Monday, September 22, 2008

The Bail Out Blues

Much effort will go into making political hay from the current Wall Street bail out. It is all pretty sad. The same political pond scum who coerced the financial system into making home loans to individuals who couldn't afford them are now trying to blame the folks who wanted traditional standards upheld. These creeps are absolutely shameless.

I hope the government bail out makes the banks and other holders write down the shaky loans to something like their real value before buying them at that steeply discounted price. If that happens, then there will be pain for the perpetrators as well as for us taxpayers. Unfortunately, experience has taught me not to be sanguine about this outcome.

Travel Blogging I

We are on Mykonos, the "high rent neighborhood" in the Greek Islands. The terrain here is as barren as the terrain around Phoenix or Tucson. The guide alleges that the name means "pile of rocks" and I can believe it. Yes, there are beaches; no, they don't compare with those in Hawaii. The architecture is crypto-pueblo, everything is whitewashed which is at least uniform.

I'd been expecting picturesque, this isn't even close. We've had an island tour, and we learn that new construction hereabouts would cost roughly 1/2 million U.S. dollars for 1100 square feet of vacation home. That makes sense in Aspen or Vail or Jackson or even Carmel, all of which are pretty places, not on Mykonos, which is not.

Istanbul was huge, not wonderful, just huge - something like 17 million inhabitants. We saw the requisite sights: Hagia Sofia, the blue mosque, the cistern featured in From Russian With Love, the Great Bazaar and suchlike. They were interesting, to be sure, but our general bias against huge cities was operational so we didn't love Istanbul. We did get talked into buying a carpet, something Turks have been doing for millenia.

The Internet cafe I'm sitting in now on Mykonos is smokey, many Europeans haven't yet gotten the word about quitting cigarettes. This is offensive, to say the least. Oh, well, my consolation is that almost everybody who is currently making me miserable is (too) slowly committing suicide.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


Guess who is one of the biggest recipients of lobbying $$ doled out by the now hurting Fanny Mae and Freddie Mac? Literally the second largest recipient is Barack Hussein Obama, Democratic presidential nominee and one term U.S. Senator. This piece on Fox News lays out some of the details.

If someone asks you who caused the problems on Wall Street, senators who took lots of lobbying $$ to go along with their shoddy practices have to be near the top of the list.

AIG Bailout

So...the government has bailed out AIG, the world's largest insurance firm. Apparently, it was deemed too big to fail without dragging down the entire economy.

There need to be penalties for mismanaging, and for the mismanagers' investors, too. I am happy to see that AIG's stockholders will have their equity diluted to roughly 20% of what it formerly was, as a consequence of this bailout. In this case the penalty is that the government ends up owning 80% of the firm, an equity stake which it will be unlikely to hold for long, I think.

This penalty should be large enough to forestall the occurrence of a so-called "moral hazard." That is, the temptation to act in a less-than-prudent fashion because the government won't let you fail.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Travel Blogging Alert

The DrsC will be traveling for the next 2.5 weeks, doing a cruise in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. Our ship will be the Norwegian Jade, I believe you can access her bow camera and get a look at where we'll be.

Most of our stops will be Greek islands. I expect them to look like the place where the exteriors for the film Mamma Mia were shot. If the opportunity presents itself, we will do some travel blogging.

Black Monday

The stock market tanked today, the Dow Industrials are down over 500 points, nearly 5%. Lehman Brothers is in Chapter 11 bankruptcy and Merrell Lynch has sold out to Bank of America. In addition, the biggest insurer in the U.S., a firm called American International Group, or AIG, is having serious difficulties.

You've heard that the problem with the financial institutions has been something called "subprime loans or mortgages." That is, mortgages made to borrowers who don't have good enough credit or enough down payment to get a usual mortgage. What the mainstream media has assidulously NOT been telling you is that these came about as a result of government policy, promulgated during the Clinton administration.

The Clintonians wanted to spread the benefits of home ownership to individuals who, because of bad credit or low income, didn't qualify for normal home loans. So they pushed Fanny and Freddie to make iffy loans, and other lenders too. It came under the heading of "equal opportunity lender" where firms had to keep track of how many loans they made to minorities and other individuals with shaky credit.

In order to meet quotas, or goals, firms made shaky loans, loans they would not otherwise have made. Of course, what we are now learning is that their previous, tough credit standards were the right ones after all.

