Saturday, December 31, 2016

Happy New Year

COTTonLINE wishes our readers a Happy New Year. It's time to make resolutions you know you won't keep and remember Guy Lombardo and Auld Lang Syne. The year just ending has been eventful, interesting, but not restful.

I am of two minds about my wishes for 2017. Do I wish for another interesting, eventful year with lots about which to write? Or do I wish for the series of uninterrupted wins The Donald has promised us, which could get boring and uninteresting?

Instead, how about a nice mix of the two? Plenty to chew on combined with plenty to celebrate sounds good. I'll wish for that.

I hope most of you have learned that getting tipsy isn't worth tomorrow's suffering. My advice: stay home tonight, wish each other Happy New Year at midnight, turn in thereafter, and rise feeling rested to watch the Rose Parade.

Several nets carry the Rose Parade but my preference is the Home and Garden cable channel. They have historically done no commercial breaks and continue to the end even if it runs long because they don't have to cut away for the inflexible start of a bowl game.

One-Party Rule

The Daily Caller reports on a claim made by an angry-left prof in North Carolina that its government can no longer be truly viewed as democratic because one party - the Republicans - has won too many state elections. Lucky North Carolinians.

If that's true in NC, which I doubt, it's doubly true in places like New York and California. It has been years since any Republican held state-wide office in either.

Dems now have supermajorities in CA's legislature, which enable the open-ended passage of ever-greater taxes. And why not? Who knows better how your money should be spent than your legislators? With a third of the nation's welfare recipients, CA has many voters who love sky high income and payroll taxes since they pay not a cent of either.

Such places develop a kind of electoral politics not unlike that of Mexico during the decades of uninterrupted PRI rule. The legislature becomes somewhat irrelevant as it rubber-stamps whatever the party decides. The government of Japan operated in this fashion for some decades, less so today.

All important decisions are made within the party caucus, in tussles between interest groups or factions therein. Such government is at least partially representative, as people have ways to influence the party via their various linkages thereto via work or interest group affiliations.

Friday, December 30, 2016

No Interest in Ruling non-Russians?

Writing at The National Interest, Doug Bandow makes a cogent argument that Putin's Russia is not the old Soviet Union, risen from the dead. To be sure, it is a would-be superpower but it no longer is the marketing arm of a internationalist ideology with broad, if superficial, appeal outside its borders.
After some 17 years in power the Russian leader’s only geopolitical booty is Crimea, long part of Russia. He also has gained influence over the largely forgettable Donbas, South Ossetia, and Abkhazia. That’s not much of a new empire. He has shown no interest in ruling over non-Russians. He apparently realizes that attempting to absorb large populations determined to resist Moscow’s rule would certainly be a losing game and likely be a disaster.
Of course Hitler swore he only wanted to unify and protect Germanic peoples, as he absorbed Austria, Alsace and the Sudetenland. Then he invaded Poland and kicked off WW II. History suggests an autocratic leader's appetite for territory can get out of hand.

However, beyond ethnic Russians left behind in former SSRs when the USSR fell apart, who would prefer to be Russian citizens? Essentially nobody. Given the absence of an 'evangelical' ideology like Communism, Putin's aims for Russia would appear severely self-limiting.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Trump Appoints the Hawk

Forbes reports on the current state of economic play between China and the U.S., in anticipation of the Trump administration's less-friendly approach to trade. It could be a good time to short (or dump) the stocks of firms which have made major investments in China.
Trump’s Transition Team announced the creation of the National Trade Council. Peter Navarro, a University of California, Irvine economist, was picked to head up the new body.

Navarro, whose formal title will be Assistant to the President and Director of Trade and Industrial Policy, is being charged with developing a national plan to rebuild American industry.

“For the first time,” the Transition Team press release states, “there will be a council within the White House that puts American manufacturing and American workers first, and that thinks strategically about the health of America’s defense industrial base and the role of trade and manufacturing in national security.”

Navarro is not a hawk. He is the hawk, America’s pre-eminent China skeptic. Author of Death by China, the 67-year-old has led the charge against Chinese mercantilism and predation.

Trump did not win on November 8 because he had the support of GM’s Mary Barra, Apple’s Tim Cook, or Boeing’s Dennis Muilenburg. He won because he promised to bring industry back to America and thereby got the votes of blue-collar America.

If Beijing continues to pressure American companies, Trump won’t feel the heat from executive suites. In fact, he will revel in the distress of CEOs—and he will get a boost as they have one more reason to leave China and return to the U.S.
Sounds like Forbes is looking forward to a more muscular policy toward China trade. If you enjoy buying manufactured items cheaply - clothing and electronics - you might want to stock up in the next few months before the prices go up.

