Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Port Isn't Rich, But Could Be

Puerto Rico means, roughly, Rich Port. Today the name is singularly inappropriate as the island's commonwealth government struggles to meet debt payments and annually spends quite a bit more than it takes in. See an article in The Atlantic which describes the situation.

I can envision a future for the island where many Puerto Ricans have moved to the mainland, and property values decline as inventories of homes for sale exceed demand. Then the island can become a series of retirement villages in the sun, on a grand scale, with services provided for retirees by the remaining residents.

So-called "young retired" would move to Puerto Rico, buy a place, and live there for a decade or two before moving closer to their children as they age into the "old retired." Puerto Ricans could provide services, run restaurants, markets, clinics, casinos, marinas, sell real estate, do maintenance, and otherwise live on the retirees' local spending for necessities and luxuries.

The key is to avoid having the island's government continue as the employer of last resort. In many ways the economy might come to resemble that of Hawaii, they could do much worse.

The Incredible, Vanishing Europeans

The often quotable Mark Steyn writes about Greece and its troubles, at his Steyn Online blog.
The entitlement state disincentivizes everything from wealth creation to self-reliance to the survival instinct, as represented by the fertility rate. If the problem with socialism, as Mrs Thatcher famously said, is that eventually you run out of other people's money, the problem with Greece and much of Europe is that they've advanced to the next stage: They've run out of other people, period.
Birthrates in Southern Europe are far below replacement level. Hat tip to Lucianne.com for the link.

A Boat Batman Would Love

A look-alike for the Bat Boat lives, and several can be found in littoral waters around Singapore. The craft has been in use by Singapore's Navy since 2009 but was shown to the public for the first time recently. See the IHS Janes article with several photos, hat tip to RealClearDefense for the link.

The stealthy naval interceptor, a term more frequently used for fighter planes, is the zoomiest looking thing afloat, everything including the stabilized machine gun is "stealthed." Malacca Strait pirates won't survive an encounter with this beauty.

F-35 Flunks Test

RealClearDefense reports on the new F-35, the joint strike fighter upon which all three flying services are pinning their hopes for the future. Head to head aerial competition has shown it to be an awkward brute in a dogfight, likely to lose to the F-16 or F-15, or their Russian or Chinese equivalents. This is very bad news, and should be causing panic at the decision-making levels.

At rarefied high levels in the military, as elsewhere, admitting one was wrong can equal career death. You have to hope there aren't too many top brass whose career trajectory depends upon them having been correct to rely on the F-35.

In a future war, there won't be time to do as we did in WW II: (1) discover the hard way we have lame planes, (2) design better fighters, (3) build them, and (4) win the air war. We will win, or lose, with what we have going in. The test pilot report upon which this story is based should be required reading wherever pilots gather.


A personal note: The F-35 is designed to do several things, depending on the version: air superiority, ground attack, vertical take-off, and carrier catapult launch and tailhook landings. The DrsC have learned the hard way, things designed to do a variety of things rarely do any of them well. This is false economy, for a warplane that does nothing well gets pilots killed and wins no battles.

A Non-Story

Yahoo News carries a Reuters story about missteps by the Ferguson, Missouri, police department in the face of riots there last summer. Most recent Census estimates place the Ferguson population at 21,111 - not tiny, but not very big.

How many police forces of towns that size are prepared and practiced in dealing with massive civil disobedience and violence? Darned few, I'll wager. Mostly they deal with traffic management and property crimes.

"Missteps" are exactly what you'd expect from a small town police department faced with riots prodded by outside agitators, happening under national media scrutiny. Such forces typically are not cutting edge models of law enforcement professionalism. They keep the peace under normal circumstances; what Ferguson faced was far from normal.

The POTUS Experiment

As long-time COTTonLINE readers know, we're fond of the thought experiment process. Of  making a set of assumptions and reasoning through what the implications of those would be were the assumptions actually true. Then comparing those imagined outcomes to what has, in fact, happened.

Assume President Obama had as his long-term goal in office the weakening  and punishment of the United States. Ask yourself to what extent would his behavior have differed from what we have seen him do, or attempt, in the past seven years? If you conclude there isn't much "daylight" between the two profiles - the imagined and the observed - we are in agreement.

We have no way to tell, beyond doubt, whether President Obama is merely hapless or truly evil. The ability to get reelected suggests he isn't stupid so it's likely he actually intends the damage he has wrought, the punishment he has inflicted on our nation.

As a kind of anti-Mandela, Obama appears to believe our disarray is well-earned. Next stop, Secretary General of the reliably anti-American United Nations?

The Greek Tragedy

If you haven't given up whatever interest you once had in the long-running drama that is Greece, I have a link to a sensible analysis of it from Bloomberg View's Megan McArdle. She writes what many have concluded: Greece never should have been permitted in the euro zone. 

Living within their means is not in the Greek DNA. Greek voters literally demand more government than they are willing to pay for in taxes. Sounds like Argentina, doesnt it? Loaning such countries money is a mug's game, even at high rates of interest. 

When Greece joined the euro, Greece's creditors swapped the danger of inflation for the danger of default. Now they face a "haircut" that will cost them plenty, and the Greek nation faces a period of post-euro inflation as the hapless government devalues the currency.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

A Rude Pairing

Steven Hayward of Power Line includes the following pairing in his
The Week in Pictures, Confederacy of Dunces edition.

You could conclude Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), Chair of the Democratic National Committee, was the inspiration for the animated Jar Jar Binks character in Star Wars Episodes I, II, and III.

Hayward shares this cartoon, too:

An odd refrigerator in more ways than one, notice the two doors open in different directions.

Against Catastrophic Financial Loss

Megan McArdle writes for Bloomberg View something we should remember - health insurance is a financial product. It is designed to solve a financial problem.

Research shows it doesn't make us healthier. It does remove or ameliorate a low probability, high impact financial risk - the risk of catastrophic medical bills driving us into bankruptcy.

As McArdle notes, somewhat irrational human biases prevent utilization of the most economic methods of managing major financial risks associated with medical costs. Health insurance - as now constituted - helps people be happier, not especially healthier.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Governing from the Bench

The fourteenth amendment to the U.S. Constitution was adopted on July 9, 1868, following the Civil War. For the next 147 years it was understood to require equal treatment for all Americans, regardless of race.

This spring the narrowest possible majority of Supreme Court justices found, lurking within it, the right of persons of alternative sexual orientations to marry. This is a protection that 6 or 7 generations of jurists had not detected. Whatever happened to stare decisis?

I  take no position on same-sex marriage. I believe strongly legalizing it - if that is the public will - should have been done via legislation by elected representatives. Government by five unelected jurists-for-life is not what this nation is about.

