Sunday, September 30, 2012

Quote of the Day

Andrew C. McCarthy, writing for National Review, about impediments to Turkey being admitted to the European Union:
It is an unremitting fact that mainstream Middle Eastern Islam is totalitarianism packaged as “religion.”
Not big on freedom of speech, either. McCarthy doesn't pull his punches, does he?

Jobless Rate Continues Up

Bloomberg reports the likelihood of a continued rise in unemployment in September, after a rise in August, from 8.1% to 8.2%. In spite of this economic misery, the MSM continues to predict an Obama reelection.

If it turns out to be an accurate prediction, political scientists will need to come up with some new theories to explain this illogical outcome. I can imagine two: perhaps Mitt Romney was a poor candidate choice. Many believe this to be true.

Alternatively, perhaps our electorate has experienced a high unemployment rate for so long that they've become accustomed to it. The electorates of several major European nations feel this way, having tolerated unemployment rates of 10% or more for decades.

Large numbers of our former workers have supposedly become "discouraged and no longer seek work." What if many of these people have found a way to survive without working and like not working?

Maybe they aren't discouraged but are instead in one way or another "retired." Perhaps they now draw disability payments or early retirement benefits.

Chavez Prefers Barack

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is an avowed enemy of the United States. The Associated Press reports that Chavez says if he were an American he'd vote for President Obama. He calls Obama "a good guy."

It doesn't take a huge leap of logic to conclude that Barack Obama is an enemy of the United States. If the enemy of my enemy is my friend, it follows that my enemy's friend is also my enemy.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Quote of the Day

Steven Hayward, a major contributor to PowerLineBlog, writing about the Obama administration's anti-energy policies:
It is axiomatic that if the federal government had realized five or six years ago that the technological advances in directional drilling and hydraulic fracturing that have set off the current domestic oil and natural gas boom were coming, they surely would have done something to stop it.
Maybe not Hayward's "five or six years," but I'd certainly accept "four years." BTW, directional drilling isn't new - has existed for decades - but perhaps has been improved in recent years.

Lack of Political Will

The Manhattan Institute for Policy Research has issued a report analyzing the outmigration from California. I particularly like the concluding paragraph of the Executive Summary:
Population change, along with the migration patterns that shape it, are important indicators of fiscal and political health. Migration choices reveal an important truth: some states understand how to get richer, while others seem to have lost the touch. California is a state in the latter group, but it can be put back on track. All it takes is the political will.
Today, California exhibits none of that political will. The Brown administration and Democratic majorities in both houses of the State legislature in Sacramento are very much part of the problem, rather than part of the solution.


We've gotten to the point where Republicans and Democrats simply hate each other, no other word is strong enough. I have to believe the dislike is stronger than it was when I was younger. Why are we so angry with each other?

Friday, September 28, 2012

Netanyahu UN Speech Text Link

Go here to read the full text of Benjamin Netanyahu's speech to the United Nations, on The Weekly Standard website. In it he explains how a nation goes about making a nuclear weapon and how far along Iran is toward that goal.

Netanyahu also quotes Middle East scholar Bernard Lewis on Iran's view of the mutual nuclear destruction of Iran and Israel:
For the Ayatollahs of Iran, mutually assured destruction is not a deterrent, it's an inducement.

Quote of the Day

Jay Leno, cited on NewsBusters, from his opening monologue Thursday:
We waste seven minutes in line every time we go to get coffee, 28 minutes getting through airport security, four years waiting for Obama to do something about the economy.
I can't imagine Letterman saying that line.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Travel Blogging XIX

Western Wyoming: This really big trip is over, it has been a good one. Yesterday morning we got into New York harbor early. We didn't see the "sail in" as it happened about 5 a.m. However we arose early and watched the sun come up over New York harbor, a very nice sight.

We had to vacate our cabin by 8 a.m., so we took our carry-on luggage with us to breakfast. We got great seats alongside floor-to-ceiling windows up on the 15th deck (the buffet) so we kept them until it was time for our "going ashore" station. NY harbor is a very busy waterway, lots to see.

We've been on ships where the disembarkation process was a mess, this one was smooth. We found our luggage without difficulty and headed for our bus, each towing two pieces of wheeled luggage: a big one and a carry-on.

We did a month at sea with that amount of luggage, obviously wearing things more than once. When you've traveled as much as we have, you learn how to pack. The other DrC favors packing cubes, made of mesh. I don't need them, but don't knock them either.

