Friday, July 31, 2009

NYC Summer Very Cool

The New York Times reports that New York City has had a very cold summer. They say:
For just the second time in 140 years of record keeping, the temperature failed to reach 90 in either June or July. The daily average last month was at or below normal every day but two. The temperature broke 80 on 16 days in New York — one more day than in Fairbanks, Alaska.
Imagine that - fifteen July days that did not exceed 80 degrees. A chilly summer makes 'global warming' solutions a very difficult sell.

Quote of the Day

Car salesman Rob Bojaryn, upon hearing that the government's "cash for clunkers" program was being shut down after only 6 days, for lack of money:
If they can't administer a program like this, I'd be a little concerned about my health insurance.
Who says car salesmen never tell the truth? You can find the CBS News story here.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Dems Form Circular Firing Squad

Democrats developed an interesting strategy in the last couple of election cycles. They ran relatively conservative candidates in districts where Republicans had held sway for a decade or more. The strategy "worked" in the sense that they elected more Democrats. These conservative Democrats are known as the Blue Dog Democrats.

Now, however, Democrats are discovering the downside of this big tent strategy. The new conservative Democrats, understanding what it will take to be reelected in districts that lean to the right, sometimes refuse to go along with the rest of the party.

Intra-party conflict infuriates the more liberal elements of the Democratic party. It also provides an opportunity for minority Republicans to have some power, by allying with the Blue Dogs.

Here we see the downside of pursuing a "big tent" philosophy: it includes in the party people with whom we do not agree. The Republicans have experienced this phenomenon with the two Senators from Maine, who call themselves Republicans but often vote with the Democrats.

Isn't politics fun?

Headed Down

Rasmussen Reports' Presidential Approval Index for President Obama has hit a new low of -12. As Scott Rasmussen concludes:
That’s the lowest rating yet recorded for President Obama.

The Presidential Approval Index is computed by subtracting the percentage of likely voters Strongly Disapproving (40%) from the percentage Strongly Approving (28%).

Go here to see the graph reflecting the trend in this statistic since the January 20 inauguration. The Index has dropped from +28 to -12 in just over 6 months.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Organic Foods Not Healthier

A study commissioned by the British government's Food Standards Agency, which systematically reviewed the findings of 162 scientific studies, finds organic foods are not healthier. Reuters indicates the meta-analytic study was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

The Reuters article summarizing the findings can be found in the Ottawa Citizen. The article doesn't indicate whether organic foods taste better; I'd like to see the results of a double-blind study of that question.

Go Figure....

One result of a New York Times/CBS News poll, reported in The New York Times, has got me shaking my head:
In one finding, 75 percent of respondents said they were concerned that the cost of their own health care cost would go up if the government did not create a system of providing health care for all Americans. But 77 percent said they were concerned the cost of health care would go up if the government did create such a system.
In other words, people believe health care is a "lose/lose" proposition; costs will go up regardless. On the other hand, for most of us with health care we like, we understand quality will go down if we get a single payer (i.e., government) system.

Support Declining for Obama Health Plan

The Wall Street Journal reports the results of a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll focused on the Obama health care plan:
In mid-June, the public was evenly divided when asked whether it thought Mr. Obama's health plan was a good idea or bad idea. The new poll, conducted July 24-27, found 42% calling it a bad idea versus 36% who said it was a good idea. Among those with insurance, the portion calling the plan a bad idea rose to 47% from 37%.
People are starting to focus on what the Obama plan will do to their own health care, and the results are poor:
Only two in 10 people predicted the quality of their own care would improve under the Obama plan, and just 15% of those with private insurance thought it would. Twice as many overall, and three times as many with private coverage, predicted their own care would get worse.
As the economy starts to pull out of the recession, people will become less concerned about losing their health care in a layoff or reduction in force. Go see the WSJ article, there is more good stuff there.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Quote of the Day

Australian geologist Ian Plimer, author of Heaven and Earth -- Global Warming: The Missing Science, quoted in The Vancouver Sun, on the topic of global warming:
Purging humankind of its supposed sins of environmental degradation has become a religion with a fanatical and often intolerant priesthood, especially among the First World urban elites.
That explains why I'm not a global warming true believer. I'm certainly First World, and possibly elite, but definitely not urban. Living in the country makes clear to me how little lasting impact on nature we really have.

Quote of the Day

Columnist and political advisor Dick Morris, recently speaking to Sean Hannity on the latter's Fox News program, concerning what Morris learned about Obama from Obama's comments about the Cambridge police. Morris' words, as reported on the blog
Before the election, I came on this show when you kept talking about Rev. Wright, and I kept saying he and Obama were two different people.

I think I was wrong.
That calls for a rim shot, mister drummer.

Chicago Has Cold Summer

See this CBS News item about Chicago's cold summer.
The National Weather Service says 2009 has seen the coldest July since the official recording station was moved away from the lakefront in 1942. (snip) There have also been far more days than usual with high temperatures less than 80 degrees this year. (snip) We have also failed to reach 90 degrees at any time this month.
There you go, global warming true believers, another scorcher in the record books. Tell me again why we aren't worrying about global cooling?

Monday, July 27, 2009

Fox: Congress Disliked

Fox News reports that Congress isn't very popular:
A FOX News poll released Monday shows that 30 percent of voters say they approve of the job Congress is doing, while twice as many -- 60 percent -- disapprove. In May, 41 percent approved and 49 percent disapproved.
Note which groups are responsible for the change.
The drop in Congress' approval rating comes almost entirely from Democrats and independents. (snip) Disapproval among Republicans is essentially unchanged at 76 percent.
Last time I checked the Congress was controlled by Democrats.

CBO: Health Plan Won't Save

First, know that is a very professional website that tries to be non-partisan but, if anything, leans slightly left. Second, know that the CBO or Congressional Budget Office is non-partisan but responsive to a Democrat-controlled Congress.

Knowing those two things, see this piece that reports the CBO's analysis of the part of the President's health care plan that is designed to save money to pay for insuring the uninsured. Politico summarizes:
For the second time this month, congressional budget analysts have dealt a blow to the Democrat's health reform efforts, this time by saying a plan touted by the White House as crucial to paying for the bill would actually save almost no money over 10 years.
In other words, those of us who have income or savings will pay for the health care of those who, through improvidence, misfortune or sloth, have neither. Did anybody seriously think it could be otherwise in the redistributive world of Obama?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Obama's Negative Double Digits

The Rasmussen Report Presidential Approval Index, a statistic with which our readers are familiar, just hit negative double digits. It stands at -11. The poll is calculated by subtracting the percentage of likely voters who Strongly Disapprove of the President's performance from the percentage who Strongly Approve. The most recent calculation is based on findings of Strongly Approve = 29% and Strongly Disapprove = 40%. Go here to consult the most recent Rasmussen results.

