Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Rove on the McCain Backstory

Karl Rove, aka "the architect" of W's presidential victories, writes about the private John McCain in The Wall Street Journal. Rove shares inspiring stories told by McCain's fellow POWs and others, stories that McCain hasn't revealed.

Rove argues McCain needs to talk about these things. I think Rove is wrong; the stories are much more powerful coming from people who knew him "in the day," as they say.

Rove's article reminds me of what David Brooks said about McCain, and I paraphrase here. Brooks said while he and McCain may often disagree about policy matters, nobody would convince him that McCain was other than an outstanding person.

I guess I am coming to agree with Brooks, about both points. I have serious trouble with some of McCain's populist rants and his wrong-headed stand on immigration. But on the issue of underlying character, he seems to have the right stuff.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Wreck of the Edmund Obama

Superior, they say, never gives up her dead
when the gales of November come early.

I love Gordon Lightfoot's chantey about The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. John Mark Reynolds has written a decent parody of that song on his website, containing many elements of the disaster that the Obama campaign has become. It begins:
The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the Senator they called ‘Chelsea’s Mommy’
That she, it is said, never gives up her dead
When the skies of November turn gloomy

It goes on in this vein for 56 lines, you owe it to yourself to see the website and try humming along with the words.

Obama's Islamic Childhood

Middle East expert and historian Daniel Pipes writes of Barack Hussein Obama's Islamic upbringing, particularly of the years in Indonesia. While he attended both public and Catholic schools there, he was registered as an Islamic student at both.

The MSM has taken pains to debunk the rumor that Barack Hussein Obama is somehow Muslim or Islamic. Perhaps they protesteth too much. Pretty clearly Obama is more familiar with Islam than he has admitted publicly.

One continues to wonder how a former Muslim like Obama is viewed in the Islamic world, where not too many years ago the Afghans tried to execute a fellow citizen who had converted from Islam to Christianity. So far, the Islamic world seems to think he is wonderful, do they know something we don't?

Wright Torpedoes Obama

The Reverend Jeremiah Wright has spent the last 20 years telling his congregation that the United States is a bad-to-the-bone place, a place whose evil explains the plight of inner city African-Americans. In the sort of bad place he has described, no African-American could possibly be elected President.

If Barack Hussein Obama is elected President of these United States, then the Reverend Jeremiah Wright has been wrong about the sort of place in which he, and we, live and prosper. Most folks don't like to be shown to be wrong, particularly those who've described their views in highly emotional terms to large audiences Sunday after Sunday, and most recently to the NAACP in Detroit and to the National Press Club in Washington.

How else to explain that the Reverend Wright seems to be doing his level best in recent days to ensure that parishioner Obama is not elected President? In spite of his earlier pledge, Obama will have to disavow Wright or be dragged down by him. When he does this he will alienate some of his base in the black community. Here the rock and the hard place get very close together. The Clintons have got to be thinking "Go, Jeremiah, go!"

Monday, April 28, 2008

Quote of the Day

In his blog The Campaign Spot, Jim Geraghty of the National Review delivers my quote of the day:
If your mentor of 20 years has ever declared the United States to be ‘the same as al-Qaeda, under a different color flag, calling on the name (of) a different God to sanction and approve our murder and our mayhem!’ you are ineligible for the Presidency. (emphasis added)

I guess that pretty well should end the Barack Hussein Obama candidacy.

What's In A Name?

I'll bet most Americans don't know about the travails of Macedonia. This article in the Wall Street Journal does a nice job of laying out the conflicts between Greece and the country that would like to call itself the Republic of Macedonia, but sometimes calls itself F.Y.R.O.M. or the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

As the article shows, the conflicts between the two countries deal with ethnic conflict, language conflict, religious conflict, and political conflict. There is a history of ethnic cleansing, issues of right of return of driven out former residents, and concerns about eventual Macedonian claims on the territory of northern Greece. And the article doesn't even mention that Macedonia is being overrun by Albanian economic refugees.