The Gender Issue

The columns of political analyst Charlie Cook appear in National Journal. In tomorrow's issue he writes about the gender issue in 2016 presidential politics, with particular reference to the role of presumed Democrat nominee Hillary Clinton.

Clinton polls better among women than among men, no surprise. Also, among college-educated women as opposed to those not so. Cook writes:
Given that Clinton is unlikely to be able to match President Obama's turnout and support levels among minority and young voters, how can she make up for that? If there is a sphere in which she could conceivably outperform Obama, it is likely to be among women—arguably those who do not also fall into either the "minority" or "young" categories, as Obama did especially well with both minority and young women.

Republicans are obviously acutely aware of their problem with women voters. (snip) Less certain is how aware Democrats are of their problem with men voters, specifically white men.
Clinton is seriously unpopular with white men, while breaking even with white women.
Among white women, Clinton had a net positive score of 1 point (44 percent positive, 43 percent negative), while among white men, she was at -22 points (53 percent negative, 31 percent positive), a 23-point gender gap.
Evidence continues to mount that the major parties are moving in the direction of having "tribal" memberships.

It's a Brave New World

Writing for American Thinker, Thomas Lifson argues that today's Supreme Court decision finding same-sex marriage is constitutionally protected under the 14th amendment is only a first step. I concur.

The same reasoning that finds a right to same-sex marriage in the U.S. Constitution also supports the right of more than two people to marry, In other words, polyandry, polygyny, and polyamory, known collectively as polygamy. For that matter, dropping the ban on incest is likely as well.


I can imagine states where most residents do not concur with today's decision at least considering getting out of marriage licensure entirely. Perhaps in those jurisdictions "marriage" would become a contractual arrangement entered into by simple signature before witnesses.

Any associated religious ceremony would require mutual agreement of the contracting parties plus the church in question, and have no legal standing. If a church found certain marital configurations doctrinally offensive, they would not be required to bless same. Presumably other churches would discover they had flexibility in such matters and be available.

Smart people would include in their contract those provisions which would apply in the event of a dissolution or other non-performance, including penalties and provisions for children, pets, chattel and real property. "Divorces" might be concluded by a mediator, arbitrator, or civil court judge as specified in the contract.

Under these circumstances, a "marriage" would include whatever lawful features upon which the contracting parties could agree, and only those. Think of the employment for attorneys such an environment would provide - a mostly new branch of legal practice related to the prior practice of drafting prenuptial agreements.

Pressing individuals to make explicit their expectations of each other before marriage might be a healthy step toward reducing divorce.

USAF A-10 Animus Explained

The Hill reports the GAO finds the USAF has misstated its savings from retiring the A-10 Warthog ground attack aircraft. Meanwhile a long Politico article reports on tussles within the Pentagon between the Army on one hand against a coalition of the Navy and Air Force over the Army's vanishing role in a defense doctrine called AirSea Battle (ASB).

I believe grasping assumptions explicit in ASB will take us a long way toward understanding why the Air Force wants to rid itself of the A-10. The Politico article quotes then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates as saying any defense secretary:
Who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia, or into the Middle East, or Africa should have his head examined.
Implicitly that Secretary should look for another line of work.

If we aren't going to commit "a big American land army" to such places, if all we commit are air and naval resources, we aren't going to need ground support aircraft to protect troops there. Thus the very effective A-10 had no role in the AirSea Battle model jointly envisioned by the Air Force and Navy, which doctrine was official policy for several years. 

Events, as they often do, have overtaken the ASB. Today the A-10 is hard at work in Iraq and Syria supporting proxy forces on the ground. It would also have a (probably sacrificial) role in any NATO-involved European conflict with Russian armor. Ground warfare isn't as unthinkable today as it was in 2011 when Gates spoke at West Point, thanks to Tsar Vladimir.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

A Disciple of Political Realism

Hillary Clinton, speaking about the underwhelming John Kerry presidential campaign of 2004, as quoted by Tina Brown in The Washington Post.
You don't have to fall in love, you just have to fall in line.
Hillary applying "Lie back and enjoy it" to politics? Hat tip to Ed Driscoll, guest posting at Instapundit, for remembering this 11 year old gem of realpolitik.

Broken Windows Policing in NYC

Myron Magnet (great name) is Editor-at-Large of City Journal. He has written an explanation of broken windows policing, including its history of success in New York City, and a description of the chaos that has followed its termination by Mayor de Blasio.

Broken windows policing worked, so of course it had to go. Too many members of de Blasio's base earned arrest records for being the scofflaw fools proactive policing doesn't suffer gladly.

Half-Christmas Today

Today, June 25, is the midpoint between last Christmas and the next. Have you started shopping yet? The DrsC have.

How about planning holiday get-togethers? Maybe it's a little early for that, eh?

In any event, have a Merry Half-Christmas!

Court Supports ACA ... Again

The Supreme Court today handed down a 6-3 verdict in favor of allowing the government to continue subsidizing Obamacare for poor enrollees in states which did not establish their own insurance exchanges. See a Yahoo News article for details.

Chief Justice Roberts argued that, however "inartful" the law's wording, it was the intent of the Congress to provide assistance to all poor enrollees. However much COTTonLINE readers may dislike Obamacare, in that allegation Roberts is likely correct.

On the other hand, I particularly enjoyed what Justice Scalia wrote in dissent.
The cases will publish forever the discouraging truth that the Supreme Court of the United States favors some laws over others, and is prepared to do whatever it takes to uphold and assist its favorites.
It is likely Scalia is correct as well.

An Accidental Insight

Occasionally The New York Times' Thomas Edsall, an old lefty but a smart one, comes up with an insight worth sharing or, in this case, elaborating upon. The question with which he begins today's column is this: Why don't today's poor engage in collective action to better their lot?

Most of his answer is the usual liberal claptrap, but he stumbles across an insight almost as if by accident.
Those bearing the most severe costs of inequality are irrelevant to the agenda-setters in both parties. They are political orphans in the new order. They may have a voice in urban politics, but on the national scene they no longer fit into the schema of the left or the right. They are pushed to the periphery except for a brief moment on Election Day when one party wants their votes counted, and the other doesn’t.
The Democrats - historic advocates for the interests of the less-well-off - have been captured by a collection of affluent interest groups with agendas that either fail to assist, or actually damage, the well-being of the poor.  Examples include the greens who oppose growth, LGBT groups, the tech moguls, and the public employee unions, including teachers.

These groups now fund the Democrats and, as they pay the piper, they call the tunes to which the party dances. Lip service is given to betterment of the poor but little actual equalization results.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Prioritizing Four Threats

Writing for The National Interest, Mark Katz summarizes the four threats confronting the United States in the early decades of the 21st century. These are Russia, China, Iran, and the Sunni Jihadists.

