Saturday, April 30, 2022

Poll: Good News for Republicans

Power Line's Steven Hayward summarizes the results of a recent NPR/PBS Marist poll of American voters. The news for Democrats is bad, for Republicans is good.

Fifty-five percent of both whites and Hispanics disapprove of Biden's job performance. Some 64% of Blacks approve. 

On the so-called "generic ballot" question asking will you vote for a D or R for your congressperson, the white vote split 50% R vs. 41% D, while the Hispanic vote went 52% R vs. 39% D. Only Blacks favored the Ds with 72% vs. 20% R.

Hayward concludes:

The Republican lead in the “generic ballot” question is the highest ever recorded in the Marist poll.

If Hispanics continue to favor the GOP, it won't be long before Democrats will want to finish Trump's wall on the southern border. 

Putin Health Rumors

The Daily Mail (U.K.) reports material from a Russian source called "General SVR Telegram" and calls the rumors "unconfirmed." The Daily Mail writes:

Vladimir Putin may be forced to give up control of the war in Ukraine for days as he is set for cancer surgery, a 'Kremlin insider' has claimed..

The Russian dictator will reportedly nominate hardline Security Council head and ex-FSB chief Nikolai Patrushev to take control of the invasion while he is under the knife.

He has reportedly delayed surgery, which will now not take place before the Victory Day commemoration of Russia's World War Two victory in Red Square on May 9.

This may mean something, or it may mean nothing. Rumors of Parkinsonism have followed Putin for some time, and the word "cancer" is associated with this surgery story. A variety of sources have commented that he does not look like a healthy person.

Let me add, I wish no one ill health, not even demonstrably bad persons of whom Putin appears to be one. I especially wish no ill health to anyone with a nuclear trigger to pull; such people need to be sharp mentally and have something to lose, for all our sakes.

Saturday Snark

Images courtesy of Steve Hayward's The Week in Pictures at Power Line.

Two World Views

Writing for RealClearDefense, Leonard and Michael Hochberg note the two very different world views which animate the thinking of strategists in Russia and in the NATO-centric West. That of Russia is territorial and that of the West is maritime, both make sense as organizing principles but they lead to exactly opposite conclusions.

The Hochbergs observe the current war in Ukraine is the result of these two views in kinetic opposition to one another. Russia has historic reason to fear attack by a united Europe (e.g., Napoleon, Hitler) whereas Europe has even more recent historic reason to fear the bullying of a bulked-up Russia (the USSR in the Cold War). 

As a way of understanding how we got here, their analysis makes considerable sense. It does not, however, suggest a way out of the current impasse. Meanwhile, those who live along the borders of the two macro-polities end up as battlefields.

Friday, April 29, 2022

Not Parallel

Politico runs a story about Emmanuel Macron’s win in France, while he suffered from low public approval ratings. They, and the White House, would like you to see it as a path by which an unpopular Joe Biden might win reelection. Namely, by making voters fear a renewal of the Trump presidency.

They correctly observe that a majority of French voters view a Marine LePen presidency as somehow beyond the pale, the proverbial bridge too far. What they fail to observe is that LePen has never held office. It is easy to speculate about all the terrible things she might do once elected.

Unlike LePen, Trump was president for four years during which the economy did well, the border was under control, and Putin started no wars. Voters don’t need to imagine a Trump presidency, they’ve already experienced it as better than the current regime. Therefore, the supposed parallel is nothing of the sort.

Law of Holes, Violated

Democrats are very dependent on African American votes to elect Ds to national office. Members of this group have for several decades been the most reliable votes for Democrats.

It is also true that menthol cigarette are most popular with Black smokers. Facing a midterm election in which Ds are expected to do poorly, you’d expect Democrats to avoid banning menthol flavored tobacco products, mostly cigarettes, as doing so will irritate a group whose votes they desperately need.

Avoidance is what practical politicians would do, but not Democrats it would seem. The New York Post reports the Food and Drug Administration has proposed banning all flavored tobacco products, of which menthol cigarettes are the big seller. 

Talk about a move calculated to irritate a party’s base. It’s a clear violation of the Law of Holes - when you find yourself in one, stop digging.

Thursday, April 28, 2022

A Mixed Signal

The Daily Mail (U.K.) reports the following strange message from Russian state television.

Margarita Simonyan, editor of state broadcaster RT and one of the Kremlin's highest-profile mouthpieces, declared on TV last night that the idea of Putin pressing the red button is 'more probable' than the idea that he will allow Russia to lose the war.

'Either we lose in Ukraine,' she said, 'or the Third World War starts. I think World War Three is more realistic, knowing us, knowing our leader. The most incredible outcome, that all this will end with a nuclear strike, seems more probable to me than the other course of events.

'This is to my horror on one hand,' she told a panel of experts shifting nervously in their seats, 'but on the other hand, it is what it is. We will go to heaven, while they will simply croak... We're all going to die someday.'

Is Simonyan being a fatalist, or trying to bluff the West, or covertly sending a message to fellow Russians “this guy (Putin) is nuts”?  I can’t imagine huge numbers of Russians willing to die rather than subjugate Ukraine, which has heretofore been no threat to Russia. 

Still, we’ve written before that when an autocrat sets out on a war of conquest, he wins it or mostly he dies. There aren’t a lot of cases where he loses but retires to a villa and lives a long life with grandkids on his knee. I think she’s saying Putin figures if he dies, we all die. Are Russians okay with that calculus or too apathetic to believe they can influence events? I don’t know the answer.

Simonyan is certainly correct we will all die someday, Perhaps like me, you are in no particular hurry for that eventuality to occur. Is the only way we prevent nuclear holocaust if we stop supporting Ukraine? That policy choice doesn’t look likely at the moment. 

For another view that imagines an off-ramp that would enable both sides to claim victory of sorts, see Edward Luttwak’s proposal on Unherd.

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Amy … Waxes Philosophical

For The American Mind, a publication of the Claremont Institute, aka “the Claremonsters,” Alexander Riley interviews controversial U. Penn law prof Amy Wax. She has some excellent insights, especially about the dysfunctions of academia, and why the emphasis is now on “feelings” instead of facts.

