Friday, July 31, 2015

Noonan: Why Trump

The Wall Street Journal's Peggy Noonan comments on the rise of the Donald, with sympathy for his supporters:
American political establishment, take note: In the past 20 years you have turned America into a nation a third of whose people would make Donald Trump their president. Look on your wonders and despair.
The overall level of disgust is high. It's a good column, not behind the WSJ paywall.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

A Good News Story

Occasionally you find a gleaming nugget of good news in the dreary manure pile that is modern reportage. Today's example is from Newsweek, which reports the people responsible for the Advanced Placement U.S. History standards test - the College Board - have modified their curriculum to be less anti-American and more patriotic.

A new section on "American exceptionalism" now includes founding fathers Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, and John Adams. Imagine leaving these amazing men out of U.S. History!

People found A.P. History to reflect a leftist, America-as-root-of-world-problems point of view, similar to that held by our President and, if we're honest, many academic historians. If the College Board has moved quickly enough and far enough to prevent wholesale dumping of the Common Core by patriotic communities and states is unknown. It may be too little improvement, done too late.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Coulter's Six Points

At, Mickey Kaus summarizes Ann Coulter's 6 main points from her new book Adios America. In case you haven't time to read it, here they are quoted from his review:
1. Cultures differ, and culture matters.
2. Some cultures are "better" at becoming American than others.
3. Crime, in particular, is an issue.
4. Legal immigration matters.
5. Diversity sucks!
6. We need a moratorium on immigration. 
Those seem real issues to COTTonLINE. Hat tip to Instapundit for the link.

Does Trump Have Mob Ties?

Writing at The Federalist, David Marcus cites several examples of Donald Trump - while developing real estate, building hotels, and running casinos - doing business with known mobsters in Atlantic City and New York City. As Marcus notes, it is time for serious investigative reporting about these disqualifying ties.

Trump's poll numbers require the press take him seriously and vet him. Likely he will claim, probably truthfully, that anyone doing what he has done in the cities in which he operated would end up working with the mob to some extent.

Having done so is no problem for Trump, the celebrity impresario. It is a problem for Trump, the presidential candidate.

An "Ally" Behaving Badly

Reuters reports via Yahoo News that Turkey continues to mount air strikes on the Kurds in Iraq. Since Kurds are just about the only effective fighting force opposed to ISIS, these strikes are not in our interests.

Through a third party (perhaps Israel), the U.S. should arrange for Kurds to acquire and learn to use MANPADs. With them Kurds can shoot down the occasional Turkish plane.

At the very least that would keep the Turks up high enough and/or far enough away to be inaccurate. And it would boost the Kurds' morale, no small thing in their chaotic region.

The Voters Let Us Down

Jay Nordlinger of National Review writes that 2012 left him discouraged about our political process:
I thought that Mitt Romney was a superb candidate, and that the ticket of Romney and Paul Ryan was one of the most appealing imaginable. The contrast with Obama and Biden was stark.

And the people chose Obama and Biden. Again. Over Romney and Ryan. What can you do with such a people?

The 2012 election took some of the wind out of my sails, America-wise, and I wonder whether other people know what I mean.
The majority who voted to reelect Obama/Biden deserve all the bad things that have flowed from that choice. Unfortunately, the substantial minority who voted Romney/Ryan have to suffer it as well, without deserving it.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015


National Review's Jay Nordlinger does a long piece on Carly Fiorina in New Hampshire; he obviously spent time with her campaign there. Nordlinger liked what he saw, and asked her why she was doing it. Her answer is interesting:
I have been through some hard things in my life, and having been through those hard things, I really think that life is measured in love, moments of grace, and positive contribution. This is a positive contribution I can make. I can win this job. I can do this job. I can change the conversation this nation has. I can change how people think about their politics. This is a contribution I can make. And I’m willing to make it.

And having been through hard things, I’m not afraid of anything anymore. I’m not afraid of what people are going to say. I’m not afraid of what people are going to dig up. I’m not afraid of working hard. I’m not afraid.

So, to me, this is — honestly, it is hard work, but it is joyful work, and I feel as though it is the work I’m supposed to be doing now. So I’m happy to do it.
Fiorina's identification of Margaret Thatcher as one of her heroes resonates with me.

Weird Longevity Science

The International Journal of Epidemiology reports research that shows smart people live longer and the reasons are genetic. Good genes lead both to health and intelligence.

I've noticed that my former colleagues at the university tend to live to be quite old, many into their 90s. I read their obits in the campus news.

Do smart people live longer because they make better life choices? I'll bet that is part of the answer. Another part is simply having fewer genetic defects, predispositions to various ills that kill people before their three score and ten, or four score, are done.

Weird Metabolic Science

The Washington Post reports results of a preliminary study of a compound - a pill - that can have the same effects on your body as exercise, without the effort and boredom that exercise entails.

Only done at the mouse level so far, the drug labeled Compound 14 tricks cells into behaving as though exercise had taken place. As the Instapundit often says in such matters, faster please.

The Message Lacks Charm

Elizabeth Price Foley, guest blogging at Instapundit, observes wryly about Democrats:
If you keep suggesting that white, male, Christians who believe in earning a dollar are racist, ignorant, xenophobic, homophobic or otherwise evil, they probably won’t vote for you.
Evidence suggests they seldom do vote for Democrats. Dems, of course, have to keep suggesting those hateful things to stay tight with the victim groups forming their base.

Talent and Hustle

We rarely link to a HuffPost story, today we make an exception. See a feel-good story about a college coed who designs, makes, and sells jewelry, and won the 2013 National Federation of Independent Business Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award. 

As long as we have young people with this kind of gumption the U.S. will be okay, in spite of Washington's best efforts to torpedo us. Hat tip to Instapundit for the link.

What Would It Take?

The website has an anti-Democrat screed with this semi-fascinating title:
Admit it, Dems: Hillary Could Strangle a Puppy on Live TV, and You'd Still Back Her
That's probably an exaggeration, I'm not sure by how much. Taking dirty money, sending classified emails via a hackable private server, failing to prevent the murder of an ambassador, and lying about all of it obviously doesn't disqualify her.

Monday, July 27, 2015

A New Victorian Era

Michael Barone writes for RealClearPolitics that the U.S. may be entering a new Victorian era, marked by reduced rates of teen sexuality, teen pregnancy, and hookup sex among college students. Perhaps, he says, we're seeing the end of the Age of Aquarius that began in the 1960s.

Trends do not continue forever. I suspect reduced teen sex has more to do with greatly increased time spent at a computer keyboard and may merely be the substitute of porn-enhanced virtual sex for often disappointing real in-person sex.

In Japan, where trends sometimes start, a near-majority of young people admit to little interest in real sex whatsoever. The Japanese birthrate is perhaps 50% of replacement level, by the way.

The Near East's Near Future

Steven Metz writes at World Politics Review about the new order emerging in the Middle East. He sees a three-cornered struggle, with Iran at one corner, the Saudis at another, and ISIS at the third. See what Metz says about the future U.S. role in the region:
Despite all the talk we are likely to hear during the upcoming presidential campaign about reasserting American “leadership” in the region, the changes that have taken place are not simply a matter of presidential will, but a reflection of deep and permanent structural factors.

All of this suggests that whoever wins the 2016 presidential election in the United States will be frustrated enough to consider, and perhaps undertake, disengagement from the Middle East. As long as Israel remains secure—and there is little likelihood of a regional threat that the Israelis can’t handle with modest assistance—the U.S. role in the new Middle East will continue to recede.
This presupposes Iran will not go all nuclear suicide bomber on Israel. It's interesting Metz doesn't see the Turks as players, doesn't mention them at all. Perhaps he believes they'll keep busy with the "-stans," the former SSRs, mostly peopled by Turkic tribes.

My sense: many Americans would welcome a withdrawal from the Middle East, particularly if our current energy independence can be sustained.

Another Unintended Consequence

Matthew F. Cancian and Michael W. Klein write in Fortune the greatly enlarged pool of college graduates has had an unfortunate unintended consequence: lowering the intelligence of military officers. Very likely the military becomes a residual career choice for some.

Often job offers appropriate to a college grad do not materialize for the less impressive grads in a class, or those whose majors do not lead to obvious entry positions.

The authors suggest using some form of intelligence test as a screening device. We might be stunned to learn how many wouldn't achieve a minimum cut-off score.