Katz argues, correctly I believe, that realistically we cannot give full attention to all four - thus prioritization is required. He analyzes the four and concludes:
Despite its growing assertiveness of late, Beijing’s behavior has been less aggressive than that of Moscow since its annexation of Crimea, support for the rebels in eastern Ukraine, and increasing threats to European stability.

While some are doubtful that Iran truly seeks rapprochement with the West, there is little question that ISIS, Al Qaeda, and similar groups are not open to diplomacy, and that they would overthrow all those Middle Eastern governments which fear Iran (as well as topple the Islamic Republic itself) if they could.

Analysis suggests, then, that at present, America should prioritize Russia and Sunni jihadists over China and Iran.
Publicly available information about U.S. actions overseas suggests the government has essentially drawn these same conclusions. Hat tip to RealClearDefense for the link.

Quote of the Day

A Ukrainian official, quoted in The Economist, on the practical effect of Putin's actions vis-a-vis Ukraine.
Putin has done more to unite Ukraine than anyone else.
Truly, there is nothing like having an external enemy against which to coalesce.

Oops! How Embarrassing!

No comment needed. Hat tips to Lucianne.com and Breitbart 2016: The Race for the links to these eBay screen shots.

Aspiration Yes, Expectation No

We wrote yesterday about the universality of discrimination and prejudice. Now comes the sometimes bombastic Bill O'Reilly making the same point, as reported by Fox News.
I have traveled to 80 countries, and I can tell you there is more racial harmony in the USA than in 90 percent of the places that I visited.
He's correct. I've been to maybe 110 countries and discrimination is everywhere. We do a better job of getting along with those unlike ourselves than most, although we're far from perfect.

As we noted yesterday, rejecting those unlike ourselves is apparently "hardwired" in the human genome. Although living in harmony is our aspiration, it shouldn't be our expectation.

The Game Continues

The New York Times' Tom Friedman finally admits what we've been claiming since 2008, the Cold War is back and the lack of ideology cheapens it for him. Cold War 2.0 is just raw nationstate power politics, without the ideological window dressing.

Honestly, it was never about ideology. Properly understood Cold War 1.0 was the Russian empire vs. ours. In its latter stages it became a three cornered game including the Chinese. Today it bids fair to become a four cornered game with the Islamists aspiring to join "the bigs."

It's unfortunate we have a President who wants to sit on the sidelines. The game continues whether or not we take our turn at bat. Clearly, sidelined nations cannot win, they become the retinue, the minions, of powerful states.

The Right Question

See a story at the website of Baltimore station WBAL TV on difficulties their police have in recruiting black cops. Under grilling they admit that 63% of city residents are black while only 39% of their officers are black. Hat tip to Lucianne.com for the link.

A more reasonable question would be what percentage of Baltimorean residents of any color meet the minimum requirements to be considered for a job with the force? Minors, drug users, convicted felons, the physically and mentally handicapped, high school dropouts, the elderly, and the insane are all ineligible for this stressful job, I hope you'll agree. I'd want to know what percentage of that remainder is black.

I'll bet they have done a great job of recruiting this remainder, particularly since the popo aren't well-loved in the black community. If you were a healthy young black adult with a high school diploma and a clean criminal record, would you choose a police career? Odds are you would not.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Horse Race

Every month or so William Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard, does a poll of TWS blog readers and newsletter subscribers concerning their preferences among the GOP presidential aspirants. This poll has a clever name - the "Kristol Clear Straw Poll."

The latest edition is just out: Walker gets the most first place votes, followed by Rubio. Kristol summarizes the findings:
Walker remains strong, Rubio continues to move up, and Fiorina is surging.
The poll didn't include Trump among those listed. He had yet to make clear his intentions when the poll was taken. Hat tip to Drudge Report for the link.

Quote of the Day

Former Senator Phil Gramm, as quoted by National Review columnist Jay Nordlinger, on why he never mentioned free trade when campaigning:
Almost all people benefit from free trade, and they don’t know it.
A few people are harmed by free trade — and they all know it.

Populism No Panacea for Democrats

In a long article for National Journal tracing the history of progressive populist efforts at reducing income disparities in the U.S., John Judis stumbles across conservative populism. He sees the Democrats' emerging platform of government action to reduce income disparities being based on unwarranted assumptions.
The first flaw has to do with the status of the middle class. The populists assume that the rich are currently getting richer and that everyone else is suffering; that the middle class is vanishing.

While incomes and wealth at the very top have soared, and while people at the bottom of the economic ladder—many of whom have only high school degrees or less—are indeed threatened with falling incomes and joblessness, middle America is not dying or disappearing.

The real division in Chicago—and, I would suspect, in other cities and states—is not so much between the very rich and everyone else, but between thriving middle- and upper-middle-class neighborhoods and those boarded-up neighborhoods inhabited by the very poor.

This is not a class division that is conducive to a progressive populism that seeks to unite the 90 percent against the very rich. In fact, outside of a Democratic town like Chicago, it may be more conducive to a right-wing populism than a left-wing populism.
Of government programs to ameliorate inequality, he reports pollster Greenberg found:
Voters understood appeals to fairness as appeals to use their tax money for government programs to aid minorities. Outside of very blue areas, today's populist appeals to reduce economic inequality could well be understood in the same manner.
No question, they are understood as exactly that. Judis' bottom line can be found in the article's title:
Dear Democrats: Populism Will Not Save You 

Universal Discrimination

People are shocked, shocked that President Obama says Americans are racist in their very nature, their DNA. Of course he is correct.

What he didn't say is that virtually all human beings are racist by their very nature. It is human nature to reject those unlike ourselves. Go around the world, find any two peoples who live side by side and they don't like each other.

The Swedes make fun of the Norwegians, and vice versa. Both bullyrag the Danish, not to mention the hated Germans.

The Brits don't like the French, or anybody else for that matter. The Scots don't like the Brits, the Irish don't like either group.

Japanese dislike Chinese and the feeling is reciprocated. Most of Asia hates the Japanese, almost as many dislike the overseas Chinese who live among them.

Muslims are a thorn in the side of whatever society in which they are found, and they are that thorn because others irritate them so much. The Arabs hate black Africans and the Persians hate the Arabs.

In Latin America those of European descent and the indigenous peoples dislike each other. Both resent the imported Africans among them.

Many of the differences indicated above are not strictly speaking racial, although others are. The greater point is that most of us most of the time automatically find those unlike ourselves irritating.

