Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Seeking Greener Pastures

The Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) is turning into a decent source for insight on various issues. Today FEE notes another brick in the cenotaph commemorating California's descent into madness. It comes from a study at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

They find that 265 major companies have moved on to greener pastures since January 1, 2018. The study also reports that the rate at which businesses are leaving the state is rapidly accelerating. For the first six months of 2021, the rate is nearly twice as high as it was last year. That means more businesses have already left California this year than in all of 2020.

The state now ranks as the 50th-worst state to do business in, according to Chief Executive magazine’s 2021 survey. Meanwhile, the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council ranks the Golden State the 49th-worst state to do business in. And the Tax Foundation reports that California has the 49th-worst business tax climate in the country. (links in original)

"More businesses have already left California this year than in all of 2020." That trend line will not please the legislature and governor, nor Californians generally.

The Jones Act

RealClearPolicy has an article about the Jones Act, which requires ships carrying cargo between two U.S. ports be registered in, built in and crewed by U.S. crews. The practical effect is that few things are shipped between U.S. ports, because U.S. unions make that costly.

An oddball side effect of Jones is to require foreign registered and crewed cruise ships - essentially all ocean-going cruise ships - to visit a foreign port on each cruise, even when it is out of the way and essentially pointless. I have experienced this.

Cruises from Los Angeles or San Francisco to Hawaii and back usually stop at Ensenada for perhaps 4 hours on the way home, thus becoming Jones Act legal. Few view this stop as adding much to the trip, but it makes it a day longer and burns extra fuel. The DrsC remain on board while docked in Ensenada.

On the other hand, West Coast cruises to Alaska stop in Victoria or Vancouver, Canada, and that is no hardship as both are nice ports. But the rule means there are no ships running up and down either major coast picking up and dropping off passengers along the way. 

If that doesn't that strike you as odd, it should. Europeans use big ocean-going ferries to make trips, and can take their car along. Cabins are available for longer trips, overnight for instance. And they hit the duty-free shops aboard.

Absent the Jones Act I'll bet European ferry companies would run similar routes along our coasts. You and I would benefit by leaving the 'driving' to them while having our car and its generous contents - camping gear, for example - at our destination. 


Last night the Salt Lake City PBS channel played a documentary featuring men who were onboard the battleship USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay when Japan surrendered and signed the armistice document ending World War II. I enjoyed it.

Imagine showing this on the same day the U.S. pulled out of Afghanistan after essentially losing a war there. The contrast could not have been more stark.

If this was done on purpose, highlighting the disastrous performance of the Biden Administration, the always-liberal PBS network will probably terminate their contract. On the grounds of 'apostasy.' 

If it was long scheduled and shown inadvertently, some functionary in SLC was politically naive to a fault. It would have embarrassed PBS less to have had "technical difficulties" for an hour or shown a couple of the Rick Steves travel shows they always have lying around.

A Touch of Realism

We had been given a tentative completion date for our new NV winter place in mid September. I believe I said we didn’t think that date realistic, given the then-current state of completion. This isn’t our first ‘rodeo,’ actually our fourth new house build.

We have a new date in mid October which seems more believable. It is also more practical as by then the daily high temps should have dropped into the 90s from their current 100s. 

Given the supply chain shortages of various items, it won’t surprise me if the date slips again. The builder isn’t dragging its feet, they don’t get paid until it’s done and escrow closes. 

The longer the builder has to carry materials and labor expenditures on their books before receiving payment, the greater their interest expenses. Contractually, they cannot pass these delay-based expenses along to us which thus lowers their profit on the house. If anything they have a greater financial motive to move the process along than we do.

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Resting Smug Face

Instapundit quotes columnist Virginia Postrel on the problems facing CA Governor Gavin Newsom, who faces a recall election within the month.

It doesn’t help that the governor suffers from what could be called resting smug face.

That is a spot-on characterization of the trust fund baby who grew up to become CA governor.

Bored Much?

Source: Ed Driscoll, posting at Instapundit.

President Biden checks his watch as 11 dead service members are unloaded off a plane from Kabul at Dover Air Force Base. Props to Dr. Jill for showing respect, none to Joe for showing boredom and disinterest.

Our 'Can't Do' FedGov

Writing for Townhall, Kevin Roberts finds the debacle in Kabul to be simply one example of a general inability of the federal government to accomplish its assigned tasks.

Afghanistan is part of a larger pattern. Pull the camera back a bit, and the picture becomes more disturbing than even the grim images from Kabul’s beleaguered airport. The incompetence on display in that country is just the latest episode of blundering from a federal government that increasingly cannot do anything it should.

Roberts exaggerates, but his list of federal failures truly is disconcerting. He argues for enhanced federalism, for the states to step up and accomplish what the feds cannot seem to manage. That is decent advice.

Saturday, August 28, 2021

A Needed Smile

Source: Power Line TWIP

I can't do unrelieved gloom-and-doom, this makes me happy.

The cartoon is charming whimsy but I could show you a half dozen beaver dams within 20 miles of my WY home. They are very serious constructions maintaining a water level as much as 2 feet higher on their upstream side. You or I would be hard pressed to accomplish what beavers do routinely using sticks, mud and instinctual programming.

Hope Is No Strategy

Graphic source RealClearPolitics

This isn't just a cartoon. It is highly probable the military evacuation was done wrong for exactly this reason. An "early, orderly evacuation from Afghanistan" would have shown we had no confidence in the Kabul government. 

"Look" wasn't the issue, the Kabul government was unstable, it vanished like smoke. Our diplomats and military leaders should have known it would and acted accordingly. 

Our decision makers feared admitting their nation-building failure and hoped for a brief window of stability to "get outta Dodge." Hope is no strategy - the war college teaches that exact truism and it has been validated once again. 

The Era of the SUV

Do you own an SUV? Odds are, you do. Their popularity worldwide is great and growing. In a source we seldom cite - IEEE Spectrum, a Canadian academic writes that their popularity in China is almost as great as in the States. SUVs make up 30-33% of the market in Europe and India, and 42-48% in China and the U.S. The world average is 38%. 

And yet, in the U.S. pickup trucks are the best selling models. Sedans, vans and sports cars are no longer big sellers. The article's author is dismayed by the popularity of SUVs, mostly because they pollute more than tiny cars, although much less than they once did. 

The author thinks the answer is to build electric-powered SUVs, more fool he. From whence will the electricity come? 

Greenies won't let us build nuclear power plants or hydroelectric dams, and they hate fuel fired generation plants. Unreliable wind and solar? Impractical, ask Texas.

Meanwhile, trees and grasses are loving all the carbon vehicles put in the atmosphere, to them it's a feast. Full disclosure: Our household owns two SUVs and a pickup truck, we gave our last sedan to a relative nine years ago.

Ignoring Advice

David Harsanyi writes in the New York Post reporting Biden was advised to proceed differently with respect to leaving Afghanistan. I've been expecting to learn Biden ignored the advice

When interviewed by ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos, the president claimed “no one” had advised him to keep troops in Afghanistan to enforce the existing peace agreement or provide cover to evacuate Americans and our allies.

Yet, numerous anonymous defense administration officials tell The Wall Street Journal that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had warned Biden that full withdrawal from Afghanistan wouldn’t provide stability and Joints Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley advised Biden to keep 2,500 troops to cover the withdrawal. Biden not only ignored their advice he threw them under the bus by lying that they agreed with him.

Regardless of the truth of such leaks, the buck stops with Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr. The decisions were his, and the responsibility was and is his. 

As they say of mishaps in the Navy, "it happened on his watch." If it doesn't occur sooner, and there's little reason to believe it will, I expect a serious effort to impeach Biden will follow the swearing in of the new Congress in January, 2023. The effort might even succeed. And then we'll find out just how empty is the suit worn by VP Harris.

Friday, August 27, 2021

Biden's Bagram Bugout Blunder

Writing for PJ Media, Mark Tapscott calls the decision to abandon Bagram Air Base one of the 2-3 greatest blunders in U.S. military history. His article is a decent piece of Monday morning quarterbacking.

Tapscott makes a good case for why that facility should have been the last one abandoned in-country.  He may well be correct in his judgment, since it appears most alternatives to the present situation would have been improvements.