Quote of the Day

Thomas Sowell, as quoted by Steven Hayward for a retrospective at Power Line.
Much of the social history of the Western world, over the past three decades, has been a history of replacing what worked with what sounded good.
Virtue signaling strikes again, and again we all lose.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Ferguson Effect Persisted Through 2016

Heather MacDonald writes in City Journal that the Ferguson Effect is the only explanation for the spike in violent crime seen in 2016.
What I have called the Ferguson Effect—a drop in proactive policing leading to rising crime—is the only explanation for the crime increase that matches the data. The country has just elected a new president who understands that the false narrative about the police has led to the breakdown of law and order in inner cities. If the crime situation improves in the coming year, it will be because Black Lives Matter calumnies no longer have an echo chamber in the White House and because cops on the beat believe that they will now be supported for trying to restore order where informal social control has broken down.
LEOs of my acquaintance are hopeful the Trump presidency will bring about more support for their work and sacrifice. Let's bring back proactive policing; ironically, most of the lives saved thereby will be black.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Chicago as Shooting Gallery

Paul Mirengoff, who blogs at Power Line, writes about this year's record rate of shootings and murders in Chicago.
At least 27 people were shot, seven of them fatally, during a 48-hour period over Christmas weekend. The seven fatal shootings brought the total number of homicides in Chicago so far this year to 745, a 56 percent increase from the number at the same time last year. According to the Chicago Tribune, this year is the first in nearly two decades that more than 700 homicides have been recorded in the city.

Blacks made up around 78 percent of the homicide victims; Hispanics around 17 percent.

As for shootings in Chicago, the total now stands at 4,252. That’s an increase of 47 percent from the same time in 2015.
Therefore whites and Asians together made up exactly 5% of homicide victims. Chicago is no place to be black or Hispanic in safety. Gang activity is implicated.

Looking Back, Looking Forward

The week between Christmas and the New Year is a traditional time of stock-taking. It's a time we summarize what has happened and what may happen in the year ahead. Herewith COTTonLINE takes a stab at this sort of sanctioned thumb-sucking.

History will judge with the advantage of decades of hindsight, of course, but from this vantage point, it appears 2016 was a watershed year. By that, we refer to a year when prior trends fail to do what trends normally do, which is continue in more or less the same direction at more or less the same speed.

Mathematicians and economists refer to such years as "inflection points." Futurists and pundits with a flair for the literary call such unusual events "black swans."

Most of the time projecting current trajectories to continue essentially unchanged is a safe call; safe but essentially worthless in the sense that it's a call anybody can make. Forecasting that is useful is that which nails the inflection points, which "calls" the times when directions change, when economies or societies take a new direction.

This will be a year, I predict, when Francis Fukuyama will be shown to have been definitively off-base. History isn't dead, it's still being made. A raft of trend lines will hiccup and head off in new directions.

Polling has proven to be nearly impossible in 2016, the outcomes of the Brexit vote and the presidential election were both widely predicted incorrectly. If you like, you could also include the unexpected vote rejecting amnesty for the FARC rebels in Colombia.

It remains to be seen whether or not Donald Trump will be able to uproot and break the stranglehold of the bureaucratic "deep state" on our government. If he even tries, it will be a titanic struggle, fascinating to watch.

A Reader Contributes

Yesterday we wrote about Jewish voters' firm-but-unhealthy attachment to the Democratic Party. Subsequently a non-Jewish friend who has traveled to Israel several times wrote to me as follows:
Enjoyed your comments on William Levinson's article about Jewish voters. But I doubt being an "abused spouse" will change the majority of them to a more conservative stance. I think one of the defining differences between LibProgs and Conservatives is that much of what the LibProgs do politically is symbolic; it has far less to do with what is right in principle and far more to do with them thinking of themselves as "good" people doing what's best for others whether the others willingly hold still for it or not.

The focus is on how LibProgs feel about themselves. As such, those Jewish members will continue with the program, desperately trying to rationalize the lumps they take from their own (throw in a touch of "schuldig", Jewish guilt for existing) with the good intentions they think they have for their fellow man and it comes off exactly like a wife who makes excuses for a husband who bludgeons her because she thinks it may be her fault and she wants to be seen as a "good" wife in public. The motivation for loyalty has nothing to do with reality in such cases, me thinks.
He describes "virtue signaling" as it is now being called by the pundit class. And it explains, sort of, why progressives view conservatives as "evil." If one believes virtue signaling is an important and noble behavior, those who don't do it must lack virtue, must be evil.

Merry Christmas ... Ho, Ho, Ho

COTTonLINE takes this opportunity to wish all of our readers a very Merry Christmas. We hope you can spend time with family and friends, feast, and celebrate all things positive and life-affirming.

The DrsC are preparing to travel to our - circus term - winter quarters. There we will bask in the sun, reconnect with our South Coast roots, read books, and eat French apple pie supplied by the local farmers' market. This year we also have a Potterworld film to track down and view, plus a StarWarsworld film, ditto ... two favorite genres.

Two months in the southern sun will thaw us out. Then we return to NorCal, teach our OLLI classes, and go on another cruise before heading off for summer in the Rockies.

It's our version of the rhythm of the seasons. Life is good.

AP: 2016 Top Stories

The Associated Press has chosen the election of Donald Trump as our next president as its top story for 2016. They picked the exit of Britain from the European Union, aka Brexit, as the runner-up.

Much as I might wish to quibble, I am forced to agree. These two stories are likely to have the most profound consequences going forward. They also have in common a strong populist/nationalist theme.


Two days ago we wrote expressing concern about the wisdom of A&E doing a reality series on the KKK. Our belief was that the programs could encourage some viewers to follow the KKK path.

Today Drudge Report links to a Hollywood Reporter story indicating the network has rethought their decision and killed the project. Not risking it is probably the wise choice.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

From Whence Trump's New Conservatism?