The "unlike" can be based on race, religion, culture, language, sexual orientation, social class, caste, or political leanings. It says to us that person is "other," not one of our group, potentially a danger.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Chubby America

The Los Angeles Times reports results of research published in JAMA Internal Medicine on the extent of overweight and obesity among Americans.
Two out every three women in the U.S. were above a normal weight.
Three out of four men in the U.S. exceeded a normal weight.
Yea, team! We are the new normal. We're what happens when a species - evolved over a hundred millennia to survive annual famine by storing fat - confronts nonstop abundant and tasty food.

It's as though we live in a feedlot; no wonder we're as well-marbled as prime beef. Instead of malnutrition we cope with hypernutrition.

Take heart, overweight people can live to be old - my parents did. And there is solid research evidence a bit of weight can help you live longer, as we wrote in 2013:
Being somewhat overweight (but not obese) is actually healthier for people of middle age or older. Healthier than being at the so-called "ideal" weight.

Freelancing for ISIS

The Daily Beast runs a story on how ISIS uses sophisticated online social media to recruit disaffected people in the West to attack the countries within which they live. Most of these recruits are essentially "lone wolf" DIY terrorists who have never met someone actually affiliated with ISIS.

DHS and the FBI are said to be very concerned about such recruits. Presumably almost any Muslim could become a recruit, many have considered it, and a few have acted out.

A good immediate step would be to severely limit the immigration to the U.S. and other Western countries of persons of Muslim faith. In the event that ISIS-inspired violent actions become widespread, expect to see calls for the establishment of internment camps like those of World War II.

We need a president who will say, "Militant Islam has declared war on the U.S., a war we did not seek but cannot deny. Any who aid it forfeit their citizenship or permanent residency."

We must not let joining ISIS for a spell of bloodletting, rape and pillage become a wanderjahr or walkabout for the West's Muslim youth. Make joining it an irrevocable choice.

Instead of trying to keep people from going to Syria, we should fingerprint them, let them go and revoke their passports so they cannot return. Adding them to a database of wanted felons who will be imprisoned if caught in the U.S. would be useful since we seemingly cannot control our borders.

People Are the Problem

Karl Rove managed to get George W. Bush elected twice, which causes some to believe him a magician. On the other hand, Rove's notion that the only way we control violence is to repeal Second Amendment protection for gun ownership is just wrong, as this American Thinker article argues.

As we wrote a couple of days ago, mass murder can be accomplished with an auto, with fire, with poison, or with a variety of weapons. People kill people, sometimes with guns, sometimes with other means, most of which we are unwilling to live without.

So, how could we control violence? By controlling violent people. Reopen the long-closed mental institutions and warehouse there the sad, lonely angry young men who, with suicidal acts of mass murder, seek revenge on a society that never liked them. A science fiction alternative to warehousing - buy them a robot friend for company, or a dog.


Here is a research question somebody should examine: do mass murderers of the Sandy Hook or Charleston sort ever own dogs? I ask because (H1) being responsible for an animal that relies on you, and of which you are fond, may dissuade you from suicidal violent acts. Such acts would leave the animal uncared for and perhaps lead to its death at an animal shelter. Or alternatively, (H2) do such shooters kill their pets before going out to die themselves?

What Hillary Is Not Running On

Writing at The Hill, former governor and senator Judd Gregg (R-NH) dissects the Hillary Clinton campaign for president.
First, she is the first front-runner and presumptive nominee of a national party who is a woman. Second, she says that the reason she should be elected is that she is a woman.

She is not running on her record as secretary of State. Her time in that role was startlingly devoid of success.

She is not running on her record as a senator. (snip) There is little in the way of real results to which one can point.

She is certainly not running on a record of ethical leadership. Her activities at the State Department set a new low for obfuscation.

She does claim to be running to defend Middle America from the avarice of Wall Street. (snip) But her charges ring a bit hollow in the face of the way the Clinton Foundation has been funded and used.

She is not running because she is comfortable with scrutiny from the media on her past activities or her future plans.

She is not running because she wants to take courageous stances on the issues of the day. After weeks of avoiding the trade debate that is currently roiling Congress, she now has taken a position on both sides of the issue.

She is not running on the issue of foreign policy. She has not told us what she wants to do in Iraq or how she would deal with ISIS and the fundamentalist terrorist threat.
But Clinton is a woman and therefore we should vote for her, if I understand the argument. Like Obama, perhaps she can get enough "identity groups" to vote for her because of what she is not - a straight white male. The ploy may work.

However, conventional wisdom says rich, boring old white women are not icons for most identity groups which voted for Barry. The exception is educated unmarried women who may feel some sisterhood.


At The Federalist, Tom Nichols bemoans the U.S. acting like a Gulliverian helpless giant, bullied by the world's Lilliputians.
The status of a great nation is built on more than raw power. It includes intangible qualities like respect, admiration, and, yes, fear. We don’t need all three of them; no major power does. But we need at least one of them at any given moment, and right now, we’re bottoming out in each of these measures.
Not that COTTonLINE readers need to be reminded, but Nichols cites repeated examples of our international "wussiness" vis-a-vis Russia, China, and Iran. Our nonresponse to the massive Chinese cyber attack is only our most recent failure.

Obama has given us a double dose of Jimmy Carter's hapless foreign policy. We've turned the other cheek so often our enemies expect it. Pathetic.

Limited Time - Great Visual

Today's photo at Lucianne.com is cute/snarky/sad all at once. If you wait till tomorrow you'll miss it. The subject is an attractive but sad-looking dog labeled "Bruce Jenner's Cat."

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Trump a Distraction

In Commentary, Peter Wehner argues a Donald Trump candidacy will hurt the Republican Party. I beg to differ. There are blowhards with nutty ideas claiming allegiance to both parties. Did Lyndon LaRouche hurt the Democrats by claiming to be one?

Donald Trump endorses the GOP; it cannot be said the GOP endorses the Donald unless he wins the nominationI want to believe we're smarter than that. If we give Trump the nomination, the GOP deserves the same whupping George McGovern earned the Democrats. 

Rumpelstiltskin Economics

Columnist George Will writes for The Washington Post about the travails of Greece. Of Greek Prime Minister Tsipras, Will says:
His shrillness increasing as his options contract, he says the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund are trying to “humiliate” Greece.

How could one humiliate a nation that chooses governments committed to Rumpelstiltskin economics, the belief that the straw of government largesse can be spun into the gold of national wealth? (snip) He thinks Greek voters, by making delusional promises to themselves, obligate other European taxpayers to fund them.
Magical thinking isn't confined to fairy tales and the Harry Potter oeuvre, but it should be.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Gun Control Not the Issue

A man in Austria drove his car into a crowd of people, killing several and injuring many more, before jumping out and attacking one or more people with a knife. The perp was a Bosnian living in Austria. It is not being called terrorism, police say he appears insane. See the story in The Independent (U.K.).

