Saturday, March 29, 2008

On to the Rain Forest

It is 1:30 a.m. local time and we are packed and eating ´breakfast´before catching a bus to the airport. No, I don´t understand the need to move literally in the middle of the night but there it is. Supposedly I´m a victim of the monopoly scheduling of LAN, Peru´s flag carrier. Who knows?

My next post may be from somewhere on the Amazon, or may happen when we return to what passes locally for civilization. BTW, we were in Ica yesterday and that ´city´is truly third world, maybe even uglier than Nogales. Between giant sand dunes and dusty looks, we could have been in North Africa, I joked that a Foreign Legion fort would have looked right at home on the edge of town, call it Ft. Zinderneuf Ouest.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Even More From Lima

Í´m sure they´ve shown us the nicer parts of Lima but I have to say I am impressed with this city. I know it has a huge shantytown like every large Latin American city, but most of the town is surprisingly well-maintained, the streets aren´t potholed, they are lighted at night, and most of the buildings look at least somewhat maintained, a factor not all that common in the Third World. The traffic is chaotic and the drivers are semi-suicidal but I´ve seen few accidents and somehow people get where they are going. In short, Lima feels like a city that ¨works.¨

Remembering the Clintons´ Lies

Kim Strassel of The Wall Street Journal writes a column that is a must-read. In it she explains, or at least gives one explanation for, the media´s willingness to jump on the Clinton-and-the-Bosnian-snipers story. Her view is that somehow this story legitimized the MSM remembering just how sleazy these Arkansas parveneus have always been. Here is a key paragraph:
Suddenly, liberals all over are remembering that they never really liked the Clintons, even as they defended them in the 1990s. Suddenly, they can sidle into a discussion about Mrs. Clinton's ethics, and all on a subject that (bonus!) is relevant to today's race. Suddenly, they can break free of the Clintons, much as New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson did earlier this week, with a look of ecstasy, as he ran toward the daylight and endorsed Mr. Obama.

More from Lima

Pisco sours before lunch, talk about a buzz. I suppose the alcohol level is high enough to kill whatever is in the ice used in the blender. If not, the whole group will spend the next day on the toilets. Now it is off to lunch, followed by a city tour of Lima, and a visit to the Museum of Natural History. The group is all seniors, and interestingly, it doesn´t matter what people used to do since we all share the same status: retired.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Greetings from Lima

We just arrived at our hotel in the Miraflores (view of the flowers) district in Lima. Man, that was some long flights: SF to Miami, Miami to Lima. We started at 4 a.m. Thursday morning and arrived here at our hotel at 1:30 a.m. Friday morning. I am getting really tired of long plane flights, even though American Airlines did an okay job of the flights, we only got here 1.5 hours late. Still, any landing from which you can walk away is a success. Time for bed....

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Travel Blog Alert

The DrsC are going traveling for the next couple of weeks; winging south to Peru for a short cruise on the upper Amazon, a visit to the Inca ruins at Machu Picchu, and brief visits in Lima and Cuzco. Blogging during that period, if it happens at all, will be travel blogging.

Blogging about politics and such like will resume in April. It will be good to take a break from the slow-motion train wreck that is the Democratic primary season.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Two Duds

Comedian Jackie Mason and his coauthor Raoul Felder, writing in The American Spectator, do a real number on Clinton and Obama. First, they abuse Obama for answering in his "race" speech a question nobody had asked, thereby dodging the real question which was why he stayed close to a racist, nutball preacher for twenty years. Then they make fun of Clinton:
Hillary says she is the candidate of experience because of her time in the White House. Experience doing what? ... Her just released records reveal that she was upstairs in the White House while her husband was getting "Lewinskied" downstairs. Some person might ask the uncharitable question: How is she going to figure out what's going on in the rest of the world, when she could not figure out what was going on downstairs in her own house?

Their conclusion reflects something we have mentioned in this blog on several occasions:
The real question is: In a country that has so many talented people of all races and religions, in varying sizes, from giants to midgets, how did we end up with these two duds?

I suspect you could expand the analysis to include McCain and make it three duds. Once again we will be voting for the lesser of two, if not evils, how about second-raters?

