Sunday, November 30, 2014

Travel Blogging I

Ft. Lauderdale, Florida: Sitting at SFO this afternoon waiting for a plane to arrive, we were seemingly surrounded by parents with screaming kids. The children were not crying, not unhappy, just screaming because it was fun to make loud noises.

I am certain my parents wouldn't have let me create that sort of noise pollution in a public space not dedicated to exuberant, physical fun. In a playground, fine. In an airport, no way. 

Have people simply abdicated their parental responsibility? The evidence suggests many have done exactly that. And we wonder why test scores are down.

Our United flight was totally full and probably overbooked. They were asking for volunteers to take a later flight, we didn't volunteer. The wifi wasn't working and neither was the entertainment system, a drag on a transcontinental flight lasting five hours. Fortunately I got some sleep after supper. 

Now the local time is two a.m. and we're wide awake as our body clocks think it's eleven p.m. Tomorrow we board the Allure of the Seas and cruise for a week. The ship itself is the attraction, the destinations are secondary - Jamaica, Haiti, and Cozumel. 

The first thing I did after turning on the light in our motel room was to use my shoe to kill a two inch water bug/roach. We've only seen one but know more are nearby, lurking. That is absolutely par for the course in Florida, bugs love Florida as much as New Yorkers do, and for the same reasons. Ah, the joys of travel.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Editorial Notice

The DrsC will be wandering for the next couple of weeks. Travel blogging will occur; other postings are possible but at reduced volume. Come mid-December postings hereabouts should return to a normal volume and topic range.

Quote of the Day

Richard Fontaine and Vance Serchuk, writing for Politico Magazine, about the uses and abuses of historical analogies in understanding the present.
It seems that those who remember history are condemned to invoke it.
It is a nice inversion of the George Santayana quote: "Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

Birds of a Feather

Citing an article by Salon's Joan Walsh won't be a frequent occurrence at COTTonLINE, she is firmly wedded to the left. Nevertheless, writing at Thanksgiving she identifies a key mistake she made in her writing ahead of the 2014 election.
For now, the Democrats’ oft-touted advantages with “women” – which should always be described as “all women except for white women” — are outweighed by their difficulties with whites.

Right now, for complicated historical, cultural and racial reasons, white women vote more like “whites” – mostly Republican, though less than white men – and less like other women. Single white women and college-educated white women defy that trend more than others, but any 2016 prognosticating that relies on white women as Hillary Clinton’s secret weapon shouldn’t be trusted unless there’s data behind it. And I haven’t seen any.

The Morning Line

The Hill looks at the potential field of possible candidates for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination and finds 13 somewhat interesting. See the article which evaluates the chances of each. I give you the link without endorsing their reasoning vis-a-vis each possible candidate.

Ancestry = Destiny for Most

Gregory Clark, an economist at UC, Davis, maintains social mobility is no greater in the U.S. than other countries.
America has no higher rate of social mobility than medieval England, or pre-industrial Sweden.
Clark finds the numbers support this claim, which he acknowledges is unpopular with his students.

Of course he is correct for most people, the apple doesn't often fall far from the tree. The important caveat comes at the article's end:
For any one of us, there is always an exception to the rule.
COTTonLINE celebrates the success of the exceptions. See the story at CBS News Sacramento.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

P. D. James, R.I.P.

The Associated Press reports via The Christian Science Monitor that author P. D. James has died at age 94. This Englishwoman was one of the great mystery novelists of the past half century, a true colleague of Dorothy L. Sayers and Agatha Christie.

Phyllis Dorothy James was best known for her gentlemanly Scotland Yard detective, Adam Dalgliesh, who avocationally wrote poetry and famously said of catching criminals "It is ... my job." Recently, her "Death Comes to Pemberley" was featured on PBS Masterpiece Mystery.

Voter ID No Problem

Liberals have claimed voter ID laws disenfranchise many voters, particularly minorities. Nobody in recent memory has accused The New York Times of a conservative bias. Which makes Nate Cohn's article, about the unlikelihood of voter ID laws changing election outcomes, even more believable. He concludes:
Voter ID laws do not swing many elections, because people without identification do not represent a large share of registered voters; they are particularly unlikely to vote; and a share of them will vote Republican.
Stack that against the great value of discouraging voting by those not entitled to do so, and you conclude that requiring a government-issued picture ID is essential. Hat tip to Instapundit for the link.

Thanks Not Universal

The only occasionally idiotic George F. Will writes for The Washington Post that, while thanks can be given, there remains much in our great land that is truly absurd, screwed up, misbegotten and generally nutso. About which he clearly is not thankful, except for a bit of comic relief.

Sadly, I saw little in his list of horrors and insanities with which to cavil.

Thanking Whom or What?

Writing for the New York Sun, Seth Lipsky asks the question, "To whom or what are you thankful?" He answers the question by citing the original thanksgiving proclamation issued by George Washington on October 3, 1789:
Congress, Washington noted, had requested that he recommend to the people that the day “be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God.” He set aside Thursday, Nov. 26, 1789.
So much for "original intent," an important issue in law but here ... not so much. Let me give you my answer to the question, "Thankful to whom or what?"

Be thankful to God, if that represents your beliefs. Be thankful to good fortune, if that works for you. If life has truly treated you well, be sure to look in the mirror and be thankful you made a series of good choices when bad ones might have been more short-term enjoyable.

We make much of our own luck, with hard work and deferred gratification. So look in the mirror and be thankful you are a person who, more often than not, made the choice that led to a good life.

If you cannot honestly say you've made good choices, perhaps you haven't much for which to be thankful. Or perhaps you have had amazing good luck, you decide.

Happy Thanksgiving Day

COTTonLINE wishes all of our readers, regular and otherwise, a happy Thanksgiving Day. It is our hope you have much for which to be thankful. If you don't need to make a long drive this busy weekend you are even more fortunate.

Weird Neurological Science

Researchers at Saint Louis University report via Science Daily the discovery of a targeted gene, the activation of which suppresses pain of neurological maladies and cancer. The meds which target this site do not, it appears, become addictive or hallucinogenic and do not habituate.

So far it has been shown effective only on animal subjects, so development will take several years. A drug which activates the adenosine A3 receptor possibly could be of major help to sufferers of trigeminal neuralgia and fibromyalgia, among other conditions.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Giving Thanks

I was musing about what I am thankful for on this, the day before Thanksgiving. I'll list them in the order in which they happened to me.

First and foremost, I'm so thankful for being born in the United States. After visiting more than 100 countries, there is still no place I'd rather call home. Second, for growing up in California when it was still the land of sunshine, opportunity and cheap college degrees.

Third, I'm thankful I was good at school, early in an era which has rewarded credentials almost beyond everything else. Higher education and graduate degrees were very good to both me and the other DrC.

Fourth, I'm thankful for my dear wife of 43+ years. She is even more of a marvel than I believed possible. She's my best friend and we have a ball together.

Fifth, I'm thankful I had parents who lived to be old and didn't spend years as invalids. The quacks tell me that's the best recipe for a long, healthy life.

I'm sure there is more, but that's enough to be going on with.

Does the Courage Exist in Congress?

Reuters reports the non-partisan Congressional Research Service has authored a memo saying Congress can cut off the funding the President needs to issue green cards to illegal immigrants.
The Congressional Research Service said lawmakers could halt operations of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency by including language explicitly prohibiting the use of funds by a specific agency for a specific purpose.

"If a statute were enacted which prohibited appropriated funds from being used for some specified purposes, then the relevant funds would be unavailable to be obligated or expended for those purposes," the research service said in the memo.

It went on to say that such legislative language would also apply to funds collected through fees but noted that courts could have different interpretations.
A question the article doesn't answer is would such a statute require the President's signature? He won't sign it, and sufficient votes to override a veto do not exist in the new Senate.

Gallup: New Lows for Obama

The Gallup polling organization has new numbers reflecting President Obama's lack of popularity among various subgroups of whites. Hat tip to for the link.
Obama's approval among white non-college grads is 27%.
White college grads (41%) are 14 percentage points higher.
Obama's approval among whites has dropped throughout term.
Obama's approval rating ranges from a high of 45% among white female college graduates to a low of 25% among white male non-college graduates.
Three-quarters of the November, 2014, electorate was white.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Grand Jury as Fig Leaf

Yahoo News writes that it is extremely rare for grand juries not to hand down an indictment.
In the more than 162,500 cases prosecuted by U.S. attorneys from 2009 to 2010, grand juries voted not to return an indictment in only 11, according to data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics — equivalent to one in 14,759 cases, or 0.0068 percent.

