Sunday, September 29, 2013

Travel Blogging III

Livorno, Italy: We did a shore excursion today, to Lucca. It's a town known for three things: first, it's very complete city walls that circle the town. History says Lucca's bitter rival was Pisa, a port city whose wealth was based on trade. Pisa's port has long since silted up, so the current port is Livorno, or as the Brits called it, Leghorn.

Lucca's second claim to fame is the facade of the church of St. Michele. Our Italian guide, whose English was flawlessly that of an American college girl (thank heavens) described that facade as a gaudy display of the city's merchants' wealth. It surely is over the top. There are three dozen columns done in nearly that many styles, each an exercise in excess.

The third thing for which Lucca is known is religious music - composers and musicians. Puccini is remembered here.

What the DrsC will remember about Lucca was the thunderstorm. Rain started gently about the time we reached the cathedral or duomo - very nice perpendicular Gothic, by the way. It was raining steadily as we reached the Roman amphitheater which, like Diocletian's Palace in Split (Croatia), has been inbuilt by later folks who needed a place to live, do business or both.

As the guided portion of the tour ended and the "free time" in downtown Lucca began, thunder, lightning, and buckets of rain commenced. We took dubious shelter under the canvas awning of a gelato shop and ate ice cream while Lucca experienced a deluge not unlike that promised France by Charles de Gaulle after his passing.

Unfortunately, it continued to rain hard as we walked from town center to outside the city walls to our bus and was still raining briskly when we exited the bus to walk the boarding ramp to the ship. As I sloshed through the rain I couldn't help thinking WY and CA need rain like this, both are dry.

We were a bunch of bedraggled wet kittens who really appreciated the warm beach towels with which Princess met us. I'm glad we'd remembered our umbrellas, which at least kept our heads and tummies dry.

Once aboard I literally wrung water out of the right sleeve of my denim over shirt; my chinos were wet to the knees, polo shirt and sox wet too. The other DrC was in a similar fix. Our cabin's bathroom had wet clothes hanging everywhere.

Travel Blogging II

Toulon, France: We spent the day tied up in port here in Toulon. It is probably the best natural harbor France has, nearly as impressive as San Diego or San Francisco Bay. It is not a frequent cruise port.

As you might guess, that makes it a home port of the French Navy, which was on display in some numbers. Most obvious was France's aircraft carrier, tied up at pier with no planes in evidence on deck.

I don't take the lack of planes to indicate an inactive ship, I believe it is common for everything flyable to be launched before coming into port. It's why navies have naval air stations, land bases at which to station their planes and crews when the carrier is in port between cruises, for rest and refit.

As I looked at the other ships of the French Navy, identifiable by their gray paint, I marveled at how little today's navy looks like the naval vessels of my youth and young adulthood. If there were any frigates or destroyers or cruisers in port I failed to see them. What I saw were ships of odd shape and dimension, looking more like ro-ro freighters or odd, lumpy auxiliaries of various arcane purpose.

It's no longer your father's navy. In the long-time absence of active naval warfare, navies have taken on other useful roles such as putting troops ashore to rescue expats from former colonial possessions which have become war zones.

The U.S. has a number of odd-looking ships wearing naval livery too. We've seen them in Alexandria, Egypt, for example, awkward combinations of troop carrier, helicopter launch platform, and mother ship to a bunch of small landing craft.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Travel Blogging II

Toulon, France: We spent the day tied up in port here in Toulon. It is probably the best natural harbor France has, nearly as impressive as San Diego or San Francisco Bay. It is not a frequent cruise port.

As you might guess, that makes it a home port of the French Navy, which was on display in some numbers. Most obvious was France's aircraft carrier, tied up at pier with no planes in evidence on deck.

I don't take the lack of planes to indicate an inactive ship, I believe it is common for everything flyable to be launched before coming into port. It's why navies have naval air stations, land bases at which to station their planes and crews when the carrier is in port between cruises, for rest and refit.

As I looked at the other ships of the French Navy, identifiable by their gray paint, I marveled at how little today's navy looks like the naval vessels of my youth and young adulthood. If there were any frigates or destroyers or cruisers in port I failed to see them. What I saw were ships of odd shape and dimension, looking more like ro-ro freighters or odd, lumpy auxiliaries of various arcane purpose.

It's no longer your father's navy. In the long-time absence of active naval warfare, navies have taken on other useful roles such as putting troops ashore to rescue expats from former colonial possessions which have become war zones.