Quote of the Day II

James Taranto, who writes the Best of the Web column for The Wall Street Journal online, talks about the declining media interest in U.S. involvement in Iraq, coinciding with the success of the surge. I love his take on it:
Perhaps one day we'll wake up to discover that America won the war in Iraq months earlier, but no one noticed because the reporters were all busy with other things.

Quote of the Day

David Brooks, conservative columnist for The New York Times (a one-eyed man in the land of the blind), writes a neat piece about Hillary's estimated 5% chance of getting the nomination. Summarizing what she will put the Democratic Party through for a one in twenty shot at the nomination, and burlesquing the title of Obama's book, he concludes:
When you step back and think about it, she is amazing. She possesses the audacity of hopelessness.

I expect that will do for my quote of the day. The rest of the article is good, too.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Friendly ≠ Friend

From time to time this column includes nuggets of management wisdom its author, a mostly retired Management professor, is moved to share. Today's example is triggered by some work turned in recently by students in my online class.

My students have often said they want to be a friend to the people they supervise. My response to this sentiment is never popular: you must not do this. There is nothing wrong with being friendly to those of your subordinates who do their jobs, hopefully most of them. However, being friendly is not the same as being a friend.

Being friendly is smiling and saying "good morning" or asking "how was your weekend?" Being friendly might occasionally include going to lunch with the group. Generally, it means being pleasant, which managers should be unless employees have done something seriously wrong.

On the other hand, being someones friend means being on their side, defending them, hanging out with them, "having their back." Managers cannot always be on the employee's side; the job requires managers to be on the company's side. Sometimes the two will coincide, other times they won't. Suppose you have to discipline subordinates or tell them that they will be let go, laid off...not a nice thought. Now suppose they are your good friends...can you do it?

It is easier to maintain a certain emotional distance from employees with whom one has not formerly been a coworker and possible friend. For that reason, many larger firms make a practice of not promoting a member of a group to become the new supervisor of that group.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

OPEC Forgets Economics Lessons

For many years OPEC kept oil prices down in order to discourage the development and use of fuels other than oil. Cheap oil made coal, natural gas, ethanol, solar, and wind power either uneconomical or unattractive for other reasons.

Recently OPEC has allowed world oil prices to rise to levels where alternative fuel technologies begin to become attractive. I you suppose they think the laws of economics have been repealed? As if....

As noted below in yesterday's posting, efforts to turn coal to liquid fuels become attractive at current oil prices. High oil prices will also make less cost-prohibitive technologies like using renewable resources to generate electricity to separate the hydrogen and oxygen atoms in water, creating a non-polluting hydrogen fuel.

At current prices Brazil has reached energy independence, using ethanol made from sugar cane. I wonder what form the movement will take in the United States?

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Quote of the Day

This quote is attributed to Lily Tomlin:
The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you're still a rat.

Where Is Global Warming When Needed?

This story from the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune states that Madison, WI, has had its snowiest winter ever. It has recorded almost 100 inches of snow, much more than the prior record of 76 inches.

Meanwhile, Minneapolis has had the second snowiest winter ever and the worst since 1885-1886. Furthermore, weather experts in the region expect they will see more snow before the cold weather ends.

All this snow makes it sound like the planet didn't get the word about global warming.

Political Humor: Speech Bush Should Give

I don't know the original source of this piece, but a hat tip to cousin Dave for sending it along. It can be found in several places across the Internet, including here. Like most good satire, there is substantial truth in it. I guess the country is lucky presidents don't give in to these impulses. The following "speech" is alleged to have been written by a person from Maine who thinks it is the speech George W. Bush SHOULD give:

Normally, I start these things out by saying "My Fellow Americans." Not doing it this time. If the polls are any indication, I don't know who more than half of you are anymore. I do know something terrible has happened, and that you're really not fellow Americans any longer.

I'll cut right to the chase here: I quit. Now before anyone gets all in a lather about me quitting to avoid impeachment, or to avoid prosecution or something, let me assure you: There's been no breaking of laws or impeachable offenses in this office.

The reason I'm quitting is simple. I'm fed up with you people. I'm fed up because you have no understanding of what's really going on in the world. Or of what's going on in this once-great nation of ours. And the majority of you are too damned lazy to do your homework and figure it out.

