Sunday, April 29, 2007

New Information Regarding 'Global Warming'

Read this article which reports that both Mars and Earth have experienced the same 0.5 degree Celsius global warming in the last 35 years. The best information we have about Mars shows it to be uninhabited, therefore human endeavor cannot be blamed for a warmer Mars.

If Earth and Mars are warming at the same rate, that suggests the strong possibility of a common causal factor - very likely to be an increase in solar radiation. Or the similarity might be due to coincidence.

Withdrawal Timetable as Fig Leaf

Most Democrats and a few Republicans are pushing for a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq. All serious analysts view a timetable as the direct equivalent of announcing defeat. Stretching out an announced withdrawal is just creating a fig leaf for that defeat to hide behind. Should such a timetable become law, various insurgents will say "When Uncle Sugar leaves, we will waste the puppet government and take over."

I reason about Iraq as follows:
  1. The timetable leads directly to civil war after the U.S. leaves, followed by balkanization - probable Turkish invasion of northern (Kurdish) Iraq and Iranian hegemony over southern (Shia) Iraq. Those two powers might give Syria control of central (Sunni) Iraq. In other words, most things the U.S. doesn't want to happen in Iraq will happen.
  2. However, during the period between announcing the timetable and when the last U.S. troops leave, additional U.S. men and women will be injured and killed to accomplish exactly nothing.
  3. Therefore, if we conclude a timetable is desirable, the timetable should be to get the last U.S. troops out of the country in the minimum time possible, say 2 weeks. Our guys (and gals) in uniform should saddle up and ride south to Kuwait.

As I see it, we either stay and finish the job or declare victory and leave immediately. Any other choice is a cynical waste of American lives and money.

Steyn: Strategic Consequences of Iraq Debate

Mark Steyn opines for the Chicago Sun-Times. Today he writes about the impact U.S. political debate about Iraq is having on U.S. interests around the world. As one might imagine, Steyn sees the impact as negative:

As I always say, if you live in Tikrit and Ramadi, the Iraq issue is
about Iraq. But, if you live anywhere else on the planet, Iraq is about America. In Tehran, Pyongyang, Khartoum, Caracas, Beijing, Moscow, and the South Sandwich Islands, they watch Harry Reid & Co. on the 24/7 cable channels and draw their own conclusions about American will.
Read Steyn's shopping list of diplomatic and strategic horrors that are
worsening as a result of the Defeatocrat's sniping.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Luttwak: Ignore the Muddled Middle East

Edward Luttwak, writing in Prospect magazine online, says we pay entirely too much attention to the Middle East. He argues that it is of greatly diminished relevance to modern life outside of the region.

One by one he takes up the popular policy positions toward the Middle East and shows that they will not, indeed cannot, work. He therefore argues for what New York Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan called in another context "benign neglect." That is, leaving the region alone to work out its own problems.

Who knows? Maybe ignoring the Middle East would work better than what we've been doing for the past 50+ years?

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Travelblogging from Kauai

If you want your tropical island covered in green foliage from mountain peak to sandy shore, Kauai is your Hawaiian Island of choice. Most of the other islands have pronounced dry sides where paddle cactus may be growing. Kauai seems to be pretty much green all over. Could be that is where the nickname "the Garden Isle" came from.

Kauai has the prettiest harbor in the islands. Nawiliwili Bay is surrounded with forested highlands and is what you think a harbor on a tropical isle should look like. There are a couple of harbors in French Polynesia that are dead ringers for Nawiliwili Bay.

Wild chickens are common here. Local legend has it that a typhoon 15 years ago tore open coops and the chickens got free. There being no local preditors, they flourished and multiplied. Some of them look suspiciously like fighting cocks, and probably are their descendants as cock fights are staged here.

Harry Reid is an Embarrassment to Dems.

David S. Broder is the dean of Washington political reporters. Writing in the Washington Post online, Broder says that Reid is "a continuing embarrassment thanks to his amateurish performance." Later in the same article he concludes with respect to Reid's pronouncements on Iraq "It has been impossible for his own members, let alone the White House, to sort out for more than 24 hours at a time what ground Reid is prepared to defend."

