Monday, December 31, 2012

Upward Mobility

Nick Gillespie has written an article on income inequality and upward mobility, originally for Reuters and here appearing in He argues that while income inequality is large, much of it may be caused by payroll taxes.

Payroll taxes disproportionally hit young workers to transfer income to old retirees who are, on average, many times more affluent. I believe Gillespie makes a thinly disguised argument in favor of means testing Social Security and Medicare, not necessarily a bad way to salvage these endangered programs for the aged poor.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

What Mandate?

Election number cruncher nonpareil Charlie Cook lists 25 fun facts about the 2012 election in The Cook Political Report. The fact I find most fascinating is this one:
Without huge margins from minority and young voters in just three counties – Broward County, FL; Cuyahoga County, OH; and Philadelphia County, PA – President Obama would have lost each of those three states and with them, the Electoral College.
Winning just three counties constitutes a mandate to govern? A win, yes. A mandate, no. Cook's whole list is interesting if you love politics. Hat tip to Power Line for the link.

2013 Threat Matrix

The Council on Foreign Relations has published the Center for Preventive Action's Preventive Priorities Survey for 2013. It represents a survey of "experts in the field" and does a generally decent job. There are several omissions to which I call your attention.

First. China is cited  as being at risk for a Sino-Japanese conflict over the Senkaku Islands. You'll note that Japan is not similarly identified as "at risk." One side cannot be at risk without the other.

Second, Israel is not listed as "at risk" from Iran (or its proxies: Hamas, Hezbollah) whereas Iran is noted to be at risk from Israel. Again, no reciprocity. It is extremely unlikely that Israel would come under attack without the U.S. being involved in some way.

A third omission is the drug violence in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. Drug violence in Mexico is listed, making the omission of the rest of Central America more obvious.

A fourth omission is the possibility of a flare-up of India's long-running Naxalite rebellion.

Bad Business in Bolivia

The San Francisco Chronicle carries an Associated Press report that the Evo Morales government of Bolivia has expropriated several Spanish-owned firms concerned with the distribution and sale of electricity in that nation.

This is a sad but not unexpected turn of events in Bolivia. Since taking office in 2006, Morales has been an ally of Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro, and an opponent of United States interests, including the eradication of the coca plant from which cocaine is derived.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Hoagland: the Time Is Now

Jim Hoagland of The Washington Post, along with Tom Friedman of the New York Times, is one of our two most thoughtful writers on the Middle East. In this column, Hoagland says we've gotten to the decision point with respect to Iran.

If you're following U.S. policy on Iran, you'll want to read his column. Hoagland says we will likely see some action vis-a-vis Iran in 2013.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Fighting Poverty With Jobs

Go see a City Journal article which argues that giving poor people money keeps them in poverty, while giving them jobs helps them get out of poverty. The author started out as one of Lyndon Johnson's poverty warriors, and learned the hard way.

Silver Explains It

The New York Times' political number cruncher, Nate Silver, has a very good column on why the political landscape looks the way it does. His explanation of why we now have more "safe" congressional districts than we once did seems very solid.

I find intriguing his analysis of why the GOP has an edge in the House whereas the Dems have one in the Senate. He predicts that the current split is likely to continue for several electoral cycles.

Silver doesn't emphasize enough the concern congressmen (and women) in safe districts feel about primary challenges by more extreme candidates of their own party. Sen. Dick Lugar (R-IN) is an example of a long-serving senator who was defeated in the Indiana GOP primary.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Quote of the Day

Demographer Joel Kotkin, writing for Forbes about the future of the progressive and conservative movements in the U.S.:
If the main focus of progressives was to promote upward mobility, they would deserve their predicted political hegemony. But current day leftism is more about style, culture and green consciousness than jobs and opportunity. It’s more Vogue’s Anne Wintour than Harry Truman. Often times the gentry agenda — for example favoring higher housing and energy prices — directly conflicts with the interests of middle and working class families.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

20th Century Public Schools

Glenn Harlan Reynolds, of Instapundit fame, writes for the New York Post about 21st century changes in the schooling of our children:
Parents are pulling their kids out of many large urban districts in favor of private, on-line and charter schools. This is causing financial problems as the lower enrollments lead to teacher layoffs and general shrinkage.

