Friday, December 9, 2016

The Donald Compared To TR

The Daily Mail (U.K.) has an article comparing Donald Trump to Teddy Roosevelt. I guess they can be forgiven for being behind the curve as they're foreigners; COTTonLINE first mentioned that comparison on Nov. 20, over a year ago, and several times since.

The men are alike in dreaming big, believing large things are possible, having much energy, and thinking outside the box. TR however took a more conventional path to power.

Let's hope the comparison proves apt, shall we? Sadly, there are no guarantees.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Travel Blogging XV

Re-crossing the Equator cruising downstream toward the South Atlantic: Today the shellbacks (us) initiate the pollywogs (them) into the sea-going society of line-crossers, cruise-ship style. The ones being harassed are crew, not pax; for us 'tis as painless as MASH's dentist.

I've been musing about things in the Amazon that were not "as expected." One thing I expected was that the terrain of the rainforest would be virtually flat - no hills or mountains. I was half-right, there are no mountains. There are occasional hills, rising perhaps 100 feet or a bit more, including some that border the river. I didn't expect hills.

Another unexpected thing is there are more substantial river towns, even cities, than we thought we'd see. They are still the exception rather than the rule, but they exist, perhaps a half-dozen meaning one every 100-150 miles.

We've experienced very few bugs, essentially zero mosquitos. The DrsC were liberally sprayed with deet but many in our midst were not, wore shorts and short sleeves and didn't get bitten either.

I'm thinking the fact that we kept moving in various river craft was a big help. Mosquitos like still air. However when we stopped moving to fish for piranha up a shallow side channel I saw no one slapping away bugs then either.

Holland America Line normally attracts an older crowd, older than the typical not-young cruisers. This trip, however, seems to have a slightly less old group, possibly because of the tough visa and yellow fever shot requirements. We have fewer walkers and electric power chairs on this trip than is typical on HAL.

HAL ships tend to have less spectacular atria than Princess or Royal Caribbean, quite tame in comparison. They also run to Indonesian crews, about 50% on the Prinsendam.

However, those aboard who handle liquor may be Filipino, as Indonesia's mostly Muslim population is supposed to take a dim view of alcohol consumption. I write "supposed to" because Indonesia - the world's most populous Muslim country - produces and consumes much beer.

Princess ships tend to have Filipino crews, reflecting the U.S. colonial experience in that nation. Royal Caribbean hires many Caribbean blacks for its crews, logically enough. I wonder if MSC and Costa cruise ships hire Europeans, perhaps from the poorer East?

A cynic would write that cruise ship crews are "plantation-like" with third world workers and mostly first world managers and officers. The shops tend to have European staffing, and often the casinos too. Maybe a better analogy would be a British India colonial army with indigenous enlisted and NCOs, white officers and specialists. Whatever ... it works.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

A Day That Lives in Infamy

COTTonLINE once again reminds Americans that on tomorrow's date in 1941 the Empire of Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, sunk a number of U.S. warships, and killed many residents of Hawaii - military and civilians alike. They then attacked U.S. forces in the Philippines and Guam, and treated the survivors brutally.

One suspects that Japan's only lingering regret is that they lost ... big time. Their Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere left behind few friends in the countries they occupied, Taiwan being a possible, albeit partial, exception.

Remember Pearl Harbor. A peculiarity of this blog site is that whereas the time of posting appears to be approximately 9 p.m., that's CA time. Where I am in Eastern Brazil it is already Dec. 7, we're one time zone east of NY time.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Travel Blogging XIV

Anchored midstream off Parintins, Brazil: We didn't go ashore today, Parintins is a small river town a long way from anywhere. These don't often harbor surprises for the seasoned traveler.

The election just over a month ago was certainly consequential and hard-fought, perhaps even unique. The pre-presidency of Donald Trump has been busy and interesting as well.

You'd think our fellow passengers, most of whom are Americans, would be chattering about it. I've heard essentially nothing! No talk, no speculation, no opinions about appointees, nothing at all.

I find I've not been bringing up either. So I began wondering why we are reticent about the topic. People aren't indifferent about the outcome, this we know.

It isn't as though we have been getting no news about the election's sequelae on our ship, Fox News and MSNBC come in loud and clear, and a free summary of New York Times news and commentary is published daily.

My conclusion: we passengers fear the raw feelings of both winners and losers will poison the superficially genial relationship norm that exists on cruise ships. It is as though it would be impossible to be nice to people who hold stupid, evil views so we seek not to know those views. Fascinating group behavior, actually.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Election Musings

Further musings on the election just completed. Liberals and progressives convinced themselves that any sane, thinking person would vote for Clinton. She got a lot of votes but did not win.

