Friday, December 14, 2007

A Battle Won

This Associated Press article reports that seven western states have reached agreement on how to divvy up the scarce water resources of the arid region. California, Arizona, Nevada, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico are the states in question.
The plan specifies how and when agencies in each state will face reductions during drought.... The agreements also establish rules for handling surplus water in times of plentiful runoff, and they encourage water conservation.

This story isn't sexy, but reflects an issue that will be of increasing importance in the future: scarcity of fresh, potable water. This agreement is good news in a time when good news isn't terribly common. It shows that - contrary to current practice in Washington - governments can reach agreement and accomplish things for the common good.

Travel Blogging Alert

Over the next 3-4 weeks I will be travel blogging from some exotic places, most of which will be in the southern hemisphere. Political commentary will be light as my news access will be fragmentary at best. I do hope to learn the results of the Iowa caucuses, and to comment thereupon in a timely fashion.

Faithful readers, I wish you all the most Happy Holidays and the fortitude to live up to your New Years resolutions. In return, I'd ask you to wish for me and the other DrC the historic mariner's hope:
Fair Winds and Following Seas.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Immigration Is Issue One

Reporters Jim VandeHei and John F. Harris, writing in The Politico, indicate that the need to stop illegal immigration is the number one issue on voters' minds as we head into the primary season. They cite an example of a Republican who recently won in a special election in Ohio using immigration as his main platform.
(Bob) Latta, running in a special election for a suburban Toledo-based House district, crafted a message — echoed by party officials — that bashed illegal immigrants who live here, drive here or get government-funded health care. He won by 14 points. Democrats and Republicans alike credit the immigration message for the big margin. It’s already clear this result is no anomaly.

Interestingly, they find that only Republicans are talking about it. If illegal immigration is really the key issue, and Democrats "won't go there," that seems to be a big advantage for the Republican candidate in November, so long as their nominee is not John "Mr. Amnesty" McCain.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Military Humor Alert

Michael Goldfarb of The Weekly Standard posts the following on his website:

I was depressed last night so I rang Lifeline.
I was transferred to a call center in Pakistan.
I told them I was suicidal.
They got all excited and asked if I could drive a truck.

Either you find that funny or you don't. I do.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Let's Invent a Disease

From the happy folks who discovered "restless leg syndrome" in order to have a diagnosis for which a drug already existed, we now get a new syndrome: "River Nose." This is a loosely defined cluster of symptoms experienced by those who windsurf or kiteboard on the Columbia River. Here is the article.

Sounds to me like people getting chilled in the frigid water and catching cold. I doubt that the Columbia River is more polluted than San Diego Bay.

First Person Account of Ship Sinking in Antarctica

I received the attached letter from a friend (hat tip to Miss Phyllis). I have no idea about the source or veracity but most of it sounds believable. Who knew toilets could sink a ship?

Dear Family and Friends,

Yesterday (Tuesday) when we went through immigration in San Francisco, the immigration agent asked us the usual question: occupation, what did you likebest/least about your trip? To the former we replied retired/dietitian. To the latter we replied: the ship sank/we're alive. Suddenly this lethargic civil servant woke up. He wanted to hear all about what happened.

Before I go on, you must understand one thing. While we went through the same experience, shoulder to shoulder and often hand in hand, we have different feelings about it. Indeed, everyone who went through it with us has their own unique and personal feelings. While I was cold, wet, shivering, and throwing up, it never occurred to me that I could die. Lynne however was thinking about: what if the weather suddenly changed, if we hit ice or took a big wave and were swamped, if we would capsize. Therefore, in writing this I can only write for myself. Whatever I write is filtered through my perceptions which could be quite different for Lynne.

Thursday night we were tired. Instead of watching the 9:15 movie we showered and were in bed by 10:00. I fitfully tried to go to sleep. We were going through brash ice - little pieces of ice. Since we were on the third deck, as low as you could go, half our cabin was below the waterline. I could hear the pieces of brash ice scraping against the hull, which was only a single hull. Once and a while a more sold piece would strike. I finally fell asleep.

About 12:30 I was roused by what sounded like the gang plank slapping against the hull. Then I heard what sounded like water pouring down a drain. In my sleep I was thinking to wake Lynne and ask her about the sound. I didn't remember hearing it before. I touched the bulkhead. It was dry. I put my hand on the floor.

From half asleep I went to full awake. I bolted up and pushed the emergency button and woke Lynne. I threw on some clothes. We pulled the suitcases out from under the bed; I took my laptop out from the low drawer it was in. The water continued coming in. I decided I should move things up to the second deck. I started with my laptop.

The people in the next cabin had also notified the ship. By the time I stuck my head out of the cabin a crew man was coming down. A few minutes later he was followed by the captain. The captain was a solidly built, forty-ish Swede. When he came down the stairs his comment (in English) was: "My god; We're sinking." The alarm sounded.

When I returned to the cabin I quickly opened up the drawers of the nightstand between our two beds. I scooped out my wallet, the recently filled 2 gigabyte memory from my camera, the backup flash drive with my journal on it and Lynne's hand cream. I tossed clothes and camera into the suitcase and took them up to the second deck.

By the time I returned to the cabin, the boat was listing and the water was ankle deep in one end of the cabin. I picked up one of my tennis shoes and put it on a stool. I watched the other float under the bed. It floated back out and I grabbed it. The word came down: "get warm clothes." I grabbed some of our clothes that were on the bed. Lynne had gone up to our muster station in her night gown carrying our Wellington's (high rubber boots) and some clothes. I also grabbed our Gore-Tex jackets and fleece liners and made my way to our muster station in the lecture hall.

When everyone was assembled in the lecture hall they took roll. Periodically the captain would come on the intercom and tell us what was happening. We knew that a mayday had been sent, and that there were two ship coming but they were 10 and 6 hours away. At first there was hope the leak could be fixed. Then the mood in the lecture hall became somber and quiet. At the end of hour one the captain lowered the lifeboats into position. At the end of hour two the captain said that we were coming into ice. The lifeboats could not be lowered in the ice. Therefore, he decided to abandon ship. Then we heard those words that no one on a ship ever wants to hear the captain utter: "abandon ship; abandon ship; abandon ship."

At 2:30 in the morning we quietly filed out of the lecture hall. There was no crying; there was no pushing; there was no panic. One of the staff members directed us to the port (left) or starboard (right) side to go the life boats. Initially we went to the port side. When the word went out that they needed 8 people on the starboard side we went there. I didn't appreciate how much the ship was listing, perhaps 30 degrees, until I had to walk down across the fantail.

I was the last one into number one life boat. It was at this point that I was most anxious. I felt that once I was in the lifeboat I would be safe. However, there was only enough room for my feet! I stepped in, sat on the gunwale for a moment, and then wiggled my bottom onto the seat, my back against the hull. There was a problem with the engine, but it got started.

They lowered us away. Once in the water we pushed away from the ship. Our boat was overloaded! Fortunately the seas were relatively calm and there was no wind. We were very far south where it gets dark very late and light very early. It was not dark out, but twilight. Fortunately we had zodiacs - rubber boats with outboard motors. While the electric generators had stopped working we had emergency power so they were able to use it to run the winches to lower the zodiacs. After a while they off loaded people from our lifeboat to a zodiac.

Once in the lifeboat Lynne and I sat huddled together. While the Gore-Tex jackets kept our topsides dry, our bottoms were wet and there was water in our Wellingtons. There was little talking in the boat. People were somber and cold. The only sound was from the two cylinder engine and an occasional order from the first mate, who was in charge of our boat.

At 3:41 I watched the sun rise. It was a small, round, golden orb that came out of a gray sea and disappeared into a gray sky.

Several times I threw up as the result of the fumes from the engine that I was sitting next to and the motion of the lifeboat. At times I started to shiver, sometimes violently. The though of hyperthermia crossed my mind, but I knew from my Boy Scout training that as long as my upper body was dry and warm I was okay. Through out this my mind was a blank, thinking on the cold, listening to the engine, always concerned that it would stall.

After about two hours in the boat the first mate told us that the rescue ship was about 2 hours away. (The first mate had a radio.) About an hour after that a helicopter flew over head and circled us. Even thought we knew that people around the world knew exactly where we were, our spirits were greatly lifted. Somewhere between hour four and five someone spotted a
glint of light in the distance. Soon after that we could see it was a ship bearing down on us.

We got not one, but two rescue ships: the National Geographic's Endeavor, and the Nordnorge. The former ship was small, the size of the Explorer; the latter ship could hold 600 passengers though there were only 229 on board. ( DrC's note: You can see a picture of the Nordnorge at cruztalking.blogspot.com, the other DrC's blog.)

