Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New York Meltdown Imagined

Have some sour fun with an ultra-short story, written as a series of tweets, about a possible near future for de Blasio's New York City. It lives on a website called Popehat and has a Mad Max meets Escape from New York flavor. Hat tip to Instapundit for the link.

New Year's Eve

Today we say goodbye to 2014, a year which brought us beheadings in both Syria and closer to home in Mexico. On the other hand, the year also brought us a resounding GOP victory in the midterm elections, and a further tribalization of the electorate.

The usual pundits spent the last two years telling us the GOP had a "minority problem." They now tell us instead (without admitting a change of tune) that the Dems have a "white working class" problem." 

You have to admire the pundits' ability to change direction instantly demonstrating, as nothing else could, their opinions lack mass, which would create inertia if it were present. "Ephemera" isn't too extreme a descriptive label for most pontificating, including some of what you see here at COTTonLINE.

Regardless of its pluses and minuses, 2014 is behind us now. The future, as a comic once said in mock seriousness, lies ahead. COTTonLINE wishes you and yours a happy, healthy and prosperous  2015.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Restoration Mechanism

An article in the Daily Mail (U.K.) reports a top U.S. general has admitted confusion and failure to understand the glamor and attraction of the ISIS movement to young Muslims, mostly young men but some young women too. I believe it is the same thing making Putin attractive to young Russians.

It's the "we were somebody once, now we're nobody but if we get our 'stuff' together we can be somebody again" mantra. The "nostalgia for the long-gone caliphate" is like the "nostalgia for the Russian empire known as the Soviet Union." 

The pitch is that we've lost our rightful place at the top of the food chain. It was stolen from us by evil foreigners but with great daring and sacrafice we can steal it back and punish them cruelly. Mussolini made this appeal to young Italians, using Roman greatness as the lure.

Oddly, no similar movement arose in Britain when they lost their empire. Perhaps the young men to whom such a movement would have appealed were exhausted, or killed, by two successive world wars. A charismatic "restoration" movement needs a generous supply of otherwise unoccupied young men as foot soldiers.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Editorial Notice

COTTonLINE posts are likely to be somewhat scarce during the next week, as the DrsC are temporarily relocating to a warmer climate, and visiting family along the way. By January 1 the blog should be back up and running at a near-normal pace. Meanwhile, enjoy the year-end festivities and the summative punditry which abounds at this time of year.

The European Malaise

Vox reports results of a survey by ICM Research which asked people in France, Germany and the U.K. whether they have a favorable or unfavorable view of caliphate-declaring ISIS, sometimes called DAESH. The results are as follows:
Germany:                Favorable   2%      Unfavorable 82%
France:                    Favorable 16%      Unfavorable 62%
United Kingdom:      Favorable   7%      Unfavorable 64%
Presumably substantial numbers in each of the three countries were unwilling to express an opinion, for whatever reason. You see here one result of decades of Muslim immigration to Europe.

The Vox article is entitled "One in six French people say they support ISIS." It is fair to conclude France has a problem.

Quote of the Day

Long time conservative (usually) columnist George Will writes for National Review about the views of Obama recognizing Cuba taken by Senators Rand Paul and Marco Rubio:
As they brawl about Cuba, a geopolitical irrelevancy, neither seems presidential.
At this point neither is presidential, whether either eventually becomes presidential timber is still in question.

An Anti-Democratic, Tyrannical Bully

Continuing a theme we've been following for several days, the impact and intentions of Russia's Putin, comes a column by Alex Berezow, an associate editor of RealClearWorld. His thesis is that Putin is exactly the leader Russians want.
Mr. Putin's popularity went soaring within months of his taking office, well before he began his autocratic consolidation of power. Moreover, his approval rating has remained high for 15 years. The more tyrannical he behaves, the more popular he becomes. Putin's popularity, therefore, is likely to due something else: Russians don't think highly of Western-style democracy.
A poll found that "45 percent of Russians believed a Western-style democracy would be destructive to the country." There is some chance they are correct, incidentally. This leads Berezow to write:
The unsettling conclusion is that an anti-democratic, tyrannical bully who is willing to invade his neighbors for the sake of Russian glory is exactly the sort of leader Russians want. Mr. Putin is not acting in defiance of the will of the people; rather, he is the embodiment of the Russian mindset.
When the other DrC and I were in Russia in 2007 Putin was very popular with the young Russians who were among our guides. There was no sense they were being cautious or correct in what they said; the English speakers thought he was a "cool" tough guy and said so.

I find myself comparing Putin's role in post-Soviet Russia to that of de Gaulle in post-war France, both are pols who pandered to a widespread longing for former power and glory. We can hope Russia's Putin has no more lasting success than did France's de Gaulle.

Merry Christmas

Please accept our wish of a Merry Christmas to all COTTonLINE regulars. If you celebrate an alternate year end holiday, a Merry that too. I hope the season is magical for you.

For those who follow CA weather at this time of year, we have been having classical CA Christmas weather: gray skies, cold rain, and a bit of wind. It takes me back to my childhood, growing up here. Of course a gloriously sunny Christmas Day is fairly typical, too.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Shadow of the Bear

Are you feeling smug about Russia's current economic problems and the cratering of the ruble? It is difficult to avoid a certain schadenfreude at this point.

A bracing antidote to those feelings is this article by John Schindler of the XX Committee. His organization's name is an obvious homage to John Cecil Masterman's counterintelligence operations for Britain during WW II. Incidentally, the appropriate interpretation of XX is not 20, but rather "double cross."

Schindler takes a very dim view of Russian intentions and a grudgingly admiring view of their covert offensive capabilities. He expects continued trouble-making on the part of the Russian bear in 2015, especially in Estonia.

Like everyone who has been paying attention, Schindler doubts Obama's willingness to defend NATO allies under attack. He points out that sanctions sometime goad a nation to go to war against the sanctioner, as Japan did against the U.S. in 1941.

Christmas Eve

The management and staff of COTTonLINE (that is to say, I) take this opportunity to wish you a Merry Christmas Eve Day. If you are traveling "over the river and through the woods to Grandmother's house" or elsewhere, drive safely and keep an eye peeled for erratic drivers who've been celebrating a bit too heartily. Let's all arrive alive and sound of limb, sound of mind is more problematic.

As a society whose middle (and above) classes no longer live next door to our extended families, it's a time to reconnect with kith and kin, to catch up with their happenings and observe with sadness the inevitable decline of age. Keep smiling, feast heartily, and try to avoid arguing politics with the inevitable scattering of liberals among them. Too soon it will be over, the car packed and we will all have gone back to our workaday lives.

