Thursday, August 31, 2023

Where the Growth Is

Joel Kotkin writes at UnHerd that the red states are thriving while the blue states are not. Historically downtrodden West Virginia is booming, if you can credit it. Red states are experiencing growth in both jobs and population, blue states are losing both. 

It turns out that the strongest support for Joe Biden lies with the regions — notably the West Coast and the Northeast — that are doing most poorly both economically and demographically. In contrast, the most pro-Trump and anti-Biden states are flourishing.

Red states are experiencing growth in both jobs and population, blue states are losing both. Let me suggest how to think about this trend: the 20th Century had its rust belt, the 21st Century has its very urban blue states - primarily NY, IL, CA, plus maybe NJ and MA. In each century, they are the places modern development has superseded as they represent old technology and ways of doing things.

Avoiding Each Other

The site Vox has a leftward bias, in spite of which they run some interesting material. Staff writer Emily Stewart looks at the success the political right has had lately with boycotts aimed at products or firms viewed as "woke." She mentions the real impacts on Bud Light and Target but tends to denigrate the impact on Disney. 

Stewart seems to believe Disney only runs theme parks, when the major losses the "house of mouse" experienced recently have been in films, TV and streaming services. Their recent films have been losing money by featuring "woke" themes and inappropriately diverse casting.

 I find the following passage particularly evocative.

On a broader level, this is indicative of the growing polarization and even tribalization of America. Conservative and progressive consumers don’t want to shop in the same places, or talk to each other or negotiate with each other or even acknowledge the other exists.

“The reality is increasingly there is a red market and a blue market,” said Geoffrey Kabaservice, a vice president at the Niskanen Center, a center-right think tank. “Ultimately here the subtext is America is a pretty divided country.”

"Conservative and progressive consumers don’t want to shop in the same places, or talk to each other or negotiate with each other or even acknowledge the other exists." Doesn't that sound like the precursor to a peaceful "color revolution" of the sort that split Czechoslovakia? Sadly, we aren't as neatly sorted geographically as the Czechs and the Slovaks were.

A Way Forward ... Maybe

Kurt Schlichter writes about our dilemma in Ukraine, he poses four bad options as an exhaustive set … something I believe they may not be. He makes the implicit assumption the Russian people will in this instance be as dogged as they were fighting German invaders on their own soil. 

Schlichter doesn’t mention that the Russians' legendary stubbornness didn’t apply when fighting “abroad” in Afghanistan. They got tired quicker than we did and went home. And then their government fell.

Thus the question remains, can Putin convince Russians that Ukraine is once again “their soil” as it was in World War II? It hasn't been "their soil" since the USSR broke up in 1991, over 30 years ago? Only those over 40 remember the Soviet Union with Ukraine as a constituent part. 

It isn't easy to make the argument that Ukraine is nostalgic for its Soviet past, given its stubborn resistance to Russian invasion. The young Russians who do the fighting must consider Ukraine as "abroad," it has been independent all their lives.

Putin runs a police state, if one not quite as pervasive as in Soviet days. Can he sell his people a scenario that includes Ukraine as an integral part of Mother Russia and make it worth dying for? I am dubious. 

Americans are tired of bankrolling the battle in Ukraine. Imagine how tired Russians must be of bankrolling their side of the conflict and sending their sons, fathers and husbands there to die in significant numbers. Both sides are involved by choice, Russia chose to invade, the US chose to support the invaded.

Which side do you believe finds its situation more obnoxious? In my opinion it isn't even close.

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Remembering Russia

Author Kurt Vonnegut Jr. had a wry, wintry view of his fellow humans. Instapundit reminds us of some tart wisdom Vonnegut shared, almost as an aside.

Another flaw in the human character is that everybody wants to build and nobody wants to do maintenance.

The Soviet Union, as Russia was formerly known, was a very planned economy, Planned economies reward getting projects built, but not subsequent maintenance. Thus, little maintenance gets done. 

I'm remembering how true Vonnegut's maxim was of Russia when the other DrC and I traveled there, on a river cruise from St. Petersburg to Moscow some years ago. Relations between Russians and Americans were, if not cordial, at least civil at the time. 

We were reminded of the "no maintenance" issue again some years later when our Baltic cruise stopped in Kaliningrad. It is an obscure part of Russia wedged between Poland and Lithuania on the Baltic coast. 

Throughout Russia we saw scores of once attractive tall apartment buildings that had been allowed to get shabby, dirty, and then were modified in haphazard ways by the tenants. Another example, if one is needed, of how central planning allocates resources much less efficiently than market forces do.

An Early Morning Insight

Mostly awake, I was scrolling through some show biz news releases, amazed at the range of new TV shows in which I had zero interest whatsoever. Somehow in a sort of crossover, I had the following could-be-insight which I now recklessly share with you.

Maybe a major part of why Donald Trump drives so many people wild is that he has taken a show biz approach to politics? There is a sort of standardized way politics is done in this country, one well explained by the likes of Karl Rove and Michael Barone. Trump does it another way that has more in common with how one manages a show biz career.

Let’s review Trump’s career path. Young Trump made his bones in big city property development and the related skills of schmoozing city pols and union bosses. 

Then he detoured through the show biz ghettos of beauty pageants and professional ‘wrestling.’ Followed by quite a successful stint in ‘reality TV’. In all of these actual realism is optional, and often ignored.

