Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Creating the Thing You Fear

Dilbert creator Scott Adams is one of the most entertaining yet accurate pundits commenting on our national politics. See this from his latest:
Now you have literally millions of citizens in the United States who were either right about Trump being the next Hitler, and we will see that behavior emerge from him soon, or they are complete morons. That’s a trigger for cognitive dissonance. The science says these frightened folks will start interpreting all they see as Hitler behavior no matter how ridiculous it might seem to the objective observer.

Trump’s critics have evolved from expecting Trump to be Hitler to preferring it. Obviously they don’t prefer it in a conscious way. But the alternative to Trump becoming Hitler is that they have to live out the rest of their lives as confirmed morons.

No one wants to be a confirmed moron. And certainly not after announcing their Trump opinions in public and demonstrating in the streets. It would be a total embarrassment for the anti-Trumpers to learn that Trump is just trying to do a good job for America. It’s a threat to their egos.

The protesters need to be proven right, and they will do whatever it takes to make that happen. So you might see the protesters inadvertently create the police state they fear.
Perhaps good sense will prevail? Nah ... no chance, hating is too much fun.

A Fair Summary

Chris Cillizza of The Washington Post summarizes Trump's first week in office:
The 45th president campaigned as a radical break from both politics and policy as usual in Washington, promising to restore strength to the White House and the country while ignoring all tradition and political correctness.

He spent the first week of his presidency doing just that — beginning with an executive order triggering the United States’s withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, continuing through a midweek executive order to begin the process of building a wall along our southern border and culminating Friday with Trump’s executive order temporarily halting refugees from entering the country and instituting a full entrance ban on visitors from seven predominantly Muslim countries.
Pundits who warned Trump's followers he'd never deliver on his campaign promises have been proven wrong again. Snide question: when have they been correct is recent months? Accurate answer: never.

Public Supports Trump Immigration Action

PJ Media links to a quite recent Rasmussen poll on public attitudes toward Trump's curtailment of immigration from terror-prone nations selected by the Obama administration. Rasmussen writes:
A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey finds that 57% of Likely U.S. Voters favor a temporary ban on refugees from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen until the federal government approves its ability to screen out potential terrorists from coming here.

Most voters opposed former President Obama’s plan to bring tens of thousands of Middle Eastern and African refugees here this year. Sixty-two percent (62%) said Obama’s plan posed an increased national security risk to the United States.
Meanwhile the Democrats and their fellow-travelers in the old media are having yet another hissy fit.

Later ... Quinnipiac University - a well-known polling operation - finds the same thing.
American voters support 48 - 42 percent "suspending immigration from 'terror prone' regions, even if it means turning away refugees from those regions.
A majority of the people side with Trump.

Monday, January 30, 2017

So Far, So Good

Donald Trump's first few days have been a blast. Even his temporary ban on entrants from iffy places like Syria makes sense, tho it could have been more smoothly implemented.

The people Trump is driving crazy are exactly the people who richly deserve that fate. Their angst is my joy, I hope he piles it on, keeps up the frenetic pace.

My guess is what we're seeing will be the emerging "Trump style" - act and let others clean up the resultant messes. Momentum is its own reward, moving too fast for the naysayers to keep up.

A Go-To-Blazes History of Rednecks

We don't have to be serious all the damn time, I want to put you next to some fun. A good ol' boy named Joe Bob Briggs has written what he calls "A Brief History of the Redneck" for Taki's Magazine, and it is a hoot. Here's a sample:
There’s a direct line from the Presbyterian Church to the Ulster wars to the Whiskey Rebellion to bib overalls to moonshine to country music to NASCAR to the ability to vote for Trump while simultaneously despising him.
Most Southern politicians know that rednecks might be just a little crazy. Because the redneck alpha male is paranoid. All these Scots-Irish whiskey farmers have been hounded by kings, presidents, and revenue agents for 400 years. They assume anyone they don’t know is probably gonna kill ’em. So they’re secretive, sneaky, and hair-trigger violent.
Joe Bob proudly claims to be a redneck member in good standing. He traces the roots of the Scots Irish Protestants from the violent borderer lowlands on both sides of Hadrian's Wall, through Ulster, to Appalachia and beyond.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

New Broom at UN

It has been widely noted that newly sworn-in United Nations ambassador and former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley has taken a salty stance via-a-via the U.N. The New York Post reports she said the following with regard to other member nations.
For those that don’t have our back, we’re taking names.
I'm loving it. That is the Trump style - hit back twice as hard. We've been the world's patsy entirely too much the past 8 years.

MSM as Infomercial

Former Breitbart editor and White House policy advisor Steve Bannon recently told the old media to "shut up and listen more" or words to that effect. Lots of press agonizing about this expression of good sense suggests a translation is needed.

The press cannot literally "shut up" as that would require them to go out of business, which Bannon was not suggesting. Given how badly they missed the outcome of the recent election, listening more is obviously needed. The collective reportorial failure of the old media to sense the 2016 election outcome was both massive and unprecedented.

The "shut up" comment was twofold. Firstly, you can't listen while talking, and more listening is overwhelmingly indicated. Secondly, Bannon was suggesting less telling people "how" to interpret events.

He prescribed more emphasis on what, who, when, and where, and less "spinning" of why. More reporting, less editorializing; more news, less opinion. His boss is making plenty of news, it needs reporting.

We Americans are past masters at ignoring commercials and sales pitches, we get so much practice. If the old media chooses to become not a source of information but instead an progressive infomercial, they shouldn't be surprised if readership and viewship go in the toilet.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Week One: A Whirlwind in Office

If you've been paying attention, you know President Trump has been very active in his first week in office. He is also having too much fun gaslighting the press, who are constitutionally unable to ignore his taunts and outrageous exaggerations.

Back when we made the comparison to Teddy Roosevelt, we said we suspected he would be a similar perpetual-motion machine in office. So far, he is exactly that.

Like self-made super-successes everywhere, he is constantly in motion, doing, adjusting, selling, and planning. Count on it, he wakes in the morning thinking about what he can get done today before lunch, and after, and looks upon the prospect with relish, with enthusiasm.

Take it from an old management prof, you don't get to be a Donald Trump by relaxing and kicking back, or by hanging out and playing. You get there because you work harder, and smarter, and more hours too, than the competition. You need more than a little luck, which he also has.

If you are good at selling (he is) you are also good at reading people, knowing what they're thinking, how they are receiving what you're delivering, Things Trump has said make it clear he is constantly evaluating how his shtick is playing with the audience.

Alternative Histories, Future Tense

Those favoring California's exit from the United States, the so-called "Calxexit," have qualified to collect signatures to put the issue on the 2018 ballot in the Golden State, according to the Sacramento Bee. Let's imagine for a moment they get enough signatures, put it on the ballot, and it passes. Offhand, I see two likely scenarios.

I fantasize California's then-Governor declaring independence. President Trump, harking back to the example of President Lincoln, declaring that action invalid and placing CA under martial law.

Imagine "Reconstruction II" overseen by General Mattis. Trying the governor and others who actively advocated secession as traitors. Internment camps for rebels, former rebels fleeing to Canada and Mexico.