This trip did fox us a little, we expected more cold and rain. Our umbrellas were never unfurled and most of the time a long-sleeved shirt worn over a tee or polo shirt was plenty. I carried my umbrella some to ward off rain - but left it on the bus as it wasn't needed.

The bus ride to La Guardia airport took us under one end of the famous Brooklyn bridge, a good view. We also saw a fair number of residential streets with mature trees growing along them - frankly I was surprised. It wasn't as grim as I'd expected.

I'd been having some foot trouble so the other DrC arranged for wheelchairs for me in NYC, Detroit, Salt Lake City, and Jackson. It costs some tip money but we really got whisked through security, boarding, and all the airport hassles.

We traveled this trip (both directions) on Delta, whereas we normally go on United or Lufthansa. Delta's equipment wasn't new, we actually flew one leg on a MD-88, a later version of the old DC-9. I thought they'd all been sold to third world countries. On the other hand Delta's people were very nice - the southern touch.

Weird DNA Science

Having a male child can leave long-term male DNA traces in the mother's brain. In other words, the DNA transfer is not only one way: mother-to-child. Apparently there is some child-to-mother transfer as well. See the Los Angeles Times article for details.

CA Loses More Jobs

Campbell Soup Co. is closing its oldest soup plant, located in Sacramento. In this CBS Sacramento article, the key sentence is the following:
The company says the Sacramento plant, built in 1947, is the oldest in its network and has the highest production costs on a per-case basis.
Notice the words "highest production costs on a per-case basis." The article then quotes the president of Campbell North America on the reasons for this move.
We expect the steps we’re announcing today to improve our competitiveness and performance by increasing our asset utilization, lowering our total delivered costs and enhancing the flexibility of our manufacturing network.
In other words, avoid the high costs of operating this plant in California. The production is being moved to Texas, North Carolina, and Ohio.

The article also discusses the closure of three Comcast call centers in Northern California, also for cost reasons. California continues to lose jobs to states with lower operating costs and fewer regulations.

Chavez Meddles in Paraguay

Paraguayan President Federico Franco alleges that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has meddled in the internal affairs of Paraguay. Franco says Chavez has provided support to a criminal gang with the grandiose name of the Popular Army of Paraguay, initials in Spanish EPP.

The gang is accused of murders, kidnappings, and arson. See the MercoPress article for details, link by

Note to the geographically challenged: Paraguay and Venezuela do not share a border.

About Polling

The editor-in-chief of Gallup polls has written an article looking at some of the current whining about polls and their samples. If anybody knows what sampling means, he's the expert.

He explains what Gallup does with their sampling. If this issue is of interest to you, read the article. Hat tip to for the link.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Wrong Question

This RealClearWorld article asks the question "Is the U.S. at war with Islam?" It then wanders off into the fever swamps of Boykinism.

The article asks the wrong question. The correct question is whether or not some significant portion of Islam considers itself to be at war with us? The evidence suggests the answer is yes.

The second question is whether that "warlike portion of Islam" is small enough that we can afford to ignore it? Obviously, many in our government would like to ignore it as much as possible, to marginalize it.

A Misunderstanding

People with college degrees make more money than people without them? True. Therefore, if everyone had a college degree, everyone would make more money? In spite of what the politicians tell you, this is false.

As long as a minority of people have college degrees, the degrees serve as a quick-and-dirty sorting tool to select out those with more intelligence, social skills, and upper-middle-class values. Not to mention superior ability to read, write, and manage numerical data. Do they always get you the "shiny penny?" No, but often enough.

Now suppose everybody, or nearly so, gets a college degree. Then its power as a selection device disappears. Presto, change-o, a college degree no longer means a higher income when everybody has one. Then it will be the minimum standard to get a truck-driving job, or a food-service job.

What will the new standard of excellence be? Probably a graduate degree, or a professional degree, or both. We last wrote about this issue on June 29, 2011, search term is GI Bill.

When politicians equate getting a college degree with getting a higher income, remember that it's only true if most people don't get degrees. So far, that is true.

Travel Blogging XVIII

Enroute to New York City: Cruising southwest along the coasts of Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts, on our way to New York City. Supposedly we will sail into New York harbor tomorrow morning.