Schlichter Does Snark

Kurt Schlichter may become a favorite columnist. Here writing for Townhall about comparisons of 2016 with earlier years he says, forget 1992 with Perot giving the election to Clinton. Instead focus on 1968, his description of which reflects his obvious fond memories thereof:
Back in 1968, the Democrat Party was divided between liberals who loved America and liberals who hated everything about it. The situation is a little different now, with today’s Democrat Party divided between liberals who hate everything about America and liberals who really, really hate everything about it.
If that wasn't enough, try this:
Hillary is America’s First Wife, a sour, sexless, disapproving presence eager to spend the next eight years telling us all how we are failing to measure up to her exacting standards.
And since nothing succeeds like excess:
Nineteen sixty-eight was the year normal Americans saw the Democrats for what they were, and that’s the danger for them in 2016 too – that normal Americans will be reminded about what a circus of welfare-chiseling, race-obsessed, work-averse, baby-shredding freaks the Democrat party is.

Early Returns Suggest She Will Lose

The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza weighs in with four poll numbers that look grim for la Hillary. Two show her favorables lower than her unfavorables in both NH and IA, the two early states.

The other two show her favorables dropping below her unfavorables nationally,  Clinton is still popular with Democrats but has gone negative among independents and never had the Republicans.  Enjoy Cilllizza's concluding thought:
Presidential politics tends to be dominated by personality and how people perceive their candidate choices.

For Clinton, these polls argue that she may be hard pressed to win a traditional presidential election in which likability matters most. To get to the White House, Clinton almost certainly needs to turn the choice into one about experience and readiness to do the job at hand. If it's a popularity contest, these early returns suggest she will lose.

When Consistency Is No Virtue

Jay Cost, writing at The Weekly Standard, about President Obama's ongoing unpopularity:
His approval ratings are not the lowest presidents have seen, but he has fallen under 50 percent more consistently than any of his predecessors.
Undoubtedly an artifact of enduring racism, his defenders will say blithely ignoring his two election victories.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Weird Psychological Science

The New Jersey Times-Gazette reports a Penn State study which found the vast increase in autism cases can be explained by reclassification of persons who would have, in earlier times, been labeled "challenged," "intellectually disabled," or experiencing "developmental language disorder." Here is the money quote:
In this latest study at Penn by Santosh Girirajan and his colleagues, data pertaining to special education enrollment for 6.2 million children were evaluated. While the numbers were nearly stable for 11 years, diagnostic categories did shift around with increase in autism diagnoses nearly balancing the decrease in number of students categorized under ‘intellectually disabled’.
Presumably much of this occurs because parents would rather hear their children are "autistic" than "mentally retarded." It carries less stigma, one supposes, but it's very sad whatever the label. Hat tip to for the link.

Week's Best Snark

The Wall Street Journal's Dorothy Rabinowitz, cracking wise about candidate Hillary Clinton on the WSJ Editorial Report Fox News show, as reported by
This is a person who is difficult to listen to. I used to think that if you wanted to extract information from terrorists, all you have to do is put them in the room with Hillary Clinton and force them to listen to her speech. They’ll tell you everything after that. 
More effective, but perhaps less satisfying, than water-boarding. Dems would rather listen to Bernie Sanders, so you know she has a point.

Fiat Chrysler Assessed Large Fine

CNBC reports Fiat Chrysler faces a penalty of $105 million by the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as a result of their shoddy performance vis-a-vis recalls on Jeep Liberty and Grand Cherokee vehicles. In my experience, the penalty is justified.

The DrsC own a 2003 Liberty, a nice little car. We had the fuel tank vulnerability recall for 2-3 years before they finally got the parts to remedy the issue.

The remedy, when finally installed, consisted of adding a trailer hitch to those vehicles which did not come with one standard. Apparently, experience had shown Chrysler a Liberty equipped with the hitch did not have the tank puncture problem when rear-ended.

There is nothing high tech or developmental about a trailer hitch, the design was long-since complete.  Any metal fab shop could turn out hundreds per week at modest cost. Why it took them multiple years to come up with a piece of welded steel I cannot fathom.

We now have another recall on the car for which parts are "not yet available." I believe it is the car's third recall. We like the car, and our local dealer is nice, but Fiat Chrysler has been laggardly about recalls. I believe they've been slow on purpose - deferring costs to a later accounting period to dress up their balance sheet.

Terse Book Review

Writing at Power Line, Scott Johnson doesn't think much of Ta-Nehisi Coates' new book Between the World and Me.
In the heyday of Eldridge Cleaver’s Soul on Ice, the blue collar philosopher Eric Hoffer rendered this concise critique of the book: “Soul on horse manure.” Ta-Nehisi Coates richly deserves the same judgment on his manifesto.
Blacks are racists too, who knew? A better question, who didn't know?

CA: 31% in Poverty

An editorial in the Orange County Register reports a new study of economic conditions in California.
For an increasing number of our residents, it is a place of perpetual economic struggle. The difficulties are detailed in a new study by United Ways of California, “Struggling to Get By: The Real Cost Measure in California 2015.” The RCM is a new formula that takes into account California’s high cost of living. It found that 31 percent of Californians were living in poverty in 2012-13. That’s higher than the 23.4 percent poverty rate, the worst in the nation, found in an October 2014 study by the U.S. Census Bureau.

A big cause, obviously, is the high cost of housing. According to a March analysis by the California Legislative Analyst, “Today, an average California home costs $440,000, about two–and-a-half times the average national home price ($180,000).” Another big factor is the ongoing exodus from the state of decent-paying jobs for workers with few skills.
California isn't so golden these days, sadly. The poverty-inducing conditions are largely man-made, arising from the legislature in Sacramento and from local zoning commissions. Drought is also a factor.

Our "Awful" Forebears

William F. B. O'Reilly, not to be confused with Bill O'Reilly of Fox News, writes a column for Newsday that is both fun and instructive. He begins with a group of Connecticut Democrats deciding they can no longer call an annual banquet the "Jefferson-Jackson" dinner because those two worthies were slaveholders and Jackson was an Indian-fighter.
But why stop at Jefferson and Jackson? George Washington was a slaveholder, too. So was James Madison and John Jay, our nation's first chief justice. Almost half the delegates of the first Constitutional Convention owned slaves, and Francis Scott Keyes, author of the national anthem, defended the institution in court. They should be shunned by today's Democratic Party as well.
O'Reilly goes right through U.S. history showing how most Democrat presidents held views that today are anathema. He concludes:
Supporting same-sex marriage is, all at once, a moral axiom in today's Democratic Party. It is a basic civil right. As such, how could all the presidents leading up until the White House's current occupant have missed it? How can anything be named after anyone who so clearly discriminated against gays and lesbians all these years?
It's a painless history lesson in moral relativism and changing mores, done at the expense of the often risible Democrats. Read the whole column and shake your head at the daffiness of political correctness.

Spoiler Alert

We've written about the possibility that Trump might go 3rd party spoiler and cost the GOP its logical majority as the pendulum swings back to the right. Nobody seems to consider that Bernie Sanders might also choose to go 3rd party if, as expected, Clinton gets the nomination. He could cost her the majority she hopes for.

Trump and Sanders each speak to members of their party's grand coalition who feel ignored by the party's mainstream candidates. Either or both could conclude they represent too many serious, well-intentioned-but-otherwise-unrepresented voters to drop out if not chosen as nominee, leading to a 3rd party run.

Third party candidates don't get elected president in the U.S., at least so far. It doesn't seem to keep people from running as spoilers, perhaps they enjoy sticking it to whomever their major party nominates, costing them the election. There's a certain satisfaction in doing that.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

More Weird Bariatric Science

The Washington Post reports the results of a Rutgers study finding inadequate amounts of a particular hormone in the brain leads to overeating. The hormone, glucagon-like peptide-1 or GLP-1, is secreted by both the brain and small intestine and tells the brain when you've had enough food.

The study, done on mice, found when mice had too little GLP-1, they overate and favored fatty foods.  Obviously we're a long way from a brain-targeted treatment based on GLP-1. Mice which got extra GLP-1 tended to avoid fatty foods.

A hormone level determinant could explain why obesity tends to run in families. Producing lots vs. little of it would tend to be genetically determined.

The ability to store nutrients as fat was a pro-survival trait in humans for hundreds of thousands of years; our ancestors experienced periodic famine, particularly in late spring before the crops ripened. Of course fat storage is pro-survival no longer as today most of us are complete strangers to famine.

Minimum Wage - No Free Lunch

The New York Times' David Brooks is a squish, a bit of a RINO, things he probably needs to be to write a column for the Gray Lady and show up weekly on Friday's PBS News Hour. That said, he also manages to be interesting and, as often as not, insightful.

Today he takes on the minimum wage and shows that while there are varying opinions, the considered view is that:
The laws of economic gravity have not been suspended. You can’t impose costs on some without trade-offs for others. You can’t intervene in the market without unintended consequences. And here’s a haunting fact that seems to make sense: Raising the minimum wage will produce winners among job holders from all backgrounds, but it will disproportionately punish those with the lowest skills, who are least likely to be able to justify higher employment costs.
Translation: It ends up helping middle class teens and hurting lower class dropouts.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Why Trump?

