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, 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 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.