Friday, March 31, 2017

People Left Behind

Decades ago we first started thinking about automation, CAD-CAM, and the like. At the time I was a relatively hard-working Associate Professor.

I remember talking to my students about replacing the people doing simple jobs with machines. What, I asked my students, are we going to do with the simple people doing those simple jobs? Where do they go? How are they to be supported?

Later, we began to see what I called the "McDonaldization" of work. Shifting work from full-time to part-time, permanent to temporary, moving the expertise from the person to the "system" or to the machines.

Retail and food service went from career jobs to incidental or part-time work, other jobs followed suit. Again I asked, what happens to the people displaced, those who made a career out of being a retail clerk or a waiter?

Still later, we began to see large-scale off-shoring, sending manufacturing jobs overseas. Again the question arose, what happens to the academically untalented or disinterested who've staffed our assembly lines and coal mines?

How do they fill their days? Who pays their bills? What provides their identity?

It is fine to talk of us becoming a high-tech society, except human evolution doesn't happen very fast. Many humans lack the intellect to become systems analysts or programmers, engineers or scientists, actuaries or physicians.

How do we organize a society in which those and a few service jobs are the only one's remaining? We can't wave a wand and make the tech-incapable people disappear. We can send their jobs overseas or automate them, but the former occupants are here still and, as a society, we have ignored their plight.

Recently we have seen reported an acceleration of deaths from opioid abuse/overdose, suicide, and alcoholic cirrhosis. Isn't it likely this is no-longer-useful people "solving" the problem described above chemically? It is their version of "waving the wand," seeking oblivion.

Cesar Chavez, Donald Trump Agree

National Review runs a story about Cesar Chavez, organizer of the United Farm Workers. It turns out he opposed illegal immigration and sent goons to discourage it! That doesn't fit the progressive narrative, does it?
As his biographer Miriam Pawel writes, “a surplus of labor enabled growers to treat workers as little more that interchangeable parts, cheaper and easier to replace than machines.”

Pawel quotes Chavez as saying, “It looks almost impossible to start some effective program to get these people their jobs back from the braceros.”

Pawel relates Chavez’s response, from a tape recording of the meeting: “Chavez turned on (Dolores) Huerta angrily. ‘No, a spade’s a spade,’ he said. ‘You guys get these hang-ups. Goddamn it, how do we build a union? They’re wets, you know. They’re wets, and let’s go after them.’” 
No kidding, it turns out St. Cesar understood micro-economics: supply and demand. N.B., "wets" is short for "wetbacks," a derogatory term rarely used today.

CA might want to think twice about celebrating his birthday today as a way to honor legal and illegal Hispanics. Perhaps Cinco de Mayo would be less controversial.

Rare Logic

Will wonders never cease? Common sense from an old lefty source, The New Republic. See what Jeet Heer wrote:
While some consider Republicans’ dogged obstructionism under Obama to be a proven, effective model for Democrats in the Trump era, this overlooks an essential difference between the two party’s agenda: Conservatives, per their name, have a much easier time saying “no.” An escalation of partisan warfare in Washington would have serious, long-term consequences for both parties, of course. But Democrats’ progressive agenda would suffer much more for it.
No kidding. Republicans are generally comfortable saying "no" to government initiatives, Democrats most often want to say "yes." Obstructionism, whoever is saying it, is a "no."

The Billy Graham Rule

Vice President Mike Pence follows what has been called the "Billy Graham rule." The Washington post explains:
In 2002, Mike Pence told The Hill that he never eats alone with a woman other than his wife and that he won’t attend events featuring alcohol without her by his side, either.
Feminists believe such a policy harms women's prospects in organizational life, and they may well be correct. Instapundit Glenn Reynolds takes a jaundiced view of their complaints:
So you drastically expand the definition of “sexual harassment,” and then promote an ethic that says that all accusations must be believed, and then you’re shocked that workplace men don’t want to hang out with women? How stupid are you?
Reminds me of the old adage about not being able to have it both ways.

A Generation of Wusses

Ammo Grrrll, a retired comedienne who writes a weekly column for Power Line, cracks wise about the angst of the "snowflake resistance" to Trump:
We live in “desperate” times: The people who soldiered on at home and abroad in two world wars, the people who survived the concentration camps to go on to establish the State of Israel, the millions who weathered a decade of soul-grinding poverty in the Depression, they had no idea what suffering was. It takes an election that doesn’t go your way to really “get” what “desperation” is.
We begat a generation of wusses. Coping with Trump may enable them to develop a soup├žon of toughness.

What Really Happened

Have you been confused by press reports of the activities of House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes? By Democrat demands that he should step down or recuse himself?

The Wall Street Journal's Kimberley A. Strassel has a clear, unconfused, description of what happened and why his activities were not only okay, but in fact laudable and excellent. If the whole story is TMI for you, see her conclusion:
Mr. Nunes has zero reason to recuse himself from this probe, because he is doing his job. It’s Mr. Schiff who ought to be considering recusal, for failing to do his own.
Mr. Schiff is the ranking Democrat on Nunes' committee. He appears to believe his job is defending partisan criminals in the former Obama administration from prosecution.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Secession ... It's Not Happening

With some frequency, a faction somewhere on the periphery of the U.S. talks about separating itself from the nation. We've heard such blather from Texas, from California, from Hawaii, from Vermont, perhaps elsewhere as well.

The last time states tried to leave, a notably philosophical president - Abraham Lincoln - went to war to prevent it happening. Does anybody think Donald T. would sit still for such silliness? Brexit is no precedent, our Constitution has no Article 50.

Yes, I know the Singapore argument. Malaysia allowed Singapore to peacefully leave the nation and become independent. And yes, there are parallels.

By permitting Singapore to go, Malaysia reduced the percentage of Chinese among its citizens to the point where ethnic Malays were the largest single population group, and a majority. If President Trump allowed CA to leave, he could reduce the number of Democrats in the country and guarantee Republican domination of the U.S. government, if not in perpetuity, certainly for decades. Tempting, but I remain unpersuaded.

Compared to Lincoln, Trump is anything but philosophical, and not overly concerned with legal niceties. If any U.S. state tries to declare itself independent, I predict they will almost immediately experience martial law and play host to large numbers of U.S. soldiers. Independence leaders will find themselves charged with treason and held without bail.

History Takes No Side

Former President Obama was fond of the statement "History is on our side." or of some policy "being on the side of history." Now a Yahoo News story has a holocaust survivor using that same glib formulation. Both were quite simply mistaken.

History takes no side. There is no "arc of history." We humans don't go inexorably from less civilized to more civilized, however much you wish it were true.

How else to explain the Dark Ages following on the heels of the quite elaborate and developed Greek and Roman civilizations? How else to explain the non-continuation of Mayan civilization, the collapse of the Chaco civilization of what are called the Anasazi or "old ones."

At various times the Egyptians, the Persians, the Arabs or the Chinese were at the apex of what passes for civilization on this planet. None has been there in recent centuries.

At the moment it is our turn in the U.S., how long our turn will last is difficult to predict. That it will eventually end is a sure thing.

So ... the next time some self-anointed smartypants talks about history being on his/her/its side, laugh in their face. To your sorrow, you know better.

Thursday Snark

Instapundit Glenn Reynolds quotes David Burge, who blogs at Iowahawkblog. Burge tweets:
Journalism is about covering important stories. With a pillow, until they stop moving.
It wasn't always true, but now is, sadly.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Ubiquity of Prejudice

One of the themes you see in various media outlets on the proud left - HuffPost, Vox, Salon - is that essentially everyone is racist. Oddly, it is a sentiment with which COTTonLINE is inclined to agree.

I believe the evidence from around the world makes this point clearly. Rejection of the "other" is a universal human trait. Racism is merely a major subset of the universal human tendency to root for one's own group, against other groups.

Chances are several human characteristics are things we wish were otherwise, we could readily do without wisdom teeth and the vermiform appendix, probably the gall bladder, as well. We often overdo the "killer ape" behavior, too.

Idealists, which I am not, wish human nature was more compatible with socialism, wish we were more like ants or bees, less like tigers or minks. That is, more collectivist, less individualistic.

They see the sacrifice some people will make for family and expect it to generalize to humanity - it doesn't, it won't. Evidence is relatively clear that collectives so large that not all members know each other personally just don't work out, too much free-riding happens.

Likewise, it's okay to wish humans weren't racist, just don't confuse the wish with what you know to be true. All of us to one degree or another are apt of think ill of those unlike ourselves, often manifest as racism.

Humans evolved to survive, it hasn't made us into saints or paragons. In our native state we more closely resemble a wolf pack: internally cooperative in small groups, externally remorseless.

Now It Begins

As an Express (U.K.) story reports, Brexit is officially "on," the letter beginning Article 50 has been delivered to the EU. The negotiations and machinations over the next two years will make fascinating history, live and on-camera. We expect to follow it relatively carefully, if not daily.