Now they feel like this isn't their country after all, a disquieting feeling conservatives have known too well for the last 16 years. If their behavior is erratic, that helps explain it.

Plus, they look around the world and see things going south in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. Not only does the U.S. not seem like their country, they don't see another that looks better, unless it's Canada.

The Canadians, bless them, are picky about who they give residency to, favoring the wealthy and those with STEM  skills. That bars most progressives with basically worthless social science or victim-group studies degrees.


The New York Times has an article about who votes in what numbers. It turns out income, education and age are all positively correlated with propensity to vote.

It makes sense that the poor often don't vote as they don't pay income taxes or property taxes. They do, however, pay sales and fuel taxes, vehicle license fees and the so-called "sin taxes" on alcohol and tobacco. Some of these are 'invisible' as they aren't called out separately on receipts, as is sales tax.

Black voter participation is high in their figures but these end with 2012. Without Obama on the ballot it may have fallen significantly in 2016.

Travel Blogging XIII

Cruising downstream from Manaus, Brazil: Today is day 15 of this 29 day cruise. It's the midpoint, two weeks behind us, two still to come.

Manaus is a large city, roughly 2,100,000 population. It was founded in the 1600s. Half the people in the entire Brazilian state of which it is capital live in Manaus.

There is actually a bridge across the river here, quite an engineering feat. There are a number of tall buildings, a refinery, a cement plant, and a navy base with a latter-day San Pablo docked there (P21).

If we saw few river craft on the lower Amazon, we've seen over a hundred here. Many are docked and some pulled out on the bank, which is to say out of use. Still, the waters around Manaus are busy with boat traffic. I also counted some 5-6 ocean-going ships at anchor or docked here.

We've been the only cruise ship in port yesterday and today, but they are prepared for such so we are hardly the only one that calls here. I know Princess sends a ship here, it's likely others do as well.

We had hard rain with thunder yesterday afternoon but the rainy season (summer) hasn't really started in earnest. Today is nice, but with the region's humidity you get buttermilk-colored skies - hazy. We got them in the DC area, too, another humid place.

Travel Blogging XII

Docked in Manaus, Brazil, nearly 1000 miles upriver from the South Atlantic: Manaus is probably as far inland as one can cruise on an ocean-going ship. On second thought, Thunder Bay, MN, may give it a run for the money.

When you think of Manaus, its most famous landmark is the Opera House, built by rubber barons in the late 19th century. Now 120 years old, it is elegant in an antique sort of way and has excellent acoustics.

We saw a symphonic performance there last night, very professionally done by an obviously local orchestra. The room has four tiers of balcony, the first only a meter or so above the general seating.

A friend sarcastically described Manaus as "like Dakar, without the charm." I'd say she was unkind and probably incorrect as well.

Today we took a river tour, largish local boat to the edge of some shallow water channels where we offloaded into roofed 10 passenger skiffs. These took us into the riverine environment to a settlement of floating houses, shacks really. The "pontoons" that float these buildings are giant rain forest logs, perhaps 3' in diameter, 4-6 under each building.

One of the shacks had an air conditioner and most of the others had a TV antenna and/or a satellite dish. This suggests they all have little gas-powered generators for evening use, I can't blame them.

Floating houses become important because the water level can rise 8 meters or more during the rainy season, which just began. We saw yellow boats which serve as school 'buses' as well as a floating school and perhaps a floating church. We also saw a child being bathed in river water by his mom, the same river water into which their floating outhouse deposits human waste - sorta gross.


I've been musing about the amount of hate that accompanied the last election. I believe at least part of it can be attributed to the ideological 'purification' the two major parties have recently undergone.

Once there were liberal Republicans in the Northeast and conservative Democrats in the South. A Republican could find ideological allies among Democrats and a Democrat could likewise find simpatico Republicans to hang with. Not any more.

Except for kooks and extremists, all conservatives are now Republicans and all liberals are Democrats, wherever they live. This makes a difference.

It is commonly joked that Republicans see Democrats as stupid whereas Democrats see Republicans as evil. Again, not any more. Today Republicans see Democrats as stupid, evil, and unAmerican. Democrats see Republicans the same way.

