Sunday, February 28, 2010

Obama Approval Down

Rasmussen Reports does a daily Presidential Approval Index which we follow here at COTTonLINE. The latest reading comes in a -21, based on 43% Strongly Disapproving and 22% Strongly Approving of his performance. Today's PAI of -21 ties the lowest ever index score for this president. Rasmussen adds:
Overall, 43% of voters say they at least somewhat approve of the President's performance. That is the lowest level of total approval yet measured for this President.
The erosion continues in face of the President's professorial performance moderating the health care summit.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Interesting Research

CNN reports interesting findings by evolutionary psychologist Satoshi Kanazawa at the the London School of Economics and Political Science. They will soon be published in the academic journal Social Psychology Quarterly. Kanazawa finds that liberalism, atheism, and male sexual exclusivity are related to higher IQ. Sexual exclusivity means being sexually faithful to one partner. CNN says this of Kanazawa's findings:
The IQ differences, while statistically significant, are not stunning -- on the order of 6 to 11 points -- and the data should not be used to stereotype or make assumptions about people, experts say.
I suspect you can spin all sorts of scenarios out of these findings, I know I can. Anyway, something fun to play with while stuck in traffic.

For example, college faculties are largely liberal and atheist, though not I think, any more sexually exclusive than the population at large

Friday, February 26, 2010

Into A Stream?

Mark Steyn is often funny, today he is not. If you have a strong stomach, read his post concerning the unintended (I hope) consequences of the one child policy in China. See this post in National Review about these ugly practices. Reviewing a new book Message From An Unknown Chinese Mother by Xinran, he quotes:
Where I come from, people talk about smothering a baby girl or just throwing it[!]into a stream … to be eaten by dogs, as if it were a joke. How much do you think these women loved their babies?
Steyn relates this to the problems with multiculturalism, showing that all cultures are not equally wonderful. I'm not convinced that point needs making again, but if it does, Steyn has made it.

Travel Blogging I

Dateline: Santa Ynez, California. The DrsC will be spending some time here in Ronald Reagan country - the coast range valleys northwest of Santa Barbara. It’s very pretty here; the green/brown cycle is exactly the reverse of most places in the U.S. It is green in the winter and brown in the summer. California gets almost all of its rain in the months from November to May, and most of that in December and January. So the grass gets green in winter and dries out in summer. Most of the state doesn’t get enough hard frosts to kill the grass in winter, so green is what we’ve got now, it goes away in May.

If you’re having trouble placing where I write from, it is the setting of the film “Sideways” and the site of the Michael Jackson getaway he called “Neverland.” There are a lot of wineries and horse ranches here; only a few of either are serious economic propositions in my judgment. In other words, there are a lot of rich people here who thought it would be fine to own a vineyard and winery or perhaps a horse breeding ranch. Oddly, there is also a small Indian reservation for the Chumash tribe which features a quite large casino. Oh, yes, and the valley is the location of the small “Danish” town called Solvang which is overloaded with souvenir shops and bakeries.

Ironically, homes in Santa Barbara (or here) cost too much for not-rich people to buy. So many of the not-rich people who work in Santa Barbara live in the Santa Maria and Lompoc areas and commute through the Santa Ynez valley, causing traffic backups during rush hours. They could go via US 101 but that route is farther and probably slower. It is the same economic dynamic that drove hundreds of thousands to commute into Los Angeles from the inland desert communities, seen here in miniature.

Why do we come here? As I write this we are sitting with the door open, and windows too. It is almost too warm. We took a walk earlier, beautiful blue sky reflected in the reservoir, ground squirrels scampering around, boats out fishing, and yet the place we are in is not crowded, unusual for Southern California. Yesterday was cool and blustery with rain showers, tomorrow may be the same. But it is the days like today that draw us back year after year – the feel of late spring in mid-winter in a much prettier setting than Palm Springs, ya gotta love it.

I grew up here, one major valley to the east, and didn’t appreciate what I had till I no longer had it. That is one of the less attractive aspects of human nature.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

U.S. Won't Support Brits

The United States has announced it will not support British ownership of the Falklands Islands in the face of the latest Argentine challenge. See this article in the Daily Telegraph.

The U.K. is our oldest, strongest ally. They have come to our support many times. For us to fail to support them is disgusting, and evil.

Greeks Injure Own Cause

The deputy prime minister of Greece has, in classical Balkans style, dragged up the memories of German behavior in Greece during World War II. See this Daily Telegraph article for details.

Having done so is supposed to make the Germans of today, almost none of whom were alive then, more willing to provide financial bailout for Greece. I don't think it will work.

