ago COTTonLINE wrote, in a post titled "Wisdom," the following advice:
The IS area is an ideal place to deploy the A-10 Warthog ground attack plane the Air Forces says it wants to dump. It is very resistant to ground fire and probably to shoulder-fired missiles as well.

The A-10 is just the ticket for getting in close and shooting up relatively low-tech troops with its 30 mm Gatling cannon and rockets. Imagine a Warthog with 23 tiny Toyota Hilux pickup trucks painted below the canopy.
Today, to my pleasant surprise, comes an article from the Fort Wayne, IN, Journal Gazette reporting the deployment of an Air National Guard A-10 unit, the 122nd Fighter Wing, to the Middle East. The article is coy about where they will be based in-theater, as it should be. Hat tip to RealClearDefense for the link.

Multi-Purpose Design Compromises Excellence

An article in The National Interest takes a dim view of the fifth-generation F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter which is three years late to become operational. The concept was to create one plane that could fulfill multiple roles - air superiority, ground attack, etc. It has been plagued with problems.

Let me make an analogy to explain why I believe this was a wrong-headed decision. The other DrC and I have owned a series of RVs continuously since 1972.

Working with limited floor space, RV designers are tempted to make a particular feature do several different jobs. Inevitably, such multi-functional items never do any of the jobs as well as a unit dedicated to a single purpose.

Our first RV, a small 20' class C mini-motorhome, had a sofa that unfolded to become the bed and was also where one sat to eat at a fold-down table. The bed was crowded, too close to the floor, and not comfortable. The sofa was okay for lounging but uncomfortable for eating.

Our current RV has a separate sofa, a dining table with chairs, and a bed. Each fulfills its single purpose better than any multipurpose item could.

Asking an item to do many things means it rarely does any of them well. I fear that will be the fate of the F-35: not enough of a hot rod to be a good air superiority fighter and not enough of a truck to be a good ground support plane/light bomber.

Obama's Fathomless Ignorance

Bret Stephens, writing in The Wall Street Journal, about the high frequency of Presidential misstatements and errors. See Stephens' conclusion:
Every administration tries to spin events its way; every president gets things wrong. Mr. Obama is not exceptional in those respects. Where he stands apart is in his combination of ideological rigidity and fathomless ignorance. What does the president know? The simple answer, and maybe the truest, is: not a lot.

A Davis Death-Spiral

Texas gubernatorial candidate Democrat Wendy Davis apparently really blew it at the sole debate last Friday, according to a story in PJ Media's PJ Tattler:
Wendy Davis violated the debate rules, which isn’t a huge deal, but she did so in pursuit of trying to goad her opponent into breaking a state law — which she voted for and which as a lawyer, Davis knows that the attorney general cannot do.

That is a huge deal. It’s a disqualifying deal.

It’s at this point that Texas writers usually deploy a finishing phrase — that dog won’t hunt, Davis is all hat and no cattle, she’s a gun with no ammo that still manages to misfire — that sort of thing.
Dang, I do love Texican put-downs. Hat tip to for the link.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Boycotting the Climate Summit

Global Post reports that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon hosts a summit on global warming:
While some world leaders (including President Obama) will spend time at the UN summit discussing how to prevent the human species from hastening its own demise, the countries most responsible for climate change aren't bothering to show up. Of the five worst carbon emitting nations, China (1), India (3), Russia (4), and Japan (5) are all skipping. (Most nations are sending heads-of-state and/or foreign ministers, but China and India are sending low-level representatives.)
Which suggests Japan and Russia aren't attending at all. We are the (2) missing in the above list. If the other four worst polluters won't bother to show, why should the U.S. President?

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Douthat: More Than a Whiff of Farce

Albert Einstein is supposed to have said that insanity is "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." That thought immediately sprang to mind while reading Ross Douthat's column for today's New York Times.

About the President's policy vis-a-vis the Islamic State, Douthat writes:
Across years of war and at an extraordinary cost, the United States built an army that was supposed to prevent jihadists from gaining a sanctuary in the heart of the Middle East.

That army was the Iraqi Army, and we know what happened next.

American-organized units were routed; American-trained soldiers fled; American-made weapons fell into the hands of the Islamic State.

Our official strategy for fighting the Islamic State involves basically trying the same thing again, this time on the cheap: inventing allies, funneling them money and weaponry, and telling ourselves that it will all work out.

If our failure to build an army capable of stabilizing Iraq after our departure looks like a pure tragedy, then the arm-the-rebels gambit in Syria has more than a whiff of farce. But really it’s a studied evasion.

The cold reality, though, is that defeating ISIS outright in Syria will take something more substantial than dropping a few bombs in support of a few U.S.-trained moderates.
Douthat says to succeed against the IS, we either put troops on the ground ourselves or we ally with Assad against the rebels. Obama is willing to do neither.

To borrow a sports metaphor, Obama is trying to "run out the clock," to appear to do enough militarily to mollify Americans for the next two years. It forces his successor to clean up the mess he leaves behind. Another wuss - Carter - left behind our hostages in Iran instead of manning up and doing something about it.

She Didn't Answer the Phone

Rand Paul isn't necessarily my favorite Republican luminary. However, he does often turn a wryly humorous phrase, get in an ironic dig. For example, the L.A.Times reports the following about one of his speeches:
Speaking about Clinton, he used her famous 2008 primary ad, which argued that she more than Obama would be the president capable of answering a phone call about a middle-of-the-night crisis:
"I think she had a 3 a.m. moment. She didn’t answer the phone and I think it absolutely should preclude her from being [president],”
Clinton had to let those four men be murdered in Benghazi in order to preserve Obama's totally false election claim that he had exterminated Islamic extremism. A life-saving military strike in Libya would have illustrated how his boasts often represent wishful thinking.

Goodbye to Summer

Today is the last official day of summer, 2014. Goodbye, sweet season, you flew by too quickly. It seems only yesterday we welcomed summer three weeks into June.

Monday is the first day of autumn, both a season of sadness and a time of new beginnings. For us "snowbirds," it means getting serious about moving toward somewhere warmer for the winter.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Definitive Climate Article

Dr. Steven E. Koonin has impeccable scientific and political credentials to write on the science of climatology which he has for The Wall Street Journal. See how the Journal  describes him:
Dr. Koonin was undersecretary for science in the Energy Department during President Barack Obama's first term and is currently director of the Center for Urban Science and Progress at New York University. His previous positions include professor of theoretical physics and provost at Caltech, as well as chief scientist of BP where his work focused on renewable and low-carbon energy technologies.
Koonin states baldly that climate science is far from settled, that scientific consensus is actually quite limited in scope, that all of the computer-based climate models disagree with each other, and that none is likely to be accurate except by chance. Some choice quotes:
The crucial scientific question for policy isn't whether the climate is changing. That is a settled matter: The climate has always changed and always will.

Nor is the crucial question whether humans are influencing the climate. That is no hoax: There is little doubt in the scientific community that continually growing amounts of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, due largely to carbon-dioxide emissions from the conventional use of fossil fuels, are influencing the climate.

Rather, the crucial, unsettled scientific question for policy is, "How will the climate change over the next century under both natural and human influences?"

Even though human influences could have serious consequences for the climate, they are physically small in relation to the climate system as a whole. For example, human additions to carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by the middle of the 21st century are expected to directly shift the atmosphere's natural greenhouse effect by only 1% to 2%. Since the climate system is highly variable on its own, that smallness sets a very high bar for confidently projecting the consequences of human influences.

As far as the computer models go, there isn't a useful consensus at the level of detail relevant to assessing human influences.

Rigidly promulgating the idea that climate science is "settled" (or is a "hoax") demeans and chills the scientific enterprise, retarding its progress in these important matters.
If you only read one climate change article this year, this should be the one. As an Obama appointee, Koonin can't be knocked as a conservative know-nothing. As he notes, there is still too much we don't know about climate, the oceans, and he never even mentions the issue of solar variability.

A Rotting, Empty Hulk

Politico has an elegiac article on the disastrous state of the Muslim world, written by Hisham Melhem, Washington bureau chief for Al Arabiya satellite news. Some choice quotes:
Arab civilization, such as we knew it, is all but gone. The Arab world today is more violent, unstable, fragmented and driven by extremism—the extremism of the rulers and those in opposition—than at any time since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire a century ago.