Rasmussen believes the sharp increase in Strongly Disapprove is tied to the President's recent televised press conference. That's the press conference in which Obama characterized the Cambridge, MA, police as acting stupidly.

Criticizing our police may be popular with certain segments of the population, but isn't at all popular with most of us. Yesterday we commented in more detail on the difficult role of the police.

A Cold July

Most of the United States is having a cold July, the exceptions are AZ, NM, and TX. The weather bloggers at report lots of new low highs for July. It is hard to sell 'global warming' when the summers are cold.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

L'Affaire Gates

Being a police officer is one tough job. I'm using the term "police" here to include the entire law enforcement community: several kinds of feds, state troopers, as well as county sheriffs and city police too.

Imagine a life in which you deal daily with society's violent misfits and losers, and the upstanding people you meet at work are mostly victims and other police. Add to this the complication of being on round-the-clock shift work, which makes maintaining relationships with 8-to-5 'civilians' difficult. For these and other reasons, sociologists tell us police mostly have other police as friends.

So, these men and women have a hard and somewhat isolating job, keeping society safe for the rest of us. Our police sure as heck don't need the President making that job harder; something that just happened with l'affaire Gates.

We need to cut the police some slack, instead of the other way 'round.

Steyn on Climate Change

Go see this quite short Mark Steyn piece on climate change, in the National Review's The Corner column for July 25, 2009. He pretty much destroys the Algore global warming true believer viewpoint. I like his conclusion:
In the mid-nineties, which climatologist and which model predicted the cooling trend of the turn of the century and the oughts? And, if they didn't, on what basis do you trust their claims for 2050 or 2100?
'Nuff said.

Obama Index Free Fall

The Rasmussen Report Presidential Approval Index continues to fall. The most recent report finds the Index at -9. Strongly Approve continues at 30% while Strongly Disapprove has climbed to 39%. As Rasmussen says:
That figure—39%--is now at the highest level yet recorded. As a result, the overall Approval Index has fallen to the lowest level yet recorded for this President.
Can you say the words "empty suit?"

Friday, July 24, 2009

Quote of the Day

John Hinderaker, one of the three authors of the PowerLineBlog, musing about Obama's declining popularity:
Having seen Obama in action for six months, the judgment top Republicans are making is that he is likely to be a one-termer.
COTTonLINE drew the same conclusion, and then wondered to what extent it reflected our wishful thinking.

Travel Blogging XV

Dateline: Great Falls, Montana. A quick amendment to my comment about there being few mobile homes in Alberta. Leaving Lethbridge this morning we passed one active mobile home lot and another that may still be semi-active. So, if people are selling them somebody must be buying them. However, driving south from Calgary to Lethbridge I saw very few. For whatever reason they are less popular in Alberta than in the States.

Once again we had a trouble-free passage through customs. I hear horror stories but they haven't happened to us, I am pleased to say. Unlike when we crossed this border a few years ago, there was no concern about our having meat carrying "mad cow" disease.

You may remember that on our way north I reported seeing a thousand or more empty flatcars designed to carry shipping containers parked on the tracks between Great Falls and Helena. Today, on the rail line which parallels the Canadian road we drove south from Lethbridge we saw an engine pulling a whole line of such empties north. I wonder if this means the economy is picking up?

Just because the economy is doing better doesn't mean unemployment will drop anytime soon. The economics boffins say it will be another year or more before employment rises, employment being what they call a "lagging indicator." Firms put existing workers on overtime for some months before finally hiring new workers.

Krauthammer on Health Care

Go see this RealClearPolitics article by Dr. Charles Krauthammer, a physician in his former life, about the patent phoniness of the Obama health care proposals. His basic point: you cannot deliver more health care for less money, particularly if you do nothing about malpractice lawsuit reform.

Obama: Voters More Polarized

Yesterday we reported the Rasmussen Presidential Approval Index stood at -7, today it is at -8. However, more people strongly approve than did yesterday (30% vs. 29%). So how did the Index get worse? Because even more people strongly disapprove (38% vs. 36%). And the overall figures are 'underwater' as well:
Overall, 49% of voters say they at least somewhat approve of the President's performance. Today marks the first time his overall approval rating has ever fallen below 50% among Likely Voters nationwide. Fifty-one percent (51%) disapprove.
See Rasmussen Report for more details.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Health Care Policy

It turns out a majority of people are not supportive of the President's efforts to reform health care. Let us think about why this may be true.

We are told that something like 47 million people are uninsured. We are not told that about 9 million of those have plenty of money but choose not to purchase insurance. A substantial portion of the balance are illegal immigrants who try hard to stay out of the clutches of the system. The actual number of uninsured boils down to about 15 million which is maybe 5% of the population.

If you ask most Americans how they feel about their own health care/health insurance they respond that they are happy with it. In other words, most people don't have a health care problem. On the other hand, if the government mucks up the system, we will all have to pay for the mess they create. So...not much support for change we can(not) believe in.

Rasmussen: Obama Index Lower

The Rasmussen Report does a daily Presidential Tracking Poll. The most recent poll shows, as did the last one on which we commented, that 29% Strongly Approve of Obama's actions. The most recent poll shows 36% Strongly Disapprove, this is higher than our last visit. From these scores Rasmussen calculates the Presidential Approval Index (29 - 36 = -7) which stands at -7. Last time we checked, the Index stood at -6.

Rasmussen also reports that only 31% of those polled think the U.S. is headed in the right direction. This starts to feel like a one-term presidency.

Travel Blogging XIV

Dateline: Lethbridge, Alberta. An interesting observation about Canada, there are relatively few mobile homes in Alberta. I don't mean RVs that move often, RVs are common in Canada. I mean dwellings that are purchased off a lot, only move once to a site where they are set up and stay. There are a few, so they aren't illegal, but not nearly as many as you'd find across the border in the States where the weather is just as cold. If anybody knows why, I'd like to know.

For those of you who are travelers to Canada, by auto or RV, I've got a couple of nice routes to share with you. One of the real hassles over the years about driving to Banff and beyond was having to drive through Calgary. Calgary is a big city where most of the traffic moves on wide city streets called "trails," instead of on freeways. Driving them was as interesting as driving city traffic anywhere, which is to say, not at all.

