Thursday, November 30, 2017

When Not to Trust Science

The website Quillette carries an article concerning the willingness of scientists to self-censor, to suppress socially undesirable lines of inquiry or unpopular findings.
When a topic is politically contentious, and there is some risk to our reputation or career from endorsing a view, we may hang back and fail to either form a belief on that topic or publicly proclaim our allegiance to that belief.

The logic of collective action is that when the costs of expressing a belief are borne by the individual, but the benefits are shared among all members of an epistemic community, it is perfectly rational to fail to reveal our beliefs about that topic, no matter how justified they might be.

The case for deferring to scientific consensus on politically contentious topics is much weaker. This is true because what scientists publicly say may differ from what they privately believe. (snip) Some of the research that bears on a topic might not get done due to the fact that those who authorize or accept funding for it might incur reputational costs for working on a topic that is likely to produce results that most people don’t want to believe.
Let me share with you an example I know from roughly a half century ago at UC Berkeley. A friend who died recently was a psychology doctoral student there employed doing research the express aim of which was to demonstrate that various racial groups have essentially equal distributions of intelligence or IQ.

It was hoped to show that differences found heretofore were the result of cultural or linguistic differences. The researchers had a measure which appeared to be pre-linguistic and culture-free; they examined hundreds of preschoolers from all major racial groups in daycare in the Bay Area.

Sadly, their data showed exactly the same politically incorrect significant differences normally found with regular IQ tests taken by adults. Their disappointing study findings were never submitted for publication.

The data set was thrown away because socially desirable results were not produced. Wasting several years and hundreds of thousands of dollars was deemed preferable to being tarred with a "racist" label. The commitment of scientists to truth is somewhat less than total, it turns out.

Reigning in Hell

Instapundit Glenn Reynolds is on a roll today, check out his description of the lefty leadership of most of our large cities.
As the trajectory of many big cities has shown, their leaders would rather reign in Hell than serve in Heaven. So I don’t expect these policies to change from within. And I think creating “conditions peculiarly ideal for left-wing agitation,” is seen as a feature, not a bug.
I’m thinking Rahm Emanuel has found being Chicago’s mayor largely a reign in Hell. Sort of like being Admiral of the sewage lagoon. Can he possibly enjoy it?

Targets of Opportunity

Instapundit Glenn Reynolds writes something snarky, true, and laden with schadenfreude, making it a trifecta. His subject, the #MeToo unloading on male mashers.
As for where this came from all of a sudden, I think the deliberate effort to weaponize female anger — before, and especially after, the 2016 election — had a lot to do with it. It was aimed at Trump, but since Trump seems immune, it discharged into whatever targets were available. And the targets around Democratic women are mostly Democratic men.
Targets of opportunity ... ya gotta love the irony. They’re shooting the wounded.

Bye-ku for Rex

With h/t to popularizer James Taranto of The Wall Street Journal, we offer a bye-ku to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. As noted below, the NYT is reporting he’s on the way out.

‘Bye Rex Tillerson,
A Trump homie you were not,
Retirement beckons.

A day later ... Peter Baker of NYT is usually plugged into good sources, but nobody at the WH or State will confirm. Perhaps Baker was used to send Tillerson a message that Trump doesn't want him deviating from the WH line, reminding him of the choice in the minilecture below.

Tillerson on Skids

The New York Times’ Peter Baker reports White House plans are underway to accept SecState Tillerson’s resignation sometime early next year, and replace him with CIA Director Mike Pompeo. If Baker’s intelligence is on the level, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR, no relation) will then take over the CIA directorship.

For those of us who’ve been paying attention, Tillerson and the President have often seemed to be of different opinions on important foreign affairs matters. This suggests Tillerson really doesn’t understand the SecState role.

PolySci Minilecture: In the executive branch, the President is the CEO, cabinet secretaries are his principal subordinates. They exist to manage their department and carry out the President’s policies. They have a right to be listened to, but no right to make policy with which the President disagrees. As in industry, a principal subordinate who disagrees with the boss has exactly two choices: enthusiastically advocate and implement presidential policy regardless of personal opinion, or resign.

One way or another, it appears we see this second option ripening, which suggests option one has become unpalatable. Perhaps Tillerson thought he could do it, maybe he was misled as to how much weight his opinions would be given. Honestly, it isn’t easy for a former CEO like Tillerson to be comfortable as second banana, especially to a flamboyant and opinionated boss like Trump.

Climate Models Overestimate Warming

The Daily Caller reports research findings showing global climate relatively stable, climate models overly sensitive.
University of Alabama-Huntsville climate scientists John Christy and Richard McNider found that by removing the climate effects of volcanic eruptions early on in the satellite temperature record it showed virtually no change in the rate of warming since the early 1990s.

Two major volcanoes — El Chichon in 1982 and Pinatubo in 1991 — caused global average temperature to dip as a result of volcanic ash, soot and debris reflecting sunlight back into space.

Those eruptions meant there was more subsequent warming in the following years, making the rate of warming appear to be rising as a result of man-made emissions or other factors, Christy said.

“Those eruptions happened relatively early in our study period, which pushed down temperatures in the first part of the dataset, which caused the overall record to show an exaggerated warming trend,” Christy said.
Not just a correction, but one that helps explain why earlier models have been overly sensitive.

You Are What You Drive

Due diligence: I love my F-350 4WD diesel pickup truck. It’s the most comfortable, practical, powerful and newest of the three motor vehicles we own. And it barely fits in our oversize garage.