This shows guns aren't required to do mass murder or terrorism. Shall we ban cars? How about knives? Hat tip to Instapundit for the link.

The Friedman Assessment: East Asia

Assessing East Asia for RealClearWorld, George Friedman observes first Japan, then South Korea, and now China lost confidence in their ability to keep moving forward.
Recall the Japanese purchase of American real estate in the late 1980s or Korean purchases of business in the 1990s. These were not particularly successful, nor were they meant to be. They were designed to reduce the Japanese and Koreans' exposure at home.

The same can be said with China's current propensity for foreign investment. It is driven, at least in part, by a lack of confidence among those within China who really understand the country's situation. Much of it is state capital flowing out. Some is state capital flowing outward and becoming private capital. Other funds are private capital. The types and patterns vary, but the flow has continued.

East Asia is transitioning from a period in which it - or each of its major components in sequence - played a critical role in the global system. Each has now climaxed, and both Japan and China are now playing a much more normal role in the system. This is the result of success and not failure, but it is also the result of the fact that while their previous economic models could exist for decades, at a certain point a shift is necessary.

China has not yet demonstrated that it can make the transition without internal fragmentation or intense repression. History would seem to argue that either is more likely than a return to the past decades.
Friedman concludes:
The internal evolution of China is, in fact, the key to the region. China has moved from limited liberality to increasingly intense authoritarianism. The evolution of this government is at the heart of the East Asian dynamic. North Korean nukes, Chinese aggressiveness at sea and American threats are all secondary.

Putin Channels Obama

Writing of Russia's Putin for Bloomberg View, Leonid Bershidsky says the former KGB officer describes the economic and geopolitical world Russia inhabits as though it conformed to his wishes, rather than as it exists. In this behavior he resembles President Obama who likewise inhabits an seeming dreamworld.

People refer to this behavior as "spin" as though that label excused a blithe refusal to confront reality. It isn't and it doesn't. 

Speaking selectively chosen truth is spin, avoiding uttering unpleasant truths is spin. Stating as fact what you know, or should know, to be false is not spin; that is either lying or self-delusion. Neither alternative is particularly attractive in public figures who control nuclear weapons, as both men do.

Russia to Befriend Greece?

Foreign Policy opines Greece may turn to Russia for help if they default on their loan payments. COTTonLINE speculated about this possibility a week ago.

Imagine NATO member Greece being beholden to Putin for a bailout. This could be the death of NATO, which relies on consensus decision-making. 

Greeks could refuse to let the alliance come to the aid of a Baltic nation suffering the present fate of Ukraine. That is, a slomo invasion by little green men (Russian troops flying no flags). I can hear the Greek foreign minister tasking NATO "Where's the evidence? Are you sure it isn't internal unrest?"

South Africa Blinks

Bloomberg View editorializes about South Africa's refusal to detain Sudanese President al-Bashir for whom an arrest warrant for war crimes and genocide is outstanding from the International Criminal Court. In South Africa's defense, it is possible they agreed not to detain him as a pre condition of his attending the African Union summit.

An argument can be made that it was important for him to be present. Not that South Africa could be bothered. It seems most of Africa's leaders would rather not be subject to a court in Europe, however diverse its staff and judges.

Given colonialism their feelings aren't surprising, however they are unfortunate. Africa is a continent that could use a large dose of law-abiding leadership a la Mandela.

Getting Real

Absent a large, brutal and effective secret police network in each, Iraq and Syria don't and won't work as nations, full stop. Saddam and Assad understood this from living there, assume both were correct. Analogs include the former Soviet Union and Yugoslavia.

Whatever we decide to do about Iraq, Syria and ISIS should start with sharing their understanding. I expect we are uncomfortable with a reimposition of police-state tactics. Thus we must stop trying to reassemble Humpty Dumpty, and head in some direction which doesn't leave the region a "failed state" mess. See a RealClearWorld article for an analysis.

One distinct possibility would be redrawn boundaries resulting in perhaps four nations where Syria and Iraq now moulder. I'll give them provisional names, for discussion purposes. 

Kurdistan, a northern homeland for the Kurds of both nations. 
Shiastan. southern Iraq plus Bagdad, a homeland for Shia Arabs. 
Sunnistan, central Iraq and Syria, for the Sunni Arabs of both legacy countries. 
Remainderstan, for the Chaldeans, the Alawites, the Yazidis and whoever else is hanging tough with Assad, located in northern and coastal Syria. 

Three regions have a clear majority group and the fourth is largely okay with Assad whose Alawites could also be a majority. These four might prove governable, or they might not. I allege they have some chance of success; if they are not crippled by wIthin-group tribalism.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Overwhelming Narcissism and Delusion

Erick Erickson, writing for his Red State blog, about the sad shooting in Charleston and our society's confused responses thereto:
A society that looks at a 65 year old male Olympian and, with a straight face, declares him a her and “a new normal” cannot have a conversation about mental health or evil because that society no longer distinguishes normal from crazy and evil from good. Our American society has a mental illness — overwhelming narcissism and delusion — and so cannot recognize what crazy or evil looks like.

Travel Blogging XIII

The rail route between Bergen and Oslo is beautiful, and not as short as a quick glance at a map would suggest. It starts at sea level, climbs to roughly 3000 ft., and ends back at sea level. 

The Flån Valley route is truly spectacular - world class scenery - take the word of a traveler. Immense ckiffs, huge gushing waterfalls, a rushing river, trees everywhere, and the train quite dwarfed by it.

At the summit of the regular rail route we saw whole valleys totally covered in snow. On the eve of the summer solstice, spring had yet to arrive in any meaningful way - very Alpine-looking.

The general reaction of two native Californians to so much gushing, splashing, obviously fresh water was poor, dry CA needs this and they're letting it run into the sea. I wonder if fresh water will become a valued export of wet places like Norway, Ireland, and British Columbia in much the same way as oil is today?

Finding a water source and routing it to where people need water is a key part of the legacy of the western U.S. The old Mormon canal-builders' superb gravity-powered handiwork supports farming (and existing) throughout the Mountain West. They made a desert bloom. 

Under governors like the incumbent's can-do father Pat Brown, CA did much the same. Leaders with that degree of chutzpah seemingly no longer exist. 

We've become a self-shackled giant hobbling around mumbling about "limits." As a nation we are no longer self-confident.

Going, Going ....

Last week we argued that Grexit wouldn't be the tragedy claimed by some authors. Now Leonid Bershidsky argues for Bloomberg View exactly our point, that it would benefit the EU.