Let's start local. You've been sold a bill of goods by politicians and the news media. Polls show that the majority of you think the economy is in the tank. And that's despite record numbers of homeowners, including record numbers of MINORITY homeowners. And while we're mentioning minorities, I'll point out that minority business ownership is at an all-time high. Our unemployment rate is as low as it ever was during the Clinton administration. I've mentioned all those things before, but it doesn't seem to have sunk in.

Despite the shock to our economy of 9/11, the stock market has rebounded to record levels and more Americans than ever are participating in these markets. Meanwhile, all you can do is whine about gas prices, and most of you are too damn stupid to realize that gas prices are high because there's increased demand in other parts of the world, and because a small handful of noisy idiots are more worried about polar bears and beachfront property than your economic security.

We face real threats in the world. Don't give me this "blood for oil" thing. If I were trading blood for oil I would've already seized Iraq 's oil fields and let the rest of the country go to hell. And don't give me this 'Bush Lied; People Died' crap either. If I were the liar you morons take me for, I could've easily had chemical weapons planted in Iraq so they could be 'discovered.' Instead, I owned up to the fact that the intelligence was faulty.

Let me remind you that the rest of the world thought Saddam had the goods, same as me. Let me also remind you that regime change in Iraq was official US policy before I came into office. Some guy named 'Clinton' established that policy. Bet you didn't know that, did you?

You idiots need to understand that we face a unique enemy. Back during the cold war, there were two major competing political and economic models squaring off. We won that war, but we did so because fundamentally, the Communists wanted to survive, just as we do. We were simply able to out spend and out-tech them.

That's not the case this time. The soldiers of our new enemy don't care if they survive. In fact, they want to die. That'd be fine, as long as they weren't also committed to taking as many of you with them as they can. But they are. They want to kill you, and the bastards are all over the globe.

You should be grateful that they haven't gotten any more of us here in the United States since September 11. But you're not. That's because you've got no idea how hard a small number of intelligence, military, law enforcement, and homeland security people have worked to make sure of that. When this whole mess started, I warned you that this would be a long and difficult fight. I'm disappointed how many of you people think a long and difficult fight amounts to a single season of 'Survivor.'

Instead, you've grown impatient. You're incapable of seeing things through the long lens of history, the way our enemies do. You think that wars should last a few months, a few years, tops.

Making matters worse, you actively support those who help the enemy. Every time you buy the New York Times, every time you send a donation to a cut-and-run Democrat's political campaign, well, dang it, you might just as well FedEx a grenade launcher to a Jihadist. It amounts to the same thing.

In this day and age, it's easy enough to find the truth. It's all over the Internet. It just isn't on the pages of the New York Times or on NBC News. But even if it were, I doubt you'd be any smarter. Most of you would rather watch American Idol.

I could say more about your expectations that the government will always be there to bail you out, even if you're too stupid to leave a city that's below sea level and has a hurricane approaching. I could say more about your insane belief that government, not your own wallet, is where the money comes from. But I've come to the conclusion that were I to do so, it would sail right over your heads.

So I quit. I'm going back to Crawford. I've got an energy-efficient house down there (Al Gore could only dream) and the capability to be fully self-sufficient. No one ever heard of Crawford before I got elected, and as soon as I'm done here pretty much no one will ever hear of it again. Maybe I'll be lucky enough to die of old age before the last pillars of America fall.

Oh, and by the way, Cheney's quitting too. That means Pelosi is your new President. You asked for it. Watch what she does carefully, because I still have a glimmer of hope that there are just enough of you remaining who are smart enough to turn this thing around in 2008.

So that's it. God bless what's left of America. Some of you know what I mean. The rest of you, kiss off.

Liquid Fuel from Coal

This article reports action by the U.S. Air Force to assist the efforts to produce jet fuel from coal. As the government's largest purchaser of fuel, the Air Force is in a good position to move this issue forward.

