Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Trump's Speech to Congress

President Donald Trump came to the Capitol and addressed a joint session of Congress earlier tonight. In contrast to his stump stream-of-consciousness style, this speech was read from the Teleprompter and contained only a couple of very small, not objectionable, deviations from script. The talking heads and pundits I heard after the speech gave it high marks, and I agree.

Every president has an informal side and a formal side. Tonight Trump showed his formal side; it gave the lie to claims he cannot be presidential. He can be, he was tonight.

Anybody who thinks he has changed should forget it. He recognized tonight as a serious occasion and delivered a serious performance. Tomorrow he will be back to being Donald the Tweeter, or Donald the Press-basher, that's him too.

There were no major surprises in the speech, but many things to like. I particularly liked the idea we will only send troops to places where we intend to win. That notion seemingly was foreign to the last three administrations. His defense of law enforcement was excellent, too.

Other than not applauding much, Congressional Democrats behaved themselves. They are certainly entitled to withhold applause. There were no outbursts, no acting out. Perhaps they had seen the Rasmussen poll findings cited below.

BTW, I could quickly become accustomed to having a supermodel as FLOTUS ... very classy and elegant.

Foot-shooting Time

The Washington Times summarizes findings from a recent Rasmussen Reports poll. They write:
A Rasmussen Reports poll released Tuesday found that 63 percent of those surveyed said it was better for the country as well as the Democratic Party (emphasis added) for Democrats to work with President Trump instead of countering him at every turn.

Just 29 percent agreed that it’s better for the party and the nation for Democrats to oppose Mr. Trump “in every way possible.”

Even Democrats polled agreed that the strategy is a loser, albeit barely. The survey found 46 percent said Democrats would be better off working with the White House, while 44 percent said it would be better for the party and country to continue to battle Mr. Trump.
This means those of us who wish the Dems ill should root for their "resistance" to continue. You never want to distract an enemy when he takes aim at his own foot.

Popularity Polls

Instapundit Glenn Reynolds links to a bit of back-of-the-envelope analysis done by Jazz Shaw at the website Hot Air. Shaw looks at the findings of a new NBC/WSJ poll measuring at the popularity (or lack thereof) of the President and many others in the Washington scene.

The headline you'll see is that the President is only popular with 43% of respondents. What they don't tell you is that of those surveyed, only VP Mike Pence comes close at 42. Speaker Paul Ryan is at 34, the Republican Party at 35, the Democrats at 30, and Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, and Mitch McConnell are all down in the teens.

Looking at some other survey numbers, Shaw notes that before the election the "right track-wrong track" numbers were at 30/62 whereas today they stand at 40/51. As improvements go, that's yuuge.

Shaw's concluding wisecrack is this riff on a Churchillian quote:
Donald Trump is the least popular person in Washington ... except for everyone else.
Put that way, he isn't doing badly.

Bush 2 Misquoted, Agrees with Trump

NBC News reports former President George W. Bush said the following when interviewed for the Today Show.
I consider the media to be indispensable to democracy. That we need the media to hold people like me to account. I mean, power can be very addictive and it can be corrosive and it's important for the media to call to account people who abuse their power, whether it be here or elsewhere.
That's the headline everybody is reporting. However, he continued:
It's kind of hard to, you know, tell others to have an independent free press when we're not willing to have one ourselves.
COTTonLINE concurs. A free press doing honest reporting, minus the bias, is essential to democracy.

It is very unfortunate we don't have a free press, as President Trump has noted repeatedly. What we have instead is a group of commentators doing agitprop for the Democrats, while demanding to be treated as actual journalists.

BTW, what we do at COTTonLINE is not reportage; it is commentary on (and, we hope, in) the right.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Oscars Postscript

The Hollywood Reporter relates that the audience for last night's Oscars was down, the second-lowest in the last several decades. Actual number: 32.9 million viewers.

That's roughly one American in ten - a lot of people, true - but 90% of us had better things to do. My feeling is that when we were all younger, many more people followed "the movies" and the people who made them.

Intriguingly, THR says millennials in particular were missing, not a good trend line for films.

Conservative Places

According to Forbes, the following are the 10 most conservative cities in the U.S. The order in which they are listed is apparently a ranking. The info could be handy if looking to escape a deep blue mess.
Mesa, AZ
Oklahoma City, OK
Virginia Beach, VA
Colorado Springs, CO
Jacksonville, FL
Arlington, TX
Anaheim, CA
Omaha, NB
Tulsa, OK
Aurora, CO
I'd suggest you understand the politics of its state before getting excited about how conservative a city is supposed to be. OK, TX, NB, and AZ are conservative red states. CO, CA, FL and VA are somewhere between purple and bright blue. "City" alone isn't enough, you need a conservative city in a conservative state.

About Steve Bannon

I don't normally find The New York Times a reliable guide to political thought. That said, every now and then they slip up and publish something worthwhile. I just read one such, which I propose to share with you.

Christopher Caldwell writes about the eminence grise of the Trump White House. His subject - Stephen K. Bannon - has been called a racist, an anti-Semite, a misogynist, and a crypto-fascist. According to Caldwell, Bannon is none of these.
There are plenty of reasons for concern about Mr. Bannon, but they have less to do with where he stands on the issues than with who he is as a person. He is a newcomer to political power and, in fact, relatively new to an interest in politics. He is willing to break with authority. While he does not embrace any of the discredited ideologies of the last century, he is attached to a theory of history’s cycles that is, to put it politely, untested. Most ominously, he is an intellectual in politics excited by grand theories — a combination that has produced unpredictable results before.