Never forgetting a wrong done to your ancestors, however many generations ago, is very characteristic of the Balkans. People in this region are world-class haters and grudge-holders.

Greeks insist on their government spending more money than it takes in, in good times and bad. And they engage in widespread tax evasion. Now they want the other members of the EU, mostly the Germans, to bail them out. Good luck.

If a bailout happens, it will be because the wealthier nations want to hold the euro zone together, not because the Greeks earned it. Spain will be next in line for a handout. Ultimately the euro experiment, encompassing both wealthy nations and poor nations, will probably fail.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Union Popularity Down

See this survey done by The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press which finds that favorable and unfavorable attitudes toward unions are about equal. These attitudes have become substantially less favorable in the last few years.

Pew doesn't say why they think these attitudes are changing. In my experience a sharp decline in something's popularity is usually associated with some malfeasance on its part. Do we suppose the decline in union popularity is associated with the failure of the unionized "big three" auto firms? Or the widely held perception that the unionized public schools are not performing? Or maybe the malign influence public employee unions are having on our political life? My guess: all of the above.

Black Eye for Chavez

See this lengthy Washington Post article concerning a report compiled by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States. The report takes a very negative view of the Hugo Chavez regime in Venezuela. The article is quite detailed in listing the various anti-democratic moves made against those who do not support Chavez.

This negative OAS report won't cause Chavez to behave differently, but it may encourage other nations in the hemisphere to be less cordial in their relations with Venezuela. And it may also discourage nations like Nicaragua, Ecuador and Bolivia which have been emulating Chavez.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Trouble in Nicaragua

Mary Anastasia O'Grady writes a weekly column on Latin America for The Wall Street Journal. This week she takes a look at the Ortega regime in Nicaragua and doesn't much like what she sees. O'Grady observes:
Investors are fleeing the country and the economy is anemic. An electorate that never was very fond of Mr. Ortega is growing more dissatisfied.
Aware of this, Ortega is busily working to steal the elections as he conspires with Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. I wonder if Ollie North is ready to help the Contras again? This time he'll have to do it without presidential help.

Presidential Approval Sags

The Rasmussen Report runs a daily Presidential Approval Index poll, a poll this blog looks in upon with some frequency. As of today, Sunday, February 21, 2010, the index sits at -19. This is based upon 22% of likely voters responding that they Strongly Approve of President Obama's work, whereas 41% Strongly Disapprove. As Rasmussen notes:
That is the lowest level of strong approval yet recorded for this President.
Summarizing the more general findings, Rasmussen says:
Overall, 45% of voters say they at least somewhat approve of the President's performance. Fifty-four percent (54%) disapprove.
Quite an 'accomplishment' for being in office only 13 months.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Cook: System Is Broken

Charlie Cook is one of our best political analysts. Here in the National Journal he writes about the dysfunctionality of our Washington system. If you have a very strong stomach, go take a look at his view of the dismal state of our political system. Not only is it grim, it makes a lot of sense too.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Spengler: Israel Should Attack

David P. Goldman, who under the pen name Spengler writes about foreign policy for Hong Kong's Asia Times, has looked at all the variables and reached the conclusion that Israel should attack Iran. He concludes:
The strategic framework in which a unilateral Israel strike on Tehran makes sense is one in which all depends on Israel's capacity to improvise and dominate the situation through a combination of force and unpredictability.
You may not agree with his analysis but I think you will find his reasoning interesting.

Falklands Fuss

See what Argentina is doing to make Britain's life miserable vis-a-vis drilling in the Falklands (or Malvinas). My guess is that they have the right of this, if they don't want ships sailing from Argentina to the Falklands with cargoes of oil drilling supplies, they can probably prevent it.

The Brits can drill but will have to provision the drilling site from somewhere other than Argentina, which makes it more difficult and more expensive. Brazil or South Africa are both possible supply bases.

Quote of the Day

John Hinderaker, of Power Line, writing about the Obama administration backing away from the good relations Bush was cultivating with India:
It's hard to avoid the conclusion that a hallmark of Obama's foreign policy is perversity.

Ebbing Blue Tide

See what the guys at Politico say about the shifting political sands 15 months after the Obama surge:
The rapid reversal in Democratic fortunes in the very places where Obama's success brought so much attention suggests that predictions of a lasting realignment were premature.
There is a lot of state-by-state analysis in the article for those of you who love that level of political detail.

Greece Buggered

Go see the latest in the way the European Union is dealing with Greece. This article in the London Daily Telegraph pretty much lays it out. As a result of needing financial help from the other members, Greece loses its sovereignty in that body.

