Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Debate Third Thoughts

I have read a lot of debate commentary, some pro and mostly con. Seemingly a majority of the commentariat was disappointed in both candidates, with the preponderance of their disappointment falling on the guy they didn't support before it started.

One of the more interesting ideas I read was that Trump was establishing himself as the alpha male in the room, which of course he did. That tends to be attractive to many male voters, and some women as well.

The management of Fox News said nice things about Chris Wallace's performance as moderator. If sincere, they were the only ones who thought so. Everyone else on both sides thought he failed, big time. 

I see the Fox News heads as feeling the need to defend their Sunday show host, and their own failed judgment in employing him. Wallace is as bad a mismatch at Fox as Billy Graham would have been going on the hadj.

What we all got to see was two candidates for the nation's (and maybe the world's) toughest job functioning under stressful conditions. That isn't an altogether bad thing to watch, there is much to be learned.

Our "World Number" at Risk

Writing at American Greatness, Christopher Roach surveys modern America and finds much about which to be sad. His base in Florida gives him a neighborly look at many third world countries. He sees many signs our great land is losing first world status and becoming a third world country.

So, what are the characteristics of a first world country, in the author's view?

  • First world status comes from various political, social, and economic achievements. One of the more salient is low corruption.
  • Low levels of corruption foster another distinct feature of America’s first world status: the dominance of the private sector and high degrees of entrepreneurialism.
  • Another feature of American life has been low levels of crime and disorder.
  • Political normality, compromise, and restraint are other features of first world societies.
  • The American people were not just an assembly of economic units with nothing in common. They were a people.
And what are the characteristics of a third world country, again in Roach's view?
  • The endemic corruption of the Third World both reflects and reinforces an extreme tribalism, which elevates the extended family above the public as a whole.
  • Elections and parties reflect these ethnic divisions, and a winner-take-all spirit prevails.
  • To the extent there is a private sector in the Third World, it is intertwined with and dependent on the political one.
  • A related feature of the Third World is failing infrastructure.
  • Yet another notable feature of the Third World is poverty, lawlessness, and disorder.
  • A final feature of the Third World, now familiar at home, is high stakes politics.

Roach describes all of the foregoing, with examples of how we're becoming more like a third world country. And he concludes with this view of modern America.

This is not Norman Rockwell’s America. Indeed, it’s not even the America one might remember growing up in the 1980s and ’90s. It’s changed for the worse.

More important, the rules required to survive and thrive are quite different from those of the recent past. As in Venezuela or Iraq, politics and life are becoming “winner take all.” It’s important to know when compromise is not possible. And, under these circumstances, it pays to be a winner.

There are certainly substantial swathes of our nation where his description is increasingly accurate. His article is not fun, but it does point to our increasing national dysfunction, our inability to get done what needs doing.

Newsom Welcomes the Plague

Talk about headlines you never want to see in your hometown paper. This one is from The Sacramento Bee, the paper of record for CA’s Democratic majority.

As rats swarm California cities, Gov. Newsom bans popular poison to protect wildlife

Where rats swarm, bubonic plague is sure to follow. It is already present in CA’s rural rodent population.

Naturally, CA prioritizes wildlife over people. Being out of touch with reality is a baseline qualification for CA politicians. 

Wednesday Snark

Anti-racist = anti-White

Change my mind.

Raddatz on the Ground in Fly-Over America

At The Hill, Joe Concha summarizes ABC’s Martha Raddatz’ reactions following a 6000 mile road trip across the country talking to voters about the upcoming election. Key findings: people she talked to were concerned about the economy, but not much worried about Covid-19. Few were wearing masks.

Other findings: Trump supporters are more enthused about voting for him than Biden supporters are for their guy. About Trump’s taxes, Raddatz quotes a supporter:

Good for Donald Trump. As long as it wasn’t illegal, I want the name of his accountant.

The focus Raddatz found on the economy is important because polls show voters believe Trump will do a better job with it than would Biden. 

In my little corner of fly-over America, mask wearing is mostly something old folks do. The young and middle aged only do so if working in a store where it’s required to make us oldsters feel comfortable. 

The evidence suggests both groups are reacting appropriately to their group’s risk level. Covid-19 seems to have its crosshairs set on the AARP crowd, at least when it comes to deaths.

Debate Second Thoughts

Having slept on my initial reactions and looked at the headlines this morning, I conclude no participant covered himself with glory. Biden was weak, Trump was likely too strong, and Wallace was a hot mess.

The debate was like a Rorschach test, a blob where peoples’ reactions to it tell us more about the people reacting than about the candidates debating. It was ambiguous enough that people saw in it what they wanted to see, few felt forced to admit the candidate they favored lost.

Part of this pattern of reactions is the result of the debate itself, and perhaps a larger part is the result of our widely noted political polarization, which is currently extreme by American standards. 

I suspect if you could get people to tell you their honest opinions, if you could get past their defensiveness, partisans on both sides were disappointed with their guy’s performance. Both candidates are, in different ways, flawed men.

Setting aside their personal quirks, on the basis of their policies and accomplishments, Trump was and is my clear choice. Biden is disqualified by his allegiance to the Dismal Swamp.

There was one clear loser. Nobody liked Chris Wallace, who seems to be angling for a job with a legacy TV network where his late father and stepfather worked. Last night moved him no closer to that goal.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Debate Night First Reactions

In tonight's debate, Joe Biden only rarely acted addled. The expectations for him had been set so low that he exceeded them. I'm sure he considers doing so a "win."

In many ways Donald Trump dominated the proceedings - sharing a rostrum isn't his main thing - but he may have sometimes appeared a bully. He didn't obviously "lose" in any major respect.

Based on the above, my prediction is that the debate changed few minds in either direction. For the President this isn't great news as the polls have him behind by more than the margin of error.

Tonight's moderator Chris Wallace did not cover himself with glory. I do wish the President had said to Wallace, "You aren't very good at this, are you?" 

Tonight's proceedings certainly put the designated moderators for debates 2 and 3 on notice. They are going to need to get their collective game faces on. 

More thoughts tomorrow.

Hillary Accused

Looks like our 2016 intuition was correct. With stories like this and this circulating, maybe it is time to recommence the classic Trump rally chant.

Lock.  Her.  Up.

Jill Biden, Another Edith Wilson?

Edith Wilson, for those who don't know, was the de facto president for over a year after her husband Woodrow had a stroke while in office. At age 69, Jill Biden is 9 years younger than husband Joe, and substantially more "with it." 

Is Jill Biden another Edith Wilson? The pseudonymous Bonchie at Red State sure thinks so. He writes:

Joe’s wife, has essentially become the candidate. She’s doing interviews and rallies while Biden continues to hide in his basement. Is she immune from the virus or something?

If Joe wins the office, it appears Jill will run it, and him. 

Former SSRs in Conflict

When the Soviet Union broke up, and the SSRs became independent nations, Christian Armenians and Islamic Azerbaijanis were not neatly divided into two homogeneous, contiguous regions. 

A boundary between the two nations was established, leaving a large pocket of ethnic Armenians, in a region called Nagorno-Karabakh, trapped inside Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan claims to own the region but has had no effective control over it, making it a flashpoint much like Taiwan is for China.

Now various sources report fighting has again broken out between the two former Soviet SSRs  - Armenia and Azerbaijan - long-time adversaries. It’s said to be more serious this time with hundreds of casualties. 

Both historically and currently, for sectarian reasons Turkey has backed the Azerbaijanis and Russia has supported the Armenians. Currently the two larger nations are also supporting opposing sides in both Syria and Libya. In other words, they are in conflict, some of which is violent, but not precisely at war.

Their conflict has interesting implications for NATO. Turkey is a member of NATO, but the relationship is uneasy while Russia is NATO’s historic nemesis. However, in this conflict, NATO would be more likely to back Armenia and not Azerbaijan. Doing so could cause NATO to rupture, with Turkey leaving, something it might wish to do anyway. 


Communist collectivities like Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union managed to suppress historic ethnic enmities which flared up once the suppressive force was gone. We’ve seen this in Serbia, Croatia, Kosovo, Bosnia, Northern Macedonia, Georgia, Transnistria, eastern Ukraine, and Nagorno-Karabakh.

One of these vest-pocket rebellions could trigger a much wider war. So far, we’ve been lucky.

The internal peace-keeping effectiveness of communism’s secret police and gulag wasn’t appreciated in the West during its heyday. This was probably because (a) communists kept trying to evangelize or take over non-member states and (b) they used brutal methods internally of which we don’t approve.

Communist China is currently using these methods in Xinjiang, upon the Islamic Turkic minority Uighurs there.

Poly Sci 101

The population of this great land is roughly 330,000,000. Of those millions, the number who intentionally and voluntarily pay more income tax than the rules demand could fit in one of the smaller venues of a multiplex theater. That number is effectively zero.