He even thinks it would benefit Greece; I won't go that far. Its impact on Greece is definitely arguable as possibly a plus or a minus, maybe even some of both.


Meanwhile The Telegraph takes a more nuanced view:
Greece, in other words, has reached the point where it could successfully go it alone, provided it made a clean default. But, under its current leaders, it seems determined throw those advantages away and return to the tax-and-spend policies that caused its crisis in the first place.

Which is why, ultimately, Eurocrats are content to let the Hellenes go. The prospect that really troubled them was not that Greece would go it alone and collapse, but that Greece would go it alone and prosper – as Iceland has done. Sadly, Tsipras seems determined to squander the one-off opportunity that Grexit would bring. That’s his tragedy.
I enjoy the irony, Eurocrats we're troubled an independent Greece would succeed. There's little chance of that, it seems.

Denmark Votes

As the DrsC have been traveling in Scandanavia for the past two weeks, we've paid particular attention to the news from the region. Yesterday the Danes voted in national parliamentary elections with an interesting result. See the lede in the RealClearWorld story.
An election campaign largely focused on immigration helped take down the Danish left, leaving Denmark's leading anti-immigration party as a big winner. A block of right-wing parties is now expected to form a new government. 
Resistance to immigration is a growing political force in Europe. Their largely Muslim immigrants have proven substantially less assimilable than our nominally Christian lot.

Placing Blame

Ace number cruncher Nate Silver of the Five-Thirty-Eight blog writes the reason the U.S. has a higher murder rate than other developed countries is the high rate of black and Hispanic Americans killing their own people.

Actually, Silver never quite gets around to stating this as baldly as I have. He gives you all the pieces but lacks the courage to draw the obvious, but un-PC, conclusion from those pieces. Let me demonstrate using quotes from his article:
Black Americans are almost eight times as likely as white ones to be homicide victims.

For white Americans, the homicide death rate is not so much of an outlier. It's only modestly higher than in Finland, Belgium, or Greece, for instance, and lower than in Chile or Latvia.

There's no other highly industrialized country with a homicide death rate similar to the one black Americans experience.

You'd have to look to developing countries like Mexico (snip) to find a comparable rate.

Both black and white homicide victims are much more likely to be killed by someone of their own race.
Silver doesn't talk about Hispanics but his table shows they have a murder rate twice as high as that for non-Hispanic whites, making my extension of his overall point to also cover them defensible.

No, we're not blaming the forlorn victims. We blame the own-race perpetrators.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

U.S. Births Up

The Associated Press reports data from a Centers for Disease Control study of last year's birth certificates which shows births are up over the previous year, in all ethnic groups except Native Americans. Teen births are down, those to older mothers are up. Hat tip to the other DrC for the link.

In terms of ours being a successful society going forward, the increase in total births is good news. The article suggests this reflects the economic upturn which statistics show happening but few survey respondents report experiencing. I am unsure this is the cause, although I have no better explanation.

Trouble in Paradise

As the DrsC are traveling in Norway and Finland at the moment, an article from The Heritage Foundation for RealClearWorld about this region caught my eye. It begins:
The Nordic region may be the happiest place on Earth. Of the 10 top-ranked countries in the World Happiness Report, half are Nordic nations. Norway, Sweden, and Denmark rank third, fourth, and fifth, respectively, in The Economist's "Where to be born index," with Finland not far behind.

But beneath the picture of bliss lurks a malicious and difficult societal problem: An alarming number of Nordic citizens are involved with the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS. Many have traveled to the Middle East to fight for the terrorist group. Others commit their violence at home.
It continues:
The story is largely one of failed assimilation.

The scourge of Islamic radicalism in Nordic countries is spurring a debate in those nations about multiculturalism - a debate that has produced a flurry of policy proposals to stem the tide of fighters leaving for the Middle East.
It concludes:
The fight is inherently an ideological one that must be won on ideological grounds. The fact that Islamic extremism has grown steadily in countries with some of the highest quality of life and the most generous social spending is proof of this reality.

Quote of the Day

An editorial in the Richmond Times-Dispatch takes a jaundiced view of the University of California's new policy on avoiding microaggressions in the classroom. One of the UC no-nos is the following:
Saying, “I believe the most qualified person should get the job” or calling America “the land of opportunity.” (These perpetuate the “myth of meritocracy.”)
The Times-Dispatch responds with restraint to a provocation that justifies an eruption:
By adopting a guideline that says meritocracy is a myth, the university’s bureaucracy has gone some way toward proving it.
At least among university administrators. An old, cynical saying: Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach. Those who can't teach, administer education ... poorly.

The OPM "Hack" That Wasn't

Richard Fernandez' Belmont Club blog for PJ Media carries a fascinating explanation of how the Office of Personnel Management data base of federal employee records was breached. The short answer, some OPM creep or dirty contractor gave the Chinese the passwords and set them up as counterfeit system officials.

Encryption wouldn't have helped, they were invited inside by someone with access to everything, very possibly a foreign national doing contract work. The agency's administrator seems to have been selected for her credentials as an aggressive advocate for diversity-at-any-cost.

Her first question concerning any OPM project to be contracted out, "Can we find vendors who aren't white males?" When you ask that question in IT you get Chinese or Indian answers. Next question: What can go wrong? Answer: Exactly what happened.

A Vote of Confidence

Gallup recently polled Americans concerning their confidence in various societal actors. The comparison conservatives will find most pleasing is that more than twice as many people have confidence in the police (52%) as have confidence in the media (21-24%).

After all the recent trash talk the media aimed at our defenders in blue or tan, it's nice to see that "we, the people," aren't buying it. I shall now commit a sweeping generalization: many of those angry with, or distrustful of, the police are uneasy about their demographic's less-than-scrupulous conformity with the law.

An interesting apparent anomaly in the data: the criminal justice system got low marks (23%) whereas the police got high marks (52%). If asked, I would have said the police are part of the criminal justice system.

However when asked about them separately, as Gallup did, people believe the police do well. The courts, the probation/parole folks, and the prisons are not viewed as especially successful.

Upon reflection, I find I agree with their assessment. After being caught, too many malefactors are freed on technicalities or, like O.J., win acquittals they appear not to deserve.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Travel Blogging XII

Bergen, Norway: We are told Bergen is the rainiest city in Europe. Supposedly it rains or snows here 300 days a year, that's five days out of six.

Today was no exception, we took a neighborhood walk after supper and were rained on the whole time - not wonderful. The other DrC says you could wear out an umbrella in this town, I concur.

Bergen is the second largest city in Norway, population roughly a quarter million. It is heavily involved in Norway's North Sea oil boom. The harbor home ports a number of very heavy duty workboats or ships for the industry.