A progressive who believes history is more or less linear is fighting for immortality when he enters the political arena. A conservative who believes history is cyclical is fighting only for a role in managing, say, the next 20 or 80 years. Then his work will be undone, as everyone’s is eventually.
Bannon is a devotee of the Strauss and Howe cyclical theory of generations. Harvard MBAs like Bannon are seldom radicals, and his was with honors. They are virtually always smart as heck. He was also a Navy officer for 7 years, another non-radical group.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Oscars

I was born in Hollywood too many years ago. My family moved west before World War One, and watched bemused as the movie industry transplanted itself to Hollywood from the East Coast.

To say the family were unimpressed with "the movie people" would be a vast understatement. "Fear and loathing" would only be half right, the "loathing" part. There was no fear.

My dear old dad's too-sweeping generalization was that they were "lowlife scum." I figured out later he made particular reference to Fatty Arbuckle and his fellow orgiasts. The generalized sleeping around was scandalous then while very ho-hum today. Their politics didn't impress him either.

I'm sure you've heard about Sen. McCarthy and the Red scare of the 1950s, plus the resulting Hollywood blacklists. The conventional wisdom is it was horrible and unjustified. Dad had friends on the LAPD "red squad" who took it very seriously ... it was the real deal.

Try a thought experiment. Imagine that Hollywood actually was permeated by Communists in the 30s and 40s, people trying to sell the Marxist line of thought through films. Not so much the onscreen talent, more the directors and particularly the writers.

Now rewatch the Bogart/Bergman classic Casablanca and actually pay attention to the dialog and plot line. It is clear the Paul Henreid character was a Communist in everything but name, and the Bogart character is alleged to have leanings in that direction as well, although he half-heartedly denies them. It's still a great movie, but it's also subtle agitprop.

The last couple of movies out of Hollywood I've seen - the most recent Star Wars and Harry Potter series films - have been real bow-wows, pretty to look at but with very weak plot lines. I'll pass on watching the Oscars, as I have for perhaps two decades, it's just not my thing.

Congressional Speech Alert

Our new President delivers his first speech to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday night, day after tomorrow. Done off the Teleprompter - more formal than his stream-of-consciousness-style rallies - it should be interesting to view.

Not considered a "State of the Union" speech, it nevertheless hits many of the same notes. Expect statements of where we are, what he has done to date, and what he plans to accomplish in the coming months with the help of Congress.

At least one source says the speech will start at 9 p.m. EST, which is 6 p.m. on the left coast where I'll view it. It will be followed by a Democrat response, which can be ignored safely.

Most networks will cover it. If you dislike Trump, you'll have many carriers from which to choose, all of whose post-speech talking heads will pan it, and him.

If you like Trump and wish him well, I'd suggest the Fox News coverage. They at least will have analysts who see the glass somewhat full, rather than mostly empty.

Musings on Media Bias

For most of my long life the press was divided into reporters and analysts. Reporters tried, and mostly succeeded, in keeping their own political views out of the story. This was called "journalism" and it was honored and admired.

By contrast, analysts had a viewpoint and wrote from it. There were conservative analysts and liberal ones. You could read both, or restrict your reading to those with a congenial viewpoint with which you mostly agreed.

Somewhere along the line the reporters became jealous of the analysts, tired of stifling their biases in pursuit of balanced journalism. Their supposed news stories became thinly disguised commentary. 

Since reporters have been mostly liberal for a long time, I believe the coming-out began during the second Bush presidency. It continued during the Obama presidency with a refusal to report on the administration's manifold failures and abuses of authority.

Trump - a hyperactive conservative - has driven them nuts. The resulting Trump Derangement Syndrome has caused many formerly respected news sources to "jump the shark," become so extreme as to lose credibility, readership and consequently advertising profits.

Friday, February 24, 2017

How Bad "Science" Happens

The BBC reports scientists have difficulty replicating the findings of their peers. Explanation of what constitutes "replication": read the study, follow the exact same methodology using the same measures, calculate the results using the same statistical methods. Supposedly find the same results.

The problem? Much too often, replication attempts fail - they don't get the same results. How can this be true, is it crookedness? Sure, sometime it is simple cheating, fudging the data to get the desired results.

Most of the time it is probably not dishonest. Let me explain two ways it happens. Begin with the understanding that the only research which gets published is that which finds "positive results." In other words, that finds the hypothesized results.

So-called "negative results" don't get published, as a grad school mentor explained to me, because you can't tell whether the failure to find hypothesized results really means the hypotheses are false or that in some way the methods used to measure them were faulty.

So ... scientists run many more experiments than ever get published, because they often find no support for their hypotheses. Lots of studies find not much of anything, and get tossed.

The way we know if differences are "real" is if statistically they are strong enough to be likely to occur by chance only one time in twenty. Another way of saying this is that every 20 studies which tested nonsense hypotheses produce perhaps one with results that look good, that appear to prove the bad hypotheses.

Guess how many of these supposedly "good" (but actually bad) findings are submitted for publication. Answer: nearly all. It is likely they cannot be replicated.

Remember the old comment about a zillion monkeys pounding a zillion typewriters? Somewhere one will reproduce significant chunks of Shakespeare quite by accident. Does that mean the lucky monkey is a genius? Not nearly.

The other problem leading to non-replicability is data mining. Data mining happens when researchers gather a wide range of data, skim through it looking for "significant" relationships between variables.

They post hoc dream up hypotheses which those significant relationships might explain. Except when they write it up, they claim to have had the hypotheses first and then tested them, finding the results reported in the write-up. Unfortunately, significant relationships can occur randomly, or result from obscure causes never imagined by those writing up the "science."

Left Hurting in Ecuador

Bloomberg View reports the leftist ruling party in Ecuador, headed for years by Rafael Correa, didn't win a majority in recent elections, meaning a runoff is likely. This, in spite of the usual leftist finagling with press freedoms, election rules, etc. aimed at crippling alternative parties.

We don't know, of course, whether Correa's Alianza Pais will eventually win the runoff. Even if they do, a message of dissatisfaction has been sent. The other candidate in the runoff looks to be a market-friendly conservative not unlike the recent winner in Argentina.