One way to think about what’s happening is feminization. Female priorities of harmony, of acceptance, of nurturance now hold sway over the so-called traditionally male priorities of truth-seeking, rationality, and evidence-based argumentation which was conducted with sportsmanlike civility, almost as in a game.

Ask women, even women within universities, “Do you think it’s more important that vulnerable people feel comfortable and safe, accepted, nurtured, included, or do you think it’s more important that people have free speech, untrammeled debate for the purpose of truth-seeking?” Twice as many women will say that the first priority trumps the second. With men, it’s absolutely the reverse. You can see in universities, especially in the parts of the universities that have become dominated demographically by female faculty, the shift in the priorities. Now it’s even happening in the sciences, which is really disturbing.

Both DrsC are glad we’re retired. We got out before the worst of this nonsense happened. Hat tip to RealClearPolitics for the link.

Monday, April 25, 2022

Poll: Dems in Trouble

Power Line's John Hinderaker summarizes the findings of a new Harvard Harris poll which looked at politician popularity, and how voters feel about various issues. Some high points:

GOP with a 51% favorability rating, compared with 43% for the Democrats. This survey finds 53% saying they have doubts about Biden’s mental fitness, and 62% believing he is too old to be president. By 63% to 37%, respondents say Biden should not run for a second term.

Illegal immigration is a huge issue for Republicans, as these numbers show. 75% of respondents say illegal immigration is a serious issue.

Two-thirds of voters say the Biden administration’s policies encourage illegal immigration. By 59% to 41%, voters say Biden has effectively opened the southern border and is not trying to enforce the immigration laws.

This November looks like a happy time for Republicans.


Instapundit links to a New York Post article reporting on U.S. dietary trends, and the news is good.

Although US consumption of beef fell from about 80 pounds annually per capita in the 1970s and early ’80s to a low of 54 pounds in 2017, it’s steadily rebounded since then to 58.6 pounds in 2021. Yes, we are eating more beef today than we did five years ago.

The DrsC just finished a hand-raised, WY grass-fed prime rib roast, took us 4-5 days to eat it. Marvelous dining.

Thinking About Ukraine

Plenty has been written about the Russian attack on Ukraine, some wise, some foolish. One of the best analyses I’ve seen is this one by Robert Kelly written for the website 19fortyfive. His conclusion:

Russia’s best chance is to win a limited victory quickly – before all the political and logistical kinks in the NATO supply effort are worked out – and seek a negotiated peace. If not, Russia will be trapped in a full-fledged proxy war with a vastly wealthier, more productive opponent supplying a tough, determined local client. It cannot win that fight.

Led by an ailing autocrat, Russia is in a conflict he chose to enter, from which no reasonable exit may exist.

Quote of the Day

Walter Pincus, writing for The Cipher Brief, concerning Putin’s continued harping about Nazis in Ukraine.

In Putin’s world, a Nazi is a Ukrainian who refuses to admit being a Russian and therefore, Ukraine as a separate country, has to be eliminated.

Putin’s eliminationist efforts have had the consequence of dramatically increasing the number of Ukrainians who “refuse to admit being Russian.” This feels like another one of those “beatings will continue until morale improves” deals.

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Whither NATO?

Back in mid-March I wrote that the fall of Kyiv, if it happened, would be the turning point in Ukraine. Now it looks as though perhaps that won’t happen anytime soon, maybe never.

I wonder when I’ll read someone writing that if the vaunted Russian army can’t defeat Ukraine, does Europe even need NATO? I’ve seen no one as yet raising that question, but at some point it will be asked. I hope when that happens someone makes the point that Ukraine only fought Russia to a standstill because NATO was there to backstop them.

Europe’s big countries - the U.K., Germany, France, Spain, maybe Italy - may conclude they don’t need NATO to protect them from Russia. I’m fairly sure most smaller countries, especially those which spent decades within the Soviet orbit either as SSRs or Warsaw Pact members, will disagree energetically.

Macron Reelected

Exit polling in France has a reputation of being quite accurate. reported that Macron has won the presidential runoff election held today, with the margin being roughly 58 to 42.

The result this time is narrower than in 2017, when Macron defeated Le Pen with 66 percent of the vote.

France votes in a parliamentary election in June and Macron will also have to secure a majority in the National Assembly if he wants to push through his reforms.

Both NATO and the EU will be happy at this outcome, a victory for globalism. French presidents serve a 5 year term.

An Amazing Statistic

John Hinderaker of Power Line lives in Minnesota, but is a native of adjacent South Dakota - of SD’s low tax policies he writes approvingly today. Then he adds an amazing statistic.

When I heard Ron DeSantis talk to a group in Naples in February, he said that Florida’s state budget is half that of New York, despite having three million more people. I thought, that can’t possibly be right. But I looked it up; it is. In the 21st century, too much government is the great destroyer of social and economic progress.

Get woke, (spend too much and) go broke. NY’s former governor Cuomo resigned in disgrace, FL’s DeSantis is being talked about as a presidential candidate. 

Which of them would you rather be? I’ll totally understand if your answer (like mine) is “DeSantis if I must choose, but by preference I’d be neither.”

Saturday, April 23, 2022

Runoff in France

France chooses a new president tomorrow, there are two finalists in the runoff. Emmanuel Macron and Marine LePen, a left-of-center-globalist and a right-of-center-nationalist respectively, are on the ballot. By this time tomorrow we should have a good idea of which won.

The Davos crowd wants Macron to win, as do the EUniks in Brussels. American conservatives lean toward LePen, without too much conviction. 

Many disastrous predictions have been made about a LePen victory, these are probably overdrawn. Macron is the incumbent, and outside of Paris, the French aren't much impressed with his performance. It appears many French voters will be voting for whoever they dislike or fear less.

Holy coincidence, Batman! That sounds like our last several presidential elections here in the U.S. 

Polls suggest a narrow win by Macron, weakening his position compared to last time when he won big. We'll see ....

A Muddy Mess

Back in February, we wrote twice (here, here) about the perils posed by the spring thaw in Ukraine for any activities off paved roads. These are widely known to have bogged down the German army in World War II. 

It turns out we were prescient as this brief article notes. Putin waited too late, the ground thawed, and his mechanized columns couldn't maneuver in the off-road mud. 