This trip we discovered a bypass that will take you around Calgary without ever seeing a city street. It consists of Provincial highways 22X and 22 which take you around Calgary to the south and west. You pick it up off Highway 2 south of Calgary and it takes you to Highway 1, the Trans-Canada. This bypass will save you time, miles, and aggravation.

Another bypass will take you around Fort McLeod and it works like this: driving west from Lethbridge on Highway 3, the Crowsnest Highway, take Highway 23 north a few miles until you see Road 519 where you turn west and after a few miles you will come to Highway 2, the road to Calgary, where you again turn north. It avoids going through Fort McLeod on the small town city streets.

Both of these bypasses are good roads, real time savers with no ugly surprises. If it is your first trip to Canada, you may want to drive through the towns and cities to see how Canada lives; if it is your nth trip, as it is for us, dodging town traffic is a plus.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Travel Blogging XIII

Dateline: Jasper, Alberta. There are things to do in Jasper, but mostly I just like being here. Today we did some touring, looking at Jasper townsite and Jasper Lake Lodge, now run by Fairmont. The former is charming and the latter is quite pretty in a low-rise, high-class log cabin sort of way, not unlike a greatly enlarged version of Jenny Lake Lodge. All three of the signature hotels of this chain of parks are now Fairmont operations: Banff Springs Hotel, Chateau Lake Louise, and Jasper Lake Lodge. These three properties are quite different, in feeling and appearance. In spite of that, I have no complaints about how Fairmont is keeping up the properties, all of which are seriously historic.

Now it’s time for a geology lesson. The other DrC was reading in her reference books about the Canadian Rockies and learned why these mountains seem taller while actually shorter than the U.S. Rockies. Mountains’ subjective height comes from the difference between the valley floor and the mountain tops. What makes Canadian mountains seem taller is that the valley floors are lower.

There are two factors that contribute to the difference. First, the Canadian Rockies are made of softer sedimentary rocks while the U.S. Rockies are made of harder igneous rocks. Second, the valleys here were carved by glaciers and hence carved deeper. They are lower because the rock from which they are carved is softer and because glaciers did the carving.

A V-shaped valley was carved by water, a U-shaped valley was carved by glaciers. Look at a map of British Columbia and you’ll see substantial areas marked as glaciers and icefields. BTW, the difference between a glacier and an icefield is whether the ice is moving: a glacier is moving, an icefield is not. Geology lesson ends.

Dateline: Banff, Alberta. We are on our way home to Wyoming, our two weeks in the Canadian Rockies come to an end tomorrow. I wish this place wasn’t so far away, it sure is wonderful to look at and spend time in. The trip south from Jasper wasn’t particularly arduous, you climb a couple of grades and descend a couple of grades. There was some construction but no torn-up roads to drive, just flaggers to heed. We had good weather but the skies were hazy, or maybe smoky. We saw a sign warning us of “prescribed burns” but never actually saw one burning – that could have been the source of the smoke.

In the guided historical walk we took in Jasper last night we were told that the two parks – Banff and Jasper – take in enough money to support the entire Parks Canada operation nationwide. Banff sure enough gets a lot of tourists, and Jasper is busier than it once was. We also learned that much of Jasper’s history is a struggle between the railroad bosses and the Park Superintendents for control of the townsite.

We learned that one has to prove a need to reside there to either buy or rent in Jasper, “a need to reside there” can be a part-time or full-time job or even a volunteer position. People buy houses but not the land they sit on; the land they lease from Parks Canada for truly nominal amounts like $1/year. The Superintendent’s Office controls land use, like renovation, remodeling, or home replacement.

For those of you who haven’t visited a Canadian national park, services there are quite different than those in the States. In the States all the hotels and cafes IN a park are likely provided by one concessionaire, all of the gas stations by another. This is not the case in Canada, where the townsites will have multiple stores, restaurants, gas stations, hotels, art galleries, candy shops, clothiers, even movie theaters in some cases.

In short, the townsites are regular small towns with all the variety that would entail. There are residential districts, bed-and-breakfast places, etc. What these small towns don’t get to do is grow beyond a fixed footprint, so over time they become more dense as cottages are replaced by apartment houses and motels are replaced by hotels. I remember that New Zealand’s national parks are like Canada’s in this respect, and I believe those of the U.K. follow the model too.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Travel Blogging XII

Dateline: Jasper, Alberta. Today we did Mount Edith Cavell and Athabasca Falls. The road to Edith remains tough: narrow and bumpy. On the other hand, it is better than it was the last time we drove it, perhaps 6-7 years ago. The scenery from the end of the road is amazing, an immense mountain with glaciers and snow all over the top. The mosquitoes were in plentiful supply, as was the use of deet-based products to keep them off.

The mountain is named for a heroic British nurse who stayed behind in Belgium to tend the wounded of both sides in World War I, then helped many Allied prisoners to escape. The Germans captured her and put her in front of a firing squad as a spy, which she probably was not, although she was clearly an sympathizer of the Allies.

Many things in this part of the world are named for people prominent during the early 1900s. That is when this area was first being explored by people of European descent. It is hard to believe it was essentially unknown to all but the native peoples until then.

Athabasca Falls is a sizable river dropping 100 or more feet in a short space, and stirring up a lot of noise and mist in the process. The area it has carved in doing this is interesting too. I wonder what it is about falling water that fascinates humans?

Today, for a change, we have spectacular weather - blue skies and warm temperatures. I've even seen folks wearing shorts, something that has so far been in (pardon the pun) short supply this summer in the Canadian Rockies. The warm weather creates an interesting dilemma: wear short sleeves and shorts to stay cool and give the mosquitoes a feast, or wear long sleeves and long pants and be sweaty.

Travel Blogging XI

Dateline: Jasper, Alberta. After a couple of somewhat sunny days, we had a gloomy one today. Not much rain, just gray skies and cool temperatures. We took a run out to the east entrance of the park, then back and down the road to Maligne Lake. On the way there we saw a very healthy looking black bear, and got some good pix (see him at We also saw maybe twenty wild sheep, just hanging around the Yellowhead Highway east of Jasper townsite. At other times today we saw a couple of very grand looking bull elk, antlers still in velvet of course. It was a good day for animal watching, one of the things for which we come to national parks.