But grand juries do not often indict police officers, at least at the state level.

Part of the reason is that police officers are empowered to use force when they reasonably fear imminent physical harm.
My hunch is the prosecutor in Ferguson knew the evidence didn't support charging Officer Wilson. He also knew this outcome would be vastly unsatisfying to the region's black citizens.

I speculate he decided to protect himself by having another entity make the determination and take the heat. In a less emotionally charged case, after evaluating the evidence a prosecutor would have  decided on his or her own not to prosecute.

A Thought Experiment

Rep. Marcia Fudge, (D-OH) is chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. Politico quotes her reaction to the grand jury finding in Ferguson, MO.
This decision seems to underscore an unwritten rule that Black lives hold no value; that you may kill Black men in this country without consequences or repercussions.
I don't, for even a minute, agree with that assertion. If it was ever true, it hasn't been true for several decades.

Do you suppose African-Americans believe that to be true? The evidence suggests most do not.

What would you do if you believed it were true of your ethnicity or race? If you believed your menfolk could be killed "without consequences or repercussions." Many members of your group would seek to move elsewhere to a place of safety. Maybe Europe, maybe Canada, or ???

We see next-to-no evidence of black Americans seeking to emigrate. Which suggests Rep. Fudge's assertion is not widely believed.

Race, Crime, and Policing

Bob McManus writes for the New York Post about recent comments on policing by President Obama and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani. Rudy isn't terribly diplomatic, but he is correct: aggressive policing does save black lives. Rudy proved that in NYC. As McManus notes,
The most recent FBI numbers cover 2011, when 91 percent of black murder victims nationally were killed by other African-Americans — with fewer than 7 percent falling victim to whites.

Though blacks are 13 percent of the nation’s population, they account for more than 50 percent of homicide victims. Nationally, blacks are murdered at a rate six times that of whites; in some cities, it’s 22 times the white rate.
Whatever police can do to reduce the overall number of murders in a city disproportionally helps that city's black citizens. If reducing murders is a major goal of policing, expect police to spend more time in black neighborhoods than white ones. Unfortunately, this can be experienced as harassment, even while it saves lives - an ironic dilemma.


Last night Americans learned again a lesson of which they should have long since been cognizant. Large, threatening individuals who attack armed police officers are quite likely to be shot, even killed, with no recourse in law. Get over it.

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Short-to-Medium Run Impact

The New York Times has an article by Zoltan Hajnal which argues something about which I have wondered. He believes Obama's actions on illegal immigration will have the effect of pushing white voters away from the Democrats and into the arms of the Republicans.
Immigration is an important issue for most Latinos and Asian-Americans. (snip) But Latinos and Asian-Americans made up only 11 percent of the electorate.

Whites, meanwhile, accounted for 75 percent of the electorate. Far more than any other group, whites will decide the fate of the parties in the years to come. Unfortunately for the Democratic Party, the data suggest that immigration very much matters for whites.

An overwhelming majority of white Americans view illegal immigration as a serious problem.

As long as whites represent a vast majority of voters and as long as most remain skeptical of immigrants, supporting immigrants’ rights will be likely to hurt the Democrats.
It could be worth your time to read the entire article.

Earliest Great Lake Ice in 40 Years

Ice is beginning to form on the Great Lakes, almost a month before it becomes officially winter on Dec. 21. Michigan Live reports as follows:
Decent early season ice coverage records date back to 1973. Last Friday was the earliest date that all three Great Lakes already had ice since the better reporting of early season ice began.

Lake Superior actually had ice forming on November 15th of this year. That is the earliest ice on Lake Superior in the good data set.
Imagine the convoluted logic it will require to attribute this chilly outcome to global warming. Hat tip to Drudge Report for the link.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Speculative Futurism

Politico has a short story, clearly labeled as fiction, entitled "How The Middle East's First Nuclear War Started." Written to cause us to think about possibilities in the region, it isn't a bad read.

Fiction isn't a usual thing for Politico, which tends to focus exclusively on politics and politics-related fact and opinion. This is a piece of speculative futurism, by Mathew Burrows, a former colleague of Richard Holbrooke and current director of the Atlantic Council's Strategic Foresight Initiative.

A Problem Its Own Solution?

Last Wednesday COTTonLINE wrote about a NASA animated map that shows CO2 production over the period of a year. Notable was the much greater volume of winter-time production, probably associated with fires to keep warm.

This suggests global warming could be somewhat self-limiting. That is, as the northern hemisphere becomes warmer in winter, people will burn less fuel staying warm and production of CO2 will decline.

Perhaps Gaia will outsmart us once again.

Quote of the Day

Mouna Jeballi, a Tunisian voter quoted in a Global Post article, on the subject of their recent presidential election.
We are the only country in the Arab world who does not know who their president will be until after the vote is finished.
Talk about a sad commentary on the region, that is it.

Review: Hunger Games Mockingjay, Pt. 1

The DrsC watched Hunger Games Mockingjay, Part One, this afternoon. We enjoyed it, you likely will too if you are familiar with the book trilogy and/or the two prior films.

If we have a criticism of this film it is that, if you are new to the series, you are likely to be at a loss much of the time. It is a long film and very little time and energy is devoted to bringing the first-time viewer "up to speed."

The DrsC are au courant with the basic plot line, having listened to all three books as recordings and having seen the first two films. We had no problem knowing who the players are and where they fit in the narrative line.

Jennifer Lawrence does a fine job and it is her movie. Everyone else is a supporting player, some more central than others. The late Philip Seymour Hoffman does a spot-on media consultant, and I liked Natalie Dormer as the director Cressida. Woody Harrelson's Haymitch character begins to redeem himself in this film. Donald Sutherland's President Snow is absolutely pitiless under his "public relations" exterior.

I especially like the design of the hoverplane the District 13 rebels fly. It's a darn shame it isn't real. Imagine a cross between a C-130 and an F-16 with Harrier-like hover capability - a high speed airborne armored personnel carrier.

A Cheney for Liberalism

Ross Douthot writing in The New York Times about President Obama's unilateral decision to stop deporting many illegal immigrants.
He has chosen to betray himself in a different way, by becoming the very thing that he once campaigned against: an elected Caesar, a Cheney for liberalism, a president unbound.
I'll bet the Cheney comparison gives Obama a headache.

Administration Contempt for Us, the Truth

The Baltimore Sun writes about the dominance of Fox News on election night earlier in the month. You will remember Fox kicked the backside of every other outlet (i.e., ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, MSNBC), not once but repeatedly and with vigor. A possible cause they describe:
Fox was a far better watchdog on the Obama White House than any other TV news organization. It took the heat and the blowback from an administration that showed an enmity for the press not seen on Pennsylvania Avenue since the dark days of Richard Nixon, but it stayed the course. And now with viewers seeing the contempt this administration had for them and the truth, they respect what Fox did the last six years.
Or maybe the liberals who normally watch the other outlets knew their side was going to lose and didn't choose to watch the unfolding debacle.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Dangerous Places

Have you ever wondered where in the world, other than an active battlefield, you are at greatest danger of being murdered? See this Global Post article which begins with the recent murder of Miss Honduras, a Miss World contestant, and her sister.

The article continues with a discussion of the world's danger spots. Ten of the world's twelve most-dangerous-to-life countries are in the Caribbean/Latin America region.

In descending order of intentional homicides per 100,000 people these are Honduras, Venezuela, Belize, El Salvador, Guatemala, Jamaica, Saint Kitts & Nevis, Colombia, The Bahamas, and Trinidad & Tobago. Good places to avoid.

World regions vary widely in intentional homicide risk. Among those shown, Latin America & the Caribbean is worst, followed by Sub-Saharan Africa. Differences among Europe and Central Asia, South Asia, and North America aren't large. The lowest risk of intentional homicide is in East Asia & the Pacific. Numbers were not available for North Africa & the Middle East.

The article finishes with this quote:
For those in the United States, it might also be worth asking why America has the highest murder rate of any industrialized Western nation.
Perhaps because we have many violence-prone immigrants from Latin America, the Caribbean, and Sub-Saharan Africa? These are places where murder as a problem-solving approach is relatively common.