The problems here are classical Balkan problems: a long history of inter-ethnic conflict and bloodletting, an absolute refusal to forgive and forget prior wrongs, and the bitterness is extreme because the stakes are so low (hat tip to Columbia University political-science professor, Wallace S. Sayre, who used this formulation to describe academic politics).

Morris Boards Bandwagon

Political guru Dick Morris is now echoing the thoughts about the Hillary campaign that we reported here on Friday, April 25, under the title "Clintons Play Chess." Now we see him wondering if Hillary's real goal is to weaken Obama enough so he loses in November, giving her a clear shot at the 2012 nomination. If enough people-in-the-know say this, Democrats are going to be really angry with her.

The Supremes Have a Hit

This New York Times article reports a Supreme Court decision allowing states to require photo ID for voting. The decision was 6 to 3 in favor of an Indiana law which requires a photo ID - driver's license or U.S. passport.

This decision is good news. It suggests that the other 20 states which have such laws will likewise withstand scrutiny. The basic thrust of photo ID for voting laws is that they tend to prevent illegal aliens from voting.

It is incumbent upon any state which passes such a law to make it easy and inexpensive for non-driving citizens to obtain a state photo ID. Otherwise it can be truthfully claimed that such laws are intended to keep non-driving urban residents from voting.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Political Orientation Among the Affluent

Here is a cute article about why the rich support Democrats, and the middle class keep electing Republicans. Allan Nadel, writing in the American Thinker, takes the view that the rich support Democrats because they know something we don't. As he says, if he knew what they know, maybe he'd be rich too.

I suspect it is quite another matter entirely. The people who earn wealth typically support Republicans, it is their children and grandchildren who support Democrats. The issue, in my view is guilt, a sense that they have wealth and did nothing to earn it. Their good fortune is purely a matter of luck, the luck of being born to wealthy parents. Seen from that point of view, inherited wealth can engender a sense of guilt, a sense that life is unfair and that government should engage in redistribution.

This brings me to a try at stating Cotton's Law of Political Orientation Among the U.S. Affluent:

Individuals who earned wealth, through a life of hard work and good choices, tend to believe others could have done the same had they but tried. Seeing themselves as unlike the poor, such individuals tend to support Republicans.

Individuals who see their wealth as the result of good fortune or having the right parents don't believe others could have achieved the same outcomes with hard work and wise choices. Seeing themselves as like the poor in everything except outcomes, such individuals tend to support Democrats.

One postulate of this law is that the hyperrich, for example Bill Gates or Warren Buffett, understand that they were not vastly more talented than the merely rich. Since luck played a big role in their hypersuccess, they lean left. In other words, hyperwealth leads to hyperguilt.

In our state, Wyoming, only one county voted for Kerry and Edwards: Teton County. It is the county with the most inherited wealth. Oddly, it is also where Vice President Cheney has his home.

Friday, April 25, 2008

The Voice of the Bitter

Mary Grabar, writing in, gives eloquent voice to the folks Obama denigrated as bitter, clinging to their faith and guns. Read it and understand why there is no way in blazes he will get their votes.

The other DrC is the daughter of immigrants who couldn't get scholarship help because she was white, and her parents owned their modest home. All the financial aid was reserved for people of color, and those too improvident to buy a home. Truly, the bitterness he talked about is real enough.

Clintons Play Chess

This article is one of the most interesting pieces of political analysis I've seen in months, and I read a lot of political analysis. Written by Bill McClellan in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch online site, it looks at Clinton's current strategy and says it is all about 2012. In other words, she knows she won't get the nomination in 2008, that Obama will get it. McClellan views Clinton's strategy as acting to help Obama lose in November, so that she will be the logical Democratic nominee in 2012. He concludes:
Perhaps it's better, really, to lose this nomination. The economy is a train wreck. The boomers are about to retire. Iraq is going to fall apart no matter who gets elected. So let John McCain inherit the mess.

After four years, the country will be ready for a change. The Democrats will look to Hillary. Why didn't we nominate her back in 2008? What made us think that Obama ever had a chance?

She'll take on McCain. He'll be 76. She'll seem youthful, competent. The comeback kids will have done it again.