Inasmuch as no nation has left the European Union until now, there is no precident, no history to help us understand the kabuki in Brussels. Both the EU's negotiators and those for the United Kingdom will make it up as they go.

One of the questions raised is whether Brexit is a one-off or the first of several exits? Realistically, for economic reasons Greece should leave as should Italy. For quite other reasons, Ireland will think of leaving. In its case, their love-hate relationship and close economic ties with the Brits makes doing the same as the U.K. a real possibility.

Brexit has caused a resurgence in agitation for Scottish independence. Hoping to forestall Catalan desires for independence, Spain has threatened to veto any move by an independent Scotland to join the E.U. as a way to signal the Catalans they would similarly be barred. A novel event, Brexit is generating second and third order indirect consequences.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Wisdom from a Claremonster

Colin Dueck, writing in the Claremont Review of Books, restates wisdom we've seen recently, perhaps formulating it more elegantly. Hat tip to RealClearPolitics for the link.
Self-described liberals or progressives, less than one-third of the American public, devoted many long years to instructing their fellow citizens on the essential bigotry and wickedness of not voting Democratic. Accordingly, the only conceivable basis for opposing Hillary Clinton’s election must be sexism, racism, or stupidity. This ingenious strategy—winning votes by insulting voters—somehow failed to put Hillary over the top.
The strategy did succeed in getting voters to mislead pollsters about for whom they intended to vote. It is the same 'logic' you see in an old wisecrack about managers' dumb view of worker relations: "The beatings will continue until morale improves."

Thinking About Obamacare

Power Line's Paul Mirengoff takes an appraising look at Obamacare, what it is and isn't, what that means for changing it. Some key points he makes:
Obamacare (and Medicaid) differs materially from Social Security and Medicare, the classic entitlement programs. Everyone can get Social Security and Medicare if they reach a certain age. Moreover, because we pay into these programs, there’s a strong case that we are entitled to receive benefits.

Obamacare is a welfare program. It provides free health insurance to people who are slightly above the poverty line and subsidized health insurance to a group somewhat further up the income scale.

It is nearly axiomatic that true entitlement programs will never be eliminated. (snip) Welfare programs aren’t easily eliminated either but they can be, and sometimes they are cut back substantially.

Thus, in thinking about the possibility of eliminating Obamacare or curbing the benefits its provides, it makes sense to ask whether it is more like a classic entitlement or more like welfare.

I think it makes more sense to view Obamacare as welfare than as a classic entitlement.

Counting Coup

Have you been depressed with the negative news about the Obamacare overturn failing? Thinking maybe the Trump presidency is over before it begins? I have for you the desired antidote and it comes from an unexpected source: The Washington Post.

James Hohmann details many of the ways Donald Trump is deconstructing the federal bureaucracy; there are dozens of actions already taken. This is great news for those of us who see the deep state as seriously gargantuan and too often stupid.

I won't try to summarize the column, you need to read it for yourself. As you do, imagine the heartburn it is causing at the breakfast tables of tens of thousands of federal bureaucrats for whom WaPo is Pravda.

Try to keep from grinning, I dare you.

One Possible Answer

The Conservative Treehouse site states their bias in their name - refreshing. Nevertheless, they have a very short take on what Nunes saw and why he saw it at the White House. Check it out.
The “tipster” source is unknown. However, the actual intelligence report(s) he reviewed, which contained the unmasked surveillance information, was simply President Obama’s daily intelligence Briefing(s).

It appears, most likely, someone (aka mysterious tipster), simply told Nunes which dates to review. Hence the Executive Branch SCIF was utilized. The ACTUAL intelligence product itself was the Executive Office Presidential Daily Intelligence Briefing.

Most likely a Clapper (ODNI), Rogers (NSA), Comey (FBI Counter Intel), and Brennan (CIA) work product. Remember, President Obama preferred written intel briefings which he reviewed from his secure iPad.
Is this true? I have no idea. Is it plausible? Definitely. If it is true, you have to wonder why Sean Spicer hasn't splashed it all over the WH press briefing. Difficulties getting it declassified, one supposes. Hat tip to for the link.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Sins of Omission

Writing in The Washington Times, Kelly Riddell reflects on the old media's unwillingness to cover the rape of a 14 year old girl in a Maryland high school bathroom. The perps were two illegal immigrant students.

The media's rationale, it might cause people to support Trump's crackdown on illegals, his description of them as "rapists."
The news media’s ultimate power is the ability to suffocate stories they disagree with, and fan the flames of narratives they want to advance. 

Demographic Indicators

U.S. Census Bureau data released March 23, 2017, shows some interesting trends. Let me share some with you. Hat tip to Drudge Report for the link.
These notable high-population counties continued to see population loss:
Cook County, Ill. (Chicago): -21,324.
Wayne County, Mich. (Detroit): -7,696.
Baltimore city, Md.: -6,738.
Baltimore city saw an increase in population loss this year primarily due to a doubling of its net domestic out-migration.
In addition the Bureau reports the ten fastest shrinking counties in the U.S., ranked from most lost to least. I've added the name of the major city or area associated with each.
Cook County, IL (Chicago)
Wayne County, MI (Detroit)
Baltimore city, MD
Cuyahoga County, OH (Cleveland)
Suffolk County, NY (Long Island)
Milwaukee County, WI (Milwaukee)
Allegheny County, PA (Pittsburgh)
San Juan County, NM (four corners)
Saint Louis city, MO
Jefferson County, New York (Watertown)
Chicago, Detroit, Baltimore, Cleveland, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, Saint Louis - do we see a pattern emerging? If it is old, cold, dirty, and disorderly, people leave for newer, warmer, less messy places. Such movement drives urban planners wild.

Heating technology developed much sooner than cooling technology which influenced early settlement patterns. Once refrigerated air conditioning became practical, people began moving to warmer climates and continue to do so - Phoenix and Houston are rapidly growing areas.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Hafa Adai

I was going to title this post OOG, which old Guam hands know stands for Only On Guam. However, it turns out Hawaii has tried the same "nativist" scam with the same negative court finding, so "only on Guam" isn't quite accurate.

As Paul Mirengoff of Power Line writes, a federal court has ruled Guam limiting the franchise to persons of native stock violates the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution. The case was brought by a retired Air Force officer, resident on-island but not of island native stock, who was not allowed to vote in local elections.

The current governor has vowed to resist this finding. He apparently is sympathetic to the island's "brown power" movement.

The governor should reflect on what happened to former Governor Ricardo Bordallo who also thought U.S. law didn't apply to Guam. He was sentenced to four years in federal prison and committed suicide in lieu of serving his sentence.

True, Ricky B. is viewed by some as a martyr. However, political martyrdom is an uncommon aspiration among the native Chamorros.


Power Line's Steven Hayward writes a clever description of the current political scene:
Trump is the first president since Lincoln who has received no “honeymoon” period in Washington as is typical for new presidents—and for the same reason as in 1861: Democrats have essentially seceded from the American people, and won’t accept the results of a national election. (snip) You can swap out “resistance” today for “rebellion” in 1861 and capture the Democratic Party mood accurately.
It's a reasonable characterization of our present situation. For the ahistorical reader, it was Democrats who rebelled against Republican Abe Lincoln in 1861.

Later ... thinking about Hayward's formulation raises for me three questions: (1) At what point does the "loyal opposition" become the "disloyal opposition" or literal enemy? (2) Have we passed that point? (3) What will this iteration's version of "shelling Fort Sumpter" turn out to have been?

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Understanding the Problem

Andrew C. McCarthy writes in National Review the following, as in part his reaction to the recent terror attack in London.
When we speak of Islam, as opposed to Muslims, we are not speaking about a mere religious belief system. We are talking about a competing civilization — that is very much how Islam self-identifies. It has its own history, principles, values, mores, and legal system. Islam, thus understood, is not non-Western. It is anti-Western.

The remorseless fact is that before ISIS and al-Qaeda and the Khomeini revolution and Hezbollah and the Blind Sheikh and the Brotherhood and Khalid Masood, there was the single thing that unites them all. There was Islam.
I hear echoes of Samuel P. Huntington's Clash of Civilizations in McCarthy's formulation - nothing of which to be ashamed, by the way. Hat tip to Power Line for the link.

Lefty Press Admits Eavesdropping

The Daily Wire is out with a piece detailing 12 times when the old media or MSM admitted they knew the government headed by Obama was surveilling Team Trump. Hat tip to Power Line for the link.

I checked over half of the links and every one I checked was legitimately there, as reported. The MSM started backing away from knowing about surveillance when it appeared leaking the identities of Americans so surveilled could cause criminal difficulties for Obama and his minions.

