Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Friedman’s Latest on Gaza

The New York Times’ Tom Friedman has probably spent more time thinking about, traveling in, and talking with the leaders of the Middle East, and Israel in particular than any other journalist. As a consequence of which he thinks about it in a more fine-grained detail than most. 

His columns on the region are those of a mensch. His work on other topics rates a “meh.” Friedman has a good one today on Israel/Gaza that you can access for free*. He argues there are three “wars” going on there simultaneously, and makes some good points.

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*How for free? At a website called “DYNUZ” from Armenia that publishes NYT and other stuff out from behind paywalls. I suppose it is a “pirate” site but darned handy for those of us who choose to make no money from our sites and can’t write off Times online subscriptions as business expenses. 

Armenia inhabits the shadowy world between Russia and the west. In Internet terms DYNUZ could be based anywhere the long arm of lawsuits can’t practically reach.

Making a List ….

Lucianne.com links indirectly to a Vice post of a list of “100 Ways White People Can Make Life Less Frustrating For People of Color.” Matt Vespa at Townhall claims it has been around for a few years. He wasn’t clear whether or not it was satirical. 

I read a fair few of the 100 and am pretty certain it was not satirical in origin. It seems to be a collection of hostile POC reactions to whites’ very clumsy efforts to relate, to be friendly and inclusive, efforts which have had the opposite effect and were perceived as belittling and “othering.” Or to whites being themselves unselfconsciously.

Taken seriously, it makes interracial relations feel a bit like juggling vials of nitroglycerin, if you drop one you’ll blow your foot off. In day to day life, who - POC or white - needs that kind of tension added to the stresses of ordinary life? 

The original list could as easily, and more accurately, been titled, “100 Reasons People of All Races Tend to Self-Segregate,” which of course they do. Note recent demands for POC-only “safe space” dorms at universities. Note also urban residential ethnic clustering patterns: Chinatowns, Armenian and Greek neighborhoods, barios, black neighborhoods.

Birds of a feather do, in fact, flock together. Left to their own devices, so do people.

A Quick Answer

Fox News headline, hat tip to Lucianne.com for the link.

United Nations set to call on Americans to reduce meat consumption

My response is to call on the UN to increase meat consumption: 

Bite Me

Tuesday Snark

Image courtesy of Lucianne.com, 11-29-2023.

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

It's the Fans, Stupid

Yesterday I wrote Trump seemed "more the show biz impresario than the CEO which he also is." Writing at Slate, Ben Jacobs observes that Trump rallies aren't even much about politics, they more closely resemble concert gigs. 

Jacobs interviews several attendees at a rally in Fort Dodge, Iowa. Most have attended several of his rallies, bought merchandise, waited in long lines to get in, the whole "fan" shtick.

He’s turned his campaign events into something that has more in common with a Bruce Springsteen concert than a Harry Truman whistle-stop tour.

Even when Trump’s political fortunes were at their lowest ebb after he left office, he still had a base devoted to him, not so much for his politics but for his personality and what that personality represents.

For all the efforts of his rivals to displace him from the lead, all the television ads devoted to touting their virtues, and the constant stream of court cases and legal documents outlining Trump’s failings, he has one advantage they just can’t touch.

Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley have partisans. Donald Trump has fans.

Less enamored members of the press who've attended several agree he mostly does a medley of his "greatest hits," with some local color added. Fans who've attended several Trump rallies accept these just as Rolling Stones fans accept one more rendition of "Satisfaction." Hat tip to "Ragin' Cajun" James Carville for the title.

CA vs. FL Gas Prices

Time for another episode in the continuing saga comparing CA and FL policies. AAA chart courtesy of Power Line. As usual, the comparison comes out "advantage Florida" with an almost $2 difference.

This one honors Thursday night's debate between governors Newsom and DeSantis, on Fox News at 9 pm Eastern and 6 pm Pacific times, moderated by Sean Hannity. Set your video recorder and watch at leisure, sans commercials.

Econ 101

President Biden keeps talking about how "inflation is down" as though that should make you feel really good about the economy, but it doesn't work. Economics is boring - bear with me while I make clear what he is saying, how it is a little bit true but misleading.

The "inflation" he's talking about is the rate (speed) at which prices are rising. When he says inflation is down, he means prices aren't rising as fast as they were, which is likely true. 

Prices were rising damn fast, now they are rising more slowly. But they aren't dropping to pre-inflation levels. Prices are too high and still rising, albeit more slowly. 

The pain you feel at the pump and at the grocery checkout line from high prices is still bad and still getting worse, somewhat more slowly than before. Housing (rent and home prices) is up a lot too.

Is what Biden claims is happening good? Certainly, but it isn't going to fix what's bothering you - high prices. Those high prices you hate ... you are probably stuck with. 

The exception is gasoline which as a commodity, can experience price declines in times when supply exceeds demand. When was the last time groceries or rent got cheaper? You know they didn't, ever.

Biden is stuck with "a pig of an economy" and he's busily putting lipstick on it. Odd how nobody wants to kiss its ugly snout.

Carrot Ineffective, Stick Too Risky

We’ve written about falling birth rates throughout the developed world, rates are below replacement (2.1 per woman) in places as widely scattered as South Korea, China, Russia, all of Europe, most of North America, much of South America, etc. This article at Vox looks at various efforts governments have taken to encourage their people to have more children, including subsidies of various sorts, none of which have worked.

Obvious things governments could do would be to ban import, production, distribution and sale of birth control drugs and products. Banning Internet pornography would help too. There is evidence that the Dobbs decision overturning Roe v Wade has resulted in an additional 32,000 births (i.e., 32,000 fewer abortions).

Why haven’t governments done much to ban alternatives to sexual activity, or to preventing conception? Probably because they see how much hostile political activism Dobbs has aroused from otherwise apathetic voters. 