If all this isn't enough, Reid has been slammed by the Las Vegas Sun, the newspaper of the largest city in his state. Another of my favorite political columnists, Michael Barone, says "The Republican congressional leaders, Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, are pretty steady guys. And I think Nancy Pelosi has been pretty steady too. But Reid is something else. "

However, if history is any guide, we will be subject to his ineptitude for several more years.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Dow Closes Over 13,000

It is generally accepted that the stock market is a leading indicator for the U.S. economy. A figure often mentioned is that today's market reflects what the economy is expected to be doing six months in the future. If this is true, then our economy will likely be strong in the coming year as the Dow Jones Industrials Average today closed over 13,000 for the first time in history. As one political wag wrote, "it is all Bush's fault."

Meanwhile, the shave ice in Kailua-Kona is excellent and the village continues to be somewhat charming. The other DrC and I think maybe Kona is our favorite part of Hawaii.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Conservatives Don't Have to Lie?

Andrew Klavan, writing in City Journal online, has an interesting take on conservatives' clear-eyed view of reality and how rules of politeness inhibit many conservatives' public utterances.

Travelblogging from Maui

Today is the birthday of my wife (aka "the other DrC") and, to celebrate, we rented a car and drove around Maui for most of the day. We had a nice time, because the Valley Isle is a nice place. But not as nice as it used to be.

We first came here in 1979, some 28 years ago. We've been back every few years since. What is most glaring is the level of development. Many new buildings, new hotels, new condos, new time-shares, new shopping centers, new highways. All the trappings of a rapidly growing population and economy. And so, of course, Maui is not as nice a place to visit as it was in 1979.

This leads me to propound, with tongue partially in cheek, Cotton's Law of Geographic Attractiveness: The desirability of a particular place is directly proportional to its scenic and climatic attractiveness and at the same time inversely proportional to the population density (no. of people per acre). Don't forget Murphy's Corollary to Cotton's Law: The more attractive the climate and scenery, the more rapid the growth in population density. Really unattractive places grow slowly, if at all, while really attractive places grow rapidly. Remember also Adam Smith's Corollary to Cotton's Law: Property values grow even faster than population density. Finally, I propose the Lemming Postulate to Cotton's Law: High population density can make otherwise attractive places unattractive to many people.

If you project these trends out in a linear fashion, population in CA, FL, HI, AZ, etc. will grow until some combination of increasing property prices and increasing population stall further growth. In some areas this has already happened. In Los Angeles and the SF Bay Area daily commutes of 3 to 4 hours are not uncommon for normal folks who want to buy a home.

I suppose eventually people will rediscover the joys of low population density and give up excellent climate to repopulate small towns in Kansas, Nebraska, and the Dakotas. There are probably still places there where a nice house can be bought for under $100K. Meanwhile, if you plan to come to Maui, come soon before it becomes even more developed and urban.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Noonan on the Virginia Tech Shootings

Peggy Noonan writes with feeling and insight about the shootings at Virginia Tech. The best line from her article: "Where are the grown-ups?"

Thursday, April 19, 2007

A Professor's-Eye View of Bent Students

Further thoughts about the sad events at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA. Long-time professors, including me, have encountered seriously screwed up students. Most of us probably hoped they would just go away and, with a little luck, got our wish. Some aren't so lucky. Here is an interesting article about students with mental problems, written by Barbara Oakley, an Engineering prof.

She makes a cogent point: there are people whose brains are "wired wrong" and as a result, do evil, violent things to others. If, as a society, we aren't ready to "put down" such people as we would a vicious dog, then the least we can do is incarcerate them for life. Giving these dangerous individuals a bottle of pills with the injunction to "take them regularly" and turning them loose is as logical as turning loose a killer dog in a nursery school playground.

Travelblogging from Kauai

"Aloha, bruddah" to all my gentle readers. Kauai, pronounced "cow-eye," is called the Garden Isle. It gets lots of rain, has lots of farming, and is less developed than either Oahu or Maui. On the northern coastline one finds the NaPali Cliffs, one of Hawaii's more spectacular scenic areas. Sheer cliffs rise almost vertically out of the sea and continue upward for as much as 4000 feet. No road has ever penetrated the area, and probably will never do so now, given the ability today of environmentalists to forestall any project. Kauai is also home to the wettest place in the United States; in Waimea Canyon National Park they get about 600 inches of rain a year.

