Monday, October 31, 2011

TNR: 2012 Will Be Ugly

The New Republic is part of the left-leaning MSM, and not ashamed of it. As such, we seldom cite it here on COTTonLINE.

TNR's William Galston has looked at some recent polling and CBO data and put the best face on it a Democrat can manage. His point, voters don't much like either party. I suspect he is correct, see what you think.

The old Management professor in me views presidential reelection campaigns as "performance reviews." As a voter you may not have much trust in the opponent but you've four years of data about what the incumbent has done. You only vote for the incumbent if you want four more of what you've just had.

I find it hard to believe very many Americans will vote for four more years of Obama. From a Democrat's point of view, the prospects are "ugly." That said, I've been wrong before.

A Defense of Romney

Many people are beating up on Mitt Romney for flip-flopping or changing his mind about various issues. Jay Nordlinger, who writes for National Review, pens a brief defense of Romney that makes a lot of sense to me. Go see what you think.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Travel Blogging XVI

Ponta Delgada, Sao Miguel Island, Azores Islands, Portugal: That long list is where we are, read it as follows: city of Ponta Delgada, island of Sao Miguel, archipelago of Azores Islands, owned by, and off the coast of, Portugal. Ponta Delgada is the largest city of the most populous island in the nine island chain.

We did a tour by 4-wheel drive vehicle today, and saw a very pretty, green island which today was very cloudy and/or foggy. The weather meant we had no sweeping panoramas but the towns, the lakes, the greenery were amazing. This is a nice place.

One of the fascinating things about this island is that most of the rural roads are lined with hydrangea plants about four feet tall. The flour heads, each the size and appearance of a brain, varied in color from white to pink to blue to lavender.

Some of the roads looked like the road down the west side of New Zealand’s north island, lined with trees, ferns, and green as anything. Elsewhere the scenery resembled the way Hawaii looks on a rainy day. Canes which look like wild sugar cane grow as weeds along the edges of cultivated fields.

The architecture is rather charming; tile roofs and white stucco walls which our guide Luis said were made of stone instead of wood. I asked how the stone walls tolerate earthquakes and he said “okay.” The islands are volcanic and there are hot springs indicating the volcanism isn’t totally gone, so there are earthquakes.

Experiencing Sao Miguel as cool and coastal, I understand why the Azores Portuguese who have emigrated to the Central Valley of California love to go to Pismo Beach in the summer. Pismo is not so green as Sao Miguel but the coastal climate must feel just right.

Lots of cattle are grown, and milked, on Sao Miguel. Our guide said there are twice as many cattle as people on the island. That explains the heavy concentration of Azores emigrants in the dairy business of Central California – it is their historic occupation.

I don’t know what I expected of the Azores Islands but this wasn’t it. What I saw is nicer than I expected, at least Sao Miguel is. This has the charm people attribute to Mykonos, but I'm unable to see. I’m surprised this isn’t a bigger tourist destination. Maybe the weather is mostly rainy/foggy…?

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Travel Blogging XV

At Sea, West of Portugal: There follow some random thoughts about cruising. There is a type of long ocean swell that causes ships to creak, particularly in the interior open spaces. We are ‘enjoying’ those today. Hearing those creaks I always wonder about metal fatigue.

Longish cruises tend to have older passengers, very few who still have jobs, even fewer children. Cruise ship lecturers range from great to awful. As a former lecturer I always go check them out. We have one of each on board this cruise.

Our awful lecturer talks down to the audience, as though we were a junior high general science class. We suspect that is what he taught for many years. Our excellent lecturer is a man named John Maxtone-Graham and his topic is ocean liners and later, when liners were no more, cruise ships.

Maxtone-Graham is perhaps the best lecturer afloat, he is simply a raconteur. Author of several books and arguably a world authority on the liners that connected Europe to America, he is superb, witty, and extremely well-prepared. Of course his topic is interesting to us who cruise. We take long cruises, and that is where he lectures, so we’ve heard him a couple of times before. We are enjoying him again.

Tomorrow we visit the Azores Islands, a dependency of Portugal. After that it is six straight days at sea before we dock at Ft. Lauderdale. I don’t expect to do much travel blogging during that stretch, but I may do some of the usual COTTonLINE content: politics and international commentary.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Noonan: Ryan Gets It

The Wall Street Journal's Peggy Noonan has a column that you should see. In it she talks about the Freddie and Fannie mess, how it led us into recession, and how Rep. Paul Ryan is saying the right things about all this. Give her column a look.