If you are concerned that the wealthy have tax loopholes and dodges that enable them to legally pay a lower tax rate than you pay, yours isn’t an irrational viewpoint. However, your beef isn’t with the wealthy, it is with Congress which establishes the rules by which you, and the wealthy, play.

Congress made those “loophole-y” rules at the behest of various special interests which have a claim on legislators’ loyalties. Those claims can be regional (think oil in TX or ND, tourism in FL or HI), “purchased” via indirect campaign contributions, or horse traded for in a “if you vote for my A, I’ll vote for your B” kind of swap. 

Congress can unmake rules which allow the wealthy to pay less tax if it chooses. Your job, and it is not an easy one, is to have more influence on Congress than special interests do. 

Good luck with that Sisyphean task. Forgive me for not holding my breath while waiting for you to accomplish it.

Monday, September 28, 2020


CEO of Whole Foods John Mackey said that our national obesity problem is the result of consumers making poor choices and indulging food addictions. Several SJWs went crazy calling him names and swearing at him for blaming the victims. Newsweek has the story. Here is his comment:

In some sense, we're all food addicts. We love things that are rich, that are sweet. We love ice cream. We love popcorn. We love French fried potatoes. And the market is providing people what they want. I don't think there's an access problem. I think there's a market demand problem. People have got to become wiser about their food choices. And if people want different foods, the market will provide it.

Mackey is of course correct that if poor people wanted healthy food and sought it out, the stores in their neighborhoods would carry healthy food. I'll bet if several people a week asked their neighborhood bodega for kale, it would carry kale. The local merchant carries what people seek and have the cash to buy, end of discussion.

The SJWs are correct that Whole Foods is not aimed at the poor, they are not the WF target demographic. It caters to affluent "foodies," "greenies," and those who virtue signal or culture signal with their exotic food choices. 

The sad truth is that healthy food is often not as immediately gratifying as unhealthy food that has too much sugar, salt, grease, and carbs. In a hardscrabble life with few joys, eating greasy/salty/sweet food is a little burst of instant pleasure. 

Pizza is an almost perfect example of unhealthy-but-delicious food - greasy, salty, and loads of carbs. So are chips of various sorts, most markets have most of an aisle devoted to them. Why? Because they sell, require no waiting or prep, and taste good. 

Sad truth. The same self-discipline that gets virtuous folk to eat healthy food also helps them be not-poor. The same self-indulgence that directs poor folk to unhealthy food helps them stay poor. 

More Zito to Enjoy

Salena Zito tells the stories of fly-over, rust-belt America. I experience her work as a happy merger of journalism and anthropology. 

In today's column for the Washington Examiner, Zito chronicles the political ground shifting in rural Pennsylvania. Several sheriffs - lifelong Democrats - talk about how their former party left them ideologically. They've registered as Republicans and admit they probably should have done it sooner. 

In their plaints I hear an echo of Ronaldus Magnus, who liked to say "I didn't leave the Democratic Party, they left me." Her column is a good read.

Trump's Taxes

The New York Times has gotten Donald Trump's income tax filings for the past maybe decade. Guess what? He has paid no taxes in several of those years, and paid little in others. How did he do this? Short answer: his business expenses or losses equalled or exceeded his income. What isn't there? Illegality.

We have written repeatedly that raising taxes on the rich produces little actual revenue. If you don't take my word for that, do a search of COTTonLINE for "tax avoidance."

How is this the case? The truly wealthy hire very skilled, high priced CPAs and tax lawyers to help them arrange their assets and income streams in ways that are more-or-less legally sheltered from taxes, or taxed at a much lower rate. 

Much of what you spend after-tax dollars to buy, the wealthy arrange to have identified as before-tax business expenses which become a deduction from taxable income.

The wealthy, who make most of the substantial campaign contributions, also lobby Congress for loopholes which the above experts subsequently utilize. And sometimes the rich take deductions which are questionable, and pay the penalties if caught in an audit, at which the experts represent them.

Bottom line: tax-wise, Trump behaves like a normal wealthy guy, and the fees for the above-noted experts are part of his deductible "business expenses." If you think all of this is an abuse, blame Congress which makes the rules the IRS enforces. Trump and, for that matter, Bloomberg take full advantage of those rules.

Echoing Officer Murphy, the old B-school prof advises, "Move along folks, there's nothing to see here."

Thoughts on a Prior Peace Prize

Writing the post below started me thinking about the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Barack Obama in 2009. I've had an insight I'd share with you.

Nobel's rules say the Prize is only given to individuals, not to nations. I believe Obama's prize should be thought of as the Nobel Committee rewarding the American electorate for electing a Black man President. 

I speculate Obama got the Peace Prize for who he is, and what his election represents symbolically in the U.S. and to the world. His accomplishments beyond getting elected were in 2009, and remain to this day, severely limited.

Trump's Hat Trick

President Donald Trump has just received his third nomination for a Nobel Peace Prize, the Washington Examiner reports.

President Trump locked down his third Nobel Peace Prize nomination after a group of Australian professors nominated him based on his “Trump Doctrine."

Professors and members of Parliament can nominate a person for the esteemed prize. Flint joined three other Australian legal scholars in nominating the president on the basis of his “Trump Doctrine.”

To which the Independent Sentinel adds

Professor Flint told Sky News host Alan Jones the Trump Doctrine is “something extraordinary” and is emblematic of the two things which guide the president. “He has, firstly, common sense, and he is only guided by national interest … and therefore an interest in the western alliance,” he said.

I wonder if someone getting three nominations in a year is a record? If it is, we can be sure the President will mention it. No doubt heads are exploding in newsrooms and Democratic caucuses all over the country. 

Afterthought: Hasn't the legacy media been telling us how unpopular Trump is overseas? I guess it depends who you're talking to there, eh?

What the Record Shows

Michael Barone has been a voice of reason in politics for decades; he currently writes for the Washington Examiner. Today he looks at what has been normal concerning Supreme Court nominations.

When a vacancy occurs in a presidential year and the opposition party has a majority in the Senate, the president can nominate, but the nominee is almost never confirmed. There have been 10 such vacancies in the history of the republic. Presidents made pre-Election Day nominations in six cases, but only one nominee was confirmed before the election. That was in 1888.

Presidents whose parties had Senate majorities selected nominees in election years 19 times, and 17 of those nominees were confirmed. The two rejections came together in 1968, when President Lyndon Johnson’s nominee for chief justice, Abe Fortas, and his nominee to replace Fortas as associate justice were blocked by a bipartisan filibuster.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell thus was following precedent when he blocked consideration of President Barack Obama’s nominee to fill Antonin Scalia’s seat, and now, he is following precedent again by promising a floor vote on Trump’s nominee to fill Ginsburg’s seat.

Notwithstanding claims by Democrats to the contrary. All such are their usual self-serving lies.

So sayeth the “principal author of the Almanac of American Politics” which Wikipedia tells us “has been published biennially since 1972.” 

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Very Weird Metabolic Science

RealClearScience reports the very odd findings of a study done at Harvard. The results were, to say the least, counterintuitive. The research was originally published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Researchers at Harvard University discovered that perceived sugar intake affects blood sugar levels in people with Type 2 diabetes more than actual sugar intake, at least temporarily.

They found that participants who thought they were drinking the high-sugar variant had significantly elevated blood sugar levels during the monitoring period compared to those who thought they were drinking the low-sugar variant.

In reality all subjects drank the same sweetened beverage. What changed was the information given to them concerning how much sugar, if any, it supposedly contained. 

The authors warn Type 2 diabetes sufferers:

This sort of psychological trickery cannot treat Type 2 diabetes on its own. A diabetic could not, on a prolonged basis, trick themselves out of diabetes.

As far as I can determine, the authors have no data showing this last statement is true. I believe they are wisely protecting themselves against lawsuits brought by the heirs of people who die after trying to "psych" themselves healthy with positive thoughts, instead of taking their meds. 

Non-Polluting Flight

United Press International reports aviation firm ZeroAvia in the U.K. has flown a six passenger Piper airplane powered by a hydrogen fuel cell. Instapundit, who provided the link, takes a somewhat dismissive view of the feat. He argues we don't have the nearly unlimited electricity needed to split large quantities of non-polluting hydrogen from water using electrolysis.

I'd argue very large photovoltaic fields could provide the energy which can create storable hydrogen. Such fields can be established in places where the land has little value and the sun shines a lot - deserts and near-deserts like the interior of Australia, the Sahara, the Gobi, the Atacama, and the American Southwest.

A hydrogen fuel cell's waste product is, I believe, water - pure H₂O.

The Inside Baseball of Politics

This close to a presidential election, an event that only happens every four years, one can hope to be excused for obsessing over the "inside baseball" details of politics. I just read a column by Steven Hayward at Power Line which gets relatively deep into the intricacies of presidential succession. 