OR, imagine that Trump says "Don't let the doorknob hit you in the backside on your way out." He then turns off the federal tap, evacuates the military and border patrol from their many CA bases, and sets up custom posts and border controls along the new border.

Absent CA's huge liberal vote, the GOP then wins the next four presidential elections. CA opens its borders and becomes a third world country, see the Matt Damon film Elysium for one view of how this might look.

If I weren't so lazy, I'd write novels about these dystopian futures. I offer them to you as ready-made plot outlines, no charge.

More on Illegal Voting

Two days ago we wrote about ineligible voters. Today one of the authors of that Old Dominion research report chimes in via The Washington Times with what he believes the magnitude of that vote might have been.
Based on national polling by a consortium of universities, a report by Mr. Richman said 6.4 percent of the estimated 20 million adult noncitizens in the U.S. voted in November. He extrapolated that that percentage would have added 834,381 net votes for Mrs. Clinton, who received about 2.8 million more votes than Mr. Trump.

Mr. Richman calculated that Mrs. Clinton would have collected 81 percent of noncitizen votes.

“Is it plausible that non-citizen votes added to Clinton’s margin? Yes,” Mr. Richman wrote. “Is it plausible that non-citizen votes account for the entire nation-wide popular vote margin held by Clinton? Not at all.”
Richman's numbers don't include the illegal votes of dead people, ineligible convicted felons and those registered to vote in more than one state. It is likely Trump has exaggerated the impact of illegal voting, which nevertheless remains a serious problem worthy of investigation.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Review: Rogue One

The DrsC saw Rogue One a couple of nights ago, it is a sidebar to the Star Wars series. The visuals are stunning, the plot is nearly nonexistent.

I suppose if you're a Star Wars fan you've already seen it. We missed it as I believe we were on a cruise ship when it opened; it's taken us this long to put together time, place, and inclination to finally see it.

Driving 'home' to our RV, we asked and answered the key question: Was it worth seeing? We answered "yes" with reservations.

We had an evening to kill as a storm-driven power outage put our TV out of commission and left us in the dark. Of the films available, it was the least bad choice. It was a pleasant-enough way to kill a couple of hours, but it isn't an especially good film.

We liked the creatures, the various planets, and the space ships. The bazaar scenes hold the same fascination the Mos Eisley cantina scene had way back when.

Some of the human characters might have been interesting but we hardly got to know them. Spoiler alert, several key people die at the end, so we never will.

Bottom line verdict: blatant milking of the franchise to wring out a few more million.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

NATO Getting Serious

We've written about Trump's criticism of "free-riding" by NATO countries, not living up to their treaty agreement to spend at least 2% of GDP on defense. His comments are already having an effect.

See an article at The Cipher Brief concerning increased defense spending and activity in the Baltic republics: Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. Key quote:
By 2018, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are all set to spend at least 2 percent of GDP on defense – the NATO defense spending goal agreed to by all members as requisite for equal and sufficient contribution to the transatlantic security alliance.
Poland, always at risk in the precarious "neighborhood" between Russia and Germany, has also stepped up its defense spending.

Obama's Unpopularity

Investor's Business Daily reports the results of a Gallup look at average popularity ratings for presidents going back to Truman. The findings contradict press claims of Obama's popularity.
Only three presidents scored worse than Obama since Gallup started doing these surveys in 1945: never-elected Gerald Ford (47.2%), one-termer Jimmy Carter (45.4%), and Harry Truman (45.4%).
Considering Obama almost single-handedly decimated the Democratic Party, you'd think he'd be more popular with Republicans. Such ingratitude. Hat tip to Lucianne.com for the link.

Ineligible Voters

Donald Trump claims substantial numbers of non-citizens voted last November and proposes a study to understand the dimensions of the problem. The old media claims this is nonsense, that there is no evidence for the claim.

Two researchers at Old Dominion University have studied the issue and published their findings in the scholarly journal Electoral Studies. The Daily Caller reports they found:
We find that some non-citizens participate in U.S. elections, and that this participation has been large enough to change meaningful election outcomes including Electoral College votes, and Congressional elections. Non-citizen votes likely gave Senate Democrats the pivotal 60th vote needed to overcome filibusters in order to pass health care reform and other Obama administration priorities in the 111th Congress.
To be fair, the article notes other scholars deny their finding. Still, it is worth investigating.

We've made registering and voting so ID-free essentially any scofflaw alien can vote, and all illegal aliens are scofflaws. I'll be surprised if we determine almost none voted.

Money Not the Issue

The Washington Post, which loved Obama, reports the administration's failure to raise the performance of failing public schools.
One of the Obama administration’s signature efforts in education, which pumped billions of federal dollars into overhauling the nation’s worst schools, failed to produce meaningful results, according to a federal analysis.

Test scores, graduation rates and college enrollment were no different in schools that received money through the School Improvement Grants program — the largest federal investment ever targeted to failing schools — than in schools that did not.
The schools' problem is not money; the problem is far too many students who, for a variety of reasons, have no interest in learning. Behaving disruptively, they make it nearly impossible for the others to learn.

Unwillingness to confront this reality is widespread. Almost nobody likes the policies which logically flow from this diagnosis.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Loathing on Display

Writing for Politico Magazine, Michael Kruse stumbles across some truth while bewailing the angst felt by rural liberals.
People in rural areas all over America loathe Washington and New York and San Francisco and Hollywood and finally had a chance to show it in a big way.
That's a good place to begin to understand what happened. There's more, but start there. Us rural folk don't so much hate them as we hate them telling us we have to like what they like. We clearly don't.

Later ... that Kruse article is a good one, relatively balanced for Politico. You might want to read the whole thing, however it isn't short.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Headline I Wish I'd Thought Of

Both the New York Post and New York Daily News headlined yesterday identically, as follows:
The Don of a New Day
Clever, I wish I'd thought of that myself. Hat tip to Drudge Report for showing both.

Friday, January 20, 2017

A Natural Gerrymander

RealClearPolitics' Sean Trende and David Byler analyze the most recent several elections and reach some interesting conclusions concerning geography and politics which help us understand why the GOP does well.
There are only nine “mega-cities” in America: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Miami, Atlanta, Houston, and Dallas. These, in turn, affect 11 states: New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, California, Illinois, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Florida, Georgia and Texas.

In seven of these states, further growth in this area does no good for Democrats, as they are already blue. In three others (Pennsylvania, Florida and Georgia), the rural areas, towns, and small cities cast enough votes to outvote the mega-city. The final one – Texas – may be the key to a Democratic majority down the road, but Hillary Clinton still lost it by nine points, with a lot of Romney’s votes going to third party candidates. Put differently, the place where the Democratic coalition is growing the most does them the least good, electorally speaking.

But if it causes problems in the Electoral College, it wreaks havoc in the Senate, House, and state legislatures. While only 11 states have mega-cities, 18 states have neither mega-cities nor large cities. To put this in perspective, a party that sweeps the rural and town-dominated states starts out with 36 Senate seats. This won’t happen, of course – Vermont isn’t going Republican any time soon – but Republicans also have a solid foundation in states with large cities, like Oklahoma and Kansas. Because of the Democrats’ concentration in cities, and because of the concentration of the urban vote in relatively few states, the Senate is now a natural Republican gerrymander.