Travel Blogging XIV

Lisbon, Portugal: As I write this we are pulling into the harbor of Lisbon, a place we’ve not been before. Our ship is only here for half a day, we’ll do a city tour just to get an overview.

The day is clear and warm. Lisbon as seen from the ship is a beautiful old city, centered on the harbor as many old cities were. Cruise ships here have the advantage of tying up right by the downtown, no shuttle buses needed.

We sailed into the harbor under a suspension bridge that resembles the Golden Gate Bridge. It was built by Salazar, their former dictator.

I spent a few years living and visiting in the portion of central CA that has many Portuguese immigrants. I’m wondering to what extent I’ll see things here which echo that experience – names and the like.

Yesterday we sailed down the Mediterranean coast of Spain and were amazed at the ship traffic along that coast. At any given time we were within sight of half a dozen other ships, almost all of them cargo ships. I expect this eastern Spanish coast is some of most heavily traveled water in the world.

We turned the corner at Gibraltar and immediately ran into rougher water as we eased into the southern reaches of the North Atlantic. Last night was unpleasantly choppy…it happens.

Later…we spent the afternoon in Lisbon, on a tour. Every time someone said “Lisbon” I’d think of the boss cop of that name in the CBS TV program entitled The Mentalist.

Our tour included a one-hour ride on a cute little street car – a real Toonerville Trolley. That is definitely the way to see the older parts of Lisbon, some of the streets we screeched and clanked down were so narrow a tour bus couldn’t have gotten through.

These streetcars date back to the early 1900s and have been updated with electric doors. Mostly, they are still old technology that continues to get the job done. Examples include a tongue-and-groove bentwood roof and low-tech single-hung windows.

Lisbon is built on seven hills, like Rome, only steep like San Francisco. In order to get sufficient traction, the cars have a sand dispenser that, on demand, drops grit on the rails. There are air brakes and old-fashioned leverage brakes as a back-up – both get used on the steeper hills. The last time I’d experienced a noisy ride like this was on the Streetcar Named Desire in New Orleans, I avoid SF’s cable cars.

Thoughts about Lisbon: given that it is old, I like it quite a lot. The pretty setting reminds me of Perth; Lisbon is on the bank of the wide Tagus River just inland from the Atlantic. Much of the city was rebuilt after a big earthquake in the mid-1700s, so it isn’t ancient.

There is the normal quotient of showy big Catholic churches, plus the grand governmental buildings you expect in a national capital. The parliament building is particularly fine and the presidential palace (not a residence, only a workplace) has a great setting.

Lisbon is a clean city; the cobblestones are limestone, which means foot traffic has polished them to a buttery smoothness like those in Dubrovnik. This can make for slippery footing, even when dry. Set into the whitish limestone are designs made of blackish basalt – very elegant.

Many of the older homes are covered with glazed tiles on the outside, similar to what we would do with a kitchen backsplash or a shower wall. Except that Lisbon’s tiles are patterned, like the Moorish designs or the tiles the Spanish use for accent décor. Where we’d paint or stucco, they often tile – I’ve never seen the like.

Portugal is very aware (and rightly proud) of its heritage as a “launching pad” for world explorers. You hear a lot about Prince Henry, the Navigator, and Vasco da Gama. They remember with a mixture of pride and shame the empire they once had, and are proud of letting Brazil go without a fight. You’re told, for instance, that around the world something like 200 million people speak Portuguese.

Marriage a Plus

Regular readers know our penchant for demographics. Go read an interview by National Review with a leading demographer who specializes in trends concerning marriage. There are some surprises.

"General Winter" Noticed by MSM

Here at COTTonLINE we noted that cold weather would probably clean out the occupiers of Wall Street and their kin in other places where it freezes. Now some weeks later the MSM has figured this out, see the Associated Press article here on Yahoo News.

BTW, the reference to "General Winter" comes from the Russian battle against the Nazis in World War II. The Soviets were probably less responsible for beating the Germans than was the brutal Russian winter.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Travel Blogging XIII

Barcelona, Espana: It was rainy, cold and ugly yesterday in Cannes; today it is beautiful and warm in Barcelona, a Mediterranean port the DrsC call “Bark.” We've been here before, maybe twice. Changeability is the hallmark of autumn, as the weather dodges back and forth between the winter-that-is-to-come and the summer-that-is-past.

This repositioning cruise is scheduled somewhat later than in previous years, and the weather is a bigger gamble in late October than in late September. “Repositioning” is a term cruise lines use to describe the long, often trans-Atlantic or trans-Pacific, cruises which move the ship from where it spends the summer to where it spends the winter, or vice versa.