Three things the article doesn't mention. First, during WWII the Germans produced diesel from coal since they had plenty of Ruhr coal but limited petroleum production, mostly from Romania. Second, the United States has the world's largest reserves of coal. Finding cost-effective ways to transform these generous coal reserves into usable-in-vehicles liquid fuels like jet fuel and diesel would be a giant step forward in reducing our dependency on foreign oil. Third, the current high prices for oil make alternative fuels like these more affordable by comparison.

I hope it goes without saying that the foreign governments controlling the bulk of the world's petroleum reserves are, to varying degrees, hostile to U.S. interests: think Venezuela and Saudi Arabia.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Obama, Clinton Both Fatally Flawed

Check out this article by Fox News panelist and long-time Washington observer Mort Kondracke. His day job is as Executive Editor of Roll Call. Kondracke believes that Obama's two decade long association and friendship with the racist, anti-American Reverend Jeremiah Wright all but makes him unelectable as President of these United States.

Meanwhile Hillary Clinton has the highest negatives of any national politician of modern times. She can be counted on to unify the somewhat divided Republican Party.

Finally, a recent poll shows that around one fifth of Democrat primary voters say they would vote Republican or stay home if their candidate (either Obama or Clinton) doesn't win the Democratic nomination. So...if Obama doesn't win blacks and the young stay home while if Clinton doesn't win white blue collar voters and women stay home.

All of the above makes it somewhat easier to understand why John McCain is ahead of both Democrats in the polls, in some cases by double digits (if only barely). It looks like the Democrats have, once again, formed a circular firing squad and shot themselves up pretty badly. Okay, folks, please reload and fire for effect. As they say at McDonalds these days, "I'm lovin' it."

Quote of the Day II

Science fiction superstar Arthur C. Clarke died recently, at age 90, at his home in Sri Lanka. He is credited with the following piece of wisdom, which will be my second quote of this day:
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

That is real wisdom, something in which he specialized. We are the better for having lived when he did.

Humor Alert

This is a joke I heard on a cruise ship, told by a stand-up comic:
Q. What do you get if you cross an atheist with a Jehovah's Witness?
A. A guy who knocks on your door but has absolutely no idea why he did it.

How weird is that...a clean joke?.

Quote of the Day

Michael Goldfarb, who writes and blogs for The Weekly Standard, has come up with a cute way of referring to the problems B.O. is having with his minister, Jeremiah Wright. He calls it:
The Pastor Disaster

I like the alliteration of that phrase.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Obama Likes Hate Speech Sermons

As frequent readers of this blog will remember, I am often impressed by the insights of Fox News panelist and political columnist Charles Krauthammer. Here Krauthammer considers the recent Barack Hussein Obama speech about race and the racist, America-hating pastor of Obama's church, Jeremiah Wright. Reverend Wright has made some outrageous claims, reports Krauthammer:
Wright's assertion from the pulpit that the U.S. government invented the HIV virus "as a means of genocide against people of color"? Wright's claim that America was morally responsible for 9/11 — "chickens coming home to roost" — because of, among other crimes, Hiroshima and Nagasaki? What about the charge that the U.S. government (of Franklin Roosevelt, mind you) knew about Pearl Harbor, but lied about it? Or that the government gives drugs to black people, presumably to enslave and imprison them?

As is often the case, Krauthammer asks the right questions of Obama:
If Wright is a man of the past, why would you expose your children to his vitriolic divisiveness? This is a man who curses America and who proclaimed moral satisfaction in the deaths of 3,000 innocents at a time when their bodies were still being sought at Ground Zero.

Why did you give $22,500 just two years ago to a church run by a man of the past who infects the younger generation with precisely the racial attitudes and animus you say you have come unto us to transcend?

Go read the article, there is much more there to ponder. Hard as it is to believe, the Red Queen (Hillary Clinton) may be the lesser of the two evils.

Bush Bad, Clinton and Obama Worse

Ralph Peters writes on matters military for the New York Post. Check out this column in which he excoriates Bush for the ineptitude with which the post-Saddam portion of the Iraqi conflict has been handled. Here is his view in a nutshell:
As for President Bush, let's face it: He's been our most-inept wartime leader since James Madison fled the White House, leaving his wife behind to save what she could before the British troops arrived with torches. That said, Bush has displayed one single worthy characteristic (one he shares, oddly enough, with Madison): He won't surrender.