Along the way he also followed the path of most entrepreneurs who typically start many more businesses which fail than those few that succeed. And yet we see video of a younger Trump interviewed, with him actually thinking seriously about national issues. From this era we get the story of him sitting in the green room after TV interviews, asking to view a replay of his interview with the sound off, studying his “performance.”

Did he work his way up the ladder in politics? Not even close. He started at the top, ran for president and, by the skin of his teeth, got the role or maybe job. Then he didn’t get selected for the second season, which we who follow politics call “getting reelected.” His show was cancelled in spite of a near 50% audience share.

I don’t know, does that start to explain the Trump popularity on the one hand, and Trump Derangement Syndrome too? I think it might. He got there the wrong way using skills from another setting, appealing to an audience not always played to, and that offends many, while mesmerizing others.

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Heavy Thoughts

See two long paragraphs which mark the conclusion of a longer disquisition on the current state of American politics, from the excellent website Law & Liberty.

If there is common agreement on anything, it is between the left and right in their belief that we need regime change now. Since Plato’s Republic, this necessity has been understood as part of a cycle of regimes—an oligarchic or administrative class arises, and only the centralization of power in a sovereign, along with a temporary de-constitutionalization, can restore justice and popular sovereignty. The Founders recognized this necessity as well, and arguably employed it as justification for their American Revolution—with an elite group of subversive insurgents standing in for the sovereign, writing new laws, and waging war unilaterally. In our day, this move is embodied by elements on the right who seek to empower the executive or the judiciary to rein in the power of the administrative class, thus allowing Congress to fulfill its purpose.

Whether or not these are wise moves, we must recognize that they are historically precedented and inexorable ones. Calling for the left and right to simply recommit to the Constitution is similar to calling on two nations engaged in warfare to cease fire and disarm. As America slips further into the form of an Empire, most politically minded Americans will eventually recognize the urgent necessity of contending for control of the Emperor’s Ring: the imperial city and its institutions. Once it is captured, both sides should hope that the captor will magnanimously reopen it as a forum for constitutional debate.

The reasoning here presented is hard to argue with. The portents do not appear to be optimistic.

Byeku for Suarez

Today we celebrate a milestone, the first of the would-be GOP presidential aspirants announces he is “suspending” his campaign. Suspending is code-speak for quitting. As is our long-time COTTonLINE custom we offer Miami Mayor Fraincis Suarez a byeku - a haiku of farewell.

Adios, Francis

Couldn’t reach the first debate

Truly, not your year.

Sunday, August 27, 2023

Outflow from Popular Destinations

CNBC has one of those cute little studies looking at where young (26-35) workers earning $200K or more are moving to and from. This is interesting because it looks at the geographic/economic/social preferences of the young and successful.

First, what they found ranking states by the net migration (inflow - outflow = net) they've experienced. Here they are in descending order: FL,TX, NJ, CO, NC, CT, WA, TN, AZ, and SC.

What I found most interesting was to look at the outflow numbers of states obviously attracting plenty of inflow. I asked myself if I could guess what triggered the "buyers' remorse' in these places. The four states with really significant outflows of the successful young were in descending order: NJ, WA, TX, and FL 

I don't know NJ well, though I've driven through it a few times. I remember if being flat, and some smelling bad from chemicals or whatever. It's corruption is somewhat legendary, and Atlantic City is no Vegas, not even a Reno, maybe a Laughlin. The politics run blue.

Coastal WA where most of the population lives, has short beautiful summers and is overcast and rainy most of the rest of the time. Think Twin Peaks weather - gray skies and wet streets. 

If you have any propensity for depression, WA will accentuate it. There's a reason they love coffee, stimulants are essential. Politics are very blue, but oddly there is no state income tax.

Texans are genial, superficially pleasant people, easy to talk to. On the other hand, their friendship circles tend to be limited to the members of their church, where they spend a significant portion of the hours not required for work or sleep. 

If they know you're new a Texan may invite to their church, if you say "no, thanks" it will probably be the last invite you get. The politics, outside 3-4 big cities, are very red, no state income tax.

Florida is flat, winter weather is spectacular, comparatively dry, and overrun with tourists. Summers are hot, wet, and so buggy they build cages over pools,  Predators run to gators and crocs, and malaria is making a comeback. Thunder and lightning are normal and expected. 

After years of purple, the FL politics are recently bright red - think DeSantis, Rubio, and Scott." Woke" and those it seeks to protect are not catered to, but no state income tax.

In case you aren't au courant with "left coast" doings, WA and CO are where liberals fleeing CA go. Conservatives fleeing CA mostly go to TX, TN and AZ. 

Both kinds go to NV, which is next door and has no state income tax. NV politics are newly purple, in 2022 Nevada elected a D to the Senate and a R as governor.

A Bananas Scenario

Snark on Sunday, courtesy of which leads off the this gem.

Cast of Characters

A president who has taken millions of dollars in bribes, selling out foreign policy and who knows what else. Oh, yes, he is also intermittently senile. 

His presumptive competitor in the next election, accused of multiple crimes, some of which involve 'creative' legal theories. And this previous president is both the most and nearly least popular active politician in our country. 

How is this not a banana republic scenario? I'm thinking Peru or Ecuador, with elements of Nicaragua.

An Unintended Consequence

A recent addition to the Power Line crew, Elizabeth Stauffer writes about an interesting reaction to the Trump mugshot in the African-American male community. Especially among rappers who are some its most eloquent spokesmen. 

Most of the rapper comments are too salty to quote here, but the support for Trump comes through loud and clear. He has joined the downtrodden, picked on and persecuted by “the man.” He “lives large” like a super-pimp on steroids, and he flaunts it. More seriously, the economy during his term did more for the black community economically than any before or since, and at least one rapper mentions this.