All it took to cause the 40 mile traffic jam north of Kyiv was a few breakdowns and an unwillingness to ruthlessly push the dead vehicles off into the mud and keep going. That, and a failure to foresee what occurred.

Considering the Russians themselves write about "General Winter" helping defeat the Wehrmacht, you'd think they knew better. I guess memories are short, or his people were too afraid to tell Putin the truth about the mud season.

I wonder if, after the war, a cottage industry will develop for stripping abandoned Russian vehicles and using the engines and parts to power homemade farm equipment? Perhaps the gear isn't reliable enough to bother. See our earlier comments about Russian failure-to-care for their stuff.

Not Just Puerto Rico

The Daily Mail (U.K.) reports AOC being upset at a Supreme Court decision that went 8-1against a Puerto Rican plaintiff who alleged discrimination because Supplemental Security Income program benefits were denied him. The court concluded Congress meant what it said when the program was passed and limited to citizens of the 50 states and District of Columbia.

What the article doesn’t emphasize is that the residents of other territories are similarly affected. The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico is not the only territory, there are also the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands, Guam, the American Virgin Islands, and American Samoa. Presumably the new ruling applies to residents of all of these territories.

The allegation that territorial residents do not file federal taxes was certainly true in the mid-1980s when I lived and worked on Guam for a year. I presume it is still the case, as the court recently so observed. 

The U.S. was never a big colonial power, but we do have the territories indicated, and count among our former colonies the Philippine Islands, the Marshall Islands, Palau, FSM, and the Canal Zone. Several of our former territories became states, most recently Alaska and Hawaii.

Friday, April 22, 2022

Earth Day Musings

It being Earth Day, I suppose I should write something about this planet we call home. I mostly think of it as Gaia, I'm not certain why. 

This planet's complex reaction to out star, aka the sun, is probably its most important aspect. Quite minor variations in the sun's radiation appear to have somewhat profound impacts here. 

Global warming and cooling have cycled throughout the history we find recorded in the rocks and tree rings, all quite independent of any human agency. Ceteris paribus, they will continue to do so.

Everything humans manage to do on the relatively small fraction of the surface where we collect in any appreciable quantity pales into insignificance compared to the planet-wide impact of solar radiation. We are as a small colony of fleas on an elephant's back imagining we influence the beast's behavior as we live out our brief lives. 

At our worst, we manage to make small areas intermittently less habitable. Assuming greater impact is runaway hubris.

Friday Fun

Instawife Helen Smith, posting at Instapundit, indicates this product currently for sale at Amazon. Isn't capitalism fun?

Earth Day Snark

Power Line’s Steven Hayward, cracking wise about Earth Day, which today is claimed to be.

Even the left finds the day more than a little glum just now though that’s because the world hasn’t ended yet. Remember—end-of-the-world doomsday scenarios make environmentalists happy, so when the end of the world fails to arrive on schedule, they get the sads.

I plan to drive my large F-350 diesel pickup 100 miles today. That is my celebration of the earth.

Later ... I did just that, and mirabile dictu, it rained on the desert ... an uncommon occurrence.

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Accidents? Maybe Not

The Daily Mail (U.K.) reports a pair of suspicious fires in Russia, one at a weapons research and manufacturing facility, the other at the country's largest maker of industrial solvents. At least one Russian observer noted that it appeared "a pattern was emerging."

If Putin's allegation that Ukraine is really part of Russia has any validity, saboteurs from Ukraine would find passing as Russians relatively easy. Many Ukrainians speak Russian as their first (or only) language, and at least some of these are Ukraine patriots. It isn't especially far-fetched to imagine such individuals infiltrating Russia with stolen or forged papers and engaging in sabotage. 

It takes very little of this to get people suspecting and reporting their neighbors and people whose behavior seems "odd." Somewhere the ghost of Lavrenti Beria chuckles appreciatively.

Thursday Snark

In his weekly column for the New York Post, InstaPundit Glenn Reynolds ironically questions whether Elon Musk buying Twitter is, on balance, a good thing. Here's the money quote:

Musk is exactly right. Wokeness is a “mind virus,” a toxic idea that spreads from one person to another like a zombie plague. It makes you stupid and removes concern for your well-being.

And as I wrote in “The Social Media Upheaval,” Twitter is the main vector by which this virus is spread. But as long as it’s destroying the left, is it really a good idea to stop it?

If a Musk-owned Twitter became less biased, those currently infected with its woke mind game might migrate to another platform to carry on getting their undiluted woke fix. In its present form it clearly meets the unhealthy needs of a substantial group of neurotics.

Weird Immunological Science

A study done in the U.K. at University Hospital Southhampton found that a third dose of the popular Covid vaccines was very useful.

The latest findings, published online in the Journal of Infection, show “strong immune responses” are still seen 84 days after third jabs, with five of the Covid-19 vaccines currently approved for use in the UK (AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Moderna, Janssen and Novavax vaccines). Of these vaccines, only three – Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca – have been used in the UK booster programme.

Although very high antibody levels may be useful to control a new variant spreading in society in the first few weeks after a booster jab, the longer-term protection against hospitalisation and death is perhaps the most important factor for future booster programmes.

For those of us who've had the third or booster shot, this is particularly good news. I also like the fact the findings were not subject to U.S. political influence. 

If it turns out that we need another Covid booster this fall, along with the annual flu shot, I am one conservative who won't be crying wolf. We've tolerated the uncertainty of flu shots ever since they were approved, and the DrsC still get one every fall. Medicare picks up the tab and some serious protection is better than no protection.

Get Woke, Go Broke links to a Breitbart article reporting the following good news story:

Walt Disney Co. is the worst performing stock in the Dow Jones Industrial Average for the past year, plummeting 31 percent in the last 12 months.

Of the 30 companies that comprise the Dow, Disney has seen its stock drop the most on a percentage basis, followed by 3M, which is down 25 percent, and Home Depot, down 23 percent.

Disney’s pro-groomer public stance isn’t the only reason the stock is down. It is certainly is a big part of their problem. 

With literally billions invested in specialized, non-portable physical assets in central Florida, Disney elected to get crosswise with that state’s activist Republican governor and legislature. It hasn’t turned out well, and seems on track to get even worse.

