Monday, June 30, 2008

Malapropism of the Day

B. Hussein Obama, speaking of his wife Michelle, to Ed Gordon of Black Enterprise:
The only thing I thing that we want to make sure of is that when she's attacked, she's defended, because of the other side hasn't had quorums about trying to mischaracterize her or attack her in ways that I find very offensive.

I'm pretty sure he meant "qualms" instead of "quorums."

Viva Bolivia

More good news from regional elections in Bolivia. The anti-Morales gubernatorial candidate in Chuquisaca province won handily, see this Reuters article for details.

Leftist President Evo Morales has ordered a blanket recall election on August 10, at which time he and all nine provincial governors could be recalled. Opinion in the country seems to be moving against Morales, which is good news for Bolivia and the U.S., and bad news for Morales and his buddies Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Raul Castro of Cuba.

Our last post on unfolding events in Bolivia was on June 22.

Good News

Americans are essentially optimistic about life in the United States, according to a recent Rasmussen Poll reported in this Washington Times article. Here are the key grafs, which quote Rasmussen:
It found that a majority - 55 percent - believe "that just about anyone who really wants to work can find a job in the United States." Less than a third disagreed with the idea.

"By a similar margin, 54 percent to 28 percent, Americans believe that just about anyone brought up in poverty can achieve a middle class lifestyle."

So...gasoline prices are up, housing values are down, and the political fortunes of the party of the successful - the Republicans - are said to be bleak. However, the opinions expressed in this poll by majorities are basic tenets of Republican belief, viewed as arrant nonsense by Democrats.

Is there a ray of hope here? Maybe Republican candidates who focus on these themes will find that majorities of voters will agree with them.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Al Gore Loses Again

We see here an article in the Herald Sun of Melbourne, Australia, summarizing the results of an astronomical study of the sun which finds we are in for a period of global cooling. Here is the key graf, which says of the study:
It supports the contention that the level of activity on the Sun will significantly diminish sometime in the next decade and remain low for about 20 - 30 years. On each occasion that the Sun has done this in the past the World’s mean temperature has dropped by ~ 1 - 2 C.

Talk about bad luck, poor Al Gore always ends up on the wrong side.

Covert Ops in Iran

Seymour M. Hersh, writing in The New Yorker, does a very interesting, long discussion of the state of special operations conducted by the U.S. inside Iran. Be warned, the article is short on details of actual operations (as it should be) and long on the politics of conducting such operations. He expends considerable space on the conflicts between the White House and various Pentagon poobahs.

In summary, our special ops activities in Iran are mostly of two sorts: first, the trouble-making kind, assisting folks who live there who'd like to raise hell with the government, or with the majority Persians. Second, the collection of intelligence, particularly with respect to Iran's nuclear program.

One thing the article makes clear, the U.S. is operating out of a time-honored model: the enemy of my enemy is my friend (at least for now). As we did when the Soviets controlled Afghanistan, we are supporting Sunni extremists in Iran because they oppose the Shia government in power. Such tactics are nothing new, Roosevelt made common cause with Joe Stalin when we needed to beat Hitler. Some of the folks we are aiding are probably not much different than al Qaida in either philosophy or tactics, but for now they differ in targets. And yes, we will probably switch from being their supporter to being their enemy if the Iranian mad mullahs are eventually overthrown.

I find interesting that Hersh makes absolutely no mention of Israel in the discussion of a possible air strike against Iranian nuclear sites. My guess is that any such strike will be carried out by Israel, not the U.S. Israel has already carried out such strikes against nuclear facilities in Saddam's Iraq and recently, Syria.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Campaign Humor

From Mike Allen's Playbook of June 26 on the Politico website:

DAVID LETTERMAN compares the candidates:

John McCain frequently consults with General David Petraeus.
Barack Obama frequently consults with Scarlett Johansson.

Barack Obama makes people think of JFK.
John McCain makes people think of AARP.