With the dubious exception of the antiquated monarchies and emirates of the Gulf—which for the moment are holding out against the tide of chaos—and possibly Tunisia, there is no recognizable legitimacy left in the Arab world.

Along a front stretching from Basra at the mouth of the Persian Gulf to Beirut on the Mediterranean there exists an almost continuous bloodletting between Sunni and Shia—the public manifestation of an epic geopolitical battle for power and control pitting Iran, the Shia powerhouse, against Saudi Arabia, the Sunni powerhouse, and their proxies.

The jihadists of the Islamic State, in other words, did not emerge from nowhere. They climbed out of a rotting, empty hulk—what was left of a broken-down civilization.

Let’s face the grim truth: There is no evidence whatever that Islam in its various political forms is compatible with modern democracy.

It took the Arabs decades and generations to reach this nadir. It will take us a long time to recover—it certainly won’t happen in my lifetime.
In other words, David Goldman, aka Spengler, is correct that this will be a very long war, at least 30 years.

Another General Disapproves

Former commandant of the Marine Corps, General James Conway, on his evaluation of the President's plan to subdue ISIS, as reported in The Daily Caller:
I don’t think the president’s plan has a snowball’s chance in hell of succeeding.
The article explains the basis for the general's negative evaluation:
Conway’s major concern was that the U.S. did not have a force on the ground in Syria it could rely on, like the Kurdish Peshmerga in Iraq.
Nobody thinks the Iraqi army is useful and everybody on the rebel side in Syria is a U.S.-hating Sunni extremist.

Friday, September 19, 2014

A Federal System Promised for U.K.

As we wrote last night, it appears the United Kingdom will move in the direction of federalism. See this quote from U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron in a Reuters article for Yahoo News:
Just as Scotland will vote separately in the Scottish parliament on their issues of tax, spending and welfare, so too England, as well as Wales and Northern Ireland should be able to vote on these issues. All this must take place, in tandem with and at the same pace as the settlement for Scotland.
Scottish polls didn't accurately predict the substantial margin by which the unionists won. The other DrC suggests this may be a version of the "Bradley effect" in action.

Political mavens remember Los Angeles mayor Tom Bradley, an African-American, ran for governor of CA. Polls predicted he would win comfortably, while he lost by a small margin. The postmortem analysis concluded voters didn't want to tell pollsters they were going to vote for his white opponent, fearing to be thought racists.

In a similar fashion, the other DrC believes a number of Scots were uncomfortable reporting they planned to vote "no" because of the bullying tone taken by "yes" proponents. I am sure she is correct.

U.S. Most and Least Education Cities

Forbes reports the results of a study of the most (and least) educated large cities in the United States. See the criteria:
To determine the Most And Least Educated Cities In America, financial site WalletHub took a look at the 150 largest metros in the U.S. and ranked them according to nine weighted metrics, including percentage of adult residents with a high school diploma, associate’s degree, baccalaureate degree, graduate or professional degree, or above; number of doctors per capita; percentage of workers with jobs in “computer, engineering, and sciences fields;” quality of public schools and universities; and the number of students enrolled in the top 200 universities in the U.S., per capita.
Most of the top ten were ... no surprise ... university towns. Did we need a study to know this? The only strange member of the top ten was Baltimore, MD, which is nobody's idea of an educated or high tech mecca.

The bottom ten are a whole different story, five of the ten are in CA and 7 of 10 are in areas with a heavy influx of Hispanic migrants, either agricultural CA or border TX. Lakeland, FL, Beaumont, TX, and Rockford, IL, have other issues.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Scotland Votes "No"

This afternoon I wrote that Scotland votes today. Now, given the time difference of some 7 hours, we know that the Scots voted roughly 55% to 45% to remain in the United Kingdom. See the Associated Press story.

As I wrote this afternoon, that isn't the most exciting outcome, but it's the one that is best for both the U.K. and Scotland. Were I a resident of Scotland, I would have voted "no."

I expect England to want its own parliament and its own devo-max, ditto Wales and Northern Ireland.  In the long run the U.K. will likely end up as a federal system with considerable "state" autonomy, not unlike their unruly former colonies across the Atlantic. Perhaps the national parliament will only involve itself with issues of defense, foreign relations, and whatever regulations all four "states" can agree should be U.K.-wide.

The "no" vote means it will be harder for the U.K. to muster a majority in favor of leaving the EU. That's assuming (a) the Tories win a majority at the next election and (b) Cameron keeps his word to hold a referendum on continued EU membership.

A Treat for Politics Wonks

Sean Trende and David Byler have constructed for RealClearPolitics a way to examine the relative strength of the two major parties, using percentages of things like state chambers controlled, governorships, etc.  Their conclusion may be all that interests you, if so here it is:
Even a pretty disappointing GOP year would result in an index that places them above their postwar average and leaves them, on balance, more powerful than the Democrats nationally. (snip) Whatever challenges are facing the Republican Party -- and they are real, if overstated -- this would not be a party in overall decline.
Please feel free to luxuriate in all the minutiae Trende and Co. present, if that's what floats your boat.

Quote of the Day

Columnist Adriana Cohen, writing in the Boston Herald, about our President's lack of popularity:
It’s official. Jimmy Carter is no longer the worst president in American history.

The crown of shame has been passed from the former peanut farmer to our weak, lead-from-behind community organizer, whose lack of foreign policy experience and gravitas has come into full embarrassing display.
Welcome aboard, Ms. Cohen, however late you are in wising up. At COTTonLINE we've suspected this for nearly four years.

Scotland Votes Today

Today Scotland votes on the issue of independence from the United Kingdom, from Britain. Most articles say the vote is too close to call, those that do predict see a narrow victory for "no."

A "no" vote will be boring, a "yes" vote will have interesting sequelae. For that reason alone I hope "yes" wins, it will have all sorts of interesting first and second order consequences.

On the other hand, if I were a Scot I'd vote "no" in a heartbeat. The Scots have it good in the U.K. and some don't recognize that fact.

A Good Choice

The Washington Times reports the U.S. Air Force has dropped the requirement that all enlistees swear an oath that includes "so help me God." A sergeant had been refused reenlistment because he crossed out the phrase on a document he signed.

The former requirement seemed to reflect some of the same "you will believe" requirement cadets at the Air Force Academy complained about. Given our Constitutional protections for religious liberty, including the freedom to disbelieve or question, the Air Force made the right choice.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Spanking Controversy

Is all spanking child abuse? No. I was spanked (rarely) and certainly not abused. When I got it I deserved it and it sure got my attention.

That said, can spanking be child abuse? Certainly, if done often or brutally.

Banning spanking to prevent abuse is like enacting prohibition to prevent alcoholism, it doesn't trust people to utilize good judgment.

California Misunderstandings

If you follow the headline news you've been hearing about forest fires in California and Oregon. If you've not lived there you probably suppose the entire area is ablaze. It's not.

A Reuters article for Yahoo News reports on several CA fires, with acreage totaling perhaps 13,500 acres. Thirteen thousand five hundred acres sounds impressive until you realize CA has over 104 million acres. That's about 1/100 of one percent (0.01%) of the state. In other words, most CA citizens are unaware of the fires unless they live downwind and have smoky skies, or listen to local news.

I grew up watching from my front yard as wild fires swept across the brush-covered hillsides of the Los Padres National Forest. Relatives would call (in the day of expensive long-distance rates) to ask if our house was threatened. We'd laugh and say the fire's not even close.

Earthquakes are much the same. Most CA natives have felt a dozen or more, the only people who need to worry about them are those within a few miles of the epicenter. In a state that's 770 miles long and 250 miles wide, that's normally darn few for any given quake. Most quakes occur in rural areas and trouble almost nobody, although millions may feel them as a gentle rocking.

It is a journalistic cliche that CA is disaster-prone. It's a big place so things do happen, but few residents are troubled by most of them. Plus it gets next-to-no tornadoes, no hurricanes, and snow is mostly confined to the Sierras where Californians go play in it.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Muslim Anti-Semitism

Jochen Bittner, an editor of Die Zeitwriting in The New York Times, about the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe:
The new anti-Semitism does not originate solely with the typical white-supremacist neo-Nazi; instead, the ugly truth that many in Europe don’t want to confront is that much of the anti-Jewish animus originates with European people of Muslim background.