When Trump's candidacy for the Republican nomination was first announced, you may remember a common knock on him was his non-conservatism, including friendships with Democrats. It is reasonable, having had a look at his cabinet picks, to ask from whence comes his current serious conservatism?

The fellows at Power Line have proposed an answer that covers the observed facts and is congruent with what is known of the Trump personality. John Hinderaker, senior blogger at the site, suggests the Trump proclivity for counter-punching helps us understand his newfound conservatism.
My guess is that throughout the general election campaign and continuing to the present, Trump has been stunned by the insane outpouring of hatred against him and his family from the Left and the Democratic Party. (snip) Trump spends a fair amount of time on Twitter; how do you think he felt when he saw that #RapeMelania was one of the top trending hashtags?

One thing we know about Trump is that if you hit him, he will hit back. (snip) The liberals wanted war, so war they will get. Trump knows where his friends are–on the right–and it looks like that is where he will govern.
Power Line contributor Paul Mirengoff adds:
If John is right, we will probably see a vicious cycle for the Democrats. The more conservative Trump becomes, the more savagely they will attack him. The more savagely they attack him, the more conservative he may become.
This makes a whole lot of sense to me, how about to you? Trump subscribes to the Marine Corps motto: No better friend, no worse enemy.

The Jewish Voter as Battered Spouse

Writing for The American Thinker, William A. Levinson describes Jewish voters' attachment to the Democratic Party as being like that of an abused spouse. I find his description apt.
Barack Obama's refusal to veto the United Nations' recent resolution to condemn Israeli settlements in Israel underscores the status of the Jewish voter as the battered spouse who simply cannot bring herself to leave her abusive husband.
After reciting a whole list of Democrat snubs, insults and outright infidelities, Levinson concludes:
No, Jewish voter, he doesn't love you, and he never did. You gave him everything, and he gave you only slaps, bruises, and broken bones. This latest domestic violence will hopefully convince you that it is past time to pack your things, walk out on him, and leave him to drink himself to death with the left-wing politics that drove the blue-collar worker into Donald Trump's camp this year.
Hat tip to for the link.

Eve? Really?

Am I the only one who thinks odd the labeling as "Christmas Eve" the entire day prior to Christmas? "Eve" means the evening; arguably Christmas Eve should begin around sundown on the 24th, should it not?

All Hallows' Eve refers to the evening, as does New Years' Eve. Somehow we call the whole day before Christmas - morning, noon, and night - by the appellation "eve." Okay, enough semantic quibbling, I'll just have to deal. Tomorrow is Christmas Eve.

In any event, the DrsC wish you and yours a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Travel safely, eat moderately, love extravagantly, and worship if you're a believer. I'm stuck at home trying to wear out a nastily persistent cough.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Echoes of Manzanar

In an OpEd piece, the Los Angeles Times reminds us that the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Korematsu v. United States has never been overturned. In 1944,
The Supreme Court upheld a wartime order sending Americans of Japanese racial ancestry to internment camps.

Although the majority opinion allowed the internment, it also stated that “all legal restrictions which curtail the civil rights of a single racial group are immediately suspect” and “courts must subject them to the most rigid scrutiny."
Wanna bet Korematsu makes Muslim residents in the U.S. nervous? At what point, they might reasonably ask, could the Long War become sufficiently hot to convince desperate leaders to undertake a similar internment?

Potato, Potahto

Have you wondered about the name change for the country formerly known as Burma, now known as Myanmar? The Economist explains where we are now and how we got there.

Basically, neither is an accurate transcription into phonetic English of the local pronunciation of the name.
Though the words look radically different in Roman scripts, in Burmese they are pronounced almost identically: with a quick, unstressed first syllable, either “buh” or something like “munn”, followed by a longer “MA”. In neither name is there a hard “r” sound anywhere. It is never pronounced “MAI-an-marr”.

Gustaaf Houtman, an anthropologist who specialises in the country, explains that native speakers use both words: Myanmar is the formal, literary form and Burma an everyday term. Burma has the advantages of ease of pronunciation (for foreigners), and visual consistency: the adjectival form is Burmese.
Similarly, in the mid-1980s a guide in Beijing told us his girlfriend was a local, he said she was "Pekingese." The other DrC and I were proud we managed not to burst out laughing at the mental imagery that term invoked. He'd never have understood our mirth.

Bradley Effect Revisited

COTTonLINE has often written about the "Bradley effect," named for Los Angeles mayor Tom Bradley who polled ahead but finished behind in the race for CA governor. For most of its history, the Bradley effect has specifically referred to people misleading pollsters about their preferences because one of the candidates was black.

As Peggy Noonan infers in The Wall Street Journal this week, perhaps race isn't the only factor which can trigger misleading responses to pollsters. She cites:
The spirited remark of a Manhattan social figure who, when I asked in September if he knew who he would vote for, said he would be one of the 40 million people who would deny the day after the election that they voted for Mr. Trump, but had.

A famous fact of 2016 is that of almost 700 counties throughout the country that voted for Barack Obama twice, a solid third went this year for Trump. Many were Democrats. Very few saw it coming.
Noonan implies we need to broaden our definition of the Bradley effect so it refers to the tendency of a significant number of responders to give pollsters a socially desirable misleading response when their intended voting action is socially undesirable. COTTonLINE concurs.