A New Leader for Romania

The Romanians elected a new president last week, Klaus Iohannis. See what the Global Post writes about him:
The center-right National Liberal Party's candidate overcame a ten-point deficit in the first round vote to come away with a ten-point margin of victory in the runoff last weekend, defeating sitting Prime Minister Victor Ponta with a 54 percent majority.

The vote for Iohannis was a clear affirmation of Romania's pro-Western stance amid worries that the region is drifting toward Russia.
Now if he can get a handle on Romania's endemic corruption....

Friday, November 21, 2014

Negative Economic Indicators

Instapundit Glenn Reynolds quotes The Wall Street Journal on how American workers are faring in the Obama Administration. Unfortunately the article is behind the WSJ paywall and, as such, requires a subscription to access.
The official U.S. unemployment rate has indeed fallen steadily during the past few years, but the economic recovery has created the fewest jobs relative to the previous employment peak of any prior recovery. The labor-force participation rate recently touched a 36-year low of 62.7%. The number of Americans not in the labor force set a record high of 92.6 million in September. Part-time work and long-term unemployment are still well above levels from before the financial crisis.

Worse, middle-class incomes continue to fall during the recovery, losing even more ground than during the December 2007 to June 2009 recession. The number in poverty has also continued to soar, to about 50 million Americans. That is the highest level in the more than 50 years that the U.S. Census has been tracking poverty. Income inequality has risen more in the past few years than at any recent time.
Higher poverty and income inequality rates, lower labor-force participation. The middle class in trouble, too. A gloomy outlook for our society's health is fully justified by such numbers. No wonder the election results were so tough for the President's party.

Awakening May Not Reawaken

David Ignatius writes about foreign affairs for The Washington Post. Today his topic is the difficulty the U.S. will have in reanimating the tribal Sunni Awakening which was used during the surge in Iraq to defeat al Qaeda.

It turns out the Islamic State has assassinated most of the tribal leaders who participates therein. Particularly irritating is IS has attacked Iraqi prisons and released hundreds of their people who were imprisoned.

Ignatius concludes the intended U.S. strategy will be a very hard slog indeed. Which makes Tom Friedman's Wednesday comments even more pertinent.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Friedman: A Middle East Policy Outline

Every now and then The New York Times' Tom Friedman writes some very good sense about the Middle East. Today's column is one of those instances. After summarizing U.S. failures in the region, Friedman's basic argument is captured in these quotes:
Where there is disorder — Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya — collaborate with regional forces to contain it. (snip) Where there is imposed order — Egypt, Algeria — work quietly with the government to try to make that order more decent, just, inclusive and legitimate.

Where there is already order and decency — Morocco, Jordan, Lebanon, Kurdistan and the United Arab Emirates — do everything to amplify it, so it becomes more consensual and sustainable. And where there is order, decency and democracy — Tunisia — give it as much money as they ask for, (which we haven’t done).

But never forget: We can only amplify what they do. When change starts or depends on our staying power, it is not self-sustaining — the most important value in international relations. When it starts with them, it can be self-sustaining.

It's the President, Stupid!

RealClearPolitics' Sean Trende does an exhaustive analysis of the cross-tabs of racial, age, and party demographics of 2014 voters and learns something that confounds much post-election punditry.
No matter how you slice it, demographic changes in the midterm electorate account for a relatively small portion of the Democrats’ problems in 2014.  The real difference between 2012 and 2014 isn’t changes in the demographic makeup of the electorate.  It is changes in the way that demographic groups voted. This, in turn, has everything to do with the president’s job approval rating.
Which, as we all know, sucks.

Scott Walker, Again

We wrote five days ago about WI Governor Scott Walker. Someone endorsed him for the GOP 2016 presidential nomination with this metaphor: he sits on a throne made of the skulls of his enemies.

Walker's enemies are public employee and teacher unions. He defeated them and then won a referendum and a reelection to prove the state's voters back him for doing so.

The New York Post's John Podhoretz basically agrees with the earlier endorsement. He writes Walker isn't charismatic but understands the problem and has proven he can deal with it.

Imagine if we could ban public employee and teacher unions nationwide. That would be a good first step in improving the public schools and reducing the public retiree burden on the GDP.

An Imagined Conversation at the DNC

Golly, there aren't enough Democrat voters. What can we do?
   Why don't we import a few million who will vote for us?
Excellent idea, but whoever does it is dead politically.
   No problemo, the President is a lame duck and very unpopular.
   He has nothing to lose. Let him do it.
Sure, we have him covered against impeachment.
   True, no way 67 Senators would ever vote for conviction.
A couple of years ago didn't he say he lacked the authority? What if he was right?
   No biggie. A: nobody expects him to be consistent anyway. And B: if
   the courts do throw it out we still get Hispanic votes. They'll give us
   credit for trying.
How many do we need?
   Five million is a nice, round number. That should do it.


You hear about carbon dioxide in the atmosphere as a greenhouse gas, a contributor to global warming eventually, perhaps. NASA has created a live action map posted by Yahoo News that shows the production and peregrinations of carbon dioxide in the earth's atmosphere over the period of a year.

You owe it to yourself to go watch it. First, almost all CO2 is produced and circulates in the northern hemisphere, not much gets south of the equator. Second, and most interesting to me, the production drops off dramatically in the warm months, and is heaviest in the cold months. Third, as new production drops off in spring, atmospheric concentrations are depicted as declining over the summer, as Gaia soaks up the CO2 produced the prior winter.

Since most CO2 is produced in winter, it appears it is the result of (a) keeping warm, and (b) generating electricity for light through the long nights. That suggests auto exhaust - relatively constant year round - is not a major contributor ... who knew?

Also, I wonder if northern CO2 accounts for the ice melting in the Arctic while ice is still forming in the Antarctic?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Wintry Weather a Month Early

Buffalo, NY, is struggling under nearly three feet of snow, see the story on the CBS New York website. Hat tip to for the link.

Officially, winter doesn't begin until December 21, over a month from now. Three feet is a lot of snow for autumn, even in "lake effect" troubled Buffalo which gets a lot every winter.

It must be the pesky global warming that's responsible, eh?

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Obama Headwind

Ronald Brownstein, writing for National Journal, about how much damage Obama has done, and likely will do, to Democrats.
A deeply unpopular outgoing president almost always ensures his party's defeat (Truman, Johnson, George W. Bush, and Woodrow Wilson in 1920).

That shouldn't be surprising. When voters want change, it's natural for them to look toward the out party to deliver it. That instinct makes disenchantment with Obama the greatest potential headwind facing Democrats in 2016.

Unless Obama in his final laps can answer doubts about his leadership and agenda, the 2016 Democratic nominee will again be running into the wind—and last week's Republican rout showed just how tough that can be.
It poses a fascinating dilemma for Hillary Clinton. If she runs promising four more years of Obama-style leadership she enfolds herself in his unpopularity. If, on the other hand, she distances herself from Obama she risks alienating the Democrats' most loyal voting bloc - African-Americans.

Going, Going ....

The Gallup polling organization finds public approval of Obamacare has achieved a new low of 37%, the previous low was 38% back in January. The last time Gallup found more people approved than disapproved was two years ago around election time.

The program Obama considers his biggest "achievement" is disliked by a clear majority of Americans. Hat tip to The Hill for the link.

Koala Cuddle Time

Have you a weakness for koalas - gray teddy bear-like marsupials? A Global Post article has 10 photos of the world's top leaders holding koalas at the G-20 meeting in Brisbane.

It is hypothesized slow-moving koalas stay sort of stoned on their preferred eucalyptus leaves. Real teddy bears are cuter, of course, more even-tempered too, and don't have eucalyptus breath.

The Playing Field Isn't Level

Elections analyst Jay Cost writes for The Weekly Standard. He makes an interesting point I haven't seen elsewhere.
If “safe Democratic” states yield 204 electoral votes, they are only good for 32 senators. Meanwhile, “safe Republican” states are only good for 182 electoral votes, but provide 44 senators. That leaves 24 senators from 12 states that either side may win in presidential years. If both parties won all their safe seats, and they split the seats in contested states, we would see a GOP majority in the Senate of 56-44.
Those 12 states "in play" are often referred to as "battleground states" because they are where presidential elections are actively contested. Conclude from the above the GOP has an advantage in the Congress, the Dems have an advantage for the presidency.