Why are the parents pulling their kids? Because they think the public schools aren’t as good as the alternatives.
Reynolds also explains how "teenagers" came to exist, an artifact of the lockstep public schools system. In public schools age-grouped young people learned from each other instead of from the adults alongside whom they once had worked.

Ocean Rise Overestimated

Professor Larry Bell (U. of Houston) writes for Forbes that previous estimates of rapid sea level rise have been greatly exaggerated. The waters aren't rising as fast as we once thought.

The most telling lines in Bell's article are the following:
It’s a tricky question whether or not the overall accelerated melting of polar ice sheets can be linked to man-made climate change influences. (snip) Polar ice sheet melting has been massively overestimated.
Bell bases much of his article on papers in two respected, refereed journals: Science and Nature. "Refereed" means each published paper is approved by a panel of relevant academic scientists who don't know the identity of the author(s) of the paper.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Fascinating Factoids

Do you think the U.S. has a lot of murders? Actually, we don't. Latin America is the place with the most murders, see this quote from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace:
Some 42 percent of the murders in the world happen in Latin America, though only eight percent of humanity lives there. The homicide rate in the US is five times lower than Latin America’s average.
The article makes some intriguing comparisons between places we believe to be very dangerous and places in Latin America:
The war in Afghanistan has claimed a total 3,238 allied lives. This is about the number of murders in Brazil every month. Last month’s conflict between Palestinians and Israelis produced approximately the same number of fatalities as a “hot” weekend in Caracas. The probability of being shot dead as you walk on any street in Baghdad is lower than that of dying on any street in Guatemala.
Wow! Remind me not to go for a stroll in Central or South America.

More on Kerry

Ten days ago COTTonLINE gave you a link to a Jay Nordlinger National Review article describing John Kerry's unfortunate foreign policy predilections in Latin America. Now there is more.

Mary Anastasia O'Grady writes a weekly column on the Americas for The Wall Street Journal. Here she covers much of the same Kerry territory, perhaps some of it in more detail.

O'Grady's view of Kerry's record in Latin America is just as negative as Nordlinger's. She concludes:
There's a pattern here and it features Mr. Kerry continually on the wrong side of history. Asking Americans to believe that he will be any different as secretary of state is asking them to suspend disbelief.
If Kerry backs the wrong people in Latin America, why should we expect him to back the right people anywhere else?

Season's Greetings

COTTonLINE wishes our readers Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah, Salubrious Solstice, and, collectively, Happy New Year. Whatever you celebrate, have a good one!

An Unhappy Insight

Thinking about the WaPo/ABC polling numbers in the blog post below, I had a sad insight. Suppose the Republican mindset has evolved in the following way.

In 2006, we weren't entirely happy with Bush but could shrug it off. On balance he was ok if not great.

In 2008, we weren't happy with the Obama win but could understand how the electorate might want to give a person of color a chance. We hoped he'd do well.

However, in 2012, it has been clear that President Obama has done a poor job for four years, pursued unpopular policies. Yet the electorate still reelects him; this is an entirely different situation.

I believe many Republicans fear the U.S. has become a place whose values they no longer share. We worry that, while we were busy having a good time, the U.S. has become Europe 2.0.

It seems we've become a social welfare state with huge debts and much of the population on some kind of government payment, either paycheck or dole. The "takers" have us outnumbered. It's sad if this perception is accurate.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid

That tongue-in-cheek tag phrase describes the actual attitudes of most Republicans as we enter 2013. Ken Walsh of U.S.News & World Report writes the following:
Seventy-two percent of Republicans are fearful about their future in 2013, and 79 percent fear for the world, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. This is a substantial increase in GOP gloom since 2006, when only 20 percent said they were fearful about their personal future during the Republican presidency of George W. Bush. Fifty-four percent of Republicans were fearful about their personal prospects after Democrat Barack Obama won the presidency in 2008.
What are the reasons for this increase in gloom? Walsh suggests the following:
Among the reasons cited by the pollsters for the relatively unsettled mood are perceptions of a lingering recession and a weak economic recovery, and fears of the economic (sic) sinking into trouble if Washington leaders fail to reach an agreement on the budget.
As most COTTonLINE readers are Republicans, the above isn't particularly news to you. On the other hand, misery does love company.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Race, Gender, or Both

James Kurth writes for the Foreign Policy Research Institute about the evolution of conservatism over the past 80-90 years. He examines that evolution within the Republican Party.