We like Kauai almost as well as the Big Island, both have open space and countryside through which to drive. Kauai doesn't have quite the climatic variation that the Big Island has, but it is still charming. Actually, I guess we like Hawaii, Kauai, and Maui better than Oahu, which we experience as over-built and over-populated.

On the other hand, Lanai which we visited in September is very underdeveloped from a tourism perspective. Lanai was once owned by a single company which produced vast amounts of pineapple there. Then it became cheaper to produce pineapple in the Philippines or Central America and the intensive agriculture shut down. Now a few cattle are grazed there. A company town is the only town on Lanai, and it isn't much. Lanai would be a place to go to find solitude but you'd have to make your own entertainment.

Mahalo for your kind attention, and aloha.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Travelblogging from Kona

Aloha from the Big Island's leeward or dry side, aka the Kona Coast. Kona exists in the rain shadow of several large volcanoes, at least one of which is still active. The trade winds blow clouds onto the other side of these mountains and as they are pushed upward they cool and rain all over the windward or Hilo side of the Big Island. Then as the winds spill over the mountains and drop back down toward sea level, they warm up and as all attentive physics students know, that lowers both the humidity and the likelihood of rain. Talk about micro-climates. You see cactus on this side of Hawaii and rain forest on the other side.

Kona is probably our favorite place in Hawaii. The other DrC and I are both native Californians and, as such, are more comfortable with low levels of humidity. To be sure, we've lived on Guam and in the Washington, D.C. suburbs, both of which are very humid. The Dallas area is also humid come summertime. While we've lived in humid locales for four of the last 36 years, we prefer low humidity and the Kona Coast has it.

Ruminations on the Virginia Tech Shooting

Some decades ago, the nation closed many of its insane asylums or residential hospitals for the mentally ill. My memory says it could have been during the troubled 1960s, but I'm prepared to have the date be off by a decade in either direction.

This came about as the radical left and radical right found something upon which they could, for different reasons, agree. The left believed that people had a total right to be insane, without the society's intolerant interference. Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cukoo's Nest was their anthem. The right wanted to cut government spending, and eliminating expensive custodial institutions for the insane looked like a big budget reduction.

At approximately the same time, our pharmaceutical researchers found several classes of drugs that, if taken continuously with great precision and careful monitoring, could often produce a near semblance of sanity in the otherwise incurably insane . Legislators closed mental hospitals with great gusto, all the while bragging that so-called outpatient community facilities would monitor these individuals' behavior and prescribe the correct drugs.

We all know what happened. The outpatient community facilities are routinely underfunded. Many of the insane either do not get prescription drugs they need or do not take the drugs they are given. Self-medicating with alcohol or street drugs is very common. The insane often end up as the talking-to-themselves homeless living rough under bridges and pushing stolen shopping carts with their worldly possessions. Others patronize the rescue missions and soup kitchens. Some live in their cars. Some become homicidal college students in Virginia (or elsewhere).

I propose the revival of an old solution - the open-ended institutionalization of the incurably mentally ill. Warehousing these individuals is the only currently practical way of protecting us from them, and protecting them from themselves.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Travelblogging from Maui

Aloha, gentle readers. Greetings from beautiful Maui. The weather is balmy - short sleeves and shorts are perfect. The trade winds are blowing enough that the humidity isn't uncomfortable. Perhaps you will wish you were here.

We flew over on Saturday from San Francisco, uneventfully, and joined our ship, the M/V Pride of America. Part of the Norwegian American fleet, she is U.S. registered and carries a U.S. crew. This enables her to sail from and to U.S. ports without the required stop in a foreign port that non-U.S. flagged ships must make by U.S. law. This law is, of course, protectionism directed at maintaining jobs for Americans.

A cruise ship crew of Americans doesn't treat passengers with the same degree of "kiss up" that people have learned to expect from third world crews. On the other hand, all the crew we've dealt with are nice young people who are very pleasant and doing their jobs well. Of course the other DrC and I have spent a lifetime dealing (mostly) with young Americans of about the crew's ages and that may make a difference in how we're treated.

The other DrC is lecturing onboard, talking about how to capture your memories of a trip. She shows various ways to combine pictures, souvenirs, and a narrative to create a trip log or journal. She gives her second talk this afternoon.

More later...mahalo for your interest and aloha until we meet again in this space.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Rio Roiled?