Maligne Lake was all cold blues, cool grays, and blackish greens today, in the absence of the sun. Not a great day to go for a lakeside walk, but we did check out the boat house that has been there more-or-less forever. There were a number of canoeists on the lake, keeping warm with the paddling effort. On our way back we stopped at Maligne Canyon, which is this really narrow, really deep gorge cut by the stream. It is over 150 ft. deep and in places no wider than what you could span with your two arms.

Back in Jasper townsite we saw the Via Rail passenger train pull into town, probably inbound from Prince Rupert on the Pacific Coast of British Columbia. This is a fine train trip, if you enjoy train travel and scenery. The other DrC and I have taken The Skeena, as it is called, twice and would love to do it again. Put ridingThe Skeena on your list of “things to do before you die.”

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Travel Blogging X

Dateline: Jasper, Alberta. Today we drove Highway 93, The Icefields Parkway. If there is a more spectacular 100+ mile drive in North America, I haven’t seen it. And, I’ve driven all 50 US states, all of the Canadian provinces except Newfoundland/Labrador, and one of the three territories (the Yukon).

You drive along in a north-south direction with immense glacier-topped mountains looming over the highway on both sides, as the road parallels a glacier-fed river whose water is a milky turquoise. The conifer forests start at the tree line and come right down to the road. Everything is enormous and a person in this landscape feels microscopic, until you focus on the wildflowers underfoot, which are often tiny and always interesting.

The drive from Lake Louise to Jasper isn’t long, maybe 150 miles, but it always seems longer. I think it seems long because the whole thing is just two lanes with lots of curves, grades and passes. We made the pull up Sunwapta Pass with no problems, one of the advantages of a relatively new tow vehicle. Sunwapta is a very long, very steep grade, the equal of some of those in Colorado.

This year the roads are in relatively good shape, particularly considering the bad winter weather they have to withstand this far north. On the other hand, being this far north in summer also means very long days and very short nights. The mid-winter days must be very short.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Rasmussen: Obama Strongly Approve Below 30%

Check out the Rasmussen Reports Daily Presidential Tracking Poll which shows Obama's Strongly Approves are down to 29%. His Strongly Disapproves are up to 35%, giving him a -6 Index.

That is quite a drop, in less than six months.

Travel Blogging IX

Dateline: Lake Louise, Alberta. Many of the people who visit famous Lake Louise never see nearby Moraine Lake. That’s a big mistake. If Lake Louise is a perfect little gem (and it is that), Moraine Lake and the road into it are an Alpine extravaganza. Located in the Valley of the Ten Peaks, Moraine Lake is amazing in its own way – less perfect than Lake Louise but more overwhelming. As you drive the 14 kilometers into Moraine Lake you see amazing glaciers hanging off equally amazing peaks. There are ten peaks surrounding Moraine Lake, and they once were named One through Ten in the Stoney Indian language. Today only numbers Nine and Ten still carry the Indian names.

This year the wildflowers are everywhere in profusion, you’d think you were on the set of The Sound of Music. As the other DrC noted this morning, the only things missing were yodeling and cows with bells. Like Lake Louise, there is a nice walk along the north shore of Moraine Lake. It is a mile and a half to the upstream end of the lake. After about a mile I got tired and sat on a bench while the rest of my party continued on to the falls which feed the lake, before returning.

I sat quietly for just over a half hour and learned the St. Francis trick. If you sit quietly in the woods eventually animals decide you are no threat. I had birds hopping around my feet and on the bench within 6” of my knee and a ground squirrel perching just by my hip. If I had something to feed them, I bet I could have made pets of them. I don’t feed wild critters; we are told it is bad for them to eat snack foods. Likewise, snack foods don’t do us any good, but we eat them.

Also while sitting there I talked to a Danish couple. They looked at the immense mountains around us and remarked, “The tallest mountain in Denmark is 200 meters tall.” I gave them a sales pitch for the string of U.S. National Parks that begins with Glacier, runs down through Yellowstone and Grand Teton, and then continues with the Utah parks – Arches, Zion, Bryce, and Capitol Reef – and finishes up with the Grand Canyon in Arizona. I’ve visited 70+ countries and this string of western U.S. parks is definitely world class scenery.

Tomorrow we’re off for Jasper National Park, at the northern end of the Icefields Parkway. We will drive past the toe of a glacier, at the top of Sunwapta Pass. What a treat to visit these beautiful mountains again.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Travel Blogging VIII

Dateline: Lake Louise, Alberta. For a relatively small place, maybe one mile by two miles, Lake Louise is one of the earth’s most stunning looking sites. We’re here in mid-July and the cornices of snow or ice hanging over the valley are still huge, or maybe they’re glaciers, who knows? At one end of the bowl are these glaciers on a sheer face a few thousand feet tall. At the other end of the bowl is a spectacular “railroad” hotel originally built by the Canadian Pacific to lure in fare-paying tourists. Now run by the Fairmont chain, the Chateau Lake Louise is nearly as imposing as the Banff Springs Hotel. In between the glacier wall and the Chateau is the lake, a milky turquoise blue and very clearly glacier-melt.

People canoe on the lake, and a couple of hardy retriever-type dogs went for a swim in what must be icy water. Our favorite thing to do at Lake Louise is to take the walk along the northern edge of the lake starting on the east end by the lake’s outlet and walking to the west end where the glacier-melt runs into the lake. It is an easy walk, quite level, and with places along it to stop and rest. Down at the far end we were pestered by pan-handling golden mantle ground squirrels and also chipmunks, which are much smaller. As good national park visitors we didn’t feed them, but their behavior made clear they were accustomed to be fed junk food. Our second favorite thing to do here is buy an ice cream cone at the Chateau and sit outside to eat it, looking at the panorama.

The drive up the Trans-Canada Highway 1 from Banff was very pretty today; we actually had some decent weather for a change. I don’t believe we were rained on all day. The Canadian Government is converting this stretch of the highway to four lane divided highway. It is about time, too. As a nation which wishes to sit at the table with other developed nations, Canada needs to make its national highway an expressway from end-to-end. I believe that is their intent, they have already greatly improved highway two north from Lethbridge to Calgary.

One could wish that New Zealand would catch this highway-building fever; for a developed country their road system is sad. En Zed’s roads are well-enough paved but often winding, and mostly narrow and without shoulders. Some of their one-lane highway bridges, shared with a railroad track, are a joke. The Kiwis’ way of doing things would make it a difficult country for me to call home, although it is a nice place to visit, very scenic.