As Cost makes clear, putting checks on the tyranny of the majority was the framers' clear intent. They valued gridlock.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Japanese Economy Contracts

CNBC reports the economy of Japan has contracted for the second quarter in a row. For the economically challenged, a recession is two or more consecutive quarters of real GDP shrinkage.

The Zero Hedge website claims Japan is experiencing a triple-dip recession, see their chart for details. Ever since the go-go days of the 1980s ran out of steam, Japan has been in the economic doldrums. Hat tip to Drudge Report for the link.

As a BBC article notes, the Japanese economy is the world's third largest, making whatever happens there consequential for the world economy. Hat tip to for the link.

NPR: Ray Celebrates Tommy

I just finished listening to Ray Magliozzi's Car Talk show honoring his late brother Tommy. If you didn't hear it live on your NPR station, as I did not, it is available on their website,

The program is both funny and touching, and worth a listen if you like Click and Clack. In the absence of any announcement to the contrary, I assume reruns will continue to be broadcast out of the voluminous Car Talk archives.

That Way Madness Lies

Writing in The New York Times, Ross Douthat lays out the legal rationale President Obama will use to do unilateral amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants. Mostly it is based on the legal doctrine of prosecutorial discretion, the right prosecutors have to decide which cases to bring to trial.

The Justice Department prosecutors work for the President. If he tells them they won't be bringing cases for deportation, presumably the cases will not be tried.

While he's at it, why doesn't President Choom Gang tell his prosecutors to bring no cases for simple possession of marijuana? He can do de facto dope legalization with the stroke of a pen.

Let's suppose he decides that too many people of color go to prison. So he instructs his prosecutors to elect not to try most people of color who are arrested for Federal crimes.

Once he starts down this road and establishes a precedent, if it isn't overturned by the courts, we end up with a situation where the only actual federal crimes are those with which a President agrees, the only criminals tried are those the President doesn't like.

Paraphrasing Lewis Carroll, "When I enforce a law, it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less."

Saturday, November 15, 2014

American Muslim Groups Labeled Terrorists

The Buzzfeed website reports two American Muslim groups have been listed by the government of the United Arab Emirates as "designated terrorist groups." Hat tip to for the link.
The UAE has classified the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Muslim American Society as terrorist groups, according to a story on the website of WAM, the official news agency.

Also reportedly designated as terror groups were the Muslim Brotherhood, the Muslim Association of Britain, and the charity Islamic Relief. The list also covers groups widely thought of as terrorist groups, like ISIS, al-Qaeda, and the Taliban.
CAIR is often quoted by the MSM as speaking for American Muslims. Do you suppose this designation will interfere with their spokesperson role in any way?

Dark Political Humor

An outfit called Michelle Obama's Mirror does multimedia political snark, They have a video which imagines Hitler's reaction to Jonathan Gruber's leak of the deception utilized in writing and enacting Obamacare, if instead it had been called Hitlercare.

Some serious effort, acting and budget went into their production. Hat tip to Gateway Pundit for the link.

Quote of the Day

Instapundit Glenn Reynolds, commenting on an article about the L.A. school district beating a civil suit by a 14 year old girl who voluntarily had sex with a 28 year old teacher in a motel.
Sending your kids to public school may be parental malpractice.
The other DrC, who spent her career grooming future public school teachers, might agree.

Stealth Invasion

Bloomberg reports Canadian PM Stephen Harper said to Putin at the G-20 meeting:
I guess I’ll shake your hand but I have only one thing to say to you: you need to get out of Ukraine.
Hat tip to Power Line for the link. Spokesman Dmitry Peskov described Putin's response as follows:
Putin told him that this is impossible because they are not there.
It is, however, widely reported Russian troops, armor and artillery carrying no national insignia are active fighters in eastern Ukraine. Insurgents without identifying insignia can be shot as spies, the Geneva Convention does not require they be treated as prisoners of war.

Paul Roderick Gregory writes for Forbes it is believed Russians have already suffered 3000-4000 combat deaths in Ukraine. Following normal war ratios, that translates into some 12,000-16,000 Russian wounded. Hat tip to RealClearWorld for the link.

Gregory argues Russia cannot easily afford this kind of large scale expense of men, money and materiel, which would grow exponentially larger if Russia attempts to conquer a land bridge to Crimea along the coast, as is rumored. Lower prices for Russian oil exports only make this cost more onerous.

The Dark Art

John F. Harris, editor-in-chief of Politico, writes about the "dark art" of political punditry:
A lot of what political journalists write as we try to divine larger meaning from election results involves a whiff of bovine byproducts.
The "bovine byproduct" he references is often abbreviated as B.S. Harris later adds in a much more serious tone:
Elections have become grievance derbies: Which party can do a better job of fomenting disgust toward the opposition and mobilizing turnout of sympathetic voters, often by exploiting whatever transient controversies are in the news at a particular moment? This is an inherently unstable climate—one ill-suited to long-term forecasting.
I wish Harris sounded less like a Democrat trying to explain the 2014 election outcomes. That doesn't make him wrong, just suspect. Harris also defends the existence of places like Politico:
Having reasonably intelligent and fair-minded people work hard thinking and talking about politics with intensity, often over many years and election cycles, is good for something. The fact that understanding is frail and fragmentary doesn’t discredit sincere efforts at understanding.
COTTonLINE makes that effort too, and honors it at Politico.

The Unfriendly Skies

Not everything we link to here must be life-and-death, on occasion it's just something that resonates. The New Yorker carries an article with the bland title "Why I Left United Airlines." The link was provided by RealClearMarkets.

Author Tim Wu complains the service on United became perceptibly worse following the merger of United and Continental. As a long-time United flyer, I believe it headed downhill over a decade ago. I echo Wu's concluding thought:
To paraphrase Ronald Reagan, I didn’t actually leave United Airlines: the airline left me.
Like any good consumer, I vote with my purchasing power - fly on other airlines. My next Europe round-trip is on Delta.

Irony Alert

RealClearWorld links to an article in the Winnipeg Free Press urging Canada's Harper government to take a stronger stand on carbon control and global warming. This strikes me as odd.

Winnipeg is at least 50 miles further north than Minot, ND, which is often the coldest spot in the U.S. I'd think frigid Winnipeg - a city that once proudly claimed the title of "Blizzard Capital of North America" - would enjoy some global warming.

A Mexican Tragedy

Austin Bay, writing for The Washington Examiner, lays out what is known and surmised about the abduction and murder of 43 college students in the state of Guerrero town of Iguala. It has become a cause celebre in Mexico, a country you would think has become inured to widespread murder by drug cartels.

Perhaps the difference is that no one alleges the young people were in any way involved in criminal activity, although they were protesting government malfeasance. As a result of their murder the mayor of Iguala and his wife have been arrested as instigators of the massacre, Federal police have taken over law enforcement in the city, and the state governor has resigned.

Bay claims it is widely believed the scandal calls into question President Enrique Pena Nieto's ability to govern effectively.

Friday, November 14, 2014

A Political Suicide Bomber

Our President is a term-limited lame duck with nothing to lose. It is highly unlikely he will ever again run for office anywhere in the U.S. What he proposes to do for illegal immigrants - give them legal status - is very similar to what a suicide bomber does - go out with a bang, doing as much damage as he can.

As we have learned the hard way, suicide bombers are very difficult to interdict. People who are willing to die - either literally or, in this case, politically - cannot easily be deterred. They are in love with the idea of a final grand gesture.

Suppose all he accomplishes is that a lot of illegal immigrants get a piece of paper the courts subsequently declare to be void. He will have cemented in the minds of millions of immigrants the image of the Democrats as their benefactor, an image that will win them more than a few elections going forward.

It appears we have arrived at an impasse the framers of the Constitution did not foresee, and made no allowances for - a scofflaw-president-as-political-suicide-bomber.

A Throne of Skulls

Here is an endorsement for Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016, from Richard Cromwell, writing in The Federalist. Hat tip to Instapundit for the link.
Does Walker sizzle? Not exactly. Is he a particularly charismatic speaker? No, he isn’t. But does he sit upon a throne made of the skulls of his enemies? Yes, yes he does.
Could it be time for some killer instinct in our nominee?

Disability Fraud

COTTonLINE has written before about the soaring numbers of people on Social Security disability payments, see here, here, herehere, and here.  All along, there has been the suspicion that some substantial number of those claims were, if not fraudulent, at least of questionable merit.