Read the article, it may or may not reflect the Clintons' thinking but it sure could be true.

Miss Peggy's Moody Blues

Peggy Noonan writes a moody elegy on the state of middle American lives, and both Obama's and Bush's problems therewith. Of Obama, she says
Hillary Clinton is not Barack Obama's problem. America is Mr. Obama's problem. He has been tagged as a snooty lefty, as the glamorous, ambivalent candidate from Men's Vogue.... What does he think of America? Who would have taught him to love it, and what did he learn was lovable, and what does he think about it all?

Of Bush, she finds
I finally understand the party nostalgia for Reagan. I think it is a manifestation of dislike for and disappointment in Mr. Bush. It is a turning away that is a turning back. It is a looking back to conservatism when conservatism was clear, knew what it was, was grounded in the facts of the world.
You owe it to yourself to read the whole sad rumination on what we've become.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Karl Rove on the Dems

Karl Rove, "the architect" of Bush's 2 victories, weighs in on the Democratic primary race, and as is often the case, makes a great deal of political sense. See his article summarizing the status of the Clinton-Obama race, in the online Wall Street Journal. He summarizes Clinton's problems:
Mrs. Clinton started as a deeply flawed candidate: the palpable and unpleasant sense of entitlement, the absence of a clear and optimistic message, the grating personality impatient to be done with the little people and overly eager for a return to power, real power, the phoniness and the exaggerations.

Then, calling Obama "the reborn Adlai Stevenson," he concludes:
Mr. Obama is near victory in the Democratic contest, but it is time for him to reset, freshen his message and say something new. His conduct in the last several weeks raises questions about whether, for all his talents, he is ready to be president.

Yes indeed, Democrats between a rock and a hard place, how sweet it is....

Global Cooling Redux

See this article from Science Daily concerning the extent to which Antarctica is getting colder. I particularly like this quote:
The Antarctic deep sea is getting colder...(a)t the same time satellite images from the Antarctic summer have shown the largest sea-ice extent on record.
It would appear that yesterday's post about a new ice age might have prescient. Once again, Al Gore could not be reached for comment.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A New Ice Age

Check out this article which makes an unsensational, plausible case for concern about global cooling. The greenhouse gases keep increasing and yet the temperature keeps dropping. According to this article, the culprit is a lack of sunspots. Sunspots apparently cause the earth to receive more solar warmth than would otherwise be the case.

Certainly the past year has been unusually cold, in many places around the world. Snow fell in unlikely places like Baghdad and Buenos Aires. One year does not a trend make, but it is possible to argue that an ice sheet a mile thick covering much of North America is normal and we've been enjoying a brief respite between Ice Ages.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Hillary Wins Pennsylvania Primary

As I write this at 10 p.m. on the left coast, the Drudge Report website is reporting that Clinton beat Obama in Pennsylvania by nearly 10%, with 99% of precincts reporting. Winning by double digits was identified by several pundits as the threshold Clinton would have to achieve in PA to cast serious doubts about the viability of the Obama candidacy. You could argue, and I'm sure she will, that she accomplished her goal in PA.

As a result of today's results, Clinton will stay in the race for the next two weeks until the next round of primaries in IN and NC. With African-Americans making up a large proportion of Democratic voters in NC, Obama is expected to win that primary. Indiana, on the other hand, may be sufficiently similar to PA and OH that we'd expect Clinton to win there. Once again, the question will be "Will she win big?"

The other big question coming out of this protracted Democratic primary battle is the extent to which partisans of one will vote for the other if their preferred candidate loses? Several polls have reported a relatively widespread unwillingness to do so. Let's try a thought experiment.

Suppose Clinton convinces the super delegates to select her instead of Obama, when he leads in regular delegates. Do you believe African-American voters will turn out in large numbers to vote for her? I doubt they'd vote for McCain but they sure could stay home, withholding their votes.

Imagine, on the other hand, that Obama attracts the super delegates and is selected. Do you believe that Clinton's core supporters, older white blue collar voters, will bring themselves to vote for an African-American intellectual? [E. J. Dionne here is comparing Obama to Adlai Stevenson.] I can envision substantial numbers of Clinton voters deciding to vote for McCain, as they did for Reagan.