A Glimmer of Insight

I generally find the opinions of Catherine Rampell in the Washington Post tediously left-wing and out-of-touch. "Generally," but not always.

Today she writes about the white working class supposedly voting against their own economic interests, i.e., voting Republican. Rampell opines they do so out of frustration:
Maybe they believed any Big Government expansions would disproportionately go to the “wrong” kinds of people — that is, people unlike themselves.
She expands upon this theme:
Democratic policies probably would help the white working class. But the white working class doesn’t seem to buy that they’re the ones who’d really benefit.

Across rural America, the Rust Belt, Coal Country and other hotbeds of Trumpism, voters have repeatedly expressed frustration that the lazy and less deserving are getting a bigger chunk of government cheese.
Unlike Rampell and the coastal elites, the white working class actually know many undeserving screw-off dysfunctional layabouts who are their neighbors, and/or relatives. They resent tax money being spent on losers who are infamously their own worst enemies.

I understand and share those feelings. If we subsidize feckless behavior, we should expect to get more of it, as B.F. Skinner demonstrated.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Playing With Fire provides a link to an article at Heatstreet concerning a new A&E reality TV show Generation KKK. A&E describes its theme:
This series gives viewers an unprecedented look at what it is like to be born into hate. Our producers gained access to Klan families allowing for full immersion into this secret world and its impact on the next generation.
Clearly, the hope is that people will watch and be revolted. My concern is that more than a few people will watch and find common ground with white supremacists.

What if it becomes a recruiting tool for such groups? Stranger things have happened.

Realistic Art from an Alternate Reality

Guest blogging at Instapundit, science fiction author Sarah Hoyt provides a link to a series of haunting paintings by Polish artist Jakub Rozalski done as illustrations for the board game Scythe. I find them fascinating.

Hoyt sees similarities to the Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back planet Hoth winter war sequence. I also see echoes of The Wild, Wild West starring Will Smith, Kevin Kline, and Kenneth Brannagh. And the armored polar bears of The Golden Compass. Also hints of the armored trains of Dr. Zhivago and the obvious imagery of Nazi helmets. Many less direct influences are apparent, including the Brothers Grimm. Love the saddle-bred musk oxen too.

It is a fascinating body of work, surreal, awful and beautiful all at once. As with all good science fiction, these paintings transport you to a plausible-but-eerie alternate reality.

Ten Years of Fun

Today marks the tenth anniversary of the founding of COTTonLINE. Our first post was on December 22, 2006.

As noted earlier, we've posted roughly 8400 items in that decade, an average of 2.3 per day. The blog has received some quarter million visits during the past decade. Respectable, but not world class traffic.

Having an audience for one's opinions is habit-forming. This blog has been a replacement venue for the 'editorializing' I did as a professor lecturing for nearly 40 years. Dear readers, thank you for your kind attention.

It is both ironic and appropriate that we begin our second decade of COTTonLINE at the beginning of the Trump era. I am confident it will provide many interesting situations upon which to opine.

In contrast to Michelle Obama, I now feel hope for the first time in 8 years. It's likely regular COTTonLINE readers are feeling it too.

Yet Another Reason

Stephen Green, guest blogging at Instapundit, enunciates clearly another reason (scroll down) Clinton lost.
Trump looked and sounded like he was having fun — and I suspect he was and still is. Clinton came across as annoyed that there was all of this campaigning to be done before her inevitable coronation.
So-called "happy warriors" don't always win, just ask Hubert Humphrey. That said, being one was still a plus for Trump. Enjoying campaigning was something Trump and Bill Clinton shared; for Hillary it was too clearly a grind.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Adieu to Autumn, Welcome Winter

According to The Old Farmer's Almanac, the 2016 winter solstice arrives here on the West Coast of North America at 2:44 a.m. tomorrow morning, Wednesday, December 21. At that point the hours of daylight stop becoming shorter and begin becoming longer, which lengthening continues until June 21.

Technically, tomorrow is the first day of de jure winter, today the last day of autumn. However, for much of the central U.S. de facto winter came over a week ago with record low temperatures for the time of year.

For millions of residents of flyover country, global warming has to seem a largely theoretical construct, one not especially connected to their daily lives. My neighbors who winter in Wyoming would enjoy less cold and snow, conditions with which the continent's backbone is too-generously supplied.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Electoral College: Trump Wins

A variety of sources report that the Electoral College has elected Donald Trump as our next president. The issue was never truly in doubt.

Now dog-in-the-manger Democrats claim they will impeach him if he fails to separate totally from his Trump company. It isn't clear why he should, if he's at all careful to avoid throwing government business its way.

Of course Democrats could only impeach if Republicans would join the effort in Congress, which Republican lawmakers will not do. It is time for the sad donkeys to get to work finishing up the five stages of grief.

If they can't shake identity group politics, they'll conclude they must nominate non-whites to have a chance at the presidency. In that sense, Sen. Cory Booker's chances are looking up in 2020.

