Wednesday, October 30, 2013

More on Restive Regions

Two weeks ago, I wrote of "restive regions" in Europe; see my comments here. Today I came across a column by Walter Russell Mead in The American Interest concerning the extent to which most European countries are either organized around a single ethnic group, or are experiencing the restive regions problem.

He discusses the European "model" in the context of ability to deal with immigration. He arrives at roughly the same view I blogged two weeks ago from Barcelona.

Mead doesn't discuss the obvious multi-ethnic success story that is Switzerland. The Swiss solution is to have three separate nations-within-one; German, French, and Italian regions each having considerable autonomy in cultural matters.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Further Charlize Thoughts

The South African actress who plays the wicked Queen Ravenna in Snow White and the Huntsman - Charlize Theron - is coincidentally the model in the Macy's. TV ads for J'adore perfume by Dior. See the TV ad here on YouTube.

The ad that includes snippets of Marilyn Monroe, Grace Kelly, Marlene Dietrich, and perhaps Ava Gardner before Theron strides out onto a modeling catwalk in a golden mesh backless dress, looking as though she owns the house. It wouldn't be difficult to imagine she has a jaguar ancestor - deadly elegance all the way.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Film Review

There have been two recent films based on the Snow White story. I write this afternoon about the more serious film, titled Snow White and the Huntsman.

I guess there were other known actors in it but the performance you will remember is that of Charlize Theron. She is the beautiful, scary-as-hell powerful witch - Queen Ravenna.

This story is not played for laughs, although it is set in a time and place where magic works and cute fairies inhabit an Eden-like place called Sanctuary and ride on the backs of bunnies and magpies.

The casting of Snow White herself was weak, although the actress playing her does an okay job. I can't believe a magic mirror would find her more attractive than Theron's Ravenna. A nicer person certainly, but not "fairer."

A favorite scene is the funeral of one of the dwarves, where a haunting dirge called "Gone" is sung. I like the dwarves played as ruffians, as they are here. The special effects are very well done too.

Film Review

A couple of nights ago we watched White House Down, a film about a terrorist attack on the White House and, incidentally the Capitol too. As escapist fiction it isn't bad.

What offended me about the plot was their choice of villain. Without giving away all the plot twists, the defense industry is the ultimate baddie. They want to get rid of a dovish President (modeled on Obama, played by Jamie Foxx) whose one-world peace plan will hurt their profits and end war.

What unbelievable claptrap. The world is full of actual terrorists named Ahmed or Mohammed but leftwing Hollywood wants to blame war-mongering businessmen and women.

When Senator McCarthy looked for Communists in Hollywood, he was sandbagging - picking the low-hanging fruit. There were Hollywood reds aplenty in the thirties, forties, and fifties, and their latter-day, business-hating kin haunt the entertainment industry to this day.


At Dock in Port Everglades, FL: The going-ashore process this morning is dragging. The Feds are not covering themselves with anything approaching glory.

We don't have an early disembarkation code as we don't fly home until tomorrow - that was the earliest we could use our frequent flyer miles to get free first class tickets. "Free" makes staying here overnight worthwhile.

A thirty day cruise is 3-4 days too long; about that long ago I was ready to move on to the next phase of the adventure. Today we move forward, better late than never.

The Royal Princess crossed the southern North Atlantic with nary a hassle, she handles swells and chop w/o drama. Maybe the Captain used the stabilizers, I'm not sure. It has been a smooth ride, for sure.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Advantages, and Disadvantages

Many cruises begin, end, or round-trip out of the Ft. Lauderdale/Miami cruise ports, as these ports are handy to the Caribbean islands, and to the Panama Canal transit. They are also logical jumping-off or ending points for trans-Atlantic repositioning cruises. Many retirees live nearby in Florida and both enjoy and have the time and $$ for cruising.

Those are the upsides to cruises which begin or end in Florida. The downside of such cruises is the concentration of former New Yorkers (and New Jerseyites) who now live in this part of Florida and who are likely to constitute a substantial fraction of your fellow passengers.

While it is politically incorrect to generalize about people from one or another part of the U.S., it is also true that such characterizations often are somewhat accurate. In my experience, many present and former residents of NYC and north Jersey are some of our least pleasant shipmates - loud, rude, aggressive, and sour of disposition.