In this article, Wall Street Journal editors opine that Democrats want to win the presidency too strongly to stay home or vote Republican. I happen to think they are wrong, for the reasons sketched above. Time will tell....

Age Matters

It turns out that age is the best predictor of whether a voter will choose Clinton or Obama, older voters go for Clinton, age 60, younger voters go for Obama, whose age is 46. The exception is African-American voters who tend to choose Obama regardless of age. See this article for more details.

The Democratic primary has boiled down into a generational or cohort-based struggle. This cannot be good news for Obama, since historically young persons vote in much smaller numbers than older folks.

That same fact, that older Americans are more likely to vote, is what tells us that the fears about the future of the Social Security system are overblown. Yes, the system does need repair. However, the high voting rate of seniors guarantees that politicians will eventually repair it, if they want to keep their elected jobs.

If Clinton is the eventual nominee, then age will not be a large factor in the general election. If Obama is the eventual Democratic nominee, cohort politics will continue to matter in November.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Snowy Global Warming

See this article which reports the Vancouver area in Canada is having record late snowfalls and cold, this spring. Al Gore could not be reached for comment.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

China Imploding?

Salim Mansur, writing in the Toronto Sun, anticipates China falling apart the way the old Soviet Union did. This is an interesting idea, and one about which I've seen little public speculation.

Clearly the Tibetans would like "out," as would the Muslim Uighur Turks in western China. Taiwan is already "out" de facto, if not de jure. Anybody want to guess what the folks in Hong Kong would choose to do? Yep, "out" is the answer.

Mansur doesn't mention it, but the leaders of China pretty clearly hope to make the transition to a Singapore-style one party state with prosperity (key word) and happy citizens. Anybody want to get up a pool on whether they'll succeed and if not, when they'll fail?

O'Rourke Visits Top Gun

P. J. O'Rourke writes funny, and does it well enough to make a living at it, which is far more than I can do. Go see his 24 Hours on the Big Stick article from The Weekly Standard. It concerns a visit O'Rourke made to the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt. The "big stick" makes reference, of course, to TR's international relations maxim about walking softly and carrying a big stick. O'Rourke writes to remind us that John McCain's day job, before politics, was as a carrier pilot:
Some say John McCain's character was formed in a North Vietnamese prison. I say those people should take a gander at what John chose to do--voluntarily. Being a carrier pilot requires aptitude, intelligence, skill, knowledge, discernment, and courage of a kind rarely found anywhere but in a poem of Homer's or a half gallon of Dewar's.

And then there is his evaluation of the campaigns of Clinton and Obama:
They're not just running against the hero John McCain, they're running against heroism itself and against almost everything about America that ought to be conserved.

If you can read this all the way to the end without choking up a little, you have a much thicker callus over the spot in your heart labeled "patriotism" than I do.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Seven Uncomfortable Truths

This article by John Hawkins appears at It focuses on seven truths about human nature overlooked by liberals. They are essentially the same truths that Communism couldn't grasp, and eventually brought about its demise. Here are three samples:
Human beings are born selfish and badly behaved.

Most of the world operates by the law of the jungle except when they fear the consequences of doing so.

Every problem is not fixable.

You should read the whole article, the other four are spot on too.

Quote of the Day

Chancellor Count Otto von Bismarck, quoted in Jay Nordlinger's Impromptus column in National Review Online:
Russia is never as strong or as weak as it appears.

Although today Russia appears somewhat weak, we should take the Iron Chancellor's warning to heart.

Brooks Disses Obama

David Brooks, successor to William Safire as the New York Times' conservative pundit, has a quite good column on the Obama phenomenon. Brooks tracks Obama's descent from deified uberpolitician to grubby hack, a descent helped along by the Clinton machine. Brooks' conclusion echos what we've been saying here at COTTonLINE for some weeks:
Republicans have long assumed they would lose because of the economy and the sad state of their party. Now, Democrats are deeply worried their nominee will lose in November.

Welcome to 2008. Everybody’s miserable.