Looking forward, Kurth sees the GOP forced to become a party representing the interests of whites, but failing in recent years to attract the votes of single white women. He concludes:
Neither traditional conservatism or reinvented conservatism ever had much to appeal to women, if they saw their principal identity to be as women (emphasis added). The same is true of the weakened movement that now passes for American conservatism and of the Republican Party that is its institutional expression. It will only be if the conservatives and the Republicans can convince large numbers of American women that their principal concern must be about conserving something important to them that American conservatism will have a future. 
There is plenty written between those lines. What do you make of his implicit conclusion?

If you've got an hour, read all of Kurth's long column. Hat tip to Peggy Noonan for the link.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Winter Solstice

Today is the Winter Solstice, the day autumn ends and it is officially winter. Beginning today, days start getting longer, a process that continues until June 21.

Join me in celebrating the Winter Solstice, a milestone humans have honored for millennia.

World Still Here

It is December 21 and once again, the world didn't end. I'm certain there are people who are disappointed.

For humanity, at least, the world won't end in a cataclysm but in a whimper as it did for the dinosaurs. We'll leave some spectacular archeological remains.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Demographic Peril

There is much talk today about the "fiscal cliff" over which we may be about to tumble. Jonathan V. Last writes in the Weekly Standard about what he calls "the demographic cliff," by which he means the less-than-replacement birthrates of essentially all developed countries.

Let's try saying what nobody is willing to say: that emancipated women - women free to make their own choices about how many children they'll have - don't have children at a replacement rate. The only countries in which birthrates are at or above replacement are those in which women have few or no rights.

This poses an interesting dilemma. Individual rights (for women) and the rights of our species to survive and thrive are in conflict. And ... almost no one is talking about this particular elephant in the room.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Entitlements Revisited

Do you want to know what smart people on the left are saying about entitlement financing difficulties? See this article in The New Yorker for a persuasive treatment of the topic.

The author's basic point is that we can bail entitlement programs out with general tax revenues. However, to do so gives them the appearance of welfare programs, meaning fewer people will be supportive of them.

Fascinating Factoid

From a City Journal article about Tunisia, and its capital Tunis:
Palermo, Sicily’s largest city, is closer to Tunis than it is to Rome.
Tunis, capital of Tunisia, is on the coast of North Africa.

Chaos in the Congo

It is easy to bloviate about the troubles we face in the developed world. To gain some perspective about how minor are our problems, read this New York Times article entitled The World's Worst War.

What's described in the so-called Democratic Republic of the Congo isn't even truly a war, strictly speaking, but a Hobbesian state of nature in which every man battles against every other, rape is the normal state of relations between men and women, and hunger, disease and ignorance stalk the land. It's a scary, murderous mess.

It does give one an appreciation for the vital role of government in maintaining order. One could speculate that a bad government is better than no government presence.

Election Results in S. Korea

Park Geun-hye, daughter of former military strongman South  Korean leader Park Chung-hee, has been elected the first female president of South Korea. She represents their conservative party. See the Reuters article on Yahoo News.

Her win is a free-election ratification of her father's autocratic 18-year rule. The people of South Korea appear to have decided that, on balance, he was good for the country.

Now both North and South Korea have leaders who are the offspring of former leaders. A curious coincidence; or is it a cultural thing to be led by dynasties?

Crystal Skulls

And you thought the crystal skulls in the fourth Indiana Jones flick were a figment of the set decorator's imagination? Not so fast, they were modeled on skulls in the region that actually exist.

See an article in the Daily Mail (U.K.) for details. Hat tip to for the link.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Ukip, a New Flavor

Writing for The Telegraph, Thomas Pascoe makes the point that the United Kingdom Independence Party, or Ukip, are the true successors of Margaret Thatcher, instead of Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative Party.

If you follow British politics, this article is for you. You may not agree with Pascoe, but you need to read it. Hat tip to for the link.

Our Missing Mental Hospitals

As we wrote yesterday, a major cause of mass killings is mental illness. Now, conservative pundit Mona Charen writes wisdom regarding this for the National Review:
At least half of the shooters in the rampage killings that are ripping our hearts out are young men with serious mental illnesses, and our system has neither the legal nor the financial resources to get them the treatment and restraint that they, and we, desperately need.
We have no money, and very little courage, when it come to the "restraint" of which she writes. Read more about this issue from David Kopel in The Wall Street Journal.