The German police have noted a disturbing rise in the number of people of Arabic and Turkish descent arrested on suspicion of anti-Semitic acts in recent years, especially over the last several months.
COTTonLINE has speculated much of the "new anti-Semitism" in Europe was Muslim-based. Here's an eye witness report. I imagine Europe's skin-heads are as anti-Muslim as they are anti-Semitic.

Weird Pharmacological Science

The New York Times reports people who live in areas with naturally occurring lithium in their water supplies are significantly less likely to commit suicide. Other studies show fewer homicides and rapes in such areas. And it may have the ability to reduce the likelihood of senile dementia.

The amount of lithium in the water supplies was much lower than the therapeutic doses utilized in bi-polar disease and depression. There hasn't been much research confirming these findings because there is no profit in it to drug companies, since lithium is an element occurring in nature.

Bad Policy

Caroline Glick has written a very downbeat appraisal of U.S. policy vis-a-vis ISIS for RealClearPolitics. She calls it "Obama's Self-Defeating Fight."

Glick thinks what Obama has proposed is largely a very bad joke, and she explain why. Glick summarizes:
As a rising force in the Middle East, IS threatens US allies and it threatens global trade. To prevent its allies from being overthrown and to prevent shocks to the international economy, at a minimum, the US needs to contain IS.

Given the threat the Westerners joining the terror army constitute, and Washington’s unwillingness to stop them at the border, in all likelihood, the US needs to destroy IS where it stands. Unfortunately, there is no reason to believe that the US is willing or able to either contain or defeat IS.
As far as potential allies are concern, she notes:
The Kurds will not fight for anything but Kurdistan. The Iraqi Army is a fiction. The Iraqi Sunnis support IS far more than they trust the Americans. Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan will either cheer the US on from a distance, or in the best-case scenario, provide logistical support for its operations.
Guess who that leaves - the GIs nobody wants to send back to the region.

Lying on a Resume'

CNBC has a brief story about Wal-Mart's Vice President of Communications, David Tovar, losing his job as a result of lying on his resume' about having finished a baccalaureate degree at the University of Delaware. He claims to be "a few credits short" of finishing.

Demonstrating Tovar is by no means unique, the article mentions two other high-level executives who lost their jobs by claiming degrees they didn't have.
Scott Thompson left his post as Yahoo's CEO after Third Point's Daniel Loeb discovered Thompson had only earned an accounting degree from Stonehill College—rather than one in computer science as well.

In 2006, RadioShack's then-chief executive David Edmondson resigned after it was revealed he lacked a college degree but had claimed he earned two.
Like it or hate it, large organizations are credential-driven. You have to wonder how many more top execs have bogus credentials and live in fear of discovery?

On the other hand, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs both made a pile without ever lying about their lack of credentials. The difference, they started their own companies while the sad sacks mentioned above were corporate ladder-climbers who had to claim to have credentials to get ahead.

My career field - university professing - is totally credential-driven. However, unlike corporate employers, universities insist upon receiving certified transcripts reflecting the claimed degrees and GPAs before hiring tenure-track faculty.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Dickens Redux

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness....
Roger Cohen captures the "voice of doom" feel of Dickens' opening for A Tale of Two Cities in a column for The New York Times, entitled The Great Unraveling. Each of Cohen's topic sentences below heads up a fat paragraph detailing the awfulness of our time:
It was a time of beheadings.
It was a time of aggression.
It was a time of breakup.
It was a time of weakness.
It was a time of hatred.
It was a time of fever.
It was a time of disorientation. Nobody connected the dots.
Until it was too late and people could see the Great Unraveling for what it was and what it had wrought. 
Cohen doesn't even mention that our economy is flaccid as an old man's dewlap, or that we are "led" in perilous times by what is perhaps the least qualified, least able president of my long life.

Weird Gender-Based Science

The Telegraph (U.K.) reviews a new book by developmental biologist Lewis Wolpert on the differences between men and women. Entitled Why Can't a Woman Be More Like a Man?, a title taken from the musical My Fair Lady, it documents a large number of differences, and debunks a few too. If the subject interests you, it is a good read.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

No Chance Whatsoever

Michael Totten writes for World Affairs and here for the New York Daily News, about the Middle East from whence he often reports:
The entire Middle East has been a disaster for thousands of years and, even if the U.S. does everything right, there’s no chance whatsoever that it will change any time soon.
You can go carve that in stone.

Quote of the Day

Michael Goodwin writes for the New York Post, here his topic is the sinking Obama presidency.
The magic of his rhetoric is long gone, and not just because the public has tuned him out. They’ve tuned him out because they’ve made up their minds about him. They no longer trust him and don’t think he’s a good leader.
That is what the polls now show. COTTonLINE readers have known it for several years.

Huge Antarctic Ice

The Australian Broadcasting Co. News reports on the late winter ice conditions in Antarctica. Hat tip to Drudge Report for the link.
Scientists say the extent of Antarctic sea ice cover is at its highest level since records began.

Satellite imagery reveals an area of about 20 million square kilometres covered by sea ice around the Antarctic continent.
The records date back to 1979, some thirty-five years. If you scroll down you discover they blame global warming for the extra ice. I'd ignore their spin and focus on the extent of the ice.

Associate Degree a Cul De Sac

There are problems with the employability of people holding the Associate of Arts/Science degree. A Los Angeles Times article says something discouraging:
It turns out that jobless workers with that level of schooling have the longest duration of unemployment among all education groups, according to Labor Department statistics.
The Times goes on to explain, using the words of Georgetown economist Harry Holzer:
It might be that folks with associate degrees are skilled enough that they won't take just any job, and spend more time looking for something better. (However, employers) may not believe their skills are high enough for what they need in many cases.
Translation: I believe having earned an A.A. makes me too skilled for menial work. Employers with non-menial openings see no reason to settle for my Associates degree when the market is well-supplied with unemployed baccalaureate degrees.

Employers may also believe community colleges don't improve the higher order thinking and communicating skills of their graduates. Perhaps they are too often correct.

Routine non-manual work for which an A.A. holder might qualify is exactly the sort of work being automated out of existence or off-shored. If an algorithm can be written to explain the decision tree of a job holder, a computer can normally do the job faster, cheaper, and with far less drama.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Quote of the Day

Fintan O'Toole, writing in The Irish Times, on the subject of what Scots independence may mean:
National freedom isn’t another word for nothing left to lose. It’s another word for no one left to blame – no one, that is, except yourself. If you make your own choices, you become responsible for their consequences.
As the Irish have learned by gaining independence from Britain.

A Long War Analogy

Former Air Force general Charles F. Wald, a leader in the early air campaigns in Afghanistan, quoted in a Washington Post article about the battle with ISIS:
We’re not going to see an end to this in our lifetime. There isn’t going to be any time where we all of a sudden can declare victory. This is what the world is going to be like for us for a long time.
Wald understands the Long War. It will resemble combating roaches in the tropics - an experience I've had. You engage in a continuous process of killing vermin and hardening targets. You're "winning" if you only see an occasional roach and the roach traps fill up slowly.

Improving "Civilization As We Know It"

The Daily Caller reports House Minority Leader and former Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, on Real Time with Bill Maher:
Civilization as we know it today would be in jeopardy if the Republicans win the Senate.
Reading this I had three thoughts in quick succession. Thought one: (chuckle) that's stupid. Thought two: what's in jeopardy is your Democratic program, including Obamacare.

Thought three: maybe she's right. Maybe a Republican-controlled Congress can improve upon "civilization as we know it today" by eliminating many Democrat-initiated, means-tested transfer payments.

Such action would definitely imperil the status quo ante. It would substitute a status quo futures in which we stop subsidizing idleness and renew the incentive to find and keep employment. Even if it isn't the job of one's dreams.

Is It War?

Lots of media outlets are ragging on Secretary of State Kerry for saying what we're about with ISIS is "not war." Here are examples at CNN, the Washington Times, and CBS News.