Have a Very Merry Christmas tomorrow, and a good visit with the friends and relatives.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Hail the Solstice

Alas, with everything else going on, we managed to allow the Winter Solstice to slip past unmentioned and uncelebrated. It was Sunday, December 21, of course, two days ago. Now northern hemisphere days begin getting longer, the nights shorter.

I enjoy commemorating the turn of the seasons because they demonstrate to me, as does nothing else, the essential irrelevancy of most human activity in the longterm scheme of things. As Omar Khayyam wrote, in the Edward Fitzgerald translation:
'Tis all a Chequer-board of Nights and Days
Where Destiny with Men for Pieces plays:
Hither and thither moves, and mates, and slays,
And one by one back in the Closet lays.
We play our tiny games, like a colony of self absorbed microbes on the back of an elephant. All the while Gaia serenely ignores our best efforts, never missing a step in the billion year galactic cotillion.

Quote of the Day

Walter Russell Mead writes in The American Interest about the increasing isolation of the liberal media/academy/foundations clique, increasingly out of touch with the rest of America. Mead subtitles his article as follows, and it's a decent abstract:
Never have liberal ideas been so firmly entrenched within America’s core elite institutions. Never have those institutions been so weak and uninfluential.
With apologies to W. B. Yeats, liberalism appears to be slouching toward irrelevancy.

Combating Liberal Bias in Social Science Research

Steven Hayward of Power Line scores again. This time he notes the publication of an article in Behavioral and Brain Sciences (Cambridge University Press) entitled "Political Diversity Will Improve Social Psychological Science."

You can download a pdf file of the pre-publication draft. With apologies for the turgid writing style demanded by academic journal editors, here is the abstract.
Abstract: Psychologists have demonstrated the value of diversity—particularly diversity of viewpoints—for enhancing creativity, discovery, and problem solving. But one key type of viewpoint diversity is lacking in academic psychology in general and social psychology in particular: political diversity. This article reviews the available evidence and finds support for four claims: 1) Academic psychology once had considerable political diversity, but has lost nearly all of it in the last 50 years; 2) This lack of political diversity can undermine the validity of social psychological science via mechanisms such as the embedding of liberal values into research questions and methods, steering researchers away from important but politically unpalatable research topics, and producing conclusions that mischaracterize liberals and conservatives alike; 3) Increased political diversity would improve social psychological science by reducing the impact of bias mechanisms such as confirmation bias, and by empowering dissenting minorities to improve the quality of the majority’s thinking; and 4) The underrepresentation of non- liberals in social psychology is most likely due to a combination of self-selection, hostile climate, and discrimination. We close with recommendations for increasing political diversity in social psychology. 
As a career social science researcher, I endorse this view.

Holding Off the Next Ice Age

Steven Hayward of Power Line quotes Obama science advisor John Holden from a Q and A session Holden did at the White House. Power Line also has a link to the video if you'd like to watch it.
While the climate of the earth has changed over the millennia as a result of natural factors – principally changes in the tilt and orientation of the earth’s axis and rotation, and in the shape of its orbit around the sun – those changes occur far too gradually to have noticeable effects over a period of mere decades. In their current phases, moreover, they would be gradually cooling the earth – taking us to another ice age – if they weren’t being more than offset by human-caused warming.
Translation: I'm doing y'all a favor by driving a big, ol' 1 ton pickup truck and two SUVs. I'm keeping the glaciers and the polar bears away from your door. Your thanks are gratefully noted.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Long Term Global Cooling

Anthony Watts of website WattsUpWithThat reports on a study in the Journal of Quaternary Science (2014) as follows:
Esper et al. (2014) write that tree-ring chronologies of maximum late wood density (MXD) “are most suitable to reconstruct annually resolved summer temperature variations of the late Holocene.” And working with what they call “the world’s two longest MXD-based climate reconstructions” – those of Melvin et al. (2013) and Esper et al. (2012) – they combined portions of each to produce a new-and-improved summer temperature history for northern Europe that stretches all the way “from 17 BC to the present.”

This history depicts “a long-term cooling trend of -0.30°C per 1,000 years over the Common Era in northern Europe.” (see the graph at Watts' article) Most important of all, (snip) “conditions during Medieval and Roman times were probably warmer than in the late 20th century,” when the previously-rising post-Little Ice Age mean global air temperature hit a ceiling of sorts above which it has yet to penetrate.

And so we continue to collect ever more real-world evidence for the fact, that there is nothing unusual, unnatural or unprecedented about the Earth’s current level of warmth.
You really need to see the graph upon which the longterm trend line has a definite downward slope. Hat tip to John Hinderaker at Power Line for the link.

Life Inside ISIS

A German journalist, Jurgen Todenhofer, has spent ten days reporting on Daesh/ISIS from inside the territories they control. Newsweek has a story based on interviews he has given. He takes ISIS very seriously. A German volunteer in a senior ISIS position told him the following:
Slavery absolutely signals progress, only ignorant people believe that there is no slavery among the Christians and the Jews.

I would say that slavery is a great help to us and we will continue to have slavery and beheadings, it is part of our religion... many slaves have converted to Islam and have then been freed.

We will conquer Europe one day. It is not a question of if we will conquer Europe, just a matter of when that will happen. Our expansion will be perpetual... And the Europeans need to know that when we come, it will not be in a nice way. It will be with our weapons. And those who do not convert to Islam or pay the Islamic tax will be killed.
These people are about as welcome as an Ebola outbreak, and Europe is at risk.

Incredible Shrinking Japan

Demon demographer Joel Kotkin, arguably one of the most prolific authors on the planet, writes for New Geography an entirely readable column on the demographic disaster that is Japan. He reports it has "one of the lowest fertility rates on the planet." Some key insights about Japan:
Its working-age population will drop from 79 million today to less than 52 million in 2050.

By 2020, adult diapers are projected to outsell the infant kind. By 2040, the country will have more people over 80 than under 15, according to U.N. projections. By 2060, the number of Japanese is expected to fall from 127 million today to about 87 million, of whom almost 40% will be 65 or older.

By 2010, a third of Japanese women entering their 30s were single, as were roughly one in five of those entering their 40s. (snip) By 2030, according to sociologist Mika Toyota, almost one in three Japanese males may be unmarried by age 50.

Other key Asian countries appear to be following the demographic path it (Japan) is blazing, including including South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and China.

Under the social and economic systems of developed countries, the cost of a child outweighs the child’s usefulness.

Turkish "Delight"

Periodically, we look in on the slow-motion train wreck that is Erdogan's Turkey. At Worldcrunch  a Turk writes about the conflict in the Turkish government between forces loyal to President Erdogan and the followers of exiled religious leader Imam Fethullah Gulen, who form a movement called Hizmet.