People with low incomes or bad credit often cannot maintain the payments on a home, because they live close to the edge financially. An illness, a layoff, an expensive auto repair, or a marital split can easily push such individuals into default.

Add in an economic downturn, which naturally occurs in our market economy, and you get a wave of foreclosures and loan defaults. If a lender made too many of these, it won't survive. So...when somebody tries to tell you the troubles in the financial markets are Bush's fault, tell them no, it was Big, Bad Bubba Bill being big-hearted with other people's money.

Israel to Get Bunker Busters

The Associated Press reports the U.S. has agreed to sell Israel bunker-buster smart bombs. These bombs should be just the ticket for degrading Iranian nuclear facilities.

Drop 25 of these, mixed with a couple of tactical nukes fuzed for ground burst, and claim that the nuclear explosions are actually primitive Iranian weapons detonated by the Israeli high explosives. That scenario sounds, if not entirely plausible, at least possible. Those who want to believe will, and those who don't won't.

The Bush administration has created an interesting dilemma for the Democrat-controlled Congress. Congress has to approve the bomb sale. The Democrat's anti-war netroots will oppose the sale, but their many members who depend on the votes and contributions of American Jews to get reelected will want to approve it.

That is called sowing dissension in the ranks, or clever politics.

Foot-Shot of the Day

Bob Herbert, writing in The New York Times, says the following about Palin:
I’ve gotten the scary feeling, for the first time in my life, that dimwittedness is not just on the march in the U.S., but that it might actually prevail.
You'd better hope you are right, Bobby-bro. Your continued employment depends on liberal dimwittedness prevailing.

The way The Gray Lady's profits are falling, I feel semi-confident intoning this requiem: "Would the last person leaving The New York Times offices please turn out the lights?"

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Russia Experiences the Law of Karma

Russia was quick to support the independence movements in the Georgian provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Now certain Russian provinces in the Caucasus might seek independence from Russia, including Ingushetia, Dagestan, Tatarstan and Bashkiria. And of course the ever-popular Chechnya, where the Russian army practiced near-genocide against the far-from-peace-loving Islamic natives. This article in English from Deutsche-Welle has the story.

As the 1960s flower children used to say, "What goes around, comes around," or "you reap what you sow." Let's enjoy the schadenfreude.

Making Tom Friedman Stupid

In this article, New York Times columnist Tom Friedman argues that drilling for oil in the U.S. is "stupid." That we should instead put all our efforts into alternative energy sources.

I think Friedman misses a key point. We need to do both. It isn't an "either/or" proposition, it is a "both/and" proposition. As McCain and Palin have pointed out, we need to drill for U.S. oil and gas, and we need to work at top speed on alternative energy sources.

For the foreseeable future most of the U.S. is going to run on petroleum, because most of our infrastructure is designed to burn oil or gas, and nothing else. Not to drill is to keep sending our money to Arabs, Russians, Venezuelans and others who wish us ill; funding their international trouble-making with our dollars - clearly incredibly self-defeating.

At this point in U.S. history, drilling for domestic oil and gas is like taking out a construction loan when building a house. You get money to build the house and then refinance it into a regular home loan when the house is complete. We drill to get petroleum products to bridge us over to the point where we can do more with renewable/non-depleting resources.

Nobody seriously believes the U.S. has enough oil to keep us going indefinitely. It probably has enough to cover most of our needs for 10 years, during which time we must find alternatives and get them online.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Culture vs. Politics

Lee Siegel, writing for The Wall Street Journal, has done one of the most interesting, complex analyses of modern politics that I have seen. I won't try to summarize his arguments for you, except to highlight the following quote which states his premise:
Liberals always think that there is something broken in politics. Conservatives always think that there is something wrong with the culture.
Siegel argues that this disconnect works to the advantage of conservatives. The article isn't light reading, but I suspect the author has grasped a piece of the true situation.

Barone Explains OODA

Writing for RealClearPolitics, the always readable Michael Barone takes a concept we noted on August 30, fighter pilot John Boyd's OODA acronym for Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act and really makes it sit up and sing. Barone quotes long-time California Democratic leader Willie Brown:
The Republicans are now on offense, and Democrats are on defense.

Boyd's biographer writes of the OODA loop, used by an ace pilot:
The most amazing aspect of the OODA loop is that the losing side rarely understands what happened.
Barone makes a good case that the Obama people are having this "fog of war" experience now.