Particularly, I believe, the hapless voters.

The Performance Appraisal Myth

Ask most working people the purpose of performance appraisal and they'll tell you it is done so they can find out how they're doing at work. In other words, as a source of feedback from their boss.

Unfortunately, to the extent that the performance appraisal reflects qualitative judgments today about performance that occurred several weeks or months ago, the feedback is absolutely pointless. That is to say, worthless as a shaper of the employee's future behavior.

B. F. Skinner and his colleagues demonstrated conclusively that the more time that elapses between a piece of your behavior and another's reaction to that behavior, the less that reaction shapes your future behavior. In the case of performance appraisals, which are often done at six month or one year intervals, simply too much time has elapsed for the 'feedback' to be useful.

So...why do firms do performance appraisals? Their only true use is as a process that documents in writing what the supervisor has already told the employee about his or her behavior at the time the behavior occurred. In fact, a firm should probably require every evaluative statement in the appraisal to be preceded by the clause "As I told you on (insert date), ...."

There should be absolutely no surprises in your performance appraisal. Everything should be reminders of former conversations with your boss. If there are surprises in your performance appraisal, they won't change your behavior but they will irritate you. It is like what they say about trying to teach a pig to sing. You won't succeed but you will surely irritate the pig.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Quote of the Day

Chris Muir's comic strip entitled Day by Day, runs in the Power Line News website. In the April 17, 2008 strip the characters summarize the three presidential aspirants as follows:

Obama's freaked by being asked actual questions,
Hillary is so into her lies she's in a different reality,

And McCain thinks of 'Borders' as a bookshop.

What truly lovely choices we are given...the mind boggles. I particularly love the notion that McCain thinks Borders is a bookshop, not something the nation needs to defend against the billions of poor people who'd love to move here to share your hard-earned wealth.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Photo of the Day

It often happens that a photographer will snap a picture of a subject standing in front of a backdrop that makes the subject look bad. At my highschool a student photographer caught the unpopular yearbook advisor standing in front of a chalkboard with the word "assignment" written upon it. His head blocked out the last seven letters so that the picture said "ass" immediately next to his face. The gormless teacher didn't catch the juxtaposition and the picture ran in the yearbook, to widespread student glee.

Here (link no longer works) is a great modern example of this phenomenon. The AP photographer caught Pres. Bush and Pope Benedict XVI standing in front of the flags of Indiana and Mississippi. Unfortunately, the only part of the Mississippi flag showing contains the Confederate Battle Flag. [The complete Mississippi flag has the Confederate flag as an inset, in the same way that the U.S. flag contains a field of 50 stars as an inset.]

I daresay the Pope would have preferred not to be depicted with this controversial symbol.

The Bottom Line

Michael Goodwin, writing in the New York Daily News, says some things I've been thinking. Namely, that all it took for the Democrats to lose the presidency in a year where they were expected by almost everybody to win, was to nominate a loser. He concludes they are now down to a choice between two losers.

Wouldn't it have been a treat to have choices you actually wanted to vote for? I think for awhile some people believed Obama might be that person. His not-ready-for-prime-time characteristics are recently beginning to show.

Golly, once again we get to figure out who is the least unattractive candidate. BTW, I include McCain in that "choice of least worst" dilemma.

The Big Lie

Somewhere the shade of Nazi Dr. Joseph Goebbels is cackling madly. A high profile practitioner of the "big lie" technique has struck again. The Associated Press reports that Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has made the following absurd claim about 9/11:
Four or five years ago, a suspicious event occurred in New York. A building collapsed and they said that 3,000 people had been killed but never published their names.

The AP article goes on to observe:
On the last anniversary of the attacks, the names of 2,750 victims killed in New York were read aloud at a memorial ceremony.

That list of victims is public information and widely available, a simple Google search turned up this site where the names are available and I daresay the New York Times has published a similar list.

I wonder how widely Ahmadinejad is believed? There are two ways to view what he said: he is lying or delusional.