The New York Post reports Stanford University research which shows a correlation between what you drive and how you vote. I don’t find this conclusion surprising at all.
When sedans outnumbered pickup trucks, there was an 88 percent chance the city would vote Democratic.

In areas with more pickup trucks, the odds switched to 82 percent in favor of Republicans, the researchers concluded.
The DrsC have joked about this for years. We’ve felt we could tell the politics of a region by whether parking spaces are big enough to accomodate full-sized pickups comfortably.

Classically, at our CA university the parking spaces were always too tight. Exactly what you’d expect in a hive of brie-eating, bicycle-loving socialists.

By contrast in WY, no problemo. WY has lots of room for pickups which are the modal vehicle and has lots of Republicans too. In some WY districts, Democrats don’t waste time fielding candidates for state legislator.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Bootleg Environmental Management has a link to a Smithsonian article about creative things occupants do to foil energy-saving features of supposedly "green" new buildings. Such buildings, the article notes, almost never produce the expected energy savings.

The article doesn't mention my favorite - having a small, portable electric heater hidden in a desk drawer or the bottom drawer of a filing cabinet. It was perfect for when the building didn't stay comfortably warm in winter as the thermostats in our university offices were designed so we couldn't adjust them.

For years I had a small heater in my office, a thing not technically permitted. The only person likely to see and report it was the night janitor so I put it away when I went home.

Mine certainly wasn't the only one. There were likely a dozen or more in my building alone, one of a score of such buildings. Many offices, including mine, also housed a small refrigerator and a microwave. We couldn't hide these but nobody complained and I had cold soda or hot soup as needed.

We Oversexed Anthropoids

Take the news this morning that NBC has fired Matt Lauer, co-host of the Today Show. Add the cascade of #MeToo revelations that began with Harvey Weinstein, the harassment on Capitol Hill and the problems Roman Catholics have had with pedophilic priestly misbehavior.

Splice on Bill Clinton’s zipper malfunctions and the fact in some demographics most children are born out of wedlock. Don’t overlook the untold numbers of babies we kill each year, euphemistically calling it “choice.”

The poor job we humans do of managing our reproductive (and associated recreational) behavior is stunning. Men abuse women and other men, women abuse men and other women, both abuse children and the aged. Even animals occasionally gain our unwanted attention. And yet, because of, or in spite of, all the activity, many have needs unmet or are scarred in the attempt.

It is altogether not a pretty picture. The scope of the collective problem is enormous. Our efforts at even a partial solution seem insignificant by comparison. I don’t expect answers anytime soon, perhaps not in the lifetime of any of us, perhaps never.

You have to wonder if unbridled, freeform horniness is the price we humans must pay to keep our species extant. It seems likely.

Later ... breaking news ... Minnesota Public Radio has announced they've fired long-time Prairie Home Companion host Garrison Keillor for "inappropriate behavior." What other icons are about to crumble, one wonders?

I conclude folks in show biz and politics are even worse than my late father claimed. He swore they were nearly all low-life pond scum.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017


The New York Daily News reports an interview Denzel Washington gave while promoting his new film Roman J. Israel, Esq. Asked about the justice system, he replied:
It starts at home. It starts with how you raise your children. If a young man doesn’t have a father figure, he’ll go find a father figure. So you know I can’t blame the system. It’s unfortunate that we make such easy work for them.
The mirror is not a popular place to look for the source of one's problems. Often the right place, but almost never popular.

Cokie's Kerfuffle

Many sources are reporting ABC News/NPR analyst Cokie Roberts said on This Week it was well-known among Washington news gals not to get in an elevator with Rep. Conyers (D-MI).

Instead of taking others' word for what Roberts said, here is what actually went down, from the program transcript. We begin with host Martha Raddatz:
And what about Conyers and Franken? Nothing's happened since. What happens to them?
This is followed by quite a bit of back and forth cynical comment by panelists Palmer, Klein, and Roberts about the relaxed culture of Congress vis-a-vis sexual harassment, with no names mentioned. Then Roberts says:
Don't get in the elevator with him, you know, and the whole every female in the press corps knew that, right, don't get in elevator with him. Now people are saying it out loud. And I think that does make a difference.
It isn't clear if Roberts speaks about Conyers specifically, or about any number of dirty old men in Congress. You could conclude either. My guess is she meant Conyers, but now regrets her candor.

I wouldn't necessarily take Roberts' word for her intent, after she's had an opportunity to reflect on the non-PC impact of her words. She hasn't kept a decades-long relationship with left-wing NPR by being tough on Democrats.

Bye-ku for Gutierrez

With a hat tip to its popularizer - The Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto - herewith a bye-ku for Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), defender of illegal immigrants. This haiku of farewell is for Gutierrez who has announced he will not run for reelection.

Adios, Luis,
Hasta la vista, baby,
You will not be miss’d.

And a second hat tip, this one to The Ahnold, noted phrase-maker in his iconic Terminator role.

Quote of the Day

Kurt Schlichter, who blogs at Townhall, has holiday season advice for fellow conservatives whom he labels the "real Americans."
The left hates you. Act accordingly.
SecDef and former Marine Gen. James Mattis, paraphrasing the Roman general and statesman Sulla, urged his troops to earn this reputation:
No better friend, no worse enemy.
Like Gen. Mattis, I believe reciprocity makes sense.

Monday, November 27, 2017

The Meaning of a Moore Win

Scott Rasmussen started in politics as an innovative pollster, sold that firm and now writes political opinion, here for RealClearPolitics. His topic today - the wider meaning of a Roy Moore win in Alabama's special senatorial election, should it happen.
First, it would indicate that the Democrats have no realistic chance of winning anywhere in the South.