Will they remember 15 months from now? Who knows? Too few are registered Republicans to make a lot of difference in the primary process, where Trump seems to be in little difficulty in any case.

Tribalism, Politics and a Reminiscence

The Wall Street Journal has a not-bad article on how our political identities have become more tribal. While the observation is not new, it does an interesting job of buttressing that assertion with some social science research. Better still, it is not behind their paywall.

It also reminds me of the extent to which I am a contrarian, a not religious, white PhD, who lines up with tribe Red, the GOP.

Demographic characteristics are now major indicators of party preference, with noncollege white and more religious Americans increasingly identifying as Republicans, while Democrats now win most nonwhite voters and a majority of white people with a college degree.

I have been part of the big “sort” the article mentions since the later 1980s, when I moved 16 miles from a suburban city street to rural acreage outside that town. In retirement, I moved my legal residence from CA to WY, which is seriously rural. 

Though I never thought of it as it happened, in hindsight I was returning to rural roots. I grew up in our Sunkist® Assn. orange orchard in SoCal and rode a yellow bus 3 miles to a high school with a graduating class of 100.

Gophers kill orange trees by gnawing on their apparently tasty roots. I earned the money for my first car trapping gophers out of the orchards. Not many CA kids lived in an orchard or ran a trapline. Ag work is dangerous, too. I blew out the rotator cuff in my left shoulder in a fall while irrigating our orchard, and have lived with the limitation ever since.

Saturday, August 26, 2023

Saturday Snark

Images courtesy of Power Line's The Week in Pictures
and its Comments section.

A Brief History of Mercenares in Africa and Elsewhere

As a young journalist, Brian Pottinger made friends with a South African - Jerry Puren - who spent his life as a soldier-for-hire or mercenary primarily in Africa. Pottinger tells his story and, using it as a framework, draws conclusions about these somewhat romanticized figures in an UnHerd column.

Let me share with you his conclusions.

First, many mercenaries of that era were disconcertingly charming and interesting, some educated, but all entirely lacking an internal moral compass. The lure of excitement and money suborned all nobler aspirations.

Second, most died broke. The same impetuosity that drove them to freebooting rapidly dissipated the proceeds.

Third, Puren’s generation of African freebooters are as lost a phenomenon as the Victorian adventurers who studded the history of that trampling march towards global hegemony.

The more professional Executive Outcomes, the South African mercenary group comprising veterans of the 15-year border wars. (snip) They were the forerunners of the modern Private Military Companies (PMCs), the most notable being Blackwater (now Academi), which supported the Western efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

And, if I’m not mistaken, Academi provides military security for at least one of the Oil Emirates in the Persian Gulf.

There is a fourth thing I learnt about mercenaries. They are dodgy employees, capable of switching sides at a moment’s notice or taking out their leaders.

Wagner is a Private Military Company, and like its predecessors, is a player in Africa’s “wars of succession.”  It turned on Putin, a gutsy move.

Friday, August 25, 2023

Friday Snark

Images courtesy of Politico's Nation's Cartoonists on the Week in Politics.

Thursday, August 24, 2023

Winners and Losers

Data crunching site Five-Thirty-Eight has done a post-debate survey of how the participants did, as reported by viewers. Power Line's Steven Hayward has the charts posted with brief commentary. 

In the first chart respondents were asked to pick the overall winner and the biggest loser, the number of winner choices in red, loser choices in yellow. DeSantis and Ramaswamy were the big winners.

In the second chart, we see how much each debater gained or lost as a result of the debate. The length of line reflects the change from before to after. The big winner is Haley. Note, the only one whose line goes negative is Donald Trump. Why Hurd and Suarez are included is unclear as they did not debate.

Thursday Snark

Image courtesy of, dated 25 August 2023.

In Search of a Clarification

I've read a lot of commentary on last night's debate and, so far, nobody has commented on something Ron DeSantis said in passing, without special emphasis. He was asked if, as president, he would use the military special forces to stop drugs coming across the southern border; sending troops into Mexico to stop the cartels? With no hesitation, DeSantis said he would do so right away. 

We don't know who the next president of Mexico will be but I am certain the incumbent, Lopez-Obrador, would view US troops in Mexico as an act of war. He has even played down the power of the cartels, I suppose thinking them primarily a US problem as well as a major source of foreign exchange for Mexico.

There are good reasons the US hasn't militarily invaded Mexico since 1916 when we chased Pancho Villa back there after he raided US territory. Chasing horseback invaders back to their base is a whole different matter than trying to sort out which Mexicans are pistoleros for the cartel. 

However corrupt and ineffective the Mexican government may be, it is theirs to live with and enjoy. Invading Mexico might break the government, and the Pottery Barn rule applies: if you break it, you own it. We certainly don't want to own Mexico.

Later ... Here someone at The Hill writes in support of the position I've outlined above.

Later still … At CNN someone finally gets around to questioning this DeSantis assertion, with a few more details.

Strong Stuff

Writing in The American Mind, Thomas D. Klingenstein muses about racism in America today. It is the text of a speech he delivered at the Women's National Republican Club and parts of it are strong stuff indeed. Hat tip to RealClearPolicy for the link.

The following will be viewed by many as controversial, and by even more as things better left unsaid, even if true. Thank the First Amendment for his ability to say them anyway.