The President's First Speech

If you didn't get a chance to hear Donald Trump's speech at the inauguration, do yourself a favor and read it verbatim at the CNBC website. I enjoyed reading it, and I had heard it earlier live.

Some have criticized it as basically a campaign speech. That wasn't my reaction, nor that of the other DrC. One nice feature, it is relatively short and to the point.

Literally and Seriously

Writing in The Atlantic, Salena Zito describes the disconnect between the media and Donald Trump's many supporters:
The press takes him literally, but not seriously; his supporters take him seriously, but not literally.
During his inauguration today, several talking heads mentioned how Trump first establishes strong talking points, like the negotiator he is first and foremost. He then negotiates the best deal he can get which may involve some compromise of those original points. We get it, the press doesn't.

Obama's Two Word Legacy

Spoken during Fox News' coverage of today's inauguration - Brit Hume's two word statement of the legacy of President Obama.
Donald Trump
Eight years of the supposedly popular Barack Hussein Obama nearly destroyed the Democratic Party.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Canada Gets Own Trump

Canada's National Post reports a TV personality named Kevin O'Leary looks to be the frontrunner for leadership of their conservative Tory Party. He appears on the ABC reality program Shark Tank.

He doesn't yet have the party leadership. If O'Leary wins it, in a parliamentary system like Canada's, he would become Prime Minister in the event they win the next parliamentary election to be held no later than 2019.

O'Leary isn't as rich as Trump, but then few are. He certainly is worth many millions of dollars. Like Trump, O'Leary has had a checkered entrepreneurial and executive career littered with both successes and failures.

Face it, most business start-ups fail. That's the genius of the marketplace, it's a brutal winnowing process, a real survival-of-the-fittest.

Kevin O'Leary sounds like an interesting guy. Without claiming more than very superficial knowledge, I wish him well. Hat tip to RealClearPolitics for the link.

Liberals Love Losers

Writing in the New York Post, Bob McManus explains, in his view, "Why liberals just love to set terrorists free." He's entitled to his opinion and I don't find it necessarily unpersuasive. However, I have my own view, which I will now, with your permission, share with you.

I believe progressives love to free terrorists because they have the sneaking hunch the terrorists were justified in doing the evil things they did. If liberals don't always agree with terrorists' extreme actions, they agree with many of their grievances.

Liberal/progressives start with the notion that our society is wrong, oppressive, unjust, and more than a little evil. To them the glass is always at least half empty. Radical means are justified to right its wrongs.

Conservatives are comfortable with our society which they view as decent, free, just, and pretty darn good. To them the glass is at least half full, maybe more. Therefore radical means are not justified, and terrorists should not be freed.

The appeal of Trump's "Make America Great Again" slogan to conservatives is his promise to undo the radical things progressives have done in pursuit of equal outcomes for all. Conservatives know equal outcomes are inherently unfair as they are not proportional to the recipients' efforts and accomplishments.

Bottom line: Liberals view individuals as pawns, without agency, buffeted hither and thither by cruel fortune. Conservatives view individuals as captains of their own fate, essentially meriting in most cases what they end up with, good or bad. Pawns don't deserve punishment, free individuals who screw up do.

Two Predictions

Lots of pundit predictions out there about this being "the most ominous inauguration ever." That's the conventional wisdom this January.

Because the conventional wisdom has been nearly universally wrong this political cycle, and because I'm a bit of a contrarian, I'm going to predict the promised trouble will be as big a bust as Y2K, a real nothingburger.  Helping me in reaching this conclusion is the prediction for cold rain in the DC area on Friday.

When the time comes, many of the protestors will think about the misery of expressing their displeasure while holding an umbrella and decide to stay warm and dry watching it on TV. And, I suspect the women's march on the 21st will likewise be less-than-massive.

We'll soon know if I predicted correctly, or I have to admit I blew it. Check this space late Saturday.

Californians Support Deportation, Oppose Sanctuaries

Politico reports on the findings of a poll of CA voters done by the Hoover Institution and Stanford University. Some findings were not what you'd expect from the deep blue state.
On Trump’s plan to suspend immigration from countries with links to terrorism, a plurality of California voters, 42 percent, said it would make California “better off.” That compares to 35 percent who said “worse off,” and 23 percent who had no view.

Regarding the effects of Trump’s promise to deport illegal immigrants, 44 percent said it would make California “better off,’’ 39 percent said worse off,’’ and 18 percent undecided, the poll showed.

On Trump’s plan to end “sanctuary cities,’’ 41 percent expressed support, 36 percent said they were opposed, and 22 percent were undecided.
I predict CA Gov. Jerry Brown will ignore this evidence of voter disapproval of his program.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Rest of the Story

The late radio "drama queen" Paul Harvey would declaim, "and now...the rest of the story." Chances are, you heard him do it.

In the last few days you've heard that European leaders are "shocked, shocked" that Donald Trump has said NATO is "obsolete." Trump added NATO is "very unfair to the United States," which spends hugely to protect all 28 member nations.

Do you know what else he said at the same time? You don't? That's because the MSM didn't want to tell you the rest of the story. According to Paul Mirengoff of Power Line, Trump continued "With that being said, NATO is very important to me."

If NATO is "very important" to Donald Trump, why should European leaders be aghast at what he said? All he said was NATO needs to be modernized and made fair.

Their concern is he will demand they live up to their NATO treaty commitments to spend at least 2% of their GDP on defense. Their free-loading constituents have become accustomed to paying little for defense, and may throw them out of office if they try to raise defense spending.

They also fear Trump will demand they close their borders to Islamic refugees, some of whom are terrorists. Doing so would require actions they don't wish to undertake, perhaps their own "wall" or equivalent.

Monica Crowley Out

On Thursday we wrote about plagiarism allegations directed at Monica Crowley, whom Trump had thought to appoint as spokesperson for the National Security Council. Now comes word that she has decided to remain in New York and "pursue other opportunities."

Crowley made a good choice if, in fact, choice it was. She may be able to overcome the plagiarism stigma, presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin has done so to some degree.

However, Goodwin is liberal and they get cut more slack. As the old wheeze goes, if liberals didn't have double standards, they'd have no standards at all.

It's the Market, Stupid

Amid reports of staff and budget downsizing at The New York Times and The Washington Post and, truth be told, most other papers. Amid declining Nielsens for the network national news programs, we rise to ask why this is happening? Several reasons suggest themselves.

You can blame the 24 hour news cycle, the Internet and its "new media," or you can fall back on a far more basic idea: the market. Free consumers decide what to do with their eyeballs - what to read or watch.

The old media continues to deliver a homogenous blend of 'progressive' and politically correct pap, and the consumers aren't having it, thank you very much. Meanwhile two not-progressive venues - The Wall Street Journal and Fox News - are respectively the most widely circulated newspaper in the land and the nation's most watched cable news programs.

Coincidence? I think not. Old media needs to think about their offerings, and the market's demonstrated preferences, which are not similar.

Can old media reclaim their former market share? Unlikely. Can they stop the erosion? Probably not, they are unwilling to deliver what the market finds palatable.

Somewhere along the line the old media stopped being a business and became a liberal/progressive crusade, without realizing the change demands a new funding source. Ad revenue won't cut it, they need pledge drives and contributions from the virtue-signaling wealthy. Hyper-liberal PBS and NPR long since figured this out.