Therefore it was no surprise to see an Associated Press article via Yahoo News which reports the Social Security Administrations Inspector General will soon issue a report finding a minority of Administrative Law Judges were accepting claims that were wrong, or at best, questionable.

If you read farther into the article you learn (a) rejecting a claim requires much more paperwork and documentation than approving it and (b) judges are expected to decide some 500 claims a year, each of which has a case file averaging up to 500 pages. N.B., 500 sheets = a ream.

Do the math, that is 2 cases/day. Imagine trying to understand and evaluate two 500 page files per day, plus hold hearings on same, every day for 50 weeks a year. The temptation to cut corners, to say "yes" and save time documenting your qualms and quibbles must be nearly overwhelming.

And the IG only looked at the work of the ALJs who had "abnormally high" approval rates. Imagine what they'd find if they audited a real cross section of all 1100 Administrative Law Judges. N.B., the money given away to undeserving recipients came out of our pockets.

Death of NATO Predicted

Victor Davis Hanson writes for Defining Ideas, a journal of the Hoover Institution, about the coming end of NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. He quotes the first NATO Secretary General, cracking wise on the organization's purpose:
To keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down.
Hanson's prediction: NATO dies not with a bang but with a whimper. He makes a particular point of how the new Turkey under Erdogan is a bad fit with the rest of NATO.

It may be time for an entirely new alliance of nations willing to pull their own weight militarily and opposed to both militant Islam and resurgent Russia. Those unwilling or unable do so should be left to their own devices, out from under our nuclear umbrella.

The Rehabilitation of Augusto Pinochet

Gen. Augusto Pinochet's name has been a dirty word in Chile for nearly a quarter century. I've been wondering when Chileans would begin to appreciate the good things he and his economic advisors from U. of Chicago did. They set in motion policies that make Chile one of the few Latin American success stories.

The English language Santiago Times reports that the general's grandson and a group of young people are forming Partido Orden Republicano Mi Patria to recapture what has been lost.
Our party seeks to rescue the political achievements of the military-civic government,” Toledo said. To do so, the group is bent on recovering some of Pinochet’s structural policies, including his economic reforms and measures to strengthen government institutions.

Likewise, Stefani Landeros — a member of the Por Mi Patria board — conceded that while certain “excesses” were made under Pinochet’s regime, the “good” that emerged ought to be maintained.
Under Pinochet there were human rights abuses, but also much done that was constructive at the time and continues to be helpful today. Hat tip to for the link.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Latin American Catholicism Declining

Those who don't live there tend to stereotype Latin America as universally Roman Catholic. Once true, new evidence suggests it is less true than formerly, in some nations much less. See a Washington Post article reporting recent Pew Research Center findings for 18 countries and one territory - Puerto Rico.

Pew finds that in El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras and Uruguay, the percent identifying as Catholic is 50% or fewer. Fewer than two out of three people in the following countries are Catholic: Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico.

I wouldn't have guessed Catholicism had ebbed so far. A quote shows the telling pattern:
Overall, 84% of Latin American adults report that they were raised Catholic, 15 percentage points more than currently identify as Catholic.

Barone Looks Ahead

Senior political analyst Michael Barone writes for National Journal about the electoral map that shows each House district colored either blue or red according to whether it will be represented by a Democrat or Republican. As a regular COTTonLINE reader you've probably already seen the sea of red with small dots of blue trim, mostly around the edges.
Of course it’s misleading. Congressional districts are of basically equal population, and Democrats tend to roll up big margins in densely populated areas. (snip) The map overstates (GOP) dominance. But it does tell us something about the geographic and cultural isolation of the core groups of the Democratic Party: gentry liberals and blacks.

Analysts who separate Americans into two tidy categories — white and nonwhite — assume that the nonwhite category will grow and that whites can’t vote any more Republican than they have historically.

The first assumption is well founded. But Hispanics and Asians are not replicating blacks’ voting behavior, just as they haven’t shared their unique historic heritage. In some states they’re voting more like whites than blacks.

The second assumption may not be true at all. History shows that self-conscious minorities tend to vote cohesively. (snip) It’s an understandable response to feeling outnumbered and faced with an unappealing agenda. In that case, Romney’s 59 percent or House Republicans’ 60 percent among whites may turn out to be more a floor than a ceiling.
Blacks vote as a bloc; when they become a minority whites may do the same thing. The worm turns.

They Don't Get It

The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza blogs about the reelection of Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi to head their minority party caucuses in the Senate and House respectively.
The way life traditionally works is that if something goes really badly or even worse than expected, the top guy (or gal) takes the fall. CEO of a company who pushes a new product that flops? Bye bye. Manager of a baseball team that has a load of talent but misses the playoffs? See ya!

Democrats - from President Obama on down - seem entirely comfortable with essentially writing off the results of the last election and continuing on as though either a) nothing has happened or b) what happened was a total fluke that was out of anyone's control. That's a mistake.
Can you think of a clearer way to demonstrate to an angry electorate Democrats simply don't get it? They're blowing off the voters. Those chickens will come home to roost.

Today's Snark Winner

Kathleen Parker writes for The Washington Post about recent revelations Obamacare/ACA was intentionally written to confuse. Along the way she commits some memorable snark:
Those who feel defrauded by their own government got third-party confirmation recently when remarks by one of the ACA’s chief architects, MIT economist Jonathan Gruber — invoking the stupidity of voters and lauding the political advantage of a lack of transparency in government — went viral.

It is a beautiful thing when Truth trots out the door before Oops can catch him.
That last sentence, apparently original with Parker, is some wonderfully snide writing - way to go, Kathleen. I bet MoDo is jealous.

Dems' "White People" Problem

The Democratic Party has a "white people" problem. As The New York Times' Thomas B. Edsall writes, whites whose economic interests might be better served by Democratic policies nevertheless are voting Republican in growing numbers.
Does it result from ideological differences, racial animosity or a perception among many whites that they are excluded from a coalition of minorities, the poor, single women of all races, gays and other previously marginalized constituencies? 
Edsall adds:
Arguably, the poor Democratic showing among whites does not represent naked race prejudice, as Obama’s election and re-election attest. 
By way of explanation, Edsall looks at white resistance to Democratic policies, which resistance could arise from an ideological difference: dislike of wealth redistribution.
The opposition of whites to the Democratic Party is visible not only in voting behavior, but in general opposition to key Democratic policy initiatives, most tellingly in hostility toward the Affordable Care Act.

Obamacare shifts health care benefits and tax burdens from upper-income Americans to lower-income Americans, and from largely white constituencies to beneficiaries disproportionately made up of racial and ethnic minorities.
In other words, "You want me to support a bunch of free-loaders and illegal immigrants? No way." Although Edsall is an old lefty, his column has some merit.

Trouble in Istanbul

Anti-American Turks hassle U.S. Navy sailors on shore leave in Istanbul and, after arrest, are released without charges. See the AFP story via Yahoo News for details.

With behavior such as this, I'm not at all certain Turkey belongs in NATO as a supposed "ally" of the U.S. American tourists should avoid Istanbul for the time being; there is no point enriching abusive Turks with our tourist dollars.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A Mostly Empty Bench

Jeffrey Frank, writing in The New Yorker about the current state of the Democratic Party, following the Republican sweep a week ago.
The Democrat who seems to have benefited most is Hillary Clinton, already the presumptive front-runner and now, in many ways, a party of one.
I bet those words are a painful read for Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY). The Dems have a weak bench.

Feeling Change

I recently got an email from a long-time friend and former colleague, about the generally ugly state of things in the U.S. He finished with the following two short sentences.
I no longer recognize our country. It has become totally foreign to me.
Let me share with you my response. I wrote to him the following, edited slightly for clarity:
I wonder if that doesn't happen to most people who live as long as we have lived? I'm sure it happened to my father. He was born in 1887 and lived to be 84.

My father died in a world almost entirely different from the one in which he grew up. His boyhood spent in a world of candles and oil lamps, no cars, planes, or electronics of any sort, no antibiotics, little anesthesia. When he was young people routinely died of things like tetanus, pneumonia, appendicitis, whooping cough. If you had a toothache, the tooth was pulled.

Feeling our country is foreign may be yet another aspect of the aging process, a process that isn't much fun. Hang in there, outliving the bastards is the best revenge.