Writing at The Washington Free Beacon, Matthew Continetti describes the dilemma facing the Republican Party in general, and its leaders in particular, symbolized by Trump.
It is immigration—its universally celebrated benefits and its barely acknowledged costs—that is the third rail of U.S. politics. (snip) Trump didn’t step on the third rail; he embraced it, he won’t let go of it, and in so doing he’s become electric. Republicans, Democrats, journalists, corporations all want to define themselves against him, and their flaunting of their moral superiority only feeds the media monster, only makes Trump more attractive to the dispossessed, alienated, radical middle.

The men and women in the uppermost ranks of the party (snip) are inclined to condescend to a large portion of the Republican base, to treat base voters’ concerns as unserious, nativist, racist, sexist, anachronistic, or nuts, to apologize for the “crazies” who fail to understand why America can build small cities in Iraq and Afghanistan but not a wall along the southern border, who do not have the education or skills or means to cope when factories move south or abroad, who stare incomprehensibly at the television screen when the media fail to see a “motive” for the Chattanooga shooting.

These voters don’t give a whit about corporate tax reform or TPP or the capital gains rate or the fate of Uber, they make a distinction between deserved benefits like Social Security and Medicare and undeserved ones like welfare and food stamps, their patriotism is real and nationalistic and skeptical of foreign entanglement, they wept on 9/11, they want America to be strong, dominant, confident, the America of their youth, their young adulthood, the America of 40 or 30 or even 20 years ago.

If history repeats itself, it will be because the Republican elite was so preoccupied with its own economic and ideological commitments that it failed to pay attention the needs and desires of millions of its voters. So the demagogue rises. The party splits. And the Clintons win.
Dang, I hope not. We don't need a third Obama term.

Not Toothless

The Washington Post's Dana Milbank sometime shoots straight, sometimes lies through his teeth. Here he writes that Gov. Scott Walker is dangerous because he beats up on unions:
By scapegoating toothless trade unions as powerful and malign interests, he enlists working people in his cause of aiding the rich and the strong.
"Trade unions" represent people like plumbers and carpenters in the private sector. Gov. Walker has shown little interest in them beyond backing a state right-to-work law. Walker's target has been, and will likely continue to be, government employee unions, including teacher unions.

Public employee unions and teacher unions are anything but "toothless." They are part owners of the Democratic Party along with the gentry, greens and minority groups. Milbank is totally disingenuous to characterize public unions as "toothless" - he knows better, as do we.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Air Conditioning Uses Less Energy

People like to say the big move by Americans from the northern states to the sun belt southern states has required more energy. Bloomberg View's Megan McArdle refutes that:
You could argue that if Americans had not migrated en masse from the temperate north to the blistering sunbelt, we would need less energy for climate control. You could argue that, but you'd be wrong. Americans still expend much more energy heating their homes than cooling them.

On average, the move from cold areas to warm ones has actually saved energy, not caused us to use more.
The DrsC try to live where it is a comfortable temperature year around, necessitating four relocations per year. We find it's fun calling three different places home. There are things we like best about each of them.

Ice Breakers Needed in Mid-Summer Arctic

The Canadian Broadcasting Company's CBCnews North based in Yellowknife, NWT, reports tough ice conditions in the arctic this summer. If there is global warming Hudson Bay hasn't gotten the memo.
A carefully planned, 115-day scientific expedition on board the floating research vessel, the CCGS Amundsen, has been derailed as the icebreaker was called to help resupply ships navigate heavy ice in Hudson Bay.

Johnny Leclair, assistant commissioner for the Coast Guard, said Tuesday conditions in the area are the worst he's seen in 20 years.
You owe it to yourself to see their photo of an ice breaker escorting a resupply ship through wall-to-wall ice on July 17. I'll bet the grain terminal at Churchill, Manitoba, can't ship much wheat this summer. Hat tip to Watts Up With That for the link.

1992 Revisited

Donald Trump appears to believe he can blackmail the GOP into giving him its nomination, by threatening to run as an independent. If he fails to get the GOP nomination, as virtually everyone who pays attention believes will happen, he might choose to run as an independent a la Ross Perot.

You will remember that Perot got enough votes to ensure the election of Bill Clinton, who beat Bush Sr. while receiving less than 50% of the votes cast. There is every likelihood that, by running as an independent, Trump could ensure the election of whoever wins the 2016 Democrat nomination.

The whole "rich guy with nothing-to-lose playing spoiler" scenario grows very old. I'm not certain how we could keep it from recurring, maybe find him a new bimbo to chase?

GOP Has Better Ideas

Writing for the Plum Line column in The Washington Post, Greg Sargent reports encouraging findings from the Washington Post/ABC News poll taken about a week ago.
The Post/ABC poll finds that 68 percent of Americans think the U.S. economic system generally favors the wealthy rather than being fair to most Americans (only 27 percent believe the latter).
Hoping this perceived bias posed an opportunity for Democrats, people were asked the following:
Who do you think has better ideas about how to make the economic system more fair than it is now - the (Democratic Party) or the (Republican Party)?
Fifty percent of non-college whites favored the Republicans, only 29% said the Democrats. Democrats are well along the path to losing the white vote. All is proceeding as I have foreseen.

Sargent quotes Ron Brownstein's observation on these voters' basic belief:
Democrats are unduly burdening the ‘makers’ to support (and politically mobilize) the ‘takers.'
Go on, call it "buying votes with our money," why don't you? It's how non-college whites characterize it.

Why "Diesel Exhaust Fluid?"

Yesterday I wrote about our new Ford diesel pickup truck needing DEF (diesel exhaust fluid) in addition to diesel fuel, and as an aside, mentioned I didn't know what it did. Now I know, courtesy of Wikipedia, and their explanation of the chemistry involved is below:
Diesel engines can be run with a lean burn air-to-fuel ratio (overstoichiometric ratio), to ensure the full combustion of soot and to prevent the exhaust of unburnt fuel. The excess of oxygen necessarily leads to generation of nitrogen oxides, which are harmful pollutants, from the nitrogen in the air. Selective catalytic reduction is used to reduce the amount of NOx released into the atmosphere. Diesel exhaust fluid (from a separate DEF tank) is injected into the exhaust pipeline, the aqueous urea vaporizes and decomposes to form ammonia and carbon dioxide. Within the SCR catalyst, the NOx are catalytically reduced by the ammonia (NH3) into water (H2O) and nitrogen (N2), which are both harmless; and these are then released through the exhaust.

DEF (Diesel Exhaust Fluid) is a 32.5% solution of Urea (NH2)2CO. When the urea solution is injected into the hot exhaust gas stream the water evaporates. The urea thermally decomposes to form ammonia and isocyanic acid:

(NH2)2CO → NH3 + HNCO

The Isocyanic acid hydrolyses to carbon dioxide and ammonia:

HNCO + H2O → CO2 + NH3

The overall reduction of NOx by urea is:

2(NH2)2CO + 4NO + O2 → 4N2 + 4H2O + 2CO2
Now you know the "how" and the "why."

A Non-Story

The Associated Press reports via Yahoo News that Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) made reference to "idiot inner city kids." Sounds awful, doesn't it? The MSM rarely misses an opportunity to make the GOP look bad.

You have to read the article to see the context in which Johnson said it, talking about liberals' opposition to school choice in D.C. Read what he actually said:
It's unbelievable to me that liberals, that President Obama, of course he sends his children to private school, as did Al Gore and Bill Clinton and every other celebrated liberal. They just don't want to let those idiot inner-city kids that they purport to be so supportive of, they want to help out, they don't want to give them the same opportunity their own kids have. It's disgraceful.
An infelicitous choice of words to be sure, but it's clear Sen. Johnson actually meant that Obama, Gore, and Clinton act as though they view inner city kids as idiots upon whom school choice would be wasted. Favoring vouchers, Johnson believes these will be helpful to inner city kids.

I give the AP credit for reporting his actual words. These make Johnson's intent clear to those who read the whole article.


In case it isn't entirely obvious, the Democrats are owned outright by the teachers' unions - the NEA and smaller AFT. Both unions oppose school choice as detrimental to their members' interests, regardless of what benefits might accrue to the fortunate children taking advantage of school choice.

A New Truck

The other DrC and I have driven diesel pickup trucks since 1983, a Chevy, a Dodge, and three Fords. We took delivery of the latest, a 2015 Ford F-350 last week. We've used them to pull a series of four 5th wheel RV trailers, and of course for the normal thing a truck can do - haul loads.

Our new truck is the first that requires, in addition to diesel fuel, a "diesel exhaust fluid" consisting of urea which in some manner (unknown to me) improves its emissions profile. Our truck driver nephew assures me all new diesels require it.