Some of the people writing comments suggest that the countries of the EU lost their sovereignty when they signed on to the Lisbon treaty. Whatever. The real question is this: will the Greeks man up and take their sovereignty back or wuss out and let it slide?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Majority Against Reelection

See the CNN/Opinion Research Poll here which asks, among other questions, whether the person being polled believes Barack Obama should be reelected. A majority of those polled (52%) answered no. Only 44% answered yes.

That is quite an accomplishment in just 13 months.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Quote of the Day II

The ever-popular Mark Steyn, writing for the National Review Online, about popular responses to the world-wide recession, that in contrast to Europe:
This is the only country in the developed world where a mass movement took to the streets to say we can do just fine if you control-freak statists would just stay the hell out of our lives, and our pockets.
That is a fair description of the Tea Party movement. Go read the whole article, this is only a sample.

Cheney A Winner

For those of you who share my positive view of Dick Cheney, you'll enjoy this article by Nile Gardiner in the London Telegraph. He sees Cheney as the prime spokesman for a muscular U.S. foreign and defense policy. He concludes:
Dick Cheney has become an extraordinarily influential game-changer in post-Bush Washington, emerging as Barack Obama’s leading nemesis on national security.

Indefinite Detention?

This article in Politico talks about needing a law to allow "indefinite detention" for terrorists and the sort of violent riff-raff we have held in Guantanamo. I truly don't understand the need for such a law.

What is wrong with calling the detainees "prisoners of war" and announcing that they will be detained until the long war is won, if that ever happens? Historically prisoners of war were not tried, they were simply detained until the war ended.

Quote of the Day I

My quote of the day is the headline the Power Line guys gave their piece on the announcement by Indiana Senator Birch Bayh that he will not run for reelection. In fact I would nominate it for headline of the year (to date). It is:
Bye Bayh

Another Billboard

Here is another conservative billboard, this time in Wisconsin. The source of the photo is the website of the NBC TV station in Chicago, link is here.

Unlike the last billboard, I don't find this one a sentiment I can support. Tough economic times are not an impeachable offense. Most small businesses fail anyway, many are under capitalized or in marginal markets. In recessions more of them fail. It is in the nature of capitalism for this to happen. Get over it.

Furthermore, it is not the President's job to keep them from failing. It is the President's job to keep from making matters worse, if he can. It is the job of the business owners to prevent failure, if it is possible. Often prevention is not possible.

We have a way of dealing with elected officials with whose policies we disagree: we don't reelect them. If the billboard suggested not reelecting Obama, that is a sentiment with which I could agree.

A Casual Guy

You gotta love bears, they look and act so much like people in fur suits.
Hat tip to Matt Drudge for the picture.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Euro in Peril

See this article in the London Daily Mail concerning difficulties in the Euro zone. Even if the Euro scare mongering is a bit extreme, the quote from David Cameron, leader of the Tories and likely next Prime Minister to the effect that the U.K. will never join the Euro zone on his watch is relatively unequivocal.

I'm surprised it took so long for the Euro to get into real trouble. Trying to get one currency to fit countries as different as Germany and Portugal seems unrealistic. Right now Greece is the boil on the bum of Europe. More broadly, Euro prognosticators talk about problems in the PIIGS countries, the acronym stands for Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, and Spain. This will be an issue to watch.

If you want a more rigorous treatment of the same issues, see this one from The Wall Street Journal. If anything, it is less optimistic.

Where You Sit....

See this article from the ABA Journal, the official journal of the American Bar Association, reporting bias in judges' rulings depending on their race and gender. The impact of a judge being African-American in race discrimination cases was greatest among four racial groups, and female judges find for the female plaintiff much more often in sexual harassment cases.

It would appear that SCOTUS Justice Sonia Sotomayor wasn't kidding when earlier in her life she talked about the influence of "a wise Latina." It appears maybe she should have said "the bias of a wise Latina." I wonder if, based on these findings, defendants in discrimination or harassment cases can ask for a change of venue if facing a judge who is likely to find against them based on race or gender? Probably not.

I guess the real question is whether the African-American or female judge is finding too many guilty, or whether the other-than-African-American or male judge is finding too few? I am sure the civil rights community will argue it is the latter.

When I did a hitch in Washington, D.C. some years ago I learned an adage that goes something like "where you sit determines where you stand." In other words, your station in life or in work influences the stand you take on issues - bosses see things differently than subordinates, parents differently than children, priests differently than saloon keepers, etc. This research demonstrates that we can add to the list of folks with different views: blacks differently than whites, men differently than women.

I am not surprised; but considering they were judges, I am disappointed.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Ugly Meeting

According to this Associated Press article, a biology faculty member shot six colleagues in a faculty meeting at the University of Alabama Huntsville campus. Three of those shot are dead.