Such people give the lie to the song lyric which says of NYC: "If you can make it here, you'll make it anywhere." Instead, the very characteristics which facilitate survival in The Big Apple seem likely to engender shunning in other, less hostile parts of the country. Being shunned isn't making it, in my estimation.

Thoughts as the Voyage Concludes

At Sea Nearing Florida: This is the final night of the month-long cruise, and so we ate in the ship's steak house - the Crown Grill. Yes, you pay extra for it and, yes, it is worth it.

Our medium rare rib eye steaks were simply superb, the best we've had in years. I also had their version of a French onion soup - they call it Black and Blue soup - again very good. The desserts were good, but mine was not up to the high standards of the rest of the supper. The other DrC says her "molten chocolate" dessert was excellent. (N.B. I cannot promise you will enjoy the Crown Grill as much as we did; any restaurant can have an "off" night.)

The food on this cruise has been good. I am particularly impressed with the chef's effort to also have good food in the buffet - some ships don't try very hard in the buffet.

The variety in Royal Princess' Horizon Court and Bistro buffet is overwhelming. They don't have one carving station, there are always at least two and some days three with different meats - roasts, hams, turkeys. Sandwiches, soups, salads, pastries, breads, ethnic foods including a taco/fajita station with really good guacamole. A person who can't find something good for lunch just isn't very hungry.

New on the Royal is a pizza/pasta restaurant in addition to the usual semi-outdoor pizza bar and burger grill by the pool, topside. There are also a sushi bar and a gelato shop, neither of which appeared to be doing much business when I was looking.

For a ship with 3600 passengers, the Royal's library doesn't amount to much and the book selection was odd. I wonder if they buy "remainders." The best libraries in Princess' fleet are in her smallest ships, the 600+ passenger ships they bought when Renaissance folded. Very popular with many cruise passengers, the little ships are not big favorites with Princess management as they are not as profitable as big ships.

The Royal is the first Princess ship I've experienced with on-demand movies and TV shows, something Holland America has had for awhile. I prefer HA's approach using in-room DVD players and an extensive library of DVDs but the Royal's system requires no DVDs or players and still provides considerable choice.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Cruising Musings, Continued

An odd thing about making a trans-Atlantic crossing going west is that our destination is in a time zone (Eastern U.S.) that is six hours earlier than Western Europe. After leaving Barcelona, we will set our watches back an hour on six different days before reaching Florida.

Effectively this means we experience six different twenty-FIVE hour days, roughly one every other day. There is no jet lag, an hour at a time isn't enough to bring it on. Going east toward Europe results in six twenty-THREE hour days. Again, no trauma but strange nevertheless.

We flew to Europe to begin this cruise and experienced substantial jet lag. From west coast U.S. to continental Europe one goes from GMT minus 8 to GMT plus one, or nine hours difference. For several days after arrival we were sleepy during the day and wide awake at night. Flying home from Florida isn't such a big adjustment - maybe a couple of tired days.

Bias Showing

I just read in Politico a classic example of reportorial spin. The article purports to impart the essence or importance of new poll numbers concerning public reaction to the government "shutdown."

The author, one Tal Kopan, reports that 39% blame the GOP, 19% blame the Dems, and 36% blame both parties equally. Let's assume those are the actual numbers the poll found - a safe assumption, I believe.

The issue is what those numbers "mean," how they should be interpreted. Kopan goes directly to "GOP loses," because more blame them.

Another equally accurate interpretation is the following: 55% disagree that the fault is the GOP's alone. Fifty-five percent believe it is either the Dems' fault or the blame is equally shared.

Politico's headline: "Polls: Shutdown Nightmare for GOP." An equally valid alternate headline would be "Efforts to Persuade Most Americans to Blame the Govt. Shutdown on GOP Fail."

On the Briny Deep

At Sea, en route to Ft. Lauderdale, FL: Today some random travel thoughts from an overly seasoned traveler. Earlier I was musing about dining on shipboard. From some perspectives it could be viewed as the major activity of cruising.

The passengers even joke about it. You hear comments like "Do we really need to eat again so soon?" or "I wonder how many pounds I'll gain this trip?" are often heard. I imagine our vessel as a kind of "feedlot for humans," disguised as a luxury floating hotel.

We are roughly a thousand miles from the nearest land. There isn't much but water between us and Greenland to the north, between us and Antarctica to the south. Each of those is several thousand miles away. And the ocean here is a mile deep, too. We reach the midpoint of our crossing at 3 a.m. tomorrow morning.