New Obesity Research

Researchers in China have identified what they believe is a gut bacterium which causes obesity. Financial Times reports that they decided to treat the condition with "whole grains, traditional Chinese medicines and non-digestible carbohydrates" and caused an obese patient to lose 23 percent of his body weight.

I'm unclear why some or all antibiotics wouldn't cause weight loss if the cause of weight gain is a gut bacterium. I believe this research needs more investigation, unfortunately.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Expanding the Tent

Betsy Woodruff writes an article for National Review, concerning how the GOP could make room in its "big tent" for non-believers without losing the religious right. It is an intriguing idea.

I find interesting her quote from David Azerrad of the Heritage Foundation’s B. Kenneth Simon Center for Principles and Politics:
I think there is room on the right for everyone who has a sober view of human nature, (snip) I think there’s room for you on the right, with or without God.
Do you suppose Azerrad is correct? Certainly the "none" group is a growing one.

India/China Border Difficulties

The Japan Times reports continuing lack of progress in talks aimed at settling conflicting understandings concerning the border between northern India and northwestern China. It should be remembered that the two nations fought a brief war along this border in 1962.

Talks concerning border issues have gone on between the two nations since 2005. The seven years of elapsed time suggests at least one party has no interest in a solution.

U.S./S.Korea Relations Cooling?

Joel Brinkley reports for World Affairs that young people in South Korea take a dim view of the continued U.S. military presence on their border with North Korea. No country loves having troops of another nation garrisoned on their territory, unless the alternative is widely understood to be worse.

That understanding is failing among young South Koreans, creating a temptation among Americans to go home and leave them to their miserable fate.

Reap the Whirlwind

The sad events in Connecticut cause us to remember an even sadder collusion between the civil rights left and the tight-fisted right that occurred many years ago. It resulted in the disappearance of most mental hospitals.

On the left, the ACLU and its fellow-travelers decided that people had every right to be insane if they chose. They believed that such individuals need not, and indeed should not be incarcerated for the protection of society and themselves.

On the right, fiscal conservatives saw the enormous cost of warehousing the mentally ill and chose not to spend those funds. In a truly evil (and very unusual) collaboration between the two, they closed down the mental hospitals and left the mentally ill to wander our streets and live under our bridges and on our park benches.

Now and then, one of these confused individuals decides to work out his (or rarely her) rage on society with mass murder. Then we are shocked, shocked.

We shouldn't be shocked; we are at fault. As a society we've sown the wind and we reap the whirlwind.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Complex Issues

Can we keep firearms out of the hands of the non-criminal mentally ill? Away from those who  are being treated but have not, as yet, done anything for which they can be arrested? In many cases, a sociopathic young man's first criminal act is something horrid, something that should be prevented.

We don't let epileptics drive cars, even though they are have not had an accident. We require physicians to, essentially, rat them out. Why should the mentally ill have rights that the physically ill do not?

The issues are complex - privacy, doctor-patient confidentiality, the historic American right of non-criminals to keep and bear arms. On the other hand, society has rights too - these are difficult issues to parse out. See this article in PJ Media for more. Hat tip to for the link.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Kerry on the Left

Rumor has it President Obama will appoint Massachusetts Senator John Kerry as the next Secretary of State. For an analysis of Kerry's very leftist positions taken on past foreign policy issues, see this National Review article by Jay Nordlinger.

Single Women and the GOP

The Republican Party has difficulty winning the votes of single women, a growing demographic bloc. Recent GOP candidates have said single women are as concerned about economic issues as everyone else. It appears they were wrong.

In recent elections, the Republican Party has gotten large majorities of the votes of white voters and of married voters. Unfortunately for the GOP, both groups are declining in size.

The Democrats have gotten large majorities of nonwhite voters and of singles. Both of these groups are growing in size.

In politics, demographics is destiny. To continue to be viable, Republicans need to find ways to become relevant to groups which are growing.

See an Associated Press article from the Tampa Tribune which wrestles with this issue. What nobody is saying is that our society teaches women to be more concerned with social issues than are men. 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

A Win for New Media

U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice has announced that she will not be a candidate for Secretary of State in the second Obama administration. It is likely she wrote the letter taking her name out of contention at the direction of the White House.