The two groups, formerly allies, now are bitter enemies. Author Mehmet Yilmaz take the view both are wrong, one corrupt and the other Machiavellian. It's likely he is correct. Hat tip to RealClearWorld for the link.

Feminist Fiascos

Whether misogyny is your thing, or you merely experience militant feminists as shrill and tiresome extremists in an otherwise good cause, see an article in the Los Angeles Times by Charlotte Allen which lists her picks for the "Top 10 Feminist Fiascos of 2014." If you are like us, you'll already be familiar with around 8 of the 10.

In Defense of Police

Jay Nordlinger, who writes for National Review, has some very well-crafted thoughts about the murder of two NYPD officers, the difficulty of being a police officer, the persons inciting violence against them, and what a horror show our society would be without their often thankless service. I recommend his column to you.

A Happy Anniversary

Today marks the eighth anniversary of the COTTonLINE blog, our first post was on this date in 2006.  In that time we've chronicled the decline of the Bush 43 administration, the election of Obama, not just once but inexplicably twice, and the happier midterm elections of 2010 and 2014.

We've watched the world grow less friendly and more confrontational, the continued rise of militant Islamism, the deterioration of the European Union, and more. The Long War, far from ending, shows every sign of indefinite continuation.

Science has made strides during those eight years, as well as technology, while we watched bemused. Paraphrasing the words of an ancient Chinese curse, we have lived in interesting times, and ironically such are grist for our mill, here at COTTonLINE.

We look forward with both optimism and trepidation to what the next eight years will bring. Please take us along as you traverse that terra incognita.

Quit EU - A Majority of Brits

For those interested in the fate of the ancestral homeland - Europe - this news will be of interest. The Daily Express (U.K.) has the results of a poll which finds an actual majority of Britons, albeit a small one, prefer their country leave the European Union.
Britons would vote to quit by 51 per cent to 49 per cent if an in-or-out referendum were held now. It was the second poll in a month to show a majority want to leave after decades of support for continuing to stay in. And the result will step up calls for a referendum on membership to be held sooner rather than later.

The survey, across 13 EU nations, showed Britain was the only country where most voters wanted to pull out. More than a quarter of voters in France, Germany and Italy wanted to quit. A third of Greeks and 42 per cent of the Dutch also wanted out.
An interesting question: Can NATO survive if the EU collapses?

Sunday, December 21, 2014

A Two Year Risk Window

If Friedman (the prior post) isn't persuasive, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, International Business Editor of The Telegraph (U.K.), makes the case for Russia's economic melt-down with evidence. Him I might believe. Particularly troubling is his view of a cornered Putin's likely response:
He is going to escalate. The huge prize for him is to test the credibility of Nato while Obama is still in office. (emphasis added)

That worry is shared by many, especially in the Baltic states with Russian minorities. Four-fifths of Estonia’s fortress town of Narva are ethnic Russians, and they live within sight of the border. An incident could flare up at any time. (see map here)

The nightmare scenario is if ‘little green men’ appear in one of the Baltics, and it then invokes Nato’s Article V [mutual defence clause],” says Ian Bond, the former British ambassador to Latvia and now at the Centre for European Reform. Any dispute may be murky. Yet if Nato ever fails to uphold an Article V plea, the alliance withers.
Withers? NATO dies, period. Note the British usage of not capitalizing all letters in the acronym for North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Evans-Pritchard agrees that Putin believes he can back down Obama. Ironically, Europeans who formerly praised Obama's cautious foreign policy now see him as an unreliable protector of their interests and sovereignty.

Friedman Overreaches

The New York Times' Tom Friedman writes that Russia's Vladimir Putin has led his nation into a dependency cul-de-sac that became untenable when oil and gas prices crashed. Nice if true.

I'm not convinced Friedman is right. If Putin were playing against a canny White House operator, or a tough one, maybe I'd buy it.

The current resident at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is largely a pushover. Putin can bully Obama and get away with it. What's worse, Putin knows it to be true and disrespects weakness. I hope I'm wrong.

Assassination of Two Police Officers in NYC

Reuters reports via Yahoo News that a suicide shooter has assassinated two New York policemen. The gunman had earlier in the day shot his girlfriend in the stomach after which he drove from Maryland to New York City with the avowed purpose of killing two policemen there.

Following the shooting of the officers, the gunman ran to a subway station where he shot himself fatally. He was an African American named Brinsley who affected Islamic first and middle names.

On social media Brinsley alleged he was acting to avenge the recent deaths of Eric Garner and Mike Brown at the hands of the police. His record shows him essentially to be a career criminal.

There is little conceptually differentiating what Brinsley did and what a suicide bomber does. People intent on murder who expect to die (and are okay with that) are very hard to defend against.

Unfortunately, such tragedies give the police justification for shooting on suspicion, rather than on actual unambiguous mortal threat. If New York's mayor de Blasio doesn't support his police we could see a mass NYPD resignation, leaving the city unpoliced and the governor no choice but to call out the National Guard and declare martial law.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Our Anniversary Approaches

Our first COTTonLINE blog post occurred on December 22, 2006. Monday, December 22, will be the 8th anniversary of this blog.

In those eight years we have posted roughly 6000 entries. We've certainly enjoyed the process, we hope you find things here you enjoy too.

After 35+ years as a professor, I have a new "career" as a publisher/editor/pundit/almost-journalist. My dear lady, the other DrC, jokes I'm addicted to the Internet and this blogging process. That's maybe a bit strong, but it is great fun.


The Atlantic is a longtime member of the MSM, and as such leans more left than otherwise. They have an article arguing the U.S. cannot retaliate against North Korea for its Sony hack because the Norks don't use banks and do little international trade, at least with nations with which we have any leverage.

Nonsense, we could bomb the bejesus out of North Korea pour encourager les autres. If it is good enough for DAESH/ISIS, it is good enough for the DPRK.

The Limits of Liberalism

Professor Walter Russell Mead writes in The American Interest about the limits of liberalism in the U.S. He observes the left is beginning to grasp the following awful-to-them truths:
No gun massacre is horrible enough to change Americans’ ideas about gun control. No UN Climate Report will get a climate treaty through the U.S. Senate. No combination of anecdotal and statistical evidence will persuade Americans to end their longtime practice of giving police officers extremely wide discretion in the use of force. No “name and shame” report, however graphic, from the Senate Intelligence Committee staff will change the minds of the consistent majority of Americans who tell pollsters that they believe that torture is justifiable under at least some circumstances. No feminist campaign will convince enough voters that the presumption of innocence should not apply to those accused of rape.
I think he may overstate Americans' tolerance for true torture. We're okay with coercive interrogation that is psychologically abusive, extremely fatiguing and uncomfortable without being life-threatening. OTOH, the do-what-it-takes Jack Bauer character of "24" did not evoke revulsion.