Bergen is an old Hanseatic League city dating back to the thirteenth or fourteenth century. We visited their quarter this afternoon, multistory wooden trading buildings that would be ancient if the quarter hadn't burned several times over the centuries. We saw where they were restoring one using ancient timber framing techniques and brand new wood.

When I see Bergen I think of ventriloquist Edgar Bergen, his various wooden sidekicks, and a pretty daughter Candice who had her own TV show, Murphy Brown. I presume he was of Norwegian ancestry.

A high school graduation party was happening at our hotel tonight and more than half the young women were wearing traditional Norwegian garb, very old-style costumes. The balance wore cocktail dresses, the fellows were all in suits.

Later ... Driving through Bergen we saw a tasteful display of bikinis and beachwear in a shop window. Our immediate reaction - it's resort wear, entirely unsuitable for local use. The weather here mimics that of Prince Rupert, British Columbia, or panhandle Alaska - cool wet summers, wet snowy winters.

Even Later  ... There is a T.G.I.Friday's in downtown Bergen that does a great bacon cheeseburger. It is just the ticket for a Yank suffering the culinary culture shock of Norwegian "cuisine."

Asking for the Impossible

The NewYork Times' Tom Friedman wanders away from his area of competence - foreign policy - and writes in support of political centrism, of splitting the difference between conservatives and liberals on a range of issues facing the U.S.

Alas Tom, centrism is so yesterday. That's not how we roll in the 21st century. We are polarized, and becoming more so. Not just in our politics but also in our places of residence and our friendships. 

Increasingly we feel serious dislike for those with whom we disagree politically. They become the "other" whom we blame for whatever is wrong with society - viewing them as not merely wrong but evil.

If I had the gumption to write futurist fiction I'd consider a novel about a future U.S splitting up like India and Pakistan. Splitting regions along political philosophy fault lines.

I'd track the lives of several families who, as partition loomed, find themselves on the "wrong" side of the divide as they agonize about staying put or migrating to someplace simpatico. It would be fun to imagine the expected and unexpected outcomes on both sides of the divide. A not-bad working title would be "Brave New Worlds," an obvious homage to Aldous Huxley. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Travel Blogging XI

South of Trondheim: Norwegian food is certainly not much, odd items combined in odd ways. It ranges from a high of "Well, that isn't actively nasty" to a low of "That is just plain ugly-tasting."

The only distinctively Norwegian food we've had that I liked was a flatbread maybe 1/16 of an inch thick that was slightly sweet and totally toothsome. If I ever get the misbegotten notion to try a Scandinavian restaurant, remind me of the past week's experience and sit with me until the urge passes.

Today we are basically south of classic fjord country, so naturally we get our first sunny day today when there are fewer beautiful landscapes to photograph. That rascal Murphy works overtime, screwing up good things.

We got a lecture today on a war about which I've never studied or read, the Northern War of the early 1700s. It pitted a smaller Swedish army against larger but less professional forces from Russia and from Denmark. Sweden was a tough foe but eventually lost to the big battalions, winning many battles but losing the war and with it an empire that included Finland, the Baltic republics, and part of Russia plus maybe Poland.

Ten Year Cooling Trend

Recent data from NOAA's most accurate climate network shows a ten year cooling trend in the United States. See a Daily Caller story for details. The network's locations are selected to be distant from urban heat sinks and other factors requiring controversial post-hoc "adjustments" for exogenous local factors.

Climate scientists say the climate should be warming, according to their admittedly incomplete understanding of the impact of various factors they believe are relevant. Their bad luck, the climate doesn't seem to share their understanding of how it should work, and is cooling. 

Sadly, the Pope appears ready to put his infallibility as risk, getting out ahead of the data with a claim of climate-protection-as-God's-will. He's a strange one, this pope.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Lying with Numbers

Paul Mirengoff, who blogs at Power Line, takes apart a Washington Post scare statistic on campus sexual predation and finds there is likely less there than meets the eye. The study finds one coed in five has experienced some form of unwanted attention of a sexual nature.

Unfortunately lots of stuff not reaching the actionable level may be included, there is no way to be sure. "Stuff" of the drunk-collegian-comes-on-to-a-coed-who-isn't-interested variety. Kids drink to lower inhibitions, quite often to tasteless levels. It happens, it's normal, if excruciatingly awkward at times, and it's occasionally tragic.

The WaPo study was designed to produce scary numbers, not to help us understand the dimensions of such behavior. As such it isn't research but rather number-decorated feminist propaganda.


Bruce Jenner claims to be female, Rachel Dolezal claims to be black, where will the self-invention end? When I was in high school a gazillion years ago a weird kid named Jerry Mead or Meade (who remembers?) claimed to be from Mars, having (he alleged) hidden his space ship in the dry bed of the Ventura River.

Jerry wasn't from Mars, of course, merely the unfortunate recipient of some minor (I hope) but grotesque birth defects that gave him an odd aspect. Nevertheless I gave him credit for creativity in weaving an "origin story" that explained his peculiar appearance and mannerisms. 

I wonder if it is too late for me to "come out" as a Dr. Who-style Time Lord? Or as a Dune-style Mentat? Perhaps a Flynn Carson-like Librarian? Alas, I cannot convince myself so I fear I have no chance of convincing you. How boring to just be who I am, eh? 

I have to settle for a description written of me by a student on an anonymous faculty evaluation: "He has a mind like Spock." BTW, it possibly wasn't the compliment I took it as.

Travel Blogging X

We had a lecture this a.m. on Vikings, I can't say I learned a lot, except the role of runestones as legal "documents." Viking wasn't a tribal name, it was something one did, if adventurous, essentially a verb.

Program Director Daniel did a thorough lecturing job, including the Viking Rus founding Russia and the travels of the eastern Vikings all the way south to Constantinople and their service in the Varangian Guard there. He alleges the occurrence of blondes among the Berbers of North Africa is evidence Vikings ranged that far to the southwest.

You get the feeling the Viking model was "We'll raid you if you appear weak or trade with you if you appear too strong to successfully raid." They kept slaves so capturing likely looking specimens was probably a priority. 

Reading the diaries of the Arab diplomat who traveled to Scandinavia would be interesting. His name was something like "ibn Fadlun," I need to look him up.

The Norse were healthy big louts probably because their diets contained lots of fish protein. I so reason from the Kodiak grizzlies which are bigger than other brown bears because of all the salmon they eat. 

This Monday morning about 9:30 we finally crossed the Arctic Circle headed south. We've been north of the Circle since our stop on the road north to Ivalo, that is, about 5 days. We are finally starting to see some trees, they are scarce north of here along the coast. 