These are lonely waters. Unlike the busy sea lanes running down the Costa del Sol from Barcelona toward Gibraltar, where you are always within sight of several other ships, mid-Atlantic in these latitudes is nearly empty.

Any other cruise ships are headed the same direction we are - west - at roughly our same speed (20 knots). Like the Royal Princess they are "repositioning" from Europe to the Caribbean to begin winter cruising in the warm waters south of Florida.

You see ships you pass, either because they are going the opposite direction or because your speed is quite unlike theirs. We could be fifty miles ahead of another cruise ship and never see her until she follows us into Port Everglades, as the port of Ft. Lauderdale is called.

The Captain says we are trying to avoid a tropical depression that is to be renamed tropical storm Lorenzo, by sailing to the south of it. Right now we have a beautiful day, blue skies and 76 degrees.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Restive Regions

Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain: As you may have guessed, the Catalan area of Spain is another "restive region" that would like independence or at least more autonomy. The separatists already have a flag design; if you know what to look for you'll see it on display here and there in Barcelona.

European nations generally haven't done good jobs of integrating their varied regions into single nationalities. Americans see this and wonder why it is so difficult for the Europeans? I have a hunch.

I hypothesize the key variable is the non-immigrant status of European regional populations. A Catalonian's ancestors have probably lived here since Roman times, or before.

He has no sense that his ancestors came here to "join Spain." Rather his sense is that something called "Spain" came along and annexed his native soil and it's inhabitants - his ancestors - almost certainly without asking first.

So a Catalonian or a Basque or a Fleming or a Breton or a Norman or a Catholic in Northern Ireland, etc. may feel like a draftee instead of a volunteer, like someone whose ancestors were "press ganged" into the nation.

By contrast the largely immigrant nations of the Anglosphere (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the U.S.) have created populations that substantially identify with their new "homelands-of-choice." Exception: Canada hasn't integrated Quebec, and probably won't either. Quebec isn't a volunteer, but a conquered former colony of France.

The small aboriginal populations of these four immigrant nations have failed to thrive, or to integrate. This can be seen as further evidence of the hypothesis at work.

Monday, October 14, 2013


Civitavecchia, Italy: Uniformed police the world around carry multiple pieces of gear, typically on what amounts to a tool belt. These likely include a holstered handgun plus extra ammunition often preloaded in clips, Mace or pepper spray, holstered handcuffs, a baton or nightstick, a holstered radio, maybe a flashlight.

In the States the police gear belt and holsters are most often black or maybe brown. In Italy they are often white, or were white when new. Worn over a two tone blue uniform this makes Italian police look like Disney cops, or casino security, probably an erroneous impression.

We took a morning excursion to Lake Bracciano north of Rome. The pretty lake provides drinking water for Rome and is exceptionally clear.

There were swans swimming in the lake; they tip forward to feed, with their feathery butts pointed straight up and their heads out of sight. It is hard for a bird with so much innate dignity to look silly, but a feeding swan accomplishes it.

There is an old resort village beside the lake, Anguletti by name. It is highly picturesque with the exception that every ancient building is festooned with TV antennas and satellite dishes, a strange juxtaposition. It looks like a fine place to relax and veg out.

Later we tasted better wines at a place that will sell you a bottle of table white for €1,50, if you bring your own bottle and cork. Red costs €1,70 per bottle. They could compete with the famous Two Buck Chuck.

Note that Europeans exchange the use of the comma and period in their arithmetic. Here comma designates decimal point while period separates hundreds from thousands, etc. We, of course, do the opposite.

As we noted before this region of Italy looks very like coastal California south of Monterey, so easy on our eyes.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Film Review

Tonight's film, from the ship's on-demand library for in-cabin viewing, was Star Trek, Into Darkness. This is another of the prequel films featuring the young Kirk, Spock, Sulu, Uhura, Bones, Scotty, etc. as they deal with the young Khan as villain.

This film is pleasant without in any way being profound. Nice special effects, but somewhat under imagined aliens all of whom seem to be bipedal quasi-primates with odd faces - a highly unlikely outcome.

Hollywood manages to drag out a favorite cliche in the form of a Federation admiral who wants to start a war with the Klingons. General officers are often the last to want to take their forces to war, in the real world.