The U.S. has a number of odd-looking ships wearing naval livery too. We've seen them in Alexandria, Egypt, for example, awkward combinations of troop carrier, helicopter launch platform, and mother ship to a bunch of small landing craft.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

A Sour View of Brazil

See a former American ambassador's rather jaundiced view of the Brazilian government and it's cronies in Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, and Nicaragua. The RealClearWorld article is worth your time if Brazil is a country you follow.

The unnamed (for obvious reasons) former ambassador says Brazil's commitment to democracy is less than total. However the U.S. also has long-time allies that are autocracies - think Saudi Arabia or any of the Emirates.

The argument that we need to spy on Brazil does make sense. We need inside information on any large, important nation, including Brazil, that deals actively with our declared enemies.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Travel Blogging I

Barcelona, Spain:  The wandering DrsC are at it again, we just flew in from San Francisco with a layover in Frankfurt. Getting here was memorable in several ways, most of them relatively insignificant in the greater scheme of things.

The long leg - SF to Frankfurt - was on the world's largest passenger plane, the Airbus A-380. Very new and roomy in Business Class, we were on the upper deck entered via a separate ramp. We flew at 36,000 ft. at 600 mph and did the great circle arc across Hudson Bay and southern Greenland in less than 10 hours.

We booked the flight on United but flew it on Lufthansa, this often happens on trans-Atlantic flights. Lufthansa does a reasonable job of most things - food, cleanliness, on-time, etc. What they don't excel at is entertainment.

Lufthansa's "package" as aimed at a world-wide audience so it includes Bollywood films nobody likes much but Indians, Kung fu pix for Asians, weird stuff for Europeans - soccer, bicycle racing. A lot of their "stuff for Americans" is older - I watched Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang which I'd never seen and enjoyed it, but it dates back to the late 1960s.

When United flies the route the entertainment package is optimized for Americans. Oddly that works for the rest of the world since they consume lots of Hollywood product. Candidly United spends more on their entertainment, and it shows.

The ship we are to board day after tomorrow is the Royal Princess, new this year and still experiencing "teething problems." During her last cruise she was several hours late leaving Mykonos because they could not raise the anchor. A few days later her electrical system went down enroute to Naples. Instead of bringing the pax to Barcelona, Princess put them ashore in Naples, sent them home with a full refund, and is sailing to Barcelona empty while they try to fix whatever is wrong.

We certainly hope we don't have similar (or worse) problems in mid-Atlantic later in October. Sailing into Naples is one thing, being w/o essential services in mid ocean is a whole other "adventure," one we'll happily do without. For those who've not been there, mid-Atlantic is one of the emptiest places on the planet. You can sail all day and not see another ship.

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Other Approach to Security

The Swiss just voted to keep their military draft, and the vote wasn't close either. Some 73% of them voted "no" on a measure to convert to an all volunteer military. See this Los Angeles Times article for details.

It has been 200 years since the Swiss had to fight anyone. That in a Europe where wars were common throughout the first three-quarters of the entire period.

Using a combination of fearsome terrain (the Alps), strict neutrality, and an almost universally armed adult male militia, Switzerland has avoided the wars that swirled around it.

If you visit Switzerland, look for semi-hidden gun emplacements, pillboxes, blast-protected fighter hardstands, mysterious tunnels, etc. A lot of the Swiss military is underground, dug into the mountainsides.

Could the U.S. do what the Swiss have done to protect itself, probably not. Our population is much more heterogeneous, and while well armed, not as susceptible to organization.

Later ... One characteristic of Swiss foreign policy entirely unlike ours is their absolute refusal to become involved in the internal affairs of another country. The Swiss never send troops elsewhere; their military posture consists entirely of defending Switzerland from within its own borders.

The Vatican's famous Swiss Guard are the one exception and they are, in actual fact, mercenaries - employees of the Holy See, not a function of the Swiss government.

Not the Only One

A Yahoo News article strongly infers that Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) is embarrassed to have voted for John McCain in 2008. As we noted then, he appeared to be the better of two poor choices.

Having seen the positions McCain has taken since 2008, using 20-20 hindsight, I'm embarrassed too. I fear he would have been merely a different sort of "nutjob" president.

In 2012, some embarrassment concerning my support of Mitt Romney was already baked into the cake because of his creation of Romneycare in Massachusetts. I understood why he did it - liberal Bay Staters wanted it - but he should have realized being their willing tool poisoned his image for conservatives.


I am reminded of Werner von Braun, the German rocket scientist who built war rockets for Hitler, then post-war built space rockets for the U.S., and did a heck of a job for both. His reputation will always be murky because of his willingness to work for whomever would fund his research.