Saturday Snickers

Once again Steve Hayward of Power Line comes forward with his collection - The Week in Pictures - of cartoons, captioned photos, wisecracks, and other fun stuff difficult to categorize. Some favorites described:

A poster with the following heading, all in caps:
it then continues:
Do you know someone
suffering from
Trump Unacceptance &
Resistance Disorder?
Four photos, the first shows a donkey head on Congressman Schiff's body as he asks from his head table seat in the hearing room:
Is there ANY evidence that President Obama
had wiretapped Mr. Trump's campaign?
Photo two shows FBI Director Comey answering:
Photo three again shows donkey Schiff asking:
How can you be so certain?
Photo four shows Director Comey answering:
Because we've been monitoring communications
out of Trump Tower since last summer.
A cartoon of Wolf Blitzer on CNN portentously saying:
At this time we have some unconfirmed speculation
that we would like to pass on to you
as breaking news.
A photo of the Normandy landings on D-Day, captioned:
In the old days if you attacked London
We did this to you.
A photo of a lovely driveway blocked by elaborate wrought iron gates, captioned:
If you say you're for open borders but live in a gated community
you might be a liberal. 
A photo of a Lowes storefront with actor Rob Lowe's portrait Photoshopped in front, captioned:
How many Lowes could Rob Lowe rob if Rob Lowe could rob Lowes? 

Noonan on Ryan's Flop

COTTonLINE often finds The Wall Street Journal's Peggy Noonan a voice of reason on matters political. Her column this week concerns the GOP's recent failure to repeal/replace Obamacare, see her distillation:
The central dynamic behind the bill’s difficulties is that the Republican conference in the House is divided between institutionalists, who support the leadership; conservatives, who found the bill too soft; and moderates, who found it too hard.

By putting forward the bill, they allowed this division—which was wholly predictable and may be irreconcilable—to play out as a public breakdown rather than an impasse. The president made a political mistake in throwing his lot with the leadership.
Stick a fork in him, Ryan is probably done. Boehner saw this coming and bailed out.

Will Irexit Follow Brexit?

Roughly two weeks ago COTTonLINE noted Brexit is complicating relations between the United Kingdom's Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland which represents the remaining 3/4 of the island. Following Brexit a border which has been wide open will need restriction, something unpopular on both sides of that border.

We wrote restrictions were needed unless the Republic of Ireland also leaves the EU, strongly implying such exit was unlikely. Perhaps I underestimated the likelihood of Irexit - the Republic of Ireland leaving the European Union.

See an article in the Daily Express (U.K.) which suggests the Republic leaving the EU is a realistic possibility. Although Irish Republicans resent their former status as a British colony, Britain is Ireland's largest trading partner. Closing the shared border is unpalatable so ... maybe Irexit could happen? Hat tip to for the link.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Quote of the Day

William Voegeli, writing at the Claremont Review of Books, about the Democrats' reactions to their 2016 election debacle, pens the following gem of understatement:
One imagines that, sooner rather than later, even Democrats will come to suspect that denigrating people until they vote for you lacks a certain strategic plausibility.
Perhaps he gives too much credit ... ?

Planned Parenthood in a College Town

From the current hubbub about Planned Parenthood you'd believe all they do is abortions. I know they do other stuff, about which more in a minute.

For a couple of decades my post office box was located in an annex next door to the Planned Parenthood clinic in our college town. Going in to pick up my mail several times a week, I saw many women headed into and out of the clinic.

I could always tell when it was abortion day as there'd be protestors standing vigil by the door holding fetus photos and signs. Most days of the week protestors weren't there as no abortions were scheduled.

Nevertheless there was a constant trickle of women, mostly quite young, headed in and out. Many of the latter carrying small sacks. It required no genius to conclude PP was a major facilitator of recreational sex for college students by providing birth control products.

I never determined why students weren't using the Student Health Service on campus for their birth control needs. Maybe they sought anonymity or maybe the SHS sent them to PP.

Depending on your view of recreational sex, and of college student hook-ups, my observation may influence you to feel more or less positive toward PP. Having no daughters, I wasn't upset.

Ryancare, R.I.P.

President Trump and Speaker Ryan were unable to get a majority of House Republicans to agree on a bill to dump Obamacare and replace it with the AHCA, aka Ryancare. The bill was pulled from consideration by the Speaker this afternoon.

The failure makes Ryan look ineffective, Trump is a bit bruised too, and widely reviled Obamacare remains the law of the land for the foreseeable future. It will continue until it collapses when the last insurers bail out.

President Trump has indicated when that happens, when Obamacare dies a natural death, everybody in both parties will have a motive to fix the problem. Until then, he has moved on to other issues.

Whether Ryan can survive as Speaker is separate question, one to which the answer is unknown at this juncture. Similar intra-party disunity caused the resignation of Speaker Boehner, Ryan's predecessor. Verdict: a party's big tent can be too big to function.

Where the Poor Are

Cybercast News Service reports the results of a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation. The question was what percentage of the births in each state were paid for by Medicaid, aka welfare medical coverage for the poor.
New Mexico led all states with 72 percent of the babies born there in 2015 having their births covered by Medicaid.

Arkansas ranked second with 67 percent; Louisiana ranked third with 65 percent; and three states—Mississippi, Nevada and Wisconsin—tied for fourth place with 64 percent of babies born there covered by Medicaid.

New Hampshire earned the distinction of having the smallest percentage of babies born on Medicaid. In that state, Medicaid paid for the births of only 27 percent of the babies born in 2015.

Virginia and Utah tied for the next to last position, with 31 percent of the babies born on Medicaid.
First-ranked New Mexico reports the 72% you'd expect from a third world country. Perhaps NM should be downgraded from a state to a commonwealth like Puerto Rico. My home state of Wyoming ranked 44th with only 36% paid by Medicaid.
According to KFF, some of the nation’s most populous states shared the distinction of having 50 percent or more of the babies born there born on Medicaid.

In California, Florida and Illinois, for example, 50 percent of all babies were born on Medicaid in the latest year on record.

In New York, 51 percent of the babies were born on Medicaid.

In Ohio, 52 percent of babies were born on Medicaid.
Actually, the table shows half the states have half or more of their births paid by Medicaid. Reminds me of a wisecrack from my father's era: "The rich get richer and the poor get children."

I wish Kaiser had produced statistics on what percentage in each state were born to parents in the U.S. illegally. It's likely the two rankings would be highly correlated. My headline tips a hat to the novel, film, and Connie Francis song all titled Where the Boys Are.

Knowing What, If Not Precisely How

You've probably wondered why President Trump has confidently claimed he and his people were "wiretapped." Perhaps you think he simply made it up, read it in The New York Times, or whatever.

I suspect Trump knows they were wiretapped because they've found the content of their private phone calls showing up in public media stories, and knew it could get there no other way. I'll wager he and his people have experienced multiple examples thereof.

It looks like we may learn the gruesome details relatively soon. Washington is lousy at keeping secrets and this one is a doozy.

It may be as big as Watergate, but since the malefactors this time were Democrats there are no Woodwards and Bernsteins waiting to pounce, no Ben Bradlee to guide their searches. Unlikely as it might seem, the hero of this cycle couild be Portuguese-American Congressman Devin Nunes (R-CA).

It's fun to imagine Barack Obama and John Brennan spending years in orange jumpsuits at Lompoc. It would lend weight to Michael Walsh's contention that the Democratic Party is "a criminal organization masquerading as a political party." Too much to hope for, one supposes, but fun nonetheless.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Eavesdropping on Team Trump

Let me tell you how the "eavesdrop on Team Trump" thing could well have gone down legally, up to the point where various people were "unmasked." Basically, you figure out where you want to go and then you go there in reverse so nobody notices.

Once Trump won in November, the identity of those close to him, helping with the transition, became known to anyone who cared enough to find out. Let's say people in government, maybe NSA or FBI, maybe some little outfit we've never noticed, decide they want to (or are supposed to) legally eavesdrop on the Trump people.

First they go to NSA files and use the phone logs of Trump aides to find out what foreigners the Trump people call with some frequency. Second, they get FISA taps on those foreigners' phones and wait for Trump people to call.

Third, record those calls. Fourth, in January convince the Obama White House to change the distribution rules for such forint, to make them much less restrictive.

Fifth, and here's where they go illegal, leak the calls with names unmasked. DC loves leaks so much hardly anybody gets in trouble for them, so the risk is low.

Another possibility, mentioned by Fox News' Bret Baier tonight, is to search calls made between foreigners for gossip about the Trumpistas; it can be lawfully done. Perhaps between spies with official embassy covers and their handlers back home, in Beijing or Ankara or Managua. Their calls should be monitored anyway. In other words, let foreign spies do the eavesdropping and/or wiretapping and "share" the data with or without their permission.