For example, both the Caribbean and the west coast of Mexico are winter cruising spots, so is anything south of the equator where the summer is our winter – South America, Tahiti or Australia/New Zealand. The Mediterranean, the Baltic, and Alaska are all summer cruising areas. Repositioning cruises move the ships from one area to the other, occur in spring and fall, and are favorites of long-time cruisers.

Tomorrow we spend the day at sea and day after tomorrow we will be in Lisbon, Portugal. We’ve not been to Lisbon; I hope for nice weather so we can see the city.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Travel Blogging XII

Livorno/Pisa/Firenze, Italia: We spent yesterday on a tour of Pisa and Florence, Italy. It was a long day. What follows is a reprise of that experience.

We’d been to Pisa before and it is still an amazing place. It consists of three buildings within a walled enclosure, sort of a grassy park. There is, of course, the famous leaning tower. Many don’t know that it is just the bell tower for an adjacent, rather grand church.

The other two buildings are first the church mentioned above, large and in Romanesque style. The second building is a baptistery which is likewise large and circular in floor plan, with a domed roof. The baptistery is our favorite; it looks like a wedding cake made of Carrera marble.

We found one of the two places to sit in the entire multi-acre enclosure, a nice flat marble slab that forms part of the pediment for a column on the rear elevation of the church. We sat there looking at the baptistery for maybe a half hour, avoiding the Japanese tourists doing the trite “I’m holding up the leaning tower” photos. Question: why must all Japanese tourists act like they’re doing bad impressions of Japanese tourists?

Our second stop was Firenze, known to English speakers as Florence. It is not a Roman city, mostly built during the renaissance by the Medicis and their competitors, and like Rome it is not coastal. It was our first, and likely last, visit to Florence.

Old Florence largely consists of over-decorated churches, big “palaces” that look like bureaucratic warrens, and outdoor sculptures that appear classical but are really political in intent. Then there are the famous bronze door sculptures that were intended as biblical primers for illiterate Italians.

Our reactions? We were not impressed. The DrsC found Florence to be old, tired, crowded, cramped, and over-hyped. We were there on a Monday and the Uffizi Gallery is closed on Mondays. The Ponte Vecchio is unusual but not beautiful as many bridges in Venice are. Florence is not nearly as grand as Rome nor as beautiful as Paris.

The Firenze municipal police may be corrupt, but they sure have sharp looking uniforms. As the other DrC says, “the Italians have style.” On the other hand I have difficulty getting used to being charged for using public toilets. Europeans are proud of their socialized medicine but have no problem with capitalist crappers. Different strokes….

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Travel Blogging XI

Civitavecchia, Italy: Civitavecchia is today’s port for Rome, the port was once Ostia Antica until the mouth of the Tiber silted up. We’ve been to this port several times so we’re not going ashore today.

I am sitting looking out the window at Royal Caribbean’s Navigator of the Seas which is moored nearby. We’ve traveled on the Navigator, also on a trans-Atlantic crossing. She’s the same size as our Ruby Princess but is frankly more attractive inside.

We’ve been speculating on why most Princess ships have essentially identical interior appointments. It is sort of boring; there is no sense of “let’s go exploring the ship” when you first board. Are Princess ships designed for boring people who want comfortable sameness in every ship?

Royal Caribbean’s ships are not all the same inside, ditto Norwegian. I haven’t seen the inside of enough Holland America Line ships to generalize. Oh, well, enough about the interior décor of ships.

Tomorrow our port is Livorno, aka Leghorn, which is the port for Florence and Pisa. We are off to Florence on a long bus ride tomorrow, we always fall asleep on buses so we’ll sleep through the Tuscan countryside. Others love the Tuscan countryside and we like it well enough but it looks like the California of our birth so it isn’t something new to us.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Geraghty: Gingrich vs. Perry?

Jim Geraghty, writing for National Review, sees things to like in Perry and Gingrich, and finds the field, minus Romney, a zesty, interesting group. See what he writes. If Jim's right about Perry, then Rick has the Reagan charisma and that's hard to beat.

Voting with Their Feet

Go see this Forbes article for a summary of how Red States are prospering and Blue States are sinking into the mire. People are moving out of Blue States and yet Blue States keep raising taxes, as the Red States continue to do well by doing less.

Travel Blogging X

Naples/Pompeii, Italy: We are alongside in the harbor of Naples, and spent the morning walking around Pompeii. Pompeii is probably one of the biggest tourist attractions in Europe. The site is surrounded with parking lots, campgrounds, snack shops, souvenir stands, service stations, etc.