To paraphrase former President Clinton, it depends on the definition of "war." If by war you mean what we did in Kuwait or Iraq or Afghanistan, what the President plans to have Americans do to ISIS is not war.

Certainly, the President believes ISIS will experience the collective activities of the U.S. and its local allies as war. He hopes to have the troops on the ground be proxy forces - Kurds, Sunni tribesmen, and the Iraqi Army - instead of Americans. Whether he can find willing and, even more important, able local fighters to provide enough boots-on-the-ground is far from clear. I doubt it is possible.

Obama believes Americans are unwilling to send ground forces back into Iraq and into Syria. This belief certainly was accurate before the beheadings, it may or may not be true today.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Quote of the Day

Political prognosticator Charlie Cook writes for National Journal where he shares some street wisdom:
Midterm elections come in three varieties for the White House party: bad, really bad, and horrific.
We can hope for "horrific" but I'll settle for "really bad."


The Houston Chronicle carries an Associated Press story from California about kids missing school. Hat tip to for the link.
Black elementary students in California were chronically truant at nearly four times the rate of all students during the last school year, the attorney general's office report showed. The rate was higher than that of any other subgroup, including homeless children.
Perhaps the John Ogbu research we linked to here two days ago answers the question "Why does this happen?"

Obama Loses Women, Others

Karen Tumulty writes on politics for The Washington Post. Today she reports Obama has lost support among women, the young, and Hispanics, groups that supported him strongly in 2008 and 2012.

Nobody is certain how this will affect the results of the election less than 8 weeks from now. The conventional wisdom of politics says a midterm election is a referendum on the sitting President. Democrats obviously hope this year is an exception to the rule.

Political Humor Alert

Instapundit Glenn Reynolds riffs on Michael Moore's prediction that Obama will only be remembered as the first black president, writing two days ago:
Nah, he’ll be remembered for being a fuck-up, too.
As another Jimmy Carter if he's lucky, worse if he's not.

Churchill on Islam

I may have mentioned it before, but one more time, I give you a link to what Winston Churchill had to say about Islam in his book on the Sudan campaign entitled The River War (scroll down). It is too long to quote in its entirety. Here is a short sample:
The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property—either as a child, a wife, or a concubine—must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men.
Who knew Winston was an abolitionist? The link is to a blogpost at Power Line by Steven Hayward.

Political Humor Alert

Posting at Power Line, Steven Hayward quotes what he calls "an old line," a sort of political definition, actually:
Environmentalists are “watermelons”— green on the outside, red on the inside.
The movement does have an anti-business, anti-growth bias that's at least bright pink, if not red.

An Unmarried Motherhood Wage Penalty

On September 6, five days ago, we wrote about a New York Times article reporting a daddy bonus and a mommy penalty. Now comes a paper by a demographer we like, Kay Hymowitz, written for Family Studies, on the same subject.

Hymowitz makes some of the same points I made last week, and adds a particularly powerful one:
Gender gap journalism often shies away from just how big a role marital status plays in all of its percentages. “Low income mothers pay the biggest price” for motherhood, she says citing Budig.  No kidding. Low-income jobs have less flexibility. Just as importantly, low-income mothers are disproportionately unmarried. Married mothers can divvy up the laundry, the PTA meetings, and doctors appointments with their children’s resident dad. They also have the advantage of a second income.

Over the past two decades the motherhood penalty has declined for married mothers. They now make only 3% less than childless women. For unmarried mothers, the penalty has increased sharply—to 10.5 percent.

Terms like “motherhood penalty” and “fatherhood bonus” disenfranchise mothers who freely choose to reduce their work. It also suggests men and women disadvantage or benefit only themselves, but that is plainly untrue for married parents. When a husband earns more partly because his wife’s hours allow her to pick up the kids, or, of course, vice versa, his or her “bonus” neutralizes his or her “penalty” in ways that render the terms misleading.
For 40+ years the DrsC have talked about "our income," not mine and yours. The total is what we have to operate with.

Will somebody please look at unmarried fathers with child custody to see if they also experience a wage penalty? I expect many do.  If so, the correct nomenclature is "the unmarried parent penalty."

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Graduation Rates Vary with Frosh GPA

A quick reference for COTTonLINE readers who have a child or grandchild in college, from statistician Robert VerBruggen of RealClearPolicy. The extremely short article is mostly a chart that shows the relationship between freshman grade point average (GPA) and graduation within six years. One presumes 6 years was chosen instead of the traditional 4 because few now graduate in four years.

Freshmen with GPAs of 2.7 and higher have a 50% or greater chance of graduation. Below 2.7 it tails off so that not even 40% of those with a 2.3 GPA or lower will earn a degree in six years.

More amazing to me, only three-quarters of those with a freshman GPA of 4.0 will graduate in six years or less. I would have guessed (incorrectly) these super-achievers would almost all graduate, and quickly.

Sincere people will tell you grades aren't important in later life, perhaps they are partially correct. Grades sure as heck are important while still in college - here are the numbers to prove it.

Poll: Islam Encourages Violence

The President says the Islamic State isn't Islamic, Americans disagree.

The Washington Post's Aaron Blake reports the results of a Pew Research Center poll released just before the President's Wednesday speech. In that speech he repeated his belief that Islamic State has nothing to do with Islam.

Fifty percent of all respondents disagreed with the President and instead agreed with the following statement:
Is the Islamic Religion More Likely than Others to Encourage Violence?
Thirty-nine percent disagreed. At least 50% of each of the following subgroups agreed with the statement: men, whites, those aged 50 and older, those with no college, all Republicans, white Protestants, and Catholics.

Groups least likely to agree: blacks, those under 30, liberal Democrats, and those with no religion.


Obama grew up with Muslims who were probably nice people, I've taught Muslims who were great students and nice people. So what? It means little.

In the days when Catholicism via the Inquisition was torturing people to death and burning them at the stake, I'm sure you could have found nice Catholics. It meant little then. Militant Catholicism was wrong.

Today the offender is Islam and that there are nice Muslims is beside the point. Militant Islam is wrong, a problem for its believers and for the rest of us too.

WSJ: Obama Less Popular than Bush

A new Wall Street Journal/NBC poll asked people whether they were positive or negative about Presidents Bush and Obama. For the first time, Obama loses. See what they write:
It’s not that Mr. Bush is suddenly beloved. He has a 37% positive/38% negative image now. That’s quite a change from the 31%-59% rating he received when he left office in January 2009.

At the time of his second inaugural just 20 months ago, Mr. Obama had a 52% positive/37% negative rating. By the next month, he had already slipped below 50% positive. And now, he is at 42% positive/46% negative.

So, while Mr. Bush is a net minus one on his image, Mr. Obama is a net minus four.
Baby step by baby step, the Bush rehabilitation proceeds as Obama lowers the class average. Given enough time, I predict the Bush reputation will rise from terrible to average.

I'll bet Bush feels fondly about Obama in the same way every president since has felt fondly about Jimmy Carter. Carter was so bad he made all successors look good by comparison.

A Bush Prophesy

President George W. Bush doesn't get much respect, maybe he's due more. Fox News reports that on July 12, 2007, Bush said the following in the White House briefing room:
To begin withdrawing before our commanders tell us we are ready would be dangerous for Iraq, for the region and for the United States.
He then made four predictions of bad outcomes if we withdraw early:
It would mean surrendering the future of Iraq to Al Qaeda.
It would mean that we’d be risking mass killings on a horrific scale.
It would mean we allow the terrorists to establish a safe haven in Iraq to replace the one they lost in Afghanistan.
It would mean we’d be increasing the probability that American troops would have to return at some later date to confront an enemy that is even more dangerous.
Our military commanders recommended keeping a few thousand troops in Iraq to forestall such outcomes. Obama ignored their advice, withdrew all troops and, as noted yesterday, declared victory.

Every one of the Bush predictions has come true. In case you're in doubt, the article lays out proof for each. Hat tip to for the link.

The Long War's Pearl Harbor

Nine-eleven was Pearl Harbor 2.0, a major chapter in the annals of the Long War.  If many didn't recognize we had been at war since the Beirut Marine barracks bombing in 1983, they certainly have known it since 9/11.