Travel Blog Epilogue: The 'Longest' Day

Our flight this morning boarded in Ft. Lauderdale at 5:45 a.m., our alarm went off at 3:45 as we had to catch a cab to the airport, check in,, and get through security. Our United 737 had just come from SFO as a "red eye" and was headed back there non-stop with us aboard.

On that transcontinental flight, I was the can't-stop-coughing guy nobody wanted to be within rows of. "Nobody" included me, I'd have gladly been far, far away.

We flew for nearly six hours and arrived at SFO at 9:30 a.m. local time. Getting luggage and a rental car took perhaps an hour and we were on the road north before noon. A quick lunch and meds stop in Davis and we got home about 3 p.m. We'll return the rental car tomorrow a.m. within the 24 hour time limit.

So now I've been awake for 15 hours after a very abbreviated night's sleep, it's only mid-afternoon, and I'm exhausted and sick. The cough, remnant of a cold, persists with disturbing vigor and tenacity. I need to be healthy enough to load an RV and do the Christmas-with-the-family thing on Saturday.

On a happier note, the Winter Solstice comes up in a couple of days, a holiday celebrated since truly ancient times, several thousand years ago. The annual event is echoed in various pre-Christian celestial observatories like Stonehenge and New Grange.

On Thursday we celebrate the 10th anniversary of COTTonLINE, with about seven thousand posts and over a quarter-million page views. Paraphrasing Rush Limbaugh, this blog has been more fun than anybody should be allowed to have.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Answering the "Why" Question

Salena Zito writes political commentary from her base in Western Pennsylvania, I often findi myself nodding in agreement with her observations.

Her column today is from The Washington Examiner. her topic is the reasons for Hillary's loss. Herewith two choice excerpts:
Here is a shocker: I'd estimate based on my reporting that this election was baked before the debates, before the "Access Hollywood" tapes, before the hacked emails and before anyone took the time to actually notice, listen and understand just how upended the American voter is.

Hillary Clinton lost because she ran arguably one of the worst campaigns in the history of campaigns; there was no message, their team ignored the pleas of longtime grassroots activists to be more engaged, and to stop hating on anyone who was not brown, black, gay or part of some specialized voting bloc.
Zito concludes the media missed the story because they simply didn't want to believe it true. I'd add that reporters end up talking to people like themselves and all of those were for Clinton. It takes real journalistic professionalism to go listen to people you do not wish to know, or find distasteful. Perhaps even deplorable?

Travel Blogging XX

"Becalmed" in Ft.Lauderdale: The cruise ended this morning, the Prinsendam is now taking on pax for its next cruise. We headed for the airport and discovered that there was "a problem" with our airline reservations.

The terminal was a zoo, lines everywhere, and the AC seriously underperforming. The causes of the mess were, essentially, twofold. First, it is the Christmas season and many people travel. Second and more important is the giant cold snap dominating the middle of the country, the so-called "Arctic express."

With OHare, Denver and other northern airports closed or nearly so, many travelers were perforce flying a southern route through Houston or Dallas. Our bottom line: Our flight leaving Ft. Lauderdale was running late enough we probably would not make our connection in Houston for SF. And, there were no seats available on later flights today for the Houston-SF leg, all full.

The result: we overnight in Ft. Lauderdale and fly out tomorrow before dawn on a nonstop to SF. So we are doing a Holiday Inn, and have notified Budget that we'll need the car tomorrow, not today. Honestly, I'm not sorry. It gives me another day to recuperate from my cold.


On the cruise just ended we had six table mates at our dinner seating: a couple from Canada, two sisters from Louisiana and two friends (guys) who live in different states but meet up to travel. It was a remarkably cheerful and congenial group. We ended up doing some extra activities together which went beyond a shared meal.

The two ladies from LA were booked on our original flight this afternoon but had the same problem we had - no flight beyond Houston. Travel can be a mixed blessing.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Quote of the Day

Tom Trinko, writing in American Thinker, on a current piece of peculiar double-think.
If a man says he’s Napoleon Bonaparte, he needs help, but if he says he’s a woman he’s perfectly sane and if anyone refuses to go along with him he’s being oppressed.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Travel Blogging XIX

At sea enroute to Ft. Lauderdale: We spent the last two days in the ports of Curaçao and Aruba respectively. These are semi-independent Dutch colonies and very much the better for it.

Oranjestad and Willemstad are cities of considerable charm,   particularly Willemstad on Curaçao. If I had to pick a Caribbean island on which to live, it could be Curaçao, or perhaps Trinidad.

I didn't go ashore at either port as I'm trying to get over a cold before making the long, tiring flight back to CA, which happens on Sunday. I've been ashore on both islands on prior cruises.

Political news is in a pre-Christmas lull, our next significant milestone will be the vote of the Electoral College. One thing this trip has provided is good media availability: Fox News, MSNBC, and BBC 24/7, and good internet too.

Gone are the days when a cruise was a vacation from reality. Now we know what happens when everyone else learns it. Staying up-to-date is a mixed blessing.

This has been a nice cruise, I can see why many Holland America aficionados love the Prinsendam, she's old but elegant and gets the job done just fine. All the things that matter are modernized: enclosed lifeboats, wifi, flat screen TV.

It is unlikely I'll post any more travel comments before Sunday's disembarkation.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Political Thoughts

Docked in Grenada:  Much talk about Rex Tillerson, the CEO of Exxon-Mobil, as a possible SecState. Part of that talk has been biographical, including that he's worked at Exxon seemingly forever.