Later ... it could turn out that Fox News' Judge Napolitano was correct when he claimed the leaked intel came from the Brits' MI6. The Brits may have been absolutely correct that they knowingly shared nothing with the U.S. Perhaps NSA decrypted the Brits' wiretap info without their knowledge.


Last Sunday I wrote about the Claremont Review of Books as a West Coast home for Straussians. The Review's Senior Editor, William Voegeli is quoted in The Chronicle of Higher Education article about the Claremonsters as follows:
Our view is that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, whereas progressives are inclined to think that government derives just powers from the expertise of the experts.
In that statement is everything that is right with the United States and wrong with the European Union. To the extent people like Obama want us to emulate Europe, to that same extent they wish us ill, intentionally or otherwise.

The "Russian Problem" Comes Here

The Brookings Institution has published a study by two Princeton economists looking at rising morbidity rates for whites who have no more than a high school diploma. These are rising nearly nationwide, reflecting substance abuse, liver cirrhosis and suicide.

What strikes me is that the individuals in question are experiencing the same loss of hope that Russians experienced in the post-Soviet era, and in both cases the life expectancy is falling. Perhaps this should be expected.

Our coastal elites were complicit in off-shoring the good jobs these individuals depended upon for a decent life. Now people in China, India, Bangladesh, and Korea do those manufacturing jobs.

Meanwhile our academically challenged-or-disinterested fellow citizens find the remaining service employment pays little and provides no security. Their labor force participation rates continue to decline as do their marriage rates.
Not only are educational differences in mortality among whites increasing, but mortality is rising for those without, and falling for those with, a college degree. This is true for non-Hispanic white men and women in all age groups from 25-29 through 60-64.
The same phenomenon is not happening in Europe, they report. I would add it is happening in Russia. I think of it echoing in those famous lines from On The Waterfront.
I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let's face it.
Russians feel that way, so do non-college whites in today's U.S. Both remember they once had hope and pride. Perhaps loss-of-optimism should be identified by the CDC as an epidemiological factor.

About OLLI

Today I gave my final OLLI lecture for the Spring term. My five World Affairs topics this term were East Asia, Southern Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, Oceania, and Antarctica.

We aren't scheduled to do a series in the Fall; perhaps Spring, 2018, will be my next series. My other five topics are Eastern Europe, Western Europe, Latin America, the Caribbean, and Canada/Alaska.

If you don't know OLLI, it stands for Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. Its purpose is to organize and offer enrichment/edutainment courses for seniors at a quite modest price.

OLLI chapters are normally associated with a university or college campus, although the courses they offer are much less formal than college courses - no tests, no grades, no credit, attendance optional, show up if you enjoy it.

To find if there is an OLLI chapter near you, check out their list of locations at:
It's a great way to keep your mind active and have some fun too.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Being Bugged

On Monday I wrote that perhaps Trump team conversations were picked up in wiretaps on other parties, people with whom they were talking. Today, House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes announced something of the sort to be the case. I made a good guess.

This evening, Power Line's John Hinderaker posts yet another theory, based on the idea that the NSA essentially records everything anyone does by phone anywhere without targeting specific individuals. Once recorded, the materials become searchable by computer and, obviously someone or some ones with access did exactly that and unlawfully shared what they found.

The fact that neither NSA nor FBI set out to target Team Trump may be a smokescreen, effectively plausible deniability. It may be the case that Feds only "target" someone's phones is if they seek a criminal indictment, which in the case of Team Trump was probably not the aim.

It appears this story still has legs. Perhaps Chairman Nunes can provide proof of what, by whom, and how the bugging took place. Faster, please.

Business Climate Related to Politics ... Obviously

TaxProfBlog reports on the McGee Report which calculated the best and worst states for business. A pair of fascinating factoids from that meta-analytic study:
90% of the top 10 voted for Trump; 80% of the bottom 10 voted for Clinton.
Interested in the identity of the top 10 (actually 11 because IA, ND tied) ranked states for business? Here they are, all but one voting for Trump:
North Carolina
South Dakota
Colorado (D)
North Dakota
How about the 10 lowest ranked states for business? Here they are, all but two voting for Clinton:
New York
West Virginia (R)
New Mexico
Rhode Island
Louisiana (R)
New Jersey
These results are not the result of random chance, politics are related to business climate. I find interesting that Texas is no longer among the top 10. Y'all must miss Gov. Perry.

Low-Tech Terror

The Independent (U.K.) reports a terror incident near Parliament in London earlier today. A bearded man rammed a rented Range Rover into a crowd of people, then hopped out with one or more knives and began stabbing people. Police shot him dead.

The total butcher's bill: five dead (three pedestrians run over, a policeman stabbed, and the terrorist himself) and perhaps 40 injured. The Guardian (U.K.) reports:
Police believe the attacker struck alone and was inspired by Islamist-related international terrorism.
The event is similar to the widely publicized truck attacks in Nice and Berlin, each featured the use of a motor vehicle as a weapon. Motor vehicles are widely available to people who wish to commit mayhem and have no expectation of, or concern for, getting away unharmed.

Access to firearms is no prerequisite to terror. Just about any good-sized motor vehicle - of which there are millions - can be deadly. A stoppered quart bottle of gasoline, a rag and a match will do the job. Or a kitchen knife. Wielded with vigor, a baseball bat or golf club can hurt a lot of people too.

At this point in the world's history, only one demographic is producing suicide terrorists in any meaningful quantity. Given our inability to keep members thereof separate from the manifold makeshift weapons listed above, wisdom consists of not admitting that demographic to our shores.

Later ... NBC News reports the identity of the bearded attacker, now deceased:
Police identified the suspect as Khalid Masood, 52, on Thursday. Authorities said Masood was born in Kent and detectives believe he was most recently living in the West Midlands.
Later still ... it turns out Khalid Masood was born Adrian Elms and converted to Islam.

Hypocrisy on Steroids

Susan Rice, former Obama national security advisor, has authored an opinion piece for The Washington Post entitled "When the White House twists the truth, we are all less safe." Rice spent a Sunday in 2012 going around the TV talk shows on behalf of the Obama White House falsely telling America the diplomat murders in Benghazi were a reaction to a video Muslims found offensive.

Rice made these claims when she was aware it was a complete misrepresentation of the known facts, a face-saving-for-Obama-and-Clinton lie. Writing today's column shows her brazen, defiant poor taste, aka chutzpah. Rice accuses others of misbehavior of which she was manifestly guilty herself. WaPo shows no class in giving page space to this discredited source.

The Troubles, Revisited

The Express (U.K.) reports an explosive device detonated in Northern Ireland, in a failed apparent attempt to kill police who were patrolling in the area. This may be an indicator of a resumption of "the Troubles."

The so-called "troubles" were sectarian violence between Northern Ireland's Protestants and Catholics. The Protestants favor a continued association with Britain while the Catholics favor merging Northern Ireland with the southerly Republic of Ireland. The more numerous Protestants have carried the day, so far - the North remains part of the U.K.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Kellyanne Conway, An Appreciation

Writing for The Atlantic, Molly Ball does a profile of the political impact of Kellyanne Conway, calling her "the unsung architect of Trumpism." That would make Conway, along with Steve Bannon, the Trump administration's Karl Rove. Hat tip to for the link.

Conway was a pollster before she became a campaign manager. Three years ago she produced polling data supporting RealClearPolitics analyst Sean Trende's notion that many thousands of white working class rural voters of the Northern Midwest didn't vote in 2012.

Like Trende, she believed these non-voters saw nothing to choose between Romney and Obama - disliking both equally - and stayed home. The issue was then how to lure these voters back to the polls. That Conway's roots were among such voters didn't hurt.

Conway's numbers supporting Trende's analysis convinced eminence grise Steve Bannon a winning strategy lay in advocating a crackdown on illegal immigration, and perhaps a slowdown in legal immigration as well. The rest, as they say, is history. Ball's article is worth reading.

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Wiretap Blues

Today I watched a bit of Neil Cavuto's afternoon show on Fox News (not Fox Business) where he interviewed Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY). Paul made an interesting point.

In response to a Cavuto question about Trump's "wiretap" allegations, Paul responded roughly as follows (I paraphrase as I did not record).
That people associated with the Trump campaign were being eavesdropped upon is already proven. A Mike Flynn conversation was leaked and therefore listened in on by someone, resulting in Flynn's resignation. About that there is no question.
Maybe what happened is that a bunch of people the campaign contacted were being wiretapped, so their conversations got out, even though the taps were not directed at campaign personnel? Just a guess. The effect of private conversations ending up being known to others is the same either way.

The God Problem

Salina Zito is one of the canny observers of American politics. Today writing for the New York Post, her topic is the Democrats' "God problem."

Zito argues that many Americans are religious while Democrats are correctly seen as indifferent or even hostile to religion. She writes of 2006, which she identifies as a turning point:
Exit polls showed Democrats “did well among their core constituencies; compared to 2002, they received increased support from Jews, the religiously unaffiliated, infrequent churchgoers and those who never attend religious services.”