The DrsC want to experience that historic entry with its view of the Statue of Liberty, a view so many immigrants have cherished. Actually, at least some of our own immigrant ancestors entered via Boston harbor, oh well….

The ocean is almost as smooth as we’ve ever seen it. We expected rough water, but we’re not disappointed to have missed it. The North Atlantic smooth in early autumn, go figure.


At lunch today we had a liberal couple from Madison, WI, sitting next to a conservative couple from Delaware. Politics talk broke out, the vibes were not mellow. The other DrC tried to squelch it in the interest of comity, no luck.

The Madisonians were the people Peggy Noonan has been writing about, those who seriously depend on gov’t. support to survive, part of Mitt’s 47%. They genuinely see their livelihood going poof if Romney-Ryan are elected, they particularly don’t like Ryan.

I have to wonder how people who ‘depend’ on government handouts can afford this cruise? Maybe the handouts make the cruise possible? If so, should we taxpayers be subsidizing their upscale cruising?

Monday, September 24, 2012

Travel Blogging XVII

Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada: This town owes some of its serious beginnings to the American Revolution. More than 10,000 Tories or “loyalists,” Americans who maintained allegiance to Britain, migrated here after the revolution to escape persecution.

Probably the thing for which St. John is best known is it’s location on the Bay of Fundy which has some of the highest tides on the planet. We’ve been tied up alongside here for roughly five hours during which the tide has risen about eight feet. I know this because my cabin window was a couple of feet below dock level when we arrived and is now about 6 feet above dock level.

I generally understand tides as being related to the pull of the moon on the oceans, I don’t understand why they’re so dramatic here on the Bay of Fundy and almost imperceptible in the Baltic Sea. Explanations for these differences exist, I don’t remember them.

New Brunswick is the Canadian province with the second highest prevalence of French speakers, after Quebec where they are an overwhelming majority. Francophones are not a majority in New Brunswick but a large enough minority to have political clout.

If you’re wondering why there are all these Francophones in Canada, it is because they were here first, before the English, though of course not before the "first peoples" as the Canadians call the Indians and Eskimos . Later they were defeated by the English, turning this region into a British colony from which it evolved into the bilingual nation of Canada.

There are still political stirrings in Quebec to move toward independence from English-speaking Canada. Will it happen? Maybe someday, not anytime soon. The complications of such a separation would be immense.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Travel Blogging XVI

Enroute to St. John, New Brunswick, Canada: St. John, New Brunswick is somewhere we’ve already been, albeit some years ago. I think it was probably the first time we came to the Maritime Provinces – the summer of 1975.

We drove here all the way from Northern California in a little class C motorhome, overall length maybe twenty feet and eight feet wide. The first three full summers we owned that RV we did cross country trips of 10,000 miles or more. Of course as teachers we had the summers off.

Summer 1973 we did the southern U.S., down to Key West, Florida, and back across the middle on I-80. Summer 1974 we did the middle of the U.S., east thru Oklahoma City and back along I-90. Summer 1975 we did the north going east thru Denver and coming back thru Canada. Each trip we spent time in both Washington, D.C. and in the Yellowstone/Grand Tetons area. These were amazing trips.

Driving back and forth across the great middle of this country gave me the clear impression that the country is NOT crowded. East of the Mississippi River any land that isn’t paved or plowed reverts to forest within a few years without human aid.

Thoughts about Canada’s Maritime Provinces: New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland-Labrador. The first time we drove across New Brunswick to reach Nova Scotia it seemed like a long, boring drive. The second time we were dreading it but it wasn’t bad at all – maybe better roads the second time?

Driving the perimeter of Nova Scotia we saw many Acadian French names; not all of the “Cajuns” went south to Louisiana. Cape Breton Island is an amazing place, particularly the national park on the eastern tip. There was a bakery in Cheticamp that made the best bread, I wonder if it’s still there?

Prince Edward Island looks like one gigantic farm, except for Anne’s Green Gables. There are amazing fortifications on Nova Scotia, martello towers, and forts that look positively European. Alexander Graham Bell had a summer place on Cape Breton Island overlooking Bras d’Or Lake.

The Maritimes have historically been an economic drain on the rest of Canada, requiring support. Newfoundland-Labrador may now be an exception with their oil, and perhaps PEI was always an exception, I’m not certain.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Travel Blogging XV

St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada: Today the DrsC completed their set of Canadian provinces, we’ve now visited all of the provinces, if not necessarily seen all of each province. We’ve also visited one of the three territories: the Yukon. We make the brag that we’ve visited more of Canada than most Canadians, I expect it's true, too.