Random Notes from Sicily

Messina, Sicily, Italy: Not many cruise ships stop in Sicily, most 'steam' through the Strait of Messina on their way to somewhere sexier, like Mykonos or Naples. Our ship spent something like six hours at port in Messina harbor, so the DrsC joined friends to take a shore excursion to Taormina, a hillside playground of the rich, overlooking the sea.

Driving there we got a good look at eastern coastal Sicily, and were reminded that it is a relatively poor part of Italy. I saw several abandoned buildings and a lot more needing maintenance and repair.

There is little flat ground in this part of the island. Building roads in this mountainous terrain is costly and difficult, ditto buildings. They've carved many tunnels to carry roads through rocky headlands.

The hillsides are far from verdant, their resemblance to the dry California coastal mountains is strong. The difference is the evidence of recent volcanism. Mount Etna has made her mark on the Sicilian terrain; California's volcanos are inland - Mounts Shasta and Lassen are in the Sierras, not the Coast Range. There is more dry land flora than I expected, cactus and the like.

At Taormina we visited what is billed as a Greek theater. It probably started off Greek but the Romans, those indefatigable engineer/builders, took it over and much of what remains today is clearly Roman work, especially the distinctive brickwork.

Romans made thin bricks, little more than an inch thick but longer than our modern bricks and perhaps wider as well. My joke at the theater: "Greeks are from Yale, Romans are from M.I.T."

Our guide was a moonlighting high school English teacher whose English was grammatical enough but her accent was well-nigh impenetrable. I feel sorry for her pupils. Talk about your comedic "stage Italian" English - whew. After three hours I still was catching one word in perhaps four and guessing at the rest.

"Guide English" is a highly variable thing, the best have lived in the U.S. We have had some excellent guides, this wasn't one of them.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Mini Review

A futuristic novel with a politically conservative flavor concerning dystopian U.S. politics. That sums up Oliver North's novel Heroes Proved, Threshold Editions, 2012. It is a decent read; sadly not too far-fetched.

Quote of the Day

William Butler Yeats, from his poem "The Second Coming."
"Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world."

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Film Review

Tonight's film was Hansel and Gretel, Witch Hunters. Imagine the two children who ate part of the witch's candy house and got caught by the witch now grown and making a crusade of hunting and killing witches. That's the premise of the film.

Hansel and Gretel feels and looks like a sequel to Van Helsing, the vampire hunter film. That said, it is an attractive, well-made genre film with decent acting, lots of fight scenes, good special effects, and a plot that hangs together. There are even a couple of decent plot twists I will not spoil for you by revealing them.

This will never be one of your favorite flix, but it's a very pleasant evening's entertainment.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Film Review

Tonight the DrsC watched a film called Gangster Squad on the ship's on-demand TV system. The film is a sort of docudrama, a perhaps fictional treatment of things happening to real people in the history of Los Angeles.

The film has L.A. Police Chief Parker effectively "declaring war" on mobster Mickey Cohen. The filmic Parker selects a police sergeant who saw extensive WW II combat and orders him to recruit a group of rough men to battle Cohen.

Their assignment was not to make arrests, since the courts were apparently dirty, witnesses were too frightened to testify and no convictions would ensue. Their job instead was to break up Cohen's operations via vandalism and terror, and to shoot a number of his men along the way. This they did.

The film does a good job of recreating the authentic feel of late 1940s Los Angeles. Think of it as an homage to The Untouchables, set in a somewhat later L.A.

My main interests in the film are twofold: first, I remember Parker and Cohen as real icons of 1949 L.A.; second, I have independent knowledge that LAPD did engage in quasi-vigilante action of the sort depicted in the film. However the examples I know of happened over a decade earlier, before I was born.

Random Travel Thoughts

> A couple of days ago as we sailed along the Turkish coast south and west of Istanbul we were quite close to what may be the world's most active war zone - the civil war in Syria. If anybody on board this ship gave it a second (or even first) thought, I am unaware of it. We might as well have been sailing off the coast of Florida.

Things in the Middle East are not far apart. Down this coast the next country IS Syria, followed by Lebanon, followed by Israel, followed by the Gaza Strip, and then Egypt's Sinai region. This whole region is filled with armed camps and ancient bitterness, facts which we ship-borne tourists blithely ignore.