What a wonderful sight it was when the Nordnorge removed the covers from its gigantic lifeboat and lowered their lifeboat down to us. After four or five hours we were stiff. Hands reached out to us and help us into Nordnorge lifeboat. When everyone was transferred we were raised up to the forth deck. When we went into the ship we were greeted by a crew member giving each of us a blanket. We were sent up to the seventh deck were we were given a hot drink and then pointed in the direction of the lounges. The call went out over the ship's intercom for clothes. Soon the couches and chairs in the lounge were covered with wet clothes that we exchanged for dry ones donated to us. Both the ship and the passengers of the Nordnorse were unbelievably generous. From large deck to ceiling windows of the seventh deck lounge we could watch our ship as it listed. (Unlike the pictures you have probably seen, there was no ice surrounding the ship - that happened later.)

We were served breakfast and lunch on the Nordnorse. The Nordnorse tried to offload us at the Chilean Frei Base. Due to the weather, blowing snow and high seas, it couldn't. We had to wait offshore several hours before we could finally be landed.

Why did the boat sink? While it is true that there was a hole in the hull, the water tight doors were shut. The compartment where our cabin was should have filled up with water, but the boat should have continued to float. My understanding was that the problem was with the toilets. The water went into the toilets and then into the holding tank. When the holding tank
filled up the water backed up into the other cabins thus bypassing the watertight doors.

Why was this not another Titanic? Relatively speaking we had good weather and a calm sea. The captain launched the lifeboats at the right time. We had the zodiacs. We were all fit people: there were no children or infirmed. We were used to being out on the sea in the cold. We had good leadership. We were dressed for the cold. And, above all, we were lucky.

This had been a truly amazing week. I could go on and on. How wonderful the Chilean government was. What it was like flying in a C130 (a military cargo plane) where our knees were intertwined with the knees of the person opposite us. How helpful Debbie, the US Consul from Santiago was. How well we were treated by GAP, the company that ran the tour. What it was like to give interviews to the world press. How basically everything we brought with us is now 1500 meters under the sea. Above all we are thankful to have the most important thing of all, our lives. We appreciate all the e-mails you have sent as they have brought us comfort and support.

Your friend
Peter

New Word Alert

I love new words. Here is a great one, most recently from the United Kingdom: pseudocide. It means appearing to have died, while actually continuing to live, probably in hiding or under a false identity.

Obviously, it is the bane of life insurance companies. I wonder how many examples came out of Hurricane Katrina; how many people decided to disappear - walk out on their credit card debt and start anew?

Timing Is Everything

Timing is everything, just ask Al Gore. He recently accepted his Nobel Prize, and it cannot be taken away. A few days too late, here is a summary of a peer-reviewed study in a scientific journal of climatology that says the climate change we are experiencing is natural, not man-made, and that limiting carbon dioxide emissions won't stop it. In other words, Al was right about the problem but wrong about its cause. The article finishes with this pithy quote:
We must conclude, therefore, that attempts to control CO2 emissions are ineffective and pointless. – but very costly.

This is bad news for the mea culpa crowd who want us to take responsibility for global warming and bad news for the Nobel Prize Selection Committee. It also may be bad news for developing countries.

Naturally occurring warming may cause catastrophic crop failures and starvation. If we humans aren't causing the warming, we probably won't be able to stop it.

Quote of the Day

Baltimore humorist H. L. Mencken said the following:
For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.

If you don't believe it, just listen to Ron Paul for 10 minutes.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Putin Does Yul B.




Check out this picture of Russian Federation President Putin, looking much like Yul Brynner in several of his macho roles like The Magnificent Seven or Westworld. The picture comes from the Drudge Report, on Dec. 3, 2007.




Taxes Are Job-Killers

Arthur Laffer and Stephen Moore have an excellent OpEd article in The Wall Street Journal (Dec. 10, 2007) in which they summarize the results of a study they did looking at U.S. internal migration patterns and state tax rates. You may be able to access the article here.

Guess what they found? People are moving from high tax states (e. g., CA, NY) to low tax states (e. g., TX, FL). They quote the Atlanta Federal Reserve Board as follows: "Relative marginal tax rates have a statistically significant negative relationship with relative state growth." That is academic-speak for higher taxes mean slower growth.

The other key variable they found was right-to-work laws. Companies locate new plants in states where there are right-to-work laws. State right-to-work laws prohibit union contracts requiring workers to belong to unions.

To summarize their findings: Jobs and therefore people are moving away from states with high income tax rates and no right-to-work laws. Jobs and the people they employ are moving to states with no income taxes and right-to-work laws. This isn't rocket science.

Laffer and Moore draw this parallel in their summary:
The states losing population are in effect suffering from a slow-motion version of the economic sclerosis that paralyzed much of Europe in the 1980s and '90s, particularly France and Germany with their massive welfare systems.

Their entire article is worth your time if you can gain access.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Here Comes the Nanny State

Recent talk about the Federal Government bailing out folks with Adjustable Rate Mortgages or ARMs, particularly those who got very low "teaser"rates for a couple of years after which the payments reset to reflect the somewhat-higher-than-prime interest rate. Republicans are proposing to do this, Democrats want to do even more. It is a mistake, in which both parties are collaborating.

The Government should not exist to protect you from being stupid. People who do stupid things should experience the downside of those acts. Lenders who make loans people will never repay should experience default. Borrowers who take out loans they cannot repay should experience repossession. If there is no penalty for being stupid, then implicitly there is a penalty for being smart because the smart end up paying for the bailout of the stupid, the careful end up paying to rescue the careless. This is wrong.

As a society we need less stupidity. If we subsidize stupidity we will get more of it. If we allow it to be its own punishment, we just might get less.

The Anti-Insurgency Dilemma

See this Associated Press article concerning former President Fujimori of Peru. Without becoming tedious, it lays out the dilemma of anti-insurgency in its look at Fujimori's successes and shortcomings as President. He saved the country from a brutal home-grown Maoist terrorist movement, the Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso in Spanish).

To summarize, he violated the human rights of some Peruvians in the process of largely eradicating the Shining Path. It is likely that some people died who didn't deserve to die. In spite of this, if the article is to be believed, he is today more popular in Peru than the current President.

I would suppose you could find the same sort of support for former dictator Pinochet in Chile, who likewise accomplished good things for the Chilean economy and people while being less than scrupulous about observing human rights. In this behavior we hear the echos of U.S. President Roosevelt imprisoning ethnic Japanese during World War II, or Abraham Lincoln suspending the right of habeus corpus during the American Civil War.

Extreme times demand extreme measures. And yet, none of us want our civil rights infringed. That, in a nutshell, is the dilemma of anti-insurgency. I predict we will continue to grapple with this issue.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Remember Pearl Harbor

Sixty-six years ago today Japanese carrier planes attacked sleeping Hawaii on a Sunday morning. They sank many ships, killed thousands of Americans and pulled the United States into World War II.

It behooves us to remember this act of savagery and butchery, to remember that the Japanese perpetrated a war-long string of atrocities.

Remember Pearl Harbor.

Quote of the Day

Peggy Noonan, writing in The Wall Street Journal's OpinionJournal, comes up with the quote of the day. Talking about the opposition to Romney based on religion, and his speech on the subject, she says:

I do not know why Romney did not include nonbelievers in his moving portrait of the great American family.

My guess: It would have been reported, and some idiots would have seen it and been offended that this Romney character likes to laud atheists. And he would have lost the idiot vote.

My feeling is we've bowed too far to the idiots. This is true in politics, journalism, and just about everything else.


Unfortunately, the idiots' votes count the same as our non-idiot votes. There are days when I am sure they've got us outnumbered. If we can't beat them with brains, maybe we can baffle them with B.S.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Quote of the Day

Former Bush advisor Karl Rove, writing in the Financial Times, describes Hillary Clinton thus:
Hillary comes across as cold, distant and conspiracy-minded, more like Richard Nixon than her sunny, charming husband.

Well...I suppose somebody in the Clinton family needs to be suspicious and on-guard.

A Tale of Two Elections

Two elections of note happened while I was traveling. First, Venezuela's Hugo Chavez put on the ballot socialist "reforms" and a constitutional change that would have ended Presidential term limits. By a respectable margin, his power grab failed. "Bravo" to the Venezuelan people.

To be fair to Chavez, he did the smart thing in response. Having been handed a lemon, he made lemonade. He claimed that his acceptance (for now at least) of the public will in this matter demonstrates that he is a democrat, not a dictator. He is, perhaps, smarter and therefore more dangerous than we had estimated in the past. Clearly his power is not yet absolute.

The second election was a parliamentary election in Russia where Putin's party won by a large margin. The Western press takes a very dim view of the fairness of this election. I daresay it was no more corrupt than many Chicago mayoral elections.

What the Western press does not report is Putin's popularity with many Russians. The other DrC and I were in Russia earlier this year. We chatted with a number of young and not-so-young Russians about Putin. They were uniformly impressed with his energy, fitness, and relative youth. They see an enormous contrast between his vigorous style and the boring, cautious style of the elderly Soviet leaders.

The Western press takes a dim view of Putin's willingness to drag down the "oligarchs" as the hyper-wealthy in Russia are called. On the other hand, Russians think this is great stuff. Russian oligarchs are no more popular at home than the robber barons were in the U.S. of an earlier day. Enthusiasm for Putin is similar to American enthusiasm for President Teddy Roosevelt, an energetic and feisty trust-buster. Does that mean he is actually a good guy? History will make that judgment. In the meantime, he could easily win honest elections with his very real popularity.