Newfoundland is a very large island, nearly the size of California. It was not a part of the original compact that formed Canada; it was the first Crown Colony and joined Canada later. The capital, St. John’s, has one of the world’s true natural harbors, if not one of the largest. It is easy to imagine how excited early explorers were when they found the harbor.

We enjoyed watching the careful Y-turn our monster ship made to leave St. John’s harbor. They cantilevered the stern away from the pier, backed up maybe half a mile, pivoted to bring the bow in line with the quite narrow exit, and headed out of the channel just over dead slow. I’m not sure we could have done it if there had been strong winds.

This afternoon we took what could charitably be called “the booze tour” of St. John’s. We began with the place where Newman’s aged port wine. Port wine would be shipped from Oporto, Portugal, to St. John’s, Newfoundland, where it was aged for at least one winter, after which it was bottled and shipped to England for sale and consumption. This process improved the port. We sampled Newman’s port and it was nice.

From Newman’s we drove to a tiny fishing village named Quidi Vidi, on a tiny harbor, to visit a brewery also named Quidi Vidi (both village and brewery are pronounced “kiddy viddy”). The brewery does the best tasting tour ever, lots of different beers and ales to taste, and then they gave us each a bottle of our favorite. This and salty snacks too. Quidi Vidi, the village, is very picturesque as well.

Next we went to the top of Signal Hill for an overall panoramic view of the St. John’s harbor and surrounding region – a great view. On the way back to the ship we were treated to a shot of rum, called Newfoundland rum but produced in Jamaica.

In less than four hours we sampled wine, several beers, and 100 proof rum; then stopped at a liquor store on the way to the ship in case anyone was inspired to take the local product with them – most were. We returned to the ship a happy crew.

St. John’s may sit half way to Europe but it begins to look North American, whatever that is. There are tall buildings, and it feels more like the western hemisphere somehow. It claims to be the oldest continuously inhabited city in North America, perhaps it is even true.

Newfoundland has had its own cycles of boom and bust: bust when the cod fishing was shut down to prevent destruction of the Grand Banks fishing grounds, followed by boom after oil was discovered. The oil has brought in lots of money, and the problems that follow oil production – crime and drugs.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Cost: Obama Approval Too Low

The Weekly Standard's Jay Cost does an analysis of Gallup polling data going back about 60 years and finds that incumbents with approval ratings as low as Obama's don't get reelected. You cannot argue with his data, only with his conclusions. He concludes:

"Historically speaking, this president is in weaker shape than any postwar incumbent who went on to victory, with the possible exception of Harry Truman."

It may turn out that Obama will win reelection with the lowest approval rating yet. Or it may turn out that the polls showing Obama ahead reflect the "Bradley effect," saying you'll vote for a black candidate when you plan to do no such thing. This is something some percentage of people do lest they be perceived by the pollster as "racist."

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Noonan: GOP Losing

The Wall Street Journal's Peggy Noonan thinks the Mitt Romney campaign is headed for failure and needs to up its game. She makes a good argument and she genuinely wants the GOP to win. See what her column says and whether you agree with her.

Travel Blogging XIV

Enroute to Newfoundland, 2.0: To date this part of the North Atlantic is relatively calm, just a little wiggle to the ship, no big swells. We’ve had some rain squalls but no storms.

This is day two of three consecutive “sea days,” that is, days when we’re not in port. The ship is quiet; these pax are experienced cruisers, accustomed to days-at-sea. Most have settled down with a book or their iPad or Kindle, effective substitutes.

Most cruisers are married retired couples, most but not all are white or Asian, and reasonably affluent. There were once widows traveling, for whom the cruise lines carried “dance partners.”  We knew one such wealthy, waltzing widow, but we sure don’t see them nowadays on the ships we frequent.

We also knew one of the “dance partners” who was great company but thoroughly gay. From the cruise line’s point of view he was ideal as he wouldn’t “hit on” the ladies with whom he danced and drank. They both were in the “old days” of cruising, ten to twenty years ago, call it the Love Boat era.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Travel Blogging XIII

Enroute to Newfoundland: Apparently the thing the captain most wanted to avoid wasn’t bad weather, at least so far. I suspect he wanted to avoid ICE in the form of bergs. No captain wants to be in charge of the “Titanic Replay.” That would be very hard to live down.