> A further thought about Venice - everything done "on wheels" in a normal city is, in Venice, done by boat. That means scheduled buses, tour buses, taxis, garbage haulers, police vehicles, ambulances, hearses, cement mixers, you name it - all afloat. It appears relatively few residents have a personal boat unless they live on an outlying island like Burano, a sort of watery suburb.

> Correction: Earlier I said our ship was the tallest thing in Venice, even taller than the campaniles. Upon further examination, I believe a few of the tallest campaniles could be a smidgen taller.

> I've been thinking about Italy, beginning with Venice. It is picturesque as anything but unless I had nearly unlimited money I wouldn't want to live here. I believe living here would feel like living in Colonial Williamsburg, a museum with people. Old houses, little old roads, small shops - not my cup of tea.

I feel the same way about U.S. cities, particularly the older, high density ones like San Francisco, New York, etc. I like low density living, not being jammed in with many others. I also like "new and shiny" as opposed to "old, dirty, and tired." It is the legacy of growing up in CA where most things were new and shiny, and clean too.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Quote of the Day

Glenn Harlan Reynolds, writing in USA Today about government dysfunction:
"There are two Americas, all right. There's one that works - where new and creative things happen, where mistakes are corrected, and where excellence is rewarded. Then there's Washington, where everything is pretty much the opposite."

About Venice

Venice, Italy: Both times the DrsC have visited Venice the weather has been wet and rainy. It probably has something to do with the time of year we go traveling - almost always in spring and fall, rarely in summer unless we are taking the family along.

Venice is certainly unusual, with canals instead of roads, but I don't find it as wonderful as most folks do. Picturesque to be sure but hard to get around and to tour, an easy place to get lost. The city occupies over 100 islands in what was once a large marsh.

Our ship will be here at least parts of three consecutive days, as we disembark pax and embark new ones. Each set of pax gets an overnight in Venice in our huge white floating hotel; those of us doing both legs get two overnights and three days here - perhaps too much of a good thing.

My favorite parts of visiting Venice by ship are sailing in and sailing out. It feels like we sail slowly right through the city, which we dwarf with our seventeen story height.

Nothing in Venice is nearly that tall, not even the campaniles. It must not be easy to build "tall" on a wet, muddy base, we are told everything is built on pilings driven into the mud. These were once wood, I'd guess the new ones are metal or concrete.

If you take a gondola ride through those canals, you often smell sewage. Maintaining what our cousins the Brits call "the drains" underwater cannot be easy, my nose tells me they may not try too hard. I'd guess the e. coli count in lagoon water is often at unsafe levels. Like the canals of Amsterdam, those of Venice are no place for swimming.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

A Missed Port

Off Kusadasi, Turkey: Kusadasi was supposed to be our port for the afternoon. Our side thrusters were less powerful than the offshore wind so the captain could not edge the ship up to the dock. I don't blame him for not wanting to dent his shiny, new ship.

We've cruised many times, this is only the third time this has happened to us. We weren't able to tender into Cannes on one trip and rough weather kept us out of Greenland on another transit.

Kusadasi is the port from which one accesses the ruins of ancient Ephesus, of Biblical renown. Lucky for us we had an excellent tour of Ephesus on an earlier cruise.

If you haven't seen Ephesus you need to do so. Regardless of how religious you are (I'm not), if your religious heritage is at all Christian you'll find the simple history of Ephesus amazing.

When your guide points to a particular room in what then passed for an Ephesian apartment building and announces that St. Paul lived exactly there two millennia ago, it is a wow! It makes biblical characters into real historical people who ate, slept, scratched flea bites, and had toothaches.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Travel Blogging IV

Istanbul, Turkey: The Bosporus, this narrow channel between Asia and Europe, must be some of the busiest water anywhere, even busier than Hong Kong harbor. At any given moment you can see dozens of boats and ships moving at many different paces. To watch is mesmerizing on this gray, overcast day.

Many of the smaller craft are the equivalent of buses, taking people back and forth across the channel. This is a huge city, something we noted on our last visit here. So the "buses" don't just make one crossing but all sorts of diagonals as well. Relatively few ferries are car carriers, perhaps many of the cars take the new bridge, a great high suspension span.

Generally, the smaller the boat the faster the speed at which it travels. The great ships - cruise liners and freighters - all have a pilot aboard and move quite slowly, especially as they near the dock.