The new Ford replaced a 2006 model F-350 we purchased in 2005, which truck we traded in. The new truck is so quiet you'd be hard-pressed to know it's a diesel. It is more powerful, quicker, has a shorter turning radius, and can pull an enormous load.

It truly is a quantum improvement over the prior truck, of which we were very fond. If you love trucks and haven't checked out how much they've improved, you owe it to yourself to drive a new one. They are absolutely civilized brutes.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Pope's Popularity Down

The Associated Press reports via Yahoo News that public opinion about Pope Francis has turned much less positive, in the last 17 months. Then 76% approved, today 59% do. Mostly the people reporting being less positive were Republicans (no surprise) and Roman Catholics (surprise).
Many American Catholics are more closely affiliated with their political party than their faith.

Catholic conservatives have also expressed discomfort with Francis' style and emphasis.
The article reports American Catholics experience Francis' sermons as:
Often haranguing, harping, exhorting, lecturing and grating.
Pope Francis has been speaking to (and for) a huge audience of poor third-world Catholics. American Catholics are not poor, and mostly hear him saying, "Why aren't you giving most of your hard-earned wealth to the poor?" His is not a popular message, one the affluent normally find themselves able to ignore with ease.

Americans Leave Cities

Americans are fleeing 20 large urban areas and, as they do, their places are often being taken by immigrants seeking low wage service jobs. See a Bloomberg story for more.

High housing costs drive middle class Americans away while immigrants utilize "creative housing arrangements" involving several families in one apartment or living in a converted garage (common in SoCal).

This sort of population flow drives urban planners crazy. They want us all to live in densely packed corridors along public transportation lines.

Doesn't that sound dreadful? Autos rule, urban planners drool....

Weird Sleep Science

Do you sleep poorly? Have difficulty getting or staying asleep? You may be at increased risk for cancer and Alzheimer's, both really ugly outcomes.

CBS Atlanta reports research on the link between sleep disturbance and cancer. ABC News reports on the link between sleep problems and Alzheimer's. The bottom line: go to bed at the same time every night and sleep soundly, it's good for you.

I wonder what effect several-times-a-year jet-lag sleep disturbance is having on the DrsC? Nothing good, I'll wager.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Life Is a Cabaret, Old Chum

Retired colonel Kurt Schlichter writes for The Federalist that Europe is skating along the edge of the abyss and nobody there seems to know or care about the danger. See his conclusion:
Human nature hasn’t changed one iota. Thugs like Vladimir Putin and Islamofascists like ISIS understand the bloody mathematics of power in the way the espresso-sippers refuse to. Ukraine will fall. The Baltics will fall. Turkey will fall. The Balkans will fall. Europe will fall.

This is the fiesta before the storm, and Europe is busy partying like it’s 1939. These are the New Wilderness Years, except this time the bad guys are going to win.
Schlichter notes with sorrow this time around there is no Winston Churchill crying wolf and demanding rearmament. Plus the U.S. is no longer a reliable defender of Europe; its willingness and ability have both become suspect.

Cultural Contagion

I like Canada, I enjoy traveling there and I particularly like three of their Rocky Mountain national parks: Waterton, Banff, and Jasper. Canadians I've dealt with have been pleasant people.

Canada's obsession with maintaining their "difference" from the U.S. always makes me grin. The Globe and Mail has an article fretting about how their elections are becoming more like ours - no great recommendation, I'll grant.

Truly, no matter how they try to stop it, American customs keep seeping across our mutual (very porous) border. How could they not? All of Canada has about the same population as California, and most of them live within 100 miles (170 km) of the U.S. border.

Satellite TV signals from stateside providers can be intercepted north of the border, as well as plain broadcast signals in a number of locations. The New York Times reports:
All together, 1.6 million Canadians visit Florida every year, according to a survey by the University of Florida. Thousands of others go to such places as South Carolina, Texas, Arizona, California and Hawaii.
Plus Canadians pay much more attention to U.S. news and politics than Americans ever do to Canadian happenings. Try as they like, Canadians are massively influenced by the U.S. with no effort expended on our part to make it happen.

Finally, if any American ever said, "Golly, let's make sure we don't become like Canada." no one took note.

Flags Lowered in Honor

Our President really doesn't like our military much, and appears deathly afraid we'll rise up and massacre Muslims living in here ... as if. The Muslim world gives him no credit for his hesitancy, of course.

It took Obama 5 days to decide the White House and federal sites should fly their flags at half staff. This to honor the four Marines and a sailor who were fatally shot by a Muslim in Chattanooga on the 16th.

It was a decision apparently made reluctantly under pressure. If any of the five dead had been black, he might have moved more quickly. See a brief story at Newsweek.

Democrats' Weakness

Steven Hayward, who blogs at Power Line, posts a long quote from The Wall Street Journal's front page. In case you haven't seen it, I repost it here for your enjoyment.
After two presidential victories, Mr. Obama presides over a Democratic Party that has lost 13 seats in the U.S. Senate and 69 in the House during his tenure, a net loss unmatched by any modern U.S. president.

Democrats have also lost 11 governorships, four state attorneys general, 910 legislative seats, as well as the majorities in 30 state legislative chambers. In 23 states, Republicans control the governor’s office and the legislature; Democrats, only seven.

Such losses help shape the future: An ousted state lawmaker doesn’t run for Congress; a failed attorney general candidate loses a shot at the governor’s office. As a result, the flow of fresh political talent rising to statewide and national prominence in the years ahead won’t be as robust as Democrats hope.
Steve calls it the "feel good story of the day." I agree and I'd bet you agree too. Obama must have the shortest coattails ever.

Understanding the Enemy

The fundamentalist Ayatollahs of Iran, whose theocracy that nation "enjoys," take a dim view of the United States. See the Reuters story at Yahoo News.

As a patriotic American it is easy for me to demonize the Ayatollahs as enemies. Easy, yes,  but also at least somewhat unfair.

I'm the descendent of famous colonial-era Puritan ministers. Were those stern old dudes alive today, they'd be as opposed to the modern United States as the Iranian hierarchy undoubtedly is.

Today's United States is libertine, and increasingly secular to boot. Casinos everywhere, abortion on demand, sexting teens, same sex marriage, porn on your computer and smart phone, millions of unwed mothers, websites whose purpose is to facilitate extramarital affairs, and nearly every imaginable sexual orientation and configuration celebrated and honored. And we've started legalizing recreational drugs.

The modern United States does not follow the moralists' "straight and narrow," instead it luxuriates in the "crooked and wide," if that be the polar opposite. No wonder latter-day puritans, in this case Islamic ones, find it as repulsive as my prudish ancestors would have.

Hermione's Wisdom

Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight blog fame writes something insightful about Donald Trump and trolls like him.
Other Republicans should resist the temptation to extend the news cycle by firing back at him, however — even when what he says is genuinely offensive. After 12 years of writing on the Internet, I’ve learned that the old adage is true. Don’t feed the troll. The only way to kill a troll like Trump is to deprive him of attention.
As Hermione Granger kept telling Harry Potter and his sidekick Ron, concerning various provocations by Draco Malfoy, "Ignore him. Just ignore him."

A Worst-Case Scenario

Hugh Hewett writes for The Washington Examiner the nuclear deal Obama has cut with the Iranians will lead inevitably to a nuclear strike on Israel. Given the persistence of anti-Semitism, I expect this outcome is viewed favorably by millions who don't live in the Arab world. Anti-Semitism is an ancient evil.

Hewett is entitled to his opinion, COTTonLINE makes no such prediction. A nuclear-armed Israel would almost certainly convert the cities of Iran into lakes of radioactive molten glass in retaliation.

Mutually assured destruction has worked in the past, perhaps it will continue to do so. The Ayatollahs talk a good game of suicidal jihad, but it's something they encourage others to do, while they watch and politely applaud. They've never put themselves at risk, which bombing Israel would do in spades.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Weird Bariatric Science

CBS News, DC reports the results of a study of weight loss outcomes published in the American Journal of Public Health. The news isn't good. CBS writes:
Data for 76,704 obese men and 99,791 obese women from the United Kingdom were analyzed over the course of nine years, and researchers found that the annual probability of reaching a normal weight was just 1 in 210 for obese men and 1 in 124 for obese women (obese = 30.0–34.9 BMI).
Plus CBS quotes the study as saying:
Our findings indicate that current nonsurgical obesity treatment strategies are failing to achieve sustained weight loss for the majority of obese patients.

Even when treatment is accessed, evidence suggests behavioral weight loss interventions focusing on caloric restriction and increased physical activity are unlikely to yield clinically significant reductions in body weight.
That certainly is what I've experienced. Hat tip to Drudge Report for the link.

Our Secular Press

Pollster Frank Luntz, moderating a press conference for presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, asked the assembled press corps, 60-70 strong how many attend church or synagogue once a week. A hand count of 9 said they did.  See the story at Newsbusters.