Actually the sea is quite calm and the sun is shining this morning, no complaints on the part of the pax or crew. However, it is certainly true that we are taking a different course enroute to Newfoundland than we would have taken to Greenland. Perhaps the seas are different on each, I have no ready access to that information. I’m sure it’s on the web somewhere but where, and how to read it, is beyond my skill set.

Today is the first of three sea days before we port in what has been derisively called “Newfie.” I don’t know whether the captain is going slow or really needs all that time to “steam” to St. John’s.

We don’t actually steam these days, big ships are mostly diesels or diesel-electrics that run on inexpensive bunker oil. It smells bad when being loaded or combusted; I suspect it contains substantial amounts of sulfur which would explain the odor.

Most ships keep a diesel running to generate electricity when in port, thereby contributing to urban pollution. Some ports are requiring ships to “plug in” to shore power (and of course pay for it) instead of running a generator. This is a “green” effort of which I approve.

Ships distill their own potable water too, from seawater. I remember a captain on some cruise remarking that he had to sail in circles while “making water,” as he put it (I snorted). We drink the tap water aboard, with no ill effects. Distilled, it is probably purer than most city water.

Shipboard personnel are from all over the globe, various parts of the British Empire, the Philippines, the Ukraine, South Africa, Mexico, etc. Many shipboard personnel end up marrying each other, and communicate with each other in broken English, the only language they share. We joke that eventually the whole world will communicate in broken English.

As you can see I’m mentally meandering vis-à-vis cruising, something of which we’ve done a lot - 20 or so voyages. The other DrC says we’ve spent something like 220 days at sea. That equals too much overeating.

The bakers on shipboard make the best dinner rolls, crusty and yeasty. And I believe they’re serving prime rib tonight, yum. True, they don’t include the Yorkshire pudding as they should, but the beef is good.

There’s a funny thought, why do the Brits call all desserts “puddings?” Why do you never see French speakers as ship crew? 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Travel Blogging XII

Reykjavik, Iceland: We arrived in Reykjavik harbor around 1 p.m. today, as we were having lunch. The water has been smooth all morning after a rough night. Smooth water makes for easier showers.

In rough weather you begin to appreciate why they make ship showers so small, it’s a safety feature. In a tiny shower you can always lean on a wall or hold the grab handle.

This afternoon we took a 4x4 tour and it was something of a disaster. The other DrC and I were in what they call a “super jeep” that was really a full-sized Ford van tricked out with rally lights, huge tires and four wheel drive.

A short distance into the first off-road stint of our tour our van broke a front axle and ended up with one front tire far from parallel to the other front tire. So we were all redistributed to the other three vans and we pressed on up the mountain for an enormous panoramic view, including of the volcano that caused so much trouble recently for Europe.

Coming back down the mountain there was a new van waiting for us where they were trying to fix the broken one. We reloaded and pressed on for a couple of hours.

Late in the afternoon our replacement van blew out its airbag front suspension and the other three vans stopped to try to fix it. Twenty minutes later they’d succeeded sufficiently that we could finish the tour. I wonder if Icelandic 4x4 tour operators routinely have this much mechanical trouble?

The other DrC and I were reminded of a 4x4 tour we took in the Falkland Islands in 2003 where we got stuck in the mud every few minutes. Yes, 4x4s do get bogged down if the mud is really slippery, as that was.

On the other hand, if the machines were unreliable, the weather was spectacular. Visibility was nearly unlimited and the sunshine was great.

Apparently the ugly weather sets in again tomorrow, the captain expects 20 foot swells and 35 knot winds. We’ve been notified that the planned stop in Greenland has been scrubbed and replaced with stops in St. John’s, Newfoundland, and St. John, New Brunswick, both ports in maritime Canada.

The new itinerary isn’t too bad, if the weather even permits those revised stops. I can’s say I’m surprised that we’ve had some bad weather, given what time of year it is in the notorious North Atlantic. However, Iceland has yet to begin autumn (factoid: Reykjavik is the farthest north national capital).

Monday, September 17, 2012

Travel Blogging XI

Bound for Iceland on the North Atlantic Ocean: Here we go. The North Atlantic has a reputation as being some of the roughest water on the planet, maybe as bad as the Drake Passage around Cape Horn, a passage which we’ve done twice.