Clearly, this behavior was unacceptable. On the other hand, I do understand how she felt; it was only a matter of time until it happened. University faculty meetings can be some of the most frustrating and unpleasant human gatherings on the planet.

Palin: Another View

Jim Vandehei and Jonathan Martin of Politico take a much less enamored view of Sarah Palin. Their relatively long article is as much about the press obsession with her as it is with her potential as a candidate. Interestingly, at the end of the day they do not identify why she is an obsession for the mainstream media, only that she is an obsession. Their conclusion:
Palin is no doubt a phenomenon — she's going to draw monster crowds and be an in-demand fundraiser for GOP candidates this fall. And she may overcome her weaknesses to make a run for the White House. But to cover her as the chief alternative to Obama and the presumptive front-runner for the GOP nomination in 2012 borders on the dishonest.
Their reasons why she is unlikely to become the next Republican presidential nominee make sense, see what you think.

Quote of the Day

John Hinderaker, writing in Power Line, about claims that record blizzards are evidence of global warming:
You know you're not dealing in the realm of science when anything that happens is adopted as confirmation of a hypothesis. A scientific theory is one that generates predictions that can be verified or falsified. Global warming doesn't qualify.
Way to go, John.

The Palin Phenomenon

I am reflecting on the post below, which has David Broder observing that Sarah Palin is a skilled politician. We know that she drives many people absolutely nuts with dislike, and inspires great liking in others. Let us examine that.

I suspect that the issue is that great unmentionable in America: social class. We don't like to think we have social classes in the United States, although of course we do have them.

Palin identifies with the proletariat, the blue collar and lower middle class. Her husband held blue collar jobs, her speech patterns are slangy and inelegant, and having a child out of wedlock as her daughter did is more typical of the lower classes.

Recognizing her natural constituency, Palin speaks against the elite, as she does in this quote from the Broder column, which Broder took from the Wallace TV program:

I'm never going to pretend like I know more than the next person. I'm not going to pretend to be an elitist. In fact, I'm going to fight the elitist, because for too often and for too long now, I think the elitists have tried to make people like me and people in the heartland of America feel like we just don't get it, and big government's just going to have to take care of us. I want to speak up for the American people and say: No, we really do have some good common-sense solutions. I can be a messenger for that.
Do you hear echos of Andy Jackson, or perhaps Harry Truman in what Palin says? I believe I do. Of course her words drive establishment conservatives like David Brooks of The New York Times or Peggy Noonan of The Wall Street Journal crazy. They are some of the elitists of whom she speaks, and good ones at that. And yes, they do believe they know more about how things work and how to make them work better, and perhaps they sometimes do.

Broder on Palin

The Washington Post's David Broder, arguably the dean of political commentators in Washington, writes some very positive things about Sarah Palin. My guess is that he has, in the process, done his reputation some damage within the fraternity of political columnists.

Broder says Palin's keynote speech to the National Tea Party Convention and guest spot on Chris Wallace's Sunday morning talk program:
Showed off a public figure at the top of her game -- a politician who knows who she is and how to sell herself.
Broder says Palin has "locked herself firmly in the populist embrace" which "doesn't always win" but "wins more often than you'd guess and for a greater variety of people, especially when things are not going well for the country."

Broder concludes:
Those who want to stop her will need more ammunition than deriding her habit of writing on her hand. The lady is good.
Based on years of reading his stuff, I know Broder is good. If he says Palin is good, she is good.

Positive News from Equador

See this Associated Press article from The Washington Post about a popular rebellion against the populist government President Rafael Correa has been trying to build for Ecuador. The conservative mayor of Guayaquil has become a power center against leftist Correa.

Explaining why he opposes the socialist policies of Correa, Mayor Jaime Nebot correctly observes that Correa's government:
Is a repulsive copy of that failed scheme that Chavez has imposed for the misfortune of Venezuelans. A nation like Venezuela that could and should swim in abundance, suffocates in misery and poverty.
As Lady Thatcher wisely said, "The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people's money [to spend]." Hugo Chavez is rapidly running out in Venezuela and Rafael Correa is dumb enough to want to take Ecuador down the same ruinous road.

It is good to see there are many wise Ecuadorians who oppose him.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Jet Lag

It has been many years since, as an undergraduate, I would occasionally overindulge in spiritus frumenti, aka alcoholic beverages. Nevertheless, I remember clearly how unpleasant a hangover felt. I spent a number of Saturdays or Sundays groaning about my muzzy head, "off" stomach, and general malaise, the results of low-grade alcohol poisoning.