One of the fascinating things about the Canadian, and U.S., national parks is all the languages one hears spoken there. Today I heard German, Dutch, French, Spanish, Chinese, and several more I couldn’t identify. Most of these people can also speak some English; most of us cannot speak any of their languages. To be sure, people with some English are more likely to travel to predominantly English-speaking countries like the U.S. and Canada. Still, I wonder how many Americans and Canadians are vacationing in their countries speaking a bit of the local lingo? My guess: not many at all.

There is something about having the vast majority of a big continent (North America) speaking one language (English) that discourages language study. North America is an enormous place where you can visit many different climates, cultures, cuisines, and landscapes without needing a second language.

During the twentieth century monolingualism was clearly an advantage for the U.S. and Anglophone Canada, diverting energies elsewhere devoted to language study into more economically productive pursuits. As the world continues to move toward globalism in the twenty-first century, is it possible monolingualism will become a liability? Or will most of the world end up speaking somewhat broken English? The future, as some wag used to say, lies ahead.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Movie Review: Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

The other DrC and I saw the first screening of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince this afternoon. Interestingly, the theater wasn't full for the first showing. Perhaps Pottermania is on the wane.

The casting is pretty standard, no real surprises. The Slughorn character is played well, albeit by a man who isn't particularly fat. The casting of the young Tom Riddle isn't bad. Some things happen in the film which were not in the book, I won't go into details as we'll try to avoid spoilers.

This is the book, and film, where the kids start getting interested in love, and discreetly in sex. Romance actually has a bigger place in the film than in the book, no real surprise there. The action sequences with the jet-propelled death eaters are well-done. As is typical in the HP films, they had to cut out a lot of stuff to make a movie of manageable length. For uber-fans, this truncation is sad but real.

The death of a major character which happens at the end of the book (and the film) has much less emotional impact in the film, I suspect Jo Rowling isn't entirely happy with this rendering. Perhaps she is less involved with the films than she once was? The funeral is omitted, with the film perhaps ending before it takes place. One wonders if the funeral will be the beginning of film seven?

My verdict: Potter fans will like the film, which takes a quicker, and slightly different path through the familiar landscape of book six. Someone who has no prior knowledge of the Potter canon may find the film a bit hard to follow.

Travel Blogging VII

Dateline: Banff, Alberta. The wildflowers in this area are really going crazy, you can probably see some pix of them at, the other DrC’s blog. The flowers and the conifers love all the rain we’re getting. The tourists…not so much.

We’ve already visited the chocolates shop of Bernard Callebaut here in Banff, it is a firm headquartered in Calgary that makes some of the best chocolate we’ve ever eaten. Pricey as anything, roughly $100C/lb. but so delicious. If you are here in Banff, or Calgary, do yourself a favor and try some Callebaut chocolate. In Calgary you can even visit the factory and watch it being made. And no, I don’t get paid to advertise their wares.

Here’s a funny bit of local history. When the railroad was building across Canada they thought they’d have to tunnel through the mountain against which Banff townsite today snuggles. Maps were sent east with the geographical feature labeled “Tunnel Mountain.” Subsequently the railroad discovered they did not need to dig a tunnel and the rail line runs around the mountain. The name of the mountain never got changed and our RV camp is located on Tunnel Mountain, a mountain with no tunnels. I’ve been coming here since the 1970s and it’s the first time I’ve heard that story.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Travel Blogging VI

Dateline: Banff, Alberta. Weather continues horrible, at least for July. Gray skies, rain, and no appreciable warmth can be found. You may want to check out the headline above from the Calgary Sun, and particularly the subhead. The northern Rockies and plains aren’t getting much summer. This makes it hard to accept vastly expensive and intrusive governmental programs designed to curb “global warming.” In this part of the continent, they’d like to experience some global warming. Canadians are a hardy lot; a fair few of them were out hiking in the rain today. Not my cup of tea…oh, well.

Today we drove the Bow Valley Parkway and then crossed Vermilion Pass to Radium Hot Springs, that is in Kootenay National Park just across the continental divide in British Columbia. We saw a lot of beautiful landscapes in moody water color tones. Not much wildlife on display, I suspect they were all under trees staying dry. We did see a couple of deer and the usual scampering rodents – mostly tree and ground squirrels.

Radium Hot Springs is a classical old fashioned spa, with no actual relation to the element radium. It was started shortly after Marie Curie discovered radium, a material with magical (at the time) properties. In the hope of inferring magical healing properties to its hot waters, it was named Radium. Today the pools were full of swimmers, soakers, divers, and paddlers, people who had found a warm place to spend part of a cold day. To me that makes more sense than hiking in the rain.

Tomorrow we will see the first showing of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince here in Banff. I will have a movie review for you tomorrow night. I’m a little bummed that this film was ready to show last Christmas but was held off the market for “scheduling” (aka profit) reasons. That isn’t exactly playing fair with the fan base. Time-Warner didn’t win any friends holding it for a time when they believe it will make more money.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Travel Blogging V

Dateline: Banff, Alberta. The local joke is that Banff is an acronym, standing for Be Aware, Nothing’s For Free. It is more or less true, the place has to make most of its living in the two months of (mostly) decent weather when everybody comes here. I say “mostly” because today it is cool, rainy and not great for outdoor activities. So, things are expensive and not much is free.

Yesterday, on the other hand, was glorious: blue skies, no wind, warm temperatures, there were even hardy Canadians swimming in the glacier-melt rivers and lakes. Being glacier-melt does funny things to the water, makes it milky with suspended rock flour. Glaciers grind rock flour off the underlying rocks and it is so fine it stays suspended for a long time.

We took a three hour float trip down the Bow River starting right by the falls in front of the Banff Springs Hotel, arguably one of the most imposing-looking buildings in North America. It is designed to look like the home of a Scots nobleman and for sure the setting looks something like the Scots highlands, only grander.

We were told the story that the hotel was designed to face the street with most rooms having a view of the river and falls, and was laid out backwards so most rooms face the street and the front looks out at the river and falls. Supposedly the architect was out of town when the foundation was laid and they simply did it backwards. I have no idea whether this story is true or apocryphal.

The raft trip was great, we didn’t see many animals but the riding conditions were near-perfect: lots of water, no wind, knockout sunshine, and spectacular views of the mountains. One reason we saw few animals is that we were sharing the river with a group of rafts carrying drunks singing French-Canadian voyageur canoe-paddling songs. They likely scared the animals away.