I have a relative who doesn't like to spend time with his parents because they're bright blue Democrats and he's a bright red Republican ... seriously. This is one of several things that are worse than they used to be.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Travel Blogging XI

Stopped at an Indian village upstream from Santarem: Technology is wonderful. Today's NYT is available electronically via satellite in the heart of the rain forest.

I just read a New York Times story about the difficulties victims of the San Bernardino shooting were having getting medical treatment. It's been an administrative nightmare these hurting people don't need.

Their problem is the terror shooting was deemed to have happened "at work" because the holiday party was office-sanctioned, not unlike a company picnic. That means their medical bills have to be covered by so-called "workers comp."

California Workers Compensation is a mess, of course. Maybe worse than the Veterans Administration, if that's possible. And closer to home....

Our niece is a LEO whose back was injured some years ago during martial arts training. Periodically it goes "out" leaving her in serious pain.

It went out in mid-August and her treatment, under CA workers comp, has not yet happened. She only had the diagnostic MRI last week. She is bored, hurting and longs to feel good enough to go back to work

I share these stories with you is to make the point that turning health care over to the government is a sure way to make it quite unsatisfactory. As long as there are multiple companies competing for the health insurance dollar, things won't get too bad.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Travel Blogging X

Sailing upriver from Santarem, Brazil: We went ashore today ... sort of. Actually, we left our cruise liner and boarded a smallish local boat and went out on the Amazon and into some of the channels that remain when, as we are now, the dry season is ending.

Our tour guide was a Russian emigre who came here a few years ago with multiple language skills and essentially nothing else and is today an entrepreneur, a radio host, a tour guide, and the founder of a language school. Now he has a Brazilian wife and two Brazilian kids, and couldn't be prouder of his new country. He reminded me so much of many legal emigrants in the U.S.

Santarem is pretty darn big, stretching along the river for several miles. I have to admit I'd never heard of it until I saw it on our itinerary. I'm no expert on it now, but at least I'll be aware of it when it next pops up on the news.

As I write this I'm watching President-elect Trump having too much fun in Ohio, doing a victory lap in his patented free-association style. Frankly, he is getting high on the crowd roars, applause and chanting; and I can't begrudge him the fun.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Travel Blogging IX

Cruising upstream in the Amazon basin: We've been river cruising all day today, and will do so again tomorrow. Ship authorities say we will go upstream 900 miles or more to reach Manaus. It is hard to imagine a deep water port for sea-going vessels that far inland.

River cruising is smooth sailing, there is seldom any sense of movement as rivers tend to be darned flat ... no waves or swells. Another nice part is there is usually something at which to look and that something changes every few minutes.

Considering how big the Amazon is, the level of river traffic is quite sparse, compared to the Rhine or Danube, or the Mississippi for that matter. The region isn't heavily populated, we see a very occasional house or tiny settlement along the banks but those are miles apart.

Some of the tributaries we've seen entering the Amazon would qualify as among the world's biggest rivers. To us who live in dry regions most of the time, this sheer volume of water in a riverine setting is surreal.

Tomorrow we go out on a local boat for some up-close-and-personal with these waterways, supposedly fishing for piranha during the trip. They're toothy little buggers, if I remember correctly from our last visit.

It's time to deploy the deet mosquito repellant.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Alt-Right Is Accurate

The New York Times has an article today concerning complaints about calling white nationalists/supremacists as "the alt-right." The article notes Trump consigliere Steve Bannon called "the platform of the alt-right."

I'd like to weigh in on this issue. Bannon meant that, as a conservative pro-Trump media group Breitbart was an alternative to the old-right media outlets like Weekly Standard and National Review which were overtly anti-Trump.

He was making the distinction between classical free-trade, small government, conservatism and populist fair-trade, helpful government conservatism. Bannon called the latter alt-right, as opposed to old-right. That isn't racist in any way, nor is Trump.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Travel Blogging VIII

At sea, "steaming" south from Devil's Island to the mouth of the Amazon in Brazil: The DrsC did not go ashore at Devil's Island, we've been here before on a prior cruise. This time our ship anchored much closer to the island, probably because this is a much smaller ship which has a shallower draft.

We get a sea day tomorrow and enter the Amazon sometime on Wednesday. It will take us a week to sail upriver to Manaus, stay there two nights, and sail back downriver to the South Atlantic. This leg of the trip has been on our collective bucket list for some years.

Cruise ships distill fresh water from sea water picked up in the open ocean. The result is very pure water but it's also "soft" as it lacks minerals - thus rinsing off soap can be a challenge.