Second, a Moore victory would be further proof of how little credibility the national media has outside of the political class.

Third, it would also show the complete rejection of the Republican establishment in Washington.
Think McConnell and Ryan.
But the deeper implications of a Moore victory, however, would be to again show that voters grade politicians on an ethical curve. No matter what the offense, voters assume that others in office have done the same or worse.
Think Bill Clinton and Ted Kennedy.
Donald Trump won 87 percent of the evangelical vote. It's not that evangelical voters approved of President Trump's lifestyle or thought he was one of them. Instead, they recognized that one of the most important tasks of a president was to appoint people to the Supreme Court. Many evangelicals believe that Hillary Clinton would appoint Justices hostile to religious liberty.
Is there any doubt of that?
For many Alabama voters, electing Moore may be seen as a lesser evil than giving Democrats control of the U.S. Senate.
Analysis: Almost certainly true, while understandably offensive to feminists.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Snark City

Twitchy echoes a Tweet by conservative firebrand Ann Coulter concerning Senator Al Franken (D-MN). She deals with his photographically documented proclivity for grabbing a woman's booty and his refusal (so far) to resign. Coulter writes:
Al Franken insists he will hold onto his seat.
Holding onto seats would appear to be his specialty.
Mr. Percussionist, that characterization calls for a rimshot.

Keeping Good Company

I was reading a CNN article about how we can’t stop watching President Trump, whether we like him or not. It is essentially true, and very useful to him.

He shares a trait with FDR, Jack Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Winston Churchill and Fidel Castro - he knows his audience and knows how to use media to reach them and to keep his name front and center in their collective consciousness. Current slang might say he is living rent-free in everyone’s head.

We called Reagan “a great communicator” and I think we’re well on our way to hanging that label around The Donald’s neck. Dilbert creator Scott Adams has been trumpeting this line for months and, so far, he has been on the money.

A telling point was the reporting that Trump would ask to view a replay of any televised interview he gave or speech he made. He would do so with the sound turned off.

In other words, Trump must believe what he says is less important than how he looks while saying it. At least where the use of media is concerned, Trump is playing 3 dimensional chess.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Workamping Defended

The Los Angeles Times reviews a book about the so-called Airstream lifestyle of RVing. It uses that review as a springboard to a discussion of people living full-time in RVs of various descriptions - mostly not Airstreams.

The biases of author Ellie Robins become clear immediately as she unloads on the perfidy of RV marketing folks. She finds little to admire in full-time RVing, whereas I write to take exception to certain of her sweeping generalizations.

She criticizes "workamping" which is often working 20 hours a week in return for a free place to park your RV plus utilities which RVers call "hookups." N.B., To RVers, hookups refer to water, electricity, sewer and sometimes cable TV connections, not to casual sex.

Please be clear, which author Robins apparently is not, workamping isn't meant to be a full-time income to support a person or a couple. It is relatively low skill work and pays not much.

Workamping is meant to supplement a retirement income and provide structure to fill some part of a retiree's days. It is especially useful for people who never developed hobbies, who can't think what to do with themselves all day long without a job to go to.

Workamping replaces the pre-retirement workplace as a source of human contact - it's a place to go, people with whom to talk, and a reason to get out of bed and get going. For those using it for its intended purpose - for retirees who own an RV - it works fine and takes much of the sting out of paying for a place to live.

Workampers I've known have mowed lawns, raked leaves, registered campers, inspected watercraft, clerked in stores, emptied trash, cleaned restrooms, and kept an eye on things. I knew one whose job was exterminating a plague of ground squirrels - cute little guys but very destructive to landscaping.

The DrsC have never workamped but have talked to a number of folks who've loved it. It isn't intended to be a living wage; those who try to make it so are one catastrophic financial event (a blown transmission, for example) or health emergency away from homelessness, as the article points out.

For the at-loose-ends RV-owning senior with some retirement income plus Social Security, and Medicare, workamping is great for the healthy years between the end of a career and the onset of physical and/or mental frailty at the end of life. That's all it ever pretended to be.

Most happy workampers like "having something to do" as they've spent a life being busy. They honestly are not prepared to productively use the idleness that, for example, has enabled me to research and write this blog for the last 11 years, an obvious labor of love.

Truths Better Left Unspoken

Merriam Webster defines a gaffe as either "a social or diplomatic blunder" or "a noticeable mistake." Wikipedia adds the refinement of a "Kinsley gaffe," named for political journalist Michael Kinsley," defined as "some truth that a politician did not intend to admit." That is, speaking an unpalatable truth.

The Guardian (U.K.) has a story about a coffee shop in Denver which made a doozy of this latter form of gaffe on a sandwich-board outside its door. Hat tip to for the link.
The Colorado coffeehouse chain ink! became a lightning rod for economic ire on Wednesday, after one of its Denver stores displayed a message on its sidewalk sandwich-board that read: “Happily Gentrifying The Neighborhood Since 2014.”
What made this a Kinsley-type gaffe is their traditionally black neighborhood actually has been gentrifying over the last few years. The coffee shop is likely both a force for, and a result of, whites moving in, rents going up, and minorities being priced out.

Gentrification was tolerable as long as nobody let on. Bragging about it was the PR disaster. Blacks don't like that it's intentional, virtue signalling whites don't want it said they're injuring the less fortunate ... a lose-lose gaffe.

Weird Metabolic Science

USA Today reports preliminary University of Michigan research results indicating the active ingredient in cinnamon - cinnamaldehyde - may be used to speed up human metabolism. It could thus help with weight loss.