Having seemingly put down Pompeii, let me say I believe the site fully justifies all the tourist visitation. It is a wow! Pompeii is much larger and more complete than the Herculaneum site which we visited a week or so ago when here last.

Unlike Herculaneum, Pompeii had bodies captured intact in the ash. The bodies were modeled and then disintegrated within the mold. The archeologists poured plaster into the molds and then unearthed them as more-or-less intact models of the original people. It is spooky.

At least some of Pompeii’s buildings are impressive. We toured the home of a successful author who was wealthy enough to afford his own Roman bath. Understand, a Roman bath included a steam room, at least two pools, and perhaps a masseuse. In other words, it was a much bigger deal than our shower or tub.

The houses in Pompeii had running water brought by lead pipes. These gave people lead poisoning until the pipes became encrusted with calcium, after which the water they carried was no longer contaminated.

Houses had cisterns which caught rainwater to use for irrigation and washing, not for drinking and cooking. The cisterns worked in conjunction with the home’s atrium which caught rain and fed it to the cistern.

Pompeii has several quite grand indoor and outdoor spaces, including its forum. It must have been an impressive city before the eruption, it is no slouch now. It is one of Europe’s “must see” sites.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Travel Blogging IX

Venice, Italy: The city with canals for streets, the beautiful and romantic Venice. We spent the afternoon there and I will share with you some reactions.

First, gondolas really are pretty cool, and the gondoliers exhibit casual skill in navigating in their rather specialized environment. Ours didn’t sing but did move us along with pushes delivered with his pole/paddle, his hand, or his foot. He also chattered in rapid-fire Italian with other gondoliers.

Speaking of “rapid fire,” hearing someone speak in another language often sounds like too many syllables in too little time. Here is an insight into why this is so. English has substantially more vocabulary than most other languages, more words to express specific meanings.

Have you been in Canada and looked at documents or package labels written in both English and French? If so you must have noticed that the French version is always about 50% longer than the English. I suspect the same would be true of English and Italian or English and Spanish.

In order to say the same thought in Italian, French, or Spanish one has to include more modifiers and descriptors than we do in English. In English we tend to have a word that means exactly what we intend without requiring the modifiers and descriptors.

Back to Venice, the water in the canals stinks; no question in my mind sewage leaks into the canals. How unclear is the water? You cannot see down three inches into it. I have to think living around what amount to open sewers isn’t healthy, I wonder if anyone has studied it? The canals in Amsterdam are about as polluted.

It is fascinating to see boats filling essentially all the roles that vehicles do on land. I saw an ambulance boat with flashing lights and siren. I saw police boats, construction boats, delivery boats, even a garbage boat. There is not, however, a direct aquatic equivalent to a motorcycle or bicycle, I suspect because the water is too dirty to directly expose one’s body to.

The buildings are old, and look it. We are told they all exist atop wooden pilings driven into the mud. Apparently during the period when Venice controlled Croatia, the Venetians cut down all the oak trees in Croatia to use as pilings. Supposedly the mixture of mud and salt water keeps them from rotting and causes them to petrify. This “petrify” I don’t know of my own knowledge, it’s just what all the guides say.

Buildings are not made of marble, even the fancy ones like churches, palaces, and the like. Reason: it is too heavy to be supported on marshy soil. Instead buildings are made of brick, which is supposed to be lighter, and limestone, ditto. The pollution causes the limestone to deteriorate and become dirty. There are a lot of restoration projects under way.

When Venice experiences exceptionally high tides, the plazas and ground floors of buildings flood. Instead of dealing with this forthrightly as the Dutch would have, Venice has sort of put up with being flooded every winter. We learned later that there is a project to control the extra-high tides and I hope it works.

The Doge was the elected-for-life duke-equivalent who ruled Venice and operated out of the Doge’s Palace. It is way past opulent, gold encrusted ceilings everywhere surrounding huge oils by various renaissance painters - all biblical allegories.

One of the ugly things about otherwise beautiful Italy is that so many Italians still smoke cigarettes. One is likely to smell their second-hand smoke in many places, particularly on the sidewalks and outdoor cafes. You smell smoke on the people too.

I remember when smoking was common in the States and we didn’t notice second-hand smoke. We’ve become unused to it and as a result it’s obnoxious. Italy will have serious medical bills as a result, unless smoking keeps the average lifespan down enough to compensate.

We’ve done something clever in the States vis-à-vis smoking that we didn’t do with regard to drinking. Instead of banning it a la Prohibition, we gradually restricted the places where it can be done. As this has happened, the number of people smoking has declined. I wonder if it would work with drinking alcohol?