The Drake is a snake, no question. Now we’ll experience the fabled North Atlantic. The captain has already announced he expects rough seas tonight and tomorrow morning, calming some by tomorrow afternoon.

If it gets really bad the survival plan is to stay in my bunk and eat little. Crawl to the head every few hours and just tough it out. That worked for the Drake crossing in a small ship, it will work here if necessary. Taking meclizine hydrochloride (trade name Bonine) helps too.

Later…so far, so good. Extra Bonine makes one extra sleepy, which plus a bunk that is rocking gently equals naps. I’ve had two today and may have another.

The North Atlantic in this big ship isn’t too bad. The Emerald Princess has stabilizers and likely is using them. I say “likely” because captains don’t like using stabilizers; they increase drag, slow the ship and increase the fuel usage.

It’s a rare first-time cruiser who sets out on a 16 day cruise. I expect the pax (industry slang for passengers) on this trip are experienced cruisers.

People who have motion sickness problems decide not to cruise and those who can adapt keep cruising. At lunch today in the dining room we found most tables filled with folks happily ignoring the rocking deck.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Travel Blogging X

Belfast, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom: Whew, that sure is a lot of words to describe where one is – but all are needed. We did a tour of Belfast this a.m. and also did a Titanic museum, which was good. The Titanic was built here.

I had an insight about Northern Ireland - it resembles Singapore. Both are the result of gerrymandering to create a place with a particular majority.

Singapore was the result of carving off a large chunk of Malaysia’s Chinese minority into a new, Chinese-majority city-state. In the process the remainder of Malaysia became solidly Malay-majority, in other words, a Malay homeland.

Likewise in Northern Ireland. The island of Ireland had a substantial Scottish Protestant minority imported by the Brits to work for them when they owned Ireland.

When the Brits decided to stop fighting the Catholic Irish for control of Ireland, the problem arose of what to do about the Scots-Irish Protestants left behind. These Protestants liked being Brits, and didn’t want to become a minority in Catholic Ireland.

So the Brits gave up all of Ireland except the few counties in Northern Ireland in which there was a Protestant majority, counties which wanted to stay under the Union Jack, under the Crown.

The problem here is the Catholic Irish minority in these counties wouldn’t quietly acquiesce to this arrangement. Hence, “the troubles” so-called, a long-running battle between the Protestant majority backed up by the British Army versus the Irish Republican Army (aka IRA) and its various spin-offs supported by the Catholic minority.

You’ll hear that the problem is less religious than economic, that most Northern Irish don’t much care either way. I don’t believe it.

As we drove around Belfast there are still walls between areas which fly the flag of Ireland and areas which fly the Queen’s Union Jack. We drove around both with no apparent danger but we weren’t obvious partisans for either side. I understand there have been recent outbreaks of antipathy.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Travel Blogging IX

Dublin, Ireland: I didn’t know the city of Dublin was founded by Vikings. Apparently Norse decided to stop commuting between Ireland and Norway and settle down in Ireland with their local “wives.” I suppose the Irish weather seemed “better,” all such judgments being relative, rain being better than snow.

History is about religion in these parts. For example something like 95% of Irish are Roman Catholic but St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin is not Roman Catholic.

St. Patrick’s began life as RC but was changed when Henry VIII decided to form his own church, using the RC properties. It is now “Church of Ireland.” That means Church of England, Henry’s church, the Irish branch.

One thing is clear, the Irish treat St. Patrick’s as very much their own, even though they are RC and it is not. Go figure. Their figurehead President sits there to celebrate certain holidays, we were shown her chair.

The relationship between the Brits and Irish is very much love-hate. The battle flags of Irish regiments (serving the British Army) hang in the cathedral. My guess is that Irish lads still enlist to serve the Crown. We were also shown bullet holes in the post office façade where the Brits attacked the freedom fighters seeking Irish independence.

Dublin is another European city with no high rises. I speculate they are banned. Still more cobblestone streets and sidewalks – and I believe the cobbles are set in something more substantial than sand, albeit less organized than concrete.

Ireland is the first (mostly) English-speaking country we’ve been in this trip. Suddenly all the shop signs are comprehensible, instead of just some. It is surprising how much difference this makes. Also one can ask for directions and understand the response, we did and did – it feels good, feels friendly.

Our guide said Ireland likes the U.S. for many reasons including the fact that there are many more Irish living in the U.S. than in Ireland. That’s a result of the potato famine diaspora.