The new state governor has asked Brasilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva for federal troops to help contain the violence in Rio de Janeiro. An article in the Guardian (UK) online describes Rio as the most violent city in Brasil, with an annual murder rate of 50 per 100,000 people.

The other DrC and I were there in February and went to the final night of Carnival in a cross-town nighttime taxi ride. We saw lots of police but absolutely no violence or even any untoward behavior. Rio has one of the most striking natural settings of any city on the planet. The Guardian's article would make you believe Rio is a war isn't.

Favelas are squatter slums that cover hillsides near the heart of Rio. Several members of our party took a guided tour of one of the largest favelas and suffered only heat and humidity. We were told that favelas are ruled by drug lords and their machine gun toting gangs. Perhaps it is control of these poor neighborhoods that the governor seeks.

Morris: Obama = un-Hillary

Dick Morris may not be someone you want dating your daughter, but he does know politics. Writing in the New York Post online, Morris and colleague Eileen McGann demonstrate that Barack Obama is "the un-Hillary." Given her high negatives among Democrats, that is not a bad place to be in the race for the Democratic nomination.

In a recent Move-On online poll, Hillary Clinton came in last in response to the question "Which contender for the Democratic nomination could do the best job of getting the U.S. out of Iraq?" She was bested by Obama, Edwards, Kucinich, and Richardson in that order. Today, it appears likely that this anti-war issue will be important to Democratic primary voters.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

English Rules!

English is the new lingua Franca, the language of modern business. Read an interesting article in the European edition of the International Herald Tribune online. It concerns the increasing use of English as the primary teaching language in university business schools around the globe. It is particularly striking that this is happening at business schools in language-proud France and Spain, as well as in Asia.

I've seen this phenomenon in my own life. An American friend from the days when we were both doctoral students teaches business in English in Taiwan. Other Americans I once worked with later taught in English in Hong Kong, Singapore and Denmark. The other DrC and I were even offered university English teaching jobs in Guilin, China, 20 years ago while touring the country (we didn't accept).

Sunday, April 8, 2007

"Divided America" - A Book Review

What follows comes from a book review that appears in the Gwinnett (GA) Daily Post. I linked to it from Brothers Merle and Earl Black are political science professors at Emory University and Rice University, respectively. Their new book, Divided America, looks at how closely matched are the two major political parties today.

They posit that the Democrats have a 'lock' on the Northeast and the Pacific Coast, while the Republicans have a reasonable grip on the South and the Mountain Plains states. This leaves only the Midwest in true contention, with Ohio being the state upon which everyone focuses.

The brothers Black contend that both major parties are essentially minority parties, which is great for accountability but tough for governing. There is more interesting "inside politics" stuff, go here to read the whole review.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Reno a Star Wars Hotbed?

The other DrC and I just got back from a quick visit to Reno, NV, to celebrate our 36th wedding anniversary. While there we saw two different autos with NV vanity plates that celebrate the dark side of the Force from Star Wars. One was SITHLRD, an obvious reference to "Sith Lord" and the other was ANAKIN2, a clear reference to Darth Vader's given name as a young man. At least one of these cars was the same shiny black as ol' Darth's helmet.

Finding exponents of the dark side of the Force in adult-content Nevada seems stereotypical. I would have wished for something less predictable and mundane.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

WaPo Calls Pelosi Foolish

The editorial position of the Washington Post is normally to the left of center. This stance makes sense for a newspaper for a town of government workers, most of whom routinely vote Democratic.

That leftward bias makes their Thursday editorial about Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi's trip to Syria particularly striking. The Editors of the Washington Post evaluate her Syrian pronouncements as "counterproductive" and "foolish."

This judgment is from an editorial group which has made no secret of their dislike for President Bush's foreign and domestic policies. With 'friends' like these, Nancy doesn't need all the enemies she has made.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Mark Steyn on Iran and the British Hostages

Columnist Mark Steyn, writing in the Chicago Sun-Times online, has an excellent article on Iran's capture in international waters of 15 British sailors and marines. Steyn scorns the impotence of the European Union and the United Nations. He finds Tony Blair's response to Iran similar to that of Jimmy "The Wimp" Carter.

Steyn's most insightful point is that we are trying to deal with a transnational Islamic Revolution using institutions developed to deal with hostile nation states. The old institutions don't work and successful new institutions haven't emerged.