We know that patriotism, hard work, personal responsibility, secure borders, and moral virtue are not, as the woke Left contends, racist ideals. Rather, they are the means to a happy, free, and prosperous nation.

We know that, by and large, it is not racism but culture that causes outcome differences. But the woke make it very difficult for the rest of us to say it, because if it’s culture that explains outcome differences then the blame rests not on whites but on blacks.

Author Klingenstein is a principal in a New York investment firm, chairman of the Board of Directors of the Claremont Institute, and a playwright.

Later ... If you wonder about the above quote, check out Steven Hayward's charts here from Power Line, showing that black immigrants from the Caribbean and South America are no more likely to live below the poverty line than the U.S. average for all peoples. The difference ... culture.

Owner of Wagner Dies ... Maybe

Before yesterday's debate (see below), the news was reporting the apparent death of Yevgeny Prigozhin, in a plane crash not far from Moscow. I write "apparent death" as Prigozhin's death was reported once before in plane crash in the Republic of the Congo, which claim later proved false.

Prigozhin is or was head of the Wagner mercenary group, originally based in Russia. It later moved to Belarus. Wagner hires out to various African governments, and has been fighting in Ukraine as well.

Powerful people in Russian who have crossed Putin tend to die from other than natural causes, there have been more than a few. Russia is a mafia state and Russian President is The Godfather in fact, if not by title.

Recently Prigozhin had a rather public disagreement with Putin.  There were reports the plane was intentionally shot down by a surface to air missile.The plane's three crew and 7 passengers all died.

About the Debate

I watched most of the GOP debate in Milwaukee. Here are my reactions, for whatever they're worth.

Ron DeSantis
DeSantis said what he needed to say, did so carefully, made good points, but didn't try for the big smash. I read his strategy as being one of maintaining his second-to-Trump position, and waiting for Trump to crash and burn somewhere among the wreckage of four trials. His truthful brag about removing two Soros-backed DAs was well-received.

My sense is DeSantis suspects the only way anyone not named Trump gets the nomination is if the big, orange guy is taken out by the legal system, by health issues, or by his well-documented foot-shooting propensities. Therefore, the wise strategy for Ron is to look like a good Trump substitute policy-wise, and keep his powder dry. This he did last night. I wish he didn't sound sort of whiny.

Vivek Ramaswamy
Vivek's job last night was to attract attention, and having attracted it, make a good impression. He did part one in spades, he probably uttered as many words as the next two combined. He talked over others, he grinned, he offered off-the-cuff opinions freely, and anyone who watched now has an impression of him.

Part two didn't work so well. I don't know how you saw it, I saw a man who hasn't a clue about foreign policy and that isn't something you fake successfully. He is bright as heck and has a good grasp of what our country should be, and to a large degree once was. I believe he is not ready for the presidency, but may be someday when he grows up, if that's the direction his energies and opportunities take him.

Nikki Haley
Of those on the stage last night, I believe Haley did herself the most good. She made three good points forcefully. First that the way Congress interacts with the two main parties is such that there is no chance it will pass a national law dealing with abortion anytime soon. Thus abortion will remain with the states, per Dodd.

Second, that our support of Ukraine needs to continue, or we will find ourselves fighting Russia inside one or more NATO countries with our troops doing the dying. I believe she is correct.

Finally, her third point dealt with the failure of our public schools to teach every child to read. Reading is the absolutely foundational skill without which very little is possible in a modern, data driven society. The other DrC taught future teachers how to teach reading, and we both are believers in its necessity.

Mike Pence
Pence is in the odd position of needing to defend the administration of which he was a member without defending his former boss with whom he has split. He tried to be more moral than anybody on stage, more religious, and to look and sound the part of president. He was partly successful in this. I don't believe he swayed many votes outside the deeply evangelical community, and he likely had some of those already.

Tim Scott
Scott seems like a really nice man who has shrugged off the inevitable racism he's experienced and become a fine Senator for SC. If a good heart and a willingness to work with others were the main qualifications for president he'd be a shoo-in. Unfortunately the job requires a lot of toughness and spine and that I didn't see.

Chris Christie
Christie didn't have Trump to kick around and, absent that, seemed not to have much purpose in being there. Stylistically, he is very smooth, eloquent, and forceful. As a guy who most likely couldn't carry his own state of NJ, he has no chance and not much of a program.

Așa Hutchinson and Doug Burgum
I haven't a clue why either bothered to show up, maybe to stoke their egos? I'm certain both are talented people with respectable life accomplishments, but that is also true of literally hundreds of people who were not present.

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Hybrid Mileage

You may remember back in April I wrote that we'd traded in our 2015 Ford F-350 Diesel 4wd pickup and RV on a new truck. What we traded for is a 2023 Ford F-150 hybrid 4wd pickup with the Limited trim level. 

I think the F-150 is our fourth F series truck, obviously we've liked them as we keep buying more. We've subsequently put about 3000 miles on the new truck.

Today Instapundit posts a link to a Car and Driver review of a Toyota Tundra hybrid pickup. C&D only got 16 mpg, somewhat below what Toyota claimed. Frankly, I was amazed it did so poorly, I believe C&D was surprised too.

We've mostly driven our new F-150 hybrid on trips of 100 miles or more, but it is averaging a little over 23 mpg which is an improvement over the F-350's 16-18 mpg when not towing. We don't plan to tow with this truck, it has a locking bed cover so we can stow luggage or whatever out of sight and the weather.

I'll freely admit we might get poorer mileage if we did a lot of in-town, stop and go driving, but we have an SUV for that.