I'd call that equally insulting to both candidates. Come to think of it, didn't JFK "consult" with Marilyn Monroe and woo some mobster's moll in the White House?

Quote of the Day

Our quote today come from a recent column by Wall Street Journal Deputy Editorial Page Editor Daniel Henninger. He writes about Obama's appeal:
Barack Obama is the Hey-Jude candidate, the man who somehow will "make it better."

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Gotcha of the Day

Britt Hume, anchor of Fox News' serious news program, reporting on an Obama TV ad:
Barack Obama's first general election ad says, about 46 seconds in, that the Illinois senator passed laws that "extended health care for wounded troops who'd been neglected." The ad "Country I Love", which was released Friday, provides a citation at the bottom of the screen which reads "Public Law 110 - 181."

As Hume notes, Senator Obama never voted for that legislation. Public Law 110 - 181 is part of the defense authorization bill. The bill passed by a vote of 91 to three with six senators not voting. Barack Obama was one of those six absent senators.

The old B-School prof says lying on your resume' is shoddy practice favored by con artists and losers - those with very scanty accomplishments. Yes...scanty accomplishments indeed.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Communist Era Humor

See this article in the London Times online for ten choice examples of humor from the Soviet era. Here is a sample to whet your appetite:

Q. Why do the KGB operate in groups of three?
A. One can read, one can write and one to keep an eye on the two intellectuals.

Brooks Defends Bush, Cheney

The New York Times' house conservative David Brooks (actually one of two, now joined by Bill Kristol), writes an interesting defense of President Bush and Vice President Cheney with respect to the success of the troop surge in Iraq. His key point is this:
The whole episode is a reminder that history is a complicated thing. The traits that lead to disaster in certain circumstances are the very ones that come in handy in others. The people who seem so smart at some moments seem incredibly foolish in others.

The point Brooks doesn't emphasize is that the pre-surge policy of too few troops was also a Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld policy. Bush, let us remember, opposed the surge before he was for it. John McCain, on the other hand, has been advocating the surge since 2003.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Bubba Wastes No Time

Wife Hillary won't be the next President. No longer required to behave himself, it appears former President Bill Clinton is flaunting his relationship with some (as yet unidentified) new, young woman. See the Edmonton Sun photo here, taken on Friday, June 20, 2008, in Alberta, Canada, where he was delivering a lecture.

Of course, the photo could be the result of digital manipulation, essentially a composite. On the other hand, given Bill Clinton's track record with women it is probably the real McCoy.

Kristol on Anti-McCain Ad

See Bill Kristol's New York Times column concerning a anti-McCain ad that is running in several markets. He does a nice job of deconstructing it. His larger point is a good one: the anti-military bias of the political left in the U.S. continues to be a problem for (a) the Democratic Party and (b) the rest of us.

Quote of the Day

ABC News reporter Jake Tapper's blog relays that his colleague Christianne Klein heard former White House insider Karl Rove say the following about B. Hussein Obama:
Even if you never met him, you know this guy. He's the guy at the country club with the beautiful date, holding a martini and a cigarette that stands against the wall and makes snide comments about everyone who passes by.

Now that is a picture of cool arrogance.

Religion in the U.S.

Conventional wisdom says the U.S. is an unusually religious developed country. This New York Times article reports survey results from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life which examine the current state of religion in the U.S.

Key findings include high levels of religious tolerance and a rapidly growing group of people unaffiliated with any church. Perhaps the most interesting finding is that fully 1/4 of Americans are no longer affiliated with the faith of their childhood, having changed churches or become unaffiliated.

The oddest finding is that substantial numbers of self-identified atheists and agnostics believe in God. I can imagine agnostics believing in a God who does not want to be worshipped, but what is up with the 20% of atheists who believe in God? That is like vegetarians eating meat or teetotallers drinking booze.

Come November these clueless people will get to vote just like you will, scary isn't it?