Ireland has gone through many ups and downs, including one of each in the last 15 years. They were one of the Tigers during the last boom, and one of the true Euro-disasters during the most recent slump.

In a world that wants to do its business in English, Ireland has the advantage that almost every person has English as their first language. And the Irish happily caress the English language, blarney comes from here.

Tonight we sail for Belfast, a short trip north along the Irish coast to a less happy place – think “the troubles” and the IRA.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Long War: Dispatches from the Front

So there are riots in Cairo, Nigeria and elsewhere, and our diplomats get killed in Libya. Meanwhile, the U.S. continues to give humongous amounts of aid to Egypt. We have a nearly unbelievable foreign policy.

Perhaps we don't need diplomatic relations with places where our dips are in danger, eh? Or give 'em combat pay maybe? When folks want to be at war with you, ignoring them doesn't work, they just get more and more irritated.

Travel Blogging VIII

Glasgow, Scotland, U.K.: Who says we’re too old to learn things? Not I. Today I learned at least two new things. Let me share those with you, both have to do with various media.

First, the St. Mungo of Harry Potter fame, as in “St. Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies,” really did exist. Who knew? It turns out Mungo was an Irish missionary given credit for helping to convert the Picts (Scots) to (Roman Catholic) Christianity.

Second, did you know that there really was a Blackadder? Not just a character on a series of British sitcoms starring Rowan Atkinson, eh? Nope, a real Scottish Machiavellian religious figure, a sort of Celtic Richelieu.

Do I draw a conclusion from both of the above? Perhaps that Brit authors aren’t as creative as I’d given them credit for, looks like they’re mining their own history for characters. Not that we don’t in the U.S., isn’t somebody doing a film in which President Lincoln is a vampire slayer?

A third semi-learning is that the Church of Scotland is to Presbyterian as Church of England is to Episcopalian. The Church of Scotland is a very austere (not into decorated churches) faith. Oh yeah, and they have no bishops and therefore no cathedrals, only high churches, one of which we visited today – very nice.

There is a nascent Scottish independence movement. If it succeeds and Scotland becomes independent, will the Church of Scotland become its state church in the same way the Church of England is the state church of Britain? I suppose the SNP has a platform plank about this issue.

If you’re in Glasgow and would like a recommendation of a great attraction to see, check out the Riverside Transport Museum. There are steam locomotives or “locos” as they call them, autos, motorcycles, streetcars, buses, ship models, guns, trucks, and an old (but nice) RV which they call a caravan. They have old guns, flintlock pistols and the like. There are even places to sit and rest your feet – and costumes from earlier eras, for the ladies I presume. We had 75 minutes there and couldn’t see it all. Way cool place.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Travel Blogging VII

Enroute to Glasgow: A combination of a tropical storm and a separate hurricane have caused a deviation in our itinerary so we “blew off” a second stop in Norway and are headed directly for Scotland. This is in service of avoiding some seriously rough weather which the captain believed we’d encounter if we kept to our original route. The water is rough today, we're bouncing about some.

We don’t go directly to Glasgow, but to a place called Greenock from which Glasgow is accessible by train. You never know whether such ports are truly how one gets to a city or merely the cheapest place at which to dock, we often suspect the latter. 

We note that Princess is cutting costs everywhere it can: shorter shows, etc. The other DrC believes this is true across the industry. She is probably correct, the airlines have certainly done this.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Travel Blogging VI

Copenhagen, Denmark: The DrsC took a canal boat tour of Copenhagen today and learned that, to a lesser degree, the Danish capital is water-based like Stockholm. Substantial parts of the city are on “made land,” which is to say places where mud and silt were dumped to build new islands. The Copenhagen model more nearly resembles what the Dutch have done than the Swedish model.

Stockholm was built on rocky islands that exist as part of the post-ice age upthrust. Upthrust continues to this day as land compressed by a mile or more of glacial ice overlay expands now that the glaciers are gone. As a result of the upthrust new islands are added every year to the thousands in the Stockholm archipelago.

About Copenhagen, it is a clean, attractive city with some palaces, a few churches, and many commercial and residential buildings. Granite cobblestones are widely used, I suppose because they are more substantial than asphalt or concrete. Set in sand, I’d guess they don’t suffer from frost heaves or erosion caused by anti-ice salt. I’m glad we don’t use them in the States, they are nasty to walk on.