Take a moment today to remember the roughly 3,000 people, going about their lawful pursuits, mostly at work, who were murdered on this day in 2001 by Arab terrorists. Remember the brave passengers who stopped the plane headed for the Capitol at the cost of their own lives, and the brave rescuers who risked much including death in the aftermath.

Scots Banks Could Move to London

For a bit it looked like Scotland might vote to become independent. One poll even showed "Yes" ahead. Then comes this story by Reuters for Yahoo News.

It reports two major Scotland-based banks - Lloyds and the Royal Bank of Scotland - would move their headquarters to London if independence occurs. As the article says,
Thursday's announcements by Edinburgh-based Lloyds and Royal Bank of Scotland - both part-owned by the British government - were greeted by the "No" campaign as bolstering their position.
Scots have to be thinking, "When will the other shoe(s) drop? Who else will bail out?"

We'll know the outcome of the vote a week from today. My current prediction: "No" will win narrowly - what most polls have shown.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014


Joshua Rovner, writing in The National Interest, about U.S. military successes and failures.
The United States is very good at using small forces to kill terrorists and dismantle their networks, but it is not very good at using large ones to manage other people's civil wars.
Precisely. Punish bad people and groups as needed, eschew nation building.

The IS area is an ideal place to deploy the A-10 Warthog ground attack plane the Air Forces says it wants to dump. It is very resistant to ground fire and probably to shoulder-fired missiles as well.

The A-10 is just the ticket for getting in close and shooting up relatively low-tech troops with its 30 mm Gatling cannon and rockets. Imagine a Warthog with 23 tiny Toyota Hilux pickup trucks painted below the canopy. Brilliant.

Star Wars at Burning Man

National Review has a slide series taken at this year's Burning Man happening in the northern Nevada desert. I particularly like this slide which looks like a weapon system from a Star Wars film. It apparently could move under its own power.

The Affirmative Action President

Polemicist and documentary film maker Michael Moore is interviewed by The Hollywood Reporter. National Review has the video and some text. About President Obama, Moore has this to say:
He's been a huge disappointment.
Then speaking directly to the President, Moore says:
When the history is written of this era, this is how you’ll be remembered: He was the first black president. Okay, not a bad accomplishment. But that’s it. That’s it, Mr. Obama.
Do you like irony? I find it ironic that Moore is hugely disappointed because Obama did so little while COTTonLINE readers are equally disappointed that he managed to do the few things he did accomplish.

Carter-like Damage

NBC's Chuck Todd, new host of Meet the Press, speaking on MSNBC's Morning Joe show about President Obama. My source for the quote is this story on Mediaite, hat tip to for the link.
“It’s not just him, it’s actually impacting the entire Democratic Party,” Todd said. “He’s on the precipice of doing Jimmy Carter-like damage to the Democratic brand on foreign policy.”
As a nation, we'll be fortunate if Obama does no more damage than did the hapless Carter. Nixon looks good by comparison. Even Bush 2 is somewhat rehabilitated.

Quote of the Day

Daniel Greenfield, writing in FrontPageMag, about Islam:
The problem isn’t “radicalization.” What Western governments call radicalization is the process by which the Muslim becomes aware of the dictates of his faith and their relevance to his life. It’s not the internet preachers with their fatwas. They are just the vectors for that awareness. The problem is Islam.

Within the historical context of Islam and in the words of the Koran, our idea of the good Muslim is actually a very bad Muslim. And our idea of the bad Muslim is the best of all Muslims.
Dude doesn't beat around the bush, does he? Hat tip to for the link.

Impediments to Black Academic Achievement

Jason L. Riley is an African American writer and a member of the editorial board of The Wall Street Journal. Writing for The American, online magazine of the American Enterprise Institute, Riley summarizes the findings of University of California anthropologist John Ogbu, a Nigerian-American who studied black and white achievement in Shaker Heights, Ohio. Ogbu writes:
None of the versions of the class-inequality [argument] can explain why black students from similar social class backgrounds, residing in the same neighborhood, and attending the same school, don’t do as well as white students. (snip) When blacks and whites from similar socioeconomic backgrounds are compared, one sees that black students at every class level perform less well in school than their white counterparts.

He (Ogbu) concluded that black culture, more than anything else, explained the academic achievement gap. The black kids readily admitted that they didn’t work as hard as whites, took easier classes, watched more TV, and read fewer books.

Ogbu found that black high-school students “avoided certain attitudes, standard English, and some behaviors because they considered them white. They feared that adopting white ways would be detrimental to their collective racial identity and solidarity."

"Unfortunately, some of the attitudes labeled ‘white’ and avoided by the students were those that enhanced school success.” The behaviors and attitudes to be avoided included, for example, enrolling in honors and advanced-placement classes, striving for high grades, talking properly, hanging around too many white students, and participating in extracurricular activities that were populated by whites.
Riley concludes this way:
“We know that there are many things wrong in the white world, but there are many things wrong in the black world, too,” Martin Luther King Jr. once told a congregation. “We can’t keep on blaming the white man. There are things we must do for ourselves.” Learning to value education is one of those things.
The article is excerpted from Riley’s new book, Please Stop Helping Us: How Liberals Make It Harder for Blacks to Succeed. Hat tip to for the link.

More Education = More Income

CNBC has an excellent article about the monetary advantages, but decreasing frequency, of upward mobility based on education. Among other things, it documents the financial advantage the average household of two college graduates has over the average household with two high school graduates.
Between 1979 and 2012, that (wage) gap grew by some $30,000, after inflation.

American workers with a college degree are paid 74 percent more than those with only a high school degree, on average.
The article also documents the extent to which upward mobility has decreased in the U.S.
Barely 30 percent of American adults have achieved a higher level of education than their parents did. (snip) And matters are getting worse, not better. Among 25- to 34-year olds, only 20 percent of men out of school and 27 percent of women have achieved a higher level of education than their parents.

Something slipped over the last generation, however. In the 1970s, graduation rates from four-year colleges slowed sharply and even went into reverse for men. And the world caught up.
As more Americans have college educations, the number who will exceed the educational achievements of their parents will taper off as a percentage of the population. It's simple arithmetic.

See also this Pew Research article on "assortative mating." It documents that college grads are marrying each other, leading to greater income inequality and less upward mobility.

Another factor not mentioned by the CNBC article is the 10+ million mostly Hispanic illegal immigrants for whom English is a non-native language. Generally the least educated members of the societies they fled, their large families have pulled down average educational achievement in the U.S.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Totten Visits the Kurds

Michael Totten reports for World Affairs Journal from dangerous, uncomfortable places I wouldn't go on a bet. What's more, he often does a good job.

Here we have a relatively brief column on the Iraqi Kurds, about whom he has nothing bad to say. Nothing, that is, beyond the fact that they aren't strong enough to defeat ISIS on their own. His sweeping recommendation echoes those of other writers:
Give them whatever they want and whatever they need—including recognition when they declare independence.
I don't see the Obamacrats recognizing Kurdish independence. A Kurdistan doesn't fit in their models for the region.

Why Scottish Independence?

Neil Irwin writes in The New York Times to answer the question, why do many Scots want to be independent of the U.K.? His answer, unique cultures although he minimizes those cultural differences.

I believe Irwin makes too little of the political aspect of their different cultures. Scotland elects 59 members to the U.K. parliament, only twelve of whom are members of the governing coalition - one Tory and 11 Liberal Democrats, most are either Labor Party (41) or Scottish National Party (6) and as such in opposition (out of power).

On the other hand, David Cameron's ruling parliamentary coalition consists of 307 Conservatives (Tory) and 57 Liberal Democrats. The opposition Labor Party has elected 258 members. Total MPs equal 650, so there are 27 members who represent regional and minor parties and supposedly one woman member who claims no party whatsoever.

Let's recapitulate: 47 of Scotland's 59 national MPs are left-wing (Labor and SNP), 12 are more to the right (Tory and LD). Compare that ratio to the ratio for the rest of the U.K. with 306 Conservatives and 46 Liberal Democrats for a total of at least 352 on the right versus something less than 300 on the left.