At this point in my life, and for the last several decades, taking a second drink is extremely rare and a third is unheard of. However, I find I get the same set of symptoms from jet lag, don't you? This makes me wonder if the two experiences - hangover and jet lag - are related in some way.

Mind you, I'm not talking about the jet lag from crossing 1-3 time zones. Flying from the East Coast to the West Coast of North America, or vice versa, doesn't produce a lot of discomfort, nor does it last for more than a day. The big jet lag comes from crossing 5 or more time zones, say from the U.S. to Europe or the U.S. to Asia - that is when it gets miserable.

The other DrC has a theory that it takes X days to recover from jet lag, where X = Z - (2 + D). Z is the number of time zones crossed. D is directionality, with a value of +2 if going overseas and -2 if coming home.

Our experience on a lot of transoceanic flights suggests this isn't far wrong. The excitement of starting a trip helps us get over jet lag on the trip outward, and the lack thereof makes recovery more difficult after the homeward trip.

The Worm Turns

The honest answer is "yes." Golly, Mr. President, is it okay if I miss Ronald Reagan even more?
The source for this picture is Minnesota Public Radio's website, and the physical location of the billboard is alleged to be outside of Wyoming, Minnesota on I-35, somewhere north of the twin cities.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Rasmussen: 75% Angry with Government

Rasmussen Reports finds voters are more angry than ever with government policies. Overall, 75% are either somewhat angry or very angry with government policies. Only 19% say they are either not very or not at all angry with government policy. Presumably the balance do not have an opinion.

This is less of a boon for Republicans than one might imagine. Voters are clearly frustrated with the entire political process. Rasmussen says:

Part of the frustration is likely due to the belief of 60% of voters that neither Republican political leaders nor Democratic political leaders have a good understanding of what is needed today.
Doesn't that sound like a situation made to order for the Tea Party movement?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Tea Party Convention Report

Glenn Harlan Reynolds blogs as Instapundit and is one of the most famous of the old-line bloggers. He has attended the National Tea Party convention in Nashville and reports on it for The Washington Examiner.

Reynolds calls the Tea Party movement the third Great Awakening in American history, the first two having been religious in nature. The whole article is worth your time; my favorite quote is this:
People I’ve talked to, both there and at other events, aren’t looking for a charismatic leader. That’s the Barack Obama model, now somewhat tattered. Instead, they’ve had enough and they’re taking the reins themselves.
What remains to be seen is whether the Tea Party movement has more legs than Ross Perot's American Independence Party had. Perhaps its strength is that, unlike the AIP, they aren't the followers of a charismatic leader.

Whatever the case, there is a nice symmetry in the new media reporting on the new politics.

Dating Game Revisited

The cover article of the most recent Weekly Standard can be found here. Written by Charlotte Allen and entitled "The New Dating Game," it looks at the state of play in modern 'courtship.' For those of you who've been out of that marketplace for some years, as I have, it is a fascinating look at something important that has changed radically without much societal attention being paid. It is a long article but worth your time if the subject interests you.


I'm always interested in new terms entering the American version of the English language, and this article contains one that is new to me. It calls to engage in casual sex "to sport f___." Here is the sentence in which it is used:
I’m sure there are a lot of guys who will be sweet and gentle with you in bed and really pay attention to your needs, but the guys you come out to sport f— probably won’t be among them.

One thing the article doesn't mention, but sure as heck implies, is that there is an enormous amount of casual heterosexual sex happening without any corresponding explosion of HIV/AIDS cases. That being the case, it would appear that HIV transmission between non-IV drug using heterosexual partners in this society is nearly zero.

I seem to remember being told by official sources that everybody was equally at risk for HIV/AIDS, not just gay men and IV drug users. This is apparently untrue. I wonder, did the officials who put forward that misinformation believe it to be true? Or were we deliberately given politically correct but false information in order to get the wider society to support efforts to control HIV/AIDS?

India, Pakistan to Talk

David Ignatius of The Washington Post writes for RealClearPolitics about quiet negotiations underway between India and Pakistan. He correctly points out the importance of this often-tense and sometimes violent relationship between two neighboring countries that were once joined as parts of British India. This will be a situation to watch going forward.

Don't Sing "My Way" in Manila

See this New York Times article about people getting killed for singing Sinatra's "My Way" in karaoke bars in the Philippines. Imagine bars banning this evergreen karaoke favorite. I hadn't really pondered how arrogant the lyrics really are.