A Happy Thought

Jim Wooten, writing in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, has this to say about the evident Obama angst:
In this election, voters will decide early. Obama’s been in a yearlong campaign; McCain’s familiar. The two are sufficiently exposed and known for voters to make a decision now. It’s not over. But it’s getting there — and Obama knows it.
Ya gotta love an optimist.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Bolivian Brouhaha

Here are stories by the Chinese news agency Xinhua and the French news agency Agence France Presse concerning the deteriorating situation in Bolivia. Other nations in the region are rightly concerned. Betting against an eventual civil war might be a longshot at this point.

Beleaguered Bolivian President Evo Morales has accused the U.S. ambassador of fomenting the trouble. No outside observer believes the problem is caused by foreign trouble makers. Morales won't get the problem under control until he admits, to himself at least, that the problem is internal, caused by his own policies, and, in part, racial. The likelihood of him confronting this is minimal.


This evening I watched the Friday night edition of The News Hour with Jim Lehr, as I often do. The liberal line tonight, which they market with vigor, is that McCain is lying in his TV ads.

The News Hour's "house conservative," David Brooks of The New York Times, pointed out that Obama has also been less-than-scrupulous with the truth in his TV ads, and he gave examples. Brooks' point was that "everybody does it" and to paraphrase him, "politics ain't beanbag."

Nobody argued with Brooks but it is also true that nobody agreed with him. In fact, his assertion that Obama also exaggerates and lies was treated like polite society treats a belch or other crudity. That is, if we all pretend it didn't happen, then we don't have to deal with it.

PBS gave Bill Buckley a programmatic home for many years; a lonely outpost of conservative sanity in a sea of liberal party line. That was then; today PBS is all liberal all the time, the anti-Fox and proud of it.

Whoopi Goldberg, Former Slave?

Michelle Malkin reports that the always-tasteful Whoopi Goldberg, confronting John and Cindy McCain on the TV program "The View" asked:
Do you want me to be a slave again?

What is this "Again?" She'd have to be at least 143 years old to have lived as a slave. She's old, but not that old.

Come to think of it, how could anyone answer that question? It is an example of the "Have you stopped beating your wife?" genre of unanswerable questions.

The sort of funny answer you always think of after the fact might be: "I never wanted anybody to be a slave, but if you insist I could make an exception in your case." [rimshot] Actually, that sounds like a possible McCain line.

Wouldn't it be refreshing to have a president with a snide sense of humor? Obama exhibits the ponderous humorlessness of the cross-cultural person.

Quote of the Day

GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, speaking on ABC News of Obama's choice of Biden instead of Clinton:
I think he's regretting not picking her now, I do.

You and maybe 200 million other Americans agree about this particular Obama regret.

Gallup: Congress Looks Competitive

The Gallup polling organization reports that, for the first time in this election cycle, the number of people saying they'll vote Democratic and Republican in their congressional elections is close, 48% to 45%. The gap has been double digits in favor of Democrats up to this point.

Gallup attributes this gap closing to McCain's improved standing vis-a-vis Obama and increases in Republican party identification among voters. I suspect the reason for the increase is spelled P-A-L-I-N. Whatever, it is good (if highly preliminary) news for those who lean right.

News You Can Use

Think vertical stripes make you look thinner? Think again. This article in the U.K.'s TimesOnline reports research which shows that horizontal stripes are more slimming. As the article points out, vertical stripes are distorted by the bulges of the underlying body, horizontal stripes tend to avoid this distortion. I love research results like these that confound the conventional wisdom.

As one of the girth-challenged, I've believed "horizontal is better" for years. I am glad to be shown to be correct.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Venezuela Cuts Diplomatic Ties

The Washington Post reports President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, claiming solidarity with President Evo Morales of Bolivia, has broken diplomatic ties with the United States. He has given the U.S. ambassador 72 hours to leave the country, and recalled his own ambassador from Washington, D.C.

Chavez is the latest in a long line of tin-pot caudillos to emerge in Latin America. It would appear that he hopes to inherit the mantle of informal leader of the anti-American socialist movement from the aging Fidel Castro of Cuba.

Chavez claims he will restore diplomatic relations if and when the U.S. has a government that respects the people of Latin America. One supposes he means an Obama government. Having no diplomatic relations with the U.S. should make it more difficult for Chavez to distribute low-cost heating oil to the socialists of Vermont.