Banning birth control products would be politically risky, at least in nations with elected governments. Even nations like China or Russia with non-elected governments know they need the continuing-if-sometimes-grudging consent of the governed.

—————

I wonder if we’ve never met a star-faring race of aliens because intelligent species develop technology to control reproduction which becomes widespread before they develop immortality or a star drive? Hence they go extinct? 

If this hypothesis turns out to be correct, call it a corollary of Cotton’s Law, briefly stated as "Paradoxically, species intelligence eventually brings about species extinction."

Trump Current Favorite

The felicitously named Sean Trende does political trend analysis for RealClearPoliitics. Today he declares that, as it stands now, Trump must be declared the clear favorite to beat Biden. Really … no kidding.

Having declared it, Trende sets out to prove it to skeptics and does a darned good job. Good, that is, unless you hold the view all opinion polling is pseudo-science, the equivalent of reading tea leaves. In most polls Trump is farther ahead of his opponent than he has ever been in any race.

It isn’t as if one of these gentlemen is an unknown, untried commodity, we’ve experienced both as president. Our country had a better time with Trump in the White House, than we’ve had with Biden on the beach in Delaware. Which means the polling should come out exactly as it has done, with most voting their perceived self-interest.

Obviously this far from Election Day much can change in the interim.

History Rhyming

Power Line's Steve Hayward reacts to the unrest in the NYC schools where students persecuted a Jewish teacher. He invokes both scholarly and historical perspective, and concludes by sharing insights from Allan Bloom's 1987 book The Closing of the American Mind

Bloom claimed "Contemporary America was "a Disneyland version of the Weimar Republic." Hayward updates Bloom 36 years later, by adding.

The irony here is that it is hard to say whether his invocation of Disney should be taken lightheartedly as Bloom meant it then, or deadly seriously, given the significance of Disney’s wokery as a sign of our republic’s perilous condition. It’s later than you think.

The least ambiguous invocation of the Weimar zeitgeist to which most living Americans have been exposed is the 1972 Liza Minnelli film Cabaret. The male lead played by Michael York cops to being bisexual and Joel Grey's nightclub emcee is somewhere in the rarified reaches of LGBTQxyz. Plus anti-semitism is a definite theme. 

The other DrC remarked last week how much the current era remind her of that film. I could only agree. Maybe those who see Nazi-like extremists behind every rock are seeing clearly. As Mark Twain quipped, "History doesn't repeat, but it often rhymes."

Monday, November 27, 2023

A Conversation

The Wall Street Journal's Gerard Baker imagines a serious conversation between a MAGA hat Trump supporter and a fleece vest never-Trump conservative. He lets each one have their say uninterrupted, which wouldn't happen in real life. It's a good read, and best of all, not behind the paywall.

Darned if they don't each make many good points, there wasn't much either said I disagreed with. I suppose I end up where I began. As a Republican first and foremost; one who prefers Ron DeSantis in the primary but will almost certainly vote for Trump if nominated by the Party.

If as expected the race ends up being Biden vs. Trump - two known quantities - it should be no contest. In spite of Covid, which wasn't either's fault, the years under Trump were better years than those under Biden, for 70-80% of us anyway. So I'll choose the better option and hope for not too much craziness from the egomaniac-in-chief.

A Remnant Speaks

Wyoming's Governor Mark Gordon is reported to have advocated carbon capture as a way for WY to go "carbon neutral." He didn't do it at home in WY, but in a meeting at (snerk) Harvard .

Mainstream Wyoming Republicans aren't believers in faddish climate anxiety. Gordon is term limited out of office in 2026, which perhaps explains his candid pandering to eastern progressives.

Gordon has always been something of a RHINO. He comes from eastern old money, gone west to buy a hobby ranch. 

It's likely he is a remnant of the Cheney-Simpson clique that once dominated the state GOP.

Friday Snark, 3 Days Late

I had to do a web search to find Friday's Politico collection of political cartoons. For reasons unknown, the link didn't appear on their homepage.





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

The Prognosticator’s Dilemma

When an attorney is also a retired colonel and writes political commentary while channeling Mark Twain, you’ve got Kurt Schlichter. Kurt doesn’t kill it every time, who does? When he’s on his game he is both funny and on-target, and today he’s very much on his game.

First his key point and the challenge he faces.

Trump can’t possibly win, and Biden is certain to lose. But someone has to win, and it will not be that RFK weirdo.

How do you handicap a race where both candidates have insurmountable handicaps?

Why Trump can’t win.

Here’s the big reason: About 53% of American voters hate him. They shouldn’t.

Trump offends them to the core of their being. Being aesthetically offended by a politician is as silly as being devoted to one – your relationship with a politician should be entirely transactional – but it is also a fact that some people are.

Kurt’s “big reason” is truly about social class. Though wealthy, Trump openly indulges blue collar tastes (wrestling, beauty pageants, trophy wives and hookers). He generally “lives large,” more the show biz impresario than the CEO which he also is. For many his image makes him ineligible as a role model - which some expect our presidents to be.

 Why Biden can’t win.

First, he’s a terrible president. The economy sucks. The border sucks. We’re on the verge of new wars Trump would never have let happen. People are sick of him. 

Next year is not going to get better for Biden. The economy will get worse. The border will get worse. Some Third World potentates will doubtlessly pull some shenanigans.

Plus he appears to have been the paid agent of one or more foreign governments while in office. Thus the prognosticator’s dilemma. 

The voters’ impressions of Trump and Biden are seared into their consciousness. Those are not going to change. They are fixed, and for the majority, they are distinctly negative. That’s the problem. Neither candidate can win, and both are inevitably going to lose.

Except, of course, one of them will win anyway. And half of us will view whoever wins as an illegitimate disaster.