There is a law - the Presidential Succession Act of 1947 - under which the Speaker of the House would become acting president in the event that the results of the election were still under contention and the terms of Trump and Pence had ended. There is also wording in the Constitution to the effect that no member of the Congress can serve in any executive branch position, which includes the presidency. 

Constitutional scholars have argued that, as the Speaker is a member of Congress, the aforementioned succession act is unconstitutional. It has never been challenged in court as an occasion for its use has not arisen and therefore no one has had standing to challenge it. 

Early in 2021 an occasion for its use could arise, and if it is then found unconstitutional, we could see a President Pompeo as the Secretary of State is the first among equals in the cabinet. Cabinet jobs, it is alleged, do not automatically end when the President's term ends. 

Imagine the turmoil if a "president" Pelosi appointed acting cabinet members and the sitting cabinet refused to step down, alleging that her accession was unconstitutional. You think SCOTUS has made important decisions in the past? Imagine living through this scenario.

Stay tuned. We live in very interesting times.

An Attack on Nominee Barrett

As expected, President Trump nominated Circuit Court Judge Amy Coney Barrett to serve on the Supreme Court. When confirmed she will be the first woman with school-age children to serve on that august body. 

Two of her seven children are adopted Haitian orphans. The line of attack on her is that by adopting Black children she has somehow engaged in colonialism, what a cynic would sneeringly refer to as “picking up the white man’s burden,” echoing arch-colonialist poet and novelist Rudyard Kipling. 

Race hustler Ibram X. Kendi Tweets in reference to Barrett: 

Some White colonizers "adopted" Black children. They "civilized" these "savage" children in the "superior" ways of White people, while using them as props in their lifelong pictures of denial, while cutting the biological parents of these children out of the picture of humanity.

Meanwhile 20+ years ago a very liberal White friend of ours adopted a Chinese baby girl - a victim of China’s one child policy - from an orphanage in China. That now-adult young lady just graduated from an R.N. program in TX and aims to be a nurse practitioner. 

I wonder how her adoptive mother will experience liberals beating up on Barrett for doing what she did, namely adopting an unwanted child of another race from another country? I predict cognitive dissonance, on stilts. 

Friday, September 25, 2020

A Leak, Reported

If the leak being reported by multiple sources is accurate, President Trump tomorrow will nominate Circuit Court Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the vacant seat on the Supreme Court. Senate Majority Leader McConnell believes he has the votes to confirm her.

While highly qualified and experienced, the nomination of devout Roman Catholic Barrett will drive pro-choice people into a frenzy. I think it is fair to say she will not be an advocate for abortion rights. She may, however, be swayed by the Roe v. Wade legal precedent. 


Paul Mirengoff at Power Line writes about commemorative rites for the late Justice Ginsburg at the Supreme Court. Some of the 150 law clerks she'd hired over the years showed up as "honorary pallbearers." Christian Mitchell, Illinois’ Deputy Governor and a Black man, Tweeted that none of those present were Black.

Mirengoff alleges in her whole 27 year career on the Supreme Court, Ginsburg only ever hired one Black law clerk. And she hired none during the prior 13 years on the circuit court. He excuses her as follows:

However, the lack of black clerks in Ginsburg’s chambers should not, without more [evidence], be viewed as indicating a blind spot or racism.

Ginsburg’s only “sins” were color blindness, merit hiring, and skepticism about the wonders of diversity.

But he concludes: 

It would have been nice, though, if Ginsburg had backed merit-based selections and color blindness, and been less impressed by the diversity-imperative, in cases involving other institutions.

The technical term for Ginsburg’s behavior is "hypocrisy," defined as "feigning to ... believe what one does not." That behavior is best explained by Robert Conquest's first law of politics: "Everyone is conservative about what he knows best." What she knew best was the courts, other institutions she cut less slack.

Shifting the Clock

Writing at American Thinker, Thomas Lifson asks whether the Biden campaign’s early-in-the-day “lid” on Joe’s appearances is him shifting his circadian clock to have him feeling “early morning” alert for his evening debate on Tuesday? This is something that would totally make sense if Biden is experiencing “sundowners” syndrome. 

AARP defines sundowning, and lists indications:

Research indicates that as many as 20 percent of people with Alzheimer’s experience sundown syndrome, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. With this symptom of dementia (and some other conditions, as well), the approach of sundown can trigger sudden emotional, behavioral or cognitive changes. These might include:
  • mood swings
  • anxiety
  • sadness
  • restlessness
  • energy surges
  • increased confusion
  • hallucinations
  • delusions

There can, of course, be other explanations for the campaign’s odd behavior, although what those might be is unclear. If you believe an accusation of Biden as victim of elder abuse is absurd, do a web search of “Biden elder abuse” and see all the hits you get.  

Keep On Truckin’

We wrote yesterday about CA Governor Newsom decreeing an end to petroleum-powered vehicles in the state beginning in 2035. I’ve had additional thoughts to share.

With 1/8 of the U.S. population, CA intends to be the ‘tail’ that wags the dog, forcing the auto companies to develop electric cars and forcing all of us, including those who live elsewhere, to eventually buy and drive them. 

If the Democrats get control of all the levers of government this November, how long before the whole country has to follow California’s lead? Months? A year? 

If you own an RV, or would like to, how do you think that will be possible with all of us driving tarted-up ‘golf carts?’ Answer: You won’t, the eco-freaks don’t want you to RV. They’d prefer us all taking public transportation and, like strap-hanging New Yorkers, catching whatever plague China dreams up next.

The DrsC have driven all over North America, we’ve RVed to Nova Scotia and Key West, to Fairbanks and San Diego, to Brownsville and Saskatoon, and most places in between. It’s been an amazing experience, one we wouldn’t trade for anything. 

Don’t give up the dream of the open road!

Ideologically Disciplined Coalitions

Ezra Klein is no fan of President Trump or Republicans. Nevertheless, today he writes for Vox about the impact Mitch McConnell has had on the Senate and on politics more generally. While doing so, he shares an important insight about structural changes in our two-party system.

[The] McConnell rule: What parties have the power and authority to do, they should do. And to give him his due: It is much stranger, by the standards of most political systems, for the reverse to be the case, for senators to refuse to use their power to pursue their ideological ends on a question as important as a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court. But that’s how American politics has traditionally worked.

It worked that way because the parties, and their Supreme Court nominees, were different than they are now. The parties were ideologically mixed rather than ideologically polarized, and Supreme Court nominees were ideologically unpredictable rather than heavily vetted and ideologically consistent. From the 1950s through the 1990s, knowing the party that nominated a justice told you little about how that justice would vote. All of that lowered the stakes on each nomination.

Today, we have ideologically disciplined coalitions naming their most reliable foot soldiers to lifetime appointments to the most powerful judicial body in the land. Those changes predate McConnell; his contribution was taking them to their logical conclusion in the Senate: Treat Supreme Court nominees like any other major ideological vote, and do whatever you need to do to win.

There were once conservative Democrats and liberal Republicans, those days are long gone. McConnell recognizes the implications thereof and acts accordingly. His doing so also reflects Republican resentment of a liberal SCOTUS that “invented” social changes no legislature ever approved.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Turbulent Twenties - a Review

Instapundit links to a book review at TaxProf Blog, which features the work of Dean Paul L. Caron of Pepperdine U's law school. He reviews a book - Welcome to the 'Turbulent Twenties' - representing the collaboration of sociologist Jack Goldstone and mathematician Peter Turchin. Over 20 years ago Goldstone predicted:

According to this Demographic-Structural Theory, in the 21st century, America was likely to get a populist, America-first leader who would sow a whirlwind of conflict.

Then 10 years ago Turchin ran the numbers:

Before Trump was elected, Turchin published his prediction that the U.S. was headed for the “Turbulent Twenties,” forecasting a period of growing instability in the United States and western Europe.

The authors argue:

Across history, what creates the risk of political instability is the behavior of elites, who all too often react to long-term increases in population by committing three cardinal sins.
  • First, faced with a surge of labor that dampens growth in wages and productivity, elites seek to take a larger portion of economic gains for themselves, driving up inequality.
  • Second, facing greater competition for elite wealth and status, they tighten up the path to mobility to favor themselves and their progeny.
  • Third, anxious to hold on to their rising fortunes, they do all they can to resist taxation of their wealth and profits.

Check out their graph, which shows political instability today resembles nothing so much as the period leading up to our 1860s Civil War.

Are they correct? Let's hope they're wrong. I'm no expert, but it sorta feels right.

Going Electric?

Governor Gavin Newsom has decreed that after 2035 no internal combustion vehicles will be sold in CA. He claims people who own them will still be able to drive them. 

This is mostly hot air inasmuch as Newsom will have long since termed out of office by 2035. Who knows what will be happening by then? Or who will be governor 15 years from now? 