Apology to My Readers

I hope you all had a good Thanksgiving, that most American of holidays. I've been at sea for the past two weeks and haven't had a good Internet connection. Now I am back and ready to comment on our world.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

NYT Doesn't Get It

This article from The New York Times online is entitled "Musharraf Refuses to Say When Emergency Will End." The Times is concerned that the General won't tell them when he will end the state of emergency he declared.

He has declared a state of emergency in response to unrest in Pakistan. These conditions are not of his doing, they are instigated by others who wish him ill. He doesn't know their minds but suspects that it will take time to put them back in their cages, metaphorically or literally.

So...he won't say when the state of emergency will end because he doesn't know the answer to that question. His candid answer would be something like "I'm not sure, but probably not soon." Knowing that answer wouldn't be popular, he didn't give it.

Quote of the Day

For 30+ years Dr. Henry Kissinger has been the world's leading diplomatic theoretician and practitioner emeritus. Interviewed in The Wall Street Journal online, he has this to say about diplomacy and the use of military power:
Diplomacy not backed by the potential use of force is impotent.

Which means, if you take it literally, that a militarily weak nation like Canada or Belgium cannot conduct meaningful diplomacy with the United States since their ability to exert force with respect to the U.S. is essentially zero. Fascinating, and probably true....

Steyn on Thanksgiving

Mark Steyn is a Canadian who lives in the States, and is unabashedly pro-American. See his hymn of praise to the U.S. Constitution, his analysis of the rarity of a long-lived constitutional democracy, and his celebration of the role of the U.S. in the world. This article left me close to choked up, in a good way. Take a look.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Hillary = The Red Queen

Conservative blogger and pundit Hugh Hewitt has come up with a lovely nickname for Hillary Clinton, taken from Alice in Wonderland. He calls her "the Red Queen." If you remember Alice, the name is nicely over the top but feels right anyway. The Red Queen's "Off with their heads" sounds like something that would be in character for Hillary.

Second Quote of the Day

Democratic presidential hopeful and Senator Joe Biden is often too truthful for his own good, which can sometimes make him fun to listen to. The Washington Post quotes him as saying the following during the candidates' debate yesterday in Las Vegas:
The American people don't give a darn about any of this stuff that's going on up here.

That is about right. Any voter who expects a top tier candidate in a debate to say exactly what is on his or her mind shouldn't be allowed outdoors without adult supervision. I bet the debate viewership was worse than PBS on a bad day.

Later...it turns out 1.3% of Americans watched the debate, or roughly 4 million people, according to Matt Drudge.

Walters: Dems Endangered by Immigration

Dan Walters, of the Sacramento Bee, is maybe the best political analyst in California. He writes here that Democrats could be torpedoed by the illegal immigration issue, which is #1 among independent voters, and surprisingly strong among Democrats. He finds:
The angst also reflects polling that indicates illegal immigration could be a make-or-break issue with all-important independent voters, especially in battleground states such as Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

And he further concludes:
And what of California? It hardly seems possible that the Democrats' enormous advantage in the state – million-plus vote margins in the last two presidential elections – could be threatened. But with George W. Bush off the ticket, it's not inconceivable that the angst over immigration among swing voters that also shows up in California polls could make it a battleground.

Particularly since CA is the recipient of many of those illegal immigrants. Have we forgotten that CA voters handily passed the now-infamous Proposition 187 directed at cutting off governmental benefits to illegal immigrants?

Foreign Alliances Not In Disarray

Charles Krauthammer, writing in the Boston Herald, makes the point that all of the Democrats' wailing about key foreign alliances in disarray is either just wrong, or out of date, or both. While certain of the positive relationships he mentions may be deteriorating (c.f., Australia, Germany), his general thrust is correct. He concludes:
The critics will say that all this is simply attributable to the rise of Russia and China causing old allies to turn back to us out of need. So? I would even add that the looming prospect of a nuclear Iran has caused Arab states to rally to us. All true. And it makes the point that the Bush critics have missed - that the strength of alliances is heavily dependent on the objective balance of global forces, and has very little to do with the syntax of the U.S. president or the disdain in which he might be held by a country’s cultural elites.

That is realpolitik, served up cold. The article is worth your time, Dr. K pulls together some good thoughts.

Quote of the Day

The following quote comes from Camille Paglia of Salon.com, which I found reprinted in The Wall Street Journal's Political Diary:
There's definitely something weird and cultish in the sycophantish cathexis onto Hillary of the many nerds, geeks and vengeful viragos who run her campaign -- sometimes to her detriment, as with the recent ham-handed playing of the clich├ęd gender card. I suspect the latter dumb move, which has backfired badly, came from Ann Lewis (Barney Frank's sister), a fanatical Hillary true believer who has been spouting beatific feminist bromides about her for the past 15 years. Hillary seems to have acolytes rather than friends -- hardly a reassuring trait for a potential president whose paranoia has already been called Nixonian. Isolated monarchs never hear the bad news until the people riot and the lynch mob is at the door.

Whew! "Vengeful viragos, acolytes rather than friends, and Nixonian paranoia." That is some red meat.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

1960s Fatigue

Daniel Henninger writes for The Wall Street Journal, and his work can be uneven. However this week's column is spot on, check it out. He talks about the cultural division that occurred in the late 1960s and continues to this day, and I believe he has gotten it right. He sees the defining year as 1968, and he concludes:
What fell out of 1968 was a profound division over what I would call civic vision. One side...concluded from Vietnam and the race riots that America, in its relations with the world and its own citizens, was flawed and required big changes. Their defining document was the March 1968 Kerner Commission report, announcing "two societies," separate and unequal. The press, incidentally, emerged from Vietnam and the riots joined to this new, permanent template.

The other side was, well, insulted. It thought America was fundamentally good, though always able to improve. The Voting Rights Act passed in 1964 on a bipartisan vote, opposed mainly by southern Democrats. This side's standard-bearer called the U.S. "a shining city upon a hill." But after 1968, no Democratic presidential candidate would ever speak those words.

Read his article, there is lots more there and it is all good. His summary of all the ugly stuff that happened in 1968 is amazing - what a tough year that was.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Huckabee Weak on Immigration

A couple of days ago I asked "does anybody know Huckabee's record on immigration?" Here is the answer. According to this story on the CBS News site, Huckabee doesn't have a strong position against illegal immigration. They report:
Huckabee has been criticized for supporting pre-natal care for immigrants and educational opportunities for the children of immigrants.
I'm sure we'll hear more about this as the primary season goes on.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Income Inequality Not on Rise

Paul Gigot, writing a Wall Street Journal editorial, summarizes the findings of a U.S. Treasury department study of income mobility. The study finds that income mobility is essentially the same as it has been for the last 40 years. So when populist candidates like Edwards and Huckabee tell you that the middle class is disappearing, they are simply wrong. The data do not support that view.

The Treasury study covered the period from 1996 to 2005, and looked at pairs of tax returns from those two years. That is, they compared how a taxpayer was doing in 1996 with how s/he was doing in 2005, and they did this comparison for nearly 100,000 taxpayers. They found:
The after-inflation median income of all tax filers increased by an impressive 24% over the same period. Two of every three workers had a real income gain.

Notice, that they talk about the real or after-inflation income, not just the dollar amounts. And Gigot quotes the Treasury as saying of U.S. taxpayers:
The basic finding of this analysis is that relative income mobility is approximately the same in the last 10 years as it was in the previous decade.

So ... let's not hear any more about the vanishing American middle class. The evidence suggests it is doing just fine.

Another Darwin Award

This article on the Fox News website reports the story of a fellow who tried to force his way through his former girlfriend's cat door. He got caught, and died.

In removing his DNA from the human gene pool he has given exemplary service to our species. I award him the Darwin Award, posthumously of course.

Brooks Admires McCain

New York Times columnist David Brooks flat-out admires John McCain. Agree or disagree, the article is a good read and a good argument for the McCain candidacy. I happen to think McCain irremediably shot himself in the foot with his strong support of the "amnesty for illegal immigrants" bill, thereby dooming his candidacy. However, stranger things have happened. About McCain, Brooks concludes:
Now he pushes ahead, building momentum, but desperately needing a miracle win in New Hampshire. Everyone will make their own political choices, and you might plausibly argue that the qualities John McCain possesses are not the ones the country now requires. But character is destiny, and you will never persuade me that he is not among the finest of men.

Wow! That is some serious hero worship, and quite possibly deserved.

A Walk in Musharraf's Shoes

Foreign affairs columnist Bret Stephens writes an interesting article in The Wall Street Journal's Online Journal. His premise is to examine the current Pakistani situation from the viewpoint of General Musharraf himself. As Arte Johnson used to say on Laugh-In, it is "veeeeeery interesting." Here is a key paragraph:

Abroad, the conventional wisdom is that you have shredded what little legitimacy you had and that your days, politically or otherwise, are numbered. You think they're wrong. You're probably right.