A GOP Strategy

It isn't sexy and it doesn't involve the two or three big things Obama has rammed through. Kimberley Strassel of The Wall Street Journal has a realistic look at what a Republican Congress is able to do in the next two years in spite of the Democrat President, or to thwart him. Her article is not hidden behind the WSJ paywall.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Incompatible Imperatives

Just back from Moscow, George Friedman of Stratfor has written for RealClearWorld an appraisal of how Russians view their situation today. It is a strange and interesting document, some key paragraphs:
I thought the economic problems of Russia would be foremost on people's minds. (snip) Yet this was not the conversation I was having.

The Russians pointed out that economic shambles was the norm for Russia, and prosperity the exception. There is always the expectation that prosperity will end and the normal constrictions of Russian poverty return.

I came away with two senses. One was that Putin was more secure than I thought. (snip) Things that would bring down a Western leader may leave a Russian leader untouched. Second, the Russians do not plan a campaign of aggression. Here I am more troubled - not because they want to invade anyone, but because nations frequently are not aware of what is about to happen, and they might react in ways that will surprise them.

The United States and Europe have trouble understanding Russia's fears. Russia has trouble understanding particularly American fears. The fears of both are real and legitimate. This is not a matter of misunderstanding between countries but of incompatible imperatives.

Weird Ornithological Science

Current Biology reports a study showing that at least one species of bird, golden-winged warblers, can hear sounds in very low frequencies. They hear approaching storms at a great distance and leave the area.

That is a handy evolutionary adaptation. Perhaps we could use technology to detect what they hear and get a warning of when storm trouble is headed our way? Hat tip to The Week for the link.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

An Alternate View

Just about everybody says the middle class is hurting, incomes frozen or shrinking and in a funk. The Washington Post has found an economist who disagrees, Stephen J. Rose of George Washington University.
Rose (snip) argues that researchers would reach a far different conclusion if only they used different--he argues, more comprehensive--data. He noted that the Congressional Budget Office found that the inflation-adjusted incomes of middle-income households went up 50 percent percent (from 1979 to 2007).

CBO saw a dramatic difference in middle class income gains because it captures information that tax records miss, such as income from transfer programs such as Social Security and Medicare, Rose said. CBO also takes into consideration changes in household composition, which makes a difference as the nation grows older and more Americans are apt to live alone, or at least in smaller households, than than they did decades ago.
I imagine the non-partisan CBO has the right view of this.

All College Majors Not Created Equal

Bloomberg Business Week reports the college grads most likely to get signing bonuses are those with degrees in engineering, computer science, and business. My thirty-five years teaching at university business schools suggests those majors are also the ones most likely to be recruited.

There are certainly reasons to attend university that have nothing to do with subsequent employment - personal growth, or just to have a good time suggest themselves. Still, I believe most college students expect their degree will improve their employment prospects and career earnings. Sadly, the days when a degree in underwater basket-weaving would get you a job are no more.

CA Population Trends

California's population is largely stagnant, growing ever so slowly. Who is leaving? Young middle-class professionals are most likely to leave. Who is arriving? Poor immigrants coming from other countries. Which residents are most likely to stay? The elderly. See the story at RealClearMarkets.

The resulting problem? The population is increasingly made up of people who pay less taxes as they are either poor or retired drawing reduced income and paying less property tax via Prop. 13.

Both of these "tax eater" groups utilize more than their share of public resources, while the tax-paying group has moved to Texas and places like it. The state's long term economic prospects therefore are not positive.

Laughing at the Left

Perhaps you've seen the In These Times column written by liberal professor Susan J. Douglas variously entitled either "It's Okay to Hate Republicans" or "Why We Can't All Just Get Along." Our old friend Spengler (aka David P. Goldman) blogs as follows in response thereto.
In fact, they have their reasons to hate us. They are being silly. We know they are being silly, and they know we know, and they can’t stand it. It isn’t quite how we repudiate the idea that the opposing party has any legitimacy at all. But we can’t stop giggling.
Especially following the November, 2014, election.

Equal Outcome Madness

The John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy reports the University of Wisconsin, a longtime hotbed of liberalism, has discovered minority students get more than their share of the bad grades in a handful of introductory courses: Chemistry 103, Communication Arts 100, English 100, Mathematics 112, and Psychology 202.
(In) "Grade Gap/Future Gap: Addressing Racial Disparities in L&S [Letters & Science] Introductory Courses." Departments were instructed to implement strategic action plans to “eliminate racial grade gaps by 2014.”

UW-Madison is going through all these contortions because the administration can’t or won’t acknowledge a simple fact: some groups of admitted students are significantly less well prepared for college work.
As the article notes, most teachers of these intro courses are on short-term contracts. They are therefore very susceptible to administrative pressure to equalize grades across groups.

I predict the end result of this policy and its likely sequelae in higher level courses will be recruiters avoiding minority graduates from UWMadison as their grades will not reflect their accomplishments.

Irony Alert

Perhaps you read that Republican Martha McSally won the recount for the last in-question House seat, that formerly occupied by Gabby Gifford. Gifford, you'll remember, is the Congresswoman shot in the head by a disturbed constituent.

It is massively ironic that a pro-gun Republican replaces an anti-gun Democrat in this AZ seat. Hat tip to Instapundit for the insight.

Quote of the Day

Instapundit Glenn Reynolds, writing about an ideal U.S. immigration policy:
I think that immigration should be based on what they can do for us, rather than what we can do for them.
We should admit more engineers and scientists, fewer taxi drivers and lawn-mowers.

Weird Environmental Science

The Associated Press reports on a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science which finds so-called "green cars," those running on batteries charged from the power grid, are actually more harmful to the environment than gasoline powered cars. 

This is true if electric cars operate in an area where most electricity is generated by coal-fired plants. If most power in your area is generated by natural gas, hydroelectric, wind, or solar sources, the electric car is cleaner than its gasoline powered peers. And ethanol is more polluting than gasoline.

French Conservatism

French columnist for Figaro Eric Zemmour has written a best-seller entitled Le Suicide Francais. The first printing sold out in a week.