Assuming the family electric car(s) will be driven to work and assuming photovoltaic electricity will do most of the battery charging, people will need charging stations where they park at work as the daylight hours are mostly when their cars will be away from their home charger.

Will Californians want to give up their motor vehicles? Will battery powered autos and trucks be practical in 15 years - they aren't now. If CA continues down the path to socialist eco-weirdness, trying to force people into public transit, most people like yours truly will live elsewhere. 

As long as I can drag myself into the cab, I'll keep driving a petroleum-fueled pickup truck, probably a diesel. We've owned a series of pickups since 1983, a Chevy, a Dodge, and three Fords in that order. We've liked them all.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

A Balkanization

Writing at Zero Hedge, Brandon Smith of Montana muses about people leaving California and other deep blue, high tax states. My favorite bits from his column:

The lefties are too dumb to relocate. They're going to sit within the rotting corpses of the states they killed and pretend it smells like roses. This is what they do; when they are wrong or when they have failed they double and triple down. It's their defining characteristic.

In my view the BEST case scenario we can possibly hope for as conservatives is a balkanization of the US based on ideals and principles. According to the economic data and social upheaval I am seeing, I think there is little chance we can save the whole country in the short term. Instead, conservatives organizing together regionally is the best bet in stopping widespread unconstitutional changes to our laws and usurpation of our culture.

The mountain west is already semi-balkanized, except Californicated Colorado. CO is the destination for liberals fleeing CA, which I'm positive infuriates my cousins who have ranched there for 60 years. 

A fan of Hunger Games, I always imagined Panem's Capitol located in the shadow of Colorado's Front Range. 

One Less Holdout

The Alaska Public Media website reports Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R?-AK) has changed her mind - a lady’s prerogative - and will not boycott the confirmation process for a new SCOTUS nominee. The site, a joint effort of AK’s PBS and NPR organizations, quotes Sen. Murkowski getting real:

We don’t have a nominee yet. You and I don’t know who that is. And so I can’t confirm whether or not I can confirm a nominee when I don’t know who the nominee is.

I do not support this process moving forward. Now, having said that, this process is moving forward with or without me.

Confirming conservative judges is one thing upon which all GOP senators agree. It looks like Mitch McConnell has this one wrapped up tight. This leaves Maine’s Susan Collins as the only likely GOP holdout, maybe even she will cave. Psychologists have proved it is difficult to be a lone dissenter.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Questions - Answered and Raised

Reflecting on the data at that Nate Silver article I referenced on Sunday clarified something I’d had trouble explaining to myself. I’ve been puzzled why Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) is such a fierce Democrat.

You remember my mentioning Silver’s ranking of the states by how much they swung left or right? The one that shows Wyoming farthest to the right, the most Republican? Well, it shows Hawaii to be the most Democrat of states.

A state where most people are Democrats is apt to elect someone who most completely exemplifies Democrat tendencies, and they selected Ms. Hirono. Question answered. 

I have a second question, why is Hawaii the most Democrat state? Possible reasons? The geography is unique. The cost of living is high. The populace is heavily Asian immigrant, although mostly 2-3 generations ago. The military has a large presence, at least on Oahu. 

On the other hand, it isn't the weather or the reliance on tourism. Florida with similar characteristics often votes Republican.

A Vote Looks More Certain

Yesterday we wrote that Sen. Graham believed the GOP had sufficient votes to confirm a presidential appointee for the Ginsburg seat on SCOTUS. Today with Romney's announcement that he's willing to vote, it appears that Graham was correct, see Paul Mirengoff's analysis for Power Line.

Later ... President Trump has announced he will disclose his SCOTUS nominee at the end of the week, on Saturday afternoon.

Autumn’s Official Start

Today is the Autumnal Equinox, the day when there are exactly equal hours of daylight and darkness. As such it also marks the “official” end of summer and beginning of autumn or fall in the northern hemisphere. 

The shortest day of the year falls on December 21, the Winter Solstice, when winter begins “officially.” In both cases the so-called “scare” quotes refer to the fact that perceived autumn and winter begin on different days depending on in what climate zone one resides.

Here in the Rocky Mountains, at 6300 ft. elevation it has felt and looked like autumn since late August. It will feel like winter sometime in November. When we get to California in early October, it will still look and feel like summer and we’ll probably experience a couple of days at or above 90 degrees. 

The leaves are turning here now, the shrubby Rocky Mountain maples are various beautiful shades of red and the aspen leaves turn pure pale yellow. In CA near sea level, we won’t get fall color until sometime in November. 

The small-for-CA town where we shop and formerly worked is covered in huge, old deciduous trees which drop so many leaves the city funds a leaf abatement program just to stay tidy. For 7-8 months of the year those trees make the older residential streets around the campus into green “tunnels.”

In normal, non-Covid-19 years kids from SoCal come there to university and fall in love with the place, where among other CA oddities the creek through campus runs year round. In SoCal, creeks and rivers never run year round, they only have water for a few days after a winter rain. 

Monday, September 21, 2020

Graham: GOP Has Votes to Confirm

Being interviewed by Fox News' Sean Hannity, Sen. Lindsey Graham announced that Senate Republicans have enough votes to confirm the President's nominee for the Supreme Court. The Daily Wire has the story

I hope Graham is correct. As we all know, politicians have been known to declare as fact what they hope is true. Sometime in the next few weeks we should learn if Graham was accurate or optimistic.


Many believe there will be near endless litigation following the November election. Whoever is eventually declared winner may be viewed by up to half the population as illegitimate. 

It will be important to have an odd number on the high court as those cases arrive. When the Court has only 8 justices and they deadlock 4-4, the Circuit Court ruling stands. 

Some circuits, like the 9th, are notoriously willing to ignore the law and decide along Dem. party lines. Knowing this, expect Dem. suits will be brought in favorable-to-them jurisdictions. Since Republicans will appeal these decisions, lots of stuff will pile up on the Supreme Court’s docket.

Summer's End Snark

Instapundit, riffing on the future of Artificial Intelligence:

Don’t fear the machine that passes the Turing Test. Fear the one that deliberately fails it.

Trouble in the Groves of Academe

Instapundit links to a sobering article at The Ohio Star. The topic is the decline of higher education in a time of pandemic. Authored by two academics who cohost the Words & Numbers podcast, they argue that 20% of colleges and universities will likely fail in the near future. Another 30% will struggle to survive. Together that is half the total. Some key quotes:

When a quarter to almost half of a university’s income comes from room and board, it becomes pretty clear pretty quickly that those Zoom classes are gutting college and university revenue streams.

Foreign students are staying home in droves because of both the virus and US policy. (snip) Universities obtain more than twice the revenue from the typical foreign student than from the typical American student.

In 1970, 17 percent of 18 to 24 year olds in the U.S. were full-time college students at 4-year institutions. That number rose steadily to over 30 percent by 2018.

Since 2016, some 52 colleges and universities have closed their doors or merged with other institutions. With the new reality of COVID-19, this trend will accelerate.

The authors note those who graduate in a " ***** Studies" major normally gain nothing as far as lifetime earnings are concerned.  The authors expect the big name and state schools to survive, the rest face an uncertain future. 

This raises the issue of what your degree is worth if your alma mater folds? The prediction suggests that will be true for many people. Perhaps folks will start claiming to have degrees from former schools that were thriving when they were young. 

I am so glad to have been a part of higher education's heyday, I retired just as it peaked. You can't buy that kind of luck, but you can be grateful. I am, very.

Think of all the embittered leftists who will be unemployed (and nearly unemployable) if one IHE in five goes out of business. I imagine them singing:

Those were the days, my friend
We thought they'd never end
We'd sing and dance forever and a day
We'd live the life we choose
We'd fight and never lose
For we were young and sure to have our way.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Silver: The Senate's GOP Bias

Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight fame writes about the Republican structural advantage in the Senate. It is an encouraging column for us conservatives, and correspondingly discouraging for Democrats and progressives.

Because each state, regardless of population or size gets precisely two senators, small and low population rural states get the same Senate clout as does California with 1/8 of the U.S. population. There are lots of small rural and low population states, way more than half.

Silver has ranked the 50 states by the degree to which they exceeded the national average in votes for Trump.  By that metric my home state of Wyoming is the most Republican state in the nation.

Silver shows that in the 2016 presidential election, 32 states gave Trump a majority of their votes. In those states you would logically conclude Republican senate candidates have a greater than even chance of being elected. In only 18 states do Democrats have a Senate edge. 

The founders of this republic knew what they were doing when they designed the Senate. We are the beneficiaries of their wisdom.

A Research Note

Something people will be writing about, if the Ginsburg vacancy conflagration leaves any oxygen, is when the country reaches the milestone of 200,000 dead who had Covid-19. I hope when that happens, at least someone with access to the data asks how many of those would have died anyway during the prior six-seven months?