Lewis a Serial Boycotter

Congressman John Lewis (D-GA) has announced that he is boycotting the inauguration of Donald Trump, the Twitchy website quotes Lewis from NBC's Meet the Press as follows:
I don't plan to attend the inauguration...first one I miss since I been in Congress.
However, The Washington Post reported the following back in January 21, 2001, with regard to the Bush inauguration:
Some members of the Black Caucus decided to boycott Inauguration Day; John Lewis, for instance, spent the day in his Atlanta district.
Lewis missing a Republican inauguration is somewhat normal behavior for him, contrary to all the hullabaloo in the MSM. The inauguration will be no less formal and official for his absence, and he is certainly entitled to stay away if he chooses.

I do somewhat resent him lying about it being his first no-show, that is simply untrue. Perhaps at 76 he has become somewhat forgetful.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Schadenfreude on Steroids

There are dumb weapons which devastate everyone in the neighborhood, and precision or "smart" weapons that mostly attack the bad guys. Trump is a smart weapon, one with excellent targeting.

His election drives radical feminists, BLM activists, Hollywood's old-and-new-leftists, teachers' and civil servants' unions and most other progressives loudly and painfully insane. At the same time it leaves normal people mildly entertained or even enthused.

What a great deal this is, all the irritating idiots punished and all the good folk happy. You could hardly ask for a better outcome, or one with less collateral damage.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

21st Century Reality

The National Post (Canada) looks back at eight years of the Obama administration's foreign policy, and thinks some long thoughts about our time.
In this century it is becoming clear that the dominant geopolitical problem is not, as was once expected, the development of “rogue states” lying outside the world’s economic and security order. It is, rather, the existence of characteristically stateless parts of the world, ones that create the conditions for civilian massacres, genocide, and exported terrorism.

As Obama’s history already shows, the use of drones in such environments is virtually irresistible. It is inarguable, if the alternative is the demise of a religious minority or ethnic group; and it will win the argument, if the alternative consists of bombs going off in American shopping malls and football stadiums. The places without law will face judgment from the skies.
As inherently weaker forces, terrorists hide among the populace, putting everyone at risk. Warriors without uniforms turn their opponents into assassins, who hope to kill the dangerous 'civilians' without killing too many true noncombatants.

It is the ugliest form of war, very nearly the Hobbesian "war of all against all." In this mode the ultimate tactic is genocide, expressed in 'Nam hyperbole as "Kill 'em all. Let God sort 'em out."

Transferring Personal Popularity

Mediaite reports President Obama making the following comment on NBC's Dateline program:
I had trouble transferring my personal popularity or support to the broader cause of the Democratic party.
This caused me to ponder the irony that a supposedly popular president could not convince voters to elect Clinton who he described as the best-prepared candidate we've seen in a long time. Let's consider a politically incorrect thought, shall we?

Suppose the Bradley Effect works in two ways. The first is of course the original way in which voters report to pollsters they will vote for a black candidate for whom they have no intention of voting.

I hypothesize the second way is, when asked by pollsters their opinion of a black incumbent office holder, voters will voice approval-of-performance they do not, in fact, feel. The reason for making an incorrect statement is identical in both cases, namely a desire not to appear racially biased.

If the Bradley Effect works for both incumbents and candidates, then just maybe President Obama had substantially less "personal popularity" than pollsters reported. That would explain the "trouble" Obama claimed to have. Perhaps he couldn't transfer popularity he didn't actually have as his poll numbers were partially an artifact of social desirability bias.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Hanson: the Urban-Rural Divide

Historian Victor Davis Hanson, Hoover Institute sage and San Joaquin farm owner, comments for City Journal on the election won this past November by Donald Trump.
Donald Trump captured the twenty-first-century malaise of a rural America left behind by globalized coastal elites and largely ignored by the establishments of both political parties. Central to Trump’s electoral success, too, were age-old rural habits and values that tend to make the interior broadly conservative.

That a New York billionaire almost alone grasped how red-state America truly thought, talked, and acted, and adjusted his message and style accordingly, will remain one of the astonishing ironies of American political history.
In the process of building three homes the DrsC have found construction people to be very grounded individuals, sensible and no-nonsense. I've found more people I genuinely liked and admired in the skilled building crafts - carpenters, plumbers, electricians, painters, excavators - than among the college professors who were my colleagues.

As a builder of hotels and other big projects, Trump is accustomed to dealing with and talking to people in the construction trades. I wouldn't be at all surprised to learn he preferred their company to that of the fancy society people to whom his wealth has provided access.

Wisdom in the Age of Trump

Amy Walters, writing for the Cook Political Report, summarizes a discussion of the challenges facing each party in the next two years.
There is nothing traditional about Trump. Some days things are going to look totally familiar to those of us steeped in the ways of Washington. Other days they won’t. However, unconventional doesn’t always mean unsuccessful. Trump’s campaign was messy and unpredictable and at times surreal. But, it worked. Whether it continues to work in governing is something we can’t know now. And, we may not have a good grasp of for quite some time.
No question Trump is an innovator, something of a force of nature in politics. Those who love our country will wish him well, as we wished Obama well eight years ago.

Obama was a disappointment in so many ways. For all our sakes, let's hope Trump is the opposite - a pleasant surprise.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Hamlet in the White House

If you look hard enough, even anti-Trump MSM actors like The Washington Post can make some good points. For example, David Ignatius writes about the Russian hacking issue:
Why did the Obama administration wait so long to deal with Russia’s apparent hacking? This is the Hamlet puzzle in our drama. Like the prince of Denmark, President Obama delayed taking action even as evidence mounted of dastardly deeds. The first stories about Russian hacking broke in the summer. In September, the “Gang of Eight” — the top congressional leadership on intelligence — was getting detailed briefings on the hacking. The FBI by then had obtained the British ex-spy’s dossier.

The intelligence community issued a statement Oct. 7 charging that “Russia’s senior-most officials” had sought to “interfere with the U.S. election process.” Given that, why didn’t Obama do more?
Ignatius tries to answer this question but what he comes up with is it happened because "politics." That isn't good enough for a President.

Like all his predecessors, Obama swore to defend the country from enemies foreign and domestic. He concentrated too much on defense against domestic 'enemies' (Republicans) and not enough on the real foreign enemies like Russia.

Crazy Like a Fox

I think we can be certain Donald Trump doesn't want to get bogged down in a prosecution of Hillary Clinton. However, his supporters want exactly that, remember the shouts of "lock her up."

Now comes a story where the PEOTUS has tweeted she is "guilty as hell." I think it likely he does so to force Obama to pardon her, thus making prosecution impossible while bolstering his "she's guilty" narrative.

Are Scott Adams and I the only ones who think Trump is playing chess while everybody else is playing checkers? Let's see if he can sucker Obama into doing his bidding. Hat tip to Lucianne.com for the link.

Obama Writes Off Cuban Vote

The Democratic Party can't afford to write off groups of potential voters. Nevertheless President Obama just wrote off the Cuban vote.

See an Associated Press story at Yahoo News about the almost-history Obama administration killing the long-standing policy of automatic legal residency for Cubans who can reach the U.S.