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Cry for Argentina

Mary Anastasia O'Grady regularly writes about Latin America for The Wall Street Journal. In this article she writes about all that has gone wrong in Argentina, a country that should be rich but is instead semi-poor.

Argentina has rich land, few indigenous tribes, great natural resources, excellent ports, educated citizens, great tourist draw, and a healthy (i.e., non-tropical, for the most part) climate. In short, it has everything you could ask for to make it economically successful. Everything, that is, except political sanity. And because of that one shortcoming, it is in her words, "a basket case." Her dreary view is widely shared by sympathetic observers.

She sees similarities between what has been done to destroy the Argentine economy and what an Obama government will propose for the U.S. She may or may not be right about that prediction. Her discussion of the precision with which Argentine leaders continue to shoot their country in both feet is worth your time. Toxic welfare state politics can ruin a country, and Argentina is a case study of this sad truth.

More Internal Dissent in Bolivia

This NBC News article reports that a fourth Bolivian state, Tarija in the eastern lowlands, has voted to establish autonomy from the central government of President Evo Morales in La Paz. The first state to so vote was the Santa Cruz state, a vote that was cited in this blog on May 5, 2008. The states of Beni and Pando voted for autonomy on June 1, 2008.

Morales is an Aymara Indian and his political constituency is the native peoples of Andean Bolivia. In the eastern lowlands, where the population is more European and less poor, the socialist income transfer and agrarian reform policies of Morales are far from popular.

One could easily imagine a separatist movement in eastern Bolivia which, if successful, would leave the Andean part of the country destitute, except for tourist revenues. Interesting things are happening in Bolivia, mostly under the radar of international attention.

Change Not Always Good

The presidential campaigns this cycle have talked a lot about change, and how we need change in the U.S. Let us stipulate that this is an imperfect society that can be improved, so some changes may be good.

If you've traveled abroad recently, as the DrsC have on several occasions, you also know that for all its faults, the U.S. is still for most of us the safest, most comfortable place on the planet. The water is drinkable, the police don't need bribing, you can get a decent burger and fries, and the gasoline is still some of the cheapest in the developed world. And, if you've found another place you like better, there is no requirement that you must stay here.

In short, things here could be a lot worse. In most places around the globe they are worse. When someone offers you change, you need to ask "Okay, what do you propose to change and will I like the new reality better than the present one?" The devil, as they say, is in the details.

"Change, with no details given" as a political platform only makes sense if you believe your life cannot be worse off than it is now. That condition is true for vanishingly few Americans.

Could our lives be better? Sure. Do you believe a politician can make that happen? The odds are against it. Could our lives be worse? Sure. Do you believe a politician can make that happen? The odds favor this unhappy outcome.

So when some candidate offers you change, ask what change and why he (or she) believes it can be accomplished. Scepticism with regard to campaign rhetoric is highly desirable.

The Kyoto Treaty Explained

Canadian journalist Lorrie Goldstein, explains in the Toronto Sun what is going on with the Kyoto Treaty, who wrote it, why they did what they did, and how they benefit from it at our expense, should the U.S. be so misguided as to approve it. For example:

Most politicians don't know what the Kyoto accord says. They think it's an environmental treaty. It's not. It's an economic treaty.

Its purpose is not to reduce GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions -- under it GHG emissions are guaranteed to rise. Kyoto is a United Nations treaty designed to transfer wealth from the developed world to the developing world by charging the developed world for the right to emit carbon. That's hardly surprising given that wealth redistribution from rich nations to poor ones is the goal of most countries belonging to the UN.

Goldstein shows how Europe basically wrote the treaty to take advantage of the implosion of the Soviet Union with its collapse of economic activity making Europe look good carbon emissions-wise.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Peru Shivers

The Peruvian Times reports as follows:

Peru President Alan Garcia enacted a legislative decree to declare a 60-day state of emergency in 11 of Peru’s 24 departments Thursday as temperatures in the Andes region continue to drop dramatically and claim the lives of residents. As Peru remains in the grip of intense cold — meteorologists have registered temperatures dipping to -22°C, or 7.60 F — the cold weather death toll continues to rise. Sixty-one children have died since April 13.