Sunday, November 26, 2023

Age-Restricted Communities

Instapundit links to a New York Times article available outside the NYT paywall, on the subject of whether age-restricted communities are a better choice for seniors. If you've been thinking about the option, it isn't a bad read. 

Apparently there's been little research on the subject. Let me share our experience.

The other DrC and I started living in a Nevada 55+ community during the cold half of the year, beginning a couple of years ago. We continue to consider Wyoming home and spend the warm half of the year there.

We have lived in apartments, and houses in small town suburban neighborhoods, rural acreage, and resort-oriented communities. Our new winter place is in one of the latter, it has its own golf course with clubhouse, recreation center, pool, tennis courts, etc. 

Our neighborhood is new, but the development has existed for roughly 16 years, and new neighborhoods are still being built. Our neighbors all moved in within the last 3 years and are from CA, IA, CO, NV, etc. 

Most are completely retired, a few still work from home, and a couple have found gigs locally just to keep busy. Essentially all are comfortable financially, but I believe none are seriously wealthy. 

As "snowbirds" who live here only half year, the DrsC are the exception in our immediate neighborhood of perhaps 12-15 houses. For most this is their new year-round home.

Do we like it? In a word, "Yes." The is the most neighborly place we've lived in 52 years. Most recently, there was a big gathering for Thanksgiving dinner, and birthday parties tend to metastasize into neighborhood gatherings. The other DrC has a new bestie (besides me) and I like her husband. People pop into each other's homes, go out for meals, etc.

We are all successful people, most long married, with similar values, even if not all are Republicans. The outliers are a gay couple, an interracial couple, and a widower, but all get along with no tension of which I'm aware. Some golf, many walk dogs, at this age everybody has medical issues, grandkids are discussed. We have a lot in common. 

Grounds for Hope

Last Wednesday I wrote that maybe there is hope we've turned a political corner. Today Roger Kimball writes in American Greatness that he is seeing some of the same signs, and adds more recent ones.

Kimball cites the election of Milei in Argentina, Wilders in the Netherlands, and William Cogswell, elected Republican mayor of Charleston, the first since 1877, meaning since Reconstruction ended. The meaning he draws?

The Zeitgeist would seem to be awake and on the move. What is it waking from? I agree with those who say it is waking from wokeness.

To "wokeness" Kimball adds immigration and cultural issues upstream therefrom. And he concludes as follows:

F[gures like Milei, Wilders, and William Cogswell, the new Republican mayor of Charleston, show that a counter-narrative is brewing. Will it prevail over the dominant “progressive” dispensation? No one knows for sure. I take the panic sweeping like a tsunami through the fetid corridors of the Left as a good sign. They are worried, which means that the rest of us have grounds for hope.

Meaning it's time to put our collective shoulder to the wheel, and give a mighty shove. 

NYPD in Decline

Much is being made of a New York Post story about NYPD cops retiring or leaving the force. They write:

A total of 2,516 NYPD cops have left so far this year, the fourth highest number in the past decade and 43% more than the 1,750 who hightailed it in 2018, before the pandemic and crime spikes hit the city, NYPD pension data show.

This isn’t the scary statistic. In a force of roughly 30,000 you’d expect 1500 to retire each year because they have their 20 years in. 

Like the military, policing is a physically demanding job for which most seniors are ill suited. Being able to physically restrain violent young perps is a key part of the job description, if not an everyday activity for every officer.  The scary statistic is this: 

The number of cops quitting before they reach the 20 years required to receive their full pensions also skyrocketed from 509 in 2020 to 1,040 so far this year — an alarming 104% increase, the data show.

One supposes many of those will continue in the occupation in another jurisdiction. One which actually supports its LEOs and imprisons those they arrest, likely smaller and more conservative towns.

Another issue of concern is because of the expense associated with too many illegal immigrants and NYCs “sanctuary” self-designation, Mayor Adams has had to cancel the next five police academy classes. The result, few or no replacements in the academy “pipeline” for the next 2.5 years.

There are sovereign countries with militaries smaller, less well armed, and less essential, than NYPD. Presumably they face fewer challenges.

Saturday, November 25, 2023

Better for America?

From The Wall Street Journal, a Holman Jenkins, Jr. column thinking broadly about the presidential election happening a year from now. See his conclusion:

On Nov. 30, when California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom debates Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis on Fox, voters will get a taste of the election that tens of millions of them, uninfluenced by the unpragmatic vaporings of pundits desperate to fill space, know in their hearts would be better for America.

Were it not for the Byzantine workings of our political party system, a DeSantis vs. Newsom election would be a wonderful test of how Americans would prefer to have our government act. It would compare side-by-side the quite different Florida and California models.

Having "voted with my feet" against CA, my preference is clear.

Saturday Snark








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

Friday, November 24, 2023

Today's Rebels

For The Spectator, novelist Lionel Shriver compares today's young rebels who celebrate Hamas to his earlier generation of rebels in their bell-bottoms and beads. His bottom line: we were about love, they are about hate. See his conclusion:

Note not merely what activists assert, but which emotions infuse the message. This latest iteration of Elvis Costello’s “peace, love and understanding” is bleak. It’s a hostile, vicious, dismal and destructive gestalt with no vision of some resplendent new world that will rise from the ashes. Relishing the beheading of babies fits right in.

Brrr. That's cold enough to be accurate. Full disclosure: I didn't much like his flower children either, but while stoned silly they were smiling at least some of the time, and aspired to utopia. The current crop have more of a Hitler Youth vibe. Hat tip to RealClearPolitics for the link.

Editorial Note

My usual source for Friday Snark, Politico, has dropped the ball. Their every Friday feature, “The Nation’s Cartoonists on the Week in Politics” has made no appearance. Perhaps the minion who winnows the submissions has suffered a mishap? Perhaps overeaten at yesterday’s banquet?

Perhaps there will be a belated appearance tomorrow. Or maybe next week ….