The author bewails the decline of French culture in the period since the death of Charles de Gaulle.
Eric Zemmour's best-seller attributes France's decay to "feminine" values, "triumphant homosexuality," and the demise of the father as the arbiter of national identity. 
It's a wonder Zemmour didn't include the avalanche of unassimilable Muslim immigrants in his list of causes of decay. The book's popularity is related to the rise in the fortunes of Marine Le Pen's National Front Party, a rightist, nationalist anti-EU group.

The World Is Anarchic, Ruled by Needs

If you only read one foreign policy article this year, Robert Kaplan's The Virtue of Amoral Foreign Policy should be that article. It comes via RealClearWorld.
When we think seriously about foreign policy we think amorally. For foreign policy involves the battle of geographical space and power, played out over the millennia by states and empires in a world where there is no referee or night watchman in charge. The state is governed by law, but the world is anarchic.

In such a world, needs rather than wishes rule, and even a liberal power such as the United States is not exempt from the struggle for survival. Such a struggle means looking unsentimentally at the human condition, which, in turn, requires a good deal of unpleasantness.
Liberals be warned, you won't like Kaplan's article.

The Laffer Curve at Forty

See a short Investor's Business Daily column for a succinct description of the history and workings of the famous "Laffer Curve," written by the man himself, Arthur Laffer. My favorite line:
There are two tax rates that will collect the same amount of revenue: A high tax rate on a small tax base and a low rate on a large tax base. 
Government collects the same in either case but its citizens will like Plan B much better as they'll be sharing a bigger economic "pie."

About Cuba

Michael Totten blogs for World Affairs Journal where he often demonstrates a very level-headed view of the countries he visits as a journalist. Today he writes about Cuba, and the impact of resuming diplomatic relations with the island nation.
Cuba has the worst human rights record in the Western Hemisphere. Allowing the regime in from the cold gives it a patina of legitimacy it has done nothing whatsoever to earn, and it exhausts whatever scraps of leverage the United States had to convince the island’s overlords to free their people and share power like most other governments in the region.
Talking heads discussing Cuba on the PBS News Hour last evening made the point that 50 years of sanctions have not improved the lot of the Cuban people. I am willing to stipulate that point.

On the other hand, a case can be made that the severity of the sanctions on Cuba has caused other hemispheric nations to take care not to act in ways that would cause them to suffer the same fate. By dropping the sanctions, the U.S. loses leverage over those other Latin American nations.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Quote of the Day

A Chicago Tribune editorial shares the following gem, with which COTTonLINE heartily agrees:
Some apparently think the world should be arranged to avoid doing them any injustice, big or small. Not only do they think it, they insist on it. And about all they usually accomplish is to impress the rest of us with their overbearing self-absorption.
The many victim groups comprising the base of the Democratic Party need to understand this home truth. Life isn't fair, never was, won't be in the future ... get over it. Hat tip to for the link.

Cute Pix

LogicGoat runs a photo story about a warrant officer who treated a sick squirrel which got well and became his pet. The pictures are charming; the little guy (or gal?) is cute as blazes and has amazing ear tufts.

U.S. to Send Ambassador to Cuba

An ancient saying: the enemy of my enemy is my friend. The obvious corollary: any friend of my enemy is also my enemy.

President Obama has rarely met an enemy dictator he didn't love, or a U.S. ally he didn't hate. The above corollary suggests he be viewed as an enemy of the U.S., a view widely held.

Today we learn he is reestablishing diplomatic relations with Communist Cuba, our biggest antagonist in the Western Hemisphere. See a Reuters story via Yahoo News for details.

On the bright side, cruise ships will probably now make Havana a port of call. I hear Havana's faded glory resembles Prague immediately after the Iron Curtain came down in '91. Seeing all the old U.S. cars still running there will be fun.

A Leading Indicator

The Washington Post reports that the People Magazine June 16 issue with Hillary Clinton on the cover was their worst seller during 2014. It is a wakeup call to Democrats that people are not interested in her impending candidacy for their presidential nomination.

One has the sense that her inevitability is in question. Are Dems able to hear the message?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Weird Armament Science

The National Interest reports on the U.S. Navy's best weapons. Most are what you might imagine, the exception is their new combat laser. It is reported to cost $0.69 per shot to fire, replacing a missile system that cost roughly $99,000 for each missile.

This is truly the stuff of science fiction becoming the stuff of reality. If it proves to be as good as claimed, we need lots of them fast. Hat tip to RealClearDefense for the link.

Future History

Kurt Schlichter has a fun column for exploring what could happen if the blue and red parts of America separated peacefully into two countries. It includes an homage to author Robert Heinlein's view of citizenship.

As you might imagine, the separation doesn't turn out well for Blue America. The Blues quickly find themselves butt-deep in a swamp, surrounded by alligators. Enjoy.

Federal Judge Finds Obama Acted Unconstitutionally

The Washington Post reports a federal district judge in Pennsylvania has found several parts of the Obama executive action to forestall deportation of illegal immigrants (aka "amnesty") to be unconstitutional. The article's author, a law professor, doesn't find the judge's arguments persuasive.

On the other hand, The Washington Times cites with approval the judge's opinion, he wrote:
President Obama’s unilateral legislative action violates the separation of powers provided for in the United States Constitution as well as the Take Care Clause, and therefore is unconstitutional.

Sense About Sex

Much is being written about a supposed campus rape "epidemic" and a rape culture. Binge drinking and a hook-up culture among college students undoubtedly lead to young women waking up in strange beds with dubious companions and experiencing hangover-enhanced regrets. 

The legal response has been a laughably unworkable concept called "affirmative consent." You have to wonder if the next step is requiring a notarized, witnessed statement of her agreement to sex, filed with the Dean's office or the County Clerk.

Megan McArdle writes for Bloomberg View about how current mores require a young woman say "no" in a way that tells a young man "I don't choose to have sex with you" and mean it. Her view of this murky situation seems sensible, I recommend it to you.

Poll: Ends Justify the Means

I've been waiting for polling on the CIA interrogations to come out, The Pew Research Center has the numbers. Hat tip to The Washington Post for the link. The results are what I had hoped, Americans are okay with what was done.

Fifty-one percent say the methods were justified, only 29% say they were not, and 20% were unsure. Moving to the question of did it produce valuable information, 56% said it did. Another 28% thought not, and 16% had no opinion. Asked if releasing the senate report was a good thing, 43% said "no," 42% said "yes," and 15% didn't know.

To summarize, Americans strongly disagree with the MSM and Sen. McCain about the worth and appropriateness of reported CIA enhanced interrogation tactics. And by a slight plurality they see Sen. Feinstein's report as unhelpful. COTTonLINE agrees.