Okay, some were too shy to answer, others were lying, but it's probably safe to conclude the number of the observant among the press is on the order of 1 in 6 or 1 in 7. I don't find that unusual or exceptional.

From other sources we know most of the working press are Democrats, probably admitted SJWs most of them. Today's Democrat party isn't a congenial home for many sincere religious believers so the response level is no surprise.

You may be thinking this is a "dog bites man" story, not news. On the other hand, I'd bet you might find similar numbers in other occupations, like police officer or truck driver, which tend to skew Republican.

With respect to religion, the U.S. is evolving in the same direction as Europe, although religion isn't as far down the pathway to irrelevancy here as it is there. Non-coincidentally, degrees of religious commitment and birth rates seem to move in tandem, rising or dropping together. Understanding why this is true is, for now, beyond us although many have speculated on causality.

What Matters?

Writing at Vox, Dara Lind tries to explain why saying "all lives matter" is deeply offensive to black activists. They shouted down Democrat presidential aspirant Martin O'Malley when he said it. He later apologized.

The truly odd thing is what black activists mean when they say, "black lives matter." They actually mean the few "black lives taken by whites matter." Or even, "black lives taken by white cops matter."

Little interest is shown in the overwhelming majority of blacks murdered by other blacks. Shouldn't they matter too? Apparently, they don't.

Later-day Conquistadores

Global Post reports Spaniards are moving to Latin America to find work, as the unemployment rate in Spain is 25% and up to 50% for young Spaniards. It wouldn't surprise me if Portuguese are moving to Brazil as well.

The key in all these moves is going to a place where you already know the language. The Brits, Scots, and Irish have a variety of obvious places to go: Canada, the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, and a few less obvious locales like South Africa, India, Hong Kong and Sri Lanka.

As the Islamization of Europe proceeds apace, I expect the U.S. will see the same sort of exodus from the U.K. that already happens from Ireland. I don't see this possibility being reflected in the demographic projections which show the U.S. becoming a majority non-white country in X years.

Clark: Internment Camps

Being interviewed on MSNBC by Thomas Roberts, retired General Wesley Clark advocates putting "disloyal Americans" into internment camps like those used to corral Japanese expats and Japanese-Americans living in the western U.S. and Canada during World War II.

As COTTonLINE has noted on several occasions (here, here, and here), this sort of call to action might come eventually. Now we see the first public endorsement by a person of some note. As the Instapundit is fond of quoting from Star Wars, "All is proceeding as I have foreseen."

Given the opprobrium associated with internment in the minds of many, things will have to become significantly worse for this step to be taken. However, given a couple more 9-11 type slaughters, public opinion can swing very fast. Our country seldom takes meaningful action until we've been bloodied in a Pearl Harbor-type event.

I hope we avoid the whole situation, both the slaughters and camps. That said, hope is wonderful to have, but a lousy stand-alone policy.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Life of the Rolling Sea

Regular readers know COTTonLINE doesn't love the liberal editorial bias of The New York Times. That said, it does run some amazingly good copy on occasion. An example of this is an article entitled:
Stowaways and Crimes Aboard a Scofflaw Ship
This gives the reader a look inside a world of which most will have no notion. It's the world of aging tramp ships wandering the world seeking a cargo needing a lift to somewhere else and the people who crew or stow away on them.

In the 1800s we understood a ship captain was nearly a god, with the power of life and death, marriage and burial. He was a judge and jury, who tended to delegate "executioner." To a degree you'll find hard to credit, it turns out many captains still exercise great power.

Ship captains have power because nobody enforces the few laws that exist beyond countries' 12 mile limits. In the deep ocean pretty much anything goes and it can be ugly business - dumping oily waste and sludge, jettisoning stowaways, failing to pay crew, carrying contraband and refugees. I expect every year murders happen afloat which are never reported or investigated.

Those of us who cruise think we know life afloat. We see only the cream of the crop, and even that life isn't easy for many of the crew. Cruise crew work 7 day weeks back-to-back, for perhaps 8-10 months at a stretch, then get a couple of months "off" before their next contract begins.

In older cargo ships crew life is much less attractive, : bad food, irregular pay, arbitrary bosses, being dumped "on the beach" far from home, etc. Poor people from third world countries sign on in spite of the risks.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Perhaps a Twofer?

The press is reporting Donald Trump has questioned the patriotism of Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) who criticized some of Trump's less temperate pronouncements. This happened after Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) had spoken favorably about Trump.

There is relatively widespread Republican outrage at criticisms of McCain's patriotism, inasmuch as he spent several years in a brutal North Vietnamese prison after being shot down on a combat mission there. McCain has suffered a lot more for this country than Trump ever did.

If Trump wanted to question McCain's judgment, fine. I do that myself on semi-frequent occasions. Questioning the positions he takes is one thing, questioning his patriotism is way beyond jumping the shark.

It would be interesting, without being tragic, if Trump's intemperate criticism of McCain brings down the candidacies of both Trump and Cruz. Think of it as clearing out some of the deadwood or underbrush ... as firefighters say, reducing the forest's fuel load.

Meanwhile, Fiorina agreed immigration was a real issue without saying nice things about Trump's character and energy, those were the mistakes Cruz made. She shouldn't be hurt by the kerfuffle.

Bullet-Proof Tires

The Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers publication IEEE Spectrum reports South Korean tire manufacturer Hankook is working on airless tires practical for passenger vehicles in normal use and highway speeds. Hat tip to Instapundit for the link.

These tires could not blow out or go flat. Much testing must ensue before they will be marketed.

Airless tires are exactly what every wheelman will want for his getaway vehicles. Police spike strips wouldn't be effective against such tires, nor would bullet holes. I imagine the military would also want to fit them on wheeled vehicles going into harm's way: HMMWVs, MRAPs and armored cars.

Urban Planner Self-Doubt Healthy

Urban planners appear to view humans as semi-autonomous honey bees and cities as highly organized hives. This is a pet peeve of COTTonLINE, as regular readers have surely noticed.

Now European planners, who pioneered this particular perversion, are beginning to doubt its efficacy. CityLab reports a major theme of the recent Association of European Schools of Planning (AESOP) meeting:
Smart growth, whether urban growth boundaries or compact transit-oriented development, is essentially European. And now the Europeans are saying the command-and-control approach doesn’t work so well. European nations are actually adopting more of an American stance—a decentralized agenda, pushing down remaining responsibilities to local jurisdictions, and counting on local planners to engage the citizenry much more.
We won't be out of the woods until planners give up bashing suburbs/exurbs. Exurbanite Thomas Jefferson understood more about optimal population densities than they ever will.

Planning should involve helping people have the life they choose and can afford. Allowing a regimented high-density existence is fine for those who like it, forcing it on those who don't is not.

Very Weird Cosmological Science

Lee Smolin writes for PBS Nova on the subject:
How Time Got Its Arrow - The Nature of Reality
If you want a reading experience that will mess with your head, give his column a try. He is proposing as radical and new something we non-cosmologists have taken for granted all our lives, something cosmologists have viewed as coincidental or accidental.

What is this earth-shaking notion? The idea that time is irreversible, can only go forward, not in either direction.

You and I experience life this way, notwithstanding jokes about second childhoods. Nobody gets born old and finishes life as an egg and a sperm. Nobody starts large and ends up tiny.

Smolin begins with the admission that, late in his professional career, he finally believes time is real. Who knew? Answer: most of us, although we'd never be able to prove it scientifically.

Sending a Message

Do voters who say they support Donald Trump for the GOP nomination really want or expect to vote for him in November, 2016? Some do, but I'd argue a majority don't.

I believe most say Trump's name as a way to force "real" candidates to, in the words of Cool Hand Luke's warden, "get their minds right." So far, only Ted Cruz and Carly Fiorina seem to have gotten the message the Trump partisans are sending. 

That message: we care deeply about getting immigration under control, about making it work for our country instead of against us. In several campaign headquarters strategists are trying to figure out how their candidate can take the position Trump's supporters want without terminally irritating Hispanics and Asians. That isn't an easy story to tell, maybe an impossible one.

Minority Voters Not Monolithic

We've all read that demographics will sound the death knell for Republicans, if not now, soon. In the respected FiveThirtyEight blog of demon number-cruncher Nate Silver, Harry Enten argues (apologies to George and Ira Gershwin) "It ain't necessarily so." He writes:
The electorate in 2014 was just as diverse as it was in 2008, even as the election results were so starkly different.
  • Whites made up 76.3 percent of voters each year; 
  • Black voters were 12 percent in 2014 vs. 12.3 percent in 2008; 
  • Hispanics were 7.4 percent in 2014 vs. 7.3 percent in 2008; 
  • And Asians were 2.8 percent in 2014 vs. 2.6 percent in 2008. 
All of these changes are within 0.3 percentage points of the earlier figures, and yet Republicans won the national House vote by 5.6 percentage points in 2014 and lost the national presidential vote by 7.3 percentage points in 2008.