Monday, October 17, 2011

About Occupy Wall Street

I suppose all pundits, even minor ones like COTTonLINE, have to weigh in on the Occupy Wall Street movement. My attitude is that OWS is the same bunch of wobblies who a few years ago tried to interrupt G-20 meetings with their anti-globalism rants.

These are anarchists, Marxists, and spoiled kids with nothing better to do - clearly the high unemployment rate provides labor for these demonstrations. Those who advocate clearing them out do risk making martyrs of a few who get hurt, but cold weather will probably accomplish the same thing without police effort. What the Soviets called General Winter, called on to once again roll back the tide.

Travel Blogging VIII

Split, Croatia: For our large ship, Split is a tender port. “Tender” in this case has nothing to do with not being tough. Rather it means we anchor offshore and take people ashore using the ship’s tenders or lifeboats.

As a small but busy harbor Split is mostly occupied with large ferries and some small ships. When we were here last ours was a small ship and she tied up inside the harbor.

Our tenders are dropping our passengers off near Diocletian’s Palace, which faces the harbor. This palace of a Roman emperor has an interesting story.

Diocletian was an emperor during the declining days of empire. He did for Rome what Putin is doing for Russia; that is, holding things together for a few more decades. He was responsible for dividing the empire into eastern and western units.

Born near Split, he built his retirement home here in the form of a Roman military encampment with nice quarters for himself and his retainers. A rarity among emperors, he didn’t die in office but actually retired and spent his last few years living near his birthplace.

When he died his encampment/palace became a fortified town into which the neighbors retreated to fight off the invading barbarians. Today that fortress is the skeleton, if you will, of the old town. Apartments, shops, a church, etc. have been built right into the old walls – Diocletian’s Palace is worth seeing.

There are a number of architectural features of interest, including material from Egypt. A substantially later addition is a statue that looks almost exactly as we imagine Professor Albus Dumbledore looks.

Croatia is one piece of the former Yugoslavia, a piece that fought a civil war to get apart from Serbia. In this part of the world the Slovenes and Croats relate to the Germanic peoples to their north, in Austria and beyond. The Serbs, on the other hand, relate to the Russians to the east.

You can tell who relates to whom by seeing what alphabet they use: Russians and their friends use Cyrillic while Germans and their friends use the Roman. It is also the case that the Serbs and Russians are Orthodox while the Croats, Slovenes, and Austrians are Roman Catholic. Wars get fought around issues like these.

Travel Blogging VII

Corfu, Greece: Corfu is our favorite among the Greek Isles, and truly not a part of the Cyclades, but farther north opposite southern Albania. It is much less barren than Mykonos or Santorini, for example.

Honestly, the terrain looks like parts of Central California, maybe around San Louis Obispo. That’s probably why the DrsC like it, it feels like where we grew up.

The main town or city is very old but at least some of the streets are straight and wide enough for two cars to pass. Speaking of cars, our taxi driver apologized for Greek driving but to these eyes it looked much more sedate than that of Rome or, especially, Cairo.

One of Corfu City’s most attractive aspects is a large seaside park, called the Esplanade (Spianada in Greek), that resembles the Washington, DC, mall with roads on both sides and across it now and again. It is lined on the land side with cafes having outdoor tables under the trees and lots of people patronize them, both tourists and locals. These patrons feed the pigeons which means the birds are numerous and relatively tame.

Later…we sailed for Split, Croatia, around 5:30 p.m. and almost immediately ran into rough water. The last time we sailed the Adriatic Sea we had amazingly calm water, but that was in late spring and we are now in autumn, a season of changeable weather. We are experiencing a mix of gray and blue skies, often in the same day. Not a surprise.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Travel Blogging VI

Katakolon, Greece: We are at the place where the original Olympics happened some 2800 years ago. Naturally, the weather stinks and the archeological site is closed by a strike. The pax are bummed.

Weather at this time of year is iffy – yesterday was beautiful and today gray and rainy. We’re in Corfu tomorrow and I hope we get beautiful again as Corfu is a wonderful place. When someone waxes poetic about the Greek Isles I think of Corfu, as does the other DrC. More about Corfu tomorrow.

Absent the archeological site there isn’t much to do here in Katakolon; the ship is full of less-than-fully-gruntled paying passengers. People aren’t big readers these days so, unlike myself, most aren’t snuggled up with a good book. A lot of eating is happening, as well as card playing and conversation.