Put U.K. politics in U.S. political terms - Scotland is a blue state, rU.K. (rest of the U.K.) is a red state. Scotland wants more socialism, the U.K. doesn't. Scotland hated Maggie Thatcher, a clear majority of the Brits didn't. The standard EU social compact makes sense to Scots, not to Brits whose values are somewhat more like ours. The U.K. might vote to leave the EU, Scotland would try its darnedest to gain admission.

If Scotland votes for independence, politics will be a big part of the reason why. That, and a bloody history of course.

CA Leads the Way ... to Ruin

A blogger we often link to - Instapundit Glenn Reynolds - uses his USA Today column to review the new book of our favorite demographer Joel Kotkin. Here are some tasty bits:
Once a state where the middle class reigned supreme, the apotheosis of the American Dream, California now has the wealth distribution — and, in some disturbing ways, the political underpinnings — of a Third World country.

The (Silicon Valley) oligarchs feel free, and even entitled, to choose the direction of society in the name of a greater good, but somehow their policies seem mostly to make the oligarchs richer and more powerful.

The oligarchs are assisted in their control by what Kotkin calls the "clerisy" class — an amalgam of academics, media and government employees who play the role that medieval clergy once played in legitimizing the powerful, and in implementing their policies while quelling resistance from the masses.

Because it doesn't have to work in competitive industries, the clerisy favors regulations, land-use rules and environmental restrictions that make things worse for businesses.

The lower classes, sustained by government handouts and by rhetoric from the clerisy, provide enough votes to keep the machine running, at least for a while.
As an emeritus member of the California "clerisy," I don't see much here to which I'd take exception. Growing up in CA, I remember being puzzled by accounts of East Coast parents frantically saving for children's college expenses. My baccalaureate degree cost my parents maybe $2000/year. Those days are long gone.

Quote of the Day

Former Australian Army chief Peter Leahy, as quoted by Michael Gerson in a column for The Washington Post:
(We are in) the early stages of a war which is likely to last for the rest of the century. We must be ready to protect ourselves and, where necessary, act preemptively to neutralize the evident threat. Get ready for a long war.
COTTonLINE first wrote of The Long War seven years ago tomorrow, on the eve of the anniversary of 9/11. Spengler says it will turn out to be another Thirty Years War, Leahy triples Spengler's estimate.


David P. Goldman, posting on his PJ Media: Spengler blog about the impact of perhaps as many as 14 million refugees in the Middle East:
Half of Syrians are displaced. Many of them will have nothing to go back to. When people have nothing to lose, they fight to the death and inflict horrors on others. That is what civilizational decline looks like in real time.

The Arab states are failed states, except for the few with enough hydrocarbons to subsidize every facet of economic life.

Syria is a ruin, along with large parts of Iraq. The lives of tens of millions of people were fragile before the fighting broke out (30% of Syrians lived on less than $1.60 a day), and now they are utterly ruined.

The hordes of combatants displace more people, and these join the hordes, in a snowball effect. That’s what drove the Thirty Years’ War of 1618-1648, and that’s what’s driving the war in the Levant.

War will end when the pool of prospective fighters has been exhausted.
Goldman is hyper-negative, but quite often correct in his gloomy predictions. Arab civilization covering North Africa and Asia Minor, after a long period of senescence, appears to be experiencing death throes. Very Spenglerian.

Presidential Failure

An ABC News/Washington Post poll released today shows the President swimming in what Bush 1 famously called "deep doo-doo."
With the midterm elections looming, Americans by a 10-point margin, 52-42 percent, see his presidency more as a failure than a success. Just 38 percent now approve of Obama’s handling of international affairs, down 8 percentage points since July to a career low; 56 percent disapprove, a majority for the first time. Fifty-two percent say he’s been too cautious in dealing with Islamic insurgents in Iraq and Syria.

A new low of just 31 percent approve of his handling of immigration. Fifty-nine percent disapprove, up by a broad 18 points from spring 2013.

Americans by a 17-point margin say Obama has done more to divide than to unite the country, a rating worse than George W. Bush’s early in his poorly rated second term – and one that’s deteriorated among Obama’s supporters as well as among his critics.

A Fundamentally Misguided View of the World

Peter Baker, a New York Times reporter who often appears on the PBS Washington Week program, has penned a tough column decrying the president's tendency to say things he later comes to very much regret.
To Mr. Obama’s critics, the disparity between the president’s previous statements and today’s reality reflects not simply poorly chosen words but a fundamentally misguided view of the world. Rather than clearly see the persistent dangers as the United States approaches the 13th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, they said, Mr. Obama perpetually imagines a world as he wishes it were.
Baker dutifully trots out the President's apologists' viewpoints defending what he said, and then debunks their defense.
Journalistic organizations like PolitiFact, and The Washington Post’s Fact Checker all rejected the contention that Mr. Obama was not referring to ISIS when he made his comment about JV teams.
Baker concludes by quoting Aaron David Miller, retired State Department Middle East expert, on the likelihood that the President's speech tomorrow night will quell concerns:
Presidents rarely persuade through speeches, unless the words are rooted in context that seems real and credible. Obama has a problem in this regard because his rhetoric has often gone beyond his capacity to deliver, especially on Syria.
Sadly, it's not just on Syria. Obama's announcement that our military was “leaving behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq with a representative government” looks completely lame today. Iraq is demonstrably not sovereign, not stable, not self-reliant, and its government does not represent all Iraqis.

President Reagan would have said of President Obama, "There you go again."

A Kissinger Interview

Toby Harnden, the Washington bureau chief for The Sunday Times (U.K.), interviews Henry Kissinger on what to do about ISIS. Kissinger quotes from the RealClearPolitics article follow:
We should launch an all-out attack on them,” he says, adding that it should be “of limited duration as a punitive measure”. He describes the actions of Isis, also known as Islamic State, as “an insult to our values and to our society” that demands a “very significant retaliation”.

“There can’t be any debate any more about fighting them.”

Under President Barack Obama, he charges, “we have made ourselves bystanders” in the Middle East until now.

“This could be very substantial — on most known targets — and I would not make any distinction between Syria and Iraq. In my view this should have happened already.”
Kissinger says not a word about nation-building in the region. His recommendation is basically kinetic Whack-A-Mole - if you see a bad guy kill him. There is lots more Kissinger in the article, not focused on ISIS, but about what foreign policy should be based upon.

Monday, September 8, 2014

The Broken Windows of the World

Occasionally Richard Cohen writes something very much on-target. Today's column for The New York Daily News is one such. Cohen describes briefly the "broken windows" theory of law enforcement first enunciated by James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling in the 1982 Atlantic Monthly and used by Police Commissioner William J. Bratton to clean up New York City.

Cohen insightfully applies a theory designed for urban improvement to the world stage. He shows how by being passive, by not putting out small fires, President Obama encouraged big fires to be set.

I hope you find Cohen's thinking as persuasive as I do.
President Obama eschewed a broken windows approach to foreign relations. He treated every crisis as an isolated event or problem unrelated to anything bigger. He did not understand that by doing so, the world's bad guys felt that no one was watching.

(The) Obama administration has contributed a lexicon of passivity to international relations -- "leading from behind," "we don't have a strategy yet" and the hardly Churchillian "don't do stupid stuff."
Americans may hate being the world's policemen, but when we take a vacation from that role as the President has done, the worldwide "neighborhood" goes to hell in the ways Cohen details. When every place in the world is no more than a one day plane flight from every other place, isolationism doesn't work.

Sorry, Libertarians, it isn't true that folks will leave us alone if we leave them alone. ISIS won't be happy until every one of us bows toward Mecca five times a day and gives up pork and alcohol, things I choose not to do.

Analyses of the Senate Races

Democratic pollster Stu Rothenberg writing for the Rothenblog makes the following prediction:
After looking at recent national, state and congressional survey data and comparing this election cycle to previous ones, I am currently expecting a sizable Republican Senate wave.

Right now, this cycle looks much like 2010, when Democrats with reasonable profiles got crushed in Republican-leaning and swing states.
And his conclusion, which he led off with:
I am now expecting a substantial Republican Senate wave in November, with a net gain of at least seven seats.
Meanwhile former New York Timesman Nate Silver writes for his FiveThirtyEight blog:
The path to a Republican majority is becoming a little clearer — and the problem for Democrats is that it runs through six deeply red states.