Undoubtedly, if the Russians had captured von Braun instead of the Americans, he would have worked for them with an equal will. This sort of "gun for hire" mentality, reflecting no commitment to any values beyond pragmatism, is a liability for public figures. They are expected to stand for something bigger than "whatever works."

It's Autumn

Welcome to Autumn; sometime yesterday we crossed the autumnal equinox and transitioned from summer to autumn. It was already feeling like fall when we left Wyoming two weeks ago, but as always, we drove west back into summer here in California.

The main reason is dropping from 6300 ft. elevation there to maybe 300 ft. here. Summer is short in the high country, long here in California's Big Valley.

Have a fine autumn. From here it is a thirteen week sprint to winter and the year-end holidays.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

An Interesting Formulation

The New York Times' Ross Douthat does a column that casts some light on what's happening in today's Congressional Republican Party. He observes that the same people who are catering to the Tea Party and its obsession with Obamacare are also the people who are trying to develop new policies for the Party.

Douthat marvels at that, I'm not exactly sure why. Most of the energy in the GOP over the last four years has been Tea Party-driven.

Angela Reelected

German Chancellor Angela Merkel won reelection with a strong showing. According to Reuters, Merkel's win is unusual:
She is one of the few European leaders to survive the debt crisis, which has seen 19 of her EU peers lose their jobs since the start of 2010.
Merkel's Christian Democratic Union Party did not gain an absolute majority in the Bundestag lower house. All potential coalition partners are substantially to the left of the CDU, creating interesting, unpleasant dilemmas for her.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Weird Arctic Science

A coal-hauling ship, the Danish-owned Nordic Orion has made transit of the Northwest Passage, across the top of North America through the Arctic Ocean. Check out this article in The Globe and Mail, for details.

Apparently Canada is not particularly well-prepared to support a commercial route running across its northern coast. The article itemizes poor charts, no ports, lack of icebreakers, under-equipped Coast Guard and aerial rescue capabilities. The U.S. will need to get involved in this effort too, as our Alaska is a part of the coast traversed.

Quote of the Day

H. L. Mencken, writing in his book Prejudices (first series) dated 1919:
Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit upon his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats.
Being civilized consists of resisting that temptation, most of the time. Sourced from Wikiquotes.

Steyn Goes Bananas

The always readable, often sourly humorous Mark Steyn is in rare form as he riffs on President Obama's recent comment to the effect that the U.S. is "not some banana republic." See his whole column in the National Review Online.

According to Steyn, we already display many of the symptoms thereof. I share with you his conclusion:
A banana republic doesn’t happen overnight; it’s a sensibility, and it’s difficult to mark the precise point at which a free society decays into something less respectable. Pace Obama, ever swelling debt, contracts for cronies, a self-enriching bureaucracy, a shrinking middle class preyed on by corrupt tax collectors, and thuggish threats against anyone who disagrees with you put you pretty far down the banana-strewn path.
I hope you are familiar with Steyn's arch prepositional usage of "pace," from the Latin pronounced "pah-chey." defines it as "with all due respect to; with the permission of."

Unemployment → Disability

See a Washington Post article about the migration of the older long-time unemployed onto the Social Security-run Disability rolls. Once there such individuals rarely return to employment.

As we've noted here at COTTonLINE, this trend is not particularly new. The U.S. experienced a similar phenomenon in the 1930s.

World War I vets who happily worked through the Roaring Twenties found themselves unemployed. They "discovered" war-related disabilities that had previously gone undiagnosed, dare I say even unnoticed.

The 1930s Veterans Administration was overwhelmed with applicants and had to create additional hearing panels to adjudicate and process the flood of applications. I expect today's Social Security Administration is experiencing the same conditions.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Quote of the Day

Late French President and General Charles de Gaulle, according to Brainy Quote:
Old age is a shipwreck.
Who knew that arrogant old rascal, the nemesis of Churchill and Eisenhower, was a poet too?

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Wonders of Spam

Having spent a year on the island of Guam, and visited the Hawaiian Islands on many occasions, the idea that a people would love Hormel's Spam is no stranger to me. It is quite simply spiced pig-in-a-can, and canned pork is much tastier than canned beef.

A BBC News Asia article reveals that Spam is also popular in South Korea. So much so that Hormel has a canning plant in South Korea and packages the meat as a luxury treat.

My favorite Spam story is from my year on Guam. The Spam plant in the States was threatened with a strike. This became front page news on the Pacific Daily News, Guam's newspaper. Within a day Chamorros (native Guamanians) cleared the supermarket shelves of every can on the island.