Poll: Choices Have Consequences

Headline at The College Fix website:

Almost one-third of recent college grads moved back in with their parents: survey

If you’re honest about such things, you know most of that third are people who majored in a self-absorbed field whose title ends in “studies.” Examples: Women’s Studies, Latinx Studies, LGBTQ Studies, Environmental Studies. Or who majored in an older field for which there is essentially no established employment demand: Paleoarcheology, Spanish Literature, Classics, Edwardian Costume Design, Music Theory, etc.

Practical graduates with majors in STEM, or business or teaching or nursing got jobs and got on with their lives. The “moved back with parents” remainder can begin by learning to ask, “Do you want fries with that?” or driving for Uber. 

Meanwhile the latter group deal with resentment that society has no demand for a personally relevant degree they borrowed tens of thousands to obtain. I predict widespread substance abuse among these unhappy folk.

The Buck … Stopping

Charles Lipson, writing at SpectatorWorld.com, pronounces a verdict on the debacle in Kabul. I obviously concur.

There will be a huge political price to pay for this unfolding disaster, and President Biden will pay it. This deadly fiasco didn’t just happen on his watch. It happened because of his decisions, a series of fundamentally bad ones, taken by the President himself.

When being commander in chief isn’t much fun. POTUS has no place to hide, and nobody else to blame. Watching him squirm, trying to shift the awful responsibility, will be a painful spectacle.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Even More Progress

More good news, our new winter place has stucco. Still plenty to do before it is livable, but this is another important step in that direction. 

Unlike watching sausage being made, watching your new house come together takes nothing away from the subsequent enjoyment of living in it. If anything, it adds. 

Please excuse what looks like smoke over the front entry. The photo was taken through an auto windshield and what you see is a reflection.

Later ... By reading the other DrC's blog, I learned what the photo doesn't show, that the drywall has been taped, still more good news. Exciting times.

SCOTUS Scores Again

Multiple sources report the Supreme Court has ruled the Biden Administration cannot extend the moratorium on evictions of renters who do not pay their rent. SCOTUS ruled that if the government wishes to enforce this policy it requires an act of Congress to make it law. 

When the President reinstated the moratorium because of Covid-19 he indicated he believed he lacked the Constitutional authority to do so, but did it anyway. An eviction moratorium appears to me to violate the "takings" clause of the Fifth Amendment

The Fifth Amendment concludes with "nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation." Disallowing eviction for non-payment of rent is taking the rental property from its owner without compensation and devoting it to a public use - housing the indigent. 

I believe a capitalist reading of that clause says if you (the government) want to house unemployed people in my rental unit, you get to pay their rent. Asking landlord/me to "eat" that loss of income is taking my private property for a public use.

This further suggests that, should Congress pass such a law the justices might find it unconstitutional unless it includes a federal payment of the rent, in other words, "just compensation." Congress as currently constituted wouldn't pass such a law.

Unequal Treatment

COTTonLINE revealed 49 days ago the presumed name of the Capitol policeman - Michael Byrd - who on Jan. 6 shot Ashli Babbitt. Here is a link to a Daily Mail (U.K.) story that the name will finally be revealed by the shooter in a TV interview.

Babbitt's offense was similar to that of George Floyd in that both were doing something unlawful, something they shouldn't do. Neither engaged in life-threatening behavior that justified lethal force by the police. 

Floyd was black, his white assailant is now convicted of felony wrongful death and headed to prison. Babbitt was white, her black shooter has been exonerated by his agency without trial and goes on with his life. 

Did these two victims receive equal treatment by the legal system? They did not. Were the two officers who used excessive force treated equally? Not even close.

Afterthought: Imagine Ashli were black and officer Byrd white, would Byrd's outcome have been different? Ya think?

Truth Begins to Dawn

Writing for Substack, Michael Shellenberger writes something about homelessness we need to reverse tattoo on the foreheads of progressives so they read it every time they look in a mirror.

What we call “homelessness” stems less from poverty and high rents and more from drug addiction and untreated mental illness.

We need locked-door residential treatment for both drug addiction and mental illness, no exceptions.

A Milestone

Sometime in the last couple of days COTTonLINE passed a milestone. We have achieved 700,000 “hits” or visits to the site. And we remain ad-free and uncluttered.

I hope to keep going till I see one million on the counter. Please come along for the journey; life keeps turning up “nuggets” about which to ponder and speculate.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Choosing Poorly

I watch Bret Baier's Special Report on Fox News somewhat often, and have wondered why never-Trumper Steve Hayes shows up on the panel with some regularity. Hayes, you may remember, wrote for National Review and then became Editor-in-Chief of the now-defunct Weekly Standard. Both of these were anti-Trump but WS was stridently so. 

Lately, Baier introduces Hayes as the editor of an online site called The Dispatch, to the content of which I have seen exactly zero links. It apparently exists to provide a fig leaf of 'employment' for never-Trump RINOs. He's normally on Bret's panel with Harold Ford, a genuinely moderate Democrat, and a real GOP partisan like Trey Gowdy. 

Writing at Ace of Spades HQ, the eponymous Ace reveals that Baier and Hayes were college roommates and presumably remain good friends. I understand doing a friend favors, but the death of The Weekly Standard and the obscurity of The Dispatch are evidence aplenty that there is no market for the anti-Trump conservatism Hayes represents. 

I would say of Steve Hayes what the old Grail knight famously said of the dead Julian Glover in Indy's Last Crusade, "He chose poorly."

Trash Talking

David Solway, in a column for PJ Media, examines our current national political leadership and finds it abysmal. See what he writes:

The nation is ruled by a president who seems to be in the terminal stages of galloping dementia. His potential replacement resembles a cackling witch with the intelligence of a feral child. The Senate majority leader is by all reasonable accounts a candidate for intensive psychotherapy.

What unites these three presumptive authorities is a triple condition consisting of (a) contempt for the country they were elected or appointed to serve; (b) an intelligence quotient at the low end of the bell curve; and (c) an insatiable lust for the spoils of financial jobbery and unmitigated power.

I'm not certain why Solway left out the fourth horse-person of our apocalypse - Nancy Pelosi. Perhaps he thought her intelligence insufficiently low to lump in with the other three nincompoops; she does exhibit Borgia-style cunning and tactics. Of course, conditions a and c characterize all four ... in spades. Hat tip to Stephen Green, posting at Instapundit, for the link.

An Omen?

An interesting development in the lead-up to the recall-Gavin-Newsom election in California. A former Democratic majority leader in the CA Senate, Gloria Romero, has endorsed Larry Elder and supports recalling Newsom.

Fox News quotes Ms. Romero speaking in a Larry Elder campaign ad:

Our public schools need big change. I’m Gloria Romero; I was the majority leader of Democrats in the state Senate.

I believe in charter schools and and school choice. So does Larry Elder – but not Gavin Newsom. He shut our public schools while he sent his kids to private schools.

Yes: I’m a Democrat. But the recall of Newsom is not about political party. It’s about Newsom. Larry Elder for governor.

In CA, where Hispanics outnumber whites by three percentage points, Romero's endorsement could be quite positive for Elder.

Afterthought: How serious about education is Gloria Romero? Serious enough to swap being majority leader to chair the education committee. Her views there must have given the CTA real heartburn.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

An Ominous Observation

The pseudonymous Bonchie writes for the Red State website. He watched President Biden's 'news conference' this afternoon (five hours late) and wrote the following observations about the President's appearance.

What I took the most from this presser is this: Biden is sick. As I said, his eyes were bloodshot and glazed over. It was difficult to even see the whites of his eyes at times. His presentation was cold, with no empathy to be found. Upon finishing his teleprompter reading, he simply stumbled out, taking no questions, clearly unable to physically and mentally do so. It was obvious why he was five hours late for this presser. Something is bad wrong with the president, and there’s no way it can be ignored anymore.

It sounds physical but he may simply be sick of the job. It can't have been much fun over the last couple of weeks, the formerly tame legacy media have turned on him. Hat tip to Ed Driscoll at Instapundit for the link.

Good News

In harsh times like these, good news is certainly a welcome change. Fox News reports a Supreme Court action today that falls in that happy category.

The United States Supreme Court refused to block a court order requiring the Biden administration to reinstate a Trump-era immigration move known as the "Remain in Mexico" policy.