These are interesting times, down south. Socialists are on the back foot in many Latin nations.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Demographics ≠ Destiny

The Washington Post carries a column by two think-tank scholars on the reasons demographics haven't sealed the deal for Democrats, for they demonstrably have not. See what they write:
Our report out this month provides several answers, starting with the fact that demographic change isn’t evenly dispersed. In our system of place-based government, unless millennials move to the rural South or the growing Latino population settles in equal measure across the Rust Belt, demography will take a long time.

Despite Hillary Clinton’s popular-vote victory, Donald Trump won about 2,600 counties while she won 489. That might have been enough to keep the electoral college tally close, but it’s also a recipe for losing pretty much everything down ballot.

Young voters and voters of color aren’t monolithic liberal blocs who will always and reflexively support Democrats. As noted in our report, 44 percent of millennials call themselves independents and only 30 percent are liberals. Among Latinos, 37 percent are Independents and only 28 percent liberals. That means 7 in 10 within these rising American electorate groups consider themselves moderate or even conservative.

Democrats need to dig themselves out of a big hole from state legislative races on up, and it starts by treating voters as more than a check box on a census form. It will require building a big-tent coalition based on values and experiences, not just demographic groups, and rethinking the party’s pitch and policies to respond to the needs and concerns of Americans across the country, not just in cities and on coasts.
People, like the proverbial "birds of a feather," persist in flocking together with others like themselves. Therefore, pitches which pit one demographic group against another tend to be geographically limited.

Historically, what has proven helpful for subgroups in the U.S, is assimilation, not separation. Unfortunately, assimilation is not politically correct at present.

Many Hispanics and Asians have progressed along that time-tested path to complete acceptance. In general, groups which reject assimilation have not fared as well.

Crime Rates

The Wonkblog at The Washington Post writes that while Americans believe crime is increasing, it is actually lower than previously. No reasons were given for this decline.

A perhaps temporary exception to the decline is the rising murder rate, which it argues is maybe just normal fluctuation (i.e., "noise" in statistics-speak). I'm unconvinced, as is our President. The nearly-every-weekend "butcher's bill" from Chicago tends to focus our attention on urban, gang-related shootings.

Thinking about causes, one reason for the decline in overall crime rates is the aging of our population. Crime is mostly associated with the young, fewer young = fewer crimes.

One reason immigrants are often associated with crime is that, on balance, immigrants are younger than the rest of us. Of course, it is also true that a criminal past in whatever country they're fleeing can be a motive to emigrate.

It is unfortunate more of our criminals don't seek to emigrate; perhaps it is a behavior we should encourage, even facilitate. We'd rather they became someone else's problem, see the post about Gov. Walker below.

Walker Leads

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker lacked the charisma to be a successful presidential candidate in 2016, but he has gubernatorial accomplishments to be envied. The Washington Examiner writes Walker has rediscovered an ancient truth.
Wisconsin has cut taxes by more than $4.7 billion. More people are working than ever before and Wisconsin's labor force participation rate of just over 68 percent is one of the highest in America.

Walker's policy priorities have inspired others. Right-to-work laws have already been signed into law in Missouri and Kentucky this year.

Now he's focusing his attention on another critical, yet broken, system: welfare.

As part of his executive budget, Walker is proposing an expansion of work requirements to able-bodied adults with school-age children on food stamps. In addition, he calls for extending these work requirements to childless adults on Medicaid and pursuing a pilot program to implement work requirements for able-bodied adults in public housing.
Bottom line: Make people work for their welfare and many will choose actual jobs instead. Give them "free money" and watch them choose idleness because you allow it.

B.F. Skinner demonstrated many decades ago that, to put it crudely, "you get more of the behaviors you reward." Reward idleness, it continues. Reward work but not idleness, see less idleness going forward.

Perhaps to some degree, Walker's reforms have encouraged the determinedly idle to move to other, less demanding states. From the point of view of the Wisconsin tax payers who voted for Walker, that's no bad thing.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Intent on Looting

Hillsdale College historian Paul Rahe, quoted by Steven Hayward who blogs at Power Line, on the subject of "social justice."
Justice is owed individuals, not groups. There is no such thing as ‘social justice.’ The phrase is a slogan used by those intent on looting.
Hillsdale accepts no Federal funds whatsoever and is not therefore bound to follow its SJW dictates.

Dam Gossip

We've commented recently about Oroville Dam in Northern California, the full one with the disintegrating spillway. Let me pass along what honesty demands I characterize as "gossip" thereabouts.

A shirttail relative/friend writes that the wife of his good friend worked for the designers of said defective spillway. She reports they left recommended steel rebar out of the concrete structure's design because it was "too expensive."

Anybody who has done concrete knows it is brittle without rebar, much tougher with. The informant assumes that the vibratory pounding of thousands of tons of falling water pulverized the concrete like a jackhammer, turning it into pebbles and boulders which were swept downstream. An embedded rebar cage likely would have prevented the damage.

Photos I've seen of the huge hole in the spillway suggest she is correct. You could park several SUVs in that hole.

Intellectual Blindness

Steven Hayward, a regular Power Line contributor who's also an academic, quotes at length a column by former Stanford University provost John Etchemendy which appeared in Stanford News. What he is quoted as writing is so on-target I echo the excerpts here in their entirety.
Over the years, I have watched a growing intolerance at universities in this country – not intolerance along racial or ethnic or gender lines – there, we have made laudable progress. Rather, a kind of intellectual intolerance, a political one-sidedness, that is the antithesis of what universities should stand for. It manifests itself in many ways: in the intellectual monocultures that have taken over certain disciplines; in the demands to disinvite speakers and outlaw groups whose views we find offensive; in constant calls for the university itself to take political stands. We decry certain news outlets as echo chambers, while we fail to notice the echo chamber we’ve built around ourselves.