Obamacare Defunding Update

John Hinderaker of Power Line writes a brief, to-the-point summary of what is happening on the "defund Obamacare" front. Apparently the House will go ahead with a bill funding all of government except Obamacare.

There are conflicting views on who will be blamed: Obama or the Republicans. Most think the latter, some polling suggests perhaps the President by a narrow margin.

Coulter on Crazy Killers

Ann Coulter has a Townhall column that deals with the subject of my post of a couple of days ago, concerning the Navy Yard shooter and his ilk. As usual, she does a better job of saying what I said, which is why she makes a living writing columns (and I don't need to, thank heaven).

Her research, as always, is impeccable. She documents about a dozen different examples of crazies killing people since the mental institutions closed down in the 1970s, several of them didn't even use guns.

Humorous side note: the Camarillo State Hospital she mentions was also closed. It is now the campus of California State University, Channel Islands.

I hope its students have enough sense of humor to pick as their mascot the loon. Nah, that is much too politically incorrect, too stigmatizing.

Coulter makes the point that what is needed is involuntary commitment of paranoid schizophrenics, not banning guns in the hands of sane, law-abiding citizens. COTTonLINE agrees.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

An Insight?

I was thinking about my post below concerning "crazies with guns." Do you suppose our society's manifest lack of interest in treating or taking care of people with mental illness actually causes some of these outbreaks of deadly violence?

I can imagine someone suffering from delusions, massive anxiety, insomnia, and fears of persecution being highly resentful of a society which by its indifference, seems to say, "It's your problem, buddy. We're not interested, you take care of it."

These outbreaks of shooting can be a way of getting attention, or more likely, the "9 mm attention" of an officer's weapon - so-called "suicide by cop."

Quote of the Day

Russell Berman, writing for Defining Ideas, a journal of the Hoover Institution, reprinted by RealClearPolitics, on the increase in anti-Americanism worldwide:
Instead of healing the rifts of the past, the administration’s foreign policy of weakness has bequeathed a legacy that has emerged vividly in the past months: The return of anti-Americanism.
Berman notes this is particularly true in former key allies Germany and Egypt.

No Decency Nor Shame

Michael Goodwin, writing for the New York Post, concerning the inappropriateness of President Obama's speech upon hearing of the Navy Yard shootings:
The content of Monday’s hyperpartisan speech was par for your hyperpartisan presidency, but the timing marked a new low. Let me be clear: Have you neither decency nor shame?
The brief answer to Goodwin's question is "apparently not."

I saw a snippet of this speech on the PBS News Hour which carefully trimmed off the partisan attack, showing only the "we're sorry for your loss" introduction. Naturally, as apologists for Obama, PBS was trying to cover up what they clearly recognized as his faux pas.

Crazies With Guns

Here we are again, watching with horror as another mentally ill individual shoots our fellow citizens. Crazies with repeating weapons can do a lot of damage, kill a lot of people. This act doesn't appear to have had any ideological motivation as we understand the concept, as for instance the Fort Hood shooter very clearly had.

Let's remember how we came into this sad state. Back in 1960s and 70s, the days of One Flew Over the Cuckoo' s Nest, people on the left came to believe in a "right" to be out of touch with reality, to be "different." People on the right discovered how much money they could save by agreeing to close the detested mental hospitals.

Before that time, the Navy Yard shooter might have been warehoused in a mental hospital as a paranoid schizophrenic. Two weeks ago he was buying a shotgun and planning to take revenge on the society with which he felt out of step. The fault is ours for being too cheap, too concerned with individual rights to have places to separate the dangerous ones with voices in their heads from the rest of us.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Algerian Anxieties

The former French colony of Algeria is a place about which we've heard precious little in recent years. The one exception being the al Qaeda attack on a remote desert gas processing plant early in the year.

If you have an interest in getting caught up on the happenings in the North African nation of Algeria, this RealClearWorld article is just what you need.

Blogging Is Growthful

I'm not certain "growthful" is a word, more like a neologism. My guess: you know exactly what I mean by it - people who write for an audience become better writers and thinkers as a result. They grow, mentally.

I've held this view for some time without quite articulating it. Now comes along an article on the website that spells out this view and supports it. If you write for a blog, or read them with some regularity, I believe you will find the article interesting.

Weird Climate Science

See this Wall Street Journal article for an in-depth and relatively technical preview of the soon-to-be-released Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report on climate change. The last such report came out in 2007; since that time our understanding of climate science has made great strides.