The policy, implemented by former President Donald Trump, requires asylum seekers at the southern border to stay in Mexico while they await hearings in U.S. courtrooms to determine their eligibility and status.

Three of the court’s more liberal justices – Justices Kagan, Sotomayor, and Breyer – would have accepted the application for a stay.

The Wall Street Journal writes the Court majority of 6 concluded the government is unlikely to prevail in a defense of its cancellation of Remain in Mexico. This is very good news indeed for those opposed to the Biden Administration's de facto open borders policy.

Afterthought: This is the sort of action conservatives hoped to see from a court with 6 conservative members. Maybe the first such clear signal since Barrett joined the Court. 

With the Biden crowd in trouble, are several of the 6 “coming home”? If so, are they telegraphing they are overly influenced by the way political winds are blowing? I wish it didn’t feel that way.

Most Catastrophic

Essayist-historian Conrad Black at American Greatness pronounces judgment on the Biden Administration, and his verdict isn't good.

In the consistency of its failures and its evident incapacity to govern effectively, this has been the most catastrophic presidency in American history.

Recognizing the recency bias issue, my evaluation would be more tentative. What I will say is that the Biden Administration looks as bad as Black describes it to an observer caught up in the maelstrom.

Monday, August 23, 2021

What Works, What Doesn't

The Foundation for Economic Education looks at the 10 states with the lowest unemployment rates, and the 11 with the highest unemployment rates (10 states + DC). FEE asks the question, what key things do each group have in common? 

With rates between 2.3% and 3.7%, the group with low unemployment includes NB, UT, NH, SD, ID, VT, AL, OK, MT and GA. 

Many different factors influence unemployment rates, but there’s one glaring thing these 10 states all have in common: Republican governors. Generalizing, GOP-led states had lighter government lockdowns on their economies and reopened sooner.

The high unemployment group, with rates between 6.6% and 7.7%, includes AZ, LA, PA, DC, IL, HI, NJ, CA, NM, NY, and NV.

With the exception of Arizona, these states struggling with high unemployment all have Democratic governors (or mayor, in the case of DC). Generally speaking, they had longer and harsher government restrictions on their economies than the top 10 states. And, except for Arizona, all of these bottom-ranking states continued to offer residents expanded payouts to stay on unemployment benefits.

In this latter group, several states reliant on tourism (NV, HI, AZ) have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic making travel risky. Hat tip to Ed Driscoll, posting at Instapundit, for the link. 

Sunday, August 22, 2021

"Want" Is the Wrong Verb

Writing for RealClearPolitics, Charles Lipson asks "Who wants Biden to fail?" More properly, he says various pro-Biden trolls are posing that question. The snark answer is VP Kamala Harris, she'll never be president any other way.

People (including me) who criticize the President's performance don't want him to fail, their concern is that he has failed already, IS failing left and right, and if we take his pronouncements seriously, proposes to continue failing even more expansively.

Briefly, he has failed and we aren't even a little happy about it. Every time he fails, it hurts the country we all inhabit. His continuing failures hurt all of us, especially those who support him.

Somewhere the shade of management theorist Lawrence J. Peter chuckles "I told you so." Biden, a man of modest talents became an okay U.S. senator from a small state between north and south, then a Vice President where he was noted for disagreeing with killing a terrorist, and finally rose to his level of incompetence as President. 

In the White House he is clearly not up to the task. If I wasn't too busy feeling sorry for the U.S., I'd feel sorry for Biden; he probably feels beleaguered and betrayed.

A Chappaquiddick Do Over

Have you ever come to a realization and then marveled that it took you so long to surface it? I just had one of those embarrassed epiphanies some 17 years later.

In the Bourne series of films, starring Matt Damon, recollect the scene in the second film - The Bourne Supremacy - in India where girlfriend Marie is driving, is shot by a Russian assassin who seeks to kill Bourne, plunges off a bridge into a river, and Bourne tries hard but unsuccessfully to save her. It is dramatic, moving, and well-done.

What just struck me about that scene was that it was based at some level on Ted Kennedy and Mary Jo Kopechne going off the bridge at Chappaquiddick 35 years earlier. What made the connection hard to see, I suppose, was the exotic location plus Bourne’s heroic efforts to save shot Marie, in contrast with Kennedy’s seeming failure to do the same for a healthy Mary Jo. 

Was the screenwriter trying to exonerate Ted K. after the fact? Maybe show rescue efforts would have been pointless? Someone should ask Tony Gilroy who wrote the screenplay, which incidentally bears little relation to Ludlum’s book of that name. IMDb shows Gilroy as still working.

Setting New Records

In 1980 Henry Kissinger characterized the hapless Jimmy Carter administration thusly.

The Carter administration has managed the extraordinary feat of having, at one and the same time, the worst relations with our allies, the worst relations with our adversaries, and the most serious upheavals in the developing world since the end of the Second World War.

The Biden administration’s Afghan response appears to be something like:

You think Carter’s feat was extraordinary? Hold my beer.

Woke = Loser

Donald J. Trump, speaking to the crowd at yesterday’s Alabama rally, after a clip of the movie where General Patton speaks to the troops was used as warm-up. After putting down modern “woke” generals, Trump defined the term.

You know what woke means? It means you’re a loser…. Everything woke turns to sh**.

Earthy, but on-target. After Kabul, our woke government and Pentagon are such big-time losers even the left wing legacy media have turned against them. 

A month ago I would have sworn that was impossible. Imagine how wrenching it must feel to lefty journalists, like the world turned upside-down. Joe Biden & Co. have managed to make Donald Trump look amazingly polished by comparison, no mean feat. 

Afterthought: Talk about bitter-sweet. Biden has handed Republicans a giant stick with which to beat Democrats, but in doing so he damaged our country.

Saturday, August 21, 2021

The Great Game Continues

Rudyard Kipling, Britain’s bard of subcontinental colonialism, rhymes in dialect about life and death north of the Khyber.

When you’re wounded and left on Afghanistan’s plains, 
And the women come out to cut up what remains, 
Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains 
And go to your gawd like a soldier.

It seems every great power has to experience an Afghan ‘adventure.’ China’s turn is next. 

Nice Shirt


Plus all the other goodies Trump delivered.
Source: Steve Hayward at Power Line.


Columnist Don Surber, observing the debacle that is our inept attempt to leave Afghanistan, concludes his dismal observations of Biden shortcomings thusly:

I get that none of this will matter in the 2024 election.
The question is whether Biden survives till Labor Day?

With Cackling Kamala as the alternative? Of course he’ll survive - frying pan vs. fire analogies apply. 

More Progress

The NV winter place, which two days ago I reported “dried-in,” now has its drywall installed. Photos at the other DrC’s blog, here. This is a major step toward it looking like the finished house will generally appear. 

Next the sheet rock needs to be taped, textured, and painted. As noted before, this is the fourth house we’ve had built for us so the process is familiar. 

In the first photo you can see the bags of stucco piled out front for installers to mix up and trowel on. Our CA place had a stucco exterior; it is good, tough stuff - won’t rot, feed termites or burn. 

Depending on availability, things can move relatively quickly at this stage in construction. Even for “old hands” like us, it is exciting.

Goofy Oregon Seldom Disappoints


Fans of Harrison Bergeron believe it to be a cautionary tale, not a how-to manual. Going forward, what value would you assign to an Oregon high school diploma?
Hat tip to Steve Hayward at Power Line for the graphic.

NY Post Today

Source: Scott Johnson at Power Line.

Friday, August 20, 2021

About Electric Cars

Friends have RVs in a park a couple of miles down the road, these serve as their summer places. The RV park is only open the warm 6 months of the year, so it's nobody's year-round residence.

Many people who summer there have electric golf carts which they use to zip around the very large park to the rec hall, pool, pickle ball courts, and adjacent golf courses. Electric bicycles are popular too.

Golf carts are quiet, have a small footprint, and don't pollute. Everybody also has a petroleum-powered vehicle which is used for trips of several miles or more, and for trips to and from their winter home.

Pure electric cars, those not hybrid, strike me as glorified golf carts. They may look like cars but their relatively short range makes them impractical as one's only vehicle. They'd work for those who seldom leave town or who also have another car with "longer legs."