Single Women a Societal Problem

At the end of a substantial Substack essay on social science findings, and the political "Curley" effect named after a mayor of Boston, Glenn Reynolds, aka "Instapundit," notes over half of single women report having been told by a doctor they have a "mental health condition" and concludes as follows.

Making the populace (especially women) more fearful, depressed, and neurotic is undoubtedly bad for societal wealth and happiness. But does it yield votes for Democrats? Clearly yes. Are they doing it on purpose?

Who knows? But it does seem that many of the policies advocated by Democrats and the left tend to promote unfavorable mental states. Cui bono?

For those of you not conned into taking high school Latin, cui bono is lawyerspeak for "to whom is it a benefit?" Reynolds hopes the evidence he cited will lead you to conclude it is done on purpose.

Political Judo

When the "Sanctuary Cities" movement began, the rationale offered for doing so was that city police forces wanted the policy. The argument being illegal immigrants would cooperate with police if, and only if, they were sure they wouldn't be turned over to "la Migra" for deportation. 

Oddly enough, we have very little evidence that policy ever worked. We have plenty of evidence that criminal immigrants, left here by police not cooperating with federal immigration, have engaged in lots of further crime, including multiple murders.

Clearly, police wanting it wasn't the only motive for declaring sanctuary status. There was also plenty of low-cost virtue signaling going on. "Look at us, aren't we big time humanitarians?"

Border state governors forwarding the new arrivals to these would-be sanctuaries was one of the smartest things ever done. Now big city dwellers far from the border are footing the bill, dealing with the difficulties, and not loving it even a little. 

Even Joe Biden is feeling the heat as big city mayors, all of them Democrats, publicly say "Enough." Wouldn't you bet they say a lot more privately?

Thank TX Gov. Abbot and FL Gov. DeSantis for figuring out how to move the argument over illegal immigrants away from between the parties and make it instead happen within the Democrat Party. I'd call that world-class political judo.

Sunday, August 20, 2023

About the Mountain West

I wrote below that our winter residence is now in eastern Nevada, which probably evoked mental images of casinos, show girls, glitz, and libertarian values. Those are only somewhat accurate, once you head northeast out of Las Vegas on I-15.

I-15 comes out of the greater Los Angeles area, passes through Las Vegas, continues on through Salt Lake City, and continues north to the Canadian border. The Canadian connecting route heads farther north to Calgary and Edmonton. 

Between Salt Lake and Calgary there are no big cities for 885 miles. Interstate speed limits of 75 and 80 mph are common, and often enough exceeded (but not by me).

North of Las Vegas I-15 passes through eastern Nevada and a corner of Arizona before entering Utah a few miles south of St. George. Basically everything north of Vegas is culturally "Baja Utah," with the thinnest of Nevada veneers. 

This is because this area was essentially founded by homesteading settlers sent from Utah. For that matter, eastern Idaho and western Wyoming along the I-15 corridor are basically "Alta Utah," settled the same way. 

Who Lives Where?

I just had an insight I thought to share with you, one I have not seen belabored at length elsewhere. It has to do with European vs. American preferences for living inside or outside cities.

When you hear about poor and minority people in France living in suburbs or banlieues, not in run-down urban areas, haven't you wondered about how they happen to be on the fringes of cities? If you've traveled in France or Germany have you noticed farmers tend to live in the village and not on a corner of their farmland?

From all of this I conclude a sweeping generalization, that Europeans in general prefer to live in urban settings. When they think about what they'd aspire to if wealth came their way it is a spacious, luxurious apartment in a nice urban setting, close to everything. 

This gentrifying preference pushes up the prices of in-town residences and forces the European poor and immigrant populations out of town as the less-desirable, cheaper places to live are on the scorned periphery. 

By contrast, most adult Americans do not prefer urban living, with the result that the poor and minorities are concentrated IN cities, not outside them. Our city dwellers, as they marry and have children, move to the suburbs when able, and the more affluent move to the exurbs. Some few of the Europeanized US wealthy prefer urban penthouses, but most of those also have a country place (or two).

Better minds than mine will puzzle about how these opposing preferences evolved. I suspect that some parts of this preference difference explains the dissimilar directions in which US and European societies have evolved. 

It might also explain why our urban planners prefer Europe-style land use and thus have a hard time selling their urban visions to Americans. Maybe someone should try doing an American-style planning institute?

Bad Policies → Many Deaths

Concerning the wildfire that destroyed Lahaina on Maui and killed perhaps 1000, the Daily Wire reports as follows.

Hawaii Utility Pursued Green Energy Goals While Fire Mitigation Projects Were Delayed

Sadly, this is no new thing. The so-called “Camp” fire that destroyed the town of Paradise CA, and killed, if memory serves, 89 people, was caused by badly maintained Pacific Gas & Electric equipment sparking in a forest along the Feather River. 

Like Hawaii Electric, PG&E was being pressured by government and environmental groups to spend big on green energy. It was money hindsight shows should have gone to maintenance of their existing infrastructure. 

In both cases, the policy was wrong and, as a direct result, substantial numbers of people died when there was no good reason. How many times do we have to repeat this awful scenario before action is taken to reverse the wrong policies?


The Camp fire came within 8 feet of our winter home in CA. We only lost some landscaping. A couple of years later we sold that property and moved our winter quarters to eastern Nevada. 

We moved not because of fire risk, however, but because beautiful CA is currently misgoverned by idiots and has no realistic prospect of coming to its senses anytime in the next decade or two.