The tough part of this policy change is the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Cubans who are in transit somewhere in Central America and Mexico. They left Cuba understanding U.S. policy to be an open door, and it changed while they were enroute.

Democrats have historically gotten fewer votes from Cuban-Americans than from other Hispanic-Americans, but there were reports of growing acceptance by younger Cubans. That trend, if it existed, is now dead. For Republicans, Obama is the gift that keeps on giving.

Oikophobia, Anyone?

Frequently cited Instapundit Glenn Reynolds writes, in USA Today, about oikophobia.
Roger Scruton coined the term “oikophobia” (from the Greek oikos for “home”) to describe the fear of one’s fellow countrymen.
Reynolds identifies the fear Clinton supporters have when finding themselves in the company of Trump supporters. He cites examples of them imagining Trump supporters to be rapists or anti-Semites, or worse.

This is the classic fear of the "other," pretty much hard-wired into humans. We've pressured Americans to deny having these fears, except in the case of lower-class whites against whom it is still okay to be prejudiced. His examples are funny and sad at the same time.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Hedging Global Warming

For over 20 years the DrsC have owned a home in the Rockies, over a mile high. We've never overwintered there, winters at 6000 ft. are both long and cold. Summers, on the other hand, are near-perfection, except they're too short.

Thinking recently about climate change and the persistent claims the world is warming, it occurred to me having a home where it's too cold too much of the year is a hedge against global warming. If the world warms, our place in Wyoming will become comfortable for more months per year.

If it gets too warm we might have to install an air conditioner, something neither of our houses there has ever had (or needed). I won't hold my breath waiting for AC to become necessary. Also, at that altitude a rising sea isn't much of a worry.

Identity Group Demography Overrated in Politics

Richard Alba, a senior sociologist at CUNY, writes in The Washington Post that the Democrats are relying too much on demographic change in the U.S. population. It may prove less determinative than had been previously thought.
This hope of an inexorable Democratic tide based on demography could easily be wrong, for at least two reasons.

First, the forecast of a majority-minority society in the near future is more problematic than has been commonly assumed.

Second, the progressive hope relies on precarious assumptions about the future behavior of minority voters. In particular, recent patterns of assimilation, especially among U.S.-born Asians and Latinos, complicate the white/minority division of the population. These patterns also suggest that assimilating voters may behave politically more like whites than the conventional wisdom allows.

The census data that these forecasts are based on exaggerate the extent of white demographic decline; even the prediction of a majority-minority society is not guaranteed. The reason lies in the census misclassifications of a fast-growing group of young Americans from ethno-racially mixed backgrounds.

This is important, because most partly white individuals behave like whites in sociological terms. They grow up in neighborhoods with many whites, have white friends as adults, think of themselves mostly as white or partly white, and marry whites. We don’t know yet whether they vote like sociologically similar whites, but it is quite plausible that they will.
Do you believe the Democrats can shake their addiction to identity group politics? I'm doubtful, they do love it so.

Serious Allegations

Monica Crowley, a Columbia University Ph.D. and frequent Fox News contributor, has been reported to have plagiarized substantial parts of her book, What The (bleep) Just Happened. Now CNN Money reports it has also been shown she plagiarized substantial portions of her Ph.D. dissertation.

She has been tentatively identified for a top role in the Trump White House as spokesperson for the National Security Council. If careful investigation demonstrates the truth of these charges, her appointment should be withdrawn.

Anybody can accidentally write a sentence someone else has written. However, the odds against writing an entire paragraph someone else wrote are astronomical.

CNN, whose reputation for careful vetting of stories is somewhat shaky, alleges some 40 examples of other people's work appearing in her dissertation without proper attribution. If true, the plagiarism should be a job-killer. Plagiarism is both theft of another's work and falsely asserting one's own eloquence.

On the other hand, it is possible CNN is spreading "fake news." We'll see what transpires.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Conservatives More Attractive

The Washington Post summarizes findings of a research report in the Journal of Public Economics. The research shows conservative politicians in the U.S., Australia, and Europe are more attractive people than their liberal or progressive opponents.

The findings are logical; conservatives generally favor less government meddling in society. Attractive people have been shown to have better life outcomes - earn more, achieve more, be more popular. Presumably they'd see less need for social change, experience life as more fair (to themselves at least).

Politics has been slandered as "showbiz for ugly people." Perhaps this is more true on the left than on the right, at least in recent decades.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Serendipity and Memory

The DrsC are in Burbank, CA, for a couple of days checking out the left coast version of the Universal Studios theme park. Having by accident eaten a big lunch, we ended up not wanting much supper so we decided on ice cream for 'supper.'

We looked up the nearest Baskin Robbins 31 Flavors store and quite by accident it turned out to be their "mother" store, Not only is the store on Victory Blvd. where they do their training of new franchisees, it is also where they showcase all their new product lines - pretty cool. If you like BR flavors, it is worth a visit. The only downside, the parking lot is tight for full sized pickup trucks - tight but doable.

About the CA version of Universal Studios, the tram-ride "studio tour" is unique because this location actually is a working movie and TV studio, several shows were shooting there today. The FL version is much more a theme park.

We are - atypically for Los Angeles - experiencing some rain yesterday and today, probably tomorrow too. While it is true that when rain comes to SoCal it normally comes in winter (Dec. - Mar.), more often than not little falls and drought results.

It's why the movie studios located here anyway, lots of good filming sunshine. Summer rain in CA is almost unknown; most summers see zero rain, falls and springs only experience slightly more. By contrast, FL gets rain almost daily in summer, with thunderstorms the norm.

A fun thing about visiting this region is my parents met and married here and I lived here as a small child. The unusual street and place names all ring bells in my way-back pre-puberty memories. I grew up hearing Victory Boulevard and Sepulveda, Cahuenga and Melrose, Mulholland and Lankershim, Tarzana and Reseda. It is the SoCal 'catechism' and it echoes in my skull.

Bourdain: Nice People in Gun-Country

Now and again a personage on the left writes something eminently sensible about the culture conflict in the U.S. Today's example is from TV foodie Anthony Bourdain, as quoted in Newsweek:
I've spent a lot of time in gun-country, god-fearing America. There are a hell of a lot of nice people out there, who are doing what everyone else in this world is trying to do: the best they can to get by, and take care of themselves and the people they love.... The self-congratulatory tone of the privileged left - just repeating and repeating and repeating the outrages of the opposition - this does not win hearts and minds.
Hear, hear.... Not being socially progressive globalists doesn't make gun-country patriots pond slime. Mrs. Clinton also discovered calling them names doesn't win their votes.

Airport Shooter Islamic

Judicial Watch, a website with a decent reputation, carries the story of the Orlando airport shooter's conversion to Islam and his various related activities thereafter. It begins to look like he sure enough was a terrorist, at least in his own mind.

That he converted to Islam nine years ago takes nothing away from the possibility that he is also nuttier than squirrel poo. The two things are not mutually exclusive.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Review: Fastastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

The Drs C, with friend Ed, saw this Harry Potter prequel flick earlier tonight, at the cinema at Universal Studios in Hollywood. It is visually stunning, the creatures are pretty good, the depiction of 1920s NYC is well done, and the sort-of love stories between two couples of socially awkward people "work" too.