I share your concern that the U.S. is in decline, overripe, beginning to show signs of rot. How much of this is real and how much is just the observer (me) growing old I cannot be certain.
To which I'd add, upon further reflection, that I've spent a lot of time overseas. The DrsC have visited over 100 countries, and lived overseas for a year.

The U.S. has changed in ways I don't always like but I still feel "at home" when the plane lands at LAX or SFO or DEN, when the ship docks in San Pedro or Ft. Lauderdale. Perhaps it helps to spend time in places truly "foreign" to be reminded that the U.S. isn't yet foreign, just changed from our youth.

Obamacare's Foundation of Lies

Writing at National Journal, Ron Fournier alleges he is a centrist. He writes he is a supporter of what Obamacare was supposed to accomplish, if not necessarily the means chosen to do so.

The recent leak of video showing Obamacare consultant and MIT economist Jonathan Gruber calling the American people stupid has Fournier bummed. See how he concludes his column:
Gruber's remarks are evidence that the administration intentionally deceived the American public on the costs of the programs.

Obama and his advisers knowingly misled the public during his 2012 reelection campaign by repeatedly saying that, under Obamacare, people could keep their doctors and keep their health plans. To mislead is to lie.

I have to admit, as a supporter, that Obamacare was built and sold on a foundation of lies. No way around it.

Gallup: Dems' Favorables Down

The Gallup polling organization reports the results of a poll taken after the recent election. Democrats are not going to like their findings. Hat tip to Drudge Report for the link.
After the midterm elections that saw the Democratic Party suffer significant losses in Congress, a record-low 36% of Americans say they have a favorable opinion of the party, down six percentage points from before the elections. The Republican Party's favorable rating, at 42%, is essentially unchanged.
Winners rule. Few love a loser.

It's The Economy, Stupid

Writing for The New York Times, Mark Bauerlein notes that the Dems' hold on young voters seems to have slipped in the last election. They remain socially liberal but no longer believe Republicans threaten their personal freedoms.

I am puzzled Bauerlein writes a whole column on changing voting patterns without mentioning the economic dire straits in which many Millennials find themselves. The "living in the parents' basement apartment and working part-time" lifestyle is not what young people went to college to accomplish.

Quite a few must have voted for the GOP in protest against the wretched-for-youngsters job market of the past several years.

The View from Europe

Brit Dan Hannan writes in the Washington Examiner about the European reaction to the recent U.S. election sweep by Republicans. Of Obama, Hannan writes:
Overseas, he’s still what he was to a goodly chunk of Americans when he started: the cool, mixed-race, anti-war guy who, explicitly or implicitly but always consistently, conveys the belief that America has been too arrogant. Europeans, in particular, can’t get enough of him.
Perhaps they would accept him as a gift?

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Countries with No Military

The Atlantic publishes a list of 22 countries that have no formal armed forces, no military, which is not to say that their police are unarmed. Many of them are tiny island nations nobody is likely to invade, and others like The Vatican or San Marino are embedded within another nation (both of these within Italy) which provides for their external defense as it defends itself.

On the other hand, two are countries of consequence: Costa Rica and Panama. This interesting phenomenon is part of a larger pattern of small countries basically having few to no troops and weapon systems, or perhaps a ceremonial guard regiment or two. Many effectively have decided to allow the U.S. to defend them, gratis, meaning you and I pay for their defense.

"Invisible" Labor Market Problems

Derek Thompson, writing in The Atlantic about "invisible unemployment." He describes Americans who have dropped out of the work force, who have no job and are not actively looking for one.
The official unemployment rate is getting worse and worse at describing the real conditions facing American workers.
Thompson also looks at what he calls "invisible work":
Globalization and technology don't always show up in U.S. wage growth because they often represent alternatives to U.S.-based jobs. Corporations have used the recession and the recovery to increase profits by expanding abroad, hiring abroad, and controlling labor costs at home.

More on Valerie Jarrett

Writing for Fox News, Howard Kurtz describes how Democrats are trying to blame all the shortcomings of the Obama White House on Valerie Jarrett. That simply won't wash.

Let's start with basics: the Obama White House and administration is a slow-moving train wreck. As a very senior advisor in place for the entire 6 years, Jarrett has to carry some of the (black) water. N.B., that is an RVers joke, with nothing racial about it whatsoever (see a Wikipedia entry for definition).

On the other hand, as a lifelong Management professor, I'm here to tell you there is no way Barack Hussein Obama can dodge responsibility for whatever is done in his name or by his people. The buck, as Harry Truman memorably noted, stops with the President, the CEO, the top person.

If something goes wrong on his watch, it is his fault. Directly if it is a decision he made; if made by one of his appointees, then he "chose unwisely," in the words of the guard of the Holy Grail in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

So, no, all the shortfalls of the Obama White House aren't Jarrett's fault, they are Obama's fault. As a senior advisor, she hasn't kept him out of trouble which does suggest that her advice is not worth much.

Remember Our Veterans

Today is Veterans' Day, on the anniversary of the armistice that ended the Great War, aka World War I. I hope to say, "Thank you" to a veteran today, with luck more than one.

Freedom isn't free, it is paid for with the blood, sweat and tears of patriots in uniform.

Valerie Jarrett, Consigliere

Instapundit Glenn Reynolds cites a Tweet that describes Valerie Jarrett's White House staying power:
She is Yoko to Obama's John Lennon. The mother who won't abandon him.
For a less Freudian but more descriptive look at her role with Obama, see a New Republic article. I liken her role with Obama to that of Cardinal Richelieu with the French king - a puppet master, an eminence grise.

Monday, November 10, 2014

A Sky on Fire

The other DrC has some beautiful sunset photos at her website:  Her site is more feel-good than COTTonLINE will be overall, although we have our moments too. Check it out.

Bitter Wisdom

Kevin Spacey's character Jonathan Irons, a latter-day Blackwater-type CEO, speaking in the game Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, as reported by RealClearDefense:
Dying for what you believe in doesn’t make it true.
No kidding.

Gruber: "The Stupidity of the American Voter"

Gateway Pundit has video and text in which Jonathan Gruber, MIT economist and major architect of Obamacare admits the ACA was written to obfuscate its true purpose, to con the American people.
This bill was written in a tortured way to make sure CBO did not score the mandate as taxes. If CBO scores the mandate as taxes the bill dies. So it’s written to do that… If you get a law that says healthy people are going to pay and sick people would get money, it would not have passed.

Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage. And, basically, call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever, but basically that was really very very critical to get the thing to pass. And, you know, it’s the second best argument. I wish Mark was right we could make this transparent but I would rather have this law than not.
The bold phrases in the above quoted paragraphs are in Gateway Pundit's original, not added by COTTonLINE. As our readers know, we very rarely bold for emphasis. Hat tip to for the link.

The Daily Caller has a brief story on the same Gruber panel presentation.

A Vote for Independence

AFP, the French news service, reports via Yahoo News that Catalonia, the region surrounding Barcelona, has voted in favor of independence from Spain.
The Catalan government said Monday a total of 2.3 million people had taken part in the vote, surpassing its initial estimate of 2.25 million, despite legal challenges and objections from the central government. The vast majority of those who took part, 80.7 percent, voted for independence.
This vote, which has no legal standing, was taken by the Catalan government to gauge public support for independence. Based on the result, expect them to pursue further steps in the direction of independence.

The Catalans got a very different outcome than did the Scots in August, who turned down independence from the U.K. Perhaps the Basques should try this "popular will" approach to separation from Spain.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

A Good Question

Carl Sagan, the sage of Cosmos, speaks of man and God, in an listicle of several of his quotes on the RealClearScience website:
In many cultures, the customary answer is that a God or gods created the universe out of nothing. But if we wish to pursue this question courageously, we must of course ask the next question: Where did God come from?

Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

See an article at Huffington Post (U.K.) about the peace walls in Northern Ireland. Hat tip to RealClearWorld for the link.

These walls separate Protestant and Catholic neighborhoods, and many have been in place for nearly a half-century. Unlike the Berlin wall, but very much like the wall Israel has built separating it and the West Bank, the point is keeping apart two communities with a history of violence directed at each other.

Like the wall in Israel, the ones in Northern Ireland do the job and seem more offensive to outsiders than to those living alongside them. And besides, they're tourist attractions for both countries.