I’d think I’d be seeing many Kindles, and their ilk in use – nope, maybe in the cabins. The captain is running the bow thrusters while we’re tied up to the pier – can the wind be that strong? Our cabin is in the bow and it’s noisy.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Travel Blogging V

Mykonos, Greece: We spent the day tied up alongside in Mykonos. The day started out grey and overcast, then cleared and became sunny and warm. We took a stroll into the town after lunch, using the shuttle bus to get from the pier to the beginnings of “town.”

Everybody raves about Mykonos, they say it is the pearl of the Cyclades, the DrsC don’t agree. We find it to be stark and barren, a place that appears to get next to no rain and thus grows next to no ground cover.

I guess one could get excited about the architecture, if you are into stark white stucco cubes, scattered across a desert-like terrain. Ninety plus percent of the buildings have flat roofs and most of these have no downspouts for rain.

There are windmills, so I guess the wind sometimes blows, it didn’t today. I was reminded of several Mexican coastal towns that thrive on tourism: lots of sidewalk cafes of dubious cleanliness but excellent views, interspersed with shops selling Greek souvenirs made in China.

A problem the DrsC always have in Greece is our inability to decode the signage. For two people who have spent a lifetime being hyperliterate, becoming suddenly illiterate is no fun.

We also don’t read Spanish or Italian or German but can figure out how words might be pronounced, what roots they might share with English. None of that works in Greek, which uses the Cyrillic alphabet. We cannot guess at words’ meanings or even how they’re spoken.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Kotkin: Wrong Target

In this article for Politico, demographer Joel Kotkin says that Obama's class warfare isn't aimed at the super rich, who make most of their money via capital gains taxed at 15%. Rather, says Kotkin, the Obama "tax of the rich" really aims at the upper end of the middle class, the earners of big salaries. Check out his arguments.

Travel Blogging IV

Piraeus, Greece: We’re sitting alongside in Piraeus, the harbor for Athens. The ship is quiet as most passengers are ashore poking about in Piraeus or have figured a way to get to Athens in spite of the transport workers strike.

Meanwhile the DrsC are enjoying shipboard life. The crew does the cooking, cleaning, tidying, drink-mixing, and entertaining; we do the consuming.

On this cruise we are going back to several ports we’ve visited before so going ashore is optional. We may go ashore this afternoon, or not. We’ve been in Athens more than once, including recently.

When you start out cruising you tend to avoid cruises with many “sea days,” days not in port. If you are a person who’ll love cruising, you’ll begin cherishing sea days and end up treating many port days as faux sea days, staying aboard while almost everyone else goes ashore.

The other DrC says these faux sea days are the very best because you have this enormous ‘yacht’ with a thousand crewmembers and hardly anyone to share it with. I begin to concur.

There are seniors who treat cruise ships as assisted living facilities, who stay aboard for very long periods of time. They’ve penciled it our and conclude that the facilities are nicer and the costs not much higher.

I have no idea if the claimed cost equivalence is true, having not done the math myself, but it is a charming idea if you don’t mind the occasional rough water – a feature not found on land. Our captain told a Cruise Critic© gathering aboard that he has two doctors and five nurses for a ‘community’ of just over five thousand people, a higher ratio than found in most towns and an attractive feature for seniors.

A thing you learn when cruising a lot as we have is ship terminology: fueling the ship is called “bunkering, no idea why. We've been bunkering today. If you have friends who cruise, give them the following good thought: “I wish you fair winds and following seas.”

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On an entirely different topic, it appears that the group running for GOP presidential nominee has stabilized, and is focusing on Mitt Romney. Now it remains to be seen whether the anxiety evangelical Christians feel about a Mormon candidate translates into a refusal to vote for him.

I live in a largely Mormon community in Wyoming, although I am not a member of that faith. I find them the best neighbors you could ask for.

Any reluctance I have voting for Romney has nothing whatsoever to do with his faith. It is mostly about his willingness to move far enough left to be elected governor of Massachusetts.

Romneycare, ancestor of Obamacare, needs a lot of “splainin’” as Desi used to ask of Lucy. Mostly we need to be reassured that Mitt “gets” that we want Obamacare repealed, not replaced with an “improved” version.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Travel Blogging III

Santorini, Greece: Our cruise ship is sitting in the caldera of the one-time volcano that is now the Greek island of Santorini. We aren’t the only cruise ship here, we’re one of five or six. Needless to say, Santorini is a popular cruise stop. It is a very spectacular place to see.

The DrsC have visited Santorini before, which is a good thing as the weather this morning is the pits - light wind and spitting rain. The ship is largely deserted as most of the passengers had tours scheduled (and paid for) and so are onshore in spite of the weather. Our plans were more flexible so we’ve stayed cozy and dry.