The article characterizes these temperatures as "record-breaking." Now help me remember...aren't we in the throes of global warming?
Al Gore could not be reached for comment on this story.

Quote of the Day

Jack Kelly, writing in the Toledo Blade, talking about Senator McCain's need to change his mind and support drilling in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge as well as on the continental shelf:
You'll have to eat some crow. But crow doesn't taste so bad if it's served on the White House china.

That is a nice turn of phrase.

Crime, Imprisonment Inversely Related

Since the death of Bill Buckley, George Will now is the grand old man of conservative opinion journalism. In this article from the Washington Post, Will looks at the good that has come from locking up a gazillion career criminals for relatively long stretches. Will writes:
James Q. Wilson, America's premier social scientist, notes that "the typical criminal commits from 12 to 16 crimes a year (not counting drug offenses)" and says that 10 years of scholarly studies "have shown that states that sent a higher fraction of convicts to prison had lower rates of crime, even after controlling for all of the other ways -- poverty, urbanization, and the proportion of young men in the population -- that the states differed. A high risk of punishment reduces crime. Deterrence works."

Is incarceration a deterrent to potential wrongdoers in society, or does it simply take proven malefactors out of society or both? Whichever...this is a worthwhile article. Pretty clearly the "three strikes" laws have done a world of good.

Friday, June 20, 2008

All About Miss Peggy

This blog frequently links to columns by Peggy Noonan, former Reagan speech writer who has for some years done a weekly column for the Wall Street Journal. She is sometimes overly sentimental, and sometimes obsessed with Roman Catholicism and papal leaders. However, she is often very good indeed when she sticks to domestic politics, and it is to those columns that this blog often provides links.

Now Jacob Bernstein has done a column, and a long one, about Peggy Noonan, and it appears in the website of Women's Wear Daily. The article is accompanied by a photo of Peggy which does her justice. If you find her insights interesting, you may find this article which profiles her life and career interesting as well.

Brooks on Obama, Again

David Brooks of the New York Times does a brutal number on Barack Obama, you should really check it out. The following will give you the flavor of his discussion:
Barack Obama is the most split-personality politician in the country today. On the one hand, there is Dr. Barack, the high-minded, Niebuhr-quoting speechifier who spent this past winter thrilling the Scarlett Johansson set and feeling the fierce urgency of now. But then on the other side, there’s Fast Eddie Obama, the promise-breaking, tough-minded Chicago pol who’d throw you under the truck for votes.

Go read the whole thing, this is Brooks on his game.

Quote of the Day

Our quote of the day comes from a commencement speech given by legendary supply-side economist Arthur Laffer at Mercer University which is reprinted in the Wall Street Journal. Laffer cites a 1963 speech by President John F. Kennedy. According to Laffer, JFK said:
No American is ever made better off by pulling a fellow American down, and all of us are made better off whenever any one of us is made better off.

Kennedy concluded by using the analogy that "a rising tide raises all boats."

How I miss the days when a Democrat could say something sensible about economics, something that didn't involve class warfare. I do tire of their "soak the rich" rhetoric where "rich" is defined as anyone not eligible for food stamps.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Israel Rehearses Iran Attack

The New York Times reports that Israel has carried out a dress rehearsal of an aerial attack on Iran's nuclear enrichment facilities. According to the article, the IDF flew F-15 and F-16 fighter bombers a distance equivalent to the round trip to Natanz, Iran. Aerial tankers and rescue helicopters also participated in the exercise.

On Monday, June 16, 2008, this blog linked to an article which predicted an Israeli air attack on Iran's nuclear facilities before year's end. Now we learn that Israel has done a rehearsal. I'd guess the lads in Tehran are beginning to get nervous.