Image courtesy of, April 21, 2022.

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Chinese Demographics

Regular Instapundit poster Stephen Green links to a Lawrence Person’s Battleswarm Blog column on China’s demographic challlenges. Some choice items:

China’s working-age cohort grew from 58% of the country in 1978 to 74% in 2010. But in less than twenty years, the UN predicts that number will be roughly back where it was in ‘78. By then, China will have twice as many seniors as children under 15.

Per capita wealth remains low, on the level of Mexico, the Maldives, and Kazakhstan. That means this mass of retirees won’t just contribute less to the economy, but will also require immense financial support — the kind China’s fractured pension and healthcare system isn’t remotely prepared for.

China’s 2020 Census, [tallied] 14.65 million births the previous year — the lowest level since 1961. Japan, which is also aging, provides a best case scenario. With a median age of 48.6, Japan is the 2nd oldest place on earth. Today, its share of the world’s manufacturing exports has fallen from 12.5% to just 5.2. Japan did not fade into global irrelevance. It’s still a great power. But it never fulfilled what once seemed certain: its rise to rival the U.S. as a superpower. And it never will.

I remember the “Japan will own the world” period, and its subsequent demise. Most ‘Japanese cars’ sold in the U.S. are built right here by U.S. workers. Is the hope China’s “arc of history” follows a similar meteoric path an unrealistic one? In a word … no.

Monday, April 18, 2022

Weird Oncology Science

Instapundit links to a Medical Xpress article reporting positive results from treating tumors with focused ultrasound. Researchers at the University of Michigan found that destroying even part of tumors often stopped their spread. 

The technology uses stronger sound waves than sonogram technology.

The treatment, called histotripsy, noninvasively focuses ultrasound waves to mechanically destroy target tissue with millimeter precision. The relatively new technique is currently being used in a human liver cancer trial in the United States and Europe.

The microsecond long pulses from UM's transducer generate microbubbles within the targeted tissues—bubbles that rapidly expand and collapse. These violent but extremely localized mechanical stresses kill cancer cells and break up the tumor's structure.

Apparently, the technique is being applied primarily to liver cancers. One is reminded of the sound-based weapon featured in the original David Lynch Dune film.

The issue of Masks

The other DrC and I have taken commercial flights to and from many places in Europe, Asia, North and South America, and Oceania. Much of the time we were making connection with a cruise ship, either as passengers or as lecturers. We've also flown as part of our work.

We agree that one experiences an increased chance of catching some respiratory or gastrointestinal illness when flying, it has happened to us more often than we'd like. The same is true of cruise ships. Calling both "giant Petri dishes" is an exaggeration, but admitting the increased chance of illness is, in our view, simple common sense.

So ... while most political conservatives can't wait to tear off their masks (see here and here), we agree that if we choose to fly in the future we will mask up. Note my use of the word "if" is intentional, it's not a synonym for "when." Interestingly, The Washington Post agrees.

I haven't flown (or cruised) since the Covid epidemic began, and I'm not anxious to resume doing so. And yes, I do miss it.

The Modern Sauron's Ring

Richard Fernandez, who regularly posts commentary at his Belmont Club column for PJ Media, makes an interesting observation combined with a truly inspired analogy.

While there has always been a considerable amount of hack journalism in the West, not until the advent of digital social media has it been possible to manipulate publics of billions in near real-time. Now you can tell any damn fool story you want. No one, as in former times, fesses up their sins, acknowledges guilt, and resolves to mend their ways anymore. They simply redefine error out of existence. 

It is social media’s power to create a virtual universe that makes it, after actual officeholding, the most coveted political object in the West and largely explains the bitter struggle between Twitter’s board and Elon Musk’s attempt to take over the company. It is Sauron’s Ring, the one mechanism to rule the narratives and “in the darkness bind them”.

Do I hear Jack Dorsey mumbling something about "my precious?" 

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Pretty California

Power Line's Steven Hayward writes:

I once asked Arthur Laffer, of the famous curve, how California could keep getting away with such a high cover charge—i.e., high taxes and crushing regulation—when virtually no other state could get away with it.

I was expecting a technical economic term—”exploitable asymmetries”—that is, the great climate and abundant natural beauty that many people are willing to pay a premium to enjoy (like me), but no. Instead, he said, “That’s like asking why pretty girls are mean. Answer: Because they can.”

"Because they get away with it." I suppose Laffer meant. 


Russia’s Putin apparently believed (a) if he invaded Ukraine it would roll over and play dead, putting up little resistance. He also claimed to believe (b) Ukraine’s citizens were indistinguishable from Russians. 

Yet he knew Russians have a long history of resisting invaders. If the people of Ukraine were much like Russians, why wouldn’t they put up the same sort of bitter resistance to invasion? 

Beliefs a and b could not both be true, as Putin has learned the hard way. He has taken a firm grip on a tiger’s tail and the tiger is angry. The only way to survive that situation is to kill the tiger, and it isn’t clear he has that ability.

Putin's only personal way forward may be escalation. That is not, however, Russia’s only alternative. It isn’t clear if Putin can get Russia to follow him on a succeed-or-die-trying path.

Happy Easter

COTTonLINE wishes the believers among our readership a Happy Easter. For everyone who reads this, enjoy the optimism that Spring brings.

I hope you can dodge the rhinitis the beautiful Sprring blossoms herald. Sadly (sniffle) most years I’ve not managed that trick.

Saturday, April 16, 2022

Saturday Snark

I do like a non-obvious Dune reference.

These images courtesy of Steven Hayward's The Week in Pictures at Power Line.

Choosing a Label

Various pundits are beginning to ask how history will view the Biden presidency. Many like this will call it a failure. 

For what it's worth, I believe it will be viewed as an interregnum, defined as the time a "seat of power" is vacant between two reigns or regimes. The nation is operating largely on autopilot, with nobody of consequence at the helm.

At least some of the troubles the world currently faces are with us because of the power vacuum in Washington, DC. If we're lucky, we'll survive this leaderless phase. 

If fortune is not with us, who knows? It could get very ugly very quickly.