I have no unique opinion on his fitness for office, clearly he's a talented guy to end up CEO of the world's largest corporation. But his promotion up through the Exxon ranks reminded me of received wisdom from my Management prof days.

It is a truism in Management theory, borne out in practice, that firms promote from within if they are doing well, are seen as market leaders. The reasoning being "it ain't broke, so we won't fix it." Tillerson is an example of this.

On the other hand, if a firm's board of directors believes it is not fulfilling its potential, it is routine practice to bring in an outsider as CEO. That outsider is someone not committed to the unsatisfactory status quo, a "new broom," a force for change.

At State Tillerson would be a new broom, and might be responsible for quite a number of retirements among the striped pants diplomatic corps. It isn't clear whether he has much experience as a change agent. I daresay he'd have to deal with quite a lot of passive resistance among hard-to-fire careerists.

A key thing Trump and the GOP Congress need to achieve is to simplify and shorten the process of letting go unsatisfactory civil servants for cause. As it stands today, firing is so difficult that most bosses in the federal bureaucracy don't bother to try. We all suffer the consequences of this particular malaise.

Travel Blogging XVIII

Alongside in Saint Vincent:  This island has pharmacies, even ones open on Sunday. It also has gas stations and supermarkets.

What it doesn't have is a very elaborate road system. Very few of the island's roads are wide enough to have a centerline. Most are 1 to 1 1/2 cars wide with no guard rails, no center lines, and very often a drainage canal alongside that is maybe 16" deep. If you dropped a wheel into the canal, you'd break something.

There are lots of very substantial, large mountainside homes. The locals don't live in them, except as housekeepers.

The big homes belong to foreigners, probably white, who use them as second homes. We are given to understand that the local tax structure is generous enough to encourage the wealthy to claim St. Vincent as their residence - owning a home here makes it more believable.

I kept an eye peeled as we drove around the island on tour. I saw exactly 3 whites who acted "local" and one more who was not white but other than African in ancestry. Everyone else I saw was black except the tourists off our ship. In other words, it's a typical Caribbean island. If the big-house expats were here I didn't see them, but perhaps I wouldn't as they're probably in their tinted-window cars and not pedestrians.

Our driver said there are six medical schools on island, I wonder who the faculty are? Retired Med School faculty from the States and Europe? Probably.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Travel Blogging XVII

At sea enroute to St. Vincent and the Grenadines: The ship spent the day in the harbor at Scarborough, Tobago. We did a shore excursion that was ho-hum, it did drive us around the island and we saw a lot of hillside homes. They are more substantial here than in Barbados.

The Brits built a fort atop a mountain overlooking Scarborough. This was smart inasmuch as the location gets a very nice sea breeze which ameliorates the humid heat. It would keep the mosquitos at bay too, particularly important in those days of yellow fever, dengue fever and malaria.

Just for fun I looked to see if I could spot a pharmacy ... no luck. I saw paint stores, hardware stores, building supply places, and markets, even a car dealership ... no pharmacies. I'm not sure I ever saw a service station selling gas, maybe one. It was an odd mix, perhaps coincidental.

Our guide mentioned that the ancestors of the African people who are the local majority were brought here as slaves to work the sugar cane. I have the normal modern person's aversion to slavery so my first thought was "ugh".

However my second thought was that the people now live better than if they had been left at home in Africa. These islands are healthier and better governed than wherever home was. And the people are proud and, for tropics dwellers, reasonably industrious and it's their island, they run it via elected officials.

In fact, a new "senior secretary" (think "island governor) will be elected in January. Together with Trinidad, the two islands constitute an independent nation. Each island has a senor secretary whereas the nation is headed by a prime minister.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Travel Blogging XVI

At sea headed north toward Tobago: This part of the Atlantic has been somewhat rough recently. Some are suffering mal de mer.

We are in the last third of this trip. The highlight experience of cruising the Amazon is behind us. We still have 2-3 islands to visit on our way back to Ft. Lauderdale.

I find ironic that our ship has deployed no Christmas decorations. If this had been a Princess ship they would have had the seasonal stuff out right after Thanksgiving.

You know how smokers and beer drinkers have "their brand?" My favorite fast food sandwich is the Carl's Jr. Western Bacon Cheeseburger. So I was cheered when CKE CEO Andy Puzder was picked by Trump for Secretary of Labor.

I'm certain Puzder is a "right to work" and "minimum wages kill jobs" kind of guy. As such, he will drive liberals crazy. Getting him confirmed may be tiresome.

My overall impression of the post-Nov. 8 transition has been positive. I don't know the records of all appointees but those I do know are impressive achievers.

The Donald Compared To TR

The Daily Mail (U.K.) has an article comparing Donald Trump to Teddy Roosevelt. I guess they can be forgiven for being behind the curve as they're foreigners; COTTonLINE first mentioned that comparison on Nov. 20, over a year ago, and several times since.

The men are alike in dreaming big, believing large things are possible, having much energy, and thinking outside the box. TR however took a more conventional path to power.