The rafts were somewhat lower-tech than those used on the Snake, but did the job just fine. I remembered to wrap my wallet in a plastic bag so it stayed dry. One thing I did learn from our guide/boatman is that these mountains are young and made of relatively soft sedimentary stone: limestone, shale, etc. While the beautiful conditions we see in Banff and Jasper will last thousands of years, they won’t last long in geologic time as they will erode relatively fast compared to granite.

Earlier in the day yesterday we took a drive and saw a young black bear, scores of pan-handling mountain goats, two young bucks in velvet, and a couple of cow elk. We also saw more ground squirrels and chipmunks than you could reasonably count, and yes, we saw people feeding these and the goats. Canada hasn’t been as tough on feeding wild animals as the U.S. Park Service has.

I summer in the U.S. Rockies and rarely see bears; it would be a rare trip to the Canadian Rockies when I don’t see a bear and these trips are normally brief – a week or two. Bear are much easier to see in Canada than in the States, I’m not sure why. Maybe there are simply more of them, because the Canadians are more willing to coexist with bears and tolerate the risks inherent therein.

Speaking of bears and Canada, a couple of days ago we saw what is probably the most exotic license plate in North America, that of the Northwest Territories. Instead of being rectangular it is shaped like the profile of a polar bear walking on all fours. I hope the other DrC will post a picture of it at The whole Northwest Territory probably doesn’t have 50,000 people in it, and a lot of those are Cree who rarely leave, so seeing this plate is, to say the least, unusual and a treat.

We can see that the recession has hurt the tourist business in Alberta, there are hotels and B&Bs with “Vacancy” signs. The campground our RV is parked in, usually full, has vacancies as well. Banff townsite isn’t as busy as we’d expect either; for one thing, the usual hordes of Asian tourists are missing.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Travel Blogging IV

Dateline: Banff, Alberta. The drive here from Lethbridge was pleasant, if not overwhelmingly scenic. Over the years what was once mostly two-lane road has become four-lane divided highway, except through a couple of small towns. In this part of the world “four-lane divided” does not equal “freeway” or “interstate-quality.” A four-lane divided road still has side roads coming into it without overpasses or merge ramps. Still, it is one heck of a lot better than two-lane undivided.

The Alberta highway speed limit is mostly 110 kph, which equals roughly 66 mph and, like in the States, folks push the envelope by 5-10 mph. The quick-and-dirty way to convert kph into mph is to multiply by .6, which fortunately I can do mentally.

One really fine thing we discovered on this trip is a way to bypass Calgary to the south and west on roads numbered 22X and 22 – this constitutes a great improvement over the old way that went through Calgary on the city streets. We always felt there should be a way to avoid Calgary and now one exists. Stampede is going on so avoiding Calgary traffic was a real plus.

The weather up this way isn’t winning prizes. We’ve managed to get rained on at least some everyday, including today. In my blog I cited a long-range forecaster who predicted “a year without summer” across the north central and northeast U.S. and Canada. The Canadian Rockies do get substantial summer rain anyway, so we may be here for two weeks and see relatively little sun.

The scenery here in Banff is spectacular, there is no other word for it. Really tall, sheer, dramatic gray granite mountains completely surround the valley of the Bow River, many still have snow or glaciers on them. We have been coming back here for at least 30 years, and we love it. This is bear and elk country; we passed a herd of maybe 10 elk a couple of miles from the RV campground before we even checked in. Parks Canada now takes campsite reservations which is very handy, we arrived knowing we had a site for the week we wanted.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Presidential Approval Headed Down

Yesterday we reported the Rasmussen Report Presidential Approval Index had hit a new low at -3. Today it went even lower, it is now at -5. Specifically, Obama's Strongly Approve is down to 32% and his Strongly Disapprove is up to 37%. Go here to read the whole article.

If he keeps kissing up to leftist dictators and shunning our friends, while at the same time concocting plans to spend trillions of dollars of borrowed money, I predict his Strongly Disapprove will go even higher.

Travel Blogging III

Dateline: Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada. The drive north from Great Falls to Lethbridge is less interesting than the drives we did yesterday and the day before. Mostly rolling high plains with the occasional river valley cut deeply into the plains - in this part of the world such river valleys are called "coulees." Whole towns huddle down in these river valleys or coulees, probably to try to escape the everlasting prairie wind.

We had heard horror stories about crossing the border into Canada, most recently yesterday from a pleasant fellow installing a pair of new batteries in our RV who swore it happened to him. I don't know if such stories are urban legends but they never seem to happen to us. I guess the other DrC and I just don't fit the profile of "folks who need to be hassled."

The pleasant lad from Canadian Customs did ask a couple of additional questions, in addition to the customary ones about cash, tobacco, alcohol, and firearms. This time they also wanted to know if we were transporting firewood(we weren't), what our occupations pre-retirement had been (professor), and what we had taught. On the other hand, unlike years past, they didn't ask about meat - I guess the "mad cow" scare is mostly over. I remember several years ago we had to give up a couple of packages of beef.

Anyway, the bottom line is that we had a brief, pleasant chat with a nice young man and were waved through. That is exactly what we expected but you truly never know till it happens. They certainly have the right to disassemble your vehicle and its contents and then leave it for you to reassemble, if they choose.

The characteristic thing you see on the great plains of Canada are the grain elevators, they've been called "the prairie skyscrapers." Oddly, although the farmers on either side of the border raise essentially the same crops, they use quite different technology to store, aggregate, and ship the grain they produce. Maybe someone can let me know why, I haven't a clue. I know I find the Canadian versions more picturesque.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Travel Blogging II

Dateline: Great Falls, Montana. Today was some fine driving, we decided to go further west on US 287 instead of up the Gallatin on US 191. Then we cut off two sides of a triangle by taking MT 69 to Boulder, and then up I-15 to Great Falls.

We stopped in Helena to buy a couple of new deep cycle 12 volt batteries for the RV, the old ones lasted over 4 years before dying. The fellow who installed the batteries told horror stories about border harassment driving into Canada, I'll let you know what we experience.

This was another beautiful drive. We saw a lot of resort property we wouldn't mind owning, places with gorgeous lake and mountain views. We had to keep reminding ourselves that Idaho and Montana have state income taxes, unlike Wyoming.

We saw a very interesting thing as we drove. Along the Missouri River as it flows south from Great Falls there is a railroad track. The track is no longer used for scheduled trains but it isn't derelict either. Instead the railroad has stored well over a thousand flatcars of the sort used to transport shipping containers. We drove for mile after mile looking over at this track full of these empty yellow flatcars, owned by TTX and DTTX.