The immediate credit for pushing her out of contention goes to a group of Republican Senators. Those Senators' opposition can be credited to the new media which has taken a extraordinarily dim view of Rice's testimony concerning the debacle at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

In that testimony Rice repeated the White House talking points concerning the causes of that attack when she either knew, or should have known, that the talking points were counterfactual, that is to say, untrue.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Fiscal Cliff, and More

The opening two sentences of this article in Yahoo's The Week pretty much sum up my view of the trouble the U.S. is in with regard to financing government:
Voters overwhelmingly want Washington to solve the country's budget problems. But they reject nearly every meaningful proposition to do so.
We can solve our government financing problems by taxing more or spending less, neither of which is palatable to the American electorate.

We borrow nearly half of every dollar the government spends on us. How long do you suppose that can continue? As we wrote on Saturday, Americans want more government than they are willing to pay for.

Quote of the Day

Bill Frezza, writing for RealClearMarkets about the long-term effects of the population bust, does a lovely paraphrase of the classic criticism of socialism:
The problem with entitlement democracy is that you eventually run out of other people's babies.
Entitled Will Aging Childless Voters Enslave My Future Grandchildren?, this article is worth your time.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Suppose Britain Left the EU

The Economist takes a look at the growing sentiment in the U.K. for bailing out of the EU. Their analysis is that the outcomes would be largely negative.

However, they believe if there were a referendum on the question today Britain would leave. One major question would be the status of guest workers from the EU working in the U.K., and vice versa. That question sounds familiar, as we grapple here with the question of the forward status of illegal aliens in the U.S.

Is It Humor?

Gene Weingarten writes in the Washington Post of a dialog with feminist Gina Barreca about why Mitt Romney lost big among single women. It is hard to determine whether his main drive here is to be funny, or to be serious.

I suppose my favorite line from the article is this one attributed to Ms. Barreca:
The real big issue is that Mitt Romney is a terrible, terrible date, and single women, who are forced into the perpetual ghastly state of potential date appraisal, sensed that immediately.
Asked to elaborate, Gina replies:
All you had to do was watch Romney discussing “binders full of women,” and you understood, intuitively, where women stood with him: We’re a category of thing to be held in containers and accessed when needed, roughly the same as pistachio nuts or lock washers.
I think political humor is the intent, or is it maybe serious commentary disguised as wit?

Travel Blogging VIII

Hey, Harry Potter fans, if you want to see photos of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, go to the other DrC's website: She has posted some good 'uns.

After getting way too tired yesterday, today I hired an electric chair and drove around both parks. It made a world of difference; instead of stopping every hundred yards to rest I was good to go all day. The other DrC goes walking most days so she can handle the extreme walking a theme park demands.

Fear of Religion

Check out this Breitbart News article which reports that the irreligious voted overwhelmingly for Obama. Unchurched voters were more common than formerly thought; this group is growing.

Although the article doesn't say so, the GOP's obvious association with the religious right - the evangelicals - makes them anathema to the irreligious. I fear there isn't much can be done about this reaction, the GOP needs the votes of the social right.

Here is National Public Radio's take on the same story. Conservative leaders need to think about what this means, and how to deal with the changes in the demographic profile of the electorate.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Travel Blogging VII

Orlando, Florida: The DrsC are checking out the Universal Studios Orlando theme park, particularly the Harry Potter section there. In two words it is Nicely Done. And breakfast at The Three Broomsticks was also good.

As big Harry Potter fans, the DrsC might have been expected to have visited The Wizarding World of Harry Potter before now. We've held off because the lines have been too long, the crowds too intense.

In this period between Thanksgiving and Christmas Universal expected a lull and I think we've gotten one. The park has custom to be sure, but not the mobs we wanted to avoid.

We have spent one full day here and have two more before we head back west. What I'd forgotten is just how tired the feet get walking all over a theme park, and not just the feet. I find myself sitting down to rest with some frequency, fortunately there are places to do this. A water taxi takes us back and forth from our hotel.

There is a food and entertainment area called City Walk as a sort of entryway to the two separate theme parks that make up the Universal operation here. This afternoon we ate coconut shrimp at Bubba Gump's - I recommend it.

We also saw the new James Bond film, Skyfall, at the IMAX theater in City Walk. It is non-stop action, as we expect Bond films to be. Daniel Craig portrayed an aging Bond, and SPOILER ALERT a major continuing character (other than Bond) dies.