We know an elderly lady who only drives her low-mileage 10 year old Buick to the store, to restaurants, and to church. An electric car would be great for her, plug it in when she gets home and next day its ready to run her around town.

A CA nephew has a hybrid and drove it here and back like a normal car, the 1700 mile round trip no problem. He loves it, I wonder about resale value after a few years when the batteries wear out. I've seen pricy quotes for replacing a hybrid battery pack.

Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) seem like a reasonable compromise for those who prize greenness or very high mpg. However, I believe I'll stick with petroleum-powered vehicles for the next few years.

FBI: Jan. 6 No Plot

Reuters is reporting what they call an EXCLUSIVE on what the FBI has concluded about the Jan. 6 break-in at the Capitol. Those events included a facepainted man in a bison hat and boisterous-but-unarmed people angry about the outcome of the presidential election and convinced of vote-counting fraud. Reuters writes:

The FBI has found scant evidence that the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol was the result of an organized plot to overturn the presidential election result, according to four current and former law enforcement officials.

Though federal officials have arrested more than 570 alleged participants, the FBI at this point believes the violence was not centrally coordinated by far-right groups or prominent supporters of then-President Donald Trump, according to the sources, who have been either directly involved in or briefed regularly on the wide-ranging investigations.

They estimate maybe 5% of the 570 people arrested may have belonged to an organized group like the Oath Keepers or the Proud Boys, that’s about 30 people. Enough to do some property damage, not much more. This was no insurrection, the only person intentionally harmed of which I’m aware was one of the rioters who was shot by a Capitol policeman. Three others who died at that time and place have been ruled natural causes, perhaps exacerbated by the unaccustomed stress.

Reuters isn’t a source for off-the-wall conspiracy theories. This report has to give Nancy Pelosi serious heartburn, as she’s been alleging “revolutionary intent.” In truth the demonstrators were substantially less ‘prepared/armed’ than the typical Antifa or BLM mobs which nauseatingly have her arms-length support.

Thursday, August 19, 2021

London Is Heard From

The way America is leaving Afghanistan sure hasn't impressed our overseas friends much, although it is said to be popular in Moscow, Pyongyang and Beijing. Instapundit posted the following front page from a major London paper.

Way to go, bug-out Joe. You really know how to make other countries miss Donald Trump.

Later … Tonight’s Special Report with Bret Baier on Fox News had the speech given in Parliament by the bespectacled MP shown standing in the photo, very powerful stuff. Go listen if you can retrieve it, this link may do the trick.

The Haphazard How

We can argue about whether or not the U.S. leaving Afghanistan was the correct foreign policy choice, people of good will hold both views. For the moment, let's assume Biden was correct, that leaving was the clear choice. 

That raises the question of the process selected for leaving. Steve Hayward of Power Line posted the following graphic, without identifying his source. 

I was going to generate my own "how to do it" but this seems darned complete, so I didn't bother. We may not agree about leaving the country, but can we agree that the way Biden chose to do it was haphazard and imbecilic?

Poll: Gen Z Oppose Cancel Culture

The AMAC website describes the results of a Morning Consult poll looking at the attitudes of various age groups toward critical race theory (CRT), socialism, capitalism, and cancel culture. I suspect you have an understanding of the first three, here is their definition of cancel culture.

Culture wars are by their very nature a fight for the future, and have therefore historically been fought along generational lines. “Cancel Culture” is part of a broader left-wing reaction against the traditions of the Enlightenment, which have been under sustained assault by a mostly millennial generation (born 1982-1995). Many in this generation believe that words are weapons, and that “problematic” speech should be “canceled” along with those who utter it.

"Canceled" means banned from social media, fired from jobs, terminated from friendships, denied publication, expelled from college, etc. For many of the young and middle aged, it amounts to an economic and social ostracism or shunning, the lay equivalent of excommunication.

The most interesting finding is that while cancel culture is relatively popular with millennials, it is much less popular with the younger Generation Z (Gen Z). Some 41% of millennials view it positively or neutrally while only 26% of Gen Z holds those views. If you're unclear, millennials were born between 1981-1996, while Gen Z were born between 1997-2008. 

Baby boomers (1946-1964) and Gen X (1965-1980) are largely negative about cancel culture, socialism, and CRT. Millennials are the cohort most positive about CRT, socialism, and cancel culture. 

If you're inclined to identify a group as "the enemy" (I'm not), it would be the millennials. I'll save my own personal negative labeling for those individuals who actually espouse those nihilistic views, plenty of millennials do not.


Afterthought: Millennials were aged 11 to 26 when the Great Recession hit in 2007. I imagine they were scarred emotionally in a similar, if less violent fashion, to the way those now in their 80s-90s were affected by the 1930s Depression. Wikipedia writes of the Great Recession:

While the recession technically lasted from December 2007 – June 2009 (the nominal GDP trough), many important economic variables did not regain pre-recession (November or Q4 2007) levels until 2011–2016.

And the housing bubble burst earlier, in 2005, causing many families to lose homes and equity as demand fell and assessed values dropped. If that happened to your family I'd guess you'd not soon forget the anguish and bitterness, the sense of a dream denied.

Progress Report

Our winter home, being constructed in Nevada, will not be finished in mid-September as tentatively predicted. Escrow closing date now looks like maybe sometime in October, material shortages have definitely been a factor.

Progress toward completion is being made, as these photos at the other DrC’s blog demonstrate. The pix appear to show a mid-project construction milestone called “dried-in” having been reached. That means should rain fall the interior will stay dry, and includes a roof at least in tarpaper, exterior walls, windows, and perhaps exterior doors.

We aren’t overwhelmingly disappointed with the slippage. NV is still hitting 100℉ temps and will be cooler in October. Here in the WY high country, by October we’ll have seen our first below-freezing night. Being a mile higher is the reason. 

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Steyn: Super Snark

Mark Steyn can turn a phrase with the best of them. Check out this snark, directed at the failed policies that resulted in our ongoing Afghan clusterf***. Hat tip to RealClearPolitics for the link.

Wokeness is weakness, and diversity is where nations go to die.

Our current government is on a path to self-destruction, with no awareness of the destination. As many observers have asked, how would Biden's behavior differ if his stated goal was to destroy the U.S.?


I have watched a lot of presidents come and go over the decades. None have been faultless, obviously, but several have been largely successful. Oddly, the successful haven't always been able to win a second term.

For a long time Jimmy Carter has held the record for screwups in my estimation. However I believe Joe Biden has surpassed him with more than three years remaining in his first, and hopefully only, term. 

Reagan was mostly successful, as was the first Bush, who couldn't win reelection. Clinton did chief executive relatively well but had many #MeToo problems. 

The second Bush segued from the weak governorship in Texas to be a weak president, owned by the neocons. Obama was a classic affirmative action hire, and thus a bigger disappointment to Dems than to the GOP, who were happy he didn't do much. 

Trump had good policies and accomplishments, so-so management skills, but turned off too many people with his flamboyant impresario personality. He thus became another who couldn't win reelection.

Biden has managed to drive up gasoline prices, throw the border wide open, embarrass both country and self with the Afghan debacle, muddle the Covid-19 policies, ally with America-haters and spend us into inflation. That is a lot to get wrong in less than a year.

Since I've been paying attention, Biden takes the prize as "worst in class." Most observers believe Harris could be as bad as Biden, albeit in different ways and without the excuse of senility. 

The saddest thing is that we Americans voted for this particular set of losers and have no one to blame but ourselves. Our unfortunate nation is going through a bad patch with next to no leadership.

Analysis: How It Happened

In the Claremont Institute’s The American Mind, Michael Anton writes another blockbuster column that, in its sweep and precision echoes his famous “Flight 93 election” column written as Publius Decius Mus. He writes about the errors in Afghanistan going back to our beginning here in 2011 following the Al Qaeda attack on the twin towers and Pentagon. 

Hindsight is always easier than foresight or insight, and using it he documents a vast shortage of as-it-happened common sense. There is blame enough to share among the Bush, Obama, and yes Trump administrations, but the stupidity reached peak intensity under hapless Joe Biden. 

Anton basically catalogs all of the wrong assumptions which led to bad decisions which ended up with us in the no-win mess that eventually Trump and then Biden wanted us out of. Perhaps my favorite passage is this:

“The Romans,” Machiavelli says, “made their wars short and big.” We Americans have taken to making our wars small and long. We inflict pinprick strikes over decades rather than getting the whole thing over within a matter of days or weeks.