However, the accents are mumbly, the story line is obscure, and J.K. Rowling's anti-Americanism is on display in the plotting. I could have done without all of that.

Dumbledore's schoolboy-crush-turned-nemesis Gellert Grindelwald makes an appearance as the villain, played by an actor apparently chosen for his resemblance to Mitt Romney. Casting a Romney-lookalike to act gay feels like covert homophobic snark by a progressive film-maker.

The studio made a deliberate choice to select very ordinary-looking people for most lead roles. This gets in the way a bit for an audience accustomed to Hollywood's casting of attractive people.

When the film becomes available on DVD I will buy it and watch it again with the subtitles on. Then at least I will know what people were saying. Whether doing so clears up the plot ambiguity remains to be determined.

Spengler: Looking Forward

Writing at PJ Media, David P. Goldman (Spengler) creates a long, carefully reasoned column about the natures of the U.S., China, and Russia and the concerns of each. A key point he makes is that both Russia and China are, in essence, paranoid - suspicious and fearful, with good reason.

Goldman notes common humanitarian gestures by the West are seen as threats to the continued existence of both, with negative results. His bottom line recommendation:
There are two basic rules for dealing with Russia and China which, if respected, will avoid tragic mistakes.

The first is that America must always negotiate from strength – real and overwhelming strength, not bluster. That means maintaining an insuperable edge in military technology. (Snip) During the past 15 years America has spent US$5 trillion on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars while gutting basic defense R&D. That has to reverse drastically.

The second is that America should NOT attempt to destabilize Russia or China – for example, by supporting restive Muslims against the Moscow and Beijing regimes.
And he concludes:
We should draw the lesson that Russia and China well may find areas of strategic cooperation with the United States, but that their incentive to seek such cooperation will rise in direct proportion to America’s technological edge.
Si vis pacem, para bellum: if you want peace, prepare for war. The wisdom is at least 2000 years old. Ask the Swiss if it is true.

The Winds of Change

On Friday we wrote about the sad state of U.S. department stores. Specialty stores are having difficulties too.

Today comes word women's clothing retailer The Limited will close all 250 of its stores and continue to operate only as an online marketer. See an Associated Press story on the Star-Telegram website. Hat tip to Lucianne.com for the link.

Many tens of thousands of low-level retail jobs are going away, being killed by the likes of Amazon. Savvy firms are following suit by going online.

It has to be good news for UPS and Fedex, maybe USPS too, as they get to deliver the goods, at least for now. Manufacturers of packing materials - cardboard boxes and bubble wrap - should do well, too.

Airport Shooter Addendum, with Caveat

Some of the less reputable news sources are reporting Esteban Santiago used the alias Aashik Hammad and posted Islamic stuff on social media. American Thinker has an example from Thomas Lifson, an unabashed right wing pundit. He quotes anti-Muslim activist Pamela Geller who writes:
Estaban Sanitago’s aka Aashiq Hammad's journey to Islam goes back at least 10 years. His MySpace page is eyeopening. More news the enemedia ignores, censors, scrubs – thanks to Charles Johnson over at Got News.
If true, Santiago is more than a recent nutcase looking to hook up with somebody evil. I am somewhat cautious about sources like these, which doesn't mean they're always wrong, just somewhat excitable and prone to conspiracy theories.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Selective Outrage

Democrats are exercised about Russian hacking of the DNC emails and the impact that conceivably might have had on an election they definitely lost. Why now?

Where was their outrage when some hackers, likely Chinese or Russian, broke into the records of the Office of Personnel Management? Those vandals stole the private information of some 20 million present and former Federal employees. In charge of the Executive Branch at the time, a Democrat named Obama.

I believe the OPM hack was demonstrably orders of magnitude more serious than John Podesta's emails. Both made Democrats look inept, or criminally negligent in the OPM case, but only the unimportant one has caused much outcry.

The inevitable conclusion: Democrats only care about losing elections, not about malfeasance in office.

More Downside

Lucianne.com links to Jeff Jacoby, writing in the Boston Globe (owned by the NYT), who describes what their headline calls "Obama's trail of disasters." Key points:
Obama took office during a painful recession and (with Congress’s help) made it even worse.

The 44th president came to office vowing not to repeat the foreign-policy mistakes of his predecessor. His own were exponentially worse.

According to Gallup, Obama became the most polarizing president in modern history.

It (his inauguration) was also the high point of Obama’s presidency. What followed, alas, was eight long years of disenchantment and incompetence. Our world today is more dangerous, our country more divided, our national mood more toxic.
In a liberal paper, that's a ringing indictment. Jacoby blames Obama for the election of Trump, which is an overreach in my opinion, although Obama certainly contributed thereto.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Democrats Foster Racism, Sexism

A couple of UMass profs and an outside pollster have co-authored a paper in which they find evidence that racism and sexism were factors in Trump's win, along with economic concerns. Vox has an article which, unsurprisingly, makes much of this finding.

I am inclined to believe this is probably true to some extent. Democrats spent eight years telling white Americans they are evil, vicious, and irredeemably biased and hooked on "white privilege." And telling white males they are also sexist pigs.

Do you suppose most white Americans replied "sure, that's me, I'm an evil slug"? Or do you think it more likely most whites said, to themselves if not to others, "not only hell no, but I really resent you for saying so,"

That's the trouble with identity group politics, you cozy up to one group by agreeing with them that they're victimized by another group. Your problem, the other group is listening and sees you taking sides against them.

In other words, identity group politics emphasizes what differentiates groups instead of what they have in common. It is disingenuous for Democrats to claim surprise when, mirable dictu, intergroup hostility grows worse. Democrats fostered it, and cannot now disavow it.

Talk about sowing the wind and reaping the whirlwind ... 2016 was that year for Democrats.

Preliminary Swamp Draining

Donald Trump has had the State Department notify all political appointee ambassadors their terms expire on Jan. 20 and they'd better be headed home ASAP as they have no official role (or residence) thereafter. This is excellent.

His next step should be a similar announcement to all Federal appointee (non-civil service) officials. Clear out the deadwood who would, if left in office, do their level best to sabotage the incoming administration.

The Downside

As his second term ends, President Obama is going to tell you just how wonderful he believes his eight years in office have been, Writing at Market Watch, Caroline Baum tells you all the things Barry O. won't mention, what has gone wrong during his eight years.

As people who've paid attention, COTTonLINE readers won't see much new, but she does an okay job of summarizing several big fails. A complete list of his screw-ups would be as tiresomely long as his two terms have been. Come Jan. 20, a new day dawns, and not a moment too soon.

More on Ft. Lauderdale

Updates on what I wrote earlier today: the shooter flew on Delta, not Air Canada, a one-stop flight from Anchorage to Ft. Lauderdale via Minneapolis, I think. With no stops in Canada, it is clear that he could check a firearm through to his destination in FL on a U.S. flight. It is alleged his gun case was the only baggage he checked ... nothing suspicious about that, right?

It is also now averred that some months ago the shooter walked into an FBI office in Anchorage claiming that U.S. intelligence agencies were forcing him to watch ISIS recruitment videos. He was taken for psych evaluation and declared (sic) not dangerous by someone who understood his/her job to be "move 'em out."