Matt Ridley's summary of the new findings suggests the Chicken Little cries of Al Gore and his claque have been seriously overstated. There is an argument that a mild increase in world temperature, say 2 degrees celsius, might be of net benefit for human beings.

The Power of Trekkies

Not everything we do here at COTTonLINE has to be deadly serious. Carl M. Cannon has written a fun column for RealClearPolitics concerning the way the first NASA space shuttle came to be named the Enterprise.

As Cannon reports, the original name NASA picked for the shuttle was the Constitution. It turns out that Star Trek fans wrote thousands of letters and generally lobbied hard for the name Enterprise. And our President at the time, former sailor Gerald Ford, was heard to say he favored the Enterprise name.

Intriguing side note: the Enterprise never flew in space. She was essentially a developmental prototype.

Monday, September 16, 2013

An Update on Argentina

Argentina is a country with everything except a functioning political system. As such, it historically has snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, over and over again.

Now the government of lame duck President Cristina Fernandez appears to be on verge of default. The street black market for bootleg U.S. dollars is thriving, even more than usual.

See a Financial Times article for details, like this comment from an Argentine pollster:
The president’s power has weakened extraordinarily, thanks to a series of terrible decisions. She has done everything wrong.
Historically, at this point in the recurring tragedy, the Argentine military intervenes. I wonder if it will do so now?

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Not Your Father's Beauty Contest

I just scanned an Associated Press article on Yahoo News with photos of the Miss America pageant in Atlantic City. Maybe bad pix or maybe poor contestants, or both - I wasn't impressed.

They were pleasant looking young women, but hardly the Miss America quality stunners of years past. I have to wonder whether this whole beauty pageant concept has passed its sell-by date.

I am reminded of hundreds of little rural Texas towns that died 60 years ago; whatever purpose they once served no longer exists. Since nobody tells them to stop, they continue along in a sort of sleepwalking time warp.

Maybe beauty pageants are like that, just stumbling along. A sad thought, if true.


The Atlantic reports that women are a small (27%) and shrinking portion of workers in information technology. The article does not come to clear conclusions about why this might be so.

Actually, women hold a small percentage of all STEM jobs (science, technology, engineering, and math), of which IT is a growing portion. It would appear that the stereotypes portrayed in television's The Big Bang Theory have a basis in fact.

Brooks on Cruz

New York Times columnist David Brooks, speaking on the PBS News Hour and echoed on The Daily Caller website, thinks Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz is not a legislator in the traditional sense. Privately, Cruz might agree with this assessment.

Brooks sees Cruz and his tea party colleagues trying to take over control of the Republican Party. Again, Cruz might agree with that view, privately if not publicly.

Brooks says these folks merely want to STOP things, not actually legislate. That may be true but is, I think, situational. They want to stop what the Obama administration has started, and what the Reid-led Democratic majority in the Senate has moved forward.

In another setting, with people putting forward conservative legislation, they might be strong supporters thereof. Time will tell.

Weird Fertility Science

A research-based article in the magazine
Conservation makes the point that access to TV soap operas and telenovelas is associated with relatively steep declines in human fertility rates. Here are two key quotes:
The most dynamic force in changing social mores in villages and slum communities is a box in the corner of the living room: the TV.

In India, states where the average daily income is below two dollars per person still have TV sets in more than half of households.
A very interesting, long article about the negative impact of TV availability on birth rates. TV provides, after all, something else to do after sundown. The impact may be stronger than that of increased female education, and considerably faster, cheaper and easier to accomplish.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Happy Election Results

National Review's John Fund has a column that looks at three recent elections in three different countries, in all of which the conservatives won. The state senate recall elections in Colorado, plus national elections in both Norway and Australia, all were won by conservatives.

About the three elections, Fund generalizes as follows:
Liberals forgot that their priorities aren’t often those of the average voter. In each case, they were punished for it.
That may be too facile; for as Tip O'Neill famously said, "All politics is local."

Another View of Pinochet

Everybody who pays any attention to news about Chile has seen the MSM's standard view of the Pinochet coup that overthrew Salvador Allende. Namely, that Pinochet was bad, Allende was good, and the whole outcome was terrible.

If you're interested in another view, one that turns the standard view on its head, take a look at this article for by Humberto Fontova. In his reading of the event, Allende was a Castroite Communist, Pinochet was a Chilean patriot, and the U.S. had little to do with the homegrown revulsion against Allende's dictatorship of the proletariat.