Just thinking about it makes me hungry. My cynical side wonders if Cinnabon® paid for the research.

Is it too good to be true? The effect apparently has been shown to work in mice. Hat tip to Drudge Report for the link.

Birds of a Feather ...

About the impacts, plus and minus, of immigration, Robert Skidelsky takes the argument beyond economics. For Project Syndicate he writes:
David Goodhart, former editor of the journal Prospect, has argued the case for restriction from a social democratic perspective. Goodhart takes no position on whether cultural diversity is intrinsically or morally good or bad. He simply takes it for granted that most people prefer to live with their own kind, and that policymakers must attend to this preference.
Many people have told me they get angry every time a "phone tree" tells them to push "ocho por Español" or see signs in English and Spanish at Home Depot.

More Unintended Consequences

Writing at Politico, Matt Latimer argues the media's open anti-GOP bias and disinterest in correcting same is responsible in large measure for electing Donald Trump president. I wouldn't be surprised if Latimer is correct, at least in part.

What makes this story odd is the Politico organization is one of the most blatant examples we have of liberal media bias. Like the NYTimes, they have an occasional conservative voice fulfilling much the same Washington Generals-like token opponent role that Juan Williams occupies at Fox News.

Does running this article mean Politico plans to turn over a new leaf? I seriously doubt it, they are an advocacy group false flagged as a news + analysis shop.

Most national media voices are effectively Democrat operatives with bylines. Thus it's no wonder half or more of our population considers them propagandists beneath contempt and rightly ignored.

Ironically, the media would serve their own ideological (and financial) ends better by being balanced and therefore a widely trusted source of fact and ideas. In their current agitprop mode, any accurate criticisms the media make of the right gain no traction as they currently preach only to a choir of the likeminded.

Those PJ Media blogger Kurt Schlichter calls "real Americans" aren't listening, they're over at Fox News seeing mirror image coverage where all liberals are crap.

Playing a Long Game

At COTTonLINE we've repeatedly noted the importance of the young, conservative judges President Trump is appointing and McConnell's Senate is confirming. What makes these especially potent is they are lifetime appointments, which the appointee can occupy until retirement or death.

Writing for CNBC, columnist Jake Novak does an excellent job of exploring the importance of Sens. Grassley and Reid in setting up this rewarding scenario for the President. Every judge appointed gives a president leverage over outcomes lasting for decades beyond his term of office.

As we wrote months ago, if Trump never accomplishes anything more than several conservative judicial appointments we can consider his term in office a success. Trump has obviously surpassed our minimalist milepost in year one and has a every chance of compiling an outstanding record in the next three.

As conservatives, COTTonLINE readers know what fun it is having a hyperactive self-starter in the Oval Office. Most of what he's done to date, except his insistence upon fair trade, is thoroughly conservative by any objective standard.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Adams Predicted It

Instapundit Glenn Reynolds, reacting to a Washington Post article whining that Trump and GOP senators are packing the Federal judiciary with young, conservative judges, writes the following choice words.
I guess we’ve made the turn from “Trump is Hitler” to “Trump is an incompetent boob” to “Trump is scarily competent at things I don’t like.” Just as Scott Adams predicted. . . .
And it happened so quickly too, almost as though it was intentional? Of course, the pace of activity in business is much faster than that of government.

Trump's background is business, so he doesn't get things taking a couple of years to begin. In his world, things are started in two weeks and completed in two years.

Note to POTUS: We're not tired of winning yet.

Bad Business

I am a long-time nonfan of NFL football and of televised college ball. Most years the only game I'll watch on TV is the Super Bowl, if that.

I loved live college football when, as a graduate student in Oregon, I had free access to high quality Pac 10 games. During three years in Eugene I only missed attending one home game.

Given my lack of involvement, I haven't felt compelled to comment on the tempest concerning player protests during the national anthem. I deplore it but, as a nonviewer, it doesn't much affect me.

On the other hand, as a lifelong business school prof, I am finally moved to comment on the poor business sense of NFL owners. Don't those yahoos have even a primitive understanding of their customer base? Of who their modal viewer is?

Unlike the owners, I haven't seen the survey data to be certain. My horseback guess is the typical NFL viewer is a white male patriot, a gun owner, and likely to favor nachos and beer over brie and chablis. In short, he's a Trump voter.

Knowing this, how in blazes did NFL owners think allowing a watered-down Black Lives Matter protest to spread through the league wouldn't be disasterous for their attendance and viewership? I suppose they, and their players, believed the game was immune to market forces, a true cultural icon.

Now the owners know better. They have to hope it's not too late to turn it around.

The owners' dilemma is that roughly 70% of NFL players are young African-American men who discover having plenty of money and fame doesn't automatically gain them favorable treatment or high status. Player anger won't just go away; perhaps owners can insist players indulge their free speech rights on their own time, not during games or in uniform.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Travel Blogging XXIII

Afterthoughts: I enjoy displays of cleverness in design. In the otherwise quite ordinary Mercure airport hotel in Sydney, I saw an in room feature I hadn't seen before. A 14" square centered at eye level in the seamless wall-to-wall bathroom mirror that didn't steam up from the shower, while the rest of the mirror became coated with condensate.

Curious as to how this was achieved, I felt the mirror where it fogged, and where it did not. The foggy majority was cool to the touch, while the 14" square was quite warm to the touch and hence unclouded. Clearly this was a design feature when the hotel was built and one I've not seen elsewhere.

If they heat mirrors 24/7 using electrical resistance heating, that is a nontrivial cost item. I wonder if they'd figured a way to use the hot water flowing to the shower to heat the mirror, making it do double duty and heating the glass only when showering. That would be doubly clever.