So what the heck happened? If the exit polls are to be believed (and they aren’t perfect), it was not that any one group became more Republican in 2014. Instead, they all did.
Republicans can win black and Hispanic votes, particularly when Dems. screw up and look inept. Gaining a majority of either group isn't essential, a healthy minority of either or both may suffice.

Wanting It Too Much

Peggy Noonan, writing for The Wall Street Journal, notes yet another quirk of our strange President:
Mr. Obama is an odd one in that when there are rivals close by, in Congress for instance, with whom he could negotiate deals, he disses them in public, attacks their motives, yanks them around with executive orders, crushes them when possible. But when negotiating with actual tyrants he signals deference, hunger.

I leave it to others to explain what it means when a man is bullying toward essentially good people and supplicating toward bad ones. But the sense is he always wants it too much and is consequently a poor negotiator, and this will have some impact on U.S. and world reaction.
Hammering the weak and kissing up to the strong is the hallmark of a classic bully. On the other hand, Noonan isn't negative about Scott Walker:
He’s from the Republican wing of the Republican Party—blunt, direct, unadorned, Midwestern. His message was workmanlike: “I know how to fight and win.” He is a reform conservative, believes in federalism, is hard-line on foreign policy: Mr. Obama says climate change is the greatest threat to future generations, but “the greatest threat to future generations is radical Islamic terrorism.”
Walker has that right.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Cook: Trump Will Jump

Charlie Cook is justly known for knowing politics. Writing for National Journal, which just announced it will cease its print edition, Cook says Trump will drop out before things get too serious, as he realizes he is damaging his celebrity "brand."

COTTonLINE says he won't as long as he keeps going up in the polls. When Trump's numbers peak and hit the skids he bails, not before.

Pundits who wish the GOP ill predict the many candidates will be poison for the GOP. Cook thinks a plethora of candidates is wonderful, an "embarrassment of riches" for Republicans. I hope Charlie is right.

The race is certainly more fun with lots of candidates. Whether it increases or decreases the odds of the next POTUS being Republican I don't know.

Identifying the Problem

The New York Times' David Brooks, in his latest column, reviews a book - Ta-Nehisi Coates' Between the World and Me. Coates describes being a black person in the U.S. and he doesn't like the experience one bit.

I haven't read the book and probably won't, but I trust Brooks has captured its essence fairly. If Coates truly feels as negative about his U.S. experience as Brooks reports, one wonders why he stays?

We have no Berlin wall, no ban on going expat or emigrating to wherever. Every year a few hundred people completely renounce their U.S. citizenship and become, perforce, citizens somewhere else.

Could it be that, terrifying as the U.S. seems to Coates, everywhere else seems worse? That is hard to credit, but not impossible.

Perhaps Coates truly believes there is no place on this planet where he would be treated as he should be. Could he be correct? If so, his problem is bigger than the U.S., it's world-wide.

Stupid on Steroids

With regard to yesterday's brutal shooting deaths of four Marines in Chattanooga, carried out by one Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez, a native of Yemen, Power Line's John Hinderaker reports:
On CNN, Tom Fuentes ludicrously cautioned that Muhammad is not an Islamic name.
What tiny fraction of one percent of Muhammads are not Islamic? Perhaps .0001%?  Anyway, a much smaller fraction than that of the fellows named Jesus who aren't at least nominally Christian.

Tom Fuentes bids fair to have spoken the dumbest thing said this year. Quite a distinction. Hinderaker has a video capture of the comment you can view.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

It's the Immigration, Stupid

Jonathan V. Last, writes for The Weekly Standard, about the lessons to be learned from the Trump phenomenon.
In 2012, the entire Republican field was caught by surprise when it turned out that immigration was the defining issue of the primary campaign. Without anyone having noticed, immigration displaced abortion as the major litmus test for GOP candidates.

And then, to show that 2012 wasn't an aberration, two years later an unknown, unfunded, econ professor bushwhacked Eric Cantor by 11 points in a Republican House primary in Virginia. His primary issue-indeed, just about his only issue-was immigration.

So Republican strategists (and their candidates) ought to understand that Republican voters care a lot about immigration.

What these voters want isn't a xenophobic nut who's going to bash immigrants-they want a candidate who can do five things:

* Embrace the immigrant heritage of America.
* Distinguish between legal and illegal immigration.
* Make the case that the rule of law still means something, no matter what John Roberts says.
* Articulate that whatever benefits immigration may have, it comes with costs, too, as we see in the murder of Kathryn Steinle.
* Explain that the simple logic of labor markets suggests that whatever we ultimately decide to do about immigration policy, the time to liberalize immigration is not when the real unemployment rate is (at the very least) north of 10 percent. Because when you add workers to an existing surplus of labor, wages will go down.
And that candidate isn't Donald Trump, the "xenophobic nut" referred to above.

The EU as the Fourth Reich

Rosemary Righter has done for Politico an article which argues the bailout deal finally approved for Greece is German-dominated, through and through. She writes:
When the grim details of this epic confrontation have been forgotten — and in all probability after a Grexit proves to have been delayed, not prevented — what will stick in public memory will be that this was the moment when the EU became a nakedly “German Europe.”

The EU summit text is not merely unbending, but couched in terms more like a probation sentence on a serial offender than an intergovernmental text.

This is a deal that shouts out loud that Greece’s sovereignty is forfeit. Greece has done much to deserve it. With luck, the very severity of the punishment meted out to Athens will ensure that the euro operates according to much clearer rules. But they will be German rules. That no one may question.
Economically, Greece is a serial offender. What the Wehrmacht couldn't make permanent, the European Union may accomplish without firing a shot.

Sentiments like these won't be well-received in Moscow. There memories of The Great Patriotic War - what we call WW II's Eastern Front - remain vivid.

The External Enemy Gambit

Just short of total chaos and insurrection, Venezuela appears to be considering going to war with neighboring Guyana over a large region called the Essequibo. It is claimed by both nations but has been governed by Guyana for almost 50 years, and before that by Britain whose colony Guyana was.

The precipitating issue is a decision by Exxon-Mobil to explore for oil in the Essequibo territory. See an article at Worldcrunch for details.

Venezuela teeters on the brink of bankruptcy. President Maduro may use the issue to distract his people from their economic discontents.

General Galtieri utilized this ploy in Argentina vis-a-vis the Falkland Islands. It was a disaster for the Argies; it would likely be one for impoverished Venezuela as well.

Perhaps knowing Guyana has the support of the U.K. and the U.S. will dissuade Maduro. Or perhaps he'd rather go down in flames, a martyr to the cause of Greater Venezuela.

Ratifying Retreat

The Washington Post's Dana Milbank, certainly no conservative, writes about the President's press conference defending the Iran nuclear deal, entitling his column:
Obama’s news conference was a case for American weakness.
Milbank says of President Obama:
He ultimately acknowledged that the United States just doesn’t have the clout to enforce its will. This was an undercurrent of the whole news conference Wednesday afternoon, and of Obama’s overall defense of the Iran deal. He was tough and strong, but in service of the argument that American power is limited — that this is the best deal we could get with our declining leverage. His defenders call it realism; it also may amount to ratifying retreat.

Mostly what came through was a defense of what future historians may describe as the Obama doctrine: an America that recognizes the limits of its power and acts less ambitiously.
Milbank approves of Obama's "realism." We do not. U.S. power is limited because Obama believes it to be so, because he wishes it so, because he sees our power as a force for evil in the world. As you might expect, we disagree categorically.

For the Right Reason

At PJ Media Andrew Klavan writes about people's interest in Donald Trump and why there are better ways to accomplish the same things.
You want to win back your country? Here’s how. Fear nothing. Hate no one. Stick to principles. Unchecked borders are dangerous not because Mexicans are evil but because evil thrives when good men don’t stand guard. Poverty programs are misguided, not because the poor are undeserving criminals, but because dependency on government breeds dysfunction and more poverty. Guns save lives and protect liberty. Property rights guarantee liberty. Religious rights are essential to liberty. Without liberty we are equal only in misery.

These things are true. They’re true for white people and black people, male people and female people, straight people and gay people. We should support the smartest, most proven, most statesmanlike candidate who best represents those principles. And we should do it out of — dare I say the word? — love. Love for our neighbors, our fellow citizens, white and black, male and female, straight and gay.
Klavan advocates tough love, true, but love nevertheless.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Wonderful Snark

Two snarky comments from Instapundit Glenn Reynolds, who often turns an acerbic quip. The first quotes Mark Twain, another droll fellow:
To do good is noble, but to teach others to do good is nobler still, and less trouble.
The second is Reynolds' theory of philosophy:
Philosophy was originally invented to justify drinking too much and cheating on your spouse, and it has never gotten far from its roots.