Whence Victim Status

Gerard Laval is a Washington attorney and author. Writing for Washington Times, he asks: “Why Do Progressives Never Consider Jews Victims?” And he explains.

Jews are the only group in Western societies who, in spite of recurrent oppression and discrimination, are seemingly deprived of the right to be viewed as victims, even when they very clearly have incurred all of the indignities and suffering that should be more than adequate for being bestowed that status.

Yeah, no. How about Asians? They don’t get victim status either. What do the two groups have in common? Relative success in first world societies. Ergo, no victim status in progressives’ eyes. 

Is that fair? Not especially, but progressives think so. The progressive mantra: you gotta be perceived a failure to secure victim status; the more ways you are a loser, the more victim cred you gain.

It’s why gays and lesbians don’t have as much victim street cred as they once did. Vice squads don’t bust them anymore, and many who’re very successful people have “come out.” They’ve been “normalized,” perceived as successful.

I predict Hispanics will be the next group to lose victim status. Those here legally are doing very well, muchas gracias. They’re now over a quarter of the enrollment at the state university from which the DrsC retired.

In a very real sense the way progressives dole out victim status is redistributionism ad absurdum. Hat tip to RealClearPolitics for the link. [The colloquialism “yeah, no” used above is an abbreviation for, “I see what you’re saying but I disagree.”]

Reality Bites

There is some good news from a source which, for obvious reasons, doesn’t often dwell on good news. Breitbart reports that NBC’s business news cable channel CNBC will no longer have staff dedicated to reporting climate news. The story is attributed to a laid-off former climate desk staff member.

There are still “Chicken Littles” and Thundering Greta out there crying “the sky is falling, the planet faces heat death.” A lot fewer are listening as the years pass and the predicted immanent catastrophes fail to materialize, one after another.

—————

We’ll state COTTonLINE’s position one more time, for those who’ve joined us recently. Climates do change, have clearly done so forever without human intervention, and will do so in the future. We humans are just along for the ride.

Believing that puny human interventions of the sort we are capable of can move the climate in any direction is pure hubris. The forces we can bring to bear, when compared to the vast daily solar input, are minuscule, in fact insignificant. Tiny variations in solar output are overwhelmingly more determinative with respect to climate.

Consider that 70+ percent of the earth’s surface is covered by water, where we have almost no lasting impact. Substantial parts of the balance are polar or deserts where few humans dwell. Our impact on this planet is minor and localized.

I visualize humanity as colonies of fleas scattered across the tough hide of an elephant named Gaia. We imagine incorrectly that our doings much influence her behavior or direct her progress. Occasionally Gaia sits down or sneezes and a colony - think Pompeii or Lahaina - is destroyed.

At most, like nomadic peoples, we befoul an area until it becomes unpleasant. Then we move elsewhere. Over a few centuries, Gaia reclaims the place we left behind. 

Once stood fabled pharaonic Egypt, Babylon, Troy or Carthage, each became a tel, a mound of dirt. It was ever thus, the dogs bark but the caravan moves on.

Thursday, November 23, 2023

"Turks distrust and dislike" the US

Here's an interesting quote buried in a Politico article about suspected Turkish efforts to purchase influence with New York City mayor Eric Adams. The author is Steven A. Cook, a foreign affairs scholar particularly interested in the nation of Turkey.

The United States, which despite being a NATO ally and committed to Turkey’s defense, political elites in Ankara and an overwhelming number of Turks distrust and dislike.

Something to keep in mind when planning your next overseas vacation or cruise. Turkey's political elites and "an overwhelming number of Turks distrust and dislike" our country. Plus they bribe our pols.

There are many interesting and beautiful places on this globe to visit. Why spend your money and place yourself at potential risk in Turkey? 

I've been to Turkey 2-3 times about which I'm not sorry, but I won't go again. Ephesus is very biblical, recall Paul the Apostle's letter to the Ephesians. 

On the other hand, Istanbul is an old, dense, historical city in a world of old, dense historical cities. I wouldn't put it in my top 5.

Speaking of Eric Adams, why would a woman wait 30 years to accuse a man of sexual assault? I'm no fan of Adams but this seems hinkey. 

Turkey Day Snark

Power Line's Steve Hayward has posted a special Thanksgiving Day in Pictures, and here are my gleanings from it and the Comments section.

Jill has an admirer.





For the Star Wars fans.

Arkancide?


Thanksgiving Day

Agriculture is somewhat a hit-or-miss affair, celebrating when the cycle is over for the year makes sense. Thus, for a nation to have a harvest festival is not especially unique or memorable. 

In the US we call our festival Thanksgiving Day and celebrate it on the fourth Thursday in November. If you are in the US sitting comfortably, digesting a feast that was redolent of the autumn harvest, are in reasonable health, and your location is neither hospital nor prison, you have much for which to be thankful.

Thankfulness is appropriate whether you thank a God to whom you owe gratitude, thank Fortune and Good Luck, or thank yourself for earning a comfortable place in the contemporary scheme of things.

----------

You may be simultaneously aware that you had more for which to be thankful four years ago. Know that a year from now our collective situation is likely to be less good than it is today.

Try to capture the resentment you feel about the shortfall. File that resentment away to use in 11 months when you vote. I know I shall. 

Is Islam Violent?

David P. Goldman, who writes as “Spengler” for Asia Times, has wide interests including demographics, economics and comparative religion. Here for Law & Liberty he considers the question “Is Islam a Violent Religion?” He poses the question thusly.

Most practice of Islam is emphatically not violent, but most religious violence is perpetrated by Muslims in the name of religion. Violence is not a necessary characteristic of Islam as a religion, but it is evidently a susceptibility. Is there something about Islam as a religion that predisposes its believers toward terrorism?