Republicans can win the Senate solely by winning Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana, Montana, South Dakota and West Virginia, states which voted for Mitt Romney over Barack Obama by an average of 19 percentage points in 2012.
That's tough country in which to run as a Democrat. Silver wouldn't be surprised if the GOP won a couple more besides these six. Meanwhile CNN's John King writes:
If that isn't a wave out there on the horizon, it is, at the moment anyway, a big, Republican-leaning ripple.

Bad Plot Summaries

National Review has a series of bad plot summaries for well-known films, with an iconic still from each film. Nothing serious, just fun, check it out. Here are a couple of samples:
Star Wars: A boy befriends a bearded hermit and two gay robots, goes into space, snogs his sister, and kills his dad.
The Blues Brothers: Two ex-cons play music and destroy a fleet of police cars for God.

Military Cuts vs. World Crises

Robert Samuelson writes for The Washington Post about the deplorable state of the U.S. military budget.
In the past year, we’ve had an elementary tutorial in the uses of raw military power: in Ukraine, where Russia manufactured a “rebellion”; in Iraq, where the Islamic State expanded its footprint; and in Asia, where China harassed ships of nations claiming islands China considers its own. But the implications of these events seem to have escaped the Obama White House and Congress.

They are systematically reducing U.S. military power as if none of this had happened. (snip) It’s a money pot of possible reductions to pay for burgeoning retirement benefits, mainly Social Security and Medicare, which are largely immune to cuts.
The world gets uglier while we get weaker. Something is badly wrong with this picture.

Latter-Day Reavers

Gateway Pundit Jim Hoff posts stills from a video of the ISIS massacre of 200 Syrian soldiers who were stripped to their underwear, forced to run into the desert, and shot in a ditch in a fashion very reminiscent of Nazi slaughters early in the holocaust or the Katyn Forest massacre of Poles by the Soviets. Only people with strong stomachs should view these.

ISIS puts me in mind of the Reavers from the cult TV series Firefly and the film derived from that series, Serenity. Both Reavers and ISIS work at being gruesome and animalistic, and largely succeed. Reavers are fictional, ISIS is not. It has earned extermination. Hat tip to for the link.

Employment Picture Gloomy

An Associated Press story based on a Harvard Business School poll of alumni finds glum news for U.S. workers. The results:
The survey suggests that incomes aren't likely to increase much anytime soon. Forty-one percent of respondents see lower wages and benefits ahead; just 27 percent expect pay raises.

Many companies are reluctant to add jobs if other alternatives exist. Only 25 percent said they preferred investing in employees, compared with 46 percent who would rather spend on technology. Forty-nine percent favored outsourcing work over hiring.

The companies have become more dependent on part-timers in the past three years.
These were high-powered respondents, 40% of those not retired reported having the title of chief executive or equivalent.

Quote of the Day

Henry Kissinger, the quintessential realist, from his doctoral dissertation, as quoted in Time.
The most fundamental problem of politics is not the control of wickedness but the limitation of righteousness.

Kotkin on Class in Politics

Demographer Joel Kotkin is amazingly prolific, does one man really write all the articles appearing under his name? Here he writes on politics for The Daily Beast.

Kotkin explains why Democrats no longer support policies directed toward economic growth. He means the sort of growth that would create good jobs for middle and working class Americans who have been left behind in the current economy.
There’s the reality that blue states—with all the usual progressive policies—suffer the widest gap between the classes.

A recent Brookings report found the greatest income disparity in such bastions of progressivism as San Francisco, Miami, Boston, Washington D.C., New York, Oakland, Chicago and Los Angeles. Oddly enough, minorities seem to do better, relative to whites, in states that have had more conservative governance, in part because they also tend to have lower costs of living.

This disconnect between progressive aims and reality stems from the shift in the Left’s class and geographic base. Once dependent on industrial and construction workers, many of them unionized, the party increasingly depends for support from green activists, urban land speculators, and “creative class” workers in expensive regions where regulatory constraints tend to discourage industrial and housing growth.
The left does the poor few favors by putting them on the dole, a move that entrenches dependency and destroys initiative. What the poor need is not a hand out, but a hand up to a real job paying a real wage which requires them to expend real effort on their own behalf.

Kotkin wonders whether either party can meaningfully address the need for real economic growth, which isn't always green enough to earn Sierra Club approval. COTTonLINE shares this concern.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

A Tax Shelter

Writing for International Liberty, Dan Mitchell says there are some interesting tax advantages to locating your home in Puerto Rico. I'm no expert on these matters and cannot say whether (or not) he knows whereof he speaks.

I can tell you that the other DrC and I visited there one day off a cruise ship in San Juan harbor and liked PR a lot. Like Guam where we spent a year, you're under the U.S. flag in PR and need no visa to be there. If you are getting "robbed" by the tax folks come April 15, it might be worth looking into.

One thing, if you choose to make it your home it would be wise to acquire some conversational Spanish, as many PR residents have little English. The same would be true if you relocated to Costa Rica, Panama or Mexico, of course. Hat tip to Instapundit for the link.

Quote of the Day

Columnist Michael Coren, writing in the Toronto Sun, about Islam and violence:
Only a bigot believes that all Muslims are terrorists, but only a fool believes there is no link between Islam and terrorism. This is not about individual Muslims but about an Islamism that runs directly contrary to progress, human rights, sexual and gender equality, pluralism, independent opinion and individual, scientific and ethical advancement.
That's hard to argue with. Hat tip to Power Line for the link.

The Play Is the Thing

The Washington Post reports President Obama has finally admitted, in public, something any political neophyte should learn on their first day as a candidate:
Part of this job is also the theater of it. It's not something that always comes naturally to me.  But it matters.
Unlike most parliamentary governments which have a ceremonial president or royal, in the U.S. the president is responsible for both the theater and the actual running of things. He pardons the Thanksgiving turkey and signs legislation, he places wreaths at Arlington and he advocates policies, he lights the national Christmas tree and he orders troops into battle.

It is okay for a president to be more interesting in the policy and administration side of the job. But he mustn't slight the ceremonial side, or forget to worry about "how things look" to the public, what we've come to call "the optics."

A Boneheaded Idea

Socialist Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) speaking at the AFL-CIO annual convention, advocated a wealth tax - essentially a penalty for being successful. The Washington Times has the story.

WT quotes Sanders as follows:
We need a tax system which asks the billionaire class to pay its fair share of taxes and which reduces the obscene degree of wealth inequality in America.
Just what we don't need, a further incentive for wealthy people to move their wealth out of the country. They will arrange to earn it outside the country in ways not taxable by the U.S.

I remember when tax dodges were all the rage. You'd see a shiny looking new orchard obviously being run in a way that would lose money. The reason: some wealthy person was using it as a tax shelter. There were lots of such projects making life hard for real farmers who were trying to actually earn a living.

Raising tax rates or taxing wealth itself would hurt mostly the elderly. We should close the tax loopholes that permit people to avoid paying any tax on some kinds of income.

N.B. Closing loopholes is easy to say and hard-as-blazes to do. Each loophole has defenders who donate to political causes with the understanding that their loophole remains sacrosanct. Since most of us are unwilling to put our dollars behind political movements, the few who pay the piper call the tune.

Cruz: Strip Citizenship from Terrorists

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) says he will introduce legislation that would strip citizenship from Americans who fight for terrorist organizations like ISIS or al Qaeda. The Hill has the story.

Way to go, Ted. Suggest to your legislators this needs to pass. Hat tip to Instapundit for the link.

Really, Really Stupid Voters

Scott Johnson blogs at Power Line. Here Johnson reacts with indignation to the blatant hypocrisy of Obama's delaying the immigration amnesty moves he's promised.
Obama had vowed to take executive action to regularize millions of illegals before the coming elections. The promised action is both illegal (in my view) and unpopular. As a result Obama has announced that he will delay taking the action, until after the November elections, when voters will lose their immediate ability to punish Democrats at the polls for it.