Obama Takes Sides

As we've noted before, it appears that President Obama has concluded the Arabs are such a mess they should be dominated by Iran's Persians as has happened in the dim past. This policy is one of two things: extreme wisdom or extreme foolishness.

There is abundant evidence the Arabs are a mess - economically irrational tribal people with much more factionalism than is good for them. And there is evidence the Persians are at least somewhat better organized if also theologically out of touch with reality.

If Obama's policy works, history will view it as the crown jewel of his presidency. If it turns out to be the precursor of a region-wide genocidal bloodbath, obloquy will shroud his legacy like a foul miasma. If the resulting Persian Empire 2.0 becomes a world power implacably opposed to U.S. interests, his memory likewise will suffer.

I'm not qualified to make a prediction about the policy's future. I do believe it is a high-risk ploy, with a less than 50/50 chance of success.

Greece Is the Word

George Friedman writes for RealClearWorld about the bailout deal forced on Greece by the Germans. It is his view that both sides felt backed into a corner and, as the stronger state, Germany prevailed.
This is as far from what Germany wanted as can be imagined. But Greece could not live with German demands, and Germany could not live with Greek demands. In the end, the banking crisis gave Germany an irresistible tool. Now the circumstances demand that the Greeks accept austerity and transfer key elements of sovereignty to institutions under the control or heavy influence of the Germans.
The Greeks remember German occupation during WW II, and not with fondness. This deal could still come unraveled. The whole aricle is good, the situation is not.

The Fetal Tissue Issue

The conservative media is going nuts over Planned Parenthood supposedly selling organs from aborted fetuses, or wishing to do so. This seems to be missing the point, even if technically illegal.

Terminating a human life involuntarily is murder and abortion does terminate a fetus without its permission. Since abortions are legal (the Supremes say they are), the law must hold a fetus isn't human. Arguably Planned Parenthood selling fetal parts is no different than a barber selling swept-up hair trimmings. Or a manicurist selling fingernail trimmings, icky but not horrid.

If a fetus isn't human, then it is similar to hair or fingernails. Something grown by a human which that person chooses to have severed and disposed of. Whether it be incinerated or dumped in a landfill or used in research and/or medicine shouldn't matter very much.

That we don't feel the same about fetal parts is that we recognize their incipient humanity. The real argument is when does humanity begin? At conception, at heartbeat start, or whenever?

This question poses a slippery slope. If you pick "at conception" several forms of birth control become unlawful as they prevent a fertilized egg from implanting on the uterine wall, causing it to die.

I don't have an answer to when life begins but I believe how to dispose of fetal tissue is the wrong question. For that already dead, never-independently-human-in-the-eyes-of-the-law tissue the decision is essentially irrelevant.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

No Fruit & Vegies Please, We're Americans

RealClearScience reports few Americans eat a dietitian's idea of enough fruits and vegetables. Some 13.1% eat enough fruit and 8.9% eat enough vegetables.

The article finds so-called "food deserts" do exist. These are places where fresh fruits and vegetables are scarce or nonexistent in markets.

The probable reason for their absence is a lack of demand by the region's residents. Stores don't carry produce for which there is little or no demand. Too much would be thrown away unsold as overripe, or spoiled. They conclude:
Even states with fantastic access to fresh food, such as New York and California, still exhibit pathetically low rates of fruit and vegetable intake. The reality, it seems, is that most Americans prefer to eat an unhealthy diet, even if other choices are available.
We are mostly a meat, potatoes and snack food nation. Happily so, if not healthily so.

Snark Award

Daniel Greenfield, writing for FrontPage Magazine, dumps on Secretary of State John Kerry who is bragging about his deal with Iran.
The latest worthless agreement with a murderous dictatorship is being brandished by John Kerry, a man who instinctively seeks out dishonor the way a pig roots for truffles.
I conclude Greenfield doesn't much care for Kerry. He wins our Snark Award for July to-date.

The Primary Horserace

The Suffolk University/USA Today poll is out ranking the GOP presidential nomination aspirants. Trump is in the lead with 17%, followed by Bush with 14%.

New entrant Walker has 8%, trailed by Cruz with 6%, Rubio with 5%, while Carson, Paul, and Huckabee all have 4%. Christie gets 3% and everyone else gets less than 2%.

In addition to the highest positives, Trump also has the highest negatives, with 61%. It is worth noting that 30% of GOP voters have yet to select a favorite.

War Clouds Gather in Asia

Asia is engaging in the sort of military build-up often is a precursor to war. China's activities in the South and East China Seas, building island bases and claiming the entire area as within their self-defense zone, are well-known. Japan is reported adding naval warships and aircraft to its armaments.

Less well-known are India's activities in building military capabilities in the Nicobar and Andaman islands. The Indian military is lengthening runways on air bases, improving harbors, and adding a second brigade of troops to the islands' garrison. See a Reuters story at Yahoo News.

The Philippines have their own military moves underway, and Vietnam is buying submarines. Plus Taiwan continues to seek military equipment. Tiny but wealthy Singapore is well-armed, flying up-to-date jets and operating high-tech naval patrols.

Vic Hanson, in the post below, says he'd not be surprised if there was shooting in the region a year from now. Sadly, we agree.

This is Calm?

National Review's Victor Davis Hanson examines the four international challenges facing the U.S. today: Russia, China, Iran, and ISIS. About Iran he wisely notes:
It is a self-proclaimed revolutionary theocracy, with periodic fits of end-of-days rhetoric. Whether these are genuine expressions of a looming twelfth-imam apocalypse or simply feigned bouts of lunacy that are useful strategies in nuclear poker, no one quite can be sure.
We dismiss religious leaders as not believing the dogma they preach; whether this is true of Iran's ayatollahs is unknown, perhaps unknowable. Nation-as-suicide-bomber is a bizarre concept, but not beyond possibility. About the four threats, he concludes:
All the threats are distinct but also opportunistic and interrelated. A phony red line, an empty step-over line, a serially repeated deadline against any one threat only encourages the other three to become bolder. In contrast, firmness against one aggression lessens the likelihood that there will be further aggrandizement elsewhere.

If this administration is not careful, by next year it may find ISIS at the gates of Baghdad, Russian forces massing on the border of Estonia, Japan and China shooting at each other over disputed air and sea space, and Iran stockpiling its growing enriched-uranium supplies for a not too distant multi-bomb nuclear rollout. We think the world is growing tense; in fact, it is only the calm before the storm.
Normally downbeat Hanson is a super-jeremiah in this column.

Walker's Announcement

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel carries the complete text of Governor Scott Walker's speech tonight announcing his candidacy for the GOP nomination for President. It's too long and too discursive, but I didn't see much there with which I disagreed. No deal breakers.

If you are a glutton for punishment, read the whole thing. If not, see the summary in a paper in whose reportage you have at least some faith, perhaps the Wall Street Journal or the Orange County Register.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Obama's Deafening Silence on the Steinle Murder

We cited a quote a day or two ago to the effect that the White House was complicit in the Kate Steinle murder. Noting Obama's heartfelt laments for Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and Freddie Gray, Marc A. Thiessen writes in The Washington Post:
After Kathryn Steinle was killed July 1, allegedly by an illegal immigrant with seven felony convictions, Obama said . . . nothing.

No promises of “justice.” No calls for “soul-searching.” His silence has been deafening.

On May 28, Sarah Saldana, director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, admitted in a letter to Sens. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) that between fiscal years 2010 and 2014, the Obama administration had released “121 unique criminal aliens who had an active [deportation] case at the time of release and were subsequently charged with homicide-related offenses.”

Think about that: 121 times over the past four years, the administration has released an illegal immigrant with prior criminal convictions who went on to be charged with murder. That is one every 12 days.

No wonder Obama is silent.
All of that, plus Steinle was white. Obama's behavior suggests only "black lives matter" to him. Our president is a racist.

Walker Is In

The Associated Press (and other outlets) report Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has announced his expected candidacy for the Republican nomination for the presidency in 2016. With a public union-busting record and successful championship of a state right-to-work law, he is a candidate with formidable conservative accomplishments.

If today I was forced to choose one of the gaggle as the GOP nominee, Walker would get the nod. We'll see how the primary season plays out for him, and for the others too.

The Untouchable Issue

Glenn Reynolds, who blogs as Instapundit, writes a weekly column for USA Today. This week he finds Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump fulfilling similar roles in their two parties - speaking for the interests of substantial blocs of voters for whom mainstream candidates will not speak.
The GOP establishment likes open borders because its big corporate donors want cheap labor. (The Democratic establishment likes open borders because immigrants usually vote Democratic.) But many ordinary Americans — mostly, but not at all exclusively, Republicans — wonder what's in it for them. More immigrants means more competition for jobs, pushing wages down, whether it's at entry-level unskilled jobs, or at the higher-level tech jobs where employers abuse H1B visas to bring in cheap foreign labor.