After two months of no cooking, no housekeeping, no bed-making, unlimited ice cream and sodas and no-charge live entertainment, returning to workaday reality is something of a shock. We will have to go grocery shopping tomorrow, get our mail, handle medical/dental stuff, and get our RV ready for winter camping in the warm south, all while getting over serious jet lag which I experience as a medium-strength hangover atop the remnants of bronchitis.

On the other hand, I won't miss the ship's limited, expensive WiFi, the occasional rough seas, and the petri dish contagion level. Pluses and minuses ... life is full of tradeoffs.

Giving Thanks

COTTonLINE asks our electronic friends to take a moment to contemplate all the ways in which our lives are better than we have any right to expect. Let's begin with how good it is to not be suffering through 4 years of a Hillary presidency, on top of the miserable 8 years we had with Obama.

In a closely related matter, the economy is booming, jobs are plentiful, the stock market is at all-time highs, the dollar is strong, and illegal immigration is down by what some estimate to be 80%. One of these days we may even start to earn some interest on our savings. Again, much to be grateful for.

It is ungenerous to mention the schadenfreude we experience watching "libprogs" do sackcloth and ashes as St. Barack's carefully constructed crippling of the American spirit is undone by his antithesis - POTUS Trump. Their grief is truly delicious, a gift that keeps on giving.

I write this in the airport in San Francisco having spent the last half day flying nonstop from Sydney. The DrsC travel because they enjoy it, but I gotta say it always feels good to hear the passport control guy at the airport say "welcome home." Australia is a place I could easily live and yet I know of no place I like as much as the good, old US of A.

Thanksgiving - our annual harvest festival - is a good time to contemplate our good fortune. Whether you thank God or merely the foresight of our clever ancestors, we Americans have been dealt a good hand of cards. And foreign travel makes those advantages so much clearer.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

MBA Study as (Former) Immigration Dodge

A website named Axios has an article about declining enrollments in US MBA programs, particularly the full-time programs that attract international students. It quite inadvertantly reveals the motive (having little to do with education) which drove international enrollments.
A big problem is declining international interest: The enrollment at some mid-tier MBA programs is more than half international students. But 51% of B schools report a decline in international enrollment in fall 2016, a 13% jump from 2015, according to the MBA Career Services survey.

This is across the board: International enrollment at some top 25 schools is down, per Poets & Quants. For example, 32% of Georgetown's B school applicant pool was international in the 2016-2017 academic year, compared with 43% the year before. The trend is even more pronounced in the lower-ranked schools.

According to a GMAC survey conducted in February, 67% of prospective international MBAers would rethink their eventual study destination if they thought they'd be unable to obtain a work visa following the completion of their degree.
Gotcha! The US MBA was a shortcut to a green card, prosperity and US citizenship for one's children. Maybe no longer, as a loophole closes.

Lacking the Will to Win

Writing at National Review, military historian Victor Davis Hanson takes a stab at answering the question of why some wars seem to go on indefinitely. He basically comes down to two reasons.

In some cases the two sides are so evenly matched that neither can decisively defeat the other.
In other cases of never-ending wars, the two sides were clearly asymmetrical. One side easily could and should have won decisively and ended the conflict with a lasting resolution. Yet the apparently stronger side chose not to win, or for a variety of circumstances was prevented from victory.
And often the stronger side is aided in making this decision by the weaker side which chooses to never pose an extential threat requiring it to win.
The American slog in Afghanistan is somewhat similar. Americans feel that the level of force and violence necessary to obliterate the Taliban and impose a lasting settlement is either too costly, or not worth any envisioned victory, or impossible in such absurd tribal landscapes, or would be deemed immoral and contrary to Western values. Therefore, as in most serial wars, the U.S. chooses to fight to prevent defeat rather than to achieve lasting victory.

The bizarre modern Western doctrine of “proportionality” (akin to the tit-for-tat blood feuds of the Icelandic sagas) tends to ensure stalemate. Leisured Western publics are uncomfortable with using their militaries’ full strength, given the collective guilt and bad publicity that accrue when their forces inflict far more losses than they have incurred.

Paradoxically, disproportionality was always central to resolving chronic wars: Having much more power makes the weaker aggressor suffer so much that it never again tries to undertake another attack.

Weird Ecological Science

The Daily Mail (U.K.) reports results of a study showing most oceanic plastic pollution comes from 10 rivers, eight of which are in Asia, the other two in Africa. Hat tip to Instapundit for the link.
Up to 95 per cent of plastic polluting the world's oceans pours in from just ten rivers, according to new research. The top 10 rivers - eight of which are in Asia - accounted for so much plastic because of the mismanagement of waste. About five trillion pounds is floating in the sea, and targeting the major sources - such as the Yangtze and the Ganges - could almost halve it, scientists claim.

The 10 top-ranked rivers transport 88-95 per cent of the global load into the sea. 
We heard a lot about microplastic in the ocean on the cruise just ended. Those ten rivers are, in order of pollution dumped, are the Yangtze, Indus, Yellow, Hai He, Nile, Ganges, Pearl, Amur, Niger, and Mekong.

Given the squalor and poverty of the places in which these rivers arise, we have exactly zero chance of clearing them of plastic. Those concerned with the health of the oceans won't be best pleased with these research findings.

Poor Bolivia

We haven't heard a lot lately from Bolivia. I suppose assuming things were okay there was a conceptual bridge too far.