In the U.S. we understand the song to be a distillation of Sinatra's "cocky little guy with friends in the Mob" public persona and his leadership of the Las Vegas-based Rat Pack. We also understand that in order to do it "his way" Sinatra worked very hard; he earned the right to make the career decisions the song celebrates.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Quotes of the Day

Andrew Breitbart, speaking to the Tea Party convention about the state of the mainstream media, as reported on News Busters:
In order to create the perception that the minority is the majority and the majority is not just the minority, but bad, racist, homophobic, all those buzzwords that they learned in the freshman orientation class at Wesleyan are used.
Breitbart tells the MSM that with the rise of the new media, of which he is a leading practitioner:
Your days of doing this are over. It's not your business model that sucks, it's you that sucks.
Not elegant phraseology, perhaps, but very much to the point. There's no question that the MSM is hurting financially.

Yardini Prognosticates

See this article in The Washington Post which reports an interview with Ed Yardini, who has long been one of the investment gurus of Wall Street. Ed is looking forward for investment-influencing "black swans," events that are rare but important. One of my favorite quotes:
There's a growing recognition that the dollar is the best of a dodgy breed of currencies. There's a greater risk that the yen, the pound or the euro would take a dive before the U.S. dollar does.
Ed Yardini elaborates:
A euro currency crisis looks to be a plausible black swan -- much more so than the collapse of the dollar.
Apropos of what we posted yesterday:
China, over a very short period -- one year -- has inflated a big real estate bubble, just as we did not too long ago.
Forecasters like Yardini aren't always right but they are almost always interesting, go see the entire article.

Friday, February 5, 2010

A China Bubble?

See this Fortune article which describes the likelihood of a bubble in the economy of China. It cites a famously prescient short seller named Jim Chanos who sees in today's China:
A country whose rapid rise was hiding massive flaws: grossly inflated real estate prices, irresponsible construction lending, massive overbuilding, a banking system larded with bad loans, and unreliable government data. Fitch Ratings weighed in this week saying that China's banks face the greatest "bubble risk" of any Asian country.

That is a lot of potential trouble. However the article goes on to suggest that the autocratic Communist Party may be able to ameliorate some of the potential difficulties via the ability of a command economy to allocate resources arbitrarily.

On our recent visit to China, I was struck by the extent to which the China of today reminds me of "Japan, Inc." before the Japanese bubble burst. Chanos' description of China today, noted above, would have fit the bubble years in Japan very nicely.

Travel Blogging XXII

Dateline: San Francisco. The trip is over, we survived another amazing adventure. Herewith some valedictory thoughts. We had been security screened in Bangkok, we flew into Narita, the airport for Tokyo and our baggage was checked through to SFO. We never encountered anyone or anything unscreened from outside the security envelope, never left the secure area at Narita, but still had to go through two separate security checks in Japan. Does this make any sense? We've encountered this process elsewhere, Frankfurt and Chicago come to mind.

I understand screening everyone and everything entering the secure envelope, but why do we need to be rescreened if we've never left the envelope? Cannot the security people comprehend that the envelope extends back to the first gate at which we entered the system? Oh, well....

The Joke's on Kennedy

According to this Boston Herald article, U.S. Representative Patrick Kennedy described the candidacy of Senator Scott Brown as "a joke." Brown was recently elected to fill out the remainder of the senate term of Patrick's father, Edward Kennedy, who died in office.

Republican Brown won a substantial majority of the votes in heavily Democratic Massachusetts. Such performance by a politician is no joke. Had Brown lost by a wide margin, that candidacy would have been a joke.

What Patrick really has done is criticize the judgment of his home state voters, never a wise move in politics. I expect he will regret this ill-advised remark.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Travel Blogging XXI

Dateline: Tokyo. The flight here was uneventful, save for the fact that the plane took off at 6:40 a.m. To catch an international flight leaving that early, even staying at an airport hotel as we were, you arise at 3 a.m. Then if you are a little excited to be heading home after a month+ on the briny, it isn't easy to get to sleep the night before. So...grogginess is to be expected.

Thailand has been a center for sex tourism ever since the Vietnam war when GIs would come here for R&R, perhaps even before. I have read of charter jets full of Japanese men flying here for an orgy of commercial sex. I found a really interesting thing in our definitely upscale hotel room at Bangkok's airport: a brochure describing how child sex tourism is illegal in Thailand. It is pretty awful that they feel this brochure is necessary. Apparently Thailand is now a destination for pedophiles, mostly men I expect, who sexually abuse children. Gross.

Jet travel creates a real awareness of the climatic differences at various distances from the equator. We left Bangkok this morning at 4 a.m. in short sleeves experiencing warm, humid weather. Several hours later we landed in Tokyo and spotted snow on the ground in shady, northern exposures and the ramp workers are wearing parkas and gloves. That is a dramatic difference. Later today San Francisco will be chilly, it normally is cold pretty much year 'round except in the early autumn.