Apparently we're dealing with another 'known wolf,' someone the authorities had in their sights and let go for lack of immediate evidence of evil intent or of manpower, choose one.  Matt Drudge has a photo of the Puerto Rican shooter giving a jihadi hand sign and wearing something that could be one of their trademark scarfs.

Until we reopen the mental hospitals and resume warehousing sad, broken people like this, we'd better get over being shocked by the occasional shooting spree. It is our conscious choice to only corral them after they commit an atrocity.

Snark about locking barn doors after escaped horses seem appropriate in this context.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Airport Shooting

I've been watching the live video of the shooting incident at Ft. Lauderdale airport. It is claimed that the passenger on an Air Canada flight who had a checked firearm (handgun) claimed his luggage at the baggage carousel, took his baggage into the restroom, retrieved his gun, loaded it, and returned to the baggage claim area where he shot some 13-14 people waiting for their luggage, five fatally.

My initial question is this: Canada has very strict regulations of who can possess a hand gun. It's a really serious violation to try to bring one into Canada.

That suggests he did not check the gun in Canada, but possibly in Alaska where the gun regs. are much less strict, more like those in the lower 48. I'd like to know if this was a flight connecting from Alaska via some Canadian airport on to Ft. Lauderdale.

Bottom line: I don't see someone waltzing into a Canadian airport and checking a handgun and ammunition in their luggage. It is possible you could check a gun in AK if the luggage would never be in your possession until you claimed your luggage in FL. Let's see if that proves to be what happened.

Why Fox News Keeps Winning

Panning Fox News is a commonplace in the news business, largely because most outlets lean left and Fox leans right, but also because Fox is so dominant in cable news. Are you ready for an exception?

Writing at The Hill, Joe Concha spins a narrative that compares the serial successes of Fox News to the continuing successes of the University of Alabama football program. Written before the announcement of Martha MacCallum as Megyn Kelly's replacement, the tale he tells is one of the Fox organization picking talent and making smart choices.

Concha doesn't say so but perhaps some credit goes to the Murdochs. They own Fox and The Wall Street Journal, along with other media overseas.

Department Stores, R.I.P.

Investor's Business Daily reports further milestones along the road to irrelevancy for department stores.
Sears. Macy's. Kohl's. Traditional department store retailers have taken hard hits over the Christmas holidays, with sales lagging the generally robust performance of retailers overall. Now, these mall stalwarts are slashing thousands of jobs and hundreds of stores, trying to right-size themselves. It's no coincidence. A few years back, it was discounter Wal-Mart, the biggest retailer on earth, announcing it was closing 100 stores.

What's going on here? In a word, Amazon.com. The online e-retailing giant has become a dominant force in the retailing business, removing millions of customers from the nation's malls and letting them do their shopping online at bedrock discount prices. So-called brick-and-mortar stores are vulnerable to this technology-driven wave of "creative destruction" sweeping the industry.
My first job out of college - a lifetime ago - was at Macy's, it was dreary. Probably helped me decide to get more degrees, so not a total loss. Learning what you don't want to do for a living is important too.

California's Feudal Future

COTTonLINE's favorite demographer - Joel Kotkin - also chronicles California's peculiar path to the future. Writing for RealClearPolitics, he describes CA as headed on an idiosyncratic trajectory quite unlike that of the rest of the country. His title is timely: CA as Alt-America.
The two biggest points of contention going forward are likely to be climate change, which has come to dominate California’s policy agenda, and immigration, a critical issue to the rising Latino political class, Silicon Valley and the state’s entrenched progressive activists.

California’s recent economic success seemingly makes it a compelling “alt-America.” After a severe decline in the Great Recession, the economy has roared back, and since 2010 has outpaced the national average.

Indeed, a closer examination shows that the California “boom” is really about one region, the tech-rich San Francisco Bay Area, with roughly half the state’s job growth recorded there since 2007 even though the region accounts for barely a fifth of the state’s population.

According to the most recent Social Science Research Council report, the state overall suffers the greatest levels of income inequality in the nation; the Public Policy Institute places the gap well over 10 percent higher than the national average.

If California remains the technological leader, it is also becoming the harbinger of something else -- a kind of feudal society divided by a rich elite and a larger poverty class, while the middle class either struggles or leaves town.

Apologists suggest it’s only the poor and uneducated who are leaving, but it also turns out that California is losing affluent people just as rapidly, with the largest net loss occurring among those making between $100,000 and 200,000.

Coastal California is becoming the golden land for affluent baby boomers rather than young hipsters. Surfing dudes will increasingly be those with gray ponytails.

Instead of a role model for the future, the Golden State seems likely to become a cross between Hawaii and Tijuana, a land for the aging rich and their servants.
The area near Santa Barbara where we winter is exactly that: affluent old gringos and bright, hardworking young Hispanics. For now, the model seems to work.

A Herculean Task

Headline at the website Market Watch:
Apple cuts CEO Tim Cook's pay, citing performance
It turns out replacing Steve Jobs at Apple is either (a) very difficult or (b) impossible. Many successful startups are essentially the shadow cast by a towering founder, who as often as not proves irreplaceable.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Quote of the Day

Columnist Glenn Reynolds, aka Instapundit, writing in USA Today, about the meltdown of progressives following the Clinton loss.
A lot of people who cast their votes for Trump reluctantly are likely to conclude that they did the right thing, as Trump’s opposition (who during the election cast Trump as the unstable, crazy one) keeps going berserk.
To luxuriate in schadenfreude is wonderful.

By Land, If Not By Sea

An approach George Friedman didn't consider in his Geopolitical Futures article (see below) on Chinese reactions to possible trade embargoes and blockades is reflected in an article in This Is Money from the U.K. It reports on China's efforts to build a land route to trade with western Europe.
A diesel engine has set off from the manufacturing town of Yiwu in east China bound for Barking in London with 34 carriages and £4million of socks, clothes, bags and suitcases in tow. The trip will take it over mountain ranges, around deserts and across the vast Russian steppe.

The goods will finally arrive in Britain via the Channel Tunnel in a fortnight, after crossing seven countries. It is part of China's One Belt, One Road initiative, aimed at reviving the fortunes of the ancient Silk Road.

But the goods will have to be moved on to a selection of different carriages en route due to several changes in the gauge of the railway.
As an alternate outlet for China's manufactured goods, the rail route makes a blockade slightly less threatening. Rationalizing the various rail gauges would go a long way toward making this route truly practical and a real alternative to shipment by sea. Expect to see work on this trackage issue go forward.

Pickup Trucks

On Monday we wrote about our fondness for pickup trucks. Subsequently they've become a "thing" with people asking reporters if they even know anyone who owns a pickup, see a Washington Examiner article for some of this, more at The Federalist.

Inasmuch as pickups are the most popular vehicles sold in the U.S. you'd hope a reporter who wishes to understand what's happening in our culture could answer "yes." Most answered very defensively, which is to say their accurate answer, if given, would have been "no."

The other DrC and I bought our first pickup early in 1983 and have owned a series of 5 of them continuously to this day. Actually, I'm sitting in my 2015 F-350 diesel 4x4 as I write this.