You might think Peters would prefer a Democrat, and you'd be wrong. In his view, the two candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination are worse than Bush.
As horribly as Bush performed for our first four years in Iraq, it's still possible to do worse. Both of the Democratic Party's presidential aspirants believe that the answer is to flee, handing the terrorists we've defeated a strategic victory, inviting a genocidal civil war, further destabilizing the Middle East, and sending the message to the world that Americans lack the courage and staying power of our enemies.

This article is worth your time. I do think it odd that he doesn't mention the Powell Doctrine, named for General Colin Powell, which holds that you go in with overwhelming force, nothing less. That doctrine is, in essence, what Peters believes we should have done.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Caribbean Travel Blogging

I just returned from a week's cruising in the Caribbean. I loved the Virgin Islands, both British and U.S., was indifferent toward the Dominican Republic, and actively disliked the Bahamas. It may be because I need mountains to think a place is attractive.

The other DrC was lecturing aboard the Norwegian Dawn, on the topic of digital photography. The Dawn is a very nice ship, clearly the best-run of the several Norwegian Cruise Lines ship we've sailed on. I was along as Eileen's supercargo, aka gofer.

We will be back to active blogging starting on Thursday, March 20.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Sanctimonious Spitzer Spitted

New York Governor and former demon prosecutor Eliot Spitzer has resigned following revelations of his patronizing call girls. You just have to love stories like this. He was such a goody two-shoes jumping on everybody's case and tackling the high and mighty. Now he is hoist on his own petard, so to speak. Well, there go his presidential aspirations. Somebody needed to tell him to do his thinking with his big head, instead of whatever he was thinking with.

This story has to help Obama defeat Clinton, as it will remind voters of what they didn't like about the Clinton years - Bill's zipper problems.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Peggy Dumps on Hillary

Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan has never been fond of Hillary Clinton, but in this column she outdoes herself. Here is my favorite line in her description of Hillary:
(S)he is the most divisive figure in the country, and that this is true because people have reason to view her as dark, dissembling, thuggish.

Not merely that people view her that way, but that they "have reason" to so view her. She is of course making reference to Clinton's role in Whitewater, cattle futures, pardons; all things Democrats including Obama have agreed not to mention. Should HRC be elected President, here is Peggy's prediction:
She is hardy, resilient, tough. She is a train on a track, an Iron Horse. But we must not become carried away with generosity. The very qualities that impress us are the qualities that will make her a painful president. She does not care what you think, she will have what she wants, she will not do the feints, pivots and backoffs that presidents must. She is neither nimble nor agile, and she knows best. She will wear a great nation down.

C'mon, Peggy, don't hold back, tell us what you really think!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Clinton Wins Ohio, Rhode Island

Just when all of the pundits were writing her obituary, the Red Queen makes a comeback. As I write this, Ohio and Rhode Island have been called for her. Texas is at this point too close to call although she has a small lead and may well win there too.

John McCain may yet be lucky enough to run against HRC in November. I say "lucky" because there is no one who motivates GOP voters like Hillary. Dislike of Hillary (and husband Bill) is one thing upon which defense conservatives, economic conservatives, and social conservatives can all agree wholeheartedly. She gets up the nose of about half the electorate. B.O. doesn't upset nearly so many.

Weirdness in Oregon

See this article about Nazi swastika flags being flown on several recent occasions in Tigard, Oregon. For those of you who haven't paid attention, Oregon is a very odd place. I spent three years there as a graduate student, and have rarely gone back.

West of the Cascades the weather is dreary to the point of suicide for about 8 months a year, constant gray overcast and intermittent light rain daily. The Lewis and Clark party wintered over in Oregon and hated it. Oddly, in summer and early fall the weather is so nice that vacationers passing through think "what a wonderful place to live." Wrong. It is however a wonderful place to summer vacation.

The bizarre TV series Twin Peaks easily could have been set in small town Oregon instead of small town Washington. Oregonians hate Californians, love trees either to hug or to cut down, and have a tendency to political extremism in either direction. A typical OR oddity: you can't pump your own gas in Oregon, they have to pump it for you.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Three Rules for Understanding Canadians

Check out this blog post on U.S.-Canadian relations. The author, Daniel W. Drezner, lists three rules for understanding Canadians. They are
1. Canadians are the most polite people on earth.
2. Canadians are also the most passive-aggressive nationality on earth.
3. Canadians are really schizophrenic about American attention.