This results in a kind of intellectual blindness that will, in the long run, be more damaging to universities than cuts in federal funding or ill-conceived constraints on immigration. It will be more damaging because we won’t even see it: We will write off those with opposing views as evil or ignorant or stupid, rather than as interlocutors worthy of consideration. We succumb to the all-purpose ad hominem because it is easier and more comforting than rational argument. But when we do, we abandon what is great about this institution we serve. . .

We need to encourage real diversity of thought in the professoriate, and that will be even harder to achieve. It is hard for anyone to acknowledge high-quality work when that work is at odds, perhaps opposed, to one’s own deeply held beliefs. But we all need worthy opponents to challenge us in our search for truth. It is absolutely essential to the quality of our enterprise.
Etchemendy is absolutely correct, of course. Universities have become left-wing endoctrination camps where differing views are anathema. As our new President would say, it's sad.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Nestle Flees CA

One of the stories COTTonLINE follows is the self-inflicted decline of the DrsC's native state - California. Investor's Business Daily reports the following:
Nestle USA is moving its headquarters from Glendale, Calif., a pocket suburb just miles from downtown Los Angeles, to Rosslyn, Va., near Washington, D.C., and taking 1,200 California jobs with it. Why? As many companies have found, California is an awful place to do business.

Nestle and its corporate brethren in California that actually make things are overtaxed and overregulated, and elected officials treat them not as honored members of the community but as rapacious pirates.
One by one the corporate headquarters and manufacturing plants shut down and head east. Nobody in a position of authority in CA seems to care.

Can CA make a living from Silicon Valley tech and affluent retirees? It becomes apparent they intend to try.

ICYMI: The Latter-Day Mandarins

Instapundit links to a four year old Megan McArdle column for The Daily Beast about the elites who end up running things. A choice excerpt:
This ostensibly meritocratic system increasingly selects from those with enough wealth and connections to first, understand the system, and second, prepare the right credentials to enter it—as I believe it also did in Imperial China. And like all elites, they believe that they not only rule because they can, but because they should. Even many quite left-wing folks do not fundamentally question the idea that the world should be run by highly verbal people who test well and turn their work in on time.
Both DrsC are clear examples of "highly verbal people who test well and turn in their work on time." The "ostensibly meritocratic system" certainly paid off well for us. Whether it should have is another question entirely.

The Basic Division

The American Interest website writes anonymous home truth about what divides us as Americans. Hat tip to Instapundit Glenn Reynolds for the link.
The basic division in American politics today is not over the merits of President Trump.(snip)The division is between those who think that before Trump, things were going just fine and the American elite was doing an excellent job, and those who blame the rise of Trump on the failures and blindness of the so-called “meritocratic elite” who, they would argue, have been running the country into the ground.
I agree with their diagnosis if not with their qualms about Team Trump. On its performance, in my view, the verdict will remain out for the next year or two. Let's see what they can do.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Merkel Doubles Down

The Daily Mail (U.K.) reports German Chancellor Angela Merkel has doubled down on her pro-immigrant policy. It reports as follows:
Angela Merkel has urged Europe to take in more refugees and said Islam is 'not the source of terror'. Speaking at the Munich security conference, the German chancellor said Europe has an obligation to take displaced refugees from Syria and Iraq.
She's still clueless after all these years. It's likely German voters will render a negative verdict on her bid for re-election.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Trump Actions Popular

While the old media describe the Trump administration as a disaster, the people who elected him hold  quite another view. USA Today cites findings from a Morning Consult/Politico poll which show this clearly.
The Trump executive orders deemed most controversial by commentators and the news media actually enjoy the approval of either majorities or clear pluralities of Americans registered to vote. Ending federal support for sanctuary cities tops the list: 55% of those surveyed endorse the idea, and only 33% oppose it. The border wall wins by 48% to 42%, the deep-sixing of the Pacific trade deal by 47% to 33%.

The Politico poll found that 55% of registered voters support the (7 Muslim country) travel ban, while only 38% disapprove.
Author Charlotte Allen concludes:
Trump has managed to do something that no U.S. president, even Reagan, has been able to do in recent decades: bring to a screeching halt, if only temporarily, the reign of a globalist, virtue-signaling elite that has gained control of every social and cultural institution, the political establishment (including many Republicans), the news media, the universities, the entertainment industry, even corporations.
That is no small achievement, one long overdue.

CA on Wrong Track

The Los Angeles Times was originally conservative, but has been reliably left-wing for the past few decades. When it runs an op-ed by conservative historian Victor Davis Hanson of the Hoover Institution, you have to know something is afoot.

Californians are beginning to question the implicit priorities revealed by the ramshackle state of Oroville Dam. It is exactly these which Hanson describes.
The poor condition of the dam is almost too good a metaphor for the condition of the state as a whole; its possible failure is a reflection of California’s civic decline.

A new generation of Californians — without much memory of floods or what unirrigated California was like before its aqueducts — had the luxury to envision the state’s existing water projects in a radically new light: as environmental errors.

The crisis at Oroville is a third act in the state’s history: One majestic generation built great dams, a second enjoyed them while they aged, and a third fiddles as they now erode.
I couldn't agree more. Hindsight will reveal the Sierra Club to be either the death of our civil life, or very nearly so. It's too late to make CA a nature preserve; we have to make it instead a place where people can live practically.

Former Governor Pat Brown, not his son and current Governor Jerry Brown, should be our model. Finish the water projects, build more reservoirs,  generate hydropower. Hat tip to Lucianne.com for the link.

Friday, February 17, 2017

More Housecleaning at State

SecState Rex Tillerson has laid off a number of high-level staffers, effective immediately. Reading between the lines, I'd guess he suspects some of the sniping at former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn either originated there or was facilitated there.