Would-be President-for-life Evo Morales keeps trying to toss out constitutional limits on multiple consecutive terms in office. The New York Times reports on his latest effort:
In 2016, he called a referendum on a constitutional amendment that would have eased term limits in the country’s Constitution and allowed him to run for a fourth time.

After 51 percent of the voters rejected the amendment, President Morales came up with a new plan. In September, his supporters in Congress brought a lawsuit in the Plurinational Constitutional Tribunal seeking to revoke the Constitution’s term limit.

Mr. Morales’s supporters claim that the term limit discriminates against the president and undermines his political rights under regional human rights standards. They rely on a provision in the American Convention on Human Rights, the main human rights treaty in the Americas, which says that political rights can “only” be limited under very specific circumstances.
Morales is another banana republic dictator with dreams of glory, whose role model is Fidel Castro.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Merkel Update

The Daily Express reports the head of the Green Party in Germany - Hans-Christian Ströbele - doesn't see a way forward for Angela Merkel as chancellor. He said:
The end of the chancellorship of Angela Merkel has already been announced by the outcome of the general election. Now Merkel's political end can indeed come very quickly. In my opinion, Mrs Merkel will not be able to stay at the top of the government for much longer.
It somewhat depends on the decision of Germany's (mostly) figurehead President who can either call a new election or ask her to form a minority government. Current betting is against that latter choice.

Later ... writing for the Carnegie Europe think tank, fellow Judy Dempsey concudes:
What happens over the next few hours or days is anyone’s guess. One thing is certain: Europe is weaker and Germany has become unpredictable.

Travel Blogging XXII

At sea off the east coast of New South Wales, approaching Sydney Harbor: Our 55 day cruise ends tomorrow morning with disembarkation. We'll collect our luggage, catch a cab, and head for our hotel which is supposedly "near the airport." Tomorrow we fly back to the States, arriving several hours before we take off after spending something like 13-14 hours in the air.

I've used up the last of the 1000 minutes of WiFi we purchased almost two months ago leaving San Diego, and they cost $0.25 each. The other DrC and I shared the roughly 20 minutes a day that provided, it's likely I used more of it than she did.

The coping mechanism is to write things offline in Notes and then, once online, copy them to the blogger, editing all the while. This is quite useful for travel blogging, less so for commenting on the day's news. Thus these last two months have seen many more of the former than of the latter. I will post this piece tomorrow at the hotel where, I anticipate, the WiFi will be unlimited and faster.

One thing I've missed is playing Word With Friends, which can only be done online. Another unscratched itch is the ability, to which one is accustomed, of looking up answers to questions, be they biographical, geographical or merely whimsical.

Later ashore ... the hotel is in fact near the airport as advertised, one of the Mercure chain and not bad. The WiFi is good, the room not tiny.

We're both still trying to get over the "ship cold" that made the rounds on the MS Maasdam after we came to Sydney the first time some 30 days ago. A 'generous' soul brought it aboard there and shared it widely. By contrast, the prior crossing from San Diego was a very healthy voyage, hardly a sniffle heard.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Merkel's Future in Doubt

The New York Times reports the four way talks aimed at building a ruling coalition for Germany have failed. This happened when the business-friendly Free Democrats pulled out of the negotiations, claiming accurately that the differences among the four parties are too great to be bridged by meaningful compromise on key issues.

At a time when the EU looks to its most successful member - Germany - for leadership in the Brexit talks, Merkel is shown to be playing a very weak hand. Her future as Germany's chancellor is very much in doubt. History will conclude that she shot herself in the foot with her widely unpopular open borders policy.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Both Sides Now

Matt Drudge has a headline suggesting Saudi Arabia might go to war with Iran, or lead an Arab war against the Persians. Talk about a war where you'd sincerely hope both sides clobbered each other into bloody rubble, that would take the prize.

A Values-Alignment Strategy

The New York Times has an article about various firms being boycotted by one side or the other in our highly polarized political atmosphere. They were perceived to have taken sides when that was not at all their intent.

Examples given include Jim Beam whiskey, Papa John's pizza, and Keurig coffee. And a key quote from an observer of this phenomenon:
"What I think is constantly surprising is how polarized and divisive, certainly, the U.S. has become,” said Ken Kraemer, the chief executive of the agency Deep Focus. Brands are shifting from a world where they avoided politics at all costs, he said, to one where younger consumers want to know that their “values are aligned.” 
I can imagine a future in which companies will have a Janus-like approach to the market with two seemingly different brands, logos, ad campaigns, and spokesfolk. One brand aligned to progressive values and the other brand to conservative beliefs. I'd judge they will try to disguise the blatant pandering inherent in such an approach, though I'm uncertain how they'd do that.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Unintended Consequences, cont.

We've on occasion made the point that affirmative action has done as much harm as good for people of color. I begin to suspect a similar unintended consequence arising from the wave of accusations of sexual harassment following the revelations about Harvey Weinstein.

I would expect more men, including those not in the public eye, will begin observing the Mike Pence rule of not being alone with a woman other than their wife or mother. It is a way of armoring oneself against accusations of harassment, avoiding "he said-she said" situations.

If this behavior change takes place, it will have the effect of reducing harassment as such behavior is less likely when witnesses are present. However, it will also reduce women's career opportunities if men avoid working with them.

Travel Blogging XXI

At sea en route to Tasmania: We've been "at sea" since late September and yesterday, for the first time, we "blew off" a port call. We were scheduled to put ashore in Burnie, Tasmania, today but couldn't do so as there was "too much wind." As the sea was relatively calm, that seemed hard to credit.

What makes this peculiar is that Burnie is a regular port, not a tender port. That is, a port where we would tie up to a dock instead of one where we drop anchor off shore and go ashore in the ship's boats (aka "tenders").