At our campground this evening we ran into a young man who works for the railroad. So...we asked about all the parked flatcars we'd seen and he responded "It's the recession. Nobody wants to ship containers full of manufactured goods so those cars get parked. The ones you saw aren't the only ones." Wow...that vast rolling stock parking lot is the most graphic representation I've yet seen of our economic downturn.

The Chinese, who make most of the stuff we import in containers, must really be hurting bad. A good economy has been the bribe China's Communist leaders have offered their people to keep them happy. What happens when full employment ends and the standard of living no longer grows, but shrinks? It's a question the leadership in Beijing never wanted to answer.

Rasmussen: Obama Hits New Low

Rasmussen Reports does a daily Presidential Tracking Poll, asking likely voters their opinion of the president. They compute a Presidential Approval Index which consists of subtracting the percentage who Strongly Disapprove from the percentage who Strongly Approve.

Today Rasmussen polls Strongly Approve 33% minus Strongly Disapprove 36% for a Presidential Approval Index of -3. Rasmussen summarizes today's findings thus:
Those figures reflect the highest level of strong disapproval measured to date and the lowest level recorded for the overall Approval Index.
The trend line for The Won continues downward. Perhaps Obama will find out what it feels like to have the low approval numbers George W. Bush had toward the end.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Hollow Threat

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has warned western nations not to interfere in Iranian internal affairs. The Associated Press quotes him as saying:
We will calculate the interventionist remarks and behaviors of these governments. Definitely, it will have a negative impact on future relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Help me out here, how can our relations with Iran get worse? What acts of Iranian benevolence might the "supreme leader" withhold? In other words, what have we got to lose?

His threat would carry more weight if we in the west were Iranian allies. He has made it clear we are Iran's enemies, making his threat empty.

Career Assassination Primer

Check out this quick piece about Sarah Palin in New York Magazine, written by Chris Rovzar. I find his tentative conclusions disquieting:

If those ethics charges were really a key element to her stepping down, what's the takeaway? That the very politics of personal destruction she has so often railed against are, in fact, a very effective way of toppling your enemies? That making up unprovable accusations is a quick, inexpensive, and easy way to push aside a politician you don't like?
I fear an ugly business just got uglier.

Good News from Gallup

Check out this Gallup poll result which shows that Americans are moving to the Right, politically. Gallup summarizes their findings as follows:
Despite the results of the 2008 presidential election, Americans, by a 2-to-1 margin, say their political views in recent years have become more conservative rather than more liberal, 39% to 18%, with 42% saying they have not changed.
And they note:
These findings, from a June 14-17 Gallup Poll, somewhat conform to Gallup's annual trends on Americans' self-defined political ideology. Thus far in 2009 (from January through May), 40% of Americans call themselves conservative, up from 37% in 2007 and 2008, and the highest level since 2004.
Take a moment for some good news for conservatives; maybe we do have a fighting chance in 2012.

Travel Blogging I

Dateline: West Yellowstone, Montana. The DrsC are on the open road again. Today found us driving north through Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park. Yellowstone and the Tetons are a great big outdoor zoo without fences or moats. Without making any special effort we saw a bear, several elk, a herd of bison, and a bald eagle. All of this from the front seat of our F-350 RV puller.

At the high altitudes (7000-8000 ft.) in Yellowstone, there are only about 3 months a year when the roads can be repaired - you guessed it, the same 3 months when all the tourists are here. So, no surprise that the roads were torn up and we went through several cone zones.

We saw a fascinating (to both of us) set of equipment that was doing the following in an integrated fashion. First it was tearing up the existing tarmac to a depth of maybe 6-8" and a whole lane wide. It then was grinding up what they tore up. Then this aggregate was being mixed with hot oil/tar and deposited back on the roadbed. A following machine then picked up the windrow of hot asphalt and gravel and spread it in smooth fashion to fill the space where the old stuff was torn up and compacted it. All of this took maybe 7 or 8 pieces of equipment including several tank trucks full of asphalt. This entire assemblage was moving along, linked together, at perhaps 2-3 feet per minute.

To me this is a technological marvel, and more to the point, one I can understand and appreciate. Unlike the marvels that happen on silicon chips, which I cannot see in action, this I can see and comprehend. What I wonder is why we weren't doing this, or something quite like it, all along?

My rough calculations say this equipment could renew a mile every two days, if kept running 24/7 minus time for servicing. Crew scheduling would be tricky, covering breaks, and handling no-shows. Cross-training would help. Oops, there I go sounding like the Management prof I used to be, and still am part-time.

Tomorrow we drive up the valley of the Gallatin River, one of the nation's premier trout streams. Later in the day we will drive along the headwaters of the Missouri River, in yet another picturesque canyon north of Helena.

Obama Puts Sock in Biden's Mouth

When we reported yesterday that Vice President Biden had given the appearance of a US okay for an Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear facilities, we said "It will be interesting to see if the White House press office feels the need to 'clarify' Biden's remarks."

The administration has done exactly that, see the AFP story here. A State Department spokesman said of Biden's remarks:
I certainly would not want to give a green light to any kind of military action.
The famous Biden mouth has struck again.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Biden Bomb

The following exchange comes from the transcript of an interview George Stephanopoulos did with Vice President Joe Biden on ABC's This Week program:
BIDEN: Look, Israel can determine for itself -- it's a sovereign nation -- what's in their interest and what they decide to do relative to Iran and anyone else.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Whether we agree or not?
BIDEN: Whether we agree or not. They're entitled to do that. Any sovereign nation is entitled to do that.
The interview continues:
STEPHANOPOULOS: But just to be clear here, if the Israelis decide Iran is an existential threat, they have to take out the nuclear program, militarily the United States will not stand in the way?
BIDEN: Look, we cannot dictate to another sovereign nation what they can and cannot do when they make a determination, if they make a determination that they're existentially threatened and their survival is threatened by another country.
What Biden says is nothing more than the absolute, legalistic truth, what he infers is something else again. He infers that Israel may very well attack Iran, while the U.S. stands by and says "tut, tut, we wish you hadn't done that."

Vice President Biden has a reputation for speaking before thinking. It will be interesting to see if the White House press office feels the need to "clarify" Biden's remarks.