Political Humor Alert

Carl Hiaasen, writing snark for the Miami Herald, imagining the contents of a "cheer up" memo sent by the President to the White House staff:
I want all of you who work in the administration to be as excited about this new era of hopeless intransigence as I am. Remember, history will judge us not only on what we aren’t able to accomplish, but on how energetically we don’t accomplish it.

We’ve got a big job ahead, and practically zero chance of getting it done. Our choices are clear. We can meekly stand still, or we can proudly run in place. My message to you: Put on your Nike cross-trainers, and let’s go!
Can you imagine anyone on Obama's staff who hasn't updated their resume in the past couple of days?

Reducing Cognitive Dissonance

The Associated Press reports the results of Edison Research exit polling of voters in Tuesday's election. The AP's conclusion: Democrats and Republicans "seem to be living in different countries." Let me share with you several of the more pronounced differences in opinion.
-Fifty-four percent of those who voted for Democrats said the country is headed in the right direction, while 88 percent of Republican voters think it's on the wrong track.

-Sixty-four percent of Republican voters, but only 30 percent of Democratic voters, think life for the next generation of Americans will be worse than life today.

-On climate change, 86 percent of those who backed Democrats called it a serious problem; two-thirds of Republican voters said it's not a serious issue.

-Seventy percent of Republican voters are married, compared with 55 percent of Democratic ones.

-Women outnumbered men among the Democratic electorate, but among Republican voters the proportions were reversed. Nearly half of Republican voters, but only about one-quarter of Democratic ones, were white men.
Do you have the same hunch I have? That Democrat voters felt they had to justify voting the way they did and put a positive spin on their world view to reduce cognitive dissonance? That feels right to me.

Quote of the Day

Jonah Goldberg, writing for National Review, likening the Obama presidency to an episode of The Brady Bunch in which Greg becomes the solo act Johnny Bravo:
Barack Obama is indisputably good at one thing: Getting elected president of the United States. That’s it. He’s not good at being president of the United States. He’s not good at being the head of his party. He’s not good at diplomacy or public policy or managing large bureaucracies. He has no new ideas. But man did he fit the suit.

Democrats' Bench Deficit

The Washington Post's Dan Balz continues to ruminate on the implications of the recent GOP election wave. Here he writes about the impact this election, and the equally disastrous 2010 election, have had on the Democrats' stock of up-and-coming future stars.
The 2010 and 2014 elections saw the defeat of younger politicians — some in office, others seeking it — who might have become national leaders.

As the post-Obama era nears, the Democrats’ best-known leaders in Washington are almost entirely from an older generation.

If Clinton were to win the presidency and serve two terms, the next opportunity for a new generation of Democrats to compete nationally would not come until 2024.

The more serious problem for Democrats is the drubbing they’ve taken in the states, the breeding ground for future national talent and for policy experimentation.

Republicans have unified control — the governorship and the legislature — in 23 states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Democrats control just seven.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Ethnic Cleansing in Myanmar

The less-than-democratic government of mostly Buddhist Myanmar has decided to solve its Muslim problem with pressure to emigrate and ultimately, expulsions. See a New York Times article for details. Hat tip to Instapundit for the link.

If the world's Muslims cannot learn to live peaceably alongside others not of the faith, expect this to be a harbinger of things to come elsewhere. One could imagine Thailand, Nigeria, perhaps the Philippines, doing something similar in future, even as the so-called "caliphate" cleanses the Islamic State of non-Muslims today.

In Praise of Sir Winston

Boris Johnson, the mayor of London and possibly a future Prime Minister of the U.K., writes an appreciation of Sir Winston Churchill for The Wall Street Journal. In most ways it is excellent and I enjoyed it.

If I have two criticisms of the article, it is first that he includes almost none of the great man's wonderful quotations. Second, writing for an American publication, he fails to mention that Winston's beautiful and supportive mother Jennie was an American heiress.

Greece, Revisited

Five years ago Greece suffered a national bankruptcy and was all over the news. Perhaps it is time to look back in to see how they've fared. Barry Strauss writes for The Hill that things have stabilized but are little better.
Greece has suffered a sharp drop in wages, declines in both production and consumption, an increase in poverty, a general unemployment rate of 27 percent — with nearly 60 percent youth unemployment — a return to the countryside by people who had to give up the Greek dream of making it in Athens, and emigration by the young to northern Europe, the Americas and Australia. What few new jobs Greece has are often low-paying and the applicants are often hugely overqualified. In short, Greece remains in a depression.
Strauss concludes:
If things are improving, they are only improving slowly, and at a high human cost. Like the eurozone itself, Greece seems stuck. The Greeks are no longer rioting; they seem resigned to the new normal.

Core Dilemmas

National Journal's Ron Brownstein looks at the exit polling numbers and finds remarkable consistency between the 2010 and 2014 elections. See what he concludes:
Each party's core dilemma remains unresolved: Democrats again have shown they cannot win enough whites to consistently hold Congress, while Republicans still have to prove they can attract enough minorities to win the White House.
However, he reports only 60% of whites favored the GOP in 2014. What if that percentage increases as "tribal politics" becomes more the rule than the exception? Nobody wants to speculate that it might be the GOP's easiest route to a majority, such statements are considered naughty.

If in 2016 the Republicans nominate someone unlike Mitt Romney who appeals to blue collar whites in the Rust Belt and gets them out to vote, the GOP can win. Many of these voters simply stayed home in 2012.

It's unclear whether Romney's great wealth and corporate success was the turnoff, or his Mormon faith. Neither bothered me at all, but I can imagine others having issues with both.

The "I Usta Be Somebody" Problem

The Daily Mail (U.K.) reports Mikhail Gorbachev warns the world is "on the brink of a new Cold War." Hat tip to for the link. I'm glad to see Gorby is consistent.

Gorbachev didn't see the end of Communism coming until it was too late to change course, now he doesn't see we are already back in the Cold War. In fact, one could argue the Cold War never ended, it just took a sabbatical before, rested and refreshed, flaring up again.

All those years Soviet Communism confronted Western Capitalism, was it really just the Russian empire confronting the U.S. coalition? Communism is mostly gone but Russian-U.S. antipathy remains vibrant.
Since 1991, Russia has the same problem with which France suffered for the last 100 years. Namely, an inability to cope with being a former super power.

The problem manifests itself as a mismatch between a self-image formed during earlier big power years and current reduced world status. You could conceptualize militant Islam as troubled by the same issue, hence its nostalgia for a caliphate.

Oddly, the Brits haven't been much troubled by being a former big power. I wonder what underlies that difference, something cultural certainly. Treating the U.S. as their bumptious but successful offspring, feeling like our proud parent or grandparent, probably helps too.

Krauthammer's Law

Ed Driscoll blogs at PJ Media; he quotes Charles Krauthammer on the difference between liberals and conservatives.
To understand the workings of American politics, you have to understand this fundamental law: Conservatives think liberals are stupid. Liberals think conservatives are evil.
Liberals believe everyman resembles Mother Teresa, which is demonstrably stupid. Conservatives believe in the motivating power of self-interest, which evidently makes them evil. Go figure.

More Good News

There is no question the U.S. overproduces lawyers, and would be better off with far fewer. Instapundit links to an article on the TaxProfBlog which reports some 80 law schools are in danger of closing. Author Paul Caron writes:
With various projections of law employment (as we know it) put at 23,000 available positions annually (and quite possibly substantially lower) compared to the 45,000 that was the norm for a time, there is no need for 203 (ABA) fully accredited law schools, for another five provisionally accredited schools, or for the graduates of the numerous California non-ABA law schools approved by that state’s Bar, and another ten or so new or entirely unaccredited law schools.
Caron adds a fascinating factoid, based on the low cost a law faculty member incurs in suing his school: it is much easier to close a law school than to downsize it. Downsized faculty can sue for discrimination of one sort or another, while laying off the entire law faculty shows no favoritism, treats all faculty equally.

Friday, November 7, 2014

War Clouds in Eastern Europe

Writing in The Fiscal Times, Andrew L. Peek argues that Russia and the former Warsaw Bloc countries around its western periphery are on a collision course leading to something like war. Since many are NATO members, treaty obligations mandate other NATO nations come to their aid.

When Putin finally takes the step into a NATO country, most of the other members will temporize and fail to come to their aid. At that point the "alliance" disintegrates.

There isn't much to keep Russia from invading these nations. They have let their defenses deteriorate under the illusory protection of the NATO umbrella.