One is reminded of former Senator Bob Kerrey's characterization of Bill Clinton as "an uncommonly good liar." Taken to task for criticizing a fellow Democrat, Kerrey protested that in fact he meant it as a compliment, adding that fluent lying is a very useful skill for a politician. Ahmadinejad is a certainly a politician, perhaps he believes he has this skill. Humorists say you can tell if politicians are lying...their lips are moving.

Alternatively, he is delusional, out of touch with reality. Not a nice thought about someone who will have nuclear weapons at his disposal one day soon. Ahmadinejad talks like the Muslim equivalent of our Christian end times enthusiasts. What you don't want to hear from such folks when they control a nuke is "bring it on."

Monday, April 14, 2008

Iraq War Sitrep

This article by Michael Yon is the best thing I've read about the Iraqi War in the last several months. Yon has been there forever, seen it all, and has no political axes to grind. He is cautiously optimistic and you will be too when you read it, as you should.

He contrasts the upbeat facts on the ground with the downbeat tone of the recent Senatorial hearings featuring 3 presidential candidates, among others, and our two main guys in theater: Petraeus and Crocker. Here is his conclusion:
We know now that we can pull off a successful counterinsurgency in Iraq. We know that we are working with an increasingly willing citizenry. But counterinsurgency, like community policing, requires lots of boots on the ground. You can't do it from inside a jet or a tank.

Over the past 15 months, we have proved that we can win this war. We stand now at the moment of truth. Victory – and a democracy in the Arab world – is within our grasp. But it could yet slip away if our leaders remain transfixed by the war we almost lost, rather than focusing on the war we are winning today.

More on "Bitter"

James Taranto, writing in The Wall Street Journal online, has the best two sentence put down of Obama's "bitter" comment I've yet seen:
In Barack Obama's America, rich people who vote on cultural issues rather than economic self-interest are principled and self-sacrificing. People of more modest means who do so are credulous and bitter.

Ain't it the truth...once again demonstrating the truth of an adage I learned in Washington 30 years ago:
Where you stand is determined by where you sit.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Quote of the Day

Our 30 year old guide Juanito, aka "Johnny," talking to our group in the Amazon basin of Peru, said something incorrect and immediately corrected himself, explaining:
I had a junior moment.

Well, why not? His spontaneous, done-in-a-second-language burlesque of "senior moment" is my quote of the day.

Obama's Tin Ear

Barack Obama made the following comments at a private meeting with supporters in Marin County, CA:
You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them," Obama said. "And they fell through the Clinton Administration, and the Bush Administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.

As a piece of sociological analysis it isn't bad, it may even be accurate. A near-perfect thing for a new doctoral graduate to say when being interviewed for a position as Assistant Professor of Sociology, Anthropology, or Political Science. Bill Kristol here points out the Marxist roots of such thinking, there is a lot of nostalgia for Marx in many university faculty.

As a comment by a Democrat, trying to garner the votes of small town blue collar workers and their families, it is a flaming disaster. I do believe BO has a tin ear.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

No Right to Disagree (or Win)

During the heyday of Communism, the Party argued that it represented the will of all the working people. Since this representation was axiomatic, other political parties could not be allowed to exist because (a) to the extent that their philosophy differed, to that extent they did not represent the working people, and (b) to the extent that their philosophy was the same, they were not needed since those viewpoints were already represented in society by the Communist Party.

Of course, the logical fallacy is at the beginning: Communism did not represent the will of all working people, although it clearly represented some. For that reason, every statement that followed the fallacy was likewise incorrect.

Enough history lesson, what is my point? I see an analogy to the present political climate in the United States. Our lunatic left, particularly as represented in the more extreme rantings on the web, takes the view that any election they don't win is, by definition, illegitimate. Like the Roman Catholic Church during the Spanish Inquisition, they believe that what they define as error has no rights. To the lunatic left, that a majority of voters might vote for a non-left candidate is inexplicable without recourse to accusations of stupidity, duplicity or insanity. In other words, the only good election is one they win; whether the process be clean or dirty means nothing.