Saturday, August 19, 2023

Saturday Snark

Images courtesy of Power Line's The Week in Pictures,
and its Comments section.

Thinking About India

In the journal Foreign Affairs, former State Department official Daniel Markey writes we should look at India as it currently exists, instead of how we wish it was. Our harping on it being the world’s largest democracy, Markey believes, gives today’s India entirely too much undeserved human rights credit.

Though Markey doesn’t make the comparison, in effect he sees India’s current leader Modi being a sort of Asian version of Hungary’s Viktor Orbán or Turkey’s Erdogan. Which is to say, a nationalist leader who observes at least the overt forms of democracy without dealing fairly with opposing views or those who hold them.

Thus Markey suggests our collaboration with India should be based on our mutual, very much shared concerns about a China that’s trying hard to become Asia’s hegemon. I would imagine he sees our cooperation with India being like that with the Soviets during World War II, very much “the enemy of my enemy is my friend, for now” while never losing sight of our very serious differences.

Honestly, isn’t that how we should deal with all other countries, with the possible exception of the Anglosphere? I’m inclined to quote Lord Palmerston.

We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow.


Afterthought: In the context of foreign policy, someone should ask Vivek Ramaswamy his opinion of PM Modi, on the record. I would be very interested in his answer as a member of the Indian diaspora who aspires to our presidency. 

I have written I could vote for Ramaswamy but to do so I would have to overcome my aversion to vegetarians, which he has testified before Congress he is. I’m a lifelong carnivore. Imagining state dinners in the White House with a vegetarian president is fun to contemplate … in the abstract. 

Friday, August 18, 2023

Trade with China Down

A Wall Street Journal chart shows US imports from China have declined to the level of 20 years ago. Meanwhile our exports to China have declined to the level of 10 years ago. Both of these are good news.

I have no problem with importing low tech items from China, but we should try to bring tech and heavy manufacturing back to the US, and that includes medicines and the precursors to meds. 

Since China considers all inventions to be in the public domain, we should utilize their inventions without paying royalties. Turn about being fair play.

We should also make the process of Chinese citizens getting US green cards more opaque and less a sure thing.


Writing at The Liberal Patriot website, Daniel Cox parses the "likability" factor in politics and applies it to explaining Trump's big poll lead over DeSantis.

Political likeability is not simply about how much people like a candidate but how much they perceive the candidate likes them, sees them, and is able to validate their experiences and concerns.

Trump’s strength as a politician is not his penchant for defying norms but simply that he appears to like the people who like him; this more than anything creates the bond between Trump and his supporters.

Coming from what I estimate was a lower middle class background, DeSantis had to be very driven to excel at sports, hold part time jobs, and make his way into Ivy League degrees. It isn't clear he had much time or inclination to "hang out" and "be a buddy" along the way.  

He has finally reached the level at which that experience deficit becomes a problem. His being tight with wife Casey and lack of other close friends says to me "introvert," something I relate to. 

Vivek's Truth

Fox News reports ten things Vivek Ramaswamy has posted under the headline TRUTH (his caps) on his website. I share them with you because I think many of us on the right would agree with nearly all.


1. God is real. 
2. There are two genders. 
3. Human flourishing requires fossil fuels. 
4. Reverse racism is racism. 
5. An open border is no border. 
6. Parents determine the education of their children. 
7. The nuclear family is the greatest form of governance known to mankind. 
8. Capitalism lifts people up from poverty. 
9. There are three branches of the U.S. government, not four. 
10. The U.S. Constitution is the strongest guarantor of freedoms in history.

Wouldn't you endorse that platform? It sounds exactly like the sort of reality-based country I want to live in. A big plus - it is a thumb in the eye of the World Economic Forum wienies. 

I could vote for this man.

Friday Snark

Images courtesy of Politico's Nation's Cartoonists on the Week in Politics.

Stolen vs. Rigged

Writing at Hot Air, David Strom provides a useful distinction between a “stolen” election and one that was “rigged.”

A “rigged” election is not the same thing as a stolen election; stealing requires changing votes. “Rigging” is about changing the rules, the information landscape, or other factors that can influence voters using illegitimate means. Spreading misinformation can be a form of rigging, as of course censorship or “debunking” of true information.

I couldn’t say if the 2020 election was stolen–there certainly were irregularities as there always are in elections–because any vote changes or illegal ballots have to be in the right place in the right numbers, and no evidence has been accepted by courts indicating that enough illegal votes to change the results were cast.

But certainly, the election was rigged. Lots of illegal changes to election laws were made without legislative approval, Big Tech censored conservatives based on phony claims, and the media colluded with outside groups to distort the truth or deny facts.

The main stream media all supports one of our two major parties, and has done so for a couple of decades. You could argue that the last several presidential elections have been rigged - some successfully, some not enough.

Thursday, August 17, 2023

Animal Sacrifice Common

Much more often than I'd like, I'm reminded of former Obama speechwriter Ben Rhodes' comment concerning most journalists, "they literally know nothing." I just came across another example of this to share with you.

Spiked's Brendan O'Neill writes an article entitled "The Return of Animal Sacrifice" to which RealClearPolicy provides a link. Apparently the people at Spiked don't know that it never went away.

The world's approximately 1.9 billion Muslims engage in it yearly, at a festival called Eid-al-Adha. Live sheep are procured and then slaughtered in a ritual called Qurban. 