A better strategy, right after 9/11, would have been to do what we did, but finish the job at Tora Bora—and then leave immediately, with a note on the fridge saying “If you do anything like that again, we’ll be back quickly with overwhelming force, and we’ll leave just as quickly. We will do that as many times as you make us.” 

It’s worth a try, what we’ve done for the past 20 years has failed expensively. Somebody carve this motto in stone: “No nation-building allowed.” The expanded version of which would be something like “How you run your country is your business. Leave us alone, we’ll leave you alone. If you insist on becoming a problem for us, we’ll become a near-fatal problem for you.”

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

A Mercenary Outfit

I’ve read a lot about our failures in Afghanistan, and have reached the following conclusions. The U.S. went to Afghanistan to root out Al Qaeda. While there we tried to train an army for Afghanistan, with local soldiers hired with our riches in that poor country.

We hired an army but the locals weren’t fooled, they understood it was our army not theirs. What we call the Taliban, those are the Afghan patriots, the guys who care enough to risk their lives for little pay on behalf of the jihadi country they want (but we’d hate). 

What we called the “Afghan Army” was in truth a mercenary outfit paid for by us, and led mostly by us. It’s assigned role was to do fighting we didn’t want to do.

When we announced we were leaving, our pay stopping, our leadership abdicating, they either switched sides or went home. As noted below, they reassessed the payoff matrix, concluded we’d reneged on the deal, and did what employees do when no longer paid and directed, they stop showing up. 

Apparently switching sides when it proves beneficial to do so is an ancient Afghan tradition. Our shock occurred because we believed our own propaganda which claimed we’d trained an Afghan national army. 

In truth, it was no such thing. It was what would be called in neighboring India a “sepoy army,” hired guns.

Bias in Science

Power Line’s Steve Hayward gets interviewed by RealClearPolicy about the trustworthiness of science findings. Some of his comments are of the “inside baseball” nature, probably opaque to an outsider. On the other hand, you will find his conclusion helpful, I believe.

Bureaucracies tend to become single-minded about their mission. That’s understandable; at some point, if your job is to protect the environment, you're going to be zealous about it. If your job is to fight crime, you're going to be zealous about it.

The problem is, zealots don't make trade-offs very well. I think we really see this in the environmental area where, if you're a bureaucrat, you want to extend your mission. If the regulation is “X” you want it to be “X-plus-ten” – that's progress, we think. The biases and self-interests of bureaucratic organizations come into play.

As he notes earlier, a lot of the bias in science happens in the choice of problems to study, the formulation of hypotheses to test. There is also bias in the editorial and peer review process which he describes. 

For example, making accurate statements about the importance of intact family structure in understanding social pathologies, once routine, is now considered racist and hateful although the underlying facts have changed not at all.

We, the Unwilling

Writing at Bloomberg, Matthew Yglesias looks at efforts to reduce our production of greenhouse gases and do something about climate change. These efforts have mostly gone nowhere and he shows why. See his conclusion:

If you’re a climate hawk, it’s easy to be mad at politicians for their timidity in the face of an urgent crisis. But there’s also genuinely no point in asking ecologically minded elected officials to fall on their swords and lose elections over unpopular ideas, turning over control of the government to people whose ideas are much worse.

All of this leads to a difficult truth: The problem here lies not with the politicians, or even with the billionaires or oil companies. It lies with voters themselves, who recognize that climate change is a real problem but are not necessarily willing to sacrifice much of anything to tackle it.

Yglesias very nearly describes my attitude about it. As long as India and China with, between them, three-eighths of the world’s population refuse to do anything meaningful about curbing carbon emissions, why should we?

Like the national debt, climate change is a problem we kick down the road for future generations to solve or survive.

Monday, August 16, 2021

Biden Owns the Mess


Hat tip to Dana Loesch for the brutal visual.

The Afghan Way

I bet you've been trying to understand how or why the Afghan military we spent a billion trying to build over 20 years folded like a house of cards. I know I have. 

Politico has an article that goes a long way toward explaining what happened. The author, one Anatol Lieven, spent years on the ground there as a journalist for, among others, the Times of London. His description of the tribal culture and leadership is, to say the least, enlightening. I view this article as one of the year's few "must reads."

Lieven makes it very clear that when President Biden announced several months ago we were leaving, every regional government leader who hadn't already done so immediately sat down with the Taliban and cut a deal. Doing this is their culture's standard operating procedure, they also did it when the Soviets were leaving.

The central feature of the past several weeks in Afghanistan has not been fighting. It has been negotiations between the Taliban and Afghan forces, sometimes brokered by local elders. On Sunday, the Washington Post reported “a breathtaking series of negotiated surrenders by government forces” that resulted from more than a year of deal-making between the Taliban and rural leaders.

In Afghanistan, kinship and tribal connections often take precedence over formal political loyalties, or at least create neutral spaces where people from opposite sides can meet and talk. Over the years, I have spoken with tribal leaders from the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region who have regularly presided over meetings of tribal notables, including commanders on opposite sides.

Afghan society has been described to me as a “permanent conversation.” Alliances shift, and people, families and tribes make rational calculations based on the risk they face. This is not to suggest that Afghans who made such decisions are to blame for doing what they felt to be in their self-interest.

If Lieven knew all this twenty years ago, why didn't our intelligence services learn it? And if they did and reported it, why did no one listen? And if policy makers listened, why didn't they act on the knowledge?

It clearly would have been cheaper to bribe regional leaders and ignore nation- and army-building. It is the Afghan way, it is their culture, which (sarcasm alert) multiculturalists will assure you is sacred, inviolable, and as wonderful in its own way as our own.

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Backside-Covering Leaks Begin

Already multiple sources are reporting top military officials warned President Biden the exit from Afghanistan would be ugly and 'our' Afghans would fold. Top military guys are said to claim the President chose not to believe them. This leak is called throwing your boss under the bus.

My suspicious mind wonders if the generals purposely made no careful plans for extracting American and European civilians from Kabul in order to make POTUS look worse. If so, they succeeded.

Comparisons of Biden's screwups with the lame Carter administration become more apt by the day. Observers who paid close attention to our off-and-on involvement in Iraq remind us that Obama put Biden in charge of getting our troops out of that 'swamp,' where they later had to return to fight ISIS. 

Obama also famously said, "Don't underestimate Biden's ability to f*** things up." Perhaps Barry was making reference to Biden's foreign policy failures.

Turnover Time

Five weeks ago President Biden said it was highly unlikely Kabul would fall to the Taliban anytime soon. Obviously, he was not just wrong but completely wrong.

He evidently relied on his advisors, particularly those in the intelligence community, since a president can be expected to have no first-hand, on-the-ground knowledge of the current situation in Afghanistan. They gave him embarrassingly bad advice as a result of which he looks a fool. 

Alternatively, he ignored their advice and he truly is a fool. If that is the case, they will begin to leak their contrary assessments to the media.

What should happen at this point, assuming Biden knows anything about managing, is firing the top 2-3 layers of administration appointees at the heads of any and all intelligence agencies which gave him the monumentally wrong intel. 

He should also reroute into dead-end, meaningless jobs all senior civil servants who were complicit therein. This latter choice is necessary because sadly it is nearly impossible to fire a civil servant for anything short of arson or premeditated murder. Insanely bad judgment won't suffice.

So let's watch for serious turnover at the tops of the various intelligence agencies, and the Director of National Intelligence. If it does not happen, Biden is gaga for sure.

Ken Burns Accused of White Privilege

Christian Toto writes about show business from a ... gasp ... conservative perspective. In his blog, Hollywood in Toto, he comments on the left beating up on leftish icon Ken Burns, the PBS Uber-documentarian. The charge - hogging the available documentary funding while white.

Dang, I do love it so when the left forms a circular firing squad. Here's another example of autophagy in which Burns is a player.

Burns was excellent with the Civil War, but has really bombed with some of his more recent projects. He always uses the same format that succeeded on the CW project but it doesn't fit most other topics, like his stinker on the National Parks which I reviewed here.