Clearly a substantial number would have survived. But many of those residing in assisted living would have died of their comorbidities - the other diseases that put them in the nursing home and made it possible for the corona virus to kill them. 

Many in nursing homes are on life's final slippery slope which doesn't always mean they will die within weeks or even months. The same is not true of those in retirement homes whose residents are ambulatory, continent, and with it mentally. These might live several years, a decade even.

I fear the fatality rate from corona virus was too high in both settings. In examining the data, these two groups should be disaggregated and examined separately. 

But before we conclude Covid-19 is solely responsible for 200,000 deaths, let's answer this question. How much did the death rate for this period from all causes exceed that of the same 6-7 month period in recent non-pandemic years?

What did B.F. Skinner prove to us experimentally? Answer: That behavior which is rewarded is likely to be exhibited at increased levels. Unfortunately, the government made it lucrative for hospitals to list deaths as caused by Covid-19. I think we can be certain corona virus deaths have been overstated, the question to be answered is overstated by what amount?

Ruing the Path Chosen

Filling the Supreme Court vacancy caused by the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg will cause a tremendous flap. And the conflict didn’t need to happen. 

Everyone reading this will eventually die, much as we try to ignore that truth. Justice Ginsburg was a smart woman and obviously knew this. 

She had every right to retire during the Obama administration at roughly age 80. No one would have thought less of her for doing so, most of us retire much younger than that. 

She chose not to do so, I suppose because it was too fascinating to stay on the Court. And it’s likely she believed the polls which predicted a Clinton victory. 

The polls were wrong and Trump won. Then it was too late and she had to try to hang in there. She almost made it but didn’t live quite long enough. 

Had she lived past November 3, chances are the GOP couldn’t have mustered a majority to confirm a new Justice. She didn’t, and now they just might, and all because she made choices that, in retrospect, she probably regretted. Alas, ruing the path chosen makes for a sad death.

Back on Offense

John Nolte writes something interesting for Breitbart about the impact of a Supreme Court vacancy occurring now, see if you agree.

The national media and Biden had planned to make 2020 a referendum on Trump’s handling of the coronavirus epidemic. Come hell or high water, they were not going to allow the subject to be changed from that. And it was a good plan. Kept Biden on offense, kept Trump on defense, and that’s how you win presidential elections in this country.

Well, the unfortunate passing of Ginsburg throws all that right over the side.

Whether, in the end, McConnell can or cannot cobble the votes together doesn’t matter. The news cycle is about to be swamped by this confirmation battle, which puts Trump on offense and Biden on defense.

Nolte’s importance of offense vs. defense in campaigning is a viewpoint I’ve not seen elsewhere. It’s worth considering. Hat tip to Ed Driscoll, posting at Instapundit, for the link.

Perilous Times

Charles Lipson writes well-reasoned opinion for RealClearPolitics. Today his topic is the impact of the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the political race and, more broadly, on the country. A short version of his conclusions is that this is like pouring gasoline on a fire - explosive and dangerous. I recommend reading his whole column.

Like just about all of us who consider the national zeitgeist he sees extreme political polarization. This Court vacancy is, to continue the fire analogy, an accelerant. It makes the stakes higher, for both sides. The next few months will be, as Arte Johnson reminded us in a mock-Austrian accent, “veeerrry enterestink, but not fonny.”  Of the 100 senators who will decide the issue, Lipson concludes:

All of them are hypocrites. They have flipped their positions, and their justifications (then and now) are nothing more than cloaks for political advantage. They don’t care about consistency or even logic. They are fighting to win control of the Supreme Court and defeat the other side in November. They will say whatever helps their cause and hope voters forget whatever they said last time.

You can’t be more even-handed than that. Looking at downstream implications, Lipson makes the point that what’s at stake is more than the Court balance and who wins the November election. 

Democrat threats to pack the court and abandon the filibuster would change the way government functions, making it much more parliament-like where whatever the majority proposes gets passed and minorities have much less say. Important checks and balances would be gone, likely forever. 

Saturday, September 19, 2020

I Hear an Echo

Back in early June I wrote the following, excerpted from a discussion of the implications of reducing police presence in our cities.

Eventually whole sections of the city become no-go zones, off limits to uniformed police with any interest in living another day, which is most of them. Somewhere along the line the police will go rogue, hit squads of off-duty cops will begin assassinating drug lords and opposition politicians and, viola, you’ve got a Third World city in what was formerly a first world country.

Today Instapundit writes the following in a discussion of people bushwhacking cops, which sorta echoes what I wrote above.

At what point, faced with assassination attempts, do the police go rogue and form their own death squads to neutralize their enemies? That’s what generally happens in corrupt third-world polities, which is what our Democrat-run cities are becoming.

No, I don't imply plagiarism. I imagine many people who've traveled are imagining this same sinister turn of the screw. 

Karma Can't Be Repealed

What goes around, comes around. Democrats need to remember their Harry Reid changed the Senate rules on confirming judicial nominations, and the GOP ended up taking advantage of that change. It seems the Ds always believe they'll be in power forever.

Democrats are now threatening to "pack" the Supreme Court if they win the presidency and Senate by adding additional members beyond the now-standard nine. Imagine how ridiculous if then in a few years the Republicans have majorities in both houses and add even more. 

This could get really crazy. A Supreme Court with 40-50 lifetime members? Where does it stop? Admitting that karma hasn't been repealed would be a good start.

We had a nice country here, it would be too bad if something happened to it. 

Fall Comes Early

Yesterday the DrsC took a lazy (and hazy from smoke) drive through Jackson to the Tetons. Even though the calendar says it is still summer until Tuesday morning, the fall colors were really something special. The aspens are turning gold and the Rocky Mountain maples are a beautiful red.

We ate a picnic lunch looking across the lake at Mount Moran. Jackson Lake is basically the headwaters of the South Fork of the Snake River.

The park is still relatively busy for so late in the season, most in-park services will shut down on the 27th. See pretty photos of autumn in the Rockies at the other DrC's blog, CruzTalking Two.

Later ... My bad, Jackson Lake is not the headwaters of the South Fork of the Snake River, I looked it up. The actual headwaters are farther north in the south end of Yellowstone National Park. The Snake flows through Jackson Lake and continues south in WY to Alpine where it merges with the Grey’s and Salt rivers and then turns west into Idaho.

Talk Like a Pirate Day

Today is Talk Like a Pirate Day, me hearties. Aarrgh.

To learn about the beginnings of this less-than-serious special day, and from whence come our created-by-Hollywood notions of how pirates sounded, see a semi-serious article at the Mental Floss website. 

Let's splice the mainbrace, lads.

Trump's Democrats

I just finished doing something I almost never do, I listened to an hour-long podcast of Steven Hayward of Power Line interviewing two political scientists who have a new book out, Trump's Democrats. They spent significant time in three locations, one each in IA, RI, and KY, which had voted Democrat for years and went for Trump and the GOP in 2016. The location in KY had never before voted for a Republican, since it became a county a hundred+ years ago.

Their data collection method was interviewing, chatting up leaders and regular folks in these different places. Their findings are impressionistic, but not dismissive. They don't look down on, or put down the people they talked with at all.

Their findings, to the TDs Trump sounded more like their kind of people, their kind of leader, than did either Hillary or the recent Republican presidential candidates. Drilling down into what made this the case, a couple of their findings made particular sense.

These are places with an "honor culture," which means a place where any slight, any disrespect must be rebuffed publicly and soon. If you let it slide, you're seen as weak and the opposition piles on. Our current President operates that way, and we often wish he wouldn't. Obviously, the TDs feel his ignore-no-insult approach is the right one, what they're accustomed to locally.

They are also places peopled by what Alvin W. Gouldner called "locals," as opposed to "cosmopolitans." Locals can't imagine living somewhere else, they identify with a particular place. It becomes part of their identity.

It turns out Trump was speaking to the TDs' lives, their beliefs and their sense of American exceptionalism in ways Hillary Clinton did not. The authors say each of these places is, one way or another, in decline and their citizen resent it. They believe the TDs interpreted MAGA as "make MY place great again."

Friday, September 18, 2020

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Dead at 87

Multiple news sources are reporting the U.S. Supreme Court has announced the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, from complications of pancreatic cancer. She was 87. 

Expect President Trump to quickly announce a nominee for the vacancy on the Court which Ginsburg's death creates. 

Expect Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to opine that his 2016 "we need to let the next president make the nomination" mantra only applies when a president is not from the party currently controlling the Senate.

Expect the Senate to approve the nominee, after an insane fight, unless RINO senators join Romney in wimping out. The Blaze reports Senators Lisa Murkowski (R?-AK) and Susan Collins (R?-ME) have already said they won't vote for a Supreme Court nominee before January's inauguration. 