High Altitude Weight Loss

See this Wired Science article which summarizes a scientific study in the Feb.4 issue of the journal Obesity (no link available). It reports that overweight individuals lose weight at high altitudes without dieting or exercise.

The DrsC spend the middle third of every year at an elevation of 6300 ft, and your humble scribe thought he'd experienced some of this happening to his own too-well-upholstered body. It is interesting to see there is science supporting my purely anecdotal experience.

If you were going to start a fat farm, doing so in the Rockies or Sierras would make sense, no?

Quote of the Day

The always amusing, and often substantive Mark Steyn, writing for Mcleans magazine about serious problems with the science underlying claims of anthropogenic global warming:
The scientific “consensus” is melting way faster than the glaciers.
The article is worth your time.

Travel Blogging XX

Dateline: Bangkok, Thailand. Further thoughts on the journey just ending. One of the things that makes an ocean cruise fun is if you have nice tablemates for supper. We had two excellent sets of folks with whom to share supper. Our first set on the cruise to Shanghai included folks who were out in this part of the world visiting their son who does IT work for the State Department, based out of Bangkok, and a retired sales manager and his wife from Minnesota. This set for the return cruise included a farm couple from Alberta and an executive couple from Mississippi. Have supper with other folks for a couple of weeks and you start to feel like family.

Of the stops we made on this trip, the two in Vietnam looked and felt the most like we expect Asia to feel. Hong Kong and Singapore are just big modern cities, and to some extent Bangkok and Taipei are the same. Naha in Okinawa is a lower-rise version of a modern city too. Vietnam has that "other" feeling about it. Not bad, mind you, just really different.

If you are going cruising, you need to know about a non-prescription product called Bonine, the chemical name is meclizine hydrochloride. The other DrC and I take it before and during the cruise, one tablet each per day in the evening, and we experience no sea sickness. In simple terms, it works. And if you experience really rough seas, take more than one per day. It makes you a little drowsier than otherwise, but that isn't bad when you are trying to sleep in a strange bed. And no, I don't get paid to plug the product.

Our captain on the cruise just ended was interesting, an Italian who often described the Ocean Princess as "your home away from home, our beautiful white lady." I don't know if he loves his ship but it certainly seems that way. Captains move from ship to ship, they go home on leave and return to another ship as another captain has taken over their former command. He announced with pride that he had received his assignment for the next year and would spend it all aboard the Ocean Princess. She has an amazing itinerary over the next year, essentially around the world.

This class of ship, carrying 600+ passengers, was designed and built for Renaissance, a firm no longer in business. Princess bought 3 of the ships, Oceana has 3 more and Azamara has two. Much smaller than most modern ships, they nevertheless have some of the biggest and best libraries at sea. This is particularly useful for ships that cruise long legs with multiple sea days, reading is a major thing passengers do on sea days. I read several books in the last 30 days, perhaps as many as 10. I really like to find a well-equipped library on a cruise ship, and the Ocean Princess and her sister the Pacific Princess do very well in that regard. I fear I have just told you more than you want to know about the former Renaissance R-ships.

Barone on Climate Change

Michael Barone of The Washington Examiner writes a great take-down of the whole climate change foofaraw. He compares global warmism to religion:
The secular religion of global warming has all the elements of a religious faith: original sin (we are polluting the planet), ritual (separate your waste for recycling), redemption (renounce economic growth) and the sale of indulgences (carbon offsets). We are told that we must have faith (all argument must end, as Al Gore likes to say) and must persecute heretics (global warming skeptics are like Holocaust deniers, we are told).
Read the whole article.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Quotes of the Day

Douglas Elmendorf, Congressional Budget Office director, testifying before the House Budget Committee:
The country faces a fundamental disconnect between the services that people expect the government to provide, particularly in the form of benefits for older Americans, and the tax revenues that people are prepared to send to the government to finance those services. That fundamental disconnect will have to be addressed in some way if the nation is to avoid serious long-term damage to the economy and to the well-being of the population.
John Hinderaker, author of the Power Line piece which is the source of the quote, opines:
For the foreseeable future, there will be no political will to make such changes. So we're going to see a race between political will and economic collapse. It's hard to be optimistic about the outcome unless a drastic change in our political culture takes place, soon.
Not optimistic, but accurate. I don't see that will in evidence in either major party; perhaps in the tea party movement?