Afghanistan - the graveyard of empires - has taken another scalp. We were no more able to construct a modern state there than the Soviets were able to stand up a socialist paradise or the British carve out a colonial fief. 

Our puppet government in Afghanistan lasted exactly as long as our support, and not a moment longer. It was a set of roles in a play written in Washington and enacted in Kabul; the play folded as soon as the U.S. “angel” withdrew backing. It’s military proved to be mercenaries who switched sides nearly seamlessly.

Afghanistan is a toxic stew of pedophile opium growers and feuding tribal warlords, playing an Islamic Game of Thrones on a barren-but-strategically-located dung heap. It’s the kind of place that causes otherwise sane people to contemplate genocide.

Our last two presidents, who agree about little else, have said, “Basta.”

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Ph.D.s Are Weird, Who Knew?

The Daily Mail (U.K.) reports the findings of a study done by Carnegie-Mellon University researchers who looked at resistance to Covid-19 vaccination related to education level. I'm semi-positive they believed they'd find that the more education someone had the greater acceptance of vaccination.

Long time readers know I love counterintuitive findings, and the CMU folks got them. The hypothesized relationship held for everyone with a masters degree or less. So, those with a masters were less vaccine hesitant than those with a baccalaureate degree, who were less hesitant than those with some college who were less hesitant than those with no college.

However, those with more than a masters - two categories labeled (1) professional degree and (2) Ph.D. - bucked the trend. Those in the professional degree category were more vaccine resistant than those with a bachelors or masters degree. And those with a Ph.D. were the most vaccine resistant of all categories, more of them were vaccine hesitant than any other category, some 23.9% of Ph.D.s didn't want to take the Covid vaccines.

In round numbers, a quarter of Ph.D.s distrusted the Covid-19 vaccines, more than any other group, including high school dropouts. If you are not acquainted with large numbers of Ph.D.s, perhaps you are surprised by these findings. Needless to say I'm not. 

Tell me one out of four Ph.D.s is highly "eccentric" and I'll reply the estimate is probably low, I'd guess it is closer to half. We're a very quirky group.

Saturday Soliloquy

I wrote yesterday about vaccines, and among other mental peregrinations, commented that the government  was sometimes less than trustworthy. I stand behind that comment, defend it if necessary, but want to add that government also does quite a lot right year after year with mostly nobody noticing or commenting. Some examples come to mind:

It is popular to hate on the Transportation Safety people at airports for their intrusiveness and sometimes rudeness. On the other hand, since they started doing what they do, we’ve had no planes hijacked or bombed. Wasn’t that the point of TSA? For all their inconvenience, they’ve succeeded.

As a young adult if you wanted fresh corn that was actually sweet you had to eat it the same day it was picked. And most ears had a worm at the top that you cut off. Both are no longer true. We buy supermarket “corn on the cob” all summer that is still sweet and will even stay sweet for a couple of days in our refrigerator. And it is rare these days to buy corn with a worm. Credit scientists at USDA for both of these real improvements.

President Trump proved the feds could choke off most illegal immigration, and did so within the parameters of existing law and agency structure. Blame Biden for this no longer being the case, not the folks guarding the border.

Thousands of commercial flights get where they’re going every day of the year and don’t collide in the air.  Credit the FAA for this, it doesn’t happen by chance.

The cleanest electricity generated in the U.S. comes from hydroelectric projects largely built and run by the Feds. Why we don’t build more of this clean, renewable power source is a mystery I cannot fathom.

Another thing our government does well is the National Park System, currently somewhat overloved but wonderful nonetheless. The world’s original national park, Yellowstone, is up the road about 100 miles away and it is the same spectacular place it was when I visited it with my parents in the 1950s. Ditto with the rest of the system. NPS does a good job.

It is okay to nitpick the Feds for the silly and sometimes evil things they do. They also do a lot right, and we need to recognize that too, not take it for granted.

Friday, August 13, 2021

Ruminations on Vaccination

People continue to resist the various Covid-19 vaccines, mostly either because the shots are still technically "experimental" in spite of having been administered to 150 million people, or because the government wants us to be vaccinated and is, prima facie, untrustworthy. About all of this I have some thoughts.

If the two main mRNA vaccines are still experimental, it is the largest experiment human beings have ever undertaken in or before recorded history. Was it rushed? Certainly. Has it saved lives? Probably a million or more. Are overwhelmingly most of the millions vaccinated walking around enjoying life? They are, I am.

Is our government untrustworthy? Not infrequently, although certainly not constantly, and probably not in this case. President Trump urged vaccination, President Biden urges it, chances are as a citizen of this country you look with approval on one of those two worthies, and for a change they are in agreement about the importance of vaccination. 

Are there risks in being vaccinated? Yes. Are those substantially less than the risks of catching Covid-19 and being very sick or dying? Again, yes. Life is risky, and sooner or later everyone dies. The general idea is to act in ways that support the "later" option. Vaccination does that. 

I wish they had already shown the vaccine was safe for children. It would make in-person schooling and family life much less complicated for grandparents, parents, and kids.

A Curse on Both Houses

Articles at Quillette tend to be long, and this by Benjamin Kerstein is no exception. An American who lives in Israel, he writes about the polar forces trying to pull apart the country of his birth, as seen from a distance.

His article is, for these days, amazingly even-handed. It’s a plea for an activist center that seems mostly unenergized and inactive in our supposedly ‘United’ States. 

Kerstein sees the left jonesing to wander off into a faux-utopian mess like Venezuela or Cuba, while the right imagines an authoritarian strong man overcoming the self-perpetuating uniparty blob. He imagines some kind of Balkanization of city-vs-rural separation ending up in Somalia-like militias and warlordism.

Kerstein gives Joe Biden credit for a centrism of which I don’t see much evidence, and for lowering the presidential profile, which he certainly has done. It is a substantially insightful analysis. Hat tip to RealClearPolicy for the link.

Afterthought … Another Benjamin - Franklin - is supposed to have answered a question about the nature of the embryonic new government the founders had just designed, describing it as “A republic, if you can keep it.” Franklin’s caveat seems particularly prescient in these fraught days.

Thursday, August 12, 2021

A Recent Regret

There is some disagreement about the first university; in any case, universities have existed for over a thousand years. And for all that time they have been places to gather those with more-than-average intelligence to study and learn, to think and to investigate. Crudely stated, the smart teaching the smart how to use their smarts.

I spent most of my professional life in a series of nine universities. At some I spent a few months, in others 1-3 years, and at one I spent nearly 30 years. I’ve been an undergraduate and graduate student, adjunct faculty, tenured faculty, associate dean, and in retirement, emeritus professor. Looking back, I have few regrets.

A regret I acquired recently was reading that my undergraduate university - San Jose State - aims to create an equity-based ‘honors’ program for BIPOC students. It is, of course, a part of the racist CRT movement in academia and, as such, much to be regretted. 

One suspects it intends to be an academy teaching Saul Alinsky-style rabble-rousing tactics. The program's 'graduates' will have few-to-no employment opportunities, something not relevant to the university. Its real aim is to create within the university a safe space for academically disinclined students of color in order to meet real or implied quotas and keep the State funds flowing in a state with a progressive legislature which favors such projects.

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

The Fall of House Cuomo

Multiple sources report New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has resigned. He faced multiple charges of sexually harassing at least 11 women, although as yet no charges of rape. 

Perhaps Cuomo’s most serious offense was requiring nursing homes to accept Covid-19 infected patients, which is widely alleged to have resulted in the deaths of thousands of elderly residents. These deaths certainly occurred.

Both these negligence claims and Cuomo’s counterclaims were likely overstated. The nursing home minimum wage caretakers would have brought the virus into these residences anyway, eventually. And many of those who died would have died of other causes within weeks or months.

Still, it is clear what brought about his resignation was the sexual harassment accusations documented by the the state’s Attorney General. Considering Cuomo won an Emmy for his Covid-19 press conferences and a $5 million book contract - both within the last two years - his resignation marks a spectacularly vertiginous career conclusion.

One has to wonder how long it will take CNN to decide to rid itself of the embarrassment that is his kid brother Chris Cuomo. Will it be days or weeks?

Afterthought … It is curious how, in our nation, great houses tend to burn out after a couple of generations. Jeb Bush couldn’t win the GOP nomination, the latter Kennedys haven’t amounted to much. I don’t expect another generation of Cuomos on the public stage. Perhaps this tendency is a part of American greatness - pedigree being less critical than performance.