In Muslim countries sheep pens pop up on vacant lots like Christmas tree lots in the US.  The DrsC happened to be in Senegal off a cruise ship during the lead up to Eid-al-Adha and saw plenty of temporary sheep vendors, in urban Dakar.

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

GOP Musings

Nobody will admit it, but you know the non-Trump Republicans chasing the nomination are all hoping Trump gets convicted of some stuff. Realistically, the only chance they have is he gets convicted, begins appealing the conviction, and voters give up on him. 

If that happens, other candidates may have a chance. Whether the nomination is worth having in that situation is unclear.

What nobody knows is whether Trump followers will vote for another Republican if Trump is out of the race. They won't vote for senile Biden but I can imagine some of them saying "a pox on both houses" and sitting out the 2024 election.


People are writing that Ron DeSantis is turning into another Scott Walker, a successful governor who crashed and burned chasing the GOP's 2016 presidential nomination. At this point the parallels in their campaigns are discouraging.

A Niche Product

A young woman the other DrC has mentored plus her mom and dad agreed to deliver a Tesla owned by their older daughter from SoCal to the sister’s new home in Texas. They had the time and thought it would be fun to do a family road trip. We just heard the story.

I won’t bother you with a tiresome list of all the frustrations they experienced, the long waits at charging stations, the stations that were broken, the nail-biting anxiety of watching the charge level needle dropping while stuck in a traffic jam in 107℉ heat wondering if the a/c would kill the battery or the heat would kill them. They finally made it to Texas, frazzled. All of them swear they will never purchase an electric car.

Absent technological leaps not currently foreseen, I believe electric cars are a niche product. Impractical for anything beyond “around town” driving. And that only for people who have a garage in which to keep a charger. 

An electric can be a good “second car” for grocery shopping and going to work, as long as you (a) own a “long distance” vehicle that runs on gas or diesel for road trips or (b) never leave town by road. If an electric is your only car and you need it in another state several hundred miles away, have it shipped, and hope it doesn't catch fire en route.

A Happy Ending

On Saturday I wrote about ‘wokeness’ run amok at my undergrad alma mater, San Jose State University. Today we get a postscript with, for once, a happy ending. The Campus Fix writes the embattled anthropology prof has negotiated a decent settlement of her dilemma.

Weiss, who had been effectively canceled by her department for ardently supporting the studying of Native American remains, will retire at the end of the 2023-24 school year with full retirement benefits and emeritus status as part of the agreement.

The anthropologist has accepted a position as an inaugural faculty fellow with the nonpartisan Heterodox Academy’s new Center for Academic Pluralism, which seeks to produce scholarship that supports intellectual and viewpoint diversity unencumbered by political correctness on campus.

Weiss is also poised to become a board member with the National Association of Scholars, which supports intellectual diversity and academic freedom.

Of her soon-to-be former employer, Weiss has written this ‘epitaph.’

In the mission, vision, and values statements, social-justice terms such as “equity,” “belonging,” “diversity,” and “inclusion” appear multiple times. Nowhere do we find the words “freedom,” “truth,” “skills,” or “knowledge.” This is the future SJSU is building.

When I’m being charitable, I view what she documents as the desperate efforts of administrators to keep the campus operating in a state with rapidly declining numbers of that subset of young people who have historically found benefit in a college education. However I rarely feel charitable toward college administrators, it's a role I endured for two years before happily resuming my professorial career.

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

The State of the Race

I've lost track of the number of indictments Donald Trump is facing. He may beat some of them, it is unlikely he will beat them all.

It is relatively clear Joe Biden should face something like the same number of indictments for all the times he took bribes to lobby for foreign interests. And at least once he bragged about it on TV. The only way he gets tried is if Republicans win the next election both in Congress and the White House. 

Nevertheless, the probability is high these two fine gentlemen will be our presidential choices roughly 15 months from now. A charismatic roué vs. a geriatric hack, both of them amoral fabulists. Somehow our political system has painted itself into this corner and can't get out.

Those of us who follow politics could bore you to death with the why and the how, but that's TMI. This should not happen. Our country deserves better. What's more, there is relatively wide agreement this is true. It's possibly a majority view.

The Georgia Indictments

Most are saying the Georgia indictments of Trump and Company are serious stuff. For all I know they may be correct. 

On the other hand, Power Line's John Hinderaker, a lifelong attorney, has read the indictments and concludes they don't amount to much. Here's a key point:

The indictment alleges a vast conspiracy, supported by 161 “overt acts,” that ultimately comprises Count I, a violation of Georgia’s RICO statute. The problem is that, with two exceptions, the “overt acts” are all legal. You can’t aggregate a series of legal acts and make them a crime by calling them a conspiracy.

Taking legal steps to try to overturn the apparent result of an election is not illegal. That is what Al Gore did. It is what Stacey Abrams did. It is how Al Franken got into the Senate. In Trump’s case, his legal arguments were uniformly weak. But it is not a crime to make a bad legal argument. If it were, the U.S. would be suffering from a shortage of lawyers.

I'm no lawyer, Hinderaker is, and he is at least neutral with respect to Trump - not a hater. With that caveat, if you'd like a "where's the beef?" analysis of the Georgia charges, here is one.

Thinking About Pakistan

For an update on the current state of decline in Pakistan, check out this article reflecting current political trends in that nation. Hat tip to RealClearWorld for the link.

Of most nations one could usefully say this or that nation has an army. Of Pakistan it is both more useful and more accurate to observe an army has a country called "Pakistan." This article will do nothing to disabuse you of that gloomy view.