Monday, December 15, 2014

A Predetermined Narrative

Marc A. Thiessen has written for The Washington Post a condemnation of the Feinstein committee report on CIA "torture" or enhanced interrogation techniques.
Rolling Stone magazine has faced nearly unanimous condemnation for publishing serious accusations without bothering to interview those it accused to check the facts and get their side of the story. So why is it wrong for Rolling Stone to do this, but okay for Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.)?

The reason Feinstein and her staff did not interview Hayden, Tenet, Goss, Rizzo, Rodriguez or any other CIA officials is the same reason Rolling Stone did not talk to those it was accusing — because they did not want to hear inconvenient facts that might undermine their predetermined narrative.
I fear WaPo doesn't agree with Thiessen's view of this story, but I give them credit for running it. Maybe they do agree that Feinstein didn't live up to journalistic ethics in her parting shot as committee chair.

Weird Photosensitivity Science

Smithsonian reports on the various negative health issues associated with a lack of sunshine. Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD is only one such, lack of naturally produced vitamin D is another.
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a subtype of depression that involves many of the same symptoms, including loss of energy, lack of interest in enjoyable activities, oversleeping and feelings of hopelessness.
I did my doctorate at the University of Oregon where we often went two weeks without seeing the sun.  The gray, wet fall-winter-spring skies of the Willamette Valley were enough to trigger SAD, something a grad student didn't need.

The typical fatal accident in OR was a one car crash, stereotypically a vehicular suicide. After being hassled by student radicals, the acting UO president drove his VW head-on into a loaded logging truck, and died instantly.

SAD is nothing new. In the early 1800s, the Lewis and Clark expedition overwintered at Fort Clatsop near the OR coast.  Their diaries record bitter complaints about months of dreary sunless weather.

This Suit Should Fail

Via Yahoo News, Reuters reports families of children shot at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, CT, are suing gun manufacturer Bushmaster for building the AR-15 assault rifle used in the killings. Should they win we will have put our foot on a slippery slope.

There are several lawful uses for the weapon in question. There are also lawful uses for a Chevrolet. Suppose a bad person uses a Chevy to run down and kill a crowd of people, is it General Motors' or the dealer's fault? Suppose someone evil takes a pillow and uses it to suffocate their old granny, is that the fault of the pillow maker and/or vendor?

Knives, baseball bats, fireplace pokers, archery equipment, even a length of clothesline rope can all be lethal weapons. Ditto a broken bottle or a hammer. Should all those manufacturers be held liable for murders done with their products? I don't think so, I'll bet you don't either.

The Causal Arrow Problem

Science Daily reports researchers have found different microbiota in the guts of people with and without Parkinson's Disease. Certain common bacteria are missing in the gut of those with the disease. Other entero bacteria are more common in those with movement problems.

The question is one we always confront in correlational studies: in which direction does the causal arrow point? Does A cause B, B cause A, or in fact does some third factor C cause them both? 

In this example we ask: does having different gut microbiota cause Parkinson's or does Parkinson's cause different gut microbiota to flourish? Or is some as yet unimagined third factor the cause of both outcomes? We echo what every research report ritually intones, more research is needed.

Australia Shows the Way

As an island, Australia has certain obvious advantages when it comes to keeping out illegal immigrants, namely a deep and wide salt water "moat" between Oz and its nearest neighbors. That said, they have a long history of being picky about who they will allow to immigrate there.

See a Global Post article about current Australian efforts to keep "boat people" out. GP of course is horrified at the firm measures taken. COTTonLINE on the other hand, wishes our government was as forceful and unwelcoming.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

He's Upbeat on California

As regular COTTonLINE readers know, one topic we follow is the current condition of my state-of-origin, California. It is easy to be pessimistic about California, as a resident of Wyoming I often am exactly that.

And yet, the state has enormous assets, a (mostly) wonderful climate, great variety, and enormous beauty. For a contrarian perspective which looks at California's glass as half full, instead of half empty, check out a San Diego Union Tribune interview with Professor Kevin Starr, the state's premier historian and longtime State Librarian. Hat tip to RealClearPolicy for the link.

Interestingly, along the way he tips his hat to Texas, which he compares to CA:
I think we (CA) have incredible problems, but I think we’re also acting out and experiencing those problems on behalf of the nation and acting out some alternatives. And the way Texas is acting out some alternatives in another direction. And I think it’s part of the union, of what the states are supposed to give.
We know from other sources TX is viewed as the state most friendly to business, whereas CA is seen as least friendly. You know what those views mean in terms of job availability and economic growth.

It isn't difficult to imagine a future in which working-age people live and work in states with TX-style policies and later retire to coastal CA as they do to FL and AZ. Meanwhile, the great agricultural central valley of CA will continue with dust-bowl-like poverty.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Travel Blogging X

 O'Hare Airport, Chicago, IL:  The wandering DrsC are headed home at long last, we should arrive tonight. We toured the Oak Ridge, TN, area yesterday, the friends we were visiting live nearby. 

A city of 75,000 sprang up there during World War II as the Manhattan Project used the site to purify uranium 235, fissionable material for the Hiroshima Atom Bomb, as well as the test blast at Alamogordo, NM. The museum is good.

We are wondering what storm damage we will find in CA after the big rainstorm yesterday. Our place should be okay, we aren't located down in the floodplain near the river.

Later:  Our place is fine, no damage other than two limbs blown off the driveway cottonwoods.

Friday, December 12, 2014

A Travesty

Charles Krauthammer, writing in The Washington Post, condemns the Feinstein slander of post 9/11 CIA efforts to extract information from uncooperative enemies of the nation. He claims what has been reported elsewhere - no witnesses were called, no testimony taken, no opportunity for those who supported the program to tell their side of the story. In short, a very unAmerican way to proceed. 

Grim Statistics

Demographer Heather Mac Donald writing for National Review Looks at the FBI statistics on who murders whom in the U.S., by race. It turns out what you suspect to be true is in fact true. Whites are much more likely to be killed by blacks than vice versa. She adds:
In 2013, blacks made up 42 percent of all cop killers whose race was known.
In other words, 13 percent of the population does four of every ten cop murders, a statistic which could explain cops paying extra attention to blacks. It's the same reason people are more wary of pit bulls and Rottweilers than they are of poodles and golden retrievers - different risk factors.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Suburbs Forever

Joel Kotkin, prolific demographer, writes for Forbes that U.S. Census data shows the suburbs remain Americans' favorite place to live, including among young Millennials. Urban planners and policy wonks are really bummed by this truth.

Those so-called experts want everybody to live in city apartments a la New York City. Meh, how dreary is that? Public transportation isn't at the top of many wish lists.