Quote of the Day II

James Taranto, writing in his Best of the Web blog for The Wall Street Journal:
It may well be that when American interests and those of other countries diverge, McCain is more inclined than Obama to put his own country first. If "the world" prefers Obama to McCain, that may be a perfectly rational reason for Americans to prefer McCain.
Particularly for the vast majority of Americans who rarely or never travel abroad.

Media Bias

Voters don't like war. Knowing this, the Associated Press headlined an article concerning an interview of GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin by ABC News' Charles Gibson:
Palin leaves open option of war with Russia.

If you read the article you learn that she was simply revealing a knowledge of how NATO works. Namely, if any NATO member nation is attacked, all other members are required by treaty to go to their military assistance. Asked if that would require the U.S. to go to war with Russia in the event that Georgia becomes a NATO member and is attacked by Russia, she said "Perhaps so."

Well...duh! Another equally valid title for the same article would have been:
Palin demonstrates knowledge of NATO rules.

Oops, that would have made her look good. Whereas the title they chose made her look bad, particularly to people who don't then read the article.

Can there be any question in a reasonable person's mind that the Associated Press is biased? That they've selected their favorite (Obama) and are doing whatever they can to help him get elected?

Time was when the AP made a pretty good stab at being even-handed. This degree of bias is relatively recent, say, the last 3 election cycles.

When roughly half the population backs each candidate, it is a simply self-defeating business practice to be clearly backing one of them. By doing so the organization ends up ticking off half of their potential readers - not smart. The New York Times has made the same mistake, to its detriment.

Never Forget

Today is the seventh anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Towers and the Pentagon, and the failed attack that crashed in a Pennsylvania field. Many died, many more were shown to be heroes.

There have been no successful attacks in the United States since 9/11. In those intervening seven years much has transpired, many other issues now compete for our attention and energies. It is important not to forget the atrocity that was September 11, 2001.

We must continue to pursue those responsible, and their mentors and associates, to the ends of the earth, if necessary. To pursue them and to eradicate them root and branch.

The outcome of the ongoing presidential election will have a marked impact on our ability to fight and win this struggle. When you vote, remember 9/11 and make your vote count.

Quote of the Day I

Gail Collins, writing in The New York Times:
McCain, by the way, is the Republican nominee for president. You may remember him from the Sarah Palin convention in Minneapolis, where he gave a speech and was congratulated by Sarah Palin.

The Islamic Doctrine of War

Read this National Review Online article about Islamic doctrine vis-a-vis warfare. Particularly relevant are the aspects devoted to deception and deceit.

McCain Now Has Big Mo

I believe it was the first President Bush who made famous the circumlocution "the big Mo" to refer to having an edge in momentum. Certainly in the last week or two we have seen the possession of the "momentum edge" pass from B. Hussein Obama to John McCain.

Pretty clearly the factor to which we look for an explanation of this transfer is the appointment of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as vice presidential nominee. Talk about a game-changing appointment! My guess is that even McCain had no idea what a phenomenon she would turn out to be.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Bolivia in Downward Spiral

This Bloomberg article reports that Bolivia has declared the United States ambassador "persona non grata," meaning he is no longer welcome in the country. At this point the U.S. State Department, of which ambassadors are the in-country representatives, has not announced whether a replacement will be named for Ambassador Philip Goldberg.

Typically, the next step would be for the U.S. to eject the Bolivian ambassador leaving open the possibility that relations between the two nations will be downgraded from "embassy" status to "mission" status or perhaps even to the withdrawal of diplomatic recognition altogether.

The step already taken represents a further deterioration in U.S.-Bolivian relations, and a sign that the Bolivian central government is moving away from the normal functioning patterns of sovereign states. Such behavior may well provide a casus belli for the lowland eastern provinces that are already considering separation from the Andean core.

Putin, Obama Popular in Russia

This Reuters article reports that Putin and Obama are popular with Russians. The other DrC and I were in Russia 16 months ago. Putin was certainly popular with the Russians with whom we spoke. Obama wasn't yet an issue, but Putin certainly was and "the Russian in the street" likes Putin a lot.

We asked questions about Putin's popularity without being argumentative or negative. What we heard was that, compared with the Soviet leaders and later Yeltsin, Putin was a young, physically fit nationalist, and an enemy of the so-called "oligarchs," the hyperwealthy who've cornered most of Russia's riches. The Russians view him as a sort of Teddy Roosevelt figure, vigorous and a trust-buster.