Armies, of course, seldom do a good job of running countries. They aren't set up to reach consensus policy decisions, or guide economies. Their idea of justice is often draconian when it isn't corrupt, and may well be both.

Thinking About Ukraine

The Jamestown Foundation’s Eurasian Daily Monitor looks at the sequelae of Russia’s invasion of Georgia 15 years ago. It suggests we apply to the current war in Ukraine lessons learned from how the hurried “settlement” in Georgia has turned out

Yes, the fighting stopped, but now what remains of Georgia is acting largely as a Russian client state and making nice with China. I’d guess Putin would settle for a Ukraine that acted like Georgia now acts. Particularly if he gets to keep the Donbas and Crimea.

We are left to draw our own conclusions. Is that how we’d prefer Ukraine - one of Europe’s largest nations - to act going forward? Likely it is not. Damn certain it isn't what the people of Ukraine prefer.

Unlike the Georgians, the Ukrainians want to fight for their nationhood. As long as they do, I believe they’re worth supporting. 

Tying the Russian army down fighting Ukraine's relatively large population keeps it from invading other, smaller nations that were also formerly Russian colonies, thinly disguised as parts of the USSR. You know Putin would if he could, the term "realpolitik" seems to fit him. Hat tip to RealClearWorld for the link.

Who Blocks School Choice?

At USA Today a Democrat operative makes a good argument for school choice, shows it is popular with parents, shows the public schools aren’t doing well for kids, the whole deal. And whoever wrote his title teed up the underlying question.

Voters demand school choice for their kids. So why aren't Democrats embracing it?

The answer to that question is as clearly visible as the nose on his face, yet the column’s author doesn’t dare mention it. So I will. 

Democrats don’t “embrace” school choice because teachers unions rabidly oppose it. Teachers unions are some of the biggest contributors to Democrats’ campaign funds and a major source of campaign volunteers. 

Charter and private school teachers are much harder to organize than public school teachers.  Forced to choose between what’s best for kids vs. what’s best for teachers, the teachers unions always choose teachers, at the expense of kids. 

The Teamsters Union has some responsibility for the recent failure of the Yellow freight firm. The National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers are factors in the manifest failure of many public schools, and the primary reason Democrats don’t support school choice. Choice would give parents alternatives and force public schools to improve.

Sunday, August 13, 2023

A GOP Macher in Ukraine

Politico has a very interesting story about an Oklahoma Republican doing relief work in Ukraine. Steven Moore spent years working in Washington DC for Congressmen, now he rounds up supplies for military volunteers and hospitals in Ukraine, using his back-home connections with the GOP. It is a good read.

Unlike the MAGA Tuckerites, Moore believes the Ukrainians holding out against the Russians are the good guys, fighting on their own soil against straight-on aggression. I remain convinced what we’ve done to help them is very much in the spirit of our help to what would become the Taliban when they were the mujaheddin fighting the Soviets (see the film Charlie Wilson’s War).

Fun Old Headlines

Power Line’s Steven Hayward found a source on Twitter for old headlines complaining about extreme heat. He has posted facsimiles of a bunch of them, many come from the 1920s and 30s, some from the late 1800s. 

They’re fun to look at, I encourage you to see for yourself. The point they make is a simple one. Serious heat waves are nothing new, and neither is complaining about them.

Human memories tend to focus on the recent past. We keep thinking what we’re experiencing is something entirely new, when mostly it is nothing of the sort.

Chicken Little is still wrong; the point his story makes is still valid. The Gods of the Copybook Headings remain unchallenged.

Saturday, August 12, 2023

A Blast from My Past

Instapundit links to this article about sad, bad doings at my alma mater. It is entitled,

Re-education at San José State

Several decades ago I earned a bachelors and masters there, before doing my Ph.D. out of state. SJSU is one of the oldest campuses in the system I taught in. I never returned to teach at San Jose, but taught briefly at three other campuses and for 30 years at a fourth, from which I retired.

Honestly I am not surprised at the goings-on Elizabeth Weiss chronicles at SJSU. Ron DeSantis calls Florida "the place 'woke' goes to die." I am comfortable calling California in general and its higher education in particular "the place 'woke' goes to fly its freak flag."

Happily all of that is very much in my retirement rear view mirror, almost ancient history now.

To Defend Taiwan?

Daniel Davis writes a lot about military matters, much of it appearing at a site labeled 19FortyFive. Today he considers whether the U.S. should go to Taiwan's defense if the Chinese attempts to invade the island. The short answer in his view is "no" and his reasons aren't trivial.

Occupying Taiwan doesn't give China massive military advantages for as Davis writes, it is only 100 miles off the Chinese mainland. Since we don't have major bases there, we don't lose similar advantages if occupation should occur. If China makes an all-out effort to invade, we and the Taiwanese probably can't stop them.

Taiwan makes something like 60% of the world's semiconductor chips. Losing access to that production could seriously impact world economics. Giving the chip plants to China to control as it sees fit would be orders of magnitude worse. 

Before the Chinese do invade Taiwan, I believe there should be preplanned precision U.S. missile strikes on the Taiwan semiconductor and chip plants set up and ready to go. Destroying that capability is better than handing it to our enemies. We should also be developing our own capabilities in chip production, and recent legislation is supposedly moving us in that direction.

Saturday Snark

Images courtesy of Power Line's The Week in Pictures
and its Comments section.

Friday, August 11, 2023

Friday Snark

A low altitude problem.

Images courtesy of Politico's Nation's Cartoonists 
on the Week in Politics.