Guess what we really desire ... a suburban ranch and two cars, minimum. Except some of us prefer even more rural digs, and pickup trucks.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A Foregone Conclusion

The news is full of stories of a report of torture of captives in U.S. custody. Does anyone reading them believe Sen. Dianne Feinstein started her "investigation" of CIA interrogation techniques with an open mind? I assure you I have no such illusions.

The people running the Agency at the time certainly believed the enhanced techniques worked, producing good information otherwise unobtainable. What's more, they continue to hold that opinion. And the minority (Republican) report agrees.

It is my opinion Feinstein started with a preconceived outcome in mind and selectively collected facts and testimony which supported that outcome. I believe she sought a finding  which makes the U.S. look bad; something liberals love to do as it coincides with their view of our country as an international malefactor and bully.

That the CIA didn't use FBI techniques of information-gathering should surprise no one, their missions are almost entirely different. The FBI measures success in criminal convictions obtained, ideally one or more for each federal crime reported. The CIA brings no criminal cases, it collects information to support foreign policy decision-making and acts more or less covertly to stymie U.S. enemies, sometimes violently.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Travel Blogging IX

Orlando, FL:  Today was sunny and cool, breezy too. We dressed warmly and never regretted it.  The absence of rain made a big difference in both our experience and in the number of people present onsite - more today.

We still saw people going around in shorts and even some in short sleeves. We asked a couple if they weren't cold and learned they'd left below-freezing temps at home to come to what feels to them like spring weather here. 

It reminds me of a guy who shared a house with me and a third grad student in rainy, gray-skied Oregon. He'd come to Eugene from western Minnesota and Missoula, MT, both cold places. He thought Oregon winters were almost tropical; mostly there was no snow to shovel or ice to slip on. He'd sit around in shorts studying. 

Coming from CA, I found that same rainy weather almost unbearably dreary, depressing, and cold - I lived in a coat. It's all about what you're accustomed to.

About Former Democrats

There is a discussion in the MSM to the effect that the South becoming all-Republican after being all-Democrat thru the Jim Crow years is based on racism. What I know to be true is today's GOP holds many of the values that an earlier era's Southern Democrats held.

I grew up among Southern Democrat adults who believed in a strong military, and served in the World Wars. They looked down on people taking welfare, were very clear about the differences between right and wrong, and shunned "trashy" people of any race. They honored FDR for grappling with the Depression, unlike Hoover, and for leading during WW II.

In general, southerners left the Democratic Party when the party no longer would tolerate conservative members. Those of my older relatives who lived into the early 1980s all became Reagan Democrats first and then Republicans. I'm certain they agreed with sentiments expressed by Ronald Reagan, who famously said, "I didn't leave the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party left me." 

That process continues today, not only in the South. Democrats are in danger of becoming exclusively the refuge of "victim" or "outsider" groups, people aggrieved at the way life has treated them and those like them. As long as this great nation continues to deliver a reasonable chance at an okay life to most of its citizens, the "victims" will fall short of a national majority.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Handicapping the Field

The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake take an early look at who might be the GOP presidential nominee in 2016. They disclaim commitment to their choices, as they should.

Rand Paul is their top choice, I don't believe his intermittent isolationism will sell. Their second choice is Chris Christie, I don't see his NJ bluster working with our base and he probably couldn't carry his own state. Third is Jeb Bush, his views on immigration and Common Core won't be popular. 

Fourth is Marco Rubio, he has immigration problems too. Fifth is Scott Walker, he has a charisma deficit but his policies are popular. Sixth is John Kasich, again a charisma deficit and maybe soft on Obamacare but he could likely carry key Ohio.

Seventh is Bobby Jindal, the Governor of Louisiana. He doesn't have a lot of name recognition. Eighth is Ted Cruz, a firebrand the party establishment won't support. Ninth is Mike Huckabee, one of the best natural campaigners I ever saw, but he doesn't love the nitty gritty of fund raising and organizing. Tenth is Paul Ryan, former VP candidate, who they note seems very happy in the House.

Every one of these gentlemen has a drawback, some more than one. Some aren't acceptable to the base, others not to the establishment with the money. Not that likely rival Hillary has much to offer voters beyond being the not-Obama Democrat, which is definitely a plus.

Travel Blogging VIII

Orlando, FL:  Florida is supposed to be warm in winter, yes? Not today, it wasn't. It rained lightly much of the day and it was the cold rain we get on the West Coast, not the warm rain for which the southeast is known. Thr DrsC were not warmly enough dressed.

The new Harry Potter section is basically Wizarding London - Diagon Alley and Nocturne Alley plus Kings Cross Station and a full sized rail line connects the new area with the old. All the shops you read about are there, as well as some new ones Universal has dreamed up to fit in with the theme and create a larger scene. 

The dragon Harry freed from Gringotts is draped over the top of the bank building. Every ten minutes it belches fire and roars. Visitors all stand around with their cameras hoping to catch the spectacle. The other DrC took video so I know she succeeded. 

The new rail line is more than transportation, it is a feature itself. Instead of a view of Universal's back lot, what you see out the window is what Harry, Ron and Hermione would see on their way from London to Hogsmead and back plus story-relevant stuff appears to happen in the corridor outside your compartment (a dementor, etc.). More, tomorrow.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Remember Pearl Harbor

Seventy-three years ago today the Empire of Japan attacked the United States at Pearl Harbor, and subsequently elsewhere including much less significant attacks on Alaska and California. Plus total invasions of islands the US controlled, including Guam & the Philippines. Many died, many others were enslaved.

To this day, places the Japanese occupied during the war have little liking for Japan and its people, except for a few older Taiwanese. Many envy Japan its riches, its postwar success; few love its people.

The Cherry on the Sundae

Politico reports Landreau lost the runoff for the LA Senate seat, decisively as predicted. The GOP will have 54 of the 100 Senate seats. They'd need six Dems to override a veto, not a very likely outcome. 

Travel Blogging VII

Orlando, Florida:  As military pilots say when flying ashore, COTTonLINE is "feet dry" and ready for action. The cruise part of this trip ended this a.m. around eight. We had a suitcase go missing for about an hour, until they found it and brought it to us.

Since then we picked up a rental car and drove the 200 miles north to Orlando, on the FL Turnpike ... very easy driving and much improved rest area service plazas with fuel and a wide assortment of fast food. 

Like CA, FL is green at this time of year, unlike CA it is also green in summer. Shirtsleeves weather in Dec. is very pleasant, it will be noticeably colder in TN.