That Iranian nervousness helps explain why their client Hamas has signed a 6 month ceasefire with Israel. It is no coincidence that 6 months is about the time left between now and the end both of the year and the Bush administration. Metaphorically speaking, that ceasefire is Iran offering Israel a conditional carrot in the hope of staving off the Israeli stick.

This situation puts me in mind of Prussian King Frederick the Great, speaking about relationships between nations:

Diplomacy without arms is like music without instruments.

The music I hear is the Tel Aviv Symphony playing Iranian President Ahmadinejad's song.

Odd Happenings in Nicaragua

See this Washington Post article concerning strange bureaucratic goings-on in Nicaragua. Perhaps Danny Ortega is no more committed to democracy than was Somoza, the corrupt dictator whose overthrow he helped engineer.

In addition to the machinations detailed in the article, Ortega is snuggling up to Venezuela's Chavez and Bolivia's Morales, in addition to his long attachment to the brothers Castro in Cuba. None of these individuals are friends of the U.S.

A Heads-up for Managers

This New York Times article reports a 7-1 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to put the burden of proof on employers, not employees, in age discrimination cases. The Court concluded that had been the intent of the Congress in writing the law, which covers employees who are 40 or more years of age.

The bottom line for managers: if you do something that can be interpreted as "adverse" to a covered employee, you'd better be able to prove you had good business reasons for the move that were unrelated to the employee's age. Before firing, laying off, demoting, transferring, reassigning or passing over for promotion a covered worker, ask yourself this question: "Can I prove in court that this action was unrelated to the employee's age?" Sympathy, to the extent it exists, is likely to be for your employee, not for you.

It is not sufficient to know you've acted for reasons unrelated to age. You need to be able to prove to a Federal court that you acted for such reasons. Your human resources professionals will be able to assist you and a paper trail of accumulated evidence of employee malfeasance or poor performance which has been shared with the employee as it happened will definitely help.

Good luck....

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Quote of the Day

Jake Tapper, reporting for ABC News, quotes Senator B. Hussein Obama on the topic of school vouchers. Obama, whose two daughters attend private schools, says he opposes school vouchers for the following reason:
What I don't want to do is to see a diminished commitment to the public schools to the point where all we have are the hardest-to-teach kids with the least involved parents with the most disabilities in the public schools. That's going to make things worse, and we're going to lose the commitment to public schools that I think have been so important to building this country.

Time to wake up and smell the coffee, Senator. That is exactly what we have now in many parts of the country, particularly the urban areas. From where he sends his own children, it would appear that he knows this to be true, even while he deplores it.

On September 1, 2007, this blog cited an article which reports that urban public school teachers are much more likely to send their children to private schools than non-teacher parents in their cities. Who knows better than the public school teachers that children one cares about probably should not attend urban public schools.

Strange Brew

Anne E. Kornblut of The Washington Post is reporting that the Obama campaign has picked Patti Solis Doyle, formerly a Clinton campaign manager, as the chief of staff to the as-yet-unnamed vice presidential nominee. Solis Doyle left the Clinton campaign under a cloud, and isn't popular with the Clintonistas.

Kornblut reports how offended the Clintons are about this selection. She says they take it as a signal that BHO will not select Clinton as his vice president nominee. That seems true enough but maybe not the whole story.

I read this selection differently. Wearing my management professor hat, I ask what kind of control freak executive would select the primary subordinate of an as-yet-unselected junior associate, giving that junior associate no say in the matter? If this is truly the case, it is bizarre management behavior. Furthermore, it does not fit with the descriptions of BHO's delegation leadership style that have appeared recently in the MSM.

On the other hand, I think it likely that BHO has already selected his VP nominee and made the appointment with his or her approval. However, for tactical reasons he chooses not to announce the identity of his VP nominee at this time.