Sunday, August 8, 2021

A Progressive Tenet of Faith

Source: Steve Hayward's The Week in Pictures, at Power Line.

If you accept their definition (I do not), the progressive claim of millions of racists is an understatement. It's probably 100,000,000 or more.

Darth Gets Religion

Source: Steve Hayward's The Week in Pictures, at Power Line.

Sunday Snark

This mashup describes the two systems quite accurately. Hat tip to Steve Hayward at Power Line where it appeared.

Friday, August 6, 2021

The Goldfinger Aphorism

 A spokeswoman for the National Police Association asks us not to politicize the suicide deaths of four Capitol Police officers in the seven months since Jan. 6. The Daily Mail (U.K.) has the story, in which she makes some good points.

On the other hand, an old aphorism that Ian Fleming included in the Bond novel Goldfinger goes something like "once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, three times is enemy action." I guess that would make four times something worse than enemy action, maybe moral rot from within?

Or perhaps it is the belated realization that being a Cap Cop is like being an airline pilot: months or years of boring routine interrupted by moments of heart-stopping terror.

Afterthought: The spokeswoman needs a recent publicity still. Nobody looks that good after 29 years on the Chicago PD.

Thursday, August 5, 2021

Weird Infrared Science

An engineer at UCLA - Aaswath Raman - has invented a material that reflects most of the radiant heat aimed at it plus it radiates whatever heat is inside it into space. Thus with no moving parts and no expenditure of energy it becomes maybe 10 degrees cooler than the surrounding environment. The Washington Post has the story.

This could be huge as it treats outer space, which is extremely cold, as a heat sink to which unwanted heat is radiated. The SkyCool thin mirror-like film does all of this, emitting infrared light at only those wavelengths to which the atmosphere is transparent.

It requires an unobstructed view of the sky and relatively clear air to work most effectively, but will radiate even in daylight, when it also reflects incoming infrared. It seems ideally suited for desert climates.

A Dilemma

The hyper-prolific Joel Kotkin writes at Unherd.com about President Biden's mishandling of illegal immigration causing political backlash, especially in the southwest where most of the illegals first land.

Overall public support for his immigration policies started cratering as early as April, when barely two in five backed his approach. By May, according to Pew, over two-thirds of Americans disapproved of the Administration’s border polices.

And Kotkin concludes: 

President Biden faces a conundrum. Forced by his genuflecting to woke ideology to embrace something akin to open borders, he threatens Democratic support among working-class voters of all ethnicities. He can continue to please progressive editorial writers as well as corporate executives eager for ever more cheap labor, but at the cost of endangering a critical base of support in 2022 and beyond.

Hat tip to RealClearPolitics for the link. 

A Positive Trend

A recent San Diego Union Tribune/Survey USA poll of California voters found a majority (51%) favor recalling Gov. Newsom, while only 40% would vote no. Presumably 9% are undecided or don't care.

Republicans said they supported Newsom’s removal by an 8:1 margin, while Democrats said the same 3:1.

A previous poll from Survey USA and the San Diego Union Tribune in May found only 36 percent in favor of removing Newsom and 47 opposed.

The recall election is 40 days away, on September 14. The number of undecided has declined dramatically, breaking against Newsom, plus he is losing actual supporters.

Brooks Redux

The New York Times’ David Brooks is a sometimes conservative voice, albeit one who can’t stomach Donald Trump. He is, however, one of our best modern interpreters of sociology and its intersection with politics for the lay reader.

He’s written a long-form article for The Atlantic keying off his Bobos in Paradise book now 17 years old, which he both updates and shows where he was wrong in some of his predictions. It is a good read if you enjoy, as I do, the interactions of social class, occupational cadre, and politics. 

Ignore his anti-Trumpism and enjoy his disappointment with the creative class of which he is very much a member. Check out his sense that they’ve behaved selfishly and thus betrayed and corrupted the meritocracy of which they were the prime beneficiaries. This is Brooks working the territory of which he is master, very much worth your time.

Geopolitical Poker

COTTonLINE’s favorite commenter on foreign policy at Geopolitical Futures has written something interesting about the China vs. Taiwan tensions. It is Friedman’s contention that in giving away the element of surprise, China signals that its military bluster is not a serious threat of war but rather stage-setting for negotiations with its only peer opponent, the United States. 

Friedman’s point is that surprise is crucial to success in war, and surprise will be impossible for China to achieve vis-a-vis invading Taiwan. In order for this to be correct, for China to be essentially bluffing, it requires that China agree with Friedman that surprise is both crucial and unobtainable.

I ask, what if China believes otherwise? What if they believe the U.S. is bluffing, if our aid to Taiwan will not extend to actual counterattack but is limited to provision of supplies and weaponry? What if they are poker players and believe they’ve spotted a presidential “tell” that telegraphs we won’t go to war over Taiwan? To me, that seems equally likely.


Imagine that in 1865 the retreating Confederacy had decamped to Cuba, approximately the same distance from the U.S. as Taiwan is from China. Imagine they’d established a largely successful regime there, got rid of slavery on their own terms, made alliances with whoever was the U.S.’s current major opponent, and never surrendered.

The result would be a “frozen” civil war, which is what exists between Taiwan and China. Now, standing in China’s shoes, how would we feel about Confederate Cuba, in many ways an ‘enemy’ base 90 miles off our coast? 

Probably about the way we now feel about Cuba, antagonistic but unwilling to invade. Except with Cuba we don’t have that sense that our civil war is on “hold,” as the Chinese apparently do with Taiwan. That difference could be crucial.

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

A Puzzlement

Much evidence suggests successful politicians get offered free sex by women who want to add a famous scalp to their coup stick. Why can't guys like Clinton and Cuomo just take what's offered and stop hitting on the ones who don't offer? 

I suppose the offers encourage the pol to imagine he is the proverbial "God's gift to women," a babe magnet. Therefore, women not offering sex are viewed incorrectly as playing hard to get. 

That is a guess, I've never been any sort of politician, successful or otherwise. While I've known profs who claim to have been offered sex for a grade, it never happened to me. Perhaps because I never acted like the grade was negotiable.

The Left vs. Itself

One of the left's demigods is PBS documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, maybe best known for his series on The Civil War. Interviewed recently by The New York Times, he really unloaded on Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and Zuck’s second in command Sheryl Sandberg. The Daily Mail (U.K.) has the story.

Ken Burns blasted Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg as "an enemy of the state’" who "doesn’t give a s***" about the United States and thinks he and his No. 2, Sheryl Sandberg, should be tried for crimes against humanity and put in prison.

"He knows he can transcend it. He can get away to any place," Burns, the award-winning film documentarian and historian, told The New York Times. ‘And so it’s just about filthy lucre, that’s it.’

The filmmaker said he thought tech moguls like Zuckerberg, Sandberg, and others should stand trial like the Nazis at Nuremberg after the Second World War.

‘Because these people - and Sheryl is a complicit - the Nuremberg of this, is if it ever happens, which it won’t, will be pretty interesting,’ he said.

‘The way that we’ve been able to temporize and say, oh, it’s okay, we’ll just go a little bit further. Right?’

Conservatives don't like social media leaders because they favor the left. Burns' beef with Zuckerberg and Sandberg is that they actually let an elected President (whom Burns didn't like) post stuff for most of four years. 

How could they be that heinous? Doing so was criminal according to Burns. In a battle between Burns and Zuckerberg, ideally both of these Asperger's overachievers would lose.

Somebody whisper in Burns' ear about the First Amendment's protection of free speech. Speech everyone likes needs no protection. It's speech people don't like that needs protection from forces (like Burns) trying to stifle it.

CA Is Hog Heaven

Have you read that there will soon be bacon shortages in California? Steve Hayward has the story plus snarky commentary, because why wouldn't you?

What I know is that people will drive to Nevada or Oregon to stock up. Since those are places Californians go anyway it won't be obvious. I don't see the CHP busting pork-runners.

Pssst, hey buddy, wanna score a couple of keys of Farmer John? Maybe a spiral-cut for Easter? A couple of racks for the BBQ? The gags write themselves.