I believe Stephens thinks Musharraf will ride out this current unpleasantness. He concludes:
Your support, both at home and abroad, may never again be what it was, but the absence of support does not necessarily mean active opposition. In your case it will probably mean reluctant acquiescence to the facts you lay on the ground. Were you a democrat, you might feel ashamed to carry on ruling that way. Soldier that you are, it won't make you lose much sleep.

It will be interesting to see if Stephens' channeling of Musharraf turns out to be correct.

Hillary Thinks Iowans Are Stupid

Yahoo News reports a David Sirota write-up about two statements concerning foreign trade, made by Sen. Clinton, one four days after the other. The first is from the Associated Press and was delivered today:

Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton says she wants to take a close look at foreign trade deals. She says she'll call a 'time out' on trade agreements if she wins the White House.

The second was delivered four days ago, and is reported by the New York Times:

Clinton Says Yes to Peru Deal... Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, after prodding from a rival campaign, has issued positions on several trade deals currently before Congress, including her support for an agreement with Peru that is dividing her party.

In response to the apparent conflict in these two statements, Sirota concludes:
I'd say this is talking out of both sides of the mouth. She says she's for a "time out" - but only later. Not now, when the Senate votes really count. Iowans should trust her when she's elected, even if she doesn't follow the spirit of what she pledges right now. And I'd say she thinks Iowans are too stupid to notice.

I don't know about too stupid to notice, but it does seem to be another example of her trying to have everything both ways. Does anybody remember her being both for and against drivers licenses for illegal immigrants? Hat tip to the other DrC for finding this article.

Tribalism, Islamic Terror and Street Gang Violence

Here is a reference to a dense article from The Claremont Institute by Stanley Kurtz looking at the work of Akbar S. Ahmed who was once governor of the Waziristan region of Pakistan. Essentially, it looks at the tribal ethos and the way it interacts with militant Islam. The article itself is interesting, particularly for foreign policy wonks.

One thing the article suggests to me is that the Pushtun tribes in Waziristan behave in ways similar to the violent youth gangs of our U.S. inner cities. The tribal emphasis on collective guilt, honor, humiliation and revenge is very like what plays out on our mean streets. Perhaps this is what humans do in the absence of law and order?

"Liberal" Isn't Popular

John Hinderaker of Powerlineblog.com reports some findings of a Gallup poll that are interesting. People were asked if they view themselves as "highly conservative," "conservative," "liberal," or "highly liberal." He summarizes the findings thusly:
A recent Gallup poll found that only 23 percent of voters call themselves liberals, while 39 percent describe themselves as conservatives. That ratio of close to two to one has been pretty constant for a number of years. Further, 7 percent of Gallup's respondents call themselves "very conservative" today, compared to essentially zero twenty years ago. It's shocking to recall, as Politico notes, that as recently as 1988, 15 percent of respondents said they were "very liberal." That seems inconceivable today.

I think those numbers are darned revealing, considering how unpopular W has become. The more extreme members of both major parties constitute the primary electorate. Thus Democrats have to run as liberals to get nominated, and reinvent themselves as moderates to get elected. Republicans don't have this dilemma to the same extent, because more folks are conservative.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Millennials Are Coming....

Check out this article from the CBS News website on the Millennials, young people born between 1980 and 1995. It says they are spoiled, expect wonderful success, and aren't convinced that they have to work and sacrifice to get it. I am sure glad I don't have to supervise people this feckless. My graduate students don't resemble the folks sketched in this article, yet. When they do I will quit teaching, again.

On the other hand, bosses should tell subordinates"nice work" when the work they are doing is good, even though they are only doing what you pay them for. And that has been true for all of the 35+ years I've taught Management. Maybe what is changing is that subordinates are less willing to work for someone who never gives them an "attaboy" or a "good job." In a sellers' labor market, I can't say that I blame them.

Giuliani Flip-Flops on Immigration

As Iraq winds down, illegal immigration will be a major, perhaps even the major, issue in the 2008 presidential election, particularly among primary voters who normally vote Republican. If you don't agree with this premise, stop reading here as this posting is not for you.

This Washington Post editorial itemizes several ways in which Rudolph Giuliani was pro-immigrant (mostly illegal) as mayor of New York City. Now as he runs for the Republican nomination for President, he says he is anti-illegal immigrant. That constitutes a major flip-flop, of the same order of magnitude as several of those made by Mitt Romney as he moved from the liberal politics of Massachusetts to the much more conservative politics of the Republican primaries. If the WaPo's fact-checkers have done their job well, if the claims hold up, Giuliani's former tacit acceptance of illegal immigrants will come back to haunt him.

I believe many Republican primary voters will only pull the lever for candidates they trust to be tough on illegal immigration. That leaves out most of the front-runners: McCain, Romney and Giuliani. Of these three, McCain has the worst record but it appears the other two aren't reliable on this issue either. Does anyone know Gov. Huckabee's record on illegal immigration? I think Thompson is clean, but I'm not certain of it.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Hoagland on Pakistan

Here is another view of the situation in Pakistan by a long-time foreign relations columnist in The Washington Post. Jim Hoagland thinks Pakistan is a unique case, and one where democracy has little or no chance of success anytime soon. He quotes a Pakistani diplomat as saying there has only ever been one free and fair election and that was thirty-seven years ago in 1970. Perhaps his most insightful comment is the following:

An Islamic state carved out of the imperial British version of India, Pakistan -- like other religious states -- tends to see its national destiny as a matter of divine will rather than personal responsibility.

It has proven nearly impossible to reason with people who believe they are instruments of God's will.

Fred Ain't Dead...Yet

I was talking with a woman who has watched the TV commercials of several presidential hopefuls of both parties. Although she isn't particularly pro-Thompson, she thought his TV spots were far and away the most impressive. She said he could connect with you through the camera, where the others could not. "You really felt he was talking to you as an individual." In other words, he is a talented actor. In this mediated age, that is a powerful tool. Hearing that, I believe it is too soon to count Fred out.

10 Rules of Presidential Politics

Go check out this article on Townhall.com by Patrick Ruffini. He lists 10 things we should have learned from the political process going on before us. I think he has hit upon several old or new truisms of presidential politics. In Dave Letterman top ten countdown format, here are his ten pieces of wisdom:
10. Politics abhors a vacuum.
9. Announcement bumps always fade, but....
8. Get in early.
7. Second-timers don't win.
6. Nice guys finish last.
5. Be the guy (or gal) people want to vote for.
4. You actually have to want the job.
3. Primary debates don't matter, but the post-spin does.
2. You can buy an early lead in IA/NH for about $2 million.
1. Issues are secondary.

You won't understand what he means in several of these unless you go read his article.

Steyn on Pakistan

After taking a couple of snide shots at the writers' strike and the 'talented' people whose lines they write, Mark Steyn segues to the Pakistan situation and makes a lot of sense about that muddled mess. Take a look at his column in the Orange County Register.

Without giving away the plot, let's just say that he isn't convinced Bhutto will do a better job than Musharraf. Here is his clever segue:
Gen. Musharraf is – as George S. Kaufman remarked when the Germans invaded Russia – shooting without a script. But that's because he presides over a country that defies the neatness of scripted narratives. In the days after 9/11, George W. Bush told the world that you're either with us or against us. Musharraf said he was with us, which was jolly decent of him considering that 99.9999 percent of his people are against us.

That is the sort of decision elected leaders cannot make and hope to get reelected. Remembering that Pakistan has nuclear weapons, how would we feel about the mad mullahs taking over the country?

Iraq No Longer Hot News and ....

Check out this Los Angeles Times report of a Pew Research Center poll which finds Americans are less interested than formerly in stories about the Iraq war. That has to be bad news for Democrat presidential hopefuls, whose netroots base is rabidly opposed to the war and expects their candidates to rant about it.

Except for national defense and terrorism, most other issues work better for Democrats than Republicans: the economy, oil prices, housing slump, health care costs. The piece concludes with an apparent non sequitur:
Americans haven't elected a sitting legislator as president in 47 years. And four of the last five elected presidents have been governors. The fifth one was a sitting vice president.

This isn't a non sequitur because both of the two leading Democrats are "sitting legislators" while the leading Republicans are not, and one of them is a recent governor. Specifically, that trend is a bad omen for Senators Clinton, Obama, McCain, Dodd, and Biden; great news for Governors Romney, Richardson, and Huckabee; and somewhere in the neutral range for Mayor Giuliani, and former Senators Edwards and Thompson. Isn't politics a great spectator sport...?

Friday, November 9, 2007

Peggy Noonan on Margaret Thatcher

Writing in The Wall Street Journal's Opinion Journal, Peggy Noonan pens an unflattering (to Hillary) comparison of Margaret Thatcher and Hillary Clinton. To summarize her view in one sentence, Thatcher wanted power to accomplish good things for Britain, while Clinton wants power to have power.