We got an announcement today that beginning day after tomorrow we will be on restricted rations with regard to fresh water. This is the case because we cannot process river water. It will be so hot and humid we'll want two showers a day, but will have to limit ourselves to one, for example.

Amazon water is simply too dirty to distill and would clog the filters, etc. So the laundries will be closed and we are asked to reuse towels and curb water use to some extent. As Californians-by-birth, the DrsC know how to conserve water.

Travel Blogging VII

At sea between Barbados and Devil's Island, French Guiana: I have to say that I enjoyed Barbados, but it is less prosperous looking than Trinidad. We had an excellent guide, whose specialty is photography.

We were informed that Barbados is the only significant Caribbean island that is not volcanic. It has mountains - big hills really - but no peaks. It's the result of upthrust as two continental plates come together.

We learned about "chattel" houses, houses designed to be disassembled, loaded on a truck and taken elsewhere to be reassembled. These were built on plantation land owned by the big land owner and when that owner needed the land, the more-or-less squatters had to move on, taking their dwelling with them.

We also learned a poem which contains the recipe for rum punch.
One sour,
Two sweet,
Three strong, and
Four weak.
Translation: 1 measure of lime juice, 2 measures of simple syrup, 3 measures of rum, and 4 measures of fruit juice, orange for example. Add several dashes of Angostura bitters and store in the refrigerator overnight or longer, several days is ideal. We sampled the result - it is excellent, smooth and tasty, with a kick.

On another topic entirely, the U.S. just finished an extremely consequential election. We elected a controversial man as our next president. You would expect much political talk aboard our cruise ship, at least two-thirds of the passengers are U.S. citizens. You would, however, be wrong.

In a week on board, I've heard no political discussion on deck or over dinner. I suspect we all fear the topic would pierce the superficial geniality which is the behavioral norm on such ships.

At our dinner table of 8, for instance, there is a very closeted gay (?) couple, who are likely Clinton supporters. There is also a Canadian couple, ditto. Then there are two sisters from Louisiana and the DrsC, all likely Trump supporters. No one has mentioned the election at all, not even once in seven nights of wide-ranging conversation.

It is known to the group that we are retired university faculty. They may suppose we are as liberal as most such, a supposition which would be incorrect.

President-elect Trump is the elephant in our table's conversational room, entirely unmentioned. I find this amusing, as does the other DrC. On our last night at sea, I may bring it up just to see if I've gotten the players on each team identified correctly.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Travel Blogging VI

At sea between Trinidad and Barbados: I have to say I was impressed with Trinidad and the city at which we were docked - Port of Spain. They were in better repair, more urban, more bustling, and generally less "third world" than the other Caribbean islands we've visited so far.

If you haven't traveled in the tropics, human-created things there tend to deteriorate very quickly. On the other hand, natural things tend to thrive, exhibiting exuberance in every way.

Counteracting tropical entropic forces requires a diligence in maintenance which tropical people often do not possess. Trinidad seems to be overcoming this natural tendency better than most.

Port of Spain city is impressive, has some high rise buildings, and an opera house, called NAPA for National Academy for Performing Arts, that rivals the opera house in Sydney for architectural drama. We were told it was built by the Chinese.

Trinidad & Tobago is, of course, a former British colony. We've visited former colonies of France, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, the U.S., and Japan. Of all the colonial masters, the Brits seem to have been the most successful. Regardless of what you think of colonialism, doing it well is better than doing it poorly. The Brits were masters.

We visited the home of Angostura Bitters, used in a variety of cocktails. They also distill rum from molasses, all imported today as cane is no longer grown here. I had no idea the firm was headquartered in Trinidad. They would appear to be major competitors of Bacardi.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Travel Blogging V

At sea between Saint Lucia and Trinidad: First, COTTonLINE wishes all of our readers a Very Happy Thanksgiving Day. Our regular readers have much to be thankful for following November's election. Perhaps our once-great nation can become so again. At minimum we can retard the rate of decline for a few years.

In addition, the DrsC are thankful for relatively good health and comfortable circumstances in our household. Growing old is no picnic but we are doing it in some style and without over much suffering.

COTTonLINE will celebrate its 10th birthday in December, just over a month from now. We are thankful to have this venue in which to share our thoughts and discoveries. I'm certain you do not enjoy it as much as I do, and that's fine. I believe I missed having an audience when I retired from professing, and this blog gives me one.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

No Whites Need Apply

RealClearPolitics quotes former Bernie Sanders spokeswoman Symone Sanders (no relation) as follows:
In my opinion we don't need white people leading the Democratic party right now. The Democratic party is diverse, and it should be reflected as so in leadership and throughout the staff, at the highest levels.
Whites aren't needed as Democratic candidates for national office, either. Things are progressing as we have predicted.