Those let go are political appointees, not civil servants. He has every right, and in fact a duty, to replace them with his own appointments - people loyal to him, not to Clinton/Kerry. People in short who support the Trump-Tillerson agenda.

For more on this action, see a CBS News story and/or a New York Post story, depending on whether you'd like an anti- or pro- slant to the tale. Hat tip to Lucianne.com for the link.

Press Ruined Own Reputation

Occasionally, someone reliably on the left slips and says something revealingly acccurate. The cynical call these lapses "gaffes."

The Washington Examiner reports one such, and posts the video to prove it. The "oops" in question happened as conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt interviewed CBS newsguy John Dickerson. Hewitt said of Trump's news conference comment about press bias reducing public trust in media:
But that one comment, they don't trust you anymore, is a summation of where we are in America, because I really do think Manhattan-Beltway elites have lost the country.
Dickerson responded:
Yes, it's true, and it's not because of anything obviously Donald Trump did. The press did all that good work ruining its reputation on its own.
In politics that is called "being off-message" and it's seldom rewarded. Hat tip to Drudge Report for the link.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Whither Berlin?

COTTonLINE has been following the story of NATO member nations' defense spending shortfalls. Now PoliticoEU writes that German defense spending is the key.
If Berlin commits to spending the recommended 2 percent of GDP on defense, it would add $30 billion of defense spending in Europe — a large share of the $100 billion surplus that would be generated if all European members and Canada met their targets. The move would significantly boost European defense.
All this because Germany is the richest country in NATO. Other European powers are ambivalent about Germany remilitarizing. They were on the receiving end of German military might in two world wars, and have no desire for an encore.

Politically Incorrect

RealClearPolicy looks at research which tries to tease out the relationships among race, poverty, and violent crime. What was found profoundly violates political correctness norms.
Black and white census tracts have slightly higher violent crime rates as the level of census tract poverty increases. However, at each poverty concentration level, the violent crime rate is substantially higher in black than in white census tracts. Moreover, there are many Hispanic census tracts with high poverty concentration levels but relatively low rates of violent crime.
Meanwhile other researchers found:
The same patterns when looking at the relationship between unemployment and violent crime rates. Holding unemployment rates constant, black census tracts had much higher violent crime rates than either white or Hispanic ones.
Given the far-too-high numbers of young black men murdered by other young black men in our cities, the findings are not especially surprising.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Mattis Tells 'Em

Former general and current Secretary of Defense James "Mad Dog" Mattis, speaking to assembled defense chiefs at NATO, as quoted by the Daily Mail (U.K.):
No longer can the American taxpayer carry a disproportionate share of the defense of Western values. Americans cannot care more for your children's future security than you do.
Lots of NATO members, including wealthy Germany, do not spend on defense the 2% of GDP they're obligated to spend by the NATO treaty to which all are signatories. Hat tip to Lucianne.com for the link.

Flynn Out

National Security Advisor Mike Flynn has resigned, after his calls became public knowledge thanks to the FBI. The Democrat "Resistance" can claim this scalp. It's a minor win for them, effectively a successful rear-guard action in an overall retreat, to use a military metaphor.

Looks like Trump will have to get tougher about nailing civil service leakers and he must get rid of all the holdover political appointees ASAP, even if it leaves temporary holes. There are other qualified people and, if appointed now, whatever they were up to pre-inauguration will be of less moment as they were not Trump insiders at the time.

Travel Blogging

We had shirtsleeve weather today here in SoCal. We spent some time driving down and up US 101, the fabled El Camino Real or King's Highway, on a Valentine's Day shopping trip.

El Camino Real was originally the colonizing Spaniards' road up the coast which connected their missions. These were located roughly one day's march apart from San Diego north to San Francisco.

Our route today took us from roughly the vicinity of Mission Santa Inez over the pass to the coast, then south past Mission Santa Barbara to the viciniity of Mission San Buenaventura, aka Ventura. Coming back we detoured up the coast beyond Santa Barbara to Gaviota (seagull) Pass and on to Buellton before returning to the Santa Ynez vicinity.

If you notice I've spelled our vicinity both Santa Ynez and Santa Inez, it is because the town is spelled with a Y and the mission with an I. And no, I've never gotten an explanation for the discrepancy. It is pronounced the same either way, a long e sound, "ee-nez."

We've had a rainy winter so SoCal looks like it is upholstered in emerald felt, very pretty. This region is green in winter and brown is summer, the exact reverse of colder parts of the country. The local flora is adapted to grow while there's water, winter and early spring. Generally it isn't so cold as to freeze the plants.

We're in a part of CA that the Kingston Trio celebrated, singing about "south coast," "mountains in the ocean off the coast of California," and "Mission San Miguel." It is country I'd drive back and forth through going home from college in the Bay Area all those decades ago when they were popular.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Decoding the Acronym

C ounterfeit 
N ews
N etwork

Ineligible Voters

The Washington Times reports think tank Just Facts has announced they agree with the President's assertion that substantial numbers of illegal aliens vote in U.S. elections. Just Facts' founder James D. Agresti is quoted as saying:
Contrary to the claims of certain major media outlets and fact checkers, a comprehensive analysis of polling data, election records and government investigations shows that many noncitizens vote illegally in U.S. elections.

My key conclusion is that ‘substantial numbers of noncitizens vote illegally in U.S. elections.’ I don’t think the evidence is strong enough to quantify an undoubtable range, but it is certainly not zero, as the critics say, and it may be as high as Trump claims.
At this point the best we can conclude is that serious people think there may be a lot of voting by the ineligible, and others disagree. Widespread agreement that most of the ineligible vote Democratic means there is bias reflected in the opinions of more than a few of those who deny voting by illegals.