The best part of the article is a Thatcher joke, which Peggy relates as follows:

Margaret Thatcher held a meeting with her aides and staff, all of whom were dominated by her, even awed. When it was over she invited her cabinet chiefs to join her at dinner in a nearby restaurant. They went, arrayed themselves around the table, jockeyed for her attention. A young waiter came and asked if they'd like to hear the specials. Mrs. Thatcher said, "I will have beef."

Yes, said the waiter. "And the vegetables?"

"They will have beef too."

Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Bush Duck May Not Be Lame

This article from the German publication Spiegel, translated into English, takes the view that George W. Bush is far from powerless as a wartime President. The author suggests that W is winning the Iraq war, influencing the campaigns of the Republican candidates to replace him, and driving the foreign policy agenda for the balance of his presidency and most likely for the next president as well.

That is not the description of a duck that is lame. I don't think this article will be popular with the Euro-trash audience for which it was written.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Fat Live Longer

This New York Times article reports the results of a study just published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The study examined the death rates per 100,000 for people of normal weight, people thought to be overweight, and those who are underweight. For the first time, the study examined why the "overweight" actually have lower death rates than those of normal weight. They found:
Linking, for the first time, causes of death to specific weights, they report that overweight people have a lower death rate because they are much less likely to die from a grab bag of diseases that includes Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, infections and lung disease. And that lower risk is not counteracted by increased risks of dying from any other disease, including cancer, diabetes or heart disease.

The view of earlier centuries - that it was healthy to be a little fat - was correct. This is really good news for those of us who buy plus sizes and haven't seen our feet for several years.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

I'm Okay, We're Not Okay

David Brooks, writing in the New York Times online, does a really nice piece of social analysis. He reports polling data which shows most Americans (around 2/3 ) are satisfied with their own lives but unhappy with the direction of the country. His conclusion is interesting:
These voters don’t believe government can lift their standard of living or lead a moral revival. They want a federal government that will focus on a few macro threats — terrorism, health care costs, energy, entitlement debt and immigration — and stay out of the intimate realms of life. They want a night watchman government that patrols the neighborhood without entering their homes.

That works for me.

Another Data Point on Climate Change

This article from The Scotsman indicates that Scotland had in 2007 an unusually cold and wet summer. This environment was tough on song birds which normally breed there.

This report seems to be more bad news for the global warming folks. I'm trying to work out how global warming makes Scotland colder.

Gender Influences Tastes

That men and women often like different movies, books, and TV shows is sufficiently well-known to be uncontroversial. That men and women like different cars has been the subject of good-natured banter on such TV programs as CBS's NCIS.

Here is an article from Forbes that deals seriously with the automotive taste difference. Not surprisingly, men are much more likely to buy heavy duty pickup trucks, Corvettes and large SUVs while women are more likely to buy Saturns, Volkswagens and Hondas.

I'm of the opinion that it is okay for men and women to have different tastes in cars, books, movies, booze and decor. The existence of these differences does not, a priori, constitute discrimination against anybody. The issue of whether these gender-based taste differences are learned or innate is quite another matter, one upon which I do not choose to opine.

Drivers Licenses for Illegals Unpopular

A Washington Times - Rasmussen Report poll, reported here, finds over three quarters of Americans oppose giving drivers licenses to illegal immigrants. Republicans oppose it by 88% and Democrats oppose it by 68%, according to the article. Similar percentages opposed giving state scholarships to illegal immigrant college students and favored local police checking immigration status of traffic stops and acting to deport any found here illegally.

Referring back to the Barone article profiled two days ago, it looks like illegal immigration may become a major issue in the campaign of 2008. If so, the Democratic candidates are on the wrong side of the issue in the minds of most voters, including those in their own party!

When an opponent takes careful aim and shoots him or herself in the foot, your humble scribe is moved to say "Oh, the joy...."

Monday, November 5, 2007

Conservative Humor Alert

A hat tip to my buddy Earl for forwarding along the following bit of conservative humor. The original source for it I do not know, a quick web search finds many postings.

2008 DEMOCRATIC CONVENTION
Schedule of Events

7:00 pm ~ OPENING FLAG BURNING.
7:15 pm ~ PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE TO THE U. N.
7:20 pm ~ TED KENNEDY PROPOSES A TOAST.
7:25 pm ~ NONRELIGIOUS PRAYER AND WORSHIP - Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton
7:45 pm ~ CEREMONIAL TREE HUGGING - Darryl Hannah
7:55 pm ~ TED KENNEDY PROPOSES A TOAST.
8:00 pm ~ HOW I INVENTED THE INTERNET - Al Gore
8:15 pm ~ GAY WEDDING PLANNING - Rosie O'Donnell
8:35 pm ~ TED KENNEDY PROPOSES A TOAST.
8:40 pm ~ OUR TROOPS ARE WAR CRIMINALS - John Kerry
9.00 pm ~ MEMORIAL SERVICE FOR SADDAM AND HIS SONS - Cindy Sheehan and Susan Sarandon
10:00 pm ~ "ANSWERING MACHINE ETIQUETTE" - Alec Baldwin
11:00 pm ~ TED KENNEDY PROPOSES A TOAST.
11:05 pm ~ COLLECTION FOR THE OSAMA BIN LADEN KIDNEY TRANSPLANT FUND - Barbara Streisand
11:15 pm ~ FREE THE FREEDOM FIGHTERS FROM GUANTANAMO BAY - Sean Penn
11:30 pm ~ OVAL OFFICE AFFAIRS - William Jefferson Clinton
11:45 pm ~ TED KENNEDY PROPOSES A TOAST.
11:50 pm ~ HOW GEORGE BUSH BROUGHT DOWN THE WORLD TRADE TOWERS - Howard Dean
12:15 am ~ "TRUTH IN BROADCASTING AWARD" - Presented to Dan Rather by Michael Moore
12:25 am ~ TED KENNEDY PROPOSES A TOAST
12:30 am ~ SATELLITE ADDRESS - Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
12:45 am ~ NOMINATION OF HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON - Nancy Pelosi
1:00 am ~ TED KENNEDY PROPOSES A TOAST.
1:05 am ~ CORONATION OF HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON.
1:30 am ~ TED KENNEDY PROPOSES A TOAST.
1:35 am ~ BILL CLINTON ASKS TED KENNEDY TO DRIVE HILLARY HOME

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Barone on Immigration Politics

Take a look at this National Review Online article by Michael Barone on the likely impact of immigration on the 2008 presidential race. He concludes that the Republican nominee will be on the popular side of this issue (unless he is John McCain) and the Democratic nominee will be defending an unpopular position.

Describing the overwhelming majority of Americans who opposed the amnesty bill proposed in the Senate and supported by President Bush, Barone says:
They want the current law to be enforced. It bothers them that we have something like 12 million illegal immigrants in our country. It bothers them that most of the southern border is unfenced and unpatrolled. It bothers them that illegal immigrants routinely use forged documents to get jobs — or are given jobs with no documents at all. You don’t have to be a racist to be bothered by such things. You just have to be a citizen who thinks that massive failure to enforce the law is corrosive to society.

That description works for me, what do you think?

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Quote of the Day: A Grim Polka

My quote of the day comes from a Peggy Noonan column in OpinionJournal, The Wall Street Journal's online OpEd page. Contrasting Hillary Clinton's political style with that of her husband Bill, Peggy opines:
He was light on his feet. She turns every dance into the polka. And it is that amazing thing, a grim polka.

"Hillary's grim polka" will do for today's lovely turn of phrase.

Attack on Iran Inevitable?

Okay, enough happy travel blogging, back to grim reality in the international realm. In that spirit, check out this Asia Times Online article by Spengler about the need for an attack on Iran's nuclear capability. Here is the key material:
The West has no choice but to attack Iran, because Iran believes that it has no choice but to develop nuclear weapons. Make no mistake: this attack will destabilize the entire region, past the capacity of the king's horses and king's men to reassemble it. The agenda will shift from how best to promote stability, to how best to turn instability to advantage.

I'm not sure I agree but it is an interesting analysis.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Travel Blogging, Part X

Our great southern odyssey is coming to a close, I write this sitting in the Sydney airport awaiting the flight back to the States. I have found no reason to change my opinion that Australia is a place most Americans would find comfortable to live. It has nearly as wide a diversity of climates and geographies as North America, except most places never get very cold.

This has been quite a trip: Seattle, San Francisco, Hilo, Lahaina, Bora Bora, Tahiti, Rarotonga, American Samoa, Fiji, New Zealand, and Australia - whew! We've been traveling for weeks and weeks, now it is time to go home and rest up for the next trip which begins in six weeks. Travel blogging will be "in hiatus" until mid-December.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Travel Blogging, Part IX

G'day from Cairns, pronounced locally as "cans." This is the pretty part of Australia - beautiful beaches, mountains right at the shore, bays, and the Great Barrier Reef between you and the Coral Sea. It looks a lot like Hawaii, with more room and less dirt. There is a local building/development boom that resembles Florida in its heyday, new projects popping up everywhere. The climate is hot and muggy, like Hawaii and Florida too.