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Travel Blogging IX

Svolvaer, Norway: We went ashore in this town, visited a private World War II museum. The old fellow who collected the stuff was there and showed us his prize possessions - a series of paintings by A. Hitler. If they are as attributed, ol' Adolph wasn't a bad artist. His watercolor landscape was quite nice and his renderings of the dwarves from Snow White were excellent. He should have stayed with art and illustration where he actually had talent.

The museum has a wealth of uniforms, weapons, maps, ancillary gear, and equipment, including several panzerfausts and an actual Enigma code machine. He had examples of Lugers and broomhandle Mausers but no Walther P-38s. 

On the outskirts of this town I saw a number of fish drying racks. I wonder how many of our number recognized them for what they are. That is very old tech, the Aleuts do it too. You'd think the gulls would swoop down and eat the fish, maybe they've been salted too heavily to be edible.

We sailed past some fantastic scenery today, too bad it was raining at the time making pix taken out the windows resemble watercolors. We haven't had a lot of rain but we have had a continuous overcast. We knew when we scheduled this trip in late spring that we might have "muddy" weather, but did it anyway.

We saw the supper menu and were so disinterested we blew off supper entirely. I swear the Norwegians eat as much fish as the Japanese.

Putin Knows NATO Is Weak

Vox reports the results of a Pew survey of Europeans concerning whether their government should provide military aid in the event that Russians should attack one of the eastern NATO members. An absolute majority of French, Italians, and Germans say "no."

This is likely to mean the NATO "guarantee" of mutual aid in case of attack is an empty promise. An overt "tanks roll across the border" attack doesn't seem to be Putin's preferred modus operandi. 

Pity the poor residents of the Baltic republics - Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. Maybe the Poles, too. It's not fun having Russia as a neighbor. NATO appears to be a dead letter.

Travel Blogging VIII

Tromso, Norway: It is just after midnight and while not bright sunshine there is plenty of light for any reasonable task, including reading. It will be light - twilight maybe, but light nevertheless - all night.

Of course we are but a handful of days from the summer solstice, the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere, otherwise known as where most of humanity lives - Asia, Europe, and North and Central America, plus the northern parts of South America and Africa.

Tromso is substantial, no tiny village. It features two vehicular bridges over the fjord, we sailed under the taller of the two. A number of the pax are attending a midnight concert at the cathedral, we are not. 

Spectacular scenery today, not unlike the part of Antarctica we saw. Dark mountains in the sea with substantial snow on their sides. More green here of course, none to speak of in Antarctica. Gray skies we had all day seem to fit this environment perfectly. The overall feeling is wildness, bleak and harsh.

Our route today was largely in protected waters, not unlike the so-called Inside Passage to Alaska. Spent most of the day sitting in the forward viewing lounge that looks out over the bow. Very comfy chairs and the wifi sorta works there. It doesn't reach our cabin. To get it to work requires many failed attempts and much patience, which many lack. It helps to try when many are ashore.

Later ... The M.S. Nordnorge is like a train, running through the night as well as the day. I am certain there are stops on its route where the standard time to catch the daily ship is three a.m. 

There is some greenery on these hillsides but it doesn't get big enough to be called forest, more like arctic chapparel. If you saw the film Starshine where Robert Di Niro played a gay pirate, this terrain here looks like the countryside in that film. a mystical place called Stormhold, both adjacent to and fenced off from Britain.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Bloomberg: The Greek Problem

Bloomberg View editorializes about the EU's conflict with Greece. They conclude as follows:
If Greece defaults and Grexit follows, the Greeks will find to their horror that their suffering can still get worse. If the EU lets this happen, it will be making its worst mistake since the creation of the euro.
It is unfortunate Bloomberg doesn't clarify how a Greek default will damage EU interests. It isn't likely a defaulted Greece will throw in with ISIS or Turkey, maybe with Russia?

I imagine the EU's leaders would like to be rid of Greece. They may think it is worth the drama to teach other economically slovenly nations a lesson. How is it the "worst mistake since the creation of the euro?"

Travel Blogging VII

At sea, off the north coast of Norway: This is North Sea cruising, the water is rough whenever we are out of a fjord, which is most of the time. In the fjords, smooth as silk, quite a contrast..

We've made the first three of the 31 stops we make between Kirkenes and Bergen, tiny places clinging like lichen to the rocky coastline. I slept thru the 1st, the second seemed to exist to support mining of something other than coal. The third somewhat more substantial, perhaps several hundred souls.

We've had our first two meals aboard, nothing to brag on. I found the lunch buffet ok if odd. E could hardly find anything that wasn't too salty for her. 

Supper was a fixed menu featuring Russian specialties, only the dessert was good and it was small. Imagine vodka-marinaded sirloin, if you can. I mean, what's the point? I guess the ethanol and water bath could tenderize the meat, it sure left it with a bland taste. I fear I'll never love most Russian cuisine.

The ship is maybe the size of the Paul Gauguin, or smaller. The public spaces are very nice. Our cabin is tiny, the beds narrower than twins. We started out in the bow, where we got two portholes with heavy steel plate covers to pivot down and lock there with huge wing bolts. I remember the M.S. Andrea had those too. Perhaps it is a Norwegian thing. 

Being in the bow was extra rough as the bow pitches up and down a lot. Since they aren't full, E asked if we could move midships and that is where we are now. The room is identical in size and arrangement, except it has a window with no steel plate. At the moment we have fewer than 300 pax aboard, I'm not sure how many constitutes "we're full."

Later ... Interesting, counterintuitive fact: the northernmost fjords don't have the characteristic look of steep walls plunging down into the water that we associate with scenic photos of fjords. Farthest north the mountains are more rounded, smoother, older-looking. You get a clear sense of the ice age scraping and smoothing the shield. 

As I write this the next morning we slept well, ate an ok breakfast, and heard a lecture on Norway in World War II, our next port is Hammerfest. This fjord has the "look" of a classic fjord, not unlike Milford Sound in South Island New Zealand. This is bleak, forbidding looking country, snow still in evidence in patches, essentially zero trees. It looks like tundra/taiga on the hillsides, low-growing shrub, mosses and grasses.

The tannoy or ship's announcer says Hammerfest is the world's farthest north city, emphasis on the word "city." The population is about 11 ,000. Clearly some of our earlier stops were farther north but didn't qualify as cities. Oddly, it feels a good deal like Ushuaia, the world's southernmost city. The same sort of bleak "outpost at the end of the world" feeling. 

There is a factory of sorts here that liquified natural gas for shipment in odd-looking ships with huge orange domes to overseas customers. The gas comes from Norway's North Sea petroleum production, along with oil.