Common Sense ... Shocking to Some

The pro-Trump website American Greatness carries an interview with Michael Anton, who now works for Trump's National Security Council, and formerly blogged under the pen name Publius Decius Mus. What he says about the doctrine of "America First" is worth noting.
There is now, and has been for some time, a broad consensus from the center-right all the way to the far left that America’s only legitimate role is to be a kind of savior of and refuge for the world. It’s not a country with citizens and a government that serves those citizens. It belongs to everyone. Everyone has a right to come here, work here, live here, reap America’s bounty. We have no legitimate parochial interests. Rather America exists for others. This standard does not seem to be held to any other country, although one sees it increasingly rising in Europe.

Donald Trump’s forthright stance against that, insisting that this country is ours, belongs to us, and demands that we prioritize our own interests, sounds like the most horrible blasphemy against this universalist consensus. I think that explains so much of the freakout against his presidency and the travel executive order, for instance. People ask, “How can he do that? Doesn’t he realize that America belongs to the whole world?”

Trump’s response is: “Don’t be silly, of course it doesn’t. It’s ours and we must do what’s best for us.” No prominent leader has said that or acted on that in ages. So the reassertion of basic common sense sounds shocking.
COTTonLINE has endorsed these views for some years, it's a nice change to hear them from a sourc inside government.

Just Asking ....

CBS TV in Los Angeles reports California Senate President Pro Tem Kevin De Leon told the press half of his relatives are illegals with fake IDs either current or at some past time. This raises an interesting question.

He says his relatives are felons. He knows they are felons. Does that make him an accessory? Would anyone who knows another is in the country illegally and using false papers be similarly guilty if it could be proved they knew of criminal behavior but failed to report it?

That could turn a lot of people with legal status into criminals because they have knowledge of criminal behavior which they fail to report. Such knowledge would be hard to prove, I suppose, unless the guy is dumb enough to say it on-camera. CA Democrats are, self-evidently, doggone dumb as the ten-year-old failure to repair the Oroville Dam spillway indicates.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Putin as Moral Conservative?

Politico Magazine has an interesting article by Casey Michel concerning Putin's Russia emerging as the world leader of "conservative Christian values." The markers for this claim are found in Russia's crackdown on LGBT advocacy, abortion, and secularism.

I'm not sure whether I agree with the author's thesis or my reaction if it is in fact true. What is relatively clear is that there is little appetite here for those positions. It does make for an amazing post-Soviet role reversal, as the Kremlin snuggles up to the Russian Orthodox Church - which cuddling is well-documented.

Saturday Snark

P.J. O'Rourke, here writing sarcastic commentary about serious things for the Weekly Standard, comments on the elite failures that triggered our current bout of populism.
Elites don't see any similarity between Trump's border wall and the gated communities where they live.
COTTonLINE readers understand the purpose of both is identical - to keep the barbarians at arm's length.

Unintended Consequences

Illegal aliens  cannot get more-than-casual employment - which they obviously want - without a Social Security number. However, illegal aliens cannot obtain valid Social Security numbers, citizenship or a green card is required.

So, many illegals have used fake SSNs, basically those of other people, to apply for and get work. This, it turns out, is identity theft which is a Federal felony.

President Trump says he only plans to deport criminals.  It turns out that basically includes everybody without valid documents working with a fake or stolen SSN.

The men cutting meat at a packing plant, the women changing beds at a motel, they are all felons if their SSNs are invalid or "borrowed." Such individuals may number in the millions.

My wife's elderly aunt, long retired and drawing Social Security benefits, has learned someone out there is fraudulently using her SSN. She has reported it but the Social Security Administration has no mechanism by which to police such misappropriations.

Imagine what happens when millions of the undocumented employed reach retirement age. They cannot get Social Security because someone is already receiving the benefits associated with the SSN they've been using. They'll end up on welfare, and we'll pay for it with our taxes.

Elliot Abrams, R.I.P.

Apparently President Trump has killed the Elliot Abrams appointment to State that Sec. Tillerson wanted to make. This is good news for the reasons we described two days ago.

In other news, it is being reported that Trump has told the Chinese president by phone that he supports the longtime "One China" policy. By initially casting doubt on our commitment to this policy and then "giving in" and agreeing, he gave the Chinese leader a present it cost him nothing to generate. Now China owes him a favor.

Top negotiators really do operate by different rules, as Dilbert's Scott Adams keeps reminding us.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Gallup: Religious Involvement Varies by State

Gallup has released the latest iteration of their look at depth of religious commitment in the 50 states.
Gallup classifies Americans as "very religious," "moderately religious" or "nonreligious" based on their responses to questions about the importance of religion and church attendance.

Most of the top 10 highly religious states over the past nine years have been in the South, except for Utah, where the highly religious Mormon population helps put it in the top 10 consistently.

The least religious states have typically been concentrated in the upper Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Northwest regions.

Gallup began tracking religious indicators daily in 2008. The percentage of all Americans who are very religious has declined slightly over that period of time, from 41% in 2008 to 38% in 2016, while those who are nonreligious has edged up from 30% to 32%.
Moving from CA to TX, as I did in 2003 for a post-retirement one-year visiting professorship, was an eye-opener for me. CA is below-average in religious involvement whereas TX is above-average.

When I assigned MBA students in TX to do professional development plans I was amazed by the number who included increased church involvement in their personal development profiles. In CA perhaps one student in a grad seminar of 25 would mention religion in their life plan, in TX upwards of a third would do so.

Gallup's map of religious involvement by state almost could be mistaken for a map of which states voted for which presidential candidate. Most low involvement states voted Dem while most average and higher states voted GOP.

Coincidence? Not likely. Particularly revealing is CO which reports below-average religious involvement. It is surrounded by above-average states.