Friday, April 15, 2022

Sink the Moskva

Various sources are reporting that the Russian missile cruiser Moskva, flagship of the Russian Black Sea fleet, has sunk after being hit by Ukrainian missiles. Some speculate there may have been nuclear warheads on board when she sank. This is a big setback for Russian hopes.

Various unmanned devices like drones, cruise missiles, etc. as well as antitank rockets, have been making combat life for manned vehicles (tanks, ships, trucks) "nasty, brutish, and short," to quote Thomas Hobbes. We saw this in the brief war Armenia lost to Azerbaijan and we see it now in Ukraine.

Technology is again changing the nature of warfare, something that has happened many times in the past. We live in interesting times....

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Deficient 'DNA'

CNN does a good article about Russian logistical failures in Ukraine and how that has been a large factor in their poor performance. The article is decorated with photos of "dead" Russian trucks with their hoods up, the very picture of broken-down transport.

CNN attributes Russia's problems to two things: conscription and corruption. I agree with both, but would add a third they don't mention. The other DrC and I have traveled in Russia on several occasions and we always were struck by how shabby and down-at-the-heels everything looks.

We concluded that maintenance was simply not in the Russian DNA, was not something to which they devoted much energy. They build a nice looking building and then never touch up the paint, shine the brass, or sweep the stairs. 

If the Russian military operates the same way civilian Russians do, their trucks aren't maintained, filters aren't replaced, oil isn't changed, brakes aren't repaired, batteries and hoses aren't replaced. Then, when you need the trucks to step up and deliver munitions and supplies to the front, they fail. 

A modern army is no better than its trucks, no better than its maintenance, no better in short than its logistics. Evidence suggests Russian logistics are deficient.

Tuesday, April 12, 2022


Stephen Green writing for PJ Media provides a link to this Los Angeles Times article. Consider the following another installment in our series on the "decline and fall of California."

California public school enrollment has dropped for the fifth year in a row — a decline of more than110,000 students — as K-12 campuses struggle against pandemic disruptions and a shrinking population of school-age kids amid wide concerns that the decrease is so large that educators can’t account for the missing children.

This year’s decline, which includes charter schools, follows a huge enrollment hit during the 2020-21 school year, when the state experienced the largest drop in 20 years, with 160,000 students.

Several factors probably contributed to the falling numbers, experts said, although it is hard to pinpoint answers from preliminary state data. Some students entered private schools, which saw an increase in enrollment. Home schooling also increased as families either did not want to comply with pandemic safety measures such as masking or were concerned about the health risks posed by in-person learning.

Another potential factor is that more families may have moved out of California than expected, either because of rising housing costs or flexibility with remote work, amid other reasons.

The article concludes that the factors itemized above do not account for all of the drop, and that "large numbers of the most vulnerable children are truant.” It does help us understand why the CSU system has dropped the use of SAT/ACT scores for admission.

My personal takeaway from the sad condition of California: human beings can manage a paradise so badly that its people will voluntarily leave and move to less nice places that are intelligently run for the benefit of those in residence.

Mitt's Homies

The Hill has a column about Mitt Romney's (R?-UT) apparent indecision about running for reelection in 2024, and his refusal as yet to endorse fellow Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) for reelection this year. While Mitt has devoted little energy to fund-raising, he is quite wealthy and perhaps doesn't believe it critical.

The article claims Romney is more popular with Utah's LDS Republicans than with Republicans elsewhere, with many having only lukewarm support for Donald Trump. A University of Utah political scientist is quoted as having said the following about his state's attitudes toward Trump:

Utah Republicans on the whole are less favorable towards Trump. Moderate LDS voters who register Republicans, who are pretty loyal Republicans, are pretty uncomfortable with Trump’s brand of Republican politics, with the perceived moral character of the candidate. LDS Republicans tend to be pretty pro-immigrant, pro-refugee, and you have a candidate in Trump who made [his] signature issues to be on the opposite side of that.

There's a lot of "pretty" in that quote, suggesting a phone interview. Give the column author credit for quoting verbatim w/o cleaning up the wording. It does leave me wondering if his intent was to discredit the professor ever so slightly?

Aside: LDS Republicans I know personally favor Trump's policies, w/o endorsing his private life.

Monday, April 11, 2022

Where Poverty Is Common

This map is a reworking of a Census Bureau map which, in this color scheme, originated with Axios.  Many of the relatively large areas of prevalent poverty appear to be Indian reservations. 

That is somewhat misleading as the BIA provides things for reservation residents the government doesn't freely provide to you and me. Such things are not reported as "income" but certainly meet similar needs. 

Sunday, April 10, 2022

French First Round Results

French electoral results are available, see the article at Incumbent Macron got the most votes, followed by Le Pen who will share the run off later this month with him. The leftist vote went to Melenchon who came in a very strong third. 

If the runoff votes break the normal French way, Macron will be reelected. If a lot of voters-for-someone-else find Macron uninteresting and stay home, Le Pen could get a surprise win, especially if all the nationalists and populists turn out to vote for her.

It looks like the Ukraine war influenced voters in Macron's favor. Prior to that attack, rightists in Europe spoke approvingly of Putin's stance rejecting LGBTQ rights and defending traditional social values. 

European rightists don't approve of Putin attacking Ukraine, but some guilt-by-association has undoubtedly tarred them.  Zemmour in particular had this problem.

France Votes

France is voting today in the first round of their presidential election; there is always a runoff between the two candidates receiving the highest vote totals. The polls close there at 7-8 p.m. 

Here in the PDT time zone we should start to see first round results around 1 p.m. as we're 7 hours later than they. It is anticipated that the two finalists will be President Macron who is running for reelection and Marine Le Pen who represents the French conservatives. 

For most of the campaign, Macron was expected to win handily. The race has tightened considerably in the last few weeks, and at least some expect Le Pen to win. It has been argued the war in Ukraine has strengthened her hand, I'm unclear as to why that should be true. 

For a description of the various candidates running and what they favor, see a National Public Radio article with details. A Marine Le Pen win following on the heels of the Viktor Orban landslide in Hungary would be something of a political earthquake for the EU. Stay tuned.

Later ... Apparently all we'll see today are exit polls which are indicative, but not definitive. As I write this at roughly 5:30 p.m. PDT, nothing has been announced.