A preeminent Catholic scholar of Islam and former advisor to Benedict XVI, Fr. Samir Khalid Samir, S.J., observe: "Many Westerners fear Islam as a “religion of violence.” Muslims often call simultaneously for tolerance and understanding as well as for violence and aggression. In fact, both options are present in the Qur’an and the Sunna. These are two legitimate manners—two distinct ways to interpret, to understand, and to live Islam. It is up to the individual Muslim to decide what he wants Islam to be."

Goldman concludes with this somber summary. 

Large parts of the Muslim world feel that modernity has passed them by, or even worse, that integration into modern life would destroy Muslim identity. The deadly combination of the sacral—the sacrifice of the individual in service of Allah—and the existential will continue to nourish the likes of ISIS, Hamas, and other monsters of the ancient world that intrude into modern life.
Evidence suggests Goldman may have framed the issue correctly. Hat tip to RealClearPolicy for the link.

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Good News on the Wind

The AP is reporting notorious right-winger Geert Wilders may be the next prime minister of the Netherlands. This according to exit polling.

His win is unexpected and reflects public dissatisfaction with the government's mismanagement of immigration, especially that of Islamics. His party doubled their seats in the 150 member parliament.

Wilders' values probably are similar to those of new conservative Italian premier Giorgia Meloni. He has been congratulated by Viktor Urban of Hungary, perhaps Europe's most successful leader on the right.

I wonder to what extent the warfare in Ukraine and Gaza influences these elections in nearby countries. Change is on the wind in the EU, as in Argentina. 

The Milei Milieu, etc.

Power Line's Steve Hayward found some visuals and quotes about the new president of Argentina - Javier Milei - to share.







Unrelated to President-elect Milei, a sign of apology by the American Academy of Religion for holding their meeting in Texas.


Maybe a reason many Americans are moving to Texas?

Maybe There Is Hope?

 I know, I know, don't count unhatched chickens, one robin doesn't foretell spring, et dang cetera. Nevertheless I keep getting hints we may have started turning a corner on the CRT and woke nonsense.

There is the sense the universities realized they'd jumped the shark supporting Hamas and have begun to be less out there with their progressiveness. Having billionaire donors threaten to withhold endowments helped too.

Some mainstream/legacy media news outlets have noticed the president's age-related infirmities and actually mentioned them on-air or in print.

I keep wondering when the teachers' unions will figure out they've overdone selfishness at the expense of our children and lower standards at the expense of our nation, and moderate their craziness. 

I'd like to think tomorrow we can at least be thankful for a scintilla of hope for the future of this great, but grievously hobbled land. Have a peaceful and caloric Thanksgiving Day.

The Death of a Fad

Well … that didn’t take long to peak and die. 

In the early summer I wrote a brief spate of posts (here, here, and here) about environmental, social, and governance or ESG scores. I focused on the pernicious effect the “conscientious capitalism” movement was having on firms like Budweiser, Target and Disney.

Today Power Line quotes the Wall Street Journal’s epitaph for this unfortunate “virtue signaling luxury fad,” original behind WSJ paywall.
Wall Street rushed to embrace sustainable investing just a few years ago. Now it is quietly closing funds or scrubbing their names after disappointing returns that have investors cashing out billions.

The about-face comes after tightened regulatory oversight, higher interest rates that have slammed clean-energy stocks and a backlash that has made environmental, social and corporate-governance investing a political target.

The third quarter was the first time more sustainable funds liquidated or removed ESG criteria from their investment practices than were added, according to Morningstar. That is a reversal from not that long ago, when companies were rebranding faltering funds to cash in on the billions of dollars flowing into sustainable investment products.

Note classical allusion in my title above. 

EVs Are a Niche Product

Gasoline powered golf carts exist, but electric carts dominate the market. Why? Because electrics have proven more practical on golf courses and in adjacent residential developments like, for example, the various Sun City enclaves where many homes include a golf cart garage. Bottom line, they have found a niche and consequently prospered.

The problem with electric automobiles is that they are trying but failing to be practical non-niche products - general purpose automobiles. In this role they are not practical, consequently not prospering, and likely never will.

As we have argued, they are properly thought of as elaborate, even luxury golf carts masquerading as automobiles. EVs are practical almost exclusively for individuals who (a) own a garage in which a charger can be installed, (b) only use this particular vehicle locally (within 50 miles), in most cases (c) also own a hydrocarbon fueled vehicle, and (d) wish to spend significant resources to virtue signal. 

A market can theoretically exist for a modest number of TVs produced by one or two manufacturers. Trying to make the entire market for cars an EV market will be like trying to teach a pig to sing: unsuccessful and frustrating for both teacher and pig. 

Markets like CA which wish to put a legislative ‘thumb’ on the EV side of the scales could legislate lower EV registration fees, close-in parking spaces reserved for EVs and permit EVs in HOV lanes to create additional incentives for EV ownership. But they’d better get busy building nuclear power generation plants in order to not overload the electric grid.

When Green Turns Brown

Instapundit links to a Fox News story on the troubles besetting “green energy.” Both wind energy and electric vehicles are hurting.

Offshore wind projects are struggling to secure financing and stay on track. The biggest blow came last month, when the world’s largest offshore wind developer Ørsted canceled two major projects off the New Jersey coastline, taking the wind right out of Gov. Phil Murphy’s green energy sails. Ørsted is also suspending work on offshore projects in Maryland and Delaware.

According to BloombergNEF, at least half of U.S. wind contracts have or are at risk of being terminated. The causes are typically due to skyrocketing inflation, high interest rates, choked supply chains and financial troubles.

The EV market is also losing steam. Sales are slumping and manufacturers are scaling back on production. Ford Motor Company stands to lose $4.5 billion on its EV business for 2023 and will be delaying many of their EV investments.

General Motors said it was restructuring EV goals, Honda shelved plans to develop affordable EVs with GM, and Hertz said it will slow their rate of purchasing them due to high repair costs. Elon Musk is even considering putting off plans for a $1 billion plant in Mexico.