Let's hope the comparison proves apt, shall we? Sadly, there are no guarantees.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Travel Blogging XV

Re-crossing the Equator cruising downstream toward the South Atlantic: Today the shellbacks (us) initiate the pollywogs (them) into the sea-going society of line-crossers, cruise-ship style. The ones being harassed are crew, not pax; for us 'tis as painless as MASH's dentist.

I've been musing about things in the Amazon that were not "as expected." One thing I expected was that the terrain of the rainforest would be virtually flat - no hills or mountains. I was half-right, there are no mountains. There are occasional hills, rising perhaps 100 feet or a bit more, including some that border the river. I didn't expect hills.

Another unexpected thing is there are more substantial river towns, even cities, than we thought we'd see. They are still the exception rather than the rule, but they exist, perhaps a half-dozen meaning one every 100-150 miles.

We've experienced very few bugs, essentially zero mosquitos. The DrsC were liberally sprayed with deet but many in our midst were not, wore shorts and short sleeves and didn't get bitten either.

I'm thinking the fact that we kept moving in various river craft was a big help. Mosquitos like still air. However when we stopped moving to fish for piranha up a shallow side channel I saw no one slapping away bugs then either.

Holland America Line normally attracts an older crowd, older than the typical not-young cruisers. This trip, however, seems to have a slightly less old group, possibly because of the tough visa and yellow fever shot requirements. We have fewer walkers and electric power chairs on this trip than is typical on HAL.

HAL ships tend to have less spectacular atria than Princess or Royal Caribbean, quite tame in comparison. They also run to Indonesian crews, about 50% on the Prinsendam.

However, those aboard who handle liquor may be Filipino, as Indonesia's mostly Muslim population is supposed to take a dim view of alcohol consumption. I write "supposed to" because Indonesia - the world's most populous Muslim country - produces and consumes much beer.

Princess ships tend to have Filipino crews, reflecting the U.S. colonial experience in that nation. Royal Caribbean hires many Caribbean blacks for its crews, logically enough. I wonder if MSC and Costa cruise ships hire Europeans, perhaps from the poorer East?

A cynic would write that cruise ship crews are "plantation-like" with third world workers and mostly first world managers and officers. The shops tend to have European staffing, and often the casinos too. Maybe a better analogy would be a British India colonial army with indigenous enlisted and NCOs, white officers and specialists. Whatever ... it works.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

A Day That Lives in Infamy

COTTonLINE once again reminds Americans that on tomorrow's date in 1941 the Empire of Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, sunk a number of U.S. warships, and killed many residents of Hawaii - military and civilians alike. They then attacked U.S. forces in the Philippines and Guam, and treated the survivors brutally.

One suspects that Japan's only lingering regret is that they lost ... big time. Their Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere left behind few friends in the countries they occupied, Taiwan being a possible, albeit partial, exception.

Remember Pearl Harbor. A peculiarity of this blog site is that whereas the time of posting appears to be approximately 9 p.m., that's CA time. Where I am in Eastern Brazil it is already Dec. 7, we're one time zone east of NY time.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Travel Blogging XIV

Anchored midstream off Parintins, Brazil: We didn't go ashore today, Parintins is a small river town a long way from anywhere. These don't often harbor surprises for the seasoned traveler.

The election just over a month ago was certainly consequential and hard-fought, perhaps even unique. The pre-presidency of Donald Trump has been busy and interesting as well.

You'd think our fellow passengers, most of whom are Americans, would be chattering about it. I've heard essentially nothing! No talk, no speculation, no opinions about appointees, nothing at all.

I find I've not been bringing up either. So I began wondering why we are reticent about the topic. People aren't indifferent about the outcome, this we know.

It isn't as though we have been getting no news about the election's sequelae on our ship, Fox News and MSNBC come in loud and clear, and a free summary of New York Times news and commentary is published daily.

My conclusion: we passengers fear the raw feelings of both winners and losers will poison the superficially genial relationship norm that exists on cruise ships. It is as though it would be impossible to be nice to people who hold stupid, evil views so we seek not to know those views. Fascinating group behavior, actually.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Election Musings

Further musings on the election just completed. Liberals and progressives convinced themselves that any sane, thinking person would vote for Clinton. She got a lot of votes but did not win.

Now they feel like this isn't their country after all, a disquieting feeling conservatives have known too well for the last 16 years. If their behavior is erratic, that helps explain it.

Plus, they look around the world and see things going south in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. Not only does the U.S. not seem like their country, they don't see another that looks better, unless it's Canada.

The Canadians, bless them, are picky about who they give residency to, favoring the wealthy and those with STEM  skills. That bars most progressives with basically worthless social science or victim-group studies degrees.


The New York Times has an article about who votes in what numbers. It turns out income, education and age are all positively correlated with propensity to vote.

It makes sense that the poor often don't vote as they don't pay income taxes or property taxes. They do, however, pay sales and fuel taxes, vehicle license fees and the so-called "sin taxes" on alcohol and tobacco. Some of these are 'invisible' as they aren't called out separately on receipts, as is sales tax.

Black voter participation is high in their figures but these end with 2012. Without Obama on the ballot it may have fallen significantly in 2016.

Travel Blogging XIII

Cruising downstream from Manaus, Brazil: Today is day 15 of this 29 day cruise. It's the midpoint, two weeks behind us, two still to come.