Tomorrow we decend upon The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. A Monday after Thanksgiving and before school gets out for Xmas shouldn't be too overrun with folks.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Travel Blogging VI

At sea off Havana, enroute to Ft. Lauderdale:  We saw the Blue Planet show last evening, it wasn't up to the standard of the other entertainment on this ship. I think its main problem was the musical arrangements which took good tunes and made them less-than-good. I suppose it was meant to be a celebration of Mother Gaia, the Earth. Parts were okay but it didn't work as a cohesive whole. Tonight we get to pack as we disembark tomorrow a.m. early

We'll spend tomorrow driving to Orlando, turning in the rental car, and settling into our hotel. Oh, and getting our land legs back, too. Monday we will head into Universal Studios, Orlando, to see the new, expanded Harry Potter exhibit which, I understand, recreates Diagon Alley, the wizard shopping "mall." That should be fun. Friend Ed will join us in Orlando for that "leg" of the trip.

My insight about this ship (and her sisters) is that people who've sailed on one may take another to see different shows next time if, as I believe, each carries a different entertainment "package." We've felt no need to visit the specialty restaurants.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Travel Blogging V

At sea, enroute between Jamaica and Cozumel, Mexico:  We went exploring today into the Sports Zone, where we played a round of miniature golf on the fancifully named Allure Dunes course. I actually got a hole in one - pure luck, no skill involved. We also watched the zip line riders - relatively tame in terms of length and speed, but it crosses the aft center atrium which is about eight decks high so think eighty feet up.

We also watched kids who spent their youth riding skateboards try to master the Waverider. It's a clever contraption that shoots water up a slope at some speed where the slope mimics a wave front. Some could stay up on the wheelless board for awhile before wiping out, at which point the force of the water pressure swept them up over the top lip and into calmer water so they could stand, retrieve their board, and climb out. The water is nowhere deeper than a foot but moves with great force, enough to push a person uphill.

What this ship does better than any other is entertainment, not just singin' and dancin' but ice shows, water shows with a Cirque flavor, a Broadway show that was a hit, and more. There is a dedicated comedy club too. 

The Allure has on board a foursome who do an Abba tribute that mimics both the sound and look of the original group. We saw it last night and it was a fun show, well done.  A week on this ship resembles a week in Vegas, including casino action and crowds of casually dressed people milling to and fro. 

Tomorrow we are in Cozumel, I plan to skip going ashore as I've been here before. The lure of the Allure is the ship itself, going ashore is entirely optional and frankly secondary.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Travel Blogging IV

Falmouth, Jamaica:  We visited Labadee, Haiti, yesterday. Today it's Falmouth, Jamaica, a port used by Royal Caribbean which is near Montego Bay. The Allure is one of two RC ships in port today, the other being the Independence OTS. It isn't a pretty day and I've decided to stay onboard, the other DrC has gone ashore with friends Pam and Sam.

About Labadee, it turns out RC only leases it, albeit long-term. We were told the Haitian government gets ten dollars for every passenger RC brings here. Our ship alone would represent $60,000 to Haiti. What a lovely source of graft. I wonder how much of RC's payment ends up in numbered accounts in Switzerland or the Caymans?

RC has made impressive improvements in the facility. There are two zip line rides, each with several parallel cables. One is quite long and crosses an ocean cove. There are beaches, cabanas, cantinas, bars, various transportation options, trinket shops, etc. All consumables come from the ship, I believe, including importantly, bags of ice. 

The workforce is Haitian, from the village of the same name across the bay, brought in by boat daily IF a ship is in port. I'd estimate employment of maybe a couple of hundred locals, possibly more. It was Labadee Village's lucky day when RC arrived. I have seen the private cays of both Princess and Norwegian; Royal Caribbean's Labadee is head and shoulders above the rest. 

Last night we saw the water show Ocean Aria which consists of diving, tumbling, gymnastics, trampoline, and some aerialist bits, done with music to resemble a Cirque show, with the odd French comedy-of-the-grotesque downplayed. We actually watched it twice, as standees in back. We liked it.

Travel Blogging III

At sea, off the north coast of Cuba: No matter how often I make this journey, I am always impressed by how many hours are required to steam past Castro's socialist paradise. We are sailing into a quartering headwind today so the weather log says the wind speed across the deck is 45 knots or nautical miles per hour. That is 31 knots of wind to which the ship's own speed adds another 14 knots of apparent wind since we aren't headed directly into the wind. On the other hand it is quite warm, about 86 degrees F.

The Allure of the Seas is one of the most elaborate "confections" afloat. There are three long open walking areas, the open-air Central Park, and the roofed-over Royal Promenade. Both feature sidewalk cafes with tables for dining al fresco. Toward aft there is the open-air Boardwalk where today I saw both the carousel and the cotton candy machine in operation. Boardwalk explicitly caters to children of all ages and their parents or grandparents. There are plenty of things to do.

On the other hand, the Allure feels "urban" with too many people everywhere you go. The experience is much like a day in a Disney theme park, fun but tiring. In so many ways it is the antithesis of "real" cruising which is relaxing and gently paced. Running this ship and her sister, the Oasis of the Seas, on week-long cruises is smart, a week is about all one would want of this experience.

Tomorrow we visit Labadee, Haiti, a peninsula that Royal Caribbean controls, or maybe owns. It is their version of the Bahamas cays owned by Carnival and Norwegian. I don't expect Labadee to be an authentic Haitian experience, of which I am glad. Real Haiti is grim, I hear.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Travel Blogging II

Fort Lauderdale, Florida, aboard the Allure of the Seas:  We haven't sailed yet at 3:40 p.m. It takes time to load six thousand pax plus everything they will eat and drink for the next week.

Initial impressions: There are zero movies available for free viewing on the in-room TV. Nearly two hundred are available for such viewing at a charge of $12 or $13 each. There are also many for-fee dining options, a la Norwegian. This leaves an impression of chintziness, of nickel-and-diming us at every turn. 

The ship is sure-as-hell zoomy. There is a bar that "floats" between two floors separated by a mezzanine. Step aboard on one floor, leave on another.  They have wave pools, a zip line, two forty foot climbing walls, etc. They carry a broadway show - Chicago - aboard plus a water show, an ice show and who knows what else, we'll find out as the week goes on.

I visited the "library" this afternoon, it was a pathetic excuse. The facility is nice but there were next-to-no books on the shelves, sad. Shipboard is about the only place where I find time to read. I'll rely on my kindle I suppose.

As I've been writing this we have sailed. I no longer watch the sail away, except in Venice which is a spectacular sight as cruising down the Grand Canal your ship dwarfs the city. We did scan the bow camera feed as we cleared the breakwater.

We have an unusual cabin, an inside balcony which overlooks the open-to-the-sky atrium. There are trees growing within the atrium-type area, it resembles a long, narrow park.