We saw the famous Little Mermaid today, she’s about life-size and very well done, sitting on a desk-sized rock quite near the shore. I’m ashamed to say I don’t know the Hans Christian Andersen story about her, though the other DrC remembers most of it. We both have seen the Disney movie but aren’t too sure it is faithful to the original.

Maersk, the huge container freight firm is based in Denmark. It makes sense; Denmark is in a key location to be in the middle of several trade routes.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

We Told You So

A few days ago we wrote that the conventions had become essentially irrelevant. It has turned out that way. My guess is that undecided people don't watch conventions so whatever is said is "preaching to the choir." The debates may matter, may not, we'll see. I have the feeling that almost nothing that the candidates do matters - that everyone who intends to vote already knows how he or she will vote.

Geography Rules

Geography is important, very important even. Go see this article by Robert Kaplan in The Wall Street Journal. Where a country is and how it's shaped may determine its future, its outcomes, its possibilities.

Travel Blogging V

Stockholm, Sweden: I consider myself reasonably knowledgeable when it comes to geography. However, visiting Stockholm certainly opened my eyes about the city.

Stockholm is based on an archipelago, a whole bunch of rocky islands. Residents of the Swedish capital are as likely to get around by water taxi or ferry as are residents of Venice. Bridges are a big deal too.

Part of this water is salty – an extension of the Baltic Sea – and part is a freshwater lake. They separate the two with locks, and claim the lake water is pure enough to drink. I don’t see anyone dipping up a glassful to quench their thirst, I’m sure they treat it somehow.

One thing you see a blazing lot of is pleasure craft – the claim is made that there is one registered boat for every nine Swedes. Almost all boats have to come out of the water every October to avoid ice damage.

Swedes are careful to point out that the term “Viking” was only applied to those who went on “trading” trips, not to all Norse. My historic knowledge says they traded with those too powerful to conquer and attacked everybody else.

Viking helmets never had horns either, according to our guide. They guess the horned helmets came from Wagnerian opera costumes, a sort of Germanic vision of Viking armor. Not a bad guess.

Like St. Petersburg and Paris, there are no super tall buildings in Stockholm. Many buildings go up 8-9 floors, no more. Because of all the waterways, many buildings have a water view which must be pleasant.

Our large ship left the dock at 3 p.m. and it took 5 hours to sail out of the archipelago. Many of these small islands have become the sites of summer homes, most often painted a sort of dark red with white trim. We are given to understand that these one-time summer homes are starting to become year-round residences; it isn’t clear how the winter commute is managed.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Travel Blogging IV

St. Petersburg, Russia: We do an overnight here - sail in one morning, sail out the next evening. Yesterday was nice, today is gray, looks like autumn is setting in here in the far north. St. Petersburg was a purpose-built capital, meant to capture some of the best aspects of Venice and Paris. To some degree, it succeeds.

I've been here before so haven't done much touring this visit. The tour I'd liked to have taken would have been a tour of the city as a World War II battlefield, which it was. Of course it was called Leningrad then. Maybe not much of that city is left, who knows?


The Democrats write a platform that doesn't mention God or that Jerusalem should be the capital of Israel. They pass it. Then somebody notices the omissions. Probably the conservative media. So finally they amend the platform to add those two things.

You tell me, which version reflects their true feelings and which version reflects their understanding of Democratic Party political realities? As they say, that answer is a no-brainer.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Travel Blogging III

Talinn, Estonia: One thing that strikes me about cruising on the Baltic Sea is how smooth the water is. Most of the time you would be hard pressed to know the ship isn't a land-based hotel. This would be a good cruise to recommend to your motion-sickness-prone friends. On the other hand, once we get out into the North Atlantic, I expect rough water, perhaps very rough water.

Are You Better Off?

"Are you better off than you were four years ago?" That's the question people are asking themselves in this presidential election year. See this article in The Washington Post.

I believe there is a further question you must ask. If you are better off today, is it because of, or in spite of, the actions of President Obama?

Most people are not better off than they were four years ago. A few are better off, but a substantial number of those few are better off in spite of the actions of President Obama, given their own luck, cleverness and guile. For example, they may have purchased a number of foreclosed properties at bargain basement prices.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Quote of the Day

Peggy Noonan of The Wall Street Journal writing about the conventions:
"You're bored with politics? Kid, right now is when it gets interesting."