Most, if not all, manufacturers are reporting major losses per EV sold. Ford lost $62,000 per vehicle in the third quarter; one luxury electric vehicle company lost an astounding $430,000. Countless others are losing tens of thousands of dollars per vehicle, quarter after quarter.

No surprises here for regular readers. We’ve been expecting this, haven’t we? 

Making Sense of the GOP Race

Every couple of days I see another article with a title something like this one from CNN.

Haley and DeSantis still can’t solve their Trump problem as time runs short in GOP race.

I see such articles and ask myself if anybody who pays attention really believes those two think they can defeat Trump head-to-head through the primaries? I’m certain neither of them privately entertains such a ridiculous notion. 

The two obviously believe there is a good chance some combination of factors will take Trump out of the race, leaving the party with little choice except to choose one of them. What factors? He is certainly old enough to develop a serious health issue in the next 9 months. Much more likely is a conviction on one or more of the 90+ charges brought against him in jurisdictions where Democrat juries are almost a lock.

As bets go, it is a long shot for Haley and DeSantis, but the prize if you win is a chance to compete against unpopular Slow Joe for the most powerful job in the world. It is a risk eminently worth taking.

Like Reagan you can always try again in four years when neither Biden nor Trump could run for a third term. A Biden vs. Trump contest, if it occurs, will be memorialized as the “Lame Duck Sweepstakes.”

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Reciprocity

Iran is a bad actor, a trouble-maker on the international scene. It keeps wishing the death of the "Great Satan" (that's us) and brags about their efforts to that end. We need to return the favor. If there are anti-government Persians in exile, facilitate their efforts.

Designated offices at our departments of State, Defense, CIA, FBI, etc. should wake up every morning asking themselves if we have done everything short of open warfare to make the leaders of the "theocratic Islamic Republic" and their lackeys look foolish and feel embarrassed, unhappy and miserable.  A degree of childishness in these dirty tricks is probably unavoidable, but don't forgo actual malice and spite.

More on Rogue Waves

Five years ago I wrote about a cruise liner experiencing a "rogue wave" off the coast of Italy. It happened to the Grand Princess early in the morning of November 22, 2008. We boarded the ship later that day, saw the damage caused, and talked to people who were aboard when it struck.

Today comes an article in Phys.org about research that has found what is perhaps an explanation for the occurrence of such waves, which the article claims are not particularly uncommon.

As both paying passenger and as on-board lecturer, I have done many cruises. I have not encountered a tall rogue wave personally, although I came close once as noted above. This suggests the article may exaggerate the frequency of the truly tall waves, those going 20 meters or more. 

Expect Obstruction and/or Violence

Javier Milei has won the Argentine presidency, now he has to try to put into practice the radical changes on which he campaigned, and which not incidentally the country needs. This won’t be easy, it may not be possible.

Standing in Milei‘s way is over 70 years of Peronism, which author Christopher Sabatini calls “clientelism.” His definition is worth reading.

Argentina’s system of clientelism runs deep, and it’s not clear that Milei’s party can forge the necessary alliances to dominate the country’s federal system to pass and implement his radical remake of the country’s economy and politics.

An estimated 89 per cent of Argentines benefit in some way from the state’s generous public fuel and public transport subsidies, and social safety net programmes – not to mention public employment in bloated federal and state governments. Drastic cuts will have dramatic effects on living standards and economic growth in which state spending accounts for 38 per cent of GDP.

The image this evokes for me is to think of the Argentine government as a milk cow with too many attached to her teats and too few feeding her. In short, Argentines want much more government than they are prepared to pay for, a common enough problem. 

For 70+ years their politicians have solved this dilemma by printing pesos. These monetary units correspondingly became less and less valuable as prices rose and rose - classical inflation. Few Argentines have experienced another system.

Argentines are addicted to government subsidies which Milei promises to cut. Addicts are notoriously unwilling to see their supply interrupted. 

Don’t be surprised if the addicted manage to legislatively stymie his program cuts or if violence erupts when the subsidies and handouts end.

Remembering Ukraine

With all that is going on - war in Gaza, meetings with China, a presidential race heating up - we tend to lose sight of the very much continuing war in Ukraine. No so our current favorite foreign affairs writer George Friedman, who notes:

Wars in which all sides have reasonable fears are the most dangerous. No side can quit, and until one side achieves an overwhelming advantage and imposes a new reality, the war must go on even if the losses are difficult to endure. Absent an overwhelming advantage, compromise becomes necessary, but it can be equally hard.

This insight leads him to a prediction of sorts, which I share with you.

Ukraine is in as bad a position as Russia. They are losing options – both in their desired outcomes and in their ability to wage war. And though I don’t have any personal knowledge of the matter, I assume Kyiv will try to negotiate an end to the conflict. I suspect this would not be a problem for many Ukrainians.

The end of the war would have to give Russia some increased buffer zone without bringing it too close to the NATO countries on the border with Ukraine. Ukraine will not win, nor will Russia. Clearly there are talks underway at some level between Russia and the United States.

Whether my solution has merit is dubious. That we are near the end of the war (expressed in months) is not. Perhaps the world’s relative indifference to Ukraine and Russia will send a signal to both.

Within the next year or two, we will learn if Friedman is as prescient as he seems.

Tuesday Snark

Image courtesy of Politico, 11-21-23

Good News

Variety and other sources report Universal Studios has begun preliminary work on another film in the "Bourne" series, four of which starred Matt Damon. So far only the director - Edward Berger - has been named. No cast or writers have been chosen. It could debut in 2025, probably not sooner. 

I hope they don't screw it up by making it woke-as-hell. They've done that with all recent Disney films and many of the recent Marvel comic-based series. Doing so turns off normals.