Drezner may or may not be correct but his post is funny/true in the same way that much of Mark Steyn's and Ann Coulter's stuff is funny and true, if exaggerated somewhat for effect.

Obama Hates the U.S.

A columnist writes for the Hong Kong-based English language Asia Times under the name Spengler. The nom de plume was borrowed from German historian and philosopher Oswald Spengler who died in 1936 and was best known for authoring The Decline of the West. His current namesake writes about politics and world affairs from a base in Hong Kong. In this article, he reflects on the two women who have been most important in the life of Barack Obama. His introductory paragraph sets the tone:

"Cherchez la femme," advised Alexander Dumas in: "When you want to uncover an unspecified secret, look for the woman." In the case of Barack Obama, we have two: his late mother, the went-native anthropologist Ann Dunham, and his rancorous wife Michelle. Obama's women reveal his secret: he hates America.

One other thought captures some of the flavor of this interesting article. Speaking of Obama the author observes:
He has the empathetic skill set of an anthropologist who lives with his subjects, learns their language, and elicits their hopes and fears while remaining at emotional distance. That is, he is the political equivalent of a sociopath. The difference is that he is practicing not on a primitive tribe but on the population of the United States.

You have to love that quote: "the political equivalent of a sociopath." Read the rest of the article, it is provocative throughout even if not necessarily accurate in all respects.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Political Potpourri

Have you seen the articles that claim a senior Obama economic advisor contacted the Canadian government to tell them not to worry about B.O.'s Ohio attacks on NAFTA? That Obama didn't mean any of it and to treat it as purely campaign rhetoric? Of course, when it became known, B.O. denied it ever happened. Our unimaginative friends to the north are unlikely to have made up this story, chances are it truly happened. However, now that he's been called on it, B.O. will have to act like he meant it all along.


I've been ruminating about the irony confronting the Clintons in this election cycle. For most of the last decade and a half the Clintons have been wildly popular with African-Americans. The hyperbole included calling Bubba Bill "the first black President." More concretely, when Bill C. left the White House he moved his base of operations to an office in Harlem where he was received like the prodigal son.

African-Americans are certainly one of the major core voting groups supporting Democrats, clearly the most reliable. So...if you were to hypothetically imagine a candidate who could beat a Clinton for the Democrat nomination for President, you would have to think of a candidate who could lure this core group away from the Clintons. Logically, you would conclude that person would need to be even more attractive to African-Americans than the Clintons are, while not being so hard-edged that liberal white voters were driven away.

What amazing bad luck for the Clintons that the exact person you would have hypothetically imagined actually existed in the person of a very junior Senator from Illinois, one B. Hussein Obama. Here was a quite literal "African-American," son of an African father and an American mother, who was raised by whites and fits in comfortably in white society. The fabled Clinton electoral operation must feel like they have encountered the perfect storm. Perhaps the long primary marathon will be over Tuesday night; I think I'm about ready for it to settle down into the head-to-head battle for the Presidency.

I was chatting politics with my brother-in-law yesterday. Each of us votes our clear-eyed self-interest and neither apologizes for doing so. He votes Democratic most of the time, as I vote Republican most of the time. It was an interesting, entirely civil discussion which revealed that we hold dissimilar world views - no surprise there. We agree that the country should work much harder to control illegal immigration, but that view will not much influence his vote in November.

The last two presidents who have come from Texas have had a tough time of it. Democrat Lyndon Johnson didn't run for reelection as a result of the unpopularity of the Vietnam War and his identification in the popular mind with that conflict. Republican George W. Bush was reelected but ended up in his second term almost as unpopular with his own party as he was with Democrats. Republicans running for the party's nomination for President have studiously avoided being identified with W.

Two other Texans who have thought to run for the Presidency - Phil Gramm, Lloyd Bentsen - have had little luck. Is there something about being a Texan that creates problems for politicians at the presidential level?