Manaus is a large city, roughly 2,100,000 population. It was founded in the 1600s. Half the people in the entire Brazilian state of which it is capital live in Manaus.

There is actually a bridge across the river here, quite an engineering feat. There are a number of tall buildings, a refinery, a cement plant, and a navy base with a latter-day San Pablo docked there (P21).

If we saw few river craft on the lower Amazon, we've seen over a hundred here. Many are docked and some pulled out on the bank, which is to say out of use. Still, the waters around Manaus are busy with boat traffic. I also counted some 5-6 ocean-going ships at anchor or docked here.

We've been the only cruise ship in port yesterday and today, but they are prepared for such so we are hardly the only one that calls here. I know Princess sends a ship here, it's likely others do as well.

We had hard rain with thunder yesterday afternoon but the rainy season (summer) hasn't really started in earnest. Today is nice, but with the region's humidity you get buttermilk-colored skies - hazy. We got them in the DC area, too, another humid place.

Travel Blogging XII

Docked in Manaus, Brazil, nearly 1000 miles upriver from the South Atlantic: Manaus is probably as far inland as one can cruise on an ocean-going ship. On second thought, Thunder Bay, MN, may give it a run for the money.

When you think of Manaus, its most famous landmark is the Opera House, built by rubber barons in the late 19th century. Now 120 years old, it is elegant in an antique sort of way and has excellent acoustics.

We saw a symphonic performance there last night, very professionally done by an obviously local orchestra. The room has four tiers of balcony, the first only a meter or so above the general seating.

A friend sarcastically described Manaus as "like Dakar, without the charm." I'd say she was unkind and probably incorrect as well.

Today we took a river tour, largish local boat to the edge of some shallow water channels where we offloaded into roofed 10 passenger skiffs. These took us into the riverine environment to a settlement of floating houses, shacks really. The "pontoons" that float these buildings are giant rain forest logs, perhaps 3' in diameter, 4-6 under each building.

One of the shacks had an air conditioner and most of the others had a TV antenna and/or a satellite dish. This suggests they all have little gas-powered generators for evening use, I can't blame them.

Floating houses become important because the water level can rise 8 meters or more during the rainy season, which just began. We saw yellow boats which serve as school 'buses' as well as a floating school and perhaps a floating church. We also saw a child being bathed in river water by his mom, the same river water into which their floating outhouse deposits human waste - sorta gross.


I've been musing about the amount of hate that accompanied the last election. I believe at least part of it can be attributed to the ideological 'purification' the two major parties have recently undergone.

Once there were liberal Republicans in the Northeast and conservative Democrats in the South. A Republican could find ideological allies among Democrats and a Democrat could likewise find simpatico Republicans to hang with. Not any more.

Except for kooks and extremists, all conservatives are now Republicans and all liberals are Democrats, wherever they live. This makes a difference.

It is commonly joked that Republicans see Democrats as stupid whereas Democrats see Republicans as evil. Again, not any more. Today Republicans see Democrats as stupid, evil, and unAmerican. Democrats see Republicans the same way.

I have a relative who doesn't like to spend time with his parents because they're bright blue Democrats and he's a bright red Republican ... seriously. This is one of several things that are worse than they used to be.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Travel Blogging XI

Stopped at an Indian village upstream from Santarem: Technology is wonderful. Today's NYT is available electronically via satellite in the heart of the rain forest.

I just read a New York Times story about the difficulties victims of the San Bernardino shooting were having getting medical treatment. It's been an administrative nightmare these hurting people don't need.

Their problem is the terror shooting was deemed to have happened "at work" because the holiday party was office-sanctioned, not unlike a company picnic. That means their medical bills have to be covered by so-called "workers comp."

California Workers Compensation is a mess, of course. Maybe worse than the Veterans Administration, if that's possible. And closer to home....

Our niece is a LEO whose back was injured some years ago during martial arts training. Periodically it goes "out" leaving her in serious pain.

It went out in mid-August and her treatment, under CA workers comp, has not yet happened. She only had the diagnostic MRI last week. She is bored, hurting and longs to feel good enough to go back to work

I share these stories with you is to make the point that turning health care over to the government is a sure way to make it quite unsatisfactory. As long as there are multiple companies competing for the health insurance dollar, things won't get too bad.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Travel Blogging X

Sailing upriver from Santarem, Brazil: We went ashore today ... sort of. Actually, we left our cruise liner and boarded a smallish local boat and went out on the Amazon and into some of the channels that remain when, as we are now, the dry season is ending.

Our tour guide was a Russian emigre who came here a few years ago with multiple language skills and essentially nothing else and is today an entrepreneur, a radio host, a tour guide, and the founder of a language school. Now he has a Brazilian wife and two Brazilian kids, and couldn't be prouder of his new country. He reminded me so much of many legal emigrants in the U.S.

Santarem is pretty darn big, stretching along the river for several miles. I have to admit I'd never heard of it until I saw it on our itinerary. I'm no expert on it now, but at least I'll be aware of it when it next pops up on the news.

As I write this I'm watching President-elect Trump having too much fun in Ohio, doing a victory lap in his patented free-association style. Frankly, he is getting high on the crowd roars, applause and chanting; and I can't begrudge him the fun.