Who is correct? My memory of the events in question says the Chilean middle class was instrumental in the Allende overthrow. These were people who had something to lose: taxi drivers who owned their cabs, small business owners, devout Roman Catholics and property owners.

Steyn on Putin

Columnist Mark Steyn, writing for National Review, about Russian President Vladimir Putin's op-ed for The New York Times and the circumstances which brought it about:
With this op-ed Tsar Vlad is telling Obama: The world knows you haven’t a clue how to play the Great Game or even what it is, but the only parochial solipsistic dweeby game you do know how to play I can kick your butt all over town on, too.
Steyn likewise isn't impressed with Secretary of State Kerry:
Putin and Assad are running rings around the dull-witted Kerry, whose Botoxicated visage embodies all too well the expensively embalmed state of the superpower. 
Steyn concludes as follows:
America is in danger of being the first great power to be laughed off the world stage. (snip) The president’s an irrelevant narcissist and his secretary of state’s a vainglorious buffoon.

Quote of the Day

Glenn Harlan Reynolds, the Instapundit, blogging in a snarky way:
Marxists are just Nazis with better PR.
That's from his postings today, September 13.

Friday, the 13th

COTTonLINE wishes all of our readers a lucky Friday, the 13th of September. If you want to learn more about this particular superstition, Wikipedia isn't a bad source.

It turns out that, depending on the culture you're in, Tuesday the 13th or Friday the 17th may be the dreaded day instead of today. In a culture like ours where the five day, M-F work week is relatively standard, it is hard to see how people who gleefully proclaim TGIF can find any Friday date an unlucky day.

On the other hand, the truly lucky (of which I was one) like their jobs and value Friday no more (or less) highly than any other day. When you like your job all seven days of the week are fine.

What or Who Is a Journalist?

Congress is working on a bill that has the effect of defining who is or is not a real journalist. Politico suggests Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) is a prime mover therein. The point of the legislation is to define who may protect their sources from disclosure. If the bill passes, only "real" journalists would be able to refuse to identify sources.

COTTonLINE takes the position that journalism is a process, that whoever practices that process is a journalist, whether paid or not, whether working at it full-time, part-time, or even intermittently.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Weird Viral Science

Scientists at the University of Southampton have determined that surfaces composed of 60% or more copper kill the norovirus, the highly contageous cause of many outbreaks of gastrointestinal illness. See the university's news release describing their findings, which include:
Copper alloys have previously been shown to be effective antimicrobial surfaces against a range of bacteria and fungi. The Southampton research reported rapid inactivation of murine norovirus on alloys, containing over 60 per cent copper, at room temperature but no reduction of infectivity on stainless steel dry surfaces.
The DrsC have spent many months aboard cruise ships and have encountered several outbreaks of "noro." Such ships normally quarantine sick passengers to their cabins for the 24-36 hours that the disease is active.

I'd like to see cruise ships utilize copper alloys in often touched surfaces: elevator buttons, door handles, stair rails, faucet and toilet handles, and perhaps the ladles used in buffet food lines. What we today call norovirus was called "24 hour stomach flu" when I was a youngster.

Klein: Stunning, Inexplicable Incompetence

Liberal Joe Klein writes for Time on politics. See what he wrote yesterday about the Obama  foreign policy:
(Obama) willingly jumped into a bear trap of his own creation. In the process, he has damaged his presidency and weakened the nation’s standing in the world. It has been one of the more stunning and inexplicable displays of presidential incompetence that I’ve ever witnessed. 
Klein has reported on American politics for decades. When your friends say this, imagine what your not-friends are thinking. 

My Kind of Pope

According to an article in The Independent (U.Kl), Pope Francis has spread the arms of the church to include those whose belief structure recognizes substantial doubt. See what His Holiness wrote:
You ask me if the God of the Christians forgives those who don’t believe and who don’t seek the faith. I start by saying – and this is the fundamental thing – that God’s mercy has no limits if you go to him with a sincere and contrite heart. The issue for those who do not believe in God is to obey their conscience. Sin, even for those who have no faith, exists when people disobey their conscience. 
That works for me. Faith is not a prerequisite for goodness, although goodness can sometimes flow from faith.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

BBC: Chile Remembers Pinochet

The BBC is known for its leftist leanings and yet, every now and then,  surprises with an article like this one concerning Chilean feelings about their late dictator Augusto Pinochet. It turns out he still has fans among the Chilean populace.

As a result of economic reforms Pinochet instituted, Chile is perhaps the most successful economy in Latin America. His human rights record is not admirable. However he "disappeared" a lot fewer opponents than did the generals in neighboring Argentina.