Deciding conditions are too rough for tendering isn't especially uncommon. In all the cruising we've done I can only remember one other instance of skipping a dockside mooring.

We've spent the day cruising aimlessly, killing time as our next scheduled port call is tomorrow in Hobart. A ship can't show up early as slips are reserved like hotel rooms and the ship pays "rent" on the mooring.

Both DrsC are trying to get over colds with coughs, our cabin sounds like a TB ward. Amazingly, codeine cough syrup isn't a prescription med in Oz; it is definitely the med of choice if restful sleep is sought.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

With More Education, Climate Views Diverge

The New York Times reports an analysis of opinion research done by Gallup looking at issues where having more education causes opinions of liberals and conservatives to either converge or diverge. In the case of climate change, the answer is "diverge."

The Times' explanation for this phenomenon seems, to this educated conservative observer, somewhat lame as it is a liberal's explanation. Let me attempt an educated conservative's explanation.

Being more educated includes knowing more about the earth's naturally variable climatic history (warming periods, ice ages) and the relative impacts of human endeavor vs. solar variation and vulcanism. Such knowledge leads educated conservatives to see human activity as a relatively puny force for climate change, unlikely to be determinative.

Liberal appeals to "scientific consensus" cause us to recall the decades when plate tectonics was universally considered geological crackpot lunacy. It is now received wisdom; clearly scientific consensus is no guarantee of accurate knowledge.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Travel Blogging XX

Random impressions, en route to Adelaide: Crossing the Pacific from San Diego and again across the top of Oz we had maybe 10 days which lasted 25 hours.

Sailing west these are days when we set our clocks back an hour before going to bed. Subjectively, these days felt lazy and unhurried.

Recently we "turned the southwest corner" of Oz and headed back east. So we've had a couple of 23 hour days, days when we put the clocks ahead before going to bed. As you might imagine, these are the reverse, somewhat hurried and sleep-deprived.

There will be more of these before we reach Sydney again, likely two more. Then we fly home across the dateline and arrive home the same day we leave - the magic of jet travel.

Once home there will be some serious jetlag to get over. Taking per the other DrC's dictum, up to a day for every time zone crossed.

Travel Blogging XIX

Fremantle, Western Australia: Fremantle is the oceanside port for the largest city in WA - Perth. We just headed over to the cruise terminal to use the free WiFi there, and I struck out.

The other DrC could get her iPad online just fine, I could not. After considerable fiddling, we determined that my problem was that we hadn't downloaded the 64 bit software to my pad, I'm still operating in the older 32 bit mode.

The terminal is sending out a 64 bit signal which my machine cannot read. Hers can, so she's over there surfing up a storm and I'm back on the ship bummed out.

The other DrC says we won't download the 64 bit software until we get home to a fast, secure connection. That makes sense but leaves me out in the cold, so to speak.

Snark City

Power Line's Steven Hayward characterizes the Hillary Rodham Clinton administration-that-could-have-been as:
Rodham and Gomorrah
'Nuff said ... bullet dodged.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Trump Reshaping Judiciary

The New York Times leads with a story about how President Trump is reshaping the ideological balance of the Federal courts. As we noted some months ago, this could well turn out to be his most important lasting impact on national culture and life. A key quote:
When Democrats regain power, if they follow the same playbook and systematically appoint outspoken liberal judges, the appeals courts will end up as ideologically split as Congress is today.
The Times observes Federal Appeals courts hear some 60,000 cases a year whereas only about 80 of those are subsequently accepted for final review by the Supreme Court. In other words, much of importance is finally decided at the appeals level.

The Times fails to add that some of these courts already are known for ideological bias. Especially the West Coast's Ninth Circuit which is both notably liberal and often overturned by the Supremes.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Travel Blogging XVIII

Exmouth, Western Australia: Whew! Exmouth is a very desolate place. We're told the locals say "ex-mouth" instead of the "ex-muth" we expected.

Think of Exmouth as the northwest corner of the Nullabor. There are no naturally occurring trees and the termite mounds are waist high. Wild emus wander around and we saw a large lizard, maybe the size of a dog.

Much of the reason Exmouth exists is courtesy of the U.S. Navy, which came here to install a low frequency long range radio station with which to communicate to submerged submarines in the Indian Ocean. The base and associated antenna farm are outside what passes for "town," one of the towers is 1000' tall.

We thought we heard the base was given to the RANavy, not certain about that. This would have been a barren, bleak place to be posted, lots of clean, uncrowded beach but not much else.

We did, however, see an RV park, with some minor occupancy - this isn't "the season." Southwestern Australians must come here in winter to warm up.

We did a glass-bottomed boat tour of a nice coral reef south of town, enjoyed it too. Turns out this reef isn't suffering from the problems plaguing the Great Barrier Reef. The so-called "crown of thorns" starfish is here but not a plague as at GBR, different conditions = different outcomes.

Now we head on south to Fremantle, the port of Perth where we'll overnight. I think we're there day after tomorrow.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Bad News for Democrats

Number cruncher Philip Bump writes politics for The Washington Post. Democrats aren't going to like his latest column, reprinted at He writes:
The Washington Post-ABC News poll asked respondents how they'd vote in a redo of the 2016 election, and, if anything, Clinton seems to have lost more ground than Trump. Among those who voted, 46 percent say they picked Clinton last year and 43 percent picked Trump — a slightly more favorable sample than the 2016 election, in which Clinton won the popular vote by two percentage points. But in a head-to-head rematch, Clinton's support drops even more than Trump's does, and they wind up in a 40-40 tie. Given that Trump overperformed in key, blue-leaning swing states, that means he'd probably have won again.