Putin gets mostly negative press in the U.S. Perhaps that is to be expected, and may be justified. However, Americans should not mislead themselves into believing that Putin has a negative image in Russia. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Quote of the Day II

John McCain, as reported by ABC News:
You know, a few days ago, Sen. Obama said he challenged me to a duel. I’m for light sabers as the weapon of choice.
I can see McCain as an old Jedi; he has that kind of honor. Who does that make Obama?

Quote of the Day I

Bonnie Erbe, writing for the Scripps Howard News Service, here asks a question about Democrats' current slippage among women that makes much sense:
When they nominated an inexperienced, far-left candidate for president on the Democratic ticket, did they expect white mainstream women, particularly white married women, to stick with them?
As Erbe points out, while women as a whole tend to vote Democratic, white women are less likely to do so and married white women tend to vote Republican.

One could have some fun speculating on why various demographic groups vote as they do. I'd guess it mostly boils down to self-interest, to "what's in it for me."

California = Argentina?

We've written here about the way poisonous politics have hamstrung Argentina, a country that based on resources should have it all, but doesn't. My native state, California, seems to be heading in the same direction.

In so many ways California could be said to have it all: great scenery, mild weather, coastal location with seaports, rich agriculture, world-class universities, even oil. And yet, the politicians in Sacramento, the capital, seem to be disfunctional, not unlike those of Argentina.

How sad that a place with so much to offer is so screwed up. Join me for a chorus of "I'll cry for thee, California" (sung to the tune of "Don't cry for me, Argentina," from Evita).

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

World Wants Obama

This ABC News story reports a poll that finds the world wants the U.S. to elect Barack Obama or, as they put it, "the world wants Obama." Isn't that thoughtful of them? It suggests a perfect solution.

I think we should give the world what they want. We should allow Obama to become Secretary General of the United Nations. That worthy's main function is to make consensus-seeking speeches.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

CBS Poll: McCain, Obama Tied

Go here to see results of the most recent poll by CBS News, which shows Obama and McCain tied at 42% each. The same poll conducted last weekend showed Obama ahead by 8 points, 48% to 40%.

Let's say the race remains fluid, shall we?

McCain Accepts Nomination

I just read John McCain's acceptance speech; you can read it here. I won't try to summarize it for you. I will admit that I teared up at the end of it, I'm an unabashed patriot. Go read it, all the way to the end.

Scary Statistics

The Wall Street Journal's James Taranto, writing in his Best of the Web column, looks at the issue of McCain's age and the relative inexperience of both Obama and Palin:
Let's...say that McCain has a 14.65% likelihood of dying before Inauguration Day 2013, while Obama's likelihood is 1.465%.
For the sake of argument, assume further that Joe Biden and John McCain are equally qualified to be president, and Sarah Palin is as unqualified as Barack Obama.
That means that if McCain is elected, there is better than an 85% chance that America will have a qualified president at the end of the term. If Obama is elected, the likelihood of having an unqualified president at term's end is higher than 98.5% (emphasis added).
Wow! I believe it is time for a rimshot, Mr. Drummer.

Quote of the Day III

Gerard Baker, writing in the Times Online of London:
Q: What's the difference between Sarah Palin and Barack Obama?
A: One is a well turned-out, good-looking, and let's be honest, pretty sexy piece of eye-candy. The other kills her own food.
I think what the old fighter pilot recognized he had in common with Sarah was killer instinct.

Quote of the Day II

Sarah Palin, vice presidential nominee and self-described "hockey mom," from her acceptance speech at the GOP Convention in Minneapolis:
Q: Do you know the difference between a pit bull and a hockey mom?
A: Lipstick.

Quote of the Day I

Sarah Palin, or her speechwriters, or both understand the truth of this aphorism by Milan Kundera, to Obama's considerable detriment.
No great movement designed to change the world can bear to be laughed at or belittled. Mockery is a rust that corrodes all it touches.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Travel Blogging VI

We went out for a drive today in Grand Teton National Park and saw a young adult grizzly bear wandering through the bushes. Bear sightings are uncommon in the Tetons.

Yesterday while out for another drive we had to wait several minutes while an entire herd of bison crossed the highway, probably over 200 animals of all ages. That experience was a real throwback to the early days of the West when trains would have to stop and wait for vast bison herds to cross the tracks.

Photos of both these sightings (bear and bison) can be found on the other DrC's blog: She is the real photographer in the family.