Redistributionist policies generate less wealth and more dependency than do policies that reward effort and accomplishment. Pinochet understood this, Allende did not.

No Diplomat

At long last even his supporters are realizing that Barack Obama may be many things, but an effective President he is not. Russian President Putin has eaten Obama's lunch on the Syria situation, and left him looking foolish. This is not in the best interests of the United States.

Peggy Noonan, writing in The Wall Street Journal, describes our president thusly:
Obama, a self-besotted charismatic who can’t tell the difference between showbiz and strategy, and who enjoys unburdening himself of moral insights to his peers.
A "self-besotted charismatic?" Don't hold back, Peggy, tell us what you really think.

Meanwhile The New York Times' snark-meister Maureen Dowd is vastly unimpressed by Obama and SecState Kerry. She writes:
Obama’s flip-flopping, ambivalent leadership led him to the exact place he never wanted to be: unilateral instead of unified. Once again, as with gun control and other issues, he had not done the groundwork necessary to line up support.

Remembering 9-11

Twelve years ago today the "Pearl Harbor" of the Long War took place in New York City, Washington, and a field in Pennsylvania. Sneak attacks on people who believed themselves at peace, resulting in thousands of deaths.

It is important that we do not forget what happened twelve years ago, or who was responsible. We also need to remember in the name of what cause the cowardly attacks were undertaken.

Two theater wars have happened since 9-11, in Iraq and Afghanistan, by way of striking back at the 9-11 perpetrators.  Both involved nation-building, neither worked out well.

What is more effective are the various means by which we can bring death to jihadis: drone strikes, targeted assassinations, special warfare raids. Getting militant groups to attack each other, as in Syria, works too.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Second Demographic Transition

Thomas B. Edsall writes a column on politics and demographics for The New York Times. Here he is looking at the degree to which people have physically sorted themselves into regions of like-minded individuals.

Edsall cites the work of Ron Lesthaeghe and Lisa Neidert of the University of Michigan Population Studies Center. These scholars have developed a composite measure of how far along a locale has moved toward what they call the Second Demographic Transition. This they define as:
Postponement of marriage, greater prevalence of cohabitation and same-sex households, postponement of parenthood, sub-replacement fertility, and a higher incidence of abortion.
Places having made more of this transition tend to vote for liberal candidates and parties ... no surprise.

Friedman on Syria ... Again

The New York Times' Thomas L. Friedman comes up with an alternative to bombing Syria that actually might work. It has the advantage of strengthening the non-jihadist rebels vs. the al Qaeda clones.

Friedman proposes arming and training the Free Syrian Army and doing our level best to accuse the high-ups in Assad's regime of war crimes. As he says:
We need to use every diplomatic tool we have to shame Assad, his wife, Asma, his murderous brother Maher and every member of his cabinet or military whom we can identify as being involved in this gas attack. We need to bring their names before the United Nations Security Council for condemnation. We need to haul them before the International Criminal Court. We need to make them famous. We need to metaphorically put their pictures up in every post office in the world as people wanted for crimes against humanity.
I believe I've heard worse ideas.

Weird Longevity Science

It turns out white women who drop out of high school have experienced a drop in longevity. That's a decline of five years lifespan in the last 18 years and nobody knows why.

See this article in The American Prospect for survey details and an interesting case study. I won't try to guess what the variables might be, the drop in lifespan isn't affecting poor women of other races.

From Ottoman to Turkish

Here at COTTonLINE we have tracked developments in Turkey. It is the one Islamic country that has the possibility to become a modern state.

See an article in The National Interest which describes modern Turkish history through the lives of two major leaders: Kemal Ataturk and Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Current sad trends in Turkey are anti-western and anti-modern.

Economics Not The Answer

Americans are thought to "vote their pocketbooks." That is, they vote for the party most likely to be helpful to them financially.

As Stephen Moore writes in The Wall Street Journal, this rule did not hold true in the 2012 election. The five groups that provided Obama's base were the five groups whose economic well-being had taken the biggest beating during Obama's first term:
The stimulus-led economic revival that began officially in June 2009—Vice President Joe Biden's famous "summer of recovery"—has only resulted in lower incomes for at least half of Americans, the very ones who were instrumental in electing Mr. Obama twice. 
Moore doesn't speculate about why these people voted against their economic interests. I would hazard a guess that having someone other than a successful white male as President was sufficiently wonderful to these voters that Obama's failure to improve the economy didn't matter.