Later…the weather cleared up in early afternoon, good luck for the passengers with afternoon tours. We’re in Athens tomorrow and there is more bad luck there. The Greeks are on strike and so we cannot go to the archeological sites and museums as they’re closed. People who planned to use public transport are also SOL as taxis, buses, light rail, etc. are all on strike too.

Greece has very little to offer except tourism, it’s like Egypt in that regard. Now the strikes are closing off the very little they do have – it’s foot-shooting time in southeastern Europe. Greeks have lived beyond their means for decades and when their government tells them they must tighten their collective belts the response is “go to blazes, somebody else has to pay the tab, I won’t do it.”

Greece is a country that very nearly went Communist at the end of World War II, would have done if not for the timely intervention of Harry Truman. We’ve described why this is so in an earlier blog entry. Those class warfare tendencies are still here, and can easily rise to the surface as they are doing now.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Travel Blogging II

Naples, Italy: We had an early morning sail-in to the bay at Naples, after a smooth night of cruising down the coast from Livorno, aka Leghorn, the port for Pisa and Florence.

Day before yesterday we visited Monaco/Monte Carlo. The Monegasques make a big deal out of Princess Grace Grimaldi, nee Kelly, much the same as the Brits make a big deal out of Princess Diana, and for the same reasons: money.

Both Princesses are tourist draws, tourists bring and spend money without costing the visited country much in terms of resources. Oddly, the official painted portraits of Grace we saw in the Grimaldi palace didn’t do her justice, she was a truly beautiful woman as her photos show. I wonder what that portrait beauty shortfall is about?

Monaco has a stunning setting, built on a coastal hillside facing south into the Mediterranean sun. Many of the newer buildings have rooftop gardens with medium sized trees as well as smaller greenery – very practical as there isn’t room for “grounds” otherwise.

We spent a lazy day on board yesterday as we’ve visited Pisa recently and will see Florence on the way back. I checked out several novels from the ship’s library, mostly for reading on the trans-Atlantic crossing.

Today we visit Herculaneum, the less-well-known town that was buried at the same time as Pompeii. Our tour leaves in early afternoon – an odd time but there it is. We will see Pompeii on the second half of the cruise. More about Herculaneum later.

Thoughts about cruise passengers: most are seniors and white. There are a few Asians and African-Americans, about 2% of the passengers. We see more African-Americans on cruises to the Caribbean, as well as more black staff on those ships. Marketing issue for cruise lines: in the future as whites make up smaller percentages of senior Americans, will the cruising market dry up? Or will destinations change?

Later…we did the Herculaneum tour earlier this afternoon. Herculaneum itself was good, although our guide Guido was not great, his Napoli accent was so strong. The ruins are in quite good condition, and remarkably detailed. I like the Roman sense of city planning - rectangular blocks, straight streets, standard street widths, provision of plumbing and fresh water.

The Romans were amazing builders, they did architectural things nobody else at the time even came close to doing. They worked with cement, faked marble columns, did beautiful mosaic work, and had sophisticated systems for keeping streets clean and flushing. They laid building stone work “on the bias” – something nobody else has done, to this day.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Travel Blogging I

The DrsC are traveling again. We may post some impressions from the Mediterranean basin, in the next month. Right now we're sitting in United's Red Carpet Club at Dulles/DC, and it is busy. Don't subscribe to the notion that few people are traveling - it's nonsense.

On the other hand, I wouldn't buy shares in airline stock. All the majors are very low. Somehow they cannot develop pricing power - the ability to raise fare prices to the point where profit margins are decent.

WSJ: Christie Sez "No"

This morning's Wall Street Journal says New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has taken himself out of the race for the GOP presidential nomination. He says he wants to carry on as NJ's governor, and we have to believe him.

I suppose the search for another Reagan is over and it it time to settle for Romney. Let's hope he isn't another Bob Dole.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Russia: A Look Ahead

Leon Aron takes a look ahead for Russia, and sees Vladimir Putin managing a declining petro-state, with all the negative outcomes that brings. His article for the Los Angeles Times is an interesting overview.

Christie's Time

Jay Cost, who writes politics for The Weekly Standard, says this is the time for Christie to run, if he is ever going to do it. I've read Cost's reasons and they are persuasive.

Cost compares Christie to another governor of New Jersey, Woodrow Wilson, and shows how their circumstances are somewhat similar. If elected, I hope Christie doesn't turn out to be as disastrous a president as Wilson was.