Obama frequently seeks to exploit the ignorance of voters, but here he’s telling us what he’s going to do and when, and counting on enough voters to ignore it to make it worth his while. He must think the voters are really, really stupid, and of course he can testify to their stupidity from personal experience, if only from the lies they repeatedly bought from him regarding the nondisruptive character of Obamacare.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

More Guns ≠ More Homicides

RealClearPolicy's Robert VerBruggen is a statistician. Today he looks at the question, does gun ownership increase homicide rates? He concludes:
There is no simple relationship between gun ownership and homicide rates as such, either among developed countries or among states in the U.S.
After removing two outliers - South Africa and the U.S. - VerBruggen finds no relationship between gun ownership and homicide rates in 20+ other countries. So then he looked at the results for U.S. states:
I took 2001 gun-ownership numbers from the Washington Post (based on a risk survey) and crossed them with 2001 murder and non negligent manslaughter rates (per 100,000) from the FBI's Uniform Crime Report The result: Jack squat.
I didn't make that up, he writes "Jack squat." VerBruggen has little respect for the scientific objectivity of "public health researchers" who, he believes, cook the data to reach a priori desired results. He writes:
The field is notorious for its anti-gun bias.

Quote of the Day

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) as quoted by Bridget Johnson at PJ Media, on the subject of President Obama's announcement he'll wait until after the November election to legalize millions of illegal immigrants:
Once again, President Obama is playing political games to protect his liberal friends in November by using sleight of hand to temporarily hide his radical agenda from the American people. 
Hat tip to for the link.

Poll: Independence Side Ahead

The Scotsman reports a new YouGov poll shows the "Yes" side ahead 51% to 49% some 12 days before the plebiscite scheduled for September 18. The poll excluded the undecided or those who choose not to vote. With those groups included, independence gets 47% and union gets 45%.

Europe may be about to get a new nation: Scotland. The jury is still out on whether or not independence will work out well for the Scots - you can read arguments on both sides.


The DrsC have been watching the Outlander TV series on the Starz premium movie channels. I'm certain it has been seen in the U.K. including Scotland. If Scotland does vote for independence, some part of the credit needs to be given to this series which rekindles all the ancient Scot vs. Brit hatreds.

The episode currently on view here involves recruiting and fund-raising for the Jacobite army that was slaughtered three years hence by the Brits at Culloden. Roughly 2000 Scots were killed or wounded while the Brits lost maybe three hundred in the hour-long battle, the last fought on British soil.

Weird Compensation Science

The New York Times reports having children is a negative career move for women, and a positive one for men.
Mothers are less likely to be hired for jobs, to be perceived as competent at work or to be paid as much as their male colleagues with the same qualifications.

For men, meanwhile, having a child is good for their careers. They are more likely to be hired than childless men, and tend to be paid more after they have children.

These differences persist even after controlling for factors like the hours people work, the types of jobs they choose and the salaries of their spouses. So the disparity is not because mothers actually become less productive employees and fathers work harder when they become parents — but because employers expect them to.
I question whether you can draw the conclusion shown from controlling the variables listed. It is also reported that income level affects the size of the impact:
Low-income women lost 6 percent in wages per child, two percentage points more than the average.
Low-income women are much more likely to be single mothers. Often they have no spouse to assist in childcare, which becomes more complicated and harder to manage with each additional child.

Unshared childcare can interfere with job performance. I wish they had studied the work history of single men with sole or primary custody of children; it wouldn't surprise me if they make less and are less employable too.

I suppose the differences found are unlawful, at least in some jurisdictions. They are, however, understandable and even sensible to many managers, of both genders. You can view the research report upon which the Times article is based at Third Way.

Weird Forensic Science

The Daily Mail (U.K.) reports DNA analysis of blood on a scarf found by one of Jack the Ripper's victims shows the killer to have been Polish immigrant Aaron Kosminski. He was suspected at the time and later died in an insane asylum, a likely paranoid schizophrenic.

British papers are somewhat sensational and not altogether reliable, so view this report as a probable proof. Hat tip to for the link.

TV Viewers Are Old

The Washington Post reports television viewers are older than the population as a whole.
The median age of a broadcast or cable television viewer during the 2013-2014 TV season was 44.4 years old, a 6 percent increase in age from four years earlier. Audiences for the major broadcast network shows are much older and aging even faster, with a median age of 53.9 years old, up 7 percent from four years ago.

For younger audiences, control over when and where they watch has driven the trend away from traditional television. Live television viewing was down 13 percent for all ages except for viewers 55 years and older, who are steadily watching their shows at their scheduled broadcast time.
The DrsC are > 55 but use our DVR constantly to time shift and skip commercials. We also watch old stuff at Apple TV and Netflix.

First Snow Tuesday Night

Climatologist and former NASA scientist Roy Spencer predicts snowfall across the northern tier of states starting on Tuesday. Montana, the Dakotas, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan should see white stuff.

His site has a map showing the normal time of first snow across the U.S. Spencer summarizes what it shows:
The predicted snow is about a month early.
"Global warming" keeps getting us colder and colder. Hat tip to Drudge Report for the link.

Marine Le Pen on a Roll in France

A new Ifop poll reported by the Financial Times finds Marine Le Pen - leader of the conservative National Front party - ahead of all challengers in round one of the presidential election, were one held today. She also beats incumbent François Hollande in a run-off. Polls have never before shown her this strong.

Should Le Pen actually win the next presidential election, expect her to resist France ceding sovereignty to the EU. In fact, she might take France out of the EU, which would essentially cripple that organization.

Strange winds are blowing in Europe. Not only is nationalist Le Pen ahead in France, nationalist Nigel Farage's anti-EU United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) is looking strong in Britain.

It is premature to predict the victory of either. Should both win we may look back on the EU as a failed experiment resembling the post-World War I League of Nations.

An EU main weakness is that it is technocrat-dominated but politically unresponsive to European voter sentiment.

Friday, September 5, 2014

College Is Mostly a Good Buy

The nearly always interesting James Pethokoukis writes on money and politics for the American Enterprise Institute's publication AEIdeas. Here is his column on the value of a college education.

The answer to the question "Is going to college still worth it?" is still yes, but it isn't a simple answer.
“What is the value of a college degree?” It remains near an all-time high of $300,000, while the time to recoup the costs of getting bachelor’s degree has fallen from more than twenty years in the late 1970s to about ten years in 2013.

There is little difference in wages for the bottom 25% of college grads versus those high school-only grads, and “once the costs of attending college are considered, it is likely that earning a bachelor’s degree would not have been a good investment for many” in that bottom quarter.
Pethokoukis quotes a Wall Street Journal article which in turn quotes Richard Vedder, an economist and the director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity:
Out of every 100 kids who enter college, 40 don’t graduate, and for the 60 who do, 15 are in the bottom quartile and don’t make any more money than if they hadn’t gone to college,” Mr. Vedder said. “What that tells me is that college is a pretty risky investment, and we may be over-invested in traditional higher education and under-invested in nontraditional, vocationally oriented programs like long-distance trucking and cutting hair."
Parents don't get many bragging rights if their kid ends up cutting hair or working an auto parts counter. As we've said many times here at COTTonLINE, graduating is important but so is choice of college major - some pay much more than others, and are employed sooner, too.

Political Humor Alert

Instapundit Glenn Reynolds reports comments in response to the release of the entire West Wing TV series on DVD. This comment has real snark:
Everything worked well in West Wing because the fictional President Bartlett was really brilliant, whereas the real President Obama is only fictionally brilliant.
Sadly true.

Goldberg: ISIS a Foreign Legion for Losers

National Review's Jonah Goldberg writes about who is being recruited from the West to join ISIS. He calls the Islamic State "a Foreign Legion for losers."
Many of the Westerners flocking to Syria and Iraq for “jihad tourism” don’t have any of the usual excuses one hears for terrorism. Just like the 9/11 hijackers, they are often middle-class, educated, and technologically adept.

What they are not is assimilated. They may have passports identifying them as American, French, or British, but they are not American, French, or British in their hearts.

These labels do not give them the meaning and mission in life they crave. And Western democratic capitalism bores them.

Often the children of immigrants, they are literally misfits; they don’t fit in with their parents’ native culture, but they also haven’t connected to the society in which they now live.
If they lived in a ghetto they'd join a gang.  ISIS is way cooler than a gang, but the motives and rewards are much the same - a license to kill, rape, and steal, to go viking.