Let the political backstabbing and bloodletting begin. Let us hope Ginsburg's death will not trigger events that degenerate into civil unrest or civil war. 

Later ... Romney communications director Liz Johnson vehemently claims he has not ruled out voting on a nominee this year, per Twitchy. Perhaps she only means “yet,” although she didn’t use that word.

Good News

The following finding just in from the Rasmussen Reports polling organization.

The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Friday shows that 53% of Likely U.S. Voters approve of President Trump’s job performance. Forty-six percent (46%) disapprove. The last time the president's job approval reached a high of this number was in September 2019.

The latest figures include 44% who Strongly Approve of the job Trump is doing and 40% who Strongly Disapprove. This gives him a Presidential Approval Index rating of +4.

These indicators have been on an upward slope for a couple of weeks. 

Hispanics With (Good) Attitude

Power Line's Steven Hayward posts a quote from the New York Times (behind paywall) which I need to share with you. It concerns focus group research with minorities concerning public policy.

We began by asking eligible voters how “convincing” they found a dog-whistle message lifted from Republican talking points. Among other elements, the message condemned “illegal immigration from places overrun with drugs and criminal gangs” and called for “fully funding the police, so our communities are not threatened by people who refuse to follow our laws.”

Almost three out of five white respondents judged the message convincing. More surprising, exactly the same percentage of African-Americans agreed, as did an even higher percentage of Latinos.

Progressives commonly categorize Latinos as people of color. (snip) Yet in our survey, only one in four Hispanics saw the group as people of color.

In contrast, the majority rejected this designation. They preferred to see Hispanics as a group integrating into the American mainstream, one not overly bound by racial constraints but instead able to get ahead through hard work.

No kidding. I grew up with the Lopez family living across the street in a nice ranch-style house. The parents were legal immigrants from Mexico, their kids (older than me) born here, and the whole bunch completely assimilated middle class Americans. 

One of the brightest kids in my public high school graduating class of 100 was Bob Castro, who became an attorney. All this was over 50 years ago. Hispanics definitely can "make it" here, I've never had reason to doubt it.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Pathetic Princeton

There is a great story making the rounds. During the George Floyd riots when many virtue signalers were admitting systemic racism, President Christopher Eisgruber of Princeton University wrote a letter admitting the school was guilty of a variety of discriminatory things, a real mea culpa.

Today comes the news that the Department of Education is conducting an investigation to determine what evil things they were doing. Apparently, they were required to affirm to the DOE that they weren't discriminating or engaging in racist behavior as a precondition for receiving millions in federal dollars.

Princeton of course so swore, and now, given what the Prexy wrote, appears to have been lying. The alternative claim is that they really weren't systemically racist or discriminating and the President's letter was merely public relations hot air lying about something important in an attempt to defuse on-campus unrest.

Perhaps DOE will find that Princeton was behaving itself, their President is a total B.S. artist, and his career is likely at an end. DOE would then be trying to stop virtue signaling on the part of higher ed. administrators. 

Alternatively, the Feds can demand their money back, with interest, if they find the affidavits of policy conformity were a smokescreen and Princeton really was discriminating as its President claimed. In which case the board will also fire him. 

The university is screwed either way. Christopher Eisgruber should start packing.

Who Our Kids Marry

Paul Bledsoe is an old lefty, and I don't recommend his article for RealClearPolitics concerning political polarization, for which he blames Trump. He does, however, quote a statistic that I find both interesting and concerning. 

In the 1950s, when pollsters asked Americans whether they would prefer that their child “marry a Democrat or a Republican,” nearly three-quarters did not care which. By 2016, 55% expressed a partisan preference for their future son-in-law or daughter-in-law. Similar partisan partitioning is now evident in how Americans choose a neighborhood to live in, a school for their children, and even their workplaces.

In other words, political polarization is more extreme today than it was 60-70 years ago. It feels more polarized today but I'm not especially happy to have supporting data. 

Bledsoe's answer to political polarization is to elect Biden, who he says promises to be president of all Americans, including those who do not vote for him. I clearly remember Trump making the same promise and am positive Obama did too. 

Every president believes he works for all Americans and, to some degree they actually do. Most, however, tend to work harder for the demographics who supported them than for the others. This is as close to a political constant as you're likely to find and totally what you'd expect.

Trende: Trump Can Win

When RealClearPolitics' Sean Trende writes political analysis, I always pay attention and I often agree with his conclusions. Today he sketches out a path to victory for Trump, which he freely admits is far from a prediction of it happening.

Trende cites three factors which help the Trump cause. His explanations of these are worth reading.

(1) Trump’s job approval solidifies.
(2) The economy continues to improve.
(3) Biden’s problems with the base are real.

He concludes:

None of this is to be taken as a prediction as such – this is a race that could go either way and where I still view Biden as the favorite. With that said, the storyline sketched out above is perfectly realistic.

What I see is that Trump is in roughly the same position he was in four years ago, when he won. Add to that the fact that incumbents normally win reelection. And of course Democrats keep nominating seriously unattractive candidates. I am therefore mildly optimistic.

Terrible Governance Has Consequences

The Hill reports conservative news site The Daily Wire is moving its home base from Los Angeles to Nashville, Tennessee. A search shows COTTonLINE has referenced DW articles some 20 times. Co-founder Ben Shapiro wrote:

We've been asked over and over and over again when we would leave California. The answer: now. See you in Nashville, gang!

I've lived my entire life in California. Within weeks, we'll be taking our 75 jobs and leaving. We're not the first. And we certainly won't be the last. Terrible governance has consequences.

The Hill adds: 

Shapiro becomes the second influential political commentator to leave California recently, with popular podcaster Joe Rogan announcing a move from Los Angeles to Austin, Texas, in late July.

The Great Sort continues, it’s called “voting with your feet.” Much of the small family the DrsC have left is talking about leaving CA (aka Newsom’s noisome mess) for NV - perhaps they will.

Argentina Stumbles ... Again

We have written often about the hole Argentina has dug for itself, with its Peronist redistribution politics. Argentine economist Eduardo Levy Yeyati lays out the dimensions of that dysfunction, in the journal Americas Quarterly.

Argentina this week formally exited the ninth sovereign debt default in its history.

If by 2023 Argentina’s economy is still deteriorating (as it did in the 10 years prior to the pandemic) and the fiscal deficit remains chronic, steep refinancing costs may quickly push the country back into yet another restructuring, and perhaps default number 10.

Out of each 100 working-age people in Argentina, at the end of 2019 roughly 35 were inactive, meaning they weren’t looking for a job. Another six counted as unemployed, 15 labored in the informal sector, 14 were registered as self-employed (mostly subsidized and low-income workers), and 10 were public-sector workers. Only 20 of them were stable workers in private-sector jobs, contributing to a generous social spending and social security system that covers their own benefits as well as those of the remaining 80%.

Right now, the Argentine government is toying with wealth taxes that are in turn already pushing real investors and entrepreneurs to neighboring tax-friendly countries like Uruguay or Paraguay, taking a good number of high-skilled jobs abroad.

Would you invest in or loan money to a country with these characteristics? I would not. 

Its demographics suggest a democratic government cannot do what is needed because the overwhelming majority of Argentinians are mostly or entirely reliant on government handouts. They will vote for those who dishonestly promise to magically deliver even more goodies from the already empty larder. 

As a tourist in Argentina, I remember our local guide saying he insisted our tour company pay him in U.S. dollars. The local currency was made basically worthless by inflation if not spent immediately.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Predicting a Multicultural Male Coalition

The Daily Caller has an opinion piece by Alex Perez who writes that, if his observations are correct, there is a likelihood that substantial numbers of young men of color will vote for Donald Trump. He attributes this outlandish assertion to their reaction to the Democratic Party’s rejection of traditional masculinity.

For years now, the Democratic Party has rejected any masculine sensibility in favor of a gung-ho girl power aesthetic that caters strictly to the highly feminized, whether male or female.

All this to say that the Democratic Party is now the party of women and those who identify with the overly feminine sensibility. There’s nothing wrong with this being your cup of tea, of course, but Democrats shouldn’t be surprised when young men of all stripes are turned off by a party that is completely devoid of any masculine energy.

Would I be stereotyping if I noted that it isn’t surprising an Hispanic man makes this observation? Yes. Yes, I would. 

Irony Alert

Here at COTTonLINE we love irony, situations where someone starts out to accomplish one thing and in fact ends up helping the opposite occur. Today I’m thinking about Obama’s help for Iran - cargo pallets of cash - and how that helped bring about the Abraham Accords signed in Washington a day or so ago.

Iran of course used that money to cause trouble in the region, fund their armed proxies in Yemen, Lebanon, the Palestinian areas, Syria and Iraq. This belligerence worried the Sunni Arabs enough for leaders in the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to decide they needed militarily buffed Israel as an ally against Iran. 