In other words, Democrats were hugely successful across the country by solidifying their base. In the process, they have pushed away religious voters not simply by ignoring them but by actively repelling them with accusations of bigotry and backwardness.
In the short to medium run, Zito is likely correct. Being seen as somewhat hostile to faith is still a problem in this nation. She doesn't even cite Obama's "they cling to guns or religion" faux pas.

In the longer run, if American culture evolves in the same directions as those of first world nations elsewhere, being post-religious may be a plus for Democrats. Already most natives of Europe and Japan have left religion behind.

The churches of Europe are largely museums-in-all-but-name, in use mostly for ceremonies of marrying and burying. Polling suggests the U.S. is moving in the same direction, albeit more slowly. Already "none" is one of the largest categories of American response to the question of religious affiliation.

Backbone Needed

The Daily Caller alleges that 30 countries refuse to take back their citizens who, as illegal immigrants to the U.S., were convicted here of crimes. It continues that U.S. law permits us to refuse issuing visas to citizens of such nations, but that we are not doing so - not enforcing our law, not withholding visas.

If true, it is something President Trump should get T-Rex to reverse at State. I'm positive at least some of the refusenik nations would reverse their policies.

Illegals Unpopular in Canada, Too

Reuters has the results of a new poll of Canadians, hat tip to Drudge Report for the link. Its findings don't fit our stereotype of "the polite Canadian who loves multiculturalism;" maybe it was always a myth.
Canadians appeared to be just as concerned about illegal immigration as Americans, according to the poll, which was conducted between March 8-9. Some 48 percent supported "increasing the deportation of people living in Canada illegally."

When asked specifically about the recent border crossings, the same number - 48 percent - said Canada should "send these migrants back to the U.S." Another 36 percent said Canada should "accept these migrants".

In the United States, where President Donald Trump was elected partly on his promise to boost deportations, 50 percent of adults supported "increasing the deportation of illegal immigrants," according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted in the same week.
As a longtime social scientist, I'd tell you those numbers show there is no material difference between us and our northern neighbors in degree of support for ejecting illegals.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

A Left Coast Home for Strauss

Writing for The Chronicle of Higher Education, Jon Baskin does a long and not overly negative look at the nest of "West Coast Straussians" who call Claremont Graduate University home, publish the Claremont Review of Books, and generally provide an intellectual underpinning for the Trump doctrine.

The Review isn't technically associated with Claremont U. but published by a think tank in the neighborhood and staffed largely by Claremont grad students. The guys at Power Line have been trying to interest their readers in CRB, plugging it as a conservative wonder.

The famous Publius Decius Mus article "The Flight 93 Election" appeared there. We commented favorably on it back on September 5 of last year, and quoted the opening two paragraphs:
2016 is the Flight 93 election: charge the cockpit or you die. You may die anyway. You—or the leader of your party—may make it into the cockpit and not know how to fly or land the plane. There are no guarantees.

Except one: if you don’t try, death is certain. To compound the metaphor: a Hillary Clinton presidency is Russian Roulette with a semi-auto. With Trump, at least you can spin the cylinder and take your chances.
I believe TCHE was genuinely bemused to find the philosophical heart of Trumpism associated with a respectable campus. I love what the West Coast Straussians call themselves, they're "Claremonsters."

NB: For the firearms-challenged, Russian Roulette is only a gamble with a revolver, with a semi-auto it is simply suicide.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Saturday Snickers

Steve Hayward of Power Line has his usual weekly compilation of cartoons, snidely captioned photos, and generalized snark which he calls "The Week in Pictures." Herewith are described a few of my favorites from this week's haul:

A photo of three people passed out on the floor in various awkward poses amid empty whiskey bottles, labeled
Irish yoga
Photo of a pretty girl and handsome fellow sitting at a candle-lit table in a restaurant, she speaks:
I'm a socialist.
He replies (trying to impress her):
I don't understand economics either. 
Photo of TV's Mr. Rogers in his classic tie and cardigan, captioned:
Sure we could talk about how socialism could work.
But first we have to go to the land of make-believe. 
Photo of a beautiful bowl of Romaine lettuce sitting on a butcher block counter, with 11 steak knives stabbed into it, labeled:
Caesar salad. 
And finally, a photo of a gal with eye protection in a combat stance firing a 9mm semiauto downrange, captioned:
The 2nd Amendment
Making more women equal than the entire feminist movement.
Darn, my friend Norm Pendegraft always said Col. Colt was the great equalizer.

Wilders and Nationalism

George Friedman of Geopolitical Futures is one of the better observers of international affairs currently writing. Here for RealClearWorld, he comments on the recent Dutch election and the larger phenomenon of nationalism stalking Europe (and America).

As COTTonLINE noted two days ago, Geert Wilders' performance in that election has been spun as a loss, perhaps an exaggeration. Friedman agrees:
Geert Wilders, the nationalist candidate for prime minister of the Netherlands, lost the election on March 15. This has brought comfort to those who opposed him and his views on immigration and immigrants. (snip) The fact that his party is now the second largest in the Netherlands, rather than an irrelevancy, should be a mark of how greatly the Netherlands – and Euro-American civilization – has changed, and an indication that this change is not temporary.

Alarming from my point of view is the inability of his enemies to grasp why Wilders has risen, and their tendency to dismiss his followers as simply racists.

Nationalism was the centerpiece of the rise of liberal democracies because liberal democracy was built around the liberation of nations. Liberals in Europe and America did not deny that, but they simply could not grasp that the nation cannot exist unless the people feel a common bond that makes them distinct. Their claim was that it was legitimate to have a nation, but not legitimate to love it inordinately, to love it more than other nations, to value the things that made it different, and above all, to insist that the differences be preserved, not diluted.

The nationalism issue has become a football in a growing class struggle between those who praise tolerance but do not face the pain of being tolerant, and those who see tolerance as the abandonment of all they learned as a child.
Good stuff, he has grasped a significant part of the truth. It 's worth reading Friedman's whole column.

Thursday, March 16, 2017


So ... Geert Wilders didn't win the most votes of any party in the Dutch parliament. The New York Times reports:
The People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy was likely to capture 33 of the 150 seats in Parliament — a loss of seven seats, but still far more than any other party.

Mr. Wilders’s Party for Freedom was expected to finish second, with 20 seats (an increase of eight); and the right-leaning Christian Democratic Appeal and the left-leaning Democrats 66 were tied for third, with 19 each, the broadcaster reported.
So the incumbent PM's party won the most votes, but far fewer than before. Wilders' party won more than before, but not a majority.

The old media is spinning this as a loss for Wilders which, considering he was ahead in the polls until the last few weeks of the campaign, perhaps it was. On the other hand, his party is now stronger, the PM's party is now weaker, and many of the parties were forced to become more nationalistic to coopt some of his positions and cut their losses.

Germany's Merkel is obviously hoping that she, like Dutch PM Mark Rutte, will be able to hold onto power following the elections later this year. Germany, however, has had more immigrant-initiated violence and crime than has the Netherlands. She is right to worry.

Meanwhile, Breitbart calls Rutte's achievement "Pyrrhic," which feels about right to me. A victory offset by staggering losses; the sort of "victory" which was so hard-fought another like it would be fatal.

Establishment Nonsense

A Federal judge in Hawaii has issued an order halting implementation of the President's revised travel ban on people from six nations which are so dysfunctional there is no way to determine the politics of their travelers. The judge's rationale: the "establishment clause," essentially that part of the First Amendment to the Constitution which prohibits the establishment of an official U.S. religion.

Let's try a thought experiment. Suppose the poobahs of the Third Reich had declared Nazism a religion? Announced its leaders were bishop, cardinal and pope equivalents.

Would that have made Nazis untouchable under U.S. law? Could we not have banned them or their activities and propaganda because of the protections offered by the establishment clause? If this hypothetical seems ludicrous, explain how terroristic political Islam is not the moral equivalent of a "Hitler as Pope?" I'd argue for equivalency.


I saw a great analogy the other day, I wish I could remember the source to cite it. The analogy was this: suppose I have a bowl of M&Ms and tell you that a random 10% are poisoned. I ask you how many would you like to eat? Your wise answer: none.

Then I tell you that surveys show 10% of Muslim immigrants reject our values and wish us ill, how many should we admit? Your rational answer is the same: none. In both cases, the upside is far outweighed by the downside.

Neither M&Ms nor Muslim immigrants are an essential ingredient of a full life.