Another Shoe Drops in Iran

Some religions are, as we say in business, vertically integrated. For example, the ultimate authority in Roman Catholicism is the Pope, he is their CEO. Other faiths are less bureaucratic and more collegial, they have multiple centers of authority.

This New York Times article about Iran describes one of the problems a theocracy has when the religion running the country isn't vertically integrated. It appears that Iranian Shia Islam has multiple centers of authority. One of the major Iranian Shia authority centers has come out against the legitimacy of the recent elections.

This could be great news for the protesters and bad news for the incumbents. Perhaps the story of the Iranian "soft revolution" isn't dead yet.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Birthday Greetings

The other DrC and I have traveled to over 70 countries. As we travel there is a little game we play. Wherever we go we ask ourselves, "Is this a place we'd be comfortable living?" There are a few countries where we answer "yes" and many where we answer "no."

For all its faults, there is no place in the world we'd pick over the U.S. I can't tell you how many times we've returned from overseas and said some version of "isn't it good to be home?" Said this, even though we might have landed on the coast a half continent away from our actual home.

Our conclusion: this nation is a darn nice place. Happy birthday, USA.

Quote of the Day

Roger Simon, CEO of Pajamas Media, writing of his feelings on this birthday of our nation:
The current situation is grim. Obama is already over.

I'm not quite that pessimistic. Obama may yet do something useful for us, accidentally or otherwise, even as Bill Clinton did when he signed welfare reform.

Putin Is Russia's Obama

This article in Russia Today reports on Russian attitudes toward the upcoming Obama visit:
On the eve of Barack Obama’s arrival to Moscow, many Russians are showing a surprising degree of indifference to the trip, while others say they didn’t even know the American president was coming. (snip) Barack Obama’s inaugural presidential visit to Russia is failing to stir up the passions as it did during his wildly anticipated European tour.
Since this is written in English, not Russian, the author takes the view that we readers will be surprised about this "indifference." Perhaps he is right, but we shouldn't be.

The other DrC and I visited Russia two years ago. We learned that Vladimir Putin has the same rock star status in Russia that Obama has in Europe, and [to a lesser extent] in America. Putin has this status for many of the same reasons Obama does; he is young, fit, attractive and believed to be a reformer.

It is no wonder Russians aren't excited about Obama's visit. They already have their home-grown idol, they don't need another.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Palin, Further Thoughts

We don't really know what motivated the Palin resignation, as I noted earlier today. I do have a guess. My guess is that she has been offered her own talk show, probably on Fox TV, and has accepted.

This would give Palin a platform from which to expound, be exposed, and develop a larger following, while getting paid handsomely for do so. Mike Huckabee is going this route and I suspect it is working out well for him.

In order to tape her show Palin would have to spend a significant amount of time in the lower 48, possibly in Washington. From this vantage point trips to Iowa and New Hampshire would be much shorter.

Alternatively, Palin could do a national call-in radio show from Anchorage. This, I think, is a less attractive option as guests would be difficult to schedule.

Palin Resigns

Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has announced that she will resign her office on July 25, at which point the Lieutenant Governor will be sworn in as Governor. See the story here. It remains to be seen what this means, what her intentions are. Stay tuned....

Billy Mays, Dick Lane Remembered

TV pitchman Billy Mays, he of the bright blue shirt, black beard, and booming voice, died quite young last week. His funeral was held today (see article here). Billy sold a lot of Oxiclean and Orange-Glo.

Mays' style always reminded me of Dick Lane who sold cars and commented on wrestling and roller derby on TV station KTLA in the Los Angeles area in the 1950s. Dick was called Leather Britches, named for a chaps-wearing character he played on the Spade Cooley country music show.

Lane had the same sort of loud, bombastic style as Billy Mays. Somehow both of them made it work, if continued TV employment counts as working. I never understood why as neither could sell me anything - I don't like to be yelled at.

Coulter on Sotomayor

Writing for Yahoo News, attorney Ann Coulter takes apart the minority opinion written by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, on the Ricci case in which the Supreme Court overturned the Sonia Sotomayor opinion 5-4. It is a fine piece of forensic analysis, with a generous measure of snark thrown in.

Enjoy, as Ann leaves Ruth turning slowly in the wind, and Sonia looking silly.

Understanding the Problem

The current recession is largely attributed to the collapse of the housing bubble. This collapse is blamed, by many, upon a wave of foreclosures as a result of making too many subprime loans. Recent data shows this is not so. This Wall Street Journal article makes the point this way:
By far, the most important factor related to foreclosures is the extent to which the homeowner now has or ever had positive equity in a home.
The author looks at other causes but concludes the most important is that:
Stronger underwriting standards are needed -- especially a requirement for relatively high down payments.
It makes sense; people are unlikely to walk away from homes into which they have sunk a substantial amount of their hard-earned money. With a requirement for higher down payments, the housing bubble likely wouldn't have happened at all.

The entire article is worth your time.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Quote of the Day

Jay Nordlinger, who writes for National Review Online, about our recent Vice President:
He is valuable, Cheney, in office and out.

My WY neighbor, from just up the road in Wilson, is a stand-up guy. I'd have liked to have him for our President for eight years, instead of Bush I's inarticulate son.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Sarah Palin: An Appraisal

Todd Purdum has written a hit piece on Sarah Palin for Vanity Fair. This has reignited the controversy over her role in the future of the GOP. People inside the McCain campaign have trashed her, others have defended her. Dan Balz did a thoughful piece for the Washington Post.

Let me tell you what I think. Palin's problem with important voter groups is one of social class, a concept we hardly ever mention in this nation. She and her family come across as rural, blue collar people. As long as that is true, it will be difficult for her to gain acceptance among conservative opinion molders like David Brooks and Peggy Noonan.

Personally, I am not offended by Sarah Palin and I enjoy the fact that she can really turn on the Republican base. On the other hand, she also really turns off many so-called "country club" Republicans. I don't mind if Democrats don't like her, but I am concerned about her acceptance among Independents and neo-cons.

Given the 50-50 division of the electorate in this country, I don't believe the GOP can afford to pick as a presidential candidate someone who is so divisive, so polarizing as Governor Palin. We need an individual who is widely perceived as a polished person who nevertheless has backbone. I'm not sure who that person will be in 2012, but I do not despair of finding him or her.

What Happened in Honduras

An article from the Miami Herald describes the steps that led to the ouster of Honduras' President Zelaya. It was not merely an overnight whim on the part of the military. If this is a story you are following, you owe it to yourself to read this history of the action.