Quote of the Day

Salena Zito, writing about what really matters in politics, for the Washington Examiner.

Winning and losing in politics is generally about one thing: overreach.

Translation: At the margin, most swing voters are voting “against” those they view as “too extreme.” 

States Ranked by State-Local Tax Burden

The right-leaning, nonpartisan Tax Foundation just ran the numbers to rank the states based on their average combined state and local tax burden. This does not include the many federal taxes all Americans must pay regardless of state residency. 

The Foundation for Economic Education posts this very useful U.S. map color coded to show the states with the heaviest and lightest tax burdens. Hat tip to Ed Driscoll, posting at Instapundit, for the link.
The 5 States With the Highest Tax Burdens
New York: 15.9 percent
Connecticut: 15.4 percent
Hawaii: 14.1 percent
Vermont: 13.6 percent
California: 13.5 percent

The 5 States With the Lowest Tax Burdens
Alaska: 4.6 percent
Wyoming: 7.5 percent
Tennessee: 7.6 percent
South Dakota: 8.4 percent
Michigan: 8.6 percent

I sure like that my home state of Wyoming ranks 2nd out of 50 for lowest tax burden.

Saturday, April 9, 2022

Saturday Snark

Well ... after all, why not?
Image courtesy of the comments section of Steve Hayward's The Week in Pictures at Power Line.

A Splintering Policy

Following Roe v. Wade in 1973, it appeared that the federal government had mostly taken over abortion law. Now nearly 50 years later, the conservative majority in the SCOTUS has raised hopes in various states that local control might be back in style if, as anticipated in some quarters, Roe v. Wade is overturned.

Emblematic of these hopes are new laws in Colorado and neighboring Oklahoma that go in diametrically opposite directions. A RealClearPolitics article describes Colorado’s new abortion law as the most liberal in the nation, basically making all prebirth abortions, done for any reason, legal. 

At roughly the same time Oklahoma passed an extremely restrictive law which permits abortion only to save the life of the mother. Effectively resulting in a total ban.

California has already announced it will position itself as a destination for “abortion tourism” and several other states have indicated an interest is similar policies. Another half dozen or so states have indicated that, absent Roe, they will do what OK did and ban the procedure. 

One can imagine that, should Roe v. Wade be struck down, we can end up with an absolute patchwork of different abortion regulations.  It will be interesting to see what the various “laboratories of democracy” come up with if abortion becomes something no longer controlled by federal law.

Later ... For another "take" on this issue, see what reports on how Michigan is trying to find the Roe reasoning in its state constitution.

Friday, April 8, 2022

2 Verdicts, 2 Hung Juries

Do you remember reading about several guys who schemed to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, and were arrested by the FBI? They were supposedly upset with her Covid-19 restrictions limiting their freedom of action.

NBC News reports the jury found two not guilty on all charges, and could not reach a verdict on the other two. Oddly, this was in spite of a further two who pleaded guilty and testified against the four whose trial just concluded. The four alleged they were victims of FBI entrapment and it appears some number of jurors believed that claim.

The video of clean-cut, fit young men - easily mistaken for FBI agents - participating in anti-government demonstrations on the capitol mall tended to bolster the suspicion that the FBI has become an instigator of unlawful behavior. It appears that, like fake racist incidents, there isn't enough real anti-government activity to meet the government's need to claim persecution so they fabricate it.

As we have written here before, I don't believe we want our Federal law enforcement instigating unlawful behaviors because they can't find enough of it happening naturally to justify their budget requests. It would appear the jury in Michigan agreed.

Nordlinger on Cohen

In a world with a lot of weird ducks (including me), Jay Nordlinger still stands out as an especially unique specimen. He’s a music critic with a passion for human rights who for 2 decades has written beautifully for Bill Buckley’s conservative National Review

RealClearWorld links to a Nordlinger piece for NR where he interviews Eliot Cohen about Putin and Ukraine. Some of Cohen’s thoughts, as paraphrased by Nordlinger:

I think of Richard Pipes — who had a dark view of Russia as a patrimonial state that has perpetually committed violent, aggressive acts. We may have a Russia problem, as well as a narrower Putin problem.

Of all the explanations for Putin’s war, the most stupid is that he has reacted to NATO expansion. As he says over and over, he does not believe that Ukraine is a nation. He believes that it belongs to Russia. Also, he is deathly afraid of a color revolution, such as the Orange Revolution in Ukraine. (snip) The irony is: He’s likely to get NATO expansion as a result of his war.

The response of eastern Ukraine to the invasion has stunned many people. The nature of Ukrainian patriotism has changed in recent years. Ukraine has developed as a nation. People in Kharkiv and other Russian-speaking cities have put up as ferocious a resistance to the invasion as anybody.

Putin is not a master strategist. He is a KGB thug. He knows how to play mind games.

Political scientist Cohen is a noted never-Trumper but, as one of the preeminent Cold warriors, his views of Russian aggression are worth our attention. Russia attacking Ukraine makes Cohen an enemy of my enemy, and at least in this context an “ally for the duration.”

Thursday, April 7, 2022

How It Ends - a Guess

Y’all know George Friedman is my go-to-guy for foreign policy. Today he writes at the Geopolitical Futures website how he thinks the Russian war on Ukraine is likely to end. Spoiler alert: there is good news and bad news.

The good news is that Russia is unlikely to win, if “win” means defeat Ukraine. The bad news is that Russia may settle for destroying Ukraine and most of its people. Friedman writes:

Russia remains a poor country. (snip) In terms of per capita GDP, Russia ranks 85th, nestled between Bulgaria and Malaysia.

The Russian army wasn’t designed for this war, hadn’t planned for this war and has only brutal counter-civilian action to take. And Putin will take it.

The problem, then, is that Putin cannot stop, nor can he reach an agreement with Ukraine that he will keep. Every deal – except for surrender by the enemy – is a revelation of weakness on the part of a weak country and a weak ruler.

He can reach a genuine cease-fire, but if he does, he’s finished. Not being able to defeat the Ukrainians, and held in contempt by others, destroys the myth of his power. Continuing the war endlessly reveals the same thing.