CO has gone from reliably GOP red to pinkish-purple trending Dem, largely based on migrants from CA and other blue states. It isn't too big a stretch to say the Democratic Party has become the secular party.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Friday Snark

John Hinderaker writes at Power Line about the dust-up with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) in the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell used a procedural rule to silence her criticisms of Sen. Jeff Sessions. Some have said this makes her the leading voice of the Democrats. Hinderaker says why not boost her candidacy for president in 2020?
Warren combines Hillary Clinton’s likability with Bernie Sanders’ sensible policy prescriptions, and adds to the mix her own unique dishonesty and hypocrisy.
Sounds like a perfect choice - crazy, cranky and crooked too.

Old Crankypants

Am I the only conservative who has become very tired of Sen. John McCain's irascible, maverick ways? As big a loser as Obama turned out to be, hindsight suggests he was probably a better choice in 2008 than McCain.

It is past time to thank McCain for service to his country and invite him to retire. I begin to think it might almost be worth losing his AZ Senate seat to move him off the national stage.

Abrams Is a Bad Fit

Spengler's alter ego David P. Goldman writes in opposition to the appointment of Elliot Abrams as assistant to Rex Tillerson as SecState. I write to concur.

Elliot Abrams is the quintessential neo-con, one of that benighted band who believed we could turn the tribal kingdoms of the Middle East into representative democracies. It has proven to be impossible.

As we have written over the years here at COTTonLINE, nation building is meddlesome nonsense. People select a form of government that works with their culture and values.

However ugly their choice may seem to us given our culture and values, they are the ones who have to live with it and the choice should be theirs. It only becomes our problem if they become an active enemy of the U.S., at which point we should destroy their government and its practitioners mercilessly.

As an unregenerate neo-con, Elliot Abrams has no place in our foreign policy structure. Trump has spoken out against nation building. I hope Trump and Tillerson will reconsider and select someone else.

Afterthought: Nation building is like trying to teach a pig to sing. You waste your time and energies while seriously irritating the pig.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Islamic Immigration Opposed in Europe

Many Europeans agree with President Trump's notion of reducing immigration from Islamic countries, particularly those with violent, disruptive natures. Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs, reports:
Drawing on a unique, new Chatham House survey of more than 10,000 people from 10 European states, we can throw new light on what people think about migration from mainly Muslim countries.

In our survey, carried out before President Trump’s executive order was announced, respondents were given the following statement: ‘All further migration from mainly Muslim countries should be stopped’. They were then asked to what extent did they agree or disagree with this statement. Overall, across all 10 of the European countries an average of 55% agreed that all further migration from mainly Muslim countries should be stopped, 25% neither agreed nor disagreed and 20% disagreed.
Meanwhile, European politicians don't listen to their own voters. That could trigger a populist wave benefitting Le Pen, Wilders, Grillo, and Petry. May is already a beneficiary of these feelings in the U.K., just as Cameron was a victim.

Prognostication Debunked

Boris Zelkin writes a long column at American Greatness, a pro-Trump webjournal, about how famed statistician Nate Silver is getting too many important political and athletic calls wrong. I won't summarize Zelkin's arguments, you can read them if you choose.

Here is my take on statistical modeling. It is based on increasingly sophisticated projections of past trends. Truly, in our only semi-chaotic world more often than not past trends continue. That's the value of what Silver and others like him provide.

While projecting existing trend lines is often accurate, it is no great feat. The really tough predictions are those which identify before it happens those points at which trend lines are going to change direction, going to perform in ways they have not previously or not recently behaved. In short, spotting inflection points.

Examples: the person who, in the midst of a bull market rally, correctly calls the timing of the next market crash (c.f., Martin Zweig). Or the person who spots that what has worked in the last several presidential elections will prove inferior to a new, never-before-tried strategy a la Trump.

Statistics doesn't give us great tools for identifying inflection points. Intuition is probably better, if not by much. Unfortunately, as Wall Street wisdom holds, intuition predicts far more inflection points than actually occur. There's always someone saying "this time is different;" only infrequently is it true.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

DeVos Approved

The Senate has approved the appointment of Betsy DeVos to become Secretary of the Department of Education. A long-time advocate of vouchers for students and for charter schools, she was opposed by all 48 Democrats and 2 renegade Republican women Senators. Vice President Mike Pence voted in her favor to break the tie.

During my lifetime the public schools have morphed from places where you "learned or left" to places today designed to warehouse preadults in an overwhelmingly politically correct manner, learning optional where it's even possible. Parents who wish their children to learn have reacted by sending their children to schools which, as much as the law allows, require children to learn or leave. These are normally charter or private schools.

Public school teachers and their unions - the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers - are entirely opposed to charter schools and to spending public money in private schools. I get it, the traditional public schools are their "rice bowl," their meal ticket.

Charter and private schools threaten public school teachers' otherwise-guaranteed-for-life employment. Tenure does not protect against layoff in the event there are too few pupils to teach.

Alternative schools also change the pupil mix as they siphon off the children of parents who proactively wish their children to learn. The toxic residue are the children of people who know little and care less,, plus those pupils so damaged and dysfunctional as to be unteachable.

I wish DeVos well, as should we all. Perhaps she can begin moving the public schools back in the direction of being primarily places of learning, as they were when I attended all those decades ago.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Weird Social Science

Writing at Power Line, Steven Hayward links to a research summary posted on the Social Science Research Network. His summary includes the following quotes from that source:
Evidence from the American Time Use Survey 2003-12 suggests the existence of small but statistically significant racial/ethnic differences in time spent not working at the workplace. Minorities, especially men, spend a greater fraction of their workdays not working than do white non-Hispanics.

The findings imply that measures of the adjusted wage disadvantages of minority employees are overstated by about 10 percent.

They are consistent with cultural differences that lead minorities to be more relaxed about life, including life in the workplace, than are non- minority workers, and to be more willing to mix non-work with work.
Talk about not being politically correct - wow! It's easy to imagine the authors being drummed out of the profession.