Follow the Money

The Cipher Brief runs a column on the "hawala networks" by which third-world people move money around the globe. This isn't exactly a new idea, we've known for some years they are used by terrorists to keep a record of their finances out of the hands of government anti-terror investigators "following the money." The author concludes with this quote:
“In short, there is no regulatory solution for hawala networks and our adversaries understand this,” explains John Cassara, Cipher Brief expert and former Special Agent at the U.S. Treasury Department.“

“Osama bin Laden once referred to taking advantage of ‘cracks inside the Western financial system.’ The hawala system isn’t a crack, it’s a canyon,” he concluded.
Why not declare them illegal, or alternatively, impose upon them the same elaborate record-keeping requirements faced by banks? Driving them underground seems a good first step; if halawa was illegal it would facilitate getting permission for wiretaps and other comm intercepts.

The Deep State Considered

George Friedman writes for Geopolitical Futures, republished here by RealClearWorld. His current topic is the so-called "deep state." See his conclusion:
The idea that there is a deep state hidden from view that really controls things is absolutely true, except for the fact that it is not only visible to everyone who looks but is written into law. It exists not because of conspiracy, but because of the desire to shield government from politics. I understand the logic, but the result has unexpected and unpleasant consequences. A discussion of the deep state is possible only by really not understanding that the U.S. government functions as it does because the deep state was actually seen as a good idea.
Too much of a good thing is a good thing no longer. Supposedly apolitical, our civil servants have long since figured out that only one political party - the Democrats - wants to spend more and grow their ranks. So they cooperate with Dems and show dumb insolence to the GOP.

A key thing GOP majorities in House and Senate can accomplish is to simplify the Byzantine, designed-to-fail processes by which civil servants are fired for nonperformance. It is time to "prune" the bureaucracy: clip off the dead wood, tangles and suckers, and create a more productive, healthier Federal "tree." There will be resistance.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

A Weather Contrast

Yesterday the East Coast had a late winter blizzard/storm. There were lots of pix on TV of cars and semis sliding sideways and folks shoveling snowy sidewalks and digging out parked cars.

Also yesterday, in Northern California we reached 80 degrees. I saw a carpenter working with his shirt off, getting a sunburn.

Winters in Wyoming are long and cold, in CA they are short and mild. Its government may be the near-exclusive domain of leftwing nutbags, but you can't beat the CA weather or the scenery out past the city limits.

Thus, CA may be a crappy place to call home but it is still a great place to visit. However, if they carry out their threat to install a universal single payer health care system like Canada's or maybe England's NHS, we'll find somewhere else to snowbird, maybe the TX hill country. The exodus of medical professionals out-of-state will become a tsunami.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Student Loan Default

Senior Power Line blogger John Hinderaker notes a Washington Post story about student loan debt default. He quotes the following from that piece:
The Consumer Federation of America released a study Tuesday that found that millions of people had not made a payment on $137 billion in federal student loans for at least nine months in 2016, a 14 percent increase in defaults from a year earlier. The consumer watchdog used the latest data from the Education Department, which manages $1.3 trillion in federal student debt owed by 42.4 million Americans.

“Despite a rising stock market and falling unemployment, student loan borrowers are still struggling,” said Rohit Chopra, a senior fellow at CFA and former student loan ombudsman at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. “The economy remains very difficult for so many young people just starting out.”
Imagine all the snowflakes with degrees in Victim Group Studies or similarly impractical fields of "study" who find no market demand for their nonexistent skills and obvious sense of entitlement. I wouldn't hire one, would you?

Please, if you know young people headed for college, counsel them to seek a major associated with an active and vibrant job market. The days when any baccalaureate was a ticket to ride the gravy train have been gone for nearly a half-century.

Major matters, more than ever. Personal growth, if that is what it is, can be pursued avocationally after achieving career employment.

Marriage Works

RealClearPolicy carries an article entitled "Make Marriage Great Again," it is a sentiment which COTTonLINE is happy to endorse.

More than a sentiment, it summarizes large swathes of social science research which point to marriage as one of the three prerequisites for upward mobility, along with education and jobs.

The DrsC have been married 45 years and counting. Most of the people we meet on shipboard, whose life success has been sufficient to afford cruising, are long married.

It isn't uncommon to encounter those married longer than ourselves. In other words, it works.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Populism Up North

I like Canada, and therefore take an occasional look at social developments there. Political scientist Michael Valpy writes in The Globe and Mail that something very like Trumpism is brewing among the Canadian electorate. Valpy describes findings by a leading Canadian pollster:
Over the past few years Mr. Graves has found a persistent and deepening pessimism among Canadians about their economic future, with racism, nativism and xenophobia appearing as byproducts of growing economic angst and resentment. He has found that almost 25 per cent of Canadians believe there is a good chance they will lose their jobs in the next couple of years.

He has found that 70 per cent believe that almost all the economic growth over the past 20 years has ended up in the hands of the top 1 per cent. He has found persistently hardening attitudes to immigration and to the increase of visible minorities in the population, supporting the notion that we are closing – not opening – as a society and that our iconic multicultural identity is, to say the least, being questioned.

Indeed, another recent poll showed that vetting immigrants for “Canadian values” – seen by critics of Conservative leadership candidate Kellie Leitch as her code language for discouraging non-white immigration – is favoured by 90 per cent of Conservative supporters and almost 60 per cent of Liberal and NDP supporters.
Translation: a healthy majority of all Canadian voters support screening immigrants for Canadian values. I hear definite echoes of Trump arguing for ensuring U.S. immigrants share our values.

Brexit Is On

The last barrier to Brexit has fallen, according to the Daily Mail. Parliament has rejected two amendments which attempted to weaken the resolution making leaving the European Union British law. The more important one would have protected the right of EU citizens now living in Britain to remain.

The Queen is expected to sign the bill tomorrow morning, after which May can act on her preferred timetable. May has said she will "pull the trigger" on Article 50 at the end of March, sometime around the 27th.

It will start a two-year period during which Britain and the EU will negotiate the terms of separation. One supposes it could happen more quickly if that outcome is desired by both parties.

A major motivation of Brits who voted "Leave" was gaining control over immigration, basically limiting it. One of the thorniest Brexit issues is what will happen with the land border between the independent Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland (part of the U.K). The border was somewhat tightly controlled during "the troubles."

When Northern Ireland's Protestants and Catholics finally stopped killing each other, the border became essentially just a line on a map, with no controls. That freedom is likely to end unless Ireland decides to join Britain in leaving the EU.

If the border remains uncontrolled, those wishing to sneak into the U.K. could fly to Dublin and mosey across the border to Belfast before flying to London. The vote to Leave was a vote to close this door, regardless of how difficult it makes life for Irish on both sides of the border.

We live in interesting times.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

California Weird

My native state of California since 2010 has what is variously called a "blanket primary" or open primary election system. Wikipedia describes it as follows:
A nonpartisan blanket primary is a primary election in which all candidates for the same elected office, regardless of respective political party, run against each other at once, instead of being segregated by political party. It is also known as a jungle primary, qualifying primary, top-two primary or Louisiana primary.

Under this system, the candidates receiving the most and second-most votes become the contestants in the general election—as in a runoff election, in a two-round system. (In some cases, the second round of voting is necessary only if no candidate receives an overall majority on the initial ballot.)

However, there is no separate party nomination process for candidates before the first round, and political parties are not allowed to whittle-down the field using their own internal processes (e.g., party primaries or conventions). Therefore, it is entirely possible that two candidates of the same political party could advance to the general/run-off.
In fact, in the 2016 election two Democrats were on California's November ballot running to replace Senator Boxer who had retired. Both had received more primary votes than any Republican or other candidate. Today, all offices elected statewide (instead of by district) are held by Democrats, an outcome irreversible in the foreseeable future.

CA is well on its way to politically resemble post-war Japan or Mexico during the period 1920-2000. That is, a place where all important decisions will be settled within the caucus of the ruling party. There factions representing various populations and interest groups will contest outcomes. Generally, such systems become massively corrupt and patronage-driven. Such has been the case in places like 20th century Mexico, today's New York and, to some degree, Japan.

Full disclosure: my interest is that of a native son; thankfully no longer a resident. I view 21st century CA politics becoming depressingly like those of the third-world - typically squalid and dysfunctional.

Sunday Snark

Writing at the American Greatness website, Ben Boychuk cracks wise about calls to lower the voting age to 17.
Young people are our future – and that’s a terrifying prospect.

Lowering the age of eligibility would expand the pool of low-information voters, and that’s about it.
I believe a good argument could be made for raising the voting age to 26. That's when today's young "adults" finally wean off the teat of family health insurance.

Far too many tiresome people have taken to heart the notion of growing older without growing up.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Tough Times in Ukraine

RealClearWorld has a link to an article in The Daily Signal about life in today's Ukraine, and the efforts of some locals who are trying to sell American values there. I read it and was choked up by the end.

Admittedly I'm an old softy, a sucker for a patriotic pitch. Give it a look and see if you have that reaction too. They deserve more help than they're getting. Maybe this will help.

What Income Inequality?

Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, has become an insightful observer of our politics. His latest blog post is good stuff. Hat tip to Instapundit for the link.
Back in 2014 B.T. (Before Trump), the headlines were all about income inequality. I don’t recall hearing much of anything about immigration in the news. Then candidate Trump – the Master Persuader – told us that immigration was a big problem. Almost instantly the media started treating it like the biggest issue in the world. The public followed.

What happened is that candidate Trump persuaded us that immigration was a big problem. And in so doing, he pushed the issue of income inequality off the page.

If you had asked me in 2014 to list my country’s top 10 problems, immigration would not have been on the list. Now it’s usually at the top of the news. Trump did that. And by doing it he showed us a level of leadership that I have never seen in my lifetime.

But here’s the interesting part. If you want to address income inequality, what is one of the best ways to do it? Answer: Limit immigration. That means higher wages for American citizens and lower profits for the top 1% who want cheap labor.

The other reason that you no longer see liberals make the trend toward greater income inequality their flagship issue is funnier.

Trump is solving it.
Who would have guessed an artistically challenged cartoonist who is also a wryly humorous observer of bureaucratic life would morph into a keenly insightful political analyst? Not me, that's for sure.

Welcome Daylight Time

COTTonLINE readers should know tonight is the night you set your clocks AHEAD one hour. Sunset will happen later and that's a good thing.

Our next milestone is the official beginning of Spring. That happens on the 21st of the month, just 10 days from now.

Saturday Snickers

Each Saturday Power Line's Steven Hayward posts a collection of cartoons, recaptioned photos, and other funny stuff, something he calls "The Week in Pictures." Here are my favorites described:

Cartoon woman on sofa says to husband sitting beside her:
I worry that replacing Obamacare could rob America's most vulnerable of the health coverage that everybody else can't afford.
The classic road sign labeled CAUTION showing the silhouettes of an immigrant family running, this one includes a Trump silhouette with a big butterfly net chasing them.

Photo of an old, tired FDR sitting beside Joe Stalin at Yalta, labeled:
Leftist hero meets with Russia.
Gives Russia half of Europe.
Photo of a screaming 2 year old in full tantrum mode, refusing to stand and being dragged along by one arm by his mother who is basically ignoring him, labeled:
Liberal Protests
How It All Began
Photo of a worried-looking raccoon with its hand-like paws folded, captioned:
A History Lesson
Are you sitting comfortably? Then I will begin ...
Do you know what happened 166 years ago this summer ... September 9, 1850?
California became a state! The people had no electricity, the state had no money, and almost everyone spoke Spanish. There were gunfights in the streets.
So basically NOTHING has changed except back then the women had real tits and the men didn't hold hands.
And that, my friends, is your history lesson for today.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Good News on Friday

Had enough bad news to hold you for a couple of hours? Want some good news as a counterbalance? I have good news for you to close out the week.

NBC News reports on a prescription drug, Gleevec, that enables some leukemia patients to live for 10 years or longer.
The once-a-day pill turned chronic myelogenous leukemia, or CML, from a certain death sentence into a manageable disease. Now data shows it's helped 83 percent of patients live 10 years or longer.

And some may be able to stop taking the pills altogether, even though they are not cured, the original team of researchers reported in the New England Journal of Medicine Thursday.
Now we need one of those for each of the major cancers.

A Fourth Reich?

Politico quotes Donald Trump on the subject of the European Union, as told to the Times of London.
You look at the European Union, and it’s Germany. Basically a vehicle for Germany. That’s why I thought the U.K. was so smart in getting out.
Many pundits have called German Chancellor Angela Merkel the leader of Europe. I wonder, is Trump suggesting we imagine the EU as the Fourth Reich, minus the goose-stepping mass rallies?

Economically, he wouldn't be far wrong, especially with the Brits headed for the door. Politically and militarily, the EU is too spineless for the analogy to work.

The Downside

The Washington Examiner reports Nancy Pelosi saying the following:
If Hillary had won, I was ready to go home. It was really shocking that someone like Donald Trump would be president of the United States. We yearn for the day of a Mitt Romney or a George Bush or someone. But anyway, that motivated me to stay now.
I can't begin to describe how painful it is to see Alzheimer's on public display. Has anyone had the courage to tell her how pathetic she has become?

We've been waiting to learn the downside of electing Trump. Now we know at least part of it.

If Pelosi "yearns" for a Bush or Romney, does that tell you what huge GOP mistakes they both were? Full disclosure: I supported both as lesser evils.

I suppose Nancy and I agree upon the "lesser evil" part, but disagree on the "than whom" question. She means "than Trump" while I mean "than Obama or Kerry."

Bolivia Gets Higher

Yahoo News carries an Agence France-Presse story about increasing coca production in Bolivia, it features President Morales waving a bottle of coca-based liquor.
Leftist president Evo Morales dismissed warnings that an increase in coca crops would fuel the illegal drug trade.

The coca leaf is commonly chewed or drunk like tea, but drug gangs make it into cocaine in a chemical process that brings out its narcotic qualities.

Bolivia is the third biggest coca producer in the world after Colombia and Peru. Those two countries are trying to reduce their coca crops to curb drug-trafficking.

Former president Jorge Quiroga said Morales's move would "bring international shame" on Bolivia "due to the stigma of drug-trafficking and the crime that it will cause."

The Obamacare Repeal Dilemma

As I understand it, the House plan to repeal and replace Obamacare involves three steps. The first can go through the Senate with 51 votes because it deals with budgetary matters and can utilize the so-called "reconciliation" process.

This first step is on the table at present and it continues to subsidize health care for lower income Americans, albeit using a different mechanism. House conservatives reject it for, as I understand it, two reasons.

Reason one: they oppose government subsidy of health care for working people, period. I understand that viewpoint but find it, frankly, unrealistic politically.

Public opinion currently holds no one should be without health care because they can't afford it. Dumping perhaps millions of folks off Obamacare with no feasible alternative won't sell politically.

Reason two: they are concerned steps two and three which deal with the non-financial aspects of the new system will never pass the Senate's filibuster roadblock of 60 votes to move non-budgetary bills to a vote. This is a reasonable concern.

Doing so would require 7 or 8 Democrat senators to vote for the Obamacare replacement. Any hope they will do so rests on the notion that 10 Democrats face reelection in 2018 in states carried by Trump in 2016.

Presumably some such senators can be pressured to go along; at the moment I can think of only one. Any who do so may face a primary challenge by angry Democrats willing to lose the seat to punish a "traitor."

The other alternative for passing the remaining two steps would be a change in Senate rules essentially eliminating the filibuster.  This can be done with 51 votes.

I believe there is insufficient appetite among Republican senators for this drastic step which, once taken, cannot be walked back. Senators have long time horizons. Next time they are in the minority they'll want the 60 vote requirement to keep a rein on Democrat social engineering.

In order to break the logjam, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell needs to convince conservative House members why he is confident steps two and three will pass the Senate. That will be a hard sell.

One mechanism might be to write the legislation in such fashion that none of it becomes operational until all three steps pass and are signed into law. This mechanism probably guarantees the legislation will never become law, making it a likely non-starter. I'm not certain what his Plan B might be.

Korean "Princess" Loses "Throne"

Agence France-Presse reports South Korea has impeached and removed from office its elected President, Park Geun-hye. The daughter of former dictator Park Chung-hee, she basically grew up in what is now the President's residence, the Blue House. The story runs at Asia Times, linked by RealClearWorld.

A lonely figure who never married, President Park leaned on a gal pal confidant who proved to be seriously corrupt. She ended up tarred with the same brush. 

Given the craziness going on in North Korea, this isn't a great time for political upheaval in South Korea. One hopes democratic institutions in South Korea are strong enough to withstand the challenge.

Afterthought: What is the story with dynastic politics in the Koreas? North Korea is notorious for it. Is it Confucian? Tribal? This story at Foreign Affairs may hold some clues. 

Thursday, March 9, 2017

For What It's Worth

Who is a birther now? Perhaps Barack Obama's half brother Malik, who supposedly has tweeted what purports to be a Kenyan birth certificate for our former president. Here is a link to it at The American Mirror. Is it legit? Unclear, probably it is not.

I would be interested in a legal opinion concerning whether actions taken by a "President Obama" are valid if hypothetically it turns out he was never eligible to run or hold the office. The question would never arise if he were recognizably American.

Instead, Barack Hussein Obama II is the classic "man without a country." As such he appeals to globalists but appalls us nationalists. Hat tip to Drudge Report for the link.

Porsche Maven Drives a Ram

Instapundit Glenn Reynolds links to a Road & Track article which reveals that Andreas Preuninger, the guy who heads up GT development for Porsche, drives a customized Ram 1500 long bed pickup truck. He loves it, something that couldn't be more different than his workaday responsibilities.