Hence the Abraham Accords. Once again the region’s age-old mantra proves true, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend, or at least my interim ally.”

Obama was an even bigger loser than we understood him to be. He intended to help Iran and ended up helping to unify Arab opposition to Iran. 

Meanwhile, President Trump keeps driving nails into the coffin representing Obama’s legacy of failure. It’s failure that Joe Biden - in his lucid intervals - aspires to reanimate and extend.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Good and Bad News

If you'd like a quick overview of polls which favor, and don't favor, the reelection of the President, Power Line's Paul Mirengoff has got the story for you. There is good news and bad news, as you might expect.

Rasmussen has Trump at 51% approval, which Mirengoff assures us is what Obama had at this point before his reelection. Trump’s ratings on a Fox News poll and a The Hill survey are like those of Bush II when he won not just reelection but also the popular vote. That's the good news.

If you insist on seeing the bad news, you'll have to go read Mirengoff's column. Other polls aren't so positive.

Voter Motivation Changing

Writing for CNN, a source we normally wouldn't cite, long-time political pundit Ronald Brownstein writes an analysis of the current American political landscape that, in spite of his anti-Trump bias, is worth reading. Some key quotes:

The durability of both support and opposition to Trump shows how the motivation for voters' choices is shifting from transitory measures of performance, such as the traditional metrics of peace and prosperity, toward bedrock attitudes about demographic, cultural and economic change. The immovability of the battle lines in 2020 captures how thoroughly the two parties are now unified -- and separated -- by their contrasting attitudes toward these fundamental changes.

Over the long term, the durability of attitudes toward Trump spotlights the likelihood of a widening rift between two Americas fundamentally diverging in both their exposure to and attitudes about such fundamental dynamics as the nation's growing racial and religious diversity, rising demands for greater racial equality, changing gender roles and the transition from an industrial to an information age economy.

Increasingly, campaign strategists and political scientists agree, voters are choosing between the parties more on their views about fundamental demographic and cultural change than on their immediate financial circumstances or even their views of economic policies, such as taxes, spending and regulation.

If Brownstein is correct, the Covid-19 nastiness won't be much of a factor in for whom people vote. Ditto the quarantine-driven economic downturn. He argues people will vote for the party which is on their side in what he calls "the culture war." 

Ironically, the media bias in favor of the Dems serves as a demotivator for their voters, as it leaves the impression they are winning without needing to vote. Conversely, it motivates GOP voters who feel their way of life is under attack and they really need to act (vote). 

Perhaps this explains the enthusiasm gap pollsters keep finding between excited GOPs and blasé Dems. Or maybe it's just that Trump is more a spellbinder than tired, foggy old Joe.

Monday, September 14, 2020

Marx, Engels Were Racists

Steven Hayward who posts at Power Line today is cataloging crazy leftist behavior in higher education. His examples show academia to be nutty as squirrel poo. 

What I found even more interesting was two quotes from letters exchanged between Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. A web search demonstrates the quote is accurate.

For those who slept through history, political science, and economics, Marx and Engels were the co-inventors of Communism. For younger readers, people once texted on paper, if you can imagine it. And in large cities "the mail," as it was called, was delivered more than once per day. 

SNOWFLAKE ALERT, there are words many find offensive in the following quote, be warned. Marx writes first, and Engels' reply follows:

When Black Lives Matter persons tell you they are "trained Marxists," share this with them and watch their heads explode. 

Mother Nature’s Rejoinder

Clarice Feldman writes for American Thinker. Yesterday’s column imagines a letter from Mother Nature to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Mother’s subject - the manifold actions California Democrats have taken to degrade and destroy the livability of the state. 

As a catalog of what is wrong with CA’s approach to (mis)managing the state’s natural environment, it is relatively complete. Feldman’s underlying message is that Pelosi was wrong in blaming climate change for things with much more proximate (and provable) human causes.

It makes a good addition to our “Humans ruining the CA paradise” series. Hat tip to colleague Earl for the indirect link.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

A Possible Answer

Writing at Red State, the pseudonymous “Shipwreckedcrew” provides one very logical, possible answer to why one of John Durham’s top aides - Nora Dannehy - resigned from the investigation of the process by which the FISA warrant process was corrupted, of who did what wrong at the DOJ. That investigation has already produced one guilty plea, that of Kevin Clinesmith, a former FBI lawyer.

Claiming no inside knowledge, the author argues Dannehy may have headed the so-called “Garrity” filter group whose work concludes before that of the main team building indictments and prosecutions. The explanation, which I found interesting, is legalese “inside baseball,” important to justice, but whose work when done properly remains invisible. 

Vaccine Trial Resumes

We take our good news where we find it. You may remember that AstraZeneca had suspended a Covid-19 vaccine trial because one participant had developed an unexplained health issue. The good news, as reported by the Associated Press, is that the trial will resume. Oxford University announced:

“The independent review process has concluded and following the recommendations of both the independent safety review committee and the U.K. regulator, the MHRA, the trials will recommence in the U.K.,” it said.

Maybe Something or Maybe Coincidence

Thomas Lifson posts something interesting and disturbing at American Thinker. He copies an anonymous post by a supposed former Biden campaign staffer. Lifson says straight out he doesn’t know if it is accurate but, as he notes, it certainly cleverly fits the observed disturbing facts that we know to be true of Biden and his campaign.

I find particularly convincing the comments about Alzheimer’s sufferers’ “good days and bad days” which I have heard from several forlorn caregivers. The author of that anonymous post has surely spent time around a senile dementia sufferer. If not Biden, someone with similar behaviors.

Someone should check if Biden is ever scheduled for events in the late afternoon or evening. “Sundowners syndrome” is somewhat common in senile dementia. It is defined by the Mayo Clinic as: 

A state of confusion occurring in the late afternoon and spanning into the night. Sundowning can cause a variety of behaviors, such as confusion, anxiety, aggression or ignoring directions. Sundowning can also lead to pacing or wandering.

Someone should also check if Jill Biden has read a biography of Edith Wilson, second wife of Woodrow Wilson.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Saturday Snark

Instapundit quotes an apparently anonymous quipster on Facebook concerning our foreign policy:

Charges of Imperialism would be more supportable if America regarded the world as a prize to be won rather than a nuisance to be tolerated.

A nuisance indeed. While I have your attention, check out the (mostly) political humor at The Week in Pictures. As is customary, the comments section contains almost as much good stuff as the column itself. 

BLM and Pro Athletics

Image courtesy of The Week in Pictures.

Professional athletics has gotten involved in the Black Lives Matter protests and in various ways is rubbing fans’ noses in that involvement, with slogans on the field or court, on uniforms or helmets and with kneeling protests during the national anthem. Many have argued this is a financial, if not an ideological, mistake.

You are acquainted with the Venn diagram, overlapping circles representing various characteristics? How big do you imagine the overlap might be between the politics represented by those protests, and the politics of your typical NFL or NBA fan? My guess: darned small.

There are plenty of people who share the views of those players, but how many of them do you believe are pro football or basketball fans? Who will shell out the big bucks for a ticket? A lot less than half? Wouldn’t you guess the politics of fandom is mostly right wing? I would. Probably more so with the NFL than the NBA, although I can’t say exactly why I believe that.

Should there be a connection between politics and athletics? The ubiquity of patriotic displays at games suggests there is one. Perhaps it is the people attracted as fans.

I’ve got a way they can test my hypothesis, announce they’ll stop playing/singing the national anthem before games. See what the protests look like, if they dare try it. Maybe nobody cares, but that isn't they way I'd bet.

Managing the Irrational Person

Vox has an article about Daniel Prude dying after being restrained in police custody. The title and subtitle give you a sense of the topic:

The killing of Daniel Prude, explained
A police killing in Rochester, New York, has resurfaced questions about the use of force against people with mental illness.

For over a decade COTTonLINE has argued that doing away with mental hospitals was a mistake. The rationale for doing this was effectively: Freedom is important. You have a right to be crazy, so long as your craziness doesn’t harm others. If you choose, you can go live under a bridge and self-medicate with street drugs.

If you harm others or property, you become a law enforcement problem and the police will restrain you. Nobody asked the police if that was okay or if they were equipped to deal with the insane.

We moved the insane from mental hospitals to jails and prisons. Effectively, from places which tried to manage the patients with anti-psychotic drugs and therapy to places which utilize coercion of various sorts to limit out-of-control inmate behavior. 

Coercion doesn’t work perfectly on the not sane, too many such are killed by fellow inmates who can’t handle being hassled by the irrational in tight quarters where avoiding the erratic individual isn’t possible. And some are brutalized by police whose inevitable mantra is, and largely has to be, “I control this situation, you will do as I say or else.” 

The deaths in Milwaukee, Kenosha, and Rochester all look to be the results of turning over to the police the management of people either biologically or chemically insane. We need to bring back the guys in white coats with their apocryphal butterfly nets.  Or we need to train some police to be part-time psychiatric techs, much as we've trained some fire fighters to double as EMTs.