Travel Blogging IV

At sea between the islands of Nevis and Saint Lucia:  Today we visited Nevis, and weird coincidence, Prince Harry arrived on the island today. We missed his arrival but heard of it.

Unlike St. Thomas which was overrun with tourists of of 4 cruise liners, we were the only cruise ship at anchor off Nevis. My sense is Nevis is more "authentic" or less touristy than many islands.

The island looks very much like any volcanic tropical island, although the people here are of African origin whereas those in the Pacific are of Asian extraction. Still the vegetation is very similar and the architecture is too, although more things here are made of volcanic stone cut into building blocks.

The roads are extremely narrow, mostly have no center line or shoulders and are perhaps 1.5 cars wide. The lack of width doesn't keep people from parking right on the road, so dealing with oncoming traffic is a matter of driving wherever there is room. Most vehicles are of modest size but I saw one full-size dump truck and thought how difficult that monster must be to drive here.

The island is the birthplace of Alexander Hamilton, a talented fellow whose portrait graces the $10 bill and who was our nation's first Treasury Secretary. The home where he was born is now a museum about him, and another museum features lore and artifacts about Horatio Nelson, famous admiral from the iron men and wooden ships era of the Royal Navy.

Nevis has a very attractive and well-done botanical garden featuring tropical plants from many lands. Particularly striking was a Rainbow eucalyptus tree with particolored bark.

Islanders proudly tell you that Princess Diana and two of her children spent one of her last vacations here at an attractive hotel upon a hillside overlooking the coastline. It seems the Brits are trying to turn Diana into an Evita-like figure, with some unfortunate success.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Travel Blogging III

At Sea, between St. Thomas and St. Kitts & Nevis: The all-news TV channels are abuzz with folks upset about some white supremacists celebrating Donald Trump's election.

Trump has said or written nothing which reflects their desires. It is true that as president Clinton would have done things they'd like even less. So what? So they see him as the lesser of two evils, how is that his problem.

Likewise, the U.S. Communist Party endorsed Clinton and would have celebrated her winning, had it happened. She is many things we don't respect, but is no Communist.

Communists likewise would have seen her as the lesser of two evils. Nobody seemed to think that was her problem.

A whole bunch of sore losers can't wrap their minds around Trump winning, and are lashing out. I hope they can get over themselves, but I'm not optimistic.


On a happier note, St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgins is looking quite prosperous. Like all U.S. territories it is probably execrably governed ... a sad reality. 

There were four large cruise ships tied up to the dock today, bringing probably 11,000 potential customers and their credit cards. Other than taking tours they don't buy much, some jewelry. 

Cruising is a big deal, both as leisure and financially. As we sailed away from Ft. Lauderdale three days ago, two other large cruise ships were keeping pace with us on essentially the same course. Another three or more left at roughly the same time but went in different directions.

The ship we're on is an old one, she'll have her thirtieth birthday in 2018. Normally a ship of this age would have been sold off to the Japanese or some European outfit catering to the backpacker crowd. Our ship got a reprieve because she was originally built for the five star luxury market and is more elegant than many. She's decently maintained but lacks certain amenities like soda guns in the bars. Her smaller size (and consequent shallower draft) makes her able to sail up the Amazon River or through the Kiel Canal.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Travel Blogging II

At Sea, enroute to the U.S. Virgin Islands: I was watching MSNBC's Morning Joe this a.m. and heard an interview where various people were arguing about Steven Bannon, formerly head of Breitbart and now consigliere to president-elect Trump.

One said they were with Bannon when he first saw a Trump rally. They reported his reaction was "Trump's another Andrew Jackson, or maybe Teddy Roosevelt," both great populists and spell-binding orators.

You may recollect COTTonLINE wrote this about him many months ago. We said we were reminded of Teddy Roosevelt, the non-stop talker and human whirlwind. LikeTeddy, Trump is his own man, more an independent than a political insider.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Cillizza: Obama Great for GOP

Breitbart reports The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza said the following on MSNBC's Morning Joe program.
I always say that the greatest thing that happened to the Republican Party is Barack Obama. Yes, he spent eight years in the White House, but during those eight years they have made massive gains.
Cillizza is a lefty, for sure, but not entirely stupid about who's up and who's down. The gains have truly been massive.