Singles Si, Hispanics Not So Much

Jonathan V. Last writes about demographics for The Weekly Standard. Here he focuses on two trends active in the last election: the increase in Hispanics, and the increase in singles.

Last makes the point that the increase in Hispanics is real but its long-term importance has probably been overrated. See his analysis for why this is so. On the other hand, he views the dramatic increase in singles as being of particular importance.

As we know, Democrats' programs appeal to singles more than they do to married people. What if anything the GOP might do to counter this trend becomes an issue for discussion. Last suggests that Republicans try to get more people to marry, rather than to offer goodies to singles.

The intersection of reliable birth control with the declining importance of religion has 'legitimized' cohabitation, or at least reduced its illegitimacy. Speaking of newlyweds, "How long did they live together?" is the new equivalent of "How long were they engaged?"

Gridlock Explained

Jay Cost, who writes analysis for RealClearPolitics, has a nice piece looking at why gridlock continues in Washington, particularly with respect to the so-called "fiscal cliff." His conclusion, it will continue.

My conclusion: the American people want more government than they are willing to pay for. They want somebody else to pay for their government services. Naturally, "somebody else" doesn't want to pay up either. See this Washington Times article for more.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Travel Blogging VI

Princess Cay, Eleuthera, The Bahamas: It seems every major cruise line has a "private" cay or key to which they bring pax. Princess has the rights to a piece of Eleuthera, a hundred mile long island in the Bahamas. This group of islands sits just east of Florida but is independent,

The DrsC have not gone ashore here this time, we visited it on some earlier cruise. The private cays are hot stuff for beach people, not much for non-beach people. We're in the second category. Beaches are picturesque, but put off-limits for fair-skinned people by their dermatologists.

Travel Blogging V

Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, Virgin Islands: Today there were six (6) cruise ships in this port. These ranged in size from the huge Oasis of the Seas to the relatively small Maasdam, our Emerald Princess being in the middle.

I have no idea what the population of this island is normally. If each of these ships brought, on average, 3000 pax to this sunny isle, we cruisers briefly added 18,000 souls to the total.

The hope is that each of these 18,000 spends loads of money here. I believe this is a hope that is not fulfilled.

For reasons unknown to me, the marketing of jewelry is a big deal anywhere cruise ships land. Perhaps cruise pax are concentrations of people who’ve demonstrated having spare thousands of dollars to spend on themselves.

Jewelry marketing is particularly big in the Caribbean and along the Alaskan coast. There are jewelry firms which have summer-only outlets in Alaska cruise ports in addition to outlets down here in the islands and they move personnel back and forth.

Don’t believe cruise ship TV ads, the view around the ship’s pool is not pretty. Cruise pax are not slender or trim; overweight or obese describes most of us. Recreational eating is the major entertainment offered aboard.

We pax aren’t young, either. The question around the dinner table isn’t “What do you do?” Instead it is “What did you do?” The presumption is that one is retired, although a few are still working. Heck, most of us are spending our kids’ inheritance, if we even had kids.

Something I notice about islands where the British colonial heritage persists. It is nice to be able to read the signage. It is surprising how much friendlier that makes a place feel.

Of course when you try to converse with locals, you discover that their version of English is heavily accented. They understand you from watching thousands of hours of American and Brit TV shows, you may not understand their island patois.

During supper our ship captain made a tannoy announcement about our course and speed over the next 24 hours. His native tongue is Italian and we could understand roughly one word in three of his heavily accented English.

All official announcements on this ship line are made in English, often heavily accented. I wonder how well crew members understand each other?

The other DrC and I joke that someday soon the whole world will communicate (badly) in broken English. I suppose the Roman empire had the same problem – thick regional accents messing with the Rome version of Latin.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Travel Blogging IV

Roseau, Dominica: This is a beautiful island, with terrain like that of Oahu or Maui. It even has volcanic features, we are told of a boiling lake and geysers. These make sense as the island is clearly of volcanic origin.

The island has had both French and British colonial pasts, and the names reflect both. The main cruise port is virtually at the foot of downtown Roseau, you walk off the ship and you’re on the “main drag.” This isn’t true at most ports.

I say “main cruise port” because after the Emerald Princess tied up at the foot of downtown, a Holland America ship arrived and had to tie up a mile up the coast at a less convenient location. I’m guessing their pax (cruise biz slang for “passengers”) had to take shuttles to town, not terrible but less convenient.