Friday, September 11, 2020

About the 14th Amendment

My buddy Earl sends an opinion piece circulated by Turning Point USA. It makes some interesting claims concerning the President's powers under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. Rather than take their word for it, I looked up the text of that section and here it is, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Section 3. No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may, by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.

I'm no attorney, but the meaning of the very long first sentence seems clear enough. If one has "engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof" that person cannot hold office in a state or the federal government. "The same" refers to the United States or any State. 

TPUSA argues that section gives the President the power to remove from office a governor who gives aid or comfort to those in rebellion against the United States. Such removal could include arrest and trial. I'd be interested to learn whether this power extends to city and county officials ... it could. 

The mayor of Portland and/or the governor of Oregon would make interesting test cases. They appear to have taken the side of those in open rebellion, as did the mayor of Seattle and perhaps the governor of Washington. 

I'd like someone to ask Attorney General Barr about this, on the record. Elected officials swore to enforce the laws of the land, and defend the rights of law abiding citizens to be safe in their persons and property. Refusal to do so very closely resembles "aid and comfort" to the rebels.

Orange Man Parties

Have some fun with no bitterness attached. The Babylon Bee has a lighthearted article playing off San Francisco's orange skies and President Trump's similar skin tone. The satirical claim: he visited SF and was so perfectly camouflaged the Secret Service lost sight of him. 

I'll share just the last line, it is the President speaking:

San Francisco is great! We should come back during next year's fires!

Another Oops

From time to time we like to identify examples of someone in public life committing a Kingsley gaffe, which is when they speak some truth they didn’t intend to admit. My current example is the Public Health Director of Los Angeles County, Barbara Ferrer, saying the following, sourced to which got it from CBS Los Angeles

We don’t realistically anticipate that we would be moving either to Tier 2 [of California’s reopening plan] or to reopening K-12 schools at least…until after the election, after, you know, in early November. If we just look at the timing of everything, it seems to us the most realistic approach to this would be to think that we’re gonna be where we are now…until…we are done with the elections.

It is widely assumed Ferrer means keeping the kids home until the election is a way to avoid giving Trump a Covid-19 “victory;” to keep parents’ dissatisfaction with the status quo high until after the votes are cast. Apparently, keeping the schools closed is a political act - not entirely a health precaution, maybe no health precaution at all.

Remembering 9-11

Nineteen years ago today we watched in horror as passenger planes full of people were crashed into the World Trade Towers and the Pentagon, intentionally killing thousands of people going about their lawful enterprises. Only later we learned about the crashed plane in Pennsylvania which was intended to hit either the Capitol or the White House. 

Many have written that we should remember the heroism exhibited that day by the first responders, by those who volunteered, and by the passengers on Flight 93 who died heroically fighting hijackers with their bare hands to crash that plane. I couldn’t agree more.

I write today to ask you to also remember who our enemy was that day, and on whose behalf they fought, people who remember the attackers as martyrs. We are currently experiencing a lull in the Long War, and that is great. There is a temptation, a wish to think maybe the other side has given up. Don’t believe it. In a very real sense they cannot give up, so we must not drop our guard. 

Islam is still in an “error has no rights” phase of its religious development, and when (or indeed if) they’ll get over it is unclear. Our sort of acceptance for religious pluralism (including atheism and agnosticism) is anathema to many Muslims today, as it was to Christianity during the 16th and 17th centuries. I know of no majority Muslim nation today in which the principle of separation of church and state is operational, or even given serious lip service.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

NATO Needs to Change

Lt. Col. Daniel L. Davis, USA, Ret., writes in The National Interest that the relationship between the U.S. and NATO needs to change, a need made more pressing by the escalating tensions between Greece and Turkey.

The first step in this process should be for the United States to transition from being the frontline defense of NATO countries to a supporting role. European democracies in the 1950s were poor and destitute. No more. Germany, for example, has the world’s fourth-largest economy. It is more than financially capable of providing the bulk of its own security. U.S. troops, meanwhile, should be redeployed to home bases where they can focus on defending America’s borders and global interests.

Any military alliance system the United States enters into (or stays within) must include reciprocating benefits for both countries and result in a strengthening of U.S. defenses. It should not be a one-way street where America provides the majority of the benefits to other lands and shoulders the majority of the risks of a new war.

This is particularly true for nations across an ocean from us, as most NATO nations are. One exception, if Canada refused to carry its share we could not leave them to their own devices; 3000 miles of undefended shared border makes that clear. I'd be willing to listen to a similar argument for Iceland and Greenland (owned by Denmark). Fortress North America works for me. 

Europe can clearly afford its own defense. If it chooses to forgo a defense, relying on "soft power," so be it. At the end of the day, nations which choose national suicide must be allowed to do so.

Imagining a “Trump Vaccine”

Writing at The Federalist Jonathan Tobin explores the idea that Democrat opposition to a Covid-19 vaccine - the development and promotion of which is pushed by President Trump - could cost lives. I’m embarrassed to admit my first thought was “ No problem, so long as they’re Democrat lives.” 

If you really love conspiracy theories you’d imagine that Trump will so identify himself with the vaccine that Democrats won’t take it, thereby choosing to put themselves at risk. But if half the populace doesn’t get vaccinated, will we ever achieve herd immunity? That’s the dilemma.

Depending on whether you see yourself as your brother’s keeper, you may feel if your opponent takes aim at his/her own foot, that’s not the time to yell “Don't shoot!” It can be sweet when your enemy has a self-destructive impulse.

A Life in the Spotlight

Dame Diana Rigg has died at age 82. Known most recently for playing Lady Olenna Tyrell in Game of Thrones, other screen highlights were as Emma Peel in The Avengers TV series, and as Countess Teresa di Vicenzo who marries James Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. She also won many stage honors.

Rigg was a mid-1960s sex symbol responding with perky insouciance to Patrick Macnee’s “Mrs. Peel, we’re needed.” Like peers Maggie Smith and Judi Dench, she kept working throughout a long acting career filled with honors. 

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Many Trump Voters Have Degrees

The number crunchers at Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight site are normally thought some of the best in the business of understanding the interplay between political trends and demographics. Yesterday Perry Bacon Jr. wrote there about Trump's appeal to various groups. His title:

A Big Chunk Of People Of Color And White People With Degrees Are Behind Trump

Bacon indicates that while Trump voters are stereotyped as whites with no college degree, in fact some 38% of the votes he got in 2016 came from whites with college degrees (26%) and non-whites (12%). That is almost 4 out of 10 Trump 2016 votes came from groups Democrats believe they have a lock on.

As an overeducated (3 college degrees) white who supports Trump, it was good to learn I'm not a political outlier. And that the better class of numbers guys at FiveThirtyEight understand there are many like me, especially in red states like WY.

Afterthought: How do I explain the above? Prosperity is hard to argue with. After Obama's lackluster 8 years and Trump's boom, the choice of party isn't a hard one to make.

Nobel: Trump Nominated, Obama Denigrated

The Daily Wire reports Christian Tybring-Gjedde - a member of the Norwegian Parliament - has nominated President Donald Trump for the Nobel Peace Prize. He based the nomination on the administration’s help in facilitating a peace deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Tybring-Gjedde told Fox News:

For his merit, I think he has done more trying to create peace between nations than most other Peace Prize nominees. I’m not a big Trump supporter. The committee should look at the facts and judge him on the facts – not on the way he behaves sometimes. The people who have received the Peace Prize in recent years have done much less than Donald Trump. For example, Barack Obama did nothing,

Obama was given the prize so the Norwegian Nobel Committee could appear “woke.” It was blatant “virtue signaling” of which, it seems, Tybring-Gjedde does not approve.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

A U.S. Countermove

The Pacific nation of Palau, composed of ca. 340 islands, with a total area of 180 square miles (466 sq. km.), is located just over half way from Guam, the southernmost of the Mariana Islands, to Indonesia. The Hill reports (via that the U.S. has been invited to build military installations there, by the Republic of Palau government.

Apparently the invitation came when Defense Secretary Mark Esper visited Palau last week. Palau is said to be a close ally of Taiwan, whose independent nationhood few nations recognize at the insistence of China which claims, but does not control, Taiwan.

The creation of such bases would be of enormous financial benefit to Palau, as the current prosperity of Guam demonstrates. The military advantage to the U.S. of having one or more bases much closer to the Philippines and Indonesia is, one hopes, obvious. Plus it complicates ambitions China has to dominate the region militarily.

Wikipedia reports Palau exists in a Compact of Free Association with the United States.

Politically, Palau is a presidential republic in free association with the United States, which provides defense, funding, and access to social services. (snip) The country's two official languages are Palauan (a member of the Austronesian language family) and English.