Weird Epizootic Science

The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports, via the New York Post, that 40% of the white-tailed deer population in four central and eastern states (IL, MI, PA, NY) are infected with Covid-19. It apparently doesn't make the deer sick.

USDA believes the chances of catching the virus from deer is very slight, although it would be wise to mask and glove when butchering a deer taken in a hunt. Cooked, they believe the meat should be safe to eat. 

Scientists appear to think the deer caught it from us. No one is ready to hazard a guess about how that happened, we rarely socialize with deer. Maybe deer ticks bit infected humans and then deer? Ticks are a vector we share.

Americans Support Police, Stop & Frisk, Cash Bail

The Hill reports the findings of a Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll looking at public attitudes for and against the police. I doubt you'll be surprised at what was learned.

Seventy-five percent of respondents said more police are needed on the street while only 25 percent say they do not need more cops on the beat.

Seventy-two percent of voters also said they oppose “defunding the police,” and a slim 52 percent majority said they support the controversial practice of stop and frisk in urban areas to “deter gun crime.” Fifty-six percent also say they oppose eliminating cash bail.

The above is the case because most of us have nothing to fear from the police, they help defend us against predators. 

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

CA's Most Conservative Cohort

Newsweek (it still exists, online) has an article by economist Philip Pilkington who claims demographic changes give the Republicans an advantage. Yes, you read that correctly. His position is exactly opposite to the one most legacy media have taken, they predict a demographic edge for Democrats. 

Pilkington's point is that most immigrants are Hispanic, they are socially conservative, and thus a better fit with the GOP. I wasn't sure I bought his argument, although I liked it. Then, tonight I spotted the following at the Daily Caller.

Daily Caller reports the findings of an Inside California Politics/Emerson College poll of CA voters ahead of the recall Gov. Newsom election in September.

The poll of 1,000 registered voters, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3%, showed Californians are split on the issue with 46% in favor of recalling Newsom and 48% are against it. Among Hispanics, 54% said they would vote to recall.

A majority of black and Asian respondents support keeping Newsom, while among whites, support for and opposition to removing the governor is evenly split, according to the poll.

Who would have guessed that Hispanics are the most conservative ethnic cohort in California? Not me, that's for sure. It argues the relationship predicted by Pilkington might indeed be valid. 

In light of the above, Instapundit wisecracked, "WATCH DEMOCRATS ENDORSE THE WALL."

Cuomo a Sexual Harasser

The brothers Cuomo - Andrew and Chris - are precisely the sort of pond scum the state of New York deserves. One suspects the same was true of their father Mario and we know it of Bill De Blasio. 

It is somehow fitting that a messed up place would elect messed up people as their leaders. Let's wish New York the joy of these losers.

Later ... Both President Biden and Speaker Pelosi have called on Andrew Cuomo to resign the governorship of New York, following the NY AG's report which claims Cuomo sexually harassed many women. Fox News has the stories.

A Could-Be Messiah

Let me direct your attention to a Mother Jones article about Ammon Bundy, who has led “resist government tyranny” rallies and protests across the mountain West - OR, AZ, NV, and ID. Bundy is now running for governor in Idaho, likely without success.

It is possible you’ll find the word portrait of Bundy hard to swallow, to believe. His is an interesting mixture of idealism, individualism, quirky patriotism, and a very personal religion. If he manages to be martyred during his crusade, don’t be surprised if a cult arises around his memory.

I live in Bundy’s region, my part of WY is next door to ID and my winter place is in NV. I know people like Bundy who actively spend time considering what God wants of them. They can be amazingly stiff-backed when the inner voice says they’ve decoded God’s will, and quite genial otherwise. That isn’t who I am, but I sort of understand and often like them. They can be good hearted neighbors.

Monday, August 2, 2021

Schlichter Unloads

Instapundit posts two excerpts from columns by Kurt Schlichter which are too long to repost here. Schlichter writes about how the people at CDC squandered our trust by not leveling with us, and how we now don’t know whether to trust anybody. 

Schlichter deals in hyperbole but is essentially correct in his conclusions. We’ve been lied to, treated like stubborn children, and at least some of us are feeling mulish and rebellious as a consequence. This isn’t ideal in a pandemic; more than a few people will die because of dishonest policy decisions reflected in the government’s messaging about Covid-19. 

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Looking Back at Jan. 6

RealClearPolitics links to a Dov Fischer article for The American Spectator. Fischer asserts that the Jan. 6 invasion of the Capitol was no insurrection, and I agree.

No hostages were taken, no lists of demands were presented, no firearms were carried, no explosives detonated, no fires started. Apparently the only person seriously injured was an unarmed woman who was fatally shot by the Capitol police while climbing through a window. 

What happened was a demonstration by people unhappy with the conduct of November's election, or if you insist, with the outcome of it. Whatever damage was done resembled in scale the torn-down goal posts following a hard-fought football game. 

Were they out of line? Of course. Did they break the law? Almost certainly. Was it an insurrection? Not even close. Did it cause a bunch of cowardly Hill-dwellers to soil themselves? Apparently, so now they're embarrassed and seeking payback.

Later ... Why have four Capital police committed suicide since Jan. 6? Did they know something about the Clintons? Was there video of them assisting the rioters?

Lebanon Update

Once Lebanon was the jewel of the Middle East, a combination of Las Vegas and Switzerland. It was neutral, libertarian, multicultural, wealthy, and civilized. Its banks held billions in oil wealth. 

Lebanon had a substantial Arab Christian population which sold alcohol, and the nightclubs were open into the wee hours. Its situation was always somewhat complicated and dicey but mostly they did well.

As this article in the Times of Israel reports, those days are long past. I won't itemize its current difficulties, suffice it to say that the author cites reasons it is headed for something not unlike the Stone Age. The name I'd give where Lebanon is headed is "failed state." The enormous explosion in Beirut a year ago didn't help.

It is sad to see an apparently successful country slide into chaos and penury. It makes you wonder if it could happen here.

An Example

On Friday I wrote about nostalgia for former colonial administrations among now-independent Third World nations. Musing about that, I remembered an experience the DrsC had in Rarotonga, one of the loveliest of the South Sea islands. Imagine Polynesian charm overlaid with a thin veneer of proper Britishness, courtesy of its association with New Zealand.

We were being shown around the island and came to their jail, its grounds surrounded by a fence you could literally step over. Our driver/guide assured us that on a small island there is no place to escape to, no place to hide out because everyone not only knows everyone else, but is related to most of them. We marveled.

Our obvious bemusement caused the guide to tell us about their police chief problem, and its solution. They’d had indigenous police chiefs who didn’t work out as the family upsets caused by arresting and prosecuting misbehaving relatives were too intense to tolerate. 

The islands’ leaders finally concluded they needed to import a police chief from New Zealand who had no relatives on island. Someone who would follow the legal code and arrest those who needed arresting.

Rarotonga was happy with how this solution turned out. They voluntarily reverted to a colonial administrator for their police force, albeit one they selected. I’d call that colonial nostalgia in action.

No Cure for Stupid

Glenn Reynolds, aka Instapundit, reminds us of something others have called Reynold’s Law:

The government decides to try to increase the middle class by subsidizing things that middle class people have: If middle-class people go to college and own homes, then surely if more people go to college and own homes, we’ll have more middle-class people.

But homeownership and college aren’t causes of middle-class status, they’re markers for possessing the kinds of traits — self-discipline, the ability to defer gratification, etc. — that let you enter, and stay, in the middle class. Subsidizing the markers doesn’t produce the traits; if anything, it undermines them.

With the result that the first time there is an economic downturn, as in 2008, those subsidized faux-middle class individuals end up right back in the lower classes, mostly worse off than before. 

The just-expired moratorium on eviction for non-payment of rent is an example of such subsidies. That tenants couldn’t be evicted didn’t mean the rent was forgiven, it kept accruing and now amounts to more than these individuals will ever have at one time in their entire lives. 

Not only will renters be evicted, they’ll be bankrupt, have no credit and be stigmatized as bad risks. Expect the homeless population to explode. 

Government puts metaphorical Band-Aids on serious wounds and the unintended consequences just keep piling up. And Biden ‘invites’ hundreds of thousands of non-citizens to come in and join the dispossessed in their Hoovervilles. There is no cure for stupid.