Most GOP pols won't touch this issue, which pairs the risk of scaring off immigration-dependent donors with the added danger of being called racist by Democrats. Trump doesn't care, so he is willing to raise the issue anyway. And he has done so effectively.
For us non-oligarchs, the cheap labor prized by big GOP donors is just unwanted competition in the labor markets. Their interests and ours, if not diametrically opposed, are at least in conflict. They, however, pay the piper and call plenty of tunes, hence Jeb Bush's fabulous fund-raising.

Meanwhile my nephew, drawing a six figure salary, is just about the only non-Indian in his IT unit in CA. Talk about H1B abuse. It is a real thing.

Don't Flee to Canada

Canada is no longer a haven for military deserters, reports the Associated Press. Deserters are being sent back to the States to face trial and imprisonment.

The Canadian change in policy makes absolute sense. Where formerly Canada was a place for those choosing not to be drafted to be soldiers, now there is no draft to escape.

Today's deserter is a military volunteer who changed his or her mind. Presumably he or she wanted a military career that didn't include going to war, or at least a particular war the individual finds offensive.

Contract law suggests both parties were willing participants. The enlistee agreed to go where sent, often into harm's way - where the military earns its pay.

Unwilling to go in harm's way? Don't enlist or reenlist. End of story.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Fiorina: Secure the Border

Instapundit Glenn Reynolds quotes presidential candidate Carly Fiorina on the subject of illegal immigration:
Donald Trump taps into an anger that I hear every day. People are angry that a commonsense thing like securing the border or ending sanctuary cities is somehow considered extreme. It’s not extreme, it’s commonsense. We need to secure the border.
When Fiorina says we need to secure the border, it doesn't sound extreme or reprehensible. You go, girl.

Hillary Defenestrated, Donald Defended

The nearly always quotable Mark Steyn, writes about the presidential race at his blog, SteynOnline. Some choice tidbits:
Hillary is a wooden charmless stiff who supposedly has enough money to be carefully managed across the finish line. But that requires Democratic electors to agree to be managed, too, and the Sanders surge is a strong sign that, while they're relaxed about voting for an unprincipled arrogant phony marinated in ever more malodorous and toxic corruption, they draw the line at such a tedious and charisma-free specimen thereof.

The same media that dismiss Trump as an empty reality-show vanity candidate are now denouncing him for bringing up the only real policy question in the race so far. What he said may or may not be offensive, but it happens to be true: America has more Mexicans than anybody needs, and then some. It certainly has more unskilled Mexicans than any country needs, including countries whose names begin with "Mex-" and end in "-ico". And it has far more criminal Mexicans than anybody needs, which is why they make up 71 per cent of the foreign inmates in federal jails.

Kate Steinle is dead because the entire Democratic Party, two-thirds of the Republican Party and 100 per cent of the diseased federal-state-municipal bureaucracy prioritizes myths over reality. Yes, it's distressing to persons of taste and discrimination that the only person willing to address that reality is Donald Trump.
Mark seldom pulls his punches. The rest of the column is worth your time as well.

Never a President Trump

Also in the Miami Herald, Carl Hiassen writes that Trump will never be president, and Carl is probably correct. And that raises the question, why are so many saying they like Trump?

The probable answer is that he's the only presidential candidate talking first and foremost about stopping illegal immigration. It's something the Republican base cares much more about than most other GOP candidates seem to realize or be willing to acknowledge. Other than the immigration issue, Trump is merely a celebrity, a personality, someone famous for being famous.

The obvious solution to the GOP's "Trump problem" is for one or more feasible candidates to take a similar, if less crudely stated, position on immigration. Then Trump fades away, I believe.

Oppenheimer: Greece ≠ Argentina

With considerable insight, Andres Oppenheimer writes about Latin America for the Miami Herald. Here he responds to pundits comparing the economic crisis in Greece to that Argentina went through in recent years. He agrees with parts of this comparison.
Greece and Argentina have a lot in common, including a tradition of living beyond their means, massive corruption, and a failure to improve their education and innovation systems to become competitive in the new global knowledge economy.
COTTonLINE adds the two countries also share a post-WW II history of military coups brought on by the sort of dysfunctional civilian governments both countries "enjoy" today. Oppenheimer disagrees with the similar outcomes predicted:
But Greece can’t expect to benefit from the same external headwinds (sic) that helped Argentina emerge from its 2001 default. There is an odd chance that Greece could be rescued by bankrupt Russia, but it would be difficult. Most likely, barring a realistic agreement with its EU partners, a Greek decision to cut itself loose from the Eurozone would deepen its current crisis.
Actually, I believe Oppenheimer meant "tailwinds." They are generally thought helpful by both sailors and pilots. It is easier to move with the wind than fight it.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Falling From the Sky

The Week reports the Russian Air Force has been flying its planes hard to harass the U.S. and the various U.S. allies around its borders. In the past week several have crashed fatally.

Yes, the planes have been busy, and as the article says, they tend to be old planes, dating from the Soviet days. I suspect another factor not mentioned in the article is also to blame.

Several years ago the other DrC and I did a river cruise in Russia - St. Petersburg to Moscow, stopping at a couple of cities along the way. Something we noticed in Moscow and the other Russian cities we visited - apartment buildings apparently receive nearly zero maintenance.

Everything from the Soviet era looked immensely run down. It would appear nobody ever paints a building, or washes a window or ... you name it. Broken windows get fixed, but beyond that, just about zip.

If what we saw represents the standard Russians apply to keeping up their assets, I expect their aircraft aren't much cared for. I can imagine it is easier (and cheaper) to bribe an inspector than to actually do the required and recommended maintenance on aircraft. Remind me not to fly Aeroflot.

Brother Putin is trying to run a world power on the cheap, particularly in this era of low oil prices. New planes seem not to be in the Russian budget.

L.A. Crime Up

Reacting to Ferguson and complaints about broken window policing, Los Angeles changed a number of property and drug crimes from felonies to misdemeanors. Plus, the Police Commission overruled the Chief's conclusion an officer-involved shooting was justified.

As a result, the number of people in prison is down, as is police morale. See a City Journal article by a pseudonymous LA cop.

Would you guess crime is up? Of course you would, as would I. And we'd both be correct.

When the brass don't support the police they start playing it safe, ignoring suspicious stuff and people, responding only to 911 calls. This does little to disincentivize criminals who default to their normal behavior and, viola, more crime.

Presumably the people of LA will need to tire of the ugliness and demand better law enforcement. No one knows how long this process will take or how many of their fellows will have to die who otherwise would have lived.

A Misguided War on Suburbs

COTTonLINE's favorite demographer, Joel Kotkin, writes for RealClearPolitics about the Democrats and planning community's war on the suburbs, and on those who would live there. Kotkin concludes attacking present and future suburbanites is Democrat political suicide.

Contrary to those who would Europeanize us, Kotkin shows Americans don't want to live with urban densities. Suburbs are no longer lily white, many successful minorities have happily moved there. And suburbs tend to be less unequal economically than urban centers.

When your opponent is shooting himself in the foot, the last thing you want to do is yell "stop." I hope Democrats keep beating up on suburbs. Every suburbanite they tick off is a winnable voter for conservative causes. It may be how the GOP finally attracts minority voters.

We Are the JV Team

Ralph Peters comments on defense for the New York Post. In today's column, he asserts that in the battle with ISIS, the U.S. is the JV team and they are the experts, we're losing and they're winning.

He defends that claim by showing how we are playing patty-cake while they are playing hardball. With all our technological prowess, we can't keep them from using electronic media to reach recruits, advertise their conquests, and terrorize those in ISIS' path. See Peters' description of their recruiting pitch:
While our “elites” no longer comprehend religious zeal, ISIS lives it — and wields it on impressionable young Muslims around the globe.

Its recruiting campaign is brilliant — cheap and effective — offering young misfits entry into the ultimate boys’ club, where Allah gives you a license not only to kill, but to torture, rape and enslave.

If you’re killed, you go to paradise. Our counter-offer is minimum-wage jobs.

And if you can’t make it to the ruins of Syria or Iraq, you get full points for terrorist acts at home.
In other words, ISIS jihadis are latter-day Crusaders. They have God in their hearts, blood on their swords and lust in their jeans. We worry about killing Arab civilians; they worry about finding more victims - military or civilian - to kill, rape or enslave.

ISIS uses a unique mix of asymmetric warfare and regular military tactics, in combination. Quite often suicide bombers soften up targets before regular troops and armor attack. Plus, publicizing the torture/murder of prisoners generates mass enemy desertions before a battle begins.