It is a sweetheart of a truck - comfy, powerful, relatively quiet, and semi-huge with seating for 5 and an 8' bed. It will pull our 35' fifth-wheel RV - a one-bedroom apartment on wheels - up a steep grade at 60 mph without breaking a sweat. And via some internal transmission magic it can take us down the other side of that grade at a reasonable pace without riding the brakes. Honestly, it's my favorite vehicle.

Musical Chairs at Fox News

Various outlets are reporting that Tucker Carlson will replace Megyn Kelly in the Fox News 9 p.m EST time slot. Carlson has been holding down the 7 p.m time slot vacated by Greta Van Susteren who was followed by Brit Hume on a temporary basis during the election.

I've watched Carlson's 7 p.m. show a couple of times and concluded he was doing an intentional parody, or perhaps imitation, of Bill O'Reilly's on-air persona. I suppose it makes sense as O'Reilly is Fox News' top rated prime-time show.

Candidly, I don't care for Bill O'Reilly. Bret Baier and Brit Hume are my favorites, followed by Hannity. I never much liked Van Susteren either.

Kelly was spectacular to look at but could be obnoxious as an on-screen presence, I won't miss her. Marsha MacCallum will replace Carlson at the 7 p.m. hour, we'll see how she does in the Van Susteren time slot.

China Courts the Philippines

Yesterday we linked to a George Friedman Geopolitical Futures article on China's Taiwan "problem." Today George takes up an alternative scenario: a naval blockade of Chinese commerce aimed at crippling their economy. He argues:
The Chinese see the United States in three ways. First, the U.S. has an extremely powerful Navy. Second, the U.S. is highly unpredictable in how it responds to challenges. The Chinese saw this unpredictability in Korea, Vietnam, Kosovo, Operation Desert Storm, Iraq and so on. At times, the U.S. does not respond. Other times it over-reacts, from the Chinese point of view. Third, the U.S. prefers economic sanctions that at times include physically blocking the trade of a given country.

Given these three facts about China’s potential adversary, China finds itself in an extremely difficult position. It cannot match American naval power. It cannot predict what the U.S. will do. To the extent that the U.S. might choose, sanctions that include interference with Chinese trade are the most likely opening move. Therefore, the geography of the Western Pacific archipelago poses a potential threat to core Chinese national interests.
Given this scenario, he reasons:
The point I am making here and in yesterday’s analysis is that any discussion of war between the U.S. and China overestimates either the Chinese capability or the American capability. The Chinese would not be able to take Taiwan. There are too many failure points. The U.S. could blockade China if it was prepared to accept losses. The U.S. is risk averse, and minimizing threats would mean a far larger war than merely a naval picket line.

Each action by either side faces a counter that opens the door not only to failure but also to losing forces neither side can afford to lose. The only practical way to force a change in the balance of power in the region is a shift in alliances by one of the countries, and the Philippines is the one to watch.
China is not much offended by the open season on drug dealers Philippine President Duterte has declared. China has done similarly homicidal things at home when feeling threatened.

Historically, the U.S. feels it must openly oppose such human rights offenses by a longtime ally. We may lose said ally (a former colony) in the process. Perhaps President Trump can take a less judgmental approach to Philippine anti-drug policy and keep the Philippines out of the Chinese orbit.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Will China Invade Taiwan?

George Friedman is one of the most interesting strategic thinkers working today, writing normally at Geopolitical Futures. Today he considers what would be involved in China attacking Taiwan, something he makes clear he doesn't think will happen.
The problem that China has with an invasion of Taiwan is that too many things have to must (sic) go right. China must keep its intentions secret in spite of a prolonged buildup of forces in multiple ports. It must strike multiple heavily defended targets with aircraft and missiles, simultaneously and without being detected. It must execute an amphibious assault against a superior force and hold the landing area until reinforcements arrive. It must control the sea lanes across the strait in the face of submarine attacks, potential air attacks and mine laying. Finally, it has to complete the operation before the U.S. commits significant reserves to the battle. If any of these strategic components fails, the invasion fails.

Obviously, this is barely a sketch of the battle problem. Nevertheless, the strategic point is valid. The Chinese cannot take Taiwan without a Pearl Harbor scenario several orders more ambitious than the Japanese operation in 1941. The Japanese had a reason to risk Pearl Harbor. Their oil was running out and their supplies were running low due to U.S. embargoes and interference. They had to act. China is not in that position. Therefore, risking such a complex operation is not a rational option.
Of course, nations do not always act rationally. On the plus side, the window of opportunity created by Obama's flaccid foreign policy will be closed in roughly two weeks.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Fun with Social Class

There has been much punditry concerning the bi-coastal social elites who run the media, establish the narrative, and have more or less run things for some decades. Their isolation from the nation's core culture is viewed as a reason for the success of the Trump-led populist rebellion.

Have some New Years fun. Go take Charles Murray's Bubble Quiz, the PBS version done for Paul Solman's Making Sen$e series for the News Hour.

You end up with a score indicating the extent to which you live in an elite bubble distanced from the cares and concerns of everyday Americans. The lower your score the more isolated you are. Full disclosure: I took the quiz and got a score of 41, not very isolated.

The Bubble Quiz nailed me as "A first-generation upper-middle-class person with middle-class parents." A key factor I'm certain was my longtime love of pickup trucks, hardly an elite passion.

It probably helps explain why I - a Ph.D. - atypically favored Donald Trump. I am acquainted with (and related to) lots of folks who live outside the elite bubble, though by education and profession I certainly earned elite membership. As a would-be pundit, it helps to have (as I do) a foot in both camps.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

An Oops and an Insight

For my first post of the new year, I bring you the distilled essence of a supposedly conservative columnist's mea culpa. The New York Times' Ross Douthat spent the last two years dumping on Donald Trump and for the second year running has had to own up to his failed predictions.
So a year ago, I imagined that conservatism was sclerotic but ideologically committed, and that liberalism was wrong about the world but pretty good at fearmongering and voter targeting. But my intellect and experience were wrong, and Trump’s Napoleonic intuitions were correct: The Republicans were all low-energy men underneath, and the liberal elites were as vulnerable to him as the Cameron Tories and Blairites were to Brexit.

Now, having made grim predictions about what a Trump presidency might bring, I have no choice but to hope that I’ll be proven wrong again, that a few years hence I’ll have to write another mea culpa.
It wouldn't entirely surprise me if Douthat gets "to write another mea culpa."

For an amazing insight into the Trump mind, read an interview with NBC's Chuck Todd done for Politico. I find particularly fascinating the following:
One other thing that Todd thinks is odd: After several of his Sunday appearances as a candidate, Trump would lean back in his chair and request that the control room replay his appearance on a monitor — sans sound.

“There’s the amount of time he spends after the interview is over, with the sound off. He wants to see what it all looked like. He will watch the whole thing on mute,” Todd told me, sitting in his cluttered office in NBC’s nondescript, low-slung Washington headquarters on Nebraska Avenue.

“He’s a very visual guy,” says Todd. “He thinks this way, and look, it’s an important insight in just understanding him. The visual stuff is very real beyond just himself.” It’s a source of his political effectiveness, an understanding of the blunt force of imagery that Hillary Clinton, crushed by her briefing books, could never understand.
President Reagan's Mike Deaver had this visual approach to politics and it served the Reagan White House very well indeed.