It is the end of the tourist season in Cairns. Like Florida, people come here during the local winter (July, August) and find it both warm and relatively dry. Winter is over and now is the local spring. We are here for four nights, then back to "the world." Tomorrow we do "the reef" and the the day after we do the canopy cable car/mountain railroad. More later of course....

Friday, October 26, 2007

Travel Blogging, Part VIII

Greetings from Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia. This is the tropical north, looking across the Timor Sea toward Indonesia and New Guinea. This is the only place in Australia that was bombed by Japanese planes in World War II. The feeling is Hawaii-like, although the "tropicality" isn't quite so lush. They are just wrapping up the dry season and heading into "the wet," which begins in a month.

The Ghan cross-country passenger train was great. We recommend it to you. Exotic food (e.g., kangaroo, emu, camel) and an amazing amount of empty land covered in considerable style. The scenery isn't spectacular, but we didn't expect it to be. We did take a helicopter ride in Alice Springs and that was fantastic.

Our next stop is Cairns, which in Oz you pronounce like "cans." The Great Barrier Reef is what you see there. We'll be home in CA in 5 days, jet-lagged out of our minds.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Travel Blogging, Part VII

Greetings from Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Australia. This is probably as close to remote as I'm likely to get anytime since Antarctica. The town is 25k people and one heck of a long way from anywhere. The surroundings are desert, with some mountains. It is roughly half way from Adelaid on the south coast to Darwin on the north coast. We took a helicopter tour this afternoon, a very cool way to see an area. In an hour we reboard The Ghan passenger train and head north to Katherine and then Darwin. We will pass through 3 climate zones on this 2.5 day rail trip, ending up in tropical.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Global Warming is Happening

This article on MSNBC says global warming is really happening and happening faster than expected. Score one for the Al Gore crowd.

Global Warming or Global Hype?

See this article by a respected scientist, in the Wall Street Journal, which takes the view that there may be no global warming or if there is, it may not be much of a problem for the world. Chalk up one for Al Gore's foes. The climate discussion goes on....

Rowling: Dumbledore Is Gay

This Associated Press article on the ABC News website reports that J.K. Rowling, author of the mega-bestselling Harry Potter series of children's books, has claimed that Albus Dumbledore, headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, is gay.

Did we need this gratuitous water-muddying? I prefer to think of his boyhood friendship with Grindelwald as the normal-for-British-public-school-boys crush with no lasting adult consequences. In fact, the entire Hogwarts faculty appears to be entirely asexual, with the exceptions of Rubeus Hagrid and Severus Snape. Perhaps it is something in the water? What do you think?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Steyn on the Cold Civil War

Check out Mark Steyn's latest on the concept of a cold civil war going on in the U.S. "Cold" in the sense that we aren't shooting at each other, "civil" in the sense that it is domestic, and "war" in the sense that no quarter is given. As is typical, once again Steyn is worth reading.

Travel Blogging, Part VI

Greetings from Christchurch, New Zealand. Since our last post we visited American Samoa and Fiji. Both are interesting. American Samoa reminded us of Guam, which isn't all that surprising since both places are U.S. territories in the far Pacific. Samoa is a relatively typical volcanic island, whereas Fiji has lots of entirely arable land as well as dramatic mountains. I guess what surprised me most about Fiji is how big the main island is. Imagine, on Fiji it is a 3-4 hour drive from the international airport to the capital/port of Suva. This is NOT because the roads are poor, we made a good rate of speed. It is simply a big island.

More recently we visited Auckland, on the north island of New Zealand, or EnZed as locals sometimes call it. I didn't get ashore as I was fighting a cold that has been making its way around the ship. Eileen went ashore and took some neat pix. As we get further south, it keeps getting colder and we have to keep reminding ourselves that we've sailed into early spring here.-

This has been a remarkable cruise, great group of passengers, fantastic itinerary, nice ship - the whole enchilada.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Travel Blogging, Part V

Greetings from beautiful Rarotonga in the Cook Islands. It is spring here and the climate is exactly what you would ask for if you had a choice: shirtsleeves temperature and a light breeze. Somewhat humid but not too bad. I suppose this isn't exactly paradise, but it will do till something better comes along. It is Polynesia without the French accent and 'culture.' Instead the locals have a lovely clipped crypto-Brit accent. AND, it really hasn't been discovered like Bora Bora and Tahiti so there are miles of empty beaches you can walk on without paying hotel rent.

Their secret is that by law no family is allowed to sell land, EVER. They can rent it to you for up to 50 years at a crack but cannot sell it. The absolute only way to ever own land here is to inherit it or marry it. "Raro," as locals call it, is much less down-at-the-heels than other Pacific islands of our acquaintance. The place was a New Zealand dependency for many years and has been more-or-less independent for four years. They still use the NZ $ and rely on EnZed for defense and foreign representation. The Cook Islands remain a part of the Commonwealth and probably have Queen Elizabeth II on their stamps, I haven't had occasion to mail anything.

Our onboard lectures have been going well, and are very well attended in the big theater. Apparently my mix of geography, politics, and travelogue works for this audience - I am glad. Our next stop is in American Samoa, Pago Pago I believe. We are wondering if our Verizon cell phones and aircard will work there since it is a part of the U.S. I'm not holding my breath, but will let you know later.

Crossing the Equator was fun but not traumatic, they got four volunteers to be the "polywogs" and they got 'shampooed' with stuff like raw eggs and spaghetti and flour. The rest of us watched and laughed but now all of us are "shellbacks," that is, people who have sailed across the Equator on a ship.

As old cruising hands say, I wish you all fair winds and following seas.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Travel Blogging, Part IV

Greetings from Papeete, Tahiti. Weather warm and humid, surroundings beautiful as always. We had a smooth sail from Bora Bora last night, I watched Bogart and Bergman act noble in Casablanca while Eileen slept. Folks can choose different paths on a ship, more easily than at home. Lectures going well, making me a minor celebrity onboard, it is fun. French keyboard is difficult; letters a,m,w in the wrong places.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Travel Blogging, Part III

We're about to pull up the hook in Lahaina Roads and head south for the Equator and the South Pacific. Next stop: Bora Bora. I wonder if King Neptune forces elderly cruise ship passengers to perform indignities in order to become "shellbacks," that is, people who've sailed across the Equator? I will report the answer to this question on a later date.

We have had company here in Lahaina Roadstead, Norwegian's Pride of Aloha and a cadet training tall ship from Chile. More later....

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Coulter Calls Liberals Traitors

Conservative firebrand Ann Coulter writes a mocking "oh, poor me" column which makes fun of liberals' attacks on her. She concludes with the following pithy comment:
We are in a tooth-and-claw battle for our nation. This is no time to parse, nuance, or clarify words. Liberals don’t rely on words. They judge us on a jurisprudence of epithets. Fight fire with fire. Just call them traitors and let them sort it out.

That lady doesn't beat around the bush, or the Bush for that matter.

Travel Blogging, Part II

Hilo is overcast and sometimes rainy, what else is new? We are in port as is Norwegian-American's Spirit of America. Lots of tourists in town today, at least 3000 between the two ships. We will go ashore later, have spent the morning grading papers. After we leave Lahaina tomorrow, our online connection becomes much more expensive and much less reliable. Oh, well....

Steyn on Acting vs. Doing

Go look at Mark Steyn's article comparing the 'doing' ethic of dictators versus the 'talking' ethic of modern democracies. As usual for Steyn, he does a nice job. He concludes:
The pen is not mightier than the sword if your enemy is confident you will never use anything other than your pen. Sometimes it's not about "freedom of speech," but about freedom.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Travel Blogging

Today I travel blog from San Francisco, where we got one of the rare fine days - blue sky and shirtsleeve warm. Fall is always the best time for weather here, much safer than summer which, as Mark Twain noted, is often cold and overcast.

I am cruising from Seattle to Sydney, Australia, or "Oz" as it is fondly called by the natives. This is happening on the Sun Princess, in the company of some 1900 other passengers and who knows how many crew? Tonight we sail for Hilo, Hawaii, and then on to Lahaina, Maui. There will be a new entry when we arrive there.

I will be lecturing on this cruise, my topic is "World Affairs" which in my case means a mix of geography, politics, current events, culture, religion, medicine, and neat things to see, do, eat, visit, or experience. I may share a few of those thoughts here, as time permits.

Tomorrow I talk about Oceania. That includes Oz and EnZed, Polynesia, Micronesia, Melanesia, and Hawaii. You could quibble that Hawaii is part of Polynesia and I wouldn't argue. My tag line for the region is that it is Lovely and Lonely; the islands are normally lovely, and because of the vast Pacific distances, lonely in their separation. We will visit a number of these on this cruise. More later....

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Why Bipartisanship No Longer Works

Check out this article by Jonathan Chait in the Los Angeles Times. He does an excellent, balanced job of describing exactly why bipartisanship no longer works, but used to. For us politics junkies, this is red meat. He concludes:

Why, then, did the culture of bipartisanship disappear? Well, first, the two parties sorted themselves out ideologically, with white Southern conservatives joining the GOP and Northern liberals joining the Democratic Party. And second, the conservative movement took over the Republican Party. The old, moderate GOP establishment is long dead, having breathed its last gasps in George H.W. Bush's administration.And so the two parties don't work together now because there's no reason for them to do so.