Some thoughts about Grenada, yesterday’s port. First, it is properly pronounced “gre-NAY-da” instead of the Spanish “gre-NAH-da” as our ship’s captain mispronounced it. Second, it is a hilly rascal. The roads are about a lane and a half wide, have no center line, and often head up or down hill at an alarming slant. Creating parking for hillside homes is a real issue, and expensive.

Grenada has lots of very up-scale homes but very few obvious ways to earn a living, raising the question of from whence its residents’ incomes arise. I’m certain that like most islands, people try their darnedest to get good government jobs.

Island governments see job creation as their main function. This was true on Guam, why not on Grenada? Ex-colonies try to milk the former colonial power for every dime they can get, but it cannot ever be enough.

Grenada has a university – more jobs - and thus tuition money incoming. And they earn tourism money – our ship was an example.

I’m guessing some of those upscale houses are vacation homes occupied but a few weeks a year –guarded the rest of the year – again more jobs. A friend has a place like this in Costa Rica which she occupies six months of the year and has guarded 12 months of the year. In CR the issue is “ladrones” which is Spanish for thieves, in other words, burglars.

Whale watching off Dominica is not a sure-fire thing, we went today and saw zip, nothing but sea birds. It was a nice cruise on calm water off a picturesque island but no whales or dolphins. Minus the sea critters, it was too long and many got sleepy, including yours truly.

For actually seeing whales, I recommend Lahaina Roads, off Maui. As to why it’s called “Roads” I’m not entirely certain. The usage dates back to sailing ship days, and is I believe, an abbreviation for “roadstead” meaning shallow place where many ships drop anchor.

Travel Blogging III

At Sea, between Bonaire and Grenada: Some thoughts about Bonaire, after today’s visit. First thought: I like it. Bonaire is uncrowded, devoted to The Netherlands, and less “Caribbean” than A and C – all good things.

Bonaire has only three exports: salt, suntans, and memories. There are extensive salt pans at the south end of the island, and piles of harvested salt ready for export. Everything else the island imports, at some cost, although local fishermen provide a reasonable share of the diet. People come here for the diving, said to be very fine.

It has become a “winter mooring” spot for a good number of live-aboard yachts home ported in the States. They pay, we’re told, $10/day for mooring privileges - no boat or ship “anchors” in Bonaire as hooks damage the coral.

I wonder where the yacht’s sewage and garbage are taken? Boats that size don’t have treatment facilities aboard. Perhaps ten bucks buys a weekly “pump out” of their black water tank and access to a dumpster? It would be to the advantage of Bonaire to provide such facilities, to keep their legendary water clear.

We were shown two resorts virtually side by side, one charging $100/night and busy, the other charging $800/night and deserted. What I saw was the market in action, reasonable prices = customers, unreasonable prices = no custom.

The expensive, unoccupied resort was described as a money-laundering scheme of a Venezuelan oil baron. That may have been rumor.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Travel Blogging II

Kralendijk, Bonaire: This cruise we visit only A an B of the ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire, and CuraƧao). Yesterday was Aruba, today Bonaire. They were a former Dutch colony that still maintains close ties with the Netherlands, Bonaire more so than Aruba.

Tomorrow we are on to Grenada, site of a minor U.S. invasion some decades ago. Today Grenada is mostly known for hosting a medical school for would-be doctors who can’t get into the extremely selective med schools in the States. Hitting the books when hitting the beaches is nearby has to be hard.

We flew south from Pittsburgh to Ft. Lauderdale a few days ago, and have been cruising the Caribbean Sea since. The contrast between late autumn Pennsylvania and the same period in the Caribbean is dramatic.

That contrast is much greater than we’d experience going from northern CA to HI at the same time, nearly as much as the contrast at this time between WY and HI. Understanding the area’s draw on chilled northeasterners is a no-brainer – it's thawing out.

Having seen Aruba not long ago, we stayed aboard the ship when most folks went ashore. It is like having this large ship to ourselves, our own giant “yacht.” Actually, I like the “sea days” better than the “port days.”

We were on this ship two months ago for a Baltic Sea cruise plus trans-Atlantic crossing and in that two months the “feel” of the ship has changed substantially, for the worse. Same ship, different “feel” – go figure. Many of the personnel have turned over, gone home on leave or gone to other ships in the fleet. Of course it’s a different passenger “consist” too.