During this sojourn in the two national parks - Yellowstone and Grand Teton - we have seen the "big five" that you have some chance of seeing: bear, moose, elk, bison, and deer. Also this week we've seen coyote and pronghorn antelope. Earlier in the summer we spotted bighorn sheep and beaver.

There are big cats in these mountains - puma, lynx, bobcat - but seeing one is exceedingly rare. The big cats don't want to be seen and generally manage to be invisible, even if you are nearby. Wolves are here in some quantity, but are hard to spot unless you have luck.

You'd probably gather from the above that we come here primarily to view the critters, and you'd be wrong. What mostly brings us back here decade after decade is the mountain scenery - we love it. The critters are a fun bonus, but we sometimes don't see anything but the craggy mountains, the forests, the streams and the lakes, and we go away happy, vowing to return.

Palin Power

The evidence this evening is that Alaska Governor and GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin can deliver an excellent political speech. The time she spent in media before going into politics didn't hurt. In other words, she is no Dan Quayle. Like other conservatives, I'm relieved and pleased.

Now we go forward. The historical evidence is that vice presidential picks seldom help a ticket much. As a woman GOP vice presidential nominee, Gov. Palin is a new phenomenon. History may not be a reliable guide.

Whether Palin will help convince many Clinton voters to switch parties is anybody's guess. My guess: yes and no. I doubt that she will attract many of Hillary's feminist followers. On the other hand, I believe her persona will appeal to the God-and-guns-loving blue-collar voters with whom Obama had trouble connecting.

The conventional wisdom is that voters mostly choose between the presidential nominees, this year McCain and Obama. We will learn in two months whether that wisdom remains conventional, or needs to be modified.

Quote of the Day II

Vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, speaking to the Republican Convention,
I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a ‘community organizer,’ except that you have actual responsibilities.

A rim shot if you please, Mr. Drummer.

Quote of the Day I

The columnist who writes as "Spengler" in the Asia Times:
If Palin is unqualified to be vice president, all the less so is Obama qualified to be president.

"Spengler" is often interesting.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Hurricane Gustav, the Upside

It could be argued that Hurricane Gustav is actually a blessing in disguise for the GOP. It provides a perfect excuse not to have unpopular President Bush and Vice President Cheney speak at the convention. It gives Bush a chance to do this hurricane properly, in contrast to Katrina.

It also gives the GOP a chance to show compassion for hurricane victims without having to take actual responsibility for anything much. And, it appears that GOP Governor Jindal will do a much better job of managing the disaster than did Dem. Governor Blanco. Even New Orleans Mayor Nagin seems to have gotten this one right, so far.

Memories are short, and the learning curve is a wonderful thing....

Musings on the Deathly Hallows

Driving south yesterday from West Yellowstone to Colter Bay in the Tetons, we were listening to the last few CDs of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, read by Jim Dale. I don’t think HP7 is Rowling’s best work, it feels like she had to pull stuff together to make the storyline work, and some of her inventions feel like plot gimmickry.

For example, how could Ron Weasley mimic Harry’s parseltongue to get the chamber of secrets to open to get the basilisk fangs? Ron hadn't heard Harry say those words for five years. Where did “fiend fire” come from all of a sudden? Supposedly either Crabb or Goyle starts it, and they are both no-talent dolts, little better than trolls.

If what happens to Harry while he is getting over being Arvada Kadavra’d by Voldemort in the Forbidden Forest, seemingly talking to Dumbledore in 'Kings Cross Station,' truly is all happening in Harry’s head, then everything Dumbledore says is stuff Harry already knew, but didn’t know he knew. Rowling has Dumbledore say things Harry couldn’t have known, so it isn’t just happening in Harry’s head. Some sort of ghostly Dumbledore is actually talking to Harry in a “near-death” experience. All of this feels contrived.

Also, how could Dumbledore have known a priori Harry would have access to Snape’s dying thoughts, in order to learn he, Harry, is a horcrux and needs to die? Or did he trust that Harry would go to his death anyway, never knowing he’d been a horcrux? There are too many plot holes in this book.

Sunspot Scarcity

This article in DailyTech reports the have been no sunspots in the entire month of August. The last time this happened, a whole month without sunspots, was in 1913. Sunspot data has been collected since the 1700s.

Prolonged periods of solar quiescence tend to coincide with cold periods. One such, the Maunder Minimum, is viewed as a contributing cause of the so-called "little ice age" that is is roughly dated from 1600 to 1850.

Things aren't looking good for the global warming folks. Sol and Gaia just don't seem to want to cooperate.