A third possibility is that Solis Doyle's "appointment" is a sham, announced merely to tell Clinton to back off. Solis Doyle may end up with other duties if the eventual vice presidential nominee would prefer another chief of staff.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Israeli Attack on Iran Predicted

This article in Spiegel Online International lays out a rationale for predicting an Israeli air attack on Iran's nuclear program before the end of the year. The reasoning goes as follows: Israel cannot tolerate a nuclear-armed Iran. Israel believes diplomacy and sanctions have failed utterly. The U.S. won't bomb the Iranian nuclear facilities. Israel needs the tacit acquiescence of the U.S. to carry out the bombing, and won't have it after a new President takes office. Therefore, Israel will bomb Iranian nuclear facilities before the end of 2008.

I don't know whether the article's reasoning is accurate or not, but it surely is plausible. Iran's reaction is likely to be ugly, and possibly self-destructive.

The Bradley Effect Analyzed

See this New York Post article in which the author has interviewed leading political pollsters concerning the Bradley Effect. For those readers who aren't addicted to political arcana, the Bradley Effect is the tendency for opinion polls in advance of an election to overstate the size of the subsequent vote for African-American candidates.

Named for Mayor Tom Bradley of Los Angeles who ran unsuccessfully for governor of California, all the polls incorrectly predicted he would win. The effect has also been observed in other political contests featuring a black candidate.

Two reasons are put forward for the effect. The most common explanation is that when voters are asked for whom they plan to vote, a significant number believe they should say they will vote for the black candidate when they actually plan to vote for the white opponent.

The article reports Andrew Kohut, head of the Pew Research Center, has a different view:
Kohut's contention is not that white voters lie to pollsters, but that pollsters fail to fully capture the views of lower-income, working-class and elderly white voters who disproportionately refuse to participate in telephone surveys, even though they vote on Election Day.

Whoever is right, you will be hearing more about the Bradley Effect in the months between now and November.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Boumediene v. Bush

The Supreme Court has decided 5 to 4 that alien terrorists held in a foreign country, namely Cuba, by the U.S. have certain legal rights comparable to those of a U.S. citizen. An article concerning the implications can be seen here.

The case, Boumediene v. Bush, certainly represents a low point in the common sense application of law to problems facing our nation. What it does show is that five Supreme Court Justices have forgotten the lessons of 9/11 and no longer believe us to be "at war."

I suspect the short-term practical implication may be that in places like Afghanistan U.S. troops will be less willing to take prisoners and more willing to leave enemy combatants dead where encountered. Whether such behavior serves U.S. interests is less clear.

Ireland Nixes EU Treaty

This New York Times article reports the results of a referendum held in Ireland on the so-called Treaty of Lisbon, by which the European Union hoped to accomplish most of the things which would have resulted from the EU constitution which was rejected by the French and Dutch voters. By a modest margin, the Irish voters rejected the treaty and, because the EU now has to do everything by consensus, killed the treaty in the short run.

The EU has always been more popular with European political leaders than it has been with European voters. The obvious lesson in all this: "Eurocrats" in Brussels should put more imagination and energy into being popular with their constituencies.

Britain has been independent for nearly 1000 years, it was last successfully invaded in 1066. We shouldn't be surprised if Britons would not quickly sign away their sovereignty. Much more recently, the Irish fought hard for their independence and may not be ready to give it up.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Company He Keeps, Part II

No less a foreign policy pundit than the New York Times' Thomas Friedman writes that Obama is wildly popular with Egyptians:
This column will probably get Barack Obama in trouble, but that’s not my problem. I cannot tell a lie: Many Egyptians and other Arab Muslims really like him and hope that he wins the presidency.

Why, according to Friedman? Because Obama looks like them and shares their ethnic and religious background to some degree. One supposes the reverse is also true, that many Americans won't be thrilled about him because he doesn't look like them and doesn't share their ethnic and religious background. Go figure...which group gets to vote in U.S. elections?