If that guess is accurate, a Hillary Clinton candidacy may have the same effect, may also meet the "get even" need of many voters. Meanwhile the rich get richer and the poor get rap sheets.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Quote of the Day

Glenn Harlan Reynolds, blogging as Instapundit, cracking wise about the Obama foreign policy:
Obama’s mouth has been writing checks that it looks like his body politic can’t cash. I guess that’s what they call “smart diplomacy.”

Goldman as Spengler, Revisited

David P. Goldman (pretends to) channel Oswald Spengler. He often writes interesting columns, in this case for PJ Media. And yes, his work is often pessimistic.

Here his topic is the lack of trustworthy Arabic speakers in the U.S. By "trustworthy" he means other than first or second generation Arab immigrants. Such individuals are often suspected of being al Qaeda moles.

Interestingly, Israel has a surfeit of non-Arab speakers of Arabic. The U.S. could hire these if it weren't that they are also viewed as untrustworthy - remember the Jonathan Pollard case. Spengler likens this situation to Gulliver tied down by Lilliputians.

If the U.S. government needs Anglos to learn Arabic, why doesn't it train them or subsidize the learning thereof? We know from economics if you subsidize something you will get more of it.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Counterinsurgency, a History

The U.S. has been engaged in counterinsurgency off and on since the Vietnam War. Mostly we haven't been very good at it, at least as I remember the history.

If the subject interests you, see an article in Air Force Magazine which takes a long view of COIN, as counterinsurgency is now abbreviated. The treatment is thorough and not overly optimistic.

The Romans were pretty good at COIN, in an era when human rights didn't signify for much. Their model for dealing with troublesome tribes was kill all the adult males, sell the women and children into slavery, and move in friendly settlers to take over the land.

To a degree Chairman Mao followed the Roman model in taking over China. We cannot follow the Roman model, and a better one hasn't emerged.

Climate, The Other View

Here at COTTonLINE we've been climate change skeptics, recognizing that climates do change and have since long before our ancestors evolved from smart apes. That doesn't mean there isn't another point of view to which you might want access.

The Guardian (U.K.) has an editorial which presents the "lets get worried" viewpoint in a reasonable way. If you want exposure to the other side of the argument, give it a look.

Quote of the Day

The Washington Post's Robert Samuelson takes a long Labor Day look at the status of the American worker. Read his conclusion and wince:
Workers do best when strong growth and tight markets raise real wages. On Labor Day 2013, this prospect is nowhere in sight.

Good Photo, Bad Caption

This photo in National Review Online, posted by John Fund, pretty much says it all. On the other hand, the caption is misleading as the sailor's insignia says he is a Chief Petty Officer, a senior enlisted person, the navy's equivalent of a senior sergeant.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Brooks Worries Too Much

The New York Times' David Brooks is often cited in this blog as I find his insights fun, interesting, sometimes important. On the other hand, his August 29 column worries about the unrest in Syria metastasizing into a region-wide religious war of Sunni vs. Shia.

Brooks frets about what, if anything, we might do to stop that from happening. Implicit in his argument is that we should try. Really? Why?

The FBI doesn't get overmuch concerned when one Mafia family kills an inconvenient member of another family. Why should we involve ourselves in this fight between Middle Eastern thugs?

As long as Sunnis are busy fighting off Shias, they aren't attacking the U.S. and its friends. That works for me, how about you?

Southern Hemisphere Climate

Abnormal cold and snowfall in Peru, Bolivia and Paraguay are reported by BBC News:
The Peruvian government has extended to nine more regions a state of emergency called to cope with unusually cold weather and heavy snowfall.

The cold front has also hit Peru's south-eastern neighbour, Bolivia, and Paraguay, where a combined total of five people have died.
More of that global warming we keep hearing is just around the corner? Maybe not. This is late winter south of the equator, officially spring starts there on September twenty-first.

Gin and Tonic

Have some fun with an article in Slate about the history of the gin and tonic cocktail. Perhaps your clue is that "tonic" is another word for medicine.

The gin and tonic story is very East India Company, pukka sahib and the raj. Very much "Jewel in the Crown," Sepoy Mutiny and the Great Game.

The DrsC had a chance to visit Bombay (some prefer Mumbai) this past spring and saw the fabulous infrastructure the Brits left there for the Indians - palaces, libraries, grand hotels, ministry office buildings, plus the triumphal arch known as the Gateway of India. All executed beautifully in stone that will last a millennia.

The architecture the Brits left makes Bombay a world-class city. What the Indians have added, not so much.