Travel Blogging XIX

Dateline: Bangkok, Thailand. We landed in Laem Chebang this morning and traveled by van to an airport hotel. This was a drive of about 1.5 hours on what is locally called a motorway, in the states we'd call it a freeway or tollway. It turns out the Chao Phraya River is too silted up for large ships to navigate up to Bangkok, small river vessels manage okay.

As we drove we saw mile after mile of rice paddy, and they were large and healthy looking too, not the tiny ones you see elsewhere. Mind you, "large" is relative. These were not as large as the ones we see in California, but still of decent size. This part of Thailand looks more prosperous than Vietnam, I'd guess the export of rice generates decent amounts of foreign exchange.

We see an odd thing here that we've not seen elsewhere. Many, but not all, trucks have a cluster of strips of rubber or leather hanging down in front of the outside edge of the front wheel. Some look new and healthy, some look old and worn-out. I've even seen one or two by rear wheels but the front wheel is the norm. I have to admit I only looked at the driver's side of the vehicle, which here is the right. Thailand drives on the left side of the road as do the U.K., Oz, EnZed, and Japan. Most probably Malaysia, India and Burma could be added to the list as former British colonies. If any reader knows the purpose of this cluster of straps, could you please let me know?

MMR Vaccine Safe

I rarely cite an MSMNC article, given their lefty political bias. This article from MSNBC is apolitical, and it rings down the curtain on the craziness that kept people from vaccinating their children against measles, mumps, and rubella. It turns out the original article in The Lancet that triggered the boycott reported "research" instead of research. Lancet has withdrawn the original Wakefield article. MSNBC says:
The Wakefield paper killed children and left others deaf and disabled from preventable diseases as their parents, in an effort to avoid autism, left them unvaccinated.

Travel Blogging XVIII

Dateline: Ko Samui, Thailand. We just raised the hook, and left this beach resort on an island along the southern peninsula of Thailand, on the Gulf of Thailand side. It is relatively far south but doesn’t have the large Islamic population that some of southern Thailand has. As we commented earlier, it has the same feel that any third world beach resort has, plus elephants and rubber plantations which are somewhat unique to this region.

It is early February, we are north of the equator so it is winter, and the temperature is very nearly 90°F. Why? Because the equator isn’t far south of here. We will dock at Laem Chabang, a port for Bangkok, early tomorrow morning and disembark. This will have been our longest cruise ever, totaling 32 days, and a nice one too. Now we face the long trip home: an hour+ drive, two long, dreary flights, and another multi-hour drive. The only plus is crossing the dateline and getting back the day we lost on the trip here.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Gov't. Healthcare a Loser

Go see this article in Canada's #1 newspaper, The Globe and Mail, which reports that the Premier of Newfoundland (equivalent of a state governor) is coming to the U.S. for heart surgery. Talk about your damning indictments of single payer (governments) health care, this is it.

Where would Premier Danny Williams go for care if we in the U.S. do what President Obama wants and adopt the same second-class health care system Canada has?

Travel Blogging XVII

Dateline: Singapore. It is a city as well as a country, it’s a city-state. Today we took the subway, which is very modern and clean, to Chinatown. Yes, the neighborhood is called “Chinatown” in a city where most of the people are Chinese – go figure. There they were celebrating Chinese New Year by tying silk flowers onto bare trees to create the look of cherry blossoms – actually very pretty.

Then we took a cab to One Fullerton, a plaza alongside the Singapore River where there is the statue of a large Merlion, the symbol of Singapore. The “merlion,” for those who don’t know, is the mythical lion of the seas, with the head of a male lion and the tail of a large fish, like a tuna. At this location there is much construction happening, a giant casino for example with a very interesting shape. If you know the shape of the Greek letter pi [π] now imagine it with three vertical legs instead of two and you’ve got the shape of that new casino’s tower. I’m guessing if you go to the blog next week you’ll find the other DrC has posted pictures of both the merlion and the unusual casino.

A member of my onship lecture audience asked about corruption in the government of Singapore and another audience member directed us to the website of an organization called Transparency International which attempts to determine the honesty or lack thereof of governments around the world. I checked, this organization rates Singapore as one of the five least corrupt governments in the world. The other four are Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, and New Zealand, not necessarily in that order. That is darn good, particularly in this part of the world.

Cabs are reasonably priced in Singapore, so is the subway. Prices in the shops are not bargains. This afternoon we are moored alongside a passenger catamaran, the Asia Star, with a home port of Nassau. These are exceedingly rare. The Bahamas are becoming one of the world’s leading flag-of-convenience nations for passenger ships [I don’t see many non-passenger cargo ships home ported there.]. When you see this you can be sure the reason is regulations in The Bahamas favor the cruise line in important ways.