This looks about right to me.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

A Good Idea from an Unusual Source

This ABC News article reports that Democratic presidential candidate Bill Richardson has come up with a marvelous idea. He wants to include the obese in federal protections against discrimination.

Alas, I am one of America's too-well-upholstered citizens. This looks like a good idea to me, even if I'm not directly affected. In fact it might even get me to vote Democratic, something I haven't done with any regularity since I was a graduate student some decades ago.

Quote of the Day

Writing in Townhall.com, Walter E. Williams repeats a quote by Franklin Delano Roosevelt's close advisor and New Deal architect Harry Hopkins, on the appropriate way to run a government:
Tax and tax, spend and spend, elect and elect, because the people are too damn dumb to know the difference.

I fear that philosophy hasn't died out, in the intervening 70 years. BTW, the rest of Williams' article is worthwhile too.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Dick Morris says Fred's a Loser

Dick Morris is a political "gunslinger" who has worked for a number of candidates over the years. He takes a look at the embryonic Fred Thompson campaign and deems it pathetic, maybe because Fred hasn't yet hired him. Still, his analysis for The Hill website isn't too far off the mark, see if you don't agree.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Republican Quandary

Rassmussen Reports, the website of the Rassmussen polling organization, reports that Republican primary voters are far from settled upon one candidate. Thompson is in the lead, followed by Giuliani, McCain, Romney, and miscellaneous also-rans. Fully 19% don't know for whom they will vote. Check out the Rassmussen site. Looks like the race is still up for grabs.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Bad News for Algore

Everybody has heard that the Arctic icecap is shrinking, and is at its smallest since the late 1970s. We noted that finding yesterday on this blog. Almost nobody has heard that during the same period the Antarctic icecap is larger than it has been since the late 1970s. This article makes the point that the Antarctic has been colder, the winter harsher than normal.

Perhaps instead of global warming what we are experiencing is the gradual shifting of warm weather from one hemisphere to the other, a shifting which is entirely normal and has occurred before many times.

Conservative Humor Alert


I don't know the original source for this lovely piece of conservative humor but I found it featured on the Lucianne.com blog on 9.16.07. You will probably need your reading glasses to enjoy all of the "honors."
Miss Hillary has even more baggage than I remembered. You can bet they'll hang all of it around her neck before the primary season is over.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

More Good News for Algore

This Associated Press article reports that the Arctic ice pack is shrinking. That is good news for the global warming crowd, and they need all they can get.

On the other hand, the article laments the passing of the Arctic as follows:
Shorter transport routes means less pollution if you can ship products from A to B on the shortest route, but the fact that the polar ice is melting away is not good for the world in that we're losing the Arctic and the animal life there.

Let's think...the Arctic is perhaps the least hospitable part of the planet and doesn't support much animal life. So...remind me, what are we losing? The other DrC says we will lose the krill and thus the whales and many sea birds which feed on it, perhaps she is right.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Quote of the Day

Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain, cracking wise about our national legislature:
Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.

That will definitely suffice as Friday's quote of the day. In reacting to General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker, Congress went out of its way to demonstrate the accuracy of Twain's observation.

Why Blue States Are Sad

Here is a great piece of politico-economic analysis from National Review Online that nails an important point: blue states are blue because they aren't doing well and want relief. The author looks at employment growth in states that voted for Democrats in both the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections ("blue states," n =18) and states that voted Republican in both elections ("red states," n = 29).

Over the last six years of economic growth, average employment growth for the blue states was 3.3% while that for red states was 7.5%, more than double. Friends, that is a "wow!" Of course it may also be an argument for Marx's notion that all politics is really economics in disguise. The article concludes:

Red states with no income taxes — Nevada (25.7%), Wyoming (15.2%), Florida (13.9%), Alaska (10.2%), Texas (9.1%), South Dakota (8.3%), and Tennessee (5.5%) — have all witnessed above-average job growth.

Labor is colorblind in the political context of Red and Blue states. And as long as the Red states let Americans keep more of what they earn, jobs will unevenly flow their way.

For conservatives, this is some fun analysis, read the whole article. Full disclosure requires I reveal I am a citizen of the red state of Wyoming, mentioned above.

Ambassador Crocker's Grim Message

U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker gave a tough assessment of the U.S. position in Iraq, grim but not defeatist. In doing so he won over an editorial writer at the normally skeptical Washington Post.

I watched Crocker give this same assessment to Brit Hume on Fox and later to Jim Lehr on PBS. I concur with the WaPo; it was careful, measured, and thoughtful. I particularly agree with his conclusion:
Our current course is hard, the alternatives are far worse.

I also agree with the conclusion of the Post's editorial:
That's not a very hopeful or inspiring message, and it could be a tough sell in Congress. But it has the advantage of being grounded in rational judgments about what is happening in Iraq.

The whole editorial is worth your time.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Kristol Ruminates on 2008

Bill Kristol writes in Time a remarkably balanced analysis of the 2008 presidential race. He believes this is the most unpredictable race in many years. His five reasons make a lot of sense.

First, there is no incumbent or quasi-incumbent. Second, it is a wartime election. Third, the primary schedule is compressed and confused. Fourth, the Democratic front runners are a woman and an African-American. And fifth, the Republican front runners are a Mormon governor of Massachusetts, a pro-choice New York mayor, and a TV actor who is a former lobbyist.

Kristol gives excellent explanations of the salience of each of these factors. His conclusion is that someone not in the top tier might win the whole game. I don't know if he is right but his arguments are persuasive. I like his conclusion:
Every presidential election, it's been said, breaks one political rule. This one may break them all.

Fred...Not Ready for Prime Time

On the Real Clear Politics website, conservative pundit George Will takes a very dim view of the Fred Thompson candidacy. He points out apparent inconsistencies in Fred's positions on campaign finance. To be fair to Fred, these technicalities are mostly of interest to inside-the-Beltway types like Will and probably have little traction with voters.

More importantly, Will notes that Fred admits not being a regular church-goer while he is trying to land the support of conservative Christian voters. This is not a winning strategy in today's GOP. Will's conclusion drips with sarcasm:
New Coke was announced on April 23, 1985, with the company's president piling on adjectives usually reserved for Lafite Rothschild -- "smoother, rounder yet bolder." Almost 80 days later, the public having sampled it, the company pulled the product from stores. Perhaps Thompson's candidacy will last longer than New Coke did.

I think what Will is tapping into is a sort of "not ready for prime time" feeling about the Fred campaign. I believe I see that too. Fred needs to get his political stuff together immediately or go back to Law and Order.

Perhaps we will have to settle for Rudy or Mitt...or, gasp, eventually Hillary? Our robust country survived four years of Jimmy Carter wussiness; it can probably survive four more years of Clinton sleaze and cronyism. Anybody wanna rent the Lincoln bedroom or buy a pardon?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Quote of the Day

The Note on the ABC News website, quotes Col. Steve Boylan, General Petraeus' spokesman during his Congressional testimony, as follows:
"I'd much rather be back in Iraq. . . . It's much safer."

I don't expect to be able to improve on that as my quote of the day.

Bilingual Belgium Breaking Up

This is an interesting article in the New York Sun, concerning the centrifugal forces pulling bilingual Belgium apart. Roughly sixty percent of the Belgian populace - the Flemish - speak Dutch. About a third of the Belgian populace - the Walloons - speak French. Surprise, surprise, they don't like each other much.

Belgium is in fact an artificial creation of nineteenth century geopolitics. As the article points out, Belgium has had no government since early June. The people of Belgium might well vote to separate with the southern Walloon section joining France and the northern Flemish section joining the Netherlands. This tends to be the fate of multilingual nations.

The United States should do some vicarious learning here; we should watch what is happening to Belgium and resolve not to become a bilingual nation. We should only print government documents in English, should require English for a driver's license or a ballot or a green card, and should make teaching English as a Second Language a major component of public education.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Barone Sees a Silver Lining

Michael Barone reads a poll as insightfully as Tiger Woods reads a green. Here he analyzes a poll which looks at Americans' views of terrorism, what causes it, and the extent to which our being in Iraq makes it better or worse. The findings are refreshingly realistic:
Will the threat from Islamic fundamentalism be significantly reduced once George Bush is no longer president? By a 58 percent to 35 percent margin, Americans say no. Will that threat be significantly reduced once U.S. troops leave Iraq? By a 58 percent to 37 percent margin, they say no.

And Barone gives us his interpretation of these findings:
Democrats are giving voters the impression that they believe everything will be just fine in the world once Bush is back in Crawford and the troops are home from Iraq. The Public Opinion Strategies poll indicates that that is a notion a solid majority of American voters reject. They know that the Sept. 11 attacks were planned long before Bush became president and that our enemies will try to launch new attacks after he is gone.