Balz: Dems' Prospects Dim in Medium Run

Dan Balz, perhaps the nation's preeminent political columnist, hangs his hat at The Washington Post. Today he writes that things look substantially gloomy for the Democratic Party nationwide.
Gallup’s most recent findings on party identification in the states provide one indicator, perhaps imperfect, for measuring what was lost during Obama’s presidency and a benchmark for gauging whether Trump’s presidency moves the pendulum in the opposite direction.

The most telling headline in the latest report, written by Jeffery M. Jones, says, “All movement since 2008 in GOP’s direction.”

As Democrats look to rebuild their strength in the House and Senate, the implications of all of these threads are problematic. Geography and party-line voting are working against them.
Democrat's prospects today look dimmer than those of the GOP in 2008, and those weren't any fun. Appropos of my headline, remember economist J.M. Keynes' snark: "In the long run we're all dead."

Friday, February 3, 2017

Getting Real

A long-time, mildly successful comedienne now retired writes a weekly column for Power Line about the wryly humorous aspects of life and politics. Today she writes about the crazy reactions to Trump's locker room talk about celebrities' ability to take liberties with eager female fans.
I was on the road for 30 years doing comedy. I witnessed hordes of women – waitresses, audience members, reporters – approach the “stars” with phone numbers, room keys, underwear, and equally subtle hints that they might be available for grabbing. And most comics approached were “nobodies,” like me, not major stars like Jerry Seinfeld or Larry the Cable Guy.

Women are attracted to money, fame and power. It is a fact. The time-honored exchange has always been youth, beauty and sex for access to that money, fame and power. I am not saying it is right or fair, it’s just what IS. Even the ugliest male troll in Congress can get lucky with very little effort because of the “power” part. As for the money part, Donald spoke the truth, in what he thought was confidence to another rich boy eleven years ago.

The ginned-up eternal outrage that followed Trump’s factual, if ill-advised, locker-room talk made me cringe far more than the sentiment he expressed. But that’s just me. Life has made me equally cynical where bad behavior of both men and women is concerned.
She expresses my reaction exactly, it's one of those well-known facets of human behavior about which we are not supposed to speak, How else to explain trophy wives?

Quebec Has the European Disease

Every couple of years I like to take a look at happenings in Quebec, that embattled 'island' of  French language and culture in otherwise Anglophone Canada. Today's quick glimpse, written for the Gatestone Institute, reports Quebec's once-universal Catholicism, like that of southern Europe, is basically dead.
Quebec's Catholic buildings are empty; the clergy is aging.

The Catholic Diocese of Montreal sold 50 churches and other religious buildings in the last 15 years.

In 1966, there were 8,800 priests; today there are 2,600, most of whom are elderly; many live in nursing homes. In 1945, weekly mass was attended by 90% of the Catholic population; today it is 4%.

The birth rate has fallen from an average of four children per couple to just 1.6 -- well below what demographers call the "replacement rate"
Meanwhile Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has welcomed Muslim refugees to Canada. Apparently he cannot understand the object lessons of Belgium, France and Germany. If he were smart he''d recruit ethnic Europeans fleeing the problems there.

More Fake News?

Awhile back I wrote about CNN allegations of plagiarism directed at Monica Crowley, who was at the time nominee for director of communications at the Trump National Security Council. Later I wrote she had taken her name out of contention for that position.

Now Andrew C. McCarthy describes at National Review research showing the allegations were roughly an 80-90% made-up  hit job and maybe 10% or less valid. Instead of much plagiarism, it appears to be relatively little and inadvertent.

If McCarthy reports accurately, it would appear CNN omitted footnotes which showed that Crowley had paraphrased with attribution. Doing so is an entirely legal scholarly technique, one not considered plagiarism.

I don't propose to replicate the research myself. Lets conclude the original CNN allegations appear to be in some serious question, and were apparently done with malice.

Dr. Crowley is a bright, articulate spokesperson for conservative causes. I hope this is the beginning of a rehabilitation of her reputation.

Thursday, February 2, 2017


The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza posts two charts, from the centrist lobbying group Third Way, that show both graphically and numerically how the GOP today dominates the country's politics. The 2016 presidential map is labeled thusly:
     HRC = 15,296,202 or 64.6%
     Trump = 8,389,049 or 35.4%
Other 47 states
     HRC = 50,548,408 or 48.1%
     Trump = 54,590,587 or 51.9%
The current House map is labeled thus:
Acela Corridor and Pacific Coast
     = 98-34 Dem House lead
Other 40 states
      = 96-207 GOP House lead
Cillizza concludes Democrats have become a coastal party and need to broaden their appeal in the rest of the country. What do you suppose gave him that wildly 'original' idea? Odd that it isn't persuasive to Democrats.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Spengler: From Infancy to Senescence

David P. Goldman, who channels Spengler, writes about the disastrous Middle East:
The Muslim world is full of failed and soon-to-be-failed states that no force on earth will save from self-destruction. In my 2011 book How Civilizations Die (and Why Islam is Dying, Too), I argued that Muslim society goes from infancy to senescence without passing through adulthood. As soon as Muslim countries achieve adult female literacy, the bonds of traditional society dissolve and post-modern pathologies replace pre-modern constraints.

Iran is the poster-child for civilizational failure. Iranian women had seven children in 1979 and have just 1.7 children today, which means that Iran will be the first country to get old before it gets rich. By 2040 it will have an elderly dependent ratio like Europe's with a tenth the per capita income, and that is a social death sentence.

We elected Donald Trump to protect us. His promise to halt Muslim immigration was the turning point in his campaign fortunes, and rightly so. To declare that we will no longer bear the burdens of failed states, though, is to tell the elite that they are not an elite at all--they simply are unemployed. And it tells liberals that their secular path to salvation is shut down for the duration.
When a secular path is the only belief they've got, and it is "shut down," no wonder they are going bat-guano crazy. Watching the left melt down is so much fun it almost feels sinful.