Quotes of the Day

Today's first quote comes from ABC's The Note, a political online newsletter. In it Republican Party of Minnesota Chairman Ron Carey characterizes actor Alec Baldwin's endorsement of Democratic senate candidate Al Franken:
The man who calls his daughter a 'rotten little pig' in an obscenity laced phone call endorses the man who thinks drugging and raping women is funny.

That is the problem with Democrats, they are such refined, tasteful individuals.

The second quote is from a column about Michelle Obama, written by Michelle Malkin. The choice words are the column's title: "Barack Obama's Bitter Half."

Do you suppose it takes a Michelle to know a Michelle?

Global Cooling

See this article by Alan Caruba who writes a column for the Canada Free Press. He gives several examples of how we are actually headed into a period of cooling, perhaps culminating in another ice age. For example, he reports:
In April, approximately on hundred sealing ships were trapped in ice floes off the northeast coast of Newfoundland while they were participating in the annual seal hunt off Canada's easternmost province. It required the Canadian Coast Guard to rescue a number of the trapped vessels and their crews. However, at one point, an icebreaker sent to free them actually found itself trapped.

Then he summarizes some scientific opinion:
In May, meteorologist Anthony Watts issued a report on the way temperatures continue to cool. The new global data revealed a whopping three quarters of a degree Celsius drop in temperatures since January. Dr. Roy Spencer, formerly of NASA and now the principle (climate)research scientist at the University of Alabama, said that, “If you exclude the anomalous 1992 cooling from the Pinatubo volcano eruption, it’s the coolest May in 20 years.” Even the U.S. government, courtesy of NASA, has admitted that the Earth is now a decade into a cooling cycle and it is likely to last at least two or three more decades.

So, John McCain and Barack Obama, what is all this nonsense we hear from you about carbon footprints and fighting global warming?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Bursting The Oil Bubble

See this Fortune article by Shawn Tully on the CNN website entitled "Why Oil Prices Will Tank." A hat tip to Phyllis for alerting me to the article. Tully is predicting the price of oil will drop dramatically from where it is now. He argues:
High-flying tech stocks crashed. The roaring housing market crumbled. And oil, rest assured, will follow the same path down.

Then drawing parallels with the tech and housing booms that both collapsed, he concludes:
We've learned another important lesson from the housing market: The longer prices stay stratospheric, the worse the eventual crash - simply because the higher the prices and bigger the profit margins, the bigger the incentive to over-produce. It's even possible that, a few years hence, we could see a sustained period of plentiful oil supplies and low prices, meaning $50 or below.

I don't know if Tully is right, or wrong, but he sure is interesting and I suspect you join me in hoping he is right.

Travel Blogging, Concluded

The cruise ended Sunday back where we started in Seattle. We did Express Checkout where you take your own bags ashore - much faster but it does turn us into pack mules. The cruise parking operation in Seattle is run by Republic and is really slick: valet parking, they take your checked bags to the ship, and a covered walkway to the cruise terminal.

The drive south on I-5 has been interesting. We've seen a lot more RVs than we expected, given the high fuel prices. Lots of 5th wheel trailers pulled by pickups on the road, headed north. Quite a few Class A motorhomes, too. The weather did the classic "drive south" thing: overcast and gray through WA and OR until one reaches the CA border, then the sun comes out and the skies turn blue. It is just as I remember it from my grad school days at U of O in Eugene. I'd drive home to CA on vacations down I-5 and have that same experience time after time.

Weather in the northwest is traditionally overcast, gray and rainy. In the week we cruised north along the coasts of Canada and Alaska, we experienced roughly 26 hours of continuous clear skies - noon Thursday to 2 p.m. Friday. The rest of the time it was gray, gray, gray - not too much actual rain but threatening rain the whole time. The northwest is no place for someone with seasonal affective disorder or SAD (described here).

This time I remembered that OR won't let you pump your own fuel, but they do let you wash your own windows. Talk about your featherbedding operations, OR has thousands of people employed as pump jockeys, a job that no longer exists in most states. Good, old weird Oregon....