Quote of the Day

Gary Langer, writing for ABC News about the results of an ABC News/Washington Post poll:
A majority of Americans expect Barack Obama to be a one-term president, an assessment on which, in past elections, the public more often has been right than wrong.
Fifty-five percent expect the Republican to win, only 37% expect Obama to win. Those numbers should cause flop sweat at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

CA Soliloquy

One of the continuing stories COTTonLINE follows is the dysfunctionality of California. I just finished reading a long, rambling look at California's political and economic problems.

The Vanity Fair article includes serious interviews with former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, San Jose mayor Chuck Reed, and Vallejo fire chief Paige Meyer. It becomes clear that public safety employee pay, benefits and retirements are at the heart of the Golden State's problems.

It is also clear that CA is organized politically such that these problems cannot be solved. Hat tip to RealClearPolitics for the link.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

EU Cools on Turkey

This Today's Zaman article summarizes the current status of Turkey's application for membership in the European Union. It also looks at the general relations in the region.

There is considerable talk about the situation on Cyprus, with it's Greek and Turkish zones. Greek Cyprus has been admitted to the EU, nobody but Turkey recognizes the government of Turkish Cyprus. And there is a natural gas discovery in the seas nearby.

The EU doesn't much want Turkey as a member; Turkey doesn't much want to be an EU member. Turkey wants to be a leader in the Middle East. It is feeling more Asian and less European than it did formerly.

The bottom line: EU membership for Turkey is unlikely anytime soon. Hat tip to RealClearWorld for the link.

Perry's Current Status

I wouldn't normally give you a link to a column by Mara Liasson, of National Public Radio, as she leans predictably left. Here, however, she does a very level-headed analysis of the political situation in which Rick Perry finds himself. You could do much worse for an update on his place in the race.

Friedman: PhD, Poor, Hungry, Driven

The New York Times' Tom Friedman writes about the changing workplace, a landscape of freelancers making peanuts competing with robots making nothing. He exaggerates, of course, but his kernel of truth is still disturbing:
The hyperconnected world is now a challenge to white-collar workers. They have to compete with a bigger pool of cheap geniuses — some of whom are people and some are now robots, microchips and software-guided machines.
The top gun fighter pilot officer is replaced by a faceless enlisted kid in a cubicle flying a drone with a joystick.

Snark Attack

Michael Goodwin, writing for the New York Post, about the $5 per month debit card charge planned by Bank of America:
Washington’s war on wealth has brought a ton of regulations, restrictions and taxes that eat profits. The banks, naturally, look for other sources of revenue to make up the difference. Did you honestly think government was here to help?
Government is a foot soldier in the class war beloved by Democrats.

Who Denies Science?

Clarice Feldman, writing for American Thinker, takes on the allegation that conservatives are big science deniers. Her article is thorough and establishes both that the left denies science, and that many alleged cases where the right denied science were in fact nothing of the sort.

Sensibly Feldman avoids dealing with evolution, the one area where the right has some guilt, in my judgment. A fair analyst would have to grant that a sizable minority of people on the right deny evolution.

We in the U.S. operate a "big tent" political system where either party needs to assemble a majority to win. I'm willing to share the GOP with people who don't believe in evolution, but do share my views on small government, strong defense, etc.

Fortunately, beliefs vis-a-vis evolution make absolutely no difference in the continued functioning thereof. The fittest continue to out-survive and out-thrive the rest.

Space Is Chinese

The U.S. has given up on manned space exploration. China has taken it up. And they are funding it with our dollars.

Which posture is more forward-looking? I think China has the upper hand, no pun intended. See this article in Investors Business Daily which elaborates on this space issue.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Steyn on a Country Gotten Soft

Sometimes Mark Steyn writes with wry humor, other times with bitter bile. This column for Investors Business Daily beats up on Americans for being dumb enough to be taken in by Barack Obama. He says:
This is a great, great country that got so soft that 53% of electors voted for a ludicrously unqualified chief executive who would be regarded as a joke candidate in any serious nation.
Steyn makes fun of presidential historian Michael Beschloss, New York Times columnist David Brooks, and Newsweek editor Tina Brown for having fallen for the Obama con.

Political Correctness in Canada

I've linked to an article about a mob that attacked two RCMP Mounties in northwestern Saskatchewan, as well as attacking ambulance personnel and hospital employees. You'll find it here on The Globe and Mail website.

You have to read to the very bottom of the article to get a hint that this was essentially a race riot; the "mob" were Dene Indians. What Canadians call "first peoples."

Just another example of how the press leaves out pertinent facts to avoid the appearance of racism.