The other DrC and I are fans of the Bourne series, own the 5 films on DVD, and most years rewatch them on successive nights, normally in midwinter.

Monday, November 20, 2023

“Two State” a Non-Starter

You still hear American politicians talking about brokering a “two state solution” to the conflict in what is variously called Israel and Palestine. President Bill Clinton tried to get Yasser Arafat to agree to a quite generous two state offer made by Israel, and Clinton’s effort failed. Power Line explains why.

Clinton didn’t understand why Arafat couldn’t take this deal—or any deal with Israel—quite aside from pure Jew-hatred: If Arafat had made a deal with Israel, he would have been assassinated, just as Anwar Sadat was killed for making peace with Israel. 

This is why there can never be a two-state solution. The most radical Islamists don’t want it. We ought to take them seriously when they say “From the river to the sea.” There is never going to be a two-state solution, but not because Israel won’t agree to it.

When you know your own people will try to kill you for doing something practical, mostly you look for less risky options or stall if none can be found. To be fair, there are political factions in Israel which oppose the two-state plan almost as strongly.

How Bad is Socialism? This Bad

I've written about Argentina's terrible struggles in the grip of Peronism, which Steve Hayward here defines (accurately) as populist socialism. And he follows that definition with a chart that shows graphically how bad Peronism has been for Argentina.

Which explains why Argentines did not vote to retain the incumbent Peronist political movement. The blue line starts when Juan Peron became Argentina's President.

I believe it fair to compare Argentina's doomed love affair with "populist socialism" to an addiction. The election of Milei may signal they have finally "hit bottom" and be ready to attempt his version of a 12 step program.

Afterthought: You could relabel that chart as the decline of California over roughly the same time period and be darned close. It parallels how I, born in CA and resident there until roughly 2000, have experienced CA's decline. It's felt like what Hemingway had a character say about how he went bankrupt, "gradually and then suddenly."

Indistinguishable

Power Line's Scott Johnson cracks wise about the White House efforts to "camouflage his (Biden's) infirmity."

(It's) like trying to disguise a camel with sunglasses.

Which is to say, both entirely ineffective and vaguely ridiculous. Were Biden not an apparent co-conspirator, their efforts would be indistinguishable from elder abuse. 

Sunday, November 19, 2023

Argentina Votes, Milei Wins

Argentina voted today, a run-off election between libertarian economist Javier Milei and the current Peronist economics minister Sergio Massa, the candidates for the presidency. Milei won with more than 55% of the votes. 

Milei haș promised economic "shock therapy" including making the US dollar the official currency, closing the central bank, and cutting government spending a lot, including curbing welfare programs. 

Argentines were mad at the incumbent for further screwing up the economy, spending money they didn't have, and doing nothing about really serious inflation. And they were afraid of the radical reforms Milei promised. Some compared Milei to Trump, who he admires.

Enough were fed up with the dismal status quo that they took a chance on the reformer, who is no Peronist. I wish him well, he'll need both luck and skill to force Argentina onto a new market-driven path.

Argentina is a country blessed with very many assets in terms of natural resources, decent climate, and a population most of whom are the descendants of European immigrants. It should be a winner but has been a loser for decades thanks to the mismanagement of Juan and Evita Peron and their acolytes. 

Bad politics can ruin a natural Eden, as we see currently in California.

THE Question

Running against President Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan famously asked voters if they were better off than four years ago. Their answer was "No" and Reagan beat Carter.

The Hill's Douglas McKinnon asked "two senior Democratic operatives" if a version of that question would work today against President Biden. Or if other factors were at play.
“I don’t care about any of those things,” one of them said. “They honestly don’t matter in relation to the question. And Biden is going to flunk that question and lose.” 

The question these Democratic operatives feared being: “Were you better off four years ago than you are now?”

To add insult to injury for President Biden, while confirming the worry of the Democratic operatives, the Financial Times just ran an article headlined “Only 14% of US voters say Joe Biden has made them better off.” 

No wonder Biden keeps trying to convince voters "Bidenomics" is working. No wonder few buy what he is selling.

Saturday, November 18, 2023

It Should Be Done ... Regularly

CA Gov. Gavin Newsom hosted the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in San Francisco and to present a better image to his guests, had the city cleaned up, its homeless temporarily relocated elsewhere and the city cleaned. The feces, tents, debris and hypo needles littering the sidewalks and streets disposed of. 

Newsom admitted on TV he did it because “fancy politicians” were coming. His seeming attitude: "Who hasn’t done some tidying when company is expected?"

However, now Californians have a right to demand he keep the newly cleaned streets cleared of campers and vagrants. Earlier protestations that various laws prevented him cleaning up the prior disorder have obviously been shown to be (a) bald-faced lies or at least (b) rules he can break with impunity. 

What is very clear is that CA has the now-demonstrated ability to properly manage city sanitation and public order. It has long chosen not to do so, and lied about it to blame others for choices city politicians made. 

The residents of CA’s cities should demand that their day-to-day urban experience be no worse than the "Potemkin village" display put on for foreign dignitaries who neither vote nor pay taxes in the city.

Herb Caen's "Baghdad by the Bay" was once a showplace, and could be again, with proper management. Dead now 25 years or so, he must be turning over in his grave at the degradation SF has suffered.

Saturday Snark









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

Remembering Steve

Among today’s The Week in Pictures items is this Planet of the Apes/Bob’s Big Boy spoof. For me it brings back memories from long ago.

During my first full-time university teaching job, my student assistant was a happy lad named Steve. He was a married ex-Navy corpsman who’d gone in harms way with the 5th Marines in Nam. Steve told amazingly gruesome stories, for example while assisting surgeons in the operating tent, he saw live worms crawl out of a transected piece of shot-up bowel.

He and his wife, a former Navy nurse, were living in the same apartment building as me and my bride - a school teacher yet to do her PhD. We became friends who stayed in touch after he graduated and they moved east. Sadly, I’ve outlived him.