On the other hand, I fully understand that circumstances may influence intelligent, sane individuals to vote for liberals on occasion. For example, the election of FDR in 1932 and reelection in 1936 is entirely understandable. The Great Depression was enough to make Democrats out of a lot of folks. As a conservative, I may not like the outcome, but I do understand it and don't view such elections as illegitimate. Our political system works best when no party monopolizes the levers of power for very long.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Farewell to Peru

Trip is about ended, our plane is waiting. The trip has been exhausting but fun. Machu Picchu is very beautiful, as well as being extremely interesting . I expected the "interesting" but was surprised by the "beautiful" part. It exists in a cloud forest where it rains a lot. We were there two days, the first had beautiful weather, second rained on us till we were soaked. We were lucky to have one good day. The train trip into the site on a very modern narrow gauge railroad was great too. All in all, an amazing trip. Starting Saturday, we are back to our usual "politics and more" format. Adios for now, amigos.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Brooks on McCain

Read David Brook´s summary of John McCain´s foreign policy views in the New York Times, going back 25 years. This impressive article points out that foreign policy ala McCain, if it happens, will be very different than foreign policy ala Bush. His conclusion:
Anybody who thinks McCain is merely continuing the Bush agenda is not paying attention.

Gasping for Air in Cuzco

Don´t let anyone tell you altitude sickness is a myth, it isn´t. Every year I spend several months a year at 6300 ft elevation with no ill effects and figured I´d have no trouble with Cuzco´s 10,000+ ft. Wrong. I spend yesterday fighting a killer headache and traveller´s tummy. For some this would be unmemorable, I don´t have a headache more often than every 2-3 years. Tomorrow it is on to Machu Picchu, then the next day back here to Cuzco before returning to Lima and then home.

We spent nearly a week cruising 400 miles on the upper Amazon River out of Iquitos, Peru. This was an amazing experience. Our "ship" was the La Aquamarina, run by Jungle Expeditions based in Iquitos. Actually the boat was comfortable, the food was good, and the crew were great; the quote marks around ship reflect the fact that she was no cruise liner. In fact she looked like the river boat she is, low freeboard and shallow draft. There were 20 passengers and about 15 crew and expedition staff, all locals. Each passenger couple had a stateroom with bath and there were an excellent indoor dining room and outdoor covered patio/bar.

This part of Peru is a world of water, particularly at this time of year (high water is usually reached in May). We got rained on plenty, once we were all soaked to the skin in spite of rubberized ponchos with hoods. Some small boat rides had to be rescheduled because of weather, flexibility was the watch word. We saw bunches of neat birds, river dolphins both grey and pink, a huge anaconda snake maybe 15 feet long and bigger around than a firehose, sloths, bats, boa constrictors, turtles, iguanas, and of course the local people, called Riberños, meaning people of the riverbank.

The locals are people of small stature, fit, and for the most part happy with their lives. They don´t have much material wealth but the countryside supports them with a combination of hunter-gatherer and agricultural lifestyles. Only the larger towns have electricity, nobody has TV but DVDs are in some use, radio does reach them and mp3 players are used. Cell phones only work in the two largest towns, short wave radio does exist in some few places. Houses are built on stilts, just above the highwater line, everybody has a dugout canoe and some larger boats exist. High status is conferred by owning an outboard motor or having front teeth capped in gold. The machete is called "my second wife" and is always at hand.

Peru is a nominally Catholic country but shamans provide much of the spiritual and medical support for the people. We met one and he was an oddly charismatic guy. Our guide described his people as animists, believers in everything having a spirit. He and our naturalist are planning a book on the shaman we met, that should be interesting. One of the shaman´s major instruments is a hallucinogin, not surprising in a country where everybody drinks coca tea. Yes, that coca, the one cocaine is made from. Coca tea tastes like something made from steeping bamboo in hot water, not terrible but not very interesting either. You spoon the leaves out of your cup and drink the resulting infusion, and I guess you could chew the leaves for additional stimulus if you don´t expect to have to pass a drug test anytime soon.

The other DrC and I will be home soon, and actually be there for a couple of months this time. I´m ready to be home, we´ve been "on the road or on the briny" for most of the past seven months. We should be back to geopolitical blogging by the end of the week.