This situation will pose a huge dilemma for the U.S. If Putin is as canny as he appears, he'll act before President Obama leaves office. The next president is likely to be less "flexible."

Whose Coalition?

Erick Erickson, who blogs at Red State, raises an interesting question. Does the minority vote "belong" to the Democrats or to Barack Obama?

If Hillary distances herself from the toxic Obama legacy in 2016, will he refuse to stir his voters to turn out for her. If she claims his legacy, she can have "his" voters but who else will vote for "four more years?"

It is a dilemma the GOP is happy not to have. However, count on Republicans to tie Hillary to Obama in 2016 in the same way they tied Dem candidates to him in 2014.

Challenge Accepted, Foe Vanquished

In 2013, President Obama issued the following challenge, see a Fox News clip of him doing so on the PJ Tattler:
You don’t like a particular policy or a particular president? Then argue for your position. Go out there and win an election. Push to change it.
Fair enough; we didn't like his policy, or him, so we won the very next election. Now it is time for the change we sought.

Obama won't or can't lead, so he must follow, or be bulldozed out of the way.  Hat tip to the Drudge Report for the link.

Brooks Sees GOP Dominance

The New York Times' David Brooks writes about the Republican Party:
It has re-established itself as the nation’s dominant governing party. Republicans now control 69 of 99 state legislative bodies. Republicans hold 31 governorships to Democrats’ 18.

When the next Congress convenes in January, Republicans will have their largest majority in the House of Representatives since 1931; they will have a majority in the Senate, dominate gubernatorial power in the Midwest, and have more legislative power nationwide than anytime over the past century.
Given all that dominance, they'd better get some solid legislation at least passed, if not signed by the President.

Noonan Sums Up

The Wall Street Journal's Peggy Noonan has written presidential speeches, books, and a weekly column for the Journal. Here she reacts to Tuesday's election and, for a change, her column is not behind the WSJ paywall. She first describes the election's meaning:
The president said he was not on the ballot but his policies were. Those policies were resoundingly repudiated.
Then she looks with dismay on the President's reaction to those election results.
It is confounding—not surprising but stunning, unhelpful and ill-judged—that the president is instead going for antagonism, combat and fruitless friction. This is not just poor strategy, it seems to me to be mildly delusional.
Her conclusion is charming:
This is no way to run a railroad. The president here is doing what he has been doing for a while, helping Republicans look good. That is an amazing strategy for a Democratic president to adopt. 
Obviously not his intent, but he has repeatedly demonstrated a tin ear for political nuance.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Tribal Politics

I have written on several occasions (here, here, here, here) about increasing racial polarization of the parties, as increasing numbers of whites gravitate to the Republican Party. I've called this process a movement toward "tribal parties" and observed that such are a problem where they exist in the Third World.

Coming out of Tuesday's election, the Associated Press reports that the trend continued to gain momentum in the 2014 election.
Exit polling shows racial polarization of the electorate has begun to cross party lines, with whites less likely to back Democratic candidates than they have been in the past.

Democratic Senate candidates lost ground among white voters by an average of 10 points compared with 2008.

The coalition behind Republican Senate candidates was predominantly white, 90 percent across all 21 states with Senate races that were exit polled, ranging from 79 percent white Alaska to 98 percent white in West Virginia.
It wouldn't surprise me if a fair number of white women voters switched allegiance to the GOP in 2014, information on such movement should begin to surface as we continue the election postmortem. The GOP will eventually be able to appeal to Asian voters and many Hispanics, but they aren't there yet in most states.

Pithy Wisdom

William Voegeli. plugging his new book Pity Party: A Mean-Spirited Diatribe Against Liberal Compassion, on the Power Line website.
Being simultaneously compassionate and nonjudgmental - caring about how people are but not about what they do - disregards the many important ways that what they do determines how they are.
By contrast, conservatives believe much of what is wrong with how people are is the result of the poor choices they make on a regular basis. Everyone who has experienced a hangover understands how this works.

Scandinavian Political Traditions, Indians Too

John Hinderaker of Power Line blog takes note of the National Journal map of red and blue House districts we wrote about yesterday. He wonders what is wrong with his home state of Minnesota.

MN has some of the few rural areas represented by Democrats. To his credit he mentions Scandinavian political traditions which lean left.

The other large non-urban area represented on the map is the northern parts of Arizona and New Mexico plus southern AZ. For those who don't know, much of this is part of the enormous Navaho, White Mountain, Papago and Moqui reservations which blanket large stretches the northeastern, eastern and southern reaches of AZ and the northwestern reaches of NM.

Fun factoid: The Navaho Nation is so out of step with the rest of the state that it observes daylight savings time while the rest of AZ does not, stubbornly sticking to Mountain Standard Time year round.

Higher Ed, Higher Pay

Some have suggested a college degree is worth less than previously. Perhaps, but recent research shows those with degrees aren't often at the bottom of the barrel.

The Pew Research organization reports very few individuals with a baccalaureate degree or higher make a near-minimum wage of $10.10 per hour or less. Only 7.2% of those at these wage levels have a college degree. On the other hand, some 37% of those earning this wage have some college, but stopped short of a degree.

Election Demographics

Joel Kotkin has a relatively fine-grained analysis of the demographic aspects of the Republican midterm victory, written for Forbes and reprinted in New Geography. Not filled with surprises but good stuff nevertheless.

For example, Kotkin reports Greg Abbott won 44% of the Hispanic vote in TX against Democrat Wendy Davis. This suggests some things about a potential Hillary Clinton candidacy. It may be that Hispanics are somewhat reluctant to vote for women, culturally that might compute.

Quote of the Day

Heather Wilhelm, writing for RealClearPolitics about feminism's foibles and Hillary Clinton:
Hillary Rodham Clinton, an individual who is, when we’re being honest, not very competent, kind of a snooze, and not at all “likeable enough”—and yet who is now, rather amazingly, the leading 2016 Democratic presidential candidate solely because she does not have man-type junk in her trunk.
That characterization is funny, but a tad harsh. Democrats want to believe she can rekindle the Clinton era good economic times. That's highly unlikely as Bill was more lucky than skillful. However, many will drink the Kool-Aid.

A Fun Factoid

The Fox News cable news channel won the ratings war on election night, according to The Los Angeles Times. See what they write:
According to Nielsen Media Research, Fox News Channel beat CNN, MSNBC, CBS, NBC and ABC's coverage in both total viewers and in the 25-to-54-year-old demographic.

Co-anchored by Bret Baier and Megyn Kelly, the channel's election coverage averaged 6.3 million viewers during prime time.
I think it amazing Fox beat the big broadcast nets. Do you suppose it had something to do with Fox's conservative viewers being happy with the outcome while liberal viewers were bummed and tuned out?

Could It Be the Bradley Effect?

Apropos of my last post about polling problems, I just had a strange thought. Is it possible the systematic pro-Democrat bias in 2014 polling was a vestigial remnant of the Bradley effect?

A quick reminder, the Bradley effect refers to California voters telling pollsters they'd vote for L.A. mayor Tom Bradley - an African-American - for governor when they knew they would vote for George Deukmejian instead. Bradley led in the polls but lost.

It is possible some few individuals intended to vote Republican as a way of expressing disapproval of our African-American president, but didn't want to admit it as they feared it made them appear vaguely racist. It wouldn't take more than a few percent to throw off the polls.

If that were the case, there may have been nothing wrong with the pollsters' models, referenced below. I wonder if any pollsters build a Bradley effect fudge factor into their models?

Just sayin' ....

Poll Problems

USA Today's Jim Norman asks why the polls all predicted the Democrats would do better than they eventually did. I believe he unwittingly answered his own question.

As he notes, in 2012 the polls systematically overestimated the Republican turnout. In 2014 they overestimated the Democratic turnout. I'd guess the answer is buried in that pair of facts.

Following their miss in 2012 pollsters rechecked their assumptions about turnout and adjusted their modeling of the electorate to reduce pro-GOP bias. I'd guess they adjusted it too much, believing that the Democrats vaunted "ground game" would succeed in getting the young and minorities to the polls in a midterm election. That belief proved to be false.

At a minimum a pollster needs separate models for presidential elections and midterm elections. Needed are models that reflect the older, whiter, more conservative midterm electorate and the younger, more diverse, more liberal presidential electorate.