Steve was short and stocky, he resembled the Bob’s Big Boy iconic character all grown up, minus the checkered overalls and giant hamburger. We see the iconic statue in our travels and remember our friend Steve.

Friday, November 17, 2023

Friday Snark

Looks like a recipe for "not voting."

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

The Inexplicable

The lead article in this morning’s Politico is entitled “Which Presidents Have Seen UFOs? Yep, It’s More Than One.” I wouldn’t be so quick to make fun of them, having had exactly one personal experience with a phenomenon I could not (and still cannot) explain. It is a story worth telling.

The other DrC and I were in our RV heading west on I-70 somewhere in KS or CO east of Denver, she was driving. The year was sometime in the 1979-1985 era, and the time was a late summer mid-afternoon as we were headed home to CA from a summer-long RV odyssey, being college faculty with summers off.

We were driving through empty, rolling grasslands and I looked out my side window and perhaps 5-6 feet off the ground and perhaps 150 yards north of the highway I saw a sheet of red flame perhaps 4-6 feet high and 20-40 feet long burning brightly in midair. Below it was dry pasture which was not singed or smoldering. I stared, turned to call the other DrC’s attention to it, and when I looked back it was gone, as though it had never existed. The area was empty pasture, no animals, piping or man-made anything within sight. 

I don’t do drugs, wasn’t drinking, have no history of hallucinations. I know what I saw, have no idea from whence it came or how it could even happen. Was it a mirage reflected from elsewhere? I have no idea. But it makes me less quick to condemn those who experience the inexplicable. It happened to me.

Thursday, November 16, 2023

Your Solution Is My Problem, and Vice Versa

The idea that voters for the two major parties have different visions of their ideal United States is hardly new. That said, when someone does a very clear job of delineating exactly how different, it is worth reading.

A community activist in Pennsylvania points this out in stark terms. Hat tip to RealClearPolitics for the link.

The circles don’t overlap. The two parties do not share a common vision of our community or nation. It’s almost impossible to achieve meaningful compromise and a strategic plan without shared goals and shared priorities.

It’s not that the two parties disagree on how to fix a problem; it’s that the parties don’t agree on what the top problems are.

We wish to live in two very differently governed countries, each repulsive to those preferring the other. At the bottom of this disagreement are differing views of underlying human nature.

The result of the ugly compromises flowing from a narrowly split legislature: most of us - left and right - believe the country is on the wrong track. My poor country, cultural bifurcation is unlikely to end well. 

TikTok Must Go

I believe there is sufficient evidence of evil impact, and very likely evil intent, to call for the banning of TikTok in the United States and its possessions. I presume this is technologically possible.

I understand doing so won't be popular with its mostly sub-voting-age users. So be it, make it happen. 

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Homeschooling Revisited

Time was, the conventional wisdom held that homeschoolers did it for religious reasons. Avoiding teachers glorifying Biblically banned practices like homosexuality and other woke shibboleths. Part of living the Benedict Option.

Some still do so, but recent research finds that many newer converts to homeschooling favor it for a wider range of reasons, including but not limited to “it’s nice to have our kids at home.” Clearly the Covid-19 interruption encouraged parents to try homeschooling their already-at-home kids, and found it “do-able” or even preferable.

Schools dumbing down the curriculum to enable everyone to ‘pass’ is certainly a factor motivating some homeschooling parents. Particularly those who actually insist their children learn to read, write and do arithmetic. And to learn reasons to believe our country is a good place of which to be proud.

According to the poll, which was conducted by the [Washington] Post and the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University, three-quarters of homeschooling parents said that they chose to homeschool due to "concern about the school environment." Around two-thirds also agreed that providing "moral instruction" as well as "dissatisfaction with academic instruction at other schools" also motivated their departure from traditional schooling.

According to research from the Urban Institute, homeschooling increased by 30 percent between the 2019–20 and 2021–22 school years. Nationally, over 5 percent of school-age children are now estimated to be homeschooled.

Prior to the pandemic, about 70 percent of homeschoolers were white. Now, that number has decreased to just under 50 percent, driven primarily—according to the Post's poll—by a rise in Hispanic families choosing to homeschool.

Many public schools have been ruined by teachers unions and by DEI crusaders who demand lower (or “no”) standards so equal percentages of blacks and whites graduate and/or get diplomas. Hat tip to the other DrC for the link.

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Hard Truths

Writing for City Journal, Heather MacDonald gets serious about the explosion in urban crime. SJW activists won't like what she writes. Here is the Cliff Notes™ version:

Public safety has been destroyed in many American cities because of an idea. That idea holds that any law-enforcement activity that has a disparate impact on black criminals is racist.

Until the disparate-impact conceit is demolished, permanently restoring law and order will be impossible.

Only a president has the national reach to engage this most difficult of all “conversations about race.”

In order to save black lives, police officers will have to stop and arrest black criminals in numbers greatly disproportionate to the black share of the population.

Black juveniles were shot at 100 times the rate of white juveniles since the George Floyd race riots; blacks between the ages of ten and 24 were killed in gun homicide at 24 times the rate of whites in that age cohort. (snip) They are being gunned down by other blacks, at rates equally disproportionate to the black population share. Providing justice to those black victims will require putting more black criminals in prison.

A president with the courage to pursue this reasonable policy will have SJW heads exploding here and abroad. 

Florida vs. California

Just in time for another episode in our continuing series highlighting how badly California is mismanaged, here are two charts comparing Florida and California, courtesy of Power Line's Steve Hayward. The first shows the two states’ homeless populations; the second the tax burden in every state.



I'm delighted that my adoptive home state of Wyoming is second from the lowest in taxes. There is much to be said for low population density permitting government to have a light touch when it comes to taxation and regulation. Our local slogan, "Wyoming, the way America used to be."