If Putin gives up his position, he is compromised, and perhaps lost. The buzzards are circling. So he must continue to fight until he is forced out and someone else not responsible for the disaster takes over and blames it all on Putin. I think that this can’t end until Putin is pulled from the game.

Putin, having bestrode this ‘tiger,’ has only one way to dismount alive, which is by winning. In the long run he probably can’t win. For the war to end, Putin has to go. 

If Friedman is correct, Biden's comment that Putin "has to go" was a Kinsley gaffe. That is, a public figure saying a truth one isn't supposed to admit.

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

A Class Act

Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett was being interviewed at the Reagan Library in Simi, CA. Rick Moran of PJ Media reports a heckler interrupted the proceedings with a shout that Barrett was an "enslaver of women," making reference to her opposition to abortion.

Barrett responded calmly:

As a mother of seven, I am used to distractions and sometimes even outbursts.

A clear inference the heckler was acting childishly. As you can imagine, the audience applauded and laughed. 

A Straw Man Exposed

Someone named Ted Galen Carpenter, who claims to have better credentials than I, writes for The American Conservative that Ukraine is not a cuddly little puppy dog of a country and has a track record of being relatively corrupt. No kidding? 

Some firm in Ukraine paid Joe Biden’s drugged-out whoremonger of a son - Hunter - millions for doing nothing. Of course it is corrupt, it is Eastern European and the entire region is corrupt - Russia, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, Moldova, Georgia, and Armenia - all corrupt.

So no, Ukraine isn’t Denmark or Sweden. The region (including Russia) spent 50-70 years under the Soviet thumb, and the last 30 years trying to get over that foul experience. Their progress isn’t terrible, but they have a fair way to go yet.

All of which matters not even a little. What is abundantly clear is that Ukraine was sitting there minding its own business, bothering nobody, no military threat to Russia, and got invaded, brutally. Who the bad guy is here is not in question, it is Putin.

Zelensky may not be a George Washington but he is brave, determined, media savvy and patriotic. We are not able to both give him everything he wants to defend his country and stay out of war with Russia - something we very much want to avoid. 

Still, Ukrainians are fighting and dying for their country, in a fight they didn't ask for. The bully is Russia, personified by V. Putin. Ukraine deserves and is getting our arms-length support. 

Observing the obvious - that Ukraine has blemishes - is unhelpful. What country has none?

Burns Does Franklin

The other DrC wrote a review of the Ken Burns PBS documentary on Benjamin Franklin and she wasn’t kind. I’ll grant that Burns’ pacing is slow, but I stayed awake for most of the first half, and all of the second half which I watched last night, while she slept through most of it. 

Ben Franklin was a towering figure, by any standard you want to apply. Exhibiting no particular military prowess, he managed to live and thrive to be 84 in an era with little sanitation and no antibiotics or anesthesia. 

He traveled throughout the British colonies in North America and much of Europe, made 4 round trips across the North Atlantic by sailing ship, and lived for several years each in England and France.

Like Thomas Jefferson, Franklin was a polymath. He started businesses, wrote books, charmed most of the people he met including many women, and had an amazing intellect which was nevertheless practical. He was a scientist of note, a successful inventor, a diplomat, and the most famous North American of his era.

He did his level best to win the full rights of British citizens for North America’s colonists and, when he failed at that, whole-heartedly joined the rebels and was there for the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and the subsequent Constitution.

Franklin was such an amazing human that Ken Burns’ slow pacing and less-than-vivid imaging couldn’t keep him from being interesting. The other DrC, with whom I agree about most things, is certainly welcome to disagree.

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

You Aren't Mistaken

This communication reposted by Instapundit. Nate Silver was once the NYT's data guy, before he set up his own shop called 538. Needless to say he's no flaming conservative. BTW, the "some folks" he makes reference to are Biden spokespeople, and their claims truly are "ridiculous."

Quote of the Day

Miranda Devine, writing in the New York Post, about the Hunter Biden "deals" with Ukrainian and Chinese oligarchs. Hat tip to Steve Hayward at Power Line for the link.

There is no country in the world where millions of dollars paid to a top official’s son for doing nothing would not be regarded as corruption.

Amen, sister, well said. The "hig guy" is dirty. 

Monday, April 4, 2022

RINOplasty Time

The Associated Press reports Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R?-AK) and Mitt Romney (R?-UT) will join Susan Collins (R?-ME) in voting to confirm Biden appointee Ketanji Brown Jackson as a new Justice of the Supreme Court. This in spite of her record of giving child pornographers light sentences.

Maybe Collins has to walk a thin line in Maine to get reelected, the state's politics are purple. That isn't the case in either Utah or Alaska and the voters in those states should retire their RINO senators, next time they run.

Sunday, April 3, 2022

CSU Expediency

Instapundit links to a news item in Campus Reform which reports as follows:

The California State University system will no longer be considering standardized SAT and ACT test scores as part of its admissions process, citing “equity and fairness” as part of its deliberations.

California State University's Director of Strategic Communications and Public Affairs Toni Molle told Campus Reform that the school "draws its students from the top third of California’s high school graduates" and that grade point averages (GPA) will be the "primary consideration for admission."

This is important because:

Among its 23 campuses, CSU has approximately 56,000 faculty members and 477,000 students. Those numbers make California State University "the largest system of four-year higher education in the country," according to the system's website.

Long-time COTTonLINE readers know the DrsC were members of that gigantic faculty throughout most of our careers, we were also baccalaureate graduates of the system. I remind you of these two data points to establish my expertise for the following insights.

What is actually happening here is that the supply of in-state young adults who score well on the SAT and ACT has declined and, rather than lower their cutoff scores to keep the classroom seats filled, they've decided to do away with the testing requirement. They can stop reporting the average scores of entering classes since the data is no longer required or considered relevant to admissions and thus avoid the embarrassment of declining scores.

However undereducated high school graduates may be, every high school graduating class has a "top third." CSU intends to keep their classroom seats filled, regardless of the qualifications of those so seated. Claiming equity and fairness motives always looks better than admitting expediency, amiright?

Worst Case Scenarios

Hoover Institution historian Niall Ferguson writes analysis of the Russian war with Ukraine for Bloomberg Opinion, and I warn you he is not an optimist. Hat tip to RealClearPolitics for the link. Ferguson thinks there is a not-insignificant chance it morphs into World War III. 