If anything, Clinton's numbers appear to have gotten even worse in the year since her election loss; a poll last week showed that she is viewed even more unfavorably than Trump is. 
Anybody wanna bet the very dim Dems will nominate someone more popular in 2020? I know, how about Nancy Pelosi?

A Targeted Tax Plan

David Brooks writes a column for The New York Times. I once liked his work but rarely do so now. In spite of the fact that I disagree with Brook's conclusions, today's column is a useful exception.

Brooks writes about the changes to the tax code proposed by the Republicans. He doesn't like the Republican plan. If it is as he describes, I like it a lot.
Republicans think the whole country would be better off if we take money away from the Democrats’ rich people and give it to their own (more productive) rich people.

First, it caps the mortgage interest deduction at loan principal of $500,000 instead of $1 million. (snip) Only about 2.5 percent of Americans are paying off mortgages on homes valued over $500,000. These are mostly in places like California, New York, Boston and Washington, D.C.

Second, the Republican plan cuts the deduction for state and local taxes. In 2014, according to The Economist, nearly 90 percent of the benefit from this deduction flowed to those making more than $100,000 a year. Once again, this tax hike hits mostly those in high-tax blue states.

Third, the bill taxes investment income earned by private universities with at least 500 students and assets not directly tied to educational objectives of more than $100,000 per student. It imposes a 20 percent excise tax on nonprofit executives who make more than $1 million.

The Republican vision is that the corporate sector is more important to a healthy America than the professional and nonprofit sector. The Republican vision is that companies that thrive in the red states, like manufacturing and agriculture, are more important for the country than the industries that thrive in blue states, like finance, media, the academy and the movies.
COTTonLINE's not seeing much in the plan with which to disagree. It afflicts comfortable coastal liberals and comforts the afflicted in flyover country. Plus, it rewards residents of states with low tax rates and penalizes those in high tax states.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Travel Blogging XVII

At sea, bound for Exmouth, Australia: All our remaining port calls will be in Australia, we are headed nearly due south from Bali. In addition to today we have at least one more sea day before reaching port.

Exmouth is on Australia's very much less developed northwestern coast. Like the much bigger Perth/Fremantle complex to the south, it looks west across the Indian Ocean. The last time we sailed this ocean we were en route from Singapore to Rome via coastal India and the Suez Canal.

I've largely exhausted the guy-type pop novel collection of this ship's library, books by Clancy, Evanovich, Cussler, Griffith, etc. Now I will look at biographies and other exotica. I was supposed to load up my Kindle before we left the States, and never got around to doing so ... my bad. If we can get a fast, free WiFi connection in Exmouth perhaps I'll do so there.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Travel Blogging XVI

Bali, Indonesia: As I write this we're sailing into the harbor at Bali, the one non-Muslim-majority island of any consequence in Indonesia. We wrote about how this came about earlier in the voyage.

There is considerable flat land in Bali, unlike many of the islands hereabouts. And, as you'd imagine, it has developed a lot in the nearly 30 years since we were here last. I'm not going ashore as my hip is still sore, making walking difficult.

We were scheduled to arrive at 7-8 a.m. but had to postpone arrival because of a low tide at that time. It is now 9:30 and we're entering verrrrry slowly, the captain has said there is a risk of grounding which we're obviously being oh-so-careful not to do.

Australians go to Bali (which they call 'barley') like people on the east coast of the U.S. go to the Caribbean. When Muslim extremists (Indonesia has a few) wanted to murder westerners a few years back, they brought their bombs to Bali. It was where large numbers of "crusaders" (their term, not mine) could be found and targeted. Most of the dead were from Oz, which hasn't kept Australians from coming.

Interesting factoid: Many of our "hotel" crew are Indonesian, and within that group people from Bali are over-represented. Whether this is because of the Balinese' increased familiarity with westerners or some other factor is unclear.

We understand the families of quite a number of our crew will be onboard today as visitors. Some will have traveled here from another island to see a husband or father who has been at sea for months.

As is true in the Philippines, remittances by someone working on a ship likely support an extended family at home. It is a useful way to get first world beds made and meals served while enabling third world persons to earn their family out of poverty and into the home country's middle class. It's a win-win solution that builds a work ethic where handouts destroy it.

Travel Blogging XV

Komodo Island, Indonesia: Yep, this is the home of the famous Komodo Dragons. The island is an Indonesian National Park, which the other DrC is checking out as I write this.

She has pictures to share and you can find them on her blog which lives at I planned to go with her but developed a sore hip which makes walking difficult - not sure how or why - and had to stay aboard.

Later ... She's back with good pix of Komodo's carnivorous land lizards. They're less armored than crocs and gators, but taller and nearly as long. They both hiss and growl.

I am surprised the hillsides here are relatively barren, not at all the tropical jungle I expected. That's twice I've been caught off-guard by less-than-lush greenery in these swampy climes. Again, as on New Caledonia, we hear there's been a drought.

This was a tender port, meaning pax had to go ashore in the ship's boats. We anchored in protected waters amid a cluster of islands, I could see 8-10 from my chair topside.

Indonesia has the entire gamut of island sizes, from very large (Borneo, Java) to tiny, they number in the thousands. Next stop, Bali.

Later still ... Komodo was a half-day stop. We've cruised all afternoon alongside an unending string of islands, several in sight at all times. Such a large collection of islands makes for a very water-borne culture, many distinctive interisland watercraft that you wouldn't take into the wide open seas.