Monday, June 9, 2008

Travel Blogging, Continued

Thoughts about cruising to Alaska. It is no wonder that all of the major cruise lines run multiple ships on this route in the summertime. The waters are protected. Your exposure to the swells of the open Pacific Ocean is limited to a half day in each direction, the stretch north of Vancouver Island.

The ports of call are mostly in panhandle Alaska: Juneau, Skagway, Ketchikan, Haines. If the cruise starts in Seattle, it will make one stop in Canada as required by the Jones Act: Victoria, Vancouver, or perhaps Prince Rupert. If the cruise starts in Vancouver, it will automatically satisfy the requirements of the Jones Act (here is a description of the Jones Act).

For my money, the high point of the cruise is sailing the fjords of Glacier Bay National Park - spectacular scenery not unlike that in Antarctica. We had great weather, rain would have spoiled it. We were all out on the deck with cameras and binoculars, lovin' it.

The famous White Pass & Yukon RR scenic trip is a good 'un. The route was blasted out of the granite cliffs in less than 2 years, it is narrow gauge and the cars are old and charming. They don't run the steamer most of the time but that is only critical to true RR buffs, which the DrsC are not. We just took the trip to the summit and back; it is also possible to ride all the way to Whitehorse, capital of the Yukon Territory of Canada. It looks like that might take all day, or even longer which would be hard to do from a cruise ship as they tend to stay in port something like 8 to 5 or 9 to 7.

Some passengers expected the cruise to be through narrow channels most of the way where you could look at wildlife on the banks on either side. They were disappointed. The Inside Passage is wide and you won't be checking out a bear on the bank from a large cruise ship. One of the small ships, say 100 passengers or less, might take you much closer.

In some of the ports, the Norwegian Pearl was one of five ships there at the same time. Figure roughly 2000 passengers per ship, that means we dumped as many as 10,000 people into a town of less than 1000 year-round inhabitants. For some strange reason these tiny towns are saturated with jewelry stores - are cruise ship passengers well-known for jewelry purchases? We understand these stores are only open during the summer cruising season, then the personnel move to the Caribbean where they operate stores for the winter cruising season there. Strange business this.... If they had to rely on the DrsC for support, they'd be in another line of merchandise.

More Disturbing News

This post reflects two different Associated Press articles; one concerning declining crime rates for everybody except black males, the other concerning the very high genital herpes rate in New York City. These do not constitute good news.

It turns out that the overall violent crime rate is dropping, but the violent death rate among young black men continues to rise. This rise is masked by the decline within the larger population, of which African-Americans constitute perhaps 12%. I find it hard to believe that this increase in violent death is independent of the violence-drenched hip-hop, gangsta culture.

The other article talks about how one New York adult in four has genital herpes. That sounds terrible until you read further and learn that roughly one in five citizens of the U.S. has genital herpes. The source of this data is the city Health Department in New York.

The article adds that people with this disease are twice as likely to contract HIV/AIDS. One suspects that this correlation is not causal but rather evidence that both herpes and HIV are correlated with certain lifestyle choices.

The Wrong Argument

John McCain continues to argue "We're not going to round up 10 million people, my friends, and deport them immediately, we don't have the capacity to do so." (quote found here). This is a spurious argument, but not necessarily for the reasons given.

If we make it somewhere between difficult and impossible for illegal aliens to find and hold jobs in the U.S., they will (a) stop coming, and (b) go home. This we can do by requiring employers to check Social Security numbers against a government computer data base.

We may have to provide some assistance to those wishing to go home, but if there are no jobs they won't come back. All that then remains is to plug the "political refugee" loophole by placing the burden of proof on the alien and setting the bar somewhat high.

John McCain doesn't want to admit he was wrong when he coauthored a Senate bill to essentially legalize 10-12 million illegal aliens. He needs to get a clue, eat that crow, and move on.