How would that happen, you might reasonably ask? He reminds us that WW II was not so much one war as several that flowed together involving Japan, Germany, Italy, and Russia all on the attack in different regions. And he asks what if China attacks Taiwan and the resurgent Iranians end up going to war with the Arabs plus Israel while the fighting drags on in Ukraine. I wish I didn’t see that evil confluence as plausible.

Here are Ferguson’s seven “worst-case scenarios.” He so denominates them because he sees a lot of downside from each.

1. Do the Russians manage to take Kyiv and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in a matter of two, three or four weeks or never? Spoiler: looks like “never.”
2. Do the sanctions precipitate such a severe economic contraction in Russia that Putin cannot achieve victory?
3. Does the combination of military and economic crisis precipitate a palace coup against Putin?
4. Does the risk of downfall lead Putin to desperate measures (e.g., carrying out his nuclear threat)?
5. Do the Chinese keep Putin afloat but on condition that he agrees to a compromise peace that they offer to broker?
6. Does our attention deficit disorder kick in before any of this?
7. What is the collateral damage?

The Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan in 1988 and its dissolution completed in 1991. The optimistic scenario would be a similar sequence of withdrawal from Ukraine followed by an outbreak of government change in Russia. Let’s hope for that outcome.

Saturday, April 2, 2022

Winners and Losers

This graph courtesy of John Hinderaker at Power Line, shows projected aggregate income gain or loss from domestic migration between the 50 states. The big winner is Florida, lesser winners are Texas, Arizona, and North Carolina. 

The big losers are California, New York and Illinois. My home state of Wyoming is a slight winner, and my new winter-residence state of Nevada is a somewhat greater winner.

All but one of the 9 states which do not impose an income tax are on the gained aggregate income side of the chart. Among states with no income tax, only Alaska lost income due to domestic migration. 8 vs. 1 cannot be a coincidence. 

Of course not having a state income tax is in some ways a marker for an entire set of attitudes toward the role of government. The gainer states tend to be governed by Republicans.

Weird Gerontological Science

Instapundit links to a article summarizing research on diagnoses present at the death of seniors.

The study, published in JAMA Health Forum by a University of Michigan team, uses data from 3.5 million people over the age of 67 who died between 2004 and 2017. It focuses on the bills their providers submitted to the traditional Medicare system in the last two years of the patients' lives.

In 2004, about 35% of these end-of-life billing claims contained at least one mention of dementia, but by 2017 it had risen to more than 47%. Even when the researchers narrowed it down to the patients who had at least two medical claims mentioning dementia, 39% of the patients qualified, up from 25% in 2004.

The researchers attribute the change to changed Medicare reporting rules, allowing multiple diagnoses associated with patient mortality. But I wonder if other factors are present.

Might it not have something to do with people living longer? When I was a young person it wasn't uncommon to learn of men dying in their 50s, normally of heart attacks. The frequency of such deaths is much lower today. More people are controlling high blood pressure and fewer smoke.

I suspect if we live long enough we all begin to get a bit foggy mentally. If we grant the body gets more tired and weaker, the senses less keen, why not the mind as well?

A Prediction of Hunger

Instapundit links to a Zeihan on Geopolitics column which makes an interesting, and potentially ominous, point concerning the third horseman of the apocalypse … famine.

Roughly three weeks ago the Russian army poured across Russia’s western frontier into Ukraine. As viewed from an agricultural point of view, the world’s largest wheat exporter invaded the world’s fourth-largest wheat exporter.

As a major wheat exporter ourselves (No. 2), the U.S. is unlikely to see shortages but may see increased prices as the world bids up the price. Zeihan sees the problem hitting the Middle East hardest. 

He predicts shortages of fertilizers leading to even more food shortages. And those leading quickly to political unrest in places where people live close to the edge in normal times, which these won’t be. 

Friday, April 1, 2022

Editorial Note

COTTonLINE does not do faux April Fool's stories. Nothing posted today is a spoof or Babylon Bee-style satire. On occasion we post things we find funny, but always label them as such.

Bad Management

Instapundit Reynolds also writes a column for the New York Post. For a law prof, Reynolds has a reasonable grasp of managerial theory. Today he writes:

Underlings tend to tell higher-ups what they think the higher-ups want to hear. Even in the best organizations, it takes constant effort to ensure that bad news makes it up the chain of command. And Putin’s Russia is not the best of organizations.

Putin has been in power for a long time, and making him happy has been the way to get ahead. And on a day-to-day basis, it works: People get good fitness reports, leaders feel happy, everyone wins.

Until, you know, it’s time to perform. Then reality comes crashing in. That’s the price of suppressing the truth in favor of the party line.

Too many managers/leaders/presidents are wont to "shoot the messenger" when bad news is delivered, blaming the reporting underling for the problem reported. The result: people stop bringing reports of problems to the boss who is then bewildered when reality rears its ugly head. 

It is also true that "shoot the messenger" isn't exclusively a Russian problem. It happens here too ... a lot, as Reynolds points out.

No Story

Writing for The Epoch Times, Mark Tapscott observes the following, which can appear counterintuitive until you think it through. Hat tip to Instapundit for the link.
Internal Revenue Service officials audit returns of taxpayers making $25,000 or less at a much higher rate than for all other income earners, including those in the top 1 percent who President Joe Biden claims pay nothing.

Imagine if you will the effort an audit of some “top 1 percent” person takes. No “one percenters” do their own taxes, all of those have CPA firms file for them so any problems with their returns will be well-concealed and at least arguably legal. Such audits to succeed will likely end in a years long lawsuit.

On the other hand, the problems of those making 25k or less are mostly simple screwups a clerk can catch in a few minutes and have to do with the person misunderstanding the forms OR simply forgetting to file. Of course many more of the latter are done, many more of the latter make obvious errors.

Those who make millions find it worth spending thousands to have professionals file their taxes professionally, meaning at least superficial legality. Poor taxpayers are the “low-hanging fruit” of those filing incorrectly, and as such are targeted. 

There is no story here. The IRS knows how to allocate its scarce resources for maximum return.