We are one of at least four large cruise ships in port today. One that came in later this a.m. was old - still pretty, still white - but with almost no balconies. The new cruise ships have many balconies; our new ship has a small balcony for every exterior pax cabin. Between us we four ships probably add ten thousand tourists to the local economy, if only for a day.

The really old cruise ships have OPEN lifeboats, basically oversized rowboats. You wouldn't want to spend many hours cooped up in one of those with 60-80 fellow pax. All the modern tenders are enclosed and hold 100-150 pax - they would still be no joyride.

In Naples we were docked alongside the Norwegian Epic - brand new, very large and substantially ugly. It looks like it was put together with Legos. It actually may be quite nice inside. However the Epic has good looking tenders, zoomy and not colored the usual eye-catching Emergency Orange.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Quote of the Day

Mykonos, Greece: Fox News Senior Editor Brit Hume, as cited in a Politico article about the government "shut-down" now underway, commenting on press coverage:
"Most journalists consider it unrealistic to expect the president and his party to compromise and equally unrealistic for the Republicans not to."

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Good Old Sea Days

At Sea, Off the Sole of the Boot of Italy, Headed for Mykonos, Greece: So-called "sea days," days the cruise ship is not in port, are a challenge for the Cruise Director's staff. The idea is to have enough things for passengers to do to keep them from getting bored when they obviously cannot go ashore.

A few years ago they'd have had lecturers doing Elderhostel-like talks on a variety of topics. Both of the DrsC did this cruise lecturing, enjoyed it, got a lot of low cost cruising in return, and were well received by our respective audiences. The other DrC did "digital photography for novices" and I did "world affairs" - a combination of world politics, history and cultures overlaid on a base of geography.

Unfortunately we cost the cruise lines money - the fare they could have gotten for our little inside cabin plus the extras they could have sold to those paying pax: photos, art, t-shirts, shore excursions, liquor, etc. Lecturers didn't buy much of that stuff.

Now if anybody lectures they are very likely to be ship's personnel: a chef, a photographer, or somebody trying to sell something (art, future cruises, etc.). In other words, somebody already on board in crew quarters, not somebody taking up salable passenger cabin space.

Alas for those good old days. It was fun while it lasted.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Ferries du Jour

Naples, Part Two: Something I forget until I'm back in the Mediterranean - the amazing numbers of ferries here. There are big ones, small ones, ferries that carry cars and trucks, others that carry only people, water jet powered fast ones, lumbering slow ones.

Tied up alongside us is a car ferry that links Naples to Palermo, Sicily. On this coast there are regular routes to and from Corsica, ditto Sardinia and Malta. My guess is that there are regular ferries to Tunis, the ports of Algeria, Tripoli and Benghazi in Libya too.

In the Adriatic there many routes linking Italy with the Balkan statelets across the water - places like Montenegro, Croatia and Albania, plus Greek islands like beautiful Corfu and spectacular Santorini.

What it really says is that water routes are shortcuts in this maritime environment, when they aren't the only surface routes available. Ferries run like buses so we shouldn't be shocked at an occasional mishap, though most of those happen in Asia to overloaded boats.

Who Is to Blame?

Naples, Italy: We are docked today in the legendary home of pizza, apropos of which I shall have it for lunch. It's a treat I rarely allow myself.

On the BBC World Service this a.m. It was announced that the much-anticipated government shut-down has actually come to pass. The Beeb rarely gets stories of this magnitude entirely wrong so let's assume it has happened.

Some of you are likely worried/frightened/angry about this outcome. I'm none of the above. It is a game of chicken in which both sides have demonstrated their courage.

If you insist, we can talk about blame, as in who is more at fault. You won't like my answer: they are equally at fault. House Republicans are fully willing to fund a CR or continuing resolution for everything the government does EXCEPT Obamacare, in fact have done so.

Senate Democrats and the President are unwilling to pass a bill that avoids funding Obamacare. The result - impasse. Nobody blinked.

The President will, I expect, instruct his cabinet secretaries to make the so-called "shut down" as painful as possible for as many voters as possible. That is gamesmanship in practice.

Nobody really wants the government to shut down. A clear majority of us don't want Obamacare.

I thought the House Republicans had a good compromise, to stall Obamacare for a year and fund the rest of government. Following the 2014 midterm elections the GOP hopes to control the Senate too, and have a reasonable chance if they can avoid self-inflicted wounds.