It certainly sounds like our fellow citizens have grasped the nature of "the Long War" against Islamofascism, even if many in Congress have not.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Salt Water as Fuel?

This Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article reports experiments using salt water as fuel, in the presence of a radio frequency generator developed for other purposes. Actually, what supposedly occurs is that the salt water breaks down, giving off hydrogen which then recombines with the oxygen in a combustion process.

We are right to be skeptical of this claim. We are also correct to wonder if the energy given off by the combustion exceeds that required to drive the RF generator. Remembering the bad science in the "cold fusion" bubble of a few years ago, we should be highly cautious about this claim.

On the other hand, if it is true, and if it means virtually unlimited power from salt water, which covers over half the globe, then this could possibly be the biggest story in our lifetimes. Perhaps OPEC becomes no more important than the copper cartel or DeBeers.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Bottom-Up Partition in Iraq

Dr. Charles Krauthammer, writing in the National Review Online, describes what is happening in Iraq as "bottom-up partition." He notes that the Kurds in the north have been more-or-less independent for 15 years, and that current U.S. policy in Anbar which is to work with local tribes to drive out al Qaeda is creating a Sunni middle. Finally, the south of the country has been overwhelmingly Shia the whole time. The only really disputed territory is Baghdad itself, and it tends to be sorting itself out over time. He concludes:

What’s happening today on the ground is not geographical line-drawing, colonial style. The lines today are being drawn organically by self-identified communities and tribes. Which makes the new arrangement more likely to last.

This is not the best outcome, but it is far better than the savage and dangerous dictatorship we overthrew. And infinitely better than what will follow if we give up in mid-surge and withdraw — and allow the partitioning of Iraq to dissolve into chaos.

We can hope Dr. K is correct.

The Incredible Shrinking Tunnel

Driving across the Nevada emptiness recently, listening again to Jim Dale's excellent CD recording of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the other DrC and I identified a Harry Potter anomaly, that is, a place where reality in one book changes or is different in another volume. The example we put before you today deals with the secret passage which runs from under the Whomping Willow on the Hogwarts grounds to the Shrieking Shack on the edge of Hogsmead.

In book 3, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, that tunnel is tall enough for three adult wizards - Lupin, Pettigrew and Black - to walk in side by side chained together. The ceiling is low enough that a stunned, levitated Snape bumps his head but apparently nobody else does.

In book 7, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Ron, Hermione, and Harry discover that they now have to crawl to traverse that tunnel. None of the three remarks on this change so we cannot attribute it to a magical shrinking of the tunnel, instead it is implicitly attributed to their growth over the four years from age 13 to age 17. However, it is unlikely that they have grown so tall that they dwarf Lupin and Black.

It appears that a continuity editor missed this anomaly.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Rebuild New Orleans?

In the Big Easy, it isn't easy to understand the rationale for building a large city in a swamp below sea level. This is particularly true if, unlike the Dutch, your country has plenty of land above sea level. Next, when large parts of that city are destroyed by a hurricane and flood (think Katrina), it isn't easy to understand why the ruined parts should be rebuilt in perilous locations.

Much of New Orleans was not destroyed, for example the tourist-magnet French Quarter stayed dry. Now, two years after Katrina, the people of New Orleans whine about the fact that we haven't rushed in to rebuild their flooded neighborhoods. I find myself asking why people whose houses sat below sea level didn't have flood insurance? I ask why the city hasn't taken responsibility for its own levee construction and maintenance, that is, its survival? I wonder why the State of Louisiana hasn't shared this responsibility for its largest, most historic city?

The adjacent state of Mississippi suffered similar damage but has done a much superior job of pulling up its socks and getting damange fixed. Meanwhile the New Orleans mayor who presided over the Katrina debacle managed to get reelected. Unfortunately, New Orleans and Louisiana are notoriously corrupt and inefficient political entities. The widely circulated photo of hundreds of yellow New Orleans school buses half submerged in a flooded parking lot makes that point more clearly than I ever will.

I think it is time for New Orleans, and perhaps Louisiana, to take responsibility for its own fate, for its own outcomes, and stop waiting for more handouts from Washington.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Teachers Send Kids To Private Schools

You know the old saying, "I'm less interested in what you say than in what you do?" Here is a great example of this. Who really knows the state of the public schools better than the teachers who work there every day? Nobody. Where do public school teachers send their kids to school? It turns out substantial numbers of public school teachers send their own children to private schools. This article states its thesis thusly:
Public school teachers in urban areas are far more likely than city residents in general to send their children to private schools, according to a new analysis of 2000 Census data.

The difference in the choices made by public school teachers and the general public were especially striking in America's largest cities, where public schools are often the most troubled. For example, in the New York City area, 32.5 percent of public school teachers send their children to private schools, compared to 22.7 percent of the general public. In Chicago, 38.7 percent of public school teachers, versus 22.6 percent of the general public, send their children to private schools. In Los Angeles, private schools are chosen by 24.5 percent of public school teachers and 15.7 percent of the public.

Maybe No Child Left Behind isn't the best way to improve the public schools. However, with somewhere between a quarter and a third of public school teachers sending their own children to private schools, it is hard to argue that the public schools are doing a fine job.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Do Dems Have An Electable Major Candidate?

Take a look at this very interesting article by an American working and writing in England. Sarah Churchwell makes the point that, with one notable exception, the only Democrats elected President since FDR have all been Southerners. The exception was Kennedy and that was a long time ago.

Churchwell is making an argument for the Party of the Donkey to take a closer look at John Edwards. On the other hand, senior political observer Robert Novak reports that Edwards isn't popular with the folks who run the Democratic Party:
Once their great hope for the future, Edwards now is massively unpopular among party regulars who neither like nor trust him.

On the surface, he seems a perfect candidate: eloquent, smart, handsome and shrewd. Yet, the prospect of an Edwards-led ticket evokes the deepest apprehension inside the party as another flawed presidential nominee.

If Clinton, Obama, and Edwards are the only likely candidates for the Democrats, and Clinton and Obama have the curse of "northernness" while the party doesn't want Edwards, does that leave the Democrats with an electable candidate? It would appear the answer is "no." If true, that is a relief.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

WSJ on Wooing Women Voters

Kimberley A. Strassel, writing in the Wall Street Journal's online Opinion Journal, talks about two major ways in which GOP candidates can make a pitch for women's votes. One deals with fighting for flextime rights for employees, a topic unions dominated by men, and their Democratic clients, have opposed. The other, dealing with the tax code's discrimination against married women, is even more interesting:
Most married women are second-earners. That means their income is added to that of their husband's, and thus taxed at his highest marginal rate. So the married woman working as a secretary keeps less of her paycheck than the single woman who does the exact same job. This is the ultimate in "inequality," yet Democrats constantly promote the very tax code that punishes married working women.

Quote of the Day

The following statement is attributed to Bill Buckley, in an Opinion Journal column by Peggy Noonan:
Politics is not an ennobling profession.
I don't believe I've read a truer statement today; it will certainly do as my quote of the day.

Here Comes Fred Thompson

An event we've been waiting for will apparently occur next week, and may have been put in motion today. It is reported that Fred Thompson will announce on September 6. This gives him a good excuse to miss the New Hampshire GOP debate on September 5. You can't blame him for not wanting to share a stage with political irrelevancies like Brownback, Tancredo and Paul.

According to this Associated Press article on Breitbart.com, Fred Thompson will announce his candidacy for the Republican nomination for President next week. Another source, on the Red State blog, says close supporters and insiders are being notified today by phone. Jonathan Martin, writing on The Politico website, says a campaign source has told him the formal announcement will happen on September 6. Finally, The Trail, a WaPo website, says he may announce on Leno on Wednesday, Sept. 5.

Now we will learn whether the wait has been worth it. Is Fred Thompson this generation's Ronald Reagan or just a tall Southern politician with some acting credits? For the sake of us former idealists who've been mugged by reality, I hope he is a Reagan clone.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Hot News for Al Gore

This article from The Arizona Republic reports that the Phoenix area will hit a record today for the summer with the most days over 110 degrees (n=29). They have already tied the previous record of 28 days.

We try to be fair and report milestones on both sides of this issue. Recently, most milestones have been on the global cooling side of the argument. This event is much-needed good news for the folks concerned about global warming.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

U.S. Poverty Rate Drops

Check out this Associated Press article reporting the first significant drop in U.S. poverty rates since 2000. Do you suppose George Bush will get any credit for this? I doubt it; the poor guy cannot get a break, and the fault for that is probably his.

The reporter writing the article says some very politically incorrect things, check this out:
Poverty has not been a big issue in the campaign, and political scientists said they doubted the new numbers would change that.

"The poor are politically mute," said Larry Jacobs, a political scientist at the University of Minnesota. "What rational politician would listen to the poor? They don't vote, they don't write checks, why care?"

Democrat John Edwards has made fighting poverty a centerpiece of his campaign. But, Jacobs noted, "He's struggling to raise money and he's lagging in the polls."
I have wondered why Edwards keeps harping on this issue. He gets less traction with his "two Americas" theme than Al Gore does with his "global warming" screed.