You do occasionally spot some big Detroit iron in Europe. I remember we saw an A-body muscle car - an Olds 4-4-2 - in Tallinn, Estonia. Still, American pick-ups are rare there and, as regular readers know, I love 'em.

An Existential Threat ... to Some

Writing the usual liberal mumbo-jumbo for Yahoo News, Matt Bai asks (and lamely tries to answer) this puissant question.
Is Trumpism an existential threat?
Bai thinks "yes," Trumpistas think "no," and I think the answer is a "limited yes." It's a threat only to federal employees, public school teachers, and illegal immigrants. We could end up with fewer of all three, an outcome to devoutly hope for.

Gender Wasn't the Issue

The Theater section of The New York Times reports an interesting experiment done by professors to examine the effect of gender on political performance. Their obvious hypothesis: Clinton lost because she was a woman.

Their method was to create a play in which an actress would deliver Donald Trump lines from the three Clinton-Trump debates, while an actor would deliver Clinton lines. Audience members answered before and after questionnaires about their experiences with the original debates and their experience of the gender-bending restaging they had just witnessed.

Each of the two tried to use the inflections, postures, and facial expressions of the person they portrayed, he did Hillary, she did Donald. I hope you've already guessed it didn't come out the way they expected.
Most of the people there had watched the debates assuming that Ms. Clinton couldn’t lose. This time they watched trying to figure out how Mr. Trump could have won. Interviews with cast members and comments from the postshow discussion suggested that they’d found some answers.

According to many in the audience who spoke at a postshow talk-back, the cross-gender casting offered just enough remove to help them think through how they might have understood the debates had they not strongly preferred one candidate.
The write-up at the New York University website gives more detail.
We heard a lot of “now I understand how this happened”—meaning how Trump won the election. People got upset.

The simplicity of Trump’s message became easier for people to hear when it was coming from a woman—that was a theme. One person said, “I’m just so struck by how precise Trump’s technique is.” Another—a musical theater composer, actually—said that Trump created “hummable lyrics,” while Clinton talked a lot, and everything she was was true and factual, but there was no “hook” to it.
Trump understands himself to be a performer, and he likes and works at it. Clinton saw "performing" as an unfortunate, disliked requirement of the office she sought. Conclusion: The happy warrior tends to beat the reluctant dragon most of the time.

In Honor of Women's Day

Yesterday was International Women's Day and in honor of that momentous event, I thought I'd share with you a fascinating factoid. One hundred per cent of the Wyoming delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives is female!

In Wyoming we have so few people we get exactly one congressperson. She is Liz Cheney, Dick Cheney's daughter. Her two predecessors were Barbara Cubin and Cynthia Lummis.

Between the three of them that takes us back to 1995, some 27 years with exclusively female House membership. Can any other state make that claim?

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Erdogan Losing Friends ... Fast

Stephen Green, guest blogging at Instapundit, describes Turkey's troubles with the Kurds, who have garnered Russian support. Apparently Trump turned down President Erdogan's request for aid, too. The bottom line:
Erdogan doesn’t seem to have any friends left, which shouldn’t shock anybody.
This is the point at which Arabs remind themselves that the Turks aren't brothers, after all, but former Ottoman overlords. Co-religionists maybe, but not friends.

Outside Israel, the most admirable group in the region are the poor, stateless Kurds. It didn't take Putin long to figure this out.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017


Writing opinion for The Washington Post, Eric Wemple asks the question:
Can President Trump outlast the White House press corps?
His answer is "probably not" and, frankly, he's not very interesting. What is interesting is that he reveals Trump aides have been doing something that drives reporters nuts.
Would that the White House’s pace and out-of-nowhere tweets were the only factor upping the workload for reporters these days. Another layer altogether comes from the conflicting messages that the administration sends, often on anonymous footing. “You can ask two senior administration officials the same question, you get completely opposite answers."
If Team Trump is paying attention, this is a great way to confuse and hassle the press. Purposely plant conflicting stories just to drive "the opposition party" bonkers.

It's a great way to have reporters chasing their tails. I'd like to think the Trumpistas have been doing it on purpose. The old media deserve a hassle for writing opinion and calling it news.

A Strange Coincidence

You have to love the serendipity, the coincidence. The following two items are adjacent to each other on the website, posted by two different contributors. The first:
Arctic circle could become completely free of sea ice even if global warming limited to two degrees Celsius
Independent (U.K.) by Ian Johnston, citation
Meanwhile the second:
Biting cold that set records in Canadian Arctic poised to invade eastern U.S. this weekend
Washinton Post by Jason Samenow, citation
Record-setting cold in the Canadian Arctic and an ice-free Arctic Ocean - at the same time? How is this possible? Doesn't record cold result in lots of ice? You're going to tell me one is climate and the other is weather, but climate is merely aggregated weather.

Monday, March 6, 2017

The Law and FISA

Do you want a thorough legal analysis of the various criminal pitfalls involved if the Obama administration used FISA court permission to wiretap members of Team Trump? I've found the long, detailed article you need at Law Newz, Robert Barnes has written exactly that. Hat tip to RealClearPolitics for the link.
It seems the FISA-compelled protocols for precluding the dissemination of the information were violated, and that Obama’s team issued orders to achieve precisely what the law forbids, if published reports are true about the administration sharing the surveilled information far-and-wide to promote unlawful leaks to the press. This, too, would be its own crime.

Recognizing this information did not fit FISA meant having to delete it and destroy it. According to published reports, Obama’s team did the opposite: order it preserved, ordered the NSA to search it, keep it, and share it; and then Obama’s Attorney General issued an order to allow broader sharing of information and, according to the New York Times, Obama aides acted to label the Trump information at a lower level of classification for massive-level sharing of the information.
As Barnes notes, even Richard Nixon didn't go to these extremes. If the bugging happened and was subsequently leaked to the media, people should do federal prison time for the crimes.

It's probably too much to hope that Obama would be one of the imprisoned people. However, it would be in the fine tradition of elected state and federal officials from Illinois going more or less directly from office to prison.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Second Verse, Same As the First

John Hinderaker, of Power Line, makes the following trenchant comment in a discussion of the seeming deliberate obfuscation in an Associated Press piece on what I've been calling "Towergate" and John calls "FISAgate."
Every time the AP mentions FISAgate, it includes this ritual defense of the Obama administration:

"Trump has offered no evidence or details to support his claim, and Obama’s spokesman has denied it."

The AP’s statement is false. It is a classic instance of fake news. Barack Obama’s spokesman has not denied that “the Obama administration wiretapped Trump Tower last year.” He only denied that Barack Obama personally ordered such surveillance. But that isn’t the question. Presumably, the order to conduct surveillance came from Loretta Lynch’s Department of Justice. But no one thinks that Lynch would have ordered the opposing presidential candidate’s telephones tapped, or his computers hacked, without her boss’s approval.
That's the Loretta Lynch who met Bill Clinton on the tarmac while his wife was under FBI investigation, in case you thought she was apolitical.

Timeline of Towergate

The Conservative Treehouse blog has a timeline of Obama administration wiretapping of Trump campaign personnel and equipment. Here is their summary.
The Obama administration sought, and eventually obtained, authorization to eavesdrop on the Trump campaign; continued monitoring the Trump team even when no evidence of wrongdoing was found; then relaxed the NSA rules to allow evidence to be shared widely within the government, virtually ensuring that the information, including the conversations of private citizens, would be leaked to the media.
If they happened as alleged, those actions are just plain wrong.

Lawyerly "Denials"

Stephen Green, who guest-blogs at Instapundit, links to the following analysis by economist Craig Pirrong who blogs as the Streetwise Professor.
I won’t comment in detail on the substance of today’s latest outbreak of our fevered politics: Trump’s accusation that Obama ordered wiretapping of Trump Tower and the Trump campaign. I will just mention one fact that strongly supports the veracity of Trump’s allegation: namely, the very narrow–and lawyerly–“denials” emanating from the Obama camp.

Obama and his surrogates–notably the slug (or is he a cockroach?) Ben Rhodes–harrumph that Obama could not unilaterally order electronic surveillance. Well, yes, it is the case that Obama did not personally issue the order: the FISA court did so. But even if that is literally correct, it is also true that the FISA court would not unilaterally issue such an order: it would only do so in response to a request from the executive branch. Thus, Obama is clearly implicated even if he did not issue the order. He could have ordered his subordinates to make the request to the court, or could have approved a subordinate’s request to seek an order. Maybe he merely hinted, a la Henry II–“will no one rid me of this turbulent candidate?” (And “turbulent” is a good adjective to apply to Trump.) But regardless, there is no way that such a request to the court in such a fraught and weighty matter would have proceeded without Obama’s acquiescence.

I therefore consider that the substance of Trump’s charge–that he was surveilled at behest of Obama has been admitted by the principals.
Pirrong gives a